Monday, May 31, 2010

Fennel for You

There's fennel for you, and columbines;
There's rue for you, and here's some for me.

- William Shakespeare, Hamlet

The lawnmowers outside are noisily cutting the grass on my front lawn, the heat and humidity require cold drinks to keep from melting, and I can't wait until I can step outside on my porch to read.

It's a nice day. I'm wearing my almost-knee-length zebra-striped red and black skirt with the strawberry print and my half-sleeve chocolate brown top with the waist tie in a bow of to the side, and it's been one month now since I went full time.

There are significant changes you have to get used to. Instead of washing the makeup off my face in the morning and rushing home to shave and put it on, everything is now almost reversed. In the morning, I go through my 15 minute routine, and allow the dermablend to slowly fade the rest of the day. The airing of my skin now occurs mostly on the weekend, and on holidays while I stay at home. And shaving is done now in the mornings. The laser treatments have left me in a state where I hardly ever get "beard emergencies" anymore, the stubble takes over a day and a half to be noticeable, and it's more noticeable to me by feel than by look. I still have three of the eight sessions left, which are now six weeks apart, and I expect the dark part of the beard will be completely gone by then.

When I started going full-time, the last place where I could express the little bit of male tomboy in me had been invaded. But I am finding a fusion of my personalities in full bloom. While I feel every bit female, entering and leaving the job, as well as in normal interactions, I can still tap into that analytical mode in my male side as needed, while still looking as I feel most of the rest of the time. But in all other ways, I am experiencing a personal freedom and a sense of joy in the workplace that I have never known before, and I feel so good. On Friday, because it was jeans day, I wore my blue jeans with a nice button-up top. Sandra said she liked my look, even though I felt weird, and that it was nice to go tomboy

I so want to share this joy. That's why every Friday I go out to the Heine Brothers coffee shop with my book and wait for two hours for anyone who would like to show up and talk.

A couple of years ago I would never have imagined that my lack of joy was due to the female denied. There is so much to love--to truly passionately love.

Hugs and God Bless,

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Retrieving My Ghost

I returned to collect my ghost
From the place where bad things happened.

She was left to wander,
Afraid to come out,
Having been torn
From me
When my body was ripped,
My will subjugated,
My esteem shattered.

She was still there,
A shadow of the grief and fear
That pervaded me while I still lived there
Since that fateful move-in day.

Intent on remaining,
I had left her behind
For my own safety
And sanity.

And as I returned,
More self-willed,
More confident,
Calling her to come with me,
I toured the apartment grounds.

Upon making my circuit,
I mounted the stairs to the wall outside,
Touched my fingers to the brick,
I called her off the spiritual couch
Upon which I once sat,

I called her home,
To haunt no more.
I pleaded with her to leave the place of pain.
And walked away.

From my car,
I turned to see
Shadow she
On the balcony.

I called,
Leave with me,
As I turned the key
And drove away.

And then I knew
She was back with me
Leaving the pain
And misery.

Finally healing
My divided heart
Which had been maliciously
Torn apart.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Erotic

The erotic functions for me in several ways, and the first is in providing the power which comes from sharing deeply any pursuit with another person. The sharing of joy, whether physical, emotional, psychic, or intellectual, forms a bridge between the sharers which can be the basis for understanding much of what is not shared between them, and lessens the threat of their difference.

- Audre Lorde, "Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power"

The way Audre Lorde uses the term erotic threw me off at first, because she was not speaking about physical sensuality per se. As I re-read the essay "Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power" from the top, I discovered that the term "erotic" as she uses it is what I would have referred to as passionate authenticity and intentional living.

As a transsexual woman, the final piece of the puzzle that drove home my gender was realizing that I only felt joy when I acknowledged myself as female. I know very much the chaotic ocean of emotions that lies below the surface, as I had internally erected a "No Swimming" sign for many years.

Julian of Norwich was a mystic Christian and leader from the fourteenth century who also made references to an erotic element in her writing. From what I read, I see very little true sensuality in Julian's writing. What I see in both Julian and Lorde however is the desire for passionate authenticity and connection on an intimate level. Of course, passion and the desire for intimacy in its original form are built-in and instinctual.

There is a significant difference between Audre Lorde's focus on human relationship with Julian's romantic concept of God as husband. Passionate authenticity in human relationships requires a conscious effort to allow the authentic selves of other people, whereas romantic relations come with the blinders of expectation, and the eventual insistence of conformity to ideals.

Julian seemed to be on the edge as far as she dare go when ascribing feminine roles to Christ. It does stand out when she refers to the mother as "he." Any farther would probably have earned her a stake upon which to be burned.

Her concept of gender roles being fluid, however, actually helps to reconcile the aspects of Christ that were not traditionally male, and appeared to be more feminine.

