A Letter of Love

I have written before about my family.  Some of them have rejected me.  Some have accepted me.  There are still some family members I need to tell I am transitioning.  I am preparing a letter to send to some of my extended family.  Its just hard to tell everyone personally with an extended family as large as mine.  The nervousness is just exhausting because I often don’t know how different people will react.

31d7e8563878da1d343e6d1d091b6437When I accepted that I had to take this path, there were four key relationships I was worried about.  First was my sister.  I knew she would accept and support me, so it was just a matter of working up the nerve to tell her.  Next is the relationship with my sister-in-law.  I still have not told her and I know that, at least in the short term, it will be a negative reaction.  My sister-in-law has been very vocal in her belief that transgender individuals are second class citizens.  My hope is that her loyalty to our family in the wake of my brother’s death and seeing me walk this journey will help change her opinion of transgender individuals.  My step-father is third just because he was such a wonderful father to me after my father’s death.  He and I have had our conflicts, but he has loved me as though I were his biological child.  I do believe he will accept me once I tell him.  I just need to tell him face to face to tell him.

The fourth relationship is with my Aunt Porter, my biological father’s baby sister.

My family dynamics growing up were, for lack of better words, very screwed up.  My mother struggled with substance abuse and depression.  Between that and my father’s death, my dad’s brother and two sisters really stepped up to be parental figures to my brother, sister and I.  My dad’s older sister was there, but we never got as close to her.  His brother and baby sister, Aunt Porter…these two truly became parental figures to all three of us.  Porter is the only one who remains of my father’s generation and my sister and I have remained very close to her.  This may sound odd, but when my sister and I hear “motherly advice” in our heads, it isn’t our mother who is speaking to us.  It’s Aunt Porter.

N148 Sea Side Raw ShotI had wanted to tell Porter I was transitioning in person.  Internship had caused a serious delay in taking that step.  As it turned out, Porter’s daughter, who I am very close to as well and shared my journey with back at New Years, decided to go ahead and tell Porter.  She had asked me if it was ok and when she told Porter, she asked Porter not to acknowledge it until I told her.  So Porter sat quiet waiting for me to try and find time to go visit.

That was until my sister told her about the events that occurred with my mom’s family back in April.  Once Porter found out, she decided it was time to put pen to paper and write me a note.

When I checked the mailbox last week and saw the distinctive writing, I knew right away it was from Porter.  When I saw that envelope, I immediately knew that my cousin had told her.

I cried as I read the note from her.  She started out letting me know that she loves me, accepts and respects my decision and that no matter what people may say, she believes that God is with me on this journey…and that she will always be there for me.  I just stood there in the middle of my driveway with tears of joy and relief running down my cheek.

0dd333ce116f6fbac6b9b116dc39b545--transgender-mtf-transgender-peopleAs she always does, Porter than took some time to give me her sage advice on how to deal with my mother’s family.  She reminded me of her own struggles when her son disclosed he was homosexual and she shared with me the lessons she learned on that journey.  While I knew most of what she shared, it helped to reinforce it hearing those words from my surrogate mother.  Aunt Porter has always had this amazing way with words and reinforcing lessons.

Her closing…I’ve actually read it every day since I received her letter.  It says simply…

“I love you- loved you before and will love you always.”

I finally called Porter yesterday and we spoke for about 45 minutes.  It was, honestly, the most open and transparent conversation she and I have ever had…because I am no longer putting up some front to her.  We cried together.  She reminded me how much she loves me.  I reminded her how thankful I am for her.  It was, for lack of better words, an amazing conversation.

Porter is one of those people who, I admit, I want to hear that she is proud of me.  That’s a direct result of the love, respect and support she has shown me throughout my life.  She IS a mother to me.  Before we got off the phone yesterday, she told me she was proud of me for accepting myself and loving myself enough to face this challenge.  I can’t even express the emotions I felt in that moment.  It was beyond powerful.

Thank you, Porter.  I love you and am so grateful for you. <3, Tiff

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“The Look”

What is “the look,” as I call it?  Its that look women have been known to give men when they feel the guy is leering at them.  I’ve seen it plenty of times over my life, primarily aimed at someone else, but occasionally it has been aimed at me.

man-leering-at-womanWhen I think about this, I have to laugh.  I understand, at least on some level, why women give men this look.  I suspect there will come a point where I am giving a man that look too (or at least I hope so because that will mean I am passing).  Men, no offense, but when you find a woman attractive, you really can appear like some horny animal and you don’t even realize it.  When you look at her and act that way, that’s what leads to you getting THAT look.  Now, women have their own expressions that let you know they are interested in you…but men…you should have someone video tape you sometime when you are watching a woman walking down there street.  It’s pretty comical and sad at the same time.

