The Inexcusable Act of Disownment

IMG_3408Now this is a subject that you may or may not agree with me on, but like all my blog posts, I write from the heart and from what is ignited within. Ultimately, the reader has the choice whether or not to follow or unfollow, agree or disagree. Today I am talking about acceptance of LGBTQ+ individuals and their families.
* warning, may be a trigger for some*

Gay, straight, bi-sexual, transgender, pansexual, two-spirited, however you may identify, we all have something that we identify with. Now I’ve mentioned in the past, sexuality and gender is not something you choose or something you can just shut off. It is something you are born with, even if you may not discover what that may be until you are guided in the direction of self discovery and self-identification. Ultimately it is how YOU identity, not how someone else may define or label you.

A big issue that I have witnessed time and time again, is the act of disowning someone in the LGBTQ+ community from a family member or friend.  According to Lesley University, “1.6 million youth are homeless each year and up to 40 percent of them identify as LGBT.” This number is alarmingly high, and I don’t understand how with all the information and growing acceptance out there, this is still happening. Something I will never understand is how a parent can just turn off the love they have for their child because of how they identify or who they love. This brings anger and sadness to my heart and an issue I will never accept. There is simply no excuse. One of the greatest gifts in this life is being able to share your true identity with your loved ones. Just for a second, imagine the pain, the fear, the internal struggle that a child who is transgender, for example, goes through on a daily basis hiding who they are. They’ve gone through 1001 scenarios in their head of how to come out to their family and friends. Now fast forward to that day, where they finally have gained the courage to tell you one of the biggest things they will ever share with you. Upon hearing this news, you react in a negative way; a way full of shame and anger, and you disown your child. Now imagine the pain that brings to your child. The family that has raised them and loved them has just disowned them for bringing forth the greatest  gift that you can bring forward; your truth. That child is never recovering from that. That sense of security, of love, of trust has been destroyed. And for what? I don’t understand how we live in a society that can so easily excuse and condone this kind of behaviour. Whether that may be because of generation, religion, family values, or any other kind of reasoning out there, I cannot wrap my head around it.

Starting off with religion, a touchy subject to say the least, I am in no way bashing religion, we all have the right to believe or have faith in something. What I cannot understand though, is how people can use their chosen religion as an excuse and fuel to spread hate amongst others because they may be different from them. How on earth can one justify turning off the love for their child for being gay, or transgender or loving someone who is in the queer community because it goes against their religion? If that’s the religion that people are putting their faith in, I want no part of that. On the contrary, I know many very faithful Christian/Catholic individuals who show me nothing but unconditional love and support, and to me, that proves that it isn’t religion that is the issue here, it is the individual behind the religon.

Time and time again I have heard the excuse “oh well they don’t understand because that’s just their generation, so it’s okay.” Well, it is not okay. The majority of older people in my life are supportive and loving, including grandparents (by blood and chosen). Once again, this is not a valid excuse. It is the individual at hand and their personal values of acceptance and compassion towards another human being, not because of their age or the generation they grew up in.

To conclude, we all have a choice. Everyday we choose how we treat others. What can we do about this issue? Spread some love and compassion towards your fellow being. Be an ally. If someone you know is going through something like this, lend a helping hand. Reach out to them, show them that there are people out there who love you for being you, the real you. Educate someone who has hate in their heart. Educate them on how to be an ally, how to understand and how to accept. If you’re a parent out there and your child has just come out to you, please, please, do your best to show compassion. No body wants to come out to their family and friends. No one chooses that kind of hardship, but you have a choice to make that process a little easier. If you truly love your child and want them to be happy, something such as them being gay shouldn’t be denied or shunned, it should be celebrated. To those I may have offended with this post, I will not apologize for speaking my truth. I will not apologize for standing up for what is right; because loving someone for who there are and wanting someone to be happy in this already challenging world is the only way I will live my life. Spread love, not hate.

Out

https://lesley.edu/article/the-cost-of-coming-out-lgbt-youth-homelessness

 

Breaking Down Stereotypes

A friend of mine called me the other day with exciting news. There is a new intern on the show Grey’s Anatomy; an intern who happens to be transgender. This is a pivotal moment in the queer community as it is a major breakthrough in the way that trans people are portrayed on television. Alex Blue Davis, who plays the intern, Casey, is a character who has landed a strong role; a role that doesn’t portray him as a science project. Not a patient undergoing a surgery or undergoing medical research, just a human being living and working in his chosen career and thriving. The role isn’t all about him being trans, and the way that he “comes out” to Bailey (Chandra Wilson) couldn’t be more perfect. The lines that were written for the scene are as follows: “I’m a proud trans man, Dr. Bailey. I like for people to get to know me before they find out my medical history.” This statement sums up exactly what I fight for on the daily. I don’t tell people I am trans until I get to know them or if they by chance ask. Being transgender is just a small part of what makes up the whole of who I am. It is not that I am ashamed or try to hide my identity, I do it to protect myself and to not allow people to pass judgement based on my gender before they even get to know me.

