Insistent. Persistent. Consistent.

Thinking beyond the guidelines when navigating the transgender journey

“We are like islands in the sea, separate on the surface but connected in the deep.”
― William James

Insistent.  Persistent.  Consistent.  Community standards generally use these descriptions of behavior as a guideline or indicator that a child is serious about their gender identity.

That being said, the absence of insistent, persistent and consistent articulation of one’s gender identity does not necessarily imply that a child is cisgender and not transgender.  It worries me that, if a child does not fit this guideline, they may be disregarded.  I was none of these – ever.  I was inconsistent, wishy washy, and unsure.  I am still trans. 

Backtracking or showing uncertainty and hesitation is normal.  One day they may feel like a boy then a girl the next day.  Many people do not have a clear path.  It can be confusing to watch somebody present feminine one day then masculine the next but there is no right or wrong way to do gender or be transgender and many people need to experiment with what feels right.

 It is okay to feel like a man, woman, neither or both.  It is ok to not know.

Apprehension and hesitation to move forward can exist.  Trans people, even children are acutely aware of opening up a can of worms as there is no way of knowing how people will react, how their lives will change, if friends will be accepting, how they will navigate schools or which restrooms to use.  Sometimes even if their present way of life is not gender affirming, it feels less scary to stay with what is most comfortable.  Often, trans people test the waters before moving forward.  As stressful as it is, you are under their microscope as they feel out your level of acceptance.

Your child does not need to be 100% certain for you to validate and believe them. Rarely in life is anybody 100% certain.  Another scenario is that kids can question gender, even go on hormones or blockers then decide that was not for them.  This does not invalidate transgender people nor does it mean that the child or parents made a mistake.  On the contrary, it shows adaptability, flexibility and growth.

It might help to remember that at this point/age nobody is making permanent decisions.   By letting a child present as the gender that they feel they are, you are giving them freedom to be themselves rather than forcing permanent change upon them.  Children are able to know themselves better than adults think they do.  By the age of 2, children have a concept of gender.    

Especially as adults, when things feel difficult, we want to be certain so we can feel validated in our decisions.  When things are changing, we want definitions so we know how to orient ourselves. We create labels so we know how to relate to each other.  We follow guidelines so we can avoid being wrong. 

Remove labels, definitions, certainty and expectations and what we have left is movement through time and change. Have faith and believe in the ones you love as they are in this moment.

Honor their identity as it develops over time.  This builds unconditional love and a foundation of resiliency.  With that foundation the future is manageable no matter what it brings.


Things I Wish I’d Known Before Transitioning

“How can you know what you’re capable of if you don’t embrace the unkown?”

― Esmeralda Santiago

Changes may come much slower (or faster!)  than what you see on YouTube.  People who are posting on YouTube likely have quick changes from testosterone.  Some people take a few months to pass full time as male, others take two years of being on testosterone before they are consistently gendered correctly.  It can take 10 years to grow a full beard and some never do.  It can take up to a year to stop your period; some stop after their first shot.  It comes down to genetics so roll the dice and see what happens!

Your voice may not get very deep.  Nobody can pick and choose what changes they get.  My hopes of a very deep voice were idealistic.  Many trans guys voices are not very deep.  Keep in mind that there are many cis men with higher pitched voices.  There is an infinite amount of diversity on this planet but being attached to a certain outcome makes this easy to forget.

Long recovery and Severe tightness that come after “top Surgery”.  Waking up from top surgery, I felt like I was in a strait jacket.  I was unable to “stand up straight”, raise my arms up to shoulder level, turn my neck to the side for a good six weeks after loosing most of my range of motion.  This kept me from driving for over 2 weeks.  My back ached and kept me from sleeping despite how I tossed and turned or arranged and re-arranged pillows and blankets.  It was miserable.  What if I never return to normal, I thought?  What if something had been calculated incorrectly during surgery?  Recovery was more grueling than I anticipated.

Sex drive. This is probably one of the biggest changes going from an estrogen-run system to a testosterone-run system and takes getting used to.  This is not an excuse for bad behavior or cheating and any guy who tells you otherwise isn’t being honest. Cheating is a decision not an uncontrollable behavior due biological wiring.

People might surprise you for the better.  We fear the worst.  What if my grandma disowns me?  What if my parents wish they had never had me?  What if I lose my friends?  What if my girlfriend is no longer attracted to me?  What if people no longer respect me or think I’m crazy?  None of this ever happened.  In fact, I was surprised how my vulnerability allowed others to be more vulnerable.  I found that by asking for help and support, I gifted others the opportunity to be an advocate and to feel helpful and brave.

Hormone replacement therapy is not an exact science.  Doctors do not know everything.  There are conservative doctors and there are more progressive doctors and what one doctor might think is unacceptable, another might believe is perfectly fine.  Everyone’s body reacts differently to the influx of new hormones – testosterone levels that make 1 guy feel in tip-top shape, may make another guy feel jittery or exhausted.  Other transmen do not know everything.  There is conflicting information all over the internet.  Listen to your body – it will tell you exactly how it feels and what it needs.

Use your voice!  Speak up!  I was shocked by how proactive and bold I had to be in taking control of my transition.  Make sure you get a doctor who is willing to listen to your transition goals, feelings and concerns.  Hormone replacement therapy is way more complicated that a number on lab work results. Some surgeons mandate that their patients come off testosterone prior to surgery; some do not.  Testosterone is a controlled substance and dealing with the pharmacy comes with its own set up hoops to jump through. Don’t blindly follow orders – research everything and listen to your intuition.

So much of the difference between men and women comes from socialization, not hormones.  I expected to feel SO different on testosterone but the truth is, I really don’t.  I have more energy, I probably need a little less sleep, its harder to cry, sex drive goes up, I’m slightly less cautious but I never fell victim to the dreaded personality metamorphosis.  So much of the difference between men and women is impressed upon us from a very early age – how we deal with emotions, how we present ourselves to people, how we show anger and vulnerability, inflections in our voice and how we speak.  Humans are androgynous creatures; society has defined us into distinct and separate categories. Break free.

Sometimes you have a “bad shot” and this is OK.  Sometimes there is bleeding or bruising and sometimes it hurts.  Other times, the needle hits a nerve and the entire muscle twitches.  Sometimes the needle slides in like butter; other times it refuses to go in.  At first, I thought these were all indications that I had done something wrong but over time I realized that there are good shots and there are bad shots.  I turned out fine every time.

There is no right or wrong way to be trans!  Become confident in how to view your self and know that your transgender “story” does not have to be like anyone else’s.  There will always be somebody out there who says you aren’t trans enough or you are too trans or too “binary”, too feminine, too masculine, too straight.  You are valid and enough just as you are!  Being trans takes a huge amount of compassion and bravery and those who love you and see that in you, are the ones that matter. 

Being transgender is empowering; every challenge is an opportunity to become a stronger version of yourself!


Positive Perspective for Parents of Transgender Children

Can transgender children grow up to live happy lives?

“I don’t want my child to be transgender because I don’t want them to have a difficult life.”  This is one of the most frequent things I hear parents say once they realize their child is transgender.

 Parents grieve “the good life” for their child, assuming that trans people all live hard, sad lives of abuse and discrimination, devoid of any normalcy or happiness.  While no doubt this is unfortunately true for many, there are plenty of thriving trans people living successful lives, with fulfilling jobs, healthy relationships, and even families of their own.  Nonetheless, it is in the general consciousness being trans equals a doomed life and in fact, many children will live up to this belief that they absorb from unknowing parents. Nobody knows how their transgender children would have grown up had they not been transgender so grieve that idealistic life you envisioned for them then release it with a kiss into the atmosphere where it can recycle into something even better.  

While we all need to advocate against transphobia, discrimination, and violence, we also need to let go of the assumption that being transgender is synonymous with an inevitable “bad life”.   Nobody is destined to have a bad life. 

Let’s flip the switch and change the language. 

What if your child could live a meaningful, fulfilling life as a transgender human being?  What if you, as the parent could be their foundation, their rock, their unwavering support that strengthens them enough to rise above challenge or circumstance? 

Happiness resides in the mind.  Don’t take away their power of personal choice.  Empower your child with belief that they will live a happy life if they choose.   Teach them that they are not a victim of circumstance.  Teach them that their differences are superpowers. The rest of the world just hasn’t caught up to them yet!

Show them that they have the power to teach others how they want to be treated.  Let them believe that they can be the change they want to see in the world.

Think back on something you are most proud of – was it easy?  Probably not.  Many of our most powerful moments and greatest accomplishments were born out of towering obstacles or deepest sorrows.  Naturally, parents want to spare their children from discomfort of any kind.  What if that were actually possible? How would they learn to be strong?  How could they be constantly pushed to expand their own potential?

Everyday difficulties can bring empowerment and strength; living as transgender can bring empowerment and strength in monumental proportion.  

I know many transgender people who have come out, transitioned, overcome obstacles and went on to become successful leaders, speakers, advocates for minority communities, while enjoying marriages and happy relationships.  Transgender kids can grow up to be doctors, husbands, wives, and ministers all while moving through life in their most authentic form.

Consciously and intentionally envision the life you want for your transgender child, not the life you are scared of.  Imagine your transgender child, happy.   

As a newborn baby, you swaddled them.  Never stop taking them into your arms. Your child just wants you to see them as genuinely as they see themselves.  Celebrating your child’s authenticity is the most precious gift!

“The path of development is a journey of discovery that is clear only in retrospect, and it’s rarely a straight line.”

Eileen Kennedy-Moore

Brightest Bird of the Flock

“In nature, a flock will attack any bird that is more colorful than the others because being different is seen as a threat,” – Wrabel

Like my photography? Email me at christianJCoach@gmail.com or visit chrisjcoach.com for commissions.

The greatest gift a mother could have – a daughter, and I’m stealing that gift away.  I feel her heart breaking- everyone’s heart breaking as I am transforming, evolving, reinventing relationships, re-writing language and re-conceptualizing existence and I feel my heart crack for them.  It seems as though the person they knew for 36 years is dying and all I can do is watch them mourn.

All this emotion is re-birth in disguise…

An enormous amount of courage this takes to face the firing line and still put one foot in front of the other but that has made me a better version of myself.  I have learned to not judge.  I follow an intense curiosity to learn the world beyond what we see on the surface and see pain in hollow eyes and pursed lips clearer than before so I no longer see labels; I see human beings. 

The strength I found in myself through this journey will carry me through the rest of my life and I am not afraid of change.  If I can change my gender, I can change anything in my life.

I discovered an abundance of patience within myself through which I have learned to live in the moment.

I refuse to let judgement or conformity get me so far down that I cannot feel the collective pulse of this world.  You may be seeing the loss of a daughter but the person you gain is so much more than just a label.  I will defy all obstacles to explore my true self, and never stop peeling back layers to discover the undiscovered.

All these undiscovered souls walking this earth and I refuse to be one of them.

And with this plenitude of knowledge I gain, I will confidently teach others that they too are worthy. 

I will make “mistakes” but I won’t have regrets.  I will be living consciously and authentically, and with the greatest amount of courage, strength, and compassion.  Maybe having a daughter is the greatest gift in the whole entire world; or perhaps, raising a human being brave enough to unapologetically live their authentic self in this world so full of hate and judgement, is an even greater gift.

Watch Wrabel’s video here:

Testosterone and Cheating

Do Men Cheat Due to High Testosterone Levels?

No doubt testosterone is a powerful, motivating force– after all, evolution created a powerful drive, capable of ensuring the survival of a species.  Testosterone is one of the fuels that is responsible for creating new life, new generations, and ensuring the continuation of humanity – no small achievement!  Nature has been intelligent enough to not create a wimpy, indifferent and unreliable force that is responsible for reproduction – and ultimately, whether or not humans fade out and off this planet. 

Testosterone is like rocket fuel -it can make sex-urgent, drive-instantaneous, and attraction-all-consuming- more so than estrogen.  What has become negative about the power of testosterone is that our society has created a culture of cheating and infidelity, which has dangerously become accepted and expected (whether or not people realize they subconsciously expect or accept it). High testosterone levels being a reason to cheat has become normalized!

The dangerous thing about misperceptions is that people live up to them either through conscious blame and excuses or subconscious bias. We live in a culture of instant gratification and hyper-sexuality (more on that here) and the combination can be destructive- for all genders, perpetuating toxic masculinity and patriarchy.

How many times have you heard, read, or thought the following as explanations for cheating?

