I have experienced so many transitions.
There were the decades of saying "no," to just about everything in my path as I was filled with fears I could not or would not dare name. At the age of 54, and the end of my 25-year marriage with my children all now budding adults, I was alone and had to accept that my lifetime of saying "no," had not led me to a sustainable place. Perhaps change was not so bad, not so "evil." Perhaps I could change if I was truly willing to face some of my fears.
In my book, No! Maybe? Yes! Living My Truth, I share my journey of coming to accept my gender identity and gender transition journey. However, there is so much more about many other transitions in my life that are all important.
Even compared to my gender transition, which required finding the strength to align my inner world, which was always present and hidden, with my outer world, I still find my transition from a Type "A" engineering manager to that of a counselor/therapist a more challenging journey.
From being the person who "thought" he knew every answer for every problem (for every person) to becoming the woman I am now, who can sit with someone, hold a safe space, listen and find her center of empathy to feel what they are feeling, is a journey that I believe few actually take. Interestingly, I can look at the world and the people I meet through both sets of eyes, as I really try to feel what others are feeling and instead of telling them what to do, ask them how I can best support them.
It was with both these sets of eyes, that I have been watching the "About Bruce" episodes on the Kardashian shows. Even with the pretty uniform positive comments after the Diane Sawyer interview, most of the chatter that I have seen within the trans community about expectations of this further exposure was negative and less than open. I, myself, was not certain what to expect or if I even wanted to watch any of it. It would be the first time I would be watching any of these Kardashian shows. My first-hand knowledge of all of them was slim, if any.
As I watched it, I was fascinated, triggered, amazed and confused; but most of all, I found that by the end of each segment, I was finding a deep sense of empathy arise within me for each person and their experience.
As a leader within New England's transgender community, I always advise each new person to listen to everyone's story and then find his or her own. Each person's story, their life, their experience is unique. I know and advise that there really is no one single or right way to take your journey. I also needed to listen to my own advice as I watched the Jenner family's story unfold. I am glad that I did.
My engineer's eyes were analyzing what I saw, but not really listening to the content. I was looking at the big picture, getting the full map of the territory, listing all the players and checking if they had an agenda. While doing this, they were also jotting down comments and judgments on each one of these topics that could be of use later. Over 40 years of experience made this easy.
My counselor's eyes were not analyzing at all. They were concentrating on the words and watching the emotions and body language, and steering them to my own inner places to see if I could understand and relate to what they saw and what I was hearing. Moment after moment, I heard the words that not only I have spoken in the past, but that I have heard from so many other people I know in the trans community. What I saw was drawing so much empathy from deep inside me. I have walked in these shoes.
Many people ask why someone would transition gender in their '60s.
I have walked in these shoes.
Yes, responsibility to family often overrides the inner battle
Bruce hid his truth from his wife. I have walked in these shoes.
Reality is hiding the truth from oneself until it cannot stay hidden
Kim told Bruce "No neon!" I have walked in these shoes.
Wanting to be seen but not really showing what is inside.
Each of the kids has responded with a different set of feelings and level of understanding. I have walked in these shoes.
The kids are all unique too, and the best part is that they talk to each other. This is so much better than the being abandoned.
I am pretty sure that these shows will never be on my regular "must see" list, but I was able to separate the larger-than-life reality show, the reported money-making machine, and found I could identify with the human feelings that were expressed, as the content of what was said was content that I am very familiar with, and have lived with myself, and know many others who have also lived it.
Jenner stated that he will change the world. Perhaps he will, perhaps he has already.
Through my own transitions I have learned what a challenging task it is to change the world. I have learned that the best I can do is perhaps make a difference to one person at a time. There is a saying that comes from the Talmud,
Whoever saves a life, it is considered as if he has saved the world.
I have learned the first step in doing this is to listen, to hear, to walk in his or her shoes, with love and acceptance. Empathy.
Grace Stevens is a transgender woman who transitioned at the age of 64 and holds a Masters Degree in Counseling Psychology. She is a father of three, grandparent of two, athlete, advocate and author of No! Maybe? Yes! Living My Truth, an intimate memoir of her personal struggle to transition and live her true life authentically as a woman. For more information about Grace, her work and how Gender Variance Education and Training can help you, visit her website at: http://www.graceannestevens.com/. Follow Grace on Twitter: www.twitter.com/graceonboard .