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They Fear Queer People Will Take Photos of Women in Restrooms; We Fear Homophobic People Will Fire Bullets at Us in Our Safe Spaces

Governor Pat McCrory and other fear-mongering assholes have pushed their fearful agenda of little girls and women not feeling safe with a transgender person in the restroom for several months now, with the contention that women and little children will have to fear some pervert taking a photographic shot of their private parts.

Well Pat — and all you fear mongering assholes out there — us queer folks in the LGBTQI community have to fear bullets penetrating our bodies at the safest space we consider available for us to be ourselves: gay and queer nightclubs.

Let’s cut all the bullshit once and for all and call things for what they are for once, shall we?  Anyone who says they don’t agree, don’t condone, or don’t see gay marriage or gay people or transgender people as doing the right thing, or sees queers as sinners, or sees them as someone not conforming to what is “naturally correct” or whatever the fuck else is claimed by some entity in the sky, can go fuck themselves.  It is bigotry if you feel like someone is lesser than you or deserves less protections and civil rights because you disagree with them.  And by disagree, I don’t mean disliking someone or their harmful choices; I’m talking about disagreeing with someone being gay or queer or trans as the same as disagreeing with the way someone was born.

For instance, do we disagree with people if they don’t have the same eye color as us, or the same finger lengths or body weight?  Do we disagree with someone’s choices and cast them as sinners and abject and broken and mentally ill because they wear different sized shoes than us or have different hair colors?  Do we disagree with someone based on their skin color?  If so, that is bigoted, racist, and toxic, and believe me when I say queer people have always felt unsafe around bigots, because you assholes judge us for choosing a lifestyle that you see as unfit — despite no one giving you a gavel as judge and juror — when really we are born this way.

This is why our safe haven has always been at gay clubs.

These places are our sanctuaries, our safe spaces where we can be seen, mirrored, and be ourselves without fear of being judged.  These are places away from homophobic and transphobic society.  These are places where even straight people come visit on occasion to have a better time than going to a straight club because wherever there are uninhibited people channeling their energy from their hearts with unbridled joy, embracing their individual queerness, fun is usually the end result.

Instead, we now have to question if going out to our safe spaces to dance and be free is actually safe, all because the perpetual lies are still being touted and spread by people everywhere in all facets of society.  From playgrounds where children play to workplaces in corporate settings, “that’s so gay” and other derogatory terms are still thrown around like candy.  The fact that we couldn’t even get married was a hot topic until last year, and our second class citizenry is still fresh in so many people’s psyches that coming out is still a necessary part of a queer person’s life journey.

We are so terrified of losing the respect and acceptance of loved ones that we often hide our true selves away from family and friends.  We are ashamed of being ourselves because society has made a living and habit out of shaming us out of who we are, to the point where closeted Republicans are caught with gay escorts or in cheating scandals, to the point where someone of Muslim faith had so much shame and self-hatred towards the fact that he was gay that he decided to project all that hostility towards the gay community itself.

Think about that for a minute.  You, as a global culture, are generally so opposed to the LGBTQI community, condemning it as so wrong and shameful that you were able to manifest such large amounts of vitriolic hate within this Orlando shooter that his homophobia drove him mad enough to slaughter the biggest trigger he had towards himself: 50people at a gay club.

It may come as a surprise to you heteronormative straight people, but us LGBTQI people have accumulated pieces of verbal, emotional, and mental hate throughout our lives, from the moment we knew we were different in kindergarten and grade school, from the moment we were bullied for being different, from the moment we saw just how much homophobia is slung around in this pathetic and outdated culture we call a society.

LGBTQI people, prior to coming out of the closet, hold the most amount of homophobia themselves, because that dagger is turned inwards towards our own soul, towards fueling our own self torment.  It isn’t until we have the courage to accept ourselves — through self awareness and hard work, and sadly, often times through enormous amounts of growth accumulated through pain — that we can then address the homophobia source in society, caused by, you guessed it, people like you.

So let’s not sit here and pretend it’s about ISIS or terrorism, because let’s face it: our culture permeates terror towards anyone who is different, and, last I checked, the LGBTQI community is clearly different from the vanilla heteronormative standards you want.

So don’t pretend you want to pray with us or understand what we go through.  Enough with that shit.  Work on yourself first and fix the uneducated so that we can actually embrace each other with compassion and connect through our continuous common humanity without the need of a tragedy like the shooting in Orlando as a reason to bring us together.

Expanded View

Wheat-Field-WomanBack when I was still living as a guy, I would often pick up my girlfriend Amy at her front door for weekend dance nights, and she would come out the door looking exceptionally beautiful and sexy.  Her fashion sense was impeccable, highlighting her artistic expression, coupled with her happy personality and desires to please me visually.

She would even smell like a million dollars, exciting me the moment she entered my car.  We would kiss and embrace, and look forward to an evening of dancing.  She was so gorgeous, so free flowing and comfortable in her own skin, that she left me feeling incredibly bitter and jealous.

She wasn’t who I wanted to date.  She was who I wanted to be, though I couldn’t yet acknowledge that, even to myself.

Needless to say, that jealousy often showed in my behaviors.   The women closest to me, especially my mom and my girlfriends, got the most wrath from the ocean of internalized anger that surrounded my suppressed feminine heart.

Although I apologized and made the amends I could after I transitioned my gender, the memories still bring back painful times from my past: a past filled with fear, wounds from being raised as a boy with hetero-normative expectations placed on me, resulting in digestion of the environmental stigma that fueled the clenched stomach pains caused by internalized transphobia.

The first few months of our relationship were used, unbeknownst to her, to fuel and stroke my ego.  I was running out of fingers as the Dutch Boy trying to hold the dam to hide my feminine heart, but I nevertheless tried relentlessly to quiet the gender chatter going on inside my head and use the glances she got all night from horny men to vicariously satisfy my suppressed heart.

The fact that people were staring at her meant I had good taste in women.  It meant my inner, authentic, feminine self, was relating somehow to the external women I was chasing and dating.  Often times, I was very aware of the fact that the physical nuances I found attractive in my girlfriends were the very same traits I wished I myself had the courage to express to the outer world.  Hence, I treated the actions of other men and women being attracted to and complimenting my girlfriend as some sort of indirect and secret validation for me.

When the excitement of puppy love ended after a few months of being together, I began to treat Amy with manipulative insults and guilt trips.  I would send her a smokescreen of mixed messages, always keeping her emotionally off balance, trying to let her guess my mood and what I was upset about.  I started “dyke” drama with her constantly, and she even told me on a few occasions that our arguments felt like the same ones she had with her best friends when they were upset with each other.  On one particular evening, after she had had enough of my mysterious behavior, she finally stopped me in the car and demanded we talk.

