If You Are A New Reader…

…I want to invite you to look back thru the months to dip into prior posts.  There is a plethora of plenty there!  Poetry, posts about a wide range of the issues faced in life that are poignantly illustrated by gender orientation, theological musings and spiritual experiences recounted.

You can discover who “Constance” is…and you are invited to join her if you wish.

You can definitely see growth and development in me, as I live and breathe in transition from a not-out but self-aware very dysphoric transgender woman who is perceived as a white male of power, position, and privilege to a more congruent and out transgender woman who is now regularly othered, policed, and yes occasionally even perceived as who I actually am and received in joy.

You will see the journey of nearly every transgender person who endures the loss of so many things, so many people, in the desperate quest to gain themselves.  You will witness how this quest is defined by the defenders of the paradigm as selfish and self-centered…when it is far more about finding a fort of safety from suicidal ideation and death.

But above all…hopefully…you will find a person who is making the transition that every single human being must find a way to make:  that transition from death to life…from works to grace…from self-centered ego-oriented pursuits to other-oriented sacrificial service.

And maybe, just maybe?  That life motto of mine can at the end of it all be found true:

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Do Justice.  Love Mercy.  Walk Humbly.
Much Love, 
Charissa Grace

PS:  The best way to investigate the archives of Grace Notes is to use the calendar at the bottom of the blog page…or utilize the search function in the right hand margin.

Terminology and the problem of unintended offense (Part Two)

Hi!  🙂  Still with me?  GOOD!  Let’s move on now to a very sensitive and very important understanding you need to have if you are a trans-ally and/or friend:  the misunderstanding that a transgender person is “changing genders” or “changing sexes”.  You simply have to get this right, because the proper understanding of this is what will give you the heart connection with the plight of transgender people, and begin to expose the presupposition that biology is the locus and genesis of gender.  If you need some information about why that is not so, it is readily available on line.

When you as an ally say to your other friend “I have this friend Charissa that I really love…she is changing sexes from male to female”, you think you are saying something affirming and supportive, right?  And I get that.  I do!  You want to help explain what is occurring in my life, you want to show an identification with my quest, and you want to support me.

But here is the problem:  from my standpoint I am not changing from male to female…because from the time I became aware in the world, I have never ever thought of myself as male!  And that is the core of the horror itself!

When you as my friend tell someone “My friend Charissa was sooo brave today.  He had the courage to be himself and paint his nails and wear his female clothes”, you think you are speaking of my courage and my grit…but you are actually wounding me very deeply by not really really grasping that your friend Charissa is not a he…and has never been a he…in spite of how I look.

I look the way I do because at puberty my body was flooded with testosterone…and if you are a natal female, the exact same thing would have happened to you!  Think about that for a moment:  imagine all your hopes and dreams as a young girl growing up, excited for the moment you began to blossom…and then instead you sprout, and sprout, and poke out, and other things worse…

Please…I am not trying to be a jerk!  I am not trying to be that shrill on-guard defensive lashing out at everything anyone says sort of person.  I am trying to let you know that if you really do care for your trans-friend or family member, your words will be life or death to them, regardless of the intent behind them.

I posted to the really good article on Gender Confirmation surgery in Part One…I want to say a little about my own feelings on this topic: it hurts me when people say to me I am changing sexes…even when they mean well.  It hurts when I am afraid to correct them because it might hurt their feelings.  It hurts me to not correct them because they will continue to speak the way they do in complete innocence but sadly rooted in total ignorance and will thus continue to wound not only me but any transperson they run across.  And it hurts the worst when they finally figure it out, and they are then horrified and wounded that I never said anything.

That is my dilemma…I feel like every option is a bad one for me, except for maybe the possibility of writing about it here in one of my interminable mewling whining posts that drones on and on…

I am pressing on:  it has been called “Sexual Reassignment Surgery”, and “Gender Reassignment Surgery”…but as you hopefully can see now, to me as a transgender woman that would be an inaccurate name, because I am not changing sex, or changing gender.

I have never identified as anything other than a woman.

So that was me…long winded and trying to be as gentle and kind as I possibly can, bleeding and feeling like it is an unwinnable battle…trying to educate on trans issues

Constance…I really am trying to help you…really, even though it seems like I am trying to school you or correct you, I am not.  And frankly, right now I just want to run away and never come back and let the world just roll on.

But I have pressed thru too many times of discouragement to not know that tomorrow is another day, and joy will always find a way.

So in the meantime:  your transfriend is who they say they are.  They want to be loved by you if you say you love them, and they want to be talked to the way you would talk to anyone.  If they are female, then they are not getting a sex change male to female…they are undergoing the medical treatments their body needs to live a fulfilled life (just as you would if you were natally female but you had a hormone disorder and didn’t make estrogen naturally, or you made too much testosterone)…

I am Charissa Grace…I am confused, discouraged, hard pressed…and I am determined to not go away and let the pain that has already been spent to all be wasted.

