If I had to name the god of August and September of 2016, I would name it Intervention.
The Echoing Thunder
Carrie sat down on our bed and looked out of one of the windows in our bedroom. She had a faraway look in her eyes. She referenced the invitation I had extended to her to discuss anything about me she otherwise would have swept under the rug. She then told me three simple sentences.
“This feels like a betrayal.
“I don’t trust you.
“I don’t see a way forward.”
After two years of complete silence, these weren’t merely three sentences. Each one fell like a bolt of lightning. She didn’t use the word “divorce” but it was the echoing thunder.
Until She Commits
I called one of my friends in a panic and told him everything. A few hours later, he and I were sitting in a coffee shop and he gave me a few simple thoughts on everything he had just learned about me.
“You sit down with Carrie and you don’t end that conversation until she commits to your marriage or commits to a divorce.”
He also gave me some advice about being transgender.
“It is not your responsibility to change the world. When people hear about the level of pain you’ve been experiencing, they will grab the easiest answer they can find in order to distance themselves from your pain. Let them have it. You won’t be able to argue them out of their conclusions, anyway.”
I Did the Moral Mathematics
On August 11th of 2016, I sat down in my living room with Carrie. The kids were back at school and she was off of work, so we were alone in our house for a few hours.
I started the conversation my friend suggested and verbally held Carrie’s feet to the fire. I didn’t yell. I didn’t accuse. I simply pressed into the conversation, drilling until I hit the truth. She started crying as she finally told the truth after holding it in for two years.
“I can’t do it,” she told me.
I sat in my chair in disbelief. My entire adult life had been spent in a relationship with her and now it was over. I had wondered why she had been so distant. As I looked back at snapshots of the two previous years, I began to see the dots connect and make a line pointing straight at divorce. I had been so foolishly trusting of her that I had blinded myself to the non-verbals she had been shouting at me. I had been a complete fucking idiot.
She asked me a question that scared the shit out of me: “Can I tell people?”
I did the moral mathematics in my head. If I asked her to not tell people I was trans, she would look like the coldest woman in the world. From an outsider’s perspective, I had supported her through Nursing School to the best of my ability. I had quit my job to be a stay-at-home parent. And now she was leaving me for “no reason”.
I couldn’t do that to her, so I fell on my sword. I told her that she could tell people that I was transgender.
I realized I had made a huge fucking mistake the first time she told someone. Then she told more people. And more people. And more people. Two years of her carrying a secret –that I never should have asked her to carry– came pouring out of her in the span of a couple of weeks.
I Was the Idiot
Carrie wanted to keep up appearances for some reason I never understood and will probably never understand. We all cope with grief and fear in different ways. My way was to start drinking a bottle of wine a day and chase it with a few shots of whiskey as well as the occasional puff on a joint. Hers was to manage public opinion and try to hide behind normality. Obviously, we both did it wrong. Why don’t you try having your life fall apart before casting judgment on either of us.
Part of keeping up appearances was that we went out with friends for a couple’s date night. I still don’t know why I did it… actually I totally do know why. I loved Carrie and this was what she wanted, so I went along out of my love for her.
As we sat together with our friends at Bread & Circus, I had to keep myself from breaking down at the table multiple times. This was the last date I would ever have with my wife and the entire thing was a fucking charade. It was as fake as the last two years of my marriage had been and I was the idiot not in on the joke.
No Matter What
I was still holding out hope that I could stay in front of being outed. I figured Carrie would eventually run out of gas, stop telling people I was trans, and that I might be able to contain the damage… until she told one person that I knew couldn’t keep a secret. As soon as that person found out, I knew I had to drive to Texas and come out to my family before they found out through someone else. I told my sister over the phone and she was so shocked that I was getting a divorce that she didn’t even hear the part about me being transgender. I had to repeat it to her.
I sat down at my parents’ breakfast table and drew a triangle that was missing one side, just like I had done with Carrie two years before. I explained to my parents that one corner of the triangle was my physical body… I had the body of a man. I told them that another corner –only connected to my body– was sexual orientation… I was attracted to women.
