I went to the salon tonight to get my hair done. This is one of the few treats I give myself…going to the best (and a very expensive for Rockford) hair stylist. It is like an “evening out” for me to spend money on myself. For the past decade, it has been a place of safety for me…a place where I could be myself. Sure, there would be a pronoun slip every once in a while, but I would know it wasn’t intentional or malicious.
That changed six weeks ago. They called to reschedule an appointment. No problem, they left a message, I called back. The woman who answered was new, I explained that my name was Tina and that I was calling back about rescheduling an appointment. She called me “he” several times during the conversation. I tried to gently correct her the first two times, but by the fourth time I got frustrated and just told her to have someone more caring call me back
I know that probably wasn’t the kindest thing to do, but it is hurtful when people continue to do things that are demeaning. Okay, fast forward to tonight. I was looking forward to dropping a couple hundred dollars, getting some highlights. I really don’t need or want highlights, but my stylist thought it would be nice, and I’m fine with whatever she wants.
I should say that I need some more electrolysis, so I am letting some hair grow out on my face for that. Since I considered this a “safe” place, I didn’t cancel the appointment. When I got there, the stylist announced that there was a young woman (I had never met her) who was shadowing her. I should have just cancelled the appointment at that point. I knew I looked bad, and I didn’t need to have a stranger peering at me and making me feel like a freak.
I tried to tell the stylist that in a gentle way, but her attitude was “it is my salon, I’ll do what I want.” The woman stayed, and I continued to get more and more uncomfortable. At the end, I told my stylist how I felt…she basically didn’t care.
I’m probably out of line here. I thought this person was my friend and would understand that I’m vulnerable when I’m getting ready for a zapping session, so perhaps that isn’t the right time to have a stranger there…the bottom line is that I may have lost a stylist, her a customer. I feel very sad about that.
I’m remembering Christine Daniels today. I started to write that I don’t know why that is, but I really do. For those few of you who may not remember, Christine was born Mike Penner. I will refer to her as Christine, because it is about that part of her life I am most in tune with. As a post-operative transsexual, I have experienced great loss. I am naturally suspicious of anyone who transitions who doesn’t acknowledge their losses (although I can readily admit that there have been many positives and I do not regret my decisions).
Among the losses one may feel is family. If you are married, there is almost a 100% chance you will lose your spouse. If you have parents who are alive (I have one) they may decide they do not want to see you, continue to refer to you as “he”, or even disown you. You may lose friends and your job. You may face taunts and violence. You may, as I did, have a “well intentioned” friend try to guide me to a group that “repairs” gays and transgendered individuals.
Staying positive and keeping the faith while navigating being transgender is difficult enough. Add in trying to do it in public (which we all do to a certain extent) and it becomes even more challenging. Add in a dose of depression, which some of us feel, and it becomes even more difficult
Christine Daniels ended her life. My message to you is to not give up hope. While it is difficult to not be hurt when “friends” call you “he”, try to remember the people you meet in your life who love you. Try to embrace and hold on to the good, not the hurt and pain. I am honestly not real good at that part.
Try to rejoice when people get your name or a pronoun right. Try not to hurt when your friends tell you that you are overly sensitive. Don’t try to explain to them about the feminization of your brain or about how brittle you may be. Cry when you need to. Write if you must, even when you know that no one will read it, as it can be cathartic. I don’t write for anyone except myself, but I write with raw emotion.
I live with depression every single day of my life. Combined with feeling deep empathy for my friends, I hurt a lot. I have a friend who is dying and it really hurts.
The reality of my life is that 95% of the people I know probably don’t really accept me as a woman. They may be nice to me, but they still see me as a freak. I can worry about them (and I do), or I can rejoice in the 5%. I have several individuals in my life who are able to see beyond their own world. They can see me as a woman, not as someone pretending. Those few people (and I honestly think I’ve got maybe three in my life) are priceless. Love them, thank G-d for them, care for them.
