Transgender, transitioning, and family

I’m writing this as I sit on the train to Toronto to attend an event tomorrow for my youngest daughter. While this is a super exciting milestone for her, it is not without drama (see post about a week ago). For those of us who are or have transitioned, family can be a huge challenge. Sometimes amazing in their support and lovel and other times, maybe not so much. And that is the case for me. 

I have always maintained that we do not transition in isolation. Everyone around us does as they try to work through what it means for them and their relationship. So I get that. I really do. But even when you aware of this and deal with it on an ongoing basis, it can still be a huge source of stress. Not just for the person transitioning, but for everyone around them. While I may have been intellectually able to process all of this, emotionally? Well, let’s just say there are challenges. 

What I discovered a few days ago was that there are a few that are still having major difficulty with it all. Which I get. That is not the surprising part. But I wasn’t ready for what was turning out to be an issue. Maybe that’s not the proper phrase. More like it was completely unexpected. Mostly because I never even considered that this would be causing others in my family angst. 

Happiness. That is the issue. The fact that I am so happy, even exuberant one might say, is a problem. While they are sad and hurt and confused and still trying to sort this all out, I’m just bopping around in my life. So happy to be who I really am that I appear so carefree and that is pissing some people off. 

I’m not thinking about how they feel. Actually, that isn’t true. Not even remotely. I am constantly thinking of them. I guess I figured that if I was happy and chatty etc, it would lighten the mood a bit, maybe decrease the tension. Well, I was wrong. Big time!

So while I’m at the event tomorrow I am to be somewhat restrained. I am to be my happy self, just toned down a bit, mindful of how others are feeling as they continue to work their way through all of this. Maybe I didn’t see it at first, but holy, I totally get it now. It makes sense. I can imagine how that would piss me off, should someone have a total disregard for my feelings. 

So, starting with the event tomorrow, I will be more mindful around others and considerate of their feelings and where they are in their own processes in working this out. No one has a manual, we are all trying to work this out as best we can. It just goes to show how important maintaining an open line of communication is. I can’t change things or address issue if I don’t know about them. We are not mind readers. So I’ve really got to work on making others feel they can tell me these things. And honestly, I’m good with that. They can tell me anyth my they want. Sure, I won’t lie. It might hurt initially, but I feel it is better for me to know than not. May not be the case for others, but I’m okay. 

Lesson learned. 

Lasting impressions?

Earlier this week, I was at a PR event in Toronto with about 450 people in attendance. It was an exhausting evening as we “worked the room” but enjoyable non-the-less. But I was fortunate enough to have an added bonus. I reconnected with someone that I missed very much.

As the old cliche goes, “there she was, across the crowded floor on the other side of the room when I spotted her…” And that is exactly what happened. A former student, but someone that I really connected with, including her family. I couldn’t run over to see her fast enough. She was in a conversation with a small group of her former classmates. As I approached her group, I caught her eye. OMG. It was a moment.

She immediately stopped talking to her friends, ran over, with tears in her eyes and gave me the biggest, longest hug ever. It was….the best! She just kept whispering in my ear “OMG I can’t believe it, I am so happy I found you again! I really missed you and need  you in my life!” My heart melted. You see, she was more than a student, she is someone very special to me. I call her my third daughter.

She has always known that I am transgender. She initially was looking for some guidance with one of her projects, and we became instant friends. We spent a lot of time together, including spending time with her mother as well, who is an amazing woman. They are very much a second family for me.

When she finally let go of me, she told me that the best thing that ever happened to her during her time at university was meeting me. Flattering to say the least, heart warming at best. I hadn’t heard anything from her for six months, which was very odd even though she moved away just before that. We would talk all the time. It turns out, however, that she had some serious unexpected health issues and went off the grid, so to speak. I figured that she was busy with her career and when she came up for air, she would contact me. But this turned out to be even better.

We chatted for several minutes and after a million more hugs, I was pulled away to meet more people. We quickly set up a time to reconnect. I recall walking away and just having such a light feeling in my heart that was comforting and warm. She is such an amazing young woman, strong, smart, determined, and drop dead gorgeous! I am so thankful she is in my life.

