Category Archives: Transition

The Bridge

I am so excited to share my first publication! Published by the spectacular crew at SFWP – the Santa Fe Writers Project – I present

“The Bridge” —> here

as included in the 27th issue of the SFWP Quarterly. Please read and enjoy! Feel free to leave something in the tip jar if you like it or simply want to support independent literary publications.

You can follow #SFWP on twitter and instagram – I certainly do! Many thanks to Monica Prince and Nicole Schmidt for finding my piece worthy of their special issue focused on the body.

A bit of background – bridges both literal and metaphorical litter the landscape of my life. So it seems only fitting that my first published piece is about a bridge. Even more specifically apropos I found photos of the Golden Gate from a solo trip years ago to enliven this entry. Suppose I’ll have to explain some to connect those things together, how one bridge led to another.

Often I write here about my attempts to cope with the after effects of childhood trauma in the present day, about the struggle to make sense of it all. Back in the early days of remembering these long hidden parts of my childhood, when fresh memories were flooding forth daily, I was completely overwhelmed. Almost a year later still exhausted despite the flow finally reducing to a narrow stream, I had nothing left. None of it made much sense and I had little capacity to create some order from fragmented bits of childhood newly strewn across my awareness.

Given the opportunity to spend a day, a single 24 hour day in San Francisco before attending a conference in San Jose, I lept at the chance. I needed time and space to myself, an opportunity to reflect while revisiting my favorite city on the planet. Perhaps it would help. I needed to try something to help myself find some small respite.

One night a few weeks before the trip, I sketched freehand from memory the Golden Gate Bridge – solid, eternal, foreboding, and yet reassuring. The sketch inspired my plan a visit to the bay front, to sketch again from real life in hopes of calming the anxiousness within. Maybe some of the strength I saw in my mind’s eye would rub off on me for real as the graphite of pencil rubbed off on paper as I sketched from shore.

Finally the day arrived. Fresh from my bright blue airport shuttle and with several hours before sunset, I walked from my hotel near the Presidio down through the Palace of Fine Arts to the bay – to sketch. The scrape of pencil on paper, the low moan of the wind, the screeching of the gulls, the rumble of distant surf and lap of water kept me present while I worked.

Yet, before I finished, it was apparent I needed to move. The anxiety and tears were back yet again, brought forth by something unknown. Perhaps memories of family trips to the Bay Area as a child. Perhaps something else. In any case, my best tool for dealing with overwhelm was to walk. So on the spot, I resolved to walk to Fort Point and the Bridge.

I had hoped for introspection, for knowledge, for calm from my visit to sketch beach. Instead I found my path incomplete. As I walked more realization dawned. This journey – how to become who I am, whatever I am, was just beginning. I was so unsure of my life and path in that moment. How does one live an authentic life, one worth living, when you don’t know your whole story, when you aren’t even quite sure who you are or what your place is in the world. How could I know where I was headed if I’d so little idea of where I’d been?

It’s actually quite a long way from sketch beach all the way down to Fort Point and the bridge. I wasn’t really prepared for it, but the body needed to move and so I walked. It’s probably a good thing I walked miles that day. My nervous system calmed with the input of my surroundings and the continuous motion. I became more rooted in the present. I had plenty of time to just be.

Golden Gate panorama

As I neared the point I started to snap pictures. The camera had been an afterthought added to my bag when I was focused on packing my sketch pad and drawing supplies. Now it became a central part of my experience as angles and framing caught my eye – old habits came back unaware to the rest of me. My photographic muscles contracting in a reflexive echo of youth.

Finally I reached the highest point of the old fort under the bridge. Gazing up into the geometric complexities of the underbelly and the sheer enormity of the edifice above me, I knew if humanity could build this span of steel and concrete to connect to disparate shores, it was possible for me to do the same. I could survive, and even thrive. I was sure I could make it back to the life I should have had. It would be an arduous journey, but one I had to make.

Every step since then has been toward the life I never had a chance to live. “The Bridge” is a piece of that story.

I’m an Anthropologist?

