Monday, July 1, 2024

A Transgender Marathon

Archive Image

 I'm sure you have heard the saying it's a marathon, not a sprint. This is especially true for transgender women and trans men.

Yesterday, I read a social media post from a first time transgender woman going out in public for the first time. In the post, she was bemoaning the fact after applying her makeup and seeing pictures, she did not look as good as she thought she did. My heart went out to her and I mentioned I went down the same path. Learning the art of makeup is just the first part of a transgender marathon into understanding yourself. 

Others who read the post chimed in with similar thoughts and even expanded it into impostor syndrome as a future possible reaction the person might have to face. 

Looking back, I could remember vividly how badly I felt when I first started my visits out of the house and into the public's eye. Back then, pictures were difficult to come by and were mainly only accessible by the old "photo kiosks" and drug stores. Only one time get I get brave enough to take a roll of film to one of the kiosks to see how I looked on film. I was shocked, and not in a good way, I obviously looked like a cross dresser and a bad one at that. The worst part was, the person who developed and gave me my pictures knew me and even worse yet, his Dad worked with my Dad. My marathon was almost over before it started. If I liked it or not. 

As it turned out, I moved back into the mirror and did my best to remove the negative self image I still had from the ill advised pictures. It actually took me years to try to attempt more pictures as my marathon moved on. As with anything else, the more you work on something, the better you become. Also technology was on my side with better cameras, which offered more than the very expensive Polaroids giving instant pictorial feedback. I was fascinated with my first cell phone which took pictures and better yet I had my first computer that I used to upload cross dressed pictures of myself. By doing so, I attracted attention, flattering to begin with in chatrooms until my wife caught on. She learned the computer skills faster than I did, so I needed to try to catch up as fast as possible. 

My marathon marched on, I gained more and more confidence until I reached increasing problems with my gender dysphoria. It seemed, no matter how much effort I put into my feminine appearance and deportment, the more I felt like a guy in a dress. To survive, I finally had to come to a basic conclusion. I was not as good looking as a woman I thought I was, or as bad. There was always the middle point I needed to shoot for. Finally, I knew who I was and I had the confidence to move on from new problems such as impostor syndrome. 

Again, I needed to come to a middle point where I could survive as a person. While I could never reclaim a girl's childhood experiences, or the problems associated with having periods or pregnancies, I had to go through my own set of experiences which presented their own problems. For example, I needed to try to escape my own gender demons which everyone in life seems to have, male or female, trans or not. I finally had to end the part of my marathon I agonized over for so long and claim my own brand of womanhood. Somehow I always found a way to survive and found a path. I was able to chase it and find success...in my own way. Which turned out was all I could do.

Going all the way back to the person who was just starting their public journey as a transgender person, try to make your marathon as easy as you can, Roll with the punches and move along as quickly as you can but always remembering the entire process is a marathon, not a sprint and sometimes, you are your own worst enemy. 

Sunday, June 30, 2024

Good Together

 

Image from Columbus, Ohio
from the Archives.

As I grew into expressing my authentic self, I felt the pressure of attempting to placate what was left of my male self while I was increasingly living as a transgender woman. 

Increasingly, I felt as if I was living with a stranger when I tried to express my male self. He was fading quickly into my past, much quicker than I thought possible. Who was this man who controlled my life for so long? It took me so long to have the courage to figure it out. As I always point out, the answer was an easy one. I never was a man cross dressing as a woman, I was a woman cross dressing as a man. Once I figured it out, my life became so much easier. 

Sadly, my male and female sides never were good together. My second wife was fond of teaming up with my male self against my femininized insecure self. When she needed help the most, it was extremely difficult to find. Fortunately, I was stubborn enough to mentally tell them to go to hell. Mainly, because I felt so natural when I was following my transgender instincts. 

