My Story

A journey of a soul in search of acceptance…

As I am writing this, it took me about 3 weeks between the decision to write and actually starting to do so… the “why" will become clear during the journey I will take you on.

Wednesday September 23, 1981. As I took my first breath, my life, my journey began!

Actually I came into the world three weeks late. I always laugh about those three weeks and being born with my umbilical cord turned around my neck, saying it was because of the fact I was having a dispute with the universe’s client service… I lost. Or…. Did I actually win?

My parents were very proud to welcome their firstborn child into their lives. I was a happy child. Little did they, nor I know of the challenges that would become significant in my life, making me the person I am today.

I was a happy and smart little toddler, growing up in a loving family, with my parents’ business clients, aunties, uncles, grandparents. I was their sunshine.The only sorrow they went through with me, was a huge amount of allergies that nearly costed me my life on a few occasions. I started talking in full sentences way earlier than other children of my age and I was full of wonder, I wanted to know and discover everything.

Slowly, starting around the age of three, a child becomes aware of their gender, and is confronted with the first effects of society’s labelling. It was then that I discovered there was something wrong with me… but hadn’t a clue exactly what. I happened to be a boy by external appearances. A boy obsessed with washing my hands, a sign of a child wanting to wash the “dirt” off. But from there, it took me several years to understand exactly what was going on.

I appeared to be a boy, but judging from my behavior and softness I really was a little girl. My years in kindergarten still went smoothly, boys and girls playing and learning together. At home I had a lovely childhood, playing with the dogs, little goats, the neighbors’ children who were all around my age. But when I became six, I had to go to primary school which was boys-only.

Soon it became clear that I really was different… More sensitive, and softer than boys of my age. In the first year it still was quite ok, but as the years passed by and we grew older, I became the centre of bullying. Children really are harsh to those who appear to be weaker.

Sports at school became a nightmare. My allergies would come in handy so I didn’t have to participate in those classes, and I didn’t have to change clothes with the others. I was the smallest, skinniest, weakest, and most soft one in the class.

Because of my parent’s business and my uncle being a teacher at that school, I enjoyed a certain social status which helped during those first years.Besides the fact that I was so much softer, I happened to be quite intelligent and well-spoken, which teachers didn’t like that much.

At home I was safe, I played with my little brother. In our games he was my child, he was such a cute little fellow. Whenever I was at my grandparents, I played imaginary games, I was a fairy-tale princess, living in an enchanted world of elves and magic horses. ☺ Together with my grandparents I discovered all sides of our country, ate McDonalds for the first time. I was their first grandchild and they loved me to bits. Also the neighbours’ kids were always around, and they were my best friends.

Back in school as I got older, the bullying increased to a physical level; kicking me in the ribs, hitting me with my head against the wall, and name-calling. Nearly everyone (except a few friends I had) found it to be fun. Between the ages of 9 to 10 even the teachers began to participate in the bullying on a mental level. They called me weak, one always called me little paper boy. The gym teacher was the biggest bully and at the ages of 11 and 12 even my class teachers continued to join in. I hated school, and my body often became sick from all this stress. Every Sunday evening I began to get real panic attacks, because Monday meant a full week of school, bullying, being scared, feeling lost, and lonely…

Meanwhile, even in my home-life I began to really understand that something huge was wrong with me. I couldn’t understand why the neighbour’s girl and my little sister got Barbies to play with and those beautiful dresses to wear. Ever since I was little I played with purses, and my mother’s high heels (then already a real shoe fanatic! ) ;) . More often in this period of growing to the age of twelve, I started hurting myself. Crushing my arms between doorposts, or between the toilet seat; all reasons for not having to go to school, and not having to participate in gym class.

Nightly panic-attacks became a vast routine, I had grown into a child with severe anxiety.

In Belgium between the ages of 12-13, we go to Middle School, as they call it over here. Finally, boys and girls back together, finally I could play and hang out with girls again. At least that was kind of a positive side to it.

All these years, no living soul was aware of how I really felt inside. Even though for several years now my mother took me to therapists because no one had a clue why I was feeling sad, why I got so disappointed in people and life. Back then, “I was an eighties-kid”, there was no such thing as the internet with unlimited access to knowledge, there were no open-minded talk-shows like we have nowadays. As a result, even I didn’t completely understand what on earth was wrong with me, that I wasn’t alone with these feelings of being trapped!

Hurting myself became even worse, same scenario of crushing my joints between doors, but I had something new as well. With a rough fabric I started scratching big, ugly marks on my face until they really became burns…That’s how I felt, ugly. One day, due to a cold those burns got infected. My parents and doctors believed they were some kind of allergy, but couldn’t find out just why I got those! (I told my parents just recently that I did that by myself).

