A friend of mine who happens to be non-binary wrote to me this morning about a speech he made yesterday at a monthly event were locals in his community speak on that month's theme. For May it was "epiphany" and... he won! I've had my own epiphany in the last couple of weeks that I'd like to share.
Over the years I've often read about the need to live authentically. I assumed that meant I needed to find a different job, career, or otherwise "find myself." I had about three major career changes (broadcast engineering, outside high-tech sales, high-tech marketing and business development), worked for a dozen companies, and even tried my hand at starting my own ventures. I even once really committed to learning fiction writing on the assumption that "if Dan Brown can do it why not me?" (The Da Vinci Code had an interesting premise but in my opinion exhibited pretty marginal writing chops.) I think it's fair to say that through the first 5 decades of my life I tried really hard to "find myself" and although I experienced thrills and euphoria with each new thing (like the infatuation people feel with a new lover) I soon found them a bit tedious, got depressed, and then found myself slogging along once again.
Of late I feel I've broken through to the "other side" of my transition where I just live my life as Emma, a woman who happens to be transgender. I feel very good, better and more excited about life than I've ever been. It occurred to me recently that hey, I'm actually living authentically and I love it! It's like it all snuck up on me without planning or awareness. I then realized that all these years I've been trying to cope, to live inauthentically, and wasn't even cognizant of it.
What I've learned is that when one is compelled to live inauthentically that begets more inauthenticity, like lies requiring additional layers to maintain their deceit. And I've been that way since before kindergarten, trying to live according to others' rules and expectations, utterly ashamed of my core need to be female. Maintaining all that is stressful and exhausting. As a teenager I well recall being on hair-trigger, ready to be slighted. As an adult I was often upset and I didn't know exactly why, often depressed, and like someone treading water in the ocean waiting for life to just be over.
At the risk of stating the obvious here it's amazing how important it is to live authentically! Just as inauthenticity leads to more inauthenticity, authenticity feeds on itself creating more authenticity, more satisfying relationships, all that stuff.
Obviously (I hope) everyone's mileage may vary: I'm not preaching that everyone should transition or how they should go about achieving their own authenticity. I'm just so grateful to have gotten to where I am. Being an active member of the Transgender Guide among other things has helped me so much, I hope it helps you too.
On my Washington state driver's license, that is! I sent in the US Passport revision application last week, requesting (and paying for) expedited service. I don't trust our government (you know who and if you don't what planet are you from?) to not suddenly change the rules, preventing me from obtaining this. Keep your fingers and toes crossed for me please!
The "Pink Fog" (aka, Gender Euphoria) is something many of us experience as we come into our transgender selves. It feels great, similar to the infatuation of a new love interest. For me I've wondered at times if I'm chasing it which brings up worries that I'm following something akin to the path of an addict instead of my true nature.
This came up for me yesterday morning when I read a story in a friend's blog of a 20-something AMAB person who got so caught up in his being a somewhat effeminate gay man that, with encouragement and advice, he transitioned socially. After some period of living as a woman (a year?) he decided to detransition. Thankfully he'd not embarked on only permanent changes. He now lives comfortably as a somewhat effeminate gay man.
Later in the morning I was working on my house, finishing doors, installing shelving, that sort of thing, wearing of course my old Levi's 501's (no point in staining my skinny jeans!) and a sweatshirt, my hair in a ponytail. My gender was nowhere on my mind but I contemplated that story. I was comfortable doing my work. Dara Hoffman-Fox has made the point (which I agree with) that just because we like "masculine" activities such as motorcyling, woodworking, etc., that's perfectly okay for women. I reassured myself while doing the work.
In the early afternoon I changed my clothes to go out for some errands, including a run to the lumber store. I dressed in my skinny jeans, a form-fitting REI top, earrings, and a little lipstick. I felt good about myself as I drove to the stores. In Trader Joe's I ran into a woman checker that I've gotten to know a little in one of the aisles. She'd just gotten off work. We talked for ten minutes, she's lesbian and about to be married, I'm trans, we share worries about Trump/Pence/Pompeo/Sessions, that sort of thing. She accepts me, we connected and reminded each of other of our names. At the lumber store a man who often helps me assisted me in selecting moldings and as he was ringing me up a woman checker (who happens to be lesbian) I've also worked with there came over to join our chat. I showed them a photo of closet doors I've built out of spruce.
Still later I made a spur of the moment decision to walk to a local restaurant for one of my favorite things: reading my book while enjoying a hot chocolate with brandy. The manager's a woman I've gotten to know a little who's very friendly and appreciates the small amount of business I bring to them.
Every day is my "transgender day of visibility." I don't think I look bad, and sure I'd like to pass much better. I stopped wearing foundation several weeks ago. I wore it before almost like a badge to add clarity that I was presenting as a woman. I guess it worked but of late I don't think it's necessary and is a hassle to remove. Like a pretty dress I save it for special occasions. (I'm such a sucker for pretty dresses. I can't resist!)
At the end of the day it remained clear to me that transitioning to female was absolutely the right thing for me to do. I feel good in my own skin and I think I have a joy that encourages people to connect with me. I feel a thrill when I get gussied up and that's perfectly normal. I also feel good when just going out and about.
And that's the whole point, right?
It seems that many (all?) Seattle neighborhoods—including mine—have these small kiosks where we can drop off books for others and choose from what's there, all for free. That's just so cool for someone like me who loves to read and I often wonder if others appreciate the ones I drop off. The other day I found "Eat, Pray, Love" by Elizabeth Gilbert. I started reading it and loved it so much. I found myself literally laughing out loud while reading it in coffee shops!