Instincts led me to improving my natural presentation as a woman including fashion and make-up arts. Maybe as I improved, my wife and male self became more and more scared. Somehow they saw me glimpse my reality and they did not like the future they saw. Specifically, the very few nights, my wife actually went out to eat with my femininized self, she made it painfully obvious she did not like me. More than anything else, her attitude hurt my feelings since I had attempted to dress down to meet her standards of wearing jeans, boots and sweaters. My next step down for me was to wear no makeup at all which would have defeated the purpose of going at all. Essentially, I gave up on any idea of us co-existing as women of any type. We were never good together. 

All I really wanted was an even break, or so I thought. The more I ended up exploring the world as a novice transgender woman, the more I wanted to do. Eventually, I could take it no longer and took the only way out I had. I went the gender affirming hormone route and decided to pursue a life as a trans woman and the rest of the story is relatively easy. The more life I lived, the more I felt more relaxed and good together with myself. 

Life was good again as I had come full circle from the dark days of death and gender dysphoria. 

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.



 

Trans Night at a Drag Show

 

The "Rubi Girls", Dayton, Ohio

After I came out of my closet to reveal my authentic feminine self to my daughter, she took me at face value and kicked me firmly out of what was left of my old male life. 

For my birthday, my kid took me to her upscale beauty salon for a color and cut then pulled the biggest surprise of all, an invitation to join her woman friends to a night out at a drag show. This was no usual drag show, this was an annual show put on by a drag troupe called the "Rubi Girls" in Dayton, Ohio. The group is so successful in the area, they have raised literally millions of dollars for AIDS research

For the evening, my daughter had invited approximately five or six of her Mom friends to go along to the show so essentially going with them was my official first girl's night out. Needless to say I was petrified of going but accepted my invitation. As I was going, I was determined to do my best to stay in the background and only interact when I was spoken to. My daughter warned me ahead of time who the potential problem people were so I could be forewarned who not to interact with. On the other hand, there were a couple other women who previously knew me as my male self and they turned out to be very approachable

The show itself was a riot and the drag queens lived up to their billing as being the best in the area. Even better was the fact one of the stars was my oldest grandson's fourth grade teacher. When we arrived and found our seats, for some reason, my daughter left me on my own and I finally needed to reach out and interact with another woman or two we went with. It could have been the two drinks I had to relax me or not but I didn't have any problems with either woman. I even warned them the show would certainly be "X" rated. The venue was packed and everyone seemed to have a great time and most importantly, I survived going out with a group of my daughters women friends. In addition, I learned being with women was everything I hoped it would be and since I was a novice, it was even better no one wanted to question me concerning my gender or relationship to my off spring. 

After the show was over, we all piled into my daughter's van for the short trip home and I enjoyed listening to all the comments about the drag show. Better yet, I had the chance to stop at one of my favorite venues to wind down and think about what I had achieved. For one thing, being forced out of my closet totally was wonderful, once I recovered from all my fear. I was able to do what women do to loosen the conversation such as compliment each other on articles of clothing. In fact, I still remember complimenting Sandra on her boots. She was one of two other women who knew me as my kid's parent. I can't say the process was easy but very soon, it all became so natural I knew I never wanted to go back into my male closet.

Transgender night at a drag show may have been just me as the very few transgender women in the audience. It was difficult for me to judge but I think the venue held around one hundred fifty people and naturally I did not go around asking if anyone else was trans. It was no big deal for me anyhow since normally I was alone in the venues I went in unless my transgender friend Racquel was there with me. Plus, all of this happened way before I met and was accepted by my own small group of lesbian friends. 

I look at it all now as a big learning process which helped me to come out to my grandkids. When my eldest grandson learned I was crossing the gender border to play in the girls sandbox, he equated me with being the same as his teacher. Then his mother had to go back and explain the difference in gay and transgender to a fourth grader. Which she did. 

As far as I am concerned being forcibly kicked out of my closet and made to walk and talk my transgender self was one of the best things which could have happened to me. Being with other women and surviving or even thriving just reinforced my thoughts I was doing the right things and was on the right path. From there I researched gender affirming hormones and never looked back.

Friday, June 28, 2024

Young and Dumb

 

Banquet image with Liz on left. 

