What is love part 6: Learning to love yourself

I try to keep these short enough you can get through them pretty quick. I tried to space them out but when I wake up at 3 am with things to say I gotta get them off my chest, out of my mind Otherwise sleep will continue to elude me.

I sat out to write this series knowing it only had one conclusion. I didn’t intend to make anyone cry. I didn’t want to drudge up things I had left in the past. My goal was simply to answer the question, what does love mean to me. I think I answered that quite thoroughly in these reflections of the loves that left an imprint on my heart. Now, it’s time I put it all together to determine what I learned from this ordeal.

You will notice pattern. All of my stories ended in loss. Mostly time has separated us one from another, life has taken at least one of these lost loves and then there was Carmen, which I can let that one go now. You will also noticed they are all in the very distant past. I haven’t seen Hanna since 2005, Samantha since 2001, Carmen since 2003. Dom’s dead and Becky might as well be for all intents and purposes. The point is I haven’t had a person in my life I was that close to, in nearly 2 decades.

In a lot of ways Hanna was the last straw. Not because we were close and I left behind, but because we could have been closer and I couldn’t forgive myself for the way I treated her. But also, if you caught a piece of the story you might have noticed I was chasing a music career. That didn’t stop for a long time.

That’s where my life went. Starting in 2006 I became obsessed with launching my record studio. It took everything I had, drained me of all my resources, destroyed my friendships and left me jobless, penniless and homeless. I didn’t give up either. I turned right around with some friends and launched a new venture. I threw myself into m content at this time. I started making websites and internet videos. YouTube was the newest thing and I wanted to get in on that. I had started chasing the fame.

It was in 2011 I started to turn my life around. I had been in a slump living literally in my parents basement running a comic book shop and underground pirate DVD store. I did other things I regret doing. Mostly I became a recluse. I didn’t need friends, let alone girlfriends or boyfriends for that matter. I was better off alone. I had work to do. Too much work, not enough time.

I went to college. I studied communications. When I left college, against my will but that’ a story for another day, I got into the news media business. But not before I dabbled in wedding videos, DJing and other side projects. I became a video editor then assistant producer at a commercial broadcast TV station. From there I moved to Texas and became a professional journalist. A news reporter working as a staff writer for a local community newspaper. I found a new purpose in life. I didn’t need friends. I didn’t need romance. My work was my life. My life had changed. My new love was my passion for words. Passion for the truth that motivated me. That pushed me to the breaking point where I walked away from it all to live as a transgender woman.

I had quite a hazy but very wild career in the news business for those 6 years I was in it. I climbed the ladder so to speak. Moved up in the market from small town paper to a county-wide daily paper with a larger circulation. Eventually I made it all the way up to Television producer. I was, briefly, producer of the highest rated newscast at the top rated TV station in the market. I saw briefly because I only had the helm on weekends, the rest of the week I produced a newscast on a Fox affiliate nobody was watching. Still, it was a blast while it lasted.

In 2017 I started asking the question who am I? I knew I was a gamer. I knew I was a toy collector. I was also a nerd, a news reporter/writer by trade, and I was a closeted queer bisexual transwoman. But was that it? I had begun to question my religious practice. I never lost faith, I still identify as a Christian to this day. But I don’t do church the same as I did then. I’ve taken the last four or so years trying to figure out who I was. Learning, along the way, to love myself. That was a challenge. I hated the person I became. I hate how many people I had hurt over the years. I hated the things I did to stay hidden in the closet. I hated the ugly man face looking at me in the mirror every day.

I lost myself in my work, my side projects. I was making music, YouTube videos, podcasts, writing in my blog, writing short stories and poems on the side, writing novels I never finished, doing everything I could to stay busy. I didn’t do these things as me either. When I say I was lost in my work I meant it. I hid behind so many names, wore so many masks. I was The Rat, DJ Serial Killa, Sega Gamer 12, The Trans Formers Collector, The Retro Witch. I ran The Rat’s Collectibles, Mean Green Records, Bim Dizzle, Gamerz Jackpot, The Spiders Lair and co-hosted the Transposed Podcast. I did all these things, took on all these projects, because I was running from who I was. I was hiding from the world. From, the truth.

I finally realized I had enough. I needed to take time for myself. I didn’t do it alone. I met a woman who is my sister, my best friend, and my whole world at this time. She is the one person pushing me forward right now while others out there are trying to pull me backwards.

I am not doing anymore of these. I don’t need to write an essay on how much Robin means to me, she see’s every day. She knows. I decided to write a love letter to someone else. Me.

Dear Stephanie Bri,

From the moment I met you life has been complicated. You have fought through the hard times. You have run from the bad. You have pushed through the pain. You have learned from your heartaches. You have endured. You are strong. You are beautiful. You are an amazing gift to humanity who blesses people with your presence.

My life would never have been possible without you. You brighten my day. You spread joy to others around you. You bring clarity to the chaos of this life. Above all you are a very special person who’s life is going to be amazing. You are a fabulous woman with a big heart, a great smile and a zest for life. Don’t ever stop sharing your gifts with the world.

Truly Yours, with Love,


What is love part 5: Finding a sister in this crazy world

If you asked me who my family was I will give you a very different answer depending on the context. It will also change depending on which part of my life you were asking me. When I was a kid I would have told you had three sisters. Lately I am not so sure how to respond. But there is one sister who stands out above the rest, and it’s not the girl you think it is.

I met Hanna when she was still in 3rd grade. She started life, in my world at least, as the annoying girl who lived up the street. No offence Hanna but that was how I saw you when we met. She quickly became my youngest sisters best friend. From there she slowly etched her way into my own life. Before long she went from being a friend, to best friend, to girlfriend (briefly) before settling on sister, where she remains to this day.

How did this happen? How did this girl I wanted nothing to do with, who I picked on as much as I did my baby sister she clung to become so dear to my heart? Well, friends, strap yourself in because this is a bumpy ride.

Fortunately for me, and Hanna for that matter, a lot of the details of our shared story are the stuff of legend but they are the things I am not at liberty to share. There are parts of this story that I will take with me to the grave. There are parts of this story she’d put me there if I told. What I can do is craft a tale that will leave you mystified. You will walk away with a better understanding of my eccentricities. This is the last story of a love turned south I will tell, for of all the heartaches I have experienced none of them pierce my soul as deep as this one. There is not a woman alive I loved deeper than I loved this woman. That worst part is, I never told her how much I loved her.

