"The unexamined life is not worth living" Socrates

- - scatterings of ideas sent to my younger self, a sensitive boy who often thought he should have been a girl - -

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Jumbo Shrimp

Apologies to those who have arrived here from some search engine looking for a seafood recipe. If you have got this far, and only want the recipe, skip to the end and enjoy. 

This post is going to deal with the hard reality of being virtually "jumbo" while in reality being "shrimp".

There is no question in my mind why juxtaposition of words that are opposites always intrigues me. Jumbo shrimp, like almost famous is an oxymoron; although most of the ox-like morons I remember were in my grade eight class! But I digress. 

I myself am like an oxymoron (not the grade eight kind) living in the 'real' world, supposed to be 'a man' as a result of appearances, with a male hairline and style and the clothing. No one has to wait to see what washroom I visit in the mall to figure this out; it is "reality".

I also live in this 'virtual' world and here, well, you tell me, am I really neither male nor female? Whatever answer you give, it gets back to the old, "on the internet nobody knows you are a dog" line. If not a dog, then what? Personally, I love the way my therapist puts it; "Remember, you are a good person". She is also a very good person, by the way. Too bad patients and doctors are not supposed to be friends too, but I digress yet again.

There is another sort of virtual world where I have lived as long as I can remember; the one between my ears. In that world there is no question at all anymore about the man/woman business. It really isn't a choice either; it just is.

Is the virtual world the opposite of the real world? Is Virtual Reality an oxymoron?

Personally, because I am who I am inside no matter what people see (ie clothing does not make the woman), my virtual world and my real world are definitely not opposites any more. To recap, here is the way it is. 

The genitals are the way they are because of a non-virtual screw up at birth; wrong chromosomes, correct brain wiring. The voice is the way it is because of testosterone; refer above 'chromosomes'. The passion for life and all it offers is because of who I am. The skills developed and honed over decades of effort are likewise because of who I am.

Some might ask why I have never posted a photo here on the blog, and I will answer, the way I look is not who I am. Unless or until I can look in the mirror after a bath and see the person who exists inside, I will not contribute to the myth of 'being male' in this virtual reality any more than I willingly contribute to that misconception anywhere else.

In a follow-up post I intend to expand on this, but let me just say Leslie's comment to Changing Teams that I am a 'double agent' is amazingly accurate. Just like a double agent, the way I appear to the casual observer tells them nothing about the real person they are with, and it is a tremendous relief to be able to say that and believe it with all my heart. It gives me no relief at all to seem to be part of what I see more and more as the enemy camp; but that is for a later post.

I might be an oxymoron, but I wouldn't lie to you, so just in case you made it this far, or skipped down from the first paragraph, here is the recipe. It is quick and easy and we think it is delicious. Bon Appétit!

Shrimp Linguine in a Tomato and White Wine Sauce from Closet Cooking
(makes 4 servings)

Ingredients:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion (diced)
4 cloves garlic (chopped)
chili flakes to taste
1/4 cup white wine
1 (28 ounce) can plum tomatoes (crushed)
1/2 teaspoon oregano
salt and pepper to taste
1 pound shrimp (peeled and deveined)
1/2 cup fresh herbs such as parsley and basil (chopped)
1 pound linguine

Directions:
1. Heat the oil in the pan.
2. Add the onion and saute until tender, about 6-10 minutes.
3. Add the garlic and chili pepper flakes and saute until fragrant, about a minute.
4. Add the white wine and simmer for 5 minutes.
5. Add the tomatoes and oregano and simmer until the sauce just starts to thicken, about 15 minutes.
6. Meanwhile, cook the pasta as directed
7. Season the tomato sauce with salt and pepper to taste.
8. Add the shrimp to the tomato sauce and simmer until cooked, about 2-3 minutes per side.
9. Remove the tomato sauce from the heat and mix in the parsley and basil.
10. Drain the pasta, toss in the tomato sauce and serve garnished with feta.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Changing Teams?

There are some interesting things going on here in the land of Halle, things I should really try to commit to words. Up to now, it has been enough to find joy in what is happening. Analysis had to wait, but a recent post by a well known 'femulator' made me decide it was time to say something about my sexual orientation.

Yes, I just finished reading Stana's post "The Opposite Sex".

More than once I have lamented that I am not like my friend Petra, or Stana; able to glam up and head out the door, interacting as a woman in the world. Anyway, that is a different post.

