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Sunday, December 30, 2012

Something Lost But Something Gained

I cannot imagine how the moment of completing my transition coincided with the passing of my father this past Friday evening. My father's final illness was progressing in an erratic manner and the timing of my transition at work had already been set in motion by my own decision.

At the same time, I'm coping with the death of my father, someone who never had the opportunity to meet his daughter to find out what a good  person she was and learn about her life. I loved my father. He was by no means the perfect father and I was by no means a perfect child. He was the best father that he could be.

His last years since his initial illness were very difficult for me emotionally  in the face of advancing vascular dementia and I feel very fortunate and blessed to seem to have a gift to understand things he was trying to express with great difficulty.

I was with him his last day until the time of his passing. He passed away peacefully and I was so grateful to have been there at the moment of passing, as he was present for mine. A cycle complete.

Four days from now all my coworkers will know about me and that I will be transitioning on the job. This has been so long in coming, but always where I wanted to be in my life. I still need a pinch to be so close to who I have been meant to be!

For years when I could not even consider the actual possibility of living an authentic life, these lyrics by Stevie Nix brought me deep spiritual comfort to my emotionally more vulnerable moments:

"So I'm back, to the velvet underground
Back to the floor, that I love
To a room with some lace and paper flowers
Back to the gypsy that I was
To the gypsy... that I was

And it all comes down to you
Well, you know that it does
And lightning strikes, maybe once, maybe twice
Oh, and it lights up the night
And you see your gypsy
You see your gypsy

To the gypsy that remains faces freedom with a little fear
I have no fear, I have only love......."

That's how I have seen myself most of my life and I think it remains the central truth of my life: facing freedom with a little bit of fear, but having no fear about my decision. Despite that, I feel more peace and calm, a new sense of self acceptance, and I feel very eager to complete this transition. It will go so much better than I worry about and I know this!

And it will all be ok one way or another. There are some painful losses along the way, but the people who reach out to you will be so gratifying and a little bit humbling that people will just love you the same, in either event.

So this is a bittersweet time for me, but a time of growth as well. My strong faith of my Archangel Michael and GOD being by my side have given me the strength to do all this with a sense of peace and acceptance mostly, with a few moments of letting down to grieve. I do know that life is going to get better very soon. I hope your life gets better too.....

"And it goes like it goes
Like a river that flows
And Time rolls right on by
And maybe what's good gets a little bit better
And maybe what's bad gets gone."

I have come to truly believing this and I have adopted it to tell myself when things are changing and they don't feel very good. I hope it will be something useful for you as well.

I did not write it and am not sure of the two gentlemen's names, but it was part of the theme song of the movie Norma Rae and was performed by Jennifer Warnes who has just a beautiful artist herself.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Eve: Sage Remains Missing

It is Christmas Eve. It is a time when most of us are happy and enjoying being with family and friends and the ones we love. For Sage Smith's family, this must be the most heartbreaking Christmas that could be ever imagined.

Today, my thoughts move away from my own sadness over my father's end of life. We all expect this time to come for our parents, but it is never easy. But I think of the helplessness and hopelessness of Sage's family not even knowing if their child is even alive let alone the catastrophic very real possibility that they will never see her again.

In our joy of the season today, please remember Sage and her family and please say a little prayer for her safe return and that her family find some solice and comfort in their profound agony of loss.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Further Along....... The Human Resources Meeting

Yesterday I met with the senior managers of Human Resources of my health care system along with my immediate supervisor. I was very surprised that two of the senior executives were present and both assured me that I was a valued employee and that they would unconditionally support my transition at work. I am so pleased that the fear that I had that asking to transition would be the kiss of death of my career there was misplaced. I have been working at my health care system for 11 years and my worst fear, as many of us have, is that I would suddenly become an expendable.

Instead I was told that the organization would do everything possible to make my transition easier and addressed the issue that my health care has not been covered. They will address that with our insurance company so that my health care needs are covered and will look into the coverage of any surgeries that I need to become whole.

Initially, I was to meet with my supervisor and one of the senior management team but both the Director and Assistant Director were both present to convey their support for me. We talked about other concerns and they assured me that they would do everything within their power to ensure that my transition would be smooth and they would make sure that I would be shielded from the small town media, particularly the two local newspapers. Of course, this could be a big story in a rural setting and being a quiet and introverted person, any attention of this kind is something I am keen to avoid.

Two weeks from today, my coworkers will learn of my decision to transition at our January staff meeting. I will not be there, but my supervisor will discuss this with the staff, pass out a letter that I have provided to my coworkers and some pictures to assure them I will have a polished and professional image. I will invite them to come talk with me if they would like and do every thing in my control to make this as easy for them as possible.

I have decided to transfer out all my adolescent patients. I do not wish to complicate their already troubled lives with having to cope with my transition. Some people may criticize my decision and that they should deal with my transition as a normal part of life. I counter that position with the idea that adolescence is hard enough in the best of our lives. Troubled young people should not have to deal with my transition adding to their distress as they cope with their problems and form their own emerging identities.

I anticipate some of my patients leaving my care because they are unable to deal with my transition. I think most of them will be male and most of the women I work with will be able to weather the transition more easily and be accepting, even welcoming. Some men seem to have an innate fear of the feminine and some will not be able to cope with the idea that I have given up male privelege and become a woman.

I think I may lose between 15 to 20 % of my caseload, but with the flood of new referrals we are experiencing, I should be able to make up the deficit in about two to three months, if even that long.

I feel very blessed to have such a supportive employer. Some people who know me will no doubt say "told you so!!" and they are right. Just as importantly, I have the support of Patty, which is my number one concern and I have assured that I can continue to provide the things for her that I bring to our marriage without undue or unnecessary distress to her more than what a gender transition already brings.

Tonight I am a happy woman!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

What Happend to Sage?

Dashad "Sage" Smith has been missing since November 20th in Charlottesville, Virginia. A 20 year old woman of trans experience, she had met a man on Facebook from Minnesota, we are told. This man, Erik McFadden, according to the news reports came to Charlottesville from Minnesota and was to meet her at the Amtrak station, as reported in The Daily Progress. He was described in the press as a "person of interest", was interviewed by the local police and then disappeared. His whereabouts are not known, yet the local law enforcement has not seemed to upgraded his status to that of a "suspect".

DaShad Laquinn Smith 2

Members of the Charlottesville area LGBT community are fearful for community members' safety and are angry about their belief that a lack of attention has been mounted as when a young female University of Virginia student disappeared after leaving an AC/DC concert the year before last.

Whether law enforcement has devoted the same intensity of effort in trying to find out what happened to Sage is difficult to ascertain. The University of Virginia student's were very wealthy and were able to bring tremendous attention to bear through their wealth through the media. Ms. Smith's family are of far more modest means and the attention to this potential crime has not been near the manitude of the attention directed to the U.Va. student.

No doubt, many will label this a hate crime if Ms. Smith is not found to be safe. My opinion is that this was not a hate crime, but a sex crime. The victim happened to be a woman of trans experience.

Young people are particularly vulnerable and Ms. Smith being of trans experience undoubtedly made her more vulnerable. She is a woman of color and is not as privileged as many of us in the trans community. As difficult as our lives can be at times, we who are white, have the benefit of good educations and better employment opportunities are not as likely to fall victims to sexual preditors. As lonely as our lives can be, it is easy to see how a young person who has little life experience can be exploited by a preditor who tells us we are attractive and desirable, and seem to be so attracted to us that they are willing to travel long distances to meet us and promise us love, romance, security and companionship.