But how far off was she? In today's economy, there are plenty of example's of "Mr. Mom," men providing for the nurturing and care of the children, and quite capable of it. Christ, as God, can be understood as both mother and father, because in Julian's view, one God can be only one parent, yet can take on all roles, similar to single mothers putting on "The dad," or vice versa for single fathers.

This capability for gender roles to be fluid is probably built in as a survival trait, contrary to the male stereotypes that we have today. Evidenced in the attractiveness of men who are more feminine, many women feel safer and less threatened by softer and tender men, suggesting that most male aggressiveness and control is mostly for peer pressure show and conformity to societal norms. If that is the case, the actual emotional dimorphism between men and women would be less than stereotypical masculine and feminine attributes would allow for.

Women have the capability of serving in the role of father and, what's more, men have the capability of fulfilling the mother role. Under certain circumstances, men can, and have, breast fed their children. Having multiple tender, loving adults available actually increases the survivability of the offspring for a social group.

I think what Julian read in Jesus was his unashamed courage to express the feminine attributes. And in so doing, he is Mother as well as Father. Drawing attention to these aspects, therefore, was a call for the clergy to be more tender and compassionate.

I see in the female spiritual leaders of the middle ages the boldness to find their own connection to Christ outside the established heirarchy. The daily knowledge that men and women are both important to the creative process was something that was lost to religion itself with the loss of the Goddess culture, and the masculinization of the original Hebraic God that composed both genders.

These women dared to see God through themselves, but to not be seen as a source of "temptation to evil," they had to become celibate to be treated seriously. And they had moments of solace to explore their own connections to the divine, that they shared with others.

In nature, men and women typically are motivated instinctually by love to do two different things on the physical plane. While not all men feel and behave in this way, men and some women will typically protect their family and anything else that is important to them by drawing the danger away and fighting to protect what is considered even more dear to them than their own lives. And so when men dominated religion, they fought to keep people away from what they considered dangerous.

Many women and some men, however, in nature are benefitted greatly if they can find someone tender that will fight for them. Many mothers know that they already will give anything for their child, and many women instinctually feel that the way to inspire such a love in a partner is to occasionally submit physically. It is their physical act of love, and it is often abused.

The women who became spiritual leaders during this time only shared what they knew to be true physically, but also worked on a spiritual level. Total surrender of oneself to the purest form of tender love to create a harmonic balance of male and female, transcendence and immanence.

I encourage blossoms to flourish with ripening fruits.

- "Meditations with Julian of Norwich"

Every blossom is different and beautiful. Until the blossom opens, it is a tight bud with a hard wall protecting the inside. But when it blossoms, it's very vulnerable openness first brings forth the beauty that was hiding inside, and the resulting fruit benefits the creatures who consume it, in an natural exhange the leaves seeds in fertile ground.

So it is in my thealogy, that the divine is immanent, that all of us likewise are created distinct and different. The divine puts us on a path to completion that requires we eventually drop our defenses, opening up to ourselves and to others that results in edifying relationships and deeper understanding. This is turn, planted in the richness of life, establishes a lineage of people to grow through peace, understanding and interconnectedness.

I am Sophia Jean, daughter of Jeanette Eugenia, who was the daughter of Audrie May, who was the sister of Olive, who was the partner of Ann. From my mother, I learned faith. From my grandmother, I learned to care. From my grand aunts, I learned to live and love.

I go by Sophie, short for Sophia. It wasn't always so, as I named myself--or perhaps, as is often the case with spiritual names, my name found me.

I signed up for an online class titled "Modern Roles for Women in Religion: The Middle Ages to the Present" because it just seemed to fit perfectly into my spiritual development. I had just finished the last three parts of the "Cakes for the Queen of Heaven" five part workshop, when I saw someone post information related to the class.

In fact, I was reading Rebirth of the Goddess by Carol P. Christ and The Unknown She by Hilary Hart when I heard about "Cakes for the Queen of Heaven" at First Unitarian of Louisville, because I wanted to understand more of what I was experiencing.

When I was born, I was given my father's name. It was more of a hand-me-down than an identity. I knew it didn't fit me, and when I found out that my Cherokee ancestors had spirit-name traditions, I craved my own. Unfortunately, being also 1/4 Swedish, and the rest Saxon, Germanic and a little Scottish, my 1/16 Native American heritage from both parents was lost, as no one knew which great-great-grandmothers had been full blooded.

I also knew I was not a boy, not like the others, and felt I should have been a girl, but there was nothing I could do about it. So being the faithful grandson of two baptist preachers, I tried for the next 30 years to find out who I was and why I was. The whole time I felt a Presence, but could only seem to accept a tender, fatherly, yet distant and transcendant aspect.

