Soon enough, at age 53, I will give up my penis for this new life. It’s an entirely different gig for me, where I’ll be moving from the world of alpha male to a brand new neighborhood, Vaginaville, a suburb of Womanhood. Now, mind you, not all of this is entirely new, since in my head, I’ve been a woman for as long as I can remember. I have always been able to talk to women in a way that evokes, "I’m telling you something I’ve never even told my husband." And, too, I was just three years old when my mother caught me in the tub, legs bloodied from trying to shave with her razor, sans soap or water. It’s just that the outer shell—what everyone else sees—is very belatedly catching up with the inside, where my heart and spirit have always roamed.
This has not been particularly easy. No significant or truly important life change ever is.
So, how do we know when it is time to make that big change in life, the moment to stop the madness of an existence that is not really you? How do you get the courage to do it? And how in the world to do it with the least amount of harm to those we love, including ourselves? For god’s sake, I was a married guy with kids. I had no clue about being a woman.
In retrospect, I think it has a lot to do with your gut. My gut showed up with a voice—a damn nagging voice at that—which told me in no uncertain terms I needed to change. "You need to have your own life!" it shouted. At first, this voice showed up on my birthdays in my late 20s and 30s usually when I was shaving, looking in the mirror. For the first couple of birthdays, I waved it off, razor in hand, politely saying, "not this year, the kids are too young, I love my wife way too much." The voice would retort, with a smirk, "I’ll be back next year you idiot."
I thought life was a process of self sacrifice for others, where I did not matter. "They didn’t sign up for a queer husband or father," I told myself.
By my late 30s, the voice showed up with a dozen suitcases. "Hey Krug, I’m not leaving until you get your own life," it proclaimed. Stupidly, I ignored it. By all accounts, I was living a charmed life: two beautiful children; a gorgeous and loving wife; a successful law practice; a home in the best neighborhood of Cedar Rapids. I had stature, respect, and clients who loved that I could be an asshole to the other attorney across the table. Being an asshole made me a lot of money too.
Only, the voice would not leave me alone. Soon it was there everyday, whining in my ear, letting me know that time was wasting. "You know, you aren’t getting any younger." I tried everything to shut it up. Finally, I figured therapy would help silence this nag.
My first therapist had never treated anyone with a gender identity issue. He had worked a lot with alcoholics, so he gave me a 12-step plan. Step 1: avoid the current Victoria’s Secrets catalog. Easier said than done for someone living in a house with three genetic females. After several years, Therapist No. 1 said, "I don’t know who or what you are, but I do know you can’t be married." The voice said, "Told you so."
I did not give in. I figured I’d go to someone with experience, so I found a gay therapist. Therapist No. 2 really worked to figure out my issues. "I was thinking about you last night while doing the dishes. Let’s talk about your father," he said early on. And so, he helped me to hate my father a little less. However, it did nothing to shut up the damn voice. Eventually, Therapist No. 2 also told me that I would not be happy until I left my marriage and had my own life. Score two for the voice.
Because I was a determined S.O.B. (mind you that today the moniker is simply "bitch"), I just decided to work more, filling up any thinking time with work. I also drank more—hell, it was a way of keeping a lid on things.
In the end, it was wasted time. It was time lost fighting myself. Stupidly, I believed that love—of my wife and children—could defeat the female demon inside me. What I did not understand is that really, there is no way to defeat your spirit, your true SELF. Certainly, time does not defeat it. Losing time only means you have less life to live in the end.
The tipping point for me was September 11. Two of the planes were early morning cross country flights out of Boston. When I lived in Boston long ago, I had taken early morning flights across country. So, on the night of September 11, I sat in a church and prayed for those who had died and I prayed for our country. An interesting thing then happened: I started praying for me, for the first time in my life. I could not get out of my head the image that I was on one of those planes, and that yes, I was going to die. In my imagination, that meant dying without ever being ME, the woman I had been avoiding for all my life. I started to cry, the taps were finally opened. At that moment, I knew I had to leave my wife, my family, and the life that I had lived—as a fraud—for so long. I never heard from the voice again after that.
In the end, for me, there was no question about needing to dramatically change my life. I was lucky in that regard-----a big stick hit me on the side of the head in a way that I could not ignore. Not everyone is that fortunate. For many others, the idea of dramatically changing is beaten down by the fear of being alone or guilt over the thought of hurting others. So we don’t change and we end up just existing with our guts gnawing away at our souls.
Until we die.
But, as I now understand, life is something to be LIVED. You can’t begin to live until you are true to yourself, first and foremost, regardless of where the chips fall. It is a lesson not easily learned. My advice: listen to your own voice, and listen quickly. In my case, it took me until mid-life to understand this simple truth.
I only hope I learn the rules of women’s fashion a little more quickly.