By: Deja Nicole Greenlaw*/TRT Columnist-
Purging. The Free Online Dictionary defines it as “1. a. To free from impurities; purify. b. To remove (impurities and other elements) by or as if by cleansing.”
If you have the chance to speak to a transwoman 30-years-old or older ask them (and some younger ones too!) about purging. No, it’s not the same purging as those folks with eating disorders do. The purging I am speaking of may happen when a transwoman is living a double life, one as male and the other as female, and has not yet fully transitioned to female. All of a sudden it is too much for her and the “What am I doing!!!” questions unmercifully confront her. She stops expressing female, throws out all of her female clothes and accessories and attempts to go back living only a male. During such a period, there is no cross-dressing, no associating with trans friends, no more going to support groups, just “returning” to the life that was male. The confusion, the exasperating times, the shame and the guilt often bunch up and lead to the need to “cleanse” and become “pure” again. It’s time to live like a man again! The sad thing is that most purging attempts are temporary and within a matter of a short period of time, the transwoman looks to rebuild her wardrobe and to reconnect with her trans friends. The pull to express female is far too great to deny. You are who you are and no denial will ever change that fact.
I was so deep in my closet that I never amassed any female clothes to purge. My purging episodes were comprised of throwing away copies of “The World Weekly News” or some earlier tabloids which often had a shocker story of a man who “turned into a woman” and began dating men. There would be before and after pictures and I would just look at them and dream. I would keep them under my bed and take them out to look at them and just feel amazed at the person’s transformation. Then the feeling of “What am I doing?” hit me and the shame and guilt set in and I would feel so bad about myself and I felt a great need to cleanse. I would tear up that story in the newspaper into a million little shreds and throw it away in the garbage cans in several different places so that no one would ever be able to “piece back together” the story and somehow trace it back to me. It would only be a couple of days, though, before I would be so sorry that I ripped up that story and a huge, shameful, guilty feeling came over me and made me feel like a person who was not normal. This was a vicious cycle and it was not going to stop. This was from early adulthood in the early ’70s right through my straight, married life in the late ’90s. This was not the first time that these purge feelings happened. It really started when I was in grade school and I used to make a new year’s resolution every single year to stop wearing female clothes. You see, this was in the late 50s and continued through the 60s and there was no internet.
There was no one to ask anything, no way to find out that I was not the “only weirdo in the world” who was a male and who wanted to be female. Oh, you could read about Christine Jorgenson, April Ashley and Renee Richards but these folks were few and seemed like a million miles away. There was no one that I knew that was even remotely like me. I would scour psychology books and I would find phrases like “sexual deviate” to describe what I felt. I felt very alone and very different from everyone I knew. It was very distressing, especially to deal with these issues all by myself. I was too afraid to say anything to anybody.
Purging does give some sense of “normalcy” but it’s only for a short time. Then it’s time to face your demons again. They are not going away, ever.
I think that purging still goes on today but it is in less numbers as before just for the fact that there is so much more information available these days about being transgender. It’s not like the “old days” when there was hardly anything. Would-be transwomen today have that feeling of not being totally isolated with their confusion like us, shall I say more mature, people felt. Still, I can almost hear daily somewhere in the wind my sisters crying and sobbing and being confused and ashamed and guilty and feeling like they have to purge. Like Kermit the frog says “It ain’t easy being green.”
One day about 5 years ago I was walking alone during my lunch time at work. I was walking on the side of the road when I saw two wigs lying on the ground. These were most likely thrown from a car. I wondered about the person who threw them and what the story was leading up to them being tossed from the car. Could it be a transwoman in a purging episode? I sensed a great discomfort with these wigs and their former owner. I was certain that this was an act of purging.
My purging days are behind me and I am so glad. You see, you stop purging and trying to “go back to being male” when you finally, fully accept yourself. When you do finally get to that wonderful point of acceptance all those bad thoughts and feelings disappear and they are replaced by an incredible peacefulness from within. I am so happy that I finally made it to this wonderful point of peace in my life and I truly hope that everyone can get to their own peace in their life.
*Deja Nicole Greenlaw is a local transwoman who has 3 grown children and works at a local Fortune 500 company. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.