Friday, August 19, 2011

The path leads back home.

I'm flying home again.  I travel a lot and these flights home always give me a chance to slow down and ponder my life's big mysteries.  An hour or two at the airport with a multi hour flight home usually means a quick meal and a blog post or two.  These last few weeks have been rather non eventful.  I spent some time in Chicago where more then a few seemed to see the old Rick.   I'll be honest it did shake my confidence.  It seems to effect me the most after the day is over and I'm in the hotel room alone.  Late at night all the worries come out.

Over the last few months I have manage to tell everyone in my life about Dana.  I venture I've had to break the news to somewhere between 50 and 75 people.  Most over the phone and a few in person.  It never gets easy, but it's easier now and I've gotten better at it.  M knew all along of course, she knew as I knew.  K knew too.  Next came my FF friends.  Telling them wasn't a huge shock for most of them.  They knew for years I was crossdressing almost daily so the transformation to Dana wasn't a huge surprise.  Telling the boys was hard.  M and I raised them to be open and fair.  For the most part I knew they'd be OK.  I was a little worried about the shock of the news, and I worried that somehow they'd think less of me for it.  They took it well, very well actually.

M told her brothers.  Not sure that went as well.  Her family is pretty well spread out across the states and so we're pretty disconnected from them.  So this kinda of news is huge and right out of right field.  It most have hit them like a sledge hammer.  I think most of the people M has told are surprised she's staying with me.  But that's M and she works hard at our marriage, as do I.

As I posted a few months ago, I told work about Dana.  This seems to be completely non eventful.  Again, I think the shock of the news is a bigger thing then the news itself.

So I've been Dana now for 2 months or so, and I feel great.  Everyone in my life knows and no one has abandon me, I still have a job, I still have great friends, I still have my family.  It's hard to believe and if you had told me last year at this time this would be the case I would have laughed at you.

So there you have it, everyone knows.  Everyone except my parents.  Yup I haven't told my parents yet.  And because I haven't told my parents, my brothers don't know.  As with M's family we're pretty spaced out.  The last time we all got together was a family reunion cruise almost two years ago.  I hardly ever talk to my brothers, and rarely talk to my parents.

It's hard to explain really.  M and I moved to California 20 some odd years ago and we just never looked back.  I'm not really sure of the reason I've separated myself from my family.  I'm sure my struggles are a large part of it.  I think the distance makes it hard and I just never put the work into it.

More and more of the last year I find myself missing them.  And as with H, I'm worried about the fallout of telling them.  Except with H, I was worried about my livelihood, my career and my business.  With my parents I worry about disappointing them.  I am certain with enough time they will come to understand one of the reasons for the disconnect is the struggles I've endured.  I'm worried they will be disappointed that all these years things could have been different if I had had the courage it took to tell them back then.  Would we be closer as a family if I had?  Would they have understood the distance and difficulties if they had known the whole time?

How do you tell two people in their 70's that their oldest son is changing, no make that has changed, genders.  How do you tell them you have struggle your whole life with this as a secret.  How do you tell them that 45 years ago you knew?  You knew things were wrong.  That you wanted to be a girl even back then.  Back when my mom was in her 20's.  How do you tell them of the struggles throughout your teenage years.
Does telling them now explain a lifetime of mysteries and difficulties to them.  Is there enough time to go back and fix things?  Is there enough time to make up for that time lost?

Will they be upset at not knowing for so long?  Will my mom understand?  Will my dad be disappointed?
As I tell people I have not told my parents yet, the common refrain is 'wouldn't you want your boys to tell you?'  And, yes I would.  I would want to know.  But our family is different, and times are different.  It's not fair to compare myself in the 2010's to my dad in the 1960's.

M and I have talked about this awhile now.  M finished the conversation with just one question, 'Are you doing this for yourself or for your parents?'.    I've struggled with this question for months now.  Why am I doing this?  Is this just to make my life easier?  Is it so I don't have to rush to the phone whenever my parents do call so that they don't hear the voice mail message?   Or even worse so I can have a Facebook account with MY name on it?

