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: email@example.com. Her office is in Palo Alto, California. She gave me permission to publish her name and suggested that those interested email her; you/she can follow up later via the phone as needed.
In my past career when we said that we were “falling on my sword” we meant that – typically in front of a customer – we were admitting that our company or product was at fault. We were being transparent, vulnerable, admitting we were in the wrong and hopefully the customer would thus react with less drama and instead collaborate on working around or developing a solution to the problem. This blog post feels like that to me, thus its title.
Of late I’ve been reading “Crossdressing With Dignity: The Case for Transcending Gender Lines” by Dr. Peggy Rudd, who previously wrote “My Husband Wears My Clothes.” She is a psychologist who happens to have a transgender husband, and because of this developed a personal and professional understanding of what it means to be transgender for the individual and for the family. The basis for the book is that crossdresser/transgender people are not wrong or bad although society may cast them in this light. Perhaps worse, these transwomen tend to be their own worst critic because of internalized shame, guilt, and fear. Carrying that load is sensed by others around us and often reflected back, confirming those cruel assumptions and beliefs.
I’ve sensed this off and on throughout my life. I know that I am too dependent on external feedback and opinions. Who cares what they think! I’m my own person, right? And I can stand on my own feet. Oh yeah, sure. At times like this I find that easy to say and darned hard to believe.
Below are some quotes from the book and some corresponding thoughts. Perhaps through this I (and you?) will make some progress.
“In our society men are taught from an early age that they must never be like girls. Because of the awareness or knowledge, you may fail to accept crossdressing as a part of your personality. There is that subconscious rule that says you are doing something wrong.” – Roger Peo, PhD.
I think I was happiest before around age 4 or 5 before I realized that part of the way I was, how I liked to play, was sissy and wrong. I was often reminded of this by neighborhood boys whom I desperately wanted to be friends with but who seemed to delight in tearing me apart with their ridicule.
“The search for normalcy is a very strong motivator. Each person wants to find love, and sometimes they are willing to absorb guilt rather than lose love.”
I’ve always longed for normalcy, wondered why I wasn’t, and am often hyperaware of how I believe others think of me. And indeed, closeting my shame and feelings from my wife, friends, and associates to protect what feels like such tenuous love and caring.
“The guilt related to the erotic nature of crossdressing is a major concern for many.”
Guilt and shame, not only from within and from my wife, but also worried that it will rain down on me from the transgender community as it seems that the fetish aspect of crossdressing is one of the shameful secrets that we don’t talk about. So here’s a major hara-kiri (seppuku) confession: I do have some fantasy and erotic feelings about crossdressing. Whatcha think about that? Not always, but it can be pretty thrilling.
“Progress always involves risks. You can’t steal second base and keep your foot on first.” – Frederick Wilcox
Okay, that saying makes sense of course. It’s easy to say as it kind of rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it? And yeah, I have come out to my wife over the past few months and to this day I don’t know if I did the right thing. You call that progress?
Okay, enough of the downers. Here’s a couple of quotes showing what we’re aiming for:
“When you can think of yesterday without regret, and tomorrow without fear, you have found true dignity.”
“The key to having a rich and full life is self-acceptance, a virtue found only within.”
So, how to get there? Dr. Rudd includes lists of steps from a variety of people who responded to her research questionnaire. Here’s one that I liked.
Remember to have a sense of humor.
Learn to be in touch with whom you are.
Start believing you have the freedom to express the total personality.
Share your guilt and fears with someone you trust.
Be a good listener when other people share their feelings with you.
Remember there are other people out there with similar problems.
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:
I want to look nice. Not over the top at all, just well put-together. Assembling all of the pieces of such an outfit would be very expensive when you consider I'm starting from essentially nothing.
I don't feel an inherent joy in making my face up more than perhaps the minimal that most cisgender women do. But goodness knows I'd need a fair amount of it applied in an artful manner.
And, the thought of doing all this for perhaps a 2-3 hour event with people I don't have much in common with...
Maybe I'm not transgender at all. I'm just a lonely imposter in the TG house?
I met with my therapist yesterday morning, one on one. I told him that I just want to be loved by my wife for who and what I am. I told him all of the above, and:
I often sleep in a simple nightgown since I was barred from sleeping with my wife in "our" room. Nothing fancy or frilly, it's like a long-sleeve T-shirt in a soft modal fabric. It just feels good, like a hug.
When I wear a leotard and tights (under my outerwear), here again, it just feels like a warm hug. I'm okay.
Yes, I occasionally get a minor and transient erotic thrill but that's also similar to how I feel when in a warm embrace.
At the discussion group one of the transexual women (who transitioned >30 years ago) mentioned, "Although transitioned, we'll never be fully women. For example, when I attended college after my SRS and the other girls shared their prom photos and other girlhood memories, I didn't have those." She said it very matter of fact, with no emotional baggage. I responded with something like, "Oh my, that must have been painful for you." No one else picked up on that and the discussion moved on.
Also at the discussion group I felt a bit left out as they were largely focused on hearing themselves talk. I guess I don't blame them. Like me, there are darned few places where they can express themselves. I wasn't able to get much of a word in edgewise and just listened.
My therapist responded that the feelings I express are, in his experience, more typically those of a woman's. Earlier that week he had a couple in for therapy where, for example, the wife used my same words, "I just want you to love me for who I am."
So yeah, I am a member of the transgender camp, grateful for having a place like TG Guide to come to, express myself, and share my feelings.
