Stories of Transitioning Journeys

Welcome back to Trans Lives. It’s been a while since I have written to you all and I miss you. COVID really put a damper on life for us all. In December 2021, after having all my shots including my booster, I still tested positive with COVID. My time with COVID was very mild and I tested negative after a week. The question I ask myself lately is whose path will I follow, mine or God’s? Well, that question has been answered, and I know whose path I will follow. I feel life’s journey and sometimes is never the way you plan. That was the case for me and I am glad I listen and followed God’s plan. I just wanted to live a normal life being happy for who I am. As Tony, I did a lot of volunteer work with the Red Cross, particularly their community emergency response team, and retired senior volunteer program. After going from Tony to Karen I never thought about doing any kind of volunteer work with the transgender community. Well, that is when God spoke to my heart and said to me, “It is not about you anymore.” I needed to help and serve my own people. Since my transition in 2012 I started speaking to other trans folks, non-binary, and non-trans people, and helping trans people to understand what life could be when and if they transition. With non-transgender people I want to educate them on who transgender people are and that we are not what you see on the Jerry Springer show. In 2021 I partnered up with the community relationship service department under the Department of Justice as a subject-matter expert, speaking to law enforcement officers all over the country. The program aims to “Build a bridge between law enforcement and the transgender community.” I have done podcasts, cable TV shows, and spoken at conferences, training events, and for videos that law enforcement can use for training. I’ve seen first-hand how these efforts change minds. After two trans women were murdered in Maryland, the Prince George’s county police sought me out for help. Working with the Greenbelt public library, we came up with the Butterfly Project, aiming to help transgender sex workers and other trans people with resume building, roll-playing for a job interview, operating a computer, GED, dress for success, and more. People from all walks of life are now helping out. I now host my own TV show called “The Karen Kendra Holmes Show.” On the show I will be talking about trans issues, politics, fashion, hair, etc., and will welcome guests. The show is now airing in Richmond, Virginia, on Verizon and Comcast. It will be airing on local TV stations in the future in New York, Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky, the District of Columbia, Maryland, North Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. For now see some of the shows on my Facebook Live feed every Friday between 2 and 2:30 pm. Some of my trans friends have asked me why I keep doing what I do for the trans community when I am now a full woman. I tell them, my saying and always has been, “Never forget where you come from,” and do it because it is in your heart, not because you want something in return. Most of all, my life inspiration is not to have more, but to be more. t You can find my TED talk when you Google my name. You can email me at kkholmes@kkholmes.com or visit my personal website at KKHolmes.com In my next article I’ll talk about training law enforcement. Until then, “Shoot for the moon and even if you miss, you’ll be among the stars!”
WOW, taking these words Making A Difference is My Mission, is my meaning of the word volunteer. This word volunteer is like a virus that runs through my body in a good way. The virus I have come to know, and love is incredible, and I Love it. I hope by sharing that I can give it to you today. Once you get this volunteer virus, there is no cure for it. For years I have been volunteering since 1975, when it started with Cystic Fibrosis. Over the years volunteering just grew and grew to other volunteer service work. In 2003 with my agency I received the Willis Greene Community Service Award. The award is given to someone in our agency, for doing outstanding service work outside of our agency. I have always had this saying, "Never Forget Where You Come From and also Help Those Who Need Help"!!! For some odd reason I tend to look for the opportunity to serve others. I have learned over the years that if I can help others and giving them joy, happiness, to see a smile on their faces, gives me so much joy. In 2004 I joined the Park Police Volunteer Association. With them I was the president for 5 out of the 7 years, 4 of them in a row as the president. In the 7 years I received the Commander's Award twice, and Volunteer of the Year Award twice. In 2008 at work I joined as a member of the Disaster Team. After a year because our department was so busy, I could never get a chance to help on any disasters. So later in 2008 I joined the Red Cross as a Disaster Response Member. Throughout the years with Red Cross I was a Trainer, Emergency Response Vehicle Driver, Shelter Trailer Driver, and Shelter Manager. I also sat on three boards. In 2010 because I like helping people, I started my own business teaching First Aid, CPR & AED. In 2012 I joined a group called NorthStar Global Response, and we were going to respond to disasters International. My team and I went to Haiti to teach the Haitians on how to do Search and Rescue, and Swift Water Recue for two weeks for 50 people. In 2012 also I started speaking at events to help the Transgender Community, to find peace and encouragement that they can have a happy life. I would speak to non-transgender people to get them to understand the community. In 2019 two Transgender sex worker women were murdered, and I was asked by Prince George's County Police if I would help try to get the women get off the streets, and I agreed to help. Right now, I do ride-a-longs with the police talking with the ladies. Now I will be volunteering with Department of Justice / Community Relation Service working with other police officers, going around the country talking with other police officers. We want to bridge the gap between the transgender community and the police. For some odd reason still, I cannot say no when asked if I will or would help. A month ago, I was asked by my church if I would sit on the church council over seeing Technology and Communication while still doing security. After I told them I wanted to pray about it, a few days later I said yes. I feel for me, "Making A Difference is My Mission," and this is just another way of helping. I hope by me telling you my story that I have now infected you with this virus into your blood system called Volunteer!!! You can find my talk when you Google my name. You can email me at kkholmes@kkholmes.com or visit my personal website at http://www.KKHolmes.com In my next article I'll talk about "Will She Find It". Until then Shoot for the Moon and even if You Miss, You'll Be Among the STARS!