Those are the ingredients that make the more emotionally vulnerable members of our community disregard everything we have been taught about personal safety growing up. This seems to be a growing problem in the age of electronic social networking. It bears discussing in depth and widely in as many forums as possible to educate people, particularly young people that these dangers are, unfortunately more and more present in our society and that we need to use restraint and good judgement in meeting people we have never met before after becoming acquainted to some degree on line.

I pray that Sage Smith is found safe and well. But with every day that goes by with no trace of her whereabouts, after searches of the city and surrounding areas, hope grows dimmer that she will be found alive.

Please join me in prayers for Sage and if, by a miracle, you read this and happen to have even the tiniest shred of information that might be helpful in solving this missing person case, please call the Charlottesville, Virginia Police at 434-977-4000.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

One Big Step For Sherri Lynne, One Small Step Forward For Trans Kind

Mama can drive! Today I went to Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles to renew my driver's license and got my gender marker legally changed from M to F with the appropriate feminine picture.

As usual, I went in a little bit apprehensive, but was greeted with the utmost kindness and courtesy by the woman who handled the administrative changes. She went out of her way to put me at ease and make me comfortable with the process and was quite complimentary to me about what I was doing and my appearance. I appreciated her kindness and once again, I find that the world doesn't necessarily hate us, want to kill us, belittle or embarrass us. I had my picture taken with a big happy smile and was given a temporary permit to show my legal gender marker had been changed. I was also allowed to keep my old Driver's license. I was glad of that because I can put it in my scrapbook with all the other things I've kept about my gender transition.

What's next? The legal name change..... To be continued.............

Monday, December 10, 2012

Okay...... So What's the Plan,. Stan?

Lying in bed the other morning, I didn't want to get up. I had to be at work in an hour and a half. I decided to drag it out until the last minute. I was sleepy and the bed was warm. Then I began to think about how this scenario wasn't going to be happening any more on a work day in the not so far off future. Instead of sleeping in until the last possible minute, I'll be getting up and putting on my makeup, making sure my hair looks pretty and my clothes look professional and ladylike. I'll be picking out my outfit before I go to bed the night before and making sure my hose doesn't have any runs.

I thought about how much I hate to get up in the morning. Then I thought, a bit glumly, "Remember Sherri. You're the one who wanted to be a girl." Yep. I bought the E ticket and I get everything that goes along with it. Other than having to get up earlier and being more organized, I'm glad, though.

I have put my plan to transition at work and I got a lot of compliments from my supervisor on how well thought out it was done.

I would like to share it with you all in the hopes that it might make someone else's life easier if they choose to transition at work. My plan is specific for a health care professional, but I think there are enough common elements to many employment settings that some of you will find some useful ideas to employ in creating their own plan.

DISCLAIMER!!! : The inspiration for my plan is not entirely of my own creative little mind. I've been studying many resources about how to successfully transition at work and it is an amalgamation of what I remember about what I have read as well as what I thought would be appropriate to my own work setting.

Transition plan for Sherri Lynne

Here is a proposed transition plan to facilitate my gender transition at work.  While it is an idealized plan in terms of the time frames, it may be that these objectives are not accomplished as rapidly as desired for all parties involved because two dynamics will shape the process: 

  1. The process will be disruptive to the work environment to some degree. With care and consideration for my co workers, helping them to become more comfortable with this process, possible disruption can be minimized or even eliminated in most circumstances.

  1. The process will also be disruptive to some of my patients. It is most important to me and the organization that they receive the support and emotional care they require. They need adequate time to make decisions to maintain a therapeutic relationship with me or transfer their care to another professional. 

The target date for transitioning my gender at work is proposed to be at the end of March 2013. 

This can be best accomplished with a planned and intentional response to these needs by me and the organization. In order to accomplish this, a time frame with objectives and dates of completion is proposed to ensure things are taken care of in an orderly and timely manner. It must allow for adjustments to be made as comfortably as possible for all involved parties. 

Prior to meeting with ----------, I contacted the Board of Social Work to inform them of my desire to transition and to seek guidance on how to do this in a manner that satisfies the regulatory duties of the Board of Social Work governing my practice as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. This appears to be uncharted territory for the Board, but I have gotten guidance on making a legal name change so as to not misrepresent my identity in the practice of Social Work. I plan to change my name legally prior to the end of February to reflect a congruent gender identity.

I have been approved to have my gender marker changed legally to female on my driver’s license and the new driver’s license will be obtained by the end of December. It will have an updated photo reflecting my female gender identity. 

The first objective has been accomplished by meeting with ---------- and informing her that I would like to live in my true gender identity at work as I already do in my non work life. 

She will in turn discuss this with Human Resources and whoever else in the Administration having a need to know. 

Upon approval, the second objective will be for me to prepare a letter and some photos to be shared at the staff meeting informing them of my intention as well as welcoming them to talk with me individually about this change. This will help make them more comfortable with me during my transition. It will help identify and resolve any barriers to harmonious work place relationships.  

The target date for this to occur would be at the January 2013 staff meeting. I would not be present for this meeting so that staff may feel comfortable to speak freely and voice their feelings in a supportive environment for them. 

The content of this letter will be pre approved by ---------- and will include several pictures of myself to pass around to familiarize the staff on what they may expect about my appearance in the workplace environment. This would serve the purpose of diminishing apprehension about my transition. 

The third objective (and most important to me personally) would be to make my patients aware of the upcoming transition. This will be more time consuming to complete. My foremost expectation is for the patients to be well served by me and the organization and there be no serious disruptions to the quality of care that my patients receive during this process. 

 I propose writing a letter approved by --------- to be sent to my patients that I have not preselected to be assigned to another treatment provider.  This would serve to simply inform them of my intentions and that I would offer an opportunity to meet with them to answer any questions that would help them in the decision process. I would be willing to offer my own time (two to three hours weekly) to assure that patients feel comfortable in continuing to work with me or have closure with me if they would prefer a different provider. They could ask any reasonable questions about my transition. It would allow them adequate time to decide if they would wish to continue to work with me. 

If ----------------- would like to sit in on any or all of these sessions with patients to monitor the process as my supervisor, that would be welcome. The proposed time frame for this letter to be sent out is in mid January 2013. 

When this process is completed, the actual transition would be tentatively scheduled to be at the end of March 2013. It would be helpful for me to take a week off to allow closure for the staff and me so we will all be ready for my return in my true gender identity.  

It may occur that adjustments to this schedule may be needed to be made to the late March time frame to ensure that my patients’ needs are met. It would not be unanticipated and would be acceptable to me in view of the interest of my patients. The timing for this last step in transitioning at work could be moved to a reasonable date later, if necessary. 

 The fourth objective would help me to be sensitive to the staff after completion of my workplace transition. It has been found to be very helpful in other places of employment if a female staff member would volunteer to act as liaison between staff and the transitioning person for a period of time. Typically, this is worked out between a staff member and the transitioning person. Potential concerns that occur after transition from coworkers or me could be addressed in a manner that facilitates a continuation of smooth work place operations.  

