Tag Archive | Coming Out

The Year of Stefani

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February 2017

Is it time for the 2017 retrospective yet? We still have a ways to go, but in the closing month of the year, I can’t help but look back a bit. I started the year afraid of going out anywhere, and I ended up going to my company Christmas party last week.

I have come out to many people, everyone I work with, essentially, and a couple of family members. I came out to a friend I met in college, a priest, someone who promised to remain at my side, to support me. I began meeting with a spiritual advisor. I went to Georgia, and I’m going again next week, this time all week as Stef.

I went from being scared to becoming bold. I went from remaining in the shadows, to coming out into the sun. I went from wanting to remain anonymous to wanting to be known for who I am. This is what 2017 has meant for me.

Going back three years, in 2014, I started dressing up again after more than ten years pretending to be someone I wasn’t. More than ten miserable years lost in anger and confusion, wanting to be a normal man. That didn’t work out.

2011 lost my wife and lost another relationship. 2012, lost my job. 2013 went back to college, got my current job, graduated with my bachelor’s degree, but it wasn’t until December 2014 that things started to come around.

It took time to find my style. I bought clothes, makeup, wigs. I built up a wardrobe, and for the first time ever, I didn’t purge a single thing. I came out to a friend in 2016, someone who accepted me, along with her mother. 2016 began the phase of accepting myself, and 2017 was the next phase,  of accepting that I could come out, that people could accept me. They have.

2017 has been my year, the year of Stefani. I have let myself be seen by so many. I started volunteering as Stefani, something that only lasted a couple of months, and something I wish I hadn’t let go of like I did. I made a few mistakes, as you can see, but I had something to give to the community. Something uniquely mine, and not my male alter ego’s.

I began my YouTube Channel, and though it doesn’t have many viewers, it helps me develop my thoughts as to who I am. I continue writing this blog, mostly as a personal journal as to my own journey, a way to look back and remember where I was, where I am, and where I want to be.

I’m looking forward to 2018 with renewed vigor. Where can I go from here? I have no plans to return into the shadows, or to remain a part time person. I would like to emerge more fully, though fully transitioning is still in question. Do I or don’t I? Some days I feel it so strongly that I must. Other days, I’m a little less certain.

This is what I do know. I am not an alter ego. I am not a character. I may refer to my male and female personas as two separate and individual people, but I have come to realize that I have integrated them into myself. I am both for both make up my singular personality. I may act a certain way depending on how I’m presenting myself, but I am essentially me.

If anything, that’s my biggest take away from 2017. I can’t wait to see what this upcoming year has in store.

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The Party

 

IMG_8rnoct.jpgMy store held our annual Christmas party this past Sunday, and though I really didn’t feel up to it, I went. Sunday was my day off, and I really didn’t want to leave the apartment and drive downtown to the Amarillo Civic Center. But I was hungry, and they were feeding us.

I had dressed up early in the day to go with a friend to see Murder on the Orient Express, a movie I highly recommend, and when I got back to my place, I was loath to go back to Joe mode. I relish the time I have to myself. To exist as my true self.

That’s when I began thinking about maybe just showing up as Stefani. The thought had been in my mind to show up at work, questions be damned, but I thought it inappropriate. That won’t happen until I begin to transition, should I decide that that’s what I should do.

Then the party came up. My day off is my day, the time I spend for me. I want to say I made up my mind to go as Stef, but the truth is I think I was resolved to go. I had no excuses not to.

So I changed into something a little more festive, made sure my makeup was still good. Then I put on my heels and made my way to the party. Only one coworker had any idea I was doing it.

I wasn’t too nervous about it. Most of my coworkers already knew by then, though they hadn’t seen me dressed up yet. I walked in and…

Nothing. Most people didn’t register that I had come in. Those few that did returned their attention to the fajitas on their plate, or the conversations they were having.

I ended up sitting with a couple of friends before getting up to get myself a plate. I was a little self-concious, but I had very little to be concerned about. Several waved excitedly at me, or said hi. Some said I looked pretty. One told me they admired the fact that I was brave enough to be myself, no irony in her voice, by the way.

