Saturday, December 27, 2008

Acceptance?

Those of us as transpeople who live open lives, risk being ignored, shunned, avoided or becoming victims of hate. People’s reactions as these, happen because others do not give us a chance, they don’t take the opportunity to get to know us; to sit down and ask the hard questions that separate fact from fiction. It’s very painful when you learn how your some of your family really feels about you in a very visible open social setting, as what happened to me during the reception at my nephews wedding, (See previous post).
But all those negative, repulsed feelings are just as quickly dissipated when surrounded by the people you have come to know and love. It’s the children who can get to the heart of the matter quickly; children who are not soured by hate and bigotry show their love for others in so many ways. Any pain inflicted upon me by those who won’t see or make an effort to get to know you as the changed person was quickly healed by spending a day with our good friends. As the children played and were taken to a playground, the three of us women continued working on a Christmas Quilt we had said we would do for someone who goes to church with us. Having made a pot of beef soup, we all gathered to eat and enjoy the day. The children decorated a gingerbread house that their mother had brought and we all ended the evening chasing the children around the house.
The week of joy and acceptance was topped off by the celebration of a wonderful Christmas Day dinner with this family who has chosen us. We worked our culinary arts for our guest during the morning before they arrived and since it was our friends who dined with us, the day was filled with laughter, eating and quiet time just talking and sewing on a quilt.
Watching the joy on the faces of two bright, pleasant children as they opened their Christmas gifts from us was happiness enough for me. Obviously we ‘chose well’ for the young man almost tore the box apart trying to get to the building set we gave him. You could see the delight and wheels turning as he began to think of the possibilities of different things he would build. Letting people and children get to know me because they want to is a great joy. Tears came to my eyes as I was given huge hugs from both of the children as they told me they loved me at the end of a great evening. We stood in the door way under the porch light as we always do, feeling happy, loved and joyful watching our dear friends drive away into the night.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Wedding and Wondering no more

Preparations and anticipation can’t prepare one for the unknown; the weekend to celebrate a marriage between your nephew and his future bride. For all the agonizing we exerted Thursday night to get everything ready and packed; well we didn’t pack until the next morning. We spent all day Thursday running errands, running back to get the wedding gift after spending an hour in Toys-r-Us buying for others, (Can’t spoil Christmas can we?). Getting dinner and then running to various stores looking for stockings we thought we needed for this weekend, (didn’t even open package). We awoke early, at least for us, to have a nice leisurely drive down to Mexico Beach, Fl., the Christmas gift we bought for someone was picked up on time and we left about when we planned to leave.
Stopping in Tallahassee to look in the good book stores for a certain book for Kay we arrived at Mexico Beach at a decent time and spent a few minutes on the beach before we checked into our rooms on the Air Force Base. We had been given a time that the rehearsal dinner was suppose to start and since it only took 30 minutes or so to drive from the AF Base we left a hour early to get us there in plenty of time to mingle with the other guest before we sat down to eat. We arrived about 20 minutes before 7 pm and saw a room full of people eating already. After being seated by the Hostess, the waitress took our order for salads; they already had finished with pre stuff and had already given orders for the meals.
Being the last two seated, we took the two empty seats at the back table and had pleasant conversations with everyone. We were seated with the photographer, the Minister and his wife and the father of the Groom and his older brother. Quite and interesting evening followed, pleasant dinner talk with the father and had to listen to the photographer babble on about his camera and flash and how study on how to take good head shots, and so on and so on…. Kay told me later that he kept bumping her leg with his knee, not sure if he was flirting or what was going on; but his social skill were lacking a little bit………..
At the end of the dinner my youngest sister came over and sat down with us to chat for a little while asking about health, our families how we were doing. That was the first time I had seen or talked to my little sister since the family had gathered for my Mother’s birthday party, and I happened to still be ‘John’. My mother sat down with us and since the photographer had left earlier his dessert was sitting at his place; not remembering that she had eaten her dessert earlier she ate the one that was before her, but who cares.
The afternoon of the wedding we arrived about 15 min. early to chat and mingle with the other guests. When we arrived, mother and my sisters had seated themselves in the first row of chairs and sat there, never walking around and mixing with Nicole’s family or friends. Kay and I thought they looked like big birds sitting on a wire, all in a row not moving. The wedding was simple and Nicole was beautiful. During the picture taking, after all the required photos of the bride and grooms family, they wanted a group picture with William’s family; I hesitated but Nicole wave for me to join them. As I joined the group at the opposite end where the William’s mother stood, I detected a sneer and a look that would seriously hurt someone.
But the most blatant act of hate came when after sitting at another table and waiting to be asked to sit with my sisters and mother; we took our drinks and approached their table to sit with and across from my mother. Now there were two reserved tables seated for 10 to sit both families. The table for the brides table was full but the other table only had the 5 people with my family without Kay and I. As we approached the table, my sister very firmly and viciously said, “No thank you!!”, we were dumbstruck with her comment and after looking at each other, we went back to our table to sit with the Father of the groom and the photographer. Not at all what I expected but wasn’t surprised too much at her bad behavior toward us. It's sad to think that the table was only so empty and what kind of message that said about my sister and her relationships or lack of friends or family to those who came to celebrate Nicole and William's marriage. Kay had wanted to get to know my sister better and after this weekend she got a good idea of who she is. I had the feeling that she was controlling so much with who got close to my mother or sisters; or they were not will to put up a fight to do anything to upset her. It was sad to see my mother give pleading waves and glances our way as if to suggest she wanted to do anything that would free from the clutches of my sister.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Questions and seeking

This weekend, Kay and I will be traveling to Mexico Beach, Florida to attend my nephews wedding. This will be the first time that I as Sarah will mingle with possible large numbers of my extended family. We only know of one Aunt who is flying in from California and my youngest sister is coming from Houston, Texas. All the other family members should be surprised when they finally meet Sarah and Kay. Although Kay and I have met with two on my sisters, the rest of the family have never socialized with me as Sarah. I am excited and a full of expectation for what could happen this week. The groom’s brother and my sister have spent a little time with Kay and me as we have visited with my mother on several occasions. As I said before, we have been invited to the rehearsal dinner so that will be our first chance to meet everyone before the wedding the next day and the reception following.
Mexico Beach is very nice beach; at least it was when we were there during this past summer; not sure but expecting to have mild weather during the service. And with the Air Force Base being relatively close and we can stay at their guest quarters at a reasonable price; which makes the weekend at the beach even better cost wise.
I always love to make some time to spend on the seashore; with the rushing surf and the wind mixed with the salt water blowing across your face as we stroll down the beach mesmerized by the sound of the crashing waves. Any beach time seems to help wash away all the bad feelings and recharges my mind and soul for what’s to come.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Seasons Joys

Being transgendered gives me new insight into the joys of the seasons, the hope for changes in each one of us; the anticipation, the excitement, the discovery, the fulfillment. With each Christmas Season I find myself more comfortable, more free, more empowered to be the Sarah I have discovered.
This is a time that I use to sit back and examine the wonderful and exciting changes that I have watched happen with me and between Kay and me. We look forward to the coming year and the many occasions that seems appears before us, letting us tell our story to all who ask.
This being the Season of Advent, which is the beginning of a new Church year for us, it is a spiritual renewal as well as a new beginning for me on this path defining my transition and the person that faces new challenges and defining moments. This is my story which is similar but very different to every other Sister faced with the obstacle of whether to transition or remain as they are.
With the Advent season as a preparation time to bring one’s attention to the birth of Christ, it causes me to reflect on the period when I attempted to prepare myself, my ex and my family with what is essentially my new birth. I was struggling to emerge from my chrysalis of an unhappy life filled with conflict between myself and my ex over the secret I was trying so hard to keep. Over the arguments I created with my children to drive them out of the house. This renewing season of the Church year forces me to examine once more the numerous reasons for accepting my true self as Sarah; to recall all the good that is now in my life and be joyful.
As I happily anticipate this time and the celebration of the retelling of the Christmas Story, I contritely and humbly see my life as an object to reflect the light of understanding and hope into the darkness that will be placed before my journey’s path.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Who Knows Me

What about me and where I am, how I am so visible, so out there; I don’t have a clue just how many people in my community really know about my journey. Every week people speak to me because they somehow know me from somewhere, either they were the clerks behind the counter in the dress store, or shoe store, or make up store, or as waiters in restaurants around town. It’s like; “Oh, how are you doing, you used to come into my store.”, or I would wait on you; or some other connection in my past. What really makes me wonder is just how much and how many people really know about me; as happened last week at my elections poling place. For the past four year I have voted at the same place. The second year I voted, I presented myself as my female self with my driver’s license which carried my male name; for me no problem. The same staff people were there every election so they got to know me as Sarah; and when I changed the picture from the old self to Sarah, no problem. The third and forth years I had legally changed my name and the worker were so kind trying to help me change my name on the voters registration list; but when the voters list was purged and all the mix-matched names were dropped, my new identity as Sarah was dropped and my voter registration card reverted to my old name. So after a few weeks, I took a copy of the name change down to the voter’s registration office and together with one of the clerks we fill out a new name change with the court documents and that fixed the problem. Again, while casting my vote in the presidential elections, the staff manning the poling place very politely asked me how I was doing, asked about the singing group I was in and about that and that, and made sure that the voter roll had my correct female name in the system. I have never experienced anything but a friendly and helpful attitude from the voter registration staff, who went out of their way to ensure that my personal information be correct.
Kay and I have had several discussions about how everyone I have met treats me; about how they are quick to discuss how they know me. She and I both agree it might be my attitude and pleasant conversations with which I engage people I meet. That is something that my male personality would never have done; not so much. Looking back, I would say that all my efforts and energies were used to hide and shield my secret from others; I was hesitant in engaging people because I didn’t want them getting too close. I didn’t want them emotionally close because I was afraid they would ‘see’ what I was hiding. And now, with everything out in the open and no secrets, or fears; I can just live my life. Kay and I went to this year’s Southern Conference, which a lot of sister do; but these gatherings are the only few times they can be who they are without fear. These are their opportunities to eat out at restaurants, go shopping; just be out and about to socialize with other sisters and make new friends or to find support to venture out and about.
Everywhere I go with Kay it seems that we will meet someone who recognizes me from someplace else; what is strange is that I have never even once in the years since my divorce bumped into my ex; which is OK with me.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving Lists

