Thursday, December 25, 2008

Carol From a Butterfly

As noon approaches on this Christmas morning, I sit alone in my parent's den. And I feel so relaxed and content. This time of year is usually painful for me. With my birthday coming in a few days, and then New Year's shortly after that. Two events that always remind me of how fleeting life is, and how little time there is to sort things out. Much like a genetic female reaches a point where she has a strong awareness of her biological clock, I have in recent years heard my transition clock ticking away the days and years.

But this year, even with my birthday approaching, the clock tick is unusually faint. I think it has tormented me so much until now because I could always look back over the year, and see that time was leaving me behind while I was accomplishing nothing. But looking back on this year, I am very excited with my rate of progress for the first time in my life. The feeling is simply wonderful.

But the quieting of that clock is not the only reason I feel so at peace. There are all my new friends. Debbie, who has taught me so much and just really helped me figure out how cosmetics and put together a look that has given me new confidence. Tina and Leslie, who have just been incredibly encouraging and have been great company both online and off. And all my online friends. Some good transgender reading or a nice chat can be so therapeutic when I am in situations where there is no one I can really share my thoughts with in person. And of course my two traveling companions, who have been with me nearly from the beginning. 

It has been the best christmas season ever for me. I was out last weekend with Tina, Debbie, and my two friends I do not get to name. I had a great counseling session, going over the details to round out my hormone referral. We did makeovers at Debbie's. There was a really good meal at Cheddar's. Tina and I both had tilapia alexander and some corona's. Just excellent, but a little pricey! Emma from Sienna came along as well. We have been to some of the same meetings but is the first time we have ever really talked. She is a full time TS, who has been all the way through SRS. At one point she told me she was very impressed with the way I conduct myself in public. I was absolutely over the moon. I'm very self conscious and the slightest compliment is always very encouraging for me.

The makeovers went very well. I got my new concealer/foundation strategy right for the first time ever, and I think I looked better than I ever have in my life. I also pinned most of my hair back with a silver hair band, and wore my glasses and a couple of items of silver costume jewelry. My outfit consisted of my favorite jeans and a nice black button up blouse with a ruched front, 3/4 sleeves and nice prominent collars. I think it all came together very well and I was more comfortable in public than ever in my life.

After Cheddar's, and doing makeovers and splitting a bottle of wine at Debbie's, we went to the Sienna TS support group meeting, which was wonderful. Finished the night with our customary late night dinner at the Bristol. Crab cakes for me as always. :)

After all that, we rode back to Debbie's house and I took care of some Mary Kay christmas shopping. By the time we left it was extremely late, and we arrived home at 4 am. My only regret for the day is that I didn't get photos of my friends. Or me! I felt better about myself than I ever have, and a photo to remember it by would have been nice.

I went back home from Richmond on Sunday, but not without one last Christmas surprise. My friends presented me with this amazing gown. Its very dressy and I will not have much occasion to wear it, but its so beautiful. And the fit is spectacular from head to toe. Sometimes I wonder how much of the body changes I attribute to estrogen are all in my head. And putting on a dress made for a genetic girl, and finding it to fit this nicely on me, gives me so much hope that my body really is changing in very positive ways. I'm possibly going to be a guest at a gender bash prom soon, and this is very likely what I will wear!

Christmas itself was nice. Mom and Dad liked their presents. Mom and I are getting along. My presents hurt my feelings a little, because there were men's gloves and a men's shirt included. Guess I was holding out for some Christmas Miracle, with my parents choosing a gift that would show acceptance of me, like maybe a nice purse or something. But that would be far too much to hope for. But my transition is quietly under way, and we are all getting along for now. And everyone was pleased with my present selections so I'm very happy.

The transgender experience is often compared to the life cycle of a butterfly. And I've always loved that analogy, but it makes more sense to me lately than ever. Because I do feel like I spent my formative years like a caterpillar. Earthbound, hoping for better things that seemed out of reach. And I finally locked myself away emotionally in a dark cocoon. So many years of no one truly getting inside, as I struggled to find myself. And this year I finally tore out of that cocoon, to see that in the outside world I am not alone. 

Its true I need lots more physical change, but I think the biggest changest are all emotional. Self realization, self acceptancce. Casting away unfair guilt and shame and finding yourself free to express. That is stripping away the coccoon. 

When butterflies first emerge they have a period where they sit on the branch as the pigment fills their wings. That is how my physical transition feels to me. I'm out of my cocoon and on the branch, and the pigment is slowly flowing. I'm batting my wings in the wind, stretching my muscles, and next year I will finally test my wings. 

Merry Christmas and Happy New Years!


Sunday, December 14, 2008

Requiem to a Fading Memory: Part I

Its a cold winter day, and as I sit at home, cozy and warm, watching the chill winds whip the trees mercilessly through my window, I find my thoughts churning much like the pine branches outside, blown by a steady breeze of recollection. Some memories fond. Others not so much.

