Monday, December 21, 2009

The Divinding Line

Without "talking out of school" I want to say a bit about a recent conversation I had because it seems to me that the thoughts expressed there represent a deeper reality that applies to everyone's attitudes.

The basic structure is as follows.
When you consider a transgender person, you believe - if you have an opinion at all - that one of these two things is true: Either (a) this is a person with a condition, something they were probably born with and over which they have no control other than how they choose to "treat" the condition; or (b) this is a person indulging in a lifestyle choice which they could easily, if they so desired, "turn off" and put aside.

The person I was talking with was firmly in the latter camp. In his opinion then, quite logically and obviously, I was selfishly placing my desire to behave this way ahead of the concerns of those who might be hurt by my choices. Other people I have spoken with seem to grasp the reality of the former point of view (one very sweet lady I am acquainted with seem surprised when I said "no church around here is going to have me." she said "Why not? I don't see anything wrong with you." It made my day).

It seems to me that that difference of opinion is the fundamental dividing line in terms of how people like me are received. Oh that's not to say that a person who thinks this is a choice will be rude or unkind, they may well feel obliged to exercise good manners and be polite. but when it comes to how a person fundamentally feels about you - whether they are happy that you are happy or uncomfortable in your presence or whatever - it goes back to the basic question of WHY you are what you are.

After all, for a person like me who's in a long term marriage, if this is a condition then it falls under "in sickness and in health, for better or worse" but if it's a choice then it is, in many ways, abandonment. That's a huge distinction when a spouse is trying to process what comes next.

What makes it more complex and difficult is that in most cases, a person who believes it is a choice does so because of their moral world view. Such a person is usually not at all receptive to evidence to the contrary. I can point you to any number of solid scientific finding which indicate this is inborn. Both behavioral studies which I grok and technical biological studies which I confess to being out of my depth in trying to understand. but if you BELIEVE this is a choice, then you are often pre-disposed to dismiss any so-called evidence which might muddy those particular waters. I don't say this with any sort of hostility, just as an observation of reality.

Still, if there's a lesson in this for those of us living out this process, it's that maybe there's a real obligation on us to be as open about our condition as possible. While some of those we love most will be the ones who hurt us most by there rejection, it's also apparently true that for a great many well intentioned people, having someone "put a face on" this thing provokes them to reconsider their worldview. And if there's ever going to be a place in the world for people like us, it's going to come not through political pressure but through changing people's hearts one at a time.

Thursday, December 10, 2009


But is it really paranoia if the thing you are paranoid about ends up being true?

I've always felt, and perhaps this has something to do with the fact that the image I presented to the world was a false front, that feeling that there was something going on behind my back that I wasn't privy to. You know what I mean. Like when there are two people at the other end of the hall whispering and you are SURE they are talking about you?

I never really put too much stock in that feeling - one could go crazy wondering if they indulged that. But this experience has added a couple of new layers or facets to that feeling.

For one thing, I take it as a given now that if two or more people near me are laughing together, they are probably laughing at me. That's not so much paranoia, because I resolved when I started down this road not to be discouraged by the ridicule I might get from others, but more a mechanism for dealing with the reality that at least some of them surely are. If I take it for granted that it's about me and then am able to shrug it off and not be hurt or offended, then it makes me stronger for the hard parts of the road ahead.

I saw that coming and was ready for it.

But the other thing is something I didn't see coming at all - the paranoia about what a Facebook friendship really means.

This actually works out in a couple of different ways. first, what do you make of a Facebook friend who "defriends" you? Did they somehow decide you were ok at first but then reverse course and decide to wash there hands of you? I mean, that's anyone's right to be sure - but it leaves a lot of room for speculation as to motives when it happens with no explanation.

The other side of it is, of course, wondering why someone you have little or no real-world interaction with wants to be your friend. I mean, for a "normal" person maybe it's not that big a deal. Probably they just need one more person to invite to Farmville or some such. Maybe they just want the biggest friend list ever.
But with me, there's always the possibility that there's something more.

Is this person my friend because they really want to be nice? Are they just innocently curious? Do they wish to be supportive?


Are they slowing down to gawk at the train wreck?

Are they here for the same reason people pay to see the Dog-Faced Boy at the Freak Show? are they looking for something to gossip about?

You see, I hate to even think these thoughts. I would much prefer to think the very best of everyone absent some real reason for doing otherwise. But I can't help but wonder if people REALLY are supportive of (or at least cool with) me? they really remember me fondly from some previous interaction or some such?...or am I providing them free ammunition?

I really don't know. In most respects it doesn't matter I suppose. If you are laughing at me when I'm not around there's nothing I can do about it and it really does me no harm. But there is one thing about this that does matter a very great deal to me, and that's how you treat the people I love and the people whom circumstances have connected to me.

No one else but me had anything to do with causing this or any ability to stop it. it is my own private curse or condition or whatever the hell you call it. I would really hate to think that my mom or my wife or my kids or my brother or my in-laws or anyone else connected to me was having to suffer the abuse of small-minded and petty people because I've chosen to be so open about my situation on-line and in the real-world. I realize there are such childish and mean-spirited people out there, and it's not like I'm not an easy target, both for what I am and because of anyone's judgment about how I chose to deal with it.

But honestly, if you feel you MUST act a fool, at least have the sense to direct your derision at the ACTUAL freak and not the person who through no fault of there own has some connection to the freak, ok? It might not occur to you but chances are the person you are troubling isn't any more happy about this than you are.

I don't say all this in reference to any particular person of whom I'm aware - as far as I know, every friend on my list (and everyone I've spoken to about this IRL) is completely compassionate and kind towards me and everyone around me. So maybe I'm just paranoid.

Maybe there isn't anything at all to worry about in this regard. but, if I were a gambler . . . I'd have to place my bets that if it hasn't happened, it will.

