Thursday, April 17, 2014

Healthcare and me

This post comes at a very good time in my life. I've been very excited to get to this point and I can't wait for what tomorrow brings. In short, I'm just a few hours away from having healthcare. Why am I making such a big stink over this trivial issue? Well, I've not had healthcare for a few years now. Normally, I'm in perfect health and fit as a fiddle, if a fiddle is actually fit. :)

Anyways, this has been a very important issue to me because I have one major hurdle to cross in the, now, not so distant future. As many of my very close knit community very near and dear to me knows, I've been struggling with something that has been affecting my health for the past 12 years. It's not depression, though I've pretty much conquered that. I've had a hernia for a very long time. It's been very painful trying to deal with it. The pain on a regular basis is not fun at all. I know writing a blog about this makes a not so secret medical condition very well known to those who read this, but if I'm going to help people though my blog, then my journey, struggles, hardships, celebrations, and triumphs need to be told.

Let's take a step into the wayback machine and push the button for 2002.
There! Did everybody arrive safe and sound? :)

Life for me at this point was pretty good. My day to day life was interesting. Just getting the feel for my new job as assistant manager for a local theater in Greensboro, North Carolina. My health was great. Feeling like I could go anywhere and do anything. One day, I started noticing a lump right where my leg connects to my body. I was at first pretty concerned, being that my family has a history of cancer. I lost both my grandparents on my mom's side due to cancer and with me being only 22 at the time, I was pretty scared that I was next on the list. I've heard the stories of how it skips generations but I didn't really believe all of that.

I went to the local "Urgent Care" and had them check it out. Being that I didn't have insurance at that point, they were somewhat vague with me and kind of indicated it was a hernia, but, in the very early stages and they couldn't be sure. That's all the farther I got.

As time drew on, I noticed the lump getting larger and I knew there was nothing I could do about it. The pain really started increasing too. Many times I was on the ground crying my eyes out because it hurt so much.

When I left the theater I started needing a job and Walmart was willing to hire me. I know, don't scream and shout at me. It's all that was available to me at the time and it had insurance. In 2003, I got my footing in the new job and started working my way up and to different departments. Finally my insurance kicked in and I could see what needed to be done with this condition I had now. Finally got it truly diagnosed and did some research into how to get it taken care of. Sadly, the urgent care facility never referred me to a surgeon. I had been saving up the needed sick time so that I could take the time off work to have the surgery done. That date never came. Missed opportunity #1.

Another change of job meant that I would lose insurance, sick time, and any chance of getting this fixed any time soon. When the opportunity arose to do construction work for a wonderful guy that I went to church with, I jumped on it. Being very depressed in the job in retail, this is what my life needed, even if it meant it would be a long time before I could get the hernia fixed. 2.5 years of working somewhere that you don't like is a long time to spend doing something that makes you depressed. I spent 5 years doing construction in North Carolina and I loved every minute of it. Exciting getting to build something from nothing. I lifted plenty of heavy objects, but always took great care in what I did to protect my "condition". I never had healthcare at any time during my construction job. Quite honestly, I couldn't afford it. Money was extremely tight and there was barley enough to get all the bills paid and make sure my truck had gas for the next day and that there was food on the table.

Fast forward 5 years to 2010. The money ran out and the bills were catching up. Time for another move, back home to Kansas City. After arriving, I was able to find work at an auto parts store being a delivery driver. This came with an added bonus, health insurance. I was able to sign up quickly and I went to the doctor straight away. After going through all the proper channels and speaking with the doctor, we understood what had to be done and was making a plan for the surgery to fix it. I even met with a proper surgeon this time. One little problem loomed, "pre-existing condition". It seems that since I had this before I had insurance, I had to wait, yet again. This was fine with me because I saw the end of my problem in sight and the wait would be well worth it. Had everything planned out to have it done around my birthday later that year. Well, that never came to be due to my lawn care business taking off.

I was starting work on many people's yards and realizing that there was no way I could do all the work on the weekends. I took the plunge and decided to work for myself full time. You might ask why but the reason is simple. Would you rather get up, go to a job you hate, work with people that don't respect you, and deal with customers that yell at you? I think not. Things were very slow to start off with and business eventually picked up. When I left the auto parts store, I once again, lost insurance, sick time and any chance of having the surgery. Missed opportunity #2.

Both of my missed opportunities are very valid given the fact that I was very depressed each time being stuck in dead end jobs that didn't pay well. At the time each change happened, a change was very much needed.

Step back in the wayback machine for the last jump.
There! Everybody alright? :)

Present day is here and I'm 3 years into my lawn care business. The first 2 years were a struggle. 2 years ago was the bad drought and last year was much better but still not where it should have been. As I begin my 3rd year, I look back and reflect on all that's brought me this far. All the hardships were worth it. I'm a much stronger person and I have full control over my life and it's direction. I love what I do and I love being able to make my own schedule and I only have to worry about me. I get the be the real, true me, every single day, and more than anything, that puts the biggest smile on my face. No more hiding behind the fake person that I was. My depression is gone thanks to my transition and being true to myself and those around me.

After learning that the new healthcare law meant that I was forced into getting health insurance, I saw this as a bad thing. High priced plans that I couldn't afford just yet with a high deductible that would take me years to pay off. Then I learned that I was not discriminated against for having a pre-existing condition. My hernia could finally get fixed and I wouldn't have to wait a really long time for the coverage to kick in. So here I am today. After completing the long process of getting my ID verified, mainly because my gender marker was not changed on my social security card, I'm able to find and sign up for a plan that will fit my budget. My deductible will also be much lower, making the surgery to get the hernia fixed just that much closer.

