Tuesday, June 30, 2015

6-30-2015 Entry: Kate Bornstein Love and The Cave You Fear To Enter


Hello my darlings! I know I’ve been typing away over here in recent days, haven’t I? I think that perhaps finally living my fulltime life as a transwoman has brought out a brighter and more exuberant side to me. Part of this more exuberant and well, social, side to myself has resulted in me re-investing some of my time and effort into Twitter. I won’t lie, the twitter realm was truly a place that confused me for the longest time. I had no idea what I was doing, how to actually use it in a way that was fun or meaningful (if such a thing is possible),  and went about it all wrong.

I’ve recently been discovering the appeal to it (better late than never, right?) in that I’ve been able to rub virtual shoulders with people I would never actually have the opportunity to talk with. People like my lesbian-girl-crush Jamie Clayton (who favorited my tweet to her, which was exciting because evidently I’m rather pathetic), and most recently my not-so-inconspicuous writing idol Kate Bornstein. I know I’ve mentioned Kate at least a handful of times and have actively promoted their (preferred pronoun) book “My Gender Workbook” both on this blog and to those people I email with for my volunteer efforts with the gender therapist Dara Hoffman-Fox, but I can honestly say I never thought I’d have the opportunity to meet them.

I revere Kate’s writing, and the gender workbook changed my life in a lot of ways. When I first came out of my denial and acknowledged that I was transgender (and eventually non-binary), their book was the thing that provided me with a whole new perspective. Instead of feeling awful about myself and ashamed that I was weird, I learned from their words how to embrace my “difference” and how to see it in a positive light. I was introduced for the very first time to the concept of Queer Theory and I have been running with it ever since.  My time spent with “My Gender Workbook” revolutionized the way I saw myself, the way I understood the world, and the way I decided to live. Their words inspired me to endeavor to become a gender outlaw, to undermine the cisgender binary stratification of our society by willingly choosing not to participate in the illusionary power disparities and encouraging others to forsake the archaic system with me. Their words opened a whole new world (/queue Aladdin soundtrack music) to me and inspired me to transcend gender, both for myself and for anyone I came into contact with. This blog evolved from simply an online journal to help me cope with the anxieties inherent in breaking free from socialized gender expectations to a place where I could have a voice, where I could reach others and inspire them (hopefully) in much the same way Kate inspired me.

 Auntie Kate equipped me with the tools to begin my deconstructive efforts and in no small way has influenced my social thesis even to this day. The transgender mystique thesis I’ve been developing (of which the term is the newest addition) over the last several months found its roots in the rich soil of Kate’s outlaw-ism. It provided the rich nutrients necessary to allow this to grow and it still feeds it even now. Perhaps it is silly of me to say, but many of my efforts have been offered with the hope that Kate, were they ever to become aware of me, would find merit in my work and my words; that someone, as giant as they are, could look upon the offspring of their life’s work and smile proudly that a new generation of gender outlaws were rising up.

Imagine then, my excitement last night when I discovered a picture tweeted by Caitlyn Jenner (who I follow) which included her standing among a group of trans* rock stars that included my favorite (and idolized) author, Kate Bornstein! I immediately replied to that tweet and asked if that was who I thought it was and discovered that Kate Bornstein is on twitter!! I, of course I followed her like immediately because how could I not?

My excitement turned into elation when my response to that tweet was not only favorited but also responded to by Kate Bornstein!! I about fell out of my goddamn chair last night when that happened. I know this probably all sounds so silly but I’ve been day-dreaming about the opportunity to meet Kate ever since I started reading their work, so for them to descend from the throne of Gender Outlawry to interact with a lowly acolyte such as myself was like a mini-dream come true.

Realizing that I may never have the opportunity again, I did something I wouldn’t normally do and tweeted back at Kate that I loved their writing, that they had inspired me towards gender outlawry as well, and that it would make my life is they read my blog.

And would you

Fucking

Believe it

They did!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I know this because They tweeted about my post contrasting my two years at PRIDE! “@R_T_Edwins Lovely piece, contrasting your two years at Pride works very well. xoxo Auntie”

This time I really did fall out of my chair. OMG, did that really just happen? Did my idolized author just read my writing and then compliment it? Perhaps they were just being nice to me with the compliment but the fact that Kate Fucking Bornstein took the time to read my words just makes my entire year (and possibly life). I know, this post is completely ridiculous, and if Kate ever comes back to read my words again they will likely just roll their eyes and yawn at my blatant fan-girling (of which I’m sure they are used to by now), but I don’t care.

When things like this happen to me, when I get offered opportunities to be in a news story because of my transition, when an idolized author compliments my writing, when my lesbian-girl crush acknowledges my existence, and when my readership nearly quadruples in the span of a month I start to feel like I’m really on the right path in life. Perhaps that sounds cheesy but I recently wrote to one of my emailers about something I haven’t really discussed much here. Right before I had my famous “I’m a lady” dream, I came across an idea that has changed my life forever.

Right before, and I do mean right before, like maybe a few weeks before the dream, I learned about this teaching. It was framed in terms of the Law of Attraction, which I leave up to you to believe in or not (I absolutely see it at work every day of my life, just so you know) and it was based off of something Joseph Campbell once said. He said, “The cave you fear to enter, holds the treasure you seek.”

On the surface that saying doesn’t really seem all that profound but when you come to understand exactly what he meant and the amazing possibilities that come from understanding and using that principle, the saying takes on a whole new and deeper meaning. In short, the idea is that every person has something (or many things) that they really want to do but are just deathly afraid of doing it (entering the cave). They would like the results that they may achieve if they did do that thing, but their fear stops them. It creates a sort of barrier between them and the object of their desire (the treasure). This fear barrier is so powerful, so strong and pervasive, that it seems insurmountable to the person, but it isn’t. An example of this fear barrier would be the immense denial mechanisms and fear I felt about transitioning genders. It can manifest in many different ways in each person, but there is almost always something that a person wants to do, be, or have that their fear prevents them from trying to achieve. This could be becoming a writer, a singer, an actor, a painter, a business owner, an athlete, or any other kind of thing.

Most people just allow this fear barrier to prevent them from going after this dream. They tell themselves that it’s impossible for them to achieve it. They might begin to try but they almost always just give up at the first sign of trouble. Metaphorically they go into the entrance of the cave, see a shadow on the wall and say, “Forget it, it’s not worth it.”

That is what I did when I first realized I was probably transgender. I dressed up with my girl clothes and my wig, looked in the mirror and decided that the road to becoming feminine would be too hard or impossible for me; so I gave up. I entered the front of the cave, saw a shadow I didn’t like and turned back. The fear barrier successfully prevented me from doing something I knew I wanted. Fast forward a few years and I was at the entrance of that cave again. This time there was the sweet melody of a siren (the female version of myself in the dream) calling to me from inside that metaphorical cave and I knew that if I ever wanted the treasure inside that cave (happiness, peace of mind/body, the life I wanted to live), I had to just go for it. I pushed past the fear barrier and entered that cave with as much determination as I could muster. I navigated through the winding cavern, avoiding pitfalls and having to double back when I hit impasses, until eventually I found the treasure I was looking for. The last thing I had to do was make one last leap of faith and I could claim the treasure for myself.

I did that and went fulltime as Emma; and doing that has been like finding a treasure that just keeps on giving. My life is literally transforming much like my body is, and it is getting so much better. All of my dreams and aspirations are starting to come true. The things I want to do in life are starting to happen. I’m being given opportunities I would have never thought possible before this transition to Emma.

