Category Archives: Blog Post

Song of the Heart

The things that inspire us are where our dreams first get their spark. Be it a blinding flash of inspiration or a long slow building of ideas, our dreams take form from depths of our passions and loves. This month I will talk about some of the ways I am inspired. Where my stories and ideas come from is not just a single source but from a myriad of different mediums. What inspires you? What makes you dream big, impossible dreams?

It starts a bit slow at first but with each passing moment, it grows brighter. The disparate parts coalesce, taking shape and building upon themselves. Higher and higher it goes, gathering momentum and strength. Then comes my favorite part, a breath, a pause, right before it all crashes down like a wave, sweeping you along with it to places unknown. Music has always been one of the primary creative forces in my life. I do not write, or draw, or create in silence. I usually have a soundtrack driving my imagination forward.

Have you ever found yourself just lost in the music you are listening too? Maybe you find yourself swaying to the beat on a crowded subway, or singing in the car at rush hour and you can’t really pinpoint when you began. I have always loved music, emotion transformed into sound. I even tried to learn to play instruments while growing up, but my amazing sister inherited those genes. I am content to simply listen and dream.

When I pop on some headphones there is no telling what will happen. Where I will go. It might be because of my love of movies (and their soundtracks) that I will usually get some sort of image sequence from musical pieces. The steady rhythmic snare drum in Rupert Gregson-Willams “The Letter” harkens me back to a time of quiet struggle and personal conviction amid chaos. Zed’s “Addicted to a Memory” is a joyful chase scene through the busy shipping yards of a faraway city. I write everything with music in the background. Even these posts! In fact, the whole thrust of this site came from “La Busqueda De Ianna” by Epic Soul Factory, the hammering of the chime, the lofty brass instruments and soaring strings, brought to mind the dreamer forging her dreams upon an anvil.

It will come as no surprise then when I tell you that my writing day usually begins with me plugging in my headphones and cranking up the volume. Each one of the stories I have written (and much more yet to be written) have a seed song. One singular piece of music that first stirred my imagination and allowed the story to take shape. Whether is it the inspiring heights of “Journey” (Skye Lewin) inspiring my current project. The grungy self-reflection and solitude of “What I’ve Done” (Linkin Park) which became the driving character motivation in Watchtower. The rebellious fighting spirit of “When They Come” (Linkin Park) which brought The Pit to life. The unrelenting speed and cheer of “I Want You to Know” (Zedd) which spurned the entire premise of Two Worlds. To the anguished struggle and hope of “Bring us Home” (Tait, Blanca Callahan & Lecrae) that solidified and grounded Scroll Mage. Music shapes and forms every story I write. To this day, each of these songs is indelibly linked to the stories they helped to create. Whenever they cross my ear I remember the emotion, the characters, the feelings I originally wanted to convey for each story. (Can I just say what a joy it was to back and listen to all of those again!)

Music unlocks something deep within my soul, a communion with my subconscious that goes beyond words. The stories that music helps me produce are often representative of the struggles in my own heart. With music, I am vulnerable and open, which is probably why it also is so prominent in my worship as well as my writing. Music frees me from whatever is going on in my life and lets my imagination dream of far off places, cities of magic, beasts of myth, heroes, villains, and those in between. Each story I write is a fragment of myself, accessed via the music that inspires me to create. As long as I have music, I will have new stories to tell.

Stars Above

The things that inspire us are where our dreams first get their spark. Be it a blinding flash of inspiration or a long slow building of ideas, our dreams take form from depths of our passions and loves. This month I will talk about some of the ways I am inspired. Where my stories and ideas come from is not just a single source but from a myriad of different mediums. What inspires you? What makes you dream big, impossible dreams?

It was the middle of summer, yet the night air in the Adirondack Mountains managed to drop near freezing. I was huddled together with a group of other scouts at the top of a small mountain, our sleeping bags and sweatshirts clutched tight for warmth. We did not go out there on a dare or on a lark.  There is a clearing of trees far from the light pollution of the cities I feel absolutely in love with the sky. It wasn’t a perfectly clear night but between the clouds, I could see an ocean of stars, as well as ethereal puffy cloud band crossing the sky. It was my first time seeing the milky way, our own galaxy. I spent much of the night in silence, staring up in wonder at an endless number of stars. My place not just in the world, but in the universe in flux. The night sky has always been a special place for me, there across vast distances of space is where dreams are born.

I have always had a fascination with nature, God’s handiwork as it were. I excelled in natural sciences (except geology, go figure) as a growing youth. Since I was a wee little tot, I have been fascinated with biology, with DNA, thunderstorms, wildlife, and dinosaurs, and space. It was the sky, a vast, never-ending, constantly changing canopy, that always seemed to draw my attention. The brilliant blue skies, fiery sunsets and vast fields of stars almost always catch my attention. Summer afternoons were spent climbing trees or staring up at the clouds. My friends and I making up funny stories from the shapes we found. The night sky was a cornucopia of wishes, a treasure trove of stars, planets and far-off galaxies, there was no better playground for me to wander through.

