Wednesday, February 25, 2015

2-25-2015 Entry: Picture Time!! (my least favorite of all times)

Hello all! So I am now going onto day 6 of being on estrogen and I have to say it has been a bumpy ride so far. My body definitely is unsure WTF is going on and has been rather adamant about telling me how displeased it is with my decision to switch up its hormones. I have experienced a fog-like sickly feeling since starting (although this might be because my T-Blocker dose was doubled and that has a tendency to make me kind of groggy) and it feels like every cell in my body is fighting against the hormones. My body aches and I have pretty frequent, although mild, shooting pains in my arms and legs. I don’t know if what I’m experiencing is in anyway typical for the first week of estrogen but things seems to be getting better. I’m feeling less and less sickly and more and more normal with each day, so I’m hopeful that these initial side effects will eventually wear off as my body becomes more and more accustomed to the new hormones.

With regards to positive effects I can definitely tell you that I already feel my body going to town on what will eventually become my breasts (p.s. it’s totally weird to think about actually having breasts; it’s both disconcerting and exciting all at the same time) because good lord almighty are they sore. I also feel different than I did before. It’s only a small difference right now but hormones really do have a profound effect on a person’s personality and body. It’s almost like I can actually feel the cells in my body changing in response to the hormone changes, like they are being altered and moved around. I know much of this might just be in my head, but I swear that I can feel my body in a way I couldn’t before because of how different it feels. I’m probably not doing a great job of describing this, but how does one find words for the indescribable?

Anyways, I’ve decided that I’m going to take a page out of the books of other transgender people and start posting pictures of myself on here so that there is a visual record (in addition to the written record) of my transition process. I hope that my readers will be kind upon seeing photos of me. As with many other trans* folks I don’t exactly have the greatest confidence in my appearance, especially lately, so please try to either say nice things or nothing at all.

The first picture I’m going to post was taken about 2 or 3 weeks ago, but I more or less look exactly the same. The only differences are that my hair is about ¾ of an inch longer and I’ve shaved my goatee off. I wasn’t satisfied with any of the pictures I took on day one of HRT so for the sake of my own self-conscious vanity I’m going to post this one instead of any of those. In the future I will obviously be posting day-of pictures instead of older ones so that we can see the changes I go through. I want to say that I’ve been rather reluctant to post any pictures of myself because of how masculine I still looked, so hopefully you’ll recall that I am more the person who writes these words than the image posted below.

 So, without further ado, here is Pre-HRT Emma: (Rocking out her awesome tiara-esque headband and pink fingernails! also, sorry for the shower being in the picture)

