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A Lesson in Trans Etiquette

OK all you little boys out there. Here is your chance to better yourself. I am going to make this quick and simple and attempt not to offend anyone too badly.  Based on a true and very recent event.

If a woman walks into the room, be it a business or otherwise and you read her as TG/TS. Be polite and treat her as any other genetic woman. If you want to start a conversion with her, the first words out of you mouth had better not be “do you hang out at [a known ‘and nasty Tranny’ Bar]”. The woman is likely to take a great deal of offense at that as I DID. However being the polite and caring woman that I am, I chose not to get all pissed about it.

So why would I be offended by that question? . . . I am going to tell you.

It is about the same as someone walking up to a suspected gay man and asking him if he is a FAGGOT. Just because I am a TS is not an automatic ticket for me to hang out in “certain places”. I am NOT a “Tranny” and I DONT hang out at “Tranny” bars. I cannot say anything nice about the place I was asked about, so I won’t

I know I am a big woman and I know I get read. But do not rub it in my face by asking me or any other TS person that question or one like it if you do not know them or anything about them. And heaven help you if it is your conversation starter. I guarantee it to be a short conversation and I WON’T buy anything in your store.

Just because I or any other person is a transsexual (M2F or F2M) does not give you the right to call us out, especially in public. Treat me like women please and treat us with respect. And we will return that in kind.

The Few Who Shine

What’s with some people?

There are the kinds of people who can only handle a limited amount of pressure in their lives and then crumble and fall under the heavy weight. They are the ones who, even when the little black cloud that once hovered and rained over their every deed, refused to turn their face to the clear blue sky and become encouraged by the sun’s warmth.

These are the people who, in an auto accident, completely freeze and though may remain uninjured, are worthless in coming to their feet to help out others who are in worse shape. They end up becoming an added burden to the problem instead of rising up to shine over others. If they are witness to the accident, they may pull over but only stare in awe and amazement while others risk their lives to pull the injured to safety.

Why do some people’s fatalism make them indifferent in pursuing a path toward happiness?

Then there are others who, no matter what life throws their way and regardless of their economic status, their positive spirit rarely fades. Though they have their share of adversity, nothing except death eventually befalls their enduring spirit.

Their spirits illuminate the darkness that surrounds them.

Take for example, a recent visit I had to my state’s Department of Economic Security. I had an appointment with the state acting on behalf of a less fortunate relative who needs the state’s help in receiving healthcare and monetary assistance. The building is typical for a large government facility, its massive brown rectangular shape outside opening to reveal dozens of cubicles on the inside for its employees. Upon entering, I had to take a number and wait my turn among the many downtrodden and disadvantaged people.

The playfulness on the children’s faces was a sharp contrast to the sullen droopy faces on the adults who nervously awaited their turn. Oh to be a child without worry again!

After several minutes of waiting, I was finally called by an employee to follow her back to her tiny square with desk and chair inside the bright fluorescent monolithic room. As I sat down, Maria greeted me with a warm round smile. I explained to her that I was not the person on the application but was present and acting on her behalf because she could not be present for the meeting.

While answering question after question, I began to take notice of Maria’s cubicle. Its 7′ x 7′ space was full of bins and folders full of applications requesting state aid, but it was surprisingly clean and tidy, and there were awards posted in frames all along the inside walls. Yet the awards were given to her by her employer for “Most Organized Employee” and “In Recognition to Your Years of Service to the State.” Also on the walls were hand written certificates drawn by her three daughters in crayon like “Best Mommy in the World” and “Mom is #1.” One would think she had not accomplished anything substantial, but I began to see differently.

Throughout the meeting, I would ask her questions about her working with a state agency for eleven years and about her children. All the while she maintained a posture of grace and had an amazing bright smile despite her having to deal with the less fortunate on a daily basis.

“Doesn’t it get to you? I mean, working for the government like this, and having to deal with so much despair and people demanding assistance?” I asked her politely.