Thanksgiving season steps on the heels of Christmas Celebrations and blurs the demarcation live between the two. These months are a time for reflections of the good things we share with others; and just as dramatic is a time of loneliness and pain. I pray that those who are estranged from their family find unity and acceptance. I pray that those of us who are struggling be at peace with themselves. I pray for understanding and hope that we can live in harmony with those who disagree with us. I pray the hatred, and violence will stop hurting our brothers and sisters who defy labels.

I am thankful for finding my Kay and having celebrated our second wedding anniversary; I have never been happier in my lives. I am thankful for my three children and what they have managed to do with their lives; as well as my two grandchildren. I truly love them and am sorry, very sorry for the pain I have caused them in years past.

I am thankful for my life as it has unfolded and getting to share all the joys with my wife Kay. I am thankful for being so close to Kay’s family, for their acceptance of me and including me as a welcomed member of the family. I am thankful for being a Godmother to little Sophianna, thank you Chris and Catherine for asking us to be a spiritual mentor to your family.

I am thankful for each and every member of the new PFLAG group that Kay and I started with Becky. All of you deserve a family who accepts and welcomes without judgment. I am thankful for being a member of Integrity, the LGBT group within the Episcopal Church, fighting for the right of inclusion for everyone, pushing for rites of marriage within the Churches governing body.

I am thankful for the opportunity to tell my story to students at the University; not to change ones mind but to open new understanding of our struggle to live in our communities without the hate and anger and violence inflicted upon us. To let them see a loving couple who shares the story of a transgender partner.

I am grateful for being a member of the Vagina Monologue last year, for going to New Orleans for 10th Celebration of VDay, for going to Southern Comfort 08 and meeting wonderful people who celebrate being themselves in a safe place.

I am ever so thankful for the good results about my breast cancer treatment, my breast surgery, and my other partial surgery, which gets me off the monthly Lupron shot. I am thankful for the peace and joy of my live since I have accepted myself as ‘Sarah’.

May the Season of Celebration found within Thanksgiving and the Days of Christmas bring Happiness of Joy to you and your family, the Light of Love to those you care about, and the Peace of mind and body to be true to yourself in life.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Emotional Colors

I have been attempting to examine what has happened to my emotional and spiritual self before and after transition. Since becoming my true self, my emotional colors are bright and cheery; I live in the present and am very happy. I can’t change the past; that’s done and over and dominated the life of ‘John’. As for the future, that hasn’t been written and the possibilities are endless as to where I shall find myself with my wife, Kay.

Someone suggested that we should read the Shack which is on the bestsellers booklist. This book will twist what you think you know about God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit and their relationship to us. It just gives me another way to look at our lives, relationships and understandings of the power of giving ones self to something higher.

I remember the old comic strip Lit’Abner being read to me by my father while I sat on his lap. There was a character in the strip that always had a black cloud hanging over his head, everywhere he went, I’m not sure of his name, but he was always a gloomy figure. I think that was how I was before I transitioned, gloomy, surrounded by different intensity of grays; hardly any color. I was colored with a mix of grays because my family and I didn’t confront the fact that I was dressing and going out and it affected and dulled the emotional coloring of our relationship. My ex couldn’t stand the thought of anyone seeing me dressed as Sarah; anything feminine that might suggest or hint of someone other than ‘John’ was frightening to her because she had no control over what I was doing and that scared the hell out of her.

I spent a half of a lifetime trying to second guess the decisions of my past life; ‘What if I had only done this!”; “What I should have done was that!”, “What I would only give if I could take this or that back”. Living in the past only made my gray cloud more intense. Now as I am living in the present, and Kay and I have had many heart to heart discussions about me, where I am, where we are, what makes us so rich emotionally is because we are so open and truthful; by removing the thick frosty covering from myself I can feel the tension dissolve. I truly believe that the Holy Spirit lives in both of us as we develop our relationships with each other; going about helping others, watching our neighbor’s children, visiting the sick, etc.. I am much more relaxed, and at peace with myself, having let the past languish in the past; and am excited about the future and what I could bring.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Love Know no Bounds

The other night, Kay and I decided to see a movie which happened to be sold out, so as we were standing at the ticket window we picked to see the new Madagascar 2, movie; and were completed delighted. The movie had really two different themes if you will; about the young son who being captured off the reserve finds his way to the New York Zoo where he meet new friend and learns dancing skills. As he finds his way back to Africa and is reunited with his family, his different lion skills eventually saves his father and him. The other theme takes a different look at love between two different individuals and their love breaches all boundaries of traditional relationships and are united in marriage at the end of the movie.
Wow, their ‘love knows no bounds’; what a wonderful example to use in explaining to children that ‘love of someone’ can move beyond traditional examples. That to really love someone, be it between a Giraffe and a Hippo, or between a man and a man, or a woman and another woman, that giving yourself to that one other person that you really care about is love.
I am so glad that the creators of this movie took it upon themselves to give us such a powerful example of this different ‘love between two individuals’ on the big screen; and that the evangelical churches have not raised a stink about this wonderful example by the fact that it is showing on the big screen and children love the movie. And that it has so magically given children a powerful example of how true love and devotion is OK and can look past differences. The creators of this movie have shown us how to explain the power of love that is different and that’s ok; that sometimes love of another person is more important than for a marriage to have children.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Watching Change Happen?

I know this is a little different that what I have been writing about but we have to stand as a United America and each one of us must figure out how we can do our small part in changing the collective of America. We wanted change and we as America overwhelmingly voted change upon our country. We got movement in the financial market, the stock market, the housing market, the big 3 automakers, airlines, everyone wants the government to back everything up. I read where some CEO’s have said they won’t take their bonus this year that they will have to scrape by with their plus million dollar salary. The big oil guys have made record profits this year so why don’t we let them ante up and infuse the big 3 automakers with sizable low interest loans.

And why are the gas prices falling at a nice slow steady pace now that President Bush and Dick Chaney are on the way out. Is it because the Oil companies have milked everyone out of their Christmas money? Is it because President Elect Obama is pushing for alternative energy sources? Are gas prices dropping because the oil companies want America to forget about pursuing alternative energy, because gas is cheap? Didn’t the American people react this way during the last gas shortage when the auto makers pretended to build more efficient cars? What did they do when because available again?

Thank you Big Oil Companies for dropping the price of gas but lets hope America demands that we build a new life going green and expanding alternative energy efforts. Go America, go green!!!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Breast Cancer: Blessing or Bane

I guess that real answer is that as a Military Retiree and Vietnam Veteran, getting to serve my country was an honor. As an Army musician, is had some great personal experiences that wouldn’t have happened otherwise. Serving my country and receiving an Honorable discharge has had it benefits.

As a military retiree, I am entitled to use the military health care system. Their policies concerning what kinds of treatment they are limited to providing is very specific but the HMO is a good program. For example, they will not pay for gender reassignment surgery. But when I started to transition they approved the drugs for my HRT treatments. When I developed male breast cancer, they paid for my mastectomy; they couldn’t deny the treatment on the basis of gender. Since they paid for the mastectomy, they paid for my breast prosthesis and bras; they also paid for breast reconstruction and bi-lateral implants. No questions or raised concerns for these medical treatments.

However, because I developed male breast cancer ie, infiltrating ductal carcinoma which was treated with modified radical mastectomy with axillary node dissection; the cancer was estrogen receptor positive and the only acceptable treatment was with tamoxifen and monthly lupron shots. Lupron is used to suppress male hormone testosterone production and I would be required to take the injections for life. Having to get the monthly Lupron shot played havoc with my hormones, it was a rollercoaster ride with frequent and extreme hot flashes; especially when it came time for my next shot. The alternative to ongoing Lupron shots is to perform the bilateral orchiectomy , and since one of the benefits, (for me anyway), was the feminization of the body. Never mind that bilaterial orchiectomy is the preferred treatment when there is no anticipation that the Lupron can be stopped anytime in the future.

When the bilaterial orchiectomy was first proposed by my urologist and my oncologist; the procedure was immediately denied and the first appeal was also denied. It had to take a third appeal and a decision by a physician specializing in urology who was associated with MAXIMUS, a professional medical review organization to make the determination for proper treatment and overturn the original denial.

