by Mallory B.T. Dupree
about the author:
Mallory Dupree is a 30 year old transgender woman who was diagnosed with DMD at age 9. She graduated from Southern Methodist University with a B.S. in Biochemistry.
Mallory has been involved in advocacy since 2012 and has served as a Patient Representative for the U.S. Food & Drug Administration, a consumer reviewer for the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs, and a consultant to various pharmaceutical and clinical groups. In her free time, Mallory enjoys playing electric guitar, building computers, playing video games, and reading Japanese comics.
Mallory can be reached at Mallory.Dupree@FamilyFriendsAndDuchenne.org
My Journey as a Transgender Woman with DMD
I am a 30-year-old transgender woman with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD).
Getting to the point where I can confidently say that about myself has taken almost my entire adult life. There are many reasons why I think it took me until I was almost 30 years old to come to a better understanding of just what my relationship with gender was. Some of these reasons are related to living with DMD, some are related to feelings of low self-worth, and some are related to my own assumptions.
The “Only” Reasons I Felt Strange
When I was younger, like many people, I had a vastly incorrect understanding of what it means to be transgender. Naively, I thought that a transgender person’s life follows a specific pattern with very specific signs. I had believed that every transgender person finds out very early on in their childhood that they are not comfortable with the gender they were assigned at birth. For someone like me, I thought this would have shown up as a strong preference for typically feminine hobbies and patterns of dress and a vocal insistence that I was a girl. These can be a part of any transgender person’s experience.
However, like many of those in the Duchenne and Becker Muscular Dystrophy community know, life isn’t simple, and it doesn’t always follow a simple path.
For me, I think the earliest sign was a simple feeling of discomfort with my body. A sort of disconnect with my physical self. This feeling became especially apparent once I reached middle school and started to see my peers grow and mature around me. Something felt off, but I could not identify what it was.
Having been diagnosed with DMD a couple years prior and being the overthinker that I was, I hypothesized that my discomfort was entirely due to how DMD affected my muscles and how treatment with corticosteroids altered my development. I assumed that my weakened muscles simply couldn’t move the way my brain expected them to. By that same notion, delayed physical development meant that my brain expected my body to be further along than it was. Obviously these were the only reasons I felt strange.
Or so I told myself for many of the years that followed.
Middle School and High School
As I grew through middle school and high school this disconnect evolved into a sort of apathy towards my own appearance. Through most of my time in school, I took no interest in picking out my own clothing and otherwise tried to stand out as little as possible. I wore simple shirts, shorts, and sweatpants that were perfectly normal in every sense of the word.
In parallel to the discomfort I had with my body, I tried to convince myself I was still “normal” to cope with my diagnosis of DMD and its physical effects on me. For me, this meant a number of things.
One of these was finding a way to achieve the specific milestones we often associate with adulthood. Developing a career, getting into a relationship, buying a home, getting married, and having kids. Given my diagnosis and its effect on my physique, I decided early on that my only path to doing so was through excelling in academics or some other scholarly pursuit.
Although this mindset initially helped me with my motivation to succeed in high school, it soon began to spread to other areas of my life. I began to develop a sense of perfectionism that warped my sense of self-expression and eroded my self-confidence. Somewhere along the way I began to equate what was perfect with what was normal and established a paradigm where in order to be normal, I had to be perfect.
In college, this began to manifest as clinical depression and an intense concern with acting how I was expected to. Depression, coupled with all the anxieties and frustrations that come with a diagnosis like DMD, eventually led me to pursue counseling to manage my mental health.
Through college, with the support of therapy, my confidence grew, I built on my strengths, and I began to seek out new experiences. I found friends, I developed new hobbies, and I began to come to terms with my DMD diagnosis.
At this point, I had become a thoughtful, well-spoken, and humble individual with a strong work ethic. I participated in a variety of DMD advocacy opportunities, such as speaking publicly about my experiences, requesting federal research funding from lawmakers, and serving as a patient representative for various government agencies. Feeling like these efforts provided me with a sense of purpose, I had ambitions to continue such work into the future.
Through my advocacy, I felt like I had developed a professional persona that was well respected by those around me. In my mind, I was finally meeting the expectations I had placed upon myself, and what I believed to be everyone’s expectations for me.
However, after graduating with an undergraduate degree, I slowly began to feel trapped by this persona that I had established for myself…
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