My faith almost never waned through the years, and following signs and trying to be a man no matter what, I did marry and have two beautiful daughters. But the image in the mirror began to haunt me as wrong. I still had not put away the craving to be female, and it began to look as if I never would.

I entered a period of intense prayer about how to get rid of the feelings and kept being led to the fact that my path ahead would be to transition from male to female. It was during my spiritual battle that I suddenly stopped and questioned the necessity of the gender of God. And as that moment of quiet seeped in by the creek under the stars, I felt as if an incredible embrace of cosmic proportions had descended upon me. My awareness of the presence was more of a feminine aspect, not the male that I had been taught. And I was forever changed.

This is not the only aspect of the Other that I have recently encountered, because as I was struggling for my identity, I acquired a hummingbird Spirit Guide, which I recognized as part me and part everything else.

When I told a friend of my experiences, she recommended that I study the Tantric Vedas, which embrace the concept of male/female harmony, and was the second person to recommend a Unitarian Universalist church.

There I found the fellowship I was missing as I was valued for who I am. There is no greater love than that. However, it wasn't until last month, after I had been in Louisville, Kentucky for 6 months after being forced to move from job to another, and had just recently changed my name and gotten a new library card, that I finally decided to check out books on feminine divinity and shamanism in an effort to understand just what it was I was experiencing. And those studies have now led me to a class studying the roles of women in religion.

Hugs and God Bless,


Saturday, May 22, 2010

Slipping into the Past

Somehow, I doubted it was the latter. The further that morning's fight slipped into the past without comment, the more convinced I was that no one could remember it.

- Harry Connolly, Child of Fire

This seems to have been a week of "slipping into the past." On Wednesday, as part of the Minn's series of lectures, I listened to a lecture on the life of James Freeman Clarke, a very influential pioneer Unitarian who became First Unitarian Church of Louisville's second minister, after the founding minister died after only a year in 1835.

When he graduated from Harvard Divinity School, he traveled by boat, rail and stage coach to Louisville, KY, a bustling town on the frontier with about 10,000 residents. He came to test himself and Unitarianism, and it left him changed and as a result, Unitarianism adopted his principles for the next 50 years.

Forced to travel with many different kinds of people, he learned that looking for the good in people was often rewarded. Having to travel with shackled slaves left a bitter taste in his mouth for the institution of slavery. While being an abolitionist, he didn't join any of their societies. He advocated that the end of slavery must come by preparing the then slaves for integration in the cultural mainstream, in lieu of a violent overthrow, a philosophy I heard passed down my own family tree, one family I know of who did own slaves, the Quarles of Virgina and Tennessee, who did buy property in Kentucky, but died before anyone moved there. I would like to believe, that if William Quarles had not been murdered, he would have freed his slaves and given them the land. Louisville changed James Freeman Clarke, and even though he considered himself a failure for only doubling the church, and stirring the hornet's nest in the settled congregation during his seven years, his preaching of an applied Christianity changed Louisville as well as influenced important people.

Friday, while waiting for people to show up at the first of our new Louisville Get Togethers at a local Heins Brothers Coffee shops, a storm rolled in, and before it, my friend Lindsay from Louisville Swing Dance Society.

She was there to meet four of her friends for a planned two hour tour of the Waverly Hills Sanatorium. She asked me if I wanted to come along, and two of her friends assumed I was. She told me it was an old tuberculosis hospital that was supposed to be haunted.

The enormous building was the premier site for treating tuberculosis in the United States during the early 1930s before there was a cure. Louisville was the epicenter of the "White Plague," a name given to the disease that racked the lungs and nervous system. The heat and humidity of the Ohio River Valley worsened the outbreak in the area.

Designed to combat TB with the only known cure at the time, one whole side of the building was opened to fresh air, which was known to cure tuberculosis. The rooms opened directly to a long hallways, whose windows were not glassed in, but covered with copper mesh to keep the elements out. On the other side, behind the twin-occupancy room was another long hallway that lead to the bathrooms and nurses stations, and on the other side of the hallway were single-occupancy rooms, where the patients would spend the last hours before they died.

Waverly is supposed to be haunted, full of shadow people and strange happenings; but as I toured the second floor I noticed an intense psychological pressure trying to prevent me from entering the fatality room before I knew its function. It was almost palpable. As we left one of the fatality rooms and headed up the hallway, I somehow knew where the communal bathroom was before we past it, and I felt strangely, inexplicably "at home."

Once we got to the 5th floor, next to the famous room 502, we were warned that people who entered the nurses shower near where one the nurses was supposedly found hanging after what was anticipated to be an abortion gone wrong, would feel nausea and pregnancy pains, that even men would feel the same thing. Curious, I tried it, but felt nothing.