I hated my body, so bathing and washing myself became horror. I did it with a washcloth on each hand, so I didn’t have to touch this body that wasn’t mine. (Luckily for me, puberty kicked in late). Whenever someone even tried to enter the bathroom, I became hysterical.

The person in the mirror, one way or the other I hated him… that wasn’t me. It was as if my inner soul and the vessel it lived in were totally different people, I cried a lot. Severe stomach-aches became a new part of my life, together with heavy migraine-attacks and allergy-caused asthmatic attacks. Now I know that that was caused by the stress my mind was going through!

School stayed the same, bullying horror… I hated that time. Luckily for me, the girls with whom I went horse-riding were at my school as well. In the local children’s-choir, I was accepted as well for my angelic girly voice.

My tormented soul made me sick more and more often. At the ages of about 12-13, I often spent time in the hospital for several examinations and talks with psychologists. “Stupid psychologists,” I always thought, “making me draw these childish representations of my family and stuff.” I began to like the game of outsmarting them and getting into discussions about their theories. Through IQ-tests, they found out I really was intelligent, and my parents didn’t understand why I wasn’t doing better at school, and why I hated it so much.

MORE AND MORE OFTEN I STARTED TO FLEE INTO MY OWN DREAM WORLD. THERE, I WAS SAFE FROM THIS NARROW-MINDED WORLD...

My intelligence and my sensitiveness didn’t make my life any easier, I started analyzing myself, the world, people without any filter. Even if at that point my mother was clueless, she was my biggest loving support. Mentally, invested in my feelings, I became very isolated. The world who forced me into being a boy due to some ‘manufacturing faults’, became my worst enemy! I really looked like a girl. During summer the lady from the bakery even asked why I wasn’t wearing a bikini with this kind of hot weather. YEAH, why not????? When I was 15, I went to apply for a new school and the lady asked me if I came to try on a skirt for the school-uniform. This was double sided for me. On one hand, these remarks made me happy (they knew! I thought) but on the other hand it saddened me because I couldn’t embrace it.

Between the ages of 13-15, I became ready to really start a conversation with my mother about what really was going on with me. But then, the day came I found out my parents were getting a divorce. Seeing my mother in tears made me decide to keep my mouth shut. This wasn’t the right time. Again, I fled in my imaginary world and gave up on being a child. I felt responsible to carry the burdens and responsibilities for my mother, brother and sister. The war that was going on on the inside, I kept hidden. At that point this appeared to be the only way, not being aware of a solution.

My father and I through the years, we grew further apart. I was a well-spoken, extraverted child, and he was the opposite. We just didn’t got along, and didn’t understand each other. I also remember him and my mom having a discussion on why she bought me the Barbie doll I always wanted.

Hurting myself, so I didn’t have to go to school or participate in gym even worsened. I started doing it with even more strength, fueled by all this hatred against my body which was my prison.

So at school I spent a lot of time laying on the school nurse’s bed, fleeing from it all.

Psychologists and psychiatrists weren’t able to help me… at that time this wasn’t something they knew how to deal with. Sick of these talks, and not being understood, I found joy in questioning everything they knew, their theories, and believes. I read a lot, I nuanced everything they said, and took them thru big discussions. I think I also did this in a way to prove myself how intelligent I was. I had a need to feel I was good at something.

These feelings only intensified. I started playing questioning games with my mother: “Mom, what if someone…?” But she didn’t gave me the right response I needed in order to open up. “Ok, now what? Maybe, I started telling myself I have to try being gay? Being gay is not such a bad thing, so yes let’s try that.”

My mom seemed to have peace with that, so did my family. It was something for them that made sense. Being gay gave me a little more freedom in being sensitive, more feminine… It was like finding a niche, something in between which gave me the opportunity to be myself a little more than I used to.

At school I gave up. Between the bullying and the teachers being less intelligent, I was fed up. No one understood me. I even tried to fit in at one point, so I walked along with the crowd. I started to do drugs, because those were the popular kids and at the same time it made me feel numb. Lucky enough I pretty soon came to my senses and realized this wasn’t me, this was not solving anything. So I decided to change schools…

During the summer I had some time to think, I only had two more years to try and survive high school. I was 16 and the only thing I wanted was to be the real me, liberated from these horrific feelings. School hadn’t been any kind of challenge intellectually, but the bullying even by some of the teachers, is what made it a challenge.

