Category Archives: My Journey

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:

I thought this part would be so easy

I thought this part would be so easy   Back when I was in stealth mode, I used to dream about living my life honestly.  I’d imagine my days and nights and I never once considered that the day-to-day, mundane part of living would be difficult.  I’m not referring to the really hard part of coming out, telling my loved ones, legal changes in name and all the paperwork I’d need to fill out, not to mention the costs.  Just the everyday stuff.  Now that I’ve been doing it a while, here’s what I’m finding more difficult than I ever imagined.

Getting out the door in the morning   I’ve always been one of those slow starters in the morning.  I enjoy my coffee while reading the paper, take the dog for a walk and then get ready for work and start my commute.  Forget that, girl friends!  The mornings have become a barely contained scene of pure chaos.  Running around, getting a sip of coffee, fixing my face, hair, grab shoes that match and clothes that don’t clash is a typical morning.  Getting impatient at the dog while she sniffs 60,000+ blades of grass just to find the right one to tinkle on.  Jumping in the car and desperately avoiding spilling coffee on my white blouse.  Do you know how many people get upset when you sit through two traffic lights trying to put on mascara?  There are a lot of cranky people out there.

Mascara and eye liner   Applying mascara should be called “Putting your eye out with a pointed, fuzzy stick covered in tar”.  I can be the steadiest, calmest person out there, but something happens when I remove the mascara stick from the tube.  My hands start to shake, my eyelids blink incessantly and I lose the ability to focus.  I need glasses to see, so the magnifying mirror I use distorts distances and I end up with a big glob of mascara in my eye or a large splotch of black stuff smeared from under my eye across my nose. Eyeliner I’ve just given up.  I can’t get a smooth, straight line on the eyelid to save my soul. It looks so easy on the commercials and all of the YouTube videos on makeup I’ve watched. Can I do it?  Not on your life.  So much for the sexy Cat Eye, forget it!

Wide and petite   I used to describe myself as vertically challenged.  In my younger days, I stood a stately 5’5” tall.  After so many trips around the sun, I find myself at 5’3 ½” tall. How the heck did I lose an inch and a half?  That darn gravity.  Besides being on the shorter side, I’m built “solid” as my mother used to say.  I always thought I’d get to wear all of those great clothes in the catalogs and on the commercials.  The painful truth is, none of those clothes are 18WP.  It’s not my waist that’s the problem and I love being referred to as petite.  The problem is my shoulders and neck.  No amount of dieting and exercise is going to reduce the size of my shoulder bones.  I just have to live with the fact that my shoulders are too big.  I’m short with no butt, small hips and a real cute face.  I’ll never be a Vegas showgirl, that’s for sure.

I thought this part would be so easy   There are more things than those mentioned above. Pantyhose, leg shaving, electrolysis, eyebrow shaping, cowl-necked sweaters, scarves too short for a fat neck and so many other things I thought would be easy, but are proving to be harder then imagined.  The question now is, would I stop all this nonsense and go back. Not just no, but hell no!

What I see in my mirror

Cate Kitchen
What I see in my mirror   During the past few weeks, we’ve all seen, read, heard and thought about Caitlyn Jenner.  To say her photos on the cover of and in Vanity Fair are spectacular would be an understatement.  I won’t be catty and talk about the $100K she’s reported to have spent on making her body look so good or the resources of Vanity Fair or the fact Annie Leibovitz could photograph a mud puddle and make it look like paradise.  If I was in the same position in life, I sure as heck would spend every cent too.  I also know and have seen evidence that Caitlyn’s efforts and exposure is helping bring awareness for all of us trans* people.  All that being said, I’m sure I am not the only transwoman in the world who has seen Ms. Jenner’s photos and taken a long, hard look in the mirror at the image staring back.
Late bloomer   Being a late bloomer and having begun my transition in my late 50’s, I missed being the sweet young thing with raven hair, ruby lips and a killer figure.   The Universe decided I would be witty and charming instead of rich and famous, so the unlimited funds to finance all the feminine changes possible will never be there.  So here I am on the south end of middle age, a few extra pounds, a modest supply of laugh lines, silver hair and lots of miles.  I’m making the best of what the good Lord gave me to work with.
Ego – Fragile!  Handle with care   Many of us, and my name is near the top of the list, have fragile egos.  I remember being told once, “You’ll never be pretty.”  That bothered me for days.  I was just spreading my wings and learning to put my look together and it was a shock to be told, after years of dreaming about it, I wouldn’t be a pretty woman.  I’ve since learned I am indeed beautiful and I love the way I look.  It took me a long time though and I won’t deny it.  My mirror and I are back on friendly terms.
Sneaking a peak in the mirror   So, did I take a long, hard look at myself in the mirror following the arrival of my issue of Vanity Fair?  Guilty!  Am I the only one in the world who would do such a thing?  Probably not.  Should I have been so vain or jealous?  Human nature, boys and girls.  I also admit I occasionally have to remind myself after walking about the University of Florida campus on a spring day, that I, too, am beautiful and sexy and just as interesting as any woman alive.
What I see in my mirror   When I’m starting my day, the few times I’m not running around like a crazy person because I’m late, or when getting dressed for an evening on the town, I always smile at my image in the mirror.  I still spin to see my skirt flair.  I never miss a chance to strike a coquettish pose and I do  love the way I look.  I work hard at it and I’m happy with the results.  Be gentle with yourselves, my friends, we’re all beautiful in our own way.

