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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.

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!

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.

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…

Gratitude

gratitudeI have so much to be grateful for, but I have rarely stopped to acknowledge that in the past.

Now would be a good time to note the many things I am grateful for:

My parents, for being so accepting and supportive of me, especially during the past couple of years during my transition.  They’ve been patient, loving, caring, and empathetic….and above all else, they’ve been good listeners, without ever judging me.

Despite how hard it has been for them to lose their son and gain a daughter, they never judged me and were always and still are supportive.

And of course, there is no way I could have done this without support from friends and mentors:

Garrett was there for the first year of my transition, spending literally hundreds of hours on the phone with me, sometimes 3-4 hours at a time, per day, during the earlier stages, when I was constantly struggling with talking myself down from emotional ledges.  He was generous enough to offer enormous amounts of time to patiently help me sort through my old traumas and unprocessed emotions.

And of course, Callan, the current person who shows me endless patience and empathy, helping me daily with my ego, shame, and struggles.  She has somehow managed to put all of our conversations in perspective, constantly galvanizing the work I’ve done in the recent months into legible bits for me to digest and hence grow stronger and own my own story.

From Katie Kaboom videos to Brene Brown tapes, she has given me so much, and shared so many tools and techniques she had acquired in her years with me in such a generous manner.  I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for all the time she spent with me on a daily basis on the phone or through email exchanges in the past year, guiding me with her wisdom and helping me see the obstacles that block me from my own happiness.

My coworkers like Arly and Bhavini; my friend Mel, who accompanied me to Esalen last year; my sister in law, Debbie, who shared with me how happy Sasha and Devin were after I played with them all day last weekend…and the members from my old transgender discussion group at the South Bay LGBT Center

My friends Ammie, Shawna, Ilene, Nikki, Sabrina…you girls are the best!

Thank you for being there and touching me when it mattered most….when I was so vulnerable and sharing, you guys just sat there with me in the dark and were there for me.

I want to dedicate this post to all of those who have been there for me in the past couple of years, during a very difficult and rewarding time of change in my life……

Thank you all.

Sweet and Clueless, Hence, Not Delicious

idiotI was at a bisexual meetup group a few weeks ago.  Each year they have a brunch get together which offers members and new attendees a forum to get to know each other.  These meetups, needless to say, are filled with sexual tension, as everyone there is bisexual and several of the members are also polyamorous.

As the butt sniffing and seducing intentions were being cleverly disguised as get to know you chit chat continued on, a 29 year old Hispanic guy came up to me and said hi.

He interrupted a deeply enjoyable conversation I managed to find with another woman despite being immersed in a tensely sexually filled environment by inserting himself whenever he caught a segment of our conversation that remotely related to him or his past experiences.

I finally gave him a moment of my attention, more so out of morbid curiosity rather than due to attraction of any kind.

Within minutes of talking with him I realized he didn’t have his shit together, but that didn’t bother me as much as the fact that he kept referring to transgender women as “shemales.”  He was utterly CLUELESS.

He solidified his clueless membership placard by saying: “You know, I got into shemales years ago when I couldn’t find a real girl to have sex with……so that night I hooked up with a tranny and realized it’s all the same…..you know?   Sex is sex…..it’s all the same.”

He then proceeded to stick next to me like white on rice the rest of the night, following me everywhere I went and it got to be really annoying.

So I moved away from “CLUELESS” and continued mingling with others.

Then a gentleman in his late 40s struck up a conversation with me.  He seemed quite sweet and everything went along quite pleasantly until the topic of sex was brought up.

“So are you a bottom or a top?” he asked me.

“I’m versatile,” I replied wearily.

“I top with women, but with men, I’m a bottom.  I mean, why else would I be with a man if I didn’t bottom for him?”

I rolled my eyes.

“So if you’re with a transgender woman, you’d prefer to bottom for her?”  I asked even though I already anticipated his final answer.

He gave the same answer as if he were bottoming for a guy, except he decorated his response to ensure he was considerate towards my feelings and me being transgender.

I appreciated that.  That was a sweet gesture on his part, being aware that he indeed as talking with a trans woman and it was a response he didn’t have to partake but did so anyway.

But he was clueless as well.

His MO was “Why else be with a cock unless I’m going to get fucked by one?”  And me having a penis was put me in that category of fucker and not fuckee.

And that was sad.

Because he missed the whole point and merely focused on what was between the legs of people.  He missed all the facets that make me a woman, and a special one at that.

The genitals dictated his response…..

So although he was sweet, he was also clueless as well……

Sweet but clueless is nice, but not delicious.