Curiously, I am Laura Laura sitting in Earthturtle
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Who Am This Person?

You are here, so you obviously are a little bit curious about this enigmatic person. I was born during hurricane Ione as she crossed over southern Virginia, USA. Since that auspicious beginning, I have watched my life flow through troughs, and over falls; under the drawbridge...and over the rainbow. I Was Born Into This World To Tell The Story Of A Life... And To Listen To The Tales That Others Tell. That has long been my belief! I am a teacher by nature... and some claim that I am wise. But all the wisdom I've ever been able to pass on to another spirit has grown out of seeking to understand my own experiences, which have fortunately been many and varied.... (and still going strong as the new millenium blossoms!!). All I have to offer is what I have learned through living my life fully. If that benefits another, especially children and young adults who try to avoid the pitfalls I've stumbled in, then I am fulfilling my mission upon this world.

Here then, is my story; wherein I tell of the experiences, the foibles, the dilemmas and conundrums, and the spirit of BEING here, living now. A dear cajun friend, Ben Maxwell, once gave me the ancient blessing- "May You Live Long, in Interesting Times." According to him, it was a Chinese blessing, and interesting times usually meant chaotic and tumultuous. My life has been nothing if not chaotic.

white kitty walking

I am, at this writing, a woman of about 45, standing (when I can) 166.25 centimetres (5'6.25"), and weighing in at a slender 140 pounds avourdupois. I've been married and divorced once, but I'm looking forward to remarrying in the near future. Personally, I find it doesn't bother me much that I am entering now my Autumn years, for I consider that I have lived a very full life... and I'm not planning on leaving here anytime soon. However, I am seriously, chronically ill, suffering with lyme-MS and a deteriorating back. Frequently I am reminded that the moment of my crossing to the Summerlands is not me. I may have another 45 years... I may have another 45 minutes... So, I live each day for itself, and concern myself less with what the future is bringing. Being physically disabled, unable to walk very far and needing a wheelchair for mobility, almost constantly in severe nerve pain, I've been taught many lessons about living and about people...about disability and about pain! Over the years, I somehow have partially broken my neck and lower back (at different times) without ever knowing it, and have severely weakened the rest of my back. I have ten different vertebrae that are damaged to some extent. One neurosurgeon has stated that I must live with the pain, since some damage is too minor for surgery to help much, and the rest are so old and solidly healed that no guarantee of success can be given. On a daily basis, I need to take pain medications that make Demerol and Morphine seem weak. Despite the depressing times, and the excruciating pain of other times, I have been blessed with the strength in my spirit, and the help from my friends, to somehow keep on keepin' on. I have put a lot of miles under these feet (and now these wheels) 8-> .

triple moons of the Goddess

I am a Witch... Since my teens, I have been a (mostly) solitary practitioner of spiritual arts and science, drawing upon my heritage to blend pre-christian Celtic traditions and renewal Judaism, with the shamanism of my Timaquan (Seminole) ancestors. I am not member of any coven, but I occassionally join with others during the major Sabbaths. I am a Priestess of the Goddess, in Her aspect of Brighid, goddess of Healing, Smithcraft and Creative Inspiration. As a Flame Keeper of the Ord Brighideach, I have committed to maintain Her Sacred Flame. I am Jewish as well, active in my local shul, celebrating Shabbos and the womyn's new moon rituals of Rosh Hodesh, performing t'zedakah (holy works), and working for Tikkun Olam (Repair of the World). As a heartfelt follower of the Divine Feminine, Goddess Brighid... Shekinah-Creative, Holy Spirit... Sekhmet-Lion Goddess...., ... , and as an ordained interfaith minister, I take my responsibilities seriously. Health dictates the level of my involvement at any particular time, but I provide pastoral counsel for those seeking an open ear and loving heart. Especially, I work with people concerning identity issues... the figuring out of Who Am I...Really?. For me,that very question provides the reason for this webpage.

Youngest child of Patricia and Jim. Born 22 September 1955, at 5:55 pm DST, I am a cusp child between Virgo and Libra. As far as I can determine, I'm on the Libra side of the cusp, which I guess, makes me a Libra-Virgo. Both signs seem to play strongly in my makeup. A certain fastidiousness and an eye for balance are major traits of mine. The ability to truly see both sides of an issue has played a part in my education and decision-making. Twin numbers have long been part of my life, making 1999 and 2000 particularly powerful and changing for me! They have seen the attainment of a lifelong dream.... a goal that I didn't even believe possible just five years ago. August 29, 2000, at about 9:00 am Montreal, Quebec time, I underwent gender reassignment surgery.