So all I ask for is sincerity. If I'm doing anything here, it's being totally frank and open with people about my issues. so be open in return. there is nothing so valuable as a sincere relationship, and nothing so empty as a false one. I can take any heat you can throw at me and maybe even answer with some of my own...but let your words to me be the same as your words that I don't hear. and save your judgment for me alone if judgment you have.


Saturday, December 5, 2009

What makes a difference?

So maybe this week I don't have a long drawn out dissertation on life, the universe, and everything. I've been thinking that not everyone who reads this thing is local and yet my previous posts have been sort of coming from a place where you almost have to be local to know what I'm talking about, so let me try to do some posts, perhaps shorter, on some more general thoughts.

A friend of mine has ask me a few questions about where this sort of thing comes from and why a person with GID makes the choices they do and I want to address those here at some point but I'm still kind of gathering my thoughts on that in a way that I can be clear and not give in to my usual tendency to wander off on tangents.

In the mean time, another thought is on my mind this evening, which is this - does real world contact do more to build tolerance than political activism?

One of the things I've gone back and forth on in terms of where I go from here is the extent to which I "keep my head down" and live my own life, as opposed to the possibility of - for example - trying to start a support group for folks like me in North Mississippi (believe me, there are NO resources for gender issues this side of Memphis that are easily found) or some other effort to "be active" beyond getting through my own life unmolested. But what I don't have an interest in is being a "professional victim." It seems to me that those who very loudly and publicly proclaim how they and those like them are being abused often alienate the hearts and minds they are trying to win. I don't want to be that sort of person.

First of all, there is the problem of mistaken perceptions. I personally think it is most unfortunate that gay/lesbian issues are joined at the hip with transsexualism in the minds of most people (practically all people who are not themselves trans). Both in the LGB community, and in the "Christian Conservative" movement, they are thought to be all the same set of problems. In my humble opinion, they are not. Meaning no disrespect to gays and lesbians when I say this, there is a fundamental difference in their orientation situation and our identity situation. At it's most basic level, being transsexual is not a SEXUAL issue at all, it's a gender issue. Which is to say that it's not at all about who you have sex with or, indeed, if you have sex at all.
A great many transsexuals, whether pre- or post-operative, are essentially celibate the rest of their lives (and quite happy to make the bargain if that's the price that must be paid). Many others remain oriented towards the gender that they were always oriented towards (i.e. a transwoman who is still romantically interested in women - which puts the lie to the myth that transsexuals are just homosexuals in denial) as well. Our issues with our identity are not predicated on or even directly related to our sexual behavior.

Whatever might be said for or against the rights of homosexuals to practice their lifestyle unmolested, there issues are not the same as ours. Take one obvious example. A gay man can and does commonly use a men's restroom without an eyebrow being raised. Why? Because his bedroom habits are not at issue when he is using the restroom, it's as irrelevant as what he had for dinner last night. By contrast, every time a pre-operative transwoman sets foot in a ladies room (at least one which is designed for more than one occupant at a time) she is risking the wrath of some offended person taking exception. Now, whatever your opinion of the bathroom issue (perhaps I'll devote a column to that issue sometime in the future) the point remains - for us the issue is the restroom itself, not what we do elsewhere as it is for the homosexual.

That's just one illustration - but the point I'm making here is that despite that reality, in the common perception of opinion and politics, trans issues are intertwined with homosexual issues. Another case in which, politically speaking, perception becomes reality. So I'm pretty much stuck with knowing that as you read, you'll be thinking "gay rights" no matter how I preface it.

Now, in saying I don't want to be a political crusader, that's not to say that there are not legitimate issues that need to be worked out in this ever-more-complex society. It's not to say that I might not at some point find myself treated unfairly (in fact, I'd be stunned if it didn't happen) and that such unfairness wouldn't possibly put me in a position of protesting I'd rather not be in. But nonetheless, having been on both sides of the issue, so to speak, I have maybe a bit of insight not everyone "in the trenches" on these battles has. I've seen both sides demonize the other and I've noticed, I think, that it is the most political of activists that seems to most provoke suspicion on the other side.

So. what really works? If I, or anyone else in my position, wants to see a world that's more accepting of our condition, do we really need to march with placards and be "in the face" of those with differing opinions? do we really need to (as the gay press does with great reliability) accuse those who have a differing view of being "haters"? I can testify that during all the time I spent reading and listening and talking to people who had views which gay rights activists would label as intolerant, I never saw even one example of open hatred among the people I interacted with. I mean sure there are people like Fred Phelps and Steve Anderson but the vast majority are not remotely like that. It seems to me that nothing is to be gained by an "us vs. them" mentality in which you assume the worst about the "opponent."

Likewise, it does the conservative side no good, in the long run, to constantly try to make the worst possible connections in expressing their disagreement. Constantly comparing gays to child molesters for instance, trying to build up the mental image that the leather clad parader in San Francisco represents your typical gay or that the over-the-top drag queen represents your typical transsexual (with all due respect to leather-clad drag queens). In fact, all that really says to a lot of the people who's mind you are trying to change is that you are out of touch with reality. Heck, most drag queens aren't even transsexuals in the first place.

In my observation, both in my VERY limited time living it but also in the testimony of many others who have traveled a similar road, what really works is recognizing and honoring the humanity of the person in question. When the person with the "abnormal" lifestyle is loved and cared for by a real flesh and blood Christian they get the chance to find out that not all (hardly any in fact but you get the point) Christians are motivated by "hate."

Likewise, hopefully at least, when people who've never had any experience with a person with these issues in their life has a chance to know a real person that they have known for years and have some respect for happens to be one of "those people"- when you find out your nephew is gay or your sister is a lesbian or your uncle is trans or ...whatever else you don't personally agree with - hopefully then it gives you the chance to see the people on the other side of public opinion as something more worthy of respect than they were when they were "those people."

