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
click here for part 1
However, after graduating with an undergraduate degree, I slowly began to feel trapped by this persona that I had established for myself. I started thinking of how to maintain my image, how to avoid harming other people’s opinions of me, and how to translate this image into a career. I managed some amount of this through counseling, but I didn’t realize just how deep these worries went.
Being a generally goal oriented person, I think somewhere along the way I became so focused on checking boxes towards building my career that I was able to, at least temporarily, ignore some of these feelings. Feeling like I had found a direction in life through advocacy and a way to achieve the goals I thought I had to, I decided that I would need a master’s degree to lend credibility to my advocacy efforts and to further develop my image and career.
As such, through the several years following my college graduation, I explored a variety of programs and fields including genetic counseling, laboratory research, and social work.
While taking this time to explore my future options, I continued on with counseling and began to further explore the hobbies I had engaged in during college. More specifically, through time spent with the friends I had made, I began to explore avenues of self-expression that I had previously ignored.
In particular, I found that comic conventions that I attended with my friends were where I felt the most free to express myself free of judgment. Not because I felt like I needed to connect with others who shared my hobbies (I had that with my friends), but because I had room to experiment with forms of dress self-expression. I eventually branched out to wearing wigs, makeup, and more feminine outfits.
Being so obsessed with my professional image, it still seems shocking to me that I even did this. I think at first it was because I could give myself the excuse that it was a costume. However, I soon found that I felt extremely comfortable doing so and that I wished I could do so more often. It felt like I was myself in a way I had never experienced before. Although, this itself didn’t directly lead to discovering my gender identity.
Knowing pretty much nothing about gender identity or transgender people at the time, I instead began to question my sexuality. I started wondering if I identified as bisexual or had some other sexual identity. This was about the extent of my exploration before I found another excuse to avoid thinking about it.
At the end of 2019, through my own hard work, I was finally accepted into a graduate program
for Social Work. Once I was enrolled and became extremely busy with school work and internships, I mostly hit pause on exploring who I was outside of a professional context.
For a while I was very happy and fulfilled with all of the learning I was doing, but then the spring of 2020 came around. COVID-19 threw a wrench into everything, and this is where things finally hit a breaking point.
Being unable to connect with friends in person for several months, I lost all spaces where I felt comfortable being myself. My internship and school work became my primary focus. For me there was no room to explore ideas like gender identity and self-expression because I didn’t have time and I had convinced myself that it wasn’t something a professional would do.
I began to feel ashamed of what I thought were “childish” hobbies, video games and Japanese comics. Sharing the personal parts of myself with those I knew through my advocacy efforts became risky. All of this constant thought was exhausting and contributed greatly towards feelings of depression and anxiety. I had given up control over my self expression and handed it to the people around me. I avoided things I might have wanted, thinking that they were off limits.
Being starved of these things, I quickly reached a state of burnout. When I also realized that I couldn’t see myself continuing on in this profession, I had an identity crisis. I felt like I had lost my entire sense of self in the pursuit of a career and, once I felt that I couldn’t see that career in my future, I broke down.
I developed insomnia and crippling anxiety that eventually landed me in the hospital. I spent several months in and out of the hospital, and eventually left the social work program.
Through months of intense counseling with
psychiatrists and therapists, I stabilized and began to reevaluate things. I started to take a long hard look at who I was, what I wanted, and where I wanted to go in life. At my lowest points, I realized what my greatest regrets were…
click here for part 3