Dear Mom,

Dear Mom,

First of all, I want to tell you how much I miss you and love you. You have been gone now for 22 years and when you passed away you left a hole that can never be filled. I cannot begin to tell you how many times I’ve wished I could pick up the phone and hear your voice, or walk through your door and be greeted like I was the most important person on Earth.

Whether or not you understood it, you were responsible for so much of who I became and who I am still becoming. You accepted me and whatever I was doing 100%. You encouraged me. You believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself.

Mom, the more I live in this world, the more I realize just how lucky I was to have you as my mom. So many people I know have been rejected by their families – or grew up in an atmosphere of indifference…or worse, violence. I grew up knowing I was loved and that there was nothing I could say or do that would make you stop loving me.

Anyone who knows me knows that I am a hugger. That’s due to you and dad who were always there with a warm hug. I want to share those with the people I care about.

In later years, I remember you questioning things you did in raising my brother and me. Please let me assure you that you were the best mom any kid could ask for.

You sacrificed for us, loved us, and taught us values, respect and discipline. You showed me the value of friendship. You and dad set a wonderful example for a life well lived.

It was little wonder that my friends all wanted to come over to our house to play because, as I heard countless times, “Your parents are so cool.” How rare is that? You gave us everything we needed to succeed in life. I sometimes wish I’d have asked more questions or paid closer attention.

The question that haunts me mom is why – when you were SO loving, SO accepting of everything I was and everything I did – why couldn’t I tell you about ME before you died? (I lacked the guts to say the words)

You said on more than one occasion that you wished you had a daughter. You were a wonderful grandma to my 2 daughters but I never found the words to tell you – that you had a daughter all along. Perhaps I didn’t have the heart to take away your first-born son. I know how much you loved him.

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{My Mom – Like Mother…]

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[Like daughter….]

Sometimes, that thought tortures me mom. I kept so much from you but part of me thinks you may have suspected. Especially if you added things up – my wanting to wear a dress to play when I was little, asking you what my girl name would have been (I carry that name today and always will) I remember you coming in the bathroom when I was taking a bath one day. I had soap all over my legs and was pretending to shave them with a “Popsicle Stick” razor. The signs were there. You knew how sensitive and pensive I was.

What you didn’t know was that I lay in bed at night praying that God would change my body and make things right. I hated my penis and wanted it gone to the point of pondering, “Do It Yourself” remedies at a young age. You never knew that I cried at night during puberty as my changing body betrayed me in all sorts of ways. I just wished it would stop. I never said anything. I just couldn’t bear to hurt or disappoint you.

I know you would have supported me and accepted me. No question – because you would have set your feelings aside – the disappointment, the potential embarrassment (This was the 60’s and 70’s remember) and the crushing sense of loss you may have felt. You would have done it for me – I have no doubt.

I didn’t want to let you down.

Today, my life is very different than what you envisioned for me. I wish I could introduce you to your daughter, you would love her. I know you would have tons of great advice, a hot cup of coffee and a hug.

Always a hug.

I love you mom. Happy Mother’s Day. I miss you so much.

Your daughter,

Leslie

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THE ULTIMATE SACRIFICE

I was born in Long Beach, California, the first-born “male” child to parents who dearly wanted children. They named me “Jeff” after a family friend, a man who I would later work for many years down the road.

My childhood was pretty normal by the “Leave It To Beaver” (Google it) standards of the day, at least externally. On the inside of young Jeff, was the feeling that “he” was a “she.” I kept this to myself for the most part. No way could I express exactly what I was feeling for there was no script in 1965 for a child to tell his or her parents “I am not the gender you think I am.”

So, I hinted the best I knew how. I asked what my girl name would have been – “Leslie” – my mother said. I sometimes asked if I could wear a dress when playing. My mom obliged. I don’t think my dad ever saw me doing that, not that I hid it, I actually didn’t see it as unusual. But no discussion ever took place. That was probably a good thing because acceptance of and resources for transgender people then was just about nil. I probably would have been lobotomized.

So I grew up with a sort of duality that most people don’t have. Unconsciously, but consistently through the years I would refer to myself as “we.” My mom would ask what I was going to do today. I’d say “We’re going to the park.” She would ask who I was going with. “Just me” I’d say.

I’d say “We” to my dad and he would kid me by asking: “What? Do you have fleas?” Many years later, my wife would call and ask when I’d be home from work, I would say “We’ll be home in about half an hour.” She would ask who was with me. This was completely unconscious, never intentional. Matter of fact it was only my subconscious that would speak the word “we,” because Jeff guarded Leslie with his life.

“Jeff” & “Leslie” shared the same mind and body for over 50 years, but it was Jeff who took the lead. Jeff was a very sensitive child, unusual for most boys. Teachers often noted on that on report cards.

I studied other girls growing up, desperately wishing I could be one of them. To act and dress as they do. Their social interaction of rapid conversation, groups and laughter contrasted with boys that punched each other in the arm.

Through the years, Jeff learned how to act like a boy and then a man. He had a job to do. He had to protect his girls. 1st, his wife, who he married at age 20, and then 2 daughters, and always there was Leslie. She was in the background but silently watching, learning. Sometimes when we were alone, Jeff would let Leslie come out a little, usually trying on my wife’s clothes. But Leslie knew her place and it was not in the public eye. The pain of having to hide was kept hidden.

Jeff, on the other hand, thrived in the public eye. He was a good provider, working 30 years in the radio industry hosting a major market morning show and programming stations in cities like Sacramento, Dallas, Atlanta and Houston. He was as good a husband as he knew how to be. He tried his best to be a good dad to his daughters, who he adored. He worked hard for his employers, a work ethic passed down by a father who grew up during the Great Depression. Jeff was a good friend.