I spent a lifetime afraid of this moment, and it came and went without any issues. Of course it’s a sign of our times. I don’t claim this as a personal victory. This was made possible by the thousands before me, those courageous souls who sacrificed so much, some even their lives, just so I could go to  party in peace.

So no, I don’t take this for granted. All I speak to is my personal journey, of loosening the reins to my my secret, of slowly coming into my own. I still have a ways to go, but for all the losses I have had, 2017 has been good for me. I can’t wait to see what 2018 has in store.

It’s work becoming me

So far this has been an illuminating experience. I have spent the whole of my vacation thus far in Stefani mode, embracing my inner self. It’s kind of exhausting. I know you cis-women are rolling your eyes at me, and I can’t blame you if you are, but damn this is tiring. Getting up, shaving, chosing what to wear, doing my make up, it’s exhausting. And I’m not doing anything special with my hair!

Part of me relishes the simplicity of being a guy. Get up, shower, throw on some clothes. Done and done. It’s not sexy, it’s not fun, but damn it’s easy. I look like a slob most of the time, especially at work, but who cares? Right? And when I do dress up, it’s still quick and painless. Slacks, a dress shirt, and done. The difference is quite stark.

Now, it would be easier if I wasn’t putting on makeup. It would save time. A lot of women aren’t into putting on makeup daily, or if they do, a little eyeliner, maybe some lipstick, and done. I can’t do that. It’s a full face all the time, to cover up this annoying 5 o’clock shadow. I’m considering waxing or some other semi-permanent hair removal. Then it would simplify it a little.

But there’s also the matter of dressing. I wear pantyhose all the time. I just do. At first, it was a sensual thing, I won’t deny that. I still love the feeling of hose on freshly shaved legs, but it’s hot, and itchy, and it’s a little uncomfortable. Also, I can’t not wear it. The reason I do is because – how do I say this? – it helps me hide my genetalia. It’s how I tuck everything back.

I will admit a few things while I’m at it. I sometimes doubt myself. Am I really trans? Do other transgender ever feel this way? Do I doubt because I’m unsure or because this is an arduous and painful process? What does it mean to have this doubt?

I know I can’t put the genie back in the bottle. Or maybe Pandora’s box is a better metaphor. I can’t but Stefani back in the closet. I’m unhappy without her. I’m unhappy with Joe. I’m somehow neither and both. Schrodinger’s gender? A bad joke perhaps, but somehow also true.

That’s the thing I’m discovering about myself. It’s not entirely black and white. I thought the whole gender spectrum was a bunch of bullshit. I’m discovering that it is truer than I could have imagined. I’m a little of both. A little bit country, a little bit rock n roll. Another bad joke. I apologize.

In the end it’ll come down to which side is more me. It’s going to take me a lot of time to figure this out. I have a spiritual advisor to help me out, and she gave me the name of a therapist who deals with LGBTQ issues and hosts a transgender support group.

I refer to my female self in the third person not because I consider her someone else, but to identify her, to give me an identity. Joe is who I am everyday. Joe is drab, and mundane. Stefani is an emergent butterfly, ready to take flight after her transformation.

I do want to make clear that Stefani is not a mask, a costume I wear when I’m bored. I wouldn’t bother trying to come out if this was just some cheap thrill. I wouldn’t risk friendships and possibly alienating my family on some fetish. I am Stefani. I’m also Joe. I’m both and neither, and sometimes it’s overwhelming and confusing.

And the act of maintaining two distinct and separate lives is exhausting. Yes, there’s be some integration of my two halves, but it’s not complete. In the end, I think I will have to let Stefani out more and relegate Joe to the shadows. I’m happier as Stef. I’m freer as Stef, even if being Stef is a little more maintenance. It’s a small price to pay to be happy.

But why does it have to be a lot of work?

Strides

20160612_213735This duality in my life is really exhausting. Like flat out, I’m weary to the very core of my being. My friend V says I should just come out. It’s easy for her to say, being openly bisexual, not that coming out would have been easy for her. I’m still stuck on self-preservation mode, though I’ve found myself setting up to be outed at any time.

