Name change day, take two

On Tuesday, April 16, I return to court, aiming to legally return to Greg, to being recognized as a male, to the person identified on my birth certificate.

Since May 2, 2016, I have legally been Gina Joy Eilers. In August of that year, the judge made official that I was a female.

I thought I would legally be Gina for the rest of my life, or at least until I grew old and decided I wanted to die legally as Greg. As I’ve chronicled, the change in me that occurred in January 2018 was beyond my wildest imagination, and when my new sense of being male stayed and stuck I gradually resumed living as a male.

I’ve not had a whiff of gender dysphoria since early last year. Even going back on a low dose of estrogen in November, which I found I needed for the sake of my muscles and bone strength, hasn’t cause a disturbance in my feeling exclusively male.

Now, I find myself undoing everything I can to resume being a guy.

After changing my clothes and cutting my hair, addressing my name is the most practical thing for me to do. My driver’s license is for Gina. Thankfully, I’ve not had to show it in the past year, and I really don’t want to be in that spot: “You see, officer, it’s like this … “

The same goes for my credit cards. I mind the situations in which I use them. I will employ them when I can swipe or insert, but not when I have to hand them over. Only when Julie’s with me do I allow myself to be in a spot where the card needs to be handed to a cashier, and then she uses her card.

I’ll also have to get my identity changed with Social Security, on our mortgage, my pension, and more. Yippee.

This undoing of a name change is unique enough that I’ve been unable to find any help in assuring I’m doing it correctly. Because I needed a doctor’s letter the first time, I figured I should have one this time. Since I’m not seeing a medical doctor as I was then, I visited the psychologist I saw last spring. He wrote a letter affirming that I’ve successfully resumed living as a guy.

I hope I get the same judge. While I wouldn’t expect her to remember me, at least I could tell her that I was in her court three years ago, and if she has any concerns I can compare and contrast with when I was first in court.

I certainly don’t expect trouble, but this is such a wild card. I am anxious to get it accomplished.

The first time I went to court for my name change, as the group of us awaited the judge’s entrance I broke the uncomfortable silence, saying, “If I ever do this again, someone take me out to the woods and leave me.” It got a chuckle and fostered friendly chatter among us.

Well, I’m doing it again. I wonder if security will allow me into the courthouse toting a tent and a sleeping bag?

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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!

August 19, 2015 and 2016

One year ago, today—August 19, 2015—I made the leap and changed my public profile from Greg to Gina.

On the left: My profile picture from that day.

On the right: A picture from this week.

The sassy look on this week’s picture—that’s how Julie referred to it when I asked, “Which of these pics should I use in my new profile?”—is representative of how I feel inside.  After mountainous ups and downs the past year, I have finally been at peace for several months, happy to have my name and gender marker legally changed, accepted in a new Missouri Synod Lutheran church, seeing and enjoying important changes to my body, and finally allowing myself—this is key—allowing myself to enjoy being Gina and stop fighting myself.

Finally, I have both internal and external peace.  I enjoy family life, not losing what I so feared would crumble.  Most of my friends have been faithful, and I have made a host of new ones.  I accomplished things the past year which were beyond any hopes or dreams I could have conjured, and that opens my eyes to see that much more rests over the horizon.

I am healthy, happy, and whole.  What a year!  Alleluia!

One year as Gina

On July 2, 2015, I made my second stab at living full-time as a female (the first being on January 1 of last year), and on August 19 I went public, changing my profile and picture from Greg to Gina. Thus, mid-July works for me as a time to give a one year update.

And what a year it was! Here is a bullet point summary of some highlights.