Monday, February 23, 2015

2-23-2015 Entry: Starting Estrogen and My Trip to the ER

Okay, so I know the title of this post probably sounds a tad bit alarming, but the events of the last few days have been rather…out of the ordinary for me. First I want to begin by reporting that after many months of anticipation I was finally prescribed Estrogen and have officially begun my MtF transition. I went to see the Doctor last Thursday afternoon, at which time we both agreed that it was time for me to begin my trip down estrogen lane. I excitedly ran to the on-site pharmacy and eagerly handed them my prescription documents. They cheerfully gave me buzzer and said it would take around thirty minutes to fill the Rx.
I happily took my buzzer and found a seat in the waiting room where a book on my phone (it’s about non-violent communication).I sat there for quite some time, forced to overhear the phone conversation of some random lady who doesn’t understand it’s rude to have loud phone calls in public waiting rooms, but I digress. After they had closed the doors and attended to all the other people ahead of me in the queue, they called me to desk to regretfully inform me that they could only process the refill on my T-blocker and that I’d have to return the next day to get the estrogen patches.
I wish I could say that I’d taken this minor setback in stride, but that wouldn’t be true. Instead I allowed it to set off every one of my childlike defense mechanisms and careen me into a depression spiral. It was almost as if all the anxiety I’d had up to that point was suddenly spending the night at my apartment with me. My poor wife had to deal with my rotten demeanor knowing full well that there wasn’t much she could do to help me. In the end, the only thing that was going to make me feel any better was to get the Rx I’d been waiting so long for, and even that had no guarantees. In fact, even after I had the prescription in hand the next day and had applied the patch to my leg (important detail for later, btw) my defense mechanism were still in high gear.
It wasn’t until I finally consciously looked at the emotions I was feeling and tried to deliberately soothe them (like one would soothe an upset child) that I was actually able to calm down again and remember that everything was okay. You see, the funny thing about defense mechanisms is that their main purpose is to alert you (the consciousness that inhabits your physical form, not just your physical form) that you might be in danger. The danger might be physical, or it might just be emotional danger, like the danger of disappointment or emotional pain. Once you can consciously look at the emotional alarm bells going off and acknowledge that your choices are being made despite the potentials for emotional pain you allow yourself to turn those bells off. If you can lovingly thank your defensive emotions for doing their job of warning you of potential risks, you can begin to soothe them, thereby consciously turning the warning bells off. Once I did this, my distress and my rotten mood dissipated.
So, the hormones! Oh my good lord, the hormones! So, although I find it positively impossible to actually describe the sensations I felt upon putting on my estrogen patch, I want to make an attempt. The sensations began immediately. Even my wife, who helped me put the first patch on, felt the effects right away when her finger barely contacted the patch.
What were the sensations? Well, they were indescribable, but they were everywhere in my body. From head to toe I felt a wave of the most peculiar sensation I’ve ever experience. It was almost akin to what I understand a hot flash to feel like. It was like a warmth passed into my blood and through my body, making me feel… different… and strange. I know what I’m describing is frustratingly vague and ambiguous but it’s truly an experience you can only understand once you’ve had it firsthand (kind of like sex).
After the initial estrogen “buzz” as one might call it, things seemed to mellow out a bit. The next morning I didn’t really feel much different, except for a slight irritation around the patch (something I was warned about beforehand). That day my wife and I met with some friends at a dog park and later went to lunch. Everything was going relatively fine until Sunday afternoon came along.
The irritation around the patch had seemed to increase while I slept Saturday night because by time I got up on Sunday morning parts of my leg were feeling somewhat sore. At first I thought that the ache might have been a result from all the walking we did the day before at the rather large dog park (I don’t regularly go for hour long walks on nature trails, so sore muscles weren’t out of the question) but as the day progressed and my discomfort increased I started to feel worried that something was wrong. Upon inspecting my right leg (the leg I had the patch on) I found that it had begun to swell in addition to aching. Upon reflecting on my visit with the doctor I recalled her saying something about leg swelling, so I looked over my instructions from her again. There, plain as day, were direct instructions from her to remove the estrogen patch and seek immediate medical attention were I to experience any swelling/aching in my legs in order to rule out a blood clot.
As you might guess reading those instructions was disheartening to say the least. My leg was definitely swollen and the longer the day went on the more it started to throb. At first I decided I would give it some time before I became too alarmed. The patch was on my right leg and my right leg was swelling, so perhaps it would eventually abate. Once the swelling and pain had continued for a few hours, despite raising my leg above my heart and icing parts of it, I decided I couldn’t risk it any longer. I removed my estrogen patch and regretfully informed my concerned wife that I would have to go to the ER since my doctor’s clinic was closed.
After gathering some items in preparation for what might be a long night in the ER (our last overnight stay in the ER a few years ago had been so poorly anticipated that we probably overcompensated for this one) we left towards the hospital. I drove, despite the discomfort in my leg, and made it to the hospital within about 15 minutes. Upon entering the hospital and going through triage, during which I had to painfully explain I’d just begun HRT no less than 3 times to 3 different people, I was rushed into a room and was immediately greeted by a doctor and nurse. (not sure if they weren’t busy or they were highly concerned about my condition but there was no waiting).
I explained I had begun HRT and that my leg was swollen and aching. I explained that I’d been instructed to come in right away under those conditions to rule out blood clots. The Doctor checked my leg, agreeing that it was swollen, and ordered a handful of blood tests and an ultrasound. They took my blood and after waiting about an hour I went in for my very first ultrasound experience. The gel was warm, surprisingly, and there were a lot of strange sounds and awkward moments as the ultra-sound tech had to check my pelvic areas in addition to my leg, but the experience went rather smoothly.
After returning to my room (and wife) we waited about 20 minutes for the results of the ultra-sound and blood tests to come back. The doctor came in and told me that the blood tests and ultrasound had shown no evidence of any blood clotting and assured me that she’d never had an early ultrasound give a false negative. She said I could safely resume my HRT and that I could put my patch back on. She told me that if the swelling didn’t go down within 72 hours from seeing her that I would have to come back again but that I was otherwise okay to go home.
We getherd our things and tiredly made our way home (well after our typical bedtime) where I put on a new patch, this time on the left side of my abdomen. Given the late night ER trip both my wife and I called in sick at work.
It is now Monday night and while I’m happy to say that the swelling has gone down since yesterday, my leg is still a bit achy and puffy. Upon looking around the internet I found a few people who mentioned the estrogen causing them to retain water and to swell up in places. I’m hopeful that that’s what happened to my leg and that my problems with estrogen will be at an end.
I can say that there were many moments during my experience yesterday that I became extremely fearful that the worst was ahead of me. If estrogen gave me a blood clot right away (within 48 hours) then it wasn’t unreasonable that I’d have to permanently give up my plan to medically transition, and if that were to happen, I wouldn’t know what to do. Nothing about my preparation for HRT had included what I’d do if I just medically couldn’t transition because of heart problems. Because of this, I was forced to stare at the ceiling of my ER room and try to envision what I would do under those circumstances.
Would I continue to present as Emma, knowing that I could never look physically female? I’d come to the point of thinking about this transition as my alternative to suicide, so if I couldn’t actually do it at no fault of my own, could I still think of it that way? Was I going to commit suicide if I HAD to not transition for the sake of my own health? That almost seemed counterintuitive. Why avoid the potentials of death by heart attack or stroke only to resort to suicide? Could I just go back to be Robert instead of Emma? Any time I’d considered that idea before I’d been sickened at the thought of “going back into the closet” but would this be different? Would my friends and family understand if I suddenly abandoned this new personality I’d dawned to remain the same old guy they’d always known? Could I handle doing that, or would it eat me alive as it had been before coming out?
I honestly can’t say that I came to any sort of conclusion about that. Luckily I didn’t have to, but only time will tell if my body can actually handle the transition process. 72 hours into estrogen and I feel somewhat sickly. It’s almost like I have a cold coming on. It’s like that exhausted feeling you get when you’ve slept too much lately, you know the one when you’ve slept like 36 hours in the last 72 hours, yet you still just want to go to bed? Also, damn my boobs hurt! My nipples are very unhappy with me right now and my whole chest area is just tender. My whole body is just kind of achy and unhappy with me. I’m hoping this is just the initial recoil of my cells from the introduction of female hormones and that, with time, the discomfort will fade. I remember that I felt somewhat similar the first week on T-blocker and eventually I stopped feeling so strange, so I’m going to remain hopeful for the time being.
Well, that’s all I can stand to share right now. I’m alive and changing physically, despite my body’s protestations.


Wednesday, February 18, 2015

2-18-2015 Entry: Nonviolent Resistance and the Trans* Revolution

"First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win." –Gandhi


I often find myself pondering the words of people who achieved great things because I believe that the truth that allowed them to achieve those great things can be learned by studying what they said in addition to what they did. The quote above from Gandhi is one of the most important quotes I’ve ever read or contemplated and as my transition from male to female begins I believe those words hold even deeper meaning than they ever have for me.

It is no secret that transgender and non-binary people are often marginalized by the cultures, societies, and institutions that surround them. I am fortunate to say that I live in a state where such institutionalized discrimination is prohibited by law (not that it stops it from ever happening), but there are many who are not. Almost every day news about a transgender or non-binary person being murdered just for being who they are can be found. Almost every day transgender and non-binary people are harassed, mocked, ridiculed, and even physically assaulted (if not murdered) simply because they chose not to hide their gender expressions. Even just yesterday a news story was floating around about a father in Ohio who stabbed his daughter to death because she was MtF, and the greatest shame of this story was that the news outlets that covered the story initially referred to the victim as a male (i.e. the father’s son).

Such disheartening refusal to acknowledge the victim’s actual gender in addition to the brutal death they suffered is almost enough to give me pause about transitioning. My wife has even admitted to me that she harbors fears about the kind of harassment and physical danger I may face as my transition takes its toll on my physical body, and she is not unreasonable to hold such fears. I hold the same fears myself, (part of the reason it took so many years to finally accept that I was transgender) but the quote at the beginning of this post reminds me of what I am doing. It reminds me of what each and every transgender and non-binary person is doing when they willingly put themselves in harm’s way in order to live a life true to who they are. It reminds me that even though the state of transgender and non-binary acceptance is currently lacking and a great deal of improvement has to be made before we experience true equality, we are still winning.


