What irritates me most about people saying this is just a life choice, is they have no idea what we have to go through. This isn’t something that you just wake up one day and say you want to be this or that. It is who you are. What many transgender people struggle with is that getting from A to Z is not a straight path, but often a circuitous one with many potholes, detours, and walls. I have never been comfortable with people saying I am courageous. For me, this isn’t about courage, but just being. However, as I look back at all I have gone through, including the late 80’s and early 90’s when I first attempted to come out, I have to admit to a bit of courage.
When I returned to counseling this time around, one thing my counselor noted was that even though things appeared to be on schedule, on plan, and falling together, I was always waiting for the other shoe to drop. Fortunately, it never did. Or rather, the times when it did, I was better able to handle it as I had love and support this time around. That was the key for me and why I choose to be very public. It is my hope to be the light for someone else and to help to educate people. It is my mission to not only be the best woman I can possibly be, but to also embrace that wolf spirit and be the pathfinder and teacher as my Cherokee friends saw in me.
I was given the name Unega Waya, by my Cherokee friends because I would go out and learn and come back and teach. I was always pretty good at that which is why, I suppose, that Cindy has me give the tours on the farm. I do love to teach people about the alpacas. I think the other aspect of the wolf is how they take care of their family. For me, this also includes my transgender brothers and sisters. I want to be there for them as best I can.
To return to the subject at hand, how can one say it is a life choice, when there are so many obstacles, social, financial, and familial that have to be overcome. Not to mention all the gatekeeping that goes on along the way. When I first tried to come out in the late 80’s, I was with a psychologist, Barbara. At that time, it was still called Gender Identity Disorder. I probably spent the first year of treatment having to prove this was real. Once she was sure, we started working on all aspects of who I was. She basically said we had to tear down the old me so that I can find who I really was. I had lived most of my life being the person everyone else wanted me to be.
Well, as my story went, my life just exploded. I lost my marriage, my home, access to my kids was limited to a Wed night and weekends. I lived in a basement apartment with two bedrooms. Most of the time was spent alone. When I came out at work, suddenly, I found myself out of work. They claimed it was a temporary position. I spent the next six months out of work in the worst climate to find a job due to 9/11. I finally gave up trying to be me and felt I had to return to being what everyone else wanted me to be, despite the protestations of my psychologist. She told me that I had to be me and one day it would catch up to me.
Well fast forward about twenty years or so and I had been remarried. We had a great life together and even started the alpaca farm. Our place was beautiful and peaceful, yet after the death of a dear friend, I became dark. I had gone to his funeral and unlike Catholic Churches, his church allowed people to go up and speak until no one was left. All the beautiful things that were said about him had tears flowing. One thing that kept hammering at me was how authentic his life was. He was loving and caring, not only towards his family but his church community, the Masons, and who knows where else. As someone said about his heart attack, he had a heart that was just too big for his chest.
All of this made me start reflecting on my own life. I was still living the life that was expected of me. I had always excelled at what I did, whether it was winning the Rotarian Award for Food Service in high school, or Best Actor two years in a row for Newport County CYO, (tying in the state both years and losing on coin toss). I had become a Mason and was climbing the ladder. I had been District Ambassador and District Education Officer. I was Senior Steward in my lodge, Education Officer, Ambassador, and a few other functions. I had joined York Rite and was High Priest in my Chapter, Deputy Master in Council and Captain General in Commandery. Yes, I was a Knight Templar. Many spoke of me being Grand Master one day. Not hardly. I even started a fund raiser as a rookie in Masonry that I still take part in today. I strove to be the best I could be. The only thing I wasn’t being, was me.
So when my wife noted my descent into darkness, she pressed and finally got it out of me. It took her a few days to absorb what I had told her. Then she did an amazing thing. She came to me and told me that we were going to do this and this time there was no turning back. That began an amazing journey to become the woman I am today.
I went back into counseling and despite all the forward progress, it always felt like the other shoe was going to drop. It took a bit for my counselor to help me see the progress. I was on hormones again, and starting to get centered. With Cindy’s help, we set milestones together. HRT, check! Wait a while and allow hormones to start their work while growing out nails and hair. Check. Develop a strategy to come out at work. Start paperwork for name change. Check. With milestones in place, now was time to implement. Always the PTSD from my previous attempt to come out was in the back of my mind, but I just kept moving forward.
After about a year on hormones, it was time. Now, I had to start extricating myself from all the bodies in Masonry. This was hard. I loved the guys I was with and enjoyed doing the ritual. I also enjoyed teaching at the Lodge of Instruction. On the upside, I would have all those nights back. I let it be known that I was stepping away from Masonry for personal reasons. I held a dinner for some of my close companions and let them in on it. There were a lot of tears, mostly mine, but as one put it, even though you will now be my sister, you will still be my Brother. They understood my reasoning for stepping away. Though I was told I did not have to demit since I was a lifetime member. I told them that it was for the better, harmony being the strength and support of all institutions….
My paperwork was submitted to court for my name change. In my county, you have to post in the local paper also. Why? Who knows. So that outed me to the one or two who actually read legal notices. I also had to travel to Austin for a data center move. My boss would be there and my HR rep was there so it was the perfect time to address that. So I traveled to Austin and did meet with my boss. He was very supportive and asked if I wanted to tell the team or if I wanted him to. I told him I would. As it was, the move did not go entirely as planned so I did not have the time to meet with them, we did that after I returned home. I will say that my company has treated me exceptionally well. HR advised that once my paperwork was in order and I got my new Social Security card to turn that all in to them and they would process the changes. In all, my biggest fear, besides Cindy leaving me, was losing my job. Rather than lose it, I received a lot of support.
Upon returning home, the letter came in with my name change approved. I was now offically, legally, and forever, Emma Morgaine Croft! Next came the arduous task of changing my name on all legal forms, credit cards, bank accounts and such. What a headache! I still have to go back and get my gender designation changed with Social Security as they required you to have had medical intervention first. Check!
I have been living full time for quite a while now. I have never been happier. The day before Thanksgiving, I had my breast augmentation, so no more forms! I am in the process of getting everything squared away for bottom surgery. I have had two clearing sessions with laser for the surgical area. I have met with the doctor and his team. Once cleared, I will get my date.
Remember how I said about the circuitous path? Well, this is probably the one step where we see the gatekeeping that makes the Not A Life Choice argument. In order to get approval for the surgery, you have to have approval from your PCP, your Endo, and two letters from psychological professionals. My counselor had provided me with a letter, but I had to visit with another psychologist, at additional cost, to get the second letter. Laser for clearing is not cheap. I have already had two sessions and have two more scheduled. Once she certifies that I am clear, then I will finally get my date. In talking with their team at First Event, they are currently scheduling out to next February. It will probably be next Spring before I can have my surgery.
Meanwhile, I also continue with electrolysis on my face to remove that beard from testosterone poisoning. We are finally making headway there, but still have a great many sessions to go.
So hopefully, my sharing better informs people, that to flippantly say, this is a life choice, makes zero sense. This is a long, long process. There are many legal, medical, and social hurdles that one must overcome. So I guess people are right, I am courageous. It takes a bit of courage to face all of this. It is my hope that I can remove ignorance and shed some light to bring better understanding and acceptance.
My heart to your heart, one heart, one spirit.
Emma Morgaine Croft