Hello Darlings! I wanted to share a link to something that I wrote that was published on Dara Hoffman-Fox's website (One of the very best places to go for transgender related resources). I sent this piece to her to see if she wanted to publish it and she immediately said yes. Please take a moment to go read it and definitely share it far and wide.
Wednesday, April 27, 2016
Wednesday, April 20, 2016
Hello my lovelies. I know the entries have been rather sparse lately and there is sadly good reason for that. The first of these reasons, which isn’t so sad, is that I was nearing the end of my second semester of graduate school and had a lot of papers to write and presentations to give. I’m happy to report that I did well on those papers and presentations and that my near 4.0 GPA will be maintained, despite a rather rocky and half-assed semester, which leads me to the second reason. I have not been writing as often because I have been struggling quite a bit recently with depression and alcohol consumption.
Yes, my darlings, despite all of my efforts to not drink and to swear off booze entirely for the foreseeable future I relapsed, and more than once, and definitely in very bad ways. I’m not sure I want to get into the gruesome details but suffice it to say I have discovered that I no longer had control over alcohol and my life had become unmanageable because of that lack of control. You see, I was using alcohol to bury something I didn’t want to deal with. I was consuming ever increasing dosages of this coping mechanism so I wouldn’t have to feel this thing that has been growing inside of me. I was using alcohol as an escape from the reality I didn’t want to face.
To put it simply, I was drinking myself silly again and again because I didn’t want to feel the regret I had about my decision to transition. I know I’ve hinted at it a few times because I’ve known it was there all along but it wasn’t until I found a way to truly give up drinking that I was forced to actually deal with it. The fact of the matter is that there is a not so insubstantial portion of me that regrets doing this. There is a part of me that wonders what the fuck we were thinking when we made the decision to pursue this enormous life change.
Since making this decision our marriage to the woman we loved more than anything in the entire world ended. There is a chance that could have been avoided had we stayed Robert. There is no guarantee of that but the possibility is real. She loved us, even up until the day she broke our heart and had we not pushed her to the brink by becoming a (mostly) woman that love might have been enough for us to work things out.
The depression we experienced after going fulltime, even before the divorce, was some of the worst we have ever felt and the depression we have felt since the divorce has been even more difficult to bear. The divorce was really where this regret we’ve been struggling with actually took root. The seed of regret was planted when the marriage fell apart and we tried to drown that seed with alcohol, but that only made it grow faster. We drank and drank and drank some more. So often we went to our job hung-over from the night of drinking before, and many times that hung-over feeling was the reason we called in sick. This terrible habit definitely played a role in losing our job, which only furthered the depression and intensified the regret we were running from.
The regret grew stronger and as it grew stronger so did the drinking we tried to bury it with. As the weeks went on we drank more and more often with larger quantities every time. We would go to the bar three to four nights a week and the number of drinks we consumed each time multiplied. Our denial said of course drinking four long-island ice teas is a good idea! Of course getting hammered before three o’clock on a Saturday was a stellar plan! When we were that drunk nothing mattered anymore. There was no regret, no shame in having lost our job or of having lost the love we loved the most. When we were that drunk we finally felt numb enough to drown out the agonizing combination of depression and regret. It was easy to run away into the bottle, but as with all destructive coping mechanisms things always catch up to you.
Alcohol is a depressant, as most of us are aware and as we have discussed previously, so the more I drank to avoid my depression, the more I needed to drink to cover up the new depression the drinking was creating. It is a nasty cycle. It is a vicious cycle and it destroys lives. If I hadn’t somehow come to my senses about this cycle and had I not recognized how unmanageable my life had become because of this drinking, then I would have drank myself into oblivion. Either I would have allowed it to destroy everything I had left in my life (my friendships, my enrollment in grad school, my house, my car, my cats) or I would have allowed it to propel me towards that suicide I was so often on the edge of.
