Sunday, April 8, 2018

4-9-2018 Picture Entry: 3 years on HRT


So it occurred to me that my 3 year anniversary of hormones happened about a month ago and I never wrote anything about it. To me, the 3 year mark is an important one because it is usually the point at which feminization either begins to stop or completely stops. At one year I felt significant effects, physically and emotionally, but still had a long way to go. At two years I felt completely changed, like an entirely new person physically and emotionally. At year three I just feel like me. I cannot recall the last time I noticed a change in my appearance outside of my struggles with weight or the growth of my hair. If I’m honest I really don’t expect there to be any further changes, unless I make changes to my current HRT dosages/medicines, which has actually been discussed with my doctor as recently as this past Thursday. For now things are going to remain the same but it is possible we will be doing something to help further the development of breast tissue. When, or if, that happens I’ll be sure to update all of you.

For now, however, I think it is time to do my last big HRT picture update for some time to come. I don’t expect to be doing these again in the future, at least not until it has been 5 or even 10 years on HRT (or if I start to have feminization surgeries). That’s not to say that I won’t still share pictures from time to time but this is going to be the last dedicated picture entry for the foreseeable future. Given that it will be the last picture entry, I figure I might as well go back to the beginning, if not before, to show just how much 3 years of hormones and living as my identified gender can change a person.

I won’t talk about the hormone effects because… frankly, it would just be repeating what has already been said in the previous two HRT updates. As I said above, I can’t remember the last time I noticed any significant changes to my body other than weight gain. So, without further ado let’s get this picture party started.

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Circa 2000, I was maybe 14 in this picture (I'm in the black and yellow windbreaker)

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2002 on the right.


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2004


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Also 2004, just chillin with my main man Darth Vader

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circa 2008

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Later in 2008

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One year later 2009 with my now ex-wife.

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2011 engagement photo.

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2011 with my wonderful friend Kevin at his wedding.

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2013 at a friend's wedding.

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2013 at another friend's wedding. I was part of the bridal party (we dubbed ourselves Man-maids; oh if we'd only known)

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2014 with my Mom, shortly after I'd come out to her as being transgender.

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2015, about a week on estrogen.


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2015 My now ex-wife and I after buying our house. It sucked ass having to sign my birth name about a 100 times. At this point I had been on estrogen for about a month and was desperately trying to grow my hair out (hence the McScraggles look).

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2015, got my first wig! It looks silly to me now, but at the time I was soooo happy. My ex-wife was less than thrilled about it, but tried her best to be happy for me.

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2015 My first week going to work as Emma. I don't know if you can see it, but I can see how scared I was underneath. It was so liberating to finally be completely out of the closet and living my true life, but it was all still so new and terrifying.

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June 2015 at my first PRIDE celebration after coming out. It was one of the happiest days of my life.

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July 2015 when Liz Collin came to interview me for her news story (video is gone but the transcript of the video they aired on the news can be found here http://minnesota.cbslocal.com/2015/07/21/from-robert-to-emma-the-journey-of-a-transgender-minnesotan )

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August 2015, new wig and new clothes. Definitely feeling and starting to see the 6 months of estrogen at this point.

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October 2015, new outfit. Can't see it here but I'm definitely struggling with some serious depression and realizing (without being able to admit it) that my marriage is doomed to fall apart. I finally feel like the person I'm supposed to be but my wife and I are growing further apart. The friendship is still there but as she will tell me a month from this photo, she's not a lesbian.

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November 2015, two weeks after my marriage ended. Don't let the smile fool you, I'm anything but happy in this photo, except maybe the dress which I love and the fact that this is the lowest weight I'd been at in years. The things I'd give right now to be that thin again right now, but alas.

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Feb 2016, 1 year on hormones and with my natural hair out (don't mind the fake nose ring, was testing it out).

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May 2016, died my hair for the first time in almost a decade and loving it.

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July 2016 getting ready for Queer Prom.

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November 2016, getting ready for Halloween as an S&M Kitten.

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Thanksgiving 2016 with my two cousins. Was the first time I'd gone to see my family since starting my transition and they were so kind to me it made me cry. Still get misty eyed thinking about it.

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December 2016

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January 2017, almost been 2 years on estrogen at this point.

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March 2017, 2 years on HRT about to go get my hair died again. So excited about how long it has grown at this point.

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April 2017 celebrating with friends.

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May 2017 random selfie.

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June 2017 sushi with my BFF.

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July 2017, the counselors did facials at work with the kids (I'm on the left)

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October 2017, at a friend's Halloween party.

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November 2017

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December 2017, got a new top.

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Christmas 2017, rocking my new swag! 

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February 2018 Blue hair!! Almost 3 years on HRT.

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March 2018 still blue hair and now a Monroe lip piercing (hard to see, it's on the left side)

And that's about it. As you can see I look NOTHING like I did before the transition. I am distinctly aware of the weight I've gained over the past two years but I'm taking a lot of steps to address that in a healthy way (like regularly meeting with a dietitian). That discussion, however, can be saved for another time.

For now, I just want all of you out there to know that it is possible to make your transition and end up pretty happy on the other side of it. It isn't a fairy tale, at least my transition wasn't, but I cannot imagine being anyone besides who I've become. My transition saved my life, and that's not a joke. I was so depressed and know that had I not made the change I would have taken my own life; it was only a matter of time. Thankfully I had a dream that I was a girl and the powerful feelings of finally belonging and being at home in my body were too strong to deny.

I remember how impossible it seemed back then when I watched transition videos on youtube until the wee hours of the morning. I wanted what they had so badly and even though I planned to start hormones  I never really believed that could be me, but here I stand, utterly changed. Is my body perfect? Not by a long shot, but can I finally stand to be inside it without hating every second of it? Yes. I look in the mirror and I see a girl (which is what I wanted to see). When I walk around in the world I am almost always gendered correctly or gendered the way I feel most comfortable (and when I'm not it is usually because I've put in no effort into my appearance that day). 

So don't give up before you even begin if you are considering hormones. I never thought I'd be seen the way I am now, and had I allowed that doubt to stop me from trying I would have never gotten to experience all the joy that has come from my transition. 

Well, that's all I have my darling readers. I hope you enjoyed the picture show and hope you keep checking back for new updates. I'm going to try to keep the writing coming as often as possible. Just remember, you are beautiful, and brilliant, and worthy, and amazing, and capable of almost anything. Believe in yourself, even if the world doesn't share your belief; and if they don't share it, then prove them wrong. Stay fabulous darlings!

-Emmz

Friday, April 6, 2018

4-6-2018 Entry: Sexual Violence and the Transgender Community

Hello my darling readers. Hope you have been well and that the world is treating you with kindness. The last time I wrote I expanded on something that has been very difficult to write about, namely being a victim of sexual abuse as a child. Now I’m sure some of you are wondering why I would share such dreadful information on my blog which is dedicated to helping bring awareness, education, and empowerment to trans* people, and I think I’ve come up with an answer for you. The answer is I know I’m not the only one that has gone through something like this and since it is sexual assault awareness month it's a good time to speak about sexual violence in the trans* community.

