Last Sunday Afternoon

20170625_143320I had to summon all my courage, but I actually did it. I went to the Panhandle Pride Festival this past Sunday afternoon. Pride is a celebration of all things LGBTQ, but it is itself a commemoration of the Stonewall riots that happened on June 28, 1969, a watershed moment in the gay rights movement.

What I witnessed at my first Pride Festival was not a demonstration, but an all out celebration, an opportunity to come together as a community, to recognize and find some measure of acceptance from the community at large. It goes without saying that there is still a ways to go.

Others can and have expressed in more elegant words what Pride means. This is not what I’m writing about. This is a personal journey for me. I have been working towards accepting who I am as a member to the LGBTQ community. Am I trans? Am I genderfluid? Am I bi? What does any of this mean? Does it change who I am, or am I simply coming to terms with my personal reality?

I have hidden myself  behind a mask, a mask that I believed expressed what others wanted from me. I became what I thought others wanted me to be, but it came at a price. I was miserable. I was depressed. I didn’t know who I was, how to be happy. In short, I denied myself to make others happy. It was a supreme act of cowardice.

In the past few years, as you well know, if who’ve been keeping up with my writing, I’ve been coming to terms with my identity. Growing up, I didn’t have the resources that are available now. I was a freak, someone to be shunned. I shunned myself. Now, I’m happier, more at ease in my own skin. I make consessions in my everyday life, but even that wall has been slowly falling away, leaving my true self out in the open.

Which brings me back to Pride. I became aware of the festival last year after the fact. The Home Depot, where I’m currently employed, set up a booth as a community outreach program. My store manager is a lesbian and made it her mission to become involved in the festival.

I remember thinking that I wished I had known about it. Further, I wished I would have had the courage to go. Since last year, it’s been on my mind that I wanted to go. I didn’t know if I would have the strength to go as I am, as Stefani, but I wanted to go. I had to.

Pride came around this year, and I decided I would go. I still had doubts that I would actually go through with it, but I wanted to go. Home Depot again would have  booth, and if I showed up as Stef, I knew my secret would be out. I resolved to go regardless, but I would do my best to avoid the booth to keep my poorly kept secret from falling away.

The moment I showed up, however, dressed in my usual jeans and blouse, I went immediately towards the booth. I barely hesitated. The time had come to let the wall fall away, in this sphere at least. I was welcomed with open arms. I had no reason to fear.

My store manager had already knows, as did another of my coworkers, but for the rest, they did not know. I have to give them all the credit in the world. They didn’t bat an eye. I was their friend, and I was treated with the same amount of respect as they always afforded me. I was in heaven.

I was still crazy nervous, but at least that hurdle had been cleared. I soon relaxed, thanks to the few beers I had. Soon I was just another person enjoying the park, a valued friend and coworker.

I had intended to spend an hour at most. I stayed for five. I took my picture, posted it on my work Twitter account for all to see. Even my store manager took a group picture and posted it as well, with me visible. My secret was gone, at least as far as my job was concerned. I outed myself and it felt good.

There are still hurdles to clear, of course. My family still has no idea. It’s been growing on my mind that the time is coming that I will have to own up to my reality. I fear I will be disowned, but the stress of having two distinct lives is wearing at me. I want to be me.

 

Getting comfortable in my skin

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Downtown Amarillo, The Burger Bar. 2017 ~Stef~

Freedom is a funny thing. Since making my move a little over two months ago, I’ve been able to be me more often. I can come and go as I please, and largely I have done so. About a month ago, I got dressed, picked up my friend, and we drove two hours to Lubbock, solely because I wanted to buy art supplies as Stefani. I wasn’t confident enough to do it here, so close to everyone I know.

That experience was awesome, to say the least. I bought some paints, went to Kohl’s and Walmart, and ate at the Rib Shack. Then we drove the two hours home. I was fun, amazing, blah, blah, blah. The more I’ve gone out, the less of a novelty it has become. On the one hand, isn’t that what I want? On the other, the thrill is kind of gone. I miss the adrenaline rush!

Last Friday, on my day off, I dressed up, once again, went to my friend’s apartment to work on my painting. While there, I decided that we needed to go eat. Usually I just order a pizza, but I was feeling daring, so we went downtown and ate at The Burger Bar. The apprehension was there, but it wasn’t paralyzing. I do recognize that I need some work interacting with others. My confidence isn’t there.

That notwithstanding, it’s a great feeling to be out an about. I do elicit some looks, but most don’t give me a second glance. I’m just another person, and they couldn’t be bothered to have anything to do with me. They’re so wrapped up in themselves that everyone else registers only slightly. I’m not sure if that’s good or bad, lol.

Which brings me to what’s going on now. The Panhandle Pride Festival is coming up later this month, and I’m considering whether or not to go. I’m leaning towards going, but that brings into question whether to go as myself or in boy mode. I had wanted to go as me, but my employer will have a booth set up, attended by my coworkers, most who are unaware of my identity.

