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, December 27, 2011

Blue is for Girls, Pink is for Boys

What is it in society that determines what is designated proper for boys and what is proper girls?

Gender is simply a preconceived construct fabricated by society. It is a concept created by humans to categorize and segregate. Only humans understand the concept of gender. For animals and any other creatures, there is variance in sex, but no concept or construct of gender.

It is so fascinating to see what comes from the mouths of innocent children.... children who have not been indoctrinated to box themselves to a societal construct which serves simply to segregate, separate, polarize and isolate.

A recent video featured on ABC's Evening News was a refreshing reminder of what the unbiased young mind of a child knows....

How interesting it is, that societies pre-conception of what is inately masculine or feminine can change over the years.  I find it fascinating to know that high heeled shoes were initially worn by both men and women and that the modern French Heel was designed by King Louis  XIV.  As King Louis was not endowed with lofty stature and was somewhat vertically challenged, he often wore heels himself.  Perhaps owing to his insecurity in the height department, he did decry that no ones heels could be higher than his own... (Me wonders perhaps if there is any bearing to the Escalade driving men on our roads today ;) )   More on the history of heels at:  

The fascinating aspect of gender roles assertions seems to be the dichotomy inherent that allows women to dress in traditionally male garb but which precludes the same from men.  A woman so dressed androgynously or even sporting feminine versions of male attire is quite welcome in the business world as well, where a less feminine form of dress not only de-feminizes, but it has the tendency to increase the perceived status of the woman so presenting.  Unfortuntely, the reverse situation where a man may present in more feminine form, is seen as a less assertive and more passive realm.

My theory on this is that women have historically been considered part of the subservient gender role.  Women's liberation has helped to change much of that yet still, sexual and gender stereotyping remains at a low base level in the eyes of what has been a male dominated society.  Women are finding that in order to succeed in what was a traditionally male dominated world, that it becomes necessary to adopt to a more neutral form and presentation... one which suggested a more demure stature and towards a presentation which advocates presence and power.

The idea here is that a woman who presents in a more masculine manner asserts herself with greater perceived authority in a traditionally male world.  She moves "up" the social ladder in so doing.  A man who presents in feminine form makes what many would perceive as a step down on that ladder... giving up the quote-unquote "male privilege".  "Why would he want to be a woman?", some might ask of such a person.

One other area that arises to create a potential conflict occurs when there is a relationship between a transgender woman and a cis-gendered heterosexual mail which can abruptly give rise to a dichotomy in a male's perception and feelings.  Men who find a transgender woman attractive will find their emotional and physical senses stimulated.  But when they realize that they are being aroused by a person who may still be anatomically male, this creates a conundrum.  Those males who are most insecure with this disparity may resort to violence against the transgender woman.  For some males, eradicating the person eliminates the feeling of attraction and the perversity which they feel they are otherwise submitting to.

An intriguing article was written on this some time back by which is well worth checking out.

From a personal standpoint, I have had numerous instances where males would both find me attractive yet find, upon realizing I am transgender, that they must laugh it off in order to try to deal with the confusing oppositions they are attempting to deal with in their own mind.   Fortunately, I've not had any more serious encounters than this.... but I do find personally, that the more sexually alluring I may dress, the more the dichotomy increases in the presence of males who know of my variance.  Needless to say, I dress down when out and about, just as many women do (but who may not be the subject of a transgender related hate crime).

As knowledge and understanding between what sex, sexual attraction and gender are... and how they are often not positively related, attitudes will change, understanding will increase and tolerance may yet one day become a more universal acceptance.

Keep a positive image and attitude, provide education at a basic level where one can, and be proud to be who you are when out and others will be assured and more comfortable as well  in your presence.  

"Self-confidence is the first requisite to great undertakings." - Samuel Johnson, (circa 1750)

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Christmas Miracle

There are a number with who I have chatted, who retort that there is but a binary in sex. There is man and there is woman, alone. In their view, gender and sex are considered as two words which equate as the same, are not separable and cannot be dichotomous. In my conversations and chats on many of the religious news sites scattered liberally across the internet, I have come to find this position to be rather consistent. It has always been my premise when in such forums, not to attempt to forcibly change opinion or dissuade others in their beliefs. Rather, my forays into such realms are only in an attempt to bring about awareness that often what we consider to be as rote and stolid and undeniable fact may not always be as it seems.

Many thought the Earth to be flat as Columbus sailed off, only for him to  rediscover that it was not. Galileo maintained and promoted the heliocentric view of the solar system and a fundamental which all school children learn today... that the Sun and planets did not orbit the Earth as the Church had decried but rather that the Earth was but one of many planets orbiting it's Sun.  For Galileo's argument and challenge to the established doctrine of the Church, his life was threatened by the religious heads at the time for heresy.   In a similar vein, Newton's laws of kinematics were found only to be valid within a stable set of parameters - so long as mass and speed were not involved. Einstein realized that there was something not explained by Newton and the realization of Quantum mechanics was born.   What we thought we knew for fact, was challenged and proved otherwise or to be simply a subset of a greater understanding which we had yet to come to sense and to realize.

In the face of the oft-seeming contradictory religious rhetoric, it is my only intent through a personal perspective held and facts learned through current research, to bring forth the premise that there simply may be more than the binary of sex and of gender that could exist... and that the two are mutually exclusive and disparately separate continuums. There are many of the opinion that to consider a non-binary solution to human-kind is to be perverse in the eyes of creation and of God.  What science has come to discern and beginning, in quantitative ways to prove is that we are not defined by the premises of a binary at all.

Perhaps there is concern, as their was when Galileo challenged church doctrine to push the heliocentric model of the solar system, that to challenge what had been written and taken as rote might diminish the word of God and the power of the church.  But even as we learned that the Sun and planets did NOT orbit the Earth, it did not diminish the church at the time nor of the concept of God.  In fact, to those who hold a religious conviction of creation, It only affirmed more that He does exist by the miracles of the complexities which only He can create and which we are only still coming to learn. Question everything, and even still the answers learned in the process of learning and understanding do not, for those of faith, point away from God, but even more towards Him.  It is, perhaps, this realization, that the answer itself is far more complex than the dogma that had been blindly followed.  It is, perhaps true that what we discover as we question, is more complex and miraculous than could be imagined.

And so this, in essence, is my own stance.... ... to provide a point of reference and perspective to allow one to question what they think they know and perhaps to understand that there is more to who we are.... and the more we come to know and celebrate our findings.... our similarities... our differences, the less we find we really do understand of everything in total.    And perhaps, embedded within that realization, deep within...  we find the essence of what IS, truly, the miracle of creation....

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A Look at the Recent Macys Incident: Liberty and Justice for All?

There is significant controversy in recent news directed at transgender individuals regarding the recent dressing room incident at Macys. The subject became active immediately after it was learned that a female employee of Macy's Department Store was immediately terminated from her job by management for NOT allowing a transgender woman to utilize the dressing room associated with the gender she was presenting as. It is a store policy, by Macy's, to allow those who present in their chosen gender, to utilize the dressing room of their chosen gender.

This policy has enraged numerous individuals and groups, many of who have been voicing their deep disdain for transgender individuals using facilities concurrent with the gender they are congruent with and presenting as. The primary arguments involve fears that men who dress as women, are likely to engage in sexual predation or other voyeuristic and perverted acts. The solution, by these individuals and groups, is to create a third dressing room... not for men, not for women.... but for those who are transgender or as I have heard mentioned by more than a few, “mixed-up”.

They maintain that a man is a man (genetically xy) and a woman is a woman (genetically xx) based solely upon what physical plumbing they were born with. The view is strictly binary, and there is no provision for anyone who is born with physical and chromosomal variances which cause intersex and and hermaproditic conditions. Although there is substantive medical evidence arising at this juncture which can tangibly equate much of how the brain develops in either a male or female pattern, this evidence is largely disputed and ignored en masse.

The bottom line comes down, however, to an even more basic level than this and precludes even trying to argue the transgender position from a medical basis. At the very core, what this all boils down to is a human rights and a civil rights issue. One may disagree with this, but, please allow me to continue.

There was a time, in this country's history, where events occurred which bore similar nature to what we see now. Can we think of a time, in our country's history, where a certain group of people were excluded from the same basic human rights that others enjoyed? One can see where I am going with this and it may be that the reader may feel that the analogy beginning to be drawn is far different in scope and not applicable... but it is. Allow me to continue.

