Thursday, December 21, 2017

Winter Solstice 2017 - The Sandstrom-McGuires

It is December 2017, the Winter Solstice. It is this time when my heart, mind, and love anticipates our annual winter camping / Nordic ski vacation between Christmas Day and New Years.  And that is all I really desire: Time alone with my bride in a secluded cabin deep in the cold, snowy winter woods.  Building fires, cooking breakfast outdoors with cast iron and brewing morning coffee over an open flame. A day filled with skiing and exploring;  evenings of flannel, games, wine and romance. All the while kissing Nature as we embrace in the warmth of each other.
Big Blue Stem Cabin at Afton State Park

If the Sandstrom-McGuire's have learned anything in 2017, it is that we have more inner strength and more love to give than we have ever realized.  We have received such a tremendous outpouring of love, not just from our close friends and family, but also from acquaintances and complete strangers who have been touched by the story of our lives. We live with our grief, the absence of Krista with whom I have shared 25 Winter Solstices.  This is the first Solstice in my adult life without her. But I can imagine her, remember her any time I wish.  So as the light begins to lengthen each coming day, so does our family spirit - our Sandstrom-McGuire commitment to each other and to the world. To protect Nature, to act with forethought in every measure with Justice, Compassion, and Perseverance. Inquiring with the unfamiliar, seeking to understand and in all cases, assuming positive intent.  

By now you know that Krista was killed by a reckless / drunk driver on June 1, 2017.  If you are not familiar with this news, I am sorry that this is how you found out. Details on this are well recorded and you may access information here:

You also are probably now aware that after 47 years on this planet, I revealed to the outside world my true self. However you might perceive it, it is certainly not a big change or need  for adjustment for us, as this has been reality and common knowledge among those close to me and Krista. The difference in my life however is that I can now engage the full capabilities of my confident mind, heart, and soul without having to deal with the continual hindrance of discord which dogged my thoughts daily. This has made such a huge positive effect in our family life - making us more capable to deal with the Grief of Krista's absence. So I ask that before you make any assumptions, please first seek to understand and read everything - every link I have provided on this page:

Birgitta at voice lessons with Harriet
The Year 2017 started off rough but we had a lot of hopes.  It began with the unexpected death of our dear friend and college mate "Auntie" Kari Bostrom due to complications with chemotherapy.  She resided on the opposite of Como Lake from us.  Along with Auntie Amy Gilbertson, Auntie Kari was another important role model in Birgitta's young life. Birgitta last night informed me that she is really beginning to like cinema from the Silent Movie era and has filled her room with some of Kari's old movie posters of Douglas Fairbanks and Rudolph Valentino.   About this time, her best friends who live across the street moved away (happily they have returned last month and the 3 of them are all now attending Murray Middle School our regional public school in St. Paul).  Birgitta continued with softball (playing catcher) and her swimming lessons over this summer she wants to do lifeguard training and become an Olympic swimmer. She also gets to play oboe every day in school band! Yayy! Birgitta still practices piano and this past fall she began taking voice lessons with Harriet, Krista's vocal coach for the past 20 years. Her new schedule gives her more time for volunteering, finding part-time work, interpersonal relationships and engaging in the full range of human experiences.

Soren in morning Sabre Fencing Practice
Soren continues to pursue his interest in script writing and movie making. It is such a thrill for anyone who knows him to listen as he elaborates in depth on his storylines, plots, and character development.  He recently discovered "The Matrix" and has taken an interest in the Sci-Fi Thriller genre. He continues to have a quick wit and high aptitude for word play.  The downside is that as genius level as his language ability is, it just does not translate well into necessary school work. So For the past couple of years I have been encouraging him to consider a different school which will enable him to pursue his interest and engage his full potential as a human being, and thus give us more quality time with each other rather than stressing about homework.  Besides our massive home library is on par with the necessary primary sources, textbooks and non-fiction resources to give accreditation to a small liberal arts college. (and hey I'm a trained historian soo…. ;)  He does continue to take piano lessons, play trombone in school band (again, he needs to have band every day), plays guitar (started his own band last spring) and is now taking up Olympic Sabre Fencing every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Soren's cooking ability is also finding an outlet.  While he continues to grow taller faster than I can feed him, he is filling his in between meals with hashbrowns which he has grated and fried himself, eggs, pancakes, and his famous smoothies. His most recent concoction, a blend of fresh pineapple, kale, banana, mango, almond, and coconut water.

All three of us are resuming sparring and training at our local dojo, The Art Martial Arts in 2018.   

The First 5 Months of 2017, Krista and me:  As the year began, I found myself substitute teaching band / orchestra through Hill Murray Middle School's Pioneer Pathways program, teaching lessons at Augsburg and playing in my various bands while trying to hold down home life. 

Krista was still overworked and continually battling levels with her thyroid supplement medication from her thyroidectomy in 2011.  BUT she always found enjoyment in her work as a high level Human Resource Director. She was also taking a Saturday morning dance class with the Minnesota Dance Theatre, and swimming her mile at the rec center on Saturdays and Sundays. She was also taking violin lessons and in the evenings she would join Soren (viola) and Birgitta (cello) and play through some trios from the books I got them last Christmas. One of the great things for us is that now as the kids are older, Birgitta turned 11 in January (she's almost 12 now!) and Soren 13 in April, we were giving them even more autonomy so that she and I could spend more time with each other. 
 Both in resuming work on our home addition project, which we began in 2001, and in performing together in the New Prescriptions and with the Minnesota Chorale.  I bought her a mandolin in March and we were really looking forward to her learning this instrument in addition to her other musical skills.

