Welcome Back to Work, Tiff

I knew returning to my former full time job would be an adjustment.  For as crazy as the spring semester had been, at least I knew when I was off the clock that I wasn’t going to be bothered.  See, for 17 years prior to internship, I had to be on call for my various jobs.  That meant being available almost 24/7 and having to report to work during all of the events everyone else was able to stay home for.  That’s right.  This past January, I got to enjoy my first snow day since high school.  That was going to be a huge adjustment for me after four months of not having worry about those calls and pages.  Little did I know that I would be in for an even bigger surprise.

Before I even made it back to the office two weeks ago, my boss had some news for me.  She had been offered another job.  Another job in another state.  She was 99% sure she would be accepting the position as there just isn’t much room for her to grow where we work now.  This job would allow her to continue doing the same work she is doing now, except that she would be doing it for 12 hospitals.  Its an amazing opportunity for her and I am so excited for her to be able to grow beyond what this facility can offer her.

The news also came with a great deal of sadness.  See, my boss is one of my best friends too. She is an amazing woman and leader.  What she has achieved professionally is astounding and she is a great example of what a woman, friend and leader should be.  The three years I have worked for her have been the most incredibly and educational three years of my entire professional career.  There were days I worked myself into the ground under her leadership and it was because I knew she would support me, personally and professionally, and that she was right there in the trenches beside me.

Fruits of Her LaborAlong with the professional reasons, she truly is one of my best friends.  My boss was one of the first five people I disclosed to that I identify as female.  She has supported me completely since I told her.  She has ensured I felt safe and respected in the workplace and she has supported me during every struggle I have encountered on this journey.  She has let me cry on her shoulder as members of my family rejected me and she has celebrated ever success with me.  I know she and I will remain friends and keep in contact, but to know she will be moving halfway across the country is hard.  Scary thing though…there was even more shocking news to come in this conversation.

My boss then informed me she was recommending I be named the Interim Director to replace her and, if I was willing to wait a couple of years between graduation and residency, she planned to recommend I be named the permanent Director.  I was in total shock when she shared this with me. I know I do very well at my job and have really expanded my position far beyond what it was intended to be.  I know I manage my team well.  But to have my name but in for the Interim Director position and to be strongly considered to replace her, even if only for a year or two.  I am just…honored and flabbergasted at the same time.

The irony of this possibility… I have never wanted to be a Director.

Looking at it professionally, it is a tremendous opportunity for me.  To be able to add to my resume that I was a Director, regardless of the amount of time I spend in the role, will give me so much more bargaining power for salary and positions following my counseling residency.  It will also place me in a position where, if I ever choose to go back into administration, to have that experience under my belt.

My boss has already spoken with our VP and Associate VP about me being promoted.  They all agree that I am the best person to become Director, short of searching externally.  So unless my boss has that 1% of doubt kick in over the next week or so…the job transition should be happening soon.

One of the other things that makes this opportunity so much more meaningful…

While my boss and Associate VP both know I am transitioning, our VP does not.  Despite that fact, all three agree on one thing.  They all agree that starting a little more than a year and a half ago, I raised my performance at work from better than average to excellent.  My boss and Associate VP both stated this major improvement in my work performance coincides with my disclosing to my boss that I was transitioning.  My being able to perform this well at my job is a direct result of me finally accepting myself, living my life authentically and beginning my journey to live my life as the woman I am.

It just goes to show how self acceptance impacts every single area of our lives…

❤ Tiff

Sponsored Post Learn from the experts: Create a successful blog with our brand new courseThe WordPress.com Blog

Are you new to blogging, and do you want step-by-step guidance on how to publish and grow your blog? Learn more about our new Blogging for Beginners course and get 50% off through December 10th.

WordPress.com is excited to announce our newest offering: a course just for beginning bloggers where you’ll learn everything you need to know about blogging from the most trusted experts in the industry. We have helped millions of blogs get up and running, we know what works, and we want you to to know everything we know. This course provides all the fundamental skills and inspiration you need to get your blog started, an interactive community forum, and content updated annually.

Memorial Day Thoughts

Let me begin with saying thank you to every man and woman who has served our country and given their life in defense of our nation.  Each of you is a unique and cherished individual and there is nothing I can do to properly express my gratitude for your sacrifice.

Next, I want to extend my thoughts and prayers to the families and loved ones of those who gave their lives.  It can often feel as though your loved one’s death has been forgotten.  I can assure you, they have not been forgotten.  They remain in my thoughts, as do you.  I can promise you they will never be forgotten…at least not by me.  See…I am part of that unique group of individuals.  My family has shared in your pain.

Military death is a unique beast and I learned that the hard way when my brother died in combat.  While I had witnessed my brother serve as the Casualty Affairs Officer to one of his brothers in arms, I never understood the impact of military death until it happened to us.  It was so hard to heal.  The nature of military life and the constant reminders of your loved one’s death make it incredibly hard to move forward and heal.

In my brother’s case, we not only had the fact it was a combat death.  Because of this and the close knit environment back home and with his schools, there were multiple memorial services, dedications and other events that served as constant reminders of his loss.  When you throw in the fact that my brother was a father figure to me, that only compounded the grief I felt in his loss.  All of the hopes and dreams of family events, his being a part of my future life and witnessing him as his own family grew were shattered forever.  I was only 29 at the time of his death and the best parts of my life had yet to happen.

