Saturday, August 01, 2020

Taste of Sex and Gender

Well, my last post seemed to be a little offensive, defensive, or negative to some readers. Sorry to scare the few of you who read it. I'm just feeling a bit negative about the trajectory of the nation and how much people don't really care for peace, justice, or coming to terms with differences.

Today, I want to make some notes on something that I'm working out.

Gender and sexuality have become topics of reading and reflection for me since coming out. There is a lot of confusion about the two. I have been trying to develop an image to help people get the way that gender and sexuality are different. I also see a lot of people trying to keep them separate categories. That isn't fair. There are overlapping concerns between gender and sexuality that require keeping them in connection while dealing with them as separate aspects of personhood.

So here is my crazy "shower idea".

Gender and sexuality can be compared to tasting something. When you taste something, there is a combined system of organs and nervous system responses. Gender is an internal system of subjective feelings and thoughts and impulses. Some attribute gender to social upbringing, biochemistry, and neurological development. It appears, for the most part, that gender is a complex system of developing the inner "picture" a person carries around of themselves for their entire life. Sexuality is a biological system that, while connected to the nervous system, is much more dependent upon hormonal production, biochemical reactions, and organs designed to facilitate responses to attraction to another person.

In my working illustration sexuality is the "sense" of taste. We all learned (to some degree inaccurately) that there is an organ that is responsible for taste with special "flavor" receptors embedded within that organ: the tongue. When you put something in your mouth, there is a chemical reaction between the object and the chemical receptors. Your mouth produces saliva to help break the food down so that it will be easier to digest, but in the process, it releases more of the chemical pieces that you can taste. Your "taste" as a subjective response is based upon a lot of different things. Tastes change over time. Some tastes are dominant and produce positive responses over a lifetime. Some are dominant and produce negative responses over a lifetime.

In my illustration, a persons sexuality is compared to taste as an experience of attraction or rejection. There are special organs at work. There is a subjective response that confirms or rejects the subjective "taste" a person has.

Gender is the sense of smell. Yes, smell is very important to tasting. It is not necessary to be able to taste something, though. The tongue can do that without the work of the nose. That is why you can still taste chicken noodle soup when your nose is stopped up. Or maybe some of you did the silly "science" experiment in grade-school where you put a clothespin on your nose and eat a bite of something while blindfolded. Taste still operates without smell. Smell, though, brings a nuance to the flavors of something we put in our mouth. Wines and liquors are breathed in before tasting and it changes the profile of how something tastes. Pinching your nose to swallow medicine, while really doesn't make it easier to choke down, I guess it does something. But smell is directly linked to tasting. And you don't just taste through your nose. You can taste through the upper respiratory system. There isn't just an organ that does the smelling. In fact, your brain does the smelling.

Smell is the most powerful memory trigger we have. When we encounter a smell that is familiar, the memory centers of our brain engage. A scent of a perfume may remind us of our mother or aftershave of our grandfather. The smell of a favorite meal brings us to a time when family gathered to share in the meal. Some smells are connected to trauma and produce post-traumatic episodes. Smell is a neurological response. We can smell without even having the smell present. We catch a hint of something on the air, but we know it is impossible for that to be there. It is our brain producing the association of that smell with something.

Gender is comparable to smell because it is an internal response, as well as an imprint on our brain. Science has been doing brain scans on trans women. In a significant number of subjects, the brain of a trans woman reacts in the same way that a ciswoman brain works. When exposed to a stimulus, the brain of a trans woman responds in the same areas that a ciswoman's brain responds while a cismale's brain respond in different areas. The neurology for this to work is hardwired into a person. Hormones do not impact this development as much as originally assumed.

So now we have to put taste together between the "sense" of taste and the sense of smell. Gender is the inner image that a person carries within through their entire life. It shapes how they respond to the world. It is connected to memory as well as brain functions in other areas. Gender is something a lot of people take for granted. They don't really "think" about it. We don't think about smelling, but we do it all of the time. We are constantly smelling when we breathe. The only time we may think about smelling is when there is a bouquet of flowers or a pan of bacon sizzling in the kitchen. Gender is something we don't "think" about, but it shapes every moment of our lives. It may not come into conscious thought until we are presented with something that brings it to our attention. Yet, it still is at work in every moment of living.

Gender also plays into sexuality. Sexuality is about responding to a stimulus. Someone is attractive to us because a set of chemicals are released to produce a subjective attraction. When we are physically intimate with someone, our organs respond to the stimulus that are acted upon them. But our sexuality is also about subjective "taste". We can map the kinds of people who we are attracted to. We can differentiate between the qualities that turn us on and turn us off to another person. And part of that on/off difference has to do with our image of self that we carry.

Gender and sexuality are inseparable because gender is always at work in the background. Being accepted or rejected by someone we are attracted to produces a marker in our mind. That marker stays with us and we recall it over and over in settings that bring us back to that moment our sexuality was affirmed or negated. In the interplay with another person the fact that we see ourselves as a particular person is reinforced or dismantled when we are sexually accepted or repudiated.

Okay, this is a thought in process. As most of mine are.

Saturday, July 18, 2020

Waking up to a new realization

WARNING!!!!!! THIS IS A POLITICAL OBSERVATION POSTING  WARNING!!!!!

We are living through something I never thought we would see. I knew that a time was coming when we would see the devolution of the democratic republic into something more militaristic in its adherence to one extreme or the other. I always pictured that happening over a couple of presidential cycles to allow for a slow erosion of stability in the authority of the other branches of government. The one thing we could always rely on was the system of checks and balances between the branches.
 
In 3/4th of a single term in office, we have seen the efficacy of both the Legislative and Judicial branches reduced to near ineffectiveness. The current Executive branch has effectively established itself as a single authoritative voice and actor in guiding the nation. The events in the first two years built a foundation of instability within the Legislative branch. How many fully processed bills have passed across the President's desk to be signed into LAW? Compare that to the "Executive Orders" that have been acted upon by agents representing the Oval Office. And some of those EOs were written in 280 characters or less. The President has used Twitter as a lever to move groups (complicitly or implicitly) to act on motivations and beliefs that would never pass legal standards. 

