Monday, September 5, 2016

From the Archives: October, 2013

Note: These were reflections after a year in New York City, just over a year full-time

October 4, 2012: I awoke in a hotel room in Easton,Pennsylvania, got ready and brought things down to the car for the last time in a road trip that began eight days earlier from a small Nebraska town.

It’s a long drive, but not THAT long. Debbie and I spent some of that time in Cleveland with her mom. The trip, with me as driver, Deb as navigator and our combined musical geekery making for an effective musical playlist (along with a random classic rock station with a surprisingly deep playlist in Springfield, Ill.)

It was a trip that featured good food,including stops at a couple places that had been featured on “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” (unlike Guy Fieri’s place, the food there was meant to be taken internally). There were visits to the Rock and Roll and NFL Halls of Fame.There was a bit of near white-knuckling as fog rolled in as we were 15 minutes from a hotel in the Pennsylvania hills. 

This was the shortest drive, as the place we were dropping off the rental car was just a couple hours away. From there, a friend of Deb’s was picking us up to go the rest of the way.
In the late afternoon hours of a fall Thursday, we arrived in front of the building I’m sitting in now. We unloaded the pickup of everything we’d taken with us.

It was more than I’d needed. When I left that one-stoplight Nebraska town, I had been on HRT for four months. I had been growing my hair for a while, but I stayed under the radar as far as being out as Kara. I knew I’d be myself here,but I didn’t know exactly when.

I’m reminded of a youth retreat I went on when I was…either 14 or 15. I know my cousin who's like a brother would remember this one. There was a lot of hiking, rappelling and other things. On the way back, for some reason, we stopped at a bridge on the way from our retreat area in the Cascades of central Washington. There was a bridge over a river.
Being young teenage boys (or in my case, wearing an ill-fitting costume of one), the river below was enticing and the decision was made to dive into the clear mountain stream below.
We could tell from where we were that the water was deep enough. I remember looking down at the beautiful water. I could look ahead and see the hills and mountains on the other side of the valley. People were doing some activities or other a little farther downstream where the channel widened and the sedimentary dirt was available.
With that, I looked down again stepped up and off the bridge. This was not exactly leaping off the Royal Gorge, but it was high enough to make a cannonball a really bad idea. I put my arms close to my body and, after what was less time than it felt like, hit the water and plunged down. A splash and I kept going into the water. I didn’t hit the bottom of the stream, but within a couple seconds, I easily kicked my way to the surface of the slow moving river. Most of the others soon followed. It was odd, given that I was usually not the first one to do such things.

Fast forward to many years later and here I was (with the help of the first haircut for my true self) making a trip from Nebraska to New York as Kara. I’m not going to lie and say I had no fear at all. Far from it. 
But I had Debbie along. I also had the words of a trans friend from here who’s 6’7”, who I talked to before I went to get my first wig (at that point, my own hair was only a few months removed from an uber-short cut). She said, “Just walk in like you own the place.”

I did that day, which was also my first extended shopping for clothes for myself. Of course, at that point, I had people thinking I was shopping for my girlfriend, apparently. 
“Walk in like you own the place.” That’s what I did on the trip here and, what do you know? Nobody pointed and laughed. There was no gathering with pitchforks and torches or people yelling, “The trans! Seize it!” or any such nonsense.
From an actual leap I’d never done before to a metaphoric one decades later, “his” clothes never left the suitcase.
I’ve been myself ever since.

While I’d shed the costume, that was far from the only change. I lived in a town that was overwhelmingly white and now I live in a neighborhood that has the most languages spoken in it of any in the country. The quiet nights aren’t quite as quiet, as the rural soundscapes aren’t as easy to find in the five boroughs. There are as many people in my block as there were in the town I lived in.

The experiences started quickly. There was the Afghan Whigs show at Terminal 5,seeing a band Deb and I both really like for the second time in less than a week on the night after we arrived.
There was the eventful subway ride home one night that first weekend where Deb tried to keep an extremely drunk, underage girl from slipping between subway cars and I, not being familiar with the trip time, left the subway car.

I realized my mistake, saw the car doors close and Deb reach out to me as if in a slow motion movie scene, saying, “Noooooooooo…..”
There were shows and sporting events. There have been opportunities to meet some of the folks from here, such as a number of comedy shows where Tammy was performing and, of course, a memorably enjoyable Saturday with Lisa E. 

As most of you know, of course, last winter, the friendship between Deb and myself evolved into a romantic relationship that continues to this day and,hopefully, for the rest of our lives.
For a while, I could still get very paranoid about being “read.” I remember one especially packed subway car ride home where literally not one more person could be packed in. For some reason, in my head, as I could feel the sweat starting to drip down my face, into my eyes, I was thinking, “They’ll know.They’ll know.”
It was all I could do not to bolt out of the car when I had a chance at a later stop, but I didn’t...and I wasn’t ready. Everybody else was just like me, just wanting to get wherever they were going.

I can’t remember when, but that fear subsided as I went out more and more often. Now, I’m focused on what I’m doing and where I’m going.
The changes have kept happening internally and physically with the HRT, of course. That has definitely helped me be more at ease. 

For the first time in my life, I have not felt like I’m living an out-of-body experience. For all my dysphoric moments that can still happen, I feel connected at last. I still need to lose more weight, but I’m not carrying that costume around anymore. Thank goodness.
I liked a lot of my old hometown area, including some of the people (hi, Lisa S!),but that feels like “his” place, his life.