Looking out my window today, I see that same great big sky and it instills that same sense of wonder. When I run into a creative wall while writing one of my stories my first instinct is to look up and imagine. It was in the sky that I found an escape from the stress, dysphoria, and the pains of living a lonely half life. In my most painful moments, the stars were there for me to cry out to. As I achieved my dreams I would look to that endless horizon of possibilities and laugh, and smile, and twirl. Under the watch of the night sky I have created many stories, under a sea of stars my friends and I speak of loves lost and dream of better days yet to come. Though many of my friends and family are scattered across the globe, I look at the sky and I know that no matter how far apart we all are, we can all look up and still see the same stars.*

The stars inspire much within my heat, a longing for adventure, a desire to know the unknowable. It stirs my imagination in ways that I cannot fully put into words. Worlds unexplored. Unearthly beauty created from chaos and violence. A single point of light in a vast darkness that shines brightest when joined by a multitude. That is what I think about when I look up at the sky and fall silent. What lies out there? In all of that vastness, in all of that space? I cannot know, but I can imagine, I can dream.

 

*Yes, I know it’s not exactly the same stars. Shh. Romance is happening.

Keep On

It is commonly thought that February is the month where our dreams and goals go to die. By the end of the month, most of the dreams and resolutions that we were so eager to start in January will be abandoned. Resolutions fall by the wayside as life interferes with our carefully laid plans. We look that the past month and our lack of progress and think there is no hope. I am here to tell you to hang on, to keep pressing forward. Those goals that seem so hard and impossible now will one day be possible. The dreams you have now are able to be grasped. How can I be so sure? Because I am living my dream right now.

A long time ago, back when I was a small child, I dreamed of growing up to be a woman. One who was confident and loving and unafraid of anything (Except spiders. Spiders are gross). I was told over and over again that this dream was not possible. It didn’t die though. It stayed in the back of my mind, always there. Nothing could make it leave. Every day that I was told my childhood dream wasn’t possible, the more impossible it seemed. I thought that maybe dreams were just figments of my imagination. They could never come true.

As an older, taller, high schooler that dream shifted, I imagined a time when I wouldn’t have to hide anymore. A time when I would be free if the pain, the discomfort, I had with a changing body. A dream of a new life where I was happy, a future that was bright and fulfilling. It was the start of a dream that would remain with me for decades. I thought to myself back then that maybe some dreams were never meant to see the light of day.

Once I thought that I had to give up on my dream. I tried to let it go. To let those dreams wither to dust. At times I actively tried to suppress my dream, to my ruin. Living without a dream is no way to live. Today I am finally getting the chance to live the dream of my past. Something that I never thought would be possible is now my everyday reality. Real life has shown me that I dreamed too small. To dim. It is clear now that by holding back my dreams, I was holding back myself. Daring to follow through with this dream was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. It is also the best thing I have ever done. Dreams can come true. If we dare to follow them.

Whether you are searching for a new job, a healthier future, a new place to live, keep at it. The results may not be immediate but that doesn’t mean that it’s impossible. February does not last forever, spring is right around the corner. Our dreams, if we choose to pursue them, can come true. Take from me, that the journey, as hard as it may be, is worth it.

Plan For It

The train comes into the station like a wild horse, brewing and stamping. I am anxious, butterflies flutter around my stomach as I clutch my ticket. It’s my first time in a train, and this one is here to take me to New York City. The first day at my new internship will have a lot of obstacles but the first and most daunting for this small town girl was just getting there.

You too are standing at a train station. Your dream clutched in your hand much like a ticket. You see you can’t just decide to achieve a dream and then poof it’s there! No you will need to go on a journey. Whether that journey is a figurative one that improves your skills or a literal one is not the point. You will have to move to achieve your goals.

We all face a similar problem, we have a specific goal but now we need to go out and achieve it. For most of us that dream is not something that we can roll out of bed and just do. We need to exercise, eat right, develop characters, test recipes, buy the proper tools before we can work on our dreams. I used to think that it was an all or nothing game when it came to accomplishing a goal and I feel like a lot of us are this way. We eat a piece of pie or miss a writing day and we think we can’t do it and give up before we’ve really pressed forward. We need to get away from thinking like our dreams hinge upon some Herculean effort. The reason we chose our dreams wasn’t because they were easy, this will be hard and it’s important to know how you will accomplish what you set out to do.

Planning is one of the most important skills you can utilize when reaching for a goal. We can know where we are going, but if we don’t know how we will get there all sorts of chaos can ensue. Imagine waiting for a train but not knowing which one you will get on, and where to pick up your connections. You may get to where you are going eventually, but your trip will not be a very pleasant one. So how can we tame this beast?

I like to think of my dream as one really large goal that is made up entirely of other, smaller goals. Kind of like train stops, each one marking your progress towards a final destination. I divide my goals into bite sized achievable tasks, “write for 30 minutes each day this week.” After that, “write 15,000 words this week.” Then, “finish chapters x-y.” You get the idea, each smaller goal is a step towards your larger goal, your final destination. Each step builds off of the first, bringing you closer to the finish.

I am just a guilty as anyone about just wishing I could be finished with a dream or goal but the reality is that the journey is often so much more valuable than the finish line. As for my very first NYC train ride? After catching the express I had to hop on the subway just a short walk away. I reached the office with little drama.By the end of my first week I was a pro.

