Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Reflection I see


who’s reflection do I see?

as I stand before this mirror

the image tis both clear and real, it cannot be me.

my mind’s own eye hast its own image clear

dressed and colored with prejudice free

who’s reflections do you see?

who’s reflections do I see?

this mirror cannot lie,

but shows a face full in imperfections

masked with colors sharp and clean

on skin with soft and subtle lines of age.

mine own vision, an aging beauty be.

who’s reflections do you see?

who’s reflections do I see?

the mirror sees only outside, not what’s within.

her time before the mirror is short, her pain hidden well

until others gladly welcomes the person she sees

her joy to share with all, her true reflections

only then can mirrors see the image she knows

is hidden until her true self is who you see?

As I stand before the mirror in the bathroom, the image I see reflecting back still does not match up with the image that I carry around in my mind. Going through the day without noticing my reflection I get a sense of false security, not seeing the stain on my blouse, how bad my hair has been messed up by the wind, or if I have small bits of food around my face, because I didn't wash up after I ate. You study other people, how they look at you with a quick smile, or you study how they put the clothes and accessories together, or the way they carry themselves. But because you can't see your face, you try to match the different images in your head with what you guess you look like.

For me, the image that I held in my mind was of a younger person with less wrinkles. I know and remember how I had dressed that morning; a woman or a man when I was living in the two worlds, if for some reason I wasn't able to see my body, I could very easily believe I was a different person, a snapshot of me from my past.

I still need to examine my reflections as a sort of pinch of reality. To assure myself that the woman looking back at me is really me. And I am very happy and contented to be who I am. The people I meet in the halls or the mall see and recognizes the person walking towards them is just another happy woman, doing what she need to get done. And I am happy with that thought.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Pre Op

Yesterday we went for a pre op appointment to begin Sarah's process for getting her breasts. We were both comfortable with the doctor Sarah found. All the insurance hurdles were cleared and she was scheduled for her pre op appointment on April 25. Neither of us slept very well the night before. She drove and I slept about half way down (it is about a 2 hour trip). She woke me up just as she was getting off the interstate and asked if that was the right exit. I agreed but I wasn't fully awake and it wasn't the correct exit. After getting thoroughly lost (I had fully awakened by now) Sarah made a phone call to the doctors office to get directions. We even managed to get more lost. She made a second phone call with me constantly interrupting to try to tell her she was giving the wrong street numbers.........actually I was the one that was wrong. We finally managed to get to the doctors office and we were even on time.

We saw the physician's assistant. She went over all the forms. Reviewed the procedure that the doctor had discussed previously and gave all the appropriate instructions. She was very friendly and helpful. We were in the doctors office and out in 30 minutes total.

I had made Sarah promise the day before we would not be in a hurry to get back home. I wanted a leisurely day. She had agreed. We usually have to hurry home after a doctor's appointment because of other commitments.

Sarah then had to do the hospital part of the pre op. It was about 11:30 a.m. but we decided to go on to the hospital and get all this over with. The lobby was full in the business registration area but the staff cleared out everyone amazingly fast. Then we were sent across the hall for lab work, EKG and the nurse. This was when we ran into the log jam. The lobby in this area was full and people appeared to know one another rather well. I don't even know how long we were in this area but it was a long time. Sarah finally had some blood drawn and we waited some more. The staff apologized profusely, gave out crackers and drinks to try to keep tempers down. Occasionally, people would be called to go somewhere else.

Finally Sarah's time came and we were called to go to the "great somewhere else." When we arrived in the next waiting room, there were ALL the people who had been called from the previous waiting room!! Everyone laughed when we walked in. We got to join in the laughter as others were occasionally brought in from the previous waiting room. Sarah finally had her EKG and we got called back to see a nurse (I actually hated to leave all the friends we had made in the lobby). This is where we found out the cause of log jam. The nurse was so slow and disorganized. She was also a real talker. We know her entire history including her oxygen level from night before when she had a sleep study (it was 70%). We finally got through with her and literally ran out of the hospital. We were starving.

We decided to go to the Olive Garden which was on the other side of town and it was rush hour. We got lost again. I shot my mouth off and almost got us killed in the traffic. We finally got in the Olive Garden and ordered our food which we inhaled.

