Thursday, January 29, 2015

1-29-2015 Entry: The Doctor's Appointment


Hello all! I’m sure some of you have been wondering how my Doctor’s appointment for HRT went, so I figured I’d pop in and give an update. I am pleased to report that my wife did, in fact, attend the appointment with me and although she seemed a bit… hesitant before the appointment (I’m sure she was coping with the realization that everything was about to get very real) I think by time it was over she was in a pretty good place with things.

Spouse aside, I think the appointment went really well. I really liked the Doctor and found her to be very friendly, attentive, and knowledgeable. There were quite a few questions asked about me and my desire for HRT, both by the doctor and by the nurse, which I suspect are just standard protocol questions for this sort of visit. If I hadn’t already been 100% certain this was something I wanted to do, I think these questions might have felt a bit invasive or difficult to answer, so if anyone out there is thinking about going on to HRT, then I want you to be prepared for some rather personal questions. Some of the questions that the doctor asked were:

 

“On a scale of 1 to 10, how female do you believe you are?” (she further clarified that she always asks this question to make sure that HRT is the right solution and that other methods of treatment aren’t more appropriate)

“When was the first time you felt like you might be something other than your assigned gender?”

“What expectations do you have for the HRT Process?”

“What concerns do you have about the HRT Process?”

“Do you have any current or future plans for Gender/Sex reassignment surgery?”

 

Those are just a few of the questions I was presented with, but as you can see, were I not already in a state of certainty about my gender identity then these questions might have been difficult to answer or might have felt like an attack of sorts. I believe that my time spent with my therapist exploring this gender identity issue really helped me mentally prepare for these kinds of questions, so if anyone reading this is considering HRT then I highly suggest you see a therapist a few times beforehand. It’s very important to be 100% sure that HRT is the right path for you, because it isn’t for everyone.

Among the questions I listed above there was actually a great deal of discussion about fertility and desires to procreate. As one might have guessed, HRT can have a serious effect on a person’s ability to procreate and may even permanently close the door on that depending on how the body reacts to the hormones. From what the doctor explained, by going onto Testosterone blockers and estrogen 1 of 3 things will happen:

 

  1. My ability to have children will not be drastically effected
  2. My ability to have children will be diminished but still possible
  3. My ability to have children will be permanently destroyed

 

Upon discussing these three possible outcomes the doctor suggested that now might be a good time for my wife and I to bank some of my *manly-contribution* to the baby making process as an insurance policy for future procreative efforts.

As for the examination itself, it’s hard for me to say what was done for the purposes of HRT and what was done because we suspect I might have another ulcer. I can tell you that my blood pressure was taken, my heartbeat was listened to, my lungs were listened to, my internal organs were felt up (lol) as I lay on the examination table, and my lymph nodes were checked for any type of swelling. After the discussion of the previous questions/items I listed above, the doctor suggested that I go on to a Testosterone blocker for a period of 30 days, after which I would return to see her for the prescribing of estrogen. In the meantime a handful of blood samples were taken so that tests could be run on them to ensure that I was healthy enough for the HRT process and that there wouldn’t be any avoidable issues.

I was asked if I’d want to start the process that same day, to which I said yes, and was prescribed a testosterone blocker that I was able to pick up a few minutes after the appointment. I have now been on said T-Blocker for 2 days and I can tell you that the effects of the medicine could be felt almost immediately. The first dose of the medicine actually made me quite drowsy and it was difficult for me to stay awake at work during the first few hours after I initially took it. In addition to the drowsiness I experienced something that almost goes beyond my ability to describe. I could feel the change in every cell of my body and was left with a very surreal experience.

Forgive me, I know that doesn’t really tell you what it was like, but I’m struggling to find the words to describe the experience. It was almost as if I stopped feeling so… manly. What I mean by that is that I felt lowered state of aggression, a lowered state of sex-drive, a lowered state of confidence (not in a bad way, but the regular male-driven bravado was gone) and a decrease in my anxiety. I don’t know if I felt happy just because I mentally knew that I’d finally begun the HRT process or because I felt relief from not having the very powerful and sometimes pesky hormone testosterone coursing through my body. In many ways that hormone never really felt right to me. Being “manly” was never something that I understood or even liked, so in the times when my T levels were at their highest, my own self-appreciation was at its lowest.

Moving onto the estrogen. So, I haven’t gotten the Rx yet for estrogen, but the doctor did tell me that there were a few different methods of getting the hormone into my body. Her suggestion, and the one I found the most likeable, was the patch. Much like the birth control patch, I could essentially put a square adhesive bandage-thingy on some part of my body and my skin would absorb the estrogen directly into my body. The alternative methods are in a pill form, and in a liquid form that requires a needle to inject into the body. Hopefully my insurance will cover the patch version and I won’t have to stick myself with a syringe all the time, but I will have to find out what my insurance covers and what it doesn’t. For anyone wondering, my T-blocker only cost me $5 for 30 days’ worth after insurance.

Well, that’s about all there is to tell about the doctor’s appointment other than to say that I am very happy with my decision to start this process. I know that in the coming months my body will change and will begin to better reflect who I am on the inside, and I cannot wait. I am just so happy now, and at such peace. I know everything will work out for me.

 

-Emma

Monday, January 26, 2015

1-26-2015 Entry: 3…. 2…. 1….



Well, here it is. The very last day that I’ll be just Robert the biological male. Now, I know that my doctor’s appointment tomorrow isn’t with a wizard and it will be many months before the hormones really start to have a large (and visible) effect on my body, but tomorrow marks a huge milestone in my personal journey towards living a life true to myself. Tomorrow’s appointment means that I’m walking the walk along with talking the talk. I have spent the last few months becoming an advocate and somewhat of a vicarious expert on transgender issues but tomorrow marks the day when I finally join the few brave souls who’ve been bold enough to take the deep plunge of transition.

After my appointment and after I begin the HRT process my whole life is going to change, hopefully for the better. From what I understand many transgender people feel an almost immediate cessation of some of their dysphoric symptoms upon starting HRT and I’m eager to see if I am one of them. The purpose of this blog was to document the transition experience in grueling detail by observing and recording each and every step along the way. I have, of course, been unable to fully capture my experience up to now merely because of time constraints but I believe that a mostly accurate documentation of my mental/emotional experiences has been recorded in the posts of this blog. I intend to carry on that effort as I move into the HRT process, trying as best as I can to document what that experience is like.

As I suggested in the initial posts of this blog the vast majority of the autobiographical accounts of transgender lives are told in retrospect, long after the events and far removed from the sometimes powerful emotions  and emotional states. The video blogs that currently exist only very rarely delve deeply into the mental/emotional states of the transgender individuals, and for good reason. This experience can already make a person feel so vulnerable that it’s hardly surprising that the trans* video bloggers shy away from open vulnerability in their videos (especially considering the often derogatory and demeaning comments that people leave on videos). This is why I’ve taken it upon myself to try to document this transition experience in the form of words as the transition process goes along so that the most accurate and vulnerable picture can be painted for anyone interested in understanding transgenderism on a deeper level.