  • July: I began the process of being with my kids in person.
  • August: I did my first interview, for a podcast on Radical Grace Radio: http://lutherandifference.blogspot.com/2015/08/427-dealing-with-gender-dysphoria.html
  • September: I used public women’s restrooms for the first time when Julie and I traveled to Iowa.
  • September: I began serving on transgender panel discussions at Indiana University, a total of fourteen through June of this year.
  • November: I spoke at Indianapolis’ “Transgender Day of Remembrance” rally.
  • February: I attended my first family funeral and many aunts and cousins happily greeted me and chatted with me.
  • February: I received my first therapist’s endorsement letter, affirming that I am succeeding at transitioning.
  • March: My article was published in Indianapolis Monthly magazine: http://www.indianapolismonthly.com/features/the-real-me/
  • March: I had my initial consultation with a surgeon, beginning the process toward having sex reassignment surgery, hopefully this autumn.
  • April: Julie and I returned to a Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) congregation (the church body in which I was a minister), not having worshiped in one since I transitioned because we knew of none in town that would have us. We are now taking this congregation’s new member class with the intention of joining in September.
  • May: My name was legally changed. I now have a drivers license and credit cards which reflect how I am living.
  • May: I was interviewed live on the BloomingOut radio show. Here is the podcast: http://wfhb.org/public-affairs/bloomingout_/bloomingout-gina-eilers-may-5-2016/
  • May: I received my second therapist’s endorsement letter, which I need so that I can be approved by insurance for my sex reassignment surgery.
  • July: I attended the annual reunion of my dad’s side of the family, my first since I moved away from Montague in 1992.

If there have been any obstacles, they have been in my head. Certainly, as the list shows, I have jumped many hurdles, but a hurdle need not be an obstacle; a challenge, indeed, but only a barrier if one allows it.

I credit much of my success to you—my family, my friends, and my Christian brothers and sisters. Many people have just plain knocked my knee-highs off with how nicely they’ve treated me. I could not have guessed nor hoped for the great numbers of folks from every sphere of my life who have been supportive or, at least, kind and patient and understanding.

I knew I would have detractors. I expected to be unfriended on Facebook by some and I was. Because I knew I would have some people contact me with very strong objections—I already had experienced this in the two years previous, as I had privately told dozens of family, friends, and church leaders—I had resolved to lash out at no one who lashed out at me. I am pleased to report that I have been 100% successful in responding to everyone with patience, and with thoughtful reactions and explanations.

Because I chose to transition in public for the purpose of educating, I opened myself to a wider audience of unfavorable judgments. Here is a sampling, each from last summer, and each from a person who is a Christian in my LCMS.
• From a former member: “The devil is dragging you along by the nose. Turn to Jesus!”
• From a relative of a former member: “Do you have to do this in public? Think about your former congregation!”
• From a pastor’s wife: “You are living a worldly life. Where has your faith gone?”
• From a LCMS layman, whom I do not know: “Repent of this public sin. Your actions are scandalous.”

I did not hear from the layman after I sent him a friendly message. I heard once more from the pastor’s wife, who did not change her stance. And, thankfully, both of the folks connected to my former congregation hung in there with me, listened and learned, and now are understanding.

Yes, there are those who simply walked away without contacting me, which hurts a lot. Each one I have in mind is a Christian, and most of them are fellow Lutherans. I continue to seek openings so that I might accomplish good and repair these relationships. I will stay patient.

Finally, I have many thoughts on how I now feel about myself, the dramatic changes which have occurred in the past year. I am currently composing a piece regarding them. Thinking of what that will include, I have in mind the saying, “You don’t know what you don’t know.” Wow, ain’t that the truth where it concerns the entire experience of transitioning from male to female.

In summary, the contentment which I finally experience informs me that I have done the right thing. The option to continue to fight as Greg—which was the only option I was ever given by my pastor peers—constantly left me in the position of either contemplating suicide or undergoing sedation which, I was convinced, would have to be so significant that I would have been left in a stupor. There is no exaggerating on these points. This conclusion was reached from fighting this battle with every bit of spiritual and secular strength and knowledge that was available.

So, here I am. A year under my belt. And moving forward.

Please, use my name

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It was a big change, going from minister to lay person. In retiring, everyone who knew me as their pastor wanted to keep calling me Pastor. It was done from love. It felt good. While I encouraged people to begin calling me by my first name, if they wanted to call me Pastor I was fine with that.

When, last August, I changed my name from Greg to Gina, many made the switch without incidence. Many did not. I understood the challenge involved with this. I was patient. Now, I was not only leaving the ministry, I was leaving behind my birth name.