I then drew a line between my body and the corner that represented gender identity and explained to them that two years prior I had drawn this same picture for Carrie and told her that I was transgender. I explained to them, just like to her, that Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation are not connected, hence the triangle missing a side. I explained to them that I had told Carrie that I was willing to spend the rest of my life in the closet but that she just couldn’t do it… and that was why we were getting a divorce.
My dad looked at me and said, “Dallas, we will always love you, no matter what.”
I Decided that It Was Time
Carrie and I sat in the divorce lawyer’s office and went through all of our major possessions one by one. I gave up all of them without a fight. My lawyer (I had contacted him so he represented me by default) told me he was glad I chose that course of action because I would never have won any claim on the house since we built it on her parents’ farm.
I waived Alimony and she waived Child Support. We talked about custody. We talked about fucking nightmarish topics like overnight stays of future partners being off limits when we had the kids. Carrie sat in her chair and smiled and nodded and acted like everything was perfectly fine. I sat in mine and felt my grip on reality slip further and further.
The woman I loved didn’t love me back. As a matter of fact, she had held her heart back from me for most of our marriage. (All of our fights over the years, with me asking her over and over again why she was so cold and distant came back to me when Carrie admitted she had played it safe with her heart.)
My sons —the greatest things I’d ever done in my life— were no longer going to be mine 24 hours a day. I thought Carrie leaving me was heartbreak… the idea of my kids not sleeping a few feet from me was absolutely paralyzing in its pain.
I was leaving an 18 year marriage with nothing other than the clothes on my back. As a parting prize for playing The Game of Life, I got to keep my family heirlooms but I couldn’t afford a place to put them in. I was unemployed.
I was being forced out of a closet that I had been quite content to die in. I’d heard enough mean things said about transgendered people to terrify me into staying in my closet, even though it no longer had a door on it or a wife standing guard outside of it.
I was losing my job with The Inner Kingdom. $10,000 in travel, training, and certification was going up in smoke. A ministry that fulfilled God’s calling on my life was over.
I was losing a family that I loved as dearly as I loved my own. My in-laws had been a part of my life from the time I was 18. Losing them hurt just as much as losing my wife.
I knew what was coming with my church but tried not to think about it. I would get a scarlet letter. I would be stripped of all rank, honor, and privilege.
I never had an affair. I never gambled away our money. I never hit my wife. I never even did something as pithy as give myself over to an all-consuming hobby. But, somehow, I was losing everything I owned, belonged to, and loved.
For the first time, I got a glimpse past the first stage of grief –Disbelief– and saw the never-ending wastelands beyond it. As we talked about the gut-wrenching mundanity of Legal Separation and Divorce Filing, I glazed over and started staring at the fish tank that was to my right. As I watched those fish swim around their transparent cage, I decided that it was time to kill myself.
I Would Rather Have Died
Being a Type A Personality, I pulled out my calendar and looked over possible suicide dates. Between Carrie’s every-other-weekend work schedule, my seminar that was coming up, and other obligations we had, the weekend I was supposed to come out to my boys and tell them that we were getting a divorce looked like the best weekend to end it all.
I would have rather died with them knowing me as a man who loved their mother than come out to them and ruin their lives. I started Binging suicide methods and realized that a lot of them are painful and drawn out way too much. There was too much time for regret to enter the mind between the action and the consequence. Bing picked up on my line of thinking and the Suicide Hotline and Trans Lifeline started popping up in my search results. I actually called the Trans Lifeline but, with it being 6am and an all-volunteer crew who were either at their real jobs or still sleeping, the phone just rang and rang until I hung up.
I finally settled on drinking myself to death. I already knew I had a problem with alcohol so the poetic justice of drinking myself to death seemed appropriate.
Part of making the divorce easy for the kids involved me moving into an RV 300 feet from our house. (This way, I could still take care of them in the home they always identified as “Ours” while establishing a space that was separately identified as “Pappy’s.”) I figured I’d kill myself in that RV, continuing on the poetic justice theme.
The game plan was to go to bed and act like I was sleeping. Once I heard Carrie’s breathing pattern signal she was asleep, I would get out of bed, go to the RV, and begin executing my simple plan. I had a blue tarp I used for camping that I was going to lay in the tub to catch the vomit and shit that my body would have expelled once my muscles had relaxed. (I didn’t want to leave a mess for someone else to clean up, even in my death.) I was going to buy two bottles of high-proof booze, lay down on that tarp, and drink until I died. I was then going to have The Inner Kingdom send an automated email to my father-in-law the next morning telling him to call 911 with my location and condition.
