Tag Archives: Relationships

The Bitch

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Something is different. At first I wondered if I was imagining it but now I am certain. I’m definitely not the same as I was before I started hormones and transition. To some that would seem patently obvious, but when it’s happening to you, it isn’t so easy to see. I’ve recently had to grapple with what that means and trying to find my footing as this new person.

I don’t think anyone would argue that hormones play a major role in how we behave as humans. After all, much of our life revolves around finding a mate. We are perhaps most aware of the sudden injection of hormones in our early teens as we go through puberty. Things change rapidly as testosterone or estrogen begin flooding our young system for the first time. Boys experience a new interest in girls and vice versa. Often our behavior is erratic or strange. Parents are often left scratching their heads. I would imagine in some cases, my friends and family are doing the same.

As a male I found it an easy task to be calm and collected most of the time. My temperament went from calm to mildly happy and mildly angry. Rarely did I get into the ecstatic or furious ends of the spectrum. In addition, if I did feel these things, people noticed and reacted because it didn’t happen often and I was after all, a man. When men became annoyed or angry, people notice and listen. When women have these emotions the reaction from others is quite different. As a woman, I have to admit I am irritated far more often but also experience a higher level of joy and happiness. The pendulum swings are broader. Life is richer in ways I couldn’t have imagined before. The downside of this is that people take this for granted and depending on which portion of your behavior they experience more regularly you can find yourself categorized. “Bitch” would be one such category I have become newly familiarized with.

Part of the reason I find myself being “the bitch” is that no one seems to listen to what I have to say. In my experience I am universally less regarded when speaking and my status as an authority on almost anything has dropped significantly. When I speak to a man or even a boy about respecting me and things I formerly considered simple regard for others I realize it doesn’t work that way. I often see their eyes roll back in their heads and can tell, all they hear is wa, wa, wa, wa like the teacher in a Charlie Brown show. This in turn annoys me more and I begin to raise my voice in order to be more clearly heard. Now they really aren’t listening and I’ve crossed into the “Bitch” zone.

Once you have entered the bitchdom, it is almost impossible to return to being a normal female. Especially in the eyes of those you have been a “bitch” to. Bake them cupcakes, get them cards, bring a casserole, it won’t matter. They will be looking for signs of the bitch in everything you do from there on in. I may not understand everything about being a woman yet, and maybe there is another way out of being the bitch that I haven’t learned but at present I’m unaware of any.

Not that being a bitch is all bad. If you are a bitch then people will be more careful around you. They will fear re-experiencing the bitch forever after you first unleash her. In addition if you bitch out a man, they generally aren’t going to punch you. This allows a lot of leeway I never experienced as a man. If you confront another man in public as a male you had better be ready to throw down. Men are more careful about going to the anger place for that reason as much as any other. Women however can absolutely go there and are more likely to do so as a result.

All of this is new territory for me and as a mature person going through puberty I imagine a few mistakes are acceptable. Women understand better but to my male friends and family I have entered an unknown land. I suppose along with all the imagined “perks” of being a woman the were bound to be some unexpected turns in the road. Coming around the corner and encountering myself as the bitch has been one.

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Christmas

AngelboyCat08Out

Christmas. A time of year filled with memories. As we mature we gather more and more of them. Some magical and bright filled with all the love and traditional cheer, others dark and lonely sometimes filled with regret, resentment or pain.

I was fortunate to have had a few years of magic. As a small child our family was wealthy and our Christmas holiday filled with big parties, holiday music, food, presents, Santa visiting in his red suit, turkey, a fully trimmed tree and the gift you had wished for under it. Like something out of a fairy tale those years live in my memory flickering with a soft candlelight glow. After my parents separated, we had a sudden wake up call to my 3 siblings and I staring at an almost barren tree with only four practical gifts. Our only  company, our mother dying in bed.

After my mother passed away 1o years later and my sister took over we agreed to not give gifts at all. At 14 we strung cranberries and popcorn to decorate the tree, made our own music, ate a small meal we prepared together and learned the true meaning of the day. We were happy to have each other and truly thankful for it. To this day I cherish that present of a simple lesson learned at such a young age.

