Dale Rides HER Bike

According to the archives, I haven't posted since April 5, 2014. In that span of time, so much has changed. This blog has been seen by THOUSANDS of people (current metrics put it at about 100 unique visitors per day). But that number has troubled me. It's not the tiny little blog that no one read or noticed like when I first started. With each passing month, as it grew and grew, I knew that eventually I would have to come clean about something that happened to me about 8 months ago, right around June - July 2014, and that's a lot of people to tell at once.

Don't worry; I wasn't in an accident or suddenly discovered the joy and freedom of rollerblading. I'm alive and well and still riding my bike (although, not so much in the dead of Winter). Instead, I had a powerful, life-altering experience. ...for the better!

Let me start at the beginning...

From a young age, I knew something about me was different, but I didn't really know what until, back when I was still in my single-digits, I came across an article in (of all places) The Weekly World News.

In between pictures 3-foot-long grasshoppers, pictures of "bat boy" and Bigfoot, I came across the news that Christine Jorgensen had died.

Christine Jorgensen was the famous "Ex-GI" who became a "Blonde Beauty" back in the 50s. It was the first time I'd ever heard of a man becoming a woman, and the very idea set my mind on fire. Reading her story began triggering waves of questions that continue to this day.

Although I have some earlier memories of gender dysphoria, from that day on, I just KNEW that some day, I was going to become a woman. (Although, technically/medically, we don't refer to it as "becoming" a woman; it's simply affirming what we feel we were born as.)
I just knew it was something I had to do.

And then life happened.

I grew up. I learned a little bit more about how the world works and feels about people like me. I realized how expensive surgery can be, and that I'd have to see a therapist if I ever wanted to start hormones -- and seeing a therapist would mean admitting that I had a "problem" that would make me different and leave me with a mark that society would judge me by for the rest of my life. It was too much to ask of teenage me, so I waited.

On into my 20s, the thoughts and feelings had settled and made me much less desperate to change myself. Or, maybe it was more that I knew how difficult it would be, and feared becoming ostracized by my friends and family. From time to time, I'd forget about it, until the occasional dream where I would be in the "correct" gender, leaving me emotionally crushed when I'd wake up and see my body as it really was.

On into my 30s, after working a miserable office job where I would babysit servers for hours on end and escape into my fantasies to pass the time, I decided I couldn't take that kind of life, any longer. In response, I moved 3000 miles away, to Seattle, WA, where I tried to find myself with a better job and new friends. I was miserable; I forced everyone out of my life. I had nothing left to lose. But, in the end, it solved nothing. I knew there was a deeper problem, but I couldn't face it. Not yet.
I moved back home, defeated. If there were ever time I wanted to kill myself, this was it. I never felt so worthless.

Eventually, after trying to kickstart a career in journalism (which burned out after 3 years) and scraping by as a dishwasher/factory worker/whatever I could find, I answered a tweet from a friend on Twitter who needed help at his computer shop. I started part-time and quickly proved myself invaluable; then things started happening and getting better.

After a year or so, I got a significant raise and realized my dreams of moving away from Hazleton were a possible reality. So, I jumped at the first opportunity and settled down in Wilkes-Barre, PA. Then I got sick, hurt my back, moved back to Hazleton for 2 months before getting back on my feet and finding a new apartment in Wilkes-Barre, ready to try again. As of late May 2014, everything was looking up and up. I couldn't be happier! Or so I thought.

Into the Present

Living on my own, away from family members, and without the need to hide from roommates, I realized I was finally in the position to live my life however I wanted. And there it was, plain as day. The very first thing I thought about doing was living as a woman.

The door kicked wide open. The feelings returned, stronger than ever. After about two weeks in the new apartment, right around my 35th birthday, I was sacked by feelings so primal and deep that I cried for an entire weekend.

I was no man. Everything I had done in my life was an overcompensation for that fact. Pushing myself beyond my limits, trying to "prove" myself to the world. I couldn't face a mirror for about a week, realizing that all this "getting into shape stuff" was me trying to find a way to make myself less ugly, more acceptable to my own eyes. Nothing worked. No matter how thin, how clean-shaven and groomed I could make myself, I only saw an ugly, balding blur of a face in the mirror. It was horrible. I looked like a man, and it went against the way I felt inside. It nearly killed me until I realized the truth of what I had always known; I am not a man. I was never a man.

