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“Getting Up” From a Life of Hiding and Deception

The joy of “getting up” to live an honest and authentic life clearly shows in Jim Manchester’s brilliant smile.

This is now my seventh monthly “Get Up” blog based on US Figure Skating’s popular “Get Up” campaign which shares the message that life, like the ice, is hard, and we can certainly fall on it. But the more times we get up and persevere, the stronger we become.

So often we can fall down in our lives by living in a web of hiding and deception where we are not totally honest with ourselves and others. Getting up and moving into a life of integrity and honesty can be so empowering and fulfilling. I would like to share the story of a close friend, Jim Manchester, who actually created and maintains my business website.

Jim shares, “After trying to live 45 years of my life pretending to be a straight married man for 15+ years and making huge mistakes along the way, that double life simply caught up with me in a disastrous way. I had been afraid that I would lose my 4 close friends if they knew I was gay. In fact, I did lose 3 of them and the other one moved away.

“But after much therapy and recovery counseling, I started living a fully-integrated life and found appropriate role models in the gay community – one of whom was Stan Kimer. They all became close friends and confidants. I intentionally changed my old decision-making habits and undertook a new journey in life. They helped me realize that my purpose in life was to help build and encourage close LGBTQA communities that would allow others like me to thrive. I redirected my business efforts – along with everything else I do in life – toward that model.

“One very important step was taking full responsibility for my past actions and decisions and realizing that I need to take the steps to change my direction. So now at almost age 65, I have so much business in my web design, social media promotion, and smartphone app development business (IYI Creative – link) that I must schedule new clients into my available time. And instead of just 4 close friends, I now have hundreds of them.

Jim delivering a toast at a wedding among several dozen friends he made while rebuilding his life.

“In addition, I offer my professional services to many Community organizations who supported me in my new journey such as the LGBT Center of Raleigh, St. John’s Metropolitan Community Church, the Alliance of AIDS Services – Carolina, Crape Myrtle Festival, and the Raleigh Business and Professional Network – Raleigh’s LGBT Chamber of Commerce.

“I owe all of that to the hard work it took to change old patterns of secrecy and deception, and to the people who helped guide me through my own process of ‘Getting Up.’”

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To read my 6 other “Get Up” blogs, link to my figure skating blog page.

An introduction to “Gender Fluidity” including a parent’s story

In by last blog, “A Diversity and Inclusion Case Study – Getting it Right” I shared the story of a Men’s Clothing Chain whose customer service representative and store manager did a wonderful job of addressing the concerns of a mother wanting to find a nice suit for her gender fluid child to wear to primary school graduation. I promised to share a little more about what gender fluidity is and more of Innes’ (the mother) and Carolyn’s (the child) story.

The “Gender Diversity Education and Services” website had about the best description of what gender fluidity is. They provide this definition, “Gender fluidity conveys a wider, more flexible range of gender expression, with interests and behaviors that may even change from day to day. Gender fluid people do not feel confined by restrictive boundaries of stereotypical expectations of women and men. For some people, gender fluidity extends beyond behavior and interests, and actually serves to specifically define their gender identity. In other words, a person may feel they are more female on some days and more male on others, or possibly feel that neither term describes them accurately. Their identity is seen as being gender fluid.”

Now read the story of mother Innes Clodd telling us about her gender fluid child Carolyn:

“It’s hard to know where to begin, as this really has been more of a journey than a one-time event. She came to me when she was much younger, maybe 9, and said she thinks maybe she was transgender. I really had no idea how to react, what to think, how to feel; it was confusing at best for me, never mind her.

I accepted what she had told me and made some calls, set up some meetings and helped her get in touch with some resources that could help her make sense of what she was feeling. One of the groups had a parental unit, so I attended that group; it was quite helpful, but at the same time, added to my confusion.
As time went on, I decided it was best to let Carolyn set the pace, and I would follow her lead. She had changed her name to August, and the school was very supportive with her decision. He decided he didn’t really like that name, so changed again to Kryss. Again, there was a fairly supportive environment. There are 2 older brothers in the family, who tried to be supportive, but most of the time it came off as making fun, although they did apologize, in a way that boys do, for hurting his feelings.

Again, time goes on, things seem to be going ok, then my partner at the time, who is not the biological father, started to call him names, like “thing, it, whatever.” This spurred many arguments, since I will go to the ends of the earth for my children. Finally it is over, he is gone, the energy calms. Kryss then reverts back to Carolyn, but cannot decide which pronoun to use, neither one feels 100% right. At that point she states that she is gender fluid. Honestly, I had no idea what that even was, I had to look it up.

We moved away from that town, as my ex was stalking us, to a whole new place. The only downfall, it was Carolyn’s last year of her primary school. She was very sad to leave her friends behind, and really had a hard time making friends this past year, as she knew that we would be moving again this summer, so she would again be in an environment as a complete new comer.

Regardless if she expresses herself as a girl or a boy, Carolyn’s joy of life shines through a beautiful smile.

During the past school year, she talked to me a lot about how she was feeling, the struggles she was having, and also the times when she was accepted for being who she was. On any given day she could identify as either male, female, or sometimes flip flop over the course of the day. Her main struggle seemed to be which category she fit in to. I told her not to put herself in a box, not to label herself, and that she did not have to fit in to any category as long as she was happy, being true to herself, her identity would come in time. There were many conversations, and many tears shed. My heart was breaking for her, but all I could do was listen and be supportive.

Finally!! Success!! She began just being Carolyn, sometimes boy Carolyn, sometimes girl Carolyn, hence the nick name “Baby They”. I even got her a birthday cake that said “Happy Birthday Baby They”, she loved it.

Then came time to talk about primary school graduation, something I was secretly not looking forward to. Then the words came out of her mouth, as I knew they would “I want to wear a suit to grad Mum”….

… and you will have to read my previous blog to see how the story of the graduation outfit turns out!

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