Monday, December 30, 2013

Christmas in Tammy World


Christmas 2013 was a little crazy, but that's just normal here in Tammy World.  This was my second Christmas spent totally as myself, since going Full Time on the Winter Solstice of 2012.  This was a very emotional season for me last year, a real roller coaster considering the fact that my spouse left me, I came out to my parents And began my Real Life Experience all withing the course of a week.  Last year, Christmas seemed like an afterthought in the wake of the monumental events that preceded it.

I have to admit to not feeling the Christmas Spirit as much as I would have liked to this year.  My Christmas tree here at home is a very small Frasier Fir.  It's sort of a Charlie Brown tree in size but full and pretty like the larger trees.  My spouse Joan was always into the big, live Christmas trees and being here alone most of the time, I just didn't want a big tree like that.  My Mom still went all out with the decorations at her house, so I felt the Christmas Spirit much more when I was over there.  I have been spending a lot of time at my parents house lately, as my Dad is not doing well with his dementia and physical weakness getting worse.  Seeing my father in poor health like that sort of brings me down too, but I am uplifted by the fact that he accepts me and it is still so special to have his love and have him in my life.  I cherish every day with him and that is true of both my parents really.
My little Christmas tree..
The best part of Christmas this year was getting to actually spend it with my boyfriend.  This was our third Christmas together as a couple, but the first one we actually spent the holiday together.  Christmas day was this past Wednesday so Mitchell came in on Monday night and left Friday morning.  I am so lucky to have a man that also loves my family and understands the difficult times my Dad is going through.  They have become good friends and Mitchell is a perfect helper for him. He is very patient, strong and doesn't mind spending a lot of time with me at my parents house.  We do get our private times but he understands that my top priority right now is taking care of and spending time with my parents.

Christmas in The ER

We woke up about 8 AM on Christmas morning to the telephone ringing.  Mama was calling to report that Daddy had fallen, outside on the porch, and that she was calling an ambulance!  It seems that he woke up first and decided to go out and get the newspaper, without his cane.  Mitchell and I threw our clothes on and got over there as quick as we could.  The paramedics were already there.  It seemed that Daddy was conscious but they were getting ready to drive him to the emergency room because he cut his arm very badly on the fall.

Knowing that Daddy was in good hands, we drove back by the house for 5 minutes to grab some bottled water, fresh clothes and let me throw on about 2 minutes worth of makeup.  Days like this make me glad to have had as much as electrolysis as I have, so I don't have to shave to go out in public,  but it nice to be able to throw on a tad of BB cream to give me a little cover plus some SPF protection for the day.  When we got to the hospital Daddy was already in a room and Mama was sitting in a chair.  Nothing moves fast in an emergency room so Mitchell and I sat down too and waited, and waited.

Finally, a PA came in and stitched up Daddy's arm the the doctor came by to check it out before we were released.  Overall we spent about 5 hours in the emergency room and got out after 2 PM on Christmas afternoon.  Everyone was hungry so when we got home I cooked some eggs and country ham and Mama cooked some bacon and sausage.  I had gotten the country ham for Christmas but Daddy loves his sausage and Mitchell loves his bacon.  We all had something to eat and felt a little bit better but Daddy was sort of groggy so he went to sleep.  This gave Mitchell and I a chance to come back to my house, take showers then come back to my parents.  We did not have time to ourselves to open our presents.

Mitchell and I on Christmas night, looking a little tired from a long, trying day.  Mitchell did wear his Christmas hat and tie.  The tie played a song when you squeezed it so I called him Mr. Christmas..:)
Kissing Mr. Christmas by my parents' Christmas tree...
The day after Christmas was a much better day.  We didn't have to go to the hospital but we did go to my parents house in the morning to check on Daddy.  He was feeling better but still really sore and slept most of the day.  After lunch we went back to my house, got dressed and took some time for our own Christmas present exchange.  On this day I wore the outfit I had picked out for Christmas which included some fine European pantyhose my friend Linda from Belgium sent me as a gift.   Mitchell and I finally had a little time by ourselves to enjoy opening our presents and managed to take some good pictures. 

Mitchell Loves to see me in a skirt and hose....we took a few pictures on the couch before opening the presents..
I wonder what is in this big bag from Santa?
Mitchell wrote something on the box this present was in, under the wrapping.  I wonder what it was?  Hint: the photo at the top of the page shoes the entire haul of presents Mitchell gave me...:)
Mitchell with one of his very special presents form me (nice wrapping too)...
The night after Christmas I wore the fabulous ear rings my parents gave me the night before, when we opened our gifts at their house.
After we exchanged our gifts it was time to go back to my parents' house and fix the Christmas dinner.  We had cooked most of it the night before but Daddy was too tired to eat and didn't join us at the table.  On this night we had all four of us at the dining room table and enjoyed a really good meal of Honey Baked Ham, green beans, home made biscuits and pineapple.  This was a little simpler than Christmas meals we have fixed in the past, but it was delicious and appropriate given the circumstances.  Later that night Mitchell and I finally had a little time "under the mistletoe" for some Christmas romance to top of what had been a bittersweet couple of days.
My Red Lobster biscuits, fresh out of the oven.
Sometimes it helps when the cook has a little elf helper (Mama) running behind them and checking on everything...
Buddy chewing one his presents and Night showing off the "ring a ling" bell collars Mitchell gave them.  At one time I was worried he would never like my dogs and now he gives them Christmas presents..:)
I also got to spend some time with Joan, her daughter and son in law during Christmas week when they came to my parents' house the Sunday before Christmas for a nice dinner and presents exchange.  This was the first time that I had been around all three of them at once since my transition and I am glad to report that everything went pretty well.  I didn't get emotional and no one seemed tense with the situation, the new reality.  Joan did manage to get my name wrong half the time that day, which she rarely does around just me anymore, and murdered the pronouns.  I don't think it was intentional but because she does so well when just the two of us are together, I think it shows a little lack of respect.  Her excuse is always that she spent so long with me using one name, it is hard to adjust to a new one.  I can understand that somewhat, but if she gets it right when no one else is around, she should be able to get it right all (or at least most) of the time, period.  It was nice to get presents from everyone that were tagged "Tammy" and get gender appropriate gifts.  Overall we had a really nice time, but they only stayed a couple of hours.

