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Showing posts from April, 2017

the first 100 days or "who knew it would be this hard?"

Apparently everyone knew being President was hard except Donald Trump. The man known for the Art of the Deal (actually ghost written by Tony Swarchtz) couldn't fathom that there was something more to the job than closing a sale on a property. From a statistical point of view this is the worst first 100 days in presidential history with nothing more than a supreme court appointment to his credit and the lowest approval rating ever for a newly elected President. But then I don't think anyone should be too surprised because you could see this coming. Donald Trump leaves a trail of failed business ventures and lawsuits behind him and whatever reputation he has gained among his base as a successful and shrewd businessman he has gained via firing people on reality television. Except that now he is dealing with actual reality and there is nowhere to hide. His base will grow increasingly frustrated over time and the congressmen who backed him will need to answer to constituents w

"cuando tu seas madre...."

I remember being no more than 7 years old (we hadn't left Europe yet) and having my mother scold my disobedience by saying: “When you are a mother you can do as you like. But right now I am the mother” Those words were at once confusing, embarrassing, enraging and exhilarating. For I was beginning to slowly understand that there was something not quite right with my gender identity. The words, sometimes phrased slightly differently, would reappear on a number of occasions and are now permanently seared in my memory as was my scolding upon being discovered rattling around in her shoes. Today she will tell me honestly say that she has no recollection of it and I believe her, but for me they had a permanent impact. You became used to the disjointedness after a while and it became part of a reality which was allowed to express itself when no one is home and you could let the pressure out for a short while. Upon the family's return a sister might ask if you’ve been wearing l

gender non-conformance versus transgenderism

Gender non-conformity is not the same as being transgender with the main distinction being that not all gender variant people experience gender dysphoria. The other day I was watching a video of a makeup artist being interviewed. That person identified as gay male who cross-dressed virtually full time yet in no way did they even partially identify as a female. They simply chalked up their choice of garb as a preference rather than as an expression of a core female identity. Interestingly, they could have easily been mistaken for a very passable middle-aged transgender woman. You can see how these two things could cause confusion among civilians. Perhaps gender non-conformity in absence of dysphoria can be thought of as the flexing of gender norms in order to achieve individuality. Whereas the transgender person can accept or struggle against their nature but it cannot fundamentally be altered. I am now certain that Harry Benjamin’s hypothesis of varying gender dysphoria intensi

Jenner learns

Caitlyn Jenner had a steep learning curve but she has improved. When she first came out there was a kind of obtuseness present borne out of living your life in a bubble. Yes she had been deeply dysphoric all of her life and finally took the steps required to live authentically but she couldn't relate to people who were far less fortunate. Before coming out she had never even met another transgender person. Still she faced her own detractors and the offensive bile thrown her way on social media was impressive and pulled no punches. The paparazzi followed her every move and they mocked as they took photos. In the end whether you live in the public eye or in private, the life of a trans person is not easy. I think you will agree as you watch this brief exchange with Seth Meyers that she has come a long way in the last two years and whatever advocacy she can muster can only help to bring attention to the plight of those in our community who are not quite so fortunate. Jenner sh


Since I am alone when out as Joanna most of the time, I tend to be chatty with people. I don’t start out looking to talk to just anyone but sometimes a small comment will turn into an exchange and then suddenly blossom into a discussion; and so it was with Michelle this week who is a friendly 66-year-old separated woman living alone in the downtown core. There we were at the sugar and milk stand dressing our coffees when we struck up a conversation and ended up sitting at the same table. Michelle lives with her dog and a cat and by her own admission she doesn’t get out much. So after we had finished our coffees she asked if I would like to do this again. So we ended up exchanging numbers and promised that one would eventually call the other. By the questions she asked and comments she made, Michelle doesn’t know that I am transgender and I am not in any hurry to divulge it. It doesn’t matter because we are two people who may or may not overlap more than a few times and I will c


Marni Panas grew up in a practicing Catholic household so her upbringing was filled with doubt and guilt regarding her gender issues. In that regard I can strongly relate to her personal struggle. In this article she says: “You know from an early age if someone were to find out it would be awful. You get good at keeping a secret. You get good at being alone.” At 25 and still living as a man, she met her future wife, Laurina. About a month into their relationship, Panas told Laurina her truth. “Anyone would be lucky in life to have a partner who makes you believe you can be better, makes you believe you can do more. Laurina has been that gift to me all along.” That her marriage has managed to survive against the odds is an amazing thing which cannot be downplayed. I have seen Marni on YouTube videos for transgender causes and being interviewed alone and she is charming, confident and a strong and public advocate for transgender rights in deeply conservative Alberta.... http://

once the dust settles....

