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Authenticity and “Passing”

I originally wrote most of this as a comment to another blog I follow. But I realized it’s useful and wanted others to have the chance to consider this as well.

I really really dislike the term “passing” but I’m going to use it here because so many people in the community understand it. I prefer to think of it as just acceptance of who I am.

One of the things about “passing” seems to be a lack of effort. And I don’t mean that in the way some people might think. In fact, perhaps I mean it the opposite way.

When we’re unsure of ourselves, when we’re not authentically ourselves (which I agree is hard!), we start to “act”, and our role in society becomes performance art rather than just who we are.

But the funny thing is that people seem to be able to detect performance art versus authenticity. Maybe we try to hard. Maybe we make subtle mistakes or maybe we’re acting so hard that we don’t make mistakes. Maybe we “act” too hard and it sends signals to others.

I’m not really sure. But what I do know is that as I acquired personal inner peace, as I began to simply “be me” as opposed to someone society thought I should be, my issues with “passing” vanished.

Yeah, I admit I’ve had medical help along the way as an MtF trans woman but that help, while it definitely helped, wasn’t the final piece of the puzzle for me.

It was when I finally found a way to “be me” that I stopped acting. And almost as soon as I stopped acting, I stopped getting misgendered, etc. I know it’s not that easy for everyone. I know that hormones need time to work. I know that there are other aspects. But regardless of all those things, it does seem to me that “passing” includes being authentic, just “being you” rather than a construct.

NOTE: Part of finding that inner peace, for me at least, did come from surgery. Once I completed GCS, then I began to finally, for the first time in my life, begin to feel positive about my own body. So surgery played a role there too, but only a role.

Mental Delusions and White MTF Late Life Transitioners

Over and over again, I encounter late life transitioners who are absolutely desperate to hold onto their conservative and Republican credentials. This tells me they’ve not really started to transition yet because if they had, if they had been out among other women and learned and seen what other women put up with from the right wing Neanderthal mouth breathers in the GOP, they either could not be Republicans or they have hearts of ice and stone filled with hate for their fellow human beings.

The GOP has lied about everything it touches. The GOP courted KKK votes in the south beginning with Richard Nixon, via the “Southern Strategy” as created by his campaign adviser, Kevin Phillips. This article is from 1970 from the New York Times where they interviewed Kevin Phillips to understand how he won the South. Now either all those hateful white supremacist George Wallace style voters all, down to the last man, woman, and child, suddenly had a conversion and began supporting civil rights for people of color… OR they were attracted to the GOP via a series of code words and phrases that signaled white supremacy and dismissal of the black man. Which seems more reasonable to you? Yet very few older white MTF transitioners ever know about this, let alone accept the truth of it.

And this was not a one time thing either. Lee Atwater, in the middle 1980s, had his interview where he explained how they stopped saying “N*****, n*****, n*****!” and instead resorted to using code phrases like desegregation, forced busing, welfare bums, etc. Atwater was so upset with what he did with his life that he begged forgiveness on his death bed in the early 1990s for being a racist. Yet very few older white MTF transitioners ever know about this, let alone accept the truth of it.

Another of Nixon’s men, John Erlichman, said this also: “The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.” Yet very few older white MTF transitioners ever know about this, let alone accept the truth of it.

Even further, in 2005, Ken Mehlman, then RNC chairman, publicly apologized to the NAACP for the GOP’s long history of racist attacks against people of color, and for using people of color to induce fear in ignorant white voters. This is public information yet very few older white MTF transitioners ever know about this, let alone accept the truth of it.