“No, it doesn’t. Management sometimes gets to me,” she joked. “But I love living in this community. I love taking care of my daughters, and I love helping people. I even love my job and I take pride in my area here. My coworkers always laugh at me because I’m so tidy.”

Just then, the phone rang and she answered what seemed like very direct questions with a stern “yes” and “no.” Then she told the person on the other line who I was and gave them the case number. She promptly hung up and looked over at me with a sigh.

“Who was that?”

She sighed again. “It was someone from the state at their headquarters in a different city calling us at random to find out what we’re doing and making sure we’re staying busy.”

I was bothered by that. I thought she would be too. But she seemed to shrug off the inanity of a micromanaging agency and completed the paperwork cheerfully. As I got up to walk out, I thanked her for her kindness and encouraged her to never let anyone or anything take that away from her. I told her that I knew her simple smile and gentle spirit would be a tremendous source of comfort to those who sat in my chair. My words seemed to impact her with an affirmation she wasn’t used to hearing.

There was clearly something different about Maria that blew me away. Her teflon-coated optimistic spirit really made me think about my own personal difficulties, and I wondered what I could do to walk with the same light she had in her life.

Maria, and those with kindred spirits like hers, give me purpose in my circumstances.

I may struggle with transition. My circumstances may create chaos in my life. No one ever said being true to myself would be easy. No doubt there will be days where I’m tempted to give in to sit on the curb and watch the accidents surrounding my life injure and terrorize my family, my friends, and me. But I am alive, I’m still breathing, and I need to find that same illiminous spirit that has lurked in the shadows of my heart for too long.

It’s time to be like Maria.

It’s time to get off the curb.

It’s time to shine.

Happy posts?

So…does anyone like to read happy posts?  Sometimes I wonder if posts about things going well and the adventures that go with it are not as interesting or read as much as the posts about the struggles of transition.  In my case, transition has been pretty straight forward so far, almost like a non-event.  That makes me wonder if I have much to offer the trans community in my posts.  I’d actually rather talk about the fun we have with our hobbies than to talk about going to the bank as Amber and being treated like any other customer, what’s so interesting about that?  Nobody ever shows up with torches and pitchforks, it’s a non event, even going to Home Depot as Amber and dealing with a cashier that has known the old guy for 15 years was a non-event, no reaction at all, just normal customer service.  Nothing to see here folks, just life happening.  Does anybody really want to hear about stuff like that?

Transition at work, the dilemma

I know that most of the readers here have their own issues with transition at work, one of the more tricky parts of transition.  My particular situation is a bit complicated.  As most of you know, I came out to my boss around the middle of June, and he was supportive of my issues.  I told him at that time that I would eventually tell everyone else that works there, the other 5 employees.  And, as you know, I did tell them toward the end of July.   Now, everyone at work knows about me and I’ve been relaxing a lot more and not trying to hide the transition developments at work, they all seem to be OK with it so far, but they haven’t actually seen Amber fully yet.  After my appearance at the theater and the resulting fallout, I’ve been a bit more cautious about pushing my transition at work.  The problem is that our customers don’t know about me, and if the reaction from one of the workers at the theater is any indication, some of them would not want me to come to their place of business as Amber.  The other problem is that our business depends on the relationship with our accounts, they can go to another company like ours any time the want to, there’s plenty of competition for the business.   So, if I cost us an account because of my transition freaking out the owner of the business, the company I work for loses money.  Not good for my job.  The boss says that he’s supportive of me and my transition, but if it affects his business, the bottom line becomes more important than my transition, or my job, probably.  It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that out.

