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About this blog

Exploration and growing into my transgender self

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I want to know what my label is which I suppose can be interpreted to knowing my own identity. Perhaps that sounds strange to some. After all, I don't think anyone wants to be labeled by others. We (or at least, me) want to know what we are ourselves. What does it matter? I think it's so that as we progress through the day, interact with others, we know who we are in the world. And yes, I'm talking here about gender. For many, it's binary: male or female. We've all heard it before so why write about it here? Well heck, it's my blog! And maybe this will help me and others sort it out a little. You be the judge.

I think I remember the first time I read about "transvestites." I was in elementary school and thought maybe that's what I am. But I didn't like the label with its "tites" at the end. It sounds like some sort of disease to me. Sure, it's only a word, but I didn't like it even though it seemed to fit.

Then came "crossdresser." Good, it lost the "tite." But there was something I didn't like about it, I'm not sure what. Well, I guess I know. It's not that I only like to dress in feminine clothing. I also imagine myself to be and feel like the girl or woman. So, crossdresser is too limiting.

When I registered on TGGuide.com the other day I was asked to label myself. Let's look at those:

Not Telling

Okay, that one's obvious. I didn't want to select it since I would like to know too.

Transgender

This is the one I selected. But I'm not perfectly happy with it because it seems that common usage also includes transsexual within its scope and as far as I can tell (or admit?) I'm not transsexual. (Now there's another idea for a blog posting.)

Male, Female

These are obvious of course.

Androgynous

According to Google androgynous is partly male and partly female in appearance; of indeterminate sex. I don't think I fit this, which I think is a bit unfortunate. And, it's an adjective, not a noun, so is it even a label?

Intersex

In some ways I wish this were me. At least, then, I could point to my body parts and say "what the hell, it's how I was born!"

Other

Huh? I guess this is like undecided. It's cool for me if it's cool for you but not very descriptive, is it?

But this thought experiment enabled me to identify one of the things that's bothering me: objective vs. subjective. It seems to me that Male, Female, Intersex, and Transsexual are very objective. You are what you are, take it or leave it. Unless one falls into one of those buckets the label is subjective?

I seem to always be left with questions and here I am again. Perhaps the moral of this story is that I need to accept that there may very well be more colors in the rainbow than there are names. Diversity, yeah!

Best,

Emma

Photo: I took this photo of a meerkat in South Africa a couple of years ago. I like it that he stands up so forthright, keeping an eye out for his fellows. Consider all the names and labels he has: meerkat, mongoose, suricata suricatta, mammal, carnivore.

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.

When I wrote my blog post about the "breaking of my fever" I asked myself if I was only experiencing the rush of gender euphoria. You know, that feeling of infatuation for a new love where you're so enthralled with finding the perfect soul mate... and you've only known them for a week or two. So, if my enthusiasm has waned even a bit, does this mean my journey is starting in the wrong direction?

There are plenty of times when I reflect:

  • Am I merely finding joy in exploring a childhood fantasy?
  • Am I rationalizing or justifying my erotic desires?
  • My God, I have so much, a wonderful partner and we share a wonderful life. What if I hurt this irrevocably?
  • When I look back on this time am I going to have terrible regrets?

Sure, I should just check into that Mindful Meditation Zen place and focus on the now, let the future take care of itself. Easy to say, harder to do.

What to do? I recall Riley in the 20/20 show I posted about, the 11 year old transgirl. And the other girls there and in Just Gender. Let's face it, they're me and I'm them. But I also remember liking to play with slot cars, train sets, and building models of airplanes and ships. Maybe there's a happy medium for me in the gender spectrum. Probably is, I just need to find it.

In the meantime I need to stay the course. It's been too many years drifting without a compass, unbearably unhappy, wondering what the hell was wrong with me but deep down knowing. I guess we all experience ambivalence at times. It's part of life. As transgenderism is part of mine.

Emma

Photo: Took this shot of a giraffe in Zimbabwe, I think. When we first arrived in South Africa I was shooting everything that moved. After two weeks, not as many shots. "Oh yeah? Another giraffe? Okay, thanks. I'll continue reading my book."

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

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.

Best wishes,

Emma

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”. 

The documentary Just Gender has a short clip from a Barbara Walters 20/20 episode titled "My Secret Self: A Story of Transgender Children." You can (and I believe should) watch it here:

One scene shows an 11-year old transgirl, Riley, with Barbara Walters. Riley is fully a girl on the outside and attends school as a girl although she must use the nurse's restroom. The school and students know she is biologically male and she is the brunt of childish teasing. When Barbara asks her how she feels when she's teased, her face crumples into such profound sadness and she starts crying. That touched me so deeply, from within my core. I just started crying too as I am starting to do now as I remember it.

