Back to Cali

Exhausted. Defeated. Depressed. There’s no way else to describe how I felt in the days following my last post. Returning to work after that haircut was way freaking harder than I wanted to admit. My head couldn’t have hung that low had I tried and there was absolutely no more pep in my step. Thank goodness for my friend at CG legal who had moved mountains by getting me officially transferred to Los Angeles / Long Beach. I mean, I just couldn’t take it anymore, so thankfully I was moving soon. It is common on peoples’ last day at their unit to bring their spouses or children to the office as they say their farewells. So naturally, I brought my puppy with me, since she is obviously my daughter! Very professional, right? I thought so!

IMG_8454With my last day at work in Texas behind me, I packed up my things up into my Mini Cooper and began my slow trip across country. Well, before I could really start I had to stop by the wonderful State Capitol- Austin, Texas to see some old friends. This was first time in Austin to actually see the sites and visit, and as a 26-year-old native Texan, I think I almost lost my “Texas Card”. I checked into the 5 star resort – The Roadway Inn near the highway (not all of us are made of money okay?). Once my friends showed up, we were off to the creek! (Or, if you are a good Texan, you say “off to the ole waterin’ hole”.) With the day spent tanning, enjoying my last bikini day in Texas and watching the puppy swim, it was time to go out and (obviously) drink!

For those of you who don’t know, Austin is a college town. In fact, it is one of the biggest in the country. As an alumni of the mighty Coast Guard Academy, I absolutely did not have anywhere even remotely close to a “college” kind of experience. After we pried ourselves up from our almost inevitable nap, my friends Hailey and Zach were going to show me Austin’s infamous 6th street. So, cute dress on, makeup did, I was ready to go out and take on the freaking town… UNTIL WE WALKED INTO THE FIRST BAR.

A very large portion of my classmates from our small town moved south to Austin so it shouldn’t have been a surprise when the QUARTERBACK OF MY HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL TEAM was the freaking bartender! Oh yeah, since I was the captain of the team, so you could say we knew each other. Can I say MY WORST NIGHTMARE?! (Rhetorical question, obvi I can, since I just did). I thought about what it would be like to meet up with people form High School since before I even started hormones. I wasn’t IMG_8491quite expecting it to be on a random night passing through Austin so it really threw me off that night. He was actually pretty cool about it and just asked what I had been up to, and my awkward, anxious and overwhelmed brain spit out “Oh you know, just becoming a woman”. (What the heck brain?! FOOT IN THE MOUTH MUCH?) Steven awkwardly smirked and replied “I know, I heard” and I walked very quickly and quietly away. (Very quickly).

After one drink at Quarterbacks bar, I figured there was no way that could happen again I mean, Austin is a big town, so what are the chances?? Gosh darn you Murphy and your so-called “Law”! Of course the running back was the bar tender at the next bar. OF FREAKING COURSE. This was not what I wanted to be doing tonight. Zach and Hailey were super supportive and pep-talked me through it. I was pretty shaken up, not because they had treated me badly, but because I was just not ready for these random “coming outs”. I mean, who ever is? Luckily Bryce and Steven were so nice about it. The next morning, I said my good-byes to to Hailey and Zach and headed out for the rest of my trip with the puppy!

Sunny and I had basically done the whole “camp across America” thing before (when we were moving from Cali to Texas in the first place), but things are slightly different when you are a single woman camping by yourself. My first time across I was still presenting as a “male” so this was my first time really experiencing the fear that most women have faced their entire lives. I was about to be alone in the woods camping my way across the country and you know what my biggest fear was? It wasn’t lions. It wasn’t tigers. Heck, it wasn’t even BEARS. It was MEN.

I was downright terrified that a man (or a multitude of those darned knuckle draggers) would break down my heavily fortified TENT in the middle of the night and attack me. It IMG_8610was actually all I could think about at the time. I could have driven across the country quickly and passed up all the sights to be safe, butttt I swore to myself that I would not let my anxiety negatively effect my trip so I came freaking prepared. Two hatchets, pepper spray and my big scary yellow lab-pitbull mix puppy (actually a huge baby, but they wouldn’t know that)- and my fingers were crossed that I wouldn’t have to use any of those things. I act tough and strong, but I don’t think I had it in me to hatchet someone’s face off…

Fear and all, I left Austin to CAMP. My first stop was out in West Texas at the Davis Mountain State Park. It was absolutely beautiful. We bounced from campsite / terrible motel as we made our way across country to C-A-L-F-O-R-N-I-A!! We even saw the White Sands National Park! (I swear that my dog has seen more things in this country than most people who live here. You could say that I spoil her a LITTLE.) Anyways… It really felt amazing to be back!

I may have made it back to Cali, but I still kinda had to do that whole “adult” thing and find a place to live and prepare to go to a new unit as a legal female who has to be a man at work. Whew! Same story different place I suppose? Before I even reported into my new unit I was informed that the Coast Guard still wasn’t ready for my awesome trans-ness yet. My new office had an “all hands” meeting to discuss me coming to the unit and answer any questions that my soon-to-be new co-workers had. I mean, I understand why they did it, but it was just like being publically outed to a bunch of people all at once. Kind of hurts. Bottom line was that I was going to have to report in as a man with the entire unit knowing that “the Coast Guard’s trans person” was coming. Whew!

