Monday, September 3, 2018

9-3-2018 Treatment Journal Entry #3

Hello my darlings. As might be expected I found myself having difficulty finding the time to write a third entry until now. In truth there were times when I considered writing one but decided that it wouldn't be worth the drastic loss of sleep. One of the hardest parts of treatment for my eating disorder so far has been getting up before 7am 5 days a week. While I used to get up that early, or even earlier, all the time both as a paralegal and as a residential counselor (had to be AT work at 7am), the past few months have afforded me a different (read: better) sleep schedule.

My clinic that I was interning at (and will begin working for money at beginning this week) doesn't open until 10am, and I only live 5 minutes away, so getting up at 9:15 was a regular occurrence. Getting up that late means I can stay up to 1 or 2 without losing much sleep. The influences of the creative muses, for whatever reason, seems to hit me most around 10 or 11 pm. In short, I was usually in bed, trying to convince myself to sleep despite the racing thoughts of all the things I need to do the next day when the inspiration to write struck me.

While that state of mind would have produced more visceral entries than this one, it also would have depleted an already depleted internal battery even faster. So, I chose to forgo the more in-the-moment stream of consciousness entries for something more objective and comprehensive in nature. Hopefully it will be just as, if not more than, entertaining and informative (this verbose introduction aside).

So what has happened in the last two weeks? Well, a lot, and not all that much at the same time. And that is what I'm finding more and more with this treatment process, the whole thing is something of a walking contradiction. It is, by far, one of the most difficult things I've ever done, and at the same time it is also incredibly easy. I wish I could really explain what I mean by that but I fear I would only confuse you more than I already have.

Getting up early in the morning every day sucks and is draining, sure, but getting up that early every morning, is also somewhat invigorating. Sitting through group after group after group of therapy, discussion, and education is dreadfully boring and I wish I could go do something else, yet there really isn't anywhere I'd rather be than in those groups. The day seems to draaaaaaaggggg on every day, but when 2pm comes around (treatment ends at 3) I am struck by how quickly it went by and how I don't want it to end.

The only thing I can think is that my eating disorder is to blame for this contradictory experience. The part of me that doesn't want to accept that I have a problem, the part of me that think I can stop the binging/purging/restricting/rinse-repeat cycle on my own, without treatment. That part of me thinks that what we've been doing for the last 4 years or so is relatively normal and not worthy of so much attention. That part of me, even if it begins to acknowledge something is wrong, also tries desperately to convince me that I'm not sick enough for this level of care. It would so much rather I go back to the outpatient level that has already proven to be ineffective than continue in day treatment.

The other part of me, the part of me that has accepted, or at least tried to accept, that we have an eating disorder is desperate for relief. The eating disorder tried to convince us that the B/P/R/R-R was normal, but this other part of me is exhausted from the misery. "Life is misery! But it's less miserable when you are thin!" is what the eating disorder tries to convince us of, but this other part of me knows that's not true. Life isn't just misery. Sure, sometimes it is downright fucking miserable, but having an eating disorder only multiplies that misery. And while being thin does make life a little easier in a lot of ways, it also doesn't guarantee any sort of happiness or fulfillment. Even after I'd lost an enormous amount of weight and was at my thinnest in a very long time, I was still miserable with my body. I still hated it. I still believed I needed to lose more and more weight. I'm not sure there ever would have been a magic number had I kept going. The eating disorder is sort of like a carrot hanging on a rope from a stick. Every time the carrot swings close to you and you think you can finally reach it, it changes momentum and moves further away again. So you chase it some more and it swings back towards you, making you think you've finally got it this time, only to change momentum and swing further away. In case the analogy isn't clear what I'm trying to say is the eating disorder says you'll be happy when you hit X weight, and once you close in on X weight, the eating disorder changes momentum and says, "NOPE! actually you'll be happy at Y weight." So you try for Y, thinking this time for sure, you will meet that perfect weight, until you close in on it and eating disorder pulls another dick move and tells you that Y won't cut it, now you need to hit Z weight. And the cycle goes on and on and on until you possibly, literally, starve yourself to death.

