About lying in bed, in my long white nightgown, reading, with my legs tucked under the skirt. It's like being at peace with the world, comfortable and cozy, and right. It just feels right.
And that's what they say transgender is. What feels right, what does it for you. It's terribly hard at times to really put ones finger on it and like the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, as soon as you try, it moves, as if it can't be objectively pinned down.
Isn't it weird that something as simple as this could seem so right? I mean, why the big deal? Why does it mean anything at all? It's not erotic or a turn-on. Maybe I'm past that point. But maybe it's also a feeling of how it should have been so many years ago when I should have been a little girl.
But I'll never be a little girl nor a big adult girl either. Maybe I don't have to be so long as it's okay for me from time to time to snuggle in my white nightgown, reading a book, cozy. Right now it feels very good, very right.
I've been wrestling with myself about posting this today. I don't think I'm one to blow my own horn (much) but yesterday I accomplished something I've been working toward for the last few weeks. I rode my bicycle over 100 miles, from Redwood City to Cupertino, back and forth, and finally returning home almost 8 hours later. Total riding time was just over 7 hours and the difference is due to stop lights and a couple of times when I stopped to open up my little pouch to munch on a piece of Clif Bar.
The last two Saturdays I've tried to reach 100, but each time just could not go farther than about 75 miles. It was like I hit a wall and if I went further I was afraid I might just pass out. I do carry four bottles of water (mixed with electrolytes) and a couple of Shot Blok packages, but I got nauseous and had to head home. Yesterday as I passed 75 miles I was definitely moving slower. I started arguing with myself: go ahead and head home, at least I'd be more than 90 miles this time! But it finally came to me, to achieve more than 90% and then give up for the last 10%? No way. And, truth be told, I don't want to do this every weekend. Too many hours. I have other things to do too, and now, next weekend, I can take a "short 50 mile" ride and feel okay about it!
Why do I write about it here? I don't often consider myself as having much grit and determination. I am intimidated all the time by stuff that others just don't understand. Stupid things like trying to diagnose why my wife's computer is no longer receiving emails into her business account. Now, I know how to do this sort of thing. But I feel an anxiousness when I don't know how it will end up and can't control the outcome.
So maybe that's where I'm coming from. I certainly didn't know how it would all play out when I told my wife I am transgender two years ago. At first she was devastated, assuming that our marriage was over, that the one she loved so much had betrayed her trust, and that I was destined to transition. God, that was scary and emotionally wrenching. It took a lot of work in and out of therapy, more confessions from me, and finally starting to take an SSRI that seems to be really working, for once.
All my life I've had emotional issues, and have spent countless hours with a variety of therapists for the last 35 years. I kept expecting that he/she/me would discover the "one thing" that was going on for me, we'd address it, and... problem solved! It sure didn't turn out that way. Part of my problem was that I was unable to disclose my transgender feelings to them or myself. But even when I started to do so with my present therapist, three years ago, the improvement in my well-being has been so subtle and gradual, at times unnoticeable. But as I contemplate how things are going these days it's undeniable that I have made progress.
I don't know what "done" is, nor do I expect it. I still have my anxieties. I did yesterday morning as I considered getting up and, once again, trying to make it to 100 miles. But I did it! You can too.
Love and hugs,
Now, I suppose the title of this post may sound like I'm having a bad time but no, just the opposite. I came across these book covers recently - aren't they cool? I just love them. They bring up all kinds of thoughts and feelings for me. I'm going to look around eBay and elsewhere and see if I can get my hands on them. (Postscript: It's on Amazon for $2 (Kindle version. Yay!)
But really, my life is going pretty well recently. I never thought I'd say this but the SSRI medication that the psychiatrist prescribed actually seems to be working. I was promised that "we have new ones" that would work better with fewer side effects. I wasn't a believer by any stretch having gone through so many trials and errors in the past. I've been on the medication for about four weeks and wow, I can tell that I'm much better than I was. It's a subtle thing - most of the time I don't even think about it, which is good. I don't want to even be aware of it.
My wife and I are doing very well together, too. I'm sure we'll still have our ups and downs but maybe with the med I'll not go into a crashing end-it-all depression whenever she makes some comment that I misinterpret or can't deal with. It's seemed that way thus far so my confidence is building.