“The cave you fear to enter, holds the treasure you seek.” Never forget those words. Never forget what I just told you about the fear barrier. Is there something you want to do, but have been too afraid to try? Is there some dream job out there that you’ve always wanted to do but have convinced yourself you weren’t good enough or there wasn’t enough opportunity? Is there some passion you’ve been secretly holding that you’ve been too afraid to openly embrace? Is there some way of living that you really want to try but are fearful of starting? If so, then I want you to know, unequivocally, that that is your metaphorical cave, and the treasure you seek, whether it’s happiness, love, joy, success, or even fame, it’s waiting for you inside that cave. Hopefully the thing you are wanting to do, be, or have isn’t something bad like becoming a famous serial killer or something (I’m definitely not encouraging that; don’t do that! You are right to fear that!), but if it is something that you think would be good or would make you happy, then please do it, not for me, but for yourself. You will always regret never being brave enough to enter that cave if you don’t at least try, and you will be even more disappointed if you try and then give up at the first sign of trouble.

If I hadn’t transitioned or I had given up at the first sign of trouble, I wouldn’t be living this amazing and rewarding life right now! My idolized writer wouldn’t be reading my words! I wouldn’t have been given the opportunity to engage in the most meaningful work I’ve ever done (volunteering for Dara)! I wouldn’t have found a way to revitalize my marriage and re-foster a deep sense of attachment and love with my wife (things are going really good there, but more on that later)! I wouldn’t have figured out at long last what I wanted to do with my life!

You cannot let fear stop you from achieving your dreams. Even if you fail to achieve everything you hope for, you will still go to your deathbed (which is an unavoidable date, sorry my lovelies) and be proud of how you gave it your best shot. Don’t squander your precious time on this Earth worrying about the things that might go wrong. Start embracing your precious time on this Earth by making every second count! You can’t get any of it back, all you can do is look back on it either fondly and proudly, or with disappointment; it’s your choice.

Anyways, if Kate Bornstein is being extra amazing right now and still reading my words, I want you to know that your tweet, while it might have only taken a moment to type, meant the absolute world to me! You really are the best!

Oh, and we should get lunch some time! (can’t receive if you don’t ask, right?) >;)

 

-Emma

Monday, June 29, 2015

6-29-2015 Entry: My First PRIDE Festival as Emma


Hello my darlings! I hope this past weekend was as good for the rest of you as it was for me. It started out with the aforementioned get together at my friends house (you know, the one with the mother who wasn’t sure how to explain my situation), which went really well. It was quite fun and we drank quite a bit, which is always fun, until the next morning, of course. I got to see my lesbian friends for the first time since they moved out of state, which was just lovely. I miss them so much, especially the one I worked with. It was her first time seeing me all dressed up as Emma and she had so many nice things to say. I’m quite sad I won’t get to see her again for who knows how long. We have tentative plans to go to the renaissance festival in a few months but we’ll see how that goes.

As for my friend’s family and friends I didn’t know, none of them seemed at all bothered by me, my presence, or my appearance. Her stepdad, who she’d warned me about, was actually completely nice and genial to me and my wife, which just proved why the “need” to explain my situation to the guests of the party was completely misguided. People, more often than not, just roll with things when you assert them as acceptable. Had I went into the party and felt the need to explain who I was, why I was the way I was, and what I expected from everyone else it would have just been awkward and opened the door for potential disaster. I cannot say this approach will always work; I’d never go into a, say, fundamentalist southern Baptist church and just assert my presence there and expect everyone to just be cool with it. That wouldn’t work, and I don’t even think trying to explain myself would bridge the gap either. If anything, it might just pit them further against me because they’d think I was unwilling to see their point of view (which I’m not, I totally do; I just happen to reject it as antiquated mysticism, but that’s my prerogative as a free citizen)

Anyways, the point is, asserting your social acceptance and social power rather than asking for it or trying to explain why you deserve it, seems to be the better route to travel in civilized company. Instead of trying to validate yourself or ask others to validate you, just go in, head held high, and pronounce with body language and confidence (artificial or not) that this is who you are and it’s up to them to figure out how to handle it. The longer I go living as Emma, the more and more I respond to cisgender responses with an attitude of “Deal with it!” /sunglasses drop in front of my eyes.

The next day, of course, was quite the contrary experience. Sunday was the twin cities PRIDE parade and festival, which both my wife and I attended (pictures below). What a world of difference being at PRIDE was compared to being at a cisgender-hosted small gathering. It’s truly hard to explain how I felt at this festival of an estimated 400,000 people celebrating the diversity of human love, sexuality, and gender. Rather than feeling like others were judging me or that I might require explanation in their eyes, I felt… at home. I felt at peace. I felt, for the first time since transitioning to full time as Emma, completely safe in public (minus the fear of being trampled to death by the surging crowds, of course).

When I walked down the street holding my wife’s hand, we received looks of approval and affection rather than confusion and/or judgement. How surreal it felt to actually be able to participate in the festival simply by being present, open, and unafraid of who I was and who I loved. This was the second time I’d been to the twin cities PRIDE festival, and the first time I’d actually seen the parade. The last time I went, my wife and I (I think we’d just gotten married a few weeks earlier) attended so that we could volunteer at a booth promoting Marriage Equality (I’m changing my description from the previous Same-sex to try to be more inclusive). This was before Minnesota had legalized Marriage equality and the booth was set up to take pictures of people holding little chalkboards explaining what marriage meant to them. The idea was to show just how diverse the interpretation of marriage could be compared to the narrow-minded religiously conservative viewpoint. This previous experience was so different than what I experienced yesterday.

The last time we were at pride, it felt like we were tourists or spectators; like we’d gone to a very gay, rainbow colored baseball game and were only participating by watching the action rather than being part of it. We were allegedly cisgender, heterosexuals who tended to be rather reserved. In so many ways, we were out of place at this festival. We absolutely supported the idea of marriage equality and we knew how important it was for our lesbian friend who’d asked us to volunteer, but there wasn’t anything for us to really feel proud about. On the surface we were little more than the epitome of cisgender, heterosexual, Caucasian privilege. We were educated, white people carrying on a standard definition heterosexual marriage we neither had to fight for nor worry about being invalidated.

This time around, however, there was a distinct difference in the emotions I felt and that I believe my wife felt. This time we were participating! This time we were allowed to fit in with this crowd because we too were living a more non-traditional life. We were a transwoman and a woman in love with each other and unafraid to show our affections to one another. I, by definition, was contributing to the collective PRIDE by not only being a transwoman, but also a lesbian. I could, should I care to, adopt both the transgender flag and the rainbow flag as my representation. No longer was I forced to sit on the sidelines and vicariously experience the pride that comes with living a life true to yourself. This time I got to say that I WAS living a life true to myself.

I think it must also be noted that around the time of my first festival I was already in a pretty significant state of denial about my gender. One of the people who’d invited us to volunteer for the marriage equality booth was transgender and had, whether they were aware of it or not, shaken the very foundations of my gender identity with their presence in my life. Becoming friends with someone embarking on transition held profound and long-lasting effects on my psyche. Their presence in my life, along with another trans man I worked with at Best Buy, opened up a door of possibility I’d scarcely knew existed before and had never really considered: gender transition.

