Control

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Control. I think it’s what transition has been all about for me. An exercise in extreme control to the point that it took me the better part of two years of HRT, not to mention all that lead up to it to come out fully to my parents and my brother. Control to the point that I’m not out fully to my own child. Control to the point that I can count on one hand the people that know the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

And in the end it’s control that’s holding me back. My last transition attempt was such a disaster I responded this time by tightlly controlling every aspect I could of transition and now that I’m all but fulltime, it’s actually holding me back. It’s the fear of losing control over who knows what and what they’ll do with that information that’s keeping me from taking that big step forward.

It’s control that I see starting to negatively affect my relationships. I can’t move forward with Michael, even if it is just to fail. Even that feels better then a fantasyland relationship that will never happen as long as the world still perceives me as male. It’s the delicate relationship I maintain with my son that will undoubtly suffer by not being completely honest about this issue and what it means for him.

Despite all that, I can’t seem to let go. My son has asked to see my therapist with me a number of times, and yet it would involve admitting that I even have a son to him. It was control and the fear of him not being willing to help me that lead me to exclude any mention of my son for the nearly three years I’ve been seeing him. Now my fear is in having to admit that I lied, by omission, but lied none the less.

I think I have everything under control and yet the reality is I have nothing under control and yet I can’t see to let go and just be Ryleigh. It’s not that I don’t want to, I think I just fear losing control and that is actually what’s controlling me.

I hate it.

Why can’t I just be fulltime?

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I woke up this morning. It seemed urgent that the dogs needed to be let out. It occurred to me the pink shirt and pink and blue pj bottoms were just a bit “too girly” for me to be wearing outside? Why? I leave the house most of the time in full on tomboy mode, makeup and all and don’t even flinch. I rummaged around for what I felt was an acceptable top and found a t-shirt after a couple tries that didn’t make me look all that girly. And I suppose that’s the problem, pretty much anymore, anything makes me look girly. That’s what I wanted right?

Why is it that 99% of the time, I can just be myself – be Ryleigh (yeah another name change, I know)? But for that 1% I can’t seem to pull the trigger as it were. I mean workwise, most people have their suspicions at the very least so its not like it would be a complete bombshell. I get gendered female by patients on such a regular basis it’s not even an emotional high anymore. Much to the point that I’m totally cool being regarded as female, but the fact that some people find me an attractive female is still taking some getting used to. My therapist wanted me to write about the pros and cons of being female, so I guess that’s what this is supposed to be.

I like my body, save for the one small part I dread. I’ve been thinking about it lately and I remember for most of my life and especially as a gay man, it always seemed odd to me, to be on my body without ever connecting it to my gender dysphoria. I mean I liked seeing it on other boys/men, but it always seemed odd and out of place on me. Now that I have a mostly female body, it seems even more out of place. I know that without taking that final leap, it will follow me to the grave and be a source of discomfort for the rest of my life. Oddly enough, at the same time I worry about the size of my breasts, I’ve had decent development on HRT and they’re definitely female breasts, but yet I still feel the need for a BA.

Acknowledging my female identity at work would end so much of my co-workers confusion. It hasn’t held me back professionally, as I’ve been promoted in the short time I’ve been there and I seem to be progressing well in my career, so I don’t have any fears there. Quite the opposite, coming out with my female identity would at the very least give me a shot with Michael and possibly others. I don’t have the feelings I have for Michael towards anyone else, but to everyone (Michael included) I’m a guy, though a bit on the odd side, I’m still a guy. I want a chance at a relationship with Michael. I’m not as boy crazy as I used to be about him, but I still have feelings for him that I want to feel free to be open about. If I don’t come out as female, my life with Michael will only ever be a fantasy (maybe TMI, but he’s the only guy I ever fantasize about).

I confuse so many patients by my presentation, and yet it’s my most male moment that I can muster. I’ve been mam’ed on multiple occasions or referred to as her or she (like the patient who told my partner “she’s got really cool hair”), I even had a patient flirt with me. Acknowledging my female identity at work wouldn’t change that, but it would allow me to change my work id, with my male name, that would make that less weird for everyone I suppose. I need to do this for me, and not for them though.

I resent having to portray myself as male, to the point that I wear the same boxers and t-shirt for days or even weeks at a time when I’m in male mode. I would never even think about doing that as Ryleigh. I know it can’t be healthy for me. If that’s true, not being Ryleigh all the time would actually be bad for my health.

