Thursday, February 24, 2011

documented life

A few day ago I received a copy of all my fathers 8 mm film that he had shot during his lifetime. There were about 50 rolls and although some were label there were a few that weren’t and my brother made the decision on how to sequence them before he sent them to be converted to a DVD. Two hours of classic family fun it is good to have pictures of your extended family and especially one’s Grandmother. A visual documentation of the changes in one’s childhood and life. Pictures of me as I had just graduated for basic training, going off to my first duty station, leaving for my assignment to Vietnam. Pictures of family reunions in Arkansas with my Aunts and Uncles, of my wedding.

All vivid reminders that life goes on and time waits for no one. I lost my father a few months before his first grandson was born when he was 51 years old from a massive myocardial infarction. After experiencing 2 hearts attacks while he was in the hospital, they could not revive him and he passed away before we could all say goodbye. I lost his fatherly influence and advice, which was both good and sad. He never had to meet me as Sarah, and at the same time his death saved me from his criticisms and his judgement.

My life was shadowed and governed somewhat by the fact that he passed away at 51, and that was my bench mark and my fear in my life. Fear that I would die like him in my early 50’s was the greatest hold on how I decided things. But as I celebrated every year after that barrier, I feared that I would die without having lived truthfully, and I became painfully aware of my need to transition.

So in my late 50’s, my children off on their own I began to explore ‘my feminine side’ as it were. As I turn the magic age of 65 this year, Sarah’s life didn’t go the way I expected it to go. My daughter has returned to her father, we are still working on her brothers (more difficult, I think). Developing breast cancer and transition without hormones is certainly not the path I foresaw for myself, but it’s the one I blazed. I don’t expect too many sisters having to go down that path so it will disappear all to soon.

I am happy and my ex is much happier, my daughter keeps telling me; and my expected years and future life could not be better to live it as Sarah.

Trip to VA

Yesterday, Kay and I drove down to Gainesville, VA Medical Center for my hearing recheck. Since I had had hearing aids before and they were chewed up by my dog I am in the system and so I just called down to the VA to set up another appointment without going through the VA rep in town. My appointment was for 1 pm and I had been told to be early since there is new construction going on and parking would be difficult.

I didn't even recognize the building as they had put up a new section in from of the older center but we finally found a spot to park and had to go through the basement door. Which was exactly where my appointment was, in the Audiology Department. So we arrived a little early and when checking in, I confused the person at the desk. I need to remember that they have my name in their system as Smith-Riggle, whereas in Tricare it's just S. Riggle.

After filling out their question sheet, I was called back as I handed it back. The Technician took me back to the soundproof room for the test. He was an older gentleman, very kind with a good sense of humor. After the actual test, he had to fit me with new hearing aids and in the process had to make a mold of the ear. He had to squirt some molding material into my ear, and as he was doing that it was a little cold and I said, "I have never had anyone do that to me before!" He said. "Glad that I was the first!" He kept talking about how he hardly treats women with my degree of hearing loss that my hearing loss is similar to most of the men who come through here.

As he was telling me that he would send a letter letting me know when to come back, he said I could bring my partner or significant other if I felt the need. Then he sends me to prothestics to pick up a listening device to aid me in hearing the TV, so I didn't have to turn it up so loud. And that department issued me a 'SoundPlus TV Infrared Listening System'.

I must say that the people who work at the Gainesville VA Medical Center are caring, accepting gracious and happy people. My appointment was at 1 pm, we were walking out the door at 1:17 pm. Kay and I was so shocked at how efficient they are.

It was be a crime to turn the administering of The Department of VA Medical over to private companies. Our Veterans would never get the same treatment. After all, it was on the backs of the sacrifices of our military that we can enjoy the rights and privileges so named in our Constitution.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Orangutan and the Hound

Orangutan and the Hound

As you watch this video of two 'friends' sharing play and food, think how we can expand our cluster of needful friends that could use our helping hands.

