The New and Awful Feeling of Gender Dysphoria

Between last night and this morning, I was hit with a feeling that I’ve never really felt before.  For the first time in my life, I’ve been hit with crushing, depressing feeling of gender dysphoria.  It just feels awful, and it makes me want to cry.  Putting on my clothes to go to work this morning actually kind of hurt, and I really just didn’t want to even go outside today.  Having gender dysphoria feels a lot like the depression I’ve dealt with for years, but at the same time, it’s a completely different feeling, too.  Whereas depression has a distinct feeling, but not so much a distinct direction, gender dysphoria is a more abstract feeling with exact points that are focused upon.  I know without a doubt that I’m depressed and angry because I don’t want to be male, but I’ve been stuck with it.

And yet, this feeling is somehow incredibly familiar.  I feel like I’ve felt this way before, but I can’t really pinpoint any time that I can say that without a doubt I have.  Maybe it’s just deja vu.  Maybe I’m just imagining that this is something I’ve felt before.  Or maybe it’s always been there and I’ve just never seen it.  Maybe I confused it for some other form of dysphoria I’ve had during my life. Maybe it’s always just presented itself with other frustrations and bouts of depression, and the is the first time I’ve felt it by itself.

Whatever the case may be, I’m definitely feeling it now.  And I think it’s going to stay for a while.

Barry Soprano

There he is, Barry Soprano,

That musician standing alone.

Handsome as a grand piano,

Playing along on his trombone.

The people love to see him play,

And he seems to love it, too.

He plays ragtime almost all day,

The whole town loves it through and through.

He also stars in local bands

And plays in orchestras world round.

His face is known in many lands,

Synonymous with his great sound.

But what’s that look upon his face?

Comes not from a jar by the door.

He takes a shotgun from his case

And then kills himself and five more.

Results of First Appointment with Gender Therapist

So I just got back from my first appointment with a gender therapist.  It went about as well as planned, considering the situation I’m in.  Currently, I can’t get a recommendation for hormones because of time and general lack of gender dysphoria.  For the first one, I need to wait 6 months after my initial realization, so that will come around about March.  For the second, I think more of that will come with time, especially with a lot of the changes that have come in my life recently.

I do definitely feel like I’ve got a more concrete timeline for what I’m going to go through.  I kind of have a feeling now for what to expect, which is nice.  And now I can begin to plan comings out and other adjustments.

The biggest thing I learned was that I must have had a pretty open gender-neutral environment growing up.  Thinking back, I was never really pressured into any real gender roles.  I could play with matchbox cars and building blocks, or I could play with dolls and Barbies with my sister if I wanted to.  I could watch whatever TV shows I wanted to, whether that be Dexter’s Lab or Powerpuff Girls.  At family gatherings, I was free to sit in the living room and watch football or sit in the kitchen and gossip.  What I wore never really mattered much, either, especially since I didn’t really care much about what I wore.

And it was just as open at school.  My best friends throughout grade school were all really open and tolerant of just about everything.  Long hair was common on the guys, pixie cuts occasionally on the girls.  Several of my good friends are now openly gay or bi, and almost all of the others are allies.  Playful flirting was common, even between the same sexes.  And gender bending was pretty much the norm, especially in band.

That kind of environment was even there in college in my fraternity.  Being a group of social oddballs, we all had something different about us.  And it just so happens that two of my brothers are now out as gender fluid.  A couple others as bi or gay.  We’ve even considered a few trans men joining in the past few years, and given that they accepted a bid, we would be happy to have them.

And I guess that’s why my gender identity was never really questioned until recently.  Not because I didn’t necessarily have those feelings when I was younger, but because gender identity has never really ever been set in stone for me.  Now that I’ve worked out some of my other problems, gotten a steady job, reached mostly independence from my parents, and moved away from that accepting environment and out on my own, I’m now able to see more clearly that I’ve never really been okay with my gender identity as is.  I don’t really feel like one of the guys.  I’m definitely happier gossiping with the girls than watching the game.  I want to wear the frills and lace and pretty pink socks instead of the coat and tie and polo shirts.  And honestly, thinking back now, some of those things absolutely do make me feel awful.  I just hope I can convince my therapist of this as well.

Operation Makeover – Mission Accomplished

This weekend I decided to make the plunge into makeup.  And despite knowing absolutely nothing on Friday, I managed to get a pretty passable look on the first try tonight.  I’m actually starting to think that this whole transition thing might just go better than I expect.

I did learn some pretty important things about makeup this weekend, though.

