The Halfway House

I really wish I could put my past behind me. Folks like Yoda say it is good for you. I’m not there yet. I live in a sort of purgatory. Utah.

I wasn’t well. I wasn’t quite right for so much of my life. And to right things in this day and age made me a social outcast. Not my top aspiration. Not at all. Yet here I am.

I trained for this. I shut people out. Was an equal opportunity asshole. Some people loved me for this. They found a way to see through it. Fuckers.

I always figured if people knew the real me, it would come at the cost of social acceptance. So, I tried to be as irreverent and politically incorrect as I could be. Perhaps the folks that I couldn’t chase away would stick around for good.

I tried for too long to deny reality. I tried to be the star of my own movie. In the center of every frame.

I tried to hide behind that mask but it wasn’t enough. So I hid behind a bottle.

The bottle is like a museum of old, haunting memories. There is a reason why they call it a depressant. Not good when you are already depressed.

Suicidal thoughts must have greeted me one too many days in a row when I made a laughable attempt on my own life… laughable since it wasn’t a gun. Thank God it wasn’t. I lacked the follow through, but a hair trigger wouldn’t have given me time for those second thoughts. Laughable since it wasn’t a gun. I get to laugh today because I had time for second thoughts. Almost sobering. Not quite. Not then.

But it did set my transition into gear. As the nuclear option. A last resort. A life saving Hail Mary attempt.

And it helped. As long as the medicine was available. But it dried up that once. For month after month I went without medicine. Male hormones returned to my blood. My mind can’t take them. It goes back to dark, familiar places on male hormones.

It took all I could to hold things together.

And in that time of weakness, someone close took the opportunity to break me. Abuse me. Dehumanize me.

The human cruelty on display and the lack of meds were enough to send me back to the place where my morning alarm clock was just the calming thoughts of my own demise. Delightful thoughts of my own demise. I could do everyone a favor and just end it all.

I know it sounds silly if you haven’t been there but when it is your waking thought every fucking day, best case, it will start to drive you mad.

And I hit the bottle again, and this time, I hit it as hard as I had ever hit it before. Because, whatever doesn’t kill you… fuck it, if it killed me, I would be doing everyone including myself a favor.

Good times.

Good thing I started chasing all those I loved and cherished away. Really. Because it fucking hurt to lose them. It hurt enough. It snapped me out of it. It was rock bottom enough and sure beat another suicide attempt.

So I just kinda quit drinking. It wasn’t like a real choice or anything. Didn’t have a date set or anything. Things were bad enough and I knew nobody was at the controls.

So I finally sobered up. Yay. Only to discover that I was fucking nuts. Boo.

Some of this was a bad reaction to a prescription medication. Some of it was dysphoria and/or PTSD. Stress related mental illness. My mind had met its limits, it had been over stressed for far too long.

So I fixed the medical issues, and it allowed me to start to process the decades of shit that had built up in my psyche.

Spoiler Alert: Life lessons tend to come when you are to blame.

When two decades of life lessons hit you like a ton of bricks… that is a crash course in humility. It is stressing. Doesn’t help an overly stressed mind.

I mean, I get it. It is all my fucking fault. Except the trans thing that caused me to be such a failure at being a man in the first place.

All these mistakes. All this self-inflicted damage. All the emotional bullshit I put people through, especially those nearest and dearest.

I don’t want it anymore. I want to shed it. I want it all gone. I wish I could forget.

And all because my body produces a hormone that makes me feel wrong in my skin. Like a 37 year sunburn. And once the burn is gone, you realize you don’t even know how to do things without it.

And then, on those rare occasions where my newfound social anxiety allows me outside these days, people want to know how my transition’s going.

And I always say, “I’m taking the scenic route.”

Beauty is only skin deep, and for $20,000, a vagina is only an inverted penis deep.

I’m not interested in beauty. There was a time when I was… I was young, optimistic, and stupid then.

Even imaginary beauty fades.

I’m not focused on the external. I’m redecorating the interior, and even moving mountains to create new, glorious vistas.

And it is new. It is humbling. And it is empowering.

I really haven’t a clue what the fuck I am doing, but I like the new turn things have taken. I now think about life in the long term. I now worry about death from old age.

The first thought of the day comes easier, those thoughts vary from day to day. Some days more positive than others… most neutral or mundane.

I mean, I get to make a whole new me from the ground up. The me I always knew I was. You don’t have to be trans to do this, but it is kinda the whole point of transition.

I’m still renovating the frame and the foundation while people wait for me to slap a on new coat of paint and some roof tiles and call it a home.

I have a brain, and I have words. Beauty can wait. It can wait a long fucking time.

I wish I could just burn my past. Shed it. But I know that isn’t in the cards. I earned these scars. They give me character. Besides, I’m taking the scenic route.


Believe it or Not!

Peeling the layers off your personal onion. Something everyone does to some degree or another throughout life.

For me, it has been oft humiliating. Oft disappointing.

Finally, it is paying off. Gone is all the mental anguish, the physical tension, the torturous 3rd degree sunburn of dysphoria. Gone is most of the, for lack of a better term, man.

Transition is a mind fuck. The mental shit that comes with it is so deadly and scary, and when I have lashed out at innocent others, there was no way they could properly understand. And yet, knowing these things weren’t exactly me, but rather residual bullshit and tension from a long and tortuous life before, I accept this: People just don’t and won’t ever quite get it.

I mean, I want to atone, I want to make things right… but also I am like, “Fuck this. No. That wasn’t quite me. It was me filtered through the rank, smelly and rotting layers of my outer onion. Only I have really had a sense of what was in my core this whole time, like a carrot encouraging me forward.”

Yes, I just mixed vegetation metaphors. Move along.

I don’t have life experience growing up with my friends teaching each other how to female. I’m like the 2nd Greatest American Hero… not as cool as the Greatest… but still going without an instruction manual. Making this up as I go along.

There is only so much guilt, shame and regret a human should burden. So I am dumping much of mine. Letting it drip away down the drain where it belongs.

I’m sure many of you deserve an apology from me for my behavior at one time or another, and I struggle with owning what is mine to bear.

I’m sorry for drinking. I’m sorry it made me ugly in the eyes of so many.

And part of me wishes I could challenge the lot of you to see the world through my eyes at the time and see if you could have done any better with what I had to work with. You’ll never know. And I may never say or do the things that make you feel like I have learned my lessons.

And that is unfair to us all.

I wasn’t in proper, functional, mental alignment. And I can’t continue to burden those regrets, shames and responsibilities now that I am. It is unproductive and irresponsible considering where I now need to go, now that my head finally is screwed on right.

I will always be at the mercy of medicine. The last few years of Hell were triggered by running out of hormones and then trying to get back on track with my dysphoric mind. A mind that will do anything in its power to prevent me from doing what is right while chasing people who care for me, who are close to me, away.

If I ever hurt you with my assholery, I am sorry. You are not alone. I live with all your ghosts rattling around in my brain as constant reminders. And it is often unbearable.

And that is about as much of an apology as I have in me, even though I am sure many feel they probably deserve more for putting up with me all these years.

I have peeled away enough layers of my onion to finally be in a place where I can stop and smell some roses. And my God, after 41 orbits around the Sun, it is past time I do. And if anyone wants to come along, I have a feeling this part of the ride will be MUCH better than the last.

Thanks to all friends, family and even Trump supporters who have been there for me. Patient with me. Forgiving.

I may not be great at apologies, but there is one thing I know for certain after all of this:

I carry all of you in my heart, and for better or for worse, I am incapable of letting you go. You are in my core. You’ve kept me alive more than once. At my darkest hours, love is sometimes all I’ve had, even when all that’s remained of it is the ghost of a memory tarnished by shame, regret, and that odd, yet unmistakable waft of rotting onion.

Thank you.

Tori Barron

I’m Kind of Glad Donald Trump Was Elected

If you read the title and are still reading, good for you. I promise it isn’t what you think.

I am terrified by Trump’s authoritarian approach and what it means for me and my rights as a trans person. I am terrified to think Mike Pence is next in line. I am terrified by a conservative Supreme Court.

But on the night of the election, after I voted, I got REALLY drunk. And when I woke up, Trump was expected president.

Haven’t been drunk since. Bad things happen when I drink. So, in a sense, I am kind of glad Donald Trump was elected. Shit scared me sober. This is a time for clear head not belligerence.