So, do I out myself further and go as me, or do I go incognito or not at all? Of course, I have no illusions that you can give me the answer. The decision is ultimately mine, but it’s one that I can’t help but contemplate. Be me or not? Embrace my identity or continue to hide?

At the moment, I have no desire to transition, though it is on my mind at times. I will admit that I have so much respect for those who have crossed that threshold and decided to transition. It takes so much courage to accept who you are, but also to come out, knowing that there may be some relationships irreparably damaged. I’m not to that point.

I’ll go it one day at a time, and I’ll made the final decision nearer to the day, and probably on the day.  Some of my friends are all into me going to Pride, and I’m sure they’d love to accompany me as Stef. If I do, of course I’ll let you know, and yes, I’ll post pictures. I kind of hope I do it. I love going out!

 

Feeling blue

20170415_215759This has been a good month, more or less. Since moving to Amarillo, I’ve been able to go out and about at my leisure, without having to be accountable to no one but myself. I have the ability to lounge around my place, dressed up or dressed down, usually shorts and a t-shirt, without worrying about who may catch me. I missed this freeing feeling!

On the downside, I have a lot less disposable income, very little to spend on make up and clothes, though I did buy some Clinique powder, having decided to upgrade the quality of my makeup, slowly. I would like to buy more clothes, though having moved the majority of it to my place, I do have a decent wardrobe built up already!

On the negative, I hit a rough patch last weekend, emotionally, spiritually, psychologically. The weight of everything seemed to press upon me, pushing me under like a woman on the verge of drowning. I was at once exhausted and terrified. Tired of life and living, almost of the point of being unable to function. I was scared for a moment of being alone, that I might actually do harm to myself. I considered checking into , but I refrained. I worked for the company that owns that hospital, and I don’t like the way the conduct business.

Ultimately, I ended up messaging a friend I went to college with, who’s now a priest. He messaged me back to let me know he would be free after 7:30, and I met him at the parish offices to discuss what was bringing me down. After our perfunctory greeting, we sat down and I started to open up to an old friend.

There was no look of judgment in his eyes, though I may have detected a little bit of shock. He was as warm and friendly as ever, giving me pastoral advice, and listening to me both a a spiritual adviser and a friend. My fear of being rejected was alleviated, and he promised to walk with me where ever my path should lead, that he would love me even should the time come that I decide I must transition. That eased the burden weighing on my heart.

His first reaction was to say that he thought I bore the symptoms of clinical depression and suggested I find someone to deal with that, as he is not equipped and trained to deal with depression. He suggested a few resources for me to consider, offered someone he knew to act as a spiritual adviser, and offered to do so himself as I needed and his time allowed.

In the end, I came out feeling, if not well, at least better about my situation. I’m glad I opened up to him. I have felt better about myself in the past week, not feeling so hopeless and alone. I have another ally on my side. I guess I should feel fortunate, and I do, when the demons don’t push me to feel nothing at all.

All settled in

17546944_1910670259168352_3966816510689741483_oIt’s been two weeks since I’ve moved in. I finally got a couch and loveseat, from Furniture Row’s SofaMart. It wasn’t what I originally wanted, and it was out of the price range I had wanted to pay, but I knew I had to have it the moment I saw it. Uncharacteristically, I chose to go with waht I wanted versus what I thought I could afford. I don’t regret the decision one bit. It’s beautiful and comfortable.

I still don’t have my bed. The plan is for a friend to take me to Dallas, where my bed is in storage, to go pick it up. I’ll get with my friend to make sure that’s still happening, or else I’ll have to make plans for someone else to help me get it. It’s a nice bed, a queen-size, with an oak headboard. I don’t have a dresser or a chest of drawers, but that’ll come soon enough, once I pay off the sofa!

For the rest, I’m slowly moving my things in. All my make up is there, as are my shoes. I have a few more things at my friends house, mostly my blouses, but I’ll get them there soon enough. My only problem is storage. I ended up having to buy a couple of plastic drawers for the time being, I’ll work for now. I’m not too fussed about it. I have so much more pressing things that I need to buy.

So, like I said, it’s been two weeks since I’ve moved in. Two weeks of being on my own. At first it was a bit of a shock, not having a place completely to myself since 2005, the year me and my ex-wife moved in together. It gets lonely at times, but the commute to and from work is a lot shorter. Instead of driving two hours a day, to and from work, it’s more like twenty minutes at most.

What I enjoy most is the freedom to dress up when I want to, and not to have to worry that I have to go home. When I get off work, I can go, change, and relax, drink a bit of wine, have a beer, read or write. I can cook what I like. I can come and go at my leisure without having to tell anyone. It’s fantastic!

The best part is that I can start adding to my wardrobe without taking up anyone else’s space. I need more shoes, more makeup, a lot more jewelry. I know I should have done so ages ago, but change is hard for me. I’m the kind that settles for the status quo until it becomes such a burden that I almost have no choice but to change. Kind of sums up why I stayed married as long as I did.

I know there are other changes in store for me, but this one was a big start. I hope to be able to have internet access soon, but I’ll have to wait to see how my bills line up, and if I’ll be able to afford it. Internet in Amarillo is ridiculously expensive!