P.S. I sincerely hope that all who read this understand that my writing is solely about my own thoughts and observations, and I don't mean to imply any judgment of anyone else. I'm truly respectful and appreciative of everyone in the transgender community, their individual journeys, gender expression, and rightful place under the umbrella.
Photo: I shot this from inside the Excelsior Lodge in South Africa a couple of years ago. I loved their windows and the scene they framed. It seems like an appropriate photo for today's blog.
I attended my first therapist-led support group last night. In short, it was a very good experience for me and I'm grateful to have found it and their warm welcomes.
There were six of us in all, including the therapist and myself. Three are transitioned transwomen and the fourth is taking hormones, thinks she would like to transition but isn't sure. Three are married and one's wife passed away some years ago. All are well known to each other; some have attended this meeting for more than a decade!
We went around the room introducing ourselves with me allowed to wait until last. They described their journeys, home situation, children/family, and a summary of their transition - especially as it related to acceptance and feedback they received at work.
I appreciated their openness and heartfelt support and although all are either transexual or in transition no one challenged my telling them that I may be remain at the crossdresser end of the transgender umbrella.
My main take-aways:
If one wishes to remain happy and married to their significant other we need to recognize that they are going through their own unasked-for transition. Be sensitive to that, don't push or pressure, communicate and allow her to come to terms with the "new you." It's all too easy to be self-centered especially as we're experiencing and enjoying our new freedoms. Try to keep that in check or at least be sensitive to your wife's needs.
The therapist provided her metaphor for the transgender journey: a train chugging along the track, unaware of its final destination or distance to travel. We may get off at early or intermediate stations and stay there or get back on the train and continue.
I expressed some of my reluctance and ambivalence to ride the train and was advised that I need to swim with the fish to uncover where I'm meant to reside under the umbrella. (Sorry for the incredibly mixed metaphor!)
After the meeting we went to a local restaurant that they always go to - which happens to be one that my wife and I have also gone to often enough in the past that, you got it, the manager recognized me with the group. Full smile as always, warm greeting, and as a bonus, a little extra pour of the cabernet.
This morning it occurs to me that the only regret I have for the meeting is that I'm joining a group and making friends that will likely never include my wife. Still, it was good times and I'm looking forward to the next meeting in early February.
When I first wrote about No Big Deal I thought I could make a point that would be helpful. In the second post I felt that the Bigness of the Big Deal should be measured by comparison of "intrinsic" vs. "sociological" needs. Now, though, I'm embarrassed to have written any of this.
Behind the scenes a friend pointed out that for her (a cisgender woman SO) it's all about her preference, comfort, and desires. And when I read that I realized how meaningless my previous posts were.
I'd like to close this by saying that No Big Deal may very well be: a Very Big Deal for some SOs, a Little Problem for others, No Biggie for still more, and (going out further on the limb here) the measure of its importance isn't static, it may change depending on circumstance, attitudes, and presentation.
I think the one important and overriding truth is that communication between the partners is everything, especially if one hopes to achieve No Big Deal.
And that, my friends, is all I'm going to say about that. Well, at least for now.
P.S. As embarrassed as I am I would like to acknowledge TG Guide's member's tolerance and patience as I worked this out. No one bashed me in public or private. Remarkable! Thank you. :-)
I've been ruminating about my post "No Big Deal" over the past few days and wondering why I was unable to let it go. For example, if the balance of threats and concerns weighs so heavily on the Significant Other (i.e., the cisgender person) then by what right does the Transgender person express herself, especially if she is uncertain about her needs to transition her sex? I think I figured it out this morning. I think it boils down to whether the issue is coming from the individual's inherent core or from societal mores.
As I've written in my blog and other TGG posts I am very uncertain about where my transgender self resides under the umbrella of its definition. These days I think I'm much more at the crossdresser end than toward transition. But one thing I can't deny: my transgender needs/desires/self is at the core of my being. They are inherent and immutable. I can't be "cured" of them through therapy, suppression, or denial.
On the Significant Other's side her feelings are no less valid and no doubt her spouse's disclosures are a surprise and may cause her to question her trust in her husband and her own instincts. That said, however, it seems to me that at least some of the wife's concerns that I listed in my post are derived more from what she's been taught that society expects and approves of.
Let me emphasize that the emotions of both people are equally valid and real. But I think that measured over time, the transgender person's will last longer - forever, if you will - and it's possible that some of the cisgender partner's emotions will wane as she learns that her husband's disclosure doesn't really change anything substantial in their relationship; the changes are largely superficial. And with time and open and loving communication it's possible that the cisgender partner may come to realize that her husband's statement "It's no big deal" is more true than she thought initially.
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:
I'm using feminine pronouns for the husband, which is the polite/supportive thing to do for her;
My apologies to my FTM brethren as I'm only talking here about the husband being the transgender person.
Now with that behind us let's dig in! I'm first considering it from my perspective. (It's my blog, I get to choose who goes first. ) When I think of my crossdressing as "no big deal" here's some my reasoning:
It's just clothes after all, at least in the privacy of our own home. Who cares if I'm dressing in feminine finery?
My therapists have also said that it shouldn't be a big deal.
I wish my wife could also treat it as no big deal because then I'd feel better about myself. As it is I feel like there is a winner and a loser, and we should both be able to win.
I am and will stay faithful to my wife and am confident that I will not stray no matter what.
I still am the person she fell in love with at my core. Shouldn't she feel happy that I'm "finding myself" and support me?
