Saturday, August 27, 2016

Identity Crisis

I have lost my identity. 

I'm not sure if I'm still mom, wife, daughter or 911 dispatcher. 

If I'm not any of the above, then who am I besides lost? 

Monday, August 22, 2016

Gender Odyssey - Part 2

Always be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of somebody else. ~Judy Garland

I attended a 3-day conference called Gender Odyssey in Seattle a couple of weekends ago. When I returned I decided I wanted to do a three part series on my experience. Click here to read Gender Odyssey- Part 1

Friday morning I woke up in my quiet hotel room and had a fleeting desire of only staying in bed and not go to the conference. My feelings of anxiety begged me to stay under the covers. I pushed these feelings aside and got ready for the day, choosing to walk the half a mile or so to the convention center thinking the walk and the fresh air of Seattle would help. And it did. Just being on the city streets, and telling myself that I’m in the right place doing the right thing calmed me down. 

The first thing I noticed when I got to the convention center was how more attendees there was compared to last year.  I found my way to the registration desk, slipped my lanyard over my head, and thanked the Java Gods for the coffee kiosk set up in the corner. I needed a cup of coffee and to sit down for a moment. I was starting to feel overwhelmed by the sheer amount of attendees that were milling about and oddly,  I felt like I wanted to cry. I wasn’t sure why that was.  I think it was because I didn’t feel out of place for the first time all year.  Most of the time these days I do feel okay but to be surrounded by such openness and acceptance was overwhelming.  Suddenly I was in the midst of a thousand people who came together to learn more about themselves and each other.  I sipped at my coffee and took it all in.

 I sat and observed the nervous laughter and watched the brave parents who were standing in line with the kiddos to check in for the trans kids camp. I noticed one woman who was paying for her coffee, pulling a men's wallet out of her purse, her hands shaking as she handed a dollar bill to the clerk, and the clerk smiling back at her complimenting her on her blouse. I let all of these emotions swirl about me as I waved at a couple of ladies that I met last year. Spouses of partners that are transitioning. Friends that I now have. 

As I sat there, I felt the familiar constant push and pull in my psyche that wants to be normal, and that is so afraid of being different as I took everything I was seeing and hearing inward. What stood out most, even amongst the nervousness and fear, was also the buzz of excitement. I realized that this was a monumental moment for many people here. Individuals who are trying to take their different lives and make it feel right. A huge lump started to form in my throat as a revelation revealed itself to me in that lobby. How about you do the same for yourself I asked myself. How about you take your different life and make it right for you. Not standard for anyone else, not even for Dana. Make your different life yours. 

That’s what I was resisting. I was resisting being different. Deep down I’ve known this. I’ve felt it. But sitting there in the lobby minutes before the Gender Odyssey Conference was to start, I let the resistance go. I felt the resistance leave me as I looked around at the different, authentic, beautiful souls just wanting to be themselves. Just wanting to be understood. The same things I want for myself. I’m in the right place to learn how to do that. To be willing to do that. I told myself that this weekend was going to be about being just as authentic as the people around me. Beautiful, misunderstood people, who somehow believe in themselves, even if they don't realize it yet. 

 I opened my goodie bag and pulled out the conference booklet. I pulled out a pen to start circling what workshops I'd want to attend. I looked at the first session offerings, and right away my eyes went to "Fasten your Seatbelts". The description was "In this session for partners, we will look at what changes, what stays the same, and how sometimes the expected changes can manifest in unanticipated ways. " and then this note: This session is open to all partners of trans/gender-nonconforming people. Just in reading these words I knew it was the perfect way for me to start this conference following such an “aha” moment that I just experienced. I looked over the other workshops, especially the ones geared toward partners, including the one I was facilitating called "Grief, Loss, and Transformation." I circled the workshop "What I don't usually say about my gender" because I wanted to hear what other trans people have in their hearts being that there was a safe place to say what they honestly want to say. Maybe there I could find the same kind of courage. There were many other workshops to choose from, and I told myself that for right now I only had to pick out the one I wanted to go to right now.. the one that was starting now in 2 minutes. 
I put my conference booklet into my backpack, put the lid back on my coffee and started in search of the first conference room. Fasten my seatbelt... here I go. 

Finally, here I go. 

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Untapped Potential

Untapped potential. 

They told her she couldn't do it. 