The greatest gift of all this Christmas was spending time with family.  That is always the case but it seemed especially true this year.  I am so elated that Mitchell has meshed so well with my little family, my parents and I.  The four of us are closer after less than one year than Joan was with us after 25 years.  We are the real family now and the family I never felt I had.  This gives me real hope for the future and adds to a sense of peace I never felt before.  I just hope Daddy will be ok going forward.  I know things are more challenging for him now, and for us as we take care of him, but he has at least made a nice recovery from the fall during the last few days.  Because of everything that happened, we didn't get a nice family picture as mama and Daddy never got dressed up.  We will have to get it another time when everyone is feeling better.
 

New Year's Eve coming up tomorrow and I am happy to report that Mitchell will be back to spend 5 or 6 nights here with me after enjoying the days after Christmas playing Santa Claus with his kids.  I think that in this coming year I will finally meet his kids, after his divorce is final.  I also believe that 2014 will be an outstanding year in many, many ways and will surpass even these last two wonderful years.  One thing is for sure, in my life right now and my transition, change is constant.  I just have to believe that all the changes will continue to be for the best.  Believing that is a big part of making it happen. 
Won't you stay tuned to Tammy World 2014 to find out?

Happy New Year Everyone!!!

Parting shot of my Kunert stockings, sent from Belgium.  I rarely wear pantyhose anymore but Linda said I would love them and I do...

Saturday, December 21, 2013

The (Coming Out) Letter

In this blog is the coming out letter I wrote to my parents and presented to them a little over a year ago.  When I entered therapy, primarily for gender issues in December 2011, one of the main issues and concerns I had was how in the world would I ever be able to come out to my parents.  I even brought this up to my therapist on our very first meeting.

Here I was an adult worrying about coming out to my parents and I saw it as a major stumbling block to moving forward with transition.  In fact, many years ago I had resigned myself to the fact that I could not transition because of my parents or at least I could not do it while they were alive.  I wanted and needed them in my life, as they are really the only family I have, but I compared coming out to them with climbing Mount Everest.  It seemed like that big an obstacle, insurmountable.

In my childhood I made a couple of attempts to come out, once by proudly walking out in front of my family dressed in my grandmothers clothes, complete with wig.  Looking back, I think I was trying to express myself in the way that I felt was normal.  And at that time I learned it was perceived as wrong so I went through stages and many years of either hiding or suppressing my true feelings. 

By the time I got to the therapist's office, my situation (or dysphoria) had become a crisis.  It had been building up to this point all my life, but particularly over the previous 7 years as I starting allowing myself to be myself part of the time and began to accept the fact of who I really was.

The process of self acceptance was a long, arduous journey and in it lies the story of my life.  I had always felt female inside but that point in time when I realized I actually was female, and it was not just a part of me or something dark within me, had only occurred 5 or so years before I walked into that therapist's office. 

Most of my life was spent burying the pain of being in the wrong body and wrong life without ever trying to fully understand why I was the way I was, or more importantly, what I could do about it.  I tried to bury my feelings any way I could and lived most of my life as numb as I could be.  I fought it.  My real life was a fantasy in my head and my reality seemed bleak.

I found myself at death's door many times during my dark years, and indeed I embraced the idea of death throughout most of life.  One of the first things I told my therapist was that I was going to die soon, but I had been thinking about that and saying that for as long as I could remember.
 

Now I had reached a point in my life where I no longer wanted to die, I wanted to live.  But in order to live, I could not keeping on living a lie.  I knew that, as a woman, I could not keep on living life pretending to be someone I was not.  It had never worked for me and I had never felt right.  I imagined myself an alien free to roam the earth in disguise, but longing for a peaceful life back on my home planet.  Now I needed to go home.

So my mindset had gone from wanting to transition, which I had done since I first found out about it, to Needing to transition.  I tell people now that in my experience (transgender) adults only transition if they have to, when there is no other choice.  I had reached that point.  It is very serious and it's life or death.


There was only one obstacle between where I was and where I needed to be.  That's how I looked at it. I had, for the most part, eliminated every other obstacle and cleared the way for my transition except for this feat of Ascending Mt. Everest.  My life was a skeleton and I was (and had been for as long as I could remember) a shell of a human being

Over the course of several appointments with my new therapist she suggest that I write a letter to my parents explaining my feelings and situation, and hand it to them to read.  I would be in the room and wait for them to read it, then it would start a conversation.  At first I was very put off by the idea but I couldn't think of a better way.  I had nothing.  My fear was that if I planned to tell them I wouldn't be able to get the first word out of my mouth.  As I had learned over a year earlier when coming out to my spouse, after at least a couple years of trying, opening your mouth is the hardest part of coming out.

I had a goal, a date that I wanted to transition.  2012 was to be my year.  I had been looking ahead to that date for the last several years.  I believed it could be a magical time of change and I needed to find a way to make it a time for Me to change.  So I needed to come out and I decided I needed a letter.

The idea and execution of writing this letter was agony for me.  My goal was to transition to full time on December 31, 2011, but that date was actually the beginning of a range that I set as my goal.  My target date for full time was the beginning of 2012 but the deadline was months later, on my birthday in August. 

I was very good at putting things off, after all I had put this off for a lifetime, but my therapist was very good at both encouraging me to meet my goals and providing me with a mechanism to achieve them.  She suggested certain things be put in the letter, and a few of the lines are borrowed from our discussions.  One of my favorites that came from her was that I was being treated by a team of medical professionals.  That sounded really good, ominous, but it was quite literally true.  By the time I wrote the letter I had not one but two therapists and a medical doctor treating me.

