A Report from the Front Lines

One of my favorite authors is P.J. O’Rourke. When he writes about something, he goes there, spends time, learns in-depth, in person. He talks to the people who matter. When he writes about the Middle East he’ll go talk to the Israeli soldiers and the Palestinian youths who are throwing half-bricks at the soldiers. In a world of second-hand, regurgitated information, he is raw, real, direct, true, engaged, reliable, believable. Without diminishing objectivity, he also blends into his fact-based writing a lovely sense of humor and a formal acknowledgement of his own quirks.

And so, here I am, starting to understand the transitioning process, the trials and tribulations, of real-world t-girls, up close and very, very personal in a P.J. sense.

Sure, some years ago I’d been to t-girl clubs and chatted with a few girls. I had read somewhere that some of us fall apart and sink into despair and desperate situations where life is like a losing chess game and it’s all going downhill. But, all that was like seeing it from a distance, almost as if on TV. I was detached and clueless as to the raw pain of the real world.

I used to hand out flyers at meetings saying I’m happy to mentor t-girls, implying I knew what I was doing. Maybe I was, maybe I wasn’t, but either way, my perspective was lofty and not grounded in dirt, blood and guts. I thought I was involved and in touch, but I wasn’t.

What changed? In the last x months, I’ve traveled much, and folks have traveled to me. All of it was with a view to me mentoring t-girls. Since my finances don’t enable leisure travel it was always intertwined with business travel. I have met up close and personal with t-girls from the UK, the Bible Belt, the American North-East, the American West.

The one thing that really hit me hard is how damn painful the journey of a t-girl is, and how soul-wrenchingly difficult it is for the t-girls I’m mentoring. Some make it to my hotel room and fall down on my bed and cry. Some don’t even make it to my hotel room. Some of us do better, some of us do worse. Regardless, I get to see first-hand that it is really, really, really, really damn hard for so many of us.

The least of our problems are the awkwardness we feel, and the pettiness of assholes who make mean comments, or are dangerous. It’s the self-doubt, the self-loathing, the being buried under the emotional rubble of having tried and failed in living as a boy, and wondering why we would not also fail at living as a girl. It’s the cumulative damage of the vast amount of abuse that we’ve tolerated from evil people around us, thinking we’re exceptions to the rule that people should be treated fairly. However badly we got hurt by strangers, that was a mere scratch compared to the deep wounds we carved in ourselves, or the wounds that we allowed evil people close to us to inflict.

If I wanted to rescue people, I’ve had ample opportunity in the course of my travels. Instead, I’m hard-assed. I tell the t-girls I mentor that even though they might well have reasonable cause to feel terrible about life, it’s still not going to get better until they get off their asses and stand up and fight for their rightful place in their own lives. And yes, they’ll get knocked down and beat up. And then I’ll be there, suggesting they get up yet again. I know that if they just lie there and give up, one day at a time … they fail. If I condone that, then I fail.

I’m like the t-girl version of General Patton, telling them it’s fine to lie there and cry, for a few minutes or hours or days, whatever it takes. After that, I advise them to go get up again, goddammit, and go get back in the fight. When I do that, my heart secretly bleeds for them. I feel for every t-girl who doesn’t wanna crawl from her tear-stained bed to the door and go fight another day; she wants to crawl under the bed, curl up and go to sleep and never wake up again. However, I’m outwardly Ms. Hard-Ass. If I weaken, if I tell them it’s OK to be weak, then I have let them down. And that, I’m not willing to do.

So how come I’m not the one lying on the bed crying? I don’t know. I’ve certainly had my own battles. I’ve certainly faced difficult times. Sure, I’ve seriously considered killing myself off, and once I came so close that I almost couldn’t reverse the process. I don’t really know why I’m not a basket case. Perhaps it’s because I’m lucky. Perhaps it’s because I had wonderful people mentoring me at a time when I was fragile. I really don’t know. But I’m happy to be who I am, deeply and fundamentally happy.

Even so, you might look at my life and shake your head at what you see. My car’s driver side door doesn’t have any upholstery, and the door doesn’t even lock. The A/C doesn’t work. My apartment is in an ancient building and you can’t walk on the living room floor without tripping over used auto parts that I buy and sell. I rinse dusty auto parts off in my bathtub. Ostensibly, my life is a mess. But, part of the reason why my car and home don’t look nicer is … I really don’t care. I’d rather focus on my own looks and health, and build my business. Once that succeeds I might once again go to Hawaii nine times a year, buy two Mercedes-Benz sports cars on the same day, and live in a very, very, very swanky place. But, there’s no rush.

What’s more important to me now is that I can look at my body in the mirror, or my legs under the steering wheel of my car, and feel good about my body, and how I look. Socially, I feel like the girl in a perfume ad. I seem to exude the happiness and confidence that I feel. People are for the most part super-nice to me, and life is good.

How I look to myself in the mirror also depends on my self-respect. I have navigated difficult situations in a way where, though I screwed up royally in so many ways, I can still basically feel good about myself ethically. So when I look in the mirror, I can like and respect the girl who looks back at me.

And that is a feeling I’d like to inspire others to also experience.

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Me at the Hotel Pool

Okay, I’m starting to understand that feeling awkward before functioning well as a girl isn’t reserved for t-girls. Most teenage girls go through feeling awkward.  Their boobs are too small for them, or too large.  Or their legs are too thin. And they don’t move gracefully yet,. Whatever the reason, so many teenage girls just feel awkward.  Some nice adult genetically integrated girls have helped me understand that, finally. Thank you for that.

Coming out as a t-girl has many of those aspects too. And yet as far as can tell, though it’s hard to measure this stuff precisely, how self-conscious a t-girl is about her body is any times more excruciating yet.