He never got to see me graduate college or begin working on my masters degree.  He never got to see me buy my first house.  He never got to celebrate some significant promotions at work.  He never got to know me as his sister…

As I began my journey to transition, I often wondered how my brother would have handled the news that I was becoming a woman.  Our family had confronted homosexuality when one of our cousins disclosed about five years prior to my brother’s death.  He accepted our cousin pretty easily but transitioning is a different beast.

My sister and I had a long discussion about this when I visited her last summer.  She summed it up best when she reminded me that our brother was extremely loyal to those he cared about.  She reminded me of the friends and family he would support when no one else would as they suffered through mental illness and substance abuse issues.  She reminded me of how he was one of my greatest defenders when others would criticize me for not graduating college on time.  And then she summed it all up with this statement, “Yes, he probably would have struggled.  But remember how loyal he was.  You were his family and brother.  It would have taken him time but I believe, with all my heart, he would have loved and accepted you as his sister…and defended you more than anyone else.”

I do wish he could have seen me with the peace I have now.  For most of our lives, he saw me struggling with my own depression and anxiety as I was hampered by my Gender Dysphoria.  I do believe what my sister said…and there are times it makes me miss him more.  Maybe its crazy and unwarranted but I do wish, especially on days like Memorial Day, that I could hear him say he was proud of me.  That he was proud of me for finishing college.  That he was proud of me for tackling my masters degree.  That he was proud of me for how I was living my life.

And that he was proud to have me as his sister…

The picture associated with this post certainly represents the pain our family experienced when we received word of his death and in the first few years afterwards.  There are times that pain still comes through and honestly, I am not trying to push that pain away as it is a reminder of how I will always love and miss him.

As I move forward with transitioning though, my thoughts also turn to a particular song.  It wasn’t long after my brother’s death that Tim McGraw released his hit song, Live Like You Were Dying.  Over the years, this song has symbolized so much of how my brother lived his life.  It took me time, but I finally learned better to live that way in my life.  My brother’s example, his love and the fact he did his best to not take life for granted actually helped push me to finally accept who I was and begin my transition.

He never got see me find my peace on this earth, but I do know he is looking over me and always lives within me…  He is a big part of who I am and always will be…  He is my big brother and I will always be his little sister…

To all of those families struggling today, I share your grief and pain.  Know you are not alone.  Know too that your loved one is always with you because they helped shape who you are.  My thoughts and prayers are with you.

And to my brother…I love you and miss you every day.  Thank you for always protecting and supporting me.  Thank you for teaching me to live like I am dying… ❤

And The Recipient Is…

Memorial Day is always a little difficult for me.  See, my family has a long history of military service.  Aside from Korea, we have had family members actively serve in every major conflict the US has been involved in since the French & Indian War.  We are very proud of this fact and we do all we can to support our military and their families.  We know personally what those families endure and want them to know how much they are supported.

Seals_of_the_United_States_Armed_ForcesThat support extends to active duty deaths.

As crazy as this may sound, my family managed to get through every one of those previous conflicts our country was involved in without having a family member die.  I still, to this day, don’t know how our family managed to pull that off, but we did.  Sure, there were long deployments.  My grandfather was overseas for 2 years straight during World War II.  But everyone ALWAYS came home to live their lives.

That was until Operation Iraqi Freedom…

We lost my brother during OIF.  We had to deal with Casualty Affairs, we had to listen to TAPS, we received the folded flag.  It was gut wrenching and left our family in pieces for years.  Thankfully, we recovered, though it wasn’t easy.  One wonderful thing that came out of his death though was what the high school he and I attended did for him.

My brother, sister and I were all fortunate enough to attend some very good boarding schools.  We did not have a lot of money, but all three of us earned academic scholarships to these schools.  As I said, we were VERY fortunate and I am grateful we were able to attend these schools.  My sister attended an all girls school and my brother and I attended the same all boys school.  Attending an all male school really wasn’t difficult for me at that time.  Not that I wasn’t struggling with my gender identity, but I was so desperate to get out of my hometown and the miserable education there that I jumped at the opportunity to attend this school.  I will say, I received an excellent education and have an enormous amount of respect for this school.

After my brother died, his classmates and the school came together to honor and remember him.  The graduating seniors changed their senior gift from a brick grill at the pool to a plaque honoring my brother in the school’s chapel.  The school sent representatives to my brother’s funeral and every event and memorial that followed.  Last but not least, my brother’s classmates began a fund drive to ensure my brother and his name were a permanent fixture at our school.

In 15 years, his classmates have raised over $600,000 dollars.  With that, they achieved every single goal they set at the start of their compaign.  These goals include:

  1. My brother’s portrait, along with his bio, now hangs in the hall dedicated to all alumni who died as a result of combat operations.
  2. An award was established that is given every graduation weekend to the senior(s) who are attending a military service academy, enlisting in ROTC or enlisting immediately into the armed forces.
  3. Create a scholarship that provides full tuition to one student per year whose parent is active duty or honorably discharged from the military.

