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…


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.

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?


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.

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… know?   Sex is sex…’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.

Little Girls Club

stairwell_hidingI had the honor of having a temporary membership for Sasha’s little girl’s club, where meetings were held spontaneously at the storage gap located between the stairwell.

My 3 year old niece didn’t care that I had trouble fitting into a tiny enclosure.  Only my torso could fit as my legs dangled out onto the stairs.  Sasha could almost fully stand in there, but even she kept hitting her head as the space was so tiny.

Aside from my occasional concerns when she did bump her head with the top of the “cave,” I was in a state of bliss, completely in the moment.  I felt 10 years younger, spending time with my adorable niece who didn’t cast any judgment, and saw me as kin, as someone who she felt was safe to share vulnerable moments.

She loves to pull her “gi” (in Sasha lingo that would mean “blanket”) up over her head and hide.  Sasha quickly noticed I didn’t have a “gi,” so she told me: “Stay in the cave Gu Gu (Chinese for auntie)….I’ll bring you a gi.”

I rolled onto my side to ease the discomfort of being coiled in an awkward position, and Sasha, despite being downstairs, saw me and said: “Gu Gu, I said stay in the cave…..I’ll be back.”  She killed me.

When our little girl cave was fully supplied with stuffed animals and blankets, we resumed hiding.  It was so cozy in there, and she rested her head on top of my tummy.

I completely lost track of time, and we were complete equals, despite our age difference.  We were just 2 girls playing, and it was so pleasant I even forgot about the discomfort of being forced into the shape of a pretzel.

Then Sasha did something that really touched me.

She went into massive detail about how her preschool friend, Rebecca, wasn’t attending school with her anymore.

“She hurt her lip, and bleeding, and I got her band aid, and I don’t see her in school,” said Sasha.

She paused for a bit….and then said: “And I miss her,” with droopy eyes and a nostalgically fond look.

She was completely vulnerable, and just laid out her feelings.  I understand kids are much less restricted than we are, and show their feelings openly.  But for me, I’ve had to work hard to reconnect with myself throughout the years, and learn to be vulnerable again.

And I had the privilege to sit in the dark with her (quite literally), and show her my empathy.  That took vulnerability on my part, and I was happy with how I prompted and handled myself.

The safe space Sasha felt was partly due to being in the cave, but I could tell she felt comfortable with me to share something personal and something that emotional for her.

I had to be in a good space, a gentle and vulnerable space in order for that to happen.

We hugged a while after.

“Awwww, it’s okay,” I said to Sasha.  “You’ll see her again.  Maybe Mommy and Daddy can set up a play-date for you to see Rebecca.”

She lit up, and everything was A-okay again.

The time spent in Sasha’s cave was the best part of my weekend, by far.

Vulnerability, empathy, sitting in the dark cave and sharing and feeling and being there with her…..

And I got a glimpse of my lost girlhood, a girlhood I never experienced.  I got to feel like I was a kid again, in the proper gender, with my preferential gender appropriate stuffed animals, toys, and friend of choice.

What a gift….to share a few precious moments with my niece Sasha in our little girls club.

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.


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.

Isolating My Predominant Shame

Perfectionism for me started at an early age.

Perfectionism for me started at an early age.

I’ve been listening to Brene Brown’s lectures on shame, vulnerability, and living wholehearted lives through gratitude, creativity, and play.

Needless to say I’ve done a lot of soul searching and reflecting while going through the lessons, and I realized that my perfectionism is also my “20-ton shield,” as Ms. Brown so eloquently put it.

Perfectionism has been a huge burden to me.  I have allowed it to be a big obstacle to my happiness for far too long.

And it was through examining my indomitable will to be perfect that I saw just how scared I was to be vulnerable, to feel my shame.

In order to avoid my shame gremlins, I had devised an infallible methodology: “be perfect and I’ll never have to deal with the gremlins.”

This exhausting method of living an absolute value life was a disastrous plan….and it unsurprisingly yielded disastrous results.

I had shame lurking everywhere, because the shame I didn’t deal with was then magnified with perfectionistic behavior, and when those perfectionistic goals went unmet, even more shame would fuel the avalanche of destruction.

The shame became so monumental in magnitude that I began confusing my gender issues with everyday shame that was non-GLBT related.  And my ego, being deceptively clever, saw more ammunition in my gender issues, and saw opportunities to use the shame surrounding me being transgender as more fuel to feed my demons.

I think I’ve done a great job with my gender transition.  I’ve come so far, and I know I will continue to improve and gain more confidence as time goes on….

The source of my misery is actually coming from my inability to engage my shame in all other areas of my life outside of gender: from making a turn in my car that results in a traffic jam to dropping tomatoes on the floor when cooking.  I judge those “imperfections” and situations where I run from shame and cause myself misery, and I then beat myself up to be even more perfect next time to avoid the scenario altogether.  The philosophy goes: prevention precludes having to deal with discomfort…right?

No, I disagree….the old method is actually very unproductive and lacking in self-compassion indeed.

