Category Archives: Our Challenges

Critically Important Journeys

More media everyday   During the past few weeks, I’ve been seeing more trans* people prominently mentioned in the media.  It seems I can’t open an Internet news source without seeing Caitlyn Jenner strutting her stuff in designer clothing, big sunglasses and followed by crowds.  I also read recently about Nicole Garcia, a 58-year old candidate for ordination in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the work and challenges a transgender, latina faces.  In Ocala, FL where I work, the June 2015 edition of the Ocala Magazine featured three trans* people, telling their stories and discussing their and our challenges.  One of the women in the article named only as ‘Vicki’ talked about how personally destructive she was due to the mental anguish of gender dysphoria, something all trans* people understand.  More exposure for us everyday means more to learn and more to understand for everyone.

Critically Important Journeys   I’ve been hearing the figure that 700,000 transgender people are in the United States.  I’ve also heard the number is closer to 1.5 million.  I’m going with the larger number as I personally know two trans* people who will never be counted and I know you out there do too.  That’s a lot of us!  Each of us are unique and alike.  Each of us have our own struggles and our shared pain.  Each of us are on a critically important journey of living honestly, deliberately and with our own purpose.

One journey does not matter more than another   Does Jenner’s journey matter more because she’s living in the global spotlight?  Does Vicki’s matter less because she is living peacefully and quietly as the woman she is?  Will the impact of Reverend Garcia’s life be any bigger than that of my friends who have chosen to live their lives as the gender assigned to them at birth, but know, understand, accept and love who they are?  No!  All we do and know and understand and share, whether in total exposure or blissful anonymity is important.

The impact all of our journeys   Everyone of our 1.5 million lives and journeys matter. Each one is critically important to the lives of all trans* people.  If that life is spent as a media darling showing a global society what it is like to hide in plain sight for 65 years and then transform under the spotlight, that is important.  Preaching a sermon in front of a congregation as a trans latina and loving your life is important.  Living as your assigned-birth gender, but sharing via the internet and meetings and commenting on and writing about and helping a terrified middle-aged whatever I was, is important.  Being happy and no longer self destructive is important.

All of us are critically important   All that we do and who we are is vital to the life, liberty and happiness of our community.  We each share and give in different ways, but it reaches and ripples to us all.  Sending a e-mail to someone you’ve never met, but telling them you understand the confusion and anguish is equal to being on a national news program and talking about our true selves.  It is what we do to preserve ourselves and by saving our own lives, we help to save us all.

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?

Purging

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.

A New Page

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A New Page

Property of Dad   Just a couple of weeks after the 2014 Christmas/New Year’s holidays and I’m back in the rat race: work, home, eat, sleep and repeat. I schlep into the bedroom, kick off my heels, remove my necklace and earrings and place them where I always do.  The picture above is the image I see.  There sits one of the ever-present reminders of what was, and the journey to get to what is: the real me.

A New Page   While Christmas shopping with my beautiful daughter, the idea bloomed for a new page on the blog.  I currently spend all my blogging time discussing my transition, the challenges and joys of our lives and hearing from our brothers and sisters, but rarely do I hear more than a comment from a family member, spouse, friend, colleague, ally or interested cisgender person.  I decided what I needed was a page where their thoughts, feelings, rants, raves, curses, kudos, tears and fears or joy and elation can be expressed. That is why you now see a new page listed above called For those whose lives we’ve changed.

For those whose lives we’ve changed   There is not a trans* person in the world who has not touched and/or altered the life of someone else because of their gender expression.  I am asking those cisgender people with whom we’ve come in contact, live with, or influenced in some way, please let me know what you think about all this.

What do you think about us or this?   This page is a place where you can tell us, the trans* people in your life, what you really think.  You can remain anonymous if you want.  Use this place to get it off your chest or try out the things you want to say to the your trans* person. If you are afraid for your sister who is transitioning to male, tell him here.  If you are proud of your dad who just started taking estrogen, tell her now.  If you’ve decided you can’t live with your husband now that he is crossdressing, but don’t know how to say it.  Try it out here.  This is a judgment-free, guilt-free zone.

Honesty IS the best policy   If I have learned anything in this life, it’s honesty truly is the best policy.  So, if you love us, tell us.  If you hate us, tell us that too.  If you are so confused you don’t know which end is up, we’ve been there and we want to know.  This is a place for sharing honest, truthful and sincere feelings from your heart and soul.

For those whose lives we changed   Now you know the reason for the new page. Please, please, please let us hear from you.  Please share your feelings, what your inner voice is saying or your frustrations and fears that keep you up at night.  Use this space also to tell your trans* person the moments that make you proud, joyful, happy or hopeful. This is a place where we can honor, respect and listen to you.

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.

Transgender Day of Remembrance

Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR)   An annual observance on November 20 that honors the memory of those whose lives were lost in acts of anti-transgender violence.

The Transgender Day of Remembrance   TDOR was started by transgender advocate Gwendolyn Ann Smith as a vigil to honor the memory of Rita Hester, a transgender woman who was killed in 1998.  The vigil commemorated all the transgender people lost to violence that year and began an important memorial that has become the annual Transgender Day of Remembrance.

“The Transgender Day of Remembrance seeks to highlight the losses we face due to anti-transgender bigotry and violence.  I am no stranger to the need to fight for our rights, and the right to simply exist is first and foremost.  With so many seeking to erase transgender people — sometimes in the most brutal ways possible — it is vitally important that those we lose are remembered, and that we continue to fight for justice.”

         – Transgender Day of Remembrance founder Gwendolyn Ann Smith

2014 Transgender Day of Remembrance   Thursday, November 20, 2014, is set aside to honor, memorialize and remember those individuals who, during 2014, were victims of violence based on bias against transgender people.  All victims may or may not have identified as transgender – that is, as a transsexual, crossdresser, or otherwise gender-variant – each died due to anti-transgender hatred and violence.

Public Awareness   This day is also important as it serves to raise public awareness of hate crimes against transgender people.  All too often, hate crimes against transgender people are under reported or ignored.  This day provides an opportunity for our allies to join us in remembering that they were not just victims, but sons, daughters, spouses, parents, friends, lovers, associates and neighbors.

The Victims   The latest report by the Trans* Violence Tracking Portal reports that 268 murders were committed against trans* people.

Additional Resources and Information   If you would like more information or would want to see a list of those lost this year, please navigate to:

International Transgender Day of Remembrance
http://TrangdenderDOR.org

Human Rights Campaign
http://www.hrc.org/campaigns/transgender-day-remembrance

GLAAD
http://www.glaad.org/tdor

Trans* Violence Tracking Portal
http://tvtpnow.com

Equality Florida
http://www.eqfl.org/2014/TDORV

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.

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.