It all started one evening on November 2nd, 2017 while volunteering at the Gender Conference East in New Jersey. At our staff dinner, that evening I was sitting next to a gentleman named Jean. While talking with Jean he asked me if I have ever done a TEDx Talk before. He suggested I pursue one at Asbury Park, New Jersey, with the next theme on "Passion." He then texted a gentleman with TEDx Asbury Park. Later, I was in a session given by my surgeon Dr. Rachel Bluebond-Langner. I shared my surgical experience with the audience and expressed the gratitude I felt towards my surgeon. Afterwards, a man walked up to me and introduced himself as Eric Wiener and asked if I was Karen Holmes. I said yes, and he told me he was sitting behind me in the Dr. Bluebond-Langner session. He went on to say that I showed a lot of passion talking about my surgery and surgeon. He told me he was with TEDx Asbury Park and gave me his business card. He recommended I apply to TEDx for the next upcoming show on May 19th, 2018. For a couple of weeks, I wondered if I could do the talk, and so I sent in my application on January 29th, 2018. Three weeks later I received an email telling me that TEDx Asbury Park wanted me to either come in to do a live audition or send in a video. I started working on my speech and rehearsing every day. So, for the next couple of weeks I worked diligently on my speech. My talk would be "40 Years and Wandering No More". That evening like so many times before, when I got on stage, I changed my speech on the spot, and I felt like I knocked it out of the park. A month later I received an email from TEDx Asbury Park that read, "Congratulation we want you to be on the Live Show on May 19th, 2018." A week later, I got my first coach, and his name was Don. He loved my speech when I rehearsed it over Skype for him. Next, I rehearsed over Skype in front of eight coaches, two weeks before I was to go live on stage, I got a new coach named Joel. That night while rehearsing on Skype with Joel, he suggested I change my talk to speak about Tony (my birthname) first and then work in my talk about Karen. The next day Joel and I met on Skype again to rehearse and he told me that he was blown away with how well I changed my talk using his suggestions in just one day. After a couple of more rehearsals, Joel said he had me 95% ready and he wanted me to work with a woman name MK who would get me too 110% ready. She had a couple of suggestions about making Tony a little more personal. I took off work in a couple of days and headed to Asbury Park for the dress rehearsal. I went to the Paramount Theatre to find out my dress rehearsal was not until 3 pm. Before heading back over I wanted to say a prayer, asking God for His help. At 3 I went on stage to do my dress rehearsal talk and once again, I knocked it out of the park! My first coach Don came backstage in tears, and I asked him not to cry because I would start crying too. I just wanted to be able to repeat my talk with the same passion for the live show. Well the time finally came the next day, and it was my turn to do my talk. I walked out onto the red dot on stage, and not nervous at all – I was simply happy to get out there and get it over with. I spoke with such confidence and passion and I received several claps and laughs during my talk. My talk took ten minutes, and as I walked off the stage, there were tears and claps, with everyone standing. I gave a big sigh of relief and a long exhale as I went backstage. You can find my talk when you Google my name. You can email me at kkholmes@kkholmes.com or visit my personal website at Kkholmes.com In my next article I'll talk about "Will She Find It." Until then, "Shoot for the moon and even if you miss, you'll be among the stars!"