Life got better once I had put the plan on my calendar. There would be an end to the pain.
It would end on the evening of September 16th of 2016.
Tying Up Loose Ends
Even as I planned to kill myself, I still did shit like hold planning meetings for the seminar that was coming up, run two or three miles a day, and write weekly blog posts for The Inner Kingdom. (I was delaying fessing up to my board of directors.)
I stepped down from the Men’s Ministry leadership role at my church and felt a HUGE relief. I had wanted to get away from that beast since the day God had told me to pick it up. I felt confident that the team I had assembled would carry on what we had started.
Life was all about tying up loose ends at that point… other than running. I knew that running would help with the anxiety I was feeling. I also used it as a cure for the insomnia I was beginning to deal with. I did my best to tire out my body so that sleep would have no choice but to overtake me and hold me. My battle plan against insomnia usually worked until about 3am, at which point I became that creepy person liking people’s tweets and statuses in the middle of the night.
The seminar, focused on the teachings of Terry Wardle, finally rolled around. These were people who swam in the deep end of the mystical pool. They practiced things like Prophecy and Words of Knowledge. What that means is that they believed that God was willing to give his people specific things to say to other people. A lot of times that turned into shit like, “Thus says the Lord, ‘The music is too loud and the air conditioning is too cold.’” Other times, there was really no explanation other than that something supernatural might have happened.
Terry and his wife, Cheryl, were sleeping in a cabin on the farm. They were completely oblivious to the multiple nightmares unfolding in my life. They had no idea that I ran around the farm during the 4am hour. The first day of the seminar, Terry said, “Cheryl and I were awoken at 4:30 this morning to screaming. Not physical screaming but spiritual screaming. We didn’t know what it meant but we think there might be people suffering intense pain here.”
‘Nice fucking try,’ I told God, ‘but you’re going to have to do better than that. I’m done with your generic love. If you want me to live, you are going to have to speak directly to someone about me. Not this someone-out-there bullshit. You either love me enough to save me from myself or you’re fucking dead to me.’
My Mind Was Fixed
I was driving in to the seminar on the morning of September 8th and pulled over to marvel at the sunrise. It was going to be one of the last ones I would ever see. I wept at the beauty this fucked up world possessed.
I saw one of my coworkers from my time in wine sales later that day. I was so mentally out of it that I didn’t realize it was him smiling at me as we both sat in standstill traffic.
My mind was fixed on The End. Seven sunrises to go. Eight more evenings with my sons to go.
Speak the Fuck Up
That same day, Terry’s son, Aaron, and a woman named Maria started speaking prophecies over the group. Some of them were clearly not for me. ‘Good,’ I thought each time their words passed by me. ‘The deal is that you have to do better than that, God. I want something specific and directed without question to me. If you want me to stick around then you need to speak the fuck up.’
Later on during the time of singing/praying, Terry had all the Caregivers stand in a circle around the people participating in the seminar. I wasn’t a participant. I was part of the support staff so I sat outside this circle, in the back of the room. It felt appropriate. I didn’t have a seat at their table anyway. Most of the people there would have kicked me out of the room and told me I was going to hell if they knew I was Trans. ‘Fuck em all,’ I thought as I sat with my arms crossed.
I grabbed my phone and texted Carrie in anger, telling her that I resented the fact that she had lied to me for two years. She responded with just as much anger as I had put into my text, and shot me through the heart with her words. That text message was it for me. Any doubt about killing myself was gone. The woman I loved with all of my heart hated me with all of hers.
One of the caregivers, a gentle spirit of a woman, turned her head and saw me alone in the back of the room. I later heard from her husband, my pastor, that God had told her to go to me. She left her spot in the circle and walked up to me. All she said to me was one sentence, “Let go, Dallas.” She gently put her hand on my shoulder and I started weeping.
I left my seat in the back and went up to my friend, Jeff, who had been praying at the exit. I told him that I needed to get help because I wanted to kill myself.
An hour later I was walking through the first of many locked doors at Vermilion Hospital.
Read the next Chapter: A god named Acceptance