Monday, February 14, 2011

LGBT Presence Visible

This past weekend was our statewide church meeting in Valdosta, so we didn’t have to travel for this convention. As always members of Integrity, Georgia, that’s the group for the lgbt community, sat up their display of reading material and pictures of previous meetings.

No sooner than I arrived and put my things down when a woman from another church in town practically grabs my arm and drags me over to a rack of card and very excitedly shows me one of them. It is a picture of two mice holding hands, wrapped in coats one with a red scarf and the other mouse with a blue scarf. Both are looking at a starfish on the beach with the sunset in the background. The caption says “Love Transcends Gender”.

I’m thinking “Ok!!” this person knows about me, like she thinks I am the “token trans’ person in her life and she is excited to show me this card. And that’s

ok, because I can see the light of acceptance and joy in her face. Then, I begin to think that since she is so excited to show me something, she must be equally excited telling others about me and what a good and spiritual person I must be, to who will listen. And that’s a very good thing. To have as many people who will tell others about what a good person you are is a good way to let others know that trans people are like normal people. And I am contented in thinking about her enthusiasm for the lgbt community.

Our Integrity table was in a great location this year, right in front of the two sets of doors and in the middle of the room. We are raffling off a quilt in support our future programs as Integrity and Camp Phun, a camp for children who parent is incarcerated and for another Church’s HIV and AIDS ministry. We had a great start for the raffle and it seemed to be one of the big draws for the convention. Also displayed was the processional banner that I had made for our Integrity Chapter, to be used when invited; banners weren’t invited to process this year.

Our presence as the lgbt community family during this year’s conventions has given us the opportunity to stand up a little bit straighter and taller. My presence as one of the out trans folks is not overlooked and as someone said to Kay, there is a lot of people who would come to my aid if someone pointed fingers at me and complained, or tried to harm me. And knowing that, makes me more comfortable being among those called to lead the Church in South Georgia.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Transition is acceptance of one's self

Kay and I had another video taping session with the professor who is doing a documentary about my transition, and how it has affected my children. We always manage to delve into some issues and questions about my feelings I had as I transitioned. How I managed to remain aloof about some of the dangers I exposed myself to is trying to hide my secret.

Transition is about many steps of acceptance of one's self image and how my image has morphed during the year before and the years after I went full time. There are little things that I can see that happened as my confidence in myself grew. I finally realized that I didn't have to wear everything when I dressed. That it was alright to forgo the slips, the girdles, even the pantyhose. It was alright to wear dresses and skirts that fell below the knees; I eventually realized that I could wear sleeveless dresses that showed my arms. Arms that I thought were too large and fat. Another step of acceptance with my transition was to wear flats as opposed to tennis shoes and heels; oh I gave a lot of my higher heels away after I developed back problems, but I still need my heels. It was a major step for me to go out and about without makeup; that was a little scary as I still haven't be able to afford electrolysis, (too many other important things which drain my bank account).

I have always wanted long hair, which I had for a long time, about 6 years, it all relative folks. When I was growing up I kept my hair short. When I began my transformation to 'Sarah', I confided in my hair stylist what I wanted and why and after years of wearing wigs as my hair grew out, I was finally able to get it cut in a more feminine style. As you can see I got my hair cut shorter over a week ago and have gotten lots of compliments about the new hair do. I did have to go back and have the girl cut more off the back and that really helped with the new shape. I finally learned that if you are not satisfied with a service, or food or whatever; keep returning it or send it back until you are satisfied; after all we paid good money for what we buy and we expect certain standards.

Our standards of who we are to become we created as we transition and should never be compromised if we are determined to forge ahead. But we must re-adjust our horizons every once in a while because our paths of transition is rocky and filled with curves and blocked roads which makes us find new ways to overcome the obstacles we find in our way.

When others see me happy and well adjusted that seem to be more accepting of us; I am speaking of Kay and I now. I have come to realize that for every flaw that I that I find with my body that screams 'MALE', I have noticed the same 'flaws' with some genetically born women.

So listen to a women who had to transition without hormones therapy after developing breast cancer. If I can be happy with the way my life turned out without hormones, you should find it easier in your transition if you are still using hormones.