Judgement

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Lately I’ve become more aware of being judged and people who feel free to dispense their judgement on others. Some do so from some sort of ethical or religious authority that they use as justification. Others more ignorantly just pass judgement from an arbitrary sense of what “should” be. What I find most remarkable is that these same people do not hold themselves to their own standards or pick and choose which portions of their dogma to adhere with. It’s also amazing they don’t realize that even as they hand out their condemnations and guidelines for being proper they begin building a very confining prison for themselves. “People in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones” is an old adage that often comes to mind. When one draws too many boundaries around right and wrong behavior it becomes very tricky not to step over those lines themselves. Their lives and those around them become filled with unnecessary rules and restrictions that only serve to distort and pervert our normal state of joy.

Fundamental thought comes in all shapes and sizes and from what I can tell the consequences of it range from damaging to lethal. Guilt and perversion are very typical side effects. How many more times to we have to watch some televangelist ask for forgiveness for a liaison with a prostitute or drug dealer? People only turn to these avenues when they have no access to joy through safer and healthier routes. It could be argued that much of the violence and drug abuse we witness in the world is a result of people’s joy being blocked or taken away. I have witnessed this very thing in my own life.

Formerly as a closeted Transgender person the only way I could express my gender identity was in a night club. Generally these were bars or Drag Revue locations in seedier parts of town. I was fortunate in that at least I had one relatively nearby. Many of my Trans sisters in particular had to travel hundreds of miles to find a safe place. By “safe” I actually mean safe inside. Outside many of these clubs, Gay bashers looking for kicks or sexual predators looking for an easy target would frequently be some of the very real dangers one might encounter. I can’t tell you how much my life has changed since I’ve been able to come out. Not only have I benefitted but everyone I am involved with has as well. I no longer have to hide such a huge part of myself and can be more included and happier participating in others lives in a positive way. My intimacy is no longer searched for on kinky websites but among others who are out in the world expressing themselves openly. This ability to seek and find community or a partner in a more healthy and open way results in less victimization. When we aren’t singled out, discriminated against and targeted we feel more joy and experience higher self-esteem.

So what do the “judgers” get out of looking down on others? I would have to imagine it gives them something or they would be less likely to do it. My impression is that this need comes from their own low self-esteem. It is very typical for children who feel badly about themselves to try and show others how much better they are by putting their peers down or bullying them. If one’s self esteem hasn’t improved by adulthood perhaps it makes them feel better to occupy some moral high ground so they can look down on their lesser neighbors in a more acceptable way. I imagine they were put down or shamed for something they did as a child or as in the case of the Televangelist be hiding something and are over-compensating for it.

Whatever the case, it would be hard to ignore that judgement of others  creates nothing beneficial for anyone. Wasting time wagging your finger or looking down your nose will only limit the boundaries of your own joy and that of others. Rather than wasting our time creating unhappiness why not open our hearts to others and remove the arbitrary boundaries to our joy? We should look for commonality with each other rather than what separates us. If our ideologies and societies are more inclusive than you will find less people pushed to the extreme boundaries searching for their fundamental needs and rights. People will need to escape less, participate and contribute more. I believe there was a great man who said, “Judge not lest Ye be judged.” Perhaps it’s time we listened to him.

 

 

The Bride

Married

My feet don’t feel like they touch the ground as I walk along the luxuriant green grass of the Courthouse Sunken Garden escorted by my tall handsome son. At 25 he is the picture of manhood. 6′ 6″ and well-groomed he wears an elegant navy suit as if he was born to it. At 6 feet now I feel substantially smaller as I negotiate my way towards the altar in the long beautiful mermaid style wedding dress trying not to trip or stumble over the hem. The sun is warm on my face and I’m happy for the light, cool jasmine scented breeze as I approach the lavender fabric of the aisle. Two steps up a small set of stairs and I’m traveling between the smiling faces of good friends, family and new acquaintances. I return the smile easily catching a few faces momentarily longer than others. We arrive at the altar my son deftly lets go of my arm and I mount the three saltillo tile stairs holding the dress hem up hoping once again to arrive without mishap. My partner’s three children flank me on my left and my three children are fanned out to the right as I climb the short flight. Finally I take the last step and look over at my partner already there with her dazzling smile and sparkling eyes lit full voltage. Our wedding officiant looks over and smiles warmly. “We made it.” she says softly. “Take a deep breath now.” How wise I thought. I needed a breath. It has been a very, very long journey to this place. To be standing here in front of over 100 people with my partner and our children wearing a gorgeous long trained wedding dress and feeling this good could not have seemed more improbable even a few years ago.