 “2015 U.S. Transgender Survey found that 47% of transgender people are sexually assaulted at some point in their lifetime” (https://www.hrc.org/resources/sexual-assault-and-the-lgbt-community).

For many this begins as early as childhood like it did for me. That is nearly half of us who have been or will be victims of sexual violence, and that is only those who reported it. “Some reports estimate that transgender survivors may experience rates of sexual assault up to 66 percent.” (https://www.ovc.gov/pubs/forge/sexual_numbers.html)

Just think about that for a second. Think about every trans* identified or non-binary person you’ve ever met. Half, if not more, of them have been victims like me. I can think of a few dozen trans* or non-binary people I know and can tell  you this statistic holds true. Almost all of them that I have had extensive conversations with have revealed to me in one way or another that they too were perpetrated against.

Sexual violence has been found to be even higher in some subpopulations within the transgender community, including transgender youth, transgender people of color, individuals living with disabilities, homeless individuals, and those who are involved in the sex trade. For example, the 2011 Injustice at Every Turn: A Report of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey found that 12 percent of transgender youth report being sexually assaulted in K–12 settings by peers or educational staff; 13 percent of African-American transgender people surveyed were sexually assaulted in the workplace; and 22 percent of homeless transgender individuals were assaulted while staying in shelters

Sexual assaults can be perpetrated by any individual; however, it is particularly startling when professionals who are in "helping" roles abuse their power and sexually assault individuals they are supposed to be serving. Fifteen percent of transgender individuals report being sexually assaulted while in police custody or jail, which more than doubles (32 percent) for African-American transgender people. Five to nine percent of transgender survivors were sexually assaulted by police officers. Another 10 percent were assaulted by health care professionals” (https://www.ovc.gov/pubs/forge/sexual_numbers.html)

Another study showed that “21% of TGQN (transgender, genderqueer, nonconforming) college students have been sexually assaulted, compared to 18% of non-TGQN females, and 4% of non-TGQN males.”

That makes me sad, like really sad, to know that we as trans* people often have higher rates of being victims of sexual assault. I know what it can feel like to be the victim of both childhood sexual abuse and sexual assault in adulthood. It is the kind of thing that you go to therapy for months or even years to unpack and come to terms with. I’ve been seeing my therapist for over 3 years, ever since I started this blog, and it’s only been in the past few months that I’ve even begun to work on this. It can be so hard to address. It can be so hard to even acknowledge sometimes. Avoidance of facing this kind of trauma is extremely high in victims of sexual violence, and for good reason. It’s so much easier in the moment to turn away from it, to rationalize it away, to make excuses for the person who did it to you, to convince yourself it was your fault, or even that it doesn’t affect you; especially if it happened when you were a kid. I remember telling myself it didn’t affect me over and over again through the years. I truly believed my experiences as a child didn’t affect me as an adult. It was just something that happened to me and I was over it.

And the truth was that I was okay living like that, at least part of me was. The part that wasn’t okay with it, the part that was crying out in pain and horror at the awfulness of what happened to us was locked away in my psyche. She was sealed in a vault that would let nothing escape to the conscious level. I locked her in there because it was too much, and as the years went on I forgot she existed at all. The thing about locking away part of your life like that, however, is that it doesn’t actually go away. The feelings of emptiness and hopelessness continue to stay with you, except unlike adult trauma the source of those feelings becomes a mystery. You start to think you are permanently broken and lose faith that you’ll ever feel like a complete person. When you lock something away like that you create a hole inside of yourself that nothing else can fill. No amount of food, sex, drugs, or relationships can fill it. You will try some of them, or often times all of them, but they just lead you right back to that feeling you’ve tried so hard to forget… the emptiness.

There is no word in the English language that I can find that better encapsulates the feeling I experienced being a victim of sexual violence besides the word emptiness. It’s like a part of you is torn away and can never be put back. Something is stolen from inside you that can’t be replaced. And nothing else matters because everything just fades away as the pain of the emptiness consumes you. No one can say anything or do anything to make it go away. Sure, maybe they can help soothe the pain for a short while but it always returns, unless you do something about it.

And by do something about it, I mean finding your own path to healing. It won’t heal on its own, that much I can promise you. Maybe time will dull the pain some but unless you make the decision to face the pain head on and wrap your arms around it with a loving, compassionate embrace, it will always be there in the back of your mind (or the front of your mind if it has been recent).

And I get it, healing is hard. It sucks. Never has anyone ever had a gaping wound or broken bone that enjoyed the process of it healing. It aches, it has shooting pains, you might accidently hit it or reinjure it and the pain brings you to tears. And even when it is close to being healed it starts to itch or become restless. It atrophies during the process and you lose some of your strength, which then requires you to build it back up again. It limits you and makes you vulnerable. It often times forces you to rely on other people with the hope they won’t exploit or abuse you. But eventually, after a lot of pain and effort the process finishes and life can return to normal, or at least something close to normal. You always have the scar from the trauma to remind you that it happened, but it won’t bother you the way it did before. Maybe, with time, you’ll even learn to appreciate that scar and will embrace how it has shaped who you are. You survived that trauma, and rather than be defined by it, you allow it to become a reminder that you are a warrior and have endured great difficulties. You turn it into a battle cry that says, never again will I allow someone to do that to me. Never again will I be the victim who rationalizes away the abuses against me. I’m stronger than that and I know that I deserve better.

But it begins with a choice. The choice to not turn away, to not rationalize it, to not blame yourself, to not accept continued abuse. It happens when you speak out, when you tell others what has happened to you. Maybe the person you tell is a close friend or relative, maybe you tell a police officer, a nurse/doctor, a therapist, a priest/pastor, or a sexual victim advocate. It begins when you stop holding onto it yourself and you ask for help or support or guidance.

I’m not shaming anyone who chooses to keep it to themselves. They have that right and I respect their decision if that’s what they want to do. What I am doing is letting them know that healing from their trauma usually begins when they break their silence. Maybe breaking their silence won’t be right away afterwards. Maybe it won’t even be the same year. Maybe it will be two decades after it happened, like it was for me. It doesn’t matter if they choose to do it right away or wait, the path to healing will be there for them if they choose to take it. And it is most important to understand that they do not have to go after the person who did it. They don’t have to file charges against them and if they decide to tell someone who is a mandated reporter they don’t have to tell them who did it, but just that it happened. They get to have that power over the information.

I waited over two decades to break my silence because I wanted to make sure the person who did it to me would never be prosecuted. It was an excruciating two decades that I sometimes wish I wouldn’t have waited, but I didn’t want the legal circus that would happen had I told someone about it earlier. I don’t want to punish that person even though I am so angry at them I could just scream until my voice gave out. That was my decision and my choice to make.

Ultimately, though, a person who has been a victim should consider these things when they decide between breaking the silence and keeping it to themselves:

The likelihood that a person suffers suicidal or depressive thoughts increases after sexual violence.

94% of [victims] who are raped experience symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) during the two weeks following the rape
30% of [victims]report symptoms of PTSD 9 months after the rape.
33% of [victims]who are raped contemplate suicide.
13% of [victims]who are raped attempt suicide.
Approximately 70% of rape or sexual assault victims experience moderate to severe distress, a larger percentage than for any other violent crime.