------------ would be identified to approve the person I select as my liaison prior to my asking the person or designate any employee she would not wish to perform in such a function. 

Throughout this process it is assumed that coworkers will have trouble with names and appropriately gendered pronouns on occasion. This is a normal part of the developmental process of a gender transition and is expected. The liaison can be a big support to coworkers to minimize any anxieties about my being easily offended if this were to occur. 

Similarly, if a coworker feels uncomfortable with me, this is a positive way of helping me and the coworker to adjust to different and changing social expectations of me in the work place. It will help create a win- win situation for us all.  I am extremely comfortable in my gender presentation and my identity. I would not want those around me feel like they have to walk on eggshells around me or be uncomfortable in my presence.  

Though I will be differently gendered outwardly than how I have worked here to date, I remain essentially the same person in most ways. I have the same interests and views as I have always had.  

Planning for my transition is more about making others as comfortable as possible with me as much as about my comfort. I value and care for everyone in my work unit. I want to continue to have the quality of relationships with my coworkers that I have enjoyed during my employment here.
Please feel free to borrow freely and tailor it to your needs if it can be helpful to you!




Saturday, December 1, 2012

Further Along........ Transitions

Yesterday at about a quarter to five, I sat down with my supervisor and informed her that I am a transsexual and that I wanted to complete my transition, by transitioning at work, the final step of this part of the journey. We had a very heart felt talk and I surely am appreciative of her compassion towards me. My plan is to transition in March, using the time between now and then to do this in an orderly progression to create as little disturbance as possible to my coworkers. We are a very close team of therapists and I will want the opportunity to write them each a letter to tell them about my transition and to welcome them to come to me to ask any questions they might be wondering.

I expect that I will take a week off between my male self and me, so that the idea will be for the staff to have closure with my male relationship and to start anew with someone they already know for the most part.

While I am happy and excited about finally arriving at a place I never thought I would be, I know that this represents a major adjustment for many others unrelated to work as well. Some are both happy and sad at the same time. For them, it is bittersweet.

At the same time I am in the process of my father's final days as he has one to two weeks left here on this etherial plane we call life. I have a sense of peace and acceptance about his coming passing. He has been sick so long now and the last year has been particularly hard on him and all of us as well. This peace, acceptance and strength comes from my faith. God has brought me so far in my life and I have drawn from Him my strenghth.

Yet this is also a painful time for me and at times I am so sad for him, my mother, my wife and myself as well. There are lots of lessons for me and I am doing everything I can to be open to the lessons and grow from them.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Further Along...Thanksgiving 2012

Well, the holiday season begins and I find myself with so many things rapidly changing, some happy, some not so happy at the moment, but I'm feeling and though life is changing rapidly, far more rapidly than I'm used to, I also have a sense of peace that everything is going to be alright.

Since last Friday, so many things have been happening. My supervisor is now aware of my gender identity, though we have not had a chance to talk about my transitioning yet. That will happen next week, unless the events that have followed since interrupt that time line.

My father became gravely ill Friday night/ Saturday morning and my mother is having a difficult time, so I have had to become the primary contact and take the initiative in making some important decisions about his care and honoring his wishes about how he wants to live out the end of his life. I asked for the hospice team to come to assess him for end of life care and with their input we will make some decisions as a family to respect what my father wants and make him comfortable.

Yesterday, my Patty became ill and needed to be hospitalized. The saving grace is they are both in the same hospital where I work and this makes it much easier for me to take care of everyone involved in my family.

I thought I would never be able to handle any of this, yet I have had several talks with my father about his life ending in the future that he initiated and have been able to do this with a calming grace that I would have never expected to possess at this time.

My mother brought up my gender identity for the first time since finding out about me by accident in June. She was quite upset at the time, as was I and it has been something that she has not spoken of since finding out until now. My father’s illness has created a place where she is able to start to talk to me about this, something I have longed for since she found out. No child wants to think their mother or father is ashamed of them.

I heard that the word “Crisis” in Chinese also means “opportunity”. I believe strongly in God and believe that He is putting all kinds of opportunities in my life right now and giving me a strength I didn’t know I had to cope with all these changes that are happening right now.

Yesterday, I sent in the form to Virginia Division of Motor Vehicles to change the gender marker on my driver’s license to Female, and will get that changed next week.  So I was very happy about that. Soon I will have a new picture and the right gender marker on my license!! YAY!!!!!!

This morning another friend who didn’t know about me was told and she was very supportive. I had accidentally outed myself to her and didn’t realize who I was emailing because I was half asleep. I didn’t panic though. I called her up and talked with her. She’s very happy for me and it worked out just as God intended.

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday of the year, because it draws me in to a reflective place to remember that I have so much when I know so many who are struggling in many many ways and don’t have the blessings that have been freely granted to me.

I’m thankful for the strength to deal with the illnesses in my family. I’m thankful that I have friends and coworkers who are supportive and I have a therapist who is also supportive of me.

I’m thankful for my church family who love me and care about me and all the other friends over the years who have been my family as much or more than my birth family.

I’m thankful for my good health and that the few health problems I have are relatively small.

I’m especially thankful for a career that has allowed me to help others as I get ready to complete my 40th year in health and human services. I have had the opportunity to help children, adolescents, adults and the elderly in a wide variety of settings both in hospitals and in the community. I’ve always felt that service to others was my purpose for being here in this life.

I’m thankful for the opportunity to have given homes to so many different kinds of pets who have given me so much love, especially during the times when I felt like no one loved me or cared about me and I was lonely.

I’m very thankful to have had the opportunity to speak to a wide variety of audiences on transsexual issues and have found my talks to always have been well received by the people I’ve talked to and found acceptance where I didn’t expect to find any, and that has always been a joyful experience.

I’m thankful to live in a very beautiful place in the country where I can look up at the mountains that have brought me comfort most of my life.

I’m thankful for having been able to receive an excellent education, something that not everyone has access to, and that I was able to use that education to help others.

 I’m also thankful that I have this forum to reach other people to share my life, to let them know that even though I am a therapist, when it comes to dealing with my own gender issues, the stresses, losses and joys are the same for me just as everyone else and I hope that this blog helps others to navigate their own unique path on finding a place in their own gender identity that brings them peace and happiness.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Further Along.... When Black Friday Comes....

Today turned out a bit better in some respects than what I had anticipated. My boss lady and I have the opportunity to lay it out on the line only two or three times a year. Most of our session was devoted to things previously scheduled to discuss. Some areas of contention that could be resolved that were clinical in nature.

At the end of these lengthy discussions I ventured forward that there was another issue that I wished to discuss. Boss lady indicated she had to be somewhere very shortly and being a Friday evening, I could appreciate that: I wanted to leave work more than anything that day.

I did tell her that I had one thing else that I wanted to discuss but it wasn't something bad. She responded by asking what it was, and I told her that it couldn't be discussed in five minutes. She said that I had her wondering and she would be thinking about it while we were gone over the next week and wondering about what it was. I told her that it wasn't anything bad and she replied now that she would be wondering even more until she returned.

I took that opportunity to tell her it was about a gender issue. She asked me if it was about her gender in a friendly manner and I replied that it was my gender issue. She cheerfully said "Oh ok" and I told her I woud explain when she got back.

My intuition is telling me that she knows and she is trying to make it ok for me.