Any day is a good day . . .

Any day is a good day, when I’m wearing a dress!   Not long ago I was at a convention and was riding down the elevator when one of our sisters got in.  She was tall, Asian, drop-dead gorgeous, impeccably dressed and had the most perfect long legs I’ve ever seen.  I wanted to hate her immediately, but I was too in awe.  (I’m often described as ‘cute, with a nice personality’ and we all know what that means.)  I said hello and asked how she was doing. She replied, “Any day is a good day, when I’m wearing a dress.”  She is so right.  In the beginning and over the years I’ve been like everyone.  I dressed once or twice a year.  Then it got to once a month.  I’d often under-dress, just to be doing something.  As I progress to full-time, I still get a thrill every time I put on a dress.

The reality of everyday living   The cruel mistress, life, forces us to mow the lawn, take out the trash, change the oil in the car and one hundred other mundane, but necessary tasks. My grungy work clothes, paint-spattered t-shirts and sneakers come out on the weekend so I can take care of business.  No one is going to pressure wash the driveway in heels and hose.  However, having been born and raised in the 1950’s and 60’s, my mother was of those bullet bra, cocktail dress and patent-leather pumps wearing women.  “No matter what,” she explained to my sisters, and me too, unbeknownst to her, “always wear a little lipstick and a squirt of cologne.”  She wouldn’t hang up the laundry on the clothes line (remember those?) without a touch of bright red lipstick and the ever-present scent of Taboo.

The lessons passed from generation to generation   Skip ahead to the early 2000’s, to my beautiful daughter and at-the-time college student in Zoo Technology.  She would brush her hair, apply makeup, check herself in the mirror and then run off to jump on alligators, handle venomous snakes and feed monkeys and African animals.  All of it important work that needed a beautiful, talented and fearless woman with her makeup in place.  As a dad, I’d see the chaos left in the bathroom and wonder why it had to be thus.  Now, as I prepare for work or going out, and as I scramble to make it out the door, I look at the mess all over the bathroom vanity and I understand.  My lovely daughter, you have my most sincere apology for complaining about the mess.

The little things that got me through   Remembering many of the things I learned from observing the strong women in my life got me through the rough periods when I was still so deep in the closet, light couldn’t get to me.  A little lipstick would change the whole way I saw myself at times.  A pair of panties instead of my tighty-whitey’s always felt good under my jeans.  If a dress-up day isn’t in the cards, there are always ways to get you through.  It just takes a little creativity.  Try it, you’ll feel much better.

Any day is a good day, when I’m wearing a dress!   I’d love to find the woman I spoke to in the elevator so I could thank her.  In less than a minute, she sent me a clear message and reminded me that anything I did that helped me on my way to where I am today was a very good thing.  To all the wonderful people from whom I learned, either unintentionally (Thanks, Mom) or my new and experienced sisters who have shared and cared, I am ever so grateful and I thank you.  Now I’m off to fertilize the roses, where’s my Chanel No. 5?

Becoming The Visible Woman – Transitioning on the Job

Renwal 804-498 VisWoman

Becoming The Visible Woman   Back in 1959, the toy company, Renwal, introduced a toy that endures today, The Visible Woman.  It was about a foot-high, clear plastic model of a woman and all of her internal organs and bones were visible.  You could remove the front of the torso and pull out all of the organs.  Because of its popularity, soon followed The Visible Man, The Visible Horse and The Visible Dog.  A clear plastic outside and all of the insides on display.  I remember having one.  They were fascinating then and, I’m sure, still are for many.  But this is a blog about and for mature trans* people and what has that got to do with old plastic models?  I am transitioning on the job and it feels like I am becoming The Visible Woman.

