Monday, November 19, 2018

Acceptance without Understanding(TM) - Gender is not Genitalia

In light of recent media reports coming from various regions around me, and for those that continue to stay connected as friends and ally's, or for those wishing to learn. It's time for me to start educating you on what I had to learn to accept without understanding this life journey that I am on.
Remember, as you embark on this journey it will challenge you, I caution you to avoid reverting to a "I must understand you in order to accept you" mindset, that is the thinking that shows your true colours as a friend, ally, or acquaintance.
This is not an esoteric discussion on theory, this is my life we are discussing, this is the life of millions of people world wide. The outcome of not accepting for many is death in the hands of others as demonstrated by lists maintained and memorialized annually at the Transgender Day Of Remembrance (TDOR) events held around the world each November 20th. (See the TDOR List)
These lists do not include the many, many lives lost due to taken ones own life due to the many vectors of attack and oppression (physical, psychological, societal, systemic) we suffer just because we are seen for our differences. In my age bracket (50+) the rate of suicide and attempted suicide is about 50% (+/- 4%).
Let me also share with you this is not some tidal wave of popularity, it is rather you are hearing about it more because of media's ability to broadcast more widely, a change in laws in some countries that makes it safer for folks to make it known they are transgender, societal acceptance in some locations that makes it safer to be transgender, and in my case I had to address what I had otherwise hidden from you and myself for 41 years. In the end we are talking about 0.4% of the general population, surely we are not that much of a threat to warrant being attacked in the public court of opinion out of existence, which will never happen as we have been around thousands of years in human history. That figure of population representation has been static, you just hear about it more because the channels of communication make it possible.
You also don't just self declare you are transgender, you may feel that you are, but for clinical and medical treatment the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) has established standards of care. Each country can adopt and adjust according to their specific country needs, in my case we had Canadian Professional Association for Transgender Health (CPATH) that dictated the medical journey I had to travel and continue to do so. Through every process I have undergone I have had the review of a Psychologist, Medical Doctor & team specialising in Transgender Medicine, my Family Doctor, my therapist, and for each surgery the Surgeon did their own review. This is not something you just decide to do, many medical professionals review your file before you receive treatment.
So onto the discussion of Gender is not Genitalia. The picture of the Genderbread person is a simplistic model designed to help you visualise this discussion. As human beings we are way more complicated than 4 variables that define us
I will use this model to describe what I had to learn to accept.
Our Gender Identity exists in our brain. As is widely known we all start out as female and during the gestation process our bodies develop. The brain developing at a different time than our genitalia based upon the chemicals introduced at that stage. There have been attempts by suedo science to reprogram the brain with serious even fatal results, now widely recognised as not working. This therapy known as conversion or reparative therapy has proven that the brain can not be reprogrammed, therefore the traits are inherent at birth, IE: I was born this way. If your questioning this like I did, I wasn't always like this, rather I was in denial as I was a cross dresser for 41 years which was a repressed way for me to deal with these traits that differed from the way that I was being socialized. It took me a while to ultimately get and accept this fact, I am transgender because that is the way I was born. Fun Fact to consider, if motherly instinct has any bearing in accepting this, my mother said she thought I would be a girl based upon the way her pregnancy went, that's why she had picked out what is my middle name now, Alison, as that was to be my given name.
Attraction or who we love is also a part of who we are that is part of the way I was born. Societal pressure to act or be like something else can be very strong as even I lived that life for 30+ years. What is most important is to note that it is separate and distinct from my gender identity. The two are not linked or related, as there is as many different ways to define whom you love regardless if your straight or transgender.
The question of sex or genitalia has nothing to do with gender. The terms sex and gender are mixed in use in the English language. So when I was born the doctor took a look at my sex and said male, that was not my gender as they can't see inside me until I started to develop with the ability to speak and be self aware. Of important note here, while gender identity can not be changed, through modern medical surgery my genitalia can be. If we all start as female then all the surgeon is doing is to reverse the misfired chemical reaction that caused male genitalia to be female to match my gender. Just as I wouldn't ask you about your genitalia, we wont go any further discussing mine.
The final of these 4 traits is appearance, or how I dress or present myself. Anyone has seen or meet me knows I am very feminine in appearance.
So 3 of the 4 traits I meet a definition of female, and the final aspect was corrected through surgery. You may be part of the majority that all 4 of your traits align with your genitalia. If all 4 don't align with a binary definition that doesn't invalidate us, it just makes us different than you on that trait. The issue at hand is if differences are allowed, the intent appears to be that we choose to be different rather than we were born this way. I didn't choose to be this way, I finally faced the way I was born. Facing that level of societal change is courageous, accepting that change is equally courageous.
The courage we need goes beyond my example which can be considered an inversion of the binary from who you knew me as to who I am today. In each of those 4 traits, there is a sliding scale meaning that each one has many variations as to how folks define them self, this spectrum of identity is what we need to be courageous about accepting without understanding, trusting in the approved medical professionals to do their job and let all human beings follow their life journey, even if it is different than yours.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Acceptance W/O Understanding . . . a re introduction


I don't know why or how, but even before I began to transition my gender, I understood this concept and while not fully applied in my life at that time, I began to evaluate everything in this context.

