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About this blog

Exploration and growing into my transgender self

Entries in this blog

"You're too sensitive."

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

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

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

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

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

"It's always all about you."

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

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

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

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

Emma's New Dress

By Emma,

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

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

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

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

Hugs,

Emma

Emma's New Red Dress, 20160109.JPG

Happy Holidays

By Emma,

Dear friends,

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

Love,

Emma

Morro Bay 2.jpeg

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

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

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

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

Wuhan_HDR.jpeg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Emma

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

Internalized Trans-Phobia

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

James Altucher

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

"At some point I gave myself permission:

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

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

A Simple, Powerful Self-Compassion Method

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

Love Your Inner Child

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

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

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

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

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

Emma

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

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

Hi Andrew,

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

• Therapy

• Occasional dressing, either in public or private

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

• “Transition”

o Hormones

o Surgery

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Emma

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dear Susan,

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

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

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

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

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

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

Emma

Here is the email I received from Susan:

Emma,

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

Susan

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

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

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

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

Emma

More Connections

By Emma,

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

1. Unexplainable breakups

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

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

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

2. Secrecy is the breeding ground for negative assumptions

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

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

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

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

Photo: a cathedral in Helsinki, Finland.

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks, Emma.

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

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

Emma

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

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

This gender therapist is the same one who runs the monthly TG support group I've been attending. We met one-on-one yesterday afternoon for an hour, as I had some more questions for her. The questions and answers below are in no particular order and I hope that others find the information helpful. This therapist has seen over 2,000 gender conflicted clients (MTF and FTM) over forty years so she has a lot of credibility with me.

The questions are in violet and answers in black text:

  • I told her that I am often if not always hyper-aware of the social environment around me, how I'm being perceived, what I need to do/say/be to fit in, with anyone, my wife, my sons, and in social/business settings. For example this came up for me in our most recent support group meeting where I felt that I'd had a small (yet significant to me) verbal conflict with one of the TS transwomen in the meeting.

First, she was incredulous about my "conflict" as it barely registered with her or, she thinks, anyone in the room. That said, though, she said my monitoring and awareness is classic gender-concerned person behavior, and followed on to say that it's equally rare with people who do not have gender-concerns.

  • One thing that I have been wondering about: I think most would agree that except for a small minority, people are very "binary" in their sex, either male or female. Is the same true for gender or are there an infinite spectrum of genders, perhaps from something like "pure female" to "pure male" (whatever that is). The reason I asked is that at least for now I don't feel a need to transition or publicly present myself as female. In my home I'm finding satisfaction in going about my humdrum activities partially crossdressed.

Indeed, she is certain that there is an extremely wide variety of gender feelings and expressions. Even the term "transgender" isn't being accepted so much by younger people these days, who prefer all sorts of labels, including non-gendered, genderqueer, and others I can't recall now.

  • All right, but how much should I (or my wife) concern myself with sliding down a "slippery slope" that inexorably leads to HRT/surgery as I explore my gender feelings and expression? As I mentioned I don't feel compelled to transition now but maybe like a drug once the high diminishes with use might I need more?

There is no way to predict the future, of course. She's had plenty of clients who did and did not feel a need to transition and of those who didn't, some later found that they wanted to and others were perfectly content staying where they were. Oh great, I love uncertainty...

  • Might she have some additional "small" steps or actions she would recommend for my journey of exploration? I was thinking that with her experience she might have some real pearls of wisdom...

She felt that what I'm doing now, attending her monthly group meeting, seeing my therapist individually and with my wife, and dressing as I feel at home, is all perfectly fine. And, of course, my interactions with friends on TG Guide, too. My take-away from this is that many of us are anxious "to get to the answer" and expedite the process. But hey, we're people, and we need to allow ourselves (and our families) time for those answers (use of plural is intended) to emerge and develop.

  • Regarding shame (which came up as an aside):

Here again, many if not most trans people experience intense shame at least at some point in their lives as they perceive their differences from others. And many do not do anything about their feelings until middle age. Amazingly, she's had a large number of clients who had lived with an undefined shame most of their lives and just didn't have any idea what it was about. But gradually, with therapy and introspection, they realized that they are trans. Well, at least that's a bucket that doesn't contain me! I always knew of my envy of girls and things-girly...

