Tag: courage

Happy MAN-niversary to me.

Thursday, December 21st, 2017 was a big day for me. I kept wanting to post about it and then the day went by in a flash and next thing you know it was the 22nd. Again I kept trying to get to this post and share my thoughts as well as a few photos, but once again the day was over and I realized I had neglected to share!

So here we are Saturday, December 23rd, 2017 and I am now focused and ready! First of all, I celebrated my second MAN-niversary. Some guys refer to this as their celebration of having been on T and some guys as their anniversary of having top surgery. I think that is mainly because some guys start T and then wait for a year or two to have top surgery. Not because that is what they want, sometimes it’s because it is EXPENSIVE and they need to save. Or they are trying to find employers who actually extend the insurance coverage for trans related surgeries. Many insurance companies offer the coverage but not all companies extend that coverage to their employees. I know mine didn’t. So I paid out of pocket for my surgery to the tune of six thousand five hundred dollars. Also for the record, I started weekly injections of testosterone in August of 2015 so I celebrate two years on T this past August! I will share more about that in another blog.

I also believe it is important to note, some guys choose to NOT have top surgery. And this does not make them any less of a man. As a matter of fact, in my humble opinion, I believe it makes them way more of a man! Owning what they wish to do with their own bodies and what they feel works for them. Novel concept I know!

I chose to have top surgery and I have zero regrets! I had a very large chest, 44DD as a matter of record, and they caused me an incredible amount of grief. What is interesting is that I didn’t realize how much grief until they were gone. As I share my story with people I often share how I struggled with back pain years before coming out as transgender, and everything culminated for me into a series of events that happened all within a week of my coming out as trans.

It is now two years after top surgery and much has changed in my life.  I am no longer sharing my life with the person I was with for 10 years. I haven’t shared much about this publicly because there isn’t much to share. She was a lovely human and still is a lovely human we just no longer share a life. I made the choice to end the relationship because I realized I was no longer in love with her. I hope she is well. And that is all I am going to say about that. I didn’t want the celebration of this milestone to go without mentioning her because she was there and I do have her to thank for helping me through the surgery and recovery as well as helping me be able to afford it at that time. Much has changed in my life since December 21st, 2015.

Who knew having top surgery would be such a relief? I mean seriously? Once I came out as transgender this surgery was one of the most important milestones in my transition but I had no idea how much relief I would feel once the twins were gone. As I have said over and over, it was a HUGE weight lifted off my shoulders, pun intended! And I had to fight a little to make it a reality as soon as I did. The doctor who performed the surgery wanted me to wait until June of 2016 and I said, I am paying out of pocket, and I have already waited many many years for this freedom! So let’s do this! Thankfully he didn’t argue with me after my hormone doctor and my therapist both gave him letters saying I was ready!

The image below is me shortly after surgery in 2015, the image in the middle is from this past February, and the image on the right is me literally on December 23, 2017, the day this was blog post was published.

As you may already be able to tell, I am not one of those muscle head trans guys who are working on his six pack and pecs. As a matter of fact, I have put on a few pounds since this past February. I have always been a softer guy (inside and out) and will more than likely always be more of a Pillsbury dough boy than a bodybuilder. And frankly, I think that is way more than fine. I will admit that I have hesitated to share more about my journey here because I have been afraid people would judge me for not being more “masculine” and “muscular” than celebrate with me the true milestone that it is for me.

This past year has been a real challenge when it comes to the gender binary, and gender norms and I have taken one emotional hit after another, as well as physically packing on some extra pounds! I think I will refer to it as discrimination weight because this new territory has been rough to navigate and food has always been more comforting to me than just about anything!

Emotionally I have taken on some attacks that have been very personal and all have been very discriminatory and what is truly unfortunate is the world is still so engaged in such binary thinking that many people who know the story, have also caused me additional hurt and pain out of their own lack of understanding. I am so incredibly saddened and disappointed by how committed people are to their own binary ways of thinking. To gendering body parts, to clothes, to actions, to even colors! And out of my frustration, I have embarked on a project of my own to challenge the binary which I am hoping will culminate in a big show sometime in 2018 so stay tuned!

Much to my disappointment, I am still being regularly misgendered and I don’t get it because looking at these images side by side I can see how much I have changed. And well frankly how much less soft my face has become. I have literally transformed from looking more like my mother to looking more like my father! And I really like the middle image compared to the other two because of my killer trapezius muscles! But I digress.