The fact that control is an illusion shatters any hope of perfectionism.  We cannot control other people, the world, and outcomes of most situations in our lives.  We can only control our behavior and we can choose how we look at the way we experience life.

Recently, when my shame demons rear their ugly heads and berate me, I am able to identify them and show myself empathy and compassion.  I remind myself of all the things I can be grateful for in that specific scenario.  In situations where I feel shame, I now remember that there is an opportunity to seek gratitude, to embrace the miracles and chances to grow.

And it no longer matters to me if I know whether me being transgender was the reason I was so caught up in perfectionism, or if being perfectionistic caused me to feel ashamed of being transgender….the question of chicken vs. egg can remain unanswered.

What matters is that I am doing well as myself.  I have isolated the major sources of my shame triggers, and that the majority of my misery isn’t dictated by my gender identity history.

I get to choose how I embrace my shame and I have knowledge that being vulnerable empowers me, which is truly something to be grateful for and offers me enormous hope.

Girl Congregation


There are only 4 girls of the Generation X age bracket at our office.  One of the girls, Charlee, sits next to Graeme.

Graeme is a character: full of himself, constantly bragging, and egotistical.  He’s obnoxious at times, but has a good heart and is harmless.  You’ve got to admire how he’s one of the few coworkers that’s not afraid to tell things the way they are…..and he is quite funny when you don’t take what he says so seriously.

I happened to be talking with Charlee the other day, and Arly came by to ask Charlee something that was actually work related.

Since all of us girls work for different contracts or on different subsystems, not one time in my 6 months at this job had we ever been gathered in one location simultaneously.

Graeme, immediately seeing an opportunity to insert himself with a wisecrack, turned his chair around and said: “Wow, all the girls at my desk!  Awesome!”

All of this being expressed while he licked his lips as if he were anticipating a delicious treat.

I immediately felt so happy, and a sense of belonging..

I was seen as one of the girls.  Graeme, my work, and society, have all been seeing me for who I am for over 2 years now.

How could I not feel the bliss of being witnessed and mirrored, especially after delaying my heart for over 30 years?

Yet, coupled with that elation, were my shame demons: they decided to hitch along for the ride, despite not having been invited.

My ego just couldn’t accept that I was included as one of the women at work.  My inner critic, ego, shame demons, had to bring me back down to what was familiar: my cesspool swamp of past misery.

It’s no wonder why so many people who haven’t done their shame work to accept vulnerability as an entryway to empathy and compassion, often find themselves being the recipients of joy being coupled with and inseparable from misery.  The highs are inevitably connected to the lows.  I, unfortunately, fit into this category.  I wasn’t yet living a fully wholehearted life.

So I quickly tried to diffuse my shame, instead of allowing myself to feel vulnerable.

“Not all the girls are here,” I quickly noted.  “Bhavini’s not here,” I quipped by quickly quoting a technicality.

“Okay, not ALL the girls,” Graeme said wryly.  “Most of the girls…does that work for you Natalia?”

“Natalia,” I giggled in repetition.  “I could get used to that nickname…..and yes, that does work for me.”


How could I choose better next time?  Go into the space where I’m vulnerable.  Acknowledge my inner critic, the shame demons, but focus on the affirmations that I know I own and receive daily from the fact that I’m living my life authentically.

“Yes, I am a transwoman.  But I’m still a woman.  So when Graeme said all the girls were at his desk, that ABSOLUTELY referred to and included me as well.  No, I’m not a cisgender woman, but I am a woman….just one with a different history than most, and I have so much evidence and proof that the world affirms my heart and who I am every day.  It’s time I start believing those facts about myself and validating myself with that evidence rather than listening to my shame demons.”  This is what I need to say to myself more often.

Our shame demons like to pull us back into the land of purgatory, where we can often be stuck being miserable.

I was aware of that when I was at Graeme’s desk.  And despite knowing that I have a lot more work to do, I am grateful and proud of how far I’ve come, how much I’ve improved, and how much work I have done so far….

What a journey….a journey that has earned me a seat at the girl’s congregation.

Cesspool Swamp


It’s difficult being a transwoman in a gender normative heterosexist society.  I’ve been living fulltime, as myself, presenting as a woman, my proper gender identity, for a little over 2 years now.  And every day, it’s the same bullshit struggle:  Either trans is everything, or trans is nothing.

At work, several of the girls had no clue I am a transwoman until I told them.  And in a company of 600, every now and then I still get asked by other girl coworkers from building 2 if I want to get pregnant and have kids or not.  The topic of trans in those cases are clearly invisible.

But then I go to gay or transgender clubs, where being trans and queer is everything.  How queer is too queer, how queer is too much?

I recently went on a business trip in Shanghai.  There are millions of dollars invested in these contracts and meetings, and I was the engineer who was in charge of 2 subsystems and important portions of the conference workshop.

To the native Chinese in Shanghai, I was window dressing, sent on my company’s behalf to provide a gender ratio counterpunch: 3 men to that of 1 woman.  Most of the attendees in the past were much older and all men, and I clearly provided fresh insight as an early 30’s woman engineer who is fluent in Chinese Mandarin.

