Sunday, December 23, 2018

Perhaps it is time for a different approach

I read an article recently that has me thinking about the ways we label ourselves, and in so doing divide ourselves.  Perhaps it is time for a different approach.

We’ve all seen the strings of letters.  LGBT, LGBTQ, LGBTQQIA, LGBTQQIP2SAA, and so on.  The letters stand for a variety of terms that represent sexualities and genders.

  • L: Lesbian
  • G: Gay
  • B: Bisexual
  • T: Transgender, transsexual, and two-spirit
  • Q: Queer and questioning

There are additional terms that have come into use more recently:

  • QQ: Questioning and queer
  • I: Intersex
  • P: Pansexual
  • 2S: Two-spirit
  • A: Asexual
  • A: Ally (a person who is not LGBTQ but supports LGBTQ persons)

The list above is actually quite incomplete.  Kate Bornstein lists 200 sexualities and genders in “My New Gender Workbook”, and has found over 750 in use online.

The proliferation of identities is very useful for folks left out of the mainstream handful of identities in the acronyms.  However, trying to expand the acronym becomes unwieldy, and unfortunately signals the further partitioning of our little community into smaller and smaller factions. 

We are a small population of gender variant folks adrift on a life raft in a sea of heteronormative cisgender folks. Must we start sawing our raft into ever smaller pieces?

I’m not even sure which piece I should cling to, as an older woman, attracted to femme presentation, who got this way by being a transgender person.  Women  tell me I am not a “real woman”. Lesbians tell me I am not a lesbian. Transgender persons tell me I am not trans enough, or am a transsexual and not transgender. 

As we sift our communities members through ever smaller labeling screens some of us will fall through the gaps. 

I know who I am.  I am me, I am queer, and I am here. I support all of my Queer family, in the broadest sense, gay, lesbian, bi, trans, fluid, asexual, agender, two spirit, demi, aromantic, intersex, mux, or the hundreds of other variations of folks that don’t conform to cultural gender and sexual normative models. 

We are Q. Jonathan Rauch, It’s Time to Drop the ‘LGBT’ From ‘LGBTQ’, Jan/Feb 2019, The Atlantic

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Divide and Conquer works, unfortunately

I am an older woman, attracted to femme presentation, who got this way by being a transgender person.  I have had some interesting things said to me recently.   Women  tell me I am not a “real woman”. Lesbians tell me I am not a lesbian. Transgender persons tell me I am not trans enough, or am a transsexual and not transgender. 

What is going on?  While there has always been some friction between the factions making up the “Q” community (LGBTQQIA2SM+, some 600 recognized identities) recently we have moved beyond friction to see a significant increase in folks who are outright exclusionary.  Perhaps there is a reason this is happening now, when at first glance, we should be standing united against forces hostile to all of us.

In October 2017  the Values Voter Summit, the annual political gathering sponsored by Family Values Council, a strongly anti-Q organization, featured a breakout session on “transgender ideology in public schools.” One panelist encouraged a “divide and conquer” strategy to defeat “totalitarian” school policies on transgender inclusion.

Meg Kilgannon, a panelist and director of Concerned Parents and Educators of Fairfax County, said:

“For all of its recent success, the LGBT alliance is actually fragile, and the trans activists need the gay rights movement to help legitimize them. Gender identity on its own is just a bridge too far. If you separate the T from the alphabet soup, we’ll have more success.”

She laid out a five point plan of attack to the conference:

  1. Engage: “Focus on gender identity to divide and conquer.”
  2. Educate: No personal attacks!  “If you attack trans people, you become the proof they rely on for demanding protection,” she said. “So don’t play into their victim narrative because in this culture war, they are the bullies, not the victims.”
  3. Explain: Use secular arguments to reach a more diverse audience rather than less effective religious arguments.
  4. Empowerment: Kilgannon said that the Hands Across the Aisle Coalition—which describes itself as a group of conservative and progressive women that rise above their differences “to oppose the transgender agenda”—includes feminists who argue that gender identity is the “ultimate misogyny” and “erasure of women.”  She said lesbians in the group are concerned that “transing masculine girls is a form of lesbian eugenics.”
  5. Elect: She urged activists to run for school board or to encourage other people from outside the “education-industrial complex” to run. She complained that school boards are full of ideological liberals.
The session speakers phrased their opposition to nondiscrimination policies in what sounded like progressive rhetoric, using phrases familiar to feminist moment speakers pushing for transgender exclusion.  Transgender rights were depicted as anti-feminist, or hostile to minorities.  They were framed as being disrespectful to LGB persons, pretenders and predators harmful to ‘the cause’.

