Happiness, the now, and the opportunity cost of time

A street-side altar in Chaing Mai, Thailand

Content warning: suicide

Opportunity cost
The loss of other alternatives when one alternative is chosen.
– Oxford Dictionaries

Being trans put me into a state of suspended time for years. I did many things that pushed me out of the now because dwelling in the now brought too much emotional pain. The now reminded me of the cruel burden of my unrequited desires to be myself. I observed people and things change around me at a remove because I felt I couldn’t close the gap between the future I wanted and the now.

I spent the now on futures I wasn’t sure would ever come. The activities I pursued to escape the now and flee to the future might sound familiar to you.

In my teens and early twenties, I had an unconscious death wish.

I clocked more miles over 100mph/160kph in cars with questionable maintenance records than I’m willing to admit. I drank and blacked out many times, and poisoned myself once. I took stupid physical risks, often after drinking. I ran to exhaust myself and bring on physical pain to blot out the emotional pain I felt. I threw myself into work and relationships to avoid having to commit to myself.

From my mid-twenties to mid-thirties, work and marriage and the rewards they could bring in the future pulled me forward. Alcohol was ever-present as a way to numb myself from the grind of my reality as I became hyper-aware I was trans. The life I had constructed made getting to myself that much harder due to the massive responsibilities I piled on myself. As I flirted with being myself, I also sought comfort in food, and the combination of being overweight, an alcoholic, and over-stressed gave me panic attacks. I thought I might die, and that didn’t seem so bad some days.

From my mid-thirties to my mid-forties, I shed pounds and a marriage that was unhealthy. I ran marathons and uncovered a male body that brought me satisfaction in its ability to endure the miles but no comfort within when I was at rest. I married again and had kids, a quintessential future-focused activity.

Then the past I never wanted caught up and bulldozed me. It built a berm around me and put the future out of view. The now could not be ignored and demanded a choice: let the past bury me, struggle up for something undefined in the future to distract myself with again, or deal with the situation in the now.

The opportunity cost of time never felt so acute.

But cost of what? In what unit is my time measured? How do I make a life-altering decision like that?

I came to realize I viewed life as a continuum from existing to living and I had spent most of my life existing. Existing was compartmentalizing my true feelings away, avoiding emotional connections that could cause de-compartmentalization, and distracting myself from the pain of the now. Living was when I was happy and engaged in the moment, like when I was running or having unguarded moments of emotional closeness.

From there, I categorized the passage of time in my life as either existing (distraction) or living (happiness). Happiness came from being in the moment, the now.

My opportunity cost of time was happiness or distraction.

Living in the past? A distraction from the now. Living for the future? A distraction from the now. If happiness only happened by living in the moment and I wanted to be happy, it was time to live in the now.

Getting from that now to now’s now had excruciating moments; there’s no way to sugar-coat it. Transition can be hard. Most of those moments came from letting go of things binding me to the past or chaining me to futures I didn’t want. Things like identifying myself with my work or being a husband.

Living in the now is hard. It requires never-ending practice and focus. But the rewards and pursuit of happiness are worth it.

Live in the now. Pursue happiness.


©Heather Coldstream

Please consider supporting my writing by sharing my work with others or buying one of my poetry collections from the Kindle store. Thank you!

2016: Poems from a Year of Change

Uncertain: Poems About Gender Transition

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Just keep smiling

I have these days, a year and a half after transition, where I feel like a fraud.

‘Do you have a towel I can borrow?’

‘Of course; I already put one in the bag for you.’

‘Thank you!’

My girlfriend is the bestest.

This body I’ve changed the shape of, the hair I’ve removed and grown out, the smoother skin, the clothes, makeup, and jewelry I wear, and the purse I carry feel foreign when I feel like a fraud. They’re like things I picked up thinking they were a good idea at the time and now I wonder, ‘Why do I have these things?’

‘This is the first time I’ve been swimming post-transition. It’s been at least a couple of years now. It took me forever to find a suit that worked for me.’

