Psychology has long been a topic of much interest to me. Over the years, research and study in this field has been immensely helpful in understanding myself better and maintaining a level of sanity in an insane world. My enthusiasm for psychology continues and there are so many handy resources to tap into, including a number of excellent podcasts.
About a month ago I discovered The Savvy Psychologist’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Mental Health. Podcast host Ellen Hendriksen, PhD, invites listeners to, “Meet life’s challenges with evidence-based research, a sympathetic ear, and zero judgement.” She offers “quick and dirty tips” using “practical psychology to help you be happy, relaxed and most importantly, yourself.”
Transgender 101: 6 Essential Questions and Answers
This week’s episode is about a topic near and dear to my heart: transgender awareness and education. In preparation for the show, Ellen enlisted my help as a consultant. As a fan of the podcast, it was fun to get involved behind-the-scenes and play a supportive role. Her dedication to providing useful information and treating the subject with dignity and respect was clear from the start, and very much appreciated. To say I was impressed with the end result would be an understatement. I encourage you to check it out for yourself here on the audio podcast and transcript page.
Line in the Sand
This short documentary by University of Rochester student and talented filmmaker: Hayden Freedman, explores being transgender in a society that doesn’t quite understand “transgender”. Trans woman: Natalie Robin shares some of her experiences in coming out, gender roles/expectations and discusses a rather questionable suggestion from her therapist.
Also included are interviews with my friend and mentor: Jeanne Gainsburg, Education Director for the Gay Alliance, and another trans woman you may be familiar with: me.
Natalie has a YouTube channel and Tumblr blog where she shares her transition progress, thoughts and feelings. I encourage you to check out her offerings and maybe send her a little love and support in a thoughtful comment.
Painful realities that are difficult to share
Rather than rehashing what the documentary covers (and rather well, I might add), I’m going to take this opportunity to talk a little about gender dysphoria and share my personal struggle living with it.
Almost daily, I hear accounts of transgender people having a difficult time in public, often being disparaged, laughed at, or otherwise treated poorly/different just for being trans. It used to be that way with me, too. It wasn’t long ago that I also experienced being laughed at and disparaged. Today however, it’s a pretty rare occurrence.
Christmas shopping is a pretty common activity. Most people do it, and their biggest complaint is finding a parking space. I’m happy to say that on this particular day, I had little trouble finding a good parking space at a local mall, packed as it was.
The reason I’m posting this is to draw attention to the very positive experiences I have out in public, and why I believe no one gives me a hard time anymore.
Passing isn’t everything
Within the very diverse transgender community, there is some debate as to whether or not it’s important, or even desirable to pass (ie: to look like a cisgender person; to not look trans). Some feel it is very important to pass, others don’t care, some don’t want to, and there are even those who look down upon trans people who do, want to, or go out of their way to pass.
Personally, I do want to pass. I want to look like an attractive cisgender woman to the rest of the world. There is no shame in being transgender. I’m rather proud to be trans and plan to continue speaking publicly to educate about trans realities. For me it’s a vanity thing, and I don’t care what anyone thinks of my desire to pass – good or bad.
The December/January issue of The Empty Closet is honoring a mother and her transgender daughter for their volunteer work with the Gay Alliance and efforts to make the world a better place. If you haven’t figured it out yet, that’s my mother and I. :)
From coming out to volunteering
On January 16, 2014, I came out to my mother as a trans woman. Earlier that day, I had just completed my second (or third?) public presentation about LGBTQ awareness and education. Mom took the news rather well, commenting: “I always wanted to have a daughter!”.
She had a lot of questions about what it means to be transgender. We talked for about 2 or 3 hours the day I came out. Eager to gain more insight about her trans daughter and learn as much as she could about the diversity within the LGBTQIA, Mom started volunteering at the Gay Alliance as an office worker.
On Saturday, October 18, 2014, I had the opportunity to attend a talk given by Laverne Cox at the University of Rochester. Prior to her talk, I was among a group of people to have a photo taken with her. My excitement level was through the roof and I was filled with gratitude!
Meeting Laverne Cox
When it was my turn to have my photo taken with Laverne, I entered the room where they were handling the pictures. Laverne was over to the right and I immediately went up to her and thanked her for all she’s done to raise positive awareness and educate people about transgender realities. “Your welcome.”, she replied.
On November 16, 2013, after returning home from a transgender support group in Syracuse, I revealed to my wife that need to transition. This came long after I had figured out it was the only way to save my own life. Explaining this to my wife was terrifying. It was the most difficult conversation I’ve ever had. There was a lot of crying – most of it mine. I think both our hearts broke that night. I know mine sure did. It wasn’t just my heart that broke… I broke, period.
Unlike when I came out to my wife as a “crossdresser” in 2008, coming out as a trans woman in 2013 didn’t go so well. She doesn’t consider herself a lesbian and doesn’t want to be in a romantic relationship with a woman (or trans woman).
The Empty Closet is New York State’s oldest “gay newspaper”. I prefer to think of it as an LGBTQ focused publication, which it very much is. It’s published monthly by the Gay Alliance in Rochester, NY. Don’t let the name “Gay Alliance” fool you, either. They’re tapped into the whole alphabet soup of the LGBTQIA… not just the “G”. In my opinion, it’s more about the “H” than anything. The H is for human being, which is what we ALL are, regardless of how many of the other letters apply (or don’t apply).
Editor and photographer Susan Jordan reached out and asked if I’d be interested in being featured in the “My Own Private Rochester” column for November, 2014. I was honored by the request and pushed the “let’s do this” button without hesitation.
Susan learned of me through my work with the Gay Alliance as an active member of their Speaker’s Bureau. To date (as of making this post), I’ve talked publicly about LGBTQ issues and realities on more than 30 occasions. This includes LGBTQ panels, SafeZone training, transgender-specific and general diversity presentations.