In 2010 I went to my first Keystone Conference, as Karen before I transition full time. When I was invited by a friend to go to this conference, I was so excited to be able to meet old friends and make new ones for life. After seeing a few friends, I checked in with the hotel's registration desk, and to my surprise I was welcomed with smiles by a wonderful staff. I then checked in with the conference registration table for my name tag and program book. A book full of information on workshops schedules, from life stories to Gender Confirmation Surgery. As I walked through the vendor's room, I picked up a lot of information of programs on support groups, upcoming events, clothing, jewelry, photos, makeup artist, doctors, name change, etc. Later I went to change into my bathing suit to get in the jacuzzi. While in the jacuzzi I met up with some friends to talk about what workshops we might attend. Having great conversations with old friends and new ones, about where they were in their journey. One of the nicest things at the conference is meeting up with my sorority sisters with the Vanity Club. We all get together for drinks and diner as a group, and then we have an induction and pinning new ladies to the group. I do not know why, but some people think that the Vanity Club are snobs. Maybe it is because there is a cap on how women we will have in our group. You also need to be recommended by someone in the group and later be voted in. The cap to the group is 500 ladies and it is only Transgender ladies can be in the group. There is a restaurant called the Dog & Pony, that serves good drinks, breakfast, lunch, and diner. Here is a chance to meet new ladies coming out for the first time, and making them feel comfortable with encouragement in who they are. Introducing them to my friends and vendors that may be able to help them with fashion, make up and clothes. No one will make you feel out of place, only to encourage the woman inside of you. One lady who is awesome with makeup is Elizabeth Taylor with Makeovers with Elizabeth Taylor. Her make up on you will make you look so beautiful and you will not even recognize yourself. Workshops are about Coming Out to Family and Work, Law, Safety, and Surgery for Transwomen and Transmen. You hear Transgender speakers about their struggles or positive uplifting stories. What made their transition go well or the mistakes that were made. You get to hear and see how to walk and talk like a woman. They have keynote speakers who come in and speak to the group for lunch and dinner to motivate us. The greatest thing about the Keystone Conference is the Dinner Dance Gala, where you will see awesome gowns being worn. Before we all go into dinner, there is cocktails, and photos taken by Cassandra Storm Photography, Inc. Cassandra takes the most beautiful photos, that bringing out the true beauty in you. During dinner, the food is awesome and filling with wonderful conversation. After dinner we hear from a keynote speaker and then a fantastic all-girl band to dance too called Wicked Jezabel, playing all kinds of music. The greatest thing I want to say about being at Keystone is being treated by the staff at the Sheraton Hotel Harrisburg PA., with total respect. Their staff over the years love us to death. A lot of the staff have told me that a lot of the staff looks for us each year, and they request to sign up to work. A lot of the staff even remember who we are from past years. I just love the Keystone Conference for a lifetime experience! You can find me at kkholmes@kkholmes.com or visit my personal website at http://www.KKHolmes.com In my next article I'll talk about "Love Before and After Transition". Until then Shoot for the Moon and even if You Miss, You'll Be Among the STARS!
WOW, I am so excited to say that coming up on April 8, 2020 will be my fourth year Anniversary from having Gender Conformation. I can honestly say without a doubt I would never turn back, and I am 200% Happier than I've ever been in my life. On October 1, 2010, I went full time with my transition living as a woman 24/7, but there was still something missing in my life that needed to be done. Having Gender Conformation at the time was very important for me to have. Normally a Transgender person must wait a year after they transition living as the opposite sex. After my transition God placed it in my heart to wait five years to have the surgery, which I am glad I did. My plan was to take a loan out of my TSP in five years to cover my surgery. In waiting the five years to have my surgery what would have cost $45K, it was only $450.00 for my co-payment. WOW, "Let's Roll", my Gender Conformation for surgery was scheduled for April 8, 2016. After my surgery, on April 25, 2016 I was interviewed by ABC2 News out of Baltimore, MD about my life. I was very happy about having my surgery, so if I had other surgeries later no one would know I was Transgender. In the past whenever I was under anesthesia, I was always wonder before I had my gender conformation is what the operating team was thinking when they saw I had male genitalia. Now when go to drill and staying overnight, going to the fitness center, or the pool, etc., I don't worry about someone seeing me. Although women are very self-conscious of their bodies, this is still one stress I didn't have to worry about anymore. Some of my coolest things to wear now is a bathing suit without the skirt, tights, yoga pants etc. My happiest in life right now, is I feel great about my body. There are some challenges I have face now since my gender conformation, and that is using the lady's bathroom at concert, sporting events, and movies with long lines that go out the bathroom door and down the hall. Before I sit on the toilet to take a pee, I have to wonder is the toilet seat wet or is there toilet paper. I used to wonder when I was married why my ex-wife would go through so much toilet paper, and now I know why. My life is not like it used to be when I had male genitalia, I could just shake it and go. Now I must wipe and if I do both, it is having to use more toilet paper. For those who don't understand, for women or post-op Transwomen we must use more if we do both number one and two. We must wipe forward for number one and wipe back for number two. The challenge for me now after 45 years in learning something one way when I was male and having to learning a new way to wipe as a woman. The worst for me now is if I must take a pee bad is having to just un-zip and pee, rather than un-zip and pulling down my pants. Oh, and the really bad thing as a woman having to pee and you are in the car traveling on a trip, you can't just pee behind a tree or in the car with a jar, LOL. In all this change in my life, I wouldn't change a thing. Sometimes now, coming up on my fourth-year celebration of Gender Conformation I still have these "Aha Moments", that I had the surgery, and I am a full woman being my true self. My life now is a dream that has come true. You can find me at kkholmes@kkholmes.com or visit my personal website at http://www.KKHolmes.com In my next article I'll talk about "Being Loved By The Church". Until then Shoot for the Moon and even if You Miss, You'll Be Among the STARS!
