Scaredy Cat

I have a confession to make … I’m a scaredy cat. Yep! That’s what I am. To revert to another term I haven’t used in years … What am I ascared of? I’m not sure. I just know that I’m not terribly brave or courageous; not like soldiers or policemen or firemen; not like atheists or agnostics. It’s all about facing death.

It’s always seemed to me that a person such as a policeman or fireman and more particularly a soldier has faced, if not death, at least the prospect of their own death at least once in the course of performing their duties. They have more than likely come to terms with the prospect of life coming to an end. There is a saying that there are no atheists in foxholes and I imagine that’s because when one finds one’s self in a foxhole one is face to face with the prospect of their end being there in that foxhole.

I don’t remember ever not believing that God exists. I always felt that He did. However, for most of my life I just never paid a bit of attention to what his existence really meant to me.

Atheists and agnostics simply baffle me. When I look at the complexity of life; the way every single solitary thing, in not just this world but in all of creation, is assembled and ordered, it is just not possible for me to consider for even a moment that it’s all random accident the way atheists do. I find it equally impossible to ascribe to the notion that “the universe”, an impartial and emotionally devoid entity created itself without the benefit of intelligent thought.

Correct me if I’m wrong but isn’t it just a wee bit incongruous to think that morality is a natural happenstance which mankind has, over centuries come to accept as the correct way to live. Are “right” and “wrong” simply the unintended and accidental result of the passing of time. If that is the case, then it seems to me that it’s basically because the “weak” in society drummed up the notion, and began a campaign of acceptance among the compassionate strong, as a sort of shield against the not so compassionate among the “strong”.

But to be more practical about the issue, I find it further mind boggling to imagine that anyone with even a modicum of scientific knowledge can think that it’s all accidental. It’s been years since I studied biology and chemistry and even though there have been advancements in our human understanding of the “way things work” the basics remain intact. Everything, every single solitary minute particle of our world, our solar system, our universe, is ordered and positioned to serve a purpose of some sort. Again, I ask, accident?

And that brings me back to my confession. I realize that we all have to face the fact that there is an expiration date to our earthly existence. Firemen face that reality in doing their job. Policemen, in this current time of deadly attacks on them, certainly do and soldiers, in particular those who stare the enemy in the face at any given moment; those people have to deal with death as a matter of course. How they do it and continue with their jobs is a source of constant amazement for me. There is an old phrase that says, “there are no atheists in foxholes.” Seems logical to me though I have never been in one of those “foxholes”

I’ve never had the opportunity to discuss the issue with an atheist, so I can’t say what, if ever they find themselves in a “foxhole”, they would do. I think I would like to know how they mentally and emotionally address the final curtain.

For myself, I find enormous comfort in my belief that God does indeed exist; that He designed me and everything else in existence with care and precision meant to work together if we follow the instruction manual. I find further comfort in the fact that there are numerable instances in my personal life which I can point to that can only be explained in light of His existence and personal involvement in my life. I don’t care if it’s something as simple as searching for a misplaced item and saying aloud, “Where in the Sam Hill is my shoe?” and suddenly have it appear in my line of sight. It happens way too often to be coincidence. I am one person who has experienced God’s personal involvement in the mundane as well as the special occurrences of my life.

So how do I resolve the issue of being a scaredy cat? That’s really quite simple. I’m only scared when I don’t remember that I don’t need to be scared. Besides, as I have said to my best friend, Christine who is an avowed atheist, “If you’re right and I’m wrong I have not lost anything because there was nothing to lose in the first place. But, if I’m right and you’re wrong you will have lost everything.?

6/20/2010

Eight years ago today, June 20, 2010 at 1:37 AM in the morning I posted the following on my Facebook page.

“I’m done! I’m done! I’m done! I’m done! I’m done! I’m done! I’m done! I’m done! I’m done! I … AM … DONE!!!!! HALLELUJAH! THANK GOD ALMIGHTY!! I … AM … DONE!!”