Hanna was one of those kids that was always there in the background. She used to come over, grab Becky and the two would run off to have their grand adventures sans myself. It wasn’t until she became a teenager that I started to really move her from background character to the main cast. By the time she entered the fold I had already watched Samantha move across the country with my sister Candy in tow. I had already dropped out of high school and launched my ill-fated DJ career. But she was there before this, She was kind of always there, and I never noticed.

My mom was a Sunday school teacher and a staple in the community. It was a small town. All the neighborhood kids would give my mom hugs and claim her as their own mother. None of them did this more meaningfully than Hanna, who herself had no mother so I was happy to share mine with her. I won’t go into the why she had no mother, that’s a part of the story not my place to tell. I will tell you that of all the kids who called my mom, mother, she was the one who deserved it the most.

Hanna was almost family in another way. Her dad had been good friends with my Uncle Tim. Good enough friends she referred to him as her uncle. Again there’s some background there I won’t get into but needless to say Hanna was family right from the start and  I never questioned it. Not even when we sorta dated for a brief spell.

I say sorta and I brief. I won’t go into it. Our relationship was told mostly in letters that ended with we can’t do this. It began the night my dad went into the hospital and I thought he was a goner. Riding home from the hospital she grabbed my hand and held it the whole ride home. From there she stayed by my side until he recovered. I even spent that Thanksgiving at her house with just my sisters and very little food. That’s where Hanna resided in my life. She was there for the hard times. She was there for the good times. I just wish I had noticed her sooner. Before it was too late.

I can’t go any deeper than this. We spent a lot of time together. We had a lot of intimate conversations together. We shared a lot of hugs, a lot of moments that defined who I would become. I crumbled to the ground unable to move when I got the call she rolled her pickup truck. She was in the hospital and I didn’t go see her. It’s not a regret I have. It’s a part of the story that I won’t go into because the rest I do regret. Not skipping seeing her but why I didn’t go. Why I was devastated she was hurt but why I was angry at her for being in that situation. Angry at God for not taking better care of my sister.

The last time I saw Hanna was  in 2005. She came over to say goodbye before I left Idaho to move back to Salina, Kansas for whatever reason. She said her peace, gave me a hug and as she walked away I burned her memory into my soul where it will live on to this day. I went to my bedroom and I cried like you never cried before. Here was a girl I could have really loved. Here was a girl who could have really loved me. She was a friend. A sister. A soulmate. And I let her go.

Hanna and I had some intense moments. We got into some of the angriest fights you’d ever imagine two friends getting into. The way we fought you’d have sworn we were lovers. Losing her hurts more than any other loss I felt. Fortunately it was a short lived loss. Oh she fine today. Recovered from her crash. Recovered from her youth in fact. She got married, started a family and we happily check in on each other from time to time. She’s busy with being a wife and mother, I am busy chasing my dreams. I don’t regret a single moment we shared. We had our fights. We made up. We might both hold onto our own version of the past, our own twist on the story we shared. But watching her grow up was a highlight of my life.

If you are reading this I never said then, I am not afraid to say it now, Hanna I love you, I always loved you, I will always love you. You are the best sister I ever had and I will never forget you. I have one regret, and that’s  I didn’t notice how much you meant to me sooner.

What is love part 4, true love or true friendship?

It was a warm summer day. Like any good story this one involves a bunch of middle school age kids running around a park playing variations of tag adapted to our local surroundings. It was a game I am not sure if the neighborhood kids invented but it was a game we played called 1-2-3, me. During our lay session we a bunch of us wound up inside one of the laundromats. I was sitting there in the small enclosed space with a handful of people. I am going to be honest I don’t remember everyone that was there. Just one person, her name was Samantha.

This is a story I have been waiting to tell. Don’t worry this one has a much happier ending than most of the rest. As do the remaining ones here on out. Oh, they all end in some for of heartbreak but this is one I was able to survive unscathed.

I remember the day I met Samantha vividly. I had just moved to a new town called Jackpot, Nevada. Once again I found myself the new kid in a new town getting ready to start a new school in the coming weeks. It was mid-summer probably late July if memory serves me right. I had met a kid named Dallas through my mom. She worked with his mom and we were close to the same age.

Dallas was introducing me to his friends. He started with his girlfriend, Samantha, and her sister Shawna. I was new to town so didn’t have a girlfriend yet. I was a ways off from discovering other things so this would have to do for now.

We walked up to the two girls and he introduced me. Shawna was the goofier one. She got to talking to my sister Candy and the two ran off together doing whatever it was they did. Sam stayed there and told me everything about herself. She asked me what my favorite soda was and when I said Mountain Dew she laughed, it was her favorite too. We ended up liking most of the same stuff. Ace of Base “The Sign” was both our favorite CD, at the time at least. We talked about that. We talked about our favorite video games. We talked about our favorite books. As the afternoon dragged on I began to etch her face, her smile, her eyes into my memory where I would store them for all time.

I don’t know how it happened but I remember walking back to my house thinkin wow that is the most amazing girl I had ever met. I was very happy for my friend Dallas to have such an interesting girlfriend. I was not at all devastated when they broke up mere days later. I was just there on her doorstep to offer a friend if she needed it. Which she accepted. And friend was good enough for me.

Samantha was a little younger than I was. Not by much. I had just turned 15, she was halfway to 12. But the age gap was exacerbated by my being in high school and her being in 5th grade. Obviously this meant we couldn’t become romantically involved which was fine. I was just happy to have a friend I could talk to. That’s where our story begins.

Samantha was the girl I could share everything with. Well, almost everything as it turns out. We spent so much time together you might have mistaken us for a couple, except for the lack of affection. Whenever us kids, as in my sisters, her and her sister, the other neighborhood kids and myself would go swimming her and I would stay in the shallow end talking about whatever. Splashing each other. Chasing each other around the pool. Whenever there was a game of tag we used to run off and hide together. Because she was friends with both of my sisters and her sister became one of my sisters BFF’s, she was always around.

Most of our time together was spent being kids. We played board games. We listened to music on my dad’s stereo in the living room. We sat on the couch and watched movies. That couch is where we did the vast majority of our bonding her and I. We watched so many movies together. Sure there were usually other people there but not always. We watched everything from the Fifth Element, Pitch black, Anaconda, Men in Black, She’s All That, Pleasantville and more. Any movie I watched with her there I stored in my brain as a movie worth revisiting. Even if the movie sucked, I could just remember the time I watched it with her.

