Life is a Journey - Make sure you get the right roadmap to the universe

I'm quite sure I picked up the wrong one on my way out the door....

Thursday, November 18, 2010

I was a DES Baby....

Part I - The Deceit and the Lies – Revealed....

This is the story of my learning of the possible and likely reasons for my transgenderism.  It explained a lot although I wished I new earlier in my life.  It would have helped me immensely to have quantified the feelings which have been with me my entire life.  The story starts as my family begins to fall apart......



My sister flew into Boston from her home in Las Vegas in order to spend a week with my ailing mother and to help coordinate care for her. Driving down from our home in New Hampshire, My spouse and I joined her at the hospital a few days after she had arrived. We had not seen each other in over three years and what we were to find out about each other, our own parents and most surprisingly, about my own self, were to leave me shell shocked.

I arrived at the hospital on a damp and dreary Monday evening in November. I had packed the SUV and driven the 100 miles straight down to the hospital in Cambridge, Massachusetts in a little over two hours. My mind was filled with so many thoughts on that drive down. There was trepidation in seeing the state of my mother's dementia and of the sight of seeing her emaciated body, her weight hovering around 82 pounds, laying in that hospital bed. There was the thought of seeing my sister after so many years of quietly unspoken tension between her and my family and of what she might say.

There was still an animosity between her and my father. My father was my mother's second marriage and so only a stepfather to my sister. My father's mother loathed the fact that my father had married a woman with “baggage” from a previous marriage and my father never forgave my mother for purposely hiding the fact that she had a daughter until they had been dating and were just about to be engaged. My sister held that anger inside for so many years.

Even when growing up, my father's mother insisted that my sister not call my father, dad for the fact that others might be ashamed that he had married someone who had bore a child through a previous marriage. As a young boy, I had always wondered why my sister would never refer to my dad as 'dad' but rather by his first name. For years, I wondered why my sister used a last name different from my own. And when I would ask my mother to explain this to me, her simple reply was “Your sister has always been a rebel. This is her way of being defiant”.

I had suspected for years that my sister was not my biological sister perhaps and, not knowing that my mother had been previously married – for that had been hidden away in the deep recesses of the family vault – I speculated perhaps that my sister had been perhaps adopted. It wasn't until I was 42 years of age that my mother “came clean” about her previous marriage, but even then, it was not of her own volition. My sister had been told at a young age that her biological father had died so that she would not seek him out. Over the course of many decades, my sister's father searched for his daughter, who had seemingly disappeared along with my mother, shortly after her divorce to him. It was decades later that he found her, three years ago when I was 42 years old – and my mother had no choice but to come clean.

I was hurt beyond belief. The lies and secrets of a lifetime's worth of manipulation were coming out like buried garbage on the sea floor rising to float upon the surface. My own parents had tried to keep the truth from me and had used my sister's anger and defiance against my own parents for having had to live this lie as a wedge to be placed between myself and her. My parents purposely kept us apart by evoking to me constantly how insolent and unappreciative my sister was. I was made to feel that she was the perpetrator in all of this when really it was my parents doing!

How awful it was to learn so late in life of the manipulations of my own parents whom I had trusted and believed. How hurtful it was to have not had the opportunity to be closer to my own sister in growing up. But it could never have been an environment conducive towards either of us gravitiating towards each other anyway. My sister is 13 years older than I and so when I was 5 years old and starting kindergarten, she was 18 and entering college. With the abusive relationship both verbally and physically in the house she tried to spend as little time as possible at home. My mother would never admit to the abuse and would simply chastise herself as deserving what she got. She was the martyr of the family and would deny any wrongdoings of abuse if it were brought forth. And bringing it up to social services would have only enraged my father further which would see the abuse become worse. So the lesser of the two evils was to do nothing unless my mother complained – but she never did.

Now the sands of time had passed and the truth had leaked out. I saw my mom and dad now for who and what they were and are and lament the time lost at the expense of my parents. I entered the hospital that evening after that long drive down from New Hampshire and saw my sister standing by my mother's bedside. How many years had it been, I thought to myself as I entered the room and gave her a warn embracing hug. And it was an amazing gesture of undeniable love that she was showing to my mother, even after so many years of abuse which she had endured from both my mother and father.


We spent some time with my mother, who seemed so much more calm and relaxed when my father was not around and in the picture. It was when my father was around that my mother became panic stricken and anxious. My father's temper to deal with her worsening dementia was starting to leak through, like a dam about to burst. His vocal tone and demeanor would become angry and threatening as she would occasionally confuse my father for her former husband. Her former husband had been cheating on my mother while they had been married and she was confusing my dad for him! She would yell out to my father to get out of her sight and to go to his “girlfriend” as she motioned to spit at him. My father, not seeing the correlation would become enraged himself at these actions and the verbal attacks would begin again.

It was good to be with my mom now, when my father was not around, and to see her more calm and sedate. She was a different person entirely here – relaxed and more at ease with both us and with her surroundings. My sister and I worried for the day that she would return home from the hospital for we knew that she would ultimately have another fall in the house again and end up right back here in the hospital again, or perhaps, something even worse could happen.....


Part II – The Truth Shall Set You Free.....


We went out to dinner that evening to discuss things and to catch up on our lives. Over a glass of wine and dinner, I joined my sister and her oldest son with my spouse. Initially our conversation was light as we caught up on the happenings in our lives over the years. At one point during the evening, it occurred to me to ask my mother about a question whose answer my parents were quick to provide and to deny. Given that my parents had lied to me and hidden so many things from me in my life, I thought it worth asking my sister the same question I had posed to my parents a few months earlier.

Without a context switch in the conversation, I asked my sister bluntly, “I need to know something. It's been in the back of my head for years and when I asked mom and dad about this, they quickly denied it.”

“Sure”, my sister replied, “What is it?”

“I know that my mom had an operation in order to be able to conceive me. But I need to know if she had taken any drugs before or during her pregnancy with me as well.”

My sister quickly replied affirmatively with a resounding and ground shattering “YES!”

My heart stopped at that instant as I began to from my next all important question in my mind. I had heard of the effects of a highly estrogenic drug which was popular among doctors and pregnant women up until the early 1970's. It was called Diethylstilbestrol or DES for short. It's use was banned after it was found that girls who were offspring of mothers who took this drug had much much higher rates of vaginal cancer. The high amounts of estrogen in the drug were also known to cause defects in boys. Physically, issues associated with under-developed and problems associated with the male genitalia were quite common. Recent studies were to bring forth evidence showing a much much higher rate of gender dysphoria and transgenderism for boys – as high as 1 out of 3 boys born to a mother who took DES during pregnancy.

So I asked my sister the question which my parents had said “NO” to......

“Did mom take any drugs while she was pregnant with me?”

My heart skipped a beat when she answered me....

“Mom took some drugs that ended up being banned in the early 1970's. I don't remember the name”, she said, “but I do recall that it did start with the letter 'D'........”

“Holy Shit!”, I loudly proclaimed, probably too loudly, at that moment in the restaurant.

“This explains my whole life up until now! Everything that I felt – and everything that I had to deal with – it explains it all”.

It explained now why my parents seemed so concerned about my male development and for the numerous trips to the urologist in the early 1970's to be examined again and again.  It explained a lot about how I was slightly different from the average male and why.

My sister and my nephew looked at me with distinct surprise, not fully understanding the gravity of that answer. I looked right into my sister's eyes and bluntly but softly told her, “I need to have a talk with you. Can we do dinner tomorrow?”, I asked, “There is something you need to know about what has been going on with me my whole life.”

My nephew looked at me quizzically but did not intrude. I could see that he could tell how personal this was and I needed to talk with my sister first before sharing it with her children – my nephews.

My sister agreed to meet me the next evening to discuss this over dinner. I spent the entire next day wondering if I had renewed my association with my sister only to find that I would lose her after I told her the truth of how I felt inside and the truth of how I was beginning to live my life moving forward. I shuddered with the thoughts as I mulled over what she might say when I told her. The time until I would meet her seemed interminably long as I rehearsed what I would say – knowing fully that very little of what I would rehearse would be what I would say as she began to ask questions of me.

That evening, we met at a local pub for dinner. I ordered a glass of wine and allowed the slight inebriation to take hold and quell my nerves as we started off with light and topical conversation. It was not until after dinner and imbibing upon my second glass of red wine that I changed the subject and the direction of the evening's conversation up until that point.

I explained to her with a slightly nebulous timeline which would lead up until now – in such a way as to not fully disclose what the issue I was dealing with was specifically about. I needed to gauge her reactions as I opened up the pages of my life and in the issues I faced both physically and socially growing up. Her difference in age and not really having spent much time in the house with me when I was young meant that so much of what I told her was as if it were for the first time.

I explained to her how I had felt different from other boys as early as age five. The memories of how I would keep to the girls as friends in school and later how I felt distanced from the boys as I grew up were retold. The years of social awkwardness and my retreat from the world of reality through my studies, my hobbies and my love of science fiction where I could find solace. My years of crossdressing and of experimentation crossing genders in order to find some ease to the constant nag of inner tumult and gender dysphoria. And finally, I brought her to the present and asked her....