After 3 years of remembering, researching my own past and writing down the results, I had written the final sentence in “Dear Mom and Dad.” Had it been published in that original form it would have been in excess of 700 pages long. Thankfully, the person I’d been dealing with at iUniverse advised me that unless I was James Michener it was entirely too long. Following that advice, I began a slash and burn editing process. Well, I didn’t actually burn anything. I still have the original hard copy script in a 2” black binder on a shelf in my bedroom along with all the notes I used creating my original outline. In addition to that, I have several flash drives with the various edits in my desk drawer.

When I think about writing another book I find the prospect daunting. After all I had an accumulated 60 plus years of events and people to make writing easy. All I had to do was write about those people and events as they were, though not accurately  remembered in the first draft. Accurate memories came only when I realized that the people written about would actually be reading what I wrote. Now with a mere 8 years accumulation of people and events I wonder if it would be of any value.

I also wonder if I could add anything to the dialogue engaged in by the majority of the transgendered activists and their accomplices in the LGBT (I refuse to use the “Q” since that is a term earlier used to describe gay men) community. I have, since the publication of “Dear Mom and Dad”, written about issues that are near and dear to my heart with respect to the trans community and I have written about issues unrelated to gender identity; faith and politics in particular. My opinions on the latter have met with approval and with disdain. Writing another book is somewhat immaterial it seems. What is material to me is that whatever I do in the future be of consequence. It that includes the inspiration to write another book so-be-it.

My involvement in the lgbT community has left me with a few impressions which have had a lasting effect on my attitudes regarding “activism”. The most significant of those is the impression that the demands of the community to be treated equally are accompanied by demands for laws that in essence require not equal treatment but special treatment. It seems to me that the demand for special treatment trumps the request for equal treatment. It’s an attitude adapted from the racial equality movement which approaches their situation in the same manner. In both cases, it seems to me that the demands are equally exclusionary. Granny would have said something like, “Make up your mind. You can’t have your cake and eat it too.” To me, demanding equality is the equivalent of admitting that one does not feel equal or at least doesn’t see one’s self as equal.

I am firmly convinced that what our community needs are more people like Dr. Marci Bowers who has gone about her life without wearing her gender transition status on her sleeve, helping make the lives of innumerable people more enjoyable and complete.

Another person that I see as an example of getting on with life and using her abilities and education without wearing her gender status on her sleeve is Amanda Renae Simpson. While I acknowledge that her liberal political activity was largely influenced by her gender affiliation, I am not by any means going to discount her contribution to our community by using her training, education and experience to move about the halls of government in both Arizona and Washington DC exposing those realms to the notion that gender identity does not exclude one from making a significant contribution to society by productive use of their training and abilities.

These two people are not the only ones in our community who have made the transition and gone on with their lives using the training and abilities they possess for the good of society, but they are 2 that I have a personal connection with and knowledge of. They have made life more livable and enjoyable for the rest of us by virtue of their willingness to take personal risks without making demands on society for special concessions for them; at least none that I’m aware of. That’s what “people” do. They don’t make an issue of their gender; they simply apply their extensive training for the betterment of society.

For myself, I realized long ago that getting on with life without making a stink about my gender identity made life so much easier. I freely admit that I have been extremely fortunate in my physical make-up but I have also made it part of my attitudinal make-up to not expect special treatment. The expectation of special treatment generally leads to disappointments and there are enough of those already. For me, being treated as if there were nothing special about me is the highest compliment I can receive as a transgender person. The only thing I want special recognition for is the application of my skills and training in my field and the application of my talent in my writing.

“Dear Mom and Dad” finally hit the market July of 2012 and my first blog entry was posted by the publisher the same month. Since then I have posted nearly 120 more. Altogether they could equal another book I suppose. But it would be rather disjointed since my subject matter has varied so much. All in all, I will continue writing one way or another. It might be another book …it might be a more blog. It might even be some of what “ended up on the cutting room floor” as the saying goes, in that original draft..

