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[damn my government-issued ID]

December 31, 2012

It still seems weird anytime I get gendered correctly in public. A part of me is convinced that people are just humoring me, but as it happens more and more (it’s still a somewhat rare occurrence – though I do find that some places that once consistently called me “sir” aren’t gendering me at all, anymore – which I do see as progress).

I went to the movies the other night with my partner. As she went to use the restroom, I was hanging out in the theater bar (yes, this theater has a bar. Neat stuff.). The male bartender talked with me for a couple minutes, was friendly. He stepped away for a second to close out someone’s tab, comes back, and says, “what can I get for you, miss?”

Being called “miss,” I felt like I had the ability to order drinks normally outside of my comfort zone. So, I ordered a cosmopolitan (they’re delicious, don’t criticize). Then, the moment of dread: “can I see your ID?”

Crap. Usually my appearance and/or my voice will give me away, but now I face the awkward moment of this guy looking at the government-issued ID that has a picture of pre-transition me, my birth name, and a big mark that says “Male” on it.

He looks at the ID, up at me, down at the ID… “um… this is some guy’s ID…” confused. I say, “it’s my ID… I know.” He looks down at the ID again and says, “oh, this IS you!”

Yup.

He proceeds to be really weird to me from that point onward.

More incentive to update my name/gender ASAP.

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What a wild week it’s been. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how and why I think and act certain ways. In a way, that’s terrifying: opening yourself up to try to get to the core of personal problems.

In doing this, based on feelings & actions I’ve been guilty of my entire life, I think it’s entirely possible that I suffer from Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). While self-diagnosis can be dangerous (seriously, spend 10 minutes on WebMD and you’ll convince yourself that you’re on death’s door), this really seems to line up with many of the feelings, emotions, actions I’ve experienced throughout my life.

i’ve had a variety of issues, ranging from the obvious (anxiety, depression) to other more unique self-issues (being transgender). Each one, I’ve dealt with in its own way, whether that be therapy or medication, etc.

Here are a few quick notes on BPD, all of which I find myself saying, “yes, that’s obviously me!” to:

  • Frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment
  • A pattern of unstable and intense interpersonal relationships characterized by alternating between extremes of idealization and devaluation
  • Identity disturbance, such as a significant and persistent unstable self-image or sense of self
  • Impulsivity in at least two areas that are potentially self-damaging (e.g., spending, sex, substance abuse, reckless driving, binge eating)
  • Recurrent suicidal behavior, gestures, or threats, or self-mutilating behavior
  • Emotional instability due to significant reactivity of mood (e.g., intense episodic dysphoria, irritability, or anxiety usually lasting a few hours and only rarely more than a few days)
  • Chronic feelings of emptiness
  • Inappropriate, intense anger or difficulty controlling anger (e.g., frequent displays of temper, constant anger, recurrent physical fights)
  • Transient, stress-related paranoid thoughts or severe dissociative symptoms
  • Next time I’m with my therapist, I plan on talking this out with him to see if this is something he thinks may be the issue. Again, 2013 will be a year of self-improvement. It has to be.

    O Christmas Tree

    December 25, 2012

    O, Christmas Tree! O, Christmas Tree

    It’s been a tough year. I’ve learned a lot about myself, but at the same time, it certainly took a toll on me mentally & physically. Christmas gatherings have always left me feeling sentimental, but this one was especially that way.

    My family did their best to pretend that their son that visited last year was no longer going to be a guest at the table, instead, with their daughter in his place. One of my aunts actually said, “nice to meet you,” to me as they entered. I appreciate these gestures. They do make me feel accepted among my own family.

    No more stockings with my birth name. It was near-impossible to find a photo of me anywhere between the ages of 12 and 25. I was here, for what was, really, the first time. Both exciting and nerve wracking at the same time.

    One thing I need to be aware of, moving forward, is how some of the issues I’m dealing with in my life affect those around me. I cannot let single events crush me in a “this is going to be the end of the world” kind of way. I need to find strength within myself to carry onward and come out of this a more confident and authentic person. In that, I need to take things down a lot emotion-wise.

    I’m going to do better, world. I’m going to do better, me. I’m going to do better, friends.

    [on the nature of life]

    December 19, 2012

    I’ve been feeling very anxious, frustrated, depressed over the past several days. It’s not so much the usual “I hate myself” spiel that’s plagued me all too often throughout my life, but more a general sadness with the world – with life, death/mortality, innocence, wonder. It just seems like there’s so much out there, yet our ability to embrace it doesn’t come near fulfilling myself.