I suppose a cold, drab winter day indoors lends itself to nostalgia. When there is nothing happening, it is only natural to look to the past. And so today I start a project I have wanted to for some time. Requiem to a Fading Memory. This will be a series of short stories, describing past events that have shaped me and paved the way for my transition. They will be in no particular order, but they will all be things I have thought about recently, and found myself thinking, "How I wish I had been blogging at that point in time." And so today I begin with my first full twenty four hour day in femme, and the preceding night. May, twenty three, of the current year. 


I am at an intersection; in more ways than one. Ten minutes ago work ended, and now I am in my car, coming to the point where the road that connects my town to the outside world dead ends, with two simple options. Left or right. And for me the answer tonight will be left, as it is every other weekend, when I head north for counseling.

That intersection is the easy one. But I am at another crossroad mentally. One I've been staring at since my teens. To transition, or not to transition. I have taken hesitant steps on each path, but never too far to wander back and find myself at the same crossroads looking at the same choices yet again.

But at this point in my life, I am stepping on to transition boulevard. In my soul I want to keep walking. I'm looking ahead to the first bridge. I want to cross it, burn it, and never look back except to smile at the flames.

For me, at this point in time, that first bridge is hormone therapy. I know if I can get that far I won't be able to give it up and my path will be set. Later I will realize life is not that simple, but right now that is the goal. Every two weeks, on a Saturday, I head north to talk to my therapist about my issues, and to work out for myself how I will get my life in order for a transition to living full time femme.

This time is different. Usually I leave Saturday morning, drive the three and a half hours to counseling and then go home immediately after. Today however, is Friday, and I have what seems at this point a very bold plan. I have told my parents I will be out of town for the weekend visiting an old college friend in Lexington. But I really have no intention of going there. There are extra items in the cargo area of the sport utility for this overnight trip and thinking about the contents makes me feel almost giddy.

In addition to the small black rolling case I take on my typical overnight trips, there is a beautiful silver cosmetic case, a big black leather duffle, and a stylish, well worn leather hobo bag. Lovingly stretched across the back seat, full length without a crease or fold, my beautiful red Victoria's Secret sweater dress is also along for the ride.

Tonight, I'll be looking for a hotel, less than an hour and a half from my Saturday destination, so that I can have a staging area for my first full day, free to express my true gender.

After a little fast food, and a quick hotel search on my mobile phone, I settle on EconoLodge in Richmond. The drive is uneventful, but I am more excited than I have been in a very long time. Being out of my home town makes me feel so free. My muse Sarah McLachlan is blasting on the stereo, and I'm singing along for all I am worth. "Oh, the quiet child awaits the day when she can break free, of this mold that clings like desperation. Mother, can't you see I've got to live my life the way I feel is, right for me. Might not be right for you, but its right for me. Oh, I believe, this is heaven to no one else but me."

I arrive at the motel and approach the front desk. The man at the counter issues me a room, but the transaction feels odd. He looks at me strangely. Almost judgmentally. But then that is not new to to me. This year, I have started plucking my eyebrows, lost over 15 pounds of weight, had part of my beard fried off with lasers and I have grown out a head of hair that would look out of place anywhere except on the end of a mop. Besides all that I have completely changed my voice gradually over twelve months to the point that on the phone at work, I am called ma'am more often than sir.

My room turns out not to be in the well kept building that houses the motel offices, but instead, in one of the two seedy looking buildings behind it that I didn't notice on my arrival. Suddenly I'm having doubts about this whole idea. This place does not look safe, and I feel so alone. I go up the stairs to my second floor room, carrying a makeup case and purse in drab. It feels awkward in this ghetto looking place and my doubts are turning to fear.

The inside of the room does little to make me feel better. Some things are typical motel. There's a tiny little desk, with a simple wooden chair. Cheap still life art prints adorn the yellowed walls that were once white. There's an old TV in one of those hotel style TV cabinets.

But then there are things that don't strike me as typical at all and add to my growing worry. The plum carpet looks less than clean around the edges. The ugly curtain that covers the window fronting the entire room, leaves a 5 inch gap on one side compromising my sense of privacy. Behind the curtain is a window that seems thin, and almost like it might be made of cheap plexiglass. The door has a large gap down one side and doesn't seem at all secure. 

Suddenly I can't believe my life has come to this. Its getting dark outside, and here I sit in this awful room. Its dirty. Its cheap. I feel so unsafe. And no one in the world knows where I am. I'm suddenly sure that this place only gets business from druggies and people needing a cheap place for clandestine meetings. That secrecy has driven me to this tears at my heart, and I find myself wishing so much I had someone, anyone, to share my dreams and plans with. As darkness falls, a heavy rain sets in that makes the world seem darker and colder still. 

Eventually I get around to checking out the bathroom. It is surprisingly clean looking, and the vanity is well lit. Thinking about sitting at my own vanity, and doing my makeup with no time constraints lightens my mood a little and I decide to begin preparations for the next day.

