Friday, November 29, 2013

A (Brief) Tale of Three Thanksgivings

The last three Thanksgivings have been vastly different experiences.  The last two were like night and day.  Thanksgiving 2012 was the last holiday I celebrated before coming out to my family and it was an extremely awkward day....

In my last post I mentioned that I got my last ever short "male style" hair cut right before Thanksgiving 2011.  Everything was awkward to me back then, as it had been for as long as I can remember, but in 2012 as I actually began transition, the awkwardness got turned up a notch each day that passed while I remained in hiding. 

So many things were going right for me last November.  I had been in therapy almost a year, been on hormones 6 months, been dating my boyfriend Mitchell for over a year and had a plan to come out and go full time by the end of the year.  What I did not have was any idea what would happen when I actually did come out or any certainty that my family would accept me, that I would be able to keep living in my home or that I would have the support I needed to eventually complete my transition.  Life was one big question mark. 

One more thing I did have though was hope; hope and a real belief that somehow everything would be ok.  Still, each passing day it became harder to try to present myself as male and harder to hide my secret.  The secret that had lingered inside me for so long was now slowly coming out and I didn't know how much longer I could continue to hold it in.  People had to notice that I was changing.

Back on Thanksgiving Day 2011, I had my freshly cut hair and had made no permanent changes to my appearance.  I could put on makeup, breast forms and a wig whenever I had the chance, but when I wanted to hide it was easy.  A year later I could be me and everything was natural, although I still couldn't be me all the time.

I probably wore the same clothes last Thanksgiving as I had in 2011, but my hair was now too long to comb behind my ear, my ears were pierced earlier in the year so I wore small stud ear rings and I wore a sports bra under my sweater in an attempt to hide my breast growth.  In the few pictures we took as a family last Thanksgiving I looked terrible.  I was miserable and it really showed.

Two days before Thanksgiving 2012, at home happy and relaxed.  Thanksgiving Day was not so relaxing....
The hardest part of Thanksgiving 2012 was putting on a good face with everything that going on with me here at home.  Joan and I were not getting along at all and we both felt we couldn't live together much longer.  She had known about my boyfriend for months and now knew he came to see me here when she went away.  You could probably cut the tension between us with a knife even when we had company like we did on Thanksgiving.

Joan was always the one to cook the turkey and she did a very good job of it.  We had a small family and on this day my parents would join us here as well as Joan's daughter, who drove to town for a couple of hours.  I sensed a little tension between her and I that I had not felt before.  I didn't know what Joan had told her and this was the first time she had seen me with my longer hair down, not to mention any other changes she might have noticed.  Knowing what I know now, I would say that by this time Joan had told her pretty much everything, so my persona that day was more fake than ever.

We also celebrated Jumper's birthday each thanksgiving and this was her "sweet 16" party.  For the first time ever, I got our beloved, elder family dog a birthday card as well as a new orthopedic pad and the usual other presents.  I felt like this would be her last birthday and wanted it to be special, but the other members of the family seemed distracted and I don't think we gave her the party she deserved.  Maybe my parents also sensed changes on the horizon, as there was more tension between us than usual.  Last Thanksgiving, I really just felt like a fish out of water. 

As you all must know by now, 2 weeks and three days after Thanksgiving last year, Joan left me while I was in Virginia visiting Mitchell.  Three days later I came out to my Mother, she told Daddy and three days after that I went Full Time.  I had the acceptance I needed and more love than I could have ever asked for.  I know I am extremely lucky to have this experience and not everyone gets so lucky.  This year, Thanksgiving 2013, I had more to be thankful for than ever!

Things were obviously very different this year.  It was just my parents and I, along with cherished family dogs Buddy and Nightingale, celebrating Thanksgiving at their home down the block.  I was comfortable this year, outwardly and within myself, and happy but there was a hole where Joan and Jumper used to be.  Joan's daughter and I exchanged "Happy Thanksgiving" texts and I spoke with Joan on the phone.  It would have been nice to have Mitchell join us, but he was in Virginia with his kids so we texted, talked on the phone and I will see him this weekend. 

This year I missed having Jumper around but I am extremely thankful to have had this special animal in my life for so long.  She was with us for 16 Thanksgivings and will always be with me in my heart. 

Before going to my parents' for lunch I walked Buddy and Night around the City Lake, stopping for awhile at the spot where I carried Jumper on her last day on earth, to give her a last goodbye before taking her to the vet.  I remembered the many times we walked her around the lake and I remembered the times we had in the country where she spent half her life.  The dogs sat still while I said a few tear filled words.  Once again I looked up in the sky and saw our beautiful Jumper out there in the field, Running Again.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Thanksgiving 2011: Hair Project

Thanksgiving 2 years ago......the hair project begins

Growing my hair out has been a real project.  It's now been two years and counting.  My plan was to get one more short haircut before Christmas in 2011 and let it grow all of 2012, before going full time.  I got it cut right before Thanksgiving 2011 and the girl cut it so short that it was still short enough for Christmas.

So, my last short haircut was actually right before Thanksgiving two years ago.  I wish I could find a picture from exactly 2 years ago and as some of you know, hair seems to grow painstakingly slow.  I do think that my hair has gotten thicker and faster growing since I started estrogen. 

I don't know how long I will let it get, but I am enjoying having long hair and I have enjoyed this project for 2 years.  In the beginning, before I started hormones, just having my hair slowly grow out was a form of therapy for me.  As 2012 rolled along and I was full of anxiety over the prospect of coming out to my parents, letting my hair get longer and longer was also a source of fear as they began to comment on it.