I don’t envision a world where gender identity doesn’t matter. I do not believe, realistically, that the 95% of the people who see me as “he” will change their minds. And, I have no right to expect them to. Is it enough that they think I’m a “good person.” Is it enough that they see me trying to do good in the world?
I don’t know. Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn’t. I do my best to stay positive, but it isn’t easy. And so we return to Christine. She did her best, I believe, but in the end it wasn’t enough. I do not see anything “good” in death, especially if it is premature. It is simply sad.
So, in my times of trouble, I often compare myself to Christine. I wonder if I will end up unable to live in a world that can often be cruel. Can love outshine hate? Can a 50-something transsexual make it in the world? Stay tuned…but I continue to give it my best…and to remember Christine Daniels.
Thursday, March 31, 2011
A friend of mine is dying. This friend has been fighting a battle with cancer for a while, getting into clinical trials, doing everything possible. There is nothing more to be done. I feel numb, sad, angry, and frustrated, but mostly I feel this need to write down my feelings.
This wonderful man gave me work when no one else would hire me, is dying and it sucks. Yes, he is in his 70s and has had a wonderful life, but he is one of the nicest people I have even met…and I don’t want him to die.
You might ask what this has to do with a transgender blog. I’ll tell you. I was broke, about to consider selling my condo, when G came up with a consulting job for me. I worked with an organization he had founded for about a year, earning enough money to keep me in my place. I also grew to love him. When I attended a personal growth workshop, G and his wife were there at my graduation.
G didn’t understand me at first, and I think he was perplexed by me. His daughter was and is a wonderful friend of mine (and perhaps the nicest person I have ever met!), and introduced us. The part that makes this interesting is that G has accepted me and both he and his wife have provided me the opportunity to love them…and be loved by them.
I believe in the future because of him. He could see a person different than himself and reach out to that individual with love. He could be compassionate and understanding. I will always love him and remember him for that
A long time between blog entries! I’ve been busy with the challenge of living my life, including trying to stay gainfully employed (I still am at this moment, but do any of us really have any real security?) and doing my volunteer work (I recently joined the board of the Humane Society from which we adopted our dear Buster Brown some 16.5 years ago).
So, this is a hodge-podge entry. First, about two national retailers who recently gave some major contributions to an organization backing a candidate who is opposed to same sex marriage: I am not shopping at either the retailer that says they are the Best or the one that has a bull’s eye as a logo. My “beef” isn’t that the leadership of the organization doesn’t have the right to be bigoted and homophobic. Naturally they, as Americans, have the right to support discrimination. My beef is that the organization donated the money DIRECTLY. So, when I get the Sunday paper, I just pitch those two advertising sections. I’m sure it isn’t breaking their hearts to lose my small purchases, but if enough of us do so…perhaps we can make them aware that we won’t shop at places that discriminate.
My second thought is on what is important to me. I don’t spend much of my life fighting directly for transgender rights. I have been giving some thought to that. In Judaism, we are in the midst of a period leading up the Yom Kippur. We examine what we have done in the past year, including those we have wronged. We attempt to make amends with people, we promise to do better, and we beseech G-d for forgiveness. A major focal point is that G-d cannot forgive us for those things we have done to hurt another person…only that person can do so.
There are three major passions for me in my life- my Jewish life (my friends, G-d, synagogue, etc.), my family (who are not Jewish…and some, such as my dad, don’t want to even see me), and companion animals (first and foremost my lovely little fur baby!). So, I spend my time, energy and limited finances in those three areas (not in any order of importance…sorry about that G-d…but I guess I think that in retrospect G-d is the one “thing” that is in all three areas).
My third thought is that there are several ways to help make our society a safer place for those of us who are sometimes marginalized. Some of us march in parades or do sit-ins at Speaker Pelosi’s office. Others of us contribute money and/or petition our representatives. Finally, there are those of us who simply attempt to live our lives with dignity, hoping that at least one person we come in contact with may have some sort of change of heart about those who are different from them.