  • Are there any demographic commonalities among her trans clients?

No, trans people come from all ethnic, social, racial, academic, and careers. There is absolutely no way to demographically categorize trans people.

  • Although I reassure my wife that I am not gay she remains worried. As an example, last week I was looking at an article about rodeos and cowboys in the NYT on my computer. She came in and saw a photo of a young cowboy sleeping almost naked and panicked!

She feels that most trans people are heterosexual and remain so (or become, if you will, homosexual after SRS/GCS transition). Understandably, some may experiment with opposite sex partners after transition but here again, most tend to stay with the orientation they had all along. That said, the worry that my wife has is quite common and hard to dissuade.

So that's about it. Perhaps you have your own questions you'd like to add in the comments? Or I'll probably return to her in another month or two.'

Emma

The Photo:

No, the photo of elephants being rather personal with each other has nothing to do with this entry. I just like it and decided to post it. I took it in Zimbabwe on the Zambezi River about three years ago. There were about ten elephants crossing the river single-file and these two were really hanging on to each other for dear life. Thank goodness for telephoto lenses!

I have to add: later during sunset the guide served us (what else?), Zambezi Beer, to which I assured him Whenever I'm on the Zambezi, I only drink... Zambezi Beer!

Busted?

By Emma,

As usual, this morning I was reading the New York Times online edition on the computer in my home office – a very interesting article titled “The Ride of Their Lives” with the following opening paragraph:

“NO FAMILY DOMINATES a rodeo event the way the Wrights do saddle bronc. But rodeo is a young man's game, which is why the family patriarch works to grow his cattle herd. Rodeo and ranching may be vestiges of the Old West, yet the combination is one family's hope for future generations.”

So there I was, reading the article, browsing the fantastic photos, and reading the caption to the photo shown here (a young cowboy crashed out from a hard day’s rodeo) when my wife walked in to say goodbye for the day.

“What’s that?” she asked.

“Oh, nothing, just an interesting article in the New York Times.” I scrolled around a bit to show her some of the other photos. We proceeded to say our farewells and I went about my recent efforts on her business’s tax preparations.

About an hour later, I receive this text message: “I was upset this morning in your office seeing your email. I would like to talk to you about it tonight.”

I couldn’t imagine what email she was referring to, and replied, “Which email was that?”

No response. Uh oh.

I wracked my brain, looked over the few emails that I had written and responded to, nothing looked particularly unusual. Then it dawned on me: the New York Times photo of the cowboy! Oh crap, once again, she’s terrified I’m GAY!

Although I assure you, my Maker, my therapists, and my wife, that I am 100% heterosexual (and I really don’t care if one is or isn’t, I just am), she has been worried about this ever since I came out to her about my being transgender. Once again I have to enter Damage Control and undo what her worried mind is conjuring up.

I printed out the front page of the NYT showing the article in question prominently displayed in the top center and rode my bike the 10+ miles to her shop, to show her the real source of the article as well as my sincere disclaimer about being gay.

I think it all went fine except I should not have mentioned that I also enjoyed "Brokeback Mountain" for its cinema-photography, soundtrack, and heart-wrenching story. (Which I did, not for the gay-ness just because it was a terrific film.)

I’ll know more in about three hours. Suffice it to provide this Important Safety Tip: Be darned careful what you are looking at on your computer when your SO is around! Yeah, something else to tattoo on my forearm.

Onward!

By Emma,

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

The last couple of months have been very difficult as I've further embarked on my transgender journey and suffered along with my wife who has been very upset by my revelations. I'm happy to say that for the last week or so things have been so much better. What do I attribute this to?