I can assure you that as an opportunity has arisen I continue to share this message and I have seen it's powerful impact on those who hear it. While it has very wide application in life, it is not a panacea for every situation.


So what does it mean to accept without understanding?  As human beings, we struggle to understand everything in order to decide if we accept it.

Yet when it comes to religion we accept without understanding and call it faith!

Why in living life as human beings can we not accept each other as human beings without understanding each other?

In the way, I use the phrase and share it is you do not need to understand me as a human being in order to accept I am me. I am not looking for your approval for whatever you perceive as the choices in my life, or what perception you may have of my lifestyle. I am simply asking you to accept I am a human being on my life's journey, just as you are.


The concept is simple, yet so hard to put into practice because we are taught to judge each other based on gender, race, the colour of our skin, country of origin, religious or political beliefs and so many other facets.

It is complicated by the fact that some people see it appropriate to deny my humanity, and therefore they can not accept because they do not see me as a human like them.

Others deny my gender, yet it is what it is and my journey is the approved medical treatment for Gender Dysphoria, so how does becoming me become wrong?

Blog Purpose

As I get to share this global message of Acceptance without Understanding or Accept without Understanding, I will share insights and stories that help to demonstrate this powerful concept.

Cynthia XO

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Living a Real and Authentic Life - Choice . . . Not

It's a choice

A very common miss used phrase is "choice"!  I have not met a single person dealing with their Gender as a choice. It doesn't make this journey in life easier, in fact, it adds a great deal of complexity for all involved.

I was naive when this process began to assume gender transition was happening to me, but my transition happens to everyone in my life. While it is my story to tell, they also have their story to tell.

Back to choice, the only aspect which may be perceived as the choice is to ignore this and just continue as you were before. The outcome of ignoring gender dysphoria results in greater than 50% suicide rate, is the choice really deal with my gender dysphoria or death? Do you really consider that a valid choice?

If you are not part of the 50% plus demographic what does life look like; confusion, unhappy, guilt, shame, self-destructive behaviours, and much more.

That doesn't sound like much of a choice, so dealing with Gender Dysphoria is what we do because we have to as those others are not a choice.

Living a Real and Authentic Life - Gate Keepers

Are you crazy?

No one has actually asked me that question but a lot of questions about the process have been asked, and allow me to assure you that the "gate keepers" are doing their job.

The "Gate Keepers" are generally referred to as those key medical individuals who hold the key to you advancing through a Gender Confirmation journey.

There are two Medical Doctors, one Nurse Practitioner, one  Psychologist, and one Therapist, and a bunch of bureaucrats who collectively are the gate keepers who work together at times to ensure that you are a suitable candidate for this journey.

When you get to the stage of surgery considerations you can add a surgeon to that list of those who must validate your passage.

I am at the stage of exchanging information with a surgeon, which means in order to get here all those people had to agree that I was suitable and all information collected by the bureaucrats met the medical criteria of gender dysphoria.

I have had 3 medical professionals give me a diagnosis supporting gender dysphoria, I have had 2 mental health professional give me a diagnosis of gender dysphoria. The bureaucrats must have been satisfied with everyone's reports aligning that I have gender dysphoria.

This diagnosis of gender dysphoria by these professionals validates that I am who I say I am, not some sort of fallout from another issue. As gender dysphoria is being de-listed from the
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders(DSM–5) medical documents as a mental health issue by the World Health Organization (WHO), that validates I am not alone in this journey, I am dealing with something very real, and I am not crazy.

Thanks for listening . . . HUGS!

Monday, July 3, 2017

Living a Real and Authentic Life - Struggling

I am Struggling . . . 

I am Struggling to Accept . . . 

I am Struggling to Accept My Whole Person . . .

The Challenge

I don't like to admit it but I am struggling right now with the thought of not accepting myself. Throughout this blog, I have shared my thoughts on Acceptance without Understanding. It hurts to realize that I may not be accepting of the whole me.

The premise behind acceptance without understanding being that you do not need to understand anyone in order to accept they are a human being, so stop trying to understand in order to accept someone.