Now I never got to that extreme level of malnourished and underweight, but not because I didn't try for it. And that part, the one who tried for it again and again and again, who thought I'd finally reach that fucking carrot, is the part of me that is happy to get up in the morning, happy to sit through seemingly endless groups, happy to share in some of the most uncomfortable meals we've ever known, and feels sad when the day comes to an end. That part who cried out in sorrow every time we listened to the eating disorder's assessment of how we looked, who we were, and what we were worth is the part that keeps me going. And that's not an exaggeration, either.

This week I almost quit treatment. I completely flaked one day, didn't tell anyone I wasn't coming, and just stayed in bed with the intent to never go again. I didn't want to do it anymore, but that part desperate for relief, convinced me otherwise. The eating disorder worked overtime that day and won that battle. It found a thousand different reasons why we should stay home and not go in. It also found a thousand different reasons why we should never go again, but it didn't win that battle.

So how did it win that battle? How did it convince me that I should just stay in bed? It won because I'd just said goodbye to my therapist the day before and I felt utterly alone. That's when the eating disorder, or the alcohol for that matter, is the most dangerous, when I feel alone, isolated, and cutoff. And that is how I felt when I cried myself to sleep Wednesday night and how I felt when I woke up Thursday morning.

What was the point? Was all I could think. Ashley was the reason I agreed to go into treatment. She was the reason I kept going back to the Emily Program for months before treatment. My connection to her and the help she offered me felt invaluable, and the loss of it was too much to bear. If I couldn't work with her and I had to start over at the beginning with a new therapist then it didn't seem worth it. I acknowledge that on paper that sounds absurd, and to a point it is absurd. She was just one person of the many who are working hard to help me overcome this ailment, but her leaving triggered something deep and old within me.

People often talk about having "abandonment issues" but most people don't really understand what that means, at least not really. To most it sounds like some people jut have a harder time with relationships ending, but it goes way beyond that. It isn't just that I feel more sad than the average person when an important relationship ends, it's that when those relationships end I am overcome with a overpowering sense of isolation. Bear with me as I try to explain this. Losing a friend, a partner, a coworker, a boss, a family member, or even a therapist can trigger sadness is just about anyone. It can even trigger loneliness or depression in people. With people who have broken attachment like me, it triggers a sense of unending aloneness, like there will NEVER EVER be any sort of comfort or connection again, from anyone. It reminds me that when I was in the utmost need of comfort and connection in my life, I was abandoned and left alone to drown in my grief, pain, and sorrow. So when I lose a relationship, especially unexpectedly, it sends me right back to that place. Over time I've gotten better at finding my way out of that "trauma hole" but it is still the first thing that happens when someone leaves, and that's where I was Thursday morning.

My eating disorder, like a shark smelling blood in the water, came chomping away at my resolve to keep fighting it. It told me all the awful things it's gotten so good at telling me over the years. More than just keeping me in bed, it also tried desperately to convince me to restrict. Why eat? If I ate I'd just get more fat, and even fewer people would care about me. There was no reason to eat, to keep going, to keep trying. It tried to convince me to starve myself to death. It wanted us to die, and if we couldn't find he gumption to end our life through other means then maybe starvation could be an alternative. We were already pretty good at restriction when we really wanted it.

When I refused to restrict and I ate something, it tried sooooooo hard to get me to purge. People often think that eating disorders are just about control, but what they don't realize is that eating disorders are also the thing that preys on you when it senses you don't have the capacity to be in control. The eating disorder, for me at least, is the thing that takes over when I'm feeling out of control. It's not just me trying to control something, it's also something that tries to control me when I'm feeling weak. It's like an abusive partner, living inside your mind, that wants to hurt you, to humiliate you, and to control you. Me really being in control looks like me NOT restricting, NOT purging, and NOT binging. It means that I'm meeting my meal plan, I'm going to treatment, and I'm continuing to fight this fire-breathing dragon inside my mind.

That isn't to say that the eating disorder doesn't appear to offer control. When I purge, in that moment when I induce vomiting, I do feel control... but it's a false sense of control. It's a lie. Without awareness the eating disorder convinces you that you are the one in control. When it convinces you to restrict, it tries to convince you that you are the one in control. But again, it's a lie. The reality is that the eating disorder is the one in control, not you. You become like a puppet who can't see its own strings, falsely believing its controlling its own movement instead of a puppeteer hiding in the shadows.

