Stacey Stokes | Online Feature, 2022
I had a beautiful wife. Long black hair, olive skin and hourglass figure. I could actually see the love in her big brown eyes when she looked at me. I had beautiful children too. Every day I’d wake up to my older daughter stroking my hair. Her radiant smile was the first thing I’d see. We’d have breakfast and I’d take her and her sister to the park. They would run around, giggling, until one of them got tired. I’d carry them home and we would all have a nap, their little heads on my chest. To me, this was heaven. This was my life. Until the day I lost it—and everything was lost with it.

From a young age I’d wanted to be a girl. But as I grew older, I found myself being scared away from it.

Watching Jerry Springer, I’d see a transgender lady come out, and everyone in the audience would point and laugh.

My first girlfriend, in early high school, said to me,
“Cut your hair off, you look like a girl.”
“Why is that so bad?” I asked.
“Because when I was little my dad got a sex change and left. I’ve never forgiven him for that. And you look like a girl … cut it off.”

I didn’t feel like my Catholic dad and siblings would support me. I believed they would abandon me.

Later, when I was older, I asked my wife,
“Would you leave me if I got a sex change?”
She replied with, “Hmm. Yeah, I would leave.”

Instead of talking about how I felt, I laughed it off. Too scared of rejection, I kept on going as I always had. My body feeling like a stranger’s body, everything I did feeling fake, everything I said feeling stupid. I had no idea how to be a man. Inside I was a girl. Eventually, I decided this was how I’d feel forever. I couldn’t transition or I’d lose my life. All I cared about would be gone. I’d lose everything that defined who I was.

I grew sad and resentful. I funneled my deep unhappiness to those around me, being mean and hurtful. I was toxic and even I hated me. I can’t blame them for leaving me. If I could have, I would have left myself. I guess I lost my life anyway.

After my world collapsed, I sat in my Nanna’s spare room, my childhood teddy pressed against my chest. Pictures of my children were scattered across the bed. Tears streamed down my face. Never again would I wake up to that beautiful smile or run around giggling in the park. I’d never look into those big brown eyes and see love again. Heaven was gone now and all I had left was hell.

It was my fault.

I didn’t know where to start processing the pain of all that was lost. I wanted to die, to finish the job. I tried to kill myself, but I failed at that too—suicide was too scary, and I chickened out. Dying, it seemed, wasn’t a viable option, which only left living. I tried anything I could think of. I went to therapy and group therapy. I practised mindfulness. I wrote letters that I never sent to try to articulate to myself how I felt. I threw myself into physical exercise like weightlifting and Crossfit. I got 13.5 on the beep test and got to 7% body fat. I spent nights praying to God, then tried praying to gods when God didn’t answer.

All those things helped me cope and carry on from day to day, but none of it healed me. After a year, I realised that acceptance was the only way. I had to accept the truth of it all, and move on. To understand what had happened and why. I had to adjust to the changes in my world and stop trying to reclaim or emulate the past. I had to grow from the experience.

I had to accept the truth: I was living a lie and it was poisoning my life.

I saw doctors and psych doctors and they talked to me about gender dysphoria. Just going through the assessment was healing for my soul. Talking about how I’d felt growing up and who I was inside cleansed me of a lot of the hurt of the past. Eventually, when I started hormone replacement therapy, it was like the missing part of me had been added. Looking in the mirror and seeing a girl staring back is like a miracle still, a miracle I should have embraced much sooner. But I’ll never forget what I lost along the way. Even though some people stopped talking to me and others told me I was going to hell, losing my wife and kids was by far the worst grief.

I hope that anyone reading my story takes away this: maybe it’s better to face the grief rather than ignore it. Whether it’s an abusive relationship, toxic friendships, coming out as gay or overly stressful jobs, don’t wait until a catastrophe to face the perceived and/or anticipated grief. By then it will be far, far worse.

If you have had a family breakdown, or your marriage or long-term relationship fell apart, you can get through this. One day you will be happy again. You can grow and heal. I know it’s painful and soul crushing, but one day you will be stronger for clawing your way through.

In the words of the Ancient Greek poet Aeschylus,

He who learns must suffer.
And even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget,
falls drop by drop upon the heart,
until, in our own despair,
against our will, comes wisdom
through the awful grace of god.

From Agamemnon (lines 176–183).

Stacey is a 38 year old trans woman who has been incarcerated in a men’s prison for 5 years. She enjoys writing letters, listening to and playing music, especially classical. She uses creative writing as a way to keep herself sane. As Stacey puts it “writing is a little window out of my hell of being a woman in a male prison.”
Lorenzo Mattotti
Saturday May 28 2022