Monday, June 26, 2017

I can't believe I am writing about restrooms...

"So what bathroom are you using now?" It's a good question. One that I haven’t received much.

I haven’t been asked too many tough questions, since I came out at work in April. Which is a shame because I really enjoy answering questions which make me think. I sometimes have to think out loud to actually figure stuff out.

The bathroom question has never really come up. So, in some ways I have had to ask myself that question and talk it out (poor Sarah).

Oh, what bathroom am I using? Thanks for asking! That's a great question. Before I get to the answer, I want to give you a little background.

When I was little, probably around age 4 or 5, I had this terrible, scary desire to be a girl. I did everything to try and put these "sinful" thoughts out of my head. Because, as a kid, I really believed that adults could "look into your eyes" and see the truth. And, I knew this was a “bad” thought I didn’t want my parents to see.

As a child, I took every opportunity I could to express myself as a girl, always when no one was around, and often, in a hidden fashion, when they were around. I grew up in a fairly violent home, a very religious home. So the penalty would be extreme if I were to get caught. More than fear, I was very ashamed of what I did. I knew I was going to go to hell for the way I felt about myself and for my actions.

I became hypertuned into observing my surroundings and the people around me. I really learned how to be a sneak and how to cover my tracks. I kept thinking, that as I got older, I would "grow out of it." I prayed for this to happen every day. The only change was when I hit puberty. My attraction to women intensified.

The only twist was that, coupled with my thoughts of coupling with a beautiful woman, were my thoughts that I wanted to have the same kind of body and energy as that beautiful woman. Not good.

More shame. More prayers. More hiding. More continual scanning of the horizon to look for potential icebergs. Many times, I tried to stop this desire, but I was always unsuccessful. You know the rest of the story.

I think diverting much of my energy to be always observing has made me good in jobs that I have held - from being a B-52 crewmember to my work as a firefighter. It definitely has made me more of an empathetic person. Somewhere in this gender dissonance was a weird creativity that I really enjoyed too.

This struggle eventually made me more of a kind person because you never know what things other people struggle with. And if you are always observing, sometimes you see it.

The downside is that always expecting disaster on the horizon has put me in some very dark places. It has made me a less trusting person. And the smallest hint of disapproval can send me into a tailspin. I am working on that. In some ways, it has not been fair to the people I love because seemingly innocuous things can get overblown in my mind - simply because my radar's power is turned up way too high.

When I came out, I was expecting a fight. In fact, I was kind of looking forward to it. Instead, I was given the most amazing outpouring of love and acceptance. I expected to be swinging my fists. That was really hard to do when I found myself in one long uninterrupted hug. I have been humbled and amazed. I am eternally grateful.

What does this have to do with restrooms? Well, maybe you need to use one now after this long introduction.

I still have my radar up and running, and the bathroom issue is no exception.I have recently installed a few filters lately to the scan.  I am still tuned into others around me. Coming out has only intensified that, but in a more empathetic way.

So, for me, the bathroom I will use, at least for right now is based on situational stuff and not wanting to shock people or make them uncomfortable.

At work, in my fire station, there are single occupancy bathrooms. I use those. At our training center, there are men's and women's rooms. I will use the women's because everyone at work knows I am a trans woman. I think this is the expectation of what I will do. And if I used the men's room at this point, my brothers would give me a ton of shit, and rightfully so.

In public places this is pretty situational too. I get it. I still look like a guy mostly. I am still fairly muscular and I am tall. In public, I sometimes dress kind of ambiguously. If I can use a public men's room without fear of getting my ass kicked, because of how I look or how I am dressed, I will do it. I don't want to have ciswomen feel uncomfortable with me in their space.

There is a tipping point for me and the radar I developed as a kid will be useful for me determining when it is more appropriate for me to use a public women's restroom, as opposed to the men's. I think the venue matters too. I will use the women's room at Nyne because I know they are used to trans folks as customers. When I was in Peru a couple of weeks ago, I never even considered using the women's room. I might have started an international incident. Besides, the women's rooms' lines were usually too long... That's a joke. But, they were really long.

