Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year 2008!!!

I wish all my friends a very happy and prosperous New Year! I hope that you all see your dreams come true in 2008!

I hope that all of us - cross-dresser, transgenderist, transsexual, gender queer, or whatever label you use for your self - that we can all find happiness as we express our true selves in our true gender, whatever that might be. You all are a help and an inspiration to me! Bless you all and thank you!

For me, well, I have been going through a lot of stuff at home, dealing with coming out to my kids and trying to figure out what's next for me. I feel like Tina has been on-hold the past few weeks. While I'm out to the kids they have not seen me dressed yet. It's a me issue and a wife issue - I want to do it, but I want the timing to be right.

In many ways I feel like I was making progress earlier this year and that I've regressed somewhat, due to the do-over that I feel I had to go through with my wife. But I have no regrets about that - she is an amazing and wonderful woman. I do love her so much.

As to my web site, Coming Out Trans, I am going to redo the site again over the next few months. I'm learning both Wordpress and Drupal to do content management and presentation. I will redo it first with Wordpress and then bring in Drupal if/when I need to present content in a form that Wordpress cannot handle.

As to content, it's become a victim of time and energy. I want the site to be a good site, but it's a lot of work, and I want it to look wonderful and be easy to use. That takes a lot of work. I plan on reaching out to a few people and organizations to see how I can work with them to help people come out as transgendered. It's not important that the come to my site or someone else's; what's important is helping those who are trans to be able to be honest to those they care about and to themselves. It's a scary step for many of us to take, and there are a lot of people who rationalize why they can keep it hidden (like I did for so many years). That is why I wanted to do the site in the first place.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Coming out to the kids during a crazy time

This is just a quick update to let you all know what I'm up to:

After careful deliberation, my wife and I decided to tell the kids that I am transgendered. I came out to our son over Thanksgiving weekend; I will be coming out to our daughter over the Christmas break. Needless to say that between this, work (which includes travel for work), recovering from a cold and a broken leg (I broke it in early October and it's pretty much healed up), and the holiday's I've had little to no spare time to do anything (including writing well thought out blogs).

More on this when I get a chance to clear my head (yeah, Tina, like there's anything up there to clear out LOL...).

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Transgender Day of Remembrance - 2007

So here it is, the Transgender Day of Remembrance. This is the day that we remember those transgendered individuals who have died because of anti-transgender violence and prejudice. Here is a link to one site that lists some of the deaths that have happened this year.

Here is a link to a more complete list of transgendered people who have died over the years.

One thing that I think is bittersweet is that this year there is a page dedicated to the Significant Others, Friends, Family Members, and Allies who have been injured or killed because of anti-transgender bias crimes. How we as a (supposedly) enlightened society can let this happen is just beyond me.

Please take a moment and remember these victims in some small way - a prayer, a moment of silence, however you deem it appropriate. And also keep in mind their families, friends, and other loved ones who go through every day of their lives missing these people.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Social Network Exhaustion

I've been using Yahoo 360 as my main social networking site these days, but Yahoo is going to eventually phase it out. My problem isn't that 360 is going away or moving to a new system. It's where to go. I've been watching where all my 360 friends are moving to, and I can't say that there is really one compelling place to go. Everybody is drifting off to different social networking destinations, like LiveJournal, HoverSpot, and others. The places that I'm currently at are:

* Facebook (but I'm not really active here)
* MySpace (but very out of date - haven't been there in a long, long time)
* Blogger (You're reading this here)
* U R Not Alone (but I'm not terribly active there)
* A few others not worth listing...

My concerns about places like these, especially MySpace, is the ownership of what we post. I want to own whatever I say. I'm afraid that any of these places will try to assert ownership of whatever I post on them. And the more of these social networks I join, the more time I have to spend just checking up on what's going on in them. Frankly, I'm suffering from social network exhaustion at this point.

I've been tempted to just put up my own web site, but how do I get people to visit it? What's great about social network sites is having people find you while they're looking for other things or people (and vice-versa). But - there's no doubt about who owns what code.

What's interesting to me is Google's Open Social initiative - having a bunch of API's that will allow these social networks to interoperate with each other. It's a nice idea, but I don't know if it's going to get enough social networks to join. (Orkut is Google's network, so it's part of OpenSocial, but apart from Brazil it's not really all that popular. MySpace is supposedly interested in joining this, too, but, again, I worry about them and copyright.). And isn't this a little of what Yahoo is proposing with their new Mash web site? Don't know, though, because Mash is an invitation-only beta.

So I'm still here in my Blogger blog and on 360 for a while. I might join LiveJournal, but only because that seems to be where most of my friends have gone. LiveJournal is so yesterday, though, and the interface is kind of awkward to use.

*Sigh* So hard to figure this out.

Monday, October 22, 2007

A brief tour of the non-inclusive ENDA for Transpeople

The front bumper.

The radiator.

The oil pan.

The front axle.

The drive shaft.

The muffler.

The rear axle.

The exhaust pipe.

The rear bumper.

Thanks to all the folks in Congress who threw people like me under the bus. I wouldn't have seen these all these things without them!

Please support HR 2015 (the inclusive ENDA) instead of HR 3865 (the non-inclusive ENDA). Let's throw no one under the bus!

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

An Open Letter to Barney Frank about ENDA

Dear Representative Barney Frank,

I've been following with great interest your moves on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). I have found some of your recent actions on this legislation distressing to me to say the least. While I am not in your congressional district (I am in the district of Representative John Hall of New York), since you are the leading proponent of this legislation I am directing this letter to you.

I am transgendered, and I am closeted. I am not including my real name in part because of the lack of protections that I have under the law. I am happily married, We have two wonderful children who both attend the same Ivy-league institution, and I am blessed with a job at a company that has stated publicly that it will not fire employees on the basis of being transgendered. Yet I still live day to day with the concern that people may discover my secret and use it against me. My wife knows and accepts that I am transgendered, but she also lives with this fear and how she might be perceived by others in the community.

When I heard that you had decided to propose a watered-down version of ENDA I was saddened by this. Imagine that you are like me - that you live a lifestyle based on who you are that differs from the societal norms, and that some people view as being a sin against God and humanity. Perhaps they might even want to physically hurt you because they disagree with who you are. Or people who you think are understanding think nothing of using descriptions of people like you as crude put-downs. Or...

Oh, wait. You do understand that.

So I ask you, Representative Frank - why do you think it is okay to turn your back on our plight? Why don't we deserve your support to protect our right to make a living? It is not as if we're asking you to solve all of the ills of society against transgendered people or to give us special rights. All we are asking is for the same level of respect that you are asking for gay, lesbian, and bisexual people.

Please, Representative Frank, do NOT support anything other than an all-inclusive ENDA. Please do everything in your power to keep a non-inclusive ENDA from reaching a vote. It's not just for us - it's for our families. Someday I hope to be able to leave the closet and be able to share who I am with the world, but without basic protections such as ENDA provides that day will be further off.

One little protection - the right to earn a living - that is all I am asking for your help with today.

Thank you for your time.

Valentina Simmons

Monday, September 24, 2007

The One Year Anniversary, Part 2

This is a follow-up to my posting about the first anniversary of coming out to my wife (yes, coming out is a big deal to me - I think it's very important for those of us trans-people who are married to be honest and open to our wives or other significant others in our lives). The day was very hectic, but finally in the evening we got to "celebrate" it (I don't know if my wife would chose that term, but I couldn't think of a better word).

I gave my wife a card the evening of the first anniversary of my coming out to her. I had spent a lot of time picking out the right card, and she loved it. I just wanted her to know that I was happy to still be with her after all that we went through.

We discussed how we felt about our marriage. It started because I told her that the day I came out I was convinced that our marriage was over, that she would throw me out. I had given her the freedom to leave because I didn't want her to feel trapped. She has interpreted that as me wanting to get out of the marriage without making the decision. I didn't want her to leave, but I wanted to be fair to her. Thankfully she chose to stay, and I have since withdrawn that offer.

I feel that our marriage is a little stronger, because we have opened up so much in the past year. She said that she's learned that our marriage is not an unbreakable thing like she thought it was, but that it could fall apart for various reasons. We both feel that as long as we both want the marriage to work, and we both work at it, then it will probably survive. I think that's a realistic common ground to be at.

But there was one magical sign for me: when we went to bed, just before I shut off the lights, I noticed that she has put the card on top of her jewelery armoire. She only does that for cards that she really loves. I was very touched by that, and I let her know how I appreciated it.