I had a few dreams; being a psychologist (human psychology always has been one of my biggest points of interest), languages (I love learning languages and communication) and then there also was the dream of studying at “Le Cadre Noir de Saumur”, The French “haute-école” riding school to become a professional rider (horses, my biggest passion in life). France was out of the question, a single mom couldn’t pay this tuition, and even if, mom saw no future in it. Ok, focus, I told myself, two more years to go… just surviving, so I decided on being a beautician. I saw it as an opportunity to be around mostly girls at school, meaning I might be safe! Little did I know, in Belgium during the nineties boys couldn’t apply! What now…

Fine… a hairdresser. Even though my intelligence could have gotten me into university, I didn’t care anymore. I was exhausted. I just needed to survive. There, it was OK to be feminine, my classmates were nearly all girls. But in school in general, it didn’t stop the bullying. I got a new best friend at school, her surname consisted partly of the word “angel”… and these last years she was, my guardian angel. Even today she still is a dear friend of mine.

At the ages of 16-17, I started to get my first episodes of dissociation, from time to time life just became to heavy on a mental level. It was like my soul turned off the switch from time to time. Sometimes this happened when I was all alone in my room. After a few hours, when I got back to the present, I would realize I had been drawing during these episodes. Every single time the same drawing… a compilation of black ellipses with a strong and powerful phoenix rising up in the chaos. It couldn’t have been more symbolic.

NOW, WHILE WRITING I REMEMBER A THOUGHT THAT GOT ME THROUGH. EVER SINCE I WAS A CHILD I HAD THIS INTENSE FEELING INSIDE, A FEELING TELLING ME I WAS DESTINED TO DO GREAT THINGS, IMPORTANT WORK. MAYBE IT WAS THIS ENTIRE PROCESS OF OVERCOMING? OR COULD IT BE THAT EVEN TODAY THE BEST IS YET TO COME? WHO KNOWS… ☺

School went pretty fine at first, but between 17 and 18 it became too hard. The auto-mutilation increased, I started thinking of committing suicide. There were a few teachers at school who were able to look through the mask, they started talking of an alumni who had these operations. They were giving me a signal that there was a solution, that I wasn’t alone at all. At home, during these last years I informed my mother what really was going on and she soon found peace with it. She accompanied me every month to a team of doctors, psychiatrists leading advancements in the process of surgery.

The outside world wasn’t aware of these feelings, because to most people I managed to keep my guards up, keep my smile on, and fake joy! Around the age of 18 I collapsed, depression came over me and I committed my first attempt at suicide. It was a school-morning and I just didn’t wake up, it was my brother who found me… At first he thought I was faking being asleep, so he decided to prank me by putting ice-cubes behind my PJ’s. When he saw I didn’t react, he called our mother to call for an ambulance… Lucky me they were able to resuscitate me!

A few more attempts followed…

Excuse me for not really remembering the right timing of these years, but I guess I was living on autopilot at that point. There was another very special person in my life. I had gotten to know her when I was going out, and often met her in the city we lived in. Every day after school I hoped on bumping into her! She was 9 years older than me, and had gone through the same things. Even though her life wasn’t simple at all, to me she seemed such a strong, kind and warm person! She really wasn’t aware of it, but she gave me strength just by talking to me, I no longer felt alone.

We lost track of each other. I don’t believe in coincidence, but this year we got back in contact through Facebook after all these years apart.  It really feels as if the years were of no importance. How grateful I am for knowing this wonderful soul.

Meanwhile, the procedure with the doctors and the gender-team went on. The emotional struggle however, continued. The whole procedure took so long, it really put me in another depression. Other people were deciding when and if these operations could take place.

At the psychiatrist I really got mad one day, I told him never ever again to say to me that he was understanding me. I told him “what do you really know about pigeons, have you ever flew with them?” I fell into a psychosis, caused by a panic-attack. That made me decide to find help in searching for some strength again. Narrow-minded doctors, trying to stop me, getting me mad, and deciding to take over control once again.

From time to time in these periods between, I placed a note on the kitchen table so my mother didn’t worry too much, and I took a train to the Belgian ocean where I slept in a hotel during the day and went for long walks on the beach at night.

After suicide-attempt number ** and a fear psychosis, I begged people to take me into a hospital for therapy. I was lacking the energy to keep control over my own life. I became agoraphobic. So I had myself committed in a hospital with an open section for group-therapy. There, fellow patients were high-intelligent people. Victims of incest, borderline disorder, and more. With the rape victims, I could identify. In my phase of searching, I had fallen into the hands of a pedophile. They took advantage of me, and assaulted me multiple times. I think I was safe for him, in his mind. I appeared androgynous, and didn’t look like I was 16, and I was scared to hell of him. But I can’t remember much of it, I think the hatred for my body and my lacking in self-esteem had something to do with my coping. My soul wasn’t there.

In therapy I was mostly intrigued by all those pathologies from the other patients. More than once I prevented someone committing suicide. In my spare time, I went to the equestrian riding school across the street. The owner, a friendly lady saw pretty soon that I was really good, so she offered me to train her own competition-horse. It felt good to be appreciated, and I really was good at something.

