Friday, April 8, 2011

On the turning away

A wise person once said that we have friends for reasons, and for seasons, and for lifetimes. It seems that, with the new warm summer weather, my heart is entering a new season as well.

I have spent the last couple years on the periphery of a community of trans sisters, looking in. I have never been the life of the party, and have never enjoyed the spotlight, so lurking on the edge has been perfectly fine for me. I have added my two cents when I had something to add, and have enjoyed some sense of belonging - the first such feeling I have ever had in my life. And yet now, I find myself stepping away from that community, and turning in a different direction. I can't relate; I have nothing in common with most of them any longer.

Transition is a very different sort of experience from any other. As difficult as it is to understand while it's happening to oneself, looking in from the outside, I would guess that it is almost impossible to grasp. So, as the old saying goes, birds of a feather flock together. Transitioning people seek one another to try to make sense of what is going on. For better or worse, a community forms around this crazy moth-into-butterfly activity which we have undertaken.

And then once it is done, when the changes are complete, what then? The people with whom we have associated and bonded and confided and laughed and cried for those many months, many of them have very different desires and likes and lives. And if we take a closer look, we find that there isn't anything we have to talk about - we're different people, who have been thrown together by happenstance. The circumstances have changed, so there is nothing holding us together.

I've seen several trans people who have basically disappeared after they finished with all their surgeries and big changes. They are done, and they just want to get on with their lives. Blog entries and video blogs become more and more infrequent. Their interaction with their transitioning community slows and eventually stops. The thing that has driven them for so long, to undertake this dramatic life change, is gone. They just don't have much more to say.

This is where I now find myself. I have driven over the precipice and lived to tell about it, and yet I haven't the slightest desire to tell the story. I've already told it; it's here, for all to read. I don't need to think about it any longer. There is no more danger. My heart can rest, and I can breathe, and live, and just be.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

The religion post

Over the time that I've gotten to know other trans people over the interwebs, I've seen more than a few instances of my sisters being the recipients of some lashing by religious people in their lives. The typical argument has been that our heroine would reject God's plan for her life, and go down this other road. That got me to thinking, what if this is God's plan for her?

Before I go further, I feel I must set out the disclaimer that I am not a religious person in any way. I am only a long-time IT person, who has a lot of experience with working through logical systems and sets of rules. I went to church and Sunday school when I was younger, but some of more, shall we say, mythical aspects of the experience didn't really resonate with me. The morality and love and support parts, I'm all for those.

So anyway, we have this idea that God sets out a purpose for each of us. He's got a plan for you, for me, for all of us. And since he's all-powerful and all-knowing, he can come up with some pretty inscrutable plans. The way I always interpreted God from my church experiences, he seems to want to teach us. What he wants to teach, well, that almost surely varies from person to person. Maybe each one of us has one big challenge to overcome in our lives. Who knows? We just go about our lives, and do our thing, and handle the stuff that comes as best we can. And if we're lucky, we can have moments of insight, or maybe even, dare I say, enlightenment, as to what our lives are all about. Or we may never understand quite what it is that we are to do, but perhaps some are destined to improve the collective conscious in some way.

But is it too much of a stretch to think that maybe he makes some people trans, so that they can, perhaps, learn to love themselves? It's generally accepted that if one is to love others, one must first love oneself, and as I recall, there's a commandment or something exhorting us to love our neighbor. Spreading love throughout the world by offering a monumental personal challenge? That's a pretty darned clever way to go about it.

Then I started thinking out from there. What if my friends have been in some plan of God's to teach others? Like, God says, "ok, I know she's strong enough, and willing enough to handle this, so we're going to use her example to teach others." God's all about love - I think at one point Jesus declares the most important commandments to be love God and love your neighbor. That seems pretty straightforward to me; if we love everyone, then the world would be a pretty groovy place to be. So, ok, our heroine is a trans girl, and because of that, is unappreciated and unaccepted, if not hated, by a large number of people, simply because of who she is. Would God have made her a trans girl, made that the plan for this girl's life, simply to teach others how to love each other? Have her work as an instrument of his plan? Does God do things like that? Would he put narrow-minded and bigoted people around her, to try to teach them tolerance and love?

And that's not even mentioning the fact that none of us really know what God's plan might be. Those who would tell us that we're rejecting his plan... do they presume to know everything that's in God's mind? Seems like mostly a combination of narrow-mindedness and arrogance, and of not making of man in God's image, but rather remaking God in man's image.

I think there are more directions I can use to think about this. And, as I said, this isn't really my thing, but I know there are more than a few of you out there who think about these kinds of things a lot. I'm more than happy to have some discussion about this, and hear others' comments.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Time, time, time, see what's become of me

It's pretty interesting how the circumstances in one's life can change so dramatically in such a short time. Short is relative, of course, but in the almost-two months since my previous post, I can barely recognize the life I used to lead.