Interestingly, just before I went in to the meeting, ready to disclose all, one of the front office girls was looking at an Avon catalogue and asked the other girl if she wanted to order some makeup remover. That girl said no and then the girl with the catelogue asked me if I wanted to order some. I a;lso said no. The girl with the catelogue said, I just use soap and water. I said I do too but I used Purity by Philosophy and then used Clinique Even Better Moisturizer with SPF 20. She said, "Yeah thats really good moisturizer. Then I went into my meeting.

I became so much more calm before the meeting until I got in there, but I was able to remain centered. Although I didn't get the whole disclosure done, Boss Lady let me know that what I will be telling her would be ok, by her casual dismissal of what I was about to tell her.

I feel so much more confident and ready to finish what needs to be told and I have a feeling of peace that it will be ok.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Further Along..... Tomorrow is my meeting.

As the time is closer, I am becoming more calm about what will happen tomorrow. This meeting is about more than my informing my boss that I wish to transition at work, but the topics to be discussed lead into this discussion nicely.

I'm reminded of a song that I heard from the soundtrack of Norma Rae and it has stuck with me..... I'd like to share part of it as it is reflective of my state of mind this evening.

I'm quite touched and overwhelmed with all the love and support I have gotten in sharing my preparation for this meeting and I am so very thankful!

Here are part of the lyrics from the song It Goes Like it Goes written by David Shire and Norman Gimble:

Ain't no miracle being born
People doin' it everyday
It ain't no miracle growing up, ah
People just grow that way

So it goes like it goes
Like the river flows
And time it rolls right on
And maybe what's good gets a little bit better
And maybe what's bad gets gone

Love to all of you, Sherri Lynne Tancyus

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Further Along....... Standing At the Crossroads

It’s the perfect storm. I couldn't have seen it all playing out like this. Perhaps that is the way that all transitions happen. One can plan it all one wants. Then come events that remove all of your carefully made plans. The situation becomes fluid. Having spent a lot of time planning (or ruminating??) how this was going to be done on my terms have gone out the window. I am left with the bare bones of  what I am going to say. It just wasn’t under the circumstances of my choice and my alternative plan isn’t firmed up. I’ve been working out the details of that.

In one confluence of family, work, marriage and friends, the time to come out has become now. I had planned it for after the first of the year when I got my performance evaluation. That has gone out the window because of a potential reassignment in job duties that I don't wish to do and impacts my practice with individuals and long standing groups, particularly my ability to provide services to transsexual and transgender patients. I have built my trans practice to being one of the largest in Virginia and I have developed more health care services under one “roof” than any other health care system. This allows us to improve the quality of care for all my patients because of the ease of communication and coordination of services. Presently we offer mental health counseling, substance abuse treatment, psychiatric services, aesthetic dermatology, primary care, gynecology, endocrinology and voice therapy.

So it appears Friday will be the day when I sit down with my bosslady and inform her that I am transitioning and wish to do so at work. This will probably take her off guard, but because I am  being forced to perform clinical services in that I have no interest in nor desire to provide, it appears that this would be the time to inform her where things stand with me. I would prefer not to leave where I work because I have a lot of time and effort involved in creating the program we have there, but if not, then I do have a couple of options that appear to be a better alternative than not transitioning.

The other factor that has moved things forward so rapidly have to do with conflict within my wife’s family. Because of that, she and I no longer see a reason to be who I am not in front of them. These events have been very painful and have nothing to do with who I am as they have not become aware. This is also about to change. I have drafted and am polishing a letter to them informing them of what I am doing. Either they accept me for who I am, or I really won’t be bothered too much by not sharing a life with them on any level, as I’ve always felt like an outsider and not especially welcome by a number of them. That isn’t true of all of them though. I think that most of the ones who have made me feel like family will be ok with this, though I can’t be sure.

Having helped people transition over the last 19 years has helped me prepare for this day. It does nothing to help me with the experience of fear and anxiety, whether it is well founded or overly magnified in my mind.

The reason I share this with you at this time is because I am a genuine person and I want you to know that the fear I am experiencing is a normal part of the transitioning process. There comes a time when one has to face their fears over transitioning. Even if you have completed most aspects of the transition, when it comes down to your livelihood and how it affects the ones you live and their financial security, it is going to be terribly anxiety provoking. However, I do know that as in all the other scary things I have faced and losses I have weathered and survived, this too will pass. On the other side, no matter what happens Friday awaits freedom and serenity.

I will be sure to let you know the outcome of Friday’s meeting, though it may take a few days before I will be able to put what happens into words.

I want to thank all of you for the support I have gotten over the years from so many. I am grateful for the love, caring and support I have gotten and I am thankful so many have found what I write to be interesting enough to spend some of your time reading.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Alcoholism and Addiction

It's the same thing, alcoholism and addiction, really. Same illness, just a different substance. Then add on to this category the process addictions: gambling, spending, sex, porn, eating disorders like bulimia and anorexia. Let’s also recognize the binge- purge cycle associated with gender dysphoria where one acquires a wardrobe appropriate to our true gender identity and then in a fit of guilt and shame throws it all away, only to repeat the cycle by acquiring another wardrobe.

“The National Institutes of Health (NIH) estimate that 7.3% of the general public abuses or is dependent on alcohol, while 1.7% abusesor is dependent on non-prescription drugs. Eight percent (8%) of study participants reported currently using alcohol or drugs specifically to cope with the mistreatment that they received as a result of being transgender or gender non-conforming, while 18% said they had done so in the past...” ( :2011).

How is addiction defined? Essentially, an addict continues in the behavior  involving  a substance or process  even when it creates painful consequences for an individual and the individual continues to engage in the use of the substance or behavior despite those consequences. What are the life domains involved where one experiences negative consequences that indicate an abuse or addiction?

1.     Legal: This could be a result of illegal behavior such as driving under the influence, possession of a substance, or other illegal acts that bring law enforcement attention.

2.     Emotional: Depression, anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorders, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Many of these are a result not just because a person’s physical body does not match the person’s gender identity, but because of emotional, physical and sexual abuse the individual may experience simply because they are transgendered.

3.     Financial: Money spent on substances or process addictions, divorce, custody battles, clothes that can’t be afforded, or to replace what was purged, as well as so many other issues.

4.     Spiritual: the sense that we are alone, isolated and having no connection to others. It may be a result of being rejected by our faith if we are raised in the church.

5.     Health: These are consequences of illness or accidents that are a direct result of abusing substances or engaging in compulsive actions without regard for their consequences.

6.     Social: Broken relationships with friends and loved ones as a consequence of behavior under the influence that is painful or otherwise hurtful to others. 

In the past 11 years, working with substance abuse patients, I have known well over 100 people who have died due to overdose, accidents, illnesses contracted as a result of drug use, and suicide. Most of them were very nice people and their loss of life is tragic. The collateral emotional damage to their loved ones cannot be underestimated. 

Our community has a suicide attempt rate of 41%. Those who abuse substances have higher suicide rates than the general population. It isn’t a surprise that substance abuse plays a large role in depression and suicide. Those of us who are of transgender experience most often are no strangers to depression, myself included, though my depression stems from other issues in addition to having lived years in varying degrees of denial about my own identity. I thank my God and my wife and friends who love me that I have never been to the point where I considered suicide, but I, like many have had bleak dark days when I wished I had never been born or were dead. Now that I have accepted myself and am transitioning those dark days are fewer and fewer. 

