Love in the time of transgender

Love in the time of transgender   Finding someone special with whom you can fall madly, passionately in love is difficult for anyone.  Many of us in the Trans* community struggle to find meaningful and loving relationships.  Some of us are blessed to have a spouse or partner who is supportive and wants to keep the marriage or relationship together.  Some of us are not so lucky.  I’m sure we all know a member of our Trans* family who has chosen to remain in the closet to keep or find a loving partner.  There are many, also, who have decided to live a single life.

Some of us aren’t so lucky   We all have heard of or know someone who lost their family when they came out. I have an acquaintance and a friend who both were thrown out of the house, divorced and have not seen their children in years. The pain of that loss never goes away.

Making our choices   A few years ago, I was widowed, losing my wife of twenty-four years.  I had come out to her a couple of years before and we were working our way through the changes in our marriage.  Cancer changed all that way too soon.  After a couple of lost months, I vowed to come out and begin my journey.  I did not have anyone in my life and my children are adults and not living at home.  I was on my way and I didn’t need a partner.

Loneliness   I had not lived on my own for a very long time and I found it lonely.  I had been married a total of forty-three years.  I had a house that was too big and too quiet, and I thought, who’d be interested in me, an aging trans-woman.  I was still working, so I have friends and associates from the office, but not romantic material.  I also wasn’t attracted to men, so that cut out a significant slice of the population.  I had made up my mind it would be me and the dog and visits to the grand kids.

Just friends   I knew one of the ladies in another department where I work who had lost her husband and we became friends during my wife’s last year.  She shared her heart and wisdom while I struggled.  About four months as a widow, my friend invited me to dinner on New Year’s Day.  I wasn’t out to all at the time and she was unaware of my true gender identity.  As we talked, the topic of ‘What will you do now?’ came up.  When I got to the ‘I’ll probably never marry again,’ she asked me why I wouldn’t.  That was when we had the ‘There’s something I should tell you’ talk.  To say I caught her off guard is an understatement.

Time and patience . . . and lots of conversation That night, we began what has been a three-year long conversation.  In the beginning it was about gender identity issues, sexual orientation, (yes, I’m transgender, no I’m not gay) and living a lie.  Also on the list was how can you know you’re a woman, people will never speak to you again and what do your children think of this.  There were many late night talks, long phone calls, some tears, some harsh words and many, many more questions.  She started out the conversation with the knee-jerk reaction of what I was doing is a sin and why did I chose this, to slowly realize this isn’t a choice, this is real and this is my life.  What began as a friend helping someone through a very bad spot in life, slowly blossomed into love.

November 26, 2016  Risking it all, in May of this year, I asked her to marry me.  She didn’t see that one coming either.  When she realized I was serious, not to mention being on one knee and holding a ring, she said, “Yes.”  This time it was happy tears.  We will be in Hawaii for Thanksgiving to spend it with her family (she’s a wahine), so if you are near Waianae on Oahu, look for the crazy haole and her island girl getting married on the beach.  Come by and say, “Aloha.”

I so happy to the other brides and grooms Through social media and the online press, I see more and more of us are finding love and getting married or being in committed relationships.  To all of them, my heartiest congratulations, long life and much happiness.

Thank you   I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge using part of the title from Gabriel García Márquez and his brilliant novel, Love in the time of Cholera.  Gracias, señor.

What more can I do?

Why is there hate?   Daily, I hear of more violence, more hate, more tragedies, more man’s inhumanity to their fellow men and women and wonder why?  Is our world truly worse or are we just aware of it more?  Why are black men being killed by the police?  Why are black men being killed by black men?  Why do white people kill black and white people?  Why are police officers being ambushed and attacked?  Why are people who are different demonized?  Are gay, transgender, mentally challenged, different body types, ethnicity, national origin and any other reason thought of as less or dangerous?  Why is a transgender teenager bullied to the point of stepping in front of a truck just to end the abuse?  Why is there so much hate? Why?  All these questions, however, make me ask the most difficult question for me, “What more can I do to help end the hate and violence?

