Friday, December 23, 2016

12-23-2016 Entry: All This Pain is an Illusion

Hello my darling readers. It is a snowy day here in Minnesota and I fortunately have the day off in anticipation of the holiday this Sunday. I also have Monday off too, which is pretty awesome because who doesn’t like a 4 day weekend? In a lot of ways life has started to look up over the past week or two. There have been dips and moments that were lost to sadness or loneliness, but they have been fewer and further between than in recent months.

I think the main reason things have gotten better over the past two weeks has been because I’ve decided that I’m done with this depression shit. I know, it’s not like I really chose it or the circumstances that brought it to life to begin with, but I really feel like I’m done with it. It’s hard to explain but in more practical terms that you might understand I’ve decided that finding happiness or relief in every given moment that I can must become my number one priority. I have to change the patterns of thought that have developed, and I have to change the chemistry of my brain so that neural pathways that once brought laughter and happiness are reactivated.

I cannot allow depression and suicidal thoughts to beat me down anymore. I have to fight back against them quickly and early on, which is something I’ve been struggling to do in recent months. I’ve simply allowed depression to run the show, and depression is a terrible fucking show director unless you are wanting to see a tragedy, and I really don’t want my life to become one. No, I can’t allow depression to take hold anymore. I can’t let it tell me what I’m worth (nothing), who loves me (no one) or what my future looks like (an empty void of sadness, heartbreak, and pain) anymore, because if I do then it’s only a matter of time before depression is right. I know that this isn’t going to be easy, and I know that there are going to be days I fail (yesterday was one), but I refuse to allow one day of failure define my ongoing battle with depression. No, the battle must be fought and it must be an organized effort, which is something I’ve failed to do (organize).

The first thing I must do is understand why this recent bought of depression came into my life to begin with. I thought for a long time that it was still tied to my divorce, which was tied to my decision to transition, and while that is true in part, that reasoning is mostly a farce put on by the depression. It didn’t want me to understand the true source of it. It didn’t want to be seen, because if it is seen then it can be dealt with directly. No, this round of depression has much more to do with the sexual assault than anything else. It had so much more to do with the PTSD symptoms I’ve been struggling with than any regrets over my marriage ending.

You see, the depression had a major trump card in this game of self-worth that it and I had been playing. It had the one thing that could overpower anything we tried to use as a coping mechanism. It didn’t matter how much therapy we had, how many friends we had, how well we did with school, how rewarding our work was, how well we did with sobriety, how much we drank when we did, or how close we were to our family (both blood and queer family) because none of that mattered in the shadow of the guilt we experienced over the sexual assault.

Our friends love us and care so much about us!
-You called her when you knew it was a bad idea and she hurt you without you even fighting back.
We are learning so much in school and at our job! Can’t wait to be a therapist!
-How can you help other people when you couldn’t even help yourself? You’re pathetic, no one would want you as their therapist.
We have so many good things in our life, and so much potential for growth and happiness.
-It happened when you were a kid, and again when you were an adult; it will happen again.
(looking in the mirror) We are so pretty these days, and our kindness and confidence will continue to attract people who love us.
-You are too soft. They have only ever wanted things from you and wanted to hurt you. They will take what they want and leave because they don’t care about you. No one can be trusted.

Those were the thoughts that kept me down when I wanted so badly to be up on my feet. It was easy to drown those thoughts out with distraction like socializing with people, going to work, going to school, studying, getting lost in a video game, or drinking, but they were always there in the quiet moments between all of that. They were there when we laid in bed trying to fall asleep. They were there as we drove from one place to another. They were there all the time, waiting for their opportunity to come out and torment me. I tried so hard to keep myself distracted, to find ANYTHING at all that would make the thoughts go away, to make the guilt go away, and when I inevitably failed there was that one permanent solution to the problem: suicide.

What I failed to understand, however, was that it wasn’t about finding distraction. It wasn’t about losing myself in something (aka dissociating) that made me forget the guilt. It was about learning to silence the guilt during those moments of quiet when the walls started crashing in on me. It was about finding peace within that storm of anger, sadness, guilt, and pain. It was about understanding that my desire to isolate and not reach out to people or talk to them unless I had to was just perpetuating my misery. It didn’t matter how much distraction I found or how many outside things I tried to dull the pain of my guilt about the assault, it would always be there, waiting for me. Realizing that at various points over the past few months only furthered depression’s grip over my life, but it didn’t have to.

I kept thinking I had to run from it. I kept thinking the only way to “get over” my trauma was to distance myself from it and try to find a normal life again, but I was wrong. I didn’t need to “get over” the trauma, I needed to accept it, to hold it in my arms, to hug it, to love it, and remind it that there is a future filled with potential, and the only way I could do that is if I stopped running from those quiet moments and stopped allowing them to overpower me.

Rather than letting the quiet moments sneak up on me, I needed to deliberately go into them through meditation. I had to put myself in the quiet moments and allow the thoughts to come up where they could be examined in the light of consciousness and not the dark of depression. Once I did that I could see them for what they were, a response to trauma and a defensive response at that. If you isolate, no one can hurt you. If you keep people at arm’s length then they can’t exploit any vulnerability. And in addition, if you aren’t aware you are doing it, you can’t feel guilty about your social failures.

 Instead of: I’m pushing all of my friends away and not reaching out like I used to, it becomes, they aren’t around because they know I’m broken, and it’s better that way because they’d just want something from me anyways.
Instead of: forcing myself into isolation is hurting me and causing me to lose all hope for a happy future, it becomes, It’s safer to just stay home, and I don’t have anything to offer anyone, anyways; I don’t matter.

So when I put myself in that place of quiet, knowing that I had to wrestle with the elusive creature of depression, what I really found was a mirror. I was the elusive creature of depression. I was the one doing this to myself, but I had to be careful not to become angry at that reflection. There was a reason I was doing it to myself and there was a reason I couldn’t see that for so long. I needed to do it in order to survive the trauma. I had to protect myself, just as I had to protect myself as a child when I was sexually violated again and again. I had to isolate. I had to push everyone away. I had to stop trusting in the goodness of people. I had to stop putting myself out there where I’d be at risk, and the fastest way to do that is convince myself I’m not worthy of being put out there at all. If no one cares about me, then no one can hurt me. If I don’t depend on anyone, then no one can let me down, betray my trust, or exploit my vulnerability.

Yes, I would have to take on the burden of isolation, guilt, and self-hatred, but the means justified the end if we could find healing from this terrible experience. Except, that healing never really came. It’s still there. Even as life gets better there is this gaping wound inside of my heart and soul that just refuses to close. The wound wants me to keep isolating, to keep pushing people away, to keep driving myself to the point of suicide, but I know that I can’t keep doing that. It hasn’t helped me heal, and in some ways has created other wounds that now need healing. What I must do to find that healing is learn how to regain my peace, regain my balance, regain my confidence, and regain my trust in others. That is what I must dedicate my time to now, but I can’t do it by looking outside anymore. No one and nothing is going to heal this wound for me, I have to do it on my own by remembering my true nature, our true nature. We did not come to this life to be overcome by the selfishness of others, but to shine brightly in the darkness so love and beauty can win the day.

This isn’t a tragedy you are reading about here. This isn’t the end and it’s certainly not the climax. We are deliberate creators who have the potential to realize all of our goals and dreams if we can remember our balance and true nature as eternal beings. This is not our first time in the physical world, and it is unlikely to be the last. If it is, however, it’s going to be a life worth remember, not one worth mourning the loss of. We are eternal and all this pain is an illusion.
"Parabola"

We barely remember who or what came before this precious moment
We are choosing to be here right now
Hold on, stay inside...

This holy reality, this holy experience
Choosing to be here in...
This body, this body holding me
Be my reminder here that I am not alone in...
This body, this body holding me, feeling eternal
All this pain is an illusion

Alive!

In this holy reality, in this holy experience
Choosing to be here in...
This body, this body holding me
Be my reminder here that I am not alone in...
This body, this body holding me, feeling eternal
All this pain is an illusion

Twirling round with this familiar parable
Spinning, weaving round each new experience
Recognize this as a holy gift and celebrate this chance to be alive and breathing
A chance to be alive and breathing

This body holding me reminds me of my own mortality
Embrace this moment, remember, we are eternal
All this pain is an illusion
-TOOL-


-Emmz


(This was taken two days ago at my grad school Christmas party with one of my very best friends. IDK what I'd do without her these days, she means the world to me)


Monday, December 12, 2016

12-12-2016 Entry: Hello Suicide, My Old Friend, I've Come to Talk with You Again

I don’t know if I’ve ever told anyone on this blog, but for me the desire to write has always come from a place of such incredible sadness that it cannot be put into words. It’s always the sadness that drives my creativity. I don’t know why that is. I know other writers can express themselves from a place of humor and happiness , but I’m just not like them. Sure, I’m sarcastic and playful, but at the heart of everything creative I’ve ever written is a deep and dark sorrow trying to express itself.

Well, right now, my darling readers that is all I seem to know: deep, dark, sorrow. I haven’t published an entry in two months because the last two months have been among the worst two months of my life. It feels tiresome to review all that has happened, not when I’ve already written that entry (I didn’t publish it for reasons that are hard to explain, but I will publish it when the time is right, I promise) but one highlight was that I spent a week in the psyche ward because of how suicidal I was. That week in the psyche ward came shortly after the entry I last publish about pre-transition relationships. It seems the approach of the anniversary of my marriage ending was too much to bear with grad school and overtime at work piled on top (there was more but you’ll have to wait for that unpublished entry for those details).

