Monday, July 26, 2010

The Fuzz at the End of the Rope

I've been asked to not "air the dirty laundry" here so much (and even telling you i was ask is an act of doing so) and I've tried to be sensitive to that request but I am pretty sure I'm about to defy it. I know as I write each word I'll likely catch hell for them but I honestly don't know how to keep this bottled up anymore and repeating the same circular argument at home never gets anywhere (not that I expect this to get anywhere but at least it's some place besides around in a circle).

The short version (as if I ever write the short version of anything) is that the light at the end of the tunnel is now very clearly an oncoming train.

Before I go further, let me just say that on this one post - don't reply with advice. I think it will become clear that I'm not unaware of the situation, the possible choices, and the potential consiquences. I don't think anyone is going to tell me something I haven't thought of to this point. Further to that, this isn't about heroes and villains, there's no upside in laying blame or calling names or otherwise trying to pick a winner here.

The final analysis here is that as I look to my future, I have essentially three choices, and all of them are wrong to a greater or lesser degree. All of them stand to cause immense pain and suffering, all of them are in some way a failure. this is the corner circumstances have painted me into, and I frankly see no way out.

(and yes, if you are thinking some of this you've read before, probably so. forgive me for that)

Let me take a moment up front to be very clear about my view of my own role in this - even though I have no choice about my condition, the situation is ultimately a result of poor choices on my behalf. I chose (those clearly it would have been very unusual to have chosen otherwise) when I was a very young person to hide my condition and not come out and deal with it. I think it is defensable to not admit you are trans in North Mississippi in the late 70's and early 80's - especially for one who was just coming into adulthood. nevertheless, it was my choice.

It was my choice to accept as true the teaching that God didn't want me to be "perverted" and would heal me of my "besetting sin." Again, I think any rational person would agree that that was not a malicious choice or one taken in order to deceive or cause pain - it was a sincere desire to be "normal" which I like to think I can't be faulted for but, again, it was a choice I made.

It was my choice, a little over three years later, to take a wife in the sincere faith and intention that God would deliver me from my affliction and I would rise to the occasion to be the husband she deserved. It was my decision to not tell her about this issue in the expectation she'd never have any reason to know, and the firm conviction that she wouldn't have been able to deal with it any more then than she has now (less even!). This one I don't even try to excuse. It's inarguable that it was fair for her to know, and fair for her to have had the chance to reject me then when there was less at stake. My only plea here is to ask which of you, had you been in that position, would have had the courage to tell the person you love something that you were convinced would cause her to utterly reject you? My crime hear is ultimately simply fear. But I plead guilty.

It was my choice, ultimately, to - after having been convinced by 20 years of waiting and trying that God was not, in fact, worried about my condition and that it would never change - take the massive risk that she would love me enough to love me even in this condition. I could have continued to repress, and never revealed my dark secret, until the day my soul rotted away to the point where I ended my life without her ever even knowing why. Which would of course have left her devestated thinking that somehow she caused me to do so. But still, it's a choice - and I made it.

In all this I do not lay blame upon God, or upon man, or upon my wife. We all come to the crossroadsand we pick a direction to travel. where you end up depends on the roads you choose. Blame isn't really helpful. No one owes me anything. Very little would be lost in this world had I never drawn the first breath, I know my place in the world. So don't read any of this as pointing fingers and don't point your own.

But the fact remains that the crossroads I have arrived at all seem to be trails which disappear into the dark woods.

If I take all the well-intentioned advice (which I believe, by the way) - the platitudes that people quote in their sig lines and their status updates - about never submitting yourseldf to the approval of others, about being true to yourself, about not living with regret, and all the rest --- If I do what I believe, then I MUST follow through on my transition. On a much more tangible note, I CAN'T let it go. Every time I leave the house without makeup and all the rest, it depresses my soul unto death. Every time I consider even superficial things like cutting my nails, or running an errand without a clean shave - I. Just. Can't. Do. It.

