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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.

Fatherly Authenticity

Authentic_FatherFrom as early on as I could remember, as soon as my brother and I clearly understood the concepts of race and culture, my dad clearly emphasized that we would always be seen, no matter what, as Chinese or Chinese Americans at best, and never as American as Caucasians are seen.

“And that applies even to very open minded people who see beyond your race and just as the human you are. We are visual creatures, we will always use cues in our language and culture to label and categorize what we see, even if it’s done to people unintentionally.”

He was right. He continues to be right.

It is impossible to come from a completely objective stance, as we are all products of our culture, and everything we learn is serial, interwoven and complex.

“That is why I think it is so important you know your ethnic history, and speak the language, so when you are lumped as Chinese by close minded people, you can own that part of yourself.”

My brother, being more of the “Twinkie” between the two of us, having self identified as very Americanized in most ways, found my dad’s lectures annoying.

“I’m born here in America, I am American, it’s not so important to be immersed in Chinese culture and language,” he would often retort.

“You can have a good balance,” said my dad, “but I always want you to remember where you came from and understand that you will always be Asian, visually at least, and be seen that way to some extent.”

He paused, and then said something I will never forget:

“Always be proud of who you are, never dismiss who you are and be ashamed of your roots.”

My father’s wisdom, those clear words of pride, ownership, and authenticity, came in handy in the summer of 2011.

It was mid-July, and I had just began to live fulltime as my authentic self, a woman in my gender presentation, for a mere two weeks.

The choice to come out as authentic and start living my life with a new narrative was very difficult, and I was at my friend Lou’s house. He was a self proclaimed crossdresser who actually struck me as someone who wanted to go fulltime, but was too scared to do so.   He was also the father of two girls who were both in junior high school. The girls weren’t home that day.

We were hanging out in the kitchen when the fact that I went fulltime really sank into his head. I could tell he felt he was losing a guy friend, a “bro” he could hang out with and grill burgers with in the backyard. He was in a state of shock.

I was pretty sure that in his mind, he didn’t think someone as convincing as I was in being a guy could possibly be a transsexual who needed to go fulltime as a woman.

“Well, I guess this limits our interactions,” he said.

I immediately tightened up and realized the friendship was probably going to end. But I gave it my best shot in trying to keep the connection alive, even though I knew where this was going. I did my best to stay calm and receptive.

“What do you mean? You talk as if our friendship is ending.”

“It’s not ending, we just have to find a different way to go about it.”

I looked at him and implored him to elaborate, without saying anything.

“You can’t come by anymore when my parents visit and when my kids are here after school and on certain weekends,” he said.

“You are basically saying I don’t pass,” I said. “Because if I passed in your eyes, this wouldn’t be an issue. You’re afraid I’ll out you by being obviously transgender to your family members,” I said.

“Yes, I’m basically saying you don’t pass.”

I was hurting inside. How could someone who had so many transgender friends and crossdressed for so many years be so unempathetic and cold, lacking compassion towards a friend?

“So what is the most obvious feature or thing about me that gives me away,” I said with as much gentleness and tolerance as I could, trying to hide my hurt. I wanted to leave that very second, but part of me, to be honest, wanted to see how much of an ass he could make out of himself.

He didn’t disappoint.

“You’re face, the way you dress, your voice, your looks, everything dude,” he said with all seriousness.

He continued, not even noticing how much he was hurting me.

“It took a long time for me to perfect my look. I have fans on Facebook and fetish websites who like my photos. I’ve been dressing up and going out for years. Give it more time and practice and maybe someday you can be passable too,” he said.

I was absolutely shocked. And now I was getting angry.

“You let Mika come over to see your kids, she doesn’t pass.”

“Yes she does, more than you anyway,” he said defensively.

“Once you get breast implants, facial feminization surgery, and work on your wardrobe, then you will pass. It takes work, it doesn’t just happen overnight. Keep your feet on the ground and don’t delude yourself,” he said, embellishing his words with a corresponding facial expression that contained subtle disgust: disgust towards his own self, his own inability to face his internal issues, his internalized transphobia.

It was easier for him to kick me around than to process his own feelings.

“I’m really tired,” I said all of a sudden. I got up and gave him a hug, and left.