After a while I started questioning what on earth I was doing there. I had nothing in common with those others, therapy wasn’t helping me… I knew what had to be done. I made an appointment with the head of psychiatry and told him I was going for an appointment for laser therapy.   He said he prohibited me of doing something irreversible. I told him I didn’t agree. I came with the intention of him helping me getting my life back together, and instead he was going to hold me back? That moment, I went to my room and started packing. I left the same day and got into action.

My first appointment with the endocrinologist was made. Normally one has to take “Androcur” (taking away testosterone) first for a year in order to start hormonal substitution therapy for another year before the surgical adjustments can occur. In my case, I was lucky and got permission to get them all in one year!

My god, it was a living hell for my body; pain everywhere, vomiting every single morning, mood swings (my poor poor family)…

Then finally, the day came I got my appointment for examination with the plastic surgeon, a check-up and setting the final date for my surgery! My date of re-BIRTH. A big disappointment occurred. After a conversation, the head of surgery of the gender-team, excused himself and came back with the mind-crushing news that they had forgotten putting me on the waiting list!

I was devastated… My world fell apart. In the car, on our way home I cried, but at the point my mom and I reached home, I was determined in finding a solution. I wasn’t planning on taking no for an answer!

I started making phone calls to several public services and support-groups and I found out about a private hospital, and one of the better plastic surgeons in this field doing surgery there.

I immediately I called her and set an appointment. When I went to see this doctor, she seemed to be a cold person at first sight, but I didn’t care, she was good in her practice. She told me it would take at least three months to squeeze me in somewhere. First, I received a date in 3-4 months. We discussed everything, she advised me to have the surgery in two phases: breast augmentation, and then the other part (you know the vomit-inducing kind of part) … But I begged her to do it all at once, I explained to her that I would rather die during surgery, than to live one more year in my living hell.

After about a week, I received a call from the University Hospital’s Pr-manager. He called to apologize and offered me the promise to set a date for surgery A.S.A.P. I said no, that I had lost my confidence in them and told him I wasn’t planning on trusting those doctors with my life.

About another week or so later, I received a call from the female surgeon in Brussels. Good news, just before Christmas! Another patient wasn’t able to come up with the money for surgery, so in January, a date had became available. I was so joyous. I was so excited I could hardly wait.

January, the day came. I was in surgery for more than 10 hours. When I woke up, still drowsy from narcosis and the morphine-pump attached to me, I was feeling so happy even though the pain was excruciating. After 20 years having felt like a monster, or a beautiful butterfly trapped in dungeon without any sunlight… The image in the mirror finally corresponded with the person I always had been on the inside (Even if I wasn’t able to see yet, because I couldn’t move).

I CAN ASSURE YOU ALL THIS PHYSICAL PAIN WASN’T EVEN IN THE SLIGHTEST BIT COMPARABLE WITH ALL THE MENTAL PAIN I WENT THROUGH FOR SO MANY YEARS.

The morphine-pump stayed on for about 3-5 days, I freakin’ loved that button! As I was in a hospital in the general French-speaking part of Brussels, my favourite word soon became “Anti-Douleur” (painkiller). The surgeon who originally appeared to me as a cold person, came every day; nursing my wounds herself in a gentle and motherly way. She comforted me a lot by the talks we had.

My room I was sharing with a lady of nearly 40, who was extremely catholic. She was so sweet, praying every day for my pain to be bearable and for me to have a happy future! My time in the hospital was soothed by Daniel, a male nurse as well. His wife went thru the same processes, so he talked to me a lot. I was a smoker, not able to leave my bed, so a few times a day, Daniel came to my room and carried me in his arms to the smoking-area. I know smoking is bad, but this was a sweet and comforting gesture. On so many levels in life, I always had to be such a strong person, that somehow the little kid in me needed comforting.

The first time my father came to visit me, I’ll never forget . Entering my room, he knocked on the door and said “I’m coming to have a look, where it is that my daughter is born!”. This meant the world to me, coming from him. Especially because of our not so smooth contact in all those years before… I just wanted him to love me! The present I got from my mom, my dad and my stepmom was this beautiful lingerie.

One of the main conditions to leave the hospital after two weeks, is to go to the toilet independently. Oh lord … I nearly screamed out my lungs due to the pain. It was my father who came and took me home… One hour drive, cursing every bump in the road!

Once I got home, I had to lay down for one more month… Standing or walking as little as possible. My devoted nurses were my mom and little sister. Often I saw tears burning in my mother’s eyes, because of seeing me going through so much pain! Every time I told her, it’s ok mom… I am happy.