Since my transition I've faced some challenges and changes in my life. When I hear people say, I made a choice, they really don't understand that it was a "decision, not a choice." The way society treats us, we lose our spouse, children, family, home, work, and friends. People want to attack, even murder us. Knowing all this is possible, we still want to be our true selves. Sometimes the pain is so bad, we end up committing suicide. After many prayers, I felt from God a total peace that I was doing the right thing. One of my biggest challenges was telling my mother I was transgender. My mother tends to worry a lot about things and most of all about me. Getting my mother to start using my new name and using the proper pronoun was going to be a challenge. One of the most embarrassing times was at the store and she would say "he," which would drive me crazy. I had to get her to understand that when she uses the wrong gender in front of people, we don't know if they are transphobic, and that it could possibly put my life in danger. Now, my mother is much better, and occasionally she may slip, but is quick to correct herself. Another challenge I faced was transitioning on the job. With staff who knew you before, they either accept you or not, and you need to know how to deal with it. You need to understand that your transition is a process for people in your life. It will take them time to adjust. When you transition, they transition too. For new staff coming on, it is a matter of others not outing you to them, so that you can tell them when you are ready. One main thing to keep in mind is you may be fired from your job. I tell other transgender people to carry themselves in a positive way. Build yourself a "platform" for yourself, so when you tell others you are transgender, they won't care. You want people to know who you are on the inside, rather than focusing on your outward appearance. My mother wrote in a letter to a friend of hers, "Just because the cover of the book has changed, inside the story still remains the same." Some challenges I didn't totally anticipate. It used to take me five minutes to wash my hair, but now that's 45 minutes to an hour. At concerts or sporting events, the bathroom lines I face are out the door. Buttons on blouses and zippers on pants are on the other side. Sometimes I find myself changing outfits three or four times to match shoes and purses. I've had to learn medical terms of the other gender, which you are now. In my next article I will talk about "Living a Double Life."
Like everyone in our community, my first day back to work after I transitioned full-time is a day I will never forget. For me, the day was October 12th, 2010. Let me take you back four months earlier – to June 2010 – when I attended the Philadelphia Trans Health Conference (now called the Philadelphia Trans Wellness Conference). While attending this conference I saw five, six, seven-year-old kids enjoying themselves and having fun, only to find out they were transgender kids. I attended the workshops only to hear stories of lives just like mine. The more I heard, the more I was beginning to understand that I was transgender too. I left that conference fired up and like a runaway freight train back to Maryland and to work the next day. I wanted to talk with a friend at work to see what I needed to do to transition full time as a woman at work. That Monday I went looking for my friend, who is also one of our agency's attorneys, who just happened to be traveling and then afterwards on vacation. It was the longest two weeks of my life. When she returned to work, I was so happy to see her and tell her I had something to tell her. I shut her door to tell her I was transgender. She said that she was so honored that I trusted her enough to come to her and she would talk with the firm's director of civil rights and inclusiveness (CRI) without giving my name. The next day my friend told me the reaction and response that was displayed to her, and so I said I would meet and talk with her. While talking with the director I was getting the same positive, welcoming response. She said she wanted to talk with our CEO to advise him the plan. The CEO gave his blessings and told her do whatever it takes to make it happen and that it goes smoothly for me. Later I was advised that I was to keep my transition a secret between director and myself. At that point we set up meetings once a week to go over plans to tell the agency around the country on the same day and time without it leaking out to anyone. I said, "Not a problem. On Facebook I'm under a different name – going by Karen Kendra Harris", and I knew no one from our agency would find me. On October 1st, 2010 after work I went home and threw away all my male clothes except for one shirt, pants, and sneakers. On Monday, October 4th I went into the agency one last time as Tony to tell the head of my department about my transition. We had feared the news might leak out from her. After I told her she said she didn't care, and she still loved me and that I was a good worker and that's all that mattered to her. She gave me a big hug and off I went, returning home and to return to work on October 12th, 2010. I was also told during that time by the director of civil rights not to call anyone at work or look at work emails until I return. At a mandatory meeting with all our state offices and headquarters at the same time I told staff the story about my transition and I would be coming back as Karen. After being told the news about me a lot of the staff jumped on Facebook looking for me. Little did they know all they were going to find out were all the good things I had been doing in and around the community and country. I heard that because of this mandatory meeting, they all thought they were going to be fired. Little did they know it was about me. The only issue that really came up from that hour-long training was the bathroom. My agency had that all taken care of by making the small bathrooms on each floor into single use bathrooms with locks on the doors. During that time off I spent the time getting myself together to return to work. I called up my friend to put a weave in my hair and go to the nail salon to get a pedicure and manicure, getting tips added and painted with a very nice burgundy color. Sunday, October 11th, 2010 – the night before going back to work – I pulled out the outfit I wanted to wear for my first day back. It was a nice pair of slacks and top with about one-and-a-half-inch heels. I didn't want to go back to work throwing a dress right away into their faces. That night I slept like a baby without a care in the world, and I was in total peace for what I was about to do and knowing my life wouldn't be the same starting the next day. Monday, October 12th was "D-Day." I woke up at 5:30 am and was anxious to be at work by 8 am, but the director of civil rights told me to relax and come in around 10 