“First they ignore you.”


It wasn’t so long ago that being transgender or non-binary in western culture meant that you were completely invisible to the outside world. Most trans and non-binary people hid who they were during the light of day and would only express their true genders in solitude or in the dark of night. There were times in history, many centuries ago, that being openly transgender/non-binary wasn’t dangerous or looked down upon, but the rise of organized Christianity put an end to that for more than a thousand years. It has only been very recently that being openly transgender or non-binary has become somewhat tolerable again by society. And when I say very recently I’m talking about the last 50 years. At the beginning of this change in visibility society as a whole ignored transgender individuals. They weren’t talked about, they weren’t talked to, and they were generally just ostracized from any and all social interaction (except among their fellow gender outlaws). That was how the transrevolution we are currently experiencing began. It was ignored.


“…then they laugh at you…”


Once enough of the trans and non-binary population started coming out and demanding the attention that they deserved society moved from ignoring them to laughing at them. I can remember so many jokes in the 90’s and early 2000’s that revolved around transsexual prostitutes and “tranny” porn (p.s. I detest that word). Just think about all the movies or TV shows you’ve ever seen where someone made a joke about some guy dating a woman who turned out to be a man (notice that it is almost never a man who turned out to be woman, but I digress). These kinds of jokes increased a great deal as the number of openly transgender individuals increased (I say “openly” but what I’m meaning here is that they made their transition and/or were presenting as their identified gender). These jokes turned into ways to verbally assault each other, particularly among men. I can remember countless instances where males teased other males about being so girly they needed a sex change, or alleging that they had already had one because of how girlie they were. Can’t you almost hear Arnold Schwarzenegger calling somebody a “girlie man”? Sure that phrase wasn’t directly referring to transgender and non-binary people, but the transmysoginistic theme is self-evident (adopting that term from this article ).


“…then they fight you…”


Hatred and violence towards transgender and non-binary people is nothing new, but increased visibility of these crimes has shown us that transphobic violence is on the rise ( kind of dated, but it works). There are a lot of reasons the numbers are increasing, not the least of which is an increase in reporting them as transphobic hate crimes, but these numbers paint a grim picture for openly transgender people. As more and more of us come out of the closet and start presenting who and what we are without shame to the communities we live in I suspect that we will see even higher numbers of violent crimes. The more transgender and non-binary people challenge the systems and institutions that discriminate against them and marginalize them, the more those people who uphold the status quo of those systems and institutions will resort to violence to keep things the way they are. We have seen this over and over again all around the world as marginalized groups of people demand equality and fair treatment. See for a great example of how challenging the status quo can result in a violent response; and there are many forms of violence beyond just physical intimidation and injury that can be used to suppress and further marginalize transgender individuals. See this article to witness how political power is currently being used to wage war against transgender and non-binary people: .


The point I’m trying to make is that we as transgender and non-binary individuals have moved through the first two stages of Gandhi’s quote about social change movements and are currently experiencing the third stage; a stage which is on the eve of victory. First they ignored us, then they laughed at us, and now they are fighting us. The number of discrimination lawsuits pertaining to gender identity are on the rise and the number of laws being proposed and debated that would further prohibit the freedoms of transgender and non-binary people are also on the rise. There has been a large escalation in conservative rhetoric pertaining to the dangers of transgender and non-binary culture and influences. Even in my city, one of the most progressive cities in the United States when it comes to gender identity equality and protection saw its major newspaper willingly publish a horribly transphobic full page ad about transgender athletes in highschool in an effort to fight transgender equality. This is something almost completely unheard of before 5 or 10 years ago. The 1990’s would have never been so openly anti-trans as it has become now because we weren’t in the “…then they fight you…” stage of our social movement like we currently are.


While this “…then they fight you…” stage is probably the most difficult one to navigate, it also means that we are so very close to finally achieving the equality and fair treatment we deserve. The president of the United States has even openly mentioned and acknowledged transgenderism, and if that is not indicative of the progress we have made, then I’m not sure what is (that was a first, by the way).


What this means is that we are at a critical juncture in the transgender and non-binary social movement, and our actions in the years to come will determine how much progress is made. The more of us who willingly stand up and nonviolently insist upon recognition and fair treatment, the faster our victory will become. We must not be afraid to be proud of who and what we are. I know so many of us just want to be men or women because it’s easier to just fit in, but we have an obligation not only to ourselves but to those who suffer as we have suffered to nonviolently resist any attempts by institutions, organizations, and governmental bodies to further marginalize transgender and non-binary people. Even if you are not trans or non-binary but know someone who is or love someone who is, it behooves all of you to continue to brazenly stand up to any injustice that they suffer because they are humans too. We are people too and we deserve love, respect, and equality just as much as anyone else. Just because we are misunderstood or because we are “different” from what you were taught as a child doesn’t make it okay for governments to enact laws against us. It doesn’t make it okay for transphobic violence to be acceptable and misreported by the media. No one should die because of their gender expression and until we can impress upon society as a whole that transphobic violence must stop through transfriendly education and local empowerment efforts, our obligation to trans and non-binary people will not be fulfilled.

I attempt to fulfill that obligation to my fellow trans and non-binary humans by authoring this blog where I discuss issues facing transgender/non-binary people as well as unveiling the deep and powerful emotional states that can be experienced during the transition process. I also spend some of my free time answering emails from people seeking help with their gender identity issues. Some of them need advice, some of them need help determining if they actually are transgender or non-binary, and still others just need a compassionate confidant to reveal their feelings to. I am also in the process of applying to graduate school to become a licensed therapist so that I may one day specialize in gender identity therapy. But even all of this is not enough to further the cause. Every day that I am able to I work to spread awareness and compassion to both trans/non-binary individuals, their friends, their families, their advocates, and most especially their detractors. I try to instill in all of these people I come into contact with the one truth that binds us all, that everyone is worthy of love and appreciation; especially those who are so angry at the world that they feel justified in victimizing transgender and non-binary people because they have the social power to do so.


