Category Archives: Rosebuds-A Touch of Grace

My Practice

Do you have a practice?

For many years I heard this question but could not say yes to it. After I left my long term marriage in 2001, I found that I needed to start each day with some type of spiritual reading. I found many great resources that would get me through each day.

As you have already read about much of my journey, I would like to share with you a reading from the book that has helped me through the decision to transition and the transition itself. It is Mark Nepo’s The Book of Awakening; Having the Life You want by Being Present to the Life You Have. (Conari Press, 2000)

As we know the biggest day of First Event 2013 is Saturday, and this year it will be January 26, 2013. The reading for January 26 is appropriate for all of us, and I am sharing it below. (I have nothing to add after you read this – I hope that you will enjoy it and think about your practice).

Grace Anne Stevens
Co-Chair, First Event 2013

January 26
Being Kind – 1

You often say, “I would give, but only to the deserving.” The trees in your orchard say not so, nor the flocks in your pastures. They give that they may live, for to withhold is to perish.

– Kahil Gibran

The great and fierce mystic, William Blake said, There is no greater act than putting another before you. This speaks to a selfless giving that seems to be at the base of meaningful love. Yet having struggled for a lifetime with letting the needs of others define me, I’ve come to understand that without the healthiest form of self-love – without honoring the essence of life that this thing called “self” carries, the way a pod carries a seed – putting another before you can result in damaging self-sacrifice and endless co-dependence.

I have in many ways over many years suppressed my own needs and insights in an effort not to disappoint others, even when no one asked me to. This is not unique in me. Somehow, in the course of learning to be good, we have all been asked to wrestle with a false dilemma: being kind to ourselves or being kind to others. In truth, though, being kind to ourselves is a requisite to being kind to others. Honoring ourselves is, in fact, the only lasting way to release a truly selfless kindness to others.

It is, I believe, as Mencius, the grandson of Confucius, says, that just as water unobstructed will flow downhill, we, given the chance to be what we are, will extend ourselves in kindness. So, real and lasting practice for each of us is to remove what obstructs us so that we can be who we are, holding nothing back. If we can work toward this kind of authenticity, then the living kindness – the water of compassion – will naturally flow. We do not need discipline to be kind, just an open heart.

From Mark Nepo’s, The Book of Awakening

Fairy Tales

by Grace Anne Stevens

Shhh!!!! Even though I really do not want to tell people about it, I must admit it! Yes, it is true, I am a boomer!

It seems that it is easier telling people that I am trans than telling them that I turned 65 this year. And what a year this has been for me with GRS, Breast Augmentation and a bit of Lipo to throw in. All this coupled with the decision of whether to sign up for Medicaid or not.

Growing up in the 50’s and 60s, along with knowing and hiding that I am not a boy was, as many of you well understand, a challenge. My drug of choice to escape was my family’s Dumont TV that was more or less my parent. Sitting in front of it for many hours each day is where I learned about the world. Even though there was not the almost infinite choice of cable channels that are available today, the content was more than sufficient.

Every Saturday and Sunday morning there were movies of one fairy tale after another, and I was glued to them. Magic and sorcery…and dreams coming true, and living happily after after…. What better escape for a young, hidden trans child?

Good always triumphed over evil – so the heroine was saved to live happily ever after (am I wrong in that they mostly saved the girl?). I would dream about when and how I would be saved! Perhaps I was just never good enough! Drat!

Like sleeping beauty, I lived my life for decades not being fully awake and engaged with the world around me.

Like OZ the Magnificent, I hid behind a curtain and manipulated the people in my life without having any real power.

If you are from my generation, you may remember those great live broadcasts of Peter Pan. I remember when Tinkerbelle is dying and Peter asks all of us watching to believe, to truly believe in fairies, which is the only way to save her. Of course I joined in and Tinkerbelle was saved – but I always wondered who will believe in me and when will I be saved. Who could or would love me, and save me from the monsters within me? Would I ever have my dreams come true and live happily ever after?

The years turned into decades. I married and raised three awesome kids. I continued to hide…and to dream…. But it became harder and harder to find a way to escape……
Then….through a variety of circumstances and situations I knew I could hide no longer, and made the scariest decision of my life up to that time and dared to visit The Tiffany Club of New England in May 2008. I survived that first visit and through the summer I was told I must go to First Event. In January 2009 I made my first voyage through the Looking Glass and attended First Event. Yes, I was the girl whose jaw was dropping to the floor everywhere I turned. There were hundreds of people like me. Most were having the grandest of times. I met girls that had transitioned, and oh my, some who even had surgery!!!!!! They seemed normal and happy. I attended workshops and my head was spinning. There was magic and sorcery. Nothing was impossible! An old guy could change his face, his voice, his hair, his skin, his chest and his genitals. Everything is possible, and there were girls that showed it and were more than willing to share their experience and journeys.

