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Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thanksgiving 2013

Although I have had many extremely unhappy Thanksgivings in my life, this day has always been my favorite holiday because of the traditional meaning of the day. It is a reflection of my profound faith as a Christian and it is the time of year, along with Christmas where I am focused on the many things I have to be thankful for and not thinking of the difficult things I have come to terms with that have happened in recent years.

When I write my articles, I try to write them for you: the people who read them. I only write about personal things when I think there is benefit by sharing my privacy with you. Then again, what I write I want to be interesting to you as well. As I share the things that I am grateful for, I am aware that this might not be so interesting to you, but I hope the thought that even under difficult circumstances that you might be experiencing, no matter how sad or painful, we do have things to be thankful for and when we remember those things, it makes the difficult things easier to bear.

Most of all, I am thankful for my wife Patty. I am very blessed that she has chosen to remain with me through my transition. Many, if not most marriages do not survive transition. I know that my decision to transition was and continues at times to be painful for her. Through it all she has chosen to stay with me and I am so thankful for that.

I’m also thankful that I found Dana to be my therapist. She is very gifted and guided me through my transitioned. She asked the hard questions and threw up every possible or potential roadblock or challenge I had to overcome and it resulted in my decision to transition with no regret. She helped me to finally put to rest past traumas and they don’t bother me anymore for the first time I can recall in many years. She “held my hand” when I was afraid and helped me find my courage to do what I needed to do to be happy. Thank you so much for all you did to help me, Dana.

I’m thankful for my dog Jack the bipolar beagle and my cats Taffy, Callie Sue and Jill. I’m especially thankful to still have Taffy who was diagnosed with cancer a year and a half ago. He is still happy and active and is not in any pain. He is very special to me as he “picked” me as a kitten. He was a stray I found down at the country store. He was one of a litter of kittens down there. He wouldn’t have anything to do with anybody and no one could catch him, I was told. For some reason he came running up to me and he has always loved me best. Yellow cats are special, indeed!

I’m thankful for having a home and plenty of food to eat. There was a time when I didn’t have enough, though I can’t say I was starving, but I definitely was hungry a lot of the time and there was even a short period of time when I was homeless in a new city through my own stupid decision making. Sometimes it takes not having enough to eat and not having a place to live to make you remember to always be thankful for and never take for granted something as simple as having enough food and a home.

Even though at work we no longer get raises based on performance and no longer get cost of living increases in our wages, I am very grateful to have a job in my chosen career. This may not be true in the future with the coming of Obamacare when specialized care will become less available and strictly rationed as in other countries with socialized medicine that I read about, but that is not happening to me at the moment. Rather than worry about that day coming, I choose to be thankful for what I have today.

I’m thankful for my health and the health care providers I work with who take care of me and keep me well. I know they respect me and I am treated with the dignity I deserve.

I’m thankful that I had the opportunity and access to higher education. For any of us who are transsexual, education, whether academic or vocational in nature is the key to preventing many of the horrible things that happens to some of us.

While this may be difficult for some of you to understand, I am thankful for my father’s passing away peacefully last year three days after Christmas. He had suffered a great deal over the past two years of his life and spent most of it, especially in the last year, either in the hospital or in rehabilitation facilities when he would have preferred to be home. I miss him so much, but I also grieved for him a lot over the last two years and in his death I found relief from my own grief. He is at peace and home with God. He was a man of strong faith and it is the most important gift he gave to me as a child.

I’m thankful to have a very rich spiritual life; my faith in God has carried me through all of this, in good times and in difficult times.

Even though I hate winter and cold weather, along with the long dark nights, I am thankful for winter because without it I would not appreciate the beauty of spring, the warm long summer days and the beauty of autumn.

I know that some of you who read this are going through some difficult or even terrible times. I hope that this might be a small gift in some way and that it will encourage you to remember things that you have in your life that you can be grateful and thankful for, even if it is some of the little things you might not think about on a day to day basis and that will make today a little bit better for you.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Judge Not, Lest Ye Be Judged: Is it Possible You Might be Cisphobic?

I had an experience this past week that I would like to share with you. It does not reflect the best of me, though it turned out well. I think the lesson I took from this is one I would like to share because we can all benefit from it. It is a lesson that has been profoundly repeated at least weekly, if not almost daily since I made the decision to complete my transition over the past 6 years or so. It occurs so frequently now that in many ways I have begun to take it for granted. It is the more poignant examples that I now find to be emotionally moving.

There is another type of bias and prejudice that I have described in vague ways. It is something that we must search within ourselves and sit in judgment of ourselves. It is a form of oppression of the worst kind. It is oppression of the self and it is called CISPHOBIA. It occurs when we expect cisgendered people to discriminate against us, hate us, or perpetrate violence against us with no basis for that expectation. It is rarely discussed and even more rarely described.

