Thursday, May 31, 2012

Reflecting on a friend


I am not an early riser and lately I have not had much to rise early for.  Still I have tried to get back in the habit of going to bed about 12 and getting up about 8 am.  I am usually awake by 7 or 730.  I woke up about 4 last night, something was bothering me.  I had dreams but not bad ones, I just couldn't sleep and I was restless so I got up at 5.

Welcome back to Tammy World.  It is my intention to post a blog entry a week and sometimes I may do more or add just random thoughts or reflections.  I have three ideas for posts in my head and am working on a couple of them but right now I want to share some news I received today and reflect on an old friend.  In my last post I reported having no friends left from my old life but actually I do have 2 friends left.  They just are not a part of my regular life and these two I correspond with, if infrequently, but seldom if ever see.  Now I am down to one.  I received a call this morning (actually my wife took the call) to report to me that one of my oldest friends and someone I used to refer to as my best friend, died in his sleep last night.

Not having many friends and still being at an age when people are not supposed to die, I have never experienced the death of a close friend.  I have cried 3 times in the 16 days I have been on hormones and this was the first time when I really had a good reason.  I want to tell you a little bit about my late friend Mack and what happened to him.  We spoke on the phone only once this year and it had been at least 6 or 7 years since I last saw him.  I thought about calling him often in the last few months, at some point I was going to come out to him and tell him about my transition but I will never have that chance.  My other remaining friend I mentioned in the first paragraph I speak to once or twice a year and he will usually come see me over the Holidays.  I am sort of planning to not be available to see him this year but at some point I will tell him about me.  I really wanted to tell Mack and he had a female friend that had contacted me a few months back to get mack's current phone number and I did come out to her and sent her pictures of me on the phone.  She may have told Mack but I don't know, they were both fairly crazy so I may never know.

Mack died in his sleep in a nursing home a couple of hours from me and his hometown where we used to hang out.  He had been in nursing homes, group homes and mental facilities since his early 30's and he would have been 49 years old next month.  Almost all my friends have been sort of "crazy"  and Mack was an extreme example of that.  It has actually taken me quite awhile in therapy to be convinced I am not insane too (although I am crazy lol, I am not insane).  What I have is Gender Identity Disorder and depression which is to a large degree related to the GID (Gender Dsyphoria)All of that is getting better with treatment and I now feel as if I will have some semblance of a normal life one day.  Maybe the reason I have surrounded myself with people who are "different" (many with mental disorders) is because that is how I have always looked at myself.  My therapist says that is actually common in trans people.

Yes Mack was my best friend from my wildest days, late teens and twenties.  He was an abuser of drugs and alcohol, mostly alcohol and he was a severe alcoholic by the time he was institutionalized in his 30's.  I think he was diagnosed with schizophrenia, he never admitted it to me but he was definitely taking anti psychotic medications since his first visit to the mental hospital.  He may have been taking Antabuse also and I wonder if he was drinking again on that medicine and that had something to do with his death.  I hope to find out, but his health had been declining in recent years.  He had some mini strokes and stroke like symptoms and had been hospitalized for it a few times but to my knowledge they couldn't find out what was wrong.  Mack was a good person and never hurt anyone.  That was one thing we had in common no matter how bad our actions were back in those days.  He did often surround himself with a lot of bad people (sometimes the worst types) but to my knowledge he never stole or started fights etc.  He was quite a drunk though and his mouth got him in trouble more than once.  I remember one time he had been in a bar and said something to the wrong person and ended up with his jaw broken and wired shut.  Yes he had gotten so bad in the last few years before he was institutionalized that even I would not hang out with him when he would start getting out of hand.  He was famous for going on three days drunks in which he would not eat and only sleep when he passed out (usually on the floor) and then wake up and go get another drink.  The last time I "partied" with him he came to my trailer (via bus from one of the nursing homes) and brought a big bag of clothes and toothbrush etc.  He stayed 3 nights I think and he never touched the contents of the bag, we sent him home in the same clothes he came in with and I think it was last day of the visit  before he would eat anything.  My wife had been out the first couple of nights and when she returned she poured out his last liquor bottle and made sure I sent him home when I returned from work.   He was a mess but a very funny person, a funny drunk that would always make you laugh, though I think most people laughed at him and not with him. 