People who have been sexually assaulted are more likely to use drugs than the general public.

3.4 times more likely to use marijuana
6 times more likely to use cocaine
10 times more likely to use other major drugs

Sexual violence also affects victims’ relationships with their family, friends, and co-workers.

38% of victims of sexual violence experience work or school problems, which can include significant problems with a boss, coworker, or peer.

37% experience family/friend problems, including getting into arguments more frequently than before, not feeling able to trust their family/friends, or not feeling as close to them as before the crime.

84% of survivors who were victimized by an intimate partner experience professional or emotional issues, including moderate to severe distress, or increased problems at work or school.

79% of survivors who were victimized by a family member, close friend or acquaintance experience professional or emotional issues, including moderate to severe distress, or increased problems at work or school.

67% of survivors who were victimized by a stranger experience professional or emotional issues, including moderate to severe distress, or increased problems at work or school.

Victims are also at risk of unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs).” (https://www.rainn.org/statistics/victims-sexual-violence)

And if you need help figuring things out before you talk to someone or choose to break your silence, there are resources for you. You can find them all over the internet but I would advise beginning with FORGE’s guides. FORGE has published four guides specifically to address the needs of transgender and non-binary individuals who have experienced sexual abuse or assault; the loved ones of trans survivors; and facilitators of trans support groups.

You can start with the the self-help guide from FORGE here: http://forge-forward.org/2015/09/24/trans-sa-survivors-self-help-guide/

I’ve started talking about my sexual abuse publicly because so many of us don’t ever tell anyone. We are riddled with guilt, and shame, and fear about the horrible experiences. We often blame ourselves and worry how people will see us when they find out. We worry about hurting family members or friends, or worst of all, we fear that we won’t be believed. I didn’t say anything for two decades to my mother because I was afraid she wouldn’t believe me, and I couldn’t stomach the idea of that.

Please know you aren’t alone. Please know that healing can happen and that there are resources for you out in the world. If you don’t want to just read a guide and you want someone to actually talk to who won’t judge you and who will keep what you say confidential (unless they are required to report it) then please call 800.656.HOPE

If you want to know more about them before calling you can go here:


Well, my darlings, that is all I have for today. I hope what I’ve written has been informative or helpful. I know it isn’t a fun topic to discuss or entertaining, but this is a real problem that we need to come together to solve. Maybe I can’t stop sexual abuse or assault with my writing but I can at least try to help those who have been victims find some peace and healing. If there are other amazing resources out there that I haven’t listed here, you are free to email me at rtedwins@gmail.com to let me know so I can share them. Otherwise you can leave the info in a comment.


-Emmz

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

3-21-2018 Entry: Down the Rabbit Hole of My Abuse


I know that I said I wanted to write about trans* issues again and I do, and I will, but today’s entry is a little closer to home for me. As some of  you may know I have been recently coming to terms with the sexual abuse I experienced as a child. It has taken a very long time and a lot of therapy to even begin scratching the surface of that topic but the time has finally come. The doorway in my mind that was sealed shut with countless awful and painful memories has been opened and it has been like opening a floodgate. There is no closing it again like I have in the past; this time it is permanently open and that means that at any given moment some fresh hell comes tumbling out that doorway to remind me yet again of why I sealed it shut to begin with. Recently I have been a walking ball of anger and am constantly on the brink of tears. Even the smallest of annoyances can send me into a blind rage. As a result I’ve also been isolating myself. I haven’t been socializing nearly as much as I usually do and am content to stay at home and not talk to anyone for days at a time. Were it not for my roommate or my obligations at my internship I’d likely be a complete hermit right now. I want to be alone. I don’t want to see anyone or talk to anyone, and yet I feel horribly lonely and sad. On one hand I want comfort from loved ones but the moment I am in their presence I find it tedious to interact with them. It’s an awful place to be, and I’m sure my loved ones aren’t too excited about it either. Unfortunately, I think that for a little while, at least, I’m just going to have to embrace this misery. Nothing like making up for lost (locked away) misery, am I right?


With all that said I wrote something that I felt compelled to write, my memory of when my abuse began. It has only been a few days since the entirety of the memory came back to me, so that’s part of why I wanted to write it out.


I 100% understand and forgive you if  you are like, “No thanks, Emmz, I’d rather google pictures of cute cats than read about your abuse” because the rest of this entry is definitely a TRIGGER WARNING!!! And I don’t mean that in the overused sense where slightly mentioning something could set a person off. This is a full-tilt, in your face trigger warning kind of narrative. I get pretty detailed about the abuse and if you can’t or don’t want to stomach that, please do yourself a favor and google some cute cats, I seriously won’t blame you. If you feel a particular desire to experience a sense of sadness or repulsion at the depravity of human actions, then by all means read about my deepest, darkest, memory.


