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Hi, I’m Karen, and welcome to my Cornbury blog. This blogging thing is a new adventure for me, but several of my friends have been urging me to keep one for awhile now. I’ll do my best. I hope you will be patient with me when I stumble, but mostly, I hope that this blog will help make this business of being trans a little less weird, maybe a little less scary. If you’re here, there’s a good chance that you, or someone you know, is dealing with the same issues that I have been. (Please note the past tense. I'm very proud of that.) I want to tell you that it’s going to be alright. You hear that? It’s going to be alright. I’m speaking from experience. So who am I to talk? Well, when I started all this, I was a pre-op trans woman in the middle of her RLE, her so-called “real life experience.” While I had lived (almost) full time for several years, in 2010 I finally decided to seek gender reassignment surgery. (Note: the accepted term for this among medical professionals is now gender confirmation surgery–an improvement, to my mind on all kinds of levels.) Whatever we call it, to qualify, one of the hoops that must be jumped is this RLE. That means living full time in female mode; no going back. Before I could apply for surgery, I was required to have lived as a woman for at least 12 months. The reasoning behind this is that by doing so, the applicant, me, in this case, would have a better idea what life would be like, should she decide to press forward. This meant finally coming out to my son and my elderly father, both of whom have been reluctantly supportive. I have been very blessed in this. Others have not been so lucky. Coming out is risky. Living full time is even riskier. A trans friend of mine once remarked, “Being out as trans means laying everything on the table. And you have no idea what you’re going to be allowed to keep.” You can literally lose everything: family, home, friends, colleagues, job, career, savings, pension, everything. I know people who have. But I have not, though I would be lying to say that this has been easy, or that there have not been strains, and deep, deep pain. Still, I have been blessed with an understanding, if not always totally supportive spouse, and with a family that has tried mightily to accept and come to terms with (in their eyes) the loss of a father and the emergence of this new person, Karen, who in her new hormonal adolescence, seems at times a stranger. (A nice one, though, I hope; one they can eventually come to love.) What I have discovered through all this, is that while the journey into Mordor is long and fraught with danger, it is filled with unexpected beauty and joy as well. Since coming out, (to everyone, family included,) I have been accepted, even loved, by people I never expected would be on my side, and in places I never expected (or thought) to go. In the past few months I have joined an all women’s Latin dance class, sung female tenor in a wonderful choir, learned basic silversmithing, (I make my own jewelry! How cool is that?), and surrounded myself with wonderful friends. I was supported by an amazing counsellor, (alas, recently retired), who connected me with a speech therapist who specializes in teaching feminine voice. (It has taken time, but it’s coming! I can hardly believe it!) And I have discovered that the future is not a road to be travelled, but a landscape to be constructed. The world I live in is one that I am building for myself, and you can do it, too. This one is a world filled with color, with love, and with joy, and for the first time in my life, I feel whole and totally alive. And the voice in my heart tells me, “This is soooo right! And about time, too!”

Cornbury Society a “Riderless Horse.”

I had been invited over from the Island to spend the day with a friend, a member of the Cornbury Society. One of the things we planned to do, was to attend the Cornbury AGM. (One of the things I’d long wished I could do, but, well…I live on the Island. With ferry fares, meals, and transportation, not to mention the late night return, it’s neither practical nor affordable.) So you will understand I was looking forward to this evening with a feeling of wonderful anticipation. A Cornbury meeting at last! Much as I hate to say so, I left with a feeling of terrible disappointment.


Store Refuses to Sell Wedding Dress to Lesbian Bride

News Item: “Last weekend, Alix Genter found the perfect wedding dress. But on Tuesday, the store’s owner called and refused to sell it to her.

“She said she wouldn’t work with me because I’m gay,” Genter told The Philadelphia Daily News. “She also said that I came from a nice Jewish family, and that it was a shame I was gay. She said, ‘There’s right, and there’s wrong. And this is wrong.’ “


What qualities do you look for in a friend?

A friend asked me today, “What qualities do you look for in a friend?” In my male life, not so long ago, I would have rattled off a quick list, almost without thinking, but in my male life, truthfully, I knew very little of friendship, and truthfully, had only a passing interest in it. A friend was someone I could go fly fishing with. Someone I could share fish stories with as we drove to the stream or the beach. Or, as Deirdre McClosky observed in her memoir, Crossing, a friend was someone I knew “who wouldn’t actually take a gun to me in the street.”


Rebuilding Connections: an opportunity lost

The call was waiting for me when I walked into the house: my brother. He was going to be in town this weekend, and wondered if we could get together for lunch…and talk. I need to say at this point, that we haven’t seen each other in about five years. The last time we spoke on the phone was almost exactly six months ago, when he called in response to my coming-out letter telling him I was about to start my RLE. Call me this evening, the message suggested, so I did.


On Jacqueline’s surgery in Montreal

When I had to come home early from my first Esprit, it was Jacqueline who sought me out and sat me down on my last morning, after everyone else had gone off to class or their other activities, and talked to me. She knew I was upset, even though (I thought) I had done a pretty good job of not letting it show. But she knew. And so she sat with me, there in the hotel room and talked to me about the letdown that was inevitably to follow, and how important it would be to maintain the friendships that had grown, so suddenly, and with such intensity over the past three days.

“Did someone say something to you?” I asked.

“No,” she said. “I just had a feeling that you might need someone to talk to. I’m a pretty intuitive person.”

Indeed. And a kind and a generous one, like so many of the people I met there. So when she flew back to Montreal, my heart flew back there with her, too.


On the pain of keeping the secret; and the paralysis of fear (Part 2)

It was lovely afternoon, sunny after weeks of cloud and rain. I had been up the street, visiting my friend, Bev, and admiring her new greenhouse, while the dogs, hers and mine, played in her back yard. I had enjoyed our visit immensely. (So had the dogs.) So I was in a good mood as I clipped Zoee onto her lead and walked back down the road toward home. (Already, you can hear what’s coming, can’t you?) My next door neighbour was standing on the boulevard, just outside his gate as I walked past.

I knew he was uncomfortable with my being trans, but foolishly, I was determined to be as pleasant as I could be…polite, anyway. “Hi, Ben,” I said, expecting little more than silence (or perhaps a nod) in return.

What I got was just the sort of confrontation that for so many years, I had feared.


Love at First Sight

I don’t just “believe” in love at first sight. I know it exists. And I know it lasts, too. I remember the doctor handing me our daughter moments after she was born. “It’s a girl,” she said. I’m not proud of this, but I’ll confess to it, anyway. There was a momentary flicker of disappointment, but it lasted only a moment…not even a second. I know because it takes about a second to say “one thousand.” The flicker didn’t last that long. I remember feeling the warmth of her body in my arms and realizing that this just felt so right. I remember looking down at her face, her lips, (Heart-shaped!) her eyelashes, (They curled!) and at her fingers, perfect even to the tiny fingernails. Who could imagine falling in love with fingernails? But I did. And it took less than a second.