Meaning of friendship

Each friendship in our lives can mean something much different and with the advent of social media we tend to expand our horizons.   Now personally I am friends with many people on social media.  Some famous (or almost famous) and others being everyday people. I know people from Canada, Australia, Germany, and the U.K. just to name a few.   Will I meet most or even some of them… I hope one day but in the greater context of life I know many will stay online as that’s how life goes.   Rarely do we make friends that become close enough to us over such a distance but when it does happen… we can feel lost as we wish they were closer.  A wish to hug that person who became so important in our lives.  

This leads me to last weekend and one of the best weekend trips a girl could take.  For the past year and a half I have become very close to my friend CJ.  She is someone I confided in and someone who is always there on the good days and bad.  She is one of the few girls I strived to meet and I hoped that one day I could.   Well thanks to my close friend Keira that happened.  Keira lives locally and has become one amazing friend in a very short period of time.   Like CJ she has become an integral part of my life and I introduced them to each other… obviously online.   Those two have also become friends and it seemed that we all needed to meet one day and that one day finally came last weekend.  Friday I came home from work, handled the homely duties I had to do and was able to spend a small amount of time with Cindy for our 16th anniversary.   After that we jumped into Keira’s Ranger and headed off into the great unknown traveling 9-10 hours to Virginia from western PA to meet someone who has been one of the most amazing friends.  Two girls riding off into the darkness heading to uncertainty while one of them tried to stay awake past 10:00 (that would be me).   We rolled into CJ’s around 2:00 am and for the first time I was able to hug one of my best friends after riding down with another.   

After arriving we settled in for a short round of sleep followed by an amazing day filled with visiting that didn’t involve Facebook… followed by a day on the beach.  Lucky to catch a 75 degree day in mid November.  It was peaceful that the only time I had to use my phone was for my kids and pictures.  We could actually converse.   It was nice to walk along the beach and see the vast expanse of the ocean and to realize the world is so much bigger then we realize.   Walking along the beach and later down the boardwalk we basked in the sun and I for one was able to lose myself in the moment.    Keira, CJ, Steph, and I out on the town lobingbthe day… followed by some amazing Jumbalia…

As we roll through life we play it safe.   We hope for acceptance, worry for safety, fear the old friendships, and question what tomorrow will bring.  We spend years coming out and many more trying to keep friends or making new ones.  We worry about the future of ourselves and the semblance our lives can have.  In all this worry we lose site of the small things that  are in our lives.   Online friends who help you cope or the local friends you love to spend time with.  

Life isn’t all about the mundane and we need to keep site on who we are and why we are alive.    We must work to live not live to work.   Sure we may love our jobs but we all need an escape.  We must live for the good times.   From the road trip to the visit I felt alive.   Feeling the warm air kiss my skin and the cold water touching my toes.  Life became so much more then a passing glance…. I glanced at what was passing me by.  Don’t lose site like I did… thankfully I had some amazing friends pointing me back on my course due north and now thinking of my next adventure… where I go I don’t know, but I know who to thank for living again.   For brightening the candle flame.  
Another friend once quoted:

“I keep waiting in the dark for someone to come and save me, I’ve been holding on to something I could never change, We all search for higher ground, When the world comes crashing down, But I know, Nobody will come into the dark and save me”

~Crown the Empire, Initiation~
I can only say…. when we bring all our candle lights together we become a bright beacon.   We must shine our light for everyone so no mater how dark it is where they stand…. they will see the light of us all.  

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All Hallows’ night

Halloween…. a time to live and revel in imagination and creativity.   A day that you are not limited by who you are or how you look.  Costumes to masquerade in for fun and looks.  Funny how it seems like life has reverted for me in this regard.   For 34 years my costume was worn everyday and on this one day I was free to be me.   Now it seems those tables have turned.  

Now I live everyday without a costume.  I’m real and open with the inability to hide behind the mask I wore. For the last 2 years I’ve been exposed and to be honest if feels amazing!!!   No more acting, no more hiding, no more lies.   Now when I dress up for Halloween it’s for something totally different.  It’s for the party I’m invited to.  It’s for the friends I’m surrounded by.  I am finally living the life I dreamed of that 1 day a year.   