Taking Aim

I take my position at the line, trying my best to stay relaxed and focused. The nock of the arrow makes a satisfying click as I position it on the serving, just below the nock point. I raise my left arm, careful to hold the bow just so; elbow pointed out. I inhale as I align the sight with my target, my fingers draw back the string to the familiar position along the bottom of my jaw. What comes next is no surprise. A click. A release. An all too familiar THWAP as the arrow impacts the target.

A little over a year ago one of my New Years goals was to learn the sport of archery, specifically recurve shooting. At the time I really didn’t know what it all entailed. All I knew was that I wanted to return to one of my most favorite hobbies from the summer camps of my youth. Today I do not shoot, I do not have a specific range I frequent, and I am not sure I can even pull my bow back to full draw anymore. I started archery as a hobby, to have something to do, and to have fun. Beyond that, my goal was simply, “do archery.” So at the end of 2016 when my instructor left and my home range closed I took a break. Then, as my transition began to get very, very real, my past time took a backseat.

The reason it is so important to give yourself specific and concrete goals is because without them it is all too easy to lose focus and drift away from your task. I love archery. I love my bow. The world fades away as I pull the string back. The sound of the arrow as it sails through the air and hits its target sends a thrill down my back every time. I had the passion, I even had a very small amount of skill, but neither of these could sustain my hobby without a larger goal. A target to aim at.

I can list hundreds of goals that seem specific that really aren’t. Write a book, eat healthy, run a 5K, learn to cook, learn to dance. While these goals seem clear at first glance, they are just the roughest of sketches. These are not goals that will be achieved without a bit of guidance. What book will you write? Fiction? Non-fiction? Autobiographical? How long would it need to be? Is the goal to just write it or get it published? How can you eat healthy? Fewer grains? More fruit? No meats? Vegan on Tuesdays and Thursdays? And to what end? To lose weight? To have better heart health? Running a 5K sounds great! But when? What race? Running without stopping? What if it rains or you get injured, is there a backup race? These are questions that help us specify our goals, the more specific we are, the clearer our target. The clearer the target, the more likely we are to hit it.

Now it must be stated that a clear goal must be something you can hit. A person will not run a 5K by sitting at home and doing nothing. An archer who has not touched her bow in over a year cannot set her sights on qualifying for the Olympics. Our goals need to be both specific but also attainable. In a recurve archery tournament the targets can be set out 70 – 90 meters from the archers, almost the entire length of a football field. Right now, I cannot hit a target at that range let alone the yellow 10 ring. I will need to practice by aiming at something closer first. Then, as mastery of the mechanics set in, I can work my way up towards longer and hard distances. This also should be the case for your goals. Set goals that are just out of reach and you will increase your odds of success. If you hit your goal to soon, you can always make a new, better goal to chase at any time.

This year there will be a lot taking place in my life. Even so, I am going to find the space and the time to reacquaint myself with the sport I love so much.

A New Year Begins

The New Year is now upon us and if you are anything like me it seemed to have almost of came out of nowhere and left as soon as it arrived. I simply cannot believe that it is 2018 already and yet here we all are. As many of us are like to do the turning of the calendar bends our vision towards the future. We gaze out upon that dim horizon, trying to scree what our futures may hold and how best to achieve them. While I believe that we can start a new dream at any point and time throughout the year, many of us are particularly fond of starting new goals at the beginning of each year.

Hope is in the air. We make lists, take up hobbies, and put forth plans to make life changes. We buy new exercise equipment, self-help books, new tools for new trades. We arm ourselves for success and step out into the world ready to achieve our dreams but without a plan on how exactly we will achieve those goals. By mid-year, most of our goals will be abandoned, cast aside with all of the other failed resolutions and dreams.

This month, as usual, we will take a look at what can be done to increase the odds of achieving your goals in 2018. Let’s start with the basics first. What are our goals? What do you want to do? Run a 5k? Find a new job? Lose weight? Learn to bake? Write a book? I will often equate a goal with dreams, which is part of the reason we talk about them every January. Sometimes a goal is a smaller step towards our dreams. Sometimes it is as large and grand as the dream itself. There are few distinction between the two. Both require effort and dedication. Neither one will be accomplished on their own. Some goals must be done every single day. Others can be accomplished after a few classes or workshops. A goal is whatever you have set your sights on but it is not something easy. If our goals were easy we wouldn’t need to set aside effort, time or money for them. When we set our goals we are setting out to do what we once thought we could not. Shouldn’t we then be as prepared as possible for the road ahead?

There are three key aspects one must consider when setting out to achieve their goals. No, it is not how much money you spend, or how much you really wish to be a better dancer. You need more than a fancy piece of equipment and more than just brute-force effort, our goals need more than that if they are to survive. First, our goals must be specific, the more specific the better. I want to run a 5K this year, you can bet I am setting my sights on a specific race in late spring to aim for. This gives the goal a foundation instead of a line in the sand. Our goals must also be attainable, I want to lose weight, but I know that I cannot lose ten pounds in the first week unless I stop eating altogether (even then it’s dicey). Finally, a goal should be measurable, some people have told me they want to be a better person in 2018, while commendable, is not something that can be reasonably measured. What is better? Do you do more service projects? Will you track mood swings? Something measurable must be found within your goals this way you can see how close, or how far, you are to achieving what you set out for.

