So no, R. T., it’s not a fact that you’re a transman. It’s a fact that you’re female. Self-identity is almost entirely subjective.
Even as I type, I can feel you reacting somewhere in the depths of my subconscious. How can I say such things about my own self? Am I a masochist?
Maybe. Or maybe I’ve learned a thing or two in this last year. The first is you were right on some points. First, yes, women are quite attractive. Men? Eh. Except Jacob. 🙂 Second, Yes, we did marry him, and we’re quite happy we did. But women are still sexy.
In fact, most of what you wrote is pretty accurate. Life before the wedding was straight up madness.
Really, I just wanted to chat about two points you didn’t really understand.
We got sick during massage school. It wasn’t “just stress”. Something broke, and I still don’t know what, but I’m working on it, for both our sakes.
You have no idea what it means to be a Daughter of God. Truth be told, I don’t either, but I finally started learning.
The mystery illness that walloped you upside the brain and ground any plans to a halt? Lab work is happening, and I’ve got the process as under control as it’s possible to have such trouble.
The Daughter of God thing? Well, that’s bigger. See, when you wrote your post, you wanted so badly to be visible. You wanted people to see and understand all the parts and pieces of you. Even followed it up with Realizing I’m Not Invisible a few months later.
Yesterday, I learned that no matter how badly you or I want it, parts of us will always be invisible in some situations. You can’t fight a crusade against the world. And the world will make its assumptions. I know, it can be frustrating.
Just remember, those who matter don’t mind, and those who mind don’t matter.
Really, though, the reason I say you didn’t understand then what it means to be a Daughter of God is this. You still clung to your identity as a transman. You clung to your identity as ONLY Raidon T. Phoenix. You tried to forget Tanith Rose.
When I moved to California, I still carried your idea of identity. Except that idea hurt. Every day, it hurt. So I gave it up.
In fact, I gave up the idea of identity entirely. And in doing so, I found the freedom to be ME. Not you. Not Tanith.
I found the freedom to be Raidon Tanith Rose Phoenix Taylor.
I still use masculine pronouns on social media. I strongly dislike the inundation with ads directed at women. I live in California and see enough bikinis to last a lifetime in the summer.
Not to mention the makeup ads are way too trippy.
I’m still getting our name legally changed. After all, we chose it together, and it’s part of us now.
Before I dig too much deeper, I want to define the term. At it’s core, the gender binary is the idea the a person is either a man or a woman because of the external genitalia and internal sex organs they possess.
Thus, as soon as a child is born, we allow a doctor to perform a visual examination, and now your baby has a gender role for life. Either wear dresses and makeup and look pretty, etc, or get rough and tumble and work your way up the corporate ladder. (I know, that’s way too simplistic and stereotyped. Those are other posts.)
For most people, this isn’t too much of an issue, and even in cultures that recognize more than two genders, third, fourth, and fifth gender people are the exception rather than the rule. The difference is, in these cultures, they are accepted as they are in many ways that I don’t see for United States or “western” individuals. That’s not to say all cultures do, or that any culture does it perfectly, however the one I find most intriguing to this point are the Bugis of Indonesia.
Now before you say, wait, Rai, that’s a three minute clip, it can’t possibly sum up everything!
I included it because it’s a better overview than I could give. The point is, they accept the idea that not everyone fits neatly into the box defined by their visible biology.
Why I See Invisibility
Take a look at this Gif. For an 11 year old kid at a magical school? Pretty freaking sweet! I’ve got a cloak that lets me sneak anywhere!
For transgender and gender nonconforming people in the society I live and move in every day? My body is that cloak. I got “lucky” according to some other transgender people I know, in that I do look a bit more masculine, and can pass without a horrendous amount of effort.
But why should I have to pass? Isn’t that another form of invisibility? I’m not a man. Never have been, never will be. I’m not a woman, either. The best term I have in English is transman, yet there’s no place or space for someone like me. It seems, even according to some quite vocal transgender personalities, that I HAVE to be one OR the other. The problem is when physical sex is one way and the mind is another, it’s not just one way.
I know the argument. Essentially a physical transition “proves” someone is truly transgender. I have yet to meet a man or woman who has to physically prove through risky, life-alterating, costly medical procedures that they either are or aren’t a man or woman.
I know, you’re probably wondering where I’m going with this. Here it is.
