Happy Legality…

What’s in a name?

I never knew. I never knew the hold a name could have over someone, until this past Tuesday. Without realizing it, I was holding myself back from fully moving forward. Holding onto my birth name for as long as I did was an intentional step. It wasn’t that I didn’t know how to file for the change, or that I didn’t have the means to do so.

Truthfully, I was afraid. I was afraid of what would happen when I got through the initial checklist. I was afraid to force my family into letting go of who I was. I was afraid to shove who I am into their faces. Most importantly, though, I was afraid to exist.

It’s hard to explain to people just what I mean by that statement. How on earth can someone not know how to exist? “You exist just by breathing!” they say to me. Yes, that is technically true. Also true is the fact that the existence I lived prior to this year was not an existence I would wish on anyone. To be frank, my life prior to this year was never going to be a long one. I don’t say that often, partly because I’ve tried to shield the most important people in my life from the reality. I have decided it’s important to point out, now that I’ve come through that on the other side: it was either the people in my life got used to me as male, or they buried me as female. There was never an alternative.

When you don’t plan for your future, you learn how to just make it through. I made it through high school. I made it through one crappy job after another. I made it through my day to day. I plastered a smile on my face for years, trying to convince those around me that I was happy. For a time, it worked. When you’re used to pretending, it’s hard to learn how to actually live. I don’t know how to allow myself to be happy because I’m so accustomed to pretending to be just that.

Learning how to live fully is not the worst thing that I could be required to do, and I will certainly do so. I have already come leaps and bounds from where I once was, and that will always remind me that even in the difficult times, this is worth it. Every day when I wake up and get irritated that my voice hasn’t settled fully; every week when I have to inject testosterone into my body because my body doesn’t create it naturally as it should. Every month when I catch my reflection in the mirror and don’t recognize myself. Each and every one of the annoying bits of this are worth it.

These past couple of days have been incredible. I have taken my first breaths as Lucas legally and now have a license that reflects that not only is that my name, but also that I am male. I find myself looking at it repeatedly, and actually got a little bit sad that I didn’t get asked for my ID when we went out for dinner to celebrate on Tuesday. In the photo, I look like the most ridiculous fool on the planet, but I will treasure that photo until this license expires because it represents everything that I’ve worked for in the last year.

For the first time in my life, I am excited at the prospect of a future.

My life has finally begun.

Philadelphia, the City of “Bro”therly Love

As we prepare to depart this morning, I felt as though it would be prudent to say a little bit about our experiences this weekend.

I live a very open life back home, one in which I can be proud of who I am and how far I’ve come. But coming to an unfamiliar place and doing that same thing was a terrifying decision. It is easy to forget that there are places in this country and in this world where I am not welcome, and that we have a president in Number 45 who is actively trying to take away my rights and the rights of those like me.

When we arrived on Thursday and were able to check out the conference center for the first time, I was overwhelmed at the experience of not being “one of the only ones.” For the first time since I came out to the first people in my life (a year ago, if you can believe it), I was not in the minority. I was in a room quite literally full of people who identify the same way that I do, or some variation thereof. That was overwhelming, and I actually had to step out for a while to avoid the sheer panic that that entails. I was here, in this space, so very openly admitting to strangers that I am transgender. To some of you, it will seem strange that I found this so overwhelming. I guess the best way I can explain it is this: imagine living your life in an existence where very few people speak the same language that you do.. you figure out ways to communicate, and you love the life you lead in this way. Eventually, you find out that there are many others who speak this language, and you decide to go see what they’re like. Imagine the first time walking into a room where you are truly understood and accepted and how incredible that must be. That is what I felt Thursday.

Once I was able to overcome that initial fear and vulnerability of being out and open, I had nothing but good experiences in this city. We attended a ceremony where the Trans Pride flag was raised in front of the City Hall, and we were met with nothing but love and support. There were no protesters. There were no people with signs proclaiming that God hates us. Only love, and acceptance, and happiness. It was wonderful to feel so included.

The conference itself was very informative, and the panels we were able to attend were educational enough to make it worth it but also entertaining enough that we were engaged the entire time. We spent a lot of time just wandering around the vender room, where I fanboyed several times over Jazz and Jeannette Jennings, of the show “I Am Jazz.” I never actually interacted with either of them, for fear of losing my composure.. caveat to this, I don’t actually identify with Jazz in much. I just binge watch the show and take small comfort in her ability to be that out and open.