Okay fine, let's consider what might be going on in my wife's mind for whom it seems to be a Very Big Deal indeed.
She was socialized to be the pretty one in relationships and society, to wear feminine clothing and be feminine. If I'm feminine too, where does that leave her? Should she now consider herself to be a lesbian?
I think it's known that cisgender women may judge each other pretty harshly at times, and "their man" may be a proxy for her success as a woman. What does it mean if he crossdresses (privately or not)? Is it because of some failing of the wife's?
Although we know that gender orientation isn't correlated or the same as sexual orientation, my wife is still concerned that in the euphoria of the moment (aka "Pink Fog") I might be tempted to experiment.
Who's to say that I might so enjoy crossdressing that I find myself inexorably drawn to Gender Affirmation hormones and/or surgery?
How will this affect our sex life? Will we even have a sex life going forward? And if not, why should I accept that?
If our marriage/relationship needs to dissolve, how will I explain this to my family and friends?
Oh my goodness: the scale is leaning so heavily toward my wife. Maybe I'm just being negative. I am sure there are missing points in both my and my wife's sections. Please feel free to post your thoughts on all this.
Regardless of whether you agree with what I wrote or not I think it always comes down to communication between ourselves and our partners. Easy for me to say but I think my wife and I are making some progress. Yeah!
I wish you a safe New Years celebration and a thoroughly wonderful and fulfilling 2015,
What a month it’s been. It started off pretty low for me when my wife and I met with our therapist. I gave them a very open update and my wife was terribly upset. Assuming the worst (which I’m quite good at doing) I was sure that she was going to want a divorce. Thankfully she didn’t. She apologized for her reaction and assured me that she supports my explorations. Remembering those days even now still causes me pain. It’s also diminished my enthusiasm and I’ve felt drawn back into the closet.
That said, though, my wife encouraged (in some ways demanded) that I find a transgender support group to attend. I learned that a “support group” is one that is led by a therapist or mental health professional. Surprisingly, I found it hard to find one, but I received some help and was successful. The first meeting I’ll attend is on January 8th.
My older son gave me the book “Fully Present” as a Christmas present. It’s about the science, art, and practice of Mindfulness Meditation. I’d known about this practice for years and it was recommended to me but I was kind of reluctant to study it. I guess I was (and am) afraid that I won’t be able to “do it” which, yeah, sounds kind of silly. Anyway, I am slowly and patiently reading the book and it does seem like an ideal combination of science, art, and practice – just like they said. This morning I read, “The basic tenet of mindfulness and science is to observe things as they are.” And, “In the spirit of self-discovery, we invite you to attempt meditation with a very scientific attitude – one of scientific exploration.” Wow, does that speak to me!
I’ve been thinking over the past few days about what I might write here. I like the idea of having a monthly report like this but what should I do? Perhaps keep a running list of questions that I want to explore on my journey with therapists, groups, meditation, and my friends here at TG Guide:
Am I “merely” addicted to the endorphin jolt I receive at times when I wear female clothing? I do like it, that’s for sure. And if it’s an “addiction,” should I attend some sort of 12-step program for it? I don’t think this is the case for me but one has to wonder at times.
If I receive the truly unconditional love and acceptance I need from my wife will my transgender desires/needs evaporate or extinguish? I do really want the former but doubt the latter – as much as I would like it to be true.
What will it take for me to ever achieve peace and acceptance with myself?
My hypothesis these days is that when I was a toddler that my mother rejected me, I looked around and from what I could see, girls were the ones that are loved, accepted, and celebrated. They wore dresses and skirts so that’s what I wanted to. But, maybe my mother was “just” reacting to my desires for girlish things? (Which came first, the chicken or the egg?)
Anyway, I wish everyone here at TG Guide a wonderful and prosperous New Year. I love you all.
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.
Had a meeting with my therapist this afternoon. It went fine - he's terrific. Need to continue to explore myself...
Started by telling him that I’m feeling some sadness and ambivalence lately. The excitement of the gender euphoria has died down and I’m left with the enormity of wondering what to do, where I’ll end up, and how my life is going to be affected.
I’ve read a lot about transgender and its definition. The first sentence in Wikipedia’s definition is: “Transgender is the state of one's gender identity or gender expression not matching one's assigned sex.” It occurs to me that although when I see women/girls now and wish I was one this doesn't necessarily mean that my gender identity is not matching my assigned sex. And with that data point combined with my ambivalence I’m thinking now that I do not need to change my sex to match my gender. Some might say that’s a good thing but I’m less sure. I feel it would be better to know that my assigned sex doesn’t match my gender. At least, then, I’d know what I need to do. Instead I’m stuck in the middle, unsure of what will satisfy me.
Over that last week or so I had started to wonder if I really am transgender. After all, if I don’t fit with the Wikipedia definition (and we know they are always right!)… But transgender is an umbrella term that covers a wide range. I found a great “Trans Blog” by Angus "Andrea" Grieve-Smith (http://transblog.grieve-smith.com) that I recommend. Her insights and writing are excellent. For example, she wrote (http://transblog.gri...nd-actions-iii/):
“…most of us under the “transgender umbrella” – transvestites, transsexuals, genderqueer, non-binary, drag queens, butch lesbians and all the others – all feel either gender dysphoria or transgender desire, or both. Our interpretations of these feelings may be different. But more importantly, there are a wide variety of possible actions in response to those feelings, and none of those actions are more automatic or necessary than any other.”
Thus, with her definition – which I believe is better said than Wikipedia’s – transgender includes me, and I’m okay with that.