I pulled over, shut off the engine, and looked at her coldly, with no expression.

Silence.

Then, she blurted: “I don’t get you anymore!  It’s like there is a huge gap developing between us these past few weeks,” she said with a hurtful tone.

“What do you mean?” I said, trying to play it cool and act nonchalant.  I was deathly afraid that showing any truth of myself, my heart, would cause the whole dam to crumble, shattering the façade I held so delicately and reveal my true feminine heart to her, resulting in a shaming experience I thought I could never recover from during my lifetime.

“You tell me how much you love it when I dress up, but then lecture me and tell me how slutty and classless I am, and how I probably just want attention, like something is wrong with me!” she said, quite observant.

“I just think you should tone it down when we aren’t going out dancing, you are showing a bit too much,” I said, quickly defending myself while hoping the argument wouldn’t affect if I got laid that night.

The real issue was, though, that I was incredibly jealous she got to wear everything she did, and be who she was on a daily basis, while I chose to suppress my real self and live vicariously through observing her.  I was also seething at myself, knowing that I could be just as powerful as her if I just allowed myself a chance to be me.

I had finally reached my limit, my soul depleted.  Merely looking at endless amounts of food was never going to serve as an adequate substitute for actually eating — and my soul was absolutely starving.  I had no internal nutrients to sustain myself anymore.  I had to be me.

***************

No sooner had we broken up for good, I started seeing a gender therapist and transitioned my gender presentation, living as my authentic womanly self since 2011.

After living authentically for three years, traveling to Shanghai to conduct a business meeting with clients on behalf of my job, and being accepted and seen regularly as one of the gals, I now viewed women from a totally different perspective than when I was chasing them.

I really appreciate the connections, the receptivity, the way women look after one another, and share their emotions on a deeper level.  There is a playfulness and participatory factor that is unlike that for men, where threads of life are so elegantly shared and interwoven with other women.

The real treat has been to be around women when they weren’t defended and guarded like they were in the past when they saw me as a man who perhaps wanted to sleep with them.  Instead, I am now seen as one of them, my feminine heart being witnessed and validated instead of my biology, distinctly clarifying that I am one of them, and that I am safe to share and open up to, participating with mutual reciprocation in socializing and sharing our emotions.

What a treat, to have chased after the women who wore high heels to now being the one standing in the same pair of shoes, experiencing the world from a completely different perspective, receiving gifts of incredible insight and wisdom.

These fresh experiences contain interactions that I’ve always had with women, but now in a completely new dynamic, resulting in me feeling reborn, as these new social perspectives color my life with newness.

I now see so much more to what women offer to the world.  To be blessed with having my heart broken open through the gifts of death of my former self, by experiencing loss on such a profound level that I could be reborn with new vision and perspective so that I could be receptive to the gifts of the feminine world, which now allows me to see a side of women that most men never truly understand or get to see at all.

How fabulous.

Equal Attention Discrimination

donald_sterlingAs soon as TMZ released the alleged tape Donald Sterling’s racist remarks towards his girlfriend V. Stiviano for posting pictures of herself hanging out with Magic Johnson on Instagram, the African American community immediately issued statements requesting Sterling be removed as the Los Angeles Clippers owner. All of this coming at a very bad time during a playoff battle against the Golden State Warriors en route to a possible NBA championship run for the Larry O’Brien trophy that now, very few people want to see the players on the Clippers earn for Sterling to hoist.

First I must say the African American community has always responded quickly to ignorant, divisive, and racist remarks towards these types of social issues. They are incredibly cohesive, organized, and collaborate so well. When Trayvon Martin was shot to Rodney King, and even towards the reactions of OJ Simpson and the jury’s verdict, the African American community always reacts fast and shares their opinions on sensitive social issues regarding other high profile African Americans or affiliates.

But the teamwork and cultural awareness didn’t happen overnight. People paid in blood sweat and tears for centuries as dignity was hard won and fought for before others were able to arrive at equal treatment, to eat at the same table at restaurants and attend the same schools.

Even now there still remains ignorance and hidden discrimination amongst the American population. But at least backlash is immediately imminent when people voice their discriminatory views.

Yet, if this were a transgender situation with the same backstory except the one minor difference of substituting a famous transgender woman in place of Magic Johnson, I assure you the results would have been quite different: muted, ignored, and dismissed.

I could have guaranteed there would have been very little comparative public outcry.

Why is that?

Is it because people erroneously assume w are making a sinful choice when we present our true selves in a gender non-conforming way? Is it because we are fragmented as a community? Is my friend Callan correct in saying our disconnect as a community is because we lack allies? Because we are so busy pinpointing who we aren’t instead of focusing on who we are, finding out actual presentation and identities?

I think it’s a combination of all of these factors, and the fragmentation really hurts us as a community. In addition to having no default group of individual to represent us, we have so many in the community who play crabs in the barrel with one another. Forget the fact that drag queens, transvestites, crossdressers, and transsexuals pick on each other and segregate themselves. Transsexuals are very ticky tack amongst themselves. It’s very common to hear comments as “That’s not her real hair” or “She isn’t fulltime, what does she know” in sneering and condescending attitudes.

And finding a group or individual to represent transgender people is very difficult, if not impossible, due to how fluid the nature of gender really is and the many ways on the continuum in which we can authentically choose to express ourselves.

So what are some steps we can take to increase acceptance and inclusion within our own community? I think it is very important to stand up for other transgender people. But in order for us to do that successfully we must first learn to stand up for ourselves and embrace our own individual differences. If I can’t accept, love, and stand up for myself, then I certainly can’t do it effectively for others in my community.

We must also show inclusion for those who fall on different parts of the gender spectrum; empathy for those who face ostracism from family upon coming out; and patience for those who are at a different stage of transition than we are.

We must embrace our queerness, and reject the binaries and judgments associated with being different and, rather, see ourselves as who we truly are: unique.

We must start forming alliances of allies where, through our cohesion of loving self and other transgender people, we then start being heard.

And then, and only then, will we hold enough clout and attention for respect when discriminated against in a similar situation by the Donald Sterlings out there.

Childhoodproof

I got my name change and received my court order in the spring of 2012, and promptly celebrated at one of my favorite restaurants in the San Fernando Valley with my friend Susan.

“You now realize you can no longer legally marry another woman,” she said.

What she said hit me all of a sudden. She was right, on account that Proposition 8 was still in effect, and the moment my legal gender marker on my documents was changed to “F,” I could no longer marry another woman.

“That sucks!” I said with sudden realization of the ramifications. “As of yesterday, I still could have married a woman.”

“Shows how bullshit it all is,”” she said.

“We instead focused the rest of our afternoon on the bright side: that I had legally changed my name and gender, and that we were here to celebrate that important milestone.

