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....

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Breaking Ground at a Women's T-Dance

My wife, Joanne, and I Arrived in Newburyport, MA early enough in the afternoon Saturday to be able to check in to our hotel and to get changed and ready for the evening. We had signed on to attend an "All Women's T-Dinner. comedy show and dance" for that evening and were anticipating quiet an interesting evening. Joanne and I both had some reservations as to how we would be accepted in what most likely would be a women's venue but this unknowing aspect was just part of the attraction and anticipation to attend. What I didn't realize at the time we signed on for this was that the letter "T" in T-dance had nothing to do with transgendered!

By 6:00pm, I was fully dressed and just finishing up on a second coat of nail polish when Lida arrived at our hotel. We had offered for her to meet us here so that she could get ready and so that we would be able to all go together. Lida changed, worked on her makeup and chatted with us just as Sheila arrived in the parking lot at the Marriott. I threw my heels on and scurried out to open the outer hotel exit door and let her in. Back in the room, Joanne helped provide some finishing touches to Sheila's makeup and hair, the results of those efforts being impressive to say the least.

Fashionably late, we left the hotel and car-pooled in Lida's car to make the short 10 minute drive to the restaurant and function hall. Pulling up near the venue as close as we dared chance for some opportune on-street parking, we scampered out of the car and onto a brick lined sidewalk. We realized almost immediately how poorly matched a brick sidewalk and tapered high heeled shoes were. Almost every other step was one which saw a heel find a crack in the bricks which would send one or the other of us, sometimes in near unison, into a very unladylike stumble. fortunately our walk was short and we were soon upon the steps of the restaurant, itself a converted church with high vaulted ceilings and stained glass windows.

Not realizing that the function was upstairs and not in the lower dining hall, we opened a set of double doors and stood in the doorway of a fully crowded restaurant, several steps higher than the dining room. The patrons immediately took note of us and a variety of gazes were focused upon us as we stood there, all decked out in our fanciest evening wear. "I think this may not be the event", I noted stolidly, motioning toward the stairs which led to a second level. We left the patrons in the restaurant to reflect upon what they just saw and we jaunted up the stairs to the function hall.

After providing our names to the hostess, we were directed into the main function room. It was immediately apparent that we were the only transgendered gals in the room which meant we just spiked the diversity up a notch by bringing some "T" into the otherwise "L" of GLBT in that room. We enjoyed dinner and a two comedy acts before the dance floor opened up. Immediately, Sheila was out on the dance floor, doing her solo dance and luring us out to join in. Next was myself, Joanne and Lida and in short order, we had the rest of the floor out there partying with us.

Initial trepidation which may have existed between the natal women and ourselves was quickly dispelled as we brought them into our dance circle and and showed them more than a few moves. Sheila led some extraordinary swing and salsa steps which took me for quite a few pirouette like spins - all in 4 inch heels and on a glossy dance floor! One woman, Brooke, mentioned to me that I had a smile on my face that entire evening. I simply told her that it's so easy to smile when I have the opportunity to be able to express as my whole and true self!

The dance music finally finished up, and all too early we might add as we extolled our requests to the DJ to keep the music pumping. It was then that we chatted up with several of the women we had been dancing with and with a few other of the tables where the women seemed amazed by our makeup, clothes and ability to power dance in high heels. Where the dancing finished, the deep conversations began. Here we traded stories of powerful similarity with several of the Lesbian women we had been closely dancing with. The relations between what they had to deal with and endure regarding the cost of coming out with their sexuality and the consequences it brought both to themselves and their own families mirrored so closely to what so many of us have had to deal with and endure.

I related that we shared many similarities but for the fact that gender identification was one which was less easily hidden. As transgender, we publicly display our variance which adds a whole level of complexity in assimilating with society. The common ties we developed in our conversations there on the dance floor that evening, quietly chatting as the hall was shutting down was priceless. Perhaps when we entered that room there were some looks and questions as to who we were or what we were all about - but by the end of that evening we were all great friends.

We parted that night with a flurry of kisses between all and a series of embracing hugs. Jackie, the comedian, who seemed to enjoy my honesty, dry wit (and more than a few comments on my outfit and presentation), ended up planting one on me straight on. Truly, I did try to duck for the left or right cheek but she was intent on her set course. Joanne, bless her, understood this gesture as nothing more than what it was - that there was a great appreciation for who we were and how we were able to coalesce a great night in unique ways. And the huge take away for us all from the evening was that we turned an all lesbian women's event into a learning opportunity. We came away from that evening being able to understand each other in ways that brought us all closer in assimilating the common issues we both face. We came in as strangers to be wary of but parted as great friends and in high spirits! Joanne and I were laughing and chatting about this for much of the next day!