We made a visit to one of the bookstores and headed home. I guess we got the leisurely day, unfortunately, it was spent in the 3 different lobbies in the hospital.

All in all, I know that it was a worthwhile day. Having breasts is something that Sarah has longed for. She was beginning to grow her breasts after starting hormones but unfortunately had breast cancer. She was scheduled for breast reconstruction after her mastectomy but that got derailed when she was referred to another plastic surgeon and the insurance threw a kink in things. Finally, she is on track!! Things are working out and the process has begun.

Almost all females look forward to the day their breasts begin to develop. I only had to wait until I was 10 years old. I cannot imagine having to wait more than 60 years!! Sarah has had to wait long enough.

Whatever your belief system, send prayers, healing energy, positive thoughts Sarah's way for good surgery and healing because she is on her way.

Arresting Development

It was almost three years ago that my dream to become Sarah would likely become true. I had delayed stepping across the gender line for many reasons, which did not know how I would transition. After I found a doctor who was familiar with helping people transition, I started on my long awaited path junction to become Sarah. Starting with the “T” blocker in June and then adding the estrogen the next, my body slowly began to change. I finally could put away all those items I used to stuff my bra; because, my breasts were beginning to bud and grow very nicely, thank you. Sarah was becoming real for me because I was developing what I thought would be very nice boobs after 14 months on HRT.

Until one morning in late August I found a small lump during a routine self-breast exam. I was stunned, unbelieving, and wouldn’t tell Kay for several days for fear of the worst. When I did tell her and put her hand on the spot, she tried to convince me that it didn’t feel like a cancerous lump, but that I should call my doctor and get a referral to have it checked.

To make a long story short, the biopsy that was taken was 100% invasive ductile carcinoma; and we didn’t get a clean margin. So, my Dr. didn’t know how much the cancer had spread, and because the cancer was quite aggressive he took several lymph nodes as well as much of the breast tissue and nipple to prevent the cancer from spreading. As another insult, my receptors were estrogen positive which meant that I could never take estrogen again, ever. This was a kick in the groin, a huge slap in the face kind of insult. I felt anger and sadness about something I had no control over. I knew my mother had had a double mastectomy years ago any she had talked about her mother dying with breast cancer, but I ignored these signs as I began my HRT. It was only a few months after my surgery that I learned my youngest sister had the same type of breast cancer I developed just a few years before; and just a year ago another sister was diagnosed with pre-cancerous cell, the same type. So among our family of six children, four of us have been diagnosed with breast cancer. Ouch, not the best stats have when considering to jump into transitioning to female; but I didn’t know all that when I started.

My breast development came to a screeching halt and I was back to wearing silicone breast form; which looked much better than anything I had ever used before. Even though they were wonderful products, I still felt like I was playing dress-up; because they weren’t mine, not of my flesh; just some things that I stuff in my pocket bra and sling on. I had begun to be embarrassed at myself when I tried to wear a top that showed more than it should. When I looked down, I only saw my stuffed bras and I would flinch at what I ‘knew’ others saw. I began to desire something more real, more substantial than just large forms that caused my tops and dresses to gap between the buttons.

Today, after two and ½ years of teetering between staying with breast forms and having breast reconstruction; I had my pre-op appointment to have breast reconstruction. The Dr. that I finally found and was comfortable with doing the surgery will start with tissue expanders; then in three week he will start pumping up the breast. So by mid August, I will have a pair of new healthy size breast.

Will keep everyone updated as to how I manage with the new developments.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Local Celebrity

If you have been reading our blog over the past month you know that Sarah was one of the women who performed in the Vagina Monologues. I knew that she had given a really good performance but being her wife does tend to make me a little prejudiced. When everyone was congratulating Sarah after the performance, I thought that was really nice but......... the compliments have not stopped.

It has been almost four weeks since the play and we seldom go out anywhere that someone doesn't come up and congratulate Sarah on her performance. Even more surprising is the people. You would think that it would be mainly women congratulating her but it has been a both sexes and all ages. The ones that have surprised me most have been the young men (young enough to be our sons) who have come up and told her that she gave an awesome performance.

