Sunday, March 20, 2011

Checking In

Hi everyone!

Just checking in... again it's been a LONG time since I've written in here! I've actually got three draft posts just sitting here waiting for me to organize my thoughts and get them finished so I can publish them! I've decided to make this entry to let you all know that I'm still around and am finally moving ahead with my transition! I'm seeing a therapist regularly and we've been working on my personal issues. It's been very little work on my "gender issues" directly, but that's OK because becoming more authentic and effective translates into becoming a whole person, and I'm SO VERY EXCITED!

Though I'm still very "part time" and not out at work yet, I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel and the journey no-longer feels like I'm heading for a destination that is out of reach. Instead of feeling like I'm trying to head for the moon, it's more like I'm heading from one side of the North American Continent to the other side. A journey that I know will take some time, but I also know it's doable because I've seen many people make the same journey successfully.

I'm no longer depressed or dreading my day-to-day life. I feel filled with wonder and excitement about learning more of who I really am: my faults, my strengths and weaknesses, my passions and potentials! I finally feel like I am starting to really live instead of just existing and the joys and sorrows that I know I will be experiencing seem to have a greater spark of reality and part of my life, part of what makes me, Me!

So, look for some more posts here about my progress, as well as more of my history and philosophy, and wish me your best wishes as I finally start to get my life together and focused on really being myself for the first time in my life!


Sunday, May 2, 2010

That's not very "Lady Like!"

I'm so sorry that it's been such a long time since writing... I can only blame it on myself. It may feel like a lack of time or lack of privacy at home, but in reality it is procrastination, lack of commitment, lack of prioritizing, and fear of being labeled as "selfish" and not putting the family's needs before my own.

While growing up, and pretty much through out my life, I never liked or identified with typical male mannerisms. I just couldn't identify with or feel appropriate with being rough, gruff, burping, farting, being loud or boisterous. I was quiet, reserved, polite, submissive, "lady like." I would notice when something was pointed out as "not being lady-like" or "girls act this way, while boys act that way...," and despite my guilt at succombing to the "devils evil influence" in my feelings, I'd take note of how girls should act and present.

When I learned that guys cross their legs with their ankle on their knee, but girls crossed their legs at their ankles, or at their knees, I started crossing my legs more female like. While serving a Mormon mission in Japan, I learned that "proper women are expected to eat every grain of rice from their bowl and they cannot "scoop" it into their mouths like men can;" I started to eat every grain of rice from the bowl without "scooping." Also, in Japan, when I learned that there were "male" kimonos (called Yukata), I did my best to come up with a couple to wear during leisure time because it was like wearing a dress. (Actually, they're more like wearing a light robe, but in my mind, it felt like wearing a dress because their shape, cut, and style of wearing was similar to kimonos.)

After I married my first wife, I would sometimes, (on rare occasions when no-one was home nor expected home any time soon,) put on one of her skirts, just to experience it. For me it was not erotic or sexual, it would just feel right: normal, nice, pretty!

While in the fundamentalist religion, it was accepted for men to wear long hair; after all, in ancient times they did, including Christ! So I was able to grow my hair long. I loved it so much! I was able to wear it in a pony tail (a "masculine one" of course), and I could wear non-feminine hair things to hold my pony tail... and I could wear it down and wavey (I loved that! I called it my "christ look"), and, when no-one was around, after a shower, I could put it up in pig-tails, or try out some of my wife's hair things.... and even though I had a full beard at the time, it helped me feel, just a little bit, pretty.

Of course, during these times, still believing in my theology, anytime I did feel or entertain thoughts of being girly or pretty, I was simultainously wracked with guilt for giving in to the devil's temptings and I would have to pray to god for deliverance and forgivenenss.

The dichotomy of my life was torturous, confusing, and frustrating! This whole period of my life I kept feeling "God, why have you forsaken me? I am trying my very hardest to overcome these feelings (of what I now understand as dysphoria) and yet you will not relieve me of the temptings or even minimize them for me to allow me to rest!" I wondered if God was abandoning me or if he was testing me to the limits of my strength.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Let's Make the Loss of Others be an Inspiration for Forward Movement in Society

I know it's been a loooong time since I've written... and I've actually got an unfinished post that one day I hope to continue... but my heart is heavy in the wake of the news of our lost sister and friend to many: Mike Penner (aka Christine Daniels).