The elephant in my blog. I have been hesitant to write about my drinking. Why?

Well, because for the longest time, I knew it was a problem but I didn’t have the proper perspective to talk about it. When you are living in the cloud of inebriation, you know you can’t properly talk about it. So, I talked about other things. Things I could wrap my head around.

Things really came to a head about a year ago, when my hormone prescriptions were stopped, and then a close family member attacked me with such overtly transphobic comments and actions, I was intellectually comatose for roughly six months after. When my brain is misfiring because of dysphoria I can feel it. I know what it feels like when it hits and I know when it lifts. It is unmissable.

Before this transphobic event, I was doing OK, and I almost had my drinking under control. After the event, I got hit with a dysphoric bout the likes of which I had never experienced before. Which made Mr. Hyde come out whenever I drank. Mr. Hyde is the name I give to my self-destructive, dysphoric self. Yes, he is a man. Confusing? Try living it.

This transphobic attack came at a time when I was unmedicated so I was incredibly vulnerable. Until it happens to you, you just wouldn’t understand. I too once thought names could never hurt me, only sticks and stones. But what if that person controls the roof over your head? What if that person is related to your spouse? What if you are unmedicated at the time and suicidally depressed without your prescriptions? Then suddenly the simple act of name calling, and the negation of your very existence can hold an immense power over you. I get it now. And it is fucking humiliating to know I let someone have that kind of power over me when it could do the most damage.

The first thing I did after this transphobic encounter? I went to the bar, got piss drunk, then picked up a case of beers on my way home so I could continue drinking myself into a stupor.

People say you get honest when you drink. This isn’t exactly the case for me. Yes. I am more likely to say things I would think twice about saying sober… but honest? No. Not exactly. Mr. Hyde takes the controls from me and tries to destroy all I hold dear so when I regain control, I have more reason to want to continue the cycle of alcoholic destruction.

Somehow, I managed to escape my first 37 dysphoric years relatively unscathed but round two was rough… even though it only lasted a few months. Mainly because I thought I had put that shit behind me. Six months of making an ass out of myself. Damaging relationships and generally being a fucking drunk.

So I finally quit being an addict.

And I am here to tell you, sobriety fucking sucks. I now get to look at my past clearly, and feel years worth of emotions I denied with drink. Good times. Lots of shame and whatnot.

The thing about my alcoholism/addiction is it was dysphoria induced. It wasn’t just that I liked to drink but that Mr. Hyde controlled me when I drank. Mr. Hyde reminds me a lot of a drunk Donald Trump. I don’t like him. I loathe being him.

So how am I to process things my body did when it feels like someone else was in control?

Even sober, once dysphoria lifts, it feels like all those things I did while dysphoric were a dream. My memories of those times lack clarity and fade very quickly. There is a disassociation between me and my actions as Mr. Hyde. Like I know I did them but I also know I had no say in the matter. Like being a passenger in my own fucking life.

I am going through another puberty. Probably not the best time to alter my mind with alcohol.

So here I am. Sober.

Fucking bitter that someone close to me abused me when I was weak and at the same time, upset at myself because I let it get under my skin and fester.

Bitter about the relationships I damaged along the way. Mad at the people who abandoned me while fully accepting and understanding their need to flee.

Bitter about the two close friends who killed themselves while I was helpless to be there for them… one of them was very close.

Confused as to how much blame I should give myself for my own fucking actions when I know full well my brain was not functioning properly through most of it, drunk or not.

Livid that I am not able to talk fully about the transphobic encounter that sparked this latest dysphoric bout, for the sake of my own transphobic family members’ dignity.

Accepting of the fact that people just don’t know how to help me when I am in my darkest places. When I need the most help. When I am begging people for it.

Yes, I will still have the (very) occasional drink… something recovering addicts tell me is impossible to do. Fuck ’em. My need to drink to get drunk is gone so if I have to have an obligatory beer in a social situation, I will have one and stop after that. It is suddenly the easiest thing in the world for me to do.

If my wife wants to have some wine, I watch her have some wine without feeling left out or craving a glass (or box) for myself. My desire to be drunk is entirely gone and with it, Mr. Hyde has gone away too. It isn’t one day at a time for me. It is just done. In the past.

So here I am. Finally. Without the evil guy trying to take the controls from me. Without him making my life and relationships so bad, death seems like the more viable option. I am finally in control. That my sound like an overconfident statement but really, I have little experience being in control of my life so I am pretty shitty at it right now… but better me than Mr. Hyde. That creepy, needy mix of alcohol and dysphoria is gone for good.

And it still sucks. But it sucks far less than it did when the damage was spiraling out of control. Now it sucks like cleaning up after a messy party. Except that messy party is my life.

I think I am turning a page, one that allows me to leave the worst of my past behind and finally progress into the great unknown.

My dreams of being an acting professor can finally be addressed and pursued… although, with my rocky past, and willingness to talk about it, it may be a tough sell for some schools, but there has never been anything I wanted to do more with my life.

Theatre trained me to live life with relish, to seek new experiences and soak them in, to be myself and to learn from my mistakes. It is an art form where even your past mistakes come in handy because characters you play also make similar kinds of mistakes within their stories.

So, this next chapter in my life is coming into focus. It is time to blaze a path through this purgatory of guilt and regret for my past mistakes and misdeeds as quickly as humanly possible, so I can finally pursue the life I always wanted before dysphoria mixed with alcohol all but stripped it away.

Scary shit, and exciting… and now, with 100% more boobs!

Wish me luck,

Deep Thoughts by Victoria Handy

I often find myself thinking.

Thinking must be one of those human conditions. Probably should get it checked.

The mind fuckery of my daily life often revolves around a simple question. Who am I?

It isn’t the question a 40 year old is typically asking themselves. That question would most likely be, “What the fuck have I been doing with my life?” The classic midlife crisis question.

Rest assured I ask myself THAT a lot too. But hey, I grew boobs for my midlife crisis so I kind of have that covered.

For me, it is the, “Who” rather than the “What” that hangs me up. Such is the joy of 2nd puberty. People said these would be awkward years. I had no idea how awkward.

The problem is, children in many ways are formed. They are an expressive mixture of their genetic and societal influences growing up. I have to do this shit myself, against society, genetics and upbringing in so many ways. This isn’t how it is typically done.

So… I take my time.

I am sure that bothers some people. Tough titties.

I have heard ALL the criticisms. It quickly becomes clear people sometimes just don’t like that I am trans, so if that means one person will tell me I am too girly, and another will tell me I am not girly enough. You can do nothing right in the eyes of many when you are trans.

That bullshit alone was enough to convince me to go at my own pace and to never try to meet someone else’s expectations.

The truth is, I have no clue how I will turn out. But there is a method to my madness. Puberty takes a LONG time for anyone. No human is the same person at the start of it as they are at the end. It changes and shapes not only your form, but your thoughts and motivations as well. Over that time, you start to let go of childhood.

In that sense, my, “Childhood” lasted 37 long, oft torturous, male years. That shit takes time to sift through, sort out, process, and see what needs to be let go of and what to hold close. It is like a living, post mortem. Shit’s weird.

Meanwhile, my body keeps changing. The fat finally got around to migrating, it is a blessing and a curse. Every day I feel more feminine, if only because less muscle and more subcutaneous fat quite literally changes how almost everything else feels to the touch. My boobs have hit another growth spurt and are well past hiding without heavy layers or binding. 3 years into this and they are THIS size? If these were on a teenage frame, you’d be going, “Oh honey, they aren’t even close to being done growing.” So like puberty, my body is forcing the process’s pace in many ways no matter how ready my mind may be.

And like a teenage girl, there comes a point when those physical changes begin to subtly alter the way the world around you treats you.

And like a teenage girl, those changes are met with feelings of relief, curiosity and dread.

And like a teenage girl, I have a lot of shit going on in my head right now. I am prone to emotional outbursts that make sense only to me.

So I can start to get bitter if I am not careful. “These changes aren’t moving at MY pace!”

Suddenly I am thinking, “I can gain weight just by thinking of food!”

And like a teenager, OMG my appetite!!!

So while folks judge me, and my transition, like they do… it doesn’t bother me much. I always expected there to be criticism. I have other shit on my mind. Like, “Who am I?”

I am trying to find out who I am without forcing it. I am using roughly the same timeframe every other pubescent female uses, Mother Nature’s.

