Wednesday, March 31, 2010
I was at some kind of crowded banquet with my Aunt, and I noticed how she had grown taller than me, like my neice. When I commented, "You've grown!" she replied, "Yes, I have," and a smile lit up her face.
At that moment, I noticed what I was wearing wouldn't do. I had on a dress combination with something else, and needed something more appropriate. I told my Aunt I needed to change. She said, "Me, too," and we headed for the restroom. She went in, and I couldn't. She suggested I try a particular shop.
I found myself standing in front of a clerk at a register who offered to help me with my outfit. When she started putting the pieces together, I saw that it was a green cap and gown for graduation. When I told her that was not right, she said she knew just the thing, and she handed me what looked like a car remote and told me to go get what that unlocked on the B-level.
I found myself standing outside in a multilayer parking area with the key in my hand. To my right was a small shack that I assumed was used by the staff who managed the parking area. I didn't see any cars, until I looked at my feet and saw chains with padlocks protruding from the ice on which I was standing, locking cars under the frozen layer.
I proceeded up the ramp and saw a sign that read A-level, so I headed back down to the B-level. As I walked toward the abandoned hut, someone called on the key. When I answered, I heard, "Are you going through complete sex reassignment? Grab your thumb and pull it. Relax. We will take care of everything for you including the bush area."
Then the alarm went off. And I was left pondering what all that meant.
I've tried it this morning. gripping the left thumb and pulling does induce calm. I'll have to try it later when I'm feeling really anxious.
I have a lot to interpret from this dream, but I have figured some out already. My aunt and neice have grown spiritually recently. I need to commend them on their growth. The key to my transition is to relax; to that end, I was given a simple technique to help. As for the rest, I still don't know, other than, what you need and what the key unlocks is not what you think.
Hugs and God Bless,
Tuesday, March 30, 2010
"I just encourage everyone out there to be their wildest, deepest, compassionate selves!" he says so enthusiastically that it is hard to imagine any other solution to the problems of the world.
- Hilary Hart, The Unknown She
There is a trend I'm seeing that is very disturbing, perhaps even more so as I approach coming out at work in just a few weeks. I seem to be hearing more cases in which someone who transitioned, either committed suicide or de-transitioned and committed suicide. Even considering that changing genders is probably the most difficult transition in the world, this shouldn't be happening.
Suicide, anyway, should be out. It may be that the person transitioning has a fantasy of how great their life will be, and is so discouraged to find out everything is so hard, or is not ready to lose everything. It may be that she went from a part-time crossdresser to out on the job, not having learned how to navigate female space. It could be that she was of the opinion that she'd rather die than live one more day as a man.
Whatever the reason, any tendency to morosely consider taking one's own life in the event of frustration should be dealt with before someone takes the final steps to live in their true gender. This is why we have WPATH. This is why we have standards of care. For such a drastic change in life, it must be taken in manageable chunks. If your counselor rushes you to transition, thinking the sooner the better, she is offering you bad advice.
Transgendered people, especially transsexuals are survivors. They need to acknowledge it in themselves, and admit that suicide is not, nor has it ever been an option.
People who successfully transition invariably use a few common principles:
- Learn to accept who they are and be proud of it.
- Take time to be comfortable at each stage before moving on.
- Work through successively larger closets. For instance, I met with crossdressers and transsexuals only first, then began to hang out at GLBT places, started attending a church that had straight people and GLBT people, and then started taking dancing classes at location that was mostly straight.
- Increase self-time incrementally. I began early on making experimental forays to Walmart, restaurants and other places going to and from support meetings. Eventually, I started attending a new church as myself, and identified only using my preferred name. I started doing activities outside of the church, and was feeling progressively less anxious and more comfortable with myself. When I lost my job and moved to Kentucky, I made the commitment to be myself where possible outside of work. I experienced both the good and bad of being female, and found myself more resolved. I am ready to transition on the job now, because I know it will be easier, I have community outside of my work, it seems natural and I changed my name over a month ago. I already reposted my resume under my new name, and have gotten a local company's interest, who interested if my transition doesn't work out at my company.
Hugs and God Bless,
The hourglass shape in the marble tiles
Threatens to expose the lie
I so precariously hold
In the men's bathroom.
I check my look in the vanity.
The gold colored men's golf shirt and slacks
Still hold the illusion of my shape,
But a quick look down
And I can see the rise on my chest,
Feel the tension against the jogging bra,
An itch waiting for me to rub.
The soft, slight stubble,
What the laser has so far left behind,
Unshaven since last night,
Helps conceal the soft skin of my face,
Draws attention from my long blonde hair,
That now femininely frames my face,
In soft gentle curves.
Remnants of eyeliner and mascara,
Shadows that shape my eyes,
And a slighty pinkish hue to my lips
From the lipstick that did not wash completely off
Gives my face a
I can almost count the days,
Sir will be replaced with Ma'am,
My secret will be one no more,
And my silhouette will grace the wall
Of the bathroom next door.
Sunday, March 28, 2010
The teachings act not so much as an introduction to a new body of knowledge, but more like memory triggers into the dynamics and understandings of a larger field of consciousness in which we all participate.
- Karen Berggren, Circle of Shaman
This is now a third-hand evaluation, Jamiegotagun published in her blog entry Much Ado... that there is a positive spin recognized in Alexandra Billing's blog about the movie Ticked Off Trannies with Knives. Alexandra, who got an advance copy, was impressed that the characters reacted more like women would in a similar situation. There is also a moment that celebrates the transgender status of these women as living between.
The problem is that "tranny" is perceived as a derogatory term filled with stereotypes of mindless sex objects. Any woman reading that would say, "Duh. Welcome to womanhood." There was a time they were regarded as "just a girl," considered worthy only for sex and children. Many men took pleasure in the "conquest." It was so prevalent, it was recorded in our literature. I even remember a time as a child when being called "like a girl" meant you were worthless. As long as women stayed silent in the closet, they had to suffer under it's implications.
Then somewhere along the line, they reclaimed the term "girl." They knew who they were, and when women and girls gradually and fearlessly entered the public spotlight, a few men took notice. And the reclamation proceeded, not so much as a conscious action, but stepping out of the shadow.
