Book excerpt: family rejection

“A Roller Through a Hurricane” is far more than my memoir. I use my experience to explore how transgender persons are affected—the internal struggles and the external challenges.

The following section from “Family Rejection” hits home to every trans person. These are the portions of the book where I long to show the reader how profoundly affected we are when we bare our souls and then face the fallout.

It doesn’t get any closer to home than family.

I wanted my old life back.

I bet you know the feeling, when something has happened and you want a time machine to get back to before everything went wrong. Before your spouse left you. Before you lost your job. Before the doctor’s pronouncement of cancer. Before a loved one’s death.

From my reading and getting to know trans folks, I believe one hundred percent of us experience rejections by family. Sometimes, it is stark: “You’re no longer my child.” Often, it is blunt: “I’ll never use your new name.” Regularly, they persist in using the pronouns of our birth sex, no matter how much we appeal to them to correct it. Many times, they set ground rules: “You can attend family functions as you, but not as this person you are pretending to be.” And, in that decree, they show their attitude regarding our transitioning. That they have not truly heard us. Have not grasped our struggle. Our pain. How badly we have been torn apart for so many years. How much we need to figure this out so we can finally experience peace. Wholeness of being.

We suffer the worst rejection from the ones we need the most. We are not respected in the place we most deeply long to be understood, to be valued, to be beloved.

Yes, there are allies. Perhaps one of the two parents will be understanding, even wonderfully so. A sibling or two will hear us and rally to our side. Grandparents often surprise us with their love, their ability to accept our revelation, when we fear their being two generations removed will make that impossible.

We are deeply grateful for the ones who accept us. We rely on them. We cling to their affection. They often go to bat for us. They try to pave inroads with other family members. They are the ones who might be heard when we are no longer given an opportunity to speak.

Sadly, though, we rarely achieve a full round of acceptance. Without the complete support of family, there remain gatherings to which we are quietly not invited, or blatantly unwelcome: “You will in no way go to the funeral.”

These are the stories I have heard firsthand from trans folks. These are the accounts I have read on social media and blogs and in books, and in emails I’ve received. These are the situations of my own experience. These are the matters which plumb the depths of our hearts and the pain we suffer, the aching for love, the longing to be understood. To be included.

When we come out, we often are not allowed in.

For the rest of the story, look for my book to be published soon. I will provide details here and on my Facebook page: “A Roller Coaster Through a Hurricane.”

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Read my book free!

I am aiming to publish an e-edition of my book, “A Roller Coaster Through a Hurricane,” this month, then follow with a printed version.

Amazon makes available offering ebooks for free, for a few days. The purpose is to encourage people to read it and post a review of it on the author’s Amazon page. The more reviews, the better chance a book has of being recognized.

To give me a boost, I would love to have you read and review my book . . .

  • If you know me well or if you don’t.
  • If you are a relative, old friend, or newer one.
  • If you have agreed or disagreed with my living as a transgender person, are a Christian or not, and so forth.

In other words, it doesn’t matter who you are, or who you are to me, if you are interested in reading and reviewing then I am interested in you.

A few things for you to know about the book:

  • It’s my life story, but I concentrate on the transgender aspect.
  • I describe my experience, but I use it to explain issues which affect all trans persons.
  • It’s the length of a typical novel.
  • I keep the chapters short, each one with a theme.
  • My proofreaders found it to move along quickly.

If you raise your hand to indicate your interest, I will ask you to agree with a few things:

  • You will read the book in a timely manner which in my view is a week, no more than two.
  • Then, you will write a review and post it on my Amazon page.
  • Your review can be anywhere from short, as in, “I didn’t want to put it down!” to a detailed look at key topics.
  • You may sign your review with your name, include your city and state or not, or simply give your initials, your Twitter handle, or whatever works for you.

If a lot of folks indicate their interest in this offer to free read and review, I will likely select from them a group which provides a variety of viewpoints. If you have the opportunity to read for free, I will inform you when it will be available.

Let me know of your interest by emailing me at porthopepizza@gmail.com, placing a comment on this post, via Facebook Messenger, or in a comment on the Facebook post which links to this.

Thank you!

2018: goodbye, Gina; hello, Greg

As 2018 opened, I was settling into my new, finally completed self. In 2017, I had every transition surgery so that my body would be aligned with my brain, and that they would confirm my legal name, Gina Joy.

As 2018 closes, I am printing the same forms I filled out three years ago, for the purpose of getting my name changed back to Gregory John.

I contemplate how this might proceed in court. When I did it the first time, I had lots of info from other trans folks on how the process goes. Going to court on May 2 2015 I was properly equipped, including having a letter from my doctor verifying my transition.