Beyond that, the Executive branch has used Federal agencies and officials to act upon individuals and groups that could provide a case study in civil rights violations for years to come - IF we remain to have the freedom to study, express, and critique those acts. We are living in a dystopian political system that is absurd in the amount of degradation that has occurred. 
  • Trump castrated the Republican Legislators, leaving them to defend him in egregious behavior and sentiments or face a loss of favor, status, and office due to the sway of Presidential influence with voters (Jeff Sessions?). 
  • Trump has ignored, rebuffed, and ridiculed the Democratic Party where they appear to be shouting to the winds for all of the effects subpoenas that subpoenas, hearings, and sternly worded press encounters have.
  • The Supreme Court has almost seemed able to stand in the path of rampant autocratic rule. ALMOST. Every loss reinforces the emotional drive of Trump to seek his path forward by paying lip service to observe the letter of the law while ignoring any intent. Every win causes Trump to feel vindicated in EVERY choice that he makes.
  • Trump has nearly made news and media worthless. The Fourth Estate has no direct influence on politics. Its influence, though, has provided a meaningful way to ensure that bad actors were aware that accountability could still be handed to those who elected those officials. Trump has turned "fake news" into a "he said/they said" circus of finger-pointing so that truth, facts, data, and historical reality are muddled on a level unseen before.
  • Trump has leveled individual attacks against Latinx, Middle Eastern, Asian, Black, and LGBTQIA groups at different points in his presidency. This has caused the reaction of civil rights and justice groups to be on guard nearly constantly for the next round of rights to be violated. What has happened is that the civil rights and justice systems are now overburdened with attempting to watch all sides at once. No one is sure who will be targeted next. No one is sure who will be repeatedly attacked. Trump has taken a "divide and conquer" approach to wear down the resources (mental, emotional, financial) of groups that seek to aid targeted groups. They fight on so many fronts that no one targeted group can be supported at the same level for long. The next attack draws resources away to cope with a new strategem from the White House. 
  • As a master of deflection, Trump has masterfully manipulated the attention of the public (media and the everyday person) to deflect or minimize negative focus on himself by offering a distracting countermove to his own behavior. We have fallen for it. We have been tricked by the wily prestidigitator. The giant object in the room mysteriously vanishes while the shiny object that catches the eye for a moment gently shifts our focus.  Example: paramilitary "police" are using snatch-and-grab tactics in Portland, Oregon to remove citizens from public areas, while on camera, without identifying themselves or declaring why a person is being detained and Trump does an advertisement for Goya brand products from the Oval Office, seated behind the Resolute Desk, smiling over a sample of items (the CEO of the said company had explicitly endorsed the work of the President). 
  • Trump has shown himself to be woefully ignorant of historical facts, basic scientific truths, mathematical realities, and simple logic. Yet, he is still pushing the ludicrous behavior that made him a reality-show icon into the very real realms of politics, policy, and the daily lives of billions of people. That is not hyperbole. That is a fact. His behavior of stunts to shock and amuse has impacted the citizens of multiple nations. His antics and comments have dehumanized entire ethnic groups in the minds of zealots who idolize him. His threats and aggressive posture on Twitter have reached around the world to bring us into various levels of conflict with former colleagues and strained tenuous relationships with near enemies.
  • While trumpeting his self-assumed role as the Law and Order President, Trump has shown repeated instances of taking the common understanding of the law of the land, the United States Consitution, and manipulating it to suit his personal ends or goals; if not outright ignoring it while proudly declaring that he is above (or at least beyond) the law. 
I wish that was all I had to offer as evidence that we are living in a new reality. We are living with a reality where, for the first time in my life that I can recall, people are worried that a sitting President of the United States of America will not leave office after an election wherein one may lose. We are living with a reality where I am afraid of a civil war breaking out at any point. NOT a cultural or philosophical war. A war where weapons are drawn against one another. A war where we are faced with having to choose sides, maybe within our own families, to decide who we will support or not support. Today was the first day when I thought that there may be no positive outcome in the coming election.

Tuesday, July 07, 2020

A Firestarter In My Life

When I was in college, I was a fresh faced young pup from a little spot on a southeastern Oklahoma road. Then I met the man in this picture. He ignited something within me. Davis Joyce was my
(FAVORITE) professor of history subjects. He advised me every semester on my journey through undergraduate studies (and was quite happy when that journey led me into the history department for my major). He taught me to DO history right; to respect ALL points of view; and to write.

Today, I wanted to dedicate a little bit of time to him. See, he didn't just fade into my educational history (so to speak). We reconnected later. He is now one of my dearest friends and ardent supporters in my journey of authentic self-discovery. I don't get to see him as often. We talk by email and phone. He still teaches me every time we talk.

The thing that he ignited within me, though, was a fire for something that I allowed others to force me to hide under a bushel basket. Davis was a justice warrior and still holds the banner of fighting for the equal rights of all persons. Skin color matters to him if only to emphasize that we are all deserving of equal respect and treatment. Sexuality and gender matter to him if only to emphasize how important it is to be able to love who you love.

In college, I found a heart for social justice, seeing the wronged, the last, the least, the forgotten, the ignored, and the wounded. I carried that firey heart into learning about John Wesley and the Methodists. Wesley changed the world in small but significant ways. He taught uneducated children and fought to get them out of the mines. He raised money for widows and built a place for them to belong and not forgotten. He took necessities into prisons for those jailed under a ludicrously unjust system of law. Small business loans were available to get businesses started. He fought for the freedom of slaves in England and was part of the energy of the movement to abolish the slave trade. He denounced luxuries that wasted valuable life resources. The fire burned bright.

And then I started working in churches.

The fire, burning brightly at first, had to be hidden away due to "liberal" ideas. The fire had to be suppressed to meet the fickle entertainment spirituality mentality. "Keep us feeling good, don't talk so much about what is bad and wrong." And I gave in. I allowed the fire the was kindled by my mentor and friend to be shamed into an ember. But the ember never went cold.

Now, I have no more basket to carry. Churches who were more concerned about feeling good about themselves are in the past. My life, my passions, have been freed from the bondage of a system the insisted on keeping the checkbooks happy and content enough to show up. I have the room to fan an ember into something more. I now have the room to speak about those whom Davis made me aware of, whom John Wesley did something about.

I would warn people who follow me that there is a passion again for social justice. And in our world right now, social justice is inextricably tied to politics. If you don't like "political" posts, then you may want to avoid what I write. If you feel that being an advocate for the wronged, the last, least, forgotten, ignored, and wounded is being a liberal, then so be it. I follow in a line of amazing examples of that.

But I want to say a huge "THANK YOU" to Davis, my dear friend, my mentor, my example, and my supporter. You are and always be part of my heart fire.

Monday, July 06, 2020

How much longer?
How much further?
How much animosity and anger and hate can we stand?
How much division and conflict can we contain?
Something will pop the bubble.
Something will be an unstoppable force
It will cause the events to roll to an inevitable conclusion.
Race, gender, sexuality,
Prosperity and poverty
Better future or glorious past
It will be small but powerful
It will seem insignificant to future historians
But we stand on the verge of a tragedy
None of us will be unmarked
Some of us will not survive
But the only truth we must agree on
We all are living this now we have created

Thursday, April 09, 2020

Beginning of the beginning

I don't know how most people feel about the transformation I am going through. I have a few who have let me know. Many, many more of the people in my sphere of influence are silent. Some who are silent have gone silent in the weeks since I have gone public with my gender identity. I feel that I have lost friends and maybe some family to this transformation. And perhaps this next revelation will cause me to lose more, but I want to share the next phase of my journey.

