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Monthly Archives: December 2012

Do Not Be Fooled – This Picture Is A Diversion!

god-in-schools

The picture you see over there to the left is a diversion, pure and simple. It offends me, but not how you might think. Let me tell you why; I don’t do many of these off topic posts, but I woke up still thinking about this and it needs to be said.

I understand the message this is attempting to convey. Pure and simply put, it asserts that the horrific tragedy that took place on Friday was a direct result of the disallowing of prayer in schools. I’m not going to bother addressing the long battle between constitutional law and establishment of religious primacy because it’s a distraction to the real issue here. If you take a moment to think, it seems fairly ludicrous that an omnipotent deity would go pawing through mountains of legal documentation to determine if it is allowable to intervene. I would think and hope any inclination toward miracles are not hampered by local statute, or worse, that withholding help from these poor children is some pissy way of protesting. If you believe that is how the almighty operates, the whole concept remains incomprehensible to me.

Let’s talk about why we are really seeing so many of these on Facebook and other places. They are a diversion to have you pondering the debate on prayer in schools instead of focusing on why there is any reason this lunatic had ready access to firepower required to brutally murder 20 babies and 6 of their caregivers. God in schools is an esoteric debate is one of legal philosophy with extremely difficult to prove consequences either way. The debate over gun control has very real world and tremendously evil results as we have just seen. As we all know, this was hardly the first time, even this year alone.

My stand on this is very clear. The philosophic right to bear arms is not worth the life of a single child. There is absolutely no sound reasoning as to why what amounts to a person’s hobby or illusion of self protection is conceivably of greater value to our society than the right of our children to learn and grow without the looming specter of the psychotic rage of one well armed man. Your love of guns is not worth the endangerment to one child. Frankly, your sense of self protection is not worth the endangerment of one child. If you are old enough to be reading this, your life is not worth as much either. You had your childhood; you made your choices and chose your path. Any child trumps your fear of crime or love of the hunt.

To those who would argue that a better armed population could have prevented such a thing, you are delusional. Against every ‘Dirty Harry’ fantasy you play out exists the stark reality that an individual so soulless as to consider killing will always fire first. You don’t think so, but it’s true. If you can fire a weapon and take a life in the split second it takes to make that decision first, you have no business being armed under any circumstance. I dare you to claim, much less prove, that civilians bearing arms have saved more children’s lives than taken.

Today parents return to empty homes just so recently filled with light and laughter. They face stockings hung by the chimney with care bearing names they will never again call to dinner. Their closets are filled with gifts that will never be opened; each one representing an unimaginable crushing loneliness and despair that will never, ever heal. The light in their lives is gone; their very hearts walking around in tiny bodies drinking in the world with the delight of every discovery, obliterated into blood and destruction. How this happening, even once, ever justify any freedom?

Since 9/11 we have chanted as a nation that “freedom ain’t free”. It’s not. The cost of this one is simply unendurable.

Updated Postion: Why Trans* Rights and The Civil Rights Movement Are Not the Same Thing

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The original post that was located here generated just a tiny bit of controversy. Now, I love controversy because it gives me the opportunity to test my convictions against dissenting opinions. In the end there can be only one of several conclusions. The first is that we find a middle ground and mutual understanding – by far my most preferable outcome. Yay! Positive sum gain! Next best is that I get to convince someone they are wrong. This hardly ever  happens, but pleasing nonetheless. Finally, the worst case scenario, I have to rethink my position because it just isn’t holding up under the scrutiny of devastating alternate logic or perspective. What we have here today ladies and gentlemen, is the latter. Ooo, I hates latters!

My original opinion was that we should stop constantly comparing the trans* civil rights struggle to that of the African-American struggle, alternatively known under the capital letter Civil Rights. My contention was that the Civil Rights movement represented the culmination of centuries of active discrimination, brutality and subhuman treatment. It was, therefore, sacrosanct and should not be diluted by constant comparisons seeking to capitalize on the emotional punch it brought to the argument. OK, none of this I think I’m wrong about by the way.