I take a long warm bath, and take care of all the shaving I need to do, then I start the tedious arm bleaching process. At this point in time I am very picky about arm hair, and I can not stand the tell tale black stubble shaving leaves, so I always trim it incredibly short and bleach it to a near transparent blonde instead.

There is lots of waiting involved in the process, so I switch on the TV and listen to Estaban peddling guitars in a fake husky voice almost as unreal as my femme voice. When the bleaching is done I get back in the shower to rinse the bleach away and survey the damage. There is lots of red irritated skin on my forearms, but I know it will be better by morning.

I look so much better in the mirror without the hair, and again my mood is lifted. I decide I would like a dress rehearsal for the upcoming day, and so I slip in to my dress. I feel beuatiful. The stretchy material clings to my body, taking every advantage of my pitifully undefined figure. The bright red color is a strong contrast against almost anything, yielding such a strong silhouette and again bringing out every inch of curvature and accentuating it in a way that made me look almost femme. 

I open the black duffle and get what is probably the silliest part of my wardrobe. 

(OK, I can't believe I am admitting this! If you have stuck with me this far, then you probably at least deserve a little humor and candor though, so ... er, yeh~! And I did not make up this idea on my own. It actually came from an interview on Oprah or Ricky Lake about insecure flat chested women. I saw it as a a kid back in the 80s. :P )

A bag of cheap, dollar store variety, round party balloons. I get to the sink and cap a balloon over the faucet and fill it to about the size of a b cup. Then I fill the second to an absolutely perfect match. I slip these into my B size bra, and suddenly the dress is fitting everywhere without my flat chest messing up the lay of the fabric. 

(Yeh, laugh it up! *cry*)

I'm feeling good about myself, and now my dirty little room is feeling like my private salon instead of like a seedy dive. I decide to go out and buy some fuel, by credit card at the pump, without makeup since it is already so dark. With my black sling back flats on I'm ready to hit the streets. 

The rain has subsided and it feels clean and fresh outside. I'm in my favorite dress, with my cute little flats, and my credit cards and ID moved into my purse. Its so easy to just pretend I'm a regular girl, taking a regular trip to the store. I drive by three gas stations before I find one uncrowded enough that I feel safe buying fuel sans makeup. And for a moment, standing there at the pump, in public but with no one closer to me than 100 feet, I feel pretty. A car slows as it drives past, and I find myself fantasizing that perhaps the driver is a cute guy, slowing for a look t this tall, slender lady in red. A silly fantasy, but a fun one. 

Back at the hotel, I retrieve my wig from my duffel, for a quick shampoo and conditioning. Then I set it on the TV stand and preen at my eyebrows, getting groomed for my big day. Finally I call mom and tell her I have arrived, but not where I have arrived. A little of the fear and loneliness comes back as I talk. I hate lying. Sitting there in a dress, talking to mom, with her not knowing my real situation at all, I find myself saddened by the need for secrecy.

Now I set my alarm, and strip down to my underwear for bed. But pulling down the covers I find something that looks like dried semen on the sheets. I feel disgusted and my earlier thoughts about the filthy room rush back. I don't want to touch anything. I'm just so disgusted. Eventually I fall asleep in men's jeans and a big floppy tee, curled up in the office chair with only two hotel towels for cover. 

In the morning I am stiff and tired from the sleeping conditions, but I am too excited to care about the room anymore. Starved, I run out to a gas station in drab for a quick breakfast.

Then I shower and get dressed as I was the previous night, and do some extensive makeup work. Sorme layerable powder foundation first wet sponged on until the beard coverage is right. Then another layer dry sponged for more convincing texture. A little blush. Some blue eye shadow. Kiss Me mascarra. A dark red Sorme lipstick. Just a touch of solid white rice powder blended in everywhere to complete the finish. I've trained for this moment for such a long time. Off and on for years. And the results are worth the effort in my eyes. 

With my wig styled and my sling-backs on, I am ready to roll. But first I spend lots of time in the mirror and snap lots of photos with my phone. I feel radiant. I feel feminine. I feel, to a degree I've never experienced before, like my true self. 

(The photo with this post is actually one of the ones from that day and that awful room. Looking back now, I'm awfully critical, but at the time, I felt absolutely beautiful.)

I hit the street with a new sense of pride. Here I am, dressed as I want to be, presenting as female, and out on the road free to do whatever I choose. Later I will develop more confidence but today I am feeling shy, so I make the trip to my counselor without any stops.

This is the moment the day is all about. I am going to open up to someone, and let them see me as who I want to be for the first time. This is not a fast food drive through or paying at the pump. This is not driving or going to the mall without buying anything. This is me, having a conversation with someone I know, with a level of candor, openness and expression I have never had. I feel so nervous as I knock on her open door.

This is the very instant I've been thinking about. As I knock she turns around, and I know I only have a second. If I look ridiculous or pitiable, she is not going to be free to tell me. All I have is this very second when she turns around, to gauge her appraisal. I'm looking for a flicker of shock, or anything to show me for the first time how another individual sees me when I'm trying my hardest to be what I want to be. 