Now I just don’t know what to do with myself. I’m circling that suicide drain again and I really don’t want to go back to the hospital. Sometimes, during the day, when I’m around my friends I feel happy, like everything is okay, but by time I get home to my empty and cold house all of that seems to fade away into the silence around me and I’m left alone with my sorrow. I knew that when I decided to transition I was going to have to destroy my old life, but I had hoped to do that by replacing piece after piece gently with something better. Instead, I had the foundation ripped out from under me and I’ve been forced to watch everything that I once was collapse around me into a giant heap of rubble.

Eventually I find the strength to pick that rubble up and start building anew but the moment I start to think I might have things under control again there is a figurative earthquake that topples my efforts and I’m forced to decide if I want to start again. How many times can a person hit bottom before there are no more bottoms to hit? Does it require death? Is this just going to keep getting worse and worse as time goes on unless I put an end to it?

People always wonder why anyone would do something like commit suicide, and they often try to rationalize it away. Oh, they were just really sick, or they didn’t see their potential. Or maybe they take the less friendly route and suggest that they were too weak or foolish to ask for the help they needed… but what about those people who realize their potential, take every effort to cure their mental illness, and seek all the help they need? What about them? Why do they still commit suicide? Well I can tell you. It’s because they are tired. They are tired of being strong. They are tired of chasing a potential that doesn’t fulfill. They are tired of asking for help or trying ways to cure their mental illness. They are just tired of being alive.

That’s how I feel now. How I have been feeling for a few months now. I’m just tired of being alive. Tired of fighting the dreadful shit that keeps happening in my life. I’m tired of seeking help, of asking for help, of getting help. I’m tired of taking meds or self-medicating with drinking to combat my sorrow. I’m tired of the solitude, the panic attacks, the flashbacks, the memories of my marriage that keep scrapping through my mind until I don’t want to think anymore. I’m tired of being alone. I’m tired of being told that I won’t be alone forever or that things will eventually get better. I’m so tired, my darlings.

It kills me that I can finally look in the mirror and see a reflection I understand, a reflection I like, and a reflection I can be proud of, but also know that that reflection cost me nearly everything, and then some. I finally know who I am, what I am, why I am the way I am, but the journey to get to this place has taken nearly everything out of me. I feel like I’ve reached the summit of some enormous mountain that I vowed to climb and I get to look down at the world knowing I succeeded just as the life starts to slip from my body.

Is this the end? Is this where our story ends? Two years after it began and here I am, thinking about how death is the only thing that makes any sense. I don’t want to be alive anymore. I’m finally happy with who I am and I don’t want to live anymore?? What kind of fucking tragedy is that? Emma, transfem extraordinaire, finishes her transition, becomes the beautiful girl she always wanted to be, only to be so overcome with isolation, sorrow, and regret that she takes a bottle of sleeping pills to throw it all away?

Surely that can’t be how this all ends. Surely there has to be some relief to this gauntlet of life I’ve been fighting through, but what happens when I run out of the energy to fight before the relief comes? Will the gauntlet end then? Will I finally find some semblance of contentment in life again? Things weren’t perfect with my ex-wife but at least we had each other in our times of sorrow, and we even had happiness. I have so many memories of happiness with her, so many fond recollections of the silliest things that still bring a smile to my face, but all of that is in the past. I’ve found a way to forgive her. I’ve found a way to overcome my resentment. I’ve even found a way to be happy for her, but I cannot for the life of me find a way to stop these happy memories from haunting me. Every day I remember something from our life together, and they are happy things, but they make me cry and there is only isolation to comfort me. In those quiet moments of desperate sorrow all I can think is, “Was all of this even worth it?”

I don’t know the answer. I don’t know if it was worth it or not. If I had to decide today, if today was the day I died, then the answer would be no. I would have taken another year and a half of unfulfilled marriage and the burden of living as a man over this.

I know that’s not pretty. I know that’s not what people want to hear. They want to hear that transition is filled with joy and nothing ever goes awry, but that’s not the reality, at least not mine. My transition has been a dual experience of fulfilling joy at getting to be the person I want to be, and the crushing despair of having everything fall apart. It’s been the dual experience of smiling at myself in the mirror because I can finally see the real me, and having unbelievable difficulties with discrimination, dating, and employment.  It has been a dual experience of getting to be seen, accepted, and understood as the girl I knew I always was, and having to watch my marriage come unraveled as my wife (very reasonably) couldn’t stay with me because I was that girl. I’ve gotten to experience the wonder of being hired for a job where my identity was not only accepted, but celebrated; and I’ve experienced losing my job because an old white guy was a transphobe and didn’t want me around anymore because I made him uncomfortable.

I’ve gotten to experience the largest reading audience I have ever attracted by talking about my transition, and I’ve also had my writing ambitions as a fiction author collapse completely because of how much time and effort I spent on these entries. I’ve been featured on television for tens of thousands of people to hear a small part of my story, and I’ve also found out firsthand how invisible you can feel when people just assume you are a woman and have nothing to offer. I’ve gotten to experience how amazing it can be for a girl to be attracted to me because I was also a girl, and I’ve gotten to experience what it is like to be cat-called, sexually harassed, and even sexually assaulted because I was a girl (you know, because girls are objects for pleasure, not people who deserve respect and decency right?).

I’ve gotten to meet some amazingly wonderful people who have greatly enriched my life, and I’ve met some of the most despicable and disgustingly hateful people who would rather see me burn at the stake than use the women’s bathroom with them. I’ve been called a friend, a mentor, and a teacher, and I’ve also been called a fag, a child molester, a man in a dress, a freak, and a very sick person (not as in ill, but as in fundamentally flawed in a wrong kind of way).

So no, my darlings, I can’t say that my transition has been all roses, unicorns, and rainbows. There have been plenty of those, but they have been overshadowed almost immediately from some awful thing that the gods have decided I need to endure. Transitioning has been the hardest fucking thing I have ever done, and sometimes I wonder why I chose to do it. I often wonder if I could have lived my whole life as Robert, but the answer is only yes if I had gone through with suicide like I wanted to before the dream that started all of this. I know that I couldn’t have lived as Robert for much longer than I did, but the question I’m struggling with now is how much longer can I live as Emma before it becomes too much?

I feel like I’m nearing the end of my rope, like one more bad thing happening will be the gust of wind that sends me flying into the abyss. There is only so much disappointment a person can endure and there is only so much strength offered by a reflection that matches what’s on the inside. I might be a pretty girl (possibly only in my mind) but what use is being a pretty girl when it costs you almost everything, and your life becomes a thousand times harder, not to mention lonelier, as a result?

I don’t really know what I’m getting at with this entry other than to vent some of my sorrow so it’s not all bottled up inside me, choking the life out of me. I do feel somewhat better having written this. The desire to not exist has subsided some, so I guess there is that. I'm honestly not even sure how many of you are still reading my blog. absent as I've been. Maybe my words will just echo in the emptiness of the internet, who knows?

All I know is it’s about damn time for Emma, transfem extraordinaire, to catch an extraordinary break, one she won’t inevitably fuck up because she’s so depressed and lonely that she makes terrible life choices. Surely a year and a half of getting shit all over is more than enough for anyone to have to bear… right? Please???


-Emmz

(I used to post pictures of me at the end, so here is a recent one)

Monday, October 10, 2016

10-11-2016 Entry: Pre-Transition Relationships, to End or Not to End?

I’m finding myself having a hard time reconciling my strong desire to immediately begin the transition process and my need to keep things kind of slow for the sake of my marriage. I don’t feel like my wife is holding me back, but I do feel a bit like I’m holding myself back on her account… if that makes any sense. I’m starting to wish that I was just alone so that I could explore this part of myself without any concern about what she will think or feel about it, but I don’t really want to end my marriage. I am, however, having a hard time seeing how this is going to go or even really envisioning us staying together through all of this. I can’t foresee her really being okay with me being a full blown woman, not when I know she is attracted to men, so it’s hard for me to envision her being attracted to me as a woman. I want to believe that she can do it but part of me almost hopes that she can’t so that I can be free to be myself without needing to hold back for her.” (See: Spouse Issues)

Those were words I wrote almost two years ago at the onset of this journey of self-discovery and as I read them I am filled with an odd mixture of feelings. On one hand I am impressed, if not a little saddened, by the fact that I so clearly understood my marriage was over a year before it actually was. I think in some ways my wife did as well but neither of us were ready to admit it. On the other hand I am reminded of just how trapped I used to feel inside of that marriage. When I read my own words expressing a wish to be alone so I can explore this part of myself without any concern for the thoughts/feelings of another I am forced to look at my current situation.

I am alone. I got my wish. I get to explore who I am all on my own and I don’t have to worry about how it makes anyone feel. That is both a very freeing feeling and criminally lonely one as well. You know that old adage about being careful what you wish for? Well I should have been careful what I wished for, but not in the way you might think. Being alone, for better or worse, was an inevitable consequence of my decision to burn my old identity to the ground and build anew, but what I didn’t understand was how dangerous undertaking such a large project alone could be. You see, with my wife in the picture I was able to build in a slow but steady fashion with constant inspections. Once I was alone, there was no one there to supervise my building. There was no one there to remind me that I needed to go to work, even if I felt depressed. There was no one there to remind me that getting hammered on a Wednesday night with my friends until 1am wasn’t a great way to want to go to work the next day. There was no one there to remind me that my life wasn’t over once I lost my job. There was no one there to remind me that I needed to find work and to save my money while I looked. There was no one to account for my spending or to stop me from drinking most of my money away.

