Sunday, July 31, 2016

8-1-2016 Entry: Surviving Sexual Assault and Rape

Hello my darling readers. I come to you today with a heavy heart and a mind that searches for reason in this ocean of chaos that we live in. I come to you today a broken woman, shattered to pieces by the cruelty of another. I come to you today a survivor, although surviving is all I seem to be doing; not living, not growing, not loving, not excelling… just simply surviving. Floating from one day to another, hoping that if I distract myself enough from this ache I feel inside that I will not be lost to the darkness that threatens to engulf me. That darkness is despair, that darkness is rage, that darkness is callousness, that darkness is hopelessness.

Never in all my life have I ever felt such exquisite hopelessness. Even through my divorce, which was the most emotionally painful experience of my life, there was still hope buried under all the tears and drunken attempts to escape. There was always a fleeting hope that I’d find love again, that losing my dear companion in life would not be my undoing. But with this newfound pain and suffering, there is a true feeling of hopelessness, and it doesn’t feel the way I would have expected it to. I would have expected hopelessness to be the most painful experience of all, but it’s not… it’s nothing, really. It is the feeling of pure, unadulterated nothingness. It is oblivion; it is an abyss so deep and so black that you cannot hope to escape it. Hopelessness is a black hole inside your heart and mind, and its gravity is enough to devour any and all good or light from your life with its voracious appetite. It does not discriminate and it does not choose, it devours anything that gets close.

Hopelessness is a haze, through which you walk. You see people around you, smiling, laughing, loving, and enjoying life and you want to envy them, but you cannot even do that. They do not know this darkness. It has not dug its icy fingers into their minds, bodies, and spirits like it has yours. It has not consumed them like the black hole that it is, and just like a black hole, they cannot see it.

Hopelessness wears a smile. It pretends to laugh with others. It pretends to be social. It pretends to be happy. Hopelessness is a liar and a fake. It fools those around it into thinking nothing is wrong because what is actually wrong is so wrong it can barely be spoken. Hopelessness is not something you answer when everyone, every goddamn fucking person you come across, asks you how you are. You cannot answer, “Hopeless,” and expect them to understand. Even if they cared, even if they tried, even if they did everything in their power to comfort you, it would not be enough. The black hole’s hunger will not be satisfied with their pity, with their sympathy, with their feeble attempts to comfort. Its gravity is too strong and were they truly able to get close enough to it to understand its power, they too would become lost in the void.

No, hopelessness is not something that can be shared with another like some other, lesser emotions. You can share joy. You can share humor. You can share boredom. You can even share sadness, but you cannot share hopelessness. Hopelessness can only be understood by those who have experienced it themselves. It can only be grasped by those who’ve carried it themselves and even then, it is a solitary experience.

I wake in the morning and it is there waiting for me. It’s with me while I take a shower, hoping that I can feel the warmth of the water enough to reawaken the person I used to be. It’s with me as I look into the  mirror and put on my makeup. It’s in the blackness at the center of my eyes, staring back at me. It’s with me when I eat breakfast, stealing the taste and savor of the food I’m eating. It’s with me when I put on my shoes to leave the house, eager to walk along with me. It’s with me as I drive my car to work, dulling the beat of the music and numbing the vibration of the road. It’s there when I get to work, gripping me tightly as my coworkers ask me how I am. It’s hidden behind my words as I say, “I’m okay,” or even more so when I shed a brief light on it and say, “Eh… I’m alive.”

It’s with me as I read my emails, the words all bleeding into one another. It’s with me when I greet the clients who are happy to see me. It’s next to me as I force a smile, as I force a joke to cover its presence up. It’s with me as I walk around the building, following every step I take. Sometimes I forget it is there, and sometimes it’s like it isn’t there at all. I get into the flow of the day, hoping that will dispel this terrible shadow, and I almost convince myself through all the interactions of the day and the busyness that is residential treatment that it’s finally gone; but it isn’t. The moment I notice its absence, it returns with its cold presence. Underneath the fog of forced sociability that I’ve created it can be found, lurking, waiting for its chance to remind that it is there.