A Man Who Never Was A MAN
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A Woman Who Can Never Be A WOMAN

Some have called it cliche', and many don't seem able to understand my viewpoint; but I have always felt that I am a female spirit trapped in a male physique. What my least favorite doctors, pshrinks, would call...a TRANSSEXUAL... When I was born, the attending physician looked between my legs, made a decision, and doomed me to be raised as a male. It hasn't been an easy thing to live with. For many years, I sought to do what society expected of act as a man. I served in the US Army as a Medic and ambulance driver, and in the US Forest Service as a chainsaw operator fighting forest fires.

From youth, I knew something was different about me. Whenever I could, my choice of dress was decidedly feminine. What I wanted from Life was sterotypically female...(husband, house, kids)... but Life had apparently cast me as a male. The disparity put me through some vicious cycles... At age 9, I was caught dressed in my sister's ballet tutu, stuffed breasts and all. At about age 12 or 13, I tried to shave off my genitals because they weren't the right ones. My mother, bless her soul, did her best with me. Divorced from my father in 1966, she worked hard to raise my sister and I by herself. She thought it was just a phase, and sought out male teachers and male role models for me. But, by the time I reached Junior High, she knew I was somewhere on the gender borderline. She knew that I desparately wished I'd been born female, and that I was devastated when I realized that I wasn't growing up to be a woman... no last-minute biological miracles. Whether she ever accepted that I was like my heroine, Renee' Richards MD, whose name she knew from the news... she did help me get into courses in high school (Home Economics, for one) that previously had been girl-only classes. I think she was almost relieved when I came out, at 15, as a gay male. That was easier to understand, and what with Stonewall and Gay Liberation, it was something she could deal with as an activist. When the Stonewall Riots happened, started according to legend by my beloved adopted Mom, Sylvia Rivera, removing her heels and throwing them at a cop, I was one of only three out queers down in Clearwater, Florida who were pushing for Gay Rights. Most of my gay and lesbian friends were not activist then. They were very much in the closet, and only went out to certain gay-friendly clubs. While we celebrated the Stonewall Riots and what they were bringing the focus on, my closeted friends were worried that rednecks would be more dangerous or violent. Of course, the rednecks were dangerous!!! This was 1960's-1970's Central and South Florida... rednecks were expected to be dangerous!... if you were queer, if you were black or hispanic, if you were pagan, jewish or catholic... Bigotry and prejudice was fairly rampant, despite the liberalism of many Florida natives. 8-/

I've played around along the sexual spectrum, and at times I've been fairly solidly heterosexual or perhaps solidly homosexual. But, I've found myself mostly to be incorrigibly BI-sexual. I have loved, and have made love with, both men and women in my life. I have had several long-term relationships with either gender extreme, and been quite happy with my partners. Sex has never been the problem with me. Gender Has!! Being transsexual, being a Woman when my body said man, ultimately caused me to end my only marriage. My ex-wife, Connie, whom I still love in a deep part of my soul, was somewhat aware of my proclivities. We were two extremely compatible people. Perhaps, with help and resources, we could have maintained our marriage. As it was, I was too lost and confused to know how to deal with my gender issues. I so very much did NOT want to hurt Connie. All I could do, finally, was ask her for a separation and ultimately, a divorce. I knew it would hurt us both...but I knew that putting her through my gender crises would hurt her even more. However, we were young and she was willing to part amicably... so we filed a mutual request for divorce, and went our separate ways. I would like to see her and talk again. Often, I wonder how she's doing, is she well, did she attain her goals? In fact, as I write this, I am searching for her and other loved ones from my past... I still care very, very much for her...though our prior relationship can never be rekindled. Perhaps, a new kind of relationship could be built? Time shall reveal...

Therapists, many years apart, had suggested that I was transsexual. I don't know what counselors might have said about it to my parents, if it was ever mentioned at all, but the word Transsexual later became a refrain. However, the first time that it was mentioned to me., 1975 or 1976, I adamantly objected...