Elsewhere in the program, Barbara interviews the parents and their trans daughter, Jazz. Jazz's mother said "all of the younger male-to-female younger transgender children are obsessed with mermaids." Geez, I was too. I studied them in the movies, books, and cartoons so thoroughly. I really wanted to be a mermaid.

While I found Just Gender to be extraordinary in its scope and depth, and I recommend it highly, this 20/20 program brought it all home for me. I really am transgender and always have been. It's not a phase, it's not sexual, it just is what it is, which is me.

It helps me to talk about these topics here and I hope it will help others, too. I considered sharing some of my other pre-pubescent fantasies here to underscore this but I think you get the point. I really wanted to be a girl.

Emma

Photo: Just outside Cape Town, South Africa is a marvelous bird sanctuary called World of Birds. It spans acres and has thousands of birds. It's fenced in with mesh (the height is maybe forty or fifty feet above the ground) so visitors just wander through. I don't know what this bird is called but it's very pretty, isn't it?

My next one-on-one appointment with my therapist is this coming Wednesday afternoon. During the week before I consider what we might talk about even though it often seems that we end up talking about something completely different. I suppose I want to be sure that I’m able to take advantage of the time and money spent. I want to extract every last bit of help that I can get.

I keep a tally in my iPhone of thoughts and ideas. Here’s the current running list:

  • I remember being so sad and terrified when, as a young child, I did something – anything – wrong. Sad that I had again disappointed my mother and scared of the punishment.

  • After last week’s couples appointment with my therapist my wife told a gay friend of hers, and the mother of a young woman friend of hers, about what I disclosed to my wife, that I am transgender. In years past I would have been devastated to hear that anyone knew, that they would think me weird, and that I might run in to them. Now it doesn’t seem to matter and, in some ways, I’m kind of pleased that my wife is reaching out.

  • Sometimes, these days, I feel pretty alone and needy. I only have my therapist to talk to openly as well as my friends here at TG Guide. I compulsively check what’s happening here and whether I have any messages several times a day.

  • With my wife I’m more calm and self-connected than I have been in years. I’m stroking her, helpful, and we’re are very close. I think she likes this but I can see that she stops short as she thinks of my revelations.

  • I ordered a dress, tights, and a slip on Amazon this week that I expect to arrive in a couple of days. Imagine that, a slip. Well, I want the dress’s skirt to flow and not get all bunched up. I researched it all a lot and chose carefully. But as I wait for the delivery I keep wondering if I’m completely nuts.

  • I’m having trouble focusing on much other than transgender stuff. Reading whatever I can find on the Internet, here on TG Guide, etc. I feel I should also be studying on some unrelated topics that used to fascinate me but I find it impossible.

  • We have a couple of small watercolor paintings hanging in our bathroom showing scenes of young, pretty women, in pastoral Italy. It seems so obvious to me that anyone looking at these women would want to be like them. But I know that 99.9% of men would not and would think I’m crazy for even thinking of it.

  • Regardless of whether or not my transgender diagnosis is accurate (and I really think it is) is it okay? What makes it “right?” On Sunday mornings my wife and I go to a local pastry shop for coffee, a light breakfast, and to read the paper together. This morning she looked me in the eye and told me how much she loves me. We both show our sadness to each other at these times.

Geez, a lot to talk about this Wednesday and I still have three days to consider more topics. And then, of course, there’s also all the stuff I wrote in my “progress report” a couple of days ago. I’m overthinking but it seems impossible to stop.

Emma

Photo: The Zambezi River, Botswana, at dusk, a couple of years ago. Not good for swimming; many crocodiles.

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

It’s become clear to me recently that being transgender has been like living in a carefully constructed and maintained house of cards. Designed to protect me from discovery of my secret, my house has many rooms and no windows. Rooms are labeled with names like “How I’m supposed to be with people at work,” and “How I’m supposed to be with my wife,” and “How I’m supposed to be with friends.” Like any house of cards it’s prone to sudden collapse and needs continuous monitoring to detect any slippage before it crashes down.

I’ve even had a house of cards with my therapists even as I knew that I needed to be fully transparent to help them help me out of depression, anxiety, and dysphoria. With my shame I was unable to do so and thought that my feelings could be treated separately without their (and my) full understanding of my psyche.

I now know I was wrong, which led me to spending a lot of time and money, relationship problems, and stifled career progression for the past 40 years. Important safety tip: don’t follow in my footsteps if you can avoid it.

It might help to provide a summary of the effects of living in my house of cards:

  • Marriage

- I was often hyper-sensitive to anything I interpreted as criticism, leading to my needing reassurance that I am okay.

- Reduced sex drive due to my not being more true to my self as well as over-thinking innocent requests like, “Touch me here, this way.”