Does that mean you have to change your opinion, either way? of course not. You can love a person with whom you agree on absolutely nothing politically or otherwise. It doesn't take approving of someone's issues, decisions, choices, whatever you want to think of them as - in order to have some kindness and compassion for them. That's a matter of simple human decency isn't it? What do we gain by calling each other "hateful" or "sick" except more distance between us?
Differences of opinion are to be expected. But villainizing those who disagree is beneath all of us. I have no idea to what extent I'll try to do in the future (I suspect very very little) but I do hope that at least every once in a while, someone who's known me for years can now take a second look at transsexualism based on what they see in me. Maybe I can "put a face on" the issue in a way that will help someone be more open minded.

Or - Maybe not.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Three Weeks On

Seems like maybe this blog needs two things - (a) someone reading it; and (b) a more cheerful post.

There's no way for me to know how much traffic I'm getting (I've been told at least one couple I know is reading and I presume a few others) but I have found that the relatively simple task of adding a counter here is apparently beyond my tech skills (which I find maddening). I do note that I have no followers and no comments. so I want to invite anyone who's reading this to comment in reply to this post, even if you wish to remain anonymous and just say "+1" or something - I really would like to know I'm not talking to myself here. especially if you come here specifically to read it and didn't just trip over it.

On the second point - it occurs to me that when I spend my time whining I give the FALSE impression that this isn't going well for me. On the contrary, with the sole exception of the previously mentioned issues (which are very much of the "to be expected" variety) I am ecstatic over the last three weeks. Going into full-time mode has been the most wonderful experience of my life. Not to minimize other VERY meaningful milestones like wedding days and childbirth, but this is the first time in my life where what happened to me actually happened to ME and not to that character I was trying to be.

Nothing particularly special has happened, and yet everything is special. I've noted before that I have to acknowledge the technical possibility that everyone is laughing at me when I'm not around. What can I say about that? I'm certainly not naive enough to think that people are not always talking about SOME one - why should I be an exception?

What I do know though, is that my experiences have been almost uniformly positive. Sure, there are sometimes awkward moments - most often when I speak "on the fly" and forget to manage my normally very deep voice (which by the way my "girl voice" isn't remotely convincing in my opinion but then it's very early) . But there are other occasions. To cite an obvious example, I crossed paths yesterday with my best friend from high school and his customary greeting to me since those teenage years is "hey boy." Reflexively he threw that out then tried to catch it and figure out how to correct it.

I felt bad for him (it certainly wasn't his fault) - we don't see each other often enough for him to have ANY chance to mentally adapt to the new paradigm, and I certainly don't want to presume to invade his comfort zone to give him more opportunities (I need to say clearly that I'm not so insensitive as to not realize that speaking kindly to me about my issues is not necessarily a sign the person wants to spend quality time with you). There was no "unawkward" way to make a moment like that work.

Same when you see someone who's only ever known you by your male name and they toss off a "Hi G___!" perhaps without even realizing that in doing so that's a potential red-flag to those around me that I was passing with until that greeting. (I suppose there's potential there for the disapproving to purposely do just that but I've not run across anyone yet that I would remotely assume was trying to do that). Another example of this is when my kids are with me.

I'm not unhappy with them in any way about this, let me be clear. But I have picked up on something that is a bit clumsy. When we go to New Albany or Corinth I am surrounded by people, 90% or more of whom take it as a given that I'm female (most people just don't look that close) - so when I'm approached by a child who says "Hey, Daddy..." I have just been "outed" to the person who overhears. My wife doesn't want me to ask them to refrain from the use of the word "Daddy" in public places but it is an uneasy feeling to have the red flag thrown up like that.

So yeah, there are tricky spots but on the whole, I'm pretty much walking on air every time I leave the house now. Before I came out, I tended to be fairly lazy about going out. How could I combine several stops in one trip today so I didn't have to tomorrow? Now, I'm almost to the point of making up reasons. I sometimes find myself tempted to stop and get a bag of chips or something we don't even technically need just to be doing those mundane daily chores as ME.

Can you even comprehend the concept of getting a rush out of a stop to pay a bill or buy some gas? Of feeling tremendously blessed when someone addresses you with the word "ma'am"?

I doubt any of you who are not affected with this condition can even take that claim seriously, let alone grasp how it feels. I have a long long way to go, and there are destinations on this road I may never reach and certainly plenty of hazards in my path but right this minute, with NONE of the physical alterations I need having been done, I feel more alive, more free and fulfilled, then at any point in the first 45 years of my life.

Perhaps you are reading this and laughing. Perhaps you are reading it and feeling a bit of (or a lot of) anger. Perhaps you are smugly thinking how big a fool I am. None of that reduces my joy one bit. It would be nice, in a perfect world, if everyone could just be happy that anyone could find a place of such contentment and happiness in their life - but we don't live in a perfect world. And I've left behind that state of mind that ties my happiness to the approval of others. Life is too short, and too far gone, for me to do that anymore. What I've learned the last three weeks, if there was ever any doubt, is that (as far as I'm speaking of myself only) - I'd rather spend my life as a bag lady if it comes to that athan spend it as the richest man in town.

Don't forget - if you read this blog, especially if you are a repeat reader, please post SOME kind of comment on this one just to let me know you are there.


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Highs and Lows

It's almost like what being bipolar must be like.

In the last few weeks I have experienced some of the happiest moments I can remember (and none of them arising from "special occasions") and also some of the deepest pain. It's interesting to ponder the meaning of not only the emotions but the circumstances surrounding them.

