Tag Archive | Suffering

Stifled Life

stifledI had the privilege of receiving a call from Garrett last night, and working through a few things on the phone. Specifically, issues regarding my ability to “find my passion” and purpose in life.

I told him about an ESPN story with Penny Hardaway going to a middle school in Memphis to help out his childhood friend who got cancer and could no longer coach the boys basketball team. After Penny took over the coaching duties, his friend still pushed himself physically to the limit to be present courtside, when possible, despite doctors warning him to rest.

The interviewer asked him: “Why do you insist on being courtside, when doctors have ordered you to rest, when it takes so much out of you?” Penny’s friend answered: “Because it also gives so much to me too,” implying that being there was keeping him alive.

I then proceeded to tell Garrett that I needed to “find” my calling, something to devote myself to, something to serve. He told me I had it all backwards. That I didn’t “need” anything. That living my life was all I “needed” to do. To live my life with passion, to make everything in my life important, and the purpose or service would naturally reveal itself.

“You’ve lived stifled and subdued for so long,” he said. “Everything you approached was done with a lack of passion. You never fully committed to anything because you were always waiting for the next best thing, always having one foot already out the door, in case something “better” came along. That’s why you never “found your passion.” That’s why you struggled so much with deciphering if your activities were passions or addictions.”

He then explained how one does not “find their passion.” Rather, people live life with passion and the hobby or thing they enjoy doing naturally reveals itself.

“Start brushing your teeth with passion. Inject passion into everything you do. Live like a terminal cancer patient, with passion for going to the toilet or waiting for a daily afternoon visitor. Fill your life with passion and live it with passion and something naturally will reveal itself in due time.”

Just like Penny’s friend choosing to make the middle school basketball team a priority of importance, I need to value, cherish, and take care of what is already in my life and what comes into it. And to do it with passion.

I need to stop looking for activities and events that illicit blips in the radar for me, because those temporary emotional states where I feel passion are external. It’s time to start bringing passion into a once stifled life, and see what my passion from within brings forth to my future.

I need to light the pilot in my heater in order to heat the house. I need to light up my soul and spread this new enthusiasm and spark towards everything I do in my life, especially what I consider the mundane.

I must say though, it was depressing realizing I chose, by conscious or subconscious reasoning, to live a subdued and stifled life. Many of those causes were because I am transgender, and my transgender history was filled with denied opportunities and dismissal.

But the encouraging news is that now I can choose again.

And this time it’ll be different.

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Feminine Heart to Heart

heart_to_heartA few weeks ago, I remembered I had a hair appointment and was running late. I was a bit flustered in traffic, and I still had unprocessed emotional tidbits leftover from a social encounter earlier in the day as I rushed over to see my German hairstylist, Marlies.

Needless to say I didn’t want to be late.

I was totally not present, and just walking through the motions of being in a new location, but mind somewhere else. But then I remembered to remind myself I had a perfect opportunity to regroup and recover by bonding with the other women in the salon, and that serenity was right around the corner if I were just to stay open to it.

Marlies was running slightly behind schedule that day, and that irked the shit out of her. So she had her assistant, Jessica do the shampooing.

I had seen Jessica a few times before in the salon, but never officially met her. She had dyed her hair an amazingly bright red color, which fit her look really nicely. I complimented her on her hair, and she asked me how I was doing.

Instead of just trying to power through my day with fake smiles and shield myself from intimate conversation, I decided to listen to my heart and take a chance. I told her about not feeling heard and seen when my uncle visited, but also shared that I empathized with how busy and overwhelmed he was during his short stay.

The catalyst was set and we embarked on a nice conversation, where we both shared about our work, our horoscope signs, her kids and dogs at home, and my travel situation for work. We even had some time to talk about eyeshadows and makeup before Marlies took me back to her chair. I was calmer, enjoying myself, and having a much better time being present and in the moment.

Then today, I had to renew my driver’s license at the DMV. Despite being ill prepared, running behind schedule on my errands and hence not wearing any makeup, and frustrated with the long wait, I seized another similar moment as I did at the hair salon to bond with a DMV worker who had gorgeous hair. I genuinely complimented her on her hair, and we struck up a nice conversation for a short while. She even gave me a reference to a hair salon she enjoys frequenting, and she said I could re-take my photo if I visit her again on Monday when I return for my written test.

Then on my way out, still sparkling from my conversation with the DMV gal, I bumped into a mother who was carrying her 15 month old son, and I shared with her that her son was adorable, and showed her pictures of my 18 month old nephew on my iPhone. At the same time she was waiting for her adolescent son who just got his license, I realized he was the same boy who helped me pick up my forms earlier after I dropped them when I first arrived at the DMV. I thanked him for his earlier gesture, and the mother smiled and said she’s glad her son helped. “Look at her cute nephew,” she said to her son as he looked at my phone before they left. It was a nice and warm exchange.