‘I like your swimsuit, Heather. You look good in it.’

It feels like I’m carrying these things to an unknown destination for an indeterminate amount of time and everyone is looking at me asking themselves, ‘Why is that person carrying those things? I can’t tell if they’re a man or a woman. They look ridiculous.’

The swim skirt feels extra-short on me, but we’re driving to the pool and it’s only a short walk from the parking lot.

Then I feel like a ridiculous-looking fraud and I think everyone sees I’m trans and I think if they’re being nice to me it’s only out of pity. That makes me feel depressed.

‘Two please.’

‘Thanks for paying.’

‘My pleasure, Heather.’ Her smile warms me.

Then I feel like a depressed, ridiculous-looking fraud who has the haunted look of someone with a backhoe digging deeper into the hole of existential sadness. That makes me feel doomed to spend the rest of my life where it’s easy to kick dirt over me and make me disappear.

There’s no one in the locker room and we put our stuff in a locker and head to the pool.

Then I feel like a doomed, depressed, ridiculous-looking fraud.

I get into the pool as fast as I can. We paddle around for an hour or so with some kisses thrown in for fun and pleasure. The lifeguard announces the pool is closing. We climb out and head to the locker room with the other women.

That exacerbates the self-pity, and I feel pitiful. Those people who took pity on me? They must be right because I’m pitiful in my dysfunction.

My girlfriend and I take our towels out of the locker and rinse off in the shower. Still in my suit, I’m drying myself off and trying to ignore the other women around me changing when a woman and her toddler daughter, both naked, come out of the shower together. The daughter says something funny as they pass by us on the bench. I smile at her and make a funny comment back. The girl and her mom smile back at me and the mom says something about little kids to me.

I’m a pitiful, doomed, depressed, ridiculous-looking fraud and I wonder why in the world anyone loves me and how in the world I’ve escaped the wrath of society.

We’re driving back to my girlfriend’s apartment. I sitting on a towel, but I’m still soaking through, getting the seat wet. My swim skirt and bikini bottom underneath it hold more water than I expected. ‘That was my first time in a women’s locker room.’

‘Really?’

‘Yeah. I think it went alright. I was kinda anxious.’

‘It obviously wasn’t a problem. That mother and her daughter talked to us.’

‘Yeah. It wasn’t a problem at all. I’ve got to stop over thinking things.’


©Heather Coldstream

Please consider supporting my writing by sharing my work with others or buying one of my poetry collections from the Kindle store. Thank you!

2016: Poems from a Year of Change

Uncertain: Poems About Gender Transition

Posted in coming out, gender transition, LGBT, personal history, self-acceptance, transgender, transition | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments

OMG! (Deadname)!

One great thing about my new girlfriend is meeting her friends and expanding my social circle. My girlfriend’s best friend (GBF) lives in the Columbia City area of Seattle and we went down Friday night so I could meet GBF and her family.

GBF was great and also sings with a band at times. Part of the reason we went Friday was because there was a cocktail hour/backyard band and birthday party for the bassist, who I’ll call Walker. Walker’s house is your typical South Seattle large Craftsman house, and the back yard has a large concrete patio with two, huge mature fig trees on either side.

When we arrived the band was already playing and as we came around the corner of the house, we saw them on a low stage up against the fence. They were talking playing a jazzy sort of hip-hop and sounded good.

My girlfriend and I hung stage left under a tree because the back yard was crowded and we didn’t see any open seats on the garden furniture. We also didn’t know a soul there other than GBF. GBF went off to say hello to people they knew and the hostess while my girlfriend and I enjoyed the music.

Eventually, we moved up towards a covered porch when some seats opened up next to GBF. On our way up, we ran into the hostess, Tonya, who is married to Walker.

GBF stood to introduce us, and as Tonya and I introduced ourselves the back of my brain went, ‘I know this woman from somewhere. Is she someone I used to work with?’

As my gears ground trying to place her, I could see she was doing the same thing.

