Becoming who and what we are supposed to be

In the world of the trans-sexual, first becoming who and what you feel you were meant to be, then living as who you feel you were meant to be, is often more than just a mixed bag of emotions and decisions. It’s often a veritable mine field. It’s not uncommon for “normal” people to have difficulty with the hand life has dealt them, but for “trannies” it’s often impossible.

I have been fortunate, extremely fortunate, but it’s not easy to say why, at least in language that many people understand. The reason for that is my firmly held belief God has been guiding me to my current situation since spring of my sophomore year in college. There are a couple of ways for me to explain what I mean and how life has played out for me … so far.

The first is to compare the course of much of my life to a pinball machine; a description I used briefly in “Dear Mom and Dad”. Immediately after turning my life over to Christ that spring I made a genuine effort to make changes in my life. When my grades came through at the end of the quarter they were accompanied by a letter from the university instructing me to kindly not darken the doorway of their school again. Okay … so Jesus didn’t rescue me from that lion’s den. That pinball of my life went straight in the crapper.

The next ball involved a new romantic relationship. The direction that took was an unhappy marriage to an unhappy young girl with the proverbial shotgun in my back. All the time I just kept thinking that God surely wouldn’t let this happen to me. But, He did. The pinballs just kept coming … and going straight into the crapper.

Occasionally I would utter desperate pleas to God to once again bail me out of trouble, and sometimes He would, but usually not. I genuinely believe that God did what any good parent would do for a headstrong child going the wrong direction. He let me go the wrong direction until alcohol got the best of me and one of His tools, namely my wife, forced me surrendered to God’s will completely. And therein lay the key … my will. I had turned my life over but not my will.

It took a while for the fog to clear and for me to finally surrender the last shred of my stubborn will, but when that happened the understanding of my own emotional make up, what that meant and where it was leading, became clearer with each passing year.

I did not make demands about the path of my future. I literally lived day by day, week by week, month by month as my life slowly evolved from occasional expression of who I was becoming, to more frequent expressions and eventually full and complete expression of who I am.

Each of those phases came about almost entirely without effort on my part. Opportunities to move to that next phase seemed to appear almost out of nowhere. Each of those steps was taken without expectation what the next step might be; just realization of the changes in my emotions, changes in the reality of what my life had become at each point.

For me to arrive at the point where I now find myself; to move from the life of George to my life, has taken the better part of 35 years. The first half of that time was a series of inconsistent starts and stops. The second half developed into a slow but steady progression of attitude changes, periods of acceptance of life as it was, followed by unexpected advances toward a complete metamorphosis.

The changes in my life have been gradual and I believe guided by the unseen but gratefully felt hand of my maker. It saddens me when I observe much of the gender identity community of which I am a part, struggling in unhappy circumstances. Many are simply unhappy because life On the South Bank of the Rubicon (See posts for June 15, 2013; March 28, 2015; September 24, 2015 and September 1, 2016) is not what they imagined. Often, it’s because they forced transition on themselves and their families.

People are creatures who tend to like things the way they were. Forcing change on them inevitably results in backlash. It certainly doesn’t help when the man or woman they knew tends to show through the wig or long or short hair and makeup or the lack of it. But the primary cause for the unhappiness is the rush to change.

Poets have long written comparisons of the aging of fine wine to allowing change from grape juice to wine to develop in its own time. And comparisons of improper care taken in the development of a wine are frequently seen. Trying to force that change is also like trying to force a square peg into a round hole.

Would I be as happy as I am now if I had rushed into a transition neither I and those close to me were ill prepared for. Absolutely not! Many scoffers who consider me ignorant or lucky because they believe, or they think, I have had an easy transition. Or they think I just don’t understand them and their plight. In that they are partially right. I understand their plight, but I don’t understand them.

Every unhappy phase and moment in my life occurred when I was trying to run my life according to the gospel of “George”. When I finally decided to let God mold me and fix me, I found peace and comfort I can only compare to a warm blanket on a cold night. I still have moments of sadness. That is inevitable, but it is always followed by that sense of comfort.

When I see people in our gender community struggling with their lives and yet refusing to let God help them, it makes me sad. I want to share what I have found, but it seems that every attempt to do so is rebuffed.

But, I will keep trying to find the right words in the right combination and the right sequence. That’s what God expects of me, so I must.

