Double L meet single L. 

Friendship means something different to everyone but the bigger question is what is that friendship based on.    Is it a long history like I have with Tim going all the way back to first grade or something more recent.  Work, school, hobbies, and activities all bring us together in one way or another and with Facebook it adds another dimension of connection. 

As many of you would remember I took a trip in the fall to visit a friend I had found through our works intranet site.  We had a blast visiting the beach and connecting on a personal level that the computer or phone just lacks.  This pushed me to make a mental list of the people I would truly love to meet and hang out with and I’ve been slowly picking away at my list.  One person really stood out on that list and it seemed impossible that I could ever meet her because of her work schedule and the fact that her apartment is completely on the other side of the country.    So let’s imagine my surprise when we were able to hash out travel plans for a concert two weeks out and everything dropping perfectly. 

So let’s talk about this friend for a bit.  She is humorous, interesting, intelligent, relatable, awesome…. and she has really great taste in music and that’s just the beginning.   She and I relate in so many ways from our children to our outlook at life that it’s almost scary.  This is why I wanted to meet her so badly and the weekend I had….   wow.  

So Alli had to fly in from her current job location in Florida to Pittsburg (of course a layover in NC to boot) to be in PA just over 25 hours.  I picked her up and gave her the super exciting tour of my town (you know that Taco Bell combined with KFC was quite interesting) and taking her to Easter bunny lane (yes, I was that goofy) after which we picked up Erin for an epic night of fun, singing and togetherness.  From singing “all by myself” in the car to our usual whit it was like we have all known each other for years.  

The biggest thing outside of the concert was for me to take Alli to Burgatory and of course the wait was well past when we had to be at the venue so we hit Jimmy Johns (I felt like I failed her and it was my idea).   So we proceed into the venue and proceed to enjoy two of my favorite bands under one roof and on to an unforgettable night.  Side note… if you have the chance to see Against Me and Green Day together….  DO IT!

As we awoke to a Sunday morning and I was ready to order us a breakfast strombolli it dawns on us that we had time to hit Burgatory before she had to fly out.   We traveled down and in her own words “sweet baby Jesus that’s a lot of food”.   She was in a Burgatory Coma until her NC layover I’ll presume. 

As we arrived at the airport and my weekend had come to a close I felt saddened that I had to drop her off so soon.  She was exactly how I thought she would be and more and I sure can’t wait until the next visit with her.   Alli…. you’re one in a million and don’t ever change that!  

“It’s something unpredictable but in the end is right…. I hope you had the time of your life.”   

Now…. if I could only figure out a way to get her a job site here.  

She was there. 

“It’s a phase”, “Think of your family”, “are you sure this is right”?   Questions ever reoccurring on a soundtrack set on repeat for everyone to hear.  The sounds of family trying to come to grips with a new reality that has been laid before them.  The thought that one day someone woke up and thought “Gee, this sounds like fun”.  There is a lot more to it and to best describe it I will use a 2 sided role of the mind.  The struggle in ones own head, well my own head at least.  

In elementary school we start our socialization.   The entire purpose in truth is to educate, but there is an underlying education of who we are to be.   “Be a man” or “Act like a lady” become staples of daily life as if being a Tom boy or feminine guy is not an option.  Buck the trends and you get your labels…. the Tom boys are “butch” or “jocks” while the boys are deamed “sissy” and “gay”.   A pre conceived ideal of the perfection we are chosen to be.   There is something more though… something deeper.  We don’t all deal with it but for the ones that do it becomes a fear that will haunt and tournent for the next 5 to 50 years.  For me this torment became years of viewing life through borrowed eyes.  

She was there in elementary school when  we learned that it’s not ok to be different.   We were born a certain way and it’s not ok to go against that.   We were separated into genders and I was told this is where I stand.   It doesn’t feel right but how could they be wrong.  I was different yet who would have believed me?   They could never understand could they?