Now, it has been three days since my last entry and in that time much has happened. When I wrote that post my levels of anxiety were threatening to boil over and consume me completely. I found myself terribly irritable and quick to anger for no apparent reason. Most of the time I was aware, however vaguely, that my irritation and ager was a result of my anxiety about my doctor’s appointment but there were instances where the feelings seemed to exist without any real reason. My poor wife was subjected to this cranky/worried/angry/impatient/sad/uncomfortably-vulnerable person for most of the weekend.

My anxiety heightened on Saturday night as the inner ocean of my emotions became like a tempest, tossing me to and fro in the wind and waves. My wife, who had been patiently putting up with me and my outbursts for a whole evening and then a whole day became increasingly distant and emotionally drained. As we went to bed on Saturday night it became evident to me that any social energy my wife had to give in an effort to soothe my raging anxiety was spent as she lay on the far side of the bed (we have a king size bed) turned away from me. Her general demeanor became one of irritation as our attention-deprived cat (Athena) insisted on embarking on her typical weekend effort to fit in as many snuggles as she possibly can (we have a bed time-share system set up with our dog and cat. Since they don’t get along very well, the dog sleeps with us during the week and the cat sleeps with us during the weekend).

So, as I lay in bed, patiently petting my desperate-for-love cat, being ignored by a drained and irritable wife, I was left with nothing but my thoughts and emotions. Under such circumstances it became almost too much for me as the emotions inside of me overwhelmed my system, leaving me feeling completely helpless. In an effort to try to feel better I decided to put on my headphones and listen to some music, but it did little to comfort me initially. Instead, I had no option but to let the emotions take me over until I eventually started to cry.

I just felt so… scared and alone. I knew that embarking on transition was something I had to do but the prospect of it as I lay in bed just seemed like too much to handle for one person. That’s what I am, just one person, and the burden of having to change everything in my life in order to find some cessation of the ever constant, if not ambiguous, throbbing of discomfort I’ve known since I was a child just felt like too much. I felt so afraid, so isolated, so tragically alone. No one could help me, even if they wanted to. I, and I alone, had to deal with this issue. I alone had to come to terms with the enormous, staggering, and monumental change I was about to embark on. Most people go their whole lives without making any huge changes, let alone one as significant as changing their sex, yet I, in my frail and emotionally overwhelmed state, was going to be doing just that.

I wondered if I wasn’t insane, if I hadn’t completely lost my mind, but more than anything I felt stuck. I felt like I had painted myself into a corner. By coming out so publicly and so dramatically before going onto HRT I knew that I couldn’t shrink back from the enormity of this decision without the judgment (for better or worse) of everyone I knew, and yet something inside of me wanted to. I wanted to shrink back. I wanted to just throw in the towel and say I can’t do it; I can’t go through with it, but how could I do that when everyone knew I was transgender? I had set out to burn my proverbial closet to the ground and had succeeded with flying colors, but in those moments of indescribable emotional pain and suffering I missed the safety of that closet more than ever. I wanted nothing more than to go back inside of it and just pretend all of this had been a bad dream.

As I considered shrinking back and chickening out at the last minute I tried to envision my life as Robert the man. I projected my consciousness into a future where I decided not to transition and what I saw gave me no comfort. I saw a broken man, a tired man, a man who could take no more. I saw someone in such deep pain and suffering that no amount of love or material comfort would ever soothe it. I saw someone eventually giving into the desire to be free of the pain, someone willing to end their own life as opposed to living on in increasing discomfort.

When I saw this projected self my hopelessness became complete. There was nothing I could do, no choice I could make that would be easy. Either I was going to go through the long and vulnerable process of changing my sex, or I was going to swallow my suffering until it drove me to suicide. In that moment of hopelessness I cursed God for having given me such a terrible affliction.

I asked why. Why had I been given such a dreadful affliction? What had I done to deserve so much pain and suffering? Why couldn’t I just be normal? Why couldn’t I have just been born a girl instead of having to become one? It wasn’t fair! It wasn’t okay! And so I cried, alone and helpless.

After a few minutes of warm tears streaking down my cheeks, dampening my pillow, I turned back to God and asked for help. I needed help. I needed guidance. I needed to know what I was supposed to do. I didn’t want to make the decision alone, to be solely responsible for the most terrible and enormous of life decisions, so I called out for help. I begged for some sign that I was making the right decision by going onto HRT. I needed to know that I was going to be okay.

That’s when something happened that I can still hardly believe. In my completely broken, hopeless, and overwhelmed state a feeling started to arise inside of me. It was a warm feeling, a relieving feeling. The kind of feeling you get when you experience deep levels of love; the truly unconditional type of love that goes beyond words. In that feeling came a voice of sorts, and inner whispering, if you will. It spoke to me from my heart and like a mother cuddling a crying child it told me that everything was going to be okay and that I wasn’t alone. It told me that we had a bright and beautiful future ahead of us, one filled with love, harmony, and peace of mind. It told me that together we would become something truly amazing, and then the most remarkable thing happened. The following song came over my headphones:

 

“I’ll pick you up when you’re down

 Be there when no one’s around

 When you’re in unfamiliar places

 Count on me through life’s changes

 

 I’m in tune with how you feel

 Everything bout this is real

 When you’re in unfamiliar places

 Count on me through life’s changes

 

 You’re all I want, yeah yeah

 I know you’re the one, yeah

 You’re all I want, yeah

 I know you’re the one, yeah

 

 Crash into me

 At full speed

 Crash into me

 We can collide, we can collide

 

 When you’re in unfamiliar places

 Count on me through life’s changes

 

 Know that you’re never alone

 In me you can find a home

 When you’re in unfamiliar places

 Count on me through life’s changes

 

 You’re all I want, yeah (yeah)

 You’re all I want (oh), yeah (yeah yeah)

 You’re all I want, yeah (you are the one)

 I know you’re the one, yeah (you are)

 

 Crash into me

 At full speed

 We can collide, we can collide

 We can collide, we can collide” – Collide by Leona Lewis
(it was actually the afrojack version, which can be heard at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mQwJltB2f8g)

 

Even now as I read those lyrics tears of joy fill my eyes. Most people would say that it was just coincidence that my Pandora station decided to play that song at that very moment, but I do not believe in mere coincidence. Out of the hundreds of songs that my Pandora station plays, in that exact moment when I felt so alone, so helplessly lost in my own suffering, that song came on. When I’m pleading with the heavens for some guidance, some help, some comfort to make me feel not so alone as I consider this enormous change I’m about to make, a song comes on that says “Know that you’re never alone. In me you can find a home. When you’re in unfamiliar places. Count on me through life’s changes.”

And so my suffering, my pain, my anxiety that had been threatening to swallow me up was swept away by a feeling of unconditional love, and I knew everything was going to be okay. I knew that I would have the strength to go through with my decision and that I would end up being okay on the other side of it. I knew that in the end I would end up becoming a happy, whole, complete, and beautiful woman. I knew that I had faced my biggest fear and that the heavens had smiled down upon me in my moment of greatest need. I remembered that I was never alone, that God, or Source, or the universe, or whatever you want to call it was with me always and that it was looking out for me.

