Butterfly Transitions Helps Ease Financial Burdens of Gender-Confirming Surgeries
I grew up in a secluded desert town in the middle of the Arizona desert, 65 miles from the nearest city. My family was ill prepared to have child such as myself. A 5 year old boy by all appearances who cried often, was tender, and loved to dress in mom's or sister’s clothing when possible. Of course, there was the fact that my mother was raised by a hell and damnation lay minister Father, and rigorously retained her childhood religion, the Church of Christ. Not to be confused with our friends, the United Church of Christ. This is the fundamentalist Church of Christ, with all those rigid rules of do’s and don’ts of going to heaven or hell.
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Transitioning is sometimes confused with sexual reassignment surgery (SRS), but that is only one possible element of transitioning. Many people who transition choose not to have SRS, or do not have the means to do so. Whereas SRS is a surgical procedure, transitioning is more holistic and can encompass physical, psychological, social, and emotional changes. Some genderqueer and intersex people have little or no desire to undergo surgery to change their body but will transition in other ways.
Passing refers to being perceived and accepted by other people as a desired gender identity. This can be one aspect of transitioning, though genderqueer people may choose to purposely not pass. Someone observing, for example, a transwoman passing may know of her trans status but still considers her a woman. Drag queens generally present with exaggerated female and feminine characteristics (e.g. heavy make-up, suggestive clothing, excessive jewelry) whereas drag kings present exaggerated male attributes and hyper-masculine personas.
Real life experience or Going fulltime refers to a person living one's everyday life as one's gender identity. One's passing can be limited by safety, legal or bodily restraints. For instance, someone who has worked at a job as female may feel one cannot safely present as male and may switch jobs instead. Psychiatrists using the WPATH Standards of care for gender identity disorders require going fulltime before recommending surgery.
Going stealth means to live as a gender without other people realizing a person is transgender. Trans people often go stealth in public but not with family, partners, or intimate friends. There have been many cases of people who have lived and worked as a gender identity opposite of their birth gender. See Category:Transgender and transsexual people for some examples.
Transitioning is a complicated process that involves any or all of the gendered aspects of a person's life. Below are some common parts of transitioning. People may choose elements based on their own gender identity, body image, personality, finances, and sometimes the attitudes of others. A degree of experimentation is used to know what changes best fit them. Transitioning also varies between cultures and subcultures according to differences in the societies' views of gender.
* Coming out
* Gender role changes
* Legally and/or socially changing their name to something consistent with their gender identity
* Asking others to use a set of pronouns different from before
* Having one's legal gender changed on their driver's license, ID, birth certificate, etc
* Personal relationships take on different dynamics in accordance with gender
* Clothing, jewelry, accessories, and makeup
* Adopting mannerisms consistent with the new gender role
* Any surgery and/or hormone therapy
* Changing their voice's pitch
* Sexual acts, especially if the body's sex organs have changed
* A person's ideas about gender in general may change which may affect their religious, philosophical and/or political beliefs
* Passing or going stealth
Allison’s Story- -continued
The first time I came out to my family, at the age of 5, presenting myself to my family in mascara and a blouse, there was an immediate and loud proclamation – "this little boy is going to hell". Quick. scrub his face off and tell him he’s sinning and will burn forever! Save him from the burning fire and brimstone. My family believes literally in the fire and brimstone stuff. At 5 years old, living in the Arizona Sonoran Desert, with temperatures that can exceed 120 degrees, I knew what it was like to be sunburned by a scorching sun and I became terrified of a burning hell. What a horrible thing to believe at the young age of 5. I learned very quickly that my gender was just as rigid as their definitions of almost every other facet of a fundamentalist life. This is sin, that isn’t. Not too pretty living in a black and white world. Friends were chosen through this narrow fundamentalist view, marriages, failed relationships, and all it creates is pain.
Between the ages of 10-15, I prayed endlessly at my bedroom window late into the night, begging God to change me to my true self. I was told with the faith of a mustard seed God would move mountains for me. Silence was my answer; and anguish, depression, frustration and hopelessness were my daily companions. I lived in fear of a secret that was so great, I would burn for all eternity, and yet, I lived in my closet where no other would know or see.
To put it mildly, I grew up in an oppressive environment where I was forced to conform to a viewpoint of a binary world. Decisions were made based on discussions of sin or biblical rules, heaven or hell, or good and evil. My mother was a literalist when it came to interpretation of the Bible. I remember vividly as a child being told a Bible verse about “if the eye offends or the hand offends, it is better for it to be cut off than to go to hell” Her viewpoint was that going to heaven was more important than any body part.
At 15, I was sent to a Bible camp to become more devout. While away, my mother had flipped over my mattress and discovered my secret wardrobe. My dresses, panties, bra’s wig and pantyhose were all laid bare to her. Arriving home from the camp, I was brought to the family doctor who politely but firmly pointed out my genitals, told me that I wasn’t a girl, and to start acting like a “man”. My mother had different ideas about the whole thing. Terrified I would end up a drag queen, or worse, a “homosexual crossdresser” like my uncles were alleged to be, she developed a magical path to salvation. It was a bold idea. I was to go to a good Christian University, meet a nice Christian woman, marry her, have children and work hard and this good Christian woman would keep me straight. It was a recipe that had worked on my ex-military, bar fighting, aggressive father, so the best thing to do in her mind was for me to find a woman to tame and direct the male animal.