It’s amazing how life can change.   A few years ago I was visiting universities.  I went to a local campus and was open and forthcoming about being a transgender female.  It was early in transition and though I was greeted with love and acceptance I was shy.   I was very quiet, reserved, and kept to myself.    That day I realized there was life out there and I wanted to live it.    It took a long time, but I returned there not as a student, but as part of an education panel.  

Great kids, great questions and an amazing time but something hit me more than any other point that day.   One of the original professors I was greeted with so many years ago spoke to me after.   Here she had me in her thoughts even after all these years.   She remembered that shy person back then and was amazed at the girl who stood before her that day.  Confidence that wasn’t present those years ago.  

My how life can change.   Confidence, commitment, and freedom all hinged off a small dream lived once a year.   So on this day as we celebrate the ability to be anything, some people may be celebrating their freedom for a day.  Yes, it’s more than just a silly holiday to some when others are hoping for that forever moment.  All Hallows’…. the dream that became a reality that started me on a journey to become the best version of me I could have ever been.   The real version of me.    No more masks, regret, or pain just a beautiful reality.  

Broken families

I’m very much someone who likes to stay humble.   I don’t talk more than to a few people about what I do in the larger context of the community.  I’m hitting on this not for praise or thanks because truly…. I don’t want nor do I deserve it. To be honest what I type today my own parents don’t know in detail.   Today however something changed, something happened that bothered me immensely and it is high time I put some of this out here for everyone.  For those who wonder about true love, true acceptance, and actually caring for someone outside the small circle you call friends.   

Have you ever read into someone’s life?   Have you cared about their pain even if you have never seen them in the flesh?  Do you have the empathy to love someone not because you have to but because you want to?   Unconditional love with no strings.   I know this whole heartedly.   I know and remember which friends have anxiety, depression, Dysphoria, or even just past pains they have struggled with.   I’ve gone way back to see that girl who talked nothing but darkness and I have seen the cuts in her arm and it gave me pain.   I felt her pain.    

Let me tell you a typical day.   I wake up at 5:00 ish most everyday and it starts with what inspirational quote or meme would I like to post.   What can I put out there that may help someone who is down.  That is my first though everyday.   Before work I message some of the girls I’m  close too.   It’s always to say good morning to them.   Maybe I know they’re waking up alone or maybe I now they have had a bad couple days.    It doesn’t matter why I do it… I just do.    I love them because I want to…. not because I have to.    My lunch is filled with catching up with my wife and catching up on messages from the day.   After work I am either talking to someone or I’m helping to moderate one of the few groups I help with all while keeping my social life intact.    I do this because I WANT to.   

I care about that girl I visited because she is amazing.   I care about her for all that she is.   I care about her for her.   I care about the girl I stopped to try and talk to but couldn’t.   I worried about her for 32 hours hoping she was ok….  a girl I’ve never seen.   Why you may ask… because I wanted her to know people care.  I wanted her to be safe and to feel loved….  no one in my life deserves to feel alone. 

Now that you all know what I never talk about…   let me tell you a story I specificily asked  to tell.   Let me give you a glimpse into what some girls deal with. A story that plays out much more often then we would like to admit and something I myself have not had to handle… yet still feel her pain.  I was raised to learn that a parents love is unconditional and I’ve lived in a false reality that that is actually true across the board.   Let’s let reality hit us for a second and realize that many girls like me lose family.  

Imagine a moment when you have to tell your family you’re different.   You’re transgender and you have to come out to your family, a family that has loved you no matter what for 20, 30 or 40+ years.   Now let imagine that you told your mom and she is super supportive, you tell your brother and he comes back with anger, then you tell your dad.   He needs “time to think” and after a few weeks that father who most would think would still love their child.  He can’t even respond again.  You don’t get a call or text but instead you get a message sent trough your mom that your father just can’t handle it.   He said he’s “just not that liberal”.  He can’t handle loving his child anymore.   

How can any parent not love their child?!   How can you honestly no longer talk to or associate with your child because they are transgender?!   How can a parent place religion or politics.   How can you turn love off?   How is it possible to not feel pain telling your child you no longer want them in your life?   I am a parent to three amazing daugters and love them for who they are, how they are and without condition.  I can’t fathom that a parent can abaondon their child but I will say if you are one of those people….   I’m sorry for you.  Shame on you. Shame on you for not being there when they need you. Shame on you for tossing away the daughter you never knew.  Shame on you for not having unconditional love for your child.  Shame on you.

