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Whirlwind Days

Panhandle Pride Picnic at Memorial Park ~ © 2018 Veronica Fite.

It’s been a busy couple of weeks for me. Two weekends ago, I attended my neice’s quinceñera on Saturday. That was a lot of fun. I took my friend Jessica as my date. She didn’t know what a quineñera entailed, so I thought taking her would be a lot easier than explaining it to her.

The following day was Pride. Panhandle Pride hosted a picnic at Memorial Park in Amarillo. Last year was the first time I had attended. It was also the day I kind of outed myself to everyone at work. This year wasn’t as dramatic for me, but it was fun.

Again, I took Jessica. She was eager to go. We wandered around the park, taking a look at what was available. A law firm was handing out free beer, with proof of age. We had to show our ID, get our hand stamped, and then we were allowed a beer. It’s a little weird to be walking around in public with a cup of beer. Amarillo PD was roaming the park, which made it weirder.

The afternoon was pretty chill. We looked at booths of merchandise. I saw the ex-president of my alma mater, West Texas A&M University – Go Buffs!, – Dr. Russell Long and his wife. They had a booth promoting their books. I was interested in his, Jessica in hers. I plan to look them up on Amazon and get us those books!

I ran into my friend Veronica while there. Home Depot also had a booth, hosted by my former store manager from store #6831, Amanda. Talked with her a bit. Jessica ran into a lot of old friends. It was a fun day, until the combination of alcohol and heat got to me. I was probably close to suffering heat exhaustion. We ended up leaving and going to my apartment for a bit just to cool off.

Last weekend, I began my vacation. I picked up my best friend Amy and headed to Corpus Christi. My mom’s side of the family had a family reunion. All my siblings were there, except my sister. She had to work. It was a draining weekend, one with driving in from Amarillo to DFW on Thursday, DFW to Corpus on Friday, reunion on Saturday, and back to DFW on Sunday. I slept almost all day Monday!

On our way to Corpus, we toured the Spoetzl Brewery in Shiner, TX. I had always wanted to go, or at least have wanted to go for over twenty years. It was a neat experience. I can’t believe how popular the tour is! Afterward, we drove to Aransas Pass, got on a ferry – the first time I’ve ever been on a boat! – and went to Port Aransas. We visited the beach, but didn’t go swimming. We then made it to Corpus.

We got to do a little bit of swimming on Sunday, on our way back to DFW. Again, we went on the ferry, except this time I drove my car onto the boat, found a place to park, and got into the water. I haven’t gotten into the ocean since…, well I don’t know when. It might be close to thirty years since the last time I swan in the ocean. I had a blast and actually laughed joyfully, without reservation.

After our swim, I drove back to DFW. The brief swim at the beach wore me out. Made the drive back extremely difficult. I had to stop a few more times than I would have liked just to keep from falling asleep.

After coming back, well it was a pretty tame week. I finally met someone I’ve been talking to for the past couple of years on Twitter. She has a trans daughter and I believe we found each other because of this blog. I only wish I could have met her daughter, but she was out of town. I hope I can meet here the next time I’m in town.

I brought my friend Amy, who was not too keen on meeting my friend. But I was apprehensive about going alone, mainly due to my social awkwardness. She’s a lot better at dealing with people. We met at a place on the square in McKinney called Square Burger.

Lisa was there, along with her husband, Ray. It was not some run down burger joint, which I would have been okay with, but a hip bar that specialized in burgers. Not much else, but the burgers were out of this world, and the beer was cold and refreshing. So glad they suggested it!

Our conversation was primarily about me and my journey, which seems a little egotistical. In reality, I think they were curious as to what I went through in order to help their daughter. She’s a lot younger than me, but already out and living life. There’s still some anxiety about it, which I can relate. I tried to explain how I got to where I am in order to help them see how she she might improve.

Lastly, I said goodbye to my stepdaughter. My ex-wife, her husband, and their children, moved to Arizona on Saturday. I don’t know when I’ll get to see her again. It was a surreal moment for me, to say goodbye to her. I know I only see her a couple of times a year, but DFW is only a 6 hour drive, one that I do regularly. I don’t know about going to Arizona.