Married with small children years later I lived Christmas through my children’ eyes. Watching their joy and delight at the tree, food and presents was priceless. I couldn’t afford the gifts they always wanted but did my best to make their holiday special. Most poignantly years later my son shared a story that brought me to tears. At about age 5 or 6 he had wanted a large rubber lizard for Christmas. All his friends had them and of course, he wanted one too. On my meager Artist salary his mother and I didn’t have the money so I made him one out of paper maché. I made it bigger than his friends’ and airbrushed it with opalescent colors. On Christmas day he was so excited to open this large gift, sure it would be the lizard he longed for. His face dropped when he saw the one I had made. His disappointment painfully obvious. Most remarkably though he put a smile on quickly and thanked me anyway. No complaints ever. Later he put the lizard away in his room and rarely played with it. After the divorce when we were dividing up his things I thought I would donate the lizard or give it away but he refused to let it go. He brought it over to his mother’s new husband’s large home and kept it there. I had moved into a very small 1 bedroom apartment. My kids’ bunk bed was only 2 feet from mine and they shared a single bookshelf for both of their toys. We had no room for the large creature. I moved many times over the years of their childhood, moving into bigger places where they could have their own rooms and then later back into smaller places. My children lived with me on weekends until their teens at which point they would simply visit so there was no point in keeping expensive empty rooms for them. I forgot about the lizard and imagined it was long gone. One day I was over at my ex-wife’s house and visited my son’s room as he was preparing to go off to college. I couldn’t believe my eyes. The lizard was still there. Of all the incredibly expensive and I’m sure much longed for presents he had kept this poor old paper maché toy. I asked him about it and his answer has given me many a teary eyed moment since. He said, “I kept it because you made it. It wasn’t what I wanted but I pretended to like it. Now it reminds me of you and how hard you always try to make Christmas special.”

I choke with tears writing this especially since I always felt so badly about what I could not provide. I would often pick my children up from their mother’s huge estate at Christmas time to bring them to my house. They had everything a child could want. A fifteen foot professionally decorated tree with electric train running around the base and presents stacked as tall as a person. Their living room warm and cozy, Christmas treats on every table, games to play and a roaring fire in the hearth. I almost felt guilty bringing them back to my tiny apartment with a three foot tree on a table and only a handful of gifts. With my son’s single statement about the toy lizard, all the feelings of inadequacy vanished and I knew he had learned long ago what Christmas really meant even as I had at 14. Of all the gifts he could have given me I  have cherished this one more than any other. Later my daughter shared a similar sentiment in a letter she wrote in class. The best gift we can give one another is love and acceptance. To receive it from my children has been priceless.

Jack

Snow WhiteBWLt

My oldest brother and I drove up the 405 freeway in his sleek new Audi 5000 surfboards on the roof and Steely Dan on the CD player. We’d just driven down to Trestles in San Clemente California and battled for waves all morning with the hottest surfers from Orange County. Trestles was the epicenter of the surf industry and also their proving grounds. It is an amazing wave, a perfect peak made for doing high-performance turns. It was far better than anything near Manhattan Beach where my brother lived. We hadn’t turned any heads but had at least gotten a few good waves.

Jack sat in the driver’s seat chewing Nicorette gum.  As I looked over at him he was the picture of what I would call “success.” He drove a nice car, lived in a nice house, had a wife and a daughter and lived life with an energy and joy that were magnetic. He and I looked somewhat alike but that was where the similarities ended. He was more  powerfully built and his personality far more dynamic and outgoing. He worked as a Commercial Real Estate Investor. His job was extremely high-flying financially but he seemed to thrive on the stress rather than be beaten up by it. I was 14 years younger and attending UCLA as a Fine Art major. I lived in my 1967 Chevy Van and felt very self conscious about it. I was introverted and reclusive. I struggled with anxiety in large groups and had a part-time job I hated waiting tables.

