Moments: All You Can Do Is Laugh

I find having a sense of humor about life is a good way to get through it without causing damage to yourself or to other people. So, on occasion I do a self check on how ridiculous I am or my situation is and have a good laugh if it meets the criteria of laughable.

One such moment I reached that criteria was when I was reading a website on how to pass as a man in your pre-T stage of life (see First off, I love the author of this website. His sense of humor and personality seems to line up with mine quite well. I laughed out loud when he said his example of manly posture and mannerisms were based off of Dean from Supernatural in his early stages of trying to pass; as Dean has also been my example of manliness to which I am aiming.

So, after reading this section of the website, I brought myself to my full length mirror to attempt to achieve a more masculine posture (holding up the shoulders so they are straighter rather than sloped mostly). After striking several poses in my attempt (several of which I achieved what Gabriel accurately describes as a constipated robot), I see a reflection of my cat in the mirror sitting behind me on the bed watching this show take place with a look of kitty skepticism and judgement. I burst out laughing. Yeah, not quite to the Dean level of manly yet.


Moments: Recognition and Acceptance

When I first started accepting, exploring, and understanding myself as a trans man, I set up an appointment with my new PCP at the local LGBT community health center. I wanted to ensure my doctor understood what I was going through and was able to provide me with the much needed support to get me through my transition. I was extremely nervous as this would be the first time I would say this out loud to a perfect stranger; even if that stranger worked in an institution that focused on dealing with people like me and would not be working there if they were not open to the idea. But no matter how safe the place or person is, it is always a terrifying experience when you come out to someone (as I’ve recently learned, you can never predict how someone will react even if you think they are the safest person in the world).

I decided to take the T to the health center, which gave me plenty of time to think on the ride and then the additional walk (I decided to take the longest route possible which I justified to myself as adding a bit more exercise, but now I see it for what it was, a stalling tactic), to contemplate my nerves and what I was going to say. I was pretty much in my own world, not seeing much that passed me as I walk through the Common. Half way through the park, for some reason I decided to look up and I saw a trans woman walking towards me. As we walked towards each other we made eye contact and she gave me a smile that lit up her face. It was a smile of recognition, of relief, of acceptance, and of comfort. For a few brief seconds we played a part in each other’s lives as we passed each other on our respective walks through a public park. For those few seconds a weight was lifted – we were not alone and we were safe and understood by a fellow human being in close proximity. For those few seconds everything was alright – I could breath.

I have never been one to think that one look or one smile could have so much meaning, but I was a believer in that moment. I returned the smile and took a deep breath as we passed, trying to hold back the tears that started to squeeze out of my eyes. After quickly wiping away the few tears that escaped and giving my nose a good blow, I stood up straighter and walked on with more purpose and confidence; everything was going to be ok. This was the right decision and I wasn’t going to let fear get in my way.

To whoever you were that passed me in the park that day, thank you for sharing that moment with me. Thank you for giving me the gift of clarity, understanding, and acceptance. I will always remember that small moment in time as a pivotal moment in my life and I will strive to pass those gestures and feelings on to others I come in contact with throughout my life.


Thoughts: The Dike Effect

As someone who is currently working through the idea that I would prefer to live my life as a man rather than a woman, I find one of the biggest frustrations, while also one of the best protections, is the dike effect. What exactly do I mean by this? Well, when a woman (and many determine it is a woman they are looking at by seeing breasts, a hairless face, and small stature) is dressed in masculine looking clothes and their hair is cut very short, they automatically assume that that person is a butch lesbian.

Now, I don’t want to complain about this without acknowledging the fact that this effect does make the lives of pre-transition men a little bit easier than that of pre-transition women. It is no secret that lesbians are much more socially accepted than even gay men and especially more socially acceptable than effeminate men. In the eyes of American society, it is easier to understand and accept a woman who desires to be more masculine; as the masculine figure is the more revered of the two accepted genders. A man, on the other hand, who wishes to project a more feminine persona, is less understood; as in American society it is viewed as someone wanting to become a weaker and less valued figure. This, in turn, opens the door to acts of male dominance including physical, sexual, and emotional aggression.

This is not to say that lesbians have it easy and are never on the recieving end of male dominance and/or aggression (especially butch lesbians who pose a threat to those men who firmly believe in male dominance over women), but looking at ancedotal stories and news stories it would suggest that a large portion of attacks on LGBT persons are often perpetrated on gay men or transgender women.