am. I received a phone call from one of my co-workers and she said she would meet me at the McDonald's, a couple doors down from the building, so that we could go together. After we finish eating, another co-worker from the Office of Inspector General (OIG) stopped by McDonald's too and he said he would walk back with us for support. As I entered the building, the guard greeted me at the front desk who welcomed me back to work. Up to the 8th floor I went to my cubicle and to my surprise there were flowers, cards, and a couple of gifts. There were emails on my new email account from co-workers who were welcoming me back to work. First stop after I got settled was to go to the security office to get my new ID badge. As the security employee was about to take my photo he said, "Are you ready to take your photo or would you rather use this photo", which was one of my model pictures taken in the park. This photo was shown at the mandatory meeting and I said, "Oh yeah, this picture!" As the safety officer for my agency I couldn't just hide at my desk all day – I had to walk around to check on things and I said to myself, "I must do my job." I felt like I was in a parade, walking around the agency that day for staff to see me. Along the way, some of the women who had offices would stop me to say, "You look awesome and if you need to hide and be yourself, feel free to use my office". I told them thank you, but I would be okay. The rest of the day was a charm, even going to lunch with a few people. I have to say that I had a couple of co-workers who were friends and were mad at me because, they had no idea and I didn't tell them. I told them that director told me not to tell anyone in fear that it would leak out, so they forgave me. A couple of comments were, "Why didn't I make it easy for them by staying with the name Tony, but with an 'i'?" I told them, "Make it easy for you? I'm the one who must answer now all the time and to start writing and answer emails as Karen". I told them it is harder for me than you, and I told them this is who I've been deep down in my soul all my life. I then told them the story of when I told my mom that my name was going to be Karen. This is something my mother never told me before, that if she had a girl, she was going to name her Karen. At that moment I lost it and knew I was who I was meant to be. Now my friends and co-workers understood why I went with the name Karen. That day I was told it was okay to leave work early due to my big day back to work. As I left I started saying to myself, "Wow! What an awesome day. I did it!" In the next article I will tell you about joining the Maryland Defense Force (MDDF), supporting the Maryland National Guards. MDDF is the defense force for the state of Maryland. So remember, shoot for the moon and even if you miss you'll be among the stars! See you all in the next article and be safe out there!
Hello Everyone, my name is Karen Kendra Holmes and I am so excited to have my column and I welcome you all to "Trans Lives". Within my column I will be talking about various topics that I want to share and yours if you care to share with other readers. I want to shed lots of faith, hope, and love that we give respect and earn the respect that we so deserve. From each article written I want you all to know that I have you each in my heart and you have a close friend in me. I just want you to know "I am the Voice" who cares about you all and I will do whatever I can to express and show my feelings. If you care to send me something for advice, please do and let me know if you want me to use you name or not. Keep one thing in mind, if you send me something to post, it just might help the next reader. I have always said that our journeys and transitions are like DNA – very close to each other, but different. The opening about me by Baltimore OUTloud on my journey was just a start of who I am, where I came from, and where I am going too in the future. In 2015 I was honored in Platform magazine. I was among 31 other women from around the world honored. Before I transitioned full-time on October 1st, 2010, I told all my volunteer groups I had something to tell them. All of them gave me this funny look and said, "What do you have to tell me"? When I told them I was transgender, they all said the same thing, "I thought you were going to tell me you were leaving the organization". That told me that they all valued what I brought to their organization. So, because of my platform to them, I want you my readers to build yourself a platform so that you will hear the same thing one day. Ever since I transitioned, I have been so happy about who I am and who I've become. I live my life the way I want to, not letting anyone take that away from me. We transition to be happy and because of the way society treats us we become unhappy to the point with some of us committing suicide. If you ever feel that way, please reach out to someone. We care, I care, and I am here for you, and you are not alone. The title for this column this time is "My Journey Rolls On". I'm learning things from my past and keeping my eye open to learn new things for my future. Only you can control and change your stars. Take the steps and the chance that will make the difference in your life. When I did my TEDx Asbury Park talk, I wasn't sure I could do it, because I've seen so many good speakers during my five-minute audition. Even though I have done public speaking since 2012, I knew this was the big one. I took a chance to tell my story, and with the help of some fantastic TEDx coaches and a book that they sent me, I made a dream come true. To tell your personal story to hundreds and then thousands of people around the world, you wonder if you can do it. The way I got though it was being open to people helping me to succeed and praying to God. You see everyone is not after you, and there are lots of good people out there who want to help you succeed and they believe in you. With their help and love that I felt from them my journey just keeps rolling on. I want to thank all cisgender family, friends, co-workers, and professional experts who want to help educate people on who we are. Please keep one thing in mind and that is to have us at the table, at meetings, at conferences. We are not what you see on the "Jerry Springer Show"; we are police officers, firefighters, medics, doctors, nurses, lawyers, politicians, teachers, models, actors, and most of all military soldiers, and the list goes on. This is our lives and we live this journey 24/7, and we can tell our own story better than you can. For more about me go to my personal website Kkholmes.com. Please check out my TEDx Asbury Park on YouTube or just YouTube my name Karen Kendra Holmes to see or hear other talks of mine. My next article will be "My First Day Back to Work". See you next time and remember one thing: Shoot for the moon and even if you miss you'll be among the stars!
