transgender

Myself as my hero: A transman in the making

On May 7th, 2012, I began my physical transition. My social transition began many years earlier, but this step to change my physical form forever was a defining moment for me.

I began my gender transition in my mid-30s, after a lifetime lived as a whole other person.

It took a lot of courage and as I reflect on my three-year "manniversary", I realized my biggest inspiration is MYSELF.

Five Gifts I’ve Received From My Transition

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  It’s a nice coincidence that Transgender Awareness Month is ending just as we celebrate Thanksgiving. It's true that as part of my gender transition process, I celebrated the holiday this year neither with my family nor as part of the relationship I had shared for the past five years. While there were many painful feelings present, it wasn’t all that was there. My spiritual practice helps me put all things in perspective and, upon further reflection, this experience helped me to realize several gifts I’ve received from my transformation.

Finding and feeling gratitude and joy for the gifts we receive from experiences of adversity help us balance the pain of loss, sadness and grief. 

Some might call this process of introspection and meaning-making to be selfish navel-gazing. I call it my path to enlightenment which basically means I get to feel awesome more often and shitty less often. Whatever can help me do that in a way that works and lasts, I’m all for it. No doubt, if you’re reading this, you’re drawn to the same desire. You’re going through something that has tested you in some way, or have already done so, and want to know what to do with those thoughts and feelings so you can get to the part where you feel some relief.

So, insofar as it’s helpful and enlightening to you, as this month of seeing and understanding the transgender experience more closely comes to a close, here are five gifts I’ve received from my experience so far.

1. Developing a new capacity for compassion. It’s said that those who find and really understand Buddhism (and other religions or spiritual paths) are those who have experienced the greatest suffering. I absolutely fall into that category, from countless experiences before and since my gender transition, and my own awareness of my life experiences helps me to deeply understand and relate to the suffering, struggle and joy of all people better than I ever did before. Before my gender transition, I danced around this experience by picking and choosing who deserved my patience and compassion. Since choosing to transition, I see much more clearly the connectedness, the relativity and patterns of the human experience. Making space for my process and practicing tremendous acceptance and compassion for myself, where others haven’t been able to, helps me make space for others in ways I couldn’t before.

2. Going undercover every day. So, I will admit that it’s pretty damn cool to live two lives in one lifetime. I spent 34 years as one person and now get to move through the world for the rest of my life like I’m wearing a costume or going undercover every day.  Truthfully, I still feel like the same person because I am the same person. The only thing that’s different is how people interact with me based on who or what they think they see or know. More often than not, I find it quite comical and extremely enlightening. It’s humbling to see what I thought I knew about the world. Since processing through much of the pain and anger associated with such profound disorientation and transformation, I actually laugh to myself on a daily basis when women treat me like I don’t have a brain or when men accept me as “one of the boys”. Can you imagine waking up and experiencing the world as a completely different person midway through your life? It is equal parts fun, weird and profoundly confusing. It’s fascinating stuff and I feel like the Terminator, scanning for and detecting data in each human interaction.

3. A whole new relationship to my body.  Like many people, for most of my life, I was at war with my body. Department store dressing rooms were torture chambers and getting dressed every day was an agonizing chore. I cannot explain exactly why just yet, but since my transition it feels like the war is over. There are many daily battles but nothing near what I experienced before making this decision. I think because I had to think so intimately about it, like when I chose to quit being a teacher, and then become a vegetarian, then a lesbian, and then just a person, I reached a real peace and serenity with my choice. I think learning that only I could choose to flip the switch, and making the choice to do it, helped me come to value and appreciate my body more, maybe for the first time in my life. It’s like we’re in this thing together, now. Maybe the hormones help. Maybe they actually turned off some receptor somewhere deep in my brain. Maybe it’s for reasons I haven’t yet determined or will ever understand. Not a day goes by where I don’t reflect on my decision but I never regret it. It was mine, and only mine, to make. The days I spent frustrated and confused in my previous form are over and are now replaced with new and different feelings. The new ones are also difficult but easier, now, somehow.

4. A new voice. I never appreciated my old singing voice until I lost it. The first few months of my voice change were extremely difficult as note after note disappeared. When I finally realized I couldn’t sing along to Brandi Carlile or Patty Griffin, two of my most favorite artists, it was a very difficult few weeks. Now, two years later, my voice almost perfectly matches those of James Taylor and Michael Buble. Don’t tell anyone I sing along to Michael Buble and no one gets hurt, ok? As I grieved the loss of one range and experience, I welcomed a new way of expressing myself as a singer, even if I only do it to make myself smile. I’m also learning a new way to express myself in many ways, how to use my life experience and my “voice” in my writing and speaking in ways that I never have before. Sometimes I catch myself waiting for what feels like persistent laryngitis to wear off and have to remind myself that it’s definitely here to stay. Here to stay in a good and fun new way.