Let me offer one example of the "high points," without giving you identifying information that might cause the person I'm going to mention any undue harassment (and I have no doubt it's possible some misguided person would advise her to stop encouraging me). I was in a place of business the other day and one of the employees there, who's known me long enough to watch the transition, was asking me about my experiences and how I was enjoying it and in time we shifted into plain ol' fashioned "girl talk" about things like makeup and such. Now I know that to those of you who are screaming at your screen right now "But you are a man you moron!!!" that idea is at once both incomprehensible and nauseating - but to me it was pure bliss.

The most uplifting thing that can possibly happen to one such as I is to be interacted with entirely as we would be if we had been born physically female. Even obvious sexism, in a twistedsort of way, is validating.

But the experience I had --- all the experiences I've had in this vein so far --- have not been negative in any sense. now I'll readily concede that perhaps the girl who's so nice to me behind the register is laughing hysterically at how ridiculous I look after I leave. There's nothing I can do about that even if I discover it to be true. But as long as I don't know that, I can enjoy the moment when she looks at my nails and says "I love that color!" or compliments my earrings or says anything else she would have said to a genetic girl.

(now watch, people will start "helping" me by telling me that all those nice girls are secretly laughing at me just to steal my joy)

In any case, I have found that the less previous emotional connection I have to people - the more that they are basically "acquaintances" rather than "friends" - the better they treat me. They obviously have less emotional stake in what becomes of me, but I don't think that entirely explains it. Especially in contrast to actual "friends." these acquaintances seem to, in most cases, either assume an "it's none of my business" position, or else they take a bit more proactive "you have to do what makes you happy" position. A few of them have even complimented me on the courage (foolhardiness?) that it took/takes to come out in a small town.

In contrast to that, the "lows" always come from someone close to me. let me be clear and say that while the deepest pain has come from trying to process this in relationship to my wife, I do not begrudge her anything. She above all others is entitled to not go through this willingly or easily. Yes, it is true that I am causing her incredible pain, just as it is true that if I were to be forced to give this up (assuming that's even still possible) that it would cause me incredible pain. We both know there's no "win" here no matter what happens.

As much as those who disapprove of my actions would advise me to just "get right" and everything will be fine, the simple truth is that no one, least of all my spouse and kids, will be able to forget that I am simply wearing a mask in order to patch together the illusion of normalcy. no one who knows of this will be under any illusion about what lies beneath the mask. Like a shattered pane of glass, what has been broken cannot be restored to it's previous condition. If you think that after all these years of imploring God to heal me that I'm going to suddenly be able to say a prayer of repentance and suddenly NOT be a transsexual anymore then you are simply deluding yourself.

Been there, tried that (and all the variations thereof).

The truth is that if I were to give this up and put the man-mask back on (and like an escaped prisoner who can hear the bloodhounds in the distance, I sometimes sense that I will be defeated and chained back behind that mask) I would be the most miserable example of a man you would ever have the grave misfortune to meet. Think of the guy you know in your circle of acquaintances who's the most useless and unlovable bum you know: I'd be him - squared. THAT would be a worse fate for my family than even suicide, in my opinion. Let alone the shame of knowing that "daddy turned into a woman."

But to say it again - even though it grieves me more than I can say to see how I'm hurting her, I lay NO blame on her for how she feels or what she decides to do about it, now or in the future.

Other folks though --- that's more complex. Why is it that we presume so easily to have the answers to things we've never faced? why is it the person with a happy marriage presumes to sit in judgment over the couple who divorces? Why is it the person who's child is a little angel presumes that the parent who's child is a hell raiser must have raised him wrong? Why is it that we so readily tell the person who's depressed to "just cheer up" when we've never been clinically depressed ourselves? Why is it the person who has a rabbit's metabolism assumes everyone with 10 extra pounds is a "lazy ass"?

That's not to say that those judgment's are not sometimes correct - but on what basis do we assume we know so much?

Digression alert!

the knee-jerk answer is often "the Bible says so!" - which is a very fine thing until you realize that our landscape is littered with respectable churches filled with spirit-filled and well-meaning Christians who hold to scholarly-supported and time-tested doctrines about the bible which contradict each other!

Tell me, with all due respect, if Christians of good will can't agree on the specifics of such an important, prominent and central doctrine as who should be baptized and under what circumstances, then how could it POSSIBLY be true that we can say with no shadow of a doubt that transsexualism is a sin which God hates?

Does that sound like self-justification and rationalization. Yes. but it is no less logically true. it is no less rationalization for me to believe (for instance) that "a man shall not wear that which pertains to a woman" is not binding upon me any more than the prohibition against eating shellfish or pork applies to you, than it is for a Baptist and a Pentecostal to argue about "once saved always saved." if you hadn't noticed, one of you two is WRONG (barring an antinomy).

Nevertheless, people will happily meddle in someone else's life and happiness based on their willingness to claim they know the mind of God. Does that mean that you can't call ANYTHING sin? Of course not. What it does mean is that a little humility goes a long way.

For the matter of that, on a related note: why are we so very obsessed with other people's sin anyway? Should it REALLY matter to me if you, for instance, smoke a joint in the privacy of your own home? Other than to pray for you I mean? Have I really helped you if I go to your brother or your mother and say "did you know your child/sibling is a pothead?" How many of us, do you suppose, behind closed doors are looking for and cataloging the offenses of others? Is it any less wrong to seek out such information and gossip or gloat about it than it is to do the dirty deeds being gossiped about? I'm not talking here about the stuff that affects your own life, or the things that you have an obligation to try to take care of (as in, for instance, one of your own children or parents) - I'm talking about things that are basically not your business. Even if you find out about it, as anyone who sees me around town becomes aware of my (supposed) sin, how is it your business?