  • They say "A happy wife is a happy life," and although I'll bet she'd deny it (hopefully not too emphatically) I can tell that she's feeling a bit better. Not 100% but in the right direction. I believe it's due to: a) Time: as time progresses she sees that I am still the same person that she fell in love with. Yes, with a new wrinkle but it's me nonetheless. :P I don't know exactly what the gender therapist and she discussed, but I know the therapist pretty well now and I think she provided some much needed expert assurance.
  • It was so helpful to have a couple's therapy session where we were able to talk without the baggage of negative emotions. She asked questions and I did my best to answer, and we were okay with that, and even went out for a glass of wine afterward. There are more questions no doubt but we'll cross those bridges later.
  • I am very fortunate to have the therapist whom I see 1:1 and for couple's meetings. He provides such wisdom and support, objectively and kindly. Thank goodness for him.
  • I'm also very fortunate to have found the gender therapist, having met with her privately and in her group. I think I'm starting to "get it" and it's okay.
  • And last but not least, it's TG Guide and the community I'm proud to be a part of.

I know that we will still hit rough spots and that there will be challenges, some that may seem unbearable when reached. I hope that by writing this I'll have something to look back on to remind me of the good times.

Hugs,

Emma

I met privately for an hour yesterday with a therapist who has forty years experience working with gender dysphoric clients; she runs the monthly TG Support group I've been attending. She was wonderful, knowledgeable, and so resourceful. I feel very fortunate for being able to meet with her and felt others here might appreciate my sharing some of the details (that I can recall!) of our meeting.

I broke up the points into three sections to make it a little more readable. There is no particular order within each section.

General Information

  • There is a biological based theory of gender dysphoria that has had some confirmation with animal testing. It goes like this: there are pulses of hormones in the womb that occur in the second trimester (after sexual organs are defined in the first half of pregnancy) whose timing, intensities and/or durations create the fetus's gender identity in its brain. If those signals are distorted for whatever reason gender dysphoria may result. At this time there is no way to measure these pulses or otherwise test the theory on humans.

She felt that this theory seems especially applicable to me, as my mother had many psychological issues of her own (in and out of mental hospitals, major psychiatric medications), eventually ending her life by suicide. Additionally, that I adopted her shame as my own through association.

Thus my theory that I developed my gender issue because of envy of girls may be more of a result of a biologically-induced gender issue than its cause. And, inasmuch as it's biologically programmed, there's no "undoing" it; it's an integral part of who I am.

  • It’s quite common for men to feel intense shame about these feelings and find themselves unable to ignore them in mid-life as they more fully grasp that their life is unsettled and/or incomplete and they have limited time to address/explore their gender issues.

  • She doesn’t like to use labels and says that the terms “transgender” and “transsexual” may be going out of favor due the baggage that anything “trans” may carry. She prefers to use “gender concern.”

  • Some men find that while they don’t need to or cannot live dressed as a female (at home, work, or both) that they must wear some female clothing underneath their male clothing or otherwise not be able to remain focused on their work. Examples include: panties, bra, stockings, camisole, etc. Or, they may dress at night and then drive around in their car.

  • Men with a gender issue often experience intense erotic feelings with feminine clothing when younger (teenage) that with time tends to decrease.

  • She had told me previously that contrary to earlier belief that the number of cisgender males and cisgender females having gender issues is heavily weighted toward males, she strongly believes that the ratio of males/females who have gender issues is identical. That said, she acknowledged that women (at least in the US) have much greater latitude of socially acceptable dressing and thus may be able to contend with their masculine desires (such as wearing masculine clothing) without attracting undo attention.

  • I pointed out that a source of uncertainty and frustration for me was that it seems that one's “transgender diagnosis” and location under the umbrella is largely self-determined and that all a therapist like her can do is mentor, consult, provide guidance and so forth. She agreed completely; she cannot tell anyone exactly what’s going on for them nor can she predict the future of where they will end up.

Given all of the above I think the intensity of my feelings, need to be accepted for who I am, and emotional reactions to feeling rejected (real or imagined) are very understandable.

Specific to Me

  • My struggle with verbally explaining or describing my inner feelings is very understandable; she didn’t have suggestions of other words I might use. (I had thought she might have words that she’d heard from other clients.) She confirmed that my description of being more “emotional” and “sensitive” than a more typical male made sense to her.

  • I described that when I dress in the clothing that I have (e.g., a dress, nightgown, leotard, tights, panties, bra) that it “just feels good” (like when my skirt brushes across my legs when walking) and that I simply go about my otherwise normal existence at home, working at my desk, dealing with our pets, etc. She said this is entirely consistent with her experience.