Tonight Sarah was in a graduation ceremony from college for completing a printing and graphics program (this is after completing a masters in music quite a few years back). After the ceremony a young man came up to Sarah and said, "I didn't know YOU were graduating tonight and talked with her for a minute. As we walked off I asked, "who was that?" Laughing she said, "I haven't a clue." The people are always friendly and pleasant.

Sarah really is an amazing person. She is unbelievably creative. She is a gifted singer and musician. She can make just about anything. We quilt, she makes beautiful jewelry, she writes poetry, her talents have no end. She made a box kite for a friend's young son last week and he loved it. In addition to this, Sarah is one of the sweetest and most modest people I have ever known. All this packed in one person!!

It's interesting being married to a local celebrity!! Life is good..........

Monday, April 21, 2008

Transgender & Worship

As the only transgender person of our small church, I was greatly saddened at this morning’s service. We are a small church in number, but as the Service started only 4 people were in the seats; not counting the altar party and those who were seating in the choir. I have a tendency to react negatively when I think something is wrong.

I have developed a strong bond with my church and to most of the people who attend, and when attendance is down I am too quick to criticize or to think those who I expect to show up wanted to stay away because of me. My strong love for my church was one of the last road block, if you like, which held me back in revealing my being trans. The one reason that I waited so long, was my fear that by revealing my true self, that would cause people to react by point fingers at me if the church were to crumble where it stood. Being the person who causes a church’s demise was the last thing I wanted on my head. That was what I was thinking this morning as I sat in the chairs hoping that there would be other who would join us in celebrating Morning Service.

Since that mild December morning of 2004, when I first stepped through the doors of our church as Sarah; Kay and I have been on the receiving end of many finger pointing. At the end of my second year of being Sarah at church, I began to realize that the cauldron of discontent was beginning to boil over, and the flame was from two different burners, (persons) (the matter of bathroom use has been explained in an earlier posting). The result of the discontent was that a few people decided to abandon our little church; dragging as many people as they could persuade. We heard that they were ecstatic because they could convince ‘so many people to leave ’ for their refusal to extend or return ‘Christ’s Peace’ to me. They joyously proclaimed victory in decimating the church for Sarah, the monster was the one who drove the people away; not their cold unchristian hearts. It was they who couldn’t see their closed mindedness in accepting me for who I was or even tried to be civil to me; they refused to change the way they called me or acknowledged me. They would only spit vicious pronouncements addressing me by my male name.

There has been several times that I have almost left ; only because of the love I have for my church and my need to be Sarah teeters between the sadness of destroying the church and my being transgender. But, I have slowly awakened to the fact that those who have left our church have been the deadwood that has clung to our ‘church tree’ arresting new growth and development. Our congregation might be small now be we all are determined to make it a thriving vital church.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Loving Power

Immortal beloved, show us your path

Guiding us to the Flower of Life.

Eternal flower with roots driving deep,

Draws refreshing water from the

Boughs deep within Mother Earth.

Roots that gathering life’s essence

Nourishing the petals defining your existence.

Transforming the earth’s water saturated

With the nourishing essence of Love.

Eternal loving power, your being

Saturates the air which we breathe.

Your power giving breath is lovingly

carried away on the winds which warm

And caress the face of Mother Earth.

Immortal beloved, brazen our courage,

Filling my central being with your Loving power.

Ignite and restore our connecting roots

To join the searching roots of all

Women of this world to restore the

Balance and grandeur of Your Love.

All weekend, Eve talked about how New Orleans was the Vagina of America. The great Mississippi River whisks away all the bad environmental chemical and trash we scatter across our beautiful country. But also, the water which fill the mighty river nourishes us and give us life; it becomes our connecting roots, blind to all but the rich and diverse life which lives and thrives near the waters of the Mississippi. I have realized that this river of life, this root bulb of New Orleans is our connection to life, love and our souls which we must cherish and nourish not only for our country but more importantly, as a symbol of Women's ability to raise our children with love and affection everywhere. Where the water flowing down the Mighty Mississippi is connected to all of the water's of life around our small planet; touching and and nourishing Women of the world.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

New Orleans, Vaginas, Pussyfooters and More.............