That being said, if I go out in my usual clothes consisting of men’s pants, men’s t-shirt or dress shirt, and men’s dress shoes or sneakers; and I have my usual short (almost buzzed cut) hairstyle, people who I encounter may do a double take to determine if I am a man or woman, but once they see my breasts, they will automatically catalog me as a butch lesbian. This is often followed by the use of personal titles such as ma’am or Ms, or pronouns such as she or her. This frustrates me to no end; especially as I delve deeper into my desire to live life as a man. Every ma’am aimed in my direction is like nails on a chalk board and everytime someone uses Sir, when spotting me from afar or through a quick glance, my heart soars (it often plummets to my stomach shortly after when the moment they realize they made a mistake and quickly change to the ever hated Ms.).

Pre-trans women, on the other hand, have no such cover to hide under. If they go out in public wearing women’s clothes with long hair and make-up, they will be spotted a bit closer to what they are; a biologically born male dressing as a woman. To many, they may catalog this person as a cross dresser or a pre-trans woman, but for the most part they will understand (at least on the surface) what this person is doing. In the case of pre-trans men, the only way to get across what they are doing is by saying something; acknowledging what they are, i.e “hi call me Ben.” For those of us still figuring all this out, it is hard and scary to take that leap of full on acknowledgement. It is one thing for someone to make an assumption and address you as Sir while you roll with it and another for you to correct someone who sees your body for what it is and calls you Ms.

I also konw that this effect can not be avoided as long as I have my large breasts to give me away (my small stature is not as big a giveaway as breasts, as people often translate that into a young teenage boy in their heads). As soon as a person spots them, it is all Ma’ams and Ms.’ I know many trans men use binders and such to combat this effect, but I refuse to wear something that can potentially cause me harm or discomfort to appease those around me. I never did that while living as a woman, and now that I am finding I am enjoying life and myself so much better living more as a man, I will not degrade that by causing myself physical pain. But, as I delve deeper into this, I also find that each Ma’am or Ms I get tears me apart a little bit more. Each time I am miss-gendered and I do nothing, I say nothing, I hate myself a little bit more for being so weak, for not allowing myself or others to acknowledge the real me.

So, how do I come to terms with this while I work through this? How do I present myself to the public in a way that allows everyone to see the real me, while I wait to determine how to move forward financially and emotionally? How can I live life in the body I currently have without hating myself a little bit more when interacting with people or when I look in the mirror? Unfortunately, I do not have any answers to these questions. This is one of the many things I must work through as I try to decide how I want to live my life as me.

Yay me!

Memories: My Ah-Ha Moment

One question that I hear is asked of trans people is when was your ah-ha moment? When did you have that breakthrough that put everything into perspective? Mine is easy to pin-point, but the problem with mine was that my ah-ha moment was mixed in with my oh shit gotta bury this as deep as possible moment. So, although I had my breakthrough relatively early in my life, I then buried it so deep I completely forgot about it until my brain decided it could no longer hide such a big part of myself and forced these thoughts and feelings back to the surface.

My breakthrough occurred when I was a junior in high school when I went to see the movie Boys Don’t Cry. This was the first time I saw a trans man. Prior to that I had seen crossdressers and trans women on tv, but mostly on the daily trash talk shows and though I was intrigued by them, I did not feel a direct connection. Up to this point, I thought I had myself pretty figured out. I came out as bisexual when I was a freshman and my group of friends were all gay, lesbian, bisexual, or gay friendly. I surrounded myself with safe and accepting people. I thought I was doing great, but for me the realization of who I really was, and the difference of how I felt before and after that realization, was a lot like the first time I got glasses – yeah I know you’re probably saying, what? But hear me out – Before the first time you get glasses, you don’t really know there is anything wrong with how you see the world, because that is just how you’ve always seen the world and you know no different, but once you sit in that doctor’s chair and put your chin on the strap and look through the unreasonably gigantic steampunk esque contraption and you get a look through the first good lense, your entire world changes. Lines are sharper, faces are clearer, and you can read words from across the room. So, prior to me seeing Boys Don’t Cry, I had no idea that my world, and how I viewed myself, was not quite in focus yet.