There are a million different ways to describe what eating disorders can be like. It can be an abusive partner, a demon, a mean voice, a fire-breathing dragon, a shark that smells blood, and a puppeteer. It can be sooo many different things depending on who decides to describe it, but at the end of the day it is for certain one thing: destructive. If left unchecked, unexamined, or untreated, it can destroy everything good in your life, including your life.

If my time in treatment so far has taught me one thing, it's that eating disorders don't happen overnight and they aren't cured overnight. Like a fish freshly pulled out of the water, eating disorder habits, thoughts, and urges are slippery little devils. Just when you think you have a grasp on them, they slip right out of your hand. After two weeks of treatment I thought I was getting the hang of my eating disorder. I thought that I was learning to more effectively manage my symptoms and urges, but when I said goodbye to my therapist my eating disorder slipped out of my grasp and fell out of the boat into the waters of loneliness. As I flailed about in the sudden shock of the figurative cold water, I started to lose hope I'd make it back into the boat, but luckily I wasn't actually alone.

If treatment is good for one thing it's that it provides you with the opportunity to make connections with others who struggle as you do, so when you fall out of the boat they are there to help you back in. They have a towel you can wrap yourself in and comforting words to help you remember that it's okay to fall sometimes.

And while it took several days to come to terms with the loss of my therapist, I have found a new understanding or meaning of this sudden and unexpected change. I thought that I was losing my therapist, that I was being figuratively abandoned by the one person I trusted to most to help me, but I see now that wasn't exactly the case. In a spiritual path kind of sense I think it is no coincidence that my work with Ashley came to a close when I started treatment. While I hoped she'd be there with me for my entire journey through recovery, I realize that she was with me exactly as long as I needed her to be. I don't know that anyone else could have helped me to the degree that she did, and because of that help I was able to make this decision to go into treatment. Like a gentle and caring guide she held my hand and led me to where I needed to go, and once I arrived at that place, our time together had to end. She'd served the spiritual path purpose she was meant to serve and now it is up to me to keep walking on this path. Thankfully, I'm not alone on this path anymore. Not only do I have several new professionals who have come to help me, but I have made friends and connections with the others in the program with me.

So, while I know she is unlikely to ever read these words I just want to say thank you to Ashley for her kindness, her caring, her empathy, her validation, her help, and most of all for her infectious laugh. I'm going to miss seeing you every week and I hope that whomever you end up working with knows how fortunate they are to have you. I hope our paths cross again someday, maybe when I'm all better (or at least mostly better).

Anyways, that's all I have for this entry. I'll try to get more specific on what we are doing in treatment in the next entry. But for now, stay beautiful my darling readers, and never forget how fabulous you truly are, just for being you.

-Emmz


Saturday, August 18, 2018

8-18-2018 Treatment Journal Entry #2


Hello darlings. I feel very grateful today as I sit down to write my second treatment entry, in no small part because of one person who has always, for reasons unknown, shown me such kindness. If you come here from t-central then you likely know who Calie is, and it’s this wonderful person who I’ve never had the pleasure to meet that continues to root for me. Again and again she (I hope she/her pronouns are correct, I apologize if they aren’t and welcome correction) has highlighted my entries on t-central, and more often than not leaves encouraging comments on those entries. Even as I am filled with doubt that anyone cares to read my words or that anyone supports my writing, Calie continues to surprise. I hadn’t posted in months, and yet, it was my entry that was recently highlighted. It gives me encouragement that maybe my absenteeism from the blogging world doesn’t mean that my writing days are over. So, Calie, thank you for you kindness.

Okay, on to the subject of this entry, my first week in eating disorder and substance abuse day treatment. I’m not sure if I will post weekly entries or more frequent ones, but for the sake of this week I think only one entry is probably needed. Before I get to what happened this week I promised to provide more exposition on what’s been transpiring over the past months, so I’ll begin there.