In a nutshell, I live in a community. I work in a community. I want to fit in with that community whenever I can. I am not about taking a stand (provide your own urinal comment) to make people feel uncomfortable. I really value that people accept and love me. Today, I will take that over asserting my rights.

Most trans people I know are on the same sheet of music as me. We all just want to be accepted, to put our heads down and do our jobs, to love and be loved, to work to make the world better for future generations of all people - no matter who they are or what they are. All the trans people I know, so far, are kind people who don't seek to cause problems.

There is an initiative coming up - I-1552 - that will seek to limit restroom use for trans people. If it passes, it will become illegal for me to use the restroom which causes the least discomfort for other people. It will also put me and others at risk of violence. It will cause discord among all of us. I don't want to march for "the right to use a bathroom." I don't want to make people who love me choose sides. Everything is fine right now. The current law that we have works just fine. Let's not set the clock back in order to combat urban legends and some imaginative what-ifs and actually hurt real people.

The truth is about a month ago, I noticed I started getting some strange looks in the men's room while I was washing my hands. I looked in the mirror. Nine months of hormone replacement therapy and my face had changed. So had my body. There was physical ambiguity. And my radar picked up on the slightest discomfort from men in their room, a place where they should feel comfortable. I felt like an interloper. After that encounter, I started "holding it" until I made it back home. it wasn't even a conscious decision. I was just making an automatic course correction from my observations in order to make others feel comfortable.

To avoid using public restrooms out of a human concern for others' sensibilities is one thing. Making it a law is a civil rights issue. I would suspect you would see massive civil disobedience from trans people and their allies which would cause more discord and more problems between people who, when you get right down to it, love each other.

Right now, I use the restroom that causes the least dischord. A single occupancy at home and in the station. The women's room at other SFD facilities. And I just don't urinate in public restrooms, unless I reallllly have to go. If I do, I cautiously use the men's room, unless I am at an overtly trans friendly place. I suspect that once the scales have tipped and I look more female, I will use the women's room - cautiously and quickly - in public places.

Why would anyone want to prevent me from being kind and respectful of others? If you vote yes on the anti-trans bathroom bill, that's what you will be asking me to do when you make me use the men's room.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Haiku Friday on Saturday!

Haiku Friday June 23, 2017
on Saturday June 24, 2017

you make me see things darker.
i've recently heard of "normal people's" happiness 
you stripped my normal happiness
like you stripped my sleeping body  -  Gracie

Peruse through Peru, It's funny to see the words, Lake Titicaca.   Don

Notch eared stray tabby.
Nineteen years. Painful joints. Farts.
Flies with party hats.

Quiet, like a cat
  sprawled on the living room floor
    licking at his junk. Stine

Time to let it go:
  vestigial womanhood;
    that pink gingham dress. Stine

You'd better rest up
Lest you create some upchuck
No Tourista Bug! Stine

What is going on?
Not a thing as I had planned
Maybe tomorrow. Phyllis 

   The right and left wing
          Can't fly without the other
              Parts of the same bird

Only one chance at life. 
Seek out all, enrich oneself. 
No fear. Follow love. Jack

Three traits to work on
Bravery, truth and kindness

Connected opposed  - me 

Another Brew Run Run!

OK. I accidentally made this a private function on FaceBook. It's not. You (whoever you are) are invited!

Run, bike, start, whatever, from wherever but let's plan on being at No-Li at 1:30 pm. Then we will run back into downtown to Black Label. After that, the order is Steel Barrel, River City and we'll finish at Iron Goat. Iron Goat has good food too. 
Orlison and Whistle Punk are closed on Sundays, or I would have put them on the route.

The FB site is here. You can message me on this page via comments or you can email me here.