Stana's post has to do with sexual relationships, not dressing, and in this post Stana declares herself firmly on the side of being a lover of women no matter how she is presenting.

 "When I do outreach, one question that often comes up is which sex is attractive to me. Since I look, walk, talk, and behave exactly like a woman, the expected answer is "men," so when I say I prefer women, the audience is thrown for a loop ."

I love being with women, and as a "masculator"; one who has emulated a man very successfully (I do have the equipment even if my brain is somewhere else) for a long time, I have loved, and made love to, one particular woman to the exclusion of all others.

Equipment is everything in my opinion. Throughout my life, when I looked at my body, it saddened me to be reminded of my mismatch, so like Stana, as a man, it never occurred to me to fall in love with 'another man'. I was faked out by the equipment mismatch and couldn't find a way to transcend it.

Now if you have been following here, you are probably busting to say "Wait a minute Halle, what about your boyfriend C??" It is an interesting change in heart, being able to love this particular man when through my life I was only attracted to women. It has to do with a mind/body disconnect. C and I share a virtual love and wonderful friendship (virtual and otherwise). When 'with' him, this body does not matter even a little. I am freed from physical limitations. If I could find a good analogy, it would be right here, but this is very new and wonderful territory for me. The feeling is something I am just riding with, a bit like a Jedi mind trick perhaps.

When I am with C, I remember and go with what I am really like without reservation. That person, the one whose body matches her heart, does not have to fake anything and for that time, I have what the amputee will speak of as phantom sensations. Skin tingles. Muscles tighten and relax. My heart soars and the glow of our encounters takes me happily through my days.

Stana wonders at the end of her post "But since my spouse will have nothing to do with my femulated self, does that give me license to seek sex outside the marriage when I am en femme? Should I give into the advances of those guys who desire me? And if I did give in, should I have sex like other woman (if you know what I mean)?"

There are two issues here that both concern me as well.

If/When C and I meet (in the flesh), and confront the challenges of physical love, how will it go, assuming of course that no changes occur physically in the meantime? That is, for me at least, a small thing, strangely enough. I look forward to being with him, and getting to know him that much better.

The other issue is much more difficult for me. C validates me in ways my wife cannot, or better put, will not. She feels as Stana's wife does, that she will have nothing to do with my feminine self.

There is no question in my mind that like so many others before me, this is an extra marital affair, if only in my mind. My willingness to physically confirm that status adds to this 'judgment' upon me.

So, have I "changed teams" as Stana puts it? In my opinion, I have and have not. She is referring to the straight/gay team, and in that sense I have not switched. With my wife, I 'am' a man, because that is how I behave, and physically that is how I was made. So she and I 'couple' as man/woman. With C, he is a man, because that is how he behaves and feels and acts and I am a woman, because that is how I behave, feel and act. So, he and I are man/woman.

In one sense though, I have switched teams, and some might want to argue this one. I am exploring sexual relationships from the other team's point of view, that is, the female team.

Transcending the physical has never meant anything real to me. Now it is everything. I keep asking myself, how long can my mind transcend my body's limitations?

How long can I stand dipping my toe into an experience I want so badly to be real?

What if there comes a time when it isn't  ~ enough ~ ?

Saturday, 18 February 2012

A Secret Handshake

One of the first posts here, back when "Maintaining the Façade" was the banner, was We Need a Secret Handshake.

My good friend Meg has a fab suggestion in Waltzing Ma~. Her idea is ~ well ~ hers ~ so I will send you there to become initiated into a new sisterhood.

Tilde will be making guest appearances around here and in my emails. Who knows who we might meet ~~ Thank for your amazingly simple but potentially perfect idea Meg!

~ ~ ~ xxx

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

A Love Most People Cannot Have or Understand

It is quite possible that readers here have been puzzled by the content recently, apart from a few really good girlfriends who know what I am going to reveal today. It is time to tell a love story from a new perspective; for me anyway.

People in the trans community seem to me to have something in common beyond the obvious. We are in a unique position to experience feelings and situations that the average person never gets the chance to understand.

It is a bit scary sometimes to look around at my male contemporaries in the community where we live, and realize that my internal map resembles them a bit like Angelina Jolie resembles Groucho Marx. Halle is way too young and vital to be living in an old guy body. More than two years ago, I started the renovations needed, so the old body is in pretty good shape, if I do say so myself. You will have to take my word for it, for now. I might not always share everything, but wouldn't lie to you.

