The Introduction


Just ahead of the menacing storm I slipped into the building where we were gathering, choosing the seat closest to where our guest would speak. Minutes later the large conference room was full of my colleagues, many I had never met. We had been invited to a Question & Answer Forum with our District’s US Congressional Representative, who had arranged to visit our campus. We are a venerable aerospace company dating back to the dawn of aviation, and we seemed to be a perennial favorite with this politician. Still, we would have mere minutes with each other…

…A quick introduction, then questions were taken; then after a few answers and some gentle jabs at certain other politicians, it seemed clear to me where this representative’s loyalties lay…

…We all listened intently — me, as-if I was prepping for an exam. A foggy sense of “opportunity” had formed in my heart when I was recently invited…and dared to RSVP. Now my thoughts were taking shape, and I could feel the butterflies fluttering inside me, and my ego whined “but what if I fumble over my words???” Sigh: I am well beyond the fear of sounding foolish, but not beyond my wish to be cogent, relevant, and (especially) considerate of others…

…Two questions, three, four…I was patient and pleasantly attentive. Should I speak – should I? Time was almost gone. AND what I had was not really a question; what I had was an opportunity to sow a seed!

Last question answered……a pregnant pause……almost unseen, I raised my hand, and our eyes locked as he turned back around toward me: “Yes ma’am!?” Gently but firmly enough be heard throughout the room, I spoke: “It seems you will be leaving immediately and will not have time for personal moments with us. May I say what I would otherwise have said in private?” “Of course,” he beckoned.

“Sir, we all know how public discourse has become very strained in recent years……” Looking up into his eyes, I continued as speaking with a new acquaintance: “Society will not protect those whom it does not value.” Pause. “And it will not value those that it does not know.” Pause. “May I please introduce myself: I am Renée Blatchley, one of your constitutes, and I am a transgender woman.” Pause. “I am one of a number of other transgender people who are part of this [company] family, and we have been blessed to work here with people who respect our human dignity. We look forward to when our state and federal government can treat us as well as our company family does!” Pause. “Thank You for being our representative, and thank you for sharing your time with us today…Blessings!!”

Then he thanked me and encouraged me (and others in my community) to contact him further. And with final thanks from our CEO, our meeting concluded…

…In my next moment of awareness, an exuberant Congressional aide, who had already made his way to the front, was pressing his official business card into my hand; he reiterated the invitation I had just received. With pleasant but quizzical gratitude, I accepted his card: “Thank you so much!

Moments later, gathering my belongings, amazed that I had expressed exactly what had wordlessly formed in my heart, I suddenly realized I was alone with our VP of Human Resources. (It seems we are always meeting at things like this, and we already knew the measure of each other!) His look said “you’ve got brass ones!” Sweetly I looked back at him thinking “not anymore!” “Why didn’t you ask him about the LGBTQ Equality legislation that passed the House? You know he was on that committee” he said. I replied that my intent was to foster a few moments of shared vulnerability, to help him recognize that he represents transgender people also, and to begin a friendly relationship with him. With sadness I added: “we have seen many amazing gains made through activism and the courts, but we trans folk lacked a foundation of personal relationships; therefore many of these gains have been swept-away, because we are not valued; because we are not really known as humans to people who only see us as caricatures.” And he suddenly understood, commending my approach.

Transgender visibility is even more important in this increasingly hostile political climate. Most people still have never knowingly met a transgender person; fewer have a transgender friend or acquaintance. I feel “called” to be candid about my status: so when people come to know me (beyond anonymous encounters), the fact that I am a transgender woman becomes apparent in relaxed, natural and even winsome ways. I want everyone I meet to have a positive interaction with a transgender person; I want people to know that we are pretty much like everyone else.

We are ALL human beings FIRST; everything else, second, third, fourth…

Love, Blessings & Joy Dear Friends!!