I have to wonder if it wouldn’t have been better to begin the process alone rather than undertaking it together and hoping things wouldn’t fall apart. Now that I am here, now that I have lived through all of the events of the last two years I can honestly say that there are times that I wish I’d done things differently. My wife and I knew things were over once I realized I was transgender. Both of us fought to keep the illusion going that we could make it work. I did everything I could to convince myself that things weren’t over and allowed the anecdotal stories of women sticking with their transwoman spouses after the transition to blind me from what was directly in front of me. Yes, sometimes, with extremely rare frequency transgender women are able to maintain their marriages to women after the transition. That is true, but the vast majority of marriages don’t make it, and the ones that do almost always become platonic ventures for the sake of the children.

I don’t want to break your heart if you are considering transition and you are married or in a LTR with someone who is attracted to the sex that you were assigned at birth. If you are pre-transition and are a transwoman with a wife, a transman with a wife, a transwoman with a husband, a transman with a husband, or a genderqueer/non-binary/etc. person with a spouse/partner, then I want you to understand the reality of the situation. Chances are, with rare exception, your marriage or LTR is going to either end or come to a place that barely resembles the relationship it was before. The person who has the greatest chance, in my experience, is a transman married/partnered to a woman and that is only because much of the time that transman was already rather masculine in presentation to begin with. (I’m not sure I have ever seen a lipstick lesbian suddenly decide to transition to male, but I’ve only been in the queer game for a year so I’m sure it has happened somewhere). Even then, the chances are less than great.

I think I can safely say that had my wife and I just made the decision early on (perhaps when I decided to start hormones) to call it quits then we both could have saved ourselves a great deal of suffering and might have actually survived as friends. Sure, it would have been heartbreaking, because I loved her with every ounce of my being, but we wouldn’t have gone to such extreme lengths to force something that was already over. She wouldn’t have cheated on me, I wouldn’t have gotten so depressed with how my wife didn’t want to sleep with me anymore, and we wouldn’t have bought a house/car. Don’t get me wrong, I love my house and I love my car, but I’m not sure I can say they are worth no longer having much of a relationship with my ex-wife and former best friend. I think having her as my friend and having her support present in my life would have been far better than a house that’s too big for just me and a car I can hardly afford with my criminally low paying job.

In three weeks it will have been exactly one year since my marriage fell apart and I think it no coincidence that I’ve started reading these words again. I didn’t plan it this way but something from the past called to me and here I am, continuing my blog through self-reflection over my experiences with the hopes that it will help whomever comes across these words. As this woeful anniversary looms over me I am filled with so much regret and sadness. I wanted so badly for my marriage to work out, for my wife and I to figure out our problems and live this lesbian family fantasy I had built in my head; and it was exactly that fantasy that caused us both so much heartache. I think back to the worst moments of the divorce and I remember how utterly nasty we were to one another, and all of it could have been avoided if I’d just been a goddamn grownup and recognized what needed to be done.

So many arguments could have been avoided, so many apologies wouldn’t have been necessary, so much guilt over the way we were feeling could have been avoided, and so much misery saving up for a house could have been avoided. So much would have gone differently, and quite possibly better than it did while we both pretended to make things work. I cannot even begin to count the number of times I wouldn’t have had to answer the question, “How is your wife taking this?”

Maybe if we’d just made the adult decision I’d still be in contact with my former in-laws. Maybe I wouldn’t feel like I’m completely cutoff from any sense of family most of the time. Maybe my nieces and nephews would still be in my life. Maybe I’d still have a relationship with the sister-in-law I adored. Maybe I’d still have aunts and uncles within driving range. Maybe I wouldn’t have lost the family I gained from my marriage. You cannot see them because you are just reading my words but there are tears streaming down my face as I type these words. I miss my family, even if they were her family to begin with. I didn’t think about that when I decided to buy into a fantasy rather than reality. I didn’t consider all I had to lose by gambling on a, “maybe we can make it work,” instead of betting on the more likely, “maybe we can part ways amicably and stay close friends.”

I know I probably sound like a Debbie Downer right now, especially if you are in a situation that pertains to this discussion, but I have to call it like I see it. I didn’t do that then and it hurt me in the long run. I can honestly say that the chances of me turning to drinking the way that I did would have been drastically lower had I called it like I saw it. Maybe I wouldn’t be in AA and maybe I could go to the bar to drink like a normal person. I used to be able to do that. I used to have that control but after the marriage fell apart I eventually lost that ability, and I cannot help but wonder how different things would be had we taken the alternative route.

I simply wish to offer these thoughts and reflections as a means of giving you an alternative perspective on pre-transition relationships. Most people will try to convince you that you can do it, even as they question you at every turn about how you think it’s going (because they secretly think you are screwed but don’t want to hurt your feelings). I don’t want to hurt your feelings either, but I want you to know what you might want to think about as you begin this journey. Even if it might be painful and difficult to end things early on, what potential disasters might you avoid in the long run? How do you feel about your spouse/partner no longer wanting to have sex with you? How will you feel when they break down into tears because you enjoy wearing that new item of gender-affirming clothing you bought? How will you feel as you look in the mirror and see someone that you are proud of, when your partner mournfully sees the person they loved melting away little by little? Worse yet, how will you feel as they ogle someone on TV that is your assigned-at-birth sex? How would you feel about them divulging that they are attracted to a coworker of your assigned-at-birth sex?  How would you feel about them deciding to sleep with said coworker because they can’t be with a woman/man/non-binary/etc.? How might you feel if you lost your in-laws because your marriage ended poorly instead of civilly? How many different ways are you holding yourself back on account of them and how would they truly react if you stopped holding back? If they would react poorly to you no longer holding back then what does that say about your relationship’s future?

I miss my ex-wife. I miss having that friendship. I miss getting to share things with her. I miss getting to see her be proud of me when I did something brave. I miss getting to celebrate in her successes. I miss so very many parts of that relationship that had nothing at all to do with being married, but we cannot go back. I cannot salvage that relationship because we allowed it to go too far. We allowed ourselves to play out the fantasy of making it work for too long and its consequences were nearly terminal. Sure, we still maintain some contact with one another but pretty much only out of necessity. If it weren’t for the shared assets that we still have together we would probably never speak to one another. As it is, I can never have that friendship I want with her because seeing her is practically devastating. Getting a text message from her can be like getting kicked in the stomach by all of the regrets I have over how things went.

Yes, she was angry with me early on because she didn’t want things to have to change, but she was also understanding of why they had to change. If I’d been brave enough to risk her ire for a hot minute while we separated, I could have built on the foundation of her understanding of why things needed to change. As it was, I was too afraid to lose her. I wanted my cake and wanted to eat it too, so if you are in a challenging relationship situation of any kind I want you to ask yourself, are you trying to have your cake and to eat it too? If the answer is anywhere near a yes then I’d encourage you to swallow the bitter pill of reality and call it like you see it. Your two-years-in-the-future self will be grateful you did. They won’t have to write a blog entry like this one lamenting over their failure to do the only logical thing.

I loved my wife, and yet even in the beginning of my transition I knew that I needed to be alone to really be who I knew I was. Now that I am alone, I wish that I’d been alone longer because maybe then I wouldn’t be quite so alone. Funny how that works, choosing to not be alone out of fear results in me being so very alone and cutoff from the family I grew to love, whereas choosing to be alone despite the fear would have likely meant I’d be far less alone and would still have the family I grew to love.

That reminds me of one of my favorite quotes ever:
“If I had a world of my own, everything would be nonsense. Nothing would be what it is, because everything would be what it isn't. And contrary wise, what is, it wouldn't be. And what it wouldn't be, it would. You see?” –Lewis Carroll (Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland)
So, if you are considering chasing that rabbit down the hole into the wonderland of gender transition, then I encourage you to take a good, hard look at what you might be losing out on, either by choosing to let it go willingly or by having it painfully ripped from your fingers. Be you. Become you. Shine brightly as you become that fabulous trans* person you were meant to be, but look beyond the changes of today. The future is impossible to predict, but many of us have ventured ahead of you and have left you bread-crumbs along your trail. We’ve also left warning signs to help you avoid the pitfalls of transition that we either couldn’t or wouldn’t avoid ourselves. This is one of those warning signs. If you are in a relationship before you transition then you need to have a very frank and candid conversation with your partner to decide if staying together is really the best option for both of you. There is no right or wrong answer except for the one you both agree on, but make sure that whatever choice you make is coming from a place of love and not fear.

Well that’s all I have for today. I have a lot of work coming up over the next two weeks so it might be hard to find time to write but fear not, trans-advent is back on course. No more floating aimlessly in an ocean of uncertainty about our direction.

Stay fabulous. Stay beautiful. Stay powerful. Stay you, and never apologize for being your authentic self.


-Emmz

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

10-4-2016 Entry: Sometimes the Only Way Forward is to Go Back to the Beginning

Sometimes the best way to figure out how to proceed is to go back to the beginning to remember why you started in the first place. Two years ago when I began this journey of self-discovery I had so many questions and fears buzzing around my head. Last night I started rereading the first entries I ever published on here and I was struck by how uncertain everything felt back then. It was almost difficult to read the words, not simply because they reminded me of a time that was much darker than now but because they were written by a different person. That person who wrote those words in October of 2014 isn’t me. I’m not him anymore. That can be evidenced enough by the quality of the writing, let alone the mindset and mentality.