In 1969, gay men were also stigmatized by the word, "gay." Starting in the Stonewall riot, when a number of drag queens protested the police raids, gay men began to fearlessly come out of the closet, accepting all the dimensions of themselves. And a few open minded people noticed. Today, gay is a term of celebration of identity and those who would put them back in the closet have had to back off to the term "homosexual."
If "tranny" is derogatory, it's in our power to reclaim it. The women's movement and the gay movement have show us the path. Instead of attacking those who use the term "tranny," we can reclaim it, imbue it with power, and show the world that trannies are men and women, politicians, engineers, scientists, neighbors and friends. We can show that "trannies" have learned how to accept themselves in the face of tremendous struggles with who they are.
And we can't do any of this hiding. Some of us blend in so well to our target gender it is easy to hide. For others, our frame, height or some other feature gives us away. These people have no choice but to represent the true face of transgender people. "
For anyone who complains about the current status of the term, I'm sorry to tell you that reclamation can't be done hiding in the closet, whether it's pre-transition anxiety or "living in stealth."
As a friend of mine told me, "We need to get out their and show our faces. Let the people see how we really are." I would go one step further: "Let them understand us."
It was a tough road to accept, but I do. I'm tranny. Big deal.
Hugs and God Bless,
Saturday, March 27, 2010
I ask Angela to speak a bit about the dangers for women to become abused, to give themselves to love in an unhealthy way. "It is very important to not confuse the vulnerability before God and the acceptance of violation through love with taking abuse from people," she tells me.
- Hilary Hart, The Unknown She
A strange thing just happened to me, and it's not the earrings I'm wearing; but they are related. After I had the pharmacy correct the name on my account and I paid for my prescription, I picked up a pencil sharpener for my lip liner and headed toward the jewelry counter. I was looking to replace the sterling silver paired feather earrings that I had misplaced and never gotten a chance to wear. I wanted to wear them Easter Sunday during my presentation and the following week when I would be presenting an Adult Round Table session on finding your spiritual name.
The hummingbird is my totem, my spirit guide, and I had experienced a vision a couple years ago that I could only wear the earrings when I had earned my feathers. I asked the shaman teaching me what that meant, and he said it meant that I had to learn to trust my spirit guide.
After looking for anything with feathers or hummingbirds, I gave up and asked the attendant, who helped start to scan again. This time, I found a pair of sterling silver hoop earrings with an orange feather dangling in each hoop. This was almost right, but the color was wrong. Then I saw another pair in which the feathers were a bright shade of green. This was the pair, and they were on clearance for 3 dollars.
I paid the attendant for my merchandise, and when I got to the car, I switched out the studs I was wearing for the feathered earrings. I drove off the lot thinking about how I had finally earned the feathers. It's just something instinctual..
As I was merging onto the highway, I couldn't make up my mind to merge before or after the vehicle to my left, so I reached out to my spirit guide and thought, guide me. Instantaneously, I knew the correct path was to merge in front, and was rewarded with observing that the driver was already in the process of opening a gap in front of her. I waved a thank you as she let me by.
There are three spirits that I am in touch with. The first is myself, the observer, the experiential self. The second is my spirit guide, which I can only receive direction from. She seems to be part of me, the intuitive part, that is somehow connected to the connection of all things. She rarely offers wisdom, only immediate direction. The third spirit is the Divine. In my current connection with her, she is all encompassing and compassionate. She offers wisdom and the path I need to take. Both these spirits communicate with me in ambiguous ways, leaving me to interpret through faith what I must do.
I noticed I had missed my exit, and instead of taking the back road home, I was going to be taking the freeway.
Being two-spirit means more than being gay, lesbian, bisexual or transsexual. It has more to do with becoming aware of a personal spirit guide, and letting them provide direction. They are both you and the connection to all things.
I used to think my spirit guide was the embodiment and source of my feminine side. After all, she put the desire for Peace, Love and Joy in my heart when I was only 10 or 11, and seeing the poster in a scholastic book order, I ordered it and hung it on my bedroom wall. These words rang true as my mantra for living long before I heard of the term mantra.
When she presented herself through another hummingbird 30 years later with the same message during the height of my identity quest, I followed the tradition of two-spirit shamanism and accepted her name as my spirit name.
I missed my next exit. I was about to miss another, when I got in the right lane of two left-turning lanes. I started asking my guide, why did you bring me here? What is it you want me to see? Does someone need my help? As I saw a Taco Bell on the right, I thought to my guide, even though I would still like to try the new shrimp taco, I don't need to. Sometimes my guide takes me to something that I need, and wasn't aware of.
As I approached the intersection and stopped at the light, I saw a gray fedora style hat lying brim down on the line between the two turning lanes. I was in a perfect position to just open my door as I was driving by and snag it.
To my left, across the divide, a brown hatchback was stopped, facing the opposite direction. At the rear of the car, an older black gentleman wearing a brown fedora was looking frantically in the open hatch. I asked him if that was his hat out in the intersection, and a look of sudden relief passed over his features.
"I'm not risking my life to get it," he said. I explained how I could easily grab it for him as I drove by, since I was in the perfect position, and swing around to bring it back.
As the light changed green, I carefully drove up to the hat, opening the door and recovering it. While I was doing so, the gentleman closed his hatch, got in the car and drove off in a puff of purplish smoke. The hat was obviously taken care of, because it had a numbered ticket inside attached with a safety pin. There was a bit of water stain and dirt on the hat, which I'm sure came mostly from flying into the intersection.
I drove into the gas station, and scanned across the intersection, waiting for him to return. He never did. After a few minutes, someone honked behind me, and I proceeded the rest of the way home.
If my task was to recover the hat, why did the gentleman leave it behind when I could graciously return it? Did my action somehow answer a question that he had or plant a seed for the future? Or was my task to acquire the hat for someone else who might have a need?
I don't know.
What am I going to do with a gray Fedora-style hat?
Hugs and God Bless,
Friday, March 26, 2010
She danced delicately, she danced frenziedly,
She danced in staccato rhythm and liquid movement,
She danced with pure precision and orgiastic abandon,
She danced gloriously,
She danced holding the wind in her close embrace,
She danced the love and joy of creation.