It’s been a hectic few weeks. I got to spend a lot of Stefani time, enjoying the freedom of being me. I spent my last day at my friend’s sketching on the couch. I created a new blog for my artwork, Artistica Girl. I hope you check it out, and follow me. I would appreciate it.

At the moment, I’m helping Amy with a few things. I have to finish packing, put everything in my car, and begin the trek home. As much as I don’t want to, I also can’t wait to get back. I miss my friends. I’ll get back to work tomorrow night and who knows when I’ll get another vacation. When I do, maybe it won’t be as hectic as these past couple of weeks have been.

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Authentic

20180108_232910-1.jpgMy life has been a series of small steps that led me to this point. I started this blog back in 2013 – check my first post here – and it’s been one small step after another for the past four years. I never thought I would be where I am now, living out in the open!

I’m not yet living full time. I’m not at that point in my life, and I can’t say with any certainty whether I will or I won’t. What I can say is that I’ve found some peace. I found that I can be happy. I discovered that I don’t need anyone to define who I am. Happiness isn’t dependant on anyone else.

So this is what my life is like at the moment. On most days I live my life as a man. I go to work, spend my time there as such. I’ve wondered what it would be like to go as Stef, to integrate that part of myself into my professional life, but it would be an unwanted distraction. Until I commit myself to transitioning, I will have to content myself to this duality.

When I get out of work, depending on the time, I may change clothes. I scrape off the masculine and put on the feminine. A lot of what I do is only exterior, but it’s a matter of matching what I wear to what I feel on the inside. The masks I wear have begun to blur. When I first started the journey, it felt as though Stef was the mask, but I’ve recently came to the conclusion that it’s not the case. It’s too simplistic an explanation.

The masculine and the feminine clothes I own and wear are costumes, extensions of societal expectations. What I feel is deeper than clothing, or jewelry, or makeup. I feel, I am, female at heart. Even when I was denying myself the experience of being Stef, I knew intrinsically that I was a woman. I was bitter about being male. I knew my life would have been better had I been a woman, because in my mind I was a woman, even if my biological body betrayed that fact.

So I live my everyday life in accordance to what my body tells me to live, even if I suffer a spiritual and emotional discordance from it. People know me as male, so I plod along as such, and I’ve grown adept at it. No one who I haven’t told has ever suspected that I harbor such a secret. Scandalous!

It’s after work, like I said before, or on my days off, that I can come out and shine. I no longer feel the need to do my makeup to feel feminine, though I’ll admit that it helps. I don’t have to put on skirts are dresses, or anything sexy. That’s not really my style. A pair of jeans and a comfy blouse is all I need.

I run errands this way now. I go shopping, go out for a drink at my local watering hole. I meet friends and live my personal life as my preferred gender, or maybe my actual gender. I spend more time onlife as Stef. I’ve grown comfortable as such. It’s a pleasant experience to be me.

I’ve gone from pretending I don’t exist, and being miserable, to allowing myself to be me and being happy. As my circle of confidants have grown, my has confidence has grown exponentially. I’ve discovered that I have more supporters in my friends than I could have ever imagined. My family has not abandoned me, which was my biggest worry.

As for my family, they haven’t met Stef, but I no longer fear it. It’s not time yet, but I can’t wait for them to see me for who I am. I know it will be a shock for them to actually see me this way. Though I have told them, I think there’s still a bit of disbelief in their minds.

So that’s where I am now, further along than I could have ever believed possible. Even though I say I can’t say with any certainty what I’m going to do, I feel as though I do what to proceed in my journey.

I dream of the day when I start to exhibit more feminine features. I dream of the day when I can live full time as myself. I want the experience of being a woman, both the good and the bad. I have no illusions that it will be all sunshine and rainbows. Even in my limited experience as Stef, I have witnessed some mild forms of misogyny. It’s unfortunate but expected. It’d be a small price to pay to live authentically.

Meeting people and volunteering

IMG_20170923_140146If you haven’t been following my videos, which I don’t blame you if you haven’t, I have started a couple of different things recently. Last month, I started seeing a spiritual advisor so as to get my spiritual life in order. Also, I started attending a transgender support group. This week, I will start volunteering with a homeless organization which seeks to place the homeless into housing.

