In this chapter, I wanted to address questions. The title gives a tilt to my Irish roots as sé is Gailic for six.
People have many questions, some appropriate, some not so much. For example, someone notices that your breasts are really growing out, can I feel them? Not very appropriate. You wouldn’t ask a cisgender woman if you could feel them up would you? Remember, cisgender refers to those who are born with their mind and body in agreement.
As I was trying to figure out questions, I came across this article by Henry Giardina, http://fourtwonine.com/2016/10/11/lazy-persons-guide-trans-empathy/
I thought it asked some decent questions. So I am reposting the questions he presents in this article with my response, if I have one, or want to respond to. Remember, just because you are curious and have a question, to the person you are asking, it could be very personal or very painful. So if they decline to respond, please respect that.
1. What was the first time you remember feeling like you were doing something wrong by being you?
I would have to say, when I was around six. I used to walk around with limp wrists and was told that they weren’t having a sissy boy in the family. That was the way it was at that time, but I am thankful that today, my parents appear to have accepted. I always wanted to hang with the girls rather than the guys. I remember my cousin’s playing Mystery Date and I wanted to play. I was pushed away and told this was a girl’s game, go play with the boys. I didn’t like playing with the boys, so I went off alone and did crossword puzzles and word games. I guess that was why I developed such a voracious reading habit.
2. Where did this guilt come from? (i.e. religion, community, social beliefs of parents, class expectations etc.)
Remember this was the early 60’s, so even being gay was frowned upon. I think the first time I heard about someone changing sex was Christine Jorgenson, and later the tennis player Renee Richards. Sissy boys were beat up and tormented. I recall a classmate, Arthur Machado who might have been transgendered. I am not sure, I know that he was beaten daily and teased and called Martha. The violence that you saw, made you keep everything to yourself. You learned early that it was not okay to be you. So I guess, it was a combination of community, religion, and social beliefs. I say religion because they preached the hate that gave others justification.
3. When was the first time you realized it might be okay to be you?
When I tried to come out in the 90’s, I actually started to believe it was okay to be me. I soon learned after losing friends, family alienation, and loss of job, the world was not quite ready to know who I was. My psychologist tried to convince me that people would eventually accept. I decided to retreat back into the darkness, self-loathing, and suicidal depression that was my life. In order to feel love, I had to be what everyone expected me to be. The first time I found it was okay to be me and actually believe it, when I came out to my current wife. After a few days to adjust, she took the bull by the horns and said that we are going to do this and this time, there was no turning back. She is an amazing woman.
4. What was the reason for that?
While I had my good friend Lynn by my side last time, this time, it was my wife. I knew that I did not have to give up everything I had worked hard for in order to be me. She was going to stay beside me and we would continue to grow our alpaca farm.
5. Describe the first friendship you made as ‘you’ (after you came out)
I would have to say that it was with Denise Maccaferri. My counselor had sent me to be “mentored” by Denise, but after talking with me, Denise said I didn’t need her help. Unfortunately our schedules have kept us from getting together, but we keep in touch online.
6. How did your friendships change once you came out (both friendships you made and friendships you’d had before)
Now, here is the shock. My counselor told me that I suffered a type of PTSD due to my last attempt to come out. She said that I was always waiting for that other shoe to drop. However, I have been overwhelmed. As a man, I had tried to be the best I could. I had joined the Masons and was deeply involved. I made contacts all over the state. One of the things I thought I would miss would be the friendship of those I got close to in Masonry. However, the shock came when I came out and my mentor told me, “Even when you are my sister, you will still be my Brother.” I found that most of the other Masons said the same thing. When I changed Facebook profiles from my old name to the new, most of my Masonic friends joined me on my new page. I had started a charity fund raiser in my rookie year as a Mason that lasted the five years I was in. I was going to step down as I would be a woman now. They came to me and asked me to continue it. Talk about Niagra Falls.
Most of my friendships are of the casual kind. It seems though, that they have, for the most part, stayed with me, and support me.
7. Who disappointed you the most when you came out to them?
I can’t really say that anyone disappointed me. I have been surprised by some whom I thought might not want to continue on this journey with me, but I was prepared for those who wouldn’t. So I guess I can’t really say I was disappointed when they didn’t.
8. Who disappointed you the least?
My loving wife, for whom I owe my life and eternal love. When my inner demons sought to drive me to end my life, she intervened. After getting over the initial shock, she became my biggest cheerleader and ally. She empowered me to believe in myself and to not only become me, but to step beyond even that and become a spokesperson and advocate in order to try to lower the rate of suicide.