Sunday, September 23, 2007

My 1-year coming out anniversary

Today is the first anniversary of coming out to my wife. I hadn't planned on coming out then - I was asked by my wife if I still thought about dressing, and that led me to make the big decision - but I am very glad that I did the right thing and answered her question truthfully. It hasn't been easy, but I have to admit that it's been a lot better than I thought. It led to a year of discovery, both about myself and my wife, and it turned out that my secrecy here was a big part of what kept us from really discovering each other more fully.

I was lucky. I had accepted myself when I came out, which I think is critical for there to be any chance of us staying together. If I hadn't accepted myself, I would probably have denied it and eventually come out later, only with yet another big lie to my name, and an even bigger blowup. I'm very lucky to have such a wonderful, understanding spouse who is trying to figure out what this is, where I am going with it, and what it means to her.

I still remember the morning - sitting on a park bench, her nervously asking me the question. I remember everything racing through my head trying to decide if I was going to stick to my plan or just be honest (I had a plan that involved me taking a year to figure things out and coming out after we empty-nested). That day (and several afterwards) I was so sure my marriage was over. But I also remember a few days later, coming home to an apology and a dress she bought for me. From such a little seed has come discussions on love, sex, orientation, honesty, lies of omission, and other things, with a range of emotions from fear and sadness to joy and happiness. Lots of tears, lots of laughter, lots of worried moments, but we found that love was a constant in our life.

I love my wife. We've been married over twenty-four years, and I look forward to waking up every morning next to her, and every moment we can have together. It doesn't matter how I am dressed, how I feel inside about myself, or anything else. I feel guilt only insofar as me being who I am causes her pain, but I am so happy to be free of the secrets and lies we both were keeping from each other. Yes, I discovered that she had secrets, too, and that she kept them from me for the same reasons I kept this from her - to not cause the other pain.

One thing I would like to mention is some of the wonderful people I've had a chance to talk with over the past year. Karen at FemmeFever was a big help to me before and after coming out. I cannot say enough wonderful things about her - she was a godsend to me! Between her and the support I got from the FemmeFever support group I was able to avoid some mistakes I might have made in my relationship. A big thank-you to everyone there!

Another couple of people I would love to thank are Helen Boyd and Betty Crow. Helen's books on her relationship with Betty are really must-reads, but they're only the start. Helen and Betty also run a really fantastic on-line community where trans-people and their significant others can discuss all the issues that are important to them (and it truly is a community). It's one of the few places that I've found spouses who are not only welcomed but also very active in communicating their feelings there. For many of us this is a very important dialog.

And one more thank-you to the numerous people who I have exchanged emails with or otherwise chatted with. Some have been infuriating, some have been hilarious, but most have been very patient and understanding with this clueless trans-person. And I've learned a lot from all your experiences, hints, tips, comments, and other things. Bless you all!

And let me take one more moment to thank all the significant others of transgendered people who decide to stay in their relationship - wives, girlfriends, boyfriends, whoever. This group is treated pretty bad by everyone. Family members and friends treat them as either stupid or enablers, out of control in their lives; often they bail on them rather. Many trans-people treat them as obstacles or road blocks to full understanding by their transgendered mate. The net result is that these SO's are treated like dirt. And all because they decided that they wanted the relationship to continue. I think there should be a "Trans-SO Appreciation Day" every year so that we remember how these people give us emotional and other support, so that we all could just thank them for the love they show us.

I think my biggest discovery about coming out is that it is actually the beginning of a process of discovery. I had assumed that I come out and after a period of unsettled times we get to a new status quo and move on. It has led us to a process where we are continually discovering new things about each other. I think we've now gotten to a point where were better able to listen to one another and not just talk past each other, or at least we do more listening than we did in the past. That's a good thing for us.

So here's to year one of my life after acceptance and coming out! I have been incredibly lucky none the less. And here's hoping the next year will be better.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Why I've been quiet.

I haven't posted in a few weeks because my wife and I are adjust to our new life as empty-nesters, with both kids in college now. This is a little unsettled time - but not necessarily for bad reasons!

One thing we've been thinking about - as a couple - is that we've spent so little of our time alone. It's easy when your younger and early in a relationship that you'll get time, but the truth is that it's as if we're picking up just as we left off, only with 20 years of change in us. Including some bad habits. You get so comfortable with people sometimes that you think you can say whatever you want and they'll understand. Well, that is definitely not true, and it's been a major source of friction over the years.

It's also unsettled because we're traveling. We spent a few days in Maine after dropping off the kids, and now we're going to go on a big vacation to Hawaii. We have been looking forward to doing something different once we empty-nested, since now we're not tied to the school schedule, and it's taken us a lot to make sure we could afford this, but somehow we're making that work. And after the past year - between my coming to acceptance of myself, coming out to my wife and all that this entailed, and issues with our son - well, we really need it.

Speaking about the trans issue: After an initial bout of fear from both of us we found a way to start talking, and we're doing what I call our "do-over" - not quite square one, but close - and we're trying to go slower. I'm noticing that the do-over is extending beyond the trans-issue, though, and into other aspects of our life together. What's amazing is that maturity has taken us to a place where we are slowly really opening up to each other, and we're finding that there's more that we like about each other than we realized. There are a LOT of differences we knew about but never really discussed the ramifications of (such as the fact that we were kids in different countries - me in America, her in Korea - and even simple things as vocal intonation are different because of the language differences). I don't think we'd be doing this if we hadn't gone through all the things we had - it's more than likely we would have broken apart. But "what-if" games like this are really pointless. What is important is that we are both making that effort to make things work.

Once we do get back from Hawaii, however, we will be getting into the most intensive time of our life with respect to trying to understand each other. There is going to be tears, but if the way we've been talking lately is any indication, I think there's going to be more understanding. I am scared more about how ineptly I might handle things more than anything these days, so going the slow road is the safest road to travel. And I will be spending a lot more time dressed.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Binaries and Spectra

"Any effectively generated theory capable of expressing elementary arithmetic cannot be both consistent and complete." - Kurt Gödel

I am a "shades of gray" type of person. I tend to think of things as not in a "black or white" way but that there is some scale of grayness. For example, when a person is learning how to drive a car, they go from knowing nothing about the pedals or steering (other than some childhood observations that are typically incorrect about arm movements) to various states of knowledge and comfort (keeping the car straight, being able to parallel park, etc.). Even once you get your license you are still learning and improving, or you might slide backwards (for example, you might not pay as rigorous attention to speed limit signs as you did earlier).

The advantage of a limited number of hard-and-fast categories is that it's an easier way to understand and communicate how the world works. That's if the categorization is valid. For example, if you have a limited set of categories for people you can map people into those categories. It might be by skin color, height, weight, or other characteristics.

There are limits to how well a classification scheme works. If you go by skin color, how do you handle people of mixed blood? Another example - if we classify gender by sex (male and female), then how do intersex people fit in? These "edge conditions" tend to challenge any classification system and result in solutions like force-fitting things into categories, adding more categories, or scrapping the system entirely.

In the transgender world there are people who see things either in a few fixed categories while others who see a spectrum. Most spectra range from cross dresser (CD) through to transsexual (TS) who has gender reassignment surgery (GRS). But what about a female to male who chooses to live the life of a male but not have surgery (or a physical male who transitions to female but with no hormones or surgery, such as Pauline Park)? Or a cross-dresser who always presents female but still wishes to by his male name? Or a person who lives part-time as one gender, part-time as another? Are they just confused?

I do not pretend to have a definitive answer to all of this. Right now I have the following beliefs:

- Gender can be different from sex. Sex is physical, gender is internal/emotional. (or as Betty Crow says, "Sex is between the legs; gender is between the ears.")

- Gender is a ratio of masculine and feminine. Almost everybody has some mix of both of these aspects in their personality. This ratio defines a spectrum of gender.

- There is a whole spectrum in the transgender world (described previously). And there is a spectrum in the male world, and the female world as well. This fits in well with the Zero-One-Infinity Rule: “Allow none of foo, one of foo, or any number of foo.” If you follow the link, you'll see that Isaac Asimov in the book The Gods Themselves has a character that says binaries are impossible. The character is saying this in the describing universes (if you believe on more than one, then you might as well believe in an infinite number of them) but this also applies to one species in the book that has three sexes. Now there's a world that doesn't have a binary (albeit a fictitious one).

In the book Head over Heels by Virginia Erhardt Dr. Erhardt makes the point that "...many cross-dresser' significant others seem to be invested in their husbands fitting into a categorical box with high walls, out of which they won't in some way relocate into the box next door in which these women believe transsexuals reside." The empirical evidence I've seen from several friends and myself back up this statement. And I've seen people who have declared themselves in the middle slide both to and away from transitioning. And I've also seen cross dressers who have later decided that transition was their future, and transsexuals who have de-transitioned back to male.