Makeup is hard.

So many brands.  So many colors.  Go wrong one direction, you look like a hooker.  Go wrong the other and you look like a clown.  Too much and you look pasty.  Too little and it isn’t there.  And there’s no real good explanations out there to tell you what exactly to do with it all once you have it.

Makeup isn’t all that hard.

It’s really all just trial and error.  Apply until it looks good.  If you go too far, wipe it off and start again.

It doesn’t have to be perfect.

Just do your best, and people will still think you look good.  Don’t overdo it, and don’t worry too much.

It takes time, but not too much.

Yes, it’s a little time-consuming just to look good, but it really isn’t all that bad once you get the hang of it.  The first few times will take a little while, but with practice, it won’t take all that long.

Makeup makes a huge difference.

I can’t believe how much of a difference it made.  I can actually see some progress toward becoming a woman.  Well-done makeup can do wonders for your looks, and it can definitely give you a huge boost in self-esteem.

The next step is figuring out how to make myself look even better, which will take lots more trial and error.  But hopefully, with more practice, I’ll be able to look great in no time!

Reflections in the Puddle

The rain is beginning to fall fairly heavily now.  I love the sound of rain.  It’s so calming, so soothing.  It brings back warm memories.  Of Alice and Caleb.

I loved little Alice.  She was so sweet.  Not even six years old, she simply oozed charm.  She never did anything to harm another, and her simple wisdom rivaled that of prophets.  She always smiled, and she loved everything and everyone, especially the rain.

Alice loved the rain.  She would sit at the window and watch for hours and hours.  Her eyes were always pinned to the clouds, just watching for the tiniest break.  The she would strap on her rubber boots, don her bright yellow raincoat, grab her little Strawberry Shortcake umbrella, and dash out to the door.  For the rest of the day she would just run around and jump in the puddles all along our driveway.

Then Caleb came along.  Caleb was amazing.  About the same age as Alice, he was small, lithe, and quick both physically and mentally.  He had a wit as sharp as a sword and the brain of a rocket scientist.

One day while Alice was playing in the puddles after a rainstorm, Caleb came over to play.  His family had just moved in next door, and he was looking for a playmate.  As I watched them, I could see that Alice instantly took to Caleb.  They played together in the puddles for the rest of the day.

The next day Caleb came over to play again.  They ran around the yard playing who knows what for a while.   Then it began to rain.  I let them come inside to play for the rest of the day.  They played all kinds of little children’s games.  They searched for treasure in the bathroom, raised a family in the living room, ate plastic food for teatime, and even ruled as king and queen over the study.  Then Alice showed Caleb her favorite rain window.   They sat together at the window and watched the rain come down, holding hands all the while, until the sun came out.

Alice and Caleb rushed back outside to play again.  But this time, Caleb led Alice to the puddles, and instead of splashing in them, looked deeply into them.  The puddles were still and clear, unusually clear.

The two stood there, holding hands, until the end of the day.  They never moved and never even spoke, only stared into those clear, bright puddles.

Alice and Caleb did this after every rain for months.  Sometimes I wondered what they were doing out there, staring into the puddles.  All Alice would tell me was that they were playing in the puddles.

Then the unthinkable happened.  It was a day much like this.  Cold, dreary, and wet.  It had poured for most of the afternoon, and water was standing everywhere.  Caleb came over for a few minutes to tell Alice that he could not play today.  He and his family were going to the movies.  A few hours later, the rain stopped, and Alice went out alone to stare into those calm, bright puddles.

That was when I received the phone call from the hospital.  On the way home from the movie theater, Caleb’s family had been in an accident.  A semi jackknifed in front of them on the interstate.  There was no hope of missing it going head-on toward it at seventy.  The car was unrecognizable.  Yet somehow Caleb’s parents had survived unharmed.

Caleb was not so lucky.  He had received serious injuries in the accident, and was currently in surgery.  His mother told me that his last words before falling unconscious were, “Tell Alice I’ll be alright.”  A few hours later we got the call I had been dreading.  Caleb had not pulled through.

Caleb’s funeral was on a Thursday.  It rained that day.  Alice didn’t go out.  The puddles had turned a dull, stony gray.

It rained off and on for the next week.  Alice just sat inside and watched the rain fall down, just like the tears falling from her eyes.  After a week, the rain finally cleared up, and Alice morosely put on her rain gear and walked out to the puddle where she and Caleb had once stood hand in hand.  This puddle was unusually calm and clear today.  As she gazed into the small pool of water, I noticed a huge change in her look.  Alice suddenly became overjoyed and started jumping around the puddle.  She then sat down and talked into the puddle for the rest of the day.