We did have a great time on our trip to New Orleans to see the Vagina Monologues. We traveled to New Orleans with four other fabulous women. It was a good group to travel with and their company was one of the things that made the trip so very special.

We got to New Orleans and could not check in our hotel so we headed to the Superdome to see what was going on. It was a little unsettling going into the Superdome after seeing on TV and hearing of the suffering of many of the people of New Orleans at this site. Once we were inside, we made our way to the main floor. As we walked in I looked back and screamed, "I've been born again." We had just walked through a huge glowing pink vagina. At least I knew I was in the right place!! Facing us was a huge area where speakers made their presentation, seating for the audience and around the perimeter were educational displays, art, the Red Tent project and an altar for those who lost lives in the aftermath of Katrina.

We went out to some of the other areas. The one I enjoyed the most was the Activists Lounge. Many groups from around the world were there to inform people of the projects they were involved in that promoted issues for women. I found myself scurrying from table to table talking with the people and getting information. I had worked with a a Women's Health project in my former life and this was a good connection for me. (I've got to make time to go through all my information and make a plan to become in some kind of activism.)

We finally had to leave to check into our motel. After check in and little time refreshing we headed to the French Quarter. The women we were with were a very cooperative group. We located a place to park and headed to the FQ. We just walked around for a while and began to hunt a restaurant. There were all sorts of sights and things to stop and gawk at. We finally selected a restaurant. The restaurant was not that great. They had only one waitress and the food could have been better but, hey, we are in New Orleans. I can't really remember all we did and saw that night (and NO I was not drunk..............in fact I did not have one drink while we were there...........I don't think I had time.) We made it back to the motel sometime around midnight.

Sarah had offered to drive since none of the other women had a lot of experience driving in a large city. She did a good job in spite of all the assistance she got. The ladies (one of them me) in the middle seats got her really lost one time.

The next morning we got up made our way back to the Superdome. Where we saw a group of women in shiny pink uniforms and white boots come strutting down the hallway. One our women asked if we could get pictures with them. I had my picture made with the Pussyfooters of New Orleans. THANKS LADIES for one of my most favorite photographs!!

Then we headed back to the French Market and found a really great place to eat, Cafe Maspero. We all stuffed ourselves with some really good New Orleans cuisine. We ambled around the French Quarter finding different things we were all interested in. Sarah and I had our palms read. It gave us some things to think about. One of the the things the palm reader told me was that I needed to travel. I agree!!

Later in the afternoon we decided that it was time to go back to the motel to freshen up before the performance of the Vagina Monologues. The traffic was HORRENDOUS!! I became apparent to me that we did not have time to go back to the motel so on my suggestion we headed to the arena where the VM was to be held. Just after we got parked Sarah whispered to me that I had not taken the time change into account when I looked at the clock and told the group that we didn't have time to go back to the motel. Oh well, they took it pretty good. And............maybe it was supposed to happen like that.

We had walked around for a while and some of us had found a place to sit on the steps. We were just sitting and chilling when a car drove up (NO, it wasn't Oprah......even better) an older African American woman got out and walked right up to where we were. She stopped and began to tell us she was having problems with her feet and the situation with her medical care. I can't remember who asked her but she began to tell us her story of when the levees failed after Katrina. She was a lady who obviously had a lot of inner strength. She is not happy with the way everyone failed her city. Also, she continues to mourn for her neighborhood and sense of family and familiarity that she has lost. I'm really sorry I did not get her name before we went into the arena for the performance of the VM but please say a prayer for her anyway. I know God will get it to her.

The VM were great. It was like a huge, raucous girl party. The last monologue was to be done by Oprah Winfrey but she was unable to be there because of illness. However, Liz Mikel did that performance and she was masterful!! I didn't even care that Oprah didn't make it. That was how good Liz was!! Her Monologue was about a lady from New Orleans named Ms. Pat. After Liz's performance, the real Ms. Pat was introduced to the audience. GREAT EXPERIENCE!!

The next morning it was time to start back home. The women traveling in our van had kind of bonded and there was some sharing of hearts on our journey home. I was truly honored to have made this trip with such a wonderful group of women.