I have not known whether to thank Mack or curse him but he was the one that introduced me to my wife many years ago.   He was always making friends with girls but  hardly ever dating them (we had that in common) and he had met her at a bar and we all went out one night to another bar.  When I met my wife she had been sort of a bar fly and drinker but she was at the end of her run with that, they were putting her on Lithium when we started seeing each other and I only saw her drink once.  She was a mean drunk and we never would have stayed together if she had continued.  I guess I will thank him because I think her and I were meant to be together, at least for this time we have been together, to sort of look after each other.  Although I know the marriage will not last and I don't want it to, I know I will always look out for her.  The way she has come around to support me in the last year, particularly the last 6 months, has been very special to me and she has again become my great friend.  But Mack was my best friend at the time he introduced us and although it has been years since I saw him and we seldom spoke anymore, I will miss him and in a way I hate that he never knew the real me.  He just knew the person that was hurting and hiding behind a bottle and I think he was too.  He had his own demons whatever they were. 

Of late when I would speak to him Mack would either be too groggy from the meds to really talk about anything, or he would be in a good mood and talk about some of the wild times we had when we were younger.  There were some wild stories but it is the distant past and I will not rehash them here.  I don't miss that part of my life at all but I always said I would write a book about our exploits and maybe someday I will, or at least post some blog posts about it.  It would amuse the readers I am sure.  I do remember when we were both about 20 years old and Mack was just a tad taller than me but we both weighed 165 pounds.  In the last few years he had ballooned to over 280 and I had weighed around 200 pounds for quite some time but I am now back at that weight from years ago, 165 pounds.  I actually feel better than I did then. The last time I saw him he looked more bloated than fat, he was unhealthy looking like he was swollen in the face and gut and I think that had gotten worse.  No telling what kind of medicines they had him on in those facilities but it was some strong stuff and I think it contributed to his physical decline as for the most part he had gotten away from drinking and that lifestyle that had almost killed him before he went in.

 I am going to end this post by relating a couple of things from Mack's last years of freedom, before being institutionalized.  He was good at holding a job unless the employers got fed up with him and let him go.  He would always go to work at least and toward the end he was living in motels (cheap ones) because he couldn't handle making regular bill payments or manage his money.  I had come home one day when I was working out of town and went to see him at his room.  He was drinking, had been all day and possibly days, and I may and may not have had one drink but it was the afternoon so I wasn't "partying."  We hung out awhile and I wanted to use the motel pay phone to call my girlfriend (now wife).  Mack wanted to go with me and listen to his music (he loved his music and his favorite band was Rush) and so he drove me across the parking lot.  After I got off the phone he was driving back to the room and for some reason he veered off and headed out the driveway toward the highway.  I was telling him to go back and when he got to the edge of the highway he ran one wheel off into the ditch and got stuck.  I got out to look and he was spinning his tires like crazy and I could tell he was not going anywhere.  A state trooper happened along and pulled in behind Mack's car and hit the blue lights.  Soon Mack was being arrested for DWI and being sober I walked over and tried to talk to the officer to explain what had happened and tell him Mack had not been on the state highway.  The trooper wanted to hear nothing of it and threatened to arrest me if I didn't leave so I left.  A few months later he had moved to another motel nearby and this time managed to get a DWI while sitting in his car with the motor running and listening to his music.  This would be funny if it wasn't so tragic but he eventually ended up going to prison for a time for DWI's and he later told me that prison was not as bad as the state mental hospitals.  He had been to them all and he had lived a wild life, burned out by 30 and sent away.  Mack I love you and I will always miss you my Friend.