The compassion we must feel for those who would slander, beat, and murder transgender and non-binary individuals reminds me of another powerful quote:


“In the moment when I truly understand my enemy, understand him well enough to defeat him, then in that very moment I also love him. I think it’s impossible to really understand somebody, what they want, what they believe, and not love them the way they love themselves. And then, in that very moment when I love them.... I destroy them.” –Ender’s Game


Obviously our destroying them is figurative, but when we can bring ourselves to truly understand those people who would work so hard to oppress and marginalize transgender and non-binary people we give ourselves the opportunity to love them as they love themselves. We are given the opportunity to truly act out of compassion, and when we return ignorance, hatred, bigotry, and physical violence with compassion, love, and peace, we destroy our enemy. We destroy them because they can no longer be an enemy when they are understood to the point of love. Our love and compassion transforms them from an enemy to something else. Then, and only then, will we see that they are humans too; humans who are afraid and confused, just like so many of us have been afraid and confused about our non-binary or non-conforming genders.


Under such circumstances we are destined to win. We are destined to transform our societies the same way we are transforming our lives and bodies. We can stand tall as we herald in a new era of thinking outside the gender binary box and can show the world the beauty that’s possible when you transcend the gender rules and norms set by society. We can be living examples of what it’s like to practice unconditional love, and there is no higher calling than that.


So, in closing, I hope that everyone who reads this goes out into the world with a different perspective on gender and the future of the transgender/non-binary  social movement. I hope that each of you makes a point to raise awareness of the struggles that we who have non-conforming gender expressions face simply because we are brave enough to be our true selves. I hope that as you interact with your children that you become aware of any gender normative influences that they are exposed to and make efforts to minimize those influences so that they can grow up to be who they are meant to be, not who society says they have to be because of their sex organs. Let us adopt a mindset of allowing and acceptance of differences instead of condemning them out of fear or ignorance.


To be unique is not to be wrong, but to be so perfect that the universe only had to make one of you.



Tuesday, February 17, 2015

2-17-2015 Entry: Expanding beyond Sir and Ma'am Thinking

“Here you go, sir. Is there anything else, sir? Would you like some hot sauce, sir? Which one’s do you want, Sir? Have a good night, sir, and thank you for coming, sir.”


Yes, that quote was something somebody actually said to me a few nights ago. It was a young man (I dually note that I’m making an assumption about his gender, just like he made one about mine with all of those sirs) working at the local taco joint that my wife and I are so helplessly addicted to, and as you might imagine I found his attempts at showing me respect to be highly aggravating.


Now, before I take my high horse out of its stall and start complaining about the bi-genderfication of western cultures and language, I will admit that this kid was probably trying to be polite. He probably, in his sheltered 19 year-old obliviousness, thought he was being kind by acknowledging me as an elder male who was deserving of respect. Oh, to be young and dumb, right?


He probably never guessed that calling me sir was not only offensive to my gender identity (for that I cannot blame him, I still look male, after all) but made me feel old on top of everything! Since when does a 29 year old get sir’d by random teenagers? I certainly don’t look elderly, but I digress.


So why did he call me sir so many times? Why did every sentence he uttered end with the a gender pronoun? Was it necessary to his understanding of my existence to outwardly and verbally label me as male?


I’m going to play the devil’s advocate for a minute and say that yes, I think it really was necessary for him to gender me, and he isn’t alone in that need. I come across people every day who feel a need (almost assuredly a sub-conscious need) to gender the people they interact with. Even I, one who is trying to break past the gender binary programming we all received from society/family/friends/school/church/etc., find myself gendering people, at least mentally. I have done all that I can to stop using gender pronouns for people I don’t know personally, but it can be nearly impossible to do that, especially if you are telling someone else about the encounter. It’s so convenient to say “this guy at the taco place called me sir, like 8 times” compared to saying “a person who had the appearance of a male called me sir, like 8 times,” and there is something very important about that difference.


In college when we discussed the human brain and how it functions on a societal interaction level the fundamental rule that you had to assume was that the human mind would almost always pick the path of least resistance when processing experiences. It almost exclusively chooses to label and separate things into various compartments of understanding. This compartmentalization process is both highly efficient at conserving energy (less thinking = less consumption of calories to power neurons) and extremely good at eliminating the “unknown” from a person’s experience… but there is a flaw to the compartmentalization process. When you allow your brain to just automatically make assumptions about what you are experiencing and don’t question the labels and compartments it ascribes to those experiences, you put yourself in danger of not only ignorance, but of logical fallacies.


If you don’t believe me then take a good hard look at fundamentalist Christians. (Sorry in advance if you are devotedly Christian, I’m sure you are a good person, I just question your judgment skills) When a person takes on the assumptions (compartmentalizations) that the Bible is infallible, that the earth was created in 7 days, that we are all the inbred descendants of two humans who had babies with their babies (gross as fuck by the way) then they are going to be forced to accept some logical fallacies and ignorance to maintain their assumptions. Don’t believe me? Then ask you nearest fundamentalist Christian friend about dinosaurs or even global warming and watch the logical fallacies start piling up. If they don’t spout something about Satan placing Dinosaurs in the ground to test the faith of mankind, or that God just feels like melting the polar ice caps, then you might be subjected to the good old “I don’t know about dinosaurs, and global warming, but I do know what the bible tells me”; otherwise known as ignorance.


So, what do Dinosaurs, global warming, and Christians have to do with me being called “sir” a bunch of times by some kid handing me a bag filled with tasty tacos?? It has everything to do with the compartmentalization of experiences to uphold a predetermined perception about the nature of reality, and we are all guilty of it. Some of us are more guilty than others, but this kid at the taco joint was particularly guilty of compartmentalizing his experience with me as an interaction with a fellow male. Without so much as a thought (this is the point, btw) he* evaluated my appearance, categorized my characteristics and rubber stamped me as a male. Nowhere in this automatic thought process did he* ever stop to consider if the process was actually working correctly. He just assumed that his categorization was spot on and ran with it. His brain eliminated any degree of “unknown” and proceeded with its other computations about his experience (you know, essential things like: does the hot chick working next to him want the D? What should he name his gamer avatar when he gets home? Did he actually like that porn he watched before his shift, or was it kind of disturbing?)