Sort of like getting my ears pierced in January, 2012, letting my hair get longer was also a source of personal growth and a way for me to excerpt my independence.  It was also another manifestation of changes my parents (and others who I was not out to) could notice.  All my life I had been cautioned and coached to keep my hair short, as if it was the only way possible for me.  My dreams of having long, luxurious hair would seemingly never be realized.  

Joan was instrumental in encouraging me to grow my hair out as she was in getting my ears pierced.  She told me as early as 2010 that I should do it, but I think one reason was that she never liked seeing me in a wig.  One of the things I am thankful for this Thanksgiving is having a good, full, thick head of hair.  I know a lot of people that transition at my age, and even many much younger, do not have that luxury.  I am very thankful for all the support I have gotten along the way, especially from Mitchell and (early on) from Joan.  I am really thankful and blessed to have the support and continuing love of my parents.  I am also thankful that I finally had the strength live my life as myself.  Believe me it does get better, so always maintain hope wherever you are in life.  It is still getting better for me. 

These two pictures are about 18 months apart. First is May 30, 2012 (2 weeks HRT and about 5 months of hair growth) and second is November 25, 2013 (last weekend)...

May 30, 2012...15 days HRT
November 25, 2013...2 years of hair growth, 18 months HRT.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Inner Banks

Back in July, in my blog Independence Day, I mentioned that I was planning a fall visit with my good friend Lisa Lesher and that we were going to go fishing on one of the ocean piers near her home.  She lives near the water in North Carolina's  Inner Banks, an area of large rivers and sounds extending inland from the Outer Banks.  Neither one of us has been salt water fishing recently or ever fished there as ourselves, although we both grew up loving to fish.  I had planned to come see her in September when the Blues and Spanish Mackerel were still running on the Outer Banks, but I had to cancel that trip under strange circumstances.

I was all set to go see Lisa for 3 days in late September.  Everything was packed, including my fishing gear, and the dogs had a reservation to stay at the kennel.  That morning when I woke up I had a strange sensation.  It felt like I had to pee but couldn't and eventually I had to go quite badly but when I finally did I noticed a little bit of what looked like blood.  There was not too much pain, only a little, and after that the pain subsided substantially.  Still, the sight and thought of blood had me worried so I called my doctor in Cary and he agreed to see me before lunch that day.  This is the same doctor that prescribes my hormones and I am so glad I go to a GP instead of an endocrinologist because not only can my doctor treat whatever ails me, he can usually see me on short notice if needed.

The doctor seemed to think that I had or did have a kidney stone, but rather than x raying me he sent me home with some painkillers and told me to monitor the situation.  He does not even have an x ray machine in his small office, so I would have had to go elsewhere had I done that and he is concerned about excess radiation.  He is a good doctor with sort of a holistic approach, and I like that. 

I remembered what happened last year when Mitchell woke up at my house in severe pain from a kidney stone and I had to take him to the emergency room.  I was afraid that was what was in store for me, so I cancelled the visit to Lisa's and the dog's boarding reservation.  I laid low for a few days and waiting, but nothing else happened.  There was no real pain but there was some discomfort.  I took a couple of the pain pills but since I did not need them I saved them for another time when they might be needed.  The old me would have gobbled them right up with liquor or beer over the next few days. 
Apparently I had passed a tiny kidney stone and have to hope there are no more whammies waiting to hit me later.

Fried soft shell Blue Crabs fresh from the Albemarle Sound.
I missed out on that trip to the coast but I promised Lisa I would still come down during the fall fishing season, so on Wednesday October 9th I hit the road heading east.  I rolled into Nags Head after having my first seafood meal of this trip, a lunch of fried soft shell crabs from a little place in Columbia, NC.  Lisa was meeting me at the beach but I got there before she did so I walked out on Jennette's Pier.  I arrived right in the middle of a something like a Nor'easter and the wind was blowing some kind of fierce on this grey day.  There was no way we were going to do any fishing in those rough, windy conditions but still I enjoyed walking out on the pier and seeing the ocean.  You can really smell the salt air when its blowing like that and feel its energy as you walk out  on the pier.  A few brave souls were fishing for Red Drum on the end of the pier with no luck, but most of the sparse crowd were spectators like me, gawking at the big waves and dynamic surf.

Rough seas:  Atlantic Ocean from Jennette's Pier in Nags Head, North below.

Once Lisa arrived we decided to forgo the pier and enjoy our favorite indoor activity, shopping.  The wind was wreaking havoc with our hair anyway and not only would no fish bite under such conditions, but we don't have the heavy tackle needed to fish in them. 

They have a smaller outlet mall in Nags Head and we hit the Dress Barn there armed with a coupon for 20% off.  Lisa bought a couple of tops, one of which may have become her favorite short sleeve top, and I found the perfect fitting pair of skinny jeans for only $19.99.  I needed a couple of gifts to take home, so we also hit a gift shop and by that time it was starting to get dark. 

When I was at the Outer Banks with Mitchell just a couple of weeks prior, the one meal I really wanted and did not get was a fresh tuna sandwich.  Tortugas Lie usually has a very good, reasonably priced grilled tuna sandwich so she followed me there up the beach road.  Tortugas is a fun little place with sort of a dive bar atmosphere and a Florida Keys decor.  Lisa had never been there and although we really enjoyed our delicious sandwiches, I could tell it wasn't go to be her favorite place.  Tortugas was very crowded during the dinner hour and quite noisy with several little kids running around and babies crying.  There are a few tables and a big bar but I believe it has a family atmosphere early and a bar crowd later on.