I am trying to help   I like to think I am working to make a difference.  I’m a transgender woman, unashamed and unbowed and visible in my community.  I am a blogger, presenter at trans* events, letter writer, attend pride functions, work for trans* rights, vote, support my candidates, and I’m a member of HRC and Equality Florida.  I use social media, phone calls and mail to support the rights of the LGBTQIA communities, speak daily as to the need for equality, inclusion, acceptance and love.  Yet, with all these efforts, I believe I am not doing enough.  What more can I do to get my message out?

I am trying to understand   I am not a black man, but I speak with and hear from black mothers, sisters and fathers who fear for their son’s lives.  I can never fully understand their fears, but I’m trying.  I am not Muslim, or Hispanic.  I’m not a refugee.  I’m not homeless or hungry, native American, Palestinian, Syrian, Jewish or poor.  I am distressed, saddened and angry that these and so many more people are marginalized, discriminated against, subjected to violence and genocide.  What more can I do to be more of a citizen of the world?

I am a Trans*   Being transgender, I work in a city and a county where I do not have any protection in employment, health care or housing.  I drive two hours a day so I can live in a community the does have a human rights ordinance specifically protecting transgender and gender non-conforming people.  I know of transgender and gender non-conforming people without these protections where they live who wonder if today will be the day they are fired from their jobs, just because they are Trans*.  Even with all of the efforts of all of the Trans-activists, allies and government officials, North Carolina passes a restrictive anti-Trans* legislation that would not let me use the bathroom of my gender and the school board of the county in which I work passed the same rule.  What more can I do to end discrimination of Trans* people?

What happens to the future generations?   I worry about the world my children and grandchildren will live in.  Will hate, violence and bigotry continue or will their world be a more loving and safer place to live?  Will my grandchildren look back at our time and wonder why we couldn’t live together in harmony?  Will fear and loathing still exist between races, ethnicity, religion and gender expression and sexual orientation?  Will mothers and fathers in the future fear for their children every time they leave their homes? What more can I do to make our children’s future brighter and safer?

Here’s what I can do   

I’ve spent a significant amount of time examining, asking questions, soul searching, talking with people I respect and just thinking about the dilemma.  I’ve come to my conclusion I’d like to share.  I have to say it is my conclusion because I cannot speak for anyone else since my circumstances and life differ from everyone else on the planet.  I’ll cite my inspirations to give credit where credit is due.

1. Do good things, think good thoughts, never do harm.

John Wesley

I found this quote from John Wesley, who helped found the Methodist Church.  I must try to do the best most good I can.  I believe what I am currently doing is good, but I need to keep it up, keep it consistent and increase my work and beliefs when and where I can.

2. Make your opinions be heard.

Ben Franklin

“Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are.”
(Benjamin Franklin)

By sharing your opinions, your experiences, your insight, you can help others to understand what you are trying to change or correct.  Only by getting our message can we change the unaffected.

3. Live your truth

I believe this is the most difficult part of finding out “What more can I do?”  First I had to know who I was.  If I don’t know who I am, what I stand for, what I believe in, what I will not tolerate and what motivates my actions, how can I know what my truth is?

Secondly, I needed to know what my personal values are.  I applied the “Do no harm” requirement which forced me to change some of my thinking.  What do I think is right, wrong, just or unjust, fair or unfair and how can I work to change my perception of wrong to right?

Thirdly, was I willing to take the risks, face the ridicule and suffer the loss to help fix what is wrong?

Lastly, was I willing to take a stand, even if I stood alone?  My father used to say, “We stand for those who cannot stand, speak for those without voices and fight for those who are unable.”  I passed this on to my children and in this I’m called to fight for what I believe is right.  The Vikings had it right!

Viking

4. Have a mantra that is uniquely yours

Choose some phrase that defines your life, your mission, your goals that, when needed, can be called upon to give you the strength that you need.  My personal mantra follows my signature.

Cate

These are how I plan to combat the hate, fear, discrimination and injustice we all see.  Most importantly will be in having the constant thought in my heart and head that, even if it appears the world is in such dire straits, there is good in the world.