I dunno. Figuring out who I am is a full time job and it will remain one for several more years. I’ll get there eventually. The journey isn’t particularly fun, and it is quite lonely at times, but I am trying to avoid forcing anything that would otherwise happen naturally. And I am starting to see signs that it is paying off.



My wife requested I write this down and share it. It is embarrassing and complex, but I feel like writing it down may help put the final nails in my dysphoric coffin, without me inside. It might work, it might not, but I am ready to face this head on, even if my dignity takes a hit, because I think understanding and expressing the roots of my dysphoria puts me on a path that leads to the end of my dysphoria’s control over me.

I have talked to trans people who were able to put their dysphoria behind them.At times it feels like a pipe dream. At times it feels obtainable. I have more to lose if I don’t see how to work through this.

Because we are so close to its 15th anniversary, let me start in the middle, with September 11, 2001. I lived less than a mile away from the World Trade Center in Downtown Manhattan. My room had a direct view of the towers. It got two hours more sunlight each day after the towers fell because it was literally in their shadow. I was too close. I could see the jumpers without any magnification.

That day was the worst day, as you can imagine. And yet, it was a profoundly amazing day as well. It was glorious in one single way. It was such a profoundly tragic event, it caused a catharsis within me. I suddenly realized there were bigger problems in life than my dysphoria. 9/11 was so enormously overwhelming, it rebooted my brain and I lived for about three years without being a prisoner within my own, full blown, dysphoria.

I am not alone. Huge life altering events temporarily relieve dysphoria for many trans people. The birth of a child for example, or the death of a loved one.

I wouldn’t have found my wife, if it weren’t for 9/11 helping remove my head from my ass, albeit temporarily.

The dysphoria came back though. It came back with a vengeance. More than once, it has tried to kill me. It has come closer to killing me than those terrorists ever did.

And I am beyond ready to go down fighting. One of us needs to go, and if that means I have to tackle my dysphoria head on, and risk another crippling bout if I fail, then so be it.

I have learned that hormones too, keep my dysphoria at bay. And yet, I am just pulling out of a 6-8 month long dysphoric bout. One of the worst dysphoric bouts I have suffered.

I lost my insurance, doctor and access to medication for three months at the start of this year and that was all it took to succumb to yet another extended dysphoric bout. Having someone EXTREMELY close to me, hit me with overt and extended transphobic bigotry at the time sealed the deal. I got hit at my weakest point in years and the hit connected. And like that, I lost my ability to think critically and communicate logically for the better part of a year. Dysphoria is a mental illness. I am a lunatic when a bout takes control of me. It is like being a passenger in my own life. It is tragic, terrifying and crippling.

When I recover, I am able to begin the process of peeling the layers of the onion away, gaining control of my dysphoric triggers, and making myself stronger and less vulnerable to future bouts. This has become my life’s work.

And I always come back to one pivotal day. A day I wrote about at length in my post, A Woman’s Prerogative… but even then, I didn’t see the whole picture. In fact, until this blog, I have only been able to explain all the pieces logically ONE other time. That was earlier today to my wife, who immediately told me to write it all down and share it.

Until today, it had been a topic that was taboo around my home, for what should be obvious reasons, as it concerns my heartbreak over a lost love my wife never knew and could never fully understand. When you are still hung up over events surrounding rejection in a past relationship (and I use the term relationship lightly because it was only me, and an imaginary, emotional relationship with a woman who denied me at every opportunity), your wife is not the first person I suggest you consult.

Over the years, I have leaned heavily on friends who were there in the room on the day when dysphoria took over my life (until September 11, 2001 gave me some reprieve). Those friends aren’t very helpful because of my traditionally lackluster ability to explain things concerning this subject to them. They, understandably, get the impression that I am unwilling to let the past go. They don’t understand that I am doing about as well as I can do, by the time I have peeled the layers of the onion back to the point where once again, I can address that KEY moment in my life.

This story involves theatre, acting technique and whatnot, so at times I will have to teach you some extremely oversimplified bits and pieces of acting lessons (if you aren’t one of my countless actor friends) just so you can properly follow along. It is kind of entirely important.

The story begins around September of 1998, I had completed my BFA the year before and finally moved away from Utah to attend acting school at Circle in the Square, in Times Square NYC. An actor’s dream.

I was a hopelessly romantic, formerly fat, cockeyed optimist of a young man… very much still a virgin, and about 23 years of age at the time. My virginity was overwhelming. I knew I SUCKED at flirtation and asking people out. Why? Because I knew I was trans and really don’t have a dominant bone in my body. I had countless crushes, and failed attempts at even getting to square one with a woman. Nothing is less attractive than desperation. I was as good looking at the time as I have ever been, or ever will be again… but I didn’t know how to be a man near a woman. I wasn’t wired to work that way. It brought me immense shame. And I was extremely closeted and ashamed of being trans at the time, too.

Looking back, I think my shame of being a virgin may have been such an overwhelming thought that it helped keep my dysphoria at bay.

In Alan Langdon’s acting class, at the start of the school year, we did a quick first scene which he assigned us all, Harold Pinter’s, “Trouble in the Works”, which we all did a fairly poor job at performing… such was the difficulty of this delightfully funny and absurd script. Pinter makes Shakespeare look easy. I have grown to love Pinter and playing Pinter, perhaps more than any other English language playwright.

After that scene was done, we were told to pick a new scene and a new scene partner. I don’t remember how Elisabeth and I ended up together. I remember respecting her mind and thinking she was cute. I know we struggled a bit before settling on a scene from Clifford Odets’, “Golden Boy”. I knew little of the playwright, the script, or Brando’s performance of the role in the movie version.

We picked the scene and got to work.

Our teacher had already mentioned how music could open you to new emotions, as a tool to connect with the text, and my character, a boxer and violinist was ripe for music… in fact, in the scene’s stage directions, he whistled a tune I imagined to be an unnamed violin solo. So together with my scene partner, we went to the classical music section of the Times Square, Virgin Megastore and asked the salesman to suggest violin tunes for me to whistle. He highly suggested, Meditation from, “Thais”, a song that to this day, to me, represents everything beautiful in this world. Go ahead and give it a listen. This blog will still be here when you are done.

See? Gorgeous. It may be perfection.

So, I recorded the song to a cassette tape and had it on my Walkman on eternal repeat. It became my routine. New York City baby! With the most beautiful song as its soundtrack. Focusing on a character so madly in love with a woman, a mobster’s moll, he wins her heart, against all odds, and they drive away to escape together as young lovers. Only to die offstage, in a car wreck. It is an interesting, more contemporary spin on, the classic, “Romeo and Juliet” themes.

Through all this, and it didn’t happen all at once, I found myself falling in love with Elisabeth. I had been in love before, but like they say, this was different. It was love on steroids. I don’t know if I have ever felt anything as wonderful as being in love, and not telling her. Just feeling the love. And the song on my Walkman. And being young, optimistic, and studying acting in NYC. It was everything an artist dreams of.

The day of the scene came, and I remember leaning over to my teacher, Alan, and asking him, “Is it common for an actor to feel in real life what their character is supposed to feel onstage?”

He was obviously surprised by my question because, I suspect looking back at it, I had kind of cut through the two years off classes he was going to teach us and somehow just cut to his entire thesis. His reply was starkly haunting in tone, like an old man passing on his wisdom. “It is uncanny.”, was all he had to say in return. Not only was it common. It was uncanny.

I was shaking uncontrollably by the time it was our turn to finally do our scene for the class. My love for her was physically impossible to contain. To others it looked like fear. To me, it was adrenaline. I knew we had to finish this scene before I could finally tell my partner how I felt about her. I wasn’t going to ruin our scene by telling her before we were done. I could not wait.

We did the scene. It was ok.

I don’t have the clearest memories of her first, second, third, fourth, fifth… etc. rejections. She was gentle, at least at first, with a logical, “We shouldn’t date people in our own class.”

Perhaps, it was my being fed up with being a failure at love and an eternal virgin. I don’t know. But I just could not accept that rejection. I didn’t believe rejection was even an option when my love for her was so loud and so clear.

I didn’t go full stalker, although I did come close.

I know. When a woman says, “No.”, a man is supposed to respect that. I wasn’t unwilling to accept it, I was entirely unable.

Around that time, my assigned mentor who was a year ahead of me in school, asked what scene I was working on in Alan’s class. I told him and he almost went white. “You better remember your lines. Once Terry finds out you worked on that scene, she will never stop making you do it for the rest of your days at Circle.”