We didn’t know each other when I was growing up. When I was 4 he was 18 and already out of the house and off to college. There were 7 siblings in our family and he was the oldest. All hell was breaking loose when he left and he pretty much stayed away. My parents had a contentious and messy divorce and my mother was diagnosed with terminal breast cancer. Myself and the other 3 youngest brothers had moved with my mother to San Diego while Jack had joined the Hare Krishnas in Denver. My mother, a devout Catholic had disowned him, forbade contact and threw away his letters and gifts. I  hadn’t really known him at all until after my mother died. I had been 14 at the time.

The first time I saw him he arrived with a shaved head and a ponytail. He wore a robe and was wearing prayer beads. He seemed other worldly and sort of scary. He, his wife, Devi, and his cherubic little daughter, Anjali, all arrived at our house in a big Chevy van. They brought us gifts of sweets and smelled of exotic oil and incense. At 14, growing up in a sheltered suburb in San Diego, I’d never seen anything like them. Our mother had warned us that he’d been “brain-washed.” She made sure we read the Ted Patrick books describing how these “cults” worked. They would lure in unprotected or lost young people by offering them food and shelter and then either through drugs or deprivation convert them into their cult. Ted Patrick wrote books about how to “rescue” these poor kids from the cults and by using similar methods as the cults, “deprogram” the kids back into normal Christian-American society. He had scary black and white photos of the process of deprogramming that looked like a scene out of the “Exorcist.” Jack had arrived on the day before my mother passed away and his timing had also seemed otherworldly, as if he knew when she was going to die. He had been gone for 10 years and then suddenly he was back. He stayed for Mom’s funeral and then all the siblings went surfing. The one thing we all  had in common was surfing. Jack hadn’t surfed once in 10 years and he exuded pure joy out in the water that first time. We still thought he was weird but at least he liked surf. It seemed he wasn’t entirely lost.

Now 7 years later he sat next to me driving a very nice new european sedan chewing his Nicorette gum as if he wanted torch it with every grind. “So how’s  school going.” he asked as we sped down the freeway. “It’s good.” I answered. “Sometimes kinda frustrating that I have to take other classes besides Art to get my degree though.” “Yeah, like what?” he asked. “Philosophy is really annoying.” I answered. “I really don’t care what Descartes thinks about existence.” I just want to learn how to draw and paint.” “So you’re not interested at all in what we’re doing here?” He said looking over for a moment. ” It’s not that.” I answered. “I guess it just doesn’t seem like he has a point. I think therefore I am? What kind of answer is that?” “I get it.” he said now staring down the road again. “So what do you think…about existence? Do you have an opinion?” “Hmmm”, I thought. “Dangerous territory here.” My mother had warned me about my brother and his cult. I was concerned that with all his new fast lane looks and lifestyle he was still a potential wildcard and I should be careful.

I considered for a moment. Ever since I had arrived in LA Jack and I had been getting to know each other. He had opened his home to me and given me a base to rest and refuel before getting back on the street. Our family home was sold out of necessity to pay off debt when I was 18 so I hadn’t had a place to rest and collect myself since I moved in with my girlfriend at 17. Jack’s house was the first place I had been able to retreat to since then. I never stayed for more than a meal or a movie but having a place to go, be inside and feel loved was priceless. Jack and I played racquetball once a week at his “club.” He belonged to a health club that featured all the best fitness equipment and classes in a very upscale environment. We would play in the early evening when he was done with work. I would time my arrival to his place from West LA so we could immediately head off to play. We bonded during those matches the way men do, trying with everything we had to beat each other. I might win a game here or there but Jack always took the best 2 out of three. As a competitor he was very fierce. After that we would return to his place and have dinner. Sometimes his wife Devi would have made a meal but many times he would make us some Dal or Mung bean soup with chapatis. Many nights I’d hang out and watch a little TV or chat with with his daughter Anjali and wife Devi. It was very comforting and they were very kind. I reasoned that whatever my mother had said regarding his cult may have been skewed. After all I had read a few books disputing the Christian version of the universe and wasn’t on board with that version anyway. I guess I was at least willing to open my mind to what he had to say.