Monday, May 21, 2012

Coming Out...the begininning

Secrets can destroy people.  Coming out can be liberating.  Great things can happen when there are no more secrets and you don't have to hide from yourself and the world anymore.

In late 2007 I ended a long and dangerous addiction and began the process of healing and putting my life back together.  I was still employed in my career job that I managed to hang onto through the dark times and in Spring of 2008 was able to move out of a rental trailer and into a decent home of my own for the first time since I was on my own.  I had started dressing in my mom's clothes and playing with her makeup etc. at about the age of 5 and though I did not understand it, I had always felt like an alien and was never happy or comfortable with myself.  Hiding inside was what I thought was a dark secret I did not dare let come out, not even to myself.  Even though I had this part of me buried deeply and expressed it in little ways when I could, it was in 2004-2005 at the age of 40 before I ever bought a full wardrobe and tried to put together a full female look.  A couple of years before that I had given myself a female name (Tammy Michelle Valentine) and began to study online how to fulfill my lifelong fascination with "looking like a woman" and to try to meet people that could help.  I credit my coming out to myself with being able to stop using hard drugs and quite possibly saving my life.  This is what had been wrong with my entire life and I had not (or had not allowed myself to) realize it.  The femininity I tried so hard to hide from the world was really the real me and I was female inside.  In early 2008, in my new home, for the first time I began to view myself as a female although I had no idea how to accomplish going any farther with it and did not think I could do it. 

I was still living with my wife in a non romantic relationship and had very few friends and was in a fairly isolated situation socially.  I began to make friends outside of my home life (cd,tg,ts) and ventured out to meet them when I could.  My wife knew nothing of this other side of me.  At the end of 2008 the company I was working for fell on hard times and my job was cut to part time then eliminated totally.  I had obtained a professional licence the prior year (real estate) and in 2009 began to work as an independent contractor in this field right about the time the real estate market was falling apart in my area.  I had (and still have) enough money from inheritance etc. to get by on and for the first few months I worked very hard in my new career and made very little money.  Then I scaled back my work somewhat and still made the same amount of money (very little) and thus had more freedom and time to express myself and grow my female side.  In the summer of 2009 I knew I had to move forward somehow with my growing female life and saw telling my wife about me as the great obstacle I needed to overcome.

I decided to come out to her on Halloween  2009 by showing her myself "as a female" and if she didn't like it I could always write it off as a Halloween costume, right?  I got a lot of advise from people for and against this but ultimately was not able to do it and in my mind the opportunity was missed.  I agonized about my dilemma night and day and was relatively unproductive with work but I looked around me and saw that most of the people working so hard in my field were not doing any better so I just laid low and worked on my look during the limited opportunities I had and longed for a way out.  In the Spring of 2010 I knew I had to come out to my wife but again decided Halloween was the right time to do it.  I talked to hundreds of people (mostly online) that had been in a similar situation and finally decided not to just come out to her as a Halloween costume and knew I had to have a serious talk with her.  Again I agonized and waited and waited, trying to find the perfect things to say.  I was very depressed and unproductive but not completely shut down in the other aspects of my life.

One day we took a long drive in the country, dogs in the back seat and visited the grave sites of her family in my wife's small rural home town.  On the way home I took the long way and my wife was in a very good mood and was talking about old memories.  I was nervous and glanced over to her as I was driving and said the words "There is something I have to tell you about myself....".  I know I started by telling her things about my childhood that stand out as vivid memories and pretty much leading up to where I was at that time.  She took it well and asked a lot of questions, but she was obviously not happy or comfortable with the revelation.  She said she did not suspect I was crossdressing but did suspect I was bisexual.  How could she not suspect with all the clues she had found I do not know.  I had been shaving my body for a couple of years and she never even noticed, if that tells you anything.  I did not admit that I was bisexual and did not tell her I wanted to be a woman, these were things that my research had told me not to tell her at least at first.  All I told her I wanted was the freedom to dress in my own home and to be able to go out without having to wait for her to leave  to do it.