Acceptance: Let Us Take Off The Cloak
Stop asking us to take the highest risks anyone can take – including higher rates of sex-based cancers, intense surgical complications, and numerous side-effects, as well as the roller-coaster of a second puberty – just to prove what we see in our minds.
It doesn’t always end the way the magazines would like you to think it does.
Am I saying no one should ever physically transition?
No. That’s a choice I can’t make for another person.
I’m saying it needs to feel more like a CHOICE. Because frankly, it doesn’t. I’ve been called out by other transmen and asked how can I possibly be happy with my life and not undergo a physical transition? Well, it’s because I’m surrounded by a number of loving people who don’t expect me to undergo one in order to prove I am who I say I am.
I wouldn’t give these relationships up for the world.
I also know that’s not the case for many other people with identities. Often, when we come out, it doesn’t go as well as we’d hoped.
And then we get on social media, and the world implodes around us unless we keep a ruthless hold on our newsfeeds in order to keep some shred of sanity. I don’t speak for everyone, but I believe it’s safe to say most of us don’t want the spotlight we’ve gotten because of these new social movements and the election cycle. We just want to live our lives the best way we know how, just like most other folks I know.
Once again, I’d love to hear your thoughts, questions, comments. Share them in the box below, and don’t be afraid to ask me things that may seem a tad personal. I’m a pretty open person.
So, when you’ve got two parents, and one doesn’t take it well, you assume the other won’t either.
That didn’t happen. In fact, the opposite did.
First, a bit of background. My parents are divorced, and it wasn’t one of those “nice” divorces where the parents get along for the sake of the children after the fact. I don’t have all the details, and won’t bore you with the ones I do have. Suffice it to say, Dad ended up moving back to Arizona (we were in Michigan) and I pulled away from both my parents at different points.
Lately I’ve been attempting to reconnect with both myself as a person, and with them. As happens, it doesn’t always go as well as I imagine, but this time, it went better than my imagination could have conjured. So here it is.
Coming Out to My Dad
In the first place, I didn’t have to force the conversation. It just happened at some point about halfway through last week. And he listened. Just listened. Just like I’d nearly forgotten he always did. He looked stunned, but who wouldn’t in his position, really? Then Friday night after dinner we were talking again, Dad, me, my sister, and he asked how I was doing.
I finally told him I’d been burying anxiety all week.
“You know you never have to do that around me.”
I nodded, and then explained how being referred to in the feminine all week had been difficult. To those reading this who would cry micro-aggression, I hadn’t seen most of these folks in 20+ years. They remembered a six-year-old who was still trying to figure out how to express it without getting in trouble from other forces in life. I wasn’t going to spend all week being a twit about pronouns, I was determined to enjoy time with my family.
And for the record, one of my cousins greeted me as Raidon the first time she saw me – Thanks, Cuz! – and completely caught me off guard with it.
So I swallowed as much discomfort as I could, and most of the time, it was alright, because one thing that side of the family has down is a large measure of unconditional love. In fact, I told both my aunts and one of my uncles about my situation as well, and the conversations went exceedingly well.
Back to Dad, though, Friday night, he asked for some further clarification on what goes on in my head, and I explained it to him in what’s become my standard. My body is female. As far as I can tell, my spirit is as well. And my brain doesn’t care to hear it. I’m a guy. So, I’m a transman. He told me he can’t promise consistency, especially at first, because after all, I’m his daughter, and that’s how he’s seen me for 28 years, but five minutes later, he said something to my sister about me.
“You’ll always be HIS sister.”
Yeah, I teared up, and also launched out of the chair to hug him.
Taking Off the Invisibility Cloak
Even if you’ve not read Harry Potter, invisibility is a familiar concept, I’m sure. Sometimes, it’s quite handy. Let’s face it, if you’re a secret agent and need to infiltrate a place, doing so invisible may be a lot easier. Sometimes, though, invisibility is a curse. Imagine Harry Potter trying to save the world with the Invisibility Cloak glued on.
People would think they were crazy, or he was a ghost, and thus not the Boy Who Lived. In my experience, it’s similar for trans* and gender-nonconforming people. We disappear. I don’t particularly blame anyone for this. After all, when you’ve only ever known the idea of men and women and that’s based on a cursory visual examination at birth, such concepts are completely foreign. They were to me, especially when I first came out to myself and started to unbury the transman under the woman’s mask.