As they say in the military: “Stand by to stand by” to see how it went!

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My Breaking Point

It was a day just like any other day. The sun was shining, the birds were chirping, the mosquitos were biting and a slight breeze was blowing the cancerous oil /chemically polluted Houston air… Oh, sorry everyone. This isn’t some Disney fairytale. I know, I know… Big shocker, my life isn’t a fairytale. But anyways! We left off with a super fun haircut. Let’s just move on from there shall we?

As my hair started to grow after the last entry, the anxiety was starting to settle in. I was NOT ready to go back into that chair again. Not even close. It was time to play my last card- my short my new WIG! For all you peeps NOT in the military, I know it sounds small or silly, but I can assure you… this was serious. Especially because I didn’t exactly get approval to do it (I know, rebel right?) In hindsight that was kind of dumb, but like we mentioned before, I was kind of backed into an emotional corner and couldn’t exactly wait to be told “no”. So, after a long weekend, I donned my dark black wig and walked into the office like “nothing had changed”. (*laughs internally*)

I’m a natural blonde. I have been blonde my whole life and will probably stay blonde until my hair starts turning grey. And even then, I will probably go into denial and keep trying to die it back to blonde. Needless to say, what I stupidly hoped would pass quietly was actually VERY obvious… DUH. My heart was racing, my palms were sweaty and my brain was in overdrive. While a couple of friends knew it was coming, the rest of my unit had no shortwigidea that the crazy transwoman was going to show up with a wig on (something that nobody in the coast guard had probably ever seen on a “guy”).

 
Despite how terrible looking that wig was, the guys in the office genuinely thought I had just dyed it that weekend. (Eye roll) Like, come on guys, OPEN YOUR EYES! Anyways, my hopes ended quite abruptly when my CO had caught wind of my shenanigans. As it turns out, he was not the happiest camper (understandably I guess). My last attempt at continuing my transition hadn’t even remotely worked out. I was told to take my wig off (completely shocking the heck out of all the guys) and hung my head in defeat, faced the music, accepted my defeat, blah, blah, blah.

Later in the day I was called into the CO’s office to get my long awaited butt chewing. As soon as I walked in and closed the door, I knew I was in trouble. I didn’t even get yelled at. I just got that look. That tone. You know the one. The one when you are young and mess up so bad that your parents aren’t even mad at you anymore. They just flat out give up on you in their disappointment with your failure as a human. Yeah, I got that tone from my CO. YIKES!!! This was way worse than any yelling could have been.

Interestingly though, they were citing “safety” as the reason I couldn’t wear it. They said a wig could “get caught in my hard hat” during an inspection. I guess they assumed that wigs were sewn directly into skulls and if it got pulled on, your whole head was ripped off. (Insert confused shoulder shrug?) That was until one of my girlfriends pointed out to them that the African American women at the unit regularly wore wigs (one of them was literally wearing on at that time). I mean, they were just grasping at straws to find an excuse to keep me from wearing it, but eventually they decided that it was not a safety issue.

Of course I did the thing nobody wants to do in a situation like this. I straight up cried like a baby. I sat there crying my freaking face off while I profusely apologized. If you have ever driven someone past anger so much to where you are just a disappointment, then you know apologies are worthless here. I couldn’t do anything to change the way they saw me now. The bottom line was that transitioning was still not allowed in the military and I was continuously pushing my command into an uncomfortable position.

I was reminded of everything that my command had done for me, how much they supported me since I came out and how many times they put their on careers on the line just for me and my transition just to have me disobey orders and draw more attention to them. Looking back though, I don’t regret it. I did what I felt I had to do with the cards I had been given. I had done my best to compromise and adhere to the existing rules while making my transition work. Despite my best efforts it was pretty obvious that the Coast Guard just flat out wasn’t ready to allow trans people to serve.

By now I was over 17 months on HRT, legally a female with a new birth certificate and I was still mandated to be a male at work. To make it worse, I was watching other transwomen within the Department of Defense be allowed to openly transition. There were transwomen with hair to their shoulders or having completed breast augmentation. There were even transmen serving / living full time in their new gender and living in barracks with the other men. News agencies had written countless articles on these individuals while the DoD allowed these individuals to be who they truly were but I couldn’t even grow my freaking hair. I know that isn’t anywhere near fair, but come on! The Coast Guard kept saying they would “follow DoD’s policy on trans service” but I had lost all faith in that sentiment.

I truly wish that the fact that I was transgender hadn’t been such an issue because I kind of loved my job. I mean, how many 26 year olds can say that they fly 100 miles off shore in a helicopter, land on a 1,000 foot oil tanker, talk with crews of people around the world, hear about their adventures while getting to walk around the ship inspecting the 10+ story engine room and cargo areas. I would venture to guess, not many. It is a shame to think that something as insignificant as my gender identity was taking away the joy of the extremely rewarding job. BIG SHAME. img_8017

In the mean time, my CO gave me one final order to cut my hair in order to “maintain good order and discipline” within the unit. Try as I might, there was no way to prevent it any longer. It was actually haircut time. I had spent so much money on my wig and my previous “wig-cut” that it was impractical to use my normal stylist. However awesome he was, I could not afford it. So I was back where I had been so many times as a child, teenager and a cadet at the academy… I was back in an F’ing SPORTS CLIPS- quite possibly one of the manliest places on the planet.

