4

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.

Audio
2

Beautiful

“Beautiful” was written about and for me on my 49th birthday by my very dear friend Janet von Berky and her daughter Caitlin. Janet wrote the lyrics, then she and Caitlin wrote the music which Caitlin performed.

It’s about my struggle to accept the beauty that God has sown into my soul, and how I long to be the kind of person God finds lovely. And His promise to increase what He has already done both in my inner and outer self, now and in eternity. In our dance together, beauty is not merely for me, but mostly to be lavished to others as God loves them through me.

It was given at a very difficult time with God: we were working through the “appointment” about my gender issues that I had demanded of Him a decade previously, a “meeting” which I thought I would never have on this side of eternity. I was only beginning to understand that in the midst of our deeply intimate, often painful interactions, that He was fulfilling His promise to do a “New Thing.” To my wonder, I was being healed through my gender affirmation!

BEAUTIFUL

Beloved hid her face from me
And cried she wasn’t beautiful,
And would I make her beautiful
When I took her home?

I turned Beloved’s face to mine
And told her she was beautiful
And yes, I’d make her far more so
When I took her home.

Oh, Beloved, you are cherished,
You are beautiful!
And when you stand before me
With my radiance you’ll shine!
Oh, all my love for you is wild and it’s extravagant
Of all the good things granted you
The best is that you’re mine.

Beloved turned her face to mine
And let me hold her close to me,
The dance we danced was Beautiful
For all the world to see.

I turned Beloved’s face to smile
On many other dancers there
Together we will learn this dance
Until I take you home.


I cannot express the depth of gratitude I have for my Dearest Big Twin Sister Janet, a cisgender woman, whom God has used to help me work through these things, keep me focused on Him, and mentor me much as a sister and mother would help another woman.

In 1999, I began to understand why I was always so different: from the beginning, I knew I was not a boy, and in therapy for clinical depression, as things became *safe* to deal with, it became obvious that I am transgender: transsexual, maybe intersex. In this year of intensive work on myself in therapy, I started to transition without even realizing it, and toward the end, I self-medicated with female hormones as a way to confirm my gender. God and I were working together with this, and while I came to be convinced that God had no problem with transgender people, or for them making whatever changes they need to make: God gently impressed on me that my wife would not be able to manage sex change surgery. In my deep frustration, hurt and (yes) anger and tears, I believed that I would never be able to transition in any way. I gave-up my “right” to surgery, and even more difficult my “right” to hormones (I poignantly and urgently knew female hormones were right for me by this time). AND so, I demanded an “appointment,” with God, as-if He was a doctor. I wanted to know why I am transsexual, and why this hurt so much, and why I could not fix the problem. (He didn’t seem to be fixing it!). I assumed that I would have to die first, before I would have this appointment. Then I threw myself back into repression, only this time, I knew what I was repressing. Most days I wanted to die.

0

“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!!

2

Reveal

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.

4

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.]

2

The Gift

And the parts that are "unpresentable" are treated with special modesty --Paul, the apostleLife goes on whatever our place and circumstances: love, joy, pain and loss all seem to join hands as sisters.

My father in-law is named Bill; twenty-five years ago we met when I asked for the hand of his youngest daughter in marriage. Bill is eighty-eight and in the point in his Alzheimer’s where he can barely eat, hardly moves and rarely makes a recognizable utterance. We love Bill, one of the smartest and kindest people I have ever met. His wife Barbara, a bit younger, faithfully cares for him with the help of a full-time, at-home nurse. We think that this will be our last Christmas with Pop and one of our last with Mom…

…These recent years, I have kept a low profile around Pop as Mom has gradually witnessed me transition. I am the same person, only different: always as much a daughter-in-law as I was a son, maybe more: now I look, sound and behave more a daughter than their own daughter, my spouse…

Pop’s mind has been declining for years, though he was a much sought-after engineer until his retirement at seventy-eight – his work probably saved a LOT of lives, but only God knows.