I didn't actually write the letter until Autumn of 2011.  In 40 minutes late one evening the words flowed and I typed my coming out letter.  I used a few key points from another letter I got from my therapist but the bulk of the letter were my own words and from the heart.  After writing it, I could not bear to re-read it, although I wanted to change or rewrite it altogether.  I made some attempts to amend it but it was really too painful or scary, so I put off doing that too. 

I went over it with both therapists but both said what I had was fine.  The only things my original therapist suggested were to try to keep the letter to a single page and not to sign it, as it would take time for them to adjust to my new name.  All I needed to do was convey my feelings and tell them what was going on.  It was so simple but it was vital to me.

In the end I went back and used the original letter I wrote in that emotional 40 minutes.  I revised the last couple of lines after coming up with the idea that I wanted my mother to give me my new middle name.  I had no idea how my transition would go over with them, actually I feared it would not go over well at all, but I was hopeful that she would take a part in naming me the way she did when I was an infant.  In a way I was an infant again, or at least going through puberty, starting over.

The end results of my coming out are well known by my readers and documented in this post from a year ago, 12/21/2012: Full Time.  It was an amazing week and it has led to an amazing year for me.  As my transition moves forward I expect things to get even better, but it never would have come about if I had not finally taken the steps I needed to take in order to simply be myself.

I have thought about posting this letter for some time, as a way to help others facing similar situations who might want some idea of how to go about coming out.  What worked for me might not work for someone else, and everyone's situation and style is going to be different. 

Over the last year I have shared this letter with a few people facing similar roadblocks who needed ideas on how to come out.  One friend in particular, Sophie Lynne, is now on the verge of sharing her own letter with her parents over the Christmas holiday.  She has and will be writing extensively about her own dilemma in her blog, A Woman Named Sophie.  I am glad that my letter could be of assistance to her, just as the letters from others that I read were helpful to me.  I wish her all the luck in the world with her coming out, but either way she will transition and she will start a new life as herself next year.

I really had no idea how my coming out letter would be perceived by my parents.  I knew them well enough to know that they wouldn't turn their backs on me no matter what, but I feared they would not accept my transition and possibly fight it at every turn.  I was truly blessed to have their acceptance as well as their love and all of that has made my transition so far much easier than it could have been.  I do feel that I deserve it and that I was due after having such a painful, often messed up life.  But I am also blessed to have made it here and be in a position to get to do what not everyone has a chance to do.  That is to live my dreams and be an authentic person. 

So here is the letter I wrote in order to be myself............

 


*******





There is something I have to tell you about myself. I have been hiding from and or dealing with this problem for most of my life and I really did not understand it. I decided to seek medical care a year ago to get a handle on it and of get a better understanding of myself. You may have noticed some changes in me this year. I feel better, both in general and about myself, than I have at any time since childhood. As you recall, I had a very happy childhood until my teen years and things never seemed to fit into place for me after that. I am sure you have realized that I have had problems and even though I have tried to maintain a steady face on the surface, something has never been quite right with me.

I have been suffering from an internal conflict that has influenced my life in a very negative way. The medical term for this condition is called Gender Dysphoria or Gender Identity Disorder and it is basically the condition of being transsexual. What this really means is that, though biologically I was born a male my brain and my own sense of being is that of a female. This is not the same as being a cross-dresser, drag queen, female impersonator or being a gay male. Inside I have always felt as though I was female and I never knew what to do about it. This year I sought therapy and psychological counseling in order to get a better understanding of myself and find a way to break the grip of my problems. I wanted to feel normal and achieve some happiness and success in my life. Being transsexual has always held me back and kept me from being the person that I needed to be to achieve my potential in life Through my therapy I began working with a team of medical professionals to help me through my situation. The only treatment for being transsexual is to make a gender transition. This is not a choice; it is something that I have to do in order to survive. I have been treated by a therapist for one year and also, saw a second therapist for a second opinion. I am also under the treatment of an experienced physician. The medication I have been on since mid-May, basically female hormones has brought about a great and positive change in my mental outlook on life. It has allowed me to feel normal inside for the first time since childhood and given me hope that one day I can live a normal and happy life. The medication has brought about some physical changes and that will continue. I will still be and am the same person inside. I think y’all will agree with me that at heart I am a good person. All I want is to feel normal and to have a chance to reach my full potential in life.

I will always be your child and I love both of you Very much and I feel extremely fortunate to have been chosen as your son. The reality is, mentally I have always been your daughter and I hope you will be able to accept me. All I am trying to do is trying to make physical changes to help me become on the outside the person I am on the inside and be accepted. I will always be here for both of y’all to help take care of you. I love both of you very, very much from the bottom of my heart. I realize finding this out is very painful for you right now and believe me I have always tried to avoid facing this about myself mainly for this very reason. The last thing I ever wanted to do was hurt you but in order to have any chance at a normal life, I have to make this change. I have chosen the name Tammy for my first name and I would be very honored if you would help me choose my middle name. I know that this is going to take some time and I ask that you be patient with me and I will be patient with you. I love you both more than you know.


Friday, December 20, 2013

(Legal) Changes

Transition is all about change.  Among other things that includes changes in your body, your mind and your life.  Part of the life changes are legal and a big part of that is the name change.  Even though I went full time almost a year ago, it was this May before I began the arduous process of legally changing my name.  It takes longer to change your name in North Carolina than it does in many places, at least a couple of months, and apparently even longer in my home county.  My name change ran into several road blocks with some poor planning on my part and at one point the whole thing seemed to become a comedy of errors.  So I ended up hiring the attorney who is handling my divorce to also handle my name change.  On November 15, 2013 I legally became Tammy Ann Matthews.  :)

Instead of filing for my name change at the beginning of February, which was my original goal, I waited until almost the end of May.  For some reason I really wanted the approval of my estranged spouse before officially changing my name.  During the first few months of my transition she began to accept me being me full time and began to call me Tammy with increasing regularity.  I kept asking her about the name change and she seemed to have some reservations.  She wanted me to wait on changing my name until after we divorced, but that would have delayed me another 10-12 months or more. 