Before, the internet was the most important thing in my day. Twitter, Flickr, Facebook, this blog, all my news feeds... that took up a lot of time, and yet it was very typical that I was all caught up with everything before lunchtime. I would then poke around for most of the rest of the day, talking to recruiters, working on various computer-related projects, but always in front of the machine, or close to it. I spent some time each day, possibly several hours, in Second Life, sometimes visiting with my friends, sometimes just exploring.

Now, just a couple short months later, my days are dramatically different. I moved to a new apartment. I began culinary school. I started seeing someone, and that relationship has blossomed quickly into something very special. The biggest change has been that I am rarely even in front of a computer any longer. Strangely enough, I don't especially miss it. I do miss the relationships that I have formed via the various social sites that used to fill my days. I feel like I'm neglecting those people - that I'm not being a very good friend. For a while, I did try to keep up with my Twitter people, but the traffic was just too fast, especially since I was only able to read at most once per day. If there's one thing I regret, it has been the loss of those connections.

I wonder sometimes what has made the transition from techno-nerd to a relatively tech-free existence so seamless. Perhaps the great number of other drastic changes in such a short time helped; there was so much going on, it was hard to focus on the changes in any one specific area.

Sometimes it feels like my old life is being completely erased. I feel like I'm even losing a little contact with some of the people in my day-to-day existence.

One thing that I've said to others in the past is that when one door closes, another opens. Perhaps this is just a series of doors closing and opening up for me all at the same time. Only time will tell how everything will turn out.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Not going to be That Girl...

You know the one, she posts "OMG, I'm so sorry that I haven't been updating my blog very much lately, I promise that I will post all the time now!" And then she doesn't? I'm not going to be her. I'm just going to post when I have something to say, and if that turns out to be infrequently, then I just won't make a lot of posts. That doesn't mean that I won't beat myself up about it a little bit, it just means that you won't have to read about it. I'm looking out for you, dear readers.

I'm in a pretty serious transitional period right now. Funny, I thought I was all done with the transitional periods, now that most of my gender transition stuff is done. Not even close, it turns out.

All this new transition started with the loss of my job back at the end of May. My first thought was, of course, "not again", since my last period of unemployment lasted some seventeen months, and was, in a word, difficult. But that feeling of stress and loathing started to give way to something else. Something more positive. A feeling of relief. I didn't have to go back to that job anymore, but I also didn't necessarily have to go back to that career anymore. And, after a lot of thinking, I've decided that I will not. Next week, I start at culinary school, in the baking and pastry program.

It is said that the average adult changes her profession four times over the course of her career. This will be change number two for me. First, I was a programmer. Then, a system administrator. Soon, a pastry chef. After that, who knows? Restauranteur? Teacher? Maybe something even more different.

My new direction has me so excited for my future. I feel like I'm finally taking control of my life, and not settling any longer. The radical jump feels pretty... radical, but there is so much more potential for happiness, for me, in this direction. This has become my new mantra: always move toward happiness. There is so much discord and unhappiness in the world, and there has been so much in my life, that I've had enough of it. I will be the change that I would like to see in the world (thank you karmatic1110), and live my own example, and I will try to increase my happiness every day.

But as big and exciting as that is, that's not the biggest new thing. I've recently begun seeing someone. I had all but given up on even the possibility that I would find someone ever again, but managed to meet someone anyway. So far, we've been out six times, and things are going fantastically. I'm usually pretty private about my relationships, and I think I'll continue that for now, but I did want to at least mention it, because it's extremely positive, and she's a person who is bringing a great amount of happiness to my life.

Toward happiness!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Wages of Privilege

I've started this entry about five times now, and I keep getting frustrated with the overly-strident tone and finger-pointingness of it. I know there have been lots of different blogs and various other things written about privilege, or lack thereof. But it hadn't yet reared its ugly head in my life. Until now.

A friend had made an incredibly cissexist and transphobic comment, which I felt certain was just thoughtlessness on hir part. Zie had been friendly to me since before my physical transition had even begun. When I mentioned to hir that comments like that hurt all transpeople, zie blew me off. The sentiment was basically "I don't feel that I have hurt anyone, so therefore I haven't." I wouldn't have brought something like that up, if nobody was hurt. I was hurt. And I felt like, somehow, my feelings had become a non-consideration for hir.

So a series of unfollowings and emails ensued, and it appears that we are no longer friends. Any chance of reconciliation any time soon is pretty close to zero. And that's a shame, because it didn't have to happen.

