Archive for the ‘ Uncategorized ’ Category

It’s often hard for a trans person to describe what it’s like to *be* trans to someone who’s gender congruent. This post takes a tongue in cheek approach. Enjoy and thanks to Anderson for his articulate, humorous and thoughtful post.

American Trans Man

I went to the Boston Spirit Magazine 2012 LGBT Executive Networking Night earlier this year and Chaz Bono was the guest speaker.

Now the fact that I mention Chaz Bono, transgender son of Cher and Sonny Bono, author of the autobiography Transition: The Story of How I Became a Man, subject of both the 2011 documentary Becoming Chaz and upcoming 2012 documentary Being Chaz, and recent participant on ABC’s 13th season of Dancing With the Stars,might make you think that this post is going to be about Chaz Bono.

This post is not about Chaz Bono.

I only mention Chaz because he said something that got me to thinking, and that got me to writing.  Chaz gave a 15-minute synopsis of his life as a way to explain to the audience what it’s like to be trans.  He said that he sometimes tells people who want…

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Twitter Hater

“…Love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.…” The Honourable Jack Layton.

I had my first ever troll engage with me the other day on my twitter feed. This person was full of vitriol and hatred, calling me a freak and consigning me to hell and damnation. We sparred back and forth some on twitter, him (I’m presuming male here) ranting and raving about the aforementioned hell and damnation, how The Church (in this case The Roman Catholic Church) has history to back it up (not that he was clear on that point) and reminding me several times that I was a freak and a sexual deviant.

It would have been very, very easy to take offense to what he was saying. It would have been easier still to consign him to the rubbish pile of village idiots and simply assume he was speaking out of mean-spiritedness and hate. After all, when I look back on what he wrote, there was nothing but hatred and intolerance in every post. Nowhere did I see a willingness to talk respectfully about our divergent views. Oh yes, it would have been very easy to hate this man.

Except, I don’t. I don’t hate him; I don’t even dislike him. Truth is, all I feel for him is compassion and a deep and quiet sadness.

As some of you may, or may not know, I am a public speaker. I speak about what it’s like to live as an openly transgender man. I tell my audience that no question is off-limits, and I mean it. I’ve been asked about everything from masturbation (do I?) to organ donation (no, you can’t donate your penis to me, but thanks for the thought) and everything in between. Several folks have asked me if I’ve ever been the recipient of hateful interactions. Until recently, I said no. I would often then go on to tell them how I believed I would reply, should I ever be in that position.

As it turns out, I replied exactly how I figured I would. I found myself staying strangely calm and detached. Not dissociated but rather, removed from the emotional dung that he threw at me. I found myself reading the posts repeatedly, trying to parse out what the deeper message behind them was. I firmly believed, and still do, that one does not engage that much if there’s not something deeper driving it. I suspect part of that is having practiced that detached reaction with my 6-year-old son who deals with some profound behavioural issues. When he was younger, tantrums lasting a couple of hours were not uncommon. I learned that a cool, calm and collected reaction to his emotional firestorm was the best way to calm him down and re-ground him. I’ve spent several years perfecting that kind of reaction in the face of white-hot, uncontrolled tantrums.

As I think on the interaction further, I realize there is something deeper at work in my non-reaction. It’s love. I don’t know this man and have no idea if he’s the kind of person I would choose to have in my sphere of friends though, given his reactions to me, I think it’s safe to say I wouldn’t. It wasn’t the charm, or the eloquence with which he presented his arguments. In fact, the arguments themselves were weak and didn’t contain a single shred of verifiable evidence to support them. It wasn’t his willingness to hear me as a person (there was none) or so see me as an intellectually competent contributor. Rather, my love for him was the love I would have for someone who is acting out of blind fear; lashing out at something they don’t understand and are too afraid to investigate.