It all started on the evening of November 2, 2017 while volunteering at the Gender Conference East in New Jersey. At our staff dinner meeting that evening I was sitting next to a gentleman named Jean. While having dinner beside Jean I was telling him of my story as a transwoman. In talking to Jean, he asked me if I have done a TEDx Talk before. He suggested I pursue it at Asbury Park and base my story on their current theme of Passion. He then texted a gentleman by the name of Eric Wiener, whom he knew who worked with TEDx Asbury Park. Later, I was in the talk session given by my surgeon Dr. Rachel Bluebond-Langner. I spoke up to share my surgical experience with the audience and express the gratitude I felt towards the doctor for her wonderful bedside manner and the success of my surgery. Soon after, a man walked up to me and introduced himself saying he was Eric Wiener and asking if I was Karen Holmes. Of course, I said yes. He told me he was sitting behind me in the Dr. Bluebond-Langner session. He went on to say that I showed a lot of passion when talking about my surgeon and that he was with TEDx Asbury Park, NJ. He gave me his business card and recommended I apply to be on the upcoming show on May 19, 2018, which is based on Passion. It took me almost a month to finally send my application in because I was nervous with thoughts of "Wow, TEDX, this is big and I wonder if I can do it!" On January 29, 2018, I received an email telling me that TEDx Asbury Park wanted me to either come in to do a Live Audition or send them a Video Audition. After careful thought, I decided that doing a Live Audition would be the best thing for me. So, I started working on my speech and rehearsing. It was quite difficult because I only had a five-minute audition. So, for the next couple of weeks I worked diligently on my five-minute speech. It was so hard to fit 47 ½ years into my speech. My talk would be "40 Years and Wandering No More". OMG, I jumped for joy knowing if I do well, this was going to be a Life Changing Event! Well the day came and on January 19th I drove to Asbury Park, NJ to the Paramount Theater. When I was 30 miles away from the theater, my heart became very heavy. Later that evening I got on the stage to give my "well-prepared speech" but for some reason, I changed most of it on the spot. I was one of 18 people that auditioned live that night and when I gave my talk, I felt like I "knocked it out of the park". The other 17 people were really good so I said to myself, "Wow, I hope I get a crack at the Live Show on May 19th". A few weeks later I had a total knee replacement and while recovering at home, I received an email from TEDx Asbury Park that read, "Congratulation we want you to be on the Live Show on May 19, 2018 for which the theme is Passion". OMG, my heart was racing a million miles and I couldn't believe I had made it to the Live Show. Now it was time to go to work! I needed to come up with a bigger talk which would be different and have much more content than the live audition I was allotted 5 minutes for. They sent me a book to read and I was assigned a coach a few weeks later. I finished my book quickly realizing I already knew a lot of the things, but it really helped me when I saw it in print. A week later, I got my first coach; his name was Don. He loved my speech and I rehearsed over Skype with him getting better and better each time. Next, I rehearsed over Skype in front of 8 coaches. I felt I did a good job and they had only a couple of suggestions for my speech. Two weeks before I was to go live on stage, I got a new coach named Joel. That night when rehearsing on Skype with Joel, he suggested I change my talk to speak about the boy named Tony (my birthname) first and then switch and speak about Karen, who I am now, later in the speech. I told him I would give it a shot and that I trusted him as my coach. When I got off the phone my heart dropped; since I have given my speech one way for the past couple of years, I wondered if I could pull off the sudden switch. The next day Joel and I met on Skype again to rehearse and he told me that he was blow away with how well I changed my talk using his suggestions in just one day. He said no one that he has ever coached has been able to make changes so quickly before. After a couple of more rehearsals, Joel said he had me 95% ready and he wanted me to now work with MK who would make me 110% ready. I'm like, "Wow, this is so draining!", but I was ready and excited to carry on. A couple of days later I rehearsed on Skype with MK and said she loved it! She had a couple of suggestions about making Tony a little more personal. I knew speaking in a 3rd person about Tony was going to be hard for me. Soon after, MK and I met on Skype again and she told me that I did it and it was awesome! Later that week, I took off work and headed to the hotel in Asbury Park, NJ that was set up for me by Marcia. She had arranged a large oceanfront room for me. I rested after the drive because the next day was going to be dress rehearsal. Early the next morning, I went to the Paramount Theater to find out my dress rehearsal wasn't until 3:00 p.m., so I stuck around to listen to a couple of the other speakers. Later, I went back to the hotel to rest and to rehearse