I began taking hormone replacement therapy. This is a medically observed course of increasing daily hormone treatments. I felt that it was necessary to begin on this therapy due to my desire to begin living as Genevieve full time. The treatments will cause my body, internally and externally, to change. It will also play a role in my thoughts and feelings being transformed. Here are some facts of what I will experience to varying degrees as I progress:
  • 1) Physical - skin will become a bit drier and thinner,  pores will become smaller less oil production. You may become more prone to bruising or cuts and notice that you experience pain or temperature differently, or that things just “feel different” when you touch them. You will also notice small “buds” developing beneath your nipples within a few weeks of starting your treatment. Weight will begin to redistribute around your body. Fat will begin to collect around your hips and thighs, and the fat under your skin throughout your body will become a bit thicker, giving your arms and legs less muscle definition and a smoother appearance. The fat under the skin in your face will increase and shift around to give your eyes and face, in general, a more feminine appearance. Your muscle mass will decrease significantly. The hair on your body, such as your chest, back and arms will decrease in thickness and will grow at a slower rate. Your beard may thin a bit and grow a bit slower. If you have had any scalp balding, this should slow or stop, though the amount that will grow back is variable. Some people may notice minor changes in shoe size or height due to changes in the ligaments and muscles of your feet. 
  • 2) Emotional - Your overall emotional state may or may not change; this varies from person to person. You may find that you have access to a wider range of emotions or feelings, or have different interests, tastes or pastimes, or behave differently in relationship with other people.  
  • 3) Sexual - how about we leave this private, eh?
This is a really broad overview of what I will possibly experience over the next 3-5 years. I don't expect anything overnight. I know this will begin to take effect in days since the beginning, but some things won't be visible for a few weeks, yet.

Why?
This is the question many will want an answer for. Honestly, I am doing this for a few reasons.
  1. To bring my body more in line with the vision of my self-identity. I see myself, but not like others see me. In taking hormones, I hope to bring those two, physical and psychological, forms into closer alignment.
  2. To bring my emotions into a better place of access. I have reached a point in my life where I want to feel more emotions than I have over the course of my life. Counseling has allowed me to identify my emotions, but it hasn't broadened my experience of emotions. Coming out has allowed me some freedom of emotions, but it hasn't brought me much depth in that freedom. I am hoping that hormones will allow me the variety, breadth, and depth of emotions that I can freely express.
  3. There is some anecdotal evidence that hormone treatment can bring cognitive abilities more to the surface. It has been reported to take away a "cloud" that interfered with decision-making, thought processing, and creativity. I would really like to clear the cloud that I have been feeling for over a decade. My thought-processes and creativity have been stifled for some time now. I would like to free those things up for more productivity and imagination to bring things to life.
  4. Peace of mind. I am female on the inside. Whether people understand that or not, I feel that. By bringing hormones into my body, I feel that my mind (which has been searching for female hormone chemical transmitters and receptors) will finally be able to sync up with my body. Having female hormones will allow my self to make all of the connections that will allow me to function to my best.
Are there side effects or negative possibilities?
Yes, there are side effects and potential negative possibilities. But that is the case with any medical procedure or treatment. The reality is by NOT pursuing this, I don't think or feel that I will be as fully healthy as I could be. In order to be my BEST person, I need to try this.

There are some irreversible changes that will be made. I have accepted those and entered into this process with a clear mind. There are some changes that could be reversed if I choose to stop. I don't want to consider that at this moment in time as I am only beginning and haven't yet experienced anything subjectively. But this has all been clearly examined and I have consulted with people who are close to me and support me as I make decisions.

If you are someone who has a heart for me and you have questions or concerns, I would be glad to discuss them with you. I am not going to react horribly to serious questions or concerns. I will also answer things appropriately and point out things that may be too private or inappropriate to ask. Please be mindful that some things are personal and I would ask that you would continue to treat me as any other person. Meaning: if you wouldn't ask your momma, than it probably isn't proper to ask me.

But as I go along, I will continue to update and report on my journey through my life as it becomes a reality. Thanks for sticking with me.

Friday, April 03, 2020

Trailblazing

I hear the word "trailblazer" a lot lately.

Perhaps you have seen the painting I posted. It is a portrayal of Daniel Boone leading settlers through the Cumberland Gap into Kentucky. Daniel Boone was considered a trailblazer. A trailblazer is someone who makes a new track or path through wild and unmarked territory.

People who have been helping me stay grounded in the upheaval of life I am experiencing are trying to encourage me with the word "trailblazer". Coming out as transgender isn't new territory - a lot of people have blazed that trail. Being a clergy person isn't new - we have a history of clergy and laity who have accepted calls into a ministry of all sorts. Even being a transgender clergy person is a path that has been laid before.

For Oklahoma United Methodists, it is a new frontier. The friends who have continued to support me through this journey are doing their best to understand. My family has experienced back and forth days of dealing with each new level of expressing myself. The system is struggling to find a place for me and my unique circumstances.

Some days, it is exciting to think of pushing forward, testing the boundaries of what we are as a denominational connection. It is encouraging to take new steps and find new friends or colleagues who support this adventure. On those days, it seems that being a trailblazer is something that I could do and be. I could make a way for those who come after me.

Other days, it is just so overwhelming. I want to retreat from it all. I want to hide who I am as a transwoman and as clergy. I want to retreat into a cave and let the world pass me by, unnoticed and unwanted in so many ways.

I never considered myself as a trailblazer. I have used visionary to describe myself. I have always been the "I can see the new land over there with towns and roads and businesses and farms". I rarely thought I was very good at picking up the axe or shovel and making the way to that. I wasn't afraid to put hard work into a new idea. I just felt that there was someone better equipped to be a resource gatherer or a "Daniel Boone" who would walk in front, leading those who trusted enough to leave the comfort of the known for the mysterious unknown. I would be just behind the Boone-type. Maybe like the dog-holder in the painting.

As I journey along this new path, I don't know where I will end up. I could be making a journey into a new place where others have already cut the trail. Others have made the way possible for me to become who I feel I am called to be and authentically made to be. I may remain in this area to forge a trail for others who will follow. I may leave the ordained ministry to discover something else to do while still living into my calling and authenticity. I just don't know. And every day is a new day of discovery.

FOOTNOTE: The painting above is not realistic. This was a painting done in an era when Manifest Destiny was sweeping the nation. There was an idealistic mindset that God had ordained that people move westward to claim the frontiers of the American midlands and west. Boone forged a path into Kentucky when it was wild and dangerous. There were real threats all around them as they traveled and settled the wildlands of southeastern Kentucky.

I realize that my life is not going to be some Manifest Destiny journey of glory and sweeping transformation of the landscape. Each day is a struggle. Sometimes it is a bit dangerous. It is definitely costing me much along the way. But I believe this is the life I am called to be authentic within. No matter the cost, I still have to move forward. Where that momentum may lead, I have yet to discover.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

The weirdness of it all

There are some things that are really weird about becoming aware of being transgender.