As I watched Brendan come to life on the screen; a woman becoming a man – not a lesbian or a butch dike, but a man – my heart began pumping a mile a minute with excitement. I found myself literally looking around the theater thinking; is everyone else seeing this? Are they feeling this? Did everyone else know this was an option? People can do this? What? I kept repeating in my head yes, yes, yes! This is right! This makes sense! This is me! I could breath. A weight was lifted off my shoulders. The lines that defined me began to come into focus.

But as the movie progressed and the feeling of impending and unavoidable doom seeped through each scene culminating with the horrifying and horrendous final scene, I found myself struggling to breath, my heart stopped, I thought I was going to throw up the dinner I just ate, and it took everything I had not to stumble out of the theater. My thoughts changed from yes, yes, yes to  no, no, no. The lines that defined me became so shockingly clear they looked like razorblades; ready to slice me into little pieces. My brain made the connections from one horrifying thought to the next; this could happen. This did happen. This is me. Holy shit this could happen to me. By the time the movie ended, I was completely and utterly out of it. I was in shock. I felt the overwhelming need t0 curl up in the fetal position on the floor and block out these realizations.

I left that movie theater knowing more about myself than ever before, but also knowing that I could never go down that path. The movie showed me what awaited me if I did choose that life and that scared the hell out of me. I decided then and there that I would push these thoughts and feelings down as far as they would go and pretend I never had this clarifying moment. And that is exactly what I did until the feelings were re-awakened a decade later when I tried to force myself to do things my mind believed my body should never be capable of – giving birth.

Napolean Chapter Two: The Dream

I sat down on the stool in front of the small cluttered counter and felt as my girl slid onto the stool beside me.  My hand went up and stroked my beard as the woman behind the counter came over eyeing the two of us.  

“Can I get something for you?”  The woman’s eyes wandered up and down the two of us, small town suspicion of the newly arrived burned behind her eyes.  I stiffened with fear.  Fuck, she knows, she recognizes me.  I didn’t realize I was holding my breath until my girl’s hand came down on mine and gave a reassuring squeeze.  I released the breath and gave a little nod, yeah she’s right I was just being paranoid.  

“Yeah, we would like two turkey sandwiches please.”  My girl gave a big smile while the woman eyed her even more.  My girl’s use of the word sandwiches confirmed the woman’s suspicions, we were definitely not from around here.  As the woman gave up her scrutiny and turned to make the sandwiches I heard a ringing of a bell over the door behind me.  Like everyone else in the place, I turned to see who had come in.  


My heart began to race as I turned back around to hide my face as my grandparents walked through the door.  Fuck, Fuck, they’ll know, they’ll recognize me.  This is it, this is when the shit hits the fan.  I felt rather than heard the two walk up behind us, stopping mere inches away from our backs.  I couldn’t slow down my breathing as my panic began to increase and I heard my grandfather place their order.  I held my breath waiting for the moment, the moment they would turn to me and see me and what I had become.  I waited and I waited, but nothing happened.  

Shit, they weren’t going to recognize me.  I looked down at myself, inspecting myself only to see my hands were not my hands.  They were large and rough and my arms, they were no longer sticks, but filled out.  Huh maybe they won’t recognize me, I must not look anything like me.  I moved my gaze up to the metal wall directly across from me and saw the scene of the store reflected back at me.  My grandparents standing behind me waiting for their order.  To my left, my girl sitting on the stool beside me and me, Jesus look at me, my face had filled out, more circular than angular, with a scruffy beard covering the bottom half.  My chest was flat and broad, no sign of my usual mountains.  Holy shit, it was me, but it wasn’t me.  The only things that were the same were my eyes, still the grayish blue they always were.  No wonder no one recognized me.  

My body gave a jerk and I opened my eyes to blackness. Jesus, what a fucking dream.  I rolled over on my back and glanced over at the clock, 2am, I was going to pay for this in the morning.  Shit, it was the morning.  There was no way I was getting back to sleep anytime soon, my heart was racing and my body was tense.  I couldn’t tell if it was fear or excitement that got my blood flowing and my breath gasping.  Maybe it was a little bit of both.