So every victory, I relish.  Like, last night I stayed at a hotel in Las Vegas.  And yes, I went to the hotel pool, and their hot tub.  And yes, there were others there but I went anyway.  Here’s what I looked like last night just before I went to the pool.  Getting there … confidence-wise anyway.

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Walking is Good for You

The negotiation book “Getting to Yes” urges the reader to negotiate from a position of awareness as to her alternatives, so that she doesn’t push unrealistically hard for a deal that is vastly better. That way, if the other party walks away, she’s not all that much worse off anyway. And, she knows not to accept a deal that’s worse than her best alternative.

I have recently had the opportunity to observe that, at close range.  A nice and patient (perhaps overly patient, but if you must have one vice, that’s an endearing one) friend of mine was in a business negotiation where the other party was pushing her for things that were way more than she considered reasonable.  One day, she finally walked away from the negotiating table and in effect said “no deal, there’s no ‘win’ possible for me here.” Good for her.

The other party, as it turns out, had no plan B and was pushing hard — just because. It was an interesting to me how surprised and sad the other party ended up being, and not graciously so. That last twist on the story made me an especially unsympathetic observer as to the anguish of this other party, and I was extra proud of my friend for making the decision to walk away.

Walking away is a skill that’s served me well.  I’ve read “The Fountainhead” by Ayn Rand many times. Its theme is “integrity.” I love how the hero in the story walks away from deals that might be tempting to those of a superficial mindset, but in a context where integrity is a prerequisite, the hero sees past the distractions and focuses on the essentials. He walks away from unacceptable offers, such as taking on a project that violates his professional integrity as an architect, even though he’s financially so broke that he ends up having to shut down his architect’s office and his next best option is to go work in a quarry, doing hard physical labor to earn a living.

Similarly, as the owner and manager of a small custom software business, I’ve been in situations where my company and I were super-broke and a client was taking an unreasonable stand. I reasoned with the client and when that failed, I walked away even though the financial consequences to my business and I were very dire.  I have yet to ever regret doing so. However, there have been times when the issue wasn’t sufficiently clear to me and I erred on the side of humoring the other party, and as time passed, I typically ended up regretting that. So, nowadays when an issue can go either way, then I’m more inclined to say “see ya.”

2015-06-04 01.11.00My “coming out” as a transsexual girl was in superficial ways a very disempowering experience. From being a generally respected and admired member of social and professional circles, I became an oddity, and although I still don’t buy into the underlying pity-party premise, I now understand what folks mean when they talk about being “disenfranchised.”

I have many years’ experience in the IT business. Until I came out as a t-girl, when I spoke up during professional meetings, the room went quiet and people listened. They tended to be glad they did. But now, as a t-girl, my life is totally different. Even junior and incompetent techs blatantly ignore my input, even when the stakes are high and the tech has a long track record of wreaking havoc in his clueless wake.  If I collected “I told you so” credits, I’d have a lot of them. Certainly I’m seeing how the world looks like to females, yes … but t-girls are often considered to be several rungs lower yet in the social hierarchy, in most folks’ estimation. When a t-girl is just coming out, then that initial period she’s especially vulnerable to being generally disrespected.

I tend to be mellow and reasonable as to t-girl issues and I’m happy to explain things to people who are struggling with the concepts. Heck, I struggled with them personally for many years. It’s hardly fair of me to expect others to fast-track their acceptance of what is a very counter-intuitive premise, that someone with male-shaped plumbing is female. Yes, it makes sense when you’ve learned enough and you have belabored the issues but until then, it’s not something that seems any more reasonable than a Renaissance astronomer announcing “guess what, folks, the earth is actually a ball.”

When I looked more male than female, or I sounded more male than female, then when a stranger guessed the wrong gender pronoun then I could not fault them for that. For all I know they were trying their best to make sense of a weird situation.  They happened to guess wrong as to whether or not I’m female, but probably these were reasonable mistakes and much as I dislike being called “Sir” or being referred to with male pronouns, I see no reasonable alternative to being gracious. I figure that if I want a greater percentage of strangers to classify me as female, I should earn that. I should be more effective at coming across as such. I can’t very well go around looking like Sylvester Stallone in drag and then get irritated when someone calls me “Sir.”

Non-strangers are more problematic if they use the wrong gender pronoun for me. In such cases, I understand that old habits are hard to break and it’s difficult to naturally refer to someone as female if for years that person was referred to as male. Still, I AM basically female and I have gone to enough trouble and have made enough progress to where I now consider it reasonable to request: folks who want to continue enjoying my company should try using female pronouns for me. And when they slip up, then I’m gracious as long as it’s being done in good faith.

Yes, I understand it’s hard to switch to female pronouns as such but there are some people whose lives were changed quite dramatically due to me announcing that fundamentally I’ve been female all along. And they even so, these nice people did a stellar job of getting their heads wrapped around the issue very well.  So, if they could do it, others can, if they choose to put forth the effort. And if creating an awkward situation for me keeps coming naturally to someone and they can’t be bothered to overcome that, then they’ll see less of me … a lot less.

In a totally different category are the people who basically know better but use male pronouns for me just to be mean, or who dismiss the issue as so unimportant to them that they’re not even interested in trying. When I’m unsure, I tend to not presume malice so I gently correct someone. Mostly that goes down well. It’s when someone is clearly resistant that I become less conversationally gentle. Typically that’s a prelude to me exiting and finding nicer people to interact with, but until I can exit the situation I also don’t plan to pretend things are fine when really they’re not.

Today, there was such a situation. It inspired this blog post.

