The Red Pill or the Blue Pill

The Red Pill or the Blue Pill   In the movie, The Matrix, Morpheus offers Neo two pills.  The Blue Pill lets him go back to his former life, no wiser.  Taking the Red Pill will show him the truth.  This reminded me of conversations I’ve had with a few trans* people and most recently with a lady friend of mine.  The question is, “If you could take a pill and you could eliminate forever your gender dysphoria, your desire to dress and present and blissfully be straight, would you take the pill?”  I know it’s a fun, intellectual exercise, but it also goes much deeper into who we are, the circumstances bringing us to where we are at this time, what we must do to survive, adapt and grow and who we eventually become.

If only I knew what was coming   I am sure if we were aware of the struggles, the heartache, the expense, the loss, the frustration and the dangers, we all might grab a handful of Blue Pills.  Everyone of us who was ever bullied, abused, tormented, injured or killed might take the blue pill.  Everyone who has been divorced, estranged, abandoned, thrown out or made homeless, might take the blue pill.  Everyone who has seen tears run down the face of your spouse, partner or significant other might take the blue pill. Everyone who has ever attempted or succeeded in suicide or lived years with depression, might take the pill.

I’ve learned so much   Over many years, what I and all of us have learned are lessons we would have missed and be poorer for it.  We have learned just how strong and enduring we are.  Whether you have come out or not, transitioned or not, still deep in the closet, you are overcoming something that is indescribable, if you are not one of us.  You would have missed the unique position of seeing life from two different perspectives. We would have missed the kindnesses from unlikely sources, the joy of new adventures and discovering a new life.

The Red Pill of the Blue Pill   Which pill would I take?  That’s a question I’ve considered and so has just about every trans* person I’ve met.  I believe most of us would take the Blue Pill.  I’ve heard the following statements from almost everyone I come in contact with, “No one wants this!  No one chooses to be trans*.”  I’ve said it myself.  However, Morpheus and I will not be sitting across from each other and I will not be offered The Red Pill or the Blue Pill.  None of us will. So we continue to grow and live and become who we truly are and we get better and better every day.

Gems from around the Web

Gems from around the web   I’ve been traveling, talking with wonder and interesting people and learning, learning, learning.  There’s a few things I wanted to bring to your attention that I’d love to have you check out I’ve discovered via the Internet.

Ginger Marshall   I’m connected with a lovely woman, teacher, resume coach and transgender health advocate named Ginger Marshall.  She is one of us, a tireless worker and an excellent writer who deserves a read.  Please have a look at her LinkedIn.com page. https://www.linkedin.com/today/author/361448602   You will be happy you did.

Transparent   The Netflix Show Transparent has become one of the most binged-watched television shows ever.  I confess I was one of those couch potatoes who watched the whole series.  As someone who came out to her family at the tender age of 57 years, it struck very close to home.  I’m pleased that my children are not remotely dysfunctional as the siblings on the series.  The trans* life, challenges, pain and pleasures are not constant thrown in your face, but subtly done and ever so poignant.  I found myself nodding my head and saying to Belle the Wonder Puppy, “The writers and actors got that RIGHT!”  What a blessing.  Please check it out.  You may be put off by some of the non-trans* parts, but those for us are spot on.

We Happy Trans* – 7 Questions   If you haven’t found the website, http://wehappytrans.com, have your fingers run, not walk to the website.  My favorite part of this informative and “happy” site is the section called 7 Questions.  This page accepts videos or written responses of trans* people answering the same seven questions. Included in the participants in one of my personal heroines, Jennifer Finney Boylan. Please check out these great and revealing videos, add yours and pass this on.

Pintrest.com   If you have not discovered Pintrest.com, here’s another great place to get lost in for hours and hours on end.  I’m going on record as saying, “I love it!”  Why would the old Irish transwoman say that?  I have communicated with many trans* people, gotten great decorating, fashion, shoes, encouragement, laughter and tears on this site.  The trans* community is alive and thriving on Pintrest.com.  I recently posted a touching piece from one of my Pintrest connections, Michelle Hackler, a transsexual grandma schoolmarm.  Please check out her Pintrest pages and also her posting on the Your Page tab.