If I transition at a natural pace, as my body changes, people see it and deal with it.   Of course, that takes just short of forever.   If I just start showing up at the accounts presenting as I would choose to do, I risk damaging the company’s income, and thus, my job.   I think about this a lot when I’m working at a place that I go to enough that they recognize me, how am I going to deal with things like going to the ladies room at the place, when they knew me from before the change?  That may be the biggest issue, even if my new appearance doesn’t freak them out.  I haven’t come up with a workable solution to all this yet, short of getting a different job where I can start as Amber, and that’s really impractical and unlikely at this point in time!  What’s a middle aged girl to do?

Ma’am or sir?

Getting “ma’am”ed or “sir”ed can really make a difference in the mood of a day of a trans person!  Yesterday, I went to a service call to replace light bulbs on a juke box and as I was opening my tool box to get my work keys, the cute young (female) bartender came around the bar and said to me, “hey juke box guy,….”  Ouch!  I wasn’t presenting as female at the time (still working on that issue, I present as close to it as I can without augmentation or makeup) but it still bugged the crap out of me!  What an ego killer!

Now today, I went to a campground that we provide games to, to work on the plush animal crane.  There was a group of girls there, and a boy, all about 8-13 years old, that age group.  Anyway, as I was working on the crane, the kids were watching me, and I kept hearing “she” in relation to what I was doing.  Now, that was really weird!   Again, I wasn’t presenting as female in particular, but I wear a ball cap to cover my receding hairline, I have no visible beard shadow, and I have dark red hair now, to match my wig.   Also, I try to practice my voice in public to get used to the sound of it in my own ears.   My mini-boobs may have been showing a bit also.   I guess, for them, it added up to female.   I was interacting with them, I even traded them a couple animals that they had won for other animals that they wanted from inside the crane.   All the while, when the kids talked to each other, it was always “she” this or “she” that.  I left there feeling kinda weird, it’s the first time that’s happened to me.  It was nice, but really weird!  And, of course, it really pushed up my desire to properly look the part!  I think it’s going to be harder to be patient as I work my way toward full time at work.

Has anyone else run into these kinds of situations in public?

Children as a Weapon

Here is something I wrote on my personal blog, it is something I felt was important and needed to be shared here as well.

I have been thinking about children and transition again. I wrote about this before after I had read a blog post suggesting that not telling our children right away can be harmful to them. In the last week I have come across a few other things that have bothered me. For those who don’t know much about me, I have two young daughters, ages 2 and 4. To say that the topic of transition and children is one that is close to my heart is an understatement. I absolutely adore my girls, and I would do anything to protect them from anything I think would harm them. I am not over protective, but I am protective of them. They are part of the reason I left law enforcement, I want to be there for them. The other reason I left was because I could not go on being Mr. Macho anymore. Two years later, I came out and started transitioning.

Anyway, back on topic here before I veer off into a whole other topic. There were really two issues sets of circumstances that I read about. One involved a friend whose spouse insinuated that her being trans might be turning one of their children trans. The other situation involved some saying that they stopping transition, and putting it off until their children were grown. The reason being that their spouse and family said it would damage the children.

Both of these situations bring up some very strong feelings in me. In both of these situation, it feels to me that the children are being used against the transitioning spouse. Anyone of us who have children know how strong the parental protection instinct is. We want to protect our children, and we would never do anything to intentionally hurt our children. Our spouses and family know these feelings and emotions too. In some cases, they try and use these against us. After all, I doubt any of us would do anything to intentionally hurt our children. I know that I would not.

Why do family members do this? I think part of the reason is because of the strong emotional bond. The fear of losing our children. Many people hold off transition until late in life because of their children. I am in no way saying this is a bad choice. It is, however, not one that I can make. I have, in the short time since I came out and began transitioning, witnessed my children flourish even more. They are happier, more self confident, more loving, and just seem better adjusted. They do not yet know that I am trans, but they do know that I am happier and that I am more involved with them. I am no longer distant and depressed, I am now more fully engaged in life.