I remember closing the door behind me and then I remember the dust floating in the air. It was a split level house and we were on the bottom floor so the sunlight cascading into the room was at an awkward angle. The room was bright in spots but also very dark in others. She was sitting on her bed in the corner of the room where the light couldn’t touch her. How fitting it was that our deed, this first act of betrayal, would occur in the dark corner of the room and the house itself. She was waiting for me. I knew something was wrong. I knew that I wasn’t going to like what was about to happen but how could I say no? I was just a child. Maybe four years old. I walked over to the bed and climbed up onto it. The way she looked at me is the way a lion looks at its next meal. Her eyes were cold and longing. She was excited by what was about to happen and yet, also afraid that we’d get caught. I crawled over towards her and she put her arm around me. She was warm and soft. I loved her. In a world filled with chaos and anger, she was my sweet refuge. I was special to her. She treated me as such, and like a fool I ate the attention up. Never in my little kid mind had it occurred to me that this person was the least safe person in my world. She whispered to me that she wanted to play a game with me. It was a special game but it was also a secret game. We couldn’t play it unless I agreed to keep it a secret. That feeling of something being wrong amplified but I agreed to her terms.
She shifted her body and pulled the cover off of her lower half. She wasn’t wearing any pants or underwear. I didn’t know what to make of this, but she reassured me that it was okay if I wanted to touch her. I didn’t want to touch her but she took my hand and pressed it against her inner thigh. I can still remember the smell of her exposed and aroused body. Her skin was soft and the small amount of hair on her genitals was also soft, and warm. So warm. I remember how hot her skin was and then, as she moved my hand further between her legs it became wet. Not like water but a sticky kind of wet. I didn’t want to play this game anymore, and yet I couldn’t help but be curious. I remember her biting her lip and closing her eyes as she moved my fingers back and forth against her clitoris. She was enjoying this game. I felt confused, curious, and wrong, but she was so happy. I wanted her to be happy, so I kept doing as she asked.
It wasn’t long before she wanted me to take of my pants and lie on top of her. She touched my penis and it did something funny. It changed somehow, in a way I didn’t know was possible and she maneuvered the two of us so that she could put it inside of her. I can still remember the heat. It was warm and wet, and her pubic hair felt strange to me. There was a sweet smell in the air as she made me move back and forth. She was enjoying this game very much now while I still felt confused. She was telling me how good I was being, even though it felt wrong and bad.
That went on for awhile until something happened outside that prompted her to stop forcing me to have sex with her. The other kids from the daycare were coming inside and we weren’t going to be as alone anymore so she ended out secret game. When we got off the bed she helped me put my pants back on and reminded me that our special game was a secret and no one else could know. I had to promise not to say anything, and I did, because why wouldn’t I? this young girl, probably 13 years old was like a mother to me or a very caring older sister. I trusted her and if she said it had to be a secret then it had to be a secret.
I could hear the other kids outside the door. They were coming downstairs now. This girl I trusted so much, opened the door a crack to look out it and without any discussion turned to tell me to wait a few seconds before I came out after her. And just like that she was out the door, leaving me alone in her room. I did as instructed and left her room a few moments later and looked around for her. I felt dirty inside, I felt wrong, and scared, and I wanted her comfort that what we’d just done was okay, but she would never give that to me. By time I entered the living area of that level she was already walking up the steps away from me, and before I knew it she was gone without so much as a backward glance. And so I just stood there as the other kids of the daycare played and yelled and ran around each other. Time and space seemed to fade out into this blurry in-between place where I could still see everything in front of me but there was no sound and everything was in slow motion. No one noticed that something was wrong with me. No one even so much as noticed my presence standing in that doorway. I was alone. Completely alone and now with such a heavy burden to bear that it literally broke me to carry it. It is amazing how heavy the feeling emptiness can be, especially on a child who should never, ever, ever have to feel that way. That day the light in my eyes went dark and my innocence was stolen, and stolen by someone I trusted no less. I don’t know how long I stood there before I stopped my first ever dissociation but through it all there was one thing that was for certain, she’d abandoned me to deal with this on my own, like I didn’t even matter, and no one seemed to care enough to notice something was wrong.
That thought gained momentum when I went home that day and my parents barely acknowledged me because they were too busy fighting. They mistook my somber and hollow appearance as being upset with their fighting, so they never asked what was wrong. And I never told them. I still haven’t, really. My mom knows vaguely that something happened but she has no idea how much there was. This first time was far from the last time it happened. Over and over again my abuser used me for sexual stimulation and sex. She promised me wonderful things and showered me with attention and gifts, all to keep my mouth shut. I honestly don’t know why it stopped or even when. It went on for years, that much I do know but why it stopped is unclear to me. Maybe she realized what we were doing was wrong, or maybe we almost got caught and that scared her. Maybe I started understanding too much about what was happening and she was afraid I’d say something.



All I know is this: I didn’t deserve this. I didn’t deserve to be used in this way. It was wrong for her to take advantage of my love for her, of my admiration. Someone should have noticed. Someone should have said something to make it stop. I deserved to not be ignored or overlooked. Instead, just like that day when I felt so totally alone, I am left on my own to deal with this. No one can help me with it, not really. No one can support me as I engage in the long and arduous task of memory walking. No one can step into the dark recesses of my mind and put themselves in the shoes of that child in order to support and comfort them in the way they needed as their innocence was stolen from them. I have to do that alone. I have to relive those memories and walk side-by-side with that child and remind them that it wasn’t their fault and they didn’t deserve it. I have to feel their pain because it was stored away for later. The worst kind of lay-away system in the world.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

2-13-2018 Entry Part One: Lessons From the Queer Youth

So as I have been wracking my brain for what this third chapter of trans-advent is going to look like there has been a single thought that keeps coming to me, and that is that I have had a wonderfully rich experience working with today’s transgender youth. Sad as it may seem I definitely cannot count myself among the trans* youth. I can’t even really count myself as a trans* millennial, not that I’m all-too-eager to take on the social stigma that comes with that label. No, I am in the strange place that exists between the older transgender generation that fought for their lives to break down almost insurmountable walls and the younger trans*, gender non-conforming, queer, non-binary etc. generation that grew up in a world filled with walls already partially torn down. Don’t get me wrong they still have walls to tear down and barriers to overcome, but thanks to the work of the older generation their walls are a lot shorter and it is enormously safer for them to exist in the world (still not safe enough). They can turn on the TV, or YouTube and see world famous transgender icons. My forbearers were lucky if they saw a drag queen on television, let alone someone as famous or well-revered as Laverne Cox.

Right in the middle of all of that is where I lie. I’m not a first or even second wave trans* person, but I’m not one of the queer youth either. I exist in a place that has the duty and sometimes unfortunate burden of trying to bridge the gap between the two major trans* movements. I’m a full-fledged adult working on her second career while at the same time only being in her 3rd year of transition. I have one foot in the realm of the older generation who spent much of their lives living as their assigned gender, only to realize later in life that they were ready to part ways with it. I have the other foot amongst the youth who’ve grown up almost always knowing famous transgender people like Caitlyn Jenner (love her or hate her, she’s made herself an icon). I have one foot with the generation that had to fight tooth and nail to find hormones, quite often having to self-medicate because no doctor would prescribe them and no insurance would pay for them. I have another foot with the generation who have entire clinics dedicated to helping them transition genders and who have a large number of researchers all around the world finding better and better ways to assist in gender transition. This younger generation also has the freedom (despite often being bullied for exercising it) to exist outside the gender binary and live a life true to themselves without the desire for HRT. That kind of freedom was rarely exercised by my forbearers because in their world it was still a great deal about being one or the other.

All of this being said, I find myself in a somewhat unique position of having something of the mentality of my forbearers while at the same time having access to some of the opportunities of today’s queer youth. While I will never have the opportunity to take hormone blockers to stop puberty or to start estrogen before my 20’s, thereby increasing the effectiveness of it, I do have the opportunity to live in a world where existing outside the binary is a feasible possibility. While I lived what feels like an entire life as my assigned gender, I have enough of my youthfulness left to truly create another life. That’s not to say that the older generation of transgender people don’t have valid or meaningful lives. I’m simply saying that I’m young enough to still start a new life as if I was freshly out of high school or college. Sure, maybe I lost out on about 5 years of my life by not choosing to transition earlier but I didn’t wait so long that I was already at or beyond midlife.

What this somewhat unique position has offered me is the opportunity to learn from the wisdom of the generations before and integrate it with the boundless youthfulness of the generation to come. And the marriage between wisdom and youthfulness is something I feel compelled to share with others. I hope to share this inbetween perspective for two reasons. First I wish to provide a roadmap for those that have come before to find the golden nuggets that today’s youth have uncovered, and second to help those who are part of the younger generation (let’s say 25 and under) to better appreciate where their freedoms come from so that they can utilize the tenacity of the former generations to push the conversation and social acceptance of people like us to the next level. The former generation tore down so many of the walls we see today in ruins that it would be foolish of us to not listen to how they did it. We have so many of our own walls to break down, for us and for them too.