I do not envy the situation any significant other (SO) of a transgendered person finds themselves - it is full of uncertainty which can feel like hopelessness at times. I think that a lot of how a couple works this out has to do with how sensitive the trans-person is with their SO. Trans-people can get so caught up in the uncertainty, too, and forget that there are others involved. Time and patience are very important, especially if you want the relationship to survive. SO's also need to understand the needs of the trans-person, too, and together both of them have to figure out what give-and-take is required to make the relationship work. There are those for which there is no meeting point, which is sad, but I think we are seeing more relationships that are finding a way to make it work and stay together.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Morality, trust, and another kind of slipperly slope

Helen Boyd highlighted out this article from Feminist Daily on her blog. I can appreciate how any person can hold beliefs that something is wrong, but there's a big slippery slope here that has very scary implications.

A large society ultimately is based on trust. For example, farmers grow the food we need, distributors get it to us, and we buy it from our grocer. We trust it is clean and safe. Or we trust the bus driver or airplane pilot to be able to get us from one place to another safely. Many people we may or may not know do things that affect our daily lives, and we hope that they do not violate our trust.

In this case, the pharmacist is violating that trust of providing us medications that we feel we need for our life. In this case it's contraception, but what concerns me is that the pharmacist here is making a judgment on someone else's life just by the medication.

Here's the slope - pharmacists should be concerned with the health of their customers - after all, the medications they dispense are designed to help us either deal with an illness or help us manage a chronic condition. Now suppose an obese compulsive eater gets a prescription for medication to manage his high blood pressure (which is in all likelihood caused by the overeating). What if the pharmacist decides that they don't want to condone gluttony, so their conscience tells them to not fill the prescription. Is this right?

What if they decided they don't approve of "the transsexual lifestyle" and decide to withhold hormones to those who are on hormone replacement therapy? Or that it's not "God's will" that a woman going through menopause shouldn't have estrogen therapy?

I may or may not agree with allowing someone to use an emergency contraceptive, but who am I to say what's right in any given person's situation? So I trust that the person making the choice to use it or not is making the right choice for them, and I trust that a pharmacist will dispense whatever medication a person and their doctor think is prudent.

Now there are instances where a pharmacist shouldn't dispense a medication. If they suspect that the medication is being abused (say an excessive amount of Oxycontin) then they should refuse it (and possibly contact the authorities). Or if this medication might adversely react with some other medication, but in that case they should contact the doctor and figure out what needs to be done. No doubt they have a big responsibility to their patients here. But apart from that, they should just respect the patient/doctor relationship and that's it.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Logo Presidential Debate Tonight

Tonight on the Logo network is a presidential debate focused on LGBTQ issues. If you don't get Logo you can watch it online.

(I'm curious what "T" questions they will be asked - I know that Donna Rose collected a bunch of questions as part of her role on the Human Rights Campaign, so I am hopeful that at least one will be asked tonight.)

Please watch it if you can!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

My Road to Acceptance - Part 2

Previously I described how I was starting to rethink my life as a result of the passing of my father and other events in my life, and how I was overall dissatisfied with myself. Addressing my transgenderism was a natural part of this change as it was something that had played itself in my mind over my life. Here's the rest of the story.

Understanding this desire to present myself as a female went from something that I tried to ignore to an obsession. I had always wanted to know someone else who was like this, but I was always afraid of being outed and having my life as I know it change drastically. I was also afraid of being ridiculed, so I kept it very tightly to myself. I assumed that most others like me were the same, so I appreciated how hard it was to make that first contact with someone. It was getting harder for me to go it alone, however, and I wasn't at a point where I felt I could discuss this with my wife.

As a part of my recent job I was looking at web sites trying to find interesting ways that people were collaborating to work together better. Somehow I ended up looking at MySpace when I suddenly got the idea of searching for cross dressers. I found quite a few here! I started to read profile after profile, and reading the stories I found I realized that my experience wasn't unique.

Soon I had set up an email account and set up my own fledgling page there. Next, I decided to take a chance, picked a couple of people on MySpace who looked friendly enough and asked them to become my online friends. They both added me within a day! I had made my first contacts! Soon I was adding more and more, and some people were finding me and asking to add me as well.

And the stories - I was starting to read the stories of the people I was befriending online. Cross dressers, transsexuals, and others. It was amazing to see how similar they all were to mine, despite the differences. There were a few who started as adults but the vast majority were like me and first started in childhood. Many felt the fear. Some had told their SO up front, but most were closeted, single, or divorced. Some were part-time, some were full time. What shocked me, though, was learning that there were many who went full-time but didn't want an operation. This was a shock to me, but it also seemed to make sense.

One day I pulled out the old pair of heels I had bought a few years earlier. I put them on in my office (with my door locked, of course!) and did some work for a while. It was scary - I was at work - but it was also very exhilarating! I started to do this regularly. This was the beginning of me returning to dressing after all these years of denial.

No sooner was I starting to add people and dress that I started to get those old feelings of guilt and fear, and started to get that "urge to purge". Maybe it's not the right thing to do. Maybe I'm moving too fast, or it's not what I really want to do, just some strange urge inside of me. I don't know - it's just a lot when you're alone to try to sort out. And that's when it hit me - how alone I was with all of this. I was in my mid-40's, and I never really shared this with anyone, never really had a long-term friendship with someone who was like me.

Somehow I decided that I should fight the purge. I wasn't going to throw anything out this time. Instead, I decided to focus on putting together a full outfit. I didn't know where to start, so I decided that shoes were a good thing - I could guess my size easily, and I knew that I could find my size at Frederick's of Hollywood. So I ordered a pair of four-inch heels. When they came in the mail I was nervous and excited. (BTW, I eventually did put together a full outfit, but it took me several months, mostly because of life issues and concerns about sizing - unlike all my previous attempts I wanted things that fit right and looked good on me!)

Thanks to my MySpace friends I was finding new web sites and books. I had read My Husband Wears My Clothes years ago, and I decided to get a new copy and read it again. One friend mentioned a newer book - My Husband Betty, written by a wife of a cross dresser, so I ordered it as well. I like both books but I really connected with My Husband Betty - perhaps because I had more in common with the author, generation-wise.

One day I noticed one of my new friends mentioned a makeover place in her profile - FemmeFever. I had always wanted a makeover but I was too scared, and I didn't know how to pay for it. But I had saved a couple of hundred dollars over the past year and decided I could afford it. It still took me a few weeks to get up the nerve to call Karen there. I finally did, and she was so nice. She immediately added me to her mailing list, and she said I could call her anytime if I had any questions or concerns. She seemed to understand how to talk to me (she's done makeover for over 3000 people so she has a good understanding of our needs and concerns). I was worried about my confidentiality and how it would work out, but I decided it was worth the risk. And I would get pictures, and learn how to do makeup, and everything! (Of course, now I realize that they have a stake in our confidentiality, too - if they were blowing the cover on all their clients, eventually they'd have no clients left!)

I was about to take a big step - getting someone to make look as close to a woman as I could possibly be! But I still didn't know what I wanted to do with this. Was I just a cross dresser, or was I really a transsexual who was denying her nature? Then I discovered the term "transgendered". The site I saw it at used it as a cover-all for all types of related behaviors, including cross dressing and transsexualism. I don't know why, but it clicked with me. I realized at that point, for the very first time, that I had found a middle ground. For the first time, I could say:

I am a transgendered person.

This was the moment that I accepted myself. It still sends chills down my spine thinking about it. But it wasn't enough for me to just say it quietly. I had to do something more dramatic (there are those who think I am a drama queen - and they'd be right to think that). I took my new heels from my office, went to my car, and drove to a quiet spot in a nearby park. I put on the heels and got out of my car. No one was around.

For the first time in my life I didn't hesitate. I had wanted to do this for all my life. I cleared my throat and spoke loudly:

"I am a transgendered person. I am both male and female."

I just stood there for a moment, in my heels and male clothes. No one was around. Nothing moving. I said it again, louder. Then silence.

I smiled. I couldn't explain the feeling of happiness that was going through my body. I had finally taken one of the biggest steps in my life - I had accepted myself as transgendered. I didn't know where it would lead me, or what it meant to my future, or for my family or personal life, or my job. All I knew was that I was finally being totally honest to myself for the very first time in my life.

Then I felt the fear come over me. What about my wife? What about my kids? I needed time to think. But I didn't want this to stop. I was finally acknowledging a truth how I had felt for my whole life!

I got back into the car, went back to work, and hid my heels. I called Karen at FemmeFever and scheduled an appointment in a couple of weeks for a makeover. I was afraid, but I felt I needed to keep moving forward. I was both excited and scared. And a little sad, because I had to take off the heels and go back to hiding.