She never told me what happened that day, but she continued to go out to that puddle and talk to it.  It was almost as if Caleb was still there.  Sometimes, I would even glance over and almost see him there, sitting right next to her, but when I would look again, only she was there.

About a month after Caleb’s death, there was another particularly hard downpour.  Alice sat at the window all day, just waiting for the rain to end.  As soon as it did, she ran out to that puddle and sat right next to it.  I turned around to pick something up, and I swear I saw Caleb sitting there with her, holding hands, looking into that beautiful, clear puddle.  When I turned back, she was gone.  That was the last time anyone ever saw my little Alice.

That was ten years ago now.  We’ve spent years looking for Alice, but not a trace of her has ever been found.  The only clues she left were her Strawberry Shortcake umbrella sitting next to the puddle, and a little not she left. “I’m going with Caleb today to play for a while.”  For five years I looked for her, and I stood at that damn bright and clear and calm puddle every damn day, hoping she would just come back.

Then one day I saw everything.  I looked down into that puddle, and I could not believe my eyes.  There was a whole other world reflected in that puddle, a fantastic world full of your wildest dreams, and I was reflected into it  This was Alice and Caleb’s world, come to life.  And for an instant, just before the world disappeared and rippled back into the real world, I caught a glimpse of Alice and Caleb running through the flower-laden meadows, hand in hand.

I know longer worry about my little Alice and what happened to her, for I know.  She just simply left to go play with Caleb in what they called the puddle, and what I call Heaven.  I just hope to someday be able to join them in that meadow, and we can all be happy together.  But until then, I have my memories, the rain, and the calm, clear reflections in the puddle.

Things To Remember About My Transition

When I’m trying to tell someone about my thoughts and feelings, oftentimes I have a hard time explaining them well in the moment.  As such, I can often confer information much more easily through written word than I can orally.  So, in preparation for my rapidly approaching coming out to my family and friends, I’m writing down some things to remember about the whole process so I don’t forget them when they come up.

I’m still going to be the same person.

Hormones may do some crazy things to my emotions, but overall I’m still going to be the same me.  I’m still going to enjoy watching the game and having a beer. I’m still going to love visiting the fraternity house. I’m still going to be just as excited about gaming of all kinds.  I’ll still visit family on a regular basis as long as you’ll have me, and I’ll still love you all just as much as I do now.  The only things that will really be changing are material.  My body, my clothing, my voice, my name.  I’m not changing me.

I’m not broken or sick.

The only way that’s been shown to “cure” gender dysphoria is transition to your identified gender.  I can’t just take a pill or see a doctor and suddenly be okay with living my life as a male.  It just isn’t me.

Transition is what’s going to make me happy.

I don’t want to live my life feeling miserable about myself.  I want to be able to show off who I really am and be happy about it.  If I don’t transition, I’ll continue to live my life as a lie, and that won’t make anyone feel better.

I’m not an amoral devil worshipper.

Reality check.  Just because I don’t hold the same beliefs as you doesn’t mean I don’t have any morals.  I still abide by most standard moral codes, I just differ on some of the more minor points that don’t really affect anyone but the person in question.  How is that any different from anyone else?

This is going to be a pretty long process, and it’s going to take time.

I’m not just going to be a girl overnight.  It takes time for the body to make adjustments.  And I have to adjust to it, too.  I’ve been living my whole life as a man, and now I have a lot of things to learn that most women learn much earlier in life.  And I don’t expect you to change overnight, either.  It’s going to take time to get used to the new me, and I know that.  Just be willing and able to change and have an open mind.

I’m new to this whole thing too.

I’m really early in the process, so I really don’t know a whole lot myself.  I’ve done some research and taken a few actions, but I’m not really all that far along yet.  Hopefully we can get through this together, and we’ll all come out better for it on the other side.  Just be patient and understanding because I’m going to need as much support as I can get.

How to Learn Any Class

As an owner of a level 90 of each class, I feel pretty confident in saying that, although I am definitely not an expert at most classes, I am at least marginally competent at some aspect of every one. I may not be able to top the charts on every class, but I can definitely excel enough to pull adequate numbers for the content the character is geared for. So with my credentials out of the way, I present to you the 8 easy steps to playing any class adequately.

1. Find a reason to like what you’re playing.

If you don’t like what you’re doing, you’ll never be good at it. If you’re determined to play a class, find a spec and playstyle you like. If that means you never touch PvP or PvE, so be it. You’ll have much more fun not subjecting yourself to stuff you don’t want to do, and you’ll be better for it.

