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

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.  

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.  

What does life mean?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Socially speaking

Social interactions happen every day and we process them every day without even thinking about them.  From work, to shopping we are judged daily on who we are perceived to be as a person and some stigmas are always used without even acknowledging that they exist.  From my time of being viewed as male I never truly processed and realized “male privilege” as a whole.  From speaking over a woman, to having the imaginary right of way while walking these all happened subconsciously.  Being a male I was perceived to have all the answers in the field I was in, from parts stores to Lowes home improvement.  I was the guy others would walk past 3 ladies to be questioned about something.  Well now in the last 9 months of being viewed as only female have I realized how much these social interactions have truly changed.  

Social perceptions and pre conceived notions are the name of the game.  As a man, when I said I was married, I never had to specify “to an amazing woman” nor did I have to explain having three wonderful girls.   15 years of marriage was not hard to explain nor was it hard when my wife and I were out in public.  Now however it’s a whole new world.  Now when I talk of marriage and kids, it’s assumed I’m the wife and there is some man at home.  Others are taken aback if I speak about my wife of 15 years (yea, you’re right it wasn’t legal then!) and boy is it strange to be in public with my wife and being asked if the checks are separate and have to specify the check is together.  

I don’t want to skim over the middle either.  I will not exclude the transitioning times where I was stuck in the middle with people questioning and trying to figure out “what” I was just as much as I was.  Being between sexes was the worst!   In one day I use to be referred to as both male and female, even within the same hour.  One trusted every word I said, and another assumed I was a dumb woman.   All those times I had to come out and tell someone that I was transgender and all those times I feared losing the next friend was all in the face of the societal stigma.  Truly defining the fact that society really is that messed up sometimes.  Even just admitting your transgender will change the entire way you are treated when your in the middle. 

Now let’s flow back to social stigmas.   As I’m going to do a speaking day at our local community college with a former professor, it comes back to me how much has changed and how much I never noticed.   I’m now expected to yield to men when we walk past each other.  I’m expected to accept a man talking over me.  I’m expected to accept being called pet names like honey, sweetheart, dear, etc.   I’m expected to return flirt.   I’m expected to be lady like in all aspects of the realm that I didn’t have enough time to properly learn about.  

It is expected that I don’t know as much anymore.   I can’t figure out where some think my brains went, but it sure didn’t go to far.  I don’t know if it’s long hair, soft skin, or a set of breast that was to make me less seemingly intelligent but I’m not buying it.  Painted nails nor heels make a woman any less intelligent.  But here we are, with pre conceived assumptions of what an individual person should be like based off of 50’s stigmas.  

I respected every woman I ever met before I transitioned, but even more so now.  Just the shear amount of stuff I never had to deal with before is just a tip of the iceberg!   Men staring at women like they are some sort of prize, then assuming they don’t now how to do their job no matter what it may be.  I know women in welding, fabrication, flooring, retail, and so much more and all are equally fitting to their job.   So yes, I notice that I’m now a part of “the inferior ” female sex, but that doesn’t for one minute make me have to like it.  The next time some one assumes that being transgender is a choice must not realize how society as a whole actually works.  It may of been a life or death choice to me, but in changing gender, I changed everything socially also.  From how people addressed me to how I was treated.  

I love my life and I love the fact that not only have I been able to follow my path to happiness, I have also had amazing people along that road.   From work, to my social life I have managed to find only the most amazing people and for that I am fortunate.  It still, and always will bother me that what I have learned this transition is how women have been labeled and treated.  How it took a transition to realize that they are so repressed and viewed as weak.   

This is sure not how I was raised, so I guess most of the other men just missed that memo.  My mother is a strong, successful, intelligent and powerful woman with a drive to achieve anything.  She raised children who are strong, independent, loving, driven and fully accepting individuals without a preconceived notion about another. She also raised us with a no excuses attitude.   I learned from my mother that women built this country and this society.  I also learned that behind every great man was an even greater woman.  Maybe someday society will catch up to this concept, but in the meantime I’ll just be happy knowing that I’m living to see when that change occurs. 

Image found on Slideshare.net via Google image search.  

Finding peace. 

Many times I have been asked how I dealt with my depression and they want tips on how to do it themselves.   Well sure, I have managed to bring my depression into check and have done well to keep it at bay for the most part.  What stressor really is ultimately the question you need to find the answer too.  We also need to specify if this is medical or an outside stressor because if we are dealing with clinical depression, the challenges are much more pronounced.   The only thing to remember is that everyone deals differently and you need to find what’s best for you. 

Now many know that my depression was really triggered by my own internal struggle.  I struggled with Gender Dysphoria and carrying that weight was difficult.   I did everything I could to be the man others wanted me to be and turned everything inward on myself.  I took all the stress and added it onto an already exhausted brain.  Those actions are what pushed me deeper and the fear to change what I knew was wrong pushed me to the breaking point.  

I don’t talk much about my dark times and for good reason but after giving my answers to a questionnaire and having it posted among a hundred others gave me pause to bring forth the darker side of my light.  This website is called pghlesbian.com and Sue Kerr has done well to pull a new concept.  Telling the stories of others.  To bring people’s lives to the forefront and allowing those voices to be heard under the hashtag #amplify and I feel this is an amazing project.  

These are the small things that can help a recovery.  No matter what the issue, there is someone willing to amplify that issue to help you find others to support within a group.  No one can do it alone.  