“What do I think about what? The meaning of existence?” “yeah” he said. Any thoughts?” I did have some, but so did he. As it turned out he had considered it in depth. “Hare Krishna”or “Vedanta” was a philosophy he found during a search through many other ideas and writings. Upon arriving the Krishna temple he had become engaged with an ancient and profound exploration of their writings and teachings. That surf trip turned into an unforgettable introduction to these. I couldn’t help but find it interesting even as he had. I didn’t tell him at the time but I didn’t identify with my body as it was and never had. I had always felt more like a woman than a man and it was very confusing for me. This philosophy actually addressed this situation. “None of us are this body” he explained one night a few weeks later. I had become his student and he kept feeding me books to read. “This is just one life of many and this physical body only a garment we change as precious as a coat left at a bus stop.”

Our relationship deepened and our connection strengthened with my new understanding of who he was and another thing we both shared in common. I found an interesting new way to see my inner conflict and my brother had finally come home in my heart. Through this time and our interaction I began to feel at home even in the huge city of Los Angeles. I learned that wherever I went my siblings and I always had each other. For us home isn’t a place but a simple knowing we are all connected.

Skin Deep

Ardhanashvara

So now after living a a woman for more than a year, people have begun to ask, was it worth it? Any regrets? After living as a man for 52 years, what is it like to be a woman?

What regrets? Pondering this, I suppose the only regret I might have is that I wasn’t more open and less fearful about being transgender before I transitioned. Surprising and or hurting anyone when I revealed myself as Transgender is something I regret. There are those I could have possibly told sooner and saved them some heartache. Almost every time I “revealed” myself as Transgender it had a negative impact on the relationship. It “hurt” the “us” part of the relationship. I had withheld information for good or bad. So I regret hurting anyone by withholding knowledge from them regardless of my reasons.

What’s it like? Now that’s a much more complicated question. That assumes I know what it’s like to be a woman. In fact, I will never entirely know. I wasn’t born genetically female and can only partially experience what a woman experiences. Two of the biggest parts of being a woman are her reproductive cycle and baring children. I will never know either. I can’t say I’m sorry about not having a period. I’m sure most women would rather not. Having children however is quite different. I would have loved to experience that and many women say this was the single most powerful moment of their lives. I’ve witnessed my own children being born and even as an observer it was (and still is) the most profound thing I have ever known. To carry a child for 9 months and give it life is the most extreme thing a human being can do and any woman that has a child has to go through this. It’s like doing some ultra-extreme athletic event and a spiritual pilgrimage at the same time. No matter how well prepared you are, no mother gets away without confronting that challenge. This concept is staggering to me. I will never have to ask that of myself. My inability to experience birth or participate in the cycle of reproduction keep me somewhat separated from knowing what it is to be a woman.

In other ways, I can comment on what it feels like to live as a woman. Perhaps the best way is to discuss how it compares to being a man. After all I had 52 years of attempting to do that. I might start by saying that everything has gotten more complex. Relationships, socialization, appearance, dining and eating, athletics, business. I don’t think there is any way I could have grasped much of it before transitioning. Going out cross-dressed occasionally can never prepare you for the reality of living female 24/7. The “fun” of dressing up for a club outing is quite radically changed when dressing for another audience. Women have a myriad of considerations in dressing that men do not have. Men typically dress more or less the same every day. If a man is a white collar worker, often the only thing that might change is the color of his tie or perhaps his shirt. They are otherwise the same style, cut and color. If a man is a blue-collar worker, he will wear jeans and t-shirt or some sort of labor uniform. They may even wear the exact same clothes for multiple days. Don’t ask a woman to do that unless she is a “Tom-boy.” Even then it would be rare. When men go out their requirements are equally simple. If a man wants to be identified as flamboyant or “artistic” he will experiment slightly with the print and cut but more or less stay with the same clothing as every other man. If a man does care to be a creative dresser that’s considered a “plus” and generally he will get lots of attention for putting any effort into his appearance at all. There isn’t any potential downside. Other men aren’t going to be jealous because of what another man wears.