In February we volunteered to sing in a practice choir to help a friend of ours prepare for a national Choral directors competition. At the end of that experience, Kathy invited me to sing in the baritone section in the Minnesota Chorale for the upcoming performance of Carl Orff's Carmina Burana with the Minnesota Dance Theatre and Minnesota Orchestra for the annual national conference of the American Chorale Directors Association (ACDA).  I hadn't sung with the Chorale regularly since Soren was born, and I had forgotten how much fun it was to get in the car with Krista every Monday night to rehearsal with her: Warming up on the way there and jamming to Zeppelin on the way home.   
Krista on Stage with MDT during undress rehearsal for Carmina Burana

Soren and Birgitta at Wild River
Right after the Chorale experience, Kathy invited me to join the next chorale project with the Minnesota Orchestra, performing the Dream of Gerontius by Elgar. We had just begun rehearsals in March when we used the kids Spring break to do another Cabin Camping event up at Wild River State Park.  We had not been there for a while so it was nice to return.  We hiked during the day, and in the evenings we played games with the kids and then practiced our chorale music while drinking wine. It was really such a beautiful experience. So I committed to working on a German Aria for my Minnesota Chorale Audition for the 2017-18 season.  She suggested at that time that I study with my Augsburg University colleague Susan Druck as Krista just loves her voice.  We were getting excited about this turn.

In April we found some time to perform again with New Prescriptions and begin working on more duets. Getting excited to add Battle of Evermore, Operator by Jim Croce, and some Cat Stevens.  My sister happened to capture two of our performances from that gig on film: Joni Mitchell's A Case of You and George Harrison's While My Guitar Gently Weeps

As May arrived, we got our bikes tuned up. We even biked one Sunday morning from our home in Como Park to HCMC in downtown Minneapolis. To practice her new morning commute. We actually hadn't biked that way since the 1990s -- and we got confused at all these new bike lanes that seemed to take us out of our old accustomed direct route.  Then with Auntie Amy, we attended the Syttendemai celebration and parade at the Mindekirken Norwegian Lutheran Church in Minneapolis. We purchased a cookbook and I entered Krista into a drawing for a homemade kransekake (the same kind of cake we had at our wedding). Krista won!
Krista's Kransekake from Syttendemai 2017
In the last week of May, we went to REI to use our dividend on camping gear and supplies, laid our the wood we planned on using to lace patch our oak floors in the music room, and began planning for our garden anticipating on getting new wildflowers on June 3rd. I had a really great experience on May 31st and I couldn't wait to talk to Krista about it, but with her heavy work schedule that week, she got home late and I tucked her into our bed with the brand new sheets I had picked up that week. She got up really early on June 1st, I made her coffee, travel coffee, breakfast and lunch and kissed her good-bye, and she never came home…
Krista and Xenia, July 1991

…I have cried every single day since.

That first week I had about a total of 20 hours of sleep. And I still do not sleep well. Even with sleep aid. Yet I remain committed to the health and well being of our children and myself. I strive to walk the dog for four to five miles each day. The 3 of us, talk, bond. So as Birgitta told me that June 1st morning, "We are going to be strong, we are sad now but we are going to be happy and live the lives Mama wanted us to live." So that is what we are doing.

While I have not been able to emotionally bring myself back to singing in the Minnesota Chorale or the New Prescriptions, I have their love and support.  I am also blessed with my bandmates in Shoop! and in KISSin Time. Performing in gigs that same June. I am only teaching at Augsburg University right now, but I will probably resume my private students on Classical Guitar and Electric Bass in 2018.

The kids and I continued with swim lessons and did some family travelling. We were visited by some good college friends Reed and Cecilie from Norway and Kirsten Akre from Chicago! And Stef and her boys came up from Texas for a few days of fun and canoeing. The kids and I Took in the St. Paul Irish Fair (and annual tradition) We also took my back roads way to the Sandhills of Western Nebraska to visit the Rosfelds: first at my cousin Kyle & Missy and his family in Cody, then Uncle Lowell's in Rushville and finally at Cousin Emily's in Alliance to take in the Total Solar Eclipse--- THAT was cool and really aided by the Blue Moon beers and Moscow / Munich Mules. 

We did a few days at the Minnesota State Fair (nice that its just a quick bike ride down Hoyt Avenue) and got a free live concert of George Clinton and Parliament / Funkadelic.  On October 2nd, I took the kids down to Decorah to visit where Krista and I married 24 years earlier. We also took some time to visit the Old Stone Church to visit our ancestors and toured the Bily Clock Museum / Dvorak House in Spillville
Soren and Birgitta with their Great-Great-Great-Grandpa Johan Herman Jungck
Old Stone Church - Ridgeway, Iowa 

My spirit has also been recharged with my old friendships as we text, email, and call Luther Alumnae Vegan Potlucks; and a few trips to St. Cloud, 

We have done a few other excursions and dining out, as well as maintaining group efforts in cooking (and trying to clean). But making fun where we can find it.  We are looking forward to 2018 and hoping to get in more family bonding time, music making, travelling.

We are good.  We are sad…but we are good and continue to find joy.

Scroll to the right and you can see Krista singing in the Finale of Handel's Messiah with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra

With much Love,
The Sandstrom-McGuire's
Xenia, Soren and Birgitta
Minerva & Odysseus (the Cats) and Sigyn (The Dog).   

