Friday, July 31, 2015

7-31-2015 Entry: When is Enough, enough?

Hello my darlings! I hope your Friday has gone well so far and that you have fun, exciting things planned for the weekend! You better believe I’m excited to lay on a (for lack of a better descriptor) massage table and have my electrolygist spend an hour zapping the bajesus out of my chin to destroy my facial hair! (if I had a sarcasm bell, I’d be ringing it right now).
 
No, my lovelies, Emma has no grand plans for excitement or fun this weekend. Just a painful insurance deemed “cosmetic” procedure and yard work! Maybe I’ll decide to be scandalous and go buy a bikini to wear while I mow the lawn! You know, get a good tan going while all my new neighbors are like O_O wtf?? Okay, sorry, perhaps that image is only funny to me but I had to share it. In Minnesota you have to embrace the sunlight and the chances to absorb some vitamin D when you can get them because in the winter we get like 8 hours of sunlight from 8am to 4pm and it’s way too friggin cold to be absorbing any of it then!
 
Anyways, yes, my weekend forecast is a bit of painful, mixed with some boredom and manual labor. Yuck! I hope you can say you are faring better than I am.

If I’m honest, despite my levity thus far, I’m actually feeling rather down today and this week in general. I don’t like being Debbie downer on here because I know there are trans people out there looking for positive role models to engage with and normally I try so hard to be one of those people. You know, Emma, transwoman extraordinaire, kicking ass and taking names! But lately there really hasn’t been much of that.
 
I think the greatest issue I’m facing right now is the continued disappointment with the results of my news story (/drags out the dead horse and begrudgingly grabs her bat to continue the beating). It’s now been 9 days since my story was on the nightly news and in that time almost nothing at all has changed, which has left me wondering if it was even all that important or good for me to do the interview. I think that’s the biggest problem with this disappointment is that I’m not sure if my disappointment is justified or if I’m just depressed for no reason.
 
Let me explain, if I had, say, gotten a handful of letters from people who had never read my blog but found it through the news story, and they had said something as simple as, “Thank you for allowing your story to be shared” or even a “Hey, saw you on the news, wanted to say good job,” then I might have felt like the message actually reached someone new. But nothing like that happened. Don’t get me wrong, those who already read trans-advent or already knew about me as Emma that did write in to me to tell me positive things were greatly appreciated and helped me feel better about how it had all gone down, but I guess I was hoping for something more.

I got a huge spike in blog readers for a few days and that was really awesome, but since then things have returned back to the way they were before the story ran, leaving me to wonder if my writing is boring or not good enough to merit their further attention. I know, that previously discussed neuroses about the little girl wanting attention she isn’t getting probably comes to mind but this just illustrates the nature of the beast called depression. Just because you wrestle the beast to the ground and feel like you’ve finally conquered the issue, it can often find a way to sneak out from under you and catch you by surprise.
 
I guess I just wanted someone to notice me in a more significant way that what I’ve seen thus far. I honestly wanted someone to notice my potential both as an advocate for the trans* community and as a relatively talented writer, and then possibly offer me some sort of opportunity to do more with my writing and advocacy than just sit at my computer typing words away and sending them off into the dark unknown of the private blogosphere. I want to have an impact on the world and I want to have an impact in a bigger way that I have historically. I know that I am capable of doing so much good, of being such a well-intentioned, articulate, poised and powerful voice for this community (god how I wish you could see the whole interview with Liz Collin, I kicked ass, I swear to god), but it’s like there is a glass ceiling permanently barring me from escaping the drudgery of my nine-to-five career as a mid-level paper pusher.
 
Sometimes it feels like I’m living in a nightmare, you know the kind that isn’t all that scary until you realize you are stuck in it FOREVER and then it’s really, really scary. That’s how I feel my life is sometimes, like I’m stuck in it; like there is this amazing person inside who has the potential to be truly extraordinary if only given the means to be and yet every chance I get at someone finally fucking noticing and enabling that extraordinary potential is either taken away from me or fizzles into nothing. It’s like I’m stuck in a hallway with ten thousand doors and I’m desperately trying to find my way to a better place that I know exists (I’ve seen it, and can almost remember it) and every time I try a door it either leads me directly back into that hallway or won’t open at all. Sometimes a door opens and light shines in and birds chirp and I know that this is finally the right door, but before I can run all the way to that door, it slams shut in my face and locks itself leaving me with nothing but my desperation, disappointment and anger. Or worse still, someone else joins me in that hallway for like 10 seconds and before I can figure out what’s going on they’ve already found the right door and left me alone, locking it behind them to keep me from following. (are you getting how this feels like a nightmare?)
 
I just…. I just don’t know what to do… I just don’t understand what I’m doing wrong. Am I really just mediocre and don’t know it? Am I just completely awful at writing and can’t see it? Am I just so untalented, unimaginative, and uninteresting that I’m doomed to always live in disappointment because I’ll never measure up to what’s required to be someone worthy of social influence or large scale attention?
 
Everything inside of me tells me I came to earth to rock this life, to break down barriers and uplift thousands, tens of thousands, shit, even millions of others, and yet, the reality of the situation is that I’m a nobody paper pusher who was on the news for a New York minute and who will likely fade even further into obscurity. I say that there is so much more to this story than what’s been written so far but is that actually true? What if it isn’t true. What if I’ve peaked and my content on here will fizzle out to nothing. So many transgender bloggers and video bloggers end up fading out after a few years anyway, so what’s to stop me from doing the same thing? I’m running out of fears to face down and tell the world about, so perhaps this really is just the beginning of the end and there is nothing I can do about it.
 
I guess I just start to wonder what the point is. Why should I keep writing when every attempt I make at writing ends up in disappointment? I wrote Chariots of Heaven and was so proud of myself for doing that. It just made me feel so accomplished to have achieved a goal I set for myself after I had failed so many times before to achieve it. I can hardly count the number of books I started and never finished, but not this time; this time I had finally done it!
 
I was so excited to publish it myself through Kindle and iTunes because that’s what writers were doing. PSSSHH with the publishers, writers were able to give their words directly to the readers without losing the meat of their art, without having to sacrifice control so someone else could make a profit, and without sacrificing the potential for decent income. I was just so convinced that people would like my book and would buy it, but they didn’t. Everyone who read it gave it a stellar review and begged for the second one to be written, but they were so few in number.  I chalked the lack of response up to being a new author and having to prove I could write another one before anyone would take me seriously, and began working on the second book. I finished that book, which was about 50% longer, and published it again, this time feeling even more proud of my accomplishment.
 
No more could anyone say I wasn’t a writer, that I wasn’t an author, that I could never finish a book. I had done it not once, but twice! And the story was good, compelling, and original (so say those who read it). I had learned a thing or two about book marketing in my time as a writer and so I implemented new strategies, strategies that ultimately brought minor increases in sales. Tens of thousands were downloading my first book because it was free but so few of them seemed to actually read it. Those that did gave it great ratings and bought the second one, but in the end, I was barely making enough per month to fill up my gas tank.
 
I lost all hope then that I could ever be a full-time writer (this was a year ago). My dream of being a writer for a living just seemed too out of reach. All I needed was some luck, just a little bit of luck, but nothing ever came. I thought about killing myself, about just ending my life rather than living with the failure to achieve my ultimate goal. I’d achieved my goal to write a book, not once but twice, but what good were books if only a few hundred people read them? What good were stories about human potential, love, and ability if no one heard them? How could I be expected to keep pouring every waking hour outside of work into writing, re-writing, re-re-writing, editing, formatting, publishing, and promoting books when there was almost no return on the effort? I was defeated.
 
