Category Archives: Transgender Life

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!

Those crying in the night

Those crying in the night   I recently heard from one of our trans* sisters who shared that she has been having a difficult time lately.  She recently came out to a few people and is still in the early stages of discovery, awareness and learning to live authentically.  She spent a lovely weekend presenting as her true self and as she was changing back to “guy mode”, she found herself sitting alone and crying.  Crying because, for a few short hours, she felt real as her true self and now she was going back to hiding, denying and pretending.  I felt her hurt because I, like most of us, have been at that spot where not being who we really are is so painful and lonely.

A Tampa hotel room one December   The first time crying in the night for me was seven years ago when I went to a Christmas party for trans* people in Tampa.  I had a marvelous time and didn’t want the night to end.  Like our sister, I found myself sitting on the foot of the bed, weeping my eyes out, long black streaks of mascara and eye liner oozing down my cheeks.  I didn’t want to go back to pretending I was a man.  My soul ached, my eyes burned from makeup and tears and I felt so terribly alone.

Seven years later   Since that night, so much of my life has changed for the better.  I no longer feel lost and alone and I don’t have to  use Merlot and Ativan to allow me to sleep. However, I don’t ever want to forget how much I, too, ached to be who I really am.  I don’t want to forget what it is like to lie, pretend or sneak around just to let myself feel like my true self.  I don’t want to forget the desperation, anxiety and fear that came from not living honestly.  Most of all, I don’t want to forget the pain we all have felt just by being trans*.

Those families crying in the night   Because I remember my tears, I can mourn the loss of those no longer with us.  The ones who were unable to cope with the pain and fear, bullying and the loss of all hope that pushed them to take their own lives.  Because I remember my tears, I will speak the names of our trans* brothers and sisters who were taken from us by violence and hate.  Because I remember my tears, I will not forget the agony of the families and friends of those lost for their pain, suffering and tears will never disappear.

Those crying in the night   I have so many reasons to be happy.  I have family, friends and someone special who love and care about me.  I am living my life as I want and as who I am.  I don’t hide, pretend or lie to be my honest self.  It would be so easy to not care about those who suffer every day.  It would not take much work to ignore the reports of those lost to hate and suicide.  How simple would it be to not even think about the families, and friends of those lost.  I cannot forget.  I cannot forget my journey.  I remember my tears.  I will not forget those lost or taken from us. We must never forget.

Trans Survey

The 2015 U.S. Trans Survey Is Coming August 19th!

It’s the follow-up to the groundbreaking National Transgender Discrimination Survey, which was released in the 2011 report:Injustice At Every Turn.

Much of what we know about trans people in the U.S. has come from this study, and it has been an important source of information about who we are for advocates, policy makers, and the public.

But first and foremost, the 2015 U.S. Trans Survey is our community’s survey. It is a survey for all trans identities, including trans, genderqueer, and non-binary people. It is for us, about us, and by us. As the community’s survey, the 2015 U.S. Trans Survey data set and results will be available to community advocates, organizations, and researchers for years to come.

http://www.ustranssurvey.org/

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.

Trans Bodies, Trans Selves

TBTS-Cover

Trans Bodies, Trans Selves – A Resource for the Transgender Community, Edited by Laura Erickson-Schroth, MD, MA   Over a year ago, I heard of a project to write a comprehensive resource guide for the trans* community based on a ground-breaking book from 1971, Our Bodies, Ourselves (OBOS), By the Women’s Health Book Collective, a book by and for women.  Trans Bodies, Trans Selves (TBTS) follows in the footsteps of OBOS in that it is for trans* people by trans* people.  I received my copy a few months ago and it is the only book I keep on my desk.

A Resource for Us   When I began my journey and I was reading everything I could lay my hands upon, I wanted a book like this.  I would think of a question and then wanted to find an answer or an article or talk to someone.  The Internet was hit and miss back then and I couldn’t find very much concise information.  I was also still deep in the closet, so having a support group of people I trusted hadn’t developed then.  On-line information is much better now, but I still cherish my books and keep a small, but important library in my den. If I’m researching an article, get asked a question from a reader, friend or acquaintance, or just want an answer for myself, my library is where I start.

Anecdotal Information   In my early discovery days, when I was in deep-stealth mode, I wanted so very badly to talk to others to find out if they were thinking, feeling, fearing and longing for the same things I was.  Did they lie awake at night agonizing about being in the prison the wrong gender had placed us?  A book like TBTS, with its huge number of trans-written, trans-answered questions would have been a lifeline and the voices I needed to hear back then and still need to hear today.

A Fitting Legacy   As a recently-wed husband in the 1970’s, I remember seeing Our Bodies, Ourselves and reading it with interest and delight.  Here in 2015, and beyond, OBOS continues to bring it’s vital information and messages to new generations of women. Trans Bodies, Trans Selves is serving in the same way the trans* community of which I’m proud to be a member and the book will aid the generations to come.  I know it will be indispensable to trans* people everywhere.

Trans Bodies, Trans Selves – A Resource for the Transgender Community   I urge everyone who reads this to get a copy, assist the organization, donate a copy of the book and share all that you find.  Here is the information where you can read about the project, buy the book and assist the organization.

The book:  Trans Bodies, Trans Selves – A Resource for the Transgender Community,                                    Edited by Laura Erickson-Schroth, MD, MA                                                                                                    Oxford University Press 2014                                                                                                                                 ISBN 978-0-19-932535-1 (paperback)

The website:   http://transbodies.com/

The organization:   Trans Bodies, Trans Selves is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization                                                          dedicated to education and empowerment of transgender                                                                    communities. The major goal of the organization is to provide free                                                    copies of the book to organizations and individuals who would not                                                  otherwise be able to obtain it. We gladly accept donations. Make a                                                  donation by credit card or contact info@transbodies.com to send a                                                  check.

The cost:   $39.95 plus shipping and handling

Availability:  Books can be purchased from the website, directly from the publisher,
independent bookstores and www.amazon.com in paperback or a Kindle edition

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

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

DSC_0339

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.