After 15 minutes of awkward sitting in a waiting room in a chair that literally looked like a bleacher seat, it was my turn. I silently drug my feet to the “operating chair” and plopped down as if I weighed a million pounds. The smell of man flooded into my pores, sports games were playing on approximately 47 flat screen TV screens all around me preventing me from drowning out this nightmare and my “stylist” was in the tightest pair of leggings on the planet, in hopes that the Type A, sex driven guys would give her a better tip. (Not working on me sister girl, SORRY!!).

I hoped that she wouldn’t ask me why I had boobs and that she would just let things be. In fact, I hoped she wouldn’t say anything at all. I just needed this to be over. The clippers started with that faint “buzz”. That sound still gives me the shivers. Every time that noise passed roughly my ear and the lady pulled my head a bit too rough I felt even heavier. I can still feel the shivers down my spine as my hair kept getting shorter and shorter. I swear that part of my soul went with each follicle of hair as it rolled off my shoulders and fell to the floor.

By some incredible miracle, I didn’t burst into tears and completely fall apart in front of that woman. It was obvious that I wasn’t exactly the happiest person at the time, but I somewhat concealed the bulk of my dismay until I got to the safety of my little mini-cooper. As soon as my door closed, years of bottled up emotions poured out all at once. I sat in the driver’s seat crying my face off, shaking uncontrollably and struggling to breath. I was having my first panic attack. I obviously couldn’t drive. Heck, I could barely even see. I called friend after friend with no answer. This Sunday afternoon would prove to be my nightmare. I had no choice but to call my therapists’ emergency number.

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Broken

Thank goodness she answered. As we talked (and I cried, sniveled and tried to breath), it became pretty obvious to me that this haircut was not just about my hair and my gender identity. It was compounded by an entire lifetime of giving myself to other people’s desires or rules. I wanted, needed, to be allowed to be myself. I was craving some sort of control over my life. I gave my childhood to my mothers every desire, lost a complete sense of safety from my rape and transitioning in the Coast Guard continued to take away my identity. The ability to be myself was becoming increasingly impossible. This last haircut was it. I was officially broken.

My transition was the first real thing I had ever truly done for ME and now this had been taken from me as well. As embarrassing as it was, I wouldn’t emotionally survive another male haircut. It just wasn’t in the cards. My resolve to try and make a change in the service was gone. One more order to cut my hair and my time in the Coast Guard would be over. It was time to look out for myself for once. I began to start expecting the worst and began to plan my departure from the service.

It looked like 17 months on hormones and 5 months out to military was my breaking point. All I could do was hide from the public and wait to see what the CG would do. I obviously hoped for the best, but it was time to get into resume writing and binge financial planning… (sighs heavily)

Since I am too emotional to continue to bring up these memories, just stay tuned to see what happens next… 😦

Back to Yorktown and a Military Haircut

Alright, alright, alright! (Matthew McConaughey reference, CHECK). Welcome back to my super amazing happy transition story!! Yup, definitely kidding there. Anyways, since my last entry was kind of a long entry, it overlapped a bit on my timeline and took me a bit out of order. Don’t you worry your little heads though, I’ll make up for my silly little oversights though. I think I can make it up here though, so give me a chance? Please? I’ll do my best I promise!! (haha, oh my goodness, EYE ROLL.. I’m on it!)

Okay, so after the new year, while the logistics of my name/ gender change were in the making, my work life was not going as happily. Having hit a year in my transition, I was no longer able to even pass as a boy anymore. I mean seriously, I didn’t even have boy clothes anymore. So having short military boy hair was starting to eat me alive. I knew that coming out was going to come with its struggles, but I was not prepared for the inner turmoil I was facing after an entire 12 months on HRT. Just all in all, NOT PREPARED.

The meetings with my command continued and to no avail. I know it was out of their hands and I was not upset with them personally. Coast Guard Headquarters were holding them hostage so to speak. Either way, I was starting to get to the end of my rope failing in my attempt to be a woman. At the same time, I had to go to a specific training in order to proceed with my career as a marine inspector. I absolutely had to go to that training course in Virginia (same place as the one before) in order to do my job. But, because of my transition I was almost was not allowed to go.

My transition was about to kill my career even worse than my rape already had. Meeting after meeting was held on my behalf. Not only at my unit, but at HQ and at the training center where the training would be held. Honestly, if I could count how many man-hours went into discussing ME I would probably be considered a rocket scientist. But, alas, since I’m not smart enough to count that high so I will just tell you that I was somehow eventually allowed to go to Port State Control School in lovely Yorktown, Virginia the beginning of March, 2016.

img_7747I may complain about all the trouble I went through, but I also had a lot of people who went to bat for me and made it possible for me to go to my training. I will forever be thankful for what they did for me. And thanks to those peeps, I showed up to Yorktown ready to learn some stuff! In order to keep everyone safe and happy, I was allowed to stay in my own room. That was a good thing and a bad thing. In order to have my own room, I had to stay in an entirely different building than all the other people in my class.

