This Trans Voice: “Just Trying to Live” by Bella Rose
I just found out that one of my clients, who identified as transgender, passed away a few months ago.
It had been a while since we last talked, two years in fact. I remember she was struggling with health issues at the time. From what I could gather from her obituary she died from complications related to those.
When she was seeing me for counseling she wrote a paper that she called “Gender Presentation Paper.” It was a piece of work she was very proud of. She said I should share it with anyone who I thought it could help.
In honor of her memory, I decided to pull out that paper and share parts of it with you.
I want to give you fair warning, parts of this are difficult to read. She wasn’t shy about sharing the truth of the pain she had experienced for so much of her life as a result of hiding her true self from her loved ones.
Her obituary was published under her male name. I don’t know how many people in her family knew her as Bella. So, to protect her anonymity, I won’t be using her real last name.
And, as much as I would love to post my favorite picture of her here, I’ll also need to refrain from doing that as well. It saddens me to have to do that.
She did sign her emails to me “Bella Rose,” so that’s how you will be introduced to her as well.
Take it away, Bella. You touched the lives of many while you were alive, and now you will touch the lives of many more.
Just Trying to Live
by Bella Rose
Written in 2011
I am a Christian and I am transgender and I am finally not ashamed of who I am!
I know I’m not a man- about that much I’m very clear, and I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m probably not a woman either, at least not according to a lot of people’s rules on this sort of thing. The trouble is, we’re living in a world that insists that we be one or the other—a world that doesn’t bother to tell us exactly what one or the other is. —Kate Bornstein
What is it like to be female, what is it like to be male?
I don’t think I was born into this world as a man or as a woman. I was born to be able to change.
Are you a woman because your birth certificate says female? A man because your birth certificate says male? If so how did that happen? A doctor looked down at your crotch at birth. A doctor decides based on what was showing of your external genitals, that you would be one gender or another. You never had a say in that most irreversible of all pronouncements—and according to this culture as it stands today, you never will have a say.
There are three stages to a transsexual’s life.
In the first stage, the person is either openly or secretly experiencing generalized feelings of anxiety largely because they are deprived of a sociological outlet for their inner sense of being male or female. Here, I refer to this anxiousness as gender expression deprivation anxiety. This period may start as early as age three or four and last until it must be addressed in a meaningful manner.
The second stage is triggered when the gender expression deprivation anxiety rises to a point where the individual can no longer function productively in his or her daily life and decides to enter treatment, (or in many cases suicide).
The third stage begins when the individual completes a course of psychological and medical treatment and begins living partly or fully in a new gender role. —Anne Vitale
All my life it has been this deep dark secret that I thought I would take to my grave. It was not a conscious thought to where I would just “drop the bomb” when I wanted to reveal who I was. No one knew me. I didn’t even know who I was. I just thought I was different then everybody else in the whole world.
I became someone who I was not (a boy). I learned how to pass as a boy, and I was good at it. When I first told my wife about two years ago (2009) and then my mom ten months later they had no clue at all. My wife thought something was going on but could not put her finger on it.
When I was growing up would I have liked to tell someone about who I was? You bet I would! But those who came out of their closets were either studied under a microscope, ridiculed in the tabloids, or made exotic in the porn books. So it paid to hide—it paid to lie. The most painful thing in my life was lying to family—lovers—and friends. —Kate Bornstein
It kills you!
When I was a child, everyone else seemed to know they were boys or girls. That is something I have never known: not then and not today. What does it feel like to know?—Kate Bornstein
I hated myself I did not like what I saw in the mirror.
In school and throughout my life I never really had any close friends—they changed from year to year. Because I was afraid I would say something that would give me away.
When the Christmas catalog would come I was always excited to go right to the girls toys and wish I could ask for girl toys and clothes. If someone would come in to the room I would flip to the boys section.
After I was married my wife would suggest we see a marriage counselor for other issues. I was scared to death to go. I was afraid that I might say something about me and they would tell me what I already knew. That I wanted to be a girl and I was sick.