I often wonder how wise I was when I decided to follow my gender path to becoming a full time transgender woman. In many ways, I am referring to the good old, if I knew then what I know now, would have I done it.

The short answer is most certainly I would have tried my best to follow the same path because I had no choice. Either I transitioned or I died. I made it so simple even the most extreme transphobic person could understand.  

Transgender or not, we all go periods in our life when we are young and dumb. Fortunately, most of us live through this process and learn from our mistakes. This is especially true for transgender woman or trans men as they go through an assimilation process leading to living as their authentic selves . In many blog posts, I document more than a few of my fashion and makeup  mistakes when I first started my journey out of my dark gender closet. It wasn't until years of experimenting with my makeup did I seek out professional help which happened at a cross dresser - transgender mixer I happened to go to. I put my ego aside and volunteered for a professional to redo my makeup. He did a tremendous job and even explained what he was doing so I understood as he went along. I was very impressed with the results and basked in the praise I received from others I met. I went from a casual believer in the power of makeup to a total devotee.

Even when I was young and dumb, I tried to conduct myself with some sort of grace and decorum. I made sure I distanced myself from the other trans woman who was flashing others at the Andy Warhol show we went to in Columbus at The Ohio State University as well as making sure I did not abuse the rest room privileges other cross dressers did at a gay bar we went to. Leaving the toilet seat up and urinating all over the toilet in the women's room was certainly not cool and was nothing I wanted to be associated with. It wasn't too long after that when the sign went up on the door...real women only.

On the other hand, I still did quite a few dumb things which could have gotten me into trouble when I was in my formative cross dressing years. I drove way too much after I consumed vast amounts of beer was my main sin as well as how I dressed when I first came out into the world. My trashy fashion sense was just screaming look at me when the best policy was just to blend in with the world. My other problems I was lucky to escape happened when I ignored my new personal security needs as a transgender woman. No longer could I fall back on my departed male safety privilege and I needed to watch where I parked and what I wore around certain people. I was bailed out of one close call by my second wife and another time, I was able to buy my way out of trouble with two men I encountered on a dark urban sidewalk when I was leaving a gay bar.

I always have been a believer in that I have always had some sort of a guardian angel looking over me and she was certainly helping me out during my self destructive coming out days. I am sure, many times she was shaking her head and saying not again. How I was driving in those days alone many times could have resulted in a very serious injury. 

As with anything else, if you are transgender, life has given you extra layers of existence to work your way through. You need to deal with life's normal problems along with a whole new set of others which often are completely unexpected. Crossing the gender border can often be brutal at the hands of the public which chooses not to support us at all. Which we will find out again with yet another major Supreme Court decision coming up soon. Too many people didn't make it through the young and dumb period of their lives and are now old and dumb. 

Thursday, June 27, 2024

Instilling Transgender Confidence

Image from Wesley Tingey
on UnSplash.
 
More than likely, many of you have suffered through a lack of confidence in your transgender lives.

We suffer fashion mistakes as well as learning the art of make-up and hair before we can even attempt to enter out into the public eye. The biggest problem we faced was catching up to the other women around us who had the benefit of growing up as young girls who had the chance to experiment with their friends and Mom's on applying make-up and trying on clothes. We had very little chance to improve our confidence.

Gender dysphoria destroyed for years any hope I had of establishing any confidence about ever being able to present well as a transgender woman. It was a rare day which I didn't see a guy wearing make-up staring back at me from the mirror. For some reason, I put all my misgivings behind me and still went out to see what the world was going to be like as the person I always dreamed of being. 

Any way I look at it, I took a long, long time to work my way through rejection and begin the basics of building confidence as a novice trans woman. I began by taking small steps. I took into consideration where I was going until I found certain venues to be untenable. For example the male gay venues which made me feel uncomfortable. When I left them to find a better more accepting world I did in straight venues I was used to going to as a guy as well as a lesbian bar I frequented. As I became a regular in my new homes, I was able to increase my transgender confidence. I did not expect to be mistaken for a cis-woman but I did expect to be treated with respect anyway since I was treating everyone else with respect. 