You might be wondering how I ended up with an eating disorder. The first entry I wrote about my experience with disordered eating can be found here: http://transadvent.blogspot.com/2018/01/1-17-2018-entry-updates-and-story-of-my.html but if you don’t want to read all of that this is the abbreviated version:

Several years ago I came down with the stomach flu to end all stomach flus, and was so sick for so long, that I ended up in the ER in pretty bad shape. Turned out that this flu was exacerbated by one large ulcer and a couple smaller ulcers, likely created from the almost non-stop vomiting that transpired over about 36 hours. I was put on medicine to help with this ulcer and while it did help the ulcer heal, it also made it nearly impossible for me to eat without feeling absurdly ill and ultimately vomiting my food up probably 50% of the time. This went on for a while and I lost a lot of weight until I figured out that it was the medicine that was making me more sick than the ulcer ever had, so I stopped the medicine. Things got better, but my heartburn issues returned and I went on another medicine thinking it would help. It did help the heartburn and for a while things seemed to get better, but not for long. After a couple weeks the same problems started popping up again and I found myself having to choose between being sick because of too much stomach acid or being sick because of the medicine. I stopped the meds, changed my diet to become a vegetarian, and went on weight watchers with my wife. Eventually the diet and the weight loss cured most of my heartburn issues, but it didn’t stop me from feeling sick after eating (because I was eating too much) and vomiting my food up. Another year or so of this went on until it stopped being about feeling sick and more about wanting to avoid adding points for the food I ate. I started to hide it and pretend it wasn’t happening, but despite my secrecy my wife started calling me bulimia queen until eventually she expressed a genuine concern that something was wrong. I knew enough about the DSM-V at this point to know that I definitely met the criteria for Bulimia Nervosa. Weeks later I told my therapist about it and she ultimately suggested that I get help for it. I embraced denial for a long time, thinking I could stop whenever I wanted to. Once I got to that magic weight I’d stop. Once I no longer felt fat or uncomfortable in my body, I’d stop, but I didn’t.

Then I got divorced and both my alcohol consumption and my eating disorder symptoms increased at an alarming rate. Things went spiraling out of control as I struggled with being alone and depressed. The psychiatrist put me on new meds to help me even out and they worked to a point, but with the alcohol consumption it was almost a moot point. I realized the drinking was going to kill me or cause me to lose everything so I sought out support in AA. My alcohol consumption stopped with some relapsing here and there, but the eating disorder didn’t. And then I was raped, and everything fell apart. I could barely eat and when I did I puked it up out of hatred for my body. After a visit to the psych ward I lost my job in a way that brought me a lot of shame, so much shame that I started to starve myself as a form of self-punishment for being so stupid. For a month I barely ate anything. Hunger was a constant feeling and I started to really enjoy the pain of it. I started to lose weight which just reinforced the behavior. Eventually with the help of someone I thought was a friend, I stopped restricting and started eating again, but I never stopped purging. Another year went by with periods of restriction, binging, and purging coming and going like a rollercoaster. I started to work with a girl at my job who had anorexia and it inspired me to pursue treatment. I went for the assessment and they suggested I do day treatment and take a leave of absence from work. I didn’t go back for 6 months, when things became intolerable.

I remember a nightmarish weekend filled with so much self-loathing, restriction, and purging after stepping onto the scale that I realized I couldn’t stop. I wanted to stop, I tried to stop, but it kept happening again and again, despite my efforts to lose weight I gained it instead. My friends could eat food just fine but not me. I had become obsessed with food, with my reflection (which I hated with a burning passion), and with my weight. I knew it was time to go back to the Emily Program. I started seeing a therapist, a dietician, and joined a LGBTQ group therapy. My relationship with food and my body, began to change, little by little, but I still couldn’t break my habits. I couldn’t get a solid grasp on my eating patterns or my urges to restrict or purge. Dating made things worse. Each time things didn’t work out or people would reject me because I was trans, I turned to alcohol… which has been the sad bedfellow to my eating disorder urges for over 3 years now.

So, there you have it, the (not so?) abbreviated version of my eating disorder history that’s led to me beginning day treatment. Now that we have that established I can write about my experiences this past week.

My first day of treatment was on Tuesday when I went in for orientation at 10:30 (treatment usually starts at 8am as an FYI). I met with a new dietician named Alisson (instead of my former Dietician Regina) and we went over some basic introductory stuff. She described how the program worked, gave me my information binder, a schedule for the program, took my weight (blind), and wrote out a basic eating plan. The eating plan is basically a grid that has tallies in different columns for the types of things you are expected to eat at each meal. There are three meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner) and three snacks on the sheet with probably 8 different columns of components. The columns are things like: protein, veg/fruit, fat, milk, grain, and desert. Each meal and snack has a different number of tallies required for any of the columns of ingredients. (don’t worry if it seems confusing, I still don’t really get it myself). Once we’d gone over the basics she told me that it was time to meet the other people in the program.

