My mom just nodded and replied, “You were supposed to be a boy.”

Despite being passionate about the work I was doing, something was always missing. I knew I wasn’t being true to myself.

Things changed for me when my father unexpectedly passed away three years ago. Nothing can prepare you for the overwhelming grief, mixed in with eye-opening clarity, that comes from loss.

So when my mother moved from the East Coast to stay with me, I was grateful. It was in those early months that my mother and I became each other’s support system. We filled our time walking around Mercer Island, cooking Vietnamese food and having weekly movie nights. As a movie buff, those nights were particularly important to me.

One day, we decided to put on Chaz Bono, a documentary about a transgender man. While on the couch, about to grab a handful of popcorn, it suddenly hit me. The man who once frequently appeared on the Sonny and Cher Hour with his parents as a little “girl,” had something in common with me. I turned to my mother and gasped, “this is me.”

My mom just nodded and replied, “You were supposed to be a boy.”

I had always known the label “girl” people gave me was incorrect. However, I did not have the tools to describe who I was. Instead, I looked at 80s rock glam role models, called myself androgynous and dove head first into other pursuits. Over the years, I remained busy through my work at Microsoft while spending my free time volunteering on campaigns to increase affordable housing and quality education for all children.

Despite being passionate about the work I was doing, something was always missing. I knew I wasn’t being true to myself. 

Even after my initial epiphany, I let the months pass by in a blur of workdays, meetings and evenings with my mom. It’s funny how –if you let it– life has a way of happening to you.

Before I could think about it, December came. The holiday season packs a punch for anyone who has lost a family member. The fact that it was also my dad’s birthday month made it much more difficult. It was those feelings that finally pulled me away from my day-to-day activity. I looked at the next year’s calendar and I knew in my bones that I couldn’t let another year pass while I was living an incomplete life. Determined, I transitioned to reflect the man I truly was.

Transitioning later in life can be a double-edged sword. On one hand, I am grateful for all the experience that brought me to my transition. But I do reflect back and am amazed at how much time I spent trying to just survive. Fortunately, it wasn’t too late for me to understand that there is too little time in this world to not be your authentic self.

My co-workers and community readily supported me but it has been my mother who has been my biggest champion. She has not only expressed her unconditional love, but commented on how comfortable I am in my own skin now.

I will always treasure her words, “you are now who you’ve always seen yourself as.”