Revealing that one has gender dysphoria is hard enough for some. Revealing that one is transitioning from male to female is a much greater leap. Changing names makes it all so real. The person who is transitioning needs to be as patient with his loved ones, friends, and peers as he or she wants from them.

I received several communications, for several months, in which the writer wrote, “Dear Greg,” and then made the case for the insistence on my birth name. In each case, the writer was a Christian, some of them were ministers, and they stressed that Greg is the name in which I was baptized, and then they urged me to take seriously the arguments they laid out.

I have not been addressed as Greg in so long that I cannot recall when it last was. Now, I am experiencing something else, and this one hurts me even more because there is no explanation accompanying it.

In the past two weeks, I received several messages and emails which were addressed to no one. There was no salutation. The people simply began with their first paragraph.

Often, in online communications, especially short ones and those following immediately on the heals of another, one does not include or continue to write a salutation. These communications are not those. These are longer, more formal messages and emails, some with folks whom I don’t know.  Definitely the type where “Dear Gina” would be appropriate.

I want you to know: As much as you struggle with my dramatic change, I feel like a non-person when you don’t use my name.

In some cases, I have been the one initiating the conversation. Each time, I used “Dear So-and-So,” and concluded with my standard closing, “Peace, Gina.” When the reply came, the person closed with his or her standard closing, say, “Regards, Mary,” but did not begin the note with a salutation.

Two times, I deliberately wrote replies with a salutation, where I often would cease with that, and included my standard closing to demonstrate the formality of the communication, to test the waters. Both times, the reply came with no salutation but with the person’s standard sign-off.

Many years ago, a teacher pointed out how a political opponent never used the name of his foe. The other guy was “my opponent” or “the senator from Indiana” or whatever worked in the context, but never the man’s name. To say his name, my teacher pointed out, would legitimize him, and the politician did not want to do that.

I feel illegitimate when people refuse to use my name.

Please know how terribly hard on me has been transitioning. I have written plenty on it. I have done that to educate, so that all might know that this is not undertaken lightly. It’s not a whim. It is the stuff of life’s greatest struggles.

I continue to have my struggles. They are easing, but they are not done. I take things to heart perhaps as deeply as anyone. I long to be accepted. I’ve always longed to be liked. My name is as important to me as your name is to you.

It’s a Golden Rule thing. Even when something is hard for us, even when we have our objections, our job is to treat others as we want them to treat us. I have made this the aim of my life, and have practiced it in the toughest spots, treating the other person with respect even when I did not respect the person because of his behavior.

You might not respect my transitioning. I understand that it is very hard for many. I will continue to educate.

In the mean time, I respectfully ask you to use my name. My name is Gina.

I do not despise my birth name. If I did not have this tremendously challenging situation, I would still be happy to be called Greg. It’s a good name. I am pleased to possess it.

But, for now, Gina is my name. In fact, it’s my legal name.

Please, use my name.

Finally, kindly take note that in my relationship with you I show you the three things to which I committed myself when I became a pastor: to be friendly, to show respect, and to demonstrate loving concern to all people, no matter what.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

To close on a lighter note and demonstrate that all is not “woe is me,” and even to show that my sense of humor is as dorky as ever, I present the meme that my friend, Jan, created for me soon after I posted this essay on Facebook. If you know Stewie, you know that compliance is the only course of action! 🙂

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G to G transitioning diary

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Key dates and events in my roller coaster years of going from Greg to Gina. From guy to gal. From G to G.

Pre 2013

Living as a female will never happen. My lifetime chant has been, “All I want in life is to be a woman.” It is an impossibility. I need to stop desiring this. I need to repent, pray more, try harder, be the husband and father and minister that I am.

2013

January: What is happening to me? I knew, over the past couple of years, that my gender identity problem had actually turned into this thing I never knew about before—gender dysphoria. I just plain hate myself. I can now look back over the years since I turned fifty and see how this has grown worse. I haven’t been able to look at myself in a mirror for, wow, how long? For years. I hate the man who looks back at me.