On Sunday morning I curled up on my couch with a cup of coffee to finish it before getting ready to join some friends for lunch. In the last pages I came across some paragraphs that spoke to me directly:
Excerpts from “Eat, Pray, Love”
On my ninth day of silence, I went into meditation one evening on the beach as the sun was going down and I didn’t stand up again until after midnight. I remember thinking, “This is it, Liz.” I said to my mind, “This is your chance. Show me everything that is causing you sorrow. Let me see all of it. Don’t hold anything back.” One by one, the thoughts and memories of sadness raised their hands, stood up to identify themselves. I looked at each thought, at each unit of sorrow, and I acknowledged its existence and felt (without trying to protect myself from it) its horrible pain. And then I would tell that sorrow, “It’s OK. I love you. I accept you. Come into my heart now. It’s over.” I would actually feel the sorrow (as if it were a living thing) enter my heart (as if it were an actual room). Then I would say, “Next?” and the next bit of grief would surface. I would regard it, experience it, bless it, and invite it into my heart, too. I did this with every sorrowful thought I’d ever had—reaching back into years of memory—until nothing was left.
Then I said to my mind, “Show me your anger now.” One by one, my life’s every incident of anger rose and made itself known. Every injustice, every betrayal, every loss, every rage. I saw them all, one by one, and I acknowledged their existence. I felt each piece of anger completely, as if it were happening for the first time, and then I would say, “Come into my heart now. You can rest there. It’s safe now. It’s over. I love you.” This went on for hours, and I swung between these mighty poles of opposite feelings—experiencing the anger thoroughly for one bone-rattling moment, and then experiencing a total coolness, as the anger entered my heart, as if through a door, laid itself down, curled up against its brothers and gave up fighting.
Then came the most difficult part. “Show me your shame,” I asked my mind. Dear God, the horrors I saw then. A pitiful parade of all my failings, my lies, my selfishness, jealousy, arrogance. I didn’t blink from any of it, though. “Show me your worst,” I said. When I tried to invite these events of shame into my heart, they each hesitated at the door, saying, “No—you don’t want me in there … don’t you know what I did?” and I would say, “I do want you. Even you. I do. Even you are welcome here. It’s OK. You are forgiven. You are part of me. You can rest now. It’s over.”
When all this was finished, I was empty. Nothing was fighting in my mind anymore. I looked into my heart, at my own goodness, and I saw its capacity. I saw that my heart was not even nearly full, not even after having taken in and tended to all those calamitous urchins of sorrow and anger and shame; my heart could easily have received and forgiven even more. Its love was infinite.
I knew then that this is how God loves us all and receives us all, and that there is no such thing in this universe as hell, except maybe in our own terrified minds. Because if even one broken and limited human being could experience even one such episode of absolute forgiveness and acceptance of her own self, then imagine—just imagine!—what God, in all His eternal compassion, can forgive and accept.
I also knew somehow that this respite of peace would be temporary. I knew that I was not yet finished for good, that my anger, my sadness and my shame would all creep back eventually, escaping my heart, and occupying my head once more. I knew that I would have to keep dealing with those thoughts again and again until I slowly and determinedly changed my whole life. And that this would be difficult and exhausting to do. But my heart said to my mind in thre dark silence of that beach, “I love you, I will never leave you, I will always take care of you.” That promise floated up out of my heart and I caught it in my mouth and held it there, tasting it as I left the beach and walked back to the little shack where I was staying. I found an empty notebook, opened it up to the first page—and only then did I open my mouth and speak those words into the air, letting them free. I let those words break my silence and then I allowed my pencil to document their colossal statement onto the page:
“I love you, I will never leave you, I will always take care of you.”
Those were the first words I ever wrote in that private notebook of mine, which I would carry with me from that moment forth, turning back to it many times over the next two years, always asking for help—and always finding it, even when I was mostly deadly sad or afraid. And that notebook, steeped through with that promise of love, was quite simply the only reason I survived the next years of my life.
My thoughts turn to something I read once, something the Zen Buddhists believe. They say an oak tree is brought into creation by two forces at the same time. Obviously, there is the acorn from which it all begins, the seed which holds all the promise and potential, which grows into the tree. Everybody can see that. But only a few can recognize that there is another force operating here as well—the future tree itself, which wants so badly to exist that it pulls the acorn into being, drawing the seedling forth with longing out of the void, guiding the evolution from nothingness to maturity. In this respect, say the Zens, it is the oak tree that creates the very acorn from which it is born.
I think about the woman I have become lately, about the life I am now living, and about how much I always wanted to be this person and live this life, liberated from the farce of pretending to be anyone other than myself. I think of everything I endured before getting here and wonder if it was me—I mean, this happy and balanced me, who is now dozing on the deck of this small Indonesian fishing boat—who pulled the other, younger, more confused and struggling me forward during all those hard years. The younger me was the acorn full of potential, but it was the older me, the already-existent oak, who was saying the whole time: “Yes—grow! Change! Evolve! Come and meet me here, where I already exist in wholesomeness and maturity! I need you to grow into me!” And maybe it was this present and fully actualized me who was hovering four years ago…
Liz started her life-changing journey four years earlier. My journey also started exactly four years ago in 2014 when I started seeing a new therapist. At our first meeting I told him that I carried a tremendous secret shame that I'd never fully divulged to anyone and that, this time, I promised to go "open kimono" if he'd be patient and encouraging. He was kind and patient as it took me several months to even broach the possibility that I might be transgender.
Throughout our 3+ years together he talked about how to listen to our inner turmoils, accept and love them, and gently put them on a treasured shelf of trophies in my mind. Like many things like this it's much easier said than done. I think I know now how correct he, Zen, and Liz are.
To paraphrase the last paragraph I absconded from Liz's book: I think about the woman I have become and am becoming, the life and joys I am living, and how much I always wanted to be this person and live this life. Truly, I've never felt so at peace, such love, and happy. It's like I'm channeling Sally Field as she accepted her Oscar, "You like me, right now! You like me!" I'm a happy girl.
