My guest today is Grace Anne Stevens, trainer, speaker and author of No! Maybe? Yes! Living My Truth [Graceful Change Press, 2015].
JB: Welcome to OpEdNews, Grace. Please tell our readers why you wrote this book.
GAS: Joan, thanks so much for inviting me to share with your readers. I look at my book as something much more than just a transgender memoir. Some people see it as a transgender story, some as a self-help book but, for me, it is really a love story - how I learned to love myself.
The "why" behind it really began in 2009 about a month after I shared with my adult children that I was transgender. At that time, I has no idea where my journey was going to take me. A few months after this, my youngest son, who was married, owned a house, and was living and teaching in Tucson, called me and said he was wrestling with not feeling he was living his true life. He stated that he did not want to be my age and realize he went down the wrong path!
This shocked me and made me realize that not living one's truth is not just an issue for transgender people, but really one that is present for all people everywhere, and perhaps, just perhaps, there was a mission for me to help teach about this. As I wrote this book in 2014, I felt it was part of this mission.
JB: I definitely want to discuss your mission but first, let's talk about how you learned to love yourself - an essential task for each and every one of us. You transitioned at age 64. While I admittedly know little about transgender, it does seem quite late to make such a major life change. What took you so long?
GAS: Yes, that question, "what took so long?" was something that was in the back of my mind every day of my life as I managed to live in denial of all the feelings inside me of feeling "different" and "wrong" and having no idea how to reach self-acceptance and that there really was nothing wrong with me.
Getting married and raising three children kept me busy and occupied with responsibilities and what I "should be" and "should be doing" for over 25 years. It did a great but far from perfect job in holding me back from really having to face my truth of who I am. Even after I left my marriage of 25 years in 2001, it still took me another eight years to come to terms with the fact that I am a transsexual. Once I could say that and admit it to myself, then the work of deciding what to do about it began.
JB: So it sounds like a gradual process, rather than a sudden revelation. Repressing your feelings all that time can't have been good for you and it must have affected your relationships with others. Can you talk about that, please?
GAS: For most of my life, I was not even aware of how much I was repressing my feelings. The reality is that I had them completely blocked. People often ask the question of what comes first among the three constructs of DO - BE - HAVE. I became very good at DOING and HAVING all the while blocking my sense of BEING. Without an honest sense of myself, I did not let myself feel. You are correct that without being able to access and communicate feelings, it did not allow me to be in any successful relationships with others, and, as I eventually learned, even with myself. I was in many relationships but when asked and even pressed as to what or how I felt, I would freeze, avoid, or even fabricate a response.
JB: So, how does one go from being frozen or out of touch to being more attuned to and in sync with one's inner workings? How did you? It can't have been easy.
GAS: I talk about this a lot in my book: about after leaving my marriage in 2001, going through what I call my "Existential Crisis" where I would come home from work each night and cry for hours, realizing that if I did not do something different (and I really did not know what that could be at the time), I would repeat everything all over again if I dared to look for new relationships.
The crying went on each night for a few weeks as I started to read, and somehow, and I am not certain how this occurred, I started to "play" with the feelings that were presenting to me. It was not easy, and I described it as being like the kid in the candy shop, tasting each new feeling. I started to share some of this with some people at work and with my kids, and it is still something I try to explore today.