Stepping Stones

The nearest town to where I live is only 619 people big. It’s the type of place that somehow has four bars, six automotive service stations, three gas stations, and not a single fast food restaurant in sight. It is also home to the high school I attended, where my graduating class of 60 was one of the largest to go through the system in nearly a decade. You would think that being from such a small school would mean we had a tight-knit bond with each other―and maybe we did―but I haven’t seen or so much as thought about most of my classmates since the day I graduated.

There is, of course, one exception.

Yesterday I went by that school, with its empty parking lot and halls. I thought about how much has changed and yet how the building and playground look remarkably the same. It reminded me of a line from a short story I wrote last year about feeling stuck: “an endless cycle of both progress and decay. The two processes were perhaps the same.” I wondered how many times you think about the first time we met there. I hope that they are few and far between. You were the new girl in our 5th grade class and I volunteered to be your partner for our soccer unit in gym, knowing how tough it could be as a new student since I had moved to the area just a year earlier. We began dating as freshmen and made things work through our college years apart. Everyone around us was certain we would marry each other, and I think both of us assumed so as well.

January 20th will be one year since our story came to an end. Yesterday I ventured to the place where it all began to bury your memory and salt the earth so I could finally put my mind to rest. I went not as the person you loved. I came as Claire: the person you would never accept.

This also marked a milestone for me in my transition: the first time I was out in public fully presenting. Now, granted, I was cheating a little by wearing a hoodie but I considered it a milestone nonetheless. After I passed by my high school I went to the store for a few groceries; if there’s any statements to be made about the fashion of face masks, they at least make it easier to pass. I think I was emboldened by another milestone that happened last week where I was correctly mistaken for a women for the first time. I have been told by friends that was my first “male fail” since I was not trying to present as female, and to be honest I’m still rather shocked. I found out while I was fetching mail and bumped into one of my neighbors. I moved into my current home in September and this was the first time I have spoken with them, and they asked if I was married. I replied that I was not, and they remarked that they had seen “a gal” outside my place the other day. I was a bit slow to piece everything together, and it wasn’t until I was back in the house that I realized I was the girl they had seen. At least, I hope so and there isn’t some unknown woman hanging around my place.

It’s enormously euphoric to know that after over a year since coming out, I’m finally at a place where people correctly assume my gender without me trying to pass with all my glitz and glamour. Lately I have been so happy with how I look when I dress up and it’s great to have this reassurance that it’s not just me, and that I really, truly am getting closer to that dream that seemed like an impossibility when I first began. Looking back at my pre-transition pics and comparing them to how I look now, it really does look like two different people. They both are me, though one is much happier with herself. And I see her in the older picture, a bit buried but still there, waiting to spread her wings like a dormant cicada. I can’t wait for another year to go by and look at how much progress has passed between then and now. I wonder what you would think if you could see me now. I think you’d probably be speechless, just as unable to understand as you were when I first came out to you. I think you’d be revolted and see my progress as the death of the person you knew.

The two processes are perhaps the same.

Change (and not just my gender)

I’m exactly where I need to be.

This is has been the motto given to me by my therapist very early into 2020.

At first, it was a bit difficult to believe. This year, I’ve dealt with an ugly breakup with someone who had been my significant other of nearly eight years, I’ve dealt with ended friendships, pandemic lockdowns and the passing of others, difficulties at my place of work, perhaps the most dirty and sickening election cycle I can remember, racial unrest within my own home state, and coming to terms with my own gender identity. It felt like my entire life was coming unraveled around me with each day becoming a little bit harder to get through. It felt like I had to work harder and harder for smaller and smaller victories, that I was making mistakes at every corner and throwing away everything I had worked towards thus far. I kept thinking if I could keep pushing through things somehow I would wind up where I was supposed to be, I would overcome some great obstacle and be on the top of the world. I see bits of that thinking even in my previous blog post.

It took time to understand, but I recall lying awake late at night one evening, still giddy with the feelings of euphoria over my job with my makeup, when I finally understood what my therapist meant. I’m always exactly where I need to be: in the present, living and breathing and going through the motions right now. There isn’t some great paradise where I’m “supposed” to end up. Where I belong is the culmination of both the good and the bad. Living without hardship, without struggle, would make it all pointless in the end. The most important things we learn about ourselves—who our true friends are, the person we truly are—only come during our worst moments. I think that there’s something beautiful to that; within even our darkest moments we can find the brightest truths. It’s okay to be struggling. It’s okay to cry. In the end, it’s enough just to look around and know I’m not alone.

I don’t think everything has necessarily become easier once that realization came to me. It’s certainly easier to pick myself up and not give up. The world becomes a whole lot brighter once you accept yourself; accepting each day that that you are where you need to be makes the yesterday a memory of happiness and the tomorrow a dream of hope.