There was a time in this country's history where those who were African American were relegated to their own separated space. African American children rode in different buses to different schools than those frequented by Caucasians. Restaurants, movie theatres and numerous other public venues created spaces specifically for the exclusive use by “those of color”. If one has not seen the movie, “The Help”, please see it. It is the story of the oppression of African American housekeepers by their Caucasion Employers. In one scene, a housekeeper was fired ON THE SPOT for using the same bathroom her family used and for not using the outhouse in the backyard. The thoughts here being that one could contract unique diseases from someone of color.

In a similar way, the proposition that those who are transgender should be relegated to a distinctly separate bathroom for their kind is hauntingly similar.

The argument would say, that there is no comparative to be drawn, for they would say that there are just men who were born physically male, and there are women who are born physically female. This is where their premise fails. Ignorance and fear engenders walls that serve to separate. We know that African Americans do not plague us with diseases we can contract simply because they are of color. It is ludicrous to even think it but at one point in this country's history, such fears existed. Similarly, transgender women and men are not perverts or sexual deviants any more than the general populace is. In any stance, it will be obvious who is the man in the dress seeking to gain free entry into the women's dressing area for such acts. They will not be the person who spent years and decades of their life trying to learn makeup and fashion techniques appropriate to the gender they feel inside only to try to have sex or other lewd acts in some dressing room.

It is ostracizing to postulate that all transgender individuals are predatory deviants, for they are no more likely than someone who is gay or lesbian or heterosexual or congruent in their own gender presentation to engage in the same. It is demeaning and bigoted to force them into a bathroom segregated to their own kind because of an unfounded and unsubstantiated fear that criminalizes transgender individuals as guilty before innocent. So long as the person presents in their chosen gender respectfully and is respectful themselves to maintain civility toward their fellow humans, then there should be no problem and that person should command the same respect as a civil human in return.

Fear and not reason are what dictate the masses. Education of what is rather than what imagines is the only tool to eradicate such erroneous predilections.

If we allow governing authorities of the masses to determine the liberties and freedoms of the minorities, then what liberties do really any of us have in this country if we have no say?

On February 19th 1942 Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066. Under the terms of the Order, some 120,000 people of Japanese descent living in the US were removed from their homes and placed in internment camps. The US justified their action by claiming that there was a danger of those of Japanese descent spying for the Japanese. However more than two thirds of those interned were American citizens and half of them were children. None had ever shown disloyalty to the nation. In some cases family members were separated and put in different camps. During the entire war only ten people were convicted of spying for Japan and these were all Caucasian. (1) ( )

How quickly we often forget how fear can justify the rescinding of the basic tenets, civil liberties and rights of those who are deemed by the majority to be unacceptable to society.

Similarly, the Native Americans were rounded up and moved to their internment camps, otherwise known as “reservations” in order to allow for this country's progress to stampede forward, uninterrupted by who were considered to be primitive tribe-like people.

Women were denied rights to vote, to work, to wear masculine looking clothes; liberties now correctly extended as they should be to all.

Self determination and self appointment by a person, organization or the majority leaders in a country, that their own views are omnipotently and universally the correct ones for all to follow is a headstrong and dangerous position to take and suggests a rule that borders on totalitarianism To disguise such a position and acts thus taken to oppose or repress others through the guise that it is God's word, is blasphemy at the very core. Let me explain....

There is more than one religion in this world. Each religion has their own beliefs and each decries to be the one TRUE religion. If this were truly the case, then we would not have Buddhists, and Christians and Moslims and Hinduists and on and on.... If this were truly the case, then there would be but ONE religion seen as ONE religion in the eyes of ALL. Obviously they each have their points and each their own professions but there is not one correct one. To suggest such, again, is blasphemy.

Many of the Conservative Christian Sites I have had the opportunity to engage with, claim that those who are transgender are perverted in the eyes of God. I have seen scriptures wielded against those who are transgender in the old testament against, and I have seen specific passages of scripture in the New Testament of acceptance of all by Jesus. It would be the subject of another essay to uphold the findings made as they would not be justly served in so short of an essay. In all of this, interpretation and context are key, and much is taken out of context in order to suit or benefit the needs of the religious organization wielding words.

When those who wield religion as a power, become entrenched within our political and justice system, we see how such derisive wedges can thusly be created to mold and design paths to exclude others who do not agree with the consenus's drawn in the name of God. The realm of politics is secular by design and should not make or lay claim to what is considered moral or just in the eyes of God. Laws created and based upon religious moral principles which preclude the freedoms of others denies those persons their own basic rights and needs as free citizens of this country.

It is of distinct note that Thomas Jefferson, one of the founding fathers of the United States Constitution, made the following observations in regards to the matters of Church and State:

Thomas Jefferson was a man of deep religious conviction — his conviction was that religion was a very personal matter, one which the government had no business getting involved in. He was vilified by his political opponents for his role in the passage of the 1786 Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom and for his criticism of such biblical events as the Great Flood and the theological age of the Earth. As president, he discontinued the practice started by his predecessors George Washington and John Adams of proclaiming days of fasting and thanksgiving. He was a staunch believer in the separation of church and state. (2) ( )

Thomas Jefferson, however, was not even close to being the originator of such thoughts. In centuries past, a fellow by the name of Martin Luther, the founder of modern Lutheranism, wrote a treatise proposing the same in the early 1500's. His book, entitled, “On Secular Authority” set forth the following premise:

According to Luther, the civil government’s role is simply to keep outward peace in society. The civil government has no business enforcing spiritual laws. “The laws of worldly government extend no farther than to life and property and what is external upon earth,” Luther insisted. (3) ( )

The arguments which are demonstrated by those who would marginalize the transgender population often take on a religious omnipotence of a God who would decry such acts. Such realms make attempt to gain power and prowess to wield their religious authority by weaving it into secular authority. Our rights as transgender individuals are diminished because of an imposed segregation and prejudice by the masses.

It's time to review what mistakes we have made as a country and what rights we have revoked and persons marginalized in times past. It is time to decide to take a stand to decry that such ostracization of others based upon race, creed, religion, sexual preference or gender will not be tolerated. As the words of the pledge of allegiance attest, this country was founded on the principles of liberty and justice for all, not for some. It's time we consider that we uphold the pledge we as citizens of the United States have taken. It is time for liberty and justice for all!

Addendum:  Additional information regarding the religious positions held by five of our founding fathers, please see:

Monday, December 12, 2011

You never know who you are going to meet in this world....

It was just another evening out to dinner to relax and chat with my spouse and with the wonderful staff and patrons at our local watering hole.  Both J and I love the ambiance and coziness of the atmosphere and the plethora of widely varied personalities we have been privileged to get to know.  It's refreshing to know that we are not all clones of each other and that we each bring perspective that can enrich each other's lives if we simply choose to allow ourselves to be open minded.

Celebrating our differences helps us all to realize just how unique we each are in the world.  Being unique often coincides with having unique perspectives and views.... and with that gift, comes new ways to look at the world around us and to consider.

Take for instance this friend I met.  She was a gift to our waitress by one of the patrons who frequents the restaurant.  Our waitress is positively unique in many ways, with one of her attributes being that she enjoys collecting mannequins.  Certainly, one can have all sorts of enterprising fun with roomful of them.... posing them on the lawn for Halloween or perhaps setting up a staged photographic period shoot as has been done.  I'd personally like to see Max Headroom in the entourage with his 1980's striped shirts and opaque, black glasses...   As for this one...  she had no name as of that night, but I thought of one for her later.....

It may seem like I'm rambling here, but yet really, I'm heading somewhere with all of this.

J and I were in conversation amongst the patrons when we were, at some point late in the evening, introduced to one of the other waitresses.  We had seen her before but had never had the chance to meet.  After chatting for a while, I somehow segwayed into the realm of my own status as a transgender woman.  I don't make a point of coming out to everyone, but I also know when I am comfortable enough in an environment to know when someone else knows.  I mean really, after a couple of glasses of wine, it is, after all, theoretically possible that I may just slip into a barritone voice every now and then.... isn't it?

Well, one thing led to another and soon enough I came to realize that there was some positive in not trying to be or play the undercover stealth woman role.   It turns out that in my talking about myself and my own situation, I learned that the woman we were speaking with also worked within a school system where she was aware of two children who were, themselves, transgender.   Both of them were girls who felt out of sorts in the gender role they were born into.  She explained how they were being bullied by the other children in the school for their differences and in her facial expressions, I could sense that she felt great concern for their situation.