While I carry that person’s memories and friends and family, this is my place,my turf.
I traveled 1,300 miles from a place I lived for over 20 years. That was after moving around a lot as a kid. I’m in a city of over 8,000,000 people, far away from family, but for the first time in my life, I have a home.
Even if I’m not as far downstream as I want to be yet, I am safely above the surface and so glad that I took that leap.
That year is over and, to quote Dave Grohl – “Done, done and I’m on to the next one.”
What a difference a year makes. Why did I wait so long again?

From the Archives-- June, 2011

Note: This was a letter never sent to my first stepfather (not the good one who came later)

Like a lot of us, I had a lot of bullying, teasing and general outcast creation growing up. But it's really hit me how much one bully has affected my life. This bully wasn't found in the schoolyard or in an adjacent locker, but in the home. Because this bully was someone my mother married some years after she and Dad broke up. My time under the same roof was fairly short. Thankfully, she sent me to life with my father after an incident in which said bully ratcheted up the violence quotient. It was a move that possibly saved my life.

Dear Mr. X --
It's been a long time and I'm sure you don't remember me.
But you have no idea how much you set me back in such a short period of time. I'm only now getting to the roots to untangle the damage.
And you never will have an idea, because you'll never hear from me.

But I'll say this anyway -- I WILL walk like that. I WILL talk like that. I WILL hold my hands like that. I WILL be that. Even though you were so blind you thought "that" was something else.

You know why? I deserve to exist. I deserve the opportunity to be truly happy. I can't get back the years your actions helped steal from me, but I can make sure you don't do anymore.
Your influence is gone. I cut the last tendril and walk away.

As I leave, I pray that I was the only child you damaged, that you didn't do this when you created ones of your own.

And I leave with a smile, knowing that my mother found the right man after leaving. She finally found the perfect love for her life, unlike you, he possessed a caring, loving heart and no desire to use a child as a belt workout bag.
Mom was better off without you.
I guess that makes two women who are better off without you.


From the Archives -- February, 2011, Too

It was an up-and-down week here in the middle of nowhere.
Well, technically I don't think I live in nowhere, but I can step outside and see it on the horizon.
It was down for a bit, then up in a good way at the end. "Always finish strong," as the saying goes.

First, the down part. Last week is normally what was the busiest week for me at my old job.
Suffice it to say, it wasn't busy at all and that hit me harder than I was expecting.
I'm mostly at a point where I'm able to keep that job in the past, but the emotions snuck up on me for a while.

That changed Saturday, thanks in part to a headache. Not a fun way to go about it, but I took my Excedrin Migraine, grabbed an ice pack and laid down. Surprisingly, even though I'd slept eight hours the night before, I wound up sleeping another four.
It screwed up my sleep schedule for the weekend, but the angst I'd been feeling before was gone.

Fast forward to this morning. I was talking at a trans site where I'm a member. It's been a good place for me for the most part.
I sit back and listen some times, especially when the women farther along in transition start talking nuts and bolts of the process.
It can be helpful to listen and learn.
Plus, I sometimes feel it's like going off to sit at the little kids' table, where those of us at the Trans 101 stage sit while the grown-ups talk about the advanced stuff.

In the chat at the site today, I was talking a bit about the philosophies I've come to on this journey so far. Nothing set in stone, mind you, just where I'm at during this particular time.
One thing that came up was something that I mentioned in an earlier entry -- that transition doesn't end with the GRS. It's a destination, but not the last one.
As one of the other women put it -- It's not about the surgery, it's about LIVING after the surgery.

The thing that I was left with after the conversation was the fact that I was able to converse with these women, who are farther along than I am and whose viewpoints I respect and be able to not sound like I was talking out of my backside.
I clearly don't have all the answers or know all I need to know.
But it was a little reassuring anyway.

The thing that hit me afterwards was that I was starting to really gain some perspective on things. It's a perspective I might not have had if I'd rushed headlong into things. I definitely feel more integrated than I did before. I don't want to lie and say I feel good about certain things, but I am feeling more comforted and positive about the future.

Limbo sucks. Limbo's not a place to set up permanent residence. But might as well make the most of it to truly think about things while I've been here.
I look forward to jumping out of limbo on the road to womanhood. It's time. Beyond time now.
There's a leap of faith coming. I can feel it.
Always finish strong.


From the Archives -- February, 2011

It's been an interesting run of late in my cyberworld.
When one is on their gender journey, it's not easy. There are stops and starts. There are situations where people are slow to accept.
But there are moments where it's worth it, where there is happiness.
And, with any luck, that's when there's a camera around.

I'll cop to becoming a bit of a picture diva since I've started at least progressing on my look. After denying who I was for a couple decades or so, there is a little bit of playing catch-up before I settle down.

I'm not going to lie and say everything is great in my life, because it's clearly not. There are days where I'm very emotional and it's tough to keep going.
But I have the support of family. I have some good friends. And I have the pictures.

Because you know what? The smile doesn't lie.
I talked in my last blog post about my visit with two good friends in Omaha. The pic in that post was from that trip.
I had an aunt comment on the pics from the trip.
She said, "Kara, I have never seen you smile that way before, it looks very good on you. And you look soooo beautiful. Am so happy for you."
It was a lovely compliment.
And she was right, at least in terms of me never smiling that way before.
When I'm the real me, I am smiling, I am truly happy.
I never liked smiling for photos as "him", it always felt forced, never natural. Smiling as Kara? Totally natural.

I'm not the only one.
I have a friend who, I'm happy to say, took a big step in the last week when she fully admitted that she is a woman and that she plans on fully transitioning.
I'm thrilled for her, due in no small part because we've talked a lot and I have an idea of what it's been for her to get to that point.
It's interesting when you see recent pics of her, both at a makeover and on her own.
You see a smile, a twinkle in the eye. There's a happiness and sense of contentment there.
And in talking to her, there was.
The smile doesn't lie.

