A Wedding, a Reception, an Act of Kindness, and a Moment of Inspiration

For the last few months, I’ve been on the down side of life. This summer has been difficult for me, and I have expressed that on multiple occasions. However, this past weekend provided a brief respite from the doldrums, and I would be remiss if I did not share the moments that made me happy, at least for a little while.

On Saturday, I watched two friends get married in a beautiful ceremony. As an added bonus, I was honored to be the happy couple’s photographer. Photography is an interest of mine, and I actually have a decent eye for it. If the industry was not crowded and highly competitive, I might be interested in my own business. But consider the financial shakiness of my family, trying to go self-employed seems highly risky. So when I get asked to take photos here and there, it feels nice. For this wedding, I was only asked to take a family picture at the end of the ceremony, but really… I couldn’t do that—especially since I was actually credited as the photographer in the program. So, I took pictures all day, and I enjoyed doing it.

The wedding and cake reception were filled with joy, love, and amazing music. One groom surprised his new husband with a surprise appearance by a champion a cappella group after the ceremony. Both sides had lots of family present. Being surrounded by that much happiness—especially from people I care about—could not help have an effect on my mood and lift my spirits a bit.

At the cake reception, I was also able to talk to a friend, herself also transgender, who I was able to vent to a bit about what was going on in my life. She gave me a comment I still remember: “You walk like yourself.” I needed a little explanation. She said, “You are Gabrielle. You walk like Gabrielle.” When unpacked like that, I understood a little more about how I am perceived and how I should perceive myself. I am wrapped up in how I present to the world and myself, which is why I am so focused on vocal therapy and facial feminization procedures. I believe they will help my mental state, as they will help me to “pass.” What my friend was pointing out with her statement is that I have come a long way already. Even without vocal and facial surgeries, I already am living as the authentic me. It is an important point that I gloss over, but in reflection, I am now 8 months full-time, 18 months HRT, and I have been transitioning over two years now. My name and gender have changed. My life is forever altered. But I have found the authentic me, and it manifests itself in organic ways, such as how I walk and how I act on a daily basis. Vocal therapy and facial surgery will aid my presentation, but even without, I am still me, and I am comfortable with the changes I have made thus far which make me, well… me.

Once we took a drive to drop off the children with visiting grandparents, my wife and I returned to the formal reception. Despite wearing heels all day long, I took to the dance floor like I may never have before, which is something highly significant in my life. As a child, I was a nervous wallflower at dances and later clubs. I was afraid of making a fool out of myself (or my partner) on the dance floor. I got teased enough in school for being a nerd and an outcast, so why add fuel to the fire? But on this night, I got out of my head for a little while and decided to just have a good time. I danced and sang and danced some more. I did things in heels I did not think I could ever do (jump, kick, spin). I was not held back by the self-conscious doubts that plagued me in the past. I genuinely had fun all night long!

Later that night, despite foot & leg pain from wearing those heels all day, I stayed up late into the night celebrating a neighbor’s birthday. While I was there, I brought up a few of the things that have been bothering me about life, including how my court date and birthday were largely not celebrated at home. In a very sweet gesture, I was cut a slice of cheesecake with lit candles, and in the middle of the night, the small group of neighbors all sang “Happy Birthday” to me, which was the first time that song had been sung to me by anyone other than a family member since my name change. It was a super touching moment, and I cannot thank my neighbors enough for this amazing act of kindness.

The next day at work, I was stopped by a random guest if I had a “moment.” The next words out of her mouth both touched and surprised me. She told me that I was an inspiration to her 9-year-old daughter, who was not with her at the time, but who had seen me several times at the store. They have always known she is transgender, and I told her that it was wonderful to hear a trans youth was being so supported. Also, if she ever wanted to introduce her daughter to me, she was welcome to do so. As a retail supervisor, I am exposed to all manner of people, and I am always subject to random comments both in my face and behind my back. When asked for a “moment,” I never know if I am in for a complaint or someone telling me that I am “brave” for transitioning. While being called out as transgender by this woman admittedly dinged my ego a bit (that whole not passing thing), it was quickly washed away by the fact that I was being called an inspirational figure and effectively, a role model for a trans youth I have never met. How jaw-dropping is that?