The issue I have is that it’s not easy having the conversation with people. How do you do it? I don’t know how, and I’ve had that conversation a few times now. I’ve told several friends about my identity, that I’m not in fact the man they see, but a woman who struggles with the image she sees in front of her.

So my life is one of contrast and duality of spirit and body. As such, I feel that not entirely one or the other. On the contrary, I’ve felt that I’m neither, some oddity, a mistake made by a Creator who wasn’t paying attention when I was made. If God makes no mistakes, then he purposely made me like this, else there is no God. So which is it?

It’s difficult to exist in such a manner. People see me as a man for that’s the way I’ve chosen to present myself, accepting the role society place on me on the basis of my apparent sex and gender. Who I am is not what can be seen by the naked eye. It’s invisible, a matter of spirit rather than physical.

Even on those divine moments when I have a chance to dress as Stefani, what I see is in discord to what I feel. I see too much of the male peaking through the carefully made-up face I put on. I only feel somewhat feminine the moment I put on my wig. Until then, I’m just a weirdo wearing makeup and women’s clothes. If clothes make the man, does hair make the woman?

I feel as though I will come out fully sooner rather than later. It’s gnawing at me, the perpetual itch begging to be scratched. I want the world to know me as I am rather as they perceive me to be. One day, I’ll heed V’s advice and simply come out to the world, resplendent in my true identity. I wonder how much of my introversion is a result of living a lie. I wonder if living the truth instead with set me free, bringing me out of the prison that I’ve been cursed to live my life.

Until then, I’ll continue to make strides. I’m leaving for Dallas on Friday morning, and I’m almost entirely sure that Stef will make the drive. I plan to spend some time as myself while at my friend’s house. I even had my friend A tell her husband about Stefani. He’s still reeling from shock.

And now even more people from work have been let into my secret. Soon, the entire place will know. When that happens, will I tell my family? How will they react? Will the accept or reject me? They, more than anyone, are the reason I haven’t come out. I love my family, and the threat of losing them is more than I can bare. We’ll see, I suppose. Until then, small strides, one step, one day at a time.

Updating my blog

20160723_220725I’m starting to make a few changes here on my blog. I bought my domain name for starters. Now it’s simply StefaniLara.com. I think it has a nice ring to it. I also updated my tagline to The Girl Within from A girl in Disguise. I never liked the latter much, and I think the new tagline captures my current experience.

Here’s what’s going on. I feel this transformation is starting to take over. I’m compelled to come out. I’ve grown tired of all this secrecy. I know that I’m the one keeping the secret, and it’s one that’s not easy to discard. I’ve lived this lie for almost all of my forty years. I’ve grown accustomed to the mask I wear on a daily basis. Sometimes I’ve forgotten which mask I’m wearing, my true face, or that of my daily persona, Joe.

That’s right, kids! My name is Joe. Legally it’s Jose, but Let’s not quibble over technicalities. It’s a moniker that I wear daily, one that fits because I’ve worn it since the day I was born. Stefani came about when I first revealed this part of me to my then girlfriend, now my best friend, back in college. She asked me what my girl name was. I didn’t have an answer. I thought about it, and the name Stefani came to mind because there was a Tejano singer named Stefani Montiel. I have no idea where my adopted surname came in.

Were I to undergo a transition, I may keep my surname, which I’ll continue to keep secret for the time being, and use Lara as a middle name. It also feels right to me. It fits because I have had it for nearly twenty years.

This isn’t my first attempt at an online presence, either. Long ago, way before social media was really a thing, a website call GeoCities existed, where one could create webpages for free, so I did. I had to actually write the HTML code for the webpage, and I had a blast doing it. I also had to create all the images such as the title banner, which was the very original Stefani Lara. I’m nothing if not inventive.

Which brings me to today. I’m sitting here, in my drab wear, wishing I could dress up and be free. My spending on clothes has gotten out of control. I bought a pair of boots on Saturday when I should have been buying Joe some shoes. I then spent nearly $50 on panties alone! It’s not like I really need them. I dress up maybe once a week, if I’m lucky.