As I became more sure I used to know her and that she was someone I’d be happy to see again, her face dawned with surprise and a huge smile and yelled, ‘Oh my god! <Deadname>!’ while throwing her arms around me in a big hug.

We knew each other for sure, even if I still couldn’t place her. The band was loud-ish, but anyone within ten feet could hear her, including my girlfriend and GBF.

I returned the hug and as I pulled away, I said, ‘It’s Heather now, not <Deadname>.’

I’m fortunate my deadname is gender-neutral or it could have been more awkward.

She put me out of my memory misery by mentioning mutual friends from my past and it all snapped in. Our mutual friends were a contractor I’d hired twenty years ago and her husband. (Sonya and Chuck.) We had become friends through my first wife, who met Sonya at a user group meeting.

Not only did I know Tonya and Walker, I’d had dinner and drinks with them many times, and we even went on a group camping trip together.

Nineteen years ago.

As we marveled at the randomness of meeting, I was also aware that she had not flinched or been surprised to see me as me. It was a pleasant surprise, but it shouldn’t have been because Tonya is an accepting person and Sonya was one of first people I’d ever told about my gender struggles, and I’m sure Sonya and Tonya talked.

Tonya had to host her party and we promised to talk later. My girlfriend and GBF wore bemused faces, and my girlfriend commented that I knew more people at the party than she did.

After a while it was time to go and I hadn’t yet talked to either Tonya or Walker, so I waited until Walker wasn’t mobbed and re-introduced myself. He seemed somewhat confused when I introduced myself as, ‘Heather <Lastname>. You used to know me as <Full Deadname>.’

‘Oh. <Deadname>! How are you?’

‘It’s Heather now,’ and etc.

‘Oh. Good to see you,’ and that was that.

My girlfriend and I caught Tonya on the way out, she deadnamed me again, and I corrected her.

‘So it’s Heather now? You’ve changed your name?’

‘Yes.’

‘Ah, nice to meet you Heather,’ she said with a smile. We promised to connect again and we left.

On the way home I reflected on how small Seattle can still be, the random chances that led me to Tonya and Walker’s house, and how I dealt with what could have been a distressing situation.

There used to be a time when a loud deadnaming like that would have made me want to melt into the ground. With my girlfriend and GBF standing there, it could have been mortifying.

It’s a testament to how far I’ve come because it didn’t rattle me. Maybe if Tonya’s reaction was different, it might have been different; I don’t know. As it was, how could I be uncomfortable with a friend deadnaming me who only knew me from lifetimes ago as a different person?

The whole episode was a reminder of how life flows on, how impossible it is to leave my past entirely behind me, and how comfortable I am in my own skin now. Tonya’s welcome and swift acceptance of the current version of me was also very empowering and how it should be for everyone.

I don’t know who else I’ll run into from my past in the future, but I’m ready to meet them again. Even if they deadname me.


©Heather Coldstream

Please consider supporting my writing by sharing it with others with attribution and linking back or buying one of my poetry collections from the Kindle store. Thank you!

2016: Poems from a Year of Change

Uncertain: Poems About Gender Transition

Posted in coming out, friends, gender transition, LGBT, observations, personal history, self-acceptance, transgender, transition | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Meditations on belonging

Belonging is something I’m still working on. I still don’t know how being trans influences belonging. My first inkling I didn’t belong in a group was when I was around four years old.

Most of my neighbors were girls and I used to play indoor and outdoor games with them. The closest neighborhood kid was Natalie, (all names have been changed,) who lived two houses up the street from me. Natalie’s family knew my mom was a working single mom and I think they let me come over to play or watched me while my mom was at work. Up around the corner from Natalie lived Skye, and there was a younger girl whose name I don’t remember and might have been Natalie’s little sister.

I do remember sitting in a circle playing a board game or something in Natalie’s room one day. The conversation took a turn, and Natalie declared, ‘We don’t want to play with you any more because you’re a boy.’