That will do it for now.  I’ve got articles demanding to be edited.  I spent a week on a cruise with my family and the weather is finally getting cooler here in Florida.  So I’ll be back at it with renewed energy.  Please feel free to suggest topics, write Your Story and join in the conversation.

 

Meeting your first trans* person

Meeting your first trans* person   Last week I had a pizza and wine night with my oldest and dearest trans* woman friend, Elayne.  We get together whenever we can to talk, laugh, drink good wine and eat pizza.  She has been aware of her true self a lot longer than I and we spent a fair portion of the evening talking about the old days and how difficult it was before the Internet to meet other trans* people.  As someone whose profession for thirty-seven years was software development and computer technology, I have relied on tech for most of my adult life.  The old days were not, in my opinion, the good old days.

The good old days   She described how in the back pages of old trans* magazines there were personal advertisements where you’d find people like yourself who wanted to meet.  Then you would have to call a live person, or even write a letter.  You would often wait days or weeks for a reply and then the “getting to know each other” phase could take much longer.  It was not uncommon to go months before you would even venture to meet face to face.  She also told me in her college days there would be bulletin boards, the cork and wood kind, not electronic, where you could leave a message or find someone to meet.  How different it is  now.

You always remember your first time   It was Elayne’s suggestion I write about meeting your very first trans* person.  I can remember being eager and anxious at the same time.  You go from feeling like you are the only person alive on the entire planet to finding someone like you and they want to get together and meet.  Terrifying, exhilarating, life-changing, these are only a few of my emotions when we first met.  From there we make more contacts, get involved in the community, step out into the world and then to living as your true selves.  What a journey!

To those just meeting others for the first time   While I was at 2014 Southern Comfort Conference, I had the opportunity to speak with a few trans* people who were out for the first time.  Talk about jumping into the deep end of the pool.  I don’t know if I would have been ready to go from never going out of my house to a conference with over four hundred participants.  They are brave and beautiful men and women.

Are you ready?   If you are reading this and have only had contact on-line and not in person, I know you have considered meeting someone in person.  Be safe, always, and I hope your first friend becomes a life-long friend.  There are amazing people to meet and get to know.

Food Pairings   Wine:  Cupcake Vineyards Merlot;   Pizza:  Thin crust veggie and pepperoni added just for spice.                Bon appétit!

It’s important for us to come together

It’s important for us to come together   I just returned from the 2014 Southern Comfort Conference in Atlanta, GA, that ran from September 4 – 6.  It was an amazing time filled with wonderful and thought-provoking presentations, beautiful and interesting people and overwhelming emotions.  Spending much of my day-to-day life with a few close friends and lots of e-mail and calls, it was nice to be in a gathering of our community.  I went from working alone in my home office to surrounded by hundreds of trans* people.  What a culture shock!  It reaffirmed how important it is for us trans* people to come together.

We are not alone   Less than ten years ago, I had never spoken to or knew any trans* people.  I thought I was totally alone in the world.  This past week, I spoke to many who had felt the same way.  Now here I was surrounded by hundreds.  As I wrote a few months ago, I had never met any transmen.  I’ve met, know and spent time with a number of wonderful gentlemen.  We discussed our similarities and also our differences.  I am filled with joy, pure unadulterated joy, that I was surrounded with my community.  What a relief.  I didn’t have to explain.  I didn’t have to make excuses.  I didn’t have to apologize for being me.  It was amazing.  To all who have yet to connect, please know, we are not alone.

The full spectrum of our community   There was a large cross section of gender non-conforming people present.  What a blessing!  Where in the past I’ve experienced trans-on-trans bias, I saw none of it there.  Where an identity was only know to me as a name, I spoke with people who identified and embraced their true selves.  People who identified as gender queer, crossdressers, pansexuals or gender fluid were proud and loud.  We sat together, learned together, shared together, ate, danced, laughed and cried together.  All these things and more with full acceptance and love.  Why can’t the rest of the world take a tip from the trans* community?

