Part 1 of 2:
I’ll give you some vital stats first: Tom, AMAB, bigender, bisexual, 49 years old, white person from England, lived in Canada since 1980. I’m 6’1” tall. I collect comics. Diagnosed with BPD, ADHD, Spinal Stenosis, and severe Osteoarthritis.
I often try to figure out the verifiable, actual things I can say about myself. At the moment, what you have just read above is about all I can come up with. So let’s talk about “her.”
By “her,” I am not referring to my ex-partner, who suffered so much from the difficulties of my lack of, and mis-, diagnosis, my over- and under-medication, and my not knowing what the heck was going on in my head and soul. No. By “her,” I mean Tommy. Tommy is the woman that, if I’m as honest with myself as I can be, has existed in my psyche for my entire life. So I want to talk about her, the me that is her rather than the me that is him, and how my struggle with this aspect of my life has impacted, and been impacted by, my mental health challenges.
First, a little bit about being Bigender. As with any identity, how it feels for me is going to be different from everyone else. As you read on, you’ll see that I refer to Tom and Tommy in the third person, almost as if I’m talking about a separate individual. I want to disabuse us of that idea. I often describe my experience of being bigender in a similar way to the Indigenous Two-Spirit identity. For me, there are two different expressions of the self – one masculine and one feminine. They mix more often than not, but they still feel like two different versions of me. But not two different people. I’m still me regardless.
She smiles when I see her in the mirror, a genuine smile that I haven’t seen on my masculine face for a very long time. I think she is, I am, simply so happy to finally be able to be. I remember, over the last 4 or 5 bad years, moments where I could hear her shouting at me to stop, to embrace her, to open my life to the possibilities she presented. I know now that this was what we pathologize as “gender dysphoria.” Different from body dysphoria, where an individual feels like they are in the wrong body, my dysphoria had to do with being forced into one particular gender identity based solely on the body I was born into. I don’t blame anyone for this. Had I embraced this aspect of me while growing up, told there’s an excellent chance I wouldn’t be here to be writing these words. Being queer in the 80s and 90s was not a safe prospect. I hate thinking it, but I know I only survived those decades because I was closeted. The only time I’ve been thankful for that.
Tommy got a chance to shine, a chance to breathe the air, in February 2023. I had accidentally gone off my anti-depressants (which my psychiatrist doesn’t think I need to be on anyway, but we’re not going to mess with it while I’m in a delicate place), and finally found the voice and the courage to tell my partner that I was bigender, that sometimes I was a woman and it was killing me not being able to express that.
I want to reiterate: I’m nearly 50 years old. I look back over my life, my 30-year relationship, my time in high school, and I can see her. Not clearly, but I can see her, waving, calling, discovering herself even as Tom, who was just trying to keep me safe, was shutting her away. I wrestle now with being ashamed of myself, feeling disappointed with myself, for not coming out sooner. And I struggle, so, so much, with how my denying this aspect of myself fundamentally exacerbated my mental health challenges, which was a contributing factor to the dissolution of my partnership. My spouse was nothing but supportive, and quite excited, when I came out to her. But by that point my difficult behaviors had done too much damage and things fell apart pretty soon afterwards. It breaks me to think of this. I had so looked forward to being her girlfriend.
I think we’re all pretty aware of the fact that where there’s one mental health challenge, there will be more, perhaps a lot more. But this doesn’t just include diagnosed, or pathologized, challenges. What about challenges that we were never prepared for in our lives? I am so grateful to see the open conversations that happen now about mental health difficulties and about gender identity, and about the struggles that come from the combination of the two. That young people have the knowledge that if they hear what appears to be a voice talking to them in their souls that doesn’t conform to the identity they’ve had thrust upon them, it’s okay to explore other ones, without fear of persecution.
#BorderlinePersonalityDisorder #ADHD #LGBTQ #GenderDysphoria