We got seated at a table that was actually two tables joined together, and sat on the right side of the pair. As we ordered, the restaurant filled up rather quickly.

All of a sudden, a couple sat to our left, and moved the table about a foot over to create separation. The waitress followed suit and divided up the condiments for the now two separate parties.

I casually glanced over at the commotion as the couple sat down, literally a few feet away from me.

I jumped back in my seat, in shock that it was Chris and his girlfriend sitting next to me!

Both of them had attended my brother’s wedding reception in 2010, and Chris and I shared countless childhood memories and activities together. Our families were very close, and we grew up together playing basketball, camping, and attending Chinese school together.

Strangers we certainly were not.

“What?!?” Susan asked perceptively, noticing I was quiet. “You look pale, like you’re freaking out!”

I couldn’t even talk, I was so nervous all of a sudden.

A plethora of thoughts ran through my head: Would speaking in my newfound voice give me away? Was my pitch convincing enough? Could they clock me through all the makeup and clothes I was wearing? Surely, they must have made me already! Who did I think I was fooling?!?

Instead of noting that they glanced right at me and kept on eating without skipping a beat; instead of cherishing that I clearly passed as the woman I was inside and out; instead of prolonging my celebration of my legal name and gender marker change, I chose instead to momentarily focus on my fear of being clocked by an old childhood friend sitting two feet from me.

When our families had gone to China in 2000, Chris, my brother, and I were all hitting on girls in our tour groups. Each time we arrived in a new province, the group members would change with respect to each family and their travel itinerary.

Upon arriving in Xian to see the Terra Cotta Warriors at the tomb of Emperor Qin, the 3 of us 20-year olds were more interested in the two new Vietnamese girls that were new additions to our tour group.

I kept noting the beauty of one of the Vietnamese sisters, and my brother acknowledged I had great taste. Chris, however, disagreed.

“I guess I have really high standards,” he said nonchalantly. “No one has piqued my interest on this trip yet.”

And here we were, sitting next to each other at a restaurant, where he had made eye contact with me but retained his attention on his girlfriend.

I passed. I passed as myself, a woman, in his eyes. He didn’t recognize me, despite knowing my old presentation for the better of 20 years. With “high standards” regarding beautiful women, I looked like one in his eyes.

“Well?” Susan implored.

“See that couple there?” I pointed out to Susan.

“Yeah, not the first one I’ve seen, so what?” she said sarcastically, easing the mood for us.

“I’ve known him for 20 years. Our families are very close. I’m freaking out!” I whispered.

“No way!” she said with a smile. “You know what? We can have some fun!”

She then hunched over the table and playfully whispered back: “So you want me to tell him for you? I’m sure you have his cell phone, you should text him and say you can’t believe you are sitting next to him at this restaurant, and watch him look around for you, all confused.”

“No! Just let them leave, I don’t want to do this now,” I said.

She jokingly reached over and leaned towards their table a few times, but eventually, they left and I filled Susan in on all the back-story.

She laughed, and was in disbelief. She also promptly congratulated and shared her elation with me on how far I had come, physically and emotionally to pass with feminine appearance and energy.

“Now will you believe it when all of us tell you that you pass and have nothing to worry about? You have proof now.”

My feminine appearance withstood the scrutiny of a friend who spent his childhood and adolescent years growing up with me, and I had passed.

Akai Swim School

akai_logo_smIn 1985, I attended Akai Swim School with my brother. It was that summer when I learned how to swim, learned how to change my breath and keep a sustained stroke, and also the same summer where I now wish, in retrospect, I could take some of my actions back.

The first one being that I made fun of my brother for beating him to the punch in learning how to swim first, despite being 2.5 years younger than him. He quickly followed suit and also learned how to swim.

So naturally, on weekends, we would beg our parents to take us to the pool.

On the last weekend of our summer membership, a kid named “Go” was there. All the kids made fun him, including my brother, and I felt the peer pressure as I joined in with the teasing. All the older boys picked him up and threw him in the pool repeatedly, and bullied him all under the premise of making fun of his name.

Although I secretly thought he was cute, I was almost “relieved” in a sense to see that some other poor little boy was being bullied for once instead of me. But during the rare moments when he was left alone, I approached him and we talked. He seemed very nice, and didn’t comprehend my two-faced behavior.

A sign of betrayal and confusion washed over his face as I would befriend him one minute and retreat back with the crowd of boys in the next, all in order to avoid being ostracized myself.

To this day, I still feel terrible about that, and I wonder if things would have been drastically different if I had already come out to my family and was living as a girl. I envision I would have defended him, and stood by him because I would have had firsthand knowledge of standing up for who I was and being authentic, and the whole social dynamic would have been different.

Perhaps, with the wisdom of transition having begun in my life, I would have more likely chosen to connect with my heart instead of connecting with the judgmental voice which didn’t think I was worthy of being present; the same voice that didn’t think I was worthy of befriending a boy; and instead of connecting with the bullying voice of fitting in, of fear, of harassing the boy, I would have instead embraced what I really wanted to do: make a friend and not care what others thought about my authentic intentions.

But I can’t do anything about it now. And I often wonder what happened to Go.

************************

Fast forward to Summer of of 2014.

I signed up for a month long membership at Akai Swim School to rehab my hip. Very little has changed physically at the facility, but I’m drastically different as I enter the grounds. Not only has 29 years passed, but I’m also undeniably stepping foot at Akai physically presenting as a woman in a bathing suit. I’ve freed the real self inside me for the world to see. I freed Natalie, the same hidden girl and spirit that wanted to free Go from being bullied. The empathy I felt for Go was the same empathy I felt for myself, but I was too scared to help him, just as I was too scared to help free myself from living in the wrong gender.

As I was mulling over the parallels, my head was spinning from the fact that I was standing there at Akai as my true self. While lost in my pondering, the woman from the front desk who had let me in walked by me as I entered the pool.

The water was just as warm as I had remembered it from 30 years ago. But the next thing that happened warmed my heart.

“Nice swimsuit Natalie,” the lady said. “The skirt is adorable! Where did you get your swimsuit?”

“Thanks,” I said. “I got it online. I can give you the website if you want.”

“Sure,” she said.

I wandered deeper into the water, in a daze.

I wish I could have shared that moment with Go.

If Your Uncle Jack was Stuck on a Horse, Would You Help Your Uncle Jack Off?

My uncle visited my mother’s house the other week on his way to LAX. His goal was to bring some vitamins and clothes back to China for my dad, but he didn’t expect to see me there.

uncle jack

Uncle Jack

Although he knew about my transition since 2011 when I had informed the entire family about my fulltime status of living as a woman, he had never seen me in person……and I knew it was going to be very difficult for him, to say the least.