I’ve been delicate with the issue with my family. I know I have their support, but I’m not being maybe as pushy as I need to be on this issue. That I need to do this for me, that its going to take some getting used to and it’s just time to move forward. I think I’m afraid of losing their support. They’ve known this was always an issue and yet I’ve never moved this forward with it before.

Lastly, and it’s probably the ghosts of my past transition more then anything else, I fear losing control of that aspect of my life when I’m fully open about myself. Things didn’t go well the last time, and though I’m a different person, I still worry about the past coming back to haunt me.

Fear is, or can be, a healthy motivator. In this case, I worry it’s paralyzing me. I don’t know how to move forward.

Now You Get to Learn How to Be

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It was almost a year and a half ago that I wrote “Between”, events in the last couple days have shown me it’s time to move from that place, “Between”, that I settled in to a year and half ago. Quite simply, the stress of living two lives, one male, one female, or at least not male is getting to be too much. It’s time to move on.

I sent my parent’s the post “Full Disclosure”, or rather what you read was the exact same thing I wrote to them (save for concealing my employer). I waited a couple days after sending it and texted my mom “”I know my e-mails take time to process , please keep an open line of communication.” My father called me almost immediately to let me know that they had read the email and did indeed need some time to talk it over, but they would e-mail me in a couple days. I told him I just wanted to make sure there wasn’t a miscommunication and we ended up with another set back each expecting the other one to call. He assured me that wasn’t the case, but said we’ve got somethings we wanted to discuss with you.

Fear crept in my heart. To understand, the last time I tried to transition, the similar conversation was filled with things like “no wearing female clothing in our house” and “we’re not sure we can accept what you’re doing” and so on. So yeah, I was fearful of what was coming and told my dad so. His response? “Oh nothing like that, we just want you to know that if you want us to call you Tristen its going to take some time, but we’re working on it. Just don’t be mad if we screw up from time to time.” He was almost proud of himself to confide in me that they were working on referring to me as their child, rather then using gendered pronouns. I’m so proud of them. 🙂

OMG, yes. My parents are being totally supportive this time. He also added, “we’re also interested, I know you said you didn’t want to talk in terms of timelines, but we were wondering what else you were expecting to do in terms of your transition.”
Maybe it was Karma, I talked to my dad on the MARTA train on the way to phone bank for Georgia Equality. I had the totally awesome experience of being asked what pronouns I prefered. Feminine of course. Over the course of calling people and introducing myself as Tristen, I screwed up twice and used my male name. Of course I texted my dad and told him that even after a year of using Tristen, I still screwed up from time to time – so I was just happy that they were trying.

Riding MARTA yesterday was an experience as well. I had a guy trying to flirt with me on the way in to the train station and the overwhelming feeling I was being “eye humped” (no explaination necessary) by many of the male passengers. I was far more acutely aware of my surroundings riding the train then I’d ever been in the past. Public transit hadn’t changed. I had. It was an interesting experience that women my age have been having for decades, I’m just late to the party. Riding public transit will never been the same.
It was a great day really, alot of milestones in one day; but it made it clear to me that trying to maintain two existences is simply become too stressful to continue.

I recently started attending a support group meeting for the parents of gender variant children as a show of support for William. There is a (trans)girl a couple years older then William who recently transitioned, like within the last year. i bring that up becuase as I read an article about her transition, aside from the similarities to William, one thing that struck me was her mom homeschooled her for a period of time “to allow her to get used to being Skylar”. As ir applies to my own transition, I’m reminded of the sage advice I was once given after completing the schooling and testing to be a Paramedic. “Congratulations. Now you get to learn how to be a Paramedic”.
As I step forward from this point, I see that as my creed for now “Now you get to learn how to be female.” Like becoming a Paramedic, I worked hard and sacrificed to get here, I’ve proven that I can be successful in my transitioned life – now it’s time to learn how to move on and simply be Tristen.

Full Disclosure

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In the interest of sharing coming out resources, I’m publishing an e-mail I sent to my parents and my brother….