The path towards our goals will be one fraught with temptations, failures, and minor successes. Since we cannot know what that dim horizon holds we must try to arm ourselves mentally for what may lay ahead. Without a specific goal in mind, one can’t possibly pursue it to the best of their abilities. Without a course of action, you won’t know what to do. And without something to track your progress, you won’t know if you are actually heading towards or away from where you want to be. Let this year be the year you hang onto and achieve your goals. Let this year be the year you chased after your dreams and won. You don’t have to wait for a time or a place, start now.

What do You Hope In?

The weather is turning colder and with the final month of the year is steadily ticking away. I find myself doing a mad dance, balancing work, family and my personal life. It seems as if the hours of the day are shorter, since I never have enough time to get anything done. Stress mounts quickly when, instead, I should be taking time to cherish and love those around me.

The Christmas season is one of the busiest times of the year. One that leaves almost everyone just a little bit dizzy. We have shopping lists of presents to buy, Christmas parties to get dressed up for, and family gatherings to attend. At times it can be a lot to handle, and all to easily we lose sight of the things that really matter to us.

All too often during Christmas, what we often lose sight of is hope. The things that drive us and make us who we are. At a time when we should be focusing on being our best selves, we allow consumerism to take over. We have to give the biggest, most bestest present. We need to receive that one special gift. Everything needs to be perfect in every way, or Christmas is ruined. I know I thought this way as a child. I gleefully jumped on my new bike, or tearing open the last present to reveal the Super Nintendo, and I would declare that Christmas to be the best Christmas ever. My hope was on those presents! What was under the shiny wrapping paper and pretty bows mattered more than anything else in the world.

Today I am much older, and hopefully a little bit wiser, I realize that the world is a pretty big place. Life is a bit unexpected. I remember people telling me during this time of year that as a Christian my hope should be in Christ, as if I am taking a treasure and storing it away. These days I am realizing that hope is not a passive word. In fact, none of the themes of Advent are passive, they all require effort on our part. Much like a dream, hope is not merely a fancy wish. It doesn’t just come about all on its own. For those of us who place their hope in the birth of a small baby on Christmas, we cannot just sit in the pews, gave platitudes to one another, sing a few carols and pat ourselves on the back. There’s work on this earth that needs doing. Regardless of your religious affiliation, we should roll up our sleeves and do as Christ would do, help those nearest us. So many people in our lives are in need of simple things, like food and water. A mug of something warm. A change of clothes. A hug. A helping hand. An ear to listen. A smile. It doesn’t take much to change someone else’s world.

No longer do I hope to get the best present under the tree. No longer do I live to receive. I want to give back to those around me with what little I do have. I dream of a world where everyone can spend Christmas warm and cozy, with enough food in their belly to be satisfied. A world in which everyone gets to spend Christmas with those who love them. Where everyone can be accepted and loved just for who they are. Where families are not split because of another person’s perceived failings. Where love matters more than anything else in the world. That is what I hope in. That is what helps keep me balanced when this world seems upside down.

Chapter 4: Life Abundant

This month something momentous occurred. After 32 years of struggle and suppression, I came out of the darkness and stepped into the light, and introduced my true self to the world. My journey was cataloged in a brief video I made, compressing my story into just under 9 minutes. Usually November is reserved for NaNoWriMo cheering, and I will continue to cheer from the sidelines. But here on the DreamAnvil I would like to go a little more in depth into my own journey. Each week we will look at one chapter in the video, and talk about the story behind the story.

There is a painting of a tree that hangs on the wall behind my therapist. The tree’s branches are wide and strong, but no leaves grow on them. On one side of the tree is the sun, the other the moon, as if the tree is permanently rooted between light and dark. Among the tree’s roots, a field of tulips blossom, stretching to the horizon, but the tree above is barren and lifeless.

Such was my life for much of the past two years. I had come through the darkness, but I was stuck halfway between light and dark. Unable to see a way through. Trying to decide between what others told me was “right” and what my heart had been telling me all along. My journey has been one that has taken me down a very different path than where I thought I would end up in life. I have talked at length about much of that journey, and these extended blog posts have hardly done that story any justice. One of the most enduring threads woven throughout my journey has been my faith. Having been raised in the Church, my faith is part of the fabric of who I am. My faith is what gave me hope when I was a child. It was what held me tight through the longest and darkest of nights in my adult years. It was the safe harbor I needed as the storms raged all around me. It was my life raft when the darkness threatened to swallow me whole. My faith has always been one of the most important and vital aspects of who I am. So, it was with great caution that I entered 2016 strongly considering transitioning, and why it was a year of prayer and discernment.