P.S. I suspect that Liz and her publisher would be okay with my copying about 1,000 words from her book. I heartily endorse it (and not just to appease the Plagiarism Gods). She's an amazing woman, a delightful writer, and tells an important story.
Coming out has been quite a journey for me. The first person I came out to was my therapist in 2014 and later that year my (now ex) wife. In 2015 I came out to several others, mostly therapists and people who participated in local trans groups. Toward the end of 2016 I came out individually to my two sons as well as a couple of friends. Last summer I sent an email to about 100 friends and colleagues, letting them in on my little secret. Yesterday was the biggest day thus far.
Yesterday I updated my name, gender, and profile photo on Facebook. And an hour later I pulled the same ripcord on LinkedIn. I think now I'm about as out as I'll ever be. I've never felt as at peace and happy and proud to be me as I am now. Such a huge weight has been lifted off of my head and brain.
Funny story: before changing my FB presence I talked to my ex-wife for a couple of hours yesterday morning about all sorts of stuff but she didn't bring up the email I'd sent her informing her of my intention to change my FB name. So I brought it up. Her reply, "Oh that, good for you!"
I remember hearing that Nordstrom is trans-friendly and offered free bra fittings. But also, back then, I was terrified at the thought. I knew it might happen some day but when that day came I'd know that I'd have to have really come into my own in a much more secure way.
I've only purchased my bras on Amazon. They fit okay, and weren't that expensive. I measured myself with a band size of 38 and as my mother's was 34 I thought I was in the right ballpark. The first cup size was C because that's the size I felt was more ideal for my body size and here again, it was the same as my mom's. Later, I decided to go for size B since it may be that that's the best I'll be able to naturally grow into at my age.
About a week ago I decided that I was sick and tired of one bra strap constantly falling down my arm, the band binding around my chest, and decided that it was time to go to Nordie's. I called and made an appointment. All went fine and easy. Yesterday (Valentine's Day) I met with a 20-something woman in the lingerie department. I wasn't particularly nervous, mostly just excited. We went into a private changing room, she asked me what I was looking for. I wanted to buy three bras that fit: black, beige, and white. I took off my top and she measured my band size at 36. Wow!
She then brought in several different ones, helped me with them. She didn't rush me at all, and had zero problem with my questions or not liking some of them. I eventually bought five: beige, white, light pink, and violet, and a black exercise bra. Oh, and a very pretty summer-weight robe, chemise, and pajama pants: gotta be ready for Spring, right?
Amazing it was such a small bag for $500. But, you know, I'm very happy knowing that now I am wearing a pretty bra that fits, just for me. I don't know how much more Nordstrom shopping I can afford; Nordstrom Rack is more like it. But now I know what size to look for!
At last week's meeting with Sandy, my voice coach/therapist, she recalled that early in our work together she'd offered to also coach me on feminine poise, mannerisms. Was I still interested? Absolutely! We thus spent a very fun hour working on my walk during which I recalled the line, "The rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain."
As with so much in life the differences between how men and women stand and walk are subtle. For some none of this may matter but for me I want the whole package. Here's some of the high points which are admittedly hard to describe in words but I'll try.
Women occupy less space than men. They tend to keep their arms and hands near their bodies, don't stretch their arms out on couches and chairs. If there's one thing to remember that's numero uno.
When standing (such waiting for a stoplight to change, keep both feet pointing straight forward, ankles touching. It's a bit of a balancing act at first. Stand upright as if there is a string that enters the top of your skull and travels through your body to the floor.
There are several aspects to the walk. It helps to first notice how you walk (if you're a trans woman) "normally." Most men, for example, lead their stride by throwing out their feet/heel to create the momentum to keep moving. The ankles tend to travel further apart and toes are often splayed outward. The overall situation is that men follow their feet. Women, however:
Push off their stride with their toes and the torso catches up while the other foot pushes off with its toes. Women's calves then tend to follow their torso.
Shorter, calmer strides than men.
Toes are pointed straight forward, ankles traveling close to each other as the feet glide past.
Walk with upright good posture, as if two strings are tied to your clavicle and gently pulling you forward.
That's about it. We put about 15' of masking tape on the floor in two stripes about 5-6" apart. Its a good exercise to walk along those tapes, keeping the toes forward. Move forward and backward so as to work on embedding the new walk into your muscle memory.
I'm far from an expert with it but it's fun to be aware of and use.
Last night I went over to a friend's house for dinner and wore shoes with 1 1/2" heels. As I walked around my house, to the car, etc., it became so clear why women walk the way I described. Having heels on shoes makes it quite awkward to walk like a man and naturally encourages walking like a woman. Fun!
I learned just a few minutes ago that Monica's birthday was last Friday, 1/19. Birthdays are a big deal, especially for those of us who're contending with being trans, lesbian, disabled, ... And heck, we keep getting OLDER. I'll not advertise Monica's age, will leave that up to her to divulge. That said this year is a milestone for her.
Monica was the first to great me, with warmth and sincerity, when I joined TGG about 3 1/2 years ago. That was such a difficult time for me. It seemed clear that I was trans but I didn't really know enough to be 100% positive. I'd come out to my wife who was devastated. I was in a bad way, somehow found TG Guide, and Monica was there for me.
I greatly appreciate Monica's steadfast support and friendship. Please join in and wish her a Happy New Year and wonderful Birthday!
Love to all,
P.S. For fun, more photos of my BFF, Miss Peanut:
I spent the evening with three girlfriends at a dinner show in downtown Seattle. I should have had a better time. I wore my new burgundy REI sweater dress, fleece-lined leggings, and a silver necklace. If I do say so myself, I looked nice. Nice that is, for me.
I'm not sure I should be writing this at all. After all I'm a moderator here. Aren't I supposed to be like a Camp Counselor who always knows the right thing to say, the right thing to do? That's what it seemed like when I went to camp, about fifty years ago I guess.