This all sounds horribly familiar, and is unfortunately effective.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Easy Creme Brûlée French Toast - Overnight single pan

Creme Brûlée French Toast - Overnight single pan

This recipe is made the night before it will be served, with a single pan to bake in the morning before service.  This dish serves 4-8 people.

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 loaf of Challah bread
5 large eggs
1 1/2 cups half and half
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon Grand Marnier
1/4 teaspoon salt

  • In a small heavy saucepan melt butter with brown sugar and corn or maple syrup over moderate heat, stirring, until smooth and pour into a 13 by 9 by 2-inch baking dish. 
  • Cut 6 to 8 slices, 1-2 inches thick from center portion of bread, reserving ends for another use (bread pudding!) and trim crusts. Arrange bread slices in one layer in baking dish, squeezing them slightly to fit. 
  • In a bowl whisk together eggs, half and half, vanilla, Grand Marnier and salt until combined well and pour evenly over bread. Chill bread mixture, covered, at least 8 hours and up to 1 day.
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and bring bread mixture to room temperature. Bake uncovered, in middle of oven until puffed and edges are pale golden, 35 to 40 minutes.

Trim bottom from Challah bread

Try soaking the bread in batter before placing on caramel layer, especially if doing thicker slices (2”)
        The Grand Mariner can be replaced with something else, from another teaspoon of vanilla to a favorite Torani syrup.

Shifts in Gender Orientation

I was recently interviewed for an article on unexpected shifts or discoveries in gender orientation for folks coming out after age 30.  I had a few thoughts on the topic that I expressed in the interview, and I thought I would get them in writing for our members.

I believe my shift in orientation, fundamentally becoming open to a larger range of partners, was due more to my recognizing and breaking down social taboos on orientation than any innate shift from hormone replacement therapy (HRT) or transition-related surgeries.

Our gender orientation, sexual and romantic, is built in layers.  There is a biological primitive, a bit of our brains wired to recognize other people as possible mates or competitors.  This sets the core of our sexual orientation.  We see others and this bit of our brain identifies those who might be possible mates or sexual partners, based on what can be perceived.  It tends to be a pretty broad sort of classification filter, and there are correlations such that it appears to be set in fetal development during the third trimester by the testosterone level the developing brain is exposed to.

In my case, the filter seems to favor femme appearance as a possible mate.

Our culture insists on certain behaviors as being acceptable.   Since this body was assigned male at birth, this culture had insisted that while growing up and presenting as male, that I only select persons with a strongly femme appearance as a potential mate.  That more or less matches my brain’s setting, so that was OK.  I accepted the cultural conditioning and assumed that was just how I was.

Ah, but then I came to accept my true nature, and violated cultural taboo by coming out and transitioning.  It turns out that breaking one taboo and surviving makes it easier to break other taboos.

Post-transition I, as a woman attracted to women, identified my orientation as a lesbian.  (Cis-lesbian readers, I understand how you may feel about this.  Just read on, please.  This is just my orientation, not culture!)

I was in a transgender person support group meeting, and sitting next to me was a man, with a lovely red-orange beard and reddish leg hair.  They were very kind and open, and I liked them.  In fact, I found myself fantasizing about them.  Now, where was THIS coming from?

After considerable introspection and discussion with some very good sexuality specialists, I realized that the people I am attracted to have not actually identified their genitalia to me, and that the women I did attractive are actually just a subset of persons with some strongly feminine aspects that I admire.  That is I am attracted to persons with some strongly femme attribute to their presentation, and not to some particular set of genitalia.

I rather flippantly describe my orientation now as lesbian with a 30% chance of queer.