Some family members see children as a means to stop someone from transitioning. They fear losing the person they have known their whole life, they fear the transition process, they fear transsexuality, in short, they do not understand. I have heard time and time again how well children handle transition, especially when the non-trans parent is supportive. The difficulties arise when that spouse is negative and actively and outwardly resists the transition. In these cases, the non-trans spouse often tries to put the children between the trans spouse and transition. They use the children as a weapon against transition. The fear of the unknown can bring out the worst in some people.

I don’t know if there is an answer to preventing such reactions. Education is certainly a start. There are several resources about children and transition, such as:

http://www.colage.org/programs/trans/kot-resource-guide.pdf

http://community.pflag.org/NETCOMMUNITY/Page.aspx?pid=413&srcid=380

I think that any person who is contemplating transition, and who has children needs to be prepared. There are going to be enough fears about losing “you” and those may end up being projected onto your children. Be prepared to talk about the effect it will have on your children. My spouse asked me how I thought it would affect our children. I told her that I believed it would make them better more accepting people. That they would understand diversity more fully and learn to judge people not for how they appear, but for who they are. Not transitioning would have meant years of depression for me, and this would have not only taken its toll on me, but it would have had a negative affect on my children as well. Our children don’t care how we look, they love us for who we are. Why not let them see more of who we are.

The power of friendship

I’ve been thinking about the subject of friendship and transition for a while now, but recent events and a few other blogs on the subject of friends that I’ve read in the last couple of weeks prompted me to write my own blog about it.

Early on in my therapy sessions, probably a year and a half ago, my therapist suggested that I should look for an on-line support group of some kind for people with trans issues, as there’s nothing anywhere near my area.  I ended up on CD.com, which was cool for quite a while, meeting on-line with many other people like me.  I connected with several other trans-girls there and eventually met with Teresa last year.  It turned out that we had a lot of interests in common besides the trans issues and we went to a couple of big events together, a civil war reenactment, and the big yearly airshow in Oshkosh, WI.  She went “Teresa-fied” as she called it, and I went in “dis-guy-ze”.  I learned a lot about confidence from watching her just be herself, and the best part was that no-one that we walked past or dealt with got weirded out about either of us.  No confrontations!   It got me to thinking that maybe, just maybe, I could do that also, and maybe it would even work out ok.  Fear has a way of slowing down the whole process of transition, so I wasn’t in any hurry to confront my own fears, but I now knew that it was possible.

Teresa was already in the process of attempting to sell her house in Traverse City, MI (an entire story by itself) and was looking into other places to move to, and my house was empty 4-5 days a week with me living at work so I figured “what the heck, she wants to get out of Traverse City, I have an empty house with 2 bedrooms, maybe she’d be interested in living there for a while until she figures out where she wants to go.”  So I asked, she thought it was a good idea and, in November of 07, we moved her stuff with a really big U-haul truck to my house, about 300 miles away.

It’s interesting how a person can slowly build up their courage when they have an example to follow.   For me, that’s Teresa.  She’s out there every day, just being herself, not having any problems with other people, just doing the stuff that people do, except she’s Teresa about 95 % of the time.

For those of you who’ve been following my 360 blog or hers, you’ve read about our various exploits together, with me pushing the gender envelope further and further until I could finally go out and be Amber in public.  At this point, I’m almost full time when I’m home (work is a different issue, LOL) and I intend to be full time, no exceptions, at home within the next couple weeks.   I’m waiting for my background check to come back to the courthouse so I can get my court date set for my legal name change, hopefully soon.  I’ve faced most of my transition fears, such as going to the bank, and the biggie, the bathroom, last weekend.  That’ll be part of my next blog, “the chronicles of Amber”.  The McDonalds bathroom full of women was a particular highlight of the weekend, talk about anus clenching adventures!  LOL

Anyway, back to the subject, friendship.   Never underestimate the value and power of friendship!  Come out of your shell and connect to some other people if you haven’t yet.  Find someone that you can talk to about your shared trans-issues, but also, shared non trans interests.  Hang out together, go share some anus clenching adventures of your own!  Start living again!  (and, no, I’m not talking about anything sexual, mine doesn’t work anyway.)

