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!!



Sunday Outing

My hand

“Yes, these women’s hands” she said…

A cisgender woman I befriended at church a few months ago noticed I am unusual, but assumed that I was simply a tall woman of Scandinavian stock (which is largely true).

Sunday, I was driving her home from worship, and she made a comment in broken English saying “Renee, you did [such-and-such] as little girl?” I looked at her tenderly, shook my head as I gently said “Olga, I was never a little girl.” Her eyes widened: “What?! You boy then?!” With conviction, I spoke: “Not exactly Olga.” We were close to her house and as we turned the corner, I said “remember when I told you about my spouse and said you can ask me anything? Would you like to know more about who I am?”

Olga is a new US citizen, in her mid sixties and from Romania; she is kind-hearted, weather-beaten, deeply spiritual, and does not speak English well.

We stopped in her driveway, and I gently tried to explain, and then said, please let me show you, and I showed her my transitional video on my phone. She had difficulty understanding how this could be. As the different pictures of me changing drew closer to the present, she kept asking “is that you? Is that you?” and then about two-thirds through she would exclaim “that’s you! That’s you – I know your smile!”

…Then she took my hands saying…”don’t cry, don’t cry…”

She said “Renee! You are woman! If God not want you that way, you would not be. You still my sister! But don’t tell others, they no understand, no accept you. I will never say, this is your private life.”

It was a mind and heart changing experience for her. She never imagined that someone could change their sex, and she was grateful (and deeply impressed) that I was honest with her when she asked about my “girlhood.” (When she asked about my husband a month ago, I gently told her that I didn’t have a husband: my spouse is a woman, so she knew I was odd…and honest.) She then said that she had always had trouble understanding and sympathizing with gay and lesbian people, but now that she realizes she has a good friend who was a man and is now a woman, she believes God can do anything and it’s okay. She feels better about queer people now that she knows one personally.

Foreboding had held me as I anticipated the moment when it would be “time” to explain this part of myself to Olga. She had so much accepted me as as a sister, as any other woman (and it felt so wonderful to be accepted for myself). Would she reject me when I inevitably revealed myself more deeply to her? Blessedly it was another instance of love and mutual vulnerability sustaining a relationship.

Laughing she said “Renee! You got good boobies! You keep changing – get bigger hips and get shorter – then nobody even think anything odd about you woman.”

And still we giggle and touch as women do when we share things, and she is teaching me to care for a garden as I help her with English. She has already taught me of her compassionate soul, and we have grown together in faith.

I live “simply open,” which for me means that in casual encounters I am “just” a tall, boyish woman – but when people get to know me more intimately, the fact that I am a transgender woman becomes apparent in relaxed, natural, even winsome ways. Who I was is not dead, but has blossomed into who I am today: my past is my unique past; my present is here, and my future to come: I am a woman, a woman of transgender experience.


“Other” in the Spirit

Brettany Renee Blatchley (aka Hippie-Girl) 2014-08-27

This will be a long, difficult road for many of us: queer and straight…

When the “other” kind of person turns-out to be someone who is respected, liked, loved, then who that person is will collide with who that person is assumed to be. This is a God-moment when the seeds of reconciliation or more vehement rejection are sown.

…God has been leading me to connect with various Christian congregations in my area, growing and developing a godly, sisterly relationship with them. Because I live “simply open” about who and what I am, at some point when our relationship deepens, the fact that I am a married Christian woman of transgender experience will become apparent in natural, relaxed even winsome ways – in God’s time…

…Last Wednesday, at an “agape” potluck and Bible study, it was “time” – my status and authority as a transgender person became very relevant to the discussion and I gently made my disclosure, acting in great vulnerability from a position of spiritual strength…

This Sunday was a good time of worship. Much was preached, sang and prayed about how THIS church, this part of Christ’s Body was especially attuned and welcoming to people on the margins (people “other churches” reject) – we were admonished. “They will come here for Jesus’ love: be prepared!” They did not realize that I had already been among them as an “unpresentable” part of The Body. I was cautiously optimistic!

…Last evening, I again joined the “Agape” group with my spouse. We ate and socialized, when ask how my spouse and I were related, I replied in joyful truth. Moments later, I was called into the pastor’s office along with the Bible study leader in whose group I had “come-out…”

I learned that I had caused a stirring in the entire leadership for most of the week.