I try to ignore it, I try to thicken the fog with more social interaction. I tell jokes, I use sarcasm, I try to genuinely interact with my clients. I do everything I possibly can to pretend like it isn’t there, wishing that it will finally leave me alone, but when I clock out for the day and I get into my car to drive home, it’s in the passenger seat next to me.

The drive home is as numb as the drive to work was, if not worse. Instead of heading towards a place of distraction where I can force sociability, I’m heading back to my empty home. My roommate is almost never home, so I am left alone with the hopelessness. When I pull into the garage I sit in the car and just stare at the dashboard for a minute or two. What’s the point? Where do I go from here? Is anything worth living for now?

I close my eyes and wish for death. I am too hopeless to take my own life so I simply plead with the gods to take the misery away, to finally put an end to this nightmare called life. The gods answer as they always do, with silence; cold silence.

I get out of the car and head for the house. My cats are there to greet me. I say a feeble hello to each of them before heading into my room to change into pj’s and collapse into bed. I’m not really tired, but I cannot stand the thought of being awake anymore. At least when I am asleep, the hopelessness abates for a while. It cannot reach my dreams, at least not yet. And then the tears come. They’ve been there, waiting all day to come out, and I welcome them. They are my only true friends right now. They are the only ones who truly get what’s going on with me. They are the only ones who fully understand the ache I feel inside.

They know the emptiness. They know the coldness. They know how it feels to be completely hollow and yet also be corroding on the inside at the same time. They know what the PTSD is like. They know what it’s like to have a full-blown panic attack where your body believes you are in mortal danger simply because a loud motorcycle driving by your house startled you, or because someone dropped something that made a loud noise. They know what it’s like to feel like everything is a potential threat, that every person on the street is dangerous and should be avoided. They know what it’s like to have the triggers come out of nowhere, to have something so simple and innocuous bring it all back like it just happened again. They know what it’s like to have the flashbacks and the echoes.

The tears know what it’s like to not feel like your body is your own anymore. They know what it’s like to want nothing more than to be held at the same time that you never, EVER, EVER, want anyone to touch you again. They know what it’s like to feel physically ill at the thought of ever being physically intimate with another person. No, there is too much danger there now; too much pain, suffering, and emptiness there. They know that nothing can bring back what has been taken. What’s gone is gone for good. Even if I manage to find a way to trust again, to be vulnerable again, to want to be touched again, it won’t be the same as it was. This will always be there, buried in my memory and permanently burned into my mind.

No, what she took from me was my light, innocence, and hope, and while I may one day find light and hope again, I will never regain my innocence. That’s gone now and it only took a couple minutes for it to be stripped from me forever. A couple minutes of her not listening when I said no again and again; when I asked her to stop, told her to stop, begged her to stop. A few moments of panic as she pinned me down and refused to stop as I tried desperately to get away has done a lifetime worth of damage.

I am a sexual assault survivor, I am a rape survivor, and this is my reality. What might have only been a minute felt like an eternity and its impact has extended for days now, and I suspect it will extend for weeks and possibly months or years. No means no. Stop means stop. It doesn’t matter if you are drunk, high, or having too much fun to want to stop, if consent is not given or is revoked, then it means it’s over. No one has the right to make someone feel the way that I do; the way that so many others before me have felt.

I’m a mess. I’m a disaster. I’m so fucking broken inside right now that I’m not sure I can ever be put back together again. I’ve gone through some seriously fucked up things in my life and dealt with so much loss and grief it’s hard to believe sometimes, but all of that pales in comparison to this emptiness I feel inside; this aching nothingness that’s consumed my life. For many, like me, the assault doesn’t end when the physical contact is over. No, it continues on well beyond then. It’s stored in your mind and in your body. My mind is now a minefield of triggers just waiting to set off another flashback or panic attack. What has always been mine (my body) now feels foreign, like it was stolen from me and must be reclaimed.

