Tuesday, January 29, 2013

In with the Boys

The other night, I attended another fashion show. It was the third show I've had the opportunity to walk on the runway for a designer. The last two shows were full of excitement, nerves, disappointment, and in general mixed feelings but I was determined to keep trying. This time, I felt like I had the time of my life.

For most of these shows, there's a rehearsal mid-week and if you can't attend the rehearsal, you're not usually welcome to walk for the show. Well this show was not quite as planned out as the others and my boyfriend and I already had a ballet studio rehearsal to attend on the day of the rehearsal. I decided to cast for the event anyway and it turned out, they needed more models. So I ended up being selected for the show anyway. I was pretty nervous because I had no rehearsal experience for this event in particular but I was also really excited because I was pretty sure I'd be modeling a bikini or some kind of swim wear.

I arrived at the event and we started off with some of the choreography practice because there wasn't an actual runway but a circle of chairs we had to walk around and strike a pose every few steps. Then they called me up to get fitted because the designer I was walking for had arrived. The designer and his wife went through some of the bikinis and looked at me and had to keep searching, saying I was a little more well endowed. I found that amusing. They finally found a bikini that would fit me and I tried it on and they approved and after makeup and hair, I sucked my tummy in, looked in the mirror and was pleasantly surprised with what I saw. (Note: my tummy is a constant sore point for me nowadays and it's really not very often that I can look in the mirror and be happy with it....so this was nothing short of amazing)

Shortly after that, I was sitting there waiting to shoot when one of the male models who was walking for the show (not for swimwear but for some forms of victorian / steampunk wear) came up to me and started chatting. We talked for a while and then I had to start shooting with some of the photographers. I shot by myself and with some other models and then went on to the next photographer where that same male model was in line waiting to shoot. We chatted some more and when it was his turn, he told the photographer: "I definitely want to shoot with this beauty here" as he gestured towards me. I probably blushed but I definitely smiled. We shot together and then I shot alone and went onto the next couple photographers.

Overall, I felt like the shooting portions of the night went rather well. The runway portion was not so great because I really need to work on my poses more and I didn't have a lot of rehearsal time. But the one thing I noticed the most about the night was that I felt comfortable hanging around the male models. More than a few other times, I found myself waiting around with them for this photographer or that photographer making idle chit-chat. I shot with another one of them as well. But the surprising thing to me was that I was almost more comfortable hanging out with 'the boys' than I was with the female models.

The irony is pretty obvious here and yet it's not the first time that I've noticed this. At work about a year ago, I started hanging out with a few of the designer guys. They were animated and fun and even though I was a girl, I felt accepted among them. At one point one of them joked about me being 'one of the boys' and I laughed that off, thinking to myself 'if only they knew'.

As I was thinking about this last night, I came to a realization. When I was spending all my time trying to 'be a boy', it was like the other guys somehow knew I was feminine. I ended up overcompensating for my lack of masculinity and that never quite seemed to help my case any. At some point, I just started avoiding hanging out with guys. And yet now that I've transitioned and I can live my life being who I am with all of the feminine energy emanating from me and not only is that accepted by these groups of boys but it's in some cases, admired. It's almost laughable that I'm now much more accepted in a circle of guys than I was before; but that seems to be the case.

And don't get me wrong, I'm not saying I don't get along with girls. I still have way more girl friends than guy friends and I'm definitely part of the girl's club. I'll never be a tomboy and I'll never want to be a part of the 'boys club' again. But in some of these cases, my comfort level seems to fit in well with the boys now that I can interact fully as the woman I've always been.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Apologies Post-transition

As I look back upon my transition, I admit I have some regrets. I'm sure I've spoken of them at one point or another but I feel like I need to elaborate.

When transition first began, I had come from a very dark place in my life to a grandiose time when every breath I took was treasured. I lived for every picture, every video, every time I could get out of the house and be seen and recognized for who I was. It's quite the feeling after years of not even being able to look in the mirror without disgust.

You could almost say I was in a state of euphoria and when you're in such a state, you often overlook things that are going on around you and justify doing things you might take longer to think about before doing. I did these things and I feel like I need to apologize.

When my parents told me I was no longer welcome at their house if I had nail polish on, I really could have given them that little bit of leeway and just taken the nail polish off. Especially considering my last birthday party with them was at stake and I stubbornly chose not to go instead of simply taking the nail polish off this one time. For that Mom and Dad, I'm sorry.

When I started blogging about my life and my marriage, I openly aired sexual activities not only of myself but also of my wife at the time. I used some of these as justifications to explain my story and yet by doing so, I took private experiences and inappropriately publicized them without even considering how my wife felt at the time. For that Baybo, I'm sorry.