Her reaction doesn't give anything away, and she gives me an easy smile. A few moments into the conversation she compliments my dress. I feel very comfortable with her and have a wonderful session.

After counseling its off to the mall. I still do not have the courage to buy anything face to face. But I walk around without feeling nearly as stressed as on previous outings. Then as I walk through the crowded food court something happens. Its such a small thing, but it helps me in ways I can't explain. A man giving out samples for the chinese restaurant there calls out to me and presents me a tray. I take my tiny sample with complete confusion. 

Here I am, this strange looking, over tall, oddly made up creature. And I'm not expecting acceptance. My goal is just to look normal enough to be left alone, and not get laughed at. And now I'm standing here shocked this person is not disgusted by me at all. There are tons of people and not nearly time to offer samples to everyone. If he were disturbed by me, he could have ignored me and it would not have even seemed impolite. But instead he specifically picked me out of the crowd casually just like he was dealing with a normal person. Not the sub-human I have always felt like deep down.

I smile, and say "delicious." He smiles back. I don't feel passable, but I feel almost human.

After lots of driving, a drive-through McDonald's lunch and a couple stops to get photos and check the appearance of my makeup in the sun, I get back to London. Its late at night and I so dread going home. Its hard, but I finally manage to make myself change clothes, and then hit the men's room at Huddle House to wash away the makeup.

There's that silly looking guy in the mirror again. Beard shadow and fluffy hair. Scrawny and shapeless in the oversized clothes. Welcome back to reality mister.

I have described the end of these outings often as being like finishing a good book. I relish it, but at the same time, I so wish there was more. I'm so hungry to be myself, and more determined than ever to make it happen. 

Two more weeks of my tired male act and I'll be back for more. I drive home dreaming up what to wear. Sarah McLachlan sings as I drive. "Nothing stands between us here, and I won't be denied."

Friday, December 12, 2008

Slow Waltz

I haven't written in a while. But then most of what is happening now has become pretty predictable. My social transition can not progress further from where I am. So my life has fallen into a steady pattern now. I get my one to two weekends out per month. Between those I work , trying to pay down my debts, build a wardrobe, and take care of the essentials I will need to establish my independence. Meanwhile, my body is changing gradually on the hormones. The changes are subtle but I am completely thrilled. I have more self esteem than at any point in my life. My transition is a slow dance, but I do so love the song.

As far as taking care of essentials for independence, I can now say that I have transportation! A couple of weeks ago, I bought a car. Its not new and its nothing fancy. But its cute, gets pretty good mileage and has enough interior space to be good for all the road trips me and my friends do. It should be very practical transportation when I move. 

On the counseling side of things, I finally asked face to face about the referral this past Saturday and my therapist and I began to lay the groundwork. She is going to have an initial draft ready when I go back for my next session. So, I could be working with an endocrinologist very soon.

My self prescribed regimen seems to be going nicely. The changes in my body have been gradual, but now there is enough happening at day 42 that it is clearly not my imagination. I am very happy with the changes. Sometimes I'm almost proud of some aspects of my body. I'm softer and curvier. When I look in the mirror its getting much easier to imagine the hips as the center of mass instead of the shoulders. Also, breast development is progressing. They are tiny, but definitely not shaped right for a guy. 

All the changes feel so natural and healthy to me. I've never been this close to feeling good about my body. Before I started, I was so frustrated with how long everything was going to take . But each little change makes me so happy, that the waiting is not very hard. 

In addition to my counseling session Saturday, I had one of the best support meetings ever. I got to meet new people, and reconnect with friends. When you are trans, its always nice to spend time with people on simalar paths. I always come away feeling less alone, and more aware of my possibilities. So many trans people manage to live rich full lives, and I know in my heart I can too.

So yes, this entry is a lot like the last one. I'm still dancing the same dance, to the same tune. But even though the dance has a cyclic pattern, each measure of music brings a slightly new experience. And some day I will come to the end of the song. I will move, get a new job, and start a new life, living part time femme. It will be a new song, with a new dance. The steps and timing will be more complicated, but maybe the current dance will make me ready for that one. No accordion solos pleeeeeaaaaaassseeeeee! :P

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Shandy Alexis: Hormone Cocktail

Today is my 19th day on my hormone regimen, and so far I feel fine. I really would not recommend what I am doing to anyone. It is not that hard to get proper counseling, get a referral and safe, supervised hormone therapy. But I was just so desperate to get started. I'm always very aware of my mortality and the passage of time as December approaches with my birthday and new years. I decided back in February that I just could not see another birthday pass without knowing my physical transition is under way.

In the mirror, I m almost sure I look a little curvier in the waist and hips. But my measurements don't show any improvement that could not be written off to slight measurement errors. My breasts now actually have a little roundness and visibly comes to a point. Its a small difference but I have always just been ultra flat, and waht little was there had a squarish cut. So the new roundness is very encouraging even though its subtle.