AwardIt became even more special when the school reached out to me and asked that I present the award every year.  Graduation is always Memorial Day weekend.  The last award given is the award in my brother’s name.  The awards ceremony is the Friday of Memorial Day weekend.  This year with be the 13th year I have presented this award.  This year will be the first year I have presented to multiple recipients.  They have 4 graduating seniors who will joining the ROTC programs at their colleges.

This year will also be very bittersweet for me.

This year very well may be the last year I am able to present this award.

Spring Rural VirginiaAs I said, my high school was all male.  While they have become more socially liberal at this school in the past five years and I do believe the current headmaster is very big on social diversity and inclusion, there will still be challenges with me transitioning.  I have a meeting planned with the headmaster over the summer.  However, still being able to present this award will go beyond just the headmaster.  The Board of Trustees will also need to be included in the decision.  But an all male boarding school in the rural south…there may be challenges.  The Board of Trustees may so I am no longer welcome to present the award.

 

Sadly, this is one of the realities of transiitoning.  In order to become who you are and who you need to be seen as, you may have to give up aspects of your life that are extremely important to you.  This is sometimes the price we must pay and it brings its own grieving process.

For now though, I am going to be both excited and somber about tonight.  I will be somber due to the reminder of the loss of my brother.  I will also remain excited to meet these four young men who have made the choice to defend our country and all those they love.  I will be proud to give this award to four men who are writing blank checks to our country that include all they are and have, including their own lives.

I will also feel honored that my brother’s name will continue to live on in such a special way.

 

This Ship Has Finally Set Sail…

This week has been a hell of a week.  When I woke up Monday morning, I was expecting just a difficult Monday, if not very challenging week, due to a few things that happened on Sunday.  I was also starting back in my old full time job after internship, so I knew it was going to be a busy week there.  I was prepared for a “bumpy ride” until the start of the holiday weekend.  I don’t think there was any way I could have prepared for what actually happened.

DisappointmentFirst thing Monday morning, I had my appointment with my endocrinologist.  As you all know, we have not been able to get my estrogen levels to that 100-150 measurement that is needed to truly start the major physical changes.  Oral estrogen didn’t do a thing.  Transdermal estrogen patches yielded even worse results.  There were days where I literally was questioning if my body was rejecting the estrogen and what would that mean for me long term.  I had cried to friends on more nights than I could count questioning if I was going to be stuck with this body forever.  I was extremely discouraged even though I had begun estrogen injections the previous week.

I arrived for my appointment and there wasn’t much of a physical exam from the doctor.  Actually…there was no physical exam.  He and I talked about what changes I had noticed since my last appointment, the struggles I was having with my estrogen levels and we discussed the plan with injections.  I had originally been told I would have to wait until Wednesday to have my labs drawn to check my estrogen levels but he decided the six days since my first injection was enough time between to check my labs and get an accurate reading.  He gave me the lab slip and told me the physical exam would happen at the next appointment.

I went down to the lab and my favorite phlebotomist was working.  She and I always have a good laugh when I am there.  She has made me feel incredibly comfortable since my first day when I had my baseline blood work drawn.  She drew my labs as we caught up.  When she was done, she went to put a wrap over the draw site since the band aids never stick to my arm.  We have a running joke when I am there.  Since I had to start wearing a bra, we always make sure the wrap will match my bra.  We laughed as we picked the a color to go with what I was wearing that day and then off I went to my first day back at my full time job.

As I left, I tried to remain hopeful that my numbers would improve.  I wasn’t incredibly optimistic though due to the ongoing struggles to raise my estrogen.  I just decided to focus on work and try to put the blood work out of my mind.

About 1pm, my curiosity got the better of me.  I had to check my results and see where my estrogen was.  I logged into the patient portal and I was stunned.  I am sure you could have heard my jaw hit the floor when I saw the results. I literally was struggling to breath…  I was struggling not to cry at my desk…  I looked again to make sure what I had seen was correct.img_0164

147… My estrogen was 147…  FINALLY!!!

The flurry of messages began to my friends and family who have been so supportive through the struggles of the past six months.  The encouragement I received back from all of you was amazing.  I continued to fight back tears because after six months of no progress…my estrogen was where it needed to be.  I was speechless, only able to share the results with my friends and family and not really express much more.  I could barely put a sentence together.

When I was finally able to compose myself enough to put coherent thoughts together in a sentence, I emailed my doctor.  For six months, I had been anticipating a change in estrogen dosing or administration route.  For six months, I anticipated improvement only to feel crushed when my levels barely changed.  I had found myself expecting poor results lately instead of expecting positive change.  While I hid this from most of my friends, I had started to expect that I would be forced to continue living as I have for my entire life thus far.  Finally, the news was positive and I admit, I did not know how to process it.

When I finally could, I composed my email to my doctor.  Apparently he and my nurse laughed for a good five minutes over how I began the message…

“The ship has finally set sail.  What’s my next port of call?”

