Friday, January 1, 2010

2009 - Learning to Fly

Wishing all a very happy and joyous 2010. I begin my first post of the new year with a look back at the old year. I posted on Facebook on New Year's Eve:

I have dubbed 2009 the year I grew my wings and learned to fly with some nervous but certain steps into the world. In 2010, I will fly higher into that world and soar like the great eagle.

Later that night while waltzing at the contra dance, my partner Gretchen asked me if I felt I had transitioned in 2009. I don't think she meant transition in the sense that the transgender community uses the term (i.e. full-time living, surgery, etc.). I think she was asking about how I viewed myself. I said yes in the sense that I had begun socializing in the mainstream world as Stephanie. She agreed and added that it showed very much in my dancing. I am always moved when a friend makes that kind of comment. Looking back, it seems I am being shown a path that I had never before considered. It involves being vulnerable and more intimate with people. Before I had taken baby steps. In 2009, I took a leap of faith. The old saying is true. I grew wings along the way.

I started 2009 very much wanting to become more involved in Civil War reenacting. My experience in Bentonville in March however was very much a reality check. It was quite educational to see that world. I didn't even really think at the time that what I was doing was particularly a big deal. I was simply following the next logical step in my reenacting goals. Along the way, I realized that I learn the most when I put myself in less than ideal circumstances. Some of my dreams are so big that I don't care what others think about them. Yet I do care about how my presentation is perceived. I so do not want to be a man in a dress because I don't see myself that way. The hard lesson was that my presentation must continue to improve. Due to those issues and others (finances, time, etc.), reenacting was put on the back burner in 2009. It is not going away though. I will return at a time when I can give this wonderful hobby its proper time and respect.

Out of that March episode came an invitation from Stormi, my reenacting contact, and her boyfriend Peter to a contra dance in Durham. We had never met face to face, and I was happy she wanted to chat even after the Bentonville situation. Thinking back, they may have known that I needed to expose myself to the world more. I needed to socialize as Stephanie with the mainstream. Maybe they thought contra dancing would be uplifting, and I would be more accepted in that community. Maybe they wanted to make up for a bad incident. I enjoyed that first dance enough to return. I even found contra dances locally in Charlotte and Winston-Salem. Ironically, I have not been back to the Triangle dances since July due to scheduling and the odd snow storm or two.

A few dances from the past year are worth noting. My first trip to a dance in Charlotte was one of the scariest things I've done. I had become comfortable with the Triangle dancers (and hopefully they with me), and now I was walking into a new place knowing virtually no one. A special thank you goes to Dean, Lisa, and Hampton for being so welcoming that night. Also a big thanks goes to Will, Emily, Heather, and Cynthia at the Winston-Salem dances for their friendship and support. Other favorite dances from the year were Contrathon in Glendale Springs, Feet Retreat at Camp Sertoma, the Charlotte Halloween dance where I actually danced in a prom dress for the first time, and last night's New Year's Eve where I actually danced in a little black dress for the first time.

One dance trip that I have not mentioned was a Halloween night trip to River Falls in northwest South Carolina. Like Bentonville, I put myself in a less than ideal spot. I chose not to wear a costume as it was a long trip. You can guess what happened from there. I was called names that I had not heard since junior high. The pre-dance time was not very pleasant. They didn't know how to react to me. I think many were surprised that I knew the woman's role in the contra set. Fortunately, the cavalry came to the rescue in the form of Holley, Tracie, and Britt who arrived later. It was so good to see friendly faces. Holley, in particular, is the one that keeps me grounded whenever I'm upset at people's reactions. She's also a wonderful teacher encouraging me to take the lead role. I returned to River Falls the Saturday before Christmas with much better results. Maybe it was a different crowd especially not being Halloween, but I had a much better time. The girl power that night was off the scale as the women were very much into the dancing. I enjoyed the feeling of being one of the girls and feeding off that energy. It was quite infectious.

Another positive in 2009 was the growth in the Charlotte LGBT community. Of note were the Pride Charlotte week programs including the Transgender Living Experience and Library. I was honored to organize that event and gratified at the excellent presentations and turn-out. Another noteworthy series is the roundtable discussions at the center. Kudos to Pamela and Teresa for their leadership in those monthly discussions. It's amazing how certain subjects (religion, discrimination, etc.) pop up no matter the original topic. It has been an educational experience to meet so many of my brothers and sisters going through similar struggles in their daily lives. I believe we in the LGBT community have so much in common. We may not always understand each other, but we are often the best support structure. Finally the Transgender Day of Remembrance is a solemn time to remember those who have passed on due to hate and violence. I was proud to see so many join us for that event.

The growth however is in fits and starts. Some of the conversation during the Christmas potluck at the community center was on the need for more cooperation from the various entities of the LGBT community. The old saying is true about a house divided. We as a community must come together and pool our resources. Otherwise none of us will make it.

The same is true of the transgender community. We have many outstanding outreaches going on by individual members. Many of us go out and do our thing and then report back at our Charlotte Gender Alliance meetings. I feel the allure of the mainstream world as being out is the start to fulfilling the long term goal of living completely as Stephanie. Yet I never want to abandon the transgender community. There are too people to reach and too many stories to tell.

2009 was also a time I began a return to my faith, and it has been way too long. I need to be in a family of believers after several years of being a lone ranger. Thank you to the Trinity United Church of Christ in Concord for being so welcoming. I look forward to becoming more committed to my church family. I take to heart their line of, “God is still speaking.” I pray everyday for wisdom, guidance, and strength for our leaders, the world, and finally myself. None of the above happens by coincidence. God through the Holy Spirit and the Bible speaks to me everyday. I am very much a work in progress. I was created this way to His glory. I can only hope that I become closer everyday to who I am intended to be.

In 2009, I grew wings. In 2010, I soar. Thank you to all my friends, new and old. You have enriched this girl's life beyond measure. You are the wind beneath those newly grown wings. For so long, I had been scared to become too close to people as Stephanie thinking I would drive them away if they knew me too well. I assumed the worst of the people in the mainstream world. The opposite became true in 2009. While there are some who are and may never be comfortable with me, I found friends willing to reach out to me. They shared of their life, their experiences, even their love. I have been shown kindness, dignity, tenderness, respect... all the things that we as human beings need to make it in this world. With all of these things, life is good. The best is yet to come.

1 comment:

Nancy said...

I enjoyed reading this post, Stephanie. It helps me understand your journey and better appreciate my new friend. You are an amazing woman!