  • Men cheat because they have high levels of testosterone.
  • Men have been genetically programmed to seek out variety and as many partners as possible. 
  • Men have uncontrollable urges so cheating is no surprise. 
  • Men are unable to control their sex drives.  
  • Sex is a biological drive and men are just abiding by nature if they cheat.
  • If their partners do not give men enough sex, men are justified in seeking it elsewhere. 
  • If men are not getting their needs satisfied, it is only natural they will satisfy their needs with another person.
  • Boys will be boys!

While most people born into an estrogen-run body will never know what it feels like to run on testosterone and vice versa, I affectionately consider myself a walking experiment – I have lived life in both an estrogen-run body and a testosterone-run body.

First some background:  The purpose of hormone replacement therapy is to get transmasculine hormone levels in the same range as cisgender hormone levels- somewhere between 300-1,000 ng/dL with the average being around 700ng/dL (obviously this is a wide range and varies greatly by age, health, and prescribing physician).

The entirely of my 4.5 years on testosterone has been in the upper range with levels between 900-1, 100.  I have high testosterone.  Have I ever thought about cheating? No.  Have I ever thought my attraction to someone other than my partner was so strong, that it was uncontrollable?  No.  Have I ever come up with a single reason why cheating was warranted?  No.

Although I can confidently admit that testosterone feels very different from estrogen in a sexual context, it does not have absolute control of the body and mind – one is not a prisoner of it.  People have a choice – tempting situations can be consciously avoided, sexual energy can be sublimated into other creativities and we can choose as to what extent we entertain thoughts and desires that come up

Men are not robots; they are autonomous, accountable and responsible human beings and no person is obligated to fulfill a man’s sexual needs at every moment. Do not let anyone hold sex and cheating over your head!  No gender should perpetuate this sense of entitlement.

Not happy or satisfied in a relationship?  Fix it or get out.  Not enough sex? Well maybe you aren’t in a sexually compatible relationship.  Need variety?  Try polyamorous or open relationships.

Hormones may influence behavior, but cheating is a choice. Nobody owns sex; it is shared, not given or stolen. All humans have an ethical obligation to treat other humans with respect and dignity.   To start, we can stop using a hormone to justify or even explain cheating.

Navigating Bathrooms as a Transgender Person

Every individual on the transgender spectrum is unique as is their personal journey, beliefs and experiences although I venture a guess that there is one issue we can all agree is a nuisance:  Bathrooms.

If every business would just create gender neutral – single room/stall restrooms, this world would be a better place!  Not just for trans-spectrum people but for cis-people too. Afterall, what person really enjoys going next to a bunch of random strangers??

The hang-up that probably took the longest time to sort out when I first started transitioning and coming out, was definitely the restroom situation!  I didn’t feel comfortable in the women’s bathroom but I didn’t feel comfortable in the men’s restroom.  Along with my physical transition, “restroom phases” changed too.

Phase 1:

Early in transition, even though I had testosterone flowing through my veins, I still appeared female and stuck to the women’s restroom.  It was all I had ever known- the etiquette, the habit, the familiarity, unspoken rules.  Entertaining the thought of venturing into the men’s restroom, made me feel like an imposter.

Phase 2:

Testosterone changed the shape of my face and I wore stereotypical “male” clothes.  My voice started to change a little but nowhere near male range.  I always used public restrooms when my girlfriend was there as a buffer and made sure that I spoke aloud so others could hear my high-pitched voice – to reassure them that I was in the “correct” restroom.  Odd or confused looks became more common in the women’s restroom but at this point I had their benefit of the doubt on my side. Being in the women’s restroom did not feel right but it still felt significantly more comfortable than a place I had never set foot in.

Phase 3:

At this point, I had actually been kicked out of women’s restrooms which unrelentingly shoved me into the “experiment stage”.  Neither felt comfortable as I flip flopped between the men’s and women’s restrooms. Braving the men’s restroom was directly dependent on the comfort, location, and situation of the specific restroom:  Did it appear crowded?  Did I have a strong suspicion that I could get in and out quick enough for nobody to notice?  How liberal and accepting was the establishment?  What part of town was I in?  What kind of vibe did I get from the people around me? My intuition was in hyper-drive.

First, I started by using men’s restrooms that were single room/stall: low risk.

Then I had a handful of “go-to” restrooms like Radio Coffee and Beer where I trusted that the risk of any confrontation was low.  I avoided anywhere crowded like bars and clubs where I might actually have to wait in line.  The dreaded line! Then the walk of shame to the stall after passing up open urinals.

Phase 4:

Unless I wanted the cops called on me, the women’s restroom was off-limits! Eventually that day came, when I had no choice but to use the men’s restroom; there was no going back.  Over time it just got easier and easier until fear turned into empowerment and normality. 

Fight or Flight

Switching over to using the male restroom after 30-something years was the scariest venture – it was like sneaking into a foreign land that you know nothing about, unarmed, vulnerable, self-conscious and the potential threat of confrontation and the unknown could be paralyzing. 

Would they be able to tell I was trans?

Would they suspect since I was sitting on the toilet to pee instead of using the urinal?

Does pee sound different depending on from which height it fell?  Was the sound of my pee suspicious?

My heart raced and my eyes darted all around vigilantly, ready for fight or flight.

I endured an ongoing fear every time I would sit down to pee, that some guy’s head would pop up over the stall door, as I sat there peeing with the wrong equipment, and in an angry confrontation, question my existence and what I was doing – interrupt me, violate my privacy, and call out my gender in front of whoever else was in the restroom- essentially catching red handed, the imposter: me. I felt like I was breaking a law, ironically in a lawless land of gender confusion.

To this day, when I’m out and my bladder is bursting at the seams in an overflowing restroom or at a particularly rowdy, drunken bar where alcohol has blurred or even dissolved normal etiquette and good judgement and that old fear seeps back into my consciousness, I have a fleeting desire to revert back to the women’s restroom. Maybe I miss being around women who feel less intimidating.

The Truth About Guys Restrooms

Here is the thing about the men’s restroom: Unlike the women’s restroom, it is not a social event; guys are in and out. Don’t make eye contact, walk straight ahead, don’t start conversation unless you know someone really well, and under no circumstance do you acknowledge anyone else or concern yourself with what anyone else is doing.

What I have learned is, while I sit there drowning in my own insecurity and over-analyzing the sound of my pee falling into the toilet, no other guy is even remotely paying attention to me, the sound of my pee, or anything else!

Furthermore, some cis guys sit to pee so to this day, I remind myself that sitting to pee is normal, inconvenient at times, yes, but still normal and it makes me no less of a man!

Nonetheless, I stay vigilant in new places.  I have run into places where the toilet had no door and even places where the toilet just sat, in all its glory, right next to a urinal with no wall.  Why on earth would anybody build a stall with no door or a toilet with no stall?  This is not pleasant for cis guys or trans guys! God forbid you have to use the toilet at these places because you will be on display for everyone to see! 

Still, nobody really looks.

This society is in desperate need for gender-neutral restrooms!  But until then, here are a few reminders:

Bathroom Affirmations

I have every right to be in this restroom.

This is where I belong.

It is perfectly normal for me to be here.

Nobody is paying attention to me.

Everybody is wrapped up in their own heads and not concerned with me or what I’m doing.

Nobody is looking at me.

I can be aware but calm and peaceful at the same time.

This moment is temporary and it too, shall pass.

Sometimes I put things into perspective this way:  Somewhere along the line people gave value to the differences between genitalia.  Some random person then group of people decided to create a binary, define that binary, decide what value to give those definitions, then create restrooms that upheld all of the above. Most of our anxiety and insecurity stems from societal constructs that somewhere along the line, we unknowingly bought into. You can opt out of this.

Question everything.  Question what makes you anxious.  Question unwritten rules.  Question the status quo.  Question how things came to be the way they are. Once you start questioning everything and realize that everything is made-up, your anxieties will dissipate.  Try it and let me know what you think!

Support and Affirmation

Reducing the Stigma of Being Transgender

Will my trans kid have a normal life?

Will anyone want to date them or will they be alone forever?

Is the fact that they are transgender going to be the first and only thing people see in them?

These are all common and valid questions and concerns!

First, just a reminder that people don’t have a hard time because they are transgender; they have a hard time because society decided that being transgender is a bad thing.  Being transgender is not inherently a negative thing. Furthermore, being transgender does not automatically doom a person to a hard life. More on that here.

I know many transgender people in happy, healthy relationships of all kinds, many of them married in fact.  They have a wide variety of jobs just like everyone else – one is a minister who preaches inclusivity, bridging the gap between religion and the LGBTQ+ world.  Another is engaged and teaches computer science to at-risk youth.  Yet another leads a trans rights organization and he and his wife have dedicated their lives to advocating for equal rights and protecting the vulnerable.   A woman I know is going to school for social work and bravely does public speaking on a regular basis.  Trans people are doctors, activists, writers, politicians, movie stars, mothers, fathers, best friends and you have probably met some them without ever knowing it.

Much of the time one would not be able to tell the difference between a trans person and a cis person (a person who identifies with the sex/gender that they were assigned at birth).  In these cases, trans people just walk through the world like everyone else – enjoying friendships, dating, going to work, traveling, running errands, living.  While some gender-diverse people make the perfectly valid decision to not transition, other gender-diverse people decide to transition and legally change their name and gender marker on birth certificates, passports, licenses and credit cards and they are frequently indistinguishable from cis people.  Yes, transgender people can look indistinguishable from cis people contrary to a common myth that “You can always spot a trans person”.

The exception to this would be dating situations where it would be impossible to hide the fact that one is trans in intimate situations.  Some people claim to not be attracted to trans people or gender non-conforming people.  Others say they have a very strong preference towards particular genitalia.

Most importantly, many people are very open minded and do not like labels or fitting into a certain label; they see people as people and are attracted to humans.  Many people embrace the transgender body like any other body and are also attracted to a person’s intellect, their heart and mind.

I have a partner of ten years who is in love with me and attracted to me as a person.  It was not my genitalia that she fell in love with.   Love and attraction are both very complicated feelings and people are surprisingly diverse.

Don’t limit love and sex to a body part!

The key to being able to live a normal life is support.  What kind of support are you going to give gender diverse people?  Accept, support, affirm, believe and love are crucial!

Let’s try to reduce the stigma of being trans by celebrating the diversity and success of trans people!

Celebrating Transgender Humans

Will my transgender child have a normal life?

Will anyone want to date them or will they be alone forever?

Is the fact that they are transgender going to be the first and only thing people see in them?

These are all common and valid questions and concerns!

First, just a reminder that people don’t have a hard time because they are transgender; they have a hard time because society decided that being transgender is a bad thing.  Being transgender is not inherently negative. Furthermore, being transgender does not automatically doom a person to a hard life. More on that here.

I know many transgender people in happy, healthy relationships of all kinds, many of them married in fact.  They have a wide variety of jobs just like everyone else – one is a minister who preaches inclusivity, bridging the gap between religion and the LGBTQ+ world.  Another is engaged and teaches computer science to at-risk youth.  Yet another leads a trans rights organization and he and his wife have dedicated their lives to advocating for equal rights and protecting the vulnerable.   A woman I know is going to school for social work and bravely does public speaking on a regular basis.  Trans people are doctors, activists, writers, politicians, movie stars, mothers, fathers, best friends and you have probably met some them without ever knowing it.

Much of the time one would not be able to tell the difference between a trans person and a cis person (a person who identifies with the sex/gender that they were assigned at birth).  In these cases, trans people just walk through the world like everyone else – enjoying friendships, dating, going to work, traveling, running errands, living.  Some transgender people decide to transition and legally change their name and gender marker on birth certificates, passports, licenses and credit cards and they are frequently indistinguishable from cis people. Yes, read that again – transgender people can look indistinguishable from cis people contrary to a common myth that “You can always spot a trans person”.

The exception to this would be dating situations where it would be impossible to hide the fact that one is trans in intimate situations.  Some people claim to not be attracted to trans or gender non-conforming people.  Others say they have a very strong preference towards particular genitalia.

Let’s not get too hung up on that because most importantly, many people are very open minded and do not limit their relationships with labels; they see people as people and are attracted to humans.  Many people embrace the transgender body like any other body and are also attracted to a person’s intellect, their heart and mind.

I have a partner of ten years who is in love with me and attracted to me as a person.  It was not my genitalia that she fell in love with.   Love and attraction are both very complicated feelings and people are surprisingly diverse.

Don’t limit love and sex to a body part!

Let’s try to reduce the stigma of being trans by celebrating the diversity and success of trans people!