- Chris Lavdas, "Evrynome--A Story of Creation"
Dance has forever been an unfulfilled passion for me. I so envied the dancer's graceful move across the floor, the seemingly controlled wild abandon, but every move plotted out ahead of time. Yet, I have always been afraid that I would never memorize the sequence of complex moves. I don't have to.
Dance, at least in Swing is a series of cues and responses. The lead learns how to signal the intent, and the follow waits for and interprets his signal with her response. A lift of the hand and a slight back pressure tells her to perform an outside turn. She matches her rhythm to that of her partner on return, and he signals the next move. Perhaps it was and indicator of my gender identity and I thought it was avoiding making the wrong decisions, but I always wanted to follow, never lead.
In actuality, the decisions of the follow can be so more complex. She has to interpret a signal on a moments notice, respond and return to her lead in the basic step. She has so many more places that she can mess up, whilst being spun dizzily on the spur of the moment. And if she does mess up, she has to gracefully recover like nothing went wrong. It's a challenge and I love it.
The dance floor is the perfect place to practice synchronizing yourself with someone else, while still retaining some individuality. As a follow, as you pace yourself to the rhythm of your partner and as you understand his intent, you are drawn into experiencing his world, with little time to pollute the experience by questioning it.
Last night was my fourth installment of the Lindy Hop, and it was an incredible workout. I was drenched in sweat from head to breast, and my thighs and back are still complaining today. It's fun, but tiring. I'm not sure I can survive a whole 3-minute song. Needless to say, it's a great workout.
The following hour, I got more catch-up tips from the 3 gentlemen who danced with me on my Eastern Swing. In my second hour ever, I felt everything going right doing my basic steps and turns. I needed a warm-up on the "push," but it fell into place. When the gentleman who actually did the instruction a couple of months ago took me back out to the dance floor, he decided it was time to start me on a new move. He didn't tell me the name, but it was basically dancing in a lean, and doing 180's.
I dance in high heels instead of comfortable dance shoes, because it feels right. It minimizes the space my size 13 feet (in women's shoes) take up on the floor, and keeps my on my toes, which is proper form for most of the dances. It's better to practice as real as possible to performance anyway. Moreover, I am forced to be more graceful in my steps, and I get a workout on my calves and thighs.
I just can't imagine myself seriously dancing in slacks, either. I love making the skirt dance as a slow counter rhythm, and I've been in love with dancing skirts for decades.
Next week, I foray into the Charleston. I've already been warned it takes more energy than the Lindy Hop.
Hugs and God Bless,
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
It's done. It's published, and I'll give you a free excerpt:
Without Fear…Without fear there can be no courage. I finally saw Brokeback Mountain in February 2009. I saw about half before I went to church and rehearsal, and half before I went to bed that night. The first lovemaking scene looked more like rape, but most of the rest of the movie was very tender. At rehearsal, when I read part of my lines about living with horrendous violence, my friend told me it was about the brutal murder of Private Barry Winchell in the Calpernia Addams
story told in Soldier's Girl.
The brutal murder scene in Brokeback just tore me up. What the characters and I had in common
is that we live our life in secret, trying to be normal; but unable to stay normal without finding a way to bring the true person out. Their joy was in each other, while mine is just getting out and being free to be female. In both our cases, people could easily pick us out of a crowd during our moments of happiness, and believe that we are not like them. What I don't understand is why some people feel they must beat others who are not like them to death. Is it a combination of instinct and insecurity? I know I honor all living things, but when my daughter complains about a roach that is scaring her, I feel obligated to kill it, even though it is simply observing, swinging
its antennae from side to side. However, I try to make the death as quick as possible so there is no suffering and I feel intense guilt afterward. When I was stung by two wasps on the same day, I was compelled to wipe out their nest, in massive genocide, but again felt horrible for what I had done. But you see, if we all suffer from these instinctual responses, what's to keep some group of...
Hugs and God Bless,
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
I Googled for it using state name and "name change." For example, the query http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=kentucky+name+change yields all the information you need for the state of Kentucky. Primarily,
- Kentucky Name Change Center lists the Kentucky state code. Essentially it states that you must change your name with the District Court of the county in which you reside. Since I reside in Jefferson County, I went to the Court Clerk to transfer my driver's license to Texas using proof of residence, such as a utility bill or a lease. I was then able to use the new driver's license as my proof of residency.
- Kentucky Court of Justice Forms Library has an online form of the Petition for Name Change that the applicant brings to the Court Clerk. The Probate Court where I had mine done required that I also type the copy that the County District Court Clerk would sign in the office on a manual typewriter.
- I was able to do my name change through Jefferson County's Circuit Court Clerk, because I am a resident of Louisville. The Kentucky Circuit Court listing is here: http://courts.ky.gov/counties/
When I had my new Driver's License in hand, I called the circuit court and found out that name changes are submitted through the Probate Court in the Hall of Justice downtown. The office is open until 4 or 4:30 PM, so it requires a little time off. On the petition for "Reason for name change:" I put "To legalize my use name to conform with my gender." When I had manually typed the order to be signed and turned it in as well, I was informed that the clerk handles name changes "out-of-docket," which means I didn't have to appear and he did it between cases. The petition is notarized on the spot and you need a check or money order for 8 dollars for the handling fee. I spent about 45 dollars for 3 certified copies. The first copy is 35 dollars and they are 5 dollars each after that. If everything is in order, you get your certified copies in the mail 7 to 10 days later.
The first place to go is any Social Security Administration Office. I went to the one in Elizabethtown because it was closer to my work. They need to see a name change order, so I take it with me. They gave me a receipt. I held onto it, because it takes a week for your new Social Security Card to arrive in the mail.
After I waited a day, I could take my name change and the receipt from Social Security to the nearest driver's license office. It cost 12 dollars and I was issued a new one on the spot.
Meanwhile, with the Name Change Order I started updating my name everywhere else. The empoloyer HR, landlord, bank and credit card companies wanted to make a copy of the certified order. My HR department also wanted a new copy of my social security card and I faxed my new driver's license as well. There was somewhere else that required my to fax a copy of the order, but it slips my mind. Utility companies will usually take my word for it over the phone.
If you update your birth certificate, you need to check with their office of vital records. I was born in Maine, so they just needed me to send a certified copy of the order with 60 dollars, which I wrote on my new checks with my new name.