We ended up discussing with her, some of my own experiences growing up, all the while trying to relate to the issues these children were likely facing as well.  I was able to provide some perspectives, thoughts and possible ideas for direction that might have benefit, I hope, for them.

Being stealth as transgender is something I wish we did not have to always consider in this world.  Just as I see diversity in so many other aspects of society (and in our favorite restaurant's staff and patrons), so I see it within those who are transgender.  By being able to celebrate openly who we are, we can effect positive change in subtle ways that can make a difference in someone's life perhaps... someone we may have never had the opportunity to benefit if we were unseen and unheard.

Maybe I do make a difference in some small way.  I know if I can fully be and express who I am, that I can make a positive contribution to someone's life... even a small one as it may be.  And that's enough for me to wake up to a new day, each day.

Be the change you wish to see in life.....

I just hope mine is not all in pennies!

Finally....  a couple of other odd pictures from that evening....   

Friday, December 9, 2011

In Recent News: Violence and Mistreatment against those who are Transgender

For all of the positive and uplifting stories which I do try to focus on, there are also those deplorable ones of unmitigated violence and mistreatment against those who are transgender by the police and law enforcement agencies.  A recent article highlighting some of the more recent events unfolds here:

Raw footage of the Brooke Fantelli incident where she was tazed twice, once on her body and once in her crotch by Bureau of Land Management Officials while simply standing with her hands up, was posted on Youtube here:

Coverage of the Macy's incident where a store employee who managed the women's dressing room was fired on the spot by management for not following store policy to allow those who present as female to use the dressing room consistent with their gender presentation has brought some very strong, harsh and is some cases, vitriolic commentary from a number of responders on a conservative Christian News page:

Awareness is the first step toward securing positive changes that will bring about fair and equal treatment to all.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Clarifications and Congruency

Last night I visited with my therapist for the first time in several months. We talked and asked if she could be direct with me. I said I preferred it that way. I'm a no bullcrap kind of gal and I play life straight and to the punchline. Honesty to self, honesty to others is the best approach I find. Her questions really hit home but they were not unexpected nor were the answers. If anything, it was me sounding them out that really began to hit home. It is one thing to say these things to yourself but it is another to answer to someone else. The therapists I have had really never ever told me who I was and my current one hasn't, but she did throw back some thoughts and perspectives which really bore meaning and thought.

I told her I wasn't transitioning but working in a middle ground. I wasn't on hormones and I wasn't planning to change gender marker or legal status and to play a guy role as well. From where she sat, she wasn't buying it. In those past few months since I had seen her, with continued electrolysis and facial peels, I've been softening and transforming my face into an even more feminine realm. She asked me how I was passing for a guy. I honestly had to think about that for a moment and realized I was starting to get the questioning looks in guy mode that I used to get in girl mode about two years ago.

"How does that make you feel", she asked.

I told her that I feel, for the first time in my over four decades of life, as myself and simply congruent... at peace. I never have in my male mode and that mode only provided for a highly shy, nervous and anxious male person who avoided many social situations. I thought for years I had agoraphobia and had to avoid crowds and people. Restaurants had to be dimly lit or avoided and public speaking or even being in public could cause catatonia where I would just go stiff and rigid, with sweaty palpitations and an erratic heartbeat. Over the years, I learned to avoid situations that caused these reactions as I could not, even through immersion therapy, ever resolve them.

My therapist just looked at me and said she saw none of that in the person I was now. And it was true. Apparently I am, unknowingly or admittedly, some sort of social butterfly; talkative and witty, charming and humorous is what I hear most often.  At the Transgender Day of Remembrance I recently attended, one of my friends remarked that she was asked how she had become aware of the event. When she mentioned that she had heard about it from Christen, there were remarks of, "oh yeah... you know Christen? Cool!". It is so weird as I never really had a lot of friends growing up and into my adult life. I would say that I was a co-worker or an acquaintance or someone to talk to in the office but friends... people I could talk to and share my life with numbered in the single digits.

Part of that low number was due to the fact that I was not comfortable with my own sense of self and partly it was due to the fact that guys just don't equate and relate to me in ways I find I can relate to other women. Yet trying to relate to other women as a woman but presenting as a man was enough to cause me panic attacks and clam up completely. Simply put, when I did so in times past, women simply viewed me as some sort of odd guy, gay male or caricature of a woman and still I was not speaking to them at a level which other women would and can understand. So I just shut down early in life and stayed that way... recluse and eventually moving away from the city to be in the quietude of the country where I could run away from my problems and myself.

My therapist basically said... "You are transitioning, whether or not you are admitting it... hormones or not...". It is the acceptance of myself and the joy in feeling I am who I was meant to be. It is the inclusion I feel and in the wholeness of self that is the essence of my inner being which had been suppressed for so many decades. I've been taking my time to ascertain if what I have been feeling is simply me escaping from the male realm temporarily to express a feminine side but am finding that the feminine side is who I am and the male side is what I escape into when I am not Christen. There is no pretense upheld as Christen to be someone I am not and there is only contemplation of a completeness never held before and a sense of confidence never before enjoyed.

I'm continuing to take my time in all of this but the journey seems to go on with a life of its own. I say I am not "doing anything" to transition but I am allowing myself to be myself and that fact... me being true and honest to myself is materialized as becoming the female I am inside.  Apparently my walk has changed, my mannerisms, my gesticulations, my speech patterns... in essence... everything. I'm not aware of any changes at all but am told so constantly by everyone else. It is quite a revelation to not fully be aware of changes in one's own sense of self and to consider that what has changed as being completely different from what actually has. It is all so odd.....

After therapy it was time to do some Christmas shopping for my spouse and so it was off to Kohl's. It was so very interesting to me how innocuous I was and how comfortable it was to shop that evening. More than one sales associate approached me and we began multiple conversations about everything... from travel to living in New Hampshire and numbers of other subjects. My best guess from the body language was that they were convinced I was natal female until the points where I spoke. For them, discovering the variance was a positive thing and it led immediately to their wanting to talk with me even more.

Here's my outfit I wore that night.....

When I ran into one particular woman again, she made a point to catch me and chat further. Interesting.... What appeared to be the manager of the store stood in the main aisle in clear view of the registers and the jewelry counters surveying and greeting and, from what I could hear him balking to the employees, micromanaging them. He was of impressive build and stature, both in height and girth and somewhat balding. I sauntered my way up towards him as I made my way to the next department.

His tone spoke worlds of his persona as he offered, "Are you finding everything you were looking for miss?"

Both my response and my intonation caught him off guard.

"Thank You, I've found everything I WASN'T looking for"

With the unexpected humorous answer which required thought on his part and the variance in my voice, he made the discovery as well as to my gender variance and the look on his face was priceless. It was this sort of blank, 'it does not compute' realm but there was no negativity... just a learning experience for him.

Interestingly, the women all caught my sense of humor in that same response and laughed. He did not. Guys......

I chatted up a storm with the cashier, who also had much to talk to me about regarding the economy and various stories of recent she had,. When I handed her my credit card with my male name on it, she knew.... but she didn't even blink an eye. In fact, she seemed even more impressed and she gave me a thank you at the end of the transaction that was far above what she had given her prior customers ahead of me in line. When I replied nearly simultaneously back wishing her and her the happiest of holidays, she had a warm look in her eye and replied back in a heartfelt way wishing me the same.

It was a very enlightening night... but an affirmative one in so many ways. I am clearly in a realm which is both natural for me and certainly not displeasing for others (although for the men perhaps surprising). In any event, my own comfort with my own sense of self and my stylish and confident but not caricatured presentation lends itself well to setting the tone and atmosphere I wish to see around me and for others to feel comfortable with. If I can be comfortable with myself and create that air around me in the perceptions others see as well, then the tone is set for all other aspects to fall into place. It's just natural... It's just me!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Reflections on This Coming Thanksgiving Holiday....

As we approach another Thanksgiving Holiday, a tumultuous flurry of thoughts whirls about through my mind.  Some of these thoughts are my own and some are thoughts for those friends who add another deep level of perspective as well on this day.

For many of us, Thanksgiving will not be what it was when we were a child.  We will not be the lighthearted and bubbly children who used our imaginations and our lack of foresight into the adult world to create a day of our choosing and to celebrate, unfettered, in play.  For many of us, having endured a lifetime of personal, family and, for many, financial struggles, this can be a sobering time of reflection and of what and who we have in our lives, what things, aspects and loved ones have passed and are no longer with us.