Okay, all jesting aside, what is the point of this rant? The point, my dear friends, is that if we ever hope to find a way to bring awareness of non-binary and transgender gender expressions to the forefront of thought, then we have to stop automatically compartmentalizing our experiences into labels. What I’m suggesting is that we all collectively hit the emergency stop button on the assembly line of mental assumptions and really take a look at how the system is currently processing our experiences. If we complacently sitting in the management office sipping some coffee and eating a donut while our brains automatically take care of processing our experiences then we miss the opportunity to make new experiences. We miss the chance to actively engage with reality and mold our perceptions to a more expanded viewpoint.


If we are willing to shut the automatic sorting system down and really evaluate how the brain has decided to sort our experiences then we open up pathways (neurological and physical) to changing our experiences for the better. As an example, if one continues to just assume that every bad thing with the U.S. government is a result of Obama being president, then that one is at risk of experiencing a rather limited and potentially negative life. If that one is willing to actually evaluate if the “bad” thing was a result of Obama or was a process completely independent of the office of President, then that one opens up pathways to expanding their understanding of how the government works. If they keep questioning their evaluation mechanisms they may even begin to see that the “bad” thing wasn’t actually bad at all, it was just framed by another person as bad because it disagreed with their predetermined perception. If they keep tumbling down this rabbit hole they may eventually come to understand that nothing in this universe is inherently good or bad, but just simply is.


If we can do that with gender by just beginning to question our automatic sorting of people we interact with into the binary categories of male/female, Sir/Ma’am, he/she, her/him, we can begin to see humans as something so much more complex and interesting that A or B. By actually taking the time to evaluate if we are just assuming another person’s gender rather than actually consciously evaluating their gender we open up our chances to experience a deeper understanding of our fellow humans. By just questioning whether or not we should “sir” or “ma’am” a person we derail the auto-compartmentalization process and open ourselves to exploring what exactly gender is, both for ourselves as well as others. When we open the door to self-exploration of gender and what it means to us and to others we interact with, we free ourselves from societal programming and awaken to the vast possibilities that are not only present for ourselves, but for every person on the planet.


 Under such circumstances we may begin to question other parts of our life-experience to see where our minds have been glazing over that “unknown” factor in favor of lazy thinking, and when that begins to happen, the potentials are limitless. We don’t all have to be one or the other, and the minute we remember that fact, we resonate with the infinite consciousness that animates our bodies. An infinite consciousness that not only enjoys new expansions and experiences, but actually constantly craves that new expansion, that new evolution in form, thought, and being. So, I say let’s evolve our thinking so that we can find better and more meaningful ways to interact with one another than sir/ma’am.



Thursday, February 12, 2015

2-12-2015 Entry: Wrestling with Failure

What do I want to do with my life? That is a question I have been asking myself for as long as I can remember. My mother would probably roll her eyes in exasperation if she knew I was still asking myself this question because she witnessed all the vacillating I experienced during high school, college, and even post-college. In one way this question is truly easy for me to answer because I know what my dream job is, but I’ve somehow managed to give up hope on that dream job. What some of you may not know is that I am a writer, and I don’t just mean of blogs. I actually write fiction stories, including two published novels, but since publishing my second book, I’ve lost all my steam and am now just a train stuck on a track with no power to move forward.

I wish I could say my writing efforts had led to the success that I envisioned, but that would be a gross misrepresentation. I have made less than a thousand dollars from my writing efforts over the last couple years and the income continues to dwindle. I know many are probably thinking, who cares about the money, if you love to write, then write! But I just can’t bring myself to do it anymore. So many hours of my life were poured into the writing, editing and publishing of those two novels that to get almost nothing in return for the effort is just too disheartening. I didn’t expect to become a millionaire over night or to even be able to quit my job right away, but making $40 a month off of my work is just disgraceful. It makes me feel like such a failure.

 I used to be so excited about it, I used to enjoy telling people about it and pouring my free time into it, but lately I can’t even open up my laptop to work on either of the two novels I have going right now because it feels pointless to do so. If I write another book will I start to make $45 a month instead of $40? Is it really worth the hundreds of hours it would take to finish what I’ve started? I’d love to think that this time around things will be different and I will have greater success than I had before, but that just feels like a self-delusion. I used to think that if one continued on despite failure all around them that they would eventually find great success, but the more times I fail the more that line of thought just sounds like madness.

So, I come back to my original question: what do I want to do with my life? Setting all the transgender stuff aside, I have been feeling quite lost about my future lately. I am so unbelievably fed up with being a paralegal that it’s become a monumental chore just to get out of bed in the morning. Every single day my alarm goes off I ask myself if I can get away with calling in sick. I, being the “responsible adult” that I am, never actually do that but what does it say about my current profession that I detest the idea of having to do it every single morning? Aren’t we supposed to find some kind of work that gets us up in the morning? Some kind of work that keeps us up late at night and captures our hearts and minds combined? For a very long time writing was that for me. I loved to write. I loved brainstorming my books and stories. I’d spend hours and hours after bedtime toiling away on my stories, but the continued lack of financial viability of it eventually stole my enthusiasm away. I know if I won the lottery and could quit my paralegal job all I would do is write. I’d write, write, write, and write some more, not caring if I was selling 10 books or 10,000 books. If money was no object I would just write. I’d blog, I’d work on my novels, I work on my poetry, and I’d continue to answer emails for my gender therapist friend, and I would feel so fulfilled; that I know for certain… but money is an object.

The $3000+ in bills a month won’t just disappear, so what am I supposed to do about those? I know, I can work and write at the same time, but how does one find the motivation to write after one has spent all day working at a job that’s just mentally draining? Don’t get me wrong, my employer is very good. My job is very good, but it’s not the right one for me. It’s kind of like being in a semi-committed relationship with someone you just sort of like. Sure, you can have fun, you can have great experiences and learn a lot about yourself, but at the end of the day, your heart just doesn’t sing like it’s supposed to. Maybe the sex (aka money) is even pretty good and allows you to feel somewhat satisfied in that way, but you never have a say in how it’s accomplished; you essentially just have to go for the ride and hope it’s not terrible (and sometimes, it can be).

So, if my job drains me of any motivation or creativity, and my writing isn’t going to be paying my bills anytime soon, then what should I do? I’ve been toying with the idea of going back to school to get my master’s degree, or maybe even a Ph.D. in psychological/marriage and family counseling, but do I really want to do that? Do I really want to spend several more years of my life studying, writing papers, and taking tests in order to become a psychologist/therapist? I certainly find a great deal of enjoyment out of corresponding with people questioning their gender identities and really enjoy when my correspondence with them actually helps them feel better or come to a better understanding of who they are, but would I be quitting as a writer by going back to school?