The GOP has never once balanced a budget on budget cuts as they claim. The budget being balanced in the 1990s was a compromise of budget cuts in some areas, and substantial tax increases in other areas, including on the highest bracket income earners. But you won’t hear Newt Gingrich or Republicans admit that. Republican states are among the poorest in the USA with the states taking the most federal handouts being Republican 9 times out of 10. On the other end, blue states (Democrat controlled) pay more to Washington than they take back. So who’s the real deadbeats here? Sam Brownback’s Kansas application of libertarian right wing nonsense now has the state running deficits of incredible proportions for such a small and relatively poor state. Even other Republicans in Kansas want to reject that nonsense now. Likewise, Scott Walker has done no favors to Wisconsin or its residents, cutting the state university budget by $450 million just so he can spend $400 million on a new sports stadium. Yet very few older white MTF transitioners ever know about this, let alone accept the truth of it.

The Republican Party in 2015 introduced over 110 anti-LGBT bills in states and the US Congress. Zero were introduced by Democrats. The Republican party introduced in states and the US Congress over 200 anti-LGBT bills so far in 2016. Zero were introduced by Democrats. The GOP just passed the most anti-LGBT party platform in its history, calling for the repeal of marriage equality, for open discrimination against transgender people, and for reparative therapy to be used on LGBT people, both children and any adults committed for being LGBT, despite the fact that no major medical organization considers being gay or trans as a mental health issue anymore. Yet very few older white MTF transitioners ever know about this, let alone accept the truth of it.

That same party platform carries open unscientific lies, claiming children in LGBT households are more prone to drug use, criminal behavior, and mental health issues, yet the scientifically proven truth is exactly the opposite. Yet very few older white MTF transitioners ever know about this, let alone accept the truth of it.

Over and over again, I get the impression that older white MTF transitioner believe that this is just about their body. Take the hormones, get surgery if needed, and you’re ok, right? WRONG! If you are a woman, you need to learn about women’s experiences. You need to get out and make friends with cisgender women. You need to understand how often we get raped. You will rapidly find that you suddenly have more friends who’ve been raped than you ever openly knew before in your entire life, because male privilege was hiding that from you. You will discover that women get treated as sex objects whether we want this or not. You will find men talking over you and getting angry if you try to interrupt to take back the floor. You will find men looking at you, not as a human being, but as a piece of meat to be evaluated to be fucked or raped.

And once you begin to understand what it is to be a woman in today’s society, you begin to understand that your worst enemy are conservative white men – exactly the group you were part of before. You begin to grasp that, as an older white male, you were part of a sick, twisted, ugly privileged self-centered group of people who want the entire universe to revolve around them. You, as a trans woman, begin to relate directly to the crap that your friends of color, both trans and cis, are experiencing, and all the crap that goes with that. You begin to understand that suddenly you’re worth less in the marketplace, just because you are a woman, and if you fight back about it, you’ll get fired.

So what I see, every god damned time I encounter a “fresh off the boat” brand new older white MTF transitioner is someone who thinks they can somehow, magically remain a part of that privileged, self-centered, lying brigade of white men who think they deserve to control everything.

I got news for you, honey. You’re a woman now and in their eyes, you ain’t shit. So get with the program and start educating yourself. Make lots of cisgender female friends then listen to them! Listen to their health care issues, how white male doctors dismiss issues that those same doctors would take seriously with a white male. Listen to them as they try to tell you that Old White Guys™ want to control their vaginas. Listen to them as they try to explain how hard it is to raise kids when the father is a deadbeat and the social safety nets have been torn to shreds by Old White Guys™. Listen to them as they tell you how Old White Guys™ talk over them or dismiss their ideas, then turn around and agree when a man says the exact same thing you did just a few minutes before.

And once you start to listen, once you start to learn, unless your head is so far up your ignorant ass that you’re already dead from suffocation, you will start to open your mind and realize that the biggest enemy you have, right now, today, in 2016 are Republicans. I wish that was not the case, but that’s the truth. Maybe someday the GOP will decide to focus on liberty and “live and let live” as they did once a long, long time ago.

But that day is not today and that year is not this year. If you are a transgender woman and you’re voting Republican, you’re still trying to hide behind your white male privilege. And I can guarantee you one thing – eventually they will turn on you too.