Embracing Uncertainty

A phase – a temporary process of discovery – can be a liberating period of one’s life and lead to genuine growth.  By honoring “phases”, we allow children a safe space to change their mind or change their identity without backlash, repercussion or the infamous, “I told you so!”.  Dismissal of phases invalidates one’s ability to change.  You might unknowingly send messages that a child is worthy of support and belief only when their identity is not a phase.  We are teaching kids that identities must be set in stone and that gender must be permanent in order to be valid.  This is a ton of pressure on a child to inadvertently expect them to know at age 5 for example, exactly who they are going to be for the rest of their life! [Read full post here]. 

Today I want to expand on this topic about which I previously wrote. 

First, I want to reflect on my own coming out fears.  One concern that held me back most was – What if I changed my mind?  What if I decided one day that I wasn’t trans- that I no longer felt like a boy? In my mind this translated into:  What if I made a mistake?  What if I decided that I actually felt more like a girl and people used me as evidence that transgender people are wrong?  What if they used my uncertainty against the entire trans community to paint trans people as crazy, wishy-washy, and going against nature?  What if they used my indecisiveness as proof that god doesn’t make mistakes?

As I write these words, I cringe to even put them out into the universe so I want to stress that the myths above are not true!  Nevertheless, these ‘beliefs’ float around the general consciousness through the media, books, and political and religious scare tactics that can quickly be eaten up my confused, grieving, or searching parents.

When did this become the dreaded scenario?  When did being uncertain or changing one’s mind become such a bad thing?  When did changing one’s mind become the determining factor as to whether or not gender-questioning persons would be validated? 

The bigger the decision, the more certain people expect us to be.  The less certain, the less people are willing to validate one’s identity.  This puts trans people between a rock and a hard place because the truth is that the bigger a decision, the more likely one is to be uncertain!   Ever quite a job?  End a long-term relationship? Not an easy decision.  You probably did not feel 100% certain. 

To clarify, being trans is not a decision but telling people and coming out are.

Can we remove the stigma that comes with changing one’s mind (frequently called “de-transitioning”)?  Parents, loved ones and even the medical community expect trans people to be certain before they can be believed. 

Let’s stop this.  Figuring out any part of the identity is an ongoing process.  One’s gender identity can and might change and that is perfectly okay.  We are not static beings; we evolve, we transform, we shed old skins, we grow.  If you can let go of the unfortunate and limiting belief that gender at birth is written in stone, it makes perfect sense that like the brain, the body, the spirit, and the mind, gender can change.  Gender is a product of all of the above and in addition, a societal construction.  The neurons of the brain develop then deteriorate, the body ages, the spirit twinkles and dims, and every aspect of society advances, undergoes modification and revision.  Many believe that sex and gender are the two constants but sorry, there are no constants in life.

Reversing course does not mean a mistake was made.  It does not mean that the child, the parents, the therapist or the doctor were wrong; it just means that the person is insightful, self-aware and brave enough to enter a new stage of development AND they trusted you enough to share that process.

Life is an endless cycle of transformation.  This is inevitable so embrace it without judgement.


Kirby circa 2006 ( Sep 2002-March 2016)

How did I not die with you?  

Dying is the state of my existence for the past few days – the emotional neurons of my brain firing degenerated signals from corroded synapses, pathways to my heart completely inundated with agony, each cell just dying from the inside out, each exploding in its personal supernova hell.  Cell death.  Emotional chaos.

Fireworks of what was once the color that saturated my world, bleeding and draining out of my life.

Destined now to tread painted water, already colorblind and unable to feel anything.  

Deafening white noise and blinding back-lit memories.

I did die with you that day.

Shattered beyond recognition, all I could do was rebuild.

My descent into the underworld…

There as a blank slate, I quietly sat next to my secret that I’d hidden away for years.  I looked my secret straight in the eyes and shook hands.

In death, you gave one last monumental gift -the greatest gift of strength and clarity to see who I was meant to be- the boy who was to leave a legacy.


Discovering that there is no right or wrong way to be trans

There is no right or wrong way to be trans, non-binary or gender non-conforming!  My path from female to male has not been a straight line.  Actually, it hasn’t been a line at all.  Rather, it has been countless dots, like stepping stones off of which I must take a leap of faith.  For years, I thought:

Somewhere in the depths of my heart, I think I am male but I also feel unable to bite the bullet on becoming him until I no longer look and sound like her.  I feel pressure to know exactly who I am so that people will believe me.  Uncertainty on my end, can be dismissal on their end.    Hesitation on my end, can be disbelief on their end. 

Nonetheless, non-binary and gender-neutral pronouns – they/them/theirs have served as a buffer and offered some wiggle room without automatically putting myself into the opposite box – male.  I’ve avoided that box with all of its definitions, expectations, and limitations and most of all, the death grip that society has on them.  To some extent, I have enjoyed being undefined-floating around in a land of non-conventional everything and defying norms.  Part of me isn’t ready to give up that defiance and disapproval of the binary. 

But, the nagging desire to be seen as a guy persists.  Who says that I’d have to be a guy that conforms to all of society’s standards?  I absolutely don’t have to be someone that society wants me to be if I don’t want to, as a girl or as a guy or anything in between.  It is not my responsibility to be the person they want to like.  I am not their clay to mold.

Broken, We are Not

Photo Credit: Lorenna Najera

Transgender people aren’t having a hard time because they are transgender; they are having a hard time because society has decided that being transgender is a bad thing.  People have drawn a conclusion in order to organize their own world and transgender people are caught in that crossfire.  People bought into this negative view but we can opt out.

You are not a failure.

Just because you are transgender, does not make you broken- you do not need fixing.  There is nothing wrong with you.  You are a human in the wrong physical body, but with the strongest, most precious soul and I see you and you are beautiful.

You are not your thoughts and you are not other people’s thoughts.  They can tell you that you are crazy; they can tell you that you are wrong.  You can tell yourself that this is too hard or that you are not worthy of being the person you desire to be.  Or, you can practice watching these thoughts come in and go out and let yourself be worthy of life. 

Be impeccable with the words you speak about yourself and others because those words become the general consciousness of society.  Every time you define, judge, criticize and belittle yourself, you are contributing to the creation of the same world that hurts you so much.

Perhaps we can not only have more compassion for other people but for ourselves.  Today, tomorrow, and every day thereafter, that you wake up and decide to continue your existence, be gentle with yourself because you are brave.

This society has an obsession with gender and they’ve got it all wrong.  Hate is just a by-product of society’s obsession to force gender into a strict binary.  Your physical body serves to carry your soul.  Your soul has no gender.  Energy has no gender.  Your higher self has no gender.  Your existence is paving the way to less rigid, more accepting standards of gender and our culture just hasn’t caught up yet; you are ‘ahead of the times’ and people just need more time to grasp an understanding.  This world needs you to be different.  Otherwise, who is going to change the world?

Somebody out there needs you.  Be the person you needed when you had nobody-for someone else.  Love yourself unconditionally so that this world can be a less hateful place.

The Boy Underneath

How is it that I can feel this nagging sense of discontent when I have everything? 

I have a good job that pays well, a healthy relationship, a reliable car, a cute house, people that love me.  I travel and do the things I want to do.  Could it be that having everything can make me unhappy?  Could I have too much?  What if we try too hard to hold onto the things we have?  What if letting go could open us up to see more?

I’ve fought hard to keep my “freedom” and my free time, set boundaries as a way of protecting and keeping what I thought was important.  I’ve held on to this gender that they assigned to me at birth as if it is some tangible thing.  Why do we hold on to everything?

There is seemingly unlimited distraction- bigger this and more of that.  Houses keep getting bigger to fit all of our stuff but time seems to be getting smaller and smaller.   We have more convenience but less connection, more technology but less willingness to trust a stranger.

What if I let go?  Of control, of security, of comfort, of material goods, money, success and all these things that society tells us will make us happy?

As a culture, we are drowning in stuff and I want to see my bare skeleton by having less.  My intuition says that less is more.

There is something deep inside me that compels me to strip everything down and give things up to see what I really am underneath, backing myself up against a wall to challenge my strength when things aren’t easy.  

I feel an intense urge to purge myself of everything and re-create myself.  Having everything has hidden my truth. 

I don’t think I am the girl they thought I was.

There is a boy inside that wants to break free.

The Man in the Mirror

Embracing Diversity During My “Second Puberty”

The Kills at ACL Live Austin, TX 2016

Changes from testosterone happen so excruciatingly slow that my body almost physically hurts from watching it so hard.  Time is such a joker.

I must have checked the mirror on a thousand occasions before finally seeing hair on my chin and fuzz above my lip.  My face shape appears more masculine, fat re- distribution has migrated fat away from my hips and thighs and more muscle is developing- mere subtleties to the naked eye- even my naked eye which has telescope-magnified longings.

Gauging whether people perceive me as a guy or girl is a daily exercise in futility.  I can’t determine how I look to people and many times, they give me no clue; they just stare at me, as unsure of me as I am of myself.  Will I be addressed as ma’am or sir?  Might as well flip a coin.

My voice has dropped a little but I still get gendered as female especially over the phone.  Upon awakening in the morning, my voice sounds pleasantly deep and I can feel it rumbling in my chest but as the day goes on and my vocal cords stretch out, my voice goes back up in pitch.  At least I am past that bizarre stage where I sounded like an old woman who smoked a pack of cigarettes a day for the past 50 years, when I opened my mouth.  I’m beginning to make friends with the frog in my throat.

The mirror is tired of me looking to it for validation.

My physical body is lost to interpretation.

I lay here listening to music while all my daytime spectators sleep.  I realize that so long as I look outside of myself for validation, I will forever be searching.  To rely on the external to determine who I am is the ultimate form of slavery.

I am reminded of the words of wisdom of my friend, Rey who said, “Beauty is in the different range of voices.  Think about music and all the beautiful diversity.  If everyone sounded like Barry White, can you imagine how boring music would be? What would it really have to offer?”

Relationship in Transition

My Love. 2019 at Spiderhouse (Austin, TX) enjoying one of our favorite hobbies together- photography.

Summer 2017:  Fear of losing my relationship keeps me in the closet.  I want to change but I don’t want US to change.  How could I expect her to stay attracted to me as my body physically changes if I go through with taking hormones and live as a man?  She has every right to say this isn’t for her.  Deciding if and how she will deal with this isn’t something I can control.  She can choose to care what people think or not.  She can open up her mind and be curious with me or not.  I remind myself that my feelings are valid but I cannot control other people with them.

Nonetheless, I feel delicate like my whole identity is a fresh open wound and there is no bandage large enough to cover it.  Fear of serious discussions and judgement are suffocating because disapproval from my precious partner might cause me to disintegrate into thin air.  My fear is that she will think I’m a freak just like the rest of the world or worse – I could lose her altogether.

Ultimately, I knew in my heart that I had to fully “come out” and transition as male.  Anything less wouldn’t just be unfair to me; it would be unfair to her also.  I would never want her to spend life with a person who is partially in hiding. 

Conversations about my gender identity came up over a period of five years and our progress was marked by tiny steps forward and giant steps backward.  I would question my gender identity out loud, we would talk about it, then I’d get scared and shove my suspicions and confusion back into the closet.  I reverted to darkness, closing each door behind me until I only saw a sliver of light streaming through the crack against the floor as I back tracked and second guessed myself.

My communication was constantly hampered by the fact that I was unable to explain to someone else that which I was unable to explain to myself. 

After years of intermittent discussions, we worked through everything and she stayed with me, supported me, remained attracted to me and now advocates for me and others.  There can be such a massive difference between the initial reaction of a loved one and how they ultimately show up to support.  Trans people take years to process and understand their gender identity.  Loved ones can feel blind-sided because they have not had that same amount of time to process.

Outside of therapy, she was my first real advocate and with her support I was able to transition without feeling like I had to choose between the relationship or living as a man.  Sometimes I wonder if I could have done it without her.

She says she fell in love with me as a human, not a gender.  She is attracted to me as a person, not a part.

I am so grateful.

So, to you, I say thank you.

Reservation is gone and I hold you close, wanting to absorb you into me. 

I watch your curiosity and your existence outside of labels and you impress me.   

Now that my real self is no longer hiding, I gravitate to you even more and I feel the pull of the entire universe.

I am so in love with you.  You are the only one I see.  I feel so swept up in you, slept off my feet- feet just stable enough against a hard wood floor to be your knight in shining armor,

Because you deserve nothing less.

In your acceptance I found peace

And I didn’t have to lose you in order to find that peace.

Vulnerability surfacing as my outer shell softens and you get the authentic ME- the whole ME.

Hand in hand we show the world that trans people can live normal and happy lives too.