It’s funny, there have always been transgender people around, it just seems like we are suddenly everywhere, on social media, in the news, coming out of the shadows. That is because the world is a very different place than it used to be. We live in a world with no walls, no personal boundaries. A world with an array of information at the palm of your hand. Of course there is going to be more visibility. People are becoming more and more connected. We are all connected through social media and other means of communication. Transgender isn’t a new thing. Transgender people have been a part society for years and years before people had noticed. Finally, television shows are featuring some diversity in roles that branch out from the heteronormative and cisgendered typical roles.

What is odd to me, is that now that people are more aware that transgender people exist, all of a sudden they hate them, want to hurt them, want to get rid of them? They don’t agree with their identity, even though prior to finding out that person’s true identity they were just fine. That doesn’t make any sense.  Prior to this new-found information, people have walked through life not knowing their friends, colleagues, co-workers or family members were transgender. Now they have found out their truth and have discovered there are more than just two genders, there is a new-found hate in their heart. I can’t understand that and I never will.

I am thankful that the media is finally portraying transgender individuals as an accepted part of society and in a positive light. We are out here, and we are here to stay. I will continue to fight for our rights to have a place in this world where we are treated as equals, where we aren’t looked down on because we are transgender, where one day we don’t feel like we have to come out, because that is just who we are and that is okay. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what is in your pants, but what is in your heart.

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https://images.app.goo.gl/mDuJkRZSywLxNS4v6

https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/live-feed/greys-anatomy-transgender-storyline-explained-alex-blue-davis-interview-1075535

A Man’s World

Navigating through life from both perspectives of gender has allowed me to experience first hand the differences in how men and women are treated in everyday life. From daily interactions, I have discovered that it is truly “a man’s world” out there. Below I will highlight examples pertaining to myself and my experiences.

I have worked various jobs throughout my life; from retail and customer service jobs to landscaping and golf course positions. Over the years I have experienced differences in how I was treated when applying for these positions and  how I was treated throughout my time working there. First I’d like to touch on issues that have happened during an interview. From a woman’s perspective, I have experienced issues with sexual comments, doubt of skill set and being overlooked for a position I was qualified for. In many interviews, cis-men (cis-gendered: personal identity and gender corresponds with their birth sex) have made me feel like I was being judged based on my looks. There has been comments and remarks on my looks, making me feel very uncomfortable during the interview process. Now fast forward a few years after I’ve started my transition and can pass as a cis-male, there is a totally different experience. In male-dominated industries or jobs that require more lifting I have gotten interviews and jobs with ease, especially if a man is doing the hiring. It has felt like a boys club in interviews and there was no uncomfortable feeling because of my looks or gender. The vibes were different and I felt as though I was seen as more qualified for the position just based on my gender. The sad truth I’ve discovered is that women really do get judged on their looks and questioned for their abilities to perform a job to the standards of a man because of their gender.

The next issue is one that still occurs in the work place today; pay scale based on gender. I understand that not all businesses operate like this, but I have experienced both sides of determining wage for a position based on my gender. Once passing as a “cis-male”, I can tell you that I have received a higher wage than my female co-workers, for the same position at work. When requesting a higher wage than what is presented to me, I have found that it is easier to achieve passing as a pressumably cis-male, than it is being female.