I have been told by many that I come across as a very positive person, with an abundance of bubbly laughter and a persona that is entertaining and enlightening to be around.  But, as I said recently in a conversation to someone in response to such a remark, it is at attitude of choice which I make to also bring out the same in others as well as to repress the many thoughts and emotions I share of a more somber nature both within myself, my own family and that of my spouses as well as the countless stories of those friends I share a small part of my life through and with here and elsewhere. Small bits of a hidden persona are often seen as muses which share a vision or music on my pages and contrasts starkly against the positive persona which I choose to champion and rise above.

For so many, this Thanksgiving is a sobering reflection of a truth unseen.  Where family and parents choose not to include or celebrate this holiday with someone in their family strictly for the choices they made to be who they are.  It is saddening to think that for some, those who choose to be as who they are is a humiliation, an embarrassment or a disappointment reflecting back upon their family and parents.  It is sad that one can be cast aside as if they were traitorous outlaws who have committed some heinous crime, when really, only what was desired was an unconditional love which would stand up to the test of simply sharing in and of the deepest part of our souls.

For myself, I think of the day which many others will have, with large family gatherings and an idyllic and bucolic setting around a table layed out with seemingly endless plates of entrees and side dishes.  Bubbly conversation and a lighthearted banter wafts about as the clanking of plates and utensils merges and is subdued only by the endless chatter and laughter which ensues.

Perhaps and mostly such visions are idyllic and perceptual rather than real, but as a child, many of us, I am confident, have perceived this to be the time of Thanksgiving.... even if it was but a manifestation and an extension of reality as seen in a child's eyes.

As an adult now, and having lived through enough years in life to see what reality exists and what has been lost, it is a more somnolent time.  Another Thanksgiving without mom at the table comes to my mind first.  Time usually yields one the benefit of softening memories as visions become muted through it's passage.  I only wish that were the case but it is not.  As an adult and seeing with eyes which no longer are able to preconceive a bucolic and idyllic setting which perhaps never existed, my thoughts become jaded with a sense of dismay and disappointment in so many I had called family.  I continue to bear witness to the knowledge that I am not welcome by some and disrespected by others who see me as little fit to grace their table with my presence and not a thought nor call considered if I were not to make it first.

Truth be told, this will be a quiet Thanksgiving Holiday.  I'll be thinking too of all my friends, many of whom I have come to know and meet.... and others I have not had the pleasure to know beyond the virtual web which we share.  I'll be wondering how they are feeling and reflecting and thinking as another humble holiday comes upon us and is soon to pass.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Girl I Never Knew

The Girl I Never Knew

-Christen B

It was years long ago
Perhaps when about age five
Someone who I knew I truly was
First knew that she was alive

Others thought she was a girl
It was her curly hair they would say
The comments she remembered well
Visions of an earlier day

Through the early years of school
She had friends with whom she would play
It was always with all of the girls
With whom she confided in each day

Her best friend was the little girl
Who visited from across the street
Imaginative games were our world
Our worlds combined were complete

And as time and life wore on
Our worlds began to be torn away
Aspects of the world I had been living in
Were taken from me each day

The girls in school left me alone
The girl next door, she stopped seeing me too
They were becoming more as women
I was alone and felt nothing I could do

The toys of my sister’s
They were one by one taken away
Each was replaced with another
That I was told I would enjoy anyway

I identified not with the boys
Their aimlessly rough and crude play
Decisively, I created my own world
And spent hours in the library each day

Worlds of science fiction
Worlds of truth and fact
Worlds that could be created
And others that could not be brought back

In this world of self
A wall of safety I thus did build
Learning so many aspects of science and math
And all of my own free will

Hobbies I became immersed in
Creative and thought provoking there were a few
Of model railroad empires that were my domain
And of astronomy and telescopes too

One allowed me to create my world
And to govern its state of being too
The other gave me a portal
To worlds with a different view

Through high school I maintained
An academic prowess gained by few
My personality though was somewhat guarded
And of good friends, I had but just a few

Anxieties asserted themselves strongly
Around and about grade ten
A nervous breakdown I then had
And felt nearly it was the end

It had started back when I was near age 10
When I first found my sister’s clothes
A skirt or a dress, anything that I might find
Some makeup perhaps and some hose

What it was of these things-
These items I discovered on that day
Brought me relief from all my stress
And a sense of loss held at bay

It was a man who felt he was a woman
A film on TV I saw one night
A transsexual she was called
Gave a sudden meaning and fright

I knew at that point in time
I was blind but not a fool
I felt it such a deviant trick
That I had not been born a girl

Of thoughts of why this could come to be
Nights of sleep yet always wide awake
I recall my heart would shake the bed
And my life perhaps to take

A strict house did I thus within grow
Of physicality and anger I do recall
Of a father’s anger and temper
And to the floor my mother would fall

And one day at home I was dressed
A feminine outfit and heels
My parents returned home early
From dining out to eat a meal

My mother was the only one and saw me first
She could not understand it too
Her only response to me was
“Keep this from your father’s view”

“Dispose of this please
Of this I will hear no more.
I will not allow you to stand there
And look as if a whore”

I purged then of all my clothes
All I had accumulated to that day
Thoughts of how disappointed my family was
Again I prayed; take this life away

To admit any of these aberrations in me
I simply could not bear to do
So I buried them in a mental box
And denied that they could be true

Off to college I ultimately went
And a persona of normalcy I did pursue
Of computers and of engineering
And of dating women too

Many women I would date
Interesting they thought of me it’s true
But something about me was but a shell
And by a second date most were through

A few I did come to know
For more than an extended time
But intimacy I could not, to them, always show
The reason was yet hidden, and I simply blind

I finally had the opportunity
To meet the love of my life
The person I would share my essence with
The one who would become my wife

Again, into the relationship
Intimacy I could not easily show
What was wrong, she said one day
She desperately wanted to know

I dress as woman I told her
It is a hidden aspect of me
It brings me satisfaction
And a feeling that I am free
In September of ’93 we wed
Many happy years together we thus spent
Occasional dressing at homeoccurred
Relaxed, the years came and went

But during years now only recently past
Something changed in me inside
Something was different, something was wrong
An anxiety now that I could not hide

I was still dressing at home
This continued, it is true
No longer however was there mental release
The sort I had become accustomed to

The stress began to build up again
I broke down once again and cried
I pulled out albums of photos of myself
And through those aging pages I pried

Photos I saw with eyes anew
Which did not look the same
Photos of a child a million miles away
A child sad and in pain

The pieces I put back together
The same puzzle from years before
The same answer as when I was age ten
Was knocking at my door

I had closed this door before
To contain that beast within
Again it came to my door knocking
And this time I let her in

And in that moment of acceptance
An understanding of what I already knew
A woman inside I had always been
It had been the girl I never knew
And with this new revelation came
A loss of anxieties and stress
Of mental anguish and hidden loss
To myself I thus did confess

With head held high and confident
For it was the woman who knew not fear
She took her first steps out the door
To the public she now did appear

To my own surprises, it was deftly true
That the woman I had held inside
Who was ultimately the keeper of all the confidence
For truly she was the one with all the pride

And so my life is interwoven now
With responsibilities and commitments held dear
As I am no longer age ten
And now there are consequences to fear

The shell of the boy who built this life
Had components necessary it is true
That allowed the girl within her
To manifest and ultimately shine through

The girl's destruction of the boy
With a realization starkly cold
Would bring about the absolute demise
Of all that they both dearly hold

So in the final determination
Of the life built, and the one I now lead
I struggle to hold a middle ground
Voice of girl and of boy I doth heed

Of two persons - but also as one
Both coexist today as the same
The fettered spirit of both exist
As the woman inside my brain
I appease her and occasionally bring her out
For to allow her the world to show
She cannot be fully denied any more
And to this truth I fully know.

The balance is mostly tenuous at best
There are still times of anxiety and of pain
But I know now that the woman inside
Has never existed in vain.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Transphobia: Why Does Society Judge a Book by it's Cover?

A good friend, Sherri,  published a piece on Transphobia recently and it brought to light, a darker aspect within the greater bounds of society that I have found disturbing myself.  We are judged NOT by who we are but often by how we are interpreted by others.  We are told and have heard, many times, the saying to "Not judge a book by it's cover", yet this is exactly how we, as transgender individuals, are interpreted in many instances.