The bosses loved my contribution, professionally and socially at the meetings.

But to achieve those contributions?  I had to pass as a woman, be seen for who I am.

Except, not all of me could be seen.  I knew that the components everyone wanted to see were the stereotypical conformist parts that are traditionally accepted by mainstream society.  I fit the mold, I am a good representation of my company.

But what if I was a less passable, less attractive transwoman?  Would I still have gotten this chance despite being fluent in Mandarin and graduating from one of the best engineering universities in the nation?

I was invisible on this trip to Shanghai, just long enough for me to crave visibility.  Where I could be seen.  Being around 3 other coworkers who happened to be men and engineers was a bit overwhelming.  I needed some girl intimacy, some close conversation and bonding.  I needed someone to talk to and connect with….and being new with this gender identity didn’t help any.

As my good friend noted:

” You have spent a couple of weeks where trans is nothing, where that part of you is invisible.

It makes sense that you need to be able to have somewhere where trans is something, visible and real.

We all need to be seen, even the parts of us that mainstreamers don’t quite get.

But in being yourself, you are starting to deal with the ambiguity and tensions of a woman’s life without the drug of jock play to try and get the world back into nice black and white focus, like you used to.”


I had worked so hard to pass in the last 2 years.  Shopping, finding my image, working on myself to be presentable as a woman, to be seen as a woman.

And now I started my first job ever at an aerospace company as a girl, what happened?  I blended in so well that I felt invisible.  I actually found myself in a taxi at 11pm at night going to a gay club in the foreign city of Shanghai.  Because over there, I knew, trans would be everything.

Most mainstream people fail to understand just how complicated gender is…..they just take their assigned roles and gender identities for granted, and why not?  Most of those assigned genders are correctly done.

Us trans folks?  We face shit, stigma, labels, our whole lives.  We fight alongside mainstream society, sometimes against ourselves, contributing to the 401k and trust funds of shame.  We fill our vaults full of shame, guilt and denial.

We don’t want to be seen as sick, as freaks, as the smelly homeless tranny with vomit and feces on their clothes asking for acceptance.

So we fight ourselves.

At least until we face death square in the eyes, and can no longer run from ourselves anymore.

Those of us who are fortunate enough to transition and live out successful lives still face enormous struggle.  Despite visually and physically fitting in to society, simple triggers can easily peel back the thin crust of stability and unearth the petroleum crude running underneath our feet.

The stench of the cesspool of shame, of accumulated insults and stigma always triggers the ego to remind us of our inadequacies: you’re a fraud.  You’re a freak.  You’re better off living as a guy.  What’s the matter with you?”

I used to fight this swamp, this inner critic.  This hell from my past.  I used to want the benefits of being a woman while simultaneously desiring the good times of my past.  I now realize that is foolish and impossible to achieve.  To get something, to gain in life, we have to pay a price, there are inevitable losses to be incurred while we accrue in other areas.

Women want everything.  And we can.  But just not all at the same time.

I can’t have the advantages and benefits of being a woman without relinquishing those of being a man.

And surrendering that man privilege was hard.

But it was necessary.

For me to be comfortable in my new skin, my true skin, I had to surrender what I knew wasn’t true to my heart and embrace the path God, the universe, or what some call my Mother in the Sky chose for me.

And to overcome my triggers and shame, I had to explore the depths of my hell.  I had to search and become familiar with every corner of the cesspool swamp: the swamp filled with doubt, fear, shame, self-loathing, and stigma.

I had to claw my way through miles of shit before I could come out clean and beautiful on the other side.

I’m still crawling and exploring these days.  I reckon I’ll never be finished.

But now I have the wisdom to put on a scuba suit, I know where the showers are, and I know I don’t need to panic.

I’m learning to love myself, and who I am, and I’m loving what I’m becoming: a woman who is not only pretty on the outside, but the inside as well.

Pixie Dust Exchange in the Far East


If anything can describe the meat and potatoes of my recent business trip to Shanghai, it would be Pixie Dust.


Start with curiosity, add a dab of empathy, and lend a listening ear, a touch of connecting conversation and we have our pixie dust: ready to spark the people I met along my trip.

So many people in China are living out their lives resulting from a combination of cultural traditions and roles designated and preordained from predestined necessity, landing in careers and lives that put them in “cog in the wheel” scenarios.

I intended to connect with each person beyond their careers.  I wanted to get to know the person that existed and dared to dream prior to having the imposed job label placed on them to fuel the infinite growth paradigm we have created and called capitalism.

I wanted to get to know the real person behind what “the Matrix” created.

My Mother in the Sky blessed me with several such scenarios.

The first opportunity was a 54 year old cab driver.

He immediately clocked me as an American, despite my 100% Chinese ethnicity.  To him, I was distinctly a foreigner…..and I was more than happy to be clocked as a foreigner than to be clocked as a transsexual.