I watched Samantha have her run of boyfriends. She was quite beautiful and very desirable. Despite my growing crush, which yes she was my first crush ever mind you, I tried to always let her have her boyfriends. Did I interfere or try to break them up, okay maybe more than once. But she was quick to remind me the age difference and other reasons why our hooking up was not an option for her. The biggest reason she gave, which stabbed at first but I welcome now, she thought of me like a sibling. I wont use the word she did because, trans, but I will say the sentiment holds weight.

It wasn’t like we never had our close encounters. The first time I did ask her out and she said flat no thanks I tried to jump of a cliff at church camp. Needless to say that didn’t go so well for me. Truth be told I was often the one she turned to after a breakup because she knew once the boundaries were set, I would always be there for her. And I was. She was there for my 16th birthday and it was the best birthday I ever had to this day. I don’t remember anything else about it just she was there and that was all that mattered.

I don’t want to paint a false picture. We had a rocky friendship. Her parents went through a divorce. I buried myself into my religion trying desperately to pray her into falling for me. We did eventually push each other away but not before forming some lasting memories.

I dare not try to recall the exact timeline of events nor the specific year. My memory is a jumbled mess of images that are hard to sort out. What I can tell you was I was in either 10th or 11th grade. I had been going around town asking different girls to the upcoming Sweetheart Ball. It was the annual Valentine’s Day dance our school threw to torture young hormonal teenagers. I normally went dateless to dances. I had a lot of female friends via my sisters so I had no shortage of girls willing to shave me a single dance. But this one was different I asked her point blank if she would go with me this one time, give me one chance to be a gentleman and win her over. To my surprise, she said yes. It would be hyperbole to say it was the greatest night of my life, but it absolutely was memorable.

We slow danced to Maria Carry’s Butterfly. I tear up every time I hear that song to this day. She wore a cute black dress. She saved me more than one dance but that was the one that stood out. It was then I realized I didn’t need her to be my girlfriend, she gave me something better, a deeper friendship and an understanding of what true love really is. The night ended as expected, I walked her home, no kiss, and walked home and went to bed with the last smile I ever wore naturally strewn across my face.

Don’t fret dear readers, this tale has not a sad ending in the same sense as the others. We remain friends to this day. I old her I was trans in 2018 and she expressed her happiness for me. She moved to Baltimore around the time of 9/11. She has been there ever since raising her boys. She is a fantastic mother. Although distance and time have led us to drift apart, I still hold a special place in my heart for the memories we did share. I purged myself of deadname’s photos as best as I could but I dared not touch a single photo that had her in it. I will cherish every memory we shared, even the bad ones, to the end of time.

We had some great times together. She was there through my entire teenage adolescence. She was there to call me on the phone the day Dominic died. She was there to ask me how I was doing when she learned about Carmen. She was there for me when I needed her. I did my best to be there for her when she needed me. Naturally we had other friends, other family, but to this day I don’t care how or why we drifted apart. I don’t hold onto the arguments we had. The fights we fought. I don’t even allow myself to recall the times I went to far and suffered her wrath. I hold onto the good memories, let the bad ones give me clarify and thank God every day I had her in my life when I did. I wouldn’t have any idea what a true friend looks like to this day if I hadn’t had her there to show me all those years ago.

AS with everything in our shared experience, I am sure she meant more to me than I did to her. I did push her away like I said. We don’t talk anymore. We don’t even message on Facebook. I say hi once in a while, sometimes she says she is busy but most of the time we pretty much have gone our separate ways. I don’t need to, I won’t get into what went down between us that put a wedge between me and my once best friend. It doesn’t matter because like I said, despite our troubles, despite our drifting apart, despite our living two very different lives separated by a great distance, we’ve always been there for each other when it mattered most. Is he in my life now? No, but she will always remain in my heart and that’s good enough for me.

What does it mean to be an American girl?

Lately I have been listening to my country music playlist on Spotify as I drive home from work more than usual. Part of it is the longer I spend in the giants asphalt jungle the more I miss being in the country. Another part of it is since fully coming out to everyone in my hick family I’ve been really missing some of my family members who pushed me out of their lives. One song in particular rings so true to me. It’s by Trisha Yearwood. It’s called XXX’s and OOO’s (An American Girl). I love listening to it as much as I can. But it make me wonder, what does that even mean More importantly, am I doing it right?

The other day I wrote about how my dad and I bonded over sports. It was about the only thing we had besides cars and trash talking liberals. If only he new the truth. But I didn’t get into how close he was with his three daughters he does acknowledge. He didn’t bond with them in the exact same way but they didn’t do traditional father daughter things, my sisters were not very girly and so dad spent time with them doing pretty much the same sorts of things as he did with me. Becky was into cars and sports, Candy spoke to him on the same level about music and religion, Stacy was more independent so I am not sure what their relationship looked like to be honest. She’s also older than me and moved out earlier than the rest of us.

It got me thinking though, what would my relationship with my dad been like had he seen me as a girl not a boy? I look at my cisgendered friends. I have quite a few I call friends, fewer still I’d call true allies. But as much as I appreciate my girl friends and do enjoy their company, most still do kinda treat me like less than a girl. I don’t have anyone willing to take me shopping or to invite me out with the girls when they do girls night. Still none of my female coworkers or outside work friends, past or present, talk to me like a girl about boys, or share feelings. It does make me feel alienated. Being free to be myself to wear a dress, told I am cute, to put on make up yeah it makes me feel female inside, presenting outside, but when I am not treated like a woman, the same as other women, it does make me feel bad about myself. 

I know being a woman is not about the clothes, or hair, or even gossip for that matter. There’s nuances that I can’t being to understand. But I fear many still see me as a gay person emulating a woman not a woman who was abused by society and forced to pretend she was man most of her life. That’s rough. It’s hard not having girlfriends I can be a girl with. I have Robin, my sister. But she’s trans and was even further into masculinity during her guy days so she doesn’t have a lot of the feminine interests or traits I want to share with other girls.

Being trans is already a lonely existence. we face discrimination and bigotry in so many ways we can’t even properly articulate. It’s even harder when the girls we want to bond with, want to close to, be like, push us away because even they don’t see us as fully women. It’s just emotionally draining. I won’t and can’t ever sit and talk about my period, that’s science. But I’d kill to have a girls night with drinking, fun gossip, dancing, hell even just a casual manicure day. I can’t even get one of my girlfriends to go shoe shopping with me. It gets to a point where I have to ask, am I being woman enough? If not, what am I missing out on?