From the moment he walked in, he kept looking down or away, never making eye contact. He briefly waved at me and said hi, and quickly resumed packing and rustling through all his baggage. He was flustered and had “ADD” the whole time, and kept shifting conversation topics towards Taiwan politics or other issues my mom felt passionate about so that she would chime in and help him avoid being stuck talking only to me.

I was a bit disappointed that he never really acknowledged me or listened to what I had to say the entire time he was there. I wanted to pout, and politely and firmly finish what I was saying before I was interrupted in mid-sentence each time, but I let it go. I recalled my newfound receptivity and feminine tactics and social graces, and I further reminded myself that I could learn from the experience and do better next time. The goal, I realized, wasn’t to fix the situation and penetrate further with insistent conversation, but rather, to let him take it all in, the new me, the regendering of me of which he needed time to process.

I was proud of my response, as I could see the recent growth I was owning.

But after he left, my mom said with a smile: “He found you attractive, and didn’t know how to react!”

I agreed with my mom and we both shared a laugh.

My uncle certainly had his way with attractive, tall, well-dressed and sexy Chinese women in the past, and the thought had crossed my mind while he was there that my looks played a big part in his discomfort.

But I didn’t fully believe in it. Part of me resisted acknowledging to myself that I could possibly be in the same category as his ex-girlfriends. After all, they were all cisgender women, ready to settle down and start a family with him, and the only thing that stopped that from happening was my uncle not being ready at the time, still womanizing and playing the field.

So was it possible? Could I have really measured up to those other women? Did I dare compare myself to other attractive cisgender women? Could I transcend all the shit and stigma and shame from being trans, and just see myself for who I was, just another woman who was worthy of being seen as beautiful, inside and out?

It was troubling to me that I had so much difficulty accepting that I was seen as attractive. I just didn’t have what it took that day to fully believe in myself, and my shortchanging of self was very disconcerting.

As a woman, feeling attractive oscillates: some days come easy, some days are just brutal. I have had countless days where I’ve been on both ends of the spectrum: going to work where I felt like a million dollars, and my energy radiated out to compel other coworkers to compliment me, contrasted with the days where I felt hideous and my nervous energy drew negative attention towards me before I even gave myself a chance to breathe and start the day. But what bothered me this time was that I chalked it all to being a transgender woman, and my internalized transphobia got the better of me before I even started my interaction with my uncle.

It was one of those moments where I didn’t trust in my feminine heart, and paid the price of missing what was right in front of me: the beauty and awesome feeling of being seen as a pretty woman and being appreciated for it. And nothing more.

My initial reaction after he left, was that I wanted to power through the uneasy feelings with my old outdated methods with brute force and avoidance, being more adamant, fighting my way through without even considering surrender and serenity.

How quickly was it that I completely forgot about all the times I’ve turned heads and gotten compliments from all sorts of women in public, and the amazing question of “are you a model from the USA?” asked of me when I was in Shanghai just last December.

It was these types of scenarios that clearly reminded me that I had the power to choose what aspect of each scenario I wanted to focus on, and how I could let the lessons and blessings from my Mother In The Sky increase the size of my vault of wisdom.

It reminded me of the fact that surrendering to the situation was where my true power was; that I couldn’t speed up the regendering process he was going through; that my uncle needed time to examine the new me, and that he had to relinquish the old image he had of me that was associated with all the precious times he shared with me during my childhood; that it was a great moment for me to show him compassion and patience as he regendered me in his head; that he needed the time to see me flow and interact as a woman to provide him new context in which to see me.

And most fun of all amongst all the craziness, was that he was flustered because he found me attractive.

That was definitely worth the price of admission!

Stifled Life

stifledI had the privilege of receiving a call from Garrett last night, and working through a few things on the phone. Specifically, issues regarding my ability to “find my passion” and purpose in life.

I told him about an ESPN story with Penny Hardaway going to a middle school in Memphis to help out his childhood friend who got cancer and could no longer coach the boys basketball team. After Penny took over the coaching duties, his friend still pushed himself physically to the limit to be present courtside, when possible, despite doctors warning him to rest.

The interviewer asked him: “Why do you insist on being courtside, when doctors have ordered you to rest, when it takes so much out of you?” Penny’s friend answered: “Because it also gives so much to me too,” implying that being there was keeping him alive.

I then proceeded to tell Garrett that I needed to “find” my calling, something to devote myself to, something to serve. He told me I had it all backwards. That I didn’t “need” anything. That living my life was all I “needed” to do. To live my life with passion, to make everything in my life important, and the purpose or service would naturally reveal itself.

“You’ve lived stifled and subdued for so long,” he said. “Everything you approached was done with a lack of passion. You never fully committed to anything because you were always waiting for the next best thing, always having one foot already out the door, in case something “better” came along. That’s why you never “found your passion.” That’s why you struggled so much with deciphering if your activities were passions or addictions.”

He then explained how one does not “find their passion.” Rather, people live life with passion and the hobby or thing they enjoy doing naturally reveals itself.

“Start brushing your teeth with passion. Inject passion into everything you do. Live like a terminal cancer patient, with passion for going to the toilet or waiting for a daily afternoon visitor. Fill your life with passion and live it with passion and something naturally will reveal itself in due time.”

Just like Penny’s friend choosing to make the middle school basketball team a priority of importance, I need to value, cherish, and take care of what is already in my life and what comes into it. And to do it with passion.

I need to stop looking for activities and events that illicit blips in the radar for me, because those temporary emotional states where I feel passion are external. It’s time to start bringing passion into a once stifled life, and see what my passion from within brings forth to my future.

I need to light the pilot in my heater in order to heat the house. I need to light up my soul and spread this new enthusiasm and spark towards everything I do in my life, especially what I consider the mundane.

I must say though, it was depressing realizing I chose, by conscious or subconscious reasoning, to live a subdued and stifled life. Many of those causes were because I am transgender, and my transgender history was filled with denied opportunities and dismissal.

But the encouraging news is that now I can choose again.

And this time it’ll be different.

Second Set of Balls

I was talking with TBB a few weeks ago, and we were discussing tome transgender topics that took courage and thick skin to endure.balls_of_steel

“I had to grow a second set of balls,” she said.

I couldn’t stop laughing when she said that.

Although I don’t plan on having GRS in the foreseeable future, I couldn’t help but marvel at the strength and courage us transgender people go through (surgery or no surgery), in order to live our daily lives.

Some of us are clocked visually every day, and need to have enormous resilience and strength to endure the baggage of other people thrown upon us, due to our very presence triggering their own shit that they refuse to deal with and blame us for causing them to feel.

Some of us have families and spouses prior to our transition that come along inevitably for the educational and difficult ride.

Most of us have to face the hassle of legal document changes and coming out to work and old bosses for professional references.