I see it in other pictures of friends. Some are post-op. Some are in full transition mode. Some aren't in transition yet, but soon. Others are striking a balance in their lives and aren't transitioning at all.
But when I see the expressions in so many photos, I see that, for whatever is not going right in their respective lives, being themselves can be a good thing.
The smile doesn't lie.

For those of us who aren't there was fully as they'd like to be yet, I hope you get there. I hope that the smiles aren't limited to snapshots, digitally captured moments in time.
Because we are all supposed to have life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. And being trans shouldn't exclude us from that.
Smiles don't discriminate and they don't lie.

Look at the pic above this post. That's me, waiting for my good friends to arrive to pick me up for that trip. I was so looking forward to a trip that was so worth it. I was smiling on the inside just as much as I was on the ouside.
And that's the truth.

From the Archives - End of January,2011

Note: My friends' relationship didn't last, but that was a needed oasis of a weekend for me.

Tonight, I'm trying to stay warm as the wind blows and we're in a winter storm warning until until Wednesday morning.
I'm back in the confines of the good ol' house arrest again.
But...I was able to spend an entire weekend in the company of a couple friends who offered to get me out of this small town for a few days.
Their touching generosity came at a really good time. The walls have been closing in tighter and tighter lately.
I'd met one of the friends, a natal woman, once before. I hadn't met her fiancee, a transwoman, before, but I'd talked to her numerous times.

One nice thing right off the bat was this. For almost 72 hours, I didn't hear "his" name. Not once.
I was referred to as the proper name of Kara. My name. As it should be.

We went out Saturday and Sunday with me as the real me. Or as close to it as I could get.
Due to the previously mentioned current wardrobe limitations (no breast forms, stuck with ugly man shoes). I didn't have the presentation where I wanted it.
My makeup was good and wig looked alright, but...honestly, I felt like I was in neither/nor land.

I felt like an awkward freak...and I almost never feel like a freak.
The first night was kind of a bust. We left too late and there was no place to sit to watch the drag show. We wound up spending more time getting ready to go out than actually be out.
And you know what? That was still good. Plenty of gg's have nights out that don't turn out quite right. Plus, the big thing was that I got dressed and went out as me. Glory in the effort, if not the outcome.
Plus I was in great company. My hosts are both sweet girls.

Sunday night was better. The only real hitch was that the main room was too full, so we had to watch the pageant on the video screen where we are. There were limitations to the technology.
The spotlight washed out any detail in the performers...making it look like a contest to decide Miss Rorshach Test.

The second night further cemented some truths about myself. I was looking at some of the guys in the club and....I kept thinking, "He's cute. Pity he's gay"
I also found myself wishing I looked like the gg' there and checking out their outfits.

It wasn't a "mainstream" outing...but I think I was better off sticking in lgbt territory this time, especially given the presentation issues.

My hosts pointed out I was quiet during the weekend as a whole. Some of this was my natural shyness. I can be real quiet in person at first, but get me in front of a keyboard and I can't shut up.

Plus, I had a lot of thoughts bouncing around in my desire to transition, my inability to be able to do anything close to what I need to about my true self, the combination of joy and pain I was feeling. I felt really good and more self-conscious than ever about my appearance and mannerisms, even as i've workedd on them.
When asked what I was thinking, all I could come up with was the highly articulate answer of "Nothing."

All in all, there was good food, good company and even a good movie...since one of the other girls hadn't seen "Ma Vie En Rose" yet, we watched that. If you haven't seen that yet, do.

But all good things come to an end and this morning, we started making our way out, to take me and the girlfriend home to our respective cities.
It wasn't a good sign that the parking area outside my friend's place was turned into a rink, but we got out of there and all three of us made it home safely.
I cried off and on during the ride back. To be sure, part of this was being stuck going back to a place that has done me no good. It felt like I was being escorted back to a cell.

But the bigger part of this was that I simply was moved by the whole weekend. These two friends were under no obligation to treat me to a weekend, but treat me, they did. In addition to being a cute couple, they're good people.
It felt nice to have a couple of days with the opportunity to be out as the real me and, even if I wasn't out, to be treated as me...not as "him."
All good things must come to an end, but it means they were good things to begin with.

On the whole, it was 100 percent worth it and I can't wait to do it again, especially once things turn around so I can pay back my hosts by treating them.

All in all, it sucks to be back in relative hiding, but 72 hours of freedom is enough to remind me that hiding will not, can not work long term. No way, no how.

One way or another, the real me HAS to make it out into the world.


From the Archives- January, 2011, Too

One of my Facebook friends posted an interesting status update that prompted a lot of discussion and thought.
She wrote..
Just an observation or thought on some of you. It almost seems like you need to constantly convince yourself your doing the right thing or questioning whether you are really transsexual or not. Having never doubted who or what I was I find it very strange and sad there are people unsure of who or what they are.

Every one of us is different, but in all, honesty, I think questioning is more the norm than not.
There is a lot of societal pressure to not be who we are.
It can start early. Think back to grade school. Kids can be cruel verbally, taunting and teasing the "faggot" or "lezbo" on the playground. They can move beyond that to physical bullying.
Granted, those of us on the receiving end aren't "gay", but trans. But grade school kids aren't going to draw those kinds of distinctions.