My divorce from my wife is final as of about a week ago. We still talk, we love and miss each other, and I think we will always be in each other's lives. But nonetheless we are divorced.
I feel like I should be looking forward, excited about the future. Instead all too often I am so envious of women who get to just be what they are. Sure, they aren't perfect either. But their hairline isn't all receding, they have at least some sort of waist, and their voices are naturally feminine. And oh yeah, they don't have beards. Today I saw my electrologist for our weekly appointment. This week we were scheduled for only an hour because the dentist in the adjacent office is on vacation. She started working on my side burns but after 40 minutes I had to call it quits. It just hurt too much. I couldn't take it any longer. I guess I have another couple of years worth of appointments to look foreword to.
I'm so blessed and so lucky and yet I feel so blue. I feel guilty for that, like I shouldn't feel this way. But we know that everyone's feelings are valid. I should approach them mindfully, accept them, don't fight them, and in fact, embrace them. Use them to help point the way I should go, don't let fear and hurt drag me down. If it were that easy...
The good news is that I adopted a two-year old cat about a month ago, Peanut, whose photo is below. She seems to like me. I like her too.
People in Seattle take advantage of sunny/rain-free days and I'm no exception. I love walking from my house through a local park and then along Lake Washington for several miles. It's very large, with a total shoreline that's probably around 60-70 miles and of course I come no where near that. It's ringed with parks and walking/running paths and just lovely.
Today I was talking with my wife (via phone) while walking. She's in California and has never seen me presenting authentically. She asked if I was wearing my "lady clothes" and I assured her that yes, that's what I always do. Today's no different. She asked me to have someone snap a photo and send it to her.
So here it is: no makeup, hair's a mess, but it's me, very comfortable in my own skin. Wow, I just happened to notice that I joined TGGuide just over three years ago. What a long space trip it's been!
Yesterday I read this article on Transgender Universe by Mila Madison (I love her writings):
Is It Safe to Come Out?
You see, yesterday was National Coming Out Day. On reading the article it occurred to me that for most people the definition of "coming out" is a single event, coming out of the closet, letting others know ones true/authentic nature (sexuality, gender, etc.), and then it's done. That stirred up some thoughts for me as I considered that I came out all of the past year and see myself continuing to come out for at least the next year and maybe beyond. i added a comment to MIla's article that I've edited below:
I think a point can be made that coming out isn’t binary, all or nothing. For example, I started coming out to selected friends, family and professionals one year ago. I kept a list on my phone, marveling as the number slowly grew from single digits into the teens. I told them, mostly in person, that I am transgender and had been since my earliest memories. All were more or less supportive.
About six months ago I couldn’t wait any longer and wrote a long-ish email to about 50 colleagues and friends. I then forwarded it to others as I thought about them. Most answered very positively, a few didn’t answer, and no on disparaged me. My number had grown to about 100.
About six months ago, very tentatively, I started dressing and going out in public. What fear and anxiety! Buying clothes on Amazon, afraid even to return those that didn’t fit for fear that the UPS guy would discover my secret. I started by attending all professional meetings (therapist, doctor, stylist, etc.) presenting fully as Emma.
Thankfully I have a supportive network of friends. One girlfriend took me to Nordstrom Rack and Sephora for shopping a few weeks ago. We left loaded down with bags like the women in Sex and the City. Another suggested I go to a local woman’s consignment shop; they were wonderful. Last week I ran errands, first to a lumber store to buy a bunch of wood for basement shelves, to Nordstrom Rack to return a jacket (and yes, buy another), Trader Joe's, and Bed, Bath, and Beyond... all as Emma.
Yesterday I went to pick up some sheet metal to fix a door, presenting as a woman. Talk about a bastion of testosterone. No one batted an eye. I also went out for coffee with a male friend whom I had told I’m trans but had never seen me dressed.
As of yesterday I’m starting to dress all or most of the time, authentically as myself, a woman, Emma. I take the public transportation downtown, go grocery shopping, the bank, you name it. I agree completely that we need to be visible so that our sisters and brothers behind us will witness our progress while the cisgender population learns that we’re just out and about, living our lives in peace and harmony with everyone. So what's left?
There are more bridges left to cross, such as:
Using my feminine speaking voice that I'm taking weekly lessons on. I'm nervous about that. Thank goodness my next door neighbor liked the way my "Good morning!" sounded to her this morning and volunteered to make herself available for me to practice as needed.
Go for a bra fitting. I'm waiting for my breasts to bud more before doing that. I imagine that one of these days my breast forms will feel even more uncomfortable riding on top of my natural breasts. Oh, and then I'll be wearing a bra all the time, too.
Select and wear a women's swim suit out and about. Likely next summer.
Go to Macy's and places like that for a makeover. I could really use professional help with my makeup.
Get my fingernails and toenails painted. Gosh, once that's done there's really no way to present as anything but a woman, is there?
Get my hair styled and maybe add some highlights. My hair will be long enough in 4-6 months, I think, so I have some time.
Change my legal name, drivers license, passport, etc. That's probably for 2019!
That's all I can think of for now but I'm sure I'll come up with more! Hey, that's part of the fun isn't it?
Last night I met a male friend for dinner whom I've known since first grade - quite a long while. I'd told him via email that I'm trans a couple of months ago and he was supportive, so he wasn't particularly surprised when I appeared in skinny jeans, athletic pumps, and with studs in my earlobes. He's a successful corporate attorney and is friendly, very articulate, and handsome with designer glasses, died hair, and clothing that while very casual were color- and style-perfect for the occasion. But as an attorney, and a man, he consistently talked over me, peppering me with questions and thoughts while I tried to hold up my side of the conversation. Things like:
"You're not going undergo genital mutilation, are you?" I was able to tell him that for me that's a bit over the horizon but also possible. I wasn't able to educate him on the fact that this surgery is in no way any kind of 'mutilation' with what that implies. I will be sending an email to him on that subject.
