I shut off the ignition and took a deep breath. What was there to be afraid of? Nothing. The shop clerks probably wouldn’t say much at all other than “Need help finding anything?” But I still felt exposed, especially because I still looked like the man I had lived as for 35 years. All I wanted was a wig and some lingerie, to find out how I felt.
There wasn’t anyone to hold my hand through this. Most of my friends didn’t know I’m transgender, and my romantic partners lived hours away by plane. I had to do this for myself. And maybe that’s the way it should have been. As much as I wanted support, I really needed to know if the feeling I’d been holding onto was right or if I was spinning out in disarray after my marriage shattered.
I tried to move briskly through the racks of panties and corsets. I didn’t need to be fuckable. I just needed something that fit — a bit of a challenge with a 38 band size to start with. I was in luck. I found a bra that would be serviceable with a couple rolled-up socks stuck inside, panties that wouldn’t cut off the blood supply to my legs, and a shoulder length brown wig that looked like something I might actually be able to style someday. I wasn’t questioned or hassled. If anything, the salesclerk was kind and we talked science for a minute as she rang everything up. But I didn’t want to spend any more time waiting. I hurried home, my anxiety strumming a tense chord with every mile closer to my apartment.
“I think I’m trans.” Those were the words I first said aloud just a couple of months earlier, on Thanksgiving night of 2018. I’d been afraid to say them. I felt like I hadn’t earned them.
I knew I wasn’t happy as a boy. I knew that since I was a child. But through the 80s, 90s, and early 2000s, transgender and nonbinary people were almost entirely off my radar. All I knew came from salacious news reports, the scripted drama of daytime talk shows, and snarky jokes on The Critic and The Simpsons. I was afraid that my identity would be distorted into kink, and that any disclosure would result in a barrage of questions I had no answers to. All I had was how I felt. And for a long time, I tried to mourn something that had never had a chance to live in the first place.