Grilled Tuna Sandwich from Tortuga's Lie...
I wanted to get some fresh, locally brewed beer to take back to her place for us to drink over the next three nights, so we stopped at my favorite brew pub, the Outer Banks Brewing Station.  We each got a sampler consisting of four 5 ounce glasses of some of the local favorites.  I chose two of the varieties to take home in growlers, which I now have to take back next time I go for recycling or refilling.  I could have stayed there all evening but we had a 20 minute drive and 20 ounces of that beer is about all we could handle and feel comfortable making the drive.

Very good beer brewed on the Outer banks...
Back at Lisa's, we relaxed, watched some television and had another beer or two before turning in for the night.  She has a nice, very clean three bedroom home which I will say is in the country on a dirt road, but it is a nice area with a small beach on the Albemarle Sound down at the end of her road.  During the day you can look down the road and see where the sound is located by the way the treeline gives way to the wide estuary.  When I worked for North Carolina Marine Fisheries as a Biologist Tech II, I lived on a creek and waterway that led out to this sound, and most of my time at work there was spent in outboard boats on this vast, often volatile body of brackish water (as I talked about in an earlier post this year, Really Big Update).
Albemarle Sound from the beach in Lisa's below...

We awoke on Day 2 with a plan to drive up to Virginia Beach and hit a couple of Lisa's favorite malls.  The wind was still blowing and there was a little drizzle, so it definitely would not have been a good day for the beach or fishing.  It was starting to look like my first salt water fishing trip as myself was a bust and would have to happen next spring, but that was ok.  There was still a ton of stuff to do in the area and she lives about an hour from Norfolk-Virginia Beach, which is a very large metropolitan area.  We got ready slowly I am afraid (my fault as I am not a morning person) and finally left around lunch time for the drive north. 

By the carousel in Lynnhaven Mall
We went to Lynhaven Mall for a few hours of walking and shopping.  This is a nice, big mall with lots of great stores and the coolest thing I had ever seen in a shopping mall, an old fashioned carousel.  One of the outlying stores happens to be my favorite shoe store, DSW, so we stopped in to look for a bit before entering the mall.  I broke the end off one of my big toenails there while trying on some boots, which were obviously too small.  The best solution seemed to be hitting one of the nail salons in the mall for a pedicure, which I sort of needed anyway because I would be seeing Mitchell that weekend when I got home.  Lisa had been growing out her own fingernails for awhile, had painted them and they looked really good except one of them had broken off a little bit.  She decided to let them do a quick fix on that nail and repaint her fingernails with a different color while I got my pedi.   She is not yet "out" on her job, so she didn't want to show up at work wearing big nails or French tips, like I have.

The vastness of Lynhaven Mall
When the girl finished doing my toenails I noticed that she was still sitting at the table getting her nails done.  She gave me a couple of odd looks but I thought maybe she was just frustrated that it was taking so long.  I determined that she must be getting a full set of nails for our next couple of days out, but I knew if she did she would have to take them off before going back to work on Saturday.  Finally she was finished and did not look happy at all!  I asked her what was wrong and apparently she had told the nail tech to just fix the one nail and repaint all of them, but there must have been a communication breakdown due to language differences (or perhaps due to the salon wanting to make extra money), so she ended up with a full set, a beautiful French manicure.  The girl whacked off three of her nails before she could stop her so she just let her go ahead. 

Not the happiest I have seen Lisa, I did not know how to interpret that look at the time..
This nail salon had a sign at the front that indicated it had been voted best nail salon in Virgina Beach the previous year.  They may do a great job with nails but apparently they are not the best when it comes to communication.  Lisa is a real sport and a kind, laid back person so she didn't express her dissatisfaction with the girl at the salon but decided to make the most of it and enjoy the nice nails for another 2 days.  We didn't buy much at this mall except some makeup from Mac and Sephora.  We mostly just walked and took it all in.  Deciding that one mall was not enough for us on this day, we left Lynhaven and went to what Lisa considers her "home mall", Greenbriar, and bought yet more makeup at MAC and Clinique there in Macy's. 

Greenbriar Mall was my favorite when I lived down in Elizabeth City, NC back in the 1990's and had my fisheries job.  It was even nicer now than I remembered so we got some more walking in and worked up a good appetite.  There was a really cool exhibit there for Breast Cancer Awareness Month called the Bra-ha_ha.  You make a donation to help fight breast cancer and get to walk around the exhibit looking at all the unique ways people have decorated bras.  Then you write you write your favorite one on an entry sheet and at the end of October a winner was declared.  I picked out one designed by some children in grade school and I hope they won.  This exhibit provided a really cool photo-op, all for a good cause.

After a nice dinner at Texas Steakhouse, we headed back to North Carolina to watch Lisa's favorite show, American Pickers, and relax.  I love that show too and we both had our laptops out logged into Facebook, adding some pictures and posts about our day.  Earlier this year I started a Facebook group called the Trans Beauty Network and designated Lisa as an administrator.  One more friend, Ashley Dawn Oakley helped me fine tune the original group ideas and she also serves as an administrator.  We spend a lot of time and effort on that group and even though we carefully screen each applicant we are up to almost 300 members and growing, at the time of this writing.  We have both cis and trans women members (mostly trans) and have hair stylists, makeup artists and photographers among our membership.  The group is basically dedicated to transgender women who are serious about their presentation in every way and dedicated to excellence in being the best that they can be.  We deal with topics such as makeup, hair, fashion, voice training and much more.

Makeup and skin care products haul from Thursday's trip to Virginia...
So we watched tv, had a couple of beers and caught up with our friends and group activities online.  The next morning I awoke to the sounds of trucks rolling by the house.  Apparently they were carrying dirt in and out of some site deeper within the subdivision.  I love Lisa's neighborhood because it is one of those rural, sound side developments where you find all different types of homes.  There is no HMO and you might see a trailer and a very nice two story home as neighbors in this heavily wooded community.  There was a house for sale 2 doors down from the water that I would love to have as a second home.  If I had more time to travel down there I would rent one of Lisa's bedrooms to use as a friendly headquarters close to the beach.  She is looking for a cool roommate now but even when she finds one there is a futon she says she bought for me in the third bedroom, which primarily functions as an office, so I can still have a place to sleep when I visit.