I know of a number of transgender individuals who have completed their gender reassignment surgery but have had notable encounters attesting to their being questioned of their gender in public accommodations.  Societal expectations of feminine appearance often dictate whether or not one's gender presentation is questioned, irregardless of legal or plumbing status being congruent with that of their assigned gender.

I've had the opportunity to view this discordance from the opposing end, where no one seems to ascertain me as anything other than natal female when I am out and about.   When anyone discovers or questions quietly within their own mind, a notable variance,  there are quick shock double-takes and then an immediate re-acceptance of me back into the female realm, as if nothing ever occurred...

What it is seemingly coming down to, appears to be in this order....

1) This person notes that I appear to be a woman
2) Anomaly is noted about me in which I was presumed to be a woman initially (moment of shock or double-take)
3) Re-acceptance back into the realm as a woman (or woman/other) based upon presentation, outward appearance. movement and gesticuations.

Sadly but seemingly oft occurring, the same is not incurred by those who are unable to satisfy a majority of topical visual and sensory cues attesting to what constitutes a "woman".   Irregardless of medical notes, hormones, facial and gender reassignment surgeries and even legal documents, there are questioning looks and even queries rudely made as to the gender one is.

For those who "pass" visually (as defined by the greater natal societal realm), we would create more distress to others by using a public accommodation of the legal sex we are, even though our gender attests otherwise, yet we would be at odds if we were "outed" for using a public accommodation of the gender we are presenting as.  Either way it is a gamble and there are no provisions made for those who are legally one sex but pass easily as the opposite gender.

In a similar vein, it is equally horrific as to how those who have legally changed their gender are, or can be, questioned by others in exactly the same situations.  It is a demeaning experience to say the least.

We certainly need to continue to maintain pressure to assure that federal, state and local laws are created which ensure for basic accommodation for those who are transgender.  Many opponents suggest that so-called "Bathroom Bills" pave the way for male sexual predators to gain access to female restrooms under the guise of being "transgender".  I've read enough studies and seen enough reports regarding the outcome of such locations which have enacted such provisions.  In reality, there is no data to support these claims and it is seemingly a fear based reaction to something which does not factually exist.

One of my thoughts to allay these emotionally fueled and irrational fears would be simple.  Although it should not be a necessity, it could go a LONG ways toward getting these provisional bills regarding public accommodations for transgender individuals PASSED!  A recent win in Massachusetts for a “Transgender Rights Bill” has passed and been signed.  It was only possible to get it passed by eliminating the “public accommodations” aspect from it and thus removing the bathroom bill.  It was still seen as a better alternative to letting the bill flounder in a rewrite which could tie it up indefinitely or… forever.  Now that the bill is in, it may be just a step closer to getting the “Bathroom and Public Accommodations” stipulations into a revision next go-around.  Sometimes it is better to get what one can rather than to risk it all and never see any bill passed.  The bill can be reworked and amended later as a “step two”.

Many of us have had or hold "letters" from our therapists indicating that we are being treated for "Gender Identity Disorder".  (I don't agree on on the words disorder or dysphoria here but that is fodder for another blog).  Such letters have been traditionally used as an explanation in situations warranted, where one's gender presentation and one's physical sex do not match.  Since they are not legal documents and not standardized, their scope of use is not guaranteed.

My proposal would be, at a federal level, to have the ability to acquire an identification card which attests to one's "transgender status".  Such an identification could be useful as a standardized means of allaying fears by attesting to one's legitimacy as perceived by the general populace and to "weed out" those "sexual molesters"  from our nation's public accommodations.  Although such a threat does not meaningfully exist, it might be enough to help secure a legal status which could be used toward further upholding of what should have been already, inalienable rights.  The downside of having an officially sanctioned transgender status could be it’s use by government or private corporate parties to unwittingly use a thinly disguised prejudice to marginalize and discriminate by creating stipulations which would deny and crate further barriers.

Interestingly, India has already begun providing for inclusion of a "third gender" within official realms as noted here.   What implications and ramifications this will have are yet to be fully seen.  One of my concerns, however, with having such a legal identification card, is the possibility that such an identifiation could be utilized by such realms as health care providers or by other entities to create demographic markers or... worse yet... to be able to identify what might then be deemed, "high risk" individuals, leading to denial of services based upon those having come forward to be counted as part of the transgender pool.

In thinking about the possibilities, benefits and possible concerns, I find that there is not one answer to this problem that yields a solution without both positive and negative potential consequences... or both.

For the mean time, I can only suggest that we continue to be as active in the community as possible, to be out and proud of who we are, and to continue to present ourselves in such a way as to allay fears as much as possible and to create a realm whereby those we meet on the street will come to say.... "Hey, I think that person is transgender, but you know what?   I met them, talked and interacted with them... and found that they are people, like any one else.... and I was pleasantly surprised to come to know them!"

For those who wish to further their reading on this subject, the blog to which I was initially referring to is here:

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Continental Divide

Be it far from me to ever wish to stratify, segregate, elevate or separate myself within the transgender realm, yet interestingly, I have begun to notice and piece together just this sort of rift which has begun to developed.  In the transgender continuum, there is a huge difference between "doing" and "being".  There are many I know who find that simply emulating a woman in form and fashion is but enough to suffice their being.  They are those who "do".  Dressing and emulating the feminine form are the key and primary factors.  Photos and pictures arise in high numbers which validate presence and to entice with a show of form.

Then there are those of us who are out as transgender women, as women.... who dress because that is who they are and feel they are... deep inside.   The dressing is simply a state which provides for the congruency which exists deep within and allows for integration and association within the female group which one feels most comfortable with.  It is not to say that the act of dressing is understated or of less importance, but rather, that it is simply a part of who one is.  In other words, dressing is not the thing one does, it is part of the essence of who one is....

I first became aware of my own presence on the continuum approximately three years ago when I had a nervous breakdown over the frustrations of crossdressing at home.  I, at first thought, that perhaps I simply needed the excitement of getting out and that this would quell the urge for what I do.  But what I began to find, as time progressed and as I got out more and more, was that the opposite was becoming true.   I was not finding the act of dressing and getting out to be something of what I do, but rather, it was really an expression to others of who I AM.  It became ever more clear as I would revert back to my male form, only to realize, through contrast now made clearly and plainly visible to me, that I was utterly unhappy and not at peace with myself as a male.

For so long, and for so many years did I live the life layed out before me, accepting it and my gender role at face value for what it was, as male, that I had succumbed to a lifetime of denial.

No one believes me, when they meet Christen, that she is anything but outgoing and sociable.  She has no fear of public speaking or qualms at taking the stage solo to sing.  Yet, to know the male persona is to see another person, another side, which no one can believe exists or existed.  Here, was a person who was shy and recluse, who had panic attacks for 30+ years in public situations, had to avoid many social situations, restaurants, crowded malls or anywhere where attention might be drawn... for fear of a panic attack which would render me, many times, catatonic for minutes on end.   I resolved the problem, I thought, by avoiding situations, places and people using avoidance techniques as my recourse of resolution.   Yet, inside, I was a nervous wreck, always.   Joanne would ask me what was bothering me... Why was I biting my nails constantly until they bled?  Why did I not want to go out to a restaurant?  Why did I always want to spend time in far-away places away from people?

What was I running from?  In the end.. I found that it was ME that I was running from.  I was running away from myself.

And this placed me into the continuum not of dressing as what I do, but rather of who I am.

The comments I receive, some by people I have never met and others by friends, all attest and affirm to what I know inside to be.  That I am not simply engaging in the act of cross-dressing, but that I am simply existing as a woman, albeit one who can only emerge for brief visits to the surface to bask in the sun.

And as much as I am privy to this knowledge... this understanding,... I am also noticing an ever increasing separation, one that is not hostile but simply ambivalent as part of what interests those who "do" and those who "are".

Those who "do"... are posting and commenting more with their friends who also are of like demeanor and in like place on the gender continuum.   As I grew from the short mini-skirts and sexy outfits and more into the realm of what I felt most comfortable being dressed in, so I noticed a drift and shift in the attention as well.  My stories and my experiences are, perhaps, not of interest to those who simply enjoy emulation of the female.  My concerns are deeper and perhaps less "fun", less "flirty", less topical, and maybe just a bit more concerted and emotional and relevant to who I am.