Imagine my discomfort and confusion upon being exposed to these individuals who knew, much in the same way that I knew, that their assigned gender at birth didn’t really fit them. Imagine my anxiety upon seeing them go through HRT transition to become increasingly male right before my very eyes, knowing to some degree that the same thing might be possible for me. Take that cocktail of discomfort, anxiety, and eventual hard denial about my gender identity (and ultimate sexuality) into consideration and you might begin to see why my first PRIDE festival experience had been less than exciting. Imagine my discomfort as I sat at a booth watching such a vast myriad of people expressing an almost limitless array of sexualities and gender presentations without reservation or shame, all while understanding on some fundamental and possibly sub-conscious level that I, too, was like them. My “outsider” or “spectator” status took on a new level of distress for me.

Contrast that to yesterday and the change is almost indescribable. Rather than feeling distressed about being perceived as an outsider when really I was just hiding from the truth, I felt proud that I was living my truth. I no longer had to feel afraid, worried, or ashamed of my presence at this event. I could engage with the bustling masses of every kind of sexuality, gender, and relationship you can imagine without the guilt of denial hanging over me like a little black cloud. I could proudly hold my wife’s hand and visibly take selfies of us kissing in the park, all while knowing that if any place on earth existed where I wouldn’t be judged, it was there.

My experience of PRIDE was the essential experience of freedom. Freedom from labels, from social status, from gender expectations, from public scrutiny, and from self-inflicted doubt/denial. I was free to be whoever I wanted to be when I was there. I could love as I wanted to love, I could dress as I wanted to dress, I could talk as I wanted to talk, and I could walk as I wanted to walk. There were no limitations, no pressures to conform, no fear of reprisal, and no worry of consequence. I didn’t have to wonder if I was sticking out. I didn’t have to worry that someone might treat me as less than human because I contradicted gender norms. I wasn’t stared at. I wasn’t gawked at. I wasn’t scowled at. I wasn’t visibly judged. I was, once again, just another person in the sea of people. Any attention I managed to draw to myself was almost always met with a smile or the silent but kind acceptance of strangers sharing mutual respect and admiration. I got to be proud of who I was and what I stood for, and to be socially accepted for that pride. That experience cannot be dismissed, for it was a first since going fulltime as Emma.
So, my lovelies, I don’t want to leave you out in the cold in case you didn’t get to experience the gay revelry of a local PRIDE festival, so below are a handful of pictures I took while watching the Parade. It was truly a fun experience, and I highly advise anyone who has never gone to one, to try to go to one next PRIDE season. It will be worth it, I promise.


My Trans Pride fingernail colors 











Yep, that's my state Senator Al Franken, being a LGBT rock star!

Soooo many people



Ooooh, pretty colors!


Me and mi esposa



IDK what it was supposed to be, but it was definitely eye catching!

And evidently filled with sexy!

Not to mention leather!




The Trans Lives Matter crowd!


Thor and Princess Leia

A very gay Dalek ;)

And another!

Well, my darlings, that’s all I have for today. Fear not, though, there is still time to discuss the future plans and necessary efforts of LGBTQ community. Don’t think I’ve forgotten in the celebratory haze of marriage equality that so much work still needs to be done. Together, if we work hard, we can overcome the tyranny of the gender binary and the transgender mystique to usher in a new dawn of freedom for human expression.

With love, and PRIDE!!!

-Emma

Friday, June 26, 2015

6-26-2015: Why It’s Important For Trans People to Celebrate The Same-Sex Marriage Victory






Today is a historic day in the United States. As news of the landmark Supreme Court decision that bars laws preventing same-sex marriage sweeps across all 50 states, across Facebook, Twitter, and the news networks all around the globe, a resounding cry of joy can practically be heard all around the world. This decision, while it only pertains to a certain percentage of the world’s population heralds an amazing victory in the LGBT movement across the globe. America, the stubborn holdout of the modern western world has finally stood taller today than many days in the recent past and announced, once and for all, that same sex relationships are worthy of the same societal acceptance as heterosexual relationships (under the law). I suspect as the months and years progress even more countries around the world will follow suit. If America, with its stubborn hotbed of conservative Christian bigotry masquerading as “family values” can finally overcome ignorance and hatred to allow a level of equality not previously known, then any country can do the same.

Today, we decided to lead by example. Even if we weren’t at the front of this progression and other countries around the world have forged ahead of us in recent years, today we, the big, fat, pain in the ass, holdout chose to tell other countries even further behind us that they could no longer rely on us as a justification for their reluctance to accept this sweeping wave of LGBT changes. Regardless of how anyone feels about America in general, the LGBT cause enlisted a HUGE ally with this court ruling. American influence, culture, industry, economics and media spans the globe, so the implication of the social changes that this decision heralds will have a resounding effect. Even our president Barack Obama discussed the idea of actions being ripples in a lake; they may start small, but they have long lasting and expansive effects. This decision was much more than a small action. It was huge, and the ripples of it will wash around the world, hopefully inspiring other stubborn holdouts to finally give up the futile battle against love.

 I may not be proud of my country most days of the year, what with it’s appalling record of favoring money and fame over human worth, but today I can say that I am proud to be an American. I’m proud that my children, should I ever have any, will never know a world where same-sex couples are forced to live as second class citizens because their access to marriage is either barred or only partially upheld. I’m proud that the highest court in the land was able and willing to set the record straight, once and for all. They knew that even though the majority of Americans favored same-sex marriage that the repulsive, hateful and ignorant efforts of the religiously conservative few to obstruct equality could not be adequately overcome through the typical democratic process. They knew the economic and representative disparities were too insurmountable to achieve a cohesive resolution, much like the previous hotbed issues of civil rights. The dissenters of this decision feel that this sweeping change should have come through that very democratic process that’s been held captive by old, white, conservative, wealthy and privilege for decades. I cannot more vehemently disagree with their position, but the decision has been rendered and their dissent means little. Most of us will see them as being on the wrong side of history.

So today is an amazing day! It’s a glorious day! It’s the hard fought victory of decades of pain, suffering, and bravery of spirit. It’s a day worthy of remembrance! It gives the typical PRIDE festivals an even more powerful history to uphold them. Today, love won. Today, justice was served. Today the power of the insecurities and bigotry of the privileged few were put in their rightful place: the past. Today is a glorious victory! Today the battle has been won! Which brings me to the purpose of this post.

I know that right now many of the transgender/gender non-conforming/queer/etc. people are out there thinking, “this is great, but we have so much left to do! What about us? Where is our equality?”

What I want to try to impress upon anyone who reads my words is that, yes, we do have soooo much left to do in America to make this country truly equal for the LGBTQ community. Yes, we have a lot of things that still need to be worked on, stood against, and fought for, but today is not the day for that. This weekend, is not the time for these thoughts or these divisions. I know it’s hard to see the LGB community have such a glorious victory and feel a sense of being somewhat left out of the positive consequences. I know that it’s tempting to say, “but this isn’t enough!” because, in the end, you are right. This isn’t enough, but I believe it has to be for today and for this coming weekend.

The war is so far from over, that I cannot deny, but we’ve just won one of our greatest victories yet! The tides of this war have turned for us and in a major way! This is like the Battle of Saratoga (http://www.ushistory.org/us/11g.asp ) for us! It’s the victory that’s going to give us the upper hand, not to mention the morale necessary for us to finish this war between equality and religious pretense once and for all.

Today and this coming PRIDE weekend offers us the amazing opportunity to revel in our mutual victory! It gives us the chance to heal some of our wounded! It gives us the chance to eat, drink, and be merry to wash away the painful ordeal we as a group have gone through to get to this day! Today and this weekend will offer us the kind of rest, and excitement that will fuel the next stage of the offensive for equality!