"You're not interested in men?" I tried to tell him that sexuality and gender are orthogonal and unrelated but here again all I could tell him is that I'm only interested in women; I'm a lesbian.
None of his comments or body language were delivered in any kind of negative way or overtone. He's told his parents who said that they wish me the best too, and his father (whom I haven't seen in over 40 years) said that he thought I'd make an attractive woman. I was just kind of taken aback at his assumptions and ignorance. As I said I'll send a follow up email to clear this up but imagine how hard it is to effectively us to people whom we've never met?
When I was young my handwriting was awful. So bad that all too often I couldn't read it myself. It was a scrawl; I just didn't care. About 35 years ago when I started working with computers I forgot how to write in cursive. I'd either type out notes/letters on the keyboard or use printed capital letters, trying to mimic an architect's hand. I was still able to sign my name in cursive but it's always been a scribble, identifiable as mine but otherwise indecipherable. Until a couple of months ago.
After I drove away from my life with my wife, heading north to destinations unknown, I wondered if my handwriting had always been so poor because on some level I felt that cursive was too feminine and that having nice handwriting might expose my feelings about myself. Sounds odd, I agree. I found a simple guide to cursive writing on the web and started slowly practicing. Soon it all came back but it's beautiful now! I love it, I'm proud of my writing. I wonder how and why it was so poor before but I think I know. Emma was in my writing and she needed to be kept in her place, out of sight if not out of mind. Not anymore.
Yesterday I had a first meeting with a doctor in a Seattle medical center to talk about starting HRT. We got along well and I told her that I didn't want to start right away; I just wanted to get to know each other a little and I'd continue to think about hormone treatment, and possibly have similar meetings with other doctors. She was perfectly fine with this but near the end of the meeting I knew: yes, I want to start, right away. I told her this and she was very okay with that, too. So now I have an appointment with one of her residents on September 11th (I just realized the significance of that date) to start that ball rolling. They know and list me as transgender in my chart with directions to use female pronouns and Emma as my name. Wow. But there's more!
A couple of months ago I met with a speech therapist to talk about voice feminization training. She's excellent and performed thorough tests on my voice, glands, and so forth. She had a concern that I might have a vocal chord issue so asked me to have an ENT evaluation before starting work with her. This morning I went to the ENT who inserted a scope up my nostril so she could see my vocal chords as they do their thing. And she gave me a clean bill of health, too. I'll start my vocal training at the end of next week! Still more...
I am lucky to have a couple of lesbian old friends in Seattle, who are married to each other. We enjoy each other's company and they have encouraged me to dress however I feel when I'm at their house. But I've still been a little nervous. Well, they introduced me to a good friend of their's, a cis/hetero woman, who is becoming a friend of mine, too. She and I planned to go to a Mexican restaurant together last Saturday night (as a ladies night out, if you will), and I dressed fully, in leggings, a tunic top, makeup (light), some jewelry, and wearing my breast forms. But NO wig! Just my very gray hair which is growing out pretty well but not long enough to be styled as yet. Probably will get it styled near the end of the year. My friend was so nice to me throughout, another woman complemented me on my earrings, and the waiter referred to us as "ladies." It just felt good, ya know?
I dressed the same way (but different outfit) yesterday when I went to see my therapist and the endocrinologist. It all went well. A couple of women smiled as we walked past each other; the way I interpreted it was that they could see that I'm a trans woman, and it was if they smiled out of encouragement, nothing else.
What an amazing space trip I'm having!
The last couple of weeks have been busy. I had a first meeting with a new gender therapist (Shannon), my eyebrows waxed by a stylist (Zed), and an evaluation with a very experienced voice coach (Sandy). I’ve also started drafting my transition plan that I’ll review with Shannon when we meet again in September – after I return from Alaska.
I mentioned to Sandy (the voice coach) that I want to start low-dose HRT in September as a way to dip my toe in the water. She advised that I get some doctor recommendations from Shannon soon and set up an appointment (for September) as these doctors are so busy and the wait time could easily be a couple of months. She also asked about my plans to present in a more feminine way, perhaps full time, and how I planned to present at the Gender Odyssey conference in late August. I told her that I do not dress in public very often at all, that I wanted to allow time to grow my hair and have it styled, at least start on electrolysis, and to have made some progress with her on my voice. She kindly responded that there is a huge variety of people at Gender Odyssey – so I could wear anything and it would be okay. She also advised that voice therapy is much more effective when is presenting as a woman in public. It’s like learning French in school and travelling to France where one can actually speak it.
Yesterday I emailed Shannon with Sandy’s feedback, asking if she would provide names for doctors to me even though I’ve only met Shannon once. I expected that although she might provide names that she would suggest that I wait to make an appointment until she and I had more meetings. Surprisingly and without any reservations she provided me with the names, and agreed with Shannon that I should make the appointment.
I was a bit startled and afraid after receiving Shannon’s email. In our meeting a couple of weeks ago she told me that she - like other professionals are increasingly doing - follows the “informed consent model” where clients like me are provided the latitude to make up their own minds once we have been informed of the protocols, risks, etc. Her email was thus consistent with informed consent. And, let’s face it, I do want to take this step.
I reflected on all this while driving north yesterday for a couple of hours. I decided that before Gender Odyssey I will return to Zed (the stylist at the salon where I had my eyebrows waxed) and have her style my hair. In two months I believe will have enough to at least present more androgynously. I do have some hair loss in front that I assume we’ll be able to deal with, with "product" such as hairspray. Also, I’ll attend Gender Odyssey in a more feminine style of dress. Why not? I have several comfortable and casual outfits. What’s the worst that could happen? Given the climate of trans inclusion and welcoming in the Seattle neighborhoods I’m frequenting I think the rewards are much higher than the risks. I’ll also present in this way at least to Shannon, Sandy, and the HRT staff/doctor.
