Category Archives: Our Stories

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.

By the Tail

This week we started the second half of the year! I am hoping that many of you have picked up some energy, and have begun to once again work towards your goals and dreams. Over the years I have given you countless “ra-ra” posts about going out there, and knocking down obstacles and achieving your dreams. So instead of rehashing much of those posts, I wanted to get a bit more personal. I wanted to chat about how I create, what makes me write, and some of the obstacles I have had to overcome along the way. My hope is not that you walk away thinking how great I am (I’m not) but rather that you would come away inspired. Ready to take on the world! If I can do it, so can you!

Not every story I start gets completed. There are many stories I have attempted to write or stories that I have just been unable to write. We don’t always get to pick and choose what comes out of our pens. In 2012 I was doodling and ending up with a compelling sketch of a cowboy, crossing the desert (yes, it’s the one up top). As I worked on the image, a story began to coalesce around this character. Who was he? What was he doing out in the desert? Why a desert? Is he meeting someone, why? For every book we read, there is a mountain of notes, sketches, plot ideas, settings, everything you read in a book is just the most interesting tip of the iceberg.

The spring of 2012 I sent out a short story based around the sketch. It wasn’t part of my original idea, I wanted to write more books in the series I had already started. This was something new. A new world, new characters, new towns and cities, new enemies and new lore. It was a whole new set of rules to play by. I was excited but wasn’t sure if I could write something that captured the gritty desert cowboy aesthetic. I wrote a quick story and sent it off, hoping that was enough to get it out of my system. I had other things to write. My readers came back with their notes. They all wanted more. I had caught something by the tail here, now it was up to me not to let go. Those other projects would have to wait.

Throughout the summer I worked on the back story, developed the characters, and took the feedback from my readers; improving the foundation of what I had started. The long summer months turned to fall and soon I was face to face with November. For those of you who are just joining, November is National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo (you will hear about it lots). That year would be my official start in the program and I would ease past the grueling 50,000-word mark and just kept on writing until the story was told. I had taken an original idea from just a tiny spark all the way to a completed story in less than a years time. It still remains the quickest turn around for one of my story ideas.

The journey from start to finish was one of breathless excitement and creative joy. Yet even then I had to overcome my doubts. Was I skilled enough write a compelling but completely different kind of story? Everything was new. Everything was different. I surely didn’t have enough time to develop it correctly right? Sometimes we don’t get to pick our stories. Sometimes our stories pick us. I could have refused, stayed with my original idea and worked on my previous series. I could have worked on any one of the many other book projects that have been languishing in development for years. I was too busy for another project. I couldn’t write a gritty western. I would need years of planning and development to even begin writing the story. Instead, this one came out of nowhere. Unbidden and unexpected a story shot across my synapses like lightning. I managed to catch it, and somehow, I managed to hang on for dear life. It was a story that demanded to be told. A story that caught fire and burned bright.

Life will not always go on as expected. We will hit snags, we will face hardship. Sometimes we get so bogged down with the idea of succeeding that we walk when we should run. We plan instead of boldly just going for it. There are certainly times for all of that, but when you’ve got something hot, don’t wait. Be brave. Run. Write. Paint. Draw. Sing. Chase your dream with all you have. Grab hold of it tight, and don’t ever let go.

Persistence

This week we started the second half of the year! I am hoping that many of you have picked up some energy, and have begun to once again work towards your goals and dreams. Over the years I have given you countless “ra-ra” posts about going out there, and knocking down obstacles and achieving your dreams. So instead of rehashing much of those posts, I wanted to get a bit more personal. I wanted to chat about how I create, what makes me write, and some of the obstacles I have had to overcome along the way. My hope is not that you walk away thinking how great I am (I’m not) but rather that you would come away inspired. Ready to take on the world! If I can do it, so can you!
It sits there staring back at me. Blinking unceasingly, daring me to go forward. Below it sits nothing, a vast white emptiness in which anything can happen. But nothing does. Nothing is happening. I am staring at the screen trying to get started and there is nothing. Fear grips my heart. What if that was it? What if I never have another story to tell? What if I just can’t write anymore? What if I’m broken?

The summer that I wrote my first novel was one of frenetic, almost reckless, abandon. I would spend hours pounding away at the keyboard, night would turn to morning before I would lay down my head, exhausted and yet still full of ideas. I did almost nothing else for a month except work, write and sleep, desperately trying to keep pace with the story that flowed forth. It wasn’t a very good novel, it wasn’t even very long, something like 62,000 words or something like that. It seemed epic at the time though. More importantly, it was mine. I was elated when I typed the very last sentence. There on the computer screen before me was my dream, made real. I wanted to do it again.

That first book was set in a shared world I had built and I intended to write several more stories from it. I had the characters and ideas already set for a whole series of books. After a short break of about a month, I sat down ready to get to work. It did not go well. Even though I had pages upon pages of notes on characters, settings, history; nothing came to mind. I tried to force it, I tried to just write something, anything! In the end, nothing was worth keeping. Then the doubts set in. Maybe I really wasn’t a writer? Maybe I really wasn’t able to do this? Maybe all of those fears from before were actually true?