In the period before my operations, my dear grandfather (mother’s father) was diagnosed with cancer. He was my hero. He was this wonderful man who had worked his entire life in the military as an engineer on the planes, and later as a teacher. He was a very important person in my life growing up. I remember when I told him about everything I went through… He had no judgement, he only asked me if this was what was finally going to make me happy. When I confirmed, he said “Ok, that’s all that matters!” The financial advance for the surgery, was payed by my grandmother and him.Before I went to the hospital, I begged him to wait for me!! And so he did. About two months after my surgery I finally was able to visit him. When I entered, partly drugged from all his medication… He said “wow, what a beautiful nurse is coming for me today”…. silly man. Soon after, he died. Until this day, I am feeling so grateful with all of my heart for him keeping his promise.

The next step was hiring a lawyer, gathering all the documents from the doctors to start the procedure for alteration of my birth certificate. Here I got confronted with the Belgian justice department and the day and age’s narrow-minded believes. It took longer than my lawyer had foreseen, he wished he had filed the case in Brussels. After a while I was invited to appear for some judges, this was very intimidating for me. I felt like being put in front of this arrogant bunch, looking at me as if I were an object. But it came through. My name-altering was done as well. My name I chose together with my mom.

NOW YOU MIGHT THINK … ENDS WELL, ALL'S WELL. YES, BUT ONLY IN APPEARANCE. MENTALLY I STILL HAD A LONG WAY TO GO AND LEARN.

Career-wise, I put myself step by step higher on the ladder. To prove myself to the outside world, I did some modeling on the side. I still had to play hide and seek in society. Even if I was a beautiful young woman now, I kept living a life with a big secret to the outside world, where this wasn’t as accepted as people were pretending it to be.

My life’s quest continued…

Driven by my spirit to push through and my ability to accelerate mentally at high level, I kept fighting. In my career I kept proving myself and in this matter getting myself a higher position each time, even if I hadn’t been able to complete my education at that point.

Between the ages of 23-24, I met my partner, whom I thought to be the love of my life. We already knew each other vaguely since I was about 18. I used to be a dancer, because there I could be my androgynous self! He didn’t have any problems with my past, loved me the way I was. We were kind of a unique duo, I myself, the dreamer full of ideals and a fighter, him being the more realistic one, pragmatic. We started up our own little business, me as a marketer, event-manager and my hobby as a makeup artist. He happened to be very talented as a photographer so I kept encouraging him to get better next to his profession in the financial sector.

As we grew, I became more and more adult, and a lot happened along the way. He lost his father unexpectedly. Before starting the business, I lost jobs due to my employers discovering my past. The fact that I was very good in what I did, was of no importance for them. My partner encouraged me to sue them… But I didn’t feel like going against people who are not worthy and so low in their evolution.

In my freelance-work I grew, and life became better and better. Still, I felt this wish of raising a child, knowing this couldn’t happen in a natural way. We talked a lot about children, and knew we could make it possible either with a surrogate mother or adoption, and said we would reconsider these options later in life. 

Due to some issues he had about his childhood, which I will keep private, he slowly started to get side-tracked. He was panicked about almost anything, I was the strong and persistent one. He lacked self-confidence in my perception of things, and felt good about the attention he got as a photographer. His ego grew stronger and stronger, in addition, he became someone who thought material stuff and money where the solely important things in life!

On a lazy Sunday, while he was in the shower, I received a phone call of a young woman I didn’t know. She asked me to come and see her the day after, she told me she really had to talk to me. She was pregnant by my fiancée…

I kept this to myself and went to see her. This young woman looked a lot like me. She started confronting me with all these messages and emails coming from him. The puzzle became complete, as little strange events fell into place! That morning she went to have an abortion, because the day he knew she was pregnant, he didn’t want to have anything to do with her.

My world collapsed, I felt like dying on the inside… How could this be, not only was he my partner, he had become my best friend through these years. I often was so sad, not being able to have children, and and yet giving one to someone else, then leaving her alone with such a difficult decision. My mind was turned upside down… When I confronted him, he kept denying  it. He did this a lot, lying to people, and blaming everyone else for everything except himself.

I think if that child had been born, I would have loved it, been wanting to take care of it with all of my love. Nevertheless, why I still don’t understand… I stayed with him. There were so many reasons.

Slowly I lost my self-confidence, my energy. Mentally, he dragged me through the dirt. I remember walking through Berlin 20 meters behind him, crying my eyes out, asking why. He just kept walking. Never receiving the answer or anything close to it, he kept acting like everything not being discussed, like the problems don’t exist.

Slowly, things got a little better, but I no longer was the same. I lost my spark, my ambition. He cheated on me again, and that was the point I left! I not only left him, I left everything behind, even our business’s paperworks and documents. I became numb, a robot. We were together for 8 years.