As I drove home, I started to think about how I was going to tell my wife. How would I come out to her? I needed to start planning how, exactly, I was going to prepare her. I knew from my discovery years ago that if I said I was like this our marriage was over. Could I accept that risk? Frankly, I was to the point that I could.

We only had one more year with our son at home. Perhaps I could deal with this after all.

Then I made one more decision - the next day, I started to shave the tops of my feet and the backs of my hands. I wanted something that said I was different, but not something so noticable that it would telegraph my changes to the world. She was so wrapped up in our son that I was sure she wouldn't realize it for a while. And then I switched from an electric razor to a normal razor so I could get a closer shave. A couple of fateful decisions, but I was oblivious to the fact that my wife would notice more than I realized.

Anyway, I was now in planning mode for what I was calling my one year plan for coming out. Which ended up turning into my 3-week plan, because I ended up coming out a lot sooner than I had planned (several days after my makeover). But I was doing research, and I had made so much progress in accepting myself by then that I was able to take that risk - marriage, friendship, everything.

And I had finally accepted myself as transgendered. And it was liberating!

(Note: Edit: Fixed the title to be consistent with Part 1)

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

My Road to Acceptance - Part 1

This is the start of my description of how I came to finally accepting myself after 40+ years of trying to figure this stuff out. I've broken it up into a few blog entries because it just got too long and there was a lot I wanted to say. This part deals with me getting to the point where I needed to reconsider my life from the trans point of view.

In a previous entry I wrote about how I went through a long period of denial. It wasn't easy, and I had lapses, but you could argue that for the most part I was "successful" in evading my trans nature for the better part of a decade. So how come I decided to accept myself and come out?

The story starts on a cold, snowy Friday in upstate New York. It was my father's funeral mass, and I was given an opportunity to speak about him. I spoke of my feelings of loss, of the good times and sad times and of love and memories. I alternately had people laughing and in tears. So did other speakers. Then we buried him and did the things people do afterwards.

We had a long drive home the next day, and I was now deeply depressed. I had a sense of both loss and relief (relief over the end of his struggle with Alzheimer's - a disease he was so deathly afraid of because of what it did to his mother). Years before he started to phase out of reality my father had had a falling out with my brother, who he felt never really grew up or was all that responsible. I was the son that made him proud and happy. We hadn't always been close, but in the years between the death of my stepmother and his sliding into Alzheimer's we became close. He was one of my best friends in the world. I really missed being able to talk to him.

I was living the kind of life he dreamed for his children, especially for one of his sons - happily married, a good career, and grandchildren, including a son to carry on the family name. I was glad that I made him happy, but I also felt like a bit of a fraud. If you looked deeper you would find the flaws. How our daughter just couldn't get out of the house fast enough when college came around, and the unease that our son was starting to show (that would ultimately lead to near-suicidal bouts with bipolar disorder). And how my wife and I were bickering all the time about everything.

In the days, weeks, and months that followed, my sadness started to affect a lot of things. I was already somewhat unhappy with my job, and my performance wasn't up to par. I was being asked to move to another department (my manager at the time couldn't tell me face to face he was unhappy with me - not his style). I started on a new project in a new group that was not the most thrilling for me, but I knew that I had to move on at this point.

During this time the relationship between my son and my wife was also going downhill (I didn't realize it at the time but my own relationship with him was going downhill, too). I thought neither was listening to the other. And I was building up resentment to both of them because they were always fighting. Our son spent the following summer away at a college program, and while that gave my wife and I a break it wasn't the best thing for him. We discovered later he nearly committed suicide there, stopped only by a chance phone call by a friend.

And my wife. I wasn't sure what was going to happen with us in the future. I could tell she was unhappy with things. I was unhappy with things. Part of my Catholic upbringing was that I really didn't want to divorce. My parents hadn't, but my mother's parents had, and she went through hell because of it. My wife's parents had also divorced, and I was afraid that it would be a lot easier for her to leave.

And my weight was going up. I was trying to diet but not making progress. And that meant my health was on the decline. It was getting harder for me to breathe some nights.

I have this facade of myself as some sort of boy scout - trying to always do the right thing. Sometimes I almost convince myself that this is the truth. But then I'll think about how I really am - I can be very obnoxious, loud, nasty - and I didn't feel all that honest.

And I had that strange urge to dress in women's clothing. When I used to dress I would feel such an amazing feeling of happiness, only to have it followed by fear than depression. This wasn't normal! I wanted to be normal! My only real knowledge of the trans world at that point was transsexuals like Renee Richards, "shemale" pornography (which I despise), and how cross dressers were portrayed in the media (prostitutes or buffoons). I just couldn't understand why I felt this, and I would think about how much time, effort, and money I put into buying clothes, dressing, throwing them away, etc. When my wife caught me years ago it nearly cost me my marriage, so I was trying to not do it. But the thoughts never went away, and my denial was less than perfect. I was failing at that, too.

Sometimes I would just sit in my office and just think about this. I was so depressed. There were moments where I wanted to just get the hell away from it all, just get in the car and drive until I was so far away nobody would bother me and I could figure out what to do. Anything to get away from the hell that was in my mind!

I was good at putting things off - I've done it most of my life. But it was getting harder. Reluctantly, I started to realize it was time to deal with it. I had to either figure out how to make it go away for good or else figure out how to make it a part of my life. And the latter idea scared me, because I knew it could cost me my family.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The Luckiest

"I don't get many things right the first time
In fact, I am told that a lot
Now I know all the wrong turns, the stumbles and falls
Brought me here"
- Ben Folds, The Luckiest

So about a week and a half ago I bought a very nice skirt for myself at Ann Taylor Loft (where both I and my wife love to shop). It was a skirt I'd wanted for months, but I couldn't bring myself to spend list price. Patience paid off - I found it in the sale rack for $15 US! Because our life was filled with a lot of events, though, it took me a few days to let my wife know about it.

The other night we're lying in bed and she turns to me. "That skirt you bought for yourself?" she started.

"Yes," I said.

"It's very pretty."

I was in a combination of shock and happiness. I don't know why I'm shocked by these comments now - it's not the first time she's said that - except that after all those years of lying and hiding and living in fear I am so surprised when my love lets me know she likes a purchase of female clothing I buy for myself. It's such a small and stupid thing, but her approval means the world to me!

So anyway, these conversations don't just end there. I never know what to expect except that I will be surprised by how much love she will show me, and this night was no exception. She used to tell me that my being trans doomed us to a life where one or the other of us would always be sad, but tonight she said that she thinks she's getting over the sad feeling. Of course, given that I'm not out to our kids, and they're home the times that I am, I haven't had an opportunity to fully dress and go around the house like I'd like, so there is the likelihood that not seeing it for a while has put enough distance, and that the next time I do dress it will evoke that sadness, but perhaps not. (BTW, she feels bad that I don't get those opportunities these days.)

The next thing she said that she was shocked at first to learn that even when I'm dressed or feeling feminine that I love her very much. It bothered her because it caused her to think about her sexuality when she perceives me as female. Now she realizes that it was silly for her to think that - and that she would be even more bothered if I wanted someone else (or a man). What was amazing is that she accepts me for how I feel inside, not necessarily how she sees me outside.

But then the most amazing statement - she said that she really wants to love me even when I am dressed, and she's going to work towards that, but she's not sure when or if she ever will get there. She is concerned about her sexuality, both how she feels about it and her perception of it. If I present as female and she loves me does that make her bisexual?

I think this is such a big question for many wives who try to accept their transgendered spouses, and how they can deal with their spouse and both the internal and external perceptions of their own sexuality can be a deal-breaker for a lot of marriages. There are now books that touch on this (it's a big portion of Helen Boyd's book She's Not the Man I Married, and it's also discussed in some of the essays in Virginia Erhardt's book Head Over Heels).

What blew me away was that she's wants to make me so happy she's willing to try and reach out to me in my feminine state. It means she's trying to focus on the core of me that's unchanging and getting beyond the physical. She understands that I'm middle path and that it could mean that someday I could decide that I'll transition to a full-time female. In fact, I'm sure that her fear is that I'm holding back deciding to transition because of how she would feel and react. The truth is that I'm not willing to commit either way on transition for more than just her feelings (although her feelings do factor into it a good deal). But that's another discussion.

(One thing I wonder is that women in our society are raised to be more giving towards their husbands. This was a recurring theme in Head Over Heels, and I'm sure it plays a part in how she's dealing with this. But her parents divorced when she was young, and we're not at a place where if we were to get a divorce she is not worried about the kids any more. Of course, economics and inertia also do come into play here, but I don't think that would be enough to keep her here. I am convinced if she really was unhappy with me it would be over.)