Work. Well, not for much longer! We had a 1/3 of the company layoff two weeks ago and they asked me to stay for another four weeks to transition my responsibilities to others. Why not? An extra four weeks of pay. But really, it kinda sucks given that they don't know who to transition my work to, and the others in the company know I'm Dead Woman Walking. (Well, I guess they'd not refer to me as a woman but hey, it's MY blog!) Lest you be worried about my losing my job, please don't. I will likely just go into full time retirement. Which is kind of scary in that I've spent the last four decades using the busy-ness of work and my rather strong work-ethic (thanks Dad!) to avoid some things and to feel needed. As an old friend once said many years ago, I get a lot of emotional groceries by staying busy. A lot of satisfaction too.
But I have some things to look forward to. I recently looked on Amazon for Julia Cameron's book "The Artist's Way" which I was thinking about re-reading. If you haven't read it and are looking for any kind of inspiration - it's a gem. Really. But you know what? Just one month ago she published a new book: "It's Never Too Late to Begin Again: Discovering Creativity and Meaning at Midlife and Beyond." How cool is that? I'm hoping off buying it until I'm truly unemployed. I don't want to spoil the treat.
I also signed up for a one-day class at Stanford, "Happiness: Gumption, Gratitude, and Grace" which my therapist suggested. Looks like it will be interesting. Who knows what lies there or what will come up? I am looking forward to exploring further.
There's more, of course. My wife wants me to build a tiny house for her in our backyard as a kind of retreat space. Not that we have a very large lot... pretty much no one does in the Bay Area. I was initially concerned that she plans on moving into that little house but no, she doesn't. Heck, maybe we can have sleepovers. That'd be fun.
So it's all good, my friends.
Behind Blue Eyes
Pete Townshend, The Who, 1971, from the album “Who’s Next”
No one knows what it's like
To be the bad man
To be the sad man
Behind blue eyes
No one knows what it's like
To be hated
To be fated
To telling only lies
But my dreams
They aren't as empty
As my conscience seems to be
I have hours, only lonely
My love is vengeance
That's never free
No one knows what it's like
To feel these feelings
Like I do
And I blame you
No one bites back as hard
On their anger
None of my pain and woe
Can show through
But my dreams
They aren't as empty
As my conscience seems to be
I have hours, only lonely
My love is vengeance
That's never free
When my fist clenches, crack it open
Before I use it and lose my cool
When I smile, tell me some bad news
Before I laugh and act like a fool
And if I swallow anything evil
Put your finger down my throat
And if I shiver, please give me a blanket
Keep me warm, let me wear your coat
No one knows what it's like
To be the bad man
To be the sad man
Behind blue eyes
No, I don’t have blue eyes although I wish I did. “Blue eyes” came up recently when my wife and I met with our therapist. I said to her that I’m normal, like anyone who is left-handed or has blue eyes. Sure, part of a smaller segment of the population but normal nonetheless. Our therapist then said that although she loves me deeply that she might not be physically attracted to someone with blue eyes.
Later, privately, she told me that she’s fearful that indeed, blue eyes may be a turn-off for her. Worse, she worries that she might find herself drawn to someone who doesn't have blue eyes.
I understand what she’s saying. But it does hurt. And worry. I just have to trust that we will work it out.
P.S. I don’t mean to brag here but I just have to share… I saw The Who in the summer of 1972 at the San Francisco Civic Auditorium during their Who’s Next tour. My friends and I had fantastic seats about 20 rows back from center stage. The music was so loud that it felt like blood was trickling from my ears but of course it was not. Such fantastic memories of Roger Daltry whipping his mic high into the air only to catch it perfectly in time with the beat from Pete Townshend’s guitar and Keith Moon’s drums.
I was 16 and had driven the family station wagon about 50 miles from the South Bay. The previous evening my father asked if I knew how to get there, and of course, I hadn’t thought of that. Together we looked at a map to plot a course. We made it to and from okay but also remember feeling so disoriented and scared trying to find my way back to the 101 freeway after the show.
My friend has a cap with the words "Life is Good" on it. I often wonder if he realizes how much it affects me. I'm feeling that way these days. I am increasingly realizing how unbelievably oppressive it was (and is) to live with such strong feelings and hurts about wishing one is the opposite gender from their birth sex. And, how we can be conditioned to work so hard to suppress it to get along. But that "getting along" for me meant waiting for it to be over. Which seemed like such a waste.
