“Heavy” Thoughts

I was putting away some clothes this morning when a pair of jeans fell out of my armoire. I picked them up to refold them and couldn’t determine whose jeans they were. Jaime wears several sizes smaller than I. I opened the waistband and noticed the size was “29 Waist”.

“Wow!” I thought to myself.

It was two years ago next week that I had my car accident. These would have been the size jeans I was wearing then. For a moment, I lamented the size “34 Waist” I was wearing now. It may not sound like a lot, but trust me. Womens jean sizes are all screwy. For me, this represented a 50 lbs (23 kg) increase in weight – from 170 lbs (77 kg) to my current 220 lbs (100 kg). My belly, for the first time in my life, rolls over the waistband of even my underwear.

Weight has been on my mind a lot lately. My most recent physical demonstrated elevated blood sugar, blood pressure, cholesterol, and BMI. The absolute maximum healthy weight for my height of 5’9″ (175 cm) is 160 lbs (72 kg). It seems like a monumental task.

Several days ago, as I stood in the bathroom getting ready for work, I caught a glimpse of my naked body and thought to myself, “You’re disgusting. You’re just a fat tranny man.”

A reply came back from the mirror that completely caught me off guard. (It actually came from inside my head, not the mirror. I not that crazy.) That reply took me somewhere I hadn’t been in over a year. It was something I had completely buried deep in my psyche.

“At least you’ll be too fat for him to want you.”

I about lost it.

Consciously, I had been blaming my car accident and my subsequent lack of activity on my weight gain. However, upon closer analysis, this wasn’t true. Between DragonCon 2011 and DragonCon 2012, I had gained only 10 lbs. Between DragonCon 2012 and DragonCon 2013, I had gained 40 lbs.

2011

2011 – 170 lbs

2012

2012 – 180 lbs

2013

2013 – 220 lbs (corseted)

What happened that shook me out of my routine? Before then, I went to the gym several times a week and worked out vigorously. Trying to keep a healthy weight has always been a struggle, but I was successful and it made me feel so much better.

In early November, I business partner and principal investor had a conversation with me. I had worked so few hours since the accident that I was starting to actively hurt the bottom line. The long and short of the conversation was that if I didn’t bring in a significant amount of money soon, I would be out of a job.

As luck would have it, not a week or so later, a long time customer called at the last minute needed a complete overhaul of their server room during a remodel. All new wiring, cabinets, racks, outlets – everything would need to be re-done and diagramed.

I didn’t particularly like this customer, but they were nationwide and usually paid promptly.

My first day on the job of an assignment that was to last a little over a week and pay several thousand dollars something unimaginable happened. The project manager, whom I’d met before on another job, was going over the blueprints with me. I commented about him being overly-flirtatious and wondered if it had ever gotten him into trouble. He then proceeded to tell me the story of a young woman that had attempted to sue this company because of him and how they (the company) systematically destroyed her life. I thought this a bit asshole-ish and creepy.

It didn’t surprise me though. The owner of this company once called my business partner and complained about me. You see, during the summer months we wore khaki shorts on the job. During my last visit to this customer, my partner and I were both wearing shorts. However, he was told that it was unacceptable for me to “bare my legs” in his business – not my male business partner – just me.

Anyway, after going over the blueprints he told me he wanted to show me some structural changes they had made to part of the building. I followed him into a large room full of his workers and they all immediately put down their equipment and left. I didn’t really think anything of it at the time. We then turned the corner into a room. He immediately shut the door and turned the deadbolt.

I’ve never thought this would ever happen to me. I like to think I’m stronger than the average person, but it turns out, I’m not. I guess all these years of hormone therapy really did have an impact on my strength because no matter what I did, I couldn’t break free of this man’s hold. There was no penetration, but I still felt violated.

“You know you want it.”

Did I really want it? No! Of course, I didn’t. Did I lead this guy on? Is it really possible I gave off these cues?

I wanted to run away and scream and call the police. However, my mind went back to our previous conversation of how they destroyed the life of the last woman he’d probably done this to. What a clever strategy for this bastard.

Even more so, I couldn’t get the recent conversation about my employment out of my head. If I didn’t bring in some money soon, I would be out of work.

Is this really the way the world is? Do women really have to go through this every day. This isn’t fair.

