This is my first post on GT for a long while, and it probably won't make a lot of sense, but I'm not going to keep going on without saying something. I have to tell someone, so a group of (relative) strangers makes the most sense to me. I know this can be doxxed back to me, but this isn't something I should be afraid of, and if someone wants to use this to intrude on my real life perhaps having the decision taken out of my hands would be helpful, anyway. I'm sorry in advance that this is long and rambling.

*****

I should have been a woman.

I don't know when I started feeling this way - a slight tremor of a feeling in my early teens, buried and concealed by stereotypical teen-boy-ish-ness. Later on, perhaps a sense that it didn't really matter what voice my own thoughts speak in - thoughts can't have a gender, right? The past few years, seeing more and more of the world I inhabit and the world I could have inhabited had things gone 'right' - my life is a dreadful mess of "if only" and "I wish".

I've always believed - and this is something that has proved invaluable when Life has slapped me across the face - that whatever your circumstances are, the one thing you can control is how you feel about it. Long term, chronic illness diagnosed at 13? Something to make me stronger. Homeless at 20? Not if I have a partner and friends who love me. Begging, borrowing, and stealing to pay for university? I was just learning how to be savvy and how to get by. Almost dying in a car accident? "Almost" only counts in horseshoes and hand-grenades.

But now, I've lost control of how I feel. I can't find an easy consolation or silver lining. There's nothing I can tell myself that makes this better.

I should have been a woman. I've known this now for a few years, and 'known' it for a bit longer than that. I wish I was a woman. I wish whatever insignificant butterfly wing-flap that made little fetal-me end up a boy had turned out differently. I wish I had twigged this earlier - and that I had been born into a family that wasn't too conservative to help. I see my female friends and co-workers and strangers and feel inside a horrible twinge of pain that tells me "that is what I should, but never will, be".

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Every waking thought of mine is in a voice that doesn't match the sound my larynx makes. Every instinct, every hope and dream for my life is for a part of me I can never, ever express. The rest - my job, my friendships, my relationships - feels like some kind of performance, a character in a play I didn't audition for. Even my name - a lovely name for a man - seems like it belongs to the body I inhabit, not to 'me'.

I feel awfully selfish. I have a wonderful relationship with a woman I love, admire, and adore - a woman who I would never, ever forsake. A woman with home I have come closer to being the 'real me' with than any other person on the planet. But this isn't what she signed up for. We entered into this relationship with her as the girl and me as the guy. That's a role I'm happy to play, because if I was a "her" and not a "he" there would be nothing between us. She's straight and I'm into women, so it works out.

I've not told anyone this. People who know me say I'm a great "guy", because I'm both strong and chivalrous and masculine "like a man should be", and sensitive and empathetic and willingly emotional, which is "just so rare in our culture of monolithic manhood". Why should I tell anyone anything when I have quite a good deal the way things are now - a deal that would be rendered messy and complicated if I wasn't just a "great guy".

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I'm afraid to tell my family, because they wouldn't understand at all. I'm afraid to be open about this with anyone. Most of all I'm afraid to tell my partner, not because she wouldn't understand - I know she would, because she's a decent person - but because it would feel selfish, like a betrayal. Things are working for us - we have built a life for ourselves, she's emigrated across the Atlantic ocean so we can be together - and I can't bring myself to blow it all up just because I can't be a man. I feel like I've lied to her - lied to everyone - because I'd rather live with the easy convenience of matching my identity and my body than be true to myself.

Maybe this is what 'coming out' is. Not a relief, not a weight lifted off my shoulders. Just a simple acknowledgement that there is something different about me. Finally telling someone, even if it's just a group of strangers on the internet, so I can hear that maybe I'm not as crazy as I've felt the past 5 years. But to even say this is "coming out" when I know I'm too cowardly to ever bring this from the internet into my "real life" feels like an insult to every LGBTQA person who has felt the same fear and anxiety as me and yet been brave and secure enough to actually own it. A guilty feeling that because things are going well for me I'm all to happy to abandon my true self for the privilege and convenience that comes with playing a straight, cis-man.

There's a voice in the back of my head that says "how dare you compare yourself to them - those brave people who would rather be honest about their identity regardless of the consequences than bottle it up out of convenience - you're just a coward."

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I don't know what I am, besides that. Man? Woman?. I don't know if there is a way I can reconcile who I am to myself with who I am to everyone else. I've resigned myself over and over to just living this life as best I can, to taking every little moment of solitude as chance to think and feel as my real self, as the woman I know I was meant to be, and otherwise just playing my role as written, regardless of the layers of costume it takes.

The one thing I will not do is live my whole life without giving voice to these feelings, and with this post I can go on knowing that, although it's my secret, at least it's real. It's not some delusion in my brain, a weird rambling of a broken mind, but an honest and true and real and normal feeling. I can't ever act on it. I won't ever get to live the life I feel like I was supposed to live. I won't ever know what it's like to be the woman I see myself as in my head. I won't ever hear someone call me by the name I would choose. I won't ever get to feel someone love me for who I really am.

The best I can do is keep calm and carry on, and console myself in hushed self-talk and by grabbing every spare 30 seconds to switch off 'boy' mode and feel free. I can cultivate a life in my rich inner world and pretend that somewhere in some parallel universe there is a version of me that got what she wanted. The old imaginary friends who never really left can call me "Laura" as much as they like - no one else will.

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Again, I'm sorry for the huge dump of Easter crazy. This was probably a tough read.