And don't forget to take your name change order with you to your doctor's next visit, so they can update their records. I have 2 certified copies still, since I go in person and fax/email a copy where I can. I've lost one temporarily to Maine Vital Statistics and should be getting it back with my new birth certificate.
That's about it.
Hugs and God Bless,
Monday, March 22, 2010
As I look forward and back, I realize the method to her madness. My counselor treated my co-morbid stress in whichever form it took as a good counselor did. My wife didn't understand why I came away from each meeting a little lighter, and why I always felt just comfortable enough to take the next step on my own. She blamed my counselor for telling me what to do, which is not what she does at all.
"It will happen when you're ready," was her mantra to me, "whether it comes later or sooner [paraphrased], you'll know when it's right." And so I did. She didn't push me. Far from it. As my anxiety ebbed away bit by bit, it was all she could do to keep up with each step I took. And so she taught me how to address anxiety on my own, by taking baby steps and focusing on the nearer term goal.
I am about a month away from formally announcing my on-the-job transition, I am no longer scared to death of it and much more involved in the community than I dreamed possible. The Sunday before last, I was asked to present high school students attending OWL the face of transgender (in the spectrum sense--I also threw in the newer orthogonal model where "transgender in the more restricted sense" and transsexual were actually different attributes). OWL, Our Whole Lives, is a sex education class on steroids provided by the Unitarian Universalist Association. They have different curriculum for primary school, middle school and high school. The high school kids I talked to were very intelligent and thoughtful. I wound up taking an hour of my half-hour allotted time, and parents were seeking me out yesterday morning to tell me their kids couldn't stop talking about my visit.
And I could have never done any of this if my counselor had refused to see me.
I thanked her this morning with the contents of this blog entry. It looks like sooner was more accurate. But I think she knew that all along.
Hugs and God Bless,
Sunday, March 21, 2010
Fortunately he had nothing resembling a plan, so he didn't have to worry about things not working according to it. He simply let them happen, unable to make up his mind whether he was losing his judgment or finally developing some perspective.
- L. J. Davis, A Meaningful Life
When I read those words, I felt, Wow, that sounds like me. No plan, just letting life dictate where you're going. No stress, no frustrations. A simple life.
But if you don't proceed down the path that's in your heart, you wind up disengaged and demoralized. I was for 42 years. Making my plans in accordance of the whims of life, not having the courage to take advantage of the opportunities in front of me.
Some things you need to plan. When you know your vision has certain requirements, you need to at least plan the stages. Because my heart was pulling me to transition, I planned in baby steps. I knew what discouraged me, and set about preparing for the journey I seemed to be on. I assumed that I was going to stay on this path until I got there, so I needed to book the hotel rooms so to speak.
If I was going to go full time, I knew I was going to have to get rid of my beard. I researched for the most opportune way to do it. What I put together is that my best bet would be to have laser treatment for the most coverage followed by electrolysis for the stragglers. I also wanted to optimize the results and laser was expensive at the time, so I chose to wait a year and a half for the hormones to have their effects, knowing it was going to be more painful.
I also knew I needed practice presenting. As I was attending two meetings a month en femme, I started wearing casual female clothes at home on the weekends. I made mandatory stops before and after the meetings to see how people reacted, and was quite surprised when they didn't. I planned to do one full-female day a month on the weekend, and slowly add in more until I was full-time on the weekends. Then I would add in weekday evenings, and finally transition on the job.
Things didn't go according to plan, because opportunity knocked. I derailed at the point where I was doing my full-female day once a month. I found a church I could attend as myself, started rehearsing for The Vagina Monologues, and a few months after the performance lost my job. I was full-time while I sat at home searching for a job. I even went to one interview in Washington in a skirt suit. Finally, after a couple of phone interviews, my male side was offered a job in Kentucky contracting for a company that scored high on the HRC index. Once I moved, leaving my family behind, I decided this was the best moment to test if I had what it took. I made a deliberate effort to live full time outside of work, and after a couple of days of no incidents, I felt very natural.
5 1/2 months later after my move, I am ready to transition on the job. I just need to know which way my contract is going before I know which company to communicate through.
So as long as the wind is going in my favor, I can enjoy it, feeling the breeze on my back. But when my intuition tells me it's starting to blow too strong or in the wrong direction, I have to make quick plans lest I sail past my point or capsize.
And that is what the character in this story is doing. He has made a major transition in his life and finally feels the wind blowing meaning into it.
Hugs and God Bless,
Saturday, March 20, 2010
Meanwhile, the bar packed until 11 PM when they finally let us back. Some wonderful ladies crammed tables together and had about 6 seats they said were reserved.
Unfortunately, I've developed this sense of shyness. And when I saw no empty tables and no one that I knew well, I waited at the corner of the door. I just can't force myself into other people's spaces unless they invite me in, and as I waited I started feeling like I didn't belong.
My heart was bursting. I finished my beer, and before the tears could hit, I tossed the bottle in the trashcan where it clanked loudly, and proceeded to the hallway door, where someone I knew in the show and someone else stood blocking the hall. I excused myself by him while he "accidentally" brushed my ass with his hand (which would have been nice), and made it out the front door.
Fortunately, I made to the car before the tears started rolling. I cry when I'm angry. I always have. And now I have this weird feeling that comes over me when I know the tears are coming. And right now, I just can't describe it, except to say its like a sense of flooding and tenseness at the same time.
I need to be less sensitive. I need to be more assertive. But I've always been this way, and I'm not certain I can change.
Hugs and God Bless,
The crowd released me for a moment, then swallowed me again.
- Kelley Armstrong, Dime Store Magic
I am starting to get so many requests on my time, that I am starting to say no to some. This is actually a good thing. It shows a level of community acceptance, despite the emotional baggage that I sometimes carry with me. I've come a long way from the lonely times in November when I was trapped alone with my feelings from a traumatic weekend, and I've learned a lot since then.
I have learned to trust my instincts, believe that my friends haven't dumped me because they won't answer my calls, and that sharing personal stories benefits others as well as yourself. I have also learned that my assumptions about what other people feel about me is circumspect.