Even still, I couldn’t help but be brought back to that place once again. I remember typing the words. I remember the emotions that were behind them. I remember how frightened I was and how excited I was. What I was doing, or going to do, felt like madness at the time. To walk away from everything that I was and begin anew in a life I could hardly conceive of, let alone predict, was to take an insanity pill with the hope that everything would turn out well. I had no idea what I was doing. I had no idea where I was even going to start, and yet the surety of my decision to do it was beyond question. I knew that I was going to do it. I knew that I had to do it, and there were times where it even felt like I was meant to do it. There were moments when it felt like providence or destiny that I’d arrived at that point in my life. I think that feeling has gotten lost in recent months.

I wrote in my previous entry that I wasn’t sure if there was any more story left to tell, and I wasn’t lying about my uncertainty. I was really beginning to think that the end was finally here. No more trans-advent, no more blogging about gender or sex or dating or the queer side of life, no more writing, even. I went into writing that entry feeling somewhat lost and alone, unsure if there was anything left to give to this endeavor. It didn’t feel like I was meant  to do this anymore, even though there was nothing else to take its place. In my life there has always been that next thing, the next step in the road to where I am going and it always felt like it was meant to be there for me, but not this time. This time there was no next step, almost as if the road itself had run out and I was left to face a dead-end.

A dead-end. It’s really the perfect description for how I was feeling when I wrote that entry. I was at a dead-end and it was time to collect our bags because the ride was over, except we hadn’t arrived anywhere. This dead-end wasn’t a cul-de-sac where our forever home resided, you know that place you settle down and make your own until your final days. No, this dead-end was in the middle of a field with nothing around for miles and miles. It was like the road ended and there was nothing but grass ahead. Sure the breeze was nice, the sky was blue, and the clouds moved across the horizon slowly and peacefully. It was a pleasant enough place but it didn’t feel right. How could our journey of two years bring us to this place? Where did we go wrong, for surely we did because this was not where we intended to arrive when we set off. I didn’t start this blog to have it fade off into obscurity as I slowly lost interest in the one passion I’ve held my entire life (writing), but I couldn’t for the life of me figure out where I went wrong.

That’s when I decided to go back to the beginning. I remembered that it was roughly two years ago that I first had the dream that started all of this and I realized that it had been ages since I’d read any of those first entries. I’ve read the first entry dozens of times as it is still my most visited entry by incoming readers, but the entries that followed after it haven’t been read by me since… well since they were first written. Sure I read them over once or twice to check for grammatical errors (a few of which I still missed), but after they were posted I pretty much never went back to read them. At the time they were more cathartic in nature than entertaining or critical/political, so it didn’t seem necessary to read them often. Back then I hardly had any readers at all, so they were almost exclusively written for myself and my own purposes. I knew that I wanted to document my transition, I knew that I wanted to keep a written record of my thoughts and feelings as I went through the process, but I was always so concerned with the here and now that looking back didn’t seem necessary. Even to my (at the time) potential readers the primary effort was to document the current updates more than reference previous experiences.

Thus, as I sat in the grassy field of my dead-end conclusion about this blog wondering where I went wrong, it seemed a logical place to begin. Surely, if I could retrace my steps then I could figure out where that wrong turn was and how to best get back on track, and so I did. It only took about three entries before I realized that the answer to my question would come to me in the most unexpected of ways. You see, as I read my words, as foreign as they might have felt, I realized that the grass I was sitting in wasn’t a dead-end at all. It was a rest stop of sorts. It also wasn’t the result of a wrong turn or some failure on my part to realize the goal of my blog. It wasn’t me giving up on my dreams of being a writer and it wasn’t me handing in my resignation to all of you lovely people out there who so graciously read my words week after week. I was meant to reach this rest-stop, and the only reason it felt like there were no next logical steps in front of me was because the next logical step was behind me.

You see, I didn’t need to retrace my steps along this journey to figure out where I went wrong, I needed to retrace the steps of this journey because to do so was taking the next step. Yes, my transition is over, for all intents and purposes. Yes, I go about my day living as Emma, hardly thinking at all about the fact that I’m transgender or that I ever once was Robert. Yes, I have realized the majority of my HRT results and anything beyond what I’ve achieved thus far will be slight changes to the better compared to the enormous changes that have already occurred over the last 19 months. And Yes, my transition story, in many ways, has come to an end. True, I don’t know what’s around the next corner, but whatever it is will simply be my life story, not my transition story. If I fall in love, if I find an amazing job, if I win an award, if I finish my next novel, if I make new friends, or even if everything turns to shit, those will be part of Emma’s story, not our transition story.

What this blog will become, however, is a place where reflection brings about a wealth of new understanding, ideas, emotions, and experiences. I don’t have any further to travel on this transition timeline, which is why I was sitting in a grassy field scratching my head. What I must do is go back to the beginning and take the lens of today, of this current state of being and state of mind, with all of my experiences and gained knowledge, and reflect the light of truth upon the fears, confusions, and questions of yesterday.

Robert, like so many others out there considering or just beginning transition, had so many questions, fears, and confusions that, at the time, went unanswered. It is time for us to now answer those questions, to address those fears, and clear up those confusions. We thought we’d reached the end because we didn’t have anything left to record of our transition. Our experiment, so to speak, of transitioning from living as a male to living as a female had reached its completion and our notebook was filled to the brim with our observations and the data we collected, but we forgot that the work wasn’t done. The study hasn’t ended, even though the experiment has run its course.

You see, we were so busy recording our experiences and entering the data from this experiment into our log, we didn’t really have time to actually review any of it. If you don’t review the data you collect you cannot draw any conclusions, and without any conclusions then there is nothing to provide to the next generation of explorers/researchers. The time has come to review the data collected, analyze it, and draw conclusions… and that is what Trans-advent must become for now, if it is to survive. It’s time to go back to the beginning and see what treasures were left behind.

I will not begin this endeavor with gusto in this entry, because I fear it would diminish the purpose of this entry, but I will reveal something from even before the first entry of the blog. The first entry of the blog was entitled, “And you will know the truth, and that truth will set you free,” so let me give you all a bit of the truth that has never been shared on this blog. In that entry I talked about having a dream and all throughout this blog I have made reference to that dream. I have only ever given minimal description of what that dream actually was because I didn’t believe it was necessary to divulge all the details. If anything, I feared that to do so would somehow cause people to doubt the resolve I felt about my transition, but as I am safely well beyond reproach on that desire, having legally changed my name and gender and all, I believe it is okay to reveal the details. If I’m honest, I think that it is now necessary to reveal the details of the dream so that you can understand how very little there was to prompt me to make this enormous life change.

I went to sleep in my king size bed with my wife at my side and before I knew it I was lost in the world of dreams. I remember walking along, somewhere outside, with a group of my friends. We were looking for something but I wasn’t sure what. We ended up at this old abandoned warehouse and as we walked through the hollowed and rusted out innards of the building we were set upon by a group of people wearing black combat fatigues, helmets, and armor. They popped out from behind us, from in front of us, repelled down from above us and were all armed with machine guns. Their faces were hidden by their helmets and masks. They told us that we were now going to be their prisoners forever and as it happened the warehouse we were in was actually a secret prison. They began to escort us, rather rudely, to what were going to be our cells, and as we went further into the decrepit building I began to see other people locked in prison cells miserable and unhappy. I began to panic about being imprisoned in this place and started to look for a way out. Somehow I was able to slip away from the group without the guards noticing and I ran down a nearby hallway. I made it halfway down the hallway when a guard came around the corner at the far and halted me, gun in my face, asking me where I was going.

I didn’t really know how to explain myself so I came up with the first thing that popped in my head and told him that I was trying to find the bathroom. Somehow, to my great relief, the guard bought my flimsy story and said that the bathroom was right through the door next to him. I laughed nervously, wishing it hadn’t been so close so I could figure out a way to escape again, and said thanks. I went into the bathroom while the guard stood at the door, barring my escape. I went into the first stall and closed it. I went to pull down my pants to go to the bathroom and to my shock and unfathomable relief, I had a vagina.

Suddenly (because dreams are weird) the bathroom turned into a sort of medical exam room and I proceeded to further strip my clothes off to discover that I was in a completely female body. I was so happy, and as I looked at my newfound body I was surrounded by this odd sort of light and I said (or felt because, again, dreams are weird), “Finally, I’m home.”

And then I woke up to realize it was only a dream, and my heart broke into a million pieces. I’d finally been in the right body and it had been torn away from me, leaving me in this horrible male body I despised. I remember getting in the shower, crestfallen, and standing under the water just looking down at myself wishing I could go back to that dream body. It had felt so real and the relief had been beyond comprehension. I finally got to be me and there was no way to forget how that felt. And that’s it. That dream was what started all of this off. It was an odd dream, I’ll admit, and at the time I didn’t think much of the symbolism in it, but it was the dream I needed to have.