February: When I have a free evening, I need to be dressed as a female. I have never in my life had a need for this as deeply as I do now. I just chose the name, Gina, finally feeling like I have found a female name that fits me after a lifetime of trying. When I have to remove my female things, I break down, crying miserably and begging myself to let her remain.

March: Every dressing session ends with me bawling, lying on my bed and praying out loud, begging the Lord to help me. I can’t see a way out. For the first time in my life, I understand why people commit suicide. I am constantly saying, “You hate being a man. You can’t be a woman. Just kill yourself.”

March 8: I did not want to trouble Julie during income tax season because she works awfully long hours, but I finally have to come clean with how distressed I am. Her response to my finally admitting that I am desperate: “If you need to transition, we will figure it out.” Might I actually get to be a woman? I take turns being giddy and doubtful.

March 21: My first therapist appointment, a two hour drive both ways. I tell her that I need her to figure out whether I am transgender or just a crazy crossdresser. I schedule another appointment for a week from now. I will soon cancel it and never go back.

Mid April: I am a complete and utter emotional wreck. My life is constantly under stress. I cry all of the time, only gathering myself for work. Julie undertakes the finding of a therapist who might be up to snuff for what I need.

A week later: Julie found one. My first appointment proves that this therapist knows his stuff and is going to be a good fit. I tell him what I told the first therapist. Julie attends the session with me. She will attend as many sessions with me as possible, until tax season returns. The therapist is ninety miles away. We have lots of quiet time to talk.

Early June: In only my fourth session, I tell my therapist that I need to transition.

A few days later: I change my mind.

The next week: I change my mind.

The next week: I change my mind. I will live on this swivel for months.

Early June: Julie describes my life as riding a roller coaster through a hurricane.

June 24: I need to see if I can do this. I attend my therapist session as Gina. I feel comfortable going to and from the office dressed as a female.

June 30: Returning from my son’s out-of-state wedding, I tell Julie there is no way on earth I will ever be able to be around my family as a female. I am NOT transitioning. We flesh out new ideas about what I will do in retirement, which I just decided is what I’m going to have to do—I need to get out of the ministry so I can address my situation.

August 6: I inform the pastor who acts as circuit counselor for the churches in our area of my intention to retire in 2014. I do not tell him the full reason.

August 13: Wracked with guilt over withholding the entire story, I tell the pastor of my gender dysphoria and that I might need to transition. He has no knowledge of these matters but is very gracious. Over the next several months, I will tell many pastors, church leaders, my children, and some friends of my gender dysphoria and that I might be transitioning. Out of the dozens of people I will tell, precisely one will have any knowledge of these things.

September 1: I inform my congregation that I will be retiring in 2014, giving the cover story, which is true enough, that I need freedom from the grind of the ministry, especially because my kids all live so far away. The congregation is shocked and saddened. I’m sad, too. I don’t want to leave. I can’t figure out how I can stay.

September 19: I wish I would have kept track of the number of times I have changed my mind. One day, I am transitioning. A few days later, I am not. Round and round we go. I continue to have crushing meltdowns, about two a week. I need to do something concrete to try to get off this very-unmerry-go-round. I call one of the recommended doctors to get myself started on hormone replacement therapy (HRT). Perhaps, HRT will help me.

September 26: Everything is so far away. Julie and I see the doctor in metro Detroit. I pass the physical. I am given two prescriptions for HRT, one to lessen my testosterone and one to boost my estrogen.

September 27: I take HRT pills for the first time. I am very happy.

Early November: Julie and I go on the road, to tell each of the kids, in person, about my situation. No parent should ever have to tell their kids this lousy news. No children should ever have to hear this from their parent. The next two years are going to be very rough for all of us.

Late November: HRT often has a calming effect. At the eight week mark, I am so calm that I feel fine as a guy. Sadly, neither my therapist nor my doctor has ever heard of this. I can find nothing on the Internet to tell me why I no longer need to be a woman. I love the feeling, but I am totally confounded.