Where I finally agreed that I went astray, and oh, it took a lot of convincing, was that the trans* struggle was entirely different in nature and therefore perhaps of a different magnitude of wrong. This is where even my ex started comparing me to Uncle Tom. Even my dear twin Becky respectfully disagreed! What on earth was I failing to see here? All I wanted to do was gain my own dignity and rights without stepping on the toes of others. And there was the answer right in front of me. I was arguing as a trans apologist instead of a trans activist. In attempting to attract the flies with honey, I managed to spill it all over myself. Who wants to be covered in sticky little flies, anyway?

The challenge really becomes finding that sweet spot without getting stuck in it. Labeling myself Rosa Parks because someone gave me the hairy eyeball for trying on a blouse at Sears? Not a good place. Conversely, making a walk of shame over to the men’s changing rooms with three dresses in my arms is also just as heinous. The sweet spot lies very much in that place where we are full and equal members of society and gender demographic whether some find that displeasing or not.

I began this journey operating under the assumption that by providing patient education to anyone who didn’t fully understand, we could overcome all obstacles. This of course has proven to be not true. Some fully understand and are against us anyway for a variety of reasons, while others are determined not to understand however well we explain. I’m getting away from the point.

I still hold that the struggle for trans* rights is different than the Civil Rights movement, however, I would like to caveat that by stating clearly that the nature of both struggles remains the same. Fundamentally, all efforts to bring forth equality are inherently rooted in the same context that it is recognized that a portion of the population is considered to be less than. The inequality is recognized as being incongruent to the principal that all humans are equal in deserving the same rights and liberties as those around them.

While I do still feel that it is best practice to use as examples members of the trans* community to highlight the nature of particular injustices, I also feel that using other examples to provide context is not necessarily a bad thing. As I stated above, labeling someone “the Rosa Parks of the Trans* movement” for a minor or inconsequential incident is falsely inflating the issue. Using broad generalizations, however, such as highlighting ‘separate but “equal”’  laws when discussion something as unlikely as broad adaptation of transgender bathrooms is probably applicable and helps define the inherent inequity.

To wrap this up, I will simply state that Trans* Rights and the Civil Rights Movement are different struggles in regards to the populations affected by the inequality, but of equal urgency in correcting a situation in which individuals are placed at risk or denied equal rights, protections, and access commiserate with those enjoyed by the majority of the population. There is an endless stream of examples highlighting the critical need for this to be legally addressed and corrected for beyond the need to create a shift in public perception though education.

OK, I hope the subtle differences are understood, and I’ll leave my original post immediately below for context and comparison. I hate having to retract or alter my position, but I am willing to listen and adjust when convinced, so thank you to those of you who challenged what I thought was a strong argument and prevailed. J

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Original Post:

There has been no shortage of trans civil rights as a topic in the media, and especially the craptastically named ‘blogosphere’. Invariably comparisons are made to the big daddy of them all, the Civil Rights movement of the 60’s. I’ll come clean and say I’ve done it myself because it’s nice and handy as an analogy to use that most people can readily understand. It seemed harmless at the time, but more than one person called foul, so I had to go and actually think about it for a bit. Yeah, we should stop doing that.

All struggles for civil equality hold some points of similarity. A portion of the population is operating under a different set of rules and entitlements than those who seem to see themselves as more equal. Little ‘Animal Farm’ reference there for any of you who had high school reading assignments during the Cold War. Incredibly, those empowered to make rule and entitlements into enforceable points of law just happened to be those in the ‘more equal’ category. I know, right? One would think they would purposely add more roadblocks to better prove their superior status, but no. People with more rights appear to be either very pleased to keep the status quo, or don’t feel particularly motivated to make change a high priority.

With the technological progresses in the area of communication, disempowered populations seized on the means to promote inherent equality with those in power. To date great successes have been achieved by women, African-Americans (serving as a gateway to other minorities), and now homosexuals, though none of these groups has actually yet gained full equality. At best, great advances have been made, so it’s something to be happy about as a good start. None of the above, however, are real anxious to be pulled over in rural portion of any red state, so equality remains situational at best. Then there is us. The trans*. Technically we got our start at Stonewall but were not differentiated from the gays at the time, and they kind of ran with it thereafter. Now we have Joe Biden calling our struggle the civil rights issue of the day.