As I drove further it occurred to me that the difference between fear and exhilaration is subtle. I was (and am) feeling exhilarated about taking these steps. It doesn’t hurt that I received a cute pair of sporty/feminine flats that fit perfectly yesterday from Amazon. Oh, that, and I got my ears pierced yesterday! I also bought a couple of pairs of earrings that I look forward to wearing.
But I still have doubts, fears, and uncertainties. My (ex) wife is planning to come to Seattle in mid-September for her HS class reunion and we’ve talked about getting together. But I am thinking that she will not want to see me when I tell her about my ear piercings, my hair styling, and maybe more.
So what sustains me? First and foremost, I can’t deny my history. I owe it to myself to play this out. I am so fearful that if I do not that one day, perhaps at the end of my life, I’ll have regrets. Second, my (ex) wife is suffering a lot these days. We talked recently and I learned that she is sad, depressed, and lost since I drove away two months ago. She gave up so much while also supporting me so lovingly; I feel that I must follow through. Sure, I cannot take responsibility for her emotions and I try not to but I feel a need to honor her sacrifice and support.
At this point all the steps I’m taking are either reversible or can be switched off at will, so that makes it easier. My hope and assumption is that as I take these steps that I will feel joy that confirms that I’m heading in the right direction, and that will help sustain me as I take further steps that are more permanent. I’m also comforted when I consider that Shannon, Sandy, and my friends, will be there for and with me all along the yellow brick road.
P.S. I’m reading “The Transgender Guidebook: Keys to a Successful Transition” by Anne Boedecker, PhD. It’s excellent, in the same class as Dara Hoffman-Fox’s “You and Your Gender Identity: A Guide to Discovery”.
Last week I sent the following email to about 30 ex-colleagues and friends at a start-up company I worked at for 6 years and loved. Roughly 75% have responded very positively, and one even reported that his 9 year old son has expressed transgender feelings and asked for my thoughts and suggestions. I've not received any negative feedback. Maybe the other 25% are uncomfortable? Who knows, but that's okay...
Since sending this email out I've forwarded it to another 15 or so people. I think it's a pretty good update for my friends and provides them with information that I hope they will use in conversations with their friends.
20 years ago this month I joined Start-Up thanks to A, B, and C, and it remains as one of the best experiences I’ve had. I miss working with all of you very much. That said, I’ve been carrying a profound secret since I was a child that I have only lately come to terms with and wish to share with you. My goal is simply to facilitate conversation.
What’s the secret? In a word, I am transgender, and I’ll tell you more about it all below. I’ll try to be brief and avoid the dreaded “tl;dr” but as you can imagine it’s a long story. The story is important to me of course but I hope you will read and be interested more in the broader context of all transgender people.
I often start off by telling whomever I'm coming out to that ever since I can remember (age 4 or 5) I wanted to play on the girls' teams. I wanted to learn to curtsy with the girls in nursery school, dance like a ballerina, play with the girls in their kindergarten kitchenettes, and join the Blue Birds in 1st grade. In junior high, like Richard Dreyfus in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, I was inextricably drawn toward sewing girls’ clothes for myself including a camisole and a teddy, in secret and out of rags, while my parents attended AA meetings.
I was acutely aware that my desires, envies and actions were utterly shameful and needed to be kept strictly hidden and under control. All of these feelings stayed with me (maturing, of course) over the next half-century as I struggled to keep the ship afloat while battling depression and emotions that just wouldn't be suppressed.
Close your eyes for a moment and consider how it would feel to be so utterly convinced that you are so shameful, with a longing that just doesn't go away, and it's so bad that you can't tell anyone what is really in your heart. You just have to journey on as best you can. That journey has been tough: always monitoring my relationships for whatever I might do or say that would expose myself, second-guessing: “Am I saying the right thing?” “How am I supposed to be right now?”
Telling you this is an amazing milestone for me. Quite literally for years I would have rather died than have it come out. I went to therapists for depression and didn't tell them about my feminine feelings, as those feelings were just too shameful and, I figured, I could keep the depression and its treatment isolated from talking about my gender dysphoria. In hindsight that was kind of silly but when feeling that kind of pressure we humans do odd things.
In early 2014 my wife told me that I needed to return to therapy. I was unhappy, we were unhappy, and I needed to deal with things. I told my new therapist from the onset that for the very first time I was going to totally open my kimono come hell or high water. Still, it was unbelievably hard. It took some months to gradually get it all out. And then I had to tell my wife, which was also very hard. I spent the following couple of years studying, exploring, and learning what it is to be transgender, where it originates, overcoming my own transphobia, and accepting that I am trans. My wife and I cried about it but we decided that I would never really find and become myself while we were married. We thus went to a mediator a few months ago, worked out our divorce agreement, and filed the papers. The mediator was astonished that we came to the meetings holding hands, smiling/laughing, and yes, crying.
I bought a 23' RV (Winnebago Minnie Winnie; my wife hates the name!) in March and headed north in mid-April, in search of a new place to settle (I can't afford to live in the SF Bay Area!), to find who I am and become that person.
Now, I'm in Seattle and have pretty much decided that I want to buy a small house somewhere in the San Juan Islands this Fall. I have old friends here and have always loved the San Juans.
But on the transgender topic I assume that you and/or others may not know much about it and I figure that, like we saw with the civil rights movement, the emergence of gays and lesbians, and others, we need to encourage "dinner table conversations" among cisgender people (where 'cis' = 'same', meaning that one's inner gender matches their birth sex characteristics). Knowledge is power, and with that in mind I came up with what I hope is a helpful FAQ:
Does this mean I'm gay?
No. Sexuality and gender are completely orthogonal and unrelated, although this is often the first question people ask. For what it's worth I'm only attracted to women.
What does "transgender" mean? Does it mean you're a transsexual?