My entire life I had been taught that a gay person couldn’t be a Christian; that I couldn’t be trans and still be a Christian. Much to my regret and shame, I even passed that message to others around me. I was wrong, and to those I hurt I am so, so, sorry. This teaching is one that produces only bad fruit. Because of it, I found myself waging a war with my very self. My core identities conflicted with one another at almost all times. I spoke in Chapter 2 about the night I finished Justin Lee’s book Torn, sitting there on my bed and sobbing into my hands, as I thought of the impending loss of my friends and family. God was calling me to an impossible task it seemed. I felt like Jonah, running away from what God was calling me towards. “No,” I assured myself. “God must be wrong. I am broken. I need to be fixed. He needs to fix me.” I told myself. Yet, I was called into the great unknown and I followed as best as I could. Every step of my journey was bathed in prayer, before, during and after. I was certain when I first started out, that this whole adventure was a mistake. I never expected to find life in a place I had been told was only full of barren tree .

What I found as I ventured further and further towards understanding myself was powerful. The experiences I had were simply unexplainable. I was finding healing; not just in my body and mind, but in my very soul. That healing didn’t come in the form I had expected it as a child, nor in the form I demanded it to be as an adult. It came slowly, quietly, deliberately as I embraced my own womanhood. The closer I stepped towards living full time as Korah, the brighter that healing became. Even as my world completely fell apart around me, I found peace and strength I cannot fully explain. I found that the dysphoria that had choked so much of my life was slowly releasing its grip. I wanted to run. I wanted to fully embrace this new life. Instead, I did my research, I took my time, walked with those who were having a hard time understanding what was happening to me. When I finally stepped out of the darkness in November of this year, it was with the full assurance that I was both a transgender woman and that I was still a Christian.

To those of you who have heard the message that you can’t be LGBT and Christian, take heart and know that this is simply not true. Some of the most serious and vibrant Christians that I know of are from the communities that make up the LGBT spectrum. I am sorry this message has been forced upon you. You do not need to hide who you are from God. In fact, it is quite impossible. After all, he knew me before I was formed in the womb. He knew my name before I did. He made me just as I am, a blessed child made in the image of her creator.

When I look back at my journals from 2016 sometimes I have to stop, I weep at the challenges I faced along my path and how lost I felt. Back then, standing where I am standing now seemed impossible. I am amazed and so grateful to have come so far. This struggle to learn who I really am, to open my mind about who God is and who He made me to be; were some of the hardest moments of my life. This decision cost me my church family and many of my dearest friends. For the rest of my life, I face an uphill battle to be recognized and accepted, simply as I am and not as who I used to be. Still, I pressed on. “Just get through today Korah,” I wrote in my journal, “tomorrow will be better.” Tomorrow is here, and I am at last free! My heart is whole and full. My eyes have been opened. Once, I was like that tree in my councilors office. Barren. Dead. Stuck between light and dark. Today, my faith is stronger than ever, no longer defined by four walls and a steeple, I have found a new church family. I am finally comfortable in my own skin and have friends who love and cherish me simply as I am. For the first time, I am able to relax and just be present in the moment. I am embracing the part of myself that I had denied for too long. I smile more. I laugh more. I sing louder. Sometimes I will pass a mirror and smile; “Yes,” I remind myself, “That woman in the mirror is really you.” I look down at my shadow and I want to skip, I can hardly believe it is really me. Once again I have joy, excitement, and hope. For the first time, I feel as if I am not just going through the motions of living a life, but that I am finally fully alive.

I talk about my journey as if it is complete, but this is just one of many summits. As I look ahead towards the horizon, I have nothing but hope and expectation. What tomorrow will bring I cannot guess, but I no longer fear it. I will be here, Lord willing, and I will finally face the future as a whole person.

This Thanksgiving I walked through the front door of my family home not knowing what to expect. As I unshouldered my bags in a room all too familiar to me, something new caught my eye. A small, silver and glittered, jewelry box caught my eye. It sat in the middle of my pillow, waiting patiently for her owner to come and discover what treasure was hidden inside. As I opened the box my eyes grew wide at the sight of a beautiful, jeweled pendant. At its center stood a tree, its branches wide and strong and its leaves in full bloom. The green stones that formed the leaves glittered as they caught the light around them and sent it back out into the world. I can imagine no better picture of my life going forward. Where once I was dead, now I am alive. My name is Korah Alexander, and I am a daughter of God. It is so good to finally be here.

Chapter 3: Path of Thorns

This month something momentous occurred. After 32 years of struggle and suppression, I came out of the darkness and stepped into the light, and introduced my true self to the world. My journey was cataloged in a brief video I made, compressing my story into just under 9 minutes. Usually November is reserved for NaNoWriMo cheering, and I will continue to cheer from the sidelines. But here on the DreamAnvil I would like to go a little more in depth into my own journey. Each week we will look at one chapter in the video, and talk about the story behind the story.

November of 2016 was unseasonably warm. I sat in my car, the engine still running, clutching the steering wheel as if it were a life preserver. I had hoped the weather would be cooler. It was easier to hide when it was cold and dark. I could cover up more of what was surely a mistake.  At least it was dark. No one could see me, I could just turn around and go home. I should just turn around and go home. No. It was now or never. One by one I pried my fingers from the steering wheel. With a lifetime of doubts and fears screaming in my ear, I stepped out of the car wishing once again that it was cooler, that I could hide under more layers. I walked from my car parked in the dark, towards the light. That night would be the first time that my support group got to meet the real me. The first time I would be seen in public, as my true self. I had been told by most of those around me that this was the wrong path, that I was making a terrible mistake. That night I found acceptance. With hugs and tears, I was welcomed. I was affirmed. I was where I belonged.