After I first shared about my top surgery back in 2015 I had a few people make off-color comments about this surgery not making me a man and that it would take more than cutting off my breasts to make me a “real” man. And it had me not want to share for fear of being ridiculed or not being affirmed or seen for who I am. I have had people tell me who they think I am and it is one of the number one things I hear from trans kiddos and parents of trans kiddos in regard to bodies and what makes us male and or female. And yet many people still refuse to acknowledge the gender binary is the culprit. They cling to their beliefs and because of this they also do and say things that are incredibly hurtful. Which is why I speak out. And it is why, although sometimes I question myself, I will share more intimate parts of my story.

Believe me, it isn’t glamorous. It’s not like I have been given some prize or a big pot of gold for being who I am. On the contrary, I have spent more money than I have earned in sharing my story. In attempting to create photos and videos and this blog in order to share my story with all of you who will listen and who honestly want to learn. And there have been some wonderful relationships formed and connections made with people that would not have happened if it wasn’t for this space I have created. And for this, I will always be grateful.

Since I have come out, I have literally had someone reach out to me at least once a week about a friend or family member who has come out to them as transgender and they have questions. Or their friends have questions and don’t know where to go or who to reach out to. Or a child who has come out to their parents as transgender or non-binary, and a friend of a friend connects me to them. I am grateful I am here today to share with them my story. My experience, my truth. Because believe it or not, they can relate, they can see it, and they are so very grateful that I get it. That I can affirm them when they say, “this teacher said X and I do not think it is right.” and I say, “You are correct that is not right and here’s why.” And they are able to vent their frustrations with me. We may not be able to make immediate changes to systems and structures but hopefully, the work I am doing will not be in vain. In my heart, I believe it is what is right and true.

So HAPPY MAN-NIVERSARY to me!

Even my bitmoji has transitioned!

 

 

 

Whole Lot of Heart

I have been away from my blog lately.  Away from my podcast.  Away from this HAPPY SPACE.  And today I realized it was time to reconnect.  Time to remind myself about why I created Speaking Of Happy.  I wanted to put the HAPPY back into being gay and celebrate the LGBTQIA Community.  And although I have been EXTREMELY HAPPY lately I have been selfish and keeping much of that happiness to myself.  It has been on my mind however so today I return with an important blog which I hope makes a difference for someone, somewhere who may be suffering and feeling alone.  I am here.  I see you.  Listen to this song and know, I SEE YOU.  The song starts at 3:27 (cue it up now) but Idina shares a little about her new album and how personal it is to her.  And her music is very personal to me.  Because, partially through her, something really amazing happened to me!  This post isn’t about that, and perhaps one day I will share what that is but today this is about something else.  So, listen to this song and then come back to read the rest of the blog.  Or read and listen but know there is another song coming up that I hope will make an impact on you too so read on.

OK so now for the real reason for this post.

The past few days have been an emotional roller coaster for me.  On Sunday I found out, although it comes as no surprise, some of my family members who I love and respect dearly, do not feel the same about me.  And apparently I have been a hot topic for gossip.  Interesting thing is none of the offenders have come to me directly with their questions or concerns.  Instead they talk to other family members and share their judgements and evaluations about my life and how I live it.  And they even want to exclude me from participating in family gatherings.  But one person had the courage to come to me directly and tell me the truth.  She even said she wasn’t ok with excluding me or talking badly about me.  I am grateful for her caring and support.  And although it was hard for her to come to me and tell me the truth she did and I am grateful.

And the most interesting thing of all is how I choose to live my life!  I choose to be an outspoken advocate for the rights of the oppressed.  In my free time I am out educating people and fighting for the rights of people who have had their voice diminished.  Kids who are kicked out of their homes because they are LGBTQIA.  Youth who are bullied and picked on in school just because of who they are.  Bullied and demeaned by their classmates daily.  I hear horror stories all the time.  I have read messages being sent to some of the trans youth I know that should make ALL PEOPLE ANGRY.  And when the parents of those youth take proof to the schools their kids go to, the schools who talk to the oppressors take their word over the word and the proof of the oppressed.  And I can relate to the minimizing of feelings by others when I have pointed out how their actions are hurtful.  When they make statements like, I didn’t mean what I said in a bad way or even worse they tell me I am being too sensitive.