I actually stayed and worked the next several days. I avoided him whenever I could or I made sure that I was surrounded by others when he was around. That didn’t particularly make me feel safe as I believe his workers were complicit and knew exactly what was going to happen to me.

I sucked it up, did my job and made the money.

His parting words to me, “Damn you sure are fine as hell. You could really stand to lose some weight though. You’re almost too big for how I normally like my women.”

It no longer seems like much of a mystery to me as to why I let myself go…

*P.S. This person has since left the country on a long term assignment.

2013 Transgender Day of Remembrance

Imagine the headline if I were to be murdered for being transgender, “Local Maryville Man Found Dead in Home”. The story would go on to include details of the story, “Local Maryville resident, Justin “Carla” Lewis was found dead in his home at approximately 11:00 am. Mr. Lewis was found beaten with his throat cut, hanging from a ceiling fan with his hands and feet bound. A cause of death has not yet been determined, but police are considering the death a possible suicide.”

I would be quickly forgotten by all except close friends and family and become just another statistic in the body count for next year’s Transgender Day of Remembrance. This may sound like pure fiction, but in reality, most transgender murder victims are mis-gendered. Their correct names are not used and often police simply dismiss the murder.

Sadly, 238 transgender people or people perceived as such have been murdered in the past 12 months.

People like Evon Young, a transman and rapper, was taken by several men to a basement,where he was choked with a chain and had a plastic bag taped over his head. He was the beaten with tools until he died.

You may not have heard of Diamond Williams. Her murderer confessed that he stabbed her repeatedly then dismembered her body with an axe after realizing she was a transwoman.

There is more at stake here than just a loss of life. Who nows what Young or Williams would have eventually contributed to society during their lifetime. We will never know. Consider that.

Imagine a world without satellite radio, created by transwoman Martine Rothblatt had she been shot in the head and immolated.

Imagine a world without online gaming, envisioned by Arkansas native and transwoman Danielle Berry, had someone slashed her throat and mutilated her genitals.

Imagine a world without the movies “The Matrix”, “Cloud Atlas” or “Speed Racer”, created by transwoman Lana Wachowski, had she been stoned to death and her body dragged through the streets.

Imagine a world where Osama Bin Laden still lived had Seal Team Six member and transwoman Kristin Beck been beaten to death with a fire extinguisher, her body wrapped in a shower curtain, and left in the desert.

Imagine a world with no computers, iPhones, or internet. These were all possible because of the advances in VSLI, a method to manufacture microchips, by transwoman Lynn Conway. These would not exist had she been beheaded. These methods of death may sound fantastic, but they are far too common in the death of transpeople.

As transpeople, our numbers are small. Our influence is not great. We cannot change the opinion of the world on our own. We need you. Please be a voice for us in your own community, workplace, social circles and government. Among us are people that will change the world or inspire others to do so. If we are not allowed to live, everyone’s world will suffer.

National Coming Out Day 2013

Logo_ncod_lgDid you know October 11th was National Coming Out Day? As tradition, I’m supposed to tell my coming out story to encourage others to “come out” and raise awareness of our continued fight for civil equality of all LGBT people. I think everyone probably has a unique “coming out story”. Here’s my boring snoozefest…

It was the summer of 1985. I was 14 years old and participating in a youth mission trip to Cherokee, North Carolina. I, along with two van-loads of teens from Life Line Baptist Church of Little Rock, Arkansas felt the calling to witness to the poor, indigent children of the reservation.

For my part, I presented a puppet show complete with a purple satin puppet theater, a soundboard, amp, a whole trunk of characters, and wack-a-doo voices.

One night, after a particularly successful show, I approached my youth minister, John Bell, and came out to him. He was a bit surprised. Of course, I didn’t tell him I was gay. Rather, I told him that I felt like I was supposed to be a girl and my associated feelings.

He looked at me with bewildered sincerity and said, “Justin, I know God has a plan for you. You’re the only one man enough to put this stage together, setup the sound equipment and perform these skits. NOw why don’t you break everything down and join your friends. Trust me. You’ll grow out of this.”

*sigh*

It was the winter, 1987. I was feeling particularly melancholy and tortured over my feelings one evening. I wrote a short letter to my very best friend, Price Horn. I rode my bicycle to his home and put the letter in his mailbox. I then called him on the phone, asked him to read the letter and call me back.