So today I'm posting a photo of my new pink dress. Even when shopping for it (yes, on Amazon) I hesitated ordering such a bright and pretty color. Conditioning strongly at work that tells me that certain shades of blue, green, maybe a brown would be okay. But not girly pink! But I'll tell you, I LOVE it. I really do. And it's a nice soft cotton, which is perfect as the temperature is getting a little warmer.
I did attend TDoV on Thursday. Call me old but honestly, it didn't do much for me. Kind of reminded me of street fairs I attended a few decades ago on the Castro. But then again, all happy people having a good time. What I enjoyed the most was talking to several people as we ate finger food and had a glass of wine before the main event. It was fun to meet more transgender people who are all happy and well adjusted. Funny story: I met another Emma! But she was probably 20-30 years younger than me and had never even heard of Emma Peel, which cracked me and another couple (my age) up. What fond memories I have of watching all of Emma's moves in The Avengers so long ago. She was my dream.
I'd also like to say goodbye to Patty Duke. I know that wasn't her real name but that was who she was to me. When I was young my parents used to drop me off for an outdoor movie night at Lake Berryessa. I remember watching her in at least one movie and, as with Emma Peel, watching Patty so intently while trying to slowly chew my Milk Duds. And of course I also loved the Patty Duke Show...
So yeah. Life is Good.
Love you all,
As some here will recognize this "nature vs. nurture" thing has bothered me at times. At my age it hardly matters. It's not as if knowing that is going to change anything for me. But I've always felt it would help me to know that I was born this way. Last week I wrote about it a bit in this post: Chicken or the Egg: Nature vs. Nurture
As I often do I shared my post with my therapist; we talked about it last Thursday evening. I love the way that I'm able to share my posts with him, and to receive his support and encouragement. As we talked about the nature vs. nurture question I mentioned that for the last couple of weeks I've not been feeling those transgender visceral needs/wants/envies. When this has happened in the past it's been both a relief and a regret, and a wonder when or if they will return and if I can possibly recognize a trigger for those feelings. Maybe now, I speculated, that I feel a bit more in touch with what happened to me emotionally in early childhood I'll discover that my transgender nature emerged from my rather strained nurturing?
Without hesitation he replied, "Ebb and flow sounds completely natural to me. Not like a habit at all. And maybe that also reflects that, as a woman, the need, thrill, or awareness of dressing becomes unimportant until, for some reason it arises as a need to 'get your girl on.'"
We talked about it some more. He said that it also seems evidently nature-based because, after all, I kept returning to these feelings throughout my childhood and life. As a young child (3-4-5 years old) I could have reacted in many ways to feeling emotionally suppressed. I could have been defiant, or a bully, or... Instead, I envied, dreamed, and often considered, being a girl. And those feelings were consistent through elementary school, junior high, high school, and college. It wasn't simply a reaction, it was me, expressing herself! How cool is that?
Hmmm, that feels good. Gee, do I feel an inkling of Pride? I can hear Star Trek's Mr. Spock, "Interesting emotion, Emma!"
From what I've read the Nature vs. Nurture question remains open, except perhaps for those who always knew. Throughout my investigation into the roots of my transgender nature I wanted the result to be that I was just born that way. Then I could easily say to my wife, the world and myself, "I am what I am, those were the cards I was dealt." And then they could take me or leave me, and if they left I'd at least know that because it was in my genes it just is what it is and move on. In case you're wondering, I still haven't figured it out.
Recently my therapist suggested I read Living Like You Mean It: Use the Wisdom and Power of Your Emotions to Get the Life You Really Want. It essentially goes like this:
Babies are born with emotions that are like little flames that need to be nurtured. If they are not, the babies learn to suppress those feelings so as to get along in life. For example, the baby feels anger, expresses it, is then rejected or isolated, and the baby then turns it on herself, as if to say (to herself) "I must be bad if I have emotions, therefore I have to suppress my emotions." But this results in sadness.
This behavior may result in behavioral patterns (e.g., depression, flat-line emotional control, dissatisfaction) of adults who don't really know how to feel. Because when they do they defensive feelings emerge to counteract the genuine feelings which perpetuates the cycle.