With all that said, because I have military health care as a veteran, it was only because I developed breast cancer that I was able to get a great pair of breasts and get genitalia surgery at a considerable reduced cost. The disadvantage of getting male breast cancer was the crashing of my emotions; loosing a piece of your body just when it was beginning to blossom. The months of physical recovery and knowing that you can never take estrogen in any form!

At my next appointment we will discuss the next procedure to reconstruct my nipple and the tattoo. I am very pleased with my new body.
Peace, Sarah

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

HAPPY ANNIVERSARY BABY

Time flies when you are having fun!! Today is our second wedding anniversary. I can hardly believe that we have been married that long. Seems that our relationship just keeps getting better. I can only wonder what I did without Sarah before.

Life is so full.............truly full! We have so much fun together. A friend of ours remarked one day during a disagreement Sarah and I were having that we were the only people he knew that laughed while we argued.

Life is good.

HAPPY ANNIVERSARY BABY!!!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Voting in a Red State

There seem to be a large question about transgender and their chance or problems to vote in this last election.

Someone ought to dig around a few contested states as to whether or not there were problems with voting by transgender people. Those of us whose name on the driver’s license doesn’t match the name we are using and did we really had problems on election day.

I voted a few elections back presenting myself as Sarah with a drivers license that had my picture as Sarah but my male name and the elections official changed my name on the official roles and I thought that was that. I even live in the Deep South and a Red state to boot she didn’t blink an eye when I showed her my mixed driver’s license. When the election board went through the list of voters and purged the roles, I got a new voters card with my old name, even after it had been crossed out and Sarah was inserted when I voted. Another county vote cast and again she remembered changing my name for the previous county elections, no questions. So just to make it official a few weeks later, I walked into the County Elections Office with a copy of my official name change documents and filled out a name change, attaching the court documents. A few weeks later I received my corrected Voters Registration Card with Sarah’s name.

All of this in a county and state that went for McCain; times really are changing.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Veteran's Voice of Light

Voices of Light

Soldiers who fought the Fight
Voices of War’s, telling truth’s light
Of those who lived the horrors of War
Each true voice, a single shard of light
Truth in the telling of Armies history
Lived on far distant shores
By collective voices of Soldier’s might
Shining like beacons
Together blinding the words
Of lies and deceit

As each soldier who fought
Grows older and falls, so dims the light
And memories of War with time
As each shard of light is extinguished
The beacons of Truth wavers and blurs
But, we who are washed with beacons light
Must listen ever louder
To the dimming voices of truth
Proclaiming the true lessons of War
Against the voices of lies and deceit

SJ Riggle

As the anniversary of Veteran’s Day approaches and our country is mending the small fractures sustained during the two years of political posturing, let’s not forget how we have built our great Nation. Let’s not forget the Veterans who fought in all the Great Struggles of Mankind. Let us all take the time this year to invite a Veteran into our Schools or Churches to talk about their historical perspective of WWII or Korea, or Vietnam, or Veterans of the Gulf Wars and what they have done to keep America free.
Our cherished Veterans of the Great War are dying at an alarming rate and their stories can only shine the Truths if they are retold and retold and we listen and learn to speak with them with greater light. Don’t let those who claim the Holocaust didn’t happen speak louder than the voices of fellow Americans mixed with the Veteran’s Voice of Truth.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

CNN Just Projected Obama as WINNER

Tonight is an amazing night. A little earlier I was running some errands and just as I was getting out of the car the possibility of Barack Obama becoming president became real for me. I have wanted him to win. Sarah and I both voted for him and volunteered at his local headquarters.

I believe that this will mark a historic change for America. I hope that this will be another level of racial healing in this country. I hope that America can regain some of our standing in foreign countries. I hope our economy improves. I hope that access to health care improves. I hope. I have hope.

John McCain is making his concession speech on TV as I am writing. Sarah Palin is on the stage with McCain with tears in her eyes.

Barack Obama cannot solve all the problems. No one can but I believe we look forward to positive change. This is a historic night!!

Friday, October 31, 2008

Goblins and Monsters and Trans, Oh My!

Halloween Night, what a night to be yourself and no one give you a second glance, I remember so many Halloween night with some lame costume that didn’t hint at my other side, not even as a grown up. I do have a memory of a Halloween night long, long ago when my sister’s thought it would be great to put me in a dress a scarf and little slip-ons things; my one and only adventure cross-dressed. Aah, what memories, little did my sisters know that they turned on my gender switch that wonderful Halloween night so long ago?

I didn’t have much luck convincing my ex to let me dress up after we were married; I guess it was too close to reality. Oh, I did wear a costume when we took the children trick-or-treating but it couldn’t be anything that would embarrass the family. No nothing like that! And those last few year before the divorce, I was dressing whenever I could get a chance, so there was never a desire to go out to a party cross-dress; not when I was going out as Sarah, on a regular basis.

The first Halloween after my wife filed for divorce, I was living in an apartment complex and was practically living two lives at the time. Oh I had told the apartment manager what I was doing and it didn’t’ matter to them and asked to let them know if anyone gave me any problems, which was great for me to say the least. I was still my male self at work and for Church but any other time, I was Sarah. In the apartment across the hall were two young men and I suspected them to be gender variant but never saw them out and about. I could see my neighbor’s reaction whenever he saw me leave to go somewhere on the weekend as Sarah. People had to know something was different about me since I dressed gender neutral going to work and how different I dress going out. Sure I told a few of the residents and would hang out at the pool in the summer months as Sarah. Anyway on Halloween night that year, as I was leaving for the evening, which was rather late; I almost bumped into my neighbor who was really dressed; someone had taken a lot of time to doll her up for the evening. I barely had time to mention how nice ‘she’ looked before she ran down the stairs.

There are not any kids who go trick-or-treat down our street, mainly our house is on a very busy road and most of the houses belong to older folks; but if there ever were a number of children who come regular, I would most certainly dress up in costume again just to have a little fun myself on Halloween night.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Straight VS Gay Marriages

How can my marriage which happened in our back yard and officiated by a Priest from the MCC Church affect someone else’s marriage? How can any marriage vow said by a Justice of the Peace, or Judicial Official, invalidate your marriage vows said before a member of the clergy? Maybe it’s time that we separated the marriage vows part from the marriage blessing part. How can someone deny a long term relationship built on faith, and trust and love and companionship; be it heterosexual or gay? How can we deny the rights of either kind of marriage if the federal government recognizes couples rights?
Even with our marriage certificate being issued with a male and a female name, we were married as Kay and Sarah. We walked together to down the isle as wife and wife, two spirits joined as one in front of our family and friends. It was only after I officially changed my name to Sarah that we had any trouble from our state government when we filled our tax returns. Oh we received our federal tax return within 2 weeks after filing electronically; the problem was with the State of Georgia Tax Office where we had problems. It seems that they couldn’t resolve the fact that our tax return was filed with our female names. Never mind that my name on drivers license was Sarah Jane and was issued by the Department of Motor Vehicles; never mind that my social security card was changed to reflect my new name; and never mind that my Military Identification Card was changed to reflect Sarah Jane in my military personnel files. The tax clerk wanted documentation reflecting my name change in order to expedite our tax refund check. Expedite our tax refund; this was September, and we had received our federal tax check by the end of April.
The opponents of Pro 8 insist that marriage should only be between a man and a woman. And how are they going to check whether someone is male or female; by visual inspection of the genitals? How are they going to classify someone who has ambiguous genitalia; what about someone who has 2 Xs and a Y chromosome, or someone who might have 2Ys and an X chromosome; or any other combination of chromosomes that can be found within mans existence. So what happens to a marriage when, say the wife discovers that she should be male as defined by the chromosomes; does the marriage become invalid?
Would a stable, long term relationship between two women or two men not be better than a heterosexual relation where one party cheats on the other, or abuses their partner, or inflicts violence on the children and partner? How can a relationship exist when one party of the marriage brings multiple partners to the marriage bed?
Shouldn’t a good marriage be defined as two people who love each other and honors their commitment to love, cherish and honor, even if it was not spoken first by someone invested with the authority and power to join two people for life? Is there only a technical difference between a marriage performed by a civil authority and a marriage performed with religious authority? Aren’t members of the clergy also given the civil authority to perform marriages? Just how would civil marriages between two men or two women adversely affect the definition of marriage? The Federal government agencies recognizes my ‘gay’ marriage now, although it wasn’t officially defined as one in the beginning.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Go PFLAG Valdosta

I am really blown away and amazed at the kind of response that we have been able to generate within the community. We had our third meeting and gathering of like minded individuals; and with the addition of 1 person from Macon and 5 from the Albany PFLAG groups, our attendance soared to 28 individuals. We welcomed the visitors from Albany who were mostly parents with gay and lesbian children who were able to give our group a different perspective as they deal with being gay.

We had a room of family members, linked by a common goal; freely sharing stories, thoughts, advice and support for those who are facing difficult relationships with parents and friends.

Thank you again to the members of the University’s Gay/Straight Alliance who took the time away from studying to come share your thoughts and stories.