My therapist then suggested that when I see a woman on the street that I wish I was her. I told him that on one level that’s correct but that there is a much larger sense. Truly, I wish I had had her whole experience, growing up as a little girl, being a Brownie and then a Girl Scout, taking ballet lessons, and going through school, puberty, and emerging as a young adult woman. That’s what I think deep down. And I know that’s a fantasy of course, so that longing is also a bit saddening.
He then asked me what I know I want. Here’s some answers:
1. I want my marriage with my wife to continue and deepen.
2. I want my wife and I to be able to be 100% open with each other at least in the privacy of our home. As it is now, I have to hide my (growing) collection of feminine clothing at all times, which is very similar to remaining closeted.
3. I want to be sexual with my wife (only) which may mean making love with me also expressing as a woman, but also as a man – but that is dependent on my not living under the cloud of non-acceptance from her.
These days I am feeling lots more calm and less defensive than before I came out to my therapist and to my wife. It’s as if I always had this delicate house of cards constructed to hide my innermost feelings and shame, and when that house was shaken by criticism (real or imagined) or anything, I reacted emotionally to protect myself and my house of cards. That’s less urgent now that I’ve come out more with the real me.
But the problem remains that I need to feel my wife’s full acceptance and support, without raised eyebrows or negative comments. Like if I buy a new dress she would say, “Let’s see it on you!” with some enthusiasm. Or, if I was dressed, we could watch TV or do whatever, together. We are very far from that ideal right now and it’s not at all clear that we will get there, which adds a lot of stress and uncertainty for me now.
Lastly, I feel very alone and lonely. Besides my therapist and my friends here at TG Guide, there is no one else for me to talk to. I’d just like to hang out and have a dinner, maybe a glass of wine, and be able to be open and be me – whatever that is. Goodness knows I’ll be even lonelier if my wife and I were to separate, so that’s a big concern too.
I do plan on attending a TG (MTF only, I think) support group next Wednesday evening in San Jose. I’ll “go as I am” in male-mode which I’ve been assured that is okay. I do need to tell my wife about this; will do that in a day or two.
At this point I’m glad I met with my therapist but I’m tired and have a headache. I’ll take two aspirin and call in the morning…
Photo: an eagle in Norway, having snagged the chum and taking off for who knows where, to chow down on it.
My next one-on-one appointment with my therapist is this coming Wednesday afternoon. During the week before I consider what we might talk about even though it often seems that we end up talking about something completely different. I suppose I want to be sure that I’m able to take advantage of the time and money spent. I want to extract every last bit of help that I can get.
I keep a tally in my iPhone of thoughts and ideas. Here’s the current running list:
I remember being so sad and terrified when, as a young child, I did something – anything – wrong. Sad that I had again disappointed my mother and scared of the punishment.
After last week’s couples appointment with my therapist my wife told a gay friend of hers, and the mother of a young woman friend of hers, about what I disclosed to my wife, that I am transgender. In years past I would have been devastated to hear that anyone knew, that they would think me weird, and that I might run in to them. Now it doesn’t seem to matter and, in some ways, I’m kind of pleased that my wife is reaching out.
Sometimes, these days, I feel pretty alone and needy. I only have my therapist to talk to openly as well as my friends here at TG Guide. I compulsively check what’s happening here and whether I have any messages several times a day.
With my wife I’m more calm and self-connected than I have been in years. I’m stroking her, helpful, and we’re are very close. I think she likes this but I can see that she stops short as she thinks of my revelations.
I ordered a dress, tights, and a slip on Amazon this week that I expect to arrive in a couple of days. Imagine that, a slip. Well, I want the dress’s skirt to flow and not get all bunched up. I researched it all a lot and chose carefully. But as I wait for the delivery I keep wondering if I’m completely nuts.
I’m having trouble focusing on much other than transgender stuff. Reading whatever I can find on the Internet, here on TG Guide, etc. I feel I should also be studying on some unrelated topics that used to fascinate me but I find it impossible.
We have a couple of small watercolor paintings hanging in our bathroom showing scenes of young, pretty women, in pastoral Italy. It seems so obvious to me that anyone looking at these women would want to be like them. But I know that 99.9% of men would not and would think I’m crazy for even thinking of it.
Regardless of whether or not my transgender diagnosis is accurate (and I really think it is) is it okay? What makes it “right?” On Sunday mornings my wife and I go to a local pastry shop for coffee, a light breakfast, and to read the paper together. This morning she looked me in the eye and told me how much she loves me. We both show our sadness to each other at these times.
Geez, a lot to talk about this Wednesday and I still have three days to consider more topics. And then, of course, there’s also all the stuff I wrote in my “progress report” a couple of days ago. I’m overthinking but it seems impossible to stop.
Photo: The Zambezi River, Botswana, at dusk, a couple of years ago. Not good for swimming; many crocodiles.
I have experienced so much in the last month, coming closer to myself, coming out to my wife, participating in TG Guide. Maybe it will help me (and others, I hope) to review and express my gratitude for my progress. Here’s some of what I’ve learned:
My fantasy outcomes are just that, fantasies.
The fantasies I’m talking about are the ones having to do with my wife’s unconditional acceptance of me, dressing how I wish, being fully open to my awakening, even cuddling together. It saddens me a bit that this hasn’t come to pass and I’ll still dream of it, but we have a long way to get there if we ever do.
My wife’s feelings are valid.