Theresa Hayden was the elder stateswoman of the school. She taught method acting. She did her early work with The Group Theatre. At the time, she was nearly eighty, and had a world hardened wisdom about her. Eyes that could see through your bullshit and a mouth that would call you on it. I saw more people reduced to puddles of tears and fits of rage in her class than perhaps in all the other acting classes I have taken combined.

I was always absolutely terrified she would just see I was trans and call me on it. Outing me in front of the class.

And of course, one day in her class she asked, “Has anyone worked on some Odets?” and reluctantly, Elisabeth and I raised our hands… and we were sent up to do our scene. It was torture.

We did our scene for Terry a total of three times that year. The second time was the doozy.

Months has passed since Elisabeth’s rejection. Looking back, that was about as close as I ever got to letting go of it while in school. And once again, we were asked to do the fucking, “Golden Boy” scene.

Midway through the scene, I forgot all my lines.

This particular exercise in scene work in Terry’s class was a demonstration of retaining memorized lines for months at a time, even years. In part, it served to show us that we could retain text over long periods of time by remembering our emotional state from prior times we worked on it. It sounds crazy, and it also, works.

Terry recognized my lapse in memory for what it was and asked me why I was holding back. I panicked, lost, I burst into tears and said, “Because I love her, and she doesn’t love me.”

Oh how young and stupid I was.

Obviously Elisabeth was PISSED to be dragged into my troubles like that. Outed to everyone as a person who had rejected my advances.

And I realize now, that WASN’T even why I was blocked from remembering my lines during our scene. I was blocked because I knew getting up there together would only make me feel my love for her again in front of others and I was already well passed ashamed of it. Trying to move on. My love for her over all this time had just continued to grow and grow, like a malignant cancer. What was once just blossoming, New York, youthful infatuation with someone cute had grown into something so grotesque, even I knew it wasn’t right.

By the time my love for Elisabeth had peaked, it was nearing the size and scope of the boy in, “Equis'” love for horses. Not only did I want to be with Elisabeth, I wanted to BE her, body, mind and soul. I wanted to give up my life for hers.

See? Fucking nuts. Even for a trans person. That is not sane. I mean, it isn’t uncommon for a trans woman to covet their partner’s say, boobs, ovaries and vagina… but to want to BE them, body, mind and soul? That is not common, even for us slightly weird trans folk. I was losing touch with reality, and because only I can see my own thoughts, and this was entirely new, I had no way to know something was off. I thought it was just that first love and heartbreak thing almost everyone else goes through too. I thought, because I was an old virgin, that was why it hurt me more than the average person. I was wrong. I was going insane, and having to resurrect this scene and the feelings that surrounded performing it, it was the perfect storm.

And that day, right there in Terry’s class, in front of everyone, full blown dysphoria took over my life. That is precisely when it took control.

After that event, I auditioned for other schools trying to work out a way to transfer and get away from Elisabeth for the both of us. No school would have me. I wore my dysphoria on my sleeve in those auditions and professors knew at a glance I was damaged goods. Not ready for prime time. Not like I had been the year before.

The following year, Elisabeth and I were moved into different classes for what I can only assume was to protect her from me… which helped in some ways and hurt in others because I knew I was to blame. If only I had kept my love to myself, perhaps it would not have turned into this uncontrollable cancer. It limited our time together, but it was unavoidable that we would work together at times. Dance class. Plays. Shit we could not control.

And the cancerous love I felt for her continued to grow in part because I could not cut her from my life. I knew I had to let her go, and my friends were constantly there reminding me to let her go, like an Idina Menzel chorus from a animated Disney feature. Like I didn’t understand that simple fact, like I hadn’t already tried to let her go, or at least get away from her. It was around then, for the first time in my life, I started to feel suicidal on occasion. Suicide could kill the cancer.

I know this is a story about me, but please, if you haven’t already, acknowledge how cruel and unfair this all was to Elisabeth. A brilliant, talented person with the magnetism of a movie star. A young woman, in the prime of her adulthood just trying to live the dream like everyone else. I see it now. I understand. She had NO need for me and my cancer in her life. She was being smart. She was protecting herself from me. Imagine how terrifying I must have been to her.

At the time, I didn’t know about dysphoria. I have since become quite the expert. At the time, I was undiagnosed and out of control. By the end of my tenure at Circle, I was a suicidal, chain smoking, cocaine addict. Anything I could do to escape the cancerous love. The harder I tried, the more impossible it became.

These 17 or so years later, I ask myself what should I have said on that day in Terry Hayden’s class and the answer that comes to me is entirely different from the one I gave. It wasn’t about Elisabeth. It was my virginal dysphoria twisting a wonderful feeling like love into something grotesque and frightening.

Wanting to be someone, body, mind and soul? That is fucking textbook insanity. Before it came out, front and center, my dysphoria was already destroying my ability to feel regular human emotions like love correctly.

When Terry asked me why I was holding back, my real reason was, “I am trans, and hiding it and not talking about it is driving me insane. I am not thinking clearly. It terrifies me.” I still would have broken down in tears. The class still would have seen what looked like a miraculous acting breakthrough. And seventeen or so years ago, I would have started my path to transition, skipping the endless suffering. I could have had girl friends instead of just trying and failing to get a girlfriend. Woulda, coulda shoulda…

Instead, I blamed love, and dragged an unwilling partner down with me. Trying to steal her away from the mob so we could drive away to somewhere safe. And in a way, it resulted in my death. “It is uncanny.” Yes Alan, it is.

If you don’t leave it on the stage, the emotions you should have released can follow you everywhere else you go.

That is the Method. That is part of the reason why method actors can seem so devoutly religious about their craft. It is partly why they can be so reverent towards their teachers.  It is like a tangible form of magic and it happens every single time you act, if you do it right. All you do is follow the Method.

Not me though. On that day in Terry’s class, I stopped being able to Method act. I mean, I still have access to it, but it is not the first tool I consciously reach for. It became too hot. Too near. Too painful. And I didn’t know HOW to always leave all that on the stage. How could I?Hell, I am only just now learning how to put this into words that I think most people will begin to understand.

So, of course, by the end of my schooling I had things like cocaine addiction to peel off my onion, slowly, meticulously, removing the layers of dysphoric damage so I can get to the root of it all.

And the root of it all, was that day in Terry’s class.

Now, imagine you’re my wife, and I start talking about this one time when I tragically loved another woman, and how that experience haunts me to this day. How would you feel?

Imagine you are one of my former classmates and I hit you up with a drunken Facebook messenger diatribe about that time in Terry’s class. Wouldn’t you want to continue keeping Elisabeth as far away from me as possible? Keep her safe from me?

In Terry’s acting class, when she addressed the oh so notorious, emotional recall, that oft misunderstood, bread and butter of Strasberg’s acting Method, she always said we need to give peak emotional experiences a full seven years before they would be reliably useful for us on stage. It sounded odd at the time but with age comes wisdom. With age and time, comes acceptance. Until you can accept a past peak emotional event, it is almost useless. A fresh memory, if used to say, help you connect emotionally with the text, may not be reliable tomorrow. Why? Because using a fresh memory helps you work through it, thus changing your interpretation of it. It changes how the memory impacts you. Also, a new memory can be too hot, prompting uncontrollable and unpredictable emotional outbursts that cripple your ability to retain control on stage.

By now, I know seven years is an arbitrary, average number. By now, I can feel when a past event is ready to be used for acting. It has to do with assimilation, understanding and acceptance. You have to get past it before you can reliably come back to it.

When we did our emotional recall project in Terry’s class, I struggled to come up with one single seven year old, peak emotional experience. I had to use my grandfather’s death, which was closer to six years old at the time. Such was my privileged and sheltered upbringing in Utah.

Well over seven years after 9/11, for example, I know the memory. I know how it makes me feel. It is not particularly useful as an actor, because it is not full of the emotions you would expect it to be full of. Again, for me, it was a release from dysphoria. A catharsis. Something I have learned is quite common for people in war zones. Since you aren’t dead, you feel more alive than ever. Odd. Unexpected. And there it is now, properly aged and ready for use.

Fresh memories can be triggers. You know what I mean? You are suddenly put right back into the emotions of a situation without any control.

Those 7 year old memories are reliable. They mature like a good Scotch. They don’t trigger uncontrollable emotions. They are accepted fact. The emotions they bring up can be used by an artist to help put that emotion to voice and text.