In short, what I feel for my son when he loses complete control over himself and his actions is the same gentle, patient and sorrowful love. I found myself wondering who had hurt him so badly that he was unable to see the humanity behind the words. I wanted to know what about himself did he see in me that provoked such fear. I asked myself to think on what it would be like to walk in his shoes; would I feel the same, as I believed he did. I caught myself hoping that if he had family, none of them would have to see this side of him. I found myself concerned that perhaps he DID have family, and had driven them all away with his soul-crushing fear. I realized that I felt indescribably sad if that was truly the case. I know what it’s like to feel utterly alone and isolated. I can’t imagine how it would feel to know that you’re the one who was the cause of your own isolation.

I also prayed for him. I prayed that wherever he was in his life, his road ahead be filled with healing and love. I prayed that if he had family, they would support him in his journey out of fear and hatred. I hope that if he ever is given a chance to leave this all behind, he takes it. I want those circumstances that change him in such a profound way to be gentle and done with love, not forced on him with anger and hatred. My heart says he’s had enough hate in his life to last several lifetimes; I want him to know peace and love.

Although he may hate me, I don’t hate him. Truly, love is better than anger, hope is better than fear and optimism really is better than despair.

this post can also be found at PositiveLite.com

Delayed…..again

I wanted to write a post that was light, and humorous and full of good cheer. I was looking forward to highlighting some of the awesome things that have been happening recently. I planned to get my post in on time. I had the best of intentions and, as most things built with only intentions, they have failed miserably. Instead, I’d like to tell you about the last couple of weeks and how it’s affected me.

Two weeks ago, I headed down to see my cardiologist in Hamilton. I was born with a congenital heart defect and, although it’s repaired and I’m more or less stable, as a result I head down to a special clinic at least once a year for a bunch of tests and a chat with my specialist. The catch this year is, I had a new specialist.

After my last visit, about a year ago, I made a decision to fire the doctor I’d been with for nearly a decade. When I came out as trans to her about 3 years ago she pretty much pitched a fit. She was vehemently opposed to me taking testosterone and, in fact, badgered my endocrinologist (a man who is more than qualified to balance my transition with my cardiac status) about his choice to prescribe me hormones. At my visit last year, she had a student with her and, with me still in the room, repeatedly referred to me with female pronouns and using my legal name. All this despite having been asked to use male pronouns and to call me Wes or Wesley. I spoke to her nurse practitioner about her reprehensible behaviour and was delighted to hear that there was another doctor in the clinic I could see. As you may imagine, I fired her and signed up to see the new doc. This was my first visit with him.

What a visit it was. As part of my yearly check-up, I have to go for a bunch of test, which means interacting with all sorts of different staff members. Some of them do their level best to get the names and pronouns straight and I’m happy to cut them slack. Honestly, I can tell the difference between not caring and making an error. The former irritates me to no end, the latter is corrected with grace and a laughing smile. This year I had a new tech for my echocardiogram (a heart ultrasound). We’d never met before and so had no history to work with. I introduced myself as Wes and she left me to get undressed. She came back about 5 minutes later and promptly called me by my legal name. With a very, very sharp tone of voice, I corrected her and lay down on the table. I was hurt and angry. In that very brief moment, I realized she hadn’t even been listening to what I’d said in the first place. I truly was just another ultrasound for her to perform. This was the pattern for the remainder of the day, some folks remembered and tried, some folks didn’t even care.

Then it was time to see the doctor himself. I went to register and was informed in a very pointed way (after asking to be called Wes) that if it wasn’t on my chart, it wasn’t going to be used. Folks, if it weren’t for the fact I wanted meet the new doctor at least once, I would have walked out right there. Fortunately the nurse practitioner (this woman is a godsend, let me tell you) stepped up and ushered me in post haste. Turns out, they’d actually been waiting for me to arrive.

And the very first words out of the new doc’s mouth? “It’s a pleasure to meet you Mr. Austin” I was pleased as punch that the doctor got it right on the very first try. As we chatted, we reviewed some of his concerns about my upcoming surgery. He was very clear in telling me that although my surgery is technically an elective procedure, he understood that it is a very necessary step for me to take and he wanted to support me as fully and safely as he could. This was the reason I decided to take his advice and postpone my surgery. The surgery I’d been waiting months for, was excited and terrified about has now been postponed for an unknown length of time.

