Tag Archive | China

Doctor Weinstock

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

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

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

“I’m a returning patient,” I said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What a sweet man.

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Pixie Dust Exchange in the Far East

PixieDust

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

Ingredients?

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.

Jimmy Kimmel and ABC Airing “Kill Everyone in China”

Jimmy Kimmel and ABC are receiving heat for a recent airing of “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” a part of his show where he interviews kids on a segment called “Kids’ Table.”

Johnny Depp Kisses Jimmy Kimmel.

Johnny Depp Kisses Jimmy Kimmel.

After asking a young boy how the United States should repay its $1.3 trillion debt to China, the boy replied with ” kill everyone in China.”

I won’t harp on how the comments were inappropriate, or how thousands of Chinese Americans showed up to protest in major cities such as Burbank, Houston, and Phoenix, or how ABC had time to edit the show before it aired, or even worse, that a kid who says something like that probably has an environment of caretakers who taught him that type of behavior and belief.

I want to step away from the focus the GLBT community gets in terms of stigma and discrimination, and just talk about the ramifications of what happens when ANY group is being discriminated.

Because in the end, we all have our own closets, struggles, and challenges, as Ash Beckham so aptly pointed out in her Tedx TalkComing out of your closet.”  We can be discriminated against and face challenges in all areas of life, simply for being different than what is considered the bell curve or more frequent mode.  Being overweight, bald, short, tall, or simply Asian can all have severe impacts at critical junctions in our life, if we happen to be around a group or individual who judges us based on those criteria.

Who are the losers?  We all stand to lose something in this case.  It’s time we step away from this outdated Darwinistic-Malthusian notion that all I need to care about is myself, and no one else.  Because in the end, I will only be as safe and secure as the least secure and safe person in our community.  And if that person happens to be starving, sick, or faces scarcity in basic needs on a daily basis, he or she will have to take resources in unconventional ways from those who do have their needs met.  Be it through stealing, creating an enemy image, or through allying with others who have what he or she doesn’t have.

If we were to compare our world to the human body, our current society is set up in a such a way where it is equivalent to the heart taking all the oxygen or blood and hording it for itself, neglecting the kidneys, brain, and other vital organs in the body.  Why give a shit about the other organs?  All the heart cares about is itself.  Not a viable or smart method in which to operate things.

I had a coworker recently tell me he doesn’t care how much water he wastes when he’s in New York on business because it’s an east coast problem.  He only cares if we have enough water here, in California.  As long as he’s okay here, it seems other worldly problems don’t bother him.  The thought process he described to me was mind boggling.  It was incredibly depressing to hear him spew his self centered view of how the world worked, according to his ideology.

All I know is, I try to stay diligent on a daily basis with how I view and treat the world, and all its cohabitants.  I try to remind myself that other people’s fears are from their own wounds.  We all have a semblance of a wounded puppy in the middle of the street, in one form or another.

But for a family to project that fear onto their children and then for ABC and Jimmy Kimmel to air it on America’s major network, well, that’s beyond disheartening and warrants an apology.

Despite Not Being My Favorite Female Tennis Player, Victoria Azarenka Winning Australia Open Touched Me, Reminded Me of Transgender People Overcoming Their Struggles in Face of Adversity

Victoria Azarenka, Courageous, Strong, & Victorious

Victoria Azarenka, Courageous, Strong, & Victorious

Late last month, when I stayed up into the wee hours of the night watching Victoria Azarenka battle out Li Na for the Finals of the Australia Open Women’s Singles Title, I couldn’t help but notice I was feeling sympathy towards Azarenka.

Although an overwhelming majority of fans in the stadium were cheering against her, she somehow steadied her nerves, composed herself after falling down one set to love, and battled back into a hard fought, gut wrenching, tear jerking victory.  Before she had won, I already predicted and felt deep down inside that she was going to cry when she won.

And these tears wouldn’t be the same category of tears from a traditional victory.

I have been watching and playing tennis for over 25 years and I have never seen such a hostile crowd against any player.  The hostility started when Azarenka took a medical timeout in the semi-finals against Sloane Stephens, when, during the third set, Azarenka tightened up and blew several match points.  She then proceeded to take a medical timeout, which was seen under public scrutiny, as executed with questionable character, and the media ended up thrashing her globally all over the tabloids and news conferences.

During the finals, she was heckled throughout the entire match, and even when she missed something as routine as a first serve, there would be obvious applause against her.  The odds were overwhelmingly in favor of Li Na, and very few people gave Azarenka a chance to win.  Yet upon winning, she completely redefined herself, salvaged her dignity, showed the world her courage, and forced the public to self scrutinize.  She planted cognitive dissonance in everyone’s psyche.

And what set this victory apart wasn’t just that she beat the odds; what was more impressive was her beating the public perception, of forcing them into acknowledging that an individual’s strength, when tested under such duress, can prevail, and upon doing so, earns back the respect temporarily lost, despite looking so seemingly unlikely prior to the match starting.

Now I’m not saying the medical timeout will be forgotten.  Certain blemishes take time for the public eye to forget.  What I am discussing here is the strength an individual, all individuals, possess, and when properly channeled and utilized, can provide massively uplifting effects that allow us to beat the odds, whatever the challenge.

Azarenka proved that strength, courage, and character can overcome overwhelming negative judgments, stereotypes, and earn back the respect of the public eye and her peers.  Moreover, a victory of this magnitude showed it can even earn sympathy from the fans, forcing the public to momentarily contemplate self reflection, and wrestle with their own shame.  It forced the mob mentality to break down, and individuals could be seen feeling sorry for her, and feeling sorry for what they had done.  Raw human emotions surfaced, and were there for the world to see.  That we all share the same struggles and feel the same things, no matter what side we stand on, no matter what perceived team we root for, that we still share a common human bond that runs deeper than divisive nuances such as competition.

Despite all the drama that ensued during the match, I truly felt and noticed that this lesson, this aspect of the match, was lost upon the majority of the general viewers’ eyes, and missed by the public as a whole.

Victoria Azarenka Revealing Her Pent Up Emotions Upon Overcoming Odds and Winning Back Hearts of Millions

Victoria Azarenka Revealing Her Pent Up Emotions Upon Overcoming Odds and Winning Back Hearts of Millions

So why is this topic on a TRANSGENDER blog?

Because Azarenka winning paralleled our struggles as transgender people.  Azarenka was the underdog the entire time, yet she took the public by storm by winning back the hearts of millions by sustaining, believing in herself, trusting her strengths, and overcoming odds.

Because this completely relates to how we are judged everyday by people who don’t understand our background, our intent, and who we are as people.  It even includes those examples of people who feel being GLBT is a choice.  And despite all the odds, we live courageously and present as ourselves in the real world.  Some of us are luckier than others and pass easier in the public eye.  But it’s hard for all of us who identify as “gender non-conforming.”

And our plight lasts much longer than a fortnight, much longer than a tennis tournament.  Our plight is lifelong, pre and post transition.  The struggles merely shift but they are always there.

But I think we can all learn from Azarenka’s display of courage, tenacity, and belief in herself.  By being proud of who we are, we face the challenges that are cast by society with strength, dignity, and courage, and we can trigger the much needed self reflection society needs to experience in order for civil and social rights to change in our favor.  Through embracing ourselves and staying strong, we can plant seeds of change.

And that is what made Victoria Azarenka’s victory so inspiring, moving, and touching for me.