Actors reading this, if you have not studied Strasberg, in many ways it is an alternative to vocal technique. Vocal technique is incredibly useful and in ways, far more specific than Strasberg’s method alone, and also, far more technically difficult because you are not substituting your own life experience for your character’s, you are easing some of the most tense muscles in your body to allow emotions to flow freely through your voice and out, to the audience.

But some things are just archetypal. Like a first kiss. EVERYONE’S first willing kiss shares the firstness and the kissness in common. You know? There is something universal about a first kiss.

The Method can be SUPER efficient, and it can really help with fast paced projects like auditions and film shoots. In a play, when used expertly, it connects an audience with the actor in a way only method actors like Brando in his prime, or Phillip Seymour Hoffman whilst alive, could pull off.

So WHY, after seventeen or so years, do I keep going back to this day in Terry’s class? Why has it continued to trigger me for so much longer than seven years?

Simple. It is the root of my dysphoria and I can only process it properly when I am not fully dysphoric. I have not had seven years of non dysphoric time to process the root of my dysphoria.

I keep being drawn to it, like a moth to a flame. My friends who were in class that day must think I am playing with fire. My wife, for years, thought she was competing with my ideal, lost love. It almost ruined our marriage. It has ruined several friendships.

Over the years, I have attempted to contact Elisabeth myself, only to be met with blockades that only things like an ocean between us and a Facebook block feature can provide.

What people don’t realize, and I am just coming to terms with it myself, is I can only process that day, my single most peak emotional experience, in a class ironically intent on teaching us to use our peak emotional experiences onstage, when I have cleared all the other outer layers of my dysphoric onion. My time to process this root of my dysphoria can be fleeting. All the time, I am growing new layers of my onion, and they are trying to cover the core root.

The way I see it, I have had about six years of non dysphoric time, a few years after 9/11, a few years after starting hormones and the occasional, engaging acting gig. The right project always makes my dysphoria go away until completion.

And finally, I am starting to put this whole mess together. Finally I am understanding it and coming to terms. Finally, I accept it.

When I say Elisabeth’s name to people who knew me at the time, and when I say it to my wife, I can feel the immediate sigh. I feel it before I see it or hear it. They think I am still responding to her rejection and trying to win her back.

No. At first, I too thought it was that, and God knows I did keep trying to win her back, long after the fifty seventh rejection. I eventually came to terms with that. Years ago. Before I started transition. I get it. I accept it. I have, much to my own surprise, moved on. And I feel terrible for dragging her unwillingly into all of this.

I am TRYING to confront and process that time in my life so it fades away, like peak emotional experiences do. When it does, I theorize I will have creative control over my dysphoria and it will no longer control me.

Time IS of the essence here. Eventually, if I keep falling into dysphoric bouts, the dysphoria WILL win. My perfect survival record will not hold through many more of them.

And I am so close to processing this all emotionally. I mean, here I have explained it clearly to people who aren’t necessarily lunatics, trans folk or actors. Something I was incapable of doing just last night.

About last night. Fuck. I contacted a friend and asked her to contact Elisabeth on my behalf. She freaked the fuck out. I freaked the fuck out. I got drunk. Classic.

I have addressed my addiction to the point where often, I talk about it in the past tense, but I am still prone to the occasional alcoholic binge. I know how I get. It is ugly. Not mean. Not in a Hulk-y way. I just don’t quit. I keep beating my points over and over with a relentless rhythm. And usually, I sober up eventually and feel ashamed.

This time I sobered up to an epiphany. I explained everything to my wife and she finally understood. It was never about Elisabeth. She was an innocent victim of my undiagnosed dysphoria before I had a modicum of understanding as to what I was dealing with. She was the first in a long line of victims just for being too close to dysphoric me. She was more than just in the room where it happened. I dragged her in and even blamed her for it. I shamed her for it. I moped around, making sure everyone knew how sad I was because of her rejection.

I blamed my teachers too. Lashed out at them. Blamed the Method.

And yes, I even blamed myself, which for some reason never rang entirely true although it is entirely my fault.

It was the early signs of dysphoria. When my love went beyond regular love and became some illogical, fantastical obsession. And then, it was full blown, undiagnosed, bat shit crazy dysphoria. Something nobody knowing what they knew then could have prevented. Not me. Not my teachers. Not Elisabeth.

So, here I am.

This is me.

Dysphoria is my psychosis.

Today, I am not dysphoric. So I have to drop everything and write this all down. It is that urgent. It is that important. I need to know this makes some kind of sense to others before I can trust it to assimilate into my collection of past, peak emotional responses. It has to add up. It has to make sense, otherwise it takes longer to come to terms with. I need the memory to fully mature. I need to conquer the triggering effect it has had on my life. I have to understand what tangibly happened on that day in Theresa Hayden’s classroom.

My fear of suicide has caused me to take drastic measures like growing boobs… and another drastic measure, recently asking a friend to reach out to Elisabeth on my behalf. To tell her I understand what I did. That I never stopped searching for the roots of the problem and that I think I almost have it conquered. I asked to see if Elisabeth could finally reach out to me. Something I had stayed away from for quite some time, because I know the harm it has done in the past. I just think some sort of acknowledgement from her would help put this behind me. Just a smoke signal. An aknowledgment that we are now 40 and in different places with our lives. A sort of totem.

I know what dysphoria can do now. I know it will kill me if I don’t kill it first. It makes me want to move fast when I am able to see the root of the onion.

But that desire to see some

kind of a sign from her, once again, in my own special way, negates her fucking right to say, “NO!”

I see her name pop up on Facebook on occasion, unbolded, because she has blocked me from ever talking to her again. And it crushes me. It reminds me of all the damage I did to her.

I see how our old class dispersed in a way none of my other theatre classes did. And I feel like I broke the fucking wheel. I feel like I broke our ensemble. I broke the circle.

I didn’t rape her. I never hit her. I didn’t stalk her. I came very close to what you would call stalking, but I never followed her or went places I was not invited.

What I did was negate her right to say, “NO!”

And behind rape and stalking, right behind them in fact, is that. A woman gets to say, “NO!” No questions asked.

I didn’t realize at the time how my actions, all masculinely douchey, and frightening have been like for her and those closest to both of us.

To me, I was a submissive trans person in crisis and with a broken heart. To me SHE had all the power.

To her? I had to be one of the WORST men.

I do want a chance to connect with her. To tell her I am still working on it. To tell her I am so close to being through this I can taste it. That I am on mile 25 of the marathon. That I am exhausted. And that my love for her, not the gross kind, the real kind, has evolved, deepened, ripened and matured. It has helped me keep pressing through at times when I couldn’t do it alone, because I don’t want to hurt anyone again like I hurt her. That I have learned and still am learning from all this mess.

And I get it. It probably won’t happen. Nobody has more claim to their rights and reasons to avoid me. Nobody I have ever known. And it all happened because I loved her madly. Literally. Madly.

It may take longer without her acceptance than it would with it, and I have tangible reasons to fucking need to move this process through as quickly as possible before another layer of onion grows and I must peal it off yet again to get back to the root of the issue.


I have to respect her right to her, “NO!”

I hope this sheds some light on why I have been so fucking slow to work through this and why I must keep going back. It is the keys to creative control over my dysphoria. I have to play with fire, because if I don’t while I can, it will consume me. The same thing that prevents me from putting my essence, my soul into my acting, is also what wants me dead. It is me or the dysphoria. I am fucking done sharing my life with my dysphoria, and having to take responsibility for all the terrible things I have done whilst batshit crazy, or recovering from an extended bout of being batshit crazy, that fucking sucks. It is like taking the fall for your evil twin.

Much gratitude to my wife, because she patiently listened to and understood this all for the first time today, once I finally was able to provide a logical context for her, and she showed me the importance of writing it all down and sharing it with others. Being able to explain it is a HUGE step in coming to terms with it. Thank you, Shmoopy.

Elisabeth, wherever you are, I am deeply sorry.


Trigger Warning: DO Read the Comments

Let’s take a look at ways to communicate about trans issues online with strangers who show an anti-trans bias.

Far too often, I see postings from trans folk that begin with things like, “Don’t read the comments” or, “Trigger Warning (TW)”.