She also asked me if I wanted to come out to our kids or to my siblings. I told her that I think the timing's wrong for the kids and that I don't really care about coming out to my siblings either way. I would love to come out to the kids because I'm sick of the hiding and the secrets. In fact, I told my wife that I feel bad that the situation makes her have to join me in keeping the secret. She understands this.

"Next door there's an old man who lived to his nineties
And one day passed away in his sleep
And his wife; she stayed for a couple of days
And passed away
I'm sorry, I know that's a strange way to tell you that I know we belong"
- Ben Folds, The Luckiest

I think what's really helped my situation with my wife is partly that I've been patient and listened to how she was reacting to my revelation. She did have 12 years of thinking about it (when she had discovered me before I went into denial) so it wasn't a total shock, but that she has accepted it as much as she has is really a shock to her. That she'd even stay with me through a transition is even more surprising. I haven't really pushed things like going out as much as I'd like to, or even as hard as I was early on (but by pushing I did get push-back which helped me to understand better how she feels).

I can't take all the credit - coming out a couple of weeks before your youngest child shows you he's cutting himself and had planned his suicide probably did as much for the acceptance and communication than any action I did take. But I have made it clear to my wife that she is the most important person in my life, and that I'm going to do things to try to make her life better and happier, and that I love her so much more than she realized.

If there is any lesson here, it's that how you treat your wife - with respect, dignity, patience, and love - helps, but that you can't discount timing or luck, either.

"I am, I am, I am the luckiest."
- Ben Folds, The Luckiest

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Review: She's Not the Man I Married

Title: She's Not the Man I Married: My Life with a Transgender Husband
Author: Helen Boyd
Publisher: Seal Press, 2007

When I was on the road to accepting myself one of the the biggest stumbling blocks was how I would deal with telling my wife and how she would react. Certainly she wouldn't embrace or accept his, but Would she leave me? The only resource I could find was Peggy Rudd's My Husband Wears My Clothes, which is excellent, but for some reason I couldn't connect to it. Some of the people I was talking to online recommended My Husband Betty by Helen Boyd. I read this and was blown away by the scholarship and the depth of information in that book. I could connect to Helen and her cross dressing husband, Betty, and the cross dressers, transsexuals, and in-betweeners that she documented. And it was very readable.

So when I came out to my wife it was with My Husband Betty in my hands for her to read. Oh, she read it all right, and asked a lot of questions that she wouldn't have otherwise asked, and somehow we have achieved a place of love and understanding, thanks in large part to the honesty and open communication that we achieved with that book.

It was curious, then, that I approached She's Not the Man I Married with some trepedation. How would this book differ from My Husband Betty? Was there any more to say on the subject?

Well, it differed a lot. And, yes, there are new things for Helen to say.

She's Not the Man I Married chronicles the changes in Helen and Betty's relationship. It's a much more personal view. Betty has changed since the last book, namely, further down the transgender spectrum so that she no longer considers herself a cross dresser, but neither does she consider herself a transsexual. She has slid down the slippery slope, but has she found a landing in the middle? Or has she found her bottom? Helen ponders this in the context of her own life, personal and physical issues (Helen was a tomboy as a youth, and talks openly about dealing with polycystic ovary syndrome, or PCOS, which causes her body to generate an elevated testosterone level).

She also touches on her needs in a relationship - sexual and emotional - and how Betty's increasing female presentation has caused her to think deeply about how both of them are perceived by the greater world at large. Helen bares a lot about their personal life, to the extent that you can almost feel like a voyeur looking in the windows of their apartment.

And there is a lot of ponder of gender roles and the gender binary here. The thesis here is that perhaps we're too quick to view the world in a masculine/feminine way, that, perhaps, we should instead look at people on a spectrum, that there is a mix of masculinity and femininity in all of us. And this binary extends to how they are perceived again - are they a lesbian couple, just because Betty presents as female? Or are they hetro, because of their physical sex? Even nature doesn't always acknowledge this binary - otherwise, how could you explain intersex individuals?

Reading this book I was trying to understand the underlying theme of this book. Towards the end, it hit me that I was overlooking the obvious. There is an intense love between these two that goes beyond that of most couples, yet this love is setting Helen's assumptions about what she looks for on its ear. She is definitely walking the fine line between her love for Betty and her need for a male partner.

Let me address one complaint I've read in other reviews of this book, namely, that the book is overly repetitive. I disagree. I found that the repetitiveness felt more like a personal Rashomon, where Helen was reviewing the same event through several different lenses and trying to get to the core truth for her.

Most of us cannot get to the level of honesty to ourselves that Helen presents in this book. Look beyond the subject of a transgender husband. Despite her protestations that it could all fall apart, you see two souls, deeply in love with each other, dealing with that big question - "Is love enough to bridge the gap?"

I sure hope so for them.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Happy US Independence Day!

And I pray that our leaders in Washington come to their senses and realize that they've alienated us from the rest of the world. We are a republic that has chosen the path of empire. That was the last thing I expected when we were attacked on 9/11/2001, but that's where we've gone.

All I can do is sit and think about how precious freedom and liberty are, and how our actions have limited the freedom and liberty of others. Not that we're the only ones - the terrorists are worse - but as my mother used to say, 2 wrongs do not make a right.

God bless America. Please help her get back on track.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Parenting and 20/20

Helen's article on the 20/20 broadcast about transgendered children is very interesting take on that show. She talks about some of the issues related to parents allowing their children to go through gender reassignment at a young age, specifically with respect to the fact that these children will not be able to become biological parents because of hormone use and surgery. I'd like to look at the parenting angle and then circle back to the trans side.

When you have a child it's the most amazing thing in the world, but it also comes with huge amounts of worry. Will my child have a defect that makes it hard for them to live independently? What about a mental defect? Will they opt for a career that gives them the money they will need to live comfortably? Will I be able to guide them so that they can make the best choices for them in their life? What mistakes will I make raising them that will cause them to rebel against me?

Young kids are so easy to take care of. You are the adult, you are infallible in their eyes! It's so easy to nurture them, make them feel better when they're scared, sad, or hurt. They hit little obstacles and you try to teach them as best you can how to manage through them. And they are grateful for all the little kindnesses that you give them.

Even from the beginning children have strong needs and wants. You, as a parent, need to help them make the correct decisions for them. It's a journey from dependence (you making all the decisions) to independence, and you get approximately 18 years to help them on this path. When and how to let them go and make their own decisions is very hard, as is helping them to deal with their mistakes.

Ah, mistakes. Even the tinest mistake you make could have long-term ramifications. late picking up your kid at school? Perhaps that's the start of a feeling of neglect from your child. Or you make an offhand comment about what your child is eating or looks that could drive them to anorexia or bullemia.

The only training most parents get is how they were raised by their own parents, tempered by things they did and didn't like. For example, while I loved my father, he was emotionally distant for most of our relationship, due partly to the fact that he was working 12+ hours a day and just wasn't around. I vowed I wouldn't make the same mistake, and for the most part I didn't. But I made different mistakes that he didn't make, and some of them have had painful consequences.

The two of us were able to provide a loving, safe home where our kids had just about whatever they needed and wanted. You could easily convince me that we spoiled our kids, but both of us grew up in families that were below the national average (my wife's family was out-and-out poor), so we were more than likely overcompensating for that. We didn't want our kids to feel want. But want is necessary - eventually they are on their own and can't always have everything they desire.

When your child is born the first thing that you find out is the physical sex - a boy or a girl - and you start a whole set of expectations for them based on that, even if you try to fight the traditional social scripts. And then this all gets upended because your child feels so strongly that their body is out of sync with the way they feel. Heart-wrenching.

When we watched the 20/20 show about transgendered children we were so amazed at how much these parents loved their kids, to the point of putting their children's desire to live a different gender ahead of their own desires. That was amazing to see.

Back to Helen's issue - yes, a side-effect of these children going through gender reassignment is that they will not have their own children. And not only are they making a decision not to have children but the parents are giving up any hope of biological grandchildren from them. And the parents have to know this (if the doctors involved are not giving them this information then you could argue this is malpractice, so I'm sure they know).

Consider this, however - there is no guarantee that your children will even live long enough to have children. There could be illness, or an accident, or even suicide (god forbid!). We had to confront the latter possibility with our son, who is bipolar.

Your children could also end up homosexuals who never conceive a child. My wife and I discussed this possibility a long time ago, and we both realized that we would be more than accepting if this did happen. We love our children, and we want them to be happy.

Even if they end up in straight relationships, then they might be the kind of people who, either because of their career or a lack of desire or other reasons, just don't have kids. Or they or their spouse could have some medical condition that forbids them to have kids. There's just no guarantees that they would have children anyway.