Or was it just that you somehow felt that it made you a bit more righteous to make note of how much all the other folks were sinning? I recall visiting a church, years ago before my marriage, in which the pastor spent the entire sermon saying, in essence, "I thank God all us folks is righteous because them folks outside the doors is doing all manner of sinning." the net effect being, "ain't it good we're so much better than they are?" There's a lot of love in that attitude, donchathink?

/end digression

The point I was originally trying to make is, it ought to surprise me (but doesn't really) how often it turns out that the people who you would think are the ones who care about you and would like to see you happy are the ones who have the least patience for your failing to measure up to their standards. All of a sudden, you are either persona non grata (or so it seems) to some, and grudgingly tolerated to some others.

(let me just note here that there are obvious exceptions for whom I am most grateful)

Why should it be true that the person who sees me two or three times a year in a place of business can be happy for me and the person I've been related to or presumably friends with for 5 or 20 or 35 years suddenly doesn't know I exist? Perhaps the rational is "we don't like what you are doing to your family" - well, the person who's kind to me doesn't like that either, you think they have no sympathy on that point?

Still and all, I really shouldn't compare those relatively minor heartaches to those which come from knowing I'm hurting the one person who loves me most. They are not worthy to be compared. If you are one who has known me for years and now you think I'm a sick pervert who needs his ass whipped and want nothing else to do with me - honestly, I wish it were different but if that's your position I can live with that. The truth is, I would sooner be so regarded by every person I ever met before this year as to give my wife the pain I've given her in the last year - and then some.

But it still appealed to me to point out the seeming contradiction. It would be nice if more folks would make at least some effort to sympathize with a condition that would lead someone to make the heart wrenching decision which would lead to that kind of pain rather than just cavalierly dismiss it as perversion. I REALLY don't mind much that you disagree with me about this or that you disapprove of it. The reason that I count it among the hurts is that most (all?) of the people who make their disagreement most obvious make no effort at all to say something like "I can't condone what you are doing but I have to admit that I have no idea what you must be going through and have gone through - I wish there was something I could do and please know that I love you anyway and if I can help . . ."

A lot of people have offered my wife the opportunity to call on them if she needed to talk and I'm grateful for every one of them - but it's worth noting that not ONE person who professed to care about me has written or called me to say "just because I don't approve doesn't mean I'm not hear for you if you need me." (and by the way, not to "fix" me but just to listen)

So it ends up being that I get all my emotional support from people who have no reason to give it and none from. . . well, you get the picture.

I guess this sounded like a lot more whining than I meant it to be --- but hey, what's a blog for if not to vent, eh?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


I took advantage of the warm weekend that might be our last to persuade my reluctant spouse to take a few fresh outdoor photos of me - I seem to take marginally better pics outside. Looking them over made me think about a larger point which seems worth writing about.

Most of my sisters, it seems, LOVE the camera. Or maybe it's not most of us, maybe it's the illusion created by the fact that those who do love the camera leave evidence and those who don't . . . can't leave evidence that they don't all over the internet. In any case, the perception at least is that there's nothing that a TG girl likes better than glamming up and taking a photo or forty.

But I don't. I mean, I can see where I would if I was genetically gifted with the ability to look really soft and pretty but clearly I'm not. Looking at my pics, for me, is an exercise in critical self-analysis to try to see myself through the eyes of others - looking to see in what ways I "pass" and in what ways I need work, comparing what I see in the photos to what I see among the natural born women around me. So taking photos, and examining them and eventually choosing which ones I'll even let others see is an exercise in physical self-examination.

I should divert just a moment here to say that in the last couple of weeks I've found that I actually do "pull it off" among those who don't know the old me a lot more often than i would have expected. usually when I'm "clocked" as they say, it's my voice that gives me away. That's not to say I would stand up to a really close inspection but the average person doesn't think THAT much about how the person they meet in the aisle at WalMart actually looks like. Just tonight, I met someone who knows me in another town - someone who knows about my transition - and she (who has a habit of not BS'ing me on these things) said she thought I passed well.

But this post isn't really about how the physical presentation is coming along - that part won't really be where I want it until a good 80-100 pounds have gone away. It's about the subject of self-examination and calculating what others see when they look at you, not just physically but internally as well.

Perhaps the most common reactions that non-trans people have when a person they like or love transitions is "Are you sure?" or some variation thereof. If there is any one thing I would love to communicate convincingly to those who know me, it's that this is not only not a casual or unconsidered choice (anyone who thinks I do this lightly should spend five minutes with my epilator!). when a person transitions, it's the product of a lifetime of internal agonizing over the subject. Now, I suppose one could, if they really wanted to, ask the 20 year old transsexual if they've given enough thought to it (although even then most have a decade or more invested in just that). Nor am I going to deny that some people just "discover" they are (or rather think they are) transgender some or many years into adulthood --- but such cases are very very very rare. Odds are you'll never meet such a person.

Most are like me. I've spent over 30 years considering every conceivable angle, every "cure," every downside, every consequence, every argument against, every doctrine or teaching on the subject. Occasionally I'll come across someone who wants to "change my mind" somehow, to "talk sense into me" or counsel me to "get right with God" --- apparently assuming I never gave any thought to all the religious, spiritual, and scientific arguments on the subject. Trust me friends, if you haven't lived this, you haven't give one/ten thousandths the thought I have to this subject including every conceivable argument against it. Please don't think you are going to bring something to the discussion to which I haven't already given many long hours of consideration.

Which is what I'm driving at --- the nature of self examination. It is my life's work. Examining my physical presentation (not only looks but mannerisms, tone of voice and etc) is the most obvious but in some ways the least difficult part of this journey. I first had to spend these decades figuring out who I am and what God really intended for me in this life. I had to filter through and reconcile what His Word says to me, and my own heart and life, and what the wise and respected people around me thought, and what science and culture say and out of all that distill what the implications were for me, and the people around me.