One is Silver, the Other is Gold (re-visited)

I have been posting about friends recently. No particular reason that I can point to really. It’s just that friends have been on my mind a lot recently. Is it a natural progression because I am now ankle deep in my seventies? I assume that has something to do with it, but there’s more.

People who live relatively normal lives because they are born with bodies that match their gender identity are fortunate. They generally don’t know the feeling of rejection by the people in their lives due to something beyond their control. Before you go off on a rant about having control over the issue, bear this in mind; we all have control over our actions but control over emotions is a different matter. Emotions have a life of their own, and those are what cause the most grief in the life of anyone who is born with a body that doesn’t match their emotional set.

When I finally came face to face with that unorthodox set of emotions, I also came face to face with friends, and family too, who couldn’t see beyond the appearance to the spirit behind the screen. I soon found myself faced with a sorting process. Sorting out the relationships, both new and old became a painful exercise.

I have old friends that I’ve known, literally all my life. Jeanie and I were born in the same hospital room in the Texas Panhandle in 1944. Roger I’ve known since I was 4 years old. Vince and Connie since I was 9. Denny and Candy since high school. These friends are people who have stuck with me through all the chaos of redefining my person.

Family on the other hand is an entirely different story. A sad story but true. The closer the relationship, it seems, the more difficult the process of coming to grips with who I have revealed myself to be. The 2 oldest children haven’t spoken to me since the publication of Dear Mom and Dad; each for their own reasons; misguided as I deem those reasons to be. One first cousin is understanding and accepting the other 2 have pretty much disapproved. My only brother and only sister have more or less, followed the lead of the 2 disapproving cousins. Again, each for their own reasons. So, what am I left with?

Friends! At the close of my last blog I quoted a little ditty that we used to sing at camp. “Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver the other gold.” If I could convert all the silver and gold I have in friendships to hard currency I could retire and live comfortably for the rest of my life. The older I get the more precious that currency becomes, and it is never more evident than when I lose one of those gold coins like I did earlier this week.

I spoke of Daryll in a Facebook entry earlier this week. Tuesday morning, last week I awoke and reached for my phone, still pretty much in a stupor, to check the time. I inadvertently dialed his number. When I realized what I’d done I immediately canceled the call. Within a minute he called me back.

We hadn’t spoken in months. I hadn’t bugged him because I assumed he was getting on with life and building his fabricating business. Over the course of our 10-year friendship, Daryll had bailed me out of trouble, mostly vehicle trouble any number of times, always coming to my rescue with a tow or a battery or tires. He even set up an online parts business for me to run at one point.

We talked for the better part of a half hour and through the conversation I learned that his health wasn’t the best; that the Arizona heat was beginning to wear him down. He talked about closing up shop here and moving to Boise Idaho next year. But, I didn’t realize how bad his condition was until first thing in the morning, the day before yesterday, when once again my phone rang and it was his name on the caller id. But it wasn’t him. It was his wife.

“Georgia, it’s Vonda. Daryll passed away on Sunday. I need your help.”

It was like a bugler blowing reveille 6 inches from my ear. Death or the reality of impending death never comes gently to any door. That is a hard reality for anyone, especially for me to face. Up to the time Marilyn died, I had never, not one single time, lost anyone close to me. Daryll was not what I would classify as close, though we shared things that few understand. But he was a solid 24 carat gold friend and his death has shaken me to the core.

His death has brought home to me the very fragile nature of life and how easily it can be shattered. It’s only been a few weeks since a member of our church family suddenly and unexplainably lost her 12-year-old son. He just became ill and died one day.

These circumstances always remind us of that fact, but how often do we awake each morning and treat everyone in our sphere with the tenderness that we would if we knew that would be the last time we would ever be together? From my own experience, I would surmise that the answer to that question would be … never. But it should be “every time” shouldn’t it?

Who is sitting next to you right this minute, on the phone with you, right this minute, that you have given the slightest thought to the possibility that it might be the very last time? Would you be saying, thinking, feeling what you are at this moment if you knew it was the last moment?

At this point in history, the radio and television ads for precious metals and the importance possessing them are as numerous as the ads for beer, maybe more numerous. So how about the next time you see or hear one of those ads, why don’t you give some thought to the silver and gold people in your life and what you need to do to make sure they know that they are safe in your heart? And, never take their presence for granted.