Photo Shoot – 2019 Sawyers Austin, TX

The Elephant in the Room

Deciding whether or not to ‘go stealth’ as a trans person

Stealth: A behavior or way of living in the transgender community where a fully transitioned person lives completely as their correct gender and does not reveal that they are transgender.

A transgender person may ‘go stealth’ in order to avoid transphobia or simply because they wish to be seen as simply male or female and not transgender.

I arrived at the point in my gender transition where I must make a decision – do I tell people that I am transgender or do I keep it secret?  I met a new group of friends- the only group in my life where I was an assumed cis man.  In this rare space, I could exist like any other guy without being attached to my past of having once been a girl.

Hesitation did not stem from fear of negative treatment; rather, for once gender just felt simple, not convoluted with confusing labels.  I was just a guy.  Not, ‘the guy who was once a girl’.  Not, ‘the guy who has a vagina’.  Not, ‘the guy who injects testosterone’.  Not, ‘the transgender guy that everyone has so many questions about’.  I was afraid of someone perceiving me as ‘not a real man’.

Whether people know a little or a lot about being transgender, I couldn’t help but consider that by them knowing I was transgender, an automatic mental confusion or complication was added to our relationship.  For example, sheer curiosity about what being transgender even entails- how people view themselves in relation to me when their tidy, comfortable definitions of gender are rattled and flipped upside down:  What is a boy?  What is a girl?  Does that make you straight?  Are you gay or what does that make you?  What does that make me?

The most awkward part – knowing that people also wonder about my genitalia:  If you were not born a boy, what do you have in your pants?  So, you are a boy without a penis?  Behold the elephant that lives in the room with me, sleeps next to me in bed and follows me, suffocatingly close wherever I go!  I feel him breathing down my neck and all the tiny hairs stand up in hypervigilance- a constant reminder of that which I will never have.

Even though it is subconscious, we assume one’s genitalia, based off secondary sexual characteristics – if you have boobs, long hair, wide hips, then you have a vagina; if you have facial hair, a deep voice, and appear male, you have a penis.

In this society where having a vagina means you are irrefutably a woman and having a penis means you are irrefutably a man, even the possibility of being seen as “less of a guy” due to these misconceptions, would be the biggest let down. 

People assume I am a CIS male and with that comes the subconscious assumption that I have a penis and I admit, that is validating to me.  People subconsciously assuming I have one almost makes me feel like I do.  I could almost pretend it was there and I enjoyed this delusion as that is the closest I will ever get to having what I do not have.

But none of this is true.  Sex assigned at birth is not my gender.  Just because one has no penis does not make them female.  Not all people who appear male, have penises.  I do not have one and never will and this does not make me less of a man.  I will not reduce myself or others to a single body part.  I am not a cis man nor do I need to be a cis man in order to be legitimate. 

Furthermore, none of us will ever know what other people are thinking.  Such a flimsy way to define ourselves – by what we hypothesize other people are or aren’t thinking about us!

I will never completely ‘go stealth’.  To erase the courage and bravery it took to get me where I am today, would not be my authentic existence.

Actually, I don’t want to simply be just a guy.  I am a guy who is capable of carrying a life altering secret but I am blessed with the duty of full-heartedly, honestly assessing which new people entering my life are trustworthy and genuine enough to know my secret.  Every person will have to earn my trust and respect just like in any other aspect of life. 

I am a guy who used to look like a girl.  I am a guy who pees differently in the restroom and was socialized as a girl.  But, I am a guy who had to shed my old skin to get where I am today.  It is never easy seeing our armor disintegrate through the rear-view mirror as we move forward into the unknown but I did it.  Molted, now this new skin and the secret it nurtures is my ultimate trust barometer.

I want to help other people, work with transgender youth to help them find their authentic selves.  I want to be ‘out’ and proud of who I am because the world can learn from me.  I was born into this body to have the courage to transform because it will allow me to change the lives of other people.  What a waste it would be to hide somebody’s hero.

My First Shot of Testosterone

And the Rollercoaster of Emotions

Around 1.5 years on testosterone and less than four months post-op.

I’ve been over the moon with excitement for my first shot of testosterone but I woke up around 3:30 this morning and was overcome by anxiety.  In complete darkness, everything hit me at once and to go through with this felt absolutely overwhelming and impossible.  I would be lying if I said that I hadn’t wanted to go back to sleep and never wake up- that is how hard my decision felt in that moment. Fleeting thoughts of returning to life as a girl, never returning to the clinic and walking away from it all, bombarded my mind.  How could I possibly go through with taking testosterone, telling my parents and everyone I knew?  What if this was all wrong?  What if bad side effects happen?  What if it makes me sick?

At some point sleep and I reunited.

In rare form, it snowed in Austin that night so I figured that had to be a good sign but gradually anxiety seeped back into my body.  Panic.  I felt like I was living a double life.  Hormone replacement therapy was so accepted within the transgender community, at the DR’s office, in counseling but once I step out of that fairy tale, what will the rest of the world think? 

This was a huge, life altering decision, yet I was living it in secret.  I longed for people who were excited and encouraging for me.  If I was going to embark on this journey, then I wanted to be able to enjoy it without keeping secrets.  I might as well accept my journey no matter how long or short it is, no matter what happens.  Every day, I lose a day of my journey so I want to make the most of it.   It is OK if I tell people that I have no idea what my goal is; I have no idea how long I want to be on testosterone.

10 minutes until my 1:00 pm appointment, I sat in my car shivering with nervousness.  Was I doing the right thing?  Again, I contemplated running from the entire situation.  It wasn’t too late to back out completely.  With just the turn of a car key, a press on the gas, and a drive back to work, I could pretend that none of this ever happened and return to my previous life where I knew what to expect. 

I took a deep breath.  I could do this.  I wanted this.  Being scared does not make this a wrong decision, I reassured myself.

The check-up was quick and routine for the nurse and doctor which put me slightly at ease.  Around the world, people did this every day, right?  Then finally it was time for my first shot.  I didn’t feel the needle go in but just like that, testosterone was being absorbed into my bloodstream through a muscle in my thigh.  Back in my car, I sat, leaned back and smiled.  I had male hormones coursing through my veins and nobody but me and my partner knew.  This was my precious, sacred moment.  I couldn’t stop smiling. 

I had made the right decision.  It was the first day of my new life.  Years of uncertainty, confusion, and hesitation were left in the parking lot that day.  After that moment, I never ever looked back. 

Later on, she asked, “So, how do you feel?”

“I feel just like I’ve felt for the past 36 years of my life, only now I feel real.” 

This was a relief knowing I was not going to turn into a completely different person all of the sudden.

I went to sleep that night feeling immense gratitude that finally I had the correct hormone controlling my body and brain yet in the back of my mind, millions of thoughts and questions crisscrossed wildly.  I would have to tell my parents at some point. How would I do that?  I’d have to tell my friends and co-workers.  What would they think?  What changes would I get?  How fast would they come? 

What if I looked in the mirror one day and I no longer recognized myself?

I am only at the beginning of what lies ahead. Cross those bridges when you come to them, I tell myself.  Be present.  Enjoy this moment because this is the best moment of your life.

The Silver Lining in Being Misgendered

After being on hiatus, I was finally back in yoga class but excitement soon turned to mortification as I endured the most awkward experience of misgendering.   As the teacher announced that class was about to start, she glanced around the entire room and realized there were no guys present.   

Starting a conversation to the sea of people, she asked loudly, “Do we have any guys in class?  It looks like we have all ladies today!”  I cringed.  Oh god, what was happening, I thought.  I desperately looked around.  Surely there were some guys in class, right?  She double checked, scanning from left to right from the stage and as she poured salt into my wounded being, repeated herself.  “Any guys in here?” she playfully teased. “I think we are all ladies today.  If you are a guy, identify yourself!” she joked.  

How embarrassing.  I looked away.  Looked down.  Should I say something or raise my hand?  First of all, I couldn’t think quick enough.  Second, I didn’t feel obligated to “out” myself in front of the endless sea of strangers who didn’t need to know my gender in the first place in order to enjoy a yoga class.   What if I had said yes, me?  What if I had raised my hand, looking like a girl and said in a high-pitched voice that I was actually a man?  Picture that.  Sheer confusion.  No thanks. 

But people have me so wrong!

To them, she or her are just two more words that roll off their tongues automatically without any contemplation.  To me, they are a million razor-sharp fingernails on a single chalkboard mutilating ever-so-sensitive ears and defying my insides.  I am embarrassed and I pull my turtle head into my turtle shell.  I wanted to disappear.  Me?  Are you talking to me?  Who am I? Surely, you aren’t referring to me?  I hear “she” and I momentarily dissociate from my body and I’m floating outside of it. 

I feel unreal. 

Every moment of every day is a chance for a fundamental part of me to be misinterpreted.  Being misgendered makes me feel like a salty mist that stings even my own eyes and contorts and conforms only to boundaries of a societal construct.  It’s confusing.  On one hand, I look like a girl so why would the world see it any other way?  On the opposite, why don’t people see me as a guy because that is how I feel?  My outsides constantly betray my insides.

I didn’t feel like being in class anymore after that but managed to focus enough to enjoy some stretches and breathing exercises as much as I could.  I knew I must speak up after class.  My true self begged to be known.  I am worthy of that and people are worthy of having the honor of knowing the real me.

My feet were wiggly Jell-O and the rest of my body was my pounding heart but I calmly approached her and politely said, “Thank you for the class.  By the way, in regards to the comments that were made at the beginning of class, I actually identify as a guy.  I am trans.”

“Oh, I know, I saw your face once I said that and I am so sorry!  Once I realized what I had done, I couldn’t figure out how to back track.  I am so sorry but I am glad you said something!”

I was so nervous that my hands shook and the tiny cup of cherished after-class chai tea was vibrating in my hand as I walked off.  I tried to finish it as quickly as possible so that I could throw away the cup before anyone noticed my trembling hands.  The Chai tea that had always been notoriously lukewarm, was scalding hot today but I swallowed it down in two painful gulps.  So badly, I wanted to leave before tears burst through flood gates

I wasn’t mad.  I had no hard feelings.  I mean, how are people supposed to know?  An opportunity to step into my own strength is the gift she had given me.  It was a chance to stand up tall and speak of my authentic self.  I realized that after 5 years of suffering through the cacophony and chaos of questioning gender in my head, that was the first time my identity was articulated out loud in such a straight forward and honest way.

I wasn’t just declaring my trans identity to the teacher, I was admitting it to myself. 

My ears heard the words coming out of my mouth in full confidence.  It was a relief.   I had never been so sure of myself all these years. 

I am not female and I am determined now to move forward as a man.  Even though tears had now been released from the gates, I felt more empowered than ever.  Those were my most pure tears of freedom.

Death Bed Regret

Easy it is to fear regret when making a life altering decision.  Parents dread their kids will regret transitioning.  Even transgender people worry of regretting their decisions.   I know I did:  What if taking testosterone is a mistake?  What if I miss living as a woman?

But let me ask you:

What if you regret not doing it? 

Envision spending your whole life wondering what could have been.  Imagine looking back over all the days, months, years wishing you had taken that chance.  Picture you are laying on your death bed, curled up with remorse of having never lived as your authentic being.

Decisions now are changeable; on your death bed, they will not be.

Often I wonder how life appears when you are at the end of it, looking back.  What will you see?

A Million Ways to be Trans

There is no right or wrong way to be transgender nor must you fit into a binary.

There is no one way to be trans and no such thing as being “not trans enough”.  Gender is not binary; it is on a spectrum.  We have been led to believe that gender consists of a ridged binary – you are either a man with a penis or a woman with a vagina but many transgender people do not identify that way at all.  Some identify as neither man nor woman and some identify as both.  Others have a fluid gender that changes throughout a lifetime.

People are born trans but realize their identity at different times in life.  Everyone can have a different “story”.  I was 30 when I was introduced to the concept of being transgender and 36 when I came out and transitioned.   I had a happy childhood with many friends; I wore dresses and played with barbies.  People were surprised when I came out because to them, I didn’t “seem like a boy”.

Coming out to myself was the harder than coming out to loved ones because I did not have the stereotypical trans narrative.  I worried:  If I was really trans, shouldn’t I have known as a young child?  Shouldn’t I have rejected girl toys and gotten along better with boys than girls?  Shouldn’t I have had a sad childhood fraught with problems?  Shouldn’t we all have known earlier?  If I was really trans, wouldn’t I be 100% sure?

Sometimes people aren’t sure how they identify and this is perfectly okay!  Experiment.  Become unattached.  Sometimes the transgender journey is not from point A to point B – sometimes it’s two steps forward and five steps back. 