By 1995, Jeff had it all. A beautiful wife, 2 wonderful daughters, a big house in the mountains on 3 acres, a ski boat and good friends! Life was great! Why was I still restless?

The frequency of dressing in women’s clothes and secretly experimenting with nail polish and make-up increased; always in private. If Leslie were discovered, I believed I’d lose everything. So WHY would I even risk it? Could Jeff be willing to give up his life for Leslie?

It was about 4 years ago – April of 2009 that the first crack in the dam appeared. On a trip to the coast for our anniversary, my wife gave me a pedicure. When she finished, I found the courage to ask: “Aren’t you going to paint them?” I waited breathlessly before she called my bluff. “What color?” she asked…handing me a purple and a turquoise nail polish. I handed her the turquoise and said: “This one.”

I walked around town with turquoise toes all week. When I got home, another crack showed as I kept my toes painted – changing colors every few weeks.

Slowly at first, and then with increasing momentum, Jeff would take a step back and Leslie would show herself a little more.

Jeff was a mentor for Leslie. Protecting her from the brutal realities of a world that didn’t understand and keeping her safe, nurturing her slowly and allowing her to experiment.

The time finally came when Jeff knew that this duality that existed since birth had to end. “We” must become “Me” and “He” would become “She.” The sad part was, for Leslie to fully live, Jeff had to die.

Jeff wasn’t a scoundrel. There would be no tap dancing on his grave. His death would be selfless, even heroic. He was throwing himself on the “Gender Grenade.”

When it went off, Jeff was destroyed but not surprisingly, there was collateral damage everywhere. My marriage ended, I lost my home and I lost my job. My “You have everything” world had come crashing down and my protector and mentor was no longer there to help.

On April 11th of 2013, Leslie Michelle flew solo for the first time. The next month there was a clothing drive in Dallas to provide clothing to other transgender men & women. So I gathered up Jeff’s clothing and carefully folded them and placed them in my car. As I was gathering the last of it from my closet, I felt the tears coming, slowly at first and then hot and heavy, the sobs heaving my chest.

I stopped what I was doing and sat on the bed thinking about what was upsetting me so. I realized that I hadn’t really said “Thank You” to Jeff. Also I hadn’t really even said “Goodbye.” After all, I still carried his ID around everywhere. But it was then that I realized that Jeff had made the “Ultimate Sacrifice” for me. He had given his life so that I may fully live.

How do you thank someone for a selfless gift of that magnitude? What comes to mind are the final words of Captain Miller played by Tom Hanks as he lay mortally wounded speaking to Private Ryan he said: “Earn this. Earn it.” Meaning; live a life that is worthy of the sacrifice that was made to bring you through this alive. So that’s what I am trying to do as Leslie. Live a life in the years I have left that will validate and honor the extreme sacrifice made by Jeff. He was a good guy. I will never forget him.

My last formal goodbye to him was September 20th. My court date to legally change my name to Leslie Michelle McMurray was on that date. My driver’s license that has had Jeff’s name and photo on it has been surrendered in exchange for a new one. This time with an “F” where once there was an “M.” My credit cards, social security and car title all read “Leslie.” The last document to arrive was appropriately enough, my birth certificate, showing that my parents gave birth to a girl, Leslie Michelle McMurray. Jeff no longer exists except in my memory and that of family and long-term friends.

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God bless you Jeff. Thanks for everything.

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30 QUESTION CHALLENGE

A friend of mine posted this 30 Day Transgender challenge. I suppose it is 30 days because some are choosing to answer a question a day for 30 days and post in a vlog. (Which is great) Being more of a writer, I thought I’d take them and answer them here.

This is a 30 day challenge inspired by TheMiserableMuse.
30 Day Trans-Challenge:

1)   When did you realize the term transgender referred to you?

That depends on what you mean. The actual word “Transgender” didn’t come into vogue until the 70’s. So I suppose when hearing the word and making the connection with my identity – maybe 1982.

While I don’t recall the exact date or even year, I was very young. It was likely 1962 or 63, so that would make me 4 or 5 years old, I knew I was different. I felt like a little girl and I prayed for God to make things right.

2)   How did you choose your name, and what names were you thinking about using and why?

That is one of my favorite stories and one I have told often. I didn’t choose my name, my parents did. When I was very young, maybe 5 or 6, my mother was ironing clothes and I was watching her. I asked her what my name was going to be if I had been born a girl and she looked at me and said “We were going to name you Leslie” That has ALWAYS been my name and I never considered another.

3)   Have you ever been outed?

I don’t know. Maybe. When I came out, I was out, well everywhere but work, but seriously, my hair was in a ponytail, I wore two turquoise studs in my ears, my fingernails were painted, I wore a pink and silver bracelet every day, I wore a delicate necklace with a silver heart and a silver letter “L” on it. (My initials at the time were JTM) I wore blingy “Miss Me” jeans on casual Friday…could I be any more “Out?”

4)   How did your family take it when you came out/ if you are not out why aren’t you?

I am out. (I’ve been living full time for a year) It was a mixed bag. My daughters have been very accepting and supportive., though they have struggled at times. As you might imagine, it was devastating for my (ex) wife. She really tried to accept it and be supportive, but ultimately, it was too much. My brother is in the church leadership with a Christian Evangelical Church and he has disowned me. He claims it would be offensive to God for him to say my name. His kind scares me. Cousins have been universally supportive and loving. One regret is not being able to tell my parents before they died. It wasn’t because they died suddenly or tragically, I was just a coward.

5)   Are you active in the trans community or LGBT community?

Yes I am and it is very rewarding. I am a volunteer with GEAR in Dallas. (Gender Education Advocacy & Resource)

6)   Who was the first person you told about being trans?