As my heart started to slow, I rolled myself out of bed and headed for the bathroom, navigating with ease my little apartment in the dark.  I flicked on the bathroom light and felt a twinge of disappointment as I caught my reflection in the mirror.  Same old, same old.  Man, what did I expect, a magical transformation?  No, not like this, not without a shit load of money, time, and awkwardness.  And most importantly not without a serious commitment which I was never really ever good at.  Shit, just thinking about how permanently drastic the change would be gave me the chills.  No, it just wasn’t in my nature. I was a goal setter.  I set a goal and worked my ass off until I achieved it then moved on to the next thing.  I was never one to make a lifelong commitment to one thing, one idea, one person; even if that person was me.  There was just too much to enjoy.  Restrictions and commitment ate into that enjoyment.  Jesus, look at me waxing all philosophical at two in the morning.  Like I would be making any life altering decisions in this state of mind.      

I let out a little laugh and gave my chin a rub.  Who’da thought I would ever dream of having a beard?  If there is one thing I can’t stand on a man it’s a beard, but when I felt it and saw it on myself in my dream it just felt right.  Damn, dreams can really mess with your head.  Speaking of messing with your head, I was quite sure it was no coincidence that I had this dream the same night I saw that damn shrink.  What was I thinking?  The only thing the shrink accomplished was to give me fucked up dreams.  What was I expecting, the answers to the meaning of life?  Jesus, I’m pathetic.  In an attempt to avoid my own eyes, I turned on the water in the sink and bent down splashing my face.  Wake up, move on, and live life.  That’s what I needed to do.  No more whining over what I don’t have, it won’t change anything except make me depressed.  As I stared down into the black hole of the sink drain with my hands gripping either side of the cool porcelain, I willed myself to forget the damn dream and all the feelings that went with it.  Life was just too damn short.  

Napoleon Chapter 1: The Shrink

I sit back and fidget with a piece of string that is hanging off the arm of the slightly uncomfortable yet slightly comforting chair.  Anything to avoid that stare.  God, can’t she look somewhere else just for one second?  

What the hell am I doing?  This isn’t me?  What am I doing here?  

I squeeze my eyes shut for a second, maybe I can just will it all away.  I open them… nope that same ugly green chair still sits in front of me with that same ugly damn fray.  

“I don’t think I can do this?”  

“Why not?”  What the hell is with that voice?  I feel like she was about to dissect me, spread me out on some stainless steel table and start running a scalpel through my naked skin.  I can’t hide the shiver that runs up my spine.  

My hand, apparently bored with the string, moves away from the arm of the chair and starts nervously combing itself through my hair.  Funnily enough, my eyes still stare down at the fray as if it were the most interesting thing in the world.  

“I don’t even know you.”

“Isn’t that the point.”  I cringe as the statement of fact, rather than a question, hits me.  Man I hate it when other people are right.  Especially when I already know the right answer, I just don’t want to hear it.  Can’t she just nod her head and say ‘ok’ and let me bow out peacefully.  No harm, no foul.  Christ, I’m the one that set this up, shouldn’t I be able to end it too.  But right now she is making me feel like a dumbass for even thinking it.         

I suddenly feel uncomfortable leaning back against the chair.  The position is too comfortable, too relaxed.  My body jerks itself up, I place my elbows on my knees with both hands now running through the hair on top of my head.  My gaze finally shifts from the boring ass fray on the chair to my boring ass shoes.  I really need to get new ones, they are almost as frayed as the damn chair.  Fitting, I guess.  I close my eyes and let out a sigh.  How the hell did I get here?  Me of all people?  I’m the last person anyone thought they would see in a place like this.  Fuck.  I’d like to think this all started when I moved to Boston.  That finite answer was very appealing, but who was I kidding, this had been bouncing around the back of my head for awhile now.  Boston only brought it to the forefront.  Nothing like some good repression to bring out the best in people.  

I let out a little laugh.   And to think I thought I was moving to some place if not more, than at least just as liberal as Seattle.  Boy was I wrong.  Sure Mass was one of the first states to allow gays to marry and the first to try and implement universal health care, but the longer I live here the more I begin to understand these things are more like a big fuck you to the country’s status quo.  People in Mass are not embracing their inner gaydom or their tired, their weak, and their poor, they just don’t like to be told what to do.   It is hard to shake off the centuries of Puritan ethics or the century of Catholic morals that run down the center of the city like the Charles.    