I'm still very happy and have more energy than I can remember having in my adult life. 

But the best news: 


I had a bit of a scare this weekend. Some of the people from my Louisville support group were having dinner together, and the topic of unprescribed hormones came up. One of the girls had some absolute horror stories. 

I was a little worried that night and Sunday, but when I got home and read about the blood clot risks and other things, I worked myself into an absolute panic. 

It was a major wake up call and it finally gave me the incentive to call my therapist and ask for the referral. I have wanted to discuss it several times, but I'm always afraid the answer will be "No." or "Maybe you should wait?" Its asking someone to believe me about my gender. Its asking to believe I'm competent enough to manage transition starting with some pretty major obstacles. But I was finally afraid enough today to call and risk hearing that dreaded "No." 

And instead, I got what sounded more like an assurance that we can get the letter drawn up. I could not be happier. It still does not feel real. Me, working with an endocrinologist, on transition! So much else to sort out. But right now I'm just very relieved to be making progress on the physical aspects of transition.

For now I am continuing with my current regimen. Its a little scary, but it is short term. Soon I'll be dealing with an endocrinologist. YES!

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Halloween Festivities

Just backtracking a little because I didn't get a chance to write about Halloween, which was spectacular. But for me, it came a little early. On Saturday, October 25, I got to do something I've always wanted to do. I was able to do Halloween en femme! 

There was a huge LGBT party sponsored by a Louisville club, and held on one of the river boats that tour the Ohio River. Me and my most supportive friends had talked about going to it together for months, but we never got the costumes or anything. It was all talk. Then the weekend before, we went to Louisville together and had a wonderful time. Great dining, a visit with Debbie, and a Sienna meeting. When we got back from it, all decided to go and ordered our costumes only a week in advance.

The days leading up to the event were a little stressful. I had to plan how to sneak all my femme luggage out of the house for a second weekend in a row. One of my friend's costume never came. My other friend had another event that day that would leave us close on time getting to Louisville. 

I was so busy with getting ready, that I failed to eat all day, and didn't think of it until I was already sick. I spent the entire drive to Louisville nursing a killer headache.

But in the end, we made it. I recovered from my headdache just as we got into town. Two of the tickets we had to by on site were number 596 and 597, and we got parked barely before the boat started loading. Instead of Alice, the Mad Hatter, and Queen of Hearts, we ended up with no Alice and a King of Hearts. But it all worked out great!

Debbie came, as well as a lot of the Sienna girls. We claimed a couple of tables next to the bar and everyone had a spectacular time. Lots of dancing, drinkiing, and socializing. And wow, the boat was gorgeous. And the river looks amazing at night. Sometimes I stepped out on the deck to watch the city go by, reflected in the river. 

My girl Mad Hatter costume is the crazieset thing I have ever worn. I felt extremely self concious until I got there. But I got a few compliments and started feeling pretty good about myself. So at the age of 32, I finally got to spend a Halloween looking trashy! So stupid, but I have always wanted to do it at least once.

After the party we all ate at my favorite restaurant in Louisville, which is open til one am oddly. As we walked in, I was last in line, and a guy behind me on the street yelled "green's my color, girl!", in reference to the costume. Attention from a regular guy, out in the real world! And he called me "girl!" I was delighted.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Hormones-Day 01

As I write, I am occasionally taking a sip of regular, ordinary water, from a rather ordinary styrofoam cup. It would be a typical experience, except I'm using this most mundane beverage to wash down my very first dose of spironolactone. And to clear the taste of a sublingual estrogen tablet I took just moments ago. And besides all that, there is a new estrogen patch on my belly, just barely off my right hip.

It is 30 minutes untill I leave work to go home, and I write with my emotions spinning. I finally have estrogen in my system, though I don't feel it yet of course. And my testosterone and dht levels will be dropping soon from the spiro. This is something I have waited for all my adult life. And I am thrilled. Even though its to early for the drugs to take effect, I already feel different. Just knowing what is happening inside me now makes me so happy. 

But yet I am scared out of my mind. I don't have prescriptiosn for any of the 3 mentioned drugs, or the fincar i plan to start a little later, or the progestin I am to take for parts of the month. As a matter of fact, I got all my dosing instructions form a shady online site. I am at a job that will fall through if I am still here when changes get to be to much to hide. I live with my parents, who can not cope with this yet. 

And when transition does force me to relocate, the economy is at an all time low, and the ob market is almost surely slow. And how will I find a way to pay for an apartment, car repair, food, counseling, and eventual endocrinologist stuff? And what will this do to my family? And when I move, where will I find a landlord who doesn't mind my crazy giant parrot? 

All that spins through my head. Plus I am realizing that I am starting 5 prescription strength drugs. Me, who has always been so cautious not to over medicate. I take antibiotics only if its the last option. Headaches have ot last several hours before I take a pain reliever better than asprin. And now I have a dosing table! It is so scary to me.

