by Aubrey Kesler
Talking about gender dysphoria is like trying to drive a nail through a plume of smoke. I’ve often said that I am a goddess of love and beauty born into the body of a Greek hero. The world sees the hero and expects one thing of him, but the goddess feels another way. She can’t imagine leading the Argonauts or slaying Medusa. Instead, she seeks the golden bangles and flowing dresses that will express who she is inside, but realizes that the world expects her to don the helmet and breastplate like the other men. Can you imagine how ridiculous a towering man with the strength of an ox would look in a dress?
When I was young I ventured out into the wide, psychotic bazaar of the internet in search of people who felt like I did. I found forums, I found news articles, and I found other goddesses who had shirked the expectations of society and cashed in their breastplates for bangles. But when anyone tries to wear makeup for the first time it is hardly ever a success story, and that’s what I found when I entered these forums. It was such a mix of emotions, because on one hand I found my tribe, but on the other hand this tribe confirmed everything I had felt about myself: I am different. The beauty I sought was about nine feet beyond the furthest reach of my desperate fingertips.
I will never be beautiful. Look at this body! How can I make this figure appear feminine? If I dress like a woman, I’ll be a hiss and a byword—the joke of songs and movies—and whispers will rise up like a chorus in the wake of my presence.
Thoughts such as these ran through my head in the dark hours of the night. In those moments I made a decision that would affect me for the rest of my life: I will tell no one. God gave me this struggle so that I can overcome it and return to Him with honor.
You must know that I was raised in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and this is the purpose of life that’s given to you: put on blinders to “The World,” read your scriptures, follow the commandments, and march on in a single file line. I mean no disrespect to anyone who currently practices the faith—I have met many with the milk of human kindness flowing in their veins—but it’s truly a restrictive lifestyle. There’s a list of things you must believe and it is not open for debate. If you are different than what is binary (male or female, Priesthood or Relief Society—no in between), then the doctrine will not allow you to come to terms with the true person you are beneath the masterwork of pulleys, levers, and chemical compounds that is built around your soul. That is the predicament that all queer-identifying people find themselves in when it comes to the LDS faith. Boys wear ties and girls wear dresses.
So I soldiered on in the breastplate and helmet like I was expected to do, and deposited Aubrey the goddess into a prison cell in the darkest corner of my heart. Perhaps my angst and self-loathing were the echoes of her cries for freedom. After years of confinement her shouts finally climbed the stone staircase and reached the ears of the scared, insecure person who sat on the throne of my mind. I left the Church in 2014, and in 2016 I talked to my wife about dressing in drag so I could express the femininity inside of me. I was twenty-eight years old and had wasted eighteen years acting out a role whose lines I could hardly read from the script. In today’s gun-riddled society, eighteen years is all the lifetime that some people get to live.
I talked to my wife about cross-dressing or doing drag once or twice a month, and she said that this would be something we could try and make work. I immediately began looking through Pinterest for dresses that I’d always wanted to wear. I told people at work in special confidence, and even telling one person made me feel so powerful. All it took was a moment of holding the scepter for Aubrey to assume control of the legions and the senate; Derick, that scared fool of a ruler, knew that his time on the throne was at an end.
I came home after a long day of work and my wife knew something was wrong. I had a glass of whiskey in hand and was watching the TV like I wished life could be as simple as all the stupid sitcoms: beginning, crisis, punch line, resolution, and the credits. She asked me how I was doing and I lied. She knew—she always did—because she had a way of reading me and telling me what the next three paragraphs of my emotions said. I took a sip and told the truth.
“I don’t think a weekend here or there will be enough.” I was still staring at the TV. It was all flashes of color and light to me.
“Do you want to be a woman?” She was afraid of the answer because she probably already knew it—she just had to hear it.
“So you want to cut your penis off and live the rest of your life as a woman?”
Another sip and another slide deeper into the Jacuzzi of truth.
With that single word Derick abdicated the throne. His statue in the square was toppled, and Aubrey’s banner was raised around the capitol. The next day we called our friends and family and told them that we were getting a divorce and that I would be transitioning to live life as a woman.
Keep in mind that at this point I had no idea how beautiful or hideous I would look as a woman. I only had in my hands the smallest, most potent kernel of truth, and it was one that I had always known and poured over in fascinated horror: I AM a woman inside and I must live that way even if I look like Fiona the ogre.
The next day I went out and expanded my already extensive makeup collection (I did theatrical and cinematic makeup as a hobby which I had planned on making a career) and did myself up as Aubrey for the first time in my life. I’m lucky in that I already had the skills of a practiced makeup artist when I did this. I’m so vain and self-possessed that I shudder to think what the outcome would have been if I had botched together a makeup look and thrown on a $15 Halloween wig. I might have backed out.
When I was finished, I looked in the mirror and saw the goddess shining through my features.
I am Aubrey Marie Kesler, the heiress who has come to power after twenty-eight dark and dreadful years of captivity. If my frame is large, it’s only because so much soul cannot dwell in a smaller tabernacle. Someday I will have breast implants and sometime after that I will undergo Sex Reassignment Surgery and will have a fully functioning vagina. I say this boldly because I’m not afraid of this anymore.
If you are reading this and you are in doubt about yourself, do something about it. Do it now. Do not waste another day in unhappiness when you could be spending your time sailing into the golden horizon of the future. Do not be so concerned with beauty standards, as I was, that you let time blow your years away like so many leaves in a cold wind. You are beautiful for who you are and who you get to become. God didn’t make a mistake when He poured me into a body and He did not make a mistake when He did the same for you. Learn what He wants you to learn by developing who you are and finding ways to help others to whom he has given a similar quest as your own.
It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it.
That’s such a cliché my fingers hurt just typing it.
But it’s true.
Aubrey Marie Kesler is a trans woman who dwells in Utah and spends her days living out the wildest daydreams she never thought could come true. Her identity is rather nebulous and unexplored at this point, but the few constellations she can point out are shaped around aspirations of a career in beauty, art, writing and anything that has to do with creation. The nearer she gets to the stars ahead, the brighter they sparkle in her eyes.
She writes the blog The Life of Aubrey where a version of this post originates under the title “Continuing the Tale.”