As luck would have it, I started to build my small circle of friends who helped me build my confidence in a big way. The women I met were mostly all lesbians, so I was not under any huge pressure to be more exacting with my make-up and my fashion. It needed to be just good enough to blend in with the group. The times I was not with women were rare and I needed to step up my feminine game to look the best I could. I wanted to look nice without appearing as if I was trying too hard. I knew I was succeeding when my wife even asked me to help her with her make-up. 

The problem I still had was how I moved and communicated as a woman, trans or not. I did not factor in the huge jump I would have to take in order to keep building my confidence. What good did I have applying a wonderful make-up job,  if I walked and talked as a linebacker, I found I needed to be present in the moment. For example, when I needed to walk a fairly long distance to my seat in a venue. Instead of worrying about getting there without attracting attention, I needed to worry about how I was getting there. Then, in most cases, I just had to rely on one of my friendly servers to help me out with the rest of my visit. As I mentioned in a recent post on the Vocal Trans Girl, communication basics were such a huge part of my past transition, they needed their separate post. 

Once I became more comfortable talking to the public as a transgender woman, I was able to do more and more to increase my confidence. I felt as if I was doing nothing wrong and if the other person did not like me, it was on them to fix the problem. I was being the authentic me as my shyness went away. 

If you are just starting, or in the middle of your gender journey, confidence is often one of the more difficult stages you will go through. Once you think you have it, it can slip away with just an ill fated encounter with a transphobic person. The only words of advice I can offer is believe in yourself and eventually you will win the battle to live as you please. 

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.

Tuesday, June 25, 2024

A Vocal Trans Girl

 

Image from Brooke Cagle
on UnSplash

The other night when we went out to eat, I needed to order what I wanted food wise loud enough to be heard above the noise of a busy restaurant. 

That meant projecting the best I could, my feminine voice to match my appearance. So many times in my past as a transgender woman and or serious cross dresser, I thought I had done a great job with my makeup and fashion only to destroy it all when I opened my mouth to talk. I could see the surprise in the other person's eyes when they discovered something was not quite right with the picture I was presenting. 

For the longest time, I tried to avoid talking to people all together. It seemed to be a good idea until I realized when I refused to talk, I was just coming off as being mean or standoffish...if I was lucky. Or worse yet, I was coming off as a bitch. So to preclude it from happening was I needed to improve my communication skills with the public. Mostly other women, since men had a tendency to leave me alone. At the least, I had only one gender to deal with as I was testing the world as far as my communication skills were tested. Initially, to sooth the panic I felt when I dealt with other women, I attempted to mimic their voices, which worked to an extent until the conversation became too intense. When it did, I was on my own to see if I could be the total package as a transgender woman in the public's eye. 

All was good, or so I thought, until I decided to go farther and farther in my femininization. I started with attempting to look close to the same as far as the wig I wore and the fashion choices I was wearing. No more trashy style as I attempted to blend in and build the woman I wanted to become. The whole process at time became too intense for me as people around me wanted to know more and more about me. Basically, what was I doing in a woman's world? To answer them, I needed to learn to communicate as a whole new person. I needed to put my straight forward often blustery male communication behind me and be more careful on how I chose my language. 

In order to aid in my vocal trans girl process, I even attempted feminine vocal lessons from an expert the Veterans' Administration assigned me. Of course my "coach" and I worked on how I formed my words but also more importantly addressed what I was saying. I learned the words women used more often to communicate what they are trying to say. During the course of my coaching, I had weekly homework I needed to work on diligently so I could do well the next time I went in for my vocal coaching. My goal was to attain all the extra communication knowledge I could from the help and move back into the world and try it all out. It has been difficult for me to judge how effective the vocal program was but I felt every little bit helped in my quest to communicate as a vocal trans girl.