I didn’t realize how much this meant to me until this week. This was supposed to be my last week to get things done in preparation for being out of commission for a few weeks. Instead, I’ve spent this week unreasonably irritated and downright angry. What normally would be a bunch of small things that would roll off my back have instead simply left me feeling overwhelmed and unable to cope. I had to take my top off earlier this week in order to have yet another cardiac test performed, I was she’d as a result. Later that same day someone verbally attacked me, in what should have been a safe space. All because I asked someone to use ‘I’ statements to clarify who they were speaking about. Physically I’ve been in an enormous boatload of pain this week dealing with a shoulder that left me barely able to lift my right arm. Many little things piled up and I just can’t seem to cope. My urge to drown myself in alcohol (a very ineffective coping mechanism) has been strong and I’m thankful I’ve gotten good at just sitting and letting it pass.

I feel like this journey, this path I have to walk, is never-ending. I’m afraid that every time I get close to one of the goals I’ve set, something will happen to set it back yet again. Part of me wonders if I’m unconsciously orchestrating all these obstacles myself. I feel like I have no face-to-face support system who truly understands what kind of an undertaking transition really is. Mostly, I’m afraid I won’t have the strength to get there.

The post was originally published at PositiveLite

Welcome to the corner of Power and Gender

This piece was originally posted at PositiveLite Please go and take a look at the excellent articles there.

Whenever I hear the word power, some small part of me cringes. This government has taken power; those folks have lost the power to…on and on it goes. The concept of power has gotten a bad rap in our society and I’d like to take some time to look at what happens when power met gender in my life.

When I was much younger than I am now, someone in my life stole my sense of power from me with violence and fear. They did this repeatedly over the course of about 4 years. When I finally extricated myself from that situation, I found myself afraid and unable to go out at night, unable to relax in roomfuls of people and suspicious of everyone I met. I was certain that everyone I knew was trying to get power over me. It didn’t matter if they were using kind words and expressing their desire to support and encourage me on my journey, I assumed they had an ulterior motive and were just waiting for me to let my guard down. It has been a very lonely existence.

As I grew older, I went to therapy and talked ad nauseam about those events in my past that left me with so much fear and self-loathing. I came to a place where no longer did I feel my stomach recoil with revulsion at having allowed myself to accept what had happened to me. In fact, I came to realize and accept that at the tender age of 13, I couldn’t have expected myself to react any differently than I did. I realized and internalized that I had done the best I could with the skills I had at the time. All was well, or so I thought.

The culture and society I live in taught me that women talk things out. That my talking about what happened would help me heal and move on. I learned that by talking, I could reclaim my power and move on from the hate and self-loathing. To talk about something, I internalized, was to own the experience and be able to re-frame, desensitize and internalize the experience in a good and positive way. Last night, I discovered that all the talking I had done had only served to convince me that I was ok.

I chalked up my lingering unease with people as just a by-product of a very traumatic childhood, something I couldn’t change but could learn to adapt and work to overcome. My skittishness around *women was simply my age-old complaint that I never fit in anyways. In discussions about power and systems I wanted to either walk away or I would go off on an unstable tangent fuelled by something I didn’t even realize was still there.

Last night, a connection was made for me. One so mind-blowing and profound that I felt like falling down on my knees and thanking everyone present for their unwitting assistance in helping me realize what was missing. What’s missing is my power. Not my power over people, or my power with people, but my own internal power rising from my inner strength and authenticity, tempered and constrained by my weaknesses and supported by people who are working toward or have claimed their own inner power.