First timers   I was so pleased to speak with a few individuals who were out for the first time.  I spent a significant amount of time with one woman who at eighty years of age had just come out.  She told me she had known since she was three years old she was trans* and was finally able to tell her children, grand children and great grand children who she truly is.  She is my heroine.  I also sat in a presentation and heard another woman tell us that today was the first time she had ever been dressed outside of her home.  She had been too afraid to come out, but here she was and we all rejoiced.

It’s important for us to come together   Why is it important for us to come together?  For the simple reason in knowing we are not alone.  There are others who have experienced our fears, difficulties and obstacles.  In a few short hours I was able to hear someone describe so eloquently what I have felt in my heart, but have been unable to describe.  I met people who, like me, are transitioning later in life toward our goal of living honestly and authentically.  I am part of a community and will never feel alone again.

My recommendation to you   If you can, go to a support group, local meeting, conference or convention.  Meet people and talk to them.  Listen to their stories and tell them yours.  Get to know someone with whom you can call, write or meet.  Don’t be alone.  There’s wonderful people out there and they want to meet you too.  We are not alone.

Passing Part 3 – The Finale

Passing Part 3 – The Finale   I know you must be tired of me droning on about this by now, but I swear, this is almost the last I’ll talk about passing.  It really should be titled something other than passing, because what I hope I’m stressing is the need to present yourself in a way that reflects the very best in you.  So, the last thing I will discuss is getting a second (or third, fourth or fifth) opinion on how you look.  Since we can’t see ourselves, we will need to rely on others to tell us what we are doing right, what can use some help and, if needed, what to avoid at all costs.

Our trans* friends   My first lessons on dressing, presenting and mannerisms was from my oldest and bestest trans* friend, Elayne.  She has been doing this for many, many years and studies all aspects of feminine behavior.  She taught me how to walk, how to point my feet and plant my heels.  We have over the years talked about undergarments, slips, bras, garters, stockings, pantyhose, thigh-highs, shoes and dozens of other topics.  She takes great care and is always fashionable and appropriate for any situation.  She inspires me everyday.  No matter how much you read or how many YouTube videos you watch, nothing beats the careful eye of an experienced friend.  Thank you, Elayne, for everything.

Unlikely sources   I know you will be shocked to read this, but I talk a lot and I talk to everyone. I’m not afraid to ask questions and seek advice.  I’m amazed at how many people will give me pearls of wisdom, just for the asking.  It happened to me one afternoon at the electrologist.  I asked my favorite beard-zapper about hemming a dress.  I was stumped on how I was going to pin it by myself and, girl, did I get advice.  We went from a hem markers, to wearing the shoes I’d wear with the dress while measuring, to hem heights for flats, low heels and stilettos.  What started out as a “straight pin vs. safety pin” question turned into a detailed discussion on getting the proper length of a skirt.

Make up advice   I’ve had good luck with the makeup folks at the mall.  This can be your local mall if you are comfortable there or go out of town.  Sit in the chair, get out your credit card and you will get a lesson in makeup and then walk away with a bag full of all you need.  The other good experience I’ve had is from my local Mary Kay lady or any number of other home-makeup companies.  Give them a call, explain what and why you’d like to see them and 99 times out of 100, you will get a friendly and knowledgeable person who will come to your home.  This is great because you can take all the time you want, try out a number of things, get some good advice and have all the products you need in hand when the makeup lady leaves.

Your cisgender BFFs   I’m blessed with great friends. You know the kind. The ones who love you enough to tell you what a huge mistake you are making wearing coral lipstick and too much rouge.  Have a dress up day with you BFFs.  Break out the wine and snacks, pull all your clothes out of the closet and try them on for your friends.  They will give you thumbs up or thumbs down.  Some may be brutally honest while others are tactful.  Ask their opinions.  If they love you, they’ll tell you the truth.  If you are like me and a petite plus size and you pull a white leather mini skirt out of the closet, you’ll hear about it.  Just be happy you still have the receipt for the white, patent-leather go-go boots.

Ask and it shall be given   I’m the type of person who will ask, “How do I look?”  My wife would be gentle and tell me, “You might want to try . . . “  I’ve got other friends who’ll blurt out, “You are NOT going out in that!”  The first tip I received from my daughter was, “Dad, you need Spanx.”  Harsh, but I love her.  Let your family and friends see you dressed, watch you walk, stand and gesture. These will be the best lessons you’ll ever receive.  Plus, you will become stronger together and they will see that, yes, this is who you really are.