My insurance agency is managed by a married couple of whom I’m very fond. They’ve become my close friends over the last 20+ years. They’ve known me for many years when I thought I was basically male, and it’s been hard for them to get used to my new name and (surprise!) me having been basically a girl all along. But I’m patient and they try hard. They value me as a close friend and it’s mutual.

I’m also their computer fix-it geek, who keeps their business computers operational.

And, I’m also a client of their insurance agency. Over 20 years, I’ve spent thousands of dollars on their agency. I typically have about 3 vehicles insured simultaneously.

And, as of a year and a half ago, I also rent an apartment from them.

My guess is that there are many reasons to be happy about the interaction.

2015-06-04 01.11.18And, there’s more. I live near where their office is, and I know they work so hard that they often forget to eat lunch, so I used to show up and bring them lunch. They always appreciated that. And I’d say “hello” and chat and ask how their computers are doing and whether or not they needed any help with that. It was a nice, warm and fuzzy situation.

They have an employee with whom I’ve gone out of my way to be nice too, personally and professionally. Even so, this lady seemed to always be pretty casual about the gender-pronoun thing with me even after being aware of my formal name change, and after I generally look and sound more female than not. I gently reminded her when she used male pronouns for me, which was often.  It made the situation a lot less pleasant of an environment for me. But, as long as it was all in good faith, I was patient and nice. But, a few weeks ago, when I gently reminded the employee by saying “she — female” yet again when she’d referred to me as “he” in conversation while I was standing there, she dismissively and defensively said she basically has more important things to worry about than that. To me that was a red flag. It showed me that she’s not trying, nor likely to want to. That changed everything, for me. I went to that office there less and less. I didn’t consciously plan to stay away pointedly. I just stayed away more. However, as a consequence, things changed from me being a near-daily visitor in their office to me not being seen there for weeks on end. Certainly if they had needed computer help, they could call or email me, and I would have come over, but their computers were fine and so I just … stayed away. While doing so, I came to realize how unpleasant the situation had been for me, and excising these visits made each such week a happier week, for me.

My insurance needs started accumulating and I kept postponing dealing with them. Finally, I realized how much I’ve been avoiding the place. And today was a deadline in three respects … an unpaid policy was about to cancel today, and I needed to add a new vehicle to my insurance today, and I needed to remove a car from a policy today. So, I went to their office. Normally I prefer not to deal with this employee as I’m trying to avoid an awkward social situation but the principals were both busy so I explained the situation to the employee. She seemed offensively dismissive about my concerns that the policy might cancel and that I’d then have the State of Nevada fine me for two uninsured-yet-registered vehicles, a huge fine. So aside from not having happy memories as to how dismissive she was as to gender pronouns, I also disliked her being casually dismissive about making sure this policy wouldn’t cancel.  The principal (lady owner) walked past, gave me a friendly hello and expressed friendly concern that I’d been so scarce recently. She inquired as to whether everything was fine as to my policies and the employee started explaining my situation, using male pronouns to refer to me.  I gently reminded her “she — female” and since my dress and bra today really accentuate my bustline, I reached up and squeezed my boobs pointedly and said “huge boobs, she, female” as if to cue her that a visual reminder was conveniently nearby if she needed any help remembering that I’m female. This changed her speech from using male pronouns when referring to me from maybe 100% that day to maybe 50%. And each time she used a male pronoun I’d say “she — female.” The situation was quickly becoming more and more awkward and tense.

After learning about the situation, the lady principal was adamant that indeed, this employee should call the insurance agency and make damn sure the payment would post today and that there would be no lapse in coverage for me. I appreciated that.  So, with me standing there, the employee picked up the phone, called the insurance company and explained the situation, referring to me loudly as “he.” Every time I said “she” loudly in the background.  At this point there was no way I could reconcile her actions to anything but petty malice. Anyway, the conversation with the insurance company ended up requiring me to get on the line with them personally and right before handing me the phone, the employee said “here he is” or words to that effect. What a negative start to the imminent conversation that provided!  I continued saying “she” loudly every time when she said “he” and I finally took out my driver’s license, put it down on the counter and asked the employee to take a good look at the gender classification on that official document. She responded defensively. By then it was pretty clear to the insurance company rep who was overhearing all this, what sort of debacle was happening on the other side of the phone line. Feeling awkward and self-conscious and more than a little upset, I nevertheless took the phone and in a nice and girly voice, I spoke with the rep. She was most gracious with me. And there were no male pronouns in that conversation. Better.

After the phone conversation ended, the next order of business was that I needed a proof-of-insurance card to hand to the Department of Motor Vehicles. At that point the company principal lady walked past again and asked if things were now OK. The employee started explaining my proof-of-insurance card requirements and yet again used male pronouns for me. I corrected her a few times and was ignored, and I finally told the lady principal “I need to leave; I’m getting irritated” and I walked out without another word. I went to my place, called the insurance company and they emailed me a proof-of-insurance card. I printed it, took it to the DMV, problem solved.

With the crisis over, I pondered my options. I could choose to tolerate this sort of behavior, or not. If not, then things might get ugly. I understand that the insurance agency is short-handed and they really don’t want this employee to quit so they’ll be inclined to do whatever they can to keep her around. They might need me but they need her more urgently. So, if push came to shove, was I willing to say “no, I’m not willing to put up with that sort of thing from this lady ever again”  even if it cost me the 20-year friendship and a place to stay? I weighed that decision.

This is where it helps to be aware of one’s alternatives. My credit rating happens to be in the toilet, a situation I richly deserve.  So, for me to rent a new place is much more difficult … but I specifically have looked into the options for such situations. I’d typically have to come up with two months’ worth of extra prepaid rent and then all would be well. And that’s something I could do, though my preference would be to not have to pack up and move all my stuff, any time soon. Still, I had options and I knew it. I continued thinking the issues through. What if I did have to go rent a new place? What would the pros and cons be? As it turned out, they weren’t all that bad. And so I felt confident about making a stand. It was nice to know I wouldn’t be homeless and maybe die in some alley behind a dumpster soon after. I liked having options.