She was there playing football.  The fact that she had to stay hidden drove me to be more then I was.   I had anger, hatred, and no sense of self.  The days of band I wasn’t one of the girls nor was I one of the guys.  I remember staying back and not dancing.  Wanting nothing more then to wear the dresses they dreaded to wear.  I remember being jelous of the girls in school with their Mary Janes, cute outfits and freedoms.    No one saw it… or saw her…  what else was I to do but hide. 

Graduation day.   The boys wore red and the girls wore white cloaks and hats.  It was only a color and they were identical in every other way yet here we were.  She was weeping as I doned the red veil that I was told to wear over my dress shirt, tie and dress shoes.   I longed for the ability to wear a dress and heels.  I longed to look how I felt.  I continued to hide… maybe I just needed to grow up an “be a man” like they taught us all those years ago. 

She was there when it came to the time of marriage.   Truthfully one of the most amazing, prolific, and happiest days in my life.   You would never this know by the pictures though as  I looked miserable or distant depending on the image.  That hidden girl was crying.  She wanted to wear a dress and she wanted to look even half as beautiful as the one she was marrying.   Strange to think back now and think about the fact that Cindy had no interest in wearing a dress and heels and that’s all I wanted.   

She was there when I thought having kids would make me a man.  To be daddy, father, parent.  To become half the man my father was.  This surely had to stop that feeling deep within.  My kids can never know what I’ve been through.   Has every boy gone through this?  Is this what the coming of age really is?  

She was there in 2010.   She sat quiet as I wanted to end this life.   She watched as I trembled.  As I tried.  As I failed.    I couldn’t believe after all those attempts that that I was still here… and so was she.  It was her turn, her time.   I needed to stop pretending that this was some split or disconnect and finally admit that she… was the real me.  This brought me to many feelings of failure as I realized that 29 years of my life had been an act.   I was playing a part to fit into the play of life.   

It’s been almost 7 years since that day.  7 years I’ve lived on time I tried to give away.   Depression, fear, angst all played a part in the reality that was him.  Now…
She is there for every play her kids are in, she never misses a game or horse event, she never hides in the shadows.   Social anxiety that goes down every week and the ability to press on when all seems like to much.  She is there for her friends, family, and holiday.  Every kiss, trip, hug, and drive has more meaning.    All this has relevance now when before it felt fake and manufactured.    We always fear tomorrow when it’s the same old thing and I enjoy the fact that I now embrace tomorrow.   It has a meaning and purpose.  She was there when he wasn’t.  

She will not be silenced anymore.   
 

Dear me….

I think today requires me to take you all on a journey.  A trip that started from a video my friend Erin posted a year ago to my Timeline.   I’ve found myself more than once pondering about what would life be if this or that.  I’ve wondered if transition the way I did it was right and I’ve pondered where I would be if I started 5…. 10….. even 15 years ago.  As much as I ponder this I’m always pulled back to the reality that I am who I am not just for what I’ve done, but everything that has ever affected my life.  From the loss of some friends to the gaining of others everyone had a roll to play.  Giving the due credit to where I’m at I decided today I’m going to write letters to the younger me.   Not just one letter, but many that address different points in my life.  

Dear 5 year old me:

I know you’re confused, conflicted, and stressed.  I know you don’t understand those thoughts in your head but believe me, one day everything will make sense.  Don’t give up on being you… even if you don’t know who the real you is yet.  Keep playing dress up and hope you don’t get caught….. again.

Dear 10 year old me:

Tomorrow is another day.  Sure you know that there is something that isn’t right but you have no idea how to describe it.  Playing football and releasing the stress will work for a bit but believe me the future holds something much bigger.  Just keep your eyes forward.  For Petes sake…. be nice to your sister….   you will thank me someday.  