Receiving this compliment took me back to June when I was asked to tell my transition story publicly for the first time. In addition to sharing my story, I also served as an advocate for the transgender community. I did so again by participating in Trans March at SF Pride. Transition is a very personal thing, and every trans person experiences it differently. I have fallen prey to getting wrapped up in my own personal struggles, but this moment in the store reminds me that, much like my friend at the cake reception tried to remind me, I have come along way in my transition. I have solved many problems, resolved many internal conflicts, and I am now living my life as authentically as I know how. Doing so means that I can speak on behalf of the community. Living my daily life means I can serve as a silent inspiration for others who are questioning or transitioning. Being me is important not only to myself but to others. By living my life authentically as an out trans person, I am actually serving a greater good.

Often I get down on myself because the weight of the world seems to be on my shoulders, but this weekend woke me up a little. I can be me, and that me can enjoy herself. I have a lot on my mind, but that does not mean I should not get out of my head every once in a while and have some fun. That helps. I thank my family, friends, and even the strangers whose world collides with mine for reminding me of the greater parts of my life. I still have much difficult work to do on my transition. I still need to find greater support among friends and family to keep me sane and on track. However, these events show me I am doing well and others are noticing. I am important, loved, and admired. I need to remember that, so that I can inspire myself like I inspire a 9-year-old.

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I Am Falling Apart, and No One Seems to Notice

I have been told that this blog is sad.  True, much of the time I have the urge to write it is because there is something on my mind that I need to share.  Tonight, it’s not much different.  Why?  Well, I have difficulty finding a reason to celebrate, even though my transition is going well.

I am have been on HRT 18 months.  Next week will mark 8 months full-time.  I legally changed my name and gender 3 months ago.  I have come along way since I started my transition, and to accomplish these major milestones has been incredible.   Reflecting on those achievements should make me ecstatic, but still I find myself crying on this Labor Day holiday, sitting alone in my living room, with no one to talk to while my children sleep.  The weight of the world seems to be resting on my shoulders.  My resolve, which typically is quite strong, is failing.  I would cry out for help, but I don’t know what I can get help with.  So I write, hoping to at least make myself feel a little better by converting thoughts to words.

As the summer winds down, I realize that the season has actually been quite a difficult one for me.  I work as a retail supervisor, so that in and of itself has raised my stress level.  Now that kids are back to school, I am hoping crowds will simmer down until at least the Halloween rush, but still… I certainly do not get paid enough for what I do.  I put out fires and solve problems all day long, 5 days a week, but that does not give me adequate time to troubleshoot my own issues.  At the same time, I am also actively looking for a new job that pays me more than what I make, which adds to my to do list.

Working in the daily scrutiny of the public eye does not help my mood.  I am already at odds with myself over my voice and face, both of which I feel are too masculine and prevent me from “passing” everyday.  With thousands of eyeballs on me, I feel like I am constantly being judged.  While those that speak up are generally flattering (a month’s worth of compliments on the dress I wear to work has been nice), the negative moments linger in my head.  Just today, I had a woman ask, “Your name is Gabrielle? (seemingly pronounced correctly)  That’s my son’s name.”  In my head, I thought, “No, it’s not.”  Not two minutes later, I was called “sir” by another guest, despite my lace overlay red dress, make up, and earrings.  It is soooo frustrating, and why my mind is so focused on vocal therapy and the possibility of facial feminization surgery (FFS).  I cannot continue to endure these types of moments.  It won’t matter how long I have been on HRT or full-time if I cannot pass, because each “he” and “sir” I hear grinds me down that much more each time I hear them.

But even getting vocal therapy and FFS is turning into a chore that I just do not have time for.  I finally have an appointment for vocal therapy, but I have to wait an agonizing 3+ months before my first appointment.  Both my therapist and my wife believe I should get a consult for FFS.  That is a relief to some extent, but in the other hand, now I am searching for a skilled plastic surgeon who also accepts Medi-Cal.  That’s no small feat, and the longer it takes, the longer until I get the consult I desperately need.  I am open to suggestions if you know of doctors that meet this criteria.

My health is further affected by my emotional eating, which has caused me to regain 40 of the 90 pounds I lost last year.  I have also had a low-grade headache for the last month.  I do not know if that is related to a hormone imbalance or the fact that I am just a big stress ball these days.  I am checking the hormone situation very soon, though, so hopefully I can solve this problem, too, because I am tired of hurting.