Through all of my doctor visits, I learned that I would need about 2 weeks to recover, which could vary depending on how fast I heal. The whole procedure is outpatient and would only take about 45 minutes. Figuring that I would have to pay for everything out of pocket, I was looking at around $5,000. Money that would take me a life time to save up. The time off work can be easily managed. I'll have to wait til around Christmas, during the off season for mowing, and assuming we don't get one blizzard after another. If that's the case, I'll hire out some help to get all the driveways shoveled. That's a long ways down the road and I'll cross that bridge when I come to it. Just the excitement of having my ID finally verified is huge tonight. My legal name has been changed, along with my driver's license, and social security card. Gender marker has been changed everywhere it needs to be, driver's license included, all except for the social security card. I was told that could not be changed until after I've "had the surgery" and "completed transition" is the way the person at the SS administration told me. A load of total bunk in my mind being that right there on his desk was a signed original document from my doctor with all of the correct information that he would ever need to make the change. The driver's license chief examiner in Topeka had allowed all the changes to happen with that exact document.

After some consideration, I didn't think it would matter too much since I didn't use my SS number too often. Hmmmm, I was wrong. Little did I know that when I would go to sign up for healthcare, they would need that information and it didn't match. Legally, mentally, physically, and now medically I'm female. One stupid letter of our alphabet that had not been changed when it should have been now caused me problems. It kept causing errors when it came time to check ID. I applied for healthcare as female, because, well, I am. That's not what the SS administration said. After sending in the proper required paperwork, which was a copy of legal name change court order, doctor's letter, and a copy of my new driver's license, they confirmed that I am who I say I am. I know that, and you know that, but they didn't know that. Oh well.

So after speaking with an agent on the phone, I finally got the resolve that I needed tonight. Much stress has been relieved. Now to move on with the next step of choosing a plan and getting the date set when to finally go get my hernia fixed. You could say this has been a lifetime in the waiting, just as my transition is. I'll be contacting a local healthcare navigator to help me make my plan decision. I'm doing this because I've learned that there are plans available that help cover transition. I want to make sure I get on the right plan that works for me.

Such huge steps take much time. The future holds great things if your willing to wait for them.

So why do I have a hernia in the first place? Was it all the heavy film containers at the theater? TVs and boxes at Walmart? Heavy objects in construction? None of that. Simple genetics. Seems I was doomed to this from birth, it just didn't show up until that point in my life. Just like some could say that the Titanic was doomed to the bottom of the ocean long before the keel was laid or the first rivet ever hammered in. I'm also not just concerned about getting the hernia taken care of, due to health reasons, but the healthcare plan will help with HRT prescriptions and many other things that come about due to transition and just life in general. It's nice to know that if a rogue blade of grass decides that my leg needs to be cut wide open, or a rock tries to bump me off, then I'll be covered.

I hope my little story can be a good resource for somebody who has possibly walked a similar path as me. I try to lift people up and help them whenever I can. Thank you so much for reading this and I hope I've inspired you to believe in yourself and reach for the impossible. :)

Monday, March 10, 2014

Thoughts on getting a new driver's license.

The point I have gotten to tonight has taken me a while to get to. Many frustrations, years of doubt and depression and mental pain. This road has been hard. Self acceptance came many years ago when I fully realized who I was and what I needed to do. Getting my new driver's license tonight has taught me that if you work hard, you can achieve your dreams.

I had great fear that when I sent all my information to Topeka to be approved by the state that it would be denied, or it would take many months to hear a response back. To my surprise, 8 days after I sent the info, I got the confirmation letter in the mail stating my changes had been approved. In great anticipation I looked forward to today. Just one more step of many that needs to be completed on this journey. I am now legally female and my name and gender marker status reflects that. Am I done with transition? Not by a long shot.

Today also marks 6 full months on HRT. This fact alone I'm very grateful for. I look forward to the continued changes ahead. Some will be easy, some will not. Laser hair treatments, SRS surgery, and many other things lay ahead. I anticipate each one of them, knowing that I'll be one step closer to fully living my dream.

In the past, I've heard many people, including the worship pastor at the church I used to go to, say "Livin' the dream!" I always wanted to say that I was, but until now, I really haven't been. I was in many bands at the church, which was one of my dreams in itself. Now I'm a part of a band that loves me and accepts me for who I am, the real true me. After today, I can really say that I'm livin' the dream.

In today's world, we are driven by absolutes. Interesting that a simple little piece of paper or plastic can determine a person's status in life. I've never let those make or break who I am. That resides in my heart, a true belief in one's self. Even though it's just a simple little piece of plastic with my picture and name on it, a very good picture I might add, it's not what defines me. It's just one of those many steps that I've undergone that help to represent who I am. I truly cherish every moment of my life now. I'm livin' the dream and very proud of that fact. So glad to be where I am today. I would not trade this for anything.

Some people say that if they would choose to do life over again, they would be fully female and not a trans person. I'm actually very thankful God made me this way and if I had to do my life over again, I wouldn't change anything at all. If I was not a trans person, but just a normal female, would I be happy? Most definitely yes. But I wouldn't be able to have the impact on people's lives the way I do now. I have the ability to listen, and to share my thoughts, feelings, and experiences in ways that can help people and lift them up in their time of need. I wouldn't change that for anything. So proud of who I am and my impact on this world is just beginning. Will I ever live in full stealth? I doubt it. So many of us need help with many aspects of their lives that I feel I need to be a light and a hand reaching out when they need it most. Most times the goal is just to blend into society as another female. As of now, this already happens for me. I'm properly recognized in the correct gender anywhere I go. Very satisfying to know how people see me and that they respond properly. When the time comes to be a voice for people who need it, I'll be there.

If your reading this and struggling with who you are and the world around you, then please contact me. If I'm not able to help comfort and guide you, I know of people who can assist. No one can do this alone. Life is tough but don't give up. Live every day like it's your last and cherish every breath. :)

The design of something great.

I have decided to design something I've always wanted. I know this will take me many years to finish, mainly due to needing the funding and time, but, like my transition and home ownership, will be a HUGE dream of mine.

About 12-13 years ago, I purchased plans for an organ console. This was before I had even found and decided to buy the 3 manual theater organ I have now. The plans only cost me about $25 but I felt it was well worth every penny. They got rolled up and put away as one of those "would be nice someday" projects. I moved from place to place, experienced life in all of it's glory, and continued on. Now that I have the house that I will probably keep for most of the rest of my life, I have the music room of my dreams. Time to add the finishing tough to it all.

The plans that I bought were for a 3 manual draw knob organ console. Originally, I had thought it would be very expensive to build this, but through recent discoveries, it would not be as expensive as I thought. I am not currently skilled enough to build the console itself, although I could help. A little bit of pride goes into shaping and finishing the wood for something that will create beautiful music. Music that will stir the hearts and souls of all who listen. Music that will impact lives. I believe very strongly in this.

When I first bought the plans, I had figured my little adventure would cost about $10,000-15,000. Now, I believe it will cost MUCH less. As I'm not looking to make it into a full working instrument capable of making music on it's own, this would in turn be, in theory, the equivalent of a normal keyboard, just on a massive scale. The drawings specify 3 keyboards (manuals) with full pedal board of 32 notes. Instead of a self containing sound system and computer to run it all, which would get very expensive, all this will have is keyboards and pedals connected to a desktop computer via a very sophisticated control system. Nowadays the control system has gotten very simple and very inexpensive.

There will still be a good amount of buttons below each keyboard that control what are called combination action. What that means is that when the button or "piston" is pressed, a preset selection of knobs "stops" are activated. They can be programmed in the software very easily. This allows the organist to bring up totally different registrations in an instant.

Say for instance that I'm playing a piece of music, say Feed The Birds from Mary Poppins. Most of the song is fairly quiet and very few stops are needed to create the lush sound needed for the piece, even when accompanying a singer. After one of the verses, a more full and rich sound is needed to really enhance the feelings and emotions of a repeat of the chorus where the soloist is not singing. This would be very tough to do if I had to look up and draw every stop that I needed to create the sound desired. With the push of a combination action piston, the result is instant. No fiddling around. When a less full sound is desired, just push another piston and the sound totally changes. On some larger instruments with 4-5 manuals and over 100-150 stops, combination action pistons are crucial, due to the massive size and tonal resources on the organ. They can be preset to whatever the organist desires and reset or recalled at any given time.

This organ will also include "swell" shoes, which are the volume control of the organ. Since actual wind blown pipes only speak at one volume, many times they are placed in a box or chamber. On the front of the chamber or box are very large vertical or horizontal Venetian blinds that open and close. Think of it this way. Say you go to a store and you hear somebody in the parking lot with more sound system in their car than brains. Somebody gets out of the car and the door opens with the radio on. You immediately hear a loud volume of sound, due to the door being open. This is the same thing as having the blinds or "swell shades" open on the pipe chamber. The person gets out and closes the door and the sound is muffled again and the volume goes down, in your perception. Now the swell shades are closed again. Since the actual volume of the radio never changed in this experiment, the box containing the sound was opened and closed, thus resulting in the perceived volume change. Your ear was, in theory, tricked. Opening the swell shades lets the sound out of the box and, to your ear, increases the volume. Closing the shades results in what your ear thinks is a decrease in volume, when in all actuality the volume level of the pipes themselves has never changed. Pretty cool trick, huh? All of this happens without anybody ever knowing and it creates very good expression in music, just as a symphony orchestra would get louder and softer. The particular swell shoes that will be in my instrument will control virtual swell shoes. The same thing will happen, just on a computer instead of the real thing.

What does all of this mean? Well, it simply means that, through the use of a computer and advanced equipment, I'll be able to play virtually any instrument I can think of. Special software on the computer connected to the organ will allow any virtual organ or virtual instrument to be played from any key or pedal on the console. Small chamber organs dating back to the time of Bach and Mozart, large organs that are in some churches and cathedrals today, to something as simple as a flute or saxophone or even a simulated guitar or piano. If you can dream of it, it's capable of being played through this setup. Prerecorded sound effects are also possible. Not only will this be an organ console, but it's a musical keyboard, just like you could go and get from the music store.

Why build something like this? Realism. An organist who studies, like I do, and one who is really proficient at playing, can't play well or very effectively with many generic keyboards randomly attached to a computer. Besides, the cost per keyboard could push past the limits of the budget, not to mention how do you go to stack them all. Them you still have to deal with the matter of the pedals and swell shoes and combination action pistons. Well, I think you get the idea. True realism and ease of play-ability is only achieved through a console like in the designs I purchased all those years ago.

How will all of this make sound? The organ and computer will be connected to the sound system in the music room. This consists of a mixing board and multiple amps and speakers. The computer will also have many sound cards, to be able to direct to different speakers where the sound actually comes from. Thus simulating different pipe chambers in a room. When you really think about it, older pipe organs with chambers spread all over a room is true surround sound, a lifetime before digital surround sound was ever invented. The setup I'm designing will be very loud at times, along with so quiet you can barely hear anything at all. Also recreating the true realism found in the real thing.

I've decided to do this project because I feel I'm at a good point in my life to do so. From the very first day I learned how to play the organ, almost 18 years ago, I have wanted and needed something I could play on at home that was as close to the real deal as I could possibly get. This most definitely fulfills that. Through that, my skills and value as a musician would get better. I also plan on keeping the existing theater organ I have. Originally I wanted to add these capabilities to that instrument, but I'm realizing that what needs to be done digitally is not easily possible with that organ without major modification and that could also risk the original sound of that organ that is so revered by many people. Conn had a special thing when that organ was built in 1979. The tonal choices, warmth of sound and all of it's qualities is hard to come by these days. I don't want to harm that. It still needs to have the electrical issues fixed to the original playable state, but that will happen over time also.

I'm very excited about this project and I can't wait to get started on it. Good things come to those who wait. I've been very patient all these years and it's finally time to start living my dreams. As I sit here and type this, on the day that I went to get my new driver's license reflecting my new life, I'm reminded that another dream of mine has come true today. I'm so very proud of the life I have now and the people who are in it. So glad to be alive. Things are only getting better. When this project is complete, another dream will come true and I'll be much more effective in what I'm able to do as a musician. I could even do organ duets with my mom and that in itself will be amazing. Dream on, and never sell yourself short. Live life as full as you can. :)

Friday, March 7, 2014

Building a life, brick by brick.

What has the Melodious one been up to? Well, not too much. Enjoying the warmer weather, getting things done around the house and just generally not trying to cause any mayhem or destruction.

It would seem as though my skills in the realm of construction are once again needed. Besides helping my close sister Rachael, I had an interesting phone call tonight about somebody from my past life who needs a hand.

On my way to dinner with Melissa, the phone rang and I didn't recognize the number. Local area code and I just figured it was somebody calling about a new yard for me to do or somebody wanting a quote, so I answered. It turns out that it was somebody who I have done yard work for in the past but never met face to face. His fiance at the time was who I was doing the yard work for. I think they are married now. He told me who he was, still calling me by my old name, and that he was looking for me, or anybody else that I knew that could read a tape measure. I told him that I was fully able to. 5+ years of doing construction in a former life has it's rewards. He said that he is a co owner of a small construction company and that they are behind on a job that has to be framed up by this coming Tuesday night. I told him I could come and help. This is somebody from my past who knows nothing about my transition. I told him I'd contact him later on to discuss more about what he needed.

After dinner, I went back home and made the phone call. I didn't know how he would react to me but I knew, from they way he was speaking, that they really needed some serious help in a pinch to meet the deadline they had. Not fully knowing for sure what to say I carried along. Sometimes, I've found, when we have to talk to somebody on the spot about things like this, words seem to flow better and the general idea is brought across a little bit more effectively. I prefer a more in depth discussion most of the time, but in a pinch, this works.

I told him that since he and I had talked last, I had undergone great changes in my life. I began telling him about my transition and that I'm now legally female. To my surprise, he was very understanding, again fulfilling my theory of how people react to us that I have called "Melody's Theory of Acceptance". We get so scared about how people may react or what they may say that we are actually shocked when they fully understand and accept us for who we are. I've seen this and heard about this so many different times from so many different people.

We talked for a bit about why I am this way and my struggles through life and the huge depression I had because of it and how I was able to seek help and have now become the person I always should have been from birth. I didn't go into much detail at all, this was only the Cliff Notes version, but he is very accepting now. So much so, that he told me if anybody starting talking bad about me and who I am, or started talking about me behind my back, that he would fire them on the spot. The company he is co owner of is fairly small, I believe. They do not tolerate discrimination and he wants to make sure I feel good and am able to help them with the job that needs to be done. I'm very grateful for that.

At times, I view being fired on the spot as a little harsh, but when you really boil it down, you see that discrimination is a form of abuse, weather it's mental or physical, or both. It's very hurtful to the receiving end of the deal and it hurts more than people can imagine. Discrimination, in any form, causes depression, anxiety, and even in some cases, suicidal thoughts. I know I wouldn't want to be doing nothing but my job all day and having people talk about about me, even behind my back. People have done that all my life, so I'm used to it, but I've gotten to the point in my life where I just don't take it anymore. I figure that if you have the guts to say something bad about me, it should be done to my face, or don't say anything bad at all.

He and I discussed the job at hand that needs to be done and he told me when I needed to be there and where it was. Apparently I'll be helping him by cutting steel studs for walls, something I've done before, albeit almost 10 years ago. Will be no problem at all. Told him I was fully capable of anything he set before me to do. That fact he really liked. I also admire somebody's willingness to work, and work hard. Honest pay for an honest day.

In the process of our discussion, we talked about how my business has grown and that I'm so very proud of how many yards I have and that I've desired to do well for a long time. He was amazed at how well I'm doing. Has taken me a little while to get to this point, but I'm so very glad I am where I am today. I can also faithfully say that about my life too. So very glad to be where I am. The people I know and interact with are truly remarkable. Such a joy to wake up every day and know that I'm on the right track.

Not wanting to keep him on the phone all night talking, we discussed a few more details about the job and he thanked me so very much for helping out and being there when they need it. They will only need me for a couple of days, just long enough to get this job caught up, then I'll be back to being electrician girl and proud owner of my lawn care company. There is always the possibility that he will need me in the future so I must shine as bright as I can so he will know where to turn if the need for help arises again.

It's a great strength and joy of mine to be able to help anybody, whenever I can. It's even more of a bonus when they accept me for who I am and know that it won't affect my job or performance in any way.

Monday I was going to work on preparations in the back yard to move the shed where it needs to go here at home, but the opportunity to help somebody, and to make a little extra money at the same time, is way too good to just pass up. The shed will get moved, just a few days later. All good things in time. Helping somebody is way more important, the money just happens to be a good bonus.

Don't ever sell yourself short on anything. Be strong and courageous in everything you do. People will see your light and they are drawn to it. Reach for the moon and aim for the stars. If you believe you can do something, you will be able to do it.

The lesson in all of this is that we need to have confidence, in everything. Not just in who we are, but in all that we do. I had the confidence to talk to this person tonight, mainly because it had to be done, but also I felt that I didn't want to hide anything at all. He also thanked me for letting him know about me. I'm sure he will have questions, but I will be there to have as many answers as I can. Will be such a wonderful feeling to be viewed as just be another girl when I start this side job. I'm viewed as just another girl every where I go now, but it's still special to be in a man's world and to let them know that a girl can do things just as good as they can. This will be interesting, to say the least. :)

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Christian Journey Letter

I know it's been a little while since my last post but I thought that I needed to share some more info.

My name is fully changed at this point and I sent my information for gender marker change to Topeka for approval, then I can go get my new driver's license. Social security has changed my name but I was told that my gender marker can't be changed until after I've completed transition and had the surgery. I think this info is false, but I'm just not sure, or even sure how to change it. All good things come to those who wait. I'll just have to be patient in this.

Recently I had to send a letter to a friend of mine at the church I used to go to. Through the grapevine he heard about me and was very persistent about stopping me from continuing my journey. Claiming that it would lead to death and that I would not be able to fulfill God's creation by not being able to procreate. I already have a son. I plan on no more. My work there is done. What I did tell him, as you will see in the following letter, is that I know, deep down inside, that I'm on the correct path for my life. I've prayed my whole life to be shown the correct path for me, now it's coming true. By no means is this a full and complete autobiography, this is just a short 6 page summary of my life up to this point. There is greater detail that can be said, but I can save that for a book and really elaborate on everything. The way I had to speak to him was in a way he could understand. Always been raised in the church, Liberty University for studies, and now a church staff member, he is on the path God has chosen for him.

I believe, with every fiber of my being, that what I'm doing is right and that God has way more in store for me than I can possibly even imagine. That's actually what he has planned for each of us, if we just believe. If you want to truly know what this means, please contact me further and I'll help lead you in the correct direction. Thank you so much for reading this letter and I hope you can get a better picture of me. I also, sometime in the future, would love to speak to churches, schools, colleges, business, or anybody else who would love to hear about my journey and why I'm doing this, along with my Christian perspective. The world truly needs to know that we are still human.

     I know that you are concerned, worried, upset, frustrated, confused, and sad. I will do my best in this email, hopefully not a book, to answer each and every one of those issues, and then some.

Let me tell you about my life. When I was 2-4 years old, I started having feelings I could not explain. I felt different, in so many ways, from everybody else. I grew up knowing I was different but I could never explain or figure out why. I found Jesus at around 8 years old. I fully knew about trusting him and what that meant for my life and why. I was baptized in a local church, along with my brother 2 years younger, and my sister, 4 years younger. We all fully knew what we were doing and understood everything about it.

All through my childhood, I tried to just be what I thought was normal and tried to just blend in, but I couldn't. Frustrated with life, I persevered. Being brought up in a good Christian home was very good. Church, every Sunday, is a staple in my life. Elementary school was alright. I had my fair share of problems, mainly cause I was too smart and different. I got things done pretty much faster than everybody else so I got bored easily. Middle school was even worse. I was made fun of and ridiculed. As a result, I had very few friends. Nobody I could turn to for guidance, besides Jesus. Everybody desires to be wanted and loved, I had none of that. I knew God loved me and that's what counts the most. That got me through some difficult times.

High school was also very rough, sometimes more so than middle school. The ridicule and others jokes and fun, at my expense, didn't end. I could never fit in and still had very few friends. I just focused on my music and tried keeping on with life, still knowing I was different but could never put my finger on why. I knew how I felt, which was an outcast and an outsider. It sure isn't easy carrying the burden of knowing how different I felt from everybody else. Still, my trust and faith in Jesus grew, as did my depression and self hate.

After high school, I carried on with life, working a couple of jobs and trying to fit in. Got married in 2002 and moved to North Carolina to start a new life. I thought things would be different, but the feelings grew. There was nothing I could do about it. My faith in Jesus grew stronger also as I got more involved in the church there. I had to try and carry on with life and try to be the best person I could possibly be, all the while I was growing more and more depressed. This part of my life, something I could never explain, kept creeping back in, even though I tried to have it escape my mind. I prayed about it and trusted in God to help me solve this problem I had.

Instead of banishing the thoughts from my mind, He in turn, gave me the keys and the ability to start unlocking why I had all of these feelings. From that point on, roughly 2004, I started the research into the difficulties I've had for my entire life. Nobody but me, knew of anything. My son was born in 2004 and I thought that having him in my life would help change my feelings that I had, but it didn't. I still was seeking God's will and He, in turn, kept showing me what I needed to see in my research. The answers kept coming to me. After the marriage fell apart in 2008, not due to any of this in the least bit, I started to focus on my so called “problem” and try to figure out more about it. Prayer, faithfulness on my end, truth, and love still did not save the marriage. I had done everything I knew how to do, but it still was not enough. Even counseling sessions didn't help.

Finally, I came to the realization that God had made me the way I am, all of these thoughts and feelings included. It was also very clear that I was this way for a reason. Living by myself gave me the opportunity for more research and evaluation. God had a plan for my life and he was showing me every single day what that plan truly was, I just didn't understand it at the time. My depression also grew greatly during this time. Not only the loss of companionship, but the fear of what I was dealing with grew too. I began to hate myself greatly. Not liking the person I saw in the mirror was a very big part of this. For some strange reason, the person I saw was not the true me. There was somebody hiding behind the face I saw in the mirror. I asked God to help me and he showed me what I needed to know. All the information I needed was right there, I just had to find it. Once I did, I began to finally understand why I had these feelings.

I began speaking with a few people during my online music DJ days, and through those relationships, I began exploring more about my strange feelings. Talking to them gave me an outlet to voice things to and to also hear ideas and other thoughts. I had created a person in the virtual world, thinking it was to be a model of the perfect person that I could see myself being with. After much thought, deliberation, prayer, and help from my support system around me, it soon became clear that the person I had created was the person that I was, deep down inside. At that moment, the light bulb came on and life had a whole new meaning for me. Through the help of my closest friends around me, both in the real world, and people online that I dearly trusted, and most of all, God, I saw my true direction in life.

I kept working doing construction and just trying to live life, still knowing my new direction but I knew I couldn't talk to anybody about any of it because it was so foreign. More research online led me to groups of people who explained the way they felt and every time I saw or read something, it was like I had wrote it myself. Every thought or feeling the other person conveyed was a carbon copy of exactly what I had always felt my whole life. I finally knew I wasn't alone. I now knew that my life was about to become radically different in so many great ways, and thus began my incredible journey.

I became aware of myself and starting the very beginnings of discovering what these feelings meant as early as 2000. The light bulb finally came on in late 2008. The feelings meant that my self hatred and depression was very well founded. I didn't do much with this knowledge, but just exist, for a few years. I knew why I was this way, now I just needed to find out how to get help on this. I started seeking God in true earnest and all he did was keep opening doors for me and answering my prayers. It was at that point that I was without a doubt that this was his plan for me. My prayers were being answered.

I moved back home to Kansas City in early 2010 and was then faced with the difficult task of talking to my family about who I was. At times I hated who I was and my life so much that I wanted to end my life, but I could see God's hand in every aspect of my being and came to the conclusion that doing that was not the answer. My faith in Him made sure I would never do that. Though, early in, I entertained the thought on occasion that it would have been better for me to be singing with him in Heaven, than be here on Earth dealing with these feelings and problems. I finally got to the point where I could just let go and embrace who I was, instead of fighting it. It was time to love myself. I also learned I wasn't alone, in any of these feelings.

I met a truly wonderful woman named Tracie in December of 2011 and after a few months into our relationship, I wanted to tell her about these thoughts and feelings, so I gathered up the courage and I did. I prayed about that for months before I told her and it came out beautifully. I ended up telling her before anybody else. She supported me in my decision. I trusted Tracie more than I did my own family. Being away from them for 8 years meant we didn't talk much and we wern't very close anymore. I had to get close to them again before I could tell them.

A few years ago, I stumbled across a website for a local therapist that I could go to, to talk about these feelings. I kept putting off making an appointment, mainly due to money issues. My lawn business had just started full time and I wasn't on my feet yet. Once again, God opened the door and He put me in contact with some great people and in turn, I took over another lawn company. As a result of that, my productivity doubled and so did my finances. I could finally stop putting off making that phone call to the therapist, all because of God's help and guidance and His will for my life.

Tracie assisted me in talking to my mom. At this point in my life, only Tracie and my mom knew about who I was and the way I felt. I decided to tell my sister. Surprisingly, she fully understood and supported me in anything I was doing. That is the mark of a true family. To stand by each other, even when they don't fully understand everything about each other. Not long after I told my sister, I made the phone call to the therapist. This was somebody who specializes in these feelings and thoughts. My life began to change for the better as my curiosity and depression cloud started to lift.

What are these thoughts and feelings called? Well, the term is known as Transgender. It basically means that I do not identify with the body I was born into and that I identify more with the opposite gender. I know that's hard to understand, it took a little bit for me to understand that also, but when I did, everything finally made sense. God had brought me to this place in my life. Someplace I had struggled to get to for a very long time. I could not deny all of the feelings and thoughts I had since I was a baby. God knew me before I was born. He chose to make me this way.

What does all of this mean? In a nutshell, it means that I'm on an incredible journey that will help me to become the person I always should have been, from birth. Do I expect everybody to understand this? No. That would be like asking water to flow backwards up the river, not going to happen. There will be many that don't understand how or why I could do this or be this way. My faith has brought me thus far and it will continue to carry me farther. These thoughts and feelings mean that I have always deep down felt like a woman, no matter how hard I've tried to hide it. I started growing my hair out in late 2009, and not because I was trying to be rebellious. My exwife never liked my hair long but I did. Once I could be myself, then I let it grow, which became a great help in how others view me on my journey. I didn't have to wait for it to grow, it was already there.

Most people will ask why did I chose to do this. My simple rely is that yes, this is a choice, but not the choice your thinking of. The choice is not weather or not I should or should not do this, but it's actually the choice to live when I could have easily chosen to die. Sadly, 40-50% of transgender people do kill themselves. The reasons for this can vary from person to person. For some, they simply cannot afford the financial aspect of transition, some deal with stress and pain from their families, friends and social circles. Some look at this as a nice goal but think that they will never be able to achieve it. More and more reasons are out there but the end result is that in turn, they keep in their downward spiral of depression and sadness, eventually lose contact with everybody and every thing, then death is their only option that they see fit to help them end the sadness, and then they take their life. I have chosen not to become one of those people. I'm embracing who I am because God made me this way. So the choice is simple, to live, or to die. I've chosen to live. It's also possible to be dead but be perfectly alive. This means that you feel your life has no value or merit. Depression and self hate drive your every move and your just a stone's throw away from death.

God has also shown me that I need to reach out to these people who are hurting and on the downward spiral to help them before they take the ultimate move. Every door has been opened, by Him, to do this. I feel it's my calling in life to reach out to others who are struggling and show them that God's love overcomes all, and yes, you can be born this way and still serve the Kingdom of God and be a child of His.

My faith and walk with God is much stronger now than it ever has been. I see new direction in my life and new hope. My depression is pretty much wiped away. Made clean by my faith, and knowing I'm doing the right thing according to His plan for my life. My reason for living is to reach out to others with the gospel and help them to understand and embrace who they are and to start loving the person inside. Many, many years have been spent praying for this. God answers in mysterious and powerful ways.

Some would say that I'm still in the beginning stages of my transition, but things have come so easily and natural to me that I'm already considered full time. What does that mean? Simply that my voice, mannerisms, body, and mind reflect that of a female, all of the time. I now know this is a place I've needed to get to for my entire life. This also means that as of February 24th, my name and official documentation will reflect my true status in life. Why am I doing this? Because if I hadn't, I may have very well become one of those 40-50%, and I just couldn't do that. I was at death's door a couple of times. Comicly you could ask “why didn't you knock?”. To that I would respond that God kept me from doing that. In the midst of all my struggles, there He was, guiding me and showing me what I needed to know.

As a result of my transition and being more happy and self confident, my business has grown, much more so than I could have ever imagined. My friends and support group has grown also. I know people now that I could have never imagined meeting, even just a year ago. I have a sisterhood that loves me and we help each other through life.

Some would say that I'm going against the “church”. To that I say that I can't help how God created me. I love the fact that God created me this way. This, actually, is very much like what black people went through during the massive struggle they endured when many in the world, some churches included, didn't think that they were created in God's eyes. In fact, everybody was created in God's eyes. I see that now more than ever. Just as churches have changed and adapted to be more welcoming and loving to everybody during that whole struggle, I see churches changing now. As a church, who preaches the Word of God, we are supposed to not turn anybody away, no matter how bad we think they are, but instead be welcoming and loving, just as Jesus did for us. I see the church eventually changing to adapt, but the road will be long, laced with much struggle. Teaching people that Jesus is the true savior of this world is of paramount importance.

I will still carry on with my music and talents. I've even seen that blossom as well. I'm using it to reach groups of people that I could have only dreamed of when I first started teaching myself how to play any of my instruments. I'm able to impact people on a much broader scale, through a lawn and a song. I wish that I could have continued playing bass where I was, but I fully knew how the church felt about people like me, thus I could not continue. I love the church but the church doesn't love me.

You ask what you can to do help me stop this? There is nothing, nor would I ever want that. That would be taking away my right to live, and not only that, but to live a happy and fulfilling life serving my Lord and Savior. Some people like me, for one reason or another, have had to “detransition”, meaning they can't continue with their transition. Usually because they run out of money or a serious family issue. That is something I can never do. I have the will and determination to see this through and nothing can change that.

How has all of this affected my relationship with my son? That part, as of yet, is still unknown, as I've not had the opportunity to speak with him or my exwife about me. Very shortly this will happen and my son has faith in me and will carry on a great loving relationship with me. Many people have gone through this and children don't seem to mind one bit. He will handle it well. He has always been known to adapt to certain things. Truly a great kid and much smarter than I ever thought possible.

Some people would say that being Transgender has to do with sexuality, it does not at all. Sexuality is how you feel your attracted to the same or opposite sex. Transgender has has everything to do with how you view your own gender. Not in the fact of how you view others, but how you view your own gender in regards to what gender you feel you truly are and then take the road of transition, through one form or another, to become the person they are inside. My entire life I've felt and believed I was female. Now this is actually true.

Good responses take time, this just needed some explanation. My hope through all of this is that you understand more about me and to know that I have never wavered away from God and that I've trusted Jesus all along.

Tracie and I are no longer together as a couple, mainly due to the fact of my transition. She is curious though and wants to meet others like me so she can be educated and have a greater understanding of my struggles and what it's like to be the way I am, which is not a bad thing. That is very noble of her.

I'm always here for any questions you have or just to talk. This is such a new concept for many people that human nature is to hate what we don't know or understand. This should not be the case when it comes to this. I am, in fact, not harming my body in any way. I'm on a natural progression through my life and I'm enjoying every step. Knowing somebody's story and history helps you to lessen your hate for the unknown due to not understanding. I'm so very excited about the changes coming my way, not only with my body, but with my life. I plan to eventually use my story and experiences in life to speak publicly at events to help educate people about the transgender community and also how my faith has gotten me through when I could have just given up.

I believe and trust in the same God you do, I always have. Be strong in the Lord, and He will give you strength. Seek Ye first the Kingdom of God, and all these things will be added unto you.

I hope this will answer your questions. As strange as this sounds, in no way is this a fleshly desire. All of this is brought about by God. I choose to do his will in my life. There is no point in serving him if I can't be happy. I can't bring people to Jesus if I'm unhappy with my life. Serving him brings me so much joy, as does my incredible journey because I know that I'm able to serve him more effectively and reach people who may not otherwise hear the gospel. I cherish every moment of my life now because I'm so happy. How do I know for sure this is not a worldly pleasure? Because I have prayed my whole life about this and God has always shown me the true way for me. This is it.

I trust in your confidentiality in this matter. If you need to speak to somebody about me, which shouldn't happen in the first place because I don't go talking about people behind their backs, so unchristian like, then I would like to be asked for permission to do so. I'm still the same person I always have been and that will never change. I just look, sound, and act a little different than what people remember. My sense of humor has increased greatly along with being hyper aware of my surroundings. I see and hear things most people can't and am always vigilant of what's going on around me. I'm much more clam now and less prone to being frustrated with things like I was before. I had a very short fuse, that is no more. I've become more relaxed in life and I don't let people or situations get to me. The new person that I already am, and becoming, is incredible. I do not take my life for granted and I live every moment like it's my last.

I'm here if you need to talk. Thank you for reading this and I hope you will understand more now and be less confused. I'm not against you or anybody else. The Bible has taught me how to love everybody and I do just that, I always have and always will. Have a blessed day and know that I'm a very proud child of God.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Proper sanding

     I know this post sounds a lot like how to use a sander to refine a piece of wood your working with. Actually, the same principal can be applied to how we treat others towards our transitions.

     Last night, while talking with some sisters, I came across an interesting idea. When you want to refine a piece of wood, weather it be for furniture or just a small project, you almost always use sand paper to help remove the rough wood and make it smooth. It helps to bring out the best in the piece and make it easy to apply paint, lacquer, polish, or anything else you want to put on it. The same thing goes with our transitions. While not directly applying sand paper to people, cause..that would suck, and hurt...we can cause friction in their lives to bring out the best in them.

     Say for instance, you struggle at work trying to transition. I'm pulling from the experience of 2 of my sisters. For example, your job knows about you and your transition but your not fully out yet for fear of ridicule and other things that may happen to you. My advise is to apply a light sand paper to the people you are closest to so they can start to see the changes. Proper friction will create good results. Say, start off with 200 grit, then move up from there. I know this is backwards from how you work with wood, but the principal still applies. Once they are more comfortable, then move to a more coarse grit, in gradual steps, just like in wood working, except backwards, but you see the point. Eventually they will be refined and will be much more accepting and welcoming.

     For another example, say your not out at work, but you need to be to help complete your transition. Start off with a very fine grit, all the way to 220 if possible, then start working with the people you are closest to, creating the proper friction. Feel how things are going. Get feedback and know that your doing what's best. Yes, you must care what others think, to a point, but this is your life, not theirs. All considerations must be taken into account to make sure you still have a job, even after transition. But, with the proper usage of the proverbial sand paper, you can achieve awesome results.

     Some would say that my transition has gone fairly smoothly. I would tend to agree in some aspects. Job wise has been very easy. Working for myself and owning my own company has it's benefits. I am my own CEO, CFO, HR department, Accountant, and PR department. My transition took all of a nano-second to approve. Social is slightly harder but I'm navigating it fairly well, not perfectly mind you.

     When you take into account everything in our daily lives, transition on the job is one of the hardest things we face as trans people. So much ridicule, hate, and other things are put towards our way. With a little ingenuity, we can transition on the job with not too many problems, just by applying the proper grit sandpaper to the situation. Start off fine, 200-220, then work your way up, til eventually, your all the way up to 60-80 grit. By the time you get there, your situation will hopefully be so much better and smoother to where you get named and properly gendered all the time. Find what works best for you.

Melody :)

Friday, January 31, 2014

Who am I?

     My name is Melody. I'm a trans woman who is very proud to be who I am. In my blog I will document my transition, my life experiences, thoughts, ramblings, and whatever comes to my mind. I've been told that I have a very unique outlook on life and my thoughts and experiences need to be shard with others to help lift them up when they are struggling. I also have very interesting and very positive and uplifting thoughts about how my religion and relationship with God effects my transition that I will be sharing too. This is an area where most people struggle, dealing with the religious side of everything that has to do with transition. I am in no way an expert, but what little knowledge I have needs to be shared so that it can help people.

     I've been on my journey for most of my life. Struggling with knowing, even from 2-4 years old, that I was "different". I never knew how to deal with it properly or how to help it. Always been very reserved and withdrawn from everything because I never knew where I fit in. After seeking help from a wonderful gender therapist in August 2013, my life was turned around. Coming to the realization that I'm not different, but normal, I'm able to continue my life as the person I should have always been. I've met so many wonderful people on my journey so far, and it's just beginning. 10 days away from 5 months on HRT and the feelings I have are incredible. I see little changes in my body that are very welcomed and that I'm very proud of. I just want to be able to share all of this so I can help whoever is struggling. I have planned video blogs also on many different subjects.

     Thank you for reading and I hope, through this blog, I'm able to reach the world with a message of love and kindness. :)

The story of a girl on a journey.

     It has come to my attention that there has been a word getting tossed around, rather casually, that has to do with our whole journey and outlook upon which. I didn't give the word much thought when I first heard it, and the statement attached to it. Then, upon more thought, I found a way to use it to my advantage. The simple word is "choice".

     Many times, as trans people, we are approached by someone who is confused and looking for an answer as to why we are this way. They often ask why did we chose this. The immediate response is for most people to say that it's not a choice, that we were born this way. I totally agree. I turn the question back around to them and give them a plate full of food for thought. I see it as a choice. I've chosen to live and be happy with my life. Too often, most people go through life and put the whole issue of being trans on the back burner and try very hard to forget about it. Another group will come to the realization that they are trans, but, given various social, home, family, and financial situations, they can do nothing about it. Even when their heart desires to be the person they are inside. The other group finds determination to deal with the situation head on and confront it. I'm very proud of who I am and that I'm apart of the second group. The whole point of turning the choice question back on the person who asked it is to show them I had a choice to live or not.

     Many trans people suffer from great depression, mostly because the person inside is desperately seeking to get out. Huge anxiety issues are present also. Withdrawing from social groups, backing away from friends, things like that. As a result of the depression, many choose to take their own life. That's where the choice plays in. Choosing to live is the greatest thing a trans person can do. Going into my transition the thought of ending my life entered my mind on occasion, but I knew that was never an option. My goal was to just do this and whatever happens, happens. I knew there was going to be tough times, that's to be expected. It's those tough times that make us stronger people. Some of us will lose family members due to various reasons. Some friends will leave too. The ones who stick beside us the whole time are true friends. Family should love and accept for who we are. Love is to be unconditional. When a friend or family member chooses to shove us aside, they have shown conditional love and don't know the true meaning of the word love.

     The choice we have as trans people is to confront this, deal with it, and live life to the fullest and know that there will be bumps and rocks ahead, but in the end, it's all worth it. Or the other side of the choice is to end our lives, which I will very strongly be against. It doesn't matter how bad things get, ending your life is not the solution. If you struggle with this, there are plenty of people who are ready, willing, and able to help you out of the mental hole your in that's causing you to want to do this. I am one of those people. No person should take their own life just because they can't deal with something.

     The person I'm becoming is incredible. My choice to transition was the best decision of my life. I have a greater outlook on life. Being happy all the time is a huge bonus. It's not just the HRT talking either. It's the fact that I am finally who I need to be in life. My new family means the world to me and the friends you meet as a result of your transition, will be with you for many, many years to come. These are the people who believe in you and want you to succeed.

     Choose life. You will be thankful you did. :)