I've looked into the mirror and, finally after all these decades, I've seen ME. I KNOW who I am now in the most clear, stark, undeniable terms. that which has been seen cannot be unseen! It's not just about what I look like now but it is represented in my mind and spirit by that image. Being Tammy is no longer just some pipe-dream more unlikely than winning the lottery without a ticket - it's a reality, it's my heart and soul and I can't imagine even the most superficial acts to compromise that lasting for any length of time. Right now, living under the compromise agreement, every day is a struggle to not toss that aside and go back to full on presentation.

If I'm going to be whole in spirit and sane in my mind, I MUST go forward. But the darkness attached to this option is that it will destroy her life and by extension, do great harm to the lives of my children. She's made it abundantly clear, in every possible way, that ultimately the only way we stay together is if I "quit this shit." While obviously it would be ideal if she would accept me, short of that I'd like nothing better than for her to find a real man who could be what she deserved - even if that meant she had to hate me to move on to that. However, it appears this isn't the likely outcome.

Rather, the apparent likely outcome is something akin to what they used to call a "nervous breakdown" - negatively impacting her own life and her ability to function as a caregiver to the kids (and possibly impacting their relationship with her). Admittedly such breakdowns are usually temporary but the effects are not necessarily thus. This is compounded by an emotional deceleration that if I leave that she wants nothing from me in terms of assistance or support. This has the potential for grave consequences that are not easily dismissed. I could of course wash my hands and move on and leave her to her fate but I find myself entirely unwilling to be that cold. On the other hand, she cannot know from experience that there is life after me unless she is forced to confront it, and so there's a sound argument that my compassion in hesitating is actually doing her a disservice in the long run. It could also be argued that subconsciously there's an effort to make the potential consequences SEEM so VERY bad that I won't be able to make this choice - even if, should I follow through, they wouldn't in fact turn out that way.

The second option is to surrender. give her the illusion she wants (and which she insists is no illusion but the reality) that I am "the man she married" and all is well again. There are a few problems with this. First, the memory of this episode doesn't just go away. The doubts she has now she will always have because she knows about Tammy, even if Tammy is hiding in the closet. She will never again be able to be confident her relationship will last forever.
Second, if it is, after all, possible for me to simply repress these desires and be a "normal" man - then all this pain and drama was ultimately caused for no good reason and that, in itself, is reason to be forever displeased with me. Logically, if I did all this for any other reason than because I HAD to, no sane woman should want to preserve a relationship with such a man.

Third, and most importantly, I would not and could not ever be the man she remembers. As I said above, now that I have clearly seen and felt and experienced what it is to be myself, EVERY day that I don't live that life will be torture to me. Even now, every time some well meaning lose-lipped clerk calls me "sir" it's enough to make me want to cry. The idea that I could feel that way every time I get dressed, every time I wash my face, every time I brush my hair, every time I sign my name, for the rest of my life? There's no way that person is anyone that any sane person would want to share a life and a home with. Even if I LOOK like her husband, there will be nothing there fit to love. Nor anyone fit to be a father. Ultimately, there can be no joy for anyone in this scenario. Least of all for me.

She ask me, by the way, to "just try" to do this - so that in theory she can see that what I'm telling you (and her) is true. and deep down I wish more than anything that it were possible to pack it all away and go back to looking like the man she wants to see - if I thought there was any way to force myself to do that even if we set a firm date when I could stop that torture - just so she would know in her heart that I really did try because I love her that much. When I look at the situation through her eyes it makes perfect sense. but I JUST CAN'T make myself do it. My harshest critics can't wrap their mind around that, hell I can't understand it myself. By all that's holy I WISH I could stop. Permanently even but at least long enough for her to know that I'd do that for her. But the idea of going out the door tomorrow, or the next day - let alone for months or years - in a completely male identity right down to my underwear terrifies me to the bone. This isn't the choice I don't want to make - it's the choice I am compelled by forces beyond my control to reject.

The third option, listed mainly for completeness but which I cannot deny creeps into my mind more often lately, is to choose not to choose. A handful of pills or a plugged exhaust, you get the idea. I tell you very frankly that as of now, this still seems the most unlikely of choices because it has the same negative impact as Choice #1 with no personal upside. it exists on the list, really, as nothing more than the outlet for insufferable frustration at not being able to finally choose either 1 or 2. it would be insanity, to be sure, but I feel like I'm losing my sanity having to make a choice which has no rational right answer. I'll say nothing else about this one except to say that if I choose #2, ultimately I'm choosing #3, only on a time delay. that's where that road ends eventually.