    In a conversation on the train to work this morning, I asked, “when do you stop saying you’re in your mid-20s, and start saying you’re in your late-20s?” My conversation partner replied, “I don’t know… 27?” By that, I only have 5 months left of being in my mid-20s. It should be noted that I understand this is all very arbitrary, all of it – how we measure time, how we talk about time. But still… late-20s… Geez.

    I guess the nature of life, fleeting and insatiable, is something I still don’t comprehend. How do we live lives with meaning, and what does it even mean to have “meaning?” In the end, we live and we die while the world moves on without us. Looking at my life as an hourglass, I can see that the sand has started inching upward, as if to remind me of wasted time. Even if I could have that time back, what would I do with it? Just the same stuff: school, work, and just… life. How does one truly live knowing that every moment they’re closer to death than they were before?

    I tried to articulate this to my therapist this week. During this, I started crying as I just kept right on talking. Looking for hope, for an answer, I looked to my therapist for help. “That was really touching, really heartfelt, really profound,” he said (for the record, I don’t think anything I said was “profound”), but those words didn’t provide me the answer I hoped for.

    This is a universal feeling, I would imagine, in which we become nostalgic for moments that maybe weren’t even that special; where we start asking ourselves “what if…?” Maybe I need to just get over myself and try to make the most of my life. Maybe I need to up the dosage on my antidepressants. I don’t know.

    Alright… 2 months down. I’ve now entered the awkward in-between stage in my transition. I may be out in “boy mode” and get called “ma’am.” I may be out in “girl mode” and get called “sir.” There seems to be no pattern to this, with just people responding with whatever their instincts pick up from physical/verbal cues given off by me. While it certainly is a little frustrating to get misgendered, I feel like I’m finally making a bit of progress. Here’s a rundown:

    • Skin – feeling much softer, especially the face
    • Hair (head) – seems to be growing at a slightly faster rate, slightly thicker
    • Hair (body)  reduction in speed of regrowth, especially on chest/arms, feels thinner/finer
    • Breasts  noticeably larger, breast buds have formed and appear to be loosening/expanding
    • Sensitivity – skin feels much more sensitive to the touch; especially areas: scalp, breasts, arms, back
    • Emotions/Personality – recent instability, followed by slight boost in confidence/stability.
    • Face – taking a slightly more feminine shape, fuller cheeks, slightly softer features.

    imageObviously, some of that may simply be “perceived changes,” and not true changes, but I’m trying to stay very objective. Some of them (*cough* breast growth *cough*) are certainly very, very real changes. Anyway, life is full of ups and downs, but hopefully I’m on the path to happiness/fulfillment.

    Here’s to many more months of personal growth.

    As you may be aware, the Salvation Army is pretty freakin’ anti-LGBT by nature. I know a lot of people who want to donate money somewhere, but seem to think that donating to the SA is the only option. Obviously, this is not the case. You are not “helping” by donating to a group that spends money lobbying for anti-LGBT legislation, has threatened to shut down shelters if they’re made to comply with anti-discrimination laws, etc.

    Here are a list of secular charities (the majority, I would imagine, are friendlier to the LGBT community than the SA). I found this list here. Feel free to share.