…I never told Bill that I am transgender and that I needed to become myself: a woman. He has known me as the one he entrusted to love and help his baby daughter through all her life-long illnesses. I never introduced him to Brettany, to Renee: I did not want to make his confused days even more difficult. So I smiled, spoke and touched gently, and helped move, bathe and change him. He has asked about me by speaking my old name as a question, but not to me…I held-back my name even as I lovingly spoke his…

…It has become our tradition to set-up and take-down the Christmas decorations in their home, started because this was the one thing Mom & Pop bickered about. It has always brought us joy to do this for them. This year was a bit different: We filled the tree with ornaments, and as usual, some odd dozen or three ornaments didn’t “make the cut” and get placed onto the tree…we admired the tree’s beauty and everyone left to other things. BUT I “heard” the voices of those ornaments that were left and they tugged on my heart. Use us also!! We’ve been faithful too!! This may be Bill’s last Christmas on earth, and it seemed that ALL of these small, faithful ones wanted their place of honor on what might be a final tree. So I carefully and tearfully placed each one, even the broken ones, the overlooked ones, the “unpresentable” ones…and they were all there. And the family returned and rejoiced at how much more grand the tree looked this year…

…We take turns handing out presents, and slowly open each present as everyone watches on, enjoying the sparks of joy given and received…

Last year Bill was “home” in himself enough to participate after a fashion – he didn’t seem to really know us, but he could still smile and laugh and interact with us. For most of this year, no one has been “home” in Bill’s body.

…Our eyes met, Bill’s and mine, and I smiled and then SUDDENLY his face lit and Bill was *HOME*, and he smiled his “Bill” smile in recognition and then *WINKED* at me as I began to clear new-fallen tears. No words were spoken: none were needed, as his face seemed to say: “I *know* you; I *trust* you; it’s *all* okay.” Then as suddenly, the lights turned-off and the “home” was vacant again…

…And nobody else among us seemed to witness the miracle of the gift given and received.


My family and I have spent much of the last year with Barbara and Bill, helping Mom care for herself and her dear husband of more than half a century. Our son, the gentle and compassionate young man that he is, has been able to forge a bond with his grandfather that transcends circumstances. We are so blessed.

2

My Hiding Face

My Hiding Face(Caution, this poem may be triggering!)

A wingless angel to me was sent,
When in danger my soul was rent.

At once entranced by happenstance,
Her eyes lured mine with but a glance.

Reflecting nothing, her face was cold,
Black eyes set within her bold.

Dark they were and liquid deep,
A whole lifetime hid in secret keep.

May I share your face, mine own replace,
That I may hide while we embrace?

Thus: Their cursed, torments disbursed
Would receive no pained-echo in reverse.

Tis much less fun to hurt the one
Whose feelings, from their face, cannot be won!

Yet deep in our heart, in the secret part,
Goes each pain we won’t feel or remember.

Stored til safe-tears, can run from sad-fears,
And arise up clear in the mourning.

My exiles freed from fitful scorning,
When at dawn, dew wept of their forlorning.

So now in the bright of my soul-morning,
Safe am I, less her frightful adorning.

And no longer untold, my secrets unfold,
Whence gently I loose my embrace.

In memories endear, I will hold her still near.
Behold, this wingless angel has now…

…Disappeared.

(B.R. Blatchley, Summer 1999)


When I was about ten, I was captivated by the expressionless face of a young girl pictured in a magazine: in a flash, I decided to make my face like hers, so that those who tormented me would have no satisfaction in knowing my hurt, my thoughts, my very self. As her face became mine, I tried not to feel what was happening to me, and for many years, she was my veil…

…I have always been a female person, deeply feminine, not “effeminate.” All I knew was that I was not a boy – the paradox of my *being* upset people, and I paid dearly for being different.

My “hiding face” is an example of a Secondary Ego Defense. We create these in ourselves when pain overwhelms our instinctive defenses. Even so, I learned was unworthy of love, unworthy of life: not a *real* person, just naked shame.

With tears, I declare that my “hiding face” helped me survive, though her protection had made it difficult to feel and remember. In recent years I have healed greatly and she has faded into memory. Meanwhile God sent another “angel,” to accompany me through the deeper healing of my gender transition. Now I am *becoming* the woman this female person was destined to be, gracefully transgender, a blessing to others and alive with the joy of *being*!


I was humbled and blessed that this poem was selected to be read at a Transgender Day of Remembrance observance in Sydney Australia in 2013. Please visit the Transgender Anti-Violence Project.

You can hear me recite this poem here.

0

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

✻ღϠ₡ღ✻
(¯`✻´¯) 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!

2

Interlude

1137px-Van_Gogh_-_Starry_Night_-_Google_Art_Project

Starry Night, Van Gogh

It is dark…

The waning moments of dusk flee the day’s weariness.