Much as I’d like to stand on “what’s the big deal?” and that she should more quickly accept me because my femininity on the inside has always made up an important part of who she fell in love with, if it’s a big deal to her, it is, and that’s okay. My job now is to be patient, kind, and stay connected to her as we both navigate these uncharted waters.
I’m lucky and grateful to have her for my wife.
Coming out to her has been terribly hard. Her intense dismay and hurt are so hard to bear, and I automatically descend into depression, shame, and wishing I could just disappear. She’s really trying, is listening more and more, and expresses the same hope that I do that our relationship and lives will survive this. Neither of us knows if our marriage will survive but we’re trying.
I wish there was a cure or antidote for my being transgender.
Goodness knows, over the decades I’ve tried to ignore it, bury it, rationalize it away, purge, and dilute it with immersion in work and busy-ness. I know now that I am what I am. It’s hard to accept but the more that I do the freer and less stressed and threatened I feel.
“Transition” has many definitions; most would say it’s living full-time in the opposite role, probably at least leading to HRT and gender affirming surgery.
For me, my transition which has been pretty profound is more about my awakening and acceptance of my transgender self as well as my full disclosure to my wife. The full transition I hope for now is for my wife and I to move to an even more loving stage in our marriage. I think we’re at least and at last heading in the right direction.
My authenticity to myself and my wife has relieved a huge weight off my shoulders.
As hard and scary as it’s been, I feel such a tangible relief from depression and fear. I’ve always been conscious of my monitoring of my interactions with others, if “I’m doing it right,” or if they might be able to discern what I’m hiding. This was so exhausting and I often complained of being “so very tired.” No wonder I felt that way. I was like a spy living in deep cover always on the alert for enemy detection and my destruction. Now, so much of that has been relieved.
I am real, I am valid, I am good.
That’s hard to say and sometimes to believe. Maybe through repetition it will sink in more.
Thank you for listening to me and being here for me,
Remember the Seinfeld episode when Jerry's father kept yelling "Serenity now!" when he was upset and about to lose it? Very funny show.
I'm not very religious and don't attend church.. I was raised Episcopalian, attended a church school for 6th and 7th grades, and my parents often had us recite the Serenity Prayer or the Lords Prayer before dinner. I think the prayer was for my benefit... I remember how earnestly I repeated the words in the Serenity Prayer, hoping that my emphasis would gain me that serenity that I wanted so much. It never seemed to work although I suppose we might speculate on how I would have been had I not said those words at all.
These days the Serenity Prayer has come to mind a few times. I think it's a wonderful prayer and says so much in only a few words:
Lord, grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change
The courage to change the things I can
And the wisdom to know the difference.
Each of these four lines says so much and they are hard to achieve. I would like more serenity. I think I'm getting better at accepting the things I cannot change, such as:
- I was born male.
- I am transgender.
- I cannot control my wife's acceptance or behavior toward me.
In the third line I'm starting to understand why my therapist (and even my wife) have said that I'm being courageous. I didn't really believe it, but I suppose I am demonstrating that:
- I'm coming out to myself and acknowledging my being transgender.
- I'm coming out to my therapist (which was damned hard).
- I'm coming out to my wife.
- Heck, I'm even coming out here. That was hard at first. I worried a lot about saying the wrong thing, or creating misunderstandings.
I suppose that by listing the things in the acceptance and change buckets one develops the wisdom to know the difference. Maybe the thing to do is to consider things that I'm now not able to distinguish. I'll have to think about that a bit.
I'm not sure if this is a good idea to post. I don't like writing this because it's such a problem for me, it's a downer. But hey, maybe that's why they call it a "blog" so here goes.
My wife was very upset at our last couples' therapy meeting, where I spelled out more details of my being transgender and asked for her support and offered some safe (to my mind) ways for us to explore and learn together. My hope was that she'd follow her heart and maybe through this exploration she'd gain knowledge that would help rationalize and conquer her fears. That fell flat.
Last night she returned home after seeing her therapist and her psychiatrist, and told me that she was so upset that I am transexual. I told her no, I don't have current plans or forecast of changing my sex; that I'm transgender. We got into the definitions a bit, but TG is still scary since its definition includes TS. She told me that while she's not looking for divorce right now she needs space and distance, so I will stay in our guest room for the foreseeable future, which I did last night.
While we moved around each other this morning I decided that I would not mope. While I felt entirely justified I also feel that if she's having to contend with that it would simply cloud things for her. Regardless, I'm not all sweetness and light but I did crack a couple of humorous plays on words that we both smiled at.
When she left for work she gave me a quick kiss - which is more than last night. No "I love you" or hug, but it was something. She said we might "talk more" tonight and as I drove to the coffee shop I fretted a bit. What does "talk more" mean, exactly? What topics? What questions? What answers should I try to think through to be prepared?
I tend to freeze up when I feel threatened in conversations like these, so I try to be prepared. I fear that my freezing (which translates into inability to answer a question cogently and right away) makes me look disingenuous or calculating, or at the least, we lose momentum in the conversation.
I try to prepare. But it's hard to answer some questions even when I know the answers. I still find it hard to vocalize that I'm transgender. There, I said it. Please don't hate me.
I even find it hard to convincingly say that I don't see myself as transexual. This is true as far as I know now, but in the future? Clearly, my crystal ball is cloudy.
And what do I want right now from her? First and foremost, some big hugs and kisses. But also a stop to the Don't Ask Don't Tell policy which for us means that in no uncertain terms am I not allowed to show her any of my clothing or me in it. Not that that would be easy for me either. But the lack of acceptance (and disgust?) communicated by that directive hurts. A lot.
