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.  

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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

Identity and why it matters.  

Behold… The age of the Internet, social media and all the wonderful comments that come with it.  Everyday I’m bombarded by digital spitballs of wonderful “opinions” in the comments sections from articles all the way down to pages that you would think are friendly.   From the memes to condescending judgements about my living situation (or others like me).   Then some pastors with their recent ploy to call on men to prove their faith by shooting transgender women in the bathroom.   With all the hoopla… I figured I would touch on something that has become some sort of smart ass rebuttal to people like me.  

To identify:
Full Definition of identity

plural identities

1

a : sameness of essential or generic character in different instances

b : sameness in all that constitutes the objective reality of a thing : oneness

2

a : the distinguishing character or personality of an individual : individuality

b : the relation established by psychological identification

3

: the condition of being the same with something described or asserted <establish the identity of stolen goods>

4

: an equation that is satisfied for all values of the symbols
(Pulled from Merriam Webster)
So when a transgender person identifies as a female, they are doing it to the letter of the definition.  More over the idea that when someone is identified as transgender it isn’t a decision made day by day.   It is something that has taken years to process, handle, and deal with.  It comes with many bouts of self doubt, self evaluation, and self shameing.  We totally destroy ourselves and pull through depression, loss, and suicidal thoughts.  We have to weigh the though of losing everyone and everything we have ever had and have just to be free of ourselves.  

Yes, I identify as a transgender woman but I also identify as so much more:

Penguins fan 

Gun collector

Compassionate friend

Loving friend 

Automobile enthusiast

Home improvement gal

Lowes employee 

Activist

Writer

Student 

Parent

Wife

Photographer

And so much more.  

So yes, our identity is who we are as a person.   It’s not some made up falacy we pull out of our rears one day.  It doesn’t change for access to a restroom every so often.    It’s has come with sacrifice, tears, and pain.   We have done our time in our prisons and others have paid the ultimate price to just be free.   We have shown our true identity to the world not for them, but for ourselves and if you think it’s a choice… Maybe you need to research what it takes to transition.   Look up and see not only the struggles, but look at hose before and after pictures and see the happiness in someone’s eyes when they are finally free. B

So the next time you see someone say “I identify as a millionaire, should the bank give me the money?” Remember that transgender people have put everything on the line.  We have struggled, funded, and lived lives of hell to be free. If you want to identify as a millionaire… Put in the work, time and commitment.  Place yourself into the struggle to make it happen.  It’s a choice for you to do such.  A choice to better your life, sadly, our choice is life or death. 

Not all of us are here to comfort, educate, and answer every question.   Some of us are there to help.   Just remember as you’re learning and questioning.  Remember that if you wouldn’t ask your friend the same question… It’s not a good question.    For example, I don’t go to work and ask one of the girls there what’s in their pants…   Not my business.  So don’t think it’s ok to ask a transgender person the same question.  It’s just none of your business.  

A time to listen and a time to talk. 

In my studies I learned that in any good conversation there is a time to listen, a time to talk, a time to think, and a time to act.  Complications can come into play when one is emotionally charged in the situation.  Yesterday was one of those days for me that moved into an emotionally fueled rant on Facebook.   Was I right in my thinking… I think I was but in the process of such a post, fairness may seem irrelevant to the bigger picture and with it the possibility that another may think I’m judging.   Today, I’m going to talk about this post and I’m going to set straight some of the comments I made.   I’ll save you the hassle of looking for it as I’ll post it here before I begin.  

“There is this idea in my head and I wish I had a way to express it but alas I’m with few words at this point. This feeling is not for any other reason than a post I seen on my friend Carla’s wall.  

41% of transgender people attempt suicide…. 41% and as she stated, this number is skewed by the fact that it was taken by the ones of us who survived. How high would this number be if we could ask the rest? I’ll bet much higher yet when the topic of transgender people come up, this number is minimized as some magical number that was pulled from the sky.    

Everyday I’m on social media and I see all the comments. Some mundane yet mean to the down right ruthless. I hear from others about comments they have seen. It’s disturbing and down right crazy that people actually say these things. They look at the computer monitor or screen of their smart phone and can remove themselves from the fact that these are people.   