I know we need to refocus our efforts on those that are still being held captive by an antiquated regime of religious privilege and cisgender tyranny under the transgender mystique, but this weekend offers us the opportunity to regroup and refocus on the strength of our campaign! Our enemy is weak, broken, bruised, and on the run, but if we are going to finish this fight the way it needs to be finished, then we need to revel in our progress for a little while to rebuild our strength. Let our celebration today and this coming weekend become a boon that carries us through the pain and struggle that’s still ahead.

When Monday comes, and we’ve had our weekend in the sun, THEN we can turn our focus to the next offensive. When Monday comes we can meet and discuss our plans for how to proceed. Let’s scope out the enemy encampment to find their weaknesses. We are in a much better position to take the fight to them than before, but we must not rush ahead to battle that we aren’t prepared for. We need the full force of the LGBT community if we ever hope to overcome the transgender mystique, so let’s celebrate together and worry about the future's problems, on Monday.

-Emma

6-26-2015 Entry: Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Gay Marriage


YES!! YES!! YES!! YES!! YES!! YES!! YES!! YES!! YES!! YES!! YES!! YES!! YES!! YES!! YES!! YES!! YES!! YES!! YES!! YES!! YES!! YES!! YES!! YES!! YES!! YES!! YES!! YES!! YES!! YES!! YES!! YES!! YES!! YES!! YES!! YES!! YES!! YES!! YES!! YES!! YES!! YES!! YES!! YES!! YES!! YES!! YES!! YES!! YES!! YES!! YES!! YES!! YES!! YES!! YES!! YES!! YES!! YES!! YES!! YES!!

 

/dances /dances /dances /dances /dances /dances /dances /dances /dances /dances /dances

 
Take that bigots and homophobes! Marriage for everyone! DEAL WITH IT!





-Emma

Thursday, June 25, 2015

6-25-2015 Entry: The Phenomena of Having to be Explained and the Transgender Mystique




 Hello my dear readers. I hope the week has been treating you well and that you’ve all been transcending as well as breaking binary gender norms. I hope you are living lives you can say you are proud of, or at the very least, thinking about trying to do that more and more. I know how scary the world can seem when you are different from the majority. It’s easy to see the odds as insurmountable. Gender binary norms and unspoken rules are almost as pervasive as the air we breathe.

Like air, they can be so omnipresent in our daily lives that most people don’t even notice them, let alone question them. They can affect every single interaction we have with other humans, whether we are aware of them or not. When the world tries so hard to insist that this omnipresence of gender binary norms is the way things are “supposed to be” whether due to biology, psychology, nationality, or even God, it can feel like they are inescapable.

I’ve been reading a wonderful book called “The Feminine Mystique” which I highly suggest to everyone who has the capacity to read it. True, the book deals almost exclusively inside the binary worldview, but I have found it to be rather enlightening when viewed with a social activist and/or queer-theory perspective. I’m only about ¼ of the way through the book but I’m truly hooked and it has gotten me thinking about a lot of things.

Although I cannot do the book justice with this description, I’m going to try to bring anyone who hasn’t read it in on my understanding of what the feminine mystique actually is. The feminine mystique was the overpowering, omnipresent, expert approved and religiously taught social phenomena of a difference between the sexes, more specifically the inferiority of the female sex and femininity to the male sex and masculinity. The feminine mystique was the idea that women were somehow less than human and therefore incapable of ever achieving or maintaining an identity of their own simply because they were women. Their only role was to be as a mother to their children and as a wife to their husbands. Outside of the domestic realm of the home, they had no authority, no right, no place, and no capacity to deal with the modern world or the changes happening to it. They were thought so inadequate in faculties that the common mantra of “a woman could never understand this because it doesn’t involve cooking, cleaning, child-rearing, or sewing” became a common prejudice among society. The feminine mystique was so pervasive in American culture during the 1950’s that it seemed insurmountable in its stratification. Every interaction that women in America had was affected by this, at the time, unnamed phenomena. It dictated to them, especially those girls who entered maturity during the height of its reign, exactly what their life had to look like.

The mystique policed, shamed, and ostracized any woman who didn’t adhere to it. The public was so bamboozled by the media outlets, religious teachers, doctors, biologists, sociologists, anthropologists, and psychologists insisting on this inferiority of femininity that they didn’t even question what they were being told. It was simply the way things were supposed to be.

You can probably imagine how this image of a pervasive social phenomena that insisted on sex differences as justification for the unequal distribution of power and resources was interesting to me. How like the feminine mystique today’s gender binary norms are. They are everywhere. They affect every interaction we have with other people. They police, shame, and ostracize those who do not adhere to them. They are so omnipresent in our lives, held up by media outlets, religious teachers, doctors, biologists, sociologists, anthropologists, and psychologists of every kind that they seem to just be the way things are supposed to be. They feel insurmountable in their rigid stratification in western culture.

Which brings me to the first part of the title of this post, the phenomena of having to be explained. Much like a career woman in the 1950’s who rejected the feminine mystique’s seemingly omnipotent influence over her life, I, a transgender individual am subject to the same kinds of prejudices and confusion that she was. I, like her, seemingly require explanation to others.

You might be wondering what I’m trying to get at, so let me give you a bit of background. This coming weekend a very dear and beloved friend of mine (who is also a coworker) is having a get together at her house. There is going to be a rather diverse group of people attending, including a handful of our coworkers, some of her friends that I do know, some that I don’t know, and some of her family members I haven’t met (mother/step-dad). Evidently this mother is aware of my “situation” and was feeling a bit anxious, perhaps, about how things were going to go with someone “different” attending the party of “normal” people. Of course, I’m adding my own dramatic emphasis so that I can adequately illustrate the usually invisible social phenomena present in this scenario. I doubt very much that this woman was even aware of these phenomena when she proceeded as follows (and for the record, I hold no animosity towards her for simply acting the way society programmed her to act). In this state of worry, she asked my friend what they needed to tell people about me either before the party or during the party. She wanted to know how to explain me to them. My friend, amazing person that she is, was kind of confused at the question and her initial response was, “Why would we have to explain anything?”

What transpired after that initial interaction is unclear, but sometime later this same friend approached me at work and told me about this interaction with her mother. As she related the story to me I could sense a bit of ambivalence in her about whether or not this was even something worth talking about (credit to her for the spot-on instincts), but obviously something her mother had said or inferred caused her to question her instincts. She asked me, rather reluctantly, if I wanted her to explain my “situation” (again, my word for illustrative purposes) to the other guests. I, of course, found this amusing and told her that there was no need to do that. if people had questions they were welcome to ask me directly. She seemed relieved that I agreed with her initial position and we moved on. She did further clarify that her step-dad might be likely to give me a ribbing and that I just had to be prepared for that because that’s the kind of person he is (more on this later).

We finished our interaction and went about our lives, but something about it stuck with me as I’ve progressed through this week. Reading the feminine mystique has really only served to further my curiosity about and examination of the interaction. I started to wonder, why would her mother feel the need to ask if my “situation” required explanation? What about me going to this event had created an uneasiness inside of her that bubbled to the surface and resulted in this line of questions? Clearly something larger than either her or I was at play here, but what was the social phenomena hiding in the offing? What programming was she coming up against inside of herself that made this “situation” seem possibly problematic?

Obviously I can only guess at her reasons because I have yet to meet this woman and know very little about her personality or life-history. I do know that she was likely born during the height of the feminine mystique’s regime (50’s/early 60’s) and that she lived a decent portion of her life in Alaska, which according to my beloved friend, has always lagged a bit behind popular culture (likely due to their distance from the rest of the country and their general isolation up in the arctic circle). I don’t know how accurate my hypothesis will be, but this is what I’ve come up with so far:

Gender binary norms, which as we’ve discussed are so pervasive as to practically resemble the air we breathe, dictate that there are “normal” and there are “different” gender identities. Anyone who is “normal” is either a penis-wielding male, or a vagina-containing female. These normal people adhere to standard definitions of masculinity in men and femininity in women. They are different from one another, and depending on how progressive or conservative you are, those differences can be minor biological differences, or fundamental nature differences. These normal people are living life as it is supposed to be lived, either because science, psychology, or God says so.