Maybe that is a stretch but this is the dilemma I am currently wrestling with. If I admit that my writing may never actually become a full time job, and I make arrangements to find a career more suited to my personality and desires than being a paralegal, does that mean I’ve given up on my life-long dream to be a writer? I’ve believed for a long time that the only true way to be a failure is to give up or to quit, so would this mean I was a *true* failure?

Part of my concern here is that between working full time and going to graduate school part time I have to anticipate that my desire to write will be even less present than it currently is; I mean, a person can only handle so much “working” before they need time to unwind and relax, right? And if graduate school takes years (between 2 and 5 years depending on what I choose to study) will I ever be able to pick my writing back up again? I can already feel rust accumulating on the creative writing gears inside of me from a lack of movement after just a few months of not writing, so what will a few years be like?

Obviously these are all rhetorical questions but I’m feeling relief in having asked them here. I want to believe that I can do all three at the same time. I want to believe that I can finish off this career in law as I work towards a bright future in psychotherapy at the same time that I dabble some more in fiction writing, but I’m not sure I can do all of that at once. Luckily I don’t have children and based on my conversations with my wife, she doesn’t want them for at least a few more years, so now truly is the best time to try to accomplish all of this, but do I have the capacity to accomplish all of it?

I think I might just have to be crazy enough to try. I refuse to believe that I can’t still become something of a writer. Maybe I won’t be J.K Rowling or Stephanie Meyer and make hundreds of millions of dollars, but I can be a transwoman extraordinaire who’s also a part-time author, a gender therapist, and a doctor of psychology, right?! Perhaps going to graduate school doesn't have to mean that I'm giving up on my writing career. Perhaps I should just release any expectation I had that being a writer was something meant for me. I don't mean that in a bad way, but for so long I've been clinging to this idea that I would never find happiness unless I became a full-time author, so maybe by letting go of that idea I will find a way to love writing again. I think that's what I'm going to try to do.

Well, thank you for bearing with me on that written journey of self-exploration. I know it probably wasn’t all that great or interesting for you, but I certainly feel a lot better about my future than I did 30 minutes ago.


Wednesday, February 11, 2015

2-11-2015 Entry: Frustrations and Coming Out to My Boss

I don’t know what’s wrong with me lately. I feel such a sense of impatience and irritation over the last few days that I’m starting to just want to pull my hair out. I know at least some of my issue is the fact that my wife and I have been living on the poverty budget for the last six months. Finances have even gotten worse, in no small part because all of the money we had saved is now fucking gone due to earnest money and home inspections (inspections that turned up problems that will need to be fixed immediately either by us or the sellers of the house we are buying). What the rest of my problem is, exactly, I have no flippin idea. For all intents and purposes everything is going along smoothly. I even have really good news to share and yet all I want to do is scream and cry and piss & moan about how unhappy I am. Is this dysphoria?

My therapist has often alleged that gender dysphoria frequently manifests as having a lingering and pervasive sense that something is wrong with them, and that’s certainly how I feel right now. Something is wrong with me, but hell if I know what it is. You would think with lowered testosterone levels that I’d be more prone to being relaxed or less angry, yet I’ve found the opposite to be true. I almost feel like I have roid-rage sometimes because I’m just furious for no reason.

I don’t mean to get all negative on my readers by the purpose of this blog is to document as best as I can what the transition experience is like, and this festering anger and pervasive state of irritation certainly seems to be part of it, at least for me. My wife is being so good to me, is even finally planning to tell her coworkers about me. The house buying experience is actually going quite smoothly and is very exciting. My cat still loves me and purrs when I pet her. The dog still blissfully smiles up at me while wagging her tail when I look at her. My coworkers are treating me with kindness and respect, and I’ve even made some significant progress at my job with coming out (which I’ll address in a moment). Everything is going so good, yet I just want to rip somebody’s head off!!! You know that old school Limp Bizkit song, Break Stuff? Well that’s is how I’ve been feeling lately.

I think some of it has to do with the fact that, mentally speaking, I feel so much more like Emma than I look on the outside. It’s ridiculous how much a reflection can continue to bother a person. I look in the mirror and I see this man staring back at me and I just feel so goddamn irritated by it, but why? Why does his stupid face have to always be there, mocking me? Sometimes I just want to claw that face until it no longer resembles the reflection I’ve seen so many times.

Okay, I know, I’m falling off the deep end a little. You all are probably like, “Damn, Emma is cray-cray,” and you would be mostly right, I think. I really feel like I’ve just gone insane. My mind has broken from reality and has convinced itself that it’s really a girl instead of a boy and when that girl sees the boy staring back at her, contradicting everything she knows and feels, she becomes so angry. Great, now I’m talking about myself in the third person. I’ve got to pull it together, right? I’ve got to calm down and take some deep breaths, right? In…. Out…. In…. Out…….. yep, still want to commit random acts of violence.

You know I’m kidding right? I’d never actually violently assault anyone… at least not anyone who didn’t deserve it >;)

Okay, well now that we’ve finished with this week’s episode of “How Crazy is Emma, really?” I guess I can talk about my progress at work.

So, I have officially come out as transgender to my boss and HR person!! Honestly, I wasn’t really planning to have done it so soon, but sometimes things just progress in such a way that your plans have to be thrown out the window and you’ve just got to go with the flow. It’s a somewhat complicated story but suffice it to say that I came out to my HR person, who was surprisingly mature and professional about the whole thing (she has a reputation to the contrary). I think she was able to maintain that level of professionalism because she somehow already knew that I was transgender and that I was going to be making the transition from male to female. How she came by that information is beyond me, but I have a few hunches. Regardless of her unexpected insight, she took me telling her very well and suggested that we tell the CEO of the firm the same day (this was yesterday). After I left her office, surprised at her positive reaction, she managed to track the CEO down and get a few minutes of his time where the two of us could discuss my transition with him.  Coming out to him was much harder than it was with the HR lady for some reason. Perhaps I felt reluctant because he was a man and I haven’t really come out to many men except for my father (and facebook friends), or perhaps it was just because he had no idea what I was about to tell him (compared to the HR lady who alleged that she already knew a few minutes before I told her). Regardless of my reluctance and need for the HR lady to sort of help me get the ball rolling my boss was very understanding and kind. He talked to me about how this was a first for them but that they wanted to make sure everything was done as smoothly as possible, keeping in mind both my feelings and needs, as well as the firm’s needs and legal obligations.