  • I told her that although the outcome of make-up is appealing the thought of applying it, going through all that, is not. She said let’s face it, most women don’t particularly like doing it either, and women have varying styles. For example, she had a transwoman visit from Las Vegas, wearing alluring clothing and high heels that were appropriate for there but quite unusual for Palo Alto. Likewise, a transwoman from Idaho came wearing a plaid shirt, jeans, and work boots – “right off the farm.” Appropriate for Idaho but equally unusual for Palo Alto!

  • I told her that I don’t have dysphoria with my body; I’ve never felt compelled to chop off my penis for example. Here again, she said that physical dysphoria is also largely a myth; surgery is more for alignment with one’s inherent gender than with revulsion of ones cisgender sexual characteristics.

  • I had printed out the “Sex Orientation Scale” that Karen posted on her blog and highlighted the characteristics that feel most in alignment with me. She immediately recognized the chart from Harry Benjamin’s book “The Transsexual Phenomenon” and showed it to me. All of my highlights are in the in Group 1 “Transvestite” and mostly in the Type I and Type II columns.

BTW: she feels that many of Benjamin’s observations and so forth are still valid today, except for the language and terminology.

  • Prior to my current therapist I’d partially come out to two others whom I told that I occasionally crossdressed. They both told me that in and of itself it’s no big deal (sorry, that phrase again). This therapist agreed 100%. And in fact, here’s what’s kind of weird: when I dress at home, like just wearing a dress and underwear, it feels “right,” “good,” but not much more than that. I like it. But when I return (as I must) to Levi’s and a T-shirt, that’s no big deal either.

Here again, she said that this is what it is: all very common. It feels good to be dressed at least occasionally (and however partially) as a woman for people like me. Hard (impossible?) to explain: it just does. And to reuse a very tired phrase, if it is what it is, and it seems to be, it really it is what it is. It’s perfectly okay. I’m okay, you’re okay. How about that.

Regarding My Wife/Marriage

  • I need to recognize and appreciate that my wife has only become more fully aware of this in the past 2-3 months and that is a very short time; I need to be patient and allow her to come to terms with her own and very valid fears and anxieties.

  • Contrary to an assumption my wife had, I don’t pose/prance in front of the mirror when dressed, admiring myself. In fact, I prefer not to see myself at all although it’s not particularly bothersome if I do. Again, quite a common experience.

  • With my engineer’s mentality I tend to perform thorough analysis, prepare reports, and anticipate that the recipients will appreciate my being so forthcoming and transparent. But as I saw with my wife when I enthusiastically gave her a report a couple of months ago, this was simply too much information too fast. Again, a common enough occurrence.

Conclusions: Wow.

P.S. For those interested, the therapist’s name is: Judy Van Maasdam, and she can be reached at: jvanmaasdam@gmail.com. Her office is in Palo Alto, California. She gave me permission to publish her name and suggested that those interested email her; you/she can follow up later via the phone as needed.

Falling On My Sword

By Emma,

In my past career when we said that we were “falling on my sword” we meant that – typically in front of a customer – we were admitting that our company or product was at fault. We were being transparent, vulnerable, admitting we were in the wrong and hopefully the customer would thus react with less drama and instead collaborate on working around or developing a solution to the problem. This blog post feels like that to me, thus its title.

Of late I’ve been reading “Crossdressing With Dignity: The Case for Transcending Gender Lines” by Dr. Peggy Rudd, who previously wrote “My Husband Wears My Clothes.” She is a psychologist who happens to have a transgender husband, and because of this developed a personal and professional understanding of what it means to be transgender for the individual and for the family. The basis for the book is that crossdresser/transgender people are not wrong or bad although society may cast them in this light. Perhaps worse, these transwomen tend to be their own worst critic because of internalized shame, guilt, and fear. Carrying that load is sensed by others around us and often reflected back, confirming those cruel assumptions and beliefs.

I’ve sensed this off and on throughout my life. I know that I am too dependent on external feedback and opinions. Who cares what they think! I’m my own person, right? And I can stand on my own feet. Oh yeah, sure. At times like this I find that easy to say and darned hard to believe.