She knew she could though.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Letting Go of the Familiar

Welcome to Flashback Friday! It's been close to four years since my husband transitioned full-time into a woman. I have many moments that I have written about during our 25 years of marriage and would like to start sharing them with you. Tune in on Fridays and read about our journey! 

Better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.  ~Chinese Proverb

April 2012 - Beginning stages of transition

It was 11 pm, and as I was tidying up before going to bed, I decided to let the dog out the front door rather than letting him take his evening pee in the backyard.  As I was setting the dishwasher, I could hear him barking frantically in the side yard. I grabbed a flashlight and went to investigate. As I shined the light into the side yard, I could see Benny, my 22 lb dachshund mix up the hill trying to climb the tree and as I swung my light up there were two eyes surrounded by a black furred mask staring back at me. The raccoon brought its attention back to the dog, hissing and spitting at him.  Even though I live on the fringes of a rural area, I am still a city girl at heart. Spitting raccoons are not my forte. Usually, I would have wakened my husband to have him battle the wilderness. But this time, there is no husband. My husband was transitioning into a woman, and nothing in my world was familiar.  My ordinary life was no longer. I could have gotten my partner up and out of bed, and she totally would have dealt with the situation at hand but instead I broke through the protective bubble that I as a wife, as a woman, had always placed myself. I'm going to do this I thought. I pulled on some sweatpants and laced up my sneakers, with the flashlight in one hand, and a right size stick in the other, I climbed the hill towards the ruckus. I kept chanting the raccoon is more afraid of you than you are of it, bullshit, the raccoon is more scared of you than you are of it, bullshit, the raccoon is more afraid of you..  you get the idea. With one lunge I scooped up Benny, turned and slid down the hill on my rear with a squirming dog in my lap. When I hit the bottom of the hill, I leaped up and ran for our lives into the house.  I set the dog down, and I sat on the floor next to him as I let my heart rate get back to its normal rhythm. 

 This story seems like a little thing, cute even, but it was a big moment for me. I broke through the familiar into the unfamiliar.  I did something very unfamiliar to me. I stepped forward rather than step back. I stepped forward into the darkness, climbed the hill to get the dog, and slid back down to safety and got back up on my feet. 

 In the weeks and months that followed, I had many moments when I had to break through the familiar into the unfamiliar. My familiar and comfortable place in our marriage were that I let my husband, the man of the house take care of traditional male roles. I was conditioned that way. Now it was changing. I grew into my new place. I figured out how to fix a leaky toilet by watching Youtube and asking questions at Home Depot. I carried the yearly load of firewood that gets delivered and dumped on the driveway to the rear of our house. I started making sure the oil was changed regularly in all the cars.  All things I was capable of doing before, it just wasn't familiar to me. I've learned that I could step forward and do these things, rather than step back and let my husband do it. Today I don't have a husband; I have a partner, and we are in this together. 

Monday, August 15, 2016

Gender Odyssey - Part 1

We acquire the strength we have overcome. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

I attended a 3-day conference called Gender Odyssey in Seattle a couple of weekends ago. Dana was traveling for business, so I went by myself. Last year I attended this conference, and I was a co-facilitator for a workshop titled "Grief, Loss, and Transformation". The workshop was a closed session only for the partners or significant others of those in transition or have fully transitioned. I made myself available to do it again this year. 

In the weeks leading up to the conference, I tried more than once to talk myself out of going. I had every excuse ready; I'm too tired, I've been traveling too much, my dog will miss me. Then I took it to another level; I told myself I'm okay with the whole transition. Dana and I are doing well, we survived our way through, I don't need to learn anything because I know it all already. But I had my airline fares bought, the room reserved, and I had a registration ticket. It would have been irresponsible not to go. So I went.

I flew into Seattle Thursday afternoon and took the train from the airport to Capitol Hill and walked a couple of blocks to my hotel. It was a beautiful sunny day without a cloud in the sky. As I was checking into the conference host hotel, I noticed two women who were sitting in the lobby. One of the ladies was obviously a trans woman, not because she wasn't passing, but because she looked so nervous and excited at the same time. Her partner kept putting her hand on top of hers as she wiped the beads of nervous sweat off the top of her lips. I smiled warmly at them remembering that feeling. That memory of reassuring Dana that she looks fantastic as she ventured out as a woman in the early days. As I got on the elevator, a group of young adults was coming out. I couldn't tell you if they were female or male because there was no way to tell. They had purposely wanted to be gender fluid. They were simply a group of humans heading out for some fun. Their hair was different colors; they had on bright t-shirts, and they carried about them an air of fragile authenticity made stronger by being in a group. A group of peers. I overheard them say they were on their way to get ice cream. I applauded their freedom, even if it's just for one evening. 