So, let’s start with the youth and the lessons I have learned from them.
1.       Be uncompromising about who you are. Today’s queer youth have one thing figured out and that it’s either accept them and their identities or get the fuck out. Non-binary, queer, genderqueer, bigender, agender, androgynous, etc. the list goes on and on but one things stays the same, they are who they say they are and if you don’t like it, it’s your problem not theirs. Now, I know how that can sound. Being uncompromising isn’t usually a positive trait but in this regard it really is. So much of the former generations compromised who they were, and for good reason. It wasn’t safe to say you were agender or genderqueer in 1985, at least not outside of queer spaces. That shit could and sometimes would get you killed. In order to stay safe, to stay alive, the former generations often had to make concessions that today’s youth simply don’t have to. They have been given a modicum of security in being able to be themselves and they have filled every inch of it beautifully. They recognized, almost assuredly without realizing it, that they had the chance to take up some space in the world and they’ve not only taken up that space but demanded more of it. That’s not to say they are singularly responsible for this shift. Their parents and people outside of the LGBTQ community that have gone to bat for them have made that possible as well. Without the allies they’d still be fighting yesteryear’s battles.
2.       Love has no limits. While the previous generations expanded the idea of love beyond the heteronormative drivel the 1950’s shoved down our collective throats, they missed out on a wonderful opportunity that today’s youth are ceasing without abandon. In the 70’s, 80’s, 90’s, and even into the 2000’s the LGBTQ community was in no small part just the LG part of the acronym. Bisexuals were allowed in begrudgingly, the trans community was somewhat of a fringe afterthought, and those queer people… well they were just weird (love those queeirdos). And the rest of the acronym soup simply didn’t exist on their radars. Expanding love during those decades was about expanding gay and lesbian love, and once again for good reason. They knew that the hetero people weren’t going to let this gay stuff slide so easily so they had to pick their battles. Can you imagine trying to sell the idea of a transfeminine person marrying a non-binary person back in 1975? Throw in an ethnicity difference too and you might as well get ready to be booed off stage, figuratively speaking. Today’s youth, however, don’t have the same political clout to loving who they choose. Combining their uncompromising gender/sexual identities with the much more acceptable time diverse relationships and what you get is a menagerie of possible love outcomes. Black, queer, afab, and aromantic hooking up with a white, pansexual, transman? No problem, because love has no limits. And that’s the lesson to be learned from the youth is that they accept that love comes in unexpected ways, in unexpected places, and with unexpected people, so why limit yourself from the get-go with one of those archaic labels of straight, gay, or lesbian? Why even consider sexuality a fixed thing for the entirety of your life when maybe it will change tomorrow and the man/woman/trans*/etc. of your life could walk through the door without you even looking for them? With greater freedom of choice today’s youth have found greater avenues for pleasure, happiness, and love.
3.       Visibility matters. A lesson today’s youth has to offer is the power of visibility. Every day more and more of them are choosing to live a visible life as their gender and/or sexuality. Obviously there are still places where to do this is a certain death sentence but those places are shrinking by the day and part of the reason they are shrinking is because today’s youth aren’t hiding their true colors. In fact, they are often revealing those true colors literally with unique hair colors, haircuts, piercings, and tattoos. Generations in the past would have never been so visible as today’s youth are (and for good reason, as it was far too dangerous to be that brazenly open most of the time). This lesson goes beyond simply choosing to be visible; it’s about taking up space and claiming their stake to it. Part of being uncompromising is that you have to be visible. You can’t be uncompromising if you are invisible because then no one knows what you are standing for. Today’s youth don’t just have subtle ways of standing out, they often have quite overt ways of doing it (as I mentioned before). It goes beyond simply having a piercing in the right place to flag themselves as LGBTQ, it’s become about creating a culture and a rich one at that. Yes they still do things to flag themselves as LGBTQ but it’s less about telling others they are down to fuck and more about telling society to go to hell with their bougie heteronormative clothing/hair/etc. styles. And the greatest lesson here is that the more visible they become, the more acceptance they garner. Again this wouldn’t be possible without the allies to our cause. They help keep us safe and tell the boring hetero people who don’t get it that it’s cool to be queer.
4.       Their voices matter. This lesson isn’t as straightforward as it seems at first glance. The lesson is that they think their voices matter as much as they have learned the power of their stories. For as long as LGBTQ people have been fighting for their place at the collective table of modern society we have struggled with one thing in particular, and that’s the belief that our stories had power. Sure, many believed that their voices were important or that those who oppress our communities needed to hear them, but I believe it has only been in the last decade or so that we’ve realized the power of our stories. Take, for example, the show Will and Grace. That show was an enormous influence on the overall systemic shift in considering or accepting gay rights. In and of itself that show has many positives and many flaws which I won’t debate here, but the one thing it showed us was how powerful our stories, even fictional ones, could be. I think that this came as a surprise to many in the older generations. The idea that straight heteronormative people would be compelled and moved by our stories was somewhat of a foreign concept. Again, this was for good reason as this kind of media exposure was almost unheard of previously. The lesson today’s youth have to offer us is just how powerful those stories can be when we embody them ourselves. Will and Grace was a fictionalization of some token gay tropes and it had a huge effect. What the youth has come to realize is that their stories, about them, their love, their lives, their sexuality, and their gender has a 100 times the power of a fictional sitcom. Like Caitlyn Jenner or not, her story was a powerful one. Like Laverne Cox or not, her story was a powerful one. I could go on but what I’m driving at is that today’s youth have become so intimately familiar with how powerful their stories can be that they are using them to change minds every day, and are slowly changing the world.

So, the lessons they offer go something like this:

When you are uncompromising in your identity, you live your non-normative life visibly, and you love others without limits or prejudice, you find that your story becomes truly powerful.

Those are words to live by if I’ve ever heard them.

Well, that’s all for this entry. The next one will be looking at the other side of this coin. What are the lessons our forbearers have to teach us that today’s youth need to remember? Thanks for reading, and as always, remember that you are beautiful just the way you are.

**MUAH**

-Emmz


(p.s. In case you want to see my gorgeous mug here is a recent picture. Yes, I have blue hair)

Image may contain: 1 person, eyeglasses and phone

Sunday, February 11, 2018

2-11-2018 Entry: A New Chapter for Trans-Advent

Hello my darling readers. I hope you are well and that this sometimes cruel world is treating you well. I’m writing today because I’ve recently realized something fairly significant about myself and my journey. As you are likely aware I used to write so much more often than I do now and I used to have so much to say and such a fiery spirit about the gender revolution. I even began writing about what I called the transgender mystique, which was my own postulation about the social interactions around gender and gender non-conformity in our post-modern era. But despite this fiery spirit and new philosophical postulations, something happened. I ran out of steam and I became burnt out. I wanted so much to be this enormous voice in our semi-fringe existence and at one point my audience even reached the 10’s of thousands… but despite my moderate success or notoriety, I couldn’t sustain my efforts.

The realization I’ve come to is why I couldn’t sustain those efforts, and the answer came through the exposure I have recently had to a close friend’s much larger notoriety in the trans* community. If you’ve been paying attention to the news in the last week or two you might have noticed a couple articles about a study showing more teenagers are identifying as transgender. Here is the NPR interview and there is an article put out by ABC news.
(The person being interviewed is Nic Rider and they are a delightful person I’ve gotten to know over the past few months.)