Three marriages later, 5 children ranging from ages 8 to 27, my true gender remained the same and my life became unbearable.
Three years ago, my anguish became so great that I sat with a bottle of morphine pills and cried until I could no longer see my own hands. I walked up the stairs late at night to kiss my two youngest children a final goodbye, and then go downstairs and end it all.
I had just returned from a trip to Arizona to see my family, where discussions raged about the sins of my niece, who had transitioned into her true gender only a year previous. You see, we have three generations of transgenders in my family. Discussions raged throughout the trip about religion, and if “your church” was following the “right path”. Then the discussions would turn to my niece again, and ridicule and condemnation would flow. The final night I was in Arizona, a great gathering took place with several aunts and uncles, cousins, my niece and her siblings. They wanted to sing the “good ole hymns” that would keep ya “close to the Lord.” I quickly took my niece outside, and took her home where we could be comfortable and not assaulted by religion.
I knew that night that once the truth came out, I would be ridiculed and condemned by these very people who told me they loved me. You see, their love is designed around a rigid construct of gender. Anything outside their view is sin, and sin equates to hate. Two weeks later my family found out I was transgender. A call during Christmas that year resulted in nothing short of pain and anguish. My Mother saying “I’ll always love you.” With the unspoken message “when you quit your sin”. I haven’t spoken to them since.
I was no closer to my in-laws than I was to my own family. My wife knew about my transition and I never thought we would separate. My mother-in-law threw up for 8 days when she was told. She was so furious that she wouldn’t see me, thinking I was going to utterly destroy my children. My father-in-law, whom I had rushed to the hospital twice while he was in cardiac arrest and saved his life, threatened to destroy mine. Within less than a month of coming out, I was told to move out. My wife didn’t want the children exposed to a “lesbian relationship”. I never dreamed I would find myself forced out of my own home, and less than 6 months later, living out of my truck or a hotel room, going to the food bank to have enough food to eat. This was stunning to me in that I have been a highly qualified professional programmer for most of my adult life and now could not be employed due to my gender identity.
Let me tell you of one friend’s reaction to my gender affirmation. This man worked for me for 3 years. He ate at my table and his children even played with mine. He was one of the brightest programmers I have ever known. Here’s what Larry said to me when I came out to him.
“Look, your schizophrenia and/or psychosis is not normal, never will be normal, never has been normal, and no matter how sick and decadent our society becomes it will still not be normal. You will never be normal, and I don’t have to be “civil” towards people hell bent on destroying what little decency is left in the world, any more than I have to be civil to the drunk that kills my son, or the terrorist that blows up my friends, or the sadomasochist that beats my wife. You’re a sick demented pile of crap, you’re on the same level as those I just mentioned, and that’s about all there is to it. Get off my planet you sick bastard.”
My in-laws reaction wasn’t much different than this.
Although society as a whole oppresses us on a daily basis, I can honestly say, I’m the one who is becoming free. As I live out my life as a gender affirming woman, I have learned that people need to be able to live their true authentic selves. Whether it is as a feminine man, a masculine woman, a gay flamboyant man, or a heterosexual woman, all individuals need to be free to be their authentic selves. I am the lucky one. I am free.
This year, on September 7th, I take one more step towards completing my life's dream. The dream to become who I’ve always known myself to be. I’ve been greatly humbled by the opportunity to be approved for gender affirmation surgery in just a few short weeks. Peace of mind, my truth of congruency is within reach. After 46 years of gender torture and physical and emotional bodily oppression, I will finally be released.
I want to thank Deborah for creating the Butterfly Transitions Fund who will make my surgery financially possible. Please consider helping me gain the final $2500.00 to finalize the costs necessary.
Butterfly Transitions Fund
This year, a friend and I were talking about gender affirmation surgery and how expensive it is. We were pondering all sorts of ideas on how to raise some money for my surgery and how to best help the community at large. Twenty one thousand dollars to affirm your own gender and bring into congruence your mental and physical beings seems a price to pay, but the reality is that is still a huge amount of money. Thus, Butterfly Transitions was born.
Butterfly Transitions mission is to provide financial assistance to transgender people for gender-confirming surgeries. We are in our infancy at this point and hope to formalize our status as a non-profit in 2011. Additionally, we will be working to establish criteria for those wishing surgery and a pathway to help them accomplish their goals. As with any idea, a test phase is required and raising money for transgender surgeries certainly needed exploring. So, we setup a federal tax ID, called our state and asked how to setup a Medical Savings Account and started Butterfly Transitions. We've setup a website and started all sorts of ideas for raising money. With a goal of raising $21K in 6 months, we needed to hold several different fund raising activities.
Here are some of the fund raising activities we have accomplished thus far-
§ Held a concert and dinner
§ Collected CD’s and DVD’s and resold them on half.com
§ Taken direct donations
§ Taken short term loans from trusted friends (in this case, some of the costs of surgery are covered by insurance but only after the fact. So loans were taken against the reimbursement after the surgery)
§ Held a house concert
§ Somebody donated beautiful hand made jewelry and butterfly magnets which were sold at the concert
My surgery is scheduled for September 7th, so here is where we stand. As of today we need only $2500 to cover the full cost associated with this surgery. So in 6 short months, we've been able to raise a total of $18,500 in addition to the outreach, educating hundreds of individuals about what it means to be transgender. We've organized educational events, workshops and seminar. This in itself has allowed us to have an impact in our own and surrounding communities. Please consider helping with a donation at planetdignity.