He asked me about the opportunities in America, and how life was, if at all, different in the states.  We talked about how dating was different, and how conservative tradition had given way to newer customs that he found foreign yet exciting.  We even compared the severity of the smog in Shanghai to that of Los Angeles.

We both acknowledged Shanghai had to do some work to improve the air quality for its residents.

But then I asked him what his dreams were as a child.  Did he want to be the next pop singer, or movie star/  What were his dreams prior to driving a taxi?

“I used to love to sing,” he said.

“Do you still sing now?”

“I haven’t for over 30 years.”

“How come?” I inquired gently.

“Sometimes, when you let go of a dream, you just forget about it, and don’t think about it anymore.  So I relinquished it from my mind completely,” he said, emotionally.

“Now would make the most sense to revisit it.  When you are driving around waiting for the next client to hop on board, the singing can be your accompanying passenger.  Your friend,” I said.

You could tell he was pondering what I had said.

“Can I sing something to you now?” he asked me courageously.

I was caught by surprise, but I said: “Sure, I’d be honored to listen.”

He sang a patriotic song with lyrics that contained Mao Zedong in it.  I had heard my grandpa sing it to me when I was a little kid, when he was recalling World War 2 against the Japanese and he showed me his bullet wound on his leg.  The song was always known for its courageous feel, eliciting unity and comradery.

The driver was teary eyed when he finished, and my non-Chinese speaking coworkers were utterly confused when the ride was over.

As I was paying the driver, I told him his singing was beautiful, and blessed him with a very traditional and formal way of saying goodbye to elders in Mandarin Chinese.

The next day, I went to a blind massage parlor. All the masseuses were blind.  This type of massage is very unique: the theory is that blind people have heightened senses in their touch due to compensating from their handicap, such that the massage is done very differently, with a much more exquisite touch.

The girl who massaged me didn’t say a word to me but knew my body as if I had been a regular customer who she had worked on before.

She put me to sleep the first half hour, finding every knot and sore spot with utter ease.  In the last half hour she turned me over and worked on my front side.

I looked at her and told her she was very pretty.  And indeed she was.  She had a girl next door look, very Jennifer Love Hewitt type, and flawless China doll skin.

“Thank you,” she replied to my compliment.

We talked about her handicap, and she kept saying she wasn’t normal.  That growing up “abnormal” was hard, and that “normal” kids made fun of her.  That normal kids went on with real careers and that “abnormal” people like her had to resort to being a masseuse.

I implored that everyone is fine the way they were born.  Skin color, body shape and size, handicaps.  It’s the way that society treats people who are different that gives our ego fuel to scare and skew us into thinking we are less than who we actually are.

“I never thought of it that way,” she said.

“Can I tell you a secret?” I asked her.

“Sure,” she said, while continuing to work on my body.

“I’m transgender.  I lived as a guy for over 30 years before transitioning and presenting as my proper self, a woman, only since 2011,” I said.

“I can’t see what you look like, but that must have its difficulties too,” she said.  “I can only imagine for those who can see, how much that could possibly disturb them, their expectations of how things “should be.””

“I’m one of the luckier ones,” I said.  “I have friends who are 6’4”, heavyset, who cannot visually pass as a woman, even in a Braille institute.  When I’m out with them we are usually treated very rudely and with much hostility,” I said.

“But to me and the trans community at large, gender transition is less about the physical than the psychological and emotional.  Anyone can get surgery and a new wardrobe.  The real work happens internally, through shifting ones outlook and way of conducting oneself.  The two worlds are very different in which rules to play by, and that has been the challenge for me.”

“I can imagine,” she said.  “You sound beautiful, and I’m sure you look beautiful as well.”

What she said was so uplifting and sweet.

“Thank you,” I said emotionally.  “You know I think you’re beautiful.  But you know what’s more amazing than your physical beauty?  Is what accompanies it with who you are inside.  The fact that you’re so strong, even tempered, balanced, and centered.  You seem to have such a positive attitude despite your handicap.  I think I could really learn something from you and I have much respect for how you look at life despite its challenges.”

“Thank you,” she said.  “It’s always a challenge but we always have the choice to choose what we focus on, and I can remind myself how fortunate I am to have this job and clients like you who see me for me and not my handicap.”

She paused, and then continued.  “If I may say so, you seem like a woman with a very tender heart.  From what I can feel, you just need to let go of the small stuff and focus your energy on the big things in life, the things that are really important to you.  Let the things you can’t control go.  Lessen your burdens.”

Yet another angel send on behalf of my Mother in the Sky, reminding me to surrender.  In a foreign language, nonetheless!  Awesome.

We had such a nice conversation to wrap up the massage.  It was such a valuable serving of a slice of single serving friend in this globalized world we live in….and despite the fact that I’ll probably never see her again, our intimate exchange of girl talk was invaluable.

This trip was very much a success for me on a professional and personal level.

I had so many opportunities to engage people on this trip and spark them, and get them to dream again, even if it was for a few minutes.  And I was repaid with sparks of my own.

