Showing posts with label death and dying. Show all posts
Showing posts with label death and dying. Show all posts

Tuesday, July 16, 2024

There is Always a Transition

 

Archive
image
Jessie Hart

In an expansion of yesterday's post, today, I am beginning a post on the extra transitions we go through in life. Many are relatable to everyday life, some are not. Everyone goes through changes or transitions. For example when and if they ever become parents.

My biggest transition came when I crossed the gender frontier from viewing myself as a cross dresser I could possibly live without to a fulltime life as a transgender woman. My transition also came along when I was negotiating raising a daughter, building my career and attempting to outrun myself. Life became very busy as I struggled to find myself. I resorted to therapy to try to balance my mental health. Along the therapy path, I was diagnosed with a Bipolar depression disorder to add on to my gender dysphoria which was dominating my life. Through medication I take to this day, I am able to control my depression and my gender dysphoria became much better when I finally decided to fully leave my gender closet. 

As I lived on, maybe I should have taken up the motto, "Later is Greater" as I took my time exploring the possibilities of living a totally femininized life. My excuse is I wanted to make sure I had it all right before I risked it all and left my male self behind. Eventually, I learned from all the trips I was making out the door of our house, doing the best I could to blend into the world as a woman, transgender or not. Then, another transition was facing me head on. It was the great leap from being an experimenter to being a doer or practitioner of being feminine. I took years of watching and learning to understand what my second wife was telling me when she said I didn't know anything about being a woman. Not only was she right, she did did her best to hold me back from learning what she was talking about. There was no way she wanted to show me much about what truly being a woman was all about. Instead, she persisted in calling me the "Pretty, pretty princess."

Her failure to help me just pushed me farther and farther towards my next transition which was a huge one. The more I settled on a feminine look and style I liked, people I previously didn't know began to recognize me and I was forced to begin to build a whole new life as a trans woman. Primarily it meant I needed to communicate with the world with tools which were totally foreign to me. Trying my best to develop a softer feminine sounding tone was a real challenge along with adjusting to a society of women where passive aggressive behavior was the rule. There were too many times I suffered when I didn't perceive exactly where the attack on me was coming from. Instead of usual male frontal attack I was used to, I needed to start watching my back. Communication with the world was a huge part of my next gender transition. 

After I thought I had the communication and appearance transitions down, seemingly there was another challenge awaiting me at every turn. Who knew it could be so difficult to cross the gender divide? I was often frustrated when the smallest details would trip me up, not to mention the big ones such as the ill advised use of water balloons as breast forms. The balloons worked well enough until one exploded on me one night in a venue I often went to. Fortunately, I was on my way to the woman's rest room when it happened and it was empty. I was able to clean up,  quietly finish my drink and leave with no one noticing me, I was wearing a loose fitting top so no one saw or mentioned the one breasted wet woman on her way out of the venue. Needless to say, my next investment was silicone breast forms. 

As I near my seventy fifth birthday. transitions are harder to come by yet more meaningful These days, I mostly just present as old. Plus, my ultimate paranoia of having to go to assisted living and having my gender attacked looms large. As I always say, I need to do my best not to dwell on the future and live in the present. 

None of us control the final transition, no matter how much money or power we have. It is up to any higher power you believe in to make it happen..   

Saturday, June 29, 2024

Pride Month Out-Reach

 


As many of you may remember, I am a member of the Alzheimer's Greater Cincinnati diversity committee. 

Even though, due to my health reasons I could not make it to the main Pride celebration this year, I am happy to day, the association made it without me and hosted a table of information. 

As I always add, my passion to end this terrible disease stems from my Dad passing away after suffering terribly. 

If you are interested in volunteering your time, you can contact me, or your local Alzheimer's chapter.



 

Wednesday, June 26, 2024

Transgender Whirlwind

 

Early Archive 
Image. Jessie Hart

Looking back, there were certain decades of my life which seemed to shoot by faster than others.