I write this in hopes that others may have gone through this process can offer insight or those who are also going through this find these words provide some help as I try and unpack my own situation.

For me, I have made reference to my birth self as another person, always in the third person. I would blame things of the past on 'him', I was not dis-associative in that I knew it was always my past. In order to be my true authentic self, I wanted to focus on learning to be me without the encumbrance of who I was, what I was, or how I felt.

At this point of my journey, I need to resolve me to be a single person with a past, present, and future that cumulatively is the whole me.

Perceptions of Self

You see the person I was before being authentic knew how to act in a role that was honed through decades. Being that fake there was very little to love from a self-reflective perspective. Yes, I know many people loved who I was, and many continue to love me still. Not just who they thought I was but the person who was acting that role.

You see that by making my past a 3rd person other self, it was easy to start separating the behaving through acting to being authentic. You see the one thing I did not want was to act at being me, I wanted to learn to be completely authentic, except I didn't know how and I have been learning. It's hard work.

It was this thought pattern that brought me to speaking in 3rd person and referring to my past as another self, always knowing it was my past, but 'him'.

This way of thinking, along with the very valid issue of dead naming really became a way to 'kill' off that person. It made sense so many people mourned for 'him' that it would seem these were in alignment!

It was easy for me to love myself for the first time ever as I emerged like a butterfly, but continue to hate 'him', after all, what was there to love about him?

A lot it seems!!

Me, Myself, and I

I was pointed out to me by one of the very wise women I know if I have empathy for 'him'?  I couldn't answer!  Why would I have empathy for 'him', he never was strong enough to stand up for me and it took 40+ years to allow me the freedom to be authentic.

She pointed out that he put others needs before mine for decades, surely that deserved empathy. I reflected on that and teared up realizing she was right. I put others needs before mine for decades at the cost of hurting inside for over 4 decades.

You see I need him to be part of me, I need to accept him as part of me, I need to be a whole me again.

Even writing this post I have to choose my words very careful depending on the context I was writing from in this post. Going forward I must refer to my past, my present, and my future.

So Dead Naming is Not a Thing?

As a quick refresher, Dead Naming is to refer to me using my birth name. I was, am, and will continue to be Cynthia in every reference. So yes Dead Naming is still inappropriate and insensitive, but I was also insensitive referring to myself in 3rd person.

Just call me Cynthia and use She/her/hers pronouns regardless of the time frame you are referring to and we are good.


I am not in a place to tell you this was part of my journey, referring to a past success. This is my current journey as I struggle to reclaim all of me.

If you find me making a historical reference to my past using 3rd person, just remind me to stop struggling and accept my past with understanding.

Thanks for listening, HUGS

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Living a Real and Authentic Life - Guilt Vs Shame (Inaugural Trans Pride March Speech)

My name is Cynthia

... and I am a Woman

... I am also Transgender!

International Women's Day #BeBoldForChange
In March for International Women's day, I shared a bold idea, Acceptance without Understanding

During that speech I said;
. . . If you look around you who do you see? Strangers? People Different from you?

Or Maybe you are truly enlightened and what you see are other human beings?

I believe that Acceptance without Understanding is being Bold.

Do you need to have an understanding of me as a human being and the life journey I am on in order to define if I qualify for human rights?

Is that any different when we see human beings with a skin of a different color? Or from another country, different religion, different gender, different sexual orientation, or of Indigenous origin?

The reality is that if you consider yourself a human being you are already accepting, while I suspect most of you don't understand, and that’s OK,  you are not alone.

When I talk about acceptance, I am not asking you to accept whatever you perceive as my lifestyle. I am simply asking you to accept me as a human being.

Accept that as a human being my life journey takes me on a path, just as yours takes you on your life path. I ask that you accept that I am following my path.

We could continue to deny who we are in the many ways it manifests itself, but the unprecedented high double-digit suicide rate in all age categories is but one result of not following this life journey we are given.

For some people, they will never understand and that's OK because some days I am not sure I do. That’s why we use mental health professional’s who do not pass judgment on us but help us travel this journey so we can accept ourselves without the prejudice of understanding.

The reality is that you may never understand other human beings.

And that's OK because I am not asking why me, I am moving forward with the life journey I am on because moving forward is the only way we can go.

So Today as we prepare to March in the inaugural Transgender March, Brothers, Sisters & siblings how ever you identify I ask you to accept ourselves Vs understanding ourselves.

The battle we rage inside ourselves as we journey through transition is plagued with guilt and shame.

Guilt can be healthy, as it can be overcome as we learn to talk to and about ourselves, it helps us lift ourselves out of any negative perception we may have of ourselves.

