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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Just Another Human

Two years ago I wrote this post when I came out publicly as transgender. Hard to believe that was two years ago. I thought of that post as my first and last coming out. I did it. My heart was pounding as I hit that post button but it was done and I felt a huge weight being lifted off my shoulders. Everyone knew my business so it was no longer something people would question. But… as time goes on you meet new people. People at work or etc that don’t know your past.. and therefore the process starts all over again.

One of my biggest fears is that when other people find out I’m trans is that they will see me differently. As something other than just another guy. People seem to look at you differently once they find out. It is almost as if they look at you longer, trying to think of what you used to look like, or what is in your pants… or maybe it is genuine curiosity. I get that, humans are curious beings.

I’m just another guy, just another human who has a different than average past. I’ve seen two different worlds without having to travel a mile but, just like you I go to work, I live, breathe, and bleed the same. I can be fun, hard working, loving, and let’s be real…I can be an asshole, but don’t make that judgement just based on me being transgender.

I struggle daily thinking about attending church or just meeting random people that if they knew of my transition perhaps they would not accept me or want me to be there.  Which also leads me to wonder… for those of which transitioning is against their beliefs what would be your hope for me today? If you were to pray for my soul and salvation, what would that prayer look like?

I can’t help but wonder.

All in all, what matters most is that I accept myself and I am finally in a place where I can say that I do. It is transgender awareness month, but ironically I found myself doing something I never thought that I would. I started deleting old photos of myself from Facebook so that new people from my life wouldn’t find out I was trans. The truth is that my past has made me who I am today and I will continue to be proud of that. Being trans has made me a more accepting and compassionate person. It has taught me that you cannot judge someone based on their past or ever know what someone is truly going through on the inside.

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I knew who I was when I was little, but somewhere down the road I let fear of what others thought of me get in the way.

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This is a pretty drastic comparison photo… but it just shows that you really can not ever know what someone is going through just by looking at them.

On the left: My wedding day. The day I completely lost myself.

The right: My first bodybuilding competition. The day I stepped on stage completely exposed in order to heal from all those days of hiding.

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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Rebirth

Tomorrow is a pretty big day for me. It is the day of my rebirth. By rebirth I mean a total hysterectomy. ( Ovaries, Uterus, Cervix and whatever else that is not supposed to be in there. ) It is kind of a surreal feeling. I’ve been wanting this ever since I became aware of these organs existence.

Compared to top surgery I feel like the lead up to this one has been a bit lack luster. The results are not as physically obvious and appealing as chest surgery… but this step in my journey is still incredibly meaningful. ( After all, those little turds called ovaries are responsible for needing chest surgery in the first place. ) I feel like this surgery is finally giving me some closure. Hysterectomy. It is like removing the pulse to the memories and the pain of puberty. I will no longer be a part of the cycle of womanhood. I will officially be disconnected hormonally just as it should have been from the start.

I’ve been thinking back to my childhood a lot this week. I remember the days when I was free from any knowledge that I was any different than any other boy.

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Little did I know what life had in store for me.

I still remember the first day I joined the cycle of womanhood. I cried. I was so confused. Sure, this was okay to happen to my friends. They were girls… but this was not supposed to happen to me. I felt so much confusion and shame. This is also around the time where I began to struggle with anxiety. I didn’t want anyone to find out I had joined the woman’s club. It just wasn’t the right club for me. I was a boy. If the invite to this club was optional I would have surely checked the “Will not be attending” box.

Puberty was a dark time for me. Looking back I wish I could have found the words to express myself sooner about how I was feeling… but I was scared to talk about any of this. I was afraid to talk about feelings at all. At that time all I could really comprehend is that I felt a deep sadness. I had no name for it. I had no way to express it. I just knew something was not right.

Getting ready for this surgery has led me to process a lot of my feelings surrounding these organs that do not belong in my body. It may seem a bit dramatic to say that puberty was traumatic.. but can you imagine going through the wrong puberty? Stop for a second and imagine this: Men, can you imagine menstruating and growing breasts without being terrified and confused? Women, can you imagine sprouting all sorts of body hair, having your voice deepen, and not having the soft feminine features of a woman?