Yet I’m still seeing that nudge towards invisibility in society at large. It’s a cloak I’ve done my best to shed, since it helps no one. To present as someone I’m not and have never perceived myself as is dishonest and lacking in integrity, at least in my own personal code.
Coming out and transitioning socially was my way of shedding the Invisibility Cloak of gender, but I’ve realized there’s more to it. Since this post is creeping up on 900 words, I’ll save the more for tomorrow.
Lastly, any of my readers with questions for me, about anything, leave them in the comments. After all, we never learn if we never question.
The difference between a flower and a weed is a judgement. ~Unknown
Fascinating how the smallest piece of a morning ritual can actually start a blog post. I found that quote on the tag of my herbal tea bag this morning. I now drink several varieties in an attempt to convince my mind I don’t need my former cola of choice, since, thanks to my unique biochemistry and brain composition, three cans of that cola is equivalent to a regular person consuming about five cups of coffee a day. Not really a fact I enjoy, but I digress. I’ve also been fighting the topic of non-binary that’s been stuck in my head since I put fingertips to keyboard last week, and so no post has occurred. Not the best plan, I know, but c’est la vie.
And my goodness, I need to clean my desk.
Right now, let’s think about that quote. The difference between a flower
and a weed.
Both plants full of vibrant color. Both come into bloom and feed creatures like bees. Both dazzle children with their brilliance.
Yet one we nurture, care for, maintain, and try to keep the kids from plucking the buds off the bush. The other, we encourage them to pick or run over with a lawn mower, because well, it’s a weed. Odd that before we became obsessed with grass, gardeners would weed out grass to make room for the dandelions. They’d do this because nearly every part of a dandelion can be used for food at various stages of growth, down to the tube-like root.
I find it’s often the same with the people in our lives. We like our judgments, whether we made them yesterday or last decade, and we tend to stick to them, even when challenged by the coming along of something different. Even tougher to root out are the judgments we put on ourselves when we realize we are that “something different.”
In fact, take a look at this thistle.
I grew up with a bush of these in my grandfather’s flower garden. I don’t know if they were intentionally planted or not, but I know he kept them there, and every year, they bloomed fuchsia and purple, and beautiful. And they were different than every other flower in the garden, because those purple blossoms looked like a ball of spikes. I loved that. In Bumpa’s garden, the thistle was that something different.
This week, I realized that in this world, I am that something different as well.
Stop With the Labels!
Okay, hear me out. I already came out to the world as a transman with Out of the Closet and Into the Meme War, and now I’ve come to another realization. I do fit in that slim box that the “community” I’m defaulted into terms non-binary. I didn’t start this post intending to talk about this, but here we are, because it ties into judgement. See, I made one of those decades old judgments about myself. I could manage one or the other. I could manage to be just a woman. Then I thought I could manage to be just a man. Yet in the weeks since the move, and since my husband starting his new job, I’ve had many hours alone to reflect on my situation.
Part of the reason I didn’t want to claim the term? Well, just Google the phrase “define non-binary gender” and the first hit is a fantastically negative article by a site I won’t link to. Feel free to look it up if you’re curious, but get enough people angry, and then someone like me, who’s spent at least a decade learning not to be an angry person will avoid you and your site. So, no link.
On the other hand, I realized this. A question exists that no one has ever asked me, but I know the answer if I ever were to be asked.
Are you a boy or a girl?
Truthfully? My answer is both.
I know. That doesn’t even make sense to most trans-folk. It’s simple, within my belief system. I’ve got a physical body, a mind, and a spirit. My body is female, and my spirit is a woman. Mentally, I’m a man. So, I can honestly say, I’m both.
So I suppose in a way, this is another coming out, both to myself, and to you. Once I get this week’s Phoenix Unscripted up, I’ll add that to this post as well, since it’ll probably cover the same topic.
In the end, no matter what labels we use to make sense of the experiences we have here in mortal life, we’re all human beings, capable of incredible feats of love, compassion, and caring. Let’s reach out to those in our lives who may need the love we have to offer, and see what we can do to help.
What are your thoughts? Ever realized something about yourself that you knew was unpopular in the grand scheme of current society? If you’re comfortable, share your story in the comments. After all, I love learning from the stories of others.