Letters to the Distraught

To a friend who has found the world a cold and unaccepting place to anyone who is perceived to be different...

Dear J,

Being Transgendered - This is such a difficult realm to exist within I know. I hope that you are seeing your therapist who may be able to shed some light. You truly have all the pieces in place which would constitute the aspects of life which many would envy... wonderful wife, security of job and income, challenging work which allows for some freedom of artistic creation and expression, living in a wonderful part of the country the list goes on.....

It is ironically interesting that I often feel much the same. I have the things which others would envy and feel so blessed to have a fantastic wife and wonderful place I call home, no overhead of financial burden and a seemingly ideal job working from home. With all of these things, I still feel empty at time as if I walk in a scripted daze, feeling detached. I become upset for myself for not feeling this should be enough in life and although I don't desire anything more materialistically, feel somewhat hollow inside. It's a hard feeling to explain and what I feel is missing is the one thing that would upset the very fabric of the equilibrium I have in all things.

Joanie has a way about her and reminds me constantly that the grass is not greener in the other pasture and that it's fine to be in the middle - with a gender that is fluid, malleable and vacillating. I hope to come to this point of comfort but the rift seems to grow wider and not narrower as time goes on. It's not my intent to affirm societies norms by molding myself into one gender box or another - yet I still feel everything is just personally wrong and so walking the walk is just becoming harder and harder.

Perhaps me setting out my materialistic and personal goals was the panacea I thought would resolve the turbulence. Now in sight of a goal, I realize I have not been at all truthful with myself. It's not the glamor, the makeup or the glitz - these are ephemeral in nature but then again, these are the only times I have to make up for the times I feel holed up within myself and so I let loose.

I'm not sure if any of this relates to you specifically as you didn't indicate, but that's where I am - I don't know why I am on PE either - I am like the tidy bowl man longing to sail those seemingly beautiful and placid blue waters knowing that others are getting flushed down the toilet and their lives mangled and destroyed in the maelstrom of transition and beyond.

If I distance myself from here, I internalize the mental torment and it becomes worse. I'm probably glossing all this over with my therapist too - I can't even be honest in how I relate to her let alone myself. I'll probably just end up giving her some of my writings as this is the only time I can really communicate completely.

-Christen

Dear J,

I was rather late in my return last night and so sorry to miss you. I was quite upset to read your reply to my wife yesterday just prior to my departure. The world really is quite two-faced I find. What can seem like support can be quite the opposite behind one's back. Even confiding in someone can lead to their talking with an individual who ends up being the bad apple in the bunch.

I was quite literally in tears on my way down to Electro - and for several reasons - One was for the pain that was being caused through the willful and deliberate ignorance and intolerance of others toward you and the the second was a more general expansion to realize that this sort of behavior extends outward and would apply and encompass myself or anyone.

My thoughts on the road which I coined were... "We are what we are perceived to be... Our identity is determined by the judgment of others and not by ourselves"

That's a pretty powerful thought and one I would not have likely admitted to in the past, I had to pull over at one point to take a break. Then my thoughts turned to the thoughts of how destructive trying to be able to live authentically as how I feel, since it would cause an immediate demise of huge chunks in my own life - the negativity associated with the social stigma imposed by others would certainly be the major factor. It would be a domino effect of major proportion.

Then of course I began to look at my own duality and the times that I have to express myself. You mentioned once about my manner of dress - certainly over the norm of how most women present on a daily basis - and I thought about it - and I realized that my expression was limited to very few times where I could be who I feel inside and of course I condense what I can into a tight sphere. Again, still driving, this caused some stress realizing that I have only windows which I can present and which are "safe".

I thought of a Twilight Zone Episode which was relevant....

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HaVo2xifmSw

I must commend your wife's thoughts of your going back to Therapy but I must question the idea of HRT as a solution. I see it as a Panacea. How will HRT change any of the situations around you? I don't see it as a magic pill that will transform one into a woman such that they can now blend with ease and be so pleasing magically to the eyes of others such that their jaded thoughts of knowing who we were previously as the shell of a male just washes away. I don't see it as a happy pill either that will make one feel congruent and thus oblivious or able to handle the ignorance around them.

I don't see any of that. What I do see is a slippery road into a world of stark ultimatums which is driven by the realm of others who will continue to take judgment upon us and strive through ignorance to upset our ability to live our lives as we wish. This will be incurred through the strife and economic turmoil which they will inherently inflict upon us.

