Thursday, February 24, 2011

Integrity Well Placed

Have you read this blog post?

It's an elegantly phrased call-to-attention for all transfolk about the fact that, as weak as many may feel, what all trans people have in common is their "integrity." She says this because in order to allow oneself to go through with the transition, one must be willing to give up everything.

This is a true statement, I think, especially for adult trans people. Kids don't have as much, if anything, to lose.

What I first thought about after reading this blog was, "Does this apply to ALL trans people?" I mean, from my understanding, only transsexuals have that overwhelming urge to transition, even if they don't. Those who are called "transgendered" occupy many positions on the gender identity spectrum, but none are medically diagnosed with a gender dysphoria that can only be cured with gender reassignment. To me, how anyone else "comes out" or doesn't is a choice that is not necessarily absolutely necessary.

Okay, so let's say I'm wrong and that anyone who considers him/herself a "trans person" risks losing everything if he/she tells the secret. Why is this "integrity"?

Integrity has two major definitions: honor and wholeness. At first glance, I questioned its usage here because from my experience with Natasha, her decision to tell me and everyone else was not because she needed to be honest but because she couldn't stand not doing anything about it anymore. Yes, after a while, she would say that she couldn't stand the "lying" to people, but truthfully, was it the lying that was so painful or the hiding? They're not the same. For transsexuals in particular, there is a NEED to transition. If one doesn't start the process, then one must live with the constant pain of denial. Even during the process, just waiting for each step is... painful. So, is telling everyone... stepping out of the darkness and into the light... an honest move or is it a move to stop the pain?

Having thought that, I reminded myself that coming out can cause its own kind of pain: that of loss and segregation. This was the point of the article, after all. But again, if you have a giant axe in your leg and if you pull it out you'll bleed a ton but you'll survive, whereas if you leave it in, you'll slowly die of blood loss and infection, which choice do you make?

What about "wholeness"? That's like the integrity of a ship's hull. Without it, the ship would sink. In that respect, I think "integrity" is what trans people are looking for. Part of that search is letting people in so that any rebuilding of a person's foundation of support can take place. Telling people and risking their rejection of you enables you to continue forward towards wholeness.


There needs to be a tremendous willingness to sacrifice meaningful relationships and other things in your life when you come out as a trans person. I'm just saying that I'm not sure it's "integrity" that moves a person to do it. I'm arguing semantics. :-)

I think a better word is: courage.

Courage means bravery: a willingness to face fears or pain or danger.

Why courage? Didn't I just say that I thought most trans folk NEED to come out? Yes, I did. You tell me if everything you NEEDED came easily. Did you just say, "I need this job" and you got it? NO! You had to work for it. You had to kiss somebody's butt or get that stupid degree or sit in traffic for two hours to get that job! What you NEED rarely comes to anyone without a fight and sisters (and brothers), you sure had to fight your way past your own fears to come out and say that you are who you are. You had to say to yourself, "As much as I need to do this, to make myself feel right, can I do it even if I lose everyone I love and everything I have? Is it THAT important?" You answered, yes, and so you gathered up your COURAGE to tell your loved ones, hoping so strongly that you were not wrong about their unconditional love for you.

And sometimes, you were wrong. But you did it anyway and you continued to move forward.

Natasha, my wonderful, funny esposa, you ARE courageous. You might not have all the strength you wish you could have, but you must be courageous to have stepped through the fire.

...Stay tuned. I have another post on the way wherein I will attack partners who leave because of a LACK of integrity and courage...

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Fears From the Outside

Now that everyone who needs to know about Natasha knows, and now that Natasha is getting some help to deal with her blue days, I have been able to return my attention more to the other things that I worry about in terms of the kind of world my children will inherit. These worries don't all stem far from transsexualism. In fact, TS is the epicenter of at least one. This is the big one at the moment.

Who is going to kill my spouse and children?

NPR reported today that the number of hate groups is on the rise. While this might be because of the economy and the blame-game of who's taking all the jobs and who's squatting in abandoned homes and such, the fact that we are Jewish and that my spouse is transsexual doesn't make me feel any safer... especially here in Phoenix, where you can't have a dog without paying for a license, but you can have a semi-automatic dangling in the breeze from your hip holster. In my time here, I have met only a small handful of people with whom I might leave my children for a short time (besides my parents and brother). Only two people, who are a couple with two kids, share perhaps 90% of our values (even though she likes the weather here!). They know about Natasha and accept her without reservation. They, by the way, are NOT native to Phoenix.

