Opinions Are Safer Than Slices of My Soul

I’m not certain who originally created this meme. That person is, however, entirely correct.

You may be yourself all the time. Except when your boss only needs one aspect of you. Except when your friend needs another side of you. Except when being yourself means breaking social norms, or worse, laws.

We dedicate thousands of hours and tens of thousands of words to advice on how to be better members of society.

And right now, I don’t know if I’m failing or succeeding. I’m also trying desperately not to care.

After all, I blog. I want to blog more. (Some would say I NEED to blog more.) Most of the time, I blog about opinions on stuff I see online. Why?

Because it’s easy. It’s safe.

I don’t have to slice of a piece of my soul and risk baring it to the entire world. After all, opinions change. Sometimes slowly, sometimes quickly, but they change.

/\ Actual footage of some of my opinions changing. /\

Basically if a random internet stranger cares to tear my opinion apart? The wounds only go skin deep.

Blog: What Is It?

Often? The blog is merely a series of what may be termed personal essays. I set my fingers to the keyboard, type up an opinion and send it off into the ether. Then I wait, and wonder if I’ve said something that mattered to anyone but spammers?

So what happens? I run out of steam. I don’t know what to write about. I don’t want to write about my principles, because I have learned to fear the reactions of total strangers on the interent, when I actively refuse to fear the physical strangers I encounter every day.

I put stock in posts like Virginia Woolf: There Are Way Too Many Personal Essays Out There. I mean, how do I know if I’m “[using] this medium from genuine inspiration because it best embodies the soul of [my] thought.”? Or if I’m just rambling.

In the end, I don’t know. I just have to hope what I’m typing helps.

Why Opinion Is Safer Than Principle

We all have opinions. Some can be as simple as whether the blue shirt or the red shirt is better today. Frankly, the only one who truly cares what shirt you wear or what you eat for breakfast is you.

Then we have our principles. Those codes and convictions we hold so strongly they guide the ship of our lives. And I frequently only talk about principles when I have an ill-informed opinion on a principle I’m struggling to understand or implement in my life. I rarely speak of the genuine challenges and difficulties I face in learning a principle. I only share what may be “acceptable.”

I may change this as I can. To start with:

I am a faithful, attending member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. (I am not a perfect member.)

This Coming Out post is not longer completely accurate to my perceptions.

I don’t like talking about myself in-dept to the internet.

ADHD makes it far easier to spout off to people one-on-one or in person.

I may or may not come off as a know-it-all. Blame what you will. It may have something to do with how I was taught to write, and the fact that I defend myself emotionally from being wrong. (Last I checked ALL humans do this.)

So yes, this is a personal essay. Yes, I may or may not have gotten very personal.

Just admitting I have difficulty writing this is a step towards genuine, I suppose.

Now I’m going to go make bread.

Beyond Shame: 4 Things I Learned About Life after Coming Out

Shame is the power we give others over our lives, and lately, there’s a lot of it being flung at everyone. Who’s your candidate? Be ashamed. What’s your stance on this or that controversial issue? Be ashamed. In the title of my last post, I mentioned a Meme War, and I’m not kidding. We throw memes around on Facebook, Twitter, and even in our blogs without a single thought for who we may or may not be affecting, because it seems to mesh with our opinions at the time. Well, I’ve chosen a side in this War, finally. Hope. True, on occasion I post concerning controversy, and I’m not perfect, but with every Share, I now spend at least a moment hovered over that button. If there is controversy, I’ll mention it in my own words with the post itself.

Aside from that, I post Hope. I post Encouragement. There’s enough Shame and Doubt and Hate to go around, and yes, I’m looking at both sides of the “political spectrum.” We look at things in such black and white terms, and we feel so safe behind our computer screens; safe to stab others that may be invisible to us with words that scorch the very fabric of their souls. I know my words are harsh, and it’s because for several weeks, I lived it. People whose feeds I’d come to rely on for a dose of goodness or an uplifting thought got right into the trenches for or against toilets. Toilets, people. We have bigger problems. In the mean time, I’ll get to my point. Here are the X things I’ve learned so far after coming out to my local community (which happens to be somewhere between 95% and 98% LDS, by the way.)