Now, I suppose I should note that yoga is part of this program, and while I enjoy yoga on my own, my single greatest anxiety about the program was having to do yoga in front of other people. I worried about how I’d look not only because of my weight, but also because I was afraid my anatomy would be more difficult to conceal. The last thing I wanted was for them to go from seeing me as Emma, the girl, to Emma the chick with a dick. XD

Want to guess what the first group I was supposed to attend was? If you guessed yoga then you are correct. I about had a panic attack when she told me we were going down to the yoga class. I basically begged her to let me skip it this time since I wasn’t prepared for it and was feeling very anxious about it. She begrudgingly acquiesced and said that after I was introduced to everyone that I could sit that group out for just that day. My anxiety dropped and I followed her down to the yoga room where I met several people and a very enthusiastic yoga instructor. Me and one other person dipped out of the group when they began the warm up process, and we both went upstairs. I thought this person might be sociable with me but she hardly acknowledged my existence and went a different way.

With nothing to do I sat in the lobby, waiting for lunchtime to arrive. The hour passed quickly enough and before I knew it I was joining my program mates for lunch. This experience would have been anxiety provoking enough on its own, but I had an extra helping of anxiety because I’d eaten breakfast late and was not hungry at all (least of all for the salad they were serving). Tapping into the ever obedient child I was growing up in an authoritarian home, I decided not to say anything about how I wasn’t hungry. I wanted them to know I was taking this seriously, even though I felt deeply conflicted about whether or not I actually needed IDP. So much of my mind was trying to convince me that we didn’t need to be there, that it was a waste of time, and that I wasn’t as sick as my program mates were.

With all of this swirling around in my head I cringed every time the dietician told me to add ingredients to my salad to meet my lunch tallies. Imagine, if you will, a sort of buffet line of salad ingredients with a dietician on the other side carefully and meticulously monitoring what food you had on your plate. By time I was done and my plate of food had passed her approval, I felt nearly sick looking at all the food I was supposed to eat, and yes, I was expected to eat all of it. I sat at the table with all my program mates, the dietician, and the program director and forced myself to eat the food. I hated it, I wanted to quit right there and then. I was an adult and didn’t need them treating me like a child! We were supposed to check in about how we were doing with the meal, what emotions were coming up, and difficulties we were having.

I lied when it was my turn, at least for the most part. I did confess that it was difficult to eat the breadstick because it didn’t taste very good and I wasn’t very hungry. The rest, I left locked away inside. My rebellious hatred of being in such a structured place was quelled by my desire and habit of being “a good little girl.”

The rest of the day was something of a blur. I met with the program director to go over the group norms and for him to ask me some questions. He seemed nice enough and I felt a little more at ease being there. I left that day still unsure of whether I wanted to go back the next day or not.

Wednesday was also something of a wash because I had work obligations that pulled me away from the majority of programming outside of breakfast and lunch. This time the meals went a bit better but I still found myself hating being there and wanting to leave. This got significantly worse after my therapy session where my therapist of 4 months told me she was leaving and I’d be transferred to another therapist. I cried for hours later that night, and even engaged in the new maladaptive coping mechanism of cutting. I didn’t want a new therapist. I didn’t want to start over with another person who knew nothing about my rape or my sexual abuse as a child. I didn’t want to have to talk about those experiences again… it was like having to live through it again. It took me almost 2 months to build trust with that therapist and now I had to do it again? I felt so abandoned, once again. One day everything is wonderful and we are doing really great work together, and the next she’s leaving? I couldn’t blame her for wanting to branch out from eating disorders, but it triggered so many emotions and memories of my divorce. I finally start to trust someone and start to believe they are there for me in a stable way and without warning the rug is pulled out from under my feet.

I didn’t want to go back. I was so over it. I was so ready to say fuck this shit to the entire Emily Program; IDP and outpatient. I wanted to be done, but despite the tears and the blood from my cuts, I knew I had to keep going. I knew where this went if I stopped going. I could see the future so clearly if I chose to give up. I’d break even more than I already have and I’d either drink or starve myself to death, if I didn’t commit suicide first.