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Word Police and Seven Words

I don't think I have ever heard anyone from the center or left utter the term Politically Correct since maybe the very early 1990s.  And frankly I am not sure why the term is still being used by otherwise good citizens as a convenient epithet to disparage and disrespect the humanity of others.  There is this charge that it is the left leaning citizens who proclaim themselves to be the "Word Police." Which infringes upon the "Freedom" of the right.  Yeah.. about that…

I have always disliked that term PC and Politically Correct because these simple vague terms really do distract from discussing and relating the broader concept of Respect for others, and knowing ones audience.  And a huge part of respect is being willing and capable of true listening and empathizing. Having a social commitment to effective communication of hearts and ideals using the best terms possible.  We should not continue to trade in sound-bytes specifically designed to provoke anger and division. 

The reality is that I quite often practice respect and awareness of my audience on a daily basis.  I refrained from shouting, "Sherman never finished the job!" while walking down the streets of Meridian, Mississippi,  because I knew that would probably offend many of the local citizens.  I agree to play "Sweet Home Alabama" in biker bars because even though I absolutely detest that song (it is both a boring 3 chord I-VII-IV progression in both verse and chorus - and it has stupid lyrics (I like Neil Young -- beside "Gimme Three Steps" is so much more fun to play! ;)  - I know that it brings happiness to the majority of others.  So those are examples of me being Politically Correct.  

In recent news, Colin Kaepernick was definitely NOT being politically correct when he dared to bring attention to the greater concept of injustice in the United States -- a point entirely missed by many who took offense at his act of kneeling -- mistaking his well-earned wealth for privilege.  And Myself -- no longer willing to sustain this politically correct male façade when I finally revealed that I am and always have been a transgender woman. Fully aware of possible rejection and ostracism by those unskilled, incapable, or unwilling to venture out of the cave and look beyond the mere shadow of terms so that they can explore boldly the concepts revealed in the light.  And while I am tempted to react and say to easily offended detractors to ,"Suck it up, Butterc.." That is not particularly helpful when what is really needed is a commitment to our shared patriotism through thought, fearlessness, and empathy.   

This is the necessary step in being a truly informed citizenry of a Democratic-Republic.  It is also a necessary step in Research and Academics, to find and use the best possible terms to accurately communicate the concepts as human language allows.

There is a whole body of work out there, not only primary sources written and discussed by the Founders and ordinary citizens of the United States, but those 2,000 years before their time. A body of human knowledge which informed the souls of our nations founders with a sophisticated ideal of Liberty so that they could wrest this self-governing Union from the traditional standard of European rule by religious monarchy.

As one whose career has been built in academia, I really fear how incredibly jeopardized our Freedom has become if access to these primary source writings by our founders are controlled without regulation and that the seven (7)  accepted terms used by field experts are policed and censored because they offend the senses of some plutocrat.         

Back in 1991, when I first planned on moving forward with my life, intent on living as the woman I am.  There wasn't really any widely available academic literature or accurate common knowledge available. The only terms I had ever heard which came near to what I knew about myself were transsexual and transvestite.  In college I learned the term cross-dresser. Yet none of these terms seemed to apply or accurately describe what I know about myself.  It wasn't until the mid-late 1990s (during the infancy of the Internet) when I first really became acquainted with the term transgender. And found other people who also shared my experience of growing up female while having to pose as a male simply because that is the body that everyone sees us in. Our shared frustration that others, without spirit of empathy and inquiry, get hung up on our surface appearance; judging us with their own emotional bias-- without any willingness to listen to us and honestly hear our souls.

So I guess if the Word Police are intent on banning Seven (7) useful words from professional use.  I guess It seems they will no longer consider me a transgender woman.  To them, I am just a woman.
Xenia with Gretsch
(Bruce Lee looks on)

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Child-Rearing without Stigma

The nice thing is that now that everybody knows I have always been trans, the kids and I have been having better bonding experiences and honest loving dialog. I have received some indirect feedback through the grapevine of those who speculate that me finally revealing my gender identity to the world is somehow negatively impacting my kids -- (Oh no! I guess being the father and primary care-giver to my own children since 2004 I completely forgot about them! ...seriously! give me a break - Have you read any of my posts? have you ever met me? Do you think I am the kind of person who does not wake every day stressing about my children, their education, their prospects and wanting them to grow and develop in a loving world? And doing what they can to make it loving? - Or that I ensure they have the best possible physical, mental health options available while still in these initial months of our shared Grief?) 

Xenia with her first born
photo by Krista
This speculation and judgment - without a dedicated effort to learn, is not an ethical value. If you don't live with us every day, I would at least hope that from my posts (which a mere fraction of 1% of my life) you would understand that the Sandstrom-McGuire values of Love is reflected by our open dialog, respect, honesty and strength in our being. We possess a strong sense of Justice, Compassion, and Perseverance. 

- Instead, the impression I get from these concerned individuals is that they are still mired in the unnecessary stigma of 'transgender' identity, if they go so far as to state they worry about it. They remain content with their self-righteous entitlement to speculate and make conclusions about the reality of diversity in our communities without any effort to get off their butts and inquire into first-hand experience, science-based, evidence-based, and peer-reviewed research into primary sources -- by and regarding -- vulnerable transgender adults, teenagers, children and even the prenatal development of a fetus.
By not doing the hard work of legitimate inquiry, they fail to demonstrate any concept of Universal Selfless Love.
I am so fortunate those close friends whom Krista and I have surrounded our family - the ones who actually do know us, continue to show care and respect. Because they know that the Stigma only exists if people continue to make it to exist. 
You too can learn what it is like to engage the world like a Sandstrom-McGuire by watching Krista in action and by reading my blog.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Names, Faith, and First Amendment Rights

You know what is nice? and it seems like such a little thing, but the impact leaves one riding this huge wave selfless Love. It is when you receive cards, letters, emails, and packages addressed to your name. It is respect of human dignity; a recognition that they see you as you truly are and have always been.
a package from a cousin
Long before I came out, my wife and I have been dealing with the disrespect for US and for our mutual love when people have chosen to call us what they chose.