“Would you like to see what I look like as a woman?”

To my surprise, my sister said, “Sure, let's see them...”

As I handed the pictures to her, I annotated, “These are not photo-shopped at all – these are simply me”.

There was a silent and concentrated expression on her face as she studied the pictures and then... “Wow... This is really you?”

She seemed enthralled and certainly impressed as she went through the pictures thoughtfully, one by one. I explained just a little background as she rifled through each one. After finishing the carefully selected abbreviated stack,, I asked her if she would like to see more – to which she said yes.

And so I handed her the pictures which were a bit more social and showed me out and about in a variety of venues and with the many friends I have made within the transgender community. I showed her pictures of me and of my spouse, out and about enjoying the world as two women.

We talked a bit more as we polished off what we could of the chicken wings and fries and I sipped down the last of my red wine.

“I know so many transgender women who have lost their families by sharing this aspect of themselves”, I said.

My sister told me that she thought no less of me for telling her and that in fact she loved me for the person I am. We parted that night with a warm hug and an offer from her to perhaps share some of my makeup tricks and tips with her on a personal level one day.

“Who would have thought I would see the day where I would be asking my brother for thoughts and tips on doing my makeup?”

I left that night feeling so happy that I was able to release yet another burden from my soul so that I might move forward to live my life without such propensity of fear – and it felt wonderful.

For more information regarding DES, it's implications and studies of its effects, please see some of the latest research done here at:

http://www.antijen.org/transadvocate/id33.html

DES  (Diethylstilbesterol) was prescribed to many women up until the first part of the 1970's.  The drug was actually a very potent estrogenic compound which was prescribed to pregnant mothers in the presupposition that in taking it, mothers would have greater fertility and better chances of a successful delivery.  In female offspring to mothers who took this drug, such repercussions included girls who would find their periods beginning at an unusually early period in their lives.  Higher levels of cancers were also noted as well.

In boys, the effects of artificially inducing high levels of estrogen to the developing fetus were documented to have shown upwards to a 1 in 3 occurrence of transgenderism occurring. Additionally, late development or poorly developed male sexual reproductive organs were highly noted.  It is also notable and well known that all humans start off life with a tendency to develop as females.  The presence of Testosterone is the switch to allow for the development of male reproductive organs and also changes how the brain develops.  Please see the following link for information on brain development in males and females compared and contrasted here:

http://christenbustani.blogspot.com/2011/08/difference-between-mens-and-womens.html

Those children who would normally develop as male found their growth to be compromised both physically and mentally as male because of the high levels of estrogen blocking the proper delivery and receipt of testosterone to all areas of the body and to the brain.  Although the brain is quite malleable to allow for growth and change in the first few years of life in terms of the size and structure of development, the primary structures are well established and strongly developed firmly and finally thereafter.  Through MRI images taken of properly developed male and female brains, it is possible to see differences in specific key areas of the brain between the two sexes.  Unfortunately, interfering with the process of development for a male child can result in a brain which has not properly masculinized, just as other organs in the body may not.

The result can and has been documented to lead to transgenderism.  Please see the link above for further details and discussion.




 

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The End of the Empire

I never thought it would come to this but perhaps I always did. It was the call from my dad today. He had just come from visiting with my mom in the convalescent home where she had been moved to just a day earlier. Her fractured pelvis had stopped bleeding and she was at least physically stable. Her mental state though has been tortured to say the least, haunted by the daemons of dementia slowly robbing her mind, her identity and her will to live.

The phone rang just after 5:30 this afternoon. It was my dad and he sounded to be distraught and agitated by the tone of voice in which he hurriedly spoke.

"What is it dad?", I asked. "How's mom doing in her rehab?"

"I'm not going back to see her tomorrow", he abruptly chattered back.

"Why?", I asked him incredulously.

"The social workers won't let her go home with me when she gets out - not without someone to watch over her in my house.", he tartly replied.

I had a feeling that this day might come. So many years of seeing how my dad could be... how he would lose his temper. Seeing the physical release of raw kinetic energy against my mom and witnessing her quivering body slumped in the corner as she silently held back the tears. And I, feeling helpless as a young child, hiding with my green blanket in the linen closet, peering out through the wooden slats and feeling helpless and unable to help. I had a feeling that this day would come.

I gathered my thoughts and played devil's advocate. "Perhaps they are concerned for her well being. You, yourself admitted that she tends to wander the house at night while you are asleep, and that this is when these accidents usually occur", I stated.

"No, she is just being careless. She needs to think what she is doing - she never pays attention.", he replied curtly.

It was like talking to the wall. It has always been like talking to the wall. At least the wall never remarked acidic rebuttals back when I spoke to it.

I had told the social workers while she was at the hospital that I was afraid my mother would eventually be released, only to return home and to have another accident while she was unsupervised. I told them that her care was getting to be too much for my father but that he would not accept any help from anyone else either. He was a martyr. He always was a martyr. The self appointed accolades that he did everything, gave everything and expected nothing were always met side by side with the cries of never having the help or support of anyone else - but an offer to help would be met with demeaning replies that he could do it and would do it all on his own without any help that he didn't need.

I had told the social workers what was going on - enough to let them begin to monitor the situation and to take note of the situation. I had wondered whether or not my words had fallen on deaf ears but realized with this phone call tonight, that this was in fact a reality happening behind the scenes...and only beginning to come forth now with my dad's phone call.

I didn't know what to say to him. He never listened, saw, empathized. The rules were his and his alone and so long as you played by those rules, he was happy and in his mind, his family was happy. There was nothing I could say.

So I repeated it again to him, "They are only worried about mom's living conditions at home, being on a second floor". I evaded the root of the issue as it would come out soon enough from any investigation that was ongoing behind the scenes.

"I'm not going in to see her tomorrow", he quipped. "She doesn't appreciate me there anyway. She told the nurse that I was about to lay a hand on her. That's not true - she's delusional".

I ended the call shortly after as I really could not keep my emotions contained. I told him to get some rest and to take a day off - that it would do him, and moreso my mom, a lot of good.

After that call, I felt dead inside. My mom was being lost to the daemons of dementia and my dad was losing his ability to reign in the frustration and anger of his inability to control the situation or himself. It was as if I were being thrust back in time to when the near nightly sessions of abusive language and of physical trauma were so common. There was nothing left at this point.

It was only three years earlier that I had learned through my spouse that my sister was not truly my sister. My mother had been in a relationship with another man before she had met my dad but was too ashamed to ever admit it to me. She confided in my spouse simply because it was easier than for her to face me with this buried truth that she had kept hidden away to fester and mold for so many years.

I had asked her bluntly one time, "Mom, why did you never admit to me that my own sister was the daughter of another father? Why???"

Her reply to me simply was that, "I was afraid you would not accept and love her if I told you the truth".

I knew that was a lie too. She had tried to cover up that failed marriage and hide it away. But secrets cannot be hidden forever and when they are, they grow hideously on their own into monstrous truths which come back at lightning speed one day to blast down the walls which held them back.

I learned that my own mother had been involved romantically with this other man and that she gave birth to my sister out of wedlock. He was an abusive man and my mother refused to marry him so she left the state and moved to live with her sister in Connecticut to hide away from him. It worked... and for over 45 years, my sister's father never did find my sister. Meanwhile my mother went back into the dating scene and met my father while my mother's sister watched over my own sister. She never told him that she had bore a daughter under a prior marriage - never told him that is until my father and her became engaged.

She layed it on him like a ton of bricks crashing down. He wondered how this could be that she could hide this from him for so long. My mother explained how her daughter was living with her sister and dictated to my father that if he really loved her, that this would not change his mind to marry her. She had set the trap and she had lured in her fish, yet the fish she landed turned out to be yet another shark.

When my father's mother heard of this development, she was outraged that my father would marry such a harlot and only accepted that she would allow the marriage if my mother would agree to keep my sister from the family, continuing to hide her away. her only thoughts were of what a disgrace it would be if the family were to catch on that her only son had married a woman who had given birth to a child out of wedlock. My grandmother was concerned only with her own image within the family and the community, not with my mom and certainly not with my sister who was crying daily wondering where her mother was and when she would return.


My mom and dad were married and lived in the apartment of the house next to where my grandmother lived. For three months they were married until one day my mom's sister called up and said to my mother, "You had better take your daughter home with you. She is crying here every day - crying for her mom - and wondering where her dad is". My mother and my mother's sister had both capitulated and agreed that they would tell my sister that her real father had died - never to be seen again. The web of lies and deceit were growing daily on both sides of the family.

My sister was collected from Connecticut and came to live with my father and mother. My sister hated my dad from the start. She saw his violent mood swings and, with the 13 year age difference between the two of us, saw much more of those early and troubled years than I ever did. My father's mother hated my mother for the harlot she was and denied my sister as the bastard child offspring of a harlot. My dad loved his mother too much to stand up to her to defend his own family and so would pace the floor in constant inner rage, having conversations with his id within.

And then I came along......