After getting back home and even before we left, we found that there were people who could say Vagina Monologues and those that had trouble speaking the word, vagina. I wonder if empowering women to speak of their vaginas and of their experience of their womanhood will help them to take their rightful place in society and less likely to be a victim. What might it do to teach men to speak of vaginas and hear the stories of women. Might it, too, have positive effects for them. Hmmmmmmmmmmm. Could we possibly have a better, healthier society if we learn to speak of vaginas, speaking our truth and telling our stories. I've been told that naming a thing is a powerful act. It sure felt powerful in New Orleans. I hope we brought some of it home.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Thoughts on V (10) Day

New Orleans, La. Accompanied a group of women from VSU to the V Day Celebration at the Superdome, there were four other women, two older students, and two younger. We left in three cars, which turn out to be three separate groups, at 6:30 Friday and tried to get there as quickly as we could, arriving by 2:30 at the motel. When we couldn’t check in right away we went to the Dome to see what was happening.

Once in the Superdome, we went to the activist lounge to meet with all the different groups, later we went down to the ground floor and entered the main area. When you walked onto the main floor of the dome, you passed through a large plastic model of a Vagina, like you were being reborn, changed. In front of the Vagina were displays by and about women. There was a huge ball of Bra’s and figurines. Around the side of the arena were poster, and T-shirts of various towns and school and countries that had put on the Vagina Monologues. At the opposite side of the Vagina was the main stage. Back across the arena, was a small tent for private intensions? A short distance from that tent, an Alter had been laid out with a white cloth on a platform with flowers, crosses and candles. I was moved by how it was set up, but when I read in the description that this was created as a memorial for the victims of Katrina; I lost all control and began to cry. I had the same reaction the first time I stood before a replica of the Viet-Nam memorial which happened to be set up in Austin for the Inauguration of the New Governor of Texas, many years ago. Anyway, our small group sat in the chairs on the main floor, listening to a discussion of how the women of New Orleans has survived and flourished.

It was getting late in the afternoon and we were tired, so we went back to the motel to check in and then went back down town to find a place to eat. There just happened to be another event down town and there were people everywhere. Normally, I don’t like crowds very much and I try to avoid them as much as possible. But since this was my first time EVER in New Orleans, we walked all over the French Quarter, and saw a lot of drunken people. Since I was driving our small group of students, I didn’t have any alcohol to drink, sour grapes!!! But I had a great time with Kay, we bought some prints and I had reading with the cards, very interesting what she said.

The next morning we went back to the dome to see as much of what was going on as we could. I really wanted to do the parade that morning, but it didn’t work out with the others in our group. We spent a few hours at the dome so that every one in our group could do what they want. In the early afternoon we went back down town for lunch and to look around. We bought another print and had our palms read, totally different readings than with the cards the night before. Our intensions were to return to the motel so that the girls could change room, but it seems that we had not changed the clock in the van and thought we would be late getting back for the Vagina Monologues that night, after we parked the car, spending another $5.00 to park, only then did we realized the time difference; so we just hung around the dome, waiting for the evening’s performance.

While we were sitting and waiting, an older woman approached us and began telling her story of waiting in the dome during Katrina and what happened after and how she managed to escape to Houston to the Astrodome, after four days I the superdome.

We managed to find our seats (those nose bleeds seats in the upper balcony), and waited for the show to start as 7:30; it didn’t start until after 8 pm, but it was worth waiting for. We had a great time cheering for everyone. We finally left the parking garage at around 11:30 and got back at the motel around Midnight.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Life's Illusions


What does it take to create illusions?

What part of you, do you chose to hide,

To show your other side.

Not to be ugly or fake.

Discover how hard you must strive

To let the inner beauty shine, flaws be faint

With shades of color and paint.

What does it take to create illusions?

The feminine figure is beauty and grace.

Foundations for body and face,

Spandex, satin and lace.

Powders, blushes, lipsticks and creams,

Meticulously applied it seems

To create the someone of your dreams.

What does it take to create illusions?

Are we trying to hide from someone,

Or is it just me, this other persona.

From where does she come;

Is she conjured from deep

Within our very souls?

Does she survive just beneath the surface?

Waiting for colors with which to contrast

The illusion with the drab fabrics

Of the visible shells of ourselves.

