“Human” by Lynne

The older I get, the more confusing this world seems to get. When I was a youngster growing up in Michigan, my friends were white, people of color and Native American, girls and boys and straight. When we moved to Nebraska, as far as I knew they were all white and straight. By the time I got out of college, the world had changed some. There were now some black friends, still a few Native American friends, some gay friends and one transsexual friend and the rest were male and female and straight.

As my number of acquaintances increased, so did the changes in the people I now knew. Now I had white, African-American, Native American, Hispanic, Latino, Indian (from India), gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, male and female and straight friends.

In the last few decades, what used to just be a Gay community, then became a GLBT before becoming a LGBT community, and before we added a Q and added other letters, was an interesting community to just listen to from various news sources. Remember, we did not have the internet until some 20+ years ago. It was always interesting listening to comments on who was gay, lesbian, bi or trans enough to be a member of that community. One can still hear the same comments being made today and the debates on which letters belong in our community. But the one thing that most of us agreed on was a binary system. Most people over the age of say 40-45 grew up in a binary system where we recognized male or female. It didn’t matter as to one’s sexual orientation or gender identity, we still thought of only male or female.

In less than a decade, there has been a large increase in the non-binary or gender- fluid people in our community. Along with the changes in pronouns, a lot of us as parents, allies, teachers, and the public are learning to deal with something new in our lives.

Some of us adapt easily to change. Some of us never do. But just like the friends of my youth were still the same friends, but the nomenclature has changed. As it has for our community, we have learned to deal with new letters being added and new terms being used. We have all learned to deal with being different ourselves. Let us learn and listen to our non-binary or gender- fluid friends. Just like in the past we learned about our androgynous friends and in decades before the “beat generation.”

Maybe life isn’t really so confusing as I age, maybe it’s just keeping up with changing terminology.

Or maybe instead of LGBTQ we should all just be HUMAN.

Lynne

“I am transgender” by John

I am transgender. I am in the process of physically transitioning into a man after living for many decades as a woman filled with shame, guilt, confusion, depression and dread. My transitioning has been filled with sunshine, fresh air, freedom, truth and acceptance for the first time in my life. For the first time, I can finally truly be the person that I am. It has brought me an amazing sense of joy, contentment and peace within myself.

The journey of becoming myself has been a very long and crooked road that had many wrong turns, potholes and dead ends. During the journey, there were also pit stops as well. I still have baggage, but I am carrying a much lighter load these days.

I began to realize that I should have been born in a male body after serious reflection on my life and trying to make sense out of it after my mother passed away and my daughter became an independent adult. I was exhausted from the old ‘scripts’ in my head that told me I was stupid, incompetent, ashamed of what I thought and felt, and scolding ‘scripts’ that kept me frozen emotionally. I saw myself like an onion, and when I began peeling back the layers, I came to the realization that I really was in the wrong gender body. I was surprised by this core fact, but also not surprised. This became the place where I could begin a new life.

My journey, then, began with the onion. And I had no clue what to do when I came to the realization that I was transgender. Although this is a huge fact to realize, it is an entirely different thing to know how to proceed. I did have a choice. I could ignore this new information about myself. After all, I had lived many decades the way I was. Or I could find a new way to live. Not only did I have to do that, but I had to try to find words to be able to talk about it. When so much of myself had been hidden for so long, (even to me), it is difficult to know how to express these new/old thoughts, feelings and ideas.

Besides trying to verbally express these ideas, it was the need to check (and double check) my past with this new-found information. This meant reflecting on my past with new eyes. I have been continually remembering past events of my life. For the first time, I can look at my past with a fresh perspective. And I continue to do this process.

I wondered if I just thought I was transgender without really being a true transgender person. Did my parents just really want a boy and convey that to me emotionally? Had I been sexually abused and blocked out all memory of it? What would I gain by physically changing to a man? What would I have to do to actually do that? Is that even a ‘thing’?

By exploring my past, I realized that many of the uncomfortable, confusing, guilt and shamed parts of my life were actually primarily transgender related. I have come to realize that dating men (and even being married to one for four years) felt so awkward and uncomfortable because I am actually a heterosexual man. I don’t hate men, I actually really like them, because I am one. However, I am not sexually attracted to them. I had thought that I had to like men in a sexual way because I was in a woman’s body (I grew up in the 1950’s).

I have to say that two of the most important things I have done for my transition is to find a good therapist to help me better understand being transgender and secondly, to meet other transgender people to talk to. This has given me the words I need in order to express my thoughts, emotions and give support to my journey. It is amazing how much I now have to say about being transgender and transitioning. The peace that I felt the moment it was clear to me that I had finally found myself was so profound, that I had no choice but to continue toward doing more substantial things towards transitioning. Deep in my soul, I knew that I was on the correct path. And I became greedy for more clarity, more peace and more sunshine.

