Monday, November 30, 2009

A time for Forgiveness and Love

These thoughts have been a struggle to put on paper over the past few days and the post has undergone several re-writes.

Today is the First Sunday of Advent for us Episcopalians; it is the beginning of a new Church Year and the conclusion of the old. A time of anticipation of the birth of Jesus, but also the reflection on the return of Jesus and how we should prepare ourselves spiritually. It is a season of love and forgiveness which makes me reflect on those family members who still can not accept me and welcome me into their lives and family units.

I am especially saddened to learn of the death of Mike Penner/Christene Danials, everyone has heard of and commenting on his/her highly visible transition during his time as a sports writer at the LA Times a few years ago. As other sisters and their families know, whether to transition or not, is a very difficult decision; for everyone involved. We know from the stories of other sisters that families usually turn their backs to us; we are kicked aside, or disowned. And I will make the assumption that the majority of sisters and brothers who are struggling with GID have at one time or another, thought about suicide. How easy it would be if we just ended this struggle over depression, fighting with ourselves as to whether or not we should transition by ending our lives quietly and alone. But we are never alone, there are always other who's lives are linked with ours. Anyone experiencing high levels of shame, depression, embarrassment and public humiliation can easily be send someone over the edge to suicide. How easy it would have been for me to just to end my existence and slam my car into a concrete support column of an overhead bridge; or possible swerve into the path of an oncoming truck, and get out of the way of my family’s life. But for me those were just passing thoughts that didn’t happen because I knew that I had much to live for and I could cause the innocent death of others.

We expect so much, and desperately hope family can bring themselves to understand and forgive; an expectation that is froth with disappointment. Knowing that if we transition, future job offers could disappear, friendships we thought were strong and solid, dissolve before our eyes, and members of our family accuse us of deception and fraud because we follow our true instincts. They accuse us of walking out on them and place the blame for their anger in our laps. Our prayers are for them to search for answers, learn to ask the important and right questions; so that they will have a change of heart and seek us out, to reconcile with us. That would be the most precious Christmas gift I would ever have.

We are the first to ask for forgiveness from others, but should we really expect forgiveness from them? I have had some very illuminating post-transition discussions with my daughter whom I love and have only recently reconnected with; partly because she has come to an understanding that our family breaking up was because of a number of issues we refused to face and deal with. She told me, if only I had sat them down and discussed with them that I didn’t know what was happening to me or that I could have taken the time to explained what I was dealing with. They just wanted to be included, but I was afraid of what they would think of me; their father wanting to live as a woman. It would have been very reconciling to have talked about the elephant, my supposed secret out in the open. My daughter wrote the following in a “Father’s Day” card;

“Dad, I know that I never responded to your letter from the fall. I don’t know that I knew how to. I think I always wished you had said simply, “I don’t know!”. It was as simple as the fact that while we didn’t understand what was going on, neither did you. I regret a lot of the times we spent being hateful and resentful to each other. I know now that I can say I love you for who you are. Sometimes, however, I need to remember who you were. If nothing else, I need you to understand that.”

I need to remember where I came from, just as much as she needs to cherish her memories of our family during the happy times. Is it harder to extend forgiveness than to ask that it be returned? I wait and pray that her brothers will soon find the questions to ask that will begin the process of bringing the family back to a place of inner peace, if they know that I miss and love them enough to realize that I respect their distance, but wish for forgiveness and a hug or two.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Holiday Madness

Well Thanksgiving in under the belt and things are really beginning to spin out of control. On Black Friday, Kay had a doctors appointment, so we drove down to Gainesville, Fl so she could get her yearly mammogram done. I'm telling you these people are good, her appointment was for 3 pm, we arrived 15 min early to update her records, she was called back on time, and by 3:10 she was walking out the door. Mammogram done, the xray taken and read and she was given the green light that everything was good. All in 10 minutes, wow!

We spent the rest of the afternoon in Borders Book Store and a Bed and Bath, and were back home by 6:30. All that to say that we pretty much stayed out of the area malls; plenty of time to shop, done need the big stuff anyway right now, as we just bought a new car a few months ago.