Many people are still confused by what it means to be transgender and I can understand why even we at times grapple with its definition. In the hunger for media stories with human interest it is often the extremes that draw the most attention. That 53 year old man who left his family to live as a 6 year old girl was one and the byline underscoring it should have been about mental illness. You can find such people all over society without the gender confusion thrown in except those who seek to invalidate the transgender experience will find solace in these cases. Walt Heyer is another less jarring example which is often trotted out by would-be detractors as the man who was cured of his mental illness by finding religion. Despite the naysayers, the public is far more accepting than ever and, in this new environment, some kids will be hurried along the conveyor belt of transition and put on puberty blockers by well-meaning parents who want to help their children be happy. That they ma

scientists or rational thought need not apply

Conservatism in the United States has hitched its wagon to two things: religious fundamentalism and unbridled free market capitalism; both of which conspire against what science is trying to do in this world. The first belief hinges on literal creationism spelled out in the Biblical story and hence leaves many things in the hands of a benevolent or vengeful God. Some of these conservatives are evangelicals who believe in things like the rapture. The second dogma is based on open markets where the realities of climate change will not be allowed to deter the amassing of profits. Hence they will simply block their ears when scientists warn of a warming planet thanks to our addiction to fossil fuels. The current sitting American president is not only a moron but is also highly volatile and can change political stances like a weather vane. What drives him is profound immaturity coupled with an almost psychopathic zeal to appear competent and powerful; which is precisely the reverse of

coming out to her dad

My father died 22 years ago so this unveiling would never take place. The emotions are sometimes very raw here as Jae Noel comes out to her own father and he does his best to process something he doesn't at all comprehend. But this old school gentleman will probably come around in the end and I can relate to how difficult it must be to see the person he thought was his son transition. To help her through this, Jae is fortunate to have a supportive girlfriend who is clearly going to stand by her through all of it. That this young transgender woman is gynephilic would not compute for the Blanchardians still stuck in the world of 30 years ago and today their heads must be exploding trying to rationalize it. But then young Jae would not have come out back then and, like the many of us did, likely would have repressed everything for abject fear of rejection.

the tenacity of the human spirit

Danielle works in my office. She is 60 years old, divorced for the last 27 years and currently grappling with cancer. We were talking recently about her medical situation and more facts about her life came out. Maybe because she was feeling particularly talkative or vulnerable she trusted me with the specifics. Back in 1987 her dog died, then her 7 year old daughter suffered a drowning incident and ultimately died in hospital some months later. Later that same year her husband asked for divorce and he eventually re-married, almost adding insult to injury, to one of the nurses who was looking after their dying daughter. Then while she was away from the hospital celebrating her birthday Danielle's mother (who had her encouraged her to leave her daughter`s bedside for a short while) died suddenly at her home. She was 56 years old. Danielle is like Job in the Bible asking God how much more suffering will be brought his way. Yet she has retained a philosophical and strong charac

our mother's closets

I am sure I posted this a few years ago but here it is again. Lynn Conway has a section on her marvelous website that speaks to the experiences of young children upon first entering their mother’s closets. I started doing so at a very young age and don’t really recall why I did it at the time although today I know very well why... "My mother's closest was both a sanctuary and a crystal ball, a place in which I escaped the world and a place where, through the scrim of my mother's clothes I envisioned my future self. In my mother's closet my senses came alive. The smells of perfume, shoe polish, wool, leather; the feel of satin, velvet, silk, chiffon - these things had the power to evoke dreams and fantasies and, although it was not forbidden, I always was afraid to enter it. Afraid of what? Being caught? More likely I feared finding something, some clue that would reveal the mysterious world I knew I would one day enter, the world of being a woman." - Eugenia

what does your dressing mean?