I don’t remember the preamble and I know that’s not a verbatim quote, but the gist was the same. I was a boy thing and because I was this boy thing, something I’d never even thought about before, the girls didn’t want to play with me. I was different but I didn’t know how or why. I didn’t understand. It hurt and I think I went home crying because my friends didn’t want to play with me any more.

Because I didn’t understand the dynamic, this experience repeated several times in grade school. Sometimes it was even the boys who made it happen.

In third or fourth grade, I remember having a good time playing four square and hopscotch with some girls. Some boys came along and started calling me sissy. My older brother called me that and I thought it meant weak.

How was I weak playing four square and hopscotch? It didn’t make any sense to me. Worse, I was asked by the girls not to play with them any more. The girls knew what it mean and didn’t want to be with me because of it or they didn’t want the harassment from the boys. This made me very sad and marked one of the last times I played with the girls.

I played with boys too. It was usually the social misfit crowd. We all belonged together because we didn’t fit in with everyone else. I didn’t feel like I belonged with them in the sense of feeling like they were close friends I could tell secrets to. Some of this was a function of them not sticking around long.

There was a boy in fourth grade who carried a rubber shark with him everywhere and we played astronauts on the monkey bars. He disappeared before the end of the year. There was the black boy in fifth grade who moved from Chicago and didn’t return to my school for sixth grade. There was my friend in sixth grade who parents forbade him to see me because they thought I was a bad influence for reasons I don’t remember. There was the Catholic kid in seventh grade who stopped taking to me halfway though the school year because I told him I didn’t believe in god.

And there were the constellation of boys who crossed my orbit depending on the medications they took or their shenanigan sidekick needs.

When I was asked to play with the boys who seemed to navigate school as a huge pack whose dynamics eluded me, it was usually at their desperate need of a spare body for sports or target practice. Having proved my total incompetence at throwing, catching, and feats of strength during gym, but noted for my speed of running, often from bullies from within that same pack, I fit a useful niche for them.

I would be drafted as running back for touch football, even though I would fuck up the pattern over and over, because when I didn’t drop the ball I could out-sprint most everyone. They loved me for basketball because I was always willing to pass the ball. I was often the unwilling queer in smear the queer when I was just contentedly kicking a ball against a wall by myself.

This was not belonging, it was being used.

I didn’t belong at home because there was hardly anyone else at home when I was there. When my family was there, my brother would often tease and sometimes hit me. My mom often zoned out on the TV and drank wine and smoked until she fell asleep. When my brother left the house to join the military, my mom pulled even further away emotionally. Maybe because she didn’t know what to make of me. Or she was exhausted. Or both.

My grandparents provided stability in my life and were surrogate parents in many ways. There was also an emotional gulf there I was never able to bridge.

This was not belonging, it was existing. I didn’t feel I belonged as much as I felt tolerated because I was family.

Junior high school was hell because it was puberty and was almost constantly bullied. I came close to belonging when I played soccer. We were a good team but I had to quit when I got a growth spurt and developed painful tendonitis in my feet. The only upside to that was being excused from gym for over a year and avoiding some locker room hell.

I didn’t belong anywhere in junior high and I cycled through the punks, the rockers, the new wavers, the nerds, the geeks, and the denizens of shop class. I didn’t feel like I belonged to any of them and if I didn’t drift away I was often pushed away.

I liked listening to the Ramones but wasn’t interested in the spiky hair or safety pins of that crowd so they rejected me like antibodies because I was dull. Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, and Black Sabbath were fun to listen to and the vandalism I got sucked into was thrilling but I realized many of the people I was hanging around in that crowd were tracking to jail. Duran Duran was poppy fun but I didn’t want a side cut and Cyndi Lauper back then drove me up a wall.

Complicating things was my wanting to be but not being able to be a girl. The punk chick with makeup we now called goth. The rocker chick with a leather jacket and skirt, and big hair. The lace like Madonna or a haircut to die for.

And so on and so forth. I didn’t even belong to myself.

In high school I had the inkling of belonging. I was on the chess team, but it was the island of misfit toys in a way. I ran cross county but was solidly junior varsity (JV). The coach didn’t give a shit about JV so I gave up after a year when my best friend didn’t return the next year and I realized I didn’t have other friends on the team.