Why then, did I write all this? Mostly, just as stress release. I have to say it somewhere, even in this dark corner of the net where almost no one ever goes (the most hits I've ever had in one day was 12 and almost certainly one or two of those was me). Also, because whatever happens to me, in terms of going forward or backing up or dropping off the figurative face of the earth, I want it said somewhere that my intentions were not exclusively self-serving. That whatever I did, I did NOT take the easy way out and wash my hands of the mess that my life created. I want to say to those who have ears and open minds to listen, I DO love her enough to not consider her my enemy or someone to be escaped from. I love her enough to drag my feet about finishing a journey which has done my soul more good than I ever thought possible - to at least pause and consider spiritual bondage and suicide to keep from causing her more pain.

I could have, perhaps, said this behind closed doors, if it would have been believed - but then no one who had any willingness to believe it would have heard it said at all. So I broke the rule. I "aired the dirty laundry" once again. Add that to the long long list of all the other ways I screwed up in life. On the whole balance sheet, it's really probably a pretty tiny entry.

Monday, July 19, 2010

What's in a name?

I have hesitated to open up about this because one one hand it seems to be a somewhat superfluous layer of complication to add to what is an already over-dramatic process (transition). It seems to me there's a limit to how much even your supporters will put up with.

On the other hand, even though most people never change their given name, if you do, it behooves you to be absolutely comfortable with the one you choose. More and more lately, iI'm mourning not going with my first choice and reconsidering whether or not to rectify that before the day comes - down the road a ways but still - when I try to change it legally.

Before I go on, let me give you a bit of background on how I got to the one I chose and some general thoughts on name selection for people in my position.

To me, one of the chief things to avoid in picking a name is anachronisms. So the first thing I did was look at baby-name lists from the early 60's to see what the common names were in those days. to me, one thing that invites skepticism is if NO ONE your age is named "Tiffany" except you. Also, you want to avoid "stripper names" or drag queen names or anything that has an unintended reading (Richard Cox, for instance, if you get what I mean). also, personally, I've never been a fan of alliteration in names (i.e. Lois Lane).

So with all that in mind, I made a list of names I liked, and removed all the names that were associated with people close to me, just to avoid the awkwardness of sharing a name with a friend who might be uncomfortable with that, and then picked from what was left.

What I came up with was Laura Elizabeth. that middle name is non-negotible, I love everything about it and it has like 4 or 5 short forms I love too (I actually strongly considered using "Beth" as my "everyday name"). But one of the names I eliminated is actually perhaps my all time favorite girl name. It is a name that a first cousin of mine had not as a given name but as a nickname - it's also the name of the first girl I had a crush on in elementary school but that's not relevant. I removed it because of my cousin but honestly, we are so distant geographically now that it's not really going to matter except maybe at the occasional funeral.

Then there's this - one thing I didn't consider at all when choosing Laura is that I never write in cursive AT ALL anymore except to sign something. it turns out to be a lot harder to learn, at my age, to properly sign a name you are unfamiliar with than I would have ever guessed. The other name I have in mind is not so difficult. There's also the matter of the voice. It seems in retrospect that picking a name that doesn't invite the lower-sounds into your voice when you speak it is helpful and that "ur" sequence does that.

So, here I am, along with all my other drama I'm debating myself furiously whether it's better to resign myself to my original choice or go ahead and try to get it right before I lock it in. Since the opinion at home is that I should naver change it, or anything else, there's not really any outlet to discuss it so I turn to the few folks who pay attention to my online rambling.

What do you think? Oh, and the name in question is Tammy, by the way, if you have an opinion on that.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Whatchagonnado, Part 2

Just a coincidence, I'm sure, but there were enough similarities in this event and the one which precipitated my last post that I figured connecting them was reasonable.