After those few minutes of illumination and love all of my anxiety about my doctor’s appointment dissipated and I haven’t felt any more since. I am now ready to meet with the doctor tomorrow morning without reservation or second guessing. It’s finally time to begin this new chapter of my life and I set out on my journey with a glad heart and a strong resolve. I am no longer afraid of what’s ahead of me.

 

-Emma

Friday, January 23, 2015

1-23-2015 Entry: Reflections On My Last Week of Testosterone

So, barring any unforeseen setbacks this will be my last week feeling the effects of testosterone as my appointment for HRT is in 4 days. I am filled with a mixture of excitement and fear.

As my therapist described it, it’s like I’m in a plane, I’ve put on my parachute and I’m standing at the door about to jump. The wind is whipping through my hair, my jump goggles (do they have a name?) are fogging up from the fear based perspiration on my forehead, and the jump instructor is screaming to me to ask if I’m ready. My heart is about to beat out of my chest and all the fears I’ve ever had about this jump are starting to rear their ugly heads. The roar of the plane’s engines is threatening to deafen me and yet, all sound seems to fade away, leaving me with nothing but my thoughts.

Am I ready for this? Now that I stand at the precipice, my toes hanging over the edge as I look down and reel from the height, I start to wonder if I can really do this. Can I do this? Will I survive? Will my parachute function properly and save me from falling to my death or am I setting sail on a collision course with doom? In the loud silence broken only by the sound of my breathing I look over to the instructor again and I can see she is nodding her head, trying to give me nonverbal encouragement, yet all I feel is a desire to shrink back; to strip the parachute off my shoulders and go back to my seat out of fear. I can just ride this plane back to the ground, can’t I? I don’t HAVE to jump, right? Everyone who is waiting for me at the bottom will be so disappointed in me if I don’t jump but is the risk really worth it? It might either be the most amazing trip of my life, or it might be the last trip of my life.

And that is where I am right now. Obviously the plane is a metaphor, but the state of mind I’ve just described isn’t a metaphor. I’m standing on the edge of this transformation and all I can hear is the sound of my own doubts rattling around in my head. Each day I approach that fateful doctor’s appointment is another step towards leaping into the unknown. Since I would be completely mortified were I actually in a plane about to jump (Yes, I have a fear of heights) the metaphor seems to fit perfectly.

The jump instructor is most likely my therapist, encouraging me to face my fears. The wind whipping in my face is the sound of all the people in this world who will judge and misunderstand me. The plane itself is my body and/or my gender identity as Robert the man. It’s a “safe” place to be and by taking this leap of faith I’ll be leaving that “safety” behind. I put safety in quotes because it’s really not all that safe.  Like a plane, this identity I’ve had for all these years has every possibility of crashing and being destroyed (suicide). Sure, maybe if I worked really (really) hard and was super careful I could pilot that gender identity for the rest of my life, but the pitfalls of trying to be a person I never felt comfortable being are dangerous and numerous. The people waiting on the ground for me are all my friends and family who I’ve told about my true gender. The parachute I have on my back is the acceptance of my closest loved ones. If it functions properly then their acceptance of me as Emma (on the other side of HRT) will allow me to land on the ground safely; if their acceptance is taken away and I’m left on my own there is no telling if I’ll survive the trip. Sure, I have a backup parachute just in case (my own self-worth) but if one fails, there is no guarantee the other will work either.

And so now I must wait. The instructor is counting down until my jump and she has 4 fingers in the air. Tomorrow there will be three, then two, then one, and then it’s time to jump.

So, what to do with my last 4 days of testosterone? Parts of me feel a desire to chug beers and do chest bumps with the nearest guy at the bar. Part of me wants to watch something super macho (like UFC Fighting, which I detest actually) and get all raged out until the veins are popping out of my neck and my face is red. I feel like I should spend my last days as a biological male shooting guns, driving big trucks and trying to pick up chicks. I feel like I should grow an epic beard, buy a leather cutoff jacket and enter an arm wrestling contest or something just to celebrate the last few days of this hormone coursing through my body.

 But, of course, I will do none of those things. I’ll simply continue to live out my final days as a biological male the way I’ve lived the last several years: hanging out with my darling wife, playing silly video games, working on my novels, and blogging. I’ll lay Robert to rest little by little as I become more and more Emma. For 29 years the two of us have been doing a dance, but the music is about to stop and only one of us can stay on the dance floor.

I can see in Robert’s eyes that he is weary from the years of carrying around such a heavy burden. I can tell that he is ready to let his legs rest as he calmly integrates into me. Yet, still he is afraid for me, worried that I won’t have the strength to handle all the obstacles ahead of me because he has ever been my protector, my guardian from a world that didn’t and couldn’t understand me. He stood out in the light of day, shielding me from the cruelty of small minded people for so long that he is afraid to let go, to let me be the strong one now, but he knows it is time. He can carry this burden no more and there is nothing more he can do for us except to let me stand on my own.

Perhaps this all sounds crazy to the rest of you, and perhaps you are right, but in many ways there has ever been two of us inhabiting this body. Two of us struggling to fit into the expectations of a world gone crazy with labeling and conformity. One of us had to be the outward face of this body, the one who everyone saw, heard, and thought they knew. The other of us was always locked inside, far from the sight of others where it could be kept safe, if not isolated. Sometimes when no one was around, or when we found ourselves among people we trusted, this inner self was permitted to come out to play. Most of the time people thought it was a joke or an attempt at humor. “Oh, silly Robert, pretending to be all girly-girl on us. Isn’t he so funny?”

They never understood that the person they were seeing as a joke was actually me, Emma, coming out to spread my wings; wings which were sore from being cramped in the cage I lived in. It wasn’t a cruel cage, not an unkind prison, but a prison nonetheless. Robert was forced to be the warden of my captivity and while he had to be cruel at times, he was ever looking out for my safety. As the years wore on, however, I noticed him becoming more and more depressed. His visits to my cell grew more infrequent until for a long stretch of time he abandoned me altogether. That was when I forced my way out of my cage and broke through his sub-conscious. I cried out for help, for attention, for the love I deserved and that is how all this began. My will became too strong for him to deny any longer and as he grew weaker I grew stronger. It was time to end the charade of only ever being half a person. It was time to finally become one person again.

I am mostly speaking metaphorically, of course, but in many ways the inner metaphor can be just as real as the outside world. The me who writes these words is not the same me who used to walk around talking and socializing with people even just 6 months ago. The me who writes these words is a combination of both Robert and his beloved prisoner. We are Emma because for the first time in many, many years, we are whole (Emma means whole, or complete, btw).

Now we just have to be brave enough to jump out of that metaphorical plane and become the physical being that matches the spiritual being inside. I think we are ready, despite the doubts. It’s time to come home to a body that makes sense and a gender role that actually fits who we are. Who cares if other people don’t get it or don’t like it, it’s not their life to live. It is ours to live and together, Robert and I will make it a life worth living.