Friday, June 16, 2017

How a bout a little Haiku Friday?

Haiku Friday, June 16, 2017

A New Moon haiku!
All possibility is
Right before our eyes. Eve

So subliminal. Almost too subtle I think. Covert poetry. Bob

Nixon did it too! You guys are crazy that way. How do you do that? Doug

Sometimes I'm surprised,
The eloquence of the rhymes,
Think I'll do it twice. Tyson

Haiku withdrawal
For seven days we wait sad
Syllables on hold  Grace

Work to do today
While my friend Maeve gets to play
Still happy for her!   Christen

 Out in the alley
  Methy misunderstandings
    long before sun-up. Stine

So many poppies --
  red petal-paper unfurled,
    fleeting dominions. Stine

For a brief moment
                 Aloft in the still darkness 
                     Higher than the moon

Happy Birthday Don, 73 isn't old, Russia is coming. Don

Train car commandos
Loco laughter pulls tears
And I'm back on track   Me

Why grieve potential?
Future deserves its repast

Seedling lifts much soil  Me

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Almost a month later...

OK. I came out to my work on April 14th, 2017. It was Good Friday. I had my message all loaded up on my phone. We had a party down at NYne and at 1630, Sarah hit the SEND button on my phone and the email went to everyone at work. Brian, our fire chief, waiting for me to send the message, immediately followed up with a message to all SFD employees that was kind, supportive and laid down the law. He then came to the bar and bought everyone a round of Fireball. We partied until after midnight! A first for me in a long time.

On the afternoon of the big Good Friday coming out, I realized I really didn't have anything to wear for that night. I guess, over the years, I should have been wearing more clothes that fit my true but buried-in-shame gender. But, I never really did much of that. So, I didn't have many female clothes. Sarah took me down to the Reclothery, a consignment shop for really nice used clothes. I bought three shirts there. On the way home I received a reply to a text I had sent earlier. 

The response was from someone very close to me. I started reading it out loud to Sarah as we were driving home from shopping. Over the last few days, I had been texting some of my friends at work to let them know of my transness and my impending Good Friday email to the job. In reply to my disclosure, I had been receiving nothing but very supportive and loving messages. I was expecting the same from this person. But, what I received was the opposite. It was a very detailed, very thorough reply. It was angry and it was mean. It was demeaning. There was an airing of grievances, the likes of which not even Festivus has ever witnessed. Sarah parked the car in the garage as I continued to read it out loud. When I finally finished, I think she was ready for me to start crying - not so much for the content hurting me but for the source - someone who I have known for decades. Someone I love. Instead, I said, "F@#k that guy." And then I typed a reply which was pretty much - "I'm disappointed in you." And then we got dressed and walked down to the party. We had a job to do. 

It was a job and it was a party. Lots of friends, mostly from work, people I have known for a long time. There were also some new-found friends from the trans community. There were some of my sisters. I did not invite one sister. Her husband had told me that she had collapsed on the floor the evening after I came out to her, sobbing "My brother is sick. He's just sick." I did not want to cause her any more grief or stress. She is a good person and has been nice to me. I did not want to hurt her. I think everyone had a good time together that night. 

I followed up my email to the job with a general message on Facebook a week later. Since the day I came out, I have received, I dunno, I would guess over a hundred emails, posts, texts, messages, phone calls, gifts, cards and letters from people in my life. The messages were loving, complimentary, protective, and just plain beautiful. Shifting from shame and fear to this celebration has been the most moving event of my life. And it took over 50 years to get here. 

My wish is that everyone who has sent me such powerful, affirming words receives the same groundswell in their lives. My therapist said it was like going to my own funeral. I think it was better because, well, I'm still alive. 

Some stuff was hard to hear because it was just so sweet and nice, and frankly, I felt unworthy. Since the hormone replacement therapy, I usually don't cry at sad movies or any sad stuff at all. I used to. Instead, now I am at such a level of happiness that when I get more happy, I don't know where to put it and it squirts out my eyes. That's happened a lot since that Good Friday.