Because the two of them have never experienced having a transgender employee before they admitted that they were going to be relying on me to some degree to help them navigate the transition process, which I have to say came as somewhat of a surprise to me. True, I didn’t expect them to be like “oh, we’ve done this a million times, don’t sweat it, Emma! /high-fives all round” or anything, but I’m not sure I was expecting to have to be the one in the driver’s seat. On one hand it’s probably a good thing because I can hopefully have some control over the process which would probably be good for me and my mental health (gotta keep the cray-cray at bay right?), but on the other hand it feels like just another burden of being transgender.

I don’t mean to discourage anyone from transitioning if that’s what they feel will make them happy, but it’s really important to understand how difficult of a process transition can really be. This is definitely no Sunday stroll in the park where I get to feed the ducks and breathe in the fresh air. This has been hard. This has been painful. This has been aggravating and exasperating. This really has been a burden, one that so few people ever have to carry. Having to be responsible for carving out a process by which my company can adequately handle having a transgender employee is no simple task. I don’t want to minimize the equal rights movement for women or for African Americans, but damn if I don’t feel like I can truly appreciate their struggles right now. I’m working against a system that is so heavily stacked against me and people like me that it’s almost unbelievable. The worst part about all of it is that there are no local resources for me to use as a guideline for helping my employer write a guideline for handling transgender employees!! I basically have to create one myself based on rather generic ones offered by groups like HRC (Human Rights Campaign) and other transgender friendly companies. I guess I should be grateful that I even have those to work with, but I’m struggling to appreciate them the way I should.

The sad thing about all of this is that even though my employer now knows about my plans to transition, I’m still no closer to actually coming to work as Emma. The vast majority of my coworkers still don’t know and won’t know for some time. My appearance is still so masculine that to try to present as Emma would just feel silly right now. I would just look like a tall dude in women’s clothing with almost assuredly botched makeup, and I don’t think my current lack of self-esteem could handle the reactions I would get like that.

Part of my current frustration is the fact that I’m not even on the hormones that will make my body change. I still have another week or more before I can begin estrogen and my patience is wearing thin. I know I should be content with where I am, because there is nothing besides the now, but I really want to just be on estrogen already. I really want to already be making the gradual changes towards a female body instead of standing in the infuriating state of male-limbo. And that is what it is. That is why I’m so upset these last few days. I’m ready to be somewhere that I can’t be yet and there is nothing I can do about it besides wait… and I hate waiting. Waiting requires patience, and god didn’t see fit to equip me with a strong sense of patience. We all have our virtues that need working on, and mine, is definitely patience.

Well, thanks for reading my rant. I apologize for the negativity of this post, but sometimes you’ve just got to vent, right?



Thursday, February 5, 2015

2-5-2015 Entry: Buying a House and the Process of Unbecoming Handsome in Order to Become "Pretty"

This post will be two fold in nature. First, I’m happy to announce that my wife and I have bought a house! Well, sort of. We have an executed contract with the current owners to buy their house given that the inspections we have scheduled for this weekend go through without any deal-breaking issues. Needless to say both Sarah and I are very excited about this new chapter in our lives because the era of apartment living is finally at an end. We know there will be new trials and tribulations in the realm of house ownership but both of us are still eager to have a home of our own. For those who might be interested in the finer details it’s a two story house with three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a nice large kitchen, a fenced yard, a nice nook for me to have an office, a sunroom for Sarah to read in, and a large garage for us to store our car and extraneous crap in! 
 It’s no mansion, but compared to the 800 square foot one bedroom apartment we’ve been living in for the last two and a half years, it feels like a palace to me!

Now, some of you might be wondering where this leaves my wife and I with regards to our relationship. I’m happy to say that things between us are as strong and loving as ever. Last week she joined me at my weekly therapy appointment where I was given extra insight into how she was feeling about everything and how she was handling the transition, and as my therapist put it during our session yesterday, it was evident how truly committed she was to me and our marriage. It is in no small part due to our mutual therapy session and the conversations that followed later that night that I now feel very little anxiety about our marriage or her ability to still love me as Emma the transwoman instead of Robert the man. It is because of this recent development in perceived stability between us that I hold no reservations about buying a house with her and fully expect that our lives will continue on in more or less the same fashion it always has. I hold no illusions that the future won’t still hold trials and stumbling blocks for the two of us as my transition continues, but I feel fairly confident that our love can weather those storms.

On to the second part of this post. I’ve made an observation that I feel compelled to discuss and share here about the nature of masculinity and femininity, with particular regard to sex appeal. Mainly I’ve begun to notice that in order to become “pretty” in the female sense of the word a person must become un-handsome. That probably doesn’t make a whole lot of obvious sense but bear with me a moment as I try to flesh this thought out a bit.

I have never held my physical appearance in high esteem for about as long as I can remember. Before the age of… let’s say 11, my physical appearance wasn’t really something I cared about. Sure, there were moments of dysphoria even back then where I had to wonder why I was a boy instead of the girl I believed myself to be, but there was neither any degree of fondness nor discomfort with my appearance. It just wasn’t something that was thought about or worried about. After that age, when the sex hormones began to do their work and I found myself more and more attracted to women, things started to change. Suddenly my appearance became more of a concern, especially when the pimples started happening. Let’s just say Robert the adolescent had a considerable issue with pimples; enough so that he took a drug that now is no longer offered (I believe) and has a class action law suit against (Acutane). You can probably imagine that under such pimpled conditions my self-esteem with my physical image was pretty low. Not only was I a boy who was tragically becoming more and more “manly,” but I was also pimple faced, abnormally tall, and kind of lanky (I was almost 6 foot at the age of 12).

I tell you all of this because I want you to understand that even after all these years with the pimples finally gone, I still don’t really think of myself as handsome or attractive as a male. I know that others are prone to disagree with me (my wife gets pretty mad at me if I call myself ugly) but my lack of physical self-esteem is still present. I suspect a good deal of that has to do with the fact that my body displays the opposite sex to the gender I feel inside, but I digress.