The societal privilege of being treated as a “cis white male” is something that I have experienced and observed in day-to-day life. Since transitioning, the sad truth of the matter is that I have had a pretty easy go in life based on the colour of my skin and gender I identify as. This is evident now that I am viewed as a “cis white male” in the world, and I have realized that yes, white cis-gendered men do have an easier time navigating this world. The way people look at me day to day, or don’t notice me, I should say, has differed from when I identified as female and a lesbian. At times I miss being “different” from everyone else, in terms of my identity. When I identified as a lesbian, I was accepted and celebrated in my community of other queer humans.  The way I dressed and presented myself came off as most definitely queer and was something that others picked up on in the queer community. Now I feel as if I just blend in. My “gaydar” (yes it’s a real thing)  feels like a one way street now. I miss that connection of just knowing, without even having to talk to someone, that you are in the same awesome community as they are. Anytime I spot another queer person around town, I notice them instantly, but now I feel like I don’t get the same response back. I am seen as a straight cis-gendered man. Don’t get me wrong, that’s not a hate on all straight cis-gendered men out there, it’s just an observation, but that is not how I identify. Because I blend in, I feel safer in public, but I also still feel alone, not really a part of a community. Im understanding now that only you can truly know your narrative, no body knows until you share that with them.

Something I can take from experiencing both sides of gender, is the amount of respect and understanding I have for women; the women in my life, my partner, my mom, my sister and my friends. I have so much respect for each and every one of them and can relate to them on a whole other level than any cis-gendered man could. I have walked in their shoes and have experienced life through the eyes of a woman. It has made me into the man I am today. There are countless moments I have wished and prayed to have been born into the body that I have created on my own, but I also believe that I wouldn’t be the man I am today without starting my life in a female body. The compassion I have, the sensitive and caring qualities are part of what make up who I am today. Yes it’s hard to be who I am, but I am here, I am proud and I am thriving. IMG_0032

Navigating the Guy’s Code

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Being a trans man among a group of cis-gendered men is an ongoing feeling of discomfort for me that may never go away. Living in Kelowna I feel like I’m in my own world sometimes because I don’t fit in with women and I don’t fit in with cis-men. Don’t get me wrong, I have a great group of friends and I have a lot of love surrounding me, I just get lonely sometimes. Growing up and being raised as a woman then transitioning to a male body in my early twenties has robbed me of a crucial stage in my life that I’ve always dreamed of having: learning the “bro code” per say. Having to go through puberty all over again at a later stage in life without having the men around teach me how to navigate the world as a man is something I still struggle with to this day.

The Handshake: As a woman, I was raised to hug someone when greeting, or greet with a handshake in a professional setting. This way of greeting differs with gender, now it’s all about the handshake. When meeting another man for the first time, or greeting other guys on a daily basis I never know what handshake they are going to go for. How can something so simple be so hard. The fist bump, the classic handshake, the high five and fistbump, the hand grasp and fist bump. Who knew one simple greeting could make a homie feel so dumb.

Body Language: There are non-verbal and verbal ques that I have not experienced before transitioning. These include things such as a guy lifting his head or nodding when passing me on the sidewalk or using terms like “brother” and “boss man” to acknowledge me. It feels like it’s a brotherly thing to do to another guy, almost like affirming your manhood or position of power.

Interests and Common Knowledge: I know this is a subject that depends on the individual at hand, but I feel there is a certain amount of knowledge and social norms that a man is  expected to know and embody. From fixing things, to car knowledge or keeping up on sports, I find I can’t contribute to a conversation at the best of times. As a man, it is expected that when something breaks, we can fix it, to a certain degree. Or at a party when guys talk with guys and girls talk with girls I constantly feel like I am on the outside of both groups. I am not a “guys’ guy” and  I’ve never been able to talk freely and comfortably to cis men or women, especially in group settings. I feel like I cannot relate, like I’m always hiding my true self. Most of the circle I hang out with are women, who I love to spend time with, but I constantly crave my own connections and friendships with men. While living in Victoria, I developed deep connections and friendships with all kinds of people, who were predominantly queer. I feel most comfortable and most like myself when I am hanging out with other queers. There is no need for social norms or conversations that I struggle to contribute too. That comfort and familiarity is something I constantly crave and I hope to one day find again. The constant fear of being accepted and heard by my peers is something I need to work on. I acknowledge that feeling and I accept that I still need to grow in that area. The feelings of emptiness and loneliness in a room full of people is something I will continue to struggle with. Being able to relate to someone and form a deep connection on higher level is one of the greatest gifts in life. I feel as though I don’t fit into the box of societal norms in terms of how I connect and relate to people, but will continue to work towards that.

Past Life: My past life, as Ashley, the girl who those I grew up with knew me as, still haunts me and comes back into my current life. Sometimes when I see people from my past I notice they still treat me with feminine body language or act weird or distant to my true identity, Ashton. These are the moments that cut deep and bring up negative feelings in my heart and soul, but they are also the moments that make me stronger. Each and every negative or unsupportive comment I receive doesn’t make me weaker. I have made the choice to keep pushing and keep growing. That means I am doing exactly what I need to do. There are always people out there who won’t agree with what you’re doing, because it is not of their “norm,” but how you react to it shows your real character.