- Anger and frustration when she came up with what I interpreted as more rules for me to live by, like being advised to not wave my hands when talking (looks effeminate, go figure), be sure to keep the washing machine’s lid raised when not in use to prevent odor, shake out washed clothes before putting them in the dryer. Oh great, more cards to add to my already-teetering house.

- “I’m so tired” as my common phrase at most hours of the day. Who could blame me? Keeping my house from falling while doing my job or anything else with others is exhausting.

  • Children

- Always good at shaking the house, challenging the status quo, not listening or following through… and me, paranoid about being found out. I was so uptight, trying to control and direct instead of providing them with the warm comfort they expected. (My wife assures me I wasn’t that bad and was actually a good father. She's biased of course.)

- Thank goodness I had two sons. I can’t imagine how tough it would have been for me (and them) if I’d had daughters.

  • Career

- Often unhappy and unfulfilled, threatened by senior management due to doubts I was really one of the boys. Trying to act the part, mostly succeeding, but at a huge cost to me.

- Despite my competence, I communicated - more often than I should have - insecurity, fear, need of reassurance: not a promotion path.

- Always the one who first thought of customer’s feelings over pragmatic business realities, leading to a fair amount of raised eyebrows.

- Changed jobs a lot trying to find the “right one.”

Do I still live in my house of cards? To some extent, yes, although many of the cards have been removed recently by my coming out to my wife and therapist. What a huge relief! But it still has to be maintained while I consider where/when/if I come out to others. At least, though, I finally have awareness that my house isn’t as unstable as I’d thought and for that matter I care a bit less about it these days.

I still have an in-law apartment above the garage which I maintain to keep track of what I have not yet confided to my wife. I’m having trouble, for example, telling her that I am and will be buying more clothes and accessories, that I need to store and care for them, and that I’ll be getting some coaching on all this from TG community resources.

Emma

Had a meeting with my therapist this afternoon. It went fine - he's terrific. Need to continue to explore myself...

Started by telling him that I’m feeling some sadness and ambivalence lately. The excitement of the gender euphoria has died down and I’m left with the enormity of wondering what to do, where I’ll end up, and how my life is going to be affected.

I’ve read a lot about transgender and its definition. The first sentence in Wikipedia’s definition is: “Transgender is the state of one's gender identity or gender expression not matching one's assigned sex.” It occurs to me that although when I see women/girls now and wish I was one this doesn't necessarily mean that my gender identity is not matching my assigned sex. And with that data point combined with my ambivalence I’m thinking now that I do not need to change my sex to match my gender. Some might say that’s a good thing but I’m less sure. I feel it would be better to know that my assigned sex doesn’t match my gender. At least, then, I’d know what I need to do. Instead I’m stuck in the middle, unsure of what will satisfy me.

Over that last week or so I had started to wonder if I really am transgender. After all, if I don’t fit with the Wikipedia definition (and we know they are always right!)… But transgender is an umbrella term that covers a wide range. I found a great “Trans Blog” by Angus "Andrea" Grieve-Smith (http://transblog.grieve-smith.com) that I recommend. Her insights and writing are excellent. For example, she wrote (http://transblog.gri...nd-actions-iii/):

“…most of us under the “transgender umbrella” – transvestites, transsexuals, genderqueer, non-binary, drag queens, butch lesbians and all the others – all feel either gender dysphoria or transgender desire, or both. Our interpretations of these feelings may be different. But more importantly, there are a wide variety of possible actions in response to those feelings, and none of those actions are more automatic or necessary than any other.”

Thus, with her definition – which I believe is better said than Wikipedia’s – transgender includes me, and I’m okay with that.

My therapist then suggested that when I see a woman on the street that I wish I was her. I told him that on one level that’s correct but that there is a much larger sense. Truly, I wish I had had her whole experience, growing up as a little girl, being a Brownie and then a Girl Scout, taking ballet lessons, and going through school, puberty, and emerging as a young adult woman. That’s what I think deep down. And I know that’s a fantasy of course, so that longing is also a bit saddening.

He then asked me what I know I want. Here’s some answers:

1. I want my marriage with my wife to continue and deepen.

2. I want my wife and I to be able to be 100% open with each other at least in the privacy of our home. As it is now, I have to hide my (growing) collection of feminine clothing at all times, which is very similar to remaining closeted.

3. I want to be sexual with my wife (only) which may mean making love with me also expressing as a woman, but also as a man – but that is dependent on my not living under the cloud of non-acceptance from her.

These days I am feeling lots more calm and less defensive than before I came out to my therapist and to my wife. It’s as if I always had this delicate house of cards constructed to hide my innermost feelings and shame, and when that house was shaken by criticism (real or imagined) or anything, I reacted emotionally to protect myself and my house of cards. That’s less urgent now that I’ve come out more with the real me.