The church wants me to take a role in imparting whatever wisdom I may have picked up during my journey. When I asked for a naming ceremony, the minister suggested I play the central role in her presentation on Easter Sunday. The leader of the Adult Education group wants me to do a topic related to how I chose my name, so I will attempt to put together a study on Finding Your Spiritual Name. The leader of the Interweave group wants me to lead a topic on Famous Transgender People as part of her series on Famous LGBT people. I've taken over the duties of Greeting Coordinator as part of the Membership Committee, and I have already talked about what it means to be transgender to church High School students and this Summer I will speak with middle school kids.
Yesterday, a friend who's in town for a short time before moving to California, called me to the local meeting place to meet her fiancee, and wants me to come to her last performance which is doubling as her birthday party. I met another member of the troupe, we hit it off and she wanted me to be there as well. Actually, she was the fourth member that asked me.
The dance society that I take lessons with thinks I am getting better and keeps suggesting I hang around with them. I stick with Thursdays for now. It's free. The lesson goes from 7-8 and the floor is open to dancing afterwards. While this month's lessons right now are on the Lindy Hop, the gentlemen started catching me up on East (West?) Coast Swing, which appears to be a favorite. As a follow, I just have to learn the basic moves and the signals for the turns, and how to transition out of the turn to the basic moves again. I'm a beginner, but I'm confident I'll get it. I have always admired a dancer's body, and dancing as a follow is apparently a good way to develop the hip and thigh muscles, as well as developing grace and feminine trust.
And of course, I still attend the local transgender support group and the tri-state support group meetings. This week, I'm sitting out the support group events because of conflicting commitments. I didn't think this would ever happen. Sunday, after church, I plan to attend my first PFLAG meeting.
At least all this takes my mind off the 3000 dollars in tax I owe.
Hugs and God Bless,
Friday, March 19, 2010
The short answer is 10, 12, 16, 19, 36 and 42. That's because I kept burying my feelings through rationalization. I sailed along until about age 10. My gender meta-cognition had not switched on until then. I could only hang out with a single boy at a time and I preferred that someone else was there with me that I could trust. I would easily slip into mental role-play from time to time, and every so often I would see a girl doing something that looked like fun. Like twirl in her new skirt, do cartwheels, pick buttercups, play on the swing, make up stories, etc. I would always make their acquaintance, hoping I could do the same things (I never did learn the cartwheel, and am now really giving my skirt a whirl every Thursday). I never liked it when I was told, "You can't do that. You're a boy."
And yet, I couldn't hang out with boys, because I just didn't feel like I fit in. In fact, the larger the group got, the more anxiety I felt, and I didn't know why. I tried to stay away, yet the very act of disengaging drew the attention of the scruffiest of the boys to seek me out to "beat me up." I was forever on my guard, being put into situations where I had to fight back. It never helped that in my anger of the injustice of it all, my eyes swelled with tears, blurring my vision when I forced to defend myself. My aloofness increased to the point where I would avoid any group of boys at all costs especially the scruffy redheads who had it out for me, by finding new routes home after school that I walked by myself with a stick, ready to swing it at the head of the next boy who could be hiding behind the next bush or short brick wall.
In September of 1975, at a middle school in Michigan, for some strange reason I started asking myself if I was a boy or a girl. I sought clues and as I looked around the room at the lists of who is doing well in what activities, I saw my name consistently listed with the girls. I had bathroom anxiety from the 3rd grade because I couldn't stand being with the boys so bad I would delay too long before going. A few of the girls were starting to bloom, and because their breasts were developing at that age, the class was segregated into boys and girls for sex ed in separate classrooms. I felt so uncomfortable sitting there with all the boys, and because I was never going to have breasts, I was going to forever be forced to be in that group. It was just so unfair!
I thought at the time that if I'm going to have to be a man, I'll be a better man than anyone else in the room, because I think like a girl and I know what they like. I would prove myself to be nice and intelligent and a perfect gentleman, even though I laughed to myself that I was not a man. And so, having a project to occupy my time, I would quell my gender feelings with that pledge.
Then over time, my gender feelings strengthened requiring compromises each time, starting at 12, when I promised myself I would keep my feelings of a phantom vagina to myself and tried to punish the extra erections by using the belt of a slimming machine. At 16 when I found my own secret stash of used girls clothing and believed God would start changing me when I wore girls clothing. At 19, when I allowed myself to be a closet transvestite and I would masturbate until I bled, hoping that would cause it to go back inside. At 36, when the last vestiges of an androgynous frame vanished. At 42 when I stepped outside my conversation during an online chat and vowed I would remain a non-op TS.
When the urge to feminize became overwhelming, I decided to give female hormones a trial run. The test passed. Not only did I not freak out, I felt a sense of blissful calm. My senses were opened to a new sense of color, and the emotions I could barely tag before as they cycled through my mind suddenly became more real.
Finally, at 43, I sought a bigger closet, and discovered the unfettered joy of just being me in a church community. I felt the overwhelming sense of womanhood while sitting in a women's group of 40 or more women. My anxieties which had kept me in check and hamstrung my ability to build friendships ebbed bit by bit.
Now, I am sitting on the threshold of transitioning at work. It's my last step to a fully embraced social transition. From my vantage point, I'm beginning to wonder if I will still need the surgery afterall. Of course, if it were paid for or inexpensive, I wouldn't hesitate. And then again it would also matter if I have a physically intimate relationship.
Hugs and God Bless,
Thursday, March 18, 2010
What I'm referring to is the use of the term bigot or the term nazi. Thanks to everyone who has pulled these term out of their hats to publicly post them when someone has a strong bias that may tend toward intolerance, the recipients have been raised into a fury like a bull carrying numerous darts from el toreador.
Quit it. You are starting to play into the traps they have set up. They preface their discussion, warning that they will be called bigots, and you invariably prove them right, which adds fuel to their argument that we are whiners, predictable, and deserve no protection.
What we seem to have forgotten is that these people are human, too. They operate based on their experiences, and their experiences have a strong bias, just as we do. The objective is to get them to understand the point of view that goes against their experience, to inject the human element we all know is there that refutes much of what they have learned, to let them experience our positive side, to prove that there is no 'Gay Agenda,' and to accept their informed decision.
