Saturday, December 1, 2018

One Year Out

Today December 1st is the anniversary from when I revealed that I am and always have been Xenia. It has been a year of unpacking, peeling off layers, soul mending, and growing. 

Last year at this time, I was quite uncertain how my coming out statement would be received. Given my lifetime of hiding because of the majority public negative views to which I was accustomed, I really did not know how many friends, relatives I would have after I came out. My parents, sister, my in-laws had no clue nor did the parents of a few of my kids best friends. So two days before I came out, I sent them my statement. 

When I wrote my coming out statement last year, I was still deferring to the cisgender-heterosexual normative dominant attitudes. I did not want them to question or think ill about Krista’s and my love. And I didn’t want them to freak out and associate me with those most negative and pervasive stereotypes. I myself didn’t really want to make a fuss and felt that just telling everyone was good enough. I had not yet begun to explore myself now that I am out. 

What I can tell you is that being out is the very best thing ever for my soul, psychological well being and the depths of my relationships with people. While I understand the reasons all too well for feeling the need to be closeted (which I will reveal more in this post), being closeted just isn’t worth it. 

Since coming out I have been uncovering all of the layers of protection I constucted over my first 47 years. Where I used to filter every response and defer to cis-het norms, I have now been allowing myself to react. 

This growth was made fruitful by the nourishment of a re-established lost friendship a few days after coming out last year. This friendship encouraged me to Love and Advocate for myself, explore the meaning and put into practice what it is to be Xenia, without fearing the responses of others.

I opened up. My brain which has always been female, is finally being fed the right hormones, so all of those features, instincts, inclinations I’ve always had are now enhanced- vibrant and full of colors of emotion integrated with my reason, my gut and my whole being. 

I am bold, confident, making music, writing, and engaged in my life. No longer expending so much time on keeping myself hidden which negatively impacted my capacity for empathy. Pretending to be a guy was exhausting and left me groundless. Rootless and without a strong footing it was nearly impossible to act with any self-assuredness. I did not recognize how over time, my dysphoria increased despondency, resignation - that I felt merely a shell going through the motions. Now out as the woman I am, a can proceed with confidence and strength.

Some seemingly minor but not insignificant revelations:
I can hear & understand lyrics now and react emotionally to spoken word.
I danced freely in public for the FIRST time and I could actually move with the music.
I tried hummus and guacamole for the first time in my life and loved it! 
Perception of temperature is one physical change I will share. While I love winter, my perception of temperatures has changed dramatically. I now understand why so many of my female friends really do not like winter. It used to be sub zero temps and camping, cooking outside over a fire pit and telling Viking Sagas while drinking Aquavit... no problem...But last week, having gone outside with the temps feeling like my previous body chemistry interpreted as 5 degrees Fahrenheit- then shocked to find out it was only 28 degrees...huge shift.

Socially, I have been able to move about in all areas without fear and guardedness.   As someone who has endured rape and assaults by men and avoided them when possible. Now, no longer in hiding, I have confidence to stand toe to toe with them if needed. And as it turns out, not all men are assholes, in fact some are actually pretty nice. This past year, I been able to develop friendships deeper than talking only about certain aspects of music and comedies. My late wife had already helped me overcome some of these perceptions, notably my former hatred of American Football. She  taught me how to throw a spiral, catch and understand the strategy of the defense). Having grown up with a female brain (which is the biggest determining factor in sex identification) but forced into exclusive male environments, I never understood the apparent "natural behavior" thoughts, feelings and actions of men and boys. I learned to fake it, building protective layers of "guyness." which leads to:

And it turns out I’m much more “girly” than I ever thought. Last year I wrote that I would just continue to wear flannel, jeans, and Birks as I always have. Well, that didn’t last long. I've spent the past year tearing down those layers, allowing myself to feel, act and react without barriers. While I still know that I am a woman, always have been a woman regardless of my appearance, I do really enjoy my accoutrements of enculturated femininity. (* though those external trappings do not define me.) 

When close friend who has known me as Xenia both before and after me coming out remarked, “If there were such a thing as a poster-child for why someone NEEDS to come out, its you.”

So, why didn’t I come out sooner? 