This continual isolation and separation had become a theme in how my case was handled. The gross transwoman was easier to deal with as an untouchable. I mean, I liked having my own room, but being treated differently just because I am trans still brings certain pain. In reality though, I was just lucky to be there under the circumstances. After all those meetings it was decided that I would still have to follow male pronouns and, even worse, use the men’s restrooms. The training center is not set up well like my unit in Texas City: There are no single restrooms! I would have to go into the restroom with a bunch of grown men this far in my transition. I was TERRIFIED!!

Despite the fear of being so alone and vulnerable, I guess I would give it the “ole college try” anyways? So, BOOM, I showed up to class Monday morning trying to learn some things and just HOPING that nobody would make a big deal about me being trans. I mean, who knows, maybe everyone would just see me as a guy and there would be no issues? I had only been on hormones for 15 months. That has to be easy to hide right? Psssshhhhh. Hells to the N-O-P-E!

Turns out, it was no longer possible to even pass as a male. I was sitting in class on that first day and, as in most Coast Guard classes, we had to go around the room giving introductions. As we went around the room, I made my introductions and didn’t even think twice about anything. After intros when class actually started, my nerdy loser self started asking questions. When the instructor called on me and said “yes, Mr. Miller”… You could almost hear a pin drop.

The class was completely thrown off. Everyone turned and stared at me completely baffledimg_7750 that I was called a “sir”. At the first break, I was approached by quite a few people asking me, “why did he call you a sir?” I gave them a short rundown of how HQ had ordered the instructors to use male pronouns with me. Surprisingly… Almost every one of my classmates told me that they didn’t care what HQ said, that they all saw me as a female and it made them uncomfortable to call me otherwise. To my amazement, my fellow coasties were there for me and used female pronouns when talking to me. OMG. Thanks!

Not a whole lot happened in this training like the one before. The training I had talked about last time I was not even officially “out” and the people were AWFUL to me. I couldn’t have felt more alone and isolated. But this time… I was invited to sit with people during lunch instead of going to my room and eating alone. I went to dinner with my classmates and had drinks. THEY INCLUDED ME. This trip, that caused so much anxiety before it started, had turned into a welcome change of events. While the main Coast Guard was not allowing my transition, and members at my unit were comparing me to a terrorist, this experience showed me that there were good people who would embrace the real me.

10 days after returning to Texas I went to court and had my name changed… YAY!! (see previous post on that one!). Anyways, since I have already wrote about that, I will just let that one be… But seriously, how freaking awesome?!?! But, despite my legal gender change, the Coast Guard would still not budge. Not to end the entry on a low note, but the following is a small entry that I wrote about 8 months ago on the subject. Stay tuned for more super crazy exciting entries!

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Pre Journal Entry

Journal Entry 4/15/16:

Last Friday my command had a teleconference with a super crazy face powerful person from high up in the Coast Guard with all sorts of important responsibilities, medical personnel and CG Legal in an attempt to put all the peeps handling my transition news into one place and what to do with me, so to speak, while we all wait for the policy to change.

My command have been absolutely amazing thus far, and extremely supportive and very much pushing to progress the antiquated policy. The results of the teleconference did not go as well as I had hoped, despite their support. One of the big outcomes was that, despite my legal name/ gender change and the change on my birth certificate to read “Female” the Coast Guard would continue to require me to go by the gender that “appears on the birth certificate at the time of entry into service”. This is obviously a fancy legal way of saying “Male” which meant that I must continue to present and meet the male grooming standards and go by male pronouns while at work. They asked me to “be patient and hold on until the policy changes, but if I was not able to, I was welcome to voluntarily leave the service”. OUCH.

I have been growing my hair as much as possible since I came out. I have tried my best to be as feminine as possible while pressing the male grooming standards. It has been 15 months since I first started HRT and I have been pushed to a certain limit though where I cannot keep cutting my hair and presenting 100% as a male while at work. My past trip to Yorktown where my entire class saw me as a female, regardless of my trying to hide, which showed that passing as a male was not exactly possible anymore. Even with short hair.

I know that changing a policy on the scale of the transgender policy across the entire Coast Guard is very difficult and not something to be taken lightly. That being said, I asked them to simply grant me a waiver and allow me to grow my hair while waiting for the change. I mean, they were not kicking me out for transitioning, but they weren’t allowing me to transition. This was denied and thus leads to the fun part: with reluctance, my command was forced to tell me that I HAD TO CUT MY HAIR… OMFG. NO, NO, NO!

I woke up this morning and bought a short haired wig in which I hoped to wear over my natural hair while it grew and I was still able to meet the “male” grooming standard requirement. This was great until I actually read the CG manual that says something along the lines of: “natural hair must meet the standards mentioned above” (for me, that means the male standards!! WAHHHHHH).