I won’t have a doctor’s letter this time—at least, I don’t think I will. If the judge hesitates at approving my petition, it seems to me enough that I can say, “Look at me, your honor. Do you see a man or a woman? This is how I live. Do you need a doctor to tell you what your eyes confirm?”

While I am anxious to get my credit cards back to reading as Greg, there is one positive about having a drivers license for Gina, a female: I am one very careful driver, not wanting to get pulled over by the police. “Well, you see, officer, here’s the deal . . .”

Hopefully, by springtime I’ll have my court-approved name change. Then, I can do what I did three years ago—or rather undo all of it—and once again be Greg everywhere my name appears.

I’m still a numbskull

When I had facial feminization surgery in November 2017, I was told that the worst numbness would ease in a few weeks, and the rest would resolve in six to twelve months.

The numbness was bad. It was everywhere, from the top of my head, down my forehead to my eyebrows, along the sides of my face, around my lips, and across my neck.

Though I have seventy percent of my facial hair removed via electrolysis, I still need to shave every few days. My numb face made shaving a miserably uncomfortable chore. In three weeks, enough sensation returned to make shaving easier, but I am not back to full feeling. My neck still is perhaps ten percent numb, while the sides of my face are probably twenty percent numb.

Thankfully, numbness is not the equivalent of pain. Feeling across the top of my skull has barely returned. It’s perhaps fifty percent better than right after surgery. My forehead is barely better than that. It feels tight, which I especially feel when I raise my eyebrows.

Tightness is the bugaboo with my lips. They are the only area that truly annoys me. Most of the time, I can feel the outline of my lips, which were stitched all the way around. It doesn’t hurt. It’s just there, an almost constant sensation of tight, taut tension.

Because I have passed the one year mark since surgery, I fear that I’m done healing, that I will be living with this numbness and tightness for the rest of my days. Rats. Thankfully, it’s not painful. Thankfully, it’s mostly an annoyance—as are my too-large breasts, which gotta go.

Friends gained . . .

We have lived in Merrymoss, the house we bought in 2015, for 3½ years. In 2018, I met more neighbors than any previous year. And it was way easier to do so.

I hesitated to meet neighbors as Gina. I encounter folks when jogging, walking by their house, or when I’m working in my front yard garden. Dressed for running and yard work, I looked like a guy. I never came up with a smooth way to introduce myself as Gina.

Oh, I did it. I said something like, “Hi, I’m Gina. I know, I don’t look like a Gina. Here’s the thing: I’m transgender . . .” The conversation always felt clunky. Uncomfortable. Way too much for a casual introduction.

But, this year? I gladly introduced myself! And it seemed that as yet unmet neighbors came out of the woodwork and into my path. I love being able to say, “Hi, my name’s Greg. I’m the guy with the front yard garden.”

One man, whom I already knew, truly became a friend in 2018. Mac lives across the street. He’s married to Alice. They are a bit older than me. Mac’s lived in this house for decades, but he and Alice married only two months before we moved into Merrymoss.

I can’t say that Mac is more comfortable with me as Greg—he and I always waved and had done plenty of brief chatting—but this year we found ourselves having longer conversations. On Labor Day, I knew I was truly in with him when he was with another man, who was getting into his car to leave. I was in the garden. Mac hollered for me. Arriving in Mac’s driveway, he said, “I want you to meet my brother.” We gabbed for ten minutes. Walking home, I beamed.

The most profound meeting of 2018 came late in the year. A man contacted me, who is battling gender dysphoria. He’s a young guy, married, children, and a Christian in my former church body, the LCMS. He is a good example of someone who, if he were to transition to female, would freak out a lot of people.

While he’s not a pastor, much of our lives match up. We have found in each other a natural kinship. We’ve talked several times, always long, emotion-filled conversations. He is hurting badly, aching to be female, striving to live as a male, having a difficult time seeing himself long term as a guy. Right where I was in 2013, when I was trying to figure out how I was going to survive.

I ache for him. I commiserate with him. More than anything, I make sure to end every phone call with the assurance that the Lord Jesus loves him with all His heart. Always.

. . . and lost

In 2015, when I announced online that I suffered gender dysphoria, even though I was striving to remain male some friends and fellow Christians unfriended me on Facebook, without saying a word. One of them was one of my oldest, closest friends. Man, that hurt.

That August, when I revealed that I was living as a female to see if it helped me, I lost even more. Only two people let me know they were unfriending me, because I was an offense to them.

