• entries
    63
  • comments
    221
  • views
    10,675

About this blog

Exploration and growing into my transgender self

Entries in this blog

I've been coming out to professionals, friends, and family, over the past few months, and yesterday evening I decided to send an email to a male friend. I've been apprehensive about telling him I'm transgender because I have sensed that he may be less understanding than others and might say something hurtful. Nevertheless I sent the email that covered all the bases: my gender-related desires and feelings since preschool, my shame and depression, and how it all adds up to the fact that I am transgender. I felt it was comprehensive but not too long and I hoped that as a friend I've seen for a dinner every month for more than ten years he'd understand and express sincere support.  

Here's what I received:

"Well, I hope that there was nothing that I said or did over the years that made you think that I would be hostile or unaccepting or anything like.  I try to be tolerant and I hope that I seem tolerant too.

Anyway, none of what you wrote is offputting or means that you're stuck from the "friend" list.  I don't want to say something that will be misinterpreted, but the sexual proclivity or gender choice  (I realize that these are two different things) of my friends just doesn't matter any more than their height or color or whatever.  (Now, if you came out and said that you voted for Trump, that might be a problem.)  :)"

Maybe I'm being too sensitive - it wouldn't be the first time - but I needed to clear at least one thing up, so here's what I wrote back to him:

"No, there was nothing you ever said or did that particularly worried me. Sharing my secret is tough, that's all. It's like finally admitting to a lie. 

Not to put too fine a point on it, but let me say that it's not a proclivity or a choice. I agree that it's like hair color or height, or being gay for that matter; modern science agrees that it's biological. I was just born this way. It's a tough row to hoe."

Although I know that emails and written "conversations" are fraught with misunderstanding I wanted to be clear that being transgender is certainly not a choice. He hasn't responded yet but as I think about it this morning I think all will be okay.

That said, overnight I mulled his use of the word "tolerant" as if hey, he's tolerant so isn't that good or righteous? It came to me this morning that it is not: I tolerate a spider on the ceiling, a few dust bunnies in the corner, and dirty dishes in the sink after dinner. But eventually I grab the stepstool and a tissue to nab the spider, vacuum the room, and wash the dishes. So yes, tolerance is better than hate or rejection, but it's not enough.

I don't know exactly what is enough but tolerance isn't it. In an ideal world being transgender would be like having blue eyes or blond hair - not even thought about by most, perhaps appreciated by some. But we don't live in an ideal world so I feel that I have to come up with a compromise. Maybe and especially from friends and family I'd like to hear that, regardless of my being transgender, they love and support me. I don't think that's too much to ask.

As some of you may know I'm on a rather extended road trip through the end of February, having stayed in San Diego (Chula Vista) for a couple of weeks, and am now in Mesa, Arizona. Why am I on this trip? My wife and I felt that it would be good for both of us, to provide some space for us to clear our heads and consider our future. 

The first week and a half were pretty emotional and rough for me. I kept falling into a funk as I felt lonely and sad. Traveling by myself isn't the best (no one to share adventures with) and leads to all sorts of mind games, rehashing the past, assuming the worst for the future, all that. 

A few days ago my fog lifted and it's not returned. I'm not manic or whatever, just calm and centered. Part of it is that I am simply accepting my transgender nature. (Yeah, I know you've heard it before but I mean it this time!) At the risk of upsetting the karma I am liking myself and how I feel, as a trans woman who may not need to present as such outwardly but knows who she is internally. I've been reading Harry Benjamin's "The Transexual Phenomenon" which, while over 50 years old, offers helpful insights into the spectrum of transgender people. I wish there was a similar book published more recently. (If you know of one please let me know.) 

I'm also grateful that I can even have this experience. Most people probably can't afford it. I'm staying in KOA "Kamping Kabins" that are about $65/night, and I prepare almost all of my food so I'm keeping expenses down. It does get chilly at night so I bundle up and get cozy. I've driven over 1,200 miles so far and spent about $100 on gas; thanks Prius!

I'm also grateful that I've been receiving such warm affirmations from friends and family lately: Bree, Michael, Monica, Jack, David, Paul, Dara, Joanna, Rob, and Glenn. It helps so much to be able to talk to them on the phone or via email from time to time and not just about TG stuff. 

That's about it for now. I'm in Mesa until Friday and then driving to Flagstaff, which while more northern appears that the temperature will be livable for me.

Best wishes to all,

Emma

Although professionals and others, after reviewing my history and story, have assured me that I am transgender that's been a hard pill to swallow at times. I always come way wondering if I might have consciously or unconsciously told them only what I wanted them to know or in a way that manipulates their judgement. And even if I accept that I've been as transparent as I can be I have then questioned their authority to make the determination. This has all been so exhausting, like running the wheel in a hamster cage. But I think I'm coming to an acceptance that I am what I am, and I am transgender. I hope this blog post will provide an example that might help others struggling with this question.

So here's what I did: a couple of months ago I started compiling a history of memories and trans feelings/experiences that I grouped into categories by age and school (for when I was younger). Not all of my memories came to me at once so I added as I thought of more of them. It helped to write them down because it's so hard to keep all those details in mind. That process helped a lot but it wasn't complete. A few days ago I added a one or two sentence summary of that time period that kind of distills what came up for me during that time period. 

Wow. It is what it is and at this point I think it's undeniable. Here's the whole thing as of today:

Emma’s TG History

<6 years: preschool and kindergarten 

Where I discovered my shame about wanting to be girly and do girly things, and the powerful need to keep it strictly hidden from others. But as an only child where did that shame come from? I assume I learned it from my mother, before I have memories, when I rebelled against her making me be a boy.

  • Wore out my baby blanket’s satin edging; I loved the feel of it.
  • Twirling like a ballerina at another child’s birthday party; ashamed and stopped before “being caught.”
  • Wanted to learn to curtsey with the girls in preschool
  • Playing with the girls in the kindergarten kitchenettes; afraid of the boys play and what they would think
  • Playing with neighbor friend (who much later came out as gay): making up stories with little characters

6-12 years: grade school

Like a sponge I soaked up knowledge about girls and women, contemplated what it would be like, and fostered fantasies. I spent hours surreptitiously investigating in magazines, newspapers, television, and catalogs. 

  • Wanted to be a Blue Bird in 1st grade
  • Wished I could be a mermaid
  • Wanted stirrup pants like the girls: how would they feel to wear?
  • Rolled up in my Nana’s satin comforter; shamed by her to stop. 
  • Playground: with the girls playing hopscotch, gymnastics on bars
  • Unexpressed wishing mother would buy leotard and tights for me
  • Bedtime fantasies of being dressed as a girl, transported away into space. Or, dressed in a harem girl’s costume, living in an I Dream of Jeanie bottle, with Jeanie.
  • Fixated on catalog with sleeping bra, wanting one, trying to figure out how to order and receive it secretly.
  • TV: That Girl, Girl from UNCLE, Flying Nun, The Avengers, I Dream of Jeanie, Bewitched
  • Favorite movies: Patty Duke, The Sound of Music, Three Lives of Thomasina
  • Wanted to be able to cry and wear a ring like a girl at school

13-18 years: junior and high school

Covert actions taken to experience clothing, the good feelings that emerged were undeniable. 