With this failure, I once again felt less, not complete…

NO MATTER HOW MATURE, OR HOW INTELLIGENT I WAS, I JUST COULDN’T UNDERSTAND WHAT THE UNIVERSE WAS TRYING TO TEACH ME.

I got another job as an interim-manager of an international equestrian centre. After a while, there, I met my next partner. I think he was a counter-reaction to my fiancée. My previous partner was 3 years older, refined. My new partner, 3 years younger, was a sporty, masculine type. I now know, that it was way too soon. I think, me being hurt, I just wanted to feel safe and loved.

We had such fun in the beginning, he loved enjoying the simple things in life, as did I. We enjoyed nature, sports, food, acting silly… But also these talks, philosophizing on life are what really mattered. His life was totally different than what I was used to. There were shows, events, or designer clothes. I adapted, let myself go and became plain jane. He was a pretty grown up guy, but carried a lot of trauma’s hidden below the surface.

Again, I became too empathic, wanting to save someone else in order to avoid being confronted with my own ghosts of the past. Putting yourself aside is the best way to keep a blind eye for your own life’s lessons. So I kept making the same mistakes, searching for the missing pieces of the puzzle in the outside world…

Meanwhile, I received a call from a friend, saying my ex was telling everyone I lost my job. I just received a very good review from my boss, so I didn’t understand. Two weeks later, I got fired. My partner’s father got sick, and had a double lung transplant, which was successful. But the doctors had overseen the cancer cells in his lungs had already spread. In a few weeks, the cancer was all over his body. After a few months of caring for him, together with my partner and his mom, he passed away. Something snapped with my partner. These suppressed feelings and events started surfacing. His OCD and anger got worse, he became jealous in a really sick way, together with aggression episodes. I just went under. I had not much fighting power, nor self-esteem left.

One day I received an offer from France, managing a start-up in the equestrian sector. I happened to have done an instructor course in academic dressage and had been working as a volunteer in giving riding lessons to autistic and mentally disabled children. I went to have a look on my own (the first time in years I did something on my own), but soon I came to find that taking this offer would make me commit the same mistake I did in the past. Following the vision of someone else, instead of following my own soul-mission.

So I returned to Belgium and my partner. Whenever we were out for a weekend trip, we had the best time of our lives. But once at home, he was the same terribly jealous guy. One day I noticed I was losing a lot of weight, feeling tired, and soon I discovered a lump of 4 by 5 cm’s in my breast. After several examinations, I found out it contained cells that already were starting to mutate, lucky enough for me I just had to have this tumour removed and several other spots examined.

The day before the operation, due to another aggressive attack by my partner to me, I left.  I went to the hospital on my own. He showed up, but I made it clear I didn’t want to see him.

The healing process went well. Meanwhile my partner wasn’t giving up… And somehow, I don’t know exactly why, I still loved him. You know deep down, in his soul, he was a really good and gentle person, just f***ed up by life. I gave him a second chance. There is something about me and second chances in life. I gave him the condition however, that he needed to see a therapist. He did, a few times but then stopped. For a while everything seemed ok.

Due to the fact I didn’t finish high school, even if I had done basic psychology, marketing, and more along the way, I kept feeling less intelligent. Now I know it’s because of the fact a lot of people crossing my path just didn’t understand the way my mind worked. I applied for a general acceptance exam at one of our Belgian universities. I got the highest score of everyone who participated in the exam. FINALLY I had proven myself.

Three months after the removal of the tumour, it came back. Together with the doctors, I decided on having both breasts amputated (they were partly natural, partly implants) on one condition… He had to promise me doing the reconstruction at the same time! We had to wait until November before my body was ready for another 10 hours of surgery. But luck was on my side, as the tumour didn’t evolve this time, neither did all the other dark marks seen on the scans.

I started turning myself to God/ a higher power, whatever you want to call it. I cried, “why why why, after all these struggles I had to have this taken away.” I couldn’t understand.

I always believed that nothing happens without a reason or a bigger message! I just didn’t get it yet.

In November as planned, I had the amputation together with the reconstruction… When I woke up my partner was there for me, however the next day he left me alone at the hospital, he went for a drink at night. I really felt alone and during my healing process I would be alone more and more as he left early in the morning for work to come back late at night. It was his mother and mine who took care of dinner.

Day in day out I cried for so many things, I felt I had lost my true self… I didn’t want these implants in my body… What on earth had happened to this once strong, ambitious, and positive young woman I once was. Mentally, I was going through hell. I called up one of my best friends and told her I had lost my true identity and I had to look for it, but didn’t know how to. To her, this wasn’t a surprise. Little did I know, my friends had suffered seeing me slip away these last few years.