Sowing in tears, hoping to reap in joy, and seeing more clearly than ever that my name is my only hope

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Thanking Laverne Cox

I have been thinking about her recently…and I just want to say here that she is really walking an amazing example so far of being a visible and vulnerable woman in the public eye.

She is inspiring to me as a transgender person and someone I am somewhat looking up to…

…and I want to say thank you to her.  For being calm, collected, articulate and passionate.  For never giving in to hatred and striking back, but always affirming acceptance and kindness.

May Lady Grace bless you for the sacrifices this must entail.

Much respect, Laverne…love,

Charissa

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Mirror Image: A PLEA to Cis-Gender People!

I have been thinking of the extreme reaction that most people have who are uninformed or have never ever given any thought to the construct of gender when they come into contact with a transgender person.  Unfortunately, especially with cismen, this reaction is nearly always violent and abusive emotionally, and very often that violence takes on physical expression as well, and another transwoman joins the broken and crushed ranks of the statistics.

My thoughts are running along the question:  WHY????

Why the violent reaction?  At times ciswomen react that way as well, but usually it is men.  Now, obviously this reaction is not okay in that it results in a lot of hurt in every way.  But to stop there, with the understanding that it isn’t ok is to miss a larger and more salient observation.  It is this…I think that transphobia and dysphoria are mirror images!!

Think about it:  most of the time the horror of cis-gendered males, even fear and loathing…the immediate and totally male reaction of taking physical steps that involve muscle and doing to change something…the attempt to eradicate the “wrong” person and condition…the attempt to “otherize” the trans-person, all in hopes that “normalization” can be reestablished and the status quo restored…

…all of these things mirror the feelings that assail one who suffers from gender dysphoria…the horror of being in the wrong body…the attempt to change that wrongness…the anger and fear of being trapped in the wrong body which is turned inward and becomes depression and suicidal desire.  Tragically, we transgender people have “murdered” as many of us as cis-gender people have, in that we commit suicide at a horrendous rate.

So…please, when you encounter a trans-gender person, and you reflexively go to the far corner of the binary, and if you find strong feelings within yourself about the interaction, stop!  Think!  And try on this idea…

The very same sort of horror you may be feeling is what we have lived with since the day we became conscious!  Except you can go somewhere else and forget about it, but us?  No matter where we go, there we are.

Let me propose a better way…let us all lay down our horror, our revulsion, and let us acknowledge that the binary is simply inadequate and artificial and needs to be trans-cended…let us lift up our hearts and open our spirits to a better way, and assist us all in truly becoming who we are created to be, intended to be.  And let us realize that the miracles of modern medicine and technology can literally work wonders for humans of all gender!

Amen.

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5 things you can do to support a transgender human being…

This is a repost from another blog…find it at

http://conversations-with-a-gender-therapist.com/

I was touched, imagining a world where someone would do these things.

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5 Things You Can Do to Promote Transgender Awareness

Before we get too far into this post I want to make it clear that I am directing this towards those readers out there who are cisgender. Meaning you do not consider yourself to be nor identity yourself as transgender. The reason being is that those who are transgender are living examples of Transgender Awareness. (However, to my trans readers out there, please feel free to forward this on to the cisgender persons in your life!)

Fair, respectful, and compassionate treatment of the transgender population is not going to happen in our country until more cisgender people step up to help educate others on what it means for someone to be transgender, what challenges they experience, and in what ways we can be of support to them. Whether it’s education given to one person at a time or given to the masses, it all makes a difference.

The inspiration for writing this post is November being Transgender Awareness Month. But, just as with any other “awareness” month, week, or day it is moreso a launching pad for getting people’s attention about something they don’t normally spend time thinking about. Promoting transgender awareness is something that needs to happen every day, not just in November.

Here are five things you can do to promote transgender awareness. Go ahead, give even one of these a try. Being a part of making positive change for an oppressed population in our country is deeply gratifying, and will be remembered for years to come.

1. Find Ways to Explain to Others What It’s Like to be Transgender

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There are a lot of different ways people try to explain to others what it means to be transgender. I’d love to gather all of those ideas at some point and publish them because you never know what particular example will finally get someone to say, “Oh, wow, I finally get it!”

I went to a workshop earlier this year given by Kaiser Permanente, and in attendance were mental health and medical professionals who begin working more often with transgender patients, now that Kaiser will be offering coverage for transgender health care in Colorado. They conducted an exercise where they had everyone write on a sticker a name that was the opposite gender of the one they identify as. We were then told to walk around the room with this sticker on and call each other by that name, as well as referring to each other by “he” or “she,” depending on what the name was, and treating them like that gender.

I was struck by how many people shared afterwards that this was an incredibly difficult exercise for them to do. That by being able to actually feel what it was like to be misgendered and seen as someone they were not, they were able to empathize with someone who is transgender.