#WhatTransLooksLike #VulnerabilityAsStrength


You’re In a Safe Place Here…

patientcareI had changed, was snuggled under the threadbare hospital blanket on a gurney in a frigid staging room. The nurse had been sweet as she took my hand in greeting, then started a saline IV; I thanked her and she left me. Then the doctor came in, another gentle hand; he asked me questions he already knew the answers to, and at last I added: “you know that I am a transgender woman, with mixed anatomy? I don’t want anyone to be surprised.” He smiled reassuringly and replied, “yes, I knew from the notes. There’s no problem; we see all kinds of bodies here;” I thanked him and then he left…

…It was time, and the anesthesiologist came, introduced herself and wheeled me into the dim procedure room nearby. Once inside she introduced me to the other members of the team, and they all smiled and greeted me, touching my hand warmly. I thanked them and gently, pensively said “just so there are no unpleasant surprises, I am a transgender woman and my anatomy is mixed.” The anesthesiologist must have seen the concern on my face, and as-if she was giving me a warm hug, she thanked me and said “you’re in a *safe* place here…”

…Amidst friendly chatter about the place I most wanted to visit (Australia), I quickly felt myself…enter…oblivion……seemingly moments later we resumed our conversation, this time everyone was talking about their favorite local craft beers. Procedure done, I asked them if I had been a good patient while I had been “under,” and they reassured me that I had done perfectly and that there appeared to be no cancer. Once again, I thanked them.

“You’re in a *safe* place here,” her words reassured me throughout the rest of the day.

This is how I spent my Transgender Day of Visibility.

Love, Blessings & Joy Dear Friends!!



Some Gender Transition Wisdom


My transition from living as a “special sort of man” to now living as a “special sort of woman” occurred gradually and gently over the course of about seven years. Here are some of the things I learned which served to make my transition smoother than it might otherwise have been. I hope you find these helpful as well! (Switch pronouns & examples to suit!)

Gender transition is really not something you should do alone if you can help it; include other people in your life transformation: I have been blessed to have a dear cisgender woman who has been my best friend and has been as a sister, a mother and mentor to me throughout this whole process – she saved my marriage and likely prevented my suicide…

…And something else really important: I am convinced that humans are spiritual as well as animal beings, and for me it was crucial to include my Creator in my transition. Indeed, I feel it was this Person’s gentle “hand” that moved me through the process, of becoming the woman I am today, and who I will become tomorrow. If you are a person of faith, please know that you are loved by your Creator as your true self, whatever anyone else might say. You are no mistake, your true gender is a gift AND: You Are Loved!