And further yet, some of us are assaulted or killed when we are out shopping for food or on a date.

So yes, despite TBB “losing” her balls due to GRS, she absolutely hit home with the statement: “When I grew my second set of balls…”

Kudos to all the transgender people out there who have the courage and stamina to face the world as their true selves every day.

Yes, it does take balls of steel, sometimes even a second pair are needed.

Not Enough

sad-womenThis society thrives on taking advantage of our feelings of inadequacy. Billion dollar industries are based off of our insecurities, drawing consumerism predicated on our fragments of low self esteem.

Women are constantly subjected to scrutiny from peers and members of the opposite sex. A woman with low self esteem or features that society considers not classically beautiful have a much harder time talking themselves out of a speeding ticket and taking advantage of biased perks.

The feelings of being shunned compound this fictitious belief of feeling we are not good enough, that we are somehow deficient or broken.

I think the closest feeling cisgender women can experience with regards to understanding what almost all MtF transwoman experience when they don’t pass, is when cisgender women don’t feel pretty.

Each time a transgender person is clocked or harassed for not “passing,” the feelings generated are similar to what a cisgender woman feels when rejected by a date or some other social situation for not being “pretty” enough. Often times, a transgender individual who struggles fitting in to the current socially accepted construct of what a woman ought to look like suffers on a monumental scale and far more often than a cisgender woman who is cast out as unattractive.

Somehow, we have distorted our values throughout generations of cultural misgivings and wound up classifying what is considered attractive and what is socially considered as beautiful in very limiting ways.

Despite there being some biological underpinnings being hardwired in our genetic makeup to predispose us to find certain curves and body parts an attractive trait, nevertheless, predispositions are not predeterminations…meaning, our phenotype results from the way we classify our personal preferences as to what is considered pretty, and is very much influenced by our genes and the way they interact with our social environment.

It is clear overweight women were highly sought after in both ancient Greece and China due to body types being an indicator of family wealth and abundance of food. Foot binding in China was considered an attractive custom for women for centuries. Now airbrushed coat-hanger thin type girls on the cover of Victoria Secret catalogs are the standard of western beauty.

So when did women start not being good enough the way they are? When did big breasts, flawless fuchsia manicures, dangly jewelry and airbrushed looking skin become the standard for femininity and defining feminine beauty?

I was (shamefully) browsing Craigslist late at night in the M4T section. This 35 year old from Chino Hills put up a disturbing listing. In it, he made it very clear as to what made him stand out as a great catch in comparison to his counterparts:

 

“I am not ashamed to be seen with you in public. When people eventually see us together and recognize you are transgender, I will stand by your side. I’m not afraid to being seen with you in public. In fact (yes, there was more to his diatribe), I love taking my trans girlfriend out to restaurants and movies.

 

But my girl must have the following (bullet points ensued):

  • She must have manicured nails (both hands and feet)
  • She mus be pre-op TS and not want surgery at all…if there is any doubt at all about SRS it’s best we don’t start a relationship.
  • She must smell like a girl and act like one
  • She must have long hair”

 

I was just thinking how this would have gone over on a cisgender dating website. Would the men on there go as far to expect the women on the site to bend who they were to fit some fantasy in an outright straightforward manner right from the get-go? Specifically, with how they dress and primp themselves? All with a custom bullet point display, nonetheless?

Would a girl who liked to be casual in sweats and flip flops without perfectly pedicured nails be ruled out? If he were chasing after a cisgender woman, would he hold her to these requirements and standards?

And most importantly, would a guy, who bragged about “not being ashamed to be seen” with his girlfriend in very common venues such as movies and restaurants, come off as a strong, sexy, and considerate man in the relationship department? Would he even have thought about putting that on his profile for a cisgender dating site? Or would he have thought twice?

Far too often, transgender women aren’t seen as equal to cisgender women, often treated as not “good enough.” Often times we even lose our appeal the moment we have GRS. “Why would I date you now when I can date a real woman with a real pussy and not a man made one?” said a guy to a transgender friend of mine after she had her surgery. She had apparently lost all her appeal once she “lost” her penis.

We are marginalized, along with the men who chase after us. Many chasers are ashamed of the mere fact they are attracted to transgender women. And transgender women are often ridiculed as freaks, often wrongfully labeled as men who didn’t try hard enough to simply just be a gay man, as seducers with an evil and ulterior motive, transitioning to make “luring” men into our corner easier, supposedly.

In fact, I’ve often seen comments referring to us as delusional. “I want to be a dolphin, put a blowhole on my neck and give me a bottlenose and fins…..ridiculous right?!? Just because you feel like or want to be a woman doesn’t make you so,” are all very common responses towards transgender articles on news feeds.

An average gentleman on a cisgender dating website wouldn’t make his claim to fame by saying he wouldn’t be ashamed to be seen with his date in public. That wouldn’t get him very far. Although many women receive pictures of dicks and mirror shots of men in the bathroom, seldom do the women bend over backwards to accommodate those men who don’t put any effort or thought into being a gentleman. However, few men hold so much sway over women the way “tranny chasers” do. They seem to get away with very little respect and very little understanding of what they are chasing after. We are offered substandard behavior and often have very slim pickings with quality men out there.

So what should we do? I think we need to find a practice that works for us transgender women. A practice, a mantra, a way of dealing with moments when we are feeling lonely, up late at night feeling depressed; for when we are feeling insecure, less than our typical sense of attractiveness; for when we enter a judgmental headspace that erodes our self-esteem, where we try to categorize ourselves as worthy versus unworthy, as if that binary were all there was to choose from.

Upon working through our practice, we can own our own center, stay more balanced, trust in ourselves, and take power as our true selves were meant to do. In doing so, we won’t be seen as a group in society that is not worthy of equal treatment and respect, a group that will no longer be seen as not enough.

Dagger Mouth, Tofu Heart

dagger_mouthtofu_heartSome people come off as tough guys, but really, for those of us who can read people well, we can tell it’s just tough words. Deep down, they are just a soft, kind hearted individual who is frustrated, triggered by something and merely saying tough words without aggressive intentions.

One of my old band mates was like that. She always had a wisecrack, a sarcastic comment to make, especially in social situations where she had to admit fault, or where there was vulnerability, moments where she would need to share her emotions. She would over drink and insult people while drunk, or totally get close to someone while showing no self dignity.

An articulate sounding sentence would form under the guise of knowledge, but really, she was scared people would see through her insecurity or her erroneously self perceived moments of weakness, when in fact, she was one of the stronger trans women I had known, transitioning despite her personal struggles.

But often times, beneath the sarcasm and perceived wittiness, there was meanness or hurtfulness in the things said to those around us. Friends would get together after band practice and she would lash out, passive aggressively or even in argumentative ways at times.