In 1987, I was completely done with my first name you know the whole, "That's my name, don't wear it out." Well, that name was worn out for a very long time in my hometown. Every single time someone insists on calling me by that name which I abandoned 30 years ago. I hear the epithet I was called daily by peers in my K-12 school since elementary (There is only one vowel. Just replace the "e" with a "u") -- The thing is, I should NEVER have had to explain to those who love me Why I decided to start using my legal middle name from December 1987 til December 2017.  I also do not need to tell them about the emotional scars from that physical abuse which accompanied those epithets.
from bandmates
There is already precedent in my extended German heritage both of my middle name, Christian, and its use as the preferred name. Furthermore, Christian is an easier name to shorten to the gender neutral "Chris", though I would often times use the equally gender ambiguous KC (my initials). On my Luther College application back in 1988, I debated whether I mark my gender as female at that time. I have always known myself to be female, and stuck it out til through school. I just could not fathom continuing in this false male persona through college too. That prospect of feeling trapped on a floor with a bunch of guys and having a male roommate. And thus have no place for security, trust or confidence. I managed and I did develop friendships with some guys, but my closest friends in college are all women.

Then when my wife and I fell in love. She is Krista Lynn Sandstrom. I did not ever want her to change her name...who she is. Which is good, because she did not want to change it either. I thought we had made that abundantly clear to friends and relatives in our marriage announcement. Yet we would routinely get mail from relatives addressed to "Mr. and Mrs. Kent McGuire" -- For a while I would just cross out the name and say something like, Return to Sender or "Not at this address." Krista knew how much this hurt me. It hurt her too that people could be so selfish and hung up on themselves that they cannot even do the most simple gesture of Love. 
from bandmates
Our Children's last name has ALWAYS been Sandstrom-McGuire - and We are the Sandstrom-McGuire family. And now that Krista is no longer physically present, I am ensuring that we remain the Sandstrom-McGuire family by adding my wife's surname to mine in her absence. We have never and will never be "The McGuires." 
For Xenia from cousin
And now, as a finally out in the open trans woman, this broken record of unloving gestures, from thankfully only a few who struggle with the simple act of respecting my dignity, is their issue.

Some claim that it is their right to call me by the name and gender they chose is based upon their Religious Tradition and they are protected under their First Amendment Rights. To which me, as a student of ethics and moral philosophy, who once aspired to be a Lutheran Pastor, am baffled. What religious faith tradition is it that requires its followers to take it upon themselves to forsake Christ's love and dehumanize others?

Xmas gift from friend

There is in fact nothing in the result of their name calling, nor in their gut-based intent that resembles anything like an acknowledgement of Faith, Hope and Charity. Far from serving the interests of their Faith in evangelizing the Good News of Love and Salvation, their very actions demonstrate quite the opposite. They are the ones who act with selfish Vice...acting with neither their heads nor their hearts. The result, which is obvious to us and certainly to God, is that they are bullies, no different than those who abused me during my childhood and teenage years.

Now, I am quite well versed and able to discuss the nature and limitations of Virtue Ethics, but isn't it just much easier, simpler, and a better use of energy to demonstrate Love? 

I have made this really simple for everyone I spelled it out who I am and who I have always been. So do not let your own selfish bias of who you think I am, prevent you from overcoming vice and demonstrating an simple act of Love.

Thank you.
with much Love,
Ms. Xenia Sandstrom-McGuire, MA
pronouns: She/her/hers
Xenia: Warrior Bassist
in her Music / Marital Arts / Yoga Studio

Saturday, December 9, 2017

December 8 - Commemorating John Lennon with my bride

My bride and I have a tradition. Every December 8th, we pull out the 1980 release Double Fantasy by John Lennon and Yoko Ono, listening as we read through some Lennon memorabilia and offered a toast.

A Toast to Krista and to John
December 8, 2017
We were 10 years old when John was killed. For me growing up in the 1970s, John is my favorite Beatle and has remained one of my greatest influences in my life. While his death was felt throughout the world-- The Death of this Symbol John represented in his public persona, a persona which influenced my outlook -- It pales in comparison to that pain of loss, that grief and the trauma of experiencing the assassination of the one you love, the father of your child, your artistic collaborator.

Whatever outsiders think of Yoko...only John and Yoko truly understand their relationship.

Given that I do not know their relationship, what I say here might be way off base. But it is what I sense. My perception of John Lennon is that he was a perpetually growing artist, a human being finally understanding the truly important lessons of Life in his last 5 years on this Earth. It is my view that he always considered himself an artist first, that his true personal love was in creation and expression that desired to pursue the same artistic path of his friend Stu Sutcliffe. It just so happened he also liked Rock n Roll and was very good at absorbing an eclectic mix of music and then recombined them into something new. In the process being open and honest about his joys, his loves, his flaws and his pain. Yet there was always this hope, and acknowledgement it seems he was saying, "Listen Everybody, I am a human being. I F*ck up a lot of the time, but I am trying to be better all of the time. Please do the same."

This is really a lot how I feel, and I suspect everybody feels. The worst feeling in the world is causing pain to others, especially the one to whom you dedicate your life. When I turned 34, my wife and I had our first born. Because of our career circumstances, it made sense for me to be the at home parent while she worked. I threw myself into it...putting off my own graduate studies and career aspirations to give my son, and my daughter, born 21 months later all of my love and energy. I spent so much time introducing them to the world, and listening to them, and encouraging their explorations. I feel I was comparably the same point in my life as John when he and Yoko had Sean. And that revelation hit me when in 2010, when I threw together a John Lennon 70th Birthday celebration featuring my Augsburg University rock ensemble students. My wife and children were in the audience, and it hit me, that I am now 6 months older that John was when he was killed. Thinking about my wife, and how much more I want to teach my children there is. And feeling sad for Sean, for Yoko, and John -- he seemed to enjoy "the meaning of success" - ie being a good parent and spouse.