But I need this change. And waiting just hurts more and more. I'm at a point where I feel a need to just do what needs done, and then face the consequences as they come. Despite my employment, family, housing and health concerns I am happy. My body will finally be what it was meant to be. 

Whether this was the most reckless thing I have ever done, or the beginning of the most transforming, momentous experience of my life, I have no idea. I'm sure anyone who reads this will think I am crazy. Maybe I am. But wow, I feel so alive. Right now, I can imagine a future for myself, and it doesn't feel like an idle fantasy to stay sane now. I jsut hope it can really happen.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

A Fear Realized: Car Trip Hell

Car pooling. Isn't it great? You save money. You burden the energy infrastructure just a touch less, and you reduce your impact on global warming. I live in a very small town, and my parents both work there too, so we ride together when we can, since we all generally work a standard 8 to 4 sort of shift. 

One day last week, I showed up at 4 to drive Mom home and something happened I have been dreading for months. (Dad was elsewhere.) She confronted me on transgenderism. We have clashed in the past. And probably one of the biggest things holding me back in this world is a need for her aproval. So her insults just cut to my heart.

The whole thing started over my hair. I had not even given any thought to it all day. For the last couple weeks my sleep schedule has been off and I've not had time to even blow dry it, much less flat iron it. So I've been going to work with caveman/Einstein hair. On the day in question I had a little extra time so I managed to blow dry it. And something peculiar happened. The stars and planets must have all fallen into line perfectly, and there was this rare phenomonon, where the ends of my hair curled in various directions, looking for the world like an intenntional attempt at flipping it. But there was no time to flat iron, so I just went to work.

Anyway! When mom got in the passenger seat that evening, she was all smiles at first. But then she stared for a moment and her face just went white. And I am sure mine did to in reaction to hers because I knew what would happen next.

What followed was a 25 minute commute, with her complaining that I was probably the talk of the town. And how I was going to be such an embarrassment to everyone. How her and Dad had apparently messed up terribly raising me. And of course there were jabs reminding me that I would never have kids or a normal life. And how in her view I would never be able to have normal friends. She told me I would be damned. She told me that she would never be seen in public with me looking the way I look, and that I was going to have to "tone it down."

I stood my ground the entire trip. But I never bothered to tell her again for the thousandth time that I am a woman. I just listened to her spin the same round of arguments over and over, and continued to tell her that I must be free to be myself. And whoever wants to accept me can, and whoever does not can say what they like.

In the end, all her arguments gravitated back to herself, and it was one hundred percent "What will people think of me having a weirdo for son?" She kept telling me how selfish I was, and that I was aging her. She never seems to see that this is not a choice. I only want to be myself. And there is nothing wrong with who I am. So if she thinks I am to "man up" and spend my life living an act to protect her reputation, then who is the selfish one?

At one point I was angrily debating her and my bangs fell into my eyes. Without thinking, I raised my hand up and gave my bangs an angry little flip. Suddenly she was accusing me of INTENTIONALLY feminizing my actions. I was livid. Back when I was a child, I was free to act how I wanted. Then in grade school I got teased and ended up marching around with my hands in fists til I was 25. And now here I am, not being mindful of things like that anymore, and here is my own mother, basically implying I should start paying attention to how I move and get back to my old, quiet, anti-social, clinched fisted, male emulating self. 

The argument was getting nowhere and she saw she was losing ground. So eventually she told me she felt she was an "enabler", allowing me to have rooms at her home, and that someday she was going to burn all my clothes.

I suddenly felt outraged. It showed that from her point of view, this is all about trying to dress up and look pretty. And there was an unspoken implication that since I lived under her roof, she could tell me how to live out my life. I screamed that I would move. I hoped she would be angry enough to just say "Fine!" 

I know I need out, but I have dreaded trying to move because I know they will realize why I am leaving and what I will do. If we could just both settle my moving out while we were angry. But no, she would not let me off the hook that easily. She immediately recanted her threat to burn my things.

She can't stand the thought of having me move. Part of it is because she sincerely does worry about what will happen to me. But it is also about control. I told her I would still move as soon as I could, to spare her embarrassment. 

When the trip was finally over I was sitting alone crying, my head in my lap. I heard someone come into the room and refused to look up, thinking Mom was back to belittle me some more. But it was Dad. He asked if my hair was what started all the arguing. Without lifting my head I explained that it wasn't intentional, that I only blow dried it and brushed it out and that it came out that way. He didn't need a justification. But Mom had me feeling defensive.

I sat sideways on the couch facing away. But suddenly I was conscious of my posture. Maybe I was sitting to femme. I didn't feel like thinking about it, I just knew I didn't want anyone even thinking silently that I was faking. So I grabbed a near by quilt to cover myself from the shoulders down.