But the problem remains that I need to feel my wife’s full acceptance and support, without raised eyebrows or negative comments. Like if I buy a new dress she would say, “Let’s see it on you!” with some enthusiasm. Or, if I was dressed, we could watch TV or do whatever, together. We are very far from that ideal right now and it’s not at all clear that we will get there, which adds a lot of stress and uncertainty for me now.

Lastly, I feel very alone and lonely. Besides my therapist and my friends here at TG Guide, there is no one else for me to talk to. I’d just like to hang out and have a dinner, maybe a glass of wine, and be able to be open and be me – whatever that is. Goodness knows I’ll be even lonelier if my wife and I were to separate, so that’s a big concern too.

I do plan on attending a TG (MTF only, I think) support group next Wednesday evening in San Jose. I’ll “go as I am” in male-mode which I’ve been assured that is okay. I do need to tell my wife about this; will do that in a day or two.

At this point I’m glad I met with my therapist but I’m tired and have a headache. I’ll take two aspirin and call in the morning…

Emma

Photo: an eagle in Norway, having snagged the chum and taking off for who knows where, to chow down on it.

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

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The Martian

By EmmaSweet,

I'm about halfway through reading this book now and if you've ever enjoyed science fiction, well, this one is very unique and well done. It's about an astronaut who was left behind by the rest of the crew because they thought he was dead and lost. But he survives, alone on Mars, faced with many life-threatening problems that he must tackle on his own without any communication with anyone. I highly recommend it!

While reading last night it occurred to me that I'm like a Martian myself. While I can communicate with other Earthlings in my life I am so limited in what I can discuss about the real me and with whom. My wife and I talk a little bit but mostly she is anxious for me to figure out where I'm really at on the TG

"spectrum" so she can see if she can handle it. So like yesterday, before I met with my internist for an annual physical, she suggested that I tell him what's going on for me because he might have some suggestions. What? In a twenty minute meeting I'm supposed to divulge one of my biggest secrets and somehow provide him with the context and background for something that is likely completely out of his experience? What about any other issues I might want to bring up? Heck no, I refused, and am glad I did.

And, she's been encouraging me to explore my gender dysphoria, in particular by attending support groups. I did go to one a couple of weeks ago in San Jose but her therapist advised that that was a "discussion group" not a "support group" and that there are lots of support groups. So, go find one. The fact is that there are damned few support groups. Some are for high school people (PFLAG) or for spouses, but I simply could not find one for me. Thankfully, the owner of the TG boutique in San Jose provided me with the name of a local therapist who does run a "real" support group. I emailed her, and then waited, like The Martian, for a response that might not come. Light years passed and finally she responded. Excited by the prospect of rescue I immediately responded. Many more light years passed (measured in Earth days) and finally, again, she responded. So now it seems that I will be able to attend that support group in early January. Thank goodness because my air and other life support systems are going critical soon. No alarms yet.

I have another meeting with my therapist this Friday. Like entering an air lock I'll receive an hours worth of oxygen and life support. And then it'll be back into my space suit for another EVA until the next opportunity for free and open communication.

Yeah, it's a weird metaphor. I think I'll make another cup of tea and curl up with The Martian... :rolleyes:

Edited 12/24/14:

I just finished reading The Martian, and have to tell anyone who reads this... if you've EVER enjoyed science fiction or for that matter a fun adventure, you MUST read this book! I thoroughly enjoyed it. :P

One the high school classes I remember most fondly was entirely focused on reading. I took it as a senior because to get an A all one had to do was read at least 3,500 pages during the semester. I chose a book, the instructor okay'd it, I read it, reviewed it with her for about fifteen minutes, and voila! More pages added. No midterm, no final. Too cool for school. The class really changed my life as I learned how enjoyable it can be to read 500 to 1,000 page books.

If you've been following my blog postings you'll know that I've been pretty focused on finding and accepting myself. I find that when I read books my mind often opens me up to new inspirations and actions. A frustration is that although I may really enjoy the book, when I'm finished I have trouble recalling the details. I often re-read the really good ones, sometimes only a couple of pages a day, to savor the thoughts it brings up. Maybe you'll enjoy one or more of these and, I hope, will send suggestions for more.

Nonfiction

  • The Artists Way, Julia Cameron

When I was studying fingerstyle guitar my friend and teacher recommended this book to me. On Amazon they say it's "the seminal book on creativity." The target audience of the book is artists such as painters, writers, and musicians. But we're all creative and I think the book is applicable to all of us. Her suggestion for a daily one-two page "morning pages" is an activity that has helped me a lot, working things out of depression, stress, and shame, as well as times like now when I'm doing better.

  • Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead, Brene Brown
  • The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You're Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are, Brene Brown

I wish I could tell Brene how much her books and writing have helped and taught me. She terms herself a "shame researcher." She wrote: "Shame loves secrecy and can't survive being shared." That one sentence may not have saved my life but it's certainly helped. She also explained to me the difference between guilt and shame. We feel guilt when we do something bad, and we feel shame when we are bad. It's an important distinction.

  • Fail Fast, Fail Often: How Losing Can Help You Win, Ryan Babineaux and John Krumboltz

I am also working on re-creating my professional-life and career, which is pretty hard after spending >35 years in a variety of companies but in generally the same line of business. This book is so perceptive and encouraging. It's one of those that I read slowly...

  • Luck is No Accident: Making the Most of Happenstance in Your Life and Career, John Krumholtz and Al Levin

This book kind of ties things together for me. Taking chances, being vulnerable and open. Here's a real example about me: I am helping a friend who owns a small store with bookkeeping (mostly data entry) while he sorts out some problems in his life. This work is definitely not what I want to do when I grow up but I wanted to help a friend. But then we had problems with his computer so my friend called in another friend (who was unknown to me). We then started chatting and, lo and behold, the friend of a friend is very involved in a small local non-profit that needs new leadership. So far it sounds perfect and I have another interview next week!

Fiction

  • I Will Fear No Evil, Robert Heinlein

Well, it's a fun fantasy, isn't it? The idea of ones mind being transplanted into a beautiful woman's body. The book has mixed reviews and may not be one of his best but the fantasy has stuck with me all these years.

  • Girl with a Pearl Earring, Tracy Chevalier

There was something magical about the way Ms. Chevalier created the character, her situation, and life in Vermeer's world. No, it's not TG at all. But I enjoyed it tremendously more than once.

  • Cold Mountain, Charles Frazier

Yes it was a movie, and a good one at that. I loved the book even more. Much more.

So, that's the abridged edition of my reading list. There's many more and I hope you enjoy these.

Sincerely,

Emma

P.S. I have to add one more: Enchiridion, by Epictetus. Here's a guy, born into slavery about AD 55. Because of his remarkable nature, he was allowed to attend lectures and trained to be a Stoic philosopher. Later, he was freed, and taught philosophy in Rome. By the way, I'm not advocating that we all be stoic and just somehow bury our feelings. I just liked what he wrote and imagining what life must have been like for him back then. What an amazing man.

Photo: This was taken in the Vigeland "installation" at Frogner Park, in Oslo, Norway. I'm not usually so taken by sculpture; this collection was amazing and touching. I chose this photo because it shows a man and woman, intertwined in a circle, as if continually flowing in and through each other. Seems inspirational to me.

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. 

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

 

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This post has nothing to do with transgender so you can tune out if you wish; It's about my almost-27 year old son. Since he was five or six he's been very independent, stubborn, and willful, making lots of challenges for me and his mother (we're divorced). He's also bright, attractive, and has a wonderful personality... when he's not depressed and sour.

A couple of days ago he told me that his mother is going to stop paying the rent on his cheap apartment. He wasn't asking me to pick it up, as he knew I would not. Essentially what happened is that for at least the past year or two she's been paying the rent each month, saying "Okay, I'll do it again this time, but this is really the last time. You must get a job, you know you can. Just do it and hold on to it." Instead he played video games, watched TV, surfed the Web, smoked marijuana, hung out, or stayed in bed, depressed. So now, finally, he's really going to be cut loose. To sink or swim.

He and I don't yell or fight. We enjoy each other's company, I pay for a burger and a beer, and we talk. He easily acknowledges his part in all this. And now he feels that despite the fact that he has a couple of weeks to get a job he's planning to be homeless. He told me that he thinks this will finally teach him the value of money, his things, and so forth.

Oh sure, we talked about all the downsides of being homeless. He did it once before about ten years ago for a couple of weeks. But after a lot of talk and his (to me) rather strange confidence in this plan, I told him it's his decision. I told him how much I worry about him, getting robbed/beat-up/murdered, sick, thrown in jail, etc. Also, I worry about me: that I just know that within a month or two he will call and say that he just has to have $50. Or that he's in jail and needs bail. And I will have to say no.

My mother (yes, the one who committed suicide) is the one who taught me, "Sometimes the most loving thing to say is No" and I think she was quite right. I told my son this, too, and he agreed that I should tell him no. And he also said that he's pretty sure that in fact he will still probably call to ask for the cash. And he knows I'll say no.

