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Global News airs series on being Transgender

All this week, Global news has been airing a series on what it is like to be transgender, specifically, what it is like if you are TS. If you have missed seeing these mini-documentaries, they can still be viewed on the Global webpage as of Friday, April 22. The final(?) item will air tonight at 6:30. They are worth a look. What follows is my own response to the series so far.

Thanks to all the Global news team, and to reporter, Lynn Collier, for this wonderful and deeply moving series. I am transgender, and only recently found the courage to finally step up and be my real self. After fighting it for 50 years…that’s right, 50…I am whole at last. One of my trans friends once remarked, “This being trans is the darndest thing…you fight it and fight it and fight it your whole life. And then it wins.” For me, that has certainly been true.

There are those who say, “There is no choice, and in one sense, that’s true, too. If you’re trans, that’s what you are. We can try to bury it. We can try to deny it. But it’s always there. And the harder we try to keep the secret, the more it dominates our lives, and the more painful it becomes.

But in the end, there is at least one choice that we can make: we can choose to deny who we are, to live a half life until it is no longer bearable. Or we can choose, finally, to embrace who we are, with all the uncertainties that follow.

It is a long and difficult road to travel. Along the way, many of us lose people we hold dear. But too many of us have looked at the alternative; too many of us have lived it. And we know from bitter experience, that road leads us to anguish and despair. (Readers here will know that suicidal thoughts are common among trans folk.)

But how heartening to see these wonderful young people finding their way so soon! And how heartening to see the acceptance, support and love they have found along the way.

After all those years of paralyzing fear, I want to tell people that my experience, so long delayed, has been almost exactly the same. Almost everywhere, I have foundwhat they have found: acceptance, support, and sometimes even from the most surprising of sources: love.

What I am learning, finally, is to confront the fear. Whenever I do, it dissolves like smoke in the wind…it just goes away. Having our stories told so movingly helps make that difficult confrontation just so much easier. Too many of us live our lives closeted away. What this series shows us is that life really is better outside. How wonderful at last, to be able to look up at a clear blue sky.

I hope you get to see it.

Karen

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About Karen McLaughlin

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!”

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