After several months of trying and trying I had nothing. Eventually, my writing time withered away. My hour long block shrank to thirty minutes. My everyday commitment turned to every other day. Then weekends. Then I simply stopped. I was frustrated. I was scared I would never write again.

Looking back at that time I can see the seeds of how I write today beginning to take root. Instead of trying to force my creativity to turn on at a specific time I carried around my notebook to take notes whenever the moment struck. I used apps on my phone when I didn’t have pen and paper. I would read something and take notes about what I liked. Constantly I was engaged in thinking about that shared world and expanding it. I filled my notebook with characters, sketches, maps, plots, and short stories. I may not have been sitting at my computer pounding out a manuscript, but I was still writing nonetheless. I was harvesting the best fruits that my imagination could offer, right as they began to blossom.

By the fall of 2010 I had moved twice, visited Japan, started a new job, and created the Dream Anvil. I was nervous as I sat down at the keyboard with the intention to write this book. It had been two years since my last novel had been finished, two years since the day I was defeated by an empty screen. Two years that I feared my writing days were over. Book number two would prove to be a bear. I had to work hard to get it tamed and onto the pages. The ideas that had flowed so easily before spilled out like sludge. The story was like quicksilver changing constantly as I tried to nail it down. At times I wondered if I could actually finish it. Maybe it was just beyond my skill level. I kept at it though. Weekends became every other day. Every other day became a daily routine. A half hour of writing time transformed into hours. It would take me almost 16 months to complete.

Our dreams will stretch us in ways that we can never imagine. They are untamed, wild things. Sometimes we can get by on just passion, but other times we will need to slog it out. We will need to dig in, work hard, and keep at it, moving ahead at what seems a snail’s pace. With persistence, one can overcome even their greatest fears. Even if it is just a tiny little bit, it’s still progress. Our dreams will not be built in a day, instead they are built bit by bit, one day at a time.

Broken Mess

This week we started the second half of the year! I am hoping that many of you have picked up some energy, and have begun to once again work towards your goals and dreams. Over the years I have given you countless “ra-ra” posts about going out there, and knocking down obstacles and achieving your dreams. So instead of rehashing much of those posts, I wanted to get a bit more personal. I wanted to chat about how I create, what makes me write, and some of the obstacles I have had to overcome along the way. My hope is not that you walk away thinking how great I am (I’m not) but rather that you would come away inspired. Ready to take on the world! If I can do it, so can you!

It was 2008 and I had the perfect plan for my life. I would combine my love of travel, my love of helping others, and my love of Japan into a single career. I would go overseas and teach English, immerse myself in a culture I had only seen from afar, and gather up more experiences and ideas for my stories. I had been studying Japanese in my car as I delivered pizza for years. I sold all of my stuff and moved into a single room that I rented from a nice family, just to have the experience living in a cramped space. I filled out the massive amount of paper work that was asked for and meet each of their requirements. I waited excitedly for the first round of interviews that would surely see the value of hiring someone like me. This, I thought, was a sure bet.

After months of waiting, I got an email with my assigned application number. At last, I would know where I had been assigned for my first interview! I checked the webpage and didn’t see it. Thinking it a simple mistake I checked it again. No. I closed the browser, reopened it. My number wasn’t there. Not later that night. Not later that week. Not later that month. The impossible had happened, I hadn’t made it past the first cut. My sure bet ended up a giant, devastating bust.

This is something that I think every dreamer must eventually face. The broken emptiness that comes after trying for a dream, only to have it come crashing down all around you. I had upended my life. I had told people that this was my plan, my goal. I was ready to move at a seconds notice. It wasn’t meant to be. I sat in my cramped little room, heartbroken and bitter. What could I have done differently? How dare they not chose me! Did I make a mistake on the application? What did I do wrong? Then the most monstrous question of them all. Now what do I do?

I was lucky. I had the support of my friends. I had the love of those nearest me. I balled up my courage and declared that I wasn’t going to let this bring me down. A new dream dawned that summer. One that seemed as absurd as it was crazy. If I couldn’t get a job in Japan and live there, then I would just have to go there myself (yes, singular, alone). That October I boarded a plane for a place I had once only dreamed about. As I walked the streets of Tokyo and Kyoto I could hardly contain my excitement. My dream was fulfilled. Not in the way I had planned, but I could finally reach out and touch it. I was here! I had made it to Japan!

When we start out on our dreams we don’t know if they will fly or fail. We can’t know. The sure bets of this world are all to often left broken and unfulfilled. One day all of us will have to ask ourselves that monstrous question of “now what?” We each have the option to walk away. To never dream again. To just get on our little hamster wheels, pay the bills, eat the meal and sleep. Or we can take the harder road. We can shove our fears aside, dust off our pants, and stand amid the ruin. We can look at what was once shattered and see something brand new. We stand amid the ruin and dare to dream again. Don’t stop. Don’t give up. Keep trying. You will get there one day.