After the employee had left for the day, I went back and spoke to both principals. I explained that the awkward situation with their employee had been the reason I’ve been so scarce these last few weeks, and that the situation today had made it worse yet, and I was going to be categorically absent whenever that employee was present. She’s a part-time employee so I asked which days and hours she worked. The principals told me she doesn’t work Mondays or mornings.  So if I have insurance needs or I wanna visit them, I know now that when I can show up at a time when she’s not there. They also reiterated that I’m always welcome there. I replied that I’m categorically not planning to be there when that employee is around. Even when they’re having a computer crisis on a day when that employee is around then they can send her home before I’m willing to walk in their door. And yes, I really am that adamant. When someone is being mean to me, I don’t have to take it. I can, but why would I? I simply choose not to take it.

As it turns out the issue didn’t escalate and the principals were most apologetic and nice. They explained how they’re between a rock and a hard place as to needing this employee. I sympathized. Hugs were exchanged, some tears were shed and nice things were said. The friendship ended up surviving the crisis and arguably is now stronger yet. And I don’t need to start packing up my stuff and moving out.

But it felt good to be willing to do that, if that’s what was needed to make the stand and refuse to be in an environment where someone is pointedly being snide and petty.

Ironically, later in the day, I had cause to ponder the comments of a t-girl friend who recently felt disempowered in a particular situation. That inspired me to think some more about the value that any random t-girl might be adding to be the lives of those around her.

Presumably, there are many who personally cherish her, as family or as a friend. But, let’s move things beyond the hard-to-quantify warm-and-fuzzy stuff, significant as those things nevertheless are. Let’s focus instead on some cold, hard numbers.

Let’s say the average t-girl earns $20K a year in income and that she has another 25 years left in the job market. So, that’s half a million dollars that she’ll earn.

Nobody should hire employees simply to break even. It should ideally be a significant “win” for the employer. What’s the factor? It varies. If she’s a good employee she might be adding value twice that of what she’s being paid (and no, that doesn’t mean she’s being exploited though I understand that’s a popular misconception). Assuming she’s worth double what she’s being paid, that means she’s worth a million dollars to one or more employers. That’s a very big pile of money. So, at the very least there should be one or more employers who are much better off for her being around.

If she pays rent at $500 a month, that’s $6K per year. Over 25 years, that’s $150k. That’s a lot of money too. So, one or more landlords have reason to be happy she’s around and paying rent.

Following that premise, over 25 years she might be spending $100k on groceries. LOTS of reason for local grocery stores to be glad she’s around. The same general premise applies as to places where she will be spending money for clothes, shoes, medicine, movie tickets, airplane tickets, restaurant meals, flowers, etc.

This reminds me of the quip “if you feel like nobody cares whether you’re alive or dead, go ahead and miss a couple of car payments and see what happens.” The premise is that the folks who’ve been accustomed to seeing your incoming checks (in the mail every month) are going to be quite upset if you’re no longer sending these.

So, even if you’re having a bad day emotionally: it’s good to be very self-aware as to the value you can add to those around you.  If you’re not in a situation where someone is being nice to you (or at the very least civil) then perhaps it’s time to go find a place where you will be more appreciated. It certainly beats staying put and tolerating bad behavior.
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How I met the perfect gentleman (and yes, I’m still gay)

jMAG1013A few weeks ago, I rented a U-Haul van (long story as to why, not relevant here) and I had parked my own car at a local casino a few blocks away. After my project was complete, I dropped off the van, and walked along Virginia street (the main north-south street through Reno, Nevada) to the casino, to have a nice lunch and then get my car and drive home. It was a pretty day, sunny but not too hot, and I enjoyed strolling along the sidewalk.

jMAG1011As to my shoes, I finally love being me, i.e., being okay with who and what I am. That includes me being happy with myself as a sexual being. I love to celebrate looking sexy. Few things inspire me to feel as sexy as do 6” stripper stiletto shoes.

I own several pairs. I can’t afford them new, but good used ones are available. I either buy comfortable ones (yes, they exist) or I modify the ones I have, to make them comfortable. And if they can’t make that grade, I toss them. So please don’t feel sorry for me when I wear them. They feel just fine. Better than fine, actually.

I have trained myself to where I can walk a mile or more at a time in such heels. It’s not just about walking in them … the whole point is to move as the girl I am. It took me 4 years, but I learned that too. Even if my static aesthetics don’t inspire you to think I look hot, then the way I look when I sashay along in my stripper stilettos might — especially from behind. I also learned to dance in them and to look graceful (or better) while doing so. This post shows two pictures of me wearing my most recent pair of 6″ stilettos.

I’m mainly attracted to girls sexually, and I used to date fellow strippers (and yes, I’ve worked as a stripper). I was impressed by how club strippers could stay on their feet while wearing high-heeled stiletto shoes for hours on end — and still look hot in the process. I figured: if they can do it, then there’s no reason why I can learn it. I patiently and diligently trained. If, three years ago, you saw a tall blonde transsexual girl walking around Virginia Lake in Reno at 4 a.m., then yes, that was I. And yes, that’s a distance of one mile, around that pretty man-made lake.

Over the course of four years, I was always trying to find mirrors in areas where I can walk and watch myself, and learn, and improve. The window at the Fallon auxiliary police station has a weird angle and a mirrored finish, so that works. The Sparks Nugget has many mirrors on the second, third, fourth and fifth floors. Of course, reflective windows and mirrors are not hard to find. The difficulty has been in finding ones that are angled just so, so that I can watch myself walking without having to look ninety degrees sideways all the time — though I’ve done much of that too.