I can promise one thing though.   I promise you that for every parent who does this there is someone willing to be there.    There are many girls like me out there who want nothing more than to give a hug and say it will all be ok.   We will be the family that truly loves your child unconditionally.   We will step up and be the person you aren’t big enough to be.   We will be their family, their support, and their structure of family.   

This is the last time I will talk about this so take note.    This love for others isn’t some cry for applause.   This is to open your mind and for you to realize that love doesn’t have to come with a fee.  No one should be required to be anything other than who they are for it and no one should make another be who they aren’t. Love your child, love your friends, be their support.  Don’t do it for a thank you nor for praise…. do it because you care.   Be selfless.   

Image via google images. 

Hello pain, my only friend. 

Many times I write and touch on the beauty of my life.   I speak of all the positives as if that’s all I have known and you know what…. my life has been pretty good.   There is something deeper though.   There is pain I have hidden and their names are Anxiety and depression.  I repressed the pain and memories to try and heal but it was later that I realized I had to feel it.   I had to know my pain… feel it, fight it, and control it.   Before that time I hid from it and worked till it hurt all to deny the truth.   Working to avoid the inevitable.  Well the inevitable happened and it’s time we talk about the how, why, and what came from it.  

Fake it till you make it became my life.  Fighting to be the man I wasn’t all while dying.   I was drowning in my own body.  Depression had me where I couldn’t breath yet everyone thought I was fine.  Anxiety strong enough to lock me down.  I couldn’t function in the context of life.  Smoking 2-3 packs a day while struggling through life yet I needed to be free of the chains that bound me.  All those fake smiles couldn’t save me and I broke.   I snapped in a way that I never conceived.  

Suicide…   4 attempts to be precise.  I shouldn’t be here yet I am.   I survive cutting my wrists, I failed with a gun, I couldn’t seem to even wreck my car right.     I was a failure in everything… even at suicide.  After that 4th attempt something changed.  I told myself that I’m not gonna die before I even try so I started climbing.  The start of my whole battle was climbing out of the grave I was buried in.   I was trying so hard to kill myself when in truth I was already dead.   

I climbed past the tombstone I had long since buried my emotions under.  I grabbed at the roots as I pulled myself to the edge.   As I reached the top I felt for the first time something different, something magical.  I felt the rain.  I felt something other than crushing pain.   I seen light, smelled flowers, and appreciated life for the first time.   I still felt the anxiety and the depression was still there but I felt more.   I felt a calm in myself but I was only at the first ledge.  

When I started hormones I was still climbing.  Climbing up higher and higher clinging to anything I could find to give me hope.  One day a mental fantasy, music, guns, cars, just anything.   I got good at it too.   Helping on a shot show with my friend Gary (yup, my ass is still on YouTube), creating beautiful cars, remodeling my house all became facts of life and I was good at all of it.  

I became socially open about 18 months ago now.   I transitioned at work, finally changed Facebook, and finally faced what I buried so many years ago.   The anxiety was insane….   I changed my FB name and I waited for the messages to come.   I awaited the verbal puke I expected to receive.   I was a freak and now everyone knows.   I wanted to hide in my house and pretend it was all a big dream.   What had I done?!   My kids, Cindy, my family are all in this and they can’t hide anymore either.  

Depression rolled in like the black fog it was.   18 months ago I felt an urge I never felt… to cut.   After all these years of telling others it wasn’t worth doing… I wanted to.   I wanted to feel something…  anything. I just needed to feel.   Now I will say I didn’t cut that day, but since then I’ve had the idea for a tattoo floating in my head.   I never could figure out why after 33 years I started wanting something I never even dreamed of.  Seriously… getting my ears pierced was an act of rebellion against my dad at the Age of 23!   

So why did the idea of putting something on my skin hit me?   Maybe it was the permanence.   Maybe it is beacause I wanted to mark that milestone in my life or maybe it was a longing to go back and feel the pain I wanted.    18 months later I’m a different person.  I’m not self destructive nor am I depressed to often.   My anxiety (though still in existence) is reduced out of need more than will.  I find myself drawn to helping others instead of myself.   

I find myself caring selflessly for other people.   People whom I can relate with.   I bleed for them when I see the memories from my past with them.   I can feel their pain and long to be a person they can turn to.  I want them to see what I see.  But more than anything I just want to be there.   Be there when they need a friend because years ago I had a girl who did just that for me.   Her name is Jess and she is everything I strive to be in a friend.   She was loving, caring, open, compassionate, and there.  