I won't go into details on this loss other than to say it is an apparent suicide. Lori (and others) cover it in detail with amazing insight:

L.A. Times Sportswriter Mike Penner (Christine Daniels)

I don't follow sports, so I never knew Mike (or Christine) other than to remember having read the headlines announcing the transition. I remember feeling excited and amazed that another "famous" person had finally come out and how brave it was to be so public about it. I never followed the story further until today when I heard the tragic news.

The sorrow and sense of loss that I feel actually has very little to do, directly, with Mike / Christine though. I sit in amazement at the volume of traffic on the internet surrounding this one individual and can't help but feel even greater sorrow for the myriads of other individuals who have taken their own lives of which we only hear a tiny, fleeting mention, or even never hear of at all.

We all know of people who's lives were taken up short by their own hands because of the intolerance of society for us and and others who don't fit neetly into society's mold. Let us be moved, as we remember Mike / Christine and the unknown numbers of others, to seek out and do what we can to help educate others about the importance of society accepting and embracing the diversity of human kind.

I firmly believe that one day the societal pressures that currently lead so many of our gender "non-conforming" family and friends to take their lives will be eliminated. Let's take this recent tragedy as an inspiration to do our part to bring that day closer than it otherwise would come.

Rest now, Mike / Christine, and have hope that you're life and the lives of so many others will not be in vain and know that we will always remember you.


Sunday, January 4, 2009

Where do we come from? Why are we here? Where are we going after this life is over?

As a Mormon missionary (in the mid '80s), some of the leading questions we would use to get people interested in our message were: Where do we come from? Why are we here? Where are we going after this life is over? We knew we had the answers in the Mormon Gospel as we knew it and our purpose was to educate those poor souls who were "missing the boat" by not having the true answers to those questions. In the summer of 2000, after having finally left behind the fundamentalist Mormon theology that had been my life for decades, I found myself considering these same questions.

I want to clarify that the theology and belief system I had grown to understand, accept, believe , and live was not the same as the present day mainstream Mormon church. I believed in and lived the fundamental theology of the Mormon church as taught and lived by it's leaders in the early to mid 1800s. It was an extreme, radical, dooms-day theology. In contrast, the vast majority of present day Mormons do not have the same extreme beliefs and theology as the founders and originators of that church. The present day Mormon church is pretty much a social group of people who for the most part are good, kind, honest, upstanding, and beneficial members of society. They are for the most part unaware of the radical beginnings of their religion, and the leaders of the church today have white-washed it's history, locking away documents and records in an attempt to blend with modern society as just another "normal" religion.

So, in the summer of 2000, I came to the determination that if God were really the being described in the theology that I had put my whole being into, then I didn't want to be affiliated with him at all. I would rather suffer an eternity burning in hell than to support a belief system that held pretty much the whole human race in contempt, favoring only those special few who had the correct blood-line and lineage, and who "truly" received, embraced and lived his gospel as presented by direct revelation to his servant, The Prophet.

Having a wife and children, we physically moved out of that area and myopic existence into The Real World... a place I hadn't been in for pretty much my whole life. (I was brought into the mainstream Mormon theology when I was 5-years old, sometime around 1970, and had learned about and eventually embraced the fundamentalist beliefs in the mid to late '80s). Being out in the real world as a free and independent thinker was a paradigm shift for me. Step one was to take care of the immediate needs of me and my family.... get a job, any job, find an affordable place to live, and provide the food, clothing, and shelter that we needed to survive.

I had put religion and theology on a very distant back shelf. I held a what-if type of belief that there may be a supreme being, but hoped that he or she was a loving, accepting, kind being / entity / force that could see the good and struggles in everyone and welcome them for their goodness in life and struggles of mortality. I decided that I was willing to risk burning in hell for all eternity if I was wrong and offered myself "as much time as it takes" to get on my feet and get the needs of myself and my family all squared away, while just enjoying and living in a world full of wonder!

When 9-11 occurred, having come from a radical fundamentalist background myself, I recognized the drive that inspired suicide terrorists and realized that they were just as convinced and convicted in their theological beliefs as I had been, and that if there truly were a supreme being out there that cared about what we do in our lives and to each other, then it wasn't providing ANY check-and-balance in any kind of a discernible form for humanity to identify it's true will. I eventually came away from that event believing that there is no supreme being or entity out there that cares what we do on this planet one-way or another. I became, for want of a better term, a non-theist.

