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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.