At FE2009 I learned that dreams can and do come true. Now I had to figure out what my dream really was since no longer was anything impossible. My first thought was that yes, I want it all now! But as I thought and received advice about all the possibilities, I learned and accepted that it is best as a slower thoughtful process. By FE10, I made the decision to transition. By FE11, I had the plan in place for FFS and transition; by FE12 I had successfully transitioned in my 2 workplaces; now at FE13 I have completed GRS and BA.

For me First Event has been a place that taught me that Fairy Tales are real, and all your dreams can come true. They have for me. Now I am well into the next part. As I listen to a great song from those years by Sinatra:

Fairy tales can come true, it can happen to you
If you’re young at heart.
For it’s hard, you will find, to be narrow of mind
If you’re young at heart.

You can go to extremes with impossible schemes.
You can laugh when your dreams fall apart at the seams.
And life gets more exciting with each passing day.
And love is either in your heart, or on it’s way.

Even though I am a boomer, I seem to be getting younger each day and, I am truly living happily ever after.

Grace Anne Stevens is Co-Chair of First Event 2013. This article also appears in the First Event Program Guide.

First Event 2013: We’ve Only Just Begun

Our theme for First Event 2013 is We’ve Only Just Begun.

At FE12 we were honored to have Representative Carl Sciortino as our keynote speaker and he talked about the work he did in sponsoring and helping pass the Massachusetts Transgender Rights Bill. This was so exciting especially in that when we booked him it was not clear to any of as to what the outcome would be.

In fact, even though the Bill has passed, we know that there were political tradeoffs that were made and there is still much work to do for each and every one of us and our friends.

Just as our logo for FE13 shows, we are just beginning to crack out of the egg and will have to learn how to grow and become part of our own and the greater community.

I realize that our theme can mean something different to each of you. Somewhere in my family tree I am pretty sure there were a few Talmudic scholars, so let me see if I can explain what these apparently simple four words mean.

We’ve: When we say “We” it means not only all of us together but it also includes each of us as individuals. It is referring to not only the entire transgender community – which covers so many different groups, and organizations but also each person who identifies anywhere under the gender spectrum and has struggled in the binary gender system.

Only: When we say “only”, this is not limited in any manner. There is work to do for the greater community in fighting for rights and acceptance, while each individual has the work to find out what and who they authentically are, and the challenges to keep balance in their very own lives in living authentically. This is often not limited to only a single choice or decision but has many complex issues. It is used here to recognize that there is a start needed for each of us.

Just: When we say “just”, it is a message to deal with what is right there in front of us. We can learn to avoid and deny what our truth and authenticity may be. Certainly there again is the issue of balance, but it is a fact that we do not choose to be transgender. We can only choose what we do about it. Once again, this term is not limited in time or the number of events it refers to. It does mean that we are no longer hiding, but are ready to move forward.

Begun: When we say “begun”, this is not limited to an event that occurred in the past. It represents each moment in time. Every moment represents a new beginning for each of us. Whether something good or something bad has transpired, the next instant in time is an opportunity for a new beginning.

We’ve Only Just Begun. Our journeys, as a community and as individuals are always starting in each and every moment. Come to First Event 2013 and discover where you journey will take you moment to moment. You will learn about the community and hopefully you will learn more about yourself. When you take this journey, you will make a difference in the world. In fact you must!

Grace Anne Stevens
Co-Chair, First Event 2013

Reflecting

I have been doing a good deal of reflecting lately.

You see, I am less than 1 month from having FFS and transitioning to live full time as Grace.

I have been busily working my check list; telling people in the 2 places I work; preparing the coming out letters for distribution; I have already legally changed my name, and starting the effort of changing it on all sorts of documents. I have been meeting with a number of the girls who have already gone to the same surgeon I will be using to get a good sense of their experiences. I have now had my last electrolysis appointment pre surgery – and dealing with the disappointment that I will need to continue this post-surgery too. I have pre-op meeting with both my primary and surgeon in the next week; I have been purchasing the supplies I will need, and sending out updates to my “network”; I am agonizing whether I want to tell the surgeon to make my nose look a certain way or put myself in his able hands.

And somehow, through all of this I am reflecting. So many people I have told of what I am about to do, respond with the following:

“You are so brave! You have so much courage!”

At first I did not know what to say. For many, too many years I have lived in shame and fear and confusion. Even though I believe I have come to terms with these feelings, I do not feel that bravery or courage has taken their place. For me, it is a sense of peace has taken their place. I feel – no, I know – I am doing the right thing. I do not think back to what might have been, nor do I think forward to what may happen. I am in the now, in the present, and I know I am going to be whole.