Sadly, there are adults who can't distinguish between them, either.
They discriminate against us, deny us housing or jobs, the most ignorant and phobic take those grade school actions to darker, dangerous levels.
That's why there's a Transgender Day of Remembrance...because of those of us killed simply for being who we are.
There are the non-violent pressures from home. Be a man. Go out and hunt and gather and pass on your seed so that we may have grandchildren to carry on the family name. Go and be a good wife and mother.
Many trans people wind up in relationships that create walls. "I love my wife. How can I be a woman? How can I hurt her?"
And how many spouses or partners have said these words (or a variation) -- "If you loved me, you'd stop this."

Whether with malicious or good intent, there are a lot of pressures for us to not be who we are or, at the very least, never, ever act on it.
That creates a lot of denial and doubt over who we are. We might know it on a subconscious level, but we're not ready to admit it.
Now...some people are in supportive environments and come out as trans earlier. Others aren't but, for whatever reason, are unable to deny who they are and do so early.
But for a lot of us, it's not that easy.
There's an internal tug of war in our heads, often times with gender identity and sexuality getting tangled up.
In my case, I denied being "gay" for a long time when that wasn't even the real issue. The issue wasn't that I like men, it was that I wasn't a man.

But there is no set date for that breaking point.
Each individual person has their own individual time where the alarm goes off. The circumstances that prompt that vary.
As a result, many don't come out as trans until later. I didn't admit I was Kara until I was 41. Others don't until they're in their 50s or 60s. Others break sooner, doing it in their 20s.
This is something that requires a lot of work mentally. Not only do we have to do varying degrees of internal heavy lifting, we need counseling to help with it.
After all, can't get the letters for surgery and getting our gender markers changed without it.

Is it sad that so many of us jump through those and over obstacles we put in ourselves, let alone the ones placed by others? Absolutely it is.
Is it strange? Sadly, no.
The obstacles are enough that not everyone overcomes them.
Some of us detransition. Some of those weren't truly transsexual, true. But for some, the external pressures and realities become too great to deal with.
Others would in a heartbeat, but find themselves in marriages and children and sacrifice their true selves for the sake of those families.
Point being, it's not strange to question. It can be good. The fact that there are standards of care forces us to deal with our questions helps.

We might KNOW who we are from an early age. But ADMITTING it? That doesn't always immediately follow. And ACTING on it can take even longer.
I am blessed that I know who I am. I'm blessed that I have admitted it. Acting on it? That will happen when some real-life circumstances change. That's not my preference, but the reality of the situation demands it.
One more thing. I know I'm a woman, but as I've stated before I don't know what kind of woman I am or what kind of woman I'll be as I grow and (hopefully) transition.
It makes it a little more challenging to saw you are something when you don't know the full details of what you are.

But I look forward to filling in those blanks.
As much as I would rather be admitting I'm Kara at the age of 20, I might not have been ready then. I am now and I look forward to being my true self fully.
In the end, the process of becoming our true selves might be sad or strange, but it can also be a happy one, it can carry the reward of no longer having that weight dragging us down, even if we had no idea how much that weight affected us until we got rid of it.
Hopefully those of you reading this who are trans are able to progress towards admitting and acting on who you are. And if you've done both, I hope you're able to keep progressing on your life's journey.
Because we are all human beings, but we are women and men, working and striving towards becoming the truest and best versions of ourselves.
And there's nothing strange or sad about that.


From the Archives- January, 2011

Note: Wow, that seems so long ago, back before the HRT, during the days when I still had to wear the wigs.

Sitting here, in a red paisley skirt and matching gold top (the above pic was taken yesterday, before I watched Nebraska play its worst bowl game that I can remember)...all made up with no place to go.
It's a little after 7 p.m. as I start typing this, meaning there is less than five hours left in a year that was, well.. I'll be charitable and call it "interesting."
New Year's is supposed to be a time of celebration, of looking towards the promise of the year that begins when that clock strikes midnight.

In this corner of the world, it's an occasion marked with a mix of relief and dread.
It's a good thing that 2010 is over for a lot of reasons, noted elsewhere in this blog.
The dread comes in the nagging feeling that the better things will go away, that there will be no way to act on the truths that have revealed themselves.
It's the nagging fear that the isolation, the being trapped will only grow worse
The dread that..,365 days from now I won't have any more hope of being able to live as my true self and to one day shed this body I was given as some sort of prank for God's amusement.
A little harsh and mopey? Perhaps.

But try as I might, I can't be Pollyanna. I can't suddenly become Little Miss Happy.
It's not like I don't want to be more optimistic, but after a time, when nothing changes, those aren't the emotions that come into my head.
The "fun" of all this is that I'll probably feel the exact opposite tomorrow. It's life on the emotional rollercoaster.
Part of the reason I have a hard time being all uber-positive all the time is that it's a set-up to get hurt. It presupposes that positive thoughts have the power to override the universe and cause other people to act differently and circumstances to change instantly. It's like magic, right?!?!?!
Expect the worst. That way, anything less than that is actually good, rather than a disappointment from expecting too much.

But, then again, maybe that's sooo 2010.

It might be time to consider some goals for the upcoming year.
Not resolutions.
That is a word that seems to be a recipe for failure too often. How many resolutions have you failed to keep in a year? Exactly.
So, maybe the first goal is to be more positive in the upcoming year.
Another one? Gotta lose weight, for my health, for my ability to transition and, let's face it, the fashion options are better the smaller you are.
I also want to work more and more to being better able to blend (a term I like so much more than 'pass')
In general, I just want to be some place on December 31, 2011 and be closer to being the real me 24-7.
I would love to not be alone, to be celebrating with friends, maybe even celebrating it with the one I love...or both! Why not? I'm Ms. Positive now, right?
Here's hoping you don't get the worst, no matter what your expectatoins are.
Have a great 2011.