Society tells us we should have a destination in order for something to be valid.  Lose reference to the “shoulds”.   Don’t be afraid to exist in between definitions and create yourself.   Your version of trans is just as valid!

Being Enough

From the moment we enter kindergarten, we learn that life is an evaluation.  We validate and confirm who we are based on how others define us- funniest, smartest, most likely to be successful, perfect attendance, most likable, most talented.  We enter coloring contests before we can even color inside the lines then learn that chaotic, creative colors outside boundaries are sub-par.  We receive grades before we even know simple math or how to write- how does one even judge construction paper cut outs and shapes of imagination?  Even as babies we are judged – such a good baby that hardly ever cries or that child – he was such a difficult baby!  Almost right out of the womb, we are defined in comparison to others.  How do we measure up?

The focus on measuring up is expanded exponentially when we enter the workforce with interviews that determine our fit and worth, reviews that judge performance, metrics that turn us into a number – reducing us to machines that do more, faster, better.

And finally, how do you measure up as a trans person?  Has your transition been successful? Did you grow enough facial hair?  Is your face soft enough or your demeanor feminine enough?  Do people see you as being “woman enough” or “man enough”? 

How have we let the opinions of others make us who we are?  How is it even possible that something external can have any bearing on who we are as individuals?   It doesn’t.  We choose what value we want to give something.  We choose how we want to internalize something – and that’s what it is – the internalization and attachment to subjective, external information.  How people perceive us is a reflection of themselves and many times they project onto us what they dislike in themselves.

So, what does it matter what people think of you?  Has does that make you, you?

One person might think you are an amazing human being and another person might think you are the worst person they have ever run into.   One person may think you are lazy, another person might think you are a real go-getter.  So, when there is conflicting information about you, how do you choose what to believe? 

How do we create our identity?

The truth is that we are all everything and identity is an illusion.   Society teaches us to become attached to a definition of ourselves and furthermore, how we define ourselves is based on comparison.  People have used language to label, judge, compare, and draw conclusions about everything around us. 

If you feel like a woman inside, you are.  If you feel like a man inside, you are.  If you feel like neither or both, that is who you are and someone’s perception of you doesn’t change that.  Unless you let it. 

Those people that say you aren’t man enough or you don’t look enough like a woman- they are just uncomfortable because you don’t fit their definition that makes them comfortable.  They are attached to their own identity and you challenge that.  That anger – that’s a reflection of who they are on the inside – they are scared. 

Empower yourself by choosing who you want to be and let yourself unfold.  You are not somebody else’s thoughts or opinions; don’t let them make you their slave.

You are enough.

“When your happiness is dependent upon what is happening outside of you, constantly you live as a slave to the external situation.”


Being Transgender is Not “Just a Phase”

Let’s change the negative language and therefore, the stigma of being transgender

Is this a phase? Parents commonly ask when their child comes out as transgender.  It is most likely not a phase.  More on this here: https://www.hrc.org/resources/transgender-children-and-youth-understanding-the-basics  For most parents this news usually comes as a shock but likely, the child contemplated their gender for a long time.  Nobody wakes up one morning and, on a whim, decides to flip their entire world upside down and switch genders.

The Fallacy of “Just a phase”

A phase (used in this way) is generally something one chooses and gets instant gratification from despite going against norms or expectations.  Nobody chooses to be trans; they are born trans.  Being trans can be hard; nobody gets instant gratification and benefit from discrimination, misunderstanding, or feeling unsafe.  Living in the wrong body and attempting to explain that to people is never conducive to instant gratification; it can be confusing and scary.  Even if one experiences no dysphoria (dysphoria is not a requirement to be trans), there are still uncomfortable conversations and interactions to be had and the process of transition is long with many hoops to jump through.

The negative connotation of asking “Is this just a phase?”

To question whether or not something is “just a phase” can many times carry a negative connotation and implies a form of self presentation that one needs to outgrow like the terrible twos phase or the rebellious teenage phase.  Nobody ever says “he’s going through the all A’s phase” or the “employee of the month phase”. 

Many parents feel a sense of guilt about their child coming out – How could I have not seen this?  Did I do something wrong?  How could I have caused my child this pain?  Being transgender is not inherently a bad thing that must be outgrown or a phase that one hopes will pass.  Parents should not be made to feel as if something tragic just happened after their child comes out. 

Let’s re-frame how we view being trans! One of the best forms of support is to change the negative language and therefore, the stigma of being transgender.

The media, the politicians, the bullies will portray trans as something to be ashamed of but you can refute this and empower your loved one by believing them and endorsing their self-awareness and reflection!  When your child, your partner or your friend comes out to you, they are a light to be celebrated; they show immense bravery and trust to share their authentic self.  Conviction in one’s truth is not something to feel guilty about.  Rather, feel proud that you can teach strength and belief in authenticity!

Re-frame “Is it a phase?” to mean something positive

A phase – a temporary process of discovery – can be a liberating period of one’s life and lead to genuine growth.  By honoring “phases”, we allow children a safe space to change their mind or change their identity without backlash, repercussion or the infamous, “I told you so!”.  Dismissal of phases invalidates one’s ability to change.  You might unknowingly send messages that a child is worthy of support and belief only when their identity is not a phase.  We are teaching kids that identities must be set in stone and that gender must be permanent in order to be valid.  This is a ton of pressure on a child to inadvertently expect them to know at age 5 for example, exactly who they are going to be for the rest of their life!

On the other hand, your child can change their mind and still be trans.  They may take five steps forward and 20 back.  They may retract and go back into the closet and this indecisiveness (or appearance of indecisiveness!) is normal.  Coming out to family is scary.  Coming out to yourself can be scarier.  Gift them space to discover without letting the non-linear timeline de-legitimize their process.

How can we be certain something is or isn’t a phase, anyways?

Yet another perspective is that the “Is this a phase question” is moot.  We cannot know in this moment if something is or isn’t a phase.  It isn’t until looking back in hindsight, once the phase “ends”, that we can call it a definitive phase.  Have faith in the present moment. 

Celebrate diversity and their ability to change as so often adults forget how to be this free!  Thank your child for their open mindedness in finding their own authenticity even if it makes you uncomfortable.  Or, better yet, also ask: Why does this make me uncomfortable?  How can I work through this for the betterment of my child and myself?

Again, how could you know for certain if something is a phase?  Is the gamble of thinking you know your child better than they know themselves inside worth the risk?  By honoring your child’s chosen pronouns and name, buying them gender affirming clothes and toys you lose nothing except your own comfort and security and they gain a hero, an advocate, a supporter. 

For older kids, even hormone blockers carry little risk and merely put off puberty.  It’s a way of buying more time as families navigate a plan of action.  More on Lupron myths here: https://medium.com/@carolly/dispelling-the-myths-about-puberty-blockers-3a132119faca

Believe. Have Faith. Trust in the unknown

When I realized I was trans, everybody had some explanation as to why I saw myself as a boy instead of a girl as if they knew me better than I knew myself.  Unknowingly, even those with the best of intentions tried to talk me out of being trans while I longed for somebody to just believe me.  In the absence of belief, we feel invisible. 

Nobody can predict the future.  The greatest support you can offer is to have faith in the person you love when everything ahead of you is unknown and no matter how scary it is, walk forward into that unknown holding hands.  Your belief, love and faith are the life-saving iron shield between your child and the cruelty in this world.

Trump the Disrupter

Your wrecking ball is my opportunity to become stronger.

Photo by Benjamin Suter from Pexels

January 2016

Donald Trump was inaugurated today.  After the election and depression that followed, I sunk into a state of denial – surely, a greater force- some higher justice would not let this man into a position of power, right? As I sit here unable to look away from the TV, it is clear, Donald Trump is most officially our President.

It was as if anything I’d known or been taught as a child, ceased to exist.  Do onto others as you want to have done to you.  Isn’t that the golden rule?  Our President of the United States is a man who condones and even instigates and encourages violence and racism.  How has this kind of hatred become OK?  It’s not even about politics anymore, it’s about being human.

Nowhere near enough progress has been made in human rights, yet he wants to regress.  My heart hurts for all the people that will be affected by his policy and rhetoric- those who will lose their children, those who will face condoned discrimination and hate, those whose civil rights and protections will be ripped away.

With Donald Trump in power, what does this mean for transgender people?  What a scary time to be trans.  With people like him in this world, who would ever want to be trans, let alone, have to come out and face transition in a world of turmoil?   It is a terrifying thought.  I don’t want to be a toss-away in a world where cruelty has become the norm.

And how can I call myself a man?  That “man” is a misogynistic and homophobic racist.  I cringe at the thought of being lumped into any category with him or any man like him.   I would feel like a traitor to every woman, abandoning everything beautiful and precious about being a woman and standing in solidarity with them.  By calling myself a man, there exists the stinging guilt of betrayal to all woman-kind- guilt that I’ve let them down and abandoned them to go to “the other side”.

September 2020

Four years passed since writing that.  While the threat of discrimination and harm, continue to loom over our heads, I read that journal entry, and while I feel sadness and anger, I also feel empowered.  Empowered because I didn’t let him or anybody stop me from living my truth.  Me and so many other transgender people will persevere.  No doubt Trump and his laws will make our existence harder but they will never erase us. 

This world needs more transgender people who have walked in more than one shoe to bring an abundance of understanding and compassion to the daily exchanges between men, women, and non-binary people.  Perhaps it wasn’t my attachment to being a woman that I held on to, but rather, the fear of being stereotyped negatively as a man, that held me back.  

In January of 2016, I never could have fathomed the chaos and continuing injustice of 2020 but looking back over the past four years, I realize that every day I made a conscious choice of what kind of man I wanted to be.  It is through that kind of conscious intention that humans grow to change the world.  I became an even bigger advocate of women because I can lead other men by example and even more, defy all those expectations and stereotypes of what it means to “be a man” and stop the further polarization of men and women.

I am the change that I want to see in this world.  WE can be the change we want to see in this world.

Aftermath of Coming out as Transgender

What would you change if you could live life over? 

What does love feel like to you? 

Who do you see when you look in the mirror? 

Why do people take each other for granted?

Do you wonder who I really am when nobody is looking?

Do you ever just stare at the ceiling and contemplate what it means to exist? 

Sometimes I lay on the bare floor, stare at the ceiling and just absorb the silence,

Thinking I was plopped into this society by mistake- like god in halos, towering over the planet, hastily flicked me off his middle finger and I plummeted through the twilight zone

And this isn’t really the life I should be living.

Sometimes I say nothing because I can’t articulate how deeply I feel.  Sometimes I don’t even understand how I feel because everything that exists says I’m not supposed to feel this way.

Born “a girl” but actually a boy – who could understand that if I don’t even understand myself?

When I was little, I stole a tiny plastic dinosaur from the store but told you I found it.  Tough conch seashell, whispering ocean melodies, with guilty insides, I just wanted to be loved. 

I want to run up to you and give you a huge bear hug like I did as a kid. 

The pull of a parking brake.  Running, bare feet burns on carpet.  “Dad is home!” we rejoiced.  Dad’s sweaty because the car AC stopped working but we never want to let go.

Hugs, smothered in reservation look different now.  Strangers with a precious past of not being strangers.

If I was no longer here tomorrow, would you have regrets? 

Would you be left with a thousand questions and few answers?

If you had to tell people I was gone, how would you describe me?  Would gender, names, pronouns, and fear matter?

Would your own pride or avoidance of discomfort deserve as much protection as you thought?

Would you cry and wonder why all those times you had tried so hard not to cry?

Let’s Talk About Sex

Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

Being transgender and going from an estrogen to a testosterone-run system gave me a greater opportunity to analyze sexual stereotypes, gender roles, and our current culture of sex.

The vast majority of trans guys will experience a huge increase in sex drive upon starting testosterone therapy (HRT).  The frequency of sexual fantasies increase, as does the quality – everything seems more vivid and intense and the need for sex seems much more urgent and primal.  No doubt, the first year of HRT was marked by learning how to cope with an unrelenting sex drive while my brain re-wired itself and adjusted to its new hormonal system.

However, there was not one time that I ever considered cheating or using testosterone as an excuse to get away with bad behavior.  Through the media and general consciousness, we are flooded with ideas that men have different needs than women, and there is a general acceptance of men in particular being entitled to having (and biologically needing) their sexual desires fulfilled with a disregard to anything that might stand in their way.  