Below are some quotes from the book and some corresponding thoughts. Perhaps through this I (and you?) will make some progress.

  • “In our society men are taught from an early age that they must never be like girls. Because of the awareness or knowledge, you may fail to accept crossdressing as a part of your personality. There is that subconscious rule that says you are doing something wrong.” – Roger Peo, PhD.

I think I was happiest before around age 4 or 5 before I realized that part of the way I was, how I liked to play, was sissy and wrong. I was often reminded of this by neighborhood boys whom I desperately wanted to be friends with but who seemed to delight in tearing me apart with their ridicule.

  • “The search for normalcy is a very strong motivator. Each person wants to find love, and sometimes they are willing to absorb guilt rather than lose love.”

I’ve always longed for normalcy, wondered why I wasn’t, and am often hyperaware of how I believe others think of me. And indeed, closeting my shame and feelings from my wife, friends, and associates to protect what feels like such tenuous love and caring.

  • “The guilt related to the erotic nature of crossdressing is a major concern for many.”

Guilt and shame, not only from within and from my wife, but also worried that it will rain down on me from the transgender community as it seems that the fetish aspect of crossdressing is one of the shameful secrets that we don’t talk about. So here’s a major hara-kiri (seppuku) confession: I do have some fantasy and erotic feelings about crossdressing. Whatcha think about that? Not always, but it can be pretty thrilling.

  • “Progress always involves risks. You can’t steal second base and keep your foot on first.” – Frederick Wilcox

Okay, that saying makes sense of course. It’s easy to say as it kind of rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it? And yeah, I have come out to my wife over the past few months and to this day I don’t know if I did the right thing. You call that progress?

Okay, enough of the downers. Here’s a couple of quotes showing what we’re aiming for:

  • “When you can think of yesterday without regret, and tomorrow without fear, you have found true dignity.”

  • “The key to having a rich and full life is self-acceptance, a virtue found only within.”

So, how to get there? Dr. Rudd includes lists of steps from a variety of people who responded to her research questionnaire. Here’s one that I liked.

  1. Remember to have a sense of humor.
  2. Learn to be in touch with whom you are.
  3. Start believing you have the freedom to express the total personality.
  4. Share your guilt and fears with someone you trust.
  5. Be a good listener when other people share their feelings with you.
  6. Remember there are other people out there with similar problems.

I think I need to have these tattooed on my arms for handy reference.

Be well,

Emma

Okay, this entry isn't really about "The Sound of Music" but the title seemed appropriate as I got started. And since it's my blog, well, you get the picture.

The reason I'm writing here is that I have another article that I'd like to share but couldn't decide on a good place to post in the Forums. It's about climbing mountains - personal mountains, full of loose shale and dangerous outcroppings:

Every life has a Great Struggle. A struggle that defines how—and whether—that life will reach fulfillment. Struggling well—facing, embracing, and overcoming one’s struggle—and struggling poorly—escaping, replacing, and ignoring one’s struggle—is one of the greatest and most necessary disciplines that we must master if we are to live, prosper, and blossom. For the truth is that if we don’t overcome our struggles, you know and I know: we will probably end up trapped in lives that feel like bitter and desperate failures, futile, meaningless, diminished.

https://medium.com/bad-words/the-art-of-competition-5b7b3704d8c2

Breathe. Look up. See the mountain. Accept the gift.

Emma

R. A. I. N.

By Emma,

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!

Several unrelated observations from the past week have led to some thoughts I'd like to share here. Sneak preview: I wonder if I am transgender. Answer: yes.

Here goes:

I attended a TG Discussion Group (i.e., not led by a therapist) this week. Everyone there except me has either fully transitioned or is on hormones. I mentioned that I had not gone to any of their social events because I don't have a complete feminine outfit (with all of the accoutrements) and am wondering these days how important that is for me. Someone said (in a nice way), "Gender isn't the clothes. It's all between the ears." Everyone nodded and agreed.