My sister seemed to end up being the scorned step child that no one loved. It seemed like I was the one they were always giving attention to and ignoring her. But deep within, I was struggling with my own identity issues and my own introversion and insecurities..... dealing with seeing the physical violence day in and day out, dealing with being picked on at school and laughed at and of being beat up, tied to flagpoles with hockey tape and finally, just being ignored after all the fun had run its course and I had been spent.

My sister left home shortly after graduating college. I never really knew her for she was always eager to get out of the hellhole of a house which I languished in.

So long as I didn't complain, so long as I did what I was told, so long as I tried to please my parents, the anger was never seen and the times of physical violence for myself were kept at bay. I so wanted to tell my parents about these feelings deep inside me from such an early age but I dared not sacrifice the little bit of harmony in the family which I seemed to have the recipe to control.

But it has all fallen apart today. My mother was but one anchor in a pillar of deceit and my father was the pillar which commanded life within the family as he saw it to controlled. The pillar of my mother has fallen and with it, any reason to continue this life long charade fell with it.

It was in that conversation with my dad that I had realized that my family was dead to me. Like whisps of images that never really were and never could be, what was left was a sallow shell of veneer around their crumbling lives. A lifetime spent building a webbed facade of lies and deceit were becoming the cancer which killed my family.

There are reasons today why I long for solitude, for the mountains and forests and lakes where no person sets foot. There are reasons why I have chosen to live in the woods, reasons embodied best by Thoreau who once said,

"I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived."


It is truly the only place where my soul can find the quiet and solitude which allows me to reign in my own sense of purpose in life and to push forward, hopefully to be able to leave one day, my own daemons which follow me, behind....

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Fall....

It was an ominous phone call received late in the evening last weekend that dampened what had been one of my best days out shopping for wedding dresses. I remember the exact moment.... I was balanced on a ladder which was precariously perched on the stairs to the basement and hanging a pendant chandelier light when the phone rang. My wife answered the phone and acknowledged to me that it was my dad. Mom had taken another fall in the house again and was sedentary on the couch. My dad didn't know whether or not to take her in to the hospital as she wasn't experiencing any pain. She couldn't walk, my dad explained to me. Stunned by that statement my spouse and I exclaimed that he needed to call an ambulance to the house immediately to have her seen.

It was my mom's lack of complaint and of pain as she had lay on the couch and tended to by my dad that had both her and my dad feeling that this was just a simple bruise from a fall. Her arrival at the hospital however and her subsequent examination yielded a diagnosis that was far more serious however. her pelvis had fractured from her fall and she was bleeding internally from deep within the bone.

Doctors were able to stabilize her condition and stop the bleeding by the time we called the next morning to check on her status. We made plans to close up the house and to drive the 100 miles down to Massachusetts that evening after work to check in on her. Her dementia had become progressively worse over these past few weeks and I didn't really know what to expect when I did finally see her.

Arriving at the hospital, I was not prepared emotionally for what I saw. My mother seemed just to be a shell of her former self. It was difficult to see her withered and tortured body sunken into the confines of the hospital bed with so many tubes and IV's hooked up to her. On one night, I sat there with her by the bedside and stroked her hair while she slept. My father, who had been by her side consistently day and night, finally took a long needed break and had left to go home and get some rest. The nurse's aid who had been sitting with my mom asked if she could take a small break and if I would be alright to be alone for a while with my mother. I nodded a quiet yes to her, holding back the tears I knew she saw in my eyes.

I spent the next half hour stroking my mom's hair and just watching her sleep. At times I broke down crying for the pain she was in and had to continually endure. I cried for the torture which the dementia, like a thief, stole from her identity in larger and larger pieces. I just sat there with her, hoping that she would know that I was there and loved her.

And then, without warning, she awoke. Her eyes opened as if she had never been asleep. She turned her head toward me and gazed directly into my eyes. For a moment it was silent as she just peered at me until she spoke.

"You are beautiful", she uttered.

"I'm sorry mom", I replied questioning and a bit startled. "What was that?"

"You're beautiful", she said again, "both inside and outside".

She looked at me for a moment longer and then simply closed her eyes, as if she had never awakened, and fell back to sleep. I completely lost my emotions in tears that I could no longer hold back and quietly wept.

My wife visited the next day while I worked from home to get caught up with a few things that needed to be finished off. While she was there, she brought up to my mom something that I had thought the dementia would have taken from her - my conversation with her about my being transgender.

"You know that your son feels he is and wants to be a woman", she said.

My mom's reply amazed her when she uttered, "I know that.... But I just don't understand why... women seem to be the ones who suffer the most in this world...."

She remembered. She knew. She had known all these years. I was struck with incredulity and amazement.

Mom had been through so much in her life and her dementia seemed to bring back so many difficult memories which she had repressed for so many years of her life. She recounted stories of her father and his cruelty towards his daughters, both verbally and physically. She spoke as she told them, as if she were living through them only for the first time today. My heart sank as, like an onion, the layers of her childhood and young adult years were revealed in their hard and bitter truth. Her life had been more difficult growing up than I had ever imagined, but she had kept this part of her life deeply buried, repressed and denied to everyone for so long.

She cried out one day, asking rhetorically almost to God and not to me "Why am I here? Why do I keep coming back?". I could only say to her at that moment, "Mom, I love you, that is why..."

Friday, October 15, 2010

Say Yes to the Dress

Saturday, October 15 was a great experience for both my spouse, Joanne, and myself as we took a venture out for a day of dining and shopping. There is still some level of concern on my spouse's part with her primary fear being for my best interest. "What if someone says something or causes you trouble or harm?" she often worries. It's more about her worries of what could happen but what never seems to that worries her most. It's having been out a number of times on my own or with other friends which has helped me to gain the confidence of understanding that we are simply accepted by others as who we portray. So long as we are confident in who we are inside, and so long as we exude that confidence outwardly when we present ourselves in the greater world, there are few problems that will likely ever be encountered.

Joanne and I had a wonderful lunch at a local Chinese Restaurant Saturday afternoon. Interestingly, after lunch, she snapped open her fortune cookie and laughed as she read her fortune. She handed it to me and I read it.... "You will have a long and wonderful life with your wife". How ironic, I thought to myself, that she should end up with such a specifically apt fortune! How more ironic was it that I would be out shopping the next day for wedding dresses with my other girlfriend, Joanie, to redo our vows with our respective partners - except that this time it would be as brides!

We followed up lunch with a few stores so that Joanne would have the opportunity to be with me, watch and see how the world behaves around my presence. Our first stop was to a T.J. Maxx to utilize a gift card I had been given. I asked Joanne to let me head into the store and then to come in after me a few moments later. This allowed her to be able to watch interactions between myself and the other patrons. No one picked up on anything out of the ordinary and if they did, they really didn't make it obvious at all. I shuffled through aisles and racks of clothes, sharing space with other women who excused themselves politely around me or I around them as I browsed. I do recall one couple passing me whose husband said to his wife, "She is quite a tall woman", to which the wife did not comment or correct. Well, true enough, I was wearing my low heels that day and I was fairly statuesque. If that was the only comment, I'm happy!

We headed over to the local Fashion Bug where I was approached by one of the sales associates who helped me find a couple of items I had been looking for fro the catalog. She was personable to the point that we were able to strike up a conversation about several topics outside of the realm of immediate business. Again, we had a good experience in this store....

Then.... we headed over to Payless Shoes where I found what I needed for an outfit I had put together for fall. I am quite sure that the associate at the register did not pick up on the fact that I was anything but a natal woman UNTIL I opened my mouth and spoke to her at the register. There was an immediate wide-eyed expression as she realized that there was a variance here between who she thought I was initially. She was about 18 or 19 years old at most and I am imagining that she may not have seen a transgender woman much, if at all before in her life. I maintained confidence and smiled back at her nervous smile reassuring her visually that everything was alright. I inquired about a discount going on in the store to which she replied I could most certainly have one if I texted a code to the stores site. I engaged her in conversation as I donned my "old lady" glasses and I could sense her feeling much more relaxed as I did so.

Joanne, who was not at the register at the time, approached as I just finished swiping my credit card through on the purchase and asked if she could obtain the discount as well. The cashier had just looked up from her screen as I signed my name and almost slipped as she replied, "You can certainly get the same discount that she did". I thought it quite astute and considerate that she had been careful in her selection of pronouns, even with relatively sudden exposure to a new and different situation.

My best and most lasting experience of the weekend was on Sunday when I went out shopping for wedding dresses with my friend Joanie. The idea is that we will both redoing our vows sometime next year with our respective spouses except that this time we would be the brides in our own wedding! I had located a consignment shop in a nearby town that seemed like it might prove worthwhile to visit. Upon arriving and browsing through the racks of the first floor and half of the second, we found only racks and racks of women's clothes. Joanie, on a whim, clopped across the wooden floor in her heeled boots and into the "men's and boy's" section. I suddenly heard my name as she shouted a whisper from across the store, "Pssst - Christen!". She motioned with her hands as a huge smile lit up across her face. I thought little of it as I casually sauntered over and into the staid men's clothing area.