I put myself out there daily in all the little things I do to educate people about what it is to be transgender.  Teaching about microagressions and things that are inappropriate for people to say to me and I do it with kindness and compassion because I ALWAYS have the youth in the back of my mind.  Because I want them to feel safe and loved and cared for.  And by educating you I am hopefully creating a wave that you carry into your lives and you pass on what you have learned from me because you love me and respect me and see me for who I am.  And that ripple effect will change hearts and minds of those you interact with and by doing so we will save a child from heartache together.

On Monday I did a presentation to a room of more than 40 people.  I shared my story and brought along two high school students who generously shared what it is like for them in their schools daily.  The sharing was very raw and real.  We facilitated an exercise the group participated in on Microagressions – individual acts of subtle prejudice or hostility that can be unintentional or conscious, generally committed by one individual toward another individual.  Microassaults – small behaviors that are intentional and purposefully hurtful. (e.g., using the wrong name or pronouns, name calling, or making derogatory statements)  Microinsults – rude statements that are usually unintentional or unconscious that indicate ignorance or bias. (e.g., asking inappropriate questions, redirecting someone to another bathroom), Microinvalidations – statements or actions that are usually unintentional or unconscious that ignore, minimize, or nullify a person’s identity (e.g., having only two options for sex/gender on forms, teling gender non-conforming people that they should not be upset if people are confused by their gender).

I know you may be feeling guilty of doing some of these things, and until now DID NOT even realize it.  Some of the participants were appalled at what they were hearing.  They couldn’t believe it.  They experienced only 8 minutes of this, LGBTQIA youth endure minutes, that build into hours, weeks, months, and years of verbal assaults.  Many of them are getting it from their own family members.  Many of them are choosing to end their lives or being murdered in the streets.

Some of the participants shared some powerful emotions and pain in regard to their own experiences because yes LGBTQIA people are everywhere. One woman shared how the exercise had her present to her own cisgender privilege and how she has never been on the receiving end of such hateful, hurtful statements and she could clearly see how hard it might be for someone who does hear them every day.  I was tagged in a lovely thank you from the organization that invited us to speak and I am grateful the exercise made a difference for them.  And I am confident we had a very powerful impact on them.

Now listen to this song because it is where I come from on a daily basis!  I wear my heart on my sleeve sometimes.  I openly share my emotions because I want you to know you are welcome to share yours with me.  That I will hold your heart carefully in my hands and help you to feel better about your life.

There is a Whole Lot of Heart in me because I am loved.  Because I have a huge supportive loving community of people who also believe in the world I believe in.  One that sees people for who they are.  One who lifts people up and respects them for who they are.

I am living my life being 100% authentic to myself.  Living for me so I can be HAPPY.  So that when I look at myself in the mirror I LOVE what I see reflected back at me.  For 50 years I lived a life so that everyone else could be comfortable, all the while I was dying inside.  

Today, I am living.  Today I am happy and fulfilled and LOVED.  And the biggest love is the love I feel for me.  

I am loved.  By many of my dear friends who know me and see me and honor the man I am.  They support me and have walked this journey with me and have done the work to learn more and educate themselves about what it is to be transgender.  Some of them are part of the community and they too have had to challenge their own strongly held beliefs in regard to the gender binary we have all been tricked into believing was real. But they are doing the work.

I am loved by my community and all of the amazing transgender people I know.  They show me daily what it is to be COURAGEOUS in the face of little or no agreement.  And they continue to move forward with their heads held high. They are GORGEOUS, CREATIVE, COMPASSIONATE humans and I celebrate them!

I am loved and seen by my sister Marisue and her family.  I know she helps to educate people in her life and is a powerful advocate for me too.  We have talked recently and we both believe we are so much closer today because of the freedom I feel to be me today. 

I am loved and seen fully by my mother.  A woman living in a memory care unit who can’t tell me what she had for lunch but she calls me her son every time I visit her and she has no judgement of me.  She says I am handsome and reminds me of stories from my childhood that affirm who I am.

I am loved by my 80 year old Aunt Betty with whom I share a birthday.  She tells me all the time how much I look like my dad and that I am ok just as I am. And her son, my cousin Ted, who called me to thank me for being strong and for living my life in a way that is inspirational to those around me.  