So many transgender women, when they truly open their hearts and talk and bond heart to heart with other women, have glimpses of what I saw as a soft and warm heart. A heart made of tofu.

Yet all the meanwhile, beyond the heart of tofu, juxtaposed a strong mix of toxic and mean words spewing from a mouth full of daggers and a tongue as sharp as a razor. Especially when these transgender women were triggered by their own sense of insecurity, and self perceived illusions of being broken or sick.

Many transgender women elect to criticize through passive putdowns, play crabs in a barrel, and play small and come from their defensive armor, putting each other down to gain an upper hand on a race that no one is monitoring, to which a scorekeeper is not present. Drama is prevalent in the transgender scenes, and physical fights have broken out between many transgender women at clubs that I have attended.

I think one of the best ways, sadly, to sum up transgender women, is the phrase “Cattiness with Testosterone.” I actually swore that if I ever started a band I’d name it exactly that: Cattiness with Testosterone.

If all the energy used amongst transgender women for bickering were somehow harnessed and transmitted into a power plant, Obama would have his clean energy policy with enough amperage leftover to power Las Vegas with all the bright and shiny lights.

My friend Callan put it best when she said that transgender people essentially put on armor to go through the world, in order to survive the backlash of being marginalized, being misunderstood, having our hearts minimized, dismissed, and shunned.

It’s time to take that armor off if we are to have a chance at reaching other people’s hearts through spreading our authentic message by living as who we truly are, and not acting as we aren’t. Through sharing, compassion, and vulnerability, not judging, aggression, and fear.

As the Chinese say with their proverb, it’s time to let go of the dagger mouths and embrace our tofu hearts.

Doctor Weinstock

dr_weinstockI visited my gastroenterologist a few months ago after returning from my trip to Shanghai.  The familiar pattern where I’ve always encountered stomach problems after visiting China hadn’t changed, but my outer appearance while at Dr. Weinstock’s waiting room certainly had a new twist.

All through my 20s, I saw Dr. Weinstock repeatedly each time I came back from Brazil, Egypt, and other foreign escapades of soul searching with an irritable stomach.  Despite me getting no closer to any answer for my identity crisis, he was always able to find the bacterial culprit to my bowel problems.

I entered the office and saw the same lady working at the front desk.  She casually asked for my insurance , name, and if I was a new patient.

“I’m a returning patient,” I said.

“Strange,” she said. “I don’t see you in our filing system.”

“That’s because I had a name change,” I said as I pulled out my court order and handed it to her.

“Oh, congratulations,” she said, assuming I got married.  She then inevitably followed with further confusion, paused, and then said: “But I still don’t see you in our system, Natalie.”

“Look here,” I said, pointing to my old name and gender marker on the court order.

“Oh….” She said gingerly.  Then another long pause.

“Ohh!” she said again, after a short double take and a clear indication she finally got it: that I had changed my name not due to marriage, but because I changed my gender presentation and legal marker too.

“Have a seat,” she said with an affirmed smile.  “The doctor will be right with you.”

After a few moments, she opened the door and led me into one of the back rooms.  The door closed and I waited impatiently, playing out a few possible outcomes of Dr. Weinstock’s reactions in my head.

My gut, despite feeling ravaged, told me he was going to react maturely and compassionately.

I heard a knock and he came inside, all the while looking at the clipboard with all my medical history.

I assumed I was out to him, no turning back.

“Natalie!” he said.  “Long time!  It’s been what…6 years or so?” he said without missing a beat.

“I see you’ve been updated on my situation,” I said with a smile.

“Yes, and let me first say ‘congratulations’ to you,” he said as he stuck his hand out and shook mines gently.

“It’s not easy what you’ve done,” he said.  “I admire your courage.  And you look incredible, very nice.  Very beautiful. Hot I might add!”

I was flattered and shocked he was so direct, but all done with gentlemanly conduct and grace.  This man really “got it,” I thought, and he understood and seemed to empathize without any presumption or confusion.  I began blushing.

“Let’s get on with business shall we?” he said as he examined me.

We went over my medical situation and afterwards, caught up a bit, and he asked me about Shanghai and I asked him about his family

“Well, I better stop talking with you before my wife gets upset,” he said jokingly.   I giggled. “Call me if you don’t feel better in 2 weeks,” he said.

All of a sudden, I felt like I was in such good hands and so relaxed and lucky to be with such a good doctor, that I didn’t want him to retire anytime in the near future.  I recalled when I saw him over 15 years ago he had already been practicing for a long time.  It suddenly saddened me to think that he was probably at the tail end of his career.

I wanted more patients to be blessed with his care, his charisma, and his compassionate conduct.

“How much longer do you plan to do this?” I asked.

“As long as I can without dropping my quality of care,” he said.

“That’s good,” I said.  “It’s amazing how you look through people’s colons and bowels all day and you’re still at it after 30+ years.”

“I always find something interesting,” he said with a chuckle.  “I really love what I do,” he said with a professional gaze.

“Well, thanks,” I said with some nostalgia, although it as the first time he saw the real me.  “It was great seeing you, thanks for the encouragement and kinds words.”

“Anytime.  You take care,” he said warmly.

I left his office feeling cared for, in good hands, and in great spirits.

After all these years of wading his camera scope through colons filled with shit and bowels of excrement, he was still able to stay cheerful, upbeat, and passionate about his work.

Through all that shit and muck, he was still able to really see me for me, not just as a patient, but as the human being behind the illnesses I presented to him.

What a sweet man.

My Inner Woman and Growth Reflected by My Enjoyment of the Movie “Keith”

KeithI saw the movie “Keith” starring Jesse McCartney as Keith and Elisabeth Harnois as Natalie, two high school adolescents trying to graduate and to find their way through life. Only, Keith is dying of cancer, and not only is the audience unaware of that until late in the movie, but he also uses his attitude towards his illness as ambition towards accomplishing one goal: having fun with the most popular and prettiest girl (Natalie) in school before time runs out.

Initially, Natalie finds Keith’s antics bewildering, as his behavior is the absolute antithesis of hers: she is granted a tennis scholarship to Duke, is in Key Club and Yearbook, and flaunts an amazing GPA right alongside her boyfriend, Raphael, the most attractive guy in school. Keith, on the other hand, drives an old yellow Chevy truck, is constantly late to class or school, is lackadaisical about assignments, and never stops being sarcastic. However, unbeknownst to Natalie, Keith deliberately chooses to be Natalie’s chemistry lab partner to insert himself in her life and spend time with her, and in the process, makes her laugh, takes her out to odd places, and authentically exhibits his uninhibited attitude towards life.

