Category Archives: Blog Post

Advent Season: Hope

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 werecurious 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.

Chapter 1: The Darkness

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.

I first thought about quitting the blog back in 2012. The thought came and went with the seasons, “close the blog, you’re a fraud.” Back in 2014, when I was in the process of switching over to WordPress, I honestly thought I might just pull the plug, go dark, and fade into the ether of the internet. There I was, urging others to go after their dreams while actively suppressing my own. I still wanted to write, to share my stories, and to tell others how to share their own. Yet a part of my heart was under lock and key. A lifelong dream of my own was forced into hiding. I am transgender, but I felt like I could never embrace that forbidden side of me.

I can only remember fragments of memory from when I was small, like digging through my mother’s clothes in the basement. Lining up my stuffed animals in the crack between my bed and the wall, and praying to God to make me a girl. Based on my memories we think I was between three and five when I first became aware that I wanted to be a girl. At an early age, I learned that wanting to grow up and be like my mom or my sister was not something that good little boys wanted to do. The boundaries of the gender binary were taught to me through my classmate’s laughter. It was taught to me by bullies. It was taught to me by clergy, by family, by friends, by society in general. We are told that there is a certain way to be a guy or a girl. Yet, being a man was hard for me. Like a pair of jeans that are two sizes too small, it just didn’t fit well.

The first concrete memory of this intense societal pressure was in the fourth grade. We were outside in the dead of winter for a fire drill. As we waited to return to the warmth inside the school building, I overheard a conversation from some older boys who were nearby. They were talking about a sex change. My ears burned. Was it really possible? How do you do it? I wanted to know so much more. But I stayed silent. My curiosity squelched. I understood explicitly, by the fourth grade, that it was not acceptable for my desire to be spoken of aloud. To anyone.

That is how I lived most of my life. Silent. My desire to be a woman was deemed inappropriate by everyone around me, so I naturally thought that it must be bad. When my feelings didn’t go away I thought I was bad, that this was my fault. I couldn’t talk to anyone about this because of the pressure to conform. On the outside I was a polite, quiet and artsy kid. On the inside, I was in almost constant terror of being found out, or being left behind. The minute anyone learned of my greatest shame, I was sure they would leave me. I didn’t even have a word for what was going on inside of me outside of sinner, pervert, or deviant. All I knew was that the feelings that had been inside of me since I was a child were somehow wrong. So, brick by brick I built my walls, no one could ever find out about the girl inside.

I was in the computer lab when I stumbled across a news article about a teacher who had decided to transition on the job. For years I searched for a name for whatever it was I was going through, and this seemed like it might be it. I looked up the word transgender, and my entire world shifted. I was a freshman at a very conservative Christian college trying to earn God’s pardon from these feelings. Surrounded by my peers, many of whom were openly disrespectful towards anything LGBT, I had my first panic attack. I didn’t just log off the computer in the lab, I restarted the whole thing and took off. I prayed that no one had seen what I was reading as I bolted out the door. The cold night air stung as I stood in the dark parking lot staring up at the starry sky. Why? Why was I like this? I tried to find any excuse that explained it away. It didn’t work. When I found out that I was transgender it just clicked. I had learned a truth about myself and the truth is very hard to deny. I knew immediately that I had found the definition that I had been looking for. I prayed for God to, once again, take it away. He, once again, politely refused. There was only silence and tears.

