Guest columnist Mariel E. Addis: High hopes and lost experiences

MARIEL E. ADDIS

MARIEL E. ADDIS

Gerd Altman/via Pixabay

Gerd Altman/via Pixabay Gerd Altman/via Pixabay

By MARIEL E. ADDIS

Published: 12-07-2023 5:29 PM

Imagine for a moment, getting a new name, a new gender, a “new” body, and a closet full of new and different clothes. Now, imagine experiencing life with both a heightened level of both emotions and physical sensations. While it seems like something from a dream, this is just what happened to me over the course of the last eight years. It is a rather profound experience and yet somehow, it just seems utterly normal, at least to me.

The description above is a lot to take in when you think about it, but now imagine doing it in your 50s. At a time when my cisgendered female peers were approaching menopause, I was experiencing something akin to the puberty they experienced in their teens. Surprisingly, and very luckily, I’ve had great support from many of these same female peers in my journey across the gender divide.

Still, even with this “new” life, I am still the same late 50-something person, experiencing the body pains, creaking joints, and yes, the dreaded belly bulge. Oh, to have experienced transitioning to female as a teen or 20-something!

As I approached my 40th high school reunion, it was hard not to think of my younger years, the ones I actually did experience and the ones I wish I could have experienced but wasn’t able to. Either way, I’m filled with nostalgia and a longing to go back, back to a simpler time.

It may seem odd to think of the 1970s and 1980s as a simpler time, but when you are a kid, you are obviously not dialed into all the ongoing drama in the world. I miss the innocence of that time in my life — well, some of it, but certainly not the confusion over who I was and who I wanted to be.

I was listening to the very last song on the very last Pink Floyd studio album, “The Division Bell.” This album by the storied British band, at least to me, is far more positive and optimistic due to the heavy involvement of band member David Gilmour. It lacks much of the anger and sense of doom inherent in songs by former member Roger Waters. Note: This essay was not intended to be a 30 year-old-too-late “Rolling Stone” album review, I just was wanted to frame my feelings.

The name of the song at issue is “High Hopes,” and although I’ve heard it many times, I cried during this last listening session. The song talks about the experiences of life as a kid, looking forward to growing up and having what seems like everything you’ve always wanted. However, when you get to that imagined adult place, you find that it is not all that it is cracked up to be.

You pine for your childhood — the good times, the simple times, the fun times. As I approach my coming reunion, that’s what I keep thinking about.

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Growing up in the 1970s and 1980s, I certainly knew about transgender people, but I wasn’t sure fully sure that label described me. There was not the public and professional awareness of gender dysphoria then that there is now. If I, as a teenage boy, had talked about wanting to be a girl to a therapist or doctor in the early ’80s, I suspect I would have been dismissed simply as “confused” or worse, as seriously mentally ill, the latter something that initially, at least, still befell me after I came out as transgender in the early 2000s.

If I was a male teenager now, and said the same thing, I suspect I’d be taken far more seriously, maybe even started on a path toward transitioning to female.

So here I am now, living a female existence. I feel incredibly lucky to have transitioned to female and am very happy to have the life I have now, even considering the extremely high non-financial price of getting here. As grateful as I am now, I’d still love to go back to experience the good old days, not as a teenage boy again, but as the teenage girl I never got to be.

Mariel Addis is a native of Florence. She left the area for 16 years but returned in 2013.