I was so opportunistic in my social interactions that I came back to the States with my pixie dust bag filled with wholesome goodness.  It was a lovely exchange of magic, wonder, and the mystical.

I plan on filling a dozen or so jars of this wonderful stuff and throw a pixie dust themed party with my girlfriends as a housewarming party for myself.

It’s time to continue sharing the magic.

Walking through Doors of Possibility


Walking through doors has been really difficult for me lately.

I received a text message from an ex girlfriend, Amy, around Christmas.  She wanted to get together for lunch.

She wanted to reminisce about old times, about how we used to be such an awesome couple.  She still holds onto the fantasy that we can get back together, that she can get her prince and live happily ever after.  And I don’t fault her for that.

But she doesn’t know I live as myself now, a woman.

And I’ve had so many opportunities to tell her that I’m Natalie.  I’m me.  I’m happier now, I’m living my life as a woman, in the proper gender presentation.

Yet, I’ve hesitated each and every time.

What is it that I fear?  What is holding me back?  What’s so scary about walking through that door?

Will passing through that portal cause irreversible changes in the interaction between Amy and me?

Will she ignore me and dismiss me as a freak?  Will she want to meet me even more out of curiosity or her own possible latent bisexual urges?  Or would she want to meet and just remain friends?

I think those 3 possibilities pretty much sum up the possible variations of how she’d react.  I have a 66.7 percent chance that she would still want to keep in touch.  Those are decent odds.

Yet, I’m reluctant to tell her.

That 33.3 percent haunts me.  What if she dismisses me as sick, as a freak?

Would I let it trigger my own inner critic, fueling my transphobia and thus labeling myself as sick?  Labeling myself as a freak, as lesser than?

Or would that be more of a reflection on her, not me?  I’m just being myself.  I’m just telling her the truth, my truth.  What more could I do?

I can’t change her.

This clearly falls into the category of serenity, and not change.

God gave me the serenity to accept what I cannot change, the courage to change what I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

Very powerful words and highly applicable in this scenario.

But I’ve been hesitating on all the doors lately that have been presented to me by my Mother in the Sky.

I wanted to attend a meetup this past Sunday, and on Saturday, I was already getting cold feet.

Walking through a door to attend a discussion with 35+ people appeared daunting.

What if people clock me?  What if they don’t like me?  What if I’m self conscious throughout the whole ordeal?  Can I endure being that nervous?  Can I endure the scrutiny?

I think all of these doors create anxiety for my ego.

My ego wants to control these situations.  It tries to convince me being myself, being happy, following my bliss, is a fallacy.  Why pursue the real me and my bliss through a method that is sick?  A method that society labels as freakish, incorrect, and faulty?

It had been easier in the past to resort to old patterns.  I hid behind my boy facade and ran away from feeling my emotions.

So what if people don’t like me?  Not everyone in the world can like me.  And I’m okay with that.

Not everyone will understand transgender people.  I’m okay with that.

And certainly, not everyone will make me the center of their universe or world.  I’m okay with that.

What’s the worst that can happen?  I grab my purse and leave.

What’s the worst that can happen if I tell Amy?  I have the same relationship I do with her right now.

So what’s the worry?

There is really nothing to fear.

Let’s walk through these doors.

Let’s empower me.

Because no one else is going to do it for me.

The Monster at Halloween


I attended a Halloween party last year with my friend Monica, who has only been living fulltime as herself for a little over 2 years.  The party was held by friends she had known for over 20 years.  All the attendees knew Monica before she transitioned, and were still coming to terms with her being out and living as a woman.  Although on the surface, everything was supposed to be normal and they were claiming they accepted her, I saw things differently.

For starters, while we were on our way there to the party, Monica complained about how she missed her friends, and that they didn’t really invite her to get-togethers anymore.

When we got to the party, everyone casually said hi to Monica, but immediately turned their attention back towards the people they were originally socializing with and pretty much ignored her.  We were isolated…alone.  We only had each other to talk to…

Monica still insisted that it would just take time for these friends to come around, but somehow I just wasn’t convinced.

The party was in the backyard, in a pretty affluent area near the beach cities, and there were a good 100 people there, all dressed in creative 80s costumes, as that was the theme for the night.

The DJ played a bunch of Madonna songs, of course, and Monica, being a huge Madonna fan, danced and lip synced a bunch of songs in front of her former friends.  I thought she was adorable, charming, and brave to do such a thing.  I was proud of her.

But while I watched her dance, the guests standing next to me, the very same people Monica had pointed out were her “friends,” mocked her.  Some of the things they uttered were unbelievable.

They said derogatory things about her repeatedly, and it was clear they just didn’t understand what it meant to be trans.  There was a lot of discomfort, and adjectives like “weird,” or “freak” were tossed around with malicious intent but carefully dressed with sarcasm.  One woman even said “Can you believe she used to be a guy we wanted to hang out with?”

Just when I didn’t think the backstabbing ridicule towards Monica could get any worse, the universe decided to present another facet of what the group’s true thoughts were towards queerness, towards topics that they just didn’t understand, nor wanted to make the effort in order to understand, for that matter.