I made this connection in a group of *men. I have the honour of being part of a men’s circle. I’m out as trans and accepted as male by these guys. These men welcome my views on gender, my experiences growing up as an inculcated female and my journey from those places. In turn, they offer me pieces of their own experiences growing up as *boys and in those stories I see and reclaim pieces of myself. Last night the group tackled an issue around language and as I shared my contribution, I was encouraged to explore that and go deeper to try to find the root of my discomfort and fear. I talked about, clarified my position and my actions, and thought that was that. Then the group went downstairs to work with some energy and that’s when all hell broke loose for me in the best of ways.

The men that needed to do their work did so and I stood to the side to support them. As I stood there, I was hit full force with a wave of tension so strong that I immediately felt all the muscles in my neck and shoulders tighten up to the point of pain. I tried to breathe and stretch my way through it, realizing that if I didn’t do something quickly, I would end up with a migraine as I could already feel it beginning. As the work continued and I continued to try to coax my muscles into peace, something fell into place with such suddenness that I swear I felt a thud.

I had spoken earlier about my fear of physical assault in my day-to-day life; about how language often magnifies that fear. I chalked it up to being small in stature, being new to the intricacies of male culture and to the harm, I knew other had come to in crossing physical barriers. Someone asked if I’d ever been a recipient of physical assault and I had said no. I realized in that moment that I had been physically (and sexually) assaulted; and that sudden and violent loss of power was something I’d never really grappled with. I knew that I had to find a way to reclaim and become comfortable with my own power. Power that I’d learned was unacceptable in women. Power that was assertive, strong, grounded and able to keep me anchored to who I am without imposing on others.

It’s a concept that is new to me, in this form, and something I am going to explore repeatedly as I uncover who I truly am. One of the things I realize is that I can’t have any power with another person, until I have power from my own inner self. I can’t have that power until I go and get it, and bring it home. I’m looking forward to learning how to do just that.

When you see * beside the word men or women, I’m speaking here about gender congruent people. I will only use the asterisk the first time I use that term

On Becoming A Man (expanded from On Death and Dying)

I wrote this piece for my own blog last June. As I review and expand on it I realize that at its core, it is still as true today as it was when I originally wrote it, in fact even more so.

What prompted me to write this post was hearing my father’s diagnosis of prostate cancer. I had already been thinking of writing a post dealing with grief. However after hearing about my father’s health, I was overwhelmed with fear, sadness and anxiety about what his future held. Writing this at that time was an impossible task for me. I’m not going to bore you with the details of my dad’s health any more than to say that he’s had surgery, has had radiation and is currently cancer free, so far as they can tell. At the time however, it was very much a hurry-up-and-wait game. These events resonated very strongly with me in light of my own transition.

I remember when I first came to realize (that is, had the language to explain) that I identified as trans; my very first reaction was simple denial. I spent some time trying to convince myself that I was just searching for something to blame for the lifelong dis-ease I had felt. Maybe I wasn’t one of those happy people I saw around me day in and day out. Content to live their lives in the best ways they knew how. After all, I am a recovered alcoholic/addict and one of my recurrent lifelong themes is that I almost NEVER take the easy road so I simply figured this was another way for me to avoid dealing with things.

That only lasted a couple of weeks and then I decided that MAYBE this was just a phase. Perhaps this was something for me to try out and try on while I got my bearings. To that end, I packed away all my ‘girl’ clothes and said that if I hadn’t gone back to them for very practical reasons within 6 months then perhaps this thing had legs. That was almost 3 years ago, and I only went back to the clothes once for a sweater. I’ve decided it’s not a phase.

I’d like to say that everything from there on out was all fine. I want to tell you that I lived happily ever after in my new tranny identity and it was all smooth sailing. If I told you any of that however, I’d be lying through my teeth. As much as I talk about the physical and social challenges of transition, I very rarely talk about the emotional ones.

Transition has a price and that price is my life, my identity and my past. In order to become the person I believe I am, I must, in many ways, walk away from the person I once was. I must die to myself and to my past in order to become the person I am becoming.