My Bike, My Salvation, My True Self

All last Summer, I rode my bike as fast and as hard as I could, running scared from every dark thought in my head. 100 - 200 miles a week; sometimes more. I would ride about 10-15 miles around 6 am, then come home from work and do the same route at around 6 pm. On the weekends, I'd take off into unexplored country and get as lost as possible. Occasionally, I'd meet up with friends and go on a group ride, but I was always alone, inside my head, going over all these feelings and doubts and questions, trying to find an answer as to how I could transition and stay alive.

How could I explain it to my family, my friends and my boss? What if they rejected me? How much danger was I in if someone found out? I'd be out of a job, out of my apartment, and out of a home. God, wouldn't it just be so much easier if I got hit by a car, run over and killed? I had to stop thinking about things like that. There was so much fear to overcome.

Day by day, I found the answers I needed, out there, out on the road. I began to slow down a little. I put the energy I was spending on riding my bike into making plans for the future and working up the courage I needed to come out of the closet. I set goals for my transition and started seeing a therapist. I was a woman on a mission. The demons didn't scare me anymore. I could enjoy riding my bike at a leisurely pace, again. I could enjoy life, again. The bicycle had saved me, as it had so many times in the past. It allowed me to explore the hidden places of the world while my mind explored the hidden parts of me.

I knew what I had to do, and I accepted it. I cried, again, but these were tears of joy. I knew it would be difficult; I knew it would be scary. But if you've followed my blog up until now, you know how I respond to a challenge: I faced it head on.

I read about celebrities like Laverne Cox (although I never saw and still haven't seen Orange is the new Black), and Laura Jane Grace from the band Against Me!. I felt that the time was right; the world was ready to start accepting people like me. But could I make that change? Could I actually live in this world as a woman? I realized quickly that I would have to. It was becoming abundantly clear that I wasn't getting a choice in this. One thing we know in the transgender community is that once Pandora's Box is open, you can never close it. It was either survive and thrive, or destroy myself.

Within weeks, sensing how miserable and paranoid I was becoming, my boss asked what was wrong. Friends and family were wondering. TOTAL STRANGERS were asking me if something was wrong. It was so obvious, but I couldn't tell a soul as I delved into some kind of secretive, double-agent role: Who knows? Who doesn't know? Who can I trust? Has anyone noticed my shaved legs? Cyclists shave their legs, so it's cool. But how do I explain the makeup? Have they noticed I'm dressing more feminine? Do they know?

I knew I had to come out, and by the end of the Summer, my boss knew, my mom knew, my friends knew. And it was ok. It was totally ok. In fact, as time went on, people were more ok with it than I ever could have imagined. Instead of asking, "What's wrong?" people were telling me that I seemed much happier and open instead of being upset and reclusive, as I was for most of my life. My worst fears were put to rest, so I forged ahead.

By the end of Autumn, somewhere around the end of October, I was out, full-time. Wearing women's clothing, a wig and makeup. I bought dresses and skirts that I loved and wore them everywhere, every day. I used and preferred female pronouns, and even came out on Twitter and Facebook. No more hiding. I soon realized, I had nothing to be ashamed of. This is me, now. And, for the most part, I'm not all that concerned with changing my name. (It's a unisex name, and I've worked hard towards building it up and getting it out there. So, changing now would just be difficult and expensive.) However, I do usually just go by Dee, these days. (Get it? It's my first initial.)

So, here we are. February fading into March. 15 degrees but it feels like 2. Snow is everywhere. I've faced some of the most incredibly dark moments I've ever faced in my life and come out on the other side bursting with joy. I can finally be who I am. I'm free. I'm not just living as my true self, I'm thriving. I'm happy, for once in my life. I really, actually feel happy and contented.
Now, if only it would warm up a little. Bring on Spring, I wanna ride my bike!
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