The Start

This week we started the second half of the year! I am hoping that many of you have picked up some energy, and have begun to once again work towards your goals and dreams. Over the years I have given you countless “ra-ra” posts about going out there, and knocking down obstacles and achieving your dreams. So instead of rehashing much of those posts, I wanted to get a bit more personal. I wanted to chat about how I create, what makes me write, and some of the obstacles I have had to overcome along the way. My hope is not that you walk away thinking how great I am (I’m not) but rather that you would come away inspired. Ready to take on the world! If I can do it, so can you!

As a young child, I loved to draw, to just let my imagination spill onto the page. I would spend rainy afternoons drawing pictures of monsters and planes and comics, content and happy. I wanted to grow up and be an artist. I was quickly dissuaded from that idea during my education, but I still love drawing even today.
Why do I mention this? I was not born a writer. All throughout my education there were two subjects I excelled in; Art and Science. My English grades were almost as atrocious as my Math grades! I was also an avid reader. I would comb the shelves of my local library, looking for interesting titles to read. The stories I found were full of wonder and imagination, they transported me away to far away places or magical lands. With each turn of the page I was participating in a grand adventure.

While I enjoyed reading I never really thought I could write stories like the ones I read growing up. My English teachers would no doubt agree. I was taught on the cusp of the computer generation. I grew up without Word processing as we know it today. There was no Spell Check, no Grammarly to highlight the mistakes you made. If I didn’t know how to spell a word I had to look it up in a dictionary. Things got easier towards the end of High School for me, by then computers had begun cropping up in our classrooms and homes. Still, I must have missed the part of my education that taught us how to write. I got by, somehow.

My writing career, as it were, began late at night in Georgia. I was far from the home I grew up in, trying to build something of a life. I was hanging out with a friend at a local restaurant after our late shift delivering pizza. Over drinks, we usually talked about dreams and I would share the latest crazy idea I had for a movie, or a play, or a show on TV. He would always entertain my ideas and tell me to write them down. On this particular night, I told him of a story I was dreaming up, a world full of magic, and the people and events that shaped it. I went on for hours. He gave me the usual “You should really write this stuff down.” I laughed it off as usual, “Sure, someone could probably make a good story out of that.” That’s when my friend straightened his back and leaned forward, his smile gone. He pointed his finger at me “No, I mean you need to write this. Now. I want to read that.”

I didn’t become a writer because of any special talent I had for words. I didn’t excel in my studies, or win any competitions, or participate in those writing workshops advertised online. I didn’t become a writer for fame, or for money. I became a writer because someone believed in me. Because someone wouldn’t let me just laugh it off as another crazy dream. Because someone wanted to actually read my story.

The story I wrote that night was a sloppy mess but it was a start. Sometimes that is all we need. Someone to cheer us on and the courage to start. It wasn’t easy. I don’t know if our dreams ever start off as easy. In no way did I ever think I had what it took to become who I am today. I had to fight through that self-doubt. I wrote and wrote and wrote and wrote. With each new paragraph, I was learning. With each newly completed project, I grew. I dreamed bigger and bigger until I found that there was no limit to what I could achieve but myself. Today I still let my imagination spill onto the page, just like when I was a kid. The only difference is that today, I let my words do the painting.

Why Write?

What is it about my dream that makes me do it? To be honest I was never really sure until recently. I grew up surrounded by words, but it wasn’t until much later in life that I picked up on writing as a hobby and future career path.

When I was young I wanted to make comic books. Yes, for real! My friends and I would sit around and draw for days and days and days making our own little comics on 8 ½ lined paper. Sometimes we would collaborate, each of us taking a page or sharing ideas about what our heroes would do next. I thought I was born to draw.

All throughout my education I leaned heavily on art classes. My favorite times of the day were when I could put down my text books and draw, or paint, or work with clay. This is what I thought my future career would be. Art. It was my passion and my life.

Things began to get complicated in high school, when I began to learn about video production. A new passion was growing, one that allowed me to use my technical knowledge and satisfied my artistic itch. When it came time to choose a major in college it wasn’t art, it was video. College saw my drawing fade, taking a backseat to video editing, photoshop and live production. I still got to be creative, just in a different way. Life though does funny things to us, even if we don’t realize it at the time.

My life as a video editor was never glamorous or all that fulfilling. I was working a low paying job splicing footage of insurance fraud. Sometimes I would get to create a training video or a how-to video. Always though I was yearning to do something bigger.

Looking back through my entire life I wanted to do one thing. When I drew a picture it was to tell a story. When I made a new video, I was telling a story. All of the screenplays, the short fiction I had made for class were there to tell stories. That is why I write. It is the only medium that I can tell my stories in. I can do it anywhere, at any time. There is no budget concern or special effects I need to worry about. I don’t need to get my characters hands drawn exactly right so they stop looking weird. I don’t need fancy gear. I don’t need a fancy education. All I need is an idea and a place to write it down. Why do I write? Because I want to tell the stories that have been building inside of me since I was little. I want to tell stories that make other people want to participate.

When I am down, I write. When I am happy, I write. When I can’t stand being me anymore I find solace in the lives of others. When this world gets ugly I take a trip to a new world, limited only by the things I can imagine. The thing is this is what I have always done, the drawing, the video production, the writing; all of them outlets for the same creative drive to tell stories. So why do I write? I guess you can say, because I always have.