He did call back and it was the most kind response I will have ever received. He assured me that my friendship was still valuable. He too believed it to be “a phase” but his feelings for me had not changed. We remained good friends until we parted ways after high school. We kept in touch all these years. I’ll always value his friendship.

It was the summer, 1989. I was deep in a relationship with a young woman from school who would eventually become my future ex-wife. I told her of my feelings. After some discussion, I agreed that if our relationship were to continue I must hide this part of me.

It was the spring, 1991. I was filling out my application for Top Secret Clearance while working for Space Command in the United States Air Force. On the very last page of this multi-page application, below the signature line, was a note, “I swear and affirm under penalty of perjury that this application and subsequent investigation will be devoid of any an all derogatory information. Derogatory information includes but is not limited to…evidence of transvestism, transsexualism…”

I refused to sign the application knowing that such evidence would be found and I would be prosecuted for perjury. The investigation proceeded anyway and I was summarily stripped of rank and duty and discharged from the military. Upon my early return home from the service, I had to explain the circumstances to my parents.

They didn’t know where I “got this idea put in my head”, but I needed to snap out of it because I had a wife and two kids. My mother reminded me of “the big ‘ol men” that came in her bank branch “all dressed up” but weren’t fooling anyone. They were disgusting and God didn’t approve of it. I’d never be anything but a “man in a dress” (this is an oft-repeated phrase in our country).

It was the summer, 1999. After a particularly difficult day and a big argument with my wife, I walked home from a broken down car to find a note on the door: “I’ve taken the kids, dogs and our things. You will never see your children again. I’ve also told everyone at your office that you’re a faggot and want to be a woman.”

I did the only sensible thing I could do: overdose on sleeping pills. (spoiler alert…I lived!)

It was the fall, 1999. I decided to go to my first trans support group meeting. I took with me all the prejudices I had grown up with. I was a bit disgusted by the “men in dresses” that filled the room. I was feeling a bit queasy. Then the woman that would change my life forever walked into the room. (<—a really good story)

Looking back, most of these “coming out” events were extremely painful for me. Most of my life, up to this last even, was spent wanting to die.

Oh…I’m so glad I didn’t.

I’ve accomplished more, touched more lives, achieved more personal goals, and have been happier since transitioning to Carla than I could have ever imagined. I still have some body image issues. I still see myself as a big fat man-in-a-dress. Hopefully, I’ll overcome that one day.

Even with all of my positive experiences, I’m still scared to come out at times. I’ve recently started a new contract job. They treat me phenomenally well. Everyone believes me to be a lesbian, which is kinda of true. However, none seem know that I’m a transsexual. It feels weird bringing it up. In a way, I’m kind of ashamed of myself.

When I, and other transpeople, make that conscious decision to “come out”, we do so knowing there is a high probability of unemployment, discrimination, assault, and homicide. I do not state this lightly and I cannot stress enough the real risk that is involved, but living a lie is so unfathomably painful that most of us would rather risk a torturous death by the hand of another than live forever in closet.

My advice to anyone, LGBT person or even a straight ally, that asks, “Carla, what can I do to help further LGBT equality?” There is only one answer that matters, “Come out.” Come out as LGBT or come out as a straight supporter, but come out.

SCOTUS on Prop 8 and DOMA

891651_10100669254725536_1828519658_oAll of these legal theories hurt my brain. I tried to use my powers of clairvoyance, but they have been lacking in the last few months. I’ve lost nearly every game of poker that I’ve played recently. However, I’m hoping that I can at least offer you some encouraging words to hold on to until the Court decision is handed down – possibly in June.

In our country, we freely throw around the terms “Freedom of Speech”, “The Right to Vote”, “1st Amendment Right”, or even “2nd Amendment Right”. On some level, all of us are familiar with the rights guaranteed to us under our Constitution in the Bill of Rights. These first ten amendments were deemed necessary to ensure that our government did not try to abridge these ten rights that were assumed to be granted to us as free, self-determined people.

Marriage is not one of those rights they enumerated. Why not?

Because then as now, it could not be conceived that the government would ever deign to tell a free, self-determined person to whom they may commit in a loving relationship. That it could every be stripped away or denied or that we would ever need protection from such action was beyond contemplation.