High school did at least provide a mechanism to interact with girls again through dating and academics.

How I ever ended up with girlfriends in high school is still a bit of a mystery to me given how clueless I was. I must have done something right or at least didn’t do anything too terribly wrong because I had two.

My Renaissance began with talking to girls as friends in class. I looked forward to going to certain classes where I would sit next to the girls who talked me to about class and life. There were shared jokes and confessions, (my favorite was a friend who backed her parents’ car though the closed garage door,) and talk about homework and what we were learning.

We often didn’t communicate outside of class. There might have been the mutual small wave or head nod in the halls, but we never sat together for lunch or went out to do anything together, (excepting friends of one of my girlfriends.) I can only think of a handful of occasions when I spoke with any of them on the phone and they were all about class assignments.

While I felt I belonged in a small way, there were vast gulfs between us due to social expectations I didn’t understand. I would never be and could never be a true girlfriend because I wasn’t seen as a girl. Some guys thought I was gay and those that knew I was attracted to girls didn’t understand these relationships. I hardly understood them myself at the time. Some of the girls probably thought I was gay.

I skimmed belonging like a rock on a pond that skips to the other side.

At university, joining a fraternity in response to family pressure to do so, (my mother, father, grandmother, and two uncles were in the Greek system,) seemed like a way to belong somewhere in the vast ocean of students at the University of Washington. It seemed to work, until it veered wide at sorority mixers and parties.

Those events usually cracked my brain open with what I now know as dysphoria and through that opening I poured copious quantities of alcohol. Back then it was a debilitating envy and sorrow, which the alcohol inflamed to either generalized anger at the world or black despair over my future.

While I did experience camaraderie, it was not belonging. The starkest realization of this was the night before initiation.

Hell week, the week of ritualistically abusing and hazing pledges, was almost over and the last event held the possibility of a last comedic humiliation mixed with a reward. And what reward do you give to 18- or 19-year-old fraternity pledges who’ve put up with a week of shit?

Strippers.

We sat in a large room on chairs arranged in a circle wearing only our underwear. The only light was from a fire blazing in the fireplace. Music from a boombox started and two women in their early to mid-twenties wearing lingerie and high heels came strutting into the middle of the circle.

Guys, I’ve observed, generally do one of two things when around strippers. Either their higher brain functions are short-circuited and they think only with their dicks and they think they’re about to get off and it seems they’re on the edge of going berserk, or they mentally step back to an objectification remove like predators looking at prey.

That moment was terrifying and beyond uncomfortable for me.

It was easy enough for me to feign visual interest because I’m attracted to women, but the whole berserker/predator-prey vibe made me want to bolt. I felt fear for the women even though I knew their bouncers were standing in the shadows. While I knew it was their job, I still felt embarrassed for them. As I watched them move around the circle, I studied the guys hoping I’d be able to mimic the expected rapt attention I was expected to have on my face when it was my turn.

I can only imagine my then-unknown, closeted gay pledge brothers were also having a moment.

I suffered through, all the while being pulled with envy towards the beauty of the women and repelled by fear with the secret knowledge I carried within me.

I did not belong there. At all.

The experiences of feeling like I belonged with the girls and not with the boys carried on up to transition. Post-transition, I’ve noticed a curious thing.

When I’m just being me and doing my thing, I feel like I belong for the first time in my life. Since I haven’t had this feeling much in the past, imposter syndrome hovers in the background making me question if I deserve to belong.

Of course I do!—it’s an absurd question.

When I’m self-aware or self-conscious about being trans, it’s easy for me to feel like I don’t belong in the world I walked through hell to get to. On bad days, rejection slithers into my brain and constricts me to my singular world. It hisses I only belong with myself.

But I tried that. It didn’t work. And now I’m free to find where I belong.


©Heather Coldstream

Please consider supporting my writing by sharing it with others with attribution and linking back or buying one of my poetry collections from the Kindle store. Thank you!