The spiritual advisor came about after a talk with an old college friend who is now a priest. I told him about my struggles with being transgender, which came as a bit of a shock. Instead of condemning me, he accepted it and suggested I start talking with someone, which I have.

We’ve met twice now, and I feel a lot of it on my part has been expressing what it means to be trans, and the trouble it has cause me with my faith. Linda, my advisor, has been steering me towards a deeper understanding of my faith, of the fact that I should not view myself as damaged, that I should see who I am as a gift.

Meeting with Linda led me to the support group. I’ve only attending the group twice, but it has been illuminating. It has made me consider whether I may not actually be transgender as much as genderfluid. I’m equally comfortable as Joe as I am as Stefani. I have my male traits as well as some female traits. It’s helped me understand my hesitation with coming out and going forward with transitioning. It hasn’t completely eliminated the possibility that I may go forward with the transition.

I will say that I’m torn about that. All my life I’ve felt as though Stefani was a larger part of who I am, even when I was keeping that aspect of myself under wraps. Now that I’ve come to terms with it, it’s less of an weight that I carry but just another part of the totality of who I am. I am Joe and Stefani, or as one of my best friend calls me, Stefani Jo. It fits like a glove. Still, part of me wants to transition completely into a woman. We will see where this journey goes.

As for volunteering, it’s one of my best friends who led me to it. She started volunteering recently, and I wanted to take a look at the organization, Amarillo Housing First. I actually went dressed as Stefani to check it out, being told as I was getting close, that Chris, the founder and CEO of the organization wanted to meet with me.  That led to an invitation to volunteer, they wanting someone within the LGBTQ community to help with that part of the homeless. So that’ll be my advocacy within AHF.

I’m not sure what all that will entail, but I’m excited to lend my time to the group. I’m hoping that I can make a positive impact for the organization and the homeless community at large. I’m also nervous about it. I’ve never done anything like this. Whatever the outcome, it will be an eye-opening experience.

I will confess that I feel good about where my life is headed. I never once considered that I would ever come out to anyone, or that I would ever have a place as Stefani in the world. It isn’t always a happy experience, but it is authentic to who I am, to who I am becoming. I’m learning to love who I am, though I do experience setbacks. I suppose that’s just a part of life.

Please check out my YouTube channel and subscribe. Follow me here on my blog, and please don’t hesitate to give me some feedback. If there’s any questions I can answer, or even any advice, I would appreciate it.

Thanks for reading!

Martin from Garland Texas from The Straight Up Gay Podcast


Episode 8 of the Straight Up Gay Podcast is up. If you haven’t checked it out, please do so. It is an informative podcast, dealing with issues surrounding the LGBT community. Hosted by Major, the father of a gay teen, he seeks to raise awareness.

Driving Miss Stefani

20170217_1236551I’m on vacation! It’s nice to get away from the hassle of everyday life. No work responsibilities, no familial ties to bind me into societal norms. I’m free to be me, to explore, to live. It’s an awesome experience.

I left work on Wednesday and drove to my friends house outside of the Dallas Metroplex, getting there around eleven at night. I didn’t change into Stef. I was more concerned about getting out of Dodge than anything else. Thursday was a no go as well. There were too many things to do. My friend, who runs a dog sitting business, had to travel to McKinney to pick up a dog, her cousin’s, and then I went to Commerce to visit my step-daughter.

Friday, however, was my day. I woke up at four in the morning to get ready. Once, done, I finished whatever last minute packing we needed to do, then we headed out at six, down U.S. Highway 69 to Tyler, where we jumped on I-20, and eventually Georgia. It was a looong drive!

The trip itself was uneventful. I sat in the passenger seat most of the way, relaxing and enjoying the scenery. I had never been in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, or Georgia, so it really was a new experience. We stopped at all the rest areas to take pictures, except in Georgia. By then, it was dark and we were tired of being cooped up in the car.