I went to a gay bar a few weeks ago hoping to mingle. I was instructed by all in my community to avoid straight bars. I’d love to get dolled up and go swing dancing or line dancing at a honkytonk bar with my girlfriends. Alas that doesn’t appear to be in the cards. I have plenty of trans friends online and a few offline I can chat with. But I want more. Call me selfish but I want to be the same as all the other women in my life. I want to be treated the same way my sisters are. I don’t want to be objectified or assaulted by men but I want to be seen as a woman. I wonder if I ever will. I wonder what I am doing wrong?

A lot of times people fail to understand or they forget their actions say more than their supportive words. You can click a heart on Facebook and say I got your back all day long but when you go to Starbucks with the girls from work, and conveniently forget to invite me, that hurts like you’ll never know. I want to stop thinking about me as a transwoman. A person assigned male at birth becoming a woman. I want people to just think of me as a woman who is scared and alone because everyone, literally every single person on this planet, in her life, treats her like she is less than that. I am not  fucking fag in a dress. I am a goddamn woman the same as you. I hurt the same as you. 

It’s not to say I don’t have great allies or girlfriends who are cis who would do that, but they’re all online and at a great distance. I love having other trans friends. I love having gay and lesbian friends. But I’d like my cis and hetero female friends to not just call me a woman or refer to me by female pronouns but to see me, treat me, interact with me as though I was born a woman, the same as them. At the end of the day it’s really just another form of discrimination we face. It’s no intentional by all but sometimes it is perhaps learned behavior you might not be aware you are doing.

I don’t have a vagina but so what. I will someday and I took pills to make what I do have stop working. I am basically a eunuch at this point. No. I am a woman. Plain and simple. Period end of story. If you don’t treat me the same as other women, deep down it could mean you’re a transphobe and haven’t realized it yet. I am not asking you to show me pics of your boobs. But you shouldn’t be afraid to do anything with me in the room you’d do with any other female in the room. 

Going back to the song, American Girl. I think the answer is simple. It means we fight on as we suffer in silence at the hands of our oppressors. It means we put on our pretty face, our pretty clothes and we dance for the men in our lives to stay safe. It Also means we keep our trans sisters at arms length. That hurts. I don’t want to be pushed away, I want a hug. I want to be close to my friends. I just want to be the same as any other woman. That’s not too much to ask is it?

The cleansing power of a good cry

At the earliest age of my life I was told I was a boy. I was not supposed to cry except in those certain circumstances where it was deemed acceptable. Despite this so-called warning by the adults around me, I fount myself crying quite a bit over the years. Most of the time I was ashamed to do so. 

When I was 19 or 20 I attended my sister Candy’s wedding. It was a very humble ceremony in a chapel at a casino close to where we lived. Even though I was conditioned crying was a sign of weakness I felt an uncontrollable urge to shed tears for my sister. I was overjoyed at her happy occasion while sad I was losing my sister to some guy I hardy knew. The worst part of that experience was trying to suppress those tears for no good reason. 

I can’t tell you how many times I felt a strong and powerful urge to cry I had to suppress. I did what most guys, or AMAB’s do while still presenting as male do, I turned it into anger. Anger is such a quick and dirty emotion. Because men and boys are not only allowed to express anger, they are quite often encouraged to do so by their adult mentors, they often do so unnecessarily. It becomes second nature to push down a healthy feeling and bury it under a pile of angry tension. This only causes further distress on the mental state of the person doing it, so I discovered. But anger was okay, tears were for girls. 

I lost count how many times I was embarrassed about crying. While watching a sad movie, listening to a beautiful love song, or even at my uncles funeral. It was okay to cry for grandma but Uncle Jim was a soldier, he got a full military funeral so had to be tough couldn’t show weakness there. It was such an awful part of my experience it is no wonder men are so damn aggressive.

Human’s need to cry. It is a release when our minds, souls and bodies have had enough pain. If you hold it in, you are bottling it up. Funny thing is this is the exact argument they use when telling boys they have to, as in need to release their anger so they don’t bottling it in until they explode. Well what happens when a man who has bottled up all that pain inside and only buries it with anger? I don’t something that looks like every abusive man in the history of the world perhaps?

After I started taking hormone replacement therapy to transition into the female body that aligned with my brain, as in becoming the true me, I found myself crying at all sorts of things. As someone who experienced both sides I can tell you this is what I learned. Women do not feel more emotions than men, per se. Where they are different is they were allowed to feel those emotions, and be defined by them, their entire lives. This allows women, for the most part, to be better in tune to those powerful emotions men suppress. If you suppress a feeling long enough you become desensitized to it and the ability to feel diminishes.

The first time I let myself cry freely as a woman it was liberating. I have always been, and assume the same is true for cisgendered men, a very emotional individual. I was taught to manage those emotions in a very unhealthy way. 

I remember watching an episode of a TV sitcom called “Everybody Loves Raymond,” in the show there is an episode were the wife, Deborah, stays home alone while her family goes out on a playdate, just so she can sit on the couch and cry. She explains how she quite often needs alone time to let herself have a good cry. I, too, have found myself doing this quite a bit. I cry for all sorts of reasons. Whenever I read a sad news story about an 11-year-old Mexican boy who died of dehydration in the Texas desert while his dad, a U.S. citizen held him in his arms. I cry when I watch Mystic River and I follow Julia Roberts on a quest to find her own romance. Or when I watch the tear jerker The Notebook if I am in a mood for a brutal cry. The point is I don’t bury or hide my emotions any more. I don’t run from them or ignorantly try to replace them with anger. Truth be told I had a lot of anger, most directed at my condition, but that’s a story for another day.

I have begun to realize I was deprived a very basic part of the human experience because other people put immense pressure upon me to live up to an impossible standard. Human beings are made to cry. In fact it is the ones who opt not to who are showing the most weakness. Because all they are doing is causing harm unnecessarily to themselves, and the world around them as a result.

