Today (thanks to once again channeling a manic episode into something positive) I compiled a list of 50 Important transgender or gender non-conforming people. It’s sort of for a project for Transcend Charlotte, but I figured it’s good for people to read it. It’s available linked from my Resources page, or here
Today marks 6 months on estradiol. 6 months ago I put that first pill under my tongue (I’ve since, as most of you who follow me know, moved on to injections). 6 months ago I took the first step in this chapter of my transition; this chapter of my life.
It’s SUCH a cliche, but so much has changed since then. I’m not just working with my community, but I get to represent my community. Last night I was a guest of a local production of the play, The Mermaid Hour, joining the cast on stage after the production for a talk-back session. I’m on their schedule to do so again once more before the production wraps and I’m so proud for the opportunity to represent my peers. I’m working on projects within the support organizations, organizing cross-organizational efforts, helping people coming into their own gender discovery journeys . . . it’s all really thrilling.
A couple weeks ago, a friend of mine won $12,500 for our organization. He said shortly after that it wasn’t about him, but about the work we do. I realize, though, that I’m not so noble. The work I do for my community is about me.
I went through my discovery and understanding alone. Not truly alone- I had a very small group of friends and later close family that I told, and supported me, and helped me a great deal. But I didn’t have the community. I didn’t have other trans people. I spent almost 3 years transitioning in secret, with just a few (often problematically toxic) Facebook groups and a couple of ever-closer online trans friends as my support network. If it had not been for meeting my partner, I might still be in the closet. Miserable. Lonely. Alienated. I didn’t find my community until after I was out and living as myself and not hiding. It was hard. It was grueling. It was brutal. But it made me. And now, that’s why I do what I do. It’s why I work and volunteer and push for more and more opportunities to help more of my people. Because every tear I can prevent cancels out one of mine. Every minute of anxiety I help soothe offsets one of mine. Every lonely night of wondering if you will ever be loved and accepted and mean anything to anybody that I prevent from happening because of a shared meal or a shopping trip or conversation over coffee or even a string of text messages means my nights spent like that were not in vain. I work as hard as I can to prevent and soothe the hurt because I know of no other way to negate my own. I can’t go back and find my community earlier. I can’t turn back the clock and look for help in more fruitful places. The hurt that I shouldered can’t be undone. But I can use it.
I don’t know what motivates some of the other people that work so hard to help our community, but I know what motivates me. I do this for me. I help every single person I possibly can to to make my pain have counted for something bigger than me. I do it because I already lived that pain and so there is NO reason for everyone else to do it as well.
I meant this to be a positive post, but while I’ve never been happier than I am now that I’m truly me, it’s not all positive. There’s a reality here to be talked about. I still look in the mirror and see a man; that guy I tried being for 40 years. Every 3.5 days when that needle pierces my skin I know I’m .5 mL closer to a theoretical finish line that I will never stop running towards, but never quite reach. I’m supposed to have “then and now” pictures to share, but I still delete 99% of the pictures I take of myself because I’m still battling that demon of self-acceptance and perception. I’m better than I was. I’m starting to believe most anonymous people I encounter don’t know I’m trans unless I choose to tell them. I’m starting to admit I see changes in my body. I’m learning to love my assets and refine my style and presentation of myself. I let myself be the flamboyant and outgoing and vibrant person I feel myself to be almost all the time now. Despite the struggle, there is progress.
This is the reality of my existence. I am happier than I’ve ever been. I am me. My life is full of people who care about me. I am surrounded by opportunity to help others, and I gladly avail myself of those opportunities. But it’s hard. And I don’t know how much easier it will get. This, too, is why I do what I do. If I can bury myself in positivity from helping my community and the people in it, I have something to fight with when the demons come calling.
Thank you all for your love, support, and words of encouragement. I am truly blessed to be able to brag about having such amazing friends and family. I love you all, and do not wish to imagine where I’d be without you.
I’m finding it harder and harder to find time and energy to blog, as I’m putting more of the little bit I have to work with into the community. Since my last post, I’ve started volunteering at a queer co-op coffee and comic shop a few hours once a week, and I’ve built a communal web-based events platform in the hopes of drawing together the entire local LGBTQ+ support community. As one of the folks who is part of our local Pride org said as we talked, “I was shocked when I came here to see how insular all the organizations are in this area”. I think I’ve found a way to fix that. Check it out at http://QueerCity.org as it grows.