This change was driven by my being more open to questioning cultural norms, and I beleive it was not affected by my HRT or surgery, beyond those resulting from my initially challenging and violating cultural norms.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

We each define our own identity

We, each of us, are individuals, with our own core identity, our own feelings, our own experience.  We each have our own unique experience of life, and over time, have come to know ourselves.

Some of us may seek aid in clarifying the meaning and impact of various elements of our lives, whether through therapy, guided meditation, support group discussions, or more spiritual means.  These are all aids in understanding ourselves.  These externalalities do not define us.  They do not hold our lives and experience, and cannot tell us who we are.

Each of us, within ourselves, holds the knowledge of who we are, what we need, how we are best recognized and acknowledged by others.  The process of self-discovery to reveal and clarify this knowledge to ourselves is one that many of us undertake.

We have to take care in entering this process to be aware that others may seek to impose their will on us, attempting to assign to us who we are, what we need, and how we should be recognized. This can be toxic, an attempt to poison our very identity, in a misguided effort to make others more comfortable by putting us in a box, what others wish was our place.

When we are on our journey of self-discovery, allies who can help us, and shield us from others who would impose their own ideals or desires on us, are vital.  A good support group or friends may provide this.  We still have to exercise care lest someone that we see as an ally may, perhaps unwittingly, try to designate who we are, place us in some arbitrary box.

Some people are only comfortable with others once they have labeled them, tucked them into their place, and determined what others should be.  Be careful around these people.  When we are most fragile, such folks, even if identifying as friends or allies, can be very damaging.

We are, each of us individually, incredibly complex in our identity and needs.  Never let anyone else set your identity.  Find your own path on your journey of self-discovery.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Transgender Day of Remembrance 2018

Here's my little 2 minute 30 second speech from the Transgender Day of Remembrance event held by Rainbow Community Center and Mt Diablo Unitarian Universalist Church at Todos Santos Plaza, Concord, California on November 20, 2018.  Not a real stem-winder, just what I could fit into 2:30 to try and make my point and request some help.   I've been running a one-woman support organization the past year, providing aid with insurance, medical care, safety escorts, housing, transportation, and so on.  Some help from allies would be appreciated!

Good evening!  I was given a topic to speak on; “Why people shouldn’t be erased.”  I see erasure as nothing more than a violation of basic human rights.  Does anyone here really want to debate this?  Is there a “Why people should be erased” viewpoint?

The current administration has a proposal to redefine sex and gender in terms that might be found in a 70 year old elementary school text, claiming this is “science.”  The effect would be to render transgender folks nonexistent at the Federal level, erasure.

This flies in the face of all that we have learned about sex and gender, an absurd attempt to roll back the calendar and force us wholesale back into the closet or worse.

This will not stand.  With our allies we can put pressure on to block this, through legal and legislative means.

Allies!  There are far more of you than there are of us.  Your support is vital for our survival for the next few years.

Anti-LGBTQ homicides nearly doubled in 2017. Violence has spiked with people feeling that they can freely express hatred.

Trans people are particularly vulnerable.  Trans women in particular can often be identified as such on sight and are easily targeted (along with a few cis women!).  Trans folks outed by having to show ID, or even having to speak have been attacked.  

Alies!  Consider helping trans folks.

Escorts to the hospital ER or Urgent Care to ensure proper treatment is given and defend against misgendering and neglect are needed.

Can you type or print neatly, and follow fairly involved instructions? Help prepare court documents for name and gender marker changes, and fee waivers.

Consider contributing to a micro-grants program to help cover food, utilities, transportation, or rent.

Consider providing aid in getting insurance coverage, not money but simply helping someone navigate or Media-Cal applications.

Consider helping someone with their wardrobe, getting ready for a job interview.

Consider contributing to a shelter that will take in trans folks without onerous conditions.

Be an ally.  Step up and help out, please.