Stripping away all of the exterior   When I started this process, I began much like all of those brave people before me.  I walked into my director’s office wearing my guy clothes and exchanged guy greetings and sat down.  The question came I knew would start it all, “What can I do for you?”  My reply was, “I am transgender and I want to transition on the job and finish my career as the person I truly am, Cate O’Malley.”  With that, I peeled off the very first layer.  The visible woman wasn’t showing yet, but she was getting closer.

Over and over again  I repeated the process of walking into offices and peeling off a layer two more times.  Human Resources and then the second in command of the entire operation.  Each time another piece came off.  By the end of the day, the outer layers were getting thin.  I shared the link to this blog with the executive.  The next morning an e-mail came revealing this person had taken a look at what I’ve been sharing.  Off came some more layers.  Because of the nature of my work, government, and the size, about 1,000 employees, there were steps that need taken, a plan put into place.  The people I came out to had to talk to their people.  Even without me saying anything or meeting face-to-face, more layers were stripped away.

Step by step   Meetings held on what to do with this person who is transitioning.  Policies formed and committed to print.  General announcements made with no names given. Then a couple of weeks of vacation while gender markers changed and a judge banged her gavel and a new name began and an old one retired.  A department meeting held and the announcement made.  Old what’s-his-name is now Cate.  Even many miles away, I felt more layers slide off.

The Visible Woman   The big day comes.  I’m sitting in my car in the employee parking lot wearing a nice, modest dress, heels, makeup and a smile.  Cool, calm, collected on the outside and moderately terrified on the inside.  A line from an old commercial runs through my mind, Never let ‘em see you sweat.  I walk across the parking lot, all old pretenses, all the hiding, my old life left behind.  I stop, stare up at the three story office building, now totally exposed.  I am the visible woman, all the old stripped away.  After fifty plus years, I’ve made it.  Whatever happens after I walk in the door will never be as bad as it was before I became visible.


Purging   Can there be a more painful, depressing, and shame-causing experience as purging?  If you are unfamiliar with the term in its relationship to trans* people, it’s the process of taking all of your gender-affirming attire, accessories, jewelry, shoes and anything related (your stuff) and throwing them out.  It is something almost all of us have done in the past, may be doing as you read this or will do.  It is guilt based, for the most part.  You get in a confused, anxious state where you want to stop your desire to present or live as your true gender because circumstances are keeping you from it.  The mere existence of your belongings only add to the hurt, confusion and guilt, so you take your stuff out and throw them in the nearest dumpster or donate it to the local Goodwill.

No Relief   As you drive away from where you purged your belongings, the hoped-for relief is not there, or if it is, it’s short lived.  We all hope by throwing away our feminine or masculine clothing, we are also throwing away the urge to be a different gender.  As we all know, it doesn’t work like that.  Not only does it not go away, the desire, at least for me, increases.  The pain grows, the guilt builds and soon I am in a state of depression.  It’s doubly harsh for us because we are also denying who we really are.

A Suggestion   I was chatting with my dear friend, Elayne, who recommended I discuss this.  We have both over the years thrown away thousands of dollars worth of clothing, shoes, wigs, jewelry and countless other items.  We both lamented some of the prize possessions we pitched in the trash, wishing we had never done it.  We continued to talk and both of us admitted it would have been nice if we had someone with whom we could have called upon to talk to, who understood, and also was able to take our belongings and keep them for us.  That would have gotten our stuff away so we could think about our real reason for purging and also not to destroy a considerable investment.

The Flaw   The flaw with this thought, for me when I purged my last time, was I was still way back in the closet, under the blankets.  I didn’t want anyone to know.  I didn’t want anyone to find out about me.  I didn’t want to even acknowledge what was going on with myself.  I had not reached out and been able to build friendships where I could have asked someone to take my stuff for a while.  That would have added to my depression and guilt was what I really wanted to purge.

My Wish   What I’m hoping to accomplish here is to let those who are just starting their journey or not even sure what their journey is to know the feelings you may have are ones most of us have lived.  Use forums like this one to seek out advice and build friendships. Form a network of people you trust, whose advice you can depend on.  Hopefully, you will avoid guilt-inducing activities, such as purging.  You find you are not alone and have a lot in common with many of us.

Please Help   If you can help a brother or sister by talking to them, befriending them and listening when they hit the tough patches and even stashing their stuff for a while, you will go a long way in helping them on their journey.