 

-Emma

Sunday, January 18, 2015

1-18-2015 Entry: New Headband and the Dream State Self

So I decided to take an extra long weekend (5 days) since the law firm I work for is closed tomorrow on MLK day. As such i have engaged in what one may only call rest and relaxation. There has been much sleeping, much video gaming, and much disappointing football gaming (damn Packers breaking my heart in that tragic loss to the sea-ducks)

In addition to the extra rest and relaxation I have also painted my fingernails a lovely shade of Pink, which I've had the lovely privilege to wear for three days straight already. I can only imagine the sadness I'll feel when I return to work and have to take the color off again. Even better than my fabulously pink nails is the new headband I bought yesterday!! 

So, long story short, I watched a YouTube video from one of my favoritest people ever, PricessJoules, where she talked about things to do during the early parts of transition. One of her recommendations for someone starting out with shorter hair (like me) was to use female hair accessories to give the hair a more feminine appearance. I, of course, made a point to browse the hair accessory section at target at my first opportunity and found this absolutely darling purple headband inlaid with clear crystals. Yes, it kind of looks like a tiara, but can you blame a girl for wanting a tiara, I mean really? If it helps you judge me less my wife helped me pick it out so I wasn't flying solo on that shopping trip.

Anyways PrincessJoules was absolutely right that even something as simple as a cute headband can give a very masculine hair cut a feminine appearance. Were I not still too self-conscious about my overly masculine appearance I would share a picture of said headband and how cute it makes my hair, but I hope you'll forgive me keeping that image private. The last thing I need right now is for my dysphoria to multiply a hundred fold by bringing it out for everyone on the internet to see. You will just have to trust me when I say that the headband has done more than a good job of making me appear more feminine.

But hair accessories aside, there have been some interesting developments on the psychological end of things. As most who have been following this blog know, my decision to transition began with a dream, one where I was a physical female. The corresponding emotions that accompanied that dream were enough to finally shake me from my denials about my gender and to break through the walls of my indirect dysphoria in such a way that I finally understood what had been wrong all these long years. That dream was enough to finally confirm in my mind that the distress I'd been feeling for nearly two decades was a result of the mismatch of my gender with my physical body.

 Well, as you might imagine, that dream was not the only one I've had where I got to experience being physically female. In fact, almost every single night I now have a dream where I am physically female and not only is the frequency of those dreams increasing but the vividness has increased as well. The dreams are so vivid, so real that when I finally awaken in the morning and realize that the female version of me isn't there anymore I become deeply sad. More than just being sad the experience of spending the equivalent of hours in the dream state as a female and returning to the waking state as a male is an extremely jarring experience. 

I wish I could adequately describe what this sensation is like but I think even my own mastery of the written word falls appallingly short of being able to enable another person to experience it vicariously. It's like closing your eyes at night, spending the entire night in a place of love and harmony, only to be ripped from that harmony and thrown into a crushing experience of wrongness. Imagine what it would be like to wake up tomorrow morning and be a dog instead of a human. You would feel pretty damn shocked, confused, and possibly depressed wouldn't you? I mean, unless you find a way to be excited that you'll never have to work a day in your life, you are probably going to feel pretty scared and/or upset at your sudden transition to the dog-state. Imagine then that everyone just believes you are a dog, and despite your attempts to correct them or to explain your true human nature, they still just see you as a dog.

That's about as close as I can equate the experience I have each morning when I awaken to this male form after spending the night romping around in my oh-so-right female body. The hardest part of that morning realization is the additional realization of how far away from that female body I still am. It will be at least a year from now before I could possibly start living and presenting as Emma, and right now, that feels like a very long time. I know it will go fast and be here before I know it, but such logical conclusions do little to settle the anxiety I feel upon waking to the physical form of Robert.

My only real comfort comes from the understanding that the reason I am having an increasing number of dreams where I'm physically female is because my sub-conscious mind is finally acknowledging the dysfunction that has been plaguing it for many years. It is one thing to think of yourself and envision yourself as female during the waking hours, but for the sub-conscious mind to also be assembling this self-image tells me that I'm finally coming to terms with my gender identity. Instead of allowing fear to rule the day and prevent me from seeing myself for who I really am, I am lovingly embracing my that deeper nature. Such freedom cannot be underestimated.

Well, that's all I really have for this update, other than to say that after many months of writer's block I've finally found my stride again in working on my novels. It's amazing what having an identity crisis (that's really what it was, if we are being brutally honest) can do to plug up the creative pipes and prevent you from being able to access the more artistic portions. Thankfully that seems to be passing and I'm finding myself better able to brainstorm, outline, and write compared to the last 4 months.

Anyways, may we all celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day and remember that it was only through non-violent resistance and the dreams born out of love that equality was won. Things still aren't perfect and much work is to be done, but tomorrow we remember when the American people did the right thing. Let's hope that it inspires us to keep doing the right things and to always foster environments for love and compassion for our fellow humans. We are all the same, just brothers and sisters in one big family, so let's try to remember that always.

-Emma


Wednesday, January 14, 2015

1-14-2015 Entry: Surprising Reactions and the Need for Compassion


You can never truly know how a person will react to news as big or consequential as a family member coming out as transgender. I suppose that statement requires a bit of context so here it is. Two weeks ago I made an important decision about the visibility I was ready to have as Emma (transwoman extraordinaire, of course) by choosing to finally change my name on Facebook. This was big news for a few different reasons, the greatest of which was because by doing this I was essentially coming out to almost all of my family members and in-laws at once. I had previously told my friends that I was transgender but most of my family had no idea that anything was different about me. As you might imagine this decision was filled with a large amount of anxiety and doubt on my part because I couldn’t know for certain how those family members and in-laws would react to this news.

It was in this heightened state of anxiety that I received a message from my cousin last week asking for my phone number so that my uncle could call to talk to me. Despite her trying to convince me that there would be no judgment in the conversation I still felt an overwhelming foreboding of having to talk to one of my family members about my gender identity. I gave my number and received a phone call later that evening from said Uncle, but found myself incapable of answering the phone for fear of the conversation that might ensue afterwards. This reservation about talking to my uncle continued for a few days until I finally felt ready and mentally prepared to talk to him. Deciding I’d made him wait long enough I called him this past Monday night and boy was I ever surprised by the conversation that followed.

My uncle, a man I have known my whole life and one with whom I’ve always shared a fond, if not distant, relationship with presented the most loving reaction I have had since first coming out a few months ago. His very first inclination was to make sure that I was okay because he knew how difficult things like this could be for a person. I cannot express into words the powerful emotions of love I felt at his simple kindness. He was filled with questions, as to be expected, but his first instinct was to set his personal confusion aside and to offer me empathy and love. Never in my life have I been presented with such grace and compassion. Every other person I told either immediately told me they supported me or immediately jumped into their questions about what this meant, so you can imagine my surprise at this very different approach.