I dropped my bag in my room and headed out immediately to get some dinner and prowl around the surrounding neighborhood. I found the perfect restaurant that seated me by the window so that I could people watch. The anxiety of coming to the conference as I ate my burger began to wane. I felt myself become present with the city as tourists mingled with the locals walked by me. I started to think about the conference and my attitude somehow had changed. I thought of the couple sitting in the lobby and the young folks going for ice cream. It seemed so normal, scary but normal. I realized that I'm in a healthy place, but it still can be scary. I need to be here at this conference. To learn, to share, to be with others walking the same path regardless if they are ahead of me or behind me. 

I walked around a little bit after dinner, browsed through Elliott Bay Bookstore and then happened upon the ice cream shop! I walked back to my hotel as I ate my ice cream cone. As I walked into the hotel lobby, I saw a gal I met last year. Her partner is in the midst of transitioning.  We had become Facebook friends and followed each other's day to day adventures over the past year. She hugged me hard and whispered in my ear "I'm so glad you are here." 
"So am I, my friend. So am I", I whispered back. 

Next week I'll post more about the conference. In the meantime, check out the website so that you can plan on attending next summer!

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Being Crazy

If we don't go crazy once in a while, we'll all go crazy.  ~Hawkeye

I ran into an old friend the other day in the parking lot at the grocery store. We knew each other strictly on a professional level. He's a fireman, and we met when I was a 911 dispatcher. As he was loading up his groceries, he asked me what I've been up to since I've retired. "What do you do now," he asked. 
"I travel here and there, I spend time with friends, oh and I'm writing a book."
"A book?" he asked. "You going to write about all the crazy things you heard as a dispatcher?"
It was then that I realized he didn't know about the big change. It is still hard for me these days because I don't know who knows about my husband's transition and who doesn't. 
"You don't know my whole story do you?" I asked him. 
"What story?" he asked as he slammed his car trunk down. 
"Okay be ready... consider this your shock alert," I said to him and before he could respond I blurted out, "My husband transitioned into a woman four years ago. He is now a she." 
"I don't need a shock alert for that. I hear that all the time. Do you think I live in a bubble?" He shook his head and laughed. "Look at Caitlyn Jenner"
"Yeah.. but did you hear about it happening before Caitlyn Jenner? Would it have been a shock four years ago if I told you then?"
"It probably would have been a shock if you told me four years ago. Yeah.. I'll give you that. So what's your book going to be about exactly?" my friend asked. 
"Oh about how everything has changed. How our lives have changed? How our marriage has changed? What it's like now?"
"Whoa... wait a minute" my friend interrupted. "You guys are still together? You are still married?"
I took a small step back surprised by his reaction to us still being married. "Yes, we are still together, and plan to be forever."
"Now that's a shock alert. Your husband being she does not shock me, but the fact that you would stay married does". 
"Really" I answered. "Are you being serious with me right now?" I couldn't' tell if he was pulling my leg. 
"Yeah," he answered. "How could you do that?"
"Why would I not be?" I challenged him. "Besides the sex change, nothing else is different. It's still the same person I married."
I watched him as he shook his head, trying to wrap his brain around my question. "That's crazy," he remarked.
"Not really, it sounds crazy, but it isn't," I told him. 
"Well, you sure did give me something to think about for the rest of the day."
"Good," I smiled and gave him a hug goodbye. "I'm glad I gave you something to think about." 
I wandered around the grocery store, distracted by my thoughts as I thought about my conversation with my friend, I tossed in ingredients for bbq hamburgers and stuff for breakfast in the morning into my cart. 
It does sound crazy to learn that someone's husband transitioned into a woman, but why does it sound crazy to be still married. 
It was my turn to shake my head and laugh. Maybe it's not so bad to be crazy. 

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Saturday Shorty - Writing


Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart. ~William Wordsworth

     My grade school days seem like such a blur when I think back on those years not remembering if I ever wrote anything. 
     Forty years later my 8th-grade teacher was at my father's funeral and told me how she loved reading my blog; how she found it is still a mystery to me.  
     “You were always a good writer” she whispered to me as she squeezed my hand and clutching hers my 12-year-old self grinned as my 50-year-old self started to cry.