  • "Subtly" trying to encourage mother to buy a tutu for me
  • Hand-sewing camisole and romper out of rags while parents at AA meetings
  • Trying on girdles from Goodwill bag
  • Cutting panties from discarded pantyhose to wear under clothing or to bed
  • Bought black long-sleeved leotard at dance clothing store; returned a year later to buy black tights. I had to wait or risk their remembering me.
  • Wearing mother’s swimming suit when parents were out for the evening
  • Lake Berryessa: bought pantyhose to wear and hang out in, on weekend alone. It felt marvelous but lonely.
  • Wanted to crossdress with girlfriend; she was okay with it but I was too cautious
  • Stole girl's skirt, top, and slip from restaurant restroom 
  • Continually looking for discarded/lost girl’s clothing 
    • Found yellow girly panties on lawn
    • Found multicolored panties in HS parking lot

18-24 years: college

More clothing and my first-time experience going out dressed. But otherwise a low point in my TG world as I tried to be what I was supposed to be.

  • Stole blue leotard from clothes wash room in dorm
  • Halloween: dressed as coed (skirt, girls sweater) for party, loving it and yet feeling so alone, afraid to show that I loved it too much and that I’d be found out.

Twenties

More clothing and dressing.

  • Found navy blue dance panties in parking lot
  • Bought leotard and tights at dance store
  • Bought leotard at flea market
  • Halloween (1981): on the Castro as a nurse. What a great time I had, just being me if only for a few hours.
  • Halloween (1982): on the Castro as a bride. Not quite as much fun but a good time nonetheless.
  • Wearing leotard/panties during sex

Thirties

Explorations, confronting fears by buying clothing.

  • Wearing panties and nightgown during sex
  • Visited TV/TS bar in Munich: a long walk from my hotel but I left shortly after arrival; too scared.
  • Foxy Lady Boutique – SF: dress and lingerie
  • Lingerie boutique - Mountain View: corset and stockings

Forties

Exploring what it means, terrified to come out and be accepted. Once again, full withdrawal.

  • Accumulating very small wardrobe
  • KOA Santa Cruz: much research, writing, desperate for acceptance and understanding. Drove to LA to crossdressing clothing store; bought a dress, lingerie.
  • Delivered overly comprehensive report to my wife that I hoped she would see it all as no big deal. Just the opposite, she was devastated.
  • Serious suicide considerations
  • Carla's Boutique: bought dress, bra, other

Fifties

Discovering the new transgender vocabulary, that being trans is inborn, not a choice. Wondering how far on the spectrum I will need to travel. Finally: full disclosure with therapist, wife, and gender therapist. 

  • Bringing leotard and tights on business trips
  • It all emerges again: much more exploration
  • Confrontations with my wife
  • Serious suicide attempts, much consideration
  • Clothing bought on Amazon, REI, Carla’s, dance store…
  • Gender therapist’s confirmation
  • Attended TG/TS group meetings at Carla's and with gender therapist
  • Participation in on-line support groups TGGuide and CrossdreamLife
  • Wearing dresses and skirts in private at home; nightgown to bed

Sixties

With disclosures, my shame is about gone. Still hard to accept this reality at times. What will I do if my marriage collapses and I’m on my own?

  • Realization that I'd always wanted to be small and treasured: does that mean female, or perhaps loved by my mother? I think it's the former but it's probably both.
  • Wearing dresses and skirts in private at home; nightgown to bed
  • Coming out to family and friends: all going relatively well
  • Increasingly accepting that I do not see a need to socially or surgically transition
  • Attended TDoV, TDoR in San Francisco; surprised I don’t feel much of a bond with these people.
  • Dara Hoffman-Fox’s book and workbook: worked through the exercises, provided her with edits for her next edition.

My wife recently asked me if I feel that I am female "inside."  If I am transgender, then doesn't that mean that I consider myself fundamentally female?  It turns out that those are questions I've asked myself and I am not confident I have the answers to.  After all, how can I ever know if you and I see the same color let alone if my thoughts and feelings are female?  

To try to answer these questions I try to look at the facts that I do know and then draw a conclusion:

  • I know that since preschool I've envied girls and women.  This has been a constant throughout my life, often considering what it would feel like (and wishing I could feel it) to be one. I thus feel it's certain that I have gender dysphoria.  
  • My childhood was shadowed by a clinically depressed mother and an absent father; their relationship was pretty emotionless.  I was an only child, and was often navigating rocky shoals at home, trying to please my mother or just remain out of her focus. Some have written that a single mother's attention might encourage some to "become transgender." Well I'll tell you, there are some parallels but we did not have much of a relationship at all let alone one that would encourage me to look at her as a role model.
  • Even in preschool I had shame about my envies of girls. In kindergarten when I played with the girls at their play-kitchenettes I was sure that this was shameful. My shame around my GD was a constant that developed into depression for me.  

Some ideas:
1. My shame/depression may have resulted from my mother's treatment of me expressing my gender dysphoria.  This might explain why I automatically felt shame even in preschool and kindergarten.
2. My shame/depression may have resulted from my mother's attitude, disposition, depression, and treatment of me (in general).  Why not? 
3. My gender dysphoria may thus have arisen from my childish observations that girls had it better. My home life was pretty awkward at best so it seems natural that I would wish I had it better. I sure liked some of my friend's mothers. It was like I instinctively knew what I was missing.

My gut tells me that the answer is #1, so that's what I'm going with. Okay, but am I female in my head?

In an email to my therapist a couple of months ago I told him that overall I always just wanted to be small and treasured. When I wrote it I felt a shiver like, "yeah!" He noticed it too, telling me that it was an important observation. Small and treasured does dovetail with what I imagine I'd be if I was a girl. I'm sure women outgrow most of it but I imagine it's always there, like a foundational right of being female.  

But I still lack an answer: am I female at heart? I struggle to know. I'm not that unhappy with my life as a sensitive, thoughtful, and fun male.  It's just that something feels missing.  In Dara Hoffman-Fox's book "You and Your Gender Identity: A Guide to Discovery" she writes that these kinds of self-doubts are very common. It's as if we have an internal Protector who is fed off those "am I crazy?" doubts that creep into our consciousness and are so hard to silent.  We need to acknowledge and thank our Protector for her attention but consider her advise carefully as it is often presented in ways that prevent us from moving forward.  

Yesterday I wrote another email to my therapist.  (Thank goodness he supports this.  It's so important for me to have these touchstones with him in between our meetings.)

  • As a child did I want to be small and treasured, and not receiving it, envied girls and thus wanted to feel like one?

        - or - 

  • Did I want to be a girl, and thus be small and treasured? 

I think it's the latter but it's hard to be sure and seemingly impossible to know. What I do see is that 'small and treasured' is a common denominator for me to this day. If that supports me as being female inside then so be it.  In the meantime I'm satisfied in the knowledge that I have gender dysphoria, that's it's perfectly okay and normal, and that I'm making my own progress in my own time.  

Emma

P.S. I just looked at my profile and see that I joined TGGuide on 10/27/14.  It's less than a week from my 2-Year Anniversary!  Maybe I should use Birthday instead? It feels like it.  I've grown so much over that period with so much support and guidance from our members here.  As the Grateful Dead sung, "What a long strange trip it's been."

Thank you all.

This morning I came across this wonderful post on Joanna Santos' blog: https://joannabefree.blogspot.com/2016/10/my-own-coming-out.html I know we don't typically reference sites off of TGG but I feel this is important.

There, she posts a video that really resonated with me, that labels such as gay, male, white, transgender, etc., may set us up for "us vs. them" feelings, thus leading to isolation and our considering ourselves only within that label, which is only a part of our overall self. 