Well, on June 1, 2017. My bride was suddenly ripped from us in a brutally fatal collision caused by a drunk driver who was on supervised release from prison. We were so completely in love - But our marriage was not perfect. Plenty of times when we p*ssed each other off - fortunately we were always able to talk and listen to each other. The night Krista was killed we were both scheduled for our Minnesota Chorale Auditions - We looked forward to the 2017-2018 season once again singing together with the Minnesota Orchestra. She was learning how to play mandolin so that we could perform publicly together in creative capacity. - We were on such a loving upswing in our relationship. I feel some relation with where it seemed John and Yoko were, listening to their collaboration - the back and forth of a true love relationship that Double Fantasy represents.

Us on our 22nd Birthdays - February 17 & 19th, 1992
So when I see John's relationship with Yoko, I see someone who found a soul-mate; found the one who truly understands his heart, that he is a more valuable human being than any popular perception people have of him. And those who dare malign his wife, don't know what they are talking about. My wife had been unfairly targeted her entire career. She was a being full of Love and Caring and Wisdom - so my attitude has always been to screw those who malign my wife because they do not know her at all!

Please remember that John Lennon is a human being, not an image, not a shadow not even a Beatle just another soul trying to figure things out and cut through the BS of needless hang-ups.
Thank you John.
I Love you Krista.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

A Human Story: Transgender Warrior

Regarding my recent revelation that I am Transgender.
I am no different than I have always been.  Its just that now I am letting my guard down for you to be able to see what Krista and our kids saw and knew for all of these years.  In 1991, Krista and I were both going on our own paths. Really running from our pasts when we fell into each other.  We built each other up and sustained each other, finding solace and comfort with one another when we felt no one else cared.
My announcement, revelation has been a very long time coming. As I mentioned I was prepared in June of 1991 to begin my new life, and live completely who I am. Now with Krista, she loved my spirit, my heart, my soul, she also loved the male body in which disguised me.  So I gave all to her – easy because I Love her and was completely enamored with her physical beauty and her true soul.  She always kept her guard up, which had the unfortunate effect of making others feel that she was stand-offish.  As accomplished as she was in every endeavor, she was my fragile bride whom I would envelop in my embrace for her to cry and vent. So even though we could converse as women, I would never take away the masculine image she needed for her sense of comfort and security.
That’s all I’m going to say about that.
Krista and Xenia in Oslo (February 2003)
I myself, of course have always been guarded. Though I would often “drop hints” to my identity to see if anyone could recognize my cues.  Because of my true identity, I learned very early on for the sake of my own protection, to disguise myself.  there is a lot of horrible crap that I was subjected to during my entire K-12 rural Iowa experience.  And stuff I will probably not ever share, but stuff that I keep on  guard for Soren and Birgitta and their own peer experience.
Now, regarding the timing of coming out. It has been in the works for a long time.  Birgitta and Soren have known.  I just needed to wait until after the Sentencing Hearing of Krista’s killer, and that Thanksgiving. December 1 was the date I had planned months in advance.
Over the years I have just grown so tired and wear of the Lies and B*llSh*t purposefully spread.  I do not have tolerance for that, whether its people who don’t acknowledge the reality of Climate Change, Evolution, Moon Landing, it’s the exact same thing!  This summer while I wanted to grieve in peace, I just wanted to scream and open myself up every time there was an f’n tweet that assaulted and further stigmatized me and my friends.  But I did as I have always done these past 40+ years, I held it together and directed my focus and the focus of those who love my family to Krista and our children.

I have no patience for that type of purposeful spread of propaganda and the expense of dehumanizing others.  So after years of writing and working to bring sanity and understanding to others regarding the reality of the Transgender experience. I can be much more effective if I am out in the open. To put a real person, a warrior, whose character can stand up to the lies, verbal assaults and BS of these political detractors.
My reflections, my experience are my own. I do not claim to speak for any transwoman but myself.  Nonetheless there are similar themes we share, and it is my hope that by sharing I can help bring clarity, so that you all can have some familiarity with the actual feeling of being trans when you meet others.
I added another post on Monday morning which provides a little more depth into the experience of my coming to terms with being both transgender and a feminist in rural Iowa in the days before digital technology, the Internet, Cell phones etc. -- It is the 3rd in my "coming out" trilogy.  Part 1 I reveal some of my journal thoughts, and Krista's October 1991 reflection after she read about wrestling with trans identity.
You are free to contact me if you have questions. (and I'm always willing to talk over coffee or you can join me on one of my 4-5 mile walks every morning)
And then here is the Victim Impact Statement I read on November 17, before the Judge, a packed courtroom, our children and Krista's killer.  It took me about 35 minutes, but I wanted to ensure I communicated enough about who my soul-mate Krista Lynn Sandstrom is.
with much Love,
Xenia (rhymes with Kenya) Sandstrom-McGuire, MA
pronouns: she/her/hers
Studio Artist, Electric Bass
Augsburg University
2211 Riverside Ave
Minneapolis, MN 55454
Office: Music Hall M-16
Xenia: Warrior Bassist
December 6, 2017