When we hit the new century, my life seemed destined to speed up without me even knowing it. First, my Mom passed away, leaving my elderly Dad by himself and before he was diagnosed with dementia. Fortunately, my suddenly smaller family bonded together to take care of Dad. My brother and sister in law took care of all his meds and my wife and I fed him. The situation worked well until the very sad day when he needed to go into assisted living. If you are not familiar with Dementia, it is a very sad and ugly disease which towards the end robs the patient with all of their integrity, making them a child again or worse.

Then I used my inheritance to buy a restaurant which after a good start hit the skids when the town I was in was deeply affected by a severe economic downturn. My whole move was similar to pushing all my chips to the center of the table in a poker game and hoping I would win. Which I didn't. Regardless of all of that, life was dealing me death cards right and left. To begin with, I lost nearly all of my few close friends to cancer then in 2007 I lost my wife of twenty five years to a massive unexpected heart attack. I was in shock and ended up taking the only sure route I could to saving myself, falling back on my feminine self. In her, I took solace and knew I could make it through my dark times. 

The problem I had was, I needed to catch up with my fashion, makeup and everything else it would take me to present in the world as a transgender woman. The best part was I was all by myself and could basically do whatever I needed to achieve my goal. Which was seeing if I could indeed jump the binary gender frontier and see if the grass was greener for me. The more I explored the world, the more I discovered I could indeed carve out a new life, if I wanted to bad enough. 

During this time, which would have been around the year 2010, my life was moving towards being a whirlwind of transgender experiences. I equated it to sliding down a wet hill towards a steep cliff which I had no idea of steep and long it was. What I did not realize at the time, I was losing all of my male privileges and starting to panic. Still I persisted until I learned what female privilege meant to me. Finally I learned being a trans woman meant so much more to me than having doors opened by men. It meant freedom of expression for me. My inner female finally had her chance to live and was taking full advantage of her opportunities. Even still, it seemed every day, I was facing the differences in life I had only dreamed of. All the way to going to male dominated spaces and seeking service which was something I had to do to live the existence I wanted.

Even though life finally did begin to slow down and I became more and more comfortable with my life as a transgender woman, there were still surprises. Since I had survived the gender transition whirlwind, the surprises were easier to overcome. Plus, seeing as how I had survived all the dark years of death I went through in my life, I became more appreciative of the life I was still living. Especially since I was able to transition at the same time.

Monday, May 27, 2024

Memorial Day

 

Author in Civil War Cemetery
Cincinnati, Ohio.

It is the time once again for my annual Memorial Day post.

It always seems to me, the true meaning of the weekend gets lost on things such as cookouts, parades and fireworks. Every once in a while, I will receive a "Thanks for your service" on Memorial Day and because I am a Vietnam Era vet. I am always sure to thank the person but the weekend is not about the veterans who survived all the various wars this country has fought over the years. The real reason for Memorial Day is to stop and remember all those who served and paid the ultimate sacrifice with their lives.

Speaking of lives, I would be remiss if I didn't mention the transgender veterans who perhaps joined the military to "prove" their manhood and died while they were still in their closets.  So sad they never had the chance to express themselves. 

To all of you who lost a close family member in a war or have a veteran who is still suffering from combat trauma, you have all my respect and Memorial Day is for you.

At the least, as I said, take the time to remember that freedom is never free and it is a constant struggle to maintain it from enemies from outside and inside our country. I know also of the many transgender veterans I hear from here on the blog. (Georgette and others.) I know you all have the proper perspective on the day but still, thanks for being a survivor! One of the true meanings of Memorial Day.    

Monday, May 13, 2024

It's Complicated

Image from 
Alexander Grey
on UnSplash.


To begin with, I would like to mention a comment I received from "Pammie". In essence she challenged my daughter and son in law's idea of me earning a "Mother's Day" title. Pammie is the mother of four and I completely understand her position. I simply said, I did not seek out the title and I was not bragging. Being bestowed with what I consider the highest honor possible is amazing and I cherish it .Thanks for the comment which brings me to the subject of this post.