1. Help comes where least expected.

I’m LDS – Mormon, as I mentioned before – so I had this idea that as soon as I told my bishop I was trans, I’d be disfellowshiped or worse. After all, Mormons hate anyone that’s part of the LGBT community, right? Anything to get us out of the Church. We don’t fit. We’re different. We can’t live up to the Church’s expectations. I’m sure you’ve all heard it before. So I had this image of all my connections and goals for continuing membership evaporating.

That didn’t happen. My bishop simply acknowledged that he would likely never understand exactly how being transgender feels, or how it affects my life, and extended the aid of Church resources in obtaining mental health care I had no way of paying for in order to pull me out of the suicidal pit that I was in. Those resources have been extended twice, and I am grateful such that words cannot express for it. Add to that my choice of a social transition led to my Relief Society President of the time helping pick out my now favorite blazer and black dress shirt, and I have difficulty seeing where this narrative of the Church hating outliers comes in.

In contrast, I lost a few friends throughout the process, one a part of the LGBT community, in fact. I don’t care to share details, but because I’ve continued to hold fast to my LDS Christian belief system through everything, we disagreed on quite a bit, and words like bigot and sexist became involved. I’ll leave it at that. Additionally, I joined at least one support group geared toward transgender members of the Church, and found myself in a heavy and negative environment that only hurt my well-being rather than helping.

I realize my experience is not the same as that of everyone in my position, but it is one that needs to be shared.

2. Impossible is an imagined limit.

At the risk of proving my darling husband right, and outing myself as a closet country fan…

I promised myself in high school that I would marry an LDS man in an LDS Temple. It’s kind of a thing for someone raised as a young woman in the Church. Even after uni, when I realized I really love looking at women, I decided that only changed one thing. I just wouldn’t necessarily be physically attracted to the man I married. A good thing, too, since he’s not generally attracted to the female physique. Even then, though, I never imagined I’d be going by masculine pronouns within a year of our marriage and looking into the paperwork for adding to my legal name. In fact, my first thought when I admitted that the word transgender fit my experiences was, “He’s going to leave. He’s fought so hard to live up to the standards of the LDS Church, and wants so badly to marry a woman, that he’s going to leave, and go find one.” We had been engaged just over four months when I finally told him. And he simply said the one thing I’d thought impossible. We’ll figure it out. And we have been.

3. Memes hurt. A lot.

Imagine for a moment everything about you was parsed down to two opposing points on a line. Both points defined strictly by one aspect of yourself. Let’s say it’s the color of your eyes, or the length of your pinky finger. Sound ridiculous? Sound like an absolute load of tripe? I promise, it is. That is also exactly what a meme is. Really. So in the words of a general authority of my faith, if a meme does any of the following, please apply this advice.

I ask this because I spent about two weeks ready to defenestrate my notebook computer after every visit to Facebook. My very existence had been reduced to nothing more than memes either for or against the use of a toilet. A TOILET! If that’s not full of —- I don’t know what is. Frankly, this whole toilet thing is a smoke-screen for larger political issues anyway. Hasn’t anyone ever seen the Hunchback of Notre Dame? Who started throwing rotten food and humiliating him? THE GUARDS. The authority figures in charge. Speaking of.

4. The Media doesn’t help. We won’t “understand” each other’s experiences.

Here’s what I mean by that. I’ve never in my life looked in a mirror and with confidence proclaimed, “I am a woman!” I know now this likely will not happen while I’m a mortal human being. On the other hand, ~99% of the population of at least this country has never in their lives looked in a mirror and wondered, “Why are those pieces there, those bits missing, and why doesn’t anyone realize they’ve got the wrong gender?” Not going to happen, really. So media tries to “help” and throws around words. Transgender. Gender Dysphoria. Respect the pronouns. Yet no one ever bothers defining these terms because, “It’s not my responsibility to educate you.”