Regina

In the last four-plus years I’ve discussed a number of different subjects, most of which involve gender identity. I’ve also wandered into the realm of politics on occasion, especially in the last year or so. Most of the time I have talked about myself and my own ideas, emotions and interests. On the rare times when I’ve discussed other people it’s been about family, with the rare occasion that Caitlyn Jenner has been the subject. I have to admit that there is one person whom I have not discussed but who deserves attention so that’s who I’m going to tell you about this time.

My first awareness of Regina Gazelle-Wells was when she appeared on the cover of ECHO Magazine in Phoenix. She had been named Woman of the year by ECHO for 2008. The reason for that distinction was an extremely appropriate one. She had founded the first home for trans-gendered men and women in transition with a 501-3c tax exempt designation.

My first thought at the time was “That’s a really cool idea.” And it was a “really cool” idea. I just didn’t realize how cool. I have never been one to insert myself into any situation that I’m not invited into, so I simply watched from a distance for several months.

But then at a church potluck, on the occasion of the 4th anniversary of the founding New Foundation Christian Fellowship, in late May of 2009 I saw Regina sitting outside in the backyard and decided this was my chance. The main intention at first was just to be able to tell her that I admired what she was doing so I sat down next to her and after introducing myself we struck up a conversation. That conversation opened my eyes to a world that I’d never known existed. By the end of the afternoon I was totally impressed, but not nearly as impressed as I would eventually be.

Before we parted I got Regina’s phone number and address and had volunteered to help in any way I could. Within a week I was helping her organize her office and records which had been badly ignored for some time. In the process, Regina and I got to know more about each other and the more I knew about her the more impressed I was. The world is rife with people who have overcome adversity to become mentors and examples of rising to high levels of accomplishment in the world of alternate gender and sexual identity. Regina is, as I learned, exceptional.

When Regina eventually became aware of my literary contributions to various gender focused publications and the fact that I had completed my memoir she asked me if I would consider writing her biography. I felt that it was important for me to agree to do it. And so, we began.

Once a week I would show up at her home and sitting at the kitchen table I would take notes as fast as I could while she talked about her life. The more she talked the more I was awed by her … and the source of the dream she was struggling to keep alive. There were days when she would struggle to maintain her composure. The day came when she simply said, “I can’t do this anymore … for now.” Memories that she had kept buried for years had dredged up emotions that were just too painful at the time.

Soon after that she announced that she had turned management of T.I.H. over to someone she felt she could trust with the mission and she headed for Los Angeles.

In her absence I began putting the bits and pieces of her life together in some semblance of order as accurately as I could. What I eventually had was the story of a young boy who felt that the body he had, was not the body he felt comfortable in. He began sneaking out of the house late at night in his sister’s clothes and walking the streets of Watts, California. Eventually, Regina was caught by her mother once too often and in a self-righteous Pentecostal fit of anger her mother threw her out on the streets of Watts with not much more than the clothes on her back.

Regina was a survivor and survive she did in spite of the obstacles she faced. She did whatever she had to, to survive and that was generally not within the scope of things legal. She went from jail to jail from situation to situation, from coast to coast, relationship to relationship for years. Each time she was sent to jail she was thrown in with the male populations where she was physically and sexually abused continuously. Generally, after being released from jail she was sent to halfway houses where, again she was housed with men who continued the abuse. That roller coaster existence continued for years until she finally ended up in prison in Phoenix.

While there, she learned that her best friend had died. It was like the final straw on the camel’s back. She felt that she just couldn’t go on. A fellow inmate contacted Pastor Patrick Stout at Community Church of Hope in Phoenix and told him there was someone who really needed help. With the help of appropriate scriptures and time Pastor Patrick helped Regina realize that her gender identity was not a sin, but a gift.

By the time her sentence was up Regina had given up the life she’d been leading and a dream had replaced the desperation that landed her in prison. The dream was a halfway house, a home for transgendered men and women who were down on their luck and in transition; a place where they could live in safety until they were ready to take on the world as the people God intended them to be.

Accomplishment of that dream was the reason she was ECHO’s Woman of the Year. T.I.H. suffered without her personal guidance and eventually closed down but true to her character she is reviving the dream. In the time I have known her she has become a close friend; a friend that has helped me through some tough decisions with a wisdom that is always surprising … and perfectly stated. Her life experiences, her faith and indomitable spirit make her the perfect person to lead that mission of helping others who are where she has been.