    Secular Charities and Aid groups

    • American Civil Liberties Union
      The mission of the ACLU is to preserve all of constitutional protections and guarantees relating to First Amendment rights, including the freedom to practice religion or choose not to, equal protection, due process, and right to privacy.
    • Amnesty International
      AI’s vision is of a world in which every person enjoys all of the human rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international human rights standards. In pursuit of this vision, AI’s mission is to undertake research and action focused on preventing and ending grave abuses of the rights to physical and mental integrity, freedom of conscience and expression, and freedom from discrimination, within the context of its work to promote all human rights.
    • DefCon: Campaign to Defend the Constitution
      DefCon is an online grassroots movement combating the growing power of the religious right. It includes a blog on religious freedom issues, action alerts, and in-depth articles on scientific, religious, and legal issues of the day.
    • Doctors without Borders
      Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is an international independent medical humanitarian organization that delivers emergency aid to people affected by armed conflict, epidemics, natural and man-made disasters, and exclusion from health care in nearly 70 countries.
    • DonorsChoose.org
      a simple way to provide students in need with resources that our public schools often lack.
    • EWB-USA.org
      Engineers Without Borders USA (EWB-USA) helps to provide clean water, electricity, sanitation systems, and education. The concept is very similar to Doctors Without Borders.
    • Foundation Beyond Belief
      The FBB’s mission is “To demonstrate humanism at its best by supporting efforts to improve this world and this life, and to challenge humanists to embody the highest principles of humanism, including mutual care and responsibility.”
    • Goodwill Industries
      Unlike their counterpart, the Salvation Army which is an evangelical Christian “charity” that is also politically and socially-active promoting religion, Goodwill is a secular organization that runs thrift stores coast-to-coast. From their page: “Our network of 165 independent, community-based Goodwills in the United States and Canada offers customized job training, employment placement and other services to people who have disabilities, lack education or job experience, or face employment challenges.”
    • Kiva.org
      lets you connect with and loan money to unique small businesses in the developing world.
    • Oxfam International
      Oxfam International is a confederation of 12 organizations working together with over 3,000 partners in more than 100 countries to find lasting solutions to poverty, suffering and injustice. The Oxfams operate in over 100 countries worldwide working with local partners to alleviate poverty and injustice.
    • The Nature Conservancy
      The Nature Conservancy is a leading international, nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving the diversity of life on Earth. An environmental group that protects natural habitats and the wildlife within them. Focuses on “science-based” initiatives.
    • Population Connection
      Population Connection is the national grassroots population organization that educates young people and advocates progressive action to stabilize world population at a level that can be sustained by Earth’s resources. Works against faith-based policies that are supported by the Religious Right.
    • Rotary/Rotary International
      Secular organisation, the world’s first service club organisation. Clubs are nonpolitical, nonreligious, and open to all cultures, races, and creeds. Motto is “service above self”. Notable project is global Polio eradication.
    • The SEED foundation
      National nonprofit that establishes urban public boarding schools to prepare students from underserved communities for success in college.
    • S.H.A.R.E.
      The Secular Humanist Aid and Relief Effort or S.H.A.R.E. was developed over twenty years ago for those who wish to contribute to those people afflicted by natural or human disasters without having to use the intermediary of a religious organization. S.H.A.R.E. is a program of the Council for Secular Humanism, which for 29 years has been the leading organization promoting the rights and values of secular humanists in the U.S. and abroad.
    • United Nations Children’s Fund
      UNICEF mobilizes political will and material resources to help countries, particularly developing countries, ensure a “first call for children” and to build their capacity to form appropriate policies and deliver services for children and their families. UNICEF provides emergency and disaster relief.
    • Wheelchair Foundation
      The Wheelchair Foundation is a non-profit organization leading an international effort to provide free wheelchairs to every child, teen and adult who needs one, but cannot afford one. For over 10 years, the Wheelchair Foundation has been delivering hope, mobility, and freedom to people with disabilities, in an effort to provide at least 1,000,000 wheelchairs around the world.

    Issue-Specific Secularist Organizations

    Anti-Discrimination Support Network (ADSN)

    • ADSN Project
      The Freethought Society of Greater Philadelphia’s Anti-Discrimination support network (ADSN) is collecting narratives highlighting instances of bigotry against the nontheist community.

    Pro-choice organizations

    Womens Health Organizations

    • EngenderHealth
      an international nonprofit organization that has been working for 60 years to make reproductive health services safe, available, and sustainable for women and men worldwide.
    • Ipas
      an international organization that works around the world to increase women’s ability to exercise their sexual and reproductive rights, and to reduce abortion-related deaths and injuries.

    Teen Pregnancy Reduction

    • National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy
      Sadly this charity is rated with only 2 stars due to low efficiency. However their goal is highly respectable and needed, to prevent teen pregnancy and unplanned pregnancy among single, young adults.

    HIV/AIDS

    • Treatment Action Campaign
      campaign for treatment for people with HIV and to reduce new HIV infections. Our efforts have resulted in many life-saving interventions, including the implementation of country-wide mother-to-child transmission prevention and antiretroviral treatment programmes.

    U.S. Military

    • Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers
      Challenging the myth that “there are no atheists in foxholes.” There certainly are. The Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers is a community support network that connects military members from around the world with each other and with local organizations. In addition to community services, MAAF takes action to educate and train both the military and civilian community about atheism in the military and the issues that face us. Where necessary, MAAF identifies, examines, and responds to insensitive practices that illegally promote religion over non-religion within the military or unethically discriminate against minority religions or differing beliefs. MAAF supports Constitutional State-Church Separation and 1st Amendment rights for all service members.

    Gay rights

    • Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation
      Dedicated to promoting and ensuring fair, accurate and inclusive representation of people and events in the media as a means of eliminating homophobia and discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation.
    • Lambda
      A national non-profit gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender (GLBT) agency dedicated to reducing homophobia, inequality, hate crimes, and discrimination by encouraging self-acceptance, cooperation, and non-violence.
    • Lambda Legal
      The legal arm of the Lambda organization that protects GLBT civil rights through impact litigation, education and public policy work.