9. Who surprised you?
Well, a few people surprised me with how they accepted me so readily, but I have to say that many thought my brother-in-law would have the hardest time, but he was one of the first to embrace me. When he was told my story, tears filled his eyes. He embraced me and told me that they will be there for me. My wife’s whole family has been outstanding in their love and support.
10. Has your identification changed since you’ve come out?
Yes, I my name was legally change in July and all my documentation has been changed over. I only have my birth certificate and marriage certificate to update.
11. What about your ideas about gender?
I think that we set such narrow definitions when everything about us is not black and white. Studies show that sexuality is not black or white, gay or straight, but can fall anywhere on a spectrum. The same goes on with gender, in that people are forced to be masculine or feminine based on parts. Yet, gender also can fall along a spectrum. There are also those who are gender fluid. They can float between the gender extremes. In the end, I think we should just let people be instead of trying to force people into narrow definitions.
12. When did you learn about trans history?
While I heard about Christine Jorgenson and Renee Richards, it never became clear what that was about until I spiraled down in the 90’s and ended up with a psychologist. I told her that I felt I was a woman inside. She challenged me as was the policy under the Benjamin protocols, but soon, she was guiding me on my path. I got online and joined a few groups where I learned even more. I came across the COGIATI, or COmbined Gender Identity And Transexuality Inventory test. I scored very high and it suggested I go into counseling. I was already there. I started researching as best I could. When I had to quit my transition, I stopped the research in hopes of pushing it all back in the closet and putting it all behind me.
13. Did someone tell you about it or did you seek it out yourself?
I basically had begun the research myself. I had to find out what was going on with me. Once my psychologist and I determined that I was a true transgender, I dug in my research.
14. What was the first violent event you associated with being trans (the first suicide you heard of, movie or tv show you watched, book you read)
I suppose that would have to go back to Arthur in Jr. High, but as I do not know if he was truly transgender, I cannot claim that. I guess the first violence towards trans and what kept me on guard, was the movie Boys Don’t Cry.
15. How did it affect you?
It scared the heck out of me. All I wanted to be was me. I just wanted to be accepted for the person I am inside. Yet, I found I had to be very cautious. Only after I heard of all the suicides and the murders of trans people, I decided that I wasn’t going to hide. I am a good person, I have given my life, time, and money to help others. I have nothing to be ashamed of. I was going to keep on the down low, but decided to put myself out there as a face. I wanted to educate others.
16. Who was the first trans person you met?
I would have to say Crystal. I can’t remember her last name. She led a group in Providence that I joined in the 90’s during my first attempt to come out. She convinced me to be a voice as I was asked to speak to a Universal Unitarian Church in Newport on transgender people. They were having a series on acceptance within the Church. I have to admit, I was scared but was welcomed and they truly appreciated me coming out. So I guess, if it wasn’t for Crystal’s belief in me, I wouldn’t be coming out so publicly now.
17. What was (is) your relationship?
Crystal led a group that met in Providence.
18. In your current life, do you have to tell people you’re trans?
Well, let’s put aside that I took my transition public to hopefully bring attention to and hopefully lower the suicide rate of transgender people. I have told those who need to know and those I want to know. Other than that, is it really any bodies business? My ID says I am Emma. So as far as anyone is concerned, that is who I am. The idea that I was once a man is not their business. I think that if I was not married and was trying to date, that I would feel that I should be upfront. I would not want someone to find out from a third party. That could turn violent.
19. If so, how does the relationship change afterward (if at all?)
Well, so far, I have to say, I have had overwhelming support, even from work. I have been told that some admire me for my courage. I am just doing what I think needs to be done. I think the only ones that time will tell is with my own family. My wife’s have embraced me as they knew and loved me before and now, knowing my story, love me even more. My own family is still up in the air. I have some that are with me. Time will tell.
20. If not, how does it affect you?
I think, it took a little while for me to realize that no one cares. Really, everyone is so caught up in their cell phones to pay attention to anyone else. So if I go out now, I am Emma, plain and simple. As I talk to other trans people now, we have to learn to just Own It. In other words, just own who you are. All my IDs and credit cards are switched over. So I just be myself.
21. As a child, when and where did you feel the most safe?
I lived near a large woodland. I used to spend a lot of time out in those woods. It was the only place I really felt safe as I used to get beat up a lot.
22. As an adult, when and where do you feel the most safe?
In my home. At first, I was just going to hunker down and just become a hermit during my transition, but Cindy got me out of that. It took a lot of courage, but once I chose to truly become me and own it, I put my heart and soul into it. Oh, I still have reservations now and then, but I have been going out to dinner, the stores, grocery shopping. No one questions and I get ma’amed a lot. So my safe zone is expanding.