Some also argue high levels of testosterone to justify an “uncontrollable sex drive” – claiming that some men just have higher testosterone levels than others making them less capable of forgoing instant gratification.  I can also vouch that this is a myth as the whole time I have been on testosterone, my T levels have consistently fallen within the upper limit of what is normal – around 1000 (within the range of 300-1080 which is considered normal by medical professionals).

I believe that some men (not all!) have pulled the wool over the eyes of society and it is now in the collective consciousness that poor sexual behavior can in part, be excused by an uncontrollable, overwhelming biological need.  “Boys will be boys”, right?  No.  Every human, regardless of sex or gender, has an obligation to exercise self-control and exude respect in every sexual situation and if you let someone tell you otherwise, you are being duped. 

Furthermore, this society has managed to define sex into a lifeless polarity.  Sex roles trap us in boxes, lead us to compare ourselves, and can cause us to feel inadequate.  Sex is not just a penis or a vagina and how we have sex does not define us as male or female.  The transgender population can be particularly preoccupied with having the “incorrect” genitalia but I have found this preoccupation to be extremely limiting because it reduces sex – the merging of energies and loss of physical boundaries, to only two single body parts, therefore removing the possibility of spiritual experience that is beyond definition.  I invite everyone on the transgender spectrum to stop invalidating yourself or defining sex based off what you do or don’t have in your pants- this does not define you!

For the first year on testosterone, I found myself subconsciously adopting gender roles and fulfilling expectations of what it meant to be a guy – I embraced my changing sex drive and saw it as a rite of passage in becoming a true man.  The struggle of an intense sex drive gave me a sense of solidarity with the gender with which I identified while making me feel separate from identification as the gender that I tried to break free from. 

At the same time, I looked outside of myself at what society has done to sex.  We all receive conflicting messages of hyper-sexualization from the media versus messages of taboo and repression from society. Men are hypersexualized in today’s world.  To be anything other than sexually aggressive or “ready” at the drop of a hat, is to be deemed less of a man or one possessing too much feminine energy.  What an awful disservice we have done to humankind with this duality.

The obsession of sex with beautiful, perfect bodies through movies, social media, porn and advertisements have taken away the sacredness of sex and turned it into a competitive and meaningless, mere form of entertainment serving as a means to an end. 

That lack of intent dawned on me one day:  What are we doing?  Why are we doing this? Can we make sex more intentional?  We seek to gratify our sexual needs but that gratification is fleeting and something to be sought after time and time again.  On occasion, do we pleasure-seek through the use of sex just like we do through shopping or food?  Does our sexual energy control our minds?  We give away our energy as quick as possible as if it is something to dispose of.  After all, we are talking about a profound and powerful energy:  What if we could not only transmute some of this life force into a higher creative form and use it to expand ourselves and our dreams and also get back to a more spiritual form of sex? 

I invite you to take a step back from social conditioning towards gender and sex to end idealization of physical beauty, rigid gender stereotypes or even hormones to construct sexual experiences and instead, fully embrace sexuality as a precious and sacred energy that has neither category nor hierarchy; rather, it unites everything.

How Manly is Man Enough?

“These pains you feel are messengers, listen to them.”


No doubt my body has changed but testosterone will never completely eradicate my insecurities nor will it give anybody the ideal, perfect male physique.  Testosterone will never narrow my wide hips that developed during puberty.  Fat redistribution was more subtle than I envisioned prior to starting testosterone so accepting a more feminine body shape is still a daily intention. 

At the time of writing this, I have been on testosterone for a year and 8 months.

My voice never got as deep as I hoped. Tall is something I’m not and correct male parts are a dream.  All these things lead to a nagging insecurity that I am not “man enough”. 

Weight lifting has been the 1 thing that I can control.  Subconsciously I operate under the belief that the more muscular I am, the sexier my body and in part, that makes up for the “manly things” I lack.  Needless to say, I have been very psychologically attached to my weight lifting routine.  When I don’t go, my confidence in how I present myself as a man wanes- if I skip workouts, I’ll lose my gains and be less of a man, I fear- or so says the voice in my head.

Our culture values muscular men more than skinny men, or at least conveys them as more attractive in the media.  We are bombarded with positive images of super muscular men and the attention of the googly-eyed women around them.  Commercials and advertisements of weight lifting supplements, testosterone boosters, and hyper masculinity infiltrate our psyche.  

There’s more.  As a society and a culture, we value physical appearance so much more than the inner body.  We are obsessed with beauty, youth, and bodily perfection.  Lately, in the gym, I have become disillusioned with this obsession with the superficial body.  I see people killing themselves- pushing their bodies past their limits, trying to outdo the next guy, praising the latest fad diet, flaunting their tiny shorts and big packages.  My spirt has been wanting to remove myself from this superficial atmosphere and the reluctance and internal battle that ensues goes to show how deeply engrained society’s values are within me.

Being trans has gifted me a greater opportunity to choose every day what kind of person I want to be. Turns out, I have complete control over what thoughts I choose to believe.

End judgement.  The “looks” of the outer body only serve to house the spirit, the soul and the invisible, miraculous workings of our bodily systems that give us life.  The fact that I (in part) reduce my self-worth to how manly (or not) I look, begs me to question everything about myself and the society in which I live; my heart wants to shun this superficial importance on beauty and youth.

There is so much suffering in the world and so many people who are immensely less fortunate than me.  I choose that my spiritual energy goes to helping others rather than worrying about a perfect body or living up to society’s ideals.  I challenge myself to let go of society’s pressures of beauty and my own subconscious demons to follow this pull towards more spiritual living.  By accepting my body as a unique work of art, I refuse to contribute to the epidemic of obsession with idealistic beauty.  With bold brush strokes, I decorate this human masterpiece on a canvas of androgyny that the universe so graciously gifted me.

Fear and Reward of Going on Testosterone

The decision to start hormone replacement therapy which entails weekly intramuscular testosterone injections into the thigh, was the hardest decision I’ve ever made.  

In the beginning, especially without new language to describe gender, it was hard to explain what being trans felt like. Paralyzed by the conundrum – if I couldn’t even understand how I was feeling, how could I possibly articulate my identity to others, let alone articulate it well enough to gain their full understanding? 

It felt like I acquired the wrong hormone at puberty and had been operating on the wrong hormone ever since.  Picture this: if your body were a bicycle with a set of gears, having the wrong hormone is like trudging up a hill in the wrong gear- the bike moves forward, the wheels spin, but without the gears being perfectly aligned, the ride is bumpy, jagged, slightly askew.  You move through life yet something is just always “off”. 

A foggy resentment towards estrogen pestered my subconscious in the beginning as an elusive feeling that was hard to put my finger on.  Everything estrogen did to my mind and body, I hated- breasts, womanly hips and fat in the wrong places, periods, emotions and hard-to-control crying.  I watched trans guys who had started testosterone develop deeper voices, grow facial hair, undergo body fat redistribution to a more “male pattern”, and gain muscle.  Those changes, I craved.

It’s impressive how capable the mind is at concocting a million reasons not to do something.  I worried about regretting my decision.  What if I regretted the changes to my body from testosterone but there was no turning back?  Even though many of testosterone’s effects are in fact, reversible, the risk of having to admit I was wrong about my gender identity(and the skeptics were right), seemed scary enough to not even try in the first place.

Always an intuitive and compassionate person, possessing an emotional depth through which I perceived this world, I feared testosterone could steal that gift from me, reducing my ability to feel

Testosterone has in no way reduced my ability to feel emotion.  I still save wounded birds and feed stray cats.  I smile at homeless people on the corner just to make them feel human.  I cry when nobody is looking.  Testosterone only makes it easier to not cry.

The suffering of the world continues to affect me on the deepest emotional level and in fact, the challenges I’ve faced being transgender, have created an even deeper sense of empathy. 

On a similar note, I feared testosterone would turn me into a totally different person, either I’d look into the mirror and not recognize myself or my personality would undergo a metamorphosis.  Would I become an aggressive, macho-mutant, who was unable to feel?  I wanted my body to transform, but not beyond recognition.  I wanted to exist as a son instead of a daughter, a brother instead of a sister, a boyfriend instead of a girlfriend, a man instead of a woman; I did not want to lose the essence of my unique personality.  What a terrifying unknown it was to think of my mind and body mutating in awkward distortion instead of becoming more refined but every change has been immensely worth it.  A more authentic version of myself stares back at me in the mirror.

The decision to start testosterone was one interwoven with excitement, longing, fear, reservation, and uncertainty.  I’d like to impress on anyone contemplating hormone replacement therapy that, when facing a huge decision, a hint of uncertainty will probably always exist.  If you wait for the moment to feel 100% sure, that moment may never come.  Uncertainty in a decision does not make it a wrong decision and blindly taking a leap into the unknown can bring the greatest reward.

In the end, I knew if I did not try testosterone, the idea would plague me for the rest of my life.  That potential burden weighed greater on my heart than any list of fears my mind had invented.  I grew facial hair, gained muscle, developed a deeper voice, my facial shape changed, my Adam’s apple became more prominent and I am consistently gendered as male.  Able to show up in this world, confident that people see the real me means I metaphorically skip through life rather than tread water now.  My outside matches my inside.  Most importantly, my mind feels at peace. 

Testosterone makes me feel that my body and mind are running on the correct fuel.

Perhaps testosterone correctly re-wired my brain but I believe beyond all doubt that my genuine self is no longer hiding.

The Cost of Being Gendered as Male

Transitioning in the midst of a decade long photography project, presents an opportunity to see how differently people relate to me as a man vs. a woman.

Enjoying a day off, I decided to swing by the Weirdest little Church in Texas, check out their volunteer program and hopefully capture a few shots on camera.  A long-time hobby of mine, photography of the homeless continually helped put life into perspective.  Since transitioning and being gendered as male, the interactions between myself and others while behind the camera has felt different. 

Photography is about the interaction and connection it creates.  Yes, it is about capturing a single moment in time but it is more than just a moment; it is raw human emotion and vulnerability evoked by another human being, that through trust, they let me see.  Always able to form a quick, good rapport with strangers, I can honestly say that there were very few times people declined having their photo taken.  Inquisitive human minds seemed drawn to me and I was drawn to them in an unassuming, non-judgmental, curious way, as their eyes shared their existence in the underbelly of society- lessons from the less-fortunate always impressed upon me.

Homeless people were more than willing to chat and I was constantly amazed by their willingness to let me photograph them, but also, to get in so close.  Through their eyes, I felt their souls without them even knowing.  Trust allowed me to take such intimate photos but is it possible that for the past decade, the genuine welcome and trust existed only because I was perceived as female?

Since transitioning to male, people seemed to gravitate to me less and that instant spark was elusive.  They seemed more wary, less interested and less excited while I seemed less approachable, more suspicious, or more of a threat.  Something had indeed changed in the way people accepted me as a photographer.

While waiting at the church for someone to take me under their wing and show me around, I decided to wander and see if I could get any photos.  Casually meandering, I moved from table to table, observing, trying to pick up on the “feel” of the place, taking it all in through the senses.   I sat down at one of the tables, curious if anyone would be curious about me but I went completely unnoticed, almost invisible.  Subconsciously I chose to sit next to a woman, perhaps testing the stereotype that women are friendlier and more approachable.  She ate her food slowly, in a daze, without ever glancing up and I wondered what made her smile as a child, or if she did smile, ever.

Moving to another table, I started up conversation this time.  With shifty eye contact and fidgety fingers, the two men offered only monosyllables.   The few others that I said hi to seemed disinterested and shuffled on about their way.  Finally, I struck up conversation with a young guy with a dog. Easy ice breaker.  He opened up to me and seemed quite conflicted about his place in life.  Some people long to be seen; others long to be heard.  Through his red eyes, I could feel his struggle so I kept the conversation going then eventually asked if I could snap a quick photo of his dog. Hesitantly, he went back and forth on it, insecurely fumbling over his words for such a long time that enough space opened up for me to feel guilt that I’d asked in the first place, then finally, in what felt like a hard feat, he declared politely that he would rather not.

Zero photos were shot that day.  Not a single one.

Was it possible that all these years, the homeless were so accepting of me because I was female and not male?  Is it way less threatening to have a photo taken by a female outsider than a male outsider?  Afterall, this is a distrusting, potentially paranoid population, particularly the women, who no doubt experienced their share of sexual abuse, if not rape, on numerous occasions by men.  On the other hand, men appear infinitely more interested and curious when a woman is behind the camera.

Just as I began to feel dejected in my new role as a male photographer, Pastor Mark called me to shadow a volunteer.

“Be careful and if you run into any problems, just come find one of us.   If anyone gives you a hard time just walk away.  It can be a difficult population and many of these people have mental health issues,” Mark explained to me. 