my talk a couple more times. Before heading back over I said a prayer asking God for His help with His spirit giving me the words for my talk, much like I have done when giving speeches in the past. Now it was time to go on stage to do my dress rehearsal talk and once again, I knocked it out of the park! My first coach, Don, came back stage in tears; I asked him not to cry because I would start crying too. I just wanted to be able to repeat my talk with the same passion for the Live Show. Afterwards, I went to dinner and then back to the hotel to go to bed. I was up early and out the next day knowing there was a breakfast for the speakers. As I headed over to the breakfast, I was greeted by one of my church members, Melissa, who came to surprise me. After we hugged, I told her she was going to make me cry; she drove all night just to be with me. After talking to Melissa, I went to the speaker's lounge to eat something, take photos, and relax. An hour later, my mom, brother, and a close friend showed up. I checked them in so they could get passes for the show and get T-shirts, etc. The show started 30 minutes later and together we watched some of the speakers who went before me. I wasn't to go on until the 3rd group, which was after lunch. Later we all had lunch together, including Melissa, at a table that they had reserved for me and my guests. During lunch we took some photos of all of us together. After lunch we were able to watch a couple of more speakers before I had to go to get my makeup done and get my mic on so I was ready to give my talk. Well the time finally came and it was my turn to do my talk so I walked out to the red dot. I wasn't nervous at all, I was now just happy to get out there and get this over with. I spoke with so much confidence, I received several claps and laughs during my talk, and they happened just at the right time when I needed them the most. My speech was to be between 8 and 10 minutes; they wanted closer to 8 but I took 9 minutes and 55 seconds. As I walked off the stage, there were tear and claps with people standing. Yes, it was all over and I gave a sigh of relief and a long exhale as I went back stage. Later that night I went to dinner to celebrate and then back to the hotel to go to bed around 10:00 p.m. I was so exhausted after weeks of rehearsals preparing for this talk. The next day TEDx Asbury Park had a breakfast brunch for the speakers and their guests. Breakfast was awesome and more photos with my newly found family, whom I will miss. In closing, I am a TEDx Asbury Park Alumni. The theme for next year is talking on "Chaos" and I will be looking for the next TEDx Asbury Park Speaker to recommend. As I leave you now I will say as I always do… "Remember one thing… shoot for the moon and even if you miss, you'll be among the STARS!!!"
For nearly a half century, I've hidden who I knew myself to be and portrayed the person family, friends, employers and society in general, expected me to be. From about the age of 13 or 14, I knew something was different. Back then, the term "Transgender" wasn't yet created but I knew I had very strong feminine feelings inside. In the 1960's, it was confusing to see how life as a young boy was portrayed in advertising, television and in every day life knowing it conflicted with how I felt. I also knew it would be dangerous to mention my feelings to anyone. I'd likely be subjected to unpleasant psychiatric appointments and possibly even institutionalized. I was also adopted and even feared my parents might want to "unadopt" me. So, out of self preservation, I did the only thing I knew to do. I hid it. I buried those feelings and went about living the stereotypical male life. While my first sexual experience was with another teen boy, I dated girls throughout high school and college, married had kids, divorced, married again and had my third child, during these 50 years. However, burying decades old feelings became more difficult and the urge to express myself, overwhelming. I began to take advantage of opportunities to privately be myself. It was such a relief to do so but as quickly as I did, it was back in the closet until the next opportunity. This only fanned the flames and in the past 4-5 years, I began a slow, gradual and selective "coming out" process that is still in place today. The circle of supportive friends continues to grow and I am out more publicly in safe spaces but I am still very much in the closet, living, at least for the moment, an exhausting dual existence. I am a Transgender WOMAN! I am gradually coming out but at my own speed and on my own terms. I have come out to my wife and she and I are now trying to deal with this by seeing separate, understanding and supportive therapists; mine to help me through my transition and hers to help her come to terms with having a Transgender spouse and is in the process of determining if that is something she can even accept. However, my other family members, including three children don't know. I love them and they are my world but I am so afraid of losing them forever. This is the real life fear that I live today. Transition is a work in progress for me. Any and all prayers are welcome as I navigate these choppy waters. I long for the day my exterior finally catches up.