I was so pissed and furious, I went home that night and wrote him a letter.

After I poured my heart and emotions out on that letter to clarify on the fact that what he said wasn’t only hurtful to me, but incredibly judgmental towards all transgender women (including himself if he was going to explore his crossdressing further), all I got in response was “I understand” in a reply email.

I considered our friendship officially over, permanently, regardless of future circumstances.

I clearly recall my father’s advice immediately sprung up shortly after I received his email response to my letter.

I wasn’t transitioning so that I could hide my boy side. I wasn’t ashamed of the 31 years I spent in the wrong gender presentation. Wearing cute outfits and living fulltime was about being authentic and expressing myself as such; it wasn’t about looking cute, it wasn’t about turning on men, and it certainly wasn’t about reshaping my body so that I would fit what current society deems as physically womanly.

My father was right, I realized. All those year my brother and I found his parenting annoying actually came in handy in a moment of distress.

I was being myself and proud of my authentic core, my heart, being seen by the world. It wasn’t about molding and modifying my outer shell to fit some stereotype or social norm. It was about me embracing who I always was, a transgender woman. It wasn’t about hiding that truth and trying to pass as cisgender with all the invasive plastic surgery Lou was talking about.

I knew that no matter how much I did to plasticize and alter my body, that I would always be transgender. It’d be easier to own that fact and live with authenticity and pride, than it would be to spend thousands of dollars on invasive surgery, risk my health, all to hide my history.

Just like being Asian was something I could never hide, being transgender was just another facet of the same cube.

I knew I was on the right track, and I knew I had made the right decision in terminating our friendship, as I had worked too hard and loved myself too much to compartmentalize and edit myself to fit into his hidden life schedule of not being out.

What a day for me that was. Looking back, I am so proud of that choice I made in dropping our friendship.

It was honoring those types of boundaries that have given me the courage and fuel to propel me in the last three years to get me where I am today, and I’m grateful I had the opportunity to stand up for myself in that way.

Thank you dad. Your fatherly lessons have been invaluable.

Coming Out, Brick by Brick

4opezXK-ImgurIn 2004, I was at Home Depot with my friend Salvador.  He was highly trained in Kung Fu and Qi Gong, and his goal that night was to teach me how to break bricks.

I had never broken bricks with my bare hands, despite starting martial arts at the tender age of six, and he was bothered by the fact that the skill levels I possessed as a black belt had never been translated to external measures of performance.

“But it’ll hurt, I’m scared I’ll break my bones,” I said.

“Don’t worry,” he said with a mischievous smile, as he set up two cinder blocks vertically to support one slab of brick.

“Now, I want you to focus your Qi, and when you feel ready, hit it with your palm,” he said, motioning to me by example.

We did all the breathing techniques he taught me, and I struck the brick with my hand while yelling with a loud Ki Up.

I screamed in pain and leaned back clutching my hand.

He laughed.

I looked over at the stack: nothing happened to the brick.

Without missing a beat, he said: “Now kick the brick, stomp your leg through!”

I gazed at him, doubtful of myself and whether to proceed.

“Do it!  You have shoes on!  What are you waiting for?!?” he said.

I kicked the brick and my leg went through, smashing it into two pieces.

I didn’t show much emotion.

“Well?” he said authoritatively.  “What changed?”

“I knew I had shoes on, so that it wouldn’t hurt.”

“Right,” he said.  “So what you’re telling me is, it’s really mental for you, not physical.”

“No, it’s partially physical too!” I said defensively.  “It’s obvious my leg is way stronger than my arm,” I said with an eye roll.

“Try with your hand again now,” he said dismissive of my last comment.

He carefully placed another brick in the same manner as before, and waited for my strike.

“C’mon, you can do it!”

I struck it perfectly, and held my follow-through with a confident and focused look on my face, determined and intense, as if I knew all along it would happen.

“What was different this time?” he asked.

“You made me believe,” I said.

Wow, I said to myself.  I stood there in awe, standing over the first brick I had ever broken with my bare hands.

He then laid two bricks, one on top of the other.

“Go for it,” he said.

“No way, I barely broke one!  You’re crazy,” I said.

“If you are only truly strong enough to break one, your hand will stop at the second one and we can go home, no big deal.”