Address: 1171 Mission Street, San Francisco California 94103
Phone: +1 (415) 241-1184
Hours of Operation: 24 hours

Health Services:
Address: 1735 Mission Street, San Francisco California 94103
Phone: +1 (415) 565-7667
Hours of Operation: Monday/Tuesday: 8:30am – 5:00pm (Closed for lunch 12:15-1:15), Wednesday/Thursday: 11:00am–7:30pm (Closed for lunch 2:45-3:45), Friday: 1:30pm-5:00pm Saturday & Sunday: Closed

Address: San Francisco California
Phone: +1 (415) 206-7979
Hours of Operation: Contact the SF Department of Public Health

Gender Clinic for Transgender Patients
Martinez Health Center, 2500 Alhambra Avenue, Martinez, CA
Starting December 4th at West County Health Center
Starting December 21st at Pittsburg Health Center
APPOINTMENTS: By referral or call 800-495-8885. This is not a drop-in clinic.
For more information about the clinic, contact Natasha Petit, LCSW, of the LGBT Pride Initiative at 925-374-2185 or Brian Kuennemeier MA, 510-231-9572, ext 5

Other Services
Rainbow Community Center
Clinical services, HIV support, food pantry, thrift store
Phone: (925)-692-0090
Address: 2118 Willow Pass Rd #500, Concord, CA 94520
West County: 6491 Portola Dr., El Cerrito, CA 94530

Contra Costa County’s Mental Health Access Line
Phone: 888.678.727
LGBTQ culturally competent support workers are available Monday through Friday from 8 am to 5 pm. Screening, brief phone counseling, crisis intervention and referral. Contra Costa Crisis Center trained and supportive Counselors are available to provide emergency support:

Suicide Prevention 24/7 800.273.TALK (8255) 800.SUICIDE (784.2433)

Crisis Intervention 24/7 800.833.2900

California Name and Gender Marker Change

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Welcome for October 21, 2018 at MDUUC

One of the hats I wear in life is being a Worship Associate at Mt. Diablo Unitarian Universalist Church.  The Worship Associate for a service handles some technical stuff, and also writes a few pieces for each service.  Here is the Welcome I wrote for October 21.  Our subject was Glancing Encounters: How we are touched by our small and random brushes with truths small and large, led by Rev.Takahashi.


Welcome.  I am Michelle Paquette, pronouns she, her, hers.

Small and random brushes with truths large and small seems to describe much of our mental life beyond the clockwork of simply getting through the day.  

There are the truths of simple physics.  Some things can be done, and some cannot.  Objects may be easily moved, or too heavy to lift.  Doors may be locked, or open.  There are the truths of everyday life. It’s safer to cross the street at a crosswalk.  Your car may vanish if you leave it in a ‘No Parking’ zone.

Then, there are the truths other people present to us, and the truths we respond with. These are what fascinate me.

We have evolved with certain survival traits, including trying to recognize threats to ourselves.  When we see other people, we look at their faces, and we proceed to overgeneralize from our evolved mechanism to spot emotional states in others.  We see a kernel of truth in others, and we proceed to layer assumptions and judgements atop this, based on cultural conditioning and life experience.

We are going to have expressions on our face as well.  That expression may very well reflect the assumptions and judgements we have made about someone we have just seen.  Others will see this expression, and, well...

That expression we see on someone’s face may reflect what assumptions and judgements they have made about us, or it may reflect internal issues with that curry they had for lunch.

We really don’t know what truth they may be expressing.  We do see it and commit acts of assumption and judgement, even if invalid.

Maya Angelou wrote:  “If you don’t like something, change it.  If you can’t change it, change your attitude.”

I like that.

Our First Principle is “the inherent worth and dignity of every person.”  Our reverence and respect for human nature is at the core of our faith.  We carry the potential to do good, the capacity for observation and reason, and the ability to appreciate all that is around us.  We use our gifts in the service of love, justice, healing, and our search for joy.

Our Second Principle seeks justice, equity and compassion in human relations, and our Third Principle asks for acceptance of one another and encouragement of spiritual growth.

We can apply these principles to the hard work of examining our assumptions and judgements, and finding ways to improve how we perceive the truths others offer us.  We can identify our overgeneralizations, break down our poor assumptions, and remove inappropriate judgements, all of which interfere with our perceiving and exchanging personal truths with each other.