2. Read about it before you even start.

Research the class. Make sure you know what you’re getting into. Icy-Veins and the WoW forums are great places to get a basic idea on how to play a class. However, take everything you read with a grain of salt. Some of this stuff will be geared more toward min/max’ers, and others of it will simply be proven false based on your own personal experience.

3. Actually level and play that character.

The best way to learn a class is to play it. When leveling, try to avoid gaming experience as much as possible. Taking fast tracks will reduce the amount of practice time while leveling, and this could definitely harm you once you reach end-game.

4. Dungeons are your friend.

Dungeoning, especially once you hit 70, is most definitely the best practice you can get. Running dungeons helps you to prepare for what playing your class will be like in a raid environment because that’s what dungeons are, a small raid training ground.

5. Remember the basics.

Often all it takes to play a class to an adequate level is simply knowledge of how to play the game in general. Avoid fire, always cast, keep up dots, use cooldowns properly, know fights, etc. You may lose out on the edges where your class excels, but anything is better than nothing.

6. Talk to people who play the class.

The best kind of education is one-on-one. Find someone who plays the class to a solid level, sit down with them in front of a target dummy, and discuss where and how you can get better. A lot of times it just takes another perspective to see where you can improve.

7. Don’t let yourself get rusty.

Keep up on class changes. Play the character on a regular basis. You won’t miss out on critical changes to your class, and you’ll be better in the long run.

8. Being adequate is expensive.

Being even mediocre requires proper gems, enchants, and reforges. Make sure you keep them up to date.

I Will Always Keep You Safe

“Goddamn jar. Why’d you have to to rust shut?” Huddled in the corner, tears mixed with sweat dripping down my face, the engraving on the lid, “I will always keep you safe,” absently mocks me as I futilely attempt to unhinge the lid.

This had always been Mark’s favorite jar. Much larger than standard, it was most likely a one-of-a-kind piece, and given the markings and color of the glass, it looked to be pretty old too. On the lid was engraved in simple script, “I will always keep you safe.” Of course, my husband the jar collector had to have it. We took it home from the flea market, and he placed it on the top of the bureau in the bedroom where it sat until now.

Soon he began to stuff the jar with various odds and ends. Birth certificates, social security cards, old coins, letters, petty cash, basically what you would normally put in a safe or old cookie jar. He called it his “safe keeping jar,” always referencing the engraving on the top.

It wasn’t long before Mark got sick. A virus was beginning to rapidly spread across the country, and he was one of the first to contract it. The doctors said it was always fatal, but that there was an experimental drug in testing that was said to cure it. He opted in. His body rejected it. As he lied there, breathing his last living breaths, he told me to empty the jar and place two new things in it.

I give up. He’s not going to keep me safe if he’s stuck in this goddamn jar. Smash. Glinting shards of antique blue glass intermix with his dull gray ashes. I grab the plastic bag from among the debris, rip it open, and aim at the door. I fire as the zombie breaks through, the bullet going straight through its forehead. Mark, I wish you were here every day, but I thank you for now twice saving me in your death. The first was when your body rejected the zombie mutagen.

You Can’t Take Everything

It’s a hell of a thing killing a man. You take away all he’s got, and all he’s ever gonna have.

As great as that sounds, especially coming from a hard-ass like Clint Eastwood, it’s not exactly the truth. Yeah, you take away his physical attachment to this world and you take away his opportunity, but you can’t ever touch his dreams, his conviction, his determination, his will. I found that out the hard way.

I guess my story starts back when I was just a little boy, old enough to know there was something off about me, but not quite old enough to understand why. I was always a little more “sensitive,” you see, or at least that’s what they call it nowadays. Basically, I could see stuff that wasn’t really there to most other people. Stuff like toys, furniture, even things as big as cars and houses. I had a bunch of imaginary friends, too. Some of them were pets like Rosco or Mittens, and others were little kids like me. Billy and Angel came by all the time to play pretend. Of course, my parents couldn’t see them, no one could. They just chalked it up to an active imagination and left it at that. Eventually, the imaginary friends just one day went away, around the same time I started school. I’d still see other stuff from time to time, but I never really thought about it.

That is, until I joined the army. My first deployment was to Panama to take down Noriega. And let me tell you, that was a hell of an awful mess. Far worse than any Clint Eastwood character’s ever seen. The weather was unbearable. Hot, humid, and raining most of the time. The operation as a whole was shittily justified, shittily planned, and shittily orchestrated. Wherever we went, we trod on the bodies of the innocent. Five hundred civilians to the three hundred casualties on both sides combined. How do you even deal with that?

