When It Is What It Is

Meghan Buell founder of T.R.E.E.S. and columnist for OUT in Michigan City Photo: Facebook

Hello All. Recently, I was out of town to present at a conference. I had to use a parking garage. When I was leaving it, I had to get my parking pass validated. As I thought about this process, I chuckled. Why, you might ask? It was because of how I thought for a second that my identity was not much different from this parking voucher.

Identifying as transgender has taught me that no matter how confident I am in my identity I spend much of my time validating it for others. Now, mind you, I travel around the country conducting transgender awareness workshops and events so, yes, it kinda is my job. But, you’d be amazed at how often I am “required” to validate my identity outside of the parameters of my work. Just about every time I make a phone call to check on a reservation, appointment, or any other conversation not with family or friends puts me in a position which requires validation. I get the full list of verification questions and when all my answers match I get the “oh, so you’re Meghan?” Um, yes.

Sometimes this validating is more subtle and without words. I was finishing up in a restroom at a public restaurant. As I was washing my hands someone entered, stopped, backed out to look at the gender indicator on the door, then reentered. At this point they looked me over from head to toe then to head again. This was followed by a unrecognizable facial expression, probably somewhere between “you’ve got to be kidding me” and approaching violent illness. I kept it together and just smiled, dried my hands and left. Funny things is, my only real concern was whether or not they would also wash their hands when they were done.

Trans persons are subjected to moments of validation constantly. It gets to be tiring to always have to do this. Hopefully the work I am doing for my organization, TREES, Inc. www.webetrees.org, is having an impact on this problem. No, not the alleged problem of being trans, but the problem of always having to validate my identity, my existence. Sometimes it just Is What It Is.

Peace.

Let “Religious” Freedom Ring

Meghan Buell founder of T.R.E.E.S. and columnist for OUT in Michigan City Photo: Facebook

Happy Pride !!!

Wow, it is June already. It seems like winter just ended and now we are almost half way through Pride Month. A lot has happened since I last wrote. The first half of the year has kept me busy either teaching or traveling for TREES, Inc. (www.webetrees.org). Some thing that happened recently has caused an itch to get under my skin, so, I would like to share some thoughts on it. It is the recent SCOTUS ruling about “the baker”.

For those not in the know, in short, SCOTUS ruled that a baker in Colorado was unjustly “sanctioned” by the local human right commission/ordinance there. However, the ruling has been used as a tool to inspire some folks to think they can openly discriminate with “religious freedom” as the tool for this discrimination. My first, and most significant reaction is “Oy.” In fact, that may be as far as I should go with any reaction, but I won’t.

In my view, if someone wants to discriminate they will. It is only when there is a definitive or blatant record of it can much be done to debate which side is right. We are not at this point yet. See, someone’s “firmly held religious belief” has not been define and in many cases defining it is being avoided. By defining it, those who declare this defense for discrimination would actually be held to some level of accountability. Being held accountable would then mean they would have to show a true conviction to their religious faith. Right now, it is a wide open can of “pick and choose” religious doctrine adherence. Spew a bible verse when it is convenient and works for you. When challenged on other verses, side step them by declaring them obsolete. Wow, what a nice easy tool to be just plain old bigoted. And, as lower courts begin to rule in favor of “religious freedom” there starts to be legal precedent for upholding carte blanche discrimination. This should scare us all.

I mention to folks sometimes that I would love the opportunity to used these rulings to prove a point. I would like to open a restaurant and have the chance to ask people, or just make a blind assumption, about their sexual orientation of gender identity in the hopes that when they answer as straight or cisgender (not really thinking they would know that term but you get it) so I can channel Seinfeld’s The Soup Nazi by saying, “No Soup for You!”. Of course, this would probably land me in the news. In the end, this would be a terrible business model and I’d probably go out of business in short order, unless, I incorporate as an IRS 501c3 Religious Organization. Hmmm? Anyone want to join a board of directors? LOL

In conclusion, talking about religious freedom and discrimination is not going to go far. Actions will speak louder than words on this one. Go out and prove a point in whatever manner you wish, because, until this can is closed, it’s a free(dom) for all. Walk proudly as your authentic self and when someone challenges you to prove your authenticity just say “no proof required due to my religious freedom” and see how they react. Good Day.