This post was prompted by reading what could have been the last post from the recovering crossdresser who seems happy to have sworn off the practice. Here is a simple litmus test for you. If refraining from crossdressing brings you distress then you might be denying part of your identity. Conversely if its practice starts to feel like an addiction it could be something to curb or even stop. Most people who fit the latter description tend to have begun as a way to relieve stress or for sexual pleasure but then it began to interfere with the life they actually wanted for themselves. This is one way to know how it might not be for you. Understanding yourself can take time and for the longest I mistakenly identified as someone who needed to recover except that I wasn't dressing all that often and it was the suppression of an important aspect of my identity which was causing me anxiety. Knowing whether it is an intrinsic part of who you are as a transgender person forms part o

the hot pink bra

“Every woman needs a pink bra” the young sales girl tells me. She has been extremely friendly and helpful and is almost as tall as me. She is very open and suddenly we are talking away. Perhaps against my better judgement I bought a hot pink bra because it was on sale and after getting home I realized it wasn’t the best choice given its likelihood to show its color underneath certain clothing. But I wasn’t thinking about this at the time because of the great price and due to the fact they had my size. But the best part of it all was the interaction with this young woman and my ability to be so completely at ease with who I am. It made buying this item of clothing worth the money even if I need to be careful what I wear over it. I very much enjoy interacting with people and, reaching this echelon while presenting as Joanna, has been a slow process but definitely worth the effort. No matter what my gender presentation, I am equally comfortable after many years of terrifying dread

what lies behind the curtain

Populism can work but only when it is backed by the gravitas to truly want to make a difference. Donald Trump pretends to espouse the populism of real change while Bernie Sanders, who truly wants it, swims against the current of capitalist orthodoxy. The latter captured the intellectuals and the youth vote while the former managed to dupe rightfully disgruntled blue collar white voters who have innocently done themselves a huge disservice. But then in this last election the alternative to Trump was less than stellar. Being led down the garden path is not a new concept but it has rarely been so flagrantly devoid of camouflage as it is today. I sit in bewilderment of how the incompetence of this administration doesn’t appear to stir into action an approriate response. This until I remember that many people are plugged into their own echo chambers or are easy prey for being bamboozled. The populism of 20th century European despots like Hitler, Mussolini and Stalin worked for a lim

the final proportion

If I give the impression here that I have all figured out its not my intention for I struggle with my dysphoria every day. Sometimes you are sure where you stand and then your thoughts go elsewhere and start reflecting on how to make a new life after a transition. The truth is that I take things one day at a time and do my best to deal with my reality while I reflect on what will make me the most stable and happy. One thing is for certain: the more time and effort you have invested in going in a certain direction in life, the more complex any reversal becomes. It is with that understanding that I proceed forward and let the natural progression of my life help give me answers. After all this has been working well thus far. A physical transition is off the table, however some form of social transition is not. This decision is based not only on the fact that I have already had a stroke but also on the lack of need of FFS, GRS or even vocal chord surgery to be myself. I am already li


Brahms lullaby was actually a love song. Johannes Brahms grew up in a family where his father (who was also a musician) and his mother were stuck in a loveless and sexless marriage. Just to confuse things further for a young man, Brahms was got a job as a 12 year old working in a brothel entertaining the patrons and so he got an eyeful of the seedier side of sexual relations. Hence at home it was the staid marriage of his parents contrasted against the other extreme he saw at work. So when a 25 year old Johannes met and fell in love with Bertha Faber who sang in the choir he directed, he didn’t know how to reconcile his experiences with intimacy. They took long walks together and spent many hours talking but then Brahms left her suddenly but not before he had commissioned to memory a little tune she would always sing to him during their time together. 10 years later he saw Bertha again on a Vienna street except that this time she was hanging on the arm of a wealthy business man.

the next generation

Zuzanna Mroz is a lovely young Danish transgender girl. All of 17 years old, she is fortunate enough to be transitioning with the support of her family and her classmates. You will note in this video how grounded she is and how at ease with her presentation and yet she tells about how it wasn't always that way. She had to gain the support of her mother, tone down the makeup and the high heels (sound familiar?) and settle down to finally become herself. I can relate to much of what she says here and even if I am in a different stage of life and age, what she says about finding yourself really resonated with me. I think you will agree that this is a very positive message from someone who has found themselves at a young age...

a sign of the times

I bought my first house in 1996 for $120,000 Canadian Dollars. This was before the big real estate booms that came much later and even now the average price of a home in Montreal does not exceed $400,000 which helps it remain a largely livable city. Contrast this with Vancouver or Toronto where the price is real estate is sky rocketing at an alarming rate. Vancouver has had to slap on a 15% foreign buyer tax to try and cool a market where bidding wars are not unheard of and where houses and condos remain empty waiting for their foreign owners to move in. Meanwhile local potential buyers are left out in the cold as prices soar. A young professional couple in this scenario is in trouble and they needn’t be in a hurry to purchase since owning property is increasingly becoming a pipe dream. Part of the problem is that widening global income disparity is giving that upper crust the flexibility to outbid in any market. Central Toronto contains tiny bungalows that are now going for clos