All this to say is that you just don’t know the lasting impression that we leave behind. And for someone to say that about me, knowing that I am trans, knowing what I have gone through and what baggage I carry, well, that’s just something very, very special. Sometimes we don’t think that we make a difference or have an impact. For me, she reminds me that yes, I do. So on days when I feel like I am getting nothing accomplished, that I am not making a difference, I think of her. And that’s enough to remind me why I do what I do. You don’t have to be some big ginormous asteroid to make an impact. I guess I do.

Just little ol’ 5’9″ me.

People need to get over themselves…

Last evening I had the rare opportunity to speak with my ex. It was about an upcoming celebration for our youngest daughter. She is getting called to the bar at the young age of 25! Following in my footsteps to a degree, just graduated from law school waaay younger than I did. But I digress.

The call had to do with the “rules of engagement” (my words, not hers) at the event. My ex will be with her parents. I was informed last night that I am not to approach them at anytime under any circumstances. She is not sure how her father will react to me, but any reaction will not be a good one. So to avoid “a scene”, I’m not to incite him by speaking to them. Seriously!!??

OMG. I was so pissed and I am still angry, frustrated and even a little sad. Everyone needs to get over themselves!! This event has nothing…NOTHING…to do with anyone accept my daughter. And they don’t think he can control himself enough to not make a scene?!?!? Ridiculous. So much for adults in the room. Holy crap. I mean really. REALLY??? Just because he’s being an idiot, it’s up to me to be the adult in charge and I have to modify my behaviour because he can’t control himself??!! All because I am living an authentic life, having transitioned. Is it just me, or is that just a little bit insane?

So my daughter will be called up on stage after taking her oath, to receive her Bar License, and will look out into the audience and see that her parents are not sitting together because they don’t feel they can be civil for 90 minutes?? WTF?!?! I am so…overwhelmed…angry…sad…I’m actually in tears right now. This is somehow all my fault?!? No… NO. It isn’t. This is totally on them, and in particular on him. This has absolutely nothing to do with me, but somehow I’m the one making all the concessions?

I was a bit abrupt with her last night and did say everyone needs to get over themselves. That didn’t go over particularly well. I also said that her parents don’t have to talk to me or even look at me. They can even sneer at me if they like. I’m a big girl and can take care of myself. She actually laughed at that. My self esteem and sense of self worth are in no way impacted by what people think of me. I know who I am. I am proud of who I am. I’m good. This is their issue.

Now, to be a bit far, I know this was a difficult conversation for her to have. She is extremely uncomfortable speaking to me, hates conflict and this was a difficult thing for her to do and a hard conversation for her to have. But at least she did it.

Otherwise….ugh.

 

Passing Privilege…

Apologies for not posting something sooner, though I suspect since all four of you who follow me have a life and really didn’t notice!!  😉 We have been busy with the Pride Festival in my city this past weekend, so lots of activity leading up to it. Will try to consolidate my thoughts around the events and post at a later date about that. For now though, it’s another topic.

So, a short while ago, I received a PM from a listener of a radio show that I was a guest on about 2 weeks ago. The host asked me a bunch of questions regarding transgender issues etc to get my thoughts. I know….scary thought isn’t it! Anywho, one of the questions was “How do I feel when I ‘pass’? “. I started by saying that I have a whole bunch of issues with the concept, but I then replied to the question. Basically, I don’t give a rats *ss as to whether or not I pass. I do care, profoundly though, if I am accepted by whatever community or company I am in. That was essentially the gist of my answer.

What the listener told me is that coming from a position of “passing privilege” that my position was easy to take. That I wouldn’t say that if I didn’t “pass”, as many, including this listener in our community struggle with…their words not mine. Given my photos and my voice etc, they said that I had no idea what it was like to have that issue everyday of your life. They felt my answer was glib at the least and offensive at the most.

First off, let me say, that I sincerely apologize to anyone that took offense with my comment. That was certainly not my intent. The point I was hoping to get across is that we all need to be treated with dignity and respect and accepted for who were are. This pressure to “pass” is so counter productive. But I get it. Really, I do.