Happy Pride !!!

I Just Gotta Pee

Meghan Buell, Photo Courtesy of Facebook

Hello everyone. I write today waiting in line to use the bathroom, or restroom, or loo, depending on where you reside. Yes, trans people need to go every once in awhile. Not a remarkable discovery, right? I know, right? So, why is going to the restroom the first thing many people want to discuss about the trans community?

Ah, the restroom. A place designed for folks to go #1 or #2. A basic facility usually consisting of urinals, toilets, sinks and, hopefully, towels or hand dryers. Simple design, simple function and just plain simple, correct, or, so we thought. Then why all the interest in keeping trans people out of public restrooms.

There are usually two sides to any argument. In this case there are the trans folk who say, just let us use the restroom that we feel safest in. After all, we only need to go. In, out, easy peasy. The other side of the argument keeps saying that trans people in public restrooms is a safety issue. Of course, not a safety issue for the trans person but for cis (cisgender) women and young girls. Also, apparently, for men and young boys. Interesting. First question would be why would there be a safety concern if everyone is taught or reminded of the purpose of a restroom. So, where does the safety concern begin? It doesn’t begin anywhere because it is bogus. Then what is the real concern?

Raise your hand if using a public restroom is the coolest, most awesome thing ever. Yep, not seeing many, if any hands raised. That is because using a public restroom is a necessity, not a planned destination. It’s not a ride at Disney, people. Because of this some businesses have tried to make their public restrooms as pleasant as possible. Pretty colors, cool posters, couches, big mirrors. All in an attempt to make people feel less uncomfortable in them. Then you have a trans person enter and everyone gets uncomfortable regardless of the décor because people really don’t “get” trans people. Some people get appalled at the idea that trans people would come in and disrupt their comfortable feeling. I was told recently by a woman that the public restroom is their sanctuary. Really? Really??? It’s a restroom. Oh, my. And beside, it’s ok to feel uncomfortable. It builds character.

The point I’m trying to make is that trans restroom discussions are really about people being uncomfortable not them being unsafe. So, please do not fall into the toilet on this discussion and remind people that the restroom is not for resting (from being uncomfortable) but for doing #1 or #2, and occasionally for farting, but that is a whole other blog topic.

Pee, I mean, be well.

The Teacher in Me

Transgender Rights activist, teacher and founder of T.R.E.E.S. Meghan Buell

I grew up, quite a many years ago, in an educator’s household. My dad was in public education for 40 years. When I was young I was pretty much indifferent to my dad being an educator. I did try my best to take advantage of visiting “his” school when he was the Principal because it usually meant a visit to the office supply room. That was my super store of pencils, folders and notebooks. Just to clarify, my dad would pay for the items. So, my dad being an educator was kind of cool. I never envisioned that one day I, too, would be an educator.

I teach all the time. My “classroom” differs often. Much of the time it isn’t even in a school building. In reality, I consider the world as my classroom. This is so because every day I step out of my house I have an opportunity to teach someone something about me. Most times, it is transgender related because I live as an out and proud transgender woman. I am, for the most part, okay with this. I mean, I run a nonprofit organization that specializes in transgender education, so I am kind of destined to teach when I am engaging folks. My educator’s DNA comes in handy. But this is far from the only teaching I do.

In my spare time I work as a Substitute Teacher in a public school system. Yes, school systems do hire trans teachers, well, at least my hometown’s school system does. Being a Sub is not for the faint of heart. It takes a lot of patience, empathy, quick thinking, and perseverance. As a trans person in education I have found that I fare well for having thick skin, selective hearing and a sense of humor. You might ask why these would be necessary. Here are some examples of my experiences where this has been required.

Thick Skin: Kindergarten.
Boy: Are you a girl?
Me: Yes
Boy: I don’t see it.
Me: Well, I am.
Boy: What about your voice?
Me: I have a deep voice.
Boy: I’m not buying it.
Me: Back to work

Selective Hearing: An Indiana “liberty” organization
Them: This “man” (me) should be spending more time teaching math, English and science instead of spreading their sexual identity to second graders.
My employer: We’re good. Thanks
Me from afar: Did someone say something? Lol

Sense of Humor: 2nd Grade
Student: Miss Meghan, can I ask you a question
Me: Sure
Student: Are you a boy or a girl?
Me: A girl
Student: Oh, but why do you have a boy voice?
Me: I don’t have a boy voice. I have a deep voice.
Student: Have you tried a cough drop?
Me: I’ll have to give that a try. Thanks.

