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.
Exploration and growing into my transgender self
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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:
Here is the email I received from 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.
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:
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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...
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.
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...
No, trans people come from all ethnic, social, racial, academic, and careers. There is absolutely no way to demographically categorize trans people.
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.'
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!
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.
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. 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!
* 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?
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.
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.
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
Regarding My Wife/Marriage
P.S. For those interested, the therapist’s name is: Judy Van Maasdam, and she can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
I think I need to have these tattooed on my arms for handy reference.
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.
Breathe. Look up. See the mountain. Accept the gift.
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?
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.
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.
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. :-)
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.
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.
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:
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:
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.
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:
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.
P.S. My thanks to a friend who coached me on the use of pronouns. Hope I got it better this time!
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:
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. ) When I think of my crossdressing as "no big deal" here's some my reasoning:
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.
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,
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:
Anyway, I wish everyone here at TG Guide a wonderful and prosperous New Year. I love you all.
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!
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...
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
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.