Finally, the voyage has truly begun…

 

1, 2, 3…Stick…

I have shared in the past about some very disheartening estrogen lab results.  Well, as it turns out…things have not improved…

I had my latest labs drawn almost two weeks ago and the lab results were pretty disheartening.  My estrogen came back at 54…well below our target of 100-150.  The worst part of seeing the results, aside from the obvious low estrogen level, was that my labs were drawn on a Friday and by the time my results came back, my doctor had left the office for the weekend.  That meant waiting until Monday to talk with him about the next step.  Talk about an anxiety provoking weekend!

Fortunately, the ball got rolling pretty quickly that Monday.  By 8:15am that Monday, my doctor contacted me to let me know we weren’t going to mess with the patches anymore.  He was moving me straight to injections.  He said he had consulted with some of his peers and while none of them could make sense of why I was not absorbing the estrogen through patches and pills, they all agreed it was a waste of time and money to even consider having me wear a third patch.  Thank goodness!  Keeping those damn things attached to my body was becoming a bigger challenge than I think my doctor realized.

The other piece of good news…my insurance didn’t flinch at approving payment for my injections.  It instantly went through.  No prior authorization needed.  No appeals process like with the patches.  It went right through.  Yet, as always seems to be the case for me on this journey, it wasn’t quite that smooth after that point.

delestrogen-estrogen-estradiol-valerate-20-mg-ml-intramuscular-injection-vial-5-ml-jhp-42023011101-23I got a call from my pharmacy that day telling me they were having to special order my injections.  Apparently, there is a nationwide shortage on injectable estrogen and there has been a shortage since this past September.  Really???  A shortage on that?  Ok.  I realized there was nothing I could do about that.  So it was recommended I call around to other area pharmacies and see if anyone had it in stock.  Forty calls later, no one had it in stock and no one could guarantee me a delivery date.

My endocrinologist recommended I call a mail order women’s fertility pharmacy in another state.  I called them and it turned out they had the estrogen injections in stock…always keep plenty in stock…and they were just as nice as could be.  I called my doctor back and told him I just wanted to go with this pharmacy.  Automatic refills.  Overnight delivery to my door.  Never had to worry about running out so long as my doctor submitted my prescription.  They will deliver my needles and syringes too.  They also include a sharps container, alcohol preps and gauze pads at no extra cost.  A slightly higher copay than the pharmacy I typically use, but when you factor in the extras included in each shipment and not having to wait for special orders with the pharmacies, it was a win win for me.

One final hiccup…they only ship deliveries out on Mondays, and here it was a Tuesday.  I could only laugh at this point.  I thought about the fact I was getting ready to remove my final transdermal patch and was getting nervous about not having any estrogen at all entering my body.  It hit me though, it wasn’t like the patches were doing much…so a week without the estrogen would be fine.  No big deal.

90ff3-estrogenIts been almost a week without any estrogen delivery and it has been interesting.  With my estrogen being so low, despite my T-blocker, I know my estrogen levels decreased a bit and my testosterone increased some.  I can feel it.  Sure, some of the feeling is psychological.  But there are things that have occurred in the past week that have nothing to do with the mind and show how my body has been tip toeing on this fine line of estrogen impacting enough and not impacting me at all.  I just kept telling myself how many days I had until the injections arrived.

So, there are going to be several positives with the injections over both the pills and patches.  They are…

  1. Because the estrogen is injected directly into the body, it doesn’t need to be processed through the liver, therefore reducing the risks of blood clots.
  2. I will only have to give myself injections once every two weeks versus pills multiple times per day or switching patches out every week.
  3. I see the injections as far less intrusive on my life style.
  4. Injections are far easier to fine tune the dose as compared to pills and patches.
  5. I won’t have to fight to keep those patches attached to my body. Whew!!!
  6. I will only have to wait eight days between a change in dosage and my next lab draws versus waiting a month, so adjustments can be made much quicker and get this process moving!

Injections will arrive today by 3:00pm my time.  You know that first injection will be administered as soon as possible.  Next Wednesday…my next round of blood work.  I am keeping my hopes up that this will bring a major change in my levels! I am also praying my thighs don’t get too pissed off with me for the needle stick! ❤

Case Study 3: Samantha

Ok…I apologize for not getting my third “case study” posted yet.  I got a little sidetracked between internship wrapping up and everything else.  So I am going to take this time to discuss Samantha.

Now Samantha is someone I know personally.  I met her about nine months ago and she is truly an amazing individual.  See, Samantha was a college professor, married and had a child when she decided to transition from male to female in her mid-40’s.  Did Samantha make some mistakes?  Most certainly.  Did Samantha try to manage things responsibly?  She did most of the time.

So as I mentioned, Samantha was a college professor when she began transitioning.  She disclosed to her wife that she needed to transition and initially said they were going to try and make their marriage work.  They went to counseling together.  They discussed her wife’s grief process.  They put together a plan to minimize the impact Samantha’s transition would have on their daughter.  As Samantha once told me, ever decision she made was made with judging the impact it would have on her daughter.  Samantha also tried to take into consideration how each decision would impact her wife.  Obviously, there was pain and struggle in Samantha’s journey, especially as it related to her marriage.  Her wife could not imagine being in a lesbian relationship and at even if she could, at that time in the US, same sex marriage was not legal.  One thing that was important was that they both agreed to work together to raise their daughter together, whether married or not.