where there is love

John Shore is a personal advice writer for the Citizen Times in North Carolina and his sensitive and delicately phrased response to an older couple who deeply care about their daughter and soon to be former son-in-law was impressive. Whether or not you agree with his optimism on the chances of survival of this couple's marriage, he nevertheless outlines remarkably well the challenge that both the transgender person and their partner face: "Q: About a week ago, our son-in-law told us that he has realized he is transgender, and that he will be starting the MTF (male-to-female) process in the next months. While fully supporting him, our daughter is also broken-hearted, since she still loves the man she married. He still loves her, too. Because of their love, and the beautiful little girl they had together, they’re going to stay married. My daughter now describes their relationship as “two good friends who love each other and are raising a child together.” But she’s very sad,


I was listening to the program Tapestry on CBC radio on Sunday and there was a fascinating guest on. His name is Robert Hoge and he was born with a facial tumor. His eyes were shifted dramatically to each side of his face and his mother was shocked to see her newborn baby boy and wondered what life would be like for him. His parents did their best to raise him as a normal child and he underwent a series of painful operations to make him as acceptable as possible to society. Robert sounds like a well-grounded and intelligent man who understands the price of being or looking different and has written a book about it called "Ugly: My Memoir". Even now grown men and women will ask him questions without the slightest bit of tact. Some are genuinely curious and don’t mean any harm while others are simply cruel. He has two daughters who love him and he expected that one day one or both would come to a stage where they would be embarrassed by him. It never happened. But still

the death of Autogynephilia

Autogynephilia never really existed so it cannot be killed. It wasn't something you could measure under a microscope the way a germ could be yet it tried to ascribe an exclusively sexual motive to some transitions without conclusive proof thus failing the litmus test for science. What does exist of course is cross gender arousal which is a meeting of dysphoria with a burgeoning sexual identity. It causes confusion until the feelings can be sifted through and a way forward can be found; each path unique. What I have concluded is that those of us who transition do so in spite of this arousal and not because of it. The Blanchard two type model of transsexualism is also severely suspect and, the more I research this subject, the more exceptions I find leading me to think there was academic wishful thinking involved coupled with a predisposition to marginalize. Caryn, who has offered her very perceptive commentary here before, is only one more example of someone who breaks this simp

one convert at a time

Social conservatives often want to pass on the restrictions that they suffered on to others and, behind almost every one, you will find a childhood filled with repression, discipline and prejudice. They are like beaten children who repeat what they have learnt by telling the other half how to live. This is basic psychology with secure and happy people tending to live and let live the smartest even trying to reflect what it must be like to be the person across from them. This is why I am so averse to judgement. I was born in a country where a warping of religion and government conspired to form the rules of moral conduct and passed judgement on things they didn’t understand. It took me years to shed my formation which coloured the style of the parenting I received whether my mother and father realised it or not. The worst combination I can think of now is ignorance and malevolence which is galling beyond tolerance; and yet this is often what the world is replete with at all leve

time invested

15 minutes. That is the length of time it takes me to be ready to step out the door presenting as Joanna. After years of regular practice I have it down to an art form and I am like a well-oiled machine. I don’t overdo the make-up and the clothing tends to lean towards the pragmatic but also stylish as it aligns with the requirements of each season. In that sense I have done away with items that don’t fit my body or might call attention to some feature that I don’t want to advertise. Because I am tall I will sometimes catch women who pass me glance down at my feet; their expression very transparently giving away their thought process: “she must be getting help from the shoes” What used to be daunting is now amusing and I enjoy my feminine expression more than I ever have before because it comes from a place of being truly comfortable in my own skin and forsaking the worry of how I am being perceived. As a result I pass specifically because I never worry about passing which migh

dysphoria comes first

Being able to look past how my gender dysphoria impacted my sexuality has allowed me to better get to the root of who I am. For years this was a key roadblock in which I was mired: the idea that my gender dysphoria was foremost a problem of aberrant sexuality when exactly the opposite was true. It was instead the sexuality which had been shaped by a pre-existing conflict of gender identity. Understanding this has been an epiphany and actually helped make my decision not to transition physically much more certain although I completely understand why many of you have decided to do so. After all, there are definite advantages to living in only one gender role. I wrote recently about the need to look past cross gender arousal because it can distract you from understanding your true feelings. One simple litmus test we know of is to administer estrogen to the transgender person and watch their lucidity increase as they become more unburdened with the sexual aspect. What remains is a fe