"The world is a dangerous place to live, not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who didn't do anything about it." - Albert Einstein

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Changes

For awhile, I have been noticing a lot of things around us in our little part of the state are changing. The weather around us is slowly changing, the mornings are colder and the dew clings to the grass where there is shade until late mornings. Fall colors, since we are in the Deep South, we don’t get the classic full bodied color changing of the leaves that the good people of the northern states see every fall. For one thing, the varieties of tree in this are mostly evergreen, but there are some hard woods with their brilliant colors of fall, and it is slowly coming to our part of the world.

My body has most certainly changed with my breast surgery the reconstruction and augmentation. It has been almost 5 week since my surgery and there is definitely a feeling that the sensitivity of the nipple area is not as bad as it was a few days after my augmentation surgery. But I have been lingering at the mirror more there days examining my body shape. What was my waist has now drifted higher and my hips are most certainly a lot wider these days; in addition to my new top features. I have noticed my fingers seem to be slimmer and longer; maybe it just that my nail have grown. I use to chew the nails to a stub when I was a kid; but when I started to let things grow, I went to a manicurist and wore acrylic nail for a year or so until my nail were long enough to grow out.

We are more involved in working for LGBT reforms since Rebecca, Kay and I started the PFLAG chapter. We went to our first pride parade, it was small but it is an important movement to fight bigotry and hate in the workplace and for the rights of all people to be able to choose which bathroom to use without harassment. Our PFLAG group is a quiet, and comforting space and time for everyone to be who they are, free of the prejudice and hate they feel the rest of their days. Kay made an interesting observation concerning the differences one can ‘feel’ when we were with the ladies at Southern Comfort and with the support group we were meeting with in Tallahassee. We could feel warmth in acceptance and encouragement as we were welcomed to Southern Comfort; it was like one big family. We were just like the other 846 conventioneers; being free to be who they wanted to be and not be judged otherwise. Well there was some judgments about the choice of clothes some wore, but that’s just what women do, critique each other clothing choices. There was no power struggle for authority, no lashing out with prejudice and jealousy. No one exerted control over the group, the volunteers worked side-by-side to make sure all events happened as planned.

Yet, as we stood on the floor during the last meeting of our regional church convention, the power struggles between officiating group of the white patriarchal dominating clergy was never more in evidence, blatant distain for some . Even in a small group setting, it was hard for them to recognize a white woman much less give up the floor to let her have her say in any matter they were discussing. Even in other group meeting where there is a dominance of male oriented thinking, you can feel the tension and distain swirling around the room like some dark cloak ready to drop and cover the room.

But changes are on the horizon and gathering in the winds ready to sweep the storm clouds of hate, and anger, and discrimination into the void of nothingness.

Margaret Mead once said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Gainesville Pride Parade



Today Kay, and I with two friends zipped on down to Gainesville to march in their Gay Pride Parade. I wasn’t very big, but what it lacked in size the people made up in spirit. We met up with a group from the UU Church who had managed to corral a large group of young people to make signs and either marched or rode on the hay wagon.

There weren’t many people watching our small parade of marchers until we were about a block away from the finish area, which is the park/plaza with a number of vendors. The crowd was made up of children to the elder folks and a very large number of lesbian and gay couples and a few transgender as well. When it began to threaten to rain we left to get us a bit to eat and then returned to the festivities. In addition to the UU Church, the Episcopal Church had a table and there was a group from Trinity Church marching, just in front of us. The main reason that I knew I wanted to march in this parade was because of the religious group who has challenged the gender inclusive policy that the city passed a few months ago. Some residents of the community want to deny another group of resident the ability to choose which bathroom to use by spreading fear and untruths about transgender people.

Not only could this have a far reaching affect of the people of Gainesville, but it could also be applied to visitors and others who travel from out of town to conduct business in the City of Gainesville. And to make our point we signed the petition counter this heinous and ugly referendum.

The best part of the trip down and return was the conversation and discussions we had with our friends. She was thanking me for being who I am that because of my example of living as Sarah and having some responsibility in organizing the PFLAG chapter, it gave her partner the courage to transition. That tidbit brought tears to my eyes and a warmth to my heart.

Thank you for making this day as special as it was.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Treating GID in Children, Who's right?

How do we talk to parents who have children that have identified as transgender and the parents are confused as to how to explain or deal with them. With the global awareness of the rise in numbers of children being treated for Gender Identity Disorder or how ever Child Psychologists label transgender children, how do we respect the child’s basic rights and needs as we decide how to treat them? As we see and hear about more children raising this basic questions concerning their gender identity, who has the more appropriate treatment.

In the news recently are more two stories describe two opposing methods of treatments. Letting the sons or daughters be the person they feel most comfortable being. Or letting parents override the discomforts of a child’s body image and encourage or force them to ‘accept’ the gender they were born with.

There is a story in the National Catholic Register (issue 07-06-08), a Catholic newspaper that tell of a young boy of the Carson family who shows a gender preference for girlish things and how he is ‘cured’ through pressure from Catholic Psychologist to readjust his gender image to his sex at birth.

In my opinion, what is really sad is the position of the Catholic Church takes on the issue of addressing and treating children who insist they were born into the wrong bodies.

“Effective therapy brings to an end the suffering of these children; hormones and surgery do not,” said Richard Fitzgibbons, a Catholic psychiatrist in Conshohocken, Pa., who has counseled many individuals with Gender Identity Disorder to appreciate the bodies they were born in”.

The article from the Catholic Register further cites:

Catholic mental-health professionals opt for another approach, one they say has a proven record of helping kids overcome confusion about their gender identity.
Does anyone have statistics on these children later in life? If they have been using this approach for years then there should be some way to monitor how these children have adjusted to not transitioning and dealing with the inner conflicts. For whose happiness are these adults pursuing this approach to dealing with Gender Identity Disorder?

“It has been really hard going sometimes,” says Ben’s father, and he foresees more effort ahead, especially when Ben hits his teens. But he also sees enormous progress in his son.
“He’s so much happier,” Ben’s father said. “If you saw my son today, you would think he is a well-adjusted happy boy.”

What are the criteria that the father uses to measure just how ‘well-adjusted happy boy’ he should be? And if his health professional’s approach determines that he has overcome these feelings of being transgender, why is he so apprehensive about the future years when he is a teenager? Do they assume there should be a concerted effort in his mental health therapy?

Then the opposite argument for treatment comes from the November issue of The Atlantic with this article.

A Boy’s Life; by Hanna Rosin
“Since he could speak, Brandon, now 8, has insisted that he was meant to be a girl. This summer, his parents decided to let him grow up as one. His case, and a rising number of others like it, illuminates a heated scientific debate about the nature of gender—and raises troubling questions about whether the limits of child indulgence have stretched too far.”
Yeah, it is fixable,” piped up another mom, who’d been on the 20/20 special. “We call it the disorder we cured with a skirt.”

GID, the disorder we can cure with a skirt! Isn’t that amazing! There is a line in the movie TransAmerica where the main character is trying to make her psychologist understand that her “mental illness” can be cured with surgery. Cured with a skirt!

“Around the world, clinics that specialize in gender-identity disorder in children report an explosion in referrals over the past few years. Dr. Kenneth Zucker*, who runs the most comprehensive gender-identity clinic for youth in Toronto, has seen his waiting list quadruple in the past four years, to about 80 kids—an increase he attributes to media coverage and the proliferation of new sites on the Internet. Dr. Peggy Cohen-Kettenis, who runs the main clinic in the Netherlands, has seen the average age of her patients plummet since 2002.”

*Dr Zucher, uses Reparative Therapy, to help the child become comfortable in their birth sex.

My transition happened late in my life, and it was my indecision about what would happen to my family, how my brother and sisters would react, how my mother would come to see me. My hesitation to make the transition from my birth sex to Sarah and becoming happy and comfortable with my new female self was for many imagined reasons that failed to come to fruition.

My life is my life and not like other sisters who transition much earlier than I, for their own reasons. But if I could go back in my life, I would have searched for a way to delay the effects and onset of male hormones in order that my body features would be more feminine and less masculine;’ as I’m sure the children who are being treated by the Catholic Mental Health Psychologist, who must still feel the tug of their true lives.

But it’s the confused parents, the Dr. Zucher’s of the world and the Mental Health Professional under the guise of the Catholic Church who must be persuaded to support the decisions of the gender confused child; to let them be comfortable with themselves in what ever gender they choose; without the fear and pressure to be like every other boy or girl.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Brave, Courageous, Hero, Valor

All of these words began to run through my mind, when I began to hear the story of Fr. Geoff Farrow last week. Fr. Geoff is a Roman Catholic priest in California who had been instructed in a pastoral letter from his bishop to direct his congregation to vote "yes" on Proposition 8. A "yes" vote would take away the right of same sex couples in California to marry.

The pastoral letter from the bishop and the question from a parishioner, “at what point do you cease to be an agent for healing and growth and become an accomplice of injustice,” caused a moral dilemna for Fr. Geoff. I can only imagine the kind of thoughts and questions that must have run through his mind.

Father Geoff's decision was to support same sex marriage. On October 4, this is part of his address to his parish:
I do not presume to tell you how to vote but I do ask that you pray to the Creator of us all. Think and consider the effects of your vote on others, especially minorities in our society who are sitting next to you in church, and at work. The act of casting a vote takes you a few minutes but it can cause other human beings untold happiness or sorrow for a lifetime. It can grant them hope and acceptance, or it can cause them to lose civil rights. It can be a rebuff to bigotry and hatred, or it can encourage bigotry and hatred. Personally, I am morally compelled to vote “NO” on Proposition 8. It is my hope that the people of California will join with those others around the world such as Canada, Europe and South Africa who welcome their gay and lesbian family members fully into society by granting them the civil right to marry.