I have to refer to myself (myselves?) in the third person a lot. "Genevieve is such and such." "Todd will so and so." It sounds like I am disassociating one or the other. Really, in some way, my mind is still moving toward integration. I am both and neither at the same time. I have to be "Todd" for some people and in some circumstances. "Genevieve" is who I love to be at home and even more in public.

For example, I went out for groceries, pharmacy, and some retail therapy. The groceries were a necessity only because it was Nick's birthday and he wanted Alfredo, so that meant buying a couple of items. But it was also a regular shopping trip. Genevieve wanted out of the house, though. And she wanted some new clothes. I went shopping at the local discount store, Wall's Bargain Center. It was relaxing to finally be able to look through the women's section without looking like a freak. It was always what I wanted to look through. Men's clothes have held no great satisfaction for me. But shopping for Genevieve - I may have unleashed a monster. Also, I still love lingerie. Todd and Genevieve have that connection.

After buying more than I planned on, I had to stop by the pharmacy. I had to pick up a prescription that required ID. And the greatest day so far in Genevieve's newly discovered to this point happened. I had to pick up a prescription for Lisa. I'm dressed as Genevieve. The pharmacist had to wait on me because the meds weren't done. When he (yes a guy) asked me for my ID, I took my driver's license out of my wallet (Genevieve's wallet) and handed it to him. The picture was taken when my beard was down to my chest, I had no glasses on, and my head was, of course, completely bald. Here is a female appearing redhead handing over a DL. The pharmacist, without really looking up, said, "No I need to see your ID." And I responded, "It is my ID." The look on his face was worth as much joy as all of new underwear I bought brought for me. He looked at me full in the face and said, "Oh, okay." And he did what he needed to do and then handed me off to the clerk.

A couple of months ago, that moment would have caused me anxiety and stress. As I stood there, claiming that the identity card showing one thing and the person standing there represented another, I had no anxiety or stress. I didn't even have any discomfort. Oh, I had a few moments during the shopping trips where I felt I was being "clocked" as a guy. And there were moments of discomfort in that. I didn't' dwell on them, though. I wasn't in those public spaces for those people to look at me, judge me, stare at me, or  form opinions of me. I was in those public spaces because I had a right to be there. I had something I need to do there.

This brings me to another one of the weird things I have become aware of. When I am out and about as Genevieve I encounter a lot of feelings. One is exhilaration. It isn't the adrenaline rush of being "discovered" or "caught" doing something wrong. It is more like the exhilaration of being released and free to go do something that you weren't able to do before. At the same time that there is exhilaration, there is also comfort, peace. I am not anxious or nervous about anything. I just go and do what I want to do or need to do. There is a sense of arousal, but it isn't sexual. It is overwhelming joy and happiness and exuberance of life. I have NEVER been exuberant about life.

There are some who don't understand my need to make this transition. And the more I experience my life as Genevieve, the more I know that this is who I am and who I am supposed to be. I'm only at the beginning of her life. It means some changes to relationships and even vocational adjustment. That brings me to the third weird thing.

Every year about this time I have an overwhelming sense of anxiety, almost on the verge of panic, as the appointments are discussed and made. When I am looking at the world through Genevieve's eyes, I am not worried about the fact that nothing has come to pass for me yet. And in light of the fact that I may have to move beyond the familiar of Oklahoma, beyond the network of people I have known for a large portion of my life, I still find peace that Genevieve will find a place to belong and do what God has called me to do.

Weird, huh?

Sunday, March 22, 2020

My animal totem

For a while, everyone seemed to be claiming a spirit animal. I didn't really catch onto that fad. First, I respect religions and indigenous people's worldviews that hold spirit animals as something different than what people seemed to be claiming for themselves. And I also recognized that people who were serious about this were drawing upon a new world religious worldview. That really isn't appropriate for a minister of Christian Protestant Wesleyan perspective to act.

But in the process of my coming out, I began to look for something that would represent this new phase of my life. Last Spring, I was listening to a gardening show. The topic one particular day was dealing with mosquitoes organically. I hate mosquitoes. The only God-given purpose I can discern for there existence is to feed bats.

One of the natural ways of controlling those bloodsuckers was to introduce another natural predator of the mosquito. This one surprised me. The host talked about making a dragonfly pond.

Dragonflies always freaked me out when I was younger. They were flitting around and buzzing and without knowing better, I thought those long tails had a stinger.

I got over the fear of dragonflies, eventually, but I never really was that interested in them. Then I heard about them being natural predators of mosquitoes and I became fascinated with them as part of the natural order of the world. Things got more interesting when I began to look for a totem animal that could represent this new phase of my life.

Many people who claim their transgender identity compare it to the butterfly. They compare their "before" life to a caterpillar. It is bland and seems to just crawl along. Once their true, authentic self emerges, it is bright and colorful, like the butterfly. I have been through the whole chrysalis experience analogy. I didn't really fit with it then. I liked the idea of the dragonfly, though, because they are beautiful creatures. Their wings are transparent and catch the light to reflect something. They have brilliant hues of blues and greens that shimmer in the light. They are graceful and seem fragile. But they are hunters. They are natural predators of those bloodsuckers I hate so much.

When I began to seek out some of the spiritual interpretations of dragonflies, there were mentions of transition and change. They represented positive transformations and joy and peace. But the thing that connected most with me was the relation between dragonflies and the samurai.

For the longest time, I have honored the samurai as a noble and honorable class of people. I have built some of my own code of honor and sense of duty around bushido - the code of honor and culture of the samurai. When I discovered that dragonflies had a connection to the samurai, I was immediately drawn to this animal.

Dragonflies were representations of swiftness, courage, and fearlessness. They were thought to be an animal who could not retreat (science has proven this to be false, but even more fascinating in their movement ability) so samurai, who would rather face death than the dishonor of retreat, claimed the dragonfly as a symbol of moving forward in battle. The Japanese built habitats so that dragonflies were encouraged to surround a household and protect children from mosquitoes. The dragonfly became so honored among the samurai that armor and weapons were emblazoned with dragonfly images.

I knew I had found my animal token. I have claimed the dragonfly as the symbol of my life. It is a life where I need courage. I need to remember to keep moving forward. I need the strength to defeat those who would draw my lifeblood: joy, peace, hope, faith, calling. I want to be beautiful and graceful and fill my life with light and color.

As I bring images into my life, I will be adding dragonflies. I am looking for my first earrings to be dragonflies. I look for necklaces and rings and bracelets. I consider the image of them as the daily reminder to keep moving forward (but be SUPER flexible){in addition to the movement of dragonflies, that is a Walt Disney quote I try to model} and be filled with the courage to live into this authentic self.

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Reading In a Season of Change


This one is another movie/video that I have found enlightening for more than just its biblical approach. It also highlights the stories of characters in the Bible who may be defined as non-binary. And they are portrayed in character by an actor who has studied the biblical stories in depth. 



With so much that has happened within my identity, and coming to terms with someone I hadn't known, I have been reading. A lot. I had to do my thing and read the work done on transgenderism and the intersection of Christian spirituality.

