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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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.   
 

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.  

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.  

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

  

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.  

Is this where we are as a nation?

So as I stroll the media sites that I am on, I see numerous arguing points on this Bathroom debate. Now, in these debates there are some decent points on both sides that should be considered. In my case I know what side of the fence I am standing on and I know its not always safe. I pee in the Ladies room because that’s where I look and feel like I belong but I also have the luxury of blending. Sure I may see a man in the mirror, but others on a daily basis show me otherwise with the way I am treated. As I traverse the madness of the current affairs I had to sit back and ponder the situations to determine what is the heart of the issue. I always try to see both sides while expressing my opinion and I try to educate others if the possibility is there. Now this current situation requires much more than a few conversations but I will say my peace and you all can be the judge. I may pull a few punches, but I think my friends will understand.

Bathrooms are a freaky place for most everyone. I do not know to many people who will get excited to go in the public restrooms. I personally was not in any sort of euphoria moving from one side to the other. It is a place to do your business and get out. Now what I am trying to figure out is how this basic bodily function has become such a cluster screw in our nation. Sure some friends have posted jokes, some have said amazingly supportive things, and some… well we will say they were very frustrated by the argument and said something that I was shocked by. I did message him and we worked it out, but it still hits home.

Now I have no idea what bathrooms some of these people have gone into but all the ones I have been in (on both sides of the fence) had stalls with doors. So I am missing the boat of someone ,making the comment “I don’t think its right my daughter could have a penis hanging 3″ from her face…” yes, this was a response to a Facebook post and I was aghast to figure out how this even was possible. Thankfully I have many amazing friends and family who redeem my faith in humanity. Now about an hour ago my friend Nick posted a Video on his Facebook and it was covering the topic of bathrooms. Brutally honest and dead on accurate. I listened intently as he mentioned my transition, and how he was impressed and loved watching the changes. He spoke from the heart while managing to address the concerns. This is the kind of friends we all need in our lives but something equally as important is family.

As my mother was getting her hair done, she was pulled into a conversation about transgender people and she may not be completely comfortable yet telling all her friends that she has a transgender daughter. but this conversation was that of transgender bathroom issues. Yes, this conversation is that wide spread. Now as they discussed, my mom was afraid of getting backlash for saying that “they used the bathrooms for how many years and now it becomes an issue?” Every woman from the age of 25-70 agreed and didn’t see the issue here. nothing however will top my amazing sister who posted something today that brought tears to my eyes:

“I am tiring of people believing that the transgender population are a sexual predation problem. A predator could enter a bathroom regardless of permission or gender association and would be charged of the same crimes whether they were in Target or not. This is NOT an LGBT issue. As a proud sister of a transgendered sibling, I completely support these companies and any company supporting LGBT rights. Your choice is your own, however bigotry in this day and age is unacceptable. Black, white, gay, straight, trans, or not – we all deserve to be treated the same.”

I was in tears of joy. See while so many have worried about predators and those “transgenders”, real people are noticing the hate.

So let talk about fear for a minute. While Ted Cruz and self identified “pastor” Greg Locke try and strike fear into the hearts of mothers about predators with fear based commercials and candid videos outside the local Target blasting about how this country is going to hell because people need to pee. They are pissed at Target for obeying the federal law and OSHA regulations of transgender people. I hate to break it to these men, but life didn’t end for the 20 or so years that people have been using the bathroom they identify with. So as people are blasting Target for restating the policy they have had for years I wonder if those men are truly thinking. Are they really concerned about safety, or are they fighting against something they don’t believe in?

Fear is being open and public. I along with other out transgender advocates have a fear of assault or murder, not because of what we say but who we are. We put ourselves out there with little regard to the dangers in hopes of helping others find peace and solace around the hatred shown by society. So as we recap fears, sure the fear of a predator can be rational, but they will do what they want either way so is it worth discrimination against people like me just for the sake of a feel good law? I personally don’t think so.

While on the topic of Greg Locke. It seems this man has quite the experience and knowledge with child molesters. He seems to ignore the fact that he actually employed a child molester in his own church. He brought someone who has a history of the stuff Locke is arguing against in his video. So lets ask this, is it truly about protecting the children? If this was the priority I don’t think he would be so trusting of a sex offender in his own church. What about convicted sex offenders in the men’s room? Are we not worrying about the boys? Pastor Locke, please note that hypocrisy is not a good look for anyone and if you are going to try and be the talking head for Christians, please, find a better place. fanning the fires of a debate that can actually cause depression, suicide or murder of transgender people, will you be standing on the bodies of these people to preach higher on the mountain?