Its also important to remember that back in the 90’s, when Samantha transitioned, there were no legal protections for transgender individuals.  Its a truly sad fact because Samantha was a tenured professor, had been published multiple times and seemed to be a professor that any college or university would want.  However, once Samantha began her one year real world experience of presenting, she was immediately fired from the college she was teaching at…all because she was transitioning.

Samantha’s life changed dramatically at this point.  She could no longer find solid full time employment.  She was blacklisted from teaching, a profession she loved.  She spent the next 10-15 years working as a paralegal, a movie theater concessions employee and jobs of these types.  Here was the incredibly talented and well educated woman who had her PhD and was published, and she was working jobs that paid just above minimum wage for years.  The university where she received her PhD would not, for many years, change her name on her transcripts.  The journals where she had been published would not change her name on her articles either.  While she continued to keep looking for a teaching position, she worked as many as three lower income jobs at a time.  She maintained a healthy relationship with her daughter and did what she needed to do to live the life she had to live.  She was also rejected by much of her family simply because she transitioned.  Samantha lost almost everything.

Ironically, Samantha’s daughter happened to go into academia as well.  Her daughter was hired by a small rural college to teach with the possibility of becoming tenured.  Before moving, Samantha’s daughter asked Samantha to travel to help her find a place to live.  Being the persistent woman that Samantha is, Samantha always traveled with her resume and took it with her on this trip.  While Samantha’s daughter was in a meeting with the chair of her department, Samantha stopped by the dean of the subject which Samantha taught to see if there were any job openings.  Sadly there weren’t.  Samantha asked politely if she could leave her resume just in case and they said she could.

About three weeks later, Samantha received a call from this university asking if she was still interested in the job.  Apparently, another professor had left abruptly and they had an opening.  After four rounds of interviews, they called Samantha and told her they wanted her to come teach at the same university her daughter would be teaching at.  Being so used to rejection based on her transition, Samantha immediately began telling the dean the story of her transition.  She had decided if they were going to deny her the job because of this fact, she wanted them to deny her the job then instead of months later.  After she finished giving a summary of her story, she says there was about a 30 second pause on the phone and then the dean simply said, “Ok…but you can still teach in the fall term, right?”  Samantha was returning to the field she loved so much.

Since then, Samantha has become one of the most popular faculty members at this university.  After teaching for five years, she was offered a position working with diversity affairs at this university.  Her focus is specifically on minority awareness and activities.  She is the faculty sponsor to the campus LGBTQ group.  She guest lectures in classes that are discussing gender and sexual identity.  She is affectionately know as “Dr. Sam” on campus.  When a student is struggling with their gender and/or sexual identity, Samantha will walk with them over to the university counseling center to ensure they are taken care of.

Samantha is an amazing woman and an inspiration to me.  She works at the university where I am doing my internship and she has been such a huge support for me.  When she tells her story, she tells it with truth and sincerity.  She is honest about the mistakes she made on her path and when I am struggling with what to do, say with disclosing to people, Samantha will meet with me to talk and help me make the healthiest decision and to ensure I consider all factors.  She wants to support others.  She wants others to learn from her mistakes so they don’t make the same ones.  Samantha believes that after being granted this opportunity to work at this university, her new home as she calls it, she feels she should be doing everything possible to give back to the community for all of the love and support they have given her.

I am very grateful to call Samantha my friend and to have her support.  There is no “perfect” way to transition.  I do believe Samantha navigated it as well as anyone could.  I also admire how Samantha feels that because of her position in academia, she has a responsibility to give back and help others struggling with their gender and sexual identity.  She is one of two women who I see as my role models for how I want to live my life.

Thank you for your friendship and support, Samantha.

<3,

Tiff

I Love You, Mom: Mother’s Day 2018

If you are a photographer and have never worked with Lawrence Price before, you are truly missing out.  I was steered towards him by our mutual friend Ryanna (Ryanna’s blog: https://trappingsofasecondlife.wordpress.com/; Ryanna’s Flickr page: https://www.flickr.com/people/ryannafoxclaw/).  Ryanna is an AMAZING photographer and has been such a support for me in my own photography.  She steered me toward Lawrence for one of his photography challenges.  In accepting that first challenge, Lawrence set down some ground rules for me of what I could and could not do.  He forced me to step outside of my comfort zone and so I have continued to jump at the opportunity to take part in his challenges.  Lawrence, Ryanna and Phoebe are three of the primary reasons I have been able to expand my photography skills so much in less than a year and I am grateful for all three of them.

So how does this tie into Mother’s Day?  Lawrence’s Mother’s Day Challenge.  The task for this challenge was to attempt to recreate a picture of our mother, as best we could.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to recreate a picture of Mom.  Why?  Because I couldn’t find a picture I could recreate because we lost almost every picture of Mom from the ages of about 10 until about 55/60 due to a flood in our home.  So instead of attempting to recreate a picture, I made the decision to create a picture based on Mom gifts to the world and some of the wonderful things I remembered about her.