Finally, I got Joan to agree to accept me legally changing my name.  Of course I could have done it sooner anyway, but we were developing a friendship and level of respect that we never had before and I didn't want to ruin it.  Plus, little 'ol me just wanted everyone's approval anyway.  So in May I sent out criminal background checks to the FBI and SBI.  I had to get fingerprinted at the city police department and send some money along with the applications.  The SBI check came back within a couple of weeks but the FBI check took a full 2 months.  Both came back clean.

The next step was going to the county courthouse, filling out a name change letter of intent and posting it on the courthouse bulletin board for a minimum of 10 days.  I guess this gives anyone who might object, or any creditors, a chance to be notified and state their objections with the county.  Like anyone would really come into the courthouse and find it on this hodgepodge of a bulletin board.  Plus I think I had taken care of any potential objections before I even started the process.

Next, I had to get two witnesses to vouch for me in written affidavits and this presented a small problem.  You see, the 2 witnesses had to live in my home county, Nash, and not be related to me.  I have only one friend who I am sure would have done it.  He is a supporter of mine now but wasn't from the beginning, as it took awhile to understand what I am going through.  My Mom said not to worry about it, that she had 2 friends who also knew me that would be willing to be my witnesses. 

It is sad that after living in this town on and of for most of my life I didn't have 2 friends here that could vouch for me.  Almost everyone who I consider my friend lives somewhere else.  The few friends I had here have faded away over the years for various reasons, but the truth is I kept myself pretty isolated my whole life because I have always been so uncomfortable with myself prior to transition.  Thank goodness I have kept one friend that I have known since childhood, and maybe one day I will make some new friends here, but except for that one exception the people I used to hang out with were bad influences and those relationships are best left in the past.

So, now I had  my two clean background checks and I had my two witnesses.  I called the Nash County Clerk of Court's office to see what was next.  They informed me that my two witnesses also had to have full criminal background checks.  I was flabbergasted as this meant that my mother's friends would have to be fingerprinted and submit to the same background checks that I had to, plus it would take at least another 2 months to get that done.  I asked other trans friends across the state of North Carolina and none of them had to do this in their counties or had ever heard of anything like this.

The secretary at the county Clerk's office kept asking me if I had a lawyer, every time I called.  I decided that in order to get this done I needed to hire one so I ended up paying my divorce attorney to also handle my name change.  Looking back, he did help me with all the paperwork but things still moved very slowly.  He wasn't able to get around having the background checks on my witnesses as that seems to be the policy here.  However, I found that my parents actually know the Clerk of Court.  She has been around a long time and knew my father from his days serving as a judge in the local court system.  She told my attorney that I could submit the witness affidavits without the background checks and it shouldn't be a problem.  She also is a good friend of one of my witnesses, so that didn't hurt either.  It turned out that the county's policy is also unclear and probably challengeable in court, but it didn't look like I would need to go through  all that.

Now my lawyer had to interview the witnesses by phone and prepare the paperwork.  The witnesses were close friends of my mother's but they had also known me a long time and could honestly vouch for me. It turns out that, when interviewed, one of my Mom's friends said she didn't know me well enough and backed out of helping me, oh well.  So we found another of her friends who was out of state for a couple of weeks.  Eventually he got back to town and after a couple more weeks we got the affidavits in hand.  My attorney seemed to drag his feet at every step and each thing he did cost me more money.  It was late September before I had what I thought was everything I needed to file the actual petition.

It turns out that I was still missing one document I needed as an exhibit for the court, my social security card.  I know my number but apparently I had lost my actual social security card so I called the local SSA office to get a replacement.  The day was October first and the entire US government had just shut down due to protests in congress over the new health care law, or something to that effect.  At least the customer service end of the government was closed.  It would be several weeks before the office was back open and I could apply for another card.

When the card finally came in I took all the paperwork, complete with nine "exhibits", to the Clerk of Court's office, paid the $140 fee and waited to hear back from them.  I went on a couple of back to trips out of town and when I got home I called the Clerk's office to see what I needed to do next.  My lawyer was playing hard to get on the telephone at that time.  I was told that my name had been changed, that I had been official on November 15th, a few days earlier.  It turns out he had mailed me the official document but I hadn't checked my mail for awhile.

For all the hassle and all the money I spent changing my name, the last step was all too easy.  I never had to face a judge in a courtroom as they do in some places or have a hearing with the Clerk, as is the custom here.  Finally, after a lot of waiting and a lot of hassle, I was officially Tammy Ann Matthews!

If you are not in transition, or haven't done it already, I can't describe what a great feeling it is to finally have your legal name match who you really are.  In my case I was full time for many months and managed to get by without an ID card.  There were some awkward moments when I had to show my ID, although I avoided as many of them as I could.   Now I had to take the court document everywhere my name is registered and change my name at those myriad places.  I wanted to start with the Social Security Administration then the NC Division of Motor Vehicles for my driver's license.  Now that my name is officially changed, I need a matching ID card so I can avoid any more embarrassing moments.

On November 27th, I had a routine doctor's appointment for blood work and hormone prescription refills.  I got the doctor to write a letter for me to take to the Social Security Administration and a slightly modified one for the DMV.  I found the experience of changing both my name and gender with SSA to be a breeze.  It took a little while for the clerk to figure out the proper procedure (apparently they don't do these in my city every day), but when she did it went smoothly.  She was extremely nice and even congratulated me when we were done. 

People have always been able to change their name on their social security records if they had proof of legal name change.  In June of this year a new policy was instituted that allows transgender people receiving medical treatment to also change their gender on SSA records.  When I posted about my experiences on Facebook I discovered that many do not know of the new changes or how to go about updating their social security information to reflect the correct gender, so I am including a link below that thoroughly  explains the policy and procedure.

Link to name and gender change policy with the US Social Security Administration


While I knew it would be easy to change everything with social security, I was a little concerned about whether or not I could get a female gender marker on my driver's license.  Traditionally, in this state people could not change the gender marker on their license without a letter from a doctor stating that they had received irreversible  surgery.