Do cisgendered people at times discriminate and publically express hatred towards us, even to the point of having perpetrated violence against us solely for the reason we are transgendered? That is an unequivocal YES. It is the legacy that I grew up with, the same type of virulent hatred also characterized by racism and homophobia, however we must also recognize the tremendous advances our society has made in accepting us and recognizing our right to participate openly in a free and just society with respect to our Constitutional rights. There is, however much that remains to be done to further the progress we all have made. That progress benefits cisgendered people as well as transgendered people.

Incumbent upon us is that we also reflect and identify those areas of potential and/ or unrecognized cisphobia that impair our ability to experience a fully free and self actualized life. It is also incumbent to make necessary changes in our own personal attitudes when necessary to eliminate cisphobia in our lives.

The example I would like to share with you involves a former patient of mine who I had not worked with for about two years. Quite frankly, the experience of informing all of my current patients that I was transitioning, while very successful (I retained over 97% of my patients), was also very stressful, at times exhausting, and it was an experience that I am glad is over. On occasion, I still have to disclose to a former patient who is insistent about wanting to work with me. I don't look forward to the times I have to do this. I just want to live my life without having to review the past, but in my choice of work, that is not always possible. Here is where the problem arises and it is where I have personally struggled with an area of cisphobia.

This patient came to the office two weeks ago, unaware that I had transitioned. He had asked to see me for a few minutes, but because of the unanticipated nature of the visit and that I had already seen 9 patients with a serious crisis patient in the afternoon I was not prepared to deal with the situation.

My thoughts were that due factors of his cultural background, his religious background and his personality that there was no way that he would be accepting. In other words, I made a cisphobic judgement about him. It turns out that I was grossly unfair to this gentleman.

The front office staff did an admirable job handling the situation. They began to try to explain without discussing my transition that I (my former male self) was no longer there. Out of genuine concern and care, he pressed them to tell himwhat happened to me as he was clearly worried that something tragic had befallen me. So they explained in simple terms that I had undergone a gender transition. His response to them was that it did not matter a bit to him and that he felt that because of the work I had done with him that I had saved his life. (No I didn't save his life, I was simply the tool he chose to use to save his own life).

The front desk staff relayed this information back to me and I asked that he come by on another occasion. It had indeed been a very long day and I was tired.

Yesterday my patient had an appointment with me and saw me for the first time. The first order of business was to apologize to him for my misjudgment. He graciously told me that no apology was necessary, but I insisted that I had been wrong, apologized to him again and thanked him for his acceptance of me.

In the past, I have seen opinions expressed that people who are oppressed cannot be oppressors themselves because of their oppressed status. I have always sharply disagreed with that opinion. By the act of being bigoted, prejudiced or biased against people, whether they are members of an oppressed class of people, or by the act of being bigoted, prejudiced or biased against people who are members of a class of people who have been oppressive towards another class, we perpetrate the impedance of societal progress. We injure those we have unfairly judged. We injure ourselves by depriving ourselves of the opportunity to take advantage of the progress we have made as a society. We slow the process and the progress of our own full integration into society.

Now I am someone who believes I am fully assimilated in daily life; I do not fear going to the ladies room, using the ladies dressing room in stores, nor do I fear an encounter with the police, going through TSA when I travel or interact in any way with the predominant culture. I generally don't see myself as a person who is cisphobic, but there are these areas of cisphobia that apparently do exist in my life.

It is my hope, through my own personal growth in this area and by bringing this potential problem to the attention of other transgendered people that we can do our part to make our society a more free and open society.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Ain't That America?

Today was a day that made me proud to be an American! We hear so many stories about how awful our country is and how we as people of trans experience are hated and driven to despair. That isn't always the case and we need to focus on positive things. We can overcome adversity and we can have happy, fulfilling lives!

Today, I had a very positive experience interviewing with the Veteran's Administration for a job that has a lot of opportunity for advancement. The five people who interviewed me were all very positive and seemed interested in my experience and skills as a Social Worker. They informed me that I was a finalist for the position and they indicated that they would be in touch no later than the first of next week about the position.

Then I went to vote. It was the first time I ever voted as Lauren, here where I have lived a male life out in rural Virginia since 1992. I grew up here before leaving for college and grad school.

It was a very comfortable experience. There were no challenges to my right to vote and the election officials were very polite and professional.

The world is a much better place for us, even as recently as twenty years ago. I live in one of the most conservative (both politically and religiously) areas in the U.S. here in the Shenandoah Valley.

If I can do it, so can you! Yes, there have been obstacles along the way. My biggest obstacle was my own fear.

I hope that you will follow your dreams and become the best you that you can be!