So, in no particular order…

  • OWN your gender with a quiet, steady conviction. If, for example, someone won’t accept you as a woman, don’t let their view of you dampen your feminine expression (subtly supporting their wrong view).
  • Be nicer to others than you need to be (you become a ‘pleasantly peculiar’ person who is trans instead of a “tranny freak”).
  • Desensitization is a good thing for you AND others. Getting used to your own changes helps you build self-confidence. When others get used to the idea that you’re changing, then your next change will just be ho-hum to them.
  • Being trans is NOT the worst thing that can happen to you. Being trans is not the catastrophe your friends & family might assume it to be.
  • Consider the benefits of transitioning gradually: it’s hard to make a big mistake; it can be done on a shoestring budget; you can stay under people’s “freak radar;” you can put more thought into your transformation; others have more time to adapt to your changes (and so do you).
  • Remember that you are not deceiving anyone – you’re 100% yourself under the circumstances. It’s okay to evolve in your self-understanding, self-expression, and self-description. It’s called growing and even haters do it (well, sometimes).
  • Concentrate on your inner person at least as much as your outer expression. Inner beauty has a way of coming out, even when we don’t plan on it (so does inner ugliness!) Being a beautiful person on the inside is something that transcends our gender and our gender expression. Being a beautiful soul endears one to people of good-will (even if they don’t “get” us), while such beauty puts haters to shame.
  • Self-confidence is AT LEAST half of being accepted as the gender you are. Such is developed by getting out and being yourself until you become (relatively) comfortable in your skin. Know that being “at ease” with yourself helps others to be at ease with you. You don’t have to be 100% transitioned (nor even near it), nor 100% satisfied with your body or progress in order to have a relative degree of comfort with yourself.
  • Your vocabulary can help you transition. Think of the subtle differences here: “recognized as female” vs. “passing;” “recognized as transgender” vs. “getting read;” “privacy” vs. “stealth.” The former frame things positively and assume we are legitimate; the later live under a cloud that implies we aren’t real people.
  • Focus on the things you cannot buy – they will be more valuable to your assimilation than you may imagine. You can buy breasts, but you cannot buy a feminine demeanor, nor the ability to “girl talk,” nor feminine-street-smarts, nor a feminine voice (well almost never). Many of these things require observation, patience, practice, a “letting-go” of yourself.
  • Be willing to look and sound foolish – there are times when you will, and you won’t make progress unless you’re willing to make mistakes in public – just try to keep your mistakes small!
  • Observe cisgender people – people watch – it’s great fun!
  • Just do it…get out and be yourself, even though your expression will be imperfect, even though you are probably still trying to figure-out what to do and how to do it.
  • As you progress and all this becomes easier, start thinking about developing your style.
  • Yes, it gets easier with time and effort! Truly!
  • Transition is synergistic – all the positive things you do work together to make your self-expression, your presentation more and more authentically you. Things that seem impossible now, may become possible as you move forward in other areas.
  • Embrace the kindness of strangers. People can see when you are sincerely trying to grow and many of them will be delighted to help you along. Show your appreciation.
  • Lean-into your difficulties; as you do this you will develop a strength you never thought you had in you. And remember, your circumstances change like the weather – things won’t always be difficult.
  • Look for things to be thankful for; look for ways to be kind & compassionate. These will grow and beautify your inner person, and it will waft from your being like a lovely fragrance.
  • Once your gender presentation “tips the balance,” society will help push you the rest of the way over.
  • “Get over” what people might think about what you’re doing, how and why: because…
  • Most people don’t really care what you are doing. And no, not everyone is watching you all the time; AND besides, what they’re thinking about you really isn’t your business anyway. All this sounds harsh, but it’s true, and when you accept these, your life and transition will move ahead more smoothly.
  • Consider allowing people to gender you as they wish while you are transitioning; this has the advantage of allowing you to “fly under their radar” AND when people feel free to simply interact with you (and they are more likely to if you’re not verbally asserting your gender identity), you will get a more accurate idea of how well their gender perception of you matches your gender expression of your gender identity. It my seem to grate on you at first, but as you change, you will see people change their assessment, and the encouragement will be valuable; AND your transition is more likely to be seen as human growth rather than something disruptive.
  • Do what you can to make it easy for people to perceive you as the gender you are, then whether they know you are trans or not, they will tend to treat you as if you had been birth assigned this gender. This may seem obvious, but there are crazy things we do that can make it unnecessarily hard for people to see us as we wish to be seen.
  • Free Yourself! Many of us have known our gender for our whole life, but had to suppress what we knew, not express ourselves the way we wanted. You are free now, and giving yourself permission to *be* will move you forward in amazing ways!
  • Transition IS consuming for a while, years probably – you WILL eventually settle into yourself and you will “graduate.” (BTW, “graduating” doesn’t mean you have every change made that you may want or be planning. You can be fully a woman without (for example) having GRS (Gender Reassignment Surgery) – but once you’ve graduated, GRS is just “women’s surgery.”).
  • Consider that a tactical step-backwards could be what you need to make a strategic move forward.
  • If circumstances force you to scale-back, find another way, even if it’s small, hidden and known only to you – you’re still moving forward and it will help you stay positive.