Anyways, my exposure to Nic’s success in having their research reach national news has caused me to self-reflect on my own voice and how hoarse it has become. And it has become so hoarse because I didn’t feel worthy anymore to be a voice for our community. When I started I was so certain I had something to offer worthy of writing about, worthy of being published and I got what I wished for. I was published on multiple websites and even in a series of academic pamphlets about modern social issues that was distributed to thousands of libraries around the country. And yet, I still ended up feeling like I had nothing worth offering, and it all started with the news story the local CBS new network did on me.

I thought for sure that was going to be my big break, that I’d finally broken through and when that wasn’t the case I started to doubt myself. I started to wonder if what I was saying mattered at all. I got depressed and suicidal because I thought no one was listening to me, and if no one was listening to me then I didn’t matter at all. Then came my divorce and things spiraled further out of control. Now my wife had left me too. No one seemed to be listening and now no one seemed to love me either. I thought that I might still have an opportunity to pull it back together with the explorations of dating and sex, but things ended so tragically in that regard. It wasn’t long before I felt like a magician standing on a stage in front of thousands of people suddenly realizing I’m all out of tricks.

And that’s the rub. I felt like I was all out of tricks. Nothing left to say, nothing left to show. I just needed to pack up my stage props and quietly disappear out the back where no one would see me. I was all washed up. Life had chewed me up and spit me out like I was a piece of gum that had lost all of its flavor.

So what to do?

 Shut the blog down? No, then no one could read through our story and while we might not have more story to tell, our past entries might help someone. And if even just one person was helped then it was worth the gnawing disappointment that we didn’t have anything left to say and our last entry was getting older by the day.

Officially quit the blog? No, because what if we did have something to say? Would we just keep it to ourselves? If we told people we were done then we would have to keep it to ourself, because were we to write a new entry then we’d become a liar or at the very least inconsistent

Give the blog to other writers? This thought did occur to us. Maybe some new up and coming writer could freshen the place up and put on a new coat of paint, so to speak… but then we’d lose artistic control. That person could post something truly offensive and completely undermine everything we worked for. We couldn’t have that.

So, we did the only thing we could figure out to do, and that was nothing. We left the blog to gather dust. Occasionally we’d wipe off the top layer of dust and write some new words, but those instances became less and less frequent as the belief that we were no longer worthy to be a voice became stronger. We have brushed shoulders with some of the most notable people in the trans* community both secular and academic, and now we are friends with another person growing in notoriety by the day… and through it all we felt ourselves being left behind. While others were publishing books, starting non-profits, and conducting leading-edge research we were doing… what exactly? Somehow in comparison to the others getting our master’s degree in therapy and working as a therapist with several transgender adolescents and adults, just seemed to pale in comparison.

And that’s the problem. That’s why we’ve become burnt out. That’s why we’ve run out of things to say and have felt so ill-equip to be the voice we once aspired to be, because we were comparing ourself to others. We forgot the most important lesson in all successful endeavors and that is there is no profit from comparing your progress to another’s progress. It doesn’t matter how well they appear to be doing because they are on their own journey. They aren’t walking our path and so to compare ourselves to them is a fruitless and demoralizing endeavor.

Have we made national news? Not yet. Have we published ground-breaking academic research about the trans* phenomena? Not yet. Have we published books about our story? Not yet… but we will. With all the joy in our hearts we’ve decided that we do deserve to be a voice for this community. Maybe we won’t be the loudest or the most impactful but that doesn’t matter because what we have to offer can only be offered by us.


So, we are here to say that this blog is officially back in action. Dust off those seats in the audience and grab yourself something to drink or snack on because chapter three of Trans-Advent is about to begin, my darlings. I’m done comparing myself to others because there is only one Emma like me, and that’s moi!

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

1-17-2018 Entry: Updates and the Story of my Eating Disorder

**This is the first entry I have used a voice to text program to write. I apologize for any typos I might have missed**

Hello my darlings, I'm sorry it has been so long since I last wrote and that my recent entries have been further and further apart. Life this past year has been rather hectic and even at the best of times rather overwhelming to say the least. Right now I am entering what looks to be the most overwhelming part of my graduate school career. Not only am I working full-time I'm going to school, I am also working about 30 hours a week at my internship seeing clients for therapy and have just started to work on my integration paper. An integration paper for those who are not familiar is a great deal like a thesis. All of this put together leaves me in a position of rarely ever having time to do the things I want like writing or painting or traveling.

With all of that being said I don't want my darling readers to think that I have died or that I don't care anymore because I certainly do. I am just simply  spending  much of my energy  has  a queer  activist  in the real world  with people I can have a more direct impacts on. As of right now I have 2 individual therapy clients that are transgender and I am leading a weekly lgbtq support group for adolescents. I have started to rub shoulders, so to speak with some of Minnesota's leading social researchers on transgender issues in and out of therapy, and the things they are finding  and coming up with  are really exciting.

In my own personal Journey through the transgender  landscape of life I'm finally coming up on my third anniversary of starting HRT. Which means that at this point what the hormones have not already done they will never do, barring any change in dosage. I go in for labs this week to make sure that everything is progressing the way it ought to and to make sure that my hormone levels are in optimal range.

In my personal life, not a great deal has changed. I still have not had sex since the sexual assault and have started to think that maybe I never will again. Perhaps that is pessimistic thinking but at this point it has been a year and a half with no end in sight. The only good thing I can say is that most of the PTSD symptoms from the assault have diminished a great deal. There are still times when people touch me, even in innocuous ways, where is a flashback will be triggered and I will start to feel sick to my stomach like I did that day. Usually after these incidents I sink into a pretty dark and depressing place and have to fight with the many beliefs that come up around my history of being a sexual assault victim. My therapist and I have been working to some degree to address the ever unfolding memories of having been sexually abused as a child, which is an awful Journey that I wish I never had to take. All of this work I have been doing, however, was confounded about 2 months ago when one of the kids I worked with managed to lock me in a room and keep me as her prisoner for the better part of an hour while she taunted me and tormented me with psychological games. I cannot put into words the damage this experience cause for me both in my working life and in my personal life. This experience caused me, For Better or Worse, to relapse into drinking again. I am glad to report, however, that the drinking has been relatively mild and definitely under control. That's not to say that I do not have urges to drink to excess or to drink myself into the ground but I have managed to avoid or overcome those urges almost all the time.

As far as my mental health is concerned something really big happened not all that long ago and it has been really hard for me to talk about it especially on here because if I talk about it then that means it's real. Around the same time that my resident locked me in a room I went for an evaluation at the Emily program. For those of you who do not know what the Emily program is, it is a program designed to help people with eating disorders. Yep, that's right, I have an eating disorder and it has been around a lot longer than I usually care to admit. If I'm entirely honest the eating disorder started a few years ago when a legitimate digestive problem became a convenient way to not only not gain weight but to assist in the losing of weight.

