04 October 2013

I Am Luckier Than Nathan Verhelst

I have lost relationships with relatives, people who I thought were friends and former colleagues because of my gender transition.  I have also lost a job and had to move out of an apartment because Dominick used the prejudices and other notions some people have about transgender people to spread false rumors and otherwise slander me.  (He was also abusive in other ways.)  

Still, I consider myself very, very lucky.  Certainly I am more fortunate than Nathan Verhelst.

He began hormone replacement therapy in 2009 and subsequently underwent a mastectomy and phalloplasty.  However, he said "My new breasts did not match my expectations and my new penis had symptoms of rejection."  When he looked in the mirror after his operations, he was "filled with self-loathing."  

"I do not want to be...a monster", he said.

Perhaps no amount of hormones, surgery or anything else could have alleviated his self-loathing.  "I was the girl nobody wanted," he related.  "While my brothers were celebrated, I got a room above the garage as a bedroom. " 

Perhaps even more damaging to his self-esteem were his mother's words:  "If only you had been a boy." He was "tolerated and nothing more", he said.

Earlier this week, with the permission of his native Belgium's government, he ended his life via lethal injection.  The doctors attending him said he "passed peacefully".   

How did his mother respond?  "Her death does not bother me," she declared.  She summed up her relationship with her child thusly:  "When I saw 'Nancy' for the first time, my dream was shattered.  She was so ugly.  I had a phantom birth."

There have been times when my mother was, understandably, exasperated with me. But she never would have said anything so awful to or about me or my brothers.  In fact, for much of my life, she has been among the few people with whom I could talk honestly about how I felt about anything.  And she has been about as supportive as anyone could have been in my transition and my new life.

Nathan Verhelst was a much better-looking man than I am a woman, or I was as a man.  I don't know much else about him, but I am certain than I am far more fortunate than he ever was.

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