I struck at the new stack.

A repeat reaction from before ensued, with me screaming in pain and clutching my hand.

He reacted to the sequel of my self-doubt with the same outburst of laughter.

“You didn’t even break the first one,” he said with a critical tone, pointing at how not even the top one broke.  “You are clearly strong enough to break ONE.  You just did it a minute ago.  My mere action of putting the second brick on top intimidated you and put your mind in distress.”

I nodded, still clutching my hand, letting the redness go down.

“Kick it,” he said.

And just like before, I broke the stack.

“Now use your hand,” he said and placed two bricks stacked together again.

I struck at the stack, this time breaking both in one fell swoop.

“See?  You did it!” he said.

We repeated the pattern and got up to three bricks before we stopped.

I couldn’t believe it.

When we left Home Depot, I said to Sal: “You know, I’ve been doing martial arts since I was six, and I never knew I could or even tried to break bricks, let alone a stack of three!  What an amazing feeling!  Thank you for showing me.”

“You had it in you all along, it was all those years of training, finally coming out.  Don’t thank me, thank your uncle for teaching you at six.   I just cleared your mind and injected confidence, brick by brick.”

******************************
I often meet other transgender and lesbian women who ask me how I came out to my family and friends, let alone managing to find work in Aerospace Engineering again while presenting in my true gender identity, as a woman.

I tell them it was a long process, iterated in steps, with each iteration containing important milestones of growth that fueled my confidence and understanding of who I was, revealing more clearly where I needed to go to be happily authentic.

The women questioning me often get irritated, and reiterate their question in ways that contain clarification statements that they think I missed: “No no,” they say.  “What EXACTLY did you tell your family, using what PRECISE words?  How did you know that during that exact morning of September of 2005, that you would tell them?”

As I continue to tell them it’s a process, and not a singular event contained in one days of work, they get upset.  They somehow believe that if they just arrange the exact order of words in an exact context and manner, similar to the way I did it in 2005, that they will get the same results.

They only want the technique Salvador showed me at Home Depot in 2004, and not to have to invest in the 19 years of training I did in martial arts that led up to the moment prior for me being able to break bricks at age 24.

They think if someone recorded my hand going through the bricks, that if they mimic my angle, technique, and strike speed, that they can do the same thing.

To an extent, they probably can.  But there was so much more to what was going on than what could be seen with a precursory glance.

It is very likely someone with no prior martial arts training, who is very angry or in a focused state, can break bricks.  However, to conjure up that strength and focus without the emotional energy fueling their actions will perhaps yield a different outcome.  And a truly well-trained martial artist can conjure up that focus and strength much quicker at their disposal than an untrained individual.

I have found that transitioning and being seen in the world as a woman involved similar processes and learning curves.  The more I practiced owning my narrative and feminine heart, the more my energy became apparent to those observing me, with my visibility as trans decreasing involuntarily while my status of being out as queer went up by choice.

Coming out, in my experience, is an extended process.  We come out every day, a bit at a time, and when the culminating event occurs, people who are present only see the end result, without seeing how much blood, sweat, and tears has gone into the preparation and accumulation.

“Practice,” my Guru always tells me.  “Practice.”

I can still recall just how much practice it took to just be able to turn the doorknob and leave the house when I first transitioned.
It took more practice to be able to go out in public and interact with people, to endure the anxiety of being a new and raw girl, visible and seen, going through an internal puberty and crash course of growth despite looking like a 30 year old adult.

It took even more practice to be able to find a job, and eventually share, after over a year and a half of working there, a written piece of mine with a coworker and not succumb to the urge to remove the word “transgender” from my essay.

It took yet even more practice added on top of the confidence gained from my former practice to be able to swim nude, in broad daylight, at Esalen up in Big Sur, in the public pool area where random guests could and did see me.

I’m so much more out than when I first started dressing up as a woman and going out on weekends at transgender nightclubs in 2001; than when I first came out to my parents in 2005; than when I first transitioned after mustering up the courage to see a gender therapist in 2011.

Yet, all of those days of practice were undetectable, invisible for those who asked me the simple question of “How exactly did you come out to your parents, Natalie?”

I turn to these people and say: “Brick by brick.”

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.

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!

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.

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.