With everything that is happening in the Middle East (civil wars) and what's going on in Wisconsin (union abolition) and what happened in Tuscon (the shooting), I find myself wondering when the uprising is going to start in America. If we're still in Phoenix, we're screwed! Natasha is starting to look for work outside of teaching. In spite of certain protections in certain states against discrimination about transitioning folks, the person who isn't transitioning is still more likely to get the teaching job. We're thinking of ways to get ourselves moved into more liberal areas... California or Washington maybe (sorry, Vermont. You'll have to wait a little longer)... and into a more liberal line of work. It's a hard road, but for our and our children's sakes, it's safer for us to be somewhere else. Even then, there are people who still hate you for who you are or who your parent is.

I also have issues with the environment. I ask: What kind of air will my children breathe in the future? Will there be a livable environment on the planet in ten years? Will there be wild animals in a few years? Will America dissolve into smaller nation-states? When will the middle-class disappear entirely? Will they ever invent an anti-aging drug?... I could go on.

Every once in a while, I do still have those pangs of worry about having a lesbian spouse. As I drove around today, I noticed that my fingernails were getting a little long and I thought about what it would be like to see Natasha's hands with longer fingernails. It was kind of weird. On the other hand, I also looked at the Pyramid catalog email today and saw a really nice blouse that she would LOVE! So clearly, my worries of the physicality of the transition are not significant. I do, however, continue to worry about the "other." We were planning to write a book after Natasha's transition. We thought it would be beneficial to share our experiences... especially since I'm staying. But recently some woman came out into the public eye as a transsexual and her life is in tatters because of it (ask Natasha. I can't remember her name). As much as we want to help educate people about transsexualism, as much as we would like to help make this a condition that is defended 100% by the ACLU, we have our children, family and friends to think about.

In today's climate of growing intolerance and blame, I fear and distrust the "other" more and more. I feel like our house is a secret hiding place in the middle of a forest that belongs to the enemy.

Last October, there was a terrible hail storm here that spawned several tornadoes outside of Flagstaff. My parents, the kids, Natasha and I were in our minivan when the storm hit. My mother and I looked out into the sky and saw a green, rotating cloud. We didn't say anything aloud because the kids were already terrified of the hailstones pounding against the roof and windows, but we were waiting to see a twister drop down on us. Although it didn't happen, I had a feeling that we would see this kind of weather again next year. I still feel that we might just see a tornado here. Those of you reading this who have known me for a long time know how I feel about the weather and what will and will not kill me. I am afraid that if we are still here, the weather will punish me for not having gotten us out sooner: for not having tried hard enough to change our lives for the better. This is a true fear... and there is very little in this world that scares me. Notice that almost everything else I've written about here was a "worry"? This "fear" may seem pretty out-there, but the weather and I have a strange relationship. Since we moved here, we've noticed that our area of Phoenix is like a weather vortex. Most of the time, the rain and clouds skirt AROUND our area. You can see it happening. On the day of the hail, I had been talking about how much I disliked being in Phoenix and how much I wanted to figure a way out of it. That's when the vortex was breached in a BIG way. I'm putting two and two together here in a spiritual way. I might be wrong scientifically. It may have had NOTHING to do with me. The Northridge, California earthquake in 1994 may have had nothing to do with me, either, but I still think it was interesting that it happened after months of complaining that my career was stagnant while also not doing too much about it myself. Talk about a kick in the butt!!

Anyway, my point is that the vortex... my secret hiding place... is being threatened. I have this urge to take my family and run, but there is nowhere to go. We're stuck for now, until we open the right door. We're searching for that door, and we hope that it safely leads us to a better place (not just physical, you know). :-)

Saturday, February 12, 2011

I Can See Clearly Now, the Rain is Gone!

This weekend, in this beautiful yet overpriced snowy paradise called Snowmass, CO (it's near Aspen but not IN Aspen. Oooo!), Natasha toiled and troubled over telling her father and step-mother about herself. All day today... well, let's just say she was a mess. All that wonderful hot chocolate and fun rides up and down the ski slope in Skittle colored gondolas were wasted on her completely, try as she might to not have it so.

She was absolutely convinced that there was NO WAY her dad and step-mom would accept what she had to say. She said that, no matter what they SAID, they would FEEL disappointed in her. I asked her (knowing things as I do) if there was ANY chance that she could be wrong. Her answer was a resounding "no."


At long last, as the kids danced and flung themselves on a nearby sofa, she told them her story and... they accepted her without reservation.