Jeez, it's taken so long for us to get to this juncture. I started saying no to him and his mom after the 3rd or 4th attempt at college: "This time really, I'm committed, I'll do it!" A couple of years ago I offered him this: if he pays for his classes and books, I will reimburse him as follows: for an A he would receive 100%; a B gets 75%, and a C is worth 50%. Anything less is zero. He's tried to do that a couple of times; I paid 100% for a pottery class once. I don't care what classes he takes. Just learn something.

He also assured me yesterday that no matter what he has no plans or thoughts about suicide. He will figure something out. I sure hope so.

Tough love. It is tough to love. By the way, this has all been reviewed with a variety of therapists and counselors over the years. I'm sure I could have done a better job back when he was a child. My wife says no, but I am sure of it. But I really did do the best I could.

Emma

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.

R. A. I. N.

By EmmaSweet,

For Christmas my son gave me a copy of the book "Fully Present: The Science, Art, and Practice of Mindfullness." I had mixed emotions about it. On the one hand I've heard about the benefits of mindfullness meditation for several years and thought this might finally give me what I need to actually learn and add it to my life. On the other hand I've had so much trouble accepting mindfullness. (Isn't meditation a bunch of hocus pocus mumbo jumbo?) I worried that once again I'd fail to follow through and thus re-live all the emotional baggage that comes with that.

I'm glad to report that I have been making some good progress (about half-way through). I'm trying to be very Zen-full about reading it, allowing myself to read a little, put it down for a day or two, and then come back to it. Today I came across something that I'd like to write about: R. A. I. N.

Negative emotions are very natural, most likely emerging from our early ancestors' needs to be aware of danger, protect themselves, care for their families and communities. But these days we tend to think negatively about even having negative emotions; we try to rid ourselves of these emotions through introspection or suppression. Worse, we may continue to bring up and enhance those emotions by continually replaying the events that triggered them. Good grief!

Here's a quick summary of a technique (okay, it's Buddhist, but let's forget that for the moment) that has the acronym RAIN, which stands for Recognition, Acceptance, Investigation, and Non-identification. It's been taught all over, from prisons to schools, to couples in therapy - with very positive results. So, what do we have to lose from trying it out?

Recognition

The first step is to recognize the emotion, and give it a label such as grief, anger, sadness, fear. Just giving it a label enables us to gain some cognitive distance, to "see it" for what it is, an emotion.

Acceptance

Whatever we experience is okay. Whether it's an emotion we like or not, you're human, and you have emotions. From the book, Mindfullness encourages you to be present, without shame or blame or fear, to what is truly happening.

Once the emotion is labelled, in Recognition, we need to accept it. Like hugging a child when she falls, telling ourselves "It's okay, you'll be fine, I'll take care of you."

This may be easier said that done since we may reject feeling the emotion at all, as if it's bad or shameful in and of itself. In that case, consider that emotion, go back to Recognition, and see where that takes you.

Investigation

Now that you've recognized and accepted the emotion, consider how it is affecting you in your body. Shortness of breath? Tight throat? Stomach clenched?

Note that in RAIN "Investigation" doesn't mean to imply that we should consider where the emotion may be coming from, say our childhood or something. "Investigation" is just a handy word whose "I" fits well into the acronym. :-)

Non-Identification

This is perhaps the hardest step but it's the one that we want to internalize. It's where you observe the emotion as if it's not a part of you at all. It's not your emotion instead it's the emotion, which we know from experience is transient, "this too shall pass."

Nothing is perfect and we're not Buddhist monks. But I suppose many of us look for more tools and techniques. Hope this helps you. Heck, I hope it helps me. We'll see; I've got something to try it out on right now! :) Wish me luck.

Emma

Photo: I shot this in a huge open-air monkey zoo in South Africa. I like this scene a lot. Probably could be a crisper photo but hey, it was happening in real life!

I've been feeling a little blue today. Like yesterday I'm questioning myself and have a lot of fearful thoughts in my head that are hard to fight. I subscribe to emails from Leo Babauta, who writes on his site Zen Habits. He's a neat guy, with a lot of good suggestions. Just now I saw this email from him, which I copied directly below. I hope/assume he'd be okay with my doing this since I'm attributing it all to him.

He didn't write this with people dealing with TG issues like me in mind. But the wisdom and insights apply, I think. I hope it helps me and you.

Be well,

Emma

Pushing Past the Terrifying Dip in Motivation

http://zenhabits.net/dip/

My son, who is officially an adult in a matter of days, is facing a small crisis: the project he’s working on is not going well, and he’s ready to give up not only on the project but the career he was excited about not too long ago.

I can feel the horrible mixture of discouragement, disappointment, difficulty, despair he must be feeling, because I’ve felt it too.

I’ve felt this punch in the gut whenever projects or new ventures didn’t go well.

I’ve given up, and felt the disappointment in myself.