Our society is binary. You’re a man or a woman. And for whatever reason, society feels the need to place all of humanity in one of those two buckets. That, I feel is the issue. I guess I just didn’t articulate them very well. I’m certainly not saying it is right. And I know it is not going to change overnight. In fact, I probably won’t see any movement on this in my life time. That’s not only wrong, it’s just sad. So I empathize with the experiences and the point of view of the listener.

Yes, I guess I do have “passing privilege”. Since my full transition, I have never, not once been misgendered. I go about my day to day life, no issues, no worries. And yes, it does feel good to move about society as my authentic self. I present myself appropriately given the activity and location etc, and feel comfortable in most environments. But it took me along time to get there and a ton of really hard work. Maybe I was also blessed with good genes, I don’t know. I just know this is all me. It’s who I was meant to be.

This ain’t easy. Transitioning takes a tremendous amount of inner strength and support. A ton of support. I worked my little butt of on both counts. Lots of set backs, lots of issues, lots of tears, all at a very high cost. But I did it. Because I had to. Just as everyone else in my community has done. They do what they do to survive. They are special people in my community. Simply amazing. The world would be a much better place if everyone just figured that out.

So yes, I do get it. But for me, it is about acceptance. Don’t care if I pass. I Just want to be accepted. I don’t have any issues. That may be because I do “pass”, but I doubt that…I think people realize that I’m trans, but don’t care. They get passed it and accept me for who I am. Either way, I don’t care. Treat me with dignity and respect, that’s all I ask. You don’t have to like me. And I may not like you. But we are all humans.

I am very proud of who I am. Very proud to be transgendered. So I won’t apologize for who I am.

This…is me.

Another minor milestone

Earlier today I had a regularly scheduled session with my gender therapist. One hour later, she declared that we were done. She has taken me as far as she can and I am “good to go”. I was taken aback for a few moments, then realized what she was saying. It was both a happy and sad moment for me. You see, I have been with her for two years. It would be a severe understatement to say that I couldn’t have done this without her.

Okay, I could have done it with her, but no where near as quickly or as successfully as I have. Not a chance. She has been doing this for 30 years. She has been training other therapist and family doctors to do assessments in my province for years. She is nothing short of amazing. The best thing she did for me was hold my feet to the fire. She could smell BS in a heart beat and was able to push me to see the truth both in what I say and what was going on around me. She protected me from myself. And that, my friends is not an easy task. At all.

She was there when things were rough and I was not doing great. She made sure that I wasn’t beating myself up, provided coping strategies that kept me going and kept my head above water. On the other hand, she was there when things were going really well and made sure that I stayed grounded, and didn’t get too full of myself. For me, it truly was a roller coaster ride emotionally, and she was there every step of the way. I was so fortunate that I had the opportunity to work with her. 

A major take away is that everyone going through this should have someone like this as a resource. Thinking you can do this on your own without an objective, well trained professional can be misguided. I’m not saying that it is mandatory and everyone has to do this. I will say that for me it certainly made sure that I was ready for each step along the way. It certainly set me up for success, no question. I initially thought I was strong enough to do it on my own, but so glad I didn’t.  Fortunately I was able to park my ego, thinking I knew what was best. Not a chance. There was no amount of “research” on the internet that could equal her counsel. You can’t self teach yourself to be an expert, at least not in a short period of time, i.e. 2 years.

So it was my time to move on. And I do so with a great deal of confidence in who I am and my abilities. She also would like me to be a resource for her patients that live in my city. Just to be someone to provide them with information on local resources, and just meet with them for coffee etc. To be someone they can meet with and just chat about my experience. Of course I said yes. So many did that for me in my town, that I am happy to pay it back. 

This may all appear to be something minor, but for me, it was a milestone. Another box checked off. But the reality is that I will miss our conversations, her compassion and her wit, and her ability to whack me upside the head when I needed it! And we all need that! 😉

Time for me to fly.

Trans or not trans??