So I had a new beginning: new words, and release of old, useless, worn out, damaging baggage. Now what do I do? I had thought when I first went to therapy that my therapist would have some sort of a certificate with an official stamp to certify my transgender-ness. She did not have one of those. But what she does have, are words and guidance to steer me through the quagmire of my past that would lead to a new, brighter future. Each physically outward step that I have taken puts me closer to feeling in synchrony with my inside self. Wearing men’s clothes feels right, not carrying a purse feels right (what a relief) and cutting my hair into a man’s haircut all felt so wonderful and natural. It was surprising how easy it actually was to make those changes. I did, living as woman, love shoes and jewelry. However, I was shocked to learn that my jewelry, even though it was expensive, now means nothing to me. In fact, I now believe it was a prop or part of a costume for me to prove to others and myself that I was a girl. I did love my shoes, but I had a talk with them, and now we’re good. I was able to get rid of them, too. Men’s shoes can be mildly exciting. Even cutting my shoulder length hair turned out to really be no big deal. It has been such a relief to shed these outward affectations of gender.

Physically there are other issues that take on a larger meaning. Finding a doctor to administer hormones was a hurdle. As a post-menopausal woman, putting any hormones into my body seemed radical. Testosterone has made me feel like a new person. I’ve also had a double mastectomy and it all feels so natural. I’m scheduled to have ‘bottom’ surgery in a few months. I’m waiting for that with excitement and anticipation. I’m also getting hairier and I love that my face now feels like sandpaper.

It has been amazing to me that all of these changes have just made me feel more comfortable with myself. For the first time in my life, I am beginning to like my body and even my face and can look at myself in the mirror with some satisfaction.

Along with all of the physical and emotional changes I have been going through, I have had legal issues to deal with. I legally changed my name and my gender through the courts, social security and for my driver’s license. I have also had to change my name on property, car titles and credit cards. My latest legal change was changing my birth certificate. I cannot believe how fabulous it makes me feel to see that now my birth certificate matches my true gender. My parents, although both deceased, gave birth to a bouncing baby boy. I think I’m going to frame it.

One of the most difficult issues facing a transgender person is coming out to friends and family. All of the areas of transition that I have mentioned, affect me personally. But the one issue that effects everyone that I know are friends and family. They are important for everyone’s life and every transgender person has to deal with this. There is no way to predict what the reaction of another to the news that I am transgender. As I become more and more physically like a man, discussions were going to be needed with others emotionally close to me.

My first major concern was coming out to my daughter. I have no other immediate family members. I was actually not ready to talk to her about it (I didn’t really have the words, yet) but I told her that 2018 was going to be an unusual year for me. For some reason, she assumed that I had cancer, so we wound up leaving a really great New Year’s Eve party so that I could tell her that her mother was really a man. It went better that I could have hoped in my wildest dreams, and she has been a huge support for me. She even allowed me to be at her wedding in a tuxedo and had me give a toast to her and her new husband. She and her then fiancé insisted on staying with me after my double mastectomy surgery, and plan to help me after ‘bottom’ surgery. I am even grandpa to her cat. I almost declined going to a family reunion because I didn’t know if I wanted to have to ‘come out’ to 40 people that I really don’t know all that well. I did tell a couple of my cousins, they insisted that they still love me and insisted that I attend. I did, they do and they treated me like a guy, but talked to me like I was their cousin. I know that I am lucky, but there is no way I can predict how people will react to me being transgender. I had one ‘friend’ who told me in the nicest possible way that I was going to hell and that being gay and/or transgender are two surefire paths to never having God’s forgiveness or love. We are no longer friends.

I realize that I have forced people who are friends and relatives to deal with their basic beliefs, question sexual orientation in themselves and how they feel about it in a close association with a transgender person. My daughter went to therapy herself, and questioned her own gender. She told me that she is now glad that she doesn’t take her gender for granted, but she knows she is female, likes it and knows exactly who she is.

I really like that. I have made people evaluate their beliefs and feelings towards something that is incredibly radical in many people’s minds and very difficult for cisgender people to understand. There are several things that I know about my journey. It has been extremely rewarding, but also extremely difficult. I am still physically changing and still evolving and learning new things every day. Being transgender is unique and complicated. No person without gender orientation dysphoria would ever go through this amount of chaos to change. And every transgender person that has made changes in their life knows and understands the joy of evolving and growing in ways they can’t even predict, when taking a journey to find and become themselves.

There is an ancient Greek myth about a man named Tiresias who was changed into a woman by the goddess Hera. After many years and children later, Hera relented and changed her back into a man. Greek myths helped people to understand the natural world. Most people are only one sex, but transgender people get to experience both sexes, a very rare and special thing. We see the world from a very unique perspective. In the myth about Tiresias, the gods and goddesses later had an argument about who had the most sexual pleasure – men or women. They decided to ask Tiresias, of course. He declined to give a definitive answer. As a transgender person, I know that what matters the most is just finally being able to be comfortable in my own skin and my realization that for the first time in my life, I am finally free and able to feel like one, whole unified person. And that alone is worth everything.

John

What does it mean for me to be a member of PFLAG? by Jamie

It means being accepted for who I am.