From the Archives: Post-Christmas 2010

Note: The relative in question FINALLY got my name and pronouns right. Just not when this was written.

Well, another Christmas is in the books.
I hope yours was a good one.
Mine was the definition of "meh." The only way I could tell it was Christmas was to look at a Calendar.
But it could have been worse. I knew it was going to be like that, so I could prepare myself for it.
Doesn't mean there isn't some pain, but at least I was able to brace for the impact rather than getting slammed full force unaware.
The holidays are stress-filled for anyone, but they carry unique stressers for us transfolk.

The first is..families.
Some of them just flat out don't accept us, refuse to understand us and all but disown us.
Nothing stings worse at this time of year than to realize that those who are supposed to love us no matter what, don't. It doubly stings that we feel far worse hurt than they do, when they are the ones who inflict the pain.
Now, I'm fortunate in that regard. As I've mentioned before, my family has been quite good overall. I'm sure I would have been welcomed at anyone's table, if I didn't live a gazillion miles away from them.
As mentioned before, I've made wonderful sisters and friends, but so many of them live so far away. I wouldn't be here now without their support and love, but, at the same time, when I shut off this computer, I am alone. There is nobody here physically.
In other words, I can only type "hugs" rather than giving or getting them,lol.

Then there is the awkardness, discomfort and pain of "forced mode."
When you KNOW you're the wrong gender, it's not much fun to put on the costume and plaster on fake smiles to be someone you're not for the benefit of others.
This is where I wish I had the ability to have anyone who isn't trans to feel like what it was to be trans...just for 24 hours.
Then they would realize this isn't a phase, this isn't selfish, this is who we are.
So many say things like, "If you loved me, you wouldn't do this," as if being who we are is something we chose.
Folks...if you loved us, you wouldn't ask us not to.

And you know, there's nothing quite like getting gifts specific to the wrong gender to reinforce that pain.
Let alone the usage of the wrong name and pronouns.
The closest relative to me insists on calling me by 'his' name, no matter how many times I tell them it's like a knife to my heart.

With the isolation (either by the hurtful ignorance of family, geography or bother), there is a lot of time for introspection.
This isn't always a good thing, because we can fall victim to doubts and fears, as we become vulnerable.
There are losses, both real and perceived, with who we are. We can be left vulnerable to that ignorance of others.
Maybe they're right. Maybe we can stop. If we just put our minds to it....STOP!!!

The fact is we are who we are. Denial doesn't work. It's only a temprorary solution...even if mine lasted 'temporarily' for over two decadees.
If we've admitted who we are or started to, denial is nothing more than a retreat to a failed strategy.
It's insidious, because that place of denial can be so comforting, because it's so familiar. We lived in that place for so long, made friends, lived a facsimilie of a life as we kept our true selves at bay and didn't deal with our birth conditions.
We idealize that pre-truth life, ignoring the pain and the very real issues that eventually led us to start admitting who we are.

Then there's the darkness that creeps in for some. I admit I fall prey to it at times.
If I'm to be fully honest, there are days where I'm down to my last shred of hope, clinging to it as I start to wonder what it would be like if I just....didn't exist.
I've just wondered...obviously. Dead girls can't type.
Holidays lack fun when you're isolated, maybe stuck inside because of the weather and one is lacking in hope of having that family, of having a spouse/partner who loves them for who they are, of being able to be whole.
This is the part where I struggle. Almost every day I wake up, I go from being a woman in most of my dreams to being stuck with this cruel joke of a body and fighting to find the hope that one day, I will be whole. Then, oftentimes, the tears come.
But..then I remember. Even though they might be a gazillion miles away, I do have loving supportive family and friends.

I've also admitted who I am. This is a HUGE gift. Even moving in that direction, starting the process to admit who you are, is a big gift.
Which is, I guess, the point of this latest long-winded post.
Take comfort in what you do have. Take comfort in who you are. Take comfort in the positive possibilities of being your authentic self.
Good things to do whether you're trans or not, I think.


From the Archives - December, 2010

It's funny how life takes those unexpected turns.
One year ago, I was "settling" into accepting myself as a gay man.
In retrospect, it wasn't really that settled, of course. I love men...but I'm not a man, never was and that was definitely percolating under the surface.

A couple months later, I admitted as much. Once I did that, it was a short period of time before I knew that I needed to be Kara full-time one day.

As it says next to my blog title, there are better places for gender awakenings than where I live now.
Good solid smalltown family values have their place, but that doesn't exactly instill confidence in coming out as trans.
Don't get me wrong. I know that there are people here who would be great and others would be indifferent, which is fine as long as they didn't bother me.
I also know that the bigger cities, no matter the quality of trans support and services, are no safe havens. There are transphobes and bigots everywhere.

But the fact remains that, for me, I need a fresh start and I would rather have it in a place where 'he' (there's that dichotomy again) has no history.
I want to be Kara in a place where nobody knows me by any other name.

But with the isolation of the small town closet, i have found support elsewhere.
I am an only child.
I had a brother who was stillborn almost six years after I was born, the thing that proved to be the final thing to lead to my parents' divorce.
Although as time, and subsequent marriages for each to the right person, proved, that marriage wasn't meant to be regardless.

Since February, I have come to find out that while I had my brother taken away from me, I have found sisters I had no clue I had 12 months ago.
It turns out that these women are a blessing in my life.

It's been an interesting ride, perhaps more interesting than was planned in some cases.
For some sisters, 2010 was the year of their gender awakening, a prospect that created a great deal of fear, but yet, perhaps, ultimately, hope.
Another friend was stuck in a relationship rut..which is to say there was one. A few months later, they were in a relationship in which both partners were happy. Not only that, it was their first same-sex relationship to boot.