I tend to display my soft underbelly, by communicating as openly as I can which includes listening carefully as if through that my wife and others will at least respect my vulnerability, and in their humanity will open up to me. That's getting harder to do these days.
My therapist advises that I need to display leadership, bravery, calm. That through this my wife's anxieties will at least not be amplified and perhaps will even help settle them a bit. Well, there's little doubt that what I've done before hasn't worked so it makes sense to try something different. Repeating the same things that haven't worked and expecting a different outcome is the definition of crazy, no?
I am a good person. Created in God's image. Struggling to find and be myself while not tearing my life apart.
I trust that my wife sees this too, that she loves me, and wants to find a way for all this to work out. I think I also need to believe that she's also embroiled in her own panic mode which makes it hard for her to communicate too.
I trust that our therapists will help us navigate these choppy waters.
Without trust, what is there?
Have you heard of Cheryl Strayed, who has a column called "Dear Sugar?" If not, I suggest you find out about her. Check out her book "Tiny Beautiful Things." In hindsight I wish I'd included it in my Suggested Reading post. Below is a letter to her and her response. (I didn't really send it, but it's in tune with others in her book.) I'll also add that I wrote this about a year ago. I'm posting it now to reinforce my positive feelings in myself and, I hope it might help others.
My wife (I'll call her Mary) and I have been meeting with a therapist for over a year. It started out with only me seeing him, because although Mary and I have a great relationship and love each other very much, I'd lost interest in sex, was depressed, and Mary encouraged me to try - yet again - to get to the bottom of it.
The main issue it seems is that I've been fascinated and ashamed of my fascination with girls and girly things since I was very small, which led to sexual fantasies and fixations that I've not been able to shake off. I told Mary about it a couple of times in the past and it pretty much shocked and disheartened her, so I rapidly withdrew into my shell.
Now, though, we're talking about it more openly in our therapy meetings. I'm still quite sensitive about it (notice I'm calling it "it"), and pulling details out of me is tough. Despite Mary's recent assurances of her love and acceptance I get worried.
I suppose I don't really trust her acceptance. I wouldn't blame her at all if, even hidden deep down, she wonders about how strange this all is. Might lead to all kinds of awkward and embarrassing moments for her. And, even if her acceptance is sincere, my shame makes it hard for me to accept her acceptance.
You see, Sugar, I know I would appear pretty silly in female clothing without a lot of help and preparation. And even if I looked acceptable, where is all this going to lead? What do I really want?
At the extreme let's say that I dress up and through practice and experience, learn to blend into society as a woman. I can go out and about, shop, doing whatever I want in public. Is that the goal? I don't think so since at the end I'm still me, unhappy in my own skin - or at least not loved by me.
Do I want to be female? No, but there are times I wish I'd been born one. Perhaps then I could be me, happy? But I know that the grass isn't so much greener over there. Most would say my grass is already lush, green and well trimmed now.
I really hate and am impatient with myself at times like this, and try to push feelings away. I don't know what to do to get better, and on top of my shame of myself in general I'm also ashamed that I even need to go see a therapist. I'm so sensitive, scared, and tired of living like this. I know you're going to say that I need to love the one I'm with (me). Maybe so but I've not figured out how.
Screwed Up in the Bay Area
Dear Screwed Up,
Let's say you're playing poker and you were dealt two pairs, and a pretty good hand at that: kings and tens. Your other card is a queen. And not just any queen, it's the queen of hearts, the girliest card in the deck. What do you do? Throw in the queen hoping for a full house? Probably, since I'll bet you know how to play poker. But what if you then pulled the queen of diamonds? How might your hand have played out differently if you'd held that queen of hearts and played your hand another way? Answer: nothing, zilch, nada. Like it or not, you'd still be you.
Look, honeypie, I can tell you've been around the block on this quite a few times. But mostly it's all been running around in your head, keeping you small and in hiding. Keep talking and opening up to Mary and your therapist.
And I can also tell that you put your marriage with yourself on hold many moons ago, too. As if you're sleeping in separate bedrooms, sniping at each other, or not talking at all. Self-divorce isn't an option. You need to patch up your relationship with yourself. Get to know each other. Take yourself out on date nights. Become as fascinated with yourself as you are with things girly.
Sugar loves you, and I'm sure Mary and your therapist and many others do too. You do need to learn to love the one you're with. It starts there.
Photo: Another pair of pretty birds in that park in South Africa.
According to Google, the definition of transition is: "the process or period of changing from one state or condition to another." In the context of transgender, my sense is that it means moving toward a more final condition of living full time, HRT, and quite possibly, surgery. If you don't mind, I'd like to put a finer point on it and hear some feedback.
In my career in high-tech marketing/sales we often used the phrase "we don't know what we don't know" to underscore our lack of understanding that would develop as we explored further. I think I'm there now. I have my doubts that I'll want/need HRT or SRS but I don't know what I don't know because I'm so early in my exploration. I trust that with experience I'll gain insights that will make this more clear for me. I admit I'm frightened.
But long before profound changes like HRT/SRS there are other important transitions. Probably lots of them, but here's a couple:
* Coming out to my therapist. Gee, that one took me >3 decades. Wow!
* Accepting myself. Because of my therapist's wonderful support, friends and information here and elsewhere, I'm "getting it." But I still have times when I wonder...
* Openly talking with my lovely wife. This is hard to do. She didn't sign up to this when we married. I know she loves me dearly but one has to wonder what her breaking point will be. We're in the middle of this now.