Last week I cried and posted on Twitter I felt like a failure because my writing career was deadlocked and I found myself stuck in an office job. Last month I cried at my nephews wedding because it was a joyous occasion then went into the woods and wept for the planet as I hugged a tree older than everyone in my life put together. Earlier this week I cried watching the fourth installment of the Twilight Saga as a werewolf, sworn enemy of the vampires, made a sacrifice that saved the life of a new born child. It’s a good thing to be able to weep. The shortest verse in the Christian New Testament is simply, “Jesus wept,” you know the male role model all me are told they ae meant to emulate and he was often see crying. I don’t know why we act like it is unhealthy for men to cry in our society but it’s actually unhealthy not to.

The most intense cry I have had in a long time came about last week. I met a trans person on social media I had bonded with quite well. We chatted daily. One day this person up and disappeared. I was distraught because they were talking about depression and other stuff. I went on a mini crusade asking all my friends on social media to ask around to see if anyone knew what had happened to this person. I finally remembered they followed me on Instagram and so I reached out. A few days went by and my worry intensified. Then one day they replied. I won’t go into their struggle, that’s not my place. But I cried and cried for days because I felt like I had lost a friend. Not to death, suicide, or anything else, just they had to go away from social media for their mental health. I am relieved they are alive, happy they are getting help but still, even now, I cry at the loss of a friendship I was very much enjoying being a part.

The best part of transitioning from male to female is I can cry in public and not care. I can cry in front of my loved ones and not bat an eye. I can sit in my room and cry freely without having to drudge up something to be angry about. Crying is healthy. It is cleansing. To use an academic word, it is cathartic. It is a good thing to cry, especially when things are bad. Won’t you join me now in a good cry? It’s okay, I won’t judge.

The significance of the Bucks winning the Finals and why I cared

Basketball. It’s one of those things I have a love-hate relationship with in many ways.

Basketball is the only sport, the only television programming, my dad and I viewed together. We would watch many a game where we could chat openly about whatever was on our minds. It was the only chance we really had to bond over the years. Sure we went for walks, we went camping and fishing together and played board games as a family but those things never churched up much in the way of conversation like a game of round ball could.

Going even further back I remember this vividly. It was probably 1993 but I can’t tell for sure I was a young kid. It was the NBA finals. The Chicago Bulls were facing the Phoenix Suns for a championship. My dad asked me to watch the game with him and I agreed. He told me this guy Jordan was amazing and I’d be impressed with his talent. I thought okay sure. He asked me which team I wanted to root for, and as I was still harboring ill-conceived fantasies of being a “cowboy” someday I picked the team with a bull for their logo. Made sense to me.

Up to this point in my life I had avoided sports altogether. Whenever my dad tried to coerce me into joining a team or playing a game I showed no interest whatsoever. He even tried buying me sports memorabilia in a vain attempt to spark my interest. It never worked.

This was different. Watching the Bulls and Suns in a duel for the trophy I became caught up in the excitement of this was the team that had just won three championships, in a row. During the games themselves my dad tries to teach me the ins and outs of the sports and how the game worked. He also told me bits of basketball trivia he picked up over the years. He didn’t absorb stats like stereotypical sports dads, in fact outside basketball he had no further relation to sports himself. It was kind of like our world. The rest of the sports world was for everyone else. 

My dad grew up in the Midwest. Mostly in Kansas but he spent some time in Nebraska and Indiana. It was there, in Indiana he developed his appreciation for the sport. He got his earliest tastes playing on a team in high school. My dad never told me very many stories from his childhood that weren’t gut-wrenching but his basketball stories were apparently the highlight of his youth. He tried very hard to pass that onto what he thought at the time was his only son. Playing the role as best as I could I played along. I even went so far as to try out for the basketball team when I was in high school. That was another endeavor in futility. 

Dad and I, along with my sisters, would often go to the local court and shoot hoops. We never played a game, we were kids and didn’t have a full team. It was still a lot of fun bonding with my siblings and dad. It was one of those rare times dad was approachable. In my earliest days he drank a lot. He had to find Jesus before that began to change. Since I was still into witchcraft when he started his conversion to Christianity and I was too young to have formed a political opinion yet, we had basketball. That was it. Over the years I tried to learn the game. I do understand the mechanics for the most part. I also get caught up in the stats when the announcers report so and so grabbed a triple double for the game or a rarer triple triple, I understand what those terms mean.

I was fortunate in that I grew up in the Jordan era who literally raised the bar. It was easy for me to dig in and become a die hard bulls fan. While to an outsider it may have looked like I was riding the bandwagon, the truth was I had no interest in the sport prior to my dad helping me discover what made it so much fun.

To this day everyone is always asking who’s going to be the next Michael Jordan. Well it was clear to me and everyone around that man was the late legend Kobe Bryant himself. I never cared for the L.A. Lakers. My reasoning was simple. I don’t like flashy teams. Same as my dad apparently. I prefer a good underdog story. Which is why despite their massive success in the 90’s, I stuck with the Bulls all these years. That was their 15 minutes of fame. It was a bright hot 15 minutes, but before and after that era they’ve basically been struggling to make a name for themselves. Riding high purely off the Jordan era many of their fans are now my age and moving on to other interests.

Back to my dad. From that first game all the way until I moved out of his house, every year the one thing we did together was watch the NBA playoffs. Game one through all several rounds of sweaty players chasing  a ball around the court we would make it almost a ritual. We had snacks. We had soda. We would even have our sports attire. Not jerseys because gross but I had a ballcap of my beloved Bulls. Even the summer we moved across country during the finals we listened to the games on the AM radio in our U-Haul. When I got my first job at a TV station we were offered free tickets to see the Harlem Globetrotters. It wasn’t a “real” basketball game but it was the first time my dad and I got to sit in the stand of a live game. It was also the last time either of us will have anything to do with that act so moving on.

Despite our growing apart in recent months I will never forget the time I spent sitting on a couch rooting for this team, throwing popcorn at the TV when the wrong team scored or listening to my dad tell stories from his past. He might not have a son anymore, but we can still cherish the good memories we had. No need to dwell on the not-so-good ones. That’s one thing sports does for people. It brings people together who otherwise might not have the interpersonal communication skills to do so on their own accords. My dad and I did occasionally talk about the things that interested me. I told him about the music I was into. What was going on with Star Wars and talked his ear off about Nintendo more than he’d ever care to hear. It didn’t matter. Basketball was a gateway to the foundations of a relationship that perseveres to this day.