My ex wife. We were still married at the time. She was convinced I was having an affair but I wasn’t. She was sure I was hiding a secret. On that, she was correct. She basically pushed me to the edge of the cliff and said “I know you have a secret.” I admitted that I did. She said “I KNEW it.” I asked her if she wanted to know it and she said “yes” – I asked if she was sure, because after I told her, I couldn’t “Un-tell” her. She said she wanted to know, so I told her.

7)   Who do you look up to?

A lot of people. Girls that came before me. Christine Jorgensen, Dr. Rene’ Richards and a young Trans* girl named Jazz who just absolutely blows my mind with her maturity, courage and determination. My room mate, Katie who walks in grace and confidence and a FB friend named Jamie. She has risen above more obstacles than most people can even imagine yet still finds a way. These are incredible women. We all stand on the shoulders of giants.

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Leslie & Katie

8)   How do you deal with being read mis-genderd in the beginning of transitioning by people?

I spent 30 years in the entertainment business so I have thick skin and a wicked sense of humor. I won’t say it didn’t bother me, but I never blamed the other person. If I’m read, that’s on me. If I am rudely mis-gendered on purpose, that’s another issue and it only happened once and I handled it. I haven’t been mis-gendered in around a year now – except over the phone.

9)   What is something positive about being trans?

I could go on all day! The #1 positive is simply living my life as me with no inhibition. #2 is what I like to call “Unguarded conversations.” Talking with someone else and not having to take into consideration protecting an aspect of myself and never revealing it. Just a nice free unguarded conversation is precious. #3 is the incredible friendships I’ve made in the Trans community. We are all walking a similar path and none of us need to explain what we are going through.

10)   What are some of your fears in regards to being trans?

That I may never find employment in the field I’ve spent 30 successful years in.

That I might not be able to support myself.

Being homeless. Never being able to afford the surgery I need.

11)   How do you manage Dysphoria?

I suppose like 12 step programs – one day at a time. Before I was on hormones, it could be nearly unbearable. These days when I look in the mirror, I see what I feel like and THAT tells Dysphoria to STFU. When I am naked or intimate with someone, it rears back up. Still working on that part. It can get pretty bad at times.

12)    What are you doing to stay healthy for transitioning mentally and physically?

I eat a LOT better than I did before I Transitioned. I haven’t had a sugared soda in almost 2 years (with only a couple of exceptions) I don’t keep ice cream or processed sugar treats in the house. I eat more salads and fresh stuff. I need to exercise more. I don’t drink near as much alcohol and I am under far less stress. I lost 50 pounds from my pre-transition high (was 218) The single best thing I’ve done for my mental health is keeping a journal. It has helped me in so many ways, as has my blog that I write. The fact that my gender therapist is world class doesn’t hurt either!

13) Bathrooms

I use them regularly. OK, I use the women’s bathroom when I am   out and about and have never had a problem anywhere. I have travelled all over, California, Arizona, New Mexico, Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, Georgia and my home state of Texas. Never a problem. I also only go there when I need to go to the bathroom. I’m not there to screw with anyone or make a point. I never stand up to pee (It’s been 2 years since I’ve done that even at home!) I am respectful of others and expect the same. My stress level went down a lot last September when I had my name and gender legally changed.

14) What are some of your passing tips or things you do to pass?

I’ve done all the basics. I’m on HRT and have been for almost a year and a half. I’ve had enough electrolysis that I have no shadow and my face looks good. I pay attention when I put on make-up and don’t over-do. I learned how to style my hair, how to Put outfits together. I still cringe though when I see Trans Women in too-short skirts with fishnet stockings in a casual coffee shop sitting with their legs spread and arms on the back of the chair like a truck driver. Or walking like a linebacker for the Steelers. The best tip: Pay attention to the world around you; if you are shopping in a grocery store, how many women are in dresses and heels? None. Most likely, leggings or jeans and comfortable flats. Look around and just fit in.

15) How have you embraced your trans identity?

Mostly be embracing it as MY Identity. I know who I am and I just live my life and try to be the kind of woman that would make my mom and dad proud. I have never been happier or more at peace with who I am. It’s an incredible feeling and I had to fight so hard to get here. The cost was staggering.

16) What’s your rock anthem and why?

Not so much “Rock” anthem, but my anthem is from the movie “Frozen” it’s a song called “Let It Go” The first time I heard it, I was sitting in a car repair shop waiting for my oil change to finish. A girl I used to work with at CBS (who I think the world of) sent me a text and said I HAD to listen to this song – she had heard it and she said it reminded her of me. Wow. So I listened to it in the repair shop waiting room and I sat there with tears streaming down my face!! (Thank goodness for waterproof mascara!) That song was SO moving and it spoke so clearly to me. It has become MY anthem.

17) What’s your binding choice and why?

As a Trans Woman this one doesn’t apply

18) How do you feel about the trans laws where you live?

It’s a mixed bag. The city of Dallas has some protections for Trans* people but not the county, or the State. Texas doesn’t permit a birth certificate to be changed (California does) and even getting your ID changed can be a real challenge depending upon which county you are in. Trans* people have very little protection in Texas. We have no employment or housing protection from discrimination. Same sex marriage is not permitted. Consider this (If you are cis – imagine using a bathroom and having to take into consideration whether you are in a city or county establishment. The difference could cost you your freedom. Just a little of what Trans* life can be like)

19) If your religious how do your views effect being trans if your not religious what about your family religions?

I used to follow the Christian faith and I didn’t so much leave   them, but they left me. My brother made clear that I am going to Hell for making this “Lifestyle Choice” as he calls it. I consider myself a Buddhist now and am quite happy.

20) Do you want to be a parent why or why not?

I am a parent. I have 2 beautiful daughters and 3 grandchildren.