Dear 15 year old me:

You have survived….  suicide is a constant feeling and depression is your only friend.  You have started to see Jerry springer and those girls on there….   you’re like them yet nothing like them.   You still don’t have a name for that fleeting feeling but trust me…   soon enough you will understand.   In a few more years you will start dating that girl you’ve admired since 7th grade and that girl is the one thing that will pull you through it all… even when you don’t want to.  One other thing…. be nice you your sister.   

Dear 20 year old me:

You will be married to that amazing girl and in less than a year your first beautiful daughter will be born.  Yes… I know you keep saying you don’t want kids but believe me, you most certainly do.  The internet will give you a truthful name for who you are and you will find an amazing girl to start you on your way.   Life isn’t going to be easy and you will have 2 more failed suicide attempts.   One day you will realize that those failures are a good thing.  One other thing….   be nice you your sister… she will always be your biggest fan and your greatest supporter.   

Dear 25 year old me:

Look how far you have come.  Married for 5 year and a father to your precious girl and you will have 2 more soon here… life should feel complete yet it doesn’t.   All that happiness seems for not.  You’re 2-3 years away from some of the most amazing years of your life but first you will need a wake up call.   It will come.  You will know when it’s time.  No matter what… don’t give up.   Soon you will be starting back to school, you will meet amazing friends, you will find strength and support.   You will find your voice but not before that one last wake up call.    You will be coming out soon and believe me it’s no where near as bad as you think it is.  When you find that voice, your sister will be your first call.   She will be there for you and  your family.  She will be the rock in all these troubled times.  

Dear 30 year old me:

Your journey is just beginning.   You’re looking back and having regrets.  You are now dreaming about what if I transitioned 5 or 10 years ago and believe me…. one day you will understand that it’s better this way.  As your starting this journey you’re fearing loss.  Loss of family, friends, spouse, kids….   you’re fearing that it will all be gone.  It will be a long road filled with many challenges but don’t look back.   One day it will all make sense.  

Dear 35 year old me:

I am now a bit under 3 months and I’ll be 36 so let’s talk about how far you have come.   Your name is done… gender is fixed… you have your degree…. made some amazing friends… but there is something so much more.  You have the love of your family.  Mom, Dad, Chrissy, Aaron, Gram, Cindy, and all your daughters.   They love you for you.  All of those fears you carried….   they haven’t come true…. but everything you have done has made you… you.  

Dear future me:

Be the real you.  Everyone deserves that including yourself.  The love will be there when your ready and the people who are important will be there for the journey.  Love everyone everyday and never forget… love wins!  No one will ever be left behind.  Don’t stop until every last person feels safe being themselves.  

Image credits to my friend Jess who made my amazing cover photo.  

The waterworks

I spent many years of my life hiding.  I sat  in high school and college classes letting my life pass me by knowing there was something deeper I needed to deal with.  I continued to hide and left that secrete with one person to carry with me.   One day in college I just came out to a group of strangers and I expected to be chastised, criticized, and outcast.   I threw myself in the fire after 29 years of my life knowing that if it didn’t work I could still fall back to my original plan.  Death…. it just seemed right when all felt wrong.  Well what I expected was in no way what I received.  I received love.  

From the start I was accepted, included, and supported.   I found some amazing friends and a new found love for my family.   I also found new meaning to my life as the mountainous climbs felt became more like a speed bump.  With this I felt different in some amazing ways.   I was no longer that mouthy country boy with the long hair in the back of the class.  I actually had an identity.  

After many years and many struggles I kept trying to get to a point where I could “finish” my transition (it’s never truly done) and be able to concentrate on other things.  This required a lot of steps and if it wasn’t for my amazing wife, I would still be stuck.   

We rented a house from my aunt and her parents lived right next door.   We always felt like we were watched.  Like some parent was keeping tabs on when we worked, slept, etc.  Everything felt like a production and I allowed this to hold me back for years until Cindy and I decided we were moving.     I found a house that I liked and being the socially inept (I despise being on a phone) and prepping for my 4th of July foreworks trip Cindy said she would call.   