I was again in Wal Mart, though this one here in the hometown and not aways off. This time I was not dressed fully female but in this ambiguous not-fully-either compromise presentation that I do for the sake of the compromise I've described in this space before. As an aside, I will admit to you that I really HATE the mixed-signal mess that arises from this situation but I can't bring myself to be any more male than I HAVE to be and there's a limit to how female I can be and honor the terms of the agreement so I'm stuck with this. For now. I'll be so glad when this parenthesis is over because I feel like I'm losing a ton of credibility at a time when I need it most. But I digress.

Anyway, so there I am, in all my ambiguous glory when I see a friend of mine coming towards me. We were classmates in high school and she was always one of my favorite people from my class because she always treated me nicely . . . even when, as adults, she found her way into the "pillars of the community" while I drifted towards the last few rungs above "white trash." I don't mean a condescending sort of kindness either, but apparently genuine warmth.

I'd tried to add her on Facebook a time or two without success but I'd tried to overlook that. so anyway, she is close enough to absolutely see me and instead of her usual warm greeting, she simply doesn't acknowledge me. Well, ok, distracted maybe or something . . . oh well. Several minutes later I happen to cross paths again, close enough I could have picked something out of her buggy, and no one else around to draw her attention. I start to say "Hi" but cut it off as she blows right past me without a word, or a smile, or even eye contact.

It's always unpleasant when you find out someone you had thought highly of now considers you unacceptable, but I have to confess that having it right in your face like that is a whole 'nother level. don't misunderstand, I'm not offended necessarily - I still maintain that everyone is entitled to their opinion. I'm really not that bothered to find out she disapproves (though mildly surprised) but I was stunned that her disapproval was delivered in such an obviously rude fashion. the one thing I've never known this woman to be was openly rude (although to be fair, we have had only casual contact as adults) - she's always seemed very poised and ready for anything. that her feelings towards me are so negative that it provoked this reaction was something for which I wasn't prepared.

That said, it did give me something to think about. Part of learning to navigate the world as Laura is finding the path between those who are accepting and supportive and those who are hostile. In that sense, all feedback is good. Even if it can sometimes be bitter medicine. Still, one of the things I've really looked forward to is the next reunion (since I've missed most of the previous ones) - I have sort of a perverse urge to let those who knew the old me spend some time with the real me. This feeling, if indeed I'm reading the situation right, lends another level of complexity to that.

One paragraph on a totally unrelated thought:

A couple of people have said to me, or about me, something to the effect of "what are you going to do when someone stomps the s*** out of you for going around like that?" - with the unstated implication that I'd deserve it and they wouldn't feel sorry for me. My only answer for that is, basically, "oh, well." you either live in fear or you don't. right now I do live in fear, on one subject, but that not for myself or my own pain. I live in fear of unnecessarily hurting my wife - that is of acting to swiftly or too slowly or in whatever way doing this thing in such a wrong way that it cause her to hurt even more or even longer than she has to by the nature of the situation. It's the only thing that leads me to moderate my transition even to the point I have. but fear for myself or what might happen to me or what might be thought or said of me? No. I'm done with that. Mock me? Laugh at me? Attack me? Hurt me? Kill me? Bring it on. To live in fear is to not live at all.

Monday, July 5, 2010


So, I was shopping in a Wal-Mart in a nearby town today and I ran into a friend - some might argue that a real friend wouldn't have had this conversation but by his lights he was being a friend and I won't disrespect that - who was apparently pretty stunned by my appearance (though this was not his first awareness of my transition) and took it upon himself to submit a plea to me to "snap out of it."

I tried to handle this with grace, deferential replies and trying to keep the conversation low-key given the potential audience. I try to keep in mind that while I want to make a rational impressions, it's not my goal or my job to change THEIR minds. They often seem frustrated they can't change MINE. what does a person really expect? That I'm going to create all this emotional anguish for myself and my family and I'm suddenly just going to go "you know what, you're right - what was I thinking?" and drop it just like that - all because someone tells me to "snap out of it"?

But honestly, I don't blame him for trying. Like I said, by his lights he was being concerned enough to intervene, just as one would with a drunk or a drug addict. It saddens me that so many people would agree readily with that analogy and see me as just as much in need of intervention, I wish it were not the case, but I might as well acknowledge that this is exactly what a lot of people think. Denial gets one nowhere.