Virginia was calling again on day three of this trip.  The wind had died down some but there was still a little drizzle and I had more desire to go shopping than I did to go to the ocean and attempt to fish.  I started off the day with some quiet, me time and a walk on the little beach there on the sound.  When I came back I played with Flash, Lisa's big loveable Blue Tick Hound dog, for awhile before getting ready.  That dog is full of energy and a lot of fun!  Playing with him made me miss Night and Buddy so much.  My dogs actually met him on my spring trip but Flash and Buddy, being two males, clashed a little bit so I decided to board my dogs rather than bring them with me.  I really appreciate her offer for me to bring the dogs though, as most people I visit are not so dog friendly.  Lisa is such a great hostess!

On this day we went to downtown Norfolk to visit the MacArthur Center mall and see the battleship USS Wisconsin, which is on display there as part of the Nauticus museum complex.  Actually, this area of Norfolk is on the water and has soo much to do that one could spend several days within walking distance going to shops, restaurants and museums.  I desperately want to go back and see more of Norfolk, it is one of the most fascinating cities I know of.  It's one of the biggest ports in America with a huge Naval presence and a lot of history.  I am glad we got to see a little piece of it and the rain held off enough for us to walk around outside as well as in the mall.

When girls take over MacArthur Center...
The MacArthur center was everything I was expecting it to be and more.  It first opened when I was living in Elizabeth City and though I never got a chance to visit back then, I did read all about its construction and early parking dilemma in the Norfolk newspaper.  The have since added a large parking deck and I had always heard it was a very upscale shopping mall.  It didn't disappoint in the upscale department, as demonstrated when we walked in though the mall entrance into Nordstrum.  The mall was absolutely fabulous but we didn't buy anything all day.  We walked and looked and took it all in, then decided to set out for the Nauticus museum and the battleship.  My visit came during the infamous government shutdown in October so we did not expect the museum to be open or think we could get access to the ship.  It turns out that everything there was open but we arrived too late in the day to justify paying admission, so we just viewed the ship from the docks.
Lisa and I with the USS Wisconsin in the background.

Waiting for a sailor?  No!  I have a man back home.
We have a friend from Facebook that lives in Norfolk, Marci Kriz, and she met us for dinner that night at a waterfront seafood restaurant.  I talked to my other Norfolk friend, Brenda, the day before and she was unable to meet us and just missed us again on this night, although I spoke to her by phone later.  The restaurant, Joe's Crab Shack, is in an older shopping center downtown.  Lisa remembers shopping there back in the day, when she was in the Navy.  Today that shopping center is almost empty of retail stores but does have a few bars and restaurants which add to the nightlife experience of downtown Norfolk.  We got there an hour or so before Marci and enjoyed a spectacular view of the harbor from our seats at the bar. 
This is what I understand is an amphibious aircraft carrier in dry dock, seen from the deck of Joe's Crab Shack....
Lisa and I had a couple of drinks at the bar and when Marci came in we got a seat by the water.  Darkness had set in but the place has a great atmosphere and I was able to enjoy another really good seafood dinner.  Unfortunately, my phone battery had almost died so I was unable to post one of my signature dinner plate photos when I checked in on Facebook.  A lot of my friends love to see those but it irritates Mitchell when I take them, lol.  He wasn't with us so it would have been a great opportunity.  Oh well....
Marci Kriz, Lisa Lesher and I at dinner....
Me, Marci and Lisa
We enjoyed a long dinner and a great chat with Marci.  It's always fun to meet a new friend from Facebook and she has a lot in common with us, so there is so much to talk about.  She is an awesome girl and has a successful transition, going to work everyday as herself.  I really look forward to seeing her again next time I get up that way.  As usual, the night was too short as both Lisa and Marci had to work the next day and the staff at Joe's wanted to close down and go home.  We got back to North Carolina kind of late, about 11 pm and then the nail adventure began.

This was the last night of my trip and Lisa had to be at work at 7 pm.  She works on the weekends but has off Thursday and Friday each week.  This week she had also taken off Wednesday so we had three days and nights of fun, but it had to come to an end.  Lisa had gotten her French manicure and did not want to go to work with those nails.  That is definitely not the best way to come out at work, so we had to figure out a way to remove them.  I have never removed professionally installed nails before, but at the salon they cut them and then sort of pry them off.  They have the right tools and they know what they are doing.  We had neither.

We tried cutting with little success and we tried soaking them in nail polish remover with even less success.  Eventually Lisa remembered she had a Dremel tool and went out back to find it.  She came in with that tool and we proceeded to just grind those nails right off.  This was painful to watch and assist with and Lisa didn't seem to enjoy it too much either.  We finally got them off with the worst part being the mangled fingernails that she was left with.  Well, at least no one at work noticed manicured nails that weekend and she has since informed me that they are growing back quite nicely.  It was a lesson learned in communication with English as a second language nail techs as well as emergency nail removal, although eventually she won't have to remove her nails to remain undercover at work. 

We stayed up quite late that night talking, especially considering Lisa had to get up so early.  When I got up Saturday morning she was already gone, so I got ready, packed up the van and said goodbye to Flash and Lisa's house until my next visit.  I thought about driving back through Elizabeth City but going the beach route was much more tempting.  I hit one gift shop to get a present for my boyfriend and then took a last walk on Jennette's Pier. 