The last 24 months since my transition have been a warp speed learning curve after a life time of being unhappily male. Depression, fear, despair and hiding were my constant companions. For 52 years I lived a double life. Sometimes my female side was closer to the surface and sometimes it was so deep that even I thought I had managed to bury it. Those burials sometimes lasted days, sometimes weeks, sometimes years. As a small child it was right there. I felt open and expressed myself as any being would before the shaming began. Every time I encountered disapproval, annoyance, laughter or derision my armor and need to hide became denser and more intense. My early childhood was filled with shaming and both verbal and physical abuse. I learned to hide and hide well. I cultivated the ability to cover my tracks expertly even changing my persona to a more stoic and male facade around age 8 when my family moved to a new town. I kept the girl me under cover for the next 11 years not telling a soul even as I borrowed my mother’s and then my sister’s things. I learned to carefully put them back exactly as I had found them. There were many near misses in a house with three brothers when I thought I had precious time alone. More than once I found myself sprinting to the restroom wearing a dress and make-up carrying my male clothes with me.

I was fortunate my first love accepted my feminine side happily. We dated for 2 years in High School and I finally shared “Jennifer,” later “Genivieve” with her when I was 19. We moved in together before my eighteenth birthday and I immediately began borrowing her things. In our Prom picture I looked almost as feminine as she did and certainly tried on that pretty dress she wore afterward! I began to trust her more and more and finally shared my secret one afternoon as my body shook convulsively with raw fear. Now I know those symptoms to be PTSD but at the time I just thought I was ridiculous and felt embarrassed. Instead of anger, laughter or disappointment she embraced and hugged me. She loved having a new girlfriend. As it turned out the whole sex thing was a chore and she preferred to do my make-up and go shopping anyway. Unfortunately I’m not designed to abstain so I had to say goodbye.

During the next 5 years my female side came and went according to my circumstances.  Mostly went. I had few means being without parents and often had roommates or difficult living circumstances. Initially I didn’t know there was anyone like me in the world.  Later I began to see “female impersonators” on a talk show or a “cross-dresser” in a tabloid story. These were deviant denizens of alleyways, Gay bars and nightclubs. People in the sex or entertainment trades but only in places equally strange people frequented. I couldn’t be one of THEM could I? At first the idea seemed horrible like realizing you were the Wolfman or Dracula. Later I began to realize I might have something in common with them. By the time I sorted out who I was I was married. At 25 I married a woman who found my female side repellant. She had married a man after all, not a freaky pervert who wore women’s clothes!  She knew only what most people did at the time just as I had before. I learned more because I had a need to find out.

My first discovery came by going to an Adult Store cross-dressed in public for the first time. Going in had been a monumental challenge. I stood across the street for half an hour getting up the nerve. After looking through rows of publications in the “Fetish” section I found some magazines that featured Cross Dressers. I went to the counter and nervously bought them. Once again I was shaking with fear and tried not to speak at all and give myself away. The male clerk took my money and said, “you look nice.” What?? I was shocked. The thought of someone thinking I looked good at all this way never entered my mind! Once safely home I opened the magazines. I found a “Cross-Dressing” group advertising in the back of one and went to a meeting. I had to drive 200 miles and go to a run down hotel conference room under florescent lights to sit with men like me in bad drag but it was a beginning. I couldn’t believe there were others who shared my curse! That meeting led me to a club in Studio City where I met more “cross-dressers” as we called ourselves at the time. Even we hadn’t a clear idea of what we were. At the club I met the first people I’d seen who had “transitioned.” I was stunned. Was it possible for me I wondered? I had to take a good look at myself. At 27 I was 6’2″ had a square jaw and was covered in body hair. The people who had transitioned had started out very feminine. Small slim people with little facial or body hair. I was dark and tall with a blue beard and 5 o’clock shadow by noon. My beard connected to my chest and back hair. If I didn’t shave I resembled Sasquatch or a Wookie more than a woman. In a dress I had to own I looked strange.

