Monday, April 16, 2012

Mistake or Miracle?

Coming up on three years...most of life is pretty smooth. Good job, great wife, nice place to live, decent support system. But something that's still broken (although I will admit it was broken LONG before my transition): my family. My dad still refuses to use my chosen pronouns. He's the only one who holds out. Even his parents refer to me by my chosen name and pronoun. My mom is working hard to embrace me and has courageously so, especially since she and my dad are still married and she's sort of stuck in the middle. I am considering calling him by his name, or perhaps by "Mr. [sirname]". Not sure he's really my dad in any way other than biology at this point. This saddens me, of course. But after writing and sending the letter below, I feel I have done all there is to do. April 7, 2012 Easter Weekend Dear Dad, I woke up this morning, anxious stomach churning. Today I get to see my family. And for the most part, that is a good thing. But among the positives, there glares a lingering negative: How many times today will Dad jab at me? Which lead me to the question: Why do I care what he says or what he thinks? My mind raced with questions, searching for some sort of emotional armor, a sense of preparation and grounding. And then it occurred to me that I care about you, what you think, how you feel about me, being visible to you because we as humans are wired for connection. God has created us so that we long for connection with Him, some of which is by seeing Him and His glory in those around us. I believe that He gave us families to provide a built-in connection, to give us a safe place, a guarantee that we will never be alone. The Bible refers to him as Father and uses the analogy of family to describe the inherent connection between all believers, if not all mankind. You, as my earthly father, were supposed to be my sure thing. Your love, protection, devotion, emotional attention and acceptance were to be the foundation of a deep sense of belonging and security. Sadly, there are very few times in my life that I felt any of those things at all. Instead, there was a distance, always a stoic sense of separateness, of judgment, and only if and when I was perfect was there a “reward” of conditional and oh-so-fleeting love. As if loving me (or mom or anyone else for that matter) who didn’t live up to your self-imposed ideals of perfection, discipline and dogma might taint you and contaminate your hard fought righteousness. And as we sit here today, you still feel the need to be right. Being right, sterilized from the imperfections (or as you may see it, “sins”) of those around you is priority over love. You consider it your calling, your moral duty to “hold the line”. You would rather be right, than show me kindness if I “don’t deserve it”. You would rather be right than give me respect if I “haven’t earned it”. You would rather be right, than accidentally love me if I am “wrong”. As for me, my gender, my sexuality, the things about me that fill you with grief and rage and fear, I cannot explain why things are the way they are. It does not make sense. My being a man born into a female body doesn’t make sense. And for a long time, I thought of it as God making a mistake. Of course, we know that God doesn’t make mistakes, so there must be some other explanation. As I lay in bed this morning, thinking about you, Easter dinner, why things are the way they are a memory surfaced. I have just a few individual memories of your sermons, you preaching from the pulpit. And I remember this one evening service and I think you and I went alone. I don’t remember Mom or Amy being there at all. I remember you saying that there are laws of the universe in place- like gravity or inertia. And sometimes God, in his infinite wisdom and for his purposes, “suspends the rules”. You said this is what we call “miracles”. Miracles have no explanation; they must be taken on faith. The Israelites could have said that Moses was just a crazy old man (and no doubt some of them did) but when it came time to cross the river, they just had to believe or die. They could not fulfill their calling, their purpose as the chosen people of God without faith in God and faith in Moses and faith in the miracle. The Bible is full of examples people whose journey lead them smack dab, headlong into a situation that required them take actions and take on roles that made no sense to anyone else. We read about how people reacted to Noah, Sarah, Mary, John the Baptist… the list goes on and on. And we read about how people thought they were crazy, possessed or just wrong. But these people had a purpose. They sought God’s face and through faith lived as they felt called. What they did, how they lived made no sense- because God suspended the rules. There are examples all around us of things that don’t make sense, but we have to somehow take on faith. What if my life, who I am isn’t a mistake? What if it’s a miracle? What if I have been infinitely blessed to have the ability to understand the struggles of both men and women? What if I can now show compassion and bring people together in a way that most people can’t? What if this life I am living right here and now is exactly what was meant for me? All I can do is press forward, seeking my call, living each day with purpose and surrender. That’s all any of us can do and we are called to do it, no matter what resistance, judgment or disapproval we face as a result. God embraces us, protects us, provides for us and never fails to show loving kindness. He loves us so much that he humbled himself to walk among us. He created us, let us fall so that we could choose our own path, sent his son, died for us and then showed us the power we have through him to overcome fear and hate and death to be whole again. He loves us so much, he even sets aside the rules sometimes…and just asks us to believe that he loves us and all things work for our good, even when we don’t understand. Especially when we don’t understand. And his example as a father is to love us and be kind to us not because we are doing right, deserve it, or have earned it but just because. As for us, I believe God’s intent in providing family was to give us a sure thing, a safe place to get that need for connection met. And as I become increasingly more aware of my own mortality and the mortality of others (like Chop Chop) I don’t want us to find ourselves at a place where when we have to say goodbye we realize we have wasted the hellos. I want to know I have a father who loves me enough to welcome me, just as I am. I want to know that our differences can be set aside and I can love you while you live your life and you can love me while I live mine. I want to know that you care about my heart, my dreams and those I love. I want to know that when I struggle, you see it and feel it and struggle too. I want to know that when I celebrate, you celebrate too. I want to know that when I set aside time, to come share a meal or a game of 42 I don’t have to pack my armor because I am not going into hostile territory, I am going to a place of unbridled compassion and acceptance. Because to me, that is love. That is family. Your son, Drew