Earlier today I had to complete a survey as part of one of our initiatives at work. It was conducted by an outside service provider. The very first question had to do with demographics. You know, the usual, age range, job title, industry, sector, yadda, yadda, yadda. And of course, a question on gender. When I clicked on the drop down box, there was the usual choices. However, there were a total of seven choices including “prefer not to disclose”. However, there were two that jumbed out, “transgendered woman” & “transgendered man”. Hmmm.

Now, this is interesting. What do I do.? I actually wasn’t sure. And that surprised me. I really did think about it. On the one hand, I would usually self declare as “woman”. Period. Not a second thought. On the other had, I was impressed that they actually had multiple categories. Should I honor my community and acknowledge their efforts or be true to myself, to who I am? That was the dilemma. I had to take some time to decide what I was going to do. They stated that the data would be anonymous and secure, but really didn’t say for what purpose.  In my world that is an issue.

We have a policy that you are not permitted to ask for gender unless there is a definite purpose and reason for doing so. Asking just for the sake of asking isn’t good enough. If you’re required to gather the data for purposes of reporting to an outside licensing or accreditation agency, then you can. Otherwise, not such.  Given the information they provided, it didn’t meet our requirements. But then again, this third party provider was not subject to that rule/policy. What was a very simple ask in their eyes got very complicated very quietly in mine. 

Why as a society do we need to try to pigeon hole everybody? To what end? Is it comforting? Easier to understand our surroundings, provide us with context that creates order?  What does knowing my gender have to do with the remainder of the survey? Or whatever the service is? Why do we need to do this. People are people. Let it be.

What would you do????

Feeling part of something bigger…

Last evening I had the true honor and privilege of being on board one of our Navy Ships that was in port for a few days. To honor the event, there was a reception for City dignitaries. I was invited as one of the representatives of our city PRIDE organization. And it didn’t hurt that the commanding officer is a friend of mine. Ha ha. Given that I am not a “city dignitary” I was so fortunate to be invited and on board.

I met a few friends on board and made a few new ones as well. The officers and crew did an amazing job of making us all feel so welcome. And to top it of, if was a gorgeous evening and the food was amazing! The one bonus is that I was able to have a really great conversation with our Mayor regarding the past support of PRIDE events by the city and we chatted on how we can keep that going moving forward. He is an amazing supporter, so it was actually an easy conversation.

But for me it was an important one to have. The mayor knows me from another initiative that I am involved with on behalf of my organization in working with the city. This was different. This time I had to “out myself” somewhat in that it would have been the first time he would have known of my affiliation with PRIDE and my community. I had to do it. No, check that. I wanted to do it, to start to build that relationship from that perspective as well. It’s important to me. This is my city too. I love it and I want it to be the best it can be. Working with PRIDE and the LGBTQ+ is absolutely critical to this being a truly awesome city, for everyone.

For me, it was also a moment when I realized that I am part of something bigger now. Not just me doing my own little thing. Sure, it might be helpful, who knows. But I know that building positive relationships with all stakeholders is necessary to grow, build, and make our community great. I am only a very very tiny little cog in that apparatus, but nonetheless, I am a part. And that really feels good. The other bonus is that my network is rapidly expanding. I am meeting new people really often. Really neat people. And that’s what makes it fun and easy to do. Even when there are tough decisions and difficult conversations. So far, we are getting stuff done. But it might be early days and maybe it’s me just being really naive. It is helping me get grounded, with the community and to a certain degree with who I am as well.

Last night made me realize that I am “fully on board”….if you will pardon the pun.

Am I just weird…?

Okay, okay, I know….I know. Yes, that is somewhat rhetorical. Settle down everyone and stop snickering!

Yesterday came and went without any fanfare, hoop-la or fête. Perfect. In fact, I didn’t even realize it was anything special, because, really, it wasn’t. At least, not to me. It was actually a co-worker that brought it up in a conversation. We were chatting about stuff, you know the usual, summer outfits, hair styles, solving the problems of the world, etc, etc, etc. when she suddenly realized that it was exactly one year since I “came out” at work and went full time. Another person in the conversation asked if it had only been a year…?? No one believed that it was only a year. Including me.

