Beware of a lengthy post about me!
So who is Jarath Hemphill? One of the biggest things that sets me apart is being transgender, so we will start with that little bit of me. It’s always funny because people act like they know more about something I’m going through than me! Most doctors don’t even really understand it, they certainly do not know what causes it. One of my favorite explanations is that while in the womb for some reasons the body gets washed in the wrong hormone at the wrong time. So the brain is created with the internal thought processes of the gender that is opposite of the genitals. It seems to make the most sense to me. There is also discussion regarding DNA…but no real clear cut theory there…yet.
So basic generic view is that the brain and the body are not congruent regarding gender. Now let’s first clarify regaring the fact that gender and sexual orientation are two different things, Gender is who you identify as….as in male or female or somewhere in between (if you don’t believe me look up innersex), while sexual orientation is who you are attracted to…two different things. So where was I…the body and the brain are incongruent, which means the brain believes it is one gender while the body displays the opposite. So in my instance, my genitals reflected female, but my brain feels male. So how can a brain feel a gender? How do we know what gender we are at birth? Are we to believe that just because your parents call you a girl and society treats you like a girl…what if your brain said that isn’t right? At a young age you don’t understand the concept, at least for me I didn’t. I just know I hated doing the female gender roles, the most common thing I remember hearing growing up is “girls don’t do that”. So you might think well that’s just a problem of society forcing gender roles on people, but it is more than that. I remember hating wearing dresses, we found an old school picture of me for a choral group I was in…they had forced us to wear pastel dresses…and I was pissed! You could tell me right away, sitting in front with my arms crossed and an angry look on my face. It pretty much felt no matter what I did it was never right with the world.
Looking back through transgender glasses, I think I knew something wasn’t right I just didn’t know what it was. I once told one of my therapists that I felt very shallow, and I think this partially had to do with the fact that I’ve always been pretending who I am. I mean I don’t think it was a conscious thing, I think I just knew that who I was was wrong somehow. So I pretended a lot. I remember the first penis I saw, I was around 11 years old when my cousin Debbie showed a picture torn out from a porn magazine. I was fascinated. Not because I was attracted to it, though I guess sexually I was, it just felt like something I wanted. I remember Brian once told me I have penis envy…and I told him OF COURSE I DO! So did I understand then? Nope. I was very promiscious in high school, it wasn’t even beause I enjoyed sex, I just felt it was something I should do. I did enjoy it to a degree, but not until I started transitioning did I understand why it wasn’t satisfying for me…I was doing it wrong. I should have been the top in simplistic terms, having intercourse with someone not the other way around. Anyway being bisexual meant that I didn’t feel this huge pressure to conform. I mean if I was a female attracted only to females then I’d have faced a lot more pressure to conform and that might have pushed me sooner to realize the transgender situation. I know Chaz Bono mentioned something like this in his book.
So basically clueless when young, clueless while young adult, and clueless until middle aged. I’d always had body image problems, I’d look in the mirror and I’d see my sister or my mom…which felt totally wrong for me. I’d try working out but the wrong muscles would change, or so it seemed to me. I’d get fat and my breasts would just bother me more. I was in a relationship with a great guy, but I just could never feel comfortable, complete, or content.
I like to blame Brian for what flipped the switch 😉 We were working together, and becoming friends, when a graphic novel came through…I think it was called “Afterschool nightmare” There were like 10 books in the series, for something we started reading it together to make ourselves laugh. It’s a story about a boy whose upper body is male, but his bottom half is female. He’s in high school and lots of wierd stuff happens. It was a fun series so I won’t ruin it for anyone! Needless to say we started reading the series and one day Brian told me “You are a gay guy in a woman’s body” as a joke because I really liked the gay scenes in the series. For some reason that statement stayed with me for quite some time. I just couldn’t put it down. The longer I kept turning is around in my head the more and more it seemed to make sense. Around that time Chaz Bono came out about being transgender. It didn’t put a big light bulb over my head…TADA! Nope, but it gave me a name and a story.
I contacted a co-worker to ask her husband who was a psychologist about questions regarding gender identity. He gave me a couple of names without asking a qustion, which I really appreciated. So I was in therapy for a couple years before I decided to transition.
