Sunday, March 29, 2009

Ode to a Tattered Cloak

 It is rare for me to get philosophical when I write a blog.  I know in my head what I think, but mostly I don't ever try to put it into words. So my blogs are generally just me, talking about events and the associated raw emotions.  

But I have been thinking about a phenomenon related to transition today and while not profound, I think it has changed a small part of my personal philosophy in ways that for once, can be expressed in words.

I came out once, over 5 years ago.   There had been no outward signs and it was a shock.  Even after I told the people close to me, I didn't really reach out. I never showed them who I was.  Everything I said or did that brought discomfort to those I love gave me guilt, so I held it all inside even as I was attending therapy.  Just the same dim eyed, depressed looking, low speaking boy is what I gave them.  It was the closest I could be to what everyone expected of me.  

And so after counseling for several months, I came out to my parents and friends with my intent to transition. The response was still shock.   They could not see that part of me, because I never let them.  

When I contrast the responses back then, to the responses from those who have found out about my transition now, the differences are drastic.  My ultra-conservative aunt and uncle who found the packing slips are treating me well, and have decided to be supportive.  A friend they told also seems completely comfortable around me.  

Dad seems to understand what I need to do. Though Mom and I have not discussed it directly, we are getting along very well with her knowing I take hormones every day. 

 This time last year, when I first started coming out, two good friends became the center of my support structure, immediately realizing that I was doing the right thing.  Even farther back when me and my fiance broke up over this, she understood that it was real. She was the first one who really  believed me. And her support sustained me through those times when I was otherwise alone.

So, what makes this year so different from five years ago? I think the answer is simple. It is all about being genuine, and living true to yourself.  It is about telling the truth and baring your heart and soul every day so that people can see who you are. 

 When I came out the first time, I held on to the old masculine persona that had kept me acceptable to my peers and family. It was like a cloak I was used to hiding in. However, this time I needed to be myself so much, that I let that cloak slowly slip away.  

And as the cloak that I had wrapped myself in for protection in childhood slid from my shoulders,   I began to see that it had been outgrown.  Without it constricting me, I could move freely, as I had before the laughter of children forced me into the tight fisted, muscle tensed march I had used since grade school to seem more male.  I could speak my mind, without fear of sounding over-emotional or too sensitive. I could cry freely.  It was as though I had tossed away this tight and tattered shroud to bask in the air and sun for the first time.

And now, when people see me, they do not see that empty eyed, smile-less boy any longer.  I think if they are of an open mind, they see some one with an easy smile, and eyes sparkling with purpose; someone who's movements and actions are naturally light and delicate.   I think at this point I unabashedly bare my soul, and those who know me well can tell that it is the spirit of a woman.

Most transgender people have worn such a cloak.  To some, it never feels natural, and they see it for what it is.  Yet they are afraid to cast it aside because they remember the shame that caused them to take up the cloak, and can't imagine facing the laughter and ridicule again.  

I think one of the most important things we can do in early transition is put away the act a little at a time as we become more confident about expressing what is truly inside.  As kids it hurt. But as mature adults strong enough to face transition, we have to be tough enough to deal with it. Some will understand us. And some will not. But there is so much more to being a woman than the physical aspects, and clothes, and pronouns.  Many of the little forms of expression that we can claim for ourselves while forced to live as male, mean more than we realize.  And getting that glimpse into our soul, seeing the contentment and happiness that comes with those little freedoms, can help others to see us for who we truly are. =)

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Hey there Georgie Girl...

One of the most amazing things about life, is how quickly everything can change.  You live each day,thinking you know what to expect. But a single moment can set things in motion.  Sometimes, it can be a moment that transforms your life in a wonderful way.  Then it feels surreal, like a waking dream.  And that is exactly how my week has been.  Since Monday, everything has felt to good to be true.

Dad and I finally had our chance to discuss my future.  We were on a long drive, making for a rare opportunity for us to talk openly without anyone else finding out what was going on.  As we drove, I waited for just the right opportunity to open the conversation, and wondered if he was doing the same.  Then at one point he said he was sorry he had not yet written me regarding my situation, but that he would soon.  