It is no mean feat.

But that's not the end of it. Then you have to apply the conclusion you reach. Even one who concludes that they have no choice but to stay in the closet and stay miserable, they still have to process how to stay sane in that closet. If you chose to accept your nature as I have at long last decided, then your self-examination has to expand to take in what others think of you, how they will deal with you, how relationships change, evolve, or even end.

i have to process what happens in my marriage to a woman who didn't deserve to have this happen to her; how my relationship to my kids changes; how I persuade someone to hire me and so much more. I have to wonder every time I see someone on the street that I know "what is this person thinking concerning me?"

Not because I choose to subject myself to the storms of public opinion --- quite the reverse. I am prepared, if necessary, to be rejected by them all, though thankfully this doesn't seem to be happening. But it's when they DON'T openly reject you that you have to examine the relationship. In some ways, open rejection is easier to process. Cut the cord, it's done, move on. But when you - for instance - see a long time acquaintance at his job in the supermarket you frequent several times a week - and that man sees you going about in makeup and a bra and sometimes a skirt as if you'd been doing so all your life, how does that change how you interact? does he just pretend not to notice and you pretend there's nothing TO notice? That's how it's gone so far, which I'm cool with. But I think about it, I'm always thiking.

More importantly, what happens when it goes beyond a casual friend to people you have to interact with, to family. Everything takes on a new drama. What happens when someone's in the hospital? Do you pay a visit when you're unsure what drama will ensue if even one family member chooses to take a stand against you? What about holiday dinners? I dare not submit to "manning up" and give the illusion I'm ashamed of what I am, yet what will happen if I present 100% Laura?
Every interaction, no matter how seemingly innocent, takes on that sharp edge of uncertainty. This goes not only for myself but for my wife and by extension the kids. Maybe more so. will her family try to "rescue" her from the freak living in her house? Do they have a legitimate point? Will they make things worse for us --- or for her relationship with them --- if they try? Or will they even try, or will they simply accept it? To be clear, I don't fault anyone else for this, it comes with the territory. But the point is that self-examination is, HAS to be, a way of life.

I have to think about these things every waking hour. Even if I don't submit myself to be approved by others, there is still a set of implications that arise from whatever reaction occurs and it pays me to have considered the potential implications.

Another example: I graduated from a conservative Southern Baptist college that I was admitted to based on the professed (and it was no lie, I firmly believed it at the time) understanding that I was called to the ministry. I see many of those people on Facebook now, but for the most part I dare not approach them. Even a couple that I think might support me have to interact with many who potentially would not. Who am I to inject such unwanted and unnecessary drama into their lives? So I willingly cut myself off from those people, and from high school classmates and former fellow church members and a host of other former acquaintances. If I run across them in my walk of life, then obviously Laura becomes a part of their world, but I do not press for contact with very many.

Because I'm thinking. Self-examination at every turn.

So please, call me insane, call me a pervert or a sinner, whatever gets you through the night. But DON'T insult me by presuming this is a casually arrived at decision. don't presume I'm going through the world blithely unaware what most people think about people like me. or that I don't care. Just because I have made the decision to not be controlled by the judgments of others doesn't mean I have no heart, or that I can't be gladdened or saddened by the reactions of others.

Those of you who've been good to me, if you read this, know you've been a blessing to me. Very small kindnesses mean a very great deal.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Better Half

I need to express again that I'm aware that some of you will come to this page via Susan's or some other forum and that sometimes I will write as if I'm speaking to long-time real-life friends in such a way as it seems to exclude my online acquaintances. I want you to know I'm aware of the larger audience and welcome it but I've not yet found the terminology to speak of the personal things in such a way as to directly acknowledge that not everyone is coming here from the same place.

Forgive me that weakness, and hopefully the thoughts are of interest despite it. and yes, I'll quit starting with an apology after this one and just assume you, the reader, understand.

Pretty much everyone who knows me "in real life" knows my wonderful wife. I'm aware how trite a cliche it is to say I have the best one in the world but I often think I do. I'm well aware of my faults and failings - and I don't just mean the current bit of insanity but the things she's been living with for 20 years. Dedication, self-sacrifice, pure unadulterated love - all are synonymous in my mind with her. Sometimes even when the application of those qualities isn't the best idea (as in being too soft on the kids) she can't help it, and it's beyond my abilities to express how much I love and appreciate her.

That's not to say there have never been any rough patches before. I won't tell tales out of school but it's not a little amazing that we made it through some of the difficulties she had in the first decade of our relationship.

The reason I lay all this out as a foundation of this post is because I'm aware that for most (all?) of the people who know me, the first reaction is, instinctively, "What about your family?" and all the more so when you love her the way so many of you do.

(I'll leave aside the implied "What about the kids?" comment for another time)

The truth is, it's indescribably rough on her. Some have said that she's going through a process of both mourning the man she married while at the same time having to live with a reminder of that loss, which is a valid description. Another way to say it is that I'm putting her in direct conflict with her usual instincts to put others before herself. One thing is definitely true, in her idea of how the world is supposed to work, things like this are not supposed to happen in families like ours.

She simply has no context for how to adjust to this or deal with it. Ideally, she needs a friend or a counselor or a therapist but I've not been able to get her to open up to anyone else. I'm aware that for many people, the answer is simple - put my twisted butt out on the street. I can't say that I would blame her at all. But the thing is, in all our tearful discussions on what to do next, she remains - so far - steadfast in asserting that being together, no matter how disturbing to her, is still better than being apart. I asked her just tonight this question "If, instead of coming out to you and telling you the truth about me, I had simply left and disappeared from your life that day, would you be better or happier alone than you are now?" and she replied, as she always does, that she loves me just as much as ever and has no desire to part.