The room let out onto the roof, and I thought I felt a presence by one of the corner posts and walked toward it to try to experience what that person must have felt. I had the impression of a nurse in uniform, hat and cloak, looking down to the ground contemplating suicide.

On the 4th floor, some people believed they saw shadows that looked like people or parts of people. I was not tuned into what they saw, however, as I saw nothing.

At the height of the epidemic, it is said that a person died once an hour, and the bodies were transported out of site of the patients. When people checked in, they knew they would probably never check out.

As we walked downstairs to the outside of the building, I suddenly started feeling cramps in my lower abdomen just above the groin. Distended, I was hoping no one noticed I was holding my right hand in the same position one does when pregnant. Then my mental body image shifted, and I saw myself very muchly so, including swollen breasts. As I got in the passenger seat of the car, that image slowly faded.

Hugs and God Bless,

Sunday, May 16, 2010


That night, she wondered about the mysterious man and his family as she tried to sleep.

- Father Daniel Homan, OSB & Lonni Collins Pratt, Radical Hospitality

Tonight as I was doing laundry, a gentleman sat down with a large tray of nachos next to me and offered to share. I struggled internally for a few moments and trying to focus on the weight I need to lose, I finally said, "No, thank you." Very considerate and very polite, he had made an overture. With a salt and pepper beard, he was not unattractive at all. As I was reading Radical Hospitality, I was dealing with the feelings that he may have felt rejected because the color of our skin is different. And the more I read, the more I felt the best thing to do was to respond to his hospitality in kind.

I discovered as I waited that he appeared to be single by his laundry, and it was his dryer I accidentally put the dollar's worth of quarters into. That made me feel a little better.

I waited patiently for him to finish his folding as my last load was still in the dryer. I walked up to him, told him, "You offered to share your food with me, and I don't even know your name." I'm Sophie," I said, as I offered him my hand which he took in a dancer's gentle hold.

"I'm Dwayne," he replied as I vowed to remember his name.

Radical hospitality teaches us that by letting other people into our hearts, we grow. It encourages us to remember that the stranger without and the stranger within are both human. It encourages us to put relationships with ourselves and others above traditions. It preaches that true acceptance is compassionate and non-intrusive. A beautiful concept, it requires us to look for the divine in the faces of others and treat them with their inherent worth and dignity.

I was fortunate to be the recipient of so much hospitality growing up. Trust me, you'll know genuine hospitality when you see it. It is the embodiment of love, for yourself, for others and for the interconnectedness of all things.

Hugs and God Bless,

An Invitation

Lay on me
Let me feel the tender emotion
Of your sweet kiss.

Let me taste your breath,
With traces of your day.

Let me feel your warm embrace
Melding seamlessly with mine.

Let me hold you
As you hold me.
Feel me quiver at your touch
Shivering in anticipation.

Let me feel you
As you hold yourself above me.

Touch me
As you whisper tenderness
Gently in my ear,
Kissing the spot that warms me,
Making me yours.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Life was Much Easier

Although the tourists saw things as they were in the early 1800s, the people of Clifton at first had life much easier.

- Margaret Peterson Haddix, Running Out of Time

When I met the person destined to become my wife, life did seem so much better, so much easier. I had found a beautiful Asian woman that loved me, that wanted me, and I felt my heart returning the love. At close to the same age, we met at a junior college with dreams of finishing college and having a more secure future. We were both refugees. She was a political refugee and I was an economic one. Four years in the military with 3 1/2 years in the reserves before that had enabled me to afford to return to college 10 years after I had graduated from high school. We both made straight A's, and consistently outperformed the students who didn't value the education quite as much as we did. Here was a friend I could talk to, and I started debating whether I would ever have to tell her of my subtle cravings to be female, to be as pretty as she was.

The following semester, I moved out of my sister's place and began living on campus at a local university, while she still had one more semester to finish up for her Associate's degree. The fantasies had returned, I was calling phone sex lines to try to connect with transsexuals and I was hitting the strip club to try to quell my lonely gender dysphoric feelings. One night when I returned, I had prayed to God for when I would meet the person who was meant for me. I felt Him tell me that I already knew the person. Running through several women I knew, I finally asked, how would I know which one? I suddenly had the image of a school bus, and then the phone rang.

My beautiful Asian study partner had called. At one point, she said something, and I asked, "How come?" She answered, jokingly, "By bus." I honestly told her, "I wouldn't mind spending the rest of my life with you." Apparently, that was a proposal.

The following December, we tried on the wedding bands we had made by melting together my grandfather's and her sister's wedding bands. I could feel the weight on my finger as it was a weight of responsibility that I longed to have. I haven't worn that ring for several months now. And neither has she.