  • Be gentle with yourself – as much as needed.
  • Visualize your successful transition – as much as needed.
  • AVOID NEGATIVE SELF-TALK!!!!!!!!!!!! (No one has the right to condemn you, not even you!)
  • Don’t act like a victim; don’t be angry with the world – it’s unproductive, dangerous and no one will want to be around you.  Yes we are often victims; yes our anger is often justified, BUT life isn’t fair and these two things will destroy your transition and life.
  • When someone gives you a compliment, accept it graciously and let it be like a soothing balm, and remember it, and replay it in your mind as much as necessary! (I write these down, and I keep a folder of them, and I bathe myself in them whenever I feel the need.)
  • Surround yourself with positive, supportive people. Be that kind of person to others.
  • Realize that everyone in your life will need to transition as you transition. The closer they are to you, the more radical and difficult their transition will have to be. Cut them the slack you would like them to cut you (whether they do this for you or not).
  • With relationships there are NO GUARANTEED OUTCOMES. NONE. Accept this with as much grace as you can.
  • Allow for grief. Transition is a bit like death and resurrection; there are parts of you that others may never see again, that you may never experience again. To many, it will seem as though you have died: allow them their grief (in all its stages). Don’t be surprised nor ashamed if you grieve over yourself also – who you were was not such a bad person, and in a sense “he” didn’t deserve to die: he may have been a good husband, father and friend; he sustained you until you could begin your new life, and he was a gentleman to step aide to now let you blossom & live: he was far from perfect, but please give him his due.
  • Communicate with your Significant Other. This can be as hard as hell, and hurt like hell, but hiding and sneaking about in your transition will “poison the well” like few other things.
  • Know your medications! Do your homework on your medical condition(s). Your doctor should not dictate the medical aspects of your transition. If your doctor does not agree with your goals, find another doctor and work on your transition in partnership with them. It’s your body and your life!
  • Don’t let anyone tell you that you aren’t what you know yourself to be. There are a LOT of ways of describing ourselves and (sadly) some folks like to use descriptors as boundaries-to-police rather than ways to help understand each other.
  • If you’re trans, you’re trans – you don’t need to “check all of the boxes” to be “trans enough.” YOU DECIDE if you’re transgender.
  • Do your transition YOUR WAY. Accept good advice, but it’s your transition, your skin in the game.
  • Don’t let anyone insist that you’re doing it wrong because you’re not following the “ACME Guide to Real Transition.”
  • You will probably be told that you are being selfish for transitioning. Put this into perspective: gender identity and its expression are a core part of being human – everyone expresses their gender and what’s legitimate for them is legitimate for you too. Someone assigned your gender when you were born, and they never asked you; well, their assumption was wrong and you need to be yourself. Self-sacrifice is a healthy, noble human virtue. Self-negation is a self-destructive, ignoble tragedy: even haters “get” this eventually. Make sure you are being yourself, and you will become a better human being for everyone else to be around.
  • Most parents want their children to be happy; a great many of our parents are scared-to-death about our transitions because they are afraid we are ruining our lives. Make sure that your parents see you happy! Help them understand that this is the right thing for you to do. Help them realize that their child is alive and happy, even if their son has now blossomed into a daughter.
  • Accept that some people may never accept you as you are; but that is not your fault, it is theirs.
  • Be kind! Be kind! And when in doubt, do the kind thing! (Being kind to others is also a way to be kind to yourself – the universe just works that way!)
  • Don’t be afraid to start-over. Transition itself is one of the most profound (and difficult & risky) “reinventions” of ourselves that a human can do. If, for example, you find yourself going down the binary path that includes surgery and whatnot, AND you feel that you’re really more genderqueer. DO NOT BE AFRAID to move to where you feel most yourself. It’s your life and this is serious business. Moving to your true self should never be seen as a backward-step – it’s always progress.
  • “Becoming” is a twisty-turny-path – but it’s like this for everyone, and that’s okay.
  • Don’t take everything too seriously (especially yourself)!  Laugh, giggle: yes, even at yourself and your circumstances. Honestly, there are aspects of all this that are insanely funny! (For example, I keep a list of my “Sir-Realities” – little humorous interactions I have with cis folk.)
  • Consider this: you’ve changed your sex – you can do anything else you set your mind to!
  • Don’t transition to be a man or a woman or something else: transition to be yourself – if when you find that after you’ve become that you’re one of these, then welcome home – you did the right thing!
  • Work on your “other stuff” – gender transition will NOT fix problems you already have and may make them worse. If possible, GET INTO THERAPY – it will be one of the best things you have ever done for yourself, I promise!
  • Know that in transitioning you WILL trade one set of problems (guy-problems) for a new set (gal-problems), you will also add many new ones (trans-problems). Most of us find the trade worth the trouble, BUT you’ve been warned.
  • Transition is: a “line-in-the-sand” –  I will not be this person any longer.
  • Transition is: a “passage we travel through” – I will become the person I know myself to be.
  • Transition is: “the rest of my life” – I live, mature and die as my authentic self.
  • Suicide as a VERY REAL RISK for us. Make yourself accountable to the people you love. Remember, the chain of events leading to suicide is slender and delicate – it can be easily broken – BREAK ITYOU are valued and will be missed by those in your life and in our community, even if you don’t think so! These saved my life!