I've recently been thinking, okay I am transgender but that is not all that I am. But it kind of felt that way. Worse, I fear my wife feels this way, too. It's as if my being trans is the only thing now. And neither of us want that.

In the video the person (can't recall his name) makes the point that if we say "I have gender dysphoria" that we can more naturally consider things like:

1. How will I accept, manage, and live with my gender dysphoria?
2. What does gender dysphoria mean for me in the context of my total life?

I think that is healthy to consider. I recently came out to a couple of our friends as transgender. They were okay with it at least to my face but now I think I may return to them and refine myself as "I'm me, with gender dysphoria." I mean, who cares what the label is? I'm simply working on ways to manage my dysphoria (which is undeniable) and be happy as a total person, with my wife, friends, and doing whatever it is that we do. 

Mixed Emotions

By EmmaSweet,

As I often do on Sunday mornings over coffee I read The New York Times and this morning was no different. I ran out of things that interested me so did a search on "transgender" and found the following article about Barry Winchell's murder while in the US Army, who was in a serious relationship with Calpernia Addams, a transexual woman. I came close to crying in the neighborhood coffee shop as I was so taken by the depth of feelings that came up:  An Inconvenient Woman

I then checked Huffington Post's TRANSGENDER page which often has interesting articles and, thankfully, found one that was so delightful, about an 11 year old gay boy's first day at middle school, how he met and befriended an 11 year old transgender girl, and his wonderful mother:  When My Son Met Another Out LGBTQ Kid On The First Day Of Middle School

Okay, great, feeling better!  At least until I read another one on Huff Post:  Surviving The Waves Of History: Bathroom Bills Can Be Deadly which is about a transman's suicide over the weight that he could bear no longer from those who deny transgender people's validity and rights.  He just missed Attorney General Loretta Lynch's speech where she said:  

"Let me also speak directly to the transgender community itself. Some of you have lived freely for decades. Others of you are still wondering how you can possibly live the lives you were born to lead. But no matter how isolated or scared you may feel today, the Department of Justice and the entire Obama Administration wants you to know that we see you; we stand with you; and we will do everything we can to protect you going forward. Please know that history is on your side. This country was founded on a promise of equal rights for all, and we have always managed to move closer to that promise, little by little, one day at a time. It may not be easy — but we’ll get there together.”

We will, my friends, get there together.  What a Sunday morning it's been. Here's wishing you a beautiful day.  Go hug someone.

Emma

What Is It...

By EmmaSweet,

About lying in bed, in my long white nightgown, reading, with my legs tucked under the skirt. It's like being at peace with the world, comfortable and cozy, and right. It just feels right.

And that's what they say transgender is. What feels right, what does it for you. It's terribly hard at times to really put ones finger on it and like the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, as soon as you try, it moves, as if it can't be objectively pinned down.

Isn't it weird that something as simple as this could seem so right? I mean, why the big deal? Why does it mean anything at all? It's not erotic or a turn-on. Maybe I'm past that point. But maybe it's also a feeling of how it should have been so many years ago when I should have been a little girl.

But I'll never be a little girl nor a big adult girl either. Maybe I don't have to be so long as it's okay for me from time to time to snuggle in my white nightgown, reading a book, cozy.  Right now it feels very good, very right.

>100 Miles!

By EmmaSweet,

I've been wrestling with myself about posting this today. I don't think I'm one to blow my own horn (much) but yesterday I accomplished something I've been working toward for the last few weeks.  I rode my bicycle over 100 miles, from Redwood City to Cupertino, back and forth, and finally returning home almost 8 hours later.  Total riding time was just over 7 hours and the difference is due to stop lights and a couple of times when I stopped to open up my little pouch to munch on a piece of Clif Bar.  

The last two Saturdays I've tried to reach 100, but each time just could not go farther than about 75 miles.  It was like I hit a wall and if I went further I was afraid I might just pass out.  I do carry four bottles of water (mixed with electrolytes) and a couple of Shot Blok packages, but I got nauseous and had to head home.  Yesterday as I passed 75 miles I was definitely moving slower. I started arguing with myself: go ahead and head home, at least I'd be more than 90 miles this time! But it finally came to me, to achieve more than 90% and then give up for the last 10%?  No way. And, truth be told, I don't want to do this every weekend.  Too many hours.  I have other things to do too, and now, next weekend, I can take a "short 50 mile" ride and feel okay about it!

Why do I write about it here?  I don't often consider myself as having much grit and determination. I am intimidated all the time by stuff that others just don't understand. Stupid things like trying to diagnose why my wife's computer is no longer receiving emails into her business account.  Now, I know how to do this sort of thing.  But I feel an anxiousness when I don't know how it will end up and can't control the outcome.  

So maybe that's where I'm coming from. I certainly didn't know how it would all play out when I told my wife I am transgender two years ago.  At first she was devastated, assuming that our marriage was over, that the one she loved so much had betrayed her trust, and that I was destined to transition. God, that was scary and emotionally wrenching.  It took a lot of work in and out of therapy, more confessions from me, and finally starting to take an SSRI that seems to be really working, for once.  

All my life I've had emotional issues, and have spent countless hours with a variety of therapists for the last 35 years. I kept expecting that he/she/me would discover the "one thing" that was going on for me, we'd address it, and... problem solved! It sure didn't turn out that way. Part of my problem was that I was unable to disclose my transgender feelings to them or myself. But even when I started to do so with my present therapist, three years ago, the improvement in my well-being has been so subtle and gradual, at times unnoticeable.  But as I contemplate how things are going these days it's undeniable that I have made progress.  

I don't know what "done" is, nor do I expect it.  I still have my anxieties.  I did yesterday morning as I considered getting up and, once again, trying to make it to 100 miles.  But I did it! You can too.

Love and hugs,

Emma

IMG_0836.PNG

Now, I suppose the title of this post may sound like I'm having a bad time but no, just the opposite.  I came across these book covers recently - aren't they cool?  I just love them.  They bring up all kinds of thoughts and feelings for me. I'm going to look around eBay and elsewhere and see if I can get my hands on them.  (Postscript: It's on Amazon for $2 (Kindle version. Yay!)

But really, my life is going pretty well recently.  I never thought I'd say this but the SSRI medication that the psychiatrist prescribed actually seems to be working.  I was promised that "we have new ones" that would work better with fewer side effects.  I wasn't a believer by any stretch having gone through so many trials and errors in the past.  I've been on the medication for about four weeks and wow, I can tell that I'm much better than I was. It's a subtle thing - most of the time I don't even think about it, which is good.  I don't want to even be aware of it.  

My wife and I are doing very well together, too.  I'm sure we'll still have our ups and downs but maybe with the med I'll not go into a crashing end-it-all depression whenever she makes some comment that I misinterpret or can't deal with.  It's seemed that way thus far so my confidence is building.  

Work.  Well, not for much longer!  We had a 1/3 of the company layoff two weeks ago and they asked me to stay for another four weeks to transition my responsibilities to others.  Why not?  An extra four weeks of pay.  But really, it kinda sucks given that they don't know who to transition my work to, and the others in the company know I'm Dead Woman Walking.  (Well, I guess they'd not refer to me as a woman but hey, it's MY blog!) Lest you be worried about my losing my job, please don't.  I will likely just go into full time retirement.  Which is kind of scary in that I've spent the last four decades using the busy-ness of work and my rather strong work-ethic (thanks Dad!) to avoid some things and to feel needed.  As an old friend once said many years ago, I get a lot of emotional groceries by staying busy.  A lot of satisfaction too.  