The thing to do, it seems to me, is to prepare yourself so you can be a rainbow in somebody else's cloud. Somebody who may not look like you. May not call God the same name you call God - if they call God at all. I may not dance your dances or speak your language. But be a blessing to somebody. That's what I think.
  - Maya Angelou

Again.  There’s wisdom there.

Let’s start this work.  Let’s prepare ourselves to be a rainbow in someone else’s cloud, as we worship together.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Apple Brown Betty with Rolled Oats

Apple Brown Betty with Rolled Oats

I whipped up a Brown Betty recipe with rolled oats rather than breadcrumbs.  With the right oats this is gluten-free.  The recipe is for a small batch, serving two (or one hungry person).

The dish totals 500 calories, and should serve 2. Serve with milk or ice cream.
Assuming 2 servings:
250 calories; 50g carbs, 7g fats, 2g protein; carbs include 36g sugar

Prep time 15 minutes, cooking time 45 minutes

1 apple, peeled, cored, and sliced
1/2 tsp lemon juice
1/8 cup water
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 tsp cinnamon
Pinch nutmeg
Pinch allspice
2 pinches ground cloves
1 tbsp butter, melted
1/4 cup rolled oats

Baked at 350 degrees F

  1. Mix together the brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and round cloves
  2. Toss the rolled oats with the melted butter
  3. Grease a small casserole or large ramiken
  4. Layer the apple slices, oats and butter, and the sugar mixture, maybe 3 layers of each
  5. Combine the 1/8 cup of water and lemon juice, and gently pour over the layers
  6. Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.  Remove the foil, and bake an additional 15 minutes until apple is tender and oats are soft.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Notes on Exclusion, Liberty, and Equality

Just to be crystal clear...

I will *die* fighting for this country and your right to live your own life as you see fit.

I swore an oath to defend my country against all enemies, foreign and domestic, and I will continue to honor that oath.

Let us be clear, though.  You do not have a right to tell me that I am not living my life correctly, simply because I do not live the way that you do, or believe in what you believe.  You do not have a right to impose your religious or ideological beliefs on me, nor do you have a right to deny my humanity or my very existence just because your belief system claims I should not exist.  

I am dismayed that political factions have formed around platforms that insist I cannot be permitted to exist, or that others should have the ability to deny my rights because I make them uncomfortable.  I am disturbed to hear religious leaders preaching a message of hatred and intolerance, with a few insisting that I should be murdered.

A politics of exclusion or a faith of hatred have no place in a free and civilized culture that promises liberty equality for all.

Liberty is the value that proclaims that people should be free to think, speak, and act as they choose as long as they do not offend the freedom and rights of others.

Equality is the value that holds that all people must be treated fairly and with dignity and be able to embrace opportunities for education, economic success, political involvement, and a fulfilling life.

These are supposed to be basic values of our society.  There are those who pine for a mythical ‘good old days’ where they would be free to deny liberty and equality to others, to preserve their position of privilege.  I hold these people to be the unwitting domestic enemies of our society, standing in the way of liberty and equality for those less privileged than themselves.

I fight for the rights of the marginalized, with education and the sword of knowledge, trying to break down the barriers of ideology and perverse belief systems that seek to preserve inequality.

I will act to defend myself and others, all of those who are accidentally or deliberately impacted by those seeking to reserve or expands mechanisms of inequality, who seek to suppress liberty.  I understand that there is a fear that as others gain some privilege, that the privileged may lose, but that fear is unfounded.

Privilege is not a zero-sum game.  There is not a finite supply to be hoarded.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Being Your Authentic Self - a collection of quotes

A friend recently sent me a collection of inspirational quotes.  I loved these, and want4ed to share them.
- Michelle

Being Your Authentic Self
 - quotes collected by Stephanie 

The real you does not need fixing. Only the surface layer of you seems to need improvement. Your innate wholeness has never been damaged except in your thoughts. You have been taught that life is a problem, you are defective, and you must face and overcome an endless series of issues and obstacles before you can be enough. None of that is true. You are not a black hole that needs to be filled. You are a light that needs to be shined.
- Alan Cohen

Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.
- Steve Jobs

Don’t Settle.
- Steve Jobs

The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.
- Maya Angelou

I do not exist to impress the world. I exist to live my life in a way that will make me happy.
- Richard Bach

Don’t be afraid to take a big step when one is indicated. You can’t cross a chasm in two small jumps.
- Buckminster Fuller

Listening is being able to be changed by the other person.
- Alan Alda

We do not make friends, we recognize them.
- G Henrichs

A real friend is one who walks in when the rest of the world walks out.
- Walter Winchell

Wonder is remembering and acknowledging the uniqueness of our inner self. Of all the people in the world there is only one of each of us. That is a wonder in itself. And it follows then that not only is each of us wonderful, each of us is a wonder. Situations and events are temporary. Wonder is perpetual. And so are you.
- Gail Pursell Elliott

Don’t compromise yourself. You are all you’ve got.
- Janis Joplin
A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.
- John A. Shedd

Accept no one’s definition of your life, but define yourself.
- Harvey Fierstein

Always be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of somebody else.
- Judy Garland

Birds born in a cage think flying is an illness.
- Alejandro Jodorowsky

Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.
- Dr Seuss

To be beautiful means to be yourself. You don't need to be accepted by others. You need to accept yourself.
- Thich Nhat Hanh

Do not let anything from your past inhibit you in this Present Moment. Start over. Start Fresh. Each day. Each hour, if it serves you. Heck, each minute. Just get going. Just do it. Just say it. With love. All else will take care of itself.
- Neale Donald Walsch

Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don't mind.
- Dr Seuss

You’ve got to get up every morning with a smile on your face, and show the world all the love in your heart… You’re gonna find, yes you will, that you’re beautiful as you feel.
- Carole King

Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.
- Thich Nhat Hanh

Recognize that to be happy, you must live the life that you truly want to live. It's your life and you are the only one who can truly determine what is right for you.
- The Daily Guru

Don’t be afraid to shed the weight of those who don’t support you. As in aviation, you must add lightness to fly.
- Stephanie Rhapsody Bensinger

We tell lies when we are afraid… afraid of what we don’t know, afraid of what others will think, afraid of what will be found out about us. But every time we tell a lie, the thing that we fear grows stronger.
- Tad Williams

You don’t experience anxiety unless you’re attached to a thought that isn’t true for you. It’s that simple.
- Byron Katie

You gain strength, courage, and confidence in every experience in which you stop and look fear in the face. You must do the thing you cannot do.
- Eleanor Roosevelt

Do you remember the things you were worrying about a year ago? How did they work out? Didn't you waste a lot of fruitless energy on account of most of them? Didn't most of them turn out all right after all?
- Dale Carnegie 

Sometimes a breakdown can be the beginning of a kind of breakthrough, a way of living in advance through a trauma that prepares you for a future of radical transformation.
- Cherrie Moraga

A happy life is one which is in accordance with its own nature.
- Marcus Annaeus Seneca

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma, which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition, they somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.
-Steve Jobs

To be nobody-but-yourself – in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you somebody else – means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting. 
-ee cummings

The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are.

- Joseph Campbell

Monday, October 1, 2018

Hey, get my pronouns right!

Getting repeatedly misgendered, even if somehow innocently, at this stage of transition is both a real kick in the teeth, and a nasty reality check. 

Misgendering is the most common microaggression I encounter as a woman who happens to also be a transgender person.  Some practice deliberate misgendering, a not-so-micro bit of aggression.  Others try to some extent to get my gender right, but when distracted, not concentrating on their words, will misgender me, as they internally are thinking of me as something other than my correct gender.
Some people who know of my past are stuck on thinking of me as a man in a dress. I was never a man, although I could fake it well enough to pass after a few decades of work. The world provides some hellish incentives to fake it well and master suppressing ourselves. 

Faking it so long is emotionally and psychologically damaging, of course. I’m healing slowly from that.  It has taken me a very long time to accept myself and move forward with dropping the disguise and being my authentic self. 

When one of us is misgendered, it is a hammer blow, telling us we are failures, not working hard enough, and condemned to this living hell of being seen as something we are not. 