Do the research. Find what's wrong with the facts as they know them, and gently inform them. And be human, foibles and all. Let them get to know you by your words as someone worth knowing. If you want to be accepted, behave in a manner that is acceptable.
It doesn't hurt to acknowledge their work, even if it drew them to a wrong conclusion. Everyone is trying to grapple with the issues. You are not necessarily going to convince people who have an animus hatred and refuse to be moved, but your behavior, logical arguments and emotive appeal will allow many to truly understand and start working with us, because many are watching. Even if they only make a smidgeon change, its progressive. And we might start understanding their true concerns a little better, and be able to work together to make progress.
Remember, no name calling. Please?
Hugs and God Bless,
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
My ex is becoming my ex-ex. Actually, she never thought she had graduated to "ex." Sure, we've had our arguments, and screamed at each other on the phone and dredged up things we had said to each other when pressed for answers. Sure, she's not ready for me to transition; but she's still trying, which is more than I could have said for myself. I had already gone back to referring to her unashamedly as my wife.
A friend of mine after a support group meeting a couple of years ago regretted losing her family so bad that she told me that, "No matter what, don't lose your family." So that's what she's been doing. It' not easy for her, but now I know she didn't give up and was severely hurt when I thought she had.
My daughter is sick, probably a severe allergic reaction, and her mother is there taking her to the hospital. Where I fall down, she stands in. The fight to keep our marriage is not over, and I am getting back in the ring with her. She's been faithful through 3 years of transition, and that speaks volumes.
Hug and God Bless,
"But you need the 'T'--the silent 'T'," I replied. "Sure. I'll just need directions."
She approached me because I'm the only open transgender (in the umbrella sense) person in our congregation. Because, it was a group of High School students, I tailored an ad hoc mini-panel, where I would first suvey what they knew to get started, tell them about myself and open the floor to questions.
I accepted this because theorizing about people has its limits. See the following article from today to see how theory can run amuck:
If you're reading that and you have gotten to know people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and/or transgender, then you know that the research must be skewed, since the results show causal factors that are only coincidental (or biased?).
The problem that seems to be left out is that people are very complex organisms, with complex thoughts, living in a complex society. It also leaves out that some of the effects could be due to circles of abuse or circles of inclusion.
As an example, in a circle of abuse, the child, who has not yet realized their gender identity, but who does have behavior that may indicate that, may receive abuse as a family member tries to get them to engage in their expectations. The child typically realizes the expectations are outside of their own feelings, but may try to fit in. Because they don't fit in the expected model, the abuse continues, cycling over and over again until the child buries themselves from the outside world and lives under increasing anxiety of being critically judged by people who don't know them. As this person grows up, when the anxieties are justified that they are not accepted when they take baby steps to be themselves, they quite often make an attempt on their own life.
The cycle of inclusion, on the other hand, occurs when a person is accepted for who they are, relieving some of the anxiety that they feel. They become more confident as a result, and confidently outing themselves to more people, while increasing the risk of some rejection, building a stronger emotional base to handle the criticism. Eventually, this continues until the anxieties ebb to a comfortable level.
But to come to this conclusion experimentally, without taking LGBT people at their word, is next to impossible. It takes interviews of people after they have overcome their anxiety, because anxious people are very closeted. The fear of judgment and its consequences is primary in their hearts.
And all of this makes OWL a great program. The kids get to meet and know lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people if they are present. They get to hear what it means to be LGBT and the struggles that they face. They have the theory, they can get answers, and they are empowered to make their own decisions.
Because I was covering the T (transgendered in the umbrella sense), I also discussed the gender spectrum, gender fluidity, androgynity and crossdressing all as components, from my experience, of a degree of cross-gendered feelings; how on one end of the spectrum there is a sense of some *contra-gender part that needs occasional expression, to the other end, where a person feels almost completely or totally *contra-gender.
I don't know the whole curricula, but LGBT is only a small part of OWL. They were scheduled to cover sexually transmitted diseases and their prevention as I was leaving. On the way out the door, I just barely heard, "Sophie is interesting." I was so relieved to have made a positive impression.
This is my reply to the article posted above. When I re-read it, I decided I wanted to keep it for posterity:
You have done a lot of work here and it is very shocking, but the causal connections have not been proven. Just because A occurs frequently when you see B, doesn't mean that B causes A. It just means a correlation has been established. Just like the famous proof that eating ice cream causes rape, because rape occurs more frequently when more ice cream is consumed. People are complex and society is complex, and you are looking for simple answers. Not only that, but individuals and society interact with one another setting up circles of reinforcement. We are really dealing with a chicken and the egg problem. Do eggs cause chickens or do chickens cause eggs? In addition, taking social snapshots to determine "behavioral problems" doesn't work because highly anxious people don't talk. Personally, I don't buy into the causal link direction because I personally know numerous counterexamples where B occured and A didn't.
They are typically correlated in some way,and its usually and underlying cause or friction.Without getting to really know LGBT personally without threatening them, you will never understand what it is they are going through.
Until you have really listened to someone who has fought the feelings they know to be true, you will never understand the anxiety of judgement they felt. You won't understand how they are one of the lucky few whose suicide attempt failed when they realize they can't be what's expected.
Until you learn to appreciate people who have learned to show a little compassion for themselves, you will not see their loving hearts.
Until you see the re-oriented person who has hung himself for their inability to maintain the lie that they reformed just to get judgement off their back, you will not understand those who have chosen to live.
Until you get to know me, you don't know me.
posted by : Sophie HawesWednesday, March 17,
2010 at 02:32 PM
Hugs and God Bless,
*contra-gender- I am using this term to indicate a sense of gender identity that is contrary to the gender identity that a person is expected to have, rather than spelling that out everytime I need the concept.
Sunday, March 14, 2010
I got to the meeting room door as Cortez started to speak.
--Kelly Armstrong, Dime Store Magic
I had my 3rd laser tech in 3 treatments on Tuesday. Judy affirmed that she was going to be my personal tech from here on. She used to own her own business and merged hers with the one I was seeing. With a latex gloved hand, she stroked my face, and told me that my 24-hour growth was ideal for her to work with. The pain wasn't as bad as before, except for the jawline and the lipline. That may have had something to do with the 650 mg of Tylenol I took on the way. When I suggested that I ought to start to go 24 hours before shaving, she chided me, saying that I needed to wait 7 to 10 days for treated hairs to fall out, because shaving stimulates new growth. I gave her this incredulous look. I'll cover the beard with makeup while I can, I told her, but I have a life. Afterwards, we chatted with her friend Saphie, who was joining her for a pedicure later.