 Anyone who does not conform to this binary system of penis + masculine = male and vagina + feminine = female formulae is immediately branded as “other” or “different” from those that are “normal”. A type of mystique about these “other” and “different” people begins to congeal around them and develops a certain notoriety about them (yes, I’m adopting the term mystique, as any modern social theorist does when they discover a previous framework that fits their needs and provides a solid foundation for the building of their own new framework). These people, in their “otherness” begin to take on attributes or intrinsic qualities because of their otherness. Their “otherness” rather than being defined by them and their individual qualities, desires, and beliefs about themselves, actually begins to do the opposite. The “otherness” begins to define them instead of them defining it. Their inherent humanity, individuality, and value within human society immediately begins to disappear or change, although the transference is almost always unseen, unquestioned, or just simply ignored.

New qualities, new attributes, and new assumptions then begin to surround them and solidify as their “otherness” becomes more apparent, until eventually, they are nothing more than their “otherness”. They are both defined and imprisoned by this newly founded mystique. The transgender mystique, as I will begin to refer to it until such time as I find a better term or my thesis outgrows the label,  begins to dictate and limit the kind of experience those who are under its influence are permitted to have. There are many ways that this unfolds and many limitations on the trans* person, but for the sake of relevance I’m going to limit my discussion in this post to one aspect, the need to be explained.

The transgender mystique tells us that those who are subject to its power are aberrations in the “normal” social discourse of human gender identity. The degree of this unusualness depends greatly on the person assigning the value, but it can vary from being seen as unique (in a positive way) to being seen as a perversion or immoral. Because aberrations in the social discourse of gender identity have been so historically rare, a phenomena of explanation begins to grow. Those who are programmed by the binary to believe the world is separated into a nice, neat, one or the other paradigm, feel a sense of anxiety when they encounter one of these aberrations in the gender identity discourse (see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cognitive_dissonance ).

The resulting anxiety or discomfort felt by the observer of the perceived abnormality drives them to one of a few different options. In a non-exhaustive list they may either:

  1. Ignore the new information and go about assuming the “one or the other” paradigm is undisturbed.
  2. Become hostile, seeing the perceived abnormality as a threat to their closely held belief and begin to villainize it.
  3. Decide that the perceived abnormality is not a threat but still try to ignore it
  4. Decide the perceived abnormality is not a threat but requires examination or explanation to themselves/others
  5. Embrace the variation as a good thing (which may still result in the need for explanation)

 

The situation I described earlier, I believe, falls into either category D or E of the above list of non-exhaustive potential reactions to being presented with a gender identity incongruent with base, binary assumptions. I believe my friend’s mother was presented with a situation she was unfamiliar with and one that contradicted many of the predispositions she had likely held undisturbed for  most of her life. Because of the nature of this disturbance to a long held assumption about reality or a matrix of “normality” built by previous experiences, she experienced cognitive dissonance. How that cognitive dissonance played out, I can only guess at, but she likely felt some degree of anxiety, fear, or worry about how the future event might play out. Because she had no frame of reference for such a situation, she likely assumed that everyone else would experience the same or similar anxieties about encountering me that she did, which lent her to the somewhat logical conclusion that it might be best to head off the awkwardness before it began.

So much of human action is a result of (usually unidentified) defense mechanisms that serve to protect the individual from harm; whether that is physical harm or harm to the ego. Her desire to explain my “situation” as a result of an unobserved phenomena (the transgender mystique) was a defense mechanism that told her there might be danger ahead. True, my aberrant gender identity in her assumed discourse of human gender norms may not have been seen as a direct threat to her, but it was likely seen as a threat to the party she was going to attend. It’s “otherness” had the potentiality to upset the “normalcy” of such an event by creating confusion, anxiety, or even anger in others. The inherent qualities of a person such as myself, as defined by the transgender mystique, dictated that the natural flow of social power hierarchies (disparities, really) had been upset. In an effort to minimize these upsetting qualities (which were projections of her own reaction onto others) of my “otherness” she felt the need to ask her daughter how they were going to explain me to the other party guests.

She likely meant no harm. On the contrary she was likely trying to not only protect herself, her daughter, and the other party guests, but was even probably trying to protect me; and so we see another similarity to the feminine mystique. The transgender mystique, like the feminine mystique before it, says that transgender individuals (like women before) are in need of protection from the harsh realities of the world. By definition, we are unequipped to handle the various threats, anxieties, and stresses inherent in contradicting gender norms because our very acts of contradicting them shows a vulnerability. The mystique teaches us that we, as transgender or gender non-conforming individuals, are inherently vulnerable. It is part of the definition that we have been imprisoned by.

It was this imprisoning definition of vulnerability that immediately drove my own mother to fear for my safety should I go through with my transition. It’s the same imprisoning definition that likely drove my friend’s mother to try to protect me. It’s the same imprisoning assumption that also likely caused my friend to forewarn me that her step-dad may say something offensive to me.

 It’s this imprisoning definition of vulnerability which paints the image that the transgender movement is not as strong as it could be, that we as a collective group of diverse individuals are not prepared for the harsh realities of achieving the equality and individuality that we deserve. The feminine mystique told women that they (and society) were not prepared for the trying task of allowing women to lead an individualistic existence apart from their children, husbands, or home. The transgender mystique tries to tell us that transgender individuals (and society) are not prepared for the trying task of allowing us to lead individualistic existences apart from the gender binary, classic gender roles, and morality on sexuality.

An open and opinionated transgender/gender non-conforming person (much like a career woman in the feminine mystique) is seen as a threat to themselves. I am a threat to myself because of the nature of my otherness and the inherent qualities that it imprisons me with. I am supposed to simply try my damndest to adhere to social conventions regarding “normal” discourses on gender identity because that is the way it is supposed to be. To question those social dynamics is inherently dangerous. To contradict such an omnipresent, oppressive, stratified, and mutually agreed upon assumption that so much of our society is built upon, suddenly begins to threaten the collapse of the entire society itself because it is deemed immoral or a perversion to question the binary. Women leading individualistic, mature, human lives had similar things said about them and their “man-eating” feminism. It was said that to allow these changes would have completely undermined the foundation of western civilization and thrown the entire system into an uncontrollable anarchy.

So, what is our recourse? What do we do when the transgender mystique is so powerful, so pervasive, so seemingly insurmountable? How do we overcome something that everyone has just assumed was the way things were supposed to be for so long? How do we change a society that’s built upon an assumption so prevalent, so authoritarian, so expertly upheld and approved, without bringing the entire society down?

Maybe upon finishing the Feminine Mystique my answer will change, and of course I’ll share that when and if it does, but for now I think the greatest course of action we who are transgender or gender non-conforming (and all the variations that those two labels can contain), must fight our way out of obscurity. We must stop living as aberrations. Anomalies are only anomalies as long as they are rare, as long as they are not common place and frequently observed. The more frequently the transgender mystique is contradicted and undermined, the greater the chance of overcoming it. We must stop allowing our abnormality and “otherness” to imprison us into a framework of vulnerability. We must stop allowing others to assume that we require explanation. We must impress upon them until our dying breath that it is not us, but their base assumptions about the nature of reality that requires explanation!