Heading home via the Outer Banks...
The ocean was so calm that day I hardly recognized it as the same ocean I saw just three days earlier.  People were fishing on the pier but nothing was biting.  I took a leisurely stroll to the end and back, then hung around the breakers watching a large group of surfers enjoying the waves on one side of the pier while some type of surfing competition was happening on the other side.  The sea was calm but there was still a pretty good break at the surf line, probably from of the recent storm.

After leaving the pier I stopped at Striper's Grill in Manteo for the last seafood meal of this trip.  I had never been to Striper's before and it's a cool place right there on the Roanoke Sound docks.  The lunch crowd was sparse but the food was good.  I got the namesake Rockfish sandwich served with fries.  Rockfish is synonymous with Striped Bass, a fish common in the ocean and estuaries of the east coast.  My primary job at Marine Fisheries had been collecting data on Striped Bass to assist in population and young of the year estimates that aid fisheries managers in determining recreational and commercial season lengths and catch limits.  Often we would eat the data after we collected it, so Rockfish are something I have enjoyed quite a bit of in my lifetime.


Lisa and I at Lynhaven Mall in Virginia Beach on Thursday.  Has Lisa told you lately how much she loves that top?
We had a real blast during my three day visit but something greater happened than just two girls having a good time.  Lisa told me later that after this trip she gained a lot more confidence in her ability to pass and became much more comfortable going out.  A couple of weeks prior to my visit another Facebook friend had visited her and they spent some time out of the house at the beach during the Outer Banks Pride Festival.  Then when I came down I drug her around to all these malls and everywhere, as she puts it, which sort of forced her out of the house and into the open for long periods of time.

This is a girl that first went out during her teen years but things were much different then and she sort of retreated from going out as herself, at least on a regular basis, until lately.  Now that she is in transition and will go full time one day, she is more dedicated than ever to do what she needs to do to get herself ready for that eventuality.  Why not have fun doing it?  We have become really good friends this year even though we live too far apart to hang out often.  We met in person a year ago, have a great time when we are together and administer the Trans Beauty Network online together. 

I love helping people along their journeys any way that I can.  It was not that long ago that I took those first timid steps out of the house and into the public eye.  Some people helped me out but I never really had the support I was looking for until I had learned and grown a lot on my own.  It can be a scary world in the beginning  and the biggest thing we need is confidence.  Lisa used to call me brave for just going out and doing everything that a normal person does in the world.  I told her I was not brave I was simply doing what I had to do and just living my life as myself, finally.  Now she is reaching the same place in her life.  In the short time since this trip that I am writing about, I have witnessed her blossom even more by going out and doing more and more things as herself.  And now she is giving back more than ever to people who are reaching out for help in gaining the confidence to be themselves in this world.  I love happy endings......

This was the first time I ever met my good friend and fellow admin here, Lisa Lesher, back on November 7, 2012. She said I was the first trans person she ever met and she was about to embark on her journey and I had been transitioning almost 6 months...

"I can't believe how far I've came in the last 12 months. I thought I was pretty good about going out and doing stuff but Tammy Ann Matthews opened up a whole new world for me. I found out that we can go anywhere and do anything with out a problem.
 .... Lisa Lesher commenting on this picture in the Trans Beauty Network

Cover photo for our Facebook group, The Trans Beauty Network....
                                      Trans Beauty Network

When girls take over, that's our motto. This group is all about You! You Can be the person you want to be and you Can acquire the confidence you need to succeed.

This group is dedicated to transgender women who are serious about their presentation in every way and dedicated to excellence in being the best that they can be. We also appreciate all of our cis allies who join us here as friends and to assist us on our journeys. We are all here to help each other out.
Thanks to all of you for making this up and coming group such a success!

Thanks for visiting Tammy World!!!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Low Christmas and the Neighbors

Happenings in Tammy World, 11/16/2013.....

Today is Saturday and this is a bit of of a down weekend because my boyfriend Mitchell has to work and is staying in Virginia.  The only good thing about it is that I get to do some much needed chores around the house and catch up on writing my blog.  Of course I spend time with my family as well, as I do see my parents every day that I am in town.

I got to my parents house around 11 am and Mom and I had a few things planned.  First we went to Belk's in the mall so that she could do some Christmas shopping for me, Mitchell, Joan and her daughter.  At this point in my life I not only know what I will get for Christmas, with a few exceptions, but I help pick it out.  She got some moisturizer and make up from Clinique for us ladies and something for Mitchell.  He reads my blog so I cannot say what it is, some people still get to be surprised at Christmas.  She also got me some gloves and a scarf, and Joan some gloves, socks and a wallet.  

We only went to Belk's department store in the mall and then we went to Chic-Fil-A to pick up a takeout lunch.  I don't know what to think of Chic-Fil-A these days and have avoided them for a long time because of their support for what they call traditional marriage and the corporate owners' professed bigotry towrds entire LGBT community.  I think they have since backtracked on some of these positions, as public opinions have shifted in this country, but I still get an uneasy feeling about buying food there.  What really riled me up personally about the chain was when they had a Chic_Fil-A day a couple of years ago and all of these people lined up at their restaurants to buy their food. 

To a person they were almost all religious right conservatives and most of them probably despise the existence of people like me.  At the time I was not out to my parents and I remember them making a big deal about supporting Chic-Fil-A day.  They also supported the "marriage amendment" here in North Carolina that was in the news at that time and passed with an overwhelming majority.  So you can see the mentality that I sensed from my parents all my life and understand why I was so terrified to come out to them.  To their credit, when I did come out they did not equate being transsexual with being gay, but in the last year they have become more open minded on many, many things.  I do not think they would support such an amendment today. 