There is no "better" or "right" place to be on the continuum.  I just am noticing that, whether I am aware of it or not... and I am becoming more and more attuned and aware, that my place is in a realm that is far more serious than I would have wished it to be.  It makes life more complex and has me more at odds than ever with the duality which I lead.  It is so much harder when one finds that their gravitational trend is toward the feminine and when the facade of the male is peeled away, in layers like an onion, that what remains is the truth.  The truth is that this is not what I do, but who I am, and what I am, right now, is very frightened.  It is the love and support which Joanne has given to me in all of this, that has helped me to BE.  I know of no more awesome gift of love than of this.

Tomorrow is another day.  What truths will I continue to unravel as the veneer unfolds?  With my spouse alongside, we are slowly finding out, one day at a time.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Of Love Lost That Never Was

How can so many smiling pictures I post not even come close to portraying what hurt and sadness and betrayal I feel inside?  It truly amazes me how well I have learned over the years and decades to bury these feelings so well.  Yet still, I am unable to forever hide this pain and these thoughts from my self.  This post is one which will be different from the many you may have read.  I truly do not like to vent my sadness or my hurt and would rather choose to post only the bright and positive and of the good of things to come.  But the weight that has been hiding and lurking within is becoming more and more omnipresent in my conscious thoughts by day and my agitated lucid dreams by night.

My mom passed away a horrible death from dementia in January... something I blogged about in this link here. It was the end to many of the dark secrets and more dark secrets I had written about and hoped were put firmly behind me.  Yet the box of Pandora is rarely kept closed for long without it being opened again by another event, another force... out of one's own control.  Just such a box and chapter of life has re-emerged and it saddens me to no end.

Sadly, I have had to de-friend my own sister from facebook.  I had shared the true nature of my self with her on a night out for dinner last November.  As I mulled over a glass of wine, I shared pictures of Christen and tried to explain to her what had been a hidden part of me for so many years.  I needed to share this with her as I could not play act the rest of my life without being true to my own self and with the others who were part of my very family.  Because of the strife in our family and the divisions created by both my mother and father, I never really had a relationship in growing up with my sister (learned later to be a half-sister only in recent years).  My mother's hopes and some of the final words she uttered as she slipped into a deeper and deeper dementia were that she wished that out of this life's mess, that I would find a way to reconnect with my sister.  And so I did... and I shared my self with her and set her up to know this blog and to connect on Facebook.

All seemed well enough at first.... but fresh paint on a rotting house, the peeling began.  At first I tried to slough these bits and chips of peeling paint as nothing to be concerned with save for my own fears.  It started with my sister's impending trip back east from her home out west.  She was coming to Boston to take her friends on a trip to show them the historical sites.   Joanne and I both had asked if we might be able to see her when she did come out but yet her reply was that she would likely be too busy to undertake time to meet up with us. 

I still thought that there might be a chance to meet up for coffee or a quick visit anyway and so Joanne had emailed her prior to her trip to wish her a good one and to ask when she was coming.  She received no reply from that email.  When I asked her after her trip why she did not bother to give us a call when she was out our way, her reply was that she had heard that we were going on a trip sometime in September and thought we were away when she was here.  We had never had the opportunity to tell her the dates of our trip in the month of September so there was no way for her to be sure unless she called... or had wanted to call... to find out.  Not knowing when our trip was exactly and not bothering to find out was a convenient excuse for a convenient truth.

And then... on a day in September when I had come down to Boston to visit with Joanne's mom, I also stopped by my mother's grave to pay my respects.  When we arrived at her tombstone, we both were surprised to see a bouquet of Mum's laying gently on top of it.  I was shocked, for I knew that my father had not visited as I had checked immediately with him upon discovery.  There was no one else either who would have visited.  All of my mother's relatives had forsaken my mother and the entire family years earlier and so there was no one else who would have visited her grave to leave those flowers but my sister.

We left our own flowers next to the other arrangement, took a picture of them both there and reflected in silence for a while before leaving as an ever deepening blue sky heralded the approach of evening.  The next day, I uploaded my picture to her wall on Facebook with the caption:  "Hey Sis, I visited Mom's grave and was wondering whose flowers were left there already?"  Now it is important to note that I had not ever posted anything on my sister's wall that would tie Christen to her as brother and sister but I needed to know if she was avoiding me for who I was and to find out if she was ashamed to have met me in the presence of her friends.  Was this, then, the reason perhaps why she did not want to meet up with us on her trip out?

Interestingly, my sister's wall saw very little activity and she never seemed to be online and would never post to any of my updates or pictures.  But, although I thought she was not on very often, truth be told that no sooner did I put that post up which associated myself and her as family to all of her friends, did that post disappear in a matter of a few hours.

Not only did that post associating me with her to all of her friends on Facebook disappear, but so did every post I ever put along with those of Joanne.  All ties and clues associating Joanne or Christen disappeared in a flash.  I was heartbroken and so emailed her of my utter hurt which that had caused.  A day went by and then I received a long-winded and relatively stolid and monotonic voice mail in which she explained that she had not purposely removed Joanne's and my posts but that it was some sort of Facebook glitch that must have occurred .  She claimed that perhaps her lack of familiarity with Facebook had something to do with this weird anomalous behavior and disappearing act.  She further related how much she cared for both of us and that how not ashamed she was to know of my gender variance....  and that any thoughts otherwise were contrived by my own imagination and created within my own head.

I had received that voicemail while out on a hike in the White Mountains and so, when I returned down from the hike and back home that evening, I went online to her page and lo and behold, EVERY POST that Joanne and I had ever made to her page and that had ALL been removed, suddenly reappeared.  She had in effect, not deleted them but simply "hid" them all from view by others.  That was the icing on the cake and I knew... as obviously as it must be to all who are reading this, what must be going on and truly what is.

I never returned that call to her after I saw this.... I didn't have the words to... and it has been two months without another call from her.  Silence speaks to me the answer which needs no words.

Looking back, I recalled when I came out to my sister back in November that I had voiced that I had wished to tell each of her two son's about me on my own, and in person when the time I fell was right.  I was able to tell my oldest nephew.  He seemed to be alright with it when I told him but later heard back through my sister that he was having a hard time dealing with it and accepting me.  When I confronted him to ask him about this he denied he ever said such a thing.  He also ignored my attempts to communicate with him on Facebook and would not keep in touch.  After many months, both Joanne and I defriended him as well.  We have heard no contact nor inquiry from him of our sudden absence.

As for my sister's younger son, who is 24, my sister took it upon herself to tell him about me without heeding my initial request so that I could have the opportunity to explain.  His response to finding out about me was, "It Figures".   Basically, I took this to mean that with all the craziness of the past and the hidden secrets and lies, that I was just "F'ed" in the head .  I never received a phone call from him, ever, and if I do, I shall be skeptical of reason and intent.

Since this blog is public space, I fully expect, that there are eyes which watch silently in the shadows and yet not wishing to communicate with me.  Likely this story will be continued if and when that email arrives one day in my inbox or if the phone ever rings.  My heart is leaden though, saved by my spouse who loves me with all her heart and soul and who understands me like no other would or could.... and it is saved too by all those who consciously choose to call me a friend and who have and continue to be the light through this maze of hidden deceit and lies and darkness which surrounds the very essence of my life.  Perhaps that darkness, sprinkled with but a tinge of hope, comes through in my music on my pages here.... perhaps now you may have some conception of how one who should seem to be so happy with all she has can still lament for what she has lost, regained, lost again, and, in the final act of the mirage of family.... never really had.  That what she thought she had was really all lies and deceit and cover-ups to create convenient truths and live that were never true and love which was never there.

Words may speak intentions, but actions can only materialize the promises of utterances made.  And in the solitude of the silence which remains, the unspoken truth resounds.


Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Halloween is NOT always a free night "to be out"...

I know many who say or who have said that "Halloween is the 'free night out' for crossdressers and transgender individuals alike. I suppose that, in one sense, it is... but in many ways it is not as well. For those who have spent countless anxiety ridden years hiding their feminine sides from the world in fear, it is a night that can bring a sense of acceptance or, at the very least, a perceived tolerance when they step out the door into the world for that one night. I beg to differ however in the entire premise of that perception.  The realizations are subtle but poignantly made in my last stop of my story of that evening...

Joanne and I went out for a night on the town on Halloween Night. Neither of us were dressed for Halloween as we were not heading for a party, but rather, were heading out for an evening of shopping and dining. At the local Kohl's, no one perceived or was cognizant of any variance from the gender I was presenting as... save for one young, 18-20ish woman who picked up on my subtle and soft-spoken, yet off cue voice while conversing with Joanne. I could see that she was not sure but it set her radar in motion as she looked puzzled and unable to make a clear determination one way or the other.