Why do they think we are the odd ones? Why does contradicting the gender binary mean we are different and therefore somehow less human? Why is my non-binary gender identity assumed to be a threat by so many to the very foundation of our society? Why have the experts told us that binary equals normal? Where did they learn that from? Where does their knowledge originate from, and should we really still be giving credit to it?

Why, if our experience is seen as aberrant and therefore less important, does it hold the key to individual freedom from oppression of socialized power disparities? Where is the danger in ultimate self-expression outside of the limitations of social convention when that self-expression does no harm to others? Why, when we live in a world built every second by new innovation in technology, must we rely upon antiquated beliefs about the nature of the human spirit? Why is the newest smartphone something to be celebrated and revered as the pinnacle of human innovation, but the newest ideas about individualistic expression outside of classic gender norms is seen as potentially disastrous, confusing, and/or immoral?

If we, as a social movement, are ever to gain the same freedom of expression that housewives in the 50’s eventually received after the second wave of feminism, then we must stand up to the seemingly insurmountable social pressures of the transgender mystique. We must reject the entire premise that it is built upon. We must reject the idea that it is us who require explanation. We must reject the idea that we are in need of protection because our contradiction of gender norms is a vulnerability. We must assert that our contradiction of gender norms is our strength! We must hold as self-evident the freedom of expression and joy our escape from the transgender mystique has and will provide us with! We must assert our validity and worthiness for treatment not as “others” or “lesser” but as humans, filled with the same limitless potential and maturity of spirit as anyone else, if not more. We must stand tall, proud, and open about who we are so that the mystique may be diffused and the bars of our defined prison may be cut down.

Thank you, my friend’s mom, for your concern, but no, I do not require explanation, nor do I require approval. I am free to be who I am, regardless of assumed social conventions because I have the same rights to free-will as any other human does and I CHOOSE to live open and unafraid of the harsh realities of the world. Let those who will be disturbed be disturbed. Let those who will judge, condemn, mock, ridicule, or misunderstand do as they feel they must, for their reaction is of their own making and my reaction to them is mine. I refuse to be imprisoned by the discomforts or assumptions of others. I am free, I am beautiful,  and I am transgender. Approval, not required.

-Emma

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

6-23-2015 Entry: Exciting News!

Well, my lovelies, Emma had the most amazing telephone conversation today, and although I’m still reluctant to give too many details because I’m still worried that me enthusing too publicly about this might make it go away (although this is really just free publicity), I’m happy to report that the news story I mentioned the other day is moving along nicely!
That’s right, Emma, transwoman extraordinaire is going to be on TV!

And it’s not some dinky little news station setting the story up either, I’m fairly sure it is the largest outlet in my state, so I’m about to go from being a little ol’ nobody blogger to nighttime news rock-star!! lol, not really, I’m sure it will just be a simple 15 minutes of fame before I go back to being nobody again, but to hell with it! I’m going to think of myself as ground-breakingly newsworthy anyways!

What’s that old adage, fake it till you make it, right?

I don’t know exactly when it will air because we aren’t going to start the interview/filming process until July but I am so excited right now!! This is like a dream come true for me in so many ways! I spent years trying to achieve some degree of visibility with my writing as an author, and now that is starting to happen! I’m a little sad that it’s not because of my fiction novels, which I really loved writing, but I believe that this is actually a much better reason to have been noticed. As a fiction novelist the best kind of change I could hope for was a change in profession, or an influence on the kind of fiction novels people read and write (specifically novels with female protagonists that don’t fall into the formulaic/token female-romance-role). As a trans-activist blogger, I’m being offered the opportunity to not only raise awareness about transgender issues on a much larger scale, but I’m rather likely to inspire others out there to live their lives more authentically as well.

The thing the trans community needs more than anything right now (at least in my opinion) are openly transgender individuals bearing the weight of public scrutiny while at the same time promoting a positive image. I’ve been saying for months now that in order to assert our social power we have to be willing to step out from the shadows and demand equality. We must be willing to rely on the self-efficacy of our gender identities to assert our rightful claim to human decency. I know not everyone will agree with me, because some fear that more visibility for transgender individuals will only increase the occurrence of violence or discrimination against us, but I’m inclined to ignore those arguments. A cause without a recognized face, without a publicly understood icon, is a cause that will never get off the ground. How much positive change has resulted from trans icons like Lavern Cox, Lana Wachowski, and now Caitlyn Jenner living as openly transgender? I say a great deal. Millions of people are talking about transgender issues that would never have otherwise thanks to these people.

Some might argue that the negative backlash to these individuals coming out so publicly is an indication that their efforts are in vain; that they are only furthering the oppressive forces against transgender people everywhere, but when any group of people who are traditionally ostracized and oppressed for not conforming to societally constructed norms tries to ascend to a higher rung of social power and acceptance, there is always this negative backlash. I have quoted Gandhi many times before and I will quote him again, “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win”

They used to ignore us. We didn’t exist in any sort of mainstream. We were seen as an aberration, as a mental disorder. We were a perversion that was curable and preventable (see Freud). Then they started to laugh at us. We became the butt of countless jokes on television, radio, and print. Watch any 90’s television show comedy about adults and you will almost assuredly find a joke somewhere in it about someone kissing a “girl who was really a guy” or some running joke about one of the guys being caught practicing typically “feminine” activities (i.e. wrapping your hair with a towel after a shower). To transgress gender boundaries became a joke, one that policed behavior through the most subtle of ways, directed humor. Once that finally wore off and society realized you couldn’t ignore, nor joke away the transgender issue, they started to fight us. Hate crimes increased, trans related murders went up, words like “tranny” and “he-she” took on new and spiteful meaning. We started being lumped together with pedophiles, sexual deviants, and rapists. They started to fight us. But despite the greatest cis-normative efforts to police gender and to demoralize people like us, we kept insisting on our right to live as we were supposed to.

I believe, although I may be overestimating the possibilities here, that this opportunity for my story to be taken to such a broader level, will only serve as another positive example of why transgender people deserve to be treated with respect and dignity. I will step out of the shadows of nobody-ness and become a person the television viewer can sympathize with. They will see that I am a human, with hopes, dreams, desires, and all the regular things that come from being an American. They will see that even though I’m different from them, I’m still a human being, and therefore worthy of the same respect as any other human being. If I can, just by deciding to go along with this news story, persuade even a handful of people currently on the fence about trans issues to see transgender individuals as people instead of some negative, dehumanized label, then this will be completely worth it.

