Living in Chains

“So often times it happens that we live our lives in chains, and we never even know we have the key.” – The Eagles

Thinking of what I want to write about this morning when I arrive at my favorite coffee shop. This song came on the radio, and these words struck me right in the heart. It is such a metaphor for my life, I don’t think I could ever come up with a better way to express the time I’ve wasted.

With so much more behind than ahead it seems instinctive
That memories have more substance then the dreams that seem elusive
Yet dreams don’t carry the stain of already certain disappointment
At this point in my life I find that I have very few dreams left,

I’m unsure when looking back, what dreams I have ever really had
Other than the constant prayer that I arise one day with the sun
To discover that my life as a man had simply been a long dark nightmare.
Yet wishing could never make it so, having lived a life without courage

It calls for a titanic leap of faith, to imagine another life
To accept the truth that eluded me for decades
It fills my heart with satisfaction that I finally found the key
That I always processed the courage, to make the dream reality.

I have passed into the realm of my personal truth
Existence as the person I’ve always been
But I’ll never forget nor could I ever forget
Where I came from, That life in the shadows.

 

 

 

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Self-Confidence in the Face of Beauty

The unfamiliar space holds the promiseamanda swafford2

Of immortality in black and white

A photographic print

To match the mirror’s reflection

As a transwoman of confident stature

I still seek affirmation.

Will this frozen image capture

and portray the woman I see myself to be?

All around gathered as if in answer to a call

Stand the beautiful people

Perfect in their presentation

As blooms in a queen’s rose garden

Smooth skin and perfect smiles,

Shining with the brightness of summer sunshine.

Their portraits lining the walls reflecting, radiating

The coveted feminine ideal.

My practiced smile, a disguise,

The fragility of self-confidence revealed

In growing discomfort

And faltering self-assuredness.

My armor has proven to be an illusion.

Does theirs afford more protection?

Does their beauty immunize

Against self-doubt?

 

Detours and Memories

My mind continues to present challenges in my everyday life or perhaps they could be better described as minor detours. The first emotion that arises when thimagese detour sign appears is one of frustration, I have things to do I don’t have time for this, yet I’ve learned that with a little patience something wonderful may revel itself.  Yesterday was just such a day, I had spent the morning sitting on my porch marveling at the beauty of a fine June morning. It was warm and peaceful, the sound of birds filling the air, I was feeling centered and at peace. I suddenly found myself captivated by how the air smelled and how the light itself had a certain feel; I knew I had a memory residing somewhere with this exact scent and visual trigger and set about to locate it deep in my childhood memories.

I finally found it deep in the file marked “Adirondack Mountains.” I’m instantly carried back to summer vacations, which when growing up always meant camping in the Adirondacks, a place so different from my home in a suburban neighborhood of Long Island. It was an escape from blacktop and concrete, a completely alien environment compared to the other fifty weeks each year of my life.

It amounted to my father’s annual pilgrimage to the cold trout waters of Northern New York, a duty he took very seriously. I, on the other hand, was not quite so enamored with spending hours in a twelve-foot aluminum boat or standing on the bank of a tiny stream engulfed in clouds of mosquitoes, the purpose of which was to catch a stinger full of eight-inch brook trout that I didn’t eat anyway. I look back wanting to feel the warm nostalgia of that childhood but at this point I’m not feeling it. I’m sure that were very enjoyable times deep in those woods; but now when I look back it feels lonely.

The thought that a particular memory could feel lonely triggered another detour into the nature of how we remember. Is everything now colored by my current reality, by my identity of today? Have my memories slowly evolved over the course of my lifetime? Do the feelings I recall actually exist as a part of the memory or are they added as seasoning when recalled.

I’m left to try and decide if I’m recalling those memories accurately, was that reality or am I rewriting history by recalling feeling that were not there, remembering them in a way that makes me feel better about myself.

I don’t know how to find the answer for that question and more importantly whether it makes any difference at all at this point. I have managed to spend several pleasurable hours contemplating this and I must say that I have thoroughly enjoyed the unexpected scenery on this detour.

Chemistry and Smiles

images2I have never really been acutely self aware, Its only in the time since I began to transition that the thousands of moments that make up each day have stopped sliding by unnoticed.

In the year before my gender confirmation surgery I walked, almost every day. I was trying hold back the ravages of time, strengthen some abdominal muscles to make my recovery easier. I walked 5 or 6 miles four or five times a week and over the course of that year I walked over a thousand miles. I think it definitely helped as I was up and walking again within a few weeks of my return home.