When I worked at Bryce Hospital in Tuscaloosa, Alabama (my spiritual home!) I worked with the forensic unit that housed people found Not Guilty by Reason of  Insanity by the courts for varying offenses, some serious, some not of such consequence, but all the crimes were felonious. When I got there and was assigned to the unit, I was told essentially “Here is your unit. Do what you want with the programming”. It had the longest length of stay of the chronic units for several reasons. Some of them were because of the heinousness of the offense, other reasons included they had not had a unit director to provide structured therapeutic treatment for that patient population. Other patients’ offenses were not that severe and were candidates to be returned to the community.

To cut to the chase, I developed programming that allowed many of these patients to progress to the point that they could be placed back in the community and I did indeed start placing them back in to structured living placements or returned to live with their families. Unfortunately, they would stop taking their prescribed medications and abuse drugs and alcohol. Then they would be recommitted to the hospital, most often in a psychotic state or severely depressed, or manic. Typically, they were only out of the hospital for 30 to 90 days before they were returned. 

My graduate program did not include any classes on substance abuse treatment. That was not unusual for that time. So I had to educate myself about substance abuse treatment. In the course of this self-education process, I learned for the first time about 12 step programs. Alcoholics Anonymous was the original 12 step self-help program and was founded by Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Silkworth. I also studied materials from the Hazelden Foundation, our nation’s premier institute of treating addiction and educating professionals such as myself on how to treat alcoholism and addictions. I also attended 4 days of training at the Alabama School of Alcohol and Drug Studies. I developed the first dual diagnosis (mental illness and chemical dependency) in a state hospital in Alabama and was also the first to bring AA and NA into a state hospital in Alabama.  

People on my unit began to recover from alcoholism and addiction and began to successfully be placed back into the community without returning to life in an institution. It is one of the accomplishments in my life that I am most proud of. 

What I have taken from this is the importance of 12 step programs. The 12 step self-help program has saved the lives of more people and can be applied not only to alcohol and drug dependencies, but to the process addictions. In fact, it is my belief that anyone can benefit from practicing principles of the 12 step program whether you have an addiction or not. They teach you to rely on a higher power; however you may define that to be. They teach you to take stock of yourself, recognize the problem areas of your life and how to address them. They teach you to make a list of those you have hurt in one way or another and to make amends to them when it does not hurt the person you make amends to further. They teach you how to not harbor anger and resentment and how to resolve these issues. They teach you how to improve your relationship with others and your higher power and how to learn to become serene by accepting things you can’t change, changing what you can and recognizing what can be accomplished and what cannot. 

Are the 12 step programs for everyone? No. There is no one size fits all solution to our problems. Not everyone can benefit from the 12 steps, but by and large, the 12 steps help more people than anything else in overcoming addictions and compulsions. 

I have said this for years: Psychotherapy and medications treat depression and anxiety more effectively than either alone, borne out by study after study to the point it is irrefutable.  If someone came to me and said “Sherri, I can either pay you $100.00 (USD) for each hour of therapy or I can go to AA, (NA, or whatever 12 step program addresses the issue at hand) which is free, but I can’t do both, I would send them to the 12 step program to try first. That means its money out of my own pocket, which is a very high endorsement. It’s not about my self-interest, it’s about getting people help so they can be who they are authentically and be happy and healthy. 

I personally estimate that12 step recovery programs can be of benefit to 85 to 90% of people who participate in them. There are 10 to 15% of people who for whatever reason do not find them helpful. Whatever you decide to do if you have an addiction or a dependency of some sort, never give up in your struggle to overcome it. You deserve so much more than having to live with the despair of chemical dependency or with a process addiction.  

To find a local meeting here are some links:

Alcoholics Anonymous:

Narcotics Anonymous:

Sexaholics Anonymous:

Gambler's Anonymous:

Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous:

Al Anon:

Overeaters Anonymous:


Codependens Anonymous:

 A Christian oriented 12 step program:


Sunday, October 28, 2012

Where are our Transgender Amish, Mennonite, Brethren, Hutterite Brothers and Sisters?

Recently I have been watching some of the episodes of Breaking Amish. I have an interest in their culture because they have a very similar background to the Old Order Mennonites who live in my area and live much the same as the Amish do. I also went to an undergraduate Church of the Brethren college and some of the students were Mennonites and what was considered "Old Order Brethren" My own faith grew in another denomination rooted in Anabaptism, Southern Baptist. Having grown up in a rural environment, I found all of these denominations interesting and their way of life attractive to me in some respects. I like the simplicity of the way they live, though I am much too spoiled by modern conveniences to want to adopt the lifestyle of the Mennonites and Amish. On a few occasions, I had the privilege to provide therapy to Old Order Mennonites who shared what it is like to live in their culture and I was appreciative of the opportunity to learn more about some of these folks in a way that is inaccessible to other people to get to know them.

In 1995 there was another similar show called Amish in the City. Both of these shows focused on Amish young adults leaving their community and finding out about a world and a life that is totally foreign to them. For some of these individuals, they are seeking to satisfy themselves that they want to live the traditional lives that they grew up in and for some of them, this is the beginning of a new life that is totally foreign to them and means leaving everything  including their families behind. It is not a decision made lightly or without consequence.

Having grown up being mindful of my Anabaptist neighbors, I began to wonder if there were transsexual Amish and Mennonites. I know they must exist; after all, we are not rare people, but uncommon and highly secretive. I can only imagine how lonely and terrifying it must be to know your gender identity is in odds with your body in such a closed society since it was so difficult for me growing up in a more open yet unaccepting mainstream American culture.

From time to time I would think about these folks and wonder what it is like for them, but I have never been able to learn anything about their existence and what they go through in their own quest for an authentic life. Do they live out their lives in quiet desperation, as many of us have? Or do they find some acceptance in their closed community. Somehow I do not think that is possible and that they must leave and be shunned for life if their true identity becomes known in these most conservative faith communities.

In my last effort to learn about the lives of our Anabaptist brothers and sisters, I came across the blog of an Amish gay man, Joseph Stalnaker. I was interested in his website and took the opportunity to contact him and ask if he knew about any transsexual Amish or Menonnites. He did not and hopes that they will reach out to him. He writes about issues related to our spirituality and the struggles of GLBT people who live in these closed religious communities. I found his blog to be really interesting and I would encourage those of you interested in spiritual matters to take a look and read some of his very thoughtful and informative articles. Here is the link to his blog:

Saturday, October 20, 2012

The Way You Do the Things You Do!

I read a lively discussion earlier today that was inspired by a Blog Rachel King wrote (on Pink Essence) about not being a victim and doing what you need to do in order to be true to yourself.  Rachel is quite right; she taught me to have more courage despite my fear. I'm further along for what she taught me. I thank you for that gift, Rachel, even though sometimes it didn't feel like a gift. But it was. 

If you have made the decision to transition, it isn't about how you feel; it is about doing it or accomplishing it. I feel horrible at times. Who wouldn't sometimes during this journey? No matter if I'm sad, afraid, angry, anxious, or depressed. I still have to live my truth. It may take me longer to do it, but I still need to do it. Even when we are successful in our journey, we may not always feel good about some of the things we accomplish, but we can rationally understand that the step in question is progress, its own reward. We will come to be able to enjoy what we have accomplished sooner or later (Hopefully sooner or right then and there!!).  