But I have some things to look forward to.  I recently looked on Amazon for Julia Cameron's book "The Artist's Way" which I was thinking about re-reading.  If you haven't read it and are looking for any kind of inspiration - it's a gem.  Really.  But you know what?  Just one month ago she published a new book:  "It's Never Too Late to Begin Again: Discovering Creativity and Meaning at Midlife and Beyond."  How cool is that?  I'm hoping off buying it until I'm truly unemployed.  I don't want to spoil the treat.

I also signed up for a one-day class at Stanford, "Happiness: Gumption, Gratitude, and Grace" which my therapist suggested.  Looks like it will be interesting.  Who knows what lies there or what will come up?  I am looking forward to exploring further.  

There's more, of course. My wife wants me to build a tiny house for her in our backyard as a kind of retreat space.  Not that we have a very large lot... pretty much no one does in the Bay Area.  I was initially concerned that she plans on moving into that little house but no, she doesn't.  Heck, maybe we can have sleepovers.  That'd be fun.

So it's all good, my friends. 

Emma

The Well of Loneliness.jpg

The Path Between.jpg

Behind Blue Eyes

Pete Townshend, The Who, 1971, from the album “Who’s Next”

 

No one knows what it's like

To be the bad man

To be the sad man

Behind blue eyes

 

No one knows what it's like

To be hated

To be fated

To telling only lies

 

But my dreams

They aren't as empty

As my conscience seems to be

 

I have hours, only lonely

My love is vengeance

That's never free

 

No one knows what it's like

To feel these feelings

Like I do

And I blame you

 

No one bites back as hard

On their anger

None of my pain and woe

Can show through

 

But my dreams

They aren't as empty

As my conscience seems to be

 

I have hours, only lonely

My love is vengeance

That's never free

 

When my fist clenches, crack it open

Before I use it and lose my cool

When I smile, tell me some bad news

Before I laugh and act like a fool

 

And if I swallow anything evil

Put your finger down my throat

And if I shiver, please give me a blanket

Keep me warm, let me wear your coat

 

No one knows what it's like

To be the bad man

To be the sad man

Behind blue eyes

 

No, I don’t have blue eyes although I wish I did.  “Blue eyes” came up recently when my wife and I met with our therapist.  I said to her that I’m normal, like anyone who is left-handed or has blue eyes.  Sure, part of a smaller segment of the population but normal nonetheless.  Our therapist then said that although she loves me deeply that she might not be physically attracted to someone with blue eyes.  

Later, privately, she told me that she’s fearful that indeed, blue eyes may be a turn-off for her.  Worse, she worries that she might find herself drawn to someone who doesn't have blue eyes.  

I understand what she’s saying. But it does hurt.  And worry. I just have to trust that we will work it out.  


P.S. I don’t mean to brag here but I just have to share… I saw The Who in the summer of 1972 at the San Francisco Civic Auditorium during their Who’s Next tour.  My friends and I had fantastic seats about 20 rows back from center stage. The music was so loud that it felt like blood was trickling from my ears but of course it was not.  Such fantastic memories of Roger Daltry whipping his mic high into the air only to catch it perfectly in time with the beat from Pete Townshend’s guitar and Keith Moon’s drums.  

I was 16 and had driven the family station wagon about 50 miles from the South Bay.  The previous evening my father asked if I knew how to get there, and of course, I hadn’t thought of that.  Together we looked at a map to plot a course.  We made it to and from okay but also remember feeling so disoriented and scared trying to find my way back to the 101 freeway after the show.

 

Life is Good

By EmmaSweet,

My friend has a cap with the words "Life is Good" on it. I often wonder if he realizes how much it affects me. I'm feeling that way these days. I am increasingly realizing how unbelievably oppressive it was (and is) to live with such strong feelings and hurts about wishing one is the opposite gender from their birth sex. And, how we can be conditioned to work so hard to suppress it to get along. But that "getting along" for me meant waiting for it to be over. Which seemed like such a waste.  

So today I'm posting a photo of my new pink dress.  Even when shopping for it (yes, on Amazon) I hesitated ordering such a bright and pretty color. Conditioning strongly at work that tells me that certain shades of blue, green, maybe a brown would be okay.  But not girly pink!  But I'll tell you, I LOVE it.  I really do. And it's a nice soft cotton, which is perfect as the temperature is getting a little warmer. 

I did attend TDoV on Thursday.  Call me old but honestly, it didn't do much for me.  Kind of reminded me of street fairs I attended a few decades ago on the Castro.  But then again, all happy people having a good time.  What I enjoyed the most was talking to several people as we ate finger food and had a glass of wine before the main event.  It was fun to meet more transgender people who are all happy and well adjusted. Funny story: I met another Emma!  But she was probably 20-30 years younger than me and had never even heard of Emma Peel, which cracked me and another couple (my age) up. What fond memories I have of watching all of Emma's moves in The Avengers so long ago.  She was my dream.

I'd also like to say goodbye to Patty Duke. I know that wasn't her real name but that was who she was to me.  When I was young my parents used to drop me off for an outdoor movie night at Lake Berryessa. I remember watching her in at least one movie and, as with Emma Peel, watching Patty so intently while trying to slowly chew my Milk Duds.  And of course I also loved the Patty Duke Show...

So yeah. Life is Good.  

Love you all,

Emma

pink dress.JPG

As some here will recognize this "nature vs. nurture" thing has bothered me at times. At my age it hardly matters. It's not as if knowing that is going to change anything for me.  But I've always felt it would help me to know that I was born this way.  Last week I wrote about it a bit in this post: Chicken or the Egg: Nature vs. Nurture

As I often do I shared my post with my therapist; we talked about it last Thursday evening.  I love the way that I'm able to share my posts with him, and to receive his support and encouragement.  As we talked about the nature vs. nurture question I mentioned that for the last couple of weeks I've not been feeling those transgender visceral needs/wants/envies. When this has happened in the past it's been both a relief and a regret, and a wonder when or if they will return and if I can possibly recognize a trigger for those feelings.  Maybe now, I speculated, that I feel a bit more in touch with what happened to me emotionally in early childhood I'll discover that my transgender nature emerged from my rather strained nurturing?  

Without hesitation he replied, "Ebb and flow sounds completely natural to me. Not like a habit at all. And maybe that also reflects that, as a woman, the need, thrill, or awareness of dressing becomes unimportant until, for some reason it arises as a need to 'get your girl on.'" 

We talked about it some more. He said that it also seems evidently nature-based because, after all, I kept returning to these feelings throughout my childhood and life.  As a young child (3-4-5 years old) I could have reacted in many ways to feeling emotionally suppressed. I could have been defiant, or a bully, or... Instead, I envied, dreamed, and often considered, being a girl. And those feelings were consistent through elementary school, junior high, high school, and college. It wasn't simply a reaction, it was me, expressing herself! How cool is that?

Hmmm, that feels good. Gee, do I feel an inkling of Pride? I can hear Star Trek's Mr. Spock, "Interesting emotion, Emma!"

From what I've read the Nature vs. Nurture question remains open, except perhaps for those who always knew. Throughout my investigation into the roots of my transgender nature I wanted the result to be that I was just born that way. Then I could easily say to my wife, the world and myself, "I am what I am, those were the cards I was dealt." And then they could take me or leave me, and if they left I'd at least know that because it was in my genes it just is what it is and move on.  In case you're wondering, I still haven't figured it out.