…It was a long and good discussion where I was very much “on trial,” my relationship with Jesus, my relationship with sin, my understanding of the Bible and its authority, my transgender nature and transition: but in the end, I was essentially excommunicated – told (without Biblical support) that being transgender was illegitimate and living (as myself) a woman was in their eyes: “sexual immorality.” I gently pointed-out the arrogance of assuming absolute correctness on the issues yet being unwilling to go to God about the possibility that they could be wrong. I also gently point-out the hypocrisy of treating my “sin” as in need of special attention, including the breaking of fellowship.

I commended the pastor on at least speaking civilly with me about this (some won’t); he commended me for my reputation there as being a very well-spoken, intelligent, honest and kind person with a gentle servant heart. His prescription for me was to “repent.” Specifically, “repent” meant for me to renounce my (God given) gender identity, live as a man, and “embrace my masculinity.” Of course to “live as a man” would require me to have a sex change, and I assured them that unless God made this demand crystal clear by the conviction of His Spirit, I would make no-such recantation…

…So we parted – I suggested that we pray together and embrace as we concluded. I led this prayer, and we left with hugs: fellow believers who nonetheless could not be reconciled at this time, maybe not on this side of eternity?

It was hard for me, building a relationship with a congregation, coming to know people and *be known*, offering myself to potentially be hurt…for them to see Jesus in me, requires significant time, sacrifice and connection. But that connection made, makes the sundering of the relationship – the relationshipS – all the more painful. That was my pain last night.

God has led me to be one of His agents of change, agents of love, as one of His “scandalous” people – His daughter, a “woman with a past” and a present.

AND there are other congregations and relationships, and more faith to grow…Dearest Lord, my Love, please give me strength – glorify Yourself in me.

Blessings & Joy!!



Artist Unknown

You could hear the wind and rain beating on the windows of the tiny classroom, cold, but for the warmth of sixty some-odd students and teachers crowded together. It seemed like we would have an intimate chat with those in the front row. They were quiet; this had been postponed for weather twice already; it was imposing.

It was their first time, Judi and our son Josh, to speak about their experiences of having a transgender loved-one in their life. They were invited specifically because people had heard of us. Three trans folk: a young adult trans man, a thirty-something trans woman and me – such a small group for such a large trans population as Asheville has…

…It was a little scary; I have shared on lots of panels over the years (even one a few days earlier), but never with them: Judi is just becoming comfortable with sharing our story with others, and naturally, it is from her perspective. Josh has never shared his in public, nor even with me…

…I said to them “just say what is on your heart and mind – pretend I am not here. They want your stories, because they are important and worth hearing.” I did not know what they might say – we do have some “dirty laundry” in all this process, but I was prepared for others to hear it if that would help them understand a trans-family…

…For my part, I am not used to sharing about my gender journey in Judi’s presence. I know she has a limited capacity to hear about it at any one sitting, and there are things that I can say among trans people and cis strangers that I was not sure I would feel comfortable saying around her. Just the fact that I am overjoyed that I can be the woman I am is the sort of thing that stings her because she loves the man she married. There is still grief there; there are still on-going negotiations, still challenges. So, I was afraid I would “hold back,” hesitate, and that even my voice would betray these butterflies in my stomach.

The other two people on the panel shared wonderfully, and I loved hearing more of their stories. We all shared vividly, with tenderness, with pain, with joy and humor: “Um…I had a doozy of a mid-life crisis: I was the other woman!

Judi “came-out” to them, confiding that doctors revealed to her that the brain-mapping studies performed on her in early adulthood had indicated a male “structured and performing” brain (no surprise to her), and how she had worked through the possibility of transition herself, and how she lives as a woman who is bi-gender. She shared how my transition has changed her life and outlook, and how I “came-out” to her (I had forgotten how I did this!)…

We all shared as a family, how the way we are meeting our challenges with love and integrity seems to be blessing others who encounter us: because we are dealing with our “impossibilities,” others feel like they may be able to overcome theirs.

…And I shared how it seems that I am forever “outing” myself because of Judi medical circumstances (she came using a walker and oxygen). And really scary: I explained how hormones were slowing changing the way I look at people and that I am feeling twinges of attraction to men and women though I have been assexual/demisexual all my life (I’d never shared this with Judi because I thought she would be threatened). We were all very honest, open and transparent!

Josh, really connected with the middle-school aged kids, explaining how he has come to see me as a woman, who is also his dad, and how that has affected his life, and how he explains this to his friends (because it comes-up). He did it with engaging, self-deprecating humor, with a panache that communicated: this is life; it’s complicated; but love makes it possible. I am betting these kids were thinking: “what would I do if my dad or mom came-out as trans and transitioned??” And Josh showed them what is possible.