You MUST be joking??!!!!

To me, being a woman was a bizarre lifelong dream, something I could never achieve... Not a goal I could seriously attain!! I kept going in and out of confusion and depression, with all its problems (drugs, alcohol,etcetera) until mid-1992 when I was laid up after back surgery. I finally faced the issue squarely and began seeing a psychotherapist about it. I had to know for certain, since it had been hinted at so many times. And there, staring me in the face after detailed evaluations, was the almost dreaded diagnosis: True Transsexual, 301.85 DSM-III/DSM-IV (other codes in CPT-9\ICD-5) . On one hand, I was extremely relieved. The therapist had just told me I wasn't some kind of insane.... that I actually am Trans-Gendered.

On the other hand, my dearest dream and worst nightmare had occurred. Here I was, officially diagnosed with a medical disorder that has no cure. Several previous therapists had mentioned that I was probably transsexual, but none had ever made the diagnosis on my records. Now, the diagnosis stared at me. I couldn't fight it anymore... Nor did I try. I am a Woman! I have spent enough of my lifetime living according to other people's expectations!! I realized that it was time for me to live up to my own. My goal became finding ways to live with the fact that I am a womyn; to somehow live as a female, whatever I might face. It meant coming to grips with the probability that, for me, undergoing Gender Reassignment Surgery, which REALLY seems to freak people out, would be the only way to find peace with my gender. Finally, it meant that I would have to jump through the hoops that have been placed in the way. Well-meaning though the Harry Benjamin International Gender Dysphoria Association (HBIGDA) may have been when the Standards of Care (SOC) were drafted, their handiwork has since become the bane of many transpeople. The SOC has given avaricious pshrinks and greedy therapists a way to tap into the supposed Golden Goose.

Transpeople who are suffering, who can no longer fake it, who won't live a lie anymore, become a determined, yet fragile lot. There is just so long that a person can live a lie...especially when the lie is so core a part of that person. When a transsexual woman is finally diagnosed, she expects that medical science will help her to correct the defect, the disorder. These days, however, the medical and mental health professions tend to attempt CURING the TS through psychodrugs and therapy; a ploy that, by its very nature, is inappropriate and ineffective. Or, equally as common, they place so many obstacles in the way that transpeople despair of ever becoming comfortable with their own selves. The HBIGDA SOC, as currently written, is one of the biggest obstacles!! It is claimed they are guidelines, but in my experience, they are just the minimums that most therapists use. In order to be authorized for GRS... in order to pass the gatekeepers... one must have not one, but TWO, letters from psychotherapists, one of whom must have their doctorate degree. Then add on that one must have an endocrinologist, or savvy family doctor like mine, to prescribe and track Hormone Replacement Therapies (HRT). Toss in the requirement to live in the target gender for certain time minimums.... All this adds up to a frustrating, often depressing, and certainly expensive, set of hoops that one must jump through to reach GRS. It's a rare insurance policy these days that will pay for GRS, despite the fact that it is the appropriate and correct treatment for gender dysphoria. They, the insurers, claim that GRS is elective surgery...or even worse, cosmetic surgery. It is most decidedly NOT elective for the transsexual... For most of us, it is the difference between living and dying. One does not consider GRS lightly. Transpeople are well aware, usually far more aware and educated on the subject than their physicians, that GRS is a permanent, irreversible solution. Once the surgeon starts cutting, trimming and re-shaping, there is NO WAY to turn back!!!

I cannot condone such onerous requirements for GRS. At first, I thought it might be a good idea, but over the past decade my personal experience has shown that very little of the SOC's guidelines are really needed. Most of the fear is from physicians worried about Malpractice Lawsuits. But, nearly every therapist I have seen about GD/GID is able to determine whether their patient is a transsexual woman or man within a couple or three sessions with them. Although there are many transpeople who seek help with gender issues, most that I have known personally have already been living full-time in the role of female, (except for the transmen, obviously), for at least 5 years before ever seeing a therapist. I had lived full-time as a woman a couple of times during my life, for as long as two years at a stretch... and had ended up back-transitioning due to violence against me. So when I finally sought out a therapist, Leah Schaefer, I was already living full-time again and didn't need gender therapy. I needed resource help in order to get GRS!! Still, it took me from 1992 until the year 2000, jumping through hoops, seeing two primary therapists (one who tried to sabotage me), and reading an almost fatal denial letter from my first choice of GRS surgeon, Dr. Michel Seghers of Belgium, before I finally achieve my goal.