If you think this is my wild imagination, then consider this: even the people for whom society has no forgiveness, a prisoner on death row, who is afforded no right to vote, has no right to bear arms – they have the right to marry. From Turner v. Safley in 1987, the Supreme Court decision stated that, “Prisoners have a constitutionally protected right to marry…”

A right, I might add, that you do not have.

In 1967, Chief Justice Earl Warren wrote in the unanimous court opinion for Loving Vs Virginia, “Marriage is one of the “basic civil rights of man,” fundamental to our very existence and survival…”.

We all understand this. This is not news to us. However, it seems, at times we are yelling at a brick wall when explaining this to our opposition.

You must understand, though. The people that are fighting against us don’t really care about legal arguments because legal arguments won’t assuage their fear. Somewhere in their past their is a darkness, that terrifies them, and some have turned to religion to construct defensive walls that keep this terror at bay. This is not all religious people. This is only some. However, their fear is real and they are to be pitied not hated. However, those that would use this fear for political gain are despicable.  They are the ones holding this country back.

Our culture is filled with references like, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” or “If we open a quarrel between past and present, we shall find that we have lost the future.”

Think to when you were younger and dreamed that one day you too could live in the past. Wait…you didn’t did you? Isn’t interesting how as a species we daydream of what the future will BE like, that we instinctively look forward, rather than backward? We’re all familiar with the craziness of people waiting in line for days for the newest iPhone. Can you imagine people waiting in line for days to be the first person to own a rotary telephone TODAY? or a portable cassette player TODAY? Of course you can’t. That’s in the past. We don’t want the past. We want the future!

If it doesn’t come about this time around. It will come. It is inevitable and it is a future I believe is worth working for.

 

 

 

We Get by with a Little Help from Our Friends

A few weeks ago, my son, Xavier, decided to move out west, to Colorado Springs, to search for new opportunity for himself and his family. I’m not claiming the East Tennessee isn’t a beautiful place to live, but if you are a young couple at the lower end of the socioeconomic spectrum without a college education, the best you have to look forward to is a labor job and a community addicted to prescription painkillers and meth labs. Having a two year and one year old child, Xavier and his wife, Megan, made some hard choices. Breaking apron strings and getting away from bad influences is a big leap of faith.

To accomplish this task, Xavier had secured a new apartment, purchased discount plane tickets for the family and had his vehicle shipped, with as much personal belongings as he could pack into it, to its new home. The only things they were taking with them were what they could check in baggage on the airplane or carry-on luggage. Three days to go before they leave this Wednesday and the clock is ticking.

Xavier knows what it’s like to start over and to have nothing. He’s been there before. Although he’s been nervous about this move, he’s had a good plan and he’s had a couple thousand dollars stashed away to get him started. Not everyone is so lucky though. A friend from the army recently got evicted from his home and had no place for his young wife and baby to stay. Xavier invited them to stay in his home this past week – he could always use an extra hand to help pack for his move.

To celebrate his last weekend in Tennessee, Xavier and Megan went out Saturday night leaving the homeless couple at their home alone. When they returned, the couple was gone – and so was Xavier’s nest egg. I know what you’re thinking, but it will do no good to criticize him for keeping that much cash in the house. It’s already too late and I’m sure the lesson has been learned.

The police have been called and a report has been filed, but I doubt we can expect a recovery.

As you can imagine, Xavier is under enormous stress about arriving in a new in two days no funds and starting fresh. I’m asking my extended family and friends to send gift cards to local retailers (Walmart, Target, Kmart) or anything they can do to help him get established. Imagine you were just getting started and had nothing. What do you think you would need? Yep. He probably needs it too.

If you would like to send something directly, a family friend lives in Colorado Springs and can receive packages or mail for Xavier until I get his new permanent address:

Xavier Vandewalker
c/o Andrew Hatfield
3453 Shrikes Tail Heights
Colorado Springs, CO 80916

Of course, being a techie, I’ve put a handy widget in my side-bar if anyone would like to use that to donate! :-)

Also, if anyone is interested in buying a bedroom suit for their child: http://knoxville.craigslist.org/fuo/3687966136.html

EDIT: It means a lot to me that people I haven’t seen in 20+ years would my child – no matter how small. What I’d like is for it to mean a great deal to my son, Xavier. For him to be overwhelmed with many small tokens from people who only knew his father may end up having a very great impact on him.