In our case, our daughter wants to be a mother, and our son wants to be a father, so I think it's very likely we'll be grandparents. Both are straight and very happy with the relationships that they have or have had. I do think I will be a grandparent someday. These families in the 20/20 show might have the blessing of their transgendered children becoming stepparents or adopting children and making them grandparents that way.

Yes, you need to factor in the possibility that your children may want children of their own. But between it being a long way off and their being no guarantees in the first place, how much do you factor that into any decision you make? Especially when your child is so unhappy with their current situation that they may take drastic actions that could result in even more pain? The last thing the world needs is more parents who are so miserable in their life that they pass their misery on to their children. It's a really tough call; I am glad that I did not have to deal with that. I really don't envy those parents, either way.

Perhaps I am factoring in my own situation. I am one of the transgendered people Helen talks about, who is so happy to have had the opportunity to be a parent. I did go through years of pain, however, and everybody's threshold is different. Most parents have the best interests of their child in mind for any decision they help them make; it doesn't mean they make the right decision, just what they thought was best, given their understanding of things at the time.

There are other parents who are not accepting of this, so the children have to deal with the disconnect between their physical sex and their gender. They tried to illustrate this in the 20/20 episode, briefly showing transgendered people who ran away from home and became prostitutes to stay alive. The cynic in me can see that these might have been chosen because they helped make the decision of the parents supporting gender reassignment more palatable. I'm sure there are in-between stories that didn't get presented, but they might have blurred the thesis. My own growing up was this of feeling that disconnect but being too afraid to say anything for fear of ridicule and punishment. And the choices I make have affected a few lives (at least my wife and children, if not more).

I do think that Helen's right to question some of the reaction that the 20/20 show got in the trans world. She makes some excellent points that I hadn't considered. Sometimes we trans-people "drink the kool-aid" and jump to conclusions about how wonderful it would be for kids to have this support because we wished we had it, and we will think how lucky these kids are. They're lucky in that their parents love them, not in having that gender disconnect.

About my depression

This is really hard to discuss, because it is so painful and personal.

I am dealing with a low-level depression. Some of it has to do with being trans, but not all. I also have lost people near and dear to me over the years, including my mother when I was a late teenager and my father at the end of 2005. He suffered from Alzheimer's disease for several years before he went. The day I had to move him into a home was the hardest day of my life, and while I know it was for the best, it was also the beginning of the end. Two and a half years later he was gone.

I've had several friends pass away over the years, including seeing a friend get sucked underwater by a strong current when I was very young and another who had a similar experience in his early 20's (and of whom a portion of his body was found 24 years later in the area where he disappeared). The latter was a really good friend who helped me deal with my mother's sudden death and even stopped me from taking my own life out of despair way back then.

I'm also depressed about the roller-coaster relationship with my son. Things are going better than before, but he has finally been diagnosed as bipolar, not just depressed. He has gone through hell, and we've been there for the ride. Sometimes I think of the smiling little boy I used to read bedtime stories to and who just gave me hugs and told me how much he loved me. Now I'm glad when he doesn't scream at me too much. I know he cares, and there are other transgendered people who are separated from their kids because of circumstance, but it still rips your heart out, let me tell you. But I focus on loving him. The past month, though, has seen a dramatic improvement in how we relate to each other. He did have a major relapse about a month ago, but I think that how I handled interacting with him about it went a lot better than the last few times, and I think he senses I'm really trying to reach out and be sensitive to him.

Because of my depression, and a recent relapse of my son, I've also gained 8 pounds. I now have to work very hard to diet. I lost 25 pounts last year, I can't afford any give-backs. The problem was when my son went through his recent hard period I would just reach into the pantry and grab out whatever tasted good. And keep on grabbing. My father was a baker, and we learned bad eating habits when I was growing up because he would come home with a big box of day-old baked goods. It wouldn't last the night, but the habit has lasted a lifetime.

And the kicker is - I am normally an optimist. I know I'll get through this. I also hate to wallow in self-pity, but I don't like to keep things hidden. (what a change for the trans-person who was hiding for 40+ years and is still hiding from most of the world). I really don't like being dishonest or lying.

So here I am. I am not being treated for it, but I acknowledge its existence. I feel like accepting depression is a lot like accepting being transgendered. I don't know if I'll get treatment for it or not - my wife is not too into therapists (her experiences have been with bad therapists in the past, so I can't blame her) and I'd really like to try to see if I can deal with it myself for a while. At least accepting it has made me more sensitive to my down moments, and that's a good thing.

See? I told you I was an optimist!

Monday, June 25, 2007

Life in Denial

As I've recounted before I spent over 10 years living in denial of my transgenderism. This was after I was discovered by my wife, and in my poor reaction to this I decided that I would just walk away from my cross dressing. Of course, if you have read any of my writings you already know how this worked out. I just want to document how I dealt with denial and why I now feel it was very naive of me to assume that this was ever going to work.

First off - how am I defining "denial"? It's not as if I didn't think about my transgenderism, or even that I didn't have "lapses" and do some dressing. For the most part, it had to do with me trying to not dress, and for me to publicly not give any hints as to the fact that I had at one time dressed. It was the only time in my life where I can say I went years without dressing.

Anyway, after my discovery by my wife I told her I believe it is a choice and that I can choose to stop, so I put a renewed effort into living the male role full-time. What I ended pu doing was trying to act somewhat macho, to the point of being very curt with people and just focusing on "solving the problem" or "getting over it." Cry at a movie? Men don't do that. Kids acting up? Punish them, let them know who's boss! Wife complaining too much? Women, sheesh! And no shopping with my wife - shopping put me near temptation, and no opportunity, not desire, right? I would complain very loudly if I was being dragged out shopping, in fact. Oh, and insensitive - that was my middle name. Focusing on things that I needed or wanted.

And this I think had extra negative results on our son, who is bipolar. I would practice "tough love" which is about the worst thing you could do for a child with this issue. And I would try to help him to just "tough it out" and tell him such loving things as "don't whine so much" and other things.

What an asshole I was.

Now, sometimes, a show would come on that had a crossdresser or a transsexual character. I would dread those moments, as inevitably my wife would ask me if I still wanted to dress. "No!" I would scream in a huff. "How dare you even ask me that? I said I was over it, and I'm over it!" And she would apologize and pull away just a little bit more. Perhaps if I said it enough, I would believe it, maybe.

And I put on over fifty pounds during that time. I also had a major recurrence of asthma from my youth (I couldn't breath at one point, and needed emergency treatment). I got high blood pressure for the first time in my life. And I had a major asthma attack. So I went on a ton of medication to try to manage my health - so much that I felt you could choke a horse with it. So not only am I being a jerk to everyone, but I'm killing myself at the same time.

I did have two major lapses. We moved to the New York City area, and I was living alone for several months. I discovered Lee's Mardi Gras Botique in the city and visited there once. I met Lee Brewster - an amazing person. It was heaven, trying on clothes (shocked the sales clerk when he saw how well I could navigate a pair of 5 inch heels!). That place was heaven! When I heard she had died I was so very sad. I did visit the area a couple of years ago, but the area has yuppie-fied and there is no trace anywhere.

The second time was during a several month period when I was traveling to another city for work once a week. I bought a pair of heels, pantyhose, and a nightgown (what a combination) that I wore a couple of times in the hotel room. I only did this on one trip, but I still have all that stuff. I decided to file it away in my office and if I ever had the urge again get it out. What was good was that was the first time I didn't purge my stuff. This was a year or two before I finally, irrevocably accepted that I was transgendered.

I was always thinking about it over the years I was in denial. I drive at least a half hour each way to and from work every day. I would often think about dressing, or transgendered people. I really had so few contacts with transgendered people that I just couldn't understand what it was all about. I would mix sexuality and gender identity all up in this one big ball, and even though I said the words "I'm not gay" I was so terrified that I was (terrified because I did love my wife, and if I somehow was gay after all I would end up inflicting a lot of pain on her - thankfully I think I'm now at a point where I know my own sexuality, but that came as part of acceptance and understanding).

As a software developer I would go to conferences, and sometimes I would run into this one person I knew who transitioned. You really couldn't tell she was transgendered. I acted very cool to her, because I was terrified that I might fall out of denial, and I wasn't ready for that.

Towards the end was when I had to evict my father from his house because he had Alzheimer's and couldn't function living alone any more. Seeing him become a shell of his former self was hard, and his death was a big moment in my life. I realized that this could be my future as well. I learned through his ordeal that a side-effect of Alzheimer's disease is that libido goes up, and I started to worry. If I come down with it, will I start running around a nursing home in a dress and being another sex-crazed octogenarian? That really unnerved me.

