Have you ever gone down the rabbit hole and knew that your life would never be the same again?
That happened to me seven years ago in January 2009. I went to my first transgender conference, First Event. You might just say, I never left.
I was 62 years old, and my "secret" had been shared with only one other person. My 25 year long marriage ended in 2001. Perhaps it is strange to think that in my sixties I was still worrying about my future. I was hidden to the world, and more importantly to myself also. I would never join groups, or hang out with other people. What this meant is that I refused to participate in my life! I refused to experience what life had to offer. All because I feared the truth ....my truth.
Oh, by the way, the more I talk about this issue the more I discover stories like this are not isolated to those of us in the trans community. Not by a long shot. I suspect almost everyone has a similar story of being afraid of his or her own truth. I am hoping that we can all share and learn how to conquer these fears together.
Once I found the trans community -- through Tiffany Club and the First Event conference I really never did leave. My first conference was in January 2009. Two years later I convinced 3 other people to join me as co-leaders of the conference in 2011. Next week (starting January 20th..) it will be the start of First Event 2016 www.firstevent.org and three of that team has been co-leading for the past 6 years. My sincere thanks to my friends Andrea and Michelle for being part of this great team (no single person could ever do this alone.) This was a giant leap for someone who never joined things before. They taught me so much about how to join and work with others to make something wonderful. Yes, I never left.
In 2013 I wrote in the conference program guide what First Event meant to me. The back-story also appears in my book, but I think it is OK to share it with you once again.
Growing up in the fifties and sixties, 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 I watched movies of one fairy tale after another, and I was glued to them. Magic and sorcery and dreams coming true and living happily 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. 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 Great and Powerful, 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 Tinker Bell 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 Tinker Bell 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 woman 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 women 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 First Event 2009, I learned that dreams can and do come true. I learned that a transgender conference changed my life. Since that time I have seen people come to different conferences and watch as their lives also change.
I learned to participate in my life!
I learned to experience my life!
I learned to accept and live my truth.
Perhaps taking a risk -- participating and experiencing your truth -- and meeting and joining others can have a similar impact for you.
Your wonderland is out there. It really is!
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. Grace is available for speaking about authentic living with Living on-TRACK, and Gender Variance Education and Training. Visit her website at: http://www.graceannestevens.com/. Follow Grace on Twitter: www.twitter.com/graceonboard .