Wednesday was Chalice Night at the church, a time for education in various religious practices. I tried to cover the beard with makeup, but it wasn't working, so ignoring my laser tech's advice, I shaved it off.
I usually go to practice meditation, but I noticed a woman sitting alone behind the greeting table and started to get to know Peggy a little. She volunteered to help me greet people for my minister's ceremony in April. She went to get food, and I didn't think she should eat alone, so I picked up my plate and sat with her. Eventually, she got around to asking questions about being transgender, starting with, "Would it have been easier for you if you were shorter? You must be what? 6 2?" I calmly informed her I was when I started high school and am now only 5' 10", and we chatted on. I had to wash my own dishes, of course, since I was too busy talking to eat. I also wound up missing meditation for the chat :)
I next shaved Thursday evening for dance classes. We had a new instructor for the Lindy Hop who is supposed to be our regular, and he started over again from scratch. As we were doing the basic move, I knew I was doing something right, because as he led, everything felt just right. Of course, when he added the inside turn, half the time I tried to turn the wrong direction, a little confusing when your also trying to step while turning. Some more practice, and I'm sure I'll get it.
From Thursday evening until this morning, I didn't shave. I bummed it on Saturday and stayed home, straightening up. Slept a lot, and tried to read Zami, by Audre Lorde. That book is so moving, it was hard to get past page 80. A true story, I keep crying as I read it. It was also getting hard to look in the mirror at the salt and pepper patchy beard. It is so hard to see the woman under that.
Finally, this morning, I shaved that mess off and put on my makeup for Adult Round Table, Service and the Interweave meeting after church. I like that look so much better. I felt myself again.
Well, I see it's 9 AM and time to head off.
Hugs and God Bless,
Saturday, March 13, 2010
When we're genuine, we thank others, some of us thank our God or Gods, and many of us thank favorable circumstances; but have you thanked yourself, lately? Other cliches come to mind: "Give yourself a pat on the back," for instance, and "Give yourself a hug." But we usually don't even think about doing that until someone reminds us to, and when they do its for something that was contributed to the group, rarely for something that we have done for ourselves.
I guess it's time to talk about self-love, and I'm not talking about self-love-at-the-expense-of-others, conceitedness. What I'm referring to is an acknowledgment of yourself, giving yourself a break from time to time, encouraging yourself to grow toward your full potential. Do you love yourself?
In the teachings of Jesus, which I believe he paraphrased from Rabbi Ben Hillel, he admonishes us that spirituality can best be achieved by loving your god with all your soul, and all your strength and all your might, and loving your neighbor as yourself. That is to say, seek your genuine spiritual connection with the divine, and show an genuine interest for yourself and others. This concept is also known as the inside-out path. Loving and affirming yourself usually precedes a genuine warmth for those with whom you share your life. When you allow yourself to feel divine love, it overflows and can't be contained.
So, now I have to think of what I have done for myself. I forced myself to attend meetings, which got me over my funk. I let myself have dance lessons, which is fun and energizing and gives me a sense of accomplishment. I changed my name, so now I don't feel like I have no identity anymore, which lends its own sense of joy. So, thank you, Sophie, for bringing meaning into my life [giving myself a hug, and a pat on the back].
So have you done something for yourself for which you are genuinely thankful?
Hugs and God Bless,
Friday, March 12, 2010
When I updated another co-worker who I trust on my transition, that I had just changed my name, he asked if I was going to be done in August (that was my initial target for transitioning on the job). After we talked a bit, I found out he assumed I was going to have Gender Reassignment Surgery, what most outside of the transgendered community and he called "the sex change", at that time.
The price from surgery runs from just over a 1,000 dollars (3,000 dollars, because I would have buy two round tickets to Thailand) to about 20,000 dollars in Trinidad, Colorado by a world-renowned surgeon. Reputable surgeons start about 8,000 dollars in Thailand, so barring changes in insurance policy, that would be my choice, and I already have a surgeon picked out. The problem is raising the money, when I have so much debt and am sliding deeper into it month by month. Overall, this is something pretty depressing to think about.
The other issue, which for me is reasonable, is the requirement by WPATH to live full-time with the name change for 12 months. Technically, upon rereading the definition, as of February 24th, I am full-time, since I was volunteering strictly as a woman in my church shortly before that. I am also interacting as such with the contracting company. And if something happens to this job, I'll be interviewing under my legal name, Sophia.
The 12-month time requirement is meant to test your commitment to the surgery, but I find it more of a time to settle my life as much as possible as a woman, and a time to prepare myself for what I can realistically expect.
Now the AMA and the Tax Court have deemed that GRS for severe GID is medically necessary, which puts the prevalence of insurance exclusions for it on shaky grounds. Not only do they exclude GRS, they exclude hormone therapy for transitioning, and therapy.
Estradiol in pill form is pretty inexpensive, but is taxing on the liver and my endocrynologist refused to continue my prescription in pill form, and wrote her prescription instead for the patch. It turns out that a box of patches for a woman going through menopause is 36 dollars for a months supply. When insurance pays, it usually costs her around 10 dollars. Given that I have to use twice as much, my bill is exhorbitant at 72 dollars per month when you do the math. The insurance doesn't want to pay the 52 dollars because of the exclusion, and is even denying prior authorizations from the treating physician. Do you smell discrimination? I do.
What makes the discrimination blatant is that my insurance company actually has guidelines for when GRS is medically necessary. Included in the guidelines is the requirement that the individual be on medically and emotionally supervised hormone treatment for 12 continuous months. But the exclusion again specifically denies that.