Trans folk can be far more sensitive than your average Internet savy folk. The reasons for this vary but to oversimplify, let me just say that trans folk are far too often victims of violence, sexual abuse, bullying… etc. in real life. The suicide rate for trans folk is ridiculously high. The murder rate. Rate of being assaulted. Harassment. Unemployment… etc. The amount of subtle discrimination we are faced with each and every day can be overwhelming.

It is no wonder the trans community will circle the wagons from time to time and try to protect their own. Damn near any member of the trans community knows at least one trans person who was either murdered or committed suicide.

To label something with a *Trigger Warning or to say, “Don’t read the comments.” is a way for trans folk to communicate about our darkest issues without sending a fellow trans person into an unintended dysphoric bout.

Today, I will discuss the opposite. What is it like when you DO read the comments? What is it like when you ignore the trigger warnings? Why is it important? How can we have higher success rates in online discussions? Why should trans people stand up for themselves?

I have been researching this post since, well, since I first logged onto the Internet. Really though, I have had this post in mind for over a year now because of all the news stories leading up to, and following the Bruce Jenner interview (which was what it was billed as before she came out) which gave me plenty of opportunities to chat with folks on Facebook comment sections. Now we have these terrible new bathroom laws to talk about. It doesn’t look like trans issues will be out of the media spotlight any time soon, and someone has to speak up for trans folk in spite of all the trigger warnings.

I had a few rules for this experiment:

1: I only used the Facebook comment sections on, “Reputable” news feeds. I couldn’t be the only pro-trans person who dared to comment.

2: I would turn on notifications and follow the comment thread as much as possible.

3: I would try to out myself as trans whenever it might fit into the conversation. Sometimes without provocation of any sort.

4. I would work to communicate with anyone, no matter their beliefs.

Facebook seemed like a good place to work from, mainly out of apathy. You get a plethora of news stories to comment on and, I did not want to register on a bunch of different websites in order to talk with people. Also, people are less prone to use aliases on Facebook. That suggests they may be more likely to behave as they normally would with a stranger, although anyone’s behavior is typically worse online. Almost all of us have a little bit of a public profile on Facebook as well, so sometimes I could glean more info about the person I was engaged with in the hopes of improving my communication with them. I rarely looked at a person’s profile unless they were really being troublesome.

Facebook also has a system for people to report posts, which I will get into later. It comes in handy in the most interesting of ways.

In the end, I learned some huge lessons about how to better communicate amid overt bigotry. Here are my findings. You may not like them all, but they certainly work for me. That does not mean they all work every time. They just work a higher percentage of the time than other tactics I have tried. Let’s face it, getting someone to admit they are wrong online RARELY happens.

And do I follow these rules all the time? Absolutely not. It is the Internet. Sometimes I want to let of steam or let my hair down. Having a mature discussion with bigots online is exhausting and sometimes I just said, “Fuck it!” and ignored my own rules. But I know that when I do this, at best, I will only be preaching to my choir which does little good in the grand scheme of things.

I look at interacting with anti-trans posters like a salesman looks at potential customers. You use your best tactics and know they will only work a certain percentage of the time on a good day. When a new tactic is found to be more successful, I switch to that tactic. No salesman expects to sell everyone that walks in the door. They just want to sell more than the average salesperson would. They want to beat their last record month.

Also, posting on public boards is a lot of smoke and mirrors. I sometimes lie about personal experiences if it works more often than telling the truth. If people believe it is true, and it gets them to think, it may in fact be the truth I need to be telling. In many ways, having an online discussion with a bigot is very much an act.

Humans are very good at pattern detection, so if they see two or three trans people misbehaving online, they are prone to thinking we all act that way so, if you out yourself online in a comment section, in a way, YOU REPRESENT ALL OF US, and your behavior reflects upon all of us. It is vital that some of us go out of our way to be exemplary.

What I am going to walk you through will take at least a few hours of continuous discussion each time you attempt it. It does not happen with a quick post. It requires patience and diligence. This is a slow game approach.

Ok, without further ado… here is my favorite system.

1. Play to your audience.

Ok. Someone makes a post you disagree with like say, “All trans folk are mentally ill.”

How do you reply? Are you going to get through to this person? Probably not. They have their mind already set and yet, their point is inaccurate and should be corrected for others to see.

So, make a calm post quoting the DSM-V, the diagnostic manual of mental disorders used by American doctors, psychologists and psychiatrists. It clearly states, “It is important to note that gender nonconformity is not in itself a mental disorder.” and that quote from the DSM-V text is freely available online for people to see if they wish to confirm it as accurate.

You post this, not for the person who you are replying to, but for your audience. They have not already made an inaccurate statement, so they will not have a vested interest in defending themselves against facts. You may never get through to the person you are replying to, but you corrected their statement which goes a long way towards helping others see why it was false.

2. Try to establish common ground.

Many of my friends HATE it when I do this. What they fail to realize is my intent is to SWAY HEARTS AND MINDS not to preach to my choir. My choir is already on my side.

So what if someone says, “Transgenders will never be female! Their lifestyle is a choice!”?

Well, I WANT to start by explaining how calling us, “Transgenders” is incorrect. Then I WANT to tell them that not all trans people are transitioning to female, that there are trans men too and in fact, “Transgender” is an umbrella term which includes many other folk. We aren’t all transsexual or in transition. Many of us are non binary… etc. I WANT to explain that gender and sex are different. That I was always female. I WANT to explain how it isn’t a lifestyle. I WANT to explain how I had no choice in being trans. That transition was a choice and a very difficult one but being trans was not at all something I chose.

But… clearly, from the imaginary comment I am hypothetically replying to, I can already tell that this fictional person knows very little about the science and medicine behind being trans and that they already have formed a bias against folk like me for whatever reason.

To correct their every mistake is commonly seen by them as aggression. And when you are offensively aggressive towards someone’s thoughts and feelings, they are prone to becoming defensive. Once that happens, any chance of a real discussion is probably lost. So, what do I do?

I try to find the thing I most agree with and build on that. I look for common ground.

They told me I will never be female. Ok.

So I say, “Well, I am a trans woman. That means I have a Y chromosome. It is kind of the whole reason I am a trans woman and have to carry the trans prefix around with me. Without that Y chromosome, I wouldn’t be trans. Of course there are limitations to medical transition and I am well aware of them.”

And a small part of me dies for not going for the jugular… but finding common ground or a middle ground is your BEST CHANCE at starting a good discussion.

The person you are talking to is like a sapling and you want them to grow into a mighty oak that some day could bear the weight of all your points and corrections. But at this point, you will kill them by simply stepping on them too hard.

3. Turn the room.

This directly relates to step 2.

Often times a bar will hire an early evening band to play loud, youthful music and it is used to annoy their regular afternoon bar fly patrons and move them out of the bar in order to make room for the kids who will be spending WAY more money to see the main act later that evening. It is called turning the bar or turning the room. Clearing one crowd to make room for a new one.

Many of my friends HATE this step too.

Look, even people who have anti-trans views have feelings and can feel like they are being attacked. If you join a conversation already in progress, it may have already devolved into insults and tantrums.

A GREAT way to strike common ground, especially if the anti-trans poster is not the one who is throwing around insults, is to smite the pro-trans people who are. You don’t have to press it too hard, just a quick, “Hey now, how would you like it if I said that to you? We are better than this.”

You turn the room. You show your choir, the choir you could be preaching to, that you have a more mature and civilized way to handle this poster. They either shape up, or they stop participating. It works because they are not used to being disciplined by their own advocates. They rarely argue with you if you are on their side of the LGBT debate and are only correctly pointing out that they are being rude for rudeness’ sake.

This clears the room for you to have a more personal discussion with the anti-trans poster.

If you have tried to find common ground, and then defended them from attacks, you have already done two things people RARELY see their opponent do for them online. It greatly increases the likelihood that they will start to listen to your opinion instead of just blocking everything you type from their mind as soon as they see you made a new post.

More on this later.

4. Kill them with kindness.

This one is hard, especially for younger trans folk, but it is worth it’s weight in gold. It is also fairly self explanatory.

Be patient, READ their replies and respond in exhausting detail, always looking for common ground and respect their opinion even if it is respectful disagreement. They really DO feel this way. That a woman doesn’t want a stranger’s penis in their restroom with them does not make them evil. Many women are raised to be skeptical of men. Many learn their own skepticism from their own traumatic life experiences. You know?

The more cruel to you they are, the nicer you MUST be to them. It will be worth it. Do not resort to name calling, passive aggression or even sarcasm (Now do you see why young folks struggle with this?).