That’s when Emma came, breaking out of her prison in my mind and showing me that it wasn’t the end, that we weren’t defeated. She showed me that together we could write a story people would want to read, that we could be a writer who had a positive impact on the world. Together we decided to change, to become one, and to share our own story. It felt so good to share this story and so many people seemed to want to hear about it. Many more than those that wanted to read about Kira, the half-blood human and her adventures in the pre-historic space opera of Alien Gods responsible for the birth of humanity. No, this time it was our non-fiction that would captivate an audience.
 
We felt reassured that our dream to be a writer was not dead, was not broken, and that things were not hopeless for us just yet. Our readers grew and grew and grew again until finally a reporter contacted us for an interview. “Finally!” we thought. Our lucky break had finally shown up. Now our audience would jump into the tens of thousands, more than ever before, and our chances at making this writing gig work out in a significant way would go way up!
 
We did the interview, no, not did, we kicked that interview’s ass! We were so well-spoken and were able to share such compelling words with Liz Collin. The potential to bring a new perspective to things was amazing and we were certain things would work out so perfectly. It felt too much like providence for them not to, too much like our ship had finally entered the harbor and we would be whisked away to the extraordinary life as an influential writer that we were so ready for… but that ship didn’t stop at our dock. It wasn’t our ship. It wasn’t coming to take us away at all…
 
No, instead, it was merely a tour ship for others. There were people on the deck of the ship that waved in excitement at us as it passed, but all we could do was feebly wave back, wondering where they were going. “That’s it?” we were left to wonder. That’s what we get after all of this effort, some people waving at us from a passing tour ship?
 
“Just wait,” we told ourselves. Just wait and see how things go before losing hope again. Maybe the tour ship would circle around and pick us up after all. Maybe another ship would be following after them to pick us up. Just keep faith that this isn’t the end, that there is still an opportunity for this to turn into something great.
And so we waited, nine days, practically forgetting along the way about the interview. We lost ourselves in our work, in the drudgery of same-shit-different-day toil and even started writing on the third novel in the Chariots of Heaven series to fill our time. We pretended that we no longer felt a tinge of disappointment and decided to move on, hoping that someone out in the world was positively impacted by our interview and the visibility of a trans person in the news.
 
But this feeling will not abate. These doubts will not give us peace. Should we give up on writing? Should we stop trying to achieve a goal that seems ever in the offing? Should we succumb to the pressure to accept our role in life and society as set in stone? Are we fools for continuing to believe our dream is achievable; that one day it can be our primary focus and actually pay the bills? Are we fools for continuing to try to make something of ourselves beyond the predictably achievable?
We need encouragement. We need to know that we aren’t just yelling into the wind, that our efforts aren’t in vain. We do not want to give up, yet we feel like such a failure. How do we dust ourselves off again after we’ve fallen so many times? When is enough, enough?
-Emma

Thursday, July 30, 2015

7-30-2015 Entry: Just a Quick Check In

This week has been very busy for me and I haven’t had much of a chance to write or work on any blogs, but I don’t want anyone to think I’ve died because I’m not posting every day. You don’t have to hide it, I know you were worried I was laying in ditch somewhere, wearing a mini-skirt, covered with glitter and rocking a shit-eating grin on my face from all the trouble I had caused the night before! ;)

 

No, I’m writing because there was a song that really resonated with me just now and I wanted to share it here. I know the band is totally Christian and are probably talking about God (or Jesus, cuz that’s what Christian bands do) but I’m requisitioning the song to refer to my struggle with my gender. Envision, if you will, that the below lyrics are being said from Robert to Emma around the time of coming out and it will all make sense. Also, here is the song if you want to listen to it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XFryWqmsSRA

 

Yesterday I heard Your voice
Whispering through all the noise
I pretended I couldn't hear You
But You kept on pursuing me
And You began to move in me
And I just couldn't hide any more
I won't fight You

Go ahead!
Take what You want to
Take what You need to
Don't let me hold You back
Go ahead!
Do what You have to
Cuz I want to know You
Don't let me hold You back

I'll wear my heart out on my sleeve
If it brings You close to me
Help me leave the life I knew before You
Come inside, erase the shame
Call me by different name
I won't be the same anymore
God, I trust You

God, I was so wrong
To stay away so long
Oh, how I need You!”

 

Anyways, thanks for checking in. I’ll write again soon. **Muah**

 

-Emma

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

7-28-2015 Entry: An Open Letter to the Critics of Caitlyn Jenner and Her Show "I am Cait"


Where do we go from here? Where does the trans revolution take us next? We now have "I Am Cait" (sadly I haven’t been fortunate enough to watch all of the first episode yet) which, for better or worse, is placating some of the pervasive cisgender curiosity about transgender people and their “otherness” but is that enough? It’s probably no news that we have so many trans activists calling for more than just a widely viewed TV reality show about a wealthy white transwoman, but do they even know what it is they want to see? Are they even prepared or ready to face the trials of social mobility from otherness to acceptance?

 

I’m not so sure that they are. I’m not so sure that we are able to come together right now as a we instead of just a group of individuals. I fear that the nature of individual desire expressed through the limitless ranges of gender identity and expression will undermine the trans* movement as a whole unless its limitation can be overcome. We have activists left and right fretting over how Caitlyn Jenner is just too rich and too white to be able to give trans people a voice. We hear so many people asking, what about trans people of color or trans people with disabilities or trans sex workers, how will they be represented by "I am Cait"? And beneath their questions, beneath their pushing against this visibility is a deep seeded self-involvement that blinds them from seeing the past today towards tomorrow.

 

Transitioning genders and becoming as introspective as one has to be to really evaluate one’s own gender identity and then ask others to uphold what one feels is true leaves many of us inherently self-involved, and there is nothing wrong with that part of the process until that self-involvement blinds us from embracing positive change and pushing for more. I posit that these “activists” who are desperately clawing away at Caitlyn Jenner’s privilege, race, and wealth  by asserting how she cannot and will not represent them and those like them are not actually bringing about the positive change they are longing for. I believe that all many of them are doing is spreading the same kind of intolerance they have been so unfortunate to experience in their own lives.

 

I cannot blame them, I cannot fault them for doing this because it is very hard to break past the cycle of negativity and hatred you’ve been shown by others and reflect back love to the world instead, but I have to ask them what they think they are accomplishing when they criticize Caitlyn Jenner’s race, privilege, and wealth? How does critiquing her position, experience, and message actually serve anyone else?

 

It’s fair to say that her story isn’t everyone’s story and that we need to share those stories too, but you can’t just leave it at that and you really cannot have that be the only thing you bring to the conversation. You cannot just tear Caitlyn down by saying she isn’t poor enough, isn’t colored enough, isn’t socially ostracized enough to represent us as a group and then go about your life NOT sharing other stories. If you believe more has to be brought to the conversation then bring it to the conversation!!

 

It’s like we are in a coffee shop, chatting about where we want to go shopping and all the stores a few of us are mentioning are stores that are too expensive, to preppy, or too corporate for someone and all they do is say, “Those stores don’t represent me and what I want to buy! HMPH!” and then stomp out of the coffee shop in a huff. How does that accomplish their goal? How does that create a change in the plans for the day that they would like to see? Wouldn’t it be better to say, “Those stores are good and I'll go with you for fun, but can we try this other store too? I like the clothes there and it fits into my price range better than some of those others might.”