    For immediate help call: TransLifeline USA: (877) 565-8860 Canada: (877) 330-6366
  • Always remember, we are ALL human beings FIRST. Everything else, second, third, fourth…

Here is the article that inspired me to commit these insights to writing.

Also, Passing Glances is one of the very best (and most fun) primers I have ever read on the subject of male-to-female transition. I strongly recommend it for anyone new to transition or those who are mentoring others.

Integration: As you move out of the most intense stages of transition, consider thinking about integrating who you were with you have become. Earlier generations of trans folk were forced into exile: obliged to abandon their loved-ones, their careers, their history, their lives, in order to become themselves; they had to run from one closet into a new closet. Blessedly, that is not required of us, by people who would help us, by the increased safety we enjoy and by our growing acceptance in society. Increasingly we are allowed to keep our relationships and histories, and integration means that we can choose to be our whole selves if we wish and without shame…

We experience life in a way most human beings do not, and we become gifted by what seemed to be a curse, if we allow ourselves to receive and embrace our lives in their entirety, and we are increasingly allowed to share this gift with others in and out of our transgender community.

…For me, who I was didn’t die, but blossomed into who I am now, and who I will be tomorrow; my task of integration is to allow Brett to emerge from his self-imposed coma, and allow him to be part of this existence also. We will be she, the blended person we always were, but this time Brettany will be the facet of this jewel that faces the world, and Brett, though turned-away from the public eye, will nevertheless strengthen his beloved sister, cheering her on and supporting her in her most difficult times to come. In this sense, I am more blessed to be trans than I am if I were cis.

Blessings & Joy!!

Stepping Into Vulnerability

Drawings capture the person -- Cameras capture the image

“Class, this is Renée, our model for today. She is a transgender woman whose body is in transition.”

The month of waiting was over in a hurried drive to a local college campus set into the mountainside.

Privately exchanging my loose outer clothes for a lovely woven wrap, I was pleased to see no marks of the inner garments I had chosen not to wear, so my skin would be smooth for this session.

Electric with excitement, I padded into the warm studio and waited for my time — the students were there to see me, and to draw what they saw.

Nakedness implies humiliation, loss, deprivation, ignobility.
Nudity, in contrast, seems often to be the clothing of an enlarged soul, with vulnerability-as-strength, enriched and noble.

Moments later, I ascended the quilted, brightly lit dais in the center of the room.

Heartbeats later, I gracefully undraped myself, neatly laying aside my wrap.

Exposed fully, artists around me, charcoal and paper ready: I slowly danced into a series of 30-second gesture-poses to help them warm-up…Lithe as a willow, then still as a stone, silently counting the seconds, to the feverish squeaks and scratches of drawing and rustling newsprint: I planned the next position my body would smoothly rotate into.

Poses at this stage are intended to be expansive, often counterpoised, stop-action, the sorts of state that can only be held for a few tens of seconds.

My muscles quivered visibly from adrenaline as much as from being cold in the slightly-too-warm-for-clothed-bodies studio.

My degree of vulnerability took a quantum leap upward as I felt my tuck slipping.

Gestures completed, we moved into a pair of ten minute poses.

Now the artists could focus on details.

Now the model would shift into more sustainable, balanced poses, exchanging spontaneity for the much more intense focus endurance requires.

My heart settled down, and my body adjusted to the temperature.

My soul quivered into a new normal where the rest of the world seemed unexposed, oblivious, in slow motion, while I was lifted above into a keen sense of aliveness, purposefully exposed so every detail could be scrutinized, interpreted and recorded.

My sight severely restricted, my hearing, touch and kinesthetic-sense filled the resulting vacuum. At once intensely concentrating while quietly meditating, expending enormous energy to remain…perfectly……motionless……

A gentle chime: the first break. I held for a few more moments, and broke-pose when paper fell silent. The spell changed rhythm, as with practiced grace, I stood and delicately — reluctantly — re-draped my body.

To be unclothed was normal, comfortable, reassuring.
To be covered, I felt…exposed.

I walked among the artists admiring their work and chatting with them. I felt privileged to offer my myself to them, and expressed my awe and gratitude. They had known a trans woman would be among them today, and they seemed eager to hear my story.

How often do you see the spirit of another grow before your eyes?

It was a profoundly sacred time for me…now recognizing this, it seemed the session became sacred to the artists also. They knew why I was here, an exercise in personal growth, increasing my spiritual being through the paradox of extreme vulnerability, and the down-to-earth coping of my body with its flaws in all its queer glory: I am seen and now it is safe to open my own eyes to look, to appreciate, to accept what I can change and what I cannot.

Upon the dais once more, I easily undraped back into normalcy: I was nude; but everyone else seemed unclothed.

It was time for the single, hour-long pose, and knowing the needs of the class, I flowed into a form that had suddenly come to me, and together we made adjustments to light and shadow, skin and sinews.

And gentle music quietly played.

Wordlessly we began on some invisible cue we all somehow understood:

My facial expression as fixed as the rest of my body, my eyes focused on a certain point in the room, my breathing was barely perceptible.

One minute, five, ten, fifteen minutes: my vision dimmed for lack of eye motion, muscles held taut; muscles actively relaxed.

And growing pain.

My body and mind so under control that my usual responses were suspended:

SLAP!!! Something fell unseen, yet I did not startle; I was preconscious to the wave of surprise that invisibly rippled through my being.

An itch bore into me, but was swallowed by the intensity of my kinesthetic-overload.