Always look for common ground even with the most vile of people. Always respond with the kind of respect and detail you would respond with if someone you love was showing a sincere interest.

Never let them see you sweat.

Keep it light and feel free to use humor if it is not at anyone’s expense. Humor humanizes you.

5. Let others do your heavy lifting for you.

Remember step 1, talk to your audience, step 3, turn the room, and step 4, kill them with kindness? Here is where they pay off.

People will see and read the thread, and they will see you reprimand your rude and immature choir, they will see you patiently, exhaustively and politely communicate with a potentially lost cause and they will come in, reinforce your arguments, say the things they wish you were saying and almost without fail, follow in the more civilized tone you have established.

This further compounds as others stumble upon, see and read the thread. They see a SANE and MATURE trans woman talking to a cruel and biased opponent. They see others coming to your defense. You may even stand out to them as an exemplary human being.

If your reinforcements misbehave, you gently smite them as well and show them you are still in control of the tone of the discussion. This is often easier at this point because you have clearly invested more time and effort into the discussion than they have and people typically respect that, especially when they agree with you ideologically.

Will you win? Almost never. But what you have done is played to your audience and compelled others to empathize with a thinking, feeling trans person. A person who was likely called, “Pervert”, “Mentally ill”, “Predator”, “Freak” multiple times during said discussion. Why? Because you have handled yourself with maturity, intelligence, dignity and class.

Some other tips:

* You will never win the Internet, and even if you are factually correct, you will rarely find an opponent who changes their opinion publicly while you are talking to them. It is simply too embarrassing to admit it when they are wrong.

* Memes suck. Avoid them. You may as well say, “I don’t have my own thought on the matter so here is someone else’s condescending and oversimplified thought typed out over a picture of some shit.”

* Links are garnish. Make statements you can back up with links if asked for them, or add a link to the end of a post, but a link in and of itself is an ineffective post. Many won’t read them. They will just read the title or the website name from whence it came and tell you it is bogus.

* The block feature is great, especially when you are trying to talk to one specific person and are making progress, then out of nowhere, some immature asshole tries to cut in and distract you from your goal. Remove them from your feed. It will look to others, like you were able to ignore them like a meditating monk would.

* The Facebook notification system is a surprisingly good tool. I know… I know. Facebook rarely does anything about notifications, but if someone makes a comment filled with threats or hate speech (especially when it is excessively vulgar or violent) it has a higher chance of working. But after you notify about a post, BLOCK the person and get them out of your life. If you keep fighting them, FB seems less likely to respond in your favor.

But the BEST PART of notifications is using them as a threat. “Hey, just letting you know, and I haven’t done it myself, but that post could get you banned from FB for violating their hate speech policy if it gets reported. You may want to edit it before it causes an issue for you.” That bluff works FAR more often than FB’s team actually does. And, you are still killing them with kindness.

* If you want a more active discussion, pick a developing thread near the top of the comment feed. Many people won’t scroll down 20 or more posts. Your best audience is at the top of the feed.

* If you want to start your own comment thread, get there early. Once a news story has more than 20 comments, the chances of yours staying near the top are greatly reduced. It is kind of like winning the post lottery unless you get in early and make a point people feel like replying to.

* Be prepared to have your profile stalked by strangers. They will really want to see your pictures (especially if you are trans), and some creeps will look for private info to use against you. BE VERY AWARE of what you share with the public and what you share only with friends.

* Avoid God like the plague. God in online discussions about trans issues is a classic straw man. If someone gets you talking about God, facts have gone right out the window. It is a tactic of religious people who know they are losing a debate to throw God out as a last ditch effort to regain control. Pretty soon, a trans person is berating a Christian and looking like the irrational bully. You will lose some of your audience. Stick to facts and avoid getting drawn into a God fight. You just lost any chance of changing a person’s opinion once you do.

* Peer review is a red herring. If you or your opponent demands a peer reviewed study, y’all’re obviously are not walking the walk y’all talk. Scholarly studies published in journals typically cost between $10-30 just to read online. They can’t be shared with others online. Not for free. To do so is illegal. The best you can typically hope for is an article about the study written by someone who actually read it. A sad truth.

* Copy and paste are your friends. If you spend a half hour or more writing an extensive and polite post answering a question or addressing a point you always encounter, and it works, save it and use it again in another discussion. See if it keeps working. The Internet is vast and very few will encounter you more than once to see that you are not painstakingly writing each post to order. Just tweak a few words or sentences to fit the new discussion and use it again.

*  Avoid any news site that seems to have an anti-trans bias, or you will find it nearly impossible to find an audience and all the while you’ll keep getting tag teamed by multiple opponents.

* If a discussion reaches its natural conclusion, or say, the person you are talking to has to go to bed or work or something, shake their virtual hand. Opposing professional sports teams do this after a big game in spite of one side having lost. Thank them, in spite of your disagreements, for the engaging discussion. Remember, they will RARELY change their mind in public, not online, but their last memory of you will be one of you thanking them for listening. It means they will be more likely to reconsider their position and what you had to say the next time the subject comes up.

So, that is it. A post over a year in the making. A post that ground this blog to a halt while I wrapped my head around how to simplify all this into a fairly concise read. I hope it was worth it.

Until next time, aloha,

Transgender Day of Visibility

How weird is it that we have a day just about being seen? There are two transgender, “Holidays” and this is the happier of the two. It is kind of like Pride Day but for trans folk so nowhere near as fabulous.

So, I am back on estrogen after a three month delay. Yay.

What is it like? Well, I was paying extra close attention this time and I am sorry to report that it doesn’t feel like much.

The presence of estrogen is not hugely noticeable. I felt empty before and now I feel like I am filling up with defenses against dysphoria. That is good but I really wish there were more to it. I wish it made an interesting story. It doesn’t.

I felt emotionally numb and now, all my emotions are crashing back into my body and mind. It isn’t as fun as it sounds. Sometimes ignorance truly is bliss, you know?

My brain works too well at times, and sometimes I feel like I can see everything about something all at once. It is frightening and hard to trust after so many years of mental and emotional turmoil. I know I am either on the verge of a huge breakthrough or a giant breakdown.

In the midst of all this, North Carolina passed the most sweeping anti-trans bill in the nation. Even though I do not live there, it effects me. The constant comparison between Trans people, pedofiles and rapists. It is seeping out from The South and into every other region. The level of hatred and distrust towards people like me is on the rise.

Have you ever felt everyone in a room watch you get up and walk to the bathroom? Eep!

When it feels like the whole world is insisting you are crazy, how does one stay sane? It is a tall fucking order.

How does one remain the voice of reason in such an unreasonable world?

I feel broken and I don’t know if I can ever be fixed.

I wish we had a Trans Day of Invisibility sometimes.

This post was a bit of a brain drain. My next one will be far more substantial. I am just, not in a good place, you know?



I haven’t been blogging much this last year. Why? Several reasons.

When you transition, most of the big, new, happy stuff happens in the first year.

When you transition, most of the shitty stuff catches up with you after the first year.

On paper, my life is shit. Unemployed and exiled in Montana where people just don’t take too kindly to my type.

I don’t want to dwell on the negative stuff.

And yet, a few days ago, I went through one of my worst dysphoric bouts in years and the memories are so fresh, I think I can write the experience down and shed some light on the whole dysphoria thing.

So, this blog entry will be about dysphoria.

Dysphoria is like an emotional pimple, and it has a similar life cycle. It gets red, festers, grows, hurts… and you know it is there. You know it is growing. You try your best to conceal it.

Then it explodes.

Then it scabs over and fades away, and if you are lucky, it doesn’t leave a scar.

95-98% of the time, my dysphoria is manageable, still there but drowned out by normal, human emotions a person would expect to feel.

Then it pops. It is gross.

It is so complex. My mind is filled with self-loathing, just like most anyone else, if they allow it. I am also full of internalized transphobia. There is so much about me that I can so readily hate, and when that dysphoric zit is popping, not only do I want to hate myself, I want everyone else to hate me too. Most people are more than happy to hate me when I am like that. Some stubborn lunatics will have none of it.

Then the dysphoria lifts, and I wonder why everyone hates me so much. I feel weak and depressed and vulnerable to another dysphoric bout if I don’t fix things quickly (something I struggle to do after being weakened by such a bout).