I can tell you that I know that I would not be where I am now in my transition if it were not for friendship!  Of that, I have no doubt!

The Outing

Over on my personal blog, I just posted the story of how I came to be a student of A Course in Miracles and how, last week, I came to the decision to tell the weekly study group I attend my story of growing up trans. Because of its length, I’ve decided to just give you a taste of what’s in it. If you want to read, the whole thing and hear how it turned out, you’ll have to go here.

As I prepared to transition, one of my hopes was to be accepted as a woman among circles of women. (I talked about this with Lori recently on one of her podcasts.) Unity Church has turned out to be one of the places where that dream has been realized.

The principles of Unity Church and A Course in Miracles share many basic ideas, but the Course is rarely mentioned, at least at Unity of Prescott. In July 2007, however, a retired Unity minister and student of the Course started a study group at the church on Thursday mornings. I wanted to attend that group from the beginning, but I was afraid about whether I would be accepted there, especially since I didn’t feel then (and still don’t) that my voice is very feminine. In August, however, almost exactly one year ago, I overcame my fear and began attending that group. Although men attend from time to time, the group fairly quickly became almost exclusively women. It also became one of those places that I had dreamed of where I am accepted as a woman among women.

When I began attending that group, I expected that, at some point, the fact that I am transgender would become known. (None of the people attending the group had known me before my transition.) At the same time, however, I had no desire to make myself the center of attention or distract the group from discussing the lessons that we were all trying to learn from the Course. So, I waited, expecting that, at some point, the subject of my transition would become relevant to whatever we were discussing and I would mention it as an example of how I have applied the lessons of the Course in my life. That moment never arrived, however. Instead, I felt increasingly constrained about talking about my own life because these women did not know that important part of my story. At one point, I remember thinking about sharing a story about my childhood. However, when I realized that the best way to start the story was to say, “When I was a little boy . . .,” I held my tongue. As I have said before, I didn’t spend the last 13 years of my life trying to find out who I am and what I need to be happy to turn around once I found those answers and hide the truth about who I am and how I got here.

I also realized some time ago that I want the world to know who I am. I am proud of who I am and believe, rightly or wrongly, that sharing my story can help people understand what it means to be trans and that, like them, we are simply striving to find a way to live with peace and dignity. Consequently, the fact that these women, with whom I have become very close, did not know about my journey began to rankle more and more.

* * *

Finally, I decided that the time had come to share my story with the entire group and that the only way to do it was to simply ask for the opportunity outside the group’s normal routine.

The story continues here.

The Courage to be Me

Here is something I wrote on my personal blog. I thought I would share it here as well, a few of my thoughts on transition and courage. I believe, as a community, we display unparalleled courage and conviction. It is part of what carries us through, and it is this community that helps prop us up when we feel our courage falter.

The idea of courage was one that haunted me for many years. For years and years, I longed to transition, but always felt that I did not have the courage to go through with it. When I heard of or saw post transition trans-women, I would think to my self that I wished I had they courage that they did. I fretted about courage while navigating a pretty successful career in law enforcement. One moment, I was chasing down known violent criminals, putting my life at the risk, and that night I would fall asleep ashamed for not having the courage to be me. I spent many years trying to reconcile these two seemingly opposing expressions of courage.

When the time came to transition, when I reached the point where I had to make a decision, I realized that it was not a lack of courage that kept me from transitioning. I had the courage to do it, to make the change, and yet I was still afraid. It was not society that I was afraid of, not my employer, but rather I was afraid of losing those close to me. I was concerned about what they would think. All my life, I had repeated a cycle of living up to the expectations of others, all the while failing to live up to my own expectation. It was not courage that I lacked, but rather I denied my own ability to stand up for myself, to put my needs before the expectations of others.