Imagine, you have a lifetime of never feeling safe to live freely as yourself. You opt to stay closeted when you fall in love because you are afraid of harm to her from the outside world, but having her know at least is enough to get by. You get into your 40s and the closeted masquerade is really taking its toll in the most negative ways: more frequent distress over dysphoria, not living openly, major depressive episodes. Then after yet another flash of suicidal ideation (spurred on by anti-LGBTQ propaganda at your kids school, fearing for your kids friendships) you return from the brink determined to come out. The future with your soul mate is looking bright 

Then one night two St. Paul police officers arrive at your front door to tell you your best friend, wife, lover for 26 years was killed by a drunk driver. 

I am 48 years old (born February 1970) and I remember growing up trans female and having absolutely NO information to understand myself nor for the public to understand. Because of our rarity trans folk of mine and older generations grew up in an age before the Internet, we were isolated and struggled to come to terms with ourselves on our own. 

I ALWAYS knew myself to be female since my first memories (clearest early acknowledgement that I am female came when I was 3 (1973). And like many of us my age, I lived in the dark for so long never talking to anyone, too scared to open up to anyone or even my physician, under fear of rejection, job loss, abuse, ostracism, excommunication. I turned to the teachings of my Christian upbringing (I was in fact planning on becoming a Lutheran minister) which viewed trans issues as a sinful "behavior" rather than what it actually is.

In 1989, I met Krista. We got to know each other when I used to go to her room and she would French braid my hair as we talked. It was on the bus on Cathedral Choir tour in 1990 that we really felt a close connection. Our Junior year in college I lived in Nottingham, England and away from Iowa, and my past.  Krista and I exchanged a few letters, and even called me on my 21st Birthday. Most of that year, I was able to focus and reflect upon me, who I am and where I intend to go. 

In Spring of 1991, I was living in a flat in Nottingham, UK with other Luther College students. I had been thinking critically about my identity for 17 years. Finally I was determined that yes when I returned to the States I was going to leave everyone I know, move to northern California affirm my gender and live in a world where no one would have any memory of me pretending to be male. I just want to blend in.  In the meantime, I tested the waters with my flat-mates…the most I would admit to any of them was that I was a crossdresser and while I shaved my legs and wore skirts, I was not about to divulge my intention. 

When I returned to the States, culture shock and rural Iowan reality hit me – the loud, nasally, forced, midwestern dialect really disturbed my ears. Soon I got a call from Krista and Kari G who were living in Madison, WI for the summer. So I left my parents some cryptic message about getting over my depression with no other indication about where I headed and drove to visit them (-thinking a Beatles song from Sgt. Pepper might be apropos for my parents feelings at that time—sorry Mom and Dad- ) . I told Krista who I was that night. Regardless we really loved each others company and by the end of that week, we knew we wanted to live the rest of our lives with each other. 

I wanted to protect Krista, fulfill her, champion her brilliance, and help her succeed in every endeavor, in the process I feared public backlash – its not just me anymore, what will happen to Krista if I come out publicly? 

Xenia  n 1994
Twenty-two years ago 1996, It was nearly impossible to find any good information anywhere on being trans My therapists in the 1990s really didn't know how to help me. Two of them suggested I find a hobby to help distract me from it… I first encountered the word "transgender" when I was 28 (1998) And in those very early years of the Internet it seemed any reference at all was not much better than the negative sensationalist, psycho-pathic, pornographic, fetishist scapegoat fear already shown in movies and Jerry Springer.

So there was nothing really that gave me the information I needed to further help understand myself. And not only cis-het society, but also feminists (which I have always considered myself) and lesbian and gay friends (who were themselves emerging in their fight for equality and justice) maintained negative attitudes toward women like me voicing their opinion that transsexuals are freaks – so I did not feel safe revealing myself to them either.

But as more of us risked outing ourselves to the community so that we could understand, medical professionals also started to take us more seriously. More useful information backed by peer-reviewed scientific research slowly developed, and we began to find support in each other and in the 2010s, (I am in my40s by now) there was now a growing list of providers who advertising that they were LGBTQ+ knowledgeable and practiced WPATH Standards of Care, I no longer felt alone. And for a while that was enough to help me.

