The return to Greg: Q & A

These are the questions asked by those, whom I informed over the past months that I have been feeling male.

If you don’t see your question(s) answered here, please let me know what you are wondering.

 

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This easily is my favorite photo of me as Gina.  (January, 2016.)

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Did you change your mind about being transgender?

No.

For me to return to living as a male was not a conscious decision. I had finished transitioning. I was content. That I stopped having any sense of being female, and now felt completely male, came as a shock to me.

After fighting with it for a few months—struggling with how I was going to live as a guy with these large breasts, and having a drivers license and credit cards that name me as Gina Joy, not to mention my three transitioning surgeries—the sense of being a male persisted, so I finally accepted it.

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Did you keep your men’s clothes?

Yes. I kept them all.

I didn’t keep them with the thought of using them again; it was only me being the practical person that I am. I had put them away in tubs and stored them in the basement. There simply was no reason for me to do anything more with them, so there they stayed. For weeks, I’ve been in the process of doing that with my women’ clothes, and my attitude toward them will be the same.

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While I loathe hauling out old clothes and packing up my dresser and closet, this is the first time I ever was pleased to remove my women’s things.

I’ve had this chat with several trans women regarding their men’s clothes.  It’s been common that the desire to transition has been so strong that when they replaced their men’s clothes with women’s, they got rid of their men’s clothes.  It was important for them to do so—a landmark, long-desired event.  It’s one more example of how we all experience being transgender in our own way.

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Do you still consider yourself transgender?

Yes.

I still consider myself transgender for a number of reasons. First, I don’t know that I am done with this. While it is my fervent hope that I am done living on a seesaw, I have to be realistic that I could again have gender dysphoria, and again live as a woman. Second, because of the surgeries I’ve had, my body isn’t strictly male anymore. Third, I continue to identify with transgender folks in general, and especially with those I’ve gotten to know. I long to strive with them, to be there for them, to do whatever I can to be of service to them. Indeed, just last week I spent the better part of an afternoon with a new trans friend, who met me as Greg. My being able to speak to her of having gone through the entire process of transitioning was beneficial to her.

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Do you have any regrets, such as having surgery?

No.

Do I wish I had not found myself needing surgery? If this male sense of myself persists, yes, of course. I wish this male sense could have happened years ago, but we don’t get to live that way. We can only live what we experience, one day at a time.

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Okay, okay!  I admit that three days after my facial feminization surgery, as seen here, I wasn’t exactly all zippity-doo-woo-hoo about surgery!

Everything I did in transitioning, I did with great care. I did nothing impulsively. I proceeded methodically. Julie and I talked through each step. I prayed for the Lord to direct me. And, interestingly, every initial surgery date was postponed, which gave me the chance to rethink each one. Even going to court, I had to return to have my gender marker switched from male to female.

Nothing along the way, as I proceeded, and as I concluded, caused me any regrets, so how can I have regrets now? Wishes, yes; regrets, no.

Even more, all of 2018 I have had the keen sense that I would not be where I am now if I had not taken every step in transitioning. It seems to me that if I had put off any step—say, having my face done, or having sex reassignment/gender affirming surgery—I believe I would still be in the process, I would still be struggling with myself to get those things done, and that would have me unable to have reached the peace which I now enjoy.

That all might sound weird. You might even find it preposterous. Fair enough. Regardless, it is exactly what I believe to be true:

I had to make the entire journey to reach its end.

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If I hadn’t had surgery, you would never have had the wonderful opportunity to view my vocal cords!

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What if the sense returns, that you feel female?

If it does, I’ll deal with it.

I can’t live in fear of that happening. I suspect that I feel these days the way a person who has beat cancer feels. When I am strong, I feel like a world-beater. Thoughts of a relapse are the furthest thing from my mind.

But, honestly, the thought of the two-person struggle returning almost knocks the wind out of me. I fear that it could destroy me. I have gone through this so many times, as I wrote in The return to Greg (2), with each episode worse than the previous. Now that I’ve enjoyed being free of gender dysphoria for six months . . . well, to those who asked I have said that I might just tear my house down with my bare hands, so filled with anger I believe I would be were it to return.

I am living as though it will never return.

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Do you fear that you will set back progress made for transgender persons?

A bit, but, really, not because of me. Rather, my fear is based on those who do not listen, who have hard hearts, who are stuck in their prejudices, who will find anything they can to say, “See? I told you so!”

I take this tremendously seriously. I have learned so much about gender dysphoria, the challenges which go with transitioning, and living as a trans person. I have met dozens of trans women, trans men, and those who are gender queer and gender fluid. Their struggles have been my struggles. I can’t ditch these folks now. I desire to do all I can to help them.

When I was asked the question, here is what I heard: “Perhaps you should continue to live as Gina. If you can’t do so in everyday life, you should continue online as a trans woman.”