Plus, I would be remiss if I did not mention the biggest gender flip of all, the switch from male active aggression to female passive aggression. The change to me meant, I needed to be more careful in how I chose any words I perceived to be negative when used with another woman. Which also meant, I needed to be on the outlook for hidden meanings when I was addressed by other women. Especially being told I was attractive...for a man dressed as a woman. 

Overall, I think being a vocal trans girl has been the most difficult part of transitioning for me. Since I was always shy, slipping back into being more or less and introvert was easy but not satisfying. I enjoyed the challenge of putting together the final big piece of my gender puzzle which was communication. Once I did, life became much easier when I could stand up again for my gender self. 

All my efforts at the least helped me to show other women who for whatever reason did not view my presence in their world as a negative and they helped me to succeed more than they ever knew. 

Monday, June 24, 2024

Dealing With Trans Rejection

Image from Jakayla Toney
on UnSplash.



Similar to so many transgender women or trans men, I have dealt with my share of rejections. 

My first major rejection came when I tried to come out to a friend when I was young. Instead of accepting me in anyway, he seemed to be embarrassed, shook his head and walked away. With that, I was forced again into my lonely, confused gender closet. I learned the hard way my friends did not want anything to do with a cross dressed companion. 

Little did I know, I needed to become used to rejection in my life. Somehow I needed to grow a thicker skin. Then again, all of my rejections did not come from outside sources. Sometimes rejection came from within as my male self became quite the transphobe. He did not want to give up any of his white male privileges plus being made fun of when I first started to try to out myself into the real world. Ironically, my male self tried to team up with my second wife to reject any ideas of a transgender life for me. To be fair, my wife was always OK with me being a cross dresser but drew the line at any idea of me going any further towards being a trans woman and to be fair to me, she knew I cross dressed before we were married.

Skipping ahead again to the times I was rejected when I tried to go out and test the public waters as a novice gender divergent person, there were plenty of times when I was rejected. Sometimes, it was merely being stared at, other times people being rude and asking for pictures, all the way to be out and out laughed at. All of the negatives led to me coming home in tears and laying down on my bed and sobbing. For some reason, after my tears, my basic stubbornness kicked in and I began to look at ways I could improve my presentation. Slowly but surely, I did improve but the rejection scars remained behind to haunt me. Mainly, my confidence was affected leading to even more unwanted rejections. I was just too timid when I was a novice transgender woman. Many times, I gave myself away.

The worst time I ever had was when a woman followed me into the women's room in one of the regular venues I went to. As always, I chose a stall, completed my business and had started to wash my hands when I turned around and faced a red faced woman who immediately started to scream at me. When she called me a pervert, I said enough is enough. For some reason I don't remember now, I learned she was a hair dresser, so I asked her if she had a business card. She asked why and I said I wanted to pass it along to our local LGBTQ organization so they could publicize her bigotry in their monthly news letter. With that, she turned around and stormed out of the woman's' room  and we went back to our seats. My reaction to her slur must have worked because she refused to even look at me when we had the chance to closely pass each other in the venue. 

Even though I was semi successful (I think) in backing down the bigot, I am still scarred by the incident. Especially these days when politicians in my native Ohio are attempting to make the simple act of using the restroom of your choice would become a crime. So far, they have been unsuccessful because of issues of enforcement. 

Perhaps, rejection is just a part of the transgender pathway we all have to follow and the ones who are successful in our journey are just the people who deal with it the best. Then again do rejections just scar us to the point of never properly recovering. Much like all the times I was turned down when I asked a girl out ended up how I viewed the the entire world of women. I let a few skew my feelings of the many. which is sometimes what happens with transgender women or trans men. When we are painted with broad strokes like that, often it can lead to rejections. I wonder if my friend I came out to so many years ago still remembers the one he met. Did I make any sort of a good impression or did I ruin it for any trans women he may meet now. There is no way to know but sometimes I find it fascinating to think about. 

I am happy to say, I came out of my years of hiding and dealing with rejection relatively unscarred and equipped to live a positive life.  

Sink or Swim

Image from Trans Wellness Event.  Jessie Hart Archives.  Many times when I first entered the world as a new cross dresser or femininized mal...