And the quiet chime sounded at twenty minutes in the thunderous silence.

When charcoal rested, I gently asked the instructor to chalk the position of my body where it and its shadow touched the dais surface, then like a mannequin come-alive, I smoothly broke my pose as-if I had never been still.

Another short break, I stretched, re-draped and toured the studio. Marveling at the developing images, I resumed my chats with the artists; and as they learned about transgender people, they seemed to marvel at me.

The instructor remarked at how I had developed in the two years since my first modeling experience with her. She saw me as a nascent woman then; now the curves of my body, fullness of my breasts, my delicate face and soft feminine voice, en-fleshed the female soul she had met previously.

Before, some imagination was required to see me as a woman.
Now the dots were mostly connected.

Again upon the dais; again nude without thought nor qualm, I settled back into the pose I left scant time earlier. Using the marks I positioned myself, refined as my body remembered where it was, what-touched-what. My new friend, Pain, told me when I had found all the right places. With final minor adjustments from the artists, I de-animated as on-cue, their dance resumed.

I marked the time in songs, embracing the growing muscular-discomfort, I felt the thrill of a special sort of ecstasy that transcended mere pain. And warm air weighed reassuringly on my breasts, my thighs, shoulders and back: it was deliciously sensual. My delirious euphoria grew, though living stone from the outside, I seemed. I exalted in the active stillness of the pose, feeling I could go another hour at least! like twenty days into my thirty-six day fast! like the eerie calm underwater when breathless-panic subsided: I did not want it to end!

With the chime, the spell changed rhythm and transported me back.

In the final twenty minutes I felt such overwhelming gratitude to have experienced all this. I could feel myself growing. I felt like I was deep in a spiritual retreat. I felt like I was absorbing new volumes of self-awareness and self-understanding…I FELT!

Then, with the slightest sensation, my carefully pre-positioned hair fell out of place. I knew one artist at least was focusing on my face. Moving only enough to speak, I quietly asked if someone could re-position it. Immediately this simple request moved us all into an exquisite place of intimacy and vulnerability:

In formal settings, a model deep in-pose almost never speaks, and is seldom spoken to, and in a class, only by the instructor. Moreover, the model’s personal space is respected to the utmost, and nobody touches nor even approaches the model without their explicit permission.

…Unseen, I could nevertheless feel the attention of the entire room of people focus even more intently on me.

The artist closest to me, with the best view of my draped hair, reverently entered my peripheral vision, stopped-short and as-if asking for absolution, she spoke to me softly, yet clearly enough for all to hear: “may I re-position your hair please?” As my heightened sense of touch braced itself for a shock, I replied in kind: “yes, please do.” Permission granted, she delicately touched my body, gently replacing my ponytail back upon my right shoulder.

The spell changed rhythm again.

Another song…suddenly an artist whose body and equipment had been my visual point-of-reference, abruptly but quietly packed-up to leave, and in his haste I watched as he exited by a very large door, fully exposing me to the people passing by!

I was “tested” and found complete, for I experienced no discomfort, not a quiver in my pose, at this serious breach of protocol.

During some point in this growth, I had regained my lost sense of body innocence

Fourth song and probably the last, and I knew it was nearly time to come down from this special place, and with bitter-sweetness I prepared myself.


In lissome haste, I minimally covered my body, while I asked the artists if they would permit me to photograph their work as a keepsake. Without exception, without hesitation, they agreed, and I padded from easel to easel snapping pictures with my phone as I expressed my gratitude with a giddy childlike joy.

And the rhythm changed and the spell was completed.

Whence in private, I dressed — this time with all my clothing.

And I returned to the studio to debrief.

Filling-out paperwork, I told the instructor of my intent to donate the modeling-fee to a transgender suicide prevention group, which turned our talk to what the recent election might mean for people like me.

She was thrilled with how I had developed as a woman and also a transgender ambassador, and she seemed to be pleased over the ease with which I moved through the whole modeling experience, touched by its special significance to me…


…With some trepidation, I asked her if I had done okay; smiling she said I performed perfectly, then asked if I could model again in a few days.

I smiled!

Tucking refers to various techniques employed by transgender women, who have not had complete gender confirming surgery, to alter the appearance of their originally configured genitalia so as to present a feminine pudendal cleft.


The Difference


Yes, hormones have made a BIG difference!