I had had so much worry and fear about my Uncle’s potential reaction that I briefly forgot that at the heart of every person lies infinite love and kindness. A love and kindness that knows no bounds and cares very little for the labels of the world. A love and kindness that’s around us every day if we only take the time to look for it. A love and kindness that each of us can call upon in every moment. The compassion my uncle showed me resonated inside of me so deeply that it may have permanently changed my life and my expectations about how others will react to my non-binary gender expression. Such compassion is something each of us is capable of and to exercise it can have profound effects on those we interact with.

It is for this reason that I am continuing to talk with other transgender people seeking some sense of understanding, guidance, or empathy about their situations. It’s why I’m continuing to write blog posts like this one in order to try to restore our collective faith in humanity and the cisgender community.

There have been a lot of grumbling over the past months and years about the way cisgender people are treating or representing transgender people. The most recent of these is the backlash that has come in response to Jeffrey Tambor winning a golden globe for his portrayal of Maura Pfefferman in Amazon’s “Transparent” series. People who have led lives filled with pain and anger are quick to condemn the actor because he is a straight, white, male portraying a transgender person when there are transgender actors out in the world unable to find work because of their gender identity. Their reaction is understandable because seeing him win the Golden Globe strikes a nerve that is already ragged from the various discriminations and marginalizations that they are forced to live with every day. Because of that I will not condemn them for their reaction, but we as transgender people must understand that we can never hope to receive equality, empathy, and compassion when we are incapable of giving it ourselves.

I do not fault cisgender actors and movie makers for their gender identities when those same cisgender actors and movie makers are providing a great service to transgender awareness. I refuse to project the hurt I have felt from the rejections I’ve received from other people onto an actor who received his award with as much grace and kindness that anyone could have expected. I do not even fault the other cisgender actors who portrayed transgender people in other movies for their jokes about hair waxing, etc. They do not know any better, and to reprimand them will not teach them the error of their ways. We must meet them with kindness and compassion, explaining the effect their jokes may have on people they do not know and kindly asking them to think of transgender people as humans with emotions and needs.

We must become the compassion and love that we hope to receive, only then can we tear down these walls that separate us from the rest of the world. I know it is easy to feel attacked or violated by people’s reactions and misunderstandings about our non-binary genders, but to react defensively will only further the alienation we experience. We must find ways to empathize with those reactions and misunderstandings by being willing to look beneath them to see the needs and emotions that are behind them. When someone says I’m not a real woman and will never be a real woman I can choose to look for what is really being said, “I don’t accept that you are a woman because it goes against what I was taught, and when I see things that go against what I was taught I feel insecure.”

By acknowledging the insecurity that a person can feel when presented with a person of a non-binary gender, we can choose to see that person as a human with needs and emotions instead of a bigot or a jerk. By refusing to accept responsibility for their emotions but also give empathy, we make a change in them. No longer will they feel the need to shout hurtful things at us, but will begin to break down the intense energy feeding their insecurity. If I can manage to react to their statement by saying, “Are you feeling upset because the gender I claim to be is contradictory to what you were taught about women?” instead of reacting negatively, I will automatically begin the process of healing the pain they are experiencing. By giving empathy instead or criticism or defensiveness, I allow for compassion to be fostered in them and can eventually break down their resistances to my non-binary gender.

So to the trans* folks out there who are upset about Jeffrey Tambor winning an award, I want to ask, “Are you feeling upset because you are wanting to make sure stories like your own are reflected accurately?” ‘are you feeling upset about him being straight and white because you are wanting more transgender actors to find work?” “Are you feeling upset because you are wanting greater acceptance of transgender people in the film and television industry?”

 

With love

-Emma

Thursday, January 8, 2015

1-8-2015 Entry: The Importance of Coming Out


So, it probably goes without saying that having at least a few close friends is an important aspect to living a happy life, but I think this sentiment goes double for someone with a non-binary gender. I know that too often transgender people like myself tend to hide their feelings and their true personalities from the people they know, especially in the beginning of or before transition. While this act of hiding is a natural form of self-preservation it can actually do more damage than good, particularly if the trans* person is completely “in the closet” for an extended period of time (months or years).
 
Coming out as trans is a difficult process, one that I’m still navigating myself, but it’s truly vital for anyone out there who thinks they might have a non-binary gender to at least confide in someone (even if it’s just one other person) about those feelings. Often times the best way to do this is by talking to an LGBT friendly therapist (many can be found here: www.lgbttherapists.org/ ), but not everyone can find or even afford to see a therapist, so sometimes the only option is to tell a friend or close family member. Telling someone you know personally can be extremely difficult, especially if you value your relationship with them because there is no knowing how they might react.
 
So, today, I’d like to discuss different methods to come out as transgender and the reasons why it’s important to do so. Obviously, I do not want to encourage anyone to put themselves in dangerous situations, so if you believe that coming out as trans will put you in physical danger, then please exercise caution or wait until a safer situation can be established.
 
Method #1: Seeing a Gender therapist (or LGBT friendly therapist). This method is probably the most effective way to adequately deal with the often complex and confusing emotions that a person can feel when they have a non-binary gender. Because of the rules about confidentiality, anything you say to your therapist will stay between the two of you, which can be of extreme benefit to someone who is just beginning to deal with their gender issues (unless a crime has been committed, in which case the therapist might have a duty to report what they know). Since there is a great deal of gender policing in western culture that often manifests in social pressures to conform to one or the other gender based solely on sex, it can be really difficult to even just admit out loud for the first time that you might not be the gender you were assigned. To admit such a thing out loud, especially to another person, is really the first step of moving out of denial. The transition process has frequently been paralleled to the K├╝bler-Ross model of grief (you know that: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance model we’ve all vaguely heard about) and most often the hardest of those steps to overcome is denial. It was for me, and it is for many others who I correspond with.
Now, denial might sound like a word you’d associate with someone who knows something but just willfully or consciously refuses to deal with it, and you would be partially right if you assumed that definition, but I’ve come to find that denial can manifest in different ways. Denial can frequently manifest as something someone just doesn’t have the capacity to understand, even if they actually want to. Most of the non-binary people I’ve corresponded with struggle with trying to understand what they are at all, more than a lack of conscious acknowledgment of their emotions. In other words, they are well aware that something is wrong and they have strong desires to figure out what that something is, but their brains are just incapable of understanding or accepting that they are transgender/non-binary.  Often times I think this is a result of our faulty definition of the word transgender, but regardless of the cause, these people frequently find themselves not understanding why they feel the way they do. They might acknowledge that they’ve always felt like a boy or a girl on the inside, but their brains just refuse to accept that that means they are probably transgender.
It is for this reason that seeing a gender therapist is a great idea, because someone who is familiar with the typical characteristics and experiences of transgender people will be able to guide you through the denial mechanisms that might be at play and help you come to terms with your gender. It is by far the safest place to come out and will likely result in you finding healthy ways to fully come out when you are ready.
 