It probably also doesn’t help that I chose a profession that is very rigid in its gender roles.  I mean, come on, how many librarians do you see crossdressing?  Yeah, I’ve met my share of freaky librarians, but if you want to make the money you need to be a part of the prestige.  You need to be professional.  You need to be business casual.  A woman needs to be feminine.  Sure, I could pull it off for a little while, but after a few months I could feel my skin itch every time I put on one of those damn dress shirts.  I tried to mix it up with some new more manly dress pants, but they were still too god damn girly for me.

My eyes begin to wander across the floor until they hit the dark heels and the nyloned legs of the doctor.  Jesus, I wouldn’t be caught dead in something like that, and if for some miracle I were, I would probably kill myself trying to walk normal.  How the hell do they do that?  Can people actually walk in those?  At least I can be thankful I don’t have to look like that everyday – or ever.  

“What do you see when you look at me?”  My eyes begin the wandering trek back to my Sketchers.  The doctor doesn’t even wait a beat to answer.

“What do you see when you look at yourself?”  Christ, she is going to be one of those.  I should probably resign myself now to never getting a straight answer out of her.  Man, I suddenly feel like I am in an episode of the Sopranos.  I suppose to some my problem was just as sinful and shocking as being a cold blooded murdering mob boss.  Although, I’m sure my HBO TV series wouldn’t be as exciting.  Damn, that was a good show, too bad it had to come to an end.  Shit, what were we talking about?  Oh yeah, me.          

“What do you mean by “look” at myself?”  Ha, two can play at this game.  Hell, I used to practice this game with my sister.  Thank you Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead.  I wish I could see the play sometime.  

“Ok, let’s say I mean, what do you see when you look in the mirror.”  I can’t repress the smile on my face: point – no statements.  My smile turns into a scowl.  Shit, I really don’t like this question, talk about getting straight to the point.  Although, it is my own fault, I opened the door.  Damn, she’s good.  My eyes move to my hands which are now sticking out over the floor.  I take in the small size.  The long, thin, delicate fingers.  The long pink cuticles.  The soft skin.  Jesus, it looks like I haven’t done a day of work in my life.  They look like the hands of some pampered fucking aristocrat.  My hands clench into fists and scurry to the protection of my body, hiding themselves from my eyes.  My gaze drops back to my Sketchers.

“Not what I expect.”  Maybe if I say it quietly enough, she won’t hear and won’t push me.  Ha, right, she isn’t going to let this one go.  Wait for it…..

“And what do you expect?”  Her voice is too damn calm, almost apathetic.  I give her something this juicy and she acts like I just stated the sky was blue.  Doesn’t she know this is a big fucking deal?  I can count on one finger how many people I’ve talked to about this.  Jesus, have a heart lady.  Bored and cramped, my hands creep out from their hiding place and start in again with the playing with the hair.  Why the hell is one hand bouncing around so much?  Is it seizuring?  Oh, no, just my leg starting the bouncing thing.  Thanks dad, I always wanted a nervous twitch.  Jez, can I be any more fucking transparent?  I will my leg to stop tapping out the beat to some Jungle music on crack, only to realize my fingers pick it up without missing a beat.  Damn it.  

“Something….Something a little less wussie.  Something that doesn’t look like it could be snapped in half by a midget.  Something bigger, something stronger.  My body doesn’t seem to match up with what’s happening in here.”  I give myself a tap on the temple.  Should I tell her what’s going on in here was something that swore like a sailor, something that was as cocky as a new fighter pilot, something that was as rawly masculine as Bruce Willis in all those damn Die Hard movies?  Probably not, she wouldn’t believe me if I did, just like everyone else.  People just can’t see how something like that could live in a little feminine body like mine.  And even those who know my stubbornness, my cockiness, who have suffered the sharp bite of my anger, merely laugh at the cute little upstart, which only pisses me off even more. Man, do I have a Napoleon complex or what?  I’m sure if I had a dick it would be small, and if I had a truck it would be the biggest damn thing I could get my hands on.  Jesus, I’m pathetic.    

“And what’s happening in there?”  I shake my head.  Nope, not gonna go there.

“You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.  And it sounds really stupid when I say it out loud.”  Penis envy, I know that’s what she’s thinking, or at least would be thinking if I told her.  No fucking way.  I am not one of those dikes that pretend to be something they’re not, fuck it, I’m not even a dike.  Damn it, now both my leg and fingers are tapping out some kind of Morse code – get me the fuck out of here.    