You can see where it would be natural to make comparisons, but aside from the end game of equality, the nature of the struggles are inherently different. Linking them beyond the most generic top level view does a disservice to everyone. The time, nature, and backdrop of the struggles are different enough to make point by point comparisons look exaggerated and contrived. The Civil Rights Movement had Rosa Parks. The Trans* or even LGB Rights Movement don’t have “a Rosa Parks of the…”. Rosa belongs to Civil Rights, as do all the seminal events of that struggle. We have our own people and events that characterize our efforts, mutually exclusive to other movements.

I think the temptation is there because Civil Rights captured the attention of the nation, had been brewing essentially for centuries, had a horribly violent history that included slavery, lynching, beatings, murders, humiliation, and overt and advertised segregation and discrimination. African-Americans were identifiable, ghettoized, and marked as less than human. This was a very compelling struggle in which a great and evil wrong was identified and overcome.

Our own struggle is much different. Until very recently, the vast majority of the population wasn’t even aware we existed, and when they did, we were considered to simply be a homosexual expression. The military didn’t even know enough to ask at enlistment before DADT. While violence, pain, and humiliation does characterize our existence (there is a Transgender Day of Remembrance for a reason), I worry much more about drunken frat boys than I do population striated lynch mobs or the police in general. Again, yes, on the latter I know about all the instances, but they do remain largely the exception. I have no expectation of President Obama sending the National Guard to ensure my entry into the local Curves.

Our struggle is one much more of information than overcoming bias. In coming out I came to realize how few people even know what trans* was, even among well educated people. The biases against us, for the most part, are more based on misunderstanding and misperception than generation upon generation viewing our population as sub-human former property. It’s simply not the same, and making the comparison to take advantage of the emotional punch it brings not only disrespects that which was not ours, but gives the appearance that we are employing gross exaggeration to further our own agenda. This can hurt us in the long run. I think it’s far better we keep to the facts of our own case, press forward in educating everyone we have the opportunity to, and letting the strength and truth of our own cause speak for itself.

Special thanks to Dianne Piggot over at:                                for starting this discussion with me.

A Word On That ‘Cross In The Closet’ Guy

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Two years ago an evangelical Christian embarked on a quest to live as a gay man for a full year to gain a better understanding of the existence. He had been raised to think that homosexuality was completely wrong, perverted, linked to pedophilia, and a ticket to hell sort of offense. What kicked off his journey was having a female friend come out to him as lesbian. His initial thought was to work on converting her back, because we all know how well that funny business works out. Instead, he took another look at himself and decided to see if his mind could be changed on the matter. As we all would have expected, it did. Just as expected, he took a lot of shit for it.

Timothy Kurek went into this whole hog, or as whole hog as someone actually straight is likely to. He used the total immersion method, told almost no one that he was well, just kind of faking it, and went so far as to come out to his deeply conservative parents, family, friends, and church. Um, holy shit. He got himself a beard fake boyfriend and everything, though stopped short of PDA and other intimate activities. After his year, he came out as straight (much to the relief of his parents), but a very changed man, and wrote a book about it, as people who do something really out of character for a year tend to do, called ‘Cross in the Closet’.

When I said he got a lot of shit for it, I’m not talking about the assumed crowd, his old evangelical buddies. He actually took a lot of beating from the LGBT community as well. “Um, seriously Michelle?” Yes, if you can believe that. A lot of people claimed to feel betrayed, that he was pulling the wool over their eyes, that he acted dishonestly, and was a great deceiver. Sounds kind of familiar, doesn’t it? It should come as no great surprise that I’m now rushing to his defense.

We have a guy, who did almost the unthinkable and managed to deeply question beliefs that had been ingrained and reinforced by a very persuasive community, and act upon them. I don’t believe his motive was to write a book, but I don’t really blame him for cashing in on the experience. I think he did something very remarkable and brave. He faced rejection and humiliation by putting himself in the same shoes as those his community scorned and preach against. He did it all to help a friend and challenge his own beliefs; something very rare and beautiful in any population and I think even moreso in the evangelical one. They aren’t afraid to declare you hell bound for any biblical based interpretation of an infraction. That took some serious guts.

