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.

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“Being Male”

This is something I wrote in my personal blog, and I just thought I would share it here as well. It is a reflection on how I felt about my life as a “male” and how I experienced that life.

The concept of life as a male, that life before transition and even during transition, has been on my mind lately. I have been considering what it must be like to actually fully experience ones gender, rather than to exist within in the social construct of one’s gender in order to survive.  I think back to my childhood and my young adult years, and I realize that there was so much of life that I was never fully able to enjoy and experience.

There were periods of time, some of them fairly long, where I was able to suppress my dysphoria, but even in those times, I still never fully experienced life as a male. Instead I lived with a constant uncomfortable feeling about what I was expected to do, the things that were going on around me, and even the things that I was doing. I went through the motions, living life the way others wanted me to live it. Never really fully engaging myself in life, unable to fully engage. Instead I was left to look at what was going on around me with the constant feeling that I was an unwilling participant, looking from the outside in, looking in at a life that was not mine, one that I did not fully understand.

Yet, I was able to build a successful life, but the joys of my successes were often shrouded by that constant uncomfortable feeling. The feeling that something was not right. There were periods of time where I acknowledged what it was, I acknowledged my feminine self, but hid it away. Afraid to express my true inner feelings, I hid inside this “male shell” and continued to play by the rules that were set for me, the rules that were set by the gender I was assigned at birth because of the physical appearance of my body. Rules that ignored the relevance of my mind, my spirit, my true self. Even though awareness came around the age of 5, I am sure that it was not something that arose only at that age. Memories before that time are few. I think in many regards I attribute not knowing before this time to not remembering a lot of life before that age.

How does one experience life when they feel so disconnected from it? That is the question that has been on my mind so much. How did I experience life when I was young, fighting the knowledge that my body did not match my mind, fighting the urge to express my desire to break out of the mold that I was expected to fit into. I think about it now more than ever, the desire to break the mold, and all the while the fear that arises with the idea of being found out. I continue to laugh at the male jokes and partially entertain the “male” conversations, all the while thinking that I would not be a part of these conversations if I were presenting as a women. I stand there thinking that, then, I would be spared the low brow humor, the constant testosterone driven conversations, the things that men talk about when they think there are no women around. Sometimes it makes me feel like a spy, like I am a woman disguised as a male infiltrating male culture and observing male rituals.

The reality of it is that I am a woman masquerading as a male, only this is not by choice. I was born with the body, and until my transition is complete I must live with it. I will continue to be the spy, observing, and not totally understanding. If anything, that lack of understanding is what often made life difficult. I never understood why guys do the things that they do, why they behave the way that they do, why they say the things that they say. If someone were to ask me what it is like to be a guy, I would honestly say that after 34 years of living in the male world, I don’t know and I don’t really understand it.

What I do understand is what it is like to feel trapped within a social construct that does not fit with who you truly are in the inside. I look forward to the day when I can live fully as myself, and interact with the world as the woman that I am. I look forward to the day when I no longer have to feel like I am putting on my disguise and venturing out into the male world for more field observations. I can then get out of the spy business, and get on with the business of being me.

There are times when I wonder what it is like to experience life with without feeling this disconnect. I look at men walking down the street, in the store, or out at the park, and I wonder what it is like for them to interact with the world feeling like a man on the inside and being one on the outside. I look at women, and wonder what it is like to have your outside match your inside, to not just be a woman in your mind and soul, but in your body as well. I guess you could say that at times I feel envy for those living in the cisgender world, those who have never had to question their gender, those who have always been able to pursue their passions knowing who they are.

This journey, for me, is not just about aligning my physical body with my mind and soul, but about being able to not have to pretend any more. To be able to finally live life and interact with the world as the woman that I am. I know that transition is not a cure all, and I will, more likely than not, be out about my being trans and probably be an activist, but at least I will finally experience what it is like to look in the mirror and see the woman I am reflected back to me.

Children and Transition

This is a blog entry from my personal blog.  Lori had suggested I cross post this entry here. I am glad that she suggested that, it has been some time since I posted here. Thanks for the suggestion Lori, and the wonderful comments. 

I felt compelled to write about a topic that is rather close to my heart, children and transition. I was reading a blog on Yahoo 360 by a friend from the 360 community, Stephanie, see it here. I must admit that I had a very defensive reaction to this posting when I first read it. I hold nothing against Stephanie, I just feel the need to assert my view on this topic. In her blog, she basically questions the decision to withhold information from children during transition, stating that,”There should be no secrets in a family.” 

   Before going much further, I feel that I should give a little background on myself. I came out almost five months ago to my spouse, and I have two young children, both under the age of 6. When I came out, I knew that it was only going to lead to one place for me, and that was transition. For me there is no middle ground. I cannot live part time in one role and work in the other. I have lived my whole life knowing where I was supposed to be, and, since figuring out that transition was possible, I have known that transition was something I needed to do. Yes, I tried to avoid it, through love and other means, but those paths led me to the place I am at now. 