“You know, I’m not here to judge you, I’m only here to help.”  My jaw clenches while my body tenses.  Jesus, and I thought the calm apathetic voice was bad.  Now she’s fucking talking to me like I’m some damn bird with a broken wing.  It never fucking fails, in the end they always see me as some frail little girl.  You can’t really deny what you see, or what you hear.  For fuck sake, I might as well have batted my eyes and blushed with that stupid ‘it sounds stupid when I say it out loud’ shit.  Always the fucking performer, gotta give them what they expect.  

“Let’s talk about something else.”  I hiss out between clenched teeth and looking her straight in the eye for a second then bringing my gaze back down to my Sketchers.  Deep breaths, deep fucking breaths.  Getting in her face will accomplish nothing except prove you’re an ass, an insecure ass.  After a moment of silence the doctor finally cuts her losses.  

“Ok then, lets go back to when you said you wish you were stronger.”  Thank god the calm voice returns. “Have you done anything to improve how your body feels and looks?”  This is a little bit safer, but not by much.

“I used to do boxing, I liked it a lot.” Until I noticed the condescending smirks on the faces of my trainers when we sparred.  I knew exactly what they were thinking: doesn’t she have spunk and isn’t she cute when she grits her teeth when she punches.  Fuckers.  But I did like the fact that when I walked down the street, I knew I could probably beat the shit out of most of the fuckers who passed me.  That, that was cool.  I glance down at my hands.  Shit, except I’d probably break every bone in my little wussie hands.  No amount of muscle building could change that.  

“Why did you stop?”  What are my lines again?  Oh yeah…

“Didn’t have the money, didn’t have the time.” Blah, blah, blah.

“How about how your body looks, have you played around with different styles?”  You mean like cutting my hair short, wearing men’s clothes, wearing wifebeaters and baseball hats?  Yeah been there done that and all I accomplished is at best looking like a 13 year old boy at worst looking like a poser penis envy dike.  No thank you.  Nothing  like wearing men’s clothes to point out how truly feminine and small your body really is.  And these fucking boobs they never stop growing. Nowadays, even when wearing a tight sports bra, I couldn’t pass as a 13 year old boy.  No, its all dike poser from here on out, lucky fucking me.  

“Yeah, I messed around a lot throughout the years, nothing really appealing though.”  As an awkward silence drones on my fingers suddenly find an interest in the seam of my jeans.  As I watch my fingers move around, I can hear the ticking of the doctor’s clock on the wall behind her.  I am sure she is waiting for me to speak next, but I’ve had about enough of the whole damn thing for one day.  

“Well, I think that’s about it for our time today.” Thank fucking Christ.  Boy was this a bad idea.  “I would be more than happy to set up another appointment the same time next week.”  Fuck that.  “Or… you could give me a call and let me know later if you would like to continue.”  Yeah sure lady.  As I stand up, I shoot a quick glance over to her.

“Yeah, why don’t I call you.”  Jesus, it feels like we are finally putting an end to a very bad fucking date, except only one of the parties involved thinks that it has been torture.  At least I don’t have to grapple with the whole kissing thing.  Thank God.  As I turn to go, I hear her walk to her desk and rustle around some papers.

“Here’s my card.  Please don’t hesitate to call if you feel you need to talk some more.  I hope I do hear from you again.”  Great it’s confirmed, I’m a fucking nut and the doctor here knows it.  Who am I kidding, I already knew that.  I take the card she offers, stuff it in my back pocket where I hope it will find its way into the washing machine and dissolve into nothingness, say a quick thank you and leave.  

As I walk out of her office and down the hall to the elevators, I let out a deep breath like I have been holding it the entire session.  Jesus do I feel tired, drained more like it.  She did put me up on one of those stainless steel tables and cut me open right there infront of her, draining me of all my fucking energy like she was draining the blood out of me.  Yeah right, not going back there again anytime soon.  Fuck that.

What This Is

Hello All,

I am starting this blog as a forum to post some of my writing, most of which will be about me and my life story (although some may only be loosely based on my life). I hope this blog will help me improve my writing while attempting to work out some ideas and issues. I also hope this might be helpful to others out there who are going through similar issues and need something or someone to help them see they are not alone, that it is ok to laugh, and that it is ok to share.