I can’t do that. First, I am a person who strives to be open and honest—two important marks of being a person of integrity. Second, these months that I have been transitioning back to living as a male, I have felt like a liar as I have lived as a male but have continued online as a female.

Honesty is the only way to go. Ever since I went public, in 2015, regarding my gender dysphoria, I have been totally open and always straightforward.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

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As Gina, I met some dandy folks, including Barb “The Impaler” Clayton, my electrologist.  As she and I hold the issue of Indianapolis Monthly, where my article appeared, it was my first time being paid to write for a publication.

Now that you feel the way you do, would you change anything you have written?

No.

Ever since I went public, I took care to write honestly, whether I was discussing gender dysphoria, transitioning, or Christianity.

Regarding gender dysphoria and being transgender, I believe in everything I wrote. Since I did not change anything in my understanding of God’s Word, I have nothing to retract in my writing about the Christian faith. Even in the essays, where I was very hard on my fellow Christians, I continue to find everything I wrote to be faithful to the Lord.

I’m good.  No regrets.  Next question?

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The return to Greg—the cause

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In June, Julie, our daughter, and two grandkids, went to Chicago.  I shot this pic in the reflection of The Bean, at Millennium Park. Julie and our grandson are to my right.

In 2013, soon after gender dysphoria had crushed me, Julie found a study about the drug, diethylstilbestrol (DES), which is an artificial estrogen, and its affects on males whose mothers took it while pregnant with them. Forty-seven percent of five hundred genetic males reported being somewhere on the transgender spectrum.

Finding ample evidence to believe my mom was given DES when pregnant with me, I became all but convinced that my gender dysphoria was the result of my endocrine system having been disrupted when I was in the womb.

As I trace my life since I began hormone replacement therapy (HRT) in September, 2013, I once again see evidence which is ample, that my troubles have been hormonal.

Before proceeding, if you’ve not read yesterday’s post, The return to Greg, it will be helpful to do so.

November, 2013

I came to call it The Peace, so profound was what I experienced on November 22.

I began HRT on September 26. My doctor said to begin looking at the eight week mark for signs that it was working. Working? I never expected this!

At the seven week mark, I experienced the first sign; my nipples got tender. November 22 was eight weeks to the day after I began HRT.

That Friday morning, I felt like a guy. I pondered my women’s clothes. I couldn’t understand why I ever wanted to wear them. I looked into the mirror and, for the first time in I-don’t-know-how-long, I liked the man’s image which was reflected there.

After my gender issues began in 1968, I had not experienced this. Since there was only one difference in my life—HRT—Julie and I were all but convinced that the initial altering of my testosterone and estrogen was behind this sensation.

Was it possible that my physiology works best when my testosterone is a bit lower and my estrogen a bit higher than they typically are in me?

Four weeks into The Peace, I returned to my doctor. He had never heard a trans person describe what I told him. We would try to maintain it, checking my blood and monitoring my HRT dosage.

(I would describe The Peace to two therapists and more doctors. None ever heard of it. I think it is fair to say that none found it a solution to my problem. In 2016, Robert contacted me, that he was Using HRT to remain male, giving me hope that doctors are finding HRT a possible answer for gender dysphoria in those who want to keep from transitioning.)

Exactly six weeks after it began, on New Year’s Day, 2014, The Peace left me. By February, I was off HRT. The internal struggle was worse than ever.

June, 2014

I had promised my church leaders that I would remain off HRT as long as I was a pastor. I was retiring on June 30, but by May the gender dysphoria was hurting me so badly that I broke my promise. My brain felt like it was on fire, so intense was the two-person struggle inside me.

By June, a month after resuming HRT, The Peace returned. It happened so quickly that I took it for my being only days from retiring. I thought that my soon to be leaving the stress of being a minister was relaxing my brain.

Not wanting my breasts to grow, which would be the most obvious mark of feminizing my hormones, I again stopped HRT.

So much for retiring being the calm for my mind. Two days after we moved to Indianapolis, which was a month after being off HRT, my brain was once again on fire, the two-person battle at an all-time high.

September, 2014

The month of July was hell. The first of August, I again resumed HRT. Before retiring, I got all of the refills for the two medications, so that I would have a just-in-case supply.

As three months earlier, in four weeks The Peace returned. How wonderful was it? I felt so strong, one hundred percent a male, that I could not imagine ever losing it. I foolishly told my children that I would no longer allow myself to entertain the possibility of transitioning.

Stupid move, Eilers.

I stopped taking the HRT after a month and, you guessed it, in October I crashed.

On a Saturday in early November, I told Julie that I thought my legs were going to fall out from under me, the stress causing me to be so weak.

A few days later, I went home to our family deer camp. Whenever I was alone, I cried. The fire in my brain was burning me down to the ground.