In between panels, we were able to do so much sightseeing that there were times I thought my legs were going to legitimately give up on me. We walked from one end of the city to the other, and a ton in between.. We saw the Museum of Art, City Hall, Christ Church Burial Ground, the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall (where we saw a chair that George Washington himself actually sat in), the First Bank of the US (shoutout to my main man Alexander Hamilton), the Irish Memorial, and then made our way over to Edgar Allan Poe’s house. We walked a cumulative 20.5 miles or so in the span of 3 days, and actually didn’t get into a vehicle once other than our transportation to and from the airport. It was an incredible way to see the city, and I am glad that we did it now. That said, if I didn’t drop at least 3 pounds in my time here I will be severely disappointed.

Over all, Philadelphia proved to be one of the most welcoming, incredible places I’ve been to and I am still reeling from how amazing it felt to be so welcomed. It was a great time overall, and I am glad I did it and was able to remind myself that this is all worth it in the end. After a few rough months, none of which I have actually written about here, it was good to have a strictly positive experience in relation to my transition. I am now about 90% through my initial checklist, and I really couldn’t be happier with where I’m at right now. It’s a cool thing to feel like I actually have a future in front of me.

Until next time, my friends.

-Luc

30 Days In…

It has officially been 30 days since I had my first shot. 39 days, if you want to get really technical, because I’ve been putting this post off for days. I’ve been putting it off intentionally, because I’ve been afraid of it to a certain extent.

I am overall thrilled with my transition thus far; I have the greatest support system someone could possibly hope to have while going through something like this. I haven’t faced much by way of opposition, at least not by outside factors. But this post will not be the sunshine, rainbows, and “my life is so wonderful” post you might think should come around this point.

While I am happy overall and wouldn’t change any major decision I have made so far, I feel that it is also important to be honest. The fact of the matter is, this is an overwhelmingly large change in not only my life but in the lives of everyone who interacts with me on a regular basis. And while it’s true that they are also going through a transition to a certain extent, this really is mostly about me. And that’s okay; I’m allowed to be a little selfish here.

My first experience with any negative aspect of this journey came in the workplace. This was the one place that I hoped it wouldn’t; in fact, I went into this thinking that I could effectively “turn off” anything related to my transition while at work. I knew that the hormones would effect me and that I would be going through a second puberty, if you will- but I told myself that I would be able to be an adult at work and then when I went home I could be a moody teenager. It became very apparent to me very quickly that this would not be the case, and it came in the form of a small outburst that caught everyone, including myself off guard. I am fairly laid back in the workplace, or at least I was. All this took was one misplaced comment and I was loudly exclaiming that I was going through puberty. It’s humorous now, but it certainly wasn’t in the moment when the bossman was looking at me like I’d sprouted an additional head right in front of him. Regardless, it prompted me to panic and request a meeting so that we could all discuss what is happening and how I’m processing (or not processing, incidentally) all of the changes that are beginning to take hold.

I am unable to focus on anything for more than half an hour or so, whereas before I began hormones I could sit down and work on a project for 8 hours solid without even batting an eyelash. I get agitated very easily by too much stimuli at once, where I could once tune out even the loudest of interruptors. I get sidetracked very easily, and my short term memory is, at times, on the same level as a certain lovable little blue fish in the Disney universe. I don’t process things as quickly, and it takes me longer to work out the solution to a problem or come up with an answer.

These are all side effects that I didn’t prepare for, because I thought I would certainly be able to work through them quickly and efficiently. I was sorely mistaken. Luckily, I have an incredible management and HR team behind me at work, and out of the meeting came a fairly successful combination of several workarounds to the struggles that I’m facing. They have also been wonderful in checking in more regularly now that it’s been made clear just how much I was struggling. I didn’t want to admit that I needed to figure out a new plan, because to a certain extent, I felt weak. I didn’t want anyone to think that I was less committed than I have been, or that I don’t care about my job any longer, because that couldn’t be further from the truth.

Once work was sorted out for the most part, I settled back in for a week or so and things were fine. And then, last weekend happened. Friday night rolled around, and I was reminded in no uncertain terms that I was born biologically female. Mix that emotional roller coaster with the dysphoria that was stirred up, and I was already a mess. Saturday morning I went on a short adventure with boy twin number 2 to the grocery store. When we went to check out, the clerk made a comment about just how alike we look. We started to laugh, because that’s actually something that has begun happening more frequently as of late. We do share several physical features that are incredibly similar, and we have very similar personalities to match. At one point, she made the comment, “you could be brother and sister.”

In that moment, my whole world stopped, everything got quiet, and I realized for the first time that though I feel as though I am miles away from the person I was born as, I am not quite as far from that person as I thought I was. It was the first time I had been truly misgendered in public, and I was devastated. It hurt more than I would like to admit to be referred to as a female. This was the first time it actually upset me, but I haven’t been able to stop thinking about how bad it made me feel for days.