Jess had faith in me when I didn’t.   She was there to help me when I fell, she was there when I was having anxiety attacks or in the deepest bowles of my depression.   She was there and I knew then and even more so now that that is all she wanted.   She was that friend that loved me when I didn’t love myself.    It’s because of her that I am the way I am.   I strive to be that girl to others.    No one deserves to be alone and I will do all I can to make damn sure everyone around me knows they aren’t.   

Funny how only today did she help me understand the meaning and possible link between tattoos and pain.  When her and I talked about it today and she said “Tattoos are cathartic. They remind us of the pain. The reminder is something beautiful.”   She is a genius somedays.   

We all deserve to have a Jess in our lives.  I’m lucky that I may now be able to see how many people in my life are truly special…. but Jess is the one who made me see it.   She made me see that I was more than just that Trans prefix.   She showed to me that I was beautiful on the inside and when you’re beautiful on the inside…. you’re just beautiful.  

Be selfless, be beautiful… be someone’s Jess.  The world needs more people like her because if she never seen the beauty in me… I would have never found it.  Had I never found it, well….. let’s just be happy I did.  

Image credit to The Lorax by Dr. Suess

  

“What verse will you be?”  

       “We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for. To quote from Whitman, ‘O me! O life!… of the questions of these recurring; of the endless trains of the faithless–of cities filled with the foolish; what good amid these, O me, O life?’ Answer. That you are here–that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. That the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?”

~Tom Schulman (Dead Poets Society)

We all have our jobs, aspirations and needs.   Aspirations to live a better life, a better job for more funds, and needs to care for ourselves.   These persisted are not selfish when they are needed in the sustainability of life yet they can not become your life.    We can not be consumed by jobs lest we forget what life truly is for.   Some days I wonder what my verse will be or if I have already written it without notice.  Do I serve a purpose or purposely serve?  What will my verse be?
Was the best measure of myself before I ever started my journey or did I become such because of it?  Who does it matter to and why would it.  Do we do good for gratification, or because it’s the right thing to do.  To many questions in the vast systematic time loss we suffer everyday.   My life and my story are my own.   I share it because I hope it helps others.   I do outreach because it means something.  I do speaking engagements because others fear the thing we call society.  

I speak of my suicide attempts, depression, and struggles not because I enjoy it but in hopes of helping someone out there.  Funny how as I write it with all that hope that it could just fall into nothingness.   Another girls story just washed away.   There is a reason I bring this all up… 

Some may have noticed a large break in the last few months.   Well there is a lot behind that break.   I’ve been chastised, verbally accosted, and belittled for being to pretty, happy and well adjusted.  I’ve been told I’m “not trans enough”.  Was informed that I don’t know struggle because I look good (I don’t, but I digress).  Made to feel that my story didn’t matter.  I wasn’t worthy in the eyes of another.  I thought I did something wrong. 

I found out that I’m not alone in this.   Numerous friends have reported similar stories.   From all walks of life, many girls like me are chastised and made to feel as if our stories don’t matter.  Their help is invalidated because they are pretty or attractive.  I’ve yet to figure this part out, but I will say that it’s been trying.  
The worst part of this entire statement is that the ones criticize my friends and I are not who you would think.   They are other transgender females.   Pretty sad when some fee the need to criticize those who have come before them to lay a path for better acceptance but I can promise that no matter how bad it hurts… we are going to carry on.  The ones who have been there for you will continue to help you wether you want it or not.  We always will be.  Because we care, we love, and the thought of helping just one person will continue to drive us.   And for every 2 that hate us, there are 20 who love us.  

I may never realized what my verse will be, but I can promise that it will never be “I gave up”.    

All is fair in horses and bunnies. 

Camping, animals, and the pride of showing ones skills with them, along with the stressful realization that kids are a joy even when they are crazy.  Moving from that 2100 sq ft home into a 26′ travel trailer for a week tends to up the stress levels to epic proportions all in the hopes that tomorrow brings the next blue ribbon.  Awards to show success in the great big world of show and sporting animals.  

Like life, we strive for the win.  That big blue ribbon to prove our abilities.  From the starting line through the twist and turns of the polls and barrels, we weave our way through life trying to find the finish line learning love and compassion along the way.   No one ever knew how much a horse would actually mean to them.   

