Updated: Jul 2
| This is the 269th story of Our Life Logs |
When I was growing up, the world of the LGBT community was almost strictly for homosexuals, and the idea of being transgender was taboo and only talked about in small doses. So, what happens when something so…marginalized is part of your identity? I, Kristen, formally known as Christopher, had to figure that one out, but not on my own. Here’s my story.
I was born September 7th, 1984 and grew up in a once small town, Castle Rock, Colorado. Sure, my family was poor, but that simply meant our favorite toy was our imagination. My three siblings and I all played dress-up, played with Barbies, G.I. Joes, and pretty much anything we could get our hands on, and as long as we weren’t fighting, our parents saw that as a win. Life around me was normal.
But inside was different. Even as a young boy, I felt as if I were forcing “normal.” The notion of things like “boy color” vs “girl color,” or “boy manners” vs “girl manners” that I was supposed to adhere to were always awkward and wrong, and yet, easy to dismiss and bury. Why would I sit and ponder gender norms if my favorite cartoon was on after school and I just got a new video game for my birthday?
Thus, my teenage years were as ordinary as most kids. I played sports from time to time, went to school, had friends, girlfriends and so on. Still, I felt like I was living in a shadow, an unexplainable acknowledgment that created a barrier between me and every other person I interacted with. I felt very secluded from my peers and spent the majority of my time reading and playing video games, living in my own world.
I guess, there was really no hard cut plan after high school. I have family members that have been in the service. My great uncle was a Green Beret who even has his name on a hospital in Colorado, and my father was in the Air Force. I guess I could say that the military was in my blood. And, being able to protect those I loved offered me a sense of reassurance. So, in my late teens, I joined the Navy and served for the next five years. I spent about two and a half years in the Middle East between Iraq and Afghanistan as a US Seabee, the civil engineering force for the Navy.
I got to meet a lot of people from all over the US and got first-hand experience in some of the poorest and dangerous parts of the world. During my time in the military, I began to see the people around me in a different light. In a sense, we were all the same, all needed to be cared for and protected, and when in deep conflict, a sense of true togetherness is undeniable. It truly humbled me and gave me a better footing in understanding the mental process of people around me.
Once I got back to the states, the uniform came off and so revealed a heightened sense of this is not the real me but I don’t know who the real me is. For years I was living in constant confusion and sadness, this sent me spiraling into a deep depression. And let me mention that I had tried to force myself into a palpable identity, and I had become quite good at it too—I mean, I even had a few serious relationships with women that were appealing to the public eye. But at the end of the day…it wasn’t me. And that was a reality that I didn’t like living in.
So, for the majority of my 20s, I numbed that uneasiness inside myself. My daily routine consisted of alcohol consumption and drug abuse, welcoming the blackouts like good friends. In fact, they made a good blanket for what I was actually feeling, and I compulsively kept them covered for fear they might come to light. Though it was agony to hide from my friends and family, I was terrified of the rejection, or of the flood of questions I would get, the ones that even I didn’t know the answers to.
As I approached my 30th birthday, I felt a change in myself, but not the good kind. The drugs felt weaker no matter how much I took. The alcohol had lost taste and function. The daze I put myself in was dissolving, and all that was left was…me.
Around this time, I slowly started noticing headlines, articles, support groups, you name it, that began normalizing the word, “transgender.” This community wasn’t like it was when I was a kid. It was something that was being talked about all over the world and there were people and organizations to help those in the same spot as me. I felt safe in my own thoughts, something I wasn’t used to.
Was there some major, stop-the-music, euphoric moment when I knew I wanted to transition? Well, no. It was more of a gradual, radiant feeling brought to my heart and soul. When I turned 31, I decided to do something about the sadness and confusion I felt every day. I did my research and went out seeking professional help, and thankfully, I found a very kind and genuine therapist to talk to about my dysphoria and gender identity problems. So, no, nothing crazy. But I guess…when I made that initial call, I think I knew in my soul that I was going to transition.
Once the process to transition started, I completely turned my life around. No more drugs, alcohol, or confusion. I had a goal and I knew what it would take to get me there.
In 2016, I came out to my whole family. I had my reservations about whether or not they would understand, but as soon as I came out, everyone was instinctively supportive. I know that compared to many members of the LGBT community I was very lucky in the way that the people in my life responded to my change. Many LGBT individuals have to suffer from rejection from loved ones. But not my family. I think they really noticed a change in me and saw my happiness radiate throughout my entire life. Even just simple conversations had more substance, and my joy and happiness brought my family so much closer as a unit.
My life did a complete 180 from who I was before. I mean, yes, I was born a boy and now I am a girl, that is certainly a complete switch. I’m really talking about the most welcomed and needed switch of my entire existence. After all this time, I knew who I was and who I wanted to be. My life was no longer stuck in this fog of confusion. The simple things I used to struggle with on a daily basis came easier.
I am now a proud and confident trans woman who graduated high school and just graduated with my undergrad and am looking towards my master’s degree. The transition is, in a sense, still ongoing due to hormones and other factors. But emotionally, I am finally comfortable in my skin, even if I still find hesitation in small doses.
This is the story of Kristen Tolmasoff
Kristen, formally known as Christopher, was born and raised in Colorado. Kristen served for two and a half years working in the US Navy as a Seabee between Iraq and Afghanistan. During the time in the military, Kristen identified with the gender she was born with, male. When later in life she decided to no longer be victim to her own dysphoria and gender identity. She changed her life for her own happiness. She is currently in transition from male to female, and just graduated with her undergraduate degree and is pursuing a master’s in IT. She is a strong and beautiful woman that has overcome many hardships, but once she learned to love who she really was, she was reborn into a thriving spirit.
This story first touched our hearts on February 1, 2019.
| Writer: Samantha Page Grimwood | Editor: Colleen Walker |