Passing Part 2

Passing Part 2   When I first started going out, I was absolutely sure everyone was going to stare at me, point and make rude comments.  Boy was I wrong!  What I’ve noticed more than anything is nobody cared, very few notice anything and most people are in their own worlds, dealing with their own stuff, so much so, I wasn’t even on the radar.

My first big outing   My first big trip out was with my Becky to Orlando and IKEA on a Saturday.  Talk about jumping into the deep end of the pool.  There were easily fifteen hundred people roaming the aisles, spending money, looking at everything.  You could barely turn around without bumping into another shopper.  Becky  was very nervous as this was her first time out with me also.  She was using a wheel chair by then and, at first, she looked at everyone for signs I was getting made.  It took us a couple of hours to roll through the second floor of the building and ended up at the restaurant.  (You can’t go there without getting the Swedish meatballs and a fabulous desert.)  We were having lunch and she said to me, “I don’t think anyone noticed.”  We soon agreed the fifteen hundred or so people in the store that day were interested in only what they were doing and didn’t notice and, more importantly, didn’t care about me.  We spent another couple of hours there after lunch and only one time did I know I had been noticed.  We were waiting in line to use the ladies restroom, chatting with the other ladies in the queue, when I saw a young woman give me the eye, whisper to her husband and disappeared around the corner.  If there were others, I didn’t notice, no one made a scene and we had a great time.  The rest of the weekend included dinner at a nice restaurant, continental breakfast at the hotel with the other lodgers, a stop at McD’s for lunch and a trip to the outlet mall.  We had a marvelous time and Becky was much relieved.

Why did it go so well?   On our trip home we debriefed.  First of all, I don’t stand out.  I’m 5’3” tall.  I’ve got a few too many pounds, I was dressed in a nice, but simple blouse, jeans and sneakers.  That is to say, the same way 90% of everyone else was dressed.  I didn’t go with the intention of totally blending in.  I dressed comfortably for serious retail therapy in Orlando, nothing more and nothing less.

Dress appropriately for your age   I think this is the best tip I ever received as I began my transition.  Let’s face facts.  It’s 2014 and I’m 64 years old.  Would I like to look as good as Janet Mock?  Hell yes!  Do I like how I look and who I am?  Absolutely.  Nothing is going to change the fact I am a middle-aged woman and I’ve earned every wrinkle, crinkle and laugh lines.  This is the biggest reason I dress age and occasion appropriate.  I don’t wear my short skirt, stilettos, garter and stockings when I go to the grocery store.  Believe me!  No one wants to see that.  I’m owning who and how old I am.

Accessories are your friend   Classic, well-made clothing are an investment.  With the right accessories, you can dress up or dress down a piece and always look nice and fit into any situation or place.  Play with your look, have fun and dress your best.

I’m proud of who I am   I take pride in who I am and who I am becoming.  Part of that pride is in how I look, the work I do and serving and appreciating the trans* people I come in contact with daily.  It’s one of my ways of respecting our community and myself.

Passing Part 1

Passing Part 1   Hardly a day goes by where I don’t read or hear about passing.  If you don’t know what Passing is, it’s when the gender you are presenting as, is assumed by other people to be your birth gender.   A whole lot of trans* people spend a tremendous amount of time thinking about, worrying about and trying to pass.  If you don’t pass, then you get made.  A lot of people fall into the  ‘passing is good, getting made is bad’ camp.  Not me.  I’m in the ‘I don’t think about passing, I just want to look fabulous (or at least good)’ group.

Made   Have I been made?  Sure I have.  Was it terrible?  Not to me.  Can it be terrible?  It can be deadly!  The reality is everyday trans* people are verbally and or physically assaulted for just being trans*.  Trans* people are killed just because they are trying to live their lives as their true selves.

WE MUST BE CAREFUL AND TAKE PRECAUTIONS NOT TO GET INTO A DANGEROUS OR DEADLY SITUATION, IF WE CAN HELP  IT.   THINK SAFE.  LIVE SAFE.  BE SAFE.