We fielded lots of questions, and people seemed thrilled with each of us.

At the end, the organizer projected pictures of each of the three of us from “before.” And the results were really quite shocking – each of us spoke a bit about our pictures, about who we were at that time and what those pictures mean to us now.

While I have said almost nothing of the other trans panelists, please know that their contributions were brilliant, rich, heart-rending, beautiful, joyful even as they face on-going challenges also.

Another thing that was special about all this is that we were all so “normal” as people (albeit queer and “Asheville-Quirky”). For example, the other trans gal (petite & attractive) and I looked so normal as women, that it was really mind-bending to realize that she had been a hulking, Special Forces, soldier, and I looked like an “ordinary” dad and husband – those people in the pictures were us, dealing with our gender issues as best we could at the time. Each of us were revealed now to be very comfortable with ourselves, as our most accurate selves.

I think that the panel’s presence and contributions really highlighted to the kids that being trans does not make you an alien, sorta-human-freak person, and having a trans family member is not the catastrophe it might seem to be. On the contrary, we were all very real people, not terribly different than anyone else in that room.

It was such a privilege to share our lives with these young people!

Judi and I cannot express how proud we are of our son!

Oh, and my voice held-up perfectly, and it was effortless! I know I will never be a beautiful woman, but I very much want a beautiful voice, and that is in my reach. The organizer shared that one student said to her when she left: “I felt bad I was feeling sleepy every time Renee spoke – it wasn’t because she was boring – she was so interesting…she just had such a soothing voice. She should make relaxation recordings!” Judi and Josh both said to me, as we were chatting with some students, that my voice was in a sweet place now, where it is very natural and fits who I am as a woman – that’s a major thing because they had had a rough time with my voice transition.


Dear Neighbors

Brettany Renee Blatchley 2014-10-15 (bw)

America is my home. I love it for its landscape, its history, and especially its people. I grew-up here; I work here; I shop here; I go to church here; I raised a family here; I laugh, cry, live and likely I will die here.

May I please share something intimate and important, something most people do not guess about my medical history? You see, I am a female person who has become a woman through her transgender nature and experience. My doctors and I have worked for years to help my body match the way my brain is wired. There are complicated reasons for this, and (for my case) the science is pointing to how I was formed in my mother’s womb.

Goodness! Why is this relevant to anything???

Well, it is important because I also use public bathrooms and change-areas. Yes, I know that’s “personal information,” and it should be…really, it should be. But what once was private for me, sadly may no longer be the case…

…Some among us, mostly well-meaning people, grossly misunderstand people like me, and consider us to be a threat, even evil, for just existing as our authentic selves. Many assume God feels this way about us too…

…That is difficult enough, but they also want it to be illegal for me to use the same bathroom and changing facilities that other women use, facilities I have used for years without incident…

…In their eyes, nothing my doctors say, nothing science says, nothing I say, not my legal status, nothing that has or ever could be done to my body can ever amend the opinion of the doctor at my birth when I was assigned “male.”

Do you realize, I could be criminalized for life, for simply using the “wrong” public facilities? Even a minor brush with the law endangers my livelihood, my family, my special position of trust within the Department of Defense, my employability, even my very life.

Some will say: “so just use the men’s room.” Well, only if you want people to be really shocked! Seriously: only if I want to put my life in danger. Ironically, I could easily subject myself to arrest for being in the “wrong” bathroom, because I am legally as well as socially and visibly female.

Neighbors, I am not a threat to anyone, much less my sisters in gender-segregated-areas.

When asked, police departments around the country have confirmed that transgender people are nether predators nor “perverts” in these spaces – on the contrary, there are numerous documented cases of us being hurt by “normal” people. Our fears are backed by tragic experience; the fears of some of you are backed by: nothing.

Dear People, decades of reasoned debate in the medical community is over: we transgender people are not “disturbed” nor “disordered;” we are not “perverts.” We are simply different from most people, in that parts of our biological sex do not align with our gender identity to varying degrees. Each of us find our own way to live with this. Some of us are invisible to you, while many others of us are not. We are no less human beings than any of you; we are no less decent because we are transgender. There is no shame in being transgender.

Whatever your religious, political or personal view is about us: compassion is the appropriate response to people in our community – being transgender is not about sex; it is about who we are as people.

Please remember these things when you think of us, vote, and pray for (or against) us.

Blessings & Joy!!