Recently my therapist suggested I read Living Like You Mean It: Use the Wisdom and Power of Your Emotions to Get the Life You Really Want. It essentially goes like this:

  • Babies are born with emotions that are like little flames that need to be nurtured. If they are not, the babies learn to suppress those feelings so as to get along in life.  For example, the baby feels anger, expresses it, is then rejected or isolated, and the baby then turns it on herself, as if to say (to herself) "I must be bad if I have emotions, therefore I have to suppress my emotions."  But this results in sadness.
  • This behavior may result in behavioral patterns (e.g., depression, flat-line emotional control, dissatisfaction) of adults who don't really know how to feel. Because when they do they defensive feelings emerge to counteract the genuine feelings which perpetuates the cycle.  

Upon finishing this book last weekend I got terribly depressed. It was as if the rug of "I was born this way" was ripped out from under my feet. You see, the book thoroughly describes my home environment. Without getting into too much history my mother was terribly depressed herself, hospitalized a couple of times, electroshock therapy, and when I was 24, committed suicide.

Throughout my childhood I was alone when at home even if my mother or father was there. My mother might have been at home, often in bed or otherwise disconnected, and my father was at work, nights and weekends, on various space flight programs. Without getting into details, I was well and truly taught to be seen and not heard. 

When I met with my therapist last Thursday I recalled for him that I'd always admired girls, their unfettered expression of emotion: joy, love, sadness. And after reading this book I wondered: perhaps my transgender nature results more from my envy of girls' "allowed" to express emotion where, as a boy in my family, I was not?

This morning I happened across this: I Am A Girl! - Ik ben een meisje! on YouTube. I'd seen it before but it really touched a nerve. She is so pretty, happy and, at 13, so grounded! I think you'll love seeing her. Clearly, she is transgender by nature.

So now I wonder: 

  • Nature: was I born like Joppe in the video, but my natural needs and desires were suppressed into smithereens by my family environment?
  • Nurture: If the former isn't correct then maybe I have an envy that arose from my upbringing, a desperate need to express and be myself which I saw as only available to females?

Or maybe it's a combination of the two? 

Why does it matter? I guess I just really want to figure myself out. As if, like my wife, I was adopted and just want to know the truth of my background. 

I have fragmentary memories of early childhood that support either or both theories.  No one to ask, since my father also died about ten years ago and I don't have siblings.  

Hmm, maybe I should return to my therapist's advice and just Stop Thinking! Just accept myself, follow my feelings. I am trying. But on Saturday mornings when I'm not consumed by career it's hard to ignore these thoughts.  Oh I remember now what he'd say: "Get mindful, take a step back and consider your thinking from afar.  What would you say to yourself as a child, if you could, today?" 

I think I'd say this: "IT'S OKAY TO BE YOU!"

Last Thursday as I was planning my day I knew that that evening I had an appointment with my therapist. I made plans to drop by an Amazon locker to pick up a new top and told some people that I was nervously thinking of putting it on in his restroom and surprising him in our meeting.  At lunch I read some encouragement from Veronica, Bree, and I think others, which just felt wonderful. After, as I walked to get a cup of coffee I suddenly realized I was smiling. I felt so wonderful to contemplate that evening and to receive everyone's encouragement.  Thank you!

Now as it turned out I hit traffic on the way there and was kind of in a rush. I dashed into the restroom, tried it on, and felt that it was too small - I should have ordered the larger size.  But I tried it on today and it is maybe a little small but I think it's okay. I took my photo wearing it along with the leggings I bought last weekend. It feels really good to be wearing it now as I write this.  (BTW: I bought those tulips in the photo for my wife to surprise her for Valentine's. Score!) 

At my therapist appointment we had a nice conversation but I complained that although I'm feeling better these days I still find myself questioning my being transgender. It's as if a part of my brain is stubbornly refusing to let go and I keep on running through a rather long list of history and experiences that make it so obvious that I am trans. His advice?  Stop thinking, and appreciate the fact that Emma is a huge and lovely part of me. Learn to love her and live by following my feelings more than my thoughts. I think that is good advice and I'm really working on it.  

I'm also reading a book called "Who's Really From Venus?" by Peggy Rudd and really liking it. It's basically a book about how to live with yourself as well as a partner when you are transgender.  She has a lot of experience with this, as her spouse is trans. I am about halfway through it now and am at a place where she talks about how to cope with yourself.  Here's what she provides as coping skills:

  • Learn to deal with problems successfully.
  • Define the problem and seek solutions, possibly with the help or input from others.
  • Handle or dissipate the fears and hurts of life in a constructive manner.
  • Recognize yourself as unique.
  • Realize your potential for true inner strength.
  • Develop the ability to move forward in spite of the lack of acceptance.
  • Keep learning from all experiences, both positive and negative.

I think that is terrific advice and the third one is probably the toughest for me. She also writes:

Even if it takes years to find a comfort zone with your own identity, you must keep searching. Acceptance from others will follow. At some time we may need to have the forgiveness of others, but of greater importance is the forgiveness we owe ourselves. Love is not about keeping old wounds open. Love is about healing wounds. It is about moving forward and learning from past mistakes. It is about getting on with life.

We do owe ourselves forgiveness and space to be ourselves. We are all wonderful and loving people who just want to be... ourselves. 

As an aside in case you read her book there is one thing I have a concern with.  She writes everything about "crossdressers" instead of "transgender people." I think that is an important point since I really don't see myself as being all about the clothing whatsoever. It's much deeper than that. Maybe she, given that she is cisgender, doesn't discern the difference or the sensitivity to that word. (Or maybe I'm making too much of a deal out it.) Anyway, I love the book regardless.

Be well, and with warm hugs,

Emma

 

New Top, 20160220.JPG

Last Thursday I saw my therapist. I was pretty distraught, with a shaming weight crushing my chest because I so often feel so anxious for approval, affirmation, and when it's delayed or I don't receive it, I go to my dark place where I'd just as soon fold up my tent. It's a cycle that's been with me forever and I'm very ashamed by it. Sure, maybe that seems silly to you dear reader, but I get so defensive and I feel so needy.  It feels like feelings I simply should not have and since I do so intensely I'm ashamed.  After all in my professional life people don't act like that, do they?  No way, Jose.  It's like I'm often on edge, hyper-aware of how people feel about me and I worry that that comes across too.  Goodness, what a mess.

Toward the end of the meeting he said something like, "Well, be sure to listen to Emma. She's a huge part of you and she has a perspective that may help you."  I took that to heart and spent the last couple of days wondering what Emma would say. And I felt like such a fraud! I'm always ready with some sort of encouragement or thoughts but when it comes to me they all sound so inane and useless. Sure, I hope it does help those I send messages to, I really do. But when I'm sending them to myself? I can't even think of what Emma might say that would be useful. I kept thinking that I'd put up a blog post with something like, "What should Emma say to herself?" But that sounded so wimpy.  

So I took a bike ride today. It was almost 80 degrees here (can you believe it?) and I went out for a couple of hours, but beforehand decided I would think about this further.  I must say that riding the bike is a great place to just think.  Yeah sure, while peddling like a madwoman.  I don't remember what prompted this but it occurred to me that I'm always wanting the fast answer.  I want the problem to be diagnosed, implement the solution, and have it done and behind me. I recalled that last couple of years since coming out to myself and then my wife.  Jeez, a couple of years? Yeah, but that's not so bad. Better to have taken a couple of years and be where I am than not, right? So it dawned on me: "Come on, honey, give yourself some time."  <big sigh> And she's right, I think. 