This weekend, I am singing the "Messiah" with a community choir; and the following Saturday the 5th is the Symphony Concert and Sunday the 6th, our church does "Lesson & Carols". We have the Christmas Party with Kay's family on Dec. 12th, and we are hoping that my daughter and her fiance will go with us to Kay's family christmas party, and should have a blast. There is no telling what we will have to do between our holiday engagements but we know to be prepared for anything. We have made plans to have serve Christmas Dinner for a few friends while we enjoy the day together. Good friends are the family we choose!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


Things that I am thankful for this year---- That we have reconnected with my daughter and her future husband (great guy, by the way). That we were so well received by Integrity group within the Episcopal Church. That PFLAG is doing so well here in South Georgia. That we are so involved in the LGBT community. I am thankful that I have completed my breast reconstruction. That my love for Kay grows stronger every day. I am grateful that we can share so much life together while laughing and having fun. That as we watch and care for children of our church and other friends, I am amazed at their love and sharing is returned.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Dawning of a LGBT Inclusive Day

The week of Thanksgiving is here, the signal for the start of the season’s hectic schedules and sharing of one’s self. Our runaway schedules began yesterday as we hosted the Diocesan chapter meeting for the Episcopalian’s Integrity LGBT group within the Church’s organization.

We had been strongly encouraged to host this month’s meeting, since we complained so much about the location of the last meeting, which was in Savannah. Which, for us it is a drive across the state of Georgia. Dan and Jamie, the long time Co-Coordinators of Integrity had asked us if we would like to talk about being transgender and a member of the Episcopal Church. We did not anticipate how difficult and painful that simple request would become for us.

For several years now we have spoken to several University classes with the intent of educating and advocating for the struggles that trans men and women overcome every day of their lives. However, our church, St Barnabas is the one place where we met a lot of emotional badgering as we tried to explain what I needed to do, and how I wanted my home Church to welcome me back into the flock as Sarah. I needed to explain how important my Church family had become, how much I needed, both spiritually and emotionally to be accepted as Sarah. My spiritual survival hinged on the decisions made of that night; because for me there was no other Church in the City that could replace the importance of St Barnabas’ connections in my life.

As Kay and I struggled with how we should approach the meeting, it opened old wounds of hurt and disappointment as the emotions of that night so long ago can rushing back into our consciousness. As the day of the meeting drew closer, the emotional struggles for both of us grew more intense, strong enough to send us into emotional chaos. For me conducting a discussion about my life’s transition with members of my Church family was very emotional, because the church members who were present are part of my extended family. I believe that with my brother and sisters living so far apart and never getting together it was easier to reveal Sarah to them, than it was to open my heart to my Church family, the people I see every week.

When the Integrity group meets we try to hold it to two hours because of the long distances people have to drive to attend any meeting across the lower part of the State. So at the end of the meeting Kay and I were given a standing acknowledgement of the courage we showed that afternoon, and with the Official Picture in front of our yard sign, everyone went home with a better understanding of the language of transgender and emotional toil that is heaped on us to accept the path given to us to follow. Many attendees thanked me for telling my story, and the story of all trans people.

It appears that a new day is dawning for LGBTQ member of the Episcopal Church of South Georgia with the election of our new Bishop, and we will be a visible presence, demanding spiritual healing and inclusion in the years to come.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Why is Being Transsexual Important?

What makes us so focused on terms and where we define ourselves to be finished on the path of transition? Why is it so important for me to define myself as a post-op Trans Woman? Why shouldn’t just being included in the transgender box be enough for me?

As a person who is up in her years, I look back at my years of “stop and go” phases of transitioning and wonder why it means so much to me to identify myself as a ‘post-op trans woman’. Yes, I could have stopped anywhere along the path of my journey to become Sarah; but each stopping point became a jumping off place to a higher plain. As I traveled on each path of my transition journey, I was satisfied to be just a part-time, occasional ‘cross dresser’ until that phase became me, and that wasn’t enough. It wasn’t enough to cross dress on an occasional basis; but my guilt and shame overcame the need to experiment further. And so I stopped dressing for long periods, because I did have a family I needed to be with. With each successive alternating periods of ‘dressing’ and avoidance, the time period between the two changed; longer periods of dressing and shorter periods of avoidances coupled with depression, anger, intense agitation with not being able to ‘dress’ when I wanted to. Whatever I want to call or name these two behavior patterns, I knew that if I tried hard enough, I could stop ‘dressing’ and it wasn’t permanent. I never really wanted to continue with living as the male person, but I could stop.