We all ate lunch at their house and then we took Daddy with us to the grocery store to pick up a few things.  Actually they both sat in the car and I went inside to pick up a some items for them and a few for me.  After that we rode to Lowe's home improvement store to get some small Christmas trees.  Mama has started decorating for Christmas very early this year because it is something that brings Daddy joy and he needs all of that he can get right now.  This week I put up her large artificial tree, put the lights on it and yesterday she decorated it with ornaments.  She was looking for a small artificial tree for the den that Daddy could see from his chair and I was looking for little trees for both of my houses.

Some very small, tabletop, live Frazier Fir trees caught my eye and I picked one out to be the Christmas tree in my main house.  Joan always loved a nice large, live tree and she always made such a big deal of decorating the tree and moving the ornaments around almost every day.  So I decided I needed a live tree but this year but since I am alone I would just have a very small one.  Then some even smaller pre-decorated Norfolk Pines caught my eye and I decided to get one for me and one for Joan to put in her small apartment in Raleigh.  Mama also picked up one for her den and decided to forgo another artificial tree. 

As I was rolling the cart towards the Garden Center checkout my eyes began to fill with tears as they are doing right now writing this blog.  Christmas time is going to be a little bit hard this year.  Memories come rushing back of taking down our last big tree last year, carrying it to the curb and Saying Goodbye to my long history of Christmas' with Joan.  I am going to miss her this time of year, more than I have in many months.  I don't want to be Low this holiday season, I want it to be filled with love and joy but I can already tell this time of year is going to be filled with some emotional moments. It is starting already. 

Living in this house by myself is a very lonely experience.  I have never really gotten used to it.  Recently I have been spoiled by having Mitchell here a lot and spending a good deal of time out of town staying with friends or in hotels where it doesn't seem as empty.  I stay up too late here because I dread being in that house alone and turning out the lights.  I stay up until I am so tired that falling right asleep will not be an issue, then if I am lucky enough to sleep all night I still wake up pretty early.  My body just feels like it is not getting enough sleep and Mitchell says the dark circles under my eyes will turn into bags if I keep this up.  I recently talked with a friend who had to have the bags under her eyes surgically corrected and the last thing I need now is some other problem that is going to have to be corrected. 

Overall though, I can't complain about my life these days.  I am not depressed but I just don't enjoy being in a dark house by myself.  Mitchell says I am like a kid in that I fight sleep and want to stay up as long as I possibly can.  Maybe I am afraid I will miss something, at least when he's here.  But when he is here I have no trouble going to bed around midnight when he does.  I am bored here when I am alone so when I stay up late I get to be bored longer.  Yippee!

When Mama was paying for the trees I rolled them out to the van where Daddy was sitting in the car listening to the UNC football game.  I saw an older couple I recognized and they said hello to me so I wished them Merry Christmas, as I had 4 small Christmas trees in the shopping cart.  Yesterday I would not have known who these people were, having only met them this morning in Belk's when Mama re-introduced me to Mrs. Bishop, who had been my kindergarten teacher.  The good thing is she had never seen me as an adult so when she met Tammy today I was obviously going to be different than meeting the small child she taught in school.  She said I was all grown up.  Mama had seen her recently when she brought a care package from their new church to the house, and of course she had to tell her all about me.  

My parents joined a new church this year and cancelled their membership in their old one they had been in for years and years.  The new church is a Baptist church but the old one is Southern Baptist.  There is actually a big difference in these two churches.  One advantage of the new church is that is only a block away and the old one is located downtown.  There are also some problems with their old church as they have a new preacher who some members love and some do not care for, but the difference in philosophies between these 2 churches is not lost on my Mother and I feel it influenced her desire to change churches.

She says she left the old church because the new leadership seems to treat members who rarely attend Sunday services, like my parents, with some level of disdain.  That is a factor but I also know that the Southern Baptist do not preach tolerance and have a very strict, fundamentalist doctrine.  Their new church is an independent Baptist congregation and has a much more open, accepting atmosphere.  The minister there actually preached against the "marriage amendment" while the Southern Baptist were among its biggest supporters.  This amendment is not the single biggest issue for me, but whether or not an individual, church or other entity supported it is usually a good indicator of how tolerant they are, although there are some exceptions.

When I met this couple earlier today at the department store, Mama introduced me to Mrs. Bishop (apparently I used to call her Miss Bissup) and she also introduced me to her husband.  The way she introduced me to him, right there in the store, bothered me because she said that I used to be (male name) and now I am Tammy.  Gee thanks Mom, here is another incidence of you basically outing me in public.  At least my male name is more of an androgynous name or unusual at least.  Of course he was going to know, but now anyone within earshot would know also, although in this case I don't think that happened.  I didn't even say anything to her about it afterwards, although I should have, because the few times something similar has occurred and I cautioned her to be a little more discreet in dealing with my situation in public she did not want to hear it.  Her way is right, in most instances, and I am extremely blessed to have her total acceptance and support so I shouldn't worry so much about the little things.  Actually it is not that little to me but I know I cannot change what she is going to do and if I mention anything it could hurt her feelings or start a small argument.

So we leave Lowe's and drove by my house to drop off my groceries and trees.  The neighbor across the street was in his yard with his son raking leaves.  I have to mention here that I have never spoken to any of my neighbors since coming out.  The truth is I barely spoke to them before but have intentionally avoided even making eye contact with any of them this year, except for an occasional wave that I just couldn't get out of.  I am not ashamed of myself or afraid to tell the truth about who I am, by now it must be pretty obvious, but the fact is that it is a lot more complicated than just my transition.  