With the new federal policy it is now possible to change the sex on your license in North Carolina with a doctor's letter that does not have to specify any surgery has occurred.  I believe the state rules are still somewhat ambiguous and I am not sure that the wording of the policy has changed yet, but the state records need to match federal records with regards to name And gender.  I had no problem changing all of my information and once again, the DMV examiner was extremely courteous when he completed all of my paperwork.  It's an unusual experience for anyone to have a good customer service experience at the NC DMV, but I was treated nicely and got what I came in for.  I am extremely happy to finally have a license that matches who I really am...:)



Last Tuesday was the day I went to the DMV and Saturday my new licence came in the mail.  I am very proud of this card and I realize that, in the past, trans people could not get them in this state without proof of surgery.  I believe that is still the policy in some states, although hopefully now that the federal rules have changed all the states will catch up and change their rules as well.  I wasn't going to worry about it too much if I couldn't get the gender changed, as I am planning GRS fairly soon anyway, but having it now provides a real boost of confidence whenever I have to show my identification.

*****

Saturday evening I got a chance to show my new license and see how having it would literally open new doors for me.  I am in the process of looking for a car, as my van's transmission is broken and replacing it would cost more than the value of the van.  In the meantime I am driving my dad's old Lincoln Continental or my mom's van if I am going out of town. 

It was rainy and dark late Saturday afternoon when Mitchell met me in Raleigh after working most of the day in Virginia, then driving down.  It was about 5 o'clock when we left the hair salon after my regular color appointment.  We wanted to go to Car Max so that I could test drive several cars and maybe narrow down my list to help me figure out what I want.  There was a Nissan dealership nearby, closer than Car Max, so we decided to go there first as one of the models I am interested in is a Nissan.

Mitchell held the door open for me at the dealership, like he always does, then he took my wet umbrella and we walked in.  Shopping for cars is usually intimidating, especially for women.  I know it has always been intimidating for me even before transition, and it is something I have not had to do very often and not done in a very long time.  So of course one of the salesman approached us as we walked in the showroom, as everyone was inside anyway due to the rain.

We talked to the salesman about one of the models in the showroom, a Rogue that I was interested in, and then sat down at his desk to look at more cars on the computer.  I tried to exhibit my best presentation and voice and never got a feeling that he sensed anything different about me.  That is not an unusual experience foe me these days but one thing that made me feel really good was that he called Mitchell my husband on at least a couple of occasions.

Another thing that made me feel very god was showing him my (shiny, new) driver's license when it came time to take a test drive.  I have been declining to show ID all year, when asked.  Also having that F on the card besides just my real name is a huge plus.  We took the Rogue for a night time test drive in a light rain and I did not like how it handled, so its back to the drawing board as far as what kind of car I want.  We spent too long in that dealership so it was too late to go anywhere else to look that night, but we will going to more places over the holidays and maybe I will find something I like before too long. 

It may seem strange, but I can't wait to go test drive more cars so that I can show my licence.  I am sure that soon the novelty will wear off and it will become commonplace, like other aspects of being full time as myself have.  But for now I can take a little bit of pride in finally getting my legal ID to match my everyday presentation and identity.  The changes continue.....







Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Year

Yesterday marked one year of legal separation between my spouse and I.  The day was duly noted in my mind but there was nothing special about it, in a positive or negative way.  After an normal day, I went to bed last night about 1 AM and woke up at 2:24.  That's when it hit me.


Last December was a nervous and exciting time in my life.  I had been on hormones for 7 months and had been growing my hair a little over a year, but I had not yet come out to my parents.  They knew something was changing but they didn't really know what was coming up.  My goal to was to come out to them after Christmas, and no later than New Year's Eve.  Ideally, my goal was also to begin living as myself full time on January 1, 2013 and file for my name change by February 1. 

Having no idea how the news that I was going to transition would affect my parents and, because my life is so intertwined with theirs, or how it would affect me, I gave myself the leeway of waiting a few months if necessary to go full time.  I really wanted to start the new year as the new me, but there was so much uncertainty.  At no time did I contemplate coming out before Christmas, because I just didn't want to spoil what is always a special holiday for this family. 

Things at home with my spouse were not going well.  She knew all about my plans and while this was something she had been supportive and encouraging about at first, there was definitely a lot of tension in the air during this period last year and I sensed no support.  She also knew all about my boyfriend and the more time that went by the less tolerant she became about my new relationship.  I really wanted her to be there for through what I foresaw would be an extremely tumultuous time between my parents and I.  She said she would do this for me over a year and half earlier so I was counting on her, but I just didn't get the feeling she wanted any part of it (or me) any more.

Of course the revelation (in Spring) that I had a boyfriend really threw a wrench into the whole situation.  She had encouraged me to transition over a year before I started but now she didn't seem thrilled with the idea.  Of course my behavior had changed too in that I was spending more time away from home and early in 2012 I had begun to stay out overnight from time to time.  Prior to that I had never left her alone all night since we had gotten married, and that was something that made her very uncomfortable.  I had just waited too long and now I had to live my life.

So on the evening of December 16, 2012 , I returned home from an overnight trip to Virginia to see my boyfriend Mitchell.  She wasn't home that night and I found a letter from her lawyer (I didn't know she had a lawyer) stating that she had filed for separation.  Basically, my world fell apart.  I was now left high and dry.  How would I ever explain to my parents that she left.?  I was fully prepared to come out to them, but scared to death to do it.  I had been over every possible scenario with two different therapists and had prepared a heartfelt coming out letter.  What I was not prepared for was telling them about my relationship with Mitchell.  That would be too much at once and could potentially confuse the issue, which was primarily about me.  It was going to be a stretch to get them to accept me as a woman and I never thought they would be ready at that time to accept me being with a man.

Basically, Joan left me because I had someone else but I have to admit she was having trouble with my transition as well, as the reality of it came closer and closer.  I realize now the whole thing was just too much for her to deal with at the time.  All of this year I have fought guilty feelings and the sense that I betrayed my marriage and disrespected my spouse and our home.  At the end of the day I know that I did what I had to do regarding my own life and transition.  Also I have to know that I was not wrong in starting another loving relationship when the one I had at home was no more than a friendship.