In a few brief moments my hope was stolen from me and now I must fight my way out of the gravitational pull of this horrible hopelessness that has consumed my life, all because her physical wants were more important to her than my consent. All because someone thought they had the right to use my body when I told them no and to stop, I am plagued by this pervasive emptiness in everything I do. I didn’t deserve what happened to me. No one deserves to have this happen to them. I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy.

And in case you were wondering, no, this wasn’t a stranger. This wasn’t someone who attacked me out of the blue. This was someone I trusted. Someone I cared about. Someone I thought would never hurt me like this.

I could have stayed silent. I could have kept this to myself. I could have pretended like what happened wasn’t really that bad (I actually did try denial, for a couple hours before it fell apart). I could have allowed this person to get away with what they did by not saying anything, but I can’t do that. I can’t be silent. There are too many of us out there, holding onto this awful burden by ourselves, and silence is our enemy. I understand why people don’t talk about this. I understand why they don’t report it or break their silence. I almost did the same. I felt almost compelled to do the same. Why should I be burdened with telling this story when the only thing I did wrong was trust someone who chose to break that trust?

The answer is because this story isn’t about me alone. My trauma, while deeply personal and subjective, is the trauma of untold millions who didn’t have the strength, ability, or safety to break their silence. If only one person going through the same thing reads my words and feels a connection that bridges the gap between emptiness and understanding, then showing my throbbing wound to the world is worth it.

You are not alone. You are not alone. Do you know that you are not alone? Because you aren’t my beloved friend. The hopelessness might have its hold on you and you might feel like you are adrift in the cold blackness of space, but you are not alone my love. You can do this. You can survive this. You already are, sweetheart. You are reading these words, which says a lot.

Fuck that person who did this to you. Fuck them and their greedy bullshit. They can’t take your light from you, no matter how hard they try. You have to fight. You have to keep going. You have to prove to the world and most importantly yourself, that you are stronger than this terrible thing that’s happened to you. I know it won’t be easy; in fact it’s probably going to be downright fucking awful to keep going, to keep getting out of bed, to keep moving through this life, but you have to do it. If not for yourself, then for me, and the countless others like us. We need one another now. I need you. I need you to be strong so I can remember that I am strong, and I will be strong so that you can remember that you are strong too. Together, we are stronger than our trauma.

She might have taken my innocence and stolen my hope when she turned my mind and body against me, but she can never take my pride.

 I am Emma, Transfem Extraordinaire and I will survive this cruelty to live another day.

In the words of Destiny’s Child, I am a survivor


7-31-2016 Entry: My Name and Gender Change Court Date (3 Months Late... oops)

Oh my good Lawd!! I cannot, even slightly, begin to believe that I never finished this entry! I started writing it MONTHS ago and never completed it, and as far as I can tell, never told any of you about it! I think I very briefly mentioned having done this, but didn’t go into any details about it. That just cannot stand!

 I didn’t, perhaps, put the final shine on it that I could have, but I think I was able to wrap it up nicely given my current state of mind (new entry on that coming momentarily). Just bear in mind that most of this was written three months ago, and a lot of things have happened since then, especially recently. I wish I could be as happy ] today as I was then, but the gods have a cruel sense of humor. Anyways, I give you, straight from the archives of my documents folder, Emma’s name day story:

“Hello my darling readers! I hope you are well. I know that I am well. Actually, I am more than just well, I’m officially a lady!! That’s right, after putting it off for ages and ages I have finally changed my name and gender.

Today was my court hearing and I am pleased to report that both of my witnesses showed up (one of which was my ex-wife) and that the judge granted my request for both the name change and the gender change. It was quite the experience, I have to say. I went second to last after a long list of other people wanting to change their name and a few who were doing exactly as I was doing. It was lovely to see the joy on their faces as their orders were granted and they, like me, were finally able to live their lives as the appropriate gender.

I was rather nervous going into this court hearing, and was worried that I didn’t have the proper documentation or information for the judge to grant what I wanted. I was also rather sickly as I had caught the flu, so I was concerned about how my appearance might affect things. I didn’t want the judge to mistake my death-warmed-over appearance as something worse (like that I was trying to hide something or that I wasn’t of sound mind and body).