Am I brave? Am I courageous? I recently read Brene Brown’s I Thought It Was Just Me (but it isn’t), where she discusses the meaning of courage as “not just slaying the dragon, but about being true to yourself and speaking your mind.”

I am at last being true to myself. What I knew since I was a child no longer has to hide due to fear and shame. It is interesting that as I explain to people that I am transsexual there is absolutely no negative energy around it. For many people it will be a way to describe me, It is my truth. As I move forward in my life, it does not matter if I use the term or not to describe myself. My kids (all adults) have asked if they can still call me dad. This is also my truth, no matter how I appear, so I said, absolutely yes.

I have talked about journeys before and my reflections continue to relish that the journey is the destination. I am truly on the ride of my life now. And I am enjoying it.

Each of our journeys is unique. Each of us has to find the strength to take our next steps. Now I know that it does take courage – the courage that means being true to oneself to overcome our deepest fears. For me, I hope that I can keep the courage I have found, and for you, I wish you can all find yours.

Grace Stevens,  Vice Chair, TCNE  (October 2010)

Your Next Step

I have found a new guide book for my life, that I would like to share with each of you.  It is by Mark Nepo and is titled The Book of Awakening: Having the Life you Want by Being Present to the Life you Have.

It is one of those books that is has a short 1 page reading for each day of the year.  Each day I am moved and sometimes shaken by the wisdom that is presented.  As I write this I am reflecting on the reading called Hospitality.

He says,  “ Often the purpose of love is for others to guide us, without expectation or interference, as far as they can go, so that we might begin.”

Oh my!  This has so much resonance for me at so many levels.  As a parent, as a friend, as a person who is on a transgender journey, this is a wonderful addition to the meanings of “love.”

Here, at First Event 2011, we our expressing our love to each of you.  In a sense, we are acting as guides, and bringing you to the edge of the water.  We are providing the workshops, the parties, and the venue to meet old friends and make new ones.  It is a place that provides the opportunities to both learn and play as much as you choose.

This year our theme is One Community.  No matter where you are under the TG umbrella, or where you are on your own individual journey, we have worked to provide something that can fill your thirst, if you are willing to take the next step.   As. Mark Nepo says, this step is for you and you alone to take.  We are there to encourage and support you in this, but the next step is truly yours!

Take a deep breath, and step forward.  Feel free to fill your thirst as much as you can.  “Go as far as you can go” I hope you enjoy First Event 2011.

My wish for you is that you know you are loved and have the strength to take your next step here at First Event 2011.

Grace Stevens,  Vice Chair, TCNE  and Co-Chair First Event 2011

Everyday People

Hi everyone!   I am glad to be back after a good sized break.  TCNE is still going strong, and we are preparing to get ready for First Event 2011.   This year, the theme of First Event will be One Community.   Sometimes, when I ponder the diversity, the different feelings and desires that are expressed within the transgender community this old song comes to mind (a big thanks to Sly Stone)

Sometimes I’m right and I can be wrong
My own beliefs are in my song
The butcher, the banker, the drummer and then
Makes no difference what group I’m in
I am everyday people, yeah yeah

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Living In Balance

Charles  Dickens began the classic, A Tale of Two Cities as follows;

“It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.”

Sometimes I wonder if Mr. Dickens was trans!   I cannot remember how many times on my own transgender journey I have spoken these famous lines.   I would not be surprised if you too, can remember the times that you may have expressed these feelings.

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The “I’s” Have It!

Hello everyone, and welcome to my little corner of Rosebuds!

Who am I?
Who are you?

Well, if you are anything like me, I would hazard a bet that these simple questions are really not so simple to answer! In fact, I sometimes go into a small panic when I have to come up with an answer. It seems like when I have to answer; I am ______, there are so many possible responses that I often freeze!

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Popeye

A few weeks ago, Paula mentioned to me that she was babysitting for her grandson and had a wonderful time watching Popeye cartoons with him.  When Paula told her grandson that she had seen all these cartoons many, many years ago, he was surprised and astounded.

It started to make me think about how long it has taken me to appreciate the life lessons that Popeye has been teaching for decades.  No, I did not run out and buy those handy cans of spinach that Popeye always found when he needed instant muscle – although this certainly was a good nutritional life lesson in itself!

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Omens

Hello everyone, and welcome to my little corner of Rosebuds!

Have you ever read the small book The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho?  It is a story about a shepherd boy who learns to follow the omens that are presented in various forms in order to find and discover his life’s treasures.    Ever since I have read this I try very hard to pay attention to the omens that are presented to be to provide guidance for my own journey.

Last month I was reading a few books* (..and I am not sure about this habit of simultaneous book reading!), when  – lo and behold the same poem appeared in both books!.  The universe was clearly sending me a message!  I will share this message with you –

Love after Love

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