New Year’s Eve: I have felt wonderful for six weeks, happy to be a male for the first time in my life. I wonder if the HRT has balanced my hormones so that I finally feel right about myself, but I can find nothing to support this idea. Julie and I speak of my not retiring. We will give it another month before saying anything.

2014

New Year’s Day: Yes, it is the very next day after Julie and I have the happy discussion that maybe we won’t have to leave Port Hope. But, the moment I wake up, I know my peace is gone. I am in terrible distress. I am completely confused about everything. I fear becoming suicidal again. I will soon fear that I will literally go insane. Happy New Year . . . not.

Late January: If I don’t shape up, I am going to be shipped out of the ministry. I had to promise church officials that I will stop taking HRT and keep my mouth shut about my gender dysphoria—I long to tell my congregation what is going on with their pastor—so that I don’t create a storm. If I behave, I will be allowed to retire without trouble.

The next day: I have been so completely out of sorts, the worst ever, and getting worse since New Year’s Day, and yesterday pushed me to the brink. I am in such dire straits that I fear the day when I simply will refuse to leave my bed. I hate everything. I have no idea what I am going to do with myself.

The next day: I ask for and receive a month’s sick leave. I need to get a hold of myself.

Early March: I return to work. I announce that I am going to try everything I can so that I don’t have to retire, that I will give them the final word within a month.

End of March: I was a fool to think I could gather myself. I inform the congregation that I will have to retire. June 30 will be the day. Feeling they deserve to know more, especially after my taking a month off, I go so far as to tell them I suffer from dysphoria, which means I am completely out of sorts in my mind, my body, and my life. No one will guess that I am actually talking about gender dysphoria.

May 1: I can’t live with myself. I have HRT pills on hand. Despite my promise, I restart taking them. I fill all of my refills, just in case.

Four weeks later: I confuse my pending retirement with being on HRT for my feeling good about myself. I stop taking HRT.

June 29: My final Sunday. The congregation throws me the most wonderful retirement party. Julie gives the loveliest speech, getting a standing ovation.

July 3: We move to Indianapolis.

July 6: I crash.

Early August: I hate everything. I hate me. I hate living in Indy. I hate being retired. I miss Port Hope. I restart HRT.

Four weeks later: Same thing as in May, I should know that it is the HRT that has me feeling good but, dumb me, I use the good feeling to decide that I need to cease all thoughts of ever transitioning. I stop taking HRT.

Early September: I had already scheduled a first appointment with an electrologist, needed for having my facial hair permanently removed. I keep it, and the next week’s, then stop doing this for the next four months as I try to be a male.

October 6: Here we go again. After a nice stretch of peace, I crash.

Early November: After a month of fighting myself, I pull my female clothes out of their tubs in the basement. I feel like I’m going to fall to the floor in a puddle of nerves if I don’t put on some women’s things.

Mid-November: I go to our family deer camp back home in West Michigan. I spend a lot of time by myself in the trailer, crying.

Mid December: I start with a therapist in Indy.

Christmas Day: This going back and forth cannot continue. I decide that, on January 1, I need to try the Real Life Test, living full time as a female, to see if I can do it, to determine if it is the thing that works for me. Julie agrees: It’s time. I inform my kids and some other folks who have been in the know. No one is happy about it. I get it.

2015

January 2: As Gina, I go to Kroger all by myself, a first. Somehow, all goes well.

Mid-January: I have a bit of HRT pills left. I restart them in anticipation of my therapist soon giving me a doctor’s letter to restart officially.

Early February: Here we go again. Feeling good, I am fighting myself. I begin a period of going back and forth, Gina to Greg to Gina, sometimes flipping in the same day. My therapist says something about my struggles which finally sounds like it makes sense. Where the standard reaction of a transitioning person on HRT is, “Thank goodness I am transitioning,” when my hormones have enough HRT to be changed, the calm it brings actually gives me the power to fight harder to remain male. Earnest self-examination leads to me agree with this, that my intense desire to remain male is behind all of this, and I will see it in myself several more times over the next year.

Mid February: I have a consultation with a plastic surgeon for facial feminization surgery. Seeing the computer imaging of what I can look like pleases me very much.