Thinking about it later that night I wish I'd asked, "If it's all between the ears then perhaps that explains why some are comfortable in their choice to live within the boundaries of their born sex?" I suspect there is some truth in that. And maybe those in that place under the TG Umbrella don't see the "boundaries" at all.

I'm thinking this may be me. When I consider attending a TG social event fully expressing myself as a transwoman it is a little exciting, sure. But there are rather big buts, such as:

  • I want to look nice. Not over the top at all, just well put-together. Assembling all of the pieces of such an outfit would be very expensive when you consider I'm starting from essentially nothing.
  • I don't feel an inherent joy in making my face up more than perhaps the minimal that most cisgender women do. But goodness knows I'd need a fair amount of it applied in an artful manner.
  • And, the thought of doing all this for perhaps a 2-3 hour event with people I don't have much in common with...

Maybe I'm not transgender at all. I'm just a lonely imposter in the TG house?

I met with my therapist yesterday morning, one on one. I told him that I just want to be loved by my wife for who and what I am. I told him all of the above, and:

  • I often sleep in a simple nightgown since I was barred from sleeping with my wife in "our" room. Nothing fancy or frilly, it's like a long-sleeve T-shirt in a soft modal fabric. It just feels good, like a hug.
  • When I wear a leotard and tights (under my outerwear), here again, it just feels like a warm hug. I'm okay.
  • Yes, I occasionally get a minor and transient erotic thrill but that's also similar to how I feel when in a warm embrace.
  • At the discussion group one of the transexual women (who transitioned >30 years ago) mentioned, "Although transitioned, we'll never be fully women. For example, when I attended college after my SRS and the other girls shared their prom photos and other girlhood memories, I didn't have those." She said it very matter of fact, with no emotional baggage. I responded with something like, "Oh my, that must have been painful for you." No one else picked up on that and the discussion moved on.
  • Also at the discussion group I felt a bit left out as they were largely focused on hearing themselves talk. I guess I don't blame them. Like me, there are darned few places where they can express themselves. I wasn't able to get much of a word in edgewise and just listened.

My therapist responded that the feelings I express are, in his experience, more typically those of a woman's. Earlier that week he had a couple in for therapy where, for example, the wife used my same words, "I just want you to love me for who I am."

So yeah, I am a member of the transgender camp, grateful for having a place like TG Guide to come to, express myself, and share my feelings.

Emma

P.S. I sincerely hope that all who read this understand that my writing is solely about my own thoughts and observations, and I don't mean to imply any judgment of anyone else. I'm truly respectful and appreciative of everyone in the transgender community, their individual journeys, gender expression, and rightful place under the umbrella.

Photo: I shot this from inside the Excelsior Lodge in South Africa a couple of years ago. I loved their windows and the scene they framed. It seems like an appropriate photo for today's blog.

I attended my first therapist-led support group last night. In short, it was a very good experience for me and I'm grateful to have found it and their warm welcomes.

There were six of us in all, including the therapist and myself. Three are transitioned transwomen and the fourth is taking hormones, thinks she would like to transition but isn't sure. Three are married and one's wife passed away some years ago. All are well known to each other; some have attended this meeting for more than a decade!

We went around the room introducing ourselves with me allowed to wait until last. They described their journeys, home situation, children/family, and a summary of their transition - especially as it related to acceptance and feedback they received at work.

I appreciated their openness and heartfelt support and although all are either transexual or in transition no one challenged my telling them that I may be remain at the crossdresser end of the transgender umbrella.

My main take-aways:

  • If one wishes to remain happy and married to their significant other we need to recognize that they are going through their own unasked-for transition. Be sensitive to that, don't push or pressure, communicate and allow her to come to terms with the "new you." It's all too easy to be self-centered especially as we're experiencing and enjoying our new freedoms. Try to keep that in check or at least be sensitive to your wife's needs.
  • The therapist provided her metaphor for the transgender journey: a train chugging along the track, unaware of its final destination or distance to travel. We may get off at early or intermediate stations and stay there or get back on the train and continue.
  • I expressed some of my reluctance and ambivalence to ride the train and was advised that I need to swim with the fish to uncover where I'm meant to reside under the umbrella. (Sorry for the incredibly mixed metaphor!)