Friday, January 28, 2011

Cutting Edge

So, it's been a while since I updated this blog. There are a lot of reasons for that. But mostly it's that I am at a place in my transition where not much seems to be changing or going on. Or at least I had been.

I have known for a very long time that one step I wanted to take with my transition is to have "top surgery". Meaning, to have my breasts removed. There are several different procedures available depending on your circumstances but the most common and the one fitting for my body type is a double incision mastectomy. This surgery is not entirely unlike a mastectomy used for cancer treatment, but then again, it is quiet different. This surgery does not include removing the lyphnodes and it is performed by a plastic surgeon whose end goal is to leave a male chest. In order to accomplish this, they make two large incisions under the breast but at the base of the pectoral muscle and remove the breast tissue. They remove the nipple. They make a second incision on top of the breast but at the base of the pectoral muscle. Then they resize the nipple and eventually graft it back on to where a male nipple would normally be. My doctor has perfected a way to do this without having to use drains.

Normal recovery time is about a week of fairly limited mobility in the upper body followed by a slow progression back to normal. The main thing is you don't want to stretch the incisions be lifting your arms too high or too far away from your body. The more rest and healing before taxing those freshly knit tissues, the better the scars heal and the less apparent they are. My stomach and chest have actually spouted a fair amount of darkish hair, so that should help some too.

This whole procedure costs about $6,000 and is not covered by insurance. This procedure is considered "cosmetic and elective" despite the fact that it is listed as a necessary procedure under standards of care for gender dysphoria disorder. Very annoying. But that being said, I have had to wait to gather the funds. Many guys borrow the money but with being fresh out of law school and upside down in my income to debt ratio, loans were not possible for me.

I also felt like when I had the money together, I'd know I was ready and it was time. It was kind of my own check and balance. So, after working extra jobs, skimping, moving to a smaller apartment, giving up my blackberry, living without cable or internet at home and committing to drive (a very cool yet) older car with 180k miles on it, I have done it. I have the money.

One part of all this that it is hard for me to put myself first. And to spend that kind of money on me when I have so much debt, educational, personal and consumer, seems kinda crazy. BUT then my ex sued me for more child support. Well, that actually made me realize that this needs to get done and get done now. It made me realize how absolutely uncomfortable I am in this body and how my confidence and sense of self is seriously compromised.

I tried to picture showing up in a West Texas court and appearing as my children's mother with my body as is. Now, since this is not an illustrated blog let me explain, I am a man. I look like a man. I sound like a man. I am 5'6" and weight 175 with broad shoulders, a square jaw and a deep voice. No one ever calls me ma'am or she anymore (except my family members who are still dredging through 3 decades of speech patterns, neuro connections, memories and their own grieving processes). So, the thought of standing there in a courtroom, representing myself and being addressed as a female in THIS body as it is... just seemed completely impossible. It would just be too much. But when I picture myself there post surgery.. it's like a layer of armor. My body congruent with my mind and my own awareness that I can hold my space. Hard to explain.