I was sitting in the chair at my salon, reading these requirements and literally lost it. I sat in the chair crying, phone and new wig in hand while my stylist tried his best to console me. It was at that point I realized I could not do this any longer. I could not pretend to be someone I was not. I know that it sounds pathetic and I especially know that my HAIR should not mean so much to me BUT I simply cannot shake it. Looking in the mirror and seeing this short hair, seeing myself in this “boy / girl” dual life had completely broken my resolve. My stylist, the amazing man that he is, flat out refused to cut my hair. He told me he would cut my wig and ask me to give it a shot.

I dried my tears, told him thank you with all my heart and contemplated a huge decision. If this wig compromise doesn’t work, I have resolved myself to one thing… I will have to resign my commission and “voluntarily leave the service” in order to save my sanity. I am pretty sure that is what they want anyways. I CRIED OVER MY HAIR CUT TODAY. I haven’t done that since I was cutting off my mullet (pictured) when I was tiny.   FOR SERIOUSLY WHAT THE HECK?! This transition thing is killing me.

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Legal Name and Gender Change

Hello again persons who may be reading this. Since my little 2-3 month writing hiatus that I just went through, I feel like I have some catching up on with my entries. Hopefully I am back on track to keep things rolling so that I can catch up to my current day situation! Today I am going to talk a little bit about name/ gender change. My case is probably different than a majority of other transmen and women since I was doing so in a “less than friendly state” (that is putting it very mildly). It is usually much easier (and cheaper) than this, but… this is how I got my name and gender legally changed in TEXAS.

After I had hit one year into my transition I began doing some research into name and gender changes within the state of Texas. It looked relatively straight-forward if you were just applying for a name change. I figured I could do that by myself without a lawyer. The gender change proved to be much more difficult. I did some more research and discussed the topic with a Texas Transgender support group on Facebook to get some better ideas on how to move forward. I originally wanted to file in Houston, as I was living there at the time, but I was advised that it was nearly impossible in Houston. I was then given the name of a couple of lawyers who knew how to push one of these petitions through. One was in Tarrant County (Dallas) and the other in Austin. I chose Karen Langsley in Austin.

When I first reached out to Ms. Langsley, her assistant gave me the rundown of how everything would work (including the fees). It was very expensive, but it was worth it. I know that without her, I never would have gotten the gender marker changed in that nightmare state. The state of Texas is very conservative and finding a judge who is “trans friendly” is difficult, even (arguably) the most liberal city in the state. After receiving all of my documents (and my money of course) Ms. Langsley would “watch the bench” for a trans friendly judge to rotate back on. To submit a request to any other judge would mean a waste of money and a most definite denial. I was then told, that when she knew of a friendly judge taking the seat, I would need to be able to get to the court in Austin within 2-3 days or I would miss my window. (Whew! Talk about stressful when you work full time and live 3 hours away…)

Anyways, she also gave me a list of documents and information that they would need in order to file the petition. These documents included:

  • Copy of Drivers License
  • Copy of Social Security Card
  • Copy of Passport
  • Copy of my current Birth Certificate
  • Original finger print card
  • Notarized letter from a therapist and physician (02 letters total)

The first part of the list was easy, but it took a few months for me to get the last item completed. My current physician would not give me a letter from a request over the phone and since I was paying for every appointment out of pocket, I needed to make sure the appointment I did go to was a normally scheduled appointment to prevent having to pay an additional $85 for no reason. I finally got the letters and my other information sent to /approved by Ms. Langsley and I had nothing else to do but to wait. The waiting was torture. When I was in the middle of it, all I could think about was how I was going to get unlucky and the judge was going to disapprove my request. Being active duty in the CG, I was still cutting my hair short, so I didn’t feel like I was very passable at the time and I had read enough denial stories online that I just knew that I would get denied.

So how does a girl pass time when she is nervous and has a big event coming up? Why, she img_7925shops of course. Well, not all women do that, but I certainly did. I figured, if I have short man hair, I might as well find a cute dress and shoes to wear to court! My law school friend and met up at the mall, had some chips, queso and margaritas (in true Texas style) and went shopping. It worked out for her since she was always going to need some good “court” clothes after graduating, and I obviously had to get something to wear period. Plus, it took my mind off the wait. And I sure do hate waiting for things in my life that I have no control over.   Anyways, we had a great time and I bought way more dresses and shoes than I needed (and STILL haven’t worn) but in my opinion, you can never have too many dresses…

While all of this was happening, the Coast Guard was still watching me like a hawk. I figured it was courteous of me to give them a heads up that my name and gender would change soon and asked my XO if it was okay for me to take a day of leave with short notice to meet an unknown court date. He graciously gave me the “go ahead” and within a week or two Ms. Langsley’s assistant called to inform me that I had a court date for Wednesday. Whew! “Yes ma’am I will be there”!! (Oh and… that was Monday).   Thank goodness that my command was supporting me the best they could. I was so excited!

Before she hung up, Ms. Langsley’s assistant became pretty serious. She wanted to “warn me” that how I looked could have a very significant impact on how the results went. I was told that, even if this isn’t my normal attire, “dressing the part” would be critical for at least this one day. She told me that she has seen individuals who showed up to court with a full beard and men’s clothing still (as if they had rushed there from work and had not yet come out to work yet and were trying to hide) and their claims were denied. Basically “make sure you look as feminine as possible so they believe you.”