 

Magazine Capacity Limits Saves Lives

I’ll try and be brief. In the wake of the recent massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary, the discussion of gun regulation has once again surfaced in public debate.

Many are calling for a ban on the sales of assault-type weapons. However, I’ve seen many claim there is no such thing as an assault weapon. Just today, Rush Limbaugh stated on his nationally syndicated radio show:

Let’s go through these gun terms just for the heck of it here, for what it might matter. “Assault weapon.” “Assault rifle.” There is no such thing. Go to a gun store and tell ‘em you want an assault weapon, and the guy will look around and show you his entire inventory and say, “Pick one.” But there is nothing — no brand, no label — that identifies the weapon as an assault rifle or assault weapon.

I don’t even want to go there. I don’t care. However, the amount of bullets a weapon can fire before reloading – that is something I care about.

Why?

It saves lives. I know this from first hand experience.

On July 27, 2008, Jim Adkisson pulled a semi-automatic shotgun from a guitar case and fired three shots into my church congregation at Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church. After the third shot, he was subdued by five brave and unarmed men: John Bohstedt, Robert Birdwell, Arthur Bolds, and Terry Uselton and visitor Jamie Parkey. I can still remember him yelling that they were hurting him. They had broken his arm.

Why only three shots?

Typical shotguns sold in the United States have a tubular magazine with a capacity of 6-8  cartridges (shells). However, most states have game and fish regulations which limit the magazine capacity of a shotgun to three shells for migratory bird hunting. In other words, we want to give the ducks a sporting chance. As a hunter, you do not want to get caught in the field during duck season with a shotgun holding more than three shells in the magazine – even if you’re hunting something else – like deer.

Most hunting shotguns are arguably used for duck hunting while many deer hunters, but not all, prefer rifles. Because of this, most shotguns are sold with a magazine plug installed. This magazine plug limits the amount of shells that can be loaded into the shotgun to three. A knowledgeable gun owner that is mechanically inclined could easily remove the magazine plug. There are even instructions in most owners manuals for how to install and remove this plug. For instance, on page 11 of the Remington Model 870 Semi-automatic Shotgun Owner’s Manual, provides step-by-step instructions.

Thankfully, Jim Adkisson wasn’t a knowledgeable gun owner. Had he been and and removed this magazine plug, five more shots would have been fired before he was stopped.

Considering all the recent mass shootings, how many more people would be alive had the shooter’s weapon had a limited capacity of rounds and they had to stop and reload?

 

Where’ve You Been?

Great Grandpa Crone

There was a time I thought myself to be invincible and that I would live forever. It’s funny how that point of view has changed as the years have slipped by.

I’m not THAT old. I’m only 41. However, with last year’s head injury, the aches I feel in my body after a day of honest labor, and all of the medication I’m on, it’s not difficult to understand why I contemplate mortality.

If you’re like me, you envision death surrounded by your closest friends and family, passing peacefully, knowing that you’ve made a positive difference in the world. It doesn’t really have to be that grand a difference. Knowing that I’ve influenced just one life can, at least, give my existence some meaning.

I haven’t thought about my great grandparents in a while: Abigail and Benjamin Franklin Crone. They lived in a small house behind my maternal grandparents. Whenever I see that house, I imagine, briefly, they’re inside in their favorite chair taking a nap.

Grandpa Crone had a small blacksmith setup and I used to play with his tools and not put them back. He was never too happy about that. He had the biggest ears I’d ever seen on a man, yet he was deaf. He was also plagued by cataracts and was considered legally blind. To recognize me, he would pull me close and eyeball me for a minute before recognition set in. He loved to chew tobacco. A spittoon was never far away.

I remember watching television with him as images of astronauts performing effortless acrobatics in the zero gravity environment of Skylab danced on the television. As we watched he would strain his eyes at the screen and point, “You see them wires?”

He continued, “Man ain’t never been on the moon. Why, the moon’s the size of a basketball. You can see it for yourself. If man was on the moon, you could see him sittin’ right there.”

Grandma Crone was sweet and soft. She always made me feel special. She also had a unique talent for communicating with and putting up with Grandpa. While talking to me, he would complain that she was being too loud and waking him from his nap. A few minutes later she would ask him a question and he would tell her, “Damn it, woman! I can’t hear you. You know I’m deaf.”