Upon finishing this book last weekend I got terribly depressed. It was as if the rug of "I was born this way" was ripped out from under my feet. You see, the book thoroughly describes my home environment. Without getting into too much history my mother was terribly depressed herself, hospitalized a couple of times, electroshock therapy, and when I was 24, committed suicide.
Throughout my childhood I was alone when at home even if my mother or father was there. My mother might have been at home, often in bed or otherwise disconnected, and my father was at work, nights and weekends, on various space flight programs. Without getting into details, I was well and truly taught to be seen and not heard.
When I met with my therapist last Thursday I recalled for him that I'd always admired girls, their unfettered expression of emotion: joy, love, sadness. And after reading this book I wondered: perhaps my transgender nature results more from my envy of girls' "allowed" to express emotion where, as a boy in my family, I was not?
This morning I happened across this: I Am A Girl! - Ik ben een meisje! on YouTube. I'd seen it before but it really touched a nerve. She is so pretty, happy and, at 13, so grounded! I think you'll love seeing her. Clearly, she is transgender by nature.
So now I wonder:
Nature: was I born like Joppe in the video, but my natural needs and desires were suppressed into smithereens by my family environment?
Nurture: If the former isn't correct then maybe I have an envy that arose from my upbringing, a desperate need to express and be myself which I saw as only available to females?
Or maybe it's a combination of the two?
Why does it matter? I guess I just really want to figure myself out. As if, like my wife, I was adopted and just want to know the truth of my background.
I have fragmentary memories of early childhood that support either or both theories. No one to ask, since my father also died about ten years ago and I don't have siblings.
Hmm, maybe I should return to my therapist's advice and just Stop Thinking! Just accept myself, follow my feelings. I am trying. But on Saturday mornings when I'm not consumed by career it's hard to ignore these thoughts. Oh I remember now what he'd say: "Get mindful, take a step back and consider your thinking from afar. What would you say to yourself as a child, if you could, today?"
I think I'd say this: "IT'S OKAY TO BE YOU!"
Last Thursday as I was planning my day I knew that that evening I had an appointment with my therapist. I made plans to drop by an Amazon locker to pick up a new top and told some people that I was nervously thinking of putting it on in his restroom and surprising him in our meeting. At lunch I read some encouragement from Veronica, Bree, and I think others, which just felt wonderful. After, as I walked to get a cup of coffee I suddenly realized I was smiling. I felt so wonderful to contemplate that evening and to receive everyone's encouragement. Thank you!
Now as it turned out I hit traffic on the way there and was kind of in a rush. I dashed into the restroom, tried it on, and felt that it was too small - I should have ordered the larger size. But I tried it on today and it is maybe a little small but I think it's okay. I took my photo wearing it along with the leggings I bought last weekend. It feels really good to be wearing it now as I write this. (BTW: I bought those tulips in the photo for my wife to surprise her for Valentine's. Score!)
At my therapist appointment we had a nice conversation but I complained that although I'm feeling better these days I still find myself questioning my being transgender. It's as if a part of my brain is stubbornly refusing to let go and I keep on running through a rather long list of history and experiences that make it so obvious that I am trans. His advice? Stop thinking, and appreciate the fact that Emma is a huge and lovely part of me. Learn to love her and live by following my feelings more than my thoughts. I think that is good advice and I'm really working on it.
I'm also reading a book called "Who's Really From Venus?" by Peggy Rudd and really liking it. It's basically a book about how to live with yourself as well as a partner when you are transgender. She has a lot of experience with this, as her spouse is trans. I am about halfway through it now and am at a place where she talks about how to cope with yourself. Here's what she provides as coping skills:
Learn to deal with problems successfully.
Define the problem and seek solutions, possibly with the help or input from others.
Handle or dissipate the fears and hurts of life in a constructive manner.
Recognize yourself as unique.
Realize your potential for true inner strength.
Develop the ability to move forward in spite of the lack of acceptance.
Keep learning from all experiences, both positive and negative.
I think that is terrific advice and the third one is probably the toughest for me. She also writes:
Even if it takes years to find a comfort zone with your own identity, you must keep searching. Acceptance from others will follow. At some time we may need to have the forgiveness of others, but of greater importance is the forgiveness we owe ourselves. Love is not about keeping old wounds open. Love is about healing wounds. It is about moving forward and learning from past mistakes. It is about getting on with life.