I WAS DETERMINED TO GET MYSELF BACK ON TRACK. MY MOTTO AS A MATTER OF FACT, HAD ALWAYS BEEN… “NEVER A VICTIM, ALWAYS A WINNER”

Slowly I discovered one of the messages the universe was trying to teach me: That I am a beautiful women not by external appearances, but because of the soul and person I am! FINALLY!!!!

On New Year’s Eve, my partner again had one of his aggressive episodes. While with my horses, making sure they were safe during fireworks, he again got frustrated over something and hit the back of my head against a concreted corner-pole of the stables. No matter how hard I screamed for help, but people weren’t coming! I thought my head was bursting. I had a black eye and a crack in the back of my skull. I don’t know why some women do this, but I told everyone that one of my horses had gotten frightened and bumped me with his head!!

I started realizing I had to put my depression and my pride to the side. I concentrated on getting better.

After a month, I started picking up the training with my horses. I really enjoyed it and so did they. Due to my operations it had been my partner taking care of the horses until now, because of the fact I couldn’t lift things. Not everything was bad, and that was the confusing part. It’s in my character to keep seeing the good in everyone. But in the present, I’ve gotten a little less naïve.

After a week of training with my horses, it was as if the universe said I had to stand still and go do some more introspection. While riding, my horse, my white unicorn friend got spooked and took off. I am a good rider, but even this I couldn’t correct. Right during a turn he started slipping and lost balance (was it me who lost balance in life?). He fell on top of me.

What seemed for ages, I was laying on the ground, all alone gasping for air and couldn’t move.

My four-legged best friend was so worried, kept pushing me with his little nose to get up. I was back in bed and in wheelchair for a few months with a fractured shoulder, knee, ankle and foot! Luckily I had the reflex to safeguard my head and hip! Again I was lonely, day in and out. Meanwhile, two more heavy aggressive attacks by my partner took place. I broke my nose one time. Another time, he nearly threw me off the balcony.

“OK,” I told myself, no more trying. No more believing it was my fault.

I called my best friend, she’s always my angel in need. I asked her to help me move the horses, and my parents to help me move all the rest. After this horror, away I was! Back to mom’s, because I wasn’t totally healed yet, and the pay you get in Belgium when you’re sick is nearly nothing.

You might think, “What a life,” but I can assure you there have been loads of happy moments in my life as well. The thing is, I’m writing all of this to make something clear. I believe it’s just life making me understand and learn. Maybe one day this will serve some kind of purpose, and I will be able to use this wisdom I gathered. On the other hand, I’m proud of myself for never giving up and always kept my hunger for life!

Last year in June, a friend of mine convinced me go traveling together. I was not aware of her hidden agenda to bring the real me back. For my friends it had been hard seeing me slip away, those last three years. I can say now, the trip with her did the trick. Shopping, talking, enjoying, taking planes from one place to another... Little by little I began to return to my old, unique self. It is unbelievable how in the progress of life we start ignoring ourselves. The beautiful destinations and the laidback environment, piece by piece teared open all those emotions I had been tucking away so carefully. Every day I got emotional over something, a kind gesture, a beautiful sight…

Back home, I had a few setbacks. The stuff from my 8 year relationship kept coming back. That story went on for more than 3 years. That summer I wrote an e-mail to the partner I shared 8 years of my life with… (apparently I didn’t process all the pain until then.) In this mail, I wrote him all the things my heart wanted me to say if it hadn’t been so troubled with pain and hate the day I left.

I wrote him how I had missed him. How I had missed my best friend in the time I got sick and when my horse fell on me. I didn’t blame, and I wasn’t mad, I just wrote him to thank him for all the lessons learned and all the beautiful moments we had known. I told him I didn’t expect him to reply, but I just wanted to have peace in my heart and say goodbye in a proper way.

Ever since I had ended my last relationship, I was living back in the city I grew up in, and where I had lived with that first ex. Before, only our closest friends and some people from my past knew about the process I went through. I started going out, and little by little I discovered I became THE talk of the town. In the past it never had been a problem, but I had always been the one making the choice to whom I spoke about it. People asking me about it in a respectful way, always brought had an honest answer.

But now, little by little, everyone seemed to know about it. Not that I ever had bad reactions, but I’ve always had been appreciating having a choice in who I trusted.

Until this point, I never realized this still was so hard for me…I already had gotten used to the fact that there were men who liked me for my appearances, but not the whole package. Or woman not liking that someone like me could be competition. But, living through this and carrying this past, there will always be those men who are curious and feel like I have to feel honoured that they have an interest in me… AS IF!

To some less evolved people, this is some kind of circus act- not that those people really matter.

The people who ask me about it, I tell them a part of my story and most of them understand or are ok with it, to some it’s still something new. Mostly everyone has always been reasonably respectful.