For which I am unspeakably grateful.

How I wish I could make her understand that all the qualities she is in love with, that she fell in love with 20 years ago, are still here in full force. I perfectly understand how much the change in appearance is troubling her, I'm not saying she is wrong --- I just wish I could find the words to help her realize how much of the person she loves is still here and how little that is important to us has passed away.

Those of you who know her or feel for her or sympathize with her situation, if you are a praying person please pray for her. Even if you think she is crazy to put up with me, she still needs that spiritual support.

I'd be obtuse if I didn't admit here that most of you are now thinking "If she's so great and deserves so much, why are you doing this to her?" which arises from the most common misconception that people have about transsexuals - that we have a choice.

Oh, yes, to be sure, I could have continued to wear the mask and put up a front that all of you would have accepted as "normal" - while my soul died inside me because I would know that the person everyone respected and liked and approved of - did not in fact exist at all, but was nothing more than a role being played out on a stage. I would never know whether or not anyone could respect or like ME because none of you would never really have known ME - not even my wife and kids. That eats at you. It destroys you from the inside out. Sooner or later it takes your life or makes the life you have not worth keeping. Someone wise has said "better that you hate me for who I am, than love me for who I am not."

So yeah, I could have not told her, let her believe I was "normal" - and leave her to wonder why I was ever more morose and unlovable.

But beyond that, beyond the question of whether it is more noble to be miserable so that others not be unhappy - consider what you are asking. You're asking a person who's spent over 35 years never putting their needs first, always living not just in respect for what others want and think but in abject FEAR of being themselves, even for an instant, lest you be found unworthy - you are asking that person to assume that this walk of life can NEVER change. Because there will always be a spouse, or a child, or a grandchild whom you "must not hurt with your selfish choices."

I ask you, is it more honorable to selfishly ask someone else to be unselfish? By what measure do we decide? I don't know. I'm certainly not arguing that the answers are easy, quite the reverse. I simply mean to say that one shouldn't assume that it is any easier for the transsexual to deny themselves than it is for the loved one to adjust. It is a choice between two equally bad options.

The distinction in my mind between the two comes from how I define this condition. Those who have not been through it define it as a "lifestyle choice." Let me just clear that up - anyone who would go through the astounding amount of difficulties involved in changing genders didn't make that choice on a whim, or because they really could have went either way.

There are those in the trans community which resist any discussion which defines this as a "condition" or a "defect" - I reject that just as quickly. This defect is, as far as I'm concerned, an affliction - a mental disease, a defect.

And if that is true than it presents this question: if you are married to a spouse which is afflicted with cancer, do you wash your hands of them because that's not the relationship you thought you were getting into? if they become a paraplegic and you have to become their caregiver, do you bail? if they are manic depressive, or an alcoholic does that give you an "I don't love them anymore" card? If your partner's appearance radically changes because of some disease or accident, what do you do - walk away?

I realize that it does happen that way sometimes - but I don't think most people would say that it was an ignoble choice to stay in the relationship. Even though the relationship was now something radically different than what you "signed on for."

That is the case I make for my relationship: I did not WANT to be this way, I spent decades trying NOT to be this way, I do not argue that it is fair to her that I in fact DO have this "cancer" which she doesn't deserve to have to put up with - but I do have it, and even if I put away all my clothes and cut my hair and put the "man mask" back on, it's still there - and she and I and everyone else KNOWS it's there. so the question is, just because you can't have your "first choice" ideal fairy tale happy ending, does it mean that you can't find ANY way to reconcile yourself to what you do have before you?

Again, I have no idea. It's certainly not for me to decide. If she told me tonight to pack my stuff and get out she'd be entirely within her rights. but I surely hope that order never comes. The only dark place in my life right now is knowing how much this hurts her, and that I cannot really take that pain away even if I put the mask back on. But I wanted you to know that she is, in fact, struggling with "what's next" and whether she would admit it to you or let you know it or not, she needs your support.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Who am I? Why am I here?

I'm sure no one has ever been clever enough to quote Admiral Stockdale for an introductory post either but hopefully I'll say something vaguely original at some point!

The first cause for this blog - since right now pretty much no one knows it exists - is to give me an outlet to "explain myself" to people who know me in my area who might come here via Facebook (since there's not really a "blog" feature there or I didn't find one anyway).

This will be a "stream of consciousness" sort of post so forgive me if I lurch about from point to point. Hopefully I'll make SOME sense.

It's a pretty tricky thing to totally throw out all of your acquaintances' previous conceptions of who you are and not be able to elaborate on "what happened." So this first post will at least touch a bit on that context as well as serve as something of an introduction to those who come across this page by other means.

I am a native of North Mississippi, raised in this very traditional, conservative, religious environment all my life. And as strange as it might seem to those of you who are now asking "What the (censored) happened to HIM?" I still am, largely, a product of that culture. I have been a Christian since childhood and I still am (albeit with a somewhat divergent view on the issue of transsexualism than my friends in the church have). I have been very conservative politically all my life, and while I probably have become more libertarian over the last decade, I find I'm as much a stranger among the trans community as a right-of-center person, as I am a stranger on the right because I'm trans. But the point is, I didn't suddenly become a flaming liberal because I acknowledged my condition - no offense to my friends who are flaming liberals! ;)

I am, in every way that's important, still the person I was 5, 10, 20 years ago (with an admission that I hid a lot of my true self from all of you back then) - I was simply wrapped in a different wrapper. The challenge I faced, when I decided that I had to deal with this part of myself, is that I recognize that there is a small but very important group of friends who have been very good to me over the years, and shown a lot of faith in me. I'm not sure whether those people will feel betrayed by this revelation. My wife does, of course, and that's an issue unto itself.