I grieve the loss of my identity. While I have all this history locked up in my head, sharing it with new people in my life becomes an exercise in anxiety and trust. Do I trust the person I’m talking to enough to reveal my other gendered past? Can I share that history in a way that removes all gender references? What happens if they find out?

The loss of self that I grieve isn’t just for my past; it’s also for my present. Here I am, presenting as a fully-grown (but still short) adult male and I have almost NO points of reference from my childhood to fall back upon. For better or for worse, we as parents often raise our male-bodied children with certain social cues. Even if we decide not to, society will provide the male-bodied child with reminders and cues about how they should behave.

I’m not here to debate the rightness or wrongness of this. At present, it is what it is and what it is not is the cues and lessons taught to me as a child. I am a man without a boyhood and I grieve this. Growing up female as I mentioned in an earlier post, the best compliment I could receive from a roomful of men is that I blended right in, and rendered invisible. Now, the men invite me to participate and I have absolutely no idea how to do that ‘as a guy’. My female identified friends tell me ‘you’re such a guy’ while some of my male bodied friends say ‘you still socialize like a girl’. I struggle to make my place in the world and leave a legacy of strength, flexibility, sensitivity and warmth in my wake. Often I don’t strike that balance and I lie awake at night wondering when I will learn.

Recently I’ve become involved in a men’s circle and the experience has been profoundly terrifying and rewarding at the same time. To my knowledge, I am the only trans man in the circle at present and this has brought no small amount of fear into my life in a way that stands sharply contrasted to the general fear I live with every day. The brave men who attend commit themselves to radical honesty, supported self-awareness and ask of themselves a level of emotional engagement that simply astounds me. There are men who are taciturn and men who are boisterous; men who come from many walks of life and bring with them years of accumulated shame and guilt and self-loathing. Within the circle, these men share some of those hurts and fears and hopes and ask the others in the circle to hold them safely while those emotions flood through them and are released into the ether so that peace, joy, love, honesty, openness and the experience of being present can enter in. Emotions and qualities I want for myself.

In order to become that man, I must first wrestle with my past. I must own my own history with its disjointed narrative and surreal feeling. I must become ok with experiences that, for years, are ones I raged against and tried so very hard to reject fully. Most importantly, I must learn to silence that voice inside of me that says I don’t belong. The one that chatters constantly to remind me that I am an interloper, a fraud and that I do not belong. I have told the men in my circle about my physical past. They welcomed me in my present self into the circle; I need to do the same.

I need to put my past to rest for I am not that person any longer and yet, those experiences have shaped me into being the man I am today. It is time to let that part of me die a graceful death, to mourn and thank my past for giving me the gifts I bring to my every day. To do this, I must grieve. And that, my friends, is what I need to learn how to do

Bucking The Trend. Why I can’t support Jenna Talackova’s bid for Miss Universe

Miss Universe, Miss USA, Miss Photogenic, Miss Congeniality (and you thought it was just a movie?)  – all around the globe there exists contests in which women fight to be crowned the winner. While all of them certainly include questions about goals, education, and passions it’s alarmingly evident that it’s still a beauty contest when you watch their swimsuit and evening-wear segments.  Particularly in the televised pageants, there is, at best, a cursory examination of a contestant’s educational and humanitarian qualifications.  In fact, when you look at the categories, there is one-thing that stands out, over two thirds of a contestant’s score is appearance driven.

The trans community as a whole struggles against society’s narrow definition of what is acceptable and what is beautiful. Particularly in North America, the trans community is very vocal in saying that acceptance of one’s gender does not depend on one’s body and how it looks. Why then, is our community rallying around and supporting the inclusion of a trans woman in a contest in which two thirds of the contestant’s score is appearance based; a contest that enforces a narrow and generally unobtainable standard of beauty.