All of my nerves, however, were for naught because once I was standing in front of the judge and my ex-wife and my dear friend had confirmed that I was who I said I was, it didn’t take very long for the process to be completed. He asked me several questions making sure I wasn’t trying to evade the police, judgment, or debt and then began to ask me about my transition. He asked me what steps I had taken towards this gender change and I explained that I had been on estrogen for about 14 months and that I was living my life in every regard as Emma. He then went on to ask if I had any additional documentation, to which I provided him with a letter from my therapist stating that she had been treating me for gender transition for about 18 months. This seemed to appease his curiosity except he then went on to ask me a question I found rather intrusive, and it was the one I feared he might ask.

You see, earlier in the session a transgender woman had asked for the gender change as well and the judge asked her if she was planning to have gender reassignment surgery. I found this to be a very intrusive and honestly unnecessary question. I think she did as well as she stammered an answer that she didn’t know if she would or not. Thankfully the judge (who I might add was a middle-aged white cisgender male) accepted this answer and did not press for more details or try to use this answer as a reason not to grant the order.

He proceeded to ask me the same question and I’m guessing that he also asked the trans woman after me although I cannot say for sure because we left right away. I wanted to say something smart or bratty like, “I don’t think that’s any of your business,” or “That is a really invasive question into a very private matter,” but, alas, I did not fly my queer flag high in front of the man who had the power to deny me my legal womanhood. Instead I answered honestly that I did want to have reassignment surgery at some point. He then proceeded, to my amazement and horror, to ask me about the timeline of the gender transition process.

Imagine my discomfort as this man, wielding every kind of privilege that exists, began to interrogate me about gender transition specifics. It reminded me so much of the things I studied in my multicultural therapy class the past semester about the oppressors expecting the oppressed to teach them. This man, without a moment of hesitation, felt it was not only appropriate but his very right to question me about gender transition, as if I am some expert on the subject simply because I am embarking on one myself. How does one really react to this? Again if I flew my queer flag too high and advised him to search somewhere else for his answers he may very well have taken offense and denied me.

The mere fact that he was even in a place of power says something about our society. Why is it the privilege of some middle-aged white lawyer to determine whether or not I am a female on the inside? And why on earth is this man, who seemed utterly clueless to the process of gender transition, charged with hearing these petitions? That’s like me making decisions about who should be the chief financial officer of a fortune 500 company. I have no idea who is best qualified for that job, just as this man has no clue who is best qualified for name/gender change (and the answer is anyone, which makes this all the more tragic).

Despite my ruminations on the nature of power and privilege, I answered his invasive question, put on the spot as I was. He seemed satisfied with what I told him about how it can be different from one person to another depending on what they chose to do, how HRT worked and how long it took to see results, what SRS looked like, how expensive it was, and how long of a recovery it was. He decided in all of his privilege and social power, to grant me my official womanhood. Yep, that’s right, now my drivers license, social security, and eventually birth certificate will read Emma Edwins, Female (I was born outside the U.S. so my birth certificate was granted by the foreign affairs’ department of the state department, so it’s kind of a pain).

After he granted me the order, I told him thank you (again with a piece of me rebelling against the fact that I had to thank a perfect stranger for something I should have had the right to do on my own), and the three of us departed. My ex-wife congratulated me and seemed genuinely happy for me. She gave me a hug goodbye and left. My friend, who was over the moon with excitement, gave me a hug to remember and said that we had to go out and celebrate that night. I agreed whole-heartedly and said a temporary goodbye.  I walked out of the courthouse and got into my car and started to cry. Finally, finally, I could say to the world that I was a girl, and not have my legal name and sex contradict me. I was Emma and I was a “real” girl…”

There you have it. Short and sweet. I have been working through the painstaking process of changing my name all over the place. Seriously, you forget how many places need your legal name until you have to call each of them and jump through their typical name-change hoops, not to mention the sex marker too. It’s pretty dreadful until your bills (shakes fist at the sky) come in your new name and you get to pay for things with a credit/debit card with your correct name on it. Then, suddenly, it all seems worth it.

