10 Things I’ve Learned about Myself by Loving Others

1. I do not feel safe when someone yells uncontrollably at me or angrily demands immediate answers. It feels like an interrogation and it triggers my memories of growing up with domestic violence. If this is your kink then please play that game with someone else. You can totally scratch me, bite me, tie me up, pound hard on my chest, and even choke me but don’t fucking yell at me.

2. I freeze emotionally and physically when someone sobs hysterically, especially in public places. I want to be that person who provides comfort in this situation but I don’t know why loud crying (as in the sound of someone getting tortured) brings me to a stopping point.

3. I need extra time to process my feelings and thoughts on major issues. I often wage war with finding out HOW I really feel and expressing feelings I think the other person wants or that I aspire to have. It turns out that I excel at self sacrificing. I think I’m genetically modified to be a martyr. It runs in my family.

4. I don’t do sudden change well but I have the courage and strength to eventually adapt.

5. I’m afraid of spontaneity. See #4.

6. Shame is my dark passenger. It’s like a giant beast strapped to my back that I try not to feed anymore but it happens. I’m a sucker for animals of all types.

7. I don’t know how to naturally ask for what I want or need. Sometimes I only express them after an unsuspecting victim tramples on them and I get my feelings hurt. I’m working on imagining myself as an organic garden and remembering I still need sunlight and water to grow into the best me possible. And I’m also working on being ok with needing things.

8. I need to share my feelings once they hit me like a wrecking ball or fester in my anxious, lying mind. I fill in gaps in communication or knowledge with irrational doomsday overthinking. In the same week, I can think I’m a horrible failure at life or work and then also win three awards. It’s perfectly ok to call me out on my craziness and tell me to calm the fuck down. Sometimes I can’t even tell I’m in this dark, dank dungeon of a mind space. Please help me help myself.

9. I can’t and don’t want to meet all the needs of one person ever again. I don’t believe love and/or sex are confined to just one person. I think this is an unrealistic request and it sets people, especially romantic partners, up for failure.

10. I do well with regular check-ins and communication, even if it’s hard for me as an introvert. It helps me know what someone else is thinking and feeling. It also helps silence my anxiety-fueled gremlins.

10 Things I’ve Learned about Myself by Loving Others

Connection

A few weeks ago I found myself on stage sharing a story about my mother’s death. I had been wanting to conjure the courage to do so because sharing stories is so important to me and my soul. I wish more people would share theirs. I want to really know and connect with the humans around me.

I feel as if often we really don’t even know one another. Not really. It’s only with feeling safe and opening up about one’s life that we can truly connect. Think about how many people you actually know in your workplace or your place of worship. Do they know your origin story? About your family or home life? Your challenges? Your hopes and dreams? I know for me most of the people I work with do not.

My favorite part of connecting with coworkers is sharing those more personal parts of ourselves. I feel like that’s when we actually transition from coworker to friend. And I’m grateful that over the last 11 years working for the same employer that I have several people in my life who have gone from one role to that next more connected role.

Today marks six years since my mother passed away. It was a traumatic moment in my life but one that I do not regret. Because my mother has been on my mind, I took a leap of courage and threw my name into a can at a local Salt Lake City storytelling event (The Bee, sort of like the Moth). The rules were that the story had to be true, had to be no longer than five minutes (but many go over), you couldn’t have notes, and it had to be on theme.

The theme that night was Adulting. Ten people were randomly selected throughout the night with only a five minutes heads up before they went to the stage. Oh, and it was lovingly competitive so there were three sets of judges to score the performance. Yeah, I know. No BFD or anything. Why the fuck would someone want to do this again?!

Whelp, this shy introvert with a burning raw story to tell entered his name that particular night. And for first-timers they put your name in twice. It was like Russian roulette but with two bullets in the gun.

I, of course, drank three adult beverages and probably would have had even more but my lovely saved me from my anxious self.

