It’s a Disease

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Six years ago I was in a much different place in life. I was a military wife living in Mannheim Germany with my husband on an army base. Six years ago is also when I posted my very first Instagram photo which happened to be a picture of this vegan pumpkin pie. Yes, I was also once a vegetarian. I guess i’ve been just about everything at some point in life. I’ve been a student, a housewife, a vegetarian, a runner, a crossfitter, an omnivore, divorced, a lesbian, a cook, and a man all before the age of thirty.

Through all of these things, cooking was where I found my escape. Especially in those lonely times as an army wife in Germany. I can still appreciate this photo because making food was the only time I felt I had any sort of worth. I made my food with love, and filled it with dreams of better things. I felt it was all I could do to please people in my life… in this moment, my husband.

I have often said that anyone who goes into the food industry has a disease. Some may also call this passion… but the reality is it is a disease to please. No one else in their right mind would work long hours with low pay and most likely no breaks. (unless you smoke). You put your heart, sweat, and soul into the food, and it is all for that first bite. For a cook, it is that first bite that makes it all worth it. The moment when someone takes a bite of your food and a slightly or not so slightly sexual sound escapes from their mouth. A “mouthgasm” they might call it. That is the moment you successfully pleased. It is an addiction really.

I will be honest. Lately I have been feeling burned out with cooking…but seeing pictures like this reminds me how it has always been there for me as an escape in my darkest times. I may not be a chef at a five star restaurant, or a cheftestant on Foodnetwork ( hey but there is still time right? )but it still has the same reward it has always had and that is not only providing an escape, but a way to show love, and a way to connect people from all walks of life. Nothing brings people together quite like food.

It may not be the most glamorous of careers. I will never be rich, I may grow frustrated or burned out, but as long as I can feel like I can contribute a good memory or moment in someones day with a bite of food, I think everything is going to be okay.

 

 

 

 

 

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Igniting The Fire

No matter what I do, I don’t think I will ever forget this date. May 17th 2008. Eight years ago today, I got married. Eight years ago. Perhaps I should think about moving on with my life. There is a certain sadness that revolves around this date, but it isn’t the loss of a marriage that brings the sadness… It reminds me of a time that I surrendered the fire that I once had in me for something I thought I had to do. Never again will I surrender my life.

It is kind of a trip when I look back at the old photos or video of that day. It seems like a whole other life ago. It doesn’t even feel like that is me walking down that aisle. I want to simultaneously slap and hug myself. I had no idea who I was, nor did I have any idea that I was letting fear lead my life.

At the time, I thought that the life I was leading was what God wanted for me. I was a devout Christian. I went to church every Sunday, I tried to be a living example, I saved myself for marriage and I found someone who I thought also shared the same faith and morals. Life seemed to be going as it should… but what I didn’t realize at the time was that I wasn’t following God with love, I was following with fear.

There are a couple of things in life that are powerful at bringing people together. Those things are love, and fear.

I felt the fear of God’s wrath way stronger than I felt God’s love. I think that often many churches or relationships are built more on fear than they are on love. Fear of consequence, fear of judgement, fear of hell, fear of abandonment.

After my divorce, and at the beginning of my coming out process the only way that I was able to move away from fear was when I asked myself. “What if there is no God?” What if this is all for nothing and I am just creating my own personal hell on earth? The only way that I could get rid of my fear, was by abandoning God.

There is something wrong here.

I was taught God’s “love” in a way that it was all or nothing. You follow him, or you don’t. It is hell or heaven, right or wrong. Have you heard the good news? Sounds more like an abusive relationship to me.

I had an abusive relationship with God and I broke up with them. I stormed out the door middle finger in the air and never looked back until I realized that my relationship with God was built off of fear.

I no longer hold onto anger when thinking about God. People often ask how I can be trans and believe in God. My simplest answer to that is that although I believe in God, I still don’t believe in the God I did when I got married.

So what do I believe in now?

I think I am still on a path at discovering who God is to me, but so far I do know that God is love.

God is those moments where you can’t help but feel an overwhelming sense of love, joy, gratefulness and peace. Maybe you find God in the sunsets, or the sunrise, the moments in nature where you stop, take a deep breath and are overwhelmed with sense of being completely present in that moment. Maybe you find God at a concert, or during worship. The music overrides your body and that sense of presence brings warmth to your life. God is in those moments when you share love, compassion, and joy with others. God can feel and mean something different to everyone. That is why it is a “personal relationship”.