Someone from my church just this Sunday asked if I was done with the hormones, because of my redistributed body fat. The reality is, I'll be on them for life. Until I can have surgery, I need to continue the antiandrogens, which keep me from going bald, having hair sprout all over my body, and other effects, including the persistent anxiety and inability to deal with extreme emotions when the testosterone hits my brain. It's up to the doctor when I stop taking progestins, the hormone released during pregnancy, because there is a debate on how long to take them and everyone has their own opinions. And estrogen, the patch I am required to take is necessary because I don't have ovaries, and while the dosage will be reduced if I am able to have the surgery, it is necessary to help prevent osteoporosis, or to at least slow it down, if I have surgery. Meanwhile, going off the medication after two years would send me into depression.
I had a discussion with my insurance company's member services, and that's when I found out about the exclusions that go with the option that my employer selected. Providing options that are discriminatory is just plain wrong. The insurance company is sending me an appeal form, to which I am going to attach the AMA recommendations.
Meanwhile, I contacted my contract company and found out that the Human Resources department did not go through the exclusions when they were pricing the insurance. Because their EEO policy includes gender identity, they were shocked to discover that they had selected an option with such exlusions. They just happen to be doing their annual evaluation of insurance plan for coverage starting in April. Asked what they could do for me, I suggested that they check the exclusion policies for the keywords "cross-sex" and "cross-gender". Hopefully they willl select a plan and option this time that's at least a little less discriminatory.
Hugs and God Bless,
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
So I hit random baby name generators. I told myself over and over that I would accept whatever turned up, yet I continued to renege and say, "Okay, the next one." I did this for days, until the word "Sophie" was glaring up at me from the screen. I paused.
I taught Sunday school for a while, and was a little familiar with the fact that Sophia was the Greek word for wisdom when the proverbs were translated, and I knew that wisdom was almost always "she" in the Hebrew wisdom literature. I could definitely relate on an intellectual level. I wanted to be respected for my mind. And then as well the word felt softly feminine. I softly sounded out the word, "Soph fee." It just sounded so right, too.
Later, I couldn't help but be attracted to a book entitled, Chasing Sophia. What were the odds I would encounter this book at this time in my life. The theme of the book was the search for Women's Wisdom in God's order. In the end, the author felt her God was male, yet the texts she referred to seemed to imply that there was another with God, a female divine--Sophia, the source of Wisdom.
Eventually, in my own heart, I started wondering why God should have any gender. Why did God have to be so engendered? And I realized as I posed the question to the universe, an overwhelming embracing feminine compassion seemed to descend on me. My interactions before had always been through a stern, yet loving masculine aspect; but this was far different. Immediately, I thought to this spirit, "You're not male." I was in awe. Never before had I encountered what to me could only be the Sophia, the feminine aspect of God.
Just as we have different aspects that we portray to different people, I realized that when God appears to us, it is an aspect that we individually need.
Now I dearly love my name, and I'm glad I made it mine, because it reflects my faith, my experience with my heavenly Mother/Father, and the type of woman I aspire to be, which is the compassionate, embracing woman in Her.
Hugs and God Bless,
Sunday, March 7, 2010
Androgynous names confuse people. People in the service industry, especially in Louisville, it seems, are trained to look at your name if available, and then use "Sir" or "Ma'am" as the gender presented on the document. Credit cards don't have a gender marker. State ID's and driver's licenses put a single M or F on different parts of the ID. Because Kentucky put the gender marker in the lower left corner, for left-to-right, top-to-bottom readers, the eye doesn't see it. The name in is usually near the upper left corner and is much easier to spot and recognize than a single character. People see your name and not your gender marker.
Unless, you have an androgynous name like "Pat." There's a famous skit on Saturday Night Live, where a contestant named "Pat" presents androgynously and answers all gender-probing questions in a non-determinate gender-free manner. The net effect is the audience and the probers are left confused.
While a humorous exaggeration, the "Pat" skit reflects the confusion people have. They find it easier to understand someone who identifies as strictly male or female. They are either clueless or in denial of the gender spectrum. In their determination of which gender honorific to use, they look for clues. They could look for the M of F or they way the person's dressed, whether they have a beard, etc. Most people don't like to be confused. It's frustrating. They can more easily understand Male to Female transition than they can understand Male to Androgynous.
If you're on the fence about what legal name to use, I would recommend one that reflects gender-wise how you wish people to treat you. If you want to be treated unambiguously as a woman, find an unambiguous woman's name. If you feel more androgynous, and intend to in between or in both genders, and want to be treated that way, then by all means go with something useful.
In the end however, your new name is your possession. Find a comfortable name that reflects who you are or who you want to be. Being able to possess your own identity is a rewardingly joyful feeling.
Hugs and God Bless,
Friday, March 5, 2010
"Of course not. Coven witches would never do such a thing..."
-- Kelley Armstrong, Dime Store Magic
What a week this has been! On Monday, I filed my name change with social security and stopped by the bank to change my name on the account. The clerk at the SSA office said she would change my gender if she had a court order like my name change. So I'm going to ask around what the easiest way is to get the judge to grant a gender marker change. I got my checking account changed and ordered permanent checks with the new name on them. But it seems I have to wait for a name change packet to change it on the credit card.
Tuesday, I tried to stop by the court house to get my driver's license updated, but I arrived 12 minutes too late because I though they closed at 4:30 instead of 4. There's an office open this weekend. I plan to be there at 8 AM when they open.
Wednesday, I had a planning session with Jasmine and my minister for my name change and gender affirmation. We changed the date to Easter Sunday as part of the morning service. It's structured around The Velveteen Rabbit, one of my oldest daughter's favorite stories. I agreed to "hop on" stage and be the Velveteen Rabbit.
Thursday, I went to the free Swing Lessons and learned some of the basic moves of the Lindy Hop. It's a little easier than it looks but really dizzying.
Today, I accidentally to my old progestin and tried to correct by taking the new one. It was too much. At work, I was feeling a bit of tunnel vision and really sleepy in the morning. I thought for sure I was going to have to call it an early day.
Tomorrow, after I get my license, I have my 5-week counseling appointment after lunch. So much has happened since my last. In the evening, I am driving to Lexington for my first meeting with TransKentucky. They are having pot luck this month, and I signed up to bring deviled eggs for 20 people.
Finally, Tuesday I go in for Laser treatment #3 after work. I can actually shave in the morning and apply light Dermablend in the afternoon without shaving again first. I can barely see the stubble near my chin before I cover it up. This means my razors are also starting to last longer.
Wow! What a week!
Hugs and God Bless,