I have lived the majority of my life trying to prove to myself and to others that I really was a guy. As a child anything others deemed as “girly,” such as dancing, cooking, sewing, was rejected by my outer self. I pushed back where I thought I could, like my pursuits of the arts and running cross country instead of football. These little things did not help as puberty radically shifted my body away from an androgynous little boy. My Gender Dysphoria seemed to increase with each passing year. When my dysphoria was at its worst I wanted to rip the skin from my very bones, but usually it presented itself as a constant internal pressure. Think of it as having a really big project at work, you think about it outside of work, it’s there when you go to bed and wake up. The stress keeps you up at night, makes you more irritable and less prone to being patient. This is what my dysphoria was like most days. A constant, unrelenting pressure to “be a man.” I tried many things to ease these feelings. I gave my life to Christ at an early age, my feelings remained. I read my bible, went on missions trips, lead Bible studies, went to a Christian college, none of it eased the discomfort I had in my own body. I tried to ignore it, to punish myself or reward myself for my behaviors, meditation, prayer, nothing worked. As an adult, I found solace only in the privacy of my own room. When I shut the door, free from prying eyes, I could put on something feminine and just relax. And no one could ever know.

I was isolated and alone. I tried hard to keep the few friends I did have from ever finding out about this. The thoughts of suicide began to creep up after college. Why was I here? Why did God bother to make such a broken vessel? Would my whole life be full of this pain? Would my whole life be a gigantic lie? The weight of my dysphoria was straining my relationships, my health and my faith. I was scared. I was so scared I would harm myself. I was so scared that I might fail and my shame be revealed. Darkness covered my life. The future seemed so bleak. I had lost hope. I had lost faith. All because I could not face the truth. I was transgender. I needed to learn to accept that. Only then would the light have a chance to return and only then would I learn to live again.

Won’t You Celebrate with Me

won’t you celebrate with me
what i have shaped into
a kind of life? i had no model.
born in babylon
both nonwhite and woman
what did i see to be except myself?
i made it up
here on this bridge between
starshine and clay,
my one hand holding tight
my other hand; come celebrate
with me that everyday
something has tried to kill me
and has failed.

~Lucille Clifton

Two years ago my councilor handed me a note with Lucille Clifton’s famous words. I found them oddly comforting at the time. You see, two years ago I had finally begun to deal with my gender dysphoria in a positive way, taking the very first baby steps towards where I am today. Two years ago I serious began considering transitioning. My name is Korah Alexander, and I am transgender.

As time moved forward the poem my councilor handed me on that day became a source of strength. As friends and family left I recalled those words and did my best to move forward. As my church turned it’s back and locked its doors to me, I held tight to those words. When life threatened to swallow me with sorrow, I clung to those words.

Today I have come fully into the light. The road to this place has been everything but easy. Over the next few weeks I would like to pull the curtain back on my journey, an impossible dream I never thought I could or even should accomplish. Today I look back at where my journey has taken me and I look forward to where it will take me next. Please enjoy.

The Girl With No Name (script)

Once upon a time, there lived a shadow of a girl. She didn’t know where she had come from or why she was here. All she knew was that she wasn’t like the other girls. She had been told these things by The Others, who pointed and laughed whenever she would appear. So, the girl hid herself away from the outside world. She built a wall, tall and mighty around herself, and there she stayed. Alone. Afraid. Covered in shadow. It was better this way she thought. It was better to be alone.

The unknown girl began to disguise herself under layers and layers of rags just to go outside. The Others knew only the costume, but not the terrified girl hidden beneath. Girls like her were not welcome. When the Others grew to close or to curious she would retreat back to her hiding spot. There, afraid of being discovered, she would build another wall. No one could ever know she was there. It was more comfortable to be alone.

The unkept girl saw The Others worshiping a Great Light. She longed to join them in their worship but was too afraid. The Others spoke horrible things about those who didn’t believe like they did, about those who were different. People just like her. She had been taught that she was dirty. Unclean. Unworthy. Girls like her could not know the Great Light. So, she hid her heart away. Ashamed. No one could know the truth. It was safer to be alone.

The lonely girl began to grow restless in her dark room. She longed to be known, to be seen, even if it was just for a second. She wanted someone, anyone, to know that she was real. That she existed. She parted her rags and dropped her guard just for a moment. The Others told her she was sick, that she wasn’t normal, that she was dangerous even. So, the Girl tucked herself deep under her rags intending never to be seen again. It was less painful to be alone.