    School vouchers

    Pledge of Allegiance

    • Restore the Pledge
      Support Michael Newdow in his quest to remove the phrase “under God” from the official Pledge of Allegiance, coercively recited by millions of schoolchildren every day.

    Evolution/Creationism in the science classroom

    • National Center for Science Education
      Great resource with current news and resources (including the famous “Project Steve” list!) on defending evolution and science against pseudoscience advocates.

    Boy Scouts of America discrimination against atheists, gays

    • Scouting For All
      Composed of mostly former Boy Scouts, it is working to influence the BSA to include all participating youth members and leaders regardless of religious beliefs or sexual orientation.

    Children in Poor countries

    • PlanUSA
      an organization committed to helping children, their families and communities in 49 developing countries around the world.
    • TanzanianChildrensFund
      An organization dedicated to helping and sheltering children who are orphans of AIDS and abuse in Tanzania.

    Church/state separation and secularist organizations

    • Americans United for Separation of Church and State
      A national watchdog organization (with local chapters all around the U.S.—find one near you!) dedicated to preserving religious liberty. It is open to theists and nontheists of all kinds, and is headed by a minister with the United Church of Christ (Rev. Barry Lynn) who can be seen often in the national media and news stories centering on church/state separation issues.
    • American Civil Liberties Union
      A favorite target of the Religious Right. The ACLU defends civil liberties on many fronts including church/state separation, personal privacy, and legal protection through due process. Look for a local chapter in your area to join.
    • People for the American Way
      Progressive group that supports secular values in government. PFAW is an activist organization and PAC (political action committee) working to battle such groups as the Christian Coalition. Click the “Religious Freedom” link for action alerts and information.
    • Freedom from Religion Foundation
      Great organization that defends the rights of nontheists in courtrooms, sponsors a fun-filled annual national convention, and publishes the popular “Freethought Today” (magazine written by and for freethinkers).
    • Godless Americans Political Action Committee
      Endorses and supports U.S. political candidates that support secular values in government and the rights of “godless Americans.” We will have our “seat at the table” in formulating public policy.
    • Atheist Alliance
      Democratic association of various individual atheists and atheist organizations. It is a great all-around resource for all-things atheist.
    • Interfaith Alliance
      Alliance of leaders of various religions, worldviews, and beliefs that includes Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, agnostics, atheists, et al. It works to promote religious freedom for everyone regardless of religious beliefs as well as civic participation and civility. Nontheists can find theist allies here.
    • American Atheists
      Controversial atheist organization started by the infamous Madalyn Murray O’Hair. Today it fights for the complete separation of church and state, as well as for the rights of atheists in America.
    • Secular Coalition for America
      Vast coalition of secular and freethought organizations (including the Internet Infidels!) dedicated to sending lobbyists to Washington, D.C. to gain support for protecting the rights of nontheist Americans.
    • Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science
      Explores the causes of religious belief, promotes science in public schools, maintains a list of public lecturers, sells pro-secularist books and other media, and facilitates the giving of humanitarian aid to organizations that are completely secular in nature.

    Organizations that promote humanism/Atheism

    • Foundation Beyond Belief
      A 501(c)(3) charitable and educational foundation created (1) to focus, encourage and demonstrate the generosity and compassion of atheists and humanists, and (2) to provide support and encouragement for nontheistic parents.
    • Council for Secular Humanism
      Large organization that offers support for secular humanists through activities such as magazine publishing, conducting secular ceremonies (weddings, funerals, etc.), educational courses, and summer camps for kids that teach critical thinking skills and secular ethical values.
    • Atheists United
      Advances the public understanding of atheism, defends the seperation of government from religon and helps to create communites of atheists. Based in Southern California.
    • American Humanist Association
      Promotes the spread of humanism and furthering of the humanist philosophy in the U.S. by working with and/or establishing like-minded organizations.
    • Freedom From Religion Foundation
      Run by Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor, also hosts “Freethought Radio” and is the leading atheist group involved in separation of church and state legal challenges, having had several of their cases heard before the U.S. Supreme Court.
    • The Institute for Humanist Studies (IHS)
      A think-tank that offers news, opinions, information, and humor relating to humanism. It works to spread public awareness and acceptance of humanist principles.
    • British Humanist Association
      The largest provider of humanist ceremonies in England and Wales. Offers services for weddings, funerals, and baby-namings as well as general resources on humanism and support for humanist organizations.
    • Positive Atheism
      Comprehensive resource for positive atheists to learn about atheism, history, philosophy, religious freedom, and responsibility.
    • The Brights
      A movement endorsed by several prominent nontheists to adopt a new term (“Brights”) with an accompanying philosophy to describe secularists, freethinkers, atheists, naturalists, etc. with the intent of putting forth a positive, and less-stigmatized, perception of ourselves. Many nontheists have encouraged its use, while many others reject it.
    • Skeptic Society
      Learn how to live life free of nonsensical beliefs, and develop your own scientific and critical thinking skills. Also publishes a popular monthly magazine, SKEPTIC, which can be found in major bookstores.
    • American Ethical Union (AEU)
      The American Ethical Union (AEU) describes “Ethical Culture” as a humanistic religious and educational movement inspired by the ideal that the supreme aim of human life is working to create a more humane society.
    • International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU)
      IHEU is the sole world umbrella organisation for humanist, atheist, rationalist, secularist, skeptic, laique, ethical cultural, freethought and similar organisations world-wide.