Anyway you cut it, being transgender is the ultimate in living a complicated life. It's no wonder many "civilians"  in the world don't understand what a trans person is when we often don't understand it ourselves. I know it took me years to come to a conclusion I was transgender and what it meant. Obviously when I did come to the conclusion I had been avoiding all my life, I needed to explain I was transgender to those closest to me. Destiny seemed to follow me once again (as it so often did) when I was completely accepted by some and totally rejected by others. More precisely, my daughter came out as a fierce ally and on the other hand, an embarrassing rejection from my only sibling, a younger brother. Essentially, he sold me out to appease his right-wing religious in-laws. I knew it was coming, so I moved on and haven't seen him in over a decade.

The problem is each gender's life is considered to be a given to the lucky majority who never question it. To the unlucky minority who for whatever reason we don't often know, we are stuck trying to determine which gender we are. Even to the point of accepting a relatively new term called "gender fluid." If the term had been around during my youth, it would have solved so many issues I went through. All the days I woke up wondering if I was a boy or a girl could be put behind me. 

Then it comes to the basic point of telling other humans of our plight, it becomes very complicated. How do you even attempt to explain your transgender needs to an elderly parent such as I did, or a family worth of offspring who have always viewed you a certain way. A way you carefully crafted all those years to hide your deepest darkest secret. You are not and never were the gender you appeared to be. I know life throws you many unexpected challenges and I am biased but I can't think of anything else which is so complicated to explain. 

Years ago, when my daughter was struggling with her oldest child coming out as transgender to her. One day she said to me how did I know I was trans and then answered her own question by saying I had always known. Which was true, I had always known something was different about me. I just didn't know how to express it. It seemed to be so unfair to me when I needed to address my complicated issues surrounding my gender which my friends did not have to face. 

Over the years and especially when I started blogging, I did expect push back on my transgender ideas but have received relatively few. One of the best comments I can recall when a person called me just another old guy on hormones. I received quite a  chuckle from that. I laughed because once again I had encountered another person who did not understand how complicated our lives are. Most don't understand it is a life time of effort to transition into another gender. For example no one understands in order not to back track on how I perceive myself as a transgender woman, I need to be on gender affirming hormones for life.

Of course I would be remiss if I didn't mention the end of life situations trans people face. I am fortunate to have several transgender allies in my life so I don't have to worry about having my gender questioned at death. One way or another, the entire death process represents the complicated life we face. 

Sunday, April 28, 2024

Opening Transgender Doors

Image from Nathan Wright 
on UnSplash


What is the old saying, "When one door closes, another one opens." I think the saying is especially appropriate for transgender women or trans men.

Along the way, I have documented several substantial times when I slammed doors during my past and opened new doors. 

Probably the first time I closed a door was when I was going out with a certain set of party friends who ranged from cross dressers to transsexuals who were planning their genital realignment surgeries. I wasn't very interested so much in the cross dressers but on the other hand, I was very interested in the women who were going "all the way." I wondered if I could ever slam the door on the male life I had fought to live and open a new door into a feminine world. 

Luckily I was able to see different sides of the gender coin so to speak. One friend in particular was a firefighter in Columbus, Ohio who was gorgeous and near retirement. So she had the financial risk of a gender transition covered as did the other main transsexual woman I knew at the time. She also was gorgeous and had a very secure job as an electrical engineer. She was so good at living a woman's life, she regularly went on snow skiing trips, spending whole weeks as her authentic self. So, as you can tell, I had lofty role models to try to live up to. I knew they would be difficult to match up to as far as appearance and income plus neither one had a spouse to deal with. I loved my spouse very much and wasn't sure I was able to close the door on my relationship with her. 

Even still, I continued to observe and learn as well as set out to open my own transgender doors. It just took me longer than others to find a path of my own. I know all too many of our gender journey's are similar yet so far apart. It is difficult to leave the first door in our closet and find the other doors in the darkness. Once I was able to find the light and it wasn't the train at the end of the tunnel, I was able to progress quite nicely but not without trepidations. Of course I still had to deal with the usual problems transgender women and men have to deal with when they transition and close the big door. Sometimes closing the door is the easy part compared to opening the doors to different living situations with family, friends and finances. 