She called and she did more then talk….   she negotiated and settled the deal on our home.  She is fully credited for the entire deal and when I came back from that weekend we were set on course to move on up.   After the move life became cosumed by home remodeling, kids, and everything else a parent and partner should be.   Life put my transition on hold and I didn’t mind so much anymore.  Things were feeling pretty good.  

Life was on course and after managing our lives Cindy and I finally came together to handle my name change.  I was excited to say the least and what followed was 6 months of stress, anxiety, worry, and fear.   Thoughts of if it was right (it was) and where it would lead.  Through it all and through all this Cindy held me and consoled me.   She even posted both of my notification submissions one due to my anxiety and one because I was out of town.  The only time she couldn’t be by my side was. The day of the hearing but she was still my first call when it was done.   She has gone through hell with me and how she has managed to not kill me…. I have no idea… but here she stands.  

As of January 24th, 2017 my name has been legally changed and many of you have seen this posted on my page.   I’ve followed every emotion from fear to joy but as all the dust settled and I begins the process of changing every document ever attached to me I find a calming feeling.   The stress has withered away and I no longer feel like I’m acting.   I feel complete but now I always feel fearful. 

This entire journey has taken its toll and even with the hugs, high 5’s and cheers I need to take stock.   I realized that through this entire journey my biggest supporter was the person who took the hardest part of journey. She was the one who took the brunt of rough times and she took blame when it was mostly my fault.  More than anything she gave herself and everything she had to support me in this journey.   Now the question is….  is it to late?   Did I take to much and give to little?

Funny… for so long I said one can not pour from an empty cup.   I became a bit selfish and a bit consumed in this journey yet she is still there.   She poured from an empty cup for more years then I could have ever imagined.   She is sure someone special and if there is one piece of advice I will give anyone…  Don’t lose grip of those who love you while chasing that dream.   Don’t lose the ones you love.  We are family and in the end, family is what we all have.  

I love you Cindy!!!   Thank you for everything!!! Now it’s my turn to treat you as you should have been treated all the while.  

More then just a label

Labels can hold many distinctions in our societal circles.  They hold stigmas and sterotypes both good and bad, some are able to easily own up to their labels while others are repressed by them.   Now in this I can highlight some of the easy to spot labels but others are a bit deeper and easier to dismiss.  I will hit them all and while it may seem trite to some they can make a major difference in the society we live in and I’m going to start right off with the most confusing of them all… Normal.

Yesterday I did something I like to regularly do as a thought experiment.   There was no right or wrong answer.  Just a couple simple questions without me guiding the conversation.  “What is normal?  Along that line, what labels have been used to describe you.  In this questioning I notice a trend that made me smile and that is the reality that normal isn’t some stone set way of living.   Normal is imaginary.  It’s some made up in the idea that we all have to be some cookie cutter mold of the other.   We see this in TV adds, magazines, and movies where we must be this thin, this tall or this type of person to be “normal”in our society.  Thankfully in my friends list and hopefully more outreaching outside of them are finding this as more common.  Normal is more a setting on a dryer then a descriptor of a person.  

This leads to labels.   Sure we have all seen the common ones, but when the labels are used not as a descriptor but as an insult it tends to get overwhelming very quickly.   And even more so when you add in other micro aggressions like missed pronouns, dead names or complete denial of the other.   Pretending a situation doesn’t exists doesn’t make it disappear but sadly this all to well what happens.    Labels used to discredit, belittle, or degrade someone all in the search for some power of the other.   We have seen this not only in recent times with happenings around our local area of Western PA but also coming on a national level.   