I couldn’t help but laugh out loud.

I don’t remember very much else about them. However, I once asked Grandma about her childhood. She shared a heartbreaking story:

I was about eleven or twelve. We lived out in the country. Mom and Dad had to take the wagon into town for supplies. Back then, it took more than a day to travel to town and back.

They left me in charge of my little brother. He was about four years old. I’d put him down in the house for a nap.

I went about doing my daily chores. After a while, I got tired and sat on a pile of hay in the barn. Before I knew it, I had fallen asleep.

When I awoke, I heard something terrible. I ran out of the barn to find that the house was on fire. I couldn’t get to my little brother. He died in the fire. I was so sad. All I could do was cry and watch the house burn. When my parents returned the next day to find the house in ashes, I had to tell them that he was dead.

Even though they were a part of my life throughout my childhood, I didn’t keep in touch after I moved to Tennessee as an adult. I regret that now. I wish I had been closer, more inquisitive. I wish I had something to tell my grandchildren about them.

The details are a bit hazy, but there came a time when they both had to be put in a nursing home. They were kept apart for their last years. It was my understanding that they shared rooms with someone of the same gender because the men and women were housed separately.

I was told they were brought together occasionally. I don’t think they spoke, but merely held hands or enjoyed knowing the other was in the room.

It got to the point that Grandpa could not longer speak, see, or hear. He would make hand gestures to his mouth indicating he wanted a chew of tobacco.

Grandma was suffering from dementia. She would frequently forget names and faces.

One day, the family went to visit Grandma Crone. She asked, “He’s gone, isn’t he?”. Somehow, through her mental fog, she knew that her love had passed before anyone told her. She wasn’t lonely for very long as she soon went to join Grandpa. I imagine they found one another once again.

Each time I think of them, I can’t help but think of that damn Kathy Mattea song that was released right around the time they passed away. I’ve included it below to torture the reader.

I can’t bear to think of Jaime and me ever being separated whether through age, sickness, or death. Sometimes my intuition tells me I’m not long for this world, but my heart wants to live forever. My heart knows that’s how long it will take to show my love how much she means to me. I hope we have many more years together. There is so much I need to share with her, but I’m still learning how.

Where’ve You Been? [click to play]

Carports Full of Crap

Funny…trust me, you’ll like this one.

Years ago, in 1999, in an email from my mother, she disclosed her plans for the weekend:

“no time to write right now, but I wanted all of you to know I have been thinking about you and praying for all three of you. I am headed to work. I am going to work for Titanic for the Sat. afternoon matinee. Your dad is going to stay home and clean the carport. If you can believe that. I will write you later to let you know if any progress has been made. Got to go. Talk to you later. Love and hugs MOM”

Knowing that my father is a bona fide horder, I had little faith that he would make a dent in his project. Being ever the pessimistic smart ass with no internal filter, I drafted a response to my mother.

“I can tell by Dad’s own enthusiasm toward the carport that it is his own personal underworld of suffering  As to where most of us would say to the question, “What are you doing this weekend?” I would reply, “Oh, being tied to a whipping post and the life force thrashed from me,” Dad would answer, “Cleaning the carport”. You see, it’s the same for him as endless torture. If you believe there is any truth to the statement, “We create our own suffering,” this is definitely true for Dad’s relationship with the carport.

Years drag into decades and now the next millennium is fast approaching. Will the carport continue to plague the Aldridge family for the next 1000 years? The possibility is scary but painfully likely.

Generations from now, when the history of the world is recorded and historians make their way to the small town of Shannon Hills, the carport of the Aldridge’s will be it’s greatest legacy. With enough metallic and non-ferrous material to shelter the Aldridge home from nuclear fallout and a direct nuclear blast at ground zero, the home will stand as a monument to those that survived the post-apocalyptic nuclear winter which will eventually come one day.

History books will record the keen insight of Melvin Aldridge, whom they will refer to as the “Father of Mankind”. For because of his efforts he and his family were one of the few to survive, and therefore the Aldridges repopulated the once great republic of the United States.

Following his example, the children of the future are taught in school the fundamentals: reading, math, history, wire stripping, and nail straightening. The national anthem will include the words, “waste not, want not.”