Now in my darker times, I was suicidal.  My only wish was to die.  And I even tried to commit suicide 4 times.  Nothing mattered, not even my amazing wife and kids.  I was a train wreck.   Faking a smile for the sake of others.   The only good that came from it is the realization of what really matters and with that I realized that had I succeeded, it wouldn’t have done anything to help others.   It would have destroyed my family, and made me one more statistic without a voice.  

The gun didn’t stopped me, the knife didn’t cut deep enough, that car missed the pole, and I survived.  I survived myself only to find the voice I never had.  With that voice, came confidence to be true to myself.  As I became true to myself, happiness came with it.  With that happiness, I was able to live others as they deserved.   So beating depression wasn’t overnight.  It was a process.  

Now, how do we help others who are suffering?  Sure I can type this and tell you what I have, but what if your situation is different?   Well I’m here to help with a small list to get you started.  

1:) Find a therapist!  They are there to help you identify the issue and give you tools to deal with it.  

2:) Be open to change!  Sometimes to break out of the depression you have to make changes to better your overall situation.  

3:) Don’t give up!  There is answer for you somewhere. 

4:) Don’t be afraid of medication in moderation.  If you need it, that’s why it is there.  

5:) Exercise!  The endorphins released give an almost euphoric feeling.  

6:) Speak up! Do not be afraid to tell others you’re depressed! Silence is deafening. 
Now the most important thing I will say… If you have a friend who has depression, be supportive, be caring, be their support group.  Ask them what you can do to help.  Don’t think it’s “all in their head” and don’t tell them to “get over it”.  Depression is a real condition that so many suffer with in silence so let’s take a page from Sue and amplify it!!!   

Let’s start talking about depression.  Start asking if others are ok.  Let’s start supporting others as human beings.   Tell your story, and find your voice before its to late.  Let’s actually take heart about our fellow humans and give them light in the darkest times.  

“You don’t know why you’re exhausted?

You’re fighting a war inside your head everyday. If that’s not exhausting, I don’t know what is.”
~Unknown 
Image credit to Lifehack.com

Happy solstice… Or what ever you celebrate!

So I have been realizing many things these past few months, some good, some bad, and some scary.  The good… I have been able to actually enjoy Christmas.  I have also been able to be me for over 6 months and it has been amazing!!!  The bad, I still have a lot to work on in the ways of Cindy and the girls in this adventure.  As for the scary… I have noticed that my ability to not be sensitive has become very acute and many things that never bothered me…. Now do.  Oh the joys of learning a new me…

I’ll start with the good for many reasons, but the main is the complete change in how I am as a person in my daily life.   I finally care about life and how I’m living it.  I care about how I look, dress, and act.  I care that things get done.  I feel the need to do more with less and still be accomplished.  I also take pride in my work and enjoy the fact that I am no longer limited by the “act male” situations.  I can wear what I want, look as cute as I want and just be another girl in the crowd.  I posted a picture of my Sunday’s outfit as an example.  It’s nice to have become so ambiguous.  

The bad is another issue.  Issues with Cindy can be strained at best on some days.  Her and I went to a movie and were out most of that day and everything was amazing and she did tremendously well when we were referred to as Ladies.  Somedays she super supportive and super happy, yet other days I am the brunt of every fault and the reason things are bad. I will never claim to be innocent, but we have many things to deal with yet.  

The kids have also been dealing well, but they are starting to notice the looks when they accidentally call me daddy in public. This happened today at Jessica’s Orthodontist appointment.  First in the waiting room Mack and Haley both called me daddy and the poor lady beside me had quite a shocked look.  Then when the appointment was over they call in the parent to update progress on their braces.  Well when an assistant calls for Jessica’s dad and I get up, let’s just say that every eye was on me.  They just couldn’t figure out how this girl could be their dad.  When we got in the car Mack spoke about it and the conversation was to their level, yet educational.   It hurts me everyday that they even have to try and understand all this.

Scary parts are an interesting story of their own.  To start, I was pulled over the other day.  I wasn’t overly feminine, but I always forget that people see a regular girl and not a trans girl.  So the officer asks for my ID, registration, insurance, etc.   Well our officer was very forthcoming that I shouldn’t be carrying someone else’s ID and should have my own in any car I borrow.  So sad that I have fought to be viewed as a female, only to have to argue and prove I am “Michael”.  This process was over 2 hours and though I was released without a citation, it was a scary situation to be sure.  

What more scary is that I am so much softer than I use to be.  I was the one who didn’t care what I seen.  I didn’t care what others posted.  I have a sick and deeply twisted sense of humor so I can understand that my style of humor is different and I could always just walk away.   Seems that isn’t the case anymore and the hard person I was is going away and I need to rein myself in on emotion.  

I have become sensitive to things I should  not even be close to caring about.  I have been irritated by work emails, small side comments that mean nothing in context, thing said by my wife, being detained, even if I screw up, it destroys me or frustrates me.  Even small stressors seem like much larger issues.   Handling these things is a major undertaking that use to roll off my back.   

I blame it all on the hormones and though I love what they have done for me.  There are things I never expected to happen so I had a failure in planning.  This failure is showing massively in the recent months.   I was just lucky enough that I have an amazing friend and coworker willing to call me out on it.  I now have something to focus on.   I know what I have to look for and need to make strides in this direction to fix the things I didn’t know where broken.   The best I can do is try.  

All in all I noticed that the biggest focus I have to work on this coming year is to learn to handle my new found sensitivity and emotions.  I also know that I need to make major strides in the process of name change.  It’s going to be very expensive, but I need to get it done for the sake of my own sanity.  

Please enjoy your holidays and enjoy the family you have!