21) Your views on the cis-gendered community

I am not going to judge anybody – I was talking to some friends at lunch recently and I was looking at (apparently) Cis-People in the same restaurant and marveling at what it must be like to wake up in the morning and not have your gender be one of the first things on your mind. I’ve never felt that. I sometimes feel sorry for them because they seem to be sleep-walking through life. Being my true self after being denied it for so long is like the Wizard Of Oz where it goes from Black & White to the Technicolor beauty of Oz. I live that every day!

22) Do you feel being trans holds you back from your career choice?

Yes. No question. I’ve been told as much to my face.

23) What stereotypes are put on trans people?

One that bothers me the most is what I call the “Jerry Springer” stereotype. That we are unstable drama queens. Also many people don’t understand the difference between someone who is Transsexual and a Drag Queen. Most Drag Queens are gay Cis-Men and that surely isn’t us.

24) Who is your favorite LGBT actor/musician/director/artist etc and why?

That’s kind of a weird question because I don’t believe I know the sexuality or gender identity of every actor or entertainer. I admire the hell out of Leah Wachowski. I just love her. Ellen DeGeneres is also a favorite. She shows that you can be funny without it being at someone else’s expense.

25) Doctor visits.

I suppose that I am blessed in that my doctor that has been handling my care is also Transgender, so there is no discomfort or awkward explanations. She knows. I am generally in excellent health, so those visits are few and far between.

26) Do you feel comfortable answering questions about being trans if say your teacher/friend/stranger asked you?

Yes, I feel comfortable talking to anyone about it. I would hope that whoever is asking the questions is respectful and polite. I am quite candid and have no qualms about discussing Tans* issues.

27) What goals do you have?

They have really been simplified. I used to make a lot of money   and accumulated a lot of stuff. My goals now are: To make enough to support myself. To help other girls (and guys) that follow on the path behind me. To see my story published some day. Maybe find love again?

28) What is something you have to do everyday or else you feel like your whole day is off if you don’t do it?

Have a nice hot cup of coffee

29) Write out something positive about yourself using the letters of your name. Ex. Your name is Bob so B-Beautiful O-Outstanding B-Boy

LESLIE – Leslie Enjoys Seeing Love In Everyone

30) Write a haiku about being trans

Sitting In Boy Clothes

Sobbing On The Closet Floor

Wishing He was She

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WEIGHTY QUESTIONS ON RELIGION

I am no stranger to controversy. I hosted a morning show on rock radio stations for 20+ years and was actually disappointed if we didn’t have a steady stream of complaint calls and letters coming in.

This is different. It’s not a comedy bit. I’m serious here and I would guess I might stir a few people up – sometimes just the mention of God or religion is enough to get some people going, but I am sincere in asking for answers here and I’m going to ask some hard and direct questions.

No particular event spurred this post but it has been brewing for a long time. Transgender people are often rejected by their churches, protested against at their jobs (sometimes losing them) by religious groups and even turned against by family members on religious grounds.

100% of the references I am making here are of Christian denominations although other religions may also have it in for us.

One of the things that makes sorting through this difficult is that not ALL Christians are against us –just some. Not all Christian churches reject us…just some. So I ask those of you who follow Christ: “Why the schism?”

I’m no biblical scholar but I have read a pretty good chunk of the bible and I can’t seem to find indications of anything attributed to Jesus that condemns Transgender people. Quite the contrary actually – he consistently stood by the most marginalized of society. Some might make a case for Transgender people being among the “Lepers” of today. Jesus was also noted for asking his followers not to judge – to love one another as I have loved you and to forgive.

If these qualities are being taught in church and Christ is embraced by those who follow Him, then why aren’t these practices more widespread in everyday life? Why the hypocrisy? (From some)

There seems to be a lot in the Old Testament that is often quoted by those who I refer to as religious extremists that condemns Homosexuals (It even says they “Shall be killed” – Christians: Anyone agree with that?) There are many rather extreme and arcane laws in the Old Testament. Often they are used to hurt us.

I’m asking Christians: Where you Y’all fall on the Old Testament?

Is it the revealed word of God? Must you obey? Or is it outdated? If so, are any among you standing up and saying it’s time to put the Old Testament away as a relic and piece of ancient history that has no place in governing today’s society?

Pretty radical stuff, right?

I’m really not trying to be antagonistic but I want to understand what I see are inconsistencies.

I understand there are many different factions of Christianity, so I will ask if your particular belief permits you to sort through the bible and pick and choose what you believe and practice and to reject other things that don’t fit your life? Or do you have to accept the Bible part and parcel as the revealed word and law of God?

If you get to pick and choose, then the Bible quickly becomes less a History book and more of a Philosophy book (which I’m fine with) but that creates problems if everyone gets to decide what being a Christian is…doesn’t it?

If you accept the Bible in total as the revealed word and law of God, how do you reconcile the mandatory (“Shall be killed”) killing of homosexual people? I believe that is called murder in all 50 states. How about the rules for how to treat your slaves? I’m not trying to be a dick, but that stuff is IN THERE! (I don’t, for a nanosecond endorse this lunacy and fortunately neither do most civilized people, but if it’s OK to ignore this law, who gets to decide which others to ignore that may also be out dated…like Gay Marriage?)

How does a Church that calls itself a Christian Church or bases its teachings on the New Testament come out as opposed to Transgender people being assimilated into mainstream society? To do otherwise is blatant hypocrisy. Are the congregants of these churches afraid to speak out for us? Are they being intimidated? Christ surely wasn’t.

There are so many examples of Transgender people being oppressed by vocal right wing religious bigots that spread hate in a vocal manner while the moderate Christians sit on their hands and don’t condemn this misrepresentation of your religion – why?

Transgender Christians: What is it that keeps you in the flock? I have several (more than 4) Transgender friends – personal friends – that are devout Christians. 2 of them were in leadership roles with their churches and were asked to step aside after they came out as Transgender. They have both left their home Church to find another, more accepting Church.