As my body weight slowly decreases, walking in stilettos becomes easier yet because, we’ll, there’s less weight to lug around. Simple physics, really.

The problem is that (give or take half an inch) I’m 5’ 12” tall, as Susan Anton would say, who’s the same height as I am. On stripper heels I’m 6’ 6” and it’s elicited observations from strangers such as “damn, you’re tall” when really “damn, you’re hot” was more what I was going for.

I slowly learned that looking like a stripper 24×7 doesn’t inspire the perfect social dynamic anyway. I get enough weird looks as it is, due to my too-masculine male facial structure. So I try to limit my enthusiasm to also dress like a stripper in broad daylight, on city streets.

I have really struggled with learning how to have an elegant female gait. I finally have the body mechanics figured out, so now it comes naturally to me. The net effect happens to also involve hip-swinging as a consequence, in a less-than-blatant way, yet hot. All this training and learning time has paid off.

I used to feel sorry for myself until a supportive and graceful g-girl friend pointed out that her own hips didn’t initially move as such either, and a teenage girl goes through much of the look-awkward, feel-awkward, move-awkwardly, feel-disempowered, feel-less-curvy-than-ideal things that I was experiencing. Girls rarely, if ever, just magically know everything as to femininity. Whether we’re g-girls or t-girls, we have to work at it. We have to put effort into learning and training.

This realization had a weird psychological bonus for me, too. I’ve felt like I’ve missed out by not having a typical teenage-girl childhood. So then, here was my opportunity to experience many of the essentials of the real thing. So I stopped feeling unique and pathetic in my struggle — and I focused on learning.

The effects have paid off in psychological terms, too. I’m fundamentally confident nowadays. It shows in my posture – upright, slightly leaning back, shoulders back, tummy in. I don’t even try any more. It’s just how I stand and walk, all day and every day, with rare exceptions.

On that particular day, when I was walking along the sidewalk, I had managed to discipline myself. I wore a conservative skirt (like in these pictures) and beige, flat, $10 Walgreens plastic sandals (NOT like in these pictures).

When I wear stilettos I feel almost like I’m Supergirl and when I don’t, I feel like a mere mortal. But I was a happy mortal even so. I strolled along happily.

The social demographic of most of the folks who walk along that particular sidewalk at that particular time of day isn’t exactly the shrimp-and-caviar, listen-to-Beethoven set, so I tend to not invite conversations with my fellow pedestrians in that area. That day was no exception. I became aware of someone walking behind me, and that person hadn’t been there all along so he was probably walking a little faster than I was. I didn’t turn or say hello to my fellow on-foot traveler as he approached.

But then, he spoke up. “You have POISE,” he said. I stopped, turned and smiled. He seemed like an average gentlemen, perhaps with some cash flow issues (like me) and not dressed as if this were Beverly Hills (like me). In a completely non-offensive and most eloquent way, the gentleman elaborated on how he’d watched me move, and he’d loved it. His compliments centered on the poise I exuded.

I thanked him and was tempted to say “if you think this looks good, then you should see me in my stripper stilettos” and then I decided to kill off that train of thought and just focus on the here-and-now: a guy telling a girl that he likes her style, period. It was just a nice, eloquent, simple, delightful compliment from a sincere and nice man. I didn’t need to tell him that I could look better yet. I could just shut up and enjoy the moment. And so I did.

I felt the need to introduce myself (it’s a British-culture thing, and I might have too much of that still, having lived there) and so I did so, and so did he. We shook hands and smiled at each other. And then, off he went, across the street — and he went on with his life.

And yet, he’d enriched mine forever. I learned some things that day. I don’t have to dress up like a stripper to look nice. I don’t have to look hot to look nice. I don’t have to try to look nice. I just do, nowadays. And much of it is due to how I move. It’s not just what I have to work with, but what I do with what I have. I don’t have to feel quite as self-conscious about my still-too-male facial structure and still-too-male physique. The way I move transcends all that. It announces “here’s a female” to the world – a female with a too-male facial structure and some serious hormone issues, but yes, dammit, a girl and clearly so. Yay!

Not that the world’s opinion makes me who I am, but it’s nice that there’s nowadays less general confusion as to that point.

And thank you, Eric, for being the perfect gentlemen.

Coming out, yet again

FormalAbout a year ago, I changed my name legally and also had my legal paperwork corrected as to my gender being female.

But, today, I got an email from someone way back in the past, sent to my old “male” email address and made out to my old name.

Perhaps my reply to him can be helpful to you as well, if you worry about how to reconcile a “female present” with a “male past.” I basically wrote:

“Hi,

Thank you for reaching out.

Since you interacted with me last, I’ve changed my name and email address. I’m one of the few strange people who was born with a mix of major gender attributes, and for the first few decades I tried to live as a male and that didn’t work out so well. Turns out the reason is that my brain is basically female. So now I changed all my paperwork, got some surgeries, etc.

My correct name is Aquitania Charbury though I go by Tanya. My email address is xxx@gmail.com. Please update your records.

I’m attaching a picture too so that you can put a face to the name.

Like being gay was not too long ago, being a t-girl used to be social poison and now it’s almost fashionable. Certainly in the Bay area the culture is more open-minded so I’m glad you’re there. I am normally in the Reno area but I’ve done much Bay area contracting.