I wanted to write about this because I said my final goodbyes to my therapist this month. We both agreed that my journey through therapy had reached its happy conclusion, and that it was time for termination. Termination offered me a unique opportunity to look back at how much I’ve grown, and recognize all of the triumphs I have made in my life despite (or perhaps, more likely, because of) the struggles. This year, I have found professional success by getting another one of my short stories published. I braved the cruel world of online dating (as my true self, nonetheless!) and met a wonderful partner who brings out the best in me and loves Claire just as much as I do. I bought a home and moved out of my parents house and adopted a cat. By far, the most significant of my triumphs was accepting my identity as a woman and coming out to my friends and family. And tomorrow, what will be just three short days away from it being a year since I started using my new pronouns among friends, I have scheduled an appointment to get blood drawn and discuss hormone therapy.

With that comes a whole host of unknowns and firsts. I’ve touched on those firsts in one of my first blog posts, and that fear still remains with me. It’s certainly a bit less now, I think. Going through the hurdles I have already has prepared me. It’s still a bit numb even almost a year later that things have progressed even this far. The other day I looked back at a photo of myself and was amazed with how much different I look without hormones or laser. And, a year from now, I can only assume I shall the same thing with those things under my belt. I know that things will not come easy, and while I still dread the unknown, I take comfort that come what may, into the unknown is exactly where I need to be.

To My Future Self

It has officially been a year. 

No, not since my previous blog post (although it has been a while!). It has technically been a year plus a day because I couldn’t type this out in time. What it has been over a year from is the day that we admitted to our ex girlfriend that we enjoyed wearing women’s clothing. I know it’s cliche to say, but that day, August 19th, 2019, was the day that would change our life forever. 

This was the moment that set everything in motion, something that seemed minor at the time but would cause consequences we could have never predicted. Our entire life had been spent holding back our innermost desires, wants and euphorias. Making that admission to her created the first cracks in the fragile dam holding everything inside of us, and we would quickly begin to seriously question our own gender identity. By November 26th we were trying new pronouns with our friends and on December 1st, we were told by our girlfriend that she hated us for doing so.

Just a year ago, the vision that we had for our life looked so incredibly different compared to what it does now. If the past me from August of 2019 (I know I’m involving the past, future, and present me in on this blog post, bare with me) were to write a blog post about where he saw his life headed, he would tell us that his goal was to move in with his girlfriend, settle down, and spend less time at work and more time with his friends.

That vision, and that version of myself, is gone. We broke up with our girlfriend on January 20th. Many of the friends that we wanted to spend more time with have grown apart due to our choices. Is it sad? Possibly. It hurts to reminisce on what could have been had our visions not diverged from each other on August 19th last year. There is always a part of me that will hurt knowing that maybe if we didn’t speak up, if we had kept our head down and stayed quiet, all that heartache could have been avoided. 

That is not to say that my new vision is any less bright. Quite the contrary; despite all of our struggles and intense discomfort that we endured, the version of myself that emerged from all this—Claire—is a much happier person. She’s somebody who finds confidence in her identity and is proud to do the things that brings her joy. In the break between this post and my previous, we have been in the process of closing on a house and preparing for the move. We are scheduled to close in eight days. I bet you remember what that was like, the constant butterflies and nervousness. Hopefully there haven’t been any significant repair projects between now and when you read this later (I’ve tried to save you enough cash so you can get that cat we’ve always wanted). I’ve also made enough mental gymnastics to decide without a shadow of doubt that I would like to begin laser hair removal and start HRT as soon as possible. All of these are huge changes to our life, but they are changes that I believe will let us live as authentically as we can. Right now, I hope that a year from now I can take those steps and live more comfortably as the person I am.

It’s almost symbolic that a year after making that first step towards transitioning, I’ll be now moving into a place all my own with more freedom than ever to be Claire. I can’t wait to see where this takes me and who you’ve become along the way. If there’s anything I want you to know when you look back and read this, it’s that don’t be afraid if the vision of your life is different than what it is now. Change is not always bad; our greatest trials are often our best teachers. Just make sure that if you decide to not adopt a cat, you have a darned good explanation, because if you deny me this I will find a way to invent time travel and knock some sense into you.

I love you, Claire. Please don’t forget to love yourself as much as I do right now.


Embracing my identity as a woman has been an ultimate act of self love. It has been a long and difficult path of avoiding aspects of myself out of shame and embarrassment, but it has been one that has led me to happiness that I never realized was possible. It is my sincere hope that all of my trans brothers and sisters can one day embrace their identity and love themselves as I have—not just in spite of the fact that they are trans, but in part because they are trans. This isn’t to put me on a pedestal as a shining example; I’m far from it. There are many days when it’s hard to love myself: an unfortunate glance in the mirror, itching razor burn along my legs, having to redo my eyeliner for the third time—all things that can crumble this new sense of self-worth. But you’d better believe that every time the tide comes to wash it away, I’m there to rebuild. It’s a constant battle, but it is one that can be won more often than not. Maybe I’m just stubborn in that regard. I don’t see any other choice I can make. Beauty isn’t so much that final image at the end of the road; it’s the culmination of the entire journey, of the struggles and sweat and tears we put in to get that far. There is beauty in our trials, of our ability to become something more. 