I know these words of truth will cost me dearly. But to withhold them, would be far more costly and I would become an accomplice to a moral evil that strips gay and lesbian people not only of their civil rights but of their human dignity as well. Jesus said, “The truth will set you free.” He didn't promise that it would be easy or without personal cost to speak that truth.


Father Geoff has been removed as the pastor of his church by his bishop. I'm pretty sure that it won't end there for him. The cost will be great.

There has been an outpouring of support from the LGBT community and their friends and families for Fr. Geoff through comments on his blog. He has also received heartbreaking stories from the damage caused to LGBT's by so many churches. I cannot help but think that his stand may have begun healing for some hurt by the church.

I have decided that if I had to choose one word to describe Fr. Geoff it would be the word "valor" The definition for valor is "strength of mind or spirit that enables a person to encounter danger with firmness : personal bravery." Seems like that describes Father Geoff to me.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Busy Week

For a couple who are both retired, our weeks are not spent rocking on the back porch or doing a little gardening. Last Monday Kay had a doctor’s appointment in Gainesville, Fl. Tuesday started quiet with plans to getting together with some of the other women of the church to work on the quilt. Before we even started, we got a call that one of the women had a flat tire on I 75, we met her on the expressway, change the tire, decide we will work from her house; drive back to church get quilt items and lunch and spend rest of the day working on quilt, playing with dogs and children. That evening we had a meeting of the church women to finalize plans for our church fall festival; we notice the host Ms Lynn looks a little greenish yellow.

Wednesday, I go early in the morning to have car serviced, Kay and friend had taken Ms. Lynn to her doctor’s appointments, I meet with them and Kay at doctors building; we take Ms. Lynn to other appointments. We pick up older from school for her piano lesson, and take her home before Wednesday Church services; we meet others friends while they have supper, then go to Church. Thursday, Kay and I go back to Gainesville Fl., for my follow up appointment, learn that Ms Lynn has been admitted to hospital for surgery; get back in town to go to a presentation by the Grassroots Media Tour at a local eatery. Friday, we meet at the Church at 9:45 am and spend all day working on the quilt and watching an 11 month old and a three year old; quit around 4 pm because we are exhausted and the other woman had to leave earlier and get her son as he gets off the school bus.

But Saturday, we clean the house because we have invited three couples over for supper. What is so wonderful for our friends who are married, two have adopted younger boys and one has accepted an older child as a foster child, with the intent to adopt him, the younger couple and just getting to know each. What makes our friends so special is that in the four couples sitting at the table, one of the partners in each of the relationships is transgendered.

What a wonderful evening we had, four couples, three children, three dogs; all comfortable where they are or where they are going. It was wild, loud, lots of good laughter, great food and a good blueberry cobbler to end the evening. And I wouldn’t have spend the day it any other way; I might back off a little on the week before, but it’s just as important to care for others as it is to treat ourselves to life’s wonderful pleasures. Having good friends over for an evening of food and laughter; sharing time with loud and happy boys and dogs, trying desperately to avoid children.

This is not the typical week, but we don’t really mind the noise and dirty dishes when the evening’s over, not when we have shared great memories of screaming children and barking dogs running and chasing each other through out the house. That’s reason enough to be thankful there are so many in our lives.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Families; who's included

My last post reminded me of a discussion Kay and I had on the way down to my last appointment with Dr. Mast. This appointment went very well, my next appointment is in two months and then we will determine when I will do the nipple reconstruct and the tattooing of the areola in another two months or so. It seems that the strap did its job and the Dr’s only instruction was for me to massage the implants to prevent scar tissue from forming around the implants and to continue apply the cocco butter to the scars. I’m sure, Kay will be more than happy to follow my doctor’s instructions for me. He was VERY happy with the results of the surgery and said they looked much better than he had anticipated.
Anyway Kay and I were talking about Southern Comfort and how much it seemed to be a religious experience for us. How amazing it can be when 850 people can get together and be an accepting family, not caring if or how you worshipped but letting us worship as we feel the need. How such a varied mix of members of a family can find ways to discuss issues without fear of rejection and anger that many of us receive in our own Church family. How our gathering is like a great big coffee hour after services when we all get to meet and greet and chat about what is important to us.
Why can’t our church leaders see and learn from the GLBT community in building accepting church communities? Why is it so difficult for some church leaders to listen to our spiritual needs and our important voices? If God judges what we do is not what he intended, then that is a judgment only God can make. God told man not to be make judgments of people but to accept them. To treat our neighbors as we wanted to be treated. And by the way some of us have been treated by our Christian brothers makes me wonder just how bad some people treat them selves; much less how they treat our GLBT family members.

Trans Lessons Learned

It’s been a week since Kay and I went to Atlanta and Southern Comfort to Celebrate Life. I really wasn’t sure what I would see or hear at the conference, but my reasons for going were to learn how to be a better advocate for myself and for others. Just having some time to mull things over helps me put them into some sort of perspective. As it has been 4 years since my ‘coming out’ my reasons for attending So Co might be different than other sisters who are not living full time or are dedicated cross-dressers. For me it was to deepen my religious connections and find more ways to be a stronger example to the glbt community at home. So I attended seminars such as: “Transgender Spiritual Traditions”, “Two Nice Girls say the F Word: Trans and Feminism”, “Transition and Spirituality” and “Transgender Events as Community Builders” on Thursday. On Friday, Kay went to Jenny Boylan’s “Writing Transgender Memoir” while I heard Donna Rose discuss “Finding Balance in your T-ness” and then I heard Dr. Marci Bowers discuss her procedure for One-Stage GRS. WOW! Then again we went to hear Jenny give a reading and talk about her new book. She is such a down to earth person and funny; I hear that she is writing children's books. Saturday was spent learning ways to build community allies and working for justice. There was so much more to do but you only have time for so little.
The most awesome adventure for us was meet some wonderfully happy and courageous people, and being able to listen to each others stories. Now that was inspiring!! The whole extended weekend was a boost for Kay, Rebecca and I as we begin to promote the newly formed PFLAG group that we started in our area. We have been overwhelmed by the great response and support we have received. Creating a place of safety and support is paramount in letting people be them selves, without anyone trashing them for being who they are. We are excited about the possibilities and the future growth and support for all glbt people and our allies in our community.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

My Liberal Breed

This would be me. I am not really Daily Show fanatic but I do believe that comedians can have a powerful influence in pointing to the truth in most any situation.

How to Win a Fight With a Conservative is the ultimate survival guide for political arguments

My Liberal Identity:

You are a New Left Hipster, also known as a MoveOn.org liberal, a Netroots activist, or a Daily Show fanatic. You believe that if we really want to defend American values, conservatives must be exposed, mocked, and assailed for every fanatical, puritanical, warmongering, Constitution-shredding ideal for which they stand.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Atlanta's Bright Lights

Oh My God!!!! I feel like a teenage fan, screaming at just the sight of her biggest idols. OK, meeting Jennifer Boylan and Donna Rose was like the most fab thing I have ever gotten to do. The only level of excitement in my life that could match this is the half hour I got to chat with Bob Hope back in 1979. He was doing a benefit and the Army Band I was stationed with was asked to be his back up band; I’m sure that Mr. Schultz, the Warrant Officer, probably met him in Vietnam and was able to pull a few strings. I know, I Know---that was a long time ago, but to hear him talk about his many years doing USO shows for the soldiers who were serving our nation overseas during the holidays was awesome and humbling. And he was a lot shorter that I thought he was.
Anyway, getting to meet and talk with Jennifer and Donna was the highlight of the week for me. Kay and I thought that Jenny was a hoot during her ‘reading session’ and we thought how awesome it would be to attend one of her college lectures, (I’ve got a great picture of them together). As this was our first time going to Southern Comfort, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I got an eye full. We had opportunities to hear great presentations and forceful and exciting speakers during lunch times, (go to Kay’s links in her post). If you need a spiritual and emotional lift to step out of the closet, then come and immerse yourself in the atmosphere of the next conference.
What blew Kay and I away was the number of young people who were there with their partners. How courageous and yet normal they were. It was awesome to hear how they are stepping up and out and as advocates, pushing Universities to treat everyone with dignity and respect for who they are. Pushing for appropriate dorm rooms, pushing for policy change by just standing up for themselves and being recognized as trans students. We met some wonderful people just having a chance to be true to themselves; lots of happy sisters their partners and a few angry significant others.
As people who didn’t party too much, Kay and I were in our rooms each night at a reasonable hour. Overall I would encourage sisters to go to one of the trans gatherings near you; and have a good time. You’ll be overwhelmed by the love of new friends that are ready to help you have a great week.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Post Southern Comfort

I kept telling people Southern Comfort was not what I expected but I wasn't sure what I expected. A conversation with a friend this afternoon cleared up for me what I might have been expecting when she said, "thank goodness you were able to avoid all the drag queens and kings." In retrospect, I guess that is what I was expecting......people way over dressed with extreme dress prevailing. That was not what Southern Comfort was about. I kept telling Sarah the range of people I saw was what I saw when I had attended women's health conferences in the past. People with lots of different styles of dress. A few may have been a little exaggerated but that was definitely in the minority.