I’d love to tell you how I have some altruistic intentions in reaching a point in my life where I’m tired of feeling like I’m withholding information that’s essential to who I am (largely because I am), but the fact is I’m just tired of not being as open as I should, and need to, be about the circumstances of my life in the last couple years.  Maybe my motives are selfish, I still haven’t figured that part out yet.

As it were, I sat down to write a timeline of events over the last three years about two months ago, of things I needed to tell you and things I wanted to tell you.  It would be easy, and impersonal to simply attach the file with a cavalier “there ya go” and hope for the best.  Really, its best I narrate the timeline for you.

Starting just over three years ago, maybe closer to four now it was a time just after what we’ve come to refer to as TJ’s “troubles”.  Reflecting back now, no doubt the stress of dealing with the fall out may have been a triggering event, but realistically I’d been dealing my whole life with feelings of wrongness about who I was and what my identity was.  Some people are able to conceptualize at an early age what I knew as  my truth at about age 12.  I was and always have been female.  Prior to that, my understanding of who I was was limited to knowing that I did and felt things other boys didn’t do or feel.  If you were to have a similar conversation with my peers, you would hear the same idea echoed, a feeling of wrongness, often accompanied by not knowing the language to fully express our feelings.

By December, 2010, things had reached a critical point, I was frequently losing sleep as my mind fought with the truth I’d been battling my whole life.  Things were coming to a head and the sleeplessness was causing a deep depression which was threatening my life at that point.  I reached out to a therapist in Atlanta that specialized in Gender Identity Issues.  I choose Dr.  Ren Massey in large part because he was transmasculine, I wanted someone who could appreciate my feelings first hand and for whatever reason I just relate better to transguys then I do anyone else.

I had two outcomes in mind when I first started therapy, I wanted to be able to put my transgender feelings behind me and be able to move on from a struggle I’d faced for most of my life or I wanted to turn and face the very thing I’d been running from.  It became apparently early on that the only course of action I could gain a sense of peace from was to find a path to integrating my transgender identity into all the other parts of my life.  From January, 2011 when I first started taking Propecia (I’ve since stopped taking it) on the advice of Dr.  Massey (“You’ve got great hair”), until now, I’ve worked at a careful, and often slow, pace in the process of working out my full identity.

Rookie School put a hold on forward progress, a choice I freely made and would make again – I am always so proud of my accomplishment in that period of time; however my suffering was never far from my mind.  My first foray into publicly acknowledging my identity was over July, 2011, in which I first came out as seeing a therapist and admitted to hating my body while TJ and I were in Traverse City.  It is with some sadness that watching kids playing on the beach, happy and carefree and the longing for my happiness and carefree attitude that had long eluded me, especially in childhood, brought me to the next steps in my transition. In August, 2011.  I started taking medication to suppress the testosterone my body was making.  At the time, my doctor, since retired, was quite surprised I wasn’t interested in taking the entire spectrum of medications most transwomen usually take.  Again it was my own slow and carefully thought out process.  Truthfully it didn’t take long to be both delighted by the changes the medication caused as well as disappointed in its limitations.  My doctor wasn’t surprised when I came back in October ready to add Estrogen to the list of medications I was taking in order to address the persistent feelings of being in the wrong body I’d had throughout therapy.

Dissatisfied with the progress I was showing, I was offered synthetic progesterones the following month and was somewhat delighted given that my own research had strongly recommended them as well.  I have been on some form of Progesterone since November, 2011.

Ultimately I would leave the fire department the following spring, in March of 2012 for several reasons, though the most prominent among them the realization that I wasn’t comfortable with the idea of being a transgendered fire fighter.  In the months prior, I had reached out to a number of other firefighters that had followed the same path I was on and saw a crap shoot I wasn’t willing to take.  I had to make a choice and I knew that being a firefighter was never a part of my identity in the way that other things were, not just this, but things like raising TJ, etc.  I could let go of being a firefighter, I couldn’t let go of those far more important aspects of my identity, including this.

After losing my health insurance from the department, I did what I could to “get by” until my insurance from Central started in August.  I was thankful that I had enough medications to get me through until then and Dr.  Massey was comfortable seeing me once as month as I was now paying out of pocket for our sessions.  As you recall in this period was my acceptance of my Post Traumatic Stress Disorder symptoms as a result of my long career in EMS.  With Dr.  Massey’s blessing, I started taking Celexa, via mail order from New Zealand,in order to cope with the feelings that were leaving me hopelessly depressed and at the edge of suicide.  On an aside, I’ve lost far too many friends and co-workers (6 in as many months at one point) who were unable to face their demons – for so many reasons I didn’t, and I don’t, want to be a statistic like that.