I don't have answers for any of these questions.  There is no way for me to know these answers, and if I did, the right course of action would be obvious and I wouldn't struggle with them as I have.  But, once again I do have Karma.  And as I posted many months ago, I am going to rely on Karma to help me out.  And once again the Karma here is pretty simple.  If you do the right thing for the wrong reasons bad things happen.  If you do the wrong thing for the right reasons good things happen.  So as I type away, 31,000 feet in the air it occurs to me what to do.

'Are you doing this for yourself or for your parents?'

Yes, I'm doing it for both them and me.  I've been separated from them for 30 years now.  Both emotionally and physically, both by distance and by my secrets.  The struggles have claimed my relationship with my parents.  Telling them now is really my last chance to expose these struggles to them and hope to repair our relationship.  By doing this now, I still have time to enjoy my parents as me, and for them to enjoy me as me.  Things may not work out, any of my worse worries may come true, but by trying now I still have time to right a wrong.

I'm still walking this path I'm on.  But I've come to a small 'Y' in the path.  The way forward is starting to become lit.  And I'm just started to come to terms with my fears about this trip.   But that way forward is blocked.  And the only way around the blockage is down a small, dark and abandoned driveway.

A driveway labeled 'Home'.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

“Can I help you ma’am?”

“Can I help you ma’am?”  I still love hearing it.  It’s all I ever get anymore, but it still brings a smile to my face every time I hear it. 
I was reading through my usual list of blogs the other day and I came across Kathryn’s post about ‘Unremarkable '.  She offered how her transition has become 'unremarkable', no great anguish, no drama, just everyday things and adjusting to the day to day things women do every day.  And that is in effect how my transition is going. 
Work has become down right routine.  Everyone addresses me as Dana, I work as a woman, and I’m treated as one too.  There are a handful of guys who seem to stumble on the pronouns, and the whole gender thing, but they do try and they do mean well.  And, there are one or two who obviously have a problem with it and have become quite cold.  But everyone who matters to me tries hard and seems to have adjusted to the new me. 
Since my name change and receiving my new IDs TSA has become completely stress free,  no more ‘Random’ pat downs, no more interrogations about my id and how the picture doesn’t look like me.  All I have to worry about now is to remember to remove my earrings. 
My family has not only adjusted but seems to be excited.  The birthday extravaganza from last week was a huge success and I’ll remember it always.
When I’m out and about, I seem to fade into the background of life.  I just seem to blend in.  The world sees me as just another woman doing whatever needs to be done. 
But I’m not, I’m still transitioning, I’m still changing, both mentally and physically.  Yes, I have moments where everything is just right and I’m shocked to find out I’m a woman.  But I have moments where I still see Rick’s ways.  I glance at a mirror and see Dana, but I stare at the mirror and see Rick.   
I walk down the street and wonder if he knows, or if she sees?  I still find myself scanning the faces and the reactions of everyone just to see if there’s that double take or secret whisper to friend, or the dreaded trail of giggles I used to get all of the time. 

I ask myself why do I do this.  I’m treated as a woman by everyone.  I check into a hotel and it’s good evening Ms. Dana.  We all go to dinner and the waitress takes my order first.  Doors are held open for me.  People smile and say hello.  Yet in my mind I’m wondering if they see and know, but still out of respect treat me as I wish to be treated.  If complete strangers know that just last year it was Rick, and they are just being nice? Do they see Dana’s hair and her clothes and know enough about gender to interact with me as a woman out of respect.  Or is it possible they really do just see Dana?
What is the difference to me if someone sees the old Rick in me but treats me as Dana versus the same person only seeing Dana and treating me as such?  The end result to me is the same.  Why does it matter if they treat me as Dana but see Rick?  Is it important to me that I’m treated AND seen as Dana, even if the end result is the same? 
Yes it’s important to me, and it does matter.  It’s important because it is still a gauge as to how far down this path I am.  While it’s nice to be treated as Dana, and believe me it’s more than I would ever have thought possible just one year ago, it is not the ultimate goal of this whole endeavor.  The ultimate goal of this is not to be treated as Dana, but to BE Dana, to transform myself from Rick to Dana.  This whole process isn’t complete if the outside world has to stop and pause to ask themselves if this is a man or a woman. 
It’s a mile marker on the path, it’s a gauge of the distance I’ve gone and the success I’ve had.  As shallow as it might seem, it is important to me to be seen as Dana.  Not just treated, but seen as her.  Yes, the journey is so much more than just looking like Dana, but at the end of the day, it is the critical piece of all this.  The internal conflicts, the emotional turmoil, the mental changes will all be worked out by me alone.  I will know when these subside.  But will I know when the outside world stops seeing Rick?
The path is funny, I can see the path I've taken up until now quite clearly.  And I can see things around me and I have a general idea I’m heading in the right direction.  But I still can’t see what lies ahead, I’m still wary of all that is ahead of me.  I'm still not sure of how far the path leads or how long it will take to finish.  Still not even sure if this path takes me to the point I’m trying to reach.