And I’ve pushed through this discouragement, and felt so much better. Pushing through was always better.

So I’m here to talk about how I push past what Seth Godin calls The Dip — that slump that we all hit when things get hard, which is (sometimes) before the place where things get great.

How do we know if we’re in a slump or if we should just quit? We don’t. There’s no way to know the future. There are times when there are a bunch of good indicators that you should quit — customers aren’t responding, the market doesn’t support your work, there are better opportunities. But the feeling you have when you’re in a dip is not a good indicator that it’s time to quit.

The feeling wants you to quit, but often you shouldn’t. Because if you do, you’ll never get great at anything.

How to Push Through

What do you do if you’re demotivated and disappointed? If things aren’t going well and you want to give up because they’re so hard? When you’re confused and overwhelmed?

Push through.

This is the time when you can show yourself what you’re made of: you can brace yourself for a heavy load, put your head down, and push, like you’re trying to lift the barbell at the bottom of a heavy squat.

How do you push through when you don’t feel motivated?

You start moving. Take just one step, any step, a tiny step. Movement begets movement. Once you start moving, even a little, you feel better, you see that you’re capable, you want to move more.

You embrace the uncertainty and discomfort. Lots of people avoid these two things, but without them, you never get good at anything. You never learn anything worthwhile. Embrace these things and grow.

You do it not for success or some end goal, but for the sake of learning.

You do it because you’re tired of being in the pain of disappointment and regret. You want to get out of this dark hole, because staying in it sucks.

You start moving because you don’t want to let your life be ruled by fear. You don’t want to give up every time you face resistance.

You let yourself be moved by curiosity: wanting to know what it’s like to get past this, to push through discomfort. You want to find out how this chapter ends. You want to learn more about yourself.

You do it because you want to build trust in yourself, and you realize that there’s nothing more important right now than that.

You pause and remind yourself of the reason you started in the first place: it’s not for personal success but to help people, to strengthen yourself, to inspire others, to make someone’s life a little better, to put a smile on your face. And then you ask yourself: which is more important, this reason for doing this project, or your personal comfort? And you realize that your personal comfort matters little in this case.

You push through because every time you face uncertainty and discomfort in the future, you want to know you’re good enough to push through.

Take the first step right now, without thought, without hesitation. You have it in you.

Photo: a foggy morning in Kirkenes, Finland, which is near the northernmost area, well above the Arctic Circle.

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

Pablo Neruda

By EmmaSweet,

I receive a weekly email from Brain Pickings on Sunday mornings that often has inspirational vignettes. Today, they wrote, "Neruda relays an anecdote from his childhood that profoundly influenced not only his poetry but also his understanding of art and of life itself:"

One time, investigating in the backyard of our house in Temuco the tiny objects and minuscule beings of my world, I came upon a hole in one of the boards of the fence. I looked through the hole and saw a landscape like that behind our house, uncared for, and wild. I moved back a few steps, because I sensed vaguely that something was about to happen. All of a sudden a hand appeared – a tiny hand of a boy about my own age. By the time I came close again, the hand was gone, and in its place there was a marvelous white sheep.

The sheep’s wool was faded. Its wheels had escaped. All of this only made it more authentic. I had never seen such a wonderful sheep. I looked back through the hole, but the boy had disappeared. I went into the house and brought out a treasure of my own: a pinecone, opened, full of odor and resin, which I adored. I set it down in the same spot and went off with the sheep.

To feel the intimacy of brothers is a marvelous thing in life. To feel the love of people whom we love is a fire that feeds our life. But to feel the affection that comes from those whom we do not know, from those unknown to us, who are watching over our sleep and solitude, over our dangers and our weaknesses – that is something still greater and more beautiful because it widens out the boundaries of our being, and unites all living things.

That exchange brought home to me for the first time a precious idea: that all of humanity is somehow together...

It won’t surprise you then that I attempted to give something resiny, earthlike, and fragrant in exchange for human brotherhood. Just as I once left the pinecone by the fence, I have since left my words on the door of so many people who were unknown to me, people in prison, or hunted, or alone.

This resonated with me and I think it relates to TG Guide. Our postings are like gifts of resiny pinecones, fragrant with perfume.

Sincerely,

Emma

Photo: I used to regularly go all over China on business trips, and once in a private dining room in Shenzhen the walls were covered in old photos like this one. I was mesmerized looking through windows into the past. I couldn't stop looking at this woman. She's so beautiful, so poised, and so pensive. What do you think she's thinking about?

Onward!

By EmmaSweet,

It's a wonderful day, today. My wife is away this morning on business and while I miss her I have the opportunity to be myself for a couple of hours. After my shower I dressed with some feminine underthings (well concealed by layers of more masculine apparel) and headed out to our regular Sunday haunts, the coffee shop in Palo Alto, Trader Joe's, and the farmer's market, where I picked up long-stemmed tulips, a couple of heads of lettuce, some fresh asparagus, and cauliflower.