We've all heard that life's a journey and all that but I think it really is. There is some truth to that. Go have a cup of tea, put your feet up, enjoy your new top.  (It did finally arrive today and it is pretty cute with the leggings I found yesterday at Costco.) So that's my game plan for this week. I'm trying to slow down. Way down. Be patient. Good things come to those who wait. 

We'll see, my friends.  (You do still like me, right?  I am still loving your affirmations. B) ) 

Have a nice week,

Emma

"You're too sensitive."

I've heard that so many times in my life. Worse, I believe it. 

I should not be hurt by rude people at work. I seem to be the only one who gets hurt. So no, I shouldn't be affected.

I should not like how I feel when I wear my dresses. After all, it's just cloth. A fabric of threads. And I'm not supposed to like them.

I should not be scared. Scared that people will discover how scared I am. Of being hurt. 

I should not even write this here. After all, I'm a mod; mods don't cry. 

"It's always all about you."

That hurts too. A lot. So if I didn't feel then it wouldn't hurt snd it would not have to be about me.

I should be happy, not sad. What have I got to be sad about? "I'll give you something to be sad about."

Shoulds suck. I should forget that word, delete it from my vocabulary. I like it when I feel my truegender. Inside and out. But it's just a feeling and I don't know if it's okay to feel. Is it? It doesn't seem like it. 

My cursor gently blinks as I ponder clicking the Submit button. Maybe this is what blogs can be for. Sometimes to pour out my heart. Show the world that I feel. I don't like it and I don't know what to do with it but there it is. 

This is a real first for me, taking my photo and posting it here or anywhere! :wub: I'm really enjoying this new dress that I just received last week. Sitting here typing up this blog entry just feels right, you know? The whole thing feels so right, I just want to get up, go out to my car, and walk around downtown. Maybe have a coffee and a croissant.  Or a lady finger.  Hahaha! 

The slope is a little slippery right now.  I keep finding myself shopping (on line) for more, admiring styles, looks, and almost ordering. I hold myself back since, after all, I must soon remove all this and prepare for my lovely wife's return from her day. 

Which is bittersweet, isn't it? That I have to remove my dress at all, that I cannot just be myself - whatever that is. Seems like there oughta be a law, don't it? I am very grateful that I can even do this. So many cannot, because of their inhibitions, personal situations, and yes, finances.  Deep down I am a very grateful girl.  

I hope you like my photo and I hope, like me, you're getting ready for a wonderful 2016.  

Hugs,

Emma

Emma's New Red Dress, 20160109.JPG

Happy Holidays

By EmmaSweet,

Dear friends,

I'm blessed to be a part of our community here - I think of you often. I wish you, your families, and your friends, all a wonderful holiday season.  Let's all pray for peace on earth and good will to all.

Love,

Emma

Morro Bay 2.jpeg

I've been away for a while, my trans feelings kind of minimized, as if maybe I'd gotten over it. After all, maybe it was more about hiding, lying, and finally, now that the lying and hiding and shame are mostly over, and my wife and I started deeply loving each other again, the storm had passed. Or maybe it was like Judy my gender therapist said, the TG Train has many stations along its journey, and maybe I only needed a ticket to the first or second station?

But lately as the weather has gotten colder it's as if the feelings are always there. This morning I saw an Anatomy of a Scene of a new movie "The Danish Girl" in the New York Times.  It's directed by Tom Hooper who also directed "The King's Speech" so I imagine it's very well done.  What a trigger for me, to see Eddie Redmayne start to viscerally transform herself into the female she knows she is at her deepest.

My mental-health therapist often asks me to describe what I feel in my body when I have strong feelings. It's like a tightening in my chest, a deep longing, with a twinge of sadness, because I know that I wish I'd been born female and although I could take the TG Train further nothing would change the fact that I was not born a girl. And, on balance, I like my life well enough but for that longing, like a love that was never to be. 

PS: I took the photo several years ago in Wuhan, China, through the window in my hotel room, using the floor lamp as a tripod to hold the camera steady to grab three shots at -2, 0, and +2 stops to process into this, an HDR image. Perhaps this photo with its circling cars is a metaphor for what I go through.

Wuhan_HDR.jpeg

I’ve felt like crying many times in the last few decades but have never been able to really let it go. Yesterday was different. Fair warning: I don’t mean for this to be a “pity party” at all and I hope it doesn't come off that way. <big sigh>

As my wife and I walked to our neighborhood coffee shop yesterday morning I mentioned something that had been bothering me since the previous evening. Our therapist has encouraged me to communicate this stuff so I was following orders. Now, my wife has also been going through some of her own emotionally trying times. She stopped walking, we faced each other and she said, “I’m going to say something that may sound very hurtful right now. I really wish you’d stop thinking of yourself all the time.” Indeed, she was right, I was hurt pretty deeply.

Telling someone that they’re overly sensitive, only care about themselves, and all that, is about the meanest thing you can say to someone. Sure, it “puts them in their place” but more than anything it’s like slamming a door in their face. Afterward, the recipient can only wonder “Am I now again being so self-centered?” And since they face the risk of hearing those words again, they shut down, which only builds resentments and yes, sensitivity to minor slights. I thought about all that as we had our coffees.

I wasn’t sure what to do. I wasn’t going to bring it up more at the café. And I didn’t want to talk about it on the way home, either. When we entered our house I said that I had something to say and we sat on the couch facing each other.

I told her that I have heard that line so many times in my life and I don’t think it’s accurate to say I am so self-centered. It’s such a hurtful thing to say especially to someone like me who is so careful to “learn all the rules” that people around me want to live by. I try to be “good” by internalizing and following them. And now the message I’ve received from her is that I should just shut down. At that point I was so sad. I told her that I wished I was dead. I meant it.

I don’t mean to be dramatic here but it’s true. Shouldering my trans feelings and shame since I was so young, trying to fit in, and always so careful to not be discovered for not really belonging with the boys, girls, men, or women. It sucks.

She gave me a big hug, told me how much she loves me, and told me how upset and angry she’d be if I did myself in. I think I told her that it was unlikely I'd follow through but I do often think that life is like a life term in prison, just waiting for the end.

She then suggested we go lie down on the bed. When we got in there I told her how sorry I am that I’m “this way.” That I am definitely not trying to manipulate her into something she doesn’t want.

About then I mumbled that I just don’t want to be rejected. And I started to cry. Sobbing, with those jerking shoulders, tears, and all. I think I carried on for four or five minutes. She kept assuring me that it was okay, that I should let it out.

When I was done I didn’t really feel like it was all let out. In fact, she asked me how I felt and I said it felt uncontrollable, like throwing up. You know, running to the bathroom and then convulsing uncontrollably. She agreed that that's what it's like for her, too.

So, that’s it. After waiting more than a half century, I finally got some real tears shed. I think it was helpful but I can tell there are more in there. It’s good to know that I have the capacity to do it. I suppose it’s also good for my wife to know how deeply I feel. I’m very lucky and grateful to be married to her.

Emma

I'm very drawn toward resources and ideas that I hope will help me practice and make automatic inner kindness. I need this as I have such a litany of self-directed put downs and labels that seem to come so automatically before I have a chance to prevent their affects. I've recently come across several that I hope I will find helpful and maybe you will too. I think of them like tools in my toolbox. But like any tools we need to use them enough so that they become familiar and automatic:

Internalized Trans-Phobia

This one feels risky for me to even post since I worry that TGG members and visitors will assume I have some sort of phobia against them. Truthfully this is not true at all. But that said, "It refers to how some people hate that part of themselves and are ashamed of it." As much as I am aware of my gender dysphoria and that it's a natural part of me I have to overcome my shame that has been with me for so many years. This article isn't a cure-all. It's a start as it says that we're okay if we have it and the place to begin is to be aware, acknowledge it, and accept that dealing with it is another aspect of our lives.