Method #2: Telling a close friend/family member. There are a lot of ways to go about doing this including: writing a letter/email, having a phone conversation, writing a text, talking in person in a private or public setting, etc. This method, while perhaps less safe than seeing a gender therapist, can be an excellent way to begin living a life more true to who you are. If you are able to find someone you believe will love you and accept you no matter what gender you are and you tell them about your feelings, you are potentially opening up a safe place where you can finally be free to express your true self. This was my method of coming out. I told a close friend who I trusted completely (it helped that she confessed to me that she was gay the same day) and it was the best thing I ever did. It permitted me to have a place where I could put down the mask I’d been wearing for so long and be as girly as I wanted to be without fear or worry. With the help of this friend I’ve figured out so very much about myself, my desires, and my plans for the future. This friend became my secret confidant who would call me by my chosen name when no one else was around and who treated me like the female I always knew I had been. To let off this pressure I’d been feeling for so long was a relief beyond description. I could finally be me, the real me, without fear, worry, or shame.
More than just finding a place to be myself, I also began to build up confidence in my new identity and eventually had the courage to tell others and to begin the coming out process with my family. The confidence of this one true friend became the falling pebbles that started an avalanche of freedom for me. By having time to bolster my confidence and to discuss my fears, I was able to prepare myself for the more difficult conversations I knew would be ahead of me. It gave me the courage and strength to weather the reactions of my parents, and eventually the rest of my family. It also made me accountable, because it prevented me from going back into the closet. I had already been seen outside of the metaphorical closet, so I knew that I could never truly be concealed again should I shrink back into my fear and denial. I knew that this friend would be disappointed in me, at least somewhat, if I didn’t start living a life true to myself.
 
Method #3: Go big or go home! This is probably the most dangerous means of coming out, but like a Band-Aid, sometimes the easiest way to get through the pain is to just rip that sucker off! This method can manifest in coming out on Facebook or Twitter (or other social media sites), coming out at a family gathering where everyone is around, or showing up one day displaying the correct gender expression (for me it would have been wearing a dress and heals). I honestly don’t really advise jumping straight to this method, but who am I to say what you are ready for or not. The warning that comes with this method is that you will not be able to control the reactions you get at all. True, doing it on an individual basis doesn’t guarantee control, but at least you have control over how many people you deal with at one time. By coming out so publicly you will be forced to deal with the reactions of everyone all at once. Some might be good, some might be bad but regardless of the positive or negative effect, you will have no choice but to be swarmed with other people’s views, thoughts, and concerns. If you use social media, those reactions will likely be invisible to you at first and could potentially become negative ones when they might not have otherwise (Do you really want your mom to read your facebook status to find out her son is really her daughter? If you are close, then probably not). Sometimes having a one on one conversation with the people closest to you is a better way of ensuring a deeper level of understanding and acceptance about your gender identity.
This method is probably best used in combination with the other two methods. Once you’ve come out to the people closest to you or the ones you see the most frequently, sometimes the easiest way to tell everyone else is through one of these public mediums. Eventually everyone is going to find out anyways, so why not have more control over how and when that happens?
 
 In an ideal world you would probably begin with method #1, move to method #2, and finish off with method #3. I, personally, began with #2, moved to #1, and finished with #3. The way you choose to do it is your own and should reflect your personality and desires as best as it can.
 
Final note: I know that coming out can be very scary and can have a lot of consequences on your life, but it is important to understand that holding in a non-binary gender because you are afraid of what will happen if you tell people is a sure way to inflict suffering on yourself. The pain that comes from being true to who you are is far less than the pain of living a lie or living for the expectations of others. Eventually all of those feelings are going to boil over your defenses and you’re going to have to deal with them. Wouldn’t it be better to do it on your own terms instead of becoming the victim of years of repression? If you are finding yourself questioning your gender and aren’t sure who you can talk to, please feel free to email me at rtedwins@gmail.com. I promise that I will lend a compassionate ear to you and will try to help you understand what’s going on inside of you. Our conversations will be 100% private and no one else has to know if that makes it easier to discuss the way you are feeling.
 
With much love,
-Emma

Monday, January 5, 2015

1-5-2015 Entry: #pinkforleelah and Becoming the Compassion We Seek


So, if you’ve been keeping up at all with the news about Leelah Alcorn then you probably know that she was a transgender teenager who recently committed suicide. You also probably know that she posted a suicide note on Tumblr that blamed her Christian parents and the conversion therapy they tried to put her through as the reason that she decided to take her life. If you had the chance to read her blog post prior to it being taken down at the request of her parents (who are still referring to her as their son, Jacob) then you probably also know that Leelah’s dying wish was that her suicide would ultimately lead to fixing the transphobic world we live in. If you are tumblr savvy then you’ve probably also learned that tomorrow, January 6, 2015, people who want to show their respect and remembrance for this young girl will be painting their ring-finger nail(s) pink (see #pinkforleelah).

What you may not really know, however, is that this act of remembrance is causing a bit of an uproar among the trans community. Trans bloggers left and right have dashed to their keyboards to give their two cents on the situation and what they’ve been writing may actually be rather surprising to some. It was certainly surprising to me, but I’ll let you be the judge of your own reaction.

The gist of several blogs I’ve read is that while they are mildly supporting this paint your ring fingernail pink effort as an okay thing, they are also taking considerable offense to the idea that this simple act will actually do anything. In response to this #pinkforleelah I have read tumblr responses such as this one from starlighsongs:

 

“#pinkforleelah does nothing for abused ostracized closeted trans girls.

#pinkforleelah exists to make cis people and afab queers feel good while doing nothing.

#pinkforleelah is bullshit.

teach one another about what the fuck is happening. ask your local queer org what they’re doing for trans women in the community. when your friends say gross shit about trans women call them the fuck out. talk to trans women. listen to trans women. support trans womens voices. we don’t give a FUCK about your pink nail polish feelgood horseshit.”

 

Forgive the language, but I wanted to preserve the original wording so the emotions could be felt. My wife also shared a Shakesville article with me that expressed a similar, yet more docilely worded, outrage over this pinkforleelah movement. It can be read here http://www.shakesville.com/2015/01/cis-allies-and-trans-suicide.html . You’ll notice that the author seems to be harboring a certain degree of resentment about this Leelah situation. What that resentment is or where it comes from can only be guessed at but, like starlightsongs, the emotion of anger or frustration is the predominate emotion being expressed through their words, but why?

 

As a transwoman I am no stranger to the oppressive gender policing that goes on in our society. I am no stranger to the fear, depression, and rage that can fester in a person’s heart when they are forced to live a life that doesn’t suit them. I am completely familiar with the struggle of countless people around the world who are trying to not only understand who they are and what their gender is, but are also desperately trying to find a place in the society/culture. I have corresponded with many of these people myself, listening to their stories, their fears and doubts, their struggles and sufferings. I have walked with them, even if only briefly, as they tried to navigate the dark and sometimes dangerous waters of gender identity. I, myself, have had to struggle with the lack of acceptance from ones who are closest to me, and have struggled to find reasons to keep living another day even when my broken heart believed there was no such reason. I have looked the social darkness of a non-binary gender right in the face and have lived to tell the tale about it, much to the inspiration and encouragement of others fighting the same fight as me, yet I cannot for the life of me understand the reactions I’ve shared above about #pinkforleelah.

