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....

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!