The events that occurred the week after she left were documented in this blog post called Full Tme.  It was an amazing and blessed time in my life.  I believe I was due some happiness after suffering for so long in the wrong body and life, but the quick and total acceptance of my parents was totally unexpected.  It would have been just The most perfect time if it weren't for my feelings of betrayal over my spouse leaving, guilt over believing it was my fault, and the extreme pain of facing long, cold, dark, nights in my house alone.


Despite the comfort and joy of finally being able to be myself every day, the nights were lonely and tough.  Mitchell spent most weekends with me but the weekday nights were especially difficult.  Sleep was hard to come by and I ended up staying in my guest house for several months, only going into the main house for meals and to wash clothes.  ..........

Joan had a separate bedroom, next to mine, so I had been used to sleeping alone but not being in the house alone.  There was much I had to adjust to in the first few months of 2012.  After a few months I moved back into the master bedroom in the main house and began to adjust to life at the house alone. ...  I could sleep through the night and no longer wake up crying, suffering from insomnia and panic attacks.  Things were normal again when the lights went out and now my whole life was fitting together quite nicely.



So last night, in the middle of the night, those lonely feeling of desperation hit me again.  I will say that last night was no where near the magnitude of what I experienced in the first few months of my separation.  There were no panic attacks and no tears but still that strange feeling came over me and wouldn't let me go back to sleep.  It is really hard to describe these feelings.  It's like I can't stand being in bed and don't want to go back to sleep but my body is too exhausted and my eyes too tired to get up and do anything.  

Its a feeling that when I close my eyes some sort of fear or discomfort takes over and I fight sleep.  Last night I ended up calling Mitchell and thank goodness he answered.  I know I kept him awake on work nights too often earlier this year, so thankfully I didn't have to talk to him long last night before I got comfortable enough to attempt sleep again.  On his suggestion I ended up cutting the light on in the hall bathroom, as darkness really bothers me when these night moods strike.

I ended up going back to sleep but quickly woke up again.  I fought sleep and laid in bed looking at Facebook on my smart phone, chatting with a friend there for awhile.   I would get too exhausted and lay my head down and go to sleep again, only to awaken after a short time.  At 4:15 AM I remembered that I had forgotten to call Joan last night and she had not called me.  We had not spoken for a couple of days as Mitchell was visiting me and she was out of town visiting her daughter.  Then it hit me that perhaps this was why I was why I was experiencing these feelings.  I was feeling the separation once again and had forgotten to call her, so I left her a message in the middle of the night.

I went back to sleep for a few minutes, then woke up again.  This pattern repeated itself until the sun came up.  The sun in the morning is my friend, especially when the night seems so cold, dark and lonely.  With its arrival I found restful sleep again and slept until almost 10 AM.  Overall, I was in bed for 9 hours last night but 4 of them were really rough.  They seemed to last for an eternity.  It was a miserable 4 hours but still pales in comparison to what I went through every night I was alone during the early part of my separation.  Hopefully last night was just a taste of what I went through then and tonight I can sleep again.

There is something else I have been experiencing of late.  I still fight sleep, as Mitchell says, and stay up too late most nights.  Part of it to avoid the negative experiences sleep can sometimes bring.  I always have vivid dreams but many of them have been quite dark lately, although not really nightmares.  My old friend Mack, who died in 2012, makes a lot of cameos in my dreams and sometimes I feel as if he or other spirits are visiting me in my sleep or somehow manipulating my dreams.  These are more feelings than true beliefs but who knows what's really out there.  I wish I could understand these dreams better and my therapists' have not been much help there but don't think its too unusual.  There doesn't seem to be any real pattern or meaning to them and it sort of like watching a movie sometimes.

So I am well adjusted in life now but have often crazy dreams.  Is this a symptom of my lingering "night problems" that began plaguing me a year ago when my spouse and I separated?  It's quite possible, but I will take the interesting, (if sometimes a little dark) dreams over the sleepless nights, crying spells, feelings of hopelessness and panic attacks.  All of those are things I have experienced in the last year and all of those are things that have gotten much better and, for the most part, gone away completely.  I can only hope that last night was an anomaly, a subconscious reminder of the pain that this marital separation has caused me in the last year.

This pain, mostly manifested in the middle of the night, has gone from a big problem a year ago to almost nonexistent now.  On the real world side, after a year of separation I have to ask myself what's next?  We are now eligible for divorce under the statutes of the state of North Carolina.  Who will file for divorce first and what will our divorce look like?  Stay tuned to find out, as things on the home front get interesting again here in Tammy World.....



Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Buffalo

For the third time this year, I traveled north for a massive electrolysis session...

I got back from my trip to the Inner Banks visiting my friend Lisa on Saturday, October 12th and Mitchell came to visit me for the rest of the weekend.  The following Tuesday I took my Dad to Raleigh for his semi annual cardiologist appointment.  This was the second time this doctor met me as myself and he remembered my name.  I am so much more comfortable now dealing with these doctors (and everyone I encounter really) and it is nice to hear myself referred to as Tammy by these professionals.  Daddy got a good report from the doctor and we drove home to Rocky Mount for a family dinner.  The next day I left for Buffalo, New York for electrolysis with James Walker of Executive Clearance.

As you may recall from my earlier blogs, Two Weekends and Up for Electrolysis, this would be my third complete facial clearing and the first time I had to go all the way to Buffalo to have it done.  The first two times I met James at another client's home in York, Pennsylvania, about halfway to Buffalo from here, where he sets up temporary shop from time to time.  This was going to be a long drive (644 miles each way) and I dedicated 2 days for travel, 2 days for electrolysis and 2 more days to travel home. 