(So it’s the Church turning their back on them, not their religion – that’s important. Are the Churches wrong?)

2 of these friends are teachers. Both have been harassed by “God Fearing” parents who pulled their children from classrooms. One of these women was suspended from her job after a member of a Pentecostal Church complained to the school.

Christians: (Especially Baptists) When you see members of Westboro Baptist holding signs that read: “God Hates Fags” what is your reaction? Are you silently thinking that those people have the guts to say out loud what you silently think? Or do they not at all represent your interpretation of Christianity? If so, why the silence? I was delighted to see the Westboro protesters run off in Moore, OK recently – but it begs the question: If you are Baptist and think Westboro is a bunch of nutty zealots and Westboro thinks you are not following the word of God – who is right?

My own brother will not speak my name. It is my legal name. It was given to me by my parents but my brother who is in the leadership of a Christian Evangelical Church tells me that for him to use my name (Leslie) it would offend God and that he refuses to do so. This breaks my heart. What say you Christians? Is my brother right?

Catholics – what do you make of the new Pope? Last July, when asked about homosexual priests, he said: “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?” (This is quite a departure from the Old Testament’s Leviticus 20:13)

Ordinarily, I try not to involve myself in religious discussions, but I’m making an exception here because I am genuinely curious how the average Christian feels about this and also because that book is being used to keep me from finding a job or a spouse and so now I’m involved.

I welcome a spirited discussion. I welcome clergy. At the core of this question is that if you base your belief on the Bible, how do you reconcile yourself with some of the laws in it? I don’t want to hear the familiar cop out either – “Oh, that’s just the Old Testament, that’s Jewish Law” OK, if so, then quit teaching it. Distance your Church from the Old Testament publicly. Quit teaching Noah’s Ark and Adam And Eve in your Sunday School curriculum.

But if you stand in defense of the Old Testament, well, at least you are consistent. Just give me a head’s up before Y’all head into Wal Mart to kill the people working on the Sabbath. (Exodus 35:2)

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MILESTONES

I have always been one of those people who have been sentimental about milestones. I was always better able to keep track of significant dates and anniversaries than my spouse. There are lots of reasons to remember these dates: accomplishments, events to savor again, loss of people close to us, birthdays and more. But for me, my calendar is becoming really full of significant dates!

Gender Transition is very much like giving birth to a new person! I remember the day I came out, the first day I left the house dressed, the day I began hormone treatment (I consider that day my “other” birthday) there is the day I had my name and gender legally changed and the day I went full-time (never looking back).

The day I went full time was April 11th of 2013 and the one-year anniversary of that is this Friday.

This is an especially important and memorable day for me (as I am sure it is for so many in our community. It’s not a day you forget. It’s a BIG deal) Please permit me to share why –

The week of April 7th 2013 was a week I would never want to re-live. I was pushed beyond my emotional limit to a point I never want to re-visit and I will leave it at that.

Sunday the 7th would have been my 34th wedding anniversary except that my divorce was final 12 days earlier. It was a terrible day.

Monday the 8th dawned early and the first thing I did was step in a pool of dog vomit on the way to the bathroom. Good morning! My week only got worse from there. Ratings come out on Monday and ours were mostly good.

By this point, I was living an odd existence. At work, I was a guy. Well, sort of. (I’m sure many of my CBS colleagues had their doubts!) I had not cut my hair since last July, my fingernails sported bright polish colors and I wore a pink breast cancer bracelet every day. At home and every other place except work, I was living as a woman…with male ID, which drove me nuts. This dual existence is beyond awful. It was confusing and the closest thing to torture I can think of – well, psychological torture.

There was a LOT of pressure at work, my marriage had just ended, I needed to move from my house that was big, safe and comfortable as well as being so secluded and I had to play a role I felt less and less able to play every day – that of a man at work. My life was unraveling before my eyes. Perhaps a snip from my journal from the previous week will best explain: (Actual journal entries are in italics)

Tuesday, April 2nd   2013 –

I don’t want to erase who I was; I just want to embrace who I am. The Real Estate agent is going to wear me out! Another showing today. I’ve been marveling at how much I am trying to handle. Somehow I have been able to bear the weight with humor and as much grace as I can muster – however, I fear that the proverbial straw might just be more than this girl can take! I do my crying in private. Just a couple of hours after this entry, my radio station received our best ratings in 5 months! Then 90 minutes after that my boss tells me there is a lack of confidence in my ability – (really? You just gave me an award for excellence less than 60 days ago for the past year!) Panic is setting in. THAT was the straw. I can’t take any more. I cried all the way home; I don’t even remember how I got there. When I pulled in to the drive, there was a “For Sale “sign that the agent promised wouldn’t be there for another 2 weeks! Everything in my life is broken and I can’t fix it. I need a miracle! My job is broken, my marriage is over, my dog is dead, my finances are broken, I am broken – neither fish nor fowl, stuck between two genders! Do I live as a goofy looking dude with boobs or an ugly chick with a dick? Neither appeals to me. I pray there is a way out. If my job ends now, I’m broke, single; stuck mid-transition and unemployed in a terrible job market unable to afford to become physically female. Did I miss anything? This is no way to live…

If the desperation and fear I felt doesn’t come through, please believe me that I thought it couldn’t get any worse.

It got worse.

Tuesday April 9th

I found myself becoming a real scatterbrain as so many thoughts vied for limited attention. Misplacing things, forgetting why I went upstairs (I was never like that)

Wednesday April 10th

Weird vibes at work today. (I was the program director for Jack-FM for CBS in Dallas) It was a cold wet day. I revised my “coming out” letter to HR and will present it tomorrow. I had my picture taken for my passport and need to spend $195 to expedite it. (This was for a company trip in May) I have the paperwork and will take it in at lunch tomorrow. More stress at home this evening.