I’ll keep you updated if anything crazy happens, but for now, I think this will be the last post about the move. I think I’m eager to get started with this new chapter of my life, and see what adventures are now in store for me.

Lots of love

Stef

Moved in!

20170314_150227[1]I’ve moved in! Well, actually, I’m in the process of moving in, but I have the apartment, and I moved the first of my things in this afternoon after work. It’s a little difficult seeing as how I’m trying to do this alone, with only a car to haul everything. Everyone who can help is out of town for spring break. So I’m doing this solo.

It’s not too bad, I suppose. I’m just happy that I have someplace to call my own. It’s really a process now, slowly rebuilding my independence. It’s scary that I’ll be on my own, but exciting that I’m leaving my safety net behind. Besides, I’ll have a place where I can be free to express myself!

What I’m looking forward to the most is my privacy, a place where I can read and write to my heart’s content. I haven’t allowed myself the opportunities to just sit down to read, or to write, like I want. There’s always something to distract me at the moment. Plus, I’ll be saving about an hour and a half on my commute to work!

I’ll probably wait a bit to move all of Stefani’s things into the apartment. I’m sure my parents will want to come by and nose around the place, open all the closets and cabinets to satisfy their curiosity. Once they leave, I’ll drive down the street to my friend’s place, pack all my things there, and haul them to my place.

It’ll be a nice assimilation of both of my genders, the male and the female. I won’t have to go anywhere to be either. I can express myself as I choose, whenever I choose. I can’t wait for that.

For now I need to get off. I have some more packing to do. Maybe my family will be back soon, and they can help me move my things over, especially the larger things that won’t fit into my car. For now, goodnight!

 

Step two – Lease is signed!

20160723_220725I signed my lease! For the first time in ages, I will have a place all to myself. There are a few things I need to do in the coming days, get renter’s insurance, put the utilities in my name, but the biggest hurdle has been crossed. I have an apartment, and I will be living alone!

I will move in on Tuesday, after I get off of work. I’ll hand over my deposit and pro rated rent for March, they’ll hand me the keys, and I’ll start the laborious process of moving my belongings from the house where I’m currently living, up an hour to Amarillo, then trudging up the flight of stairs to the apartment.

The good thing is that I don’t really have to move everything all at once. I’ll start with my necessities first. I’m already buying things that I need, towels, cleaning supplies, that sort of things. I’m also buying a few kitchen things that I can use until I have time to drive to my friend’s house to get the bulk of my belongings, namely my bed, dishes, and the rest of my books.

I’m going to clue you in on something; I’m terrified. It’s been a long time since I’ve had to pay rent of utilities. I’ve done it before, so I know I’ll get it again, but in the meantime, I’m trying to figure out how to budget for it. I know I’m stressing out over nothing, but it’s still a big step, especially since the last time I was on my own was before I got married over ten years ago!

That’s okay. I’m about to look into buying furniture. I want to buy new things, especially my sofa and love seat. I found a set that’s reasonably priced. I’ll probably see about buying a dresser on the cheap, at least for the time being. I’m also going to see about building a few things, too. I need shelves to put my books in, and I suppose I need a desk to write at. I’ll just have to buy a dining set. I wonder where I can get one at a reasonable price. Hmm….

There’s a lot to do, and it’s getting expensive quickly! I need to take a deep breath, relax, and accept that I can’t just do it all at once. I’ll be fine. I can do this. I just need money. Lots of it!

Of course, things opens things up for me. Like I’ve stated before, this gives me the freedom to explore the identity, away from prying, judgmental eyes. I’ll be able to go out whenever I please. I’ll also have my clothes and make up with me at all times. So, I can do this. This is what I wanted, after all. Only three more days until move in day.

Step one

20160916_194724.jpgTomorrow I have an appointment with two different apartment complexes, both in Amarillo. I’m super stoked about it. I’m also a little anxious, nervous, and terrified. It’s been more than a decade since I’ve lived by myself. Getting set up again is a little overwhelming. I have to completely rebuild.

Saying all of that, I’m ready to rebuild. I’m ready to get my life situated so that I can be independent again. I’ve relied on family longer than I had intended. I have a natural resistance to change. Complacency is one of my characteristics that I generally despise in myself. I settle for the status quo until something forces me to change.

That’s not entirely true in this case. For the most part, I enjoy the company of my family. It’s familiar, it’s cozy, and there’s a sense of family that I lacked for years, even during my marriage. All the same, there’s a sense of freedom that I’m lacking. That’s my primary motivation. The commute to and from work is secondary.

I’m looking forward to having my own sanctuary. I’m looking forward to having a place where I can be Stef whenever I want. I really want a place where I can have my things with me. At the moment, Stefani’s things are at a friend’s apartment, and I have to limit what I have. Living alone, I’ll be free to buy clothes, makeup, shoes, and other things to my heart’s content.

This is going a little faster than I had intended, but I’m fine with it. If I’m lucky, I’ll have a place by the end of the week. I’m not holding my breath, but I am hopeful. The the process of furnishing my own place will begin. That’ll be fun.