She said this with a very heavy heart. She was very understanding about gender norms and how not everyone fits in societies imposed gender norms. But, the truth of the matter was, this was the best advice she could have given. It is so sad that this is so true. People often refer to the psychiatrist and psychologists who give the letters for surgery and other treatments to be the “gatekeepers” that a trangender person must go through to get to their goal. But in al honesty, the psychologists are just one of many, many “gatekeepers”. From our families, to our financial status, to our religious views (or families’ religious views) to psychologists, lawyers and judges who all hold their own parts of the “gatekeeping” responsibility.

As excited as I was for this big day, I was also terrified that I would not “pass the test” and my gateway towards being legally a female would remain closed. In a bizarre form of luck, I generally follow the classically imposed “gender norms” of a cisgender woman. So I made the 3 hour drive to my birth state’s Capitol in a beautiful navy blue dress, nude Michael Khors heels and a military men’s haircut. I was so nervous I didn’t even eat. Surprisingly, I had never been to Austin before. I think this counts as as good an excuse as any?

When I showed up to the courthouse, I went through security and made it to outside the img_7945courtroom trying my best not to bust my butt walking on the newly waxed tile floor in my heels. I am usually pretty darn good at it, but that damn floor made it much more difficult. Anyways, I sat outside until Ms. Langlsey’s stand in lawyer (Sadly, she was unable to make it, but her replacement was super sweet) introduced herself to myself and the other young transman and his girlfriend. We would both be having our documents and statuses changed together.

It was really quite simple at this point. We both had our turns standing up at the judges bench while she asked us a couple of questions, the last one being “do you think that this change is in the best interest of yourself and the public?” Instead of a standard It was really quite simple at this point. We both had our turns standing up at the judges bench while she asked us a couple of questions, the last one being “do you think that this change is in the best interest of yourself and the public?” Instead of a standard yes, your honor as the other man said, I couldn’t contain my excitement and I said a lot of excited things that summed up to “YESSSS!!!”

She smiled, signed my petition and dismissed me. I told her thank you and walked away. No… I floated, bounced, danced or glided out the door. I was literally jumping up and down outside asking someone to take my picture for me. It all happened so quickly after that. I got my certified copies of the petition (free for military btw), and by 2:30 on March 23rd, 2016, Tyler was gone and Taylor was born!! #welcometowomanhoodimg_7946

Looking back now, it is kind of sad that I have nobody who could have been there with me. It would have been awesome to have someone there with me for this once and a lifetime experience. It was just one more thing that I had to do alone, as so many other transmen and women have to. At least this time, my loneliness didn’t ruin the moment. I may have lost my family, but this was a culmination of so many moments in my life coming together and taking me to this moment. It may just be a couple of pieces of paper, but it represented so much more than that. So much of my transition would continue to be stressful, depressing and even heartbreaking, but at least on this day I made a huge step towards being my true self. Pretty f***king cool if you ask me.

 

 

The Coast Guard Responds

Hey, hey, hey! Man, it sure has been a long time since I wrote! These past few months sure have transpired way more different than I could have ever imagined. I have not been emotionally ready to write lately. BUT, I left everyone with a cliffhanger on the last one. I came out to the Coast Guard and to the WORLD and everything was rainbows and sunshine from then on! In fact there were unicorns prancing in the golden meadows with happy butterflies fluttering in the wind. It was so incredibly lovely…   HAHA, oh goodness. NO WAY. But… it was not all bad. Let’s get to what really happened

In the days immediately following my coming out I was img_6233incredibly happy. Nothing could  bring me down in that moment. I had my first “woman’s” Halloween. I went out with a couple of girlfriends wearing our “adult” costumes barhopping and partying. This kind of night is not special for a ciswomen, but it was a first for me so I am so thankful for the experience. Anyways: after the amazing weekend I had, it was time for me to show up to work and “face the music” so to speak.   By now the word of my coming out had come out to my coworkers and the Coast Guard would have to do something about me coming out.

 

I returned back to work strong in the resolve that I would be able to handle anything that came my way. Before I left work after being told that I was not good enough to be an officer in our service, I told my XO that I couldn’t continue to live in the shadows anymore and that I wouldn’t avoid wearing civilian clothes to continue to hide. That is exactly what I did. For the first time in about 5 months I didn’t have to wear an ace bandage/ additional shirts to go to work. Just a normal everyday bra and t-shirt, how exciting! The problem was, I still had to change in the men’s locker room. Yet, like I said before, I was strong in
the resolve to be confident and get through this.

img_6288For weeks and weeks I changed in there with multiple men. I would have to take off my shirt and clothes to put my uniform on and it was obvious how uncomfortable it made everyone (myself included). I had been “allowed to continue” to take hormones and transition without being discharged, however I would have to remain a male in all things while at work. That included the restroom and locker room. But within months there were formal and informal complaints about me. The men at the unit were hitting their breaking point.

It was to be expected I suppose. A bunch of type-A military men, living in Texas, of course they were uncomfortable. I was probably the first transwoman they had ever seen and, for any countless number of reasons, they were not comfortable with me. I know of so many individuals in the military are still vehemently against the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. An anonymous annual survey that was done by my command to determine the overall “workplace climate” revealed the true feelings of many of these individuals.