I left on Thursday around lunch time and made it to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania as darkness fell and just in time for dinner.  As I have mentioned, these trips for electrolysis are a little shaky for me because the treatment requires going without shaving for a few days prior to the appointment.  On the first trip to York I had to go even longer without shaving (because it was an initial clearing), did not use any concealer or makeup and actually had a lot more hair problem to deal with than I do after the first two treatments.  This time I wore my normal makeup and used concealer on the areas I usually have to shave.  I think it would have taken a fairly close examination to notice anything, especially on this first day of the trip. 

I brought my food with me for the drive up, as usual, but that night I did go to a Diner for supper after checking into the hotel.  My confidence was less than 100% but I was still called ma'am everywhere I went so, at the end of the day, it went ok.  I forgot to bring my favorite hoodie so I even went to Target after dinner to buy a new one and I also know that Target stores have Starbuck's.  It's recommended that you not consume caffeine for at least 2 days prior to electrolysis but at the time of this trip I was still addicted to Starbuck's coffee, so I could not resist.   Since I have been home I have weaned myself off coffee so maybe next time I will be caffeine free.  James' equipment and technique cause as little pain as possible, so even after drinking coffee it's usually not too bad. 

The next morning I was tempted to go to JC Penny's in the shopping center across the street from the hotel, and right next to Target, so I went there for awhile before hitting the road.  They had a really good sale going on and I got a great deal on some Lee jeans and a nice top.  I will have to admit it was a little bit weird shopping after going yet another day without shaving, but I took some extra time to cover everything and I don't think anyone noticed.  It will be So Wonderful not to have to shave at all anymore and that is my goal with electrolysis.  One day, if I keep making these trips north, I will get there.

The drive from Harrisburg to Buffalo took me through the Allegheny Mountains of central Pa. and through some bucolic areas of western New York state.  Those mountains don't have the elevation of ours in North Carolina but its pretty country nonetheless, especially this time of year when the leaves are changing color.  After coming out of the mountains and foothills, I noticed that the landscape in that part of western New York near Buffalo was flat and not that different from my home county in eastern North Carolina.


Route 15 through the Allegheny mountains of central Pa.
Wind Power: Part of a series of windmills that stretched for a few miles along a Pennsylvania ridge...
Mitchell had made a reservation at a nice hotel suite for me in Buffalo.  It was raining and getting dark as I pulled into the hotel and checked in.  I was looking a little ragged after a long drive and another day without shaving but I needed to get some dinner, so I went out to look for a drive through.  A little Japanese place advertising sushi caught my eye, but they didn't have a drive through so I stopped and considered going inside. I know I did not look my best but I decided to go in anyway, as the place looked relatively dimly lit.


Tuna Lover's Special, very good sushi.
A very nice, older oriental man waited on me at the sushi place and I am sure he clocked me but he was still polite and went out of his way to give me good service.  That is probably how they treat everyone there but it is nice to at least get treated like anyone else.  I should have felt good about myself for not allowing my temporary handicap (having some facial hair prior to my electrolysis appointment) hold me back, but I certainly didn't feel good about seen in public so closely on this day.  I had felt better that morning but perhaps because I didn't touch up my makeup after this long day, I just had the feeling that he clocked me.  Oh well, I got good food and good service and since I had to be like that anyway, there was no sense acting like a hermit.  Maybe I can look at it like a growth experience, sort of like when I was going out androgynously when I first started HRT.

The next morning I found out that I had a couple of hours to kill before my electrolysis appointment, so I decided to explore a bit of Buffalo.  One of the things I really wanted to see while in town was Lake Erie.  I also wanted to check out the downtown area.  While riding around downtown, I stumbled onto Erie Basin Marina, which is also home to a large park.  It was late October and a cold wind was blowing off the lake so I was a little chilly in my hoodie and I could tell that soon the weather would be turning bitterly cold in this part of the country. 


View from the observation tower at Erie Basin Marina...
Lighthouse at the edge of Lake Erie in Buffalo, NY...Video below is from a little beach on the lake shore...
video

There were some Naval ships docked there and I found out they were part of the Buffalo and Erie County Naval and Military Park.  I walked around the area but didn't pay the admission to get into the museum or on board the ships, as I knew I wouldn't have much time to explore them.  There was also a really cool observation tower at the marina that made for a few good pictures, but I didn't linger there too long because of the biting wind.  A couple of men were fishing from the bank on one of the canals leading to the lake and I stopped to ask if they were catching anything.  Seems that they had a few Yellow Perch already in the bucket.  This is a species that is also found here in North Carolina but seems to be very prominent in the Great Lakes.  He also told me that in winter they had good luck ice fishing.  That is something I have always wanted to do and one day I want to try my hand at ice fishing.  After getting some pictures and talking to the fishermen I ate a little picnic lunch in the van and then it was time to head to the office for some much needed electrolysis.


Yellow Perch caught on live minnows from the bank..
USS Croaker (submarine) and USS Little Rock (cruiser) moored at the Buffalo Erie County Naval and Military Park
Day one of electrolysis began in the early afternoon and went until supper time.  The most sensitive areas of my face were cleared (upper and lower lip) as well as a good portion of the right side of my cheek and neck.  After this I really didn't feel like actually going into a restaurant and eating dinner, but James and his friend invited me to a place close by that was famous for its Beef on Wek sandwiches.  I had never heard of beef on wek before but I had seen signs advertising them ever since I arrived in Buffalo.  Apparently they are a local delicacy and are essentially a thin sliced roast beef sandwich, served with au jus.  James assured me that he had taken many clients to this establishment who were still in the middle of treatment like me, and that the atmosphere was sort of dark so I shouldn't worry.  They talked me into it and I ended up enjoying a good meal that I wouldn't have if I just went back to room or got takeout.


Beef on Wek sandwich, a western New york specialty..
One thing that I am learning on these trips is that in order to experience life you have to go out and live it.  We can't let the fact that our appearance is not perfect hold us back from enjoying life to its fullest.  Maybe I had a little swelling and redness from electrolysis and some residual facial hair, maybe someone else will have a burn on their face or a bad scar, maybe someone is not confident in their daily appearance or presentation anyway for whatever reason, but please don't let the fact that things are not perfect keep you from doing the things that you want to do and especially don't let it keep you from living your life as yourself.  I also learned this lesson earlier this year after my skin cancer surgery when I had a bandage, then residual scab on my face.