For decades, I have been mentally and soulfully trying to find the place of peace in sexuality and spirituality. My progression for that topic is saved for another day. Gender and sexuality are separate aspects of our human lives. Our culture, especially in American Christianity, has forced the two together like peanut butter and transmission fluid on two pieces of tree bark to make a sandwich. In order to grasp my identity and hold my faith together, I read.

This is the list of books and a synopsis and/or reflection on each. Maybe some of you need to find something to grasp and hold identity and faith together. Maybe some of you are shaken by what I have discovered and claimed for myself and just need to know "How" or "Why". Maybe some of you just want to expand your understanding. May these books serve you in the way that best brings you peace.

I need to begin with what really launched my biggest change. "Let It Go" settled into my heart. It began a string of Disney-originated songs from critical animated movies for my psyche. To hear Idina Menzel the first time sing this and to watch Elsa come out of her isolation and claim herself - I had tears in my eyes. That song stayed on repeat for a while in my mind and heart. Returning to it today, I realize much of that song has come to pass for me. Now if I could just wear that dress like she does.

The next was Moana. The entire movie was a huge messenger for me. It spoke to me about the place of calling, the role of the Holy Spirit, and the face of most of our churches today. But this song, the anthem of claiming her vision for the future, reminded me that my calling is not shaped by the fears and limitations of the places I am appointed to serve. My calling is just that: it is a calling to something that is beyond the reef, in the open sea. I'm still wondering how far it will take me.

Image result for greatest showman
 And then this came out. Lisa had to go see Hugh. I walked out a changed person. I have always considered myself an outsider, a weirdo, a freak. I always claimed it was because I was a nerd and geek. In reality, I knew deep down it was because I was a crossdresser. It was the fear of being discovered, the shame I held for something that truly was defining me.

I watched the overly positive portrayal of P.T. Barnum's acceptance of his "freaks". I watched them find a family, acceptance with one another. I knew that there would always be the mobs that wanted to destroy what I felt was good about me. I knew that I would continue to face rejection and fear or misunderstanding. But I had to look at myself differently. And I had to look for others who looked at ourselves differently.


Of course, no mention of The Greatest Showman is complete without the showcase musical piece in that movie. Keala Settle brought that song to the hearts and lives of millions of "freaks" and gave all of us a reason to proclaim "This Is Me" even in the pain of our scars, the faces of our enemies and the roadblocks.

This version is a live presentation of the song for the cast. It has more life and power even than in the film. It isn't as polished or rehearsed, but that is part of the glory of it. And Keala put her heart into that performance, but it also it seemed to lay her life into it.

That song was so transformational, I wrote about the intersection of the words of that song and chapter 5 of the Book of Romans in the New Testament.  

Okay, on to books. There have been many books over the years that I have always built my life on and around. Of course, the Bible is the only book that shapes my destiny. No other book can claim a higher place in my life. That declaration puts my life and the authentic living of it in conflict with some interpretations of the Bible. "It clearly says..." is a common argument that I have heard. After nearly 30 years of studying the Bible in deep ways, learning about the languages and the historical context and the cultural influences around the writing of the Bible's sources, I can testify to one overwhelming truth. While the modern English transterpretations (if it isn't coined, I want credit) appear to make the Bible clearly say something, that is not the reality.

The Bible comes in so many flavors of transterpretations that people need help picking the right Bible. Stop and consider that statement. As a pastor, people have asked me for help in selecting the RIGHT Bible for someone. The very suggestion that there is a RIGHT Bible means that there are various Bibles to choose from. Choosing among the various choices is not a clear choice.

When it comes to transterpretations, there is a wide spectrum of choices. There are some that try to capture the most direct English word or phrase to capture the meaning of the Hebrew or Greek source. But there are variances in the source material. So one transterpretation chooses one variant and another transterpretation chooses another. Clear enough yet? What about words that don't have a clear English equivalent? We have to make do with something close or leave it a question mark.

Then there are the Bibles that shoot for readability or trying to convey the meaning in a more clearly understood vernacular. The original effort to capture a direct word or phrase is now replaced by words or phrases that didn't even exist two thousand years or more before. And that is just taking the language into account.

I don't have the room to continue to explain how history and cultural context shapes how people understand words. Here is an example from modern times to make it clearer. What are the stereotypical color for boys and the stereotypical color for girls? If you were born in the 1920s, and you were a boy, they clothed you in pink; a girl in blue. That was 100 years ago in the United States. The historical and cultural contexts have reversed the meaning of blue and pink.

But the Bible has been the highest form of destiny shaping in my life all along. Now to more contemporary releases.

I started with reading about homosexuality and faith and the Bible. There are tons of books out there. Some are good. Some are bad. My opinion is that if you can't get to loving and accepting gays by reading the Bible directly, then start with these two books: Homosexuality: A Conversion: How a Conservative Pastor Outgrew the Idea that Homosexuality Is a Sin by Rev. John Tyson and UnClobber: Rethinking Our Misuse of The Bible on Homosexuality by Colby Martin. Both give very earnest efforts to deal with the battleground verses. I call them battleground verses because they are the same territory in the Bible that both sides have laid claim to in clarifying the issue. In the process, the only thing that has been clarified is how much one side hates the other. And I use the word "hate" on purpose. There is no love in most arguments over who has the best transterpretation.


For a more down to earth and relatable approach to the subject of language, I MUST include my friend Stant Litore's Lives of Unforgetting: What We Lose in Translation When We Read the Bible, and A Way of Reading the Bible as a Call to Adventure. Stant addresses the way that some stories and words and verses have been mistranslated and how they have created the exact opposite climate of how God intended the world to be.

One of my friends from one of my online support groups suggested I read Cheryl B. Evans book, What Does God Think: Transgender People and the Bible. I got it and consumed it very quickly. This is as much an attempt to share relatable approaches to the subject of gender and transgender issues as it is a mother trying to navigate the world-shaking reality that her child is transgender.

That book unlocked a door that led me down a rabbit hole of discovery. The Bible and the Transgender Experience: How Scripture Supports Gender Variance by Rev. Linda Tatro Herzer burst open my eyes to new ways of looking at familiar Bible characters and stories.

Understanding Gender Dysphoria: Navigating Transgender Issues in a Changing Culture is perhaps the most scholarly book I read in this area of discovery. Dr. Mark A. Yarhouse brings the mind of psychology to bear on the subject and presents some of the scientific foundations for transgender experience. He also brings the faith of a more conservative Christian perspective into the dialogue. While it is more scholarly and at times challenging, I believe Dr. Yarhouse is attempting to be fair in developing a path forward in bridging difficult waters of conservative Christian perspectives with transgender persons.