I went to therapy and worked on the marriage. We had children and I made a promise to myself then to be their Dad until they were adults. I knew some in what I came to know then as the “Transsexual” community who came out to their children and it had been a disaster. The world still didn’t know what we were and even the Gay community wasn’t very fond of us. If you didn’t look “passable” you would be a pariah. You would lose your job, your friends and your family. I saw this happen to people I knew. Their only option became the sex trade and generally that led to drugs and a quick descent into a very short hard life. I loved my children too much to put our relationship at risk. During the next few years we moved to a new town with a new job so my son and daughter could have a better quality of life. I left my Trans friends and connections behind but knew my female side wasn’t really going anywhere. I cross-dressed at night alone while my wife and children slept. I often worked on side projects while wearing a dress and make-up outside in my garage studio and kept all my female things in our extra room.

I knew our life was out of balance and it finally imploded. My wife left me for someone else after a year long affair citing my deviant behavior to anyone who cared to listen. Humiliated again and on my own but now with two small beings I felt the door to my dream close. The pain of such a traumatic rejection and the question of my worthiness as a parent pushed the female in me deeper than it had ever gone. I cut off my long hair and put on weight. I wanted to be as physically male as I could. I gained 25 pounds and my hair began to recede. My body hair was thicker than ever and I dated the best looking women I could find to prove that I was all man. I became an elite swimmer and a more aggressive surfer pushing my limits physically. No one could doubt outwardly that I appeared the macho stud in every way.  I had my children every weekend and and took my father role model position very seriously. I adored my children and wanted them to be whole in ways I wasn’t. They weren’t to blame for my shortcomings and I was determined to not allow it to affect them.

For the next 10 years as they grew into teenagers I played that role as best I could. My forays into my female side were brief and I kept only one simple dress and a pair of shoes. I thought looking in the mirror in those years my dream was as likely as my chances of becoming an astronaut and landing on the moon. I went through multiple relationships often with painful acrimonious endings. If I shared it would inevitably result in the same insults and often threats to “out” me. My children grew up and needed me less and less. Eventually they preferred living in one house and they moved in full time with their mother. Suddenly I had space and time again and my thoughts wandered back to my dream. I had followed developments in hair removal, hair replacement and hormone therapy. Transgender groups existed now and were available on the internet. There were still few who had transitioned and no real protocol for doing the path available anywhere. I decided to start with what I could do and see where it took me.

I had my body hair lasered off when I was 45. This began a series of treatments that spanned the next 5 years which included 3 hair transplants and the beginning of electrolysis. With a smooth body and my hair more or less back I took pride in my body again and continued swimming and losing weight. Later I started hormones. After years of searching I found a website that described the male to female hormone regimen. Not too long after I located an online pharmacy where I could buy them. I started on low doses of oral Estrogen and a male hormone blocker. My skin began to smooth, my hair thickened and my body softened. I loved every step and found a deep well of happiness inside that I hadn’t known existed. Eventually there was only one step left to transition and I resolved to take it. Facial feminization had evolved into a known specialty and there were perhaps a dozen surgeons in the world who were on my short list. Fortunately I had started a small business a few years earlier which was finally providing enough income for this expensive surgery. After interviewing all the doctors on my list I picked one and put down my deposit.

About the same time I decided to make the big leap I met my partner. She and I had been dating other people with her ex being a trans woman friend of mine. I was gun-shy at first fearing my path would be derailed again or that I would find myself disappointing another person. I really liked her and agreed to allow her to “court” me. Within a few months we were in a committed relationship and I knew I had found the love of my life. We had more in common than I could imagine. She was a gifted elite cyclist, a professional potter and a mother of three children the same age as mine. She had been challenged by gender roles her entire life but from the other side. She was a male spirit in a female “earth suit” as she called it. She had known me from afar for years and fate had finally brought our paths together.

I let the breath out and looked across at her again. What a miracle I thought. To be here with my adult children supporting me getting married to the person of my dreams in a beautiful location wearing my fantasy dress in front of more than 100 of our friends and family. It was really happening. I took another breath and took it all in. Very few in this audience I realized see me as anything other than a tall athletic woman. I couldn’t begin to explain what it has taken to get here. The 54 year journey had been long and I lost hope many times, but in the end it made this moment of being the bride that much richer.