Okay darlings, I’m off to start working on my next entry. It’s late so I may not finish it tonight, and if I don’t finish tonight it probably won’t go up until Tuesday or Wednesday because the next couple days are pretty packed with things to do. Full time grad school and close to full time work is taking its toll on me mentally and physically, so I might value sleep more than updating the blog. That doesn’t mean I don’t love you or that you aren’t important to me, it’s just that Auntie Emma needs her beauty sleep to keep all this fabulous under control =p:::

Stay beautiful, stay brilliant, stay amazing, and remember that you are irreplaceable! As we say at my job after the serenity prayer, YOU ARE SOMEBODY!!


Thursday, July 21, 2016

7-21-2016 Entry: Oh, Wherefore Art Thou Dating?

Just a quick check in. I want to get back to actually writing on here in a rather consistent way, even if the things I write are a bit shorter. What’s going on in my life? Hmmm… well… I’m struggling to figure out what to do with Yuffie. On one hand I positively adore her and we have a lot of fun. When we fall asleep, all wrapped up in each other, it’s a wonderful experience. The sex is also rather good, I can’t lie, but it doesn’t seem to be enough.

To put it simply I think Yuffie has had a difficult life and as a result has adapted some rather unfortunate behavioral patterns that complicate intimate relationships for her. I don’t want to blast her personal history all over the internet, even if you don’t know who she is because of the alias I’ve given her, but suffice it to say that she had anything but a smooth childhood. She was the victim of some truly awful people who did deplorable things to her, and because of that, she learned things about the world that no child ever should (mainly that it’s dark and full of terrors). I can empathize because I too learned deplorable things about the world when I was a child, and those experiences really did a number on me.

For so many years I thought they didn’t affect me or my everyday life but the more I delve into therapy the more apparent it becomes that they pervaded nearly everything I did when I interacted with other people, especially romantically. I see this same thing in Yuffie’s behavior and her seeming lack of understanding about healthy boundaries. I thought, ever so briefly, that maybe if I simply distanced myself from her that I could undermine her unhealthy boundaries while still being involved with her, but that didn’t really work. We aren’t dating, but we have been sleeping together. I honestly want to be with her in a romantic way but I’m not sure I’m cut out for the uphill battle it will take to set and enforce healthy boundaries. It’s quite possible that I can’t succeed at that no matter how hard I try, and in the end it isn’t my job to teach this girl healthy boundaries, even if the caregiver inside of me wants to.

I feel frustration because I really like this girl, I really enjoy when we are together in healthy amounts, but I cannot seem to find a balance with her. It is either we aren’t talking to each other or we become consumed with one another in a dysfunctional kind of way. The “simple” solution would be to just walk away, but how does a person walk away when there are still feelings there? How do I say goodbye when I crave her touch, when I want to fall asleep in her arms, when I want to feel her lips against mine? In many ways, she is like my replacement for alcohol. I know she is bad for me and that in the end I’m not happy with my choices, yet I still want more of her. I know that when I’m involved with her everything starts to come unraveled and things start to slip. I know that when we are together we don’t do the things we need to do because we just lie in bed all day being lost in each other’s presence.

So that’s where I am in the romance world. The other partner and I are doing pretty well. We got to have an impromptu date night last week when I ran into her at the drag show, which was lovely. I really needed to see her and since we haven’t gotten to do that very often lately it was amazing that our paths randomly crossed. She is such a sweetheart. Would that I could combine my two partners into a single amazing person, but alas that isn’t how polyamory works (I’m sure I’m not the first person to have that thought either). Honestly, though, each of them is beautiful and amazing (and imperfect) in their own ways.

Given the complications with Yuffie and my resignation to the fact that things between us probably won’t work out, I’ve decided to go back into the realm of online dating. I’ve only just started up the OkCupid account last night and I’m already regretting that decision. I’m not sure what it is but I just get really bummed out when I’m on there too much. I think part of it is that the novelty has worn off and seeing the same people on there that I was messaging months ago leaves me a bit jaded. It’s like, where else can people meet one another? Both of my partners were technically met outside of OkCupid (even if it did play a role in setting up the first date with one of them) so I know it's possible, but both of those meetings were so random. Is dating just a cosmic crap shoot when you step foot outside of your home? I'm beginning to think it is.