And I LOVE the transgender youth I have had the honor and privilege to meet.  Who have so generously shared their stories and lives with me.  And I will continue to be the change I wish to see in the world for them.  So that perhaps one day, no family will ever reject a child because of who they are. So that families will not have to suffer the loss of a child who committed suicide because of all the hate-filled rhetoric in our world.

So, gossip about me if you will.  Exclude me from family gatherings.  I will NEVER stop being WHO I AM.  And truth be told I will never stop loving you, but I may choose to remove myself from your life only to preserve my HAPPINESS.

Urban Abbey

On the show today is ChrisJorgensenReverend Chris Jorgensen with The Urban Abbey which is a faith based community housed in a coffee shop in Omaha’s Old Market.  The Urban Abbey is a non profit dedicated to making a difference one cup of coffee at at time and they believe everyone should have a place at the table.  There have been many changes over the years when it comes to churches and acceptance of the LGBTQIA+ Community.  Right here in the midwest there was a group of churches who came together back in 2011 and issued The Heartland Proclamation which was a public apology to the LGBTQIA+ Community for the way the Christian Church has treated us in the past.  And they made a promise going forward to being Open and Affirming just as The Urban Abbey believes.  If you are looking for a faith community you may find one there but you may also listen to this interview and find a great deal of comfort in what Reverend Jorgensen shares about what The Urban Abbey is up to!  QueerFaithUAShe shares more about The Queer Faith on Campus Initiative too!  I hope you enjoy the conversation as much as I did!  Thank you for tuning in to Speaking Of Happy!

If you don’t see the player click here and listen to the episode on PodOMatic.

#shebelongs

Back in March we did an interview with Eris Koleszar for Speaking Of Happy and little did we know how big she would become in less than a month!  Eris is an outspoken advocate for the trangender community and recently took a powerful stand against anti-trans descrimination online via her selfie campaign!  She has not only thrust herself into the public eye but she has also taken on activating allies in her quest to create safe bathroom spaces for Transgender people in Omaha!  After an online dispute started by a post from a local bar owner Eris has been personally advocating on behalf of the trans comEris1munity online and on television!  We knew from the moment we met her last year that we had to have her on Speaking Of Happy and thank goodness we acted fast before her dance card filled up!

Eris is a amazing human being who is articulate and funny and just all around wonderful to spend time with.  She is a force to be reconned with online as she takes on some of the most vile anti-trans people in Omaha but also is activitating local allies with her selfie campaign!  She has been going to local venues and asking allies to take selfies with her and post them to their social media with the hashtags #shebelongs #shejustwantstopee #transwomenarewomen and educating people about the hateful anti-trans legislation showing up across the nation.  She is defeating stereotypes one selfie at a time and doing it with great class!

 

This is our interview which was conducted last March and originally aired on RadiOmaha.

If you do not see the player then click HERE and listen on PodOmatic.

TDoV Omaha

 

TdovTDoV Omaha is Transgender Day of Visibility and it happens across the nation on March 31st. On the show today I sat down with Miles Cristiano Jordan who is one of the organizers. He shares with us what the event is all about, why it is important, and how you can get involved! I enjoyed chatting with Miles and I hope you enjoy the interview. Also, I will be at TDoV this year so come see me and learn how you can become an active ally!

If you can not see the player click HERE to listen to the podcast on PodOMatic.

Jocelyn

Jocelyn I first saw Jocelyn when a friend posted a video shot on her iPhone of Jocelyn singing at an open mic. I was blown away at her talent in a less than perfect cell phone video! She jumped off the screen and I knew I had to meet her. Well as fate would have it I messaged her a few times and asked if she would be willing to play at a fundraiser I was hosting and she AGREED! She blew the small crowd away and we all left that night feeling as though we witnessed something very special. So, it was a given I asked Jocelyn to come on the show and share her talent with Speaking Of Happy fans! So this is our wonderful conversation and also included as a bonus is her most recent single she released back in January and an acoustic version of another song she wrote! We hope you enjoy the show!

Jocelyn3

If you do not see the player click HERE and listen on podomatic.

Please visit Jocelyn’s website by clicking HERE after the interview!