Hormone Therapy for Transgender

hormones

Hormone Therapy for Transgender   There is so much we could talk about hormones.  Almost all of us have thought about them, are using them, want them or have given them up.  We do what we need to in order to get our hands on them.  Some of us go to our endocrinologist, gender med doctor, family physician, healthcare provider, local clinic, cross the border to buy them, use herbals, creams and lotions.  Some of us get blood work done quarterly (I’m one) and review with the doctor or never mention it and monitor progress themselves.  We use pills, patches, shots, and topical applications.  It is a polarizing topic and one that will continue to be discussed as long as we are taking them.

Hormone Patch (234x250)

 

They are important to all of us   You may take a testosterone shot and someone else jabs herself with estrogen.  Every one of us is effected whether we use them or not.  My Trans-men friends love the feeling of strength and power they get from testosterone.  I love the calming effects of estrogen.  We both want and need to see the physical changes our respective hormones produce in us.  It’s important for us as we reveal who we truly are.

Spironolactone-Bottle-Sandoz

 Spironolactone   Equally import to us women is ‘Spiro’.  That wonder drug that blocks testosterone.  It helps to get, “more bang for the buck” as my gender med doctor told me and he was so right.  I see the effects of testosterone poisoning in so many young cisgender boys and men and I think what a pleasant world it would be without all of this hormone-soaked macho bravado.

How does it affect your thinking?   I was having a wonderful chat with my GF in New England, Melanie.  She asked some terrific questions.  I’m listing them here.

I would like to know when women go on estrogen does the way you think change? Do you have strange dreams? Do how you see other people change?

Great question   I want to open this up to all of us so you, too, can share your experiences and knowledge. I’ll start the conversation.

I would like to know when women go on estrogen does the way you think change? Speaking for myself, it does change the way I think.  I find I’m less aggressive, competitive and less likely to anger.  The world is a much happier place to me now and, I’ve been told, I am a much more likable person.  Those who knew me before I started hormones and Spiro tell me I’m so much nicer to be around.  My son’s mother, my ex-wife and my oldest friend told me when we were married, she always wondered what would make me happy.  She didn’t think it would be this, but she likes what she sees.

Do you have strange dreams?   I don’t know if I have any stranger dreams since I’ve been on hormones.  I’ve always had pretty strange dreams and that doesn’t seem to have stopped.

Do how you see other people change?   I will say yes, absolutely.  I no longer envy women like I did before and I’m not angry for being born in ‘that’ body.  I’ve gotten more accepting and I am trying to be a gentle, loving soul.  I credit hormones with giving me the physical and mental changes I needed.  Because of hormones my anger and frustration has gone away.  I’ve achieved acceptance from family, loved ones, friends and acquaintances.  I truly rejoice in seeing myself as I’ve always imagined.  How can we not see others differently when we look through new eyes?

Hormones   That’s our discussion for now.  Melanie, thanks for those questions.  You are the best.  You’ve got my $0.02, now let your thoughts and voices be heard.

wish i could be a woman too

All About Loneliness and Depression

wish I could be a woman too   Just last week I received a one-line e-mail, no subject, from an AOL account.  It simply said, “wish i could be a woman too”  This e-mail had an immediate impact and has followed me for days.  For many reasons, old and new, I empathize with this person.  Most of us can, because we’ve been there and this is or was us.  There came that moment for us when it all became too painful, too bewildering and too consuming that we all had to say or type or write the words or even scream them, “We are not the people we appear and we are prisoners in our own bodies and our hearts and souls are in pain”.

Loneliness   There are few soul pains as cruel as not wanting to be the gender you are, hating the body you see in the mirror and being unable or afraid to tell anyone.  The added sadness that you have lived with this secret for a year or decades.  The agony of seeing others who have successfully made the transition while you must hide your true self.  We’ve all been there.  We all reached that point where we had to tell someone.  We could no longer contain it and had to say, “wish i could be a woman too”

I am so happy she reached out   I am so glad this person wrote to me.  I responded, but have yet to hear back, and I may never, but for a brief moment, this person, one of our sisters, reached out and got a reply.  Maybe this was enough and she will go about her life. Maybe it is the start of her liberation and transition.  Everyone’s transition is different and perhaps hers is just coming out to herself and knowing who she really is inside.  Wherever her journey takes her, I wish her well.