I sent this letter to a number of newspapers in response to the recent spate of bills in several states that are attempting to criminalize attempts by transgender people to use bathrooms and change-rooms matching their gender identity and presentation. These laws would apply equally to trans people who “pass” poorly and people who blend-in “perfectly.” It will also criminalize the entire population of intersex people, who cannot be seen as anything but innocent in this part of the culture war. To add insult to injury, some bills even criminalize non-trans people who would try to accommodate our needs. Such laws are antithetical to American principals, oppose the highest ideals of the Great Religions, and violate simple, common human decency. They must not be allowed to take effect, as they (and the oppression of all weaker peoples) are a poisonous stain upon our collective souls. [This letter has been edited in minor ways.]


Dear Fox News

Dear Fox News,

As someone who has enjoyed your programming and the balance you have added to our civic discussion, I am disappointed and hurt by the way your organization has been publicly denigrating transgender people recently.

I am disappointed because there is much enlightening information that could be shared about this topic that is coming into greater cultural awareness: old stereotypes are giving way to better scientific understanding and more compassionate views of people who are as real as any other human being.

I am hurt because I myself am a married Christian woman, a woman of transsexual experience. The negative picture your on-air personalities have been painting of me and people like me are untrue and they hurt. Moreover, they poison people’s minds and reinforce existing bigotries. As a “fair and balanced” news organization, I would have thought you would be sensitive to this this, but it seems you are not.

Even so, I will continue to be a kind and good person who happens to be transgender (when that fact is even noticed). I stand in opposition to negative stereotypes simply by living my life as an ordinary, successful woman who is comfortable in who and what she is: comfortable with her past as a “man” and joyfully unashamed of her present and future as a the woman she is.

Please reconsider the message you are communicating to your viewers. Compassion is an appropriate response whether you agree with how we manage our lives or not. Why not set a good example for others? Compassion is something that all people of various political, and religious worldviews can share.

I am confident you will do the right thing in the end.

Blessings & Joy!!

Brettany Renee Blatchley (to Colleagues)

Brettany Renée Blatchley

(¯`✻´¯) Abandon yourself to God (who has your back)
`*.¸.*✻ღϠ₡ღ And when in doubt, do the kind thing.
♥•*´¨♥ ♪♫

I finally decided to write Fox News over their awful treatment of trans folk recently. If you want to write, you can send to foxfeedback@foxnews.com. Be aware that your letter may be read on-air!


A Story in Passing

Renée (then Brette) at PAX River, 2012Dear M_____,

Maybe a story from my [gender] transition will help you decide how you should present at your new job?

Over the last five years, I have gradually and gently transitioned from living as a somewhat androgynous “man” to now living fully as a woman. Throughout this period, I had worked remotely as a software engineer. Almost no one had seen me in five years, and I was pretty sure that no one knew about my gender transition.

Over a year ago, I had to go to a government site to perform some consulting. A couple of my old colleagues would be there (who knew me as a man). I had just started hormones, but I was already living as a de facto woman, as I was gradually and continually making changes to become more of who I truly am…

…Well, the trip was a sudden thing and I prayed and debated how I should present myself (with relatives worried I would lose my job). I should say that I’m not a “girly-girl” but it had been years since I had dressed like a man. So, with an ache in my heart, I packed guy clothes for a week, but I also packed my ordinary clothes – I didn’t cross dress: women’s clothes were “me” clothes…

…After a nine hour drive to PAX River, I checked-into the hotel as “me” and got to know the hotel check-in folks – it wasn’t long before I was “out” to them as transgender, and they were really cool with it. I’m very comfortable and at ease with myself (at least to others!), and I’ve been told a number of times from cisgender folks that that made it easy for them to accept that I’m trans…

…So, not knowing what sort of dress-code to expect, I dressed on the upper-end as a guy – first time in seven years I’d worn a tie! (I felt so icky this way!) When I got there, I realized I was a bit over-dressed for most of the people. We had some high-ranking military people, and two company CEOs, and I was there to watch-over a very tense project turn-over that was occurring because of the outcome of a bitter contract bidding war. My (former) colleagues were ordered to be tight-lipped about everything and my task was to keep them honest. The project was now being run by two women managers about my age…

…Finishing the first day and looking in the mirror back at the hotel, I realized that I looked like a woman in drag. My hair reached the small of my back, I had worn my pearl ear studs (against advice); I was lithe, moved and occupied space like a woman, had (small) breasts already and spoke with an in-between voice: I just didn’t make a convincing man anymore…

…So at dinner, by myself, I simply dressed and presented as myself. At this point in life, I was being ma’m-ed about as much as sir-ed; and I had been comfortable letting people gender me any way they would. While I enjoyed the meal feeling wonderfully as myself, someone not quite ready to admit she was a woman – I decided: I will wear what I want for the rest of the trip – for me to be authentic is paramount, and I know that people can tell when I’m hiding, even if it’s behind an old “man” mask…

…The rest of the week (which became nearly two weeks), I was fully myself and very comfortable. I dressed much like the other women, maybe a little more formally: we were all geeks of one sort or another!