Joan interacted with the neighbors much more than I ever did.  When we were just moving in the neighbor beside us spoke to me and mentioned what fun people the couple that lived here before us were.  I think they used to get together in what is now my little house, which is basically a bar.  In the brief conversation I picked up that she was indicating that they would love to hang out with us the way they did with the old neighbors.  I smiled and talked to her as little as I possibly could but I was thinking to myself that there was no way we were ever going to "hang out" with them or any of these people.  We had dark secrets and I didn't want to get close to anyone.  I have since found out my secrets were not so dark, but they were very big secrets nonetheless, at least at that time.  Joan also would not be able to get along with people for extended periods of time because her own ways are so different.

My philosophy with people was always to keep them at arms length as much as possible, with the ideal neighbor relationship being a slight wave from time to time, no words exchanged.  Since I have come out and made so much progress in actually developing a personality that is not completely closed to contact with those I do not absolutely have to deal with, it is a shame that I have not changed with regards to my neighbors and I have actually become even more closed to them.  In other aspects of my life and around other people I have become much more of a well adjusted person and been more open to communicating with those I do not have to know and even to meeting people and starting new friendships etc.  

The reason I have not been willing to open up to my neighbors goes way beyond my transition.  As I stated, Joan communicated with all of the neighbors much more than I ever did.   She left and I now live here alone and suddenly they have a female living next door.  One of the reasons I never wanted to talk to them was so that they wouldn't notice me and this was true even before I started going out occasionally as myself, but to a lesser degree.  I always felt like people could look through me and figure me out even when I was not openly doing anything that would draw attention.

The fact is that the issue of Joan leaving me primarily because I have a boyfriend who comes over is much more embarrassing to me with regard to the neighbors than the fact that I am transitioning male to female.  I feel like they will look at me with scorn as a cheater and someone who caused their nice, little neighbor lady to flee the house.  I guess to a degree I have been ashamed of myself when in actuality there is no need to be.  They don't know the true situation we had here and honestly I don't know how they feel.  Maybe I am just assuming they do not approve of me and maybe I should give them a chance.

So I am unloading the trees from my parents' car and my neighbor across the street smiles, waves and says "Hi Tammy".  I smiled and waved back and spoke to him in my own voice saying hello back.  That really made my day!  Maybe it is not going to be so bad with these neighbors after all, I thought.  I know that a few months ago the wife of the neighbor that spoke to me today brought Nightingale to my parents' house after she got out of the fence during a thunderstorm when I was not home.  I know Mama told her all about me, the situation with Joan and that Joan and I are still the best of friends.  Apparently she told them my name too.

Gossip travels in this neighborhood so any questions any of my neighbors may have had were likely answered that day.  Also, a couple of weeks ago Mitchell was out by the street at his car and the neighbor next door to us waved and spoke to him.  I wondered what she thought or who she thought he was, but I have to realize she has to know all of this already.  There are no more secrets here and that is a Damn good thing.  I need to stop acting like I am keeping secrets and not keep hiding from these people the way I had been hiding from everyone for so long.  All my life I hid from people, either hiding my little secret inside me or when I finally starting allowing myself to be myself and go out, physically hiding from these people.  Yes, I used to sneak in and out in such a way that my neighbors did not see me.  Now I am open and do what I want, in the yard, walking the dogs or whatever, but still I hide from them in that I won't look at them, make eye contact or speak.

It is time for that all that to stop.  It is time for me to hold my head up and not fear contact with anyone.  My neighbors were the last bastion of my hiding game.  As this past year has unfolded, so many things have opened up to me, one after another.  Becoming a normal person, and an open one, is a process.  I feel normal now, finally.  I live my life normally so now maybe I can act normally around any and everyone, even my dreaded neighbors.  Maybe they are not so judgmental after all.  Sometimes you have to give people a chance and be thankful that they give you a chance.  Today was a good day.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Update: 11/15/2013

Today I started my 19th month of Hormone Replacement Therapy, as mentioned in my last post, Eighteen.   There will be an will an upcoming detailed report here in Tammy World, following up on my 6 Month Hormone Report from one year ago.  The 6 month report  has gotten a tremendous amount of traffic through Google, lots of people have told me they appreciate all the information that report contains, and one Facebook friend even told me her doctor uses it as a cheat sheet.  Besides my personal experiences I tried to include a lot of detailed medical information, links and charts of hormones timetables and expected, potential effects on male to female transsexuals.  Several message boards have provided links to it and it seems a lot of people have used that blog entry as a source for their HRT information.  My new report will build on that even further, as well as update my own progress.

At the end of September, Mitchell and I took our first ever beach trip to the North Carolina coast and it was documented here in my post, Outer Banks.  Since then I have been on three more trips, totally 11 nights out of town, and at the end of October Mitchell spent 11 nights here in Rocky Mount with me.  Coming up soon there will be 4 more blog entries on all these activities.  It is always interesting here in Tammy World but the last month and a half has been particularly busy and exciting, so now it time to catch you all up here on the blog.

My first trip was to visit my friend Lisa Lesher, who lives very close to the Outer Banks and also to Tidewater Virginia.  I met her at the beach on my first day down and the next 2 days we went up to the Norfolk/Virginia Beach area.  Soon after that I made the long drive to Buffalo, New York for another massive round of electrolysis.  This was a 6 day, 5 night trip and I got to see areas of the country I had not seen in many, many years.  Of course a lot of progress was made on permanently clearing my facial hair, and I can see a big difference after these latest sessions. 