By around 10 P.M., the cops showed up to tell the hosts to turn down the music.  Tom, the owner of the house and host of the party, immediately ran out to the street to smooth things over.

A big crowd of people gathered in front of the driveway to see what the cops had to say to Tom.  He spent a few minutes out there persuading the cops everything was okay, and that we were going to turn down the music.  By that point, Monica and I had also joined the crowd to see what the cops had to say.  At least 7 or 8 people in addition to Monica and I were clearly visible on the driveway.

The two police officers insisted on coming over and checking out the party. Everyone who was crowding the driveway quickly stepped to the side as the officers walked the length of the driveway and peered into the crowd, with the beam of their flashlights leading the way.

One of the guests was dressed as Freddy Kruger, and he went up to one of the officers.

“I’m a former Torrance Police Officer,” “Freddy” said.  “We’ll turn down the music, sorry to bring you guys out for something so silly.”

“No big deal, just doing our jobs.  We have to respond to all calls, even if they are minor issues.  Just keep the noise level down,” said one of the officers.

“You guys got quite the party going on,” said the officer’s partner.

“If you guys weren’t working we’d offer you some beers!” said Freddy.

Everyone eased up and laughed, and then the officers were on their way.

Once the police left, Tom came back from the driveway.

By then, Monica had was no longer standing next to me, and she was nowhere to be found.

Tom looked around his shoulders to make sure Monica wasn’t there, and then said to Freddy and a bunch of his friends something that was really demeaning and insulting to Monica and transgender people in general:

“Did you see what the cops did?  They were about to leave, because I convinced them that we’d turn down the music.  But then as soon as they saw Monica, they just had to come inside to the backyard to see what type of party this was.”

“You’re right Tom!  Seeing Monica made them wonder what we were doing back here!!!” said one of the guests.  It’s as if he was almost relieved he wasn’t the only one uncomfortable with Monica’s new self, and that Tom, and possibly others, shared their sentiments.  He didn’t feel so alone.  He no longer had to deal with “Monica the tranny monster,” or “the queer with no fear,” on his own.

“I wonder if the cops thought this was a gay party because they saw her,” said one of the women.

“They probably wanted to see if there was an orgy going on here,” chided Tom and the other men.

Never had it crossed their minds that perhaps the officers were just doing their job, and scanning the backyard because a neighbor made a call.

It had to be the queers!  It must be the queers, gays, faggots, and trannies!

Their discomfort had to be pinned onto something.  Someone was to blame for all the mess.  Why not blame the trannies?

If only the monster had stayed inside, out of sight of the cops.  Then the cops wouldn’t have ventured over to the backyard to take a look.

If only the weirdos had stayed out of sight, the cops wouldn’t have suspected something unusual was going on….they wouldn’t suspect it was a gay party.

Then the floodgates really opened, and the insulting and stereotyping jokes really started pouring out.

I left and moved to another area in the backyard, away from the crowd of people and just sat down by myself.

Monica eventually found me, and saw me texting on my phone, just withdrawn and alone.

When we finally left the party that night, I told her gently that her friends didn’t really respect her.

She didn’t want to hear it, but she knew.

I didn’t want to push it, and we left it at that.

It’s hard being seen as a monster sometimes, as a scapegoat, when we don’t deserve that type of portrayal or treatment.

That’s why it’s so important to love ourselves, and be proud of who we are.  Because until people begin to understand what it really means to be trans, we will often be seen as the monster, the scapegoat, the person who was the reason why the cops came in to break up the party.

And we, as the transgender community, all know that’s not who we are.

Challenging Binaries: There’s More Variety Out There Than What The Traditional Belief System Offers

Often times people seek out a story that placates their version of "reason and evidence" that matches and defends the ideology they believe is theirs, but is really coming from a source of early childhood trauma or indoctrination.

Often times people seek out a story that placates their version of “reason and evidence” that matches and defends the ideology they believe is theirs, but is really coming from a source of early childhood trauma or indoctrination.


In 2006, I was still presenting as a man, and I was juggling 5 sexual partners.  I was Nick’s sidekick.  I idolized him because every girl he dated was model material, and he did it all without money or celebrity status, and all with just mediocre looks.  The Mother in the Sky blessed him with one gift: the ability to talk, and that’s all he needed.

You and I, or anyone else for that matter, would appear to have a handicap when placed next to him and forced to talk or tell a story.  The man, despite being a womanizing asshole, was a great schmoozer and talker.

Being a desperate “disciple” of his and utilizing many of his strategies got me merely a small percentage of the success he pulled in…which landed me at 5 women I was intimate with simultaneously.

I was concerned for my safety so I got tested for STDs often.  When I went to see Dr. Li, his nurse drew my blood and asked me to check all the STDs and symptoms on the clipboard so the lab would know which tests to run.

Needless to say I checked them all, including, of course, HIV.

I sat in the waiting room, shaking my leg with a cadence that matched the inner twitch caused by my anxiety.