That’s a powerful statement:  I am tired of hurting.  My head, my arms, my brain.  They all hurt.  My heart hurts from what seems to be isolation from my friends and family.  I feel like my body just cannot handle the 15 things I am asking it to juggle.  But much of what I am dealing with cannot be easily delegated or helped by others.  My wife cannot find me a job or a surgeon.  Money will not fall out of a tree.  Even though I have solved so much, there seems to be an infinite number of other things I have to control, and I am just wearing thin.  I am overworked, lacking sleep, and always “on.”

Tonight, after a long day at work and after my wife rushed off to the neighbor’s apartment to have a fun time, I collapsed on my bed and began to cry.  Non-specific reasons, really.  Maybe it was a co-worker’s news of a possible pregnancy which made me think how much I wish I was making a call to an advice nurse on how to manage my nausea (because I would take her place in an instant if it was medically possible).  Maybe it was the nonstop guest issues I have had to deal with all holiday weekend.  Maybe it was being misgendered.  Maybe it was the fact that I was left alone with my thoughts.  Maybe… maybe it is just too much for me to handle.

What compounds my issues is that my friends have seemingly faded away.  My transgender support group is now populated with many new or questioning people, which is great, but at the same time leaves me lacking for a people in a similar situation as myself.  I have turned into more of a mentor to help others.  There are fewer who share my issues which are related to more complex transition issues.  My trans friends are in their own worlds these days, and I find I do not talk to them as much.  I am feeling out of touch with my community, and now I am beginning to feel out of touch with myself because I cannot triage all of the problems at the same time.  I need help and advice, and I do not where to turn.  I am falling apart, and no one seems to notice.

Throughout my life, with very few exceptions, I have been strong and resolved when challenges face me.  I take things one step at at time, and solve my issues one at a time, usually with little help.  I became much better asking for assistance and seeking guidance, and that approach served me well at the beginning of my transition.  This time around, I just feel like I am left on my own to figure it out and there is no guidance to be had.  My issues are for me to solve by myself, for better or worse, and this time—this time—I am not sure how well it will turn out.  I am trying to stay afloat, but it is awfully hard and isolating walking through this barren desert.  I need an oasis.  I need a vacation and maybe a little help from my friends.

Next Steps: Vocal Therapy(!) and Facial Surgery(?)

In my last post, I talked about some of the celebrations that should have happened, but did not:  my court date, my birthday, telling my story publicly for the first time.  It has been a busy summer, even though it does not really feel like it.  The sadness I have felt over the lack of celebration has been looming over me, especially as my wife helps plan two weddings and, a few weeks ago, a neighbor’s birthday.  Combined with the continuing dysphoria surrounding my face & voice and my family’s financial struggles, I have not been in the best of moods lately.  I am tired, lonely, and isolated.  But, as I said in my last post, I do trod on.

I finally received some good news this week.  My insurance has approved me (without a fight!) to begin specialized vocal therapy, so that I can begin to properly address my voice and work to make it sound more feminine.  That should be a great relief to me, but the excitement was muted by the fact that my first appointment will not be until December due to scheduling availability!  I will have to wait for this about as long as I had to wait for my court date to come, and that was tiring.  Hopefully, a cancellation will move me up the wait list.

On the face front, I am flummoxed.  I am beginning to struggle mightily when it comes to how my face looks.  I really long to restart electrolysis that I suspended in June due to financial stresses.  That means I have to shave every day and then work hard to conceal that shadow that remains.  It is exhausting.  I love make-up, but I would like to be able to walk out the door without it every once in awhile if I am in a hurry.  Doing so now would just make me look awkward.  Also, for the first time, I have really started to take some time to look at the potential for surgery.

Since the beginning of my transition over two years ago, I have put off the notion of surgeries.  I had soooooooo much other stuff to work through that the idea of any surgery was put out of my mind, as I deal with the here-and-now.  But as time passes and I settle into my life as woman, I begin to think about the future.  My facial dysphoria has put the idea of facial feminization surgery (FFS) as an attainable way to correct the masculine features of my face.  To that end, for the first time, I have begun to ask questions of friends, analyzed my face to project the kinds of work I need (and luckily don’t need), and even gone so far as to begin researching potential surgeons.  The latter may be a bit premature, but at the same time, I know consults and surgeries have long wait lists, and it could be to my advantage to start the ball rolling now.  However, I really want to resume and finish electrolysis.  FFS does not seem smart unless I have finished what I can do without it.  So many questions, and no money to do it.  The thoughts weigh me down and compound my frustration with myself.