This was much more difficult than I expected it to be.  Not that I don’t have some wonderful memories of Mom…I do.  It was just…hard and emotionally draining.  I cried more than I expected both taking the picture and writing my tribute to her.  I am, by default, going to blame some of that on missing her and some of that on the hormones… *whistles innocently* There are three reasons for missing her so much.  One reason was because of my background and the difficulties Mom and I had over the years.  The second part was…I just miss Mom.

Mom died in 2015 due to a combination of age and multiple health problems.  She suffered for so many years but always maintained a positive spirit.  I was blessed in that in her later years, Mom and I were able to make peace with our past and grow closer.  It wasn’t easy.  It took a significant amount of effort and forgiveness on both of our parts.  We did it though.  I hope that when Mom died, our reconcilliation helped to give her some peace.

The third piece that is truly hard for me is that Mom missed out on some things I wish she could have been a part of.  I wish she was still here to see me graduating with my Masters in Professional Counseling this December.  I don’t plan on walking at graduating (a topic for another post) but I would love to be able to celebrate that achievement with her.  The other piece is that Mom never got to know me as her daughter…only as her son.

Despite my mother and I reconciling on many issues, she never knew about my need to transition.  I hadn’t made the decision to transition by the time she died.  Additionally, the last two years she was alive, Mom was unable to communicate due to a stroke.  Even if I had known I was going to transition before she died, she wouldn’t have been able to comprehend it at that time.  She knew I was getting stronger over the years but she never saw me with the strength I found to begin and continue on this journey.  Mom only knew me as her son.  She never knew me as her daughter.  I wish we could have had a mother-daughter relationship after all the years of struggling.  Its one of those holes in my heart that is difficult at Mother’s Day.

I am including the picture I took for Lawrence’s challenge.  I am also including the dedication I wrote for the submission.

Happy Mother’s Day, Momma.  I love you and miss you.

<3,

Tiff

Mother's Day Tribute

Lawrence Price’s Mother’s Day Challenge

When Lawrence asked me to take part in this challenge, I jumped at the opportunity to honor my mother. This ended up being far more difficult than I expected though. I have very few pictures of my mother. We lost most of them in a flood in our home. Therefore the pictures I do have of her are when she was older and do not do her justice.

As I thought back on who my mother was and our relationship, it was difficult to figure out how best to honor her. Like any mother, Mom was human and had her flaws, as do I. It made it challenging at times to have a supportive and loving relationship with her. Despite these challenges, Mom and I both grew, learned about ourselves and each other, and learned what love truly is between a parent and a child. We healed and loved again.

There are three distinct things about my mother which I will always remember. The first was her determination to overcome whatever obstacles were placed in her path. My mother almost died before I was even born. Somehow this amazing woman fought and overcame the odds when the doctors told her she would most likely not return to a meaningful life IF she managed to survive. But she did…she did both. She proved them wrong and two years later, I was born and she returned to the workforce a few years after my birth. She fought through a multitude of illnesses during her life, but she never let these illnesses dampen her spirits or keep her from being with those she loved. I learned my resilience from my mother.

My mother gave back to the world in many ways. Prior to my birth, she was an elementary school teacher. When she returned to the workforce after my birth, she became a college admissions counselor and worked her way up to the president of a small community college. She loved reading and teaching the younger generations to think for themselves so they would grow physically, spiritually and intellectually. This picture is a tribute to my mother’s love of education and reading. Aside from family and the beach, libraries were her haven and the collection of books she amassed was astounding. When she would finally let us purge her book collection ever few years, they all went to women’s shelters and other charities. While I struggled to read due to my own learning disabilities, I was blessed with her love of learning and that lead me to return to school to earn my Master’s Degree. By the end of this year, all three of her children will have earned their Master’s Degrees. Thank you, Mom.

Lastly, Mom was so accepting of differences in race, religion, sexuality, politics, socioeconomic status, and so on and so forth. She became friends with people from every group/class you can imagine. She supported the rights of same sex couples before it was even a national issue. She encouraged everyone to be who they were at heart. She believed people were defined by how they treated others, not the color of the skin, the god they worshiped or who they slept with. With my own journey, I have been asked often if my mother would approve of me. My response has been, including to her own brother’s and sisters, “If you knew Mom as well as you think you did, you wouldn’t even need to ask that question.”

Sadly, we lost Mom in 2015. But her spirit remains. It remains in her children and those who knew her best and loved her. I am who I am because of my mother. Even through our conflicts earlier in life, we both grew and learned from these challenges. We became stronger. We became better human beings. I am proud to be your daughter, Mom. I love you and Happy Mother’s Day.

#PriceMothersDayChallenge

Keep Fighting

“Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the assessment that something else is more important than fear.”

-Franklin D. Roosevelt

Some days are hard. Some days we feel defeated and kicked down. Never feel shame, guilt or fault for acknowledging and expressing your feelings. They are your feelings, they are real and you are perfectly entitled to feel them. It’s healthy and good to express them. When we do that, our feelings do not control us or impact our relationships with others.

I’m so incredibly blessed to have friends who encourage me to feel and express my feelings in healthy ways. These friends also help me get back up when I feel defeated and as though I can’t keep going. My eternal thanks goes out to those friends.

This song…I don’t know. It’s one of those that always comes on my playlist when I’m struggling. A dear friend shared this with me a few months ago.  I thought I would share it here with all of you.