The divorce paperwork is in the mail. My wife called Thursday to give me the final bit of information I needed to submit it for printing and mailing. I had already quit because it was horrible timing and was hurting both of us too much. So I assumed she wanted the divorce after all. She hasn't slept all week. I cried as I submitted the final information. Yesterday, she called twice in incredible depression to talk. We listened to one another.

It must be horrible thinking that you are going to be a single mother past your prime with two children and a mountain of debt. When you focus so much on your fear, you can actually cause it to happen.

I love her. I miss her. I worry about her and I can't cause her this much pain when she was not consciously considering divorce at the time. So I told her she can just put the packet aside when it arrives; but if she ever wants to file it, to just let me know and I'll file mine.

I am also afraid to be in so much debt. I don't want to leave so much with her, and the longer I delay my surgery, the longer I remain on hormones, the less material there will be available to work with. Meanwhile, it makes it harder to just integrate when the bathrooms are segregated on physical sex. I am not looking forward to having to answer someone as to why I have to use a bathroom they don't have access to.

Work is going well after the second week of full time. The first week was clouded by the expectation of being called by my former name. Correcting pronoun usage is getting to be a full time job, however.

When I arrived at the gate on Thursday morning and showed the guard my driver's license like I usually do, he started insisting on proof I was a contractor because I have a contractor sticker on my car. I was a little flustered to have to show him my contract id with my old name and photo on it right next to my newer driver's license. He said it was okay and let me through. Fortunately, that was the morning the system was ready for me to come get my new access card. Now, all that seems to be left is the email system and the timesheets, which are supposed to be "automagically" updated when I go into work on Monday.

I have opened conversations with Dr. Suporn's clinic in Thailand. The quote is 495,000 baht for SRS, approximately 15,000 USD, and 20% deposit when scheduling. I've seen his work, and I know I don't have quite enough tissue for the penile inversion technique. What's more, he guarantees his work, including full clitoral sensitivity. I'll have 3000 in an HSA by this time next year that I can use. I still need to come up with another 14,000 plus one month's wages to cover the 30 days I'll be gone. He is booked up about 8 months in advance, so I don't really have to worry about reserving until after September. So I really have to get finances under control so that I can afford the credit necessary to get this done, or I'm going to have to rape my retirement funds, leaving practically nothing; which is really bad because I'm not putting anything in right now.

Hugs and God Bless,

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Time Crash

"The time crash was not my fault!" JB screamed. "If you'd just surrendered...You're the one who chose to speed away, to slam into the time frame, to ruin her life"--he pointed at Angela--"to nearly destroy thirteen years of time--no, to nearly destroy all of time!"

- Margaret Peterson Haddix, Found

What a Mother's Day gift I gave to my wife. Last night, I asked her if she still wanted a divorce because I felt that the emotional support had gone the way of physical support. I thought she didn't care for me anymore and each step major step I took to be my real self made her feel more bitter. She, on the other hand, felt that I didn't care anymore what happened and was ready to just cut them out of my life. She felt that I had no compassion.

After a debate that heated up, then cooled down, I thought maybe now was the time to just go ahead and file the paperwork. As I paid the fee and got started, the emotional pain swelled up so much in my chest that I had to just close the computer down and take a nap. Once I let somebody into my heart, I can't let them go. It's like cutting off my arm with a dull knife.

Waking up to her phone call, we began to work through what the trigger was that set her off and the farther we got in the paperwork, the more painful it got for both of us, until I finally stopped and said I would not file when there are bad feelings. The problem that we were suffering from is that both of us were operating from a mindset in which the other person didn't care, and we were both wrong. We seem to keep falling into this mindset anytime there is a significant amount of stress, especially when it's financial, despite all the evidence to the contrary.

A divorce is inevitable. But it's not going to happen today. The very fact that we cannot ever share physical intimacy leaves me craving for touch in a way that I can't remain faithful. We said more things to hurt each other, including saying that we wasted 10 years of our life, when I really don't believe that I did. If it wasn't for our time together, the beautiful moments of bonding and production of 2 bright, beautiful and loving children would never have happened, not to mention the time that I spent with my daughters. The last 13 years of my life was not wasted, but even though I explained that to her, the hurtful words will probably stick in her memory more.

While we were talking in a cooled down period, we realized that the Air Force counselor I had seen when I was 9 years old and on the verge of coming out may have contributed to the long periods of my life that I just could not remember previously. My memories skipped from point to point, years apart from one another. So much of my life was gone. I remember having developed a mindset that I must remain a boy no matter what. I don't even remember going to counseling, but my mother confirmed it, and said they thought "it was over." I remember, though, that the USAF was aligned with Johns Hopkins, which I found out in the last year or so practiced behavioral therapy designed to suppress feminine tendencies. How can you suppress feminine tendencies without also suppressing the memories? If one of those memories hadn't been persistently in my dreams and a little too realistic, I would never have even uncovered that I had been to "counseling."