Either way I’m an IT professional with lots of dev and DBA experience …

… and from then on the email focuses on the technical aspects though later on I include a paragraph of …

“Though female and low-key I tend to be very principled and assertive in my own quiet way, and I prefer substance over politics so the best places to place me would be where the culture is basically nice or at least functional. Being female, I tend to do best in female-run environments and worst in environments where much of the dynamic is based on macho chest-beating. I realize that rules out maybe 95% of clients and maybe 80% of Bay area clients.”

Two Good Days

2015-01-15 16.44.08I enjoy looking at, especially, one website that has a lot of material coaxing t-girls to come out and be true to their true nature, written by a not-totally-out t-girl herself. The site has very sexually explicit content and I think it’s subject-matter appropriate, but not all my readers are 18 or older so I won’t publish the link here. Her name is Seattle Jasmine and if you find her website by yourself, then it’s up to you how to proceed.

Anyway, it’s especially fun to look at this particular website in the past tense, and how I feel when doing so is perhaps how General Patton or Winston Churchill felt when watching WW II movies. Indeed, I did make the transition. I am living the dream she mentions. I am now living 24×7 as a girl. I’ve experienced the things the website tells t-girls to go experience. And, I function cheerfully as a girl inside and outside the bedroom, and people deal with me as a girl and most people are super-nice.

2015-01-15 18.36.48For example, in the last 48 hours, I went to maybe a dozen businesses in the Reno-Sparks area, and as part of normal life, I purchased several services and items, and interacted with maybe 20 people, and I loved how I got called “Ma’am” almost every time, and the one exception was a nice gentleman who knows me from my pre-transition days and when I corrected him, he was most gracious.

My voice and attitude are probably a huge part of the reason I’m treated as a girl. I feel so fundamentally and openly feminine that I’m confident as such. I walk, move, speak etc. as the girl I am. I’m starting to realize how even subtle facial expression and little nuances of movement and style can have a major gender-differentiating effect.

2015-01-15 18.40.10A key issue that’s SO different from my pre-transition past is that I am now so obviously and radiantly happy. I’m confident, chatty, and cheerful, and it creates a sort of warm social glow around me that I sense and that I enjoy and to which most people respond very well. I feel like the girl in a perfume ad would probably feel.

I should hasten to mention that all of this is happening in a context where I’m cash-flow wise so broke that it’s quite a challenge to make ends meet. For example … grrrr… .do I even admit this …. my new clothes come mostly from Walgreens’s $12 specials, or used clothing stores. Were I awash in cash, I’d simply take a) a picture of me now, b) a picture of how I wanna look, and c) a truckload full of money to some skilled plastic surgeons and say “here, turn this into that.  Wake me up when you’re done.”

2015-01-15 18.46.41Instead, my actual life is sort of like playing a game at a skill level where you’d better know what you’re doing because you’re working with very few resources. It’s sort of like telling someone “here, you have a mirror, some chewing gum and a roll of duct tape. Go invade Spain and call me when you’re done.” I mean, I enjoy a challenge, but wow. So, for me, it’s not just been about coming out but also doing so with very limited money.

I used to think that if I had a time machine then I’d go meet some great historical figures, but perhaps that would be number 2 on my list. First and foremost, I’d go further back in time and transition openly to the girl I basically am — and I’d do so way, way, way sooner yet. And then I’d go tell Cicero “thank you” while I look like a younger and hotter blonde.

2015-01-15 18.48.20

Feeling Inferior in Every Gender Role (or, why I Smoked 3 Packs a Day at Age 14)

Normally, this blog is pretty cheerful about life as a t-girl. When I’m glum, I go figure out the underlying issues and then I write about them.  So, I’m not glum, but earlier today I was.

How I look cosmetically is an attribute of who I am, and it doesn’t define me. I know that logically, but wow, it’s not an easy concept to assimilate at an emotional level.

Based on learning what looks good in front of a camera, and the pretty crude skill of throwing away all the pictures that don’t look good, I photograph well, and some nice people have said some nice things about how I look in photographs. I really do appreciate every compliment.

In real life, some days are better than others. I’m not going to be winning any aesthetic contest in person any time soon, and in the grand scheme of things, my life is nevertheless wonderful, but something about the big picture has been bothering me and I have only just finally figured it out.

Inherent in the entire gender dysphoria (as opposed to euphoria) problem was the realization that, while trying to fit into a male role in society, as directed, I kept realizing that I wasn’t doing a good job.  It’s sort of like if a human being is raised amongst some lion cubs and trying to fit in. Even with the best intentions in the world, and even if we downplay my physical issues, I didn’t think like a lion. So the whole idea of gnawing on raw meat, or hunting, or stalking prey, etc. … none of this would come naturally to me. If I were in that position then I’d probably give myself a “D” or an “F” at being a lion, or an “E” for “Effort.”  If trying hard were all that mattered (and in life, it doesn’t) then I’d deserve whatever is to the right of “A+.”  The thing is, I’d be (at best) a poor imitation of a lion.

I grew up in a weird cultural context where letting on was physically dangerous, so out of sheer necessity, I pretended to be a guy with tremendous dedication, and I did so-so as a result. I’d give myself a “D” or an “F” at functioning as a male in society, or an “E” for “Effort.”  If trying hard were all that mattered (and in life, it doesn’t) then I’d deserve whatever is to the right of “A+.” I was (at best) a poor imitation of a guy.

Perhaps the strongest, smartest and most competent t-girl I know once broke down in front of me and cried about the pain of all the self-loathing and embarrassment she has endured.

I forget precisely how she phrased it, but the way she said it made me realize that it’s not so much what others said or did, though of course their feedback was a fundamental factor. The problem wasn’t with the messenger but with the reality. Often, mean people were precise in their reservations or concerns or mockery or teasing. Yes, these children or adults were mean-spirited, but they were also astute: I functioned poorly as a male, and they saw it and said so.  And, I knew that about myself.  And in a similar way, my t-girl friend knew that about herself all these years while she was supposed to be functioning as a male by the standard of her sub-culture at the time.