Stay tuned …

The Quest for Individuality

If there is one human characteristic that is common to all humanity, it’s the desire to be different from the rest of humanity. Although it seems that there is confusion at times as to what “different” actually means. We in the gender variant community are generally thought to be using gender expression to achieve that end. While that’s frequently the case it’s not, by any means, the predominant factor affecting the decisions we make about our lives. If an individual who is considered to be “normal” in most respects, in other words is sexually attracted to people of the opposite sex, choses to wear purple nearly every day of their lives they may be considered slightly odd, but not perverted. That personality tic is considered just that … a personality tic. By the same token, a man or woman who elects to live their life on a ranch and wears cowboy boots, hat and Wranglers every day of their life is not thought to be odd. They are considered to be, “who they are.”

When I encounter someone, who has systematically turned their body into a series of artistic expressions by means of tattoos, the reaction may be “tisk tisk” but I doubt that any of them suffer the indignity of someone in a pickup truck shouting out the window, “pervert!” But let someone who was born male choose to live their life as a woman and the discrimination becomes blatant. Why in a society that prides itself on inclusion does this attitude persist?

I think the answer to that question should be obvious. It’s human nature to reject any idea, action or thought that isn’t understood. And for the average human being the inclination to reject the gender, the physical sex that one was born with is simply beyond comprehension. It’s that sense of rejection that everyone in the gender “variant” community lives with on a daily basis, whether the rejection is real or not. So, the issue is how can that be overcome?

In a larger sense we’re not much different in that respect than people “of color” because our way of dealing with it is often to try to separate ourselves from the society we think is rejecting us. But what has that accomplished? In my view, it has in reality had just the opposite effect of the one we want to achieve. In other words, demanding special protections under the law has actually set us apart from the society we want to be accepted by.

For example, murder is murder. The reason for one person taking another’s life is wrong period, and the law doesn’t need to know why the murder occurred. The mere fact that one person took it upon themselves to terminate the life of another should be enough to exact just punishment for the perpetrator regardless of the reason. When I see people gathering to protest the murder of a person who is gender variant I want to ask what has the persons gender identity got to do with the fact that one person took it upon themselves to end the life of another. To me, the fact that the victim was gender variant is beside the point. They were a human being with all the right to life of any other.

Yes, life is different for us. But, that is not the same as saying our right to life should be treated any differently than the right to life of any other persons.

Early in my transition I remember reading about a post-surgical trans-woman who just wanted to get away from the environment where she had been living prior to and during her transition so she could just “live her life” like any other person. At the time I didn’t understand why she wouldn’t want to be involved in the “movement”. Now I do. And now I applaud her for the road she took. The “movement” as it is, does more to keep us from being a part of society than it does to advance our part in society simply by continuing the notion that we require special treatment. Normal society doesn’t require special treatment. It simply requires the freedom to go about their lives in peace. Going about one’s life, doing what one does for a living, doing what one does for recreation, doing what one does for our families without demanding special accommodation is what makes one “normal” and acceptable to society.

Not all members of our gender are in the face of society. I believe they are, for the most part, people who just want to be able to live their lives in peace like the aforementioned individual … and I. My personal experience is not common, and I know that. I have been blessed in so many ways that others in our community have not. I have been cursed in ways that are common in the gender community, but not often.

I was rejected by the very church that “George” had been baptized in. That did not by any means alter my faith. The only thing that was altered by that rejection was where I chose to express my faith on Sunday mornings. “George” had been rejected in far worse fashion because of his faith and his politics than I have ever been because of who I am. I do use a bit of common sense about some places I might go. For instance, I don’t deem it prudent to enter your average country and western bar although that has been my choice in past years. But doesn’t that make me fairly normal.

The average white man wouldn’t think of setting foot in a bar located in a black neighborhood, now would he? Of course not. We all choose to frequent places where we feel the most comfortable, but that severely limits our opportunities for experience and personal growth. I don’t think that I am that much different from most of our community. I just choose to step out of my comfort zone. There have been times when I’ve had no choice but to step out of that comfort zone.

A year after publishing “Dear Mom and Dad” I was broke and on the verge of being evicted from my townhouse. I didn’t have the option of reverting to “George” mode because my name change had already taken place and all my accounts and IDs had been changed. It was a scary predicament to find myself in. I had never applied for a job myself. The scary part came when in the process of filling out applications there was always that section that asked if I had ever been known by any other name. In the application at one potential employer, “George” had been an employee recently. I had 4 different interviews with them but ultimately was told that they found someone better suited for the position. Sure they did.