Shame, on the other hand, it is destructive. It is a completely internal devaluation of yourself and as we talk to ourselves through self-reflection, what we see as shame does not uplift us.

How we talk to ourselves becomes an external reflection upon those we encounter, so when we challenge those people in our life to accept us without understanding, they look to see if we accept ourselves.

I want you to know that I believe, You are Enough!

In the words of Marissa Peer, Say it with me "I am Enough" (repeat as necessary)

Thank you

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Living a Real and Authentic Life - Safety

The Band U2 has a great song I like called, Where The Streets Have No Name (watch the video clip)

But every street has a name that I know as safety. It was this realization I had as the first loss of male privilege that I encountered, my safety.

Questions began to permeate my thinking everytime I was going to be walking down a street:
What streets am I walking down?
Where in the city am I walking?
What side of the street should I walk down?
Who's on the street that I will be walking down?
Where can I cross the street safely to avoid anyone if I wish?
What time of day is it that I am walking down the street?

I watch who is in an elevator and will wait to take another if the lone male in an elevator makes me feel uneasy.

I also began to consider and question myself and in discussions with friends, How do I defend myself?

I have learnt how to use my heels as weapons if required, I certainly haven't been a fighter before and it wasn't about to start now.  I have had to consider how I run in heels, would I be OK with losing a heel as I kick them off and run (hard to find size 12's).

Losing safety was the first obvious sign of loss of "male privilege", so when male friends tell me there is no such thing as male privilege, the fact you say that you are enjoying male privilege at that moment.

Other observations on the loss of male privilege I have seen/experienced include;

Conversations between men and women in mixed company versus the company of the same gender individuals are very different (being Trans has nothing to do with it). Men say things to each other that would never be said in mixed company and conversations generally can be much more misogynistic. Women I find are more intellectual together, even over a glass of wine.

I won't even go into too much detail as I think it is well documented by women who are paid less on average, pay more for goods and services when targeted specifically to women. Even services like haircuts, spa services differ between men and women on average although they may get the same service.

As a man, I could be strong, affirmative, in control and as a woman, I will most likely be seen as a bitch if I act the same way. Therefore I am having to learn to be a leader in a different way.

I guess it is easier to take a good idea from a guy rather than a woman, I am not one for credit for an idea, so when a good idea that was the same as my idea is re-stated by a guy and accepted I just support a good idea and not seek credit.

I find that I am working harder to maintain same effort pre-transition,  I have checked with a number of women friends and the extra effort they find compared to male peers seems to be normal.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Living a Real and authentic Life - Economic Equality

A Short but poignant post about economic equality, one of the 3rd party sites I work with has a fee associated with work I may do for them. Since the last time I did work as the old me I now see this message on any project they inquire with me on:

You are free to set your rate as you see fit. Be advised, however, that for this project your hourly rate exceeds the hourly rate of other Council Members who have been invited. For projects like this one - where similarly qualified Council Members may be available - your hourly rate could be a factor in determining whether you are selected. If you are inclined to do so, you can modify your rate (for this project only) per the guidelines set forth below.

The only change since my last work was my gender, same great content inside!

The suggested rate is exactly 25% less than my old 'male" rate.

It may be that the market changed and the offer is actually lower since my last project, but every project has the same issue so one could be left to believe that female's doing the same work as males, in this case, are worth 25% less . . .

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Living a Real and Authentic Life - Finding My Identity

Recently in real life (IRL)  I have had a lot of focus again on identity and it caused me to reflect my identity journey that I wanted to share with you.

You don't just come out and voila a new identity exists. Let me explain.

An identity for me started with who am I? That is not as inconsequential as I make it sound.  I knew was different since 9 years old, I just thought for simplicity that I was a cross dresser for so many years. That was until the perception of dressing changed for me, and I suspect many cross dressers who ultimately discover they are Transgender instead.

All along even cross dressing you want to be as in alignment with the persona you are dressing as. For me of course that meant I wanted to be as feminine as possible. That meant you think about, observe, research how to be feminine. While this means that I went from clothes only to adding makeup very early in my cross dressing journey, I always borrowed what I needed, careful to wash, fold, and put back everything as required. It also meant that I started to think outside me and to the world around me, it invaded my thoughts day and night, dreams and fantasies.

In my case I started to imagine this feminine persona that was without a name,  would kind of women will I be? I identified as a very girlie girl and I believe I live up to that in both my professional and personal presentation today. This concept for me meant that my makeup, way I dressed, footwear I selected all were very stereotypical female. I wanted no confusion with the person I was to who I was in this persona.