    Now that I am beginning my transition, I have to manage the flow of information about my transition to avoid it getting to the wrong people at the wrong time. Only a very few people know right now, and those are the people who I trust, and who I know will absolutely keep my confidence about what I am going through. There are others who I feel similarly about, but I am still working up the courage to tell them. Others, I feel, will spread the information faster the Paul Revere on a midnight horse-ride. 

     Now for children and the blog post I am referring to. Stephanie is right that children are extremely perceptive. They can sense when something isn’t right or when someone is keeping a secret. I have witnessed the power of children’s perceptions and how they can sense emotions and feelings. One of the most powerful ways I experienced this was on Sept. 11, 2001. I went to my sister-in-laws house that morning on my way to work. My niece, who had just turned one, came up to me right away, and instead of just giving me a quick hug and going about playing, she gave me a long tight hug. This was not just a happy to see you hug, this was one where I could feel that she knew I was upset, and she just held on until I thanked her and told her I felt better now. I was not crying at the time, but I was upset, and she sensed this and did the only thing she knew she could do to try and help. 

    When transitioning with children, we have the added burden of trying to determine the right time to tell our children. Depending on our family situation, their ages, spousal situations, and a myriad of other factors, the “right time” or “best time” to tell your children carry vary greatly from one person to the next. For many of us, if our personal and professional lives intertwine to some extent. Children tend to be pretty honest, and trying to get children, especially young children, to keep secrets can be extremely difficult if not utterly impossible. If information gets out to the wrong people at the wrong time, it can damage personal relationship, work environments, family relations, or other sensitive areas of transition. 

   Do I think that it is good to keep secrets in a family? No, I don’t. I love my children dearly, and I am very honest with them. However, I have not yet begun to tell them about who I really am. My clothes hang in my closet right along side my boy clothes, but they don’t question it. I have also seen no negative effects from my “hiding” the fact that I am transitioning and going out in girl mode once a week. In fact, since I came out and began my transition, my children have become more loving, more affectionate, and more confident. It seems that my being happier and more content has carried over to their own personal sense of well being. Because I am more confident with myself, they are no longer affected by my hiding my true self and the struggle that accompanied it. 

    I think that this brings me to a point that has come up a few times for me recently. That point being about what is the right way to approach any part of transition. Simply put, there is no right way. There is no right time frame, no right hormone regimen, no right surgeon, no right path to transition. There is only your path towards becoming your true self. I appreciate hearing from others about what has worked for them, why they liked a particular physician, why they chose to do things the way they did it, or their general philosophy on transition, but we must remember that we all have to do what is comfortable and right for ourselves. The journey of transition is about discovering yourself through your own personal journey. We are fortunate to have a diverse community with many stories of transition, let’s continue to share those stories, and not judge those who take a different path. I could never spend the rest of my life living as Kathryn but working as a male, yet there are those who can. I do not judge them. We have a community because we need support in a society that judges us and does not understand us, let us not judge each other and let us continue to give each other the support we all need to make what ever transition we choose to make.

“Ma’am” fallout

Earlier this week, I blogged about getting my first intentional ma’am from a sandwich maker at the local Subway.  The interesting thing is that I wasn’t trying to “pass” at the time.  If you’re interested, you could read about it on my 360 blog, including a picture of me wearing what I wore into the Subway, I had Teresa take the picture when I got home.  (We live in the same house.)

Anyway, this isn’t about that, it’s about the after-effects of it.  It was a simple thing and I got a big kick out of it, after all I was just on my way to a service call on what was supposed to be my day off.  (I gotta tell the boss that he’s cutting into my “girl” time.)   After I left the Subway, I kept looking in the mirror trying to figure out what she saw that caused her to call me ma’am.  The incident kinda freaked me out after a while, I was thinking “have I changed that much already?”

That was just one of the things going through my mind, I had an emotional surge when it occoured to me that she was looking right at me when she said it, and that I actually could be gendered as female.   That’s always been one of my fears, not being able to pass.  It held me up for a long time, and here I passed without even trying!  Very strange!

It must have hit me pretty deep, because when I was doing my service call at a multiplex cinema and had to go to the bathroom, it was a tough decision to go into the men’s room.   I actually felt like I didn’t belong there.   Now lately, I’ve been wearing a hat so no one sees the lack of hair on the top of my head, it’s not very female.

It seems like it was a defining moment for me, it’s really hard to go back to “guy” mode after that, I’m still struggling with it.  I know that my fears have kept me sitting on the “gender fence” for a while now, it’s really getting to be time to move!   The biggest problem I have with that is that I’m so unprepared, having taken a different path to get here.  I’ve never been a public “cross-dresser”, I started HRT with no “public exposure” experience.  Maybe it’s time to get out of my comfort zone.

How did your first real ma’am affect you?  Did it make you crazy and frustrated like it did me?

I told the boss!