Thankfully I reached out for help and thankfully there were amazing people in my life who cared enough to help me out of this cycle of destruction I was in. The only “bad” thing about that help is the fact that I now must sit in complete sobriety (no drinking or drugs) with no distractions (i.e. dating) and truly face this regret that I have been running from.
I chose to make this new life for myself. I chose to risk everything I had to live a life more true to who I was. I chose, as my therapist put it today, to live as Emma instead of dying as Robert (via suicide) because I wasn’t ready to die. I chose this path and in many ways it has led to the destruction of the life I once had. I cannot go back. I burned the bridge behind me and there is no way to go back to what once was. I cannot go back to living as Robert. I cannot go back to being married to my ex-wife. I cannot undo what has been done and sometimes I really wish I could. I chose to embark on this journey because I thought I’d have my best friend at my side and the stability of my career to keep me afloat. I wasn’t ready to make this trek alone, let alone to do so with diminishing resources at my disposal.
When I am alone, afraid, and unsure of what my next move needs to be to get me to where I am going, I regret having started this journey. In those quiet moments when there are no distractions and I am left alone with nothing but my thoughts I feel the pain of the knowledge that I put myself here. I did this to myself. I did this. No one else. There is no one else to blame for my current situation, just me.
True self-reflection like that is a heavy burden to bear. To know that your own choices have left you alone, scared, and without direction in the dark is no easy thing to endure. Self-pity comes easy in those moments and the desire to drink in order to escape can be nearly overpowering. The thought of getting up and moving forward by nothing but your own faith that you are heading in the right direction is not an appealing one, but you have no real alternative. You either flounder in self-pity until it kills you, or you surrender to those higher powers in the hope that they will guide you through the darkness that has beset you.
You ask for the serenity to accept the things you cannot change. I cannot change the fact that I am divorced from the woman I loved. I cannot change the fact that I lost my job. I cannot change that I am currently alone and may be for a very long time. I cannot change that I do not know what lies ahead of me or that I can’t predict where this path is going to go. I cannot change that I made the decision to transition and I cannot change the consequences that have already happened because of that decision.
You ask for the strength to change the things that you can. I can change the fact that I am unemployed by searching harder for work. I can concentrate more on my studies instead of less important things. I can find ways to enjoy my own company instead of needing to date. I can stop drinking myself into oblivion. I can face the reality of my situation with a sober perspective and figure out how to fix it. I can overcome my regret by building a life so good that it’s beyond regret. I can make amends to my ex-wife so that we are no longer estranged from one another. I can be a better person than I have been and put myself back together. I can put self-pity on the shelf to serve as a reminder that it doesn’t do me any good. I can make the best of my circumstances by appreciating all the good things I still have and all the good things that came because of my decision to transition.
And lastly you ask for the wisdom to know the difference between what you can change and what you cannot change.
I can’t change that I promised you all that I’d write about the poly play party in my last entry, but I can apologize that it will have to wait. The past 8 days of total sobriety (the longest I’ve had in longer than I can recall) have been too somber for me to feel up to writing about the play party. I daresay they have been rather sobering in ways that go beyond simply giving up alcohol or drugs. I have been living through a painful as hell reality check, and I needed time to figure things out. I think I’m past the worst of it but only time will tell.
Well, my darlings, I’m going to bring this relatively short entry to a close with one final thought. My transition has been a mixture of amazingly wonderful things and some of the hardest, worst things I’ve ever gone through. If I could actually go back, if that choice was actually possible and there would be no negative consequences to going back to living as Robert, I would not, even for one second, consider doing it. I would never give up being Emma to go back to that life. I miss my former wife and I miss the financial stability my job provided for me, but they pale in comparison to the amazing things I’ve gotten to experience because of my transition. Regrets be damned, we are Emma the transfem extraordinaire and our life is only just beginning. There is much we have left to do.
Friday, April 8, 2016
Hello my darlings. I know I haven’t been around much lately to fill your time with fantastic stories of my explorations into the worlds of polyamory, dating, sex, and politics but I have been absent for good reason. Simply put, I needed to work on myself. I needed to figure some shit out, so to speak, and doing that has been distracting me from writing.