2016 was not a good year to come out as transgender in North Carolina. In March of that year our state government enacted the first “bathroom bill” in the US, igniting a culture war within North Carolina that forced everyone to take a side. When I had first come out to my friends in 2014, transgender lives were mostly in shadow. Caitlyn Jenner would publicly come out a year later. In two years Sarah McBride would take the stage at the DNC, and in three years Danica Roem would win a seat on the state legislature for Virginia. Transgender lives have come more into focus in the past few years, but I am getting ahead of myself. In 2014 the conversations I had around being transgender were curious and open. What is this transgender thing? Are you just gay? What causes this? How can we help? The bathroom bill, formally known as House Bill 2, did more than criminalize where I could and could not go to the bathroom, it poisoned the conversations around what it meant to even be trans. Suddenly the trans community was thrust into the harsh flame of the culture wars. No longer did we receive curious questions, overnight we went from something peculiar or strange, to something dangerous. TV ads compared us to child molesters, our government officials openly belittled our experiences, and our pastors told their congregants that trans people were part of Satan’s plan.

This is what I was walking into in April of 2016 when I began to consider transitioning, knowing full well what the consequences would be. Even so, I felt that I had no other viable option. The time was now. I can remember the night that I came out to my parents a second time, now as a trans person considering her transition. I sat there, the computer screen lighting my face with the images of my family. I will always remember my mother’s eyes brimming with pain and confusion. My father’s eyebrows, stuck between anger and shock. My sister and brother in-law’s mouths pressed together into a straight disapproving line.

The silence was deafening.

When you transition, everyone around you transitions with you. Like the vast majority of the people in my life, my family is conservative Christian. Raised with the same prejudices and the same biases that I had been stripped of as I came to confront my own identity. I knew that this would not be easy, not just them, but for everyone else in my life as well. The thought that I was considering changing my gender would not be considered good news. My parents, my friends, the church which I loved, the mentors I looked up to, almost everyone in my life at the time would all find this troubling. I couldn’t expect them to jump up and down with joy. They would struggle with this, and I wanted to make sure that they got the best information that they could, from someone who was walking through it. Most of all, I wanted to help them see this for what it was, my best chance at finally getting rid of all the negative feelings I had endured for decades.

My family and I scheduled a monthly (and then eventually a bi-weekly) Skype meeting, where we could talk about what I was thinking about and had the space to ask hard questions. My friends and social circles were also invited into their own spaces for dialogue. I must say that while these conversations were not fun, they gave me hope. Many people in the trans community immediately lose their families, places of employment, and/ or their faith communities when they come out. I was lucky enough to be given a chance, and a voice. I was bombarded with obscure Bible verses, asked for impossible Biblical and medical proofs to validate my journey. One person asked if I could be hypnotized. Another suggested that I was being selfish. Others implied I was a pervert or an attention seeker. One of my pastors compared trans people to pedophiles and gay sex to bestiality while at Panera. Few took the time to even distinguish between homosexuality and gender identity. Those closest to me tried their best to remain respectful while also trying to wrap their brains around something so far outside of their concepts of normalcy and decency that it was sometimes hard to even agree on basic facts.

  • Trans people have been around since the dawn of civilization. It’s not new. For instance, in the ancient Jewish Talmud there are six words for gender.
  • A person’s Gender identity is innate and cannot be changed by outside forces. Usually it stays set on one of the two gender binary options of male and female, but not always. 99% of the world’s population have a gender identity that matches their assigned sex at birth (this is what is sometimes referred to as Cisgender or Cis).
  • Transgender people come from every culture, country, religion, ethnicity and socio-economic class. There has been no proof that Gender Identity is affected by any external social pressures or influence aside from one’s own internal self image.
  • Gender transition should only be taken as a means to deal with one’s own dysphoria. It is not a cure all that will instantly make someone less depressed and more happy, but it can relieve the pressure of living in a body that does not match your gender identity.
  • Transgender populations are often purposeful misunderstood and willfully discriminated against. We have no federal protections against discrimination, hate, and violence, and very few state’s offer their own set of protections. In 2017 twenty-six trans people were murdered for being who they are. We do not do this because it is trendy.
  • Children who transition DO NOT have surgery until they are old enough for informed consent. Puberty blockers delay the onset of puberty, which alters the body in way that may require surgery or expensive and pain treatments (like laser hair removal, breast reduction). The blockers are given until the patient decides for themselves if they want to move on to hormone therapy or on return to their assigned gender.
  • There are those who transition who regret it, while most of these people are supportive of the trans community and need just as much of our love and care, some have tried to use this population as evidence that transition does not work. The numbers of people who de-transition are hard to pin down but fall between 1% and 5%. This is not evidence that transition doesn’t work, just that transition was not right for them.