My life for the next few years was one of just getting by in the world with my family. We started off life relying on public welfare assistance to meet our needs, and with much work and determination eventually worked our way off the public dole and into a life of barely making it by from paycheck to paycheck.

During this timeframe, my self-identity was unclear to me. I lived, presented, acted as the male that I had grown up as. I still had the feeling that I should have been born a girl, and I felt envious of the girls and women I saw all around me, but none of this made any sense to me. So much of my time, energy, and effort went into just getting by that I didn't have any time to explore these feelings or better understand them.

I would still see, occasionally, a segment about a trans individual from things like Jerry Springer or something and feel like I just don't identify with those people. They were always shown in a very negative light, as crazy, psycho, unstable, violent, seflish, deceptive, etc. I didn't feel that way at all in myself. To my knowledge every story, clip, or segment I saw about a trans person showed them as being attracted to the same gender as they were born with and so I still thought that they were just homosexuals trying to validate their attraction within a hetero-normative society.

I knew that I wasn't homosexual; my attraction was 100% to women. I knew that I wasn't "psycho," unstable, violent, selfish, or deceptive. I just couldn't relate to any of the examples I saw in the media. I felt that I was unique and that I was doomed to live life stuck in the wrong body. There was nothing that could be done about it, so might as well learn to live with it and move on.

So eventually, starting from that point of my life, I came to my present beliefs and answers to those "burning" questions:

Where do we come from? We're just part of the animal life on this planet... we have no "eternal soul" and so our life is just the time we have here, nothing more.

Why are we here? We're here because we exist here. No greater purpose other than life iteslf.

Where are we going after this life is over? Once we die, that's it. Since there is no eternal soul, there is nothing more. All our works while in this life will have influenced the direction of the world and society in whatever small ways that it can, such as progeny and helping to make someone's day brighter or better that we may meet on the street, but from an "after life" or eternal perspective, once we die, then the curtain closes and there is nothing more.

To those of you who believe in an after-life or eternal life, this thought may be depressing, but to me it is full of wonder and enlightenment. Rather than trying to figure out the whims and 'rules' of an unknowable, unverifiable being... I know where I stand in life. If the human race and this world are to become a better place for all, it's not by the hand on an invisible god.... it's from the influence and hand of each and every individual living on the planet at any given time. The responsibility for the survival and quality of life for mankind isn't in god working in Mysterious Ways, it's in our hands to succeed or fail, and I can make decisions throughout my life that can help move life and society forward into a brighter future.

And the story continues! I hope to keep at this on a more timely and consistent basis, but alas, as a procrastinator, I can make no promises!


Monday, December 15, 2008

Can't we all just get along?

From age 5 in 1969 through age 36 in 2000 (when I left theology for good) I lived with an ever narrower belief that God held favorites in the people of the world. At first I believed that it was Mormons, then began to understand that there are theology believing Mormons and social Mormons (God obviously only accepting the theological ones and not the social ones,) then around 1994 began to believe that it was smaller and smaller subsets of Mormons, culminating in a belief that the only favored people of God were a small group of fundamentalist Mormons which I believed that I had been guided to by the revelation of God.

In 2000 after a series of failed revelations and progressively bizarre revelatory explanations for the failures, as well as a mounting realization of other's egocentric 'revelations' and increasingly unpalatable prejudice and bigotry, I, along with my wife and several other family members , held our breath and took the plunge back into reality. We ran away as fast as we could, never looking back, and brought with us as many loved ones as would see reason and seek escape.

Being out in the real world was such a breath of fresh air! And finally coming to an understanding and realization that the world was occupied by such a vast and diverse sea of humans was awe inspiring! Knowing how close-minded I had been, I looked at the ocean of humanity and couldn't help but wish with all my heart and conviction: Can't We All Just Get Along!?!?!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

God, I will do anything you ask; just tell me what you want me to do!