Early March: I see a doctor to get new HRT prescriptions.

April 23: Returning from my therapist, I realize I’ve now been in therapy for two years and feel I’ve gotten nowhere. I just spent the hour in angry tears. I write about it and post it on Facebook.

April 29: I always knew that if I transitioned, I would not do so privately. I wanted no one to think I ran away to hide, that I was ashamed. Knowing how many people misunderstand transgender people, how many have prejudice against us, how many simply know nothing, I would make it my task to educate. I prayed for months about this and, last week, things came together to tell me it was time to go public. Today, I announce on the Internet that I suffer from gender dysphoria. I will post self-written essays, several days a week, to both my blog and Facebook.

May: We buy a house. I dub it Merrymoss, after Mary Moss who last lived in it.

June 3: We move in. I do all of the packing and loading and unloading in guy mode. Being in guy mode always makes me want to try harder to be a male. It never lasts more than several hours.

July 2: No more going back and forth. I am living as Gina 100% of the time, for good.

Mid July: I visit my son and his wife. This sets the table for his siblings. When I ask him how it is that we are having the same conversation as we’ve always had, with me dressed as a woman, he says, “You’re still the same. You are talking and acting and being your usual self. I don’t see that stuff. I see you, my dad.” Over the next months, all of my children will be able to accept my transitioning. Our relationships will be healed. I will never be any happier about anything else in my entire life.

August 19: After admitting online that I had been living full time as Gina for awhile, I change my profile from Greg to Gina, and post a female picture for the first time. The world didn’t come to an end.

Late October through early November: I print the forms for having my name changed. Family deer camp is coming up and I am no longer welcome at it. I talk with one of my brothers, who takes over a big function of mine at camp. The pressure of changing my name and the loss of the family vacation cause me to have a terrible breakdown that lasts for three days, a new record.

Mid December: The November breakdown has had me in a funk and finally I am coming out of it. I have a new resolve that I have to transition, that trying to stop, trying to go back to living as a male, is not going to happen. I will have losses, as with deer camp. I’ve had lots of losses in my life, just as everyone does. I will survive these losses.

2016

Late February: I apply for a legal name change. I have an article printed in Indianapolis Monthly magazine: “The Real Me. What it is like to be transgender.” It is well-received.

Early March: I get my therapist’s letter, endorsing me for sex reassignment surgery.

Mid March: Thirteen months after my first visit, I return to the plastic surgeon. I am now ready to apply for health insurance to cover my facial surgery.

March 25: I see a doctor for my first consultation for sex reassignment surgery. I hope to have the surgery before the end of 2016.

Mid April. To have the sex reassignment, a second therapist’s endorsement is required. I begin therapy with a new therapist. I will only need two sessions for him to confirm my first therapist’s endorsement.

May 2: After being happy to apply for my name change, I have been struggling the past two weeks.  I feel like Greg deserves better than this.  But, serious reflection tells me that every time I try to stop transitioning, I crash, and then I always return to it.  In circuit court, my name is legally changed to Gina Joy Eilers.  I am relieved to have it done, but do not experience happiness.

May 5: I get a new drivers license. Besides my new name and photo, it reads: “Sex: F.”  Now, I feel happy.  This was a bigger hurdle for me than going to court.  I leave the BMV feeling lighter than air.  I get into my car, cry, “Woo hoo!” and thrust my arms into the air.  Whew!

May 6: I receive insurance approval for my facial surgery.

May 11: I schedule my first facial surgery for June 22. I will have a second surgery later in the summer.

After I have SRS in the autumn, I will have completely transitioned.

I will be as female as I can possibly be in this life. I have no doubts about all of this. I struggle to remember what gender dysphoria was like. I feel like I’ve always been a female.

My wonder-week

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My first week as a fifty-nine-year-old just might have been the most event-filled week of my life. Every weekday, I experienced a big step in the long road of transitioning.

Monday

9:30 a.m. At Marion County Circuit Court, I was the sixth person called before the judge. My petition for name change was granted. I legally became Gina Joy Eilers.