Dad sat behind me and put his hand on my shoulder and I raised a hand to his. We sat quietly for a few minutes and the stress of the confrontation with Mom just slipped gradually away. I think Dad could tell when I was settled enough, and suddenly we were talking again. Not about hair, posture, hair flips or gender. But about the latest iPhone software update. 

I found myself enjoying the conversation comfortably, free to be myself. Unmindful of whether I seemed falsely femme, or if I was coming across as a ridiculous little priss. I was just me, and dad was just dad. It was nice. Somehow he always knows what I need. its like he can read my mind.

As he let the room he asked if I would like to go with him to visit grandmother in the hospital. I said I would love to go if I am not an embarrassment to be seen with. He said I was not, and had a facial expression that clearly said the notion was incredulous. It was the answer I wanted and I knew it was sincere. 

In the end, I am just glad that I stood my ground. Used to confrontations like this damaged my self esteem and left me feeling shameful. This time I felt drained. But my self esteem remained intact and I was unapologetic about being transgender. 

For a thirty year old to be this worried about parental aproval and this tied down might seem strange to some reading this. But really I have come along way in the past year.

One other thing I must mention. As Dad left the room after our conversation, he told me he would hate to see me move. I know his reasons are unlike Mom's. Its not about control. he worries about me, and he wants time with me. And life is so short. I don't want to be 100s of miles away. But living as I am, I'm so depressed and preoccupied with just wishing I were free to be me. We would have more quality family time, if I could leave just far enough to be independent. 

I just want a town where people will tolerate me, and a few will like my company. I only want the freedom to be myself.

Friday, I straightened my hair, curled the ends under and trimmed up my bangs. The whole effect was very femme and I loved it. I carpooled with Mom morning and evening, and we carried on normal, civilized conversations. I'm not sure what she is thinking at this point. But I stood up to her and things are okay.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Hope: In Dress Form

Last weekend was a wild ride emotionally, starting low but ending wonderfully. I stayed Friday night with my best friends and got to use their apartment Saturday morning to prep for my day in Louisville en femme. But when Saturday morning finally arrived it was fraught with challenges. My skin was all messed up from stress and hair removal demands. Two of the tops I was considering just looked to big for me that morning, though I felt great about each the last time I wore them. No matter what I did I felt like I looked to bad to be seen in public. Then to top it all off, I ran out of time panicking about clothes and had to rush with my makeup. Which came out so bad that I had to touch up the foundation through out the day. I ended up giving up on both outfits and settling on my tried and true black knee length, high necked maxi, which covered enough of my pitiful skin to give me a little confidence.

Once I was on the road things went great though. I traveled and conducted business, free to be myself, and without anyone saying a negative word to me, though I did get a few stares. I topped off my day by visiting a friend of mine who sells mary kay . It was a very pleasant stay. She always makes me feel so normal. She taught me some interesting new makeup techniques while I was there as well, and i got to try out some shades of MK eye makeup and lip gloss that were new to me. 

I made it back to Richmond without incident, pretty much. Some punky teenager yelling "fucking queer" at me while I was eating at the food court was the only bad thing that happened all day. No worries. I'm not on hormones yet and its ok if I can't pass until later. Maybe its okay if I never can, as long as I get to be myself full time eventually. 

Then Monday, my new dress arrived, instantly becoming my absolute favorite possession. All black lace, with a creamy silk shell beneath. I've never had such a confidence inspiring garment. The fit was flattering, and the elbow length sleeves and high neck obscured my razor burned chest and arms. I felt so femme; so hopeful. And so I decided to stay up late, do my makeup and take a few photos for a self esteem boost. 

With no timeframe and no one to judge the results but myself, makeup was stress free and I finished in record time, with the best results I have ever had. Saturday's makeup issues and getting yelled at by that loud mouth teen in the mall had shaken my confidence. Monday night, standing in my new dress, with my best makeup work ever, all that was swept away. I saw myself, the real me in the mirror. I saw the me I wish I could present to the world and I've never felt more hopeful, confident, beautiful. 

After I put my dress away I slept peacefully, feeling strong hope that maybe someday I can have the one thing I want more than anything else. Just a normal woman's life.

More of the dress photos are at:

I just love it!

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Transgender: Perhaps Not Such a Curse

I was chatting with a friend online today and something occurred to me that I have thought about several times in the past. While chatting about the thought, I realized it would be interesting to elaborate on it as a blog.

The basic idea is that if I had been born the proper sex, my life might would have been easier, but that I would have missed a lot of lessons that have shaped who I am in a positive way. 

For instance, when I was a child, I was not very inquisitive. I was very eager to accept what I was told at face value. Coming to terms with my gender issues has showed me how terrible it is not to question. It has left me with a deeper understanding of the world around me and a willingness to question instead of feeling uncomfortable challenging religious and spiritual topics.

Feeling others judge me has shown me how hurtful and destructive it is to assume you know what is right and wrong for someone else. 

I have a natural tendency toward vanity, and having to live so completely dissatisfied with my body has taught me humility and to not dwell on aesthetics.