Up until the actual transition I was always worried that I was wrong or confused or all the other things people like to say about transgender people. But within weeks of starting the Testosterone I felt such an amazing change. Prior to the transition I had what they call hormonal migraines, now I think it was my brains way of responding to the wrong hormone 😉 I also had very bad anger issues during menustration. The migraines stopped and I suddenly felt so much calmer than I ever had before. I used to really hate how emotional and angry I’d get during menustration, it just felt like I was out of control and frustrating. Suddenly it was gone, I felt calm, I felt in control, I felt so much better than I ever had before…I remember thinking ‘This is how I’m supposed to feel!’. A year later I got my top surgery. Because it was not covered under insurance it ended up costing me over $12,000 including having to travel to Florida to get a surgeon who specialized in it. I remember feeling very excited and a little nervous. The amazing thing to me was that afterwards I’ve never once even felt like I missed my breasts. If anything it again felt “right” to me, my chest felt and started looking a lot like what I inately knew it should feel and look like.
What does it mean to me to be transgender? It means that my brain and body are becoming congruent, and I feel comfortable in my body for the first time in my life. Best day of my life was when I was in the bathroom at work, washed my hands and glanced up and didn’t think of anything about the person in the mirror. That was a first for me to look in the mirror and see me.
I’m sitting here in the great outdoors in the Great Smoky Mountains in North Carolina. I did drive through Asheville, NC and it was a very nice pretty college town…but I’m beginning to realize that the reason they are nice liberal towns is because of the college aspect. Maybe I’ve lived too often in them and so I’ve felt that the US is more liberal than it really is…with some of the things I saw in the southern parts of Virginia 😉 Anyway, the trip was pretty uneventful from Harrisonburg, VA to Deep Creek Campground in the Great Smoky Mountains in North Carolina. If I hadn’t started so late because of slow Verizon people I might have stopped and done something in Asheville, but by the time I arrived it was getting dark and I decided to push on. Course I learned the hard way that the GPS on my phone will autofill the location and if you don’t scroll to the right you might not realize it is sending you somehwere other than where you wanted to go. So I did get a little off track late at night around here, as it tried to send me to the trailhead instead of the campground! Luckily I realized the mistake before I hit dirt roads 😉 So by the time I got to the campground it was too dark and I was too tired to put my tent up, so I just slept in my car….uncomfortable! It’s very pretty here, course again I’m arriving at the campground during the week and will have probably moved on before the weekend partiers arrive so also quiet.
I took a walk down the shortest trail and took some pictures, I haven’t posted any pictures here because I can’t figure out how to get WordPress to show them…I’ll have to work on that today. It is pretty hot, which is actually something I was going for. In Shenandoah National Park, I was up pretty high so it was cooler…too cool in fact when you added in the rain 😉 So for the Smoky Mountains…I wonder if Great is actually part of their official name…any librarians? I chose a lower elevation so it wouldn’t be so cold and rainy and better internet connection 😉 I plan to stay here for a couple of days and attempt the longer trails heading up to bigger falls then the tiny one I saw today. I don’t think Yosemite falls have anything to fear from this place 😉 Then I plan on heading south to Atlanta Georgia and see the Georgia Aquarium.
I moved to the car with the pretense that I needed to charge the laptop…truth is the sun moved and my shade went away! I’ll write more tonight about what I’m feeling on this last leg of the trip later tonight 🙂
So I arrived at the northern entrance to Shenandoah National Park around 7am…I was really, really tired 😉 Only having stopped for breakfast at Dennys. So I finally arrived only to find out they had closed the northernmost camp, Matthews Arm Campground, til September while they redid the plumbing. SO I had to drive 50 more miles to Big Meadows campground… So I got a camp spot and luckily the tent was very easy to put up 🙂 It was a Thursday so the camp grounds weren’t very busy…
Thursday night a bad storm came through…found out the tent protected against rain and good speed winds 🙂 I made up for lost sleep and slept the entire night. Friday I set up my electronics to charge up in my car…everything charged up except for the mobile hot spot. I finally got through to the Verizon store only to get told that they needed an address to mail the new one to…I ended up driving like 60 miles to Harrisonburg. They hook it up to their recharger and lo and behold the thing started working! But it started as if it was being turned on for the first time. I explained that I didn’t want to be burnt two times and wanted to get a different one, so we figured out if I paid some they could speed ship it to the store and I could pick it up on Tuesday. Needless to say not what I really wanted to hear but I went with it. Also learned that eating while driving in traffic on a highway wasn’t good either 😉 Luckily no accident just a small scare 😉 OH and on the way back I was at a 7-11 and saw a guy with the back of his t-shirt said “Southern Heritage since 1861” Made me laugh…
So of course because it was Friday now all the weekend camper types started showing up. Five of the surrounding campsites are one big group that are loud, drinkers with dogs… Then on the other side of me is this couple where the girl just won’t shut up…til late into the night! She likes telling the guy how she just KNOWS everything about camping…and can’t figure out why she can’t get their campfire going this time.