I will get to the more interesting items in a moment but for the sake of my own mental health I feel a need to journal a bit about where I am at currently. I believe I mentioned previously that I was going to give up drinking. I’m happy to report that I’ve done that for the most part. I say for the most part because there have been a few occasions where I did drink over the last couple weeks. The first of these occasions was when I attended my first poly “play party.”
That’s right, I went to the play party (read: sex party) I had been invited to so long ago and if I have the energy I will get into that story at the end, but there are other things to talk about. The second occasion that I chose to break my sobriety was in celebration of me finally filing the paperwork to legally change my name and gender. Yep! In a few weeks I will no longer have to cringe every time I have to show my ID or when a cashier/server reads the name on my debit car. I won’t have to have my university emails say the wrong name and I will finally be free of my life as Robert. It will be all Emma from here on and that was absolutely worth having a drink to celebrate with.
We are also pleased to report that someone we very much wanted to be one of our witnesses for the court hearing has agreed to do it. This may come as a surprise to some of you, and it was certainly a surprise to us, but our ex-wife has agreed to stand by our side as we say goodbye to the final piece of Robert’s existence. We very much wanted her to be a witness because as our therapist put it, she symbolizes so much of what our life as Robert meant. Most of our adult experiences as Robert involved her in some way or another, so it was a very symbolic choice to ask her to be a witness. There was another reason we asked her, though. As time has gone on and as we have gained more and more distance from the events surrounding our divorce, a new feeling has replaced the anger and sadness we felt for so long. That new feeling has been missing having her in our life.
I hold no belief that things between her and I will ever be the way they were before, and any longings I had towards her in a romantic sense have vanished. When I say that we miss having her in our life, what I mean is that we miss her friendship. We miss being able to laugh with her about things. We miss being able to share our lives with one another. I think about the friendship we used to have and I miss it. I miss talking to her. And while it may still be awhile before the two of us can be easy with one another, having her be there with me when I finally complete this life transition gives me hope that one day we will reconnect. Her agreement to do this meant so much to us that it brought us to tears of joy. So often our interactions with her over the past five months have resulted in us believing that she no longer cared about us at all, but her decision to be there with us tells us that isn’t the case. She does care. She isn’t just saying empty words when she tells us she wants us to be happy and wants good things for us. She was with us when we began this journey and she will be there with us when we finish it.
The second witness will be the very first transgender person we ever met (knowingly) and we asked him for another very specific reason. He symbolizes the first realizations about our gender. Before we met him and before we heard his story only to find it all too familiar, we didn’t know why we were the way we were. Our desire to be a girl had never really been examined until we met this person and when he came out to us everything was called into question. Unfortunately, as many of you are aware, that experience resulted in a brief cross-dressing phase that ended with the strongest denials we could must about our true gender.
This person also symbolizes our birth into the queer community. This is the person who swooped in and took us under his wing as we first processed our divorce. He is the person who introduced me to most of the people I know and has been an amazing friend ever since. Were it not for him, I’m not sure I would be as well off as I am today. He is someone I look up to a great deal and have great affection for. He was honored when I asked him to be my second witness.
Now, I do want to come back to something I passed over rather quickly a moment ago. I said that by changing my name and gender I will be completing this life transition and I think that bears explaining. I truly do see this act as the final piece of my gender transition. After this is finished I will be done moving from one life to the next; I will have completed the journey and will be able to begin this new life as Emma. It will be done and I won’t be able to say I’m transitioning anymore. I will be an “official” woman in the eyes of the government, my school, my bank, my creditors and anyone else who cares to know my name or gender.
It definitely feels like I’ve come to the end. I’m just a few weeks away from finally reaching the top of this damned mountain I’ve been climbing for the last 18 months. I will finally be able to stop for a moment and look out at the horizon all around me to see where my next adventure is going to be.