I went to work two days later, on Easter Sunday. And it was a little awkward. I usually run to work, but I didn't this shift because I had all the food with me for our Easter meal, so I drove. I came in wearing eye liner, lip stain (thank you Mel), and mascara. A firefighter new to our station was looking very uncomfortable. I said, "Hey thanks for making coffee," as I poured myself a cup. He said,"You're welcome. How was your Saturday?" He was still avoiding eye contact. I took a sip of my coffee, paused and replied, "Pretty good... now that I'm a girl." And he broke up laughing and so did I and it was all good. And so it has remained.

I remain overwhelmed and unworthy of the awesome love bestowed upon me by everyone. Well almost everyone... I told Sarah yesterday that I am grateful for this person who despises me, as well. It is good to know how brave almost every one is and how kind almost everyone is. If it wasn't for this one person, I wouldn't have seen the contrast. So, thank you to him! It is like a pinch of cayenne pepper in a ginger snap cookie recipe. And for that spice I am very grateful. 

Sunday, April 23, 2017

In the wake of the big coming out...

I realize that most of you already know my story. But if you don't, I came out as transgender to my job on the 14th. 

In the aftermath, things are so good. Everybody on my job has been so supportive. 

I think some of my brother firefighters at the station were pretty uncomfortable when they first saw me after I sent my letter. One firefighter asked me how my Saturday was. I said, "Pretty good. Now that I'm a girl." It was pretty funny. And everything was cool after that.

I plan on talking about some of the more interesting parts of this I guess, later. Right now I'm so happy just to be getting on with the regular parts of my usual life: running, gardening, and looking forward to some fishing. 

Here is the letter I sent to my work in case you didn't read it and you want to read it:

Hi everybody, I would like to share something with you.

Last year, in March, my wife Sarah asked me to tell our three boys something that I disclosed to her over twenty-one years ago. It was a secret that she said she did not want to have to tell them after I died, one that they should hear from me. Well, this was a tough one. It was an embarrassing thing and something that gave me a lot of shame over my life, especially when I was a kid. It was going to be a hard thing to do, but I told them, which unleashed a series of events. Now almost a year later, I would like to tell you.

I am a transgender person.

I don’t want to bore you with a lot of details, but I will give you a few pertinent ones. I have been going to counseling for this for over a year. I received a very definitive diagnosis after the third session. I have been seeing a physician, as well. I have been undergoing male to female hormone therapy for almost eight months. I let Chief Schaeffer know about my situation two months ago and Local 29 President John Goodman know one month later. I have met with the Chief, John Goodman and Meghann Steinolfson, our HR Director, to talk about the best way to let you all know about this.

I know a lot of us had the transgender awareness class (Cultural Diversity?) a few years ago. I will not speak for every transgender person's experience or their expectations from SFD. I think what we learned in that class still stands to some degree. But, as you know I am not a real touchy-feely person, other than I try not to be a jerk. When possible, I like all of us to have an enjoyable time when we work together. And I would really like that to continue. I have evolved on the pronoun usage and am leaning toward feminine ones, as each day passes. And I think I will be there soon. So, if you would use "shes" or "hers" in regard to me, that would be great! I will slip up on this too because, frankly, I am still getting used to it. So, thanks for trying.

I have a new first name in mind, as well. It is "Maeve." Rhymes with Dave, save and Flavor Flav. Again, I appreciate your patience, effort and kindness.

I might have hid out from you a lot longer, maybe even retired, before my transition became really noticeable. The reason why I told admin and why I am telling you now is because I want to be ready to take a stand for anyone in our city who is the victim of bigotry-related violence. I, like you, care a lot about the people we serve. If someone in the Spokane region was persecuted for being a trans person, I would feel like a coward if I just hid out. I didn’t want you, my brothers and sisters, to be blindsided when I have to take a public stand for someone in Spokane who was attacked for being LGBT.  Also, I want to tell the truth to you.