You see, the group of friends I was with was vague and there were no specific faces in it. It was simply a group of my peers and when things got to a point in the dream where I was afraid I would forever be in the same place as them, I knew I needed to get out and find my own way. I think it no coincidence that I was being threatened by unknown and oppressive forces with permanent imprisonment in a decrepit and decaying building. I was facing the rest of my adult life imprisoned in a body and a societally constructed and policed gender identity I hated, and one that was decaying more and more each day. I was so depressed and I was so done being Robert. I was on the verge of faltering under the pressure of that forced life and was getting close to suicide. I think that decaying building was my decaying sense of self as Robert. I think the men in strike gear symbolized the powers of society and family expectations that wouldn’t permit me to be what I wanted. I think I had to break away from my friends because none of them could help me escape, they were too resigned to accepting their predetermined fates. I think the reason the bathroom turned into a medical exam room was because I knew unconsciously that I needed HRT (and possibly SRS) to help me to achieve the body I needed in order to feel at home.

That dream, related to just anyone, would be anything but a smoking gun for someone being transgender, but for me it was enough. Maybe for you it is something more concrete or maybe it’s not even that concrete, but the point is, we all have that breaking point where we tell the fear to go to hell because it’s time to soar. For me it was the threat of forever having to live as a man, imprisoned in a body and gender identity that was decaying and ready to falter; and it took a dream for me to be able to finally realize what I’d been running away from most of my life.

And that is where my transition began, and where the next stage in the evolution of trans-advent shall begin as well. I always vowed to write a memoir about my transition, so perhaps this is going to be first chapter. There will be more to come because there is much that has not yet been reviewed and analyzed. I hope you’ll come along as I begin this new stage of my writing. I am hopeful for the future now because I think that I’m meant to do this.

As always, stay fabulous.


-Emmz

Sunday, October 2, 2016

10-3-2016 Entry: Transition Ends, Now What?

Hello my darlings. I know I have been absent in recent months. I think the reason for that is because on a day-to-day basis, I almost never think about being transgender. I get to walk around and have almost every person I see just assume I’m a cis-woman. I surprise people all the time when I come out to them as transgender, even individuals in the LGBTQ community. I know that this is a privilege; that is not lost on me. I am faced with clients at my treatment facility who cannot claim such a privileged existence. They do not “pass,” and as a result their lives are harder than my own. It disgusts me that this is true. It breaks my heart that they have these struggles and will likely always face them while I get to waltz into wherever I’m going and not really have to worry about it.

There are still times where I’m read as trans or my voice drops lower than I’d like it to and I get misgendered. Those brief moments of being called sir are gut-wrenching and day ruining, so the fact that I must live with the understanding that so many of my transgender brothers, sisters, and siblings face that feeling on a daily basis when I don’t weighs heavily on me. I know many trans people who have the social privilege of being passable (don’t get me wrong, I’m not in favor of this standard, I despise its very existence to my core) choose to live their lives in anonymity. I can understand why they do that. I can understand how easy it is to just go about your day as your authentic self and not make a fuss about it. Making a fuss draws attention, and sometimes attention is god-fucking-awful.

I guess in a way I’ve been at this crossroads for some time now and haven’t really known which way I want to go. I can either continue to make a stink about how gender politics are bullshit and that heteronormativity is a social construct that needs to be torn down while something more evolved is built in its place. I can continue to wear my trans* identity on my sleeve, taking on the daunting task of educating people about trans* and queer identities, even when some of them feel it’s entirely their right to ask me super invasive questions about my genitalia and my desires for surgical interventions. I can choose to keep bringing visibility so that my transgender siblings who don’t meet the “passable” standards of our society don’t have to fight so hard to be recognized, respected, and valued. I can keep fighting, putting my name out there as the transfem extraordinaire.

Or…

I can throw in the towel, close the door on my blog writing, stop endeavoring to be a gender outlaw, and just accept my fortunate stars that I am passable as a woman. I can walk away from it all, handing the torch off to the next transgender blogger with the hopes that their words carry even further than my own. I can walk off into the sunset and leave all of you, my darling readers, wondering where that crazy Emma chick ended up. It would be all too easy. All I have to do is click a few buttons and it all goes away. Sometimes I wonder if I’d even be missed or if my words even made a difference. I like to think they did but in the end, there is no way to know the consequences of my writing. The largest audience I was able to reach with my story was the nightly news report last year with a viewership of upwards of 40,000 people. Surely that story touched someone’s life, right?

I guess the question I’ve been toying with lately is when do I walk away, if ever, from this queer transgender visibility campaign of words? When do I stop being Emma the transfem extraoridinaire and just become Emma… that chick who lives in Minnesota and works in mental health? Do I even want to be just Emma? More to the point, is it narcissism that keeps me writing on here, or is there a higher calling to my words? Is telling my story really just for me, in an effort to gain some degree of validation I never got as a child, or am I true to my word that I want to help others through my story?

I know, this entry is rambling a bit, but I am trying to decide what to do with myself and my writing. There was a time that the only thing I could think about doing was writing, either my books or my blog. I envisioned myself this amazing writer, with books on the shelves of every Barnes & Noble. I thought that writing was my true calling and that it was what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. Oh to be paid to write! How I dreamed that future all the time. I could envision myself sitting in a cabin out in the snowy woods where I could get away from the noise of the city, and in that cabin (which I paid for by my royalties, of course) I would write books upon books. I would dazzle my readers with characters that had depth and deviated from the traditionally predictable paths. I would take them to far away planets and show them the complicated nature of the intertwining of light and dark, that sometimes things could be both at once. I wanted to entertain by getting to tell my stories… I was good at it, too, I think… but now? I’m afraid I’ve run out of story. I’m afraid there is nothing left to tell. I haven’t touched my fiction works with any amount of gusto in almost a year and I don’t know what else there is to say here that hasn’t already been said.

We started together when I was still living as Robert. I confessed to you, to the whole world, that I’d been holding a secret so close to my heart that it nearly killed me. I finally proclaimed myself to be what I truly was (or believed at the time), a woman. I started my journey of confusion, hope, pain, pleasure, eagerness, and fear as I opened the door to my true self more and more. We journeyed together as I discovered my voice and felt the call to become a gender outlaw. We travelled together as I struggled inside my marriage and feared that she and I could never resolve our problems. We walked together as I came out to my family, to my friends, to my boss, and eventually to my job. We held hands as I walked into work as Emma for the very first time and felt the exhilaration and terror of that day. We reveled together as my new life began to unfold and as the hormones began to take effect.

We got to see what it was like to be discovered by a news reporter and to have our story told to tens of thousands of people. We also got to see how the media twists a story to fit their purposes, for better or worse. And then things began to decline. The depression came, even as we were accepted into grad school and finally found the job we truly wanted to do.  It wasn’t long before the depression turned to suicidal thoughts and ideas. Then it wasn’t long before the end of our marriage was to arrive, and our entire world would be flipped upside down. A new LGBTQ+ world lay ahead of us, even as the life we once knew still burned to the ground behind us. Such exquisite pain, such exquisite relief. Such fear and such excitement. So much to see, so much to do, so much to learn, so much gone and lost forever. So many wounds to heal.

Then there was dating and sex and polyamory and play parties and threesomes. It was a queer new world and we loved it, even as it took its toll on us. Then we lost our job under the most questionable of circumstances and the drinking began. Everything was falling apart and the new queer world was oftentimes too cold and scary to handle sober. Down… down… down… down… we fell. The depression came back, the suicidal thoughts came back. What was the point? Why go on?

New meds! Things are getting better! Still can’t stop drinking though. Try to stay sober and fail until we decide we need to go to A.A. Realize we are probably an alcoholic and need AA. Go and get drunk anyways. Yep, we need AA.

Sobriety!! Things are getting better. Things are getting a lot better!! New meds and no alcohol, who knew? Life is good. Meet a girl. Meet another girl. Try to date both of them (ethically). Polyamory is hard but rewarding! Sex!! All the sex!! Yay, I finally get to have lesbian sex!! /happy dance…Then one of them breaks the agreement and sleeps with their roommate. Fall off the wagon and get really wasted with roommate because fuck her. Figure things out, re-negotiate agreement, reestablish sobriety. Things are going well again, maybe the happiest we’ve been in a very long time. Naughty girlfriend fucks up again and we break up. Don’t talk for a week. Start talking again. Decide to go see her. We end up in bed together and she doesn’t stop when we say no, when we plead for her to, when we begin to feel the panic of being held down under her weight as she hurts us.

Hello [trauma], my old friend.  I’ve come to talk with you again, because a vision softly creeping, left its seeds while I was sleeping, and the vision that was planted in my brain still remains, within the sound of silence.

Come unraveled. Fall apart. Panic attacks. Isolation and distrust of everyone, even our friends. How can there be so much pain? How can a person experience something like this and survive to tell about it? Where do I go from here? How do I keep being a person after this? How can I ever fix something that’s so broken inside? I will never love again. I will never trust again. The only person I can rely on is me, everyone else just wants something from me or wants to hurt me. There is nowhere that is safe. I miss my wife. I miss my broken fucked up marriage because of how safe it was. Sarah could be cruel with her words but she would have never hurt me like this. She would have never done this to me, why did she leave me? Why did I transition? Everything has fallen apart since then… maybe I’m just meant to be miserable. I don’t want to write today… no, not today. I don’t want to write because all I have inside is sadness and pain, and who wants to read that? They don’t want to read that. No, I cannot entertain today. I cannot give them what they want so I won’t give them anything.