Dr. Li came in and my rhythmic twitch came to a halt.

He looked at the clipboard , and after a few seconds, said something that shocked the shit out of me:

“Are you gay?  Do you have sex with men?”

I was caught off guard and totally spinning.  I knew where this was going, and I couldn’t believe he was so misinformed on a topic that he should have been an expert on, a topic that I was paying him for to understand thoroughly, more so than me.  I ended up incredibly frustrated and disappointed.

“What?  No, of course not,” I said with vehement denial and nervousness.

“You put a check mark next to ‘HIV.’  Unless you have sex with men, you don’t need HIV checked.”

I had an internal nuclear bomb go off when he said that.  The conglomerate cluster-fuck of emotions that were set off inside me, to this day, is still indescribable.

I wanted to scream.  I wanted to shake the shit out of him so he would talk some sense.

Had he no clue what he just said?  Had he no idea how ignorant and misinformed he was?  Had he no idea the risks he just put out there to me and possibly countless other patients that came before and would come after me?  If I hadn’t been informed about the real nature of how HIV and other STDs functioned, I could have seriously been put at ease when I was actually a candidate that could potentially be at risk.

I knew from 7th grade health class with Ms. Finn from my Dodson Junior High days that HIV was not an isolated virus attainable only through gay sex.  It was spread through blood and other means.  Anal sex, being more prone to stretching sensitive tissue, was merely more susceptible means for transmission but not the only means in which HIV spread.  Furthermore, last I checked, straight people and women had HIV and also had anal sex too.

Moreover, even though I did have sexual intimacy with men in my life, I had anal sex more frequently with my cisgender women partners than men.

Both his question of asking me what type of sex (straight vs gay) I had and his assertion that I didn’t need to test for HIV (under the assumption that I was straight) totally cast him in a new light for me.

I realized he was misinformed, and that his misinformed disposition could result in endangering a straight man (or woman) patient that was cheating on their partner and had HIV but went home with the erroneous assumption that they were STD free when they could possibly be infected due to Dr. Li’s association that HIV was a gay related virus, and hence misinforming his patient.

I yelled at him.

“Keep that box checked,” I said loudly, while pointing at the HIV box on the clipboard.

“But you don’t need it and each test costs extra in your co-payment.  You can save money by dropping the tests you don’t need,” he said.

“I’m not here to save money, I want a thorough test, and just because I’m not gay doesn’t mean I don’t need that test” I said in frustration.

He left it the way it was and instructed me to take the clipboard up to the front desk.



I came out to Dr. Li as transgender in 2012, when I got sick and needed antibiotics.  Just so you know, he’s a good guy.  Despite his 2006 fuck-up, he does return calls, he will make exceptions to open the office on Saturdays, and he is professional with his demeanor and time spent with patients.

And despite his obvious Christian background (bibles in the waiting room and verses on the wall) and ignorance about HIV, he has been my doctor since I was a kid and he is good for regular checkups.

But his reaction in 2012 to my transition news told me just how uncomfortable he was with the GLBT topic.

He acknowledged my situation, but couldn’t look at me in the eyes as he quickly took my blood pressure and looked at my ears and eyes and throat.  He did see enough out of the corner of his eye to see that I truly was presenting as a woman, and he had no choice but to treat me as such because my legal documents, including insurance policy, all reflected that of a woman, and I was on hormones and my blood levels reflected estrogen levels that matched that of a cisgender woman.

I could tell he was uncomfortable because his very next question was: “So did you get the surgery yet?”

“Let’s just say I live fulltime as a woman and am on hormones.  Whether I had surgery or not isn’t important right now, and if it medically is at some later junction, I’ll inform you of my status then.”

He nodded.

I then tried to explain to him how I respected his work ethic, and how I wanted to stay with him as my primary care physician because he’s been caring for our family since I was a little kid, and how much I appreciated his professionalism throughout the years.

He moved right along and wanted to get things over with as he said “yeah yeah” real quick and went right back to business by pulling out the stethoscope and asking me to breathe deeply.



I went to see Dr. Li yesterday for a pre-surgery appointment.  He took my info and started filling out my chart.  He took my blood pressure, a blood sample, and checked my eyes and made me say “ahhhhh” with a tongue depressor that tasted like old cardboard lacquered in varnish.

“So have you had any prior surgeries in the last five years?” he asked me.

“Just my right knee in 2009, meniscus tear,” I said.

“How about for down there?” he said pointing to my genital area.

“Just my knee is all I will answer right now.  That’s all that is relevant for this discussion.” I said curtly.

He got flustered.  Clearly, he was uncomfortable whenever the topic of transgenderism was brought up, as he began clicking his pen, fidgeting with papers, and physically blushing.  I saw the whole thing, and it was a like an emotional litmus paper being lit up by a bright wave of chemicals.  It was hilarious.

Then he took out the light and checked my eyes, and made me say “ahhhh” again with the tongue depressor.

I laughed and he quickly looked down at the clipboard.

