the north face snow boots ‘I catch myself smiling’
A weight has been lifted from Maj. Tanya Grodzinski. She feels lighter every day since shedding the remains of John, of the identity that once trapped her.
Grodzinski sat down with the Whig Standard on Friday morning to tell her story of transitioning from John to Tanya. It’s a story that she’s told numerous times before, and there is almost a rhythm to how she tells the deeply personal journey.
“Looking back, I can see all these things falling into place, and all those things that I did was because of this gender dysphoria, and now it’s gone,” Grodzinski said. “The stress I had is gone. Those imaginary weights I had on my back have fallen off.
“I sleep better. I catch myself smiling. Grodzinski has taught and researched history at the Royal Military College of Canada since June 2004, and during this time completed her doctorate in the school’s War Studies program.
She is also partner to Helga Grodzinski and “Dad” to three adult children: Sylvia, Karl and Natasha.
Finding herself was a journey she’s taken alone for most of her life. The first memory of cross dressing was when she was nine years old. She would dress in women’s clothing in secret throughout her teen years and into adulthood.
When she did reach out to close friends throughout the years about her cross dressing, one tried to “find a cure” and another laughed at her. When she told her wife, Helga supported her but requested Grodzinski only dress up when she wasn’t around.
“So I did, and I felt really comfortable. I enjoyed it and I looked forward to it,” Grodzinski said. “Sometimes she’d call while she was gone and ask me what I was wearing.”
Then things got busy. The couple had children, she completed her master’s degree and her doctorate, so her self described “quirk” fell to the wayside.
“But it was always in the back of my mind. Often when I’d look at a woman I wouldn’t look at her, I would look at what she was wearing,” Grodzinski said.
When the kids got a little older, she started to cross dress again in private. When Helga found the clothes, she invited Grodzinski to feel comfortable enough to cross dress with her around. When Helga was posted to Ottawa and Grodzinski stayed in Kingston, soon she was in women’s clothes Monday to Friday after work while Helga was away.
“The moment she left, I’d put on women’s clothes. I got more sophisticated with what I was wearing. I was picking out better things, I was getting more familiar with the clothes,” Grodzinski said. “Then every Friday as I was putting everything away, I felt like I was putting a part of myself away.
“I began to realize that this is not just a fetish. This was something about me, and when I put on men’s clothes I didn’t feel right.”
After years of hiding, self destructive behaviour, not feeling like one of the guys, and never feeling quite right in her own skin, it was at a blood pressure check that Grodzinski finally let go.
Last January, Tanya visited the military hospital to see a doctor about her hypertension. She was hoping that a recent 140 pound weight loss would allow her to get off her medication. After the check, the doctor said Tanya’s blood pressure wasn’t as low as she’d expected. The doctor asked her if there was anything bothering her that could still be causing it to be high.
“I have this young, new doctor in front of me, and I’m thinking, ‘Who the hell is this?’ But I told her,” Grodzinski said. “She said, ‘OK, this is a safe space, so don’t worry about anything.’ Then she said, ‘I did my internship at a transition house. What I can do is give you some material to read and you can take a month to think about it, and when you come back, there are a spectrum of options.'”
At the time, Grodzinski was standing, but hearing the amount of support and options available, her knees buckled.
“The room spun,” Grodzinski said. “I’m a person of faith and I think that God had put her there. There is a reason we met that day.”
Officially diagnosed with gender dysphoria (gender identity disorder), the journey began and plans were made. Within a day of taking testosterone blockers, she felt “better. I felt right.”
“As my testosterone levelled off, I felt like there were blocks falling off me,” Grodzinski said.
Grodzinski said the toughest person to get to accept her decision to transition was herself.
“You keep thinking this is something else, it’s not right, but when you finally admit it, suddenly there’s a relief,” Grodzinski said.
The next was her partner, Helga, whose immediate reaction was both heartbreaking and understandable.
“Her first reaction was ‘we’re done,’ and that often happens,” Grodzinski said. “But then she did some reading and she began to realize that this is medical. It’s not as if I woke up one morning and said, ‘I want to be a woman.'”
Now the couple is taking it day by day. Grodzinski said they’ll be together through her transition process, but they’re “going down a road and drawing a map as we go.”
“We’re together, but we’re not sure where we’re going,” Grodzinski said.
They told their children one at a time: the oldest, Sylvia, over lunch; at the train station with the youngest, Natasha; and in their living room with their son, Karl, after he’d driven home from Canadian Forces Base Valcartier, where he’s an infantry officer.
“We told my son and my partner was trying to explain it to him when he just interrupted and said, ‘Mom, it’s OK. I don’t care.’ Then he turned to me quickly and said, ‘It’s not that I don’t care, but I’m OK with it,'” Grodzinski said. “Immediately, [the kids] showed their support, but since then I know they’ve talked amongst themselves and they’re working through it.”