February, 2015

In December, I finally engaged a therapist in Indianapolis. Besides requiring her wise counsel, I would need her to endorse me to see a doctor for HRT.

I didn’t have much of my HRT supply left. I tried to guess when my therapist would endorse me. I restarted HRT in January, hoping I would have enough not to run out before I got new prescriptions.

I ran out a few weeks before my first doctor’s appointment, but I had taken enough HRT that I thought The Peace might return.

On January 1, I had begun the Real Life Test, the period one lives in his desired sex, to see if it works for him, if he can succeed at living as the opposite sex.  I was living twenty-four-hours-a-day as a female.

In late February, I was heading to see my therapist and I didn’t want to dress in women’s clothes. I had the strongest sense that my brain was shifting, that The Peace was arriving. I told her that I thought by the next day I would feel exclusively male. Sure enough, I did.

It didn’t settle in as firmly as the previous three times. I speculated that it was because I wasn’t on a full dose of HRT. For days, I would feel male, then female, with the two-person struggle mixed in.

I thought I was going to lose my mind. I stopped living as a female. On April 23, I broke the ice online with Therapy,  and on April 29, I went public, with Who am I?, exposing the reason I retired from the ministry being because I suffered from gender dysphoria. I foolishly hoped that going public, with the support I knew I would get, would strengthen me in my desire to remain male.

April of 2015 to April of 2017

I was back on hormone therapy the beginning of April, and finally remained on it. In June, I began seeing an endocrinologist. She would closely monitor my HRT dosage and blood levels.

The Peace did not return. I did, however, experience wild swings which my doctor figured to be hormonal. I could especially tell when my testosterone was not being suppressed. My internal battle would rage, and I would try to figure out how I could get out of transitioning.

The doctor upped, and upped again, the medicine to block my testosterone production. She also increased my estrogen. I switched from pills, to patches, and finally to injections, to get the best flow of estrogen into my system. She added progesterone to my HRT.

Eventually, my testosterone was suppressed dependably enough that I felt good most of the time. I continued to have spats of wanting to get out of transitioning, but they never persisted for long.

On April 11, 2017, I had sex reassignment/gender affirming surgery. A month before surgery, I had to cease HRT for blood clot concerns, and would not resume it until two weeks after surgery. I feared that by the four week mark being off HRT, I might have a meltdown right before surgery, and that the crash might even cause me to change my mind about having the surgery.

Ten days before surgery, I felt my hormones shift. Thankfully, no crash came. I went into surgery with confidence.

April, 2017

Just before resuming HRT post-surgery, another new experience visited me. I felt completely and utterly asexual. I had no sense of being female. Not an inkling of maleness. I looked at women, at men. I felt nothing. I envisioned feminine women’s clothes and handsome men’s clothes on me. I felt nothing. I wrote about it in the third section of One month post-op; the hellish parts.

Thankfully, it was easy to come up with a likely reason it happened. I had taken no estrogen for six weeks, and now my testosterone-producing factory had been surgically removed. Both my estrogen and testosterone levels were undoubtedly very low. For me to feel asexual made perfect sense, because my sex hormones had bottomed out.

As my hormones evened out, a most unexpected thing occurred. I began feeling like Greg again. I don’t mean that I began feeling male, but returning was the way I had always experienced myself in the world. This had dramatically changed over the previous two years as I evolved into living as a female.

For the first two years of transitioning, I gradually felt more female than male, as I wrote in Gina deepens as Greg lessens. During this time, as I pondered my life before 2015, it was as though I were looking at the life of a different person. Certain events, such as jogging and gardening, which felt masculine, slowly shifted so that they no longer brought back strong memories of being a guy.

Now, in the spring of 2017, I was swinging back. I was now the female that my brain insisted I should be, yet I regained my sense of the life I had built for sixty years. It was wonderful.

By the time I was finished with my third and final transitioning surgery in November, I was on top of the world. I had completed my transition. In the process, a fear I had did not come to pass: I did not become a different person.

I was elated to feel like my old self, while being my new self. I felt whole. Finally.

August, 2017

I saw my endocrinologist in August. I described to her what I was experiencing.  She suggested that I could reduce my estrogen intake, that I could experiment, perhaps beginning by reducing it to eighty percent of what I’d been taking, and even less if I felt good.

Then, she surprised me when she said that, actually, I no longer required it. I had surgically completed my transition. I had my breast growth. If I wanted to see how I felt, with my adrenal glands producing small amounts of testosterone and estrogen, I could give it a shot.

I immediately reduced my weekly injection of estrogen by twenty-five percent.

A week before my November surgery, I had to stop taking estrogen for fear of those pesky blood clots. When I resumed, post-surgery, I reduced my weekly estrogen intake a bit more. I now was injecting about sixty percent of what I had been at full dose.