Please know that I am not writing this to ask you to treat me differently. I am the same person, and will always be the same person, no matter what you thought about me before, if you ever thought about me before. Now you just know more about who I am.

I realize that this news is weird. I have lived with the weirdness for over 50 years and it is still weird to me. I had never met a transgender person (that I know of) until about seven months ago. As such, I get that this may be difficult for others too.

Over the years, with so many of you, I have had really good friendships. Together, we have been in some tight spots and have seen and done amazing things. As such, it would be nice to think that this news will have little or no impact on our relationships. However, I am a realist, and I realize that some of you will not be capable of maintaining a friendship with me because of this disclosure. If you are one of those people, please know that I am very thankful for the gift of your prior friendship, and I will always be grateful for this gift, no matter how you feel about me now. Even if you just barely tolerated me, thanks for that too.

That was a lot for me to say and probably even more for you to hear. I am really open to any questions you might have. if you have ever worked with me, know that my attitude about my situation is about the same as it is regarding most situations. In other words, don't worry too much about offending me with questions you might have. You can email me back here at work, or my email at home You can also call me or text me at 509.230.5646, follow me on facebook or my blog - I will be informing others via social media and the blog soon. But, my brothers and sisters, I wanted you to know first.

Thank you very much, Maeve/Johnny G.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Lots to say

I have a lot to say. But I won't say it today.

Thanks to you for still reading my blog. Yes, it may be seem like I am in a bit of a doldrum. Well, the opposite is true. I have actually been really busy with really good stuff. I am not ready to divulge what's gong on quite yet.

I could post some things that are sideshows in my life right now. And I probably will. Suffice it to say that there are bigger things going on, but I am not able to say what they are, yet. Bigger, weirder things!

So, please be patient with me.

If you want, here is the video of today's Haiku Friday, which was probably my most disjointed, unprofessional yet. Yay! There were some technical difficulties and distractions too. I like that people say "hello" to me while I am doing the video, in fact I love it, but it still makes me smile or laugh when I read it and it is a little hard to recover!

I am going to make 2017 the best year of my life. And I am inviting you along! Haiku Friday, February 17, 2017:

Thursday, February 02, 2017

Facebook Fix?

Oh. This feels so much better. Posting here in a place where hardly anyone reads me anymore. Now, usually I would forward my blog post on to Facebook. I get more hits that way. And I am all about the hits, right? Well, obviously not. But, I'm not forwarding this post to FB. This is just for you and me. Just like who this land was made for - you and me.

As I have said before, I am trying to figure out how to deal with my need to fight on Facebook with people who will never be convinced, no matter the evidence, to reconsider their position. And I think I have come up with a way that is good for me and maybe even good for them. I rhyme.

Well, not right there, but in my FB posts that are anti-Trump. It's a rule I've made for myself. For the last couple weeks, I think, I've been doing just that.  I first tweet the poems and they get automatically forwarded to Facebook.

Why rhyme?

1. It makes the posts more fun and challenging for me to do.  It slows me down and makes me think about what I really want to say. I cannot shoot from the hip when it requires a little more effort.

2. It is another layer of information. When trying to explain something and sounding like Dr. Seuss, there is a subtext I am also trying to convey. It may not be a very nice subtext, but how can you not like Dr. Seuss?

3. It sticks in the reader's brain a little better. It's like a catchy jingle or song. And if my rhyming is a little off, so much the better. The reader feels some dissonance and I think that helps too.

4. Simplify. Simplify. Simplify. Make the message simple. If it's simple, it's more memorable. How can I hone this message down. Twitter makes you do that. So does poetry.

I think there was a fifth or sixth reason, but I can't think of them.  Something about being creative. Yes I know none of this rhymed (that I know of anyway).