Why then did the Bucks winning this season cause me so much turmoil? Just as I did as a kid watching this team that had a long history of sucking rise to the level of champions, I had flashbacks to those days long gone with my dad watching basketball games. I tried to watch the series this year but wasn’t able to make it work for a number of reasons. Despite all of that I was super thrilled when the Bucks pulled it off. I have never rooted for Milwaukee and I never will but I was exceedingly overjoyed they won the title this year. I don’t expect them to pull a double three peat out of their collective butts but the universe is a strange and wonderful place so you never know.

For now I will share in their triumph in so far as it makes me feel good to see an underdog overcome the odds. And I will look back fondly on all the games I enjoyed watching with my dad over the decades. We never missed a game once the playoffs started.

Today my dad and I struggle. I am no longer pretending to be his son. I have fully embraced my transition to becoming his fourth daughter. While we do still talk, he’s made it known he isn’t on board with that. I fear we’ll only drift further apart but in the meantime I will hold onto what I have and mourn what I lost only after it’s gone. Until then way to go Bucks! You truly inspired young kids everywhere across this land.


Why “crossdressing” is such a big part of my transgender experience

Every transgender journey is a little different. Some of us know at an early age there’s something unique about us. Others feel a nagging sensation they can’t explain inside somewhere that manifests fully later in life. Some, especially transmen, go through the steps of accepting they are gay or lesbian first before coming all the way out. This is my story. How I went from being a girl in my daydreams to living as a woman in real life. 

The earliest memory I have of what could be considered crossdressing, which I will use here to mean wearing typically feminine attire while I was assigned male at birth and living as a boy. It was Halloween. I was no more than 6 or 7 years old maybe younger. My sisters Stacy, Candy and myself all dressed as “punk rockers” one year. I was able to wear daggly plastic jewelry as a part of the costume and wear face paint. I was so giddy walking around with my unkempt hair dressed like a rock star, back then they looked kinda feminine anyways, people kept thinking I was  a girl. I didn’t mind although I pretended it bothered me because I knew I had to behave a certain way. Deep own though I liked it.

Sadly it would be several years before I got my next dose of the drug that would consume me. This time I was in 3rd grade. I had just finished watching the movie Weird Science with a cousin of mine. We were dorks so playing along with the movie I set up my toys to look like a computer and we put bras on our heads. Dad came in and yanked the bra off my head asked if I was a fag and told me to not play that game ever again. I overreacted because it was just a silly game but it still stirred something inside me touching a woman’s bra. It was kinda gross because it was either my moms or my sisters. Nonetheless it helped reawaken that feeling I had buried.

I can’t be certain the timeline but it was in the same house, 3rd grade. I remember that much because we moved a lot and I mark my memories based on which house we lived in. The details of a house are sometimes all the anchor I have to set my brain straight. 

I was a sleep. Dreaming about going to Blockbuster video to rent a movie. The reason I dreamt it was because we never went there. We were poor so we rented from the library or the book store that had 50 cent rentals. In the dream I rented a tape. It didn’t have a label I just grabbed it off the shelf and knew it was the right movie for me. I hugged it tightly, possessively. The details are fuzzy as dreams are but I vague remember going through a chase scene desperately trying to get home to open that box and see what film was inside. I knew it would change forever whatever it was. I got the box home crawled behind the couch where I was safe from prying eyes and opened it. Inside the box was not a VHS tape with a prized movie or some other treasure. In my subconscious I knew it was significant hence why I defended it so intensely. Inside the box was a pair of girls panties. They were pink. I put them on in the dream and suddenly I felt more alive than I have ever felt in my entire life. I woke up, in tears when I realized it was just a dream and those panties were not on my person. I never wore boy underwear another day in my life. That was the day I started going commando, against my mothers stern reminders to wear undies. I refused. They were the wrong undies and I couldn’t do it anymore. I was 8 years old and refused to wear boys underwear from that day forward.

The next time I dabbled was in the next house after we moved again. I was 10 now. Still haunted nightly by that dream. It kept nagging at me to steal a pair of my sisters panties and just try them out. Try them on. See how it felt. 

We were playing, my three sisters, my cousin who lived with us and a couple of their friends. It was a game of pretend. We were playing pirates. I was a Scottish pirate so I insisted my sister let me wear one of her skirts as my “kilt” for the game. Once I put it one all the girls giggled but I pushed forward with the ruse and the game ensued. It was over the top of my pants and thus didn’t quite fulfill the fantasy but I was getting closer.

The same house, later that summer shortly after my 11th birthday had passed I seized my opportunity. I was sitting on the recliner watching TV and mom was doing laundry. She plopped the laundry basket on the floor next to me. I looked down and say sitting on top a pair of white panties with a pink trim. They had some sort of flower pattern but I couldn’t tell you today which flower it was. I looked around, made sure nobody was watching me and grabbed them, shoved them up my shirt and waited. I also snatched a bra and a nightgown I knew would go unnoticed. I waiting till the show was back on and all eyes were glued towards the TV set. I slunk back into my bedroom, put them on and felt instant euphoria. I cried real tears. Nothing ever felt more real, more joyous than that moment. I rolled around my bed giggling I was a girl, I was a lesbian, I was a gay girl. I was giggling like I had never giggled before. Good thing the TV was loud or else they might have heard me. 

From there it was on. I never went to school, outside, or to bed without a pair of panties. Slowly but steadily I secretly built up my girlie wardrobe. By my 12th birthday, just one year later, I had amassed a full set. I had panties, bras, skirts, night gowns, slips, dresses, swimming suits, shorts, everything I could get my hands on. I had three sisters, two close to my age and size who each had girlfriends their own ages. Girls buy a lot of clothes. They swap a lot of clothes. They quite often lose articles of clothing and never think twice about it. This made my obtaining items quite easy. My stole from their girlfriends. I stole from my own girlfriends who let me into their bedrooms or wore things into mine. I even shoplifted from the thrift stores every chance I could. I didn’t care I felt justified because I desperately needed girl clothes. I hated wearing boy clothes. It made me sick. It made me disgusted with myself.

By the time I was 18 I was dressing up daily. If I was home alone I was in girl mode. I savored every trip my parents took out of town. The longer trips bought me more girl time. I would put on a dress, crank up the Britney Spears and do the dishes. I would dance around like fag I thought I was because I hadn’t learned what trans was.