If you want to know more about Unity House T.I.H. visit the web site www.unityhousetih.org  As with any undertaking of this type, money and personal involvement are always in short supply. Need I say more? You know what to do, so please do it and share this story with everyone in your address book.

P.S. We are back to work on her biography.

The Price We Pay …

There’s a subject which is discussed at meetings of trans support groups frequently, but isn’t often broadcast to those outside the community. That subject is the reaction of families and friends to our decision to live our lives according to our inner gender identity.

The reaction of family and close friends is more often than not, totally unpredictable but it’s my belief that much of the reaction is the result of the way we go about breaking the news.

People who just blurt out that they are no longer Marty but now Mary; no longer Mary but now Marty, and do so without regard to the emotional turmoil that the announcement is going to cause, drastically reduce the chance of any level of acceptance.

In my own case, which I describe in detail in DM&D, the way that my existence came to light in my marriage created a somewhat unusual circumstance compared to many of the situations I’ve come across. Be that as it may, the unusual situation didn’t make it any easier for our bride deal with the fact that I was part and parcel of the package she fell in love with and married. For my part, I thought she should have been delighted with this new best girlfriend who wanted to share her clothes and makeup. Short sighted? Oh, hell yes. And obliviously ignorant? Oh, hell yes again.

I’m not saying that I didn’t care about her feelings. I’m saying that I didn’t understand her feelings. It took me years to finally come to that level of comprehension about what she must have been feeling. Sadly, it wasn’t until after she passed away that I was finally able to reach that point in my level of understanding; was finally able to put the pump on the other foot, as it were.

Soon after Marilyn’s death I was at a meeting of one of the groups that I had become a apart of, when I came face to face with the other side of the coin. The group up to that point had been exclusively male-to-female. On this particular evening a relatively young and not unattractive woman was in attendance and made it known that she was transitioning from “Mary to Marty”. On an academic level I could totally accept and understand her decision. But, on a strictly emotional level my gut reaction was, “Why in the hell would you want to be what I was trying to not be?” What must her husband be going through?

And that was the moment … the moment when I finally realized what I had unknowingly put the one person who had loved me more than any other person had in my life, through. It there was ever a moment when I would have given my life to be able to turn back the clock and redo everything from a new perspective that was the moment.

The  2002 HBO movie “Normal” with Jessica Lange and Tom Wilkinson is an amazingly true to life depiction of the manner in which many spouses and family’s learn of the existence of “her/him”. It is also an accurate depiction of the way a normal spouse reacts  upon learning the truth. In the case of the couple depicted in “Normal” the wife eventually, lovingly, though reluctantly, accepts the person her husband has always been emotionally. It happens that way in real life, but not usually. I highly recommend the movie to anyone who is trying to understand the issues inherent in late in life disclosures of this nature.

I have no idea how life would have been different had I seen it through that lens; had she survived the cancer which took her way too early in life. I only know that it would have most likely turned out much different and it makes me so sad.

Since then I have met a lot of people who are dealing with how to cope with the late in life awareness of gender identity conflict in the context of marriage and family. More often than not the same selfishness that I was guilty of rears its ugly head. What makes it even more ugly is the fact that unlike the presence of love that kept my marriage intact, self-centeredness of the person takes precedence over family and marriage. The result is a broken family; children irreparably hurt by the thoughtless actions of a parent who puts their own “happiness” ahead of those who loved them the most.

In my own situation, my two oldest children have refused to speak to me since the publication of DM&D, each for their own and totally different reasons. It saddens me no end for them to feel that way. I do appreciate the fact that they would both prefer to have “Dad” back on a permanent basis, but to totally cut me off and refuse any attempt to understand me or my decisions is nonetheless painful.

My message to any who would listen, and the message I begin every presentation I make to the groups I am asked to speak to, is this: If you or anyone you know, has even an inkling that gender identity is doubtful, figure it out before you have a family to be destroyed by the issue. Life will be so much happier and productive if the question is resolved early in life rather than later. If necessary, I beg of you to seek counseling to help avoid decisions and actions that are irretrievable and all too often end in the taking of one’s own life.

Many of the decisions in this area of our lives are irreversible so proceed with caution. Stop, take a deep breath before taking each step. Taking a little bit longer to act will not hurt anyone and will ultimately lead to a decision that one can live happily with for the rest of ones life.