I wasn’t deterred. I had photographed the homeless for a decade, used my intuition and instinct, well aware of the risks so I let his advice roll off my shoulders and assured him,

 “Oh yeah, I’ve taken photos of the homeless before.  People are usually pretty accepting of me being around and if they don’t want their photo taken then I totally respect that!”

“Well be careful here or you could get punched in the face.  Some of the people are in and out of jail and they can be dangerous.” He chuckled at my over-confidence.

Old news.  Thing is, never had anyone warned me in such a direct manner so I instantly envisioned myself bloody. A face with no teeth, I imagined.  Men are way less likely to hit a female.  It was uncomfortably clear to me that I was in more danger of assault than ever before.  Maybe these people would be more suspicious and less forgiving of me now, as a guy, than when confronted by an innocent girl.  The definition of safety was being re-written in my head.

Fear had never defined me.  How ironic to experience more fear in one week as male, than 36 years as female.   Perhaps the deficit of knowledge of the subtle nuances in the code of male socialization, caused me to feel ill-equipped in my new gender reality. 

While being seen as a man, fulfilled me, I realized this came at a price.  People don’t just see gender; for them, my male presence elicits a wide range of corresponding emotions, past experiences, and expectations of how I might treat them.  Always an incredibly intuitive person, able to absorb the energy around me, perceiving the space between words, sight and sound, and swimming in undercurrents, energy around me was forever changed. 

So heavy, I now feel the cumulative weight on my shoulders of everybody’s bad experiences with men.

I refuse to give up. 

I welcome the opportunity to understand this world from multiple perspectives.  Passionate about preserving a moment of raw human emotion through a hobby that relies on human interaction, ironically, I now see my new self, reflected back at me through others.  I am an incomplete project. 

See more photos here:


Will I Regret Testosterone?

I worried for years that taking testosterone or “transitioning” could be the wrong decision.  What if NOT taking testosterone is the wrong decision? 

What if I came out to everybody then changed my mind? What if this was a mistake but I had permanent changes? What if I looked in the mirror and hated the person looking back at me?

The fear of regret keeps me up at night. 

I’ve been waiting all these years to feel 100% sure.  I’m starting to realize that I may not be able to figure all this out; I can’t predict the future, only create it.   Taking a leap of faith and letting go of the attachment to good or bad [decisions] might be the only way forward. 

We are allowed to change our minds! In fact, we do this every day.  None of life is set in stone and permanent, not even life itself.  Our identities change and are fluid throughout life so why the overwhelming pressure to force a permanent decision in regards to transitioning?   Gender can be fluid.  Gender can shift.  We stay in relationships until they no longer work.  We stay at jobs until they no longer serve us.  Transitioning does not have to trap us! 

Every day I wake up and decide who I want to be.  I get to decide if I want to continue taking testosterone or stop.  Do I like the changes or do I not?  Am I happy with my decision or do I need to update my course?  Changes happen slowly; nobody goes to sleep one night and wakes up in the morning with a full beard!  In other words, I have time to process the changes on testosterone.

 The unknown is scary.  Maybe some things just need to be scary for a while – scary until they are no longer scary.

I started testosterone on December 19, 2017, a decision that ended up being the best decision I ever made.  I never second guessed myself after that.  Today I feel liberated.   

I knew that if I didn’t try it, I’d always wonder what it would have been like.  I didn’t want to die one day having missed the opportunity.  That would have been the only real mistake.

Invisible Miracles

What I learned from “top surgery”

Self portrait at 1 year and 3 months on testosterone. Text written 1-2019.

Preoccupied by the outside of my body, I was distracted by the superficial parts of the body, visible to the eye.  After going through surgery and instead, being so focused on what the “inside” of the body is capable of, I whole-heartedly believe that waking up each day to thank my body, should be a daily ritual.  Clearer than ever, I see how much we take for granted our inner workings.

Right before my surgery, people succumbed to illness yet my immune system kept me strong.   This body wards off hundreds of germs without any of my conscious awareness.  Our immune systems probably work harder than any man-made invention on the planet. 

Through anesthesia, my body was taken into a comma-like unconscious state, controlled by a perfectly effective cocktail of pharmaceuticals.  A machine breathed for me as I felt no pain and became incapable of making memories.  Without bleeding to death, a scalpel cut into my flesh.  I woke up and my body recovered.  Through invisible, complicated processes, my body healed itself.  After all I put it through – unrelenting pain, debilitating nausea, sleepless nights, and massive amounts of medication around the clock, my body did exactly what it was supposed to do in total forgiveness.

I realized what an amazing feat it is to breath automatically.  We move about our daily hassle and bustle and our hearts beat in perfect rhythm; our lungs breath in perfect volume.  That our eyes have the perfect relationship with our brains to perceive the things that make us smile, is a miracle.  Pleasure of the hot sun on our faces on a frigid morning, a warm shower after a long day, or lips meeting soft skin are gifts that wouldn’t be possible without the intelligence of our bodies.

Yet, this all goes unseen so we take it for granted.  It is easy to ignore that which can’t be seen despite the body’s amazing ability to tell us exactly what it needs and how it feels.  Constantly we push our systems past limits, deny sleep- just go one more place, our mind says. Just say yes to one more obligation or one more bite of that meal that slowly poisons our bodies.  We are so afraid to be alone, to be still.  We’d rather focus on the biggest muscles or the perfect breasts, beautifully painted faces, and forever retaining a youthful look while denying the aging process.

Sometimes our minds don’t deserve our bodies.

Invisible miracles are happening every day. 

My White Privilege

Understanding Systemic Racism

What a tragic week of murder and chaos this has been after months of coronavirus fear and quarantine.  It’s all been weighing on me – the sadness, not knowing what to do or how to feel but also, not attending the protests.  I made the decision early on to sit out the protests because the risk of getting sick with coronavirus seemed to great as thousands of people piled together amidst a pandemic.  For me, Coronavirus was my biggest threat.

 That right there is my white privilege.  I always knew it existed but never thought about it too much.  That is my white privilege.

 For many people, police brutality is a bigger threat to their lives than the virus itself.   Coronavirus has disproportionately affected black communities and systemic racism made them more vulnerable in the first place.

As a person who has always cared about all people despite the color of their skin, volunteered in organizations to help the under-privileged and especially as a transman, I felt allied in solidarity with other minority groups. 

The truth is, I walk through this world now with male privilege and white privilege.  I have transitioned into having the same privilege that any other white man is automatically afforded.   But, I would never dream of condoning racism so I am not part of the problem, right?  Wrong.  There is deep, systemic racism in this country that has lasted for decades and to identify myself as an all-inclusive, non-racist person is not enough. I must take action in many different ways!

Over the past week I’ve processed my thoughts and feelings and weighed the risks but for people of color, their lives are in danger every day.  The color of their skin is an automatic threat to their lives.  The fact that I even have a choice in any of this, is privilege. 

To not join the protests in order to secure my own safety is white privilege and perpetuating the inequality in this country.

Having a choice is a luxury.

Being able to decide when it’s convenient to stand up is a luxury.

Being given the benefit of the doubt and access to resources as normality, is a luxury.

Being able to weigh my risks and benefits, is a luxury.

A choice to remain silent is a luxury.

Knowing that no matter which choice I make or don’t make, I am still safe, is a luxury.

This is my white privilege.

Did I ever earn these things?  No, I came by them because of my white skin.

So how do I help?  Is there a wrong way and a right way to show my support of the black community?  Should I have said this?  Should I not have said that? I admit that I’ve been afraid of offending somebody by doing the “wrong thing”. 

I may not have the answers but it’s time to start getting them.

 I realize now that the first step is to accept that discomfort and also acknowledge and commit to further understanding my own white privilege.  I have asked others to step into their own discomfort in order to understand my identity as transgender.  It is now time for me to step into my discomfort to better understand the experience of people of color on a deeper level.

The second step for me is to become educated- to understand my part in bias, white privilege and my ability to influence the marginalizing of others because of that whiteness.  My goal is to become acutely conscious and mindful of the nuances of deeply engrained disparities within our society, beyond the obvious racism I’ve always condemned so that I can end my unconscious participation or perpetuation of them.

It is imperative to:

Learn when to listen and when to speak up.

Risk my automatic comforts of being white.

Engage in anti-bias work and pollical outreach.

Become conscious of subtle bias and discrimination that have been normalized.

Just START somewhere. LEARN.

Footage of the murder of George Floyd haunts me as my mind continues to replay it over and over.  I can’t imagine what it must be like to be dying for almost nine minutes at the hand of another human being.  I keep hearing his last words as he cried out for his mama, his face smashed into the ground as he was suffocated by the knee of another man. 

“Mama, mama,” he begged. 

It is not uncommon for the dying – soldiers in war, patients in hospice and hospitals, to cry out to their mothers in their last dying moments.  A desperate longing seems to exist of being saved by the unconditional love of a mother, embraced in her arms, knowing you are not alone as you exit this world.   Is this a universal need to come into this life through the mother and let her accompany you on your way out?  Is it the safety of a mother’s arms that we long for as our last memory?  Do we come full circle through this lifetime and end up pining for that existence as a swaddled baby bundled up against a beating heart?

Even as I write this, I wonder, are people of color ever really safe, even in a mother’s embrace or is this concept of safety a luxury of being white? 

Or, does mother’s embrace just give them a precious moment of reprieve from the fear of existing in a world that has never protected them or kept them safe anyways?

Mama.  Let this word represent a sacred miracle of life.  This should never be the last words of a man slowly being murdered because of the color of his skin.

My Journey to Becoming a Life Coach

Turning Differences into Superpowers

As children, everyone tells us, “Just follow your dreams!” or “You can be anything you want to be if you just put your mind to it!”

Early on in life we stop believing this.  It just becomes another childhood lie, like Santa Clause or the Easter  bunny and slowly dreams fade into the past and little voices sit on our shoulders and whisper into our ears that we can’t do this, or we can’t do that, that we are being unrealistic, ungrateful, or that we were just not cut out for that kind of life and we say:  “That just wasn’t in the cards for me”, or “That ship has sailed”. 

Dreams turn into self-limiting internal conversations and mental blocks.

Deep inside I knew I was not a girl but I did not believe my intuition; I did not trust my inner wisdom.  For years, I let society’s thoughts become my own and I let fear stop me.   But, there is that place deep inside ourselves where we know exactly what we want out of life.  The belief in making dreams come true never really left us; it just became buried. 

Similarly, I knew I didn’t want to work the typical office job.  The free spirit in me would never be happy with the usual 9-5, living under someone else’s rules.  With a creative mind, I wanted to write.  With a wanderlust spirit, I wanted to travel.  With a bleeding heart, I wanted to make a difference in this world and leave my mark. 

Perhaps I was afraid of change.

Eventually, I spoke my truth.  It wasn’t easy but it was worth it.  Every desire comes with a cost but what is the cost of never changing? After I came out as transgender, transitioned, and changed, I decided that if I could change my gender, I could change anything.

What do I truly want out of this life?  Who do I really want to be?

The mind is a funny thing – it exists to keep us in a safe place and from taking risks. Deep inside I knew I wanted to work for myself.  I wanted to be a Life Coach and to travel and write.  All those little voices said I couldn’t do it; they said I didn’t have the time, the knowledge, or commitment.  They told me I was afraid of hard things and that I would never stick with anything.  They told me I was childish and that I should work in an office just like everyone else and to feel entitled to have something greater was arrogant.

I realized that my heart and soul wanted to fulfill my dreams more than my mind’s desire to keep me safe.  I stopped believing the unconscious thoughts.  Instead, I became intentional.  I became a Life Coach.

Those voices are wrong.  The labels are wrong.  Every one of us can have the life we want but you must believe that first.  You must believe in yourself and remove those self -limiting beliefs and behaviors.  Negative thoughts must be replaced by positive ones.  It’s the Law of Attraction – what you focus on expands. Expand your dreams and become as big as them. 

Our thoughts are like magnets that attract what we think about so watch your thoughts.  Who you are and what life you live are a direct result of your thoughts. 

Of course, nothing in life is free and you might have to give something up, you might have to lose something – a comfort, a person, a job, security, but that desire you have, what is it worth?  What is it costing you to believe something to be impossible or unattainable?  Letting go of something is hard but gaining authenticity is priceless.  Risks might be taken but likely those things that you lost along the way to authenticity were only holding you back and no longer served your higher self anyways.

I am a Life Coach because I want to help people become who they dream of being.  It’s the most empowering feeling to have faith in yourself.  Having another human believe in you can be a catalyst for achieving what you thought was impossible.