I said "Or we could just talk about it?"  To which he explained it would be easier to write.  I told him that I at least wanted to say a few things.  I wanted him to know that I didn't expect him to understand, and that I would not be upset with him no matter what he needed to say when he got a chance to write.  

At that point the conversation opened up a little bit, and he asked me about the safety of the hormones, and I explained that I had researched and was doing it the best way I could on my own, and that I intend to see an endocrinologist soon.  Then he asked what I wanted to do, and where I would go. I explained that I did not intend to move any further than Louisville or Lexington.  By this point Dad was starting to cry, as we discussed the distances, and the dangers of me visiting often in Leslie County. I managed to keep my composure and assure him that we would still have lots of time together.  It was hard, because the distance is not going to be easy for me either.

From there the discussion went on to the matter of my safety.  Dad told me he was worried someone might hurt me or kill me.  At that point I started to tell of the many transgender girls I know who are living safe and successful lives. 

Last year I would have been to weak for this conversation. I would have been crying. I would have been to ashamed to tell the truth of how sure I am that that I am a woman, and that life is too short for me to spend any more years trying to live as a man.  But Monday I found  I had the confidence and strength I needed.

And then it happened. Something I never really expected to hear from one of my parents. He told me I should do what I need to do. And that is the moment my world changed.  After years of pretending to be a normal man, painful discussions about my gender, and a year of sneaking around practically living a double life as I layed the groundwork for transition, suddenly it was all different.  

Dad went on to say that he had told Mom what he knew the same day that he had asked me about the hormones. I told him that I thought sure she would throw me out if she knew.  But really I thought she might have started noticing the body changes months before. When Dad found out from my uncle and had been so obviously caught off guard, I assumed I had been wrong about Mom suspecting. But Dad said that when he told her she managed to keep her emotions in check. So perhaps I was right that she had suspected. I guess she just had not been sure enough to mention it to Dad.

Dad also told me that he had talked to my uncle, who had found the packing slip, about my gender issues.  Dad said my aunt and uncle were not having nearly as hard a time with the situation now that they know what the drugs are for.  Maybe my uncle was only being polite to his brother.  I suppose time will tell if they are actually going to be comfortable with me. 

But for now I'm so incredibly happy.  My parents and I are getting along, even though they know what is going on with my life. And I feel much less lonely, no longer harboring all these secrets.  I'm more content than I have been at any point in my adult life.

After our conversation, Dad and I stopped for food at Long John Silver's.  And of all things, the last complete song to play before we left the restaurant was, Georgie Girl.  Honestly, I don't think I have ever heard that song before, except the first section of the chorus. But I'll never forget it after that day.

"Hey there! Georgie girl,
Swinging down the street so fancy free.
Nobody you meet could ever see the loneliness there inside you.  
Hey there! Georgie girl,
why do all the boys just pass you by? 
Could it be you just don't try, 
or is it the clothes you wear? 
You're always window shopping but never stopping to buy. 
So shed those dowdy feathers and fly a little bit. 
Hey there! Georgie girl, 
there's another Georgie deep inside. 
Bring out all the love you hide and oh, what a change there'd be, 
The world would see, a new Georgie girl.  
Hey there! Georgie girl, 
Dreaming of the someone you could be. 
Life is a reality, you can't always run away. 
Don't be so scared of changing and rearranging yourself.  
It's time for jumping down from the shelf a little bit..."

It touched my heart. I could have broke down crying, but it would have seemed silly, so I did my best to pretend not to notice the song.  I stared into my plate, afraid to make eye contact with dad.  I had teary eyes, and occasionally a silly grin I am sure.   I was probably blushing too!

If Dad noticed the lyrics were significant to me he didn't let on. Or would I know if had? Since I was staring at a fish fillet the whole time? 

This Thursday I took yet another big step. I called the endocrinology clinic again.  And this time they scheduled me. June 5 will be the date of my first appointment. Soon I will be through self medicating, and working toward transition with confidence, having the proper prescriptions and blood tests.  Maybe I can even get a laser hair removal treatment in between now and then, to help me be  little more confident in the interview.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

i'm off to see the wizard!

I finally called the Endocrinologist's office again today, for the first time since they received my referral several weeks ago.  As I already knew, the clinic's head of endocrinology is out of the office, recovering from a hang gliding accident in Mexico.  And the chief of endocrinology is out on vacation until Tuesday, so they are not sure how to direct a new transgender patient, or if they can even start working with me for now.  