Part of me wonders if I shouldn’t go back on a dating moratorium and just focus on work and school. That sounds great in theory except now I live with a roommate who is dating my best friend, so I have to watch them all lovey-dovey all the damn time and it is hard not to feel a teensy bit jealous when they are making out before heading off to his room to get their groove-thang on. That’s when the struggle over Yuffie gets real, because I could have that… if I was willing to sacrifice healthy boundaries and god only knows what else.

My darlings, sometimes it seems like I cannot win with dating, either I’m not seeing anyone at all and it’s super lonely, or I’m seeing people who cannot give me what I want or need (I do recognize how overly dramatic and gloomy this all sounds). I guess I just don’t know what to do. I keep hoping the fates will line something up for me that will be amazing and life-changing, but it seems they are assisting other callers right now and my call will be answered in the order in which it was received. I guess all I can do is dance to the music while I wait.

Well, that’s all for now. Nothing earth-shattering, I’m sure, but at least it hasn’t been a month, right? Thanks for stopping by. I’ll try to write something more in-depth next time.

For now, stay fabulous, stay beautiful, stay amazing, and remember that you are irreplaceable. **MUAH**


Thursday, July 14, 2016

7-14-2016 Entry: Return of the Blogi ;)

Greetings my lovely readers. I know, I know, I promised I’d write more and then I went over a month without adding anything new. For that I apologize. My life has gotten rather busy as of late and I’ve found it difficult to accomplish much of anything, let alone writing.

I suppose I should start with the biggest things first, yes? First I want to say that I have officially started working at the PRIDE treatment center and it has been amazing. Stressful, but amazing. When I say stressful I’m not using that word in the typical sense that I might have when I was working a stuffy office job of having too much to do and not enough time to do it. When I say stressful I mean it can be physically and mentally grueling to be a chemical dependency technician. I am constantly on the move and am on my feet 90% of the time I am working. Eventually I will get used to this but after nearly five months of being unemployed, it is a huge adjustment. More than simply exercising muscles that were content to sit around playing Skyrim rather than being a functioning part of society, I’m exercising a mind that has been relatively free to wander for awhile. The situations at work are CONSTANTLY shifting, moving, and evolving. There is no status quo for how my shift is supposed to look. Sure, I have duties that I’m supposed to do every shift and the responsibilities I’m being trained on are relatively black and white, but I’m learning quickly that what’s on paper and what actually happens is vastly different in the mental health field.

As a paralegal, paper was everything, both literally and figuratively. Nothing I did contradicted the paper trail that I left behind me. Sure there were components to that job that weren’t documentable in a literal sense, but you basically just had to follow the guidelines. Maybe things would zig or zag one way or another depending on the matter I was working on but for the most part, they were basically all the same with very little variability. Prep, File, Bill, Report to Client, rinse and repeat a million fucking times. My last job was sort of like working at the USPS, or at least what I imagine that job to be like. One patent looked almost identical to the next. Maybe if I was more on the technical end and was working with the engineers to develop the product I’d feel differently, but to me if a patent went across my desk it was no more or less remarkable than the one before or the one after. I imagine sorting mail is basically the same. Sure, the size might change and the color might vary, but at the end of the day it’s just fucking mail. That’s what my last job was like, and endless stream of unremarkable documents to be prepared, filed, and billed for.
Working in the mental health field is nothing like that at all, at least not so far. I can see how one patient/client might blur into another in an endless stream of addicts and alcoholics, but even if that were the case, all of them are unique. Every client I work with right now is unique in his, her, or their own way. Each of them has a story behind why they have arrived in treatment. All of them have trauma and pain they’ve tried to bury with alcohol and drugs. Even if they are only ever temporary parts of my life and we will never really interact outside of PRIDE, they still become a part of me (and I them).The work I’m doing now is soooooooo different. In fact, it’s so different that there are moments when I have to remind myself that I’m being paid to do this work, and when I do remember that, I am filled with joy. I cannot believe I get paid to do something I love so much.