For those who feel betrayed that he wasn’t really gay, all I can say is you are going to judge someone now for their sexuality? For trying their best to understand you and break their lifelong training to look down upon you? As a trans* (thanks Becky, now you have me doing it) I would be seriously psyched if someone had the gumption to walk a mile in my shoes. Ok, not so hard in mine because I mostly wear flats, but still. Coming out was hell, even though it went well, and transition has presented more emotional and logistical problems than I can even list out in one post. I have a whole blog about it, just in case you didn’t know. If I found out someone did this, I’d probably cry in gratitude that someone at least tried to do their very best to understand.

In conclusion, many thanks to Mr Kurek, who bravely walked where eagles and angels fear to tread. And look at that, even after a great year spent, he was totally unable to chose being gay for real! Who’d have thunk it?

Fight Club on Estrogen

Fight Club

I was still in the Air Force when the movie ‘Fight Club’ came out and I received it as soon as it came out on VHS due to my nagging little Columbia House problem. Unlike most of the unwatchable crap I received and was too lazy to return, this one actually got some use. My roommate and I ended up watching it about 6 times in the space of a month. I’m not sure why. Yes, it was a pretty good movie and all, but I’ve never been a multiple viewer kind of gal. At the time I convinced myself it was enjoyable bonding with Travis and turning the whole “I am Jack’s…” theme into our inside joke. “I am Jack’s rage that Travis peed on the seat!” Good times, good times.

I think the real appeal was the draw of a story where two people are actually one. I’ve always loved that kind of thing, or really anything in general where the nature of reality is really put to the test. I think we alll do, and ‘The Matrix’ suddenly made a lot more sense once Lana Wachowski made her existence known to the world. I think she is super awesome by the way and still need to write an adoring post about her. At the time, I found the end of the movie kind of sad. All these great bonding experiences he had were all just in his head and the whole notion of it seemed so desperately lonely.

Though I’m loathe to admit this, at the time I was watching I also liked it for the raw naked violence. There is nothing more visceral than bare-chested men slapping the berjeebers out of each other in a bare knuckle bloody contest. Even Meatloaf with his testicular cancer inspired breasts put on a good show of raw masculine power at its basest level. It was “realistic” and exciting and my heart rate increased pleasurably just seeing the disgusting mess of blood and mangled flesh. Gross, right?

A few weeks ago I decided to pull out ‘Fight Club’ and give it another view through changed eyes. Wow, what a completely different viewing experience! I found the violence repulsive and found it detracted from what still held up as a clever story. I found myself really sympathizing with Marla, the woman involved with Mr Multiple Personality. This was interesting because initially I hated the character and found her presence nothing more than a plot vehicle to clue in the audience to the big twist. Now I saw her as a wounded soul using all the strength she had to wall off her inner fragility and loneliness against a world that increasingly made less sense. I think the story told from her point of view would be very compelling, but is still discernible by filling in the pieces.

I viewed the big twist very differently as well. What I found sad at earlier views, that two people were really just manifestations of one, I now saw as an enlightening struggle with self. It was very identifiable and no longer about the elimination of what was arguably the better part of a person. Instead, it was a full recognizance of the disparate parts of an individual, and what they were willing to do about it to live as they found right. Ed Norton firing a gun through his mouth to make himself “whole” was more gruesome then I cared for, but spoke to his conviction.

I don’t, by the way, see myself as such to be honest. I don’t feel it was a battle between ‘Michael’ and ‘Michelle’ with Michelle walking away the clear victor. I’ve always been one person, simply expressing myself differently until I could come to terms with what was most comfortable. In other words, no part of me was killed off; I just became more me.

My final thought was on the author – Chuck Palahniuk – and his works. He is a very male author without question, but goes places that seem familiar. Not only with ‘Fight Club’ but ‘Invisible Monsters’ as well. In ‘Invisible Monsters’, one of the principal characters is a mostly passable fully transitioned woman. As it turns out, she is revealed as a homeless gay boy talked into full transition by a group of drag performers who were apparently successful enough to finance everything. Not something I cared for at all, and reeks of the old forced feminization fetish that frankly offends me a bit. I’m just not that jazzed by the idea that my life is so humiliating as to inspire paraphilia driven wish thinking. Ugh. I’d wonder about Mr. Palahniuk, but um no, the boys can keep him.