5. A new understanding of love. Transition of all kinds challenges relationships of all kinds. My process has tested my own love for myself and the love others have for me and themselves. We often speak and write of love as a definite like if we define and measure it and put it in a box or summarize it in a well-worded quote, we’ll know where to find it when we forget or need it. Through my interactions with family members, friends, colleagues and strangers the past few years, I’ve come to a new understanding about love. I think love is both a feeling we experience and it happens in real time, each day, as an expression in our words and actions in relation and response to the needs of others. My transition has taught me to see and accept the many different ways humans manifest this. I understand that love, like happiness, begins as an inside job and is a daily practice with ourselves and others. It’s the process of thousands and thousands of choices we are free to make from one moment to the next.

 

I’ve been living openly as a transgender person for two years and six months. I’m so new to this and will undoubtedly have new and interesting insights as the years go by but these are the greatest gifts I’ve received from the process so far.

 

In your own transition process, I hope you find these words helpful in some way.

If you would like my support, drop me a line at dillandigi [at] gmail.com

Just Add Hormones: Guest Interview with Author, Matt Kailey

Happy Summer, folks!

And welcome back to my Super Summer Reading Series.

Last week, I featured Amy Wright Glenn, author of Birth, Breath & Death. You can read that post here.

 

This week, I am thrilled to share some Q& A I shared with author, Matt Kailey. This guy is a huge inspiration to me, his book: Just Add Hormones was one of a few I read several years ago that definitely influenced my own transition process. Back when I read his book, I was eager to learn more to support trans* people. Little did I know, I was reading to learn more to support myself.

 

Meet Matt.

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Matt Kailey is a transsexual man and an award-winning author, blogger, teacher, and community leader, as well as a nationally recognized speaker and trainer on transgender issues.

He is the author of Just Add Hormones: An Insider’s Guide to the Transsexual Experience (Beacon Press), a Lambda Literary Award finalist andRocky Mountain News local bestseller, and Teeny Weenies and Other Short Subjects, a collection of humorous and heartfelt essays about his life before and after transition. In addition, his work has appeared in numerous publications, from anthologies to professional journals.

 

Matt, you know I think you're super rad. Thanks for taking time to share more about your great books.

DD) Why did you want to write your book(s)?

MK: I wanted to write Just Add Hormones to share my experiences with transition and being trans (as well as my opinions) with other trans people and non-trans people in the hope of better understanding. I wrote Teeny Weenies because people who read Just Add Hormones said they wanted to know more about my childhood and my personal life.

DD) How did you move from having an idea to actually writing your book(s)?

MK: With Just Add Hormones, I was writing a column for the Gender Identity Center of Colorado newsletter, and it became very popular, so I took those columns and rewrote them and added to them and added some additional stuff and it became a book. I am a writer by nature, so I have always written. I just have a lot to say.

DD) Share three obstacles you met and overcame while writing.

MK: Three obstacles: inertia (an object at rest tends to stay at rest); a tendency to rewrite and rewrite; and ongoing battles with "affect" versus "effect."

DD) Writing teaches us a lot. Tell me two new things you learned about yourself during the process.

MK: Two new things I learned about myself: One, while I was writing, I learned that I didn't have a writing voice when I was living as female, and that my writing voice appeared out of nowhere when I transitioned. And two, after I wrote, I learned that my feelings get hurt easily (because people always have complaints and criticisms, as they should).

DD) Why are your books good for folks to grab this summer?

MK: I think both my books are good summer reading – Just Add Hormones because it is actually quite light reading. It is non-clinical, and a lot of people still e-mail me to tell me that they had or are having a similar experience and thought they were alone until they read it. And Teeny Weenies because I think it's funny and entertaining.

DD) Here's the part where you get to share anything you want my readers to know. 

MK: I would like to say that both my books have been finalists for a Lambda Literary Award. Neither won, but I'm still honored and proud that they were chosen. Also, there are many good books out there, so read a variety, and learn from and get support from the ones that resonate with you.

 

When I was scared to take the leap to transition, Matt replied to my questions on facebook within mere minutes. This guy is the real deal. Friendly, smart, genuine and wicked funny.

To buy any of Matt's books (he actually has several, but JAH and TW are his main "trans" books), go to his amazon author page at http://www.amazon.com/Matt-Kailey/e/B001JS16J6