Saturday, July 23, 2016

First days full-time: Acts of grace

When I first decided to transition, I  was worried that I would be dis-owned by God.  A devout Mormon, I was conflicted over my fate.  I knew from my personal feelings that I would continue to suffer ever-worsening depression if I didn't transition.  Yet, I practice a religion that protects a conservative view of the family.  Within the church, having same gender attraction is okay, as long as it is not acted upon - a difficult view that sentences homosexuals to a life of celibacy if they wish to remain faithful.  While no official doctrine has yet been released on being transgender, the policy is likely to be similar to that for homosexuality.  The situation could produce some very real, serious consequences.  I knew I risked having my religious covenants invalidated.  To take matters further, my wife views the transition as a very real risk to the upbringing of our children.  In order to transition, she wanted to move out.  As she views herself to be right (with me being in the wrong on this matter), she claims to have authority over all matters concerning our seven children.  Visits are to be conducted on her terms (at her house, under her supervision, with me presenting as a man - wearing "Dad" clothes).

At times, I have enjoyed feeling close to God, and I credit my religious faith with some of the happiest moments of my life.  I also have a deep love for my family, particularly my kids.

So, transition, for me, is not a decision lightly taken.  I worried about my religious well-being and my access to our children among several other factors.

On the other hand, I worried about my health if I did not transition.  I have personally struggled with severe depression for the past year.  At times, suicide seemed like the most attractive option.

In this context, I finally took steps to move out of our home in order to begin a more sincere transition on Thursday afternoon.  For me, it was an act of faith and hope.  With some trepidation, I hoped that God would not leave me alone.  I hoped that I would be able to find the same peace in my heart, while finally feeling right about my gender identity.  I also had to hope that my own children would not find me repugnant.

So, I wanted to write my initial spiritual impressions after my first day of living full time as Rebecca. 

My apartment is in a town called Worth.  It was a Craigslist find, a small one-bedroom place in an old 6-flat.  I liked the location - on a dead end street, with a rear deck that looked over a creek.  It was smaller than I initially wanted, but I thought the peaceful location would be helpful.  I saw myself a little cramped, but enjoying the rear deck on days when the Chicago humidity was not to present.  So far, I see two blessings in the apartment.  First, there is plenty of space for everything.  I furnished the apartment with second-hand furniture before I moved in.  I simply bought what I thought I needed to live somewhat comfortably, but I had no feeling for the dimensions of the apartment.  For example, I bought a couch without having measured to ensure that the door openings of the apartment were wide enough to move it in.  Yet, everything made it in, and the place is furnished about just right.  I'm not having to return anything.  Second, I have the best of all possible neighbors.  As a transgender person, I never know how people will receive me.  Yet, "Missy" has a graduate degree in gender studies, and she was actually excited to have a transgender woman move in next door!  We talked for an hour last night, and I think we'll get along really well.  I thin she will be a big help.

On Friday, I spent my last day in the outpatient program at the hospital.  This is the conclusion of my most recent hospitalization for depression.  I was hospitalized twice over the fall, but my longest hospitalization is this most recent stint.  I spent three weeks inpatient, followed by five weeks in daily outpatient therapy.  I was a little nervous to leave the hospital.  However, I do feel very different leaving this time.  After my previous hospitalizations, I was somewhat more stable, but I knew something was still very wrong.  During this hospitalization, I was open about my gender identity issues for the first time, and I worked through the difficult process of deciding to transition.  I made that decision while in the inpatient program, and counted on the staff and patients in the outpatient program to help me through the early stages of my transition.  I open attended all but three days of my outpatient therapy as a transgender woman.  To my surprise, the patients and staff were very supportive.  I felt okay about myself, and felt love from others for the first time as a female - not romantic love, but the kind that carries you through difficult times.  I first felt that there was something really beautiful about being transgender in the hospital. Leaving the outpatient program, they have something of a small "graduation" ceremony.  The other patients in the program are given a few moments to comment on those who will be leaving.  When it was my turn, I was really touched by the things that were said.  People spoke about respect and courage and beauty.  I was really touched.  Personally, I felt a little pride in myself.  I know that I have grown in unexpected ways - I've always had a passive personality, but I've finally demonstrated the courage to stand up for myself in the face of something difficult.

On Friday, I went out to have something of a celebration.  It was my first day living entirely as a woman - no changing back to a man.  I wore a long maxi dress and sandals - comfortable wear for a humid Chicago day.  I flat-ironed my hair.  I wanted to do something feminine, so I went to have my eyebrows arched, and got my ears pierced.  While at the mall, I also stopped for a bra fitting.  I present well as a female, but I know I am still read by many people.  I remain very much a work in progress.  However, I was touched by how kind everyone was that I met.  At one point, I stopped in at the pharmacy to pick up some medication.  The pharmacist is a woman we have frequented for the past few years, and we've seen a lot of each other as I have been treated for my depression.  The pharmacist kindly asked if she could change my name in the computer so that my prescriptions would come in the name of Rebecca!  We talked openly for the first time about my transition, and she wished me luck on my journey.

So, I have written about some small things.  Yet, these are small things that help me to feel that God has not left me entirely alone.  I do see unexpected blessings in my apartment, and in the kindness of others.  I also see the Lords hand in my personal growth as I have found previously unknown reserves of courage within myself.

Anyways, I have a long ways to go.  I still have work to do with my immediate family, and I will likely be working through a divorce with my wife.  Yet, I feel as if I will not be forsaken by God while on my journey. 

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