At any rate, in spite of her fifty-something body, this girl is happy and very open and filled with love and a sense of wonder. More than anything, I wish to have some fun. It might seem like a Cyndi Lauper song, but yes, the girl wants to have fun. Reveling in my sense of wonder, I dreamed of and found magic.

The leap forward in the magical content of my life as Halle arrived in the form of a long distance love affair. The object of my love (who I will call 'C') and I have corresponded for a very long time. Our relationship grew as most do at first; through a common bond. We are both genetically male and both have experienced the disturbing effects of having a feminine component to our feelings and thoughts. We tried out female to female correspondence and that ran its course. 'C' made a fair girlfriend, but I don't think his heart was in it. He is comfortably male. I am not. We agreed to switch over and our correspondence changed over to reflect two men corresponding. This did not work well. It actually amazed me how stilted my letter writing became. It was forced and well, it was and I was boring.
There, I said it. As a man, I am very, very boring. Further, my heart is not into pretending to be a man anymore.

Agreeing to try corresponding with our stronger personalities, C's male and my female, we found a stronger basis for conversation, but even more, where there was interest, then respect and care, there soon became love. He became one of the trusted few with whom I have shared photos of the real me. He knows everything he wants to know about my life, and I his.

There is fun, along with that sort of understanding and care for one another that comes from our unique and shared feelings and experiences, but there is more than that and until a better word comes along, I will think of what we have as magic. Together we are sexy, and passionate. My heart soars when we share our passions, our dreams of our lives and yes, of one another. C is a very good writer, and perhaps I will, with his permission share some of his fiction with you here.

I do not need a parent to remind me, the way I reminded my daughter when she fell for a man online, that there are dangers to virtual love affairs. First of all, we are both married (well, as a man I am married, but that is hair splitting), and that is not likely to change, so I am in fact "the other woman" and 'only' a virtual one at that. I am also cheating on my spouse, if only in my heart, and really, what other sort of cheating is there? There are so many impracticalities to this relationship and reasons why it should not have happened. C and I both know that.

As I wrote above, our situations are unique. It is hard to find 'normal' ways to discuss what is going on. I cannot expect my spouse, who loves 'her man' to acknowledge, let alone love, the woman she is living with, can I? Yet without some validation and love, even an internal woman cries out to be someone and to exist for someone else in the world. If more than anything else, who I am right now is that woman who wants more than anything to be loved as a woman, then the dishonesty of having an online love affair really is a very small thing compared to the dishonesty of hiding my truest and best nature from everyone I love in the real world. This conflict is threatening to tear me apart. I understand the drive to transition oh so well today. Life can be very wonderful and very cruel too.

There is no way I will leave this post on a downer. I wouldn't trade my present conflicts for the boring life that was facing the confused and self-loathing guy five years ago. No matter how the future plays out, this is my best of times.

This message bears repetition. There is magic in our love for one another. How often does anyone experience magic in their life?

C is Halle's first lover and he is wonderful.

Friday, 10 February 2012

Magic

We live in a world filled with wonders of technology that twenty years ago would have seemed like magic (and still do to me), yet many people seem to take them for granted. "Ho-hum, another miracle of technology (stifling a yawn). Pass me my i-pad please." It makes sense that the young who have never known any better might feel this way, but as a representative of the older set, I still give a shake of the head when wielding such amazing power.

I could be wrong (it happened once or twice before, lol), but it seems to me most people do not look for magic in their life. Perhaps magic seems unpredictable, and dangerous because it might take you places you have not imagined, places where you have to figure out your own path, or worst of all, you won't fit in because you will not be normal. It sounds cynical to think this, but in my opinion, media wants us to be dependent on them for our entertainment, for our opinions and ultimately for any magic in our lives.

Fear of real magic seems to fly in the face of popular entertainment. After all what series of books and movies has been more popular than Harry Potter? We seem very happy to read about and watch programs about warlocks, witches, vampires, werewolves, at least, we love to watch it in others on the screen, but only as long as we can go back to safety afterwords.

Personally, I love to escape into a good story, mostly because it recharges my own capacity for magic. Safety is not a bad place, as long as I don't have to live there all the time.