So, I have this fascination for unusual words, and my Dictionary.com app showed me a rather interesting one this morning. I also have a fascination for finding words that have a gender neutral context in a typically gendered setting. I had no idea a gender-neutral term for bridesmaid or groomsman existed, but here it is. Check out a few links for various definitions. And feel free to use it in a sentence in the comments!
Stories. Since the dawn of existence, humankind has told stories. I remember that far back, because I’m a Phoenix, after all. Well, at least half Phoenix, anyway. In all seriousness, you didn’t have to be there to know we’ve been telling stories that long. From cave paintings to hieroglyphs to tapestries to blogs and emoticons, we’ve been framing our world in understandable words and pictures from the beginning. Narrative has power, and the words that build narrative have power. Transgender seems to be the word and story of the day, and though I have no plans to turn my whole blog into a what’s what and who’s who of transgender stuffs, this week brought a few reminders of the story I have, and why I have it.
See, I’ve noticed a trend in the stories most commonly featured about transgender people lately. If it’s not a blog post condescendingly informing the reader they must conforming to x, y, and z behavior when dealing with us (Just treat me like any other person, please.), it’s another “success story” about a physically transitioned individual who is successfully living life as the opposite sex from their physical birth. As if the only transgender people society has room for are those who physically transition, and physical transition is a foregone conclusion.
Which leaves someone like me stuck.
Remember the meme at the beginning? When we talk about the transgender experience as fostering a need for physical alterations in everyone who experiences it, this is exactly what happens. This is the conversation I’ve felt to my core up until the beginning of this week.
Society: Be yourself.
Me: Okay, I’m Raidon T. Phoenix, transman, socially transitioned, with no intent to physically transition.
Society: No, not like that. You’ll never be happy without a physical transition.
Me: But, you said to be myself. I’m okay with my mind and my body, even if they get a bit muddled sometimes.
Society: Okay, but see these happy, successful, physically transitioned people, that are prettier and handsomer and more passable and successful than you.
Me (before this week): Well, yeah, and that looks like what I want…
Me (since making some decisions this week): Yeah, and? They aren’t me. I’m happy for them. I’m also not them. You are society – whatever subset happens to be talking – and I don’t care about your opinions. Have a nice day.
Those decisions involved asking myself a few pointed questions.
Do I really have to be so totally not okay with my own body that I want to surgically alter it in order to “be trans?” That’s not to say I don’t have Gender Dysphoria. I do. Or I’d never have taken on the identity of transman. Thing is, though, physical transition is neither for everyone, nor a foregone conclusion. I’m okay having the mind of a man and the body of a woman. There are several reasons for this.
Religion – I’m a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This blog’s not really the place to go into depth about beliefs or anything, but you can check out their website, or for more basic info, check out Mormon.org and read whatever you like. I went through my own crucible, and still came out following this particular faith path, so there you go.
Health Risk – The women in my family have a history of susceptibility to various female-specific medical ailments. Changing testosterone levels in my body would increase my risk of several of them to greater or lesser degrees. No thanks. I already have enough to deal with physically, thanks to migraines and a few other issues. Also, needles.
My Family – I want my own kids, and there’s only one way to do that, really. I have the capacity to do so. So why not?
All the surgery in the world won’t actually change my sex. It will change the sex I appear to be, and in some places change my legal status. Frankly, though, I don’t believe that’s what many of us need. And I’m not just talking about transgender people either. We all need to stop living for the expectations of strangers, and start living to build up both ourselves and those around us.
It reminds me of a brilliant article about fencing, actually. The quote that stood out the most was this. “Quit posturing.” The author, an accomplished fencer, detailed several reasons he fences.
challenge myself to become the best I can be
practice and explore the art I love
share with others
learn from others
genuinely connect with brothers and sisters in arms
I’ve a similar, short list of reasons I undertook a social transition.
To remain sane: alleviating depression, suicidal thoughts and anxiety
To embrace my potential
To stop living for others
To learn from the challenge
Is it so hard to understand those reasons for a set of choices? I hope not. And I hope we can start setting aside our own stories long enough to listen to others. I’m glad for those who’ve found happiness in the path of physical transition. That’s not my story, and it’s not my path. And somehow, I don’t think I’m the only one.
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.
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. 😉