I was doing well, but as usual a storm was brewing on the horizon. The anti depressant I had been taking wasn’t working anymore and a change in medications was a disaster. Then there was the election which made me insane. In August of that year it all caught up with me, I stopped walking, my diet went to hell and I started smoking again. How I thought that would help anything is beyond me, but I never blamed the depression I was dealing with or should I say not dealing with. My Zoloft experience, otherwise known as my Zoloft detour into the night of the living dead convinced me to skip the antidepressants completely. It wasn’t long before I was back on the roller coaster again, up and down, up and down.

I have said that I’m not absolutely opposed to taking medication to ease the wild swings in my world, but I’m not willing to abandon all of my joyful moments in order to avoid the sorrowful ones. So it was, that after a number of months on the emotional carnival ride, I was forced to reassess my situation. My conclusion was that I had only one course of action and so with a bit of mild trepidation I agreed to try another antidepressant. I know that all these negative thoughts and self destructive habits all boil down to an upset in the chemistry of my brain. Although knowing and accepting are definitely two different things. Back to the chemistry lab I go…..

Well I’m happy to report that the first week has found me back to my old self, or at least on the road to that destination. I’ve begun walking again, it’s been two days since I’ve smoked and it even seems that I have lost a couple of pounds.

So here’s to a long and satisfying run with this miracle of modern chemistry.

 

 

The Fight Against Ignorance

I am a transgender woman and although I know that I am privileged in a great many ways; I still know what this feels like. Certainly not the same way I would have if I was sixteen years old, but the fear and anxiety are universal, the feeling of being the “other” is understood by all who embark on this journey.

The difference is that I transitioned in the adult world, on days when I felt particularly vulnerable I was able to withdraw from view until my confidence returned. I wasn’t

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constantly surrounded by a mob of adolescents that acquire social standing at the expense of others or by an administrative bureaucracy pushing their religious convictions or without the fortitude to withstand the ignorance running rampant in the community at large.

It is with as the backdrop that I have watched as Gavin Grimm made the case for his humanity, to the school board, those in his community, and to the public at large. He is a thoughtful, well spoken advocate for all trans people in this country whose desire is simply be allowed to live their lives. His strength in the face of lies and ignorance shouted at him by adults with hatred filling their eyes is awe inspiring.

As the case has slowly wound it’s way through the judicial system, the transgender community has ridden the roller coaster of emotions, through district courts appellate courts and the court of public opinion. We have lent our support through commentary, blog posts and social media. We have marched, we have stood and spoken our truth, we have made the decision that we must be visible if anything is ever to change.

As Gavin’s case moved inexorably toward its ultimate hearing at the Supreme Court, the ACLU said they would file a friend of the court brief to this case and include the actual life stories of transgender people.Through a friend, I was blessed to have been given the opportunity to be one of those people. To think that my name, and something of my story would appear on an official document presented to the Supreme Court is incredibly humbling.

In the end, the current political climate and change in administration may delay this case, but it can not stop the inevitable march toward the recognition of transgender rights

Signature page

So it is with tremendous pride that I point to the second page of signatories, and there at the top of the right hand column is my name for all the world to see –  Rachel Lee Campbell

 

Have I Ever Told You I Love My Name?

 

Rachel

 

 

 

 

 

Have I ever told you how much I love my name?

From a time when my feelings existed without explanation

Before coalescing into my truth, it existed as a tiny sound

Whispered for a lifetime in the depth of my dreams.

 

Have I ever told you how much I love my name?

Now fully grown it stands resolute in the face of resistance,

No longer willing to be kept silent by fears real or imagined.

It rises slowly at first, finally escaping as the full-throated declaration of my being.

 

I must have told you how much I love my name.

It’s a joyful sound to my ears, as it breaks free and bursts forth into the world

It rolls from my tongue without an instant of hesitation

A sweet sensation sweeping across lips fixed in a satisfied smile.

 

Have I ever told you how much I love my name?

As my hand hovers momentarily suspended above the page,

My imagination traces the letters in the air

Fingers absentmindedly caress the pen as I stare at the line on the bottom,

 

In language direct and simple it states, sign here;

But silently it also asks profoundly, who are you?

I reply, I am Rachel, and while I was not always Rachel to the world,

I have always been Rachel where it mattered, in my heart and soul.

 

This worldly reality given form at the insistence of my dreams,

It is given its final substance by these six simple letters.

I smile broadly as the final loop finishes with an unwavering flourish.

And so it is, the past corrected, today affirmed, Rachel’s legacy is assured.