And that leads me to this conclusion. I’m wanting to out myself. I’m slowly telling people, and I’m setting myself up to be discovered by others. I want to open that dialogue, but it’s not easy. I want to be true to myself, but Joe is a very real person to them. While those I have told have been great about it, a time will come when someone will reject me, and that’s okay.

The truth is not easy. I have spent years, decades, trying to deny it of myself. Acceptance of ones self is the hardest acceptance to earn. I struggled and fought against it for years, though I knew in my heart who and what I was. Only recently have I begun to work out that who I am is not the man in the mirror I wake up to every morning. It’s the woman I transform into when I have a chance.

I no longer consider myself a crossdresser. When I have the conversation, I tell them that I identify as transgender. I’m a woman pretending to be a man, not vice versa. I know the arguments of gender and biology, that biologically I was born a man, but in my mind I’m not. In heart I’m not. In my soul I’m not. I’m not in unity with myself, and that’s a hard thing to deal with for so long. I lost a lot of years being depressed, though not clinically, because I wouldn’t deal with the truth.

So I’m making changes with my online presence. It’s not much, but changes sometimes comes slowly, building until there’s a build up and then a sudden release. I know I’m building up to something. I pray that it’s a good thing, scared that it may be a bad experience, but ever hopeful that I will come out stronger and happier than I have ever been.

Accepting myself

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Being silly – being me! Stefani Lara 2015

I’m surprised at myself for having the courage(?) to actually post pictures of myself, namely my face, for all to see. I’ve hidden myself behind closed doors for years, even going so far as to deny myself the simple act of personal acceptance. I tried to pretend I wasn’t a crossdresser, even though I knew in my heart that was who I truly was. I’m accepting it now, in this very public forum. I’m a boy who loves to wear girls clothes! Sometime I feel as though I’m truly a girl at heart.

There’s still some confusion for me. The Christian Right would love to hear me say that. “He’s just confused!” I know what I am. I know who I am. Sometimes I lack the ability to define exactly that because I’ve repressed my true self for too long. I’ve lied about it for so long that the lie became a mask, one that I had forgotten I wore. The mask has slipped enough that I can question the person peering back at me in the mirror.

“Who are you?”

“What are you?”

“Are you real?

“Am I?”

I have eschewed definitions for so long, labels being a construct of a society bent on establishing societal norms. But I have come to realized that norms are not inherently evil. There are niceties to preserve, common decency to uphold. What’s missing is respect. We have become too partisan, attacking those who don’t agree with us. We’ve lost the ability to respect one another, even when we don’t agree. Especially when we don’t agree.

The time has come to define myself, though who I choose to define myself will remain fluid for some time. I’m a crossdresser. That’s simple enough. I’m straight. I’m attracted to women, though I do have flirtations with curiosity about my sexuality. I can’t help but wonder what it would be like to go out with a man. I’m not ready to say yes to that. I may never be.

I’m divorced, my ex-wife unable to accept this part of me. I will never accept as a condition of a relationship, a denial of this part of me, one that I’ve come to realize is essential to my happiness, and indeed, my survival. I would rather remain alone that accept a conditional love. No thank you. Not again.

This is me accepting myself and showing my face to the world. Yes, I remain in my ways closeted to those in my life, especially my family. I’m terrified of having them find out my secret. I terrified that I would be disowned, ostracized for the sin of honest about who I am. I envy you who have had the courage to present themselves fully to their parents, family, and friends. One day I may join you, but I’m not ready. For now, this simple corner of the web will suffice. Soon, I’ll start to go out in public. I feel the urge to walk freely. I did so once, ages ago, and I will again.

For now, I’m content to experiment with my look. I can’t wait to buy another outfit and take another round of pictures to post. I’m grateful to have a friend who knows how to shop, and who has helped me find my size. I’m pleased with my progress, I look forward for the future.

This is me, and I’m starting to love me again.