Stuff on my desk.

That book in the picture is an amazing reference guide for any one who is transgender or who treats transgender clients or who knows some one who is transgender.

Background. I’m a big fan of books. Paper books- not the shit on kindle. First order of business in our new house was not the potentially leaking roof but the built-in’s I want built in our new living room. Irrational…yes. I’m okay with it.

Back to Trans Bodies Trans Selves. I wrote a blog post about coming out as a provider. Putting pictures up of my family in my office was a big deal for me. Then I started treating transgender clients and I realized me being a lesbian was not enough. Because there are plenty of lesbians who unfortunately may discriminate against those who identify as transgender. I also felt like some families were okay with me being a lesbian but maybe not accepting of transgender individuals. And not for nothing but they could potentially be in the waiting room at the same time and I don’t want my transgender folks feeling anything but acceptance.

Hence the big green book on my desk. It sits right on the edge facing out towards all my clients. You literally can’t miss it. I have a few other books about transgender clients scattered around my office too. I’m anything but subtle.

But my ploy worked. One of my clients made a lot of “should” statements about transgender individuals and then said, “But I wanted to ask you about it, because I know you see a lot of them or something, and one of my friends thinks he might be transgender,” and gestured toward the books.

It’s not my job to educate others about being transgender or agender or non-binary. But it’s a role I fully embrace. Because my clients who are not transgender may have no understanding of it, and they have a safe nonjudgmental space to now ask about it. We can explore their biases around it and they can ask questions in a judgement-free zone that may be inappropriate to ask a transgender individual. I’ve pulled out the Trans Bodies book and we’ve looked at pictures and read parts of it.

It is not my intention to make clients be pro-transgender people. But it is my intention to provide education when it is asked for in an objective manner. It’s a hard line to walk, because I don’t want to impose my beliefs on others. But at the same time I’m making it known that I am a lesbian provider who is accepting of all people who enter my office. I think providing a space to air beliefs wether I agree with them or not is important. Open dialogues are necessary in order for people to grow and learn and really feel another person’s perspective.

I had never mentioned to that particular client anything about my work with LGBT individuals prior to them raising that question. But because they saw my books laying around, and my other LGBT welcoming signs and posters they knew that they could ask a question.

I’ve had other clients bring up their transgender family members or friends. I’ve gotten referrals from people based only on these books laying around my office.

Non-verbal messages are incredibly powerful.

If you own a business or you are in healthcare or have the ability to create a safe space for LGBT individuals just do it. You may think it’s a small thing to put a rainbow flag or the transgender flag on your bulletin board or the human rights equality sticker on your car, but it’s not. We take notice. We feel safer and we are more likely to open up to you. We are more likely to come back to your place of business and to refer our friends there.

Instead of our country focusing on how to shut out people from business perhaps we should talk about how to bring our business in.

There are people who probably disagree with me for utilizing my office space to put a controversial issue out there. I respect your opinions and we have to agree to disagree. If #45 can use his office to trample on transgender rights in a loud/abuse of power type of way then I’m going to use mine to provide safety to a marginalized population in our society who are dying by murder and by suicide.

My books provide an opening to a dialogue. The dialogue can be uncomfortable and eye-opening, and painful. But those are the only dialogues worth having…no?

Words are, in my not so humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic, capable of both inflicting injury and remedying it.”

Albus Dumbledore

Death. And this Dyke.

I’m no stranger to death.

The first death I witnessed was in a NICU in nursing school. A physician held her finger on the infant’s heart and literally kept the heartbeat going until the parents were present and she yelled out to the room of about fifty people “I’m open to suggestions” but her voice cracked on suggestions. The room went eerily silent and then she pulled her finger off the infant’s heart and that was the end.

In the pediatric emergency department I was called the “black cloud” because I was usually on when shit went down. Meaning kids died. There were a variety of ways in which people died. There were also times when we would have to give heartbreaking diagnoses to unsuspecting families and terms like “inoperable” and “comfort care” were tossed around.

That part of my life was rough. Watching kids die takes a toll emotionally and physically. It’s not a job I could do forever and I was in tune enough with myself to know that.

But now I hear my clients talk about death in a myriad of manners and I am brought to my knees in a whole new way.

A common fear among my transgender clients is being murdered. One of their biggest fears and obstacles sometimes to transitioning is being murdered.

Every day I see an article of Facebook about transgender individuals who are murdered, and so do my clients. Then I have to sit in a therapy session with them and explore this.

Here’s the deal. When one of my anxious clients has an irrational fear I can usually in good conscious say “That’s not going to happen” (I mean I say it more therapeutically than that but that’s the general idea). But when a transgender client fears for their safety I can’t negate it. That literally fucking kills me.

How horrible is it to sit across from an individual and want to support them in their journey to their authentic self, but have to also support them in their fears that by being themselves they might be murdered.

That’s heavy.