He literally performed what he had already done just a mere 30 seconds earlier.  He was flustered.  It was cute in a not so cute type of way.

It was a funny combination of anxiety, awkwardness, discomfort, forgetfulness and him being droll all in one.  He was an older man lost in his emotionally cloudy moment, not knowing where to place me in the gender binary, which was the only internal vocabulary he had to categorize me.  It was unsettling for him that I didn’t fit in somewhere.

People are typically flustered when put outside their comfort zone.  Questioning people’s preconceived notions makes them think outside the box, outside of their comfort zone.  That’s why activism eventually gets through to people, because once people step outside their comfort zone enough times, or better yet, have loved ones they really care for be the ones that trigger their discomfort, inevitable cognitive dissonance takes place and plants the seeds for opportunities for self reflection.

I’ve quickly learned that just being me, everyday, is a great way to do activism without even trying.  Just existing is activism for transgender people.

I could tell being outside of the gender binary, existing in a nonexistent, non-defined category to take hold of my gender placard, for Dr. Li, left a weird and unfamiliar taste in his mouth.

Well, at least we are even, and it was a fair trade.  That tongue depressor sure had some funky chemicals on there….I can still taste the wood…..blechh!!!

I’ve had men who left tastes in my mouth that lasted shorter…

Let All The Dick-Swingers Posture. Women Can Live By Different Rules.

Liam Neeson at his best.

Liam Neeson at his best.

Several years ago, South Park came up with an episode that made fun of Pokemon, called “Chinpokomon,” where Japanese people came to the USA and pushed their toys onto elementary school kids.

A series of brainwashing camps were formed with the toys being a foundation to hoard the kids together, with the end-goal being to use America’s own children as trained pilots to bomb Pearl Harbor.  The genocidal program’s platform was carried out to perfection, despite many of the mothers protesting the Japanese toy manufacturer.  How did Chinpokomon subvert the criticism?  Each and every time the men protested to the Japanese toy company, the guy representatives for Chinpokomon would paint a picture of self-pity, claiming how much they felt they were beneath the American men in self worth because of their “small penis” sizes.

This hilarious Asian stereotype tactic was used to perfection, successfully feeding the egos of the American men and the protests would be subdued each time.

It finally took the banding of women, the very mothers of all the victimized children to team up and fight the Japanese to end the nonsense.

How did they do it?

The mothers didn’t fall for the Japanese toymaker’s penis remarks.  It was brutally obvious that they didn’t have penises, which made it easy for them to sidestep the distracting comments the Japanese toymakers were using to hide their evil intents.

The episode was hilarious and worked on many levels in terms of humor.

But in American culture, we do place a lot of emphasis on the value of the penis for men.   Manhood is directly linked to penis size and performance.  In fact, it wasn’t until I put away my penis and manhood at Arly’s birthday party that I started having social scenarios where I was fully accepted as the woman I am and present as.

The men in South Park were so susceptible to their ego being stroked when complimented on their penis size, that they were relegated and reduced to useless docile puppets.

I’ve been on both sides of that fence, where I relentlessly pursued penis enlarging compliments through racing cars, monetary accumulation and prestige, womanizing, and other dick measuring accolades and activities.  And because I was never a guy, the fuel required to uphold a guy facade was like trying to fill an abysmal pit, frequently resulting in exhaustion and injury for my former self.

However, before transitioning and living authentically, the facets and nuances required to  live successfully and functionally as a guy was rehearsed for 30 years, deeply imprinted onto my CPU.  So occasionally some outputs still come out with guy emphasis and undertones, even though I present and live as myself, a woman.

I’m still susceptible to aggressive behavior, dick measuring, and posturing from time to time.

Recently, I went out to lunch with some coworkers to get burgers at Five Guys.  The topic of Tetris somehow came up and I just had to put my imprint on the conversation.  It was a social situation I would have undertaken differently if given a second chance, but in the heat of the moment my old default behavior got the best of me.

Habits are hard to break, and for us later transitioners, who have spent decades presenting as the wrong gender, it can be a tough chore to break these patterns.

Although I’ve taken well to my transition like a duck to water, I’ve had my fair share of challenges.  Each successful and empowering story I have with compliments about my fashionable presentation to helping strangers at Macy’s with shoe purchases are accompanied by opposing occasions where I brag about my Tetris playing abilities to 2 men at work or wanting a convertible Mercedes to show off to people at the clubs with what would be the equivalent of a metal phallus.

And don’t get me wrong, it would be super nice to have the wind flowing through my hair as I drive down the 405.

But I’m working on improving my choices, choosing better.

Through time, readjusting attitudes and behaviors, I’ll get there.

I know what I choose to focus on will determine how I feel about my life, and I’m choosing the positive aspects of my experiences to recollect and reminisce.

And like my good shapeshifting friend said:

“The ability not to have to worry if you will be seen as having a tiny dick by the others around you, because they already know you have a pussy, can be enormously liberating in the process of claiming your own life.

Let all the dick-swingers posture.  Women can live by different rules.”