It is traumatic indeed. Gender dysphoria is no joke. It is still hard for me to describe what Gender Dysphoria feels like, but I know that I used to feel invisible. I survived going through the wrong puberty, and that is exactly what life was about before transition. Surviving. Now, I am doing more than just surviving, I finally feel like I am truly able to LIVE. It is amazing how much more I value life since transition. I no longer feel invisible.

Although tomorrow will bring a lot of physical pain, I feel like I am finally being set free.

I am incredibly thankful to have come this far in my journey, and even more thankful for the love and support of my family and friends.

 

 

 

 

 

Throwback Thursday

Thanksgiving 2015. I never thought I would get here, nor did I ever expect to feel so thankful to be in the place I am at today. I am finally reaching a point in my life where I am able to remove myself from the past,  process it all, and begin to heal. I have thought a lot about my past, but I never truly processed everything from start to finish or picked apart my mindset at the time. I spent a lot of time feeling numb, or just not wanting to sort out my feelings at all. The funny thing about transition is that the more I match physically with who I have felt I always was on the inside, the more it seems that my brain finds the missing puzzle pieces to my past.

I have always been one to write down my thoughts.. whether it was journaling or blogging. Yesterday Time- Hop ( The phone application that shows you all of your social media activity from the past ) reminded me that I had a blog before this one that I wrote on pretty regularly. I blogged on it all throughout my marriage. I hadn’t revisited that blog for years. There were numerous posts that brought back some pain for me. Pain that I had been avoiding for a long time.Today as I was skimming my posts there was one in particular that stuck out to me:

29 Days

There are 29 days left until I return back to the good old U.S.A. Which seems like a lot considering I mis-calculated (or mis-Googled because I am way too lazy to actually calculate anything ) the other day and thought I had only 26 days left to go…making today only 24. Nope. 29. Thanks a million Google for making me actually do math. I barely have enough energy to write this blog after having to figure out that equation.

Anyways… you might be wondering why I am returning to the States. Perhaps just for a visit? Well yes, if you consider a year a visit. Truth is I am not really sure how everything is going to pan out in the end because a lot of things tend to happen in a year but the plan so far is that I will be attending Culinary school and then return to Germany upon completion. Of course there are a few things that could weigh in on future plans. Those things would be the time frame in which I complete culinary school, jobs, money, etc. etc. you get the point.

So now to the big question that I get asked every time I discuss my newest life endeavor. What about your husband? Great question. He will be here, doing what he does now…except without me moping around
with nothing to do. I get it folks, a year is a long time, and yes I get that you probably think that I am being a selfish bitch for leaving…the weird thing is I am actually okay with that. Okay, so I am not 100% okay with that thought- considering through out this whole experience one of my biggest lessons learned is never to judge anyone without knowing what it is like to be in their shoes. I could go off on a huge tangent right now but I will spare you before this becomes a rant.

It seems like a rather bold and unnecessary move to make…leaving Germany and going to culinary school and all..but I guess you could describe it as an Eat Pray Love moment. You know…the moment where Elizabeth Gilbert gets up in the middle of the night and cries on the bathroom floor thinking how much she doesn’t want to be living the life she is living? Alright, so it wasn’t quite that dramatic. If I woke up in the middle of the night and laid on the bathroom floor crying I would find myself face first in a pair of dirty boxer briefs.. The concept of finding myself is along the same lines. I need to find myself, and I don’t want to let my dreams just be dreams. Going to culinary school has been a dream of mine for a long time and I don’t think I could live with myself if I never sought it out. Better now than when I am in my 30’s barefoot and pregnant right? At least I am not abandoning any children.

