Thursday, May 29, 2014

"Talking to Cynthia has got to be my all time favorite experience while going to college"

The quote that I made the title of this blog, is probably my biggest mental high I've had yet. Be thankfully I don't have an ego.

Every spring I am offered to opportunity to speak to a Human Sexuality class at Southern New Hampshire University. The first time I nervously undertook this assignment was literally three weeks after surgery. I've now spoken seven times, six more than I ever thought. And I love it.

I don't preach or talk at the students. I teach the important aspects of hormones and their effects, but I prefer fielding questions and answering what the students prefer to hear, not what I feel I should ramble on about. Some of the key things I try to reinforce is, throw away all stereotypes, don't fear what completely uneducated politicians want to scare you with, and in reality, I'm not different than anyone else in the classroom.

What makes it all worthwhile is, every year the students get it and often I find I have changed any preconceived negative notions to positive ones.

Below is a small sampling of some of the responses from my talk on May 21, 2014. I shared the unedited comments with a close friend and co-worker, Nicole. Her response it the last one. Though I my get discouraged from time to time, it's comments like these from the students and a co-worker, that I'm glad I'm "putting myself out there" for the education of the masses and for the benefit of the people that follow in my foot steps. For privacy sake, the names of the students have been deleted.


Cynthia touched on how some transgender people go so far as to not pay their bills and get evicted.  Or they lose their job thinking it is because of their lifestyle changes, when really they are probably not performing as they should.  I personally do not like this type of behavior from anyone whether they are transgender, straight, gay or anything else.  But these things happen can happen to anyone.  Poor and/or selfish decision making is human nature.  Cynthia sharing all that she did made me realize that we truly are all the same on the inside.  Her conflicts with hair, body and clothes are the same as everyone else’s.  Clearly, she is a woman who has a full life of family, friends, work, and hobbies, which is what I think everyone strives for in life.  I am very happy to have met her.

Also, Cynthia bringing that amazing photo book was incredible.  I was blown away by the detailed photo's of her journey and another big thank you to her for sharing that extremely personal story.  

Please share with Cynthia a very big THANK YOU, for being so open and honest about her transformation.  I feel very grateful to have this first-hand insight into something I once could not understand.



AND


Traci,
I think Cynthia is an amazing woman! I included information in my discussion board about her speaking to us, but I also wanted to thank you for arranging with her to speak to our class. I think having Cynthia tell us from her perspective about her life, is so much more valuable than reading in a textbook. I found it fascinating that she has all the same issues and insecurity’s as any other woman does. Though I think she is brave for listening to what her body was saying and not allowing other people's hatred to take her life away. I think Cynthia's photo album showed us the answers to some of the questions we might have not felt comfortable to ask. I am grateful she shared her life with us for those few hours. One question I did wonder about that evening is; Cynthia mentioned she had low testosterone as an adult, and I wonder if she always had low levels of testosterone (as an adolescent) and if that could have had any impact on how she felt she was the wrong gender?
You certainly can share my praise of her, with her. She is one special lady!

AND

I must say reading about and then talking to Cynthia has got to be my all time favorite experience while going to college. I have always supported LGBTQ organizations and rallies, but I have never had the opportunity to have someone openly discuss their life and thought patterns for going through with the surgery. Not only is Cynthia brave for telling her story to us and having it publishing it in the newspaper, but for being true and authentic to herself. I for one am glad she did not commit suicide. (Whenever I mention suicide I always include numbers to hotlines) 

Need Help Now?
Call 911
or
1-800-SUICIDE
(1-800-784-2433)
or
1-800-273-TALK
(1-800-273-8255)
or 
Text Telephone:
1-800-799-4TTY
(1-800-799-4889)

Military Veterans Suicide Hotline:
1-800-273-TALK (Press 1)

Suicide Hotline in Spanish:
1-800-273-TALK (Press 2)
LGBT Youth Suicide Hotline:1-866-4-U-TREVOR

The information about the pronoun changes, challenges my thought process to whether we actually need it or not. I think there are some options that would of course work, but I wonder if it would draw a lot of negativity. As Cynthia commented on the bills for the bathrooms, transgender people already are in our bathrooms...we just didn't notice. 
After reading the above, my friend and co-worker had the below amazing and reassuring comments to add....