I remember being told without being prompted, "You don't want to be a girl. Girls have to go through periods." I swore for the longest time it was my mother who told me that, but she has no recollection that ever occurred. Now, I think it was part of my "counseling," and a trigger implanted somehow to recall it. But I also kept responding in my mind, so. I could just never voice it.

If I had been given appropriate counseling at 9 or 10, I would have not caused so much pain by resisting my inner self for so many years and the collateral damage it took on my family when I couldn't resist being myself anymore. I would not have wasted 32 years of my life on an identity quest because I didn't know who I was anymore.

But these are the cards I have been dealt to play with, and I can't erase the past.

Hugs and God Bless,

Friday, May 7, 2010

Butterfly Medicine

In Cherokee: (kamama nvwati)

MEANING: Transformation, Next Step, Spiritual Growth...

When Butterfly Medicine grabs your attention it is asking you to embrace your own ability to transform your Life. It takes courage to transform your Life because it means letting go of things that no longer serve you to your Highest Good and change can be scary when confronted with the unknown.

When Butterfly Medicine appears in front of you, this means you are ready for the transformation process to begin. You may be so ready that you actually manifested a Butterfly to appear as to remind you of your heart's desire.

Butterfly's message is about taking that next step in your transformation process. Take note of the steps of transformation and let the steps guide you along your spiritual progression path. Remember, if Butterfly has crossed your path, you are ready to change in a big way and the transformation process has already begun.

- Dr. Laura Standley, "Butterfly Medicine,"

This last weekend, while I was sitting on a picnic table under a tree near my apartment reading, for some reason I reached up and started to gently pull a twig out of my hair. The twig was actually a squiggling, green caterpillar. I gently tossed it to the bench seat on the other side and resumed reading. A short while later, as I was closing up my book, I was a little surprised to see it on the corner of the table right behind the book, stretching out as if to crawl on my chest. I wondered what the portent of this strange behavior was. Why did it so desperately want to be with me?

Today, while I sat on my front porch reading A Coward's Guide to Conflict at a very emotive portion at the end, I looked up to see a beautiful orange, black and white winged butterfly on the sidewalk, occasionally closing it's wings, only to reopen them a short time later. It was the first butterfly I have seen this Spring. I greeted it with, "Why...hello there," and went back to reading. It fluttered to within an inch or two of the page I was reading, and spiraled above my head up a short distance of about 5 feet. It then performed an aerial dance, swirling just over my head several times. So, I put down my book and simply tried to ask it for its message. Only one came to mind: the very nature of the butterfly is that of intense transformation. And a few raindrops started to fall.

The quote above is what I found when I Googled "butterfly medicine." She is a harbinger of major transformation, spiritual growth and the courage to be transformed. As I read Dr. Standley's interpretation, I felt tears of acceptance that indeed I am already transforming, and that possibly, I have just embarked on a change that will leave me radically changed and spiritually larger. Is it a coincidence that this message framed my first week of my RLT?

I can only anticipate that I will reach new depths of myself and my connection to others in the months to come.

Hugs and God Bless,


End of First Week of RLT

Today marks the end of my first week in RLT (Real Life Test). The cognitive dissonance has faded considerably, while any reference to my previous name still throws me a little. My coworkers have been good, and I'm getting comfortable with my jaunts to my private, semi-personal bathroom. The women have been a little more inclusive, and the guys have continued on as business as usual.

There is now one person in the office who doesn't know I transitioned. She started a couple of days ago, wore her swing skirt to work and is anxious to form office girlfriends, including me :)

Yesterday, started out mixed. I slipped in the shower, banged my head on the wall and sprained my neck just slightly from the impact. When I got to work, I almost missed a primo spot, parked and walked past a group of shoulders there for training. While I was waiting for the elevator, the group headed inside to the classroom and one of the soldiers surprised me by pausing, turning and giving me a long, sultry, "Hey," before heading inside.

Then I got letter from the son of one of my coworkers. He was wondering if I was the same "Sophie" that his mother (a close friend and supproter) was talking about going through sex reassignment, and I assured him that it was indeed me. He only recently came out as a crossdresser to his mother in December just before Christmas, his feelings resonate pretty closely to heterosexual crossdressers that I know. Mostly, he's attached to his "attachment." We did, however, share a Native American ancestry.

The Germanic, Swedish and Anglo-Saxon blood must have overcome my Tsalagi (Cherokee) blood. I am 1/16 descended from both parents. My adolescence was slow, and at 19, my beard was light and slow to grow. Boot camp a couple of years later fixed that--I had to start shaving twice a day as the follicles woke up to the daily shaving. Now, it's a bit of a pain as I go through laser, and will have to go through electrolysis in a few months to catch the gray strays.