Please reach out, we’re here  We need to remember when we had our, “wish i could be a woman too” moment.  This goes for ALL our sisters and brothers.  We also should rejoice, remember and thank those to whom we reached out.  At our low moments, we found someone to connect with.  I encourage all those out there, those who are looking to connect or those who are willing to speak with someone just finding their way, reach out. Please find each other.  There are many places out there where you can connect with someone, but if you are here and need to connect with someone, I’m available.  E-mail Cate.OMalley@MatureTransgender.com, I would love to hear from you.

Her confidence is her armor

confident

Her confidence is her armor   A confident woman is a beautiful woman.  A confident woman is a strong woman.  A confident woman is a powerful and fierce woman. Confidence is her armor.  This is a lesson I learned from my mother and sisters and from dear friends, Trans* and cisgender.  When I was just beginning this journey, I had wonderful teachers/mentors/friends who help me gain the confidence and courage I needed to step out of my house.  There is so much I learned from my dear friend, Elayne and our dear sister, Leanne Edna Anderson.  They shared parts of their journeys with me.  Both used their confidence as their armor to live as they want to live.

I have nothing to be ashamed of   I’ve spoken a bunch about Elayne.  She has helped me so very much and I love her.  She shared a few experiences that emphasized not being ashamed, being honest and being bold.  Before I got to where I am in my journey, when I wanted clothing, I’d order on-line, usually to be disappointed, or I go to a store and sneak a garment into the men’s dressing room.  Our sister, Elayne, took a different approach and it’s one of the many reasons I admire her.  She would gather the garments she wanted to try on, skirts, blouses, etc., take them to the dressing room attendant, if there was one and explain, “I’m a crossdresser and I’d like to try these on.”  The attendant almost always did not object and if, needed, unlocked the door to the dressing room. (Why do they lock those doors?)  Confidence, honesty and pride allowed her to shop and live as her true self.

Not to this girl, you won’t   Our gf, Leanne Edna Anderson, wrote and shared an experience where confidence was the difference between living honestly and being harassed.

“I was in Walmart dressed to the nines. I am very passable. I went into the ladies room, entered a stall and used the facilities. In the meantime, a sales lady that knew me and my wife from before called security saying a man was in the ladies room. When I came out, there were four burly guys waiting for a man to come out of the ladies room, but I was not a man, I was a pretty girl and I strutted right by them and out of the store.”

With her head held high and confidence as her armor, she was not intimidated or mistreated.

Only two examples, but many exist   There are so many examples, most, I believe, are never considered as strapping on our armor and standing up for who we are, but they indeed are.  The bravest act for all of us, and the one really needing armor, is admitting who we are to ourselves.  We tighten up the armor and come out to a friend, family member or spouse.  An angel I know, long ago told me when you can get the confidence to walk to your mailbox in the middle of the day, fully dressed, you are on your way.  I was shivering in my armor that first time, but I made it to the street after a couple of false starts.  I timidly walked to the mailbox just knowing everyone in the neighborhood was watching.  When I turned around to walk back to the house, I stood a little taller and felt a bit more confidence.  I said to myself, “I got this!”

Look at yourselves  Whether you are Trans* or Cis*, regardless of whatever which gender you identify with or not identify with any, we all have drawn upon our confidence to get us through a tricky, troubling or dangerous situation. I hope you feel the heft of your armor and know you re strong and brave.

strong

The pure joy of being out and about

The pure joy of being out and about   I was talking on the phone with one of our friends, Pamela, who roams between the Pacific Northwest and the Southwestern United States following the warm weather.  She is one of my heroines for a number of reasons, but the biggest reason being she started living honestly and came out at the age of 72!  She’s the father of two and a grandfather. We have a lot in common.  She began going out and about like many of us by attending a gathering of Trans* women at a garden party.  It was her first time out and she experienced the pure joy of being out and about as her true self.

The answer to a lifetime of wishes and prayers   Pamela described how happy she felt and feels being out.  She waited decades, hiding her true feelings.  With love and respect, she came out to her family.  Pamela’s family is still on the journey to acceptance and understanding and she is able to enjoy an outing with her wife and daughters.  The joy Pamela feels is tremendous.  To be out with others like us.  No hiding, no guarding her conversations and just being really free.  Words are inadequate to describe the happiness.