Thursday April 11th

(From my Journal)

Well damn, Got fired today. Sure hope it gets better from here. I was called in first thing and given my walking papers. I called a few friends and scheduled an appointment with (my therapist) I was feeling very panicky. I drove home and pulled into the drive crying. I took off my “boy drag” with the thought that I might not EVER have to wear boy clothes again. The idea of really setting Leslie free to be herself, helped stall-off a complete meltdown. I decided to dress cute for my therapy appointment. I put on my make-up and wore a black skirt and a purple sweater – I felt pretty. My therapist urged me to “breathe” and stay calm. She fixed me herb tea and helped me work through the latest in this string of life events. I am trying not to be crushed under the weight of this. (By now I have lost 50 pounds from last July) My friend Peter had heard the news and invited me to have a cocktail at a local watering hole. I walked confidently in and after getting a hug from Peter, sat down and chatted with the gorgeous bartender Harold. After a few hours and hugs from Peter and Harold, I was walked to my car and I drove home. Not such a bad day after all!

 

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Right before leaving the house on 4-11-13

There you have it. April 11th isn’t just the day I want full-time; it was a day that changed the direction of my life in so many ways – almost all of them good.

Yes, I miss the money the job provided and I miss working with the amazing talented people at CBS who I still consider friends. But in so many other ways that day, that decision to never look back and take that step was one of the best, most courageous things I have ever done.

The WPATH Standards of Care refer to something called a “Real Life Test.” (Now called the RLE or “Real Life Experience”) This used to be required before GCS could be done. The “Test” consisted of living for one year as your identified gender. In my case, female.

This “Test” for me will be completed Friday. However it has not felt like a test at all. It has been the most natural thing in the world.

The Real Test was the year before…really from April of 2012 – April of 2013. That year was a bitch. It nearly killed me.

When I look back at that day, something really important happened and I didn’t fully realize it at the time – I had lost control of nearly everything. Instead of giving up, I took control of the one thing I could control – I decided then and there, to be ME. To finally honor the person I had kept silent all those years. She has not let me down.

So, this Friday I will observe what for me has been the most incredible, amazing, eye opening, mind blowing, surprising year of my life. I am so glad to be alive.

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IT’S NOT A PRANK!

These days, I seem to be a bit of a victim of my own success. After fighting the knowledge of who I was for most of my life, I just couldn’t do it anymore and in 2012 I finally came out as a Transgender woman.

From there, things started moving right along – I began living as a woman everywhere but work, I began taking female hormones in January of 2013, I started getting my beard removed through facial electrolysis and on April 11th of 2013 I began living full time as a woman. My legal name and gender were corrected in September of that year. I point these things out only to emphasize that this isn’t something I’m confused about or taking lightly. It is the most significant thing I have done strictly for me – ever.

My career in broadcasting has taken me all over the country, hence my family and friends are scattered to the four winds. It has taken quite some time to get in touch with everyone personally and because I have lived such a public life, word often passes to others via rumor or word of mouth. A Google search of my birth name shows a slew of results, the first of which is an article about me coming out in the Huffington Post!

Still, the most common reaction to my gender swap isn’t shock, that’s #2. The most common is disbelief. Pure, raw, belly laugh, “where’s the punch line” certainty that they are being pranked by me…….again.

See, that’s where my reputation has come back and bitten me in my now cute little ass. I was a prankster. I would go to elaborate lengths for my pranks. They were often a bit of improv and I took great joy in selling them. Because I was so honest most of the time and I guess I was just plain believable, I was able to sell the most outlandish pranks and get away with it.

I also wasn’t worried about rubbing the “mark’s” face in it either. I never cared if they knew it was me doing it – or instigating it. Was it funny? Was nobody harmed? Then good!

One of my favorites involved a high school friend years ago. He lived in a wealthy area with gates and a guard. I lived in a tract house in the middle class neighborhood a few miles away. I used to come see him a lot so the guard usually just waved me through instead of calling his house each time.

“Jack” had been given a new car for his birthday. A Toyota Celica. This was his baby. He kept a diary of everything he did with this car. When he filled up, he kept a detailed diary of how many gallons and calculated his mileage. It was lovingly serviced every 3,000 miles. I had no car, I rode the bus. Jack offered to drive me in his car and I eagerly accepted. It took half the time to get there and had a lot more cache than the city (shitty) bus! But the cache was lessened because when we arrived at the student parking lot at school, Jack would pop the trunk and pull out a canvas car cover and I would help him cover his car. Kinda nerdy.

Jack would never let me help with gas. I tried on several occasions but for whatever reason he always declined. I felt a little like a freeloader. So on one of my evening visits to his house driving my mom’s car, I brought a gas can (this was before locking gas caps) and put a gallon of gas in his Celica and then went in to hang out. I did this about once a week.

Well, Jack stopped at the gas station and as usual, logged his gas purchase in his diary and calculated his mileage. Lo & behold, he was getting closer to 30 MPG than his usual 23 or 24. He was ecstatic! I stifled a laugh because I knew why. Instead, I kept quiet and began slowly upping my secret fueling…watching over the weeks as his mileage started creeping into the mid 30’s to near 40. I was curious to see how high I could get it without being caught by a neighbor or arousing suspicion. In the meantime, Jack was telling the whole school about his amazing Celica gas mileage! It was a miracle. Jack was altering his driving to maximize mileage and I’m upping my fueling carefully so as not to show on the gas gauge when he got in the car in the morning. I believe he was at around 50 MPG, which was unheard of in the mid 70’s, when Jack told me he was taking his baby in for service on Saturday.