When are we as humans going to realize that we cannot fight our way to empathy? We cannot battle our way to compassion. We cannot say things like “#pinkforleelah is bullshit” or “we don’t give a FUCK about your pink nail polish feelgood horseshit” and expect that our words of anger, resentment, and violence will ever foster an environment peaceful enough to bring about the compassion, understanding, and change we are seeking. We cannot treat our cisgender allies and advocates with disrespect and contempt if we expect them to return to us with loving understanding.

Yes, there is much work to be done for transgender rights, but why on the face of this green earth would we look upon a social movement in remembrance of a victim of conversion therapy, unacceptance, and fear from her parents as a hollow gesture? Have we forgotten that not 10 years ago being transgender meant that you were almost 100% invisible or marginalized? Have we forgotten that it has only been the last few years that the high rate of transgender suicide has even become an international concern? Have we forgotten that in the last year more has been done to further the transgender equality movement than in any year previous?

Why now, of all times, would we think it is okay to take a critical and cynical stance on something that is bringing about awareness, however minute it might be, to millions of people about the dangers and pressures faced by transgender people? Maybe painting my fingernail will not enact laws that need to be enacted. Maybe painting my fingernail might not bring back the countless people who’ve killed themselves because they were transgender. Maybe painting my fingernail might not stop conversion therapy from being legal, but you know what it does do? It makes people ask questions, and seeking understanding is the very first step in the process of compassion.

When I wear pink fingernails tomorrow someone will ask me why I’ve chosen to do it, and when they ask that question an opportunity that might never have existed will present itself. I will be afforded the rare opportunity to bring the trials of transgenderism to the forefront of their experience. I will be able to open their eyes and hopefully hearts to the sad reality that people like me face every single day. I will have the opportunity to foster the idea that non-binary genders are not to be feared or corrected, but are to be embraced and loved.

I consider myself an advocate and an ally to the transgender cause not simply because I, myself, am transgender, but because I choose to wear my support proudly. I choose to actively engage with anyone willing to listen in order to foster understanding, love, and compassion for my fellow trans* people. I choose to live a life of dangerous visibility because I know that the only way we can succeed in making the world a more kind and compassionate place is by fostering understanding and empathy through example. When people read my sometimes raw and powerful emotions or words about my experience as a transwoman they get to vicariously experience what it is like to be transgender, and anyone who has shared the experience of another has the capacity to empathize with it.

Painting your fingernail pink might seem trivial or small to the unenlightened or the cynical, but the affect it will have on the transgender movement cannot be discounted, even by the most begrudged of the trans* population. The mere fact that millions of cisgender people will be openly acknowledging and empathizing with one of the hardest aspects to being transgender is a victory in itself, because it says that the world is changing (for the better IMHO). Every victory, however small or trivial it might seem, must be appreciated with love and pride. Stop complaining about how it isn’t good enough or doesn’t go far enough when only 10 years ago this kind of victory was unheard of. When humans reached space for the first time we didn’t get pissed off that we hadn’t made it to the moon right away, we reveled in our success. We cheered and felt proud of the accomplishments of our species. True, we vowed to take it further and to push the boundaries again and again, but our achievement was celebrated with joy, not cynicism. We took that success as a strong foundation for our further goals and used it to build great and amazing accomplishments. We landed on the moon, we built a space station, we built satellites and space probes, we’ve explored more of space than ever before, we even landed a probe on a comet!! We are now preparing to land on the next planet in our solar system, something unheard of and you know why that is possible? It’s possible because someone out there didn’t fall prey to cynicism, even when the space programs were mocked and ridiculed for their “failures” or for not “doing enough” to justify their existence. It is because of this reason that I choose to not fall prey to the cynicism of the starlighsongs or the resentments of eastsidekate. I choose to look upon this success as exactly what it is, a momentous occasion of unheard of acceptance and empathy.

Leelah Alcorn wished for her death to mean something, for it to bring about understand and equality for transgender people, and now she is getting that wish. So many more people are aware of transgender issues now than at any other point in history and her death may very well lead to the legal barring of conversion therapy in the U.S. (you can sign the white house petition here: https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/enact-leelahs-law-ban-all-lgbtq-conversion-therapy/QPbYj38G ). #pinkforleelah is a victory of untold proportions for people like me because it’s opening the door for understanding and empathy from cisgender people who may have never gotten on board with the transgender movement otherwise. The potential of their current support, however minimal it currently is, may have a powerful affect in the years to come as more and more transgender equality laws filter through the democratic systems around the world. These people may very well be the difference between these initiatives passing or failing. These people may very well be the driving power behind so many of the changes we’ve all been looking for.

We must remember that while cisgender people may be the cause of much of our suffering, they are also the key to our salvation. They outnumber us upwards of 97 to 3, so the more of them we have on our side, however minimal that support is, the better off we are going to be. The more people who wear pink nail polish tomorrow, the larger our community grows. The larger our community grows the more likely transgender teenagers like Leelah Alcorn will have friends and teachers who support and protect them from ridicule instead of standing idly by as they are bullied and persecuted into taking their own lives. The more pink fingernails we have tomorrow, the more we are going to have honest conversations about gender identity instead of allowing it to be a silent issue. The more conversations we have about gender identity, the more curiosity or understanding will be fostered. The more curiosity or understanding that is fostered, the more empathy and compassion we will have room for. The more empathy and compassion we make room for, the more peace we will find as a society.

The only way to embrace a brighter future is to release our resentful hold on the darker past. We must forgive one another for the failures and shortcomings of yesterday if we hope to build something beautiful today and tomorrow. We must not treat our cisgender allies with ridicule and cynicism because of the way they have acted in the past if we wish to count on them to make things better in the future. Some of them are taking their very first baby steps towards rejecting the gender binary by painting their fingernails pink, and so much of their confidence in those baby steps depends on our loving attention and assistance to them. We must hold their hands and guide them. We must encourage and appreciate their efforts. If we praise them for what they are doing, they will do more of it. If we reprove them for not doing well enough when they’ve only just begun then they will give up before any lasting impact is made. We must become the very love and compassion we are seeking if we ever hope to receive it back.

It is for this reason that I say let’s bring love back to the conversation and wear some fabulous pink nail polish!! I will be wearing it tomorrow, will you join me?