Health-wise? Had blood work recently, pushing 350 estradiol. Emotional/mental changes fully in progress; physical of course taking their sweet time. Whether it’s the hormone-powered mood swings or just becoming more aware of my emotions and mental states, my “probably meet the diagnostic criteria for bipolar” and anxiety are definitely more noticeable. My GP gave me a short-term, fast-acting “rescue” option, and I have an intake appointment with mental health at VHA in a few days; my permanent therapist will be part of the LGBT Care Clinic, so I’m glad I won’t have to deal with teaching a care provider about what it means to be trans and how that connects with everything else.
I’m coming up on 6 months on full-blown, high-octane, HRT. I’ll reflect then on how things have changed for me in that time. Until then . . .
Tonight at group we had a guest- a curator doing research for a potential show. His concept will, in the end, share the stories of a dozen or so trans people. It’s a great idea, so much so that I don’t want to share too many details here and possibly ruin it all or have the concept taken out from under him. Tonight, he came to meet us, as a community. He wants to ascertain if the project would be of benefit to the community, and if so, how can that be maximized. So, I of course have been thinking about trans stories and what they mean. I’m sure it will come as no surprise that I have some ideas to share.
There is, of course, a very obvious benefit to sharing trans stories, and that is the benefit of normalizing trans-ness. It’s one of my big personal missions- make it clear to mainstream society that trans is normal, everywhere, and nothing to be afraid of. You know us, even if you don’t think you do. Maybe we’re out there, “passing”, and you don’t realize we’re trans; we’re just doing our shopping or putting gas in our car. Maybe we’re in the closet and not yet willing or able to tell you that we’re trans. Either way, you know us. Sharing our stories helps underscore that. It helps humanize us in the eyes of those who don’t yet understand. It’s the obvious benefit because it’s a very important one.
But there’s also the benefit to those within the community, as well. All of our stories are unique, and yet there are common themes throughout. We need to know each other, because we need to see how we connect. It makes us stronger as a community. And, on a more personal note, we need to have as many stories as possible out there for those who would find themselves in them. As some of you have read here in other posts, I came to my understanding late in life, and one of the things that I had to get through first was realizing that that wasn’t unusual. I doubted I was trans, because I had never been exposed to a narrative like mine- didn’t really know, didn’t figure it out until it was mentioned to me. I needed to see other people having gone through similar awakenings before I could accept mine for what it was. So, we need as many stories out there in every format and platform possible, so those coming to understand who they are can see they aren’t alone. Despite the uniqueness of each trans story, those commonalities are what we need to find to pull ourselves into the community and realization- a literal lifeline.
So, as I drove home tonight, this is what I thought. I figured this was the main crux of the whole deal. Problem solved, here’s your benefit, welcome to our community, thanks for your support and interest, let’s get your project going . . .
And then, having single-handedly solved this nice young man’s problem, I set my mind to summarizing the noteworthy events of the evening, as my partner was certainly wanting to hear what she missed. I thought about person A and her having run out of minutes on her phone because she fell asleep with a call connected. I thought about person B and their struggle to communicate with unsupportive parents and how we’ve talked about their options. I thought about person C and his search for a better job. I thought about the group of us who went to dinner together after the meeting and the things we talked about- new phones, struggling to pay rent, damn this is good chicken, and did you see that movie yet? And that’s when it hit me.
Trans stories are people stories, and all too often we’re so worried about the trans part of the story that we sort of neglect the people part.
And we NEED that part. When we talk about trans stories we think about realizations and transitions and the struggles therein. We don’t talk about the every day life stuff. We don’t talk about the stuff that makes us people. Not trans people- just people. And maybe we need to stop that. Maybe when we tell our trans stories, we need to tell more than the trans parts. Maybe we’d more fully normalize trans-ness if we make just as much of a deal about the human part. Maybe we’d find more commonality amongst ourselves. Maybe we’d touch someone- not with what we say about dysphoria or transition decisions or identity, but with the fact that we come from this place, or have that interest, or any number of aspects of ourselves beyond being trans.
So, hold up, new friend. I take it back. I’ve got a different idea. What’s the benefit to telling trans stories? The same benefit to telling anyone else’s story- human stories. How do we maximize that benefit? Help us tell the WHOLE story.
Because I’m not Kelli, the kind of extra, somewhat domineering, but definitely mothering trans woman.
I’m Kelli, the heart patient who spent time in academia and IT and plays guitar and loves to cook and has these awesome kids and mostly gets along with her parents and is a kind of extra, somewhat domineering, but definitely mothering woman who geeks out for Star Wars and Marvel and Doctor Who, tells corny jokes and bad puns, and happens to be trans.
And as a footnote, it’s OK if your main thing is “being trans”. That’s AWESOME. I am so glad for you that you have your thing. Because we are all who we are, and that’s my point. That’s the story to tell.