…Each day, due to the enforced-tension among the teams, I ate alone at the same restaurant: it was so nice being treated as a woman by most of the wait-staff. On the last night, one waitress continually sir-ed me when my presentation was obviously that of a woman. I gently explained to her that I was a transgender person, and I was uncomfortable being sir-ed and offered my first name instead…

…On the last day on site, I knelt by the receptionist’s desk, to be on her level as I spoke: a highly intelligent woman, maybe a decade my senior, with whom I had chatted much, she had been sir-ing me the whole time out of formal politeness. I then told her gently that it would really bless me if she would call me by name instead of sir, because I am a transgender person. Unknown to my conscious self, the desire to assert myself as a woman was almost at the surface, and masculine references were fast becoming intolerable. I shared with her because I strongly suspected that there were questions flying-about the office about me among the women, and I know that by coming-out to the receptionist, it would not be long before everyone knew where I stand (or at least stood at the time)…

…So, I concluded the trip successfully – what the women managers had hoped for happened because I was there. We had grown fairly close, but the nearest I came to outing myself to them was to take them aside together and thank them being kind to me as one who was a very unusual person.

The “punch-line” to all this was that months later, when I came-out to my manager, he told me that one of his first clues was when one of these women managers called the company, singing my praises, and commented that they had expected a man, but a woman had come instead!!

Anyway, I finally came-out to my colleagues when I legally changed my name and gender, and (so far) it’s been very well, and I am so blessed to be a working woman!!

So, M____, be yourself, you’re okay as yourself, and people will see that even if they can’t “get” you or even if they have issues with your transgender nature.

Hope this helps!!

Blessings & Joy!!

PS) Oh, a little more about the trip I described above: it really was a milestone in my transition. Prior to this, I was telling everyone and myself that I was in a “not-transitioning” transition. (haha!)

The day I left PAX River, the first place I stopped for gas, I made a sudden decision that I realize now to have been simmering for months: I decided, to switch restrooms – I told myself, maybe I’m not fully a “woman,” but I’m “woman enough.” The two single occupancy restrooms were right up at the checkout counter in very prominent view of all. I waited in line for the women’s to become free – in line as several men also waited. What kept me there was the overwhelming sense that “I belong here, even if I don’t fully look like it yet!” There were no comments, no stares, and the male clerk ma’m-ed me when I made my purchase…

…I have not looked back, and I have gradually become very comfortable in the most chaotic and crowded of restrooms, making small talk with other women there. This desensitized me to where I regularly dress and shower with other women when I swim and dance at the YWCA. Though pre-op, I have my tuck down so well, that I can pass nude if necessary (and it was this morning!)

PPS) By the way, for your own safety, when you finally get onto hormones, ask your doctor for a “carry letter.” I’ve never needed mine for bathrooms, and only once in a locker room. I’ve finally changed my gender marker on my permanent IDs, so I don’t need one anymore. BUT a letter, reduced & laminated that you carry in your purse can be a godsend if you cross-paths with someone from the “potty-police.” Months prior to my trip, I had wanted to switch because I was deeply uncomfortable using men’s facilities; months after my switch, when I asked my doctor to write me a letter, she said that it would be downright dangerous for me to be using men’s facilities. (What had made me hesitate to switch sooner was that I didn’t want to make other women uncomfortable, but it seems that I was being recognized as a woman months before I was willing to accept it myself.)

When I came-out to my employer, our vice president asked one of our Field Security Officer, now in Human Resources, to help me get my name and gender changed within the company. Before he told her who I was, she asked if the person in question was me; previously, she had read helpful things I had written to transgender people on the Internet. As a result, she was fully aware of my transsexuality but discretely kept it to herself. Also, after telling my manager that I appeared very different from the last time we met, he sheepishly informed me that my Google profile pictures had been showing-up on his phone for a year or so, and he’d forgotten what I used to look like! (Each of these people were absolutely stellar in handling my transition – the first in our company’s division.)

I remember one occasion, for a formal evening, when our foster daughter asked me to dress more like a guy for her beauty pageant appearance. I struggled with this request, and only managed to be (somewhat) guy-like for a few hours.