We do owe ourselves forgiveness and space to be ourselves. We are all wonderful and loving people who just want to be... ourselves.
As an aside in case you read her book there is one thing I have a concern with. She writes everything about "crossdressers" instead of "transgender people." I think that is an important point since I really don't see myself as being all about the clothing whatsoever. It's much deeper than that. Maybe she, given that she is cisgender, doesn't discern the difference or the sensitivity to that word. (Or maybe I'm making too much of a deal out it.) Anyway, I love the book regardless.
Be well, and with warm hugs,
Last Thursday I saw my therapist. I was pretty distraught, with a shaming weight crushing my chest because I so often feel so anxious for approval, affirmation, and when it's delayed or I don't receive it, I go to my dark place where I'd just as soon fold up my tent. It's a cycle that's been with me forever and I'm very ashamed by it. Sure, maybe that seems silly to you dear reader, but I get so defensive and I feel so needy. It feels like feelings I simply should not have and since I do so intensely I'm ashamed. After all in my professional life people don't act like that, do they? No way, Jose. It's like I'm often on edge, hyper-aware of how people feel about me and I worry that that comes across too. Goodness, what a mess.
Toward the end of the meeting he said something like, "Well, be sure to listen to Emma. She's a huge part of you and she has a perspective that may help you." I took that to heart and spent the last couple of days wondering what Emma would say. And I felt like such a fraud! I'm always ready with some sort of encouragement or thoughts but when it comes to me they all sound so inane and useless. Sure, I hope it does help those I send messages to, I really do. But when I'm sending them to myself? I can't even think of what Emma might say that would be useful. I kept thinking that I'd put up a blog post with something like, "What should Emma say to herself?" But that sounded so wimpy.
So I took a bike ride today. It was almost 80 degrees here (can you believe it?) and I went out for a couple of hours, but beforehand decided I would think about this further. I must say that riding the bike is a great place to just think. Yeah sure, while peddling like a madwoman. I don't remember what prompted this but it occurred to me that I'm always wanting the fast answer. I want the problem to be diagnosed, implement the solution, and have it done and behind me. I recalled that last couple of years since coming out to myself and then my wife. Jeez, a couple of years? Yeah, but that's not so bad. Better to have taken a couple of years and be where I am than not, right? So it dawned on me: "Come on, honey, give yourself some time." <big sigh> And she's right, I think.
We've all heard that life's a journey and all that but I think it really is. There is some truth to that. Go have a cup of tea, put your feet up, enjoy your new top. (It did finally arrive today and it is pretty cute with the leggings I found yesterday at Costco.) So that's my game plan for this week. I'm trying to slow down. Way down. Be patient. Good things come to those who wait.
We'll see, my friends. (You do still like me, right? I am still loving your affirmations. )
Have a nice week,
"You're too sensitive."
I've heard that so many times in my life. Worse, I believe it.
I should not be hurt by rude people at work. I seem to be the only one who gets hurt. So no, I shouldn't be affected.
I should not like how I feel when I wear my dresses. After all, it's just cloth. A fabric of threads. And I'm not supposed to like them.
I should not be scared. Scared that people will discover how scared I am. Of being hurt.
I should not even write this here. After all, I'm a mod; mods don't cry.
"It's always all about you."
That hurts too. A lot. So if I didn't feel then it wouldn't hurt snd it would not have to be about me.
I should be happy, not sad. What have I got to be sad about? "I'll give you something to be sad about."
Shoulds suck. I should forget that word, delete it from my vocabulary. I like it when I feel my truegender. Inside and out. But it's just a feeling and I don't know if it's okay to feel. Is it? It doesn't seem like it.
My cursor gently blinks as I ponder clicking the Submit button. Maybe this is what blogs can be for. Sometimes to pour out my heart. Show the world that I feel. I don't like it and I don't know what to do with it but there it is.
This is a real first for me, taking my photo and posting it here or anywhere! 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.
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:
"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.
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:
• Occasional dressing, either in public or private
• Living part- or full-time as the other gender
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:
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.
Here is the email I received from Susan:
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.
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:
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.
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:
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.'
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?
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. 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.
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.
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.
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.