The dysphoria wants to rule my life, make all the decisions, and I am left feeling helpless to it at times.

It is Dexter’s Dark Passenger, it is Mr. Hyde.

And THAT is when the suicidal feelings can come in. If I could just take control, I could kill everything I loathe about myself. It would be an act of defiance. It would be me finally standing up for, and against myself in one grand gesture.

Shit’s fucked up. You know?

I was convinced a couple years ago by my dysphoria that I would be doing EVERYONE a favor by just ending it all. Convinced. No doubt in my disturbed mind.

Imagine that. Fresh out of Grad School and then suddenly suicidal, so I transition, to get away from those suicidal thoughts only to discover they still return every 3 or so months. My last bout was around Christmas, and then one before in late summer, early autumn… almost every three months like clockwork.

I am so afraid to live my life because of this dark festering zit that keeps popping up.

Many people think all trans people are crazy. At times, I totally agree. God knows I experience a level of crazy that could win an amateur crazy competition.

So that is dysphoria.

What is it like to come out of a dysphoric bout? A bit like I imagine a rape victim feels. Helpless. Hopeless. Questioning what part of it was your fault.

And then, catharsis.

It is as frightening, ugly and beautiful as the birthing process. Every time the dysphoria lifts, in spite of the damage it does, I am left stronger, wiser, and with more tools at my disposal. It is a time of relief and bursts of joy.

At this rate, it will either kill me or make me stronger than I ever could dream. It is the type of life experience you brag about overcoming in job interviews. You know?

I really do think some day, I will have full control over my dysphoric tendencies. That day just can’t come soon enough.

If I don’t write about this soon after a bout, I begin to forget. Humans forget pain very quickly. It is an evolutionary survival instinct that is well documented. I have wanted to blog about this before but just never did it in time so I lost track of the specifics.

So, in the meantime, I am in exile, trying to stay away from people for fear I will hurt them in an effort to get them to hurt me back. I live more life online than off.

But my God! I can taste the freedom from this bitch of a disability. I will get there eventually, or die trying.

I know this is not a happy entry, but it needed to be shared to give people a fuller picture. I would not wish dysphoria on my enemies.

People read my words and relate them to their own lives. That brings me much joy. There is something about the human condition, trans or not, that we all relate to. Everyone experiences dysphoria in their own way, just typically on a much smaller scale than I.

Transition is hard. It is filled with self doubts and second guessing. Who wouldn’t feel bitter when they give up male privilege for a life as a third class citizen? I far too often HATE being trans and just want it to go away, while knowing full well, transition is keeping me alive. It is a complex relationship.

There is a logic to my insanity. I’d be crazy to not go crazy at times with all this shit to balance in my head.

I almost transitioned in my mid 20’s, then my neighborhood was attacked by hijacked airplanes. Suddenly, my dysphoria lifted because there were more important things to deal with. Many trans people with children say similar things. The birth of a child lifted their dysphoria for years because they had more important things to deal with. Of course, then everyone wants to know why they would transition when they have children. They don’t understand that the dysphoria often returns a decade later crippling the parent much like it cripples me.

Anyway, thank you for reading. It is wonderful to finally get some of this off my chest.


Losing My Religion

For my latest research project, I have been studying how to talk about trans issues with strangers on the Internet. I already wrote about talking to certain homosexuals who are anti-trans. Today, I will talk about a particularly fascinating topic: Communicating with people who are very religious.

This is a sensitive subject, and while I will do my best to be fair to all sides, please

know in spite of my intent, this post will probably offend some of you. I understand this and apologize in advance. Stop reading now if you would rather not risk taking offense, especially if you are a devout Christian.

Full disclosure, I am an atheist. I was raised Lutheran. I also went through an agnostic period. Born and raised in Utah, many of my friends are devout Mormons. I delved into Buddhism, but if anything, I was and am drawn more to its secular aspects. If you have to tag me with a belief, you can call me a Secular Buddhist. I call myself an atheist.

Religion and spirituality fascinate me. I am a spiritual person. Humans have a HUGE capacity for spirituality, so why not use it?

A spiritual atheist? Yup. How? Because I believe in invisible, intangible things. I believe in love, imagination/creativity… etc. I just put my stock in the intangible that can be made tangible in this life, not the next.

Atheists can be devout. I do not know if I am or not. I like to think I am flexible, but I do tend to base my beliefs on scientific evidence rather than theological evidence.

I have a profound respect for many people of faith, and their security in their beliefs. Where I draw the line is when their beliefs cause a real conflict with my life, particularly my life as a transgender woman.

Readers of this blog know full well, this is the first time I have talked about my beliefs or lack of them. I hope I do not preach. I do not care to convert anyone. Go live your spiritual life your way. I shall do it my way. Thanks.

That said, talking about trans issues with religious strangers online (and even friends) is often enough, like getting in a pissing contest with a skunk. Sadly, I still have not found a method that works perfectly.

It frequently feels like I am talking to grown-ass adults who are telling me their imaginary friend wants to send me into imaginary damnation for being exactly who I feel I was born to be: A transgender female.

I believe in trans. I am trans. It is stark. It is real. It is tangible. It is frightening. What kind of grown-ass adult would negate this experience? One who has an imaginary friend. That is who.

And I just fell into a trap. By negating their beliefs, by calling their God an imaginary friend, I, a grown-ass adult myself, have just invalidated their experience. Their belief is real. It does not matter if it is correct. They have studied, gone to church, listened to sermons, prayed… etc. Those things are all as real as my transition and, my need to transition is as spiritual as their belief in God.

Another trap? Persecution. Christian advocates are as out of the closet as I am as a trans advocate. Both sides face frequent persecution. If I call them bigoted, they can say the same thing about me and we would both be right.

Yet another trap? People generally have good intentions. Even classic trolls just intend to entertain themselves for a short time. When a devout Christian tells me, “You are just a man in a dress. You are a sinner. You will burn in Hell.”, what they are really saying is, “Look dumbass, I am trying to save your eternal life here. Fuck THIS life. Suck it up and stop being trans. Be a good Christian. The next life is going to be worth the pain you suffer in this one.”

Of course, I have tried explaining how, “Thou shalt not trans.” is not a commandment. No dice. Never.

I have tried, “Judge not lest ye be judged.” No luck. They have heard that one before. They have convinced themselves they are not casting judgement because their intent is to save me. That intent is noble.

On that note, I know my Bible very well but who cares? If someone knows I disagree with their beliefs, why would they care what I have to say about their source material, even if I just quote it chapter and verse without embellishment? It is a dead end.

So what works best? Taking the higher ground. Stick to the REAL topic, which is trans related. Respectfully avoid their attempts to draw you into a religious discussion. Stick to facts. Stick to science. Have credible links at your fingertips to back yourself up. Be nice… even if you blow a blood vessel in your eye by doing it.

And here is the best tip I have to offer: Be like Jesus. Forgive them, for they know not what they do. Turn the other cheek. Be a better person in the discussion than they are being. Don’t judge. Don’t cast stones.

If they have been mean and do not eventually see their own hypocrisy, others certainly will, and they may chime in to defend you. Control the tone of the discussion. Calm heads prevail. If someone joins in to defend you but they are cruel to your opponent, call them out and defend your opponent from the cruelty of those comments.

Your goal in online discussions as a trans advocate can be winning. It can be making another person look bad.

My goal is not to win. Not at least to win against one opponent, but rather to sway the largest percentage of people I possibly can. You have to think about what your audience will respond to most positively. Your opponent just gives you a platform to discuss your position in either a positive or a negative way. If you take the negative road, you will sway far fewer people who happen to be on the fence.

There is so much cruelty online, so the opposite of cruelty can frequently get more traction.

And always remember: Sometimes it is best to just walk away and live to fight another day.

Let me leave you with an example:

“I am sorry. I trust your intent is noble. I know you are trying your best to lead me to a glorious afterlife. I do not blame you. I understand. Thank you for your kindness.

Your beliefs just do not change my stark reality any more than my being trans will change your beliefs. If you have it in your heart to accept me in spite of this difference, please do. If you feel the need to pray for me, who am I to judge what you do with your time? In fact, it may work.

I am willing to accept my lot, and I promise I will do my best with this life, so if we both are to be judged by God, we still might see each other in the next one… in spite of my spending my life as a transgender woman.

I wish we could find common ground, but alas, it may never happen. Please accept this and know that neither I nor my transition will ever cause you any personal harm.”