this song has no title

It was 1973 and I was 11 years old. I sat in my friend Jimmy Martin’s house staring at his parents’ behemoth console stereo as songs from Elton John’s “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” filled his living room on a Saturday morning. It was visceral like upon first listen. I hadn't yet learned the fundamentals of musical theory but I felt there was something a little different going on. Bernie Taupin’s poetic lyricism matched perfectly with John’s music to create a sonic landscape; each tune emblematic of a slice of Americana which the duo had grown up idolizing in their native England. After that, my father’s pleas for me to start piano would finally be answered as I requested he start me off with the lessons he had promised. For I had found a purpose in wanting to replicate what I had heard that day. One of the many wonderful songs from that album was called “This Song has No Title”. At just shy of 3 minutes long it was both inventive in lyric and in music with an arpeggio piano p

caveat emptor

I have never been freer from the desire to form part of a couple than I am today. I attribute this feeling to the fatigue and disenchantment of having experienced relationships that didn’t work but also from coming closest to being the person I should have always been all along and now don't want to tamper with. I don’t envy the partners of older transgender people. We who have taken so long to come to terms can compare our progress to a patiently moving snail. We lurch along to finally come to a resting point that often surprises the partner who justifiably can claim false advertising, but even sometimes ourselves who were certain that place was elsewhere on the spectrum. In my case being transgender wasn’t really what ended each relationship but not being able to be fully myself complicated matters by adding a layer of stress that I didn’t need and amounted to me feeling like an important part of who I was need not manifest itself. In other words, I felt I needed to make su

guilt and shame in the occidental world

For western churches, any behaviour falling outside the framework of traditional Judeo-Christian values has always been viewed as suspect and any aberration, whether it formed part of the natural selection of human behavior or not, would be subject to be labeled as sin. Homosexuality certainly fit this criteria as well as any gender behavior that strayed from a model built exclusively to support the family structure. The reality is that human beings form part of an imperfect fabric that is touched by variations which has never formed part of the accepted teachings of these institutions. Instead, what most interested Western European religious leaders was adherence to fundamental teachings as they embedded themselves in the political structures of their nations to serve as moral advisors to their respective monarchs. Hence critical errors, such as excommunicating Galileo for postulating a scientific fact, were made in favor of upholding dogmatic truth. In essence, organized religion


The art of Salvador Dali had a big impact on me when I was young. The surrealist themes appealed to my then interest for the science fiction of Ray Bradbury and Issac Asimov and the dreamscape quality of his work allowed you to let the imagination roam. Dali had himself been greatly influenced by the Spanish master Diego Velasquez and it showed with his ultra-realistic depiction of people and animals who then warped into alternate dimensions or blended their bodies with inanimate objects. I began to oil paint around the age of 10 and continued to do so until my late teens. This interest competed with my passion for music which eventually won out and it is now my daughter who has honed her art skills to a level beyond my own. Attempting to emulate Dali’s precision and use of color, which had brilliance and a sheen which perfectly complimented his ethereal themes, gave me a challenge to shoot for; the same type that working on Chopin impromptus did for me on the piano. Below is

malaise in the West

Western liberal democracies are being threatened and, as more wealth is being held in the hands of fewer people, the unbalance is reeking havoc on the stability of the societies they house. The net effect of this is that the elite are the ones who set policy instead of focusing on what is best for the whole. In the United States both parties are beholden to special interest benefactors who then demand to have their say. The recent healthcare bill failure was one such example but there are many others. The post World War II boom was an anomaly in that mass immigration from Europe accompanied by the need to rebuild that ravaged continent allowed America to build a prosperous middle class. The post war baby boom then became the generation who profited from their parents's ability to see them through advanced education to construct the nation's ruling political class. Today most wealth is not amassed through toil and hard work. Yes there are exceptions such as technology pur

far from the norm

I am buying a sandwich at Subway when an older man comes up to me and asks: “Excuse me Madame but might you be by any chance taller than 5’ 12”?” He was nice enough and you could see he was a little down on his luck. I told him that I was 6’ before heels and that seemed to satisfy him. The young woman who has been serving me smiles politely in my direction. I then tell her that when young I resented my height (which was true in terms of trying to pass inconspicuously in public). She says “I think it’s great to be tall and you should be proud” for which I thank her. When I finish my lunch I happen to pass in front of this gentleman again and he says: “Thank you for not being offended because I like to see people outside the norm whether very small or very large” to which I respond that I am very accustomed to receiving comments on my height (which is also true). He then says to me: “You are a lovely woman” I smile and then I'm on my way thinking just how far from the