Life as an educator. Thanks, dad.

Being Seen

Transgender Rights activist and founder of T.R.E.E.S. Inc. Meghan Buell

We spend all, or most, of our waking hours looking around at all of the wonderful sights in our view. We look at our phones, at the TV, at the level of our beverage to determine if we need a refill. We look at a lot of things each and every day. But, how much do we really see?

As an out and proud transgender person I go about my business each day because that is what is needed to complete the to-do list. I go to the grocery store, the post office, the doctor, to wherever my list tells me to go. Most times I don’t think twice about it but every now and again I am reminded that my going places is really an opportunity to be seen. A chance to be seen by others. A moment to be seen as, well, just another person trying to figure out which avocado is sufficiently ripened. My reminder that it sometimes different is when I catch someone staring at me. I don’t spend a lot of time thinking if this happens to cisgender people or not. Doing that comparison doesn’t weigh on my goals of the day. What I do wonder, though, is what aspect of my being is so intriguing. I ponder.

I am secure in my understanding of who I am. If people take a second glance at me it doesn’t register on my “am I me enough today” radar. I usually default to “is my hair messed up?” or “is there food in my teeth?”. But never, “Am I Meghan enough for the world today?” I smile when I am the subject of extended glances. You know, just to let the gawker know that I see them. This usually ends the stare. Well, in most cases. I had a 4th grade student get caught staring at me and it ended up in a staring contest in which the rest of the 4th grade class was cheering the student on to “beat Miss Meghan”. It was fun and took a potentially embarrassing moment and made it into something altogether unrelated. The student won, by the way. They were applauded by their classmates. The moral of the story for me? Don’t be offended by the stares of others. Look them right back in the eyes and say I am visible and I SEE YOU.

Thank you.

Meghan (visible since 2009)

Got Your Back

Ever wonder if at that certain moment someone might actually be there to help? I always tell people when I put on my activist hat that I get bail money pre-arranged, three-fold. I just want to be prepared, just in case. I don’t want to wonder if, when I make the call, someone will answer.

The transgender community faces a lot of challenges just to exist. Each of us move along our own journeys without knowing what is up ahead of us on the road. For many of us, being able to live an authentic life is the goal. Certainly, for me, that is the goal. This doesn’t always present itself in a nicely wrapped package. We sometimes have to learn some hard lessons. Well, I guess, that is just life. Unfortunately, sometimes when a transperson puts themselves in harm’s way, they ended up injured, or worse, dead. As of mid-July, there have been 15 confirmed transgender murders in the United States this year. This puts us on pace to exceed last year’s total. This doesn’t begin to represent the number of transgender people who “just” get hurt. Well, when they do get hurt, sometimes this leads them down a path to possibly becoming another disheartening statistic connected to the transgender community.

Suicide for the transgender community is a big concern. They happen all too often. I dealt with this myself during my self-discovery time. I never really felt then that I had anyone to call. I struggled along the way just trying to avoid getting to that point of hopelessness. I will confide that it may have only taken one event to put me there. I was reminded of this recently as I, along with a friend, sat anxiously on our phones, they with a young trans person and me with their mother, as we tried to get them to drop the knife they held against their own body with the intent of doing self-harm. I sat wrenching inside with flashbacks but not being in a position to allow my emotions to flow freely. I wanted to cry, scream, lash out in pain, anger and frustration. I held it together until we were successful in saving this young life. By that time I was numb. I couldn’t cry, scream or lash out. Well, not until about 3 hours latter when it all came gushing out. I felt better and had thought I had let it all out. But, I hadn’t. I am still feeling the affects of this event. Although the results were favorable, I can’t help but wonder if a life event like this person experienced is right around the corner for me. Am I strong enough to meet it head on? Who do I call? Will I even make the call? These are the questions I am carrying around with me. Well, I guess this is just life. Right?

ps. I am crying as I end this blog post.