Soon after returning from Buffalo, Mitchell came to visit me and ended up staying here for 11 nights. This was an unexpected bonus for me but he has a lot to deal with right now and he needed some extra time with me so I am happy to be here for him.  Last week I drove up to the Baltimore, Maryland area to meet my Facebook friend Rachael Kruse and this was an very exciting trip and a lot of fun.  One highlight was that on Friday we went up to the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania area and I got a chance to meet and have a consultation with Dr. Kathy Rumer, a cosmetic surgeon who does the full range of transgender surgeries.  This was strictly for informational purposes, but I should have some good news coming up next month as I complete my one year Real life Experience and will be eligible to get my letters for GRS. 

Well, we have enough information in this short blog to preview 5 of the upcoming blog entries here in Tammy World.  I hope you all stay tuned because this is an exciting time in my life and my transition and I can't wait to tell you much more about it.  I also have another piece of very good news that should be coming to fruition in the very near future and as I soon as I find out for sure, I will let y'all know.  Please take care, have a good one and thanks for stopping by and following me here in Tammy World...:)

Thursday, November 14, 2013


I feel great today! I love the way hormones make me Feel. Today marks 18 months of HRT for me. The physical changes have been very nice, and most welcome, but nothing can compare to the way I have changed inside. In just a short time the angst, depression and general malaise I had felt most of my life almost completely disappeared. I went from being obsessed with death to celebrating life. I used to feel like I was dying, now I enjoy and look forward to life. Today is a wonderful day and tomorrow will be even better!

.......................My Facebook post on 11/14/2013 commemorating 18 months of transition.  The following is my blanket reply to some of the many comments................

What I am describing really is a feeling that came over me within the first couple of weeks of HRT. It was a great feeling but perhaps the best thing was the lifting of the dark mood that had come over me as a young teenager, about the age of puberty. It wasn't dependent on dosages or levels, as I was just starting then and on a low dosage. It was not dependent on my life being in order as I had not come out to my family and had a Lot of anxiety over how that would turn out. 

I know I am very fortunate that I have been accepted my family and am able to get by financially, but when I first started hormones I felt a relief as if a major chemical imbalance in my brain had been corrected, and I think that is exactly what happened. Even if I had been tossed on the street and rejected by my family, no one could take that feeling away.

It Was Meant To Be

It was meant to be.  Everything happens for a reason. 

I dreamed about Jumper last night.  In the dream she had just come back from being boarded at the kennel and they had given her a bath.  Something wasn't right and her hair was matted and oily, and she always had such a gorgeous coat.  In the dream I was at my parent's house in the yard and I began to give her a good bath.  Joan was not in this dream, I think my parents were in the background, and I was the one bathing her.  She rolled over and was really loving the attention of being pampered and cleaned.  I could see the joy and love in her eyes and I washed her around the ears and scrubbed her head.  I saw blisters on her skin but her coat was becoming beautiful again as I bathed her.  We were both happy and she was in my arms again.  When I woke up there were tears in my eyes and I could not go back to sleep.


I was at the orthodontist's office today and the technician was telling me she has 7 dogs and 8 cats and has over an acre fenced in yard at her place in the country.  Like me, she never had kids but has animals.  She told me that all her animals came to her, they picked her out.  This made me think of the stray dog that took up with us last summer.  This dog wreaked havoc on my house for about a month but she was full of love and brought comfort to Nightingale during the summer thunderstorms.  For the rest of the year Night got over most of her fear of thunder. 

We ran ads trying to find the Little Dog a home but after awhile of no responses I decided to keep her if no good home could be found.  Joan was dead set against keeping another dog and I don't think that 4 dogs are allowed in a household here in the city.  Still, I was not going to let this dog go to the pound and I was becoming increasingly attached to her.  Finally, we got a call from a a family with a young boy that wanted a dog.  They had a home in the country and a large fenced in yard with other dogs, but the boy wanted a dog of his own.  Joan and I delivered Little Dog to her new home one afternoon and as we left,  Joan had to take over the driving because I was crying too hard.  I mourned that dog for days, still do sometimes, but in the end I knew she had found the perfect home. 
Animals can teach us lessons.  When Joan left me and Jumper got sick and weak I had to care for her, even carrying her up and down the steps all the time when she had to go out.  I bathed her in the tub and cleaned up when she couldn't make it outside to go to the bathroom.  When she dies, I had to learn how to be strong and carry on loving the rest of my little animal family the best I could. 

Now, my father is growing weaker and his health is fading.  He has good days and bad days but it seems the good days are fewer and farther between.  I feel like I am just getting to know him now, having only come out to him about who I am last year.  Last Christmas we had a father daughter dance and this year we have had some good times and great talks without the pressure and false pretense that was always there before.  One thing we always had was love, but now we have honesty and openness and can really share.  I really hate that with his health and mind fading those times are diminishing now, our bonding time has been too short.  I hope and pray that he can get better and that he will be with us a lot longer, but whatever happens I am better prepared because of my experience with Jumper Dog.  Everything happens for a reason.

I was devastated last December when my spouse, Joan, walked out on us and moved away while I was out of town for the night.  Our marriage was basically just a friendship anyway and most of the good parts of being together were behind us, but still it really set me back emotionally at a time when I was undergoing major, major changes in my life.  It took me months to get over it and I still have my moments of sadness over the way things worked out.  I have to think that having the Little Dog in my life for a time, then having to give her away to a home where she could thrive better than she could here, helped to prepare me for suddenly finding myself living alone.  Today Joan and I are on great terms and we are rebuilding a solid friendship, this time based on honesty and mutual respect.  Our marriage was disingenuous on both our parts.  It was plastic in many ways but there was good in it.  We needed each other and made each other happy in certain ways and still do.  Now it is just much more real and here is no more false pretense or pressure to be a couple.  In the end, everything is working out for the best.  It was meant to be.