When my grandmother (father's mother) died just one month after I began my transition, I took it upon myself to make my presence known at her funeral. Later on my parents would say that they asked me not to go and I will have not even remembered hearing it until I've looked upon past emails and seen them pleading with me to stay home; words I was too blind to see. Not only did this make the funeral uncomfortable for my parents but afterward it was also the first time they saw their 'son' in a woman's bathing suit in my aunt and uncle's jacuzzi. Talk about a shocking experience for any parent. For all of that, Mom, Dad, Aunt, Uncle...I'm sorry.

When my ex-wife and I divorced, I found myself blogging about our marriage and I look back on some of the things I said and realize I had belittled what we had together. The truth is my relationship with my wife was the best and closest relationship I'd ever had at the time and truly something special back then. Yet I belittled it so I could let it go and feel better about breaking things off for the sake of my transition and happiness. People often belittle others to feel better about themselves and I am a bit taken aback that I did such things myself. For that, Baybo, I'm sorry.

When my parents banned me from the house and refused to see me anymore, I was deeply hurt. It's a pain that cut deeper than anything I've ever felt before and still hurts to this day. And yet I lashed out instead of thinking and responding with a cool head. I blogged and video logged over and over about how they disowned me and I frankly just couldn't let it go. Even now, sometimes I have to stop myself or cut out portions of video that talk about the continued abandonment I've felt when it comes to them and yet it's beating a very dead horse. They were good parents growing up and they loved me. I justify my repetitive writings about them as a coping mechanism but the truth is I didn't/don't need to keep airing their rejection publicly. I'm sorry for that Mom and Dad.

I know we all have different lives now and none of these apologies change anything. They may even come across as empty considering they are just words when my past actions have already set the tone. That being said, I feel like they are worth mentioning. I don't regret my transition and I don't regret my divorce, nor do I think if I had not done these things, it would change the results of today and yet sometimes it's the little things we do along the way that matter. With these things mentioned, I'm sorry I chose otherwise.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

What's God got to do with it?

Note: This post may come across as controversial but is not meant to be so. It is merely the perspective of one person's experiences.

Most know I was raised with a conservative christian background. For the better half of my life, it was all I knew. From a small child, I took adults at their word that God existed, Jesus saved us all, and the bible was the holy word of God. I took these things and made them my truth without any real question or controversy.

In my teenage years when I dealt with a lot of different emotions and yearning, I was told to set that aside and yearn for God instead. I was told homosexuality was a sin, masturbating was wrong, sex was only after marriage, and yet I was also told it was wrong to judge others. Transsexuality was never a focal point in our family discussions but whenever it did come up, the obvious response was that God doesn't make mistakes. I'm sure we all have heard that one. Continuing into adulthood, I tried to follow all of these guidelines placed upon me. Some of them I was able to accomplish while others, I failed miserably at, buried in guilt and shame.

It wasn't until I started to better understand myself as a person that I found myself in a position where I was forced to ask questions about things that I had previously blindly believed. How could I feel like I was a girl and yet God made me a boy? Why was crossdressing (something as simple and harmless as wearing the other gender's clothes) wrong? If God doesn't make mistakes then why are countless babies born with birth defects worldwide?

At first I fought these questions, tooth and nail. Somehow I knew, the narrow-minded bubble of a world I had lived in all my life, was about to be popped. But frankly, it was just too late. There was no closing pandora's box. The new knowledge and emotions about who I really was only became stronger as days and weeks of suppression went by.

And so those original questions led to other questions like: 'If homosexuality is a sin, why was the word not even in the bible until a century ago?' and 'How can a book that was put together thousands of a years ago, translated from multiple languages, and reflecting multiple cultures be expected to be taken literally as a guide for how someone should live their life today?'

For the first time in my life, I did a lot of research, questioning both sides of the arguments and began to come to my own conclusions about what God and religion meant to me. As I transitioned, I clung to a modified version of christianity, claiming Jesus preached a message of love, not hate. My parents of course reacted with violent emotions, tearing me away from their everyday lives. They were much happier to live in a world where I no longer existed than to come to grips with their child making life choices that would bar them from ever getting to Heaven. As time went by, their reaction to my changes would meld with my childhood raising, turning God and religion into a painful place to dwell.