Looking Back at 2015

The year 2015 will be a pretty important year for me in numerous respects. A lot happened and I learned a lot along the way. 2015 was the first year I lived as myself full time. My legal paperwork was done in September 2014 and I was full time thereafter, no looking back.

In January of 2015, I decided to make things happen and stop waiting for them to happen. I have one life to live and I decided I wasn’t sacrificing that life for my spouse’s retirement, especially since she no longer plans to be with me. So I cashed out one of my IRAs and put that money to work.

In February I scurried about getting paperwork submitted for my passport, which I paid extra for “express” handling and I got it just a few weeks later. My name, photo, and a nice big “F” in the gender box made me smile. March became a waiting game, basically waiting for April, and also further realigning myself at work as my colleagues continued to become accustomed to my new presentation.

I underwent FFS in April with Dr. Cardenas, in Guadalajara, Mexico, where I also met the amazing Anne Kelley. We shared a particularly powerful moment during both our recoveries that was bonding, and was a revelation. It was about Anne so if people want to know the details, they should ask her, but for me it was emotionally powerful to see someone coming to terms with themselves in such a beautiful and loving manner.

May was recovery. Let me tell you right now that FFS was far worse and harder in terms of recovery than my GCS, which came later in 2015. FFS was so worth it, but it was a bear in terms of recovery for the first few weeks. I’m happy with my appearance though and I’ve gotten compliments on it, and most importantly, it helped me to stop seeing “him” in the mirror anymore.

June was more waiting and continued recover. Friends and I began planning for Ren Fest in November. We always try to plan several months in advance to give people time to plan for a specific weekend. There were also details to complete, medical tests and exams before my GCS surgery, all of which had to be submitted to Dr. Chettawut’s staff in Bangkok before I even left.

July came and a good friend, Ashley Wilson headed to Thailand ahead of me by about two weeks. I did get to see her while I was there later, before she flew back to the US. And after seeing her, it was my turn. I awoke from GCS and really wasn’t in much pain at all, mainly just uncomfortable. They kept me pretty well controlled with pain meds and such. And my dear, dear friend, Julie Jeznach, had traveled to Thailand with me and was there to visit while I was in the hospital and to help me with my recovery for the three weeks afterwards. We had a lot of fun for the month we were there. I over stressed myself once, got scolded for it, then spent a day and a half recovering from it. Fortunately, no permanent damage. And I learned the tedium and the joys of dilating! And yet we saw things, ate fascinating food, met people, and Julie got to see the Tiger Temple!

In mid-August we flew back home. It seemed almost surreal, Julie and I going our separate ways. I also know that Thailand had been good for Julie too. Good food, regular exercise, walking (for us both as little as I could do) all contributed to Bangkok being a positive experience for us. But then it was over. I rested another week then returned to work while working from home. Working from home was a blessing. As circumstances turned out, and as the changes on our team at work developed, it would arise that I wouldn’t need to actually go back into the office until some time in January, 2016. The rest of 2015 was 100% from home, which gave me time to adapt to my dilation schedule, take breaks as needed, etc. Often my work day the rest of the year went past 6 pm, but that included time for breaks and medical necessities throughout the day as well.

September and October were much the same, except the reminder and the ongoing lesson that I don’t really have family anymore.  I know there are some who might disagree, but being ignored, having things said behind your back, pretending you don’t exist on important family days (birthdays and holiday), does not constitute “love” except in some sort of deranged “religious” mind. I won’t comment further about that except that their behavior reveals a lot more about them than it does about anything else.

Out of that comes a lesson, for me at least. We’re repeatedly told to remove toxic people from our lives. I subscribe to that idea, but implementing it in practice is complicated and is often a process, not a single decision. It’s a process because our hearts don’t always listen to what our heads tell us, and vice-versa. In this case, my head knows I don’t have family and I need to let go and treat them like I treated my father, someone to whom I was biologically related but who are anything except family, based on their behavior. But the heart takes time to let go, often not wanting to accept what the mind otherwise knows to be true.