I've been on HRT over 3.5 years by now and one would think that after all that time I would have resolved the work problem. If it had been only my own welfare alone to think about, I would have left there and found somewhere else to work. But I have someone else to consider who I need to provide health insurance for and that is what I choose to do.  

I finally have come up with the alternative plan so things have begun to move forward with being employed as me. Not any of this particular aspect of transitioning has been pleasurable. But when I identified the alternative way to get this accomplished, I now have an option to work professionally and the problem is on its way to being solved.  Being able to be comfortable about who I am as well as BE who I am with my old business partner, ensures that this part of the process will be solved successfullly. Then I guarantee that I will feel good about the accomplishment.  

It's just not all about me though. Patty and I discuss sometimes for her it seems like this is the "only thing" I focus on. I suspect that is the case at times, but I think it is pretty much the same for all of us at one stage or another. My professional writing and giving workshops means that I spend a lot of time reading and researching, teaching. Managing my own transition certainly takes a lot of time because I also try to balance her needs with my needs. She also, is transitioning and I want her transition with me to be successful. This has been not been without some painful experiences for both of us. I understand that though she's known since 6 weeks after we met about my gender identity, to have an intellectual knowledge of one's spouse gender identity is very different experientially for the spouse once transition formally begins. So no, she doesn't always feel happy about my transition, but she gets on with it and comes to feel at peace and able to accept the changes in the life we share together. I’m a person who doesn’t usually make rash decisions. So sometimes transitioning crawls at a snail’s pace. Still, I’ve found while sometimes it takes longer than it should to accomplish a task related to transitioning, I have fewer things explode in my face.  

In graduate school I learned that you can change how you feel by changing your behavior. Or, you may allow your emotional self to guide your behavior. The former leads to eventual inner peace and happiness. The latter is a prescription for disaster. Right acting and thinking will almost always result in emotional serenity and happiness.   

Personally, I've learned that the only difference between a loser and a winner is that the winner got up one more time than the loser. If you don't want to be a loser, you have to get back up on your hind legs after you fall on your derriere. That's all. We all know how hard this journey is; we have all been knocked down, and sometimes it takes a pause to figure out what just happened and to gather your wits. Other times we bounce back up right away. Just keep getting up and in the end, you will be where you need to be, no matter how long it takes to do it right.

In the therapy work that I receive, my therapist Dana helped me to understand that past issues of having been abused are not happening to me now and I need not hang on to the emotional pain of what happened to me. I’ve learned to let go of the past and live in the moment. Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow is promised to no one. Be the best you that you can be!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

10,000 views as of today! thank you for reading my blog!

I want to thank everyone who has read this blog as well as particpated with your comments. I never dreamed that I would average over 200 views a week around the world from all the continents. I have gained a lot of pleasure knowing that my blog is being followed not only by a North American audience, but also by western and eastern Europe, a vast expanse of Asia, South America, Africa and Australia as well as the sub continent of India. It has transcended, various religions of the world. Some of the religions of the continents represented besides my own Christian faith include Islam, Hinduism, Judiasm, Buddism, and other spiritual beliefs that I am not aware of as well as those who are Agnostic or Atheists. I am glad all of you have been reading my  blog and I would hope that if you feel free from persecution, to please comment on the articles that I write. We will all learn more about the world and each other if you feel free and welcome to comment here.

I have so much to learn about what it means to be a transsexual in each of your countries and I hope in the next year that I will see more diversity of opinions from various cultures. It is as much about your comments as what I choose to write about or disclose about myself that makes this forum useful.

Again, thank you so much, I am humbled that so many of you find value in what I write!
Sherri Lynne Tancyus

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to My Forum!

When someone posts a comment to my blog site, I get an email notifying me that the comment was posted. I have had a policy of open posting on my blog since its inception and appreciated dissenting posts as much as those who agree with my position on the matters that I choose to write about. 

Last week I wrote about a close friend’s announcement of her divorce. I was quite surprised Tuesday to find an ad homonym attack on me based on where I am in the process of transitioning and whether I “conflated” changing secondary sexual characteristics, specifically my “genitals” with changing my “gender presentation”.  This person also hid behind the cloak of anonymity which is usually the way people with a malignant agenda make these remarks. They lack the courage of their conviction to list their name or email address. I replied that I found the inquiry to be crude and because it was intrusive to my privacy. I stated that I would not answer this verbal assault. I was quite taken aback by the inappropriateness of the comment on this particular article more than the insinuated challenge of my integrity. I wasn’t particularly surprised that someone would make such a comment. I’ve experienced people like that before. Generally, they tend to be angry people and are bitter.

I discussed this comment with my niece Allie. She advised me that I needed to set my blog to moderate comments and I took this advice. I don't like having to do it as I appreciate the exchange of ideas openly. After all, I do believe in the principle of free speech. That is one of the principles that the internet was said to founded on and it is the cornerstone of Democracy. However, free speech does not extend to personal attacks in my opinion.

On the next evening I got another post to my blog from this anonymous person, this time moderated and not allowed to post without  my review and approval. Anonymous asked why was I "unable to or unwilling" to answer the original question and further challenged my “inability and hence refusal” to answer. Anonymous further escalated the attack by challenging my professional integrity. After all, “In light of my representation as a therapist a bit of candor would be in order… is not trust the cornerstone of your alleged profession?”

At this point, Anonymous no longer had a public forum for this intrusion. I chose to respond to this person off the blog. I stated that Anonymous and I do not have a therapeutic relationship, therefore this line of questioning is moot. A patient of mine asking the question where I stand in my transition is due an answer, provided it is in a context that benefits the patient therapeutically, but an anonymous person does not enjoy the privileges due between patient and therapist.

Then I asked Anonymous some questions of my own: Because Anonymous wishes to intrude upon my privacy and it is my personal decision as to what I choose to disclose about myself and what I deem personal and not open for discussion with my readers, I queried Anonymous about this person’s need to hide behind the cloak of anonymity to challenge me? Why does this person have a right to avoid revealing who they are or their email address while demanding me to answer extremely personal and intimate questions in a public forum?

I also made the observation that when an attack such as this is made, there is usually a hidden agenda. I asked if Anonymous would share that agenda openly with me so that we might discuss what it was. Hidden agendas originate from people who are passive- aggressive. They aren’t able to address conflict in a forthright manner, preferring to attack with innuendo.

I closed in responding by saying that I would be happy to discuss this with Anonymous politely and perhaps we could both learn something from this exchange, but I would not give Anonymous a public forum for this dialogue. Predictably, Anonymous chose not to respond in the last 24 hours. I doubt if I will hear from Anonymous again or learn this person’s identity.

I do have a fair idea as to the identity of this person based on their writing style and the ideological stance that was indirectly expressed, though I’m not absolutely sure who this person is. I have extensive experience in forensic mental health and I have profiled professionally for law enforcement. I am qualified as an expert witness in the judicial system at the Federal courts as well as the Upper and Lower courts of Alabama and Virginia, as well as the Juvenile and Domestic Relations courts.