Before anyone accuses me of attempting to pad my nest with affirmative writings, I also read counter-argument writings. Two that stood out were God and the Transgender Debate by Andrew T. Walker and Homosexuality and the Church by Howard A. Snyder. I will not criticize these works because they come from well-meant places of faith and understanding and scholarship. What I found, in reading them from the perspective I now read all things, is I now am standing on one mountain and they are speaking from another mountain. I have visited that mountain. I had a cabin on that mountain. But I have moved. My cabin is now on another peak. I hear them telling me about their view from their perspective. I just can't see that point of view anymore.

There are two other books that have been extremely helpful. Unashamed: a Coming-Out Guide for LGBTQ Christians by Amber Cantorna is a practical guide for how someone who wants to or is in the process of coming out can navigate the challenges. It also offers helpful guides for family or allies who may be trying to navigate the challenges with their LGBTQ loved ones. It tries to make a connection to the very real needs of those who are struggling to find a place for themselves in a world that seems to turn upside down around them.

The last is Shameless: A Sexual Reformation by Rev. Nadia Bolz-Weber. In her work, the beauty of sex is the creation of God. She also brings to the forefront that the Church may be the place to start new conversations about sex. As someone who believes that sex has been demonized and made shameful by the same people who respect a God who created sex, I believe it is necessary to reclaim the conversation.


This is part one, so to speak. I have a few more books that I am working through to continue to shape understanding. As I finish them up, I will post another blog to fill in the list.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Curse God and Die

Then his wife said to him, 
"Do you still hold fast your integrity? 
Curse God and die!" 
(Job 2:9 NAU)
The book of Job is not a fun book. There is a lot of really challenging material to read. There are multiple voices to follow to know who is saying what. And it deals with being human in a fallen, broken world. I believe Job may be one of the most human books of the Bible.

I love Job. The book is part of the Wisdom literature, or Writings, of the old covenant or old testament. There is some evidence that it may be one of the oldest surviving pieces of literature in the material of the Bible. One thing it isn't: it isn't easy to want to live out.

Lately, I have begun to see my life through the lens of Job. I know that there are a lot of people who FEEL like Job at times. And maybe that is part of my identity - it is what I feel. But bear with me as I draw out how, spiritually, I am living a Job life in this chapter of living.

When God allows the Adversary to deconstruct Job's life, it begins very methodically. The first things that Job loses are his fields and the means to produce within them. Then he loses his sheep and the people who tend them. Third, he loses his camels and handlers. Finally, his family is killed in a freak storm. Luckily, my family is safe and healthy. But this is about the spiritual experience I am going through.

I have lost my means of produce - I found out that I will not be appointed to a new church. I have also applied to positions to give me some sense of purpose, but I have received no response to my application. Like Job, I have no means to produce the goods for which I am most adequately equipped to provide for myself. 

I am losing my sheep - my wife and I are getting a divorce. That means that my financial resources are being changed. My debt burden is shifting. The governments of the United States and Oklahoma are getting a bigger chunck of my paycheck. My children are moving on to lives of their own. I will be alone in whatever domicile I end up in. No family with me. 

I am losing my camels - with no appointment, I will be losing the itinerant system and all that it has provided for my moving about with security. No job, no home, no health insurance, no pension. The loss of an appointed place to go is not just a temporary setback of a paycheck. It is the removal of the system of itineracy that I vowed to uphold as part of my ordination.

Finally, I am losing my family - by coming to terms with my gender identity and sexuality, my mother and sister can't associate with the full self I wish to live into. They want their son and brother like they have known me. But I am not able to be that anymore. I am someone new and it seems this someone new means the someone they knew is dead to them.

The next round of suffering Job experienced was really my first round of suffering. Job was afflicted in body. I am afflicted in heart and mind. My mental health has been fluctuating between health and brokenness. Circumstances rise and fall that bring me to highs and lows of ability to cope. Over the time, my resilience has increased - I can deal with more and learn to cope with what happens. But I still have to admit that my mental health is not completely healthy.

There is a lot on my plate, emotionally. There is a lot to cope with and sort through. And I have a countdown clock to make some BIG decisions. July 1 is my deadline. After that, many things will be off of table for me. And people keep asking me, "How are you getting through all of this?"

Resilience is only part of it. There are some days that overwhelm me and I can't cope. But the one thing I am certain of is that my life circumstances are not a punishment. There are many "Bible believing, God punishes sinners" types who would look at my life and see a divorce, a failure to render to Caesar, and a transgender identity with pansexual orientation as plenty of reason for God to strike me with boils and take my resources. 

This may be enough for some people to want to curse God and blame God for all of the bad and wrong in my life. And I know God is big enough to handle it. I know that no matter what I may throw against God, it won't stick. Even if, as Job's nameless wife begs, I call out and curse God I know God will not strike me down.

So I will maintain my integrity. That is what I have in and of myself. My integrity to be true to myself, to be true to those who love me and accept me. My integrity will remain intact to love to the best that Christ loved me those who are different in opinion and those who would hurt me. My integrity forces me to stand up for my children because they are still looking to me to learn how to be persons of faith and maturity. My integrity must be intact to live according to the code of honor I keep toward all persons.

But most of all, I keep the integrity of my faith in God revealed in Jesus Christ and personally lived through the power of the Holy Spirit. I still believe God is love. I still believe the Jesus Christ walked out of a tomb, beyond all realms of reality. I still believe in the power of the Holy Spirit to transform hearts and minds and worlds. I still believe that the call of all believers is to work toward God's kingdom here, right where we are to produce better lives for those who are overlooked, forgotten, the least, last, and lost. I still believe that God is good and Jesus is Lord, and the Holy Spirit comforts along side us in our ashheaps and midden piles.

Monday, March 09, 2020

This is Really Me...graphic information of an uncomfortable type enclosed.

I really hope that enough people have stopped following that this is really just a declaration into the winds of a few hearts.

I have been silent because my life is in an ebb and flow of chaos. Professionally, I am reaching my end as a local church pastor. I have lost any desire to lead people who have no desire to go anywhere. Relationally, I am losing my connection to all of the people closest to me: family, friends, mentors. I am sitting here, writing this in despair and broken. I have nothing left to lose, so I want to tell you about my real self.

This is me. The person I see in my mind when I envision my true self.
I'm not drop dead gorgeous, but I'm beautiful. 
I'm not graceful and elegant, but I'm gentle and fragile.
I'm not going to steal anyone's heart, but my heart has been broken and needs to heal.
I don't want to be seen as a freak, but I realize I live in a culture that can't handle what it doesn't understand.
I want to be loved unconditionally for who I am, but I know that I will be loved conditionally only as people can associate with who I have been in the past.
I am trying to be fair to everyone, but in the process, this beautiful lady doesn't get her chance to be treated fairly.

I'm happy when I am like this. Happier than I have a right to be.
I'm complete when I am like this. That wholeness threatens people's image of who they think I should be.



I am a transgender woman. I am a male to female transgender person. I live a male life publicly and professionally because people cannot handle things that stretch their concepts of gender, sexuality, and appearance. Oklahoma is very much a regressive state, culturally, when it comes to accepting transgender people. Crossdressers are still mocked. Bathrooms are still sacred ground. Boys are boys, girls are girls, and there this no room for anything else. It was only a short time ago that a 12 year old transgender girl in rural southeast Oklahoma was threatened publicly with violence, including castration, for using the girls bathroom. I grew up 50 miles from that town.