I’ve gotten that look more over the past couple of years as I really began accepting myself, realizing that I HAD to transition and beginning this journey.

RBFI actually have to laugh when I get the glare from a woman I may be watching walking down the street or that I am looking at in the elevator at work.  I have little doubt they are thinking my mind is going to the gutter…and no comments on that statement from my friends reading this.  In fact, without her knowing me and the fact I am transitioning, I don’t fault her for giving me “the look.”  Crazy thing is, my thoughts are completely innocent when I get that look.  And NO…I am not sitting there thinking about these woman sexually! Minds out of the gutter, guys!

I’m a people watcher.  I always have been.  I have always watched behaviors a great deal throughout my life.  Now, I am admiring women on a very different level.  When a woman catches me looking at her, my thoughts are not focused on how she would look naked.  They are focused on things like…

  • What a cute skirt!
  • I love that blouse!
  • That dress really brings out the color in her eyes.
  • I wish my butt looked that good.
  • Will I have that kind of shape when I am dome transitioning?
  • I would kill to have her hair.
  • I wonder if I will be able to walk as elegantly as she can in heels?

Girl TalkThose are the thoughts I have.  Now, with my close friends, I can look at them and verbally express those thoughts.  I can look at my RL friend Shannon and say those things.  But Shannon was one of the first people I disclosed to and Shannon doesn’t even think of me as having ever been male anymore.  Shannon sees me as a woman, period.  So those comments, they just trigger girl talk and she and I will laugh for hours over those sorts of things.  The woman on the street…while my features are starting to soften and I am noticing subtle changes in my body now…those women have no clue at this point what is going on with me.

Leering ElevatorI don’t get offended when I am given that look.  In fact, I don’t blame women for glaring at me like that.  Having watched so much behavior in my life and studying behavior as part of my masters degree, I understand why men get those looks from women.  Sorry men…having been witness to those conversations you would never have in the presence of women, you often deserve it.  The good thing is we women love you anyway. 😉

I will continue to get those looks, at least for the time being.  And its okay.  In time, I will be able to say to another woman, “Those heels are adorable!  May I ask where you got them?” and it will be a perfectly normal conversation between two women.

❤ , Tiff

Grove Country Club Estates Home Tour

House FrontMy dear friend Kate moved to the Grove Country Club Estates sims in Second Life this past winter.  Before knowing she had moved to GCCE, she described this amazing sim network where she finally felt “at home” in Second Life.  She discussed how she was personalizing her home and it was her little piece of paradise.  I was so happy to hear Kate share this.

Living RoomFast forward to mid-May.  I was finally getting the grand tour of Kate’s home.  I was in awe of what I was seeing.  The amount of detail and personal touches she had put into her place left me speechless.  I was even more shocked when she asked me to photograph her home.  She had been asked to include her home in the Grove Estates Home Tour and she asked if I could take the pictures for her.  I was honored to be asked and set forth to do this for her.

As Kate gave me the initial tour of her home, I saw the time and energy she put into her masterpiece.  As I began photographing her home…I noticed even greater detail and all of those unique touches that make a house a home.  Every accessory placed to make her home feel lived in.  Every texture selected to make her home feel more authentic.  Everything done to make her home feel both well cared for by her while also feeling peacefully lived in.  Whether its the unmade bed and breakfast tray that leave you feeling as though she got out of bed early just to spend time with you or the steaming cups of coffee in her sun room, Kate has made her home inviting and comfortable while also beautiful and awe inspiring at the same time.

BedroomIncluded here are the four pictures she submitted for the home tour contest, along with a few other pictures I felt should be included.  If you have time, please visit her home and the other homes on the tour.  I personally hope you will vote for Kate’s as I believe it is the most amazing and personal home on the tour…but I also know I am biased.  Yet, in a digital world where many of us attempt to create these large, meticulous and almost museum like homes, Kate’s home is perfect in its imperfections, lived in feel and the personal touches that make it uniquely Kate’s.

SunroomUnfortunately, I do not have designers to credit in this post.  The list would be far too extensive and since this is Kate’s home, I don’t have access to all of the information.  I do want to make sure I give credit to Grove Country Club Estates and their management team for the amazing theme they have created and support in their sims.

I also want to express my sincere thanks to my dear friend Kate for allowing me to photograph your home.   I could have spent weeks photography your home and still not included all of the amazing details you added.  I hope I did your home justice in reflecting all of your hard work and unique sense of style, my friend. *hugs* ❤

Higher resolution photos found on Flickr at https://flic.kr/s/aHsmm5acgu.

 

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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

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…