 

-Emma

Friday, January 2, 2015

1-2-2015 Entry: Resolutions, Successes, and Setbacks

Happy new year to all of my lovely readers! With any luck this new year will be the best year yet, which brings me to my subject for today’s entry: New Year’s Resolutions.
So, I know everyone kind of rolls their eyes when they hear that someone has made a New Year’s resolution because the majority of these resolutions make it about a week before we go back to our old ways, but the resolution I made has already begun and in some ways is already finished. I’m sure you are thinking that the kind of resolution that can already be completed by January 2nd isn’t much of a resolution at all, but I think you might be surprised. The simplest way to put my resolution is that I resolved to live the next year without fear or hiding of my true nature, most especially when it comes to my family.
You see, as of December 31, 2014 there was only one family member of mine who knew the truth about me and my transgender nature, my mother (well her and my mother in-law, but we can discuss that later). For everyone else, including but not limited to my father, my aunts, my uncles, my cousins, my grandparents, and my in-laws I was still Robert (Sarah’s husband). I had come out to my friends on Facebook, but I was still using the profile with my birth name on it to represent who I was. Sure, I was on here, blogging a million miles an hour trying to inspire others to live their lives in the open without fear or dismay, but in my own life I was still a victim of those elements myself.
Every day that went by where I was still being seen as and treated as Robert the man/husband was almost like another failure in my transition to live up to the advice I was giving others about how they could find freedom from their “in the closet” affliction. Add to this the knowledge that my doctor’s appointment for hormone treatment was set and my pre-transition timeline had a calendared endpoint, and you can start to see the pressure I was beginning to feel to completely come out.
So, with a bit more haste than I probably should have had, I decided enough was enough. My friends on Facebook were posting about their resolutions, both large and small, both serious and joking, and this inspired me to make my own proclaimed resolution… but to what extent?
As I sat at my computer, typing and retyping the resolution I wanted to share with my friends I was faced with a choice. I knew that I wanted to resolve to no longer hide and to no longer be controlled by fear because I knew that 2015 was going to be the birth year of Emma, transwoman extraordinaire (aren’t epithets awesome? Why did we ever do away with them?), but how far was I willing to go to keep that resolution? I knew that part of this birthing of a new identity would require me to eventually come out to all of my family and in-laws but was I ready for all of them to know at once with one fell swoop of the “post” button? If I was going to resolve to no longer hide then I had to do something to show that this resolution was more than a passing fancy, right? Sure, I could resolve to come out to all of them in my own due time and just resolve to start living my life as Emma little by little but wouldn’t I be contradicting myself if I kept my Facebook in Robert’s name? How can I resolve to not hide and yet still remain hidden behind a name that no longer fits me?
Well, as you might have guessed already, I decided that if I was going to make this resolution to stop hiding my true self then I had damn well better go big or go home with it. Not only did I decide to not hide my status from selected people (as I had done previously with my first coming out as trans to just my friends) but I took it a step further and announced that part of my resolution to no longer hide was to put the name Robert behind me by changing my Facebook to Emma. And so, with the click of a few buttons and the typing of a few keys I came out, once and for all, to all of my family members and all of my in-laws as a transwoman. I am not friends with every single family member or in-law I have, but I am friends with enough of them that this news was sure to spread to all of them (people do love to gossip after all).
And so it was, on January 1st, 2015 that Emma Thrumston would be born into the world of social media, and forever into the minds (and hopefully hearts) of every person I socialize with (all 324 of them).
Now, maybe that makes me somewhat of a coward since I went about doing this behind the safety of a computer screen, but I don’t see it that way. The emotions of fear I felt right before I posted that resolution and made the changes to my profile’s name field were more than enough to legitimize (at least to myself) the monumental move I’d made, a move that took very little time to have an effect as family members and in-laws began contacting me to give me their support.
And so my resolution began, but it was not yet finished. Posting that resolution and change also meant that more work needed to be done. My father is not on facebook, but his sister (who lives right next door to him) is on there and is my friend, so unless I wanted my father to find out from a secondhand source that his son was going to become his daughter, I needed to finally muster the courage to come out to him directly. Additionally, many of my family members on my mother’s side are also my friends, which meant that I would have to give my mother warning that they might be calling her or asking her questions that I knew she would not be prepared to handle or answer.
So, with all due haste, I called my mother and told her what happened and the phone conversation was nothing short of a train wreck. Not only was it rushed, ill-timed, and jarring for her, but it left me reeling from the poor and angry reaction I received from her. I knew that she was still having trouble accepting everything but her denial and frustration became the focal point of the brief conversation as she began to ask me why I’d done what I’d done, only to cut herself off and quickly end the conversation. Just like the time I came out to her I was left feeling horrible and angry. I was so pissed by her reaction. Me being transgender wasn’t something she could really claim was new, not after months of knowing and several conversations (including one with my therapist) about it, so why the angry reaction? She had to know this was coming (she already knew my new name) so how could it come as such a huge shock to her? Why did this have to be a setback to what was turning out to be such a good move on my part?
Well, I digress, because there are no answers to those questions besides she is having her process, and I am not responsible for her feelings or reactions. I can only try to offer as much curtesy towards her (like giving her the heads up that others might be asking her questions) as I can, the rest is up to her.
I had originally intended to call my father after speaking to my mother, but since our conversation ended with me being in a foul and dejected mood, I decided I didn’t have the capacity to risk further humiliation or setback at my father’s unknown potential reaction. Despite this decision my wife, in response to me thanking her for how supportive and loving she’s been towards me after my botched phone call with my mother, decided to divulge that she was also having a hard time with things… when it rains it pours, right?
You can only imagine what this did for my mood as the ball drop and bedtime came rolling around. Instead of finishing 2014 filled with hope and the strength of my newfound convictions to be 100% open about who I was, I was left to lie in bed consumed with doubts and fears. I can tell you that I have never felt so alone in my life as I did just 2 nights ago, but something was different about it. In times past the aloneness was a crushing and depressing feeling, one that often led to thoughts about suicide or wishing I was just dead so I wouldn’t have to suffer it any longer, but this aloneness wasn’t like that at all. Sure, it wasn’t a pleasant feeling, but whether by some result of my meeting with my therapist that day or just the resolution I felt in myself, I vowed to not give in to defeat. Even if my mother wanted to live in denial and my wife decided she couldn’t make the adjustment to having a wife instead of a husband, I refused to give up. I would not be defeated, even if it meant that I had to walk the path ahead of me alone and without the support of those I loved the most. Those were my thoughts as I drifted to sleep.
Upon waking the next morning I found a renewed degree of courage and decided that I had to call my dad before it was too late, so at the early hour of 9am on the first day of 2015 I placed the call I’d dreaded to make. I explained to my father why I was calling and we had a lengthy discussion about me being transgender. To my surprise, shock, and loving awe, my father astounded me with his understanding and acceptance. Not once did he show any signs of frustration or denial or refusal of acceptance. He certainly had a great number of questions but his efforts to understand instead of just be blown away by the enormity of it showed the deep compassion he was capable of. He told me he would always love me and that he would always be my dad, no matter what. He said that he wanted nothing more than for me to be happy and if this is what made me happy then he would support my decision to transition and that decision would not take away from the pride he felt about who I was.
In short, all of the aloneness and discouragement I felt by my mother’s reaction and my wife’s admission of doubt were erased by a whirlwind of love and compassion by my father.
And that is why my resolution is already complete, because now everyone in my family, even my father, knows that I am Emma and that I am woman. I resolved to stop hiding, and in the span of a few days that resolution was finished, so never say again that a quickly resolved resolution cannot be a powerful one because change can come quickly or slowly, but it is change nonetheless.
Now, I just have to survive this weekend with my recently enlightened in-laws… but that’s for another entry.
With much love,
-Emma