To summarize, the whole boy’s club ideal is a real and true thing. Anyone who doesn’t fit into that box is going to feel like they are excluded or on the outside. Socializing among genders is always going to be something different to navigate, but when I find a group of guys that accept me for who I am and act as an ally, then I can begin to form that connection that I’ve been longing for.  The connection that allows me to feel safe to be my true self.

 

 

 

 

Fitness: An Escape

Some people tell me that I work out too much and spend too much time in the gym; but working out is an escape for me. The one time of the day where I can tune everything out, focus on my music, focus on what I’m lifting and how I’m feeling. I get to shut out the outside world; the negative thoughts, the self-doubt the endless worrying. I work so hard to achieve the body that I’ve always dreamed of having. Without the gym I feel lost, heavy-minded and lethargic.  Working out is an anti-depressant for me. I enjoy pushing myself to workout side by side with the men I go to the gym with, refusing to be treated less than a man. Now I can directly relate that into my life. Pushing myself to go and face my greatest fears in life; speaking in front groups of people, standing up for myself, making a effort to worry about my own feelings and well-being. Call it selfish, but sometimes being selfish can lead to self-actualization. Every fear I’ve had in life, big or small, I’ve pushed through. Even in the toughest of times, whether that be financially, mentally, emotionally or physically, I’ve pushed through.

I’ve been on this earth for 26 Years. In that time I’ve moved to Victoria on my own, I’ve travelled to Europe, the US, within Canada etc. I have undergone two major surgeries, both elective, and healed and pushed through both of those. I’ve recently just started doing something I’ve dreamed of, teaching at SPINCO. I’m in shock and awe because never in my wildest dreams did I think that I could be an instructor at SPINCO. Over half of my life was controlled by a negative and doubtful mindset. I was often paralyzed by fear… the sound of my voice, the way people might judge me and react negatively to my truth, but as once said “it takes courage to change hearts.” Every day I push myself to tell my truth and maybe I can help someone in my position. I couldn’t have done all of this without the help of my coaches and teammates throughout the years. I have been so fortunate that at every gym I have joined, I’ve been treated as an equal. My next goal is to be a coach for someone else. I want to give someone the courage and the strength to build up their mind, body and soul through hard work. I want to be an influencer, a mind changer. Watch out Kelowna, because I’m coming for you.

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Hysterectomy

October 2018, I underwent the second surgery of my transition; Total hysterectomy with bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy (removal of the uterus, cervix, fallopian tubes and ovaries). All was done laparoscopic, leaving minimal scarring.

Reasoning behind a hysterectomy for a trans man:

  • No more uncomfortabe PAP tests
  • No risk of cervical or uterine cancer
  • No more breakthrough bleeding
  • Maximize masculinization from Testosterone
  • Provide a feeling of wholeness and completeness
  • No more painful cramping; Testosterone causes atrophy of the uterus and vagina, which puts tension on surrounding muscles and ligaments which can cause painful cramping

The surgery took place at KGH (Kelowna General Hospital) by Dr. Tanya Collins. Fortunately, I was able to get the surgery in my hometown, so I could recover from home without travel. The surgery itself took about an hour and a half and I had to stay overnight. From my very first appointment to the actual day of surgery,  Dr. Collins was amazing all the way through. She made me feel comfortable in one of the most vulnerable and uncomfortable states a trans man could be in; someone examining your downstairs. Not once did she question my identity or what I was doing. I feel very blessed to have been placed with such an amazing doctor. I wasn’t nervous about the surgery until the moment I was walking into the operating room; bright lights, tools laid out, a bunch of strangers in masks prepping the room, then I saw the familiar face of Dr. Collins and my worries went away. She had a confident and calming energy to her that put my mind at ease. Next thing I knew I was out like a light.

The post-surgery recovery was as to be expected; confused, in pain, uneasy and tired. For the most part the nurses on call were all pleasant and helpful, only a couple had confusion on their faces while checking my charts, but no body said anything. Being a smaller town I can imagine they don’t get many men coming in for a hysterectomy. Honestly, I wasn’t sure how I would be treated at the hospital in Kelowna, but I can say that it was an overall positive experience (as good as it can be under the circumstances). In terms of pain level, it was constant and underlining the entire time. I had zero appetite the night and morning after. Having to pee frequently from the IV was a struggle to get up everytime and use the bathroom, but luckily I could get up on my own and go so no need for a catheter! One downside was I had to wear a feminine pad for any bleeding; haven’t had to wear one in years. That triggered a bit of dysphoria and made me very uncomfortable, but it was temporary. I had to wear one on and off for two weeks post-surgery.