Now let’s fast-forward to the day in the fairy tale when the ugly duckling finds out that, hey, it’s perfectly normal that you did a lousy job of being a duckling because going by fundamentals (how your brain is wired) you’ve never really been a duckling in the first place. You’re a swan, see, and that’s your true nature, and isn’t that much nicer by your own standards and the basic principles of reality-based behavior anyway?

Well, yes. That’s why some transgender people cry with happiness when they learn there’s an actual reality-based phenomenon of being transgender, and the issue is certainly in their heads, but it’s a brain-wiring thing, not their imagination or a mental health problem. Wow, what a relief.

Problem is, that discovery doesn’t undo all the years of damage done by feeling (and, objectively, being) inadequate to something that was held as the standard of value for someone who was thought to be a guy: behaving a guy.

Someone insightful described me, not that long ago, as being hampered by self-loathing or self-hatred. I forgot precisely how she phrased it but I remember it was admirably precise, as this person invariably is. I felt deeply hurt by her observation but the reason why is because she was precisely accurate. I grew up feeling inferior. I felt inferior as a child, a teenager and an adult. I was supposed to be a guy and I failed at it in a thousand ways. And I knew it. And it really, really, really bothered me. I wanted nothing more than to be macho enough.

One vacation, I went camping with a dozen or so guys. I was 14. So were most of them, give or take a year in either direction. Perhaps if this were California, the way to be macho might have involved something a lot more psychedelic than nicotine, but this being South Africa, cigarettes were the bad-ass standard of the day. Smoking was considered macho. So, as part of coming across as macho, I smoked cigarettes, starting that day at the camp when I was 14. And, since I felt inferior, I overdid it. I smoked three packs of cigarettes, that very first day. And, I didn’t just puff. I learned how to channel the smoke into my mouth and out my nose, sort of like a dragon might look (not that I’ve ever seen one; I’m guessing here). So, there I was, chopping wood or whatever and trying to look macho with my cigarette in the corner of my mouth. And, it worked. I felt macho. I looked macho. Someone in the group even made an observation to that effect (to which my emotional internal reaction was, ironically, a very non-macho delight).  Anyway, after another hour or so, I felt miserably sick. I curled up in a corner of the tent and tried to sleep.

The guys bicycled away to go swimming in some or other waterhole, a few miles away. For reasons I don’t recall, most of them had already-wet clothing hanging on a clothesline in the camp. And, while they were gone, it started raining. While lying in the tent, I heard that.

This is probably a good time in the story to point out that, even at that young age, I was pretty clear on the premise that my standard for friendship was poor, and most of these guys were basically jerks. Yet, even while knowing all this, and as miserable as I felt, I also had empathy with them, so I dragged my miserable-feeling self upright and went about the entire camp site, gathering all the clothes of a dozen teenage boys and putting the clothes in a corner of my tent before crawling back to a fetal position and feeling miserable.

While lying there, in addition to being acutely aware of the burning in my mouth and throat, I also became aware of one more thing: the rain had stopped. Being 14, I knew that damp clothes in a pile gets mildew. I knew mildew was bad. And, I had no idea of how fast mildew took to form.  Minutes? Hours? Days? Weeks?  Anyway, there I lay, worrying about all these guys’ clothes getting mildew.  So, I dragged my miserable-feeling self upright and went about the entire camp site, hanging up on the clotheslines all the damp clothes of a dozen teenage boys before crawling back to a fetal position in a corner of my tent and feeling miserable.

While lying there, I became aware of one more thing: the rain had started again. So, up I got and brought all the clothes in again and laid down again.

Then, while lying there, I became aware of that the rain had stopped again. So, up I got and hung up all the clothes again.

If you’re not impressed by how miserable I felt, imagine the aftermath of smoking three packs of cigarettes in the span of very few hours, at age 14, and the smoke coming out your nose and this being the first day you smoked.

As I think back at the events of that day, I would conclude that what I did in spite of feeling so very miserable was a very caring, nurturing, considerate thing to do — the sort of behavior that’s about as far away from macho as one could imagine. Oh, the irony….

Anyway, it started raining again. I didn’t notice. I was asleep. I finally woke up when the guys came back and loudly complained at how miserable and non-caring a friend I was, because there I was at the camp, and their clothes were up on the clothesline, and they were away, and it had rained, and I’d lacked the common decency to even care enough to bring their clothes in from the clothesline, so now their clothes were soaked and they were mad at me. I didn’t defend myself. I think I felt too miserable to care.

Anyway, add another few thousand examples to that, and it makes for year after year after year of a life lived while feeling inferior as a guy, when a major standard of merit was: behaving like a guy.

In all honesty, was it a fair assessment that self-loathing was fundamental to my psychological make-up? Yes, it was. Deeply ingrained, at that.  No wonder so many transgender people kill themselves off. Whatever meanness and criticism society aims at them occasionally, they’re doing to themselves continuously.

No wonder I was always overcompensating. I was the class clown. I got “A”s in everything. Then I took extra subjects and got “A”s in that too. I learned sleight-of-hand tricks. I joined the debating team and won contests. I learned judo. I learned karate. I started my own businesses even as a teenager. Whatever I did, I tried to do superlatively. I learned things most kids, or even adults, don’t have a clue about.  Granted, I probably started out with an above-average intelligence. But that’s hardly the key ingredient. I was driven.

And that’s all before coming out.

After that, great, now I know I’m not a mental case, as I’d assumed I was all these years. Being transgender is not a mental health anomaly, it’s a genetic anomaly. That’s wonderful news. But, that doesn’t reverse the many layers and layers of psychological damage.