Go to AA and feel emptiness there. Feel emptiness everywhere. They don’t have what I need. Alcohol isn’t my problem right now, this trauma is. Decide a week later that one drink couldn’t hurt. The world doesn’t end. Drinking must be okay now, even though we feel so sad and empty inside. Another day another drink. Still under control. Another day another drink. Still under control. Another day and this time two drinks. Still under control, but more fun. Another day and this time 4 drinks, maybe not so under control anymore. Next night, 5 drinks. Need to dial it back. Next night 4 drinks. Why did I drink when I was hung over? Two days of no drinking followed by 5 days straight of drinking. That was just a fun week, right? We don’t have a problem, we got this under control. Two more days with no drinks and another five straight of drinking. Maybe we should go back to AA. More drinking and more lies as we try to cover for being hung over. This is getting out of control, life is becoming unmanageable. Decide to drink Friday night, Saturday, and Sunday. On Saturday drink all day long, so much it makes us sick, and then drink some more after being sick. Okay, that’s enough. We have to stop. Time to go back to AA.

A week goes by. Everyday I look at the laptop sitting a few feet away from me and ask myself, am I going to write today? Do I have anything to say? Do I have the capacity to entertain right now? No, things are getting a bit better, the sting from the assault has numbed some, but I still have nothing but sadness inside. No good news to report. No exciting queer life events that I can think of. Is it time to just stop writing altogether? Is our story over?

And here we are. I don’t know if I have any story left to tell. There are things going on in my life but I can’t really talk about much of it because of the nature of my work. My clients deserve their anonymity and I have little to tell you that you’d understand or be able to appreciate without knowing the person I’m talking about. I am currently refusing to date, not that I have many takers anyways, so there will be no dating drama to report. Since I’m not dating and since the last time I was intimate with a person was the sexual assault, I won’t be having sex stories anytime soon either. I’m so unbelievably disenfranchised about politics I can’t bring myself to talk about them on here, so I won’t.

So, I guess the answer to my question of whether or not I want to keep blogging is a resounding… I don’t know. I don’t think I’m going to decide today. Who knows, maybe the muse will strike me and I’ll feel inspired to take this blog in a brave new direction. I do feel slightly better having written this, even though there are risks in having done so, but where is the merit in that? I could easily just write in a journal to achieve feeling better, so why do this online unless there is some higher purpose to it? Did my words enrich your life? I have my doubts. I guess if there is any lesson to be learned from this entry it is this:

Eventually transition becomes a thing of the past. I used to say that I would always be transitioning because I’d never stop growing and becoming this person, but transition really does end. I am still growing and becoming this person, that is still true, but I’m not transitioning anymore. I am Emma. Robert doesn’t exist anymore, except for a few loose ends on the paper trail of life. I don’t think about being transgender all that often. I don’t focus on my transition or the effects of the hormones anymore. I look in the mirror and I smile because of the beautiful woman I see looking back at me. That’s me and I’m her, and we are exactly who we were supposed to be. Sure, I still have dysphoria from time to time but that’s because I have body image issues that I’ll likely always struggle with. But what once was an all-consuming obsession over every transition detail has slowly faded into this feeling of contentment I have about my gender presentation. My have now extends beyond my shoulders and my face looks more feminine that it ever has before. I just get to be me now, pure, unadulterated, awkwardly cute, Emma. The lesson here is that no matter how impossible it might seem at the beginning of a person’s decision to transition, eventually it becomes old news, in the best possible way.

I remember lying in bed, watching youtube videos of transition timelines and just being amazed at how different they could look. I would watch them transform slowly but surely into these lovely, happy people and I’d envy them. I also felt an enormous fear that I’d never be able to experience that myself. It seemed like it would be impossible for me to actually live as a girl, let alone one that almost no one realizes isn’t cisgender. I NEVER thought it could be me. I was going to try anyways because living as Robert was awful, but I always figured I’d be readable. I had no hopes of actually passing, even as I wanted to experience that feeling a great deal. I remember how hopeless I could feel at times that I’d ever get to be the person I wanted to be. Now, it’s just my daily life. Now I get to be me and although I reject the notion that a person’s value should be tied in any way to their passability, for better or worse, I live a passable life. I cannot promise you that you will experience the same results from HRT, but I want you to know that I never thought I could. I never thought I could and yet, here I am, living it daily. If I would have let my fear stop me for a second time (it succeeded once when I was 25) then I wouldn’t know what it was like to be my authentic self. I would have never been able to look in the mirror and be filled with joy at my reflection like I can today, even without makeup on.

So if you are thinking about transitioning, just starting transition/HRT, or have been at it for a little while, just know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel and that light is reachable. It’s a long road. It’s a hard road, even without a divorce, a lost job, alcohol struggles and a sexual assault. It might be one of the hardest things you ever do, but it does end. The chapter of transition does come to a close, followed by another awesome chapter called your new life as your authentic self. Eventually transition won’t be everything you think about or spend time/money on. Eventually you just get to be you, the real you. Now I cannot promise what that new life will look like. I want to say everything will be great for everyone, but sadly our world is a fucked up place when it comes to transgender people. I’m white, educated, and previously middle class. My experience will be vastly different than say, a black transwoman with income or housing insecurity. Her life will not be as easy or as safe as my own, and it’s important to remember that when considering transition. This could very well put your life in significant danger, and I would never encourage someone to transition while they are living in a dangerous situation. Get safe, if possible, first and then transition. I don’t want to read your name on Autostraddle as another life taken.


Anyways, I think I’ve rambled long enough. Hopefully there was something of substance in this for you. I’ll have to keep thinking about my desire to keep blogging but until then, continue as you were. Fabulously, of course!


-Emmz 

(Per the new custom, here is a picture taken of me yesterday)


Monday, September 12, 2016

9-12-2016 Entry: Legal Dilemmas and Consequences


Hello darlings. I hope you are well. I have been a hot mess lately. I know the past two entries have been pretty bummertastic. I wish I could say all was well, that I’d miraculously found myself in a wonderful place in life, but the gods have determined I am not yet out of my Saturn return. I’ll post about that in more detail another time, I think, but for now I need to vent.

After my assault I filed police charges against the girl who assaulted me. It has been weeks, so many that I’ve lost count, since I filed them. I have heard nothing. Nothing at all. I called the detective assigned to my case and he did not answer. He also hasn’t called me back after I left him a message two weeks ago. This silence has prompted me to consider my options. If I didn’t know better I’d start to think the police weren’t pursuing it, but I know that is unlikely because they rarely move cases up to the level of the sex-crimes detectives if it’s a dud. Given that the girl has all but confessed in discoverable text conversations I know that my case is not a dud. Were a prosecutor to review the evidence and a jury to consider it, it would be a fairly simple case to win, which is where my frustration begins.

If there was no way to prove that this girl actually committed a sexual assault, I’d understand them not pursuing it, even if it hurt to accept that; but it can very easily be proved, which makes me wonder why there has been such a delay in the case. I know that sexual crimes are one of the categories of crimes that often go unproven or unprosecuted, so my odds are already bad as it is, but I also believe that me being transgender has the male detectives assigned to the case possibly fleeing in terror. Sexual assault by a woman plus the victim is transgender? They probably don’t even know where to begin, not that it is really all that complicated.

Two consenting adults engaged in sexual intercourse until one of them revoked their consent and the other proceeded to ignore that revocation and continued sexual contact and penetration for no less than two minutes after consent was revoked. Two minutes might not sound very long but stick your hand in boiling hot water for two minutes and you’ll understand how every second can feel like an eternity when you are in pain or discomfort. THEN after this occurred, the victim filed a report within 48 hours and had written admission by the perpetrator that they were sorry they went too far and that they didn’t stop immediately. It’s pretty open and shut. No physical evidence need be collected because the perpetrator acknowledged the sex and their decision to not stop when consent was revoked.

Despite the simplicity of this case, I have had to wait nearly two months since the incident to hear anything back from them. The gears of justice turn slowly, this I know from personal experience and having worked in the legal field, but this has gotten out of hand. With each day that passes I’m more and more tempted to just drop the charges, and that is the real crime here, because I’m not alone.

There are countless people out there right now waiting for the slow wheels of justice to address their sexual assault or rape case, and all of them are considering whether or not it’s even worth continuing the pursuit of justice because of how long it is taking and how undervalued they feel. My case is not unique, even if the lesbian transgender part is probably pretty rare.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not bashing cops. I’m not saying that Detective so-and-so is incompetent or doesn’t care. What I am saying is that sexual crime is most often a crime committed against women and it is also one of the areas of crime given the least amount of resources by annual police budgets. I don’t think those two things are unrelated because you know who almost always sets those budgets? Men. Men who likely have no idea what it is like to be sexually victimized and are uncomfortable at the very thought of it. Murder, while terrible and wrong, they can understand. Robbery, while terrible and wrong, they can understand. Being held down while you plead for the person to stop touching you sexually… they have a hard time understanding. Because of that they give smaller budgets, smaller budgets mean fewer detectives, fewer detectives mean larger caseloads (because the crime doesn’t diminish, even if the budget does), larger caseloads mean victims of sexual crimes must wait and wait and wait some more; usually for so long that they just give up and accept that their case will never be tried.

That’s where I am now. Do I give up? Do I throw in the towel and say, oh well, I guess being sexually assaulted doesn’t matter to anyone besides me? It certainly doesn’t mean anything to the person who did it, because they don’t think they did anything wrong, despite having admitted their wrong the day afterwards. And what about the next person she sleeps with, or the one after that? If she doesn’t think she did anything wrong then the chances that she will do the same thing to another person are pretty high. Do I keep the case open for their sakes? What happens if I drop the case and she rapes/assaults the next person she is with, is that rape/assault on my hands too? I could have stopped her, I could have made sure she understood the consequences of her actions and prevented that assault from happening, so am I guilty too? Am I the good person who does nothing to stop something bad from happening? They say the greatest evil is when good people who could stop things choose not to.