That is what I attempt to do, in my congregation, at work, in my community, and with my family. Sometimes I feel that I have limited success, while there are other times when I can’t imagine that my efforts make the slightest difference to the people I come into contact with. Attempting to counter hate, indifference, and ignorance with love is not an easy thing. I’m not really that good at it, but I continue to work on it.
“Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s learning to Dance in the rain.” I bought a small framed photo with that quote in it. I struggle to learn to dance in the moment, to merely enjoy where I am at a given point in time. It is easy to do when you are surrounded by four legged creatures showering you with attention and kisses. It is easy when you are with amazing friends.
It isn’t so easy when you are with people who call you “he.” It isn’t so easy when you know that respected people see you as a freak. It isn’t so easy when you can’t imagine ever “being with someone.” It isn’t easy, but it is important to at least continue making the effort.
I love my friends and family …I am forwarding this to them because I want them to know how incredibly much I love them. On Yom Kippur, I am supposed to hope that my name will be inscribed in the Book of Life. I find myself, instead, not caring as much about that as I do about having is inscribed in the “Book of Love.” My goal for the year is to share my passion and my love with everyone in my world. There is a song with the words, “and you shall be a blessing.” That is my goal. I know I will fall short, but the effort is what is important.
Saturday, July 3, 2010
Have you ever read a book and not wanted it to end? I imagine that may be how some people feel about the Harry Potter series (I admit that I may be the only person in America who hasn’t read a single word…the names are just like those in Russian novels, so many, so odd…and there are so many other books I want to read). I am currently in the midst of one. It isn’t great literature, but it is about a family…or rather it really focuses on a woman. I don’t want to dwell on the plot, but rather that we don’t want things to end at times.
I’ve always thought everyone felt that way about things, but I am not sure that is true. I rather think that most of us do about certain things. For instance, I didn’t want my mother to die, but I did look forward to going to college (although I stayed at home). I looked forward to my marriage to the most wonderful woman in the world and felt deeply saddened the day it ended.
For some of us, transition never ends. In a very real sense, we are all transitioning from who we are to who we are becoming…but some transgendered individuals continue to stay in a state where they still see themselves as transitioning…as if scared about what comes next. How can I say such a thing? The old adage, write what you know and have and/or are experiencing.
We can argue whether a post-op is no longer transgendered, but the one thing one cannot say is that we grew up with the “equipment” we currently have. I can’t pretend to have had a childhood of being a girl. My memories will always (until I don’t have them) include little league baseball, swim trunks, and really short haircuts my father used to give us.
So, I can’t pretend I’m a natal woman, but it is possible (at least my friends assure me it is) to get past feeling that you are a transsexual. What makes it hard? Well, I still have a father who thinks of me as his son. He refers to me that way and refuses to accept the woman I have become. People I know still slip on pronouns. It makes it hard to forget. There are times when I wonder: if I was wealthy, wouldn’t it just be easier to go somewhere where nobody knew me?
I may face that decision at some point, but not right now. I’m facing another transition, probably later this year (although I hope to forestall it). My gorgeous, amazing dog who just turned 17 in June, is rapidly nearing the winter of his life. We like using other words other than death, don’t we? It is as if most of us are uncomfortable with that end. It might be easier for those who truly believe in heaven, which includes at least two of my cousins. They believe in a time when they will meet their mother in heaven. I’m not so sure. I just know that my very best friend in the world is Buster. He comforts me when I’m sad, he gives me a reason to get up in the morning, and he has given me more pleasure than I can imagine.
Every story, however, must end. We can (and some of us do) continue going over “Chapter 12” for years, but at some point we all move on. Spouses die or get divorced. Children grow up, move away, get married (and divorced), have children, and so on. It is a cycle that has to end, just like my book. All of us eventually die.
There is a book called Rainbow Bridge that suggests that when a pet dies, it goes to a place where s/he is young again. No longer blind or lame, they run and frolic, with lots of food and water and no arthritic hips. There they wait until, one day, their person dies and comes to be with them…at which point they cross the bridge together.