I had an FtM client who told me he explains it to people this way: “Imagine you were told you had to wear a Nazi uniform everywhere you went, and you could never take it off.”

One more example for you… Some people have no idea that being transgender is a disconnect between the brain’s sense of gender and the anatomy they were born with, and instead think it’s a choice, a “whim,” or a preference. Lately I’ve been using the approach of, “Being transgender (to the extent that one needs to transition to the gender they were not assigned at birth) means they suffer from Gender Dysphoria. This is a medical condition, a birth defect, that causes severe mental and emotional distress. The condition is treated through both medical and social means.”

Let me know if you have any other ideas as to how to increase a person’s understanding and compassion for the transgender person’s point of view!

2. Post Information on Your Facebook Page for Your Entire Social Network to See.

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You may think that folks in your social network won’t pay attention to what you put out there, when it comes to transgender awareness. But I’m here to tell you from experience you will be surprised by just how many people it will reach and affect. Over the past year I have posted transgender-related information on at least a weekly basis on my Facebook wall and, in turn, receive both public and private messages from people letting me know how the information has impacted them.

Some have said they have a trans relative or friend and had no idea how much they didn’t know about being transgender until they read my posts. Others have said it made them examine the gender binary system our society functions under. I’ve even had a few people question me suspiciously on what I was posting and, through an open dialogue, they were able to gain new insight they hadn’t had before.

So, where can you get articles, images, blog posts, etc. to post on your page? For starters, go to the following Facebook pages and “like” them, so their updates will appear in your News Feed. You can then “share” the posts that you want your social network to see:

Conversations with a Gender Therapist (of course!)
Matt Kailey’s Tranifesto
Transadvocate
Transition Transmission
TGForum

You’ll come across more as you begin to pay attention to where the information is coming from. You can do the same with your Twitter account, Tumblr, Linked In, Google+, Pinterest… The possibilities are nearly endless nowadays!

3. Speak Up.

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This is important to do whether someone says something innocently incorrect about someone transgender or if someone is obviously being a bully.

Your approach can be, at first, similar in both circumstances, because it can be hard to initially tell which category they fall into. A polite but confident interjection, such as “Uh, actually Carly doesn’t identify as a male anymore, she’s a female.”

If the person genuinely listens and corrects themselves then go ahead and move on, so as to reduce any embarrassment or awkwardness they could be experiencing. If it’s the parent, spouse or other family member of someone who is trans and they express that they are struggling with using the correct pronouns, that’s one thing.

However, if they continue to speak in such a way that indicates they are doing it on purpose to be mean, then you have some choices to make.

It can be scary to stand up to a bully, so finding your own unique way of doing so is important. If you are comfortable with confrontation, then by all means go forth and do so. Maybe you are more inclined to use reason and logic. Or maybe simply saying, “Just so you know, you’re being a bully,” and walking away is your style. But please, do something.

I have a trans female colleague who, in her graduate level college class, was continually called “he” by the teacher, even after she explained to him how much it hurts her when he does that. Not a single student in the class stood up for her.

Bullying doesn’t just happen in our kids’ schools. Grownups are just as guilty of it as well.

4. Take the Extra Step for Your Transgender Family Members, Friends, and Colleagues

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I know, a lot of you will say you don’t know someone who is openly transgender. Trust me, some day you will.

For those of you who already know someone transgender, I found this bit of advice from blogger Samantha Allen that I just had to quote directly from her post 7 Ways to be a Trans Ally:

“Use Your Amazing Cisgender Powers for Good.”

She goes on to say,

While I work on my female voice, you can manage difficult customer service interactions for me. You can prepare a server to use appropriate pronouns by saying, ‘I’ll have a beer and she’ll have a…’ See how that works? Clever, right?

Take me to the bathroom with you. Please. It’s scary alone. Shield me from stares. Yell at people who are rude and correct people who use the wrong words. Realize that you’re like a god to me and use your powers for good.

If you’re not sure how you can help, go ahead and ask. Every transgender person is a unique individual. Some of them may thank you for the offer but say they can handle it themselves. Others will want your help reminding co-workers of their proper pronoun. Others will appreciate you sticking by them during their transition while others make their way out of their life.

Really, it would take only a few moments of your time, but in the end it can make a world of difference to someone who is transgender.

5. Show Your Support at a Transgender Day of Remembrance Event

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Transgender Day of Remembrance
(TDOR), which originated in 1998, is an annual observance on November 20th that honors the memory of those whose lives were lost in acts of anti-transgender violence. You can find where your nearest TDOR event is by going to www.transgenderdor.org.

Not only is this a way to show your support of the transgender community, but also an opportunity to expand your understanding of the experience. It may be difficult to sit through the reading of the names of all of the people who died this year due to anti-transgender violence, but becoming emotional about of the realities of what this population faces may be just what you need.

Homework Assignment

All of the above.