And there are others, like going out and having a good time, in private, and making friends. Going out in public and achieving confidence and presence. Letting my family, neighbors, and friends know.
So, I don't think there is such a thing as a singular "transition." I believe it's a continuum. But I am a newbie in many ways and am open to discussion and correction. I'd love to hear your thoughts.
Photo: Some years ago we visited Rodin's Museum in Paris. It was a cold day in January, and wow, The Thinker was right outside! Seems like an appropriate photo for today's post.
I've been feeling a little blue today. Like yesterday I'm questioning myself and have a lot of fearful thoughts in my head that are hard to fight. I subscribe to emails from Leo Babauta, who writes on his site Zen Habits. He's a neat guy, with a lot of good suggestions. Just now I saw this email from him, which I copied directly below. I hope/assume he'd be okay with my doing this since I'm attributing it all to him.
He didn't write this with people dealing with TG issues like me in mind. But the wisdom and insights apply, I think. I hope it helps me and you.
Pushing Past the Terrifying Dip in Motivation
My son, who is officially an adult in a matter of days, is facing a small crisis: the project he’s working on is not going well, and he’s ready to give up not only on the project but the career he was excited about not too long ago.
I can feel the horrible mixture of discouragement, disappointment, difficulty, despair he must be feeling, because I’ve felt it too.
I’ve felt this punch in the gut whenever projects or new ventures didn’t go well.
I’ve given up, and felt the disappointment in myself.
And I’ve pushed through this discouragement, and felt so much better. Pushing through was always better.
So I’m here to talk about how I push past what Seth Godin calls The Dip — that slump that we all hit when things get hard, which is (sometimes) before the place where things get great.
How do we know if we’re in a slump or if we should just quit? We don’t. There’s no way to know the future. There are times when there are a bunch of good indicators that you should quit — customers aren’t responding, the market doesn’t support your work, there are better opportunities. But the feeling you have when you’re in a dip is not a good indicator that it’s time to quit.
The feeling wants you to quit, but often you shouldn’t. Because if you do, you’ll never get great at anything.
How to Push Through
What do you do if you’re demotivated and disappointed? If things aren’t going well and you want to give up because they’re so hard? When you’re confused and overwhelmed?
This is the time when you can show yourself what you’re made of: you can brace yourself for a heavy load, put your head down, and push, like you’re trying to lift the barbell at the bottom of a heavy squat.
How do you push through when you don’t feel motivated?
You start moving. Take just one step, any step, a tiny step. Movement begets movement. Once you start moving, even a little, you feel better, you see that you’re capable, you want to move more.
You embrace the uncertainty and discomfort. Lots of people avoid these two things, but without them, you never get good at anything. You never learn anything worthwhile. Embrace these things and grow.
You do it not for success or some end goal, but for the sake of learning.
You do it because you’re tired of being in the pain of disappointment and regret. You want to get out of this dark hole, because staying in it sucks.
You start moving because you don’t want to let your life be ruled by fear. You don’t want to give up every time you face resistance.
You let yourself be moved by curiosity: wanting to know what it’s like to get past this, to push through discomfort. You want to find out how this chapter ends. You want to learn more about yourself.
You do it because you want to build trust in yourself, and you realize that there’s nothing more important right now than that.
You pause and remind yourself of the reason you started in the first place: it’s not for personal success but to help people, to strengthen yourself, to inspire others, to make someone’s life a little better, to put a smile on your face. And then you ask yourself: which is more important, this reason for doing this project, or your personal comfort? And you realize that your personal comfort matters little in this case.
You push through because every time you face uncertainty and discomfort in the future, you want to know you’re good enough to push through.
Take the first step right now, without thought, without hesitation. You have it in you.
Photo: a foggy morning in Kirkenes, Finland, which is near the northernmost area, well above the Arctic Circle.
When I wrote my blog post about the "breaking of my fever" I asked myself if I was only experiencing the rush of gender euphoria. You know, that feeling of infatuation for a new love where you're so enthralled with finding the perfect soul mate... and you've only known them for a week or two. So, if my enthusiasm has waned even a bit, does this mean my journey is starting in the wrong direction?
There are plenty of times when I reflect:
Am I merely finding joy in exploring a childhood fantasy?
Am I rationalizing or justifying my erotic desires?
My God, I have so much, a wonderful partner and we share a wonderful life. What if I hurt this irrevocably?
When I look back on this time am I going to have terrible regrets?
Sure, I should just check into that Mindful Meditation Zen place and focus on the now, let the future take care of itself. Easy to say, harder to do.
What to do? I recall Riley in the 20/20 show I posted about, the 11 year old transgirl. And the other girls there and in Just Gender. Let's face it, they're me and I'm them. But I also remember liking to play with slot cars, train sets, and building models of airplanes and ships. Maybe there's a happy medium for me in the gender spectrum. Probably is, I just need to find it.
In the meantime I need to stay the course. It's been too many years drifting without a compass, unbearably unhappy, wondering what the hell was wrong with me but deep down knowing. I guess we all experience ambivalence at times. It's part of life. As transgenderism is part of mine.
Photo: Took this shot of a giraffe in Zimbabwe, I think. When we first arrived in South Africa I was shooting everything that moved. After two weeks, not as many shots. "Oh yeah? Another giraffe? Okay, thanks. I'll continue reading my book."