Red Cross Blog Written by: Rosalind SE Carney, volunteer Karen Holmes works for the Federal Government as a Safety Officer and is a Cadre Member with the Disaster Team. Karen works in an agency that oversees organizations such as AmeriCorps, working to ensure safe and healthy environments by providing CPR and first aid training and certification. Her role requires her to be in DC so she is unable to deploy on missions associated with her job. However, she knew that her experiences would benefit the Red Cross, so Karen joined as a volunteer in 2008. On her own initiative, Karen pursued several training opportunities within the Red Cross to diversify the types of assistance she can provide locally and nationally. She is a certified Emergency Response Vehicle (ERV) driver, shelter trailer driver and shelter manager, instructor for CPR/first aid and a Disaster Action Team (DAT) responder. On 23rd September 2017, Karen used two weeks of her vacation time to deploy to Dickinson County, TX, to help with Hurricane Harvey relief efforts. Each day, Karen and fellow volunteers loaded up an ERV with meals prepared by the Southern Baptist mobile kitchens. Karen drove the ERV and helped serve meals to those in need. Interacting with people is Karen's favorite Red Cross activity. She describes how people impacted by Hurricane Harvey initially had a look of devastation on their faces that turned to a beacon of hope at the sight of the ERV. Karen saw a community that was just starting to rebuild. The devastation was evident–furniture and clothing on the streets, children running out into the streets to obtain meals and people who had not eaten in a day or two because they had missed the prior visit(s). Many people did not have electricity or a working stove, and some were sleeping on mattresses on the floor, not wanting to leave their homes to go to a shelter. Whatever the individual circumstance, the residents were so thankful that the Red Cross was there. In four days, Karen and her fellow volunteers served 1,078 meals in one area and delivered 300 meals to a church another time. Karen enjoyed giving people the very special touch for which the Red Cross is known. Karen is grateful that her employers are so supportive, telling her that they are happy she deploys as they know how much this volunteer role with the Red Cross means to her.
Karen Kendra Holmes, a speaker at the Rally for Trans Students event and a safety officer for the federal government, should be on BlackPeopleMeet's Mount Rushmore of users. She received messages from 150 potential suitors but didn't go on a date. I was both stumped and amazed by this, since I recently left eHarmony because of my dusty mailbox. However, that was just my cisgender privilege popping up again. "I kind of did it basically as validation to myself to see if any guys would come on to me," Holmes said. Holmes weaned the 150 men down to 85 and then disclosed that she is transgender. "Out of the 85, 70 of them said they still wanted to go out." But Holmes didn't take the relationship further. "I kind of chickened out." I asked if this has to do with the frequent violence against transwomen. "That is definitely the key to it as well. But my whole big thing, my philosophy is totally different from a lot of the [trans]girls out there. Some girls figure ... before we get intimate, they'll find out for themselves. No, no, no, you don't want to do that," Holmes expressed. Disclosure is a delicate issue in the transgender community, and the moments after disclosure can be potentially dangerous. "My philosophy is if we're going to go on a date, I'd rather tell the person before because I don't want them to spend anywhere from 75 to 100 bucks for dinner and say so, oh by the way, and then he gets really pissed off and mad," Holmes explained. She's also used Plenty of Fish, but didn't receive much luck. Holmes identifies as a lesbian, and she was looking for a romantic relationship. "A couple of the girls who I thought might work out, when we went out, they just kind of wanted a [platonic] girlfriend. Great. You kind of like wasted my time basically." Holmes began fully living as a woman in 2010, and over the years, she's learned how to navigate romance while valuing herself. For the first three years of living as a woman, she put herself "on hold" to take care of herself emotionally and physically. Her dating advice for transgender women is rooted in authenticity. "Let that person know, if you can't [date a transgender woman], I totally understand. I'm not going to hold that against you. But I don't want you to think I'm a trial base for your sexuality or something like that. I feel too much empowered," Holmes said. By Imade Borha - Reporter with The Frederick News-Post
This is my story. Hi ladies, my name is Felicia Lisa Brown of New Jersey. I was born on March 3rd I am 5'5" 155 pounds 38b 32 39 with real breast. My breasts are a result of having gynecomasia. As a child raised by a single mother until I was 10 I dreamed of being a female, and would wear my mother's clothes when I could. After my mother remarried I had fewer opportunities to me fem. Depth inside I have always had this feeling. After two marriages and one child I still feel this way. After 911 (2001) I had this strong feeling of how short life was and my fem side wanted out. I lost 40 pounds shaved my body and meet others that felt the way I did on the Internet. Kianna Brown was my mentor (via the internet) and gave me support. She mailed me my first wig. My wife is not aware of my feeling. I am purging right now due to the fact that my wife found some of my clothes in our attic. I told her they must have been left by the prior owner. This feeling of wanting to be fem is strong and confusing, I wish I had a place to go and keep my clothes and dress and go out one day with another CD that understood. Well until that time I just love chatting with all of you for support and understanding. By the way I wear a size 8 dress and 9 shoe and shop to fit an 8 one day. Thanks for your continue friendship and understanding, Felicia Brown" I am now size 6 and my wife does not like my female size...i now realize that I was born a woman in a male body. Thus bigender. ..i will have to continue as a male and be Felicia when I can
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