This was early October and I agreed not to dress at the house when she was home through the Holidays and she told me after the first of the year she was leaving for good and I could do what I wanted to.  This had been a common statement by her throughout our marriage and even before.  You see, she is 10 years older than me and I first met and started dating her when I was 23.  We got married when I was 34 and her mother was put in a nursing home.  She has never lived alone and never worked a steady job.  I honored her wishes and when Halloween came instead of showing her my true self I met a cd friend in Raleigh and dressed at her house and went with her to the mall.  this was my first trip out in such a public environment and we met another ts friend there and had a fun day out.  I was very nervous but was bolstered by the fact that it was Halloween day and anything goes, but at the end of the day I felt more alive than I ever remember feeling.

The new year came in and sure enough I began to finally experience the freedom in my home to be myself and express myself as a woman.  We are fortunate to have 2 separate houses on the same property.  We have a modest sized ranch home and in the back yard a fairly good sized "guest house" which I began to use as a home for Tammy.  My wife stayed away from me when I was "dressed" and I also began to make outings to various places during the day and sometimes at night, either alone or with friends.  The year before that I had started going to parties and socializing but going out and doing normal activities was new to me and very fulfilling.  In March of 2011 tornadoes raked across eastern North Carolina in the early evening and I was in my little house getting dressed and made up as usual.  There was knock at my door and my wife was there wanting to come in.  At this point she had seen me with makeup but never seen the full me with wig etc. though i had shown her some pictures she acted like she had rather not see.  There was a tornado watch that had turned into a warning in my area and a nasty storm was going on outside and she was scared.  I opened the door and let her in.  Jo Anne (name changed to protect the innocent) meet Tammy....We hung out for awhile until the storm passed and it was not as awkward as either of us had anticipated I don't think.  When the storm was over (we were spared here but the tornadoes were deadly not too far way) she went back to the "big house" and left me alone.  I didn't go out because of the weather.

Over the next couple of months we began to hang out together more, she was getting comfortable with being around either side of me.  I didn't push it too far at first and we agreed that a couple of times a week was ok as far as me expressing myself fully around her.  My life as a male began to become almost unbearable about this time and I was shutting down at work instead of just scaling back.  I am a hard worker but it was getting to the point I could not stand to work as a male anymore and it was ebcoming more painful to be called sir etc.  I stopped associated with a couple of friends I knew would not be understanding and was down to just one friend that would come visit.  I was uncomfortable around him but had known him for 30 years and didn't want to end the friendship at that time.  He knew something about my female self from things he had seen on my computer but we never discussed it and by his general attitude I didn't think I wanted to come out to him.  A year later he knew something was going on with me and told me he would support me through anything but he is a obnoxious drunk and would make references to "fags" he would see on tv, call transsexuals he shes and generally be degrading to women around me and my wife.  Even after I told him to quit it and he had gotten better he would always get drunk and be disgusting verbally so I stopped hanging out with him leaving me with no friends from my old life.

Back to Spring/Summer 2011 and hanging out with Jo Anne in my little guest House where we watch tv every night.  She began to get comfortable with being around me presenting female and at some point proclaimed that I was transsexual and should live full time as a woman.  This surprised me as I still did not see a way I could do that myself although I desperately wanted to and had whittled my male life down to next to nothing.  Of course she prefaced this by saying I should just be happy and pursue living full time but that she would leave me when I did.  I began to see that this evolution of mine was inevitable even though she had always said she was going to leave and never did.  Our relationship is platonic and had been for years even though in the past (Before we married) we were involved romantically.  I guess we were and are fulfilling each other's needs on whatever level.  I was dating men when I could could though sneaking to do so and in September 2011 met a man and the next month we started dating exclusively.  This really filled an empty hole in my life and we are still together.