After the meeting we went to a local restaurant that they always go to - which happens to be one that my wife and I have also gone to often enough in the past that, you got it, the manager recognized me with the group. Full smile as always, warm greeting, and as a bonus, a little extra pour of the cabernet.

This morning it occurs to me that the only regret I have for the meeting is that I'm joining a group and making friends that will likely never include my wife. Still, it was good times and I'm looking forward to the next meeting in early February.

When I first wrote about No Big Deal I thought I could make a point that would be helpful. In the second post I felt that the Bigness of the Big Deal should be measured by comparison of "intrinsic" vs. "sociological" needs. Now, though, I'm embarrassed to have written any of this.

Behind the scenes a friend pointed out that for her (a cisgender woman SO) it's all about her preference, comfort, and desires. And when I read that I realized how meaningless my previous posts were.

I'd like to close this by saying that No Big Deal may very well be: a Very Big Deal for some SOs, a Little Problem for others, No Biggie for still more, and (going out further on the limb here) the measure of its importance isn't static, it may change depending on circumstance, attitudes, and presentation.

I think the one important and overriding truth is that communication between the partners is everything, especially if one hopes to achieve No Big Deal.

And that, my friends, is all I'm going to say about that. Well, at least for now.

P.S. As embarrassed as I am I would like to acknowledge TG Guide's member's tolerance and patience as I worked this out. No one bashed me in public or private. Remarkable! Thank you. :-)

I've been ruminating about my post "No Big Deal" over the past few days and wondering why I was unable to let it go. For example, if the balance of threats and concerns weighs so heavily on the Significant Other (i.e., the cisgender person) then by what right does the Transgender person express herself, especially if she is uncertain about her needs to transition her sex? I think I figured it out this morning. I think it boils down to whether the issue is coming from the individual's inherent core or from societal mores.

As I've written in my blog and other TGG posts I am very uncertain about where my transgender self resides under the umbrella of its definition. These days I think I'm much more at the crossdresser end than toward transition. But one thing I can't deny: my transgender needs/desires/self is at the core of my being. They are inherent and immutable. I can't be "cured" of them through therapy, suppression, or denial.

On the Significant Other's side her feelings are no less valid and no doubt her spouse's disclosures are a surprise and may cause her to question her trust in her husband and her own instincts. That said, however, it seems to me that at least some of the wife's concerns that I listed in my post are derived more from what she's been taught that society expects and approves of.

Let me emphasize that the emotions of both people are equally valid and real. But I think that measured over time, the transgender person's will last longer - forever, if you will - and it's possible that some of the cisgender partner's emotions will wane as she learns that her husband's disclosure doesn't really change anything substantial in their relationship; the changes are largely superficial. And with time and open and loving communication it's possible that the cisgender partner may come to realize that her husband's statement "It's no big deal" is more true than she thought initially.

Emma

P.S. My thanks to a friend who coached me on the use of pronouns. Hope I got it better this time!

No Big Deal

By Emma,

A friend of mine's husband told her that his crossdressing is "no big deal." It bothered her because the phrase tended to dismiss her feelings; I understand and agree. I've often also thought of this phrase myself and thought it might be interesting to consider what it means to me. I'm not offering any solutions here, just food for thought and, perhaps, conversation with your partner.

By the way:

  • I'm using feminine pronouns for the husband, which is the polite/supportive thing to do for her;
  • My apologies to my FTM brethren as I'm only talking here about the husband being the transgender person.

Now with that behind us let's dig in! I'm first considering it from my perspective. (It's my blog, I get to choose who goes first. :rolleyes: ) When I think of my crossdressing as "no big deal" here's some my reasoning:

  • It's just clothes after all, at least in the privacy of our own home. Who cares if I'm dressing in feminine finery?
  • My therapists have also said that it shouldn't be a big deal.
  • I wish my wife could also treat it as no big deal because then I'd feel better about myself. As it is I feel like there is a winner and a loser, and we should both be able to win.
  • I am and will stay faithful to my wife and am confident that I will not stray no matter what.
  • I still am the person she fell in love with at my core. Shouldn't she feel happy that I'm "finding myself" and support me?