January, 2018

Perhaps a week into the new year, I couldn’t believe what I was experiencing. I pondered the previous days, and I could see that it had been coming a bit, gradually but steadily, the way the sun rises each day.

In the second week of January, I felt exclusively male.

I would love to be able to write, as with the previous times this happened, that The Peace had returned. While, as the previous times, I now experienced myself as fully male, there was no Peace about it, because I had fully transitioned. For the depression into which this sent me, I refer you to Post-transition crash.

I wrote in the previous piece how this continued until late February, then I had a slip for a few days. When I resumed feeling male, I decided it was time to stop my estrogen injections. The last time I injected was the final Sunday in February.

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When my doctor suggested I inject, it did not please me.  I was surprised how easily I took to it.  But, of course, I sure don’t miss poking myself.

I struggled with myself during the month of March. I felt male, but I had transitioned. It seemed like I had ruined my life. Returning to a therapist was very helpful, and by the beginning of April I felt great. As I post this in July, I am elated to report that I have had zero struggles since March. I gradually resumed living as a male, completing the process in late May.

I gave this six months from its January onset; that’s why I waited until July to make it public.

Was my gender dysphoria hormonal?

That I began seeing the psychologist the end of March coincided with it being one month since I stopped injecting estrogen, which, from my experience, would be enough time for my blood estrogen level to have dropped.

Have I felt so good, so consistently, since April 1, because my estrogen and testosterone are at levels which are right for my physiology, and they are remaining consistent?

If it is true that my hormones were messed up when I was forming in the womb, and that my gender dysphoria arose from that, is it fair to think that my going on HRT would affect my sense of being? That I had the three specific, strong occasions of The Peace after I had started/resumed HRT, am I not properly connecting dots to all of this being hormonal?

That I experienced the asexuality after my sex reassignment/gender affirming surgery, when my hormone levels surely were very low, does it not again point to my endocrine system? And doesn’t it fit that it was only after I no longer was making large amounts of testosterone after the surgery that I began feeling like Greg again?

And, finally, as I dropped my estrogen intake, and then ceased it altogether, and now, finally, for the first time since I was an eleven-year-old boy, have enjoyed an extended period of sex and gender unity, can the reader agree with me as I find my hormone levels finally finding their happy spot?

We all know how strong hormones are.  We all know that testosterone and estrogen are especially impactful upon us.  Why not there being a direct connection to them and experiencing gender dysphoria?

There simply are too many connections for me to find anything else on which to pin The Ultimate Peace I am now enjoying.

This wasn’t a change of mind on my part. I had finished transitioning, and I was happy about being done. I felt great, and I was looking toward taking on 2018 as Gina. I didn’t sit up one day and say, “You know what? I’m going back to being Greg.” No such thought propelled me. That I began feeling exclusively male happened to me.

I’m glad it did, because, though I succeeded at transitioning, my desire always was to be a male.

Now that I am enjoying this, I really need it to continue. I don’t sit around thinking about it leaving me. I can’t. I don’t know how I would live through it one more time.

Lord, have mercy!  Christ, have mercy!  Lord, have mercy!  Amen.

The return to Greg

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The morning of the Fourth of July.

For the first time in fifty years, in 2018 I am a male who does not question his identity, has no gender dysphoria, and is content being a guy.

In 1968, my gender identity issue began. In January of this year, it went away. Fewer than two months after I finished transitioning from male to female, I ceased having any sense that I am woman.

As winter turned to spring, I gradually reintroduced living as a male. By late May, I was back to living full time as a male. On June 3, I got my hair cut to the very short style I had worn for decades.

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I knew it was time to get my hair cut when I was only happy seeing myself in the mirror with it pulled back into a ponytail, which made it look short.  I had been pondering this moment for months.  I was confident that I was finally ready.

What happened? I will use my next post to explain what I believe is behind this. After that, I will answer the six questions which I have been asked the past few months, as I have rolled this out to close allies. One of their questions has been, “Do you have any regrets, such as having surgery?”

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When, on April 23, I published Post-transition crash, everything I wrote was true, but I left out this one thing, that besides everything else with which I was dealing I was fighting myself because I was experiencing myself to be a male.

I was, at the same time, feeling wonderful and terrible. I was torn because I thought I had figured this out. I invested my entire self in transitioning, and transitioning took away the two things which had been driving me to despair, that I would either lose my mind or kill myself.

While transitioning was not always a smooth ride, it worked for me. It calmed the fire in my brain, the two-person struggle that raged within me. Not being able to turn off the internal agitation, from January of 2013 until I lived full time as a female in July of 2015, I felt as though I lived inside an inferno.

With each transitioning step, I grew into my new life as a female. Julie, our kids, and many friends adjusted with me. When I had my final surgery in November, I was positively ebullient; I had that wonderful on-top-of-the-world feeling a person has when completing a huge task.