Both times I left the salon and DMV feeling like a million dollars, and it was due to the fact that I entered these situations by connecting and sharing with other women, through feminine heart to heart.

Second Set of Balls

I was talking with TBB a few weeks ago, and we were discussing tome transgender topics that took courage and thick skin to endure.balls_of_steel

“I had to grow a second set of balls,” she said.

I couldn’t stop laughing when she said that.

Although I don’t plan on having GRS in the foreseeable future, I couldn’t help but marvel at the strength and courage us transgender people go through (surgery or no surgery), in order to live our daily lives.

Some of us are clocked visually every day, and need to have enormous resilience and strength to endure the baggage of other people thrown upon us, due to our very presence triggering their own shit that they refuse to deal with and blame us for causing them to feel.

Some of us have families and spouses prior to our transition that come along inevitably for the educational and difficult ride.

Most of us have to face the hassle of legal document changes and coming out to work and old bosses for professional references.

And further yet, some of us are assaulted or killed when we are out shopping for food or on a date.

So yes, despite TBB “losing” her balls due to GRS, she absolutely hit home with the statement: “When I grew my second set of balls…”

Kudos to all the transgender people out there who have the courage and stamina to face the world as their true selves every day.

Yes, it does take balls of steel, sometimes even a second pair are needed.

Not Enough

sad-womenThis society thrives on taking advantage of our feelings of inadequacy. Billion dollar industries are based off of our insecurities, drawing consumerism predicated on our fragments of low self esteem.

Women are constantly subjected to scrutiny from peers and members of the opposite sex. A woman with low self esteem or features that society considers not classically beautiful have a much harder time talking themselves out of a speeding ticket and taking advantage of biased perks.

The feelings of being shunned compound this fictitious belief of feeling we are not good enough, that we are somehow deficient or broken.

I think the closest feeling cisgender women can experience with regards to understanding what almost all MtF transwoman experience when they don’t pass, is when cisgender women don’t feel pretty.

Each time a transgender person is clocked or harassed for not “passing,” the feelings generated are similar to what a cisgender woman feels when rejected by a date or some other social situation for not being “pretty” enough. Often times, a transgender individual who struggles fitting in to the current socially accepted construct of what a woman ought to look like suffers on a monumental scale and far more often than a cisgender woman who is cast out as unattractive.

Somehow, we have distorted our values throughout generations of cultural misgivings and wound up classifying what is considered attractive and what is socially considered as beautiful in very limiting ways.

Despite there being some biological underpinnings being hardwired in our genetic makeup to predispose us to find certain curves and body parts an attractive trait, nevertheless, predispositions are not predeterminations…meaning, our phenotype results from the way we classify our personal preferences as to what is considered pretty, and is very much influenced by our genes and the way they interact with our social environment.

It is clear overweight women were highly sought after in both ancient Greece and China due to body types being an indicator of family wealth and abundance of food. Foot binding in China was considered an attractive custom for women for centuries. Now airbrushed coat-hanger thin type girls on the cover of Victoria Secret catalogs are the standard of western beauty.

So when did women start not being good enough the way they are? When did big breasts, flawless fuchsia manicures, dangly jewelry and airbrushed looking skin become the standard for femininity and defining feminine beauty?

I was (shamefully) browsing Craigslist late at night in the M4T section. This 35 year old from Chino Hills put up a disturbing listing. In it, he made it very clear as to what made him stand out as a great catch in comparison to his counterparts:

 

“I am not ashamed to be seen with you in public. When people eventually see us together and recognize you are transgender, I will stand by your side. I’m not afraid to being seen with you in public. In fact (yes, there was more to his diatribe), I love taking my trans girlfriend out to restaurants and movies.

 

But my girl must have the following (bullet points ensued):

  • She must have manicured nails (both hands and feet)
  • She mus be pre-op TS and not want surgery at all…if there is any doubt at all about SRS it’s best we don’t start a relationship.
  • She must smell like a girl and act like one
  • She must have long hair”

 

I was just thinking how this would have gone over on a cisgender dating website. Would the men on there go as far to expect the women on the site to bend who they were to fit some fantasy in an outright straightforward manner right from the get-go? Specifically, with how they dress and primp themselves? All with a custom bullet point display, nonetheless?

Would a girl who liked to be casual in sweats and flip flops without perfectly pedicured nails be ruled out? If he were chasing after a cisgender woman, would he hold her to these requirements and standards?

And most importantly, would a guy, who bragged about “not being ashamed to be seen” with his girlfriend in very common venues such as movies and restaurants, come off as a strong, sexy, and considerate man in the relationship department? Would he even have thought about putting that on his profile for a cisgender dating site? Or would he have thought twice?