Thursday was the first day I was at all 7 hours of programming, and it was a BYO food day. I had barely anything in the house to bring, so I did my best. What I brought more or less passed the dietician inspection and I ate my food with disappointment. It wasn’t enough, and I was left feeling hungry after each meal; which gave me a lot of anxiety. Since my ED has gotten worse feeling hungry or full has become a trigger for anxiety. If I feel full (not even over full) I immediately begin to have urges to purge. It becomes the only thing I can think about, the only thing I can focus on until the feeling either goes away, or I use symptoms (purge). If I feel hungry, I start to feel a very strong pull to keep that feeling and allow it to get worse. The pain of the hunger becomes both a mechanism of control and a mechanism of self-injury. The hungrier I am, the stronger the urges to not eat become. It becomes a battle inside my mind of whether or not to eat. My ED tells me to starve myself for days at a time, and my rational mind has to find a way to not listen to that urge.

On the outside everything seems fine. I talk as if the urges aren’t there, and to the untrained eye I’m probably pretty convincing. The benefit (and annoying part) of IDP is that they are trained eyes and they know that more is going on beneath the surface. They ask prying questions that require me to either lie, which I don’t normally do, or confess things I don’t want to talk about. My “fine” disposition, however, became something of a topic of conversation when a fellow program mate confessed feeling very self-conscious of how they weren’t fine and were actually struggling a lot. I realized then that pretending to be fine in treatment wouldn’t just impact me and my progress, but could impact the progress of others. That’s not to say I’m responsible for their recovery, but that if I’m not authentic and I don’t speak my mind, I’m doing them a disservice.

Friday was definitely the best day yet, if only because I decided that I was going to keep going to IDP, and that maybe if I made a big enough stink about which therapist I wanted, I could work with someone I trusted and felt safe with. More than just that, I started to get to know my program mates, and they started to get to know me (a more authentic me than Tues/Wed). I can’t say we’ve become friends or that we will be friends after treatment, but I think a bond is forming and we are all rooting for each other to get better. Friday was also the day I adhered most efficiently to my meal plan (even at home where no one was there to keep me accountable). I am actually looking forward to going back on Monday and despite how much work I need to catch up on because of this time commitment, I know this will be worth it.

Well, that’s all I have for this entry (I think 3000 words is long enough). I’ll either write another entry next weekend, or I’ll write one sooner during the week. There were a lot of aspects I cut out of this one that I want to address in future entries, so hopefully they won’t get too redundant.

If you have an untreated eating disorder or a close friend/family member of yours has one, please know that there is hope and things can get better. Unfortunately so many of us need to seek out therapy and treatment before that can happen but it does happen. If you or they live in MN, PA, OH, or WA I definitely recommend the Emily Program their website is https://www.emilyprogram.com/ and they have some really great resources for everyone at https://www.emilyprogram.com/resources/links

Otherwise https://www.bulimia.com/topics/bulimia-hotline/ provides information about hotlines you can call for help or support for anorexia or bulimia such as:
National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA): 1-800-931-2237
Operational Monday–Thursday, 9 a.m.–9 p.m. and Friday, 9 a.m.–5 p.m., volunteers are trained to provide support and connect callers to providers and treatment centers across the country.
An online chat is also available, and there is a text option for crisis situations: text “NEDA” to 741741.
-Emmz

Thursday, August 16, 2018

8-16-2018, Treatment Journal Entry #1

It has been so long since I've written an entry on here that I'm not sure I can really open this with my typical "Hello my darling readers" because there is a good chance there are no more readers who come here with any regularity. If there are then I want to applaud you for your patience and thank you for your willingness to believe the writing days of R.T. Edwins were not at an end.

With that being said, I've decided to take this blog in a slightly different direction for the time being. While I know I will one day feel compelled to throw my voice back into the ring of gender politics as the outlaw formerly known as Emmz, that time hasn't come yet. Something else has taken over my life and I feel a need to write about it. If the subject doesn't interest you much or you don't care to know the inner workings of one in a place such as mine, then I hope you will come back again in a couple months to see if I've returned to the wild west of queer theory.

For the rest of you I hope you will grab a drink, or a snack, and will come along with me on this ride. I can almost hear you thinking, What the fuck are you talking about Emmz? but what's a good story without a little suspense?