Many of my co-workers used this anonymous survey as a vehicle to vent their distaste for me. People complaining about the freak in the thong and yoga pants making them uncomfortable in the locker room, people thinking that the command was giving me special treatment for being transgender, one went so far as to compare me to “jihad” trying to refer to me as a terrorist. My command and I talked about this in private. It was decided that an individual locker would be placed in the individual bathroom for me to change in to keep everyone else happy. But honestly, knowing how much these people hated me, it was so the best thing for me as well.

I had had many meetings with my command to find some way to move forward. I showed them examples of the members who had been allowed to transition throughout the other services. I had coworkers join me. Some liked me and supported my being able to, and others who were realists and wanted to “maintain the good order and discipline” of the military. All opinions were on the table, and the Coast Guard continued to prevent my transition. I know that everyone, my command included, just had no idea what to do.

In the mean time, the news of my transition hadimg_7306 spread across the CG and made its way to the mighty Coast Guard Academy. The Academy has a group of students who support the LGBT community called Spectrum. It was formally established after the repeal of DADT. The group made contact with me and invited me to come to the Academy in the spring to talk about my transition and help discuss the trans community. WOW right? As much as I hated being at that place, it was an honor to be invited up there and help educate people on what it means to be transgender. Coast Guard Headquarters caught wind of this, and shut it down immediately. They didn’t want others seeing me, or something? I was illegally transitioning and they were technically supposed to be kicking me out after all. Probably best to hide me in a closet somewhere.

Not everything was bad though. When I wasn’t at work, I was having a great time with my friends. By this point, I was over a year into my transition. I was finally having fun. I visited New Orleans with my best friend, spent Valentines day with some girlfriends and not alone for once, and had all my paperwork filed with a lawyer for my legal name and gender change. Despite the CG’s best work to stop my transition, I was still chugging along- short hair and all.

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Note: In a parallel turn of events, the Coast Guard Investigative Services found my assailant in Guam. I was appointed a lawyer to begin to prepare me for potential trial. Things were spinning up in my life on multiple fronts… I was holding together, but I don’t know how much longer I would last. I felt like I was finally reaching my breaking point.

Hey, Mr. Coast Guard… I am a transwoman!

Hello, hello, hello there ladies and gentleman and welcome to the post you have all been waiting for… Taylor comes out to the big bad Coast Guard! It had been 4 years since my “soft coming out” where I came out to my parents. I had been on hormones for 10 months by now and it was just time. I needed to tell my friends, my classmates, my colleagues and the CG as a whole. I needed hiding to stop.  I needed to just be myself, period. Shall we jump into it?

Annnnnnd returning back to the hot, humid and mosquito infested Houston, Texas. September 2015, I was up for promotion. Of course, I was in competition with all my classmates who have super happy smooth sailing careers with super happy supportive command climates ( how bosses treated people for all you civilian peeps), rape and PTSD free lives, and great work opportunities to boost their records. The officers who are up for promotion have all of our professional records scrubbed of names, placed in front of a panel of random people who don’t know us from a homeless person on the street (other than how well our bosses wrote (or didn’t write) about us).

They sit in this room and look at these records without knowing who we are at all and just say “Yes! Now this is a good Coast Guard officer!!” or “Now this person that I have never met, have no idea what their experiences are is NOT a good CG officer based off of these random sheets of paper!” I’m sure that everyone is with me here. Rape victims with bad evaluation reports have a VERY small chance of success with this kind of system. The end of October I was called into my Executive Officer’s (XO) office. It was time for the “you’re not good enough to be in the Coast Guard, but don’t give up” talk.

Now, this is a talk that I saw coming for a long time. I had played it out in my head over and over like a crazy person so this was not even the first time I had had this conversation this week.  I was ready, but my poor XO was very much caught off guard. He called me into his office and gave me this whole spiel how he didn’t want my not being selected for promotion to negatively affect my performance or be too upset. He told me that he didn’t think I should have been passed over and continued to try to motivate me.

Unbidden, I got this dumb grin on my face. I had resolved that this was freaking it! I am not good enough to serve. The Coast Guard doesn’t want me as a service member. They wanted to send me packing quietly and without acknowledgement of what I have had to experience within the service. Basically, it was time for me to say “FUCK IT”. My XO was one of the first officers in the CG I had met who actually deserved his position and was genuinely a good person. And even though I felt slightly bad for dropping this bomb on him, but the events of my life had been leading up to this moment and I was ready to be free.

As soon as he finished his obligatory motivational speech, I told him thank you for his kind words, but I actually had something to tell him. My heart was beating out of my chest. I was hot and sweaty but freezing at the same time. I felt as though a bath-bomb had gone off in my stomach and was rippling through my body. Telling my mother affected my personal life which was hard, but telling the Coast Guard directly affected my entire life.

Anyways… I told him I was transgender. I told him that my preferred name was Taylor and that I had been actively transitioning with hormone replacement therapy for the past 10 months (which there is a very good chance he had no idea what HRT even was). I told him that I no longer felt like I could hide who I was now that I was passed over. I was no longer going to wear the ace bandage around my chest and wanted to start wearing civilian clothes. I hated not being able to be myself. 25 years of hiding was done. I was DONE.