The only stressful part of the drive was going to the bathroom. Damn conservatives! I myself consider myself right from center, but damn! The evangelicals in the right wing of the party are a bunch of busy body, judgmental assholes. So much for being for smaller government. It puts a great deal of pressure on us to conform into a mold in which we feel uncomfortable.

For the most part, I tried to find places I knew would have family or unisex bathrooms. Where I didn’t, I hurried into the women’s room, did my business, and left. I didn’t linger. I felt pressured and uncomfortable. I feel judged as it is, and I’m self-conscious about taking a pee. I never had any trouble, however I did get some jackass glaring at be as we gassed up in Mississippi. I wanted to beat up the old codger, but I refrained. I’m a very nice person.

I didn’t let that dampen the enthusiasm for the trip. I took over the drive in Alabama, stressing out over how busy the traffic was. My friend fell asleep, and I drove in silence, enjoying the beauty of the scenery. Wishing we had the time to stop more often to explore places I had never seen before.

I gave up the driver seat right before we entered Georgia. We stopped for gas, and once we left, I had to change back into Joe. I was bummed out, but a little relieved. My jeans were a little tight around the waist, and my men’s wear is a little looser. Taking off my makeup and fingernail polish was tricky in the dark, but I got it done.

The people we are staying with don’t know about Stef. I haven’t decided whether or not to tell them. They have a daughter who is a lesbian, so I don’t fear judgement. It’s more that it takes it out of me to revel myself. Opening myself up isn’t easy. We’ll see how it goes.

We plan to leave here Thursday, bound for New Orleans and Mardi Gras! I will spend those few days as Stef, once again stressing about restrooms and the like. I used to worry about it years ago when I took my first steps out as Stefani, but now there’s an increased focus on that, which I absolutely loath. I may end up having to become more political, but not just yet. I’m on vacation. I’m not ready for reality to ruin my fun.

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The Straight Up Gay Podcast

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Copyright 2017, Straight Up Podcast. Used with permission

I know I run a self-serving little blog. This is my home, a place where I can find some freedom to be myself, unencumbered by societal expectations. I’ve received nothing but kind words from you, my readers, and I have found you all to be a source of understanding and strength.

But to turn the table around, I want to share something I found the other day. I say found, but it was a follower of mine who posted the link to a podcast, run by a man who calls himself Major. Major is the father of a son who came out to him as gay. The Straight Up Gay Podcast is his way  of “working to advance the acceptance of LGBTQ+ individuals in modern society.”

My follower on Twitter, who I have had the pleasure corresponding with for the past several months, is a mother of a young woman, who has begun her journey to transition from male to female. She shared the link to the podcast to talk about her experience as a mother of a transgender child, and knowing who she was, though we’ve never met, I was entranced by what I heard.

More than her conversation, however, was the fact that Major had created a forum where such a discussion could take place. It’s not an obnoxious or toxic arena. It’s a safe place where he can be an advocate of a son he loves, and a platform where he can educate people about the struggles of being a parent of a gay son.

I’ve only listened to Episode 5 with AnnaLis, but a lot of what they discussed I could relate to. The struggles AnnaLis discussed were things I’ve struggled with, but instead of confronting them outright, I chose to do the opposite and hide from them. It was eye opening for me, as a 40 year old, to listen to her talk about a teen going through much of the same things I went through.

But back in the 90’s, there were no forums to go to, no advocates such as there are now. I was a lone wolf, feeling very much alone in my brokeness, struggling to fit in within a world I knew I could never truly belong to. I learned to fake it, and I tried for over ten years to deny to myself my true identity. It’s only recently that I’ve come to terms with my truth.

I believe Major has the promise of becoming an ally for not only members of the LGBTQ community, but the family of those whose children, parents, friends, come out as such. There’s a lot of misunderstandings inherent within our community, some of those I’m still working through, but he’s using his place behind the mic to dispel those same misunderstandings. He has become an educator as much as an advocate.

I hope you all give him a chance and listen to what he has to say. Check him out, subscribe to him, and donate if you think him worthwhile. I know I’ll continue to listen, hoping to learn more about myself and my fellow brothers and sisters. You can find him at the links above, or on Facebook and Twitter.