The feeling doesn’t end   I was having pizza with my best friend, Elayne, last week and we also discussed this feeling of joy being out and about.  To her, it all came together when she was able to enter a crowded place and enjoy the thrill of being out.  She floated in, unconcerned, confident and beautiful, just the way it is supposed to be for us all.

My first dinner out   The first time for me was having dinner at a restaurant with a friend.  I was apprehensive and it took me a while just to get out of the car.  The hostess took us to our table and seated us.  The server came over and said, “Good evening, ladies, can I take your order?”  It was the first time, ever, that I had been called a lady by anyone.  I was on the Moon.  I spent dinner in a state of bliss, chatting with my friend, talking to the waiters and just loving being me.

It happens every time   It’s been a few years now for me and being out, even to the grocery store, is still a thrill.  Sure, there have been a bump or two in the road, but nothing to deter me, nor should you be deterred.  When I’m out and some young grocery boy says, “Yes, Ma’am.” (remember, this is the South) or I hear someone call, “Ms. O’Malley,” it’s a thrill and a dream come true.  My friends Pamela and Elayne know it and my wish is for all of us to enjoy and revel in going out and about, free to be your true selves.

Coming at you in 2016

Coming at you in 2016   Over the holidays, I was blessed with the opportunities to talk to a number of my friends, old and new.  Most are our sisters in the Trans* community, with a few cisgender friends thrown in for equal time.  I get so much from our conversations, e-mails and pizza-night chats.  I want to share their insights and experiences, pleasures and pet-peeves and what is decades and decade’s worth of knowledge.  I’ve learned so much from them and it’s too precious not to share.

Is it just gender stuff?   No.  We talk about everything from pedicures to wigs and everything in between.  A girl can only complain about Spanx so many times.  Clothing, makeup, wigs, shoes, travel, food, football, weather, camping, farm-life, herding cattle, cooking, sewing, hats, scarves and you name it.  It’s all shared lovingly and never a dull moment.

That includes you too   This sharing is open to everyone who reads this blog.  Those who have commented and especially our friends who have included their stories on the tab Your Page.  If you haven’t shared up to this point, this is a sincere request to join our conversation and let us hear from you and share your experiences.

How do I get in on this?   Easy.  Simply reply to this post.  If you like, share your story on the Your Page tab.  You can e-mail me directly at Cate.OMalley@MatureTransgender.com.  If you want to chat on the phone, drop me a line at my e-mail with your number and I’ll be really happy to talk to you.

Hurry up!   Don’t delay. We are eager to hear from you.

She’s the father of two

She’s the father of two   Recently, I was reading The Huffington Post, one of my favorite places on the web.  Along with the name of the author of an article, there is a one-or-two sentence biographic statement.  I saw the above headline regarding the author of the story I was reading and stopped short.  What a wonderful addition to this woman’s bio.  Being a parent is one of the really important things in life, if not the most important.  Being Trans* will never negate being a mother or a father.  It made me hope to see more and more references like this in the future.

Me too   Immediately after reading She’s the father of two, I said, “Me too!”  I have a son and a daughter and I’ve never thought of myself any other way then being their dad.  Being their dad is amazing and I can’t think of anything I’m more proud of or that I’d rather be.  I love Ben and Rachel and I love being their dad.

What should I call you?   When I came out to my son and daughter, they both asked, “What should I call you?”  My response was, “Call me dad, or whatever you are comfortable calling me.”  Regardless of how I present, my gender expression or how I define myself, it does not change the facts.  I’m a father.

Hi, I’m Cate O’Malley, Ben’s dad   This should be a simple introduction.  I’ve used it and it does tend to make the uninitiated a bit uncomfortable.  It’s a statement of fact, not a way for me to poke fun nor do I say it to get a rise out of someone.  I’m Ben’s dad.  It’s a simple, truthful statement.