Women on the other hand are expected to be creative and pay quite a bit of attention to how they dress. In addition there is make-up and jewelry. All need to coordinate and be handled well. If you wear a blouse that is slightly too low, believe me other women will let you know either verbally or with dirty looks and whispers. If a woman works with the public in retail, the very last thing she wants to do is offend other women. Is your make-up too heavy or dark or colorful? That skirt too tight or clingy? Those heels to tall? What men often want to see in women, other women will crucify them for. A drag queen is free to go over the top because everyone knows she’s not trying to look authentic. A Transgender woman need to hit the mark like any other girl. That is IF she ever wants to make friends or get a job.

This same scrutiny applies to all aspects of a woman’s life. Better be looking in that mirror regularly girl. NOT because you’re vain but because there are so many things to check. How’s the hair holding up after a few hours at work. You may have spent a solid 20 minutes on it this morning but guaranteed it will have become unruly by noon. Make-up? How’s that lipstick? Cracked and flaking? Are your lips looking like you have some exotic skin disease? Something in your teeth after lunch? Good Lord! Not a lot of forgiveness for accidentally unbuttoned blouses or jeans. Men get a chuckle but women get a judgement. Women (if they are friendly) will let you know when your “gig” is out of line somehow. Others might just point and giggle. Something akin to having a sign taped to your back all day. Having a girlfriend give you the once over every now and then is a priceless and necessary partnership. Men always assume they look great. Women always assume something is wrong.

Better stay in shape too. Don’t get flabby with a big booty and muffin-tops. No forgiveness there either. In this case however it’s the men who are judging. Women do forgive each other and have compassion for this faux pax. Men want every woman to be lean and super-model beautiful but still miraculously have D-cup breasts. In this I may have some advantage. Having been male and still battling the evil hormone testosterone daily I tend to be leaner and more muscular than the average gal. The downside of being so lean is I’m naturally less curvy. I was extremely self conscious about this and tried to dress so that I seemed to have a waist. This process will sound familiar to any woman but not so much to men. M<en think they are God’s gift no matter how out of shape they are. What I’ve learned is that women come in all shapes and sizes but they all strive to hit the same abstract ideal. Turns out my struggle to be that is the same for every woman.

Now what about the upside of living as a woman? Obviously there must be something women enjoy about their gender. From my perspective there is quite a bit. Most men wouldn’t help another guy out if he seemed to be hurting emotionally. Women do. Women will step in and help another woman far faster than a man. If she needs help, the girls will circle their wagons. Men tend to cast out the “weak” ones and let them be eaten by wolves. Women have a gentle nurturing culture which seems in stark contrast to all I’ve said earlier. Delicate in touch and thought in ways men very rarely possess. Women are far more communal and supportive and I have definitely felt the difference. If a woman likes what you are wearing she will tell you. “Beautiful skirt!” or “I love those earrings!” Imagine a man doing that for another man….NOT! Having been a single Dad I can tell you men aren’t good at reaching out. I could have really used a “Daddy and me” back then. There weren’t any support groups for Dads. When my kids were with me, we were on our own unless I recruited a woman (possibly with her own kids) to join us. Back then I didn’t know how or feel comfortable reaching out. Now it feels like the most natural thing in the world.

Men treat me differently too. Much of it I enjoy. Now doors are held open for me with a smile. I’m greeted warmly often hugged or even given a little kiss. Men will try to chat me up, buy me a drink and are generally far more interested in me than before. They, of course, have an agenda which I may not have. Sometimes the looks they give women can be quite frightening. Just FYI guys, don’t just sit and stare. That freaks women out and you will be labeled “creepy.” Women are almost always receptive to a compliment if done tastefully. Intelligence, cleanliness and smelling good are all huge. Please don’t be the too-drunk guy either. A woman wants to be chosen by someone who is actually discerning. I’ve had my share of weird encounters now but in the balance I really enjoy my new relationship with men outside the workplace.