Come on, people, we’re all in this thing called life together, and no one’s getting out alive. Let’s try to give each other a little hope for living in the mean time, and let’s help each other live in a way that doesn’t perpetuate a culture of shame. Stop shaming people for being different, and stop shaming people for not understanding differences. We don’t need that kind of negativity. At the end of the day, words are powerful, and simple.

Transgender – the experience of being a gender other than that of your physiology. Like I said in my previous post, I couldn’t understand why no one saw that I was a boy.

Gender Dysphoria – (Yes, they are different) – The mental and sometimes physical symptoms accompanying the stress of being transgender. In my case, the worst of it feels like I’m wearing a full body unitard made of the itchiest wool possible. It’s also damp, full of sand, (or fiberglass, depending on the day) and two sizes too small. It’s all I’m wearing, and there’s no way to take it off. Close your eyes and picture it for a moment. Other symptoms include episodes of depression and major anxiety.

Many of us choose a social or physical transition due to the severity of our Dysphoria symptoms, as they bring us the relief that allows us to live functional and productive lives. It’s not easy, but it’s not any easier to live in the abyss of a suicidal depression, wondering if you’ll still be alive for the love of your life to come home to or not.

Bottom line is, trans or not, we all need to stop living for the ideas of others. Stop letting shame rule us and govern our thoughts and our purpose. All that does is bring us deeper into the pits of fear that cripple our lives and ourselves, and stop us from living in such a way as to build up those around us and leave our own positive mark on the world, however small. And if you’re already in that pit, and you don’t see a way out? Take my friend Maria’s advice, and Do It Afraid. Sometimes, that’s what it takes. In fact, the greatest minds of this world had no idea they would land in the history books. They just did what they knew they had to do.

Now it’s time for me to stop rambling and let you share your wisdom. What have you learned from the most terrifying choices in your life? When have you stepped out afraid? Was there a time shame tried to stop you and you refused to let it? Share your strength in the comments, and together, we can strengthen each other.

Out of the closet (not that I was in one) and into the Meme War

Before we start, remember a few facts about me. I’m a transman – a thing I didn’t feel like making a big deal of until people started asking. Well, an old friend asked the other day, so here it is. I’m LDS – Mormon, to most of the planet – and I’m married. Got married in an LDS temple, in fact. Best day of my life, and yes, I wore a dress. And fantastic jewelry (which I will have good pics of in the next few months some time.) Now that all that’s been said, come with me, and I’ll show you why I’m still alive right now. Much of it has to do with the Church, actually.

It all started when…

Once upon a time…

Back at the dawn of the Sega console, and long before X-box was a gleam in anyone’s eye, much less part of a shiny console collection, I was born on an Air Force base somewhere in the Arizona desert, and spent the first five years of my life playing in the sandbox that my mom tried to turn into a flower bed. Deserts don’t like flowerbeds, though, so it became my sand box. At five, we moved to Michigan, and I started school, and started to wonder what was wrong with me. After all, I was a boy, so why didn’t the boys want to play with me? The girls didn’t want to either, and our Church branch barely engaged fifty people a week – most of them not kids, and the ones that were? Well, we all have life problems. Mine just happened to be that no matter what I did, I could not understand why everyone called me a girl. I didn’t get it. Okay, so maybe whatever I had under my trousers made me different than most boys, but I was still a boy.

Some problems arose with me being a boy, though. First, my mom insisted that not only was I a girl, but if I wasn’t a girly (in my opinion) girl, I’d never find a husband, or get married, or have kids. Which was a problem, because I desperately wanted to be a mother.  Weird, I know.  High school – and puberty – hit, and I started liking how girls looked. Definitely a boy, if I now liked girls, right? No. I was Mormon, and I was a good girl, and I didn’t like girls, I liked boys, and one day I would marry one, and be happy.
‘insert maniacal, amuse, cynical laughter here’

‘pulls self together and takes deep breath’ Now that that’s over, where was I? Oh, right. Happily ever after. I kept dreaming that one day, God would turn me into the princess everyone thought I was, and I would find my night in shining armor. In the meantime, if I could never be myself, I figured I may as well get paid for it (classic Slytherin, no?), so off I went to a public University in Green Bay, Wisconsin, and now, I’m the questionably proud holder of an Associates Degree in Theater. Yippee. ‘waves achievement flag half-heartedly’