Aren’t we as a group more likely to say, “Sure, why not? Let’s all be happy instead of just some of us.”

 

I know I’m simplifying this to a degree that some people might take issue with but the principle is the same. If you think we need more stories about transgender people of color, transgender people with disabilities, transgender people who are in the sex industry (wanted or unwanted) then start sharing those stories!! Write books about them, write blogs about them, post them on social networks, paint pictures about that, write poetry about it, and express it in any ways you can to your heart’s content! Why do you think I’m here, writing day after day about my non-binary experience as a person with a dual-spirit? Why do you think I’m sharing my story in such a public way that I'm both male and female, and yet something entirely more? Because people like me aren’t represented 100% by Caitlyn Jenner, or Lavern Cox, or even Kate Bornstein (despite my love and adoration for them), but do you see me tearing them down? Do you see me chastising Caitlyn Jenner for her privilege? Do you see me mocking Lavern Cox's predisposition to openly discuss and support trans women of color more often than trans women who are Caucasian? Do you see me criticizing Kate Bornstein because she might be too quick (like I am) to jump to queer theory rather than basing her writing in hard constructed reality?

 

No, you don’t. What you see instead is me affirming what they are doing because their work has merit. What you see is me affirming what Caitlyn Jenner is doing and asking her if she is willing to do more than just share her story. Maybe she will never read my words but at least I’m offering up ideas and thoughts to her about HOW she can accomplish some of the change I’d like to see instead of just criticizing how she isn’t or can’t accomplish what I want to see. I wrote to her about the non-profit foundation she could start that would begin to help trans people who are less fortunate than her. Was it perfect? Would it serve everyone? No, but nothing ever is perfect and nothing will ever serve everyone.

 

Does Caitlyn Jenner owe any of us anything? Hell no she doesn’t. Sorry friends, but Caitlyn doesn’t owe anyone anything. She doesn’t have to be a good person, doesn’t have to want to get it right. Doesn’t have to care about trans people who are less fortunate than she is. None of us owe anything to anyone else, that’s the beauty of autonomy, choice, and infinite self-expression. Do we still have an active call for people who are willing to put their own lives aside to assist others who are less fortunate? Abso-fucking-lutely, and she is doing that! And guess what amigos, so can you!

 

I spend time volunteering for a gender therapist, and am going to school (and further into debt, I might add) so I can help the trans population in my area full time. I’m choosing to share my story openly and to help inspire others to do the same. I’ve had so many trans* people write to me and tell me how important my words are to them, how much relief they feel from my efforts to help them live more authentically, but I know I can still do more, and so I am.

 

I challenge every transgender person out there who has ever said anything about how Caitlyn Jenner doesn’t represent enough of us to begin picking up the slack by doing it for her. Only when all of us come together, when all of us can put aside the petty bullshit of ego, pride, and self-involvement to begin doing things for each other and those in need will we ever accomplish the representation we are seeking.

 

If you are transgender person of color, if you are a transgender person with a disability, if you are a transgender person working in the sex trade, if you are non-binary, if you are gender non-conforming, if you are bi-gender, if you are androgynous, if you are queer, or even if you are just a cisgender advocate (and anything else I might have missed) I challenge you to actively bring visibility to the issues you care about and think are important. We will never accomplish anything worthy of remembrance by criticizing the efforts of others who share their own story and experiences. That’s not how the trans revolution overtakes the gender binary stratification in our society. That’s not how we bring our voices to the conversation.

 

Don’t just condemn what’s already being said, instead, bring about a new conversation or steer the conversation as much as you can towards the things that are important but aren’t being addressed. To quote (ironically I’m sure) the fictional character Don Draper, “If you don’t like what’s being said, change the conversation.” We could learn a great deal from that mantra, and that’s what I’m advocating now.

 

I have a few hundred consistent readers and there is a story I’d like to share, to exemplify what I’m talking about. This is a story you won’t hear on "I am Cait". This is a story you won’t even hear from transgender activists in America, but it’s a story worthy of sharing and remembering.

 

A few months ago a little girl wrote to Dara Hoffman-Fox (and by proxy me) about her desperate conditions in life. If I remember correctly she was about 11 years old and she was living in Morroco. She was assigned male at birth and was raised as a boy, but she knew that she was a girl, not a boy. She tried to tell her mother this and tried to tell her teachers this but instead of listening to her or accepting her for who she knew she was, they refused to acknowledge her as a girl. Worse than this her mother took to physically abusing and beating her whenever she would try to assert her female gender and had started threatening to kick her out of their house if she didn’t stop. Imagine, an already impoverished and dehumanized 11 year old child homeless because she knew she wasn’t a boy. When she wasn’t at home her teachers also beat her in school when she tried to assert that she was a girl. The other boys in her class also picked on her and bullied her on a daily basis. She wrote to Dara (and me) about how she couldn’t stand to live her life anymore and she wanted to get out of her conditions. She begged us to help her be adopted by a different family, hopefully an American family who would understand that she was just a girl, and that’s all she wanted. She didn’t want anything special, didn’t want to be rich or live a life of luxury, she just wanted to not be abused by her mother and teachers because she couldn’t hide who she was. She just wanted to be loved as her true self.

 

The hardest part about this story was that it was completely legal in her country to be physically punished by her parents and teachers, and there was nothing that could be done about it. Dara and I were both completely unable to help this child who was so desperate in her pleas to be saved from the cruelty she was experiencing. I cried when I read her email and I’m crying now thinking about how I couldn’t help her, how international laws and personal financial limitations prevented me from extending the assistance she needed. I don’t know what will become of this girl. I expect that in her country the rate of transgender people being killed is even higher than in the U.S. so I fear the worst.

 

Being transgender isn’t just a first world phenomena. It isn’t just a product of western culture, it isn’t a product of post-industrial society, it transcends borders, cultures and time. It is a fundamental human condition for millions of people all around the globe and has been throughout history. We in the U.S. have an opportunity to help lead the trans revolution by sharing our stories, by influencing culture, art, TV, radio, education, public policy, and family dynamics. The way we treat each other here resonates around the world. This little girl wanted to come to America because she knew she would be safer here than where she was, and that means we have (in my opinion) a duty to live up to that belief by reducing not only the violence we tolerate against people like us, but the violence we throw at each other because our stories can be and often times are different from one another.

 

Being transgender, non-binary, androgynous, etc. has to go beyond race, privilege, and wealth. It has to bring us together by understanding that our differences are our strength, not our weakness.  Let us celebrate "I am Cait" for what it is, a revolutionary television show about one kind of transgender story that is tearing down barriers that have stood for a very long time. Let us celebrate anything that Caitlyn Jenner is willing to do to bring visibility to those less fortunate than her rather than casting stones at her for not being perfect enough for everyone. Let us celebrate every single victory that comes from her bravery to bear it all for the world to see.

 

We as a group are far too diverse to ever have a single voice to speak for all of us, that is easy to see, but instead of arguing with each other over who’s voice matters and who’s doesn’t, let us remember that every voice matters and those voices are best heard when they stand next to each other, shouting in the same direction. Our lives matter. Our lives are beautiful. Our lives are amazing. Every one of us deserves to be treated fairly and every one of us deserves to be heard. She might be Cait, and I might be Emma, and you might be you, but all of us are important. All of our stories matter. All of us can be heard, if we are but brave enough to speak up and stand up for what we believe in and who we are.