As I walked down that aisle eight years ago…I never would have guessed I would be where I am at in my life today. May 17th, 2008 doesn’t exactly carry the same meaning with it that I thought it would. It is not an anniversary to celebrate, but instead it is a life marker to look back on and see how far I have come.  May 17th 2008 is perhaps a record of one of the poorest decisions in my life… ( lucky you if you were there to witness it! ) but what has come out of it has opened my eyes, helped me grow, and help me become a more resilient and appreciative person. This date is now a reminder to always live with fire and follow what I am most passionate about and do what makes makes me feel most alive.

If nothing else, at least I can say that I have been married, divorced, gay, and transitioned from female to male all under the age of 30. Imagine what I can say by the time I am 40.

“God is the absence of fear, for there is no fear in love.”

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Realize

IMG_6907Today marks seven years since my wedding day. Although it seems like a blur there are specific moments that continue to flash through my mind. I remember coming through the doors to walk down the aisle and not knowing what emotions I was supposed to be feeling. Was I supposed to cry? What did I feel? Physically I felt naked and hungry, but emotionally I felt numb. It was the kind of life I had watched unfold in movies, but it was not the life I had imagined for myself. I never imagined myself as a wife. It all makes a little more sense now.

I don’t remember much of the reception afterwards, but I remember dancing to the song “Realize”. by Colbie Caillat for our first dance. That song will forever remind me of this day, the first dance, and the moment I realized the man I was dancing with had no idea who I was.

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I have realized a few things since this day seven years ago….

1. Life is short. Live it for yourself. No one is going to live your life for you, so don’t live like that is even a possibility. Don’t let other people’s opinions hijack your life.

2. Shame can kill. The less secrets you have, the less it allows for room for shame in your life. Being vulnerable is hard, but secrecy, silence, and judgement are breeding grounds for shame. Everyone always says “I’m only human.” Show people just how human you are. Empathy is key.

3. If it scares you, do it. Doing the very thing you are afraid of, can set you free. Fuck fear.

4. Failure is your greatest teacher. We learn some of our biggest life lessons from mistakes or failure. As long as you learn from it, failure doesn’t exist. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger….

5. Follow your passion, dream big, and never give up. Persevere.

6. Never follow blindly. Ignorance is not bliss. Ask questions, do your research, keep your mind open and never stop learning.

7. Surround yourself with good people who support you, encourage you, have your back, and always push you to better yourself and call you on your shit.

8. It’s okay to say no. Know your limits. If you don’t want to do something. Don’t do it. There is a difference between being selfish, and self preservation.

9. Patience. You can’t always get what you want WHEN you want it. Things you want to achieve may seem impossible… but it may just take some time. I feel like transitioning has been a huge test of patience. Life is such a weird balance between being patient and taking action.

10. Love yourself. It sounds cliche but I didn’t realize how important this one was until now. Not loving yourself first is a sure way to find your way into a bad relationship of any sorts. Relationships are not meant to feed an emotional hunger. It is like feeding your body empty calories. It may satisfy you for a short time, but in the long run it doesn’t nourish you, and is bad for your health. If you are not okay alone, you can’t be okay in a relationship.

All of these realizations are an everyday work in progress for me. I am definitely not patient, I am still driven by fear, but I am learning how to use it as a motivator, instead of letting it debilitate me. I still hate being vulnerable and let feelings of shame creep up on me, but I am taking back my life and living it for myself. I am slowly learning to love myself, and will not allow for my life to be hijacked ever again.

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Life looks a little different than it did 7 years ago.

 

 

 

Freak

The word transgender has been all over the news lately. Most recently you may have had a two hour peek into Bruce Jenner’s life, or heard about the issues surrounding laws with using public restrooms. It is great to see transgender issues making their way into the media. It is at least an opportunity for discussion and education, but it has also been a reminder of how far society has to go in at the very least being tolerant to transgender individuals. ( I hate the word tolerance… because it is something that you “have” to do. We tolerate things like bad smells, or genital warts. )

I have experienced a pretty positive response through my transition so far. I have made it a point to surround myself with a close knit group of supportive people that I am incredibly thankful for, but reading some of the social media comments concerning bathroom use for transgender individuals was a bit of a reality check.