There were years on end where I feared I’d never be able to do a job I actually liked doing. I felt so hopeless that every job would be as draining and soul-sucking as the last several had been. Each one came with its own dose of misery, and I don’t use that word lightly. Don’t get me wrong, I understand that this job will have its downsides too, and I’ve already seen a few of those. Everything is not roses and ponies and rainbows and sparkle-dust at this new job. There are some things I don’t love having to do, but the good far outweighs the bad, so much so that I can honestly say I love my job. If you’ve been a longtime reader then you likely understand just how much that means to me. To love my job? It seemed like an impossible dream a few months ago, but alas, here I am, loving my job.

The best part, I get to work closely with transgender individuals going through struggles that only other transgender individuals can truly appreciate. Don’t get me wrong, a cis person can absolutely be an ally and empathize with the best of them, but there is a certain comradery that occurs when two trans individuals commiserate on the bullshit or stress we have to deal with. Just the other day I was sitting with a client who was in a bad place. Some things had gone down the night before that left them feeling rather depressed and as such they refused to participate in the group activity they were required to go to. I made the decision to approach this person and find out what was going on. Rather than approaching with an authoritarian mentality of making them go to group, I approached them with kindness and compassion. As a result we had an amazingly rewarding conversation. I know that for sure for myself and their changed demeanor since our discussion and they way they interact with me now tells me it was rewarding for them as well.

Obviously I cannot give any details about this person because their anonymity is paramount but suffice it to say they are an older transwoman struggling with their desire to make medical transition decisions. Through our conversation I found out that this person has a teenage son who plays high school football. This son lives with his mom and step-father, who was described to me as a rather masculine man (he was painted as being rather macho lol). This client explained to me that they felt shame about their desire to go dressed up as their true selves to their son’s football games. They explained that they didn’t want to be a burden to their son and they felt shame that they couldn’t be the masculine father their son needed. There was a hint of jealously that this step-father figure could so easily be that picturesque masculinity that this client wished for their son to have in his life.

I could only begin to imagine what it must be like to be a “father” to an athletic son when you are a transgender woman, and to endure the shame and guilt of deciding to transition later in life. What a heavy burden to bear, what a terrible price to have to pay to be one’s true self. I know what it is like to not be the masculine person another person needs or wants you to be. I struggled with some of those feelings of guilt and shame that I couldn’t just be Robert the masculine man that my mother believed I was, that my step-father tried so hard to make me, that my father thought I was, and that my wife expected me to be after marrying me. To be a parent, though, is even harder. My heart broke for this client as they laid out all of their pain and sorrow about their experience as a transgender person.

I can’t say that I offered any amazing insights that forever changed their life but our conversation was filled with a mutual understanding of those burdens we, as transgender individuals, must bear alone. We share struggles and we share sorrows but in the end, we are always alone in our struggles. They are completely our own, even if they resemble those of others. The same can be said for most anyone, really, but there is something even more poignant to the transgender experience. It is so tied up in individual identity and expression that other struggles maybe don’t quite compare. I’m not qualifying anything here, so please don’t read my words that way, I simply mean that the transgender struggle for expression, individuality and identity is a rather solitary road to walk; regardless of how many friends, allies, or fellow trans people you have in your life.

But, I digress. That is what work has been like for me. It has been an amazingly rewarding experience and I am so very happy that I get to do it. I suspect that stories like the one I just shared will happen again and again. I probably won’t share all, or even most, of these stories simply because I want to protect the confidence of the clients I work with and I don’t want to get into trouble for oversharing the details of my job.

In the personal life arena, however, things have been a bit of a shit-show. That’s also a big reason why I haven’t written a lot lately. Between the decreased time available to write because of work I’ve also been struggling with some personal things. I have to be vague on the details of some of them but I did have a couple setbacks in my life where things became unmanageable again. These setbacks were triggered by relationship problems with Yuffie. The first of these came after Yuffie more or less deviated from what I believed our polyamorous understanding to be. I will admit that we didn’t really discuss in details some of the things we needed to about when and how new romantic partners could or should arrive in our lives, but regardless of this I ended up feeling hurt.