I was pleased with my surgeries. I was happy with having completed my transition. I was looking forward to moving on to new challenges in 2018.

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Katherine was naturally curious about my dramatic hair change.  I told her my story.  She was very kind.  As she worked, we enjoyed a nice conversation.

When I looked into the mirror, I liked the woman I saw. When I got dressed, the clothes felt correct on me, and I found myself to be a respectable more-than-a-bit-past-middle-aged female. Going out into the world—shopping, dining, church, you name it—I was comfortable and confident, even though I still didn’t blend in as a genetic female.

The second half of last year, I was gradually feeling like my old self, a topic about which I wrote in 2017: The culmination (2). Well, by the second week of January this year I noticed that I was now feeling so much like my old self that my new self had disappeared.

I was supposed to be a transgender woman, and I felt like a cisgender man who now has a transgender body.

This drove me into a deep depression.

Every day, I found myself longing to live as a male. I found myself longing to be Julie’s husband, that is, I wanted the world to see me as her husband; I was neither her wife nor the generic “spouse.” The desire to be her husband, to be able to hold her hand and other public actions which had fallen away, burned intensely in me as I longed to figure out how I could achieve it.

But I had gone and surgically altered myself, and had legally changed my name, with Gina all over my drivers license and credit cards. How could I possibly resume living as a man? How could I hide my breasts? Was I destined to be a freak?

At times, I felt like the biggest idiot on earth.

I was angry—why did this happen now?  And I was happy—for decades, I wanted to feel like a guy with no desire to be a female, and those moments when I ceased fighting with myself I felt great.  And I was confused—what on earth was I to do?

I prayed, daily, that the Lord would comfort me. I prayed, daily, what I had continually prayed throughout my transition, that the Lord would show me what He wanted me to do. I prayed, daily, that He would help me adjust to being a man so that I could live in the world as a male with my surgically-altered body.

I waited a bit before I told Julie, to be sure this was not a fleeting thing. I informed her on January 30, after my cataract surgery. She was so shocked that she was virtually speechless. I told some close friends. They were shocked. Our kids? Shocked. My trans friends at the group Julie and I attend? Shocked.

Since I had been shocked at this new twist, why should they have been any less stunned?

In late February, it faltered. That old sense of being two people revisited, male and female competing for dominance. The female sense returned strongly enough that I shaved my legs for the first time since early January. I painted my nails, which I hadn’t touched in weeks, and was comfortable wearing a skirt and heels to church. Before this happened, I found myself unable to attend church two times, because I couldn’t bear to dress myself in women’s clothes and, since they only knew me at church as Gina, I wasn’t ready to go to church in men’s clothes.

The female sense only lasted a few days, then I returned to feeling exclusively male. The brief event, however, plunged me back into serious fighting with myself. I was miserable, depressed, and unable to see how I was going to live. As a male? As a female? Going back and forth—gender fluid— depending on what signals my brain was sending me?

Was my brain going to continue toying with me? Could I ever trust it?

In late March, Julie finally convinced me to see a therapist. I saw the psychologist about whom I wrote in “Post-transition Crash,” and he helped me a lot. I would see him six times, but after two sessions I was feeling strong again.

He suggested that I should allow for myself to be gender fluid, that perhaps I will always have periods where I feel male, and times of being female, and the overlapping two-person struggle. He found me being too hard on myself, that my sense of things was too black and white, and that if I would go with the flow I might not have these times of deep struggle.

I hated his suggestion.

I have no interest in being gender fluid.

He and I debated it in every session.

It is no fun for me to go back and forth. Thinking about my family and friends, and everywhere I go and everything I do—and trying to find a job!—I could not imagine, “Hey, I’m Gina, today,” and then, “I’m back to Greg these days.” Ugh. No thanks. And who would hire me?

As I said, after two sessions I was again feeling strong, despite the psychologist’s ideas. That was the first week of April. Since then, I have remained strong; I have had zero days of struggle, the longest period I have felt this way since 1968.

Since 1968.

Fifty years.

Wow. I can’t believe I just typed that.

I can’t believe any of this, since 2013, has happened to me, and that I can finally say this: I am a man who has no interest in being a woman.

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The cut now complete, I told Katherine that I noticed two things.  Both the gray hair and the balding reappeared, my long hair having done a pretty good job of hiding both.

I have been aching to scream to the world how wonderful I feel, but I’ve had to be patient. I needed to be sure this would last. I needed to be able to explain things well, because a lot of people are going to be confused—Detransitioning? Is that a thing? Was he ever really transgender?—and some might make fun of me, and others will be convinced that I was mentally ill all along . . . and still am. My fellow Christians, who rejected me, might have a field day with this news.

I especially need to protect all who are transgender, that I do not misrepresent them or what it means to be transgender. What I am writing is my experience and no one else’s. I simply cannot reveal what is going on with me to the harm of another transgender person.