When the time came during my long period of transition that I really had to make a choice to try and give all this being girly up and remain my male self, filled with alcohol, and anger and feeling sorry for myself; or I could choose to accept who I had really become and live as a happy, spiritual fun filled person in the form of Sarah.

Defining one’s self as a transsexual is a threshold that if crossed, is very difficult for one to backtrack; it is almost is a point of no-return. Although that are some that have re-transitioned; I know that and that’s ok. Wherever we define our stopping point along the gender identity line, is the place where we have accepted ourselves within the sub-set of gender. For me as I claim my ‘box’ to be ‘female’, I know that I have reached the end of my transition journey. I don’t have to do anything more to my body to correct flaws that I think I see. Because I am comfortable with my life as I have become. When I am out and about in a large group of mixed company, I know that when people see me, they see a woman; a female accompanied by another female of the more mature crowd. That’s all I need to know; that I am accepted as just another gray-haired lady of a certain age bracket, who has more life experiences that most people will ever have; and my life experiences came from two different baskets. So calling myself a ‘transsexual’ woman gives finality to my journey; I have reached the end of my path of transition and accept the fact that the door to my other life is shut and bolted. I have stepped across into the conscious stream of just being woman; of living in my feminine existence, and I know that I am home.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Shadows of Old Name Follows

Ever where I turn these days, at least once a month I am reminded that a shadow of my previous self is lurking beyond the edge of light ready to strike, revealing the existence of my previous life. The pieces of mail I receive from the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars, in addition to correspondence from companies that I had dealings with in my old life.

It was much easier changing my name through the courts system than it has ever been in trying to update financial institutions information and with my health care provider. Not to mention that I will never be able to change my name on documents I receive in connection with the Military Retirement Section and Finance records. Especially my Retiree Account Statement always shows my previous name. When I updated my name change with my Health Care Provider, they have a computerized system where one can check and verify all medical appointment, and authorization for procedures with payments and costs. One has to use one’s social security number to access the system and after submitting copies of the court documents for my name change, it blocked my access to all records because of the name difference. I had to make several phone calls and spend several hours trying to get my access reset.

Because I have taken Kay maiden name along with mine, it makes it difficult to process medical related paperwork in the beginning. The Social Security system recognized one form of my name, my Military healthcare recognizes another grouping, and the VA will only recognize the combination of our maiden names to get any medical appointments settled. The only problem is that my Military ID card has only the initial for my middle name, which is Kay’s maiden name; and it make explanations of the difference with the VA and the Military Records comical.

This week, I needed to refill some of my prescriptions and learned that they had not been authorized for reduced payments through my health care provider. Tricare had changed the company that had been using to fill prescriptions and needed a correct name. It had been two years or so since I had legally changed my name and I assumed that the new company had been given my old name instead of Sarah; and I was furious. Since it was Veteran Day everything was closed and I would not be able to contact them until Thursday, and I was out of one of my meds. The pharmacy would only let me purchase for full price, and I thought if I did pay full price, I would have to jump through many and large hoops to get any refunds when I got my name problems corrected. It was only when I had called Humana Health Care and I realized they were closed for the holiday, I realized the pharmacy tech had not submitted my full name. It seems that they had always used Sara, without the “H” and everything was fine; but with the new company, they rejected the refill request because it did not have the “H”. So when I pointed out that there was a misspelling of my first name, she added the ‘h’ and both refills were processed with no problems. I was very relieved that I did not have to fight the system again to correct my name.