 

I want to change the conversation from “Caitlyn Jenner’s transition story doesn’t represent all of us because she is too white, too privileged, and too wealthy to really be a voice for us,”

 

to the conversation:

 

“Caitlyn Jenner’s story is doing great things for some people, and we should embrace the potentials there, but let’s also be sure to share our own stories as well so everyone can get a better picture for how limitless the potentials are for expressions of individuality through gender. Let’s all be sure to remember that every life matters, and ever trans* story deserves to be expressed and respected. Together, we can be sure to bring about greater visibility for all of us so that no one is left behind as we fight for equality. The world is watching how we react to these changes and we have the opportunity to make a great impression on how much stronger we are together than divided.”

 

I hope you will join me in that conversation. I hope you will join me on the side of love, affirmation and positivity. There are infinite ways that one thing will never solve all of our problems, but there is absolutely a way for one thing to solve some of our problems. Caitlyn Jenner is solving some of our problems, let’s not forget that, but let’s also not forget that she cannot and should not be expected to solve all of our problems. We can let her off the hook for not being perfect, can’t we? None of us are perfect, after all. Only all of us working together can solve all of our problems. If Caitlyn doesn’t represent you and your story, then by god share your story with others! Share your experiences! Add to the collective understanding of how diverse trans*/etc. lives can be and make us more than what we have been.

 

Imagine the pathway to equality is over a bridge, except that bridge hasn’t been built yet because there haven’t been enough bricks or materials in the past to finish the job. Sure, some of the foundations have been constructed but a great deal is left to be built. Imagine everyone’s story is a brick or one of those valuable materials. Some of those stories, like an internationally recognized athlete and reality TV celebrity who will automatically recruit millions of fans and viewers upon coming out to an audience of 17 million+ are capable of bringing a lot of bricks/materials to the scenario because life has situated some them with great circumstances, but by themselves they can't give enough to complete the bridge. They can maybe finally bridge the entire length on one side, but only those the most capable of traversing the difficult expanse are able to cross over it while the majority are still stuck on the other side. If you have a brick or material that you know is needed, what should you do with it? Should you cast that brick at the portion that’s already been completed out of anger or jealousy that you aren’t one of the lucky few able to cross it? Or do you recognize that you have a valuable material in your hand that could ultimately help in the completion of the rest of the bridge, which would not only help you across the bridge but help others as well? If you do recognize that possibility, what do you decide?

 

Even though I too am privileged more than many others simply because of my life circumstances, I only have a limited amount of materials to help in the construction of that bridge to equality. Despite my limitations I have chosen to give those materials away in the hope that eventually my effort will assist in the overall completion of the bridge. I have faith that sharing my non-binary story will help others. I have faith that my effort to inspire others to give away their materials as well will help even more people in the long run. I know that with all of our materials used together we are able to build this bridge and that it will be a fabulous bridge! One of the most fabulous bridges ever constructed! The world will stand in awe of our effort and that effort will stand the test of time. That effort will change the world, forever.

I am driven by the vision of what lies ahead in the future because I know that it is the visionary that builds the world of tomorrow, not the critic, and not the nay-sayer. Are you a visionary, or a critic? Do you see the potentials and offer effort and thought towards achieving those potentials? Or do you simply complain that things aren’t good enough without ever doing anything to make them better? You have the right to be either one, that is your prerogative, but at the inevitable, inescapable end of the day, month, year and ultimately your life, you are the only one who will be forced to grapple with the consequences of those choices.

I want you to leave Caitlyn Jenner alone and instead, turn all of that energy towards making the difference you want to see in the world. Don't worry about potentially failing or not achieving the visibility that she currently has, simply do as much as you can, and it will be enough. You can make a difference, even if it's only a small one and that's all that matters.


“It is hard to fail, but it is worse never to have tried to succeed.” –Theodore Roosevelt


 

With love,

-Emma

Monday, July 27, 2015

**7-27-2015 Entry: 22 Weeks on HRT


So, I wrote out a whole long post about my 22nd week on HRT but after reading it again I’ve decided that I didn’t really like what I wrote, so I’m going to try this again.

I have been on estrogen for five months now and the more time that passes me by the more I feel like I am becoming a different person. I know that embarking on gender transition pretty much means that’s what I was signing up for but it’s more than just changing my name, pronouns, gender roles and clothing. Not only are there physical changes that become more and more noticeable as the weeks go by, but there are mental changes too.

My preferences have changed, the kinds of music I like have changed, the kinds of television I watch has changed, the books I’m interested in reading and writing have changed, the type of person I want to be and see myself becoming has changed. There is little about me that is still the same as it was a year ago, and yet I am still me.

It’s difficult to put into words what this experience is like, what feeling all these changes is like. It is a combination liberation and uncertainty. It has the capacity to make me smile like I’ve never smiled before just as much as it has the capacity to leave me in tears at the end of the day without explanation or reason. It gives me strength to keep reaching for more, to keep searching out this person I’m going to become and yet causes me to shrink back in fear of who that person may end up being.

The hard truth is that transition isn’t as simple as changing your wardrobe, putting on a wig, wearing makeup and going by a female name, not when hormones are part of the process. Estrogen has turned me painfully and little by little into a woman, or at least something like the early stages of a woman. There are still a great number of changes ahead of me but I’m starting to feel something I didn’t feel in the beginning. I wonder if what I’m experiencing isn’t similar to what a caterpillar experiences as it undergoes metamorphosis into a butterfly.

I am still partly what I used to be, but this creeping sensation that’s been making its way through my body, mind and emotions tells me that I am also becoming something different; something more. I feel… different. There are no words to describe what this is like, to fully articulate the extent of these subtle changes I’ve undergone. To say that I am different pales in comparison to how different I actually feel.

It’s like every cell in my body is being rebuilt, like there is a mass migration from their previous functions to their new roles inside of this female sexed organism. They are being repurposed and reborn as the hours pass me by and with this rebirth the collective consciousness of this organism called my body is shifting.

The cells that contain the beingness and memory of Robert are fading away and being replaced by cells that only know us as Emma, that only know us as an estrogen based organism, and it’s like we have become consciously aware of that shift.

This awareness increases as time goes by and the effects become more prominent. The changes begin to manifest both in the physical and the mental. We have documented previously the physical changes of breast development, of skin softening, of fat redistribution, and hair growth changes, but the mental-emotional component is changing just as rapidly if not more rapidly than the physical.
Going full time as Emma has only seemed to speed up those mental-emotional changes because we have started to identify more readily with this new person we’ve been presenting as. Every day that we wake up and put on our Emma identity a little more of our previous self peels away, revealing the transwoman underneath more and more. The more frequently we are able to go about our life as a woman, being seen as a woman, being treated as a woman, and identifying as a woman to others the more Emma becomes a solid foundation upon which a new personality is being built.

We are different than we were before. We have changed. There is so much happening inside of us right now that it goes beyond description, goes beyond anything we have ever experienced before. Everything inside of us is affected by our decision to transition. Every cell in our body is affected by the hormones we have replaced. We are different.

The differences can be subtle in their manifestation or they can be pronounced and extremely visible. It can be as simple as hating a song we used to love or losing interest in people or topics we used to care about, and it can be as pronounced as having a 180 degree turn in sexual desire from thinking about it all the time to almost never thinking about it at all.