By October, 2012, my insurance was in effect again and I was able to start seeing Dr.  Scott Parry for the medical management of my transgender identity.  It was also at this time that I switched to injecting Estrogen, which I’ve continued to this day (Sunday is “shot day”), because I was often forgetting to take the nighttime dose of my oral estrogens.   A year ago in January, Dr.  Parry switched me to natural progesterone telling me that he preferred using that with any female that required progesterone compared to the synthetics I’d been taking.

Outside of the medical aspects of transition, I settled on a new name for myself in November, 2012. While deployed for Hurricane Sandy, I dreamed that I’d changed my name to Tristen, far from a nightmare, it was just mildly annoying that I wasn’t able to use my old name.  I’ve used Tristen wherever possible since then and I’m quite comfortable with it.  Over several months, I evolved my middle name to be Ryleigh.  I wanted so much for this to be a decision for you, mom and dad, to have “naming rights”, but things just happened the way they did.  Were I better at coming out about this, things would be different, and for that I’m truly sorry.  I had to check my blog to confirm this, but by January, 2012, I was wearing female clothing publicly at least part time.  One of the benefits, I suppose, of being a tomboy is that I dress like every other tomboy I know – jeans, polo shirts or hoodies.  As of October, I wear female clothing almost exclusively.  At some point between now and then, I started wearing makeup as well.

It’s been a long three years, but I’m happy with the progress I’ve made and with the addition of Adderall last month, I can finally say that for the first time in my life, I’m living the life I always wanted to.  My work life has been an interesting experience over the last several months, as my partner tells me my co-workers are evenly divided over whether I’m transitioning from male to female or female to male, he often gets asked “hey isn’t your partner that Paramedic that’s transitioning?”.  Keep in mind, while I’ve made no effort to conceal things, I haven’t admitting to anything either.  In that context, my recent promotion is all that more sweet and tells me that I don’t have to choose between transition and my career.  Finally, within the last month, I’ve been really happy to see a close friendship blossom between me and a co-worker, Michael.  As my latest blog entry will tell you, I want so much to fall in love with him.  Chris definitely left me with some emotional scars, but I take comfort in knowing that at least I don’t have to explain my being transgender to Michael.  I just hope Michael can appreciate me for who I am.

Dr.  Massey’s advice long ago was to avoid speaking in timelines, therefore I won’t get ahead of myself with future plans other then to acknowledge my upcoming name change and intention to come out at work for the purposes of being gendered as female.  Beyond that, I have some ideas of things I’d like to accomplish, but no desire to hold myself to a timeline at this point.

As for my blog, regan5.wordpress.com, I’d encourage you to read it.  Nothing is edited, hidden or otherwise not as it appeared the date I published each entry.

As always, thank you for your love and support.

Love Hurts

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I love Michael, or rather I want to love Michael. Were it not for how badly things ended with Chris and how hurt I was in the process I probably would fall in love with Michael rather easily. That’s not to say that I want to marry him and have babies with him (and of course the despair that comes from not being able to actually have babies with him), that was who and what Chris had become. I suppose I’ve matured since then, but the truth is fear is holding me back.
Michael and I work together, or rather given the nature of EMS, we see eachother at work. Like any true romance, it started out purely third grade. I accused him of looking like Mr. Rogers, he accused me of being a tranvestite hooker (not in so many words), harsh as that sounds its par for the course in EMS but I digress. That wasn’t all we ever accused each other of, I do remember telling him the porn star stache was a bad idea but again I digress. Fast forward to Christmas and I get a “merry fucking Christmas” from him on Christmas Eve. He didn’t even acknowledge the holiday with anyone else but me. I was like OMG, he really likes me. Maybe it’s a little overly dramatic, but its me and you know how I am. 🙂
Since then, he and I have become really close, I was the one he was excited to tell he passed the written test for his paramedic and again for his skills test or more recently the only one he excitedly told how he and his partner saved a patient in cardiac arrest. Now to be fair, his common greeting is showing me his middle finger, to which the other day I retorted “So is that your way of saying ‘I love you’?” His reply was, a yeah, whatever. Not quite what I would have expected I suppose.
I want so much to feel like I can love Michael. Different then things with Chris, I’m open enough at work that the debate is whether I’m transitioning from male to female or female to male. Whatever he thinks, he has to know I’m “not like the other boys” and yet he remains interested in being close with me. I want so much to be able to love him and be loved by him as Tristen, the female. Not the boy I pretend to be at work (which isn’t fooling anyone apparently). I just don’t know if he can see past that part of my existence and I don’t want to end up hurt the way I did with Chris.
I can’t decide what hurts worse, not being able to love the person you want or risking loving the person you want and being hurt anyways.