Transgender is an umbrella term/label that includes anyone whose gender doesn't align with their birth sex. Some trans present in public as their true selves, some caring that they “pass” and some not. Some only do what they need to do under their clothes or in private. And some trans people transition their bodies via hormones, surgery(s), and so forth, and some do not. Those that do are called transsexuals but the language is evolving and the transgender label is often used for people like Caitlyn Jenner, Jazz Jennings, Laverne Cox, and Janet Mock.
How can I be sure I'm trans?
Good question, especially since there is no scientific/objective test... none. Everyone sure wishes there was a test. Trust me when I say that I've done my homework: lots of books, therapists, meetings with trans people, introspection. In the end it's undeniable. So much history.
Will I transition?
Another good question. Until fairly recently I thought not but lately I'm thinking it may be inevitable. I'm afraid of waking up some day on my death bed wishing for what could have been or what I didn’t do out of fear. I am considering starting a low dose of hormones that can be taken for some months before physical changes occur to see how I feel mentally. I would put $20 down that I will feel terrific but we'll see; I have an open mind to losing that bet.
Do I present as a woman all the time?
No. When I'm with some friends, or attending a trans meeting/conference, I do. I’m growing my hair out because I hate wigs and at some point will need to have it styled. Maybe then I’ll start presenting as a woman more often.
What do I wear?
Us in the trans community call them "clothes." Sorry, I had to. :-) Actually, I try to wear a style like women would wear in a similar situation and about my age. I'm learning as I go. I attached a couple of recent photos.
How do I look?
You tell me! I'm told I look pretty good but one never knows if people are just being nice. When I do go out publicly my goal is to blend in as best I can.
How many trans people are there?
Very hard to have an accurate answer. A UCLA study recently reported that 0.6% of US adults (1.4M people) are transgender. This compares with 3% who are gay/lesbian. These numbers feel right to me but what do I know. Notably there are the same number of FTM (female to male) as there are MTF (male to female, like me). FTMs have it easier in some ways at least because of society's acceptance of the variety of ways that girls/women dress. Also, note that 41% of trans people attempt suicide at least once. I'm part of that statistic.
Is it curable?
Our VP Mike Pence would say so. Consider this: is it "curable" (or needed?) to change your handedness from left to right? Your eye color?
A. it's not a disease that needs to be cured. B. it's not changeable; we are what we are. Trying to "cure it" has proven to result in many suicides.
I'm careful to wish that Trump be impeached - the devil you know and all that. I wish they'd both be impeached. Sessions too, but I'm getting off topic…
Isn't it just a sexual proclivity or fetish?
No, not at all - at least for transgender people. Note that for many (me included) these feelings came about long before puberty. The child knows what is in her/his heart.
Are you implying that God makes mistakes?
Not at all, I'm acknowledging diversity. Being transgender doesn’t imply that God made a mistake although this is said by some, implying that since God doesn't make mistakes then being transgender (or gay) is simply an aberrant lifestyle. I don't feel that being transgender is any more of a mistake than being born blind, deaf, conjoined twins, with a cleft palate, or right-handed.
Do you feel like you are a woman “inside”?
I don’t know, honestly. How could I? Do I feel like I was born in the wrong body? Not really although I have often wished I was born female. It’s hard to put my finger on it, but that’s kind of it: I have always envied and wished I was one of the girls. Simple and complicated and shameful (for a boy) as that.
How do I feel these days?
I'm feeling rather good, thank you. It's truly amazing what a weight has been lifted off my shoulders. I've thus far come out to over 30 family, friends, professionals, and acquaintances, and if you include spouses and so forth it might be 50. Now with you I guess that number may double. I am daunted at times at the prospects of transition. I'm lucky to have found a terrific gender therapist in Seattle as well as other resources. I'm also so lucky to have such a strong relationship with my (ex) wife. We talk at least once a week for an hour or two.
On June 20 I will be crossing the border into Canada, driving the ALCAN highway in my Minnie Winnie to Anchorage where, on July 14th I'm meeting a friend with whom I'll be spending the following two weeks camping and motorcycling. (I also have a Kawasaki KLR 650 strapped onto the back of my Winnebago.) And then it will be back to Seattle to attend a gender conference (August 24-27) and get back into my trans journey.
That's all I have for now. Please ask me anything you’d like. Probably private emails are best since I don’t want to clog up mailboxes. Also, please feel free to forward this email to anyone whether I know them or not.
Oh, and let me know if you're going to be in the Seattle area and would like to meet up.
The soul of brevity,
For more information
As you might imagine I could point you to way more than you may wish for. I think the four videos listed below are excellent. If you'd like to learn more please let me know.
Charlie Rose Brain Series: Gender Identity
In this episode of the Brain Series, a panel of experts in psychology, pediatrics, and gender studies, including co-host Eric Kandel and neurobiologist and transgender man Ben Barres, examines the complex issue of gender identity and the biology of the brain.
Dr. Mark Yarhouse: Transgender
As legislatures debate “bathroom bills” and National Geographic Magazine heralds a “Gender Revolution,” many are asking, what is gender dysphoria? Seven hundred thousand people identify as transgender in the U.S. yet many Christians are uncertain of how to engage. Dr. Mark Yarhouse, clinical psychologist and founder of the Institute for the Study of Sexual Identity, brings his latest research to educate us on gender dysphoria and provides a helpful framework for how to think well about the conversation of identity.
Brynn Tannehill - “I Am Real”
An amazing speech given at the 2014 TransPride Pittsburgh National Conference.
Sean Patrick Maloney & Sarah McBride - Democratic National Convention
Co-Chair of the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney (New York) and LGBT rights activist Sarah McBride.
For the very first time I went out to dinner dressed last week and spent a couple of days in skinny jeans, leggings, and my tunic tops. Also wore a couple of my skirt/top outfits. I also received a lot of lessons in makeup and wig care. I learned so much! And I just felt wonderful.