From this, I was not satisfied to keep my own version of Christianity because of one simple question: "If a man is born in another country where he never hears about Jesus (therefore never having the chance to be 'saved') but lives a good life, would he go to hell when he died?". There is no right answer for this question. Some answer it saying "Yes, he would go to hell" and I have to wonder how a just God could allow that; it's not fair. Others answer "No, he wouldn't go to hell" and with that, I ask: How can Jesus be the only way if this man gets to heaven without him?. It's quite the conundrum really.

I suppose it was that question that really broke me out of my Christian roots. Christianity, the bible, how could that be the ONLY way for someone to live their life spiritually when it was merely based on where one grew up; what culture they were born into. So I explored Unitarianism and was delightfully surprised that they openly accepted and celebrated all major religions. That made more sense to me; the idea that truth was what each person experienced in their own lives. After all, how could there be one absolute truth with so many unique perspectives?

Perspective. It's now a word I use in my daily life. For me, it began as a way of explaining my own transsexual feelings: one person's perspective of gender and biology aligning correctly from birth didn't invalidate other perspectives that had much different experiences. And yet it can be applied to many different topics, controversial or not. Unitarian Universalism took the same approach with religion.

As much as I enjoyed the open and affirming feeling of Unitarian churches, I only attended services a few times and soon became too busy. As months went by, I realized I was no longer praying before meals or thanking God for good things that happened in my life either. Doing either of those things made me feel awkward and uneasy. Was someone up there even listening at all? What was the point? It forced me to continue on my spiritual journey, asking even deeper questions about the origins of the universe, the morals of right and wrong, and the age old question of 'Why are we here?'.

Recently, I came across a newly published book called De-Converted by Seth Andrews, author of the website, The Thinking Atheist. I picked it up right away and started reading and found that I could relate to much of his own story of family life growing up. I was once again disgusted at the idea of scaring children into 'accepting Jesus as the only way to heaven' or they would go to hell as I remembered my own childhood fears of God rapturing my parents, leaving me behind. In my opinion, no child should ever be forced to have such dark fears and frankly, they can't begin to understand what they are truly 'accepting' or 'believing' at such a young age. This narrow-minded blind acceptance leads to horrible judgement and inequality in adult life; I've experienced it from both sides.

Anyway, in the book, Seth goes on to talk about how the crisis of 9/11/2001 impacted his already crumbling belief in Christianity and God. He asked questions like 'How could God let something like this happen to all of these innocent people?' and as christians world-wide tried to make sense of it and concluded in their usual way that the catastrophe was merely 'God's will' somehow, he refused to agree. That moment seemed to be a focal point in his life, where he turned away from God.

Personally, I don't know that I'm there quite yet. Growing up, I was taught that God made the angels to worship him; they had no choice. He then made humanity with 'free will' so they could choose to do right or wrong. From the start however, as we all know, Adam and Eve chose to directly disobey God and immediately felt the consequences for doing so. Whether that story is true or not, there is some truth to the idea that positive actions lead to positive results and negative actions lead to negative consequences.

I often take this one step further by saying that one person's negative consequences not only affect themselves but often those around them as well. For example, if a pregnant mother chooses to smoke during pregnancy, this may affect the development of the child and the life they live. Or say a father abuses his son; that child may grow up bearing negative habits brought on by the consequences of his father's choices. These are very small examples but as more negative choices are made, more negative consequences impact more people and who's to say the build up of such could not lead to disasters such as 9/11? Then again, there are still other questions such as 'Why is God so silent through all of this?'.

I asked my boyfriend recently about his perspective when it came to God, prayer, and thankfulness. He was raised catholic but had come to similar conclusions as myself on his own journey. When it came to prayer, he simply said: 'Why not? What could it hurt?'. And on being thankful, while he agreed that one should take pride in their works, he also said it gave one a sense of modesty to thank God or the universe or whoever, for their circumstances.

His wisdom made a lot of sense to me and yet I still have a hard time making both prayer and thankfulness a part of my everyday life again. It feels like there's a roadblock there; the rejection of my parents feeling like a direct rejection from God. Perhaps this is because they were my direct connection to God for most of my life. In a way, my nightmares as a small child were a foreshadowing of what I'm feeling today. Ironically, the two people in my life who wanted nothing more than to bring me into a loving relationship with God, have ended up being the pawns who shut me out.

So here I am in the present. I am far from feeling like I have things figured out but I have definitely come a long way. Some questions just cannot be answered and we often have to let them go, concentrating on living our short lives, before they're snatched away from us. Why are we here? How were we created? What happens when we die? I can't say I'm really sure but I can say that I believe in loving others, following passions, and making the most of the time we're given here on earth. If God does exist, I think he can agree with that.

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