As I stepped through the doorway into the men's clothing room, I gazed to my right and saw before me, rows and rows and rows of wedding gowns! It was too impossibly perfect to be true but there they were! We navigated into the lair of dresses suspended by racks which were themselves suspended to the ceiling. The gowns created a labyrinth of pure white which one could not see over, through or around. We found a couple of dresses and, collecting them, turned one last corner in the labyrinth to find a changing area sealed off from the rest of the store by the walls of white around us. This was no private changing facility but the temptation was too large to not try on such beautiful and well priced dresses! One by one, we each tried on a dress. The ones that were too small still endured the herculean strength which my fingers would allow to try to coax zippers which would not go any higher, just a wee bit more!

I finally tried on one last dress and Joanie took a couple of wonderful pictures. It was at that point that a mother and two daughters caught a look at me from their vantage in the labyrinth to see my reflection in the triple mirror which I stood before on the raised podium. It was both a moment of affirmation and panic as they caught me in their gaze and loudly proclaimed how beautiful that dress looked on me to themselves. I was not sure how I would get changed as I stepped off the podium. They were browsing but inching closer by the minute to the row I was in. The changing area was both a changing area and the last rack of dresses so I knew they would be upon me soon! Joanie held up a coat as I slipped off the dress. I could see their reflection in the mirror as the dress dropped to the floor. Nothing was too far out of the ordinary as my gel inserts in my bra were most definitely not showing as I glanced down quickly to check. I imagined that my breast inserts would fall to the floor just as they walked in, or perhaps they might see the medical tape I had wrapped around just under my breasts.




I had just slipped into my top, my hair still tussled from wrestling with clothes as they turned the corner and walked in on us! The mother complimented the beautiful dress she had seen me in a moment earlier and a conversation ensued. They were thrilled to learn that we were both redoing our vows and thought it wonderful! At no time, even if they did know something was different, did they let on. As far as we both could tell, they treated us as if we were the women we know we truly are inside.

It was a truly gratifying experience with just enough adrenaline coursing through me to make it a day I will not soon forget in my life!

"Be who you truly know you are and others will truly let you be!" -CB

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Woman Within

Monday, October 4, 2010

Christmas in the Fall....

My spouse and I spent a wonderful weekend with our friends, a couple, who live on the other side of the state in New Hampshire. It was a day filled with great conversations and lively atmosphere as we trekked from store to store in the resort town shopping mecca of North Conway, New Hampshire. It was a day too, for Joanne and I to learn from each other and the world, as we interacted with the greater world in a busy realm.

Joanne and I arrived at Joanie's house in the early afternoon on Saturday and were met at the front door by her spouse, Deb. After exchanging greetings and hugs, we headed in with our overnight bags to our guest room. Joanne made herself comfortable as I proceeded to get my makeup on, get dressed and to style my hair for a day of shopping adventure. It took me about an hour and a half to get myself put together but the end result proved worth it. I went for an upscale look with my ruffled top, brown pants with buckled belt and low brown mary jane shoes. Joanie looked fantastic as well with her jeans look. The girls both went with their casual look, not requiring the time which we needed to doll ourselves up.

We headed into town and to the outlet stores at Settler's Green. It was a very, very busy weekend with the fall foliage beginning to peak and the leaf peepers out in force scurrying to view the myriad of colors that surround this mountain valley. The only green left to view at this time of year, was that of the cash flowing from the shoppers pockets. Parking was hard to come by, but we found a spot near the back of the lot, alighted from my SUV and trekked towards the mass of shoppers promenading in the warm sunshine of the outdoor plaza which embodied this retail outlet mecca.

As we stepped up the curb and into the plaza, it became quite obvious as we walked, that no one was paying us mind or heed. There were no uncomfortable stares nor gestures to be noted. And if an anomalies were to be noted, they were impossible to detect or find. The four of us, loosely connected as a group as we strolled past the throngs of people, worked our way towards our first stop at the Dress Barn outlet. It was not long that I was in the store, perusing the sale racks, that I found a brown cardigan sweater that was just the perfect addition to the outfit I was wearing now and my other that I would be that evening for dinner. I modeled it against a mirror on the side of the main hallway, as other shoppers past behind and around me. As I did so, a sales associate wandered by and eyed my selection and my whole outfit and proclaimed, "You are like a walking advertisement from Dress Barn! The blouse, the pants, the shoes!"

I thanked her and remarked that I could not take credit for the shoes, as they were a Fashion Bug purchase, to which she replied softly, "That's OK, I shop there too!". She also made mention, as I was unaware, of a sale going on with the purchase I was making, offered a suggestion, and led me over to another rack where I could take advantage of a "buy one/get one" promotion. Joanne, noticing that I was interacting in a positive way with both the sales associates and with other shoppers around me, began to feel ever more comfortable with both my presentation and with the actions and non-reactions of those around me.

With our purchases carefully selected, Joanne stood in line to pay while I sauntered and browsed lightly in the clearance racks. One of the associates noticed my diamond wedding ring and remarked, "I would love to have a ring like that!"

My mind immediately thought a level beyond that question to probe just a bit deeper on her remark as I retorted, "...But would you be willing to take on the commitment which comes with accepting such a piece?".

She thought for a moment and then stated, "No. From what I have seen", she said, "men are mostly liars and cheats".

Our conversation continued for a bit more in regards to types of relationships that she felt comfortable with. What struck me as surprising in all of this was that I was able to get her to not only open up and discuss her personal relationship stance and preferences with me, but to do so in a public realm. The sheer fact is that she was conversing with me as a woman would another and it became quite obvious to me as we talked, that this conversation would NOT have occurred in any form or fashion had I been talking to her dressed and behaving as a male.

At another women's fashion store, a sales associate approached us and asked Joanie and myself what we thought of a piece of jewelry that SHE was buying for herself in the store. We were able to exchange opinions and helped relate to her what types of colors would go well with what she was considering. She thanked us immensely for our opinions as we continued browsing. Here again, we were interacting as women would and most certainly *not* as men.

We headed back to Joanie's house in order to freshen up and to change into something a bit more formal for dinner. I wore a brown v-necked top paired with a multi-brown paisley skirt, brown suede boots with a nickel buckle on the side and a deep brown cardigan sweater. Joanie dressed within the same color scheme but in lighter tans so that we complemented nicely with our longer skirts and boots. The spouses both wore pants which I thought a bit ironic but well played out!

Arriving at the inn, we were ultimately seated, after a brief wait for a table, in front of one of the fireplaces. We were treated well and the dinner was unbelievably fantastic. The only notable mention was one particular middle-aged woman who was dining with her spouse at a nearby table. She apparently could not take her eyes off of either Joanie or myself. Her gaze was more so sensory overload as she appeared to have a blank look upon her face. It was more than obvious that she recognized our variance from natal women yet could not figure it all out - thus sensory overload. Her husband could have cared less and seemed entirely disinterested, even with his own wife, as he sat quietly facing at an angle away from her throughout the entire dinner.

Back at our table, the boisterous chatter and conversation continued as we worked our way through dinner and into dessert. We ordered the house specialty which was known as the "Chocolate Bag". This decadent dessert is created by painting the inside of a waxed paper bag with chocolate, allowing it to dry an then peeling away the paper bag. The chocolate bag is then filled with chocolate cake and layers of whipped cream and chocolate up the brim. It was large enough that the four of us had trouble trying to finish it off.

As we mulled over the last of our chocolate heaven bliss we were in, the owner of the inn made a stop at our table to ask us ladies how we enjoyed everything. One thing led to another and we were soon in conversation with him for quite some time, discussing everything from travel to inn ownership. It was completely obvious how comfortable he was with us and he made it apparent that he did enjoy our company as we chatted.

On our way back home after dinner, we made a quick stop at the local Shaws. As I left the store with my purchase, I was quite surprised to see a late middle-aged man intently focused on my breasts as I walked past. He made an initial eye contact with my face and then immediately fixated his gaze about a foot lower. Immediate dichotomous thoughts of what must come into most women's minds when this happens to them filled my mind. Interesting to say the least.


It was a wonderful evening for us all and it brought additional levels of affirmation and of comfort to both Joanne and myself in regards to my comfort being out, her comfort being out with me and a general comfort in realizing that the world really can deal with a couple of middle-aged transgender gals!

Friday, October 1, 2010

9.29.10 - An interesting day out....

It was after work that I drove down to my therapist's office to chat about what's been going on since our last visit nearly six weeks ago. There was a lot to chat about - with SCC happening - with me coming out to my parents and Joanne to her mom about me - about my adventures out and about - and, most importantly, how I felt inside.

That last one always takes me by surprise I find. It's the simplest of questions but it causes the greatest amount of thought and reflection. I thought carefully about the question as it was posed towards the latter part of our meeting. I've been in a paradox of thoughts really. I am comfortable with myself and quite happy to simply exist as the woman I am inside and frustrated that I continue the 'swiss cheese' persona of the male character I had built up over so many years. Frustration... no - really more anxiety - and showing up in my dreams in restless nights and in my thoughts by day. I keep them all at bay knowing that my staunchest supporter is my wife and that she gives more than most wives would - heck, she is, even at this moment, out shopping for a couple of girly items I need! So for now, we take the small steps, one at a time, working to build on what we have slowly and in an attempt not to rush into anything so quickly as to tear our lives apart.