Basically I am beginning to believe that one must drop out, transition, and re-emerge as our new selves while burying our past - Stealth! I don't like to admit that - but it seems the safest route. Again, if it were myself, I would be hesitant to even consider HRT without some sort of game plan in place to take the idiocy and intolerance of the "sheeple" who inhabit the Earth into account.

-Christen

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Growing up as Transgender

I’m a computer engineer so by nature I construct and fabricate ideas into material things. Pulling information together to create a cohesive solution is what I do best. For years, however, I never put together some of the seemingly disparate components of my own life in relation to understanding who I was really was and am.


As a child growing up, I was constantly reminded by my parents that I was a boy and not a girl. Toys which I played with of my sister’s were taken away. Doll houses I played with mysteriously disappeared, stuffed animals were thrown away and the pages from the girl’s section of the Sears Christmas Wishbook with the items I had circled and longed for were ripped out. I never voiced that I was a girl but I felt I was somehow not like the other boys. I didn't have a word for who I felt I was back at that age.


When I was given a train set, I became immersed in the possibilities of creating my own world through a model railroad empire. It was a fantasy world of my own creation and an escape from the real world I had to live in. The real world in the early years was awash in social awkwardness and a constant yet sublime uneasy feeling of living in the wrong gender. It was a quiet world of libraries and books, of science fiction and fantasy and of realms beyond what I lived and endured. It was beyond the realm of a dominant, emotionally distant and unevenly tempered father and a submissively passive mother. It was a realm beyond the lack of friends my socially stigmatized persona held.


Building the homes and businesses for my railroad empire was the boy’s manifestation of being able to have the dollhouse back that he once played with. The train itself, circling peripherally around the town was an imaginary means of escape from an emotional abyss I lived much of my socially withdrawn life in. It became even more of my escape into my ever expanding empire in our family basement as, one by one, the girls in school I was good friends with and with whom I confided in daily at school, began to separate from the boys. Even my best friend, Susan, who used to come over to my house each day where we would either play house or concoct new skin care cosmetics stopped coming over one day explaining that it was no longer right because I was a boy and she was a girl. I remember that day as if it were yesterday and I retreated further into the world of our library and my studies.


In the ensuing years of Junior High School, my parents began taking me on weekend trips up to my grandmother’s former summer home which she bequeathed to my parents upon her death. Here, in the relative solitude of the woods of Central New Hampshire, I would take respite from the anxieties of school and of life. The cottage sat high above a river with a view extending out for miles to distant mountains. I grew fond of the quiet and solace the woods surrounding the house brought and would often set up a tent in the woods, beneath the towering blanket of white pines, to sleep overnight in the peace of the outdoors.


It was a time to reflect and to write.
It was a place without social awkwardness and without judgment.

It was a place that didn’t care what gender I was and in this respite, I took mental solace.

College years brought with them weekend adventures to hike the mountains and forests of New Hampshire’s White Mountains. I would, with a good friend, hike many of the higher peaks to grand vistas and distant views – and to bask in the solitude and respite that only the mountains could offer me from the torment which lay deep within my own soul. I would hike for hours – eight or maybe ten with many miles of ups and downs. I would wear my own body down to the point of physical exhaustion in exchange for a mind that I could numb to the world around me in the very simplicity of the task to complete the hike. It was singularity of purpose with an obtainable goal, a goal which in my own personal life I could not obtain. The hiking was physically grueling and exhausting but promised me a forthcoming night of untormented sleep as its reward – one without the nightmares and thoughts which resounded within my near sub-conscious, barely held at constant bay by the logic of reasoning which suppressed them down.


The logic of reason, the physical escape of hiking, the mental escape of the creative world of my model railroads – all of these were the means by which I was able to suppress and suffocate the voice of the woman within. Each year became a battle to find new ways to keep her down. At times she would try to surface and I submitted myself to her for a few short hours by allowing her to see herself as a woman - only to undress and to bury her once
more into the pit of my soul. A combination of guilt and of longing would awash me, to which I would quickly retract to plan another physically exhausting adventure to numb my mind’s voice.


Two years ago, we decided to move to New Hampshire and to find a house in the country. I had had enough of the social stresses and of having to play the role I had to force upon myself daily in life and at work. It had been my self imposed responsibility and duty to play someone I was not. The woman inside me praised my ability to play this role by doling out anxieties and frail nerves to the point I could not exist to play the part any longer.

We had visited Alaska twice in the years prior and I had fallen in love with the grandeur and
splendor of the wilderness and of the solitude that was offered in abundance there. I had considered to move there and was speculating real estate outside of Fairbanks. But in reality, I knew this would not be realistic with both our families and for our jobs. We then turned our eyes back to New England and searched in New Hampshire, looking in the far northern reaches of the state. Joanne and I found a beautiful Log Home in Colebrook on 16 acres and high up in the woods at the end of a dirt road. The view from the living room window looked out across the sloping green fields and into the nearby rolling mountains of Quebec, Canada. In the end, this too was an exercise in fantasy as we realized there was no way we would be able to maintain our existence with any ease in such a remote location.