That’s kinda weird

That’s kinda weird   Ever since beginning my transition, I’ve run into instances where it was either me or the person with me who said, “That’s kinda weird.”  These little life episodes, never imagined, but once they occurred and passed, I looked back on them and thought, Never in a million years could I see that happening.

Wardrobe malfunction   One of the first instances was when my dear departed Becky and I were getting ready to go out to a movie with a couple of friends.  I got ready first and was standing in the bedroom when she looked at me and said, “I was going to wear that blouse.” “Okay,” I replied, “here, you can have it,” and pulled it off and handed it to her. She slipped the top on, paused, then looking bemused, said, “That was kinda weird, wasn’t it?”

Bag lady   My lady friend was flying to her great grandson’s first birthday and was looking for a travel purse to carry her stuff: Kindle, wallet, snacks, etc.  She couldn’t find that exact piece she wanted and was getting frustrated.  I recommended she look over my collection of bags and purses and maybe she would find one that would work for her.  I pulled the biggest ones from the closet.  She looked them over then stopped, slowly shaking her head she said, “I can’t believe I’m looking at my boyfriends purses.”  Yep, kinda weird.

Bringing the bling   A while back, I was at work and, unfortunately, still in drab but out to most.  One of my friends and associates was preparing for a cruise with her husband.  She had all her clothes and shoes and resort wear, but needed a boost in the jewelry department.  Cate to the rescue.  I brought in a few pieces I thought would work and she was set for her week of fun in the sun.  A little weird?  Maybe, but she looked fabulous!

Soggy shoes   My daughter was home for the holidays along with her wonderful husband, twin boys and joining us was my son.  It was a great Christmas with the family home.  On the first day of their vacation, it rained and my daughter soaked her ballet flats.  She had planned her wardrobe for the trip and only had this one pair of black shoes.  I asked her what size she wore and discovered we wear the same size shoes.  She put them on, they fit and passed her fashion standards.  She did stop briefly and said, “I can’t believe I’m wearing my Dad’s flats.”

It’s only weird the first time  I’ve found myself saying to family and friends through this process when I see them uncomfortable with the changes in me and the new and different ways we all coexist, “It’s only weird the first time.”  Things that were once foreign to them are now commonplace.  It’s how we grow together.  There will be more ‘weird moments’ in the years to come, for me as well as those around me.  What is now kinda weird will become just everyday business and there’s nothing weird about that at all.

Holiday Greetings

Holiday Greetings   Here we are in December 2014.  Christmas is around the corner, Chanukah has begun and families are gathering in a time of joy and thanksgiving.  I’m especially excited to have my son and daughter, son-in-law and twin grandsons for the holiday.  Like so many families, we’re spread out and coming together is a special occasion.  If I was any more excited, I’d explode.  We are all looking at a new year and I can’t help but be the cockeyed optimist and know it is going to be a fabulous 2015!

2014, What a year!   This year has been an amazing time for the trans* community as a whole and me personally.  This year we’ve seen more and more local, county, state and national advances in the rights of trans* people in housing, employment and civil rights. Miami-Dade County and the City of Sarasota recently added gender expression and preference to their Human Rights Ordinances.  Now over half of the citizens of my beloved Florida are protected.  Next year lets get everyone in Florida and the nation protected. This year we saw Laverne Cox on the cover of Time Magazine and a cable show, titled Transparent, about an older transgender woman coming out at the age of 72. (Kind of hits close to home, doesn’t it?)  Visibility is key to our gaining the rights we all deserve and we as a community are visible more than ever.

2014, For me   I enjoyed more blogging, attending and presenting at the 2014 Southern Comfort Conference and am becoming more active in promoting the rights of trans* people everywhere.  I’ve been blessed with more friends, allies, contacts and readers than I ever imagined.

2015, What lies ahead?   One thing we know, there’s plenty of work for all of us.  We need more Human Rights Ordinances to protect trans* people. Marriage Equality needs to be recognized and embraced in every state in the country.  There must never be another victim of a hate crime, violence or murder just because some one is trans*. I pray that we never need to have another Transgender Day of Remembrance again because no one was killed for being their true selves.

2015, All work and no play makes us dull folks   My wish for all of us, besides doing the work that must be done, is to enjoy ourselves more.  That wish includes more laughing, singing, dancing, loving and friendships.  I urge you to grab all of the joy you can and love and cherish all the people who matter to you.  If I learned one thing it’s this, “We all think we have more time.”  Let’s not waste a second of time we have on Earth.