It took the rest of the day for me to calm down enough to enjoy the week.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

For Anniversaries

November 11, tomorrow happens to be several anniversaries that I remember and celebrate. November 11th is Veterans Day, where at the 11th minute of the 11th hours the Armistice was signed; the remembrances of all wars, of all tragic deaths of family members who gave their lives so that others might be free. As a Vietnam Vet, I fought to keep the Communists at bay. I risked my life so that others might protest government actions without the fear of being killed. I risked my life so that I could grow up and get married; so that I could work without the fear of being harassed or ridiculed or killed because I am a transsexual. I served my time in combat so that others may choose the life they want. The reasons we fight on foreign soil is not to satisfy the whims of someone in governmental power; but to serve and protect the country against enemies, foreign and domestic. I served my country to protect those who voice objections. I am speaking of an incident where veterans strung a protester who burned the American Flag upside down by his heels, to teach him a lesson. Although I do not condone the actions of the flag burner nor the re actions of the veterans, I cry for the injustices perpetrated by mob rule.

November 11th will be our third Wedding Anniversary, where Kay and I walked across our yard to stand in front of friends to speak our marriage vows. Every day since that sunny November afternoon; my love for Kay has grown. Every day in another day filled with wonder and laughter and held hand and wonderful snuggles as we lay in each others arms at the end of the day and pronounce our love for each other. The paths we have traveled have been filled with music and theatre and travel, not knowing where we are going but happy we are traveling together smelling the flowers and marveling at the beauty of the landscape.

Monday, November 9, 2009

What Did I Want This Morning

Last week was incredibly busy for us. We drove back from Atlanta on Monday after staying with my cousin while her daughter (my favorite person in the whole world) had surgery on her eye. We got back late that evening. The next couple of days were spent cleaning house and completing last minute things for the Fall Festival our church was having. I was the coordinator for it so I was a little nervous. We knew Sarah's daughter and her fiance were coming over for dinner on Thursday evening and we had friends who were going to stay with us over the weekend because they were going to a wedding.

On Wednesday afternoon, a friend called and needed a place to stay because a relative had died and he was coming to the funeral. We have plenty of room and this fellow is always a great guest so we told him to come on which he did. He got in around 11 p.m. and we stayed up talking until 2 a.m.!! I should have known better.

On Thursday we got ready for Sarah's daughter and her fiance. We had a WONDERFUL visit. Julie is an INCREDIBLE young woman and sooooo funny too. He fiance had made a delicious antipasta salad and we thoroughly enjoyed the evening with them. You know Jason loves her when looks at her. They are just fantastic.

Friday we went to the church to put the finishing touches on the Fall Festival. We worked our butts off. Saturday we were at the church before 8 a.m. to let the vendors get set up. It really was our best Fall Festival yet. We didn't get home until around 6 p.m. I was one tired puppy! I was in bed and asleep by 10 p.m. That is unheard of for this night owl. Up on Sunday to do the church thing. is Monday morning. I had planned a quiet relaxing day. Maybe working on the hedges in front of the house but NO. Sarah has discovered a hole in the little fish pond out back so off to the store she goes. She comes home with a LARGER fish pool and a different shape than the other one. Keep in mind while you read this that about 2 years ago she had problems with her back, had an MRI which showed a couple of ruptured discs and had to have injections in her back (this was in the hospital under anesthesia) to relieve the problem. So now Sarah is out there digging and moving the rocks around the fish pond around so I feel that I need to go help out to be sure she doesn't further injure herself.

My help always involves a couple of differences of opinions and constant warnings not to further injure herself because I will have to take care of her. She did need the help.

The fish pond is now in with only one of the fish not making the transition. Is this what I wanted on my post crazy week Monday. Nope, but it is what I got. Do I love Sarah any less. No, not at all. I love her all the more and guess what blogger friends. This Wednesday we will have been married 3 years.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Equal and Civil Rights

Well said Rev. Russell

Changes All Around

As you might have noticed I have changed the format of this blog. I have been thinking a change was in order for some time and the look needed to be personalized, at least for me.

When Kay and I created this blog, I had been transitioned for several years and we felt that as Christian people and married, we needed to tell our story and of our lives together.

One could say that I had been transitioning for 15 years or so before I was served with divorce papers in 2003. I was discovering bits and pieces of my other self over the years with cross dressing and buying heels and throwing them away; of buying clothes and makeup and throwing them away. These periods of my discovering how to be Sarah were solitary, and always fearful of discovery; no worthwhile physiological digging, no outside help from anyone. I didn’t know of any other trans person during those lonely years of self discovery.