I had no idea how to tell my wife, let alone anybody else, till the last two years. There just was not anything out there on the web that would explain who I was. The internet, up to then, was filled with porn, not help.
It was becoming a life or death struggle and death was winning out.
Suicidal thoughts started in my teenage years, and they kept getting stronger. Even on joyous occasions vacations, with my wife and children. We would go to the Black Canyons and I would see how great they were and I would look over the side and wonder if jumping off would kill me or just cripple me to where I could not finish the job.
The last two years (2009-2011) it got real bad. I have had pistols in my mouth, ropes around my neck, I even had so many meds that the doctors would put me on (when all I needed was to regulate the hormone therapy I was on). I had plastic bags from work and at lunch I thought I would just suffocate myself.
I have many more ideas on suicide. Everything had to many variables and I thought I would end up as a vegetable and then could not finish. I didn’t want to hurt anyone else, and just thought everyone would be better off without me.
I would pray to God to change me into a girl while I slept. That way no one could say I was sick, it was “divine intervention.” Birthdays I would wish when I blew out my candles to be a girl. When people would ask what I wished for I had to come up with a lie real fast.
I would wish upon a star to be a girl.
Changing my gender role is not an easy thing to do—it is one of the hardest things I have done. I did it because I was so tired of the lies and secrets, I truly believe it would have killed me if I didn’t.
My wife left me because she was concerned for her safety, I was punching door jambs and anything else that was hard. I had all my knuckles busted because I was angry at myself for being screwed up.
I feel at times that I stole twenty-five years away from her, and every time I think about that I just want to die even to this day. She told me that she doesn’t know if she will be able to trust anyone anymore.
My manager had thrown my nametag away because it was not part of my legal name. I went and talked with him for about forty minutes and I told him that, “I don’t want to cause trouble. I am just trying to live.”
He explained my work place’s point of view on names—that I was allowed to dress as a woman, just could not have a name that matched my gender. I gave him a paper on discrimination and he sent it to Human Resources. They sent it to the main H.R., and they sent it to the legal department.
It was about three days later when he called me on the phone and told me legal talked with him and I was within my parameters to have my new name and all the pronouns that go with it. He said he reordered my name badge.
I could not stop smiling and he told people that I haven’t stopped smiling ever sense.
I now understand to the fullest what Gender Expression Depravation Anxiety is all about. Just being able to change my name was so profound. I didn’t know what was going to happen but the names the pronouns just fit and they fit very well.
I was having trouble with a customer who was harassing me over my change. The manager had a talk with him and asked him to call me by my new name, saying that the company is referring to me in my new gender and if he can’t abide with that that they will ask him to shop elsewhere.
When my manager did that I felt like a person for the first time. How sweet.
Did you ever go on a quest to discover your gender identity? You never had to sort that out did you. I did.
Do you ever go to sleep at night wondering what gender you are?
Have you ever seriously questioned which bathroom to use – men’s or women’s?
Do you think I’m a former man, and that now I’m a woman?
Do you think I am still a man?
Have you examined your own gender and decided beyond a shadow of a doubt, based on examination, that you really are that one gender?
Do you think you’re that gender naturally?
I think about my gender all the time, do you? Probably not, you don’t have to. —Kate Bornstein
It wears on you to do that.
There is a male privilege in gender that is set before us and it messes with people when we cross the gender boundaries. People ask what it feel like to give up this male privilege and I would have to respond it was never mine to have!
People ask me how it feels to transition and I used to say I feel whole. Complete. But that is not it. I will probably never know what it feels like to be whole or complete. I thought on this for a very long time and came to this conclusion. I feel alive for me the first time in over fifty years. How sweet!
People ask if I regretted my life. I do not regret my life. God does not make mistakes and like I said before, I was born to be able to change.
I am like a caterpillar that is coming out of it’s cocoon. It’s hard but well worth it. Just when the caterpillar thought life was over she became a butterfly.
I finally feel like living and that is a strange feeling for me, but it is a good feeling. Very good.
In conclusion I know now that I am not sick, perverted or disgusting. I am a person and am dealing with my issue. We all have issues my issue has an added change to it, I also have to change my outside characteristics and names. I am enjoying and embracing it because, I just want to live! And it fits.