I’m Now the Party Planning Committee For Some Reason

Party Planning

It took less than 5 months into transition at work before it finally happened. After 11 years of being asked to do nothing of the sort, I have been put in charge of my boss’s going away to include party, gift, and memorabilia. The upside of this of course is that the company clearly sees me as female, and I have no complaints at all with that. The downside is that I absolutely suck at this.

Let me take a moment to justify that last statement with an anecdote from my troublesome past. In my last year in the Air Force, a group of us who were pretty tight took to having some final outings before we all went our separate ways. In May my best friend planned a camping excursion to a volleyball tournament. She pulled it off flawlessly. Everyone was given instructions on what to do and what to bring, she secured the perfect camping spot with proximity to electricity and the bathrooms, and we had all the food and beer we needed, which was a lot. Flawless. Apparently Tiff got tired pulling my weight and demanded I plan the next big thing, a trip down to the Outer Banks.

We worked all night (most of us were on the overnight shift) and planned to launch from my apartment at dawn. Tiff and I got into a tiff because I neglected to pick up any food, necessitating a hurried run to the store for anything that would fill the cooler. I did get directions, and we drove down in a fleet of cars and met at a rendezvous point down there. Flawless! Every single one of us made it there. My friend Bryan asked, standing under the big fish, “OK, so where do we go from here?” My answer was one of the least popular things I’ve ever said. “I don’t know, wherever everyone wants to, I guess.” People who have worked all night and drove all morning really and truly hate being told their sleeping accommodations were never even an afterthought. In my mind, I was tasked to get us down to OBX, and I did that. Mission accomplished. Yeah… things were just a teeny bit tense for a while until we dumb-lucked into a rent free beach spot to squat on.

Coming back to the present, I look back on my success rate since then and it’s not good. My M.O. is clearly procrastinate, put little or no thought into it, hope someone else is doing something in the background, and see what happens. The funny thing is, I don’t work like that at all. As soon as a paycheck is involved, I’m full of proactive, risk reducing, contingency planning, schedule assuring efficiency. Ask me to plan a holiday party though, and risk is high that I’ll be hitting an ATM and passing out dollars so everyone can make a selection from the vending machine. More than one trick-or-treater has walked away from my door with a can of Cream of Celery weighing down their bag. No one buys my typical potluck story that I “accidentally left my dish on the roof and drove away” after showing up with Doritos and a two liter of half flat diet Fanta.

When the email came in from my boss’s boss, to head this up, I was initially thrilled. He sees me as a leader within the group! A little later it dawned on me. He sees me as a woman within the group! Ugh. The pressure was on. I had to nail this, and for more than one reason. For starters, I didn’t want to fuck up the very first direct assignment given. A close second, my boss has been really cool and sweet about my transition and there is no way I was going to have this turn out to be a dud. Working for a great boss for 11 years builds up a whole load of gratitude. Finally, I need the girl cred. A disaster, or even a half baked showing is likely to have people thinking, “Typical. Leave it to a man make something special and this is what happens.” We all agree that we can’t have that.

In those reasons, I found my answer and motivation. I wanted to get this right because I care. It’s not about people being mad at me, or sucking up, but because this is the right and nice thing to do for someone to make them feel appreciated. Maybe I’ve always had this in me and was repressing it. Maybe the hormones finally knocked something loose in my skull. Either way, I think I got my girl cred. Don’t worry, I’ve got this and it’s going to be great.

Airman Michellelianna Reports as Ordered!

Airwoman

I got a great comment recently regarding what it was like to be transgender in the military. She was thinking of signing up and looking for a bit of advice, and also suggested I write on this topic more. Before anything else, thank you Michelle the Younger! Believe me, it’s not easy thinking up shit to talk about all the time and keeping with the theme of the blog. This is a good one, because I can probably milk it for several posts and still manage to sound fresh. I know you all like me fresh, but seriously, no douche jokes.