And of course, opening the door to surgery discussions, cracks open the idea of potential gender reconstruction surgery (GRS) down the road.  I am not quite ready to start that process, but I definitely lean in that direction.  But as I have done all along, I try not to jump ahead too much.  One step at a time.  I don’t really consider GRS right now because there are more pressing needs.  I don’t really consider breast augmentation because my breasts are still growing, even if at a slower rate than I would like.  But FFS seems attainable with the right surgeon and the right timeline.  It is something I need to bring up to my family, too, and I really have no idea how to begin to introduce that topic.  Surgery is a big deal and a big step.  It requires doctor’s visits, consults, the procedure, and the post-op aftercare.  How much support can my family provide if I take this step?

I am markedly happier as a woman.  Now 7 1/2 months full-time, I am still secure this is how I was meant to live my life.  But until a few things change, I continue to be insecure of how I present to the world.  That change will not happen on its own, and I continue to look for ways to make those changes happen.  I just wish I had more of a support system behind me to encourage me on my journey. Maybe then, someone would celebrate me and my accomplishments.

Returning from Hiatus

Have I not posted since February?  Oh my!

When I first started this blog, I mainly began writing as a means to get my feelings out and share my experiences when I felt I had very few options available to me.  I think my recent hiatus is as a result of my ever expanding social circle.  That is, I have more people to talk to!  This is especially true since coming out as a full-time in January.  Prior to that, I had to pick and choose who I talked to and when, for I did not want my secret getting out any sooner than I desired.  Those restrictions melted away when I went Facebook official.

I soon came to realize that I had an enormous amount of people who supported me, even those I had not talked to in decades.  On significant posts like my transition announcement, photos of my after a professional photo session, or even my birthday, I can receive up to 120 reactions, and for a girl like me who is happy to get 10 likes and a few comments, that’s huge and esteem lifting.  With all of the outpouring of love, I found that I did not need to post to my blog as much, but that doesn’t seem right either.  While there are a minuscule amount of people that actually read my words here (including my wife), I should continue to document my feelings and journey.  If I can help even one person with my words, if someone can be inspired or guided in their journey because of my experiences, then I am doing a service for others.  And I do myself a service by continuing to express myself. So while there will be hiatuses in my writing in the future, I am still resolved to write in this space, and I hope you find me interesting enough to read.

So, what has happened since I came out (which I documented in 3 separate posts before my hiatus)?  A lot of life, really.  My son graduated kindergarten(!), and his teacher and fellow parents came to accept me, as far as I could tell.  I even accompanied my son’s class on a field trip as a chaperone, and no one questioned it, not even the kids.  I felt like such a mom, and I felt empowered.  I feel it is important for me to play an active role in his learning, and I do not want to be a parent who is absent in the classroom.  That doesn’t mean I need to be teacher’s pet or hover over my son in class, but I need to know I can freely participate in his learning and his activities without barrier, and chaperoning this trip help prove that is possible.

Work has kept me busy.  I work as a front line supervisor in retail for that company–the one that recently informed the world of its already existing equal opportunity employment program that reiterated employees and guests were invited to use the bathroom matching their gender identity.  That statement put me in a bit of a spotlight–more than the one I was already in after coming out only a few months prior–but I am lucky to work in a very progressive area, and it really has been a non-issue so far.  Lucky me.  That’s not to say it’s been all rosy.  I have been harassed and offended at least twice in 5 months, but overall, guests have been incredibly accepting, and that makes my life easier.  I am even bold enough to wear a dress at work now, something no one else at my store does.

On the volunteer front, I have been bust there, too.  I’m not sure I have shared this before here, but I am a Little League umpire now finishing my 11th consecutive season on the field.  My transition caused waves in my local league, and I even considered resigning my position as Umpire-in-Chief based on the undercurrent that occurred when I came out.  As the season has progressed though, I believe I have settled most fears and both my league president and the district administrator acknowledge my skills.  We’ll see how well I have allayed fears when next year’s board members are elected.  Will they vote me in again?