Sarah and I had the best time!! Some of the workshops we attended were Transgender Spiritual Traditions, Transgender and Spirituality, Writing Your Transgender Memoir, Telling Our Stories, Raising Our Southern Voices: Transgender Activism in a (Sometimes) Hostile Region. If you are really interested in what all the workshops are you can find them here and quite a few more.

We met well known transgender people: Donna Rose, a transgender activist and author; Jennifer Boylan, a transgender English professor who has written several books; Mara Keisling, the Executive Director for the National Center for Transgender Equality and Cole Thaler, a lawyer with Lambda Legal. We met a lot of transgender people who were not so well known but were just as wonderful! We exchanged lots of email addresses and hope to keep contact with a fabulous group of people.

The only thing that I attended that did not live up to my expectations was the Comfort Zone, a group for SOFFA (significant others, friends, family and allies) of MTF trangender women. I qualified for the group as a wife of a MTF. The group was predominately made up of wives of cross dressers with about 4 of us being partners or wives of transgender people. One of the wives had found out within the past year that her husband was transgender and had gone directly into transition. She was unhappy but it sounded like they didn't have the best relationship before transition. There were two other women and me who were really happy in our relationships. It appears we all left before the meeting was over. The next morning Sarah and met two young women who had not been eligible for the group since their partners were FTM. They were in happy relationships. We exchanged email address and may try to put something on the internet for happy partners and wives of trans people.

Another highlight was the workshop on community building presented by Lance Helms, regional director of PFLAG and Rev. Paul Turner, pastor of Gentle Spirit Church. I just know we will be seeing more of them. We are going to try to have Rev. Turner and his group meet our PFLAG group on his way to Spring Conference in Orlando and provide a meal for them. These two men are incredible and spend their lives fighting for social justice and building community.

We met a college professor from north Georgia who had brought four students to Southern Comfort. We sat with them at lunch on Saturday. One of the young men asked Sarah and I to tell our story. So we obliged them. At the end of our story, the young man said, "that is a beautiful story!" We exchanged emails with the student and the professor. Many thanks to the professor and the students. A few more people now have faces to go with their ideas of what transgender is.

We are soooooooo grateful for all the wonderful people we met, all the things we learned and for the whole weekend. Yeahhhhhhhhhhhh life!!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Southern Comfort

Kay and I will be leaving tomorrow late morning for Southern Comfort this week and we are very excited as we will be first timers to this exciting convention. After looking at the schedules for all the lectures and clinics; its all too intense to figure out where to go and who to listen to. We are excited about meeting and making many new friend and allies.
Since our Anniversary and this conference seem to closely intertwine, this is our second big trip since we were married. I am excited to have the chance to meet Jenny Boylan and Donna Rose, two women who has done so much to promote and educate others. With our push to organize a new PFLAG group in our area, and taking opportunities to speak with several classes at the University to help educate and letting them meet someone who is trans and put a face on the movement, we are excited. Thank you Jenny and Donna for your example of leadership.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Second Wedding Anniversary

As our second wedding anniversary shines brightly on the horizon, and is less than two months away. I am looking forward to the rest of my life and with whatever joy and laughter emerge as I get to share them with my love, my Kay. Change is always good and exciting and wonderful. Having someone who truly enjoys the same activities and interests is so gratifying, that sometimes it just seems so surreal. I have been truly happy for these two beautiful years, getting to share my love for music and the arts; having the laughter of children filling the sadness that had accumulated during the somber years before my first marriage ended. Being asked to be God Mothers to a beautiful child is mine and Kay’s greatest and most precious moment for us as the Two Ladies of the Church.
I have, with some difficulties, accepted the unexpected from Kay, of needing to go ‘adventuring’ if you will. Just take a drive, no place particular in her mind, but in an attempt to keep some sense of control, I will immediately think of a place in whatever direction we begin our little drive. We always have load of surprises when we just go! We discover wonderful sights, meet interesting people, talk about what is or isn’t on our minds at the moment; just enjoying the opportunity to get out into the country. I never know where and how we will go but I am beginning to love the ‘unknowing’ part of the journey. Love can be shared in many different ways and forms and marriage is the joining of two hearts into one. And ours combined and linked hearts let us share and spread the love God has given to us to all, who accept us or turn away from us.
My first marriage happened very quickly, we were reacquainted on her birthday in January, and by mid February we thought our relationship had progressed and we announced our engagement with the wedding to be in August the same year. Maybe it was a little quick, I had just been discharged from my first Army enlistment, and I was anxious to take the next step. It was years filled with schooling, moving, reenlisting and being relocated for the interest of the US Army. During those years we had three children and were involved in helping them expand their interests. Since we lived in Germany we were able to travel and experience a lot of music, and art and culture, architecture in old building and churches and Roman ruins, not possible to see or find in the US. But our family unity began to break down and we sort of went our separate ways; you could call it dysfunctional if you will. A lot of the tension between my wife and I and the children as they grew older; they recognized and reacted to the family ‘secret’ of learning who I was.
How do you adequately explain to your children your desire to transition to a woman; when you yourself don’t know how to explain it; and I never gotten any help from the psychologist or counselors that I talked with before I met with Dr. Martha. I was stumbling blind when it came to discussing my ethereal feelings with my children and for that I am very sorry, and hope that one day they will understand and forgive me. I can’t ask them to openly accept me, but if they could say they understand the reasons for all the anger and hurt that I have caused them; then I would be a most grateful and humbled parent to give them the same love that we give to the children that fill our house with such joy and laughter and acceptance.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Hearing God's Acceptance

Hearing that elusive voice
This is from Lindsey’s post that to hear God’s voice gives us direction in our lives; that he stands with us and wants us to spread the Word.
Do just some people have this moment when they are called by God because he has a task for them? Do many people get their moment with God when they have been beaten down? Do people know how to listen and hear his voice over the din of noise blasting around them? Do you need a quiet place to hear God talking with you?
It took years of stumbling and praying before my moment of God’s acknowledgment of my struggle and hearing his assurances that everything would be OK; that he loved me.
I tried many times to lay all my fears at the foot of the Cross, with the good intentions to turning everything over to him. Of the Many times that I attempted to turn over all my troubles I was juggling; in the back on my mind was always some small fractured truth that I didn’t really trust myself, didn’t really believe that it would work. Maybe a little bit of fear that he would answer my prayers in some other convoluted way. And so I would always come away from that ‘giving up’ moment knowing that I couldn't really give up these feelings.
My ‘burning bush’ moment happened one Sunday evening during one of the study lessons of the ‘Alpha Program’ a course designed by Nicky Gumbel to facilitate group discussions and ask real questions about Christianity. Anyway we were watching the lesson video for the evening and being a little tired, I sort of dozed off for a few minutes.
The rest of the story was that my ex’s mother had passed away just a few weeks earlier and I wasn’t asked to join the family at her passing; but I did attend the family viewing and memorial services the next day. Well I had been dozing for just a few moments when Faye, my ex’s mother, appeared in my half conscience dream and told me that she loved me and that everything would be alright. As she started to move toward me I felt her give me a gentle kiss on the cheek; at the same instant Faye’s face changed into that of a man’s face with long hair and a good beard. There was such a feeling of peace and calm that charged through my whole being, that I was almost certain of a strong heavenly vision had just overcame me.
That was the moment of God revealing his elusive voice that showed my path in life was to live as transgendered. It is to educate and meet people and let them know we are all God’s chosen children and to share his love to everyone, foes as well as the people we must still meet. I have not heard such a strong and loud voice since that wonderful night, but I have felt His hand or some guiding force protecting my life several time; the last almost tragic moment was the day before my surgery and while we were in our car and making a turn, another car came within a foot of slamming into the drivers side; now that must be the hand of God watching over us, protecting us, giving us life to do his work in spreading the good news that to be gay or transgendered is also to be one of his own.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Being Transgender in a Small Town

Dr. Jillian T. Weiss writes in her post as to the legal ramifications of the landmark federal decision on transgender in the decision made by Judge James Robertson.

“The Judge's reasoning goes directly to the heart one of the major concerns of employers of transgender people: whether customers and clients will take their business elsewhere. As a capitalist nation, our society is based on the proposition that our government should interfere as little as possible, consistent with public safety, with businesses. I have spoken to many employers about this issue, and they have often raised concerns about losing business, and have assumed that such concerns would justify dismissal of transgender persons, or moving transgender personnel to non-customer-facing positions (if available), without violating the law. Judge Robertson's ruling demonstrates that employers cannot safely make such assumptions.”