With this in mind, remember these two truths. First, the transgender experience is highly individualized. That is, we all go through this our own way. Second, when you have met one transgender person, you have met one transgender person. Trans folks are not popped out of a mold.

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Of course, I had to save a locket of my hair!

I had wanted to go public to celebrate my birthday at the end of April. Julie and our daughter convinced me that was too soon. I then set my sights on early July, which is six months since the onset.

Besides ensuring this is going to stick, the past few months has given me time to sort this out.  In May, the answer dawned on me. I believe I located the reason my gender struggle went away.

I’ll address it, next time.

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Forward I go!  I departed Great Clips feeling great.  That was five weeks ago.  I’ve not had a single regret that I got my hair cut.  The fact is, I’ve loved it not getting in my face, in my mouth, in my way, in my food, in my . . .

The last straw

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This spring, Julie and I dined at a restaurant which had joined the as-yet-unknown-to-us movement to get rid of plastic straws.  A sign announced that they would not bring a straw with your drink, but they were available for the asking.

We found it a great idea. I wondered why, for those who prefer a straw, we couldn’t go back to paper ones.  (Remember those?  I had forgotten that for years we used paper straws.)

But do we need a straw, at all?  The next time we dined out, the young lady brought straws.  We mentioned the new movement, indicating that she could take those two straws back with her.

I always used a straw to keep the ice at bay. The couple of times we’ve dined out, since learning of the push to get rid of plastic straws and the bane they are, along with all the other single-use plastic which clogs our landfills and pollutes our water, I’ve sipped my restaurant water directly from the cup. Somehow, I’ve survived.

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We own these metal straws, Julie’s choice for using with her metal (not plastic!) water bottle.

Regarding plastic bags, some cities have enacted ordinances banning those. Debate amongst yourselves the merits of this ban as I tell you that when Julie and I married in 2001 she already was taking cloth bags to stores. I had not been doing that, and immediately—and easily!—made the switch.

The key, of course, is to remember to take them. A decade ago, we switched to the ChicoBag, as pictured here. Julie found these bags and our church school sold them as a fundraiser. We bought the leftover bags. When folks have admired them, we’ve given them a bag, hoping to get them hooked.

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Here’s why you want to invest in ChicoBag. They are super-durable. We’ve yet to cause a tear in one. We cram them full, weigh them down, and try to stress them out. They’ve handled everything.

They take up little room. We stuff five bags into one, and they still take up little room. And, to be sure we always have them with us, we stuff the stuffed bag into the pocket of the passenger-side front seat—the pocket that is attached to the back of the seat. It didn’t take long for it to become routine, when heading to a store, to reach over and pull those out, put them on the front seat, and remember to take them into the store.

Of course, on occasion, we wind up with plastic bags. We use them in many ways, as most folks do. At times, they go into the recycle bin. In Indianapolis, one has to pay for recycling. We gladly do, finding it an important thing to do.

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I empty the blue recycling basket several times a week, while the garbage can takes two weeks to fill.
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It only seems right that a two car family would also be a two bin family!  I like that the recycling bin is pretty close to my home state University of Michigan’s maize and blue.

We separate so much garbage that we only put out the regular trash bin every-other week. The recycle bin fills up much more quickly. Besides plastic, paper, cardboard, and glass going in there, our kitchen scraps—veggies and coffee grounds and eggshells—go into the bucket, below, then onto our compost heap. At least twice a year, I empty our compost bin. The compost goes into the garden, strengthening and refreshing the soil.

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The bucket is stored under our kitchen sink.  You might be wondering: doesn’t it stink?  Because it contains no meat, it rarely stinks.  I wash the bucket every few loads, to stave off a foul odor.
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The compost is tossed onto the heap, where it mingles with some of last autumn’s leaves.  When I empty the bin, at right, where the compost is doing what Beethoven did with music he didn’t like—decomposing—I refill it from the heap.  Last autumn, the heap was at the top of the fence.

If you are thinking that plastic straws don’t take up much room, I hope you will ponder their cumulative effect.  Then add bags.  And containers.  And the many and various one-use plastic things that go from store, to home, to landfill.

I never considered myself a super-environmentally-friendly person, but, perhaps, I am.  While I am not in the camp which thinks that global warming is destined to kill us off, neither am I with those who insist that it’s not a thing.  My attitude toward the world is biblical; we are to be good stewards of it.  Julie and I are purposeful in these matters.  I hope that you are, too.

We, the average consumer, have more power than we might think in the pursuit of a healthy world.  Now, if you will excuse me, I have potatoes to dig—potatoes which grew larger than last year, as, when planting, I filled each hole with fresh compost, which I made myself.

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I spaced my rows the usual 2 1/2 feet.  The potatoes grew so large that they fell over into the row.  Oh, baby, I can’t wait to dig me some spuds!