The places I had expected to respond positively didn’t and the ones I held little hope for hearing from did … Home Depot in particular. I held little hope for that interview but because I stepped out of my comfort zone, fearful as I was, I found myself working in a “normie” environment which has been more than rewarding. Do I think I have fooled anyone about my gender variance? Not hardly! Why not? I don’t make and issue of it.

If I could impress one idea on any group, be it social, racial or gender it would be that one point. Don’t wear your identity on your shoulder daring someone to knock it off. Make who you are not what you are the focus of your life.

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.

The Waste of Anger

I never cease to be amazed at the attitude of so many people in the trans-gendered community when it comes the issue of acceptance. Sure, there are people out there who are narrow minded bigots, but in my experience most people are at least mildly curious enough to want to find out more about why we are the way we are and how we view our place in the world.

For more than fifteen years now I have been speaking to college classes from undergraduate level to master’s level and in all that time I have never been greeted by anything resembling hostility. On a few occasions, I have been warned in advance that certain individuals may prove to be hostile, but even those occurrences have been more of a challenge to meet than anything to dread.

I will never forget the lesson I learned inadvertently the first time I dared step out in the normal world … alone. It was six months after the passing of my wife Marilyn and I was already itching to get out and away from the trans venues that I’d become used to attending. They were okay, but they were not the normal life I so desperately wanted to be a part of.  I wrote in DM&D about the conclusion I reached concerning my first solo adventure into the real world and the sense of joy I felt when I realized that I was greeted with smiles or just plain apathy.

And that is the key to a happy life … a normal life as a transgendered individual; especially a transgendered woman. Smile!

In the intervening years, I have never had anything approaching hostility from even the most narrow-minded persons … as long as I have a smile on my face.

So why can’t that simple fact be appreciated and adopted as a normal way of life for so many of our community?

I have my own thoughts and opinions on the subject. The first thought that comes to mind involves “anger.”  If there is a predominately common expression among the trans community it is “anger.” On the rare occasions that I attend gatherings of mostly transgendered individuals the atmosphere is overwhelmingly affected by an undercurrent of anger. So, what are they angry about?

The answer to that question lies in the word acceptance; self-acceptance and other-acceptance. Why is self-acceptance one of those answers? It’s probably the primary answer because without self-acceptance other-acceptance is virtually impossible. As long as the opinions of other people color our opinions of ourselves we can never be happy regardless of our gender identity. We just have a higher hurdle to clear than other people.

Among the transgendered community, Christian faith is not what one would call a normal state of belief. In my opinion, much of our community is mad at God for a myriad of reasons, not the least of which is that they were born with a set of emotions that don’t match their bodies. Why would He do that? I can’t begin to tally the number of times that I asked that same question over the years. The answer was slow in coming. When it did, it was so simple I couldn’t help but wonder why it took me so long to arrive at it. It was a matter of choice.

We all feel as though we must make a choice; neither of those choices appears to be acceptable to us … at least it did not appear acceptable to me.

On the one hand, it seemed as though I had to live unhappily in the physical gender of my birth or unhappily in the gender of my emotional mind set. Living in the gender identity of my physical birth meant a visible denial of what was a very real set of emotions lying just under the surface of what the world saw.

Making a decision to live my life in concurrence with my emotions meant saying to my children that I, Georgia, was to all intents and purposes, killing their father and that he would cease to exist. That, I simply could not bring myself to accept as a viable solution. The answer came in response to one of those heart felt, emotional prayers uttered in desperation. Again, it was a simple solution. The only choice I had to make was one of who I appeared to the world as, and not one of who I was emotionally.

In other words, if Georgia had existed behind the physical façade of George why couldn’t he exist behind the physical façade of Georgia. The emotions were consistent and would not change regardless of what I appeared to the world as. If I chose to appear to the world as a female named Georgia the only emotional change would be a lack of internal turmoil. But that would only work if I whole heartedly accepted the fact that if God had made me a happier person when my visible expression was female then that was the way I should live.