To one of us, that casual “oops” moment has an impact far greater than the intent. 

And no, the “fix” is not for me to “man up” or “grow a pair”.   That is not me. 

All I can do is work even harder at tracking down the last vestiges of “him” and ripping them out, while remaining true to myself and not becoming a caricature.  Others, on the other hand, can excuse callous behavior with a casual “oops” and a hand wave, and continue being casually offensive. 

No big deal, right?  “Sorry if I invalidated your identity, no biggie, I’ll try to not do it again in the next few minutes.”  While thinking “Damn, what does he want?  We put up with him wearing a dress, and didn’t use any of those offensive names for him. We are doing everything possible!”

See, this isn’t really being accepting. First, I am not and never was a man. Yes, this body had some male characteristics, but that didn’t match at all well with what was in my brain, where the primitive bits in the brain-body interface grew to run a female body. I’m a woman who was stuck with a male shell. 

I tried my best to get along in that but the distress from the mismatch became too much. Medically necessary treatments are bringing my body in line with the control systems in my brain.  

Second, I am now legally and medically a woman. My anatomy is typical of a woman post-hysterectomy with cervical closure. My blood chemistry is that of a post-menopausal woman on long term hormone replacement therapy.  My Kaiser card says “Gender: F”. My birth certificate says “Female”. My passport says “Female”. Even the mighty DMV says “SEX F”.

I have gone to a great deal of trouble to comply with this culture’s demands. With all due respect, what is wrong with you who casually call me a man?

Third, the issue of male privilege is something that comes up particularly in women’s spaces. 

When I was faking being a man, I had a passing acquaintance with male privilege. I was at the bottom of the pecking order as a wimpy effeminate introvert. I had to constantly be on guard lest I be caught out as a femme mind in that body, as the retribution would be swift and violent.

I tried to leave the assumption of my minimal male privilege behind as I transitioned to living as my authentic self. I do realize that I had a different experience than natal women growing up, but I do know what it is to be assaulted, harassed based on perceived sexuality, and have experienced “victim blaming” and “boys will be boys” (not me, my attackers) first hand. 

I am me. I am a woman. My path to womanhood is more complex than most, but I am a woman. 

Please don’t casually negate my identity. Please, make the tiniest effort to recognize me. 

Thank you. 

Saturday, September 1, 2018

I Fought For You. Will You Fight For Me?

I fought for you.  Will you fight for me?
We fought for you.  Will you fight for us?

The Trump administration is trying to attack health care for trans veterans.

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is currently asking for comments from the general public about whether to provide health care to trans veterans.

Send in a comment by September 7, 2018 telling the Trump administration that all veterans deserve the care their doctors recommend!

I am Michelle Paquette, a transgender veteran of the US Navy.  I suffered from gender dysphoria for decades, along with the socially induced depression and anxiety related to fear of discovery and condemnation.  I received the medically necessary care my doctors prescribed, and am doing much better, a happier, active member of my community and society at large.

I have seen what denying medically necessary care can do.  I have seen the anxiety and depression reaching the point where folks gave in to substance abuse, becoming alcoholics and drug abusers.  I have seen the suicides and attempts from those unable to receive proper medical care.

All eligible veterans deserve medically necessary care, and it is wrong to single out any group of veterans to deny medical care. Excluding medical treatments for gender dysphoria hurts veterans who have proudly served their country, harming their health and in some cases putting their lives at risk.

Transgender people have served with honor, for decades.  We proudly and patriotically volunteered to serve in our nations armed forces, and we feel this assault doubly on our identity, on who we are.  Our brothers, our sisters, our family and allies have been targeted.  We know the price of freedom, and this test of our freedom and resolve cannot be allowed to pass.

I was a transgender person in the US Navy, not out, but a dedicated and patriotic person there to serve my country and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign AND domestic.

Being transgender but not out made life considerably harder.

Sharon Brown, a Navy veteran now working as director of human resources at the Los Angeles LGBT Center described this.  “You’re less productive, you’re always on guard,” she explained. “It takes a lot of energy to hide who you are when that energy could be used for other things. When you can be open, you’re much happier, you’re much more engaged. The sun truly comes up when you’re allowed to be who you are and it’s shining all day long because you can actually serve as your authentic self and be proud of who you are.”