This isn’t advice just for trans* people, but for everyone.  I gave this same speech to my daughter and son.  My wife, Becky, said this even when I was just going to the grocery store and my friends, trans* and cisgender, tell me the same thing ALL THE TIME.  It can be a scary and dangerous world.  We must all be vigilant.

Philosopher Alert!   As one of the world’s great philosophers, Bob Marley, said, “Don’t worry about a thing, every little thing is gonna be alright.”  That’s what I think about when I pull myself together in the morning.  I don’t worry about passing or getting made.  What I worry about is looking the very best I can.  This was drilled into me and my sisters from birth.  Our mother wanted us to look our best when we left the house.  I can hear her words and I can still feel her hand as she punctuated her statements, if you know what I mean.

I’m a girly girl   My personal preference leans toward the more feminine.  I love dresses, heels, makeup, lingerie, jewelry, purses, stockings, gloves, hats, you name it.  High heels, an LBD and pearls to take out the garbage – you mean you don’t!  Freshen my lipstick before mowing the lawn makes perfect sense to me.  This is the way I am.  If you are a little more sane than ‘Old, weird Cate down the street’, then good for you.

My point, and I really do have one   Whenever we step out of our homes, we become ambassadors for all trans* people.  I need to conduct myself as if the world is watching and not only judging me, but all of us.  I may be the only trans* person some people ever come in contact with.  When they think of trans* people, I may be their only flesh and blood point of reference.  I want them to have the most positive, enlightening experience possible.  I hope they stop me and want to talk.  I hope they ask respectful questions and genuinely listen to my answers.  I hope when we are done and we both walk away, they will say, “She’s really nice.”  I can’t ask for more.

Transmen, where are you?

Transmen, where are you? I don’t know any transmen. I am ashamed to admit it and I am working to correct that error. I’ve been at gatherings where transmen were present and I briefly spoke to them, but I have yet to get to know any and have meaningful conversations. I know I’m missing out on a whole segment of our community that is vital to who we are, what makes us wonderful and I know it’s my fault.

Why? I am working very hard to understand my journey and the struggles of all transgender people. I have chosen to advocate for those, like me, who waited until after they were fifty-seven years old to come out and begin our journey to our true selves. Because I am a transwoman and all of the people I know and hear from and associate with currently are transwomen, I have not had the opportunity to meet and get to know any transmen. To all transmen, young and mature, who will allow me, please let me get to know you.

Help me to understand I want to understand your challenges, your goals, your desires, your pain and your joys. Help me to understand what it is like to know you are a man in the wrong body and what courage and strength it requires to make the changes you desire. Help me to learn what common experiences we share and what challenges we both face and our common goals. We each have experiences, feelings, emotions, triumphs and tragedies we’ve endured by being who we were when we were growing up and who we are becoming now. Are they the same? Are they different? Let’s learn together.

Let me share my story with you Just as you have your experiences and your unique story, maybe you will let me share mine with you. As someone who waited until she was fifty-seven to come out, I may have a perspective much different than you. I’m sure we will find much in common as well as learning many new things from each other. I think our conversations will be extremely enlightening. Just think about the fact that you are leaving a life that I am so desperate to have. That alone can generate many hours of wonderful, heartfelt and interesting conversations.

I look forward to meeting you Soon, I hope, we will meet and get to know each other. I know you are someone I am going to really enjoy knowing.