Once I moved into my first apartment on my own without a roommate I went Stephanie full time. I came home from work, got boy clothes off, sometimes as I was walking into the door, got into girl mode and let out a deep sigh of relief. I did this every day for three years before finally coming out to the world during Pride month 2020. I have no regrets. Not the things I stole nor the girls I stole them from. I do not regret doing what I had to do to survive. What I had to do, to get to where I could love myself. To me it was life or death. 

Even now I refuse to wear pants. I refuse to wear a ballcap. Anything that resembles the clothes I had to wear in my boy disguise I despise, detest so much they make me gag just thinking about it. For me, I was always a little girl trapped in a boys body. Today, I am a proud transwoman conquering the world.

Why the spoiler alert goes against nature itself

There is one truth in the universe we cannot escape. Everything comes to an end. Death is inevitable. Life is finite. These are realities we must face as living creatures self aware of our own mortality.

I am a writer. I have been writing my entire life. I started with journals and essays in school. My parents got me a typewriter at age 12 followed by a computer around the time I turned 18. I have made a living as a writer. I have written as a college student and, yes, as a hobby. My writing comes from the heart. I have a passion for writing. But I have one issue with the modern philosophy of writers, the reader.

You see I have no interest whatsoever in how the reader will receive my writing. I do not concern myself with how the reader will respond. Will my words offend them? Not my problem. Will the stories I tell hurt them in some way? Not why I write the things I do. I write for one person, me. Writing for the audience is a fallacy. An artist creates art for themselves. Art is about expressing your feelings.

I recently mentioned how I was trained in rhetoric. I believe rhetoric is, at it’s simplest form, itself the art of using words. Story-telling is an art. Reviews are an art. News articles, yes objective, facts-based journalism is a form of art. It is creative writing even if it is based on reality. And therein lies the root of my premise. All writing is based in reality. We cannot write things we do not know, not effectively anyways.

When I talk about a movie, a book or even a TV show I have seen I feel no obligations to preface said discussion with a warning to the audience. It is none of my business which readers have read the book. Likewise when I write a news article on the complexities of the economy I make no assumption the reader has a basic understanding of economics. I do not begin with the foundations of Econ 101. I write the facts as presented, based on my then understanding using the information available. Should I make a mistake I shall correct it. But I will not preface my article on the economy with before you read this article take Econ 305 at your local community college. I have no obligation to do so. I expect the reader to be informed by my writing. If I am reviewing a film, as in a work of art, it behoove me and is in the best interest of the reader I share my full insight. I cannot do this if I cripple myself going in by tying my hand being my back. It is well understood a review is an analysis of a work of art. If one is reading a review expecting it to be “spoiler free” they do a disservice to themselves. If one is writing a review and leaves out how the film made the author, as in the artist crafting said review, feel, they not only discredit their readers, they essentially forfeit their own freedom of speech.

Take for example the Mona Lisa. It is a painting that is open to interpretation. It matters not if an art teacher explained to you the significance the painting meant to them. Upon viewing it yourself, even with foreknowledge of what it said to others, will in no way change how it speaks to you. A middle class art student might see it as a masterpiece of legendary painter. A lower class Native American might view it as a reminder of European Colonialism at its height. Either way nobody can tell you how to feel about a work of art. That includes a film.

When I played Final Fantasy 7 for the first time, when it was fairly new mind you and still current gen, I played it along side the strategy guide. Was the impact of Aeris’s death lessened by my going in knowing? God no, when the sword lunged into her back, her lifeless body limp before my tear-drenched eyes, I felt the same powerful emotions someone would have going in blindly. Why? Because we’re conditioned from birth to expect death. We are conditioned from the moment we open our eyes to know the world around us will disappoint us in ways we cannot fathom. We cannot expect every reader to have shared in every experience as yourself. That defeats the purpose of sharing stories, making art, in the first place. If we all had the same experience, there would be no need to share our experiences. You get nothing from hearing a story that is identical to your own. Not if it is the same as everyone around you. There is value in hearing a similar story as yours from a stranger who’s upbringing is vastly different than yours. There is no value in telling your own mother about the day you were born.

Why I keep going back to country music

I am like most people. I feel the music I listen to very much. It moves me in a number of ways. Depending on the mood I am in a song can bring me joy, pain, or confusion. The same song mind you. 

Most of the time, as in the vast majority of my time spent listening to music it is a mixture of dance/pop, techno/dance, 80s/90s hip hop, 90s/2000s pop, girl bands, boy bands, disco, funk, rock, metal, punk and general 80s pop/rock. Every once in a while I will mix it up with some grunge or some alternative from the 90s. But there is rarer still those days when the only music that fits me is country.

Like the other genres of music, my country tastes are very specific and extremely narrow. Mostly mid-late 80s radio country and some early to mid 90s country. Even then it’s really only a smathering of about 50 or so songs from a handful of artists. In general you could say it’s the stuff from my childhood. That’s just the thing. It’s the stuff mostly from the painful parts of my childhood. One of the reasons I buried myself in, basically anything that wasn’t country, was to get away from the stuff. I grew up largely in rural Kansas with parts of my early years spent in Nebraska. Ugh. I hate Nebraska but that’s a story for another day.

The truth is most of the people who hurt me. The painful memories. The bad points in my life if you will, were accented by country music playing in the background. My family is quite country themselves. Dad grew up on a farm on the border of Kansas and Nebraska. He was raised just outside a small Nebraska town called Superior. My mom grew up on a ranch in a place in Nevada so obscure I can’t spell it close enough for Google spellcheck to find it. Somehow a ranchers daughter and a farmers son found each other and started a life together raising four little country children of their own.

Stacy, my oldest sister diverged first. She discovered pop during her awakening which led her to the road of rock n roll and eventually punk, alternative and then she settled on a mix of world styles as the hippie lifestyle took hold in her heart.

Candy, the next youngest sister just beneath me on the age ladder. She started life resisting country, instead preferring old time rock n roll and what today would be considered golden oldies. 

Rebecca also skipped country entirely and dove head first into pop, rap and punk rock. She mostly settled on the latter of course.

Then there is me. I dabbled in country for a brief period in my early years. Going so far as to getting cowboy boots and attending the staple of country folk, the rodeo. It was early on I learned I disliked the way animals were abused by those people in the name of so-called entertainment. It was also around the age of 8 or so, still early on, I discovered rap music. This was my first love. I bought every rap tape my parents would let me get my hands on. Naturally I was a white kid in rural Kansas so I was mostly limited to PG rated stuff. Thus I listened to a lot of Fresh Prince, Kris Kross, MC Hammer, Vanilla Ice, Marky Mark, Arrested Development, Young MC and similar sounding artists. 