Surgery recovery: I found it to be pretty painful. I had limited mobility. This pain was different than my top surgery. It was all internal, so I struggled to just get in and out of bed. The first two weeks consisted of small walks, drinking lots of fluids and getting a lot of rest. I was constantly tired and felt weak. During the recovery phase I was only allowed to lift up to 10lbs for 6 weeks, imagine how limiting that was! I had to wait the full 6 weeks, until I got cleared from Dr. Collins, to go back to the gym and my place of work. I started with light weightlifting, indoor cyle, and legs. I didn’t start working my core until the 8 week mark. The hardest part was remembering to take it easy weeks 4-6. I was feeling better, healing well, but knew I wasn’t 100%. I didn’t want to risk prolonging the recovery time because I pushed my limits.

Tips:

  • wear loose and comfortable clothing to the hospital, especially loose boxers and pants
  • take 6 weeks off of the gym; you may be feeling fine, but because it is all internal healing, you don’t want to risk ripping an inscision
  • don’t over exert yourself. Take it slow, one day at a time. Be patient with getting back to regular activity and work (if physical labour).
  • most importantly remember that this is temporary! 6 weeks off of your job or regular activities feels brutal at the time, but in the grand scheme of things it is just a small amount of time

 

Information from: https://www.hysto.net/reasons-transmen-get-hysterectomy.htm

3 Year Manniversary

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February 26th, 2019: 3 Years on Testosterone

February 26th marks the first day of the rest of my life. A day that means more to me than one can ever imagine. Changes continue to happen with every year that goes by. These changes are more than just physical; I wanted to touch base on some of the emotional and mental changes I’ve experienced throughout my transition.

Emotional changes I’ve experienced since starting hormone replacement therapy include:
* The ability to cry: I used to cry all of the time. Tears of anger, tears of sadness, tears of joy. Now I experience this emotional response once or twice a year, if at all. It’s not that I don’t experience sadness, I just respond to that emotion in a different way now. Inability to produce tears are due to the hormonal change. Doesn’t seem to effect me negatively.
*Anger: I was told by doctors and therapists that I would experience anger in a new way and that I may have a short fuse or act out without reason. Luckily I haven’t experienced the short fuse. I am impatient at times, but I’ve always been a tad impatient in certain situations. I also get over being angry quickly, opposed to letting it ruin my entire day as I would in the past.
*Emotional needs: Since being on testosterone, the amount of physical connection I once needed has changed, if that makes sense. I find I don’t need hugs or other forms of human connection as much as I did in the past. I have to remind myself that my partner still needs that connection much more than I do.

Mental Changes:
*The ability to multitask: Forget multitasking. You can throw that skill out the window once you start T. I used to get annoyed with my dad for his inability to multitask, but now I get it. I still am a little better than he is, but I struggle to complete multiple tasks at time at work and in life in general. I used to have this skill down, but as the years go on, I find myself only truly productive when completing one task at a time.
*Memory: My memory has seemed to have gone down hill since hormone replacement therapy. Maybe that just happens with age and stress, but I struggle to remember key things often. Not sure if this is in direct correlation with testosterone.
*Losing key items: Phone, keys and wallet: Three items I tend to lose on rotation. I never struggled with this before testosterone as I do now.
*Depression/aniexty: Is improving over the years as I gain more confidence and continue to work hard to build my body. I still have my days, but I can bring myself back out after a rough day much sooner than before. I just try to rememeber to take it day by day, each task at a time, so I can lessen the blow of being overwhelmed.

Other Changes:
*Tastebuds: I have heard of a change in tastebuds happen to other trans guys. I used to be a salty guy, now I’m sweet. Pickles; once hated now like. Curry/Ethnic foods; once hated, now love. Arugula: Hated; now love. Little food preference changes occured that I thought would never happen.
*Voice: My voice has luckily deepened  over the years. I still struggle to project, espeically in a crowd. It is frustrating when trying to talk to someone in a room full of people as I find myself yelling, yet no one can here me. I hope that I can strengthen my vocal cords over the years to come. I tend to lose my voice quite easily now as well as it doesn’t take much to strain it.