THAT was the core of the prank –because after Saturday, I quit adding gas to his tank. Cold Turkey. The next time Jack filled up and did the math in his diary his mileage had returned to 24 MPG. All I know is that his first call was the service manager at the Toyota dealer asking him what he did to his poor car to cut the gas mileage in HALF!

To this day –I have never told him.

This was just one of a 30+ year history of pranking my friends and now when they hear that the “guy” who loaded his own ammunition, carried a 214 bowling average, loved golf and cigars, built a muscle car on the radio and “hot-fueled” helicopters for law enforcement Marijuana raids is now a girl – well, that’s just another of “his” pranks.

Nope. It’s not. I just spoke to the latest friend to find out the real deal this past weekend. I worked with Larry in the early 2000’s in Houston when I was doing the morning show on the BUZZ. Larry said he had heard word from a few places but until right now had considered it just another prank that the others had been suckered in to. He had logged on to my Facebook page and compared my pictures there with ones from before – he’s a believer now…I think.

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(Leslie (left) and room mate Katie)

I should find the whole thing amusing – after all, I surely deserve a little payback, but trying to convince wary friends of just how meaningful and serious this is for me has become a challenge and results in some really long conversations.

I guess I had it coming.

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MUSINGS ON TRANSITION

I feel the need to provide a disclaimer of sorts here – I have mentioned on any number of occasions that Transition is the most difficult thing I’ve ever done – and I’m not kidding. But I have also said I’m not seeking any “Poor Leslie’s” – because this is my life. I’m living it on my terms. Lots and lots of people have bigger challenges than I do.

I didn’t wake up this morning fighting for my life – I woke up with a hangover from celebrating a friend’s new job. My life is wonderful – it’s mine and I love it – but in the interest of spreading understanding – I wanted to share some random things that make gender transition so difficult – yet also so essential for those who deal with Gender Dysphoria.

(This is not intended to be anything close to a complete list. That would be enormous and nearly impossible to include everything. These are just a few things that have come to mind in the last week or so)

I watched a wedding video of a former co-worker named Natalie today. It was SO beautiful. There were shots of the girls getting ready – doing hair and make-up and putting on the gorgeous dresses. I have longed to be a part of that my entire life. There was a meme posted recently that read:

“Some boys wanted to be cowboys. Some wanted to be Indians. I always wanted to be the bride.”

That about sums it up. At every wedding I’ve even been – when I was little, I longed to wear the cute flower girl dress and walk down the aisle. As I grew older, I wondered what it would be like to be a bridesmaid – getting ready together amid the chaos of fixing yourself up and helping the bride. And yes, what girl hasn’t dreamed of being the center of attention in a beautiful white wedding dress. (I even felt that way at my own wedding. My wife was stunningly beautiful and I loved her completely – but I wished – oh how I wished, that I could wear a dress like hers. But some things aren’t to be.

I suppose as much as anything, that anecdote illustrates the fundamental difference between a child who is cis-gendered (comfortable in their assigned gender) and one who is Transgender. Most little boys don’t lie in their bed and dream of what it would be like to someday wear a wedding dress. I did. A lot.

OK, how does that relate to the difficulty of Transition? Here’s how: (I’m getting pretty good at self-analysis)

When I was living my life according to society’s expectations and those of my family, friends and employers, the idea of me ever wearing a wedding dress or being part of the bridal party was just a dream. A fantasy. It would never happen. Come on, what set of events would take place where I would be asked to be in a wedding as a bridesmaid?  Certainly not a bride, as I was already married.

But since Transitioning, those thoughts move from the abstract to something much more real. I feel now like I missed out. For those of us who wait until later in life, the feelings are no less intense – maybe even more so because we are driven to give up so much – an entire life that I spent decades building is gone. But for someone my age, I know I am not going to experience so many things that I longed to do when I was younger. I have come to accept that. (Mostly)

Here’s another degree of difficulty. Try and think for a moment, putting yourself in another person’s place. You are a teacher at a high school. You have taught there for over 20 years and have won awards for excellence. You are well liked by parents and students alike. But you are hiding a secret – you are Transgender. You can no longer live in your assigned gender so you meet with school administrators and explain that you will be transitioning to female later in the school year.

Well, word leaks out and letters are written to the local paper igniting a flurry of comments – some supportive and others caustic or threatening. TV smells a story and jumps in the fray doing a story about you but using the incorrect personal pronouns, because they just don’t know any better.

Then on your first day at school teaching as a female teacher, NBC follows your every move as you ready yourself for work. Some ignorant and fearful parents pull their kids from your class. Others offer heartwarming gestures of support.

Then people write messages like this on social media:

“While consenting adults should be allowed to engage in whatever deviant behavior they want, as long as they are not hurting anyone else, why the Fu*k should society be forced to tolerate and bend over backwards for their perversions?

Choices have consequences. You can choose to mutilate your genitals and pretend to be someone you’re not, but it doesn’t mean that people should be forced to employ you or treat you as anything more than a sick confused individual”

Just another day at the office right? This is a true story and the teacher is a personal friend of mine. She has more strength and determination than you can imagine. The letter above was one of thousands sent. Could YOU stand up to that?

Transition is hard.

Jobs are scarce. When I was living as a male I never had a problem getting a job. I haven’t made less than $100K in a year since 1993. I had it good and I knew it. But I wasn’t happy.

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[The picture above was taken the day before I came out. I was sitting in my yard – alone – thinking. It was quite peaceful]

I began my transition in 2012 and by April of 2013 the gravy train had derailed. I recently was offered job as a receptionist and I’m thrilled to have the work…things are definitely different.

As I near the end of my first year living my life completely as a woman, I look back on so many experiences, so many “firsts.” It has surely been a learning experience. I thank God I have been blessed with a sense of humor because there have been so many things that make me laugh as I take this crash course in living on the other side of the Gender Fence. (For instance, nobody warned me that when wearing a long skirt, be careful not to let it fall into the toilet when you stand up after peeing – fortunately that only happened once!)