So, here I am. One week from surgery. Processing daily. What started out as a vague awareness turned to a hope. Then a need. Then a consultation. Savings account growing all the while. Then a surgery date. And in one week... reality.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Taking the Easy Way Out

"Anything worth having is worth working for." "No pain, no gain." "Blood, sweat and tears."

All of these sayings once resonated with me. Something about how I was raised, or how I am programed, lead me to believe that things have to be hard. Something lead to me to believe that success can and will only come at great personal sacrifice. There is something about blood, sweat and tears that sounds so very deserving, so noble, so honorable.

It has only recently occurred to me that things don't always have to be hard. It has only recently occurred to me that one can ride the flow of the energy and opportunities present in life, rather than fight against them.

Funny thing. I remember about 10 years ago I had this revelation that I had just been going with the flow of life, but not in a relaxed purposeful way. I saw myself as a leaf floating down a stream. I just took the path of least resistance. Which lead to living as a heterosexual female, getting married, having kids, leading women's bible studies, etc. Then, when the dynamic with my ex husband reached a level of dysfunction that I could no longer justify keeping my children in such a household, I begin to gather the strength to push back.

It was at this point that I first admitted my attraction to, and feelings for women. It was at this point, I walked away from being a wife. It wasn't until much later that I would walk away from being a woman, daughter, sister and girlfriend.

So, the pendulum swung. From taking the path of least resistance, to fighting with every breath, kicking down doors, generally leaving destruction in my wake and carrying forward scars and wounds from all the battles. And now, I realize I have battled hard and long enough. I have found safe ground. I have sanctuary here. I can work steadily towards my future, allowing myself to take detours when necessary, stop for breaks when I need them and store up health and well being so that when the need arises to bust through the barricades, rather than take the detour, I can do so.

It's funny how after years of fighting, I just kinda got in the habit of being in defensive posture. I got to where I PUT myself in stressful situations, because it was familiar and comfortable. I made it hard... but maybe that was all just training so my fightin' muscles would be ready for the big one of the last year and a half.

It is something people tried to tell me, "Just relax!"

But I honestly didn't know how. I had submitted to having no control. Then, I realized I could take control and I tried to take ALL the control. Now, I realize there is a middle ground. I can control myself. And that's about it. So, now I plan to do what I can to put myself in the best possible position to learn and grow and LIVE. Everything else, well, that's really not my problem, not my business and not mine to carry. (NOT as easy to do as to say...I will blog more about figuring out how to do this in regards to my transition and gender).

Funny how people always say how brave I am to transition. But as it turns out, this has been one of the least painful times in my life. And who knew you could just go along livin' and laughin' and takin' it as it comes? Who knew the hardest thing I'd ever had to do would prove to be the "easy" way out?

Monday, July 5, 2010

Let Freedom Ring

So, I have had my kids here with me for summer visitation for the last few weeks. I have absolutely loved spending time with them. It is interesting, though, how watching each of them enter puberty, I have such strange and contrasting emotions.

My son is 13 now and is taller than me. His body is growing both in size and strength. I am jealous of his opportunity to swim and hang around without a shirt on. I found myself feeling jealous of his body. I felt jealous of him once before, when I took him to football camp last summer. Seeing him get to have all the things I always wanted when I was his age, all the things I was told I couldn't have or experience, is a strange thing to sort through. It feels, somehow, wrong to be jealous of my kid and his "normal" life. I feel angry sometimes that I wasn't given that chance. I feel angry that now, at 35, my body will never be the lean and naturally muscular body of a young man. I skipped right to middle aged. :(

On a side note, I will say that one of my concerns was whether or not I'd be able to keep up with cisguys in sports and recreational settings. Last weekend we were down at the pool and a water volleyball game broke out. I am happy to say, I did just fine. I easily kept up with the cisguys that were there and even managed to be one of the better players. That felt good. Affirming. Right.

But, I digress. My daughter is also here this summer. She is 12. And while here, she has entered her journey into "woman-hood". It was strange, understandable and a little painful that when she discovered her first cycle had begun, she went to my girlfriend. Now, my GF is awesome. And she handled it beautifully. She took her to the store and explained all the options and products, etc. I have to say I was a bit relieved not to have to navigate that but also, I felt a little sad. I felt like this was proof that I had lost some measure of the "mother-daughter" connection. BUT is also meant that she sees me as a man. BUT... not quite her Dad. Such a strange landscape.