 I would like to add that anyone who has followed this blog, attended my workshops, or has actually been a patient of mine pretty well knows the answer to the questions Anonymous asked. I am transitioning. It isn’t complete, though I have every intention to complete my transition as circumstances allow. No woman of transsexual experience enjoys being in transition. She feels even worse without the opportunity to transition, something that takes more than courage, it takes a lot of resources.

Those of us who are of transsexual experience generally do the best we can to become who we are if we have the opportunity. Some of are blessed with that opportunity and some of us will never have that chance for intrinsic and/ or extrinsic reasons. Those of us who transition, whether completely, or remain suspended in their transition to one degree or another, and those of us who never have the opportunity to transition because of whatever circumstance are no less than those who are blessed to complete their transition. None of us are less than women who were born and raised as girls and women either. The biological evidence mounts that this is not something we choose to do merely because of psychosocial reasons.

Friday, October 12, 2012

I Learned Some Very Sad News This Evening.....

I happened to check out my account on Pink Essence and learned some very sad news when I happened to look at the most recently posted blogs. I do this every now and then, once or twice a week. Tonight I learned that one of my dearest friends and sisters, "C" shared that her divorce was finalized today. Of course she was emotionally devastated, as any of us who have loved another person deeply and shared a majority of our lives in a marital relationship only to see it end, and not by our own desire or choosing.
"C" is such a loving and caring person, one cannot help but be drawn to her because of her sparkling personality. She is a deeply committed Christian, as I am, and the strength of her faith shines through her being, despite having lost so much in the exercise of her faith as well as seeking her own truth in Christ. In spite of the emotional pain of having lost so many relationships simply because she was born with a physical body that was not congruent with her spirit and soul, she has remained faithful and ministered to me at a particular dark point in my spiritual journey on a Sunday where I was able to attend her church with her. It was the first time in my life that I had the opportunity to worship as I am and by the grace of God, was also offered the sacrament of communion. I was so moved through the opportunity to come to worship and join in the mystery of becoming one with the body and blood of Christ that I had tears running down my face throughout the whole service and I then knew that I was acceptable as I am to the fellowship of Christians and to the God of my understanding. I felt truly blessed and healed of a great emotional pain. If it were not for "C" who accepted me as a sister and invited me to share her home, it might have been a long time for me to find a way back to a place in my own home area where I can be accepted and worship, without fear or shame, knowing I am perfectly acceptable to God as I am. I will never forget that first Sunday in June, a year ago from this past June.

“C” and I became acquainted on Pink Essence and I was drawn to her because of her open and friendly personality. I first had the opportunity to meet her at the Southern Comfort convention in Georgia in the fall of 2010, at the Keystone Convention in the early spring of 2011, again when she was a wonderful hostess when I gave another workshop at the Trans Philadelphia Health Conference in June of last year. As she lives in the North East, near some other dear sisters and nieces, I don’t get to see her very often, though I wish I could.

Those of us who share being a woman of transsexual experience are well acquainted to the pain of the loss of relationships with those we love the most and are intimately bonded with. It is such a common experience for us that it is a cliché and a stereotype of our life narrative. Sometimes this happens because we were not able to even accept ourselves and as a result we did not tell our spouses or partners. Other times, even though we have been honest and disclosed this most intimate and often emotionally painful part of who we are, having an identity that is contrary to the physical body in which we live since birth, is too much for even the most loving and deeply committed relationships to survive. It is probably the thing each of us fears the most as a consequence of living an honest life of integrity, even more than even losing our relationships with parents, siblings and other loved ones.

Tonight I grieve for “C’s” loss as I know she is heartbroken. I also live with the fear as many of us do, that even as strong as our marriage is, that there may come a point where Patty is no longer able to cope with that of which I ask in our relationship. It isn’t something that any one of us would wish on our worst enemy to have an identity in conflict with our biological bodies, though I am no longer ashamed of the reality of who I am. But it is sometimes too much to ask of a spouse even when they love us with all their heart.

“C”, please know that you are so in my thoughts and prayers and please know that though we live quite a ways away from each other, that I am here for you and I do care deeply about your pain.

I love you, dear sister.


Thursday, October 4, 2012

Do It Yourself Hormones: Is this a good idea?

I had a nice discussion with a lovely woman from Florida who came to my workshop at Southern Comfort two weeks ago. She had been on do it yourself hormones for awhile, stopped taking them and went back on them, but after she heard my comments, she changed her mind and was going to look into getting prescriptions and medical monitoring of her hormones.

I am someone who is not an advocate of doing it yourself, also sometimes known as D-I-Y. But I am also someone who has tried do it yourself, albeit a long time ago and it was only for about 3 or 4 months. I hope that this article will help people to reconsider the D-I-Y route and seek medical supervision.

My personal adventure with D-I-Y does not contain a horror story and I am not going to paint dire pictures of certain doom, illness or death, but there are potentially serious health complication that the D-I-Y person should be aware of and at least take some reasonable steps to minimize the potential for harm that exists with D-I-Y.

I have said before and I will say again, hormones are not playthings. Misuse of hormones can lead to heart, kidney and liver damage. They have the potential to raise blood pressure and cause heart attacks and strokes or fatal embolisms. Some people are not candidates for HRT because of other pre existing serious heart problems.

One of the most serious problems is that the pharmacies that one can obtain these hormones from do not require prescriptions. There is no guarantee that the drug you have purchased was manufactured with adequate standards to insure that the two milligram estradiol tablet actually contains 2 mg of estrogen. It may contain 2.5 mg or it might not even contain 1 full mg if estradiol. You just don't know what you are really getting. When you get a perscription filled, you are buying hormones that have been manufactured under rigorous standards and can feel safe that you are actually getting what you expect to be getting.

Many people who do it themselves ignore the need for regular blood testing every 6 months. This is important for many reasons. One reason is this is how physicians determine that your organs are not being negatively impacted by what you are taking. It confirms that you are getting proper amounts of hormones so that you can get the most benefit from taking them. You just might not be getting the serum levels of hormones up to where they should be in order to be most effective! It allows you to be aware of your cholesterol levels which can affect your heart and arteries and your liver. Adjustments can be made with other drugs, you don't necessarily have to cut back or eliminate HRT with this information if things aren't in balance.

One of the many reasons people don't go to their personal physician is because they continue to experience guilt and shame over experiencing gender dysphoria. That is something that occurs frequently and needs to be addressed, I've been there. I had literally had an old country doctor who was getting near retirement. My own guilt and shame at the time prevented me from going to him and telling him about myself. My solution was to ask my gynecologist to refer me to a female doctor as I'm not keen on having men seeing my body. So now I have a female primary care doctor who I can go to and talk to without feeling ashamed of myself. Whatever you have to do to get rid of the guilt and shame to have a health care provider you trust, please do it. You deserve nothing less than quality health care!

Another thing to consider is that you may be paying way over what you should for those black market hormones. Did you know that a prescription for 90 days of the maximum therapeutic dose of estradiol is $36.00 (U.S.) at Walmart, Kmart, Kroger or Martins for example of stores in my area? That's $12 dollars a month! That's dirt cheap. Most insurance companies' co pays would be higher than that. So isn't it worth dealing with your fears to find a competent practitioner you can trust? Then you know you are getting what you are supposed to be getting. How much is Spironolactone? $18.00 for 90 days at the recommended highest dose. Some of us take progesterone and there is some debate whether it is at all helpful or not in breast development. Generic progesterone is also inexpensive. My gynecologist prefers Prometrium because it is bioidentical to women's natural progesterone. It is expensive though. The maximum dose runs me a bit over $100.00 a month. In 6 more months I'll make a decision whether this is benefitting me or not in terms of breast development. If after 18 months on it and the results aren't that much, I'll likely discontinue it.