I was born transgender back in the early 50’s. Back then very few people had a clue what it meant to be born with a gender identity conflict.

By the time I was 8 years old my parents had gotten pretty fed up with my gender identity so my father sat me down and explained to me why I couldn’t be a girl. Up until then my father had always been supportive of me. I really loved and respected him for that.

Unfortunately, it was quite the opposite case when it came to my mother. I was constantly facing verbal and physical abuse from her.

To have my father tell me that I couldn’t be a girl was probably the hardest thing I ever faced in my life. He convinced me that my gender identity was a delusion and if I ever wanted to have a normal life, I would have to learn to accept my gender assigned at birth.

To make him happy I agreed to try really hard. So, I made every effort to live the expected norm.

This not only meant denying my gender identity but also denying my sexual orientation when I started experiencing sexual urges.

Going through biological puberty was horrible on me. Not only was my body becoming further away from who I was on the inside, but I found I wasn’t attracted to girls and to make matters worse I liked boys.

This really scared me because I was trying really hard to fit in and be normal.

You cannot begin to imagine the pain and conflict I endured trying to be someone I wasn’t. I was depressed my whole life and was constantly struggling with gender dysphoria.

In fact, it was so bad that I tried to end my life twice while a teenager. Following my second attempt of suicide I decided that I needed to get married. I had convinced myself that it would drive out my conflict. So, I asked a girl who at the time was just a good friend, if she would marry me. She accepted, but only on the grounds that we were sexually compatible. Ugh!

This was probably the hardest test I had to go through. Because I had to go against my sexual orientation. But I did it anyway. Guess what I didn’t like it!

I realized you can’t change your sexual orientation. You can force yourself to do something, but you can’t make yourself like it. I only did it because I had to.

I failed miserably the first time and she was ready to walk out. But I pleaded for a second chance. Fortunately, I managed to pass the second time around and we eloped to North Carolina because I was too young to get married in Oklahoma without parental approval. Of course, the marriage didn’t last. She could easily tell I had no sexual attraction to women. But I kept trying to force myself. This went on most of my life.

When I finally came to the point that I could no longer handle my gender identity conflict I transitioned. What I realized after I transitioned was how real it was to be born transgender. When I transitioned all my depression and gender dysphoria disappeared and for the first time in my life, I was happy with myself.

I also discovered during my transition how real sexual orientation is too. It is not something we choose. Sure, you can make yourself do just about anything. But you can’t change your sexual orientation. I know because I tried for years to convince myself I was attracted to girls. When I finally had sex with a man it felt wonderful. It was like all the pieces of the puzzle came together. There was absolutely no question in my mind that I was attracted to guys.

This is why I love PFLAG. Being LGBTQ+ is not a choice and to truly be happy in life means being true to ourselves. PFLAG is probably the only place I can go and be loved and accepted as a transgender woman.

Jamie

Exciting PFLAG National Leadership Change

On January 17, PFLAG National’s board of directors named a new Executive Director of PFLAG National, Brian Bond. PFLAG National’s Board President Kathy Godwin said, “I am thrilled to welcome Brian to the helm of PFLAG National. He has a proven record of success unifying people across communities, building strong alliances and partnerships, and working in challenging environments and moments to effect change. His personal story—as a young gay man raised in rural America—will resonate with so many people, including our supporters and members. I know Brian is the leader PFLAG needs to continue our work, and greatly expand our reach.”

During the Obama Administration, Bond served as Deputy Director for the White House Office of Public Engagement and primary liaison for the LGBTQ community. Prior to his political service, Bond was the Executive Director of the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund and is credited with expanding the success of the organization and support for LGBTQ candidates during his six-year tenure.

Mr. Bond’s reputation, background and resume are impressive. LGBTQ leaders and supporters are applauding his appointment. To learn more read PFLAG National’s press release:
https://pflag.org/press-releases/brian-bond-named-new-executive-director-pflag-national

In Omaha, we have a committed leadership team. Our chapter has a volunteer board of eight members. Each board member agrees to serve a two-year term with a maximum of eight years. I serve as PFLAG Omaha’s president and have the privilege of serving with the following board members: Suzanne Doupnik, Vice President; Maria Bateman, Treasurer; Kelly Coleman, Secretary and members at large Michele Fisher, Patrick Heese, Luke Pella and Mariano Uberti. The board meets monthly to discuss and manage our chapter’s business. It’s an important responsibility and everyone on the board is a valued and much appreciated member.

I encourage you to visit our chapter support meetings and get to know your board of directors and the many other PFLAGers and guests who join us monthly. Meetings are the second and fourth Thursdays of each month. On the second Thursday we meet at Countryside Community Church and on the fourth Thursday we have a Spanish & English bilingual meeting at OneWorld Community Health Centers. Meeting information, including what to expect at a meeting can be found at:
http://pflag-omaha.org/ More information about our bilingual meeting can be found at http://pflag-omaha.org/latino/

Carrie Spencer