WOW, Cyn. That’s great stuff. You give invaluable insight into a life that most people do not understand. Think about it, you were John for so long here, now you’re Cyn. This is a male dominated profession and after 6 years…..nobody even gives you a second glance. You are Cyndi now, and that is how everyone see’s you. Not as this freak, or weirdo, but Cynthia. You are a person, not defined by your clothes or hair, but by who you are. You’re a good person and most reasonable people will see you for just that. A good person, a good friend, a soul sister, a good employee, etc.  Because of you, if I see a transgender person I don’t even give it a second thought. Cuz chances are they are good people just trying to find their place in this world like the rest of us. We all have our own way of going about it. There is no right or wrong.



Thursday, May 8, 2014

If Not For You

It’s been a while since I’ve updated, simply because not much has been happening in regards to the post-op areas of life. But I’ve been reading the old blogs in preparation for my seventh annual presentation at Southern New Hampshire University, and it really brings back a flood of memories even I had put behind me and shows me just how far things have come in just seven years.

Although I had retired from being an official in auto racing, I had a few offers to return over the years, all of which I politely rejected. I was very quite content helping two friends (Mike Douglas Sr. & Mike Douglas Jr.) with their modified at Star Speedway. No politics, no back stabbing, no phone calls or e-mails during the week. Just be ready on to work on race day. Not that the Douglas’ actually let me touch the race car at all.

Early in the 2013 racing season, I hurt my left leg while exercising. I ended up with severe varicose veins and tendinitis in both tendons on my left leg. Walking was incredibly painful and often completely out of the question. Keeping my leg up was the only temporary ‘relief’ I could get until I was able to schedule surgery.

One race event I had no choice but to stay seated in the Star Speedway grandstands and perform my spotting duties from there for the evening. I missed being in the action and seeing my friends in the pit area. When it was time for the qualifying races, the mothers of some of our fiercest competitors, who are all in my age bracket, sought me out in the grandstands, so I didn’t have to sit alone.

 Individually, Lisa Wood, Debbie Dore and Leeann Iannarelli found me and soon all were surrounding me in the stands me for the qualifying races. We talked and joked, but as I looked around and thoroughly enjoyed having them for company and support, but internally I was aglow.  I could see what a major deal this was, even if no one else could understand. There was none of baggage of my past, just three women in my age bracket, that took me in as part of the group and sought out a female friend in need. This was the breaking point in which I knew I was finally accepted for who I am, not who I was years ago. No amount of money or surgery could buy the happiness I was feeling inside once I made the realization that I was just another woman.


Circumstances had us going in different directions for the last half of the racing season, and it’ll sadly be the same for the 2014 season, but I’m still in touch with all of them on a regular basis and will continue to be, even away from the race track. Although it wasn’t a conscience decision at first, but this acceptance gave me a new confidence and sense of complete self worth.

Time heals all wounds and the pain I had felt from the betrayal of a handful ‘friends’ of my last days as a racing official was beginning to fade.  As time made the big picture clearer I was able to see who the actual backstabbers were and I backed off from being bitter of all associated, whether they were guilty or not.

In October there was some discussion (not by me) of my returning as an official. When it was proposed publicly, I was met with conflicting feelings. I was truly honored, but I was strongly aware that there could be some conflict of interest and I also had a very strong dread feeling knowing that I was content in retirement, away from the headaches. Did I really want them back again?  The topic came up in conversation over the winter but never too seriously.

In January, there was some light-hearted joking about my returning as an official by the president of a local touring racing division. I wrote it off with humor, but within days I was contacted by a friend involved in the group. He was asking if I would at least consider the offer and be willing to listen instead of flatly declining for once. I believe I shocked all, including myself, when I said “Yes”.  For the first time since 2008, I would be willing to at least talk and hear what the offer might be.

I love my time spent with the Douglas’ and that won’t change one bit. Helping them will still be a priority. But admittedly, there are many factors to consider, especially with the economy, the current instability of auto racing in New England, and the fact that I’m not a mechanic but I am a good racing official. My abilities were being completely underutilized.

The time I spent away from the pressures of racing, the offer to “get back in the saddle” on a part time basis instead of jumping in with both feet, the fellow officials I would be working with (Carrie Kelly & Jennifer Ready especially) and the short amount of travel compared to 2007 and before, made my decision easy for me. I would return to my roots.

I won’t be dealing with too many of the participants of the past. These people will only know Cynthia and my past and baggage should never become of an issue. It may on the rarest occasion, but I’m much mentally stronger now and prepared to deal with the circumstances should they ever arise.

Truly, my consideration and acceptance of this racing position absolutely never would have happened, if it hadn’t been for the before mentioned night at Star Speedway when Leeann, Debbie and Lisa unconditionally took me in as one. A newer racing friend, Kathy Kourafas has also become a great ally as well. I appear to be just another racing friend and a person who was no different than any of them. 


And that is all this girl could ever ask for.