That happy little boy

Happy fiftieth anniversary?

1968 is as memorable a year for me as it is for the USA. It was then that my gender identity issues began.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Looking through pictures on my computer last week, I saw the class photo, below, from when I was in fourth grade. Since school pictures were taken in the autumn, that means I was nine years old at the time.

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Each of the friends, whom I name, below, is in this picture. Are you able to find me? Give it a try, before you scroll down the page to where I post a close-up.

We lived in Hart, Michigan, having moved there in 1964 from Montague. We would live in Hart just shy of four years, returning to Montague in 1968. This class picture was taken at almost exactly the halfway point of our forty-six months in Hart.

I had just begun second grade when we moved to Hart. I have only a couple of vague memories of Montague before that. My memories of Hart are many and magnificent, resounding in resplendence. I consider them my first memories of life.

So wonderful was 1964-68 that by the time I got into high school I fondly remembered our Hart years as one long vacation. As with the best vacations, there was nothing about those years that I didn’t love. (Well, I was scared witless of the basement of our house. It was a Michigan cellar—dark and musty and cobwebby, with a low ceiling, and because it could only be entered from the backyard I was convinced that escaped criminals were regularly using it as a hideout.)

As with a grand vacation, my memories of the setting, the people I got to know, and the events which filled those Hart years all were the stuff which stuff cherished photo albums.

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Our house in Hart. From the front, it wasn’t much, but . . .
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. . . from the rear, one sees that we were on Hart Lake, and we loved that! (Thanks, Rhonda, for the pics!)

Our neighborhood was loaded with kids. We were always playing baseball or football, going fishing in Hart Lake, amusing ourselves with kick the can or hide and seek, going to a movie or riding bikes, sliding down our neighbor’s driveway or skating at the community rink.

I had wonderful pals: Doug and Rhonda, Glenn and Bob, and many more. The typing of these names floods my mind with pictures of some of the places I enjoyed their friendship.

These were the days when school was still a breeze for me. Ours was a home where our parents gave us plenty of love and affection, provided us with rules and discipline so that we knew the score, with a healthy balance of everything. I knew my place in our family, among my friends, in school, and in town.

Safe. Content. Joy-filled. Happy. Loved. The list could go on with all of their synonyms and not a one of their antonyms.

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No, I didn’t have a lip thing going on. It’s something on the photograph. And dig the bow tie. Man, was I a cool cat.

If any of my guy pals had told me that he secretly thought he was a girl, I would not have known what to do with that information, just as I did not yet have any clue about same-sex attraction. While I was still young enough to find gross anyone kissing in a romantic manner, I certainly knew that I liked girls in a way different from how I felt about boys.

And I knew that I was a boy. Of course, I was a boy. Girls don’t stand on the hill behind their house and have contests as to who can arc his pee just so, with the most force, to go the farthest down the hill.

Just before we departed for Montague, there was one thing that happened during those Hart years which did trouble me. Indeed, my memory is so vivid that I recall where I was when I found myself pondering the event, trying to grasp how it could have happened, remaining terribly troubled by it.

It occurred fifty years ago this June. Bobby Kennedy was shot and killed. I couldn’t get over it. For days. Then weeks. And months. (Perhaps because it was the first trauma I ever experienced, I never got over it. I recently watched the Netflix documentary, “Bobby Kennedy for President,” and when they got to the shooting, I cried hard.)

I was six-and-a-half when John Kennedy was killed, a bit too young to feel the impact. I have only one memory from that, when the caisson carried Kennedy’s casket.

Martin Luther King, Junior, had been killed only weeks before Bobby Kennedy, but I don’t recall that having bothered me. Vietnam, turmoil in our country, the political strife of the summer of 1968—none of that landed on me.

But, when Bobby Kennedy was killed, my little brain grew up to adult things, and my little heart felt the loss, and my little life took the first step toward maturity.

Two months later, we left Hart. It was Labor Day weekend. I cried.

As we proceeded out of town, we drove by the Oceana County Fairgrounds, where the fair was underway. I had enjoyed the fair a lot. That’s when I began to cry, as we drove past. I felt the loss. All of the losses flooded my heart; the entire town and the vacation-life it gave me.

As I began to cry, I recalled how I hadn’t cried when we moved to Hart. Seven-year-old Greg didn’t sense a loss when we left Montague—at least not enough for it to tug at the emotions. Now, eleven-year-old Greg was sad to leave, and wondering if he would pick up in Montague where he left off, with the same friends.

While I would take up with none of the same friends—they had formed new bonds—resuming life in Montague was easy. New friends came quickly. I loved being back in our old house, in our old neighborhood, with the same families and the many kids which filled Wilcox and Sheridan Streets, and Mohawk Court.