The last few years have been that process for me and I think I hit rock bottom and was finally able to put this behind me in December of 2015. And no, there was no danger of self harm, just a great sadness and listlessness as my heart realized what my mind has been telling me for a number of years now – you have no blood family.

I also began an online dating experiment in autumn of 2015, and discovered that clearly stating that I am a post-op transgender woman, up front, is a sure way to not get responses from anyone except thoughtless men, who in turn blocked me when they did find out, or from identity thieves, whom I seem to be getting better at identifying, especially since some of them are so pathetic. Out of nearly 400 messages received thus far, only 4 read my profile and realized I was trans, and only 2 of those were really interested in some sort of friendship or relationship. Unfortunately, both of them were very far away and both they and I were looking for someone closer.

November was fun, with time at Ren Fest spent with my friend Elizabeth and myself both dressed up in garish costumes. But I think I want to modify mine more for next year. Maybe replace the heavy leather shoulder pauldrons with fur ones and a few other changes. There were also minor outings, manicure and pedicure, buying some new clothes, and otherwise enjoying myself.

November blended into December, and for the most part, I ignored the Christmas season. Dwelling on it too much was painful. And my mind and heart had to work that out in their own way, as I described earlier.

2015 ended and I was in a sense, relieved. It was over. Time marches on and 2016 is before us. I’m hoping to carve out time for at least one trip this year, perhaps back to Memphis. And maybe, if I can financially swing it, a trip elsewhere. We’ll see.

Choosing to be myself has had a cost, a saddening cost but one which I would still pay, because the alternative was no longer being able to live with myself. Despite rejection from those I’ve loved and to whom I’ve literally given my heart, my life, and even my finances for over thirty years, I still would make the same choice. My choice was to live and I am content with that choice, despite the costs.

September 7th, A Day To Remember

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It was 19 years ago today, September 7th, that I was wheeled into surgery to remove the remains of a tumor that had been destroyed by months of chemotherapy. Prior to that chemotherapy, I had been about 195 pounds. By the end I was around 140, and honestly probably more in the 130s. By the end of chemotherapy, most days were enough time awake to eat, maybe watch a single TV show or two, and then sleep, 20-22 hours per day. And then I was told the tumor was dead.

Chemotherapy was over in mid-July of 1996. I was given basically 6 weeks to gain a little strength, then the surgery would ensure that the remains of that tumor were gone.

What was supposed to be a 4 hour surgery became 10. The tumor had apparently been wrapped around my aorta and in dying to the chemo, it had become this rock hard substance. My surgeon visited me later and apologized for the extra time but said he was literally chipping that stuff off my aorta, like flakes of cement.

The tumor had also been wrapped around the nerve to the left vocal cord. That nerve is a bit weird and shows how evolution does things, not always in the most sensible way. That nerve comes from the spine, over to the heart first, then back up to the left vocal cord. There was no way to separate the remains of the tumor from that nerve so it got cut.

This left me unable to speak since the left vocal cord was flaccid and unable to flex to meet the right cord, since no neural signals could now reach it. To correct that, a plastic implant was inserted in that vocal cord in another surgery in early November of 1996. I still have slight numbness in my hands and feet from chemotherapy. My scalp was ravaged by chemotherapy and never really recovered. And my hearing, already a 20 decibel loss in my good right ear, became a 50+ decibel loss and I finally admitted that I needed a hearing aid.

Despite all this, I survived. But this all also made me think very hard about myself, who I was, what I’d done to myself emotionally and psychologically to get to where I was then. I also got to see my children graduate from high school, get married, go to college, have children of their own. It took me another 8 years, to about 2004, to really learn about and understand the words transsexual and transgender but I’d bought into another lie – that if I hadn’t transitioned early, I couldn’t transition at all. It was six more years after that, 2010, that the mother of all dysphoria episodes began that simply would not relent and which drove me to the brink of suicide, before I finally admitted I needed help, and with prodding from Julie Jeznach, I finally sought that help.

