Translate this blog.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Becoming One: Within and Without

This past summer after an extremely moving experience I shared with one of my sisters in small town New Jersey, one Sunday, I discovered a community of intention and have been meeting with them on an ongoing basis. I have made some new friendships that are nurturing and sustaining.



Today we met and sought insights as to how we can, as an intentional community, reach out to more people in many more ways. We looked at our strengths and we discussed our challenges to create and realize such a vision.

Over the past several weeks, I have been coming to terms with something from long ago that was never resolved that frustrates me and leaves me confused wondering why it can occupy space in my mental and emotional life sometimes. Not every day and not necessarily all day either, but enough that it bears examination.

One of the things my community does is takes me out of that space and restores my sense of well being, physically, emotionally and spiritually. It does this by allowing me to feel connected to other people who as I get to know, I grow to care about.

These people accept me and want me to be with them, listen to what I say, allow me to listen to them and show that I care too. It has created a space where I don't need to think about gender. I can just be.

Many people speak of feeling less than, or "otherized" as I like to call it; not having a sense of belonging, or of less than equal worth. There is none of that in my community. It is a place I can be me. Simply just be me.

Some of us find ourselves along the way and experience that serenity, some of us don't. I'd argue that this is really what it is about, not a gender identity, male or female or whatever number of genders you may opine to exist. That is not what matters, really. What matters is that one can be who one is, be accepted as one is, without thought or pretense about where you fall on a binary or continuum.

Within ourselves we have to cultivate the level of self acceptance that when someone meets us or when we are a member of a community, we don't worry ourselves to death about the level of acceptance we are experiencing and how we are identified by others or how we identify ourselves.

Instead, in my community, we are focusing on how to strengthen each other as we reach out to be of service and comfort to those who find themselves disenfranchised and seek a hand up. We want that open hand to be there for each other and for those who have need.

These are the more and more frequent things I am experiencing in my life. They are nurturing me and giving me more opportunities to live in service to others, as I have always striven to do my whole life.

My wish for those of you who share a similar life journey, whether it be my walk in two worlds, or one, or even multiples of worlds, is that you too will find more and more experiences in life that allow you to just be in the moment, without thought about who you are or how you think others think about who you are.


Sunday, January 22, 2012

Affirming Life's Positive Moments

I could go on and on about the things in my life that aren't the way that suit. I've done that here already in other posts. Then a few days come along that allow me to know that my life is much better than it used to be and makes me think about how good things are for people who have the life experiences I have had. The past few days have been like that. One thing that makes my life different is that I have no relationships with other women of my experience in the local area. That has much to do with where I live and my daily schedule. My friends who share the experiences that I have experienced all live in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, metro D.C. and Ohio. I only get to see them a few times a year. I wish that I could see them more often but that really isn't possible at this particular time in my life.

Many women of my experience most often write about the terrible things that have happened to them or are happening. To be sure, some of the things that I have gone through in my life have left indelible scars. Sometimes wounds get reopened when I least expect it. Moving past those things requires a lot of spiritual discipline, something I have not perfected. I work hard to improve my spiritual condition which in turn, allows the wounds to heal and for me to experience a more joyful life. It also makes it less likely that I will be retraumatized.

 It also takes my willingness to seek help from people such as my therapist Dana and my pastors, Ann, Heather, and Jim.  Caroline Tammermand, Michelle Alexander, and Nicole Amie have a real handle on spiritual growth and truly inspire me to look beyond the things that are unhappy in our lives and in my own life. They all help me focus on the the things and experiences that are uplifting. Christina Lang has been a sister to me almost  as long as I have been on the internet.  I have some other women I am close to who have been wonderful supports and are dear to me too. I won't name them all because I wouldn't want to hurt one of them by overlooking them. Please know that you are all cherished dearly and deeply.

 Most important to me is Patty. Without her and her love and support, my life would be empty. She is such a positive and spiritual woman that she truly inspires me and I admire her so much! How I wish I were more like her!

The past few days have been what I wish life were everyday.  On Wednesday, I went to voice therapy and the two speech and language pathology therapists always make me feel like any other woman they might be working with.

 I was supposed to go to a workshop yesterday morning, but it was icy and I decided that discretion was the better part of valor. Later in the day I did go out to go shopping to get some things I needed. I went to get my new glasses and an older woman waited on me to fill my prescription. Because of my medical information it was more clear what my life had been in the past than I would have cared to have revealed. She was so kind and complimentary to me. She gave me the gift of not "otherizing" me.  She enquired as to my work as part of helping me select the lenses that would help me the best.
 She told me that she thought that I must be very good at my career which made me feel really good. She also said she thought I was very photogenic (she used a computer imaging system to make sure that the lenses were centered correctly), which was very flattering to someone who is not always as comfortable with her beauty as she should be (Because every woman is beautiful in her own way, but she often doesn't recognize it). It wasn't something she had to say. It wasn't a matter of salesmanship. It was a sincere compliment from her heart. It made me feel like any other woman who might have come in for a new pair of glasses.