Hi all,

Today, I told my boss that I have Gender Identity Disorder.  It was kinda scary, but I needed to do it sooner or later, and the right opportunity came up.  I had a laser treatment on Monday and I think the doctor used a bit too much power.  My face and neck has big blochy spots on it and a couple of places blistered a bit.  Anyway, he asked me what happened to my face and I told him “this is what happens when the doctor uses a bit too much power on the laser”  “Laser?  What’s the laser for?” he asked.  I said “facial hair removal, I’m having all my facial hair removed.”  We went on to discuss the service calls for tomorrow and I was thinking, “you dummy, it’s the perfect time to tell him!”, so I went into his office and sat down and proceded to tell him about my GID.  He asked me a few simple questions and I gave him basic answers, no sense in complicating it at this point.  I told him that I hoped this wouldn’t affect my job because I like the job.   He said that he didn’t have a problem with it, he likes the work I do for him.  So, we’ll see how the summer goes now that he’s aware of this aspect of me.  It’s one thing for him to know what’s going on, it’s another thing to see it developing.  I’m hoping that by taking it slow, they’ll be more accepting of me as things change.

Amber

I said, go away sunshine

Mom ended up asking me to send the letter, anyway, but, I had scrapped the original this morning, and ended up sending this instead.

Sorry, but I am not going to send that letter. But I will say this much….

The fact that (brother) and I are at odds is because of his actions and words he has directed at me. His saying he would have me arrested if I attended the family reunion last year. His calling me a liar, and a narcissist are other reasons why he and I are at odds. The fact I was told to not contact his kids is yet another reason. His actions and feelings towards me are not your responsibility. He’s a big boy and no one else can tell him what to do or how to think. You did a good job in raising us with the values we needed and then it was up to he and I on how to implement those values into our adult lives. I am in no way saying that I mastered all those values, either.

I never expected you to be June Cleaver or Carol Brady, but I do wish we could have been closer to the point we would have shared more with each other, emotionally speaking. All those times I went straight up to my room I wish I would have instead gone to sit by you and hold your hand and tell you that I loved you. I wish I would have told you how confused and depressed I was. You had a lot going on in your own world and I incorrectly assumed you didn’t need to hear my “feelings” because even to me those feelings were seriously enexplainable and I thought they would eventually go away. It is painfully clear to everyone now that those feelings stayed and continued to grow stronger.

There were signs of my struggles, perhaps. I spent a lot of time in isolation in my room. The nights I spent out on school nights. The days I missed completely or partially from school, especially my senior year. I barely graduated on time with a 2.0 GPA and if I hadn’t passed government class with a D- that year I wouldn’t have even graduated. It’s not your fault I abused alcohol and drugs to the point of being high almost all the time. Before or after family gatherings I would smoke pot so that I could make it through whatever thing we would have going on at the time. When I was maybe 16 or 17 I remember passing out drunk at the kitchen table with you & (step-dad) sitting there only to find you both gone when I woke up. My plate still sitting there. Sure, I was a good enough kid I guess, but, even the good ones make poor judements. Not everything is just “a kid being a kid”.

When (step-dad) and (brother) would go at it I would sit in my room crying my eyes out swearing that I would never allow what I said to get me in trouble like that. I refused to allow my speaking up to result in being whipped with the next limb off the tree. For pete’s sake I was nearly whipped just for sniffing too much. Bury my feelings is what I learned from those days, but, anything that gets buried so deep still has a good chance of rising to the surface eventually.

I will never again make the mistake of presuming how you may feel, Mom. From where I stand I have only assumed that you are not interested in anything I am doing here in Columbus because of the fact everything I do revolves around me being Karen M. Patrick.

Is the idea of me living as the person that gives my life purpose and meaning really so awful for you to not try and be happy for me? How I dream of the day that you and I can sit, hug and have a good cry with each other over all of what we have been through together, and seperately.

Mother nature is a mad scientist and I am merely the result of one of those experiments. My being the way I am today is not your fault, and I cannot say it clearly enough how you are not to blame for who or what it is I am. This may freak you out but as I get older I see more and more of you in me.

I love you mom,

Karen

Sunshine go away today

Mom’s response to my letter to my aunt:

Listen Marcus,

Don’t ever presume to know how I am feeling because you never will and never can!!!!!!!

I remain,
Your Mother

I am truly going to miss the “person I thought I knew”.

So, I wrote a long letter to mom last night but don’t think I will send it because it seems the more honest I am the more trouble it seems to cause. This is an uncomfortable place to be stuck in.

The words I heard the night I was forced to out myself to my parents still ring in my ears from time to time. They were very specific words that one doesn’t forget when they seem to be directed at you. Words like disgusting, sinful, evil, satan, ridiculous, impossible are words that can come back to haunt a person. Until I hear something dispelling those feelings what else am I to presume? This is a question that surrounds my very existence. At what point will I no longer hear the words that hurt me so much? I hear them when I am awake. They invade my dreams at night. I cannot escape them. I am a tortured soul caught between self-acceptance and self-loathing.

(sigh)