We settled on the Lakes Region of New Hampshire where we purchased a home in a quiet and rural town with less than a thousand people. It had no post office, no convenience stores nor even a gas station, but still was within an easy 20 minute reach of stores and services in any direction. It was here that after a year I was able to realize the full scope of why I was here and what I had been distancing myself from. The Trains, the hiking, the travels and the move to rural New Hampshire were all part of my way to run away from the one thing I could not run away from and it was the woman inside me who could not be quelled, quieted or calmed.


Working from home gave me the time to slow down and really think. Thinking and reflecting about myself was never something I would allow myself to do prior. The danger’s of the Medusa within the Pandora Box of my inner soul would then be given the opportunity to be heard. My frequency of cross dressing increased, from
bi-weekly to weekly and then to daily. I never stepped foot outside the house for fear and the thoughts that I would
never be able to pass as a woman in any event. And then one night, while dressed, I had a complete and utter nervous breakdown. I broke down and cried and
could not stop. Mascara and eyeliner were running down my face, I sobbed in despair with the frustrations of a lifetime pent up and suddenly released. The woman inside had broken free and I had not the energy nor the means to confront her and to suppress her one more time. I was finished and she had won.


I sat and talked to my wife and explained as best I could what was happening. I worked back through memories and pulled out many photo albums which contained pictures taken during my childhood. I looked at each one carefully. Facial expressions, poses for the camera - all were examined. I asked Joanne to look through these as well and to independently come up with her assessment of what she saw.

It was the poses, the way I stood, the way I looked, the way I had my hands on my hips. The looks of sadness or that look of being a million miles off in space when the picture was taken.

Some of the pictures from the teenage years, she said, showed a deep depression. She was right.

It was all of these things put together.

She said she saw, in all of these pictures, an unhappy little girl. Only in the pictures taken prior to puberty did we see smiles on my face and then… no more….

We both realized at that point what we would talk about next.

All of those years that I had professed to myself - had professed to HER that I was simply a cross dresser and enjoyed the clothes - was simply not an accurate representation of the whole of who I really was and really am. It was a false admonition unto myself to placate the woman within and appease her.

I told her of the stories next.... stories of growing up and sitting with the girls in class and avoiding the boys. Watching the girls grow and then leaving me alone without friends in a playground at recess - no longer part of their
community.

The little girl next door, who, until age 12, would come over my house where we would play pretend games - some days it was playing cosmetologist and we would concoct cosmetics and face creams from items already in the house. I explained to her how she had come over one day to say that it was no longer a good idea for us to be as close friends as we were and I was lost again.

I told her about the doll house that I found of my sister's that I played with for a few weeks at about age 8. It was my father who took it without warning one day and when I asked, said that it was not acceptable for boys to play with
doll houses.

It was the music I listened to. The bands, groups, lyrics and the general themes of each. It was the books and hobbies I immersed myself in to console myself in my own world. It was stories of fantasy, science fiction and the escapes they allowed me. I was given encyclopedias for children which I read cover to cover - ALL of them. By Junior High, I was already versed in every science book in the library from grammar school and many from the local library. I realized in college taking some of these courses for credit, that I had obtained by that early age, a first
college semester's knowledge of astronomy, geology, meteorology, electronics, environmental science and physics. I was building my own telescopes, building radios and soldering together other circuits on perf boards from parts at Radio Shack, developing my own B&W photos. I was writing stories and poetry. I had immersed myself in everything I could to avoid the one thing I could not learn and understand, and that was my own self.

It was revealing to put the pieces together - no - it was a revelation...

I fully realized that evening that I was never just a cross dresser and that I had been showing all the traits of a very repressed girl growing up.

I was transgender.

But this revelation left me feeling empty

Why did it take this long up to this point for me to realize all of this? How well I hid this from myself. I had all of the pieces to put this all together but I did not. No... I WOULD not. I had believed that any problem - ANY problem
could be broken down into small enough finite components such that any person could comprehend the solution. I realized then that I had kept the secret of myself FROM myself. I had all of the pieces but I had failed to put them back together to form a coherent solution.

How amazing is the human mind to be able to craft a means to hide the solution it has come to from its own self. And so now with clarity of understanding, and
a verse from the Moody Blues “Tuesday Afternoon” playing in my head, a new chapter in life begins to emerge.