Things we used to care about have faded and disappeared from our life, no longer feeling relevant or important while other things have come in to fill us up with new experiences, new ideas, and new emotions. How we perceive the world around us has changed, how we react to things we experience has changed, how experiences make us feel has changed, the kinds of experiences we long for have changed, the kinds of thoughts we create are different and the person we see ourselves as has changed. The way we feel and express love is different, the way we feel and express sexuality is different, the way we feel and express identity is different.

When we walk through the skyway after work we feel different than we used to. When we look in the mirror we feel different than we used to. When we see pictures of ourselves we feel different. When we are at work we think about different things. When we are around others we talk about different things. When we watch television at home we watch different things, and not just different shows but different genres of shows. When we read books we read different genres of books. When we surf the internet we like and share different things than we used to.

Everyone goes through this as they age, as it is a natural part of life, but our experience is beyond the simple passing of time. These are not simply the fading fancies of youth passing away from us as we mature into a full fledge adult, these are fundamental shifts in personality and perceptions.

HRT has made us a different person. True there are still hints of the person we used to be but the changed pieces are becoming the majority rather quickly. It’s like we are an old car that has had the majority of its parts replaced with newly manufactured parts. On the exterior we may resemble the body we were before, but underneath the surface almost everything is different. The way that old car runs is different, the way that it rides on the road is different, the sounds it makes when it starts up is different, and the experience one has while driving it is different, yet it is the “same” car that it used to be.

This feeling of change is getting stronger with each new day. Each new week that we continue to take estrogen changes us more and more into the physical woman we are becoming, and the mental and physical cannot be separated. When our body changes so does our identity. It’s not just the changed appearance and identification with the changed appearance that gives us this different identity, it is the very consciousness that is shared with every new cell born inside a body filled with estrogen instead of testosterone. Those cells have a different environment, have different experiences, and ultimately live different lives than Robert’s cells did, and those differences are not lost on the whole. We can feel them, we are experiencing them.

New pathways are being laid down inside of us. In those new pathways new thoughts are giving birth to new actions and new actions are ending in new results. New results are creating different emotions and those different emotions are creating different experiences. Different experiences are creating different perceptions and different perceptions are creating different habits. Different habits are creating a different life and a different person.

We are different than we were 22 weeks ago and that difference is growing with every day that passes by. We are becoming someone new, literally, from a cellular level as well as a mental-emotional level. We are being reborn within the same lifetime. We are experiencing two separate lives as two separate people all within the same life span.

We are different. We are Emma.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

7-23-2015 Entry: My Four Minutes of Fame


(disregard this bit: <a href="http://www.bloglovin.com/blog/13632069/?claim=qkeq4angy24">Follow my blog with Bloglovin</a> )


Hello all! Thanks for stopping by and especially thank you to anyone who watched and/or shared my news story with others. It was definitely a crazy experience, which I kind of want to discuss today. I’ve already written an official reaction post to the news piece itself but I don’t think that I really captured what it was like to go through this experience of coming out in such a visible way.

 

Obviously, as I wrote previously, it was so exciting to be interviewed by Liz Collin. To sit in the chair a few feet across from a reporter, a bright light shining down on me and a camera sitting in the background felt completely other worldly and like a long-time dream come true. It was unlike anything I’d ever experienced before, and the fact that it was about me definitely made it feel different than say if I was being interviewed about something big that had happened to others (like I witnessed a liquor store robbery or something like that). it felt very validating, and definitely stoked the fires of the ego. I felt important, I felt interesting, i felt like I deserved the attention, which is important to note

 

Working with my therapist has helped me to understand how my early life as an only child growing up in a single parent (mostly) house with a mother who worked a stressful job (with a lot of overtime hours) likely ingrained inside of me an almost permanent state of feeling unattended to. Don’t get me wrong, my mother did her very best to always be there for me, to come to every event I was part of growing up, to really make sure I knew she cared about me and that I was important to her, but I was often a lonely child. With my father moving away when I was about 5 years old and only really being present in my life during my summer trips out to see him (going months on end without talking to him), I often felt like I didn’t matter to him, or wasn’t important enough for his attention. Due to this, I often felt like I was completely invisible or insignificant growing up. I had no siblings, I had a relatively absent father, and I had a busy, stressed out mother doing her best to make ends meet.

 

When my step father came around during the height of my isolation, loneliness, and confusion about who I really was on the inside, these things only got worse. He, I believe, felt like my mother gave me too much attention and that she needed to allow me to be more self-sustaining. It was like his personal objective was to teach me how to be a man, likely out of some misplaced desire to fill in the shoes of a father who was often absent, and so he drove a wedge between my mother and I. Not only did he take away some of the positive attention I got from my mother, but he enforced so much more negative attention. I was constantly being grounded and chastised for not being responsible enough or not acting the way I ought to. I was constantly teased and emotionally poked and prodded by this man. I suspect he did it as a way to try to toughen me up, you know, tough love. All I know is that it didn’t work for me, and only further drove me into isolation and depression (I know, depressed teenager? /yawn, right?), and further compounded the belief I had been developing that something was wrong with me.

 

I started to believe I didn’t deserve attention, that I wasn’t worthy of it. I didn’t deserve love or admiration, I was broken. I certainly felt completely wrong in my body, so why not in my mind as well? My father certainly hadn’t give me the attention I’d wanted, and now my mother was taking hers away at the advice of a man who did more to shame my effeminate nature than anyone ever had before. It’s really no wonder to me now that I started to turn to thoughts and plans of suicide before I finally asked for help.

 

That therapist during my teenage years helped me try to cope with and navigate the long held beliefs that there was something wrong with me, that I wasn’t worthy of love or attention. I’m not proud to admit this but at the time I had begun to turn to fantasies of being important to escape the pain and isolation I felt in reality, and in that fantasy realm I had started to lose myself completely. It became so bad that I even started losing time, not remembering what I’d done or where I’d been for days at a time. I literally felt my sanity starting to slip away. My grades fell, my friendships started to fall apart, I acted out more against my parents, and I really started shaming myself about these desires I had to be a female or to wear women’s clothing. I felt like I was a monster and deserved only the worst things. I was convinced that I was forever broken and could never be worthy of love or attention again.

 

I tell you all this because it played a role in my reaction to being interviewed and then ultimately in response to what was shown on the news. All of these things, these old pieces of emotional baggage that are stored away in the basement of my mind crept up to the main floor and started to gnaw at my resolve. The entire day before the piece aired on the news I was a total emotional wreck. I was so anxious, so afraid, so worried about how things would go. I was about to get more attention than I had ever gotten before and that child that still lives inside of me (we all have one) was certain that we didn’t deserve this. it was certain that the only attention we would actually get from doing this was negative attention, because we didn’t deserve to be loved, admired, or appreciated.

 

That little girl inside was convinced that we had made a mistake. Even as I, Emma, was eager and hopeful for this to happen, that little girl inside of me was very angry and upset that we’d stepped so far out into the spotlight. In the same way we had shamed ourselves during the darkest years, we struggled to feel worthy. Who were we to be on the news? Who were we to be worthy of this kind of attention? Why did we deserve to have our story shared when so many others never get the chance?

We wrestled with this until the news came on and then we just sat on the couch in a pure state of anxiety, clinging to a pillow, wrapped in a blanket with our wife, barely able to breath until the moment finally came… and then… what? That was it? 4 minutes of us feeling completely dreadful about the way we looked and then disappointed that much of our actual story was not shared…

 

“See, I told you so!” the little girl inside seemed to shout. “I told you we weren’t worthy of this attention, and I was right! You See! They didn’t want to tell them everything about us because how could they? We are too different, too wrong for them to care!”