 

 

 

 

 

Transition:No Country for Light-weights

Transgender. To change one’s gender cannot by definition be part-time. It isn’t casual or frivolous. It isn’t done for thrills or easy kicks. People who go through all the expense, pain and difficulty in changing genders have to be committed to a very serious and difficult process, especially those who transition later in life.

As I lay on my back recently in my electrologist’s office I pondered some of the new anti Transgender laws being passed or considered by State legislators. Here I lay having each of my remaining gray facial hairs zapped from my face one at a time. About one shock every ten seconds. And by shock I mean a small needle is inserted into a hair follicle in my face, often in some exceptionally sensitive location like around my lips or right under my nose. Then a painful electrical current is administered through it thus killing that hair. I do this in two hour sessions once a week. By the time I’m done I’m shaking and sweating from the effort to tolerate the pain. Who in their right mind would go through something like this unless they felt deeply compelled to do so?

How about shooting myself up with Estrogen every 2 weeks? Now THAT’s a party! My compound prescription is so viscous it has to be drawn through a heavy gauge needle and then injected into a large muscle. I typically go for my quadricep on the top of my thigh. No big artery I can puncture there and easily accessible. I have to relax or the muscle becomes too tense and the needle won’t penetrate easily. Once inserted it takes over a minute to inject the thick compound during which time I attempt to relax. I usually ice the area afterward to keep the muscle from becoming painful or swollen. The prescription is costly and my insurance often only covers part of it. Sometimes I can’t get the covered brand at all and have to pay full price. It’s either that or I experience an extended bout of PMS and my hard earned female traits began to sag. There are oral Estrogen tablets but to this point I haven’t found any that work as well. In addition taking hormones orally is hard on the liver. Anyone want to join me?

How about the daily concern of being “read” as Trans? Since my facial surgery I haven’t worried much about this but I assure you I spent my share of time in that psychological nightmare. I can say without any hesitation that the middle is the most challenging place to occupy between genders. If you want it to go smoothly jump across that divide or you will be torn to shreds. I have many friends who have been marginalized and discriminated against in every possible way. Some are even attacked or killed. It ain’t pretty and no one chooses this life lightly.  Once again, volunteers?

Statistically something like 1 person in 10,000 will be Transgender. Of those perhaps only a small portion will actually attempt to transition. That means the likelihood of encountering someone who is Trans is extremely low. Even lower to encounter them in a restroom. To pass laws that target this small group seems disproportionate to the concern. As far as I know there has never been an incident of anyone being attacked or molested by a Trans person in a restroom. Quite the opposite for the Trans person. Violence is visited upon them regularly for any imagined or potential flaw. Usually for just being different. Many find the trek so bleak they attempt to take their own life. Recent surveys show that almost 50% of Trans people have contemplated suicide. It’s beyond cruel to pass laws that single them out for more hate and fear. To hope for people to think rationally and not respond to media hype has proven impossible. Any reasonable person who considers the reality of being Trans would see that the people who do attempt the arduous journey aren’t doing so they can jump children in a public bathroom but out of a deep need to find themselves.

The Wedding

Hello everyone. Thank You all for coming.We’re all here to celebrate the marriage between Avalon and Genivieve,  a transgender woman and a woman from birth. Most people see them now as a Lesbian couple. Ironically, after Genivieve’s transition their joining became one that up until a few years ago would not have been possible. Two weeks ago, Avalon and Genivieve walked into the courthouse  behind me and applied for a marriage license. The clerk never batted an eyelash. As a matter of fact, he actually congratulated them! Coincidentally this is the same courthouse where less than a year ago Genivieve had her name and gender legally changed. In other words, this is a very special place for them both and a very unique wedding. This may well be the very first transgender marriage held on these grounds. … ever. While that is indeed significant, it is also somewhat irrelevant.  What is relevant is that Avalon and Genivieve deeply love each other and that we are here to celebrate it regardless of what label is placed on the union. In addition they have 5 (now 6) lovely adult children who join them in this marriage. They feel very blessed to have them here today. Avalon and Genivieve are excited to have finally found each other and feel honored to share this day with you. Thank you all for being here and showing your support!