At work though men have become a new adversary. I’m a small business owner and wear many hats. Formerly as a male, most of my business encounters were as direct as possible. Men in business are expected to be that way. Not so for women. Especially in dealing with men and their fragile egos. Every woman knows men require special handling. Be direct in making a man aware that he screwed up and you will be labeled a “bit@#” pronto. Suddenly you will be out in the cold and your communications will become significantly more difficult. Judgements will go against you and no one will say why. What I’ve learned is to stroke them and ask for help rather than doling out blame. Men love to help a woman. Anytime I try to lift a heavy object or get my hands dirty around a man more often than not they will ask if I need help. Learning to say “yes” and allowing them to assist me was initially quite unfamiliar and awkward especially if I knew I could do it better. Bottom line, if you want male friends, let them help!

Last but certainly not least is just the joy of feeling free to be me. I didn’t wait 52 years to transition lightly. It was incredibly hard to wait and search for happiness without feeling whole. Every day I put on a skirt or make-up, jewelry or do my hair is a celebration of finding myself finally. I love it! To be accepted into female culture no matter how well I represent a genetic woman has been worth it in every way. All the pain of surgeries and procedures to get there joyous moves in the right direction. I have not regretted any of it. I am here, finally and every day is my best day ever.

The Proposal

She was acting weird all day. So many probing questions. What do you want your future to look like? Do you ever see us living together? Do you need indoor plumbing to find happiness? Honestly I wondered if her meds were off again. Normally our morning conversations over coffee were lighter. We celebrated just being together and the wonder of actually finding each other in the first place. The view from my place was incredible, a stunning 180 degree view of the canyon and ocean from my deck was often the focus of our evening toasts “The Queendom” as we called it. Well, really She had coined that term, like so many others. There was no end to her nicknames for situations, people or locations. We usually laughed easily over all this joy and goofiness, but tonight was different, more serious. Her eyes were darker green, with that outline of blue, steady and intense like a predator waiting to pounce. I could probably read her moods by the color change in her eyes. I knew a few variations now. Passion was deep green with a bit of firey yellow in the center. Her eyes went a light ice green when her desire was satiated like the color of the local ocean underwater, cool and calming. I hadn’t really seen much anger yet except that one night at the bar in San Francisco when that gross guy wouldn’t leave us alone. Then they had gone like green slate. Dark gray green, ominous like a severe thunderhead. But today, today dark green with that clean blue outline. Were these her serious eyes?

Form. Maybe that was it. We had been “storming” as she put it. All fun and passion, desire and joy, reckless and care free. We’d gone to balls, clubs, parties, and on romantic road trips for the last 6 months somewhat neglecting our “real” lives. Maybe the time had come to ‘form.” Maybe. “Come sit down.” she said pointing to the couch. “Okay.” I said. “What’s up?” I asked as I sat where she pointed on my couch. Maybe we were going to have one of our “difficult” conversations. She liked to confront any issue early and head off misunderstandings before they got up steam. I must say I appreciated the concept as unfamiliar as this practice was for me personally. This didn’t really feel like  one of these “difficult” conversations though. She seemed…nervous. Yeah, she was actually nervous! I hadn’t seen nervous before. She was solid like a rock. Unshakeable as a granite mountain. Were her lips trembling? My mind raced. What could be going on here?

I thought back now. How long had we been dating?  We started last may and now it was March. 11 months. I do remember her saying something strange to me after our second date. ” I’ll be asking you a question in 11 and 1/2 months. I want you to be ready when I do.” Had it been that long? She would occasionally remind me. “I’ll be asking you a question in 10 months, 9 months etc.” She quit doing that about 3 months ago. I had sort of forgotten about that. Maybe this was that moment. She was acting really strange. She sat down on the coach next to me and looked at me with those direct serious eyes. “If I ask you to say “yes” or “no” without a question, what’s your intuitive answer?”  she said with a slight smile. I was a bit confused by the question. “What do you mean?” I asked.” “It’s simple” she replied. “Just answer the universe, yes or no?” “Okay” I replied. “Yes! I like to say yes more than no, so, Yes!” She smiled and stood up from the couch. “‘l’ll be back in 20 minutes.” she said. “What?” I asked. “Where are you going?” “I’ll be right back.” she said as she gathered her purse and car keys. “I say yes and you leave?” I complained as she walked out the open french doors to my small deck. “I’ll be back!’ She said now exiting the gate as I followed onto the deck. The Dark blue Mercedes SUV backed down my steep driveway then made the quick turn downhill and was gone.