Monday, December 4, 2017

The Feminist Warrior, part 3

In my previous post, I revealed that I have always been a transwoman. That I have always known since my first memories I am female.  I have always dreamed with a female identity. My memory, my experience is long, but with each generation the collective memory of society is very short.  In February 2018, I will turn 48 years old (even though I tell everyone I'm 88 years old -- Wow she looks good for her age! ;)- Yes I was born in 1970. While there is a difference with each generation, as a Gen Xer, the last generation of humans to grow up to adulthood without Cable/Satellite TV, Internet, Cell phones (my first was purchased when I turned 37). Whose college experience meant that there were few computers on campus housed at the Library. Most students wrote terms papers on typewriters and word processors (or by hand). Getting information meant looking through the annual reference books of peer reviewed journals, and once you found a possible article that might help you, it would still take 3 weeks to arrive. Needless to say, there is a significant difference in the access to information and wide range of perspectives between those of us over 40 years old with those under.
So growing up trans in rural northeastern Iowa - when then there wasn't really even a word to describe the experience. There was not any fair access to studies or real life experiences of transwomen.. It was really disparaged as a form of mental illness and lumped in with people who identified as gay. When in fact it is a very different matter altogether.  Nonetheless, any information that trickled down in the 1980s was usually negative. Often objectifying transwomen in some awful pornographic male fantasy.  In the movies we were depicted as mentally unsound cannibalistic serial killers. I STILL refuse to see "Silence of the Lambs" (a lot of that has to do actually with my disdain for any depiction of dehumanizing other beings for movie entertainment.). Then the talk shows devolved into stupid emotionally challenged Jerry Springer guests.  None of these offered any real help. And this was amid the already negative reports of HIV.
There were some bright lights…at least in spirit. Marlo Thomas "Free to Be You and Me"  - I am so glad my wife and I found this for our kids.  While one might assume that the story of William's Doll might be the one which spoke to me -- not in the least. Wiliam's Doll was a story about a boy who likes dolls. I never thought of myself as a boy, and I don't like dolls.  For me, the story of Atalanta was MY story.  A woman who took the reigns of her life and succeeded to be who she wanted to be.  That is me!
With a backdrop of negative social prejudice and With no Internet, no means of communication, to find REAL people we all grew up isolated, every once in a while testing the waters with friends, not sure if it would be safe to open up or be forever hated.  There was rejection by society at large, rejection by our communities of Faith and then rejection by those whom we felt could identify with the pain of our marginalized experience.
Those under 40 just do not seem to be aware of just how far society has come in understanding trans issues.  In 1990, I was 20 years old, I was already in the beginning stages of planning my transition.  But at that time Most people had no clue there was a distinction between someone who was gay and someone who was trans.  In fact the one openly gay person I knew expressed that trans women were freaks.  And much of the gay community tried to drive a wedge between our needs for human rights as theirs. Keep in mind it really was not until about the year 2000, that Lesbian and Gay friends began to feel they could open up and be public.
But since I am not attracted to men, I had always thought of myself as a feminist.  Even then, I would read articles in Ms. Magazine, the experiences resonating with mine. Then my horrified discovery that they too, many feminists from the previous generation ALSO rejected me, my experience, my heart.  Despite our mutual goal, they judged us by our bodies. Never mind our brains (esp in light of what we know now) the dominant prejudice they expressed is that that trans women aren't real women.  they are just men who want to impose a stereotypical male fantasy of what they think "women" are.  I am glad that in recent years my heroine, Gloria Steinem has softened her views and understanding. And I was thrilled to meet her a few years back when she spoke at Augsburg University - even though I did not disclose to her that I am trans.  I just bragged about my wife to her.
Then in 2003 the year of our 10th wedding anniversary, my wife and I decided to start a family of our own.  It worked with our careers to keep hers growing as the primary wage earner.  I would then be the at-home caregiver and continue adjunct teaching.  Difficulties arose after our first born in 2004 in trying to find a community so that our children could socialize and grow with other toddlers, and I could get some adult interaction. Turns out, I was barred from the Mom's groups (which were everywhere) because I was viewed as a male.(don't get me wrong, I do understand that if I am perceived male, that can make it difficult for breast feeding mothers who don't know me, and I would never want to be the cause of engorgement and pain and then a starving baby on top of that!) There was ONE  Dad's-at-home group in the entire Twin Cities area. So it was hard to meet regularly. Then when we did meet, most of the guys spent time talking about doing events at sports bars, or events and trying to rescue their fragile sense of masculinity-- it was just sickening and pathetic to hear. I still don't understand that need guys feel that drives them to try and impress other guys, especially in locker rooms....So my wife (also barred from Mom's groups because she was a working mother) and I just found solace in each other and devoted time to loving our children.]
It never helped that as transwomen, were always the scapegoat and butt of jokes and ratings booster.  And really, "Locker room talk" is so much more abusive and worse than anything you have heard in the media in the past few years--especially with regard to talk of dehumanizing transwomen!  So no! there was not much of a safe place in the greater community in this age before the Internet, digital media and the pocket computers we call cell phones! And then to be further dehumanized and ostracized by those in whom you hoped could find allies. It was a very lonely time.
Really, it was not until about 2012 that awareness and care began to shift.  Yes, I was prepared to come out and live publicly as early as 1991, but as I said earlier. I fell in love. And True Love trumps any personal need.  -- Though I do not often agree with Caitlin Jenner, her revelation was indeed a breakthrough. She publicly shared a pain, an experience which only a few of us in this world truly and viscerally understand.
Transwomen are not a unified bunch, we aren't stereotypical. The perspective I provide is my own. We are unique human beings with loves, lives and perspectives. In my experience though, we share uncommon strength, resilience, and fortitude and capacity for love that I have not seen matched by anyone else on this planet.
With Much Love,

Xenia Sandstrom-McGuire (December 1, 2017)

Part 1: Awakening the Warrior:

Friday, December 1, 2017

The Warrior, part 2

What you need to know:

I have a warrior spirit. A powerful Identity full of strength and self-confidence. It is a fire. It can provide the warmth and loving comfort of a nurturing hearth This fiery spirit can also rage with focused scorching heat toward those who would harm , my wife and our children. I strive for Justice, Compassion and Perseverance, thoughtfulness and empathy. I conquer irrational fears, prejudices and stigmas which weaken hearts so that all may find strength with their own inner spirit.