Tuesday I should find out something more definitive. Until then, I suppose I'll be waiting anxiously.  But there is lots to do to occupy my time.   A few of my friends are getting together in Louisville this weekend for the Sienna meeting, visiting, and some Sunday morning shoe shopping at Zappo's!  

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

progress, of a sort

There have been lots of interesting happenings since I last blogged.  The delivery of my medications from abroad kept getting pushed back, to the point that I was literally down to four days worth of pills.  Weekends away were canceled, leaving me trapped among people who do not understand me.  The tension continued to grow at work, until I found myself constantly wary of how much my co-workers know, and what they think. I stressed about my family. I stressed about the future. I had just enough stressing left to stress over how awful it would feel if the medications ran out before more arrived.  

Then my medications came and things  got drastically more complicated. After watching USPS tracking for weeks, looking for the day I would need to outrun the family to the mail box, they finally came, and I managed a stealthy pick up. But then, something happened.  The stresses of the month lifted and I let my guard down.  In that unguarded moment I did what anyone living a double life is apt to do eventually, and made a mistake.

I was visiting relatives when I tore open the box to check the contents, and too wrapped up in my thoughts, I forgot the packing slip.  It ended up on the coffee table at my aunt and uncle's house. Together they grilled their son, who had invited me in the first place.  At this point I don't think they want him associating with me at all.  The most regrettable thing about the error is how much trouble I have caused him with his parents.

Eventually my uncle told my dad, who confronted me. He asked what I was taking.  I answered. I couldn't look up. I just stared at my own lap through the whole conversation. But I didn't flinch away from the truth.  I told him what I was on. He asked if I had prescriptions. I said that I did not, but that I intended to start working with an endocrinologist within the month.  His next question was whether this was about a sex change. After a pause I answered. "Eventually, yes."

At that exact moment, we were interrupted and we have not said a word to each other about it since. We talk of vacation, photography, work, and regular domestic things. He has not told Mom what he found out. He knows that if he does everything will spiral out of control.  I know he is worried, and I really wish I could make everything better for him.  We need a long heart to heart talk, and I am afraid it will be a hard one.  For him, I think the purpose will be changing my mind. But my course is set, and I just can't give up this time.

I really think things work out as they are intended.  The delayed shipment showed me how happy I am with my transitional progress, and that I can not possibly turn back.  The packing slip fiasco ended up getting the information to dad, that I just could not find the strength to reveal.  He had to know before I scheduled with the endocrinologist, and now he does. Tomorrow I am making the call.

This weekend I went out with some of the best friends I have in the world. We dined, shopped, and caught Confessions of a Shopaholic in the theatre. I got to just loosen up and be a care free girl, out enjoying a weekend with friends. And it was fabulous.  

At the Dress Barn, I found this amazing spring outfit. Highly embellished jeans, some cork wedges with a flower detail on top, and this beautiful long, purple-pink, tie-dye, scoop neck tunic.  And as I walked out of the dressing room to get my friend's to check out the clothes, I found myself walking toward this huge mirror, in very flattering lighting.  With the forward motion of my stride the thin tunic hugged my new curves, and I saw the me I have always wanted, with a new clarity.

I didn't look like a model.  Maybe not even pretty. But in the mirror there was this long, lean, willowy girl, with dorky black rimmed glasses and stick straight hair.  The scoop neck showed my collarbones and shoulders, and it all looked petite and delicate.   A top this loose used to make me look figureless, but now it is clear there are some rather feminine curves beneath.  Up close, you could probably tell the texture of my makeup on my lower face was odd. At some angles my face has some pretty masculine structure.  But just looking straight down this hall, I just looked to myself a,  normal, happy, dorky, thirty something girl. The kind you pass all the time without a second thought. The kind of girl I am inside.

Despite the turmoil brewing around me I am happier than I have ever been in my life. I have great friends.  I'm finding the backbone to deal with things.  I'm more comfortable in my own skin than I have ever been in my life.  I have a serenity.  A new found patience. I am growing into the person I am meant to be and I'm happier with myself than ever.  I don't wish to disappoint my family, and relocating is scary. But I am a girl. I have to be me.