This was not an easy leap to make. While I appeared outwardly self confident, inside I was constantly worried about what others thought about me. Not only wondering if what I was doing was good enough, but fearful that someone would see through me, see that I was not what I presented as, see that I was trans. I was worried about passing as male, even during the years when I had all the physical and social attributes that made passing seem easy. It was the inability to reconcile my outward appearance with my inner identity that forced me to try and live up the the expectations that my outer shell created for me in society. Family, social, and career pressures. The kind of pressures that pushed me into a career in law enforcement.

Eventually, I left law enforcement. This was the first real move that brought me one step closer to transition. This was a kind of watershed moment for me. No other time in my life had I stood up for my self so fervently. I faced a lot of questioning and second guessing about my decision to leave law enforcement. But, this was the first decision that I truly owned. It was my choice. No one else made it for me, in fact, it went against the expectations I spent so many years living up to. It was a display of courage, a moment of self acceptance, a moment where I put myself before the outside pressures. I stood up to people I have never stood up to, in ways that shocked and surprised people. This change was not unlike the transition I am now going through, it strained relationships, some relationships that took a year or two to rebuild, relationships that I am still rebuilding. In many ways, transition in and of itself may set this rebuilding process back a few years, or it may help others to understand more clearly the decisions I made in the past. I believe it will shed light on who I am, why I did what I did, why I was the person that I was, it will explain me more fully to those I know. For almost everyone I know, it was really be the first time that I am truly able to be me. 

Does it take courage to make this step, to begin the journey of transition, to see it through to the point where one is living a life that is more true and genuine that they lived before. You bet it takes courage. The courage, though, is not necessarily the courage to face the world in a new gender role, though that is difficult, the courage is the ability to look deep inside yourself and be one-hundred percent true to yourself. The courage to cast aside the real and perceived expectations of those around you, and put your needs before the needs of their expectations. Going out in the world in a new gender role is certainly a process that creates fear and apprehension, but at this point, I am more afraid of living the rest of my life in my assigned gender role. Now, I can fall asleep happy that I am being true to myself, I no longer have to fret about my perceived lack of courage. I found my courage. We all have it in us. Have you found yours?

iPhone: It Brought Out The Muse, & Me

I like to stare out windows for hours at a time – I always have ever since I was a young child.

Here at my door is where I find inspiration looking at the same things I have many times before. The scene never fails to inspire me as it first did when I looked out, many years ago.

I use to muse for hours in the mirror at night too – trying to see the reflection of “something”. I never understood this and other day dream fascinations.

After many years, I finally understand what I have been looking for…

… a way home.

Yesterday when I took the photo above with my iPhone, I was thinking back to when I use to stand here at this door, and wish that I were a girl – Now, I am.

As of May 21st 2008, I became a fully Post-Operative, fully functional “woman” when I completed my Genital Reassignment Surgery with Dr. Suporn in Chonburi Thailand.

That’s right, I am a Transsexual. I was also born with a Chromosomal variation condition called Klinefelter’s Syndrome or (KS), aka: 47 XXY male.

There are many variations of Klinefelter’s Syndrome.
My KS variant is: “47 XXY Mosaic.

My Room – 2 Months Post-Op

On the surface, this picture may not be special, but it really speaks a lot about where I am at right now, being 2 Months Post-op from FFS (Facial Feminization Surgery) that I under went from Dr. Suporn in Chonburi Thailand.

Here, I sit at my PC at night – Blogging, chatting or emailing online to friends, etc… anything to pass the time. It gets hard to sleep some nights. There is a lot of tightness in the scalp and temples. My head really itches everywhere, especially where they grafted in new hair (See photo notes).

This is my room – at least the clean part I am going to let any of you see right now. {giggles}

(Photo Above) Behind me is a long cork board filled with mementos from friends and people touched by my efforts from PinkEssence and my Blogs online. Thanks everyone who took the time – you’ve touched my life too. *sigh*
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