This man was a person I'd spent several years going to church with - he makes the 4th person from that congregation to have, in one form or another, tried to "straighten me out." What I came away from that conversation with is a feeling not unlike what we all feel after a disagreement, albeit writ a bit larger - "here's what I should have said." Still, most of the things I would have like to have said are things that really don't fit into a discussion held just inside the door of the Wal-Mart.

Still, one of the cool things about having a blog is that you don't have to leave any thought unexpressed. so here they are. some of these you've read in this space before, perhaps some you haven't.

  • You, sir, are divorced - we're both aware of what that Book you are metaphorically waving at me says on that subject; furthermore, you are remarried and it's even MORE blunt on that point. How do you account for your "sinfulness"? How will you fix this conundrum? And let's not bring up the tales that get told after a divorce - since I can't prove that which was said (is ever said in any divorce) is true. But still, there's potentially more on this point if I wanted to be that way.
  • It's true that I preached in "your church" and I'll admit I might well be faulted for preaching as a form of desperation to be "good enough" to be "healed" - It is a sort of insincerity, although i will argue that I was sincerely seeking to serve Him and serve in that role, and for that I need not apologize. But in those messages on more than one occasion I mentioned the reality that Christians have to wear masks lest they be judged when their flaws are revealed to their "brethren." Seems to me that that's what is happening here.
  • What do you judge me to be? A pervert? then I was perverted as a small child which I doubt you believe; A mental case? do you judge those with other mental conditions so sternly and tell them to "snap out of it"? A "defect" (similar to my own view), do you judge others born defective so sternly?
  • How do you explain a god, if your view of him is right, who condemns that which his child repents of with tears for decades and yet does nothing at all to heal or restrain the condition? How does that match up with all the Scripture that says if you cast your burdens on him he will not forsake you? is there any other explanation but that this is not, in fact, a sin?
  • You asked "So you like men now?" - is it really so difficult for you (and others who share your misconception) to think of gender as something other than "who I want to have sex with"? Is your manhood nothing more than being attracted to women?
  • Going back to the first point - you mentioned the fact that I have kids and implied something about my having taught kids at church . . . I must ask, have you repented and remedied the poor example your divorce sets for the kids who look up to you (taking the strict understanding of scripture here that is generally used against folks like me)? Or is there a secret lists of the sins which "aren't really all that bad" as distinguished from notorious sins like mine?
I could go on - likely by the time this is posted an hour I'll think of five more points. But you get the idea. I confess that it can be challenging, sometimes, to not simply blurt out "Who the hell are you to judge me?" but ultimately, I cling to the hope that one of these days one of those folks will say "ya know, I never thought of it like that" and it will have been worth it. Surely we are, as believers, called to not return evil for evil (not that he meant to do evil but you get what I mean) but to return good instead. And I'm aware that being a visible representation of thousands of my siblings in this journey, I have a responsibility that goes beyond my own pride.

But nevertheless, it does wear on one's soul when those who profess to care about you find it so easy to assume the worst and so hard to give the benefit of the doubt. For years I've had unbelievers point to exactly that sort of behavior as a reason why the wouldn't hear the arguments put forth by believers and for the most part I defended my fellow believers. I argued against the stereotypes which are as unfair to Christians as gay stereotypes are unfair to the typical homosexual. But the sad truth is, while many of my fellow believers have treated me with love and compassion and refrain from judgment (at least to my face) there are enough like my friend today who behave exactly like the worst cliches and make it harder for many to come to faith.

Again, I can't say this enough, I do not write this to bash my friend - he really was, in my opinion, intervening out of love as he understood it. I'm just pleading for some of my fellow believers to really think through what they believe about this. God himself said "let us reason together"so, for GOD'S sake - REASON. Don't just take what "everybody knows" without thinking it through. there was a time when "everyone knew" that blacks and whites should not marry...there was a time when "everyone knew" it was Biblical to own another human being, there was a time when "everyone knew" that a woman was basically her husband's property.

I'm not saying that because those things were wrong, that it proves that what "everyone knows" about people like me is wrong now - but I am saying that the only way that those wrongs were corrected was when a few folks were bold enough to give some reasoning to the bit of noise that "everyone knows" and see that just because the majority thought so didn't make it true.