I want so hard to believe that. However, just like with my life, I am scared of losing my little boy. If I knew I would join him somewhere else, I would gladly do so. That doesn’t mean I will, because the world doesn’t work that way…unless it wants to. I’m not scared of dying, at least I don’t think I am, but I am enjoying (for the most part) living.
Okay, I took a long break, a walk, started making dinner, and read some more of the book that got me started on this post. You see, I’ve relieved “Chapter 12” in my life. I started being more open about “dressing” when I was married, and then went back to pretending I didn’t have any gender issues. The second time, I got all the way through surgery, lost my job and was almost in bankruptcy (thanks to help from my ex, I didn’t have to…perhaps because we were still married and she knew it might impact her credit rating). So, after a couple of years of struggling, I went back. After a bit, it wasn’t working (okay, I’ve read the chapter before, I should have known that!), so I transitioned back to living female.
I think I’ve lived this chapter at least 3-4 times, and I’m tired of it. I’m also scared of Chapter 13. Will it continue a happily ever after story? Will I die penniless and alone? Will I ever find a guy to share my life with? The only way to find out is to turn the page…and it is time to do that.
Just over a month into transition, but that isn’t what I want to talk about…at least not directly. I have had one person (a male student) call for me to be fired. What I really want to write about is love and hate. I can’t imagine hating someone for being different from me. I do not understand lots of people and their differences…I don’t understand why a woman would allow herself to be treated as chattle, for example. However, I accept their rights to live their lives the way they choose.
What has come up is that a person I care about, and who I believe cares about me, continues to call me he. I was at an event for a charity golf outing…a planning meeting. All new people who had never met me, and J kept referring to me as “he.” I didn’t react at the time, but I have emailed a couple mutual friends, seeking advice.
I know what I feel. It hurts and I need to let him know that. However, I need to radiate love towards him, while letting him know that his words hurt me. We cannot be punching bags for those who dislike or disapprove of us. We need to provide individuals with the opportunity to grow and understand, while still loving them. It isn’t easy. Standing in a parking lot as your congregation’s President refers to you as he to police officers is not fun. It hurts, and I won’t pretend that it doesn’t.
I cannot be quiet, but I can “make noise” in a loving manner. I can’t demand other people change, but I can work at changing my response. Attempting to be loving and not being a doormat isn’t easy. Being transgendered isn’t for sissies!
I spend time crying myself to sleep, because there are times when I believe we are making zero progress. People rehash the bathroom issue. We are condemned as sinful beings who are unrepentant. It goes on and on.
We can’t change the world, but we can adjust our responses. We can find ways to be constructively loving when we respond to the individual who calls us by the wrong pronoun. We can live our lives with dignity, using our actions as examples. We may never be able to overcome, but we can at least be loving individuals.
It isn’t easy. Tears may be shed, as they often are. True equality is a goal that is very far. We can only love and be our best, and provide opportunities for others to adjust. Being loving and kind is one way to go, perhaps creating a friend out of a foe. I don’t know if love can overcome hate, but I must go on, whatever the fate.
It is almost 9 pm. In 12 hours I start my first day of work as myself. For most people transition is a single day when they start their Real Life Test, which is supposed to last for a year. I find it curious that the so-called ENDA (Employment Non Discrimination Act) will not apply to pre-operative transsexuals. This means that companies would be able to tell a pre-op M2F to continue using the men’s restroom during transition. We can’t have the “genitalia police” with nothing to do, right?
Anyway, that doesn’t apply to me. I’m a post-op, coming up on seven years at the end of June. So mine isn’t the typical transition…but that makes it no less scary. Our Senior VP thinks all he has to do is send out an email that says, “Starting Monday, May 10, the Director of the ______ will be Tina ______. We welcome her. That is it. He thinks that is all that is needed.