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Seeing words such as “Gross”, “creepy”, “disgusting”, “sick”, “freaks” and etc. ( the list goes on…) is really discouraging. These are words that have caused me much personal anguish, and a big reason of why it took me so long to consider transitioning. Most trans people have probably fought an inner battle with these words. They create wounds so deep it is hard to just bandage up and move on. It takes time to heal and it is like re-opening a wound to hear/see it coming from other people. I can only assume that people may use these words toward transgender people out of fear or lack of education. They most likely don’t personally know a transgender person.. not that they know of at least. It is a good reminder of why I am choosing to be more open about my own transition. I refuse to be ashamed, my world is not so freaky, and there is nothing creepy, sick, or disgusting about being transgender.

I’m a pretty normal guy… ( depending on which friend you ask ). I go to work in the morning, I come home, workout, eat, and sleep. ( Maybe even poop?! ) The only difference is that I was born with a few abnormalities. I may have a few more surgeries in my life, and my body doesn’t naturally produce enough testosterone on its own so I have to give my self an injection once a week. Being trans has taught me how to overcome many fears… a fear of needles being one of them. Every Saturday I go against all human instinct and self inject myself with a 1 and 1/2 inch long needle into my thigh.

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I had top surgery Sept. 25, 2014 and began taking testosterone on December 11, 2014. It has almost been 5 months. Here is what it has done for me so far:

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Some would say I did my transition a little bit backwards. Many guys go on hormones before they have top surgery, but I was on the fence on whether or not I would go on hormones at all. I was scared of many things about taking hormones and I wasn’t fond of the idea of having to rely on a medication for the rest of my life, but who is to say I wouldn’t have to rely on some sort of medication down the road…whether it is testosterone or something else…so I took the leap.

Top surgery day was one of the happiest days of my life. Before top surgery I wore something called a binder. It is an incredibly uncomfortable article of clothing that binds your chest to give it a flat appearance. It constricts your breathing and can even be dangerous if not worn correctly. But it eases dysphoria temporarily until surgery is a possibility. It is hard to believe I used to workout in a binder. ( not recommended! ) Before wearing a binder I would be so dysphoric about my chest that some days I wouldn’t want to leave the house. Unfortunately most insurance plans don’t cover things like top surgery, and many guys can’t afford to have surgery and are stuck wearing binders. I wore binders for about 2 years but was fortunate to have a friend help make top surgery possible for me. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about how grateful I am for this friend, or how there were times where I wanted to give up. She helped save my life.

I am currently going through my second puberty. Just like any other teenage boy I require more food and sleep or else I am a bad mood waiting to happen. There are also a few hot flashes here and there to add to the fun. I dream of the day I may have a beard, and I dread the day that I may lose all of my hair… but just like any other guy, these are things I can not control. Deciding to transition is a good lesson in letting go.

Bathroom anxiety is a real thing. If I am out in public I either hold my urine or I know where I can find a gender neutral bathroom or a single stall bathroom. I find myself keeping my liquid consumption down when I am out and about. I have only used the mens restroom once so far. It is always a hard call on which one to use. I fear being beat up if I am discovered in the mens room, and I fear being yelled at if I go in the woman’s restroom.

I am mis-gendered more now by people I know well, rather than strangers. Friends, and people at work have been great about the name change, but it seems that the pronouns are the hardest part. I think it is because when I am around people everyday they don’t notice as much change because my face is still familiar… but when I am in public places around people I don’t know, I am usually identified as male. I don’t hear my birth name nearly as often as I used to. It happens sometimes usually by someone in another department at work. I don’t take offense because I know they probably don’t know my situation, but it hurts more than giving myself an injection these days. I don’t take offense to people slipping up or taking some time to adjust to name and pronoun changes, I only take offense when a person refuses to use my name because of their own issues… it is just plain disrespectful.

This is a basic overview of what life for a transguy is like. Hopefully it helps take some of the mystery out of what a gender transition consists of. I live a pretty normal life, there is no need to be called a freak, or be disgusted by the way I live it. Although I am happier than I have ever been, there are still struggles. I face the fear of rejection everyday, and although I am strong enough most days to let negative things go, there are some days where hurtful words or situations can bring me down. I am just another human being. I live, breathe, and hurt just the same.