I'm not going to write much more about this because y'all can get all the details from Natasha's blog. But I just wanted to say that I am truly sorry that so many of you folks do not have such understanding and accepting people in your lives. I can only wish that each of you have at least one person who loves you unconditionally. I am actually proud of Natasha's father, especially, for not only accepting her but also for saying aloud that he loves her no matter what. I've NEVER heard him say that he loved his son except for those "love you" conversation-ending toss-outs.

for all that has happened since I have known them - and there has been a LOT - they just earned back a bunch of points in my book. On one hand, I was not surprised at their reaction. I did have a feeling that they would be accepting. On the other, with these people, you just never know when you tally all of the other lame reactions they've had about Natasha's life choices. I'm glad they didn't prove me wrong.

...Now, let's see if they'll pay for the surgery! :-D

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Doubters and Non-Believers

The only people who don't know about Natasha at this moment are her father and step-mother and a few of our very distant friends (and, of course, most people here in town). This morning, I told my brother and sister-in-law. Before I tell you how they reacted, I need to explain what their faith is:

K and E are Messianic Jews. I'm sure you all know what a Jew is (without the horns and bag of gold around the neck, of course). Religiously speaking, Jews believe that there will be a second coming of a messiah. A Messianic Jew believes that Jesus will be that messiah. They are kosher, too, and observe the Sabbath (no cars or stuff from Friday at sundown to Saturday at sundown. Yeah, I know. They sound kinda like Christians, what with the whole Jesus thing. That's for another blog. For now, you get the idea. In addition, K & E have refined their beliefs in certain ways. They object to homosexuality and abortions, for starters. In general, though, they are good people. They will always be there if their family needs them and, regardless of whether or not a person will end up in Hell for lack of faith, they will pray for you.

I was very unsure about how they would take this news. I had predicted that they would send their children out of earshot, and I figured that they would not change their feelings for me or our kids. I did think that they might tell me that Natasha would not be welcome in their home or at the rare family get-together. That didn't happen, though.

K and E were calm but clearly shaken. So far, no one has expected to hear that J was going to become Natasha. My brother took notes, since I started out by explaining that my spouse had Harry Benjamin Syndrome (not officially, but it's pretty much what's going on). I made sure that they understood this was a medical condition that affected gender, as opposed to a "sexual preference." What my brother focussed on, however, was my comment that neither of us want this to be happening.

He said: "If you don't want this to be happening, then you can't accept it." What he meant was that we should be willing to do WHATEVER we could to try to stop it from happening.

K and E have had back luck with the medical industry. E had been misdiagnosed for years, resulting in a lot of pain and stress, until they found out through their own research that she was allergic to gluten. My brother hoped that I would be willing to accept that doctors (and psychologists) don't always know everything and that, perhaps, there might be a cure out there that they don't yet know about.

My brother wants me to be open to their god... my god, technically, since I'm a Jew, too. If Natasha and I, or maybe just I, were willing to open up to the possibility of a higher power (we're atheists with some spirituality), the result might very well be an unexpected cure. He couldn't guarantee that, but with hope there is possibility.

So, I guess that went over well. I told him that I would consider it, but in my heart, I can not believe in something I don't believe in. :-)

I don't know how many people are still in denial. I do know that one of my brothers-in-law does not want this to be happening. I wouldn't call it denial because he talks about it rationally. I think he's still in something like a state of shock. He just found out that Natasha will, indeed, transition entirely and I think he thought she was going to try to live in limbo... or maybe he knew it would happen but not very soon (not that it will happen very soon unless you consider a few years to be soon).

In a way, I think that my brother-in-law is like my brother. Both understand what is happening and accept that this is a truth; yet, they also want to find a way to stop it from happening more than want to let everything progress. Trust me: I'm with them. I would MUCH rather someone find a way to "cure" transsexualism without the gender reassignment. If someone could discover how to reassign the brain to match the body, well, wouldn't that be preferred? Natasha says that at this point, she wouldn't want to go back. But would she really say no if, having not yet had GRS, she could stop taking hormones and her brain and body would align and her wife and children and friends and family would not have to continue through this process with her? This is not reality, though, and while I understand their desire to find another choice, I am not looking for it anymore. I accept reality as it is so that I can look into the future with a sense of certainty. I think that works better than looking into the future with a sense of uncertainty, at least about this. I think that would be too stressful, preventing me from fully embracing my spouse's new outer identity.

I love my brother and my brother-in-law for caring so much about me and my spouse. I love that they so very much want to find a better outcome for us. I wish they would stop looking for their own sakes. I don't think they will.