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.   
 

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.  

More then just a label

Labels can hold many distinctions in our societal circles.  They hold stigmas and sterotypes both good and bad, some are able to easily own up to their labels while others are repressed by them.   Now in this I can highlight some of the easy to spot labels but others are a bit deeper and easier to dismiss.  I will hit them all and while it may seem trite to some they can make a major difference in the society we live in and I’m going to start right off with the most confusing of them all… Normal.

Yesterday I did something I like to regularly do as a thought experiment.   There was no right or wrong answer.  Just a couple simple questions without me guiding the conversation.  “What is normal?  Along that line, what labels have been used to describe you.  In this questioning I notice a trend that made me smile and that is the reality that normal isn’t some stone set way of living.   Normal is imaginary.  It’s some made up in the idea that we all have to be some cookie cutter mold of the other.   We see this in TV adds, magazines, and movies where we must be this thin, this tall or this type of person to be “normal”in our society.  Thankfully in my friends list and hopefully more outreaching outside of them are finding this as more common.  Normal is more a setting on a dryer then a descriptor of a person.  

This leads to labels.   Sure we have all seen the common ones, but when the labels are used not as a descriptor but as an insult it tends to get overwhelming very quickly.   And even more so when you add in other micro aggressions like missed pronouns, dead names or complete denial of the other.   Pretending a situation doesn’t exists doesn’t make it disappear but sadly this all to well what happens.    Labels used to discredit, belittle, or degrade someone all in the search for some power of the other.   We have seen this not only in recent times with happenings around our local area of Western PA but also coming on a national level.   

This is why I’ve become a part of an amazing group here.   A start up group that has grown very fast in the Mercer county area.  This all stemmed from the growing realization that many in the LGBT community felt alone.  Like no one was around for them.  As this group has grown we have made many strides all in building an amazing group for everyone.   We have started discussing  some ideas and key phrases to build on and one many of us liked is what became the title to this post “More than just a label”.   
I am a spouse, parent, daughter, mechanic, employee, college graduate, friend, writer, advocate, and so much more.   Sure I happen to be transgender but in the context of life that is the smallest part of me.   Being transgender hasn’t limited my life, it has explained it in more ways then I could ever imagine.  
Now tell your story.   Tell everyone who you are.   Tell the world you are more than just one thing.   You are more than just a label.    

Image care of my good friend Dave S.   Someone who I meet for one small reason, yet have grown so much more from having him in my life.  

All of yesterday’s promises.  

I like to write about life.  Sometimes this life can be boring…. but it still exists and as we near the next holiday season it brings me pause to this year end.   This year has been full of ups and downs, fights and happiness but the one thing we seem to have forgot is the yesterdays. Promises that seem unfulfilled or feelings expressed.  See we all have to battle the chaos of life but sometimes life adds that little extra kick.   One more kick in the pants.  

Everyday I live with the hope and promise of tomorrow.  No regrets and nothing left on the table yet I continually have a tinge that somthing is missing somewhere.  I question what it is and I move on.  I always question and rarely find the answer I don’t really know the actual question. I think I lays in society and the determination of who “belongs”.  What label are we to carry and  how is it to affect us?

One that I see frequently tossed is “mentally ill”.  Fromparents of transgender children to those of us who had to wait until later in life to be freed we are accosted with the label of being ill.   Now I’ve mostly been able to ignore the more vulgar people in our society by having great people in my life.  That shielding doesn’t make the issue any less of a problem.  

The problem as I see ur is those who are more apt to call out such speech when they don’t have an education on the subject nor the interest to learn.   It’s just easier to hate what you don’t know I guess.  More over I find myself concerned about a society that creates a mood where people would rather die then be free.   Makes me wonder all the more how many people like me have died without making a sound.   

With all of this how do any one of us survive?  How can some of us thrive and some of us get buried?   To me, it’s the company we keep and our ability to be free.   So for me… society has been quite kind but I can’t forget my sisters who aren’t so lucky.  From those who can’t find employment to that mom who is being accosted for her child being transgender… we all need to wake up.  

We all need to wake up.  We need to look at our society and find a solution that involves less suicide and more love.  It is time to realize that words can hurt and unlike cuts we can see, the hidden cuts are deeper and harder to patch.   Maybe it’s true for ones to say “the pen is mightier then the sword.” especially when that pen is used in malice.   

Love each other, learn about each other, and help each other.  We can’t continue life with everyone being separate or holding a side.   It’s time we come together and love each other but if no one wants to stand together then surely we will all stand in solitude.  

“We are all born ignorant, but one must work hard to remain stupid.” ~ Benjamin Franklin 

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.  

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