Building prefab furniture when I was living as a “man:”

  1. Toss instructions aside (I can do this: I’ve got a Y chromosome!)
  2. Puzzle over pieces figuring-out how *I* would design the same thing.
  3. Try to assemble furniture per #2.
  4. Something doesn’t fit. Go to step #2.
  5. Missing part. Go to step #2.
  6. Cycle through steps 2 – 5 until furniture looks about right.
  7. “Explain” extra parts to female companion.
  8. Stupid designers: I could have done this WAY better!

Building prefab furniture now, as a woman:

  1. Sigh: another thingy to assemble.
  2. READ Instructions.
  3. Inventory ALL parts.
  4. READ instructions AGAIN.
  5. Proceed to step.
  6. Double-check step.
  7. Repeat 5 – 6 until end of steps.
  8. Gasp: it looks like the box!
  9. The extra parts are just spares.
  10. That feels pretty good, let’s do another one!

One might think that this would be a “tell” of my gender identity – that perhaps hormones had altered that, but I can assure you that that is not the case (at least with me – my sense of my gender is unchanged going back to when I was first aware in early childhood), but it amazes me to realize to what degree testosterone and estrogen affect the way I think and feel.

As a “man,” I was nothing like a “world beater”, but I had much more confidence that I could overcome anything, and my sense of vulnerability was so little that I thought almost nothing of walking alone at night by myself (even though I have been attacked that way before). There was an urgency and hubris.

As a woman under the influence of estrogen, everything is “colored” differently and I am much less certain of my “place” in the world, even though I actually know myself and the world much better than I did as a “man.” There is now more patience, more humility.

It is almost like testosterone gave me an unwarranted degree of confidence and boldness. It’s a little like this: as a child, I thought nothing of climbing to the tops of all the trees I could manage in our yard. Now, I look at such things and I envision my bones: broken! I knew of the possibility of falling when I was little, but something in me pushed me to not care. Now I care! Now, I understand my need for patience and gentleness and I am more tentative because I have a much better sense of my limitations. And yet, when I apply some of my prescription testosterone (everybody needs at least a little), I begin again to feel a little bit of “chemical courage” that may or may not be justifiable in the circumstances.

Life dominated by one and then the other sex hormone has helped me to see that I am not the fully deterministic person I had always assumed myself to be – whatever my gender identity.


Growing Up

Jean-Marc Nattier: Portrait of a Young Woman Painter

Portrait of a Young Woman Painter – Jean-Marc Nattier

Q: What’s more public & awkward than adolescence?
A: A transgender person’s second adolescence.

I failed my first adolescence as a teen, and a lot of people in my life have been forced to experience me as I’ve been going through my second one.

For most people this awkward time of change happens when expected, and there are allowances for the learning, the changes, and the mistakes. When a trans person is forced into “remedial” adolescence, it’s often at a time in life when they are already (reasonably) mature and functioning adults…

…So, what’s it like to be a 54 year old adult trying to move through a kind of accelerated “girlhood” into womanhood? It’s difficult, it’s amazing, parts are fun, it’s exhausting, it’s insecure, it’s bothersome to others, it’s often embarrassing. Suddenly, I am after decades as an adult, *not* “acting my age,” because I am trying to re-process what did not go right the first time. It’s a “phase,” exacerbated by a second-hormonal-puberty, and I’m growing out of it.

What prompted me to write this is some uncomfortable indirect feedback I recently received. It was difficult in that it revealed that there are ways I’ve wearied people with “girliness” that is unbecoming of my age. Ouch…BUT it’s a *good* discomfort, because it shows that I am past the point where I need to assert my femininity, and I can just “get on with life” as a woman – I’m past the point of needing to prove this to anyone…

And I *truly apologize* to those I’ve so wearied, and *appreciate* everyone’s patience with me!

…There is a sense in which I’ve suspected this for a while, but sometimes it helps to see it in “black & white,” for someone to put a “fine-point” on the issue.

In another way, the feedback was *very validating* to me: it is a way of saying “I graduate” *IF* I’m willing to “step-off the stage with my diploma.” This work is done; the walk-beyond into “post-graduate” life is what remains.

This step isn’t so-much eliminating distracting behaviors as it’s recognizing that I’ve outgrown them. As with many trans people, my transition has been an exercise in extreme vulnerability, and for me, it is a phase that is ending. I’ve no need any longer to compensate for such vulnerability: my new wings have cured enough to fly upon…

The events of the last month or so have been pushing me through a period of rapid “tying-up-loose-ends” growth in more ways than simply the way I express myself to others. What has been revealed to me here is symbolic of what has been happening in “still waters” beneath, what is happening by God’s impetus and with God’s grace.