Well, I sure as hell didn’t. Those imaginary friends started coming back, but this time, they had the faces of the dead around us. And they definitely didn’t want to be my friend. Those on our side were sullen and distant, preferring to stick to the background, staying out of the way. Those on the other side were more upfront and angry, giving us angry, confrontational stares, sometimes staring us right in the face as we woke up in the morning.

The worst were the civilians. Most were simply lost, drifting about as if they had no purpose. Others were angry, cursing and spitting at us. The mourners were pretty awful to witness too, just sitting to the side, crying nonstop. But the worst part? The civilians were the ones that followed. Every day there was one or two more. By the time we reached the capital, there were more of them than there were of us. It was terrifying, storming the city with the ghosts of the fallen. It was like something out of a horror story.

And it was. You see, each one of us who went down there came back with a civilian of our own. The plane I came back on was standing room only for the dead. When we landed, each one followed off with the soldier it was attached to, leaving me with a young man, not much older than I was at the time. He was never given a chance to reach his dreams, never given a chance to do something greater, and he’s mad at me for it.

And that’s why it’s a hell of a thing killing a man. Not because you take away all he’s got, but because you take away his chance at anything more. And that makes them mad. And unless you want to make my demon madder, you’d better just leave his stool and drink alone.

3

Wake up. Get ready. Go to work.

This day is no different than any other. A little cooler than normal for mid-summer, but the same nonetheless. I put on some clothes, grab my bag, and head out the door.

Write code. Take a break. Grab a drink.

Ever since a bout of insomnia in college about a year ago, my brain has been categorizing things in threes, probably as a coping mechanism to keep from forgetting things. I try to structure tasks into three parts, I choose three things to achieve today, 3000 gold profit tonight on WoW, so on and so forth. It can get pretty annoying at times, but generally I try to ignore it.

Go home. Cook dinner. Get online.

Chicken curry for dinner, one of my favorites. I sit down at my computer with my first of what will probably be three bowls. I log in, join the raid group, and proceed to punch dragons in the face for three hours.

Take a break. Hit the bathroom. Grab a drink.

I finish off my orange juice and realize that some weird noise is coming from the bedroom. Sounds like children laughing. That’s odd, considering it’s 11 PM, and the only children I ever see in the neighborhood live on the next block down.

It’s nothing. Probably just my imagination. Won’t hurt to check.

I walk into the bedroom and hear what is definitely the sound of children laughing. This is starting to get really creepy since I don’t see anyone outside. Maybe it’s downstairs, new people just moved in a few days ago.

Father. Son. Holy Ghost.

There’s one, two, three pairs of eyes staring back at me from around the doorway, and as soon as I had seen them, they’re gone. After the initial freakout, I calm down and realize that my place might just be haunted. I guess it won’t hurt to do some research and figure out if something has gone on here, or if it’s just a trick of my imagination.

Talk to the landlord. Ask around the neighborhood. Check the local newspaper.

Doesn’t look like there’s any record of anything that’s happened in or near my apartment. Guess it was just a fluke of my imagination. Then I see the headline on today’s newspaper.

Three Children Found Dead. Went missing March 2012. Located near my college.

That March was particularly rough with the insomnia. I occasionally would pass out from lack of sleep and wake up in other rooms, completely lose track what was going on, where I was, when I was, what I was doing. I call up some fraternity brothers to figure out if they know something, maybe get an alibi.

“Yeah, you were acting pretty weird then. Remember that night you came back to the house all cut up and covered in blood? It was March 3rd, the Friday before Spring Break.”

Thanks guys, now you’ve got me really freaked out. I guess I came home one night covered in blood, and I don’t remember it at all, of course in the same time period that these kids went missing. And now I hear the stupid children’s laughing coming from the other room again.

Go in. Check the room. Sounds closer here.

Well then, my affectionately named “Box of Thoughts” is right at my feet. I’ve used it through the years to collect personal trinkets, birthday cards, letters, written works, sketches, etc., etc. This is getting a little unnerving, but I can’t stop here – must open the box.

Jesus Christ. What have I done? Lord, forgive me.

How long has it been since I opened this box!? There, sitting on top, is a blood-encrusted knife, a few locks of hair, and, oh God, what is this? I vomit, realizing exactly what’s in this little plastic bag.

One. Two. Three pairs of eyes.