I am so entrenched in just being me, that I have no desire or ability to see myself as the “old me”. It doesn’t register anymore. I feel like I have been Erin my entire life. As for the one year thing. Whatever. Don’t care. Not significant. The only thing that I celebrate is that I get to live my life everyday. The other stuff? Meh…

For some people in my community, it’s a big deal. And that’s fine. If, for them, that matters to them, that is awesome. Just not for me. It’s like other alleged milestones. Okay, maybe that was a bit harsh….I say alleged, because they aren’t for me. But for some they are, and I don’t mean to belittle that. If that is what is important to you, then I’m happy for you. Me? Not so much. Like the whole name change thing. I got my change of name document from the province, and the only thing I felt was relief. Relief that it finally came and I could start to change all my other documents. I opened the envelope, saw what it was, checked that box on my mental checklist that it was done and filed it away. No dancing in the kitchen, no tears of joy, etc. It was just one more thing I needed to do.

The same thing for drivers license, health card, etc, etc, etc. Same thing for birth certificate. Check, done. Passport, check. Not a big deal for me. Just means I continue to live my life as who I am. None of those things determine who I am. I am me, regardless. Sure, it makes life easier, don’t get me wrong. I am thrilled that it is done, but only because I needed to get them done and all the hassle is over. That’s what I saw it as….a necessary evil, a pain in the ass. Not an affirmation of who I am.

There are many that post entries on social media that they have a new birthday, the day they receive the correct version of their birth certificate. What do I say to them? Happy Birthday! If it has that impact and emotion for you, awesome. I am thrilled for you and happy to celebrate, pass me a piece of cake. For me? Nope. My birthday is my birthday. That is when I was born. That is when Erin was born. I was always Erin, who I am. Just took me a while to repair a birth defect.

Right or wrong, that is how I view it. This journey is a very personal experience. Everyone has a different reaction, feelings, emotions etc. This is mine. For others, completely different. And that is perfect! However, don’t kringle your nose or shake your head at me when I appear to be indifferent to it all and not share the same reaction you had for all of this. To me, they are just pieces of paper that society needs me to have to function.

I may be weird, go ahead and snicker 😉 I know who I am thank you very much.

My own worst enemy…!?!

There are times when I just wanna to slap my head over what someone else has done. There are times when I feel like I am hitting my head against a wall over what someone else doing. And then there are times when I hit myself over the head over something I have done. This is one of those times.

Context. I had a wonderful chat today with someone who I admire, who is smart and thoughtful and has dealt with a ton of challenges in her life to get to be where she is today. I wanted to pick her brain regarding some issues/challenges/question I had regarding Pride organizations. She is the Executive Director of a large Pride Organization with a ton of experience. I, on the other hand, am simply a member of the board of a very small (relatively speaking) Pride organization. So her input was invaluable to me at this stage of the game.

Anyway, as the conversation unfolded, I found myself wondering that the hell I am doing. I need to be slowing down a bit, but alas, I find I am doing the opposite. And it’s no ones fault but mine. No one else is to blame for this one. It’s me. All me. I am the adult in charge of my life and it appears I am not up to the job!?!?! I’m kidding, but only sort of.

This week is pretty much a typical week for me right now. I am out at meetings or events of some sort or other almost every night. Last night, I went out to dinner with friends, which was awesome. Tonight, I have a guest spot on talk radio regarding gender topics. Tomorrow night, I have been invited to attend an event for City dignitaries aboard one of our Navy cruisers as part of Canada’s 150 years celebration, representing our Pride organization. Thursday night, I have a Pride Board meeting. Friday afternoon/evening I am at a charity golf tournament. Saturday, another Board meeting, my final one as I prepare to step down from that Board after eight years of service.

I don’t know what it is. I can’t seem to help myself. No one is holding a gun to my head. But I still feel that I should be helping. There are so many that paved the way for me and worked so hard to make my transition easier than theirs. I guess maybe I feel the need to do the same for those behind me? I mean I can manage it, I think, but more and more I have to take the time to take care of myself. And that means a few changes.