The common thread for many of these sisters and friends is relationship issues.
When I do (hopefully) transition, I hope to be able to give back in some way...maybe somehow being there for others so that hopefully they can accept themselves sooner. That way, they can be with someone who loves them for who they are and those who would be their spouse can find the person they're looking for, not the one they thought they had.

Some sisters saw relationship end on less-than-good terms, others were able to end it in more civil fashion, others dealt with the aftermath of past breakups. It's not easy for either side to be trans in a marriage.
It's only there but for the grace of whatever higher power might exist that I wasn't in that situation.
Some transfolk bury who they are or limit it, living a partial life in sacrifice to preserve that marriage or for the sake of kids.
You have the spouses who insist, 'if you loved me, you'd stop' when it's not a question of love, it's a matter of who we are.
That's in addition to the pressures of family, society, 'doing the right thing'

I've tried to be there for my sisters as someone to listen when they need to vent, to offer the occasional idea.
I give these women credit, because I believe they're doing their best to deal with bad situations. They're not perfect, as I am not perfect, but they're doing their level best to do the right thing.

Being trans is not an easy road, so it's good to have someone there for you who understands, even if their situation isn't the same.
It's been good to have these sisters around. We talk about things like clothes and shopping and, yes, men. We talk about sports or movies, when we don't feel like talking about the weightier issues we're dealing with. We also talk about the weightier issues as we try to make sense of a world where that sense gets changed when we admit who we are...or get closer to admitting who we are.

It's a godsend to have someone to talk to about these things with, especially in circumstances where geography and/or the closet leave us as ports for the occasional storm and as lovely places to visit during the regular calm.
These women are friends, people I'm glad to know and in some cases, they really are like the siblings I never had. I treasure them.

Not admitting who I was for so long led to a lot of self-loathing, both over who I was and how I looked. Even somewhat admitting it didn't help a whole lot. I doubted whether I could ever attract anyone and mulled the possibility that I could be who I was, but I'd have to be willing to go it alone.
I still might have to. I know I'm not settling.

In any case, I have more confidence in myself and how I look.
I still have a lot of weight to lose. A LOT of weight. I know some of my sisters think it's just needless self-deprecation on my part, but the fact is that I am just plain fat.
But weight can be lost.
And in the meantime, I'm growing to like my appearance.
I've never liked how I looked. I hated taking pictures.
In the past, I just attributed it to not liking how I looked. I'm now realizing it's because I wasn't the real me.
I've received legitimate compliments on my look from people who I trust not to blow smoke up my ass. I'm not about to become a conceited diva, but I will say that if enough people tell you that you're at least somewhat cute, it is a boost and you kinda start to believe them.

So, where have I gone in 12 months?
My job situation stinks. My living situation stinks.
But the tradeoff is that I have sisters for life who I didn't even know a year ago. I have blood family loving the real me unconditionally.

With any lucky, the things that stink will turn around soon.
If that does, look out. 2011 will be the Year of Kara.
And if it is, hop on board.
Thanks to those of you who I've met and talked to over the last year.
And if we haven't met or talked, let's fix that, shall we?


From the Archives -- Late April, 2010

Note: This would be the last time I'd see my dad in person. He'd pass away almost four months later

I am back home after my first father-daughter trip.
Well....not really. I made the entire trip as boy name.

Going as myself wasn't a realistic option for many reasons. First off, I'm nowhere near being able to present my true self in public.
Second, these were relatives I hadn't seen in over 20 years, so....kind of difficult to surprise them with this.
Third, these are relatives who live in a conservative state full of homophobic cowboy machismo. For a state that dislikes government and believes in the individual, those beliefs only extend to people who are exactly like them. Then it's okay for the government to step in and make sure these people are treated like second-class citizens. Or, heck, just be rugged individuals and take the offending individual out in the country where nobody can hear them scream and do 'what needs to be done, yup."
Maybe I'm exaggerating...slightly....but Wyoming is not and never will be an LGBT-friendly state.

Dad arrived early...while I still had work to finish. So the first day was pretty much a waste.
The second day, we took in the spring game, a baseball game and some dinner at a Cajun place. A good day.
The next day....we started our trip west.
Due to circumstances beyond our control, it was only going to be a three-day trip, as far as being where the family was.

Some of the time was spent eating one meal or another with family.
One afternoon was spent driving up, down and through the mountains, taking the long way back. Good company and great scenery. Loved it.
Another afternoon was spent going to the old family ranch..where another branch of the family still lives.
This was a spot where my eyes glazed over, as talk turned to old vehicles and motor parts and 'i bet that 350 mooboga could run really well if you hyperflange the orbotron setting to six" or whatever the hell it was that was being said.

These were bittersweet days. It was wonderful being able to take a trip with my dad..the first time I'd done anything with him in forever. He also knows about me and is fine with it. That's a tremendous blessing.

I was reconnecting with these relatives...which is great, except that I can't trust that these same relatives won't reject me when they find out about the real me.
My father is less conservative than they are about such matters.
One of my aunts hugged me as we were leaving and said, "I'm not going to lose you again."
And the first thing that popped into my head was, "You probably already have. You just don't know it."

A long drive back and now....I'm home.
I'd hoped a few days away from here would clear my head, but it really didn't.
I am still stuck in the same place I was before.
I know I can't back to being boy name and burying myself..that's not an option.

But going ahead and taking the steps to be Kara? So, so scary and I'm just here...frozen.
I'm too strong to go back and too weak to move forward.
Something will change for the better eventually, hopefully.
But for now, I'm paralyzed.
But at least I know my father loves me for who I am.
For now, that will have to be enough.