Since I'm finally willing to actually talk about this I might as well make this entry primarily about the subject and should likely start from the beginning. In all likelihood the foundation for my eating disorder began during my childhood years of watching my mother go to insane lengths and restrictions in order to lose weight when she was already quite thin. As long as I can remember my mother has been dieting, even though she has likely never even come close to being overweight. It was always some new diet, some new way of eating or not eating that was consuming a great deal of her time or her thoughts. Although I can't count the number of times that it happened or even guess at the number of times that it happened when I wasn't aware, I can distinctly remember several times when I heard sounds coming from the bathroom after dinner that made me think my mother was vomiting. I remember asking her at least once if she was okay and I also remember the distinct look of displeasure and possibly even shame as she lied about what she had been doing. I'm not sure if she lied to me because she was afraid to tell me, worried that I wouldn't understand, or if she was afraid that if I knew what was happening I might do the same thing that she was. Regardless it became an unspoken rule that this post-meal vomiting was to remain an unspoken subject. During my early teenage years my mother started to engage and what one can only describe as over-exercising. At the time I just thought that my mom was something of a badass given how much working out she was doing, but only as I look back at it now do I see what was actually going on.

I do not think my mother actually tried to instill in me a deep insecurity about my body but regardless of her intent seeing this Behavior both apparent and hidden created something inside of me that I did not understand for the longest time. I can recall on countless occasions my mother teasing me ever so lovingly about my weight and giving me unsolicited advice about how to lose weight or how to alter my diet or how to exercise more. From the outside looking in this might just seem like a mother who is concerned primarily about her child's health and well-being, but now that I have a deeper insight I can see what was really going on. My mother, bless her soul, was projecting onto me all of her own insecurities about her body and her weight, and whether she intended to or not she instilled Within Me those very same insecurities. Gradually over time I began to hate my body, which for a transgender person who already feels crushing helplessness at the wrongness of their physical form this really did not help things. Whenever I looked at the mirror I felt disgust not only because I was seeing a male body looking back at me but I was also seeing an overweight body looking back at me. The feeling of dread and revulsion that I experienced at my own reflection was overwhelming and unfortunately the only coping skill I seem to have ever developed to deal with those overwhelming feelings was to eat. And so I ate my feelings and the more I ate my feelings the bigger I got, and a bigger I got the bigger my feelings got requiring me to eat even more to cover them up.

Now things might have gone along just fine had I not developed an ulcer in my stomach. I likely would have just continue to gain weight or stayed at a rather high weight. But as fate would have it I developed an ulcer that made it nearly impossible for me to eat food and to keep it down without becoming physically ill. If I ate small amounts of food then things would be okay, but given that I was terribly overweight and used to eating a great deal of food I nearly always ended up becoming ill. At first this was a natural process so to speak, But as time went on and my illness continue to progress I found that sometimes it was easier to induce vomiting rather than simply wait for it. Once again had things gone as they were I likely would have recovered from the illness and continued to either stay at my weight or gain weight, but my wife decided that she wanted to go on Weight Watchers. Now this idea seemed great at the time, especially because I had been told by more than one doctor that Weight Watchers was a quality weight loss program that avoided many of the pitfalls of Crash diets. I found this to be relatively true but what I didn't expect to find was the gradually growing obsession with food and Counting points that came with Weight Watchers. Now this Obsession started in me to a small degree but it definitely took off in my wife who became almost tyrannical about the food that she ate. Fortunately for me my wife like to cook and given that she had a great deal fewer points than I did this meant that I was always eating relatively small meals and quickly started to lose weight. I was still struggling somewhat with my digestive problems but as I lost weight and began eating healthier food my digestive problem slowly but surely grew into an eating disorder. You see, I found that I didn't have to count the points of food that I ate when I vomited them back up and given how familiar and comfortable I had become with vomiting and inducing vomiting, things began to spiral out of control. My wife began to call me bulimia Queen and while at first this was a joke and a means of teasing me it wasn't long before it was no longer funny and things began to be concerning. I can still remember the day that my wife finally spoke her concerns about my post meal vomiting and suggested that I tell my therapist about it. Now, if you are a rational person you might think that I took her words seriously and told my therapist right away what was going on, but just like alcoholism Eating Disorders are not rational. Rather than going to my therapist right away I think I waited somewhere around a month or more to say something and when I did say something I did everything I could to minimize it and pretend like it wasn't a big deal. Thankfully I have a wonderful therapist who wouldn't let that fly and encouraged me to talk about it more, and to do various therapeutic things around it.

I wish I could say that I'd listened to my therapist but I didn't, not for a very long time. You see, that conversation I had with my therapist was over two years ago and I am still struggling with my eating disorder. That's not to say that I haven't done anything about it but I certainly haven't done as much as I could have or even should have. While I was spiraling after my divorce into an alcoholic stupor I was also purging almost everyday and often multiple times a day. It had long since stopped being just something that happened because of digestive problems and started to become something that I planned out ahead of time. Most people when they are not hungry and are offered food decline the food, because why would they eat it if they weren't hungry? But I, unlike most people, would look at the food and determine if I was willing to purge in order to eat it. Thoughts like "I can just throw it up later" became commonplace in my mind. At the heart of all of this though was that shame that I learned so long ago. I hated my life, I hated my body for not being female, and I hated how fat I was believing wholeheartedly that no one would ever want someone as fat as me, so my purging habit became a form of self injury. I wanted to punish my body for being wrong and for betraying me, and I wanted to punish myself because I didn't feel like I deserved love. The eating disorder took a new turn about a year after my divorce, shortly after having lost my job at Pride. It had always been about binging on food and then purging it up, but the shame I felt about losing my job became so great that purging was not enough of a punishment. Instead of just throwing up my food I decided to stop eating food altogether together. I felt so numb and terrible inside that the pain of hunger from days who depriving myself of food started to become something that was pleasurable. Much like someone who cuts themselves to feel better, I starved myself. I went weeks without barely eating anything. I started to feel physically weak and tired all the time and I so frequently had headaches that the only time I would eat would be to help keep down Tylenol. This phase of restricting went on for about 2 months and in that time I lost probably about 20 lb. I felt weak and had difficulty concentrating but I felt so happy to have lost weight. it felt like I had stumbled onto gold and I was going to be rich for life. I knew the secret to weight loss and it was so simple, all you had to do was not eat. Unlike diets that require you to count points or cut out certain foods or alternate different kinds of foods to mess with your metabolism my diet was astonishingly simple, just don't eat. I didn't want to stop either and I really didn't want my friends or family to know in case they tried to get me to stop. It wasn't until I was going to have a roommate that I knew would recognize what was going on that I decided to say something, and when I said something they did exactly what I expected them to. They tried to tell me to stop, that it was terrible for me and I needed to eat in order to stay alive. Despite the voice inside my mind that told me I needed to keep going, which had grown so loud it was practically deafening, I decided that maybe she was right. I stopped restricting even though I wanted to keep going so badly. I started eating again, slowly at first but growing over time until I ran into my old problem once again. Purging became my friend again and while it has not been terrible in the past few months the fact of the matter remains that I'm still purging on a regular basis.