Next stop was BJ's and some needed groceries. Again, I was invisible there until the register balked at my purchase of a queen-size bag of flour, spewed it back onto the scanner, and triggered the dreaded flashing light and announcement, "Please wait for assistance, someone will be with you shortly".

The cashier came by and I quipped to her as she approached, "Looks like this register doesn't want me to do any baking... and here I was planning to make a cake".

The cashier gave me a pleasant smile, one which I have come to know very well. It is that sort of look of "I know your secret, but it's cool and it's OK". I call it the "cutesy smile" and it is one which I receive mostly from the women I find, when they do notice.

Off to the Chinese Restaurant for a nice dinner over a glass of wine. Dinner was uneventful, and we were both quite sure that no one ever picked up anything other than two women out. Of course, it helps when I keep my mouth shut or busy in eating and drinking rather than talking!

After dinner, as we headed back to our car to head home, I noted to Joanne that our dessert of my left-over homemade vanilla cake would taste so much better with some lowfat ice-cream on top! As there was a Shaw's Supermarket next door, I headed in to make a quick ice-cream run. Now, interestingly, I found that I stood very much out in the store, in ways I had never seen before. Assuredly, it was not in a negative way at all... but.... I did stand out. I realize that I was dressed perfectly well for the restaurant and for Kohl's but was well above the level that most women would dress at that hour of the evening for a Shaw's Supermarket. This, of course, brought all eyes of attention onto me. With it being Halloween, it did so in a way that I had not seen when in the same store on other nights with similar mode of dress.

A passing female customer made me, but gave me a big, pleasant smile and a warm "hello". Two younger male employees walking past me together, also gave me that sort of grinning smile as well. Again, nothing negative as my appearance was pleasing to their eyes even when the variance was detected. At the register, the male cashier seemed not to notice or be aware but the young, late teenage aged cashier in the next aisle gave me a very pleasant "that's pretty cool" smile.

I am sure that being overly dressed at 9:00pm on Halloween Night in a nearly empty Shaw's was a good test for observation and reaction. The take away from this whole night was several lessons.

1) Be confident in who you are and others will be confident to be around you.

2) Dress to blend in where possible if one is not looking for undue attention.

Dressing becomes challenging in rural New Hampshire where putting on makeup generally is considered an option. And if one is going out to eat up here, being dressed up works but then one ends up being overdressed for anything else. The joy of being a woman is that there seem to be too many modes of dress that ONLY work for certain situations. Being a guy is easier in these respects and so this is why I do note that most women just "dress down" as it is the "lowest common denominator" that works in every situation. Unfortunately, I enjoy and find I have a high fashion sense and enjoy having fun with putting stylish outfits together.... I guess this means I will continue, then, to have to put up with the "cutesy smiles". :)

3) And this is the most important one... Dress and present in a respectable fashion, that, even if it is beyond what the average woman will be wearing around you in the environment you are in, that one will be perceived in a pleasing manner and not a frightening or demeaning one.

4) If one really wants to be as invisible as possible when going out.... DON'T do it on Halloween. Everyone's radar is in high gear and when you dress to pass very, very well and are only outed by the smallest variance, just be ready to get back that cute little smile that says... "Hey... I know YOUR little secret... you look TOO good to just be doing this for Halloween... but you look really good"

In conclusion, it is my personal observation and feelings that I am absolutely FINE with not passing 100% ALL THE TIME. If I pass all the time, then I blend in completely and no one ever has the opportunity to learn that there is an entire cross-section of society that identifies as transgender.   I am part of a group of society that needs more visibility in having fair treatment in this world as human beings. being SEEN for who I am and presenting it in such a way that makes it a pleasant experience for those I do meet, means that they take away a positive experience themselves. Perhaps... Just perhaps... they may go home after meeting me and say to a friend... "I met this really cool transgender woman today. She looked really good, had a cool sense of humor and... you know what? She was just an average person like myself".

It may take a lot more work when one is transgender, but it is possible to make a positive and lasting impression, one person at a time.... And that can go a LONG way from a grassroots level toward humanizing us all as valid and equal members of this little blue ball hanging in space that we all call our home!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Ten Items or Less

So I popped into Lowes last night for more wainscotting and liquid nails (sigh... not the gel ones that look pretty). I walked into the store thinking I looked pretty much like a guy... and even J agreed. Apparently I don't....

Approaching the register, a youngish girl cashier announces that her register was closed... but then takes a look at me after saying this and lights up with a smile from ear to ear and decides hurriedly that she would reopen the register. It wasn't a snirky smile or one of silent laughter from her. It was that look of "I know your secret and it's way cool". So I dropped my "hey,how you doin?" sort of pretense and and wafted into girl talk with her for the next several minutes. She wasn't interested in that sort of "I'd like to go out on a date" way... She was interested in me as a unique feminine person that drew her in a positive way toward me. So recapping this with J in the car, it amazes me how much more approachable I am to most of the girls today than I was trying to play the macho guy back in college days (trust me... that failed like Fantasy Island's Herve Vallechez would playing the Tarzan role). Yeah... she saw my girls wallet and the earrings. What she saw she liked. Some people really do enjoy differences and variety in society!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

A Gallon of Anti-Freeze And A Smile.....

I had to make a run down to the dealership in Tilton yesterday for a gallon of Antifreeze (and a loaf of bread?). Seemingly an uneventful 36 mile jaunt round-trip down and back up interstate 93, but with a few twists which I feel compelled to mention in brief.

Swooping into the parking lot just beyond the terminus of the exit ramp, I parked and alighted from my vehicle. Entering the dealership, it was as it always is as if entering into the lion's cage as a piece of fresh meat. All eyes turn towards the one entering, as if they are the salvation that a prospective buyer brings. Men in neat suits with large builds and the women behind the counters servicing the customer relationship. The stereotyping is always phenomenal in these ways and a bit disconcerting, at least to me.

I entered through the double doors and, while scanning all of this, proceeded directly to the woman behind the counter at the customer service desk. As I paraded down the long hallway, I could sense, palpably, the dotted lines of visual contact and assessment going on. I was in my whatever-the-heck-I-have-of-a-guy mode. Wearing my gray New Balance sneakers which could go either way as male or female (but were womens in size 9.5), my Calvin Kleins in size 10... larger than my norm of size 8 in order to not appear to tight or fitted, a women's polo shirt in navy blue...which could pass as male except for a slight variation of the collar and of course the infamous buttons on the opposite side. My hair was it's normal curly self and really not styled in any feminine way except perhaps that it comes down, just slightly, over my ears. I was wearing my 2mm gold piercing studs still and no makeup whatsoever.

I approached the front desk and the woman had the look on her face which told me she was not speaking to a normal, every day guy. It was what I like to call, "the cutesy smile", on her face that told me... "yeah... I know!". It was not a look of disgust but rather one of interest and her tone changed to one that I often see women give to other women but not to men. Directing me to the parts department, I then thanked her and followed her directions around and to the back of the store. As I passed the snack and sandwich counter at the dealership, I noted a woman and a man standing about behind the counter. The man didn't even notice my passing but the woman... the woman immediately locked on to me and did a full scan in the span of a micro-second. A second later, she made a point to say hi to me to which I responded in kind. She had a curious and welcoming smile on her face similar to that of the woman at the reception desk. I don't know if she was waiting to hear my voice but I am sure she was curious to I was thinking. I responded using my "in-between" voice just to be safe.

At the parts department, I spoke to a shaggy, long haired gentleman of about 40 years of age and requested to pick up the anti-freeze which they had promised to hold for me when I had called earlier that morning. Returning from the back stock room with my item, I could not help but notice that the other gentleman sitting behind the counter at a computer terminal had his eyes locked on me. Like a deer caught in the headlights, he seemed to have scanned me in the same way that the women would always do and most men not....The difference I always find with the men is in that they DON'T give back that same smile that I get from the women. With the women, the smile is like "OK, you're in the club with us and we won't tell anyone about your little secret". With the men, the look is like that which one sees in Science Fiction Sitcoms like "Star Trek" in the 1960's. It's like those scenes where an android humanoid with a computer brain is given some paradoxical situation that it's circuitry cannot resolve. This is usually the point where one then detects smoke coming out of either ear and they proclaim in a rapid secession, "Does not compute.... This does not compute".... and they usually implode or blow up into a million pieces.