I am happy today because I accepted and embraced the way God made me. Sure, it would be nice if society accepted the decision I made but I don’t wake up in the morning and see society in the mirror … I see Georgia. I am not a figment. I am real. I accept self.

To summarize … being angry at society because life for me is not in line with society norms is a total and complete waste of energy and time. God did not intend for me to be miserable. He intended for me to be happy but to be happy means to totally surrender to His will for me. When I did that, His will filled my soul to a point where there was no room for anger.

Living in anger because I’ve accepted some things that I’ve felt I had to accept is an unhappy existence and I refuse to spend a single moment in that condition. I want the unhappiness I’ve experienced to be in the past. Living in anger because I feel cheated by God or nature or society is a sure source of misery. If you are reading this and think that I am just plain oblivious to the realities around me then I will offer the real source of my happiness.

2 Corinthians 5:17 New Living Translation (NLT)

17 This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!

This has been my truth. If a person is unhappy with their life, for whatever reason, think about it. What do you have to lose? I am the way I am because that’s the way God made me so happiness has come to me because I embraced His wisdom and grace not the opinions of others.

Thank you Professor Jimmy and Crafton Hills College

Yesterday was another amazing day at Crafton Hills College in Yucaipa California. Thanks to Professor Jimmy Urbanovich, A.K.A. Speech Teach … I was once again given the opportunity to speak at Crafton Hills College. The reception was, as it has been in the past, even more gratifying than the time before.
 
My experiences with the students and faculty there have continued to add support to my observations about people. The biggest complaint I have had with the LGBT community in general is that they make little effort to reach out to the rest of society to explain what it’s like to be in their shoes. Rather they tend to demand blind acceptance from society and when they meet with resistance, react with even more demands and anger. 
I have found in experiences like the one at CHC, that when I simply share my experience with people as I did yesterday, without an accompanying demand for acceptance that acceptance is the natural outcome. People tend become defensive when demands are made of them, especially when the demand is acceptance of something alien to them or something that they have been led to believe is somehow unnatural or evil.
To further advance my own perspective, I was overwhelmed by the responses I received yesterday, when after my main presentation in the auditorium we adjourned to Professor Jimmy’s classroom for some give-and-take questioning and answering.
There were the usual unenthusiastic attendees who were there simply because their attendance was a class requirement. Those individuals I always seek to find a way to draw out and challenge in a positive way. It’s part of the fun of what I do, but the real reward is from people like one young man who told me afterward that he had not wanted to come, but that a friend had challenged him to show up. This morning I had a lengthy e-mail from him explaining that I had given him a whole new, although uncertain, perspective on his own life.
One young woman, who attended the initial presentation wasn’t even a student, but chose to come to the more intimate session in the classroom even though it meant being late for work. She approached me before the session began to tell me that she would have to leave for work shortly and didn’t want me to think she didn’t want to hear anymore of what I had to say. She was still there nearly 2 hours later and was the first one ask for a picture with me.
Another student, a young man with a very athletic build shared his experience with seeing and individual in his locker room whose appearance was confusing to say the least; looked far more female than male in most respects in body but still apparently male. His concern was that the situation made him feel terribly uncomfortable, which bothered him. He asked me if that was wrong. I explained that his reaction was normal and not to be confused with disgust. He was simply experiencing a natural reaction to a new and unexpected situation. If there was something in the individuals behavior that added to the discomfort it was perfectly appropriate to avoid interacting with them.
These are just three of the reactions I received yesterday and they all point to my original statement above. Simply sharing your own story without demanding acceptance, understanding or approval is a far more acceptable way to gain acceptance, understanding or approval. It’s a far more effective approach with a far more rewarding outcome.
The discussion eventually led to “The Bathroom Issue”. On that I have some rather definite opinions which I shared and which are in line with what I stated above. I think the edict that former president Obama issued regarding transgender bathroom use was much to the same point I made in the second paragraph of this entry. There was no effort made to help people understand and furthermore, by virtue of it’s broad and general nature, it was an open invitation to abuse by individuals with less than noble intentions. And again it was made without regard to different regional moral and ethical standards which is why I personally agree with President Trump’s order to rescind the previous order on the grounds that it is a state’s prerogative issue.
My thanks, once again to Professor Jimmy and Crafton Hills College for the opportunity to share my story and views.