On the way out of town, I dropped by the restaurant and thanked the manager for all the kindness and dignity his staff had shown me as a transgender person. He was impressed even as he was a bit taken aback. Feeling sure that I must present a bit odd to others, I try to be very nice and generous with tips in part so that, perhaps, people can see and remember that trans folk are nice people too.


The Visit

Papillon and her keeper, the slender silver necklaceShortly before Mother’s Day, my sister called and granted me a ten minute visit with Mom who, I learned, had been hospitalized for a month with pneumonia.

After I gently “came-out” to her in a letter last autumn, Mom did not want to see me again nor speak with me. Earlier this year, she relented and called me for a quick chat, specifically prohibiting any talk of my transition and new life as a woman.

A few days ago I called, casually saying that I was passing-by and would she be up to my giving her a Mother’s Day hug? I had driven two hours so that I could “pass-by.” No answer; there were cars at her home with my sister. Mom never got my messages; I learned my sister’s husband prevented that.

Unexpectedly, my sister called Judi at the urging of my aunt who is close to each of us. I was asked not to wear “dangle” earrings, which I took to mean that they did not want me to appear looking like a sex-worker. In the aforementioned letter, I had told Mom that I “blend-in” with other middle-aged women: imagine the leap.

Mother’s Day, at the appointed time, me, Judi and our son arrived moments before five more members of the family: My sister, her husband, his son, wife and 15 month old daughter. So my little sister is a grandmother: that’s news to me too.

I was dressed nicely in a cheerful new blouse with jeans, sandals, a slender silver necklace, almost no makeup, hair pulled-back and yes, I wore my pearl-stud earrings – really quite typical of how I dress all the time.

There was just enough time to greet Mom and hug her before the tiny room filled with family and a nurse. She is so frail that my gentle hug hurt her, but she looked glad to see me, relieved even.

Moments later, my sister made introductions, informing everyone that I was her brother, “Brett:” I was totally unfazed by this, seeing irony in the fact that I was in appearance, manner and speech every bit a woman as the five other females present – and nothing like the three men! They seemed totally unfazed by the apparent incongruity.

The great surprise (I think) was that the visit went so normally – I am so comfortable and ordinary as a woman that everyone simply relaxed and we chatted about things, with Mom and the little-one being the center of it all. Knowing I am transsexual, I think they were all expecting me to be like a lumberjack-in-a-dress or like a flamboyant gay-guy in drag. I was not the “freak show” they apparently feared…

…The vibes I received felt like “Oh, it’s just Brett. He’s fine after all, apart from being a woman now, of course.”

Like Judi and our son, I strongly suspect they see me as a man who is a woman. They do not understand my womanhood but they cannot deny the reality of it, and they did not seem threatened by it. I have come to expect this reaction from people who knew me before, at times verbalized like: “I can’t see how a man can be a woman, but somehow it just works for you.”

So, my family and I “passed the test,” and even my sister’s husband warmed-up to me, and we waved and shouted enthusiastic “good-byes!!” in the parking lot, just as other close families do. How refreshing, and what a great blessing from God!

Epilogue: This last autumn of 2016, Mom overcame her cancer by passing into eternity. During our last visit together, when she was in the hospital, I shared with her about my gender confirming surgery and my effort to ready my body for breastfeeding. She replied, almost apologetically, saying “you know I will only ever be able to see you as my son?” To which I gently said, “yes, I know Mom. It’s okay; I understand it needs to be this way for some who knew me from before…”

…We shared with each other as much as the limited healing in our relationship would bear and her ebbing strength allow. As I was leaving her for the last time, I turned to her, and spontaneously & simultaneously, we blew each other “see you on the other side” kisses. A gesture I share with others, this is something I never saw my mother do with anyone – it was a very feminine tenderness we shared, and something in my spirit suggested to me that this was her way of acknowledging my womanhood.

Only days ago, I spoke with my sister again – it was by far the most intimate conversation we have had since we were young people; in this we shared our mutual vulnerabilities, her weariness in caring for Mom and others in her husband’s family, and finally about my need to transition and my life as a woman. Reflecting on our talk, I think that my sister is coming to see me for the woman I am, and maybe someday: her sister.

Here is how I came-out to myself, my mother, my employer, my colleagues and to my community. Each of these are framed differently and have differing levels of detail. The letter to my employer is the most detailed account of my transition, but none of these relate the details and intimacy of my relationship with God throughout this whole process.