He is not afraid of what others think of him at school, and his humor, gentlemanly conduct, charm, and mysteriousness, eventually wins Natalie over as she is determined to “figure him out.” He sends car parts to Natalie’s home with instructions on how to repair them; he takes Natalie bowling, only to buy multiple bowling balls and have her put them on the lawns of their teachers’ houses so she will have “stories to tell her family when she’s older.” He takes her up to a cliff where they talk about life and their aspirations while lying in his truck bed, only to have the slight incline of the cliff send the car slowly rolling towards the edge very slowly, freaking Natalie out. As he stops the car last minute, Natalie wonders is he’s on a death wish or if he’s mentally ill, but also can’t help the attraction she feels towards him. She had been saving herself for that special someone, and they make love, and Natalie assumes now they are dating and that his mysterious behavior will change. Instead, he tells her she’s better off with Raphael, and to leave him alone, angering her in the process.

When she finds out he has cancer, they spend the remaining time Keith has left together, and the movie ends with her adopting many of his endearing qualities, such as working on the truck, taking the vehicle to an auto show in London, Canada, and her spending time pondering while the truck is rolling towards the edge of the cliff, with Natalie stopping the car last minute, mimicking what Keith did in the past.

Upon finishing the movie, I saw all these people online commenting below.

To me, the movie was unbelievably romantic, touching, and inspiring, all with a touch of humor and an immense heart-tugger.

Yet, it was unbelievable how many people trashed the movie, saying they “wanted their two hours of life back,” and how Keith had “ruined Natalie’s life” and was a “bad influence.”

As I reflected on the movie by myself and with a friend on the phone, I realized there are 3 responses to this movie:

1) Why is she throwing away her own life?

2) Oh I’m so needy, I need the same sweet guy to rescue me as well!

3) That’s awesome she found her heart’s calling and path, regardless of her original “plans.”

I realized that the old me, the me from 2011 or earlier, the me that carried so much masculine energy and held together the manly façade and approaches towards examining myself and the world, would have said the same thing as the negative commentators did.

The old me would have felt Natalie wasted her life, threw away Duke, popularity, Raphael, and her tennis, all to work on a truck like a blue collared grease monkey and have nothing to show for herself. Throwing away her rigid and well thought out plan wouldn’t have boded well with me in 2011.

The slightly older me (let’s say between 2012 to 2013), would have saw the romance and how awesome Keith was towards Natalie, and wanted the same for herself, and would want someone to rescue her from her clinginess and loneliness.

The me of yesterday, who watched the movie and saw it for what it was, thoroughly enjoyed the movie, rooted for Natalie all the way, and found the ending to be touching and inspiring: she found the barriers in her path lifted and a new path formed, and she took it with grace, dignity, and pleasure. She found her heart’s calling and followed them despite her original plans. Keith catalyzed in her an awakening, the romance and love was there, and yet she was the one to rescue herself and choose her own path.

What an epic ending to an epic interaction of finding her calling and womanhood and independence, all while genuinely expressing her love for someone without letting them do the work for her.

I realize as well that likening my reaction to choice number 3 indicated I’ve come a long way with my own growth out of my second adolescence. What an amazing journey…just like that yellow truck driving on the state highway at the end of the movie, I’m going about my life not needing to know all the answers, but to merely trust in my heart.

What woman wouldn’t like a coming of age adolescent movie like that?

Oh right, youtube commentators who thought she threw her life away…

Lesbian Ghosts

ghostWhen I saw the 1995 movie Ghost starring Patrick Swayze as Sam Wheat, Demi Moore as Molly Jensen, and Whoopi Goldberg as Oda Mae Brown, I was only 11 years old and at my friend Charles’ house.

When we got to the scene where Oda Mae allowed Sam to enter her body so that Sam and Molly could have one last dance together, something funny and unforgettable happened between my friend Charles and me.

The scene was edited such that as Sam enters Oda Mae’s body, there were a few seconds where it showed Oda Mae’s hands touch Molly’s hands.  The scene gracefully transitioned to Sam dancing with Molly, although the audience knew Sam as in Oda Mae’s body the entire time.

Although I understood at 11 years of age that the scene was shot that way to convey what Molly’s character was feeling and yearning for, part of me desperately wanted the screen to show Oda Mae dancing with Molly.

At 11 years of age, I not only knew the history involving slaves and the African American plight during the civil rights movement in the United States, but I was also aware of the issues surrounding interracial marriages between blacks and whites.

Furthermore, what I was even more sensitive towards and aware of was the stigma attached to gay or lesbian relationships.  I was no stranger to the bullying in elementary school and the suffering endured while being teased for being feminine at recess, and I certainly was aware of how society instilled in their young the assumption that it was a given a boy would grow up to one day be the prince for their lucky princess.

Except I wanted to see an exception to that rule.  Part of me desperately wanted to see Whoopi Goldberg dance on screen intimately with Demi Moore.  That would have not only been hot, but I remember distinctly thinking how seeing such a scene would free me from the shame I carried towards my own sexuality.  It would be a stamp of OKAY coming from a viable media source, and I would have a defense for being “Weird” or “different.”  I’d have ammunition to use against my teachers, peers, and parents in case I was caught dressing like a girl and making out with one, or dating a boy, for that matter.

As the scene rolled on, I said out loud: “I thought Molly was dancing with Oda Mae, why did they insert Sam there?”

Charles got so bent out of shape, he actually paused the VCR, turned towards me, and annoyingly said to me: “You know why the movie shows the scene that way, right?!?”

“Yes,” I said.

“Okay…..” said Charles, in an unconvinced tone.  “Why did they shoot the scene with Demi dancing with Patrick instead of Whoopi then?”

I went into the explanation I knew Charles wanted to hear instead of explaining what I felt in my feminine heart.  I honored the masculine facade that society had categorized me with and placed me into from one glance at my genitals….instead of honoring what I truly felt about my gender and sexuality and what I wish the movie would have shown.

“Because the movie-makers wanted to portray what Molly’s character felt and what she experienced, which was one last dance with Sam.  Even though Sam was using Oda Mae’s body, they didn’t want to show 2 women dancing inappropriately and it was more romantic to show the man and woman characters who were in love dancing together,” I said.

Quite articulate for a 11 year old, but that’s what I recall saying.

“Yes!  Thank you!”  Charles said in what almost seemed like a sigh of relief, given my explanation showed I wasn’t an idiot.

We were quiet for the rest of the movie.

I went home and was quiet about my feminine heart for the next 21 years…

I still disagree with Charles….if would have been hot to see 2 women of Demi and Whoopi’s caliber dancing together.

 

Shaving the Radish

shaved radishI find it ironic how we, as transgender folks, fight through all the shit, stigma, and strait-jackets of the gender binary, only to be bound by other aspects of binaries found in our culture, often times fueled by our ego as it doesn’t like uncertainty, fear, and shame.