I am going to back up here and tell you my story. It may be too much information for some to handle. If so, you read at your own risk. There is intimate information of sexual and possibly offensive nature. You have been warned!

How did I come to identify myself as a transgender woman? Well, it didn’t happen overnight. It didn’t even happen over a year. It has been an ongoing struggle of self-identification throughout most of my life. It was a journey of discovery that began early in my childhood, transformed in my teenage years, and has been refined in my adulthood. I am still discovering what it means. Writing this down is part of making a map of the journey so far. I will be able to see where I have been. Maybe I can catch a glimpse of where I am going.

Maybe the earliest hints of what would become a way of expressing part of who I am began in infancy. Mom always said I loved to play with the satin edging on my blanket. Satiny materials are my favorite items to wear. The feeling is soothing and comforting, even now. Maybe it had to do with the image of me, standing next to my female cousin, both of us wearing dresses. Could those early events have been stepping stones? Who knows?

No one knows, really. There are no hard facts on what leads to people to experience gender dysphoria or crossdressing. I personally find this video very enlightening:

Some evidence points toward hereditary links. Some evidence points to in utero chemical influence. Some evidence points to post-birth family influence. I have only recently learned of my father’s interest in wearing women’s underwear. I don’t know how deeply it went with him, nor details of how he handled that aspect of his life. I don’t know what chemicals were influencing the development of my body. There is some possibility that my mind and soul were shaped by the abuse and leaving of my father. Who knows what could have contributed to the image of myself I have created.

What I know is that early in my life, wearing women’s clothes was natural. It felt right and brought me a sense of self that nothing else has in all of my experiences. 

The first time I ever tried on women’s clothing happened when I was 6-8 years old. It was in my grandparent’s house. My grandfather was at work. My grandmother operated a beauty shop in her home. I found my grandmother’s panties and bra. The panties were white nylon briefs. The bra was a very basic white Playtex style from the ‘70’s. I slid them on over my clothes. But once in place, something seemed to click within me. I remember sneaking into the bathroom and trying her undies on a few more times over the years. It is strange that it was only my grandmother’s clothes. Perhaps my mother didn’t handle her laundry the same way. I don’t remember ever trying on my mother’s clothes until a few years later. 

The next experience of "difference" happened just before my teens. It may be my first memory of transgender association. It involved my Star Wars action figures. I remember playing in my room with Luke and Leia. But instead of hero/heroine or rescue, I imagined a scenario where Luke was body switched into Leia. It was a strange scene to play out. But even more strange was that I remember thinking, “I wish I could do that.” The idea of switching to a girl's body seemed to resonate in my heart. 

When I began to find my sexual drive, I found my stimulus in the place many young boys did: catalogs. JCPenny and Sears were the main sources of tantalizing imagery in those tween and early teen years. I had found a stash of my step-dad’s Playboys, but they were not easily available. And to confess, at that early age, I was more interested in the cartoon comic strips than the glossy photos. But the catalogs had sections where my fertile, hormone-induced mind was introduced to the female form. It also introduced me to a broad range of fashion in lingerie. I learned the styles and cuts. I saw the colors and various materials. I wanted to wear things like that, to be able to dress in beautiful and sexy things. The stimulation I received was as much about what I could look like as what I saw. 

This perhaps fueled one of my earliest recurring fantasies. As a young and not very suave lad, I did not have much luck with the girls around me. There was one older girl who occupied my imagination. My fantasy involved being stuck in a department store, with her, and we were able to try on clothes in the lingerie section. Not the typical boy fantasy, I’m sure. 

Lingerie became my focal item. It is fair to say that I created a fetish around it at that time in my life. I began to experiment with my mother’s lingerie. Panties, bras, and pantyhose were the only items I had access to. As my sister got older, she brought more frilly items with lace and satins. One pair of underwear in particular still holds a fond place in my memory. I was nearly caught a few times, but I don’t believe I was ever found out. My mother and sister were both shocked when I revealed my crossdressing to them recently. 

When I entered college, crossdressing took a hiatus. I was, perhaps, too busy with school work and developing a career path, trying to work and socialize with people for the first time, and dating - real girls. I didn’t find the outlet for it, even though I was living on my own and had the power to purchase what I wanted. It seemed to be all behind me, a phase I had passed through and matured out of. Then, one night, a girlfriend and I were fooling around and she said something that kinda shocked me. “Do you want to trade underwear?” Had I had a presence of mind, I would have responded with some confessional statement of having loved wearing those things since childhood. In the sex hormone-induced delerium I was in, I just responded, “uh-huh”. That night re-ignited my desire and longing to dress again. But it was short on fulfillment and opportunity.

When I got married, to a different person, I never confessed my crossdressing. I attempted to broach the subject. This was the days when thongs were becoming the thing to wear. I really wanted to try some, and my wife had a few pair that I had worn. I suggested buying women’s since men’s thongs were not yet popular in mainstream stores. That was quickly dismissed as negative. I was left to secretly wear her things. Especially the one pair of underwear I desire above any other, even to this day. A satin flutter bikini panty is a joy to be experienced. I love the lingerie of the ‘80’s and ‘90’s as my favorite period: satins and hi-cut panties, flutter and lace trims, bikinis and thongs, and of course teddies.

The other thing that I had access to was my wife’s wardrobe. I began to see the beauty and design of women’s clothing. I moved from wanting to wear only lingerie to wearing dresses and other feminine articles. As I shopped for my wife, I saw things I wanted to wear. I began to imagine what I would look like. 

I also found the internet. It was something that wasn’t easily accessible to me until I was married. And it was Pandora’s box of discovery. Crossdressing and transsexual and shemale imagery was accessible. I began to see the world as more than just men and women. There were many different expressions in between. Not all of it was wholesome. Not all of it was encouraging or healthy. It was all part of understanding myself better. 

I began to understand that I wanted to look more feminine, not just in clothing but also in physical appearance. I wanted to experience what women experience, the good and the bad. I identified with women more than men in many areas of interest and subjects of conversation. I appreciated the beauty of women in appearance and dress and I wanted that for myself. Sexually, I wanted to be romanced and cared for and made secure and beautiful. I wanted to please my partner for her satisfaction and that brought me satisfaction. My pleasure was found in being pleasurable to her. And I wanted to be on the receiving end of sexual penetration. I wanted to know what it was like to be the one who received another’s passion intimately. I knew what that meant physically for a male. I wanted to experience it as a female. That is when things began to click that I wasn’t just a crossdresser.

I questioned my sexual orientation. I was attracted to and loved having sex with my wife. I knew I was heterosexually orientated in that regard. I was also interested in being made love to, by a woman with assistance or by a man. I began to question how bisexuality worked. And when dressed, I was interested in being sexual with a man or with another crossdresser. That is where things moved outside of my realm of understanding. I didn’t know how attraction could move that far. And I still don’t.