Yet as the worldwide scientific professional medical communities verified the biological reality of multiple variations and combinations of sex and gender, a reactionary movement arose, discounting the decades of research and belittling my own experience as if being trans were some sort of dangerous PC trend. With no credible expertise, they played upon the false negative trans prejudices I described earlier. They created new lies and fears. In 2013 they INVENTED a tactic to be used against women like me, generating hysteria with the notion that we are bathroom predators. This is completely at odds with reality. They have spent millions in lobbying and legal actions which has served to facilitate violence and murder against women like me. One political ant-LGBTQ hate group, the American College of Pediatricians is intentionally deceitful in spreading misinformation to cause harm to children. Instead of politicizing science and women like me, a better use of their money would be to promote the expertise of research biologists, cognitive scientists, the medical, and psychological communities. With their broad world wide network, loving parents could teach their children we are women.

A few years ago Krista, who was Director of Organization Development and Learning at Hennepin County Medical Center, encouraged me to get my care at the newly established Adult Gender and Sexual Health clinic there. In her position she herself was gaining more objective knowledge though about my own gender dysphoria and the meaning of being trans. [* This is often a neglected part of gender affirmation in marriages. Krista most definitely was an amazing person. And it is important to note that this was no picnic for her either. For she was only 2 days younger than me, we grew up with the same lack of knowledge and resources, Our views were shaped by the broader culture which was hostile and discriminatory toward trans women. The difference is that me being trans actively sought  knowledge but not having the adequate vocabulary to accurately describe, and her not being trans had no analog to my dysphoria. But we loved each other. It is for this reason I maintain a very deep love and care for the spouses of those of us who are trans. I feel they have a much more difficult path than we do. And while I move forward unfettered from worry on how my decisions, actions might negatively impact her in myriad ways - I have both gained greater understanding and visceral empathy of her perspective - and it does break my heart that I cannot share that revelation with her..]

On May 31st, 2017 – I had both a great therapy session with regard to my coming out, regaining confidence, shedding that empty shell, that male disguise - and continuing in the growth of love between Krista and me. I put my newly uncovered conduit for expression into practice that day when I went in to Cycles for Change and allowed a man to show me how to repair my bike – I did not fear, I did not put up my artificial male persona - I was still dressed in my drab flannel and jeans, my unfiltered personality that you know now was unveiled, publicly. 
This was a pretty big break thru for me as I had been overcoming a prolonged bout with major depression. Krista was working late that night and the next evening was booked with our chorale auditions so I knew we wouldn’t have time to debrief until the weekend. 

And well, on the night of June 1, 2017, I was visited by those two St. Paul police officers. 

The whole summer when I was writing about the Love Krista and shared, All but a very few people had no clue that I was Xenia. So while I conducted business in public, - from my TV interview, to the memorial service, to band gigs – Every day and night, I spoke, emailed, and texted my growing circle of friends regarding who I really am. Ever so slowly widening my circle, but trying to be careful not to take away from the raw memory of Krista’s death. Even then, I was a quite guarded with regard to how much I shared with them. Most did not know that I started HRT on June 24, 2017. 

In mid-September 2017 I was informed that Krista’s killer finally accepted a plea deal. So at that time I both learned the length of his prison term as well as the date of his sentencing on which I would read my Victim Impact Statement – November 17, 2017. It was then in September that I decided that December 1, 2017 at 18:00 CST will be when I announce. I wanted a Thanksgiving with still all thoughts on Krista, but after that it was time for me to begin a new volume in the Sandstrom-McGuire Saga. 

So in the very briefest way possible. Everything you believe about women the way women think, feel, emote, respond- That is me. That is the way my biological brain is wired, the way my physical body responds to sensation, the way I emote. Women like me are recognized as women by the peer reviewed scientific professional medical community. All of my legal documentation from my birth certificate to US Passport to my medical records themselves acknowledge that yes I am female.  This carries weight in objectively verifiable expertise whereas the opinions of anti-LGBTQ legal activists and trolls do not.

For those who were accustomed to me in my 47 years of pretending to be a guy, You saw my disguise, the manner in which I protected myself from physical harm. And while some may still see my body, hear my voice as male, - Never forget that my loves, my fears, my cares, my desires, my needs have always been those of a woman.

Love, Strength, and Authenticity to you all.

Xenia

My original coming out statement found here:
http://www.xenmcguire.com/2017/12/the-warrior-part-2.html

For all of my blogs pertaining to my experience since coming out visit:
http://www.xenmcguire.com/p/xenia-warrior-bassist.html


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