Thank you   To all of you how read my blog, let me ramble on Facebook, I met at SCC and those who I came in contact, written, talked to on the phone, I thank you. You have enriched me life.

Answered Prayer

Answered Prayer   It will soon be eight years since I awoke one January morning in 2007 and before my eyes opened, I prayed, “Please, God, make me a woman.”  When I opened my eyes, I began a downward spiral into clinical depression.  Within a few weeks I was barely functioning.  I knew I had to seek professional help.  I began a journey that would eventually lead to where I am today.  I realized recently that the prayer I uttered eight years ago has been answered.  I am, indeed, the woman that I so wanted to be that morning.

Thankfulness   I have so much for which I am thankful.  I have wonderful children, precious grand children, loving friends, my work through and the contacts I’ve made and continue to make around the globe.  I have medical and mental health professionals helping me along the way, keeping my body healthy and my mind alert and at peace.  My family supports me and have embraced the new me.  I am truly blessed.

Sadness   I have had sadness and disappointment.  I lost the great love of my life to cancer. The last two years she supported, encouraged, went out when it was difficult and made me promise that I would not turn back.  She believed in me and in my work.

My trans* sisters and brothers   I have made lifelong friends, written and presented information I’ve learned through my own trials and errors and from the lessons learned from others. I hear from people who are all on their own journeys to living their authentic life.  Some let me share their journeys.  What a honor to be associated with them all.

Looking toward tomorrow   I get suggestions for blog posts, presentation topics, anecdotes, stories and gripes.  I look forward to hearing from more and more during the year to come.  I encourage all others to share their stories and let the rest of our community hear your voices.

Answered Prayer   My prayer has been answered.  Along with it came a direction, a purpose and the resources of a world full of amazing people.  I am truly thankful to you all. As I head into the next eight years, I invite you to write, post, share and let your voices be heard.  Send your stories to me if you don’t currently have an outlet and I will do all I can to get them out for the world to see and for the world to get to know who we are.  We are fabulous.

I don’t get it!

I don’t get it!   As I roll along on this topsy-turvy world of transition and living as the female I am, I discover things almost daily that perplex me.  I’m asking all of you out there in cyber land if you can help a sister out and as Ricky Ricardo would say, “You got some ‘splaining to do.”

Eyebrows   For the first 57 years of life, I never worried about my eyebrows.  Now I spend way too much time considering their shape and placement upon my face.  Do I tweeze, thread, pluck, wax or go Frida Kahlo.  As I aged, my hair turned gray and so did my eyebrows.  Now I have to choose the right color of brow for the time of day, occasion and my makeup.  I don’t get it!

Wide size shoes   Last week I went shoe shopping.  I had an event to attend and wanted, nay, needed a new pair of shoes.  I went into DSW.  There, spread out before me, were about a million pairs of shoes.  I walked around for an hour and found two pair that were wide size, but not in the size I wear.  Am I the only woman in the world whose feet are wide?  Sure, I can order on-line, but I have to wait a week or more and when I get them, who knows if they’ll fit.  I don’t get it!

Pantyhose/Tights   I was born in 1950 and grew up watching movies where the beautiful female lead would, in an alluring manner, stick out her glorious gams and slide on a pair of nylons, clip the garters, give the shapely calf a caress and they looked perfect.  Jump to now.  I pull a pair of pantyhose out of the egg and it looks like it would only fit Barbie.  Then I struggle to get them on.  It reminds me of making sausage or wrestling with an anaconda coated in baby oil.  I’ve tried my left foot first, my right foot first, both feet, sitting on the bed, sitting in a chair, sitting on the floor.  I end up jumping around like I’m on a bed of hot coals.  Eventually I get them on, but by then, I’m so exhausted, I don’t want to go anywhere.  I don’t get it!

Dress sizes   Why, why, why is it you can buy two dresses, both the same size and one wouldn’t fit on one of my legs and the other looks like a Bedouin tent?  What is really frustrating is when I buy the same label, same size the fit is miles apart.  The world standardizes so many things, why not dress sizes?  It’s not like I’m buying something from Croatia and the next outfit from Mongolia.  For gawd sake!  I’m at the mall!  Then to add insult to injury, I’m finding that a lot of on-line stores have their own size charts which don’t correspond to anyone else in the industry.  I don’t get it!

I don’t get it!   I’ve ranted enough for today.  I wish I could tell you these gripes are from years of going through life, but, in reality, these are the things that got me just this week, and it’s only Tuesday!  Oh well, life goes on and so do I.  Next week I’m sure I’ll have a whole other list of things.