I certainly look my age, or close to it. As such, I am expected to dress appropriately. I am coming along but I still rebel occasionally. Being of a certain age, one is expected to know so much!

How to tie a scarf – I learned, but had no idea what to do with them at first. Now I know about 6 or 7 cute ways to wear them. (I smiled inside recently, as a Trans Man friend was equally befuddled at tying a tie – THAT I can help with)

Just putting clothes together – there are 1000 times the options for women as there are with men. In selecting shoes alone there are considerations of heel height, style, color and others. I have no hope of looking stylish; I’m shooting for not looking silly.

I reiterate, I’m not complaining. I’ve ached to have this type of challenge. But it’s a lot to learn.

{Fair warning – adult subject matter follows. I talk about “Down There!!” So, if a candid discussion of that is off-putting – please consider this a gentle warning}

Another very personal issue is one that could consume an article of its own – or a book is – my penis.

I haven’t spoken of the little bugger in my writing before. Frankly, it makes me very uncomfortable. I have never really gotten along with it all that well. Though you can’t tell from reading it has taken me an inordinately long time to even write this part.

Imagine feeling, knowing you are female. No doubt. Yet, there is this appendage that begs to disagree and society sides with the penis! My argument falls largely on deaf ears. That is changing, but as evidenced by the ignorance on display in the letter above, slowly.

Just that mismatch is enough to drive nearly anyone to the edge. Chloë Sevigny, played a transgender assassin on “Hit & Miss.” She wore a prosthetic penis and it had a profound effect on her. “I cried every day when they put it on,” she said in an interview. I know how she felt, but mine doesn’t come off at the end of the day.

Norah Vincent (Noted Lesbian writer) As a social experiment, she tried to live as a man. In less than a year the strain caused her to have herself voluntarily committed.

Yes, it’s that bad. (sometimes) I have many friends in the Transgender community and not all of them feel the same way. For me, I would have the surgery today – right now if given the possibility. (By the way it is not removed, it is reconstructed – from an “outie to an innie”)

What’s annoying about it?

Mostly that it’s there at all. It is a constant and never ending reminder that I am different and not complete. But there are others –

  • Intimacy. I do not in any way shape or form wish to involve my penis in intimacy with another person. (Not that it would anyway after nearly a year and a half of female hormones)
  • Wearing leggings it is near impossible to hide – so a long sweater does the job.
  • I don’t like having one of those when I use the public restrooms (Not that I wave it around!)
  • Panties don’t look right
  • Wearing a bathing suit is a challenge anyway, but with this appendage…grrrr.
  • Any kind of snug dress or skirt is out of the question. Especially light solid colors that show the slightest contour.
  • Yes, I can wear Spanx, which help a bit, but every bit of having to conceal “it” is a reminder. They add up.

There are some girls that don’t mind…I guess that would be cool but I’m just not one of them. I don’t view GCS (Gender Confirmation Surgery) as any sort of panacea for all of my problems, but it would surely solve all of my penis-related problems once and for all.

Imagine a disease with a high mortality rate – in the 40% range – and there was a surgery that could reduce that by 87% – most reasonable people would agree that this should be made available to all who suffer from this. Well, such is the case with GCS. The suicide rate for Transgender people is 25 times the national average and having GCS drops this BELOW the national average. Yet this lifesaving treatment is specifically EXCLUDED in most insurance policies.

Then there is the whole body image thing.

Women in general are too hard on themselves with regard to their bodies. Objectified from an early age, women deal with ridiculous standards of beauty. Transgender girls have elevated those body image problems to a whole new level.

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[I have received many compliments on this photo – but I can find dozens of things I want to change] 

 

  • I have a Transgender girlfriend who is positively obsessed with the shoulder/hip ratio and it is keeping her from moving forward. She is absolutely beautiful.
  • Not many women have a prominent Adam’s apple. This can cause a lot of stress, as it is difficult to hide.
  • Our voices are unchanged by Hormone therapy or anything else for that matter – except practice.
  • Guys have that extra rib and a larger rib cage. Even removal of that extra (false) rib just results in breathing difficulties and it often grows back anyway. Women have that nice taper to the waist and larger hips. Most of us would just *die* for those hips.
  • I would love to wear heels more. I have some really cute shoes, but I’m already the tallest girl in the room in flats! I’m six feet in stocking feet. In heels I’m 6’5” – think that draws attention? (Oh, to be 5’ 6”)
  • I can paint my nails all I want but if you remember the Seinfeld episode? I have “Man Hands.” Hard to disguise that.
  • I’ve already addressed the footwear issue – yeah, I’m a size 12 in women’s shoes.
  • There is a subtle geometry that the human brain instantly evaluates – unconsciously – when looking at another person. The distance from the eyebrow to the hairline is about 7/10 of an inch less in women than men. That difference causes us to get read. Don’t get me started on the nose, cheeks, chin, hairline and brow placement.

Suffice to say – put a Trans* girl in front of a mirror and she will pick herself apart.

So, what keeps us going? With all of that seemingly against me, my body poisoned by Testosterone for so many years, doing things to me that were horrifying at the time that are either hideously expensive to fix or impossible to mitigate. A society that still largely looks at people like me as if I’m a freak and uses their voice and votes to marginalize me. How do I get up in the morning and love life?

Because to whatever degree possible – I am living my dream every single day. I love my life. I can’t believe how fortunate I am. On one hand, if things change to where I can manage to do something about some of these issues that would be great. If not, I vow to go on undaunted.

An E-mail sent to me sums it up rather well. It says:

“Please be brave enough to dream. (No matter what)”

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