Anyways, I just wanted to check in and let you know that my plan to not change the world, but to rock it, is progressing nicely! ;)

-Emma

Monday, June 22, 2015

6-22-2015 Entry: Two Weeks Fulltime as Emma



Good morning my lovelies! It is raining here in Minneapolis, and even though it should be bright at this time in the morning, there is a gloom in the air, disrupted only by the bright flashes of lighting and the rolling of thunder. Today is not at all like my mood, however, as I couldn’t be happier.
Things are going so well! I feel so… at home in my skin. I see my reflection in the windows of the buildings I walk past and I cannot help but smile. That’s me! That’s really me! No more frumpy Robert reflection. Now just Emma!
Anyways, vanity aside, I feel like it would be a good idea to update on how things are progressing along, now that I’m entering my third week living full time as a transwoman. Obviously, as I said earlier, I am very happy with my decision to finally step all the way out of the closet. Actually, not only did I step all the way out, but I poured gasoline all over it, left the can inside, and burnt that confining box of fear, shame, and disappointment to the ground!
Like the line from Let It Go, “I'm never going back, The past is in the past!” I have vowed to never go back to that old life. I’ll never walk around as Robert again. I will always be Emma, from now until my death. The consequences of that decision are not small, as anyone who has been reading this blog for some time definitely understands. Changing your gender literally affects every other part of your life. There is almost nothing about my life today that is identical to what existed a year ago. True, some parts of my life have remained constant, like the fact that I’m married, the fact that I’m a patent paralegal, and the fact that I still love crappy action films (i.e. anything with Van Damme in it), but the way I see those parts of myself has drastically changed. My relationship with my wife is vastly different than it was a year ago. My job, although the same kind of work at the same law firm, has been greatly impacted by me coming to work as “one of the girls”. My love of crappy action films persists, but I see them in a different light than before; they excite different kinds of emotions and thoughts than they might have in the past.
A lot of these changes are a result of the effects of Hormones on my mind and body. I cannot say, without blatantly lying, that estrogen hasn’t dramatically changed the way I think, the way I feel, the way I perceive the world around me, or the actions that I take. I know to assert such a thing can be dangerous because misogynists are always on the prowl for a reason to justify their different and oftentimes oppressive treatment of women. I know that many feminists (sameness feminists I believe is the label) hold a particular distaste for anyone asserting that women are different than men for fear that it will only justify unequal treatment. I do not wish to ever justify unequal treatment because of sex. I do not believe for one moment that my change in mind and body as a result of HRT has made me lesser to any extent, but I would be remiss to assert that it hasn’t made me different than I was before. The only solace I can offer to anyone out there cringing at me openly discussing how estrogen has made me different in mind and body than testosterone did is to say that every person is affected by hormones differently. Just because I experience certain effects of estrogen in my body doesn’t mean that every XX chromosome’d person walking the planet experiences the same thing.
My change in hormones has not made me suddenly feel like I need to take up baking and child rearing. On the contrary, my change in hormones may have only further solidified my disinterest in those things. I cannot say that there aren’t things that I find much more interesting than I did before I began my transition (like the color pink) but I cannot say with certainty that the hormones had anything to do with that. I think my love of pink existed inside of me long before I started taking estrogen, but it was buried under an avalanche of shame and fear. Perhaps the alteration in my perceptions of the world by actively taking on a more feminine gender identity has altered the way I see the color pink, but that altered perspective is likely more a social construction than a biological response to estrogen.
On the macro level of my life, transitioning genders and going fulltime has had major consequences. It has, for lack of a better descriptive, set me on a new path in life. My life is going to unfold so differently than it would have had I decided to keep living in denial about who I was. Assuming I hadn’t killed myself in that scenario, I would have never started this blog, I would have never reached out to Dara Hoffman-Fox, I would have never started volunteering to help other transgender/gender confused people, I would have never decided to become a therapist as a result, I would have never applied to grad school, I would have never started writing a memoir, I would have never probably adopted my two new fur-babies (who I absolutely adore), and I might have self-destructed my marriage out of depression. I would have likely stayed a paralegal until I could bear it no more and then I would have done… god only knows what. The consequences of my decision to transition have truly changed the entire course of my life, and those consequences have only further solidified with me going full time.
On the micro level, going fulltime has had profound consequences on my everyday life. My entire routine for the day has been altered. Before, I showered in the morning, washed my hair every other day, shaved in the shower every other day, got dressed with simple and boring man clothes, strapped on my backpack with my lunch in it and left. Now I shower at night, wash my hair only twice a week since I’m not putting any product in it, shave at the sink in the morning, put on makeup after shaving (dear God, please give me the money for laser hair removal), get dressed with more complicated and interesting clothing, put on my wig, brush it so it doesn’t look dreadful, check my reflection 20 times to make sure I don’t look totally tragic, grab my purse, either cram my lunch into the purse or carry a second bag with my food in it, and head to work.
My workday has changed as well. Before going fulltime I would arrive at work as frumpy, disenchanted Robert, eat breakfast, use the men’s room (where I frequently had to wait for a stall since men take FOREVER to take care of business) and go about my day with a handful of my coworkers knowing the truth about me but otherwise having to conceal who I really was while everyone just assumes I am normal, male Robert. Now I go to work as Emma, dressed all pretty, feel all frisky and happy, eat breakfast, use the women’s room where there is always a stall because the women I work with don’t fuck around at all, and then go about my day dealing with people either smiling at me because they are proud of me and happy for me, or dealing with people who actively avoid me when they didn’t used to or approach me as a last resort with a sort of chagrined expression. When I walk to work from the car, or from work to my wife’s work I used to walk past people without 99% of them even looking at me or noticing me in any significant way; I was just another dude out in the world with a practical “nothing to see here” sign over my head. Now when I walk to work or from work I get stared at, gawked at, and sneered at with much greater frequency (I’d say, somewhere around 30-40% of people I pass by). I’m no longer invisible. I think most of it has to do with the fact that I’m so tall and big. People aren’t used to seeing such a tall, broad shouldered woman, and so they look closer than they might otherwise, and when they do, they find something they REALLY aren’t used to seeing. Their reactions are immediately betrayed by their expressions, so much so that I’m about 100% sure they don’t even realize how obvious they are being.
Before I went fulltime, I used to be able to go into a store or restaurant and be treated with typical kindness and respect that any “normal” person could expect. Now the experience I have is often more like customer avoidance rather than customer service. It’s like I’m constantly playing Russian roulette with the employees of any establishment I enter. They can either not notice anything is different, notice something is up but still be very nice (like a waiter I had yesterday who very clearly read me as trans but still decided to refer to my wife and I as “ladies”) or completely short circuit by either giving me cold/unfriendly customer service (usually while avoiding eye contact) or by telling me they can’t help me and running for the hills.
Since going fulltime my relationship with my parents has changed, as well. The distance between us, especially with my mother, seems even greater than before. Whether that is simply my perspective or whether there is any truth to it, I feel less connected or close to my parents. My father has been very good about all of this and has supported me 99%, saying that as long as this is what is making me happy he doesn’t care. I only give him a 99% because he still thinks of me as his “son” and still calls me son when he talks to me. I know this is almost assuredly out of habit, but it would mean the world to me if he stopped seeing me as his son and started seeing me more as a daughter. I’m not sure he ever will. My mother seems to have been triggered once again with all of this. Me telling her about my experiences going fulltime seemed to only exacerbate her discomfort with the whole situation. I suspect that she was hoping this would eventually pass and that I’d decide I wasn’t transgender, so me taking the opposite path by leaping into this life as a transwoman head first hasn’t really sat well with her.
My relationship with some of my oldest friends has changed too. It’s difficult to maintain such friendships when one of you is committing to such drastic changes. Although I am mostly still the same person I have always been, the fact that I look so different and am so concerned with different things than I used to be has altered the way my friends and I interact. The fact that my mental health has changed and my thoughts have been affected by HRT, compounds this change. Many of my more distant friendships (those that I’ve tried to maintain to a degree via social networking despite moving away from Colorado) have practically vanished overnight. My distant relationships with extended family have also vanished. I suspect most of them just don’t know what to say or do about this decision I’ve made.