Two events attest to my diligence in pursuing who the real person was and became the cornerstone for my transition. Two opportunities taken that released my true self from her cage behind my wall of shame and fear. Two outings, dressed as the future Sarah, would be the beginning of a 15 years metamorphosis surrounded by family tugging and pulling me in different directions. 15 years fighting myself over core beliefs, attempting to peal away the layers of guilt and shame imposed upon me by my Catholic Faith. The first appearance of the future Sarah would be in the year, 1977 where I spent two days transforming into the feminine person. It wouldn’t happen again until 1992 that she would step into the light of day again.

Only upon my marriage separation did I feel free and unencumbered enough to pursue my female personification and who she would become. During this year of discovery, I connected with a great therapist and joined an lgbt group which was meeting in Tallahassee. It became my year of true acceptance and courage as I found true love and a place of peace.

My time table for transition was hindered by my own fears. Fear of having to hide my secret, fear of my family learning about my secret. Not knowing how not to hurt my family, and at the same time cross dressing when I could. Hiding the fear of thinking that I was ‘only’ a cross dresser; fearful of thinking that there might be something more inside of me. Fearful of what my church upbringing thought about my cross dressing. Realizing that I was one of God’s creatures in his church and was loved by him; however I dressed and lived my life. Finally I realized that the fear of not transitioning and living a life in pain and agony was overcome by the unknown of transitioning and a joyful hope of living a happier life. Finally demanding that my God do something to me; pleading for him to take away these urges to be Sarah. Calling him down on the carpet to wash away this obsession of mine to discover Sarah; to fix me, as it were.

Only after I started my transition was I introduced to other trans people who offered support and love for me during my transition. Experiencing the excitement of finding a good therapist after two spending so much valuable time with ones who hadn’t dealt with people who were struggling with gender identity. Realizing that I could transition in the same town where I lived for 13 years and not having to relocate. After three years living as Sarah, I now live under the radar, although that wasn’t my intention. Living in a town as part of a duo of two ladies and having people only see two ladies; not a ‘woman’ and a ‘trans’ woman. Knowing some people know about my past and not having them make a big deal about it is great for my security and confidence.

Getting the opportunity to show people that we are two people with normal lives, living boring lives is so much better that having to be defensive and fearful. Educating Doctors, Nurses, and teachers about who we are and who we are not by our normal existence is teaching those who don’t know us, what being transsexuals can do. Being invisible while walking among those who do not know that I am trans, is a teaching moment. Being able to shop, attend concerts and plays out in the community are teachable moments. When people meet us in public places, I think that they only see two ladies who they know do lots of things together as two older lesbians. Works for us.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

1st Trans March Atlanta

Here is the news clip from Southern Voice about the First Annual Transgender March for Atlanta Pride. We took a short march around the park area with lots of cheers of support, what a day!!! Kay and I are at the 1:06 mark and we show up at the end of the clip as it fades away.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Atlanta Pride

Kay and I attended Atlanta Pride festivities, with an afternoon at the park on Saturday and on Sunday we watched the parade. We were invited to march with a group from All Saints Episcopal Church after services. I am glad that we took to opportunity to watch the parade, even though we did miss the first few groups march by. Everyone was clapping and cheering, people throwing beads and such. It was very interesting to see all of the very different groups. WOW!! Two newbies from south GA. But what a morning.

The Saturday before, we got to the park around noon in enough time to find out where the First Transgender Parade would begin, there was a small group because it was added, it seemed, at the last minute; there was about 25 people to march around the park with people cheering us. It turned out that to keep the trans march in the park was the best option for the day. I met some new friends and someone who I was friends with on Pink Essence. While we were chatting we noticed a band playing under a small pavilion and a smaller crowd listening. Janine recognized the song and the band, it was Gracie and Lady GaGa. I introduced myself and told her how much I appreciated she had done for the cause. A real nice lady, with a great voice.

It was awesome to walk through the park and visit each booth and watch the people and how they interact with each other. I love people watching; just seeing the strong display of affection was heartwarming.