I came out to my wife in about 2002 that I was a fetish level crossdresser. That resulted in a “don’t ask, don’t tell, don’t talk about it” detente. It also was in the midst of a sexual drought between us. We had sex less and less often. Months stretched into a year between encounters. Dressing was my only avenue of sexual intimacy. After many years of this, I finally came out again (2013) to my wife and explained that dressing made me feel good about myself. It wasn’t just a fetish. It was about being me. 

We came to an understanding and set boundaries. I could wear underwear made for men that were patterned after women’s lingerie, but only panties. I wasn’t allowed to wear bras or anything else. And the panties couldn’t be ultra-feminine. Laces and materials were approved. Colors were questioned. When I bought a pair of pink briefs, she retreated from accepting this agreement. When I confessed my interest in getting some bras made for men, she broke off the understanding. So I made the promise that I would not dress if it made the difference in saving our marriage. 

It didn’t work. Our marriage was spiraling downward. We finally decided that it wasn’t going to work any longer. We had both reached the end of changing for the other. We had both achieved a place where we couldn’t be ourselves tied to the other. For me, I felt that I now had the freedom to explore my female side. My coming out to confidants, family, and friends has been liberating. Finding a supportive group of crossdressers to ask questions has been affirming. Buying the items that I want without complete secrecy has been refreshing. But the journey is not at the end.

In September, after our divorce was set, I began to question what my identity was. I had been married more than half of my life. I had been a father for two decades. I have been a pastor just as long. All of those things were coming unraveled. I wouldn't be married any longer, but single. My boys would be going their own ways, so I would be living alone without the need to supervise them. The church I was serving had demolished my remaining sense of being called to local church ministry. My identity - who I was/am/will be - was wide open to discovery.

The process to awareness that I am transgender happened swiftly, but only because the foundation and framework has been part of who I am all along. I began to think that after the divorce, I can wear what I want without anyone to judge me, around the house. Then I broadened that to the idea that I can wear what I want around the house all the time. It wasn't too long that my thought jumped to going out in public would be possible, as long as it wasn't in my professional setting. Finally, I realized, this isn't about crossdressing. This is about my identity. If I desire wearing women's clothes (and I try to emulate women's behaviors while dressed), and I am okay with going into public, this can't be just a fetish or sexualized concept.

I can confirm it isn't. I am working with a gender therapist who has affirmed that what I feel while dressing, what I desire in dressing, is a confirmation of a broader identity than just a male/masculine identity. It is an deeply ingrained sense of being someone else. Someone like this:

That smile is genuine because I love looking at her. I feel like she is alive and free to become a genuine person, not a fantasy or imaginary friend. I look at that picture and feel so good about myself.

I went out in public for the first time as this lady. I went to see my therapist. Then I went to do some fantasy shopping. I walked into stores and was greeted enthusiastically. I had wonderful associates who helped me with sizing and styles. I had the chance to try on clothes and see myself in styles I never thought possible.

I am trying to learn how to do makeup. I am trying to find a hairstyle that works for me (with wigs, of course). I am learning everything I can about being a woman. Because, yes, that is my hope. I am one of those freaks, those sickos, those whatever you want to call someone like me.

I am hoping to transition into becoming this lady. I like her a lot and I think she could have a beautiful life if given the chance to be released.

I am truly sorry to those who cannot continue with me (the male me) from this point on in my journey. That may include family. It may include friends and colleagues and acquaintances. This revelation may cost me my career or my public respect. It may even be the ending of my public life as Todd.

But it isn't the end of me. I may be someone in between. I may be completely this beautiful, happy feeling lady I love so much.

By the way, her name is Genevieve Valentina Bergman. She is named for some of my ancestors. One a female. One a male (feminized name of course). But she is real. And she is me.

Monday, November 25, 2019

A Beautiful Day In the Neighborhood, a review

I have a confession.

I was not a fan of Mister Rogers Neighborhood. As a kid, I enjoyed the land of Make-Believe. I especially liked the puppets. There were times when Mister Rogers would do teaching or build something, and that would fascinate me. I always preferred Sesame Street and Captain Kangaroo. When my kids began to watch television, they didn’t seem to be drawn to the Neighborhood, so I didn’t have to change my opinion.

When Fred Rogers died, there began a process that many are calling secular canonization. Mister Rogers became larger than his television persona and viewership. People began to extol the wonders of what he meant to them. The last decade has seen the popular attraction to Mister Rogers grow to a level greater than public television gave him access to.

Two movies have been released in just over a year’s time span that highlight the quality and character of Fred Rogers. The first was the biographical film Won’t You Be My Neighbor. This year sees the release of a slightly different perspective on Mister Rogers.

A Beautiful Day In the Neighborhood is a fantastical reimagining of an Esquire magazine cover feature of Fred Rogers by Tom Junod. The article becomes the central storytelling piece of the movie. The vehicle for storytelling is an episode of Mister Rogers Neighborhood. And we see all of it from the perspective of the stand-in character, Lloyd Vogel, who replaces Junod.

Since this is set up as an episode of Mister Rogers' neighborhood, complete with rebuilt sets and its own miniature version of Philadelphia and New York City for transitions, we learn from the very beginning of the movie what the message is. We learn that Lloyd needs to learn about forgiveness and reconciliation. Someone has hurt Lloyd very badly. We get to ride along with Lloyd as he learns valuable lessons about himself, his anger, and his relationships.

This movie has been described as just what our culture as a whole needs right now. It is the elephant in the room that everyone keeps describing, but no one wants to shoo it out. We are not very nice to each other. We hurt each other with our words as we express our beliefs and opinions. Kindness and civility have been consumed to drive the anonymity of social media assassination. Like Lloyd we live from incident to incident where we can uncover the “hidden truth” about how bad something is and expose it to the light of public scrutiny.

What the movie truly does is challenge us. It challenges us to be more like Mister Fred Rogers, a man who became the image we all perceive. A line from the movie that was a direct quote of Mrs. Joanne Rogers says that we shouldn’t call Mister Rogers or Fred a saint. In calling him a saint we are left with the impression that he is more than any of us could ever hope to be. He made himself into what we perceived. Every day he worked at who he was. The challenge we have to face in leaving this movie is: if we love who Mister Rogers was, then we can become like him.

I now find myself loving Mister Rogers. I didn’t want to jump onto the bandwagon of claiming that I have been a fan since I was a child. I didn’t want to say that something in his show was important to my childhood. And I really didn’t want to just grab the coattails of his canonization to say, “Hey! I like him, too.” Having seen the movie, and heard the challenge, I find myself wanting to emulate a little more of who he made himself to be. I want to find a way of bringing something of his life into my own. It isn’t that I want to be a reincarnation of him. There is no way I would ever be the quality of a person. If I can find just a little something through his life that could make me better, then I feel that he would think that was amazing.