Some things have changed already, for better or worse, it is what it is. I am trying to block off weekends as best I can from any events. That is strong “me” time. During the week, I am constantly surrounded by literally hundreds of people. Don’t get me wrong, they are awesome and I love it. I thoroughly enjoy going to work etc. But at the end of the day, and especially on weekends, the last thing I need to do is have more people in my face. I need quiet time, alone, to myself. Hence heading of to the marina on weekends. While there are people around, and they are great people, if I want to be alone, sit and read, listen to music, curl up and watch a movie, or even, heaven forbid, have a nap, I can. No one will bother me. It’s heaven. And that’s what I know I need to do to re-energize. At least right now. And if it gets to “busy” I can always head out, and anchor of an island for the night with no one around.

By the end of the day, and certainly by the end of the week, I’m all talked out. Now for those of you that know me, that is probably hard to believe!! ha ha.  But the last thing I need is someone in my face. You can call me selfish, self centered, a diva, a princess (okay, that one I don’t mind!!  😉  ) but that is what it has come down to.

I am hoping things settle down by mid summer. And I am consciously going to try to take on less volunteer activities to spend more time recharging etc. I need to get some time with my sister. I would like to have more time with my daughters, but to be honest, it is their hectic schedule that is more the issue than mine! Hmmmm, I wonder where they get that from!?!? But I’m okay with that. They have their lives, I get it. We all want to raise our children to be strong and independent. Well, be careful what you ask for! Mission accomplished. And in the grand scheme of things, they are standing tall on their own two feet, and that is awesome. And I am certainly not one of those people who need to be needed. I’m good. My life is full. I love my life.

Don’t get me wrong, this is not a doom and gloom scenario. I love the work I do, both paid and volunteer. I get to be with amazing people for the waking hours of my day. It is nothing short of spectacular. But I head to bed early each night, to make sure I get plenty of rest. So I am managing. But I am mindful I have to tone it down at some point. And I have started doing that a little bit. We’ll see if more is needed. And spending time lounging with one of my girl friends is awesome. I am so thankful I have “my posse” !! (you know who you are, Lori!!!). I just don’t know how else to manage right now. So this is going to have to be good enough. For now. Sorry.

In the meantime, pass me the Advil to see if I can get ride of this pain in my forehead???

 

A little bit surreal??

So, there I was, last evening, sitting on the forward deck, BBQ burger, beverage, tunes in the background, amazing views, all as a 57 year old woman ! My thoughts went back to where I was less than two year ago, and it was hard not to get a bit emotional. For some of you, 2 years may seem like a long time, but over a life span such as mine, not so much. Regardless, it was cause to pause for a moment to reflect. Actually, more just to appreciate where and who I am today. It really is ridiculous when I think of it. It makes me chuckle actually! But that is good. Really good.

Add to that, I have met some really neat people the past two weekends. All super friendly. They stop to introduce themselves (and their dog if they have one) and chat about boats, weather, meeting up later maybe to continue to chat. Men, women, children, not a single issue. Nada. The more I engage, the more people stop by. Just stands to reason, but I have never before had people source me out to converse, or just hang out. To say I am more outgoing and interested in hearing other people’s story is the understatement of the year. And I guess it shows. Who knows. I’m just enjoying it and learning to accept that this is what I am all about, and being comfortable with who I am. 

It’s amazing how your outlook changes when you are not desperately trying to please others, forgetting the first person you have to be pleased with is yourself. So guess what I do a really good job of now? Yup, just being me. For many people this sounds so stupid. Of course you are being you, they say. Well, if you’re transgendered, that is not something you are used to doing. Something the  Cis world has no experience with. And good for them. I’m glad, because it is not a great situation to be in. I always say that I wouldn’t wish this on anyone. but I’m glad that it worked out for me. But it was a ton of work. Sad to say, not all of us get there. And that is the really sad part of this.  

So , yes, sometimes reality can seem surreal. But then you realize it is real. And I really love it!