When I wrote this poem, I was beginning to realize that my visible life and how I related and interacted with my 'friends' and children was just an illusion. A very shallow, bad, illusion on my male self, because I thought I was hiding my secret so well. I frequently would come out of the shadows of my dysfunctional family relationships to explore the world as Sarah, because I found peace and strength in her.

I spent a great number of my married years trying to be a loving and caring parent to my three children. As young adults my sons drifted from one job, and relationship to another; taking years to settle into something that they could be comfortable with. As they were finding themselves, I was finding Sarah and the illusion of a 'happy family' shattered on the floor of our dysfunctional household.

I found many illusions in my daily life. I started going out of town to be Sarah and discovered this stranger they saw in the corridors of malls and on the street was a good illusion of a woman. They only saw this woman as a member of gender of females. I soon realized that my ability to create this acceptable 'illusion of a woman' could let me walk among them; with a low level of fear of being outed.

Sarah's 'illusions' of trying to become herself eventually turned into a reality, I am whom I always were.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

House with Laughter

Kay's posting about us having friends and their children over on Friday to make strawberry preserves reminds me of the joy each child brings to my heart. When I was growing up, our house was always filled with the neighborhood children. Sometimes mother would watch other children to help with the family income, in addition to the six in our family; other times, we just had a house full of the neighborhood kids. We were one of the first families to have a television set and lots of afternoons all you could see were children's head in the living room. It wasn't anything for her to serve kool-aide and cookies to the crowd.
During the holidays, my ex and I always had our children around us in the kitchen making christmas cookies and deserts, so I remember the laughter, sometimes the pouting when they had had enough. So, yesterday was a good day for children playing hide-n-seek, and going in and out; chasing our two dogs, (they slept most of the afternoon after everyone left) and all the wonderful noise five children can make when they are put together in a house full of love.
Kay and I are very blessed to be able to babysit and just enjoy the children that bless our little church congregation. I am so thankful to have so many children of good friends in our lives. I am so blessed that parents see me as a loving Aunte, knowing my history. Being so close to so many children has helped me overcome the heartache of not being included in my own two grandchildren's lives, who I haven't been able to hold or give them my love for four years. We send birthday cards and have sent books for Christmas; but Kay and I do not know if they have been given anything we have sent; we get no acknowledgment that the gifts have arrived.
My daily prayer offering is that they will one day meet their other "grandmother" with the same joyful smiles and happiness that I saw yesterday in the children's faces that filled our house with laughter.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Strawberries and Kids

The last two weeks of March were a whirl wind but we got through it. The anniversary party we were preparing for was a huge success. The couple was absolutely delighted and very generous with compliments for all involved. Sarah performed in the Vagina Monologues for two nights and she, too, was a huge success. The first night was great and the second night was even better.

We laid low on Monday recovering from the previous weeks. Tuesday and Wednesday was tied up with Sarah getting ready for a colonoscopy then having the procedure. That turned out normal, thank goodness!!

Thursday we joined some of our friends at church for crafts day. They had planned to take the kids strawberry picking which they did. We offered for everyone to come over and make strawberry jam today (Friday).

The crowd started arriving a little after 11 a.m. One dad, two moms, one adolescent and five kids ranging in age from 3 to 7 years old. We got started washing the strawberries. The little girls helped cut them up. Then we got the strawberry jam cooking.

The dad wanted to know if we went to "Woman School" to learn how to can things. I said, "yes." I had begun attending "Woman School" as a child just like his daughter was doing today. I remember my mother and her sisters and sisters-in-law getting together to can and freeze in the spring and summers. The kids got to help out with the chores that were not dangerous to begin with and each summer you got to do a little more. I was delighted when I got to the summer when I was allowed to use a knife. I felt like I had arrived.

As the jam cooked, Sarah grilled some hot dogs outside on the grill. We had lunch and then got back to work. The kids seemed to have a good time running in out and playing.

Canning and freezing with other women makes the job easier but it also creates a time to share and bond. Sarah and I really enjoyed today with everyone and helping them make strawberry jam. Even more than that it allowed us to share things that we learned from our mothers with other women. Great day, great fun, great memories!! Thank you ladies! Thank you dad! Thank you kids!!