I  finished the last few sips of wine watching the sky change from red orange to maroon and dusty purple. It had been a beautiful Winter day in Summerland. Coffee and a hike together in the morning after making love, we had parted ways in the middle of the day and I’d gone for a swim in the local pool 10 minutes away. She had returned with appetizers, a bottle of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and a beautiful bouquet of orange and purple stargazers with green palm fronds. I had arranged the appetizers and flowers and we had brought it all outside to enjoy the sunset. It was something we’d done many many times in the “Queendom.” I loved it. Life was perfect. Better than I could have ever imagined. After my transition last October from male to female I had fulfilled a lifelong dream. My world had become instantly simpler without living the “dual” life as a man and part-time woman.

I never imagined what might happen after I transitioned. It had been the end of my plan, the “zero” moment. I had thought I may have to leave town to transition, even thinking of moving to South America or somewhere remote so I would be able to start over without judgement or embarrassing my children. I can see now that would have been insane even impossible for me.  Very extreme, but then, nothing about my life had been average. She had arrived even as I was setting the date for my transition surgery. She seemed like a gift from the Gods. My perfect mirrored soul in a female “earth suit” as she called her body. So many similarities in our lives I couldn’t imagine life now without her.

I heard the neighbors Golden start barking and then the engine noise of her SUV coming up the road. In a minute she had parked and came walking back onto the deck. “Welcome back!” I said “Thank You” she said  giving me a light kiss on the lips. “Come back inside.” she said grabbing my hand. “Can you sit down again?” She asked pointing to the couch. “Okay…” I said with a little emphasis so she knew I was really beginning to wonder what was going on.  “Do you remember how I told you I’d have a question to ask you when we first started dating?” She asked as she sat down next to me. “Yes.” I responded stating to get a little nervous myself now. “Well.” she said now sliding off the couch and onto one knee on the carpet. My heart began to pound. This was unbelievable I thought to myself. “Is she doing what I think she’s doing?” Realistically I knew it would be coming, but thought I wold have another month or so before it happened.

I had struggled with how to handle this moment should it arrive ever since she first mentioned “the question” 11 months before. At the time I was somewhat fresh out of a 3 year relationship in which I had proposed to someone else. That relationship was seriously flawed from the beginning but she had accepted. Fortunately we had broken it off and gone our separate ways. That along with a failed marriage 18 years ago had definitely soured me on the idea of doing it again, but neither had started as this relationship had. This time I had started as a woman.

And now I was having that quintessential female moment. She pulled the small black jewel box from out of her pocket. “I knew I wanted to ask you this from that first time you came over to my house.” she said looking at me with the most intense eyes I’d seen yet. They were green and gold and blue all at once. I felt like they were boring into me. My hair began to stand on end and I could feel waves of goosebumps sweeping across my skin. “Genivieve” she said, “Will you marry me?” She asked opening the box to reveal a beautiful round cut 1 carat diamond ring. Tears began to run down my cheeks. I was shocked. Was I really feeling like this? It was startling, unexpected and overwhelming. “Yes.” I said leaning forward and holding out my hand. There was no other possible answer. I wanted to always be with her. My eyes began to blur with tears as she slid the ring on my left hand. It fit perfectly. I looked at my hand with the long pink nails and diamond ring and thought, “whose hand IS that?” It seemed so strange to be in this position after having been on the other side before. I looked up and kissed her as the tears came down.  This is what I was always supposed to feel during a proposal I thought as the kiss went on with beautiful intensity. “This is honest unreserved love.” I thought. “This is what I’ve always wanted.” I never felt so sure about anything before. This was right.