I considered breast forms for a short period of time, but really settled on breast growth, because I knew everything had to be real for me--hair, breasts, nails, and eventually "down there." Instead of breast forms, when I tried to compromise by living "as a crossdresser" in order to save my marriage, my boobs were tiny--the silicon bust enhancers you can buy at Walmart. Another issue I had is that when I finally relaxed into my female mode, it was never done. I was never statisfied enough to take enjoyment as male. The few emotions I felt as male were dark and shallow. There is so much more "me" on this side. Because my cravings were just as much physical as emotional, I consider myself both transgender and transsexual. My gender meta-awareness kicked in at 10, followed almost immediately by breast envy. At 12, when other boys were feeling their manhood, I felt something completely different between my legs that was not what I saw when I looked at it. From about 5 years old, boys in groups of two or more terrified me, and I did all I could to avoid them.

From his description, my friend's son sounds like he may be closer on the spectrum to being bigendered to a degree with at least half of his non-androgynous feelings on the male side. If that's the case, not only would cross-sex hormones make him incredibly paranoid and depressive, he would probably regret genital surgery from male to female, especially given the costs involved. But only he can know that.

When I came out to my mother, I first chatted with her in person over a cup of tea and slipped in the question of what she would have named me had I been born a girl. When she told me, I decided to use the middle name, which is reflective of hers and ditch the country-cousin sounding first name. I did not come out to her then. On a following Sunday, I believe the next month, I still showed up as Robert, and took her to my IMVU web page, where I was known as Sophie Jean, and I had a crossdresser photo posted.

I made it a habit to see her once a month on a Sunday, and since I was going to church as myself at a Unitarian Universalist Church on Sundays, I would always go home, wash up and change first. Eventually, she suggested that I just come after church as I was. It was all right. Of course, the first time she met me as Sophie was at a Dairy Queen in the Baptist-dominated country town where I grew up from the age of 12. She convinced me to do my night makeup, and she took a picture before I left. It was an environment that I felt really nervous in, but I did it for her.

Eventually, I loaned her my copy of True Selves by Mildred Brown that a psychotherapist had instructed me to pick up years previously to see where we were headed. Mom still hasn't finished it, and it is really tough on her to miss her son, but she's coming to love her daughter.

My friend's son offered me a blonde wig that he felt didn't look right on him. I outgrew my wig about a year and a half ago. It, too, is blonde. And after having my hair cut back twice over that time, the last time 10 months ago, it is at a nice medium business length. When I moved to Kentucky in October, I left the wig with my family in Texas, because I felt it had become a crutch.

I told my friend's son that I hope that he didn't mind telling his mother that he made contact with me for support. I tried to get her to just open up at first by asking her to tell me about her son. When that failed, I simply told her that he found me.

I reminded him that she lives alone and it would mean so much to just go see her as his male self once a month or so. To just sit and chat about whatever is on his mind or hers, maybe to bring back pleasant memories together or even, if she's willing, to talk about his father.

And, of course, this reminds me that I need to call my mother this Sunday on Mother's Day.

Hugs and God Bless,

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The New Girl

I have worked with quite a few individuals in the financial services industry, and few impressed me as well as Tom.

- Tim Ursiny, The Coward's Guide to Conflict

I was mistaken for the new girl this morning. I'll take that as a compliment.

When I get ready in the morning, usually I first brush my hair out and try to give it a sense of the wave direction I would like it to go with my round brush. It really is a compromise, because my hair is just about as stubborn as I am, and so I just make an effort to make it neat and pretty based on the direction it insists on going. Then I pin it back with a hair band and apply my makeup, before removing the band and adjusting the new waves the hair band creates.

This morning, when I was done with my makeup and ready to unleash my hair, I had to stop. Somehow, I had natural ringlets over each ear, and I really liked what I saw. I looked so feminine and completely different. So, it was as I was sitting by Sandra, that I was mistaken by Tim as being the new girl who doesn't actually start until tomorrow.

On one of my morning rides to the bathroom, I rode with two gentlemen and a lady who got off at the next two floors. I was referred to as "she" by the strangers as we rode down. At one point, one of the gentlemen cracked off something, and the other woman jokingly told me, "Hit him for me."

As I got to the bottom, I noticed that the puddle on the basement floor is almost dried up now, giving me room to walk around it instead of having to try to stretch or leap over it.

After a while, I noticed my hair was starting to look a little flat, as the ringlets fell out. That was easily solved by removing the hairband and brushing everything out.

I do believe I have a new look.

Hugs and God Bless,

Monday, May 3, 2010

Same Girl Down Here

"I bet you anything it's the same girl as the one down here, the one at 1873 Robin's Egg Lane," Chip said.