 

I just couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t process it. I couldn’t figure out if I was disappointed, angry, sad, or just plain confused. I got up from the couch and rushed off to the shower I’d been putting off until after the news and just stood in the hot water, trying to come to my senses. There were so many emotions, so many thoughts. It was good but it wasn’t good. I liked it but I hated it. I felt like people would like it and yet also felt like no one would care. It was like there were two people inside of me warring against each other, both trying to win us over with the way they saw things. I can’t say that it was a struggle between Robert and Emma, but more a struggle between our adult self and that wounded child.

 

I went to bed thinking about how I sad and alone I felt, about how I wanted to kill myself. I stared up at the ceiling thinking about how it would just be easier to call it quits than face the reality of the next day. I wanted to cry but my wife had seemed to like the piece and so I didn’t want to show how upset I felt. I struggled to fall asleep and honestly didn’t sleep very well at all. I kept feeling like I was trying to wake up but couldn’t quite get there. I think I might have even freaked out upon my wife touching me and startling me awake, but the memory might have just been a dream. I forgot to ask her about it the next day.

 

The next morning came far too early and I wanted nothing more than to just stay in bed, but I knew I didn’t have enough time off from work to justify calling in. I felt somewhat better about the story than I had the night before and the thoughts about suicide subsided. Maybe we could turn this around, we thought, maybe we could share the story with others and it would mean something to them. Even if we were somewhat disappointed and were struggling not to enter a self-destructive spiral, it might still be a good thing.

 

Deciding to take a more proactive approach we decided to share the story on Facebook and Twitter. We tweeted the link to the story to some of the biggest names in the transgender community and blogosphere hoping they would find it worthy of sharing. We sent it to our idolized author Kate Bornstein, the ever graceful Lavern Cox, the recent rock star Caitlyn Jenner, the ever amazing PrincessJoules, and the ruggedly handsome Michael Hughes, among others. Maybe if one of them shared the story with their numerous followers, the validation we’d been hoping for would finally come, but it never did. None of them shared it. None of them responded and there is no evidence that any of them actually watched it (except Michael, who I think at least watched it). We went to the WCCO Facebook page to see if they had shared it along with the other stories and were completely disheartened to see that they had shared the utterly ridiculous story about teenagers taking to hammocking (mocking) at the local lakes, but hadn’t shared our story. Teenagers in hammocks were more important than transgender visibility? Were we dreaming?

 

“I told you so!” the little girl inside seemed to shout up at me again, this time with more surety than ever. “They don’t care about us, and they shouldn’t. We are nothing special and we don’t deserve their attention. We are still a no one and don’t really matter. Why did you even do this?”

 

This time the battle was lost by us, the adult, and was given over to the child. She believed  beyond a doubt that we didn’t deserve to be on the news, that we didn’t deserve for people to hear our full story, that we didn’t deserve the attention of others who’ve already done so much before us. She knew we were nothing and that we were, terribly, awfully, and completely alone. Everyone we knew personally who shared and watched the video said such nice things to us. So many people told us how proud they were of us, yet she wouldn’t allow us to feel proud of our accomplishment. Her surety that we were nothing and always would be, prevented us from truly appreciating what we HAD had, despite it not being what we might have envisioned.

 

We went through the day, depressed, and feeling completely alone. “How could we be such a failure?” the little girl kept asking. How could we have ever allowed ourselves to think our story was something people would care about? It’s difficult right now to even express these feelings and thoughts without wanting to cry, that’s how powerful they were.

 

It was fortunate that yesterday was also the day that I went to my weekly therapy appointment where I knew my therapist was waiting to talk to me about this story. We discussed it at length and in the end she helped me (the adult) to realize that the child had taken over. She reminded me that I didn’t have to identify with the pain and isolation that inner child was feeling, that it didn’t have to be the way I processed or viewed things. That child had developed and practiced those beliefs that we were not worthy of attention, that we were not worthy of love, that we were invisible and insignificant for so long that it was no wonder it all came bubbling up when our story hit the news; when those people we had hoped would take notice of us and share our story didn’t.

 

In reality, it was that little girl and her father who had moved away all over again. Why didn’t he pay attention to me? Why didn’t he answer my calls? Why does it seem like he is ignoring me? Do I not matter? There must be something wrong with me, because why else wouldn’t he be there for me? I must not be worthy of his love… I must have done something wrong… I must be broken…

 

And so we fell into the same feelings of isolation and depression that that little girl eventually developed over the span of her childhood. (I say her simply because the more work I have done with this inner child the more I have identified it as a little girl, even though at the time we were both a little boy and a little girl at the same time) We had allowed past issues of seeking validation and wanting attention from those we looked up to and admired to overtake our senses and blur our vision from what was really happening.

 

What was really happening was that we were doing something rather remarkable. Barely one month after going fulltime as Emma we were coming out on television for tens of thousands of people to see and countless more on the internet. Many trans people become shut ins for the first few months of their transition to full time, constantly feeling uncomfortable with how they aren’t looking exactly the way they want or that they aren’t as passable as they want. We were throwing all of those common self-criticisms to the wind and baring it all for everyone to see. We did a television interview with our voice still not in the place that we wanted, with our body still not the way we wanted, with our fashion and exterior not the way we wanted.

 

More than this, we were allowing a medium that has been historically unattainable for transgender individuals to display us in a positive light for others to see. We were allowing our story to be shared on a scale that most people never achieve, and all within the first 9 months of coming out as transgender. What we did was more than just about us or our own needs, it was about what we were bringing to the transgender cause: visibility. Not to self-congratulate too much, but what we did was extremely courageous and brave. Our therapist helped us to remember that, to see that more clearly.

 

Beyond all the self-doubt, the fear, the anxiety, and the disappointment of not being validated by those we look up to, we were proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that we really had value as a person, that we could be important and worthy of positive attention. That little girl was confused and the assumptions she had been operating under were wrong. She had done nothing wrong and she wasn’t broken. The attention she wanted but never got wasn’t a reflection of her or any failure on her part, it was simply the consequence of another person’s decisions that were out of her control.

 

Just because Kate Bornstein, Lavern Cox, Caitlyn Jenner, PrincessJoules, or Michael Hughes didn’t share our story didn’t mean that it was without value. Just because someone at WCCO decided our story wasn’t worthy of sharing on their Facebook feed (with its 138k followers) doesn’t mean our story wasn’t important or that it won’t reach the people who need to see it. All it means is that these things are the consequence of other people’s actions that we cannot control. The only thing we can control is how we continue forward. All that matters now is that we tuck this 4 minutes of fame under our belt and go back to work making a difference the only way we know how to, with our words and our writing.

 

Our therapist asked us what we would do if this news story was the pinnacle of our achievement with this blog and if things never really grew further from here and we didn’t know how to answer that question. It had never occurred to us that this might be the end, that this might be the most significant thing we would achieve with this blog, and with sharing our story. The only answer we know how to give is that we know, on a fundamental level, that there is still so much left to do, so much left of the story to tell. Even if that story only ever reaches the eyes of a few hundred people a week, that doesn’t matter, it must be told. Even if the huge influx of visits that we received as a result of our news story fades and we return to typical readership levels, it doesn’t matter, because we love each and every one of you. Even if those big-wig transgender people we look up to never get to behold how extraordinary our life is, has been, and will be, it doesn’t matter because we aren’t living it for them, we are living it for us.