So where does country music fit into my word now? Well ironically it’s a mixture of nostalgia for days lost, pining for people who’ve recently rejected me from their lives and the realization I was always a country girl at heart. I grew up in small towns. IN fact the biggest “city” I ever lived in was either Salina, Kansas or Twin Falls, Idaho, whichever of the two was bigger at the time. I considered both of those “city”. In fact I was scared to drive around those two towns out of fear. 

Most recently I spent the last 2 years living in an RV on a farm that belonged to my sister’s in laws. It was a small plot of about an acre. It wasn’t mine in the sense I owned it but the house, the camper I lived in, was. I bought it I had the title. The land was leased to me, minus the lease of course, on a familiar basis as in we were family I didn’t need a lease or rental agreement. 

I had chickens as neighbors. They would wander into my yard daily. I fed them, pet the ones that got close enough to let me and chased the rest out of my veggie garden when I found the motivation to do so. 

I spent my summers camping by the lake. It was a different lake most of the time. Since we moved so much it was whichever lake was closest to our current home. Once a year, usually around the 4th of July we’d, as in the scattered remnants of our family tribe, would gather at this one lake in particular. I won’t share it’s name like deadname, it’s a part of my past I’d rather forget in due time. But we went to the lake where I sat alone on the beach or in my tent. I usually brought a book. I always had my headphones and some stack of tapes to listen to. Mostly mix tapes I recorded off the radio. It was to tune out all that country music noise the rednecks around me were constantly blasting. I say redneck but truthfully hick is the better stereotype.

Country folks come in different varieties for the uninitiated. Each brand shares some commonalities such as an affinity for country music, a hatred of “big government”, a passionate, but flawed, devotion to the Bible, and a fairly simple world view based on principals of family comes first. The main branches of country folks, using the stereotypes here for simplicity sake, are: rednecks, hicks, hillbillies, farmers, ranchers, cowboys/cowgirls, moonshiners, rebels and “white trash”. These are names each brand wears proudly among their own kind. Our clan were hicks. We were a blend of bikers, farmers and small town folks.

The motorcycle was our horse. The John Deere tractor was our chariot. The pickup truck was our vehicle of choice. We drank Kool Aid. We ate watermelon. We chased lighting bugs. And we did it all in the heat of the summer with little to no shame. I am not in anyway disparaging simple folks who wish to live a simpler lifestyle. Far from in. IN fact most farmers I knew had better TVs, faster computers and newer cars than the rest of us. There’s money to be had in farming as long as you budget well.

That being said the common thread was all branches of these simpler, earthy folks was their taste in country/western music. Oh of course there is much division and diversity in the umbrella those genres encompass. You have red dirt, bluegrass, rhythm n blues, hillbilly, rockabilly, etc. In a many ways it’s sort of like the great American folk music. Except it’s as polished and packaged by professionals as the rock/pop music many country folks claim to detest for one reason or another.

I speak in rhetoric. I learned the art while in college. I opt to do so as I learned it from watching countless hours of Bloomberg TV, C-Span, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC and more. I took classes in college fine tuning the craft of rhetoric. It became second nature to me as I wove stories in the AP style for news publications which provided my employment the past several years. Within that culture is a blend of political correctness, ambiguity, excessive explanations, inverted pyramids and alliterations galore. As a country “boy” turned city girl I learned to alter my language to blend into wherever I was. This is why I sometimes push myself to explain things that need no explanation. It’s part of my journalistic training.

What does that have to do with country music? It was only after I left the country for the city did I begin to appreciate what I had left behind. It was as I drove my car in the summer heat, stuck in city traffic with my windows down because I have a broken A/C that I became bored with my usual mix of noise and tuned my Spotify to the country playlist I carefully crafted. Driving home from work blasting Hank Williams Jr. belt out how made in the shade he’d of had it ha the south won the Civil War, despite the content of the tune, filled my heart with a reminder of where I originated. The person I try to hide, run from, deny, is not a ghost from my past. My childhood is not a curse I need to run from, to heal from. It is a part of what shaped me into the woman I am today. Yes, there are times I dream of putting on tight jeans, a white shirt with tassels, cowgirl boots, a big bucket hat, spurs and head to the local honky-tonk to drink whiskey and dance with the boys. I often resist those urges as I know, as a transwoman that scene might be hazardous to my long term survival. But a girl can dream can’t she? It’s like Trish Yearwood sings in X’s and O’s, I’m an American girl.

Getting closer to the next chapter of my life, apartment hunting with a straight male roommate

This September I will be doing something I haven’t done before in my entire life. I will be apartment hunting with a roommate that isn’t my sister.

It will also mark the second male roommate I will have ever had. Previously I lived with each of my sisters at various points in time, a few aunts and uncles and of course grandparents off and on over the years as well as my parents.

The last time I had a male roommate was when I lived with Dominic. See my article I wrote about him for more on how that ended.

The guy I am looking at apartments with is not someone I am romantically involved with. I honestly can’t say we never considered that possibility but as things stand we’ve mutually decided to be friends.

And that’s the best part right there. He and I have only known each other since March but we have already become friends. We chat nearly every single day. Mostly via messenger but we also share TikTok and YouTube videos, trade memes and gifs, and of course hunt Pokemon together in Pokemon Go. Our friendship is one I value tremendously.

Which is why I am super excited not only to be getting back into my own space, but also moving in with a friend for the first time in ages. Someone I hope to form a lasting bond with.

That’s not to say I haven’t enjoyed my time living with my sister Robin and her wife. I have and believe me it is time I will cherish all my days. But let’s face it I moved to the city to start a new chapter in my life and this is it. Things are finally starting to look up. If this were a horror movie now is the time the bathtub falls out of the sky and lands on my head. If it were a romantic comedy I foresee getting my heart broken at least three times before Mr. Right shows up to save the day at the very end. Probably somebody I completely brushed off but they’ve obsessed over for years lol.

It isn’t a movie though, it’s my life. I can honestly say if you read this blog you might get the sense I’ve had a rough life. While that might be true to an extent, and yes I have experienced my share of heartache and neglect over the years, the truth is I can honestly say I have had a wonderful life thus far. If it were a movie it would be a smash hit worthy of multiple Oscar nominations.