I poured my heart into my coming out story. I left nothing on the table. When I had finished, I told my XO that I knew he had a certain position and I would not feel any negative feelings against him for doing his job. I knew that he was obligated to begin the process of discharging me and I did not want him to feel any remorse for some reason (you know, since he was such a good person). I was prepared for what was going to happen. He was shocked, but handled it surprisingly well. I was sent home with all of the other “not good enough to serve” officers (as is customary) to help us “cope with our failure” or something like that. To me, it was time to celebrate!!

My victim advocate, ally and good friend Liz went straight to my XO: She said: “so, I heard you met Taylor today” and it went from there on how much she wanted to support me. She was there for me more than I could have ever asked for. He sent her home for the day too (it was a Friday) to give me company after that news. I felt like I had been freed. For the first time in my life, I was able to post pictures of myself… of the true female me publically on Facebook. What a weight off my shoulders!

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The response from my friends was astoundingly positive. For every bad apple, there were 25 entire happy trees. I got private messages from friends that I hadn’t talked in years that warmed my heart more than own my mother had in over 6 years. Taylor was alive. Taylor was free. Taylor felt INCREDIBLE. Sure, I was deemed a worse officer than individuals who had gotten arrested for DUIs or failed out of schools for being too stupid. But for a brief moment, it didn’t fucking matter.

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Up to this point, the Department of Defense had numerous transmen and women coming out and being allowed to serve openly. There was a continuous stream of news articles following their stories and promoting their cause. The Secretary of Defense came out and issued a “hold” on discharging transgender individuals until the DoD had completed a review of the current ban. The CG had done nothing. No articles, no comments, no acknowledgment, PERIOD. It was time the Department of Homeland Security and the Coast Guard joined the fight (whether they wanted to or not).

 

Are you going to get bottom surgery?

One of the most annoying, extremely intrusive and infuriating question a transwoman can get seems to be the only question that people freaking care to ask.

“Do you plan on ‘completing the transition’? You know, like, are you going to get your penis removed?”

While I try very hard not to use profanity while writing my story, I am going to just say it… It is none of your fucking business!!   So that is the short answer, but there are three parts to this question that need addressing and I guess will answer them separately.

1. I know it is common for people to build this bridge that connects “completing transition” to bottom surgery, or Sexual Reassignment Surgery (SRS). In order to get be considered complete in your transition, one must cross this extremely costly, pretty dangerous/ invasive surgical procedure “bridge”. People view the two as though one cannot exist without the other. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

People begin to transition due to some level of “Gender Dysphoria”, the medical term used to diagnose individuals who have a significant discomfort in feeling that their emotional and psychological identity does not match their biological sex. When a person begins to transition, whether it be Male to Female (MtF) or Female to Male (FtM), they do this to alleviate the discomfort and start making their psychological identity sync up with their sex and/or gender expression.

Whether you are MtF or FtM, transition is different for everyone in that we all have varying levels of dysphoria. This also means, that we all have different transition goals, and while one person may desire SRS, another may not even take Hormones, but simply express themselves as their preferred gender through gender expression. Think of it as a spectrum, where the person who has SRS is on one end, and the person who does not take hormones at all, yet alters their gender expression through hair growth (and removal) and clothing preference, is on the other end.

The vast majority of transwomen fall somewhere in the middle of that spectrum. We may begin HRT (hormone replacement therapy) and that alone is enough to ease or gender dysphoria allowing us to live comfortably and without continual depression and anxiety about our mind and bodies. The bottom line is, transition is complete at so many varying stages for trans-people. To make that classification to any one transition path would be extremely misguided and incorrect.

2. I’m not going to elaborate on this one.  The process of bottom surgery doesn’t even entail “having your penis removed”.  Before you ask intrusive stupid questions like this, do a little more research.  If you really want to know how surgery is performed, google it.  Don’t ask a question full of such ignorance.

3. Now for the simple answer. People, seriously, it is NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS what a transwoman has in her pants. Do you go around asking people you barely know what color underwear they have? Or if they have an STD? Or if a girlfriend is on her period ? If you are having dinner with some friends, does the topic ever come up “hey so do you have a vagina or a penis?” Hmm weirdly enough, I sincerely doubt it does and that is because people have a right to privacy about that kind of thing.

Before you ask that question to a transwoman, take a deep breath, close your mouth and stop right there. You make us uncomfortable as hell talking about our private parts like that. If you have a friend who feels comfortable enough with you to open up about it, by all means take it in. But if not, just let it go. You’re not being a good friend if you pry into someone’s private life like that.

Soooooo, I say all those things simply to educate you people/person who are reading this. Hopefully you take some sort of information from this and feel somewhat educated? If not, whatever, I tried. BUT, since this is my blog, where I have opened up about anything and everything so far already (as that is kind of the point of sharing all this), I guess I will answer the question for you. Yes, I do plan on getting SRS as soon as I get everything lined up and the funds together for it. I have looked forward to it for a very long time.

Anyways, don’t ask anyone else unless we bring it up, that is just rude.