Then there are the bunnies, soft and fuzzy with nothing but love and cuddles… Along with a few scratches.   We learn to love and bond with those fuzzy little things.   Thousands of kids and adults parading past trying to get a glimpse of the inevitable beauty. 

Beauty that we all find in different facets of our lives.  From appreciating the camping here or the friendships made with other parents.  Late night cookouts and bonfire fun lead us into something more than friendship and into a family.   I’ve grown close to the parents and their kids all while watching them grow.  The 4-H maybe low priority to some, but if you see the amazing people produced from it, you will see why it is so much more than just an animal or just a show.  

As we come to the inevitable close of the 2016 fair week and I can look forward to sleeping in my own home and bed I will look back at this week.   Watching the kids open for an amazing group called the Steel Town Gunslingers (and being ask to do it again).  The days of having 6-7 kids camping in one trailer.  The kids making new friends.  The times shared and planning for the next show and the next year.  

Sure, some days we will fall off, sometimes we are just short of that ribbon yet we carry on into the next compition learning from our mistakes and taking note of what to fix.   Never giving up on the final goals.   

Seems a lot like life in that grand scheme.  Sometimes we hit the blue ribbon and sometimes the red second.   Other times you walk away with the learning experiences that came with it.   So as we wind down and the girls are celebrating and partying at the 4-H dance I can sit here and reflect on what I learned…

It’s not about that final goal or how the end comes.  It’s not about ribbons or glory.  It’s not about watching life pass by or defining who you are.   Life is about living, memories, and the people who make it worth while.   Kids riding rides and families coming together.  Life isn’t about being transgender or being the best at something.   It’s all about living.   

Dream as if you’ll live forever.  Live like you’ll die tomorrow. ~ James Dean

Pride and being proud.  

Here we are with many celebrating pride in cities around the country.   Pride in being who we are from lesbian and gay people to transgender males and females along with a healthy mix of ally’s and supporters.  Large gatherings celebrating something as basic as who we are.  So as this goes on you see the memes asking about “straight pride” and see some asking where their party is…  Yours is everyday.  Everyday you can stand with pride in who you are while some of us live in fear of hate and death.  

First I’ll address something that happened recently.  I have a friend who’s car was vandalized with some pretty nasty slurs about her trans status.  Most of us would be mad, irritated, ready for revenge, but not Alyssa.  While most of this world is all about revenge, fighting, and hate she showed a whole lot of love.   She painted her car pink to show that hate won’t win and proved she wouldn’t hide.   She isn’t afraid of them nor is she willing to hide herself for the sake of others.   She showed the definition of pride.   Pride in herself and pride for who she is.  

Kage is a man whom I meet recently.  He and I were on a panel together and became friends pretty quickly.  He is an actor, groomer, and  husband.  He is also an advocate for trans rights.   He heads a local support group and is always available for help.   He will spend hours answering questions and still finds time to educate others.    He shows pride in who he is everyday. 

I’m going to talk about my friend Alli.   She is a former rugby player and current construction forman.   She is outspoken online and very much the girl to have when you need a friend.   She is always available for others and stands proud when walking onto a site.   She shows her pride in who she is everyday.  

Lastly I’ll talk about my friend Gabby.  This girl has grown exponentially this past year.   She is learning that outside beauty is based on what’s inside.  She is showing a strength that few possess and finding a world outside depression.   Gabby has become someone who will change the world.   I can see her going far and doing amazing things.  Know that I’m proud to call her a friend.  

So this month as we talk about pride I want you to remember that pride isn’t imaginary.   Pride isn’t something that the LGBT community just started for the sake of a party.   We are proud.   We are proud to go against what is considered the status quo and we are proud to stand firm in who we are.   
We have pride to overcome hate and intolerance.   We walk in our lives everyday with a smile on our face even when it hurts all to kill the perceptions of who we really are.  From work to home we are just a small handful of people trying to make a difference.   We won’t bow to anyone nor will we hate. We will always be proud and we will always balance your hate with love. 

Pride is Alyssa, Kage, Alli, and Gabby.   Pride is when I’m confronted with a man saying how many dies for their cause of equality and asking if I would do that same and without missing a beat I redponded “If it makes the world a better place for everyone, I would in a heartbeat.” Pride is being free of who we once were.   We  will live and we will be that difference that this world needs.   We will stand with pride and no matter how much it hurts, we will stand with love.   Love, even to those who hate us.