In 2018, resuming living as a male, what should I have looked for in the friend/unfriend venue?

I am pleased to report that a nice number of folks have friended me, including some which I would not have expected when I was online as Gina.

I am sad to report that several transgender folks have unfriended me. And not one of them told me why. I’ve had to discover it when wondering why I had not seen them for awhile.

They just left.

Why?

Did I offend them by detransitioning?

A common theme among trans folks, as it long has been with gays and lesbians, is to be accepted. “Acceptance! Tolerance!” is the cry across the globe. At many a meeting of the local trans group, one hears a newcomer declare, “You people understand me. I love you because you are totally accepting.”

Accepting . . . except when they are not.

I learned long ago there is no group of people in which the persons of that group—be it a religion, a political persuasion, a nationality, you name it—are one hundred percent like-minded.

When I transitioned, I could not be the online friend of some because I was transgender. Having detransitioned, I can’t be the online friend with some because I am no longer transgender.

From trans persons, who long to be accepted—who harshly criticize those who do not accept them—I am especially hurt for their rejecting me. I am sad they felt they no longer could be connected to me.

I bet, if the roles were reversed, they would long to continue to be accepted.

Publish it!

I’ve been writing my life story for five years. In 2018, completing it has been my biggest project. I finished the first draft in September. Since then, it’s been edit, edit, edit.

As the year ends, Julie is busy reading it, providing me important improvements. Most don’t know that Julie holds her bachelor’s degree in journalism, wrote for newspapers for a number of years, and is an excellent writer. Her expert eye on my text is giving it real polish.

I asked my son, Alex, to create a cover. He took my ideas and wowed me. I presented it on Facebook, seeking feedback. Many folks provided excellent insights. Julie, Alex, and I discussed them and implemented a few of them. We’ve arrived at the final cover.

Here the cover. Below it is the original version. Look for the book to be published soon!

Hormones: one month update

Now, to inject some humor into the situation . . . 
It’s a good thing I can take a needling! 

One month ago, I resumed my once-a-week injections of estradiol, which is the proper name for what we commonly lump with estrogen. I had ceased injections in February. As a result, my estrogen and testosterone both were very low and, as it turned out, too low.

In May, I began to experience hot flashes, which grew to an every day occurrence, as often as half-a-dozen times a day and at predictable times. Then, by late summer my leg muscles were adversely affected, and they continually worsened.

I was tremendously concerned that resuming the taking of estradiol would upset the balance I had achieved, in which my gender dysphoria disappeared. But, while I could have put up with the hot flashes for however long they would have continued, I could not live with my leg muscles as they were. I struggled with my running, my muscles were so sore and my joints stiff. I could barely run five miles, and my pace slowed to what I used to be able to do when walking fast.  When I got up in the morning, I could barely move at first.

I resumed the estradiol a month ago, on November 10. As of this past Sunday, I’ve now injected five times. This month brought significant indications that my estrogen has increased.

After two weeks, I noticed the hot flashes to be almost completely gone. It was a huge surprise that this happened so quickly. I found myself saying, “Hey, you’ve not had a hot flash, today. And did you have any, yesterday? Woo hoo!” The few times I have felt one come on, it has been minor, perhaps ten percent of what they were. Whew!

In the third week, two signs came which I expected. My breasts grew tender and my sex drive increased. I expected them because I’ve restarted hormone therapy so many times, and those two areas are always affected, yet they arrived surprisingly soon. It’s as if my body now expects this, so it reacts quickly, with a hearty here we go, again!

With the developments of the second and third weeks, I was hopeful that my doctor’s suggestion might prove on the mark, that I could see muscle improvement by the fourth week. Last Friday, we finally had blue skies, and the temperature rose above freezing. I went running for the first time in thirty-five days.

Having been off so long, I didn’t want to overdo it. I went 3.33 miles, of which I ran two. If I had not experienced the muscles troubles, I would have recognized nothing out of the ordinary. Every bit of out-of-shape feeling I had, and the soreness afterward, was typical and to be expected. Whew!

I ran again on Sunday. I felt great, so I increased it to 3.9 miles, of which I ran three. I felt good.  I’m writing this Monday morning.  I intend to run, this afternoon.

Now, to the biggest issue. How am I feeling about who I am, as in my gender identity? Has this increasing of my estrogen reintroduced feminine feelings?

I am elated to report that I continue to feel completely male. I have noted nothing, whatsoever, to warn me that gender dysphoria might be returning. Whew, whew, whew!