I had some time to spend before picking up my new glasses, so I.... went shopping! Belk had a fabulous sale going on and I had been wanting a ruffled cardigan sweater that I had my eye on for quite a while, like since before Christmas! So I scored that, and of course, there is the inevitable. I ended up buying two dresses and some hose. What can I say? They were on sale!!!! Look at all the money I saved! I admit, I love shopping and I love to be stylish, but I always find what I like at a bargain! Patty says I'm the best power shopper she knows! (At least I didn't buy any shoes, but I did look!).

The saleswoman I was working with helped me with the dressing room when I tried on my dresses. We chatted about the nasty weather and she complimented my diamond and the color of my top which I shared that I had gotten there and I admired her beautiful silver Chandelier earrings. We chatted about designers we like, she told me she liked Ruby Road and Rafaella, which I like and I shared that I love Donna Morgan dresses and I wish that Belk would carry more of her dresses. I also told her I liked Evan Picone fashions too!

Today I went to church. I felt disappointed because I had missed a workshop on Discernment that I wanted to attend. Today's experience made up for having to miss yesterday's workshop. I was quite touched spiritually today. As the service began, it began to snow these great big, wonderful, beautiful snow flakes! This was so totally unexpected and not in the forecast! During some of the hymns and parts of the liturgy, my attention drifted to the windows to watch this beautiful pure white snow begin to trim the deeply rich green of the magnolia outside. It lifted my spirit and I felt warm and at home feeling the love of the congregation that we all have for each other and for those who are of different faiths or no faith at all, and for the reconciliation of those who are not of any faith or belief as well as those who believe differently. We shared about being penitent about our anger towards those who have even harmed us in some way. We talked about learning how to demonstrate that penitence publicly.

After the service, I have gotten into staying for coffee and the adult education class after that. I have been enjoying that so much since I finally got up the courage to stop being shy and go!   <<Rolls her eyes at herself!! and smiles miles sheepishly>> I am making so many new friends with women there. They are so welcoming and embracing. I can see the possibility of becoming close friends with several of them. Pastor Heather gave me a book for Christmas on women of the Bible who exemplify the best attributes of friendships between women. This is the sort of growth that I have been seeking. Coincidentally, in February, there will be a workshop on this topic and I am so looking forward to this time to learn more about myself.

You know, what I came away with this weekend, that was so powerful in my healing and growth? I didn't have to think about the ever looming issue of "GENDER" when one is in transition, seems too often in the forefront of one's mind. It just didn't happen. I didn't wonder about those negative self  doubts and what someone might be thinking of me or about me. I was just free to be! I was just totally present in what I was doing in the moment.

I also reflected that the vast majority of my experiences have been really positive. There have been some bad experiences on rare occasions. Really though, I almost always experience the exact opposite of what I am afraid of. Looking back on my life, I have to say, growing up one way was tremendously worse than living this way. The lessons? Learn to be still  and listen. Learn to trust yourself.

What a WONDERFUL feeling! I feel free.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

My Wife's Response to The Long and Winding Road....

My wife wrote this in an email to me about the most recent blog. With her permission, I have posted it here. Please understand that our relationship remains strong. It is very hard for our wives, girlfriends and partners to come to grips with the transition, even in the case where the wife knew since the beginning of the relationship, as is true of us. She is having to go through a tremendous adjustment and I don't think we can ever take too lightly what we ask of them. The fact that she chooses to remain with me is a testament to her character. If you choose to leave a comment in response the only thing I would ask is be respectful to her and recognize that despite the deep emotional pain she has experienced over my decision. She loves me deeply and remains strongly committed to our relationship.         