What if continuing to pursue charges means I must continue to live this hell I’m in for months and months with no reprieve, understanding the absolute possibility that nothing could come of it? When do I get relief from this awful experience? Am I selfish for wanting to drop the charges so I can move on with my life, even if it potentially puts another person in danger? I honestly don’t know what to do. I thought for a moment that this girl had learned her lesson, that she had finally realized the error of her ways, but a recent conversation with her has proven that she is nowhere near that place. In fact, she believes that we can still be friends and that I’ll still go out of my way to help her with things… all because she finally figured out she’s transgender. I’m using she because I don’t know if she has changed her pronouns yet or not (and as of now I don’t really care to know).

That’s right, my fairly androgynous ex-g/f who is also the person that sexually assaulted me has finally figured out she’s transgender and thinks that is suddenly going to fix everything. Believe me when I say my heart goes out to each and every transgender person out there, I love you all, but if any of you sexually assault or rape someone, you are an asshole; plain and simple. Being an asshole is outside the scope of gender or sexuality, even if your anger or confusion about your gender/sexuality causes you to act impulsively. There is no, “I was struggling with being transgender,” get out of jail free card. I know that firsthand.

I was an asshole (not in a sexual assault way because I’d never do that) to my high school/college girlfriend. I know I treated her the way I did because deep down I was struggling with my gender issues. They were 100% tied into my fickle, bipolar actions that caused her pain and made me an asshole, but it doesn’t forgive my actions. I cannot go to this girl and say, “Hey, I’m sorry I hurt you, it’s because I was struggling inside with my transgender identity… so we are all good now, right?” and expect it to go well. She hates me, and for good goddamn reason. She doesn’t care that it was because I was transgender, nor should she. That wasn’t her problem. That wasn’t her fault, and she had no way of knowing it was the cause of my actions. All she knew or understood was that I was being an asshole to her and breaking her heart. Me apologizing and trying to make amends is all that she really needs to be concerned with, the underlying motivations or reasons for my shitty behavior is all on me. I have to be the one to examine that, understand it, and learn from it.

Consequently, being on the receiving end of someone trying to excuse their behavior with their newfound trans-ness, has caused me to learn that lesson very, very well. There was always a part of me that wanted to use my gender identity struggles as an excuse to pardon my behavior against this girlfriend, but being on the other side of someone using that excuse shows me I can never do that; nor should I. If you treat someone poorly and you hurt them, that’s on you to learn from and grow. There are no excuses, even if there are valid reasons why you acted that way. You have to own up to your life, your actions, and their consequences.

I dated a girl I knew was a hot mess and knew it was probably a bad idea. I tried to love her enough that she would remember that she was worthy of love. I wanted her to see the beauty I saw in her and understand the goodness she had inside her. I tried so hard to bring out that inner light, but like a star trying to brighten a black hole, my efforts were in vain and I got pulled into its crushing darkness. She had far too much darkness in her past to feel my warmth for more than a moment or two. My seeing inside her and beholding the beautiful light that was within was not enough to pull her from the grips of her own trauma and pain. I must live with knowing that I failed in my mission to “fix” her. I fully understand now that it was doomed from the start. You can’t fix people. You can’t love them enough that they will love themselves. As a consequence of doing something I knew was a bad idea, I was hurt in a very bad way. I’m not saying I deserved what happened, because no one does, but I am saying that my actions and choices led me to this place.

I am here, at this crossroads, because of my own actions and decisions. I walked the road that brought me here and now I must own that by figuring out where to go from here. Maybe I made a wrong turn somewhere, but that’s because I wasn’t paying attention to the road signs. It doesn’t change the fact that I am now stuck at a crossroads, however. There is no running from it, no hiding from it, no pretending it isn’t there. I pressed sexual assault charges against a person I cared about because what she did was wrong and she needs to recognize the error of her ways so she doesn’t do it to anyone else. It’s not okay to do that to people, but if I pursue this course of action this person will go to jail, be prosecuted, and potentially put into prison. When they get out of prison, assuming they survive it, they will have to register as a sex offender, possibly for the rest of their life. They will have an awful time finding a place to live and an even harder time finding a job. Their life will become even worse than it already has been, all because of two minutes where they didn’t listen to the word no.

Additionally I will probably have to be interviewed at least once by the detectives who may not want to help me at all, either because I’m transgender or because they feel the case is too difficult to prove (it’s really not). I may have to testify in court and be cross-examined by a defense attorney out to destroy me credibility. They will question every sexual decision that I have made in my life. They will try to spin it so that I am the perpetrator and not the victim. Their client will get up and potentially tell lies or try very hard to confuse the facts so that a jury feels sympathetic towards her. She’ll play the dumb girl who doesn’t know any better like she always does, and it’s possible they will buy her bullshit. I could be branded the sexually aggressive tranny that took advantage of the poor, ignorant girl who grew up in the foster system after her biological parents sexually abused her. She’ll bat her eyes and shrug like she had no idea at all that she was doing anything wrong, and I’ll have to sit there and watch the entire thing without getting to say anything.

Or I can drop the charges, move on with my life hoping to never see or speak to this person again. I’ll continue with therapy, I’ll continue to work through my trauma and the flashbacks and triggers. I’ll hopefully find myself returning to a normal, balanced life where I can start again without PTSD. It won’t be pretty, it won’t be easy, and it may very well be upset by other things down the road, but I will be forced to trust in karma to teach the lessons, both good and difficult to both she and I. On the surface, this path seems so much easier. It would feel so much easier to just give up were it not for the warning I have in my heart. The warning that I will regret my decision, either because it won’t actually lead me to the healing and balance I seek, or because another person will be hurt by her and I will have to carry the weight of that on my shoulders. If I give up now she will never learn her lesson, she will never seek out the help she needs, and the pain will just continue on and on.

This, my loves, is real life. This is when you realize what it means to be an adult. As a kid there is always a right and wrong way. When you are in school the multiple choice questions always have a right answer. Good always prevails and love always saves the day, but when you are an adult you realize there is no right or wrong answer. Not every question’s multiple choice answers include a “right” one. Sometimes there are only choices; choices that have consequences, some understood and some unforeseeable. Good does not always prevail because sometimes there is no “good” way to go. There is no higher road to take. There is no path of light and path of darkness. Sometimes the roads are even and one is just as dimly lit as the other. I continue to press charges and a combination of good and bad happens. I drop charges and a combination of good and bad happens. Neither case is better or worse than the other. They both weigh the same on the scale of pros/cons.

And I don’t know what to do. I don’t know how to navigate this situation. Everyone has an opinion of what I should or shouldn’t do. All of my friends think different things. I can guarantee each one of you probably has an opinion of what I should do, but in the end, the only opinion that matters is mine because it’s my choice to make. It is my dreadful, gut-wrenching, heartbreaking decision to puzzle out and there are no directions to this stuff. There is no right answer. There really is no wrong answer either. There are only choices to consider and consequences to accept.

I made the choice to transition after I was married. I made the choice to go through with it, knowing that I might lose my wife in the process. I made choices that helped lead us to our divorce. I made the decision to stay in Minnesota and to start finding friends at the bar. I made the decision to drink away my pain and regret until I hit bottom. I chose to date when I knew I should be focusing on school, work and sobriety instead. I chose to date someone that I knew was trouble and who had hurt me before we even became romantically involved. I made the choice to keep seeing her after we had struggles that warned me that things weren’t going to end well. I made the decision to go see her that night instead of driving home and going to bed. I made the decision to engage in sex despite having told her we wouldn’t be doing that that night because I was too tired. While I cannot be blamed for being sexually assaulted, the consequences are still mine to accept; just like this situation I’m in now. I made the decision to file a police report and I must deal with the consequences of that.

I wish I could close this with an answer, my darlings. I wish I could say that writing this out has cleared things up for me, but just like my decision to break silence and contact her, things are just as clouded as they were before. I thought if I talked with her and told her I filed the charges I’d find clarity from her response, or that I’d figure what I should do but that didn’t happen. Her reaction was a combination of lamentation about what she did, hurtful words about how she didn’t assault me and that I don’t know what it’s like to be assaulted, as well as asking me how I’m doing like nothing is wrong before asking for a favor. What the fuck am I supposed to do with that? What do you do with a response like that? Is that a person who is so vile that they need to be put in jail or is it someone so sick mentally that they will never understand and really just need a lot of therapy? If she is in jail, she won’t get therapy. She will just get more traumatized. If she’s free, though, then she definitely won’t seek out the therapy she needs and won’t have any consequences to prompt her to get help. If she’s so clueless as to no understand what she did wrong, then she is far too clueless to understand that she needs help, right?

Again, I don’t know what to fucking do. I really don’t. I never wanted any of this, but no matter what I do there is no getting around this decision. I must make a choice and hope for the best. I’ll let you know when I figure it out.

Well, that’s all for now. I know things have veered off of the transgender trail quite a bit over the last few months but as with all things, change is inevitable. I do want to post an 18 months on estrogen entry though, once I get my shit together a little. I need pictures of me now to show you how long my hair has gotten and how much my face has changed. Oh, and boobs… I have them… they are awesome. I fill in the cup of my bra completely now, which is very exciting.