I have also experienced some interesting things just being a girl.  People hold doors for me, compliment my beauty, and even flirt with me.  These are things I am adjusting to, for I never received that kind of treatment as a male.  It is definitely flattering, but I also find myself having to learn things that a prepubescent girl would have been taught at an early age.  Things like how to turn a guy down, avoid creepers, properly bending down when wearing a skirt, and using caution when walking alone night.  While I can take care of myself, I find I need to be a little more vigilant as I get more comfortable being in my body.

5 months full-time.  Really, that time has flown by.  A friend of mine projected her experience on me and warned me about how difficult the first year of full-time would be, but I feel like I am right in the groove.  I do not question where I am because I went through so much agony getting to this point.  I already have a sense of style.  I already have acceptance of most of my family.  My body continues to develop and change.  But ultimately, I am happier.  I am more comfortable in my softer skin, my attire, my makeup, and I continue to make improvements when I need to.  I am certainly not where I want to finish.  There is much to work on.  But, I am not in the dark place I was two years ago when I started this journey.  I am not as depressed or contemplating very dark things.  I am more optimistic in the face of financial and personal despair.  I am poor.  I will lose my wife.  But I am so much closer to the authentic me.  I have my children, and I have support of my family, friends, and even my wife (as much as she can offer through the pain she is suffering).  The authentic me can look forward, while the old me had given up.  The last two years have been unquestionably difficult, but the last 5 months have actually oddly been easier than the rest.  No secrets.  No hiding.  Just me being the real me, and I am a better, happier, more complete person for it.

Announcing Gabrielle, Part 3: Coming Out at Work

Telling my children I am transgender started the snowball rolling down the hill. Doing so allowed me to start presenting female in front of them, and by extension, out in the world on a more regular basis. I still was not ready to go to work or present to certain other groups quite yet, but for the first two weeks of the new year, I was able to face a few fears: mainly, presenting in places that already knew me or my family.

[Update: Did you arrive at this page from an autogynephelia blog? My response]

For quite sometime, I have been able to go to very public places like malls, stores, restaurants, and the movies without having any confidence issues. In fact, the second time I ever presented female in a major public area, I was more confident than the friend that joined me on that adventure. I try not to have rabbit ears or scan the area around me to see what people are saying about me or to see if people are staring at me. I walk as if I belong in the space I fill, as if there is nothing different about me. In a space that in not near home, that is easy to do. No one knows me. With very few exceptions, though, I always made those trips away from my home. That definitely helped put me more at ease. However, if I was going to go full-time, I needed to be able to face the people that knew the male me, and prepare for their reactions. Now that the kids could come with me, I had to face the everyday challenges: the grocery store clerk, my sandwich makers, even my pharmacist. Somehow, this was more challenging than hundreds of eyes on me walking through a mall. But much like my experiences where people didn’t know me, I received fairly non-reactive responses to my new look from those that remembered me, and that helped boost my confidence once more, and it helped prepped me for the big reveal: work.

I gave myself about two weeks between coming out to my kids and coming out at work. In that interim period (kind of a “soft open,” if you will), I very much lived in the middle ground: female at home, male at work. That was awkward, because just as I was beginning to adjust to everyday life as a woman, I then needed to flip the switch and return to “male mode” for work. But, I was being very cautious about how I was going to reveal myself to my co-workers, and I had a plan—even though that plan took a long time to formulate.

For the last 10 months, up to three people at work knew what I was going through because I just needed people I could talk to when I was having a bad day. I kept the circle incredibly tight. I work in retail. Anyone who has ever worked retail knows that that kind of environment is an active rumor mill, and I was not going to allow anyone to share this secret about me without my controlling the situation. It was my secret to tell in my terms. But how?

Unlike an office workplace, I did not have the option of telling small groups of people. I couldn’t come out to my team, and then my department, and then the company. I work in front of the public, as a supervisor no less, and there was no way to really tell people in groups like that. For guidance, I asked my HR contact to ask how others in the company had transitioned at work, and to my shock, we were told that no other employee in the San Francisco Bay Area had transitioned at work. Really? None? That certainly didn’t make it easier for me. Without that kind of help, the ball was put in my court as to how to do it. No pressure, right?