Far too often, transgender women aren’t seen as equal to cisgender women, often treated as not “good enough.” Often times we even lose our appeal the moment we have GRS. “Why would I date you now when I can date a real woman with a real pussy and not a man made one?” said a guy to a transgender friend of mine after she had her surgery. She had apparently lost all her appeal once she “lost” her penis.

We are marginalized, along with the men who chase after us. Many chasers are ashamed of the mere fact they are attracted to transgender women. And transgender women are often ridiculed as freaks, often wrongfully labeled as men who didn’t try hard enough to simply just be a gay man, as seducers with an evil and ulterior motive, transitioning to make “luring” men into our corner easier, supposedly.

In fact, I’ve often seen comments referring to us as delusional. “I want to be a dolphin, put a blowhole on my neck and give me a bottlenose and fins…..ridiculous right?!? Just because you feel like or want to be a woman doesn’t make you so,” are all very common responses towards transgender articles on news feeds.

An average gentleman on a cisgender dating website wouldn’t make his claim to fame by saying he wouldn’t be ashamed to be seen with his date in public. That wouldn’t get him very far. Although many women receive pictures of dicks and mirror shots of men in the bathroom, seldom do the women bend over backwards to accommodate those men who don’t put any effort or thought into being a gentleman. However, few men hold so much sway over women the way “tranny chasers” do. They seem to get away with very little respect and very little understanding of what they are chasing after. We are offered substandard behavior and often have very slim pickings with quality men out there.

So what should we do? I think we need to find a practice that works for us transgender women. A practice, a mantra, a way of dealing with moments when we are feeling lonely, up late at night feeling depressed; for when we are feeling insecure, less than our typical sense of attractiveness; for when we enter a judgmental headspace that erodes our self-esteem, where we try to categorize ourselves as worthy versus unworthy, as if that binary were all there was to choose from.

Upon working through our practice, we can own our own center, stay more balanced, trust in ourselves, and take power as our true selves were meant to do. In doing so, we won’t be seen as a group in society that is not worthy of equal treatment and respect, a group that will no longer be seen as not enough.

Dagger Mouth, Tofu Heart

dagger_mouthtofu_heartSome people come off as tough guys, but really, for those of us who can read people well, we can tell it’s just tough words. Deep down, they are just a soft, kind hearted individual who is frustrated, triggered by something and merely saying tough words without aggressive intentions.

One of my old band mates was like that. She always had a wisecrack, a sarcastic comment to make, especially in social situations where she had to admit fault, or where there was vulnerability, moments where she would need to share her emotions. She would over drink and insult people while drunk, or totally get close to someone while showing no self dignity.

An articulate sounding sentence would form under the guise of knowledge, but really, she was scared people would see through her insecurity or her erroneously self perceived moments of weakness, when in fact, she was one of the stronger trans women I had known, transitioning despite her personal struggles.

But often times, beneath the sarcasm and perceived wittiness, there was meanness or hurtfulness in the things said to those around us. Friends would get together after band practice and she would lash out, passive aggressively or even in argumentative ways at times.

So many transgender women, when they truly open their hearts and talk and bond heart to heart with other women, have glimpses of what I saw as a soft and warm heart. A heart made of tofu.

Yet all the meanwhile, beyond the heart of tofu, juxtaposed a strong mix of toxic and mean words spewing from a mouth full of daggers and a tongue as sharp as a razor. Especially when these transgender women were triggered by their own sense of insecurity, and self perceived illusions of being broken or sick.

Many transgender women elect to criticize through passive putdowns, play crabs in a barrel, and play small and come from their defensive armor, putting each other down to gain an upper hand on a race that no one is monitoring, to which a scorekeeper is not present. Drama is prevalent in the transgender scenes, and physical fights have broken out between many transgender women at clubs that I have attended.

I think one of the best ways, sadly, to sum up transgender women, is the phrase “Cattiness with Testosterone.” I actually swore that if I ever started a band I’d name it exactly that: Cattiness with Testosterone.

If all the energy used amongst transgender women for bickering were somehow harnessed and transmitted into a power plant, Obama would have his clean energy policy with enough amperage leftover to power Las Vegas with all the bright and shiny lights.

My friend Callan put it best when she said that transgender people essentially put on armor to go through the world, in order to survive the backlash of being marginalized, being misunderstood, having our hearts minimized, dismissed, and shunned.

It’s time to take that armor off if we are to have a chance at reaching other people’s hearts through spreading our authentic message by living as who we truly are, and not acting as we aren’t. Through sharing, compassion, and vulnerability, not judging, aggression, and fear.

As the Chinese say with their proverb, it’s time to let go of the dagger mouths and embrace our tofu hearts.

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.

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…