Okay fine, let's consider what might be going on in my wife's mind for whom it seems to be a Very Big Deal indeed.

  • She was socialized to be the pretty one in relationships and society, to wear feminine clothing and be feminine. If I'm feminine too, where does that leave her? Should she now consider herself to be a lesbian?
  • I think it's known that cisgender women may judge each other pretty harshly at times, and "their man" may be a proxy for her success as a woman. What does it mean if he crossdresses (privately or not)? Is it because of some failing of the wife's?
  • Although we know that gender orientation isn't correlated or the same as sexual orientation, my wife is still concerned that in the euphoria of the moment (aka "Pink Fog") I might be tempted to experiment.
  • Who's to say that I might so enjoy crossdressing that I find myself inexorably drawn to Gender Affirmation hormones and/or surgery?
  • How will this affect our sex life? Will we even have a sex life going forward? And if not, why should I accept that?
  • If our marriage/relationship needs to dissolve, how will I explain this to my family and friends?

Oh my goodness: the scale is leaning so heavily toward my wife. Maybe I'm just being negative. I am sure there are missing points in both my and my wife's sections. Please feel free to post your thoughts on all this.

Regardless of whether you agree with what I wrote or not I think it always comes down to communication between ourselves and our partners. Easy for me to say but I think my wife and I are making some progress. Yeah!

I wish you a safe New Years celebration and a thoroughly wonderful and fulfilling 2015,

Emma

What a month it’s been. It started off pretty low for me when my wife and I met with our therapist. I gave them a very open update and my wife was terribly upset. Assuming the worst (which I’m quite good at doing) I was sure that she was going to want a divorce. Thankfully she didn’t. She apologized for her reaction and assured me that she supports my explorations. Remembering those days even now still causes me pain. It’s also diminished my enthusiasm and I’ve felt drawn back into the closet.

That said, though, my wife encouraged (in some ways demanded) that I find a transgender support group to attend. I learned that a “support group” is one that is led by a therapist or mental health professional. Surprisingly, I found it hard to find one, but I received some help and was successful. The first meeting I’ll attend is on January 8th.

My older son gave me the book “Fully Present” as a Christmas present. It’s about the science, art, and practice of Mindfulness Meditation. I’d known about this practice for years and it was recommended to me but I was kind of reluctant to study it. I guess I was (and am) afraid that I won’t be able to “do it” which, yeah, sounds kind of silly. Anyway, I am slowly and patiently reading the book and it does seem like an ideal combination of science, art, and practice – just like they said. This morning I read, “The basic tenet of mindfulness and science is to observe things as they are.” And, “In the spirit of self-discovery, we invite you to attempt meditation with a very scientific attitude – one of scientific exploration.” Wow, does that speak to me!

I’ve been thinking over the past few days about what I might write here. I like the idea of having a monthly report like this but what should I do? Perhaps keep a running list of questions that I want to explore on my journey with therapists, groups, meditation, and my friends here at TG Guide:

  • Am I “merely” addicted to the endorphin jolt I receive at times when I wear female clothing? I do like it, that’s for sure. And if it’s an “addiction,” should I attend some sort of 12-step program for it? I don’t think this is the case for me but one has to wonder at times.
  • If I receive the truly unconditional love and acceptance I need from my wife will my transgender desires/needs evaporate or extinguish? I do really want the former but doubt the latter – as much as I would like it to be true.
  • What will it take for me to ever achieve peace and acceptance with myself?
  • My hypothesis these days is that when I was a toddler that my mother rejected me, I looked around and from what I could see, girls were the ones that are loved, accepted, and celebrated. They wore dresses and skirts so that’s what I wanted to. But, maybe my mother was “just” reacting to my desires for girlish things? (Which came first, the chicken or the egg?)

Anyway, I wish everyone here at TG Guide a wonderful and prosperous New Year. I love you all.

Emma

Photo: The "The Imitation Game" movie, about Alan Turing. What a remarkable man, and such a tragedy that he ended up taking his life because of punishments he endured when he was "convicted" of being homosexual. I found it a poignant reminder of how many transgender people feel today. But, a remarkable movie nonetheless!