It’s early, and I have learned how turbulent this can be in me, so I am not pronouncing myself as being past any concern. Yet, I am pleased to report that soon after I restarted the injections I have possessed an insistence—almost a stubborn resolve—that gender dysphoria will not be returning, that it is a thing of the past for me.

I was hoping that this December would have me for the first time passing 1,000 miles of jogging and fast walking in one year. I had no surgeries on the schedule, as last year, and I just missed 1,000 miles in 2017. But, rats, the muscle thing rose up and bit me, and I will not make 1,000 this year.

I am using December to get myself back up to speed. I intend to hit the ground running in 2019.

Watch out, 1,000 miles. I will be gunning for you!

“My New V—– Won’t Make Me Happy”

This op-ed, the title of which I discreetly edited for my heading, published in The New York Times on November 24, quickly fueled a storm of conversation about trans persons, surgeries, insurance coverage, and oh so much more. You can read it here:

Andrea Long Chu begins with this: “Next Thursday, I will get a vagina. . . . Until the day I die, my body will regard the vagina as a wound; as a result, it will require regular, painful attention to maintain. This is what I want, but there is no guarantee it will make me happier. In fact, I don’t expect it to. That shouldn’t disqualify me from getting it.”

If Chu were looking to be provocative, to gain a name for herself, she nailed it. But if she wanted to be helpful—

  • helpful to other trans folks,
  • helpful to those who are weighing whether to have surgeries or begin HRT,
  • helpful to those who are pondering bringing loved ones into their tightly held secret that they suffer gender dysphoria,
  • even to be helpful to ultra-conservative trans-deniers that they might come to understand trans persons

—then I find her to have laid a big, fat egg.

And the egg isn’t only on her face. It’s all over transgender persons and the transgender conversation.

From what Chu wrote about her experience on hormones, I wouldn’t expect her to be overly optimistic that she will be happier after gender affirmation surgery. She wrote this: “I feel demonstrably worse since I started on hormones.” And this: “Like many of my trans friends, I’ve watched my dysphoria balloon since I began transition.” And this: “I was not suicidal before hormones. Now I often am.”

Truly, I am befuddled why Chu transitioned, or, when recognizing these dramatic negatives, she continued.

And who are her trans friends? I’ve not heard these things from the many trans women and trans men I’ve gotten to know.

And I went through gender affirmation surgery. My neo vagina healed nicely. If my body reckons it as a wound, it hasn’t informed me that it does. And, painful attention to maintain the neo vagina? Yeah, there is some pain. For awhile.  It wears off.

Sheesh, Andrea. Talk about painting something as negatively as one can.

All of this might arise from her mindset. Earlier in the piece, she wrote, “I like to say that being trans is the second-worst thing that ever happened to me. (The worst was being born a boy.)” [parentheses hers] I understand this thinking and have written about it. Since the mind is the quarterback of the body, it calls the shots, and if a person identifies as female, then the easy, even automatic, response is to wish the body conformed to the brain. But why not the other way around? Could not Chu just as easily, from another mindset, have written the following? “The worst was being born with a mismatch of brain and body. Oh, that I could always have felt that I am a boy to match my body!”

Before writing how she feels worse since starting hormones, Chu says it is wrong for a person to think that feeling better will accompany transitioning. But isn’t that the entire point of transitioning? Isn’t it improved health which is behind every aspect of the process, to get the mind and body and the way one lives into alignment so that one feels better?

When I undertook living full time as a female—and, if you are curious, what happened with me, this year, resuming living as a male, is unrelated to any of this conversation—my twins demons were addressed. My suicidal thoughts almost entirely resolved; only rarely did a short term one pop up. The fear I had, that I would lose my mind—which had grown so severe, so real, that I often thought it would happen any given day—was entirely extinguished.

If I could sit with Andrea Long Chu, I would softly and compassionately ask her why she continued with her transition, and why she is going through with having her genitals reformed. From her essay, for the world of me it seems that she is doing all of this to prove a point, which she makes toward the end of her essay, and on which I comment in my concluding paragraphs.

I’ve read one response from a trans person, who noted that Chu doesn’t speak for all trans folks. She sure doesn’t. To me, not only is Chu not on the same playing field with the transgender population, she’s not even observing from the bleachers.

Chu seems to have forgotten a vital point, especially when someone lives in a way which is controversial—in this case, transgender—and discusses a topic which is controversial—here, gender affirmation surgery and all of the other aspects of transitioning—and writes about it publicly, and all the more so in a world-wide-read publication such as The New York Times: Chu doesn’t speak for all of us, but many—especially the trans-deniers—will hear her as doing so.

I feel that she threw all of us under the struggle bus.