Now, I'm at my computer, having changed into my dress, and listening to a Karla Bonoff "best of" album. Life feels pretty good at the moment. Later today I'll head back out to buy some fish for tonight's dinner, and after, we'll dive back into a couple of episodes of House of Cards and a rather large bowl of popcorn.

This week will definitely be interesting. On Wednesday evening we have a couple's meeting with my therapist. Thinking about it now I'm a bit apprehensive but I think it will be okay. Thursday afternoon I have a 1:1 meeting with the same therapist. He asked me to bring my small collection of female clothing, which I plan to do. We didn't talk about what the goal is but I assume that by doing that I'll further see through experience that I am really okay.

On Thursday evening I will attend the monthly TG support group. Last week I bought some black ballet flats on Amazon which actually fit! (I did a fair amount of research into foot measurements, and took an educated guess of my size which turned out to be 11M. Here's a funny aside: I measured my left foot's length and width to determine the size; I learned later when I received the shoes that my right foot is slightly larger. :rolleyes: It still fits okay but I'm trying to stretch it a little with a shoe tree.) For the meeting I plan on wearing some black tights under my jeans and then change into my ballet flats nearby, for the meeting and dinner afterward. They say we should take baby steps and I know by many measures these are indeed small steps. It's great to have something to look forward to.

Have a nice week!

Emma

* Illustration from Once Upon an Alphabet by Oliver Jeffers

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!

Love,

Emma

 

Emma and Winnie.jpeg

On Trust

By EmmaSweet,

I'm not sure if this is a good idea to post. I don't like writing this because it's such a problem for me, it's a downer. But hey, maybe that's why they call it a "blog" so here goes.

My wife was very upset at our last couples' therapy meeting, where I spelled out more details of my being transgender and asked for her support and offered some safe (to my mind) ways for us to explore and learn together. My hope was that she'd follow her heart and maybe through this exploration she'd gain knowledge that would help rationalize and conquer her fears. That fell flat.

Last night she returned home after seeing her therapist and her psychiatrist, and told me that she was so upset that I am transexual. I told her no, I don't have current plans or forecast of changing my sex; that I'm transgender. We got into the definitions a bit, but TG is still scary since its definition includes TS. She told me that while she's not looking for divorce right now she needs space and distance, so I will stay in our guest room for the foreseeable future, which I did last night.

While we moved around each other this morning I decided that I would not mope. While I felt entirely justified I also feel that if she's having to contend with that it would simply cloud things for her. Regardless, I'm not all sweetness and light but I did crack a couple of humorous plays on words that we both smiled at.

When she left for work she gave me a quick kiss - which is more than last night. No "I love you" or hug, but it was something. She said we might "talk more" tonight and as I drove to the coffee shop I fretted a bit. What does "talk more" mean, exactly? What topics? What questions? What answers should I try to think through to be prepared?

I tend to freeze up when I feel threatened in conversations like these, so I try to be prepared. I fear that my freezing (which translates into inability to answer a question cogently and right away) makes me look disingenuous or calculating, or at the least, we lose momentum in the conversation.

I try to prepare. But it's hard to answer some questions even when I know the answers. I still find it hard to vocalize that I'm transgender. There, I said it. Please don't hate me.

I even find it hard to convincingly say that I don't see myself as transexual. This is true as far as I know now, but in the future? Clearly, my crystal ball is cloudy.

And what do I want right now from her? First and foremost, some big hugs and kisses. But also a stop to the Don't Ask Don't Tell policy which for us means that in no uncertain terms am I not allowed to show her any of my clothing or me in it. Not that that would be easy for me either. But the lack of acceptance (and disgust?) communicated by that directive hurts. A lot.

I tend to display my soft underbelly, by communicating as openly as I can which includes listening carefully as if through that my wife and others will at least respect my vulnerability, and in their humanity will open up to me. That's getting harder to do these days.

My therapist advises that I need to display leadership, bravery, calm. That through this my wife's anxieties will at least not be amplified and perhaps will even help settle them a bit. Well, there's little doubt that what I've done before hasn't worked so it makes sense to try something different. Repeating the same things that haven't worked and expecting a different outcome is the definition of crazy, no?

I am a good person. Created in God's image. Struggling to find and be myself while not tearing my life apart.

I trust that my wife sees this too, that she loves me, and wants to find a way for all this to work out. I think I also need to believe that she's also embroiled in her own panic mode which makes it hard for her to communicate too.

I trust that our therapists will help us navigate these choppy waters.

Without trust, what is there?

Emma

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.