Once upon a time, there lived a shadow of a girl. Her whole life she had been told she was unwelcome. Unlovable. Unworthy. Unknown. So, she hid herself away from the outside world. She built a tall and mighty labyrinth to keep everybody away. And there she stayed, unable to escape. Unable to see the light of day. Afraid. Alone. Ashamed. Covered in shadow. It was better this way she thought. It was better to be alone.

One day, the hidden girl woke to a ray of light piercing her darkness. A crack had formed in her mighty walls. She tried and tried to repair it, but the crack only grew larger. The light only grew brighter. Then one day, her mighty walls fell and the darkness retreated. Frantic, the girl clutched at her rags eager to hide once more. She stopped as her eyes fell upon the light floating there before her. It spoke to her. It told her that she didn’t have to be alone.

The curious girl tried to chase after the Light but the Others caught her fast by the arm. They demanded to know where she was running off to. They urged her to stay. If only she obeyed, they promised to rebuild her walls just like before. They would love her if only she stayed hidden beneath her rags. The girl slipped from their grasp. She needed to learn the truth about who she really was. She ran after the Light eager to discover what it had to teach her.

The brave girl pursued the Light on a great journey. Through fields, she learned to run and not hide. The edge of the oceans taught her just how small she really was. While The mountains taught her to stand impossibly tall. The stars above showed her to how shine brightly. In the forests she learned to forge her own path even when there was none. For months the girl chased after the Light always reaching for it. Then one day she felt its unexpected and warm touch. Then there was nothing. The Light had disappeared, to where she did not know.

The uncertain girl returned home to pick up the pieces of her life. The Others tried to convince her that what she was doing was wrong. That she should be ashamed of who she was now. The girl had learned much on her journey and though she tried to explain it to the Others, they refused to listen. They wanted her to stay behind her walls, only then would they accept her. She was, in their eyes, a grave disappointment. Even though the girl lived alongside The Others every day, she once again found herself all alone.

The hesitant girl finally began to live her life. Unsure of herself. Uncertain of her great journey and worried about her approaching future. She was no longer hidden but still very much afraid. She knew she was different. Wherever she went, she felt out of place and foreign. Wasn’t there somewhere that she could feel like she belonged? She thought often of the Light and the teachings that had been written on her heart. But when the darkness of night came, so too did her doubts.

The weary girl searched and searched for the light, instead she found a group of friends very much like her, searching for answers they did not know. They did not shun her like The Others did. Instead, they made a place for her with open arms and warm hearts. For the first time, the girl felt like she belonged. The circle of friends quickly grew to become a family. Not one bound by flesh and blood but one bound by love. “At last.” she thought. “I am no longer alone.”

The welcomed girl told her friends of her great journey and of how the Light had disappeared and how she desperately wanted to find it again. Her friends could see plainly what the girl could not. They reached out and touched her heart. The girl felt warmth and peace flowing through her like never before. When she opened her eyes the girl saw the Light all around, illuminating the happy faces of her friends. The Light had been inside of her, all of this time.

No longer just a girl she walked into the full light of day, unafraid to be seen and ready to be known. So, she gave herself a name to call herself by. She learned to be brave and strong, to love, and to laugh. Her despair was replaced with joy, where there was once darkness there is now light. No longer will she hide. No longer will she feel ashamed. She will wear her rags no more. At long last, she will never have to be alone again.

Road to WriMo 2017: Plot

There has been a slight change in our programming schedule for the month. Have no fear, the Storytime post that was to be on October 5th has been delayed only for a short time and will now appear on November 3rd. Instead, to help prepare those of you who are about to embark on NaNoWriMo, I will be posting a series of blogs I have previously published about writing. This post first appeared in October of 2015 and has been updated with new information. 