I think too many potential transgender folk believe the transition itself will cause the life problems to go away and they haven't thought enough about the all the situations they would have to face now when spouses and/or families want to leave them behind. Not to mention the prospect of losing long term employment and friends. All of the process led to opening very heavy doors and not having much of an idea what the future held. 

I was fortunate when I finally had the courage to open my final transgender doors and face the world. As I did, I could look back at all the times I was petrified to try a new life as a transgender woman. Every time I was so scared it seemed I made it OK which felt so natural and gave me confidence to move forward and look for new challenges. I don't think I ever forgot the two early gender role models I had in Columbus, Ohio so many years before but similar to my male life, I was able to carve out my new life as a fulltime transgender woman so different from theirs.

Even still, I have my doors to open as I face a challenging future with end of life issues. I am still paranoid concerning facing the problems associated with nursing care or assisted living. It will be quite the journey as I face the final door we all have to open and see what is on the other side.

Friday, September 29, 2023

Transgender Qualified

Image from Andrea Buccelli 
on UnSplash...

 How does one finally get to the point where they can move around in society as their authentic selves. Obviously it takes a lot of work before you can graduate.

In addition to becoming proficient in the feminine arts such as makeup and wardrobe, we trans women or men have to play gender catch up because we did not have the chance to experience growing up as a girl or a boy. There was no one to interact with on life issues such as how we look or how we deal with the opposite sex. Not to mention how our parents treated us. I am sure my Mom would have put so much more pressure on me if she had a generic daughter rather than a transgender child she never had the chance to accept. 

I only tried to come out to Mom once when I was in my early twenties and out of the Army and was roundly rejected. So I never tried again. To be fair, her generational bias was strong and information on gender issues was difficult to come by. Mom was firmly entrenched as a "greatest generation" person with an upbringing during the great depression and WWII. I am fond of saying they were long on providing and short on emotional support. Very certainly, dealing with gender issues was an emotional subject and I never received any.

As far as being qualified to feel as if I was transgender, I needed to transition again in my life. As I always say I considered myself a very serious cross dresser or transvestite but became very intrigued about the idea of being trans when the word began to be used. I started to seriously begin to watch the people around me who identified as transsexual to see if I fit in and more importantly follow the same path. During my search I was very shallow in my approach. The individuals I was beginning to interact with were very attractive and I was intensely insecure about my feminine appearance. In those days, I only thought appearance qualified me to be transgender or however I identified. Little did I know, there was so much more.

It turned out my destiny did not lead me to any extreme gender realignment surgeries. I finally became secure in the knowledge gender was between the ears and sex was between the legs. Plus with the help of an entirely new set of cis-women friends, I was able to come out of my gender shell and flourish as my new transgender self.

I think any "qualification" to be trans is a totally mental process which involves complete confidence in yourself. The process can take many years or then again, less time, depending upon the individual. I am always very pleased to meet a younger LGBT or transgender person who has set out to make a life for themselves. They won't have to wait through a lifetime of struggle to live as their authentic selves. Plus the younger ones seem to be more politically active which is something we all desperately need. 

Sadly, as I always bring up, the fight to maintain our authentic gender selves continues right up to our death. Recently I had a reader mention they needed to put in their will how they wanted to be referred to at death. Hopefully, it will be enough to stop the gender bigots in the family from taking away hard fought gender rights when it matters most. 

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

A House of Cards

Image from Angshu Parkait
on UnSplash ...


For most human beings living a life with no severe downs is very rare. Most live a life with some sort of ups and downs.

In many ways, I was fortunate enough to live long enough to have seen many severe ups and downs during my life. I went through possibly a thirty year period when I could say I was leading a good positive life. Even when it came to my gender issues, I was living on the transgender edge but still managed to walk the tightrope and keep my all important marriage afloat. Looking back on the process, all I was doing was building a house of gender cards. 