As some of you may well know, I joined the Air Force in 1997 as an outward means to vector into an electronics career and inward means to escape or nullify my trans-ness. Big win on the first, horrible failure on the latter, just in case you are waiting with bated breath. I’ll kick it off with basic training, because boy did that suck. We’ll go over the various ways in a second and please feel free to laugh at my expense.

Apparently my earlier experiences with sleep away camp and the Boy Scouts had become sufficiently blurred to allow me to forget just how much I detest being shoved into all male environments with zero privacy. Living in basic training barracks is exactly like living in your high school locker room, complete with the towel snapping, enthusiastic flatulence, ball busting, and bulging tighty whities. In short, pure hell. Yes, I was that kid who avoided showering with the guys, so imagine my delight when I found they liked to shove 50 sweat hogs into a shower the size of a standard office cubicle. Thank god I wasn’t one of the ones who had to worry about getting an erection. While I was not quite a Tobias Fünke level ‘never nude’, auditioning for ‘The Full Monty’ was high on my list of personal nightmares. Ugh.

My more frequently encountered problem was more insidious. I’ve now spoken to a disproportionately large number of trans folks who have great difficulty discerning right from left. I don’t know what this means, and aside from pissing off anxious passengers trying to give me directions while driving, it’s not that big a thing. In basic, however, this ability is key. Transportation around the base consisted of ‘forming up’ in 4 columns of size sorted airmen. For some insane reason, I was chosen as one of the column heads, which meant there was no one in front of me to take my cues from. This didn’t go so well at all. After several instances of hearing, “Column Left, harch!”and turning right into the fellow next to me and conking heads all Stooge like, they started watching me close. This should have been funny and promoted a bit of slapstick laughter, but no, it only got me screamed at frequently. Sgt Hopkus, a mustachioed ball of intense fury and blood curdling rage, learned my name first; never good.

Once I got his attention, Hopkus was up my ass pretty deep. Luckily I found this kind of funny, though learned quickly to keep the good cheer off my face. On one occasion I was certain one of us was going to die. I was wool gathering when he taught us some new command for peeling off the main group and leading our column inside. I totally missed this, so when he called it the first time I just stood there looking at him. He didn’t take it well and turned beet red and screamed at me for five minutes before announcing we’d try it again. As he began, it occurred to me that I still didn’t know what to do, so I looked to see what everyone else was doing. He didn’t like that; apparently I was supposed to turn my head and say something. This time he got very animated and started with the threats. Ah, the threats. Outrageous things like I would not be fed the remaining 5 weeks and be on permanent all night door guard. The third time was a charm and I fucked up again. I was supposed to say “stand fast!”, but instead yelled, “stay there!”. Holy shit! I had no idea someone could get that mad and still live. His screaming deluged me with buckets of saliva, and if I understood right, a foot induced orchiectomy was imminent. I was really, really tempted to muck it up a fourth time just to see what would happen, but managed to restrain myself. Good thing because apparently the brouhaha upset the rest of the flight considerably and I had to hear about it for the next week.

While I have a good dozen similar basic training stories, most of which end with saurian roars and spittle in my face, I’m going to wrap up this post with just some things to keep in mind if you are trans and thinking of enlisting. A few tips if you will for the basic training portion.

1. If your natural state resembles Chewbacca, let it all grow back in before you ship out. There is no opportunity for body grooming and everyone will notice you going from smooth to hirsute and probably make a big deal out of it.

2. Same goes for manicures and pedicures.

3. If you have taken hormones and experienced breast growth understand two things. First, if they find out and you had not disclosed upon enlistment, you can get booted right then and there. Second, you will be saddled with a clever little nickname like ‘Boobies’ or ‘Tits McGee’.

4. Bring nothing of your true gender with you. Everything you walk in with will be pawed over and questioned. The old ‘my girlfriend stuffed those in my bag’ will only have them watch you all the closer.

5. Your mail is not private. Ask trans friends either not to write you or do so leaving out any mention of trans all together.

6. For gosh sakes, learn your left from your right!

7. No matter how hard it seems, it’s really not that long and you can make it through. Seriously, if I could, you should sail right through.