And the exact opposite emotions that I had about my son's coming of age bubbled to the surface. For many transguys, puberty is the hardest part... it's the undeniable moment when you know you cannot get out of being a girl. Your body is rebelling against your heart and mind. And there is nothing you can do to stop it.

I spent the better part of my adolescents in deep depression. Though I didn't even know that is what it was. There was a close brush with death/suicide. There were endless nights of tears and pent up anger. There was a deep confusion and frustration. I couldn't figure out why I was felt so misunderstood, so alone, so "wrong".

It has given me a lot to think about. It has given me a lot to deal with.

And a lot to be grateful for... in that my own kids seem to fall pretty well within the "normal" range as far as gender is concerned. And though they have to fight the battle of having a transparent... at least they will never have to feel what I have felt... at least they are in the right bodies and able to embrace who they are every moment of the day. At least they know that. At least they are free.

And finding freedom is what coming of age is all about. I should know.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Soaring

So, my relationship with my new (2 months now) girlfriend is going really well. And with both of us in our mid-thirties, it is necessary for us to continue to ask the questions about long term compatibility. This brings up conversations about what we want for our lives including marriage, family, kids, etc.

Now, I already have two kids who are now 12 and 13 years old. They do not live with me. I divorced their Dad when they were 6 months and 2, mainly because the dynamic there was unhealthy and abusive. I simply could not raise my kids in that environment. The kids lived with me until I decided to go to law school when their father challenged me for custody, and in a small, conservative county on the outskirts of Austin, won. He was remarried and I was at that point presenting as a single lesbian who was about to move out of state and start law school. The court decided that even absent any assertion of abuse or neglect (which is supposed to be the standard) to overturn custody.

Now, this was an extremely painful time in my life. It felt like some guy with absolutely no knowledge of me or my parenting skills, or the abuse involved in the relationship in the first place and the potential damaging situation my kids might be in looked at me and said, "You are not good enough. He, the one with little education, a temper and malice is a better choice than you." I spent two years and my life savings trying to fight for my kids. Mostly never wanting them to wonder if I wanted them, cared about them, or tried to keep them out of what I saw as a harmful situation.

The years spent dealing with that forced me to confront layers of grief, guilt and fear. Learning to live with the reality of NOT tucking your kids in every night, not knowing what they eat in a day, not having the privilege of looking into their eyes to check in on their souls everyday... it's a really hard thing to do.

But in the meantime, I was afforded the opportunity and time to look into my own eyes. And that made me realize there was a lot of sadness there. I knew that I had been a good parent to my kids. I know I started them out in life right. They are well grounded and happy kids, despite all the weird stuff they have been through.

I felt, and sometimes still feel guilty, that their lives are not "normal" because I am not "normal." I was numb for so much of their younger years. Just trying to do what I knew I had to do everyday when I woke up... to feed them, teach them, pray with them... but I was dead inside. I did it out of love... sheer will to put one foot in front of the other, to cook one more healthy meal, to coach one more team, do one more load of laundry, read one more bedtime story, fake one more smile.

And I have mostly tucked that guilt away. I have thought in the abstract about having more kids, being a dad. I want to be a husband and father, to have the chance at the life I tried from the other side that crashed and burned and never quite fit, though I had no idea why. But now, now that there is someone to actually picture having this future with... someone who wants to be my wife and the mother of my children, new layers of fear, guilt and confusion come peaking out from their respective holding places.

I am so much more alive now. So much more present. I hate that I wasn't here sooner for my kids I already have. I know I did the best I could. But will being able to feel a new child only make the fact that I wasn't emotionally present for them so much more obvious? Do they know? Do they or will they feel cheated? Will they understand? Can they forgive me?

I am trying to work through the process of giving myself permission to be happy. Truly, bone deep happy. Not only today (which I am getting pretty good at) but also to allow myself to hope and dream for tomorrow. To know that a bright future does not have to drown out the past. I want to be free to move forward, to love with all my heart and live with all my life, to bring the positive parts of the past forward into today and tomorrow while leaving the pain behind.