After I put my name in the can, which they call a hat, I was sweating profusely. Thank the universe my lovely was by my side to comfort me. She was proud of me and I was proud of myself.

I was the fourth name called up. And to my surprise I actually went up to the stage. I’m sure the adult beverages helped. ;P

But I think the internal need to share this story did as well. This need defied my personality and my usual clinginess to my comfort zone. It propelled me to let go of fear.

I got on that stage. I shared my story. I did it. And surprisingly it was fucking awesome! People laughed. Some even cried. After I told my story, audience members came up to me and thanked me for sharing it. Some even hugged me. It was surreal.

Thebee

Connection

On the Outside

I have spent much of my life as an outlaw in my own family and my own body.

My entire existence growing up was one act of defiance after another. From a failed attempt at being the lookout during the Candy Bar Heist when I was 7, to when I stole a hacky sack when I was 8 (and couldn’t even look at it!), to when I prayed to God at 10 that he made a mistake and that I really was a boy, to later when I was 14 and left my family. 

I was taught you’re never supposed to leave your family behind but I did. I traded them in for a future.

I was supposed to lie, cheat, and steal like my country kin. I was supposed to have a 3-page rap sheet like my parents and my siblings. I was supposed to grow up to be an addict and spend my adult life in and out of prison like they did.

But hurting people always weighed too heavily on my sensitive soul. And that makes for a pretty shitty criminal.

As far as being an addict and why I didn’t go down that path either, well, I chalk that up to my innate ability to learn from the mistakes of others. (Oh, and fear too. That definitely played a huge role.) I personally witnessed the people I love turn into Zombies. They are either the Walking Dead still or they are simply just dead. 

My mom died in 2011 after 25+ years of heroin and meth abuse. This goody-two-shoes betazoid who carries the burdens of my family and who always feels too much, TOO FUCKING MUCH, had a front row seat to my mom’s slow, tragic demise. 

I didn’t know until then that all of the hardship and trauma I had experienced in my life had strengthened my foundation so that I could endure this moment. I had taken comfort in riding the line and picking my battles as an adult for the most part. But if you treat a loved one of mine like shit, then you better Watch. The Fuck. Out! I totally released the Kracken in the hospital those weeks my mom was there. 

I had family members who didn’t really care about my mother until she was tragically dying in a hospital bed. Then they swooped in like death vultures to basically snuff her out. Even the staff asked me to block them because they were just that horrible. One of these relatives said this notable gem, “What kind of life will your mom have? Just a junkie in a nursing home waiting for a fix.”

A Junkie. That’s all my mom was to them and to many in this world. But not to me. I had never seen someone so strong and I had no idea I got my twisted sense of humor from my mom until I saw her fight for her life in that hospital. 

As my siblings were high or incarcerated, I remained an anchor at my mom’s deathbed, voicing her last wishes. When she wanted to live, I fought for that. When she wanted to die, I fought for that too. The latter defied every bone in my body but I did it. For her. I gave her the power the world took away from her. 

My mom literally died in my arms. I held her for two hours as she let go. Her death, and several other deaths in my life, have helped me now fight for my own life. 

This year I finally came out as trans* and am transforming into who I always was on the inside: a beautiful, fucking, manly butterfly.  

(Thanks, mom!)

On the Outside

Timeline of Future Aitch: The Younger Years

I think they had it right putting me in blue. Way back when in the ’80s colors designated gender. Good thing we don’t do that sorta thing today.

I have always loved ties. This was my first.

I always hated having long hair. It was a silent but joyful moment the day my mom waved her white flag and surrendered at the Battle of Hair (circa 1984-1987). She cut it all off. 🙂

Hey, look! It’s my teddy tee again! I loved that tee. Oh, and I’m the slob to the left. 😉

Can we get an amen?!

The obligatory mullet photo from the 1980s. This year or the one before, I went by the name Heath for a few weeks and prayed to God that he must have made a mistake. A few weeks later, I begged for forgiveness after I heard a fiery sermon that God doesn’t make mistakes.