To put it shortly she decided, without any previous discussion (and plenty of discussion about how it would never happen), to sleep with her roommate; who just so happened to be a man. Yep, that’s right, the lesbian girl who didn’t want to pursue things with me because I was trans, more or less cheated on me with a man. Again, anyone who has been reading my blog for awhile likely understands the significance of that. For those who don’t, my ex-wife decided she couldn’t be with a trans person anymore and cheated on me with a man. True, these were very different circumstances when one is having severe trauma triggered by outside events, the brain doesn’t fucking care that they are different circumstances. The same emotions and physiological reactions occur, regardless of the situation. I tried my damnedest to stay ahead of the curve on this one, to keep my wits about me and understand that what was going on and what I was feeling was not in line, but I failed. Eventually the emotional gauntlet of arguing with Yuffie all day took its toll on me and I did the only thing I knew how to do, I sought an escape, and I found one; temporary as it was.

It didn’t solve anything, it didn’t take away the pain in any permanent state, and in the end it just ended up hurting more than I already was. The next setback was because of the shame and guilt I felt about the first setback. They feelings were too great and so I sought escape again. I’m happy to say that that was the last time I did and have been travelling along well enough since then.

Things with Yuffie, however, have been anything but smooth sailing. I admitted that we hadn’t really set out the rules of our relationship or the expectations around new partners, so I couldn’t be too mad at her, not when she regretted it and seemed genuinely sorry. I took her back and we had our discussions about new partners. We set up expectations we could both live with and while I didn’t tell her outright, I put down a barrier around my heart. I knew that if she was going to hurt me like this once it was likely to happen again, and so I refused to give all of myself to her again. I would let her in but the tender parts of my heart would be off limits; possibly forever.

Things went along okay for a couple more weeks until it became obvious that not only could I not give her the attention she wanted but she could not give me the respect and space that I needed. Rather than being able to respect the importance of my work and my need for self-care time (because working in mental health really really really requires self-care to maintain any level of sanity or ability to actually be of help to the clients), she would push and push and push some more until I had nothing left to give. After a long weekend of bad interactions and missteps and harsh words, we both came to the realization that things needed to end, and they did… at least temporarily.

We have seen one another once since this happened but it was different than before. Things have been permanently altered between us so that what was before cannot be again. I don’t know if that means it is terminal and we will never see one another again, but it will have to be in different way than before.

Unfortunately this relationship with Yuffie started to get in the way of my relationship with my other partner. Yuffie demanded so much of my time and attention that I was never had much energy or time left to give to my other person. This, in the poly world, is not necessarily all that uncommon, even if it is problematic. With Yuffie and I somewhat on the outs, however, I have been given the opportunity to reestablish my connection with my other partner and we have gone out together a few more times. We spent an afternoon together at the MN Pride festival which was a lot of fun and hit up a burlesque show together.

All has not been for naught though. I have learned a great deal about myself, about relationships, about polyamory, and about sex. As chaotic as my relationship with Yuffie might have been and as much as it might have strained my other relationship, I did grow a lot from it. And the sex… oh the sex… suffice it to say there was a lot of it and none of it triggered my dysphoria. I never thought I’d be able to find a “lesbian” who would be willing to be intimate with me in ways that were affirming for both of us. It wasn’t perfect, by any means, but it did restore my faith in my ability to be sexual as a transwoman and that sex didn’t have to be a traumatic experience for me.

But, I digress. It’s late at night and I have to be up early tomorrow. I’m sorry I haven’t written in a while and thank you to the people who left comments that reminded me how bad I’d been about updating this. I’ll try to be better about it. Now that I don’t have Yuffie consuming all of my spare time, that might be a bit easier. I certainly have been having many wonderful and interesting experiences that I want to share with all of you. It’s just a matter of actually sitting down to write again.

Anyways, good night my loves. Remember you are beautiful, you are smart, you are one of a kind, and you matter. Live fabulously, love furiously, and never forget to smile.