From bleaching one’s hair to obtain that perfect platinum blonde shade all the way to the ravages of anorexia and bulimia, it’s hard to argue that society’s obsession with beauty and the attainment of it, for some women, has become an unhealthy and dangerous obsession.  Reports in the news and scientific journals of girls as young as 11 years of age dieting in order to maintain an appearance they believe men want; the kind of appearance that leads to an average industry weight somewhere around 120lbs for a woman approximately 5’8”. While the Body Mass Index scale has been said to be of limited value, a woman who is of the weight and height stated here has a BMI scale of 18.2, a number that would mark her as underweight.

Why does this concern me; you may ask. After all, haven’t I walked away entirely from the pressures put on me by the beauty industry? Indeed, since my transition, I’ve been fortunate to be able to not have to worry if my makeup is on right, if my hair and breasts are displayed just so or if I’m slim enough to be noticed. That said, I still have female bodied, female identified friends who have to contend with the images they are bombarded with every day about what kind of appearance is acceptable from women and what is not. These kinds of standards are driven by the beauty industry and reinforced using beauty pageants. Standards that I believe are harmful to women of all biological configurations.

Historically the transgender community has fought not just for acceptance, but acceptance based on more than just physical appearance. Whether you have transwomen who should be accepted as women regardless of their physiology or transmen who should not be classed as lesbians simply because of how they dress, one of the primary messages the trans community wants heard is that looks aren’t everything.  A message that seems to be the very antithesis of the appearance based message that these pageants promote.

While no one should be denied entry into something based solely on their birth sex, I have to wonder what kind of message our community is sending out when we blindly support the kind of activities in which looks are the chief reason for its existence. 

 

this post was originally posted at PositiveLite

Hi, my name is Wes…part 3

“Without change, something sleeps inside us, and seldom awakens. The sleeper must awaken.” -Frank Herbert

The internet is a wonderful thing really. From inside the relative safety of our homes we can reach out and chat with people hundreds of miles away. Through social networking sites, we can interact with people we never would have even met otherwise. It was through some mutual friends and the wonders of internet connectivity that I met a woman who I’ll call Andrea (of course, it’s not her real name). She and I began by commenting on a mutual friend’s blog posts and eventually struck up a friendship, which over time, blossomed into a romance. We spent hours chatting and exchanging bits and pieces of our lives. Our debates and discussions covered everything from politics to sex to gender. You see, as I mention in my last post, Andrea identified as transgender. She was born male and transitioned to living full time as a woman.

In my exploration of sex and kink, I had come to realize that I wasn’t the kind of person who cared about the configuration of my partner’s genitals. In fact, really the only thought I would give to genitals was to find out what type my sexual partner had so that we could discuss what type of sex we’d like to have with them. As I often said, if you had the bits I wanted  – great, if not we’d just go shopping. When Andrea revealed to me that her genitals didn’t match her presentation, I gave it no more than a cursory thought. After all, not only was she located in the United States, neither of us had enough extra money lying around to take a trip. The likelihood of this ever becoming an issue we’d need to deal with was remote, at best.

I will eventually learn not to make sweeping pronouncements about relationships. At that time however, I had not yet learned the lesson. While I was confident that Andrea and I would never meet, the fates decided that my confidence would end up being misplaced. In May of 2009 I went to Montreal for four days for a romantic getaway with her

Although I was still living with my husband, functionally our marriage had collapsed some time ago.

Full of excitement and not a small amount of trepidation, I took the train to Montreal to begin what would end up being the final few weeks of living as a woman. My partner and I were involved in a fetish relationship and part of that relationship was built around my ‘alter male identity’ which I was going to have the luxury of indulging for the next four days.

The trip to Montreal turned out to be sheer bliss on several fronts. Not only did I get to enjoy the beautiful city, more importantly I had a chance to truly bring my masculinity out of the closet in an unapologetic way and simply see what it would be like.