This is why I’ve become a part of an amazing group here.   A start up group that has grown very fast in the Mercer county area.  This all stemmed from the growing realization that many in the LGBT community felt alone.  Like no one was around for them.  As this group has grown we have made many strides all in building an amazing group for everyone.   We have started discussing  some ideas and key phrases to build on and one many of us liked is what became the title to this post “More than just a label”.   
I am a spouse, parent, daughter, mechanic, employee, college graduate, friend, writer, advocate, and so much more.   Sure I happen to be transgender but in the context of life that is the smallest part of me.   Being transgender hasn’t limited my life, it has explained it in more ways then I could ever imagine.  
Now tell your story.   Tell everyone who you are.   Tell the world you are more than just one thing.   You are more than just a label.    

Image care of my good friend Dave S.   Someone who I meet for one small reason, yet have grown so much more from having him in my life.  

Ending 2016

2016 was sure a year of ups and downs for many of us.   From having a transgender gir on the cover of National Geographic, to the deaths of so many 80’s icons.  The more shocking for me is celebrating 16 years of marriage against all odds.   We have also had some downs….   some friends who went through hard times and some who aren’t able to celebrate with their families at all.  
 

2016 brough our first full year in our new house, amazing birthdays, and holidays.  It brought joy, happiness, and progress.   Now more than ever I love to look for tomorrow.    I’m looking at the positive side most of the time (minus the occasional slips).  I’ve watched (and helped for a time) the Mercer county LGBT group build up and grow into an amazing group dedicated to helping those in our area.   

I’ve also seen loss.   Others like me who have been murdered or even worse… lost their life to their own hand.  All dealing with the struggles that we live with.    As I watch the usual tv ball drop party I give pause to those who can celebrate and more so the ones who can’t or don’t want to.   

Here’s to 2017 and I hope that next year continues the trend.   I hope for more positives and I hope for more success for all of us.   Most of all… we survived!  Go into the new year with your head held high and above all be yourself!    Don’t lose yourself in the passing time. 

Goodbye 2016….   HAPPY NEW YEAR 2017!!!!   

All of yesterday’s promises.  

I like to write about life.  Sometimes this life can be boring…. but it still exists and as we near the next holiday season it brings me pause to this year end.   This year has been full of ups and downs, fights and happiness but the one thing we seem to have forgot is the yesterdays. Promises that seem unfulfilled or feelings expressed.  See we all have to battle the chaos of life but sometimes life adds that little extra kick.   One more kick in the pants.  

Everyday I live with the hope and promise of tomorrow.  No regrets and nothing left on the table yet I continually have a tinge that somthing is missing somewhere.  I question what it is and I move on.  I always question and rarely find the answer I don’t really know the actual question. I think I lays in society and the determination of who “belongs”.  What label are we to carry and  how is it to affect us?

One that I see frequently tossed is “mentally ill”.  Fromparents of transgender children to those of us who had to wait until later in life to be freed we are accosted with the label of being ill.   Now I’ve mostly been able to ignore the more vulgar people in our society by having great people in my life.  That shielding doesn’t make the issue any less of a problem.  

The problem as I see ur is those who are more apt to call out such speech when they don’t have an education on the subject nor the interest to learn.   It’s just easier to hate what you don’t know I guess.  More over I find myself concerned about a society that creates a mood where people would rather die then be free.   Makes me wonder all the more how many people like me have died without making a sound.   

With all of this how do any one of us survive?  How can some of us thrive and some of us get buried?   To me, it’s the company we keep and our ability to be free.   So for me… society has been quite kind but I can’t forget my sisters who aren’t so lucky.  From those who can’t find employment to that mom who is being accosted for her child being transgender… we all need to wake up.  

We all need to wake up.  We need to look at our society and find a solution that involves less suicide and more love.  It is time to realize that words can hurt and unlike cuts we can see, the hidden cuts are deeper and harder to patch.   Maybe it’s true for ones to say “the pen is mightier then the sword.” especially when that pen is used in malice.   

Love each other, learn about each other, and help each other.  We can’t continue life with everyone being separate or holding a side.   It’s time we come together and love each other but if no one wants to stand together then surely we will all stand in solitude.  

“We are all born ignorant, but one must work hard to remain stupid.” ~ Benjamin Franklin