So, with reluctance to use the term handsome, I’ve noticed that as I’ve moved my appearance more and more to the feminine side of things, I have become decreasingly handsome. In order to (hopefully) become pretty at the end of my transition it’s almost like I must completely do away with any degree of the male attractiveness I’ve developed over the years. Perhaps you are thinking to yourself, “well, duh!” but this has really been a revelation to me because of the profound consequences it has on my normal routine.

In times past it was easy enough to get up, shower, shave, trim the goatee, and style my very short hair in less than perhaps 20 minutes. Now when I get up in the morning the ordeal has become quite a bit more involved. I haven’t started wearing makeup to work yet, so it’s not as bad as it will eventually be, but the time it takes for me to get ready is increasing. Because my hair is longer it takes more time to wash and condition. It takes more time to dry, and it takes more time, effort, and product to style it in a fashion that doesn’t make me look terribly tragic. This is where the un-handsoming becomes quite pronounced to me. When a person thinks of a handsome man they probably think about a man who is well kempt and clean-cut. They are probably unlikely to think of a handsome man as a guy whose hair is abnormally long, strangely styled, and kind of frizzy. When I look in the mirror I don’t see the “handsome” man I used to see anymore. Instead I see this unkempt-looking man who has hints of pretty trying to come to the surface.

I suspect that I’ve rambled quite a bit in this post and that I haven’t adequately captured the point I was trying to make but hopefully you at least partially understand what I mean. In order for a male to become a female in appearance, almost every vestige of maleness or handsomeness needs to be slowly undone before any degree of femininity or pretty can be achieved. I guess what I’m trying to say is that there is this place between pretty and handsome that a person has to progress through when they make the decision to transition and that this “no gender land” can be a bit difficult to navigate. It’s really not as simple as putting on some makeup and talking in a higher voice. You really almost have to completely deconstruct your “look” before you can build a new one that better matches your identified gender.

Anyway, sorry if that didn’t make any sense or was just a long winded way to say: my longer hair makes me look less handsome, yet not pretty. If nothing else, I hope I’ve given some insight into how difficult it can be to articulate the way a transgender person feels as their physical appearance changes during transition.



Monday, February 2, 2015

2-2-2015 Entry: The Time for Compassion and Empathy

I know I’m at risk of sounding like a broken record on here, but I feel compelled to broach the subject of Transgender compassion again. Over and over I see other transgender bloggers reacting to the insensitivity of cisgender people and the binary system we currently live in with anger and resentment. I see them becoming little more than children, pointing their fingers at what they perceive as wrong and shouting “unfair!” and “You’re wrong and I’m right!!”


I understand, better than most, how tempting it is to become angry at the way transgender people are perceived and talked about. This whole Bruce Jenner thing has gotten so out of hand that it makes sense that many transgender bloggers, allies, and advocates are finding the situation appalling. The way the media is handling what may be a rather sensitive and personal matter for Bruce Jenner really is evident of the perception many in our society hold about transgenderism. Mainly, it’s being portrayed as some sort of scandalous thing. Rumors are flying, secrets are being divulged, the crowds are whispering and snickering. Oh my god, he might be a she?? Teehee.


Under such circumstances it makes sense to me why the collective trans community is raising their defenses. This media circus has all the makings for a perceived threat to the trans community and their efforts for equality and privacy, but now is the MOST CRITICAL OF TIMES TO NOT BECOME DEFENSIVE. This is the moment when the situation is at a critical juncture and can either spiral completely out of control and escalate into an all-out battle, or it can become an amazing opportunity for growth and understanding.


Right now is the absolute best time for us to remember our capacity for compassion and empathy. We need to remember that, while the cis-skewed media circus may be seen as insensitive and that the jokes by cisgender people  that are floating around the internet might be hurtful to those of us who are trans, it’s not because cisgender people are monsters. They are humans too, incapable of fully understanding what a non-binary gender is like without experiencing it first hand, and their actions likely come from a place of ignorance, not malice. We must be willing to empathize with their lack of understanding and not become angry and resentful because of it. We must act kindly towards them as we ask for them to treat us and the Bruce Jenner situation with more sensitivity.


Additionally, right now is the best time for us to divulge our vulnerability! I know trans and non-binary people are reluctant to ever divulge their vulnerability because of the dangers we already face but if we ever hope to grow, to become something more than just a tabloid headline or the butt of a joke, then we must show the world that we are humans too. We must show the cisgender community that we have emotions and that we are feeling fearful or hurt. We must tell them that seeing the media circus around Bruce Jenner makes us feel frightened that we won’t be understood or that we will be made into a mockery, and that we have a need to be understood and respected as human beings. We need to request of them to try to report anything about transgenderism with kindness and respect, acknowledging it as a legitimate subject of personal identity and not some shameful thing deserving of rumors and jokes.


Most of us won’t get the opportunity to tell the news media these things directly, but we can tell our friends and our social networks. If we are willing to divulge publicly that we are feeling fearful or worried about the Bruce Jenner thing and that we are wanting our friends to still treat us (and all trans/non-binary people) with respect and kindness, then we can allow them the opportunity for compassion. On the contrary, if we get on our social networks and shout about how wrong or stupid it is and make blanket statements about how insensitive all cisgender people are, we will only lose their respect and provoke their defenses.

We must look upon this situation, and any others like it, as an opportunity to find common ground. When we non-violently make our emotions and needs known, we are given the opportunity to request the changes the trans* community has been seeking for so long. When we can approach our cisgender friends and acquaintances with an open heart and express our needs cohesively we give them the chance to see us as more than just a transgender person. We allow them the opportunity to see us as fellow humans with feelings, needs, and vulnerabilities, and that opens the door for them to act out of the kindness inherent in their being. When we show them that we are suffering, not by lashing out with anger or accusations but by revealing our emotions and fears we move beyond their defenses and connect with them in spirit, mind, and heart.


Let us be peaceful, let us be loving, let us be compassionate, let us empathize with the cisgender population for their failures at sensitivity instead of deriding them with anger and resentment. Let us become all the things we hope to receive so that the cisgender population can see that we are more than just tabloid headlines. Let us reveal to them our suffering so that they may help us alleviate it. Being transgender isn’t shameful; unless we react to misunderstanding in such a way that we bring shame upon ourselves. Let us offer compassion instead of shame so that we may receive their compassion instead of their shame.