James Altucher

I've written about him before. He has a free email list (which you can subscribe to by clicking on his name). I don't like all of his writing, sure. But today he wrote one called "It's OK If You Don't". Among other things, he wrote:

"At some point I gave myself permission:

  • It's ok if you don't know what you want to do next.
  • It's ok if you're scared. Scared sh*****ss.
  • It's ok to not write a bestselling novel.
  • It's ok to leave early.
  • It's ok to not be a billionaire.
  • It's ok to not start a charity that ends malaria.
  • It's ok to get fired or to fail. Or even worse, to lose someone's money."

The main message: it's okay to goof, to try and fail, to forget... to be human. It helps me to remember that from time to time.

A Simple, Powerful Self-Compassion Method

Leo Babauta has a website called Zen Habits, and he also has a free email. Sure, they don't all grab me. Sometimes they just don't fit. But this one I think is a great summary of a behavioral therapy approach to dealing with our inner Ms. Crapness. (Yeah, that's my word.) Notice it (be aware), Accept it (might as well), Comfort it like you would a small child who scraped her knee, and Love it and yourself. Easy to say, and all too easy to ignore for its touchy-feelyness. But hey, why not give it a try? And if it doesn't work its magic right away for you remember that it's okay for it to take a while.

Love Your Inner Child

My therapist recently gave me this homework: consider the questions, statements, and wants of me as a 3-7 year old, especially as it relates to his gender dysphoria. And then, write down what you'd like to tell him given what I know now. Example:

Child: "I'd like to have a doll like Mary's."

Me: "That sounds like that would be nice, doesn't it? Your birthday is coming pretty soon so it's good to know that's something you would like to have. Tell me, what is it that you like so much about her doll? What does it mean to you? What should I look for when I buy a doll for you?"

After I tried to do this for a day or two I told him that I was torn between being fully supportive and possibly warning him that the other kids might give him a bad time for having such a doll. His advice?Give him (really, me) all the love and support, and forget the warnings and mixed-messages. None of us need that.

Be kind to yourself. Practice inner kindness. Be well. Be you.

Emma

Below is an email I sent to my therapist this morning in preparation for our couples meeting with my wife tomorrow evening. Names have been redacted or changed to protect the innocent.

I imagine and hope we will have a great meeting tomorrow. Our therapist is remarkable how he helps us learn how to communicate better and, together, my wife and I are working through the scary assumptions and worries about what it means for me to realize I am transgender. As of this post it's been about seven months since coming out to my wife. It's been tough sledding especially early on but maybe we've progressed to a point where both of us will get our needs met and we'll remain happily together. I sure hope so.

Hi Andrew,

I have gender dysphoria. It's been hard for me to admit and accept but really, there's no denying it. There is no “cure,” no “fix.” Last night I read the WPATH Standards of Care (SoC). Didn't really learn much except that it's good to see, in one place, a comprehensive and professional look at what it is and recommendations on treatments for both MtF and FtM people. The dysphoria may be mitigated via a range of treatments/strategies such as:

• Therapy

• Occasional dressing, either in public or private

• Living part- or full-time as the other gender

• “Transition”

o Hormones

o Surgery

Let’s start from the transition end of the spectrum. In my heart I know I wish I had been born and raised female. And maybe if I was in my teens or twenties now I would avail myself of the increased public acceptance of transgender people, perhaps living more openly and even considering transition. But at this stage of my life it doesn’t feel right – if it ever would have.

Now, even with full hormones, surgeries (there would be several, for sure), and complete “passing” as a woman, I would still at heart be me. I can imagine myself on this treadmill of trying to achieve one more step toward being female but never achieving the unknowable, while also likely losing the one person who is most important to me in my life, Marie.

Marie and I have been very close these last few days. Although we haven’t broached the “transgender subjects” at all my sense is that we’re coming to some level of acceptance. A couple of days ago she suggested that perhaps this Sunday I could return to living/sleeping in the master bedroom with her. I imagine that will be a topic for our couples meeting with you tomorrow evening.

She and I have also talked about what we might do as early as a year from now, when the lease on her shop expires. Perhaps then we will pack up our house, rent it out, and move to Europe for a year or more. This has been a dream of ours for years. Thus, my returning to the master bedroom is a microcosm for our working out how we will live together as we move forward, traveling or even just at home when both of us are together all the time under the same roof.

As I said at the start of this I do have gender concerns and I need to deal with them on some level (which is sill being determined). I think we need to bring this out in the open with Marie. I think a place to begin is with the term “crossdressing.” On previous occasions she has expressed her dismay and disapproval. And there’s no doubt in my mind that I would appear pretty odd to her when dressed in anything feminine.

But given my gender dysphoria, why is it appropriate to label my dressing, either in bed, under my clothing, or even at some level of completeness (e.g., a dress with stockings, shoes, etc.), “crossdressing” at all? Am I not being (more) true to myself and that that is valid in its own right? For example, these days I am always wearing a nightgown and panties to sleep in. It feels good, right, comfortable. It eases my dysphoria, makes me feel better. It’s not erotic at all.

I imagine all this will take some getting used to for both of us. But I think it’s an important bridge to cross for both Marie and me. But it's definitely a scary one. Hard for me to put myself out there in this way. I'm afraid of vulnerability, of being re-shunned, of Marie's being hurt, of being presented with still more unanswerable questions.

Emma

Photo: We were on a boat in South Africa, on a river in a place called Viljoensdrift. Just a pastoral setting, having a glass of local wine, watching the river bank drift by. Heavenly.

Last week I had a disturbing experience at the therapist-led Transgender support group meeting I attend each month. It left me sad and disillusioned, and depressed. Today, five days later, I'm feeling better so that's good. I've thought about writing this in my blog but I've been very torn. I don't like to hear myself complain or whine and I don't know what the point of this post is anyway. Maybe we'll learn together.

Prior to the support group meeting things were looking brighter. My wife had told me that she wants us to stay together, and that while she still has lots of reservations about what I'm dealing with, she wants us to work it out. And on Wednesday evening we had a couples meeting with our therapist that was very productive.

Thursday evening was the TG support group. I'm gradually feeling a little more confident/adventurous so I wore my ballet flats as well as a new women's long sleeved shirt that I ordered from REI. It's pretty androgynous but with its sleeve details and boatneck it's definitely not male. One more little step for me.

As usual, the moderator/therapist (I'll call her Susan) called on the members around the room one by one to talk about what's going on for them. There were four transsexual women (at least on HRT and a couple have had their GCS surgery). The first one talked about some things going on for her at work. Evidently she's an executive at a local technology company. The second one talked about lectures she's been giving at Stanford and some papers she's writing or contributed to. The third one (I call her Pamela, more about her later) talked about having a retaining wall built at her house and travel plans she and her wife have coming up, and the fourth was tired and didn't talk much. Finally, Susan got to me.

I was surprised that no one seemed to have anything to say about being transgender or whatever. I figured, okay, I'm the new girl and not nearly as far along. So, I started by giving them an update on how things are going better for me, how I'm finally internalizing to myself that I am in fact transgender. I made a small joke that I'm probably the first person to question that about themselves.