Case Study 2: Caitlyn Jenner

I am going to start this off by saying, I don’t know all the details of Caitlyn Jenner’s transition.  I don’t know what she went through prior to her announcement that she had transitioned.  I don’t know how she managed family concerns or anything like that prior to her announcement.  Obviously, many watched her on reality TV prior to her surgery and knew her based upon what they had seen there.  I know there have been pieces where Caitlyn’s daughter discussed the media taking pictures of Caitlyn when she was very upset after a couple of her surgeries.  Not having that information I mentioned, I am not going to speculate on how Caitlyn Jenner managed her transition prior to her announcement via Vogue Magazine.

I also will say right here, right now, that I full support Caitlyn’s decision to transition.  I do not want anyone to say that I don’t support her transitioning because that is the farthest thing from the truth.

What upsets me about Caitlyn Jenner is the way she has stepped into the public light when it suited her and then stepped back into the shadows before facing any significant challenges.  It upsets me because here we have this individual who has, for much of her past, delivered these powerful messages about health and fitness.  And now…now they are a part of this issue of equality and gender identity that impacts the physical and mental well being of a marginalized and discriminated group of people…and you don’t hear much from her.  That upsets me.

Since Caitlyn’s disclosure, she has done her Vogue story and she has won an ESPY.  She brought positive attention to the issue of gender identity…for a brief while.  And then, she disappeared…or at least I feel like she disappeared.  I am not going to speak for others but I have felt like, here is this American icon who took one of the most difficult life journeys an individual can take…let’s praise her and talk about how brave she is…and then POOF!!! She’s gone.

My personal feeling is if you want the awards and the positive media coverage…than you have accepted a position of responsibility within that community…whatever community that is.  Again, this is my feeling.  Caitlyn Jenner could do so much to advocate for the transgender population because of her status.  Now, she may be doing work behind the scenes that I am unaware of…but from where I sit, it feels like she is taking the spot light when it suits her and then stepping away before things get rough.

While I have not reached the point where Caitlyn Jenner is, I have thought long and hard about how I will live my life after I begin presenting.  A significant percentage of the transgender population has been rejected by their families, kicked out of their homes, denied jobs, denied housing and denied proper health care.  I personally feel that anyone who has the knowledge and position to help rectify these issues should step up and do so.

I know of two amazing women who transitioned and do just that.  One is a professor at the university where I am doing my internship.  The other is in a very high position within my state’s government.  I have so much respect for these two women as I watch them use their journeys of transition as a way to advocate for others.

I do understand the desire to live stealth.  That means living a life where you never really share with the world that you transitioned.  Ideally, the fact we transitioned should never be an issue and we should be able to move through the world without fearing for our safety.  However, until that day comes, I believe those of us with higher education, positions of influence and/or notoriety need to be supporting one another through advocacy and awareness.

For myself, I have decided that once I am in clinical practice, I will be using my position to educate mental and medical health care providers on cultural competencies with the transgender/gender fluid population.  I also want to address how the current health care system as a whole inadvertently discriminates against those who do not live by standard binary gender rules.  As part of my internship, I am actually creating a presentation on this issue to be used with students in the university’s health sciences programs.  I fell with my education and experiences, it is my duty to help educate these people.

As I said, this is my opinion based on what I know from my journey.  Anyone can feel free to disagree and I respect that.  And also, I may not have all of the information on Caitlyn Jenner and I acknowledge that.  Based on the information I have, this is what I feel at this time and I hope Caitlyn will use her platform for more advocacy instead of the next E! TV contract.

Case Study 1: Toni

It’s case study time!  Now, I am going to present my case studies in a similar fashion to the way I would for a case conference at clinic.  I also have decided I am going to present three cases instead of two cases.  I believe this way, I can present what I know, and I know I don’t know it all, about three individual’s journeys and what is both good and bad about them.  Each of these will focus on different aspects of the journey.  Before I start with our first case, here are some guidelines for how these case studies will work:

  1. There will be three different individuals used for this.
  2. Two of them will be having their names changed to protect them.  Keep in mind, these two individuals are people I know and have spoken with.  One individual will not have their name changed because they have made a personal choice to be in the public eye.
  3. The opinions I express are a combination of clinical views based on my training as a counselor, 16 years of direct patient care and my personal opinion based on my journey.
  4. Forgive what may be a “clinical presentation/tone” at points.  That’s a bad carry over from, well, working in clinical counseling.
  5. You can agree or disagree with what I write, however I will not tolerate any bashing of me or anyone else for their opinions.  Opinions will vary and I welcome differing opinions.  But no bashing or disrespect.

With that said, let’s look at our first case study, Toni…

Toni

Toni is a transitioning female in her mid 40’s.  She works for a medium sized university in a rural area of Virginia.  Her wife not only works for the same university but also works in the same department as Toni.  Additionally, both of their children attend this university with one being a senior and one completing their freshman year now.  The university is a more socially conservative school.  Both Toni and her wife have worked for the university for approximately seven years.  Toni disclosed their need to transition about ten months ago.