This morning after my yoga class, I stopped at a nearby coffee shop for a cup of tea and a pastry. It’s become my comforting little routine. As I waited to order I saw a classmate who had just been in the studio with me, and who I happen to know frequents my yoga classes. She too was waiting for her coffee. We both smiled and said “Hi” across the shop. We crossed paths a minute later as she was getting her cup and I was taking the table she had been waiting at for her to go order. There was a moment of small talk, and then I asked if she often stopped here for coffee after yoga. She commented it was her little ritual.

It’s funny how a word or an action can start a train of thought, one that in an inspired moment connects with some other stream of thought and the confluence of the two becomes something greater. Just then I had one of those moments.

I’d woken up that morning feeling questionable about my body, my visage in the world. Feeling that maybe I wasn’t enough of a woman. Too fat, too butch, too much of too many things to be accepted as a woman, queer or otherwise. Yoga helped that some, quite a bit in fact. It brought me back into myself, but the underlying awareness of self doubt was still there. That worry I carry as a queer woman in our current cultural and political climate about being accepted as who I am in the world.

As often happens for me, the combination of being alone in public, a hot cup of tea, and reflecting in my journal gave that confluence a push down the road into awareness. The pouring out of words and thoughts in my journal brought me back to a realization I had a while back.

Women smile at each other as a warm greeting, an unconscious form of connection.  When women smile at men, it’s often something very different, and very intentional. I got to thinking about rituals, how rituals are something we do, but often don’t understand the true purpose of. Yes they are comforting because of the routine, but there is often an underlying reason the ritual exists. Like my classmate who has a ritual of getting a coffee after yoga as a reward, the women’s social smile has a purpose.  Connection. Shared sisterhood. Solidarity. acknowledging each other in a world where there is often a link simply because they are women. In a world where a simple connection with a man could have all sorts of strings attached.

Over the last year, I’ve marveled at the women who smile when their gaze meets mine. Walking into a women’s restroom and crossing paths with another woman walking out, usually results in a kind smile. Standing in line at the grocery store, or at the coffee shop, crossing paths in the mall, in all sorts of fleeting non-verbal meetings, women smile at each other. At me. It’s an amazing little system of micro-connections that happens so automatically I doubt there’s even awareness of it.

I’ve picked it up myself without thought or effort. After I got past the initial surprise that came with awareness, it has became part of who I am like I’d been born to it. In a way I suppose I had, it just took a while for me to be aware of that bit of socialization. It feels good to fit in and become part of this little system of solidarity and connection. To be able to draw strength from it. Acceptance from it.

That’s where it all flowed together. If I was seen as an invader, as an other, as not woman enough, that smile wouldn’t be there. I know I’ve been lucky in my coming out experience to be well accepted, but now I’m feeling downright joyous. Every day in a slew of small interactions I’m being accepted. This means far more to me than the overt displays of acceptance, because those are often done with intent. They are not always indicative of someone’s true feelings. The action of a ritual however is automatic, without thought, and comes from subconscious assessments of what triggers it.

So every day in small ways women all over are showing they reflexively accept me as one of their own. I’m good enough for them despite my own fears. That feels comforting and affirming in a way I couldn’t possibly have expected.


As I sat watching election news coverage on the night of Nov 8th, 2016 my mind wandered across the future. I knew I’d reached a point in my life where I was going to transition. I’d already decided I couldn’t see another birthday pass now that I really knew who I was and how I needed the world to see me. I needed to feel comfortable in my own skin, to be whole. There was excitement, since I *knew* I would be emerging into a world that was progressively moving forward and becoming more accepting.

That all changed by the time I woke up the next morning. Suddenly everything bright and good about in my future started to dim and dull. Previously mild discomfort about how I would be treated solidified into outright fear.  I started to question my plans. Not who I am mind you, just my plans. I began to fear for the future of our culture, of our country. Was kindness and courtesy dead?

Weeks and then months passed. Suspicions about the world around me turned to reality. The distant discord of political voices stopped being a just a far away thing. They became terribly personal. No longer was it about a distant somebody else, an acquaintance, a friend, a coworker. It was about me. I didn’t know who might hate me just because of who I am. Who might be mean to me at any moment, or even when I might be in danger. It seemed to be everywhere I looked.