My self-perception has probably been the largest change since going fulltime. As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I get excited at my reflection. To most people that might seem truly insignificant but to me, it still hasn’t gotten old. I find myself eager to look in the mirror. I’m afraid my vanity is starting to spin out of control as a result of my change in appearance and gender presentation. Sometimes I’ll just stand in the bathroom and stare at the mirror for minutes at a time, almost as if I’m afraid that should I look away and then return later, the same person won’t be there to greet me. It’s like I’m worried that I’m going to wake up one morning and all of this will have been a dream.
My understanding of psychological development tells me that I’m probably just reenacting the infantile development stage of associating with an externalized representation of myself to further solidify my Emma ego. It’s like every time I gaze in the mirror and see this transwoman presentation staring back at me, I become a little more “real” or permanent. Rather than feeling the dissociation with my reflection that I’d become so accustomed to, I’m slowly but surely building positive association with it.
Along with that positive association I’m beginning to build an entirely unfamiliar confidence in myself. I can’t say I was ever truly unconfident, but years and years of depression and dysphoria definitely left me oftentimes feeling pretty worthless as a person. I used to be prone to such negative self-talk; always blaming myself for my problems and constantly attacking any failure I had. When I discovered the Law of Attraction, which I still subscribe to pretty strongly, I made efforts to change that negative self-talk and was even somewhat successful at it (my life situation improved quite a bit as a result). I found that meditation and discovering the stillness present in the now moment really helped with this depressive state. It, however, despite my greatest efforts, never fully subsided. I could go along pretty positively for a while but I always fell back into the same self-doubting, self-loathing state of depression. I certainly still experience that to a degree, but it’s in a very different way.
This newfound confidence has altered my states of depression from being driven by self-loathing and self-doubting, to more of a general frustration with how slow transition can be. Instead of falling into practically incurable fogs of melancholy, I tend to bounce back a lot faster. Going full time has greatly increased the bounce-back factor because I’m actually happy with who I am and what I am doing. Before transition, and even before I started actually presenting out in the world as Emma, I didn’t have that safety net to catch me when I fell. When I dropped into that state of melancholy, I tended to stay there for days or even weeks at a time.
As I look back over some of my older posts on here I can see how much my mental health has improved the closer I got to full time and since I have gone full time. The melancholy is more fleeting, and actually a lot easier to identify and deal with. Before, it tended to get mixed up with all the other emotions, fears, and shames about my gender, so it became nearly impossible to really sort out. Now that I have the gender identity part figured out, and I’m succeeding more and more at living my life authentically, the depression is easier to understand and easier to address.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not cured of my dysphoria. There are still a lot of things that I feel really icky, for lack of a better word, about. I never used to have a problem with my boy bits, and having a penis never felt all that “wrong” per se (it certainly offered my primary means of sexual pleasure which was hard to dislike), but now that I’m Emma 100% of the time, it has really started to feel wrong. Before it felt like it was just another part of my body, but the longer I go living as Emma, the more it feels like its some foreign object that’s attached itself to me.  
Again, knowing what I do about psychological phenomena, I suspect this is just my mind’s attempt to dissociate from this part of me because it no longer really fits with the identity we (Robert and Emma) have constructed. And yes, I truly do mean constructed. I believe that all identity is, at its deepest level, a mental construction. Michel Foucault alleged that Identities were simply a product of the discourse in which they found themselves, which I believe is partially true. That’s not to say, however, that I believe there isn’t a spirit or a soul that’s lurking beneath the surface of that identity, picking and choosing aspects from the Foucaultian discourse it is part of, but the identity itself is just a mental fabrication.
Robert and I are in this body, animating it and channeling our will through it (now in unison), but the identity Emma is simply our attempt to build a mechanism through which we interpret objective reality. We choose various aspects of the world we find ourselves in to construct our identity and it becomes the lens through which we view and understand the world around us. Instead of living our life as the victim or product of social programming, social norms and taboos, and gender expectations, we have chosen to create our own identity; picking and choosing aspects of our experience we favor in order to build a new world for ourselves, one that we can call comfortably call home. In that world, having a penis just seems to fog up the looking glass we use to experience objective reality, so it’s easier to dissociate from it; to pretend it isn’t there.
I suspect that as time goes by, and we become more and more this identity Emma, our dissociation with that physical part of us will only increase until it becomes absolutely necessary, contrary to what most health insurance companies choose to believe, for us to undergo sex/gender reassignment surgery. When we lived in denial about who and what we were (forced to inhabit the house society had built for us that never felt like a home), it was easier to “deal with” the fact that we have male genitalia, but now that we are no longer living in that denial, it’s hard to cope with this foreign body part. It’s like we moved from our old house to the new one, but were forced to bring the faulty plumbing with us. SRS/GRS (whichever acronym you prefer for new plumbing) truly would be a mental health improvement procedure for us right now. Not everyone who is like us would feel the same, for this transwoman, it really would alleviate so much of our constant anxiety.
The worst part of going fulltime and having to cope with this increasing anxiety and dysphoria regarding our genitalia, is the fact that I cannot currently see any way to be able to afford the procedure. Just yesterday an event triggered this well of anxiety in a big way for me, in no small part because I feel really depressed about the prospects of SRS/GRS. Barring a trans-friendly change in healthcare laws that require health insurance to cover the cost, me suddenly having dramatically increased income, or the money simply falling from the sky right into my lap, I am kind of S.O.L. over here. I guess if my credit is good enough in a few years, I might be able to convince a bank to loan me the money, but somehow I believe that my bank isn’t going to go for that one. All I can really do now is just have faith that a solution will come to me and leave it at that.
More than anything, I want to stress that even though I have just outlined a lot of aspects of my transition to fulltime that aren’t really all that exciting, or even all that positive, I want you to know that I DO NOT FOR ONE SECOND regret my decision. I knew that doing this was going to be a mixture of good things and bad things. Everything always is, and to expect that something will be nothing but positive is just na├»ve in my estimation. I knew that people would stare at me. Maybe I didn’t grasp just how BLATANTLY they would stare, or I didn’t understand how fucking irritating it can be sometimes, but I knew it was going to happen. Maybe I didn’t expect to experience customer avoidance (I’m trademarking that btw) on such a regular basis, but I knew that it might happen sometimes. Maybe I didn’t realize just how demoralizing it can be sometimes to have people lose all sense of decency when interacting with me because I’ve chosen to transgress the gender binary norms, but I went into this knowing that some people were going to be assholes (that’s true no matter what, really).
I think it’s important to understand as well that just because I’ve started living fulltime as a transwoman, that doesn’t mean that I’m anywhere near “finished” or “completed” in my transition. If I’m honest, I don’t believe I will ever be “done” transitioning because I don’t believe that is how it works. I don’t believe a person can ever be “complete” while they are still alive because I believe we are eternally growing spirits just along for the physical life ride. I, as a Buddhist, believe in reincarnation, not because I’ve seen proof or because I think I was Merlin in my last life, but because when I meditate and I find the silence inside where no thought, no mind, no past, no future, no ego, and no desire exists, I FEEL the truth of reincarnation. When I sit in that state of complete stillness I resonate with the force that creates all life and matter, and it voicelessly whispers to me that I am a part of it; that I’ve been through life and death countless times before and that this will be my last entry in that long chain of lives. After this, I (we) will move on to other types of growth; other realms of existence beside the physical one. My (our) job in this last life, is to completely overcome fear and completely embrace the creative power of love, hope, and faith.
Just know, my precious reader, that you are loved and you too can overcome fear to create a life filled with love, hope, and faith. You just have to keep going, to keep trying, to keep growing and pushing your limits. Today’s obstacles are tomorrow’s success stories. Today’s failures are tomorrow’s opportunities to do things differently and better. My life as a transwoman isn’t perfect, but it’s better than it was yesterday, and yesterday was better than the day before. Tomorrow holds the potential to be even better still because I know that I’m on the right path. My heart tells me so, what does your heart tell you?

-Emma