So it's with those people in mind - should they ever have occasion to read this - as my first audience that I write. Hopefully I'll be clever enough to also lay out a basic idea of what I'm about to those who don't know me as well.

So, without detailing my life story - a VERY brief background:

This is NOT new. Only my decision to acknowledge and accept it is (relatively) new. I have know "something was wrong with me" since at least five or six and knew what it was since at least 10. If you grew up with me, went to school with me, whatever, you knew me but you didn't know all of me - even then I wore the mask. After all, what can come from a kid announcing to his peers in 1975 (in Mississippi!) that he should have been born a girl? Nothing good. In early adulthood, I was torn between accepting myself and moving somewhere that I could deal with it, and suicide. For reasons that it is unnecessary to elaborate, I did neither and in time, I came to accept the church's opinion that I was "in sin" or "perverted" or whatever.

Do not misunderstand what I am about to say. I had sincere faith then, I have sincere faith now. But on top of that, in those days I rededicated myself to being a "hyper-christian" in the hopes that if I was good enough, dedicated enough, devoted enough, that God would "heal" me of my affliction.

For 20 years I gave my whole heart to that and cried out to God to be rid of this birth defect. Eventually, the fact that nothing changed about my mental makeup led me to question whether or not the church's view of transsexualism was biblical doctrine, or cultural tradition. I am very certain that some of you, my fellow believers, will argue strongly that I have reached the wrong conclusion. I sincerely respect your right to that opinion, and acknowledge that I might be wrong. But by the lights I have, I'm comfortable with my conclusion.

I believe this IS a birth defect and I do not believe the God I believe in is the sort of being who will condemn a person for a condition they were born with. Nor do I believe that it pleases him for that person to make themselves miserable in order to offer a false front of "normalcy" to the world. Finally, if I am wrong, I also and most of all believe that his grace is big enough to cover me being too unlearned or too self-interested to do the "right" thing.

So, to those of you who say "How does a good church going man we all believed in turn out like this?" - I can only say that it is hell to pretend to be something you are not in order to be "approved of" by those around you. As much as I value the friendship and approval of some of you (and I hope most of you know who you are) I simply cannot - CANNOT - fake it anymore.

Some of you, most of you to be sure, also greatly care about my wife and kids and I'm sure you are saying to yourself right now "What about your family?"

There is no easy answer to that. My kids have actually rolled with it pretty well. I don't think you have anything to worry about on that score. My wife . . . struggles. I have put us in a no win situation. There's a direct conflict between her having the husband she wants and deserves - the person she chose to marry - and making me miserable in the process, or, on the other hand, me being freed from the bondage of the mask and making her miserable in the process.

There's a direct conflict between her right to wash her hands of the person who, in a real sense, betrayed her (albeit unintentionally - I would never have believed when we married that God wasn't going to heal me so she would never know) and her strong desire to spend the rest of her life with the human being she fell in love with. The reality is that all the qualities about me that made her love me in the first place are STILL HERE. it wasn't my looks or my money or my "manliness" that attracted her - it was a set of personality traits and behaviors which were, in point of fact, my feminine qualities, that made me different from the other guys she might have chosen. And those haven't changed.

That doesn't mean she doesn't have a HUGE problem adjusting to the packaging.

If you are a believer, by all means pray for her.

All that said, there is at present no discussion of or consideration of splitting up. in the near term, we are just as committed as ever. Only time will tell if the day will come when her ability to tolerate me will be exhausted. I want to be very clear that I have no desire to be parted from her.

The simple reality though, is that the person you thought you knew was a real person to be sure, but one hiding behind a false front - hiding in fear. All my life I've been petrified that you, and you and you and you, would disown me and hate me and call me a pervert if you knew my dark secret. Maybe those fears were justified, but whether they were or not, I can no longer be controlled by them. I have for the last year been slowly moving towards this new life (I told my wife September 7, 2008) and now it has arrived. As of last Saturday, the "man" you knew is no more. You may see me at town in a skirt, or with my nails polished or whatever - but you will see "Laura" because that is who I am.

Whatever you think of me, know that - as hard as it might be for you to understand - the simple joy of going about the chores of the day as ME instead of as the "man" I used to pretend to me is beyond description. As much as I truly love my wife and kids, there's a real sense in which I've never been as deeply and authentically HAPPY in my life as I've been just being completely myself these last few days. I can only imagine what it will be like if I ever have the money to pursue hormone therapy and surgery and such.

I hope that if you ever called me friend you still will, but I completely respect your right to not do so. All I ask of any of you is three things:

1. Treat me decently, do not be hateful even if you disagree;
2. Don't try to "fix" me. Pray for me if you want but don't meddle in my marriage or try to convince me what a dirty rotten sinner I am. The days of self-loathing are behind me and I don't intend to be drug back to that place;
3. IF you do still care for me and if you are willing to support and affirm me and associate with me, PLEASE speak up and let me know. You can't know how alone it feels to wonder if the whole world thinks you a fool and a clown. Heck, it doesn't even matter if we were friends before. if you are a checker at the supermarket or Wal Mart or in any other way interact with me, knowing you are "cool with me" is of unspeakable value.

Also, you can add me on Facebook if you want - I only have one "friend" :(

Anyway, I'm sure there is much I should say that I have not, but I'm sure there will be many more posts here. Hopefully eventually someone will actually read them.

All for now,
~Laura Beth

Sunday, November 8, 2009

How Original, eh?

A transwoman with a blog, what an innovative concept, don't ya think?

Well, as it turns out i have the unusual and shocking trait of having a lot to say


But not tonight. it's late. So this particular post isn't even an introduction, just a small placeholder while I get the thing customized like I want it. In the next day or two I'll add something that has some possible chance of being worth reading, if you are interested in that sort of thing.