It was fantastic. I felt freer and more relaxed about things that entire weekend. Part of that I attributed simply to being in Montreal (one of my favourite cities) and part of it I chalked up to not having to watch myself or try to fit into this preconceived notion of ‘wife’ and ‘mother’ that I’d constructed in my head. You see, I had spent the last few years trying very hard to find a notion of femininity that worked for me. I thought if I read just one more woman’s magazine, or learned how to pick the latest colours, or the prettiest makeup then everything would fall into place and I’d get the hang of being a girl. I was certain that women around me possessed some secret to liking their basic femaleness that I had not yet discovered. I truly believed that although I had missed it as a child, I could acquire this secret by indulging in the best, and worst, that feminine culture had to offer. This trip gave me the chance to set aside that quest for a few days and just relax. Relax and talk to Andrea about what her experiences were like growing up as someone who came to identify as transgender.

They were conversations that had repercussions that last to this very day. As she talked, I heard thoughts and feelings that were mine coming out of her mouth. I heard my pain, confusion and loneliness echoed in the stories she told about her isolation and rejection. Immediately, I dismissed the thoughts I was having as simply my own feeble efforts to grasp at any reason to explain my constant, subtle discomfort with my life. I tried to tell myself that the only reason I wanted this to fit is that I was tired of feeling miserable. I was certain that this couldn’t be the real reason. After all, I was a wife and the mother of a beautiful little boy, surely there was no way this profound issue could be the cause of what really looked like nothing more than a mild depression. I had felt grey and dull for so long, I could no longer see how truly depressed I was. No, I decided that I was crazy (again) and simply pushed those thoughts to the back of my mind, determined to just get on with life and stop this nonsense.

Two weeks later, with the thoughts still rolling around my head, two books arrived on my doorstep. Sent to me by Andrea with a note saying how she thought they’d be very informative in helping me understand where she was coming from. Only later did she tell me that she sent them to me because she had a very good idea that this was what I was struggling to come to terms with.

The first book Stone Butch Blues by Leslie Feinberg was so very, very difficult to read. Although economically I had little in common with the main character, I could relate in so many powerful ways to the narrative. I couldn’t read more than two pages at a time simply because I had to process what I’d read and find some emotional equilibrium before I could go on. My Gender Workbook by Kate Bornstein was the literary nail in the coffin. Through her use of humour and with an irreverent style, she asks the reader to examine their concepts of gender and, if the reader is willing, play with those concepts. I took the challenge, and realized with a miserable, sick feeling that I fell very squarely on the male end of the spectrum.

It took me another couple of weeks to come to a place where I could face this conclusion and move forward. My world had blown apart internally and I felt utterly shattered. Everything I’d known for nearly 34 years was turning out to be no closer to the truth than a shadow is to the real object. The person I had constructed over the years was largely what I thought I was supposed to be. Sure, there was some core elements of me in that façade however the outward expression reflected what I thought I was being asked to be. I was a good (ok, not so good really, actually quite miserable) wife and a good mom. I wore stylish clothes, tried to read the right magazines. WHY DIDN’T THIS WORK? I was furious, I was frightened but most of all, I was confused. If I wasn’t the person that I looked at in the mirror every day then, who was I?

Once I made the decision to move forward and explore this issue I felt an incredible lightness inside me. It felt as if a huge weight lifted off my shoulders. I talked with my therapist about what was happening and even though she didn’t have any expertise in this area, she remarked that she felt a sudden rightness when I told her that I believed I was living in the wrong body.

Nearly three years later, I have to say that her hunch was right on. I packed up all my overtly female clothing and decided that in order to test this, I was going to see if I could ‘go male’ for at least 6 months. There was to be no going back to the ‘girl’ clothes unless I was naked or needed to appear at a family function. As it turns out, I ended up giving the clothes away and haven’t once regretted my decision.

While my life has radically changed, those first few painful months quickly gave way to a sense of authenticity and ‘rightness’ that I had never felt before. I could finally look in the mirror and see reflected at me, the image I’d always carried of myself in my head. Day by day, I was shedding old images and habits and forging a new and better path. With that said, the path has not always been easy to walk.

Stay tuned as I talk about some of my day-to-day experiences and struggles living as an openly transgender man.  

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