I also saw the movie Transamerica with my wife. I was very fascinated by this movie for obvious reasons, After watching it We had the usual "do you still want to dress" conversation, but this time I wasn't the jerk I normally was. I was still denying it, but at the same time I was running things through my head and starting to really confront my transgenderism, and I was trying to be more understanding to my wife. So the denial was weaker. Eventually, I came to accept that it wasn't going away, that it was a big part of me, and I needed to understand how to incorporate it into my life so I could manage it. I'm now well into that process with my wife, and I feel as if we got a "do-over" on a lot of things.

In my case a life in denial of transgenderism was a life of fear, deceit, and anger. I was so unhappy and miserable that I often made other people's lives horrible at times. I'm still trying to undo the junk that I've done to myself and to others. I still feel that fear every day, and the lies are very tough to overcome.

And it didn't work.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

25 Years of Working

Today is the first day of summer this year. It's also the 25th anniversary of my entry into the working world. I tend to get wistful and start thinking about how things were then versus now.

  • Then: My father was a month away from remarrying. Now: My stepmother passed away in 1995, and my father went through several years of suffering with Alzheimer's Disease before he passed at the end of 2005.

  • Then: I was engaged to be married to the woman I loved and who I thought loved me. Now: I know my wife loves me a lot now, but then I was a "safe harbor" from a really painful life. I still love her.

  • Then: I was on one of my umpteenth-million attempts to run away from being transgendered. A fiance, a new job, no longer in school. Who had time to be trans? I would dress occasionally, but whenever I did I knew it was the last time I'd ever do it. Now: It's not going away. I have accepted that I am transgendered.

I remember the first day of work, starting out in my best suit, sitting in the Personnel office of the company (Human Resources was still called Personnel then). They did process control equipment, and I had absolutely no clue what the heck I was going to do. I was a programmer - I wrote programs. I didn't really care about things like "System-level" or "Application" tags that were put in front of programmer - I was just happy to be working. That was the way I was raised.

My parents were never all that well off. I was starting a job, no experience, no life experience, and I was already making a lot more than my father made. He was a young child during the depression in the 30's, and thinking back that and his experiences in World War II shaped his attitudes a lot. He was a really great guy, but he wasn't the easiest to get close to, and I'm sure he didn't know how to deal with this selfish 20-something idiot who knew nothing. But I also know he was very proud of how I was handling myself in my life compared to most of my other siblings.

He was also still in pain from my mother's death a few years earlier. It was a car accident - a kid driving the other way on a snowy morning losing control of his car and front-ending my parents. My mother died instantly, and he barely survived. I remember being in college getting ready for a class and finding a note taped to a cash register in the student union with my name on it. It told me to go to security, where I found out my parents had been in an accident. Some campus security guards drove me to the hospital, but the ride is a blur. A woman greeted me there and walked me to the room my father was in. He was being prepped for emergency surgery but was alive. On the walk she told me "Your mother expired, and your father might not survive." So here I was, a stupid kid, about to see my father for what might be the last time, knowing my mother was gone, not knowing if he knew so I couldn't bring up anything. My father was as good as he could be, considering. My brother and two of my sisters were there with him.

All of this was running through my head that morning as I waited for the Personnel rep to greet me. What a strange trip life had taken me on, and I was only at the very beginning of my adult life.

Within a month, though, the company announced financial hard times, and we all had to take a temporary ten percent paycut for about six months, but I was so happy to be working I wasn't about to complain. And there were layoffs in the next couple of months, but I was lucky then as now (I have had a lot of luck here - I've never been laid off, and I've always left a job on my own terms, even if I didn't know what I was doing when I did it).

I used to spend time wondering what-if about a lot of things, but I learned that there's very little point in wasting time doing that. I'm still here, alive, healthy enough, and providing for my family. And I would love to thank everybody who I've worked with, or who took a chance on me, for giving me the opportunities that I have had. I know I've let some of you down in the past, but I have always given the best that I could at any moment. I really appreciate how you all have helped me to become the person I am now.


Tuesday, June 19, 2007

One trans community?

When I first started to come out I was searching for ways to get in touch with other transgendered people - crossdressers, transsexuals, etc. I lived under the belief that despite their differences the "trans community" was united by some intangible I couldn't identify. One thing that was amazing was how quickly trans people accepted me - it was shocking the day that I was first added to someone's friends list.

As the days, weeks, and months wore on I started to get a sense of something not quite right with my community view. But I persisted with the notion anyway, and even was taking to the practice I saw of calling some of the trans-people I met sisters. I did this to a very select few. And that intangible was a little smaller in my eyes but still real.

Time marched on. I started to see more divisions - some by economic situation (people railing against rich transsexuals or those who had easy access to medical support), and also divisions between crossdressers and transsexuals, or some people defining transgendered as a person who "chooses" to change their sex whereas a transsexual was a person who had no choice - their physical sex didn't match their bodies. But despite these issues I still stubbornly clung to the idea that we are a community. Hey, we all face discrimination! Any of us could be fired if a boss didn't like the fact that we were transgendered. The non-trans people mostly don't see differences between us.

Some days the voices of division were quite loud to me. I started to question my belief in this trans community. The intangible was so small I started to doubt it existed. But I could see places where there were transgendered people coming together! This didn't make sense to me.

After more thinking I started to realize - yes, I saw a trangendered community. In fact, I belonged to several transgendered communities, some of whom shared members (like me). UR Not Alone, the My Husband Betty forums,, Tri-ess, Renaissance, etc. Overlapping communities of trans people. And sometimes these communities come together, and sometimes they don't, and people join and leave them as they see fit. And there are transgendered people who don't belong to any of these communities and are alone (often closeted and in hiding, but not always).

I no longer believe in the transgender community. It's not important. But that intangible does exist - our right to be treated with the same respect and dignity as people who are not trans. We have a right to live and work as ourselves and not be punished because we don't conform to someone else's views. After all, to quote Shakespeare (from The Merchant of Venice):

If you prick us, do we not bleed?/ If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you/ poison us, do we not die?

Monday, June 18, 2007

Coming Out Trans - Take Two

I've started to put some work back into my web site to help trans-people come out to their family and friends - Coming Out Trans ( I wish I had been able to put a lot more work into it earlier, and I wish I could blame others for the reason why it's taken me so long to get this site up, but a few issues got in the way:

  • I got overly ambitious. I do a lot of design of web infrastructures, and I thought I could come up with a nice, simple, easy-to-use infrastructure for web sites. I think I did, but I needed to put a lot more effort to make it easier for me to let others start making modifications to the site. I still want to finish the framework, but getting the site up became more important to me than building tools and massaging my ego. I'm now using PmWiki as my infrastructure (not a great choice, but it was easy for me to get it up quickly with this).

  • The inital site was ugly and hard to read. With a more standard infrastructure I could change the look-and-feel quite easily (and others could as well).

  • I got overloaded at work and in life. This more than anything else made it important to me that I had an infrastructure that was easier to use. Frankly, the content is very time-consuming to create or find and format, and I need to get another pair of eyes and hands involved.

One other thing that slowed development of the site - I realize that I have a mild form of depression that I'm dealing with. If I could blame it all on being trans it might be easier, but there are a lot of other issues that got in the way. One good thing about this, though, is that I tend to be self-bootstrapping in that whenever I get depressed I tend to find ways to climb out of the deep valleys. The down side is, of course, that I occasionally get such deep valleys.

In my soul I'm an optimist, and when I'm depressed I sometimes lose sight of my optimism , start wallowing in self-pity, and become very self-indulgent. It's not good, and I hate that feeling. On the other hand, my optimism is probably why I can get out of a deep depressed mood as easy as I can.

Anyway, please feel free to check out the site - Coming Out Trans. And if you have any questions or comments please feel free to let me know.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Blogging for LGBT Families

I am adding my voice to this effort. I am a representative of a family where one of the partners is transgendered and closeted. I have a very loving and understanding wife and two wonderful college-age children. Apart from my wife no one really knows that I am transgendered. Telling children at this age is very dicey, and add to that the problem that my son has a depression issue and it manifests itself towards me (the father figure) and it's quite a challenge.

That's a very big challenge that we in the closet face when we have teenage children. Part of it is that our kids are coming to grips with puberty and their own sexuality. How does our "gender variance" affect this? There is a lot of theory and some really good anecdotal stories, but I really don't know if there has been any serious research on this topic (I think not, as the research into transgendered families seems to be very sparse, based on my own experiences in trying to find out what's going on here).

