In May of 1995, my then-partner said to me, “I’ve always felt like a man inside.” This revelation from a partner of seven years rocked me to the core. I was a founding member of the Portland Lesbian Choir, and that group was the center of my life. My spiritual self-care has always been connected to singing. Beyond singing, my family of choice, all my close friends, the structure of my life, my social center within lesbian community – the PLC was all that. I had never needed the Choir more than at that time, and it was devastating to me when June came and Choir was on summer break.
During the course of that summer, I experienced what I later learned to call the dark night of the soul. I was depressed, paralyzed by dread and self-doubt, bordering on suicidal. Along about August, I made an attempt to better understand my partner, tired of the repetitiousness of my thoughts spinning down into the same depression and recrimination. Breaking the cycle, I asked myself one day, “What WOULD it be like to walk around the world as a man?” Far from dread and self-doubt and anxiety, that question brought to the surface a most-unfamiliar feeling of excitement and a giddy exhilaration, startling me no end. From those feelings emerged the now-inevitable realization: “OMG – me too. I need to transition too.”
September… back to PLC. In June, I was ‘Nancy, a founding member of the PLC.’ In September, I looked the same. I sounded the same. And no one yet knew that I had become ‘Reid, the guy who is eventually going to transition.’ It was a surreal experience. I had changed so much I felt like a new member, yet everyone was treating me as they had in June, having no idea anything had changed.
September 2018… long living as a transman. Settled into Reid. Settled into baritone in the Portland Gay Men’s Chorus, now a member nearly as long as I was a singing member of the Portland Lesbian Choir. Married. Over 21 years on testosterone, the same amount of time I had lived in lesbian community. What could possibly change now?
Then I went to China. My dark night of the soul is easily explained. I know precisely why I cycled downward in 1995. I have no idea why I cycled upward in 2018. China exploded my heart open to life, the universe and everything. I came back looking the same, sounding the same, as I did when I left. And yet, as in 1995, changed to the core. Spiritually awakened. Energized. In the three months since my return, I have processed and puzzled and written reams, seeking the same level of understanding as 1995. And not getting it.
I have now blessed and released the question, “What just happened here???” I have adopted instead a new mantra, the closing line of the iconic lesbian novel Patience and Sarah: “You can’t tell a gift how to come.”