This disconnect has given way to brazen keyboard warriors who have nothing better to do then “have fun” harassing others. Well I’m here to tell you that there is more to this. There is more than some trolling comments to rouse the others. There are people behind the other screen. They see your hate and find themselves feeling hopeless…. Lost…. Depressed. This is more than a number. This is lives in the balance and somehow we all need to find the love and come together as a country.   

41% people. And as you think of that number, look at the argument being passed to our wonderful bathroomgate… If it saves one person it is worth it… So why is it not acceptable to save us? Why is this acceptable in 2016? It should not be.   

Transgender people wanting to kill themselves to prove a point. To be martyrs in the fight to be equal… No person should ever have to feel this way ever. While some of society thinks we should change for the sake of few people with an axe to grind, I’m going to stand here and say that they need to change. If we are less than 1% of the population…. Why is so difficult to accept and move on?   

41%+ is an atrocity to “society”. It’s time to start this conversation. It’s time for us to talk about the reality of this and considering I’m part of that “41%” with 4 failed suicides I’m going to speak. I failed die when i had no voice and now that I’m finally living…. Your damn sure going to listen what I and every other transgender person has to say…. even if you don’t like the sound.”

So obviously I went off the rails here a bit on the rate of suicide for people like me and to be honest, I tried my best to not pull punches on any one person.   I also will not explain my reasons for what triggered me for the fact that it’s my own situation to deal with.  Don’t worry, I’m safe… but not all of us are.   Before I posted this rant I was talking with a friend Alli and we spoke about how lucky we were about our acceptance level in our lives.  

Alli and I have a few things in common.  We methodically planned what was happening.   We carefully played card after card to get where we are.   We also have made great strides to be accepted as we are by most all family, friends, and co workers yet are we really lucky… Or just smart?

When I finally came to terms with myself, it was years before I made any large changes.    I plotted who would be told, when, and how.    Fist it was a few close friends (Tim and Eric).  I surprised them and even with shock, they didn’t care.   This built me up a bit to come out to a class eventually leading me to family. 

I know who my family works.   So on the dark, rainy night I spoke to my mom, then my sister and brother (in law).   I had so many fears of my dad and how I would be a disappointment to him.   I mean how do you tell a man who’s pride in his son and grandkids that he didn’t actually have a son.   My mom and sister handled that.   I’m glad to, because I don’t know where I would be if I did.   

From there, I went on to continuing a slow exposure with coworkers at Kmart, and Lowes.   I found acceptance this way as no one had a sudden jolt of “here I am!”    I didn’t even post a lot of picture because of my parents to somehow shelter them from my progression.   I asked my mom if I could wear my nail polish to their house because I was sick of taking it off every day.      Eventually, I changed my name on Facebook to its current (and final) place.   No big post, just change and wait.   People noticed…. Quickly.   I will always remember sending a message to my friend Jen and her response was an epic… “YOU CHANGED YOUR NAME!!!”    This was the start of my support.   Eventually things moved on and became easier as the days moved on.   I learned makeup from Kellie and took it to my own style.    I made steady progress only because I knew when to listen, and knew when to talk.     

It was 5 years in the making and the only thing that pulled me out of my funk and depression was the people around me.   I was no longer ashamed of being a transgender girl and realized with out thinking… I was just a girl.   Now this acceptance hasn’t just been from certain people, but a mass of people spanning backgrounds from my shooting friends to religious friends.   They have all come to me and shown a support in my journey that I think only a few can match.   Maybe it was my approach, but whatever it was worked.  

So as you read my rant and think about what I said, remember this: 

I am supported by devoutly religious people, atheists, friends, family, coworkers, kids, and everyone in between.   So as my rant went online I could have boiled it down to a few sentences.   

Having the right people in our lives is what saves us and those people are not from the same place.   They are around this country and world with backgrounds from welding to education.  Big bearded men to soft feminine women.   Gay or  trans to cisstraight people.   It’s about love of another, even if you don’t understand why.   It’s sometimes about listening instead of talking.  Its about living, and having the support to do so.   Hate is a 4 letter word that is bad for us all and will become the dagger that stabs the heart of all American people.  