Well, this guy sitting at the counter looked like he had smoke coming out of both of his ears as he sat there, stolid, expressionless and unblinking... trying to resolve a conundrum which did not seem to add up. Now this gets better..... I took control of this situation and ascertained that he likely thought I was the stereotype of a gay male or some effeminate guy who only knew about such things as foofy fabric curtains and such. I started in to a conversation with the other gentleman who had returned by this time with my anti-freeze....

"So this antifreeze use Organic Acid's and is free from silicates right?", I started. "I had been using the Dex-Cool in my system but had read a lot on the automotive boards and in discussions online that the Dex-Cool had issues with sludge formation when in the presence of highly oxygenated environment. What are your thoughts on this?"

Blammo.... The android humanoid behind the terminal had smoke coming out of his ears now and was about to explode into a million pieces. I was sure that he was just waiting for me to say something in a swishy accent, like "Oh hello... I need to buy some of that like stuff that you put into your engine that makes it like not overheat or something. Do you have anything like that here in a pretty color?"

HA! Instead, they got a bit of my Jersey "How you doin?" and "who needs a house out in Hackensack" accent and a 10 minute discussion on the pro's and con's of various formulations of anti-freeze.

I walked out of there with a grin on my face and one very bewildered parts supply agent. The rest of the guys in there were cool to deal with me but then of course, they were younger. I usually get the "Does not compute looks from the older generation of guys and some of the more macho young ones". The women....well... they just keep smiling and seem to be more approachable than ever I had noted when I presented strictly as run of the mill male.

It was the smiles and friendly 'hello's' of the women at the car dealership as I walked by. It was the unblinking 'deer in the headlights' look from the gentlemen. It was the dichotomy that didn't add up when I started talking technical to the guys in the parts department about the benefits of Organic Acids in silicate free anti-freezes that had them in incredulous disbelief at the dichotomy of what they did not expect from me. Then again I could have talked makeup technique just as well to the women. Ah yes... this, then, was me in 'guy' mode today at the dealership....

Monday, October 3, 2011

Notes From a Foray to Rural Virginia....

My spouse and I just returned from a week in the Shenandoah Mountains, where we spent our time split between pursuits in the great outdoors hiking and exploring caves, and time as two women exploring shopping and dining experiences. The area is rich in natural beauty while still having the proximity of the civilized world when wanted or needed. We did, while were there, notice some key differences between rural New England and rural Virginia in being transgender and in the experiences noted by us both.

Our first foray out was to do some shopping in the nearby city of Harrisonburg, Virginia. Harrisonburg is a typical middle class city in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley that has the added advantage of several large colleges within it's boundaries. As a result, the population draws a cultural distinction from two general repositories; those who are the local residents and those who are of or involved with the student or faculty body of the school systems present. The dichotomy is sharply distinct and the types of reactions and levels of awareness in being transgender are equally so as well as a result.

We decided to test the waters at a variety of demographic levels by taking up stores that ranged from J.C. Penny and Belks to the Good Will store down the street. In every store, I was treated with respect and dignity as a woman and with no qualms or question as to who I am. Dressing rooms or bathrooms were never a problem. I will admit that I may have had a bit of anxiety entering into one dressing room where it seemed a flurry of women were all in various states of dress and standing at the hallway mirror in various states of repose, but none questioned my presence and my own level of confidence was equally received in return.

Dinner that evening was at the local Red Lobster where the waitress seated us in a booth that was well visible to all of the other patrons. Not a single person, save for one, made enough visual observation to note any anomalous variances save for one. Interestingly, it was the wife of an elderly man who whispered into the ear of her husband something that led to his staring at me for most of the next 20 minutes or so with occasional giggling as was noted. Likely, his wife informed him that I was not natal female but... and this was the key take-away, he could not stop looking at me. It was never noted by my spouse to be a negative look but a constant one, almost as if in fascination and that he had to laugh off the dichotomy of something attractive but alien in his own mind. His wife could care less and never bothered to look again, and the young boy with them, likely a grandchild, had something muttered to him, to which he looked once and then that was big deal.

The waitress was so very nice to us. She continually came by to check on us but it was not for the novelty, we could both tell. She comped us our coffees for the evening and offered to make us a complimentary one to go. She brewed us a fresh pot and because they had run out of those little cardboard holders, manufactured one for us out of folded napkins and scotch tape. She thanked us for coming in and looked directly at me when she said, "I really want to thank you both for coming in to dine with us tonight". I thought her remark to be so interesting that it led me to suspect that either she knew someone who was transgender or that she respected the courage I had to to be who I am. Either way, she made it clear to us in a positive way that our presence was appreciated.

A couple of days later, we decided to dine out at one of Harrisonburg's best Italian Restaurants. The nice thing about dining in upscale restaurants in rural America is in the fact that the prices tend to mimic what one would pay at an average chain back in New England; a fact that made the expense that much easier to bear! It was a late evening dinner as we had just come back from a long hike in the Shenandoah Mountains. Arriving at the restaurant in the cool and enveloping dark of an early autumn eve, we entered the restaurant and were led to a table in the main dining area and were seated. Two businessmen sat across from us talking of their day's pursuits. One seemed interested in my presence with a look I have grown used to as most women likely do and must become accustomed to. His note of the diamond wedding ring casually flashed gave him sufficient note to return to his conversation and dinner. The rest of the restaurant seemed to be made up primarily of couples of a variety of ages and one single woman dining alone. Interestingly, it was the older women who seemed to be the ones who gave us the most scrutiny. They would tend to draw their gaze equally between my spouse and myself apparently bored by their non-talkative spouses as they slurped away at their food. I wondered what they were thinking... were they friends? co-workers? lesbians? A moment of thought and even they too, returned to their own interests at their table. Of anyone there in that restaurant, we were dressed the most elegantly and there was some level of perception made of that fact by the women as they scanned what we wore. Tasteful and appropriate would be the only descriptors which would come to mind in place of the many women who wore a more haphazard and non-matching array of vestments.

It was the waiter who began to engage us in conversation as the evening wore on that really provided for a wonderful experience. We began to talk and in our conversation, it became apparent when I began to ask about alternative clubs in the area that the topic of being transgender came up. I explained of the challenges both personally and at a societal level of being different in the world and it was then that he identified of his own variance and how difficult it was living in the area as such. He confirmed that on the one hand, how the college brought in outside thought and forward thinking to a staid town with an older generation that had no conception of the LGBT realm. He offered to take us to a local club when he got off work later that evening which I thought was such a wonderful and warm gesture of friendship. But... after a day hiking miles in the mountains, my spouse was tired and I could see it in her eyes as well. We vowed afterwards, to come back one day in the near future, and to try to take this offer up.

All in all, what I noticed is two fold and divided between the younger collegiate crowd and the older, native population. Among the older population, I was more transparent than anywhere else, primarily because many had likely not seen a person who was transgender and could not even imagine it... so I was off the radar. The younger crowd generally picked up faster but was incredibly supportive when they did find out. Mostly it was the women in the younger crowd while the men, of all generations, simply saw an attractive woman. I was told that evening, that being GLBT in the city was more highly tolerated than outside in some of the backwater towns where unwelcoming stories could be told. It helped to be as passable as possible here and although every area has it's own temperament, and it's own heartbeat, each has its own levels of understanding, perception and a whole different set of triggers which one must be aware of.

It was also of note that in the times that I spent in my "male" mode, that I was mammed or given odd visual gesticulations in a number of instances. At one gas station, I was approached by a male attendant, while seated in my car with the door open, and addressed as miss. In another instance, a woman saw me exiting a men's room at a convenience store and stopped to look at the door, at me and then at the door again. She paused long enough to take care that she entered the correct restroom. I thought it was a figment of my imagination until my spouse brought it to my attention separately and asked, "Did you see that woman who just passed by you?". We both had a good laugh on that one. Interestingly, it is becoming more the normative for me to note this peculiarity in my guy mode than in my girl mode. One year ago, this was not so and the only puzzlement opportunities arose, if any, when I presented as female. Now the tables have turned and I find that I have crossed an invisible line which I never knew I was standing on until I was on the other side.

For us both, it was a wonderful and affirming experience and I am looking forward to the next generation of individuals who will be inhabiting our planet for they seem to be the ones who bring with them, the notions of tolerance and acceptance, to a wider degree than has been known in years past.