I’m not convinced, and I also know that the President of the university had the opportunity to assure me that things would be okay. He saw me several times at commencement this past weekend, and went out of his way not to talk to me. Maybe I’m making something out of nothing…and he doesn’t really even know I exist.
Anyway, I’ll have a full five day week, followed by only two days the next week and three the following, and four the week after that. So, I’m able to ease in a bit. I also have a vacation to see my cousin in Colorado, which should be great fun.
Lots of work to do this week, and that is probably good. I won’t have time to really worry about much…just keep doing my job. Enough for now, but I wanted to acknowledge that May 10, is “T day.”
Friday, April 23, 2010
There are times when I think we are absolutely nowhere. I’m not going to make book on it, but I believe the possibility that a trans-inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) will pass both the House and Senate and be signed into law is more remote than me winning the Powerball lottery.
I just got through reading an article that trashed Jillian Weiss, one of the leaders in trying to get ENDA passed. The author was vile in her condemnation of Dr. Weiss. In most instances, I’d provide some quotes to give you the context and feel, but there is nothing but hatred and intolerance in the entire article…and I refuse to allow one word of it to enter my blog.
Currently 12 states have protection similar to that provided by ENDA. Living in Illinois, I am blessed to be in one of them. Now I’ve followed the news real carefully since the Human Rights Act was amended to include sexual orientation (which was defined to include gender identity). I have not seen an outpouring of lawsuits. I haven’t seen tons of K-12 teachers lining up to have GRS. Maybe we are just more highly evolved than the rest of the country! Whenever I think that, I turn on the television and see our former governor, and I know that isn’t true.
Now I am not an expert on the other 11 states. I do know there have been a couple of instances involving K-12 teachers. In those cases, there have been parents who have found out. Now I don’t know about you, but news of a teacher transitioning would get out pretty darn quickly in any school I’ve been a part of. In fact, the announcement of my transition at my university will become known to employees at 3:30 pm on Thursday, May 6. I have full faith that it will be all over campus by 5 pm…the only thing that might mitigate that is the fact that it is graduation time.
So the argument that guidelines for medical privacy (available to all Americans) will keep students and parents from finding out that they are being taught be (gasp) a transsexual is insane. The grapevine will let people know.
It is easy to get discouraged when you find narrow-minded and bigoted people saying hateful things. It is worse knowing that for every one of them that steps up and says it, more will keep quiet and discriminate against us by their deeds.
The message line on my personal emails has a quote, “to change the world, you must touch the world.” There are so many times when I believe that the world will never change…that there will always be hatred and violence…so why bother? My answer to that is that I can’t change the entire world, but I can work to make my portion of it a little better, a little safer, a little kinder.
One of the things that drew me to convert to Judaism is the feeling that we are not obligated to complete the task of perfecting the world, but we are responsible to participate in it. We can begin to change by changing ourselves to be more loving and caring, while at the same time not allowing people to discriminate against us. We can be teachers to the world by demonstrating that we are sane, normal, tax-paying individuals. We can set an example that will make it difficult for individuals to square with their narrow minded thoughts.
On May 10, I will transition at work. My hope is that things will go well. I am certain that I will run into resistance from some. I am sure there are those who will call me names, either verbally or silently. I can’t let those things bother me. I need to live my life with grace and dignity. Just as Dr. King had a dream, I have my own. Mine is of a world where violence is the exception and civility is the norm. It is a world where differences are celebrated, not scorned. It is a place where the hungry are feed, the sick are cared for, and the elderly and children are both seen as priceless parts of the tapestry that is our society. I dream of a time where being trans will be much like being left-handed, of a time when love trumps fear.
It may not happen in my lifetime. It may never happen. But as long as I am alive and able, I will strive towards creating that type of world. Pretty Pollyannaish of me, right?
