Tag Archive | Social Interaction

Gratitude

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you all.

Advertisements

Lesbian Ghosts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yes,” I said.

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

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

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

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

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

We were quiet for the rest of the movie.

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

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

 

Shaving the Radish

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FAT CHANCE.

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

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

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

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

I was too afraid to feel vulnerable.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Smack my head.

Sweet and Clueless, Hence, Not Delicious

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I’m versatile,” I replied wearily.

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

I rolled my eyes.

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

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

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

But he was clueless as well.

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

And that was sad.

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

The genitals dictated his response…..

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

Sweet but clueless is nice, but not delicious.

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.

Why?

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

My unconventional shame is rooted in my transgender history.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.