Pamela, who is 72 and fully transitioned, often tends to set herself up as the know-it-all and this evening was no different in that regard. For some reason she started firing questions at me and making statements, like:

"The most important thing is how well you pass as a woman." I responded that I am not ready for that but that yes, eventually, I may want to, but I may end up being satisfied coming only "part of the way out" in public.

"If your gender is female then you need to decide what kind of female you are. And if you don't know you'd better do some serious introspection." I told her that in fact I have done one heck of a lot of introspection and that gradually I think I'm making progress.

"Or maybe you're just going to give up on this?" As if I might purge or otherwise decide I am not transgender. As if she cares or has a reason to care? I told her that no, at this stage in the game for me, it's clear that I cannot deny it.

About this time I asked her why she was hectoring me like she was, "pushing my back against the wall." She responded that I had asked her questions (which I had not) and that therefore she has the right to ask me questions too.

She went on for a while longer. I felt like I was on the witness stand and unless I kept answering and in a nice way I was going to lose. I almost started crying a couple of times.

Finally, Susan (the therapist) said I was doing fine and we kind of stopped. Since I was the last one, we then made plans for where we would meet for dinner. As I left the office I noticed that Susan's mouth and lips were kind of trembling. I wondered why but later on reflection I think she was also deeply affected.

The following morning I woke up very sad, despondent. I realized that the whole thing had affected me very deeply. I wrote this email to Susan:

Dear Susan,

You asked me at dinner how I was doing and I thought I was fine. This morning I'm sad. Pamela was mean and rude to me last night. Maybe it sounds silly but I came close to crying a couple of times; even now as I think about the interchange with her I am tearing up.

To me, "transgender support group" is a meeting where it's understood that we're all at different places in our journeys and its members are there for each other, to support, provide their thoughts and ideas, and overall, provide a safe place to be vulnerable and open among what might become a group of friends and compatriots.

Instead, Pamela took the opportunity to question everything about me, if I'm "woman enough", committed to being trans enough, present feminine enough, ... all cast in the "reasonable" light of "Well, you asked me questions so I can ask you too." I asked questions of the group, not of Pamela specifically, and certainly not of the insulting nature of her's.

I suppose she has her own issues and maybe that's one reason she attends the group. On the way to our cars Katie kindly patted me on the back for standing up to Pamela, saying she needs to be taken down a peg or two from time to time. Fine, but that's no excuse for Pamela's being a bully.

Our conceptions of what it means to be female are based on inner feelings, observations, and perhaps some wishful thinking. To me, part of being feminine means it's okay to be lighthearted and sweet, vulnerable and feeling, sensitive and caring.

So, I am saddened this morning as I consider what happened and what I should do next. Pamela gave me an insincere apology at dinner. I am glad she will not attend the meeting until August. I'm not sure but I doubt I will attend future meetings when she will be present.

Emma

Here is the email I received from Susan:

Emma,

I was upset re group interaction last nite as well. I could not sleep. I plan to talk to Pamela via phone later this afternoon or before she leaves for Paris. She was definitely confrontive. I am not sure what she was trying to do. I do understand your feelings and suspect the others felt the same way. I agree with your description of being feminine. Try to put it away. She is not important in your life.

Susan

So that's it. This confrontation brought up so much for me. Like arguments I had with my mother when I was preschool and could not express myself. Or when I was taunted and teased by neighborhood bullies in elementary school, whom I wanted to be friends with. The weekend sucked, as I kept replaying the whole thing.

I'm sure we'll discuss this at the next support group meeting when, thankfully, Pamela will not attend because she'll be travelling. Unfortunately that will be four weeks from now. I don't know what set her off. Not that there is a reasonable justification for her behavior. Maybe she's impatient with me. After all, she's transitioned, about 10-15 years ago, maybe she thinks I'm being whimpy. Or maybe she was pissed that I seem to be making slow progress, and that I'm not at all sure I will want or need to transition.

Like I said, I thought this meeting was supposed to be a safe place. Susan didn't interrupt Pamela and I don't know why. I suspect she was caught completely off guard. Maybe what seemed to take 10 minutes to me was only a couple and it took her a while to react? I forgive her nonetheless. And here again, I'll be asking about it when we meet again.

So what's the point(s) we should take from this? I guess that it's just real life in action. Crap happens. I'd like to say it doesn't matter. I feel like I'd be a better person if I did. Over time I'm sure I'll be okay.

Emma

As I increasingly accept my transgender self I find understanding of past issues and behaviors that I have often wondered about. Two in particular have become clear very recently.

1. Unexplainable breakups

As a teen and young adult I had plenty of girlfriends. I suppose I was attractive enough, "nice," and possibly they sensed a level of kindness and sensitivity that was lacking in other boys and young men. Several of these relationships went on for a long time and seemed to be headed for marriage until I just had to break it off. That was incredibly hard for me since I hated the thought of hurting these girls/women and perhaps worse, I didn't have the words to tell them why I just had to do it. Now I know.

I could not find the courage or vocabulary to tell them about my transgender feelings and desires. And, I could not risk their telling other friends and associates any of it. So after the exhilaration of having a soul mate I broke it off and broke their hearts and mine.

Thus, I sincerely apologize to Stacy, Leslie, Megan, Jane, Deanne, and others I've hurt. I've carried a lot of guilt over the years about my behavior and I hope that at some point you found in your hearts to forgive me.

2. Secrecy is the breeding ground for negative assumptions

For most of my life I've had fears and intuitions that my parents, friends, wive(s), sons, and associates were mad at me or otherwise disappointed. I'm realizing now that the root of this is my almost unceasing review of whether or not my secret has been exposed.

Also, I've always had such a strong need for external validation, often sacrificing (and rarely sharing) my wants and desires in order to gain favor.

I apologize to myself for this. I also forgive myself. I really have always tried to be as good a person as I can be.

Here again, accepting and disclosing my transgendered nature is good for me. You've come a long way, baby!

Photo: a cathedral in Helsinki, Finland.

In case you’re not familiar with it, “Transfigurations” is a wonderful book of photography and associated narratives of trans men and women by Jana Marcus. I recently posted about it here:

I have stepped through the on-line slideshow and video a couple of times. Profound seems like an overused word but it was definitely that for me. What I found in these pages are wonderful examples of real people simply needing to be what they are. Like me.

You see, this has all been very hard for me to accept and acknowledge, that I am transgender. I’ve blogged about this before and received your encouragement, thank you. But still, I wondered: what’s it mean? When I’m dressed I feel right in the world and I have a reluctance to remove the feminine clothing. But when I do, hey, it’s okay. I get along fine in my masculine clothes, too.

I love the book and will soon be ordering my own copy. I also was transfixed by the video of the book’s release. Here again, the transmen who are interviewed are so grounded, so themselves; no one can deny their validity and humanity. These are guys I’d like to know. I’ll bet we would become good friends.

A few days ago I emailed the link to the book and video to my therapist. His response:

Thanks, Emma.

Beautiful and inspiring. And did you know that Quan Yin has been sitting next to you the entire time you have been in my office?

I think he’s right. Quan Yin is right next to me, always. I’m not in her shadow nor is she in mine. I don’t know what she is to me at the moment. Guardian angel? Alter ego? It doesn’t matter; it’s just very comforting to know that she’s here with me. Like Cecilia, I want to live up to the ideals of Quan Yin.

Emma

Photo credit: This is from Jana Marcus with her full permission. Thank you, Jana! In case you can't read the tag line at the bottom of the photo, the book may be ordered at a special on-line price here: http://www.7angelspress.com