I won't lie: I'm angry at the way things went down. I'm angry that it had to happen in the first place. But I'm most angry that zie seemed quite unwilling to consider my position. It seemed like the core of the whole thing was an unwillingness to consider the positions of privilege that were at work.

I've radically changed positions in my life. I started out at the top of the privilege heap: male, white, heterosexual. And I didn't do a thing to get those privileges; they were mine simply by accident of birth. Now that I've shifted so many of those categories, it's hard to know where I stand. I'm still white, but I'm now a woman - a transgender woman at that - and a lesbian. I have never before had to consider the role of privilege. I was so disconnected from everyone and everything, I'm not sure what, if anything, it would have meant to me anyway. I always felt like I existed as something of a ghost on the very edge of the world. But now the clarity with which privilege is making itself known to me... it's a little overwhelming. And more than a little disgusting.

So in my previous role, it would have been inconsequential to have made the same comment as my friend did. I was above all those categories - sexism, cissexism, transphobia. But now, having started to experience some of those things first hand, I can say that privilege is a millstone around the neck of society as a whole. Privileged and non-privileged alike are burdened by it. It's laziness, pure and simple. It eliminates the need to actually get to know someone before making a judgement about who they are. I would suggest that those on the lower end of the privilege curve might even have the capacity to be worse in preserving the disparity than those on top; they're downtrodden, so rather than be content with everybody standing on their neck, they might seek to push somebody down, so they don't have to live at the bottom of that curve.

The problem is that this makes the problem worse, not better. Those at the top of the heap can just watch all those underneath fight it out to not be the worst. But all it does is preserves the status quo. Those on top remain, and those on the bottom remain, and none are truly benefitted.

The core of the whole thing is respect. Respect is a funny thing, though. It functions best when it is given, rather than when it is received. And rather than being in a limited supply, the more respect that is given, the more that comes back, and the more one has to give to others. Everyone is uplifted, and nobody is diminished. The trick is that it's a chain, and any weak or broken link can make the whole thing fall apart. It's a practical example of an iterated prisoner's dilemma, and there is no consequence for defecting, especially for those who already have the power of their privilege. Power they acquired by doing nothing more dramatic than drawing breath.

Ridiculous quote aside, it seems a bit crazy that the true solution is for everyone to "be excellent to each other", but it really is just that simple. First we need to form a chain of respect that encompasses everyone. Then we need to just not break it. I don't know if human nature would ever allow us to do that, but we could do far worse than to strive for such an ideal.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Inflection point

Seems like I've hit another big inflection point. Or maybe a couple of them, clumped right together.

I've long thought that the doctor who was originally managing my hormone replacement was not doing a very good job, so I found another doctor, and have seen him a couple times now. Our first visit was an extremely affirming experience, and it made me immediately glad that I had finally made a change. I saw him again a little over a week ago, for a six-week followup appointment, to see how things had changed or progressed.

He went over the results from my first blood tests, and described the main parts of interest. My testosterone level is 6.7, which is about what we would expect, he said, given my current physiology. My estradiol level was 80, which he said was very low; ideally it would be around 200. Levels of the two precursor hormones, FSH and LH, which are produced by the pituitary gland and signal the body to produce the main sex hormones, were very high. This indicated, the doctor said, that my body is not seeing enough sex hormones, and it was trying to spur my body to produce more. I don't have the right body parts to produce a whole lot of estrogen, of course, so what it actually indicated was that my hormone replacement dosages were too low. He had placed me on a different estrogen medication, which he hoped would increase the levels. This office visit was to confirm if this actually happened. So, he sent me over to the lab, and they drew the necessary blood, and off I went.

A few days later, I called back for the results. My estradiol level was apparently still very low, and the doctor wanted to double my dosage. Gulp! So, all this time, I've been on such a low dosage, and have had less-than-stellar development; I chalked that up to my being almost 40 years old, and my body just reacting less to the new hormones that were coursing through it. Everyone is different, of course, but it seems that older bodies typically react less-well to transition. But with this new information, it seems like my depression and nihilism might have been a side effect of my body trying to tell me something: more, please! So, ok, more estrogen.

It's only been a few days on the new dosage, so it's still really early to tell if I'm feeling different, or if I'll see another spurt of development. Maybe in a few weeks, I'll have a better idea.

The other big change is regarding my career. I've been working in the IT industry for many years now, and despite the fact that I am good at what I do, I just can't generate any interest for it any longer. I mean, like none.

Looking back, programming and system administration was something I sort of fell into. I had aptitude and ability, and it was something that I had done since I was a child, but there was never a desperate desire to do it. There are aspects of the job that I enjoyed: one must continually learn new things, and a lot of the job is governed by logical cause-and-effect. That is how I approach most things, so it seemed a perfect match.