During this period, I found myself crying a lot. On one hand, I slowly started realizing it was I who had been angry at life, having been born like this and having to go through all that struggle. I started being a little more honest about it to myself. What bothered me as well, is the fact that I’m quite an intelligent woman with many talents, and yet to some I am seen as just my story or what I used to be!

“Transgender”, I actually don’t like that word… It’s just another label. A label separating from male/female. We are all just people and souls. We all share this planet, learn our lessons, discover our truth’s, give and receiving love, or at least so we should.

Starting this year, I’ve met my last partner one more time. He is doing therapy now and very happy with his new relationship. I still had some stuff laying at his house, and his therapist asked him to contact me to ask forgiveness. Through e-mail, he already said sorry a dozen times, so in these 10 minutes we saw each other, I told him to stop apologizing. The past is the past and in his life, the only importance is to get better and forgive himself.

So this was finally a peaceful goodbye, and I was able to close that book. It feels so much better to say goodbye in life with all the love you can find in your heart. But it’s quite hard work to transcend all those negative emotions we gather by our ego’s.

I now finally understand why I’ve been making mistakes on all levels of my relationships, both towards myself with my exes. Why I kept holding on, settling with less…

For nearly 15 years after my surgery I had been in search of some pieces of the puzzle in the outside world… But all along I had to find them inside my own heart!

All that time I had been afraid, my anxiety telling me I wasn’t worthy for more, for unconditional love. But if we don’t love ourselves unconditionally, we’ll never find real love. The only thing we’ll find are mirrors telling us what we need to understand, right in the face! ☺

So starting this year I’ve posted an album on my public profile on Facebook, no longer ashamed of who I am. Right there in the open, is me. I had some wonderful reactions. My father made me cry, he wrote:

Well done Cathy, very brave of you. Now all those old boxes can finally close so that new ones can open up. Respect the past, classify it and continue in the present! How difficult it often has seemed for you, know that this will have to make place for a big dose of optimism and good feelings which you’ll have to use to enrich yourself and others. Together I’ll fight by your side, never giving in! Big Kiss, Dad.” (translated from Dutch)

At the same time, I told my story for a first time before a group of people I didn’t all know.

Again, I found out how hard this was for me. Four months went by before I’m writing this story now and I can assure you it has been a journey.

FINALLY, I CAN SAY I AM DAMN PROUD OF THE PERSON I GREW UP TO BE, FINALLY I AM NO LONGER IN SEARCH OF BEING LOVED IN THE WRONG KIND OF WAY. I NOW LOVE THE PERSON I WAS AND THE PERSON I BECAME.

There are so many friends and important people surrounding me that are priceless, those who have walked some miles by my side and those who stood by me all along the way! I am so grateful for all those wonderful people in my life, as am I for all those challenging lessons I had to learn.

There is a more spiritual point of view on being transgender that I’d like to add: for a fact there  is this theory, claiming that the human species eventually will evolve in being more and more androgynous by outer appearances in who knows how many years.

It is said in this approach to things, that people will go through the same kind of quest as I did, and will experience life in both ways: external appearances and inner selves. An advance of evolvement in humanity where people will learn that in the end it’s one’s soul and personality that counts.

Might it be that this is actually the bigger lesson or message that is hidden behind all of this?

Reality or not, it is for everyone to decide for themselves, people should really learn to see beyond external appearances, see one's true beauty of the soul hidden inside.

IN THE END, WE ALL WANT THE SAME THING, TO BE HAPPY, TO LOVE AND BE LOVED EQUALLY….

Finding self-love and always being honest to ourselves, is so essential for everyone in this world. Once found, share, inspire, give and help others. Some of us find this immediately, others like I did, take 34 years and a lot of side-tracks. But either way, it is OK.

While writing and overthinking my life, joys, and pains, I am finally realizing that I have been given a voice, a story… A voice and the strength to speak up for those still struggling, no matter what their story is, or those who are still afraid.

As this wonderful girl recently told me, “practice what you preach”… So I, myself had to put my fears aside and stand up. There’s more for me to tell in this life than just this story alone, after all, it’s not about the way we look, how we are born, what we have, what God we believe in, which language we speak… In the end we all are souls, with each and every one of us our own uniqueness. Just find that passionate song of your own true self and sing it out loud. Follow your life’s purpose, guided by your loving heart, fueled with all that passion inside! That’s what makes you rich!

THE UNIVERSE BELIEVES IN YOU … NOW IT’S ABOUT TIME YOU START BELIEVING IN YOURSELF !!!!!!!!

Having realized these big and wonderful lessons, my story continuous!
Thank you life and the universe,

Cathy

cathy kwanten