While I see this as having a dramatic affect within corporations and large companies with subsidiaries across the US making allowances for employees who decide to transition within the companies they work; I can not see how it will affect those of us who are not presently employed in obtaining employment with companies in the more rural regions of the country. As someone who transitioned at the same time I lost my job because of restructuring within the company; not having legally changed my name on important documents, I experience a wide practice of stealth discrimination, perpetuated by the personnel who are responsible for hiring new employees. I strongly believed there were several reasons that I was never offered an employment opportunity, i.e. age, education, experience as well as being transgendered. But it was nothing that I could prove or substantiate, since I never was asked back for a follow up interview. With the country having a high national unemployment rates, it lets small companies to medium size chose new hires from the large pool of the unemployed; if someone doesn’t work out to the companies standards, there are lines of entry level replacements itching to be hired. Why should a company hire or pay more for an older person with more experience and education than the person doing the hiring who could cause problems with the younger generation and/or the company. I also suggest or could imply that I was being slammed by some in middle management who choose to exercise their religious morals and/or prejudices when confronted by those of us who do not conform to their beliefs; they appoint themselves as the companies moral gatekeepers against those who’s lives and morals they judge and think, might corrupt the company and drive their customers away. Or their obligations to make quick moral judgments are directed from upper management.
I know of more transwomen who are being discriminated against with job opportunities or on the job than the transmen, who I know, are more easily accepted because their gender presentation matches the ‘male model’ idea.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Surgery progress

Being laid up sick or otherwise is not for me, I hate having to stay in bed for anything. I do better if I can get up and sit in a chair with something to do. Even in the mornings I can lie in the bed for very long because it really begins to make my hips hurt and I can’t get into a comfortable position for very long. Well to make matters worse Kay and I have both had a round with a viral infection which among other symptoms my Kay’s joint hurt; my joint hurt almost all the time so that part wasn’t so bad, but I did have to take to the bed yesterday afternoon. I JUST HATE BEING SICK. But this morning I feel much better. I still am not supposed to do any heavy or strenuous lifting, which means for me that I must refrain from any of my normal daily activities.
Well it’s been one week since my surgery and everything is hanging out there. I am still wearing the elastic band at least 20 hours a day; it actually helps with the discomfort of my right breast sometimes. I am aware that this breast is a little sensitive and irritated from being rubbed by the clothes I wear, and I really notice this irritation in the morning. I would say that I get overjoyed looking down watching the water cascade over the end of my nipple when I take my morning showers. I can not be happier with the results of the reconstruction and the expansion.
If the cancer had not attacked my body those 3 ½ years ago and I could have continued with my HRT as planned, I truly believe that I would have developed to a good “C” cup and I could have become comfortable with my body as my breast slowly developed. We don’t notice how people or life changes on a daily basis; and when we visit a relative or friend only once in a while we can see how much they have grown. It is still amazing to wake up the morning after surgery and immediate see your equally proportioned breasts that weren’t there the day before.
So I am still excited and filled with joy when I pass a mirror and can see how a top, or dress or a nightgown fits. I still am looking forward to shopping for my new bra’s.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Transgender and Religious Acceptance

As far as the teaching that is found in Holy Scripture, I had blindly accepted the interpretations of the Catholic Priests in their weekly sermons. I myself had actually never really read the Bible all the way through, but during my years going to Mass, I have heard the major portions that had been deemed of great importance. As a cradle Catholic, I mindlessly placed my beliefs in the wake of all those who adhered to and profess the true meanings of the teaching of the church.
I slowly realized that my Church and its teaching and interpretations that I had been raised with had been hijacked. Or maybe it was that I wasn’t able to follow the letter of the teaching in my personal married life. I began to see that the Catholic Church, The One True Church, did not accept all of God’s ‘chosen’ people. Not just the fact that I had had a vasectomy after the birth of my third child; that was my choice to have this done in order to not have my wife endure another procedure that could threaten her life. So really I was Catholic, but not a strict observer of all her dictates.
After I declared myself to be Episcopalian and a transsexual, it only reaffirmed my religious belief that I only accepted the true person that God knew I was. Being involved with the Episcopal group, Integrity; which was for GLBT members? The Psalm Passage that was their motto became my motto; which is from the Episcopal 1982 Book of Common Prayer: Psalm 84:11 “No good thing will the Lord withhold from those who walk with integrity.” This was my personal message from God, telling me that I, who accepted this challenge of being transgender, was His challenge to me; I was still one of his ‘people’.
If one were to read the text to the old Church Hymn, Just as I am, with the text by one Charlotte Elliott, beginning at the third verse of the Hymn,

3 Just as I am, poor, wretched, blind; sight, riches, healing of the mind, yea all I need, in thee to find, O Lamb of God, I come, I come,
4 Just as I am; thou wilt receive; wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve, because thy promise I believe, O Lamb of God, I come, I come.
5 Just as I am, thy love unknown has broken every barrier down; now to be thine, yea, thine alone, O Lamb of God, I come, I come.
6. Just as I am, of thy great love the breadth, length, depth and height to prove, here for a season, then above: O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

through the mind and eyes of someone who has been pushed to the edge because they are different; they hold these words in their hearts wanting to believe the truth of this beautiful poem, hoping that a church, their church would make them true by their actions.
However, as strongly as the Psalm passage and the old Hymn speaks of acceptance of all God’s children, it was the Reading of last Sunday from the Letter to the Romans, by Paul that really give me and for the people who have been excluded by the more evangelical church’s, this simple message of acceptance for the 21 Century, even though this letter by Paul was written in the 1st Century BC is for your ears to hear and your mind to accept.
The Reading begins at the 14th Chapter:
Romans 14:1-12
1 Welcome those who are weak in faith, but not for the purpose of quarreling over opinions… 3... and those who abstain must not pass judgment on those who eat; for God has welcomed them. 4 Who are you to pass judgment on servants of another? It is before their own lord that they stand or fall. And they will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make them stand…………
10 Why do you pass judgment on your brother or sister? Or you, why do you despise your brother or sister? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God.
11 For it is written, "As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall give praise to God." 12 So then, each of us will be accountable to God.

“Who are you to pass judgment on servants of another? It is before their own lord that they stand or fall.”
Our task in life is not to judge, our task is to live out our own beliefs, even if those beliefs are not based on the Christian ideals; it is not ours to judge, “12 So then, each of us will be accountable to God”; the religious beliefs that I chose to believe in, is to place myself at the feet and mercy of my God; and only my God. We can not change the minds or beliefs that those of such narrow-mindedness, or "My Way or no way" of thinking of the single religious state. I endure the hateful Name Calling, Taunting, harassment, finger point, blaming natural disaster on God’s furious Anger toward Man, of the religious right, is just as powerful as control mesure as the mindless numbing reactive destructive power that Hitler manager to exhort over the German People; and just as dangerous to religious freedoms.
We have divided our treasured “United States of America” into regions of political division for ‘Red’ and ‘Blue’. Would we go any further by dividing our United States into regions of religions, as in “Christianity, being further divided by the ‘Protestant’ and those of the ‘Apostolic’ tradition? Of course there must be separate regions for the American Jewish faith, the Muslims, the Buddhists, the Native American and those of Mother Earth; do we also divide our country into regions of ‘Heterosexual, Binary Gender—that is ‘male and female’ defined by chromosomal testing, with the rest of the country made up of “the others” into and among the above specified division? If we must travel through these distinct and diversified regions should we need a 'passport' or a 'safe travel voucher' in order to do so? I am of the mind that the great divisions that is rocking our great Country will never be so insanely divided.
Why does it bother us so that the great ‘Declaration of Independence’ Documents which created these United States of America guarantees it’s citizens the inalienable rights to believe in their own and distinct god, and worship as they chose.

Forgiveness Then What

I have been doing some soul searching lately. After all the turmoil in our church earlier in the year, I was emotionally bruised and angry. Finally, after much prayer, I was able to pronounce forgiveness for those causing the commotion. Earlier this week I read Debra Haffner's blog which gave me more perspective. Then this past Sunday's lessons were on forgiveness. What is going on? Why are these things popping up in front of me? Obviously, there is more to all this for me.

I think I have discovered what is bothering me. Once you forgive some one, you must find a way forward and my way forward is being hampered by the knowledge that certain behavior is unlikely to change for some of the individuals involved in the ruckus. Past experience, not only in our case but others as well, can bring this disruptive behavior back into play for some of these individuals. So my question is, "how do I go forward from this point? Does forgiveness imply trust, especially when the behavior seems to present a pattern?

No, I'm not a child. Yes, I have been in situations before when trusts have been violated and was able to deal with it effectively. I think the problem for me is that it happened in church and that is making it a little more difficult for me.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Transition Life-Post Surgery

Now that I am post drug induced I can say with a clear head that the surgery was not as bad as I had imagined it to be; and I was silly to have worked myself into quite a lather of jangled nerves. Now that I’m in the post-op recovery stage, the most irritating part is that I must wear an elastic band across the top of my chest to keep the new implants where there are suppose to stay; we don’t want them moving up to who knows where. My post-surgery instructions was for me to sleep on my back, elevated; which I normally can not do for very long periods and thus I roll to one side or the other. Sleeping on my right side lets me snuggle against Kay and is very comforting; help put me back to sleep.
I don’t want to sound as if I am bragging about my ‘perky breast’, but I would only like to say that to transition for GID at such an older age does have it few advantages. The changes to which your body quickly adjusts to, is like a young girls; I think. It’s like you get your ‘do over’ with your body and thus you have perky breast. Even though I was helped along with medical technology, my new female skin is still fresh and resilient; to a point. I just started growing mine later than yours. IF I had known that I could have undergone Genital Reassignment Surgery 40 years ago I am not sure if I could have tired; emotionally I was not in a supporting family who would have even understood what I felt. But I wouldn’t want to try and turn back time now, because of where I am and how good my life is.
It’s not just me that would be changed; but my three children would never exist or my two grandchildren. My life is much fuller by watching and being with my children as they grew up and become responsible adults; these experiences are real and I will cherish each and every memory I have with them. There is no way that I would or even could deny their chance at life, because they are good ‘children’; and now their lives as adults are what each has made of their chances; with their own lives connected by the family threads of life.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Post Surgery Day Two

Sarah had her surgery Wednesday and she is doing really well. She seems to be having very little pain with the help of pain relievers and muscle relaxants. She is up and around the house.