As Calie mentioned in her post Literary Escapism..., it has been my pleasure to follow along on a number of book selections she has suggested. Among these, the Sookie Stackhouse novels have been enjoyable for me because they are written by a woman, Charlaine Harris and to my mind her target audience is also female. I never had a chance to be the little girl (even if I did hang out with them as much as I could), and as a teenager, there was no chance to experience that viewpoint at all. Whatever the complex reasons are, I really enjoy them, as I do the "In Death" series Calie mentioned in the same blog post, also written by a woman from a female perspective.

Real magic takes many forms and often appears when you least expect it. A friend of mine's son, a single parent, is doing his best to raise two autistic pre-teens. Talk about having to be pleased with small gains! He gets a little help from family, and the school system is making progress finding ways to reach such children. His life defies the norms. At some point, he and those two children may be featured on the mainstream media, because there is a market for stories that defy the norm, even when no one wants to live those stories.

In my humble opinion, with few exceptions, the folk who blog here, and comment here, are looking for and/or have found real magic in their lives by allowing themselves to accept and explore another side to their personalities. Sometimes it doesn't feel very magical, but let's face it, for the magician the magic gets to be commonplace after a while.

We magicians need to be reminded every now and then how really exceptional our world is; not something that should be hidden and painful.

Whether it be seeing and talking to loved ones who are thousands of miles away, or feeling your autistic grandchild's first hug, real magic is all around.

Sometimes it is hard to recognize and appreciate it.

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Best Before Dates

My friend Sarah from the UK sent along a link that led me to "Inspiration and Chai", a blog written by Bronnie Ware, a palliative nurse from Australia.

In the post "Regrets of the Dying" Bonnie has summarized the main ideas from her book, "Top Five Regrets of the Dying".

I was not surprised to find this regret to be number one:

I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

"This was the most common regret of all. When people realise that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honoured even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made. Health brings a freedom very few realise, until they no longer have it."


I observe amazing sychronicity of ideas being sent my way at times. Last week, my therapist mentioned the idea that we all have an invisible 'best before date' on us, and we need to keep in mind that even if we don't know what the date is, it exists, and living as though it does promotes a healthier approach to living.

As a good friend put it, "We should always live as though today is our last".

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

There, But For The Grace...

As a way of diverting attention away from my own difficulties in the past, I would always think, no matter how desperate my own feelings, there were always others who were living with and through some affliction more debilitating, more devastating than my little issues.

At a certain point this strategy stopped working. I came to the point where knowing others have problems too really did not matter. "Yes of course, it could be worse. I could be dying" turned into "it could be worse, I might not be able to self-terminate", turned into "oh no, I am actually thinking of offing myself. I am a mess and need help."

It was serendipity (what some call grace) that helped me managed to stave off the death spiral. Endless searching for some meaning on the internet brought me to 'here', a place where what you and others like you wrote convinced me it was not just me, and I was not a useless screw-up because neither were you. It lead me to be able to read and meditate on, then read again words that said over and over, "let go of shame", "You are not alone in this, you belong, and not only that, you deserve to belong, because you are a good person." We all need to hear that, no matter what brought us to search for meaning in our life. You are not alone and you need not feel shame.

There are people out there, and many of them no longer blog, and probably do not even read t-blogs, but they are there and they were my lifelines; truly. I will never forget the feeling when one then another of them reached out to say, 'join us'. You offered connection to a soul that was as desperate as a body in the desert is for water.

That connection and the joy and love it brings continues to allow me to live.

Understanding this process is what will make it possible for me to keep moving forward and hopefully continue to give meaning to my life.

Over on the right side is a link to the blog and webpage of Brené Brown, whose Ted Talk was part of understanding the importance connection, and worthiness and love play in having a life worth continuing.

Brené does not talk about any one group of people. What she has to say is universal and speaks to every person's deepest fears and shame, no matter what has brought these on. I know that, but just the same, it felt like she knew me and was talking to me.

She says things like:

"Connection is why we are here. It's what gives purpose and meaning to our lives."


"... what keeps us from finding connection is the fear that we are not worthy of connection
. "

People who are living from a deep sense of worthiness Brené calls 'whole-hearted' people. She describes them as the people who have the courage to be imperfect, and the compassion to be kind to themselves first and then to others.

So, be it grace, or stupid blind luck, I am thankful, and yes, whole-hearted, finally.