I turn the key and gently push into THERE.

Padding silently and gently,
Every fibre taut in growing
Holiness Their.

And like Moses who was, and is,
I step before God’s expansive
Presence.

Where in bare feet alone, my sin already atoned,

Lit only by the flames of my heart,
I sit in deafening silence before a throne.

And where it is low, I rest below,
Down where feet in their work-play, they go.

HERE for moments, maybe ages;
God is THERE and THERE is NEAR…

And my heart is hushed…

What is worship?

There is a piano in the dark;
My ears guide me to its place.

Cold pedals kiss my feet hello,
And on her keys, my fingers find their place.

It matters no,
Where my hands they go, as they begin to sing,

For I do not play piano – she plays with me!

And in the darkness our chords ring.

Gentle notes caressed, fill in THERE,
Ephemeral, Infinite, Instant, Eternal there.

Tears and nameless melody flow…and God KNOWS…

What is worship?

More ages pass, bright darkness fills;

Warm grow the pedals, and tremble, her wood thrills.

Deep chords vibrate, high notes ring;
Turn, turn intertwined,

And still they sing!

And they are themselves, alone for Thee,

For I do not play piano – she plays with me!

We dance before God:
Wood-steel, feet-fingers: in blessed lowliness revealed!

But no light to see, that God is near,
As my heart is bared: but not in fear.

And Love is here…

What is worship?

Time is spent, eternity alight,
And with final, tender notes, we kiss goodnight.

Then up in deafened and darkened silence, I pad to the door,

Leaving THERE…out into THERE.

And into the night, I behold Heaven. Aware.

And now God plays to me, a glorious aire:

Of night sounds, and night stars, and a warm breeze of air,

And my still soul bare, in silence there…

And THERE is HERE, and God is NEAR…

Then I ask again:

What is worship?

(B.R. Blatchley, Autumn 2011)


In years past, I had the key to a house of worship near home, and I would often let myself into the dark sanctuary, and in bare feet, I would “play” the grand piano before God in awe and in adoration.

A great many trans folk have rich, deep spiritual lives, sharing with trans people throughout the ages, a mystical wont…

…For me, I could not have survived my early life, gender dysphoria and transition to life as a woman without my relationship with Jesus. God pours a Niagara Falls of grace over me constantly to help me through this, to endure my body (and also for my family, to endure me). Though some, even in God’s family, have rejected me, Jesus never did. He calls me Beloved and asked me to call Him my Love.

2

Transition in Transition

The sea is a lonely place with a beauty its own.I am now well and truly out of the Guy Club. Of course, I only ever lived at the edge of it: one foot in, one out – I never “got” guys, and they never “got” me. Just tolerated, always suspect. As a child, this was much more existential because I was ostracized and sometimes beaten for simply being me. As an adult, people gradually saw that I lived as a special sort of man – some even saw this as a good thing, but we all knew I did not really belong

…Now, I feel like a small fishing trawler chugging out of what had always been my home port. I have passed the outer buoy and out into the open sea. I know I will never return. The bittersweet feeling of sadness is due to loss of a familiar place, a space: I did not want to be there, it hurt, but it was a place to exist, and it nurtured me enough to me get here…

I have made contact with the Girl Club and have had tantalizing, wonderful, even unexpected connections here. These are becoming more frequent as I blend-in with other women my age: some women beaming at me with the “you go girl!” smile; others coming close-up to chat girl-talk in stores, in restrooms, at Zumba; being in a women-only fashion show; enjoying a coffee klatsch; sharing complaints about our bodies and bad-hair-days; hugs, touches, words, little gender-specific intimacies, even passing in the sacred-space of the women’s locker room.

These are beginnings, much as “‘passing’ in the mall” is an important early milestone, but small step in the rest of a trans person’s life. “Passing” must become “being.” The more difficult and more rewarding part comes ahead: assimilation, where chat is no longer idle, but is life serious; and of meeting people where they are in their hearts, hopes, dreams, daily grind and disappointments; of supporting one another; of loving and being loved and growing old through life together: as brothers, as sisters.