Which is why, for me, transcending my ego is a top priority.  I am onto my ego now, and I’m trying to be more conscious and aware, to be more in the present moment to dissolve my ego.

I recently got a text message and phone call from an ex-girlfriend, Amy.  We met in graduate school and dated for over 2 years, and even after we broke up, we still saw each other intimately for a few more years.

Our relationship was incredibly intense, and I can say the duration of our relationship was one of the most painful yet educational segments of my life.

We occasional still keep in touch, but prior to this text I received on Christmas, we hadn’t talked in about 18 months.

We ended up talking on the phone for 30 minutes, and caught up with one another, and I realized there was still a spark there between the two of us.  The only caveat was I hadn’t told her about my gender transition, so for the entire time we were talking, she was still referring to me with my old name and what she thought was the correct gender pronoun.

She suggested we meet up for lunch, and hinted that she still loves me, and that I will always have a special place in her heart.  I told her I still thought of her quite fondly from time to time.

“Great,” she said.  “We should definitely meet up then!”

“You wouldn’t want to meet up with me now….I’ve changed a lot…” I said to her, hoping to dash her spirit.

“Change is good.  What could possibly have changed so much that you can’t even do a simple lunch with me?”

Despite the fact that she had expressed bigotry towards gays and lesbians, I knew with 100% certainty that my hesitancy to tell her I was now living as a woman had nothing to do with her views on GLBT people and everything to do with my shame gremlins.

“What if she never wants to talk to me again?  What if she thinks I’m sick?”  My ego began coughing up countless “what if” scenarios to dissuade me from telling Amy.

My ego went on: Or if I did want to meet up with her, perhaps cutting my hair and de-transitioning would be the only option?

FAT CHANCE.

So I just pulled a tranny move: I did nothing.

I was not clear about explaining my current life status with her, and I also stood my ground on justifying the reasons I didn’t need to tell her.  “I’m finally happy, and it’s none of her business anyway.  She doesn’t need to know,” I would say to myself, trying to avoid being vulnerable.

Yet, I still struggled with the fact that I felt stuck.  If I truly believed that she didn’t need to know, or if I was okay with losing touch with her, I would have felt okay and have been able to move on upon arriving at that decision.

The very fact that I still wanted to control what she thought about GLBT people and cared about her potential reaction clearly indicated that I wasn’t willing to cut my losses.  The very root of my behavior where I wasn’t letting go was being implemented by me holding off on making the one step forward that would have forced me to release control of the past.  The choice I had made to not tell Amy, in essence, was the very obstacle blocking me from letting go of our shared past.

I was too afraid to feel vulnerable.

So what made Amy so different than other friends and coworkers that I told about my transgender history?

She is also from a Chinese background.  She knew all of my buttons, and my history, inside and out.  She was much more of a threat than other candidates, given her baseline knowledge of me.

And I finally acknowledged to myself that if I couldn’t be calm about this decision, then moving forward was something I would have to do at some point.

I realized what was exhausting wasn’t the fact that I had work to do, and to do the work; it was anticipation of doing the work and procrastination.  It was beating myself up and trying to pull Houdini after Houdini in getting out of the necessary work, and exhaustion was running on the hamster wheel and not facing the necessary steps to grow.

Often times I would have knowledge or clarity about a certain issue or struggle, but my lack of practice would occasionally lead me to make poor choices, where I would watch my ego bully me into placing what I already knew weren’t binary aspects about myself into binary categories and boxes….or what I called shaving the radish endlessly.

So what can I do in the future to lessen the anxiety and tail chasing from my ego wanting to sort binaries?  Understand that self actualizing and integrating isn’t always comfortable, but that doesn’t mean I have to know the results beforehand and fear the unknown.  To acknowledge that most of my amazing experiences were all completely different than what I had planned or anticipated, and most importantly….to enjoy the journey rather than seek the destination.

And after all this tail chasing, Amy not only reacted in a nonchalant manner to my updated womanly pictures, but she also asked if we could get together for lunch this Saturday so she could see how beautiful I am in person now that I’m living as myself.

Smack my head.

Conventional vs Unconventional Shame

conventional_vs_unconventionalI’ve been presenting as myself now for almost 3 years.  I’ve come so far with my confidence and my ability to be comfortable in my own skin.  I’ve been able to thrive in many aspects of my life as of late, and the work I’ve put in since my gender transition is paying dividends.

Transitioning my gender has been a monumental task, and one that is still a work in progress.  Prior to transition, I always thought it was a pipe dream, and I tried to suffocate who I was, denying my feminine heart and calling due to fear and shame.

I’ve overcome so much of that fear and shame, as transition is obviously a big step and a clear indicator that I’ve taken the steps necessary to embrace myself.

Yet, I still struggle with shame in so many other areas of my life….areas which have nothing even remotely related to gender or my transgender history.  Upon first glance, I would have thought overcoming transition shame would clear the roadblocks in so many other areas of my life where I’ve struggled with shame.

But that simply wasn’t the case.

It’s clear now that my transgender shame, to me, was unconventional shame….and that the shame I felt as a result of my upbringing and life history, was actually my conventional shame.

And my conventional shame is much harder to deal with than my unconventional shame.

Why?

Because the source of my conventional shame comes from facets like my Chinese American background, being raised to value the family name, caring what the collective community thinks, and achieving ambitious goals through perfectionism.

My unconventional shame is rooted in my transgender history.

When I break conventional shame, I lose connection with those such as family and my immediate community, as all people do when breaking conventional bonds.

However, when I broke unconventional shame, I got to finally be myself and live as a woman, after waiting for over 3 decades.

It’s ironic how breaking unconventional shame can be so much easier than breaking conventional shame, despite the former being typically laced with enormous stigma.

So what can I do at this junction of my life to help me break conventional shame?  What are tools and techniques that will allow me to love myself in spite of feeling shame in everyday things that I do?

I think the first obvious step would be to take responsibility for the work I have left to do, and acknowledge where I’m at.  I now no longer have the scapegoat of blaming all of my shame and subsequent hurtful behavior and actions on being transgender, on being a victim in an unempathetic world towards gender non-conforming people such as myself.  Although transgender violence is still an unfortunate reality and a topic that still needs massive amounts of attention, it is not an everyday issue for me in terms of functioning in the world.  That, I must say, I am grateful for and thank my Mother in the Sky.

Therefore, I think the natural step would be to pay attention to my shame triggers, and to continue building up shame resilience through diligence, patience, vulnerability, and showing empathy towards myself and those around me.  To pay attention to the blockages that are still in place which hold me back from my bliss.  To be grateful, and to show gratitude whenever possible, and essentially, to strive to live a wholehearted life with authenticity and courage.

As I continue to do the work, I can reflect back on my milestones and continue to reaffirm I am worthy of love, belonging, and happiness.