The documentary Just Gender has a short clip from a Barbara Walters 20/20 episode titled "My Secret Self: A Story of Transgender Children." You can (and I believe should) watch it here:
One scene shows an 11-year old transgirl, Riley, with Barbara Walters. Riley is fully a girl on the outside and attends school as a girl although she must use the nurse's restroom. The school and students know she is biologically male and she is the brunt of childish teasing. When Barbara asks her how she feels when she's teased, her face crumples into such profound sadness and she starts crying. That touched me so deeply, from within my core. I just started crying too as I am starting to do now as I remember it.
Elsewhere in the program, Barbara interviews the parents and their trans daughter, Jazz. Jazz's mother said "all of the younger male-to-female younger transgender children are obsessed with mermaids." Geez, I was too. I studied them in the movies, books, and cartoons so thoroughly. I really wanted to be a mermaid.
While I found Just Gender to be extraordinary in its scope and depth, and I recommend it highly, this 20/20 program brought it all home for me. I really am transgender and always have been. It's not a phase, it's not sexual, it just is what it is, which is me.
It helps me to talk about these topics here and I hope it will help others, too. I considered sharing some of my other pre-pubescent fantasies here to underscore this but I think you get the point. I really wanted to be a girl.
Photo: Just outside Cape Town, South Africa is a marvelous bird sanctuary called World of Birds. It spans acres and has thousands of birds. It's fenced in with mesh (the height is maybe forty or fifty feet above the ground) so visitors just wander through. I don't know what this bird is called but it's very pretty, isn't it?
I found this poem in my father's papers a few years ago after he passed away. And I found it again yesterday as I was (finally!) going through everything, trying to tidy things up. The poem really touches my heart and I think it's perfect for us here.
Living the Dash
I read of a man who stood to speak
At the funeral of a friend.
He referred to the dates on her tombstone
From the beginning... to the end.
He noted that first came her date of birth
And spoke the following date with tears.
But what he said mattered most of all
Was the dash between those years.
For that dash represents all the time
That she spent alive on earth...
And now only those who loved her
Know what that little line is worth.
For it matters not, how much we own;
The cars... the house... the cash.
What matters most is how we live and love
And how we spend our dash.
So think about this long and hard...
Are there things you'd like to change?
For you never know how much time is left,
That can still be arranged.
If we could all just slow down enough
To consider what's true and real.
And always try to understand
The way other people feel.
And be less quick to anger,
And show appreciation more.
And love the people in our lives
Like we've never loved before.
If we treat each other with respect,
And more often wear a smile.
Remembering that this special dash
Might only last a little while.
So, when your eulogy's being read
With your life's actions to rehash...
Would you be proud of the things they say
About how you spent your dash?
Photo: I like to have at least a small connection between the photo and the blog posting and I'm not sure I'm achieving that now. But I'm starting to run low on photos! Anyway, this is one I took on a Norwegian fjord several years ago. Besides the scenery, which is remarkable and awesome, I really liked the image of a single small boat with two people in such an immense space. I guess it's a bit like living the dash in that we do at times feel like we're pushing out into the unknown. Hopefully we have someone to share it with, like the pair in this boat.
"JUST GENDER tackles the all too often misunderstood world of transgender. The film explores the common myths and misunderstandings about transgendered people, as well as the confusion between sexual orientation and gender identity as reflected in the rigid binary view of the world generally held by society. JUST GENDER also touches on the discrimination, hardships and brutality resulting from those misconceptions and prejudices, including the numerous deaths caused by hate each year. Through the stories of transgender individuals and their spouses, friends, and allies, the film explores the confusion, the isolation, and the fear felt by many transgender persons. It also reveals their growing awareness and acceptance, and ultimately their joy in blossoming comfort as transgendered persons."
I learned about this movie/documentary recently in the Transgender section of the Huffington Post. (Which, by the way, is excellent.) And I watched it last night. About 90 minutes long, they address many issues and questions, with transmen and transwomen and other professionals as spokespeople, that I have, my wife has, and have been raised here and elsewhere. It was very well done and in my opinion valuable for anyone, TG or not, to watch. It does cost $9.95 but it's great that you can download it to your computer so you'll have it forever.
It may be too soon to be sure but at least it feels that way. For the last 50 years I feel like I’ve had a fever that ranged from slightly above normal to scarlet, along with raging shame, depression, and self-loathing. I can’t fully express how weird it is to be writing this now with my head clear. I’m transgender, I know it, I love it, and I’m happy.
(Postscript edit: I heard from Monica that she thought I was actually recovering from a fever. No, I thought it was a handy metaphor for the feeling we all get when we know we're starting to get "better" if you know what I mean. Sorry if I caused any confusion!)
I found this video last night, where Laura Jane Grace (whom I admit I’d never heard of before) and others tell about their gender dysphoria:
It’s not like I’ve never heard this stuff before, those feelings of wanting to play with the girls, share in the expression of their girlhood. I know it about myself, remembering from about four or five that, like Laura said, “I was too young to know what it is, so it turns to shame. And if you were to express those feelings to someone else, you’d be shamed for it.” But hearing her say it in the video really spoke to me so that I feel like I really did hear it internally. It’s not BS, it’s not at all bad. It’s me.
Wow, what a beautiful day.
Photo: I found this little hole-in-the-wall restaurant in Osaka, Japan, that features Kobe beef cooked right in front of you, along with sake and other goodies. The name of the restaurant really caught my attention: "CowCow". I ate there a couple of times and the owner introduced me to sake that has tiny flakes of gold. But to see them you have to swish it around in the glass to stir them up.