All except that I don't care anymore. If I ever even did.

I like to make things. When I was little, my favorite toys were LEGO. Most of my current hobbies involve some sort of craft, and some act of creation. And as time goes on, the physical aspect of creation seems to have become more and more important; I enjoy photography, for example, but the modern moving-bits-around instead of standing in the dark and making something, seems too much like work to me.

And then there's another large aspect which never seemed important before: I like working with people, and it turns out that I like it when people are happy, and especially if I can make them happy with something I've done. Now, it seems like this aspect has grown more important than feeding my brain. I get excited when I know I'll have a chance to make someone happy, and I find myself drawn to doing that, as strongly as I've ever felt anything ever before. Here is that deep need, that desperate desire that I've always wondered if I had.

I keep feeling nudges here, and seeing signs there, and hearing people talking about change, and it seems like this is all conspiring to tell me something. Now is the time. Just as there was a time in which I had to say I will now become who I need to be, this seems like the time when I need to say I will now do what I need to do.

It is time to take another leap.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

More family stuff

I feel like I've been a bit of a broken record here, going on and on about the same thing. But, as a friend once said, it's hard to just talk about whatever, when there's something specific and important on your mind. Since most of my physical and social transition stuff is done, the only things that are left are sort of cleaning up around the edges. And my family stuff has been pretty messy, so that's what I've got to work on.

I had a long and productive conversation with my mom on Wednesday night. I originally went over because I just needed some comfort; my unemployment, which is continuing, is becoming way too much stress for me to handle by myself. Money, ever the evil that it has always been, is showing me a bad image of my future, unless I'm able to do something. What that something is, well, I'm not entirely sure. So I thought my mom might have some ideas, since she's really practical about things like this. I had some really basic ideas of things I might do, and she helped me sort of work out a rough plan.

Once that was all done, we sort of segued into other stuff; I asked about her recent vacation to her high school reunion, and her visits with the family who still lives there. After that ran down a bit, I told her that I had been corresponding with one of my cousins recently.

I had wished my cousin a happy birthday on facebook a month or two ago, and at the time he said that we should catch up soon. This week seemed to be the time. We traded several messages, and he relayed his complete support, which was such a wonderful change from what I've heard from many of the other family members. He also asked about who else on his side of the family knew about me; I guessed probably nobody. He suggested that all of them should be fine with my transition, and that I should just call them. I thought it might be a little weird for some random girl to call them and claim to be their former male cousin/nephew, so asked if he'd be willing to out me to them, which he was more than happy to do. He got back to me a day or so later, and said that everybody was accepting and glad that I was able to do what I needed to do. He also suggested that I follow up with a call to each, which I haven't done yet.

After relating this to my mother, she mentioned that my father had shown her the email I sent him last week, discussing my name change. This seemed to be a pretty big deal to me, that he would reach out to my mom with something like that, since my dad is usually pretty self-contained about such things. At that point, it seemed like a good opportunity to tell her about what was really in my heart. I told her that when she used my old name, and used 'he' and 'him', it hurt me every time. I went on a bit about the semi-rant I wrote a couple blog posts ago, and asked how she was unable to see the changes that I had made. She said that the changes were very clear to her. I told her that I didn't go through all this time and effort and expense, for nothing to happen. I'm her daughter now, and that carries some necessary changes with it. And through all the effort and expense, even though it has been the hardest thing I have ever done, the benefits so greatly outweigh any price I've had to pay, I would willingly and gladly pay that price again.

This past week, I've had a few moments which really made clear to me the purpose of my transition and the goals which I had hoped to accomplish. Before, I was in such a state of detachment, that I was rarely ever able to have even a moment when I felt comfortable. I can remember one fleeting time, ever. But since my transition has been done, I've had those moments pretty often. This past week, a friend was visiting from out of town, and one day we were planning to just spend time together at my house. I had gotten out of bed, put on clothes, brushed my hair and teeth, and gotten in the car to go get her from the hotel. I'm sure I looked exactly like somebody who had just woken up (since, y'know, I had), but at that moment, I had such a feeling of peace and contentment... It was so powerful. All I could do was smile. That feeling is worth any price.

I related that feeling to my mom, and I think that made a real impression. As I was sort of running out of steam, I said that it was probably impossible for any cis person to really understand what being transgender means, and that I didn't really need her to understand what I've been through, but that I just needed her to accept me as I am now - that's who I really am, and who I've always wanted to be.

We finished our talk well past midnight, which we haven't done ever. She seems more willing to let those new ideas take root; perhaps my passion helped convey just what all this means to me.