Transition is not like other medically necessary treatments that are more common in today’s medical community. There is no end target for when a person has finished their transition (and some of us would argue that we never truly finish). The person who decides to transition takes the path until them are once again comfortable in their own skin, or until financially they can go no further. Some trans people only present as the opposite gender, some only go so far as to change their name. Some can manage to afford large and expensive surgeries, some can only afford hormone therapy, and still others refuse both. We take the path of transition until our dysphoria, the intense disconnect between our internal gender and our physical outer shell, is relieved.

I began my transition in April by first trying to reconcile the two halves of my soul that had ripped in two all those years forcing myself into the gender role expected of me. I started allowing myself to internally be Korah, then I began to express myself more, follow interests I had once deemed out of bounds. My dysphoria still remained. So I began to dress as Korah, in my room at first, but the relief was temporary. When I wanted to eat I would shift back into my boy clothes. Gradually I began to expand where I could physically be Korah. Each step I took, I took with purpose and caution, testing and evaluating if this was enough. All the while I felt like I was constantly fighting for my right to do so. The closer I got to living full time as Korah, the more pushback I received from those who did not understand.

By the end of 2016 I was living two lives. One as the old version of me (boy mode) every time I went out to eat, visited someone in the church, talked to my family it was as the older version of me. The other as myself, free and happy but physically constrained. I was a little chick still hatching when my friend Sarah came in and promptly booted me from my nest. It was January and we traveled to the coast for a long weekend getaway. For the very first time, I did not have to juggle between boy mode and Korah. The stress relief of being only Korah for that short time was palpable. It was wonderful. I knew then that this was the relief I had been searching for. By February I had gathered enough courage to go out in my home town as Korah. More and more and more of my time was spent as just Korah. By the end of April, after one year of trial and testing,  I was Korah in almost every aspect of my life.

January also began an intense time of discernment with my own church. Others are often surprised by my willingness to tell my story in front of others. After you face a room full of angry church elders, you can pretty much do anything. In February (on Valentines day no less!) I was asked to step away from my volunteer position at the church assisting with the video ministry. In March I was asked to leave the fellowship groups I was meeting with outside of the church. And in May, I was officially removed from the church. I had not once presented to them as Korah, or caused a big stir. Everything I had originally feared had come true, I did everything they asked except blindly follow their instructions to stop being Korah. I knew what this was doing to me and it was everything I had hoped.

It’s hard to believe all that happened in the past 17 months. As I had feared, the Christian community that had been so much of my life, turned its back on me. Four brave souls from my old church have kept in contact with me, and struggle to find meaning in my transition, but they are far from affirming. Thankfully, my family has gradually come to accept me for who I am, to varying degrees. But I am welcome in my home, something too many trans people do not have the opportunity to say.

November of 2017 was very different than the November of 2016. I splashed water on my face to cool off. As I looked in the mirror I could hardly believe the journey I had taken. I put on my makeup and changed into something more feminine, eager for what was waiting for me. A year ago, I had thought I would end up friendless and alone as I transitioned. On November 4th I pressed open the bathroom door to a room full of those who loved and accepted me. They were the reason I had been able to come so far while losing so much. No longer afraid of being seen I came out publicly, finally erasing the last places (work and Facebook) where I was not Korah. I remember praying so many times throughout my life for healing from this, for God to just make me a boy or a girl. Today, I understand that I was asking the wrong question. Today, I have found the healing I had prayed so long for. Here on the other side of impossible, I have found wholeness, acceptance and love. As I look to the future I am no longer afraid, and no longer ashamed. I have found a deeper faith, I have found hope. At long last, I will hide no more.

Chapter 2: Walls Fall Down

This month something momentous occurred. After 32 years of struggle and suppression, I came out of the darkness and stepped into the light, and introduced my true self to the world. My journey was cataloged in a brief video I made, compressing my story into just under 9 minutes. Usually November is reserved for NaNoWriMo cheering, and I will continue to cheer from the sidelines. But here on the DreamAnvil I would like to go a little more in depth into my own journey. Each week we will look at one chapter in the video, and talk about the story behind the story.

For the majority of my life I had been taught that anything LGBT was sinful. That it was an abomination. That those kinds of people went straight to hell. I had learned to hate anything related to the LGBT spectrum, which means I had been taught to hate myself. For years I struggled to overcome the feelings and thoughts that came to me unwelcome and unbidden. My mind was screaming at me and I was in no mood to listen. Yet, it persisted, no matter how much I wanted it to go away. Imagine walking past the mirror and seeing your reflection, but it was wrong. You were you, but you weren’t. This was my experience whenever I looked at myself. I didn’t see someone who was handsome, or dashing, or brave, or wise, even if everyone else told me those things. I would look at my physical form and see exactly what I had been born as, a male. And everything inside of me told me that it was all wrong.

I stayed in the darkness, willingly suffering in the hope that I would find relief and healing from somewhere, some day. For nearly two decades I tried to find a way to fix my cross gender feelings on my own. Eventually, I found myself in North Carolina, attending  a church I loved, surrounded by friends who felt like family.  And I was lying to them. On the outside I was a normal person, a bit melancholy or sullen at times, but always good to lend a helping hand or lead a bible study here and there. Inside I was coming undone. My efforts to fix myself has failed. I was trapped between self-harm or coming out. I wasn’t sure which one would hurt less.