From the Archives - April, 2010

Note: I'm digging back into some older post to show where I was in those early pre-transition days. This was written about 2 1/2 months after my denial started to end.

When I first admitted my existence, I rapidly entered the 'giddy teenager' phase.
Everything was exciting. It was great. I was finally going to have everything start to fit. I could wear the clothes and look like the person I denied I was. I had this wonderful future lying before me and I all I had to do was reach out and grab it.
Reality sets in soon enough.

The fact of the matter is that this is not an easy journey, not one to be undertaken lightly.
What has settled in now is a rollercoaster state, where my head and heart are constatnly up and down, depending on the day, or even the hour.
To be sure, there is still that giddy teenager somwhere -- all excited over the possibilities.

The determined woman is still there, too.
But there are the down days.
There is the pain...which is impossible to describe over being in this state...where I beginning to feel more female and yet I don't/can't look like it. It's the pain of living in a place, a world, where I could lose everything just by living honestly.

There is also the doubt, the uncertainty..not over the fact that I'm trans, but of the best way to carry it out. What direction should I go? I have no idea.
Fear is a great paralyzer. I am afraid that I will never be able to look anywhere close to how I feel inside. I've not always been the most self-confident person in the world about my appearance, and being trans on top of it doesn't help.

I am fearful of being homeless if one key family member reacts badly to my being Kara.
I am afraid of many things great and small and it paralyzes me.
This is why I am befuddled when anybody talks about my courage. So far, the steps I've taken feel so small, so minimal.'

Someone sent me a random IM yesterday that said, "I just wanted to let you know that you inspire me. Because you're so determined and courageous after finally figuring out who you are. I think it's amazing."
I feel anything but when there are those days and moments where I feel trapped, a prisoner who's only become recently aware of the bars, barbed wire and armed guards that surround her.
But, there is also hope.
Over the last week, I've started to become acquainted more with a newer group of people, widening my circle.
Depending on the person, there has been good advice, friendly conversation and hope that it can be done.

I still hardly feel like an icon of courage for anyone.
There are plenty of men and women out there who are much greater inspirations than I am within the trans community.
I am so new, so early in this process that I shouldn't really be looked at as courageous at all.
Admitting to a few family and friends that your trans takes courage...but doing something about it. Moving past that paralyzing fear, beyond that pain that makes you want to curl up and cry? That's where the real courage kicks in.

The fact remains, though, that I was on a path where I was either going to live as Kara or die as Boy Name. Sooner or later, I will have to start acting to let my true self out, even if it's just dressing alone on days and nights when off from work. I will have to do something to start moving to a point where I can transition.

What's it going to take?
My guess is it's going to get to a point where the pain will become so unbearable that I will move past the point where I care what others (the others who don't matter) think about me.
Because, when you get right down to it, my womanhood is a gift that shouldn't be squandered. I just have to figure out the best way to open that gift and make use if it.
When I do? Then...maybe...I will be worthy of someone's admiration.


Like The Pine Trees Lining The Winding Road

Catching up a bit here.
The name change became official since the last time I posted here.
At some point, after the tears dried the day I got word, I sat down and the words flowed out, a goodbye letter to "him."

"Steve" is not my real deadname, of course. I hope you'll allow that bit of poetic license.

Dear Steve --

As cliché as it is to say, in this case, it’s true. It’s not you. It’s me.
The time has come at last. The official word is in and you are gone. Boom. Done.
The finality of it is abrupt, but it’s been a long time coming. You knew it. You prayed for it.
Way back when, you totally prayed for this outcome. Every night.
Oh sure, there were those times later on where you prayed for this not to happen, but the universe knew that deep down, no matter how much you protested, your heart really wasn’t in those.

I remember you way back then, Steve.
You were a precocious little twerp, weren’t you?  Your dad said you were reading the newspaper at two. That time at four when your mom and dad were worried/ticked off when you disappeared when you went to the local swimming pool.
You didn’t know what the big deal was. You knew you weren’t lost. You knew exactly where you were going. Why’s everybody so upset?

But you never quite fit in, did you? The playground words – “sissy”, “queer”, “fag”…intended as slurs and received as such, sure. But the truth was that you weren’t “one of them”, even then.
Clueless kid that you were, you just internalized that hate and just felt out of place.
Then you started to realize, Steve.  It couldn’t really be possible, could it? That name they gave you wasn’t really yours. That life you were in wasn’t yours, but that of some unwilling reality show lead unaware they were in a reality show of others’ choosing, years before reality shows existed.
That’s when it happened. At night, while your mom was working the graveyard shift, the better to not hear you, you started to pray. “Please God, let me wake up a girl.”
You started to explore. In another time, with another cast, you might have given me a chance to escape sooner.

But, no, you got the scumbag stepfather out of central casting – a younger man to help mom get her groove back, only to turn out to be a rageoholic control freak who left a damaged wife and stepdaughter in his wake.
That’s when your stubbornness kicked in, right, Steve? You felt things would be safer for you, than me, that people would take it out on you if they knew I existed.
Some people are cut out to be bodyguards. Other people can do it, but it takes a lot out of them. It did with you.
Part of the bodyguard act was to keep up that veneer. Steve was the “happy, uber-guy who liked sports.” You knew your stuff when it came to sports and music.
You had your memories anyway – the bad Peter Lorre impression you did in “Arsenic and Old Lace” senior year (and the accidental table break that turned into a proto-Chris Farley gag in each performance), the games where you were on the edge of your seat for.