Day two of electrolysis was also going to have a late start.  It was Saturday and James had a funeral he wanted to attend so I agreed to meet him in the afternoon and used the free time to drive up to Niagara Falls, another attraction I really wanted to see on this trip.  First I drove all the way up to the Canadian border, about thirty miles, and turned around.  I really wanted to enter Canada because it would cool to go into another country and because the view of the falls may be better from that side, but I had to turn around because I don't have the passport required to re enter the United States. 

I drove back to Niagara Falls and had to pay to park but I didn't pay for any of the attractions or drive to any other spots for different views of the Falls.  I had been to Niagara Falls as a child with my parents
US-Canadian border just ahead... 
 
Niagara Falls, USA side






Me at Niagara Falls..video below..
video

After a short time viewing the Falls it was time to head back to Buffalo for my electrolysis.  As I have mentioned before, and many of you know, electrolysis involves inserting a needle into each individual hair follicle where electricity and heat are applied that eventually kill the follicle.  It takes many treatments of each follicle to permanently render it dead, so that no more hair will grow from it, hence the need for repeated treatments like I am receiving.  In 2012, I had a total of 32 hours of electrolysis on my cheeks, chin and upper lip but they were done randomly, one hour at the time.  Now I am getting the entire face treated during an extended session and coming back after 6 to 8 weeks, when the next hair growth cycle kicks in.  This method seems to be much more efficient and gets results faster.  Also, the equipment and technique that James Walker uses causes less pain than any other I am aware of, and does not damage the skin.

Saturday afternoon we were able to clear the rest of my face, to my great relief.  I no longer had any facial hair to worry about, but I did have slightly swollen cheeks and areas of redness to contend with.  I am not getting any scarring from James' treatments, like I did at the place I went to in Raleigh, but there is some temporary swelling and redness on my sensitive skin. The plan was to go out and sample some of Buffalo's most famous food, so I put on some concealer for the red areas and and a little makeup before dinner.


Buffalo Wings are famous all over the country these days but they originated, of course, in the city of Buffalo.  So, this being my first trip to Buffalo we went to the Anchor Bar, which was the first restaurant to ever serve the now famous wings.  There is an interesting story about how Buffalo Wings came about, and it can be found here on the Anchor Bar website.
Famous Buffalo Wings from the original home of the Buffalo Wing, the Anchor Bar
We sampled three different varieties of Buffalo Wings, as seen above, but I have to admit I enjoyed the original recipe the best.  James says that on the first trip to town he takes clients to the Anchor Bar for the original wings and on the next trip we will go to the second most famous spot.  Having tried the original Buffalo Wings I am now considered to be a wing snob, and everything thing else pales in comparison.  I have been sampling wings at various places here in the South recently and I have to admit, they do have better wings in Buffalo. 

After two days of electrolysis I was beat but James and his friend wanted to go to a local karaoke bar to sing a couple songs before heading in.  Again I was worried about how I would look after the extensive treatments on my face, but James told me to look around.  No one was noticing me and everything was alright.  I just looked like I had gained a couple of pounds from eating all the wings so I tagged along to the bar, had a couple of beers, and watched them sing a couple of songs.  When I finally got back to my room I just wanted to relax, so I got in the jacuzzi for the second night in a row, and took a long, hot bath.  This was a great amenity here in this hotel suite and I really appreciate Mitchell getting this nice room for me for my three nights in town.


Relaxing in the hot tub back at the hotel, after a long day of tourism and electrolysis...
Sunday morning arrived and it was time to go home, but there was there was a little bit more electrolysis to do as I also wanted to get my chest area cleared.  After checking out of the hotel at 11, I went over to Executive Clearance to get that done and it took an hour and half.  So I ended up hitting the road about 1:30 PM with only 644 miles to go.  Darkness had set in when I got to Harrisburg and checked into the same hotel I stayed in on the way up.  I still had a little bit of redness that was easily covered by concealer, but my confidence in my appearance was soaring compared to what it was on the way up.  I felt like myself again and felt good about being hair free for awhile and one step closer to my ultimate goal. 

After checking out of the hotel the next morning and hitting the road, I got off on the wrong exit and ended up in the parking lot of a Bass Pro Shops.  This is just my luck!  I've always wanted to go into one of those stores, so I decided to take a quick detour from  my trip and check it out.  It turns out that this Bass Pro Shops in Harrisburg is also part of a nice shopping mall, so I got the added bonus of taking a walk around and getting some exercise. 

It was around mid day when I finally got on the road for the 7-8 hours drive home.  I was supposed to stop in Baltimore at some point on this trip and visit a friend I met on Facebook, Rachael Kruse, but since I had stayed in Buffalo a third night and she had to go out town for a doctor's appointment, I missed seeing her by a couple of hours.  We decided that I would come up for a visit in a couple of weeks, which will be the subject a soon to come blog post.

I got home safe and sound that evening and I was really glad that Mama picked up the dogs for me before the kennel closed.  Everyone was happy to see me and I was happy to be home, but I do love traveling and have really enjoyed all the trips I've made this year.  My next electrolysis appointment January.  There is a possibility I can go to York for the treatment, but if I have to go to buffalo in mid winter I will fly up.  There is no way this Carolina girl is going to drive through the Pennsylvania mountains and into snowy Upstate New York in the dead of winter. 


It might sound funny, but I do look forward to my next electrolysis session.  They are really making a difference and of course I also enjoy the chance to travel and get out of town.  As of right now I have not had too much hair come back and I can go a day without shaving with no problems.  These full facial treatments get real results really quickly, but over the next few weeks more might come back.  One thing for certain is that after each treatment there is less of the problem hair to deal with.


If I go to Buffalo in winter I will have to fly in.  I wish I could do it this way...