2:45 p.m. I departed the local office of the Social Security Administration. After an un-momentous number of keystrokes, my Social Security number now showed me as Gina Joy Eilers.

Tuesday

10:00 a.m. I met with three pastors of the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS), the church body in which I was a minister for eighteen years. I previously announced that Julie and I were back to church shopping, desiring to be back in the LCMS. I long to educate LCMS pastors and laity regarding gender dysphoria and what it means to be transgender, and wrap all of this up in sound Christian theology. At this meeting, these pastors learned more about me and trans issues, and I spoke of my long range goals. Since all of this is in the formative stage, I won’t reveal which pastors these are, or where we are worshiping, but I am glad to say that for the past five weeks we have worshiped in a LCMS congregation and have been welcomed to continue worshiping there . . . and, as is my nature, I chat with the greeters, the ushers, and the folks sitting next to me in the pew . . . and no one has freaked out . . . and the walls have not come crashing down.

1:30 p.m. My weekly electrolysis appointment with Barb the Impaler is not unusual, but it deserves mention as an important piece in the entire puzzle which is transitioning. On this day, I received electrolysis which is required for me to have sex reassignment surgery (SRS), which takes me to . . .

Wednesday

3:00 p.m. I had my final appointment with a therapist for the purpose of securing a second therapist’s endorsement so that I can qualify for SRS. Because this surgery is so significant in the life of a trans person, World Professional Association for Transgender Health standards call for two therapists’ endorsements. After my second appointment, this therapist agreed with my previous therapist’s assessment that I am a candidate for SRS and is writing my endorsement letter.

Thursday

8:30 a.m. After a hiccup early Wednesday afternoon, when the BMV told me I did not have the correct form to have the sex changed from M to F on my drivers license, I returned to show them that I did, indeed, have the correct information, that they had missed an “or” in their own instructions. An hour later, I departed the BMV with a new drivers license, with a new picture, my new name, and this important designation: “Sex: F.”

6:00 p.m. Last August, I did my first radio interview. That one was not aired live, but for a podcast, with a LCMS pastor and layman. On this day, I did my first live radio interview, with a station in Bloomington, IN, on the bloomingOUT program, which covers LGBTQ issues. It was a blast. I feel very good about how I efficiently answered their excellent questions, providing good insights for folks to learn what it means to be transgender.  (A link to the show is at the end of this post.)

Friday

5:00 p.m. I had nothing lined up for Friday, so I thought I’d worn out my wonder-week. I walked to the mail box. Flipping through the few pieces, an envelope addressed to me aroused my interest. Going to my usual spot in the kitchen, where I prefer to leave mail for Julie’s attention—unless it is the latest Reader’s Digest, or it can immediately go into the recycling bin—I opened the envelope. It was from our health insurance provider informing me that I have been approved for my facial feminization surgery (FFS). While there should not have been a doubt that I would be covered—I met every qualification—it had been seven weeks since my doctor applied for coverage, so I had been antsy to get word.

FFS will allow me to literally put my best face forward. Looking more feminine, with a female ID, with credit cards that soon will bear a woman’s name instead of a man’s, and on the path to having my body corrected to match my internal identity, and to hopefully have the meaningful work of educating my fellow Christians in the LCMS regarding gender dysphoria and what it means to be transgender . . . well, whew, everything in my life is coming together in an orderly, wonderful way.

And an important aspect regarding each one of these things happened each of the five weekdays in my first week as a fifty-nine-year-old.

Wow. My wonder-week.

I am reminded of a verse from a favorite psalm, the 103rd: “Praise the Lord . . . who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.” I am a walking, talking testament to the Lord’s faithful fulfilling of His promises. Through His indwelling Spirit, I apply myself to His Word and to fervent prayer, always seeking to know and obey His good and gracious will. Transitioning seemed like an impossibility for the Lord to bless, but all He does is bless me.

All He does is bless me.

And satisfy my desires with good things.

In my earthly life and in my sure and certain hope of eternal life.

For the sake of Jesus Christ my Lord.

Therefore, I love Him with all my heart. Alleluia!

bloomingOUT – Gina Eilers – May 5, 2016