But, I'm still in a far better place now then Rick was last year.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Perfect Con

Last week was my birthday, “49+1” as M called it.  As a surprise M arranged a small vacation for us just to get away and spend some time together.  She had told me earlier to take the week off, but I had no idea where we were going or what we were going to do.  She had arranged the whole trip as a surprised. 
I must admit I’m pretty good at ruining surprises.  I seem to have a knack about figuring out what my presents are long before I get them.  And once again I had deduced Las Vegas before I even got home from my last trip.  So I had to act surprised when we got to the airport and checked in for Las Vegas.
Acting job complete, we were off to Las Vegas.  I have to admit there was a small part of me that was a little sad it was just going to be M and I.  It was my (49+1)th and it was just going to be the two of us.  But it was just a little cloud floating around in my head and I was still excited to spend the week with M and just enjoy her company. 
Once we arrived in LV we made our way to the hotel.  All the while, M keeps talking about the dinner reservations she’s made for us and how we need to get ready for dinner.  I’m going to admit right here, I had a zero, there was no part of me that saw it coming and I’m disappointed in myself that I was completely and totally caught off guard.  Off to dinner we go and the maitre d’ points at our table and says they’re right over there.  Now, I eat at nice restaurants 4 or 5 times a week, and I have a certain level of service I expect and having the maitre d’ just point to our table was completely not acceptable.  But M took the lead and off she went, I’m following her thinking that we should have made him seat us.  Then M arrives at quite a large table with two empty seats and holds a chair out for me, and I’m thinking I’m not eating at a restaurant on my birthday sitting with 5 people I don’t know.  So my brain is sitting there stewing the fact the maitre d’ didn’t sit us at our table, I have to sit with 5 people I don’t know, and at the same time it’s processing the faces of the people at our table.  I’ll be honest it took an embarrassing long time to realize those faces were my family.  My two boys, their girlfriends, and friends were sitting at the table staring at me waiting for the light bulb to go off.
It was quite the surprise and M had pulled it off perfectly.  It had all of the elements of a classic con job.  The head fake, letting me think I figured out the surprise of LV, the redirection of going to a nice dinner for my birthday.  Followed by confusion at the critical moments right before the surprise is revealed. 
But there was more to it than that, if I had known I’d be having dinner with the whole family, the boys, their girlfriends and friends I would have been a basket case the whole day.  It was the first time the whole family has gone out with me as Dana in public.  I would have been nervous the whole flight, and had the jitters through most of dinner worried how everyone was doing with me. 
But instead I was shocked, there were hugs all around and everyone was smiling from ear to ear.  Thoughts of family, and friends, and surprise, and shock just completely overwhelmed any thoughts of nervousness or worry.  That first few minutes of Dana in public with all of my family was spent smiling, and laughing, and hugging instead of worrying and doubting myself.  It was the single best gift I have every received.
M had giving me exactly what I had most feared losing in this whole transition.  She gave me a happy, loving family who’s behind me every step along this path.  She gave me this gift in the best way possible, as a surprise with no apprehension about it.
Years from now, as M and I are sitting on a park bench looking back on a life full of love and joy, I will remember this gift and still not be able to repay her for all she has done for me.