But You’re A Girl!

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Even I was starting to think this blog was dead, but the fact that I’m still attracting new followers and getting “hits” even when I don’t get follows tells me people are still interested in hearing what I have to say, or rather reading what I have to write.  Oh the ego that sentence seems to promote.  I’ll side track here to offer my dedicated, and not so dedicated readers and apology.  I’m all to well aware of a insanely adolescent phase I’ve been in for the last three years.  Funny, every time I type that, either here or some where else, I always initially write it as “last year”, I suppose I’m still in a letting go process.

I think I had a really productive session the last time with my therapist, the turning point was when he asked if I had a savings plan for surgery.  Not only did I admit that I hadn’t, but that I’d spent a ton of money on clothes in the last year.  I’ve set out since then to leave that phase behind me, first by apologizing to the people I’ve burdened with it.

I know its a normal part of the transition process, but it doesn’t change the fact that I have to take ownership of the things I’ve done and for you my readers, I’m truly sorry for the adolescent tone of far too many of my past posts.

As for, “but you are a girl”.  It’s an interesting story, as you know from previous posts, I’ve been mentoring a gender queer 10 year old named, William.  It was actually william’s brother Danny that uttered those words.  I don’t recall anything else about the conversation but that phrase, but it tells me that people are recognizing me as female and all but rejecting my maleness.  Which is what I wanted.

I had expressed to my therapist in my last appointment that surgery was important to me.  It was, in my mind, validation of the fact that I am female.  Without it, I think I fear I would never be taken seriously.  It’s sad we live in such a society, but it is the reality of the world we live in and I’m sure fodder for another post.  For the record, I won’t touch on the Katie Couric controversy, far better writers then me have already offered their opinions which I totally agree with.  It does reinforce what I feel though, I suppose it’s some level of dysphoria if you want to go that far with it.

I told my parents of my desire to change my name.  I think I’ll write a post on that conversation later, so I refer to it only as a gateway to the next stage which is of course “full time”. For me at least, its been a relatively flexible concept.  I wear female clothing probably about 99% of the time as it is right now, so full time is a soft concept really.  Once I file my name change, I go to court 30 days later and I’m officially Tristen.  For me it is the gateway to full time at work and there again I’m handcuffed by the need to be taken seriously.  My voice sucks.  Because I never worked on it until now and now I desperately want full time as the ultimate means of leaving the male identity I started shedding years ago.

What triggered my name change was my annual physical.  Being acknowledged as female (I hate the term “passing”)  is not absolute for me, but each time the receptionist called my male name I realized I would never really achieve my goal until that was part of my past.  It was  like being stabbed everytime my name was called.

As for work, it’s evenly divided, apparently, on whether I’m transitioning from male to female or female to male.  I’ve made no attempts to hide my transition at work, though I’ve never officially acknowledged it either.  I could change my name, gender neutral as it is, and continue to not “come out” at work, but I’m as ready as I’m ever going to be for full time.  Without my voice at least femalish, I fear that I won’t be taken seriously at work and that is unacceptable.

I’m tempered by the fact that both Danny and his younger brother, Shawn, both insist I’m a girl and their sister Sarah tells me that all her friends “think” I’m a girl (oh and all of this in an environment where I’m not fully out either).  And best of all, Sarah insists on her and I having “girl time”.  Our first experience being her painting my toenails, which Shawn happily joined in and had me painting his toes while Sarah painted mine.  It was one of the best experiences of my transition so far, especially having been excluded from “girl time” at the fire department since I wasn’t a girl (I was pre-everything at that point and not out) and how much it hurt.