That escalates to improve the way I dress,  my makeup skill, the way I moved until one day even if you add shoes (heels of course) and wigs to create a better presenting persona, it's not enough

It was around this time I started playing with names, I tried many in private during these times, but Cynthia is the one that resonated with me. Not a Cindy as I come to find out is short for Cynthia, I am Cynthia in that persona.

I have another post that explained the origin on the name, but in short form if you don't know, Once I knew what kind of women was I in this persona, I reflected on who did I know through my lifetime in real life, on TV, in the movies, books, etc. that reflected that girlie girl persona. I knew 3 girls growing up between early school in Ireland, my first Canadian classes in Transcona, and one in Elementary in Fort Rouge who were all called Cynthia. By my memory they were all Blond or very light colored hair (not me), but they were all very girlie girl. By chance once I arrived at that point and had a name of Cynthia, it was coincidence or at least not conscious to also be my Grand Mother's name who I never met on my dad's side of the family. My persona was called Cynthia.

This goes on for another few years, all in private, escaping from reality just long enough to let Cynthia out for a little while before putting everything including that persona away again. The times between needing to dress and let Cynthia out escalated until what it seems became a pinnacle moment for Cynthia, a cross dressers wish fulfilled, a costume party on Halloween. End result is that effort to prepare and let Cynthia out was the catalyst for many events that lead to Cynthia's coming out to live my life for real. Thats when many of you found out about me.

Sometime through this I found out that my parents had selected a first name for me if I was born with female genitalia, that is what they were expecting. Better late than never! I was to be called Alison.

I was never ashamed of my family name, many transgender folks change even their last name to have a whole new life not connected with their old life. Professional and Personally everyone knew me, so this wasn't about to be a quiet transition in the background with this new girl showing up one day, I felt that I had to be open as that is who I am. So it was that Cynthia Alison Fortlage became my chosen name.

So what does it take to change your name and legal identity?

1) Since I had a new address, I had to get my own MB Health Card - Cost Free except for parking and time.

2) Due to address change update drivers license - $10

3) Get forms from Vital statistics website to change your name and gender marker; separate forms and application processes and costs - $260

4) Steps I went through in completing forms for Vital Statistics
- In order to complete forms 5 Dr visits required - assessment and intake re gender dysphoria, end result is they legally sign off you need this to happen - Positive outcome is I got access to HRT after assessment - forms completion cost $70
- You need to be finger printed and put into and checked against national databases - $75
- Gather copies of all documents related to who you were in Manitoba: Health, Drivers, Marriage

WAIT 6 WEEKS (They were fast by almost 4 weeks)

5) When certificates are received in the mail, cry for a while seeing that your province accepts you

6) Go back and change MB Health

7) Get drivers license updated, including new photo - $10

8) Go get Social Insurance Number name updated

9) Call CRA hotline to update your name

10) Update bank, credit card, financial records

11) Change any online profiles that need official documentation to issue a name change, there's LOTS of them. Still ongoing.

12) Start process with Immigration Canada to change name, same form for gender change.
- Medical sign off again - form completion costs $70
- passport like photo's - $12
- Legal costs to certify copies of paperwork as I wasn't born in Canada - $450
- Surrender every piece of paper that says your Canadian - SCARY
- Send paperwork back and forth via courier so it doesn't get lost - $100
- Application Processing Fee - $75

WAIT 4 MONTHS (I was able to get them to hurry it up by 1 month as I requested it in order to travel for business which was planned for April but I have now cancelled - another story)

13) When certificate arrives in the mail, cry for a while seeing that your country accepts you

14) Start Process to Apply for Passport
- Pictures - $12
- Friends to be references and Declare you - Priceless
- Apply for 10yr Passport - $160

14) Wait 10 Business Days for new passport, I might cry again

So 10 Months in, a fair bit of time & parking costs and at just over $1200 by my estimation of hard costs, I have paperwork that agrees with me , I am Cynthia Alison Fortlage

BTW, When I get my passport I can start to update my travel programs with Hotels, Airlines, Car Rental firms, etc. and with the US Government and my Nexus card which will cost $25 CDN to get a new card issued with my name and picture updated.

That's what it takes to get your new identity!

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Living a Real and Authentic LIfe - Business Meeting

This past week I was in a meeting and experienced a man looking at my cleavage not my eyes when talking to me.

What did I do, same as every other women, kept quiet, tried to ignore how uncomfortable it made me feel, and carried on as if I hadn't just been seen as an object instead of a person.

I wish I said something . .  Next time I have to . .

All these issues that women have gotten used to and learnt to accept/ignore, they hit me hard because it is such a contrast to what I knew.

If I was ever perceived as one of those people, I am sorry!

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