Bishop Eric … and My Mud Hut in Africa

What I’m about to discuss you may have seen before but I’m revisiting the subject with a definite purpose in mind. In my early high school years, I began to actually examine how, what I was learning and studying in what we used to call Sunday School (don’t have a clue what they call it now) was going to affect my life. I was affected deeply enough that for a time I actually considered becoming a Congregational minister. It seemed a rather easy life to me; listening to people’s woes and complaints, then giving sage advice on how to fix their lives. Then for one hour on Sunday, wearing a black robe and telling people how God expected them to conduct their affairs.

But then somewhere along the line I was exposed to the life of a missionary in Africa and that exposure changed my entire outlook. You see, my understanding of the two roles in Christendom, that of the stateside minister and that of a missionary in deepest darkest Africa were worlds apart in more than the geographical sense. What I saw in the life of the Congregational minister was a life of relative ease. What I saw in the life of a missionary to Africa was a life of tremendous sacrifice and commitment. The effect that had on me was not one of encouragement but rather one of discouragement.

In short … I came to believe that if I really turned my life over to Christ, became totally committed to being a full-fledged Christian, that I would be relegating my future to a mud hut in Africa … and that is not what I wanted to do with my future. I wanted to be pig farmer who happened to be a Christian … most of the time. It wasn’t until I was in my third month of sobriety that I received a piece of advice that I wish I’d had years before.

When I came face-t0-face with the third step of Alcoholics Anonymous, “Made a decision to turn my will and my life over to the care of God, as I understood Him” my mind went back to the mud hut in Africa notion. Thankfully, a perceptive Larry B, my sponsor, did as Granny would have said, jerked a not in my tail. He said, “That takes someone exceptional to do that. And besides He (God) probably has something else in mind for you.” Nevertheless, I have remained in awe of anyone, accustomed to the luxuries people in this country take for granted, who could give it all up for the equivalent of today’s mud hut in Africa. And that finally brings me to the point of this message.

There is a man I have come to know as Bishop Eric. He has devoted his life to “The Good News” and has affected lives all over the world. He has traveled the world planting the seeds of salvation and forgiveness for most of his adult life all the while maintaining a full time “civilian” job. A year and a half ago Bishop Eric gave up that lucrative “civilian” job and moved to “a mud hut in Africa” to found The Hope Center in Nigeria.

While it’s a bit of a stretch to call where he is living and conducting the affairs of The Hope Center a mud hut in Africa, it’s not much of a stretch. The accommodations were primitive in the beginning and much of what he has accomplished has been a true labor of love. The thing you, my readers, need to realize is that in countries like Nigeria in central Africa, being gay is not generally acceptable. Many families, upon learning of their child’s sexuality will disown them, shun them and in extreme cases murder them to avoid public humiliation. So, it shouldn’t take much imagination to realize what a burden Bishop Eric has taken upon his shoulders.

If you haven’t figured it out by now, I am in total awe of the man. He embodies everything that I felt I would never have the courage or the will to be. I don’t agree with him on all things, but what I don’t agree with him on pale in comparison to the respect and admiration I have for him.

So how does he manage the day to day operations of his “mud hut in Africa”? It isn’t easy and he needs financial support desperately. His needs aren’t overwhelming by our standards, but by Nigerian standards they are mountainous. I have in my possession a copy of his monthly budget and budgets for the projects he dreams of implementing. They are next to nothing by our standards but in Nigeria they are a lot.

My purpose in sharing this is to inspire you, my readers, to consider contributing to the financial requirements and investments needed to aid Bishop Eric in his mission to give hope and a future to the people of Nigeria who are most often overlooked at best or shunned and persecuted at worst because of their emotional make up.

Check out his website at www.TheHopeCenterNigeria.org  You can donate through the web site and if you want to know more about their financial need and plans please contact me and I will send you a detailed list of monthly expenses as well as proposed improvements. You can reach me through Facebook or at georgialeemcgowen@cox.net .

 

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.