"I read your blog and found it heart wrenching. I know the desire to
transition is so strong that it begins to absorb the TG person. It
becomes the focus of your life. The focus of your day. The reason for
getting up in the morning. It literally sucks the life out of you.You
lose the ability to define your "self" anymore. Everything you do, think
or wish for seems to be an extension of this central theme. If you
spend the better part of your life in this isolated place it seems to
me that you begin to disappear. Once the transition is complete you are
suddenly like an alien that has just landed on earth without an
instruction book or map. I picture it as suddenly waking up after being
in a coma and realizing that life went on without your involvement or
"presence" and you just can't believe how things have changed in the
time you were "unconscious." You literally have to start over with
just the shirt on your back in a place you don't recognize. The grief must
be overwhelming when you realize you "missed" so much of your

I can't begin to understand your feelings and I don't have your
level of education or understanding on this cruel trick of nature.I
stand by holding on as best I can.I go about my days doing what needs
to be done .I am trying to adjust to the losses that I am
experiencing. {My husband} seems to have been replaced by someone else when I
wasn't looking. It's a twilight zone of sorts because you are looking
out at the same things I am but with a whole different purpose and
perception.You see something I can't see and I see something you can't
see.We stumble around trying our best to make sense of what the other
sees and feels.I love you but I admit I am lonely and afraid. I know
you have felt the same way for a lot longer than I have. It would be
great if we could find a place we both recognize as "our" place. I know
there is a way. I will always love you."

Saturday, January 7, 2012

The Long and Winding Road: After the Bell Goes Off

Many of us go through life sitting on the fence about transitioning for years        before we do it. We know who we are, we just aren't sure what we want and/ or need to do about it.

 As Bob Dylan wrote, "Some of us turn off the lights and we live in the moonlight shooting by. Some of us scare ourselves to death in the dark to be where the angels fly..." There are those of us who desperately know what they want, but are so filled with fear over what the implications of recognizing their transsexuality means and what is necessary to resolve the situation that they are paralyzed and live in a state of denial for many years, only to realize much later in life what they must do. Many among us call that "The bell rang or the bell went off". There are those of us for who the bell rang immediately when they realized their female identity and plunge ahead. For some of those people, they intuitively made the right choice. Then there are those who jump in only to find somewhere down the road that they made all the wrong decisions. So they took steps that are irreversible and live with painful regrets. This isn't to say they don't have a feminine identity, but for various reasons they conclude they made a terrible mistake and might not be transsexual.
Various studies indicate that the vast majority of us will never have GRS. The reasons are myriad. Some will never be able to come up with the money and will live in that in between state for the rest of their lives. Others simply have commitments that mean more to them than having GRS, though they dearly desire to be complete. Then there are those whose health is too poor to undergo these procedures, and there are as many reasons true transsexuals cannot fully transition as there are those who choose not to or are unable, too numerous to name here.
Years ago, in my internet searches about information that I could use to help myself, I came across an article written by an anonymous woman who has gone through transition and GRS. I'm not sure I agree with every single thing she said, but from my own personal experience and of the transgender people I've treated or met, I think that there is much wisdom in her article. It is quite lengthy. She makes the point that you either are a woman or you are not. That isn't the question though. The question is: Did your bell go off? I think that is an important insight. If your bell hasn't rung, she believes you should not transition and if it has gone off you will have no choice.
I remember vividly the day my bell rang. It wasn't, as the anonymous author notes, a joyous occasion. My life had been dedicated to not having to do this and I gave it one hell of a shot. I can look back at my football career. When I was 13 I went to preseason practices with the varsity and practiced with them until the J.V.'s started after school began. I got the living hell beat out of me until my freshman year when I lettered on the varsity team the first time, the only one in my class who played on the varsity team. From my sophmore year on, I started both ways on offense and defense. It was great cover for me, or so I pretended.
 Later, I would go on to rock climbing, caving, and I even rode a bull several times. That was nothing but sheer stupidity trying to deny who I am and live that man's life. I lived wrecklessly and honestly should have been killed on at least 5 occasions. I lost my first marriage over this when it didn't go away as I had hoped. I, like so many others thought getting married would make it all go away.
On the day my bell rang, I had been treating transsexuals for 13 years. My thinking was, if I can't do this myself, at least I can help others so they wouldn't suffer any longer as we so often do and live their lives authentically, if that was their right path. Seven years earlier, my dear friend Gianna Israel who is no longer with us wrote me a referral letter for HRT but I didn't use it at the time. I wanted to get on hormones, but the bell hadn't rung yet. I knew it would come, though.  I had returned to therapy and my transsexualism was the reason for my return. I needed to figure out where I was going with all this. Six months into therapy, my bell rang and it rang loudly. I gathered my courage and called the gynecologist I have been referring to since my first male to female patient. I had been referring to her for all of those thirteen years and she was one of the biggest supporters of the work I was doing. I took three days after deciding I wanted to go on HRT to screw up my courage and then I called her. I vividly remember blurting out to her "Melinda, I just can't do this any more, I need your help." She had no idea that I was a transsexual myself, but she is very compassionate and told me, of course she would help. Then I had to go home and tell the person I love more than anyone or anything, more than life itself, what I had decided to do and what I had done about it. Our lives together have never been the same. That is the point of the writer's book.  There will be losses and some will be very painful losses. Be darn sure you are a transsexual before you make the decision to transition . You may possibly lose everything you hold dear. If you are a transsexual, it will be extremely difficult to transition and extremely difficult emotionally not to transition. There seem to be no winners here, at least in the short term to mid term. Recently, I made the comment to Dana, my own therapist, that I was every wife's nightmare. She's heard me make this statement several times and this time she said, "No you aren't. {your wife} loves you and is staying with you. Don't you know any other couples that stay together?" Yes, I do. Besides myself, I know my friend Christina and her wife are successfully working this through, not that it is very easy. I also thought of Christen and Nikki off the top of my head during that session. So, we are not every wife's nightmare.
 I do see a lot of happier women who undertake this rite of passage and successfully transition, but it seems to take a long time to get there from what I can see. Those who do survive the losses and the transition generally tell me they have some improved sense of peace and sense of self as complete and a better quality of life but they always seem to have a bittersweet quality to their lives as well. Others I have known have not fared so well at all.
Here's the link; it's worth the time it take to read it. As I said, I don't agree with all of it, but I think most of it rings true. It's something everyone who is seriously contemplating should read and reflect upon.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