My wife and I are soul mates.

We are intimate in soul just as we were in body. She knew my spirit before we even began dating. Then we shared ours deepest selves long before the kindling of our romance. 

Our romantic, passionate intimacy was all the more meaningful because of our Love and insight into each others hearts.

In short, I remain physically and emotionally infatuated with her! My Warrior Spirit continues to champion her, her life, her memory, and our children.

Bearing this in mind, She loved me deeply. I felt it every day through smiles, looks, touches, and voice. She knew my soul intimately my loves and my pains. She always knew that...

Dolbadarn Castle near Llanberis, Wales
December 1990

...I am a transwoman. I always have been. I have been since my first memories as a 3 year old (1973).

She knew before we began our love relationship that I had planned my affirmation (transition) in 1991. This is the subject of my poem, "The Warrior."

We unexpectedly fell in love in June of that year. And our love, romance and protection for each other never stopped.

She was not physically attracted to women. She loved that the male physique I inhabited reminded her of Michelangelo's "David." So I gave that to her.

With my female heart and soul, I remained in this male form for her and championed her success. Even occasionally growing a beard to make her laugh and be joyful.

She knew maintaining this male façade was very difficult for me. She directly referenced it in the letter she wrote in my personal Journal on October 11, 1991, and specifically with the second line of her wedding vow to me. As this shell drains my energy with every single interaction and social outing, she felt the need to apologize to me time and time again. I assured her that she never needed to apologize to me for her emotions and simply for liking what she likes. I love her. Seeing her joy, her love, her freedom - seeing her light up in my presence, I could never take away her joy.

Now, she is no longer physically present. I have no need and no desire to continue wasting this incredible amount of energy, constantly looking over my shoulder, keeping on guard, and falling into indecisiveness and weakness for the simple sake of upholding this unnecessary male cloak. 

I am a woman. My name is Xenia (rhymes with Kenya)

The full weight of my Love, Strength and Resilience has been exposed through the openness of my grief at the passing of my true love and soul mate. You have read it. You have cried with me. You have commented upon it, my openness, my integrity, my honesty, my virtue. You openly demonstrated your admiration for Xenia. In every action, you have been witness to what it is like for a trans woman to mourn the loss of her soul-mate. Xenia is who I truly am.

Do not confuse my grief, my revelation for weakness, lack of confidence, and need for consolation. Do not assume my announcement is impulsive or the outgrowth of some midlife crisis. You should know me better than that!

I am a warrior. I have no fear. I still champion the values my soul mate and I shared and remain ever protective of her and our children.

That is all you need to know. If you wish for more clarity, read on.


As I have been living every single moment of my life as a woman but in disguise as a man, I can assure you that there is nothing you can possibly think of, suggest or offer that I have not long ago already contemplated and tried.

You might be tempted to ask, 'Why do you want to be a woman'; or 'Why do you think you're a woman?' my response: well Why do you? Ask the same question of yourself and give me your answers. Or is it just that you know your gender and identity and never felt the need to explain.

This is Identity, it is a deep knowledge of oneself. It is not a behavior, it is not an obsession, it is not an impulse of base desires it is not about gender roles, customs, gendered behaviors, clothing or sexuality, It is Identity. It is intrinsic, it is ones innate core. For both allies and detractors who are not trans; have never experienced the discord; have no analog to comprehend the reality of a soul which is not reflected in the body.They have no experience to compel questioning the nature of Identity, for they have never known differently. It makes some sense then that they can only look at the superficial, external expression of trans women and men and come away with a very wrong conclusion that it is merely a behavior about clothing, about sex. They cannot help but remain fixated in this falsehood of the shadow world. 

There is no doubt that some might be concerned that I have not thought about our children. Thinking it best for me to remain closeted, dishonest for their sake and perpetuating the stigma. This attitude is reinforced by the fears cast by the negative stereotypes of trans identity. It is not overly dramatic to describe the emotional impact to a transwoman as one would show care to a person bleeding out from a severed artery. It is the equivalent to saying to her, "I see that you are bleeding and losing strength, but since many people are squeamish about blood, can you put a small band aid on the flesh and wait for the bleeding to stop before you take action to heal?" 

That is not an exaggeration. It is always better to live Truth and honesty. I love my children and they me. Their pediatrician, their therapists, and my children themselves know I am doing the right thing. I have their support and love. There is no stigma in being trans, there is nothing to "fix." Stigma only exists if you want to perpetuate the myths. 

I do not need to recount the countless instances where I have been confronted by those who find false comfort in dehumanizing me and other trans women and men. It is really an every day occurrence--don't pretend it isn't. It is being subject to a constant barrage of dehumanizing gestures ranging from open acts of hostility to something as seemingly minor as a casual comment intended as a joke. In those instances I have for a very long time communicated the reality of my personal experience through third person voice.