23. If you could have picked a perfect time to ‘come out’, when would it have been?
While I would have loved to have had the environment I am in now, back when I was a kid, I have to say that right now is the best time. I find that people are more understanding and accepting, unless you live in North Carolina or other states like it where they legislate hate.
24. What was your first experience with suicide or a suicide attempt (your own, or someone else’s)?
I have tried once, but thought about it many times. The first time, I was near the beach near our house. There is a lot of traffic as it is Main Road. I had enough of my life and thought about just stepping out in front of a car. As I stepped out, something grabbed me and yanked me back into the sea wall. The bizarre part is that there was no one around. Totally weirded me out but at least got me out of thinking of death. That last time was just before I came out to Cindy. After the death of a close friend, I had listened about what a rich life he had lived and how he was real. That just tore me up as I have never been real. I lived my life being what everyone expected me to be. So I spiraled and was trying to decide whether I would just take some mushrooms and go deep into the woods, or some other means. I wanted to be away from the house so as not to put darkness on it so Cindy could continue to live there. Fortunately, Cindy came to me and pressed me about my depression.
25. When was the first time you felt you had established a chosen family (if at all?)
Not sure what chosen family is, but if that means the family I have now, it was the day I married Cindy. I knew that she was something truly special. Her family have been truly supportive and loving towards me. I feel at home here.
26. When was the first time you felt someone really got you?
I think that had to be Cindy. She and I share a spirituality. We share beliefs about caring for others and wanting to share our lives with others. She has supported me in all my pursuits and I in hers.
27. What was your first positive mental health experience (if any?)
I would have to say the first was when I was with my first psychologist. She realized that I had spent my whole life being this other person. She decided that we had to clean the slate and find out who I was. I recall those session when she would ask me what I believed and I would start to respond, well everyone tells me, she would stop. That is not what I asked, I asked what you thought. It was the beginning of me to start to look at myself and the things I believed and the things I liked. It triggered an amazing journey that led me to learn about Druidism, shamanism, and Native American healing. I continued learning more about other indigenous healing ways. That in turn led me to make many great friends in the Native American community.
28. What was the first representation of transness that you saw that made you angry?
I can’t say that anything made me angry, maybe got me scratching my head and feeling like it wasn’t helping others, but then again, those people need to be able to express themselves, so to each their own.
29. What was the first representation of transness that you saw that left you feeling positive (if any?)
I think Caitlyn Jenner’s coming out was in some ways positive though her extreme political views, I think hurt her show. There were a few other shows that also appeared showing trans people in a good light. Discovery’s New Girls On the Block, I Am Jazz, amongst others. It showed that we are real people who just want to live our lives.
30. Do you feel like you had a childhood?
I had something that resembled one. I lived most of my childhood in fear. I didn’t have a lot of friends. I was always being jumped and got beat up a lot. I suffer back problems now because some guys made me jump off the bridge and jumped on me. I could have drowned when they hit me square in the back, but I was a fish. I managed to make it back to the abutment and get up the side. One thing I learned was how to run. Too bad I didn’t go out for track, but then again, I hated gym because you had to shower with the boys.
31. What’s something you hope to do for a young trans person growing up that you wish someone had done for you?
Wow, that is a good question. I just hope by being public, I can be a beacon to others. I hope that in being a public face, that I can bring about a change in perception and remove the fear and ignorance that causes people to push for laws like NC’s HB2. I hope that I can be a vehicle to reduce the hate. I hope I can be an example to show that trans people aren’t something to be feared and that they can be and do anything. Trans people are the most underutilized segment of society. Many have high degrees, but are forced to take low wage jobs, or worse, work in the sex trade. I know many trans people who are engineers, computer programmers, writers, producers, actors, and even a CEO of a company. You have the Wachovski sisters, who brought us the Matrix, you have Chaz Bono, Candace Cane, Caitlyn Jenner, and so many others. Just let people be who they are and accept them for what they can do.
So I took a stab and answered Henry’s questions. This series has given you an inside glimpse of what it is like to be a trans person here in the US. The experience is different in other countries, some better, some worse. I was thinking of continuing this series, but I think it is time to bring it to an end. I have bared my all in hopes that my experience will shed a little light and remove ignorance. It is hoped that in doing so, I can help reduce the number of suicides in the transgender community. We really need to learn and understand and accept that there are people like me in the world. Rather than condemn, demean and attack people for their differences, we need to understand that, as I pointed out in an earlier blog, this is a medical condition. Science has shown that this is real. I pray that in opening my heart, I have opened the heart of others to reach out and bring love and acceptance to all people.
My heart to your heart, one heart, one spirit.