I think somewhere in my head there is a fear for my safety as a lesbian. But based on where I live, the people I surround myself with, and my karate experience (this is a j/k moment. I literally only got my green belt but in my head I feel like I’m actually a black belt super ninja). I don’t live with that fear minute by minute or hour by hour. It’s only there when I’m somewhere down South if I’m being really honest. And if I fear for my safety I may fear verbal abuse or discrimination, I don’t take the leap in my head to murder. But transgender people are being killed. It’s a real thing. If you don’t know about the cases then educate yourself.

Honestly seeing something happen fast in the emergency department was almost easier to cope with then being let into clients private hopes and dreams and feeling the fear with them and overall I guess just caring more deeply.

Clients are not always aware of the impact they have on providers. Because we have to remain somewhat detached and objective during sessions.

Speaking human to human though, it is impossible to sit with someone and hear that their fear of being murdered is stopping them from living life the way they feel they should and not feel something.

It is impossible to sit with them in that knowledge as they proceed bravely toward their transition and not feel something.

Watching and supporting someone courageous enough to face death for being themselves is awesome and inspiring and terrifying and beautiful.

Your providers are feeling all of this for you. At least this provider is.

Perhaps there will come a day in my career when I can tell a transgender client that they do not have to fear discrimination or hate or murder. But today is not that day. Today I can tell them I admire them and as I sit in my living room with a fire blazing on this cold October night, I am thinking of them.

When you don’t have any nipples.

It’s more common than you might think.

So I have nipples. I have never not had nipples. They look a little different now that I’ve breastfed twin boys for eleven months. But they are still there.

The field of mental health teaches me lessons regularly. I see people at their most vulnerable. I am trusted with secrets and truths that will go to my grave with me. I am constantly and profoundly touched by the human condition that presents and unfolds in front of me.

There are two main sources of clients who don’t have nipples. Women who have had mastectomies and transgender men who have had chest reductions and opted to not have their nipples replaced. I’ve had both types of clients in my office.

(I know this is a blog about being a lesbian, but this post is going to veer more toward a commentary on the strife transgender individuals face. My site is trans-affirmative, non-binary supportive, agender accepting, and any one who feels otherwise is entitled to start their own blog post and write about it there. Judgemental and bigoted comments will not be tolerated here.)

Cancer survivors are respected, revered even. My mom is one of them. So is my Aunt, my grandmother, and many close friends. I have lost friends and family members to cancer. I have a sincere respect for cancer and the battle that was fought against it by all the survivors.

Transgender males who receive top surgery have been through some shit. To come out as transgender alone risks losing one’s family and friends. To then proceed with one’s transition- in whatever fashion that may shape up to be- again leaves one open to constant derision. My clients who have decided to transition, who then decide to have top surgery then also face the choice of having or not having their nipples replaced.

This brings a myriad of issues that some one who has not had top surgery may not think about. If a person is college aged and they identify as male and they live on a floor with shared showers they now have to navigate the dreaded “locker room” or “shower room”. People on their floor may not know they are transgender. They likely just assume the person is male. The transgender male now must approach the group showers and either decide to just do it and go in with just a towel and no shirt and figure out how they are going to explain the “sans” nipple appearance, or they have to wear a bathrobe, slide into the shower with the bathrobe on, take it off once in the shower and try and hang it somewhere while they shower then turn shower off, put robe back on, without showing naked body to any other males in the shower room.

That whole process may take less then fifteen minutes. But it’s something they have to do every freaking day. Fifteen minutes of possible torture/panic/anxiety every day.

Showering is supposed to be relaxing and peaceful. But to a person with no nipples and a transgender identification it can be hell.

People sometimes have this image in their head that once transgender individuals go on hormones or have those surgeries (there is often some vague notion of something to do with boobs and genitals but no actual knowledge of what these surgeries might entail) that the transgender journey is complete. I wrote in one of my blogs that coming out isn’t a one time thing, it’s a lifelong dilemma. That’s how it is for people who identify as transgender. It’s not just “Got my top surgery, I’m good now.” Top surgery means no more binders, yay, but now there are brand new obstacles to overcome.

These clients of mine are often young. They are brave and I have the utmost regard for them. If you have the preconceived notion that transgender individuals choose this life for themselves I can tell you that you are wrong. No one would choose to live in a body that doesn’t fit. No one would choose to then go through emotional and physical pain to alter their body to fit their gender identity only to then have to face potentially 15 minutes of absolute horror on a daily basis when all they want to do is shower without fear of judgement. Without fear for their safety. Without fear.

I cannot pretend to understand what it is like to walk in the shoes of some one who is transgender. But I can raise my voice and say You are Beautiful. I can write my blog post about not having nipples, and raise awareness to perhaps just 15 minutes of a day in the life.

I will also say that whether or not an individual has nipples under their military uniform makes no difference in their ability to carry a gun and wear the uniform.

An important note before I close. Do not ever ask some one if they have nipples. It’s none of your freaking business. Do not ever ask some one what their genitalia includes or doesn’t. It’s rude. And again, it shouldn’t matter. Most people think this is common sense. But I have never met a transgender individual who has not been inappropriately asked about their chests and genitalia.

Today or tomorrow when you go to take a shower. Just think about the freedom you have in your own body and the comfort. And remember that not every one has that, and they need support in their fight to get it.