I had a scheduled weekend trip out of town in mid-January (the last days I would ever present male for a variety of reasons), which set up that two-week window I referred to earlier. I decided that management could inform my co-workers while I was away that weekend. This would relieve me from being present so that people could naturally react to the news, and also give me some separation between the last time they saw me present male to the first time they saw me as female. I went over with my HR contact exactly what words and phrases to use to tell my story as accurately as possible in my absence. Employees were asked to use my new name and use female pronouns when referring to me. The discussions were intended to be short and sweet.

Upon returning from my weekend, I officially began full-time status. I took two personal days to change get ready to go back to work. I finally pierced my ears for the first time in my life. I did some shopping (including finding new work clothes), and I got my hair and eyebrows done. I was prepared as I was going to be. On a Wednesday in mid-January, I took a deep breath and walked into work as the female, authentic me. My supervisor was waiting for me because she wanted to see what I looked like and immediately approved with a big hug. I received compliments throughout the day. And while co-workers weren’t perfect with their pronouns or my name, they were clearly trying and correcting themselves when they caught their error. Everyone was very nice to me—even those I worried I might have problems with my change. And to the public’s benefit, again, most reactions were non-reactive. The exception there were little kids. Confused by the makeup & chest juxtaposed with the soft (but still male) voice, a few of them asked their parents whether I was a boy or a girl. Parents handled the question in different ways, but none of them embarrassed me, and that was comforting.

In the month since coming out at work, I have found that my fears of non-acceptance in the public eye and my co-workers were largely unfounded. Yes, there are people that give a glancing stare every now and then, but generally speaking, most people just want to be helped in a friendly way, and I continue to provide that service. I am still an effective manager. I can still help people find things or complete their transactions efficiently. And then there are the people that are complimentary. I very much appreciate these guests. I have been called beautiful; received compliments on my clothes, makeup, and jewelry; and one person even called me peaceful. I am confident enough at work now that I even wear a skirt on a regular basis, something most other women at my store do not even attempt.

Everyone’s story about coming out at work is unique. For me, I felt like I had an additional challenge because I not only work in front of the public, but I am also a front line supervisor. There was no hiding. I had to make myself vulnerable and take whatever came my way. I am thankful that my company is very accepting of LGBT employees (e.g., they protect my right to use the women’s bathroom) and that my co-workers have been so accepting of me. The public has been more or less not cared, and negative reactions have been minimal.

Being out at home and out at work helps me mentally. Now, there are no restrictions as to how I present myself (except in deference to my wife on a few pieces I own). My kids think I am pretty. I even think I look decent on some days. Now a month full-time, life is easier. There is still plenty of brutal hardship to face, especially on the home front. Still… I am more confident. I am happier. I am me. I am Gabrielle.

And that is how it is supposed to be.

Announcing Gabrielle, Part 2: Coming Out to My Children

After almost a year and a half of coming to terms with being transgender, I finally made the decision that I needed to go full-time.  Those that have read my posts know that was a tedious and complex process full of grieving, emotions, ups, and downs.  But as 2015 was approaching its conclusion, my path became clear:  I am a woman, and I need to live my life that way.  It was time for my secret to come out.  But how?

There are several community circles I swim in, and I did not want to necessarily shock any of them by just showing up in a dress.  How was I going to come out at work?  What about my community involvements?  What about even walking around my apartment complex?  But first and foremost, how was I going to tell my children?

When the decision was made to go full-time, I felt it imperative that the children needed to know before I went public.  Being 5 and 3, I was aware that once I told them, there was no way to put the genie back in the bottle.  It would be unfair (and unrealistic) to ask them to keep my secret until I was ready to tell the world.  Little children are storytellers by nature.  My story was going to be told one way or the other.  I had to be sure before telling them, and I was.

A big question came up before I even had the chance to have the conversation:  What were the children going to call me?  My wife an I fought over a month over this point, when it became clear that full-time status was imminent.  I felt very strongly that I wanted a “motherly” title.  I mean, how can I be a woman in the world with children and not be called “mom,” or something similar?  How would I feel if I was out in the world with the kids in full make-up and a dress and my kids get my attention by calling me “Dada”?  The idea of feeling outed by my children on a daily basis sounded terrifying.  So did not having a maternal parental title.  Unfortunately, I was accused of trying to “steal” a title than did not belong to me, as the kids already had a mama.  I countered that I was not trying to steal a title; I merely wanted to share.  But my wife was adamantly opposed to allowing me mom, mommy, Mama G… it didn’t matter.  She laid claim to them all.