Live life, laugh often, and be true to yourself.  Society may be a few steps behind but they are trying.   

Image above is a screen shot of my friend Erin from high school days, complimenting me (and my attempts at learning how to take them) and my friend Nick… Who managed to win the Internet with his reply.  Both based off of a before and after I posted and will post below.  Showing that love and laughs are saving lives.  
Spread the love and spread the laughs.  It’s makes life so much better for us all.  

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 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.  

A journey in a journey. 

Reflections on the days past is a very hard for some and it can be even harder when you hate who or what you were. It is also much harder to change things when you truly have no idea how to start.  Now you may be thinking I’m writing all about my trans experience as usual, but you would only be half right.  I am writing about so much more.  It was time to take control and find the life that I needed and deserved.  

Over the last 6 months I started a second journey and it has by far been the hardest yet most rewarding.   I was dealing with severe depression, body dysphoria, and suffering from severe pains in my lower back.  I was a hot mess with no idea how to fix it.  This enters one of my best friends whom I have known since first grade and his name is Tim Tervo.  

Yes, some of you may know him, but he has not only be like a brother to me, but he was also one of the first friends I ever told of my struggle.  He stuck around, and has watched me blossom in many ways.  He has watched and supported as I have transitioned and never staggered from being anything but supportive.  
 

He has also given me the tools for my next great adventure… Weight loss and getting fit. See Tim was not exactly the epitome of fitness when we were growing up, but I watched him learn and excel. I watched him change his life in amazing ways and become a coach for Beach Body so when I hit the mark of 251 lbs of depressive pain I reached out.  I messaged him and asked for help. 

Now I will say that being a transgender female can have many complications, but when we traverse into diets and exercise there are many factors that “normal” people don’t have to think about.  Tim set forth and made it his mission and for almost 2 weeks studied and researched everything from how hormones affected the body down to what was best for my situation.  Needless to say I think he had doubts on if I would follow through with it, but he still spent his time and had faith in me. He pushed me, guided me, and showed me the way.  As I write this I am down 43 lbs and now deciding to start a new program called Body Beast.  

I have many friends on this program and I have watched them make amazing gains on the program but I have a fear.  I don’t want my body to betray me like it did when I hit puberty.  I was always well built and could gain muscle with ease, now I’m hoping that the hormones have done their job enough that I don’t get to big.  Fortunately Tim is there to help and keep my program on track so that I can grow the way I need and want.  No major bulk, just tone for this girl! (I hope)

The biggest joy of both of my journeys is I have found many ideas that intertwine and many behaviors that mirror each other.  Body dysphoria can extend far past male, female, and transgender.  Hating what you see in the mirror could be much more. I have also found a drive so many have with needing to feel right in their own skin. When I tell Tim how great he looks, he still notices that little spot here or there and doesn’t see the big picture, just as I can’t see the big picture when others compliment me. 

The biggest thing I have noticed is humility.  Tim has done so much for me and many others yet when anyone thanks him, he claims he did nothing. “You did the work, I just gave you the tools.”   If only he could see what my eyes see.   He has done so much for so many and wants nothing but so see them succeed in return.  He is the true definition of humble. 

Thankfully it is friends like him and his girlfriend that helped push me through.  They helped me see the beauty that is myself.  I’m slimming down, had a make up learning session, and just all around feeling right.  I’m seeing the beauty everyone else has seen when I never could.  I’m learning that when you can’t fix the issue, you can at least learn to deal with it and when I couldn’t see the beauty in myself… 

I found a better mirror.  

In this new mirror, I found myself.  I seen for the first time that I am pretty (well kind of) and that there is more to beauty than vanity.  It is the beauty of ones soul and the beauty of who they really are on the inside.  I realized this is only one of the many reasons why we have been friends for so long and I can guarantee that we will be for years to come. 

Picture taken by our friend Erin… I just had to photobomb Tim (left) and John-boy (right). Always a great day when good friends can get together for a walk and exercise session. 

“You only meet your once in a lifetime friends… Once in a lifetime.”

~The Little Rascals