I worked very hard, as many trans military members do, and like many other trans folks, was an overachiever.  I was in the Navy Nuclear Power Program, and I impressed the staff sufficiently that I was asked to stay on for two years as an instructor after I completed the Nuclear Power Schools.  Following that tour, I was assigned to a submarine, one of the most decorated boats in the fleet, and crewed by more overachievers.  And yes, as I found out years later, that included several other trans folks.  I racked up more awards.

I received the Navy Achievement Medal, several presidential citations and command citations.  I completed a Bachelor of Science degree in Physics.  My crew was awarded the Nave Expeditionary Medal for our mission performance, along with the Battle ‘E’ and Engineering ‘E.  Besides my primary Engineering duties, I took on duties in the fire control racking party, damage control party, and was assistant ship’s photographer, recording mission data and assembling media for reports to COMSUBPAC.  I was the Engineering Dept 3M Coordinator, overseeing all maintenance and care for the nuclear power plant, engines and support systems.

Trans folks tend to be driven overachievers.  (Just ask anyone who knows me…)  We work hard to try and be accepted, far harder than those born with their assigned sex and gender identity in line, because we really do have something we need to prove.

We trans folks are among the best and brightest in the service.  We fought for you.  We served at great risk to ourselves.  We were promised by our government that after our service, we would receive care and consideration for our service as veterans.

Medical decisions should be made by medical professionals based on current standards of care. Nobody should put themselves between veterans and the care their VA health care providers have recommended.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

My Recent Surgery

Me, a few days after surgery

What Happened?
I am in recovery from a medically necessary set of surgical procedures intended to allow me to move onto the next chapter of my life, improve my safety, and make accepting me easier for others.

This does not come from a place of influence or vanity, but is to allow me to push into the next chapter of my life.

What Was Done?
I have undergone a series of medically necessary surgical procedures intended to remove inconsistencies between my gender and my facial appearance.  A series of surgeries were done to alter the appearance of my brow, eyes, nose, mouth, and jawline. 

There are differences in the shape of the skull between men and women.  Our brains contain a network that tries to guess the gender of persons we see from facial appearance as well as other cues.  In my case the facial appearance has been adjusted to read as my female gender.

How long will recovery be?
I should be back at full strength within a few months.  The facial swelling should largely subside by the end of the year, and all the tissues should have their final appearance in about a year.

Does it hurt?
Yes.  There’s a lot of tenderness, bruising, and swelling in the soft tissue of the face.

You didn’t have to…”
Please, do not speak to me from your position of privilege about what I should or should not have done, or what I need to do in the future.  My experience of the world and what I have to do for my safety and survival is very different from yours.

I do not expect you to understand, only accept.

Before and one month after comparison 

The official punch list of surgeries to be performed on me doesn’t really match what was being done, so I’ll translate a bit.

Brow reduction and eye socket:
This was the Osterhout Type 3 forehead procedure, more or less.  An incision above my hairline and extending  to just above and behind the ears was made.  The forehead is drawn down, and the bone over the frontal sinus, or brow ridge, was removed and reshaped.  Additional bone on the orbit of eyes was removed.  When the forehead was reattached the eyebrow position was raised upward slightly, particularly on the right side to correct a droop.  

There are fine incisions on the eyelids used to raise the eyelid, producing a more open appearance, and to correct that droop on the right side.

A septorhinoplasty was performed to improve the appearance of the nose as well as my breathing.  The nose appears to have a nice slope with a well-formed tip, or ‘break’, and is slightly upturned.

Lip Lift:
This looks like the traditional subnasal upper lift lip, placed with the rhinoplasty to produce a shorter upper lip, additional ‘plumping’, and a slight upturn to the tip of the nose.

Mandibular reduction:

A set of incisions are placed inside the mouth, on the gums, from which the surgeon is able to reduce the angle of the mandible, rounding the rear of the jawline, as well as reshape the ‘mental’ region forming the bone under my chin.