Fast forward a few hours; we had a great day watching movies (and napping, if we’re being honest- we had stayed up until 4 or so talking on my couch), and then everyone convened at my place so that we could go out and celebrate that I was officially 4 weeks on T. At some point, we started watching videos on Facebook. There are some old videos of me before I came out where I was involved in a lip-sync battle, as were several of the people in the room. We decided to click through them and give them a watch, because they are extremely comical.

Looking back on it, and after speaking through this with several people, this was a terrible idea. At the time, though, I had no idea that it was going to trigger me the way that it did. I didn’t know until we were already clicking into my old videos that it was going to be one of the most difficult things I’ve ever come across. By the time I realized it we were so invested in the videos that I didn’t want to put an end to the fun we were having. I watched myself on that screen, but for the first time it didn’t feel like me. I got up and walked away at one point, because there was a particular video playing of me lip-syncing to Dolly Parton’s (love you, Dolly!) “9 to 5.” dressed to the nines in a dress, heels, and a blonde wig. I couldn’t watch it. It made me so physically uncomfortable that I felt sick to my stomach.

When that video was done, we moved on to Youtube, where I found an outdated channel I used to have with my roommate. In the spirit of having fun, I pulled up one that doesn’t make me uncomfortable- our lip-synced (are you noticing a pattern here?) version of “I’ll Make a Man out of You” from Mulan. From there, a couple of older videos played. During one in particular, one of my friends made a perfectly innocent comment of “look how happy you look.”

That comment threw me into a tailspin I wasn’t prepared for. All I could see when I looked at that video was how unhappy I was, and here someone was looking at me thinking that I was the exact opposite. It made me realize how large of a front I was able to put up. I constructed walls that I forgot were there, and put on a brave face every day to show people how happy I was, when really that was the farthest from the truth. Someone recently told me, “the clowns are always the saddest… and those who go to ridiculous lengths to be silly and smile and bring levity to life are often fighting for their own.”

This stuck with me throughout the week, and continues to stick with me now (as I put on my battle armor to finish the post that I’ve been trying to write for almost 7 days). The thing about this statement is that it so accurately describes what I was feeling in most of those old videos. I was never actually happy, never felt 100% content with my life. Instead, I worked hard to be okay; I was so desperate to actually be okay that it became my standard operating procedure to go out of my way to show just how happy I was.

This week was one giant struggle after another, but I made it through. It took several conversations throughout the week, and several people checking in pretty regularly, but I made it through. I would love to say that I bounced back quickly and that I am back in the “I love everything” mindset I had been in before this setback, but I cannot do so. I have to remind myself daily that I don’t have to love every day of this journey.

I just have to take it one day at a time.

The First Day of the Rest of My Life…

March 17th.

St. Patrick’s Day.

5 days after my birthday.

My “Maniversary.”

I had my first shot last Friday. I never thought I would ever be so happy to get a shot. I ventured into the office bright and early, so that I could head straight to work afterwards. I wore my security blanket; my favorite Batman sweatshirt brought me comfort as I stepped into the waiting room and took a seat. The moment I stepped into the office, I was overcome with nerves and could barely stop my shaking hands long enough to scroll through Facebook. The most I was able to manage was a quick snapchat, asking those who saw it to wish me luck, as I was moments away from beginning T.

The moment they called my name, all was right in the world. It was as if I wasn’t nervous at all as I walked into the exam room and went through all the standard questions with the intake person. Since I had only been in the previous week, there wasn’t much to talk about. Mostly just affirmations that the answers were the same as they had been the week before. The moment she was done, the practitioner stepped in and sat down.

“Are you ready for the first day of the rest of your life?” She asked; she was, it seemed, as excited as I was to be a part of my journey. I could only nod emphatically and stammer out broken words in agreement. If I tried to speak out loud, surely I would cry.

I paid close attention as she explained the process and the steps to follow. As I figured out how to pull the solution into the syringe, and then switch the needles out, I catalogued everything with extreme care into the recesses of my memory. This is, after all, a process that I will likely use for the rest of my life unless I choose to change the type of injection I give myself as time goes on. Important stuff, which means I have to be very careful to learn it all!

When the moment finally came, and I was ready to go, the practitioner backed up and let me do it. As I brought the needle down and it entered my skin, I had to choke back tears as I pushed the solution into my body. When I was done, I truly lost the battle to keep my composure. I had to take several moments before I was able to speak to the practitioner. Luckily, she seemed to understand and let me take the time that I needed, even giving me a hug with multiple exclamations of “congratulations!” as the appointment ended.

It’s hard to explain to someone what exactly that moment felt like. I still don’t know that I’ve found the adequate words to portray exactly the utter joy that came over me the moment I put that bandaid over the tiny puncture wound. It can be explained as a type of euphoria, I suppose. It was as if, in that moment, everything lined up perfectly and showed me what true happiness was.