"Sherri, you don't get it, do you? I live in BFE (that is a remote place in Egypt). There is no doctor where I live who I can trust to go to or is willing  to prescribe HRT. I know this for a fact because I have called around."

Ok fair enough, not all health care professionals are as enlightened as I am or as enlightened as the ones who take care of me. I'll grant you that.

At least, go get your blood work done every six months, Please, please, PLEASE! get your liver and kidney functions tested and cholesterol too, even if you choose not to tell the doctor you are doing it on your own. We have a term for that. It's called HARM REDUCTION.

Speaking of harm reduction, being a member of WPATH, we strongly advocate harm reduction. What does that mean? It means that anyone who comes to see me on DIY hormones goes to the head of the class. I issue a letter of referral and give my patient the names of two, soon to be three doctors in my area who are willing to prescribe HRT for trans people. I give this letter on the second visit.  Harm reduction is the overriding principle and it is a principle supported by the WPATH standards of care. I want my patients to be safe!

Please consider these thoughts when you decide whether you decide to go see a doctor or do it yourself. You only get one shot at HRT and it has to be done right so that all we have to endure pays off on our journey to be who we truly are! What good is it, if one ruins her health on the journey?

Sunday, September 30, 2012

I'm Back From Southern Comfort Conference: Reflections and Observations

I'm home again from the Southern Comfort Conference. Well, actually I came home a week ago last week on Sunday. I was quite tired, had to work the next day and I've gone to bed fairly early each night until last night night when the Gods of Football television decreed that the University of Alabama begin their game at 9:15 P.M. local time, so I find myself tired again this morning and did not participate in my intentional community's service. Perhaps I will get back on track with that next week. I hope so, as I always feel better for having attended.

As always, I truly enjoyed my time at the conference. The Crowne Plaza Ravinia in the Perimeter area of Atlanta is simply a gorgeous venue and conveniently located across from a very nice mall and several very fine restaurants. Other shopping is convenient as well in the area and you won't get lost.

My workshop was well received and I'm always both flattered and humbled that people enjoy my presentation and I always give an historical context for the present state of the WPATH standards of care, as well as what the standards actually do state. There is a lot of myth about the standards of care that continues to abound. It confuses both people who are wanting to approach a transition and be healthy, and puts so many people off who resort to illegal sources to obtain hormones for a number of reasons. I'll be writing more on this topic next time.

Chloe Prince had a reception for Pink Essence members which was well attended and very lovely. She announced that she is launching a new web enterprise called It's purpose is to be a one stop website to help people find the various resources we all need on our gender journey. This is a much needed service to our community and I wish her all the success in the world with this venture!

I didn't attend many workshops myself this time. Many of the topics I've heard on a number of occasions. This is not to say I am above it all or that there isn't more to learn, because there is always more to learn and I need to stay current so that I can help others better and for my own needs at this late time in my transition. I attended a workshop on transitioning in the workplace that was excellent and got a few ideas about better ways to go about taking this up with the workplace administration. The other workshops I attended were on sexuality for the male to female transsexual taking hormones and one on coping with and resolving internalized transphobia. That is a very important topic as even those of us have dealt mostly with coming to terms about who we are and coming to terms with the people in our lives, can sometimes feel a degree of doubt or guilt and shame creep into the back of our minds. Resolving internalized transphobia isn't like completing a contest, or arriving at a destination, just like the process of transitioning, it is a journey.

My purpose this time, besides the main purpose of presenting my workshop, was to get some time to destress from my practice of psychotherapy which has been very busy and undergoing a lot of changes with the changes coming with the new health care systems. I wanted to get a massage for a back problem and for the holistic health benefits from a therapeutic massage. So the good news is that I got my back straightened out after almost a month and I was able to return to playing golf this week. I played twice in fact! On Thursday I played 9 holes with a friend after work and then yesterday I played 18 holes by myself. I played well for my level of skill on both occasions. I'm playing on a course I've never played before this Wednesday afternoon that is rated #36  in difficulty in the United States. I'm pretty sure I will stink it up, but I never take the game seriously, don't get angry when I don't play well and generally have a fun time and get rid of my stress.

Another purpose was to network with other psychotherapists, gender surgeons, and other allied health care professionals who I know. I took the opportunity to meet some other professionals I hadn't met before.

Then of course one of the biggest reasons is to see old friends I don't to see more than a few times a year and some I only see once a year. Wonderful people and I wish I could see them more often. I have friends like them all over now because of the opportunity to give the workshops in various places.

One of the things I enjoy a great deal is the opportunity to make new friends and each time I go to give a workshop, I meet new friends and look forward to seeing them the next time I'm in their city. That's always a lot of fun for me!

One of the things I reflected on is the debate on gender identities and I recently wrote on that topic here. The article is called The Dialectic of the Gender Continuum. One of the things I wrote mentioned that various gender identities are all valid, though not necessarily having anything in common with each other. Before I went to the conference, I wrote another article about the important role conventions such as Southern Comfort play for our communities. Some people I know expressed that they no longer go to these conferences because they feel they have nothing in common with others who have different gender identities. They feel clearly different from people with other gender identities and don't wish to socialize with them. I find that attitude disappointing. While I personally don't feel as if my identity has common elements as a woman of transsexual experience, I don't like the idea that I shouldn't socialize with others because they are different. I think if those who segregate themselves from others with different gender identities were to reflect on this attitude, they might be shocked to realize that that notion is no different from segregation due to racism and that they would not find those attitudes to be attractive within themselves. I'm not going to like every person who identifies as a cross dresser, fetishistic transvestite, transgender, or whichever identity someone may claim, but I am going to like some of them and I would not wish to not have the opportunity to make a new friendship. I've found that I never have enough friends and that all my friends, close or not, have something to offer me or teach me. I'm pretty shy, people wouldn't guess that, but I do like people.

Along this same theme, I heard the attitude shared that many younger people at the conference philosophically don't like the idea of having a gender identity at all. They identify as gender queer or other similar labels and they would deny everyone their own right to a gender identity as male or female in a society of their own design. I find it interesting that they would segregate themselves and impose a societal code that denies others of their own gender identity. You see this theme in much of feminist academic writing and in the presentations these individuals give at workshops. They want to impose the use of new language in the use of pronouns that deny the existence of gender identity. Ironically, these folks seem to be a small proportion of those in the gender community. I can never see myself identifying as anything than "female" or "woman" and would feel oppressed by a society that denies me my own identity, much as these individuals feel oppressed by a society that expects them to have a gender identity of either male or female. I find that rather ironic that they would choose to subject others to the same oppression they seek to be freed from.

I hope that the gender communities will come to accept others with different identities than their own and not feel threatened by those identities that are different than their own, just as we expect the dominant culture to accept us and respect our place in an open and free society. Sometimes I think the dominant culture is way beyond us in acceptance of us when we can't be tolerant of others with different identities in our own community. What do you think?