I really worry about Sarah after a surgery because she becomes impatient with herself needing to restrict activities. She sometimes will do things that she is clearly not supposed to do. As the staff in the doctor's office saw Sarah on Thursday, I asked each one to tell Sarah what "light activity" meant. Just so you won't think I am being overly cautious............Sarah had back problems for which she had to have injections in her back. Had this not worked she would have to have had surgery. During this time, she dug a hole in the back yard and for a fish pool and laid rocks around it!!

So far, Sarah is following her "light activity" order very well. I think the possibility of having something go wrong with her breasts is keeping her in line.

We are working with some other women at our church to make a quilt for our Fall Festival coming up in November. We usually work together on Fridays. This morning one of the women came by our house to pick up the materials for the quilt. She thought she would be the only one working on the quilt so we invited her stay and work here (everything was already set up on the dining room table). She and her two children stayed. A little later, one of the other women called and she came by too. Sarah worked with them sewing some quilt pieces together. After a while, I noticed that Sarah looked really tired so I suggested she lie down for a while. She took a nap and woke up a while later refreshed.

We enjoyed the moms and kids this morning. I think it kept Sarah occupied so she was not tempted to try to do things she shouldn't.

Sarah is so pleased with her breasts. She looked down at her chest this morning to the sight of her new breasts and said, "this is something I never thought I would see." She is very happy and I am very happy for her.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

My Surgery

Since my appointment was for o700 hrs, we sure the hell was not going to drive down to Gainesville Wednesday morning which is a 1:45 min drive. We had booked a room at a nice motel (yureep, yureep scary movie) anyway it was a room and had hot running water. The first room we had a problem with the second lock, it wouldn’t. So they put us in another room and we got little sleep. We rented a room just to make it easier is something went wrong after the surgery and we need to go to a hospital. We walked in the building doors at 0730hrs and it was one the technician from the surgery suite. We were taken immediately up to the 3rd floor and taken back to the prep room where we talked with the anesthesiologist and signed other papers. The Dr wanted to remark my breast to make sure he got them pretty close in size. Kay asked him that since I was an older woman could he make them droopier; Dr. said that that wasn’t possible that I would have perky breast when he was finished and he has never had anyone ask that question before. The IV was put in my wrist and I was walked across the hall and laid on the table (it looked like a cross, no kidding) and the oxygen mask was slipped over my face and that is all I remember until I woke up.
I don’t think I cussed or threatened the nurse when she was waking me up as I had done after another procedure and I remember being taken to the bathroom to pee and giving the nurse a thumbs up. I do remember telling Kay that I felt like being hit be a Mac Truck; OMG was I sore and HURTING LIKE HELL! But that was before I took my pain meds (wonderful things) I remember the car ride but not how I got dressed or taken to the car. Kay put me into bed and I slept most of t he afternoon away and would have to get up to go pee. I did that a lot! I slept until the early afternoon when Kay fixed me a bowl of Chicken Broth… wuz it every gooood!! Later she fixed me a bowl of tomato soup; we discovered that there had been a little bleeding from the incision of the left breast; the one they did a breast augmentation on, but it didn’t spread.
I had my recheck this afternoon where we replace the bandages and gave me more rest instructions; Dr Mast was very pleased with they way each turned out. I go back in two weeks for another recheck. I'm a 60 year old woman with perky boobs; and they are a full "C" or small "D". I can work with these girls...

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Surgery in the morning

In waiting for my surgery tomorrow morning, I have found my emotions to be in a light fog. There are tasks and things I should be doing which would help keep my mind occupied, but I can’t bring myself to doing them. So here I sit with butterflies and scrambled nerves. The sum total of my experiences with hospitals and with being put under anesthesia has been for the breast cancer surgeries. For my biopsy and the mastectomy I was a little anxious but I was more mad and angry at my body because it turned against me than being afraid of the surgery. There was hardly any lingering pain from the biopsy; while waiting for my results I also had to schedule and wait for the mastectomy. I have read where the hospital can get results of the biopsy quickly back to the doctor in order to go ahead and do the follow up surgery while you are still of the table. That would most certainly be the less expensive route for insurances purposes.
For the next three years I just tried to adapt with my prosthesis; which was a great substitute for the breasts, but the thrill of wearing “dd”s slowly wore off. So when I finally found the plastic surgeon who agreed to do my reconstruction and augmentation I was ecstatic and was very excited to go under the knife. But this final surgery involves more body tissue than ever before; and while I found that I could help Kay with my recovery after the mastectomy, that surgery only involved the one side with my weakened arm.
I am not one to lie around very much, which means that I will try and do more than I could or that I should after this surgery. But I have Kay who will help me get around; can't beat a personal nurse to look after you.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Under the Knife

On Sunday I will have just 3 more days until my breast reconstruction is completed. I should have had my surgery this past week but we were going to New Orleans for the Many Stories, One Voice, and symposium; didn’t work out that way thanks to the Gustav.
Kay says that I can’t pass a mirror without looking at by breast and the cleavage. God, I have cleavage again, not that I had much after a year on hormones but it was a start. Then I endured the scar and divot of the mastectomy for 2 years. But in just 3 days time my body shape will be changed again, can’t wait. My surgeon keeps telling me that I will have better results than most candidates do with this surgery; but also there going to be a good deal of pain with the other side after they do the implants. Hell, I have waited more that 50 years to get a pair of breasts, I guess that a few more days and some pain will be worth all this.
I am looking toward that day when I can finally put all by breast forms and stuffing in a box and put it in back in the closet. And then I can go shopping for bra’s that will show off my new girls. They’ve been a long time a coming.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Married, filing jointly

It has only been 5 ½ months since Kay and I filed our federal and state tax returns using our legal names. Even with the name change that happened in June 07, we used Turbo Tax and filed electronically; we got our federal tax return within a week or two. After waiting for our Georgia State return for 4 ½ months, I finally was able to find an actual person to talk to and she assured me that I would get my return in a week or two.
Now we had no problem with the federal tax refund even with the name change, but the good State of Georgia was audibly silent on the matter. Nothing, no paperwork of any kind from Georgia. Squat! After calling the state again I talked to one of the clerks and he told me that there was a problem of a system discrepancy with my name. Now the new name of Sarah that is on my Georgia Motor Vehicle License, my Social Security Card, my Military Identification Card, were all changed in 2007. The clerk asked if I could fax them documentation which shows my legal name change. So I faxed them the court documents which were filed in June of 07 to him. I did use my birth name when we filed our federal and state taxes the year before because we had just been married in November of 06; but still the federal government had no problem with the name change.
The good state is quick to hound you if you ever make a mistake to your disadvantage and you owe them more money; they are real quick to make sure they get their money. But when they owe you money it will be a month of Sundays and longer before you can pull money from them. So now after 5 months of messages that your money will be sent within two weeks; I have finally got a new message that the state refund has or will be deposited in my checking account in the next few days. Thank you Jason! It’s a good thing that our federal refund and other payment came so quickly.
So the question is: Was the State of Georgia going to recognize our same-sex marriage or just question the name change?

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Just being natural

I live in the southern part of the state of Georgia, where the humidity and heat will curl your hair and melt your makeup, if you try to look your best for those candid appearances. But these days, it is just too hot and if I wear makeup I will have it wiped off by noon. So I just pull back my hair, to get it off my neck to aid in being cooler, ‘cause my system is constantly being overpowered by my hot flashes which causes me great consternation in looking presentable. Anyway, I have resigned myself to the fact that with the heat and humidity being what it usually is, I just throw on some lipstick and move on.

There have been several occasions where I have been looking as I just described and going though the drive-by to get a drink and while I wait for my drink I notice a parade of employees push and shove to file past the window to gawk at us. I am sure we peak their interest at just who or what I am as everyone pushes the others out of the way just to get a good look at us. Today, one of these quick lookers noticed my wedding band and commented on how pretty it was. Now just so that everyone knows, Kay and I are legally married and we have matching simple gold wedding bands; just like any ordinary couple who can’t afford babbles and jewels so, I am not sure what she noticed.

But back to the lookers; come to think about it, this pushing and shoving to stare at me or Kay and I, only happens at the drive-by fast food places that don’t have dining-in areas; humpt!!!! can’t explain this behavior. Maybe the people who work behind the counters at the fast food places with a dining-in area are more apt to look quickly while not having to leave their work station and I just don’t realize it.

Does it matter if they ‘read’ me? No, not really. I figure they are just guessing anyway and they will never find out; at least from me directly. I can’t think of any other situation when Kay and I are out and about that people knock others out of the way to just get a look at us. What does that say about the crude and rude people who work at places like that?