After therapy, I decided to stop at Kohl's Department Store on the way home. I had a coupon and 30 dollars in Kohl's 'play money' to utilize before expiration in a few days and so what better than to stop while dressed appropriately! It was dark by the time I arrived and so I parked under a light and alighted from the vehicle. I retreated from the darkness and into the light of the store as I entered through the double doors. I clip clopped across the hard tile floor past the registers and towards the women's department. Even with the noticeable noise I made as I made my way down the main aisle, no one paid any attention to me. I was blending in and, for the most part, quite invisible. I wore a nice ruffled long sleeve top and dressy brown pants with a buckled black belt and some low heeled Mary Janes.

I made my way through the store to the women's department, where I spied a skirt I had seen prior in the weekly circular. It was exactly what I wanted and so grabbed a size 10 and an 8 just to have my bases covered, and worked my way over to the fitting rooms. Joanne was not with me this evening so I was on my own as I entered the hallway of dressing rooms. Standing in that hallway were two teenage girls, who were chatting busily with one another. I thought to myself that perhaps they might clue int to me, as I have noted that some teenage girls have in the past - and I considered to stop dead in my tracks, turn around and wait until they had left before entering. The thought was a fleeting one and I continued with confidence and powered my way into the dressing rooms, made eye contact with them both and excused myself verbally as I parted around them. They gave no odd looks although they had locked eyes on me as I approached - but with no expression that would be out of the ordinary. As I entered the dressing room and shut the door, I could hear them do the same and their chatter and banter did not include any talk of me or about me as I caught their conversation between themselves.

I tried on the skirt, but neither the size 10 nor the 8 fit. Being a fitted skirt, I needed to get the size just right for my waist. It was obvious that the sizings were not correct at all since I was normally a size 10. I got dressed, went back to the racks, and replacing the ones I had tried on with a size 6, went back to the fitting rooms. Again, this was just a tad bit large and although it was not a bad fit, a size 4 would be PERFECT. I went, once again, back to the racks and scoured them for a size 4. Alas, none were to be found in the racks.

Just as I was giving up all hope, I noticed the mannequin display wearing the skirt and thought, "well, why not take a look - just to be sure....". I peeled back the skirt on the mannequin and lo and behold, it was the size 4 I was looking for! But now the question was... what to do? I was a bit nervous and somewhat wary, but only for an instant. I NEEDED that skirt and this was the exact size I had to have! I sauntered over to the sales associate, who was organizing racks, a young woman of perhaps 20 or so and explained my situation. She gave s slight smile just as I started to speak but quickly became disarmed as I spoke and affirmed that she could definitely help.

Back at the mannequin, I held the body in mid-air as she slipped the skirt off it's waist. If ever I wanted any attention in a busy store on a solo shopping expedition, I certainly had it all on me now! Me holding by one hand, a half naked mannequin off it's stand, while I reached with the other hand to grab another skirt off the rack for the sales associate to re-dress the dummy. I laughed slightly and chided with the sales associate that I was sure this would at least make for a more interesting night and an experience to talk about tomorrow for sure. She agreed and chuckled back as we wrestled to get that dummy back on it's perch and screwed in with the two wing nuts on it's trunk. She thanked me for the help and I replied that it was the least I could do for her help.

As it turned out, the skirt fit perfectly, and I was a very happy camper as I left the store. I would be wearing that skirt over the coming weekend - a weekend that would bring new adventure and open a few more doors in both Joanne's, and my own world.

Monday, September 20, 2010

I Had the Talk....

Last night I had "The Talk" with both my parents and my mother-in-law. I told them I was transgender. Up until now, I had kept my secret deeply hidden inside for 40 years, for fear of the repercussions which might be incurred and as a sign of respect for my spouse. The mental burden, internal stress and anguish of these had ultimately culminated in a series of nervous breakdowns.

It was my spouse, Joanne, who took it upon herself to initiate the discussion about my being transgender to her mom. I had not wanted her to have to deal with the possible retorts and alienation which might ensue and so had always told her that I would not bring my situation up to her. It was quite a shocking surprise when she called me up yesterday to tell me that she had told her mom about me. I was both amazed and shocked.

She told me that she could see the stress I had been under in recent times with this. I had been very sullen and pensive these last few days mainly as I had been watching my mother's slow decline into the abyss of an ever worsening dementia. Just the night before my departure for SCC, from the basement where I was packing some laundry from the dryer I could hear someone fiddling with keys in a door. I grabbed my laundry pile and tromped up the stairs to find her standing at my apartment door trying to stuff all manner of keys into the lock.

I asked, "What are you doing mom?"

"I'm trying to find the keys to your apartment", she replied.

"I don't understand", I quizzically replied, "For what purpose?"

She thought a moment about this as if I had caught her off guard and uttered, "We're going away for a few months and we will have to put the cat in the kennel"

"Where are you going?", I asked

"Home... I'm going home", she told me.

I suddenly had a knot in my throat as I told her bluntly but softly, "You are ALREADY in your home now"

She looked back at me for what appeared to be an eternity and then softly said, "I'm going home and I don't know when I'll ever be back"

I was very frightened over the connotations of what she had just said, and just as I was considering what this might have fully meant she added firmly but with an apprehension of fear.... "I think I'm going down the tubes"

I nearly burst out into tears at that point, but held my composure and told her to get some sleep. I hugged her and told her she would feel better in the morning after a night's rest and went upstairs to finish packing for our departure early the next morning for SCC. That was a conversation with her which I would think about and re-envision for the entire time I was at the conference and it was the thought that she would never ever know who her son really was inside that plagued me internally. I cried myself to sleep that night.

Joanne saw the stress inside me during the conference. During quieter times when I was not being outwardly silly and humorous, I was pensive and occasionally withdrawn in thought. She could see it in my eyes and sense the tears behind my smile. Joanne made the impromptu decision on her own to tell her mother about me the day after we returned home. She explained to her mother how she loved me and that this is something we had been working together with for over 18 years now. Joanne called me on the phone from her mother's house to let me know she had done it.

I went silent for what seemed like an eternity and then I spoke.... "How did she take it?"

Joanne replied, "She's fine, she says that she knew something was up with you for many years but could not figure all the piece out and put it all together. She always knew you were very feminine in your ways".

Joanne's mom had seen a recent television show regarding a transgender woman who had been a very popular football player in high school. She felt compassion for what she saw that day and she felt compassion and empathy for the hurt I was and must be feeling today. Once she knew that Joanne was calm and accepting of who I was, she was able to then turn her consideration and empathy towards me. Her mother said how she felt bad that I had kept this in for so many years and was saddened to know that I had twice attempted to end my life back in my college days. Joanne affirmed that depression and the feeling of self loathing I had felt had been that strong within me.

I stopped over the house after work that day to pick up Joanne at her mothers. I entered the apartment with some nervous trepidation but kept the bulk of it internalized. Joanne met me at the door and guided me into the living room where her mother sat on the couch. She gazed at me and smiled as she immediately said for me not to ever be ashamed of myself . She said that she knew that some people are are just born this way and that there was nothing we could do to change that. It meant a lot to me to hear this and her words were more than I could have imagined she might say.

I cautiously asked her if she would like to see a picture of what I looked like as my female self. I wanted her to see that I was not some kind of a freak show in a dress and was nervous of what she might be envisioning. She said yes and I brought up a picture on my laptop of me alone in our backyard. I was wearing a red knit top, black pants and boots, smiling and clasping a wine glass in one hand.

She looked at the picture and said "Wow, you are quite a beautiful woman". I was humbled and honored. She asked me if I had told my parents yet and I said no, but that I was mulling it over in my mind to talk about it tonight.

I drove back to our Boston Apartment with Joanne and she stayed in our apartment while I went downstairs to visit with my parents. I had to have this talk with them. For weeks now I had been listening to my dad relating endless stories to me of how my sister's children had such difficult times growing up and the issues they faced in school. None of the issues were anything beyond what most children would have but my two nephews had a way of playing up to their grandparents in such a way as if it seemed they had had the worst of childhoods. My dad would relate this to me and continually insist how much better off I had been in growing up when compared to what their grandkids had had to deal with. Hearing this had been the final straw for me and the push I had needed all these years. My ability to keep my inner soul bottled up for so many decades had sprung a leak and become a geyser of pent up emotion. I kept my sense of logic and of calm, knocked on the door to their apartment and entered.

My dad and mom seated themselves at the kitchen table as I presented my story to them.

I began... "There is something I need to tell you about myself that I have been keeping quiet for many years. I had kept knowledge of my issue from you at first because I was ashamed of myself and later because of shame you might feel toward me. I felt that you might not understand if I told you and that it would cause you undue stress and a mental burden I never wanted you to have to bear - so I hid it - as long and as best as I could"

They asked me if something was wrong with me and if I had consulted a doctor. I told them I had been seeing a therapist for the condition I have and that my therapist was able to simply confirm what I had known all along was different about me from my earliest years of recollection.