Yesterday the trans community stood up in the name of being visible. We stood for ourselves and we stood for those who could not stand on their own. We stood en masse to make a point about being seen, about why we need to be recognized, and to draw attention to our issues that are largely ignored.
But yesterday evening the theme of visibility in my mind gave way to related thoughts- not about standing up to be visible, but about those who have faded out of visibility. I thought about the people in my life who have made themselves invisible. I don’t mean people who have faded from the eyes of society; I mean the people who have opted to fade from my life.
See, when you come out socially, it’s a big deal; you’re excited and a bit apprehensive. Some people come out slowly because they have to for safety reasons or to maintain some aspect of their life like job or family. Some people (OK, me) come out with a grand gesture and flourish. But no matter what, it’s a big deal and you get a variety of 3 reactions: joy, revulsion, and indifference.
When I came out to my friends I got nearly entirely joy. I’ve collected good people in my life and they were warm and supportive. I was welcomed into sisterhood without reservation. The questions they asked were honest and respectful. All in all, it was probably a nearly perfect coming out experience. It’s what came after that was problematic.
I was prepared for revulsion. I was ready to defend myself and transness and shout down transphobia and stand proudly as a trans woman and example of informed feminine power and grace.
I had one altercation a month or 2 after my grand announcement (I blogged about it here for those joining our story already in progress who wish to get the backstory) with someone who I thought was one of my best friends. It was more about my budding activism than it was her having an issue with me being trans. It sucked, it hurt, and I still miss her sometimes. But there was finality to it. And at least she had the strength of conviction and character to speak her mind and stand her ground, even if she is wrong and selfish and I thought so much better of her but I digress . . .
But what I wasn’t prepared for, because I never saw it coming, are the ones who just sort of slowly step back into that invisibility. People I used to hear from all the time before, but now nary a whisper. I don’t know how to combat that; how to respond to it. Do they have an issue with me but don’t have the spine to say it? Maybe they’re wrong about something and I can address it with a conversation? If they valued my friendship, why not take the time for one last conversation?
Hell, it might not even be what it seems. Ever changing FB algorithms and the pace of everyday life and any number of things bring us in and out of contact, and heaven knows maintaining relationships isn’t always one of my top skills.
But it can’t be all that. There are people in our lives who just don’t like or accept us. There are people who will stand near us but will not stand up for us. And I dont just mean “us” as in trans people- I mean everyone.
So, while yesterday was about a marginalized group being visible to the rest of the world, it also made me think about how we need to be individually visible in each other’s lives. We need to let people know we care about them, that we are here for them, and that they matter to us, because maybe they need it. And so do we.
I realized that the negative tone of my previous post could be misconstrued, so I feel the need to clarify.
I love being a woman.
I love everything about the aspects of womanhood that matter to and resonate with me. I love skirts and dresses and flowing blouses. I love makeup, and the ritual of sitting down at my vanity and putting myself together. I love the flamboyant, pushy, “extra”, Mother-figure I have slipped into being. I love my nails and my dangly earrings and my ridiculous hats. I love being with other women who express their womanhood in so many different ways that resonate with them.
I also love being part of the trans community- my siblings of all shades and inclinations whose very existence help me be proud of who I am and find the strength to stand up when I stumble and feel like my last post.
Love you all.
PS- I’m all fancy-schmancy and published now- https://www.acrossandthrough.co.uk/issue-1
Sometimes I’m almost happy to be trans. I have an opportunity to help a marginalized community from the inside. I get to be a part of something bigger than me.
These are the things I tell myself, anyway.
Because most of the time, this sucks.
Because of some accidental burst of testosterone during gestation, or an aberrant gene anomaly, I have to deal with all of this. I have to deal with PMS to menopause every 3.5 days. I have to look in the mirror every day and see someone who doesn’t look like I think I’m supposed to look (and I can’t just exercise myself to where I want to be). I have to deal with healthcare providers who frankly just don’t care if the outcome of all of this is substandard, because they aren’t the ones who will have to live halfway between this and that.
I have to deal with a healthcare system and society who consider the things I need to address a condition I had no control over as “voluntary” and “cosmetic”, and 20 year old treatment protocols that no one cares enough to put any effort into updating, and the precious few actually pushing our understanding are ignored.
I have to deal with being hated and thought a mutant, or a freak, or any number of derogatory things, by a huge and very vocal segment of society.
And I’m tired of it. I’m tired of feeling like less than a person. I’m tired of so many reminders that the world thinks there is something wrong with me. I’m tired of correcting people when they use the wrong pronouns. I’m tired of being a punchline. I’m tired of there being a debate about me and my people like we aren’t right here watching it.
I’m tired of looking in the mirror and seeing some weird abominable mix of the character I used to play in life and the woman I was always supposed to be instead.