Many things have transpired over the past 4 months since my last entry. Some of the good, some of them meh, and some of them very bad. Unfortunately it's this final grouping of events that I feel compelled to write about. While I'd love to give all the backstory the simple fact of the matter is I need to go to bed soon and get up way earlier that I ever generally want to get up, so I'm going to have you fill in that exposition as we go along.

So what's the mystery? Why all the beating around the bush? Well, in short, because it's a difficult subject to talk about. If you've been reading for awhile or even just read some of the more recent entries then you know that I have been struggling with an eating disorder and for the past 4 months or so I have been attending the Emily Program to work on this problem.

I wish I could say that those 4 months have left me cured and ready to kick the world's ass once again, but that would be a lie. It's true that my time there has helped in some pretty significant ways, but it hasn't been enough. From the day I set foot in the Emily Program for my initial assessment, they have wanted me to go into intensive day treatment or intensive outpatient treatment. This seemed so impossible the first time it was suggested that I didn't go back for another 6 months. When I did go back it was still the suggestion, but rather than run away from my problem a second time I simply told them it wasn't possible at that time and I wanted to do regular outpatient treatment. That was 4 months ago. Since then I have been working with a therapist, a dietician, and attending group therapy for LGBTQ people with eating disorders... that is until Tuesday of this week.

By some random favor of the scheduling gods I've finally found the time to do what was suggested all along, and have started my journey in the world of intensive day program (IDP) for eating disorders. It would be nice if that was all it was but the truth is that it's actually and IDP for both eating disorders and substance abuse, because, that's right, my relationship with alcohol has turned abusive once again. I had a solid 7 months of having a reasonable relationship with alcohol until things in my personal life took a nosedive and I started sad-drinking (AKA the kind of drinking one does alone, to excess, which dramatically impacts one's life in negative ways).

So what drove me to hop on this IDP train? Well, if I'm being completely honest, cutting. I know, you are probably like wtf does cutting have to do with an eating disorder treatment, but it's related, I promise. The short version is that my eating disorder wasn't really going away and my drinking was increasing dramatically, to the point that I was becoming increasingly suicidal and unstable. One night, after downing half a bottle of vodka on an empty stomach (because restriction, yo) I sat alone on my kitchen floor with a knife in my hand trying to work up the courage to kill myself... except I was afraid of the pain. Hmmmmm... what to do? I didn't have any other means readily available to me and I was too drunk to drive anywhere to acquire them, so I did the only thing my drunk, depressed, hopeless mind could come up with. I'd practice! 

Maybe if I cut myself a few times in places besides my wrists, I could get more used to the pain (not to mention get a better feel for the pressure needed to do the job). So, that's what I did. I cut my forearm and something seemingly magical happened. As I watched the blood drip down my arm, I started to feel better. So I did it again... and again... and again. A total of 20 times. By time I got to the end I was feeling truly elated about being alive. It seemed as though I'd found the answer to all my problems. I could just cut my sorrow, loneliness, and lack of self-worth away.

That is until my roommate came home, had to give me first aid, and then hid all the sharps in the house so I couldn't hurt myself further. She worried aloud that maybe I needed to go to the hospital (psych), but I assured her I was fine (I felt pretty great up to that point). And then, the shame kicked in. This person I loved and valued as my best friend was having to clean blood off my arms and was genuinely worried about me. The elation quickly turned into self-loathing on an entirely new level and it stayed with me for days. When I returned to the Emily Program that following Monday it became evident to one of two therapists that something needed to change. She told me about the IDP treatment that addressed both eating disorders and alcohol abuse, and for the first time I was ready to attempt it.

There were a few hiccups in the process but about a week after agreeing to give it a shot I began my IDP journey. I don't love that I have to dedicate 7 hours a day, 5 days a week, plus outside meetings for AA, EDA, NA, etc. but I know that as much as it kind of sucks, it's where I need to be.

So that's why I'm writing again, because I want to document this journey, even if only for myself. Maybe none of you will care to read it, and that's okay if that is the case, but I'm going to write it nonetheless. So this is my first entry, sort of a prologue, if you will. My next entry will get more into the actual experience of IDP. For now, I need to go to bed because I have to be awake, dressed, and ready to fight my eating disorder by 8am and it's nearing midnight.

Thanks for reading and stay tuned for more, if you care to read it.

-Emmz



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)

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