I told them I was transgender.

They both looked back at me, puzzled at the word as I had suspected they would

I explained to them further, "Do you remember how I used to play with all of the girls in school? How my best friend, Susan, would come over the house each day after school and we would do things together like making our own cosmetics and skin creams by mixing others together? Do you recall how I had always wanted that "Easy-Bake Oven" and other girls toys I would circle in the Christmas Wish Book? Do you recall how excited I was when I had the brief opportunity to play with that really cool dollhouse before you took it away telling me that this was not for boys to play with? Do you remember how I had a hard time fitting in with the boys at school, the panic attacks that would drop me to the floor in a catatonic state, my left arm going numb and the feeling that I was having a heart attack? How the other boys would call me names and then do things to me like heating a test-tube clamp red hot and sticking it on my arm? Being called names and tied to the flag pole with hockey tape along storrow drive and left to wait for a passing motorist to stop and free me? The nervous breakdown in the restaurant in Bermuda where I could not stop crying for an hour? - Do you know what led to all this?"

I explained how I had the mind of a female occupying a male body and how the discrepancy and variance had led me to create a facade as a defensive stance to cope.

I asked my mom, "Did you ever notice starting when I was around 8 or 9 years old that certain articles of your clothing would disappear??

My mom, whose mind had been clouded by the sadistic tyranny of dementia seemed suddenly to clear as she perked up and spoke as if it were yesterday, answering "I remember that I started missing underwear and slips and then later on makeup".

She continued on and startled me when she thought for a moment and then said, "I have always known that you were different, no, special.... and I was waiting for the day when you would someday bring this up to me".

I asked her, "Do you remember the time you and dad came back unexpectedly early from out to eat and found a pair of women's high heels in my room?"

She didn't take a moment to reply "Yes - I do"

"Do you recall how you asked me if I had had a girl in the house and I said no? Then I said to you that they were mine when you asked whose shoes those were?" , I continued.

"I purged everything I had and went into a state of self flagellation and remorse as a result and I recall you telling me that you would keep this from my dad and for me to not speak of this incident in the house again"

She nodded slightly. My dad had a look of overwhelming sensory overload and could say nothing.

I continued on with a slight chuckle, "I recall how the very next day you were calling up everyone you knew to try to get me a date with a girl to 'fix' this problem and I ended up marrying the very one who enjoyed seeing me AS a woman"

My dad told me he loved me and just wanted to be sure that I was happier now than I was before and that things were better for me. It was surprising as I had not expected him to say those words given his nature when I was growing up. He just wanted to know that I was happy with Joanne and with my life and that was, in itself, enough for him to be happy for me as well.

My mom nodded consent when I brought forth the laptop to show her pictures. My dad would not look. He said only that he wanted to see me as he has always known me. I turned the laptop away from him and toward my mom who gazed down and studied the picture of me intently. She mused for a moment and then said that I made a beautiful woman. I thanked her and held back emotional tears that had been decades in the making. My mother had understood and remembered everything I had said and was, for but a brief moment in time lucid and sentient. I had been given a gift, albeit brief, to have my mom back, long enough to tell her who I was and am, for her to tell me what a beautiful woman I was and for her to reassure me how much she loved me and always will.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Revelations at SCC

We just arrived home yesterday fro the Southern Comfort Conference, the largest transgender conference in the United States. It was fantastic to be surrounded by so many loving and wonderful people and to be able to share a bit of our lives and experiences with one another.

Perhaps the most amazing thing about this conference were the experiences which my spouse, Joanne had while there. The fact alone that my spouse joined me for this conference is almost too staggering for words. There were only a very few - and I mean less than a handful - of spouses attending with their partners at this conference. In fact, the majority of the transgender population there was either divorced or in the process of separation. It is the rare person who can come to understand the true nature of what lies beneath the shell of the body they occupy and to see the true person beneath!

On our first afternoon at the conference, we were invited to lunch with Chloe and Lana at a local Italian Restaurant adjacent to the large shopping mall across the street. It was both a privilege to be able to have some time to chat with them both as much as it was an honor to be able to have my spouse join me and to be so comfortable out with me as well! It was following lunch and while walking back across the parking lot to our hotel that Joanne mentioned how much her feet were killing her from her new shoes. I suggested that I could take a run into the mall with her and find a drugstore for some bandages. It was wonderful how confident she felt without any support structure around her as we cruised back in via a Macy's and out into the mainstream mall.

We never did find that drugstore for as we sauntered down the main promenade, we chanced upon a Sephora. Both Joanne and I are like little children in playschool when we see a makeup store and of course whatever it was we may have had in our mental agenda was immediately wiped clean as we entered.

Joanne suggested I try getting a makeover and of course I didn't need to be asked twice. It was liberating to be treated with the courtesy as any other woman would by both the makeup artist working on me as by the sales associates. It is my stance that even if I'm not passing as a natal woman with 100 percent assuredness, that at least I should be able to garner the respect as one so long as I present respectably.

I had one other experience in a Lush Store which was quite interesting of its own accord. As I entered the store, a group of the sales associates were taking advantage of their moment without any customers to engage in some dance moves with each other. As we entered, one of the girls dancing asked if either of us would enjoy stepping in! It was an honor to accept and I spent the next few moments between the bath soap aisle and the face scrubs learning a few new dance moves with one of the associates!

She and the others seemed to be curious to learn more about what it means to be transgender and my spouse and I spent the better part of a half hour explaining and allowing them to ask questions. I cleared up quite a few mis-conceptions and we both learned a lot in the process. She learned what it really meant to be truly transgender, how it was not simply fetishistic for most of us and how it really was a manifestation of the true identity we held inside.

One of the girls who was most able to understand, equate, and to ask questions was also dealing with a situation where she had to cope with social variances in her own life. Her brother suffers from autism and she had learned first hand what society can be like when one is not able to conform to the rigorous social norms which seem to be demanded from each of us as human beings.

I think the biggest thing we all came away with from our experiences talking, sharing, listening and educating each other- was the wonderfully powerful feeling that we had, in some small way, made a positive difference. It was a difference which lead to greater understanding of who I am as a person and who we are as a community. It was the satisfaction of knowing that if one is proud to be seen as who they are and not seen as a threat, then we can create an environment that is conducive to allowing for greater levels of communication and of understanding at a grassroots level. We left the store with a lot more than a purchase on that day!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Mall Tripping

The SCC conference is nearly upon us and Joanne and I have gone into a panic mode realizing that there are a few key pieces missing that will complete what ensembles we have laid out for the event. It's been a difficult week for the both of us. My mom is slipping more and more into dementia and is often not sure of where she is or even who we are. It's been both frustrating and frightening for us all and some time out to go shopping is a welcome diversion.

We headed down to the Mall of New Hampshire Saturday evening about 6pm. At the toll plaza on Interstate 93, I pulled up and handed the collector a twenty dollar bill for the one dollar toll. He was an older middle aged gentleman who looked right at me and said, "I never mind taking the time to make change when such a beautiful woman pulls up to my lane". Likely he could not see from his high vantage over to the passenger side to see Joanne sitting there and so I blushed a bit.

I thanked him for such a kind compliment and retorted, "That is such a nice compliment, perhaps I should ask you to change a 50 dollar bill next time then!"

He chuckled and quipped a few more retorts about how he enjoyed square dancing, while all the while the line on Route 93 was backing up in his lane to be ten plus cars deep. It was quite an interesting experience and I chuckled with Joanne as I drove off.

A few minutes later, we arrived at the mall and I parked outside of the J.C. Penny's. J.C.'s often has some wonderful fashions and their clearance racks often tout quality merchandise at rock bottom prices. In the past we had both been fortunate to find some great deals and hoped to snag something tonight.

Joanne, still a bit wary of these expeditions, decided that she would head into the store first and then call me if it looked "safe". Being the bold woman I am, I paid little heed to these instructions and proceeded within a moment to alight from the car and saunter across the parking lot, well behind her, into the store. I was wearing a deep solid red ruffled peasant top paired with my white jeans and cute white skimmers with ornamental buckle. My makeup was well done and not overbearing and in short, fit in fashionably with what others in the mall would be wearing.

I passed a few cars which stopped for me to allow me to cross the main parking lot aisle, hopped up onto the curb and to the front entrance. Several women were casually talking, glanced at me while never breaking their conversation and continued their chatter uninterrupted by my passing as I opened the doors and headed into the store.

The store was packed and I suddenly realized, coupons in my pocketbook, that I was not the only one that would be shopping for a deal this evening. Schools were starting and there were plenty of parents and teen girls browsing about. I headed past the service desk and into the lair of racks as I scouted for anything that might catch my eye. Almost immediately, I ran into the formal dress racks and my eyes and imagination began to wander. Although I already had packed a black dress for the formal event, there was one that caught my eye as being much more formal and form pleasing than the one I had already. I pointed it out to Joanne, who met up with me in my browsing, and told her I was going to try it on.