I am offering free sample coaching/mentoring sessions as part of the graduation requirements for my Life Coaching certification program through October! These are 30-min phone sessions where we delve into an agenda of your choice to help you move forward. If you are interested in taking advantage of this resource or have any questions, please contact me!

“Those who make it happen will tell you it wasn’t easy. Those who think it should be easy won’t make it happen.”

Will Craig

Website: Out and Proud Life Coaching: https://chrisjcoach.com/

On the Spectrum of Gender

Becoming Me

“Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.”
― C.G. Jung

Do you think you might be transgender but you aren’t sure?  It is okay to be unsure. 

If there is one thing, I wish someone had told me while I was trying to figure out my gender identity, it’s this – Having a different narrative from most other transgender people does not invalidate your transgender experience or mean that you don’t exist somewhere on the transgender spectrum. 

My mom dressed me in hand-made dresses that she and my grandma had spent hours sewing.  I never tried to take them off, rather, I climbed trees and played in the mud in lace and pretty slippers.  Getting my hair braided was my favorite thing and I regularly attended slumber parties with the girls.  As a teenager, I remember wanting to get my period so bad because it meant that I was growing up; when I did, I was proud.  Unlike most kids I knew, my childhood held some of my most precious memories and I was truly a happy kid.  In fact, I can’t think of a single thing I’d go back and change.  I still turned out transgender. 

Much of figuring out who you are has to do with breaking down gender stereotypes. 

You don’t have to identify as a man in order to not be a woman.  Gender is on a spectrum and falling outside a binary is perfectly valid.  You don’t have to take hormones or you can take them for a while and then stop.  Every day is a new day in your gender journey and every day you get to wake up, reflect on your decisions, your identity, and your state of being and make a choice as to which path to take.  You wake up every day and determine who you are and who you want to be.  Nothing in life is written in stone, and the transgender journey whether a medical one or not, is as changeable as you want it to be.

Below are excerpts from my journals and you will see that my timeline was not a clear and concise one, nor was it linear. 


Oh my god, these [masculine] bodies! I had been trying to get my body to look like this through countless hours at the gym for so many years I could not count.  For as long as I could remember, I had longed for broad shoulders and narrow hips and a muscular shape.  I identified with so much of what I was seeing!  I was overcome by jealousy.  I wanted what they had.  But, how could I be transgender?  I’d never thought about wanting a beard.  I had been a happy kid.  I had played with Barbies and dolls and had even been obsessed with Laura Ingalls from Little House on the Prairie and had dressed up as her in hand-made pioneer costumes, complete with bonnets and long braids.  How could I possibly be a boy?

January 23, 2013

I don’t know if I necessarily want to be a “he” but “she” does not seem fitting either.  Every time I think of something to say in my head, it just sounds stupid to me.  I resent the fact that I have to just choose one gender or the other, like anything in life is that black and white? 


The thing is, all these years of researching this transgender thing has brought me to the conclusion that gender is a spectrum; there are all kinds of gender variant people and I fall somewhere on that spectrum.  Exactly where, I am not sure. Perhaps I’ll always be figuring it out; perhaps it’s fluid; perhaps I’ll be ever-changing, transforming and maybe that’s okay?  Maybe it will be liberating to not know exactly and therefore, not have to fit an exact definition?  Somewhere along the line, somebody just solidified these definitions – boy or girl and I was forced into a category.  Well I want out.  These definitions and rules have been socially constructed and seem arbitrary for me.  

August 25, 2016

I realize that I feel like I never really had the correct puberty.  I never had the excitement of hearing my voice drop and everyone’s comments acknowledging the change. I never got to shave for the first time and brag about getting facial hair as a rite of passage in becoming a man.  I never got a less-than-proud moment brushed off with the comment, “Boys will be boys”.  Girls don’t have a saying like that- a saying that is mindlessly ingrained in our culture, asserting that there is some way you can be, by nature, and it’s just okay.  I am stuck in time – a 34-year-old in a pre-pubescent body, a boy that has yet to grow, a boy that masquerades as a female.

September 6, 2016

I am so afraid to take testosterone but I crave it.  Would I be starting a process that would never really be finished?

September 19. 2017

Why would I want to be a person or live a life that nobody is excited of- someone or something that everyone tolerates at best?  They wouldn’t approve of me.  They wouldn’t understand the changes or be excited to see me change.  I could lose people.  My relationships could deteriorate.  I could have a hard time finding a job or fitting in.  Who would want to live like that?

November 15, 2017

When I put everybody else out of my mind, hormones seem completely reasonable – becoming the person I want to be.  It can’t hurt to try right?  What IS a mistake anyways?  What IS a regret?  Is it a venture away from the person you thought you were?  I am not convinced that following a journey to discover yourself could ever be a mistake.  I feel like I owe myself every opportunity to transform every day.  There are so many norms, judgement, fears, and mental blocks that keep people from exploring and discovering themselves.  People are hard-wired to walk this earth avoiding judgement and discomfort.  Every day I must face discomfort.  I feel it and I walk through it and I’ve never let it side-line me from my own life.  How can other people define who I am? 

I have to do this. 

I have to trust the person I know I am under everything.

“The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.”

-Friedrich Nietzsche

Coloring Outside the Lines

Beautiful butterfly emerging from my cocoon and you act blind. 

Precious sense of sight you waste; powerful gift of speech, decays.

I feel invisible.  Challenges and triumphs go unnoticed. 

I am not the butterfly; I am the elephant in the room. 

I miss being a child – all I had to do was exist and you oozed with pride.  

Unrecognizable stick figures and illegible letters and you beamed in amazement 

Santa Claus, Knights in Shinning Armor, fairy tales – that’s what I thought life was. 

Become an adult and the rug is pulled out from under me. 

I want crayons and glitter markers to draw myself back into that fairy tale.

Disappointed by the extent to which you protect your own comfort at the expense of asking me how I am doing.

Will you look back and wish you had been more courageous?

I wish we lived in a world where love meant that we would sacrifice our own comforts in order to stay deeply close to somebody.


Maybe my eyes must learn to see through yours,

To silent courage that still sees me with glitter markers.

Only, I’m coloring outside of the lines now.

Within the infinite space of your silence,

I discover,

There is no distance so great that you lose sight of me.

You know I am a reflection of you, right? 

Reflecting back at you is not embarrassment or discomfort, but the strength you instilled in me.

I couldn’t have accomplished this without that strength.

“What if you were born and the doctor assigned you the wrong gender?” – Jessica Soukup

Jessica Soukup is a Texas-based advocate and educator, working to bring equal rights and social justice for transgender and non-binary people to the forefront of our social consciousness. Jessica is a frequent keynote speaker and educator on women’s empowerment, transgender rights, and LGBTQIA allyship. In 2017, she published her first book He/She/They – Us: Essential information, vocabulary, and concepts to help you become a better ally to the transgender and gender diverse people in your life. Jessica currently serves as vice-chair on the board of the Transgender Education Network of Texas (TENT) and is a co-chair for Austin Pride.

I was inspired and moved by Jessica Soukup’s TED talk so I included it here. Every child just wants to be unconditionally accepted and Jessica has bravely articulated what so many transgender people want their parents and loved ones to understand. Understanding is the first step to unconditionally loving another human being in the way they want to be loved.

Suicide With a Cat’s Perspective

I see the woman in you and this is what I learned from her. Thank you, Beautiful Woman.

I stumbled upon the goodbye letter of another writer a week ago which made excruciatingly clear, an all too common reality for transgender people – suicide.  Pieces of the six-page letter are written below (her blog was open to the public but has since been taken down):

Goodbye (final blog entry and end of my painful journey)

If you are reading this, it means that hopefully I’ve been successful at taking my own life and thereby, ending a lifetime of pain and cowardice.  I plan on walking in front of a train here in Scotland.  It isn’t as if I’ve ever been particularly good at hiding my pain or expressing my desire to be gone from this world and my desire to be freed from this hideously ugly body that has been nothing but a curse for as long as I can remember.  I hope that you will understand that there are simply too many things to ‘fix’ to make my life bearable and for me to be somewhat comfortable in my own skin and most of these things aren’t even fixable at all.

Transition was the ‘last chance’ as far as saving my own life was concerned, but it was a complete and utter failure.  After 6 years of being on hormones and presenting completely female, I am still getting misgendered far too frequently, and as the years have gone by, the sheer hopelessness of it all has finally sunk in, after seeing my ugly, manly face in the mirror far too many times.  I’m far to ugly and far too tall to be a woman and I’m past the age where anything beyond expensive facial reconstructive surgery will ever be effective.   I would honestly rather be dead than seen as ‘a man in a dress’.  Transition has proven to be nothing more than switching one unbearable prison for another and has made me a target again in the process.  I don’t want to go back but I don’t want to go on existing like this, marginalized and living in fear.  This isn’t about ‘haters’ either- the only real hater is me, as I hate myself more than anybody else could.  This is the power of my dysphoria; the war between my inner self and outer body that can never be won sufficiently for me to blend in and at least be somewhat comfortable in my own skin.

I ordered Chinese takeaway earlier and ate it under a bus shelter.  This is fucking depressing, in itself.  Tomorrow is Valentine’s day and I just want it to be over already.  I think I want to go and just stare death in the face, as it can be comforting to know that with a bit more of a push, I could make it all stop.  At least I made a new cat friend but I miss all the other cats I’ve met and owned over the past few years.  I can’t stand people but I love cats.  I spent a few minutes stroking him as he rolled around on the floor.

Peace, love, and goodbye – I hope that the world will become a less hateful place someday so that no one needs to go through what I went through.

At the end of the letter was a photo of the Cat.

Every time I read the letter, I felt her suffering coursing through my veins and let it absorb into my being as my own – my heart’s tribute to hers – a gift of understanding.  Over and over I imagined her jumping in front of a train – heels then toes leaving the pavement, the split second of weightlessness in air and I wonder: Was that the most freedom she had ever felt?  Even then, I imagine the immense pain it would take in order for the mind to tell feet to leave the ground for the last time ever.  Being born into the wrong physical body is a monumental emotional and mental struggle that sometimes even transition cannot ameliorate but she tried against all odds and the only thing I see in trying is courage.

Burned in my mind is the Cat.  It wasn’t just a cat- it was the acceptance the Cat represented.

Somewhere on the other side of the world, that Cat still sits alone at the train station in Scotland.  For those few minutes that night, that Cat had somebody.  She had made that Cat’s world a better place.  She was not a burden; she was not ugly and whether or not she fit society’s ideal version of what a woman is supposed to look like, did not matter.

No matter how fleeting the moment, the Cat meant something to her and she meant something to the Cat; she loved and felt love.  She felt a connection worthy of consciously and intentionally taking out her camera, snapping a photo and taking time to upload the photo to her blog to share with others.  Within those six pages life fraught with pain, I saw a moment of peace.

Let this Cat be our teacher- absolute failure does not exist.  There is nothing inherently beautiful or ugly about this world.  We can decide how we want to see ourselves; we can decide whether or not we want to listen to the status quo and become exactly what people think of us. 

You are not a failure.

Just because you are transgender, does not make you broken- you do not need fixing.  There is nothing wrong with you.  You are a human in the wrong physical body, but with the strongest, most precious soul and I see you and you are beautiful.

You are not your thoughts and you are not other people’s thoughts.  They can tell you that you are crazy; they can tell you that you are wrong.  You can tell yourself that this is too hard or that you are not worthy of being the person you desire to be.  Or, you can practice watching these thoughts come in and go out and let yourself be worthy of life. 

Be impeccable with the words you speak about yourself and others because those words become the general consciousness of society; every time you define, judge, criticize and belittle yourself, you are contributing to the creation of the same world that hurts you so much.

Perhaps we can not only have more compassion for other people but for ourselves.  Today, tomorrow, and every day thereafter, that you wake up and decide to continue your existence, be gentle with yourself because you are brave.  Be the Cat.

This society has an obsession with gender and they’ve got it all wrong.  Hate is just a by-product of society’s obsession to force gender into a strict binary.  Your physical body serves to carry your soul.  Your soul has no gender.  Energy has no gender.  Your higher self has no gender.  Your existence is paving the way to less rigid, more accepting standards of gender and our culture just hasn’t caught up yet; you are ‘ahead of the times’ and people just need more time to grasp an understanding.  This world needs you to be different.  Otherwise, who is going to change the world?

Somebody out there needs you.  Be the person you needed when you had nobody-for someone else.  Love yourself unconditionally so that this world can be a less hateful place.

“Animals are like little Angels sent to earth to teach us how to love.”

– Whitney Mandel