But I am a girl.  I’ve achieved that goal in my transition. People are starting to see in me what I always saw in myself.  Now it’s just a matter of feeling like my identity is taken seriously by the rest of the world.

What a Long, Strange Trip it’s Been

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I’m not Jerry Garcia fan, but that feels like what much of my absence from blogging has been.  Mostly I blame it on an overabundance of topics to write about and the lack of an ability to focus on one enough to fill out an entire blog post.  Well, it sounded good anyways.

Road Trip!

Road Trip! (Photo credit: -Snugg-)

Though as I look back over my posts, I feel like most of the early ones had to do with conceptualizing who I was as a transfeminine person, where the later ones evolve to implementing, or at least expressing my trans* indentity.  In that time, even my language has changed.Let’s see, I left off with small victories.  Oddly enough, shortly after that, the bottom fell out of my non-relationship with Chris.  I loved him with all my heart for the better part of three years, and pretty much he walked away from it.  I know now, he never loved me back, but like the 15 year old girl I am (emotionally), I was too in love with him to see it.  Excuses get made about being too busy, but I seem to be the only one he’s too busy to spend time with.  Oh well, I’ve gotten over it – I have my moments, but I’ve taken a fairly mature approach to things and I see him for what, and who, he is.

As this new wave of maturity swept over me, my work partner to who I’m now completely out questioned why I wasn’t wearing more girly things.  I rolled my eyes, I did say I was more mature, but I can still be immature, and explained how seeing as males and females wear the same uniform, the uniform has no gender.  My partner is super cool with everything, and seems to have provoked me off the gender plateau I felt like I was on (he’s good at that – provoking me).  To prove a point I wore a beloved pair of boy shorts the next shift.  The happiness was infinite and pandoras box was opened.

If you haven’t guessed, I wore a sports bra next and never looked back.  Granted not everything I wear is “girls stuff”, at work and everywhere else, but they’re things like unisex hoodies and such.  My therapist doesn’t see it as full time, but really all that’s left is changing my name and pronouns, as over simplistic as that sounds.

This time last week, I was really having a hard time validating my gender identity.  Yeah, you can dress the part, but when its all you have to prove your femaleness, to yourself, it gets dysphoric.  I had two watershed moments this week.  I needed to try again with my hair and I needed to move the nose job up ASAP.  The hair I took care of Wednesday and the nose job, well I have consults scheduled for a couple weeks from now (which was as ASAP as I could make it).  Talk about lurching forward from the plateau!

As for my hair, I got an appointment at a GLBT friendly salon and told her sideswept bangs and layers.  I would have totally told her I was trans, but it was crowded and no so crowded I wouldn’t have avoided coming out to the whole place, which I wasn’t in the mood to do.  Anyways, it works, really well.  So much I went back yesterday and had her do my eyebrows.  All I asked for was thinned out, cleaned up and arched.  I’d like them a little thinner next time, but they go along way towards minimizing the male in me.  I’m a totally different person this week from a week ago, I totally see so much more of the female in me (yay HRT!).

Coincidentally, I visited my parents last month, after being introduced I couldn’t help but giggle at how often people told me how much I look like my mother as I get older.  I think my mom must have been pretty cute (as mom’s go) because I see so much of her in me now and I’m pretty cute too.  It occurred to me though, one of those “duh!” kind of moments, who else did I expect to look like when I first started all of this.

Also on Wednesday, my therapist decided, rather announced, “I think you’re ready to change your name.”  I’ve used Tristen as much as possible since I settled on it in back in November.  Almost to the point of exclusively at this point.  Still though it’s not something I want to rush in to, not so much that I’m not ready, but are all the people (most of whom know nothing) in my life ready for it.  Complicating that also is the need to disclose regarding the nose job.  Its one thing to say that I’m getting one, “I hate my nose” and another to say that getting the nose I want combined with the effects of HRT pretty much means the days of being “sirred” are over.  Two major disclosures that need to happen pretty quickly I suppose.  It’s times like this I wish I didn’t suck at coming out.

I’m so happy to have moved as far forward as I have, I hope I’m not moving too fast, but I don’t want to back up or slow down at this point either.  I’ve got another couple milestones this week, I still have to come out to the lesbian couple at work who are my new best friends (they know me as gay) and I’m planning on going to my first support group meeting – something I swore I would never do.  I see next weekend’s post is already writing itself.

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