When I first came out to my wife we agreed that I would see a therapist about my situation.  I had been contemplating doing so for a good while since before I decided to tell her.  I was deathly afraid of therapists though and had some negative experiences with them as a teenager so I never did it.  I was happy in 2010 that she was supportive of my entering therapy, but there was a big catch.  I wanted to see a psychologist versed in gender issues and she wanted me to see someone that would "help me to stop".  Sometime that summer (2011) she had come around and we decided I could talk to whatever kind of therapist I wanted to.  We both realized I needed some kind of help as I was still very, very unhappy even though parts of me were happier because I could express myself more.  It was the going back and forth between "male and female mode" that was killing me, as well as just having to be male at all.  I was still terrified of therapy however and was convinced I would be committed to a mental hospital after being analysed and I told my new therapist this when I finally went in December.

2012 came in came in and I had dedicated this as the year to begin my transition from male to female.  I started using my given last name instead of the one I chose for myself.  Therapy was helping and I was no longer scared to open up and soon I went against the advice of my therapist and came out to my wife about me having a boyfriend.  She had suspected this for a few months and I had never denied it but I finally came out and told her.  My life has been a life of secrets and I felt really liberated telling my wife almost everything about my relationship with my boyfriend.  She surprised me yet again by being mostly supportive and we seem to be closer than ever as friends.  I live full time at my house and almost all of the time I am sort of sort of fem mode even if I use my own hair and a little makeup.  I feel she finally accepts me as a woman and we are getting along pretty good as girlfriends.  On May 15, 2012 I started HRT (hormone replacement therapy) and am fully committed to a full transition to female.  I am happier than I have been in my entire life and had never been truly happy since childhood.  My wife supports me on this (even though she still hints of leaving at some vague point) and on that day I told her last remaining secret, that I have my boyfriend over when she goes out of town.  She is less happy with this than other aspects of what I have revealed to her and for now I have agreed to just go out and meet him.  Things change fast with us these days so I don't know how she will feel will going forward but I am So relieved to finally have everything out in the open with her.  I will be leaving my minimal career by the end of the year and before I transition and will start a new career as myself next year.  So the Only remaining obstacle as far as coming out is revealing myself to my elderly parents.  Stay tuned to see how that works out. To those of you who have written me (based on my Flickr postings) about coming out to their wives or their desire to do so, regardless of where you are on the gender spectrum.  I hope you find some inspiration in this true story.  Much more on all this later and welcome to Tammy World!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Down Here

Hi y'all my name is Tammy Matthews and I live way down here in the rural, redneck south.  Well not exactly but pretty close,  I live in a city of 55,000+ people and 45 minutes from a major city in North Carolina which is not the deep south and is supposed to be more progressive than other southern states.  Well not anymore.  In starting this blog off with current events I am going to mention the constitutional amendment that was passed in my state this week. The state constitution was amended by a 61% to 39% margin from the voters, to allow the union of only one man and one woman.  Yes this is the "gay marriage" amendment but it can also have serious negative repercussions for unwed mothers, single moms, unmarried couples gay and straight.  I know 2 females who could be hurt by this vote, one is a single mom and the ex husband is married (she is afraid she will lose custody of her daughter) and the other is also a single mom and the victim of domestic violence.  Did the 61% of voters realize they would be harming single mothers?  On the marriage issue alone whose business is it what the gender is of people getting married.  I hear people say they don't favor same sex marriage but do favor civil unions.  This amendment bans them too, between gay or straight couples, anyone.  Also, there is already a law on the books saying that marriage can only exist between one man and one woman.  What? If that law was on the books why write and have to pass a constitutional amendment on it??  Oh and you can legally marry your cousin here as long as it isn't your gay cousin, isn't that nice. At the end of the day it is the southern evangelical churches and the religious right mindset that pushed this through, although a number of churches took the side of equality (bless their hearts).  I was fully expecting this to pass but the margin is surprising and disturbing to me.  Yes, I live in the bible belt and this is what we are up against here.  Welcome to Tammy World.