Just so there is no confusion- I love Germany. It is beautiful here and I in no way, shape, or form, have any problems with the country or the people. In fact, I made more German friends than I did with other American military spouses. All through the internet of course. They were a great help in trying to get me acquainted with their country, and get me signed up for the marathon here that I have been training for..yet am leaving 3 days before. My real problem lies in the fact that I suck at being outgoing enough to really fit into this military community. I applied to jobs with no luck, and it doesn’t help that a lot of the spouses have been here together for a few years now. I am the new kid in class. The weird one that no one wants to play with unless they are given some sort of incentive or forced by the teacher.

Although it is not in the best of circumstances I am really looking forward to finally getting to go to culinary school. I feel selfish for making such a huge decision as this, but at the same time I feel brave.

Reading this was a huge reminder of how far I have come. This was the first step I took toward this journey that I am still on. It is the first time I did what was best for me. I put fear aside and stopped caring so much about what other people thought of me. I remember thinking that surely God was going to smite me. I was lost, and didn’t know how things were going to happen or if I would ever find my way but I knew that I needed to take a leap and make a change. Not only did God not smite me…but looking back I can see that he was there along side me the whole time.

It has been a year since I came out publicly. I am incredibly thankful that I took this first step to becoming my authentic self, and I am eternally grateful for the people that have supported me along the way and stuck by me even in the darkest of times. I can’t wait to see what else the future holds.

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Left: Thanksgiving Turkey Trot Mannheim Germany 2011 Right: Thanksgiving 2015

 

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This is how it always should have been.

 

 

An Open Letter

It was brought to my attention that there is a local church here doing a sermon series called “Battle for the Black & White Choosing Christ Over Culture.” I was curious so I decided to check it out. Here is a video preview about the sermon series.

You can listen to the sermons here. or through iTunes.

I have listend to all of the sermons in the series so far, but I can no longer keep quiet. I have decided to write an open letter to the pastor. Here it is:

Dear Pastor Phil,

I am writing to you today regarding your recent sermon series called “The Battle For The Black and White. Choosing Christ Over Culture.” First off I wanted to thank you for teaching love and compassion. Often times these things are over-looked and forgotten but they are some of the greatest reflections of Christ. I admire you for standing up for what you believe is God’s voice.

In your sermons you speak about all humans being broken, and focus on those who may have been born with certain bad inclinations or that are “walking through the waters of same sex attraction”. I am one of these people. I am transgender.

I know that I am broken, but I don’t believe that being transgender is what makes me broken. I grew up in the church and went to a Christian school. I believed the same things that you teach about in your sermons. I spent years of my life trying to fight these “inclinations”. I did everything that I thought God would have wanted me to do. I went to church, I prayed, I read my Bible, I didn’t drink, I didn’t do drugs, and I saved myself for marriage. I fought this “battle” as hard as I could only to find that it left me feeling empty, depressed, and incredibly angry at God. I can guarantee you that the years of my life I spent fighting and trying to do what I thought was right, was the time in my life that I hurt the most people and was the most destructive.
I thought that I had to make a choice. I either had to choose God or to be Gay or to transition. Since coming out, medically transitioning, being transparent, and living as authentically as I can, I am seeing clearer now more than ever how God has worked in my life and that I don’t have to choose. The God I was taught to believe in valued our souls over anything else. My soul was created in his image, and it remains unchanged. I know in my heart that God cares for me, he loves me, and he supports me. I know that your concern for other people’s salvation and morality is coming from a place of love but battling for the black and the white doesn’t get rid of the gray areas. It only creates secrecy and shame. I spent so many years of my life hiding due to shame. It was some of the darkest times in my life and I wouldn’t wish it upon anyone.

I am not writing you this letter to argue Biblical interpretation or science. All I have is my own story and life experiences to share. You spoke about caring for those of us who are homosexual or transgender. You prayed for us, you encouraged your congregation to get rid of any prejudices, to invite us over for dinner, to have compassion, and to love us. You shared your message, and your beliefs. I challenge you to listen. Let us share with you our stories, and our journeys. Get to know us on a more personal level, immerse yourself in our community and practice empathy. We are all human. God gave us all a soul, and each soul has its own unique journey.

 

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.