When it was finally time to tell the kids, an agreement on parental title still had not been reached.  I was supposed to tell the children on December 29, but it didn’t happen because my wife and I had fought earlier in the day about my title, which caused me to be upset, and I was unable to get it together to tell them before I went to work.  The next day, it was time.  No more delays.

I the morning of December 30, I put my 3-year-old daughter on my lap and my 5-year-old son on my other leg, while my my wife sat two spots away on the couch.  I did not have a pre-written script.  I didn’t know exactly what to say.  I was highly nervous.  I only had one shot to really get this right.  I proceeded to tell them  that I was a girl.  My head and heart did not match my body.  I would be changing my name and wearing girl clothes from now on.  I kept it as simple and accessible as possible.  In the initial conversation, I never used the words “man,” “woman,” or “trans,” or “transgender.”  I kept it terms of boys and girls.  The discussion mainly went over the 3-year-old’s head in the moment.  My son was super accepting.  One of his first questions was (without prompting), “Does this mean I have two moms now?”  Inside, I was ecstatic.  I wanted to answer with a resounding Yes!, but I count not.because the fights over this question.  With no agreement in place, I answered, “Kind of, but we will need to find something else to call me.”  He told also told me that he just wanted me to be happy.  Amazing empathy from a 5-year-old!  Clearly, we have done something right in raising him.

To my wife’s credit, she immediately began switching over to female pronouns to refer to me after the conversation was over.  Apparently, she had been practicing while talking to people that were in the know.  While I appreciated that move, without a maternal title, a weird juxtaposition occurred that made me feel uncomfortable.  For example, my son would do something I told him not to do.  My wife would say something like, “Dada told you not to do that.  She told you five minutes ago.”  My brain had a lot of trouble resolving Dada & she/her in the same breath.

The next day, New Year’s Day, my wife came home after having the kids out in the morning.  For the first time, they came home to see me dressed as a woman, something they had not seen outside Halloween ever.  My son walked in, paused, and said, “Oh yeah.  You’re a girl.  I forgot.”  But then, it was nothing had changed.  My daughter called me “beautiful” and “pretty.”  My wife went to work.  The kids stayed home with me as they do most every Thursday, and we had a good day.  Still, hearing Dada wasn’t working for me, so my son and I had a discussion about it.  In the end, we agreed to that they would call me Amma (basically, “Mama” without the “M”).  This was a suggestion my wife had previously made, and I had rejected, because I was opposed to non-maternal, intermediate type names.  But with the bitterness and the need to not be called Dada anymore, I begrudgingly accepted I would need to accept a new title, and Amma was the least objectionable choice.  At least it sounds close to Mama.  My son agreed, and ever since that day, I have been Amma to the children.  It has taken time for them to adjust, but in the six weeks since we had these conversations, I cannot remember the last time I heard Dada.  We are still working on pronouns, but hey, he’s 5, and that’s not easy anyway, but he is getting there.

While I kept my transition as positive as possible, I also needed to brace my son for possible negative reactions in the world.  I asked, “What would you do if someone said some mean to me because they didn’t think I was a girl?”  To this, he again had the most supportive answer he could come up with:  “I would block them (using his arms and his body to shield me from the offender).”  I told him he did not need to do that.  In response, he said he would hug me and tell me that he loved me!  That melted my heart.

That night, we spent New Year’s Eve as a family, with me in a dress and my kids surrounding me.  It was wonderful!  I could finally be the real me with my children!  A great way to start the new year.  Of course, there was still plenty of tension in the house, but at least now, the ball was rolling.  I could start walking outside of my apartment dressed as a woman.  I began dressing everyday around town, and getting into the rhythm of everyday life.  While not technically full-time yet, I treated it kind of as a “soft open.”  I still had to change for work and to see certain people, but the time of getting the family and myself adjusted had begun.  I even began dropping off and picking up my son at kindergarten. Parents (and his teacher) were taken a little off guard at the beginning, but there have been no real major incidents to speak of, as parents get more used to my presence at school.