Even with the benefit of my experience, there still remain those who without either personal first hand experience or dedicated research in cognitive science and psychological practice, refuse to take up the call of inquiry, the path of Socrates -- exemplified by my wife's phrase-- Seek to Understand. They instead find false comfort, wasting energy on sustaining their base fears when they could be demonstrating simple acts of Love. It seems they will be in for quite a shock when it is their time of reckoning. Just as the hypocrisy of the Pharisees was rebuked by one who knows Love, then God certainly sees through the fallen hearts of their heirs who claim First Amendment rights to defend their hatred. 

I am certain my revelation probably comes as a shock. And while I have been living this every single day for over 40 years, for many, the reality of transgender identity is a new phenomenon. They might mistake it as some sort of invented fad. This impression is done no favors by the propaganda--outright BullSh*t really, spread by political organizations and their lawyers. They prey on the base fears of otherwise good and caring people of Faith. They lead them down a dark path, twisting the message of love their Faith encourages; forcing them to express hatred and bigotry through this infection of lies and misinformation. Insane myths about bathroom predators (seriously?!?!?!), sociopathic serial killers in the movies, and sex crazed maniacs intent on tricking others for some nefarious purpose -- prejudice their guts, close their hearts and cloud their heads. In Truth, assumptions that transwomen are mentally unsound, confused, weak, and delusional are without merit.

Who I was before this announcement I am today. If you liked me before, I don't see why you wouldn't still.- merely because your perception of me has been shaken. I am still the same person. The strength and resilience, that Zen Warrior frame of mind I have so often been told I radiate; my kind-hearted and loving spirit - the very definition of that foundational virtue of hospitality the Ancient Greeks termed xenia.
I am not a weak, not powerless and certainly not a delicate, demure gendered stereotype some still believe women are / should be. I continue to be the strong, confident, capable, compassionate heavy-metal-loving-eco-feminist-Sci-girl-power-nerd-Warrior Bassist I have always been.. I still like those things I have always liked and have always outwardly expressed (Fencing, Martial Arts, Music, History, Classics, rough camping in all 4 Minnesota seasons, canoeing, horses, darts, whisky, strong black coffee, collecting antiquarian books, American Football, Nordic skiing…) and I still like those things I have not previously revealed. [FYI - I have never liked pink or frilly things, nor ever desired to play house, play with dolls (my childhood heroes were Wonder Woman and Jill Munroe)]. I don't need someone else to define me. There is a LOT more to woman than perpetuating those relative social stereotypes] 

I still prefer to wear jeans, t-shirts, flannel and Birks. And for the most part I think fussing over make-up and hair is a time-consuming hassle. I don't object to dressing appropriately feminine when the occasion calls for it, but I am a college educated woman of action. My peers tend to be college educated professional women. [* after 8 1/2 months of being out and allowing myself to be free to like what I like, it turns out I'm more "femme" than I ever thought I was. Xenia August 17, 2018]

In closing, I will always cherish my wife, my partner, my soul mate for the past 26 years. The one and only one with whom I planned on sharing my entire life. I do not think I can ever express the love, admiration, awe I have for her in a way that nears the depths of my heart. I will continue to grieve but live with her spirit. Now is the time, however, for me to begin life anew, to move forward with purpose and guide our children with the same honesty and passion we shared before her death..

As our children have known for some time now. And we have talked about this at length. They do not anticipate this disrupting their true friendships. I am hopeful that remains the case. Since my wife is their Mother and they always called her Mama, I will never take that title. To my children alone I allow the right to call me Dad and refer to me with male pronouns. No one else is allowed that.

For everyone else, I am Xenia (rhymes with Kenya)... On formal occasions my address is Ms. Sandstrom-McGuire. I use she/her pronouns. I do understand that friends will make honest mistakes, accidentally referring to me by my old name and male pronouns I can easily forgive that. For those who rudely insist on disrespecting me by referring to me by my former names (one of which I have not used for over 30 years because of the pain associated with it) and insisting on placing upon me a male identity because it makes THEM feel better, they can expect me to ignore them entirely (or respond with an equally immature retort where I call them a name of my choosing because that will make ME feel better.) So with me, as with any trans woman -- or any human for that matter, endeavor to be gracious, loving, and kind. Respect Human Dignity.

My lifetime of experience as a closeted transwoman has infused my warrior spirit with resiliency in the face of rejection, ostracism and even hatred from those who claim friendship and love for us. I cannot control how anyone will receive my revelation, but I will no longer lie to protect their comfort. I will continue to guide our children so that they will forever live with the virtues of honesty, integrity, love, justice, compassion, and perseverance that their mother and I forged with our relationship.

With much love,
Xenia Sandstrom-McGuire, M.A.
Pronouns: she/her/hers

Just a quick note on my name,
"Xn" is the traditional abbreviation of my given very German middle name, "Christian"
The "X" is actually a Greek letter "Chi" the first letter of Xristos (Christ) which has been used for 2000 years.

Many times whether in martial arts, playing chess, playing bass etc. I have been told that I have a "Zen" spirit. so I changed the Greek "chi" to a "xi" and added the "e" to create "Xen"
I am a warrior, and there was already a warrior princess whom I admire named Xena.
So my dear friend and confidant from the past few years suggested, "Xenia" which I remembered is the Ancient Greek virtue of extending Hospitality to strangers.(and actually Xena is the shortened form of the same name)
and that is how I ended up with Xenia.
Xenia, Warrior Bassist 

Related Links:
I have been working for decades behind the scenes advocating Trans rights. Here is one of my many examples which hit me as close to home as it ever has been. It is my work as a closeted transwoman trying to bring sanity to my kids school:

My wife and me with a few of our Delta Alpha Delta sorority sisters
Luther College 1992.
Xenia 1994 (photo by Krista)
Krista and Xenia (goofing off)
Xenia Sandstrom-McGuire, December 1, 2017