It’s difficult to explain

It’s difficult to explain   I was having one of those discussions this weekend about ‘the gender thing’.  You know the ones, where you are trying to explain what is going on in your head and heart about your true self and your gender identity.  I have them with my children a lot and with close and dear friends who are struggling to understand just what the heck is going on.  It is so hard to put into words what can only be felt in your heart and soul.  It’s like being with someone who is seeing the ocean for the very first time.  They look out, see the waves and the horizon and the enormity of it and then realize they are only seeing the top, and the essence, what makes up all that exists, lies under the waves.  We are like that.  People look at us and see a former male or female and judge us from the outside and are unable to see the essence of who we are.  In their defense, it’s impossible to know fully.
There’s not a man side and a woman side   I get questions asked me that start with, “Now that you’re a woman . . . ?“  There’s a misconception because I identify and live as a woman, the male side of me has disappeared.  I’m sure transmen get the same questions, but changing ‘woman’ for ‘man’.  Hormones and surgery do not erase who you were, it corrects the body to align with who you are.  There isn’t a man side I’ve managed to eliminate and replace it with a woman side. It’s more complicated than that.
I am me   What I can tell you is, I am me. The way I felt as a kid and a teenager and then into adulthood isn’t much different than how I feel now.  What I was able to realize, understand and finally act upon was how my outer appearance and my inner feelings did not align.  When I finally began presenting as a woman, I didn’t feel feminine, I felt complete.  I could look in the mirror and see that the outer me matched the inner me.  For me it was that simple. For everyone else who is not trans*, you may never fully understand.
My gender test   There is a question I love to ask and I used it a lot to help me come to my understanding of who I am.  I would ask friends, male and female, “What does it feel like to be a woman or a man?”   I was much relieved to find they couldn’t answer the question any better than I can answer it.  Most of them know that the outside and the inside match and that was usually the best they could come up with. Try it out on your friends and acquaintances.
I am the sum of who I am   If there is only one thing I can hope to get across, it is this.  If I am a good person; if I am a good parent; if I am a loving partner or spouse; if I am honest, trustworthy, clever, funny, happy, sympathetic, sensitive, helpful, patient and oh so many other good traits (and maybe a few not-so-good ones I’m working to correct), then it is because of this.  I would not be me without living as both a man and a woman.  I can’t separate the two sides and say this is from the male side and this is from the female side.  The person I am is because of both sides that make up who I am, what I have experienced and who I am becoming.  So you see, I live my life as me, a woman who used to be identified as a man, but who and what I am is only one thing: ME.
It ain’t easy being green   To paraphrase Kermit the Frog, “It ain’t easy being us.” When you look at us, you see the man or woman we truly are.  We are blessed with an additional understanding of the human condition and because of that, we have so very much to give and share.  Get to know us, really know us, and you will see who we truly are.  Be prepared, you will find we aren’t that much different than anyone else.

How to start going out

How to start going out   Recently in an e-mail I received, I was asked how I started going out.  This brought back such strong memories, so I can really understand the question because I didn’t know where or how to begin.  There I was feeling trapped in my house, in my body and in my head, convinced terrible things were going to happen and I had real fear of leaving the safety of my home.  I don’t look back on it now and laugh because it was all too real and had me frozen.  I went out of town for a makeover and got some great advice from our friend, adviser and ally, Josette.  The advise was simple and safe and I used it.

Go out your door   At night is a good time to start.  I went out in my backyard first and then the front.  I admit I stayed in the shadows to begin with, but eventually stepped into the glow of the streetlight.  It seemed like such a small step, but at the time, it was monumental to me.

Take a drive   It wasn’t long before I got into my car and took a drive.  I was gone an hour and remember loving every minute and mile.  I pulled into a big gas station and filled my car, paying at the pump. It was the first time standing in a public place with other people around me.

McDonald’s drive thru   This was a big test for me.  I ordered and then pulled around to the payment window.  Here was someone I didn’t know a mere three feet away and we were eye-to-eye.  I had to talk to her, give money and get my change.  Then I moved forward and there was a young man who was very chatty.  Again it was eye contact and talking. I was both relieved and exhilarated at the same time.

Out-of-town shopping adventure    My big adventure came with an overnight stay in Orlando and a trip to IKEA on a Saturday.  There were hundreds, if not thousands, of people shopping on a typical weekend day. We shopped for hours, ate meatballs in the restaurant and even stood in line for the woman’s restroom.  I came to realize everyone there had their own agenda and I was just someone else to maneuver around with a cart and barely worth noticing.  I did get a couple of glances, but after an hour, I was having too much fun and didn’t care.

Going to the mailbox   I considered this my biggest test.  It was a Saturday and I went to the mailbox and got the mail.  The neighborhood was abuzz with activity.  The world didn’t stop and my neighbors of over twenty-three years didn’t notice or if they did, kept it to themselves.

This is what worked for me   I’m sure if you asked anyone else, they have five or ten steps that worked for them.  These are mine and I hope they help.