True, I also learned that, frankly, makeup is hard to learn, and I prefer to wear as little of it as possible. And the wig is hot and not very comfortable. Thankfully my natural hair may be okay so I'm growing it out to see. I guess that will take 6-12 months to know.
But I also learned that I really would love to transition. Not soon, as I want to explore some more, talk to others, and settle on a plan. I'm currently heading north through Washington and soon through British Columbia to Alaska. Not a good time to mix it up with electrolysis, hormones, and all. But I will have lots of hours behind the wheel and I've ordered some voice lesson DVDs and a CD. Who knows, in a couple of months I may be able to have a much more feminine voice. I sure hope so!
P.S. Eyebrow waxing hurts but it's over quickly. I'm told that I now need to find someone every 2-3 weeks to repeat it or risk losing the line that she gave me. I'm sure I can do that in Seattle but in the upper part of BC or Alaska? We'll see. :-)
Yesterday afternoon a rental RV pulled in to the campground space adjacent to mine. I didn't take much notice of it. I glanced there occasionally and was surprised to find that the couple were sitting in the cab of the truck. Kind of odd since the first thing one does is connect up the water, electricity, and waste disposal. I made my dinner and while cooking my pork chop decided to ask them if all was alright. Maybe they were unfamiliar with what to do and embarrassed to ask?
After eating my chop (which was delicious!) I headed over there. The man was in the cab, the woman no where to be seen. He popped out and I explained that I noticed them in the cab and was just checking to see if they needed any help. He was very friendly, in his 60s I think, and said it was just a comfortable place to sit and update his Facebook while keeping an eye on his own BBQ. His girlfriend then came out too, very big blond hair, friendly. I learned that they are from North Carolina, very small towns (about 2,000 people) near Raleigh, heading to Frisco (please, please, don't ever say that. It's San Francisco) today I think. We separated back to our RVs and the evening.
Last night I considered which side of the bathroom bill they are on. My guess is that they are on the trans-phobic side as they also made a small sleight about a minority. So now I'm wondering if I should venture there again this morning and ask them about the bathroom bill. And if they are for the discrimination ask them what concerns them. And regardless, then tell them that I'm transgender, and assure them that while in male mode (which they see me now) neither I or anyone I know who is trans would even consider entering a women's washroom. I could do it, sure. But I'm scared to think what might happen. Probably nothing physical, but emotional? Do I want to deal with that?
Anyway, I left my copy of Janet Mock's book "Redefining Realness" in the campground book exchange area. Maybe someone will read it and learn something. I hope so.
P.S. That couple left the park while I was in the laundry room, so they were unaware of their neighbor, the transwoman. I suppose I'll always wish I'd gone ahead and broached the subject with them. Who knows, we might have had a nice chat over a glass of wine. Given the same circumstances that's what I plan to do the next time. Live and learn.
Today is – quite literally – the first full day of the rest of my life. Yesterday (on Easter Sunday) I left my wife (now, ex, which is hard to fathom), home (now hers), friends, and family, to venture out on a Hero’s Journey (if I do say so myself) to see what I find in my gender, life, and home. I woke this morning in my Minnie Winnie near Healdsburg, California at a KOA campground, figured out how to hook up the water and sewage to the coach, and cooked eggs and coffee for breakfast.
The last couple of months have been very challenging and exhausting for both my wife and myself. I returned from my camping trip in early February to find that my wife had decided that we should divorce. She said that the reason is that while we are together it will be unforgivably impossible for me to truly discover and be myself, whether I need to transition, live publicly as a woman, or whatever. That, and for reasons she doesn’t understand herself (and feels guilty about) there is something about my being transgender that she finds very hard to accept.
At first there was some anger and hurt feelings between us. She asked when I might leave (the earlier the better), we both worried about how we would settle our affairs, and I could not wait to simply drive away and move on. We found a divorce mediator, I created a spreadsheet that helped us try out different asset division models, we started to trust each other, and finally came to an agreement. She got a bit more than I did but that's the way it needed to be for her to keep the house. But I got my freedom in an enviable way that I have often dreamed of my entire life.
Once that was worked out the rest of our time was mostly spend packing and provisioning my Winnie, unwinding our family finances, pushing through the myriad forms needed to file for divorce. We worked hand in hand still wearing our wedding rings. Our mediator and attorneys were amazed that a couple as caring of each other as us would even consider getting divorced. I’m deeply saddened now as I write this. I know she is too; we talked last night on the phone for 45 minutes.
When I arrived at the campground yesterday I unpacked my Emma clothes into my closet and drawers; they’d been in boxes that my wife really prefers not to open. And now I consider what I want to do in the coming months.
My plan is to head slowly north, through Oregon, Washington, British Columbia, to Alaska, for the summer, and then return south in time to miss the winter snow and rain, through Iowa (or Idaho, not sure), Utah, and Colorado. In each location I want to see what feels right and wrong about the place, and experience what’s available for trans people like me. For example, in Portland (Tigard, actually) and Seattle, are what I call “training wheel” services that provide help with dressing, make-up, and the rest, and opportunities to get out and feel what it’s like to be as female as I can be. I hope that through that and more I’ll learn more about where under the TG umbrella I’d like to be.
But it’s not all about being transgender. I have my acoustic guitar, camera, bicycle, books, hiking boots, and paints. I want to exercise, eat well, and meditate on staying in the present, while pushing against my fears and boundaries that I have allowed to control me for the past six decades.
And who knows, I might meet the next love of my life. I’m not looking but I’m open to it so long as it doesn’t happen too soon. And, my ex and I plan to stay in touch, and she may visit me in Seattle, Alaska, or both. We might even decide to get back together if I truly find that I don’t need to transition and she becomes comfortable with my true self, whatever that is.
That’s about it for now. Stay tuned, there will be more!
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,
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.