It’s easy for me to say all this for the sake of making a blog post, for the sake of giving motivation to others like me. What isn’t quite as easy is actually believing it all. The reality is that outside forces will constantly make you question and doubt. It’s easy to stay within a supportive circle, crafting an armor of reassurances and self-love to protect the fragile core underneath. There will always be people who search for any chink in that armor, any way to get a knife at your exposed self. Sometimes these people are easily dealt with without much damage incurred. It’s when the knife comes from within your circle, unexpected, that can leave you feeling like you’re bleeding out and the world is crumbling down. 

This weekend a knife came to me from within my circle. It wasn’t the first time and it will not be the last; I guarantee you the last will hurt as much as the first. This was a person, a dear friend, who called me mentally unstable, wrong in my beliefs regarding my identity, and claimed that they would rather me be miserable in the “right” way than be happy in the “wrong” way. I should have been furious with them, and yet I found their attacks on my character worthy of pity. This was an individual who came from a place of ignorance they had, ultimately, sewn their concern for my own well being into. They thought that something was missing from my life without understanding that I had found it when I made my decision to transition.

I find moments like these opportunities for education and enlightenment. The root of hatred is ignorance; people fear what they do not understand, and hate what they fear. Only by educating can we solve hatred. But what happens when these people refuse to listen and choose ignorance? This person told me, “It’s not that if I had more time I’d come around. I just know that you’re wrong. That’s it. There’s no religion, no science, no mass perception, no fruit of the cosmos that justifies your position.”

I don’t have the answer to this question. To just leave someone like this, especially someone I have considered a friend, and write it off as a losing battle goes against my most treasured belief that everyone possesses the capacity for change. Every fiber of my being wants to reach them and make them understand myself. Maybe it’s enough to learn to let these people go. Maybe it’s enough to just worry about yourself and thread the wound from the knife they stuck in your back. Maybe it’s enough to know sometimes love won’t be enough to save people. 

Maybe our paths will cross again someday. Maybe you’ll see the person I have become, the light that has flooded my life, and realize that you were wrong. I hope that one day you can reject ignorance. At the end of the day though, I don’t think that it’s my responsibility to educate others. It isn’t any of our responsibility except for that person’s own. Even though I choose to educate where I can, and to share my experiences through this blog, it is not any trans person’s responsibility to educate others. There is a wealth of information out there if people can be bothered to look. Don’t do what I do and try to devote time and resources to people who likely will choose ignorance every time. 

 Maybe I’m just stubborn in that regard.

Life and Death and Life Again

My family doesn’t own very traditional pets. I have a brother who is allergic to cats and dogs and he has asthma on top of it, compounding the issues he could face from those allergies. Instead we have chickens; a small flock of spunky twats who will wait for you in the morning from the windows and follow you into the garage because they know the treats are stored in there.

On June 21st one of our little egg layers, Mable, passed away. She was an old bird and her death received more fanfare probably than that of most chickens, but these chickens are really the only pets my family has really ever known. A few days later, we picked up six baby chicks. Needless to say, my hands have been full caring for these new additions to our family and overcoming the feelings of loss of Mable. 

All of these events have had me thinking about life and death lately. I’m not a religious person, nor do I find myself particularly distressed regarding the concept of death and the finality of all things. What I have been thinking about, however, is how for many people in my life, especially my family, my transition is viewed as the death of the person they knew; a slow death as I come to work with them, make dinner for them and write awful short-stories about people living in the woods. And it’s a death that they don’t get to say goodbye to. There isn’t a funeral for the person I was, for that person in the photographs. There are no flowers. No sympathy cards. It’s a death that hardly anybody can relate to, because most people don’t even know they’ve ever met someone who is transgender. There’s a saying about death that discusses the death of your body and the death of your memory, how you die once when you stop breathing and a second time when somebody says your name for the last time. For people like my family, they have to deal with that death in reverse; grappling with the death of my memory while my body lives on, pleading for them to stop saying my deadname and let me go. 

I wish I knew what to say to these people, or had the superpower to just make things easier. But I don’t think it’s fair for trans people like me to absorb this grief; I think that positions the trans person as being “at fault” for who they are. I think a better step for those grieving in this way would be to reframe their feelings over a trans person’s transition. The person that they’re mourning is a projection of someone who didn’t really exist in the first place, and that person who is writing those awful short-stories about people living in the woods is finally taking the steps they need to be happy. For us, transitioning is a rebirth into the person we are on the inside. Let’s celebrate the birth of that person instead of mourning who came before them. 

I don’t have much more to say that won’t resort into ramblings, so I’m going to end this post with a quote by Alan Watts so it can go out on that meaningful note. 

“Nothing is more creative than death, since it is the whole secret of life. It means the past must be abandoned, that the unknown cannot be avoided, that ‘I’ cannot continue, and that nothing can be ultimately fixed. When a man knows this, he lives for the first time in his life. By holding his breath, he loses it. By letting go he finds it.”