Since disclosing, Toni has done several things of concerns.  She cashed out her retirement fund and immediately began shopping for clothing and wigs.  She not only began shopping for these items in mass quantities, but she started shopping for these items from very expensive design fashion lines.  Toni has spent almost all of her retirement money and is beginning to struggle financial and cannot seem to understand why finances are so tight.

Toni says she doesn’t want to divorce her wife but yet also has begun seeking partners through dating apps.  Toni has traveled long distances to meet potential partners and has begun a long term relationship with a man from New Jersey.  Toni’s argument to her wife is that she never experienced dating life as a woman and wants a man to help her feel like a woman…yet she doesn’t want to get divorced.  I am sure you all are giving me the same look I am giving the computer screen right now.

Toni has struggled to maintain a relationship with her sons.  Her sons have been ridiculed by their peers regarding Toni’s behaviors and presentation.  Remember…Toni’s sons attend the same university where Toni works.  One of Toni’s sons recently attempted suicide and while in the hospital, Toni spent minimal time with her son supporting him.  Toni has taken a mindset that her sons are strong men and they will be fine.  (I am biting my tongue here…)

Toni has been extremely vocal about her displeasure with her medical care.  Toni’s body has been responding to hormones in the way it should.  Her estrogen levels have increased as they should, right on time, with no real complications.  However, Toni is very upset that her endocrinologist will not prescribe the medications she feels she needs.  Additionally, Toni is extremely upset about the psychological clearance requirements necessary for various steps on this journey.

Now, I realize I can only give snapshots of each person I am using in this exercise.  I also am aware I don’t know everything about each of these individuals, but I am going to say it upfront…I am not happy with the way Toni is managing her transition.  I have expressed my concerns and displeasure to her on multiple occasions.

For starters, Toni has not even considered how her actions are impacting others.  She has been very selfish in her view of the world with regards to her transition.  She has completely disregarded how her actions have impacted her wife and her two sons.  While I am empathetic of Toni’s need to transition…I TOTALLY get that…she has taken a mindset that they just have to accept it and accept her at any cost.  She also expects her wife to not divorce her but also allow her to explore relationships with men.  This is incredibly selfish in my mind and goes against everything I discuss with my transitioning clients in counseling.

Toni has this warped view that the whole world just has to accept her.  Period.  I have tried to explain to her that no one HAS to accept her.  They make a choice to accept her or not and that choice will be a result of personal beliefs, religious beliefs and ultimately, how Toni presents herself to the world and manages her transition.  Additionally, Toni has show no respect for the grief that her wife and sons are experiencing both because of Toni’s transition and Toni’s behaviors.  Toni has also taken a mindset that anyone who is not referring to her by her new name and pronouns all the time is disrespecting her.  I had to look at her one day and say, “Give it a rest, girl!  You have to give them time!  No wonder you’re struggling to maintain your relationships!”

Toni has left herself with no financial resources either for emergencies or retirement.  She has been so focused on presenting at this point that she did not plan ahead for anything and had placed the financial well being of her whole family at risk.  Additionally, everything she is buying is expensive and flashy and just…well…unnecessary!  She also bought all of this clothing BEFORE she allowed the hormones to work with her body which means a decent portion of these designer clothes she bought probably won’t fit her by the time she is done transitioning.

Toni’s displeasure with her medical care truly upsets me.  In my discussions with Toni, she has done the majority of her research through blogs and such, not academic, scientific or medical research.  For example, one drug that can be giving to those of us transitioning is Progesterone.  Most doctor’s don’t prescribe this medication though.  Why?  Because while it has been proven to improve sex drive, this medication also increases the risk of breast cancer significantly.  The benefits to physical transformation are questionable and so most doctors refuse to prescribe it.

It also truly bothers me that Toni is upset about the psychological screening requirements for transitioning.  Gender Dysphoria is a real diagnosis and brings with it so much depression and anxiety.  However, transitioning also brings its own challenges.  You have obviously heard me write about the various challenges I encountered.  A person who has decided to transition has to be able to properly care for themselves through this.  Additionally, far too many people believe that if they can just transition and be in the body they have always felt they belonged in, all of their other problems will go away.  This is so far from the truth.  If someone has self esteem issues, childhood trauma they have not addressed, relationship concerns, untreated depression or anxiety and such, transitioning will not make these matters better.  It will only make them worse as you go through the process.

Now, I intentionally picked an extreme example for this first case study.  I have attempted to talk with Toni on multiple occasions about how she is moving forward with her transition.  I have not hidden my views from her.  And as I said, I understand and respect her need to transition, but she is not showing any regard for the feelings of others or planning long term for her life following surgery.  Her need to transition has become so all consuming that she has neglected her sons and her responsibilities to them.  I also believe that when you look at how Toni is dealing with her marriage and dating life, if you hear her speak, she is looking for validation as a female through the attentions of men…not by looking at herself.

Sadly, I do not see Toni having an emotionally healthy transition.  I actually suspect that once she is done, she is going to struggle a great deal emotionally.  I recently shared with Toni that I couldn’t talk with her as much as we have been.  Its just too exhausting and she seems to want to disregard everything I have to say.  I am not abandoning her…but I can’t help someone through this process who doesn’t want to hear what others have to say and who doesn’t want to help themselves.