2012 Don't Look Back (They Might Be Gaining on Ya')

Happy New Year everyone!                        

 I hope that no matter how difficult or how wonderful 2011 was, I hope that 2012 brings you all good things this year and to your loved one's as well.

I'm hoping for a much better year and am looking forward to a lot of changes for the good. Many of us make resolutions and plans for positive changes. Generally in years past I have not done much of that. It is the perfect time to make some changes and try to plan and anticipate what might happen in the next twelve months.

To that end, I am thinking of what the year will bring and what I would like to accomplish. I want to work on some health issues and have some medical appointments coming up. Most are not too serious, but it appears that I will need another cervical spine surgery in the near future to remove the plate that was used for my fusion in December of 2010. The first surgery was much more extensive than originally anticipated and was quite successful in relieving my pain. I have had serious difficulty in swallowing since and have had a lot of difficulty with weight loss. I've lost 25 lbs since the surgery. Up until the surgery, I, like most girls, was working on losing weight. Now it is quite a different story as I need to graze to keep my weight stable. This problem is caused either by the presence of the plate or nerve damage to the 10th cranial nerve. I'm hoping the removal of the plate will take care of the problem, but I'm not overly optimistic about it. I dread going through this again so soon (Here is the surgery you get, it's not the surgery you want) more because of it messing up my conference workshop schedule for the year than the surgery itself. I'm going to have to drop two conferences this year which I really hate to do. It will be a hit on my leave time as well. So aside from resolving my swallowing issue, I'm going to ask him to clean up whatever new damage he finds while he is in there. I have developed a problem on the right side of my shoulder, arm and hand.

I'm going to use the time off recouperating to work on the book I am writing on transgender care with the same theme of this blog; a therapist teaching other therapists and relating the transsexual phenomenon from this rare point of view. So that will be a good thing! The other downside to having to have this surgery will probably mean that I will have to delay my GRS and FFS that I wanted to have this coming December.

Other plans in the offing include the possibility of changing employment. I'm contemplating going to work for the Veterans Administration. The VA offers many attractive options for me. They pay significantly more than other mental health employers in the area, a better retirement benefit and an EEO policy that is trans inclusive that was newly implemented by the Obama administration this past year. There is a downside to leaving my present situation. I have been there 10 years and have a well established caseload with many long term patients that I have built a relationship with. Working for  the VA would preclude my continued work with them. Even more difficult for me is to end my work with the most comprehensive transgender health care program offered in Virginia that I created. I would not have the opportunity to help as many transgendered people directly as I do now if I am offered a position with the VA, although they are making great advances in providing treatment for transgendered veterans.

My other plans are more modest and are the kinds of things that most of us do; resolve to get more exercise, do more for others in terms of service work . That's one of the things that bugs me about not going to a couple conferences on my schedule; all the workshops I do are done as service work. I don't seek compensation for giving of my time and knowlege. The friends I have made through these opportunities has been greatly rewarding of itself. I've also resolved not to be such a harsh critic of myself. While there is always room for improvement, I don't really need to as hard on myself as I am at times. Partly, this is the result of being a victim of abuse over a fairly long period of time. One thing I have been working on in the last few years is forgiving the ones who abused me. This is not easily done, but I concluded several years ago that I needed to forgive them, not for them, for myself. For too many years I have carried too much anger with no where to direct it. I've made a lot of progress, there is still work to be done.

The last thing I have resolved is to make this a more fun year! I think that will be the best resolution of all! So what are your plans for 2012?