Monday, September 19, 2011

Debra and Families of Choice

Dr. Kathleen Roberts wrote a short article titled "Family of Choice" in early September, 2009.  [Another good article is "Families of Choice" by Cynthia W. Lubow, MFT.] At the time she posted this article, I was in my second week of living my life as the woman I always wanted to be — after 54 years of trying to be the son, brother, husband, Dad, and man everyone thought I should be. It is not just GLBT youth who suddenly find themselves without the family structure they’ve always known. My wife, who remains a friend, and my daughter and my son did not want the me I truly am in the family anymore.  

It is my opinion that family, the support, continuity and love of those around you, is critical to good mental and spiritual health.  In the "Queer" community, where so many of us are denied the love and comfort of the family we were born into, "Families of Choice" are common.  For some it's a conscious creation and others just gravitate to a family of choice. But it's not just the Queer community.  Runways and disaffected youth, street kids form their own families.  And it has been going on for years.  Charles Dickens wrote of it in "Oliver Twist."

Debra and I at Tully's 2009
I muddled through with the support of people in my gender support group, the Washington Gender Alliance. In late October, a young woman, newly out, showed up at a meeting. She told her story -- she’d been locked out and disowned by her family the night of her 28th birthday. Debra and I connected and we would hang out at our favorite Tully's coffee shop. I would give her what wisdom I could and jokingly call it “Motherly advice.” We continued to hang out, txt, and IM for the next couple months. I told her that I kinda thought of her as a daughter and was that ok? And yeah that was ok — by the end of January she’s calling me “Momma.” At the time it was still a light thing and somewhat tongue-in-cheek. I woke up one morning in February to a request on Facebook to include her officially as my daughter and I did, honored to do so. When I scheduled some minor genital reassignment surgery, she made it plain that she wanted to go with me to keep me company. Since that time there has been no question that she is my daughter and I’m her mom. When someone asked recently if we were related by blood, I simply told the truth, “She is the Daughter-of-my-Heart!”

My First Mothers Day
We have been through a lot together.  We have both been hurt by our respective families of origin and we've both been there for each other in those times.  She has had her setbacks dating and I've been there for her.  I have had my setbacks with finding work or with my hormones for my transition and she has been there for me.  When either of us is out late for some social occasion, we always txt each other "Home safe" when we finally get home.

I love to cook dinner for her and she loves my Chicken Adobo!  Debra makes the best enchiladas I've ever eaten.  We have had a lot of quiet evenings just watching a movie together, or she would do her cross-stitching or her scrapbook and I would write on my laptop.  I looked up at her on evening and said, "I love our little family."  And she replied, "So do I."

Oregon coast Road Trip
She's taught me to love Mexican food and we have both come to really appreciate a good Sangria.

We went on a road trip together last year to the Oregon Coast and almost never left the Tillamook Cheese Factory.  We watched my puppy, Xena, run all over the sand at Cannon Beach.  In August, we went to Leavenworth, Washington for a weekend getaway and had a marvelous time.

She was there for my first Mother's Day and my second.  We have shared Easter together.  We shared Black Friday, which was a tradition in my family, last year and will share Thanksgiving and Black Friday again this year.  She stayed overnight Christmas Eve and we watched "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation," a tradition in her family. She spent Christmas morning and breakfast with me.  We are planning a pre-Christmas trip to Leavenworth together.

She asked me to go with her to San Mateo earlier this year when she had her Gender Confirmation Surgery.  And when I have mine next year, she will go with me to help with my recovery.

Through all of it, there have been all of the moments that make up family: the tears, the laughter, the heartbreak and the joy, the hugs, the smiles and, always, always, always, the love.

And there are others that I now count as part of my family.  Johanna, Kayla and Amy will be with us for Thanksgiving.  Annabelle is new to the family but a dear place in my heart.  Maddie is my best friend.  Zoey is an original in "My Girls."  Lisa is a brand new sister to me.
Easter 2011

I am a survivor. I muddle through. But I have no imagination of how I would have come through the last 18 months, almost 2 years, without Debra. Recently, after I told an Aunt about Debra and what she means to me, my Aunt wondered how I could come to a place where this new person was equal in my heart to my two blood children in such a short time? Beyond simply telling her that my God, Poppa, brought us together, I knew I had to write about Families of Choice. For Debra and I came to a place where our hearts chose each other to be a family together.  And our family just is.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

A Season to Reflect -- Thoughts On Surviving Suicide

August-September is a time for me to think back on many parts of my life.  

I was married to a wonderful woman in August many years ago.

My First Daughter, my Pride and Joy! who I miss so dearly, was born in September.

I separated from my wonderful wife in August 2 years ago to begin my life as my true self.

I went to the hospital to treat blood clots in my lungs in September 2 years ago.

And a young woman I had not yet met tried to kill herself because the men in her church told her she would be better off a dead man than alive as a woman. By Poppa's Great Grace, she survived. Many, too many, of us do not survive. In a study released this year, a little more than 4 in 10 transgender and gender-nonconforming people are suicide survivors. Survivors! I have not seen any statistics of how many of us did not survive. Sometimes I wonder how it is I survived.

I have never been someone the psycho/social professional community would classify as actively suicidal. But that community discounts or only gives passing acknowledgment that addictive, self-medicating behaviors are ultimately a form of suicide. There are other ways to die than to stop breathing or have the heart stop beating.

I am an addict. A recovering addict, but still an addict.

On another level, I knew I could have been actively suicidal. And I believe I would not have survived if I had made a physical attempt to kill myself. This is the very good reason I won't own a gun. It would be my method of choice to kill myself. I have imagined it too many times in my low points to have any doubts. I would put on a pretty dress, do my makeup, do my hair, put on my jewelry and my heels, sit down in my rocking chair, put the pistol, a military 9mm, to my left breast and pull the trigger. There would be a note, "Sorry for the mess I've made."

More than that, though, when my constant prayers that Poppa take this "curse" as I thought of it then, away and cure me seemed to be unfulfilled, my prayers turned to "Please take me Home!" I wanted to die. I asked Poppa to end my suffering, to end the suffering of my wife, to end the suffering of my children and help me die, to take me Home. I made this prayer to Poppa nearly every night for many, many years. And I prayed it almost as often during the day.

Poppa did not see fit to grant that prayer.

Sometime after I began to live my life as my true self, I met the young lady who had tried to kill herself. We became very good friends. She, Debra, became my Second Daughter. We have no secrets between us. I told her about my prayer and she made me promise never to ask Poppa to take me home again. She said she needed me for the next 30 years. And I promised.

So I have survived. Still, I sometimes wonder how? But more I wonder why Poppa has kept me here. What is it I do or have yet to do to show how much He Loves us?

It has been a very great Grace-thing Poppa has given me to have had a small part in Debra's very beautiful story. She's been every bit the butterfly!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

One of those days in my life …

I am going into see my therapist later this morning. We will do some catch-up. It has been since early April since I saw her last.

But the big thing that will happen tomorrow is we will talk over my decision to have Gender Confirmation Surgery (GCS) and she will write a letter to Dr. Toby Meltzer recommending me for GCS. When that is done and I have sent Dr. Meltzer a down payment, I should get a date for my surgery. I should get a date to make my body right with my heart and mind.

This hasn't been a trivial decision. I do not need to have this surgery to continue living. I can, literally, live without it. But it would cost me. It would cost me a satisfaction with who I physically am. It would cost me the continued disconnect between who I am at my heart and the way I have to present. Yes, no one sees my penis anymore than the would be able to see my vagina. But I would KNOW! And I would like to live my day walking around and not remember, not think of what was between my legs... or not.