My cards I was playing included all the times I went behind my wife's back to explore living as a woman. I was living large each time I presented well and was able to get by when I went out. I became the person in the family who did a portion of the grocery shopping, all the way to becoming a veteran shopper in certain venues. Through it all, no matter how excited or secure I felt about being a successful serious  cross dresser or transvestite, I was just playing more cards I didn't really have. At times, I even gambled and played them very recklessly.

I did crazy things such as flashing semi trucks on the interstate when I adjusted my mini skirt up my leg to it's limit just so I could validate myself as a woman. It took me quite an amount of time before I could outgrow this portion of my life and become a more or less secure novice transgender woman. In the meantime, my house of cards grew and became less stable.  Little did I know, I was headed like a runaway train down a track which would end in failure.

What began to set off my failure was the arrival of death in my life. Since my parents had passed on before as well as several other close family members, I thought I had some sort of handle on how to deal with the finality of death and dying. I had no idea of what I was going to face when my house of cards came crashing down. The crash began when I had several close friends pass away. Adding to the impact was the fact I didn't have many to begin with. Plus, it was during this time, my second wife passed away quite suddenly leaving me no time for grieving and/or closure. As my world tumbled, I was a hot mess and wondered what else I had to lose. 

It turned out, I didn't have to wait long to find out. In the middle of a crippling economic recession in the old Ohio rust belt town I lived in, I lost my restaurant I owned and fell behind on my house payments. Perhaps the worst part of it all was the fact I somehow deserved all my problems. Out of all the friends and loved ones I had, why was I the only one left standing.  Why?

Once I met my wife Liz over twelve years ago, she began to help me rebuild another, much more secure, house of cards. Hopefully one which is built to take on the ups and downs of life. At the least, with my gender journey mostly behind me, I won't have that portion of my life to worry about. I can now commit more deeply to enjoying my life as well as the life of loved ones around me so my current house of cards can continue to be stable. Until the end.  

Tuesday, September 12, 2023

The Trans Process

Image from the 
Jessie Hart
Archives


Even though I write often concerning wanting to be a girl over the hated boy I had no choice over, the process just wasn't that clear cut.

I mean I didn't wake up one morning thinking Hey! I want to be a girl instead of the boy I was made to be. It was a process. The whole deal was beginning a sixty year (plus) gender journey. The path began innocently I thought,  with explorations through my mom's clothes and makeup to see what I could fit into and how I could look. At many points on the path I needed to process which stop signs I would obey and which forks in the path I should follow. It is important to note, not all paths were successful and I needed to backtrack many times. In fact, some of the stop signs I ran resulted in dismal failures and I needed to gather myself, get back to my cross dressing drawing board and get back in the game.

Often I wonder why I tried so hard to trust the process and try even harder on key issues I was facing such as my presentation. The answer is actually fairly simple. When I pursued and trusted the transgender process at every turn, the more natural I felt. I somehow knew deep down I was on the right path even though I had made some mistakes when I followed it. 

One of the important points to note is, no one sees the trans process, they just see the end result. You will get no passion points from most people who were not present when you were struggling as a novice cross dresser with your appearance or how you walk or talk. They weren't there to see the tears you shed when you failed or to be much of a peer influencer when you failed in your mind. Fortunately, the world has changed slightly in our favor with plenty of makeup tutorials and even entire chains of makeup stores to help us all survive in the world. But even still, all they see is you. No matter if the final product is the final product at all.

The disconcerting fact concerning the trans process is, it never seems to give up. Even in the final stages of our lives we face severe challenges to simply living as our authentic selves. Examples include being forced into a non forgiving assisted care living facility. As we know, it only takes one uncaring care giver to make a life miserable for an LGBT person. This extends all the way until death when gender bigoted family members refuse to honor our final gender wishes.

I suppose the most positive way to look at a lifetime of following the trans process is...at least it was never boring. All the times I was excited, yet petrified to follow my path will go down as some of the best and worst times of my life. 

Even though I have often questioned why I was somehow chosen to live as a transgender woman. Deep down I knew I had no choice.

Finding your Happy Place

From the Jessie Hart Archives   As a transgender woman or trans man, it is often very difficult to find your happy place. A happy place can ...