For myself, there were additional concerns. Being physically disabled, nerve damaged, and infected with Lyme Disease, I was low on most GRS surgeons' list of ideal patients. Dr. Seghers ultimately turned me down, after Leah Schaefer attempted to sabotage me. She was was extremely resistant to writing the necessary letter, and when she did, she wouldn't even give me a copy. She claimed the letter was HER letter to the surgeon. No other therapist has agreed with her however, and many have called her actions unethical at best. I had to get my family physician to contact Schaefer in order to get a copy for myself. Sure, she included all the information about my transsexuality, and my appropriateness for the surgery. But then, she told the surgeon that because of my illness and disability, he should not accept me for surgery. So, he denied me. The night I received that denial was terrible for my lover and friends... they had to help me get over it and start out all over again seeking another GRS surgeon. Schaefer apologized to me for her reluctance, citing concern for my health, but she sabotaged me nonetheless. She didn't understand that I was Far More concerned about complications than she was.

So, I started again from scratch and worked with another therapist, Dr. Aviva Nubel, towards having GRS done by Yvon Menard, MD, Montreal Quebec. We set me on a course of diets and vitamins, medications and herbs, that would help me be my healthiest when the time came. I made sure that Dr. Menard was aware of my health issues, and was ready and willing to perform the surgery despite them. He received clearances from additional specialists, some who would not have known I was transsexual except that I had to reveal the fact so they could write their reports.

Literally on the gurney in the operating room, the morning of August 29, 2000, I told Dr. Menard and his surgery team, that I was very well aware of possible complications... that it was probable that I would be fully paraplegic after the surgery, since I already was partially so. But, with witnesses around, I gave him the GO sign. Two hours later... I still could use my legs!!! Not only that!! I am no longer weighted down by a birth defect! I am a Woman, and now I finally can skinny-dip, use gym locker rooms (womyns' of course), and generally be myself without raising too many eyebrows.

So far, only a small handful of so-called health professionals has an inkling of what life as a Trans-Gendered Person is like. I will grant that one's decision to complete transition from one binary gender to its opposite is worthy of deep self-examination. However, the final decision MUST be the transperson's, and not that of some therapist. The biggest single problem that I have seen is that there are only a handful of transsexuals, male or female, working as therapists or surgeons. None of my therapists were Transsexual!! NONE of them CAN know what it is like to live every day feeling truly out of place. They can know Intellectually, and perhaps, Medically. But, Emotionally, Psychically, and for certain, Spiritually they are ill-equipped to know. Yet, these people, who have no clue, no idea whatsoever what I and my trans-siblings go through, these are the people doing the gatekeeping. What's Wrong With This Picture?

a line of rainbow hues

As I have discovered since 1992, when my final Transition truly began, GRS isn't the only thing the insurance companies won't pay for. I'm was covered by Aetna US HealthCare HMO (Hellcare) until September 1, 1999. Then, with no notice whatsoever, they dropped me. I'm wheelchair confined these days; a lightweight model... granted, but I need the wheelchair outside of my apartment. HellCare wouldn't pay for it because "we don't cover wheelchairs." That, by itself, might have been okay...but a couple of Emergency Room visits, and an ambulance ride, they refused to pay, despite them being "covered" items. They have cut my treatments for Lyme Disease off TWICE... right in the middle of treatment...because they don't want to pay for it. At about $1300 per week for the medications and supplies, I can understand their reasoning.

However, I don't feel they have a right to second-guess my physicians!!!

Instead of treating me correctly when the disease was easily curable, they chose to delay, deny and terminate treatment...such that I now have advanced, chronic lyme disease which is extremely difficult, if not outright impossible to cure. By denying me proper treatment when it was timely and expected to be effective, they condemned me to a life sentence of suffering from the progressive effects of lyme disease. I already have permanent nerve damage, brain lesions and severe recurrant arthritis because of their decision. Without the proper treatments, I can only expect to get worse over time. Since the ERISA laws have prevented me from suing them for it, I have been battling Aetna US HellCare in the NYS Insurance Department. So far, I have won every complaint.

a line of rainbow hues
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