In 1994 my first marriage had lasted roughly 8-years before I felt that God required me to relocate. My wife was most comfortable where we were (we were living in her home town and she had a position of responsibility in the church) and was not willing to go with me. I had to obey God's call if I were to prove to Him that I would obey his every direction. We considered this irreconcilable diffferences and decided to "go our separate ways." Fortunately we never had children to complicate things and within a couple months' time we finalized the divorce and made a clean and perminant break. I have not seen nor heard from her since. (Occasionally I've tried to Goggle her, but as yet have not found her. Not with an intent to re-unite with her, but I am curious about how life has worked out for her and hoping that she has found happiness and fufilment.)

As a strict Mormon, I believed that I was in direct communication with God and that he was directing my path. I so desperatly wanted to please Him and obey his every word! I found myself with a group of people who believed that they were the Chosen of God. I met my current wife there and though we didn't have initial attraction for each-other, I felt directed by God to marry her, and she felt that she had no better options, so agreed to marry me. For all intents and purposes it was a marriage of convenience for both of us. About 16-months later our first child was born.

After another two years of eye-opening experiences and increasing enlightenment, plus the birth of a second child; we left that group and religion all together and moved away to real civilization with the intent to focus on life and family. At that time I had decided that I was done with religion for the time being, electing to focus on raising my kids to be open minded and accepting. As far as religion goes, I put that on a distant shelf, with basically an agnostic view of theology. When 9-11 happened, that was the final eye opener for me in sealing my agnostic, or non-thiest perspective.

Theologically, I was free of the beliefs in God, Satan, the Devil, or any other being that had any interest in me and / or my soul. I no-longer even believed in the existance of the soul. However, old habits die hard and belief systems that have been ingrained into the fabric that makes up a person typically do not change over night.

It's not natural, it's an evil lifestyle choice

Growing up, I don't remember it ever occuring to me that there might be other people with similar feelings of being born in the wrong gender body. I felt that this was my unique Trial of Faith that God was allowing the Devil to afflict me with. And I was going to persevere and be true to God! I felt like Job from the bible.

I knew of homosexuals, though I never (knowingly) met one, and I knew that I wasn't one because I was definitely attracted to girls. I remember thinking that gay people were just afflicted with a similar influence of the Devil to my own, and that if I could remain faithful to God's commandments by living as a male, then people who felt gay could likewise deny these evil feelings from the Devil as the Trials of Faith that they were and they could live as 'normal' heterosexuals. I completely believed that people who lived homosexual lifestyles (or gave in to the evil influence of the Devil) were making an evil lifestyle choice against the will of God and that they would be going to hell in the next life. I remember being grateful to God that I was not afflicted with that Evil desire in addition to the feeling of wanting to be a girl.

I don't remember learning about transgender people until sometime as an adult. I was married to my first wife and remember seeing some kind of Jerry Springer show or something with these "nut cases" who were men who thought they were women and tried to become women. It was all very violent and disgusting. At the time it never occured to me that people like that were feeling similar feelings of my own. From what I recall, they were attracted to men, and so I thought that they were gay men wanting to validate or express their "gayness" by dressing up as women.

I also remember hearing news stories of people who had married a woman only to discover, years later, that the woman they married was actually a man. I could never understand how that could even happen. The only answer I could come up with was that those couples must have never been sexually intimate, and the deceiver must have been an expert at disquise. Usually these stories hit the news because the husband had killed the spouse in a fit of rage when they found out. I remember feeling that rage would be an appropriate response and even thought that if I were in the same situation, I could identify with the reaction.

In the midst of media like this, on the home front, I still found myself struggling with my own personal Trial of Faith from the Devil. I found myself occasionally trying on some of my wife's girl clothes, such as panties, pantyhose, skirts and hair things. I wanted to feel pretty and girly, but felt so utterly guilty every time I did. Usually it was done privately without my wife's knowledge, yet occasionally we would be doing laundry together and I'd take one of her skirts and say: "I wonder if I could fit into one of your skirts" and try it on. I'd put it on and swish my hips back and forth and say something like "look, I could be the one who wears the skirts in our family!" Of course I would feel guilt at the thought and quickly dismiss it.

My homophobic and transphobic beliefs continued along with my guilt at wishing that I was a girl. Through the duration of this marriage I don't remember ever seeing any positive media about transgenderism and I was living a life of staunch Mormonality. I hoped and prayed to God that I could have the strength to overcome the Devil's evil influence in my life so that at the judgement day I would be found to be faithful enough to enter into Heaven.