Joanne, also with a find of her own in hand, proceeded with me across the store to the dressing rooms in the women's department. One other woman was standing in the entrance with her young daughter as she commented on her daughter's choice in the reflection of a mirror. She may have glanced at us but there was no recognition of anything out of the ordinary as we made a quick left turn and each headed into a changing room to try on our finds.

The beautiful thing of shopping with one's spouse as we were doing, was that we were able to critique and compliment each other in real time. Joanne came by and knocked on the door to my changing room; I opened the door and she entered. She loved my dress and highly suggested I buy it. She was not quite happy with what she had found and so changed and left the fitting rooms telling me to meet her when I was done as she was heading out to the mall to go to Claire's Boutique for some jewelry. That left me on my own for a bit and of course I started to think...

Joanne had been somewhat reticent of me going out into the main mall where all the teenagers were. It seems if one is to be outed, the teen girls would be the ones to do it. I ignored any doubts and thought to myself... "Hmmm... It's Labor Day Wekend and one of the busiest back to school times of the year. The mall is packed with back to school shoppers - If there was a worst time to be out shopping enfemme, this would be it....."

I decided to "go for broke" and see what types of feedback I would get from the various demographics of people in a busy mall setting and so set out to hide my dress in rack to pick it up later, and headed out the main mall entrance and into the crowds.

I was careful to be casual and non-chalant and passed many numbers of people who seemed to pay me no mind whatsoever. I found the mall directory and the route to the Claire's Boutique. I sauntered over and entered the store but did not find Joanne. I called her on the cell...

"Joanne", I asked, "Where are you now?"

"I'm lost", She replied. "Where are you?"

"I'm at Claire's now". I quipped.

At this point she panicked. "Claires? You went out into the mall? It's packed!"

"I know", I said. "I had no problems at all. I'm coming out of the store to find you. Can you make your way to the Merry-Go-Round near the food court? I'll find you there"

She agreed reluctantly and with great nervous distress hung up. I headed out and saw her at the end of the long main aisle when she called.

"Where are you now?", She asked. "I can't see you!"

"Look for me", I said, "I'm waving to you now!"

I lifted my arm and gave a cute girly wave. Joanne looked so nervous, even from 50 yards away. She quipped on the phone that she saw me and to put my hand down to not draw attention.

I looked around. No one was paying me any attention whatsoever. I seemed close to invisible. Joanne met up with me and we headed into Claire's together. Shopping together and with me as myself is so much more enjoyable and, unlike shopping in "guy mode", elicits no stares by others as it would when a guy starts shopping for frilly things. We found some great chokers and necklaces, which were exactly what we needed, paid for them, and headed out into the mall.

I asked Joanne to tail me by about 20 feet so that it would like like we were not shopping together. This was specific to her obtaining feedback which I would otherwise not be privy too. Often, it is after one has passed by someone that they will make a comment or take a second glance, unobserved and unnoticed by me. Joanne could give me the feedback I needed and too, it would help her to affirm my "blendability" into a crowd. What I was looking for were areas that might need to be tweaked or adjusted in my look or demeanor based upon what she was able to observe.

Observations were interesting and across the board. Guys had no clue that I was anything but a woman. Joanne observed two younger, middle age guys look at each other from behind their post at the Verizon Wireless booth and one say to the other "Wow! She is HOT". At the other end of the spectrum, a teenage girl was overheard by Joanne softly saying to her boyfriend, "I think that's a guy" to which her boyfriend responded, "No way - Wow - That is weird".

For everyone else, no reaction other than a casual and normal glance with nothing noted out of the ordinary by Joanne. Interestingly, but not surprisingly, it seemed to be ONLY the teenage girls that were making me out as anything other than non-natal female. To everyone else, I seemed to be invisible - except for the guys - who all were pegging me as an attractive woman.

We were pretty much able to determine what the young girls were cluing in on and some of the aspects which we determined were alerting them could be tweaked a bit by our next adventure. Sociologically, it had been an extremely interesting experiment. Personally, it was so satisfying to be out as myself shopping interactively with my spouse. Relieving that Joanne was becoming more comfortable with her spouse in such a potentially tumultuous realm and wonderful that I found a great deal on an unbelievably flattering and fitted dress!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Maelstrom

I took a walk this evening, alone along the dimly lit streets of west suburban Boston. The blustery wind and drizzle laden overcast skies fit my mood as I scuffled along the slick sidewalks. We had come down here to take care of business and for me to confront my parents over what had been slowly escalating over the past weeks, months, and years. Joanne was at her mothers this evening, having parted ways after a dinner out together and picking up our Amtrak Tickets at the Train Station for our upcoming trip to the SCC Transgender Convention.

I was alone and I had time to think – think and relive the conversation that I had the day prior with my parents and mainly with my dad. The stiff wind and drizzle stung my face as I walked – just as the conversation I had with them stung my inner soul. It had escalated when my father's short temper, was provoked in his derogatory abrupt retorts to Joanne one evening last Friday during a phone call with my dad. Joanne had simply called to find out how he and my mom were doing – a wonderful and empathetic gesture of the love which she holds for others – when my dad simply began barking at her “We're eating now – what do you want?”.

Although I could not hear what my dad had said, the expression on Joanne's face displayed a combined look of anger and of being stunned. She explained that she was concerned about my mother to which my dad changed the subject and bluntly retorted “Why is my son handing out one thousand dollars every month to your mother?”.

That was loud enough that, even standing next to Joanne, I could hear his staccato intonation plainly as if I were on the phone myself. The fact of the matter was that Joanne's mother and sister had hit hard times. They live together in the same condo unit trying to make ends meet. Joanne's mother's social security check and pension were usually enough to just about pay the condo fee, the assessments and the mortgage and the taxes while Joanne's sister's income from working temp jobs at the hospital were generally enough to pay for living expenses, bills and food. Occasionally other expenses would arise or the sister would find a break between temporary jobs which would leave them struggling to pay a month's bills or mortgage. This last month was just such a time and said I had enough to help out this one time.

I contributed a thousand dollars to help them make ends meet that month. It helped and it got them past this hurdle for the time being and back on track. Joanne gave the phone over to me and I spoke with my dad who asked me what I was doing. He barked out warningly that I shouldn't be a “sap” to be bled dry handing out money. I was infuriated at the heartless way at which he scolded me and in the same sentence, ignored the plight of my in-laws who had always been generous and kind to me.

It made me even more upset to realize that my parents had an apartment unit that had sit empty for years which could have been offered to my in-laws to help them out. Joanne's mother was already coming to the realization that they might have to one day soon sell the condo or let the bank take it over failing that. She had asked me to check with my dad to see if they might be able to provide them with an apartment should they be homeless. Joanne's sister was hoping to go back to school full time, taking out a loan to get through a one year nursing program in Boston and finally get out of the temporary job rut once and for all. This would leave Joanne's mom as being the only source of income. She would likely go and live with Joanne's other sister, husband and son in Connecticut and could utilize some of her monthly income to pay for her living expenses and for the sister.

I had explained this to my dad and he offered to rent the apartment for 300 dollars per month. The way Joanne and I heard it was that this would cover the utility expenses for her living there. But after already telling Joanne's sister, who was finally looking cheerful at the prospect of some good news in an otherwise sea of unending bad – the story changed. My dad said that we were mistaken and that it would be 300 dollars rent plus utilities. My heart sank when I heard this. Joanne and I were sure of what he had said prior and I knew what this would mean when we broke the news to them. I asked my father why he had changed the agreement and he yelled back that he never said such a thing and that he needed to make ends meet if he rented the place out. “Make ends meet?!”, I quipped back, “How is it that you need to make ends meet when the place is already going empty to begin with?”.

His reply was simply that the insurance and the water bills would all go up as a result of their moving in. Utter nonsense that this amount could even conceivably come to 3,600 dollars per year for the 300 dollars a month they would be paying for rent! I knew that this was his way of making it difficult for them to ever step foot in the apartment and to keep it out of their reach. I was so disappointed that it was all I could do to hold back tears.

That was last Friday. Now, here in our small attic apartment of my father's stronghold, there was the confrontation in person I had been dreading since that phone call of Friday last. I went downstairs to their second floor apartment to check on my mom. Mom had fallen down to 88 pounds in weight as her appetite languished and her health teetered on the edge of late. Multiple strokes and a recent fall and subsequent head injury have left her something of a timid shell of a woman I had known her to be. She requires constant care but my father will accept no outside help. His patience often runs thin and his anger and temper flair constantly. Mom's forgetfulness seems to be taking over and shrouding what life she has left within a cloak of confused fog.

The last time we were down to visit she looked terribly emaciated and her shortness of breath and strained difficulty in breathing were all signs that she needed to be checked out at the hospital. We had taken her in to the emergency room and they admitted her immediately. She was severely dehydrated, so much so that the doctors had a difficult time even locating a vein in her arm to insert the intravenous drip to attempt rehydration. When the doctors had asked her to change into a hospital gurney, I assisted, along with Joanne, to undress my mom and get her changed. When I saw the emaciated skeletal form of my mom, I totally lost it and had to turn away quickly as I wept tears silently so that my mom would not see.