Viktor Frankl was the most amazing man. He was Jewish and he didn’t just survive physically while being in the Nazi camp, but he also survived with a remarkable level of psychological health in spite of everything that was done to him.

That leads me to conclude that psychological damage isn’t something that gets done to a person. It’s fundamentally something the person does to himself, or in my case, herself. And damage there was. Day after day of berating myself for being inferior did indeed have a negative effect. The cumulative effect is probably pretty darn bad, much as I tend to be cheerful, and I have a lot for which to be thankful.

Anyway, so I’m basically a girl and have always been, and now I know it. And yet, in a way, I’m right back to where I was: feeling inferior. By the standard of being a woman, I feel inferior. It’s difficult to get beyond the aesthetics. I hate having all this body hair. I hate having hair grow out of my face. I hate being flat-chested. I hate having narrow hips and a small butt. I hate being so muscular. I hate having negligible eye-lashes. I hate my voice. I hate the shape of my browline and forehead. I hate the shape of my chin and jaw. I hate my male-looking skin. I hate how I walk and move.

I compensate. I wax my body and facial hair into oblivion. It hurts SO much, but I don’t care. I wear fake boobs. I take feminizing hormones. I try to lose weight, including muscle. I get fake eyelashes glued on. I retrain my voice. I learn how to hold my head so that the angles de-emphasize my male-looking facial features. I learn what lighting and shadows to avoid. I do skin care with a passion. I am constantly exercising, and relearning how to walk and move.

All of these things help. But, I’m acutely aware of the need to do these things, and what life would be like if I didn’t.

As to my the shape of my body ‘down there,’ let’s not even go into details. I’ll just say I could speak insightfully for probably an hour on the subject of ‘the surgery’ (without having experienced it, but just based on what I’ve learned so far). It’s not an idle interest.

So, let’s re-cap. I used to try to live like a guy. I was a fairly OK fit physically and aesthetically yet I was a total misfit mentally and psychologically. Nowadays I live as a girl and I’m a lousy fit with that physically and aesthetically yet, for what it’s worth, I’m a perfect fit with that, mentally and psychologically. Given the choice, I’m much happier nowadays. But it’s still no picnic.

Most people around me try to be nice, and some of them genuinely are. But with many people, I always feel like they’re trying to humor me, almost like they’re playing along as in: “help this person keep pretending he’s female so we don’t hurt his feelings.” I hate that SO much.

Sometimes people are more candid, and they just check out of the interaction and never come back. That certainly sends a message, and it’s not a nice one.

One gentleman is maybe 25 years older than I am, and we developed a close and unusual sort of friendship and sort of gravitated to a father-and-child dynamic. We eventually agreed it felt so mutual that we formalized it and he started signing his emails to me “Love, Dad.”  And he was supportive and loving and wonderful and many things that my biological father or stepfather never were. All was well and good until I came out to him, as being a t-girl. With admirable integrity and candor, he confessed to me that any time spent in my company in public is now excruciatingly embarrassing to him, and his emails no longer end with either “Love” or “Dad.”  Wow, does THAT send a strong message. I hate that.

Then, there are the folks who pointedly insist on still using male pronouns around me even after I nicely and patiently explain the issues, several times. I move such people out of my life but not always quickly enough.

Then, there are a great many well-meaning people who have bought into my pretend-to-be-a-guy act for many years, and are basically having a hard time making the switch to my new name and female pronouns. When they’re talking to me, it’s not that apparent since “me” and “you” are gender-neutral, but when they’re talking about me, such as when there’s a third party present, they use male pronouns, as in “please go look up his policy” or “his car won’t start.”  And, I can’t blame them, but I do hate that too.

If being desired by guys is supposed to make me feel better, wow, has that backfired. I’d put on pretty make-up and a sexy, clingy short dress and my 6″ stilettos and yes, thank you, I do look like a hot chick even though I’m then effectively 6’6″ tall. And if I had a dollar for every guy who has expressed interest in being with me sexually, I’d probably have hundreds of dollars, perhaps even more. And almost every one of them is totally pre-occupied with my male-shaped privates.They want to put their mouths on it, or they’d like me to do them with it. And I hate all of that perhaps more than everything else combined.

This being a blog sometimes read by teenagers, I try hard to only hint at things that are adult content and it’s a fine line to walk, so I’ll just say that on a bad day, some people express the acronym “FML” and then explain why they feel that way. I think this blog post has done just that.

And yet, I’m generally cheerful and upbeat. But, when I re-read this post, I’m almost unable to reconcile the past with these happy emotions.

Well, wait a minute. I’m healthy. I have enough food in the refrigerator and a roof over my head. I have a great relationship with my romantic partner (and yes, she’s female and sees me as such). I finally have a good relationship with my mom. And, I have many wonderful friends, male and female, from before I transitioned and after. I live in my favorite country in the whole world. The BMW 3-series I drive might be 25 years old and the door opens by me yanking on a wire, but it’s reliable and lovely and I can maintain it and understand it. I have one successful-enough business in a career that I love and at which I’m skilled. I have other businesses that I enjoy working on too. I’m not addicted to anything more harmful than coffee. And much of my reflection in the mirror, I actually do like. I like how I’ve been able to live a life of good moral character even though my finances have been unraveling and life has been hard. I like how I’m able to connect with people. I like that I think in terms of justice and yet I have empathy. I like how I can figure out problems, and the many problems that I have figured out.

Even with my checkered gender-related past and my dubious looks and all the psychological damage I’ve inflicted on myself … I’m basically happy to be alive, and happy to be me.

And so really, in the final analysis, life is good. Very good, in fact.