…The people who have given me this feedback have done me an *invaluable service*, for which I am *grateful*: they didn’t just tell me to “stop being a silly girl,” they reminded me that I can safely leave my girlish-phase behind because I’ve outgrown it as woman I have already become. I am *so blessed*, so blessed!!


Becoming Beautiful

Bathing female, sketch - Edgar Degas

Bathing female, sketch – Edgar Degas

There must be something in the water, but no, I know it’s not the water. Still when I stood before the mirror unclothed after my swim, I saw them, or rather I didn’t: it’s those “lines” that run up and down the sides of some of our abdomens, demarking that layer of visceral fat that is part of everyone’s body…

…I’ve been noticing that I have been slimming over the last few months of exercising and more careful eating, but something very different has happened: the lines…are…gone. They’ve been there for so many years, I don’t remember when they weren’t there, but I noticed they were gone, because what I saw instead was a smooth gentle, continuous curve across my belly from hip to hip. In the two dimensional mirror image, it looks flat, but I know it’s not. I had been so aware of the curving line separating my tummy from my pubic triangle, that I hadn’t been paying attention to the other dimension. But there I am, in a skin-tight jumper, and it looks…right…it finally looks right…

…But there’s something else: I am beginning to become beautiful…yes, I *know* that’s a shocking thing to say … it’s more shocking for me to believe of myself because I had since childhood seen myself as ugly, but I’ve always longed to be beautiful. Now as a woman I have something of an opportunity, at least I have permission, and I’m old enough that it is not expected of me. What I have suddenly noticed with all my body’s changes is that NOW what remains of my masculine features are *WORKING FOR ME* instead of against me!! I never thought that would ever happen, nor that I would even think to say this. As my body has trimmed, I have become lithe, Tolkien-elf-like, but the curves are in the *right* places, and my height is working for me and not against me, and the angularity is working for me now…

…I am becoming beautiful in my own unique way, a way that is not strictly feminine nor masculine, but some blend of the best of both, and I am the last person on earth who could ever have seen this in me. I feel like I don’t deserve this, something *this nice* to be happening to me, for me; I am so humbled…so humbled…but in a lovely, healing, holy way…

…When you place a seed in the ground, it looks like nothing special, no more special than an ordinary pebble, and yet with time and water, it “dies” to reveal new life within, and the green shoot pushes against the heavy soil, inexorably forcing its way upward. Innately, this young plant *knows* which way to go, yet has no idea how its form will appear. And it reaches the sunlight, *so different* than the seed that once held its embryo. And tall and slender it springs upward, verdant green, nourished by the dirt of the world, but with clean water. And it grows and grows and branches and blossoms, never at any stage knowing exactly how it would be in the next. And after, because of the bloom, there comes the fruit, and the fruit is for others to enjoy, and for the amazing circle of life to continue. This is what my gender affirmation is like, and I am *so blessed*, so blessed, so blessed to *be*…

First published in LGBT Perspectives.


So why do I take so many selfies?

Bretta**, one of many selfies. **(Bretta is an endearing Australia shortened form of Brettany - they'll shorten anyone's name if they can!)

Bretta, one of many selfies.

It’s actually a relatively new thing with me: for most of my life, I hated my body (to the point of self-harming it), and it was only as I began to affirm my female gender that I began to care about it. Early in this affirmation (we call “transition”), it was still difficult to see myself in the mirror and in pictures, but I started doing both as a way to see my body in a new way and come to terms with it…

…Of course, it has also helped that female hormones have been re-shaping my body over the last (approaching) four years. And I see these changes, and marvel as my body becomes more what I have seen of me in my mind’s eye…

…I don’t want to look like some stunningly beautiful woman I might see in some media somewhere, rather I just want to be who I have always known myself to be: I will let the genes my parents gave me, under the influence of (more) estrogen, show me what my body should have been. I am not perfectly congruent (body, soul & spirit 100% matching), and on this side of God’s eternity, I won’t be, but I am *so much closer*…

…AND these pictures help me celebrate my body’s *becoming* and wash-away the years of doubt, frustration and sadness, where my body competed against me, and continually told me (and everyone else) that I am not who I really am…

…And I think if you ask other transgender people why they take so many selfies, you may find that something similar is happening with them.

Come celebrate with me?

OH!! AND I’m still in puberty, and this is expected behavior for teenage girls (even 53 year old ones)!! Don’t worry, I’ll grow out of it!!

First published in LGBT Perspectives.