 When I went to the Emily program and did the assessment it became abundantly clear to me that I did have an eating disorder and even though I knew this to be true, it has taken me years to finally admit it. My darling readers, I have an eating disorder and I'm not afraid to admit it anymore. I struggle with bulimia and there are times when I struggle with food restriction. the social worker who did my assessment wanted me to do their day program, which would have meant that I spent the great number of hours a week working on my eating disorder, but I did not do what the social worker wanted me to. I didn't disregard her because I thought she was wrong or that I thought I could do it on my own, I disregarded her because I didn't have time in my schedule to allow for such program. in many ways I regret that decision, even though it was probably the only real option I had. Unfortunately this means that I have not been working on this problem, and definitely have not been giving it the attention it deserves. I don't really know how I'm going to fit in eating disorder therapy with the 70 Plus hours a week I am spending at work, School, and my internship, but I know that I need to figure it out.

Well my darlings, my eyes are getting heavy and I need to get up early in the morning so I need to wrap this up. my story could have definitely been longer and maybe one day I'll tell it but for now this will have to do. Taking this step is huge for me and hopefully you all can empathize with my reluctance to bring it up. So if you also are experiencing difficulties with your eating habits or you know that you have an eating disorder, please know that you are not alone and there are ways to make it better. Goodnight my darlings, thank you for reading, and always stay fabulous.


-Emmz









Monday, August 28, 2017

8-28-2017 Entry: Stronger Together than Apart

Hello my darling readers. I hope you are well and that the world is treating you as fairly as it can in this terrible age of the Trump presidency. It’s safe to say that we aren’t living in the most open-minded climate when it comes to transgender rights and issues. Just the other day Trump went so far as to try to formally ban transgender people from serving in the military. It can feel overwhelming when one of the most powerful men in the world decides to turn his spiteful gaze our way. We certainly don’t deserve his cruelty and close-mindedness. We don’t deserve any of the hatred we have to deal with on a daily basis.

I can remember not all that long ago when I thought that maybe it was finally safe for me to be who I am, for me to live my life true to myself. I thought that things were finally looking up for me and my fellow transgender and gender-nonconforming compatriots. I thought that maybe we’d finally seen the end of the age of secrecy. We didn’t have to hide in the closets built with shame that told us we were freaks of nature and no one would ever accept or understand us. I thought that we were walking into a golden age of acceptance where children, adolescents, adults, and seniors could finally say, “No, I’m not a boy/girl, I’m a _____” and parents, peers, friends, and children would be okay with that. Obviously we all have our own struggles and our own families (or lack thereof) to deal with in our transgender/GNC journeys, but the more of us that are accepted and understood, the more of us have the chance for the same treatment.

Now, however, I almost regret transitioning, not because of previous doubts I’ve expressed in the past but because the world has become immeasurably more frightening in recent months. Hatred and bigotry live inside the white house and their adherents are bold enough to step out of the shadows and proclaim their spiteful beliefs. Some people see a mob of neo-nazis protesting for the sake of racism, but I see a group of bigots protesting for the sake of hatred. It has never been much of a jump for those who are overtly racist to also be sexist or homophobic/transphobic. I can’t imagine that me going up to that line of neo-nazis would go very well were I to fly my trans colors proudly or were they to read me as transgender. It would be a hate-crime waiting to happen, and I’m white like them. Hatred knows no bounds and that’s what frightens me about our current political climate.

I guess I’m just wondering what comes next. How do we move forward from here? We went from a president who was the first to ever publicly say the word transgender to a president trying to destroy our freedoms. Today it’s the military, tomorrow it’s… what? Bathrooms? Healthcare? Education? Workplace discrimination protections?

Thankfully I’m nearly done with my master’s degree and my workplace is very open-minded about transgender employees and clients, but what about my healthcare? Are they going to take away our access to hormones? HRT is already something that’s so difficult to go through or find, what’s to stop them from saying that testosterone or estrogen can’t be prescribed for gender dysphoria? I know I have no proof they are planning to do that but Trump and Pence don’t seem to care what damage they cause so what’s to stop them from trying?

When I started this blog I wrote for myself and my journey. I never thought people would actually read it, but when I realized I had an audience I realized that I had an obligation to become a voice for people like me. Even if I only touched the minds of a few, I knew I had to do at least that, so my writing became about others in addition to myself. Now I spend my days working with adolescents who have gender identity struggles and again I realized the importance of my work. I had to show these kids that it was possible to live an authentic life and still find some semblance of happiness.

Right now, however, I fear for these kids because I’m not sure they will find the same acceptance that I had. I came out during a seemingly golden age of acceptance for the LGBTQ population but that golden age seems to have passed, leaving an age of repression and bigotry in its wake. What kind of life will they have ahead of them? Most of them have already dealt with the cruelties of bullying from their peers, what are they going to do when the bullies of the world are billionaire presidents and high ranking politicians? How can I help them be prepared for that world when I, myself, am afraid of that world? How can I look at them and tell them that it is okay to be themselves when the world around us says exactly the opposite? Am I just setting them up for failure and heartbreak?

Right now I want to say no, that I am not setting them up for failure, but I’m not so sure that’s true. And maybe that is the burden of my generation of transgender/GNC people who’ve chosen to be educators and advocates. We must look at a dismal appearing future and tell our young ones and those newly out of the closet that a storm is coming but together we can weather it. I wanted to write for the sake of the trans community to be a voice for the unheard, but I believe my new role must be a shield for those who are most at risk. I have successfully transitioned my life from Robert to Emma and have made it out the other side mostly unscathed; I now must take the wisdom I’ve gained through that painful process and use it to prepare those who are young or new for their ever uncertain future as best as I can.

So, my dear young ones and those newly out of the closet I want to say this to you. The world is a cruel place and most people will not understand you. Some people will even hate you, just for being you. You can’t reason with them, you can’t convince them of your worth because they won’t listen to you simply because you are what you are. The most you can do is understand that you do have worth and no one can take that away from you, not even the bullies of the world. I want you to know that you are not alone. There are so many of us out here fighting beside you and more are rising up every day. Every day there is someone out there boldly proclaiming their authentic identity and they need you just as much as you need them. We are in this together. Sometimes we get wrapped up in ourselves and forget that we have so much to offer each other, but eventually we remember. Don’t be afraid to tell your story. Don’t be afraid to live your life, not because there is no danger (there is, it’s real) but because the world needs to know we aren’t going back into our closets. We won’t conveniently disappear back into the shadows so they can desperately cling to their hetero-centric gender binary; we’ve come too far for that. We are here, we are visible, and we matter. We will stand together and will withstand whatever bigotry comes our way because we are the future, whether they like it or not. We will break their gender binary and we will break their hetero-normative stratification of our society. There are too many of us to be ignored and in that I want you to take solace. We are too big now to be ignored, and we are growing in number every day. You are not alone. You are important, and you will be supported by those like me. I support you. I accept you. I see you, the real you, and I think you are beautiful. I hope you can look in the mirror and say the same thing to yourself because it’s true.

My darling readers, don’t give up. Please stay strong. I need you to be strong for me because I know that I need to be strong for you. Together we will overcome every obstacle they put in our way. First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win. They are fighting us now but we will win because they fight with hate and we fight with love. Love always wins eventually. You are loved and you are important. Don’t forget that.


-Emmz