2016: Poems from a Year of Change

Uncertain: Poems About Gender Transition

Posted in coming out, gender transition, LGBT, observations, personal history, self-acceptance, transgender, transition | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

The shifting sands of dysphoria

My experience with gender dysphoria has changed over the years. It first expressed itself in childhood as a diffuse desire to be like my grandmother and mother with regards to social roles. As puberty hit, it changed to an intense desire to have a different body than the one I had.

When I learned about transgender people around the same time, it provided a framework to understand my feelings and desires. While it partly answered the what and why of me, there was no how or when. It was a black box, impossible to see within from the suburban 1980s. How could a man enter and then leave a woman almost instantaneously?

The more I learned, the more I discovered gender transition is a process. I also learned my experience of being trans and how I experienced dysphoria was different than others. In the 1990s, most trans women transition models were to be femme, attracted to men, and want your penis to be gone, gone, gone. That last bit made me feel not trans enough for a long while.

My original factory equipment provided some fun and memorable experiences over the years. If anything, I was, (and still am,) ambivalent about it going away. Wanting a vagina but not hating my penis left me feeling half-trans, a fraud. This contributed to my wavering around transition in the 1990s and early 2000s.

I’ve since learned I’m not alone in these feelings and it doesn’t make me or them any less trans. Learning in the 2010s most trans women don’t have surgery for reasons ranging from financial limitations to a lack of desire for surgery out of fear or not caring was a big thing for me to internalize. The expressions of being trans had shifted so far from the 1980s/1990s as to be almost unrecognizable to me when I reconnected with the community a few years back.

What also shifted for me was how I experienced my dysphoria.

Others might be different but I could never trust it would stay the same in order for me to create an effective long-term coping strategy. I found it an impossible task adjusting to gender dysphoria that changed day-to-day or even hour-to-hour.

It swung from generalized and ambivalent desires for physical changes and a diffuse desire for a different social role to an intense psychic ache from longing, loss, and despair of my situation in life. The ache and despair would flare when I encountered women I found attractive or who I imagined I might look like had I been born a girl.

My degrading ability to bear the pain of my previous life’s lot is what led me to transition. Proving transition solves for gender dysphoria, I no longer have extreme psychic pain.

Today my dysphoria is more mundane and at the level of irritating. It’s the dress that doesn’t quite fall the way I want when I try it on because my bust isn’t proportional to my waist. It’s the tuck that won’t stay put. It’s the annoyance of having an outie flopping around when I’d rather have an innie.

But I feel my irritation growing. It’s a sense of incompleteness, a feeling like I’m still in the middle of a process instead of at the end. Then there are the pinprick pains of catching a bad reflection or being misgendered. Those are repetitive experiences, which I have developed a strategy to manage.

My biggest takeaway on dysphoria is that I don’t have to feel the intensity of it all the time in order to self-identify as trans or to do something about it. Even in the weeks leading up to my transition I’d put on my guy clothes in the morning, go to work, and not give it a second thought. But then the days would come where I had trouble leaving my literal closet wearing those same guy clothes.

Now I just worry my outfit doesn’t flatter me. It’s a good trade.


©Heather Coldstream

Please consider supporting my writing by sharing it with others with attribution and linking back or buying one of my poetry collections from the Kindle store. Thank you!

2016: Poems from a Year of Change

Uncertain: Poems About Gender Transition

Posted in coming out, gender transition, LGBT, observations, personal history, self-acceptance, transgender, transition | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Jumper cables

I get in the car, turn the key, and nothing happens. I’d only gone into the grocery store for maybe thirty minutes after a 75-mile drive without a stop. I’ve never had trouble with my car starting before, so I try it a few more times after shifting the gears out of and then back into park, thinking maybe the starter interlock switch didn’t engage property. No luck.

I review my options and a jump-start seems like the best place to start. If that doesn’t work, then it’s time to call a tow truck and have the starter examined. I keep jumper cables in the car and fish them out of the spare tire area along with my leather gloves. I drop the cables on the ground next to the car and open up the hood and start looking around for someone who might be willing to help.

