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.  

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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.  

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. 

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

How I do trans

I recieved a message a little while back from someone I have talked to and she said something that made me think for a minute.   She said…. “Dearest Ali… I have been thinking pretty hard about how u, do trans…. I like it. I like it a lot. You managed to blend who you are, with who you used to be.. Im watching you girl. Real hard. 💋 \m/” This was recieved from a FB friend who has been dealing with many of the same situations a lot of us deal with in regards to finding our true selves.   How to find ourselves is a whole other set of issues because we all have our journeys, but how we travel the road is what matters.  

How I “do trans” is much different than others.  Not one is right and it’s all about your personal situation and needs to find your due course north.   I have children and value the fact that I fathered them and that will not change for any reason.   I pride myself on raising my children to be honest, respectful, and polite.  They also know that when things need discussed, the door is always open.  This is parenting, trans or not.  

I “do trans” by not hiding who I was.   I do outreach and support.  I live an open life where people know my history from my kids friends to my new friends and everyone in between.   I wear my heart on my sleeve and hold my transition as a testament to finally living.   I didn’t come this far and survive 4 attempts just to disappear.  I’m here as I am, like me or not.  

I’ll continue to love my motorcycle and cars.  I’ll still be running the back hoe and helping with Jessica’s horse.  I’ll still be screaming at Macks hockey games.   I’m not changing what I love, just who I was.   My personality hasn’t changed, only my body has to match who I really was.  

I “do trans” the same way I do the rest of my life.  Brutally honest to a fault and flying by the seat of my pants.   I’m spontaneous yet indecisive, I’m an introvert with an extroverted side yet the most important detail is I am me.   I am a face for transgender people in my area who have no one and a voice for those who can’t cry out.  I also care, but just about my family and friends, but for everyone.   I care if people around me understand who I am and I want to be that friendly face that helps release the stigma transgender women have.

I am not a “man in a dress” or some pedophilic criminal.   I’m a college graduate with a. 3.75 GPA in Psychology, I’m a parent to 3 amazing children, and  I’m a person.    I am a female that just took a few more years to mature and no matter what hate any internet badass might want to spew, I will continue to live.  I’m not going to lay down nor am I going to go quietly into that good night.   I will be here for everyone who cares about me, and to everyone out there who wants to hate me for it…  I’ll be here just to piss you off because I will continue to live on and not yield to anyone.   I will not live a life of misery for anyone.  

That my friends is how I do trans. 

What does life mean?

This past week I have had to deal with the worst feelings I have had in a long time.  We had to bury an amazing man who has been in our lives for over 10 years and made my wife’s side of the family more whole.   I couldn’t hold the tears, nor could I hold the emotions I was feeling at the time.  We as a whole were better off having him in our lives.  Cindy, the girls and I are devistated.   As I overcame my extreme anxiety if caskets I paid my respects as best I could and sadly had to retreat to a corner of the funeral home… Piano music playing from speakers that just encouraged the emotions to come forth.   I sat there for hours in disbelief and denial not wanting to believe it was him.   

The funeral was the hardest part.  They spoke about his life and legacy.  All he had in his life from work friends to family.  His accomplishments, demeanor, cook out food, drones and fireworks.   There are so many things that will never be the same.   It’s a pain that will manifest many times over the next few years all because of a heart attack.   One foul swoop and he was taken from us.  

This has helped to put life in perspective for me.   Who we touch with our hearts, minds, and souls.   Every day we go through life with an idea of what we are doing tomorrow, next week, or even next year but what if tomorrow never comes?  What will your legacy be?  

One thing that keeps falling back into my mind as the days go past and we have to find that new reality without someone special in it.   What if I succeeded in my attempts at taking my life?   What if, instead of me sitting here grieving the loss of someone truly amazing but instead laying in the same place 5 years prior?  Why am I even here?   It just doesn’t seem right but that is the reality of the situation.   

He loved life!   He lived it to the fullest everyday and I hope that I can do the same.   I can not allow myself to continue without keeping that with me.   To be that amazing person in others lives.   Life is precious and way to damn short.   We will never know when we must leave this place behind but when we do, we must leave a legacy.   

When I wanted to die my legacy would have had more questions than answers.   Friends would have been devistated, a spouse and children destroyed.    Sure, life will continue on but is it worth stopping before it’s truly over?   Just as he did we must live our lives to the fullest everyday and work to achieve what we want.    

“Life is to short to not be happy” is what my mom says.   He said “don’t ever settle for less than what you want.”    I’m here today to tell you this:

Don’t ever take for granted the people in your life.  Don’t forget to tell them you love them.  Don’t forget to be there.  Don’t forget…. Them!   Live your life to your best potential and hold those you love near.   There is a lot more to life than the issues you face.   Leave a legacy that others will cherish.   

Fire in the hole Dale… Fire in the hole
Photo credit to wikimedia

What does your job mean to you?

I sit here tonight after spending a few weeks working in other Lowes stores in my area doing a reset.  I worked with numerous people from each store and the ability for me to just be a part of the team is amazing.   This brings me to some amazing thoughts that have run through my head recently.   Acceptance can sometimes come with a cost and in the workplace it can be the difference between a good day, and a miserable one.  

Every day I wake up and go into work to a job I enjoy, as the person I should be without fears of rejection but Lowes has done more than give me a good job.  I have become a much better a person from the relationships and friendships I have there.  Everyone I see on a daily basis feels as a part of my family, and not just another coworker.   I can smile, even on the worst days knowing that i can go to a place where I like every single person inside those 4 walls.  

This has been my experience everywhere in the past 5-6 years.  From my time at BC3 and Lowes, nothing but full acceptance has been given to me.    So where is my moral in this story…  Let me tell you that what I have did not easy.   I have spent years cultivating relationships and doing all I could to help others be comfortable with who I am.    I took care to the concern of other friends and I gave time to those that needed it.    

Now that I have talked up how amazing my company has been let me hit the reality of life.  This is an exception and not the rule.  I have friends who have lost their jobs and are unable to find employment to support themselves or their family’s.    I have friends who have been shunned by family and friends.  Sure, I may know a few like me who have great friends and a good job but the vast majority don’t.   

I’ve yet to figure out why I have been so lucky in my transition but I do feel the need to tell others about the great things in the other side.  So many transgender people go through their lives fearing rejection and judgement.  The look at others in society and wonder where the next physical or verbal attack.  There is an answer to this and I learned it at Lowes.

Immersion in things you fear or don’t know.  Being uncomfortable around someone different then you is common, but the rea education is immersing yourself in the diversity.   Everyone should have. A friend from every demographic in their list of friends.  In the same regard, being a transgender person on that side of the friendship be transparent.   Be willing to answer the questions they have.  Be understanding that they don’t know and your responses are what will educate.  

Be real, be open, and be happy.  The ones who love and support you will always have your back.  When you transition, everyone transitions with you.  I was lucky enough to have amazing people from family to Lowes to support the last 5 years of my life.  Here’s to many more.