- Margaret Peterson Haddix, Found

Today was the same as any other workday, except that it began with me awake at 5:30 in the morning, the use of an entirely different work wardrobe, and the careful application of makeup.

At about 7:20, my friendly gate guard greeted me onto the post with, "Have a nice day, Ma'am," and I got to my desk about 7:30 in the morning. As I walked the hall toward my desk, I waved a friendly finger wave to the coworker who I heard had said he would "kick anyone's ass" who caused me a problem. Putting my purse in the locker by my desk, I got to work.

At 9:00 AM, I made my morning trip to have my morning chat with Sandra. When I got there, Peggy was full scale into one of her stories, making sure to include me in her scan.

Not much later, several of us proceeded to scavenge what we needed from the nearby desk of someone who was let go on Friday. I acquired a few dry erase markers and a cubicle wall clip. Using the markers, I finally put my name on the window pane to my cubicle, drawing a border of green hydrangea leaves on a blue vine, two blue roses on black stems with green leaves, and the words, "Bloom where you're planted" directly underneath my name. The wording was tricky, because the outside of the windows are frosted, requiring anything written to be done from the inside and backward.

Having my own contemplative artwork on the wall, I was very much less prone to using the internet to break my boredom while I repeatedly ran application builds and opened and shut my IDE (Integrated Development Environment), in order to launch the Application Server for testing.

The floor of the basement had a puddle near the elevator that I had to try to step around any time I had to use the bathroom. Supposedly, Louisville has set a new 35 year record in rain fall.

At 11:00 AM, I had a lead come over to my desk to review how far I had made it on the project. at 11:15, I discovered that the person who wanted to take me out for lunch had overdone the weekend and wasn't feeling well enough to go out, afraid he would make me sick.

I got to Sandra after I finished my grapes and just as she had the last bite of her lunch. She saved the day with a couple of snacks to tide my over while we had our lunchtime chat.

Overall, just a pretty normal, ordinary day. I did feel a little bit uncomfortable, because I realized that I am now in the process of integrating my working self into my overall dynamic self. I can sense the overall sense of merging into a mature, professional woman. Hopefully, the cognitive dissonance will continue to fade. It certainly had when I got into my car at 3:30 PM to head home and catch up on sleep.

It was a tough internal debate, as I already had a significant day and the new copies of my book were waiting at my door when I got home. But when I woke up 48 minutes ago, refreshed, I decided to go ahead and make an appearance at Sub Rosa.

My babies back home are both a little sick and I am worried about them. Not to mention, I heard that another one of the toilet valves sprung a leak, requiring a plumber call and a night of stress.

Hugs and God Bless,

Sunday, May 2, 2010


The psychobabble term for this is "negative reinforcement." Negative reinforcement occurs when your behavior results in something negative being taken away. Since the negative thing is taken away, you feel temporarily better and therefore your avoidance behavior is reinforced. So not getting in the car after an accident feels good temporarily and thus increases the odds that you will avoid getting in the car the next time.

-- Tim Ursiny, The Coward's Guide to Conflict

When Dr. Tim Ursiny is talking about negative reinforcement, he is referring to it in the sense of dealing with conflict, and primarily anxieties. He also discusses a process known as systematic desensitization. In systematic desensitization, large insurmountable anxieties are dealt with by replacing them with a hierarchy of lesser anxieties, of which the anxiety with the least control is addressed first. It's the same concept that we refer to in the community as baby steps.

Even if we share the same anxieties, we may not have the same hierarchy of fear, and so the order of steps we take in transitions can differ substantially from person to person.

I was looking at some of my writing from even just a year ago, and I was deathly afraid of transitioning on the job. But today, the concept of going into work tomorrow transitioned seems as natural as the moon rising. That's probably because I broke that one huge fear into a number of fears, by chipping at them one at a time.

Among my fears were the loss of my family, the loss of my job, and being treated as less than a woman.

I have learned over the past year that family goes much deeper and wider than the concept of nuclear families today. My daughters are still my daughters despite our separation, and marital spats work just as well over long distance, whether or not you are still legally married. Your family is also your community or communities of people who take interest in one another.

I have worked very carefully to make sure I didn't lose my job transitioning. I found my supervisor and company ready to support a rapid transition even though I was willing to give them months to make it happen. I have had recruiters call based on my online resume and one who continued to show interest when I explained that I was transitioning.

My adopted community has treated very much as a woman with all the human dignity and respect that goes along with it, from my friends at the club, my church family and my dance friends. My only concern is that my coworkers knew me as Robert before they knew me as a Sophie, and I can see that even among my closest supporters, tripping up on the name and the pronoun is all to easy, even though they had advance warning. This means I am just going to have to be alert and give them gentle reminders when they slip up, as my mother still does from time to time.

Hugs and God Bless,