Times are changing   If I’m a transwoman and the father of two, then there are transmen who are mothers.  There are agender people who are fathers and mothers.  It’s an undisputable fact.  Until there’s a different word, the person providing the eggs is the mother and the person providing the sperm is the father.  Until those designations change, and it seems unlikely, then I’m a father, and damn proud of it.

Dear Mom

Dear Mom,

Hi Mom, it’s me, Cate, your son.  We never got to talk about this ‘gender thing’ before you passed, but I’m sure you’ve always known I was different.  You named me Doug after the doctor gave you and Dad the good news I was a bouncing baby boy.  I know I was small and had to stay in the hospital for a month.  I got better and bigger and have grown older. I’m ready to start my third act soon, retiring within a year.  Lots has happened over the years, mostly good, a few bad and a couple that were tragic.  I want to tell you about one of the ever-present situations in my life which I never got to explain to you.  Mom, I was born in a male body, but I am female.  They call us ‘transgender’, which means we were born in one body, but are aligned mentally and emotionally as the opposite gender.  There’s a lot of labels, but the one I chose and use is Cate O’Malley.  I am a woman, Mom.  I’ve known it from before I was a teenager.  I didn’t have the name for it back then, but that’s what I knew deep in my soul.

It was around the age of nine or ten I began trying on things.  I started with your high heels. You always did love a pair of heels and if they were red, you loved them even more. Just for the record, so do I.  I tried on other things and each gave me the most wonderful feeling I’ve ever had.  I hope I was careful putting everything back as I found it.  I don’t know if you ever suspected.  If you did, you didn’t tell me.  When I was that age and into high school, I wanted to be one of the girls.  I used to be bullied in school.  I was accused of being gay. That was all we knew back then.  It’s the reason I liked hanging out with girls and not the guys.  I never felt like I fit in.  Playing music, working, not being home and hanging out with Sue and her girlfriends was one way I didn’t have to feel out of place or different.

For a lot of my life, Mom, I was sad and angry.  Most of the time I didn’t know why.  It made me a less-than-perfect husband, employee, student, person.  I couldn’t put a finger on it, but I knew I had feelings and desires that just didn’t fit the ‘normal’, whatever that is. It took until I was fifty-seven years old to process my thoughts and feelings and truly understand what and who I was.  I spent a small fortune on therapy which helped me find my way.  I was eventually able to come out.  Coming out is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. You strip yourself bare, take off all your armor and expose yourself for who you are.  It’s terrifying.  We got through it and now, over nine years later, I am happier than I have ever been.

I’m living my life honestly and as who I truly am.  I’m Cate, a woman.  I wish you were here so you could see who I’ve become and how happy I am and how I’m striving with purpose to help others like me.  I think you would be proud.  I miss you, Mom.

Your loving son daughter,

Cate

Transgender Day of Remembrance 2015

Transgender Day of Remembrance
November 20, 2015

Transgender Day of Remembrance is the day the trans* community comes together to mourn those who were killed during the last year for being trans*, gender non-conforming or perceived so. Whether they were or were not trans*, they suffered and died because of hate. There is no justification for bigotry, injustice and violence. Today the world mourns those killed, maimed and injured because of terrorism and war. These trans* people were not one of those. They were not in a war zone. They were not soldiers or terrorists. There were not our enemies. They were our sisters and brothers and they were going about their daily lives, just like you and I. The youngest was 16 years old and the oldest was 66. One young woman was killed in front of her church.

Our detractors will say they were ‘in the wrong place at the wrong time’. The will claim they ‘where asking for it’. Whatever the circumstance, they did not deserve to be murdered. If I am standing in front of my church, is that the wrong place? If I am crossing a parking lot, heading to my car, is that looking for it. It is not!

We trans* people do not ask for special treatment. We want to live our lives peacefully, productively and without fear. That’s what our trans* sisters and brothers wanted, but it was violently taken away. That’s what I want, to live my life without fear for who and what I am. When I read the names on the list I have to think, there for the grace of God go I.

Please take time out of your day to look at the names and think about them, their families, their hopes and dreams, now gone forever. Please find the list here:

http://www.advocate.com/transgender/2015/11/20/transgender-day-remembrance-2015-those-weve-lost