Suicide is never the answer, if you are thinking about or going to attempt suicide please call With Help Comes Hope 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or Trans Lifeline at 1-877-565-8860. You are not alone.

Being Proud

Meghan Buell, Photo: Facebook

As we enter another Pride Month in June, I stop to reflect on what pride, or more correctly, being proud means to me.

In younger days, I was always proud of stuff. I would proudly show off my Lego building skills to my mom. I felt the pride of winning a 1st Place ribbon at a track meet in grade school event though I was not a fast runner (I benefit of being on a relay team with other fast kids). I was proud to tell people I was from The Region even though they called us “Region Rats”. I always stood proudly and supported my sports teams, my schools and my friends. It wasn’t until much later in life that I realized I had never felt very proud of me.

As I was limping my way through life, feeling very confused, frustrated and lost, I was very much assured that my life was going to end in a moment of complete surrender to these feelings. I wasn’t living because I was proud to be alive. I was living because I was still breathing. This changed when I encountered a word that seemed at the time to be a gateway to self discovery. Late in 1998, I ran smack dab into the word transgender. A word I had been seeking to enter my life for so long. I do recall standing up and raising my arm and saying “I am transgender”.

Looking back I could in no way have predicted where I would be today. I have been described as “one of the most out and proud trans people” someone knew. I do live a very authentic and proud life now. I did have to overcome a big obstacle to get to this place. From the time that I stood up and raised my arm and for the 7 years that followed I studied and researched everything about being transgender. I became very astute on most things related to the trans community. I thought this was going to be enough to carry me into the future. I began to prepare for an eventual transition. Everything seemed to be falling into place, yet, I felt there was a void. There was something I was forgetting. It was bothering me. What could it be?

Meghan Buell, Photo: Facebook

I used to “dress up” and go out when it was convenient for me to get out. This was a very comfortable part-time existence. I was not under any pressure or constraint to be anything other than what I wanted to be at any point of time. I thought this was just my situation given still being mostly in the closet. I kept using job, family or money as the reason I didn’t take my journey any further. Yet, I was getting frustrated that things were not moving along the planned timeline. And then it hit me. My excuses for not advancing forward were not at all related to job, family or money but because I hadn’t really come out to MYSELF and, thus, was not really proud of being ME. All my life I had been proud of my accomplishments but never of me. Once I called my own bluff and finally stood up and said “I AM TRANSGENDER. HEAR ME ROAR” I was able to stop spinning my wheels, gain traction and move forward toward the goal. It took me being proud of being me to open up the pathway to self-acceptance. I stand here today, celebrating Pride Month, truly proud.

Spouting About Sprouting

Meghan Buell

“April showers bring May flowers.” That’s how the saying goes. Well, April is about to close out. I wonder what lies ahead in May. Flowers, I truly hope.

Springtime is this miraculous time of rebirth for many plants. Everyone begins to get excited as new spouts are starting to show through the soil top. As I see this ritual each year I reflect back to my own personal transition and, in many ways, my own Springtime sprouting. I had a surgery in January 2009. However, it wasn’t until April or May of that year that I started to “sprout” so to speak. The first 3 months were really all about healing. This is the standard healing timeline for many after undergoing a vaginoplasty procedure. Once that was in the rearview mirror the real growth began. My life was in the midst of change. In all essences I began “fulltime” at the same time that I had my surgery. Thus, I was in the midst of a long period of “coming out”. I had begun to peer out of my topsoil and people wanted to know what this sprout was going to become. Include me in that statement, also. I often wondered into what, or more precisely, who I would become. At times it was easy to be myself but it was also very tough. But, as with others who were inquiring, I wanted to see the results now.

My recovery did hit a bump in the road. I was very concerned about this and it began to consume me. It got so stressful that I collapsed at work one day. A co-worker drove me to see my doctor. I was checked out and then my doctor said words I have never forgotten. She grabbed a piece a copy paper with a tiny speck or blimish on it. She asked me why I was so focused on a tiny speck, (meaning my small hiccup in healing) that was on the paper. As a whole the sheet of paper was overall pretty good. It opened my eyes to the fact that things were, in fact, pretty good. I smiled and agreed that I needn’t stress out so much. I needed to let things run their course.