Music and sports indeed were there a lot. You got to cover a lot of cool stuff, even if it was the small town variety – the best football game you ever covered, when the local team beat its archrival 31-30 on a 40-yard field goal that cleared the upright by a foot on the last play of the quarterfinals on the way of the state playoffs.
But pretending to be an uber-guy meant stepping into awkward territory, eh, Steve? You remember that bowl trip to Tampa? The one where you went up in the Spaceship, paying $200 for a private lapdance, not because you really wanted one, but because you knew it would be a free pass from uber-guy crap for the rest of the trip. Never mind that you really wished you had a dancer’s curves.
That small town you lived in, Steve, it wasn’t without its charms. But you knew it was a much better, safer place for you than it was for me. You never admitted it, but it played a big part in why you stayed there, why your name didn’t wind up on better bylines.
It’s a lot easier to be isolated when, if you don’t live at the edge of nowhere, you can see it from your house.

Sure, you had a few friends, enough to prop up the illusion that you were fooling people. But they knew. You made the fact that you had walls up pretty fucking obvious.
The gay thing. That was a convenient distraction, wasn’t it? You could tell yourself that you weren’t gay. Over and over and over again. Never mind that it wasn’t really the issue or that you were right, just not in the way you thought.
It got exhausting, right, Steve?
Imagine how I felt! Think about it. You at least had the option of going out, of interacting with people. Nobody knew I existed. Even Mom..and moms always know. She probably thought I was Gay Steve. She even asked you once, and you said, “No! No!”, never letting her know I existed. I hate that you were such a coward then, even if I understand why.

But, things broke eventually. I don’t even know why it happened when it did, but on some subconscious level, I knew I had to make a move before something bad happened.
You had that dead-in-the-eyes look common to so many bodyguards whose time is about out, a look that too often signals that the bodyguard and the person they’re protecting are about to disappear.
You were a master at distracting yourself, Steve, but this time, you were a little too good, because you admitted you were “gay.” That was enough, because my emergence was inevitable at that point.
It was less than a year. I was long overdue to get out. You think the rooms on the Worst Room Tumblr were bad, try applying feng shui principles to a closet for decades.

By the time I first announced my presence, to a woman who said, “I know, it ain’t my first rodeo”, you really didn’t have much fight left, Steve.
Oh, sure, you tried to say that I might only be around part of the time. But how long did that last? Seriously, two months, if that.

That began a weird period where people in the physical world pretty much only knew you, but I started to take over the day-to-day operations of the company, so to speak.
It’s one thing to be Ronald McDonald, a clown-suited guy everybody knows is just a mascot. It’s another to be a guy in a clown suit and only you know that it’s a clown suit. I know it took a toll, enough that you almost took us both with you. Believe me, I’ve thanked people who kept us from jumping off that edge into the too-comforting abyss more than once.

Then came 2012, the year I took over in the front of the house.  I have to give you credit, Steve. You were smart in who you told, knowing for the most part who would stick around for me and who wouldn’t.
Oh, yeah. The latter. The people who think the 2012 change was some fucking overnight whim. But what do asshats like that know? They weren’t there on the playgrounds, in those quiet bedrooms to hear the prayers of a 10-year-old girl speaking timidly through the voice of a boy. They didn’t care enough to notice that you were dead in the eyes, on the way to being dead.

I know what you mean, Steve, about wishing that people who weren’t like me could feel what it was like to be that way for 72 hours, to know that this isn’t an abomination, a perversion or even what those condescending jerks call a “lifestyle choice.”
I moved from that small town to New York and found so many reasons to call it home, from the food and the shows, to more importantly, a charming, sweet, funny lovely woman named Deb. You were so busy thinking about guys, Steve, that it never crossed your mind that I liked both. You poor distracted man.

Most importantly, New York City is the place where I can just be, a place that not only fits my general vibe, but is a place where nobody knew you. No offense, Steve, but you were kind of a sad, miserable bastard for a while there.

Now, here we are. It’s a nice summer night. I have Veruca Salt blaring in my ears and I’m contemplating what it all finally means now that the official word is in that you’re gone.
I hope you don’t mind that my first reaction was to start sobbing tears of relief. I’m really glad you’re gone. You have no idea. Seriously. None.

But, it’s not exactly good riddance, either. You were part of my life for a long time. Too long, yes, but a crucial part of my life, even when you at some point switched from bodyguard to captor. But I know I wouldn’t be here now if it weren’t for you, either. That’s not the Stockholm Syndrome talking, because you were the bodyguard first.
I know there might be one or two others who miss you a bit, maybe because a bit of me seeped into you and that’s what people responded to. I don’t know.
But, hey, there will always be memories and, if they’re honest, they’ll see that I am far, far happier than you could have ever been.

I’m not sorry you’re gone for good, Steve, but I am sorry for what you had to go through. It’s hard enough for a real child to deal with physical and mental abuse. It’s hard enough for a real adult to deal with the confusion and pain, you were doing it as a fictional character. I’ve seen the photos. I know how much it hurt.

You were my twin, Steve, but you’ve done your job. You’ve punched your last clock. Enjoy retirement, being missing and presumed happy as you dissolve into the mist for good.
Enjoy that swift, sweet fade into oblivion, Steve. It’s a long overdue reward for a job well done.
As for me, I’ll enjoy things plenty for the both of us and, when I speak of you, I’ll try to speak sympathetically.

Here’s your goodbye hug in the mist, my twin brother, my constraining and tattered costume, my frenemy, my passionate protector, my sharpshooter atop the guard tower with the sniper rifle pointed in my direction if I contemplated escape.
So long and farewell, my darling twin. Close your eyes and fade away.
I can take it from here.
I’m good.
I wasn’t you. I’m me.

Your sister,