But unfolding ones wings can be painful. And those first flights can be treacherous. Believing in love, in forgiveness, in forever, in myself...I hear that flying is much easier when you glide in the currents of the wind rather than trying to fight it. I guess it's time to find out for myself. It's time to soar.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Missing Her

I recently celebrated my manniversary. It has been just over a year since I was hit upside the head by this brick of revelation. Every now and then I stumble across an old picture of A (the pre-transition me). And it always seems strange to me. She is familiar, like an old friend. But there is a touch of sadness there in that she is gone. I look back at photos of me/her with my kids, at the White House with family and it seems like there is a separation. It feels like a whole other life, a whole other person. It's very hard to explain.

I feel no regret or remorse. I have not second guessed this decision for one single moment since I made it. The thought of going back is completely intolerable. But, I will say, I miss her. I morn her in many ways. That persona served me well. I was able to accomplish so much ... from having kids to a teaching career to law school.


And it is interesting navigating the world primarily stealth. You lose connections. For example, when woman are talking about child birth or some such inherently female experience, I still find myself wanting to chime in. Then, I just kinda laugh at myself and keep my mouth shut. Unless they are in the know... at which time I share pretty openly.

The simple fact is, transpoeple are a group unto themselves.

I didn't have the inherently male experiences through adolescence that cis guys had. And in part, I am grateful for that because I think society makes it really hard for guys to be balanced and in touch with all facets of themselves. But where does that leave me? I was a male mentally, emotionally, psychologically... but having the physical experiences of a female. Such a conundrum.

And sometimes a very lonely place.

So, I try to process the separation and loss as I would any other. I talk to her sometimes, journal about it and now blogging about it. I am not sad, overall. I am not lonely, overall. But I am learning how to let myself feel the full range of emotions that come with actually moving through things which means unexplained aches and tears sometimes... but I try to let 'em flow... let 'em wash over old wounds and let their salt sting...knowing it will promote healing.

Heal on.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Do Overs

So, today is Easter. It is the Christian holiday that celebrates the resurrection of Christ. New Beginnings. It is Spring time in Texas and all the wildflowers are in full bloom.

Religious icons and plants are not the only things enjoying renewal. I am too. It is funny how everything seems new to me. I feel emotions I have never felt before, see colors more brightly, everything is alive, fresh and new.

This new feeling of life and joy can bring on an on slaught of emotions. Of course it is positive but at times I am also sad (and even a bit angry) that I have gone so long without it.

The most obvious example is with my kids. B is here this weekend and I have so enjoyed our time together. He makes me laugh all the time. We wrestle and play and horse around. And I think about when he was little and how very numb I was. I remember a time when he was about 2 years old. He did something adoreable that should have made me swoon with parental oozy love. But it didn't. I remember being aware that it was cute and knowing I should have wanted to scoop him up and smother him with kisses. But I didn't have it in me. That is when I knew there was something very wrong with where I was emotionally. I had no idea if it was post partum depression (R was a few months old) or what. I just knew it didn't feel like it should.

I faught to be present with my kids. Knowing that they needed me and that those years would be gone forever. I think, all things considered, I did a pretty good job of navigating all that. But being here now, being safe and healthy enough emotionally now to adore them, makes me both want to celebrate and cherish each moment and mourn the loss of all that time. And it makes me hope beyond hope that I might get a second chance to have a family.

I have written before about how I am a good old boy who wants the girl next door and the traditional family, etc. I wondered, and frankly was very cynical, about the possibility that I would ever find someone to build such a life with.

Well, funny thing. I have heard all the saying all my life about when you stop looking, you will find it. When you let you, you will get it, etc. Everybody kept telling me that when I was happy with where I was, when I accepted it, then it would free up energy in the universe for things to shift for me.

Now, I am a business owner of a start up firm. I am founding partner and half owner with a friend and colleague of mine. We are up and running and I have everything I ever wanted in a career. And to add to that... I also have met someone and am completely elated with her. We have the kind of synergy that I never thought possible. We have mutual admiration and adoration for one another. We have the spark. We laugh constantly and dream big together.

So, in just about every area, I am gettin what feels like a do over. A chance to begin again. To build a solid foundation on solid ground. I have been afaid to reach for the stars or dream in the clouds because I was not grounded. It is too scary when you don't have a touchstone. It feels out of control and like destruction and disappointment are certain. But now...now it just feels like flying. And I know I am safe and will survive whatever comes my way because this time, I have me to rely on.

And I am enough.