Take my daughter, for example. She is a big All My Children fan. As you may know, they had a transgendered character on there over the winter. My wife was watching an episode with her one day and my daughter told her that she could understand how a person could be transsexual but that crossdressers were "creepy". My wife did challenge her on this point, but not so far as to possibly clue her into me and my situation. I think this is mostly due to the way transgendered people are presented in the media - we're either psychopaths, sociopaths, prostitutes, or buffoons. How is she to think anything else? That she's open to transsexuals is a big bonus. And this is a girl who's been active in promoting gay marriage (she's straight but believes that everybody should be entitled to the benefits of marriage, and sees civil unions as yet another "separate but equal" approach that turns gay couples into second-class citizens).

All that reminds me is that there is still fragmentation in how we are perceived and how we perceive ourselves, and that we have a lot of work to do to reach acceptance. One of my goals is to make sure our children find this path (and my wife has been wonderful in this, too - I have watched her attitude grow here in ways that have amazed me to no end. She struggles with my transgenderism but somehow still shows me so much love. I am so lucky to have her!)

Monday, May 14, 2007

Newsweek - A good article

The cover of this week's issue of Newsweek magazine is focused on gender issues, specifically transgender issues. This is real progress for us. I thought the articles were well-written and quite interesting (and I'm including those on the web as well).

My only complaint is that there are too few examples of non-transsexual transgendered people. At first I felt like it's a Newsweek problem, but on reflection I have to say that perhaps it's more of an "us" problem.

Let me use myself as an example. I'm pretty well closeted. I'm transgendered, closer to a cross-dresser than a transsexual (but I really don't think either of those labels applies to me - I identify strongly with the feminine as well as the masculine). Trying to find an out cross-dresser is tough. There are a few role models (such as Alice Novic and Eddie Izzard) but for the most part we're so terrified that we keep ourselves hidden.

Now, I do also think we scare people. We cross the line many times, and we unnerve people by this. And there's the Hollywood images of us as scary psychopaths.

So why, then, don't I rush out of the closet? It's simple, really. I am not ready. I have a wife who is not ready. I am not out to my kids, and the last thing I want to happen is for them to discover this about me by some third-hand mechanism.

So do I want to come out some day? Yes! I want to get beyond the fear. I long for the day I can present myself as how I feel, not just as the way everyone knows me. I want that personal confidence to be present.

*Sigh* Someday.

Thank you again, Newsweek, for the start. We need to take it further.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Married but Transgendered

I am a transgendered person who came out to her wife last year after 20+ years of marriage (actually, I was originally discovered by my wife in the early 1990's, but I spent a good part of the time afterwards in denial of my transgendered identity). I spent a lot of years suffering with fear and shame about being transgendered and avoiding the Big Questions (Am I really transsexual? Am I a fetish cross-dresser? Stuff like that).

I accepted myself last year and had developed a one-year plan for coming out. If I had stuck to my plan then my wife would still be in the dark about who and what I really am. My reasons were two-fold: 1) our youngest child would be entering college then, and he's been a lot of work for both of us to manage because he has some issues that are very tough for a teenager to deal with - by putting it off until then my wife wouldn't have to deal with this on top of that; and 2) it would give me time to do more research and also to understand myself and be able to better answer her questions.

There was also an unrealized third reason: I was convinced my marriage would end when I finally came out and told her the truth about me. When she had discovered me she almost threw me out of the house then - only by going into denial did I feel I salvaged the marriage. I had to be at a point where I could accept that I could not change and that she might not accept me as I am before I could come out.

Fortunately, only a scant few days into my one-year plan my wife came out and asked me if I still think about dressing. I hesitated for a second, then I realized that I had to tell the truth, so I did, fully believing that I was going to be looking for a hotel that evening. Let me tell you it has not been easy, but it has gone down a road that I did not think possible - she accepts me, even though it is one of the hardest things she's ever had to do. She has even bought me clothes and made me jewelery (some of the prettiest earrings and bracelets I ever did see!).

But she also cries a lot about this. She is torn by this. Her ideal man is a manly, masculine person, hair all over, muscles, the works. In short, a hunk. That is not me. But I said she's torn because some of my personality traits are what drew her to me - how I didn't force myself on her like some other guys did, and my nurturing nature that has helped encourage her to find out what she would love to do and taking care of the kids, and other aspects that are normally associated with the feminine side. But she cries a lot, and I know this.

I've spent a lot of time since then trying to understand what a wife goes through when her husband says I'm transgendered. This led me to the book My Husband Betty by Helen Boyd (and to Helen's blog and online discussion groups as well). This is a great book for the spouse of a transgendered person to read - it's very well researched and it's very honest. Her latest book, She's Not the Man I Married, is a much more personal book that details how Helen and Betty have coped with Betty's realization of how much further down the slippery slope she had to go and the changes it caused in their relationship, both in private and publicly - to me the book is ultimately a love story about the two of them.

Another book I read is Peggy Rudd's My Husband Wears My Clothes, which is another good book about dealing with a cross-dressing husband (Peggy and Melanie (her husband) were featured on the episode of the Women's Entertainment Television show Secret Lives of Women entitled "Married to Cross-Dressers").

A new entry into this area (that I'm reading right now) is the book Head Over Heels: Wives Who Stay with Cross-Dressers and Transsexuals by Dr. Virginia Erhardt. I'm not finished with it yet, but this is a gold mine for the spouse of a transgenderd person. It contains stories written by 28 spouses about their experience dealing with all aspects of transgenderism - from those who have a husband who cross-dresses occasionally, those whose husbands have become women and had Sexual Reassignment Surgery (SRS), and lots of other stories in this vein. This is a very hard read for a person in my shoes (heeled or otherwise) as these wives are very open as to how they struggled to handle their spouse's relvelations and the consequences for them. "Struggled" is the key word - very few of these women find it easy to embrace this in their husbands (as if you would expect otherwise?).

(One other place I would like to mention is also Annie Rushden's blog Garden's in Bloom about her life with her husband James who is transitioning to Claire. This is another fantastic love story involving a transgendered marriage!)

What's amazing about all this is you discover that coming out as a transgendered person is not necessarily a death sentence for a marriage. I'm not going to sugar-coat this and say that staying with a transgendered spouse is the norm (especially in a world where the divorce rate for all marriages is over 50 percent), but there is hope in all of these stories. I realize that love alone is not enough to keep a marriage together, but other forces that come into play (economic issues, comfort, pragmatics, and external appearances are part of it as well). I know in my own case it's some combination of these and more, but love is the biggest part of what keeps us together.

In our relationship we're realistic - there could come a day where something happens and it's just not good for us to be together. But we both want to make it work, and sometimes that's the key to making it work. I do love her so much, and she has shown me so much love and kindness.

There are other issues that I'll address - such as religious views and our marriage, perceptions internal and external, societal and family concerns and the like - but this is more just setting the situation as I describe our life together.

Dear, I love you!

Monday, May 7, 2007

Essay: A Woman in Progress

I wrote this back in December, and I thought in honor of Christine Daniel's blog about her coming out (called Woman In Progress: Christine Daniel's on Life Changes Big & Small) I would repost it here. I have updated it a little to better reflect my feelings now.


A Woman in Progress (Version 2.0)

I am a woman in progress. I am not a finished product by any stretch of the imagination. I have so far that I have to travel, but I am greatful to be on the road of discovery than on the road of denial and fear.

I am a woman in progress. Sometimes I think about how far I have to go, of the people who would hurt because of me, either due to stupid mistakes I make, or insensitivity, or even because of who I am, and I just feel so sad. But if I make someone smile I can find a way out of those moments.

I am a woman in progress. The trek is discovering how to map the discontinuity between my body and my mind. I'm not complaining - the body I was given is part of me, as is the essence of my personality. They may not be in sync, but that is my special challenge in life. And to let the people who love me know that the essence of who I am is still me - I really haven't changed that much, except that I understand myself a little better, and I need to express it with the world. But to those who know I have changed quite a bit, and I understand and appreciate this.

I am a woman in progress. I don't know if I'll ever be a finished product, but I cannot stop this trip. I cannot help being who I am - I have no choice in this, so better to enjoy the journey, even if the destination is not clear. When I can be the female me and not worry about the rest of the world, even if only for a few minutes, then there is a feeling of contentment and peace that comes over me.

I am a woman in progress. I am amazed at the other people I have met on this trek - some of the most amazing people you would ever meet. Some are very strong, some not. Shome are very happy, some not. Some are rich, some poor, most in-between. All are on paths like me, and they are my sisters and brothers, and I am their sister. And I love you all.

I am a woman in progress, but I am also a creature of my past. My past includes much lonliness and fear, because I was ashamed of letting others know this side of me. I wish I could have been stronger earlier; perhaps I would have caused less pain in others as I would have caused less pain to myself.

I am a woman in progress.

I am me.