    My hair was starting to look kind of goofy. I’ve been growing it out since April without a cut. Rather than looking like something long and feminine, it was starting to just look like, well, like a boy’s cut that had just grown unruly.

    So, yesterday I decided to go in to the place I used to go, and get a trim/style. I debated how I was going to ask for a more feminine cut – after all, I’ve never done that before – and resolved that I’d just say, “I’m growing it out, just clean up the ends.”

    When I finally got in there, I was hit with an ounce of bravery, and when asked “what are we doing with this hair?” I replied:

    So, um, uh… Here’s the thing… I’m transgender, and I’m just beginning a transition from male to female, so, uh, I’m looking to get a more feminine cut.

    Now, I know, maybe it wasn’t absolutely necessary to come out to my hair stylist, but I was feeling bold and brave. What seemed like minutes, but was probably only a split-second, passed.

    Okay. Great. Here’s what I think would work for your hair type and facial features.

    She didn’t miss a beat. She went on to cut my hair, give it a more feminine style, and give me tips on upkeep as the hair grows back out.

    During the haircut, she mentioned that her primary care doctor is at the same location as the doctor I go to for my hormones – a neat coincidence.

    Anyway, I now have a more feminine cut/style, and I’m pretty happy about it.

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    I spoke with my dad today via phone, and while he has thus far been very supportive, I feel that I now have reason to question the legitimacy of that support.

    In talking with him, he brought up some basic concerns he and my mom have about me coming home for Christmas:

    • “You’re not going to… uh, wear a dress or anything, are you?” – no, I’m not, nor was I planning on it, but I don’t think it’s necessarily appropriate to tell me that I have different dress code options than anyone else going to my family’s house.
    • “What I hear when you talk about this is, ‘me, me, me.’ Why can’t you consider how this affects us?” – I’m sorry that it affects you, but my transition really is about “me, me, me.” By necessity, it really has to be.
    • “We’ll try to tell everyone in the extended family about your… situation.” – I certainly hope so… Seeing me femmed up isn’t exactly how I’d like to break the news to my grandma…

    Throughout this, he used my birth name, incorrect pronouns, etc. This doesn’t leave me feeling hopeful that I’ll come home to a family that refers to me by my real name/pronouns come Christmastime. I finally asked him not to call me that (birth name) anymore, but he continued doing that as if I said nothing.

    At one point in the conversation, though, I did feel like there was something I needed to bring up. My dad is a member of the school board in the district where I went to high school. I told him about the transgender-specific policy put in place (but later rescinded) by the East Aurora school district (students/teachers would be allowed to go by their chosen names, use the correct restrooms/locker rooms, etc.). I’ve been a strong proponent of these types of policies, and I thought it was good fortune that I happened to know someone who had the ability to work to implement this in my old high school district.

    Finally, it came up: “If there was only some sort of policy that was in place when I was in grade school/high school that would have let me know, ‘you can be you,’ perhaps it wouldn’t have taken until I was 26 to come to terms with myself. Maybe I wouldn’t have felt broken all my life. I guarantee that policies like this save lives.” I then elaborated on the provisions present in the E. Aurora policy, and how I believed that if a school board could just implement a policy like that, not bow down to religious-group pressure, it would inspire school districts across the country to follow suit.

    My dad responds: “right now, I’m just trying to work on how to deal with this and you. I have a hard time worrying about anyone outside our family.”

    Well, I tried. *sigh* Maybe I can bring this back up in the future.