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.   
 

Advertisements

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.  

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.  

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.  

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.