By the way, it’s a standing offer, good anytime that if you decide to go into the military, especially the Air Force, and want some extra advice, please never hesitate to use the Contact Michelle feature to write me direct. It’s the least I can do.

The Path

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I’m sure by the title you all think this is going to be a big metaphorical post about the path of transition and all the schmaltzy self reflection that comes with that. No, I’m talking about a very real path that goes through the heart of Williamsville NY. It used to be a rail line, but the village re-purposed it as some sort of memorial lane, but left the old rail station in place to confuse the message. I like to drive over there during lunch on especially nice days in spring and fall and take a little walk. The last warm day in November was gorgeous, so I did just that, and let me tell you, it was spectacular.

Well, that’s about it in terms of actual path. It’s pretty and all, and I enjoy it, but seriously, it’s just a strip of asphalt with a bunch of trees and shit alongside. If you got sucked in because you are a hard core path aficionado or old rail line enthusiast well, stick around and see if you have a secret ‘transgender schmaltzy self-reflection’ fancier hidden in there as well.

This was my first visit to my secret path since going full time. As usual, my secret was out because it was overrun by stroller moms and mid-day dog walkers, not to mention a maintenance crew hacking away at some detritus around a tree. We all ignored each other, which was nice because the last time I was down this way I could not imagine that would ever be the case. The last time had been in the spring, and I was still in full blown male mode. Ironically, I felt way more self conscious last time, wearily walking along in jeans and brown shoes, though made for a woman, sufficiently androgynous to pass undetected.

We had a warm spell in April and I wanted to check out the signs of spring. It’s my favorite time of year and my gardening bug was starting to wake up and urge me into the dirt with promises of bountiful harvests I would invariably lose interest in by August. I had the song ‘Here’s Where the Story Ends’ stuck in my head, and during my walk I wrote of a post about it, just as I did this one. I was also seriously freaking out inside, but not so anyone could really tell. The planning process with HR seemed to be dragging on interminably. I was so anxious for it to be over, hardly being able to stand the thought of one more day of presenting myself as something I’m not. At the same time I had low expectations for T Day. I had great faith in my group, but equally great faith in people’s ability to surprise the hell out of me for good or for bad. I also expected a lot more public negativity and wondered if my path walking days were done. Still, the female life I was maintaining was proving far friendlier than I thought, so there was hope. I resolved not to come back unless I was doing so as a woman. Much better outlook than the year before.

Last November we had a warm spell like this one and I headed to my path. The trees were about bare and I spent the time imagining it all covered with bitter winter snows; impassable with a hostile barrenness. I was a wreck. My ex had been through a huge health crisis that nearly killed her and I was still suffering the aftershocks of debilitating anxiety attacks. My body was still adjusting to the hormonal changes and the feeling of wrongness was intensifying. Rumors of massive layoffs were emerging and I felt my position compromised. I was out to HR with a working plan of transitioning at the start of the year. This suddenly seemed like a terrible idea and I planned to duck for cover and see if I survived. Still, someone knew, and if it was decided this was too much trouble to deal with, I could be gone. I thought about what the path would look like in the spring, but it was too hard to see past the winter. I couldn’t imagine feeling safe coming as a woman.

In the spring of last year I wandered the path overwhelmed. I suddenly knew myself again, but no one else did except for my ex. The very idea of what lay before me was too enormous to contemplate. I had just found the Belles, and had no connections there yet; only tales of grim outcomes. My dad had just passed away, I knew my marriage was over, and I had very low expectations as to both keeping my job and the reactions of my family and friends. I was numb. I felt trapped, and backed into a corner, betrayed by an accident of birth I could no longer ignore. I looked back with such great longing the last time I had walked that same path a strong, fit man, ascending in career and prospects, in a happy marriage, with my son on my back. It was hard to imagine ever feeling that good again.

So here I am now. I didn’t make it though unscathed by any means, but far, far better off than I ever expected to be and I’ll take that any day. Plus I’m now me, and things are somehow much easier to face that way. I have no idea what to expect next time I’m down there. It will probably be that first really nice day in April as the tulips and daffodils are pushing up from the thawing earth. Everything may have changed, or everything may remain exactly the same. Somehow I doubt the predictability of either outcome, but I’ll be there and happy for it.

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