 

No matter what, I’m going to become a therapist and I’m going to work with transgender individuals, their marriages, and their families. I am going to take this wonderful gift of a life I have been given and use it for the powers of good, for the sake of easing the suffering of my fellow humans and my fellow kindred spirits. No one who has not experienced gender dysphoria can fully grasp the levels of anguish that are possible within it, so I must use that intimate knowledge to free others from its icy grasp. Even if I never become the bestselling author I’ve dreamed of being since I was that teenager handing in extracurricular stories to a beloved high school English teacher for review and comments, or the high school student who spent his time writing and editing for the school newspaper, I will still live a life worthy of remembrance. I will still be a success, even if it’s only to myself.

 

We are Emma and we are not a failure, we are not broken, and there is nothing wrong with us, except the possibility that we might be too awesome for our own good! =p::::::

 

Thank you for reading, and thank you for taking this journey with me. It has been truly rewarding for me, I hope it has been for you too.

 

With love,

-Emma



Wednesday, July 22, 2015

7-22-2015 Entry: My Reaction to the News Story About My Transition




 

Hello all. As promised I’m sharing the link to the news story that was run about me and my transition. Please feel free to share with others (twitter/facebook/etc.)

 


 

I hope you found the story to be meaningful or informative for you. I, myself, found the story to be… well both good and bad. As with most everything in this world nothing is completely good or completely bad, but usually a solid mixture of the two. This story is no exception, but let’s begin with the good.

 

I found the story to be of an overall positive theme and presentation. WCCO definitely tried rather hard to make sure they referred to present tense me as she/her, which I appreciated. They also did me a solid by beginning the segment with an excerpt of Caitlyn Jenner’s now famous (or infamous depending on who you ask) acceptance speech at the ESPY’s, which made me feel entirely more famous than was probably merited. I have reached out to Caitlyn (likely to no avail) to show her the story and hope that she will share the story with her twitter/blog followers, but as of yet there has been no response. I also liked that while there was definitely the potential for my wife and I to be edited to look utterly ridiculous or to sound completely mean/insensitive, WCCO tried to capture only positive or affirming portions of the filmed interview. Although it came as somewhat of a surprise, I was appreciative of the association of my story with common statistics about transgender people, local legal issues, as well as an organization I have admired for some time now (Out Front MN). I did like that they showed pictures of my blog and the title, as well as the fact that they shared the link to this blog on the website, which has nearly quadrupled the regular traffic I get (as of writing this). Lastly, I liked that they included a portion with my wife talking about our marriage and how she coped with my decision to transition, which is an important part to my overall story (not sure where I’d be without her).

 

While I am appreciative that the story was positive and that it shed a somewhat flattering light upon me and my writing, there was some disappointment too. While I understand that we can’t all be like Caitlyn Jenner and have a lengthy and in depth television interview with Diane Sawyer that goes for an hour or more, I was a little sad about how much of the interview was cut from the end product. Liz Collin and I sat and chatted for over two hours when we filmed, yet the portion of the story actually showing interview questions/answers lasted probably less than  45-60 seconds in total.

 

This disappointment with the brevity of actual interview footage actually expands into several different issues I had. The first was that it only barely scratched the surface of the true Emma transition story. In some ways, it was like the news story was about a person who is telling their story (me) more than it was about that person’s actual story, and perhaps that is all it was ever supposed to be. I admit that I likely had a incorrect perception of why this story was being run, but because of how brief the excerpts were, there was no opportunity to discuss my non-binary gender identity or why I was okay with WCCO discussing my life as Robert. I’ve already had some people cringing at the use of my birth name and pronouns, and they are right to do so. In almost any other context of transgender examination it is inappropriate or undesired to discuss previous gender and life before transition unless otherwise expressed. Without explaining why I was okay sharing my story and why I feel comfortable discussing my past, of which I am neither ashamed nor trying to hide from, I fear that others will see the news piece as an open invitation to ask transgender people about their pasts when they probably shouldn’t.

 

The brevity also prevented any discussion of what it means to be non-binary, or what it means to try to transcend binary world views and social expectations. Instead I was simply referred to as a transgender woman, which is not entirely accurate. It is much more accurate than to say I’m a man or that I’m simply a woman, so I was not offended, but it still left me wishing for more explanation. I wanted so much for them to include Liz and I’s discussion of how I am really a we, and how Robert and Emma both still exist inside of this person I’ve become. I also felt a bit chagrined with the single excerpt of me reading my original blog post (truth will set you free) where I talked about being a scared and terrified woman inside. While that statement was 100% true at the time that I wrote it, I am no longer afraid to be myself. The whole point of this blog and my story is to display how I’ve overcome that fear and am now living a fearless and happy life.

 

Lastly, and this is no fault of WCCO, I was disappointed in my own appearance. I know the camera is supposed to add ten or fifteen extra pounds but holy goodness I felt like a cow watching myself on the television. Needless to say the diet is becoming more of a priority than it has been recently. I might have already lost nearly 90 pounds over the last two years, but I really have a lot left to go and my half-assed efforts to stick to my weight watchers goals lately are not cutting it. Time to finally drop that last 40 or 50 pounds I have hanging around. Next I never realized how hunched over I always am. I felt like Emma, the hunchback of Minnesota. I’m not sure what I can do to correct this habit of allowing my shoulders to droop so badly but I’ve got to fix my posture before I’m permanently hunched over. Then there was my voice… oh my voice… I spent so many hours annoying the crap out of my wife in the car doing damn voice exercises and it all seemed for naught when I heard myself talk. I know I’m holding myself to a standard that’s probably unrealistic but I just felt like I sounded like any other guy on the street and was disappointed I didn’t sound more the way I wanted to.

 

Anyways, I don’t want you to get the wrong impression. I am glad I did the interview. I am glad that WCCO put it on the air. I am glad that more people are becoming aware of me, my life, my writing, and my efforts to transcend (and inspire others to transcend) the gender binary. I still appreciate Liz Collin and believe whole-heartedly that she did a good job with this despite what might have been expected of her. We all have a boss, and who knows what pressures she was under to make the story the way she did. Maybe she wanted to include the parts about me explaining my non-binary gender identity but someone higher up the food chain couldn’t get on board with that vision. Most people are struggling to understand garden variety transgender issues (simple MtF, FtM who want only to pass as their true binary gender), so perhaps my gender outlawry and non-conformity to the binary was too big a pill to swallow for the nightly news. I will likely never know, so all I can do now is accept what was broadcast, appreciate the good parts of it, and move on with my efforts to share my story for the benefit of others.

 

I am very lucky to have been chosen for this. I am very lucky to have so many people reading my words and hearing about my story. I am so fortunate for so many things in my life and I know that. I count my blessings every day. I thank the heavens for the many gifts I have been given and try to not squander them selfishly. The only thing that really matters is that I’m being given increased opportunity to spread love, peace, and acceptance of transgender/non-binary people. WCCO and Liz Collin have given me a wonderful opportunity to reach so many more people than I could have otherwise and I will be forever grateful to them for that. And let us not forget about Tom, the cameraman who did his best to make me look as little like a hunchback cow on camera as he could. I feel bad he had such a poor subject to work with, but I promise that if I ever do a follow up interview with Liz and him (assuming Liz didn’t hate my review just now), I will be thinner and have a better posture. =/

 

Anyways. I hope the new readers keep coming in and that you are all finding this exceptional journey I’ve embarked on as fascinating, emotional, thought provoking, and entertaining as I have. I’ve come a long way, but this is really just the beginning of the story. We are barely into chapter 1, and I’m feeling a George R.R. Martin length novel coming on ;)

 

With love,

 

-Emma

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

7-21-2015 Entry: My News Interview Airs Tonight!