A woman approaches the car next to me and I ask her if she’d give me a jump. She looks hesitant and reluctantly agrees to help, qualifying it with, ‘I’ve never done it before.’

Having driven pieces of shit in my twenties that constantly needed attention, I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve used jumper cables. ‘It’s okay, we’ll figure it out.’

She begins to load her groceries into her car and while I’m untangling the cables, a man in a big, red truck with his family drives by and offers me a jump. Since he’s with his family, he seems safe enough so I agree, thank the woman for her willingness, and she drives off while the man manuevers his truck into place.

As I’m untangling the cables, another man in a truck on the other side of my car offers to help and I politely decline as the red truck pulls up close. The man whose help I didn’t need goes back to rearranging the groceries in the back of his truck.

Red truck man pops his hood and I’m ready, handing him the cables while he looks around for where to attach them. I point to a battery I can see and he says that’s his secondary battery as he seats the cables on the primary. While he finishes doing that, I pick up the other ends and as I’m turning towards the engine compartment, he pops over with hands open to take the cables from me. I seat the red cable on my battery terminal and the black to the mounting bracket by the alternator.

He appears surprised. ‘Oh, you’re done this before.’

‘A few times,’ I mumble. He seems impressed.

I hop in my car and it starts right up. I wonder if I need a new battery or if I developed a short somewhere. We unhook the cables, I thank him, and he drives off while I put the cables away.

Back in my car, I realize it’s the first time I didn’t have to hunt for someone to help. It begins to sink in that woman in a parking lot with her hood up and jumper cables on the ground will draw men like moths to a bright light.

I drive off, satisfied that if I need another jump it won’t be hard to find a volunteer.


©Heather Coldstream

Please consider supporting my writing by sharing my work with others or buying one of my poetry collections from the Kindle store. Thank you!

2016: Poems from a Year of Change

Uncertain: Poems About Gender Transition

Posted in gender transition, LGBT, personal history, transgender, transition | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

The aperture of happiness

There was no light for parts of my gender journey. Darkness closed in around me as I struggled to figure out what to do. I felt my way along in the dark, bruising my shins and falling down hard a few times. Happiness and hope would have been light, but none shone. My aperture of happiness was closed.

It wasn’t until I decided I had to transition that the faintest glimmer began to peek through. As I moved forward with my plans, things in the past that had closed it began to open it.

The fear of being left by my wife shifted to anticipation for living by myself again and not having to worry about an intoxicated spouse who hated who I was. Now, I relish not having someone I loved spread the irritant of their resentment on me.

The fear of being a single parent changed to me enjoying my kids in a more focused way. The first few months felt like I had been tossed in the deep end of a pond with mud sucking at my feet to keep me underwater. Now, parenting my kids solo brings me a joy I didn’t know I could have.

The fear of social ostracism for transitioning turned out to be my brain jumping at shadows. I’m sure luck and privilege have much to do with the very low frequency of hassles I get for being trans. Now, I am just another woman who’s accepted or rejected for the type of person I am instead of what I am.

The fear of being single and alone for the rest of my life was simple negativity and a relationship I had last year put that and took me to bed last year. Now, I get to find someone who wants me for me and we get to discover each other.

I wouldn’t say the aperture of my happiness is fully open yet, but it’s close. The best part is with it open, the possibilities for happiness increase because the vista is larger.

When it was just starting to open, I could only see one happiness at a time through the pinhole. With it open much wider, I’m having to remind myself to look around at all the possible happiness I could have because it’s just laying there, waiting for me to find it.

I’m happier than I was before transition by a country mile. I have moments of joy and contentment. Happy comes and goes, but at least I can see it now because I’m open to it.


©Heather Coldstream

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2016: Poems from a Year of Change

Uncertain: Poems About Gender Transition

Posted in coming out, gender transition, LGBT, observations, self-acceptance, transgender, transition | Tagged , , , , , | 9 Comments