Sixth grade began, and soon I took note of two girls in my class. I found them cute and pretty. I liked their clothes and hair and everything about them.

And I wanted to be either one of them.

And thus began the thought, which turned into the dream, which erupted into the nightmare.

“All I want in life is to be a girl.”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

It’s the fiftieth anniversary of the beginning of my questioning my gender.

Might it finally be a thing of the past?

Garden Spotlight: Pest Control

You can do everything right—keeping your garden weeded, watered, and fertilized—and end up with little or no crop, because of plant pests and disease.

For years, I used sevin dust.  I’ve long since ceased.  While it worked well, the stuff is dangerous.  Julie and I began searching for a safe alternative.  Folks swear by this one or that—soapy water, for example—but I was never happy with the results of everything I tried.  Last year, Julie found neem oil.  It worked great!

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Neem oil is natural.  It comes from the fruits and seeds of the neem tree, which originated in India and has now been introduced to other areas.

The stuff is easy to use.  I mix it in my watering bottle, then drench my plants in the same manner in which I fertilize.  While the directions calls for also wetting the undersides of leaves, my watering-can method makes that extremely difficult.  Thankfully, I have found that the oil works well, without the undersides being covered.

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As you can imagine, if it rains, or you water your garden, the oil will be washed off.  I watered on Sunday, we had no rain in the forecast, and used the neem oil on Monday.

I only use it on certain plants, the ones which I can see have begun to be pestered.  Some things never get bothered by pests, and rarely by disease.  On my summer squash and vine crops—such as watermelon, cantaloupe, and winter squash—I have rarely had pests or disease.  Some years, green beans are not bothered, and some years worms infest them.  I simply keep an eye on the telltale signs, whether the leaves look eaten or unhealthy.

This time of year, the Cole crops—broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, kohlrabi—are the object of worms’ appetites, as are some greens—our kale and collard greens—while other greens are left alone—our spinach and Swiss chard are worm-free.  A bit later, as the tomatoes begin to bear fruit, worms will be attracted to them.

Neem oil is safe, not too expensive, and easy to use.  You should be able to find it at larger store that has a garden center.

Because my bottle is my trusty sidekick, I’ve name it Leonard.

Leonard Neem Oil.

Garden Spotlight: Tomato Cages

It is Wednesday, June 13.  My tomatoes have reached that stage where they need to be caged, lest they heed the call of the broccoli and make plans to go in search of greener pastures.  (Note to self: silence the broccoli.)

The first decade that I was a gardener, everything I tried in my effort to keep my tomatoes upright, failed—driving a stake and tying the plant to it; then triangle-shaped, taller and stronger metal stakes for the same purpose; and, of course, those three-feet tall round cages, which the tomatoes outgrow by the end of July.

No matter how hard I worked at it, my plants fell all over the place.  Branches wound up on the ground.  I could barely find spots to step among them.  I tried to prop them up.  I put grass clippings under them.  I lost lots of tomatoes, which rotted when on the soil.  Thankfully, in stepped my friend, Rick Hughes, with a suggestion, which I have now used for thirty years.

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When I planted, I used the cages to mark the spots for each plant, so that the cages would butt up against each other.

Rick told me to buy garden fence, four feet tall, with 4″ x 2″ wire sections, enough feet that, when I cut into eight foot lengths, I would have enough cages for all of my plants.  Next, roll the eight foot lengths into circles—this gives them a 2.5′ diameter—and secure them, top and bottom, with zip ties.  Then, at various spots around each cage, high and low, cut out some of the wires to make 4″ x 4″ holes, which will be large enough through which to get my hand and retrieve the fruit.

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My current cages have many 4″ x 4″ holes, but lately I have expanded some of them to 6″ x 8″, as in the photo, above.  With the smaller holes, I tend to catch the edges and scratch my arms.  The larger holes take care of that problem . . . mostly.  (Shush, broccoli!)  I haven’t cut the larger holes too close together, lest I weaken the cages.

When the plants get large—if you take good care of them with water and fertilizer, they should grow over the top of the cages; most years, I have plants that reach as high as my eyes, and I am 6’1″—a windy day can result in them falling over.  I keep that from being a problem, two ways.

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First, I secure the cages to each other, as in the photo, above.  Second, I drive a stake next to them, as the next photo shows, and attach it.  If, when the plants grow large, I find that one stake doesn’t do the job, I’ll add another, on the end.

(Confession time: It’s only the past few years that I got wise and planted so that the cages touched each other.  Before that, late in the season I drove stakes next to each cage, as needed.  Experience has been a great teacher!)

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Here is where I would insert a photo of my large tomato plants, from a previous year.  Alas, a search of my computer, my Facebook photos, and those I’ve posted to my blog have left me empty-handed.

Perhaps, that will ensure your checking in as the summer rolls on.  (See, broccoli, I ain’t so dumm.)