Continue reading Road to WriMo 2017: Plot

Road to WriMo 2017: Character

There has been a slight change in our programming schedule for the month. Have no fear, the Storytime post that was to be on October 5th has been delayed only for a short time and will now appear on November 3rd. Instead, to help prepare those of you who are about to embark on NaNoWriMo, I will be posting a series of blogs I have previously published about writing. This post first appeared in October of 2015 and has been updated with new information. 

Continue reading Road to WriMo 2017: Character

Road to WriMo 2017: Setting

There has been a slight change in our programming schedule for the month. Have no fear, the Storytime post that was to be on October 5th has been delayed only for a short time and will now appear on November 3rd. Instead, to help prepare those of you who are about to embark on NaNoWriMo, I will be posting a series of blogs I have previously published about writing. This post first appeared in October of 2015 and has been updated with new information. 

Continue reading Road to WriMo 2017: Setting

Road to WriMo 2017: The Enchantment of Words

There has been a slight change in our programming schedule for the month. Have no fear, the Storytime post that was to be today has been delayed only for a short time and will appear on November 3rd. Instead, to help prepare those of you who are about to embark on NaNoWriMo, I will be posting a series of blogs I have previously published about writing. This post first appeared in June of 2015 and has been updated with new information.

While I spend time encouraging others to achieve their dreams I can’t help but think of my own. The dreamer is always thinking about their dreams and I am no different. Most of the experiences that I write about here on the Dreamanvil have come from the pursuit of my own dreams. I want to be an author, I want to have others read and enjoy the stories that I write. So lets spend a bit of time talking about that. Writing.

There is something enchanting about words. I may not have a formal education as a writer but I’ve never let that stop me. I have always been drawn to words and the stories that they weave. Some of my oldest memories are scouring the public library for new books to read as a child. As I grew, reading became a refuge and a cherished past time. I loved being ushered into another world totally foreign to my own. But it was not enough. Eventually I began to tell stories of my own. I used a variety of mediums, sketching, painting, sculpting to tell stories. Soon I came to realize that words were the best way to communicate my vision to others. I remember writing poetry and songs in high school (I made sure to burn them). I’ve written several dramatic readings for church and a score of unfinished plays and scripts in college. Eventually culminating in the five book manuscripts that I have written so far, with many more on the way.

There is something freeing about writing down words to tell a story. There are no rules about how to tell a story. No magic formula that will turn bad characters good and thin plots into deep introspective works of the soul. That magic must come within, the author summons all of her imagination and courage and plunges forward. Setting is used as a character. Character are used to drive the plot. The plot is there hidden in plain sight by the actions of the characters. The author knows what is going on in peoples head, the thought and motivations that formed them. Time is an illusion for the story teller, often being rewound or sped up to move the story along. Time and place, character and plot are all strings to be woven together into a tapestry of the author’s own design. All of this is done with words.

Likewise, there are no rules about who can and can’t write. You don’t need a degree, you don’t need a certification, or pay for a fancy title, to write a story. If you have an opinion you don’t need to seek anyone’s approval to write it down first. If you have a voice no one can stop you from using it. The power of words can be wielded by anyone with the desire and the will. There is nothing stopping you, all you need is a little bit of imagination and a pen and some paper. That is how things started with me. Sketching soon turned to writing, short blurbs grew longer and longer with each new project. Now I write until I can sketch my characters then I turn back to writing their stories.

When I was younger, crawling through the library looking for books, I didn’t want to be a writer, it was to big for me. Instead I wanted to move into another story telling medium, I wanted to direct movies. I soon realized that the spectacle that I wanted to create was best left in the hands of others. As I grew older I wanted to tell stories unhindered by budgets, and reality, and time. Words are the best tools I have to share my imaginations. Not only are they free to use, they allow me to express anything I can dream up and anything my imagination can construct. My ideas are often to big to be placed anywhere else except on the blank page in front of me. When I can’t paint or draw the stories in my head, I do what I have seemingly always done, I turn to words.