The rest, as they say, is “herstory”. People to whom I gave my life, my time, my love, my earnings, have rejected me. That’s their choice and I have to accept that, but it’s still bitter. And knowing what I know today, I can honestly say that I do have regrets. We’re not supposed to have regrets and I know that I can’t change the past so I don’t plan to wallow in these regrets at all. But I do acknowledge them. And if I’d known 30 years ago what I know now, I would have just walked away instead of worrying about other people’s emotions and opinions.

So I write this today with my younger trans friends in mind. Being trans can suck. People can be ugly, cruel, callous, hateful. But we’re trans and we can’t escape that truth. My advice to you, to each of you, is make your decisions for yourself first. Anyone who can’t handle the decisions that you need to make for you neither loved you nor is your friend so is not worthy of your consideration of their opinions.

While I am very happy with where I am in life right now, in one sense, I write this today to my younger trans friends to say “Don’t be me.” Don’t put others ahead of yourself. Don’t defer what you need to be happy to make others happy first. Most of the time they won’t care about you. Not really. And those that do care? They’ll have your back and be there for you.

Have a good September 7th, a good Labor Day, and a good day for yourself first and foremost.

Finally a Sense of Peace

I’ve mentioned before in other venues about how comfortable I was with my body changes almost immediately. I’ll mention them again here now – by the third day after surgery, I realized I couldn’t even remember what the old genitals felt like and it was a massively liberating feeling.

My traveling companion, who I love dearly and who I’ve called my “guardian angel”, said this about my immediate relaxation and sense of self-comfort:

“What was totally freaking awesome was seeing you lose all body modesty and shame the day you came back from the clinic.

Prior to surgery, you went to shower clothed and stepped out of the closed bathroom clothed. First day home you walked naked across the room talking about politics while looking for a dress. No self-consciousness at all.

That made me tear up. I knew you’d crossed into new territory in your life.”

I hadn’t even thought of that but she’s right. I no longer felt completely wrong naked, even and especially in front of my closest female friends.

I still tire easily, and run out of steam at the end of the evening, but last night, Sunday night, August 23rd, was the first full night’s sleep back in Texas. That was a breakthrough as well. I’ve consequently been awake all day today, working at a measured pace from home, dealing with some remaining Human Resources issues after my trip, and while I’m tired, I’m not feeling like I need a nap before bed tonight, probably around 11pm.

Nerve endings continue to wake up and I’m in a bit of discomfort but no real serious pain. A few aspirin now and then seem to work wonders for me. One part of down there has decided to be hyper sensitive at the moment. Hopefully that won’t continue too long, at least not quite like it is at the moment.

As I told friends today, wonderful is slipping on a pair of jeans and not dealing with a bulge or needing to tuck at all. Everything just slides on the way it should.

I didn’t have any real doubts left by the time surgery rolled around. By then, it had been several years of reviewing all the thoughts in my head. I do remember thinking, as they added something to my IV right before I lost consciousness, “Here we go. Let’s hope all this thinking has come to the right conclusion.” Yet when I awoke from surgery, that question was nowhere to be found. I asked a nurse if everything had gone ok, and she smiled and nodded, and gave me a thumbs up. When I saw Dr. Chettawut, he said things had gone wonderfully.

As for how things are going, I’m at the one month mark of my surgery (actually that was Saturday) and doing very well. I am not in any pain at all, just tenderness and general discomfort.

I began dilator #3 this week and that was, at least at first, a breathtaking experience in a very wincing way. Now it’s just tight and I need to be patient and persistent with myself. I’m on day #5 with dilator #3 so I’ve been impressed at the rate that I seem to be stretching to accommodate it.

I seem to be gaining strength each day, which is good. Back on estrogen again and the hot flashes are gone and my body temperature seems a bit more stable, at least to me.

Finally, while I’m improving, a different chapter of my life is closing. Our family dog of the last 11+ years was diagnosed with cancer so we’ll be putting him down soon. He’s been affectionate, caring, gentle, curious, fun, and very much a part of our family. He will be missed.

As one door closes, another door opens.