Only three days have passed since that moment, and I am not naïve enough to think that there are any noticeable changes as of yet. There was one brief moment yesterday where my voice got a tiny bit scratchy and I freaked out thinking that miraculously my voice was changing much faster than anticipated. This morning I woke up feeling stuffy so I’m almost entirely certain that my scratchiness is related to that.

I am, however, endlessly thirsty. I can not drink enough water, which translates to a lot of restroom breaks. This isn’t the most convenient, but in the grand scheme of things, it’s a very small price to pay to finally be happy. That will always be my number one goal.

Here’s to the rest of my life. Until next time..

Let Me Tell You a Story…

My uncle and godfather almost always starts one of his famous anecdotes with “Let me tell you a story…” It has, over my lifetime, become a bit of an inside joke within my family. Any time someone wants to reminisce about something, we all start it with that phrase while looking at my uncle with a smile. When I thought about how to start this, I couldn’t think of any other way; without further ado, then: Let me tell you a story…

My first memory of the knowledge that something was off about me was when I was three, maybe four years old. I was in the bathroom, and decided that I wasn’t supposed to sit on the toilet- I was supposed to stand. Being a toddler, I wasn’t able to stand straddling the toilet, so I perched myself on the toilet seat and tried that. I think, at some point after many messes were made, that my process was found out by my mother and she reminded me that as a girl I was supposed to sit to pee and not to stand. “You’re not supposed to stand,” I imagine she would have said, “you’re a girl. Girls sit.”

The dysphoria that I felt at three years old only grew as I got older, but I never once considered that I might be transgender. At that point in my life, it wasn’t even an option. Throughout elementary school and into middle school, I presented as a straight tomboyish female: I “liked” boys; I played softball; baggy sweatshirts and basketball shorts were staples in my wardrobe. As I got into high school after having moved from the deep south to New England, I started to be more open about my sexuality, though I never actually “came out” until after I had graduated.

Coming out as a lesbian was the first big step I took into the LGBT world. I thought that this was the logical step, as I had never felt comfortable dating the guys at my high school. For a while after I came out, I felt better. I found a girlfriend. I explored my sexuality for the first time ever. As time progressed, however, that novelty wore off. I started to hate myself again. I got insecure about my body and pulled away. My first real relationship ended, and I withdrew into myself.

Eventually, I got over the breakup and over the last couple of years have been exploring myself internally. I thought for a while that it was just depression. I started looking into that- doing research, asking questions, talking to people. Last year around this time, I watched a documentary on television about being gender fluid. As I was watching, there was a transgender male giving an interview. The more he spoke, the more I found myself saying, “hey, that’s me too!” That interview changed everything. My research moved away from mental illnesses and towards the possibility that I might in fact be transgender.

Roughly five months ago, I took the leap and started speaking to a local therapist who specializes in gender identity. Around the same time, I came out to my closest friends, who have all been nothing but loving and supportive, and have done everything they can to be sure that I know they stand behind me no matter what. The next step that I took was to tell my employer. I had a hunch that they would be on board and I was not disappointed; if I’m going to go through something like this, they are quite possibly the best possible place to work while I do it.

The final hurdle was my immediate family. I thought about it for days, weeks even, and stressed myself out to the point of making myself sick until I figured out that it would be best to tell them in person. I figured out a plan to take a few days off of work (remember what I said about a supportive workplace? They were instrumental in allowing me to get down to where my parents reside). The conversation went much better than I expected, and ended on a note that my parents and brother all love me no matter what. They have struggled since then, and since they all live so far away I sometimes wonder if they will just continue to ignore it until it truly becomes more “real” to them and I get further into my transition. I know that they are having a hard time, and that’s okay. It’s perfectly normal and I am willing to help them with whatever I can to make this a little bit easier.

I am now living full time as Lucas, with the exception of legally. After I start HRT, that will be my next step. I am equally excited and overwhelmed at these steps, and I am cautiously optimistic about how these changes will affect me. I have been incredibly lucky with the support I’ve received thus far, but I won’t lie to you and say that I am not worried about when my luck will run out. For now, though, I will enjoy the supportive bubble I have found myself living in.

Until Next Time.

-Luc

Every Story Has Its Beginning…

Every story has its beginning.

Every new adventure starts with a step forward.

Every day begins with a sunrise.

I could go on and on. The point is not to bore you with cliche greeting card-esque sentences, and if it was this would be a very short-lived endeavor. Yet there is truth in each and every one of the sentences I just listed off. There is a starting point to everything, and this is mine.

The past is a part of me, and always will be. I will speak of the past, since I choose to embrace where I’ve been in order to fully be engaged in where I’m going. The focus here, however, is on the future and the journey that will undoubtedly unfold as the future becomes the present. It will be a long road, full of uncertainties and plenty of fear. But living my truth will always be worth it. Will you join in this journey with me?