I know some of you are probably out there thinking “transition never ends” and I want to acknowledge that I believe that to be true. Transition in that context, however, means something different to me. It means I will never stop growing. It means I will never stop becoming more and learning more about this new life I’ve begun. I will never really be “done” in that truly final sense. When I say my transition will be complete when my name and gender are changed I simply mean that the life overhaul I’ve been engaged in for the past 18 months will be finished.
Think of it this way. Robert was a deteriorating house on a piece of land that we both owned. In order for me, Emma, to be able to build my own house we had to dismantle the original house. That’s what we have been doing since October of 2014, dismantling the house that was our life as Robert. First the name went, then the hormones went, then the presentation went, then the marriage went, and then the job went. Those last two were not necessarily our choice but sometimes fate clears things away that you are incapable of clearing away yourself. The final act of clearing away what was old and broken is this hearing to change our name and gender. When the judge signs that order the old foundation of Robert’s house will be destroyed, finally leaving room for the new foundation of our life as Emma. When we begin the process of getting a new license and changing our name with all the needed institutions we will begin pouring the concrete of our new foundation. Once everything is changed everywhere, we can begin anew and build whatever house we want to build.
All of that was absolutely worth breaking sobriety to have one cocktail to celebrate with our friends. Returning to our previous subject of drinking there was a third occasion where we broke sobriety and that was this past Sunday night. There was no real reason to do it. There was nothing to celebrate and no good excuse besides wanting to drink. We had been feeling really good after changing medicines with the assistance of a psychiatrist and were finally feeling balanced and happy. We decided to see how much alcohol would affect our balanced emotional state and the results were not good. The depression we had been struggling with previously came back almost immediately after drinking and remained the next day. The suicidal thoughts also returned, although to a lesser degree that never became dangerous.
That experience has shown me that I cannot drink anymore. I cannot even drink one, honestly. The celebration of the name change paperwork being filed was one thing because I had someone there to help me stay at one, but any other time I try to only drink one, I end up drinking between four and six. This was the case on Sunday. I intended to only drink one but ended up drinking four for no good reason. The impulse control once alcohol was introduced practically vanished. So, as far as I am concerned, I think sobriety is going to have to be a rather permanent thing. Maybe one day when things are more balanced and stable I will revisit this decision, but for the time being I am done drinking.
I know you are wanting to hear more about this play party and I promise I will get there eventually but there is one more item on the docket I believe is necessary to discuss, and that is dating. I found someone amazing. They are beautiful and smart and charming and funny. They are kind and sweet and go out of their way to help others. They have great ambitions and are very driven to achieve them. They are wonderful and I love them.
So, who is this person I’ve found? As cheesy as it sounds, it’s me. Yep, that’s right, I am dating myself. Another way of looking at this, of course, is to say that I have given up on dating other people, at least for the time being. It became rather apparent over the last few months that I really was not stable enough to be dating. That isn’t to say that the process wasn’t expansive or educational. I loved learning about polyamory and remembering the way two lovers can move in unison when they are really connected (at least in the moment). I have learned so much about myself by dating other people but eventually I also learned that I needed to step away from it all.
I’d like to say I came to the decision on my own without anyone else suggesting it but that’s not the case. First my friend Parker suggested it (she started suggesting it from like day one, honestly, but I’m a brat; I’m sure she would agree) but then my therapist suggested it, which definitely made me reconsider things. When the person you’ve been seeing for 18 months about your mental health is like, “I don’t think you should be dating right now. There are too many triggers for your trauma and you aren’t in a stable enough place to handle those,” you fucking listen. I had pretty much decided I was going to take a break from it after talking with her but I passed the idea by my council of close friends. All of them were in agreement that I should take a break, and so that is what I have done.
To begin with, for the entire month of April I am on a dating moratorium. I may choose to extend that moratorium into and possibly past May at the end of the month, but for now I’m just taking a month off. I have deactivated my OkCupid account and am completely avoiding any thoughts or plans about seeing people I know romantically. There is one exception but that’s only because I agreed to go on the date with her prior to making this decision and I like her too much to change my mind. Luckily this date is up in the air at the moment but we have both agreed that when the school semester is over, we will go on a date.