Hello my darlings! I hope things are going well for you. I have exciting news! I just got word this morning from the amazing reporter Liz Collin that they plan to air my story tonight during the 10pm news show, which means that some of you reading these words might have just watched that news story and are visiting my blog for the first time.

If that pertains to you I want to say welcome to the fabulous realm of gender outlawry! I hope you enjoy what you read and that you’ll come back again as I post new blogs every couple days or so. If you want to start at the beginning and read from there I highly advise you start with http://transadvent.blogspot.com/2014/10/and-you-will-know-truth-and-that-truth.html as that is where all of this began. Otherwise you are welcome to jump right on the train to fabulous town and behold all the wonders that come when you start transcending the gender binary!

I am Emma, transwoman extraordinaire, and I have dedicated my life to not only living as authentically as I can, despite social conventions and expectations about how an assigned-male-at-birth person is supposed to act, but also to inspiring others to do the same thing. I spend much of my free time writing on this blog about my own transition, my experiences with the gender binary, and the politics that are often hidden in plain sight inside the socially acceptable discourse of 21st century gender politics. When I’m not writing on here I also spend my free time volunteering for a gender therapist (www.darahoffmanfox.com/ ) by answering emails sent in from individuals seeking help, advice, resources, and friendship regarding their gender identity and sexuality. When I’m not doing that I tend to spend my hours either working at a law firm, reading, or hanging out with my lovely and ever amazing wife, along with our dog and three cats. When I’m not doing those things (God, I am busy aren’t I?) I’m working on my fiction novels under the pen name R.T. Edwins (see the Fiction Works and Novels tab above).

My wife and I live in Minnesota, but I grew up in Colorado where I was raised as Robert the male. From an early age, probably around 8 or 9 years old, I knew that something was different about me. I found myself constantly battling the urge to wear women’s clothing or to take on female gender roles but did not figure out until my mid-twenties that these inclinations (and my naturally effeminate personality) were because I was transgender. Even after figuring out I was transgender I spent another 4 or 5 years living in denial about who I was and who I wanted to be because I feared what would happen to my life should I decide to make a gender transition. Eventually that denial was broken (explained in the first blog I linked above) about 10 months ago and I decided that this pervasive feeling that I was female, or at least not entirely male, would never go away.

I decided to do the hardest and most terrifying thing I’ve ever done and came out to the entire world (including family and in-laws) as transgender. I have since come to understand that I am not a Male-to-Female transgender person, but actually a gender identity that I term a non-binary transwoman (note the difference from the two word format of trans woman). I have identified as this because I’ve grown to understand through a great deal of introspection and meditation that I am both male and female, and yet something entirely more than either of those things. On the surface I display a gender expression that most closely resembles the binary gender female but I am not a female and would not claim to be one were I asked outright.

As I told Liz Collin (which may or may not end up in the news story that’s aired) I am really a we. There are two of us inhabiting this body, previously separated out of necessity for survival in our binary-centric society, but now rejoined and converged to work in tandem with one another. We are Emma. We do, however, prefer female pronouns of she/her because they make us feel happy; we also prefer the less cumbersome singular form of I/me instead of us/we/they/their. We do sometimes refer to ourselves as we/us as we are right now, but generally it is safe to assume that unless otherwise specified the usage of I/me/my is being offered to describe both of us.


Occasionally, we will discuss each of the two of us in separate form, most frequently labeled as Emma (feminine energy/Yin) and Robert (masculine energy/Yang), but we do so only as an illustration of the complexities of our being. We ask for your patience as we struggle to do this in a way that makes sense. It is unfortunate, we have found, that the English language is not well equipped to describe or approximate one such as ourselves. Many Native American tribes (as well as other cultures throughout history) have long since recognized a twin-spirited gender and even treated these individuals with great respect and reverence, but the judeo-christian, western culture in which we were born never did such a thing, and so we are left to struggle to approximate as best as we can what and who we are. (We do not adopt the label twin-spirited because we are not native American ourselves and do not wish to offend, although we do recognize the similarity between that label and who we, as twin spirits, are.)

For simplicity we will revert back to singular form and hope that you have followed along with us.
In addition to my efforts to blog about my transition and to correspond via email with those who are like me or are simply questioning their gender/sexuality, I have decided to continue my education in order to become a therapist. I have just been accepted into a Master’s program for marriage and family therapy and will hopefully become a therapist that works primarily with the transgender (as well as LGBQ) population in the twin cities. I want to become a resource for those who are in need of guidance, acceptance, appreciation, and advice on how to live a truly authentic life.

I choose to live my life openly and to do things like blog about my transition and do television interviews about my story so that others who are not familiar with the millions of transgender individuals around the world can see that we do exist and that our lives and stories matter. I choose to exercise the only voice I have ever truly had (my writing) to help bridge the gap between where society is and where it could be if it accepted a less binary-centric view about human expression and potential. I believe the human spirit is filled with far too much creativity and potential to be limited to an either or system of male and female, and that we as a society are doing ourselves a disservice by ignoring, ostracizing, and dehumanizing those who contradict that binary system.

I allege that gender is ultimately a social construction and that while an individual’s gender identity can be valid and an intrinsic part to their right of self-expression, the expectations, norms, and policing of gender on a societal/cultural level are inherently harmful to the human spirit. I have been developing a thesis which I have started to call the transgender mystique (paying homage to Betty Freidan’s Feminine Mystique), and will frequently discuss that subject in future posts because it pervades almost every aspect of our society. The base assumption of a gender binary, to which we are evidence that such a system is inadequate to fully encompass human potential, has found its way into nearly every level of our society from education and child rearing,  advertising and fashion, to even politics and money. I further allege that gender and the gender binary is ultimately used in order to solidify and normalize social power disparities between groups labeled as different from one another and that these social power disparities are often hiding in plain sight, usually going unnoticed, unexamined and unremarked upon.

As a previously heterosexual, Caucasian, educated, married, and functioning-penis-wielding male, I have experienced the near pinnacle of social power and privilege (the only thing I lacked was wealth). As a gender non-conforming non-binary transwoman, I have also experienced the near bottom of social power, and yet I am nearly the same exact person I was previously. Why is this? Why does my non-conformity to the gender binary mean I must become socially disempowered? What does that inherent disempowerment mean about our society? How does it reflect upon our values? And what are those values when you actually take a closer look at them?

These are the questions this blog and my transgender mystique thesis are attempting to answer. I believe the potential for unlimited human expression and thought exist within those answers, but those answers are of little use if I’m the only one who discovers them. Thanks to people like my idolized author Kate Bornstein I am not the only one seeking or obtaining these answers, but in order for actual change to come, more people must begin to question the transgender mystique. More people must learn to start thinking outside of the either/or binary box they were raised in and realize that the box does nothing to help them (in fact it really does a lot to harm them). I want to expand consciousness, to expand our assumptions about what’s normal, and to transcend our self-imposed limitations. I want to show just how beautiful, unique, thought-provoking, spiritual and fabulous non-conformity to gender can be. I want to live an extraordinary life, and I want you all to come with me on this remarkable ride as I attempt to tear down the binary and lift up infinite individual expression.

We are Emma, and we have not come to change the world, we came to ROCK IT!!

(Lastly, I will share the link to the news story once it is available, probably sometime tomorrow)