I am confident she submitted this with the desire to do good, to benefit others. I find that she completely and utterly failed.

Chu concludes her essay: “There are no good outcomes in transition. There are only people, begging to be taken seriously.”

Yes, Andrea, every trans persons longs to be taken seriously, and who are you to suggest that there are no good outcomes in transition? Do you not see that your former assertion negates your latter point?

If a thing will not have a good outcome, why do the thing? If a thing will not have a good outcome, isn’t that a thing from which we run, a thing we avoid, a thing to be set aside in search of a thing which will produce a good outcome?

We figure out Chu’s thesis along the way but, finally, nearing the conclusion, she states it: “Let me be clear: I believe that surgeries of all kinds can and do make an enormous difference in the lives of trans people. But I also believe that surgery’s only prerequisite should be a simple demonstration of want.”

There it is. “A simple demonstration of want.” I want it, therefore I get to have it.

No, Andrea Long Chu. Not a simple demonstration of want. Need? You betcha. Need, for the purpose of healing and improved health? You betcha.

Garden Spotlight: Soil Improvement

As I did four previous places where I had newly moved, when Julie and I bought Merrymoss in 2015 I began a garden.  From scratch.

When it comes to a garden, “from scratch” means tearing up part of the yard.  One never knows what he will get.  I’ve been greeted by quite the variety, from sandy soil to hard clay.  In Montague, I learned the hard way that, back in the day, people buried their trash.  I was regularly pulling cans and bottles from the garden.

At Merrymoss, I found decent dirt, but it was on the hard side.  It had not been touched, perhaps ever, but certainly not since the lawn was created in the mid ’50s when the house was built.  When a lawn, not only does the ground compact, it never gets fresh material added, which both improves the soil and adds air to it, making it lighter.

In the autumn of 1985, after my first year of my first new garden, I rototilled into the garden the maple leaves from our front yard trees.  It seemed impossible that the mess they were after the first pass of the tiller would result in their being completely mixed in and decomposed by the time I planted in the spring.

But, they did, and, wow, did they ever improve the soil.  So, I kept at it, and everywhere I’ve lived I’ve had trees which provide me with leaves.

At Merrymoss, we have a front yard oak tree.  Oak leaves do not decompose quickly, and their make-up isn’t as good for the soil as most other leaves.  So, I rake and bag those.  Our back yard has four large trees, as seen, below, from a photo from last summer: a beech, two maples, and a tulip tree.

The fallen leaves need to be moved.  A good method helps to make the work go smoothly, and it goes more quickly than I think it will when I undertake it each autumn.

I have found that using a tarp works more quickly than filling bags or a container.  As I rake and pile leaves, it is easy to rake a mess onto the tarp.

I gather the four corners and twist them into a handle.  It drags easily.

I head around the house and to the front yard.

The tarp dumps easily onto the ground.  I proceed to kick out the leaves, to fairly evenly cover the soil, two to four inches thick.

I didn’t count the number of tarps it took.  I think it was between 16 and 20. The next photo shows the covered garden before rototilling.  The second shot is after I ran the tiller over it one time.

It hardly appears that I got any leaves into the soil.  This close-up shows a nice mixture of dirt and leaves, which will help the process of decomposing.  If the weather permits, in a week or two I will rototill one more time before winter.

In the spring, many leaves will still be evident, but after one rototilling they will break down quickly.  The soil will look mostly like dirt.  By May, and one or two more tillings, no more leaves will be evident, but the ground will be lighter, more airy, and richer.

And, oh, how the worms will love it, and worms are very important to soil health!

I’ll provide photos in the spring.  Now, for the next four months to pass smoothly . . .

Happy . . . huh?

This Thanksgiving, I have specialized wishes to offer:

For everyone named Henry, I bid you a Happy Hanksgiving!

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Eating hot dogs for your feast? Happy Franksgiving!

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Looking over your finances and finding yourself in good shape? Happy Banksgiving!

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Spending the day with a bunch of practical jokers? Happy Pranksgiving!

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If you are the one who best pulls everyone’s leg: Happy Yanksgiving!

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Were you promoted yesterday and are relishing it today? Let me be the first to offer a hearty Happy Ranksgiving!

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Feeling a little frisky with your better half? Happy Spanksgiving!

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What’s that you say? You are not being forced off the edge of the boat and into the water? Happy Planksgiving!

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And when I finish off the homemade eggnog which I will soon stir up, I hope you wish me a Happy Dranksgiving!

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Finally, for our adult audience:

It’s the day after you got the long-awaited vasectomy?  Happy Blanksgiving!