It has only been a little over a week since I made the decision to suspend all dating practices, thoughts, or plans in favor of dating myself, but the results are already pretty evident. More than anything, I feel more at ease. It’s like this huge weight has been taken off my shoulders and I can finally breathe a sigh of relief. Choosing to date yourself certainly has its advantages. I went to dinner and a movie alone. Some of you might be thinking that is sad but really, it was great. I got to eat where I wanted, what I wanted, and got to see the movie I wanted. I cannot tell you the last time I went to a movie by myself.
Doing this also forced me to question some of the beliefs I had about activities like these, not to mention beliefs I was carrying around for far too long. Going out by myself was great but there was a bit of struggle at the beginning. At first I felt lonely or a bit sad because I didn’t have someone to share this experience with, but then I had an epiphany of sorts. I was spending so much time and mental energy thinking about how I didn’t have someone to share the experience with that I wasn’t allowing myself to actually experience it on my own. Once I let go of this need to have someone to share it with and went into the experience myself, I felt at ease. Once I was at ease I was able to really examine that need to have another person there.
Why was it there? Why did I need someone to be there for it to be an experience worth having? How would having someone there actually improve the situation? All I’d really want them there for is to reflect back to me what I was already feeling. I’d want to see them be happy so I could be happy myself… and there it was. The codependence. It wasn’t easy to get to and it required a bit of digging but underneath that desire for someone to share the experience with was a belief that I could only be happy if someone else was happy too. And why could I only be happy when someone else was too? Because I wasn’t a real person deserving of my own happiness.
Like pulling a dusty tome from a rarely visited section of my mental library I finally got to see this old belief in the light of day. It had been there for so long that I could hardly remember writing it but as I examined it it became apparent that it was no longer necessary. We were a real person and we absolutely did deserve happiness. We didn’t need someone else there to be happy. We could be happy on our own and could have a lovely evening on our own. And in that moment when we really examined that belief and tossed it in the trash like it deserved, our need for someone to be there vanished. No longer was the dinner and a movie going to be a sad lonely affair, it was going to be a fun experience that we got to have all on our own without anyone there to mess it up.
Since that first date with myself, I have started to see myself in a different light. I have started to treat myself differently. I have my friend Parker to thank for that, honestly. One night we were sitting in my car and she said some things to me that no one had ever said to me before. She told me to be kind to myself. She told me to try to see myself the way my friends saw me. She told me to treat myself the way I would treat her, to show myself the level of love and kindness that I would give to her as my friend. Her words may seem simple but in the moment they were exactly what I needed to hear and have had a large impact on me since.
Dating yourself seems like an odd concept at first but I’ve found it to be extremely rewarding. Instead of telling someone I’m dating how beautiful they are and how much I adore them or waiting for them to say those things to me, I say those things to myself in the mirror. I know how that sounds. I almost cringe as I type the words but it has been a revitalizing experience. I don’t need someone else to validate how pretty I am. I don’t need someone else to tell me I’m adorable. What I need, more than anything, is to believe those things about myself, not in a conceited way but in a compassionate way; in a healing self-love kind of way.
That codependent belief that I threw in the trash would have me believe I wasn’t worth anything all on my own, but practicing this art of healing self-love creates a new belief. It fosters a belief of self-worth regardless of the presence of others. I have worth, even when I’m sitting at home alone with no one around. I can have fun even if I choose to go out by myself. I am a whole person all on my own, and as stupid as it sounds, that is a new concept for me.
Okay, I know I promised you that there might be discussion of the poly play party but this entry is already over 3,000 words and I think that adding the play party right now wouldn’t do it justice. I promise that the next entry will be about the play party and that it will come shortly. I want to give it a full entry, though, so just bear with me. I promise it will be worth the wait. Perhaps as a teaser I will say that there was a lot of hot-tubbing, nudity, sex, and BDSM. I participated in some of those things but you’ll have to check back to find out which ones they were. ;)