And yet, I put one foot in front of the other. Day after day I kept doing the smallest thing I could to move forward. I kept reminding myself — courage isn’t the absence of fear. No, true courage is being terrified of what’s in front of you and stepping into it anyway.

And my world didn’t end. The person I cared most about, my son, took a minute when I told him. Well… OK – maybe a couple of minutes, but really, truly only a couple. Then he took a step forward too. All on his own the first question he asked was what I wanted to be called. He keeps taking steps forward.

A few months after I first told him, he came with me to Talbots when I needed to make an exchange. The sales lady said “Sir, how can I help you.” It didn’t feel good, but I ignored it and made my exchange. After we left the store my son was clearly upset, when I asked why, he told me “What she said to you bothers me. She called you sir. Can’t she see who you are? I want to help but I don’t know what to do.”

My heart swelled.

He’s become one of my strongest defenders. When someone asks a question like that now, *he* responds. “Oh, I don’t need any help – but she does.”

I worried about my job. I’m fairly visible in the community of the university I work at. I’m visible in the larger community of my profession as well. This is a huge band-aid that needed to be ripped off. I took another step.

On August 28th I told 300 people in one day. I told the people that work for me first thing in the morning, then I told the class I teach, and finally an email went out to several hundred people at lunchtime. I did a lot of breathing in and out, and putting one foot in-front of the other that day. I left early. Then I came back the next day as myself… trying to be prepared.

And it was OK. Most people took it in stride. Adjusted to my name, and didn’t make a fuss. It was actually better than OK. Quite a few people from all over my office and other places on campus offered their support.

Then one day recently I overheard someone talking about me, about something I had asked them to do as they were explaining it to someone else. Neither knew I was just around the corner listening. I heard “that’s not what *she* wants, let me explain so we get her the result she needs.” It was natural, without hesitation, completely authentic.

In that moment I could tell most people want to do the best they can, they care about being kind and respectful. I looked back over the last few months and realized that the kind and respectful experiences have far outnumbered the awful ones.

Realization dawned. The world has already changed. It’s just been hidden by the loud noises of those unwilling to accept it.

Yet it’s there all around us if we look for it.

My hope for the future is growing bright again.


I’ve heard described, and experienced parenting as abject terror interspersed with unexpected moments of sheer joy. My last few days have mirrored that experience for me.

I’ve been transitioning in my personal life for a while. After a month of preparation yesterday I came out to my students and my colleagues. All in the course of a single day. Much to the surprise of many it would seem.

Until the last couple of days I didn’t realize there are so many people I’m connected to at my university who I felt I wanted to tell in person.  After a headlong rush to finally get here, I’ve caught myself over the last few weeks wishing for more time, for a chance to tell more people myself.

Even though I know with my head relationships are important and I’ve worked to build them over the years, suddenly it is right in front of me how many I have built. Even more, just how much I’ve come to rely on them.  People are not often forced to stop and actually reflect on the web of connections they build through their lives. Yet, confronted with the prospect of a public transition at my uni, the list of people to share with kept growing seemingly without end. Finally a deep understanding in me is forming — I have actually built a network of relationships I rely on. These people matter to me and I want them in some way to be a part of my process. I only hope they can accept who I am and how I need to go about being that person.

So, here I am only one day in with presenting as who I know I have always been in my work life, and it has been an amazingly positive experience so far. I’ve received offers of support, encouragement, and even admiration for my courage both people I know well and others I only cross paths with twice a year. It’s a humbling experience as it has revealed a depth of compassion and caring under the surface of busy people trying to get their job done, working simply to get through their day and week.

This giant scary thing I worried so much has brought out the best part of the culture where I work. The efforts to get my name, my pronouns right shows me people who truly care about those around them. It’s something that often gets lost in the flurry of the next email, the next deadline, the next problem to solve.

In this moment I can see the good around me, yet I had been afraid all I would find was bad. I know it won’t always be easy, that the rainbows and sunshine will give way to darkness at times, but in this moment I have hope. That is what matters, for…

“Where there is hope, there is life. It fills us with fresh courage and makes us strong again.” — Anne Frank