Marilynn Barner Anselmi

 

Marilynn with the girls

On today’s episode of Speaking Of Happy we chat with Marilynn Barner Anselmi, a playwrite, who’s play Mama’s Girls, was just beautifully produced by SNAP! Productions here in Omaha.  Marilynn came to see the play on the last day of the run and we sat down to chat with her about what the inspiration for the play was along with how she became a playwrite.  Anselmi is a gifted writer and shares some very personal stories about her life.  The episode originally aired on RadiOmaha earlier this year.  We hope you enjoy the conversation as much as we did!

 

 

Anselmi and the cast of Mama’s Girls!2015-12-06 16.13.48

 

 

 

 

2015-12-06 16.53.26 2015-12-06 16.53.11Anselmi gets interviewed by Chloe the young actress who played Sammy in Mama’s Girls

 

 

 

 

 

If you do not see the player click HERE and listen to the podcast on podomatic.

Get Foo’d

On the show today I sat down with local photographer Joshua Foo!  Prior to this interview I had never met Joshua in person.  I saw some of the his photos on Facebook and instantly fell in love with his work

JoshwithFlyingFurniture

so I decided to send him a friend request.  Considering we had so many friends in common I hoped he would accept my request and he did!  I also liked his photography page on facebook so I could stay up to date with his work.

 

 

 

 

 

 

He has a crazy awesome imagination and has created some amazing images that are whimsical and fun!

Haizel

JoshAndAmber

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But what really had me take notice was when he started posting photos of people with a front and a side view of each person.  The people are not smiling and appeared to be randomly plucked off the street. I watched as he posted them one after another and I started to notice something. Each of them were amazing and alluring. I wanted to learn more about the people he was posting as well as about the man who was capturing these incredible images!

A Photo Series by Joshua FooInstagram: @joshfoolovesyouFacebook: Joshua Foo Photography

Posted by Joshua Foo on Saturday, September 26, 2015

So we sat down on the back patio at Caffeine Dreams, which is where he discovered the backdrop that would become a key element in his series! I was even honored to have my photo taken that day!

AsYouWere_Eli

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So here it is the full interview with Joshua Foo, my new and amazing friend! How many times does a person get to have their very first conversation with a person be recorded for all to hear and to live on forever right here on Speaking Of Happy! Thank you Joshua Foo!

We hope you enjoy the conversation as much as we did, and if you don’t that’s ok, we at least hope you learn something new!

If you can’t see the player above click HERE and listen to the show on PodOMatic.

Joshua is not only an amazing photographer but a human being extraordinaire and we talked about his photo series As You Were along with what inspires him and why he chose to become a photograper.  Josh is a compassionate and amazing human being and I am so very grateful to now be able to consider him my friend.

Vulnerability in Action

BriannaHumphrey2Today I was going about my morning as usual when I came across a lovely post on facebook by a young woman living in Kearney, Nebraska. People ask me all the time, why are you such an activist? Why does the LGBTQIA Community celebrate Pride? Why? Why? Why? Well, I can’t explain much better than this wonderful post by my new friend Brianna Humphrey, so I am not even going to try. But I will say this much, when ther day comes when people are not being rejected for being who they are, when our youth are not taking their own lives in numbers to high to even stomach, when we can truly just love and let people be and celebrate their milestones in life with them, that will be the day we no longer need to celebrate Pride, but that day has yet to come and this post reminds me of the need to keep educating, to keep being an outspoken activist, and to keep spreading HAPPY!  When I read her post and immediately asked her if I could share it here.  She agreed and here is our first guest contributor! I hope you enjoy it!  Oh and please be sure to give her some love with amazing and supportive comments!  Thank you!

(just click the date below and it will open in FB so you can read her post).

Transition

This video was created from a spoken word piece written by Eli for his significant other. When he first realized he was transgender and he shared with his life partner there was some struggle. Transition isn’t just about the person who is transitioning, it is about everyone near and dear to that person as well. This video is for anyone who is either tranistioning or is close to someone who is. Please be gentle with yourselves in this process and be sure to surround yourself with people who love you and support you and will listen to you when you need to speak. I am very fortunate to have a life partner who is willing to look within and challenge herself to see the world in new and wonderful ways. She is choosing to walk this path with me and I am so very grateful for her. She is my rock, my salvation, the place I can go to find true comfort and love. There are amazing people in this world, if you are willing to let them in, they may surprise you with how they will respond! Much love and blessings to you today! I hope you enjoy this video.

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