I am in a parallel universe; not male, not female, but a biological and sociological combination of both.
For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well. My frame was not hidden from You. When I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they were all written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them. How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How great is the sum of them! If I should count them, they would be more in number than the sand. When I awake, I am still with You. (Psalm 139; 13-18)
EmmaOctober 24, 2014 at 1:36 PM
Wow, I can really empathize with a lot of what Bella said, especially the part about praying/wishing to just be changed to a girl. I can also relate to the part: “I finally feel like living and that is a strange feeling for me, but it is a good feeling. Very good.” because it really can consume you and make you wish for death when you are too afraid to just live a life true to yourself. I basically decided that it was either suicide or coming out, and so I decided to come out. She was not alone in her feelings, and neither was I; and most importantly, neither is anyone else who might read this post. There are many of us and in that, I find comfort.
Dara Hoffman-FoxOctober 24, 2014 at 4:46 PM
Thanks so much for sharing. I am happy to know that her words are able to bring comfort to others!
CarolOctober 27, 2014 at 6:13 PM
Dara, I’m so glad you gave us this other moment of hope, courage and comfort in presenting the story of Bella.More and more, I gain courage and determination to seek help,gender therapist.
KladdaughOctober 30, 2014 at 4:17 PM
This was so beautiful, Dara: stirring. Thanks for sharing it.
PeterOctober 31, 2014 at 3:33 AM
Dara Thank you for sharing…..Touching, people just can’t comprehend the hell we live in. But there is always hope that tomorrow will bring you one step closer to being authentic to yourself.
AshleyOctober 31, 2014 at 12:19 PM
Is this Bella, from our old group?
R.I.P as you lived, Bella.
She told it like we know it. We are never complete.
We derive a conclusion because we ‘live’ for the first
time. This is a birth conceived in darkness, hidden in plain sight,
and the midwife to forgiveness.
Know thyself ( a cliche and a truth).
– nosce te ipsum
– Ashley S.
Dara Hoffman-FoxOctober 31, 2014 at 5:57 PM
Ashley, that is correct. :'(
Ashley SNovember 1, 2014 at 1:19 AM
I would then like to add the following, because I believe it is hers.
It was given to all of us when we met in the group:
To live, or not to live, the wrenching question:
Whether ‘tis nobler of spirit to suffer the pains and anguish of obsolete being, or to fight against one’s own being, and through this struggle, to live, to no more be as once was. And by struggling, so to end Before: to live, to breathe with unseen body, and by such breath to end the heart-ache and the thousand cuts transgendered life is heir to.
‘Tis a consummation devoutly to be wished.
To breathe, perhaps to live; to live, perhaps to Be.
Yet, there’s a rub. For once that Being is achieved,
what remains of life, when we have cast aside the
life that was, and faced the losses of re-birth?
Must give us pause.
There’s the pain of shedding false life:
For we who bear the whips and scorns of hatred, the bigot’s sneer, the righteous’ condemnation, the anguish of loved ones lost, the Law’s delay, the ignorance of others, and meritless slights
of unworthy persons, when best themselves their own conscience keep.
To grind and toil under weary life, by fear of renaissance
and future costs- lest dreams be realized and very self confirmed- from such purpose kept, for as Before gives sway to True, unknown country challenges the will, and conspires the spirit to bear those ills we have, than fly to others that we know not.
Yes, conscience can make a coward of the brave,
and pause pursuit of persn’l revolution, be tarried
by anguished thought and moral obligation, movement
toward Truth delayed, does hither come with hard light of thought.
Yet from confirmation of great truth and awesome revelation,
hearty transition made, true self comes to light, and becomes thine own with affirmation when soul and body at long last meet. Soft we now. The other self? Do recall the triumphs and the pain, and hold such life remembered.
Dara Hoffman-FoxNovember 1, 2014 at 9:21 PM
Wow, I am so glad you held onto that, thank you for sharing it Ashley!
Ashley SNovember 1, 2014 at 9:30 PM
I forgot to mention the title: