Approval Seeking Behavior is Time Consuming (and I’m not getting any younger)

(My riff as a transwoman in recovery on the PurposeFairy series 9 Reasons Why You Should No Longer Care About People’s Approval; all creative credit belongs to to that author.)

I and thousands of other Minnesotans are spending gobs of time and energy working to defeat the marriage amendment to the state constitution limiting marriage to one man and one woman.  I believe it’s important to make a distinction here: that investment is not about seeking approval but insisting on rights.  I’m willing to spend those gobs of time telling people why marriage rights are important to me and to our neighbors.  I’m willing to spend that time building bridges of understanding between gender-variant people and the larger community.  I’m not willing to spend time trying to get other folk’s approval.

  • Constantly seeking approval from others takes me down a path where I stop caring about myself.  I stop caring about my own physical, mental and spiritual health because there is no time left for me.
  • Constantly seeking approval from others is not a good investment of time.  The payoff is notoriously poor.  I’ve spent an entire lifetime working to get somebody else to approve of me.  And I have zero to show for all that time.
  • Constantly seeking approval from others misses the grand opportunities of life.  I don’t dare take the time away from other people who aren’t going to give me their approval no matter what to take advantage of positive career moves, traveling through this wonderful world, even the book I’ve always wanted to read.
  • Constantly seeking approval from others feeds on itself in unexpected, perverse ways of spending time.  Addiction robs even more time as it sucks the life out of life itself.

These are all reasons why living a life of constantly seeking approval needs to stop.  I’ve seen dogs who could catch their own tail, not often but I’ve seen it happen.  I’ve never seen a dog who could hold on to it.
Love, Denise


Give Up Your Resistance to Change

(my take on the ninth part of 15 Things You Should Give Up to Be Happy)

The power of hackneyed cliches is in the kernel of truth at the core.  Such it is with the time-worn definition of insanity as doing the same thing over and over and expecting the results to come out different.

The kernel of truth is this – if it’s not working, stop doing it.  However I define “working”, I know what it means if I start being honest with myself.  I mean honest in such a transparent way that the truth is right in my face, impossible to miss, impossible to dance around.

I can’t honestly say I wanted to stop drinking.  I’ve enjoyed the social experience of sharing alcohol.  I like the taste of fine wines.  I’m fussy.  But then I run up against the question – is this working?  And in the still hours of the night away from all distractions, when it’s just me and God, my Higher Power, I have to answer no.  It’s not working.  So I can say honestly that I want sobriety.  I want competency in living with all the distractions, challenges, annoyances and flat-out pain in the butt problems.  I have to change.

I’ve never wanted to be transsexual.  I can think of easier ways to live life.  I’ve experienced the pressures of family and culture to not change how I am in this world.  For most of my years I’ve assumed that resistance to change for my own.  I pretended that I was somebody else other than the woman I knew I was in my mind and soul.  But like other transsexuals I’ve met, life in the pressure cooker becomes so intense, so destructive, that nothing works.  Nothing works until I can overcome my resistance to change.

For me, overcoming my resistance to change means this:

  • I insist on being a grown-up.  I insist on discovering the truth and telling myself the truth.
  • When my resistance to change causes me enough discomfort to do something about it, I act.  I wish I could act earlier, but such is my life.
  • If I’m looking for reasons to resist change, I won’t need to look far.  Significant parts of my world are a lot more comfortable with the old “male” Denise drinking.  They didn’t like that person much, but it was the Denise they knew and understood.  They aren’t all that crazy about the changes, but I won’t stop overcoming my own resistance to change.

I don’t believe I am unique in these three things.  I do believe that for any person to overcome a stagnant life requires dealing with these three things in their own way.

Why Do I Do This, Write in the Public Sphere?

Thanks to my new friend Meta Commerse, I was brought face-to-face with this quote by Iyanla Vanzant, named one of the 100 most influential black Americans by Ebony magazine in 2000 – “When you stand up and share your story in an empowering way, your story will heal you and your story will heal somebody else.”

A significant number of trans-women (nobody knows for sure, but experience tells me it may be a majority) choose to merge as seamlessly as possible into femininity (however that is being defined) at the end of transition.  People stop attending trans events, do not want to be referred to as trans, lose any impetus for trans activism.

I can appreciate this and I will never tell another what her journey should look like, especially based on mine.  I speak entirely for myself. But when I speak of myself, I do so frequently as a proud transwoman who will not stop fighting for transgender rights and who will not stop trying to build bridges with the rest of the world.  Why?

Every time I tell my story, I heal.  I heal from the misunderstandings and injustices of this culture.  I can’t stop doing this because I don’t dare stop healing.  Every now and then somebody criticizes me for always talking trans stuff.  I don’t think I do, but if I did, it’s because I know I heal every time my story hits daylight.

As it so happens, I’m also a recovering alcoholic and a quite public one at that.  I gave up large portions of my anonymity when I decided to write this blog.  Why on earth would I do that?  The same reason.  When I talk publicly about my addiction, every time I introduce myself as “Hi, I’m Denise and I’m an alcoholic”, some rift in my soul heals over.  Sometimes a large one, sometimes a little one, but healing happens without exception.

The consequences of my struggle with gender identity and alcohol have been at times explosively public.  Such is my life.  I do not regret the past.  But I trust by becoming vulnerable in the public sphere I previously abused, somebody else is healed as well.

I was shocked really by the reaction that I got when I preached on Mother’s Day last.  The depth of others’ emotions caught me flat-footed.  I’ve been watching others with gender struggles rise up with renewed strength.  I’ve learned of others who have resonated with my addiction struggle and step out of the shadow of secrecy and shame.

This does NOT happen because I am such an inspiring speaker…or writer, for that matter.  I do my best but really… these changes are testimony to the power of one person telling her story in a public sphere without even realizing the full depth of what she was doing.

When I finish this stage of transition and journey, I’m not going to stop talking about my sisters and brothers who struggle for authentic identity.  I’m always going to share my hope with those afflicted with disease of addiction. I just can’t stop.

Give Up on Self-Defeating Self-Talk

(my take on the fourth part of 15 Things You Should Give Up to Be Happy)

It’s not just the voices in my head which conspire to defeat my best efforts and dreams.  I just got back from an extended road trip to visit family and once more I remember that all that self-talk came from somewhere.

I’m not helpless anymore.  I don’t need to accept that those external voices now manifesting themselves inside my mind have validity.  I don’t need to disguise the pain they cause.  I don’t need to respond to those false messages in a juvenile fashion, full of angst, getting sucked right back into the old me who didn’t know better than to play the victim.

Much more often than not, I know that self-talk for what it is.  I am free to live as the woman I’m created to be each day, full of dreams and surprises, and yet capable of responding maturely to the inevitable failures by picking my self up and creatively tackling life again.  I can do this, day in and day out.  And you can too.

Give Up on Blame

(my take on the third part of 15 Things You Should Give Up to Be Happy)

Could it be that the best developed human talent is the ability to find scapegoats?  It’s not just me; human history is chock full of possibilities of placing the blame for business failure, battle defeats and self-destructive behavior.  I had to wade through a lot of bramble thickets to finally conclude that I alone am responsible for where I am.

I’m not to blame for my gender identity.  Nobody did that to me and I didn’t make that choice.  But I am truly responsible for what I do with it.  Yes, discrimination is a reality, but if I give up and start blaming others for my failure to be working and don’t speak up for myself in a mature and responsible way, then I have truly failed.

My alcoholic mind cunningly tells me that somebody, some thing is to blame.  But after the last 18 months, I don’t take orders or suggestions even from my alcoholic mind.  My alcoholic mind can shut up and sit down.  Blame and shame is a losing game (hey, that rhymes…).

I am a powerful and independent woman who can look with confidence in the mirror and say “Whatever comes my way, it’s mine, my choice!”


What I Need from the Medical Establishment

I am amongst the fortunate in the transgender world when it comes to medical care.  Despite the unreasoning hostility of some people to adequate and competent health care for trans people, I happen to have an insurance company that recognizes trans medical needs, a primary physician who interned in a community with a significant trans community, and a physician with many years of experience in prescribing hormone therapy.  Both physicians know the limits of their ability.  They both don’t hesitate to refer.  They both are aware of hormone therapy side effects, short and long term.  They know I will need medical care as a woman such as breast health screening as well as prostate examination as I get older.

Everybody should be able to access this kind of professional care.  Nobody should be able to impose his or her own agenda on whether that care should be provided or is deserving based on gender presentation any more than on the basis of race.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has now served notice on its members to be prepared to treat transgender patients or to make competent referrals.  That is what I need from the medical establishment.

Getting the Right Doctor Should Be More Than Good Luck

According to this report, I must be one of the lucky ones.  My regular doctor is sensitive to transgender health concerns, mostly because he did his internship in an inner-city hospital.  He is nothing if not respectful and does not hesitate to make referrals if he is dealing with something unfamiliar.  I’m also lucky because of my proximity to the U of Minnesota where I frequently bump into medical students actually meeting and listening to transgender clients.

Lucky as I may be, not every other LGBT person can say the same.  Discrimination and ignorance will persist.  Yes, LGBT folks need to continue being vocal for competent health education and care (remembering not to leave anybody in the LGBT spectrum behind), but we really need everybody to insist that health coverage is not only affordable but competent.  Please think about this carefully and challenge your own health care preconceptions.