As the sprouts enter the world each Spring, it is important to remember that each of them will grow and change at their own speed and when they are ready they will show us their true colors. Patience my friends. Patience.

Reflections and the Final 12 Hours Before Top Surgery

Photo of Kane Fletcher courtesy of Facebook

It’s 12 hours before my surgery and I’m sitting in front of a camp fire. The very fact that I’m actually having top surgery has not set in yet and I’m thankful for the seven hour drive and the family and friends who are sitting here beside me. Their presence is calming and takes my mind off of my anxiety. I am so happy to all that have helped and I know I would not be here without all the unconditional love and support that I have received over the years.

I will say this, even thought I’m more nervous then I think I have been ever in my life, I am ready to wake up and see myself as the man that I’ve seen within myself all of my adult life. The man I know that I am.

The next few days and weeks after the surgery I will be healing, but when I do heal I’ll be able to share with you what I can’t possibly express right now. My excitement, my hope for the future, and my unapologetic life as the man I’ve become. The next time I talk to you it will be after my surgery, I hope that you all stick around with me for the new adventures yet to come.

Editors note: Kane Fletcher had his top surgery on Wednesday, April 19, 2017 and is currently recovering in Michigan City. Kane will be going back to his surgeon in Ohio for a follow up and you can expect his next column in a week or so.

Kane’s group “Welcome to the Other Side” will be performing at the Uptown Center in Michigan City on May 5th.

T -4 Days and Counting Until the First Day of the Rest of My Life

It’s almost here, the day I’ve been waiting for. The day that I never thought would get here. I’m talking about ‘top surgery.’ How do I describe how I feel? It’s like there is an epic space battle happing in my stomach, ‘Battlestar Glactica’ epic. My palms are constantly sweaty and I feel every emotion under the sun all at once. Like I’m in the cockpit of a Colonial Viper about ready to take out a Cylon Base Star all by myself.

There are so many emotions that I am feeling right now, by far I feel excitement the most, it’s almost like an adrenaline rush. That’s how I can explain my immediate feelings about my surgery. Yet I’ve have never had major surgery before so I’m nervous. What if there are complications? What if something goes wrong? I guess that’s where faith comes in, faith in my doctors, nurses, and hospital staff. Faith in the unconditional love and support of my fiancé. Faith in the love and support of my family and friends. Faith in myself to see this next leg in my journey through.

With any surgery there is a risk and sometimes surgery is so vital that you have to weigh that risk. Is the risk worth it? In my case, yes the risk is worth it, but not for the reason that you might think. Yes I’m going through with this not only because it’s the next step on the journey I started over five years ago. I’m going through with this because sometimes doing something major has to do more with the ‘small’ things in life than it has to do with the big ones. Sometimes it’s the things that no one else thinks about because it’s just a part of everyday life, until it’s not. Sometimes it’s the things that most people take for granted.

For over five years I have been binding my chest. In that time I have not felt a shirt on my skin or the sun on my back. The thought of hitting the beach for the first time this summer with no shirt or the binder to restrain me makes my skin tingle, especially the closer I get to my surgery date.   It’s those little things that I miss most. This summer there will be no ‘over heating’ from wearing the binders. I will never have to buy another new binder again. Breaking in a new binder horrible, it leaves painful ‘rub lines’ that sometimes bleed. I know binders are a necessary part of being a trans man, but at the same time after years of wearing one I no longer look at it as necessary, I look at it as a medieval torture device.

The days of worrying if I look like I have boobs are almost over. So are the days of not standing straight and tall because I might look too chesty. There are places I don’t go because I worry that on that particular day I don’t look ‘man enough.’  I will stand tall and I will no longer be ‘afraid’ of my chest. I will no longer worry about wearing a tank top and hope that my binder is not showing in public.

So back to the question, ‘is it worth the risk?’ The answer is hell yes. This is one of the biggest events of my life and one the best things that I’ve ever done for myself. I can’t wait until I’m standing in front of a mirror and I see myself again for the first time. I’ll make sure I tell you guys all about it.

Kane Fletcher’s Group “Welcome to the Other Side” will be preforming May 5th at the Uptown Center in Michigan City’s Historic Uptown Arts District.