Shortly after, a hospital social worker came in and, seeing the state of my mother, immediately remarked that what she saw looked like negligent abuse and that she would set forth to have Social Services take this up – and that it would not be safe for my mom to go back home again. I was actually relieved to hear this as I felt this was all too much for my short tempered father to take care of her, yet he would never take help and would argue that he could and would do this alone. My dad was always in control and always had to be in control of the family and this time would prove no different in his mind.

I left my mom that night in the care of the hospital and returned back to the apartment that night with Joanne. The next day I received a call from one of the doctors on-staff, a psychologist, who called the house and asked if he could speak to me for a moment. He told me that my father was in the hospital and was yelling at the doctors that he had every right to take my mother home and that no one could stop him Doctors and nurses and staff formed a line at the doorway to my mother's room to prevent him from taking her out and he was told that the police would be called if he did not calm down.

My dad must have calmed down for the police were never called and in fact, to my surprise, my mother returned home with my dad the next day! I never told my dad about being called by the psychologist that day when he told me my dad was acting psychotic and irrational. My dad simply told me that he called his primary care physician who then made amends to pave over the issue and clear the situation. I don't know if the hospital had checked also to find that my father had given thousands of dollars in donations to that hospital but if they looked up his name in the records, they would have put it together. That may have been a factor and I may never know how they changed as from night to day in their decisions to let her go home with my father.

My mother, on the one hand, told me she was afraid to go home and that my father could be angry “at times” but on the other hand, when I told her that I could get help so that she would not have to go home, she cried that she could not be without him. The stress of this dichotomy, to this day, still gnaws at me as there is nothing I can do that will result in anything other than both of them hating me.

And so there I am again, last night, downstairs in their apartment with my mom sitting in her usual chair in the kitchen that she has sat in for the past 40 plus years that I can remember as a child. My dad marches into the room and asks me what this bullshit was with Joanne yelling at him. I proclaimed back that Joanne was upset at the way in which she was treated by him on the phone to which he replied that he never treated anyone with disrespect.

I was astounded, and, in that moment, fully realized that for all of his life my dad had never apologized for anything he had ever done. The words “sorry” never once had come out of his mouth. The realization that he was always right and always in control or had to be in control were vividly obvious. I tried to restate exactly what had been said in that phone call that night but my father would hear none of it. “I never spoke those words” was all he could say to me. I was a liar obviously and he was right once again. My mother sat quietly in her chair as if she were a mouse being preyed upon by a cat and she said nothing.

Now I was getting upset even more. I blurted out, “There are things I saw when I was growing up that have affected me greatly”

“What things?”, my father replied abruptly, “You had a wonderful childhood growing up – we gave you everything”.

My father could not see, he never did. He never listened. He drew his own conclusions without input from those his own ignorance influenced. He then added, “I never touched or hit either of you when you were growing up”.

I had never brought the physical abuse up to him – it was almost as if he knew he was guilty of it and had to blurt that out before I ever did. I knew then that he knew and would not admit to it Hi convicted himself without knowing.

Images of my mother being yelled at and scolded came flooding back to me. Seeing her slammed into the cabinets and flailing to the ground in a silent sob of tears while I hid with my blanket under the kitchen sink and peered out past a door barely cracked open wide enough for one eye to watch this unfolding. I was about five or six years old at the time but I can see it like it was yesterday. It happened again and again and for a variety of reasons. Perhaps one night it might be that dinner was not on the table when my father arrived home from work or perhaps it was because my mother failed to dust a piece of furniture to my father's watchful satisfaction.

And from such a young age, certainly by age five, I was already more than sentient that I was not feeling right as a boy and that I was gravitating toward the world of girls. I dared not, as I began to cope and grasp this variance, to ever tell anyone least of all my dad. I held this all inside of me for so many years – partly in fear and partly to not disappoint my parents by being an utter failure as a son to them.

Those visions in mind, I almost...almost came out to them right there and then about me. How blind were my parents to not see the years of depression I had dealt with, the anxiety and panic attacks of feeling both trapped within a family I wished to please. A family who would blame themselves should I come out to the about my desires to be a woman. Desires that I felt strongly and wished desperately to take action on as I entered puberty around age 12. Watching my body change in ways that sent me into deeper depression as I longed to be of the opposite gender – praying each night as I lay in bed and stared up at the ceiling asking God to either allow me to awake in the morning as who I was inside or to simply take my life so that I did not have to endure this any longer. I never became the woman and my body betrayed me and took me further away.

I almost told them that night – almost told them how I had been cross dressing secretly since about the age of 12 and of the feelings I had since I was about 5 years old and old enough to remember. But I didn't. I only said that night that there were things about me that my parents never took the time to see in me as I grew up. Things that were of great importance and meant much of what made up my life today as I am now. But I told them that I really could not tell them about it – that they would not understand.

My father's only reply to me was...... “If you won't tell then it's not important”

The story of my life. Cover everything up and sweep it under the rug. It's not important.

And the realization of how blind they really were to me was made even more apparent as I stood there in their kitchen that evening. My facial hair, which was so prominent in years past was nearly gone, with only odd, quilt like patches remaining. My normally hairy arms and chest were shaved clean. Fingernails that I had always bitten to the point of bleeding through my years of youth and adulthood were now manicured and quite long. My now longer hair was draping down towards my neck and the sparkle of a thin woman's silver bracelet adorned my wrist. They saw none of it. It was like it and I were invisible – as if my whole life was one in which I tried remain invisible for the sake of self preservation and in retaining the respect of my parents.

I felt at that moment that I had lost my parents forever – that really I never had what I thought was the perfect family growing up – that I had lived my life to please them and to protect myself at the same time. I had blocked out images I had seen and had become numb to the violent realm I existed within. I found solace in my studies and in the art of writing and poetry as means of escape and as means of expression. And I found quiet times when my parents were away to dress and feel as the woman I knew that lived within.

A chapter of life that took half a lifetime to read has now been read. I could not fully see the words that had been written in the pages of my life until now but it was a chapter which had to be finished.

I reflected over this again tonight with Joanne as we sat and sipped on a bowl of Chicken Soup at the local Vietnamese Restaurant in Harvard Square, Cambridge. I relented to Joanne how I am so sorry for bringing her into all of this. I asked her to forgive me for me being the way I am. I told her how truly I thought that getting out enfemme would satisfy my urges and quell the woman who raged inside me. I told her how afraid I was that I realized that my getting out as Christen has only served to solidify inside who I now know I am truly....That the angst I feel does not subdue the more I get out but rather becomes stronger as I learn of the comfort I feel when I may be myself. I started to tear up in the restaurant feeling so upset that I could not hurt her yet could not deny myself who I am.

I sat for a moment in silence and took a sip of my imported beer and then told her quietly - “I will work with you on this – I only need to feel like I am at least able to be moving in some kind of direction which allows me to be who I now fully know and accept I am”

Joanne told me how much she loved me and that we would work together with this... that we would take this journey together, both of us, one step at a time – and that one day Christen would be able to live as she feels inside. With that, she vowed again how much she loved me and we left the restaurant that evening and parted ways as she went to spend the night at her mother's house.

And we come full circle back to where we were at the outset of this story, with me walking alone in the wind and the drizzle along the slick sidewalks of the streets in our suburban Boston apartment. My thoughts jumping in, through and about the events just recounted. And as I finished my walk the drizzle subsided and the clouds, buffeted by the brazen winds, began to break. I looked up and could just see my way beyond the holes in the parting clouds – to a disk of the moon and to the stars in the deep blue sky beyond. Better weather may be forthcoming one day.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

A question was raised the other day by a transgender woman whose wife asked her why she wanted to be a woman? Guys, she said, have it so much easier in society it seems than women. She wondered if the choices we were making to be the women we felt we were inside made life easier for us given the challenges we had to face...

My answer...

Guys perhaps do have it easier in regards to presentation. They certainly don't seem to have to worry about the makeup and the hair, the clothing and the accessories quite so much as the women. They seem to receive less societal judgment and bias which makes things a bit easier.

With all of this in mind, I used to question my own identity and my desires to be the woman I am inside. Understanding the additional tedium involved with being a woman and understanding that I had created a successful life as a male did not make the logic more understandable.

The choices in life to be who I am inside do not make life easier except internally. To NOT be the woman I am within leads to anxiety and depression - something which can only be bottled up for so long. This is not a choice to be who I am. I can not suppress or choose not to be who I feel inside I truly am - not without depression and anxiety returning to rule the sanctum of my inner mind. So the only choice is the choice to either live in a state of dysphoria and depression or to embrace the additional challenges and responsibilities of integrating my life as a woman so that I may at least have an unfettered mind.

Did it bring me to a life that was "easier"?

Well - life is never easy - and choices are never absolute - but at the end of the day - if you can say that your mind is in harmony with your body - then at least it makes it possible to then go on and live your life without having to deal with the dichotomy between body and spirit each and every day.

The right choices in life are those in which you can come to the end of the day, look back at them and say... "I made the best choices I could and I can live with what those choices have dealt unto me"