On a warm day in March of 2014, for the very first time, I uttered aloud the words that had changed my life. “I am transgender,” my friends and I were renovating a bathroom at the time, working side by side and shoulder to shoulder. I felt as if I could not lie to them any longer and stay sane. It was hard, but not as hard as coming out to my family a few months later, during the long Fourth of July weekend. With stuttered words, and tears I told them of my greatest shame, afraid that they would simply get up and leave, and never come back. They stayed. They listened. I quickly reassured them that this was something that I was going to fix. At the request of my church I started seeing a Christian counselor.

If the Ex-Gay ministries are anything like my counselor, then they rely on two things. The first is misinformation. This was a phase (really? For 32 years?), or it happening because of abuse (no), or not being affirmed as a man (not even close), it was a demon (really?), or this was fashionable and I was bowing to the culture (goodbye). By this time in journey I had garnered a cursory knowledge of trans health care. I knew these statements were all false, but this was someone my beloved church, my spiritual family, had sent me too. I was determined to make it work. The second tactic they rely on is shame. I had done a good job of shaming myself into the closet all those years but this was a whole different level. We discussed what it would be like if the church posted big signs on the video walls telling the congregation I was trans. Wouldn’t that be bad? I was told I wasn’t built to be a woman, that no one would ever find me attractive, that I would be alone and cut off from the world. I came to the church believing that they could heal me as they claimed via the Ex-Gay ministries they support. Instead they told me to do the exact same things that I had been doing for the past 30 years. It drove me deeper into the darkness. My suicide ideation increased, my stress increased. I prayed, and prayed, and prayed. My faith was breaking under the weight of it all.

I say all of this to illustrate where I was and the monumental shift that occurred in my life to get me where I am now.  I had been driven further into the corner, and I was being let down by those I had entrusted with authority over me. If the man in charge of overseeing my therapy and counseling refused to educate himself on what was going on, then I would have to do it myself. Armed with a library card and a brain, I began an intensive research project. I knew what Christians said about trans people, but what did science have to tell me about trans people? For that matter what did trans people have to tell me about trans people? I read everything I could find. Science journals, biographies, manifestos, diatribes and sermons, nothing was off limits. I read both sides of the argument so I could make my own decision about what was really going on. I was no longer a jailer, keeping my feminine desires in check. I was an explorer, and as I learned, and grew, and began to openly express these feelings, the more I knew that I had been lied to.

It was a death in the extended family that helped me see things clearly. Like a hand wiping away the fog on a mirror. What was so different, from a moral standpoint, between a patient needed a medical procedure and a transgender person affirming their identity? The research showed high rates of success and satisfaction among those who had transitioned. I learned that it drastically improved the quality of life and seemed to improve the horrid suicide rate which is usually around 40% among the general trans population. If there was a disease that killed 40% of the people it touched we would throw everything we had at it. Yet trans people are simply blamed for their suicide rates. No one wants to take responsibility for the violence and harsh words directed at us, the lack of government discrimination protections, and the shame heaped upon every trans person the second they leave their front doors. I knew where suppressing this desire had lead me, and I was determined not to add at that statistic. In spite of the massive amount of discrimination that many trans people face, I couldn’t help but wonder, “what if transitioning could help me?”

I sat at the foot of my bed, tears in my eyes. It was May and I was still wrestling with the question of if I should transition or continue as I had been. I had just finished reading Torn by Justin Lee, a man whose life speaks more about Jesus than most of the people I went to church with. He is also gay. Towards the end of the book he wrote something that was common church speak, but when it came from Justin it made me sit up. God had made me this way. I was transgender. And it was ok. I cried and cried and cried. I couldn’t, I had to stay as I was. The cost was simply too high. My entire life had been spent inside the church, my education, my family nearly every single one of my friends were from the church. If I ever came out, I would lose everything. Yet, I looked to my left, the darkness swirling in my heart, shame, humiliation, grief, pain, loss. There was no abundant life there. Trying to fix what wasn’t broken had only driven me towards deeper shame. The Christian healing I was supposed to have received, the healing I had prayed for, had never arrived. What if?

I sat there going back and forth like this. I knew where one path led, back into the darkness. The other path? What if I considered the only option that I had not yet tried. What if I affirmed who I was, and listened to the voice inside my head that had been telling me my reflection was wrong? But the cost? The most important people in my life are my family and my friends. I couldn’t lose them. There on the foot of my bed I thought of a grand plan. A year. I would wait a year, researching and reading and trying to understand all of this as best as I could. All the while engaging my friends and family in open dialogue about what I knew and didn’t know. Maybe, if we all took this journey together, I could make it out of this alive. Less than a month later I sent out an email asking for prayer and explaining a bit of what was going on. At the time there were twenty people on that list, friends who were close enough to me that I felt like I could trust them with my greatest secret, I was coming out to them a second time now. Immediately, five of them cut off all contact with me. It would be the first drops of blood in a year long battle for ones soul.