Make the decision an investment in happiness … not a price to pay.

What if … “I was 3 again knowing what I know now?”

It’s confession time … AGAIN!!! I confess that I am not the most astute participant when it comes to keeping up with reading about current issues concerning the trans community as a whole. And, lately I’ve been extra remiss because of my consuming interest in politics. However, I’m going to attempt here to correct that oversight.

Last Saturday night I was able to attend a meeting I don’t often get to because of my work schedule. As I was leaving I noticed a stack of the latest issue of ECHO magazine which, by the way, I wrote a series of articles for several years ago. The primary focus of this issue is “(Net)working”, but that’s not what grabbed my attention as I perused the contents page. The article which captured my interest was titled, “TransParent” by Megan Wadding a freelance writer.

The focus of the article was on an organization for the parents of trans children of all ages. TransParent was started several years ago by Tammy Janssen for the purpose of supporting her son Max and although she has since relocated out of state the group is now in the hands of a parent’s advisory board. I don’t intend to go into the details of the article because that’s not my intent in bring it up.

The reason I’m writing about it is because of the questions that the existence of this group brings up in my own mind … the “what ifs” regarding my own journey through life.

In Dear Mom and Dad, I describe the life I was born into and the society in which we lived and how that life and society affected my development as a human being, as a young man and as a husband and father … and ultimately to the recognition of my own existence within the backdrop of “George’s” life.

If I was to tell you that my life would have been different had I been aware of the variety of gender identities at that time I would, most likely be only partially right. Of course I have wondered what life might have been like if my existence had been discovered much earlier as a result of current knowledge, exposure and relative acceptance. But, in reality I don’t really know how much different it would have been. In fact, the thought is actually somewhat frightening for me. It’s frightening because I have few, if any, regrets for how my life has been.

I/we have had a very rich and fortunate life … not perfect, but certainly rich and fortunate. When I think about how it might have been different if my existence within George’s existence had been discovered or, perhaps more accurately, identified when I was an adolescent, the one abiding question is; “Wouldn’t I have missed all the events, people and circumstances and situations that have contributed so richly to who I am today?

It must go without saying that the children George fathered would most likely not exist. We would never have met, fallen in love with and married that beautiful brown-eyed brunette who so completely filled our life with love.

The events that made up what became Dear Mom and Dad would never have occurred and I might not be able to look back on the life that George led with a sense that it was all in God’s plan from the beginning. To not be able to look back on the scenes that have made up our life would, to me, be sad indeed. What has made my life so incredibly rich and fulfilling has been the fact that it has turned out exactly the way it has.

Honestly, I do wonder at times what it would have been like to have been a cowgirl and not a cowboy on a ranch in Colorado; to have been a liquor saleswoman and not a salesman traveling the mountains of southwest Colorado; to have been and done a lot of things as a woman instead of a man. I would be lying if I said any different, but wondering what it might have “been like” is not the same thing as wishing it had “been.”

When I read about the changes and levels of awareness regarding gender identity today and how society is not only more accepting but, in many cases encouraging gender identity variations I’m glad that I’m 71 years old and not 7 or 17.  Sure, life was more cut and dried then and there was little room in society for the Johnny who was out of step, but it’s part of what has made me … me.

I gradually and cautiously moved from the role of mature adult George to mature and adult Georgia and that made it possible for me to accept and embrace the role God intended me to play in this life. I can only hope that the parents coping with the seeming reality of a trans gendered child are wise enough to guide their children to a resolution that will prove to be the right one and the one God had in mind for them later in life.

Dear Mom and Dad : You Don’t Know Me, But …

Marilyn was shaving her legs, and that’s when it happened. She took a couple of playful swipes with the razor on George’s left thigh.

“Wanta shave cowboy?”

In that one instant … with that one simple act … she unwittingly opened the door to that closet where I’d been hiding all the time. It was the beginning of comprehension of the emotions he’d experienced all his life, but not understood. He thought he wanted to be like her. He didn’t know it was me, but then he didn’t know I existed yet. The emotions he was experiencing for the first time, in reality were the result of the emergence of my spirit; a spirit he didn’t know existed. But then, I didn’t really know I existed. What he felt in that instant, was a desire to shave his legs, put on her clothes; he thought he wanted to know what it was like to be her, and before the night was over, like a newborn emerging for the first time, there I was. Understanding why I was there, and in what capacity, was just beginning.