Spiritual and Emotional Work

Ever since I was in my mid-20s, I have been committed to growth and consciousness/awareness. Perhaps it’s been life-long, but it’s at least been conscious since that time. Part of it is just what I’m made of, and part of it is that I could see, in the small bits I had begun to do at that time, that my life was materially better and happier for it.

And, in many ways, my transition is a direct outgrowth of this commitment.

There are some things that have surprised me about this process, and one of them is that the nature of emotional, spiritual and psychological work I will do is shifting.

One example: people say a lot that testosterone increases one’s access to anger and aggressiveness. In my life, I have had very, very little access to anger – mostly because expressing anger wasn’t OK growing up. In fact, a lot of my emotional work over the past few years was increasing my willingness to experience and express anger.

But after several small incidents, and one incredibly frustrating experience with a customer service representative last week, where I literally yelled at her (if you know me, you realize how unusual that is) I realize that this is not going to be my issue anymore. My issue is going to be how to control the expression of my anger.

Another example – I generally used to be able to depend on my ability to read other people’s emotions, but it seems that ability is changing. I seem to be less able to do that. There is actually scientific evidence for this. So my work moves into working to be more conscious, and asking when I don’t know.

It’s all good, but it’s really interesting to me to watch how this is changing for me.

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Max and Michelle

Seven years ago, I wrote this short piece in a writing workshop. (Originally, the name in the piece was “Michael” but I’ve changed it to “Max” as that is my chosen name.)

“Maxwell stays like a wish”

Max is always there, my best buddy in the world, friend to the end of the earth. He’s a part of me. The tall, strong man, gentle and kind. I can almost imagine us sitting in a booth at the diner, he chooses Depeche Mode, or maybe The Clash to listen to on the juke box (if they have it. Otherwise, the Rolling Stones.) He’ll order steak, or maybe just a burger, since it’s a diner, after all. I’ll just have the salad, not because I want it, but because it seems the right thing to do. He’ll be happy with the burger slopped with lots of cheese, and grilled onions, of course. We talk about life, about my parents, about women. We talk a lot about women.

I can almost imagine calling him up, talking about that woman I just met. He’ll always have something stable and wise to say, in the place where I’m all a fluttery and nervous about the whole thing. He knows me, deeply. As deeply as I can know myself.

He’s the one who buys the iPhone games, of course. Especially the ones with the orcs or catapults or cars to race around. He takes over while we’re in the BART, steering the car while my ears pop from the tunnel. He was the one that bought the big-ass TV, and I was the one who sold it a year later. But he didn’t mind. He’s the programmer, the one who can sit for hours on end looking deeply at code, seeing patterns emerge and putting them to work. I’m the one who is always putting up with clients, that is, until I get so annoyed I let him take over.

He’s always there, he stays like a wish.

I have been talking to a new friend about this conversation and relationship (between Michelle and Max) and he asked me how this conversation/relationship would look like now. So I thought I’d spend a little bit of time exploring it here. The narrator above, and below, is Michelle.

Max has taken over the role of our public face, which feels good to me. It never really fit me, that public face, that embodied living in the world. I’m all etheric and air, heart and spirit. Max is solid body – grounded in space and time, problem-solver, thing-mover, work-doer. He’s more than that, of course, and I’m more than ether, but that comparison seems to fit right now.

Sometimes I’ll peek out, see the world a bit through his eyes, the way he’s been doing that through mine for years. It looks differently, of course. Things that seemed obvious to me are a little more mysterious, and things that were mysterious (especially men and their ways) are much more obvious.  Sometimes I’m the one who has to feed him the emotional words he needs, and then he’ll remind me that he has some of those words, too, but it just takes him longer.

He’s so happy living in code these days, and I’m happy sitting “inside,” contemplating life and what it means to be human.

We make a good pair – complementary qualities and skills – together we get to be a heart-full, embodied, conscious person-becoming-man, but it took our rearrangement to make that happen fully. We’re both happy now, when we used to both be unsettled and at times unhappy with our old arrangement. Of course, Max wishes we’d been born with a male body, but then I have the sense that if we had been, this deep integration between us might never have happened, given the way our society is.

He still wants steak, I still want salad. We have both.

 

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I’m Coming Out

Right now, I’m playing the hit Diana Ross sang in the 1980’s (written by Bernard Edwards and Nile Rodgers) “I’m Coming Out.” It has been such an anthem in my life, as in the lives of many queer people. I can’t even count how many gay bars, marches, or events I’ve heard this song played at, or have danced to.

There’s a new me coming out
And I just had to live
And I wanna give
I’m completely positive
I think this time around
I am gonna do it
Like you never knew it
Ooh, I’ll make it through

Seems appropriate for this announcement. This has been brewing for about a year.

The image connected to this blog post is a hint, but I’ll lay it out. After living as an adult woman for 40 years, I’m transitioning to live as a man for the rest of it. The reasons for this decision are complex – I don’t have the standard narrative that “I’m a man born in the wrong body.” I actually identify as bi-gender – that is, I feel that both genders exist within me. That said, I’ve lived with gender dysphoria since puberty. I’ve spent many, many years working to love my body as it is. From therapy, to meditation practice, to embodied modalities such as Authentic Movement, all of which I deeply value and have made my life so much better. But they didn’t actually allow me the sense of being fully embodied and fully accepting of my body as it is.

What I came to was a full acceptance of the dysphoria, which is what led me to realize that the right avenue for me was to actually change my body and how I live my life. And, amazingly to me, once I made that decision, the embodiment I had sought for so long came to fruition. (To read in more detail about this process, and to keep up specifically on my transition process, you can read more at my other blog here.)

I’m legally changing my name to Maxwell next year. I’m having top surgery in early February.

In any big change, there are losses and gains, and I’m working to accept all of them with equanimity. One loss is one of community: I have been a part of the lesbian community for more than 30 years, and it feels weird to say “I’m not a lesbian anymore.” But it’s true – as I’m basically identifying as a man, I don’t get to be a lesbian anymore. I’ll miss that community, although I also have gotten to become a part of an amazing, loving, supportive community of trans-masculine folks, some of whom live right here in Sonoma County.

Life is quite the journey, and although there were many, many signs from very early on, I didn’t quite see this coming, so if you’re surprised, I get it. There’s more news, as well, and you can watch this video Ruth and I made for the Conscious Girlfriend Community.

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