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Sunday, January 27, 2019

A T-Central Guest Post

Laura Ann, from the local group I am a member of, the River City Gems, has submitted another great guest post.  Read on.

I was looking at a post on FaceBook today, a comment made by a transwoman friend of mine in Colorado. She was talking about how she became estranged from most of her male co-workers when she transitioned, which happened at about the same time I began my own transition, three years ago more or less. She lost some male friends at work, but her relationships with female co-workers blossomed! She wrapped up her comment with this line: "I wouldn't go back [to being a guy] for anything".

I say the same thing: I wouldn't go back for anything. But it's funny to think about what "going back" would actually mean. I've had three full years now to think about what my transition means. I changed my legal name and gender, and that was maybe the most momentous part of it. I went on HRT, and decided to have an orchiectomy last September, because I knew that my soul was

crying out to be female, and testosterone wasn't helping me be the kinder, gentler, more compassionate person I wanted to be. And I wear skirts instead of trousers now, and makeup sometimes.

But what really changed when I decided that I couldn't be Larry anymore, except that I became happier and more at peace with myself? I have a much better relationship with my daughter than I ever had before, and a much easier and more natural relationship with other women. I get to compliment women on their clothes, or hair color, or manicures now - a thing no "guy" can ever do, except maybe to his Mom, sister, wife, or girlfriend. And that feels so nice, to just be able to talk to women from a more natural place, without that "weirdness" that would make it creepy to try and have a conversation like this as a guy. I love it, to be able to talk to my women friends about women-stuff, like, "who did your nail art? It's amazing!", or, "how does someone choose between a one-piece and two-piece bathing suit, if price isn't a concern and you can get the size and color you like in either?". Or "why are there 50 million different types and styles of bras?" And that perennial favorite: "Did you see that Macy's has a sale on handbags this weekend?".

This last issue, any woman can relate to, whether she's cis or trans: the eternal search for the "perfect" handbag. We all know it exists out there in the universe someplace, and the more of your lady friends who know your preferences, the better are the chances that one of them will be shopping somewhere and spot it - OMG, there it is, the perfect purse! - and maybe it's the very  last one of that style in the store, maybe it's the only one ever made in that style, material, and color!, and thanks to the miracle of cell phone technology, your friend snaps a photo of it, sends it to you, and within a minute or two, you are running out the door to your car (maybe forgetting to comb your hair in your hurry), then racing hell-bent-for-leather to that store to buy that purse before someone else snatches it up. If you are lucky, the store with this purse is actually in the same time zone that you are, otherwise, better stop for gas before you get on the freeway.

I could never see or understand it before, but there is an enormous, invisible wall that socially separates men and women in this society, and now that I am living on the other side of that wall, I truly know there's no going back. Why that wall exists, I don't know, but I certainly have been aware of it since I was a teenager 50 years ago. When I'm not wearing a wig, which is almost all the time now, my face looks hardly any different than it always did when I was a "him". It's just a little older, there's a few more wrinkles, it's a little fatter and rounder, and my hair is longer and stragglier than it was. But on a level deeper in my mind, my perception is that this isn't the same face at all, because for 59 years, I hated, HATED, to look at that face in mirrors. and now, I see the face of someone else entirely. The face of a person who smiles much more tham her predecessor did. A face with eyes that twinkle, and look directly at people instead of shying away. And most of all, a face and a pair of eyes that look back at me out of that mirror with an easy grin that says "how you doin' Laura-Ann? I feel happy today, and you are lookin' good, girl!"

Nothing has changed, and yet everything has changed. So for sure, there is no going back, is there? Not if I want to hang on to this love, happiness, and sense of peace with myself and the world around me that my transition has brought about. I waited a long, long time to find happiness back in those lost days when I was a young man. And you know something, I actually looked kind of cute. Looking at photos of myself, age 17, I would date that kid if I was a girl his age. He's a bit chunky, but he's smart. He reads more than he watches TV. His hair is kind of shaggy and wavy, but he washes it and keeps it semi-under control. And he's not as aggressive as the other boys, the ones who act like they're thinking with their balls instead of their brains. But he's so shy! And he acts like he's autistic or something. He's never gone out with anyone in school, never dated, never kissed a girl.

I was terrified of people when I was a kid. I was hiding this awful secret. A secret buried so deep, I didn't even have a name for it. A secret that I knew must never be found out, by anyone. A secret that was like acid corroding me from the inside out. I wanted to be a girl. I wanted to wear nail polish, and carry a purse, and trade my blue jeans for a skirt. I didn't know why, and I didn't even have a vocabulary to describe, even to myself, what was happening to me. Transgender? That word wouldn't even come into common usage until I was in my late 40's, and by then, I had been married for nearly 20 years and had all but forgotten that I was once - in my innermost thoughts - a girl named Laura. And for at least 50 years, from about age 12 onward, I hated to look at myself in mirrors and I strongly disliked my name. It only sounded good to me when Lynn said it, and when she died, in November 2013, for a time I lost all hope that there would ever be any purpose or meaning to my continued existence. All through 2014 and 2015, as gender dysphoria re-mounted it's attack on me - a war I thought I had won in 1986 when I married Lynn ("Love will save me", as Jennifer Finney Boylan says in her auto-biography "She's Not There"), I grew ever more depressed, discouraged, and desperate, as my grief over Lynn's death mixed with my fear and anxiety over what would happen when I finally gout caught by my daughter or my brother with a closet full of women's clothes, and two full drawers of makeup and jewelry. In December 2015, I finally realized that I might have a nervous breakdown or kill myself if I didn't figure out what was happening to me - by then I wasn't even sure of my own identity any more - and so I joined the River City Gems, a transgender support group in my city. Finding the Gems took the pressure off, as I discovered through this group that I wasn't going crazy, at least, and I wasn't alone. Five months later, I had a "transition-or-die" epiphany, and in that moment, choosing to let go of my past and embrace Laura-Ann, I stopped being afraid of people, and I stopped hating myself; this is maybe the greatest gift I will ever give myself.

Be at peace, and be open to the possibilities.

 - Laura Ann Charlot

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