And so it is our legacy, nay, our destiny, to be rulers of a great nation, The Salvaged States of America.

God save the King!

Mom got a kick out of the email. Dad…not so much :-)

Destiny

September 17, 1999

It had been almost three months since being discharged from a two week hospital stay after my suicide attempt. Having no home to go back to I was lucky enough to have a caring boss, Chet, that allowed me to stay in a spare bedroom. Chet and Joann were wonderful people. I still owe a great deal to Chet for saving my life for it was he that found me unconscious in my foyer after not showing up at work for two days. I was close enough to death that had he not found me when he did, I wouldn’t be here today.

I was now able to walk unassisted, no longer needing crutches and was going into the office each day trying to pickup on my projects from months before. By now, everyone at work knew that I was a closet transsexual because just prior to leaving me, my wife told my father-in-law and mother-in-law. The worked at the same company in a different office and felt it necessary to tell everyone else. It didn’t take long for the few hundred co-workers to all find out. Because of this, any fear I had of “coming out” was moot. I was “outed”. I decided there was no longer a reason to wait. I would transition.

I still wasn’t comfortable thinking of myself in a female role. I also didn’t know where to start. My first contact, Dr. Brown, at the Johnson City Veterans’ Administration hospital, told me that his program had been shut down just a week prior. He referred me to a support group in Knoxville that met at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church.

It took a lot of courage to make the commitment to go to that first meeting. I was still presenting as “Justin” at the time. I didn’t have my own place to live and I had very few clothes. I was saving what little money I had left over from child-support and bills my ex-wife incurred for an apartment.

I walked into the group meeting room. My first honest reaction was revulsion. Through my eyes, I saw a room of middle aged men in drag and I asked myself if this was really the life I wanted to live. It would be some time before I was able to see people for who they truly were rather than what my eyes and prejudice showed me.

I was curious about the transition process and SRS (sex reassignment surgery) and as fortune would have it, the group moderator announced a guest speaker for the evening that was running a bit late. The speaker was going to talk about what to expect during SRS.

I’m a very pragmatic person. As far as religion goes, I was saved and baptized when I was nine years old. However, I grew to become a skeptic. I cannot totally discount my religious beliefs so I may at times describe myself as agnostic. Nevertheless, I never have believed in anything metaphysical or extra-spiritual. I never have believed in fate or pre-destiny.

Then she walked into the room.

It’s hard to describe the flutter of my heart or the way my breath escaped me. I never understood what people meant by a soul mate, but at that moment I knew this person was the other half of my soul. The emptiness that I had always felt was on the verge of being filled.

I did not know until some years later that Jaime had the same experience that night.

How lucky or blessed am I to be able to find that which I never knew I was missing, to be complete, to be in love? Yes, we’ve had difficult moments in our relationship like any other couple, but for the most part, when there are no distractions, I get that same feeling when I see Jaime walk into a room. I know that when she’s not around I feel empty, but when I’m holding her I’m invincible.

September 17th will always hold a special place in my heart for that’s when I discovered that angels walked on Earth and that one of those angels gave up their wings to fall for someone like me.

It’s been a great 13 years. I love you Jaime!

 

Tired of Being Tired

I wished I had learned by now that attempting to cry myself to sleep neither makes the head pain go away or helps me fall asleep. I wish I could go to bed and fall asleep for more than a couple hours.

Each night I crawl in bed with heavy eyes, an exhausted body and a crushing pain on the left side of my head. Each morning, I exit the bed with heavy eyes, an exhausted body, a crushing pain on the left side of my head and nausea.

The people around me tell me they understand, but they truly can not. I’m told to take it easy at work then questioned about my low productivity and absence. I’m assured at home that my memory problems are not an issue then I’m berated for forgetting some promised task. I’m tired of being stared at when I cannot walk without aid or I stutter and cannot compose a verbal sentence.

I’m sure this is confusing to many that may see me in passing while I look and feel fine then later question how I could feign such misery and physical disability. To me, this is confusing also. I’m not crippled, at least, I’m not supposed to be.

When I lay down tonight with tears in my eyes, sobbing silently into my pillow, it is no longer because of my physical pain, but rather because I know I’ll start tomorrow no better than today.

Sometimes effort does not matter.