Basically, growing up and living transgendered has made me an accepting, empathetic, inquisitive person, not afraid to challenge the norm. 

As I told my friend this morning. I am not a man, I am a woman. But I was meant to experience this to become who I am. I am who I am meant to be, but I am not yet who I am meant to become.

Well, that's not precisely what I said, but close enough! Anyway, I don't like to mope about being transgender. I can still make my life whatever I want it to be, and I will be accepted as female in time. Until then I'll not think of it as a curse, but as a challenge I was meant to overcome. 

I was hearing about someone the other day with sickle cell anemia. He has never expected himself to live into his 40s. Yet he had the discipline to finish school, has been a productive member of society and has always been a pleasant guy to be around. There's no hormone therapy or surgeries to fix that, and yet he has not lived feeling sorry for himself or expecting pity. That is a curse. What I have is merely a challenge.

Monday, July 21, 2008

The Passage of Time

Today has been such an emotional one. A near perfect storm that has been building for weeks. I have emailed my therapist twice in July with no response and I'm not sure why. I had to miss last month's meeting with my support group in Lexington because of a family vacation. I've been living my false male existence, with my big false smile on for weeks, while all I have been able to think about are my gender issues, with no real release.

I live with my parents, and they both know about my issues, and probably know where my life is headed. But they aren't ready to cope with it. If they see me crying or I cloister myself in the solitude of my rooms, they never attempt to intrude or to offer me comfort. They pretend everything is fine. Its so hard living with people, when you know that if you were to be yourself they would not tolerate you. Relationships are frustrating and saddening when you know that your acceptance is based on an act that you can't hope to maintain. I feel so stifled here.

I keep thinking back to my best two days out en femme. My first Trans-Kentucky meeting, and attending the Louisville LGBT pride festivities last month. On both of those occasions, when the day was over I changed clothes on a deserted London, Kentucky parking lot on the way home. And I remember those bittersweet moments standing beside my car, with my dress from the day hugged to my chest, my bare feet on the asphalt and the moon casting everything in blue. I stood there both nights, wishing the day did not have to end. That I did not have to go home. I closed my eyes and wrapped myself in the warm memmories of a day of womanhood. All the "miss", "ma'am", "she" and "hers"; all the moments out in public as woman, and the general acceptance I felt, enveloped me like a warm blanket. Was so hard to let it go, fold my dress and get back in to the driver's seat as a male and drive back into my male life.

After Louisville LGBT, I drove home and haven't had a chance to get back out in girl mode since. I've lived every day in this tiring male role. And I've looked in the mirror every day for a glimpse of whatever I found that made me feel so hopeful that I could someday pass, when I was in Louisville. Its been so long since I've had a day to be myself that it all feels like a fairy tale.

And with every day that I can't get further counseling or at least attend a support group meeting again, I feel like time is getting away from me without accomplishing anything to resolve my gender identity. I feel so stressed and isolated. I try to think of how to plan for my eventual transition, but when I think about my disapproving parents, and how to get relocated to a bigger, more open minded place, it all looks impossible to me today. I feel absolutely desperate, and so lonely.

So close yet so far

I've never been sure how to start writing a blog. I'm guessing these probably aren't the best two opening lines though. There are so many things I'd like to say but its not clear to me at all how to start. So I will begin with the basics. My real name is not Shandy. And the "Ms." is debatable. I would say about 99.999999% of the world considers me male. And I don't hold that against them, because most of the evidence does lean that direction. I'm right at 6 feet tall, have the figure of your average scarecrow, can grow a beard in two days. I have facial structure so overbuilt it looks like you could bounce bricks off my brow harmlessly. I have hair every place I shouldn't and am losing it gradually from the top of my head, the one place I would actually like to keep it. I was born physically male and have been raised so. And though I have been lucky in ways, testosterone has definitely had its effects on my body.

But all of my life I have known that despite being male, I'm not a man, and that I can't be. I have never figured out how to explain it in a way that doesn't sound crazy or mystic, but I know that mentally and spiritually I am a woman. I knew it when I was a child. And when the world has subtly stirred me in another direction or made me feel guilty and shameful of it, sometimes I have managed to lose sight of it for months or years at a time. But deep down I have still always known.

I don't have any dramatic proof. I have no especially feminine childhood to point back to and say "See, before people got me all confused, and testosterone messed me up physically I was just a little girl." I wish I did have something like that. Because I'm at a point in my life where I need self affirmation and I'm struggling to make my family understand. But all I know is that I am a woman, and I need the world to see me for what I am instead of what I appear to be. And though I'm off to a slow start, I will fight tooth and nail for it when I ever gather the strength to.

I'm transgender, and my life dream is to have hormone replacement therapy, be able to live full time as a female and eventually have sex reassignment surgery and be able to live as much as possible like a typical woman. Other than that all I care about is being accepted as who I am by those close to me. Everything else is on the periphery.

And so concludes my first blog entry!