You know what, I’m just going to do the easy thing for the moment and give you the address to my Instagram. That way you can see all my most recent pictures, including both of my new tattoos. https://www.instagram.com/r_t_edwins

Okay, I love you all. I hope only the best things for you all.

-Emmz



Friday, August 12, 2016

8-12-2016 Entry: Going Nowhere, and Fast

Hello my darling readers. I’m not really sure what I want to write about tonight so I think I’m going to stream of consciousness this one and hope it’s worth publishing.

I am not doing well, my darlings. If you read my previous blog entry then you know that something pretty terrible happened to me. There is no dancing around it now, so I’ll just come out and say it, I was sexually assaulted and raped (per the definition of MN law) by someone a little less than three weeks ago. I cannot put into words just how devastating this experience has been for me, not only because of the horror of the actual experience but because of the rammifications it has had on my trauma work. As I’ve written about once before I was sexually abused as a child for years on end by a childhood babysitter and those experiences forever changed the way I interacted with the world.

 I was just beginning to unpack that trauma with my therapist when this new assault/rape occurred, leaving me… utterly broken inside to put it frankly. Every goddamned terrible belief and fear that my childhood self developed by being a sexual abuse victim were drudged up from the depths of my sub-conscious to wreak havoc on my psyche. It is one thing to have those experiences be a distant memory, it is something entirely different to have fresh, reaffirming, memories to float around your brain torturing every waking moment of your day. The thing that surprised me the most about this terrible experience was just how numb and hollow I could feel. I described the feeling to someone yesterday and it goes something like this:

You know when you go to the dentist and they numb your face in the hopes that it will stop you from feeling pain, but it completely fails to do that. Sure it dulls the throb a tiny bit but more than anything you are just sitting there with this terrible uncomfortably numb feeling sitting on top of an aching tooth. It’s like that, except it isn’t my face that is numb, it’s my entire body and my emotions. They are both numb, feeling distant and strange, yet uncomfortably present in my experience. Underneath that numb sensation on the inside and outside, there is this terrible ache, the kind of ache that you cannot help but notice. It won’t go away, you can’t forget about it, and it sure as the hell isn’t going to let you sleep, eat, talk, walk, work, or socialize without reminding you every fucking minute that it is there.

That’s what I have been dealing with for the past few weeks, and if the numb ache wasn’t bad enough the triggers and flashbacks make up for whatever lack of torment I’m already enduring. I feel a desire to tone this down, to suggest that it isn’t this bad because I don’t want to make you uncomfortable but I’m tired of hiding it. I’m tired of pretending that I’m better than I actually am for my friends, for school, for work. I’m tired of acting like I have it all together while I fall to pieces on the inside. I’m a mess.

I know, shocker, right? Emma’s life is dreadful, per usual. I swear to god that I’m not exaggerating this shit. I promise that I’m not self-sabotaging in an effort to have a more dramatic or interesting life. This is my existence. Divorce, lost job, drunken unemployment, dating disasters, more drinking, rock bottom, clawing my way back to sanity only to have the first person I fall in love with since my wife mistreat me, break our poly contract (aka cheat on me), and then sexually assault/rape me when all I wanted was someone to cuddle with to de-stress from full-time mental health work and full-time graduate school.

I forgave her for hurting me, I forgave her for breaking our poly contract, I forgave her for her lack of appropriate boundaries, and when I decided to give her one last chance she hurt me more than I thought possible. It is incredibly common for rape survivors to blame themselves for their rape. It’s so easy to think about how I should have known better, how I shouldn’t have trusted her that one last time. It’s so easy to second guess my decision to see her that night when I should have just gone home to go to bed. It’s so easy to think that I deserved my rape, that of course it would go that way. I am nothing, I don’t matter, and people only ever want something from me and they will take it whether I want them to or not.

 That’s how fucking broken my brain is right now. Those are the thoughts my childhood abused self was so used to thinking and now I must face them again. I was finally moving on from them, I was finally starting to confront my darkest trauma, but it seems I have more darkness to face before I can come out the other side; and darkness is where I have been living the past few weeks. I don’t go out anymore. I don’t reach out to my friends. I don’t trust anyone more than I have to. I don’t laugh, I don’t smile, I don’t feel joy. I don’t embrace the new day like I have in times past. Now I simply roll out of bed and let out a long sigh that I have to go on another day. I want nothing more than to sleep and sleep and sleep some more until all of this has passed.

That, however, is not an option, not if I don’t want to lose my job, fail out of school, and destroy my friendships, and I’ll be goddamned if I’m going to let the selfish actions of another to do me in. I am still here. I am still alive. I am still sober. I’m still working. I’m still studying, writing papers, and doing group projects. I am still talking to my friends, as much as I can stand.

That doesn’t mean that I’m normal, or good, or happy. I am living out of spite right now. I am sober out of anger right now. I still have a job and am participating in school because my rage will not allow me to falter. I cannot kill myself, drink myself into a stupor, or give up completely because I have too much pride for that, but not because I want to. I want to give up. I want to drink myself stupid. I want to kill myself and have even tried to… but I can’t. If I do that then she wins. If I do that then my babysitter wins and both of them will be right that I am nothing, that I don’t matter, and that I have no worth.

My refusal to quit, however, doesn’t stop me from isolating inside my house. It doesn’t stop me from barely sleeping and constantly walking around with an overwhelmed sensation in my chest. I just have to keep walking, keep working, keep studying while I try desperately to heal on the inside. Even if I wanted to stop to take a break, the world wouldn’t let me.

That’s the part that is the hardest to digest: the way the world just keeps turning as if everything is as it is supposed to be. Your friends go out and have fun. They laugh and joke and have a grand old time. Your boss keeps giving you work to do, they keep pushing you to produce what they pay you for. Your teachers keep lecturing and assigning work. The papers keep coming and the projects keeps piling up. Your grass keeps growing, your bills keep coming due, and your car keeps needing gas. Your cats keep needing attention and food and water, and your friends keep needing you to be there for them.

None of them care that you can barely function, let alone get out of bed. Maybe your friends try to care and try to be there for you but there is nothing they can do to make it better. The pain is on the inside. The broken parts are unseeable and cannot be operated on. There is no linear healing and there is no timetable for when things get better. If you break a leg then the doctor can guess how long it might take to heal, when you are raped there is no way to predict how long it will affect you. Chances are it will forever affect your life, even after the immediate trauma is dealt with.

I will never be the same. I will never be the person I was three weeks ago. I cannot go back to that person who only had distant memories of the darkness. I cannot unsee what I’ve seen, unfeel what I’ve felt, unhear what I heard, unsmell what I smelled, and unexperience the panic I felt as she pinned me down and didn’t listen to me as I told her no and begged her to stop. I can’t go back to what was before. There is nothing to do now but move forward with this new darkness inside of my mind and my memories.

I just don’t know what to do my darling readers. I don’t know how to inhabit this place of needing to stop to process what has happened to me while at the same time moving forward with life. I don’t know how to do this. I don’t know where I go from here. I never want anyone to ever touch me again because the very thought makes me feel sick to my stomach… yet I know that the thing I need more than anything right now is to be held gently with love and care. I need to be touched even though I detest the thought of it. I need to feel love again, even as I’m certain I will never love again because no one will ever be trustworthy enough for that. I need to let someone in fully even as I build bigger and bigger walls around my heart.

And the thing that really gets me is how much I miss my ex-wife right now. I miss her. She might have been mean to me at times and she might have made a horrible decision at the end of our marriage, but she never hurt me like this. She was safe and I always knew that she would care for me if I was feeling broken like I am now. She would hold me as I cried, telling me that it was going to be okay. She would look at me with these eyes filled with such love. I need that right now… but I can’t have that. She’s not here and she’s not about to go holding me with kindness and love… so I am alone. So very alone with all this pain and sorrow inside me. If I’m not crying then I’m numbly floating from one experience to the next hoping to not hear those dreadful words, “how are you doing?”

I hate those words now. They are the four worst fucking words in the world right now. When I hear them I just want to shout: stop asking me how I’m doing! Stop asking me to lie to your face because we both know you don’t really want to know how I’m doing. You don’t want to hear that I want to die or that I wish I could just sleep for a month so I don’t have to deal with my miserable fucking life. You want to hear that I’m doing better, that I’m doing okay, or that I’m doing good and when I cannot give you that, you try to console me with some empty platitude. Fuck your sympathy. Do us both a favor and fuck right off… oh wait… I can’t say that. I have to be nice. I have to be friendly. I’m okay, no really, don’t worry about me, I’ll be alright, how are you? Are they gone yet? Yes? Thank god, now I can go back to… oh yeah… this darkness that has taken over my life… sigh.

And that’s it. That’s where I am. No fun dating stories. No heartwarming anecdotes from work. No political commentary. No enthusing about the Olympics, which I have been watching bits and pieces of. Nope, nothing fun or exciting, and I’m okay with that right now. I can’t do fun or exciting right now. I need to do chill and cathartic. I cannot allow this darkness to overtake me fully, but I must do that alone. No one can help me right now. No one can carry this burden except for me. If you want to help me then just send a positive thought in my direction and envision me writing about how I had some super amazing experience that I’m excited to tell you about. If you are really ambitious you could email me something sweet so that I know that the world isn’t completely devoid of kindness.

That’s all she wrote for tonight, literally.

-Emmz