…Like some immigrants, I knew my way around the “old country” but was forced to leave because it was not really home. Will I always be an immigrant, never really learning the language, never fitting-in with my adopted culture? Will I fully assimilate and leave all my old ways behind? Will I remember my heritage, honor the good things, speak a few words with a bit of an accent, while I enjoy my new life in a new land – my heritage known to many, but my citizenship, my belonging never questioned?…

Some who want and desperately try to assimilate, are never able to; they become and remain Transsexuals. Not men; not women: other. What is a way-place, even a “summer home” for other transsexual people, becomes a kind of ghetto for them — a place of longing short of their dreams.

Some opt for “deep stealth” – they are the ones who can, and actually do, fully assimilate. They are not transsexuals, they are men, women: former-transsexuals, yet not without cost. Likely, they have lost everyone, everything, burned-away, scorched-earth. Everything is new because it must be, and there is the past to bury, constantly and always.

…I feel like a tall, gangly tomboy whom the boys have just realized: “she’s not one of us anymore,” who herself feels the feminine longing in her heart: their door gently closes behind me – the way we interact together has forever changed: I am not one of the guys; I am treated as woman in both good and not so good ways. And whatever identity or perks I had as a man (like “male privilege”), I left behind

I knew it would be this way.

…Now I come to my sisters who are “older” women, and some of them have started to welcome me; they are teaching me to become the woman I am, to mature. Many know that there is something special about me because I am a 51 year old girl-becoming-woman, and they are being especially gentle. As I approach and quietly enter their door, my body language seems to echo my heart: “excuse me…please…I don’t mean to come where I’m not wanted…I know I’m late to the party…may I come in if I’m quiet?…please?” There is a balance between crashing-in and demanding one’s “birthright” and being so quiet that one’s presence is overlooked, unmet. I need to strike a balance or I will never assimilate…

Do I want to fully assimilate? The whole goal of my transition has been to live authentically as myself. Well, myself includes my past, and it includes the parts of me that were called “Brett.” But it is equally true that I was and am a female person, now expressing myself as a woman. Somehow I am all these things. Yes, I am a woman, but my past and makeup are very different than a natal woman’s…and hers is different from mine: we are both women, but we have become along different paths. Moreover, I do not view “transsexual” and “woman” to be mutually exclusive. And I must also live with the fact that I am a husband, a father, as well as a woman. Impossible! some say. Necessary for me! I reply. I cannot escape that I am a blend of sexes and genders, but that I am most me when I express myself as a woman. Maybe embracing is better than escaping?

Perhaps I will be one of the lucky ones who are somehow accepted, embraced, by others of their gender, whilst honoring their whole selves, fully integrated, not required to hide anything, yet not exposing everything, all the time. The same and yet changed: loved and respected for all that: a unique human being…

…Now by God’s grace, I live as a special sort of woman.

Postscript: I am now nearly 55 and I have assimilated nicely; it is no longer obvious that I am a woman of transgender experience. Yet I live my life “simply open,” which for me means that in casual encounters, I am “just” a tall, boyish woman — but when people come to know me more intimately, the fact that I am a trans woman becomes apparent in relaxed, natural even winsome ways. Being transgender is one of the countless beautiful ways to be human, and I communicate that, mostly without words; I am gracefully transgender.

Postscript: back when I wrote this several years ago, I was much less aware of a larger segment of the transgender population — those who are non-binary — that is, those whose (beautifully) natural state is to be neither a man, nor a woman. Transsexuals as a rule gravitate to the opposite “pole” from where their birth assignment would suggest, but non-binary people find they are more comfortable somewhat away from the poles. And while my gender identity feels pretty fixed to me (I can trace my sense of gendered self into my early childhood and it’s always been the same), other people experience their gender as something that changes over time — sometimes over years, sometimes even daily or moment by moment. Such people are not in a ghetto when they are not at the male or female pole, they are simply where they are most comfortably at home! It’s a point that I did not understand then, that I understand better now, what with having a number of non-binary friends.


While I have left behind whatever privilege I had in being a ‘man,’ I still retain most of the responsibilities: with poignancy I recently realized that I am no longer the family “fix it” as in “the husband/son-in-law fixes things.” My spouse and her mom have turned to our young adult son in the way they used to turn to me: he is taking-up his ‘manly’ mantle and doing well. It wasn’t that I refused this duty, but I gravitated away from it. I beam with pride that our son is becoming a man as evidenced in yet another way. But it is also sad. I never had realized this was a “gender role” in our family – maybe it is not, but this change correlates with my change. It is another part of who I was that is gone; I am done with it; I am not going back.