Somewhere in all this, I came to grips, as much as possible, with the deaths of both my maternal grandparents, my parents divorce (I was 12 when it happened), and the fact that I had a raging crush on my college best friend. Thankfully, she’s completely straight, and never was interested in me like that. Went back home in 2012, and put on the professional woman college grad mask, got two jobs (neither with enough hours), and finally ran away to, of all places, Rexburg freaking Idaho, home of what most LDS people know as BYU-I do. Seriously, average engagement here lasts three months. Maybe four. Some last a matter of weeks. Or days. Yeah, it’s crazy.

Now, the irony here is that in High School, I dreamed of attending BYU, whether at Provo or Rexburg, I didn’t care at the time. When I actually moved to Rexburg? Last place on Earth I wanted to go. Really. Please, Father, anywhere but there? Anywhere but the pro-marriage mill? Nope. Rexburg. Fine. I moved with the help of a friend, and almost immediately found a job in a used book store. That November 2013, I attended a gathering of writers participating in NaNoWriMo [link it]. I walked in dressed in my favorite brown trench coat – sadly retired until I can repair it – and a fedora. Yes, a fedora. Apparently, a gentleman two years my junior decided I was interesting enough to bother talking to asked if he could sit next to me. I agreed, of course, and we spent the next five hours talking. About half way through, I told him I was attracted to women, and he told me he was attracted to men. After laughing for what felt like three minutes. Fast forward to September 2014, he took me back to those same chairs, and asked if he could sit next to me for time and all eternity. Keep in mind, to this point, I stayed in my role as professional college graduate, as much as possible.

I started a trade school for massage therapy the same week that I said yes, and this is where the story gets tough. I worked in sales calls at the time (a closer job than the book store) and I kept up with that and school until a particularly nasty client reamed me out over the phone. For an hour and a half, I couldn’t stop crying, and couldn’t work. My mood and emotions spiraled totally out of control. I went on leave for a few months. In those few months, I finally let myself look in the mirror again, at that little lost boy everyone kept forcing to be a girl. Somewhere in those months, I also encountered the term transgender. I finally came out to myself and then beloved fiance. He didn’t chide, scold, freak out or run. He simply listened. After that, I hit yet another streak of major depression – a regular occurrence throughout my life – and found myself with no job, in desperate need of a therapist. This is where the church comes in.

I went to my Bishop, as they are able to extend help with certain things when circumstance warrants and resources are available, and told him about my troubles. He arranged for a set number of appointments with a therapist in town, which seemed to help, until my fiance’s mother died at the end of last March. All other concerns ground to a halt. We got back, and immediately I was inundated with, “What do you want for your wedding?” Once again, the mess from the closet got half-shoved back in, and I faced the monumental task of planning a wedding with zero dollars, and not much of the help I knew I needed. (Note to self: Ask husband to plan the next thing. He’s better at it.)

The wedding went well, and all was happy, for about six hours. Which was when we learned just how obnoxious Gender Dysphoria can get when you’re married. However, we enjoyed our honeymoon for the most part, and headed home to build a life together. He worked full time, and I still had enough mental health troubles on my plate that getting a job was not in the cards at the time. I sunk so deeply into depression that I called him home from work one day because I dared not be alone with the knives in the kitchen. We went to the Bishop again. Again, he decided that circumstances warranted help from ward resources, and that the ward had the resources to help. Through another trans friend, I found my current therapist, Kevin Lindley, and worked through all the morass surrounding having a masculine mind in a female body. I spend my days working my tail off when not crashed with a migraine. Yes, I’m a transman, and that affects everything in my life. It also effects nothing.

I firmly believe we all have those pieces of ourselves that affect everything about us, yet nothing at all. What challenge inspired you to start living the way you wanted, instead of the way others saw you? Share your inspiration in the comments, and together, we can work to build something great. And no, I’m not talking about a meme war. 😉