I consider this my prison photo. Look how vacant our eyes are. This is the year our mom was on the run from the police and we were living with our aunt (she saved my life!). We also met our amazing older sister, Nicki (she gave me a future!).

Obligatory Nintendo photo (circa 1988-89).

I used to have a reoccurring nightmare that I had this hideous glow-in-the-dark Barbie with a frilly pink dress covered in stars.

When I was 18, my aunt gave me the news clipping above. Two things: 1) I look like I’m thinking, “WTF!” 2) I’ve NEVER used the word dolly to describe a toy. EVER.

This is me in drag. Middle school was an awful time. Everyone wanted to dress me up like their own personal doll (or dolly?). I was awkward and hating the changes in my body. I remember crying outwardly and inwardly about that hideous dress, that awful hair, and that caked-on makeup.

Fitting in in high school. Oh, and this is my BFF and her sister. I heart them both big time!

No longer fitting in. 🙂 My senior year of high school I decided to shave all my hair off one evening à la Demi Moore. I asked my BFF earlier in the day if she would still talk to me if I did that. That night, I left a cryptic message on her family’s answering machine simply saying, “I did what we talked about.” Click. We’ve been BFFs for almost 20 years now.

Me at 18 when my BFF was preoccupied in the other room with her boyfriend (and now husband). Lesson: never leave an Aitch alone with a marker!

My sailor ‘stache at 19. Don’t be jealous!

Pure happiness just being me. I miss those eyebrows.

How did I get off track later in my 20s? Why did I start to care what others thought? 😦

Timeline of Future Aitch: The Younger Years

Coming out…again!

Thursday morning of this week, I posted this message below to all my loved ones on Facebook. I’m in a place where I have enough strength, courage, and love to take this leap and set out on a more authentic life journey. After making this post, I have only received loving words of kindness and support. I am SO lucky. I am super proud of myself too. 🙂

***

Hey, everyone! I woke up this morning with this extra amount of courage so I’m just going to put this out there (before my brain fully wakes up).

I wanted to tell you each about this journey I’m on in person but that’s not really possible. To be honest, I’ve always been on this journey but I wasn’t ready to accept it. I have finally come out as transgender (but have been living as such for years now with my partner, Shira) and am transitioning (I have been on T for 3 months now)! 🙂 

I’m also planning to legally change my name to Aitch M. Alexandar down the road. There’s no need to call me by male pronouns right now because I don’t really feel my outside matches that part of me yet. One day it will, and then I will ask for everyone to call me by them. When that day comes down this very long, exciting, and intimidating road, then I hope you all will respect my request.

Simply put, for the longest time I was confused and thought I was gay but really I’ve felt trapped in the wrong body and gender. I have never identified with the terms lesbian, lady, woman, girl, chica, etc or the name Heather. Even in the military I loved that I was practically seen as one of the boys in my gender-concealing-blob uniforms and was able to go by my gender-neutral names of just Muirhead or Head.

This issue is something I raised in all my relationships quietly and with great trepidation as I tested the waters more and more after each relationship failed. But then I stifled it down out of fear of rejection or feeling like a freak. I was the one most afraid and ashamed.

I had also confided in my young teenage friend, Aiden, and told him how proud I was of his transitioning. I thought I was too old by then and that’s why Aiden’s death (and why I started No More Meanies) hit me so hard in more ways than one. That’s also why Holly leaving to be with a cis man hurt; it seemed to crush my soul for a while. I silently identified with Aiden on a personal level, and I secretly wished I was and looked just like Matty (holly’s current husband). I had so much love for both of these people and so many deep, dark secrets. I was scared to admit this all and didnt want to lose my loved ones. I’ve finally mustered up the courage and have the loving support I need (thank you, everyone, especially Shira, Shakia, and Shari) to live a more authentic life. I hope you all are a part of it too!

Xoxo h.

Coming out…again!