Really funny things happen when you are transitioning. Let me give you a few examples. First, a week ago I was waiting at a convenience store to pay for a diet coke. A second register opened up and the woman said, “I can help you, ma’am.” I was in male mode, but it was so cool! Second, I was being introduced this week by someone who supposedly doesn’t know about my transition to another person (I’m still working male until May 10). The person started introducing me as Tina. How cute!
Then at synagogue last night, a woman who is usually nice to me called me “he” while I was dressed very smartly in feminine attire. The moral of all this…you can’t win t hem all! Seriously, I need to be able to not let the setbacks bother me, and rejoice in the “good stuff.”
I know some people who have transitioned who remain angry and slighted at just about anything. They want to sue, confront, and basically are just not fun to be around.
My therapist and I were talking about one such person, who we both know. I am aware that what I need to do is to just be the best me I can be.
More funny stuff. My cousin went to a training session at a non-profit she volunteers at. The topic was in dealing with LGBTIQ kids…it is a bit more specific, but I’ll keep it general so as not to identify the group. Anyway, my cousin took her copy of True Selves (which I consider to be one of the better books to give to family and friends of transsexuals) with her. I, of course, had given it to her. Anyway, another person at the training had a nephew/niece who was just coming out as being transgendered…a M2F. Needless to say, the aunt is struggling with it…the person in question is married with children. Anyway, my cousin gave her the book to read.
I think what I am really trying to say is that we change the world little by little, one person at a time. While protections such as the Employment Non Discrimination Act (ENDA) are important, the real work is in helping people come to an understanding that we are okay…we aren’t all freaks and Jerry Springer castoffs. We aren’t all wearing 7” heels and parading around in mini-skirts. Yes, some of us do (not me, as walking in anything over a 3” heel would be daunting!), but most of are just decent people.
So, I volunteer, I work hard, I love those around me, and I try to change the world one person at a time. ..by allowing each individual to change themselves. I doubt this would work on Fred Phelps and his crew, but with most people it is worth a try. Being kind to others is so much easier and fun than being a jerk…which is why I believe most people will return your kindness with respect. At least that is my story, and I’m sticking to it.
I’m at T-22 days and counting until transition. Wish me luck!
Monday, April 05, 2010
Wow! It has been a long time between entries. Life is going reasonably well, and I’m on pace to transition at work (or stop crossdressing as a male, which is what it really is) and openly be Tina 24/7. One of the challenging things about living PT (and remember, I’ve done this before, so I have at least experienced what I’m writing about, whether I’m correct or not!) is that it is easy to think of yourself as two people…one male, one female. You can even start talking about yourself as “when I’m Tina.” Well, friends, I’m Tina, even if I’m dressing like a boy! One of the funnier things in my life, since I’m still dressing male for work (a post op for close to seven years, and I’m doing that!), is that when people who know me introduce me to friends of theirs, they still call me Tina! That is because to them I am Tina.
I’ve been spending a decent amount of money on clothes for transition. When I determined that I could “tough it out” in male mode the last time, I purged of almost everything I had. Now I’m busy rebuilding a wardrobe…and I have until May 10…which is my first day at work. A few blouses here, a couple of pairs of pants there. Four pairs of shoes from Maryland Square last night…spending some of my dog sitting money.
I’m paying a price for having purged…just as many of us pay a high price for transitioning. We can end up bankrupt and homeless. We may lose jobs, and we almost always lose at least some friends. Depression can rear its ugly head. We may become uninsurable, unemployable, and suicidal.
I am trying to stay positive about my transition this time. I have tons of friends, to begin with. I have a little money in the bank, but more importantly, I have faith that somehow I will see this through. It isn’t a child like faith…not in a superior being, but merely a belief that the universe will be okay. I struggle to hold onto that. I live with depression…my daily dose of Lexapro is vital to keep me on an even keel…and even that doesn’t work all the time.
I just believe I was put on earth for a reason, and I’m going to keep on seeking my calling. Perhaps it is just to love others, or allow others to love me. Perhaps it is to teach people to challenge their prejudices. Whatever, I am mostly upbeat and ready to face the future.