In the end, my children are young enough that they seem to be adjusting to my transition and having an “Amma” really well so far.  I could not ask anymore from my son when it comes to how he treats me or how he refers to me.  He has been absolutely amazing.  My daughter is not having too many problems either.  She is more interested in the makeup I wear each day.  I was nervous, but really it has been a very positive experience coming out to my children.  I love them so much!

So… kids the children were finally told.  The avalanche was about to begin.  Next, I needed to come out to work and a volunteer community in which I am highly active.  More on that in future posts.

Announcing Gabrielle, Part 1: Prologue

A lot has happened since I last wrote in this space.  There have been several holidays (even a new year!).  Oh, and I announced to the world that I am a woman named Gabrielle.

To catch up my long-time reader (OK, maybe readers, if I am lucky), I last wrote about how I was grieving my marriage back in October.  To this day, I still mourn the loss of what once was in terms of my marriage.  At the same time, life moves forward, and so did my transition in spite of the consequences.

Early in October, I began to seriously consider the idea of going full-time.  A few weeks earlier, I had experienced my epiphany moments, and I was coming to accept myself and who I truly am: a woman.  I started talks with my HR contact at work to see how we might think about getting the ball rolling there.  My wife and I began fighting over my parental title, as she adamantly opposed me taking on any type of motherly moniker.  I go shopping with my friends with the intention of beginning to expand my wardrobe.  The blocks were beginning to be laid.  A plan was forming.

On Halloween, my wife and children attended a combined birthday/Halloween party for the one-year sister of my son’s T-Ball teammate.  For the 23rd year in a row, I dressed as a female character.  For the first time ever, I was Cinderella, and I showed up at the party as such.  I generated stares and the attention of children.  My wife was very receptive to the attention I was receiving, and it made her uncomfortable—especially given everything we were going through with my transition.  Later that night, I went to San Francisco with a trans friend of mine (dressed as Elsa), and we walked the city.  We had a great time walking and talking, and during the night, I got a little education on womanhood:  a man, probably a lot buzzed, came up to the two of us and began seriously hitting on us.  While flattered, I really didn’t know how to react.  This was the first time a man actually saw me as a woman and called me gorgeous.  Granted, I was in costume and he had been drinking, but still… this was new for me.  We eventually got rid of the creeper, but now I knew what it was like to be pursued.

November was filled with anxiety as I continued to contemplate a timeline for going full-time.  The month was also punctuated by continuing fights over my future parental title.  For me, this was a major sticking point that needed to be resolved before I could come out to my children, and I felt they were the first major people to talk with about me before I shared with wider groups.  I work retail, and so I also had to balance home life with Thanksgiving and Black Friday, as well as my new promotion I had recently received.  I resolved that with all of the business in my life, and the fact that December would be crazy, too, that I there was no way I could really go full-time before the new year, despite my growing desire to do so.

December was full of retail work, my wife’s church work, her birthday, my daughter’s birthday, and of course, Christmas.  I tried to plan time out with my wife for her birthday, but she wasn’t having it.  The Christmas season was difficult because we both know that this is likely our last Christmas as a complete family.  Divorce is imminent, as is finding a way to restart our lives individually.  I also had to figure out how to tell the kids.

The three months between October and December were deeply unsettling.  I finally stopped waffling as to whether or not transition was for me.  For the first time, I took active steps to figure out what it would it take to go full-time and start putting a plan together.  But now that I was ready to move forward, the pain those decisions caused my my wife were like new wounds, and she lashed out at me several times.  Arguments and disagreements ranged from the minor to the major, many if which I really don’t want to rehash now.

By the time Christmas came, the plan was in full motion.  I had selected a new name, informed work of a timeline to come out there, resolved to increase my estrogen to maximum doses, and mentally prepared myself to come out to my children.  Once I told the kids (which I will write about later), the ball began to roll.  I told the last remaining significant groups in my life so they would not be surprised when I went public to the world.  I began to dress almost daily in early January with a few exceptions as I spread the word and prepared for my final reveal.

On January 11, I officially began living full-time as Gabrielle.

In future posts, I will write about coming out to my children, my first day at work, and my first month as a full-time woman.  But for now, I wanted to catch you up on my life and share the news with you as well.