I took a walk down a trail while trying to get my laptop to play LOTRO. This just doesn’t feel like the kind of National park I’m used to…just shows how limited my experience has been. I remember large valleys of tall pine trees…it has a very unique smell and feel. Though it didn’t help that this weekend the weather went to shit here…it was funny yesterday I was freezing up here in the camp ground but when I drove down to Harrisonburg I was burning up! It’s pretty much been raining, foggy and cold here in the campgrounds.
I’m not sure how this will make me sound, but I’m going to try to describe how I feel around these people. There are several types of people I see here, the ones like my loud neighbors who come up here to get drunk and feel all outdoorsie without really being out in the outdoors. There are the ones who are retired and travel around in huge campers and RVs, there are those who seem to want to push themselves physically doing hard and long hikes. I’m sure they all get what they are looking for out of it… I’m sure the partiers get a kick out of partying with friends and “experiencing” the great outdoors. I’m sure the hard core hikers get the endorphin rush from pushing their bodies to their limits. And I’m sure the retired folks see themselves as exploring the world and sending home pictures to their kids and grandkids. So they all are getting what they want out of it so who am I to judge them in any way.
I don’t really judge them as I think it’s a good thing if they are feeling fulfilled from their experiences. I just don’t feel it. I came on this journey to see and feel things…find something to make this all worthwhile. I had this vision from a long time ago when I was a kid and we’d go camping up in the Sierra Nevadas…I think the place I remember is Mammoth Lake. I was sitting on a big rock over looking a large valley of pine trees. The sun was shining and I remember sitting there feeling the sun, hearing and feeling the breeze as it rushed through the trees. I felt at peace. I thought perhaps it is the difference between being a child and an adult, but I remember when I was a kid I was never really happy unless I was alone somewhere.
And yes, I know my journey has just started, but my two experiences so far have been Washington DC and Shenandoah National Park, and I can’t shake the feeling that it’s almost fake. Nothing is real…just a statue or building that you are allowed to visit as long as you do not step off the tour line or a park where everything is so controlled…you can walk or hike but only assigned paths. Why? My answer is that people are destructive assholes. If you don’t control every access point then people will destroy what they are there to enjoy.
So anyway I learned a valuable lesson…what is easy to go up (the tent) is not so easy taking apart 😉 I had watched a video they had of a 9 year old girl easily taking it apart…so it was embarrassing when I had so many problems doing it 😉 Took awhile and I finally gave up and asked one of the campers near me to help me out. We still had trouble but eventually got it!
So here I am in Harrisonburg Virginia, getting ready to pick up my mobile hotspot and then I’m heading to Asheville North Carolina and from there Deep Creek Campground at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. If I can only remember what Chris Thornton said was good to see in Asheville 😉
11pm tonight I hit the road heading to Shenandoah national park. I should get to the north entrance early Thursday morning. More when I get there and can figure out how to assemble that tent! Just in time for some rain in the afternoon…
I’ve given some thoughts of places I’d like to see on the first leg of my journey. These are not written in stone if someplace new comes into the picture or some available activism is brought to my attention.
So first stop is Washington DC for the March for Science on the 22nd 🙂 Only sure date I’m going to make in this 😉
From there I’m going to have to come back to Syracuse because of a couple of unresolved issues…but won’t be staying long…probably a day at most.
Then back down past Washington DC again…heading to Shenandoah National Park for a couple of weeks.
From there I plan on heading down to Atlanta Georgia…with some stops along the way possibly in North Carolina or South Carolina.
Then on further south to Pensacola Beach in Florida…maybe stay there for another couple of weeks.
Then heading west I plan to visit New Orleans Louisiana, never been there so figure it might just be a sight to see 🙂 Course I’ve never been to Washington DC, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi or Louisiana before either so hopefully many sights to see!
Then from New Orleans going to head north and visit David Daghita in Texarkana Texas 🙂
That’s all I have planned so far…and all plans are open to change based on discoveries along the way.
So those are some of my first plans…I’ll be sharing pictures and some adventures along the way 🙂 So please check in with me again!