I’m Fabulous (According to Supermodel Cheryl Tiegs)

When Cheryl Tiegs – yes, supermodel Cheryl Tiegs — gave me a hug and said that I looked fabulous in my new dress and polished makeup, well, that was something I never could have dreamed of as a trans kid spending their life hiding as a boy.

I also couldn’t have imagined that I would be at a big Hollywood affair being thrown for me and my fellow authors. I felt accomplished, respected, and appreciated. Ms. Tiegs and many others directed some very affirming words towards me as the editors introduced me around the swank room, singing my praise.

The following day, my friend Nicole watched me handle Marika’s newborn with precision and adeptness that comes from a deep maternal instinct, and she was impressed. “You would make a better mother than me,” she proclaimed as we giggled.

How grateful I was to receive all that affirmation over what is an awesome life.

And how quickly it was that I erased all of it.

I have so much resistance to believing that the life of a woman — let alone a charming, attractive and accomplished woman — is possible for me.

Instead, I let my ego play out the old tapes that kept me small and hidden as a boy, working to convince me that I was a loser, that any accomplishments were just temporary flukes.

Not even a few days later, the whiplash from my ego returned in full force, demanding that I stay stuck, stay safe and comfortable so I wouldn’t have to be outed as the big, fake loser I am.

Fueled by fears I honed and refined in learning to resist the possibilities of a queer life, my ego grew to a giant size early. My socialization and training as a boy taught me I had to deny my dreams, my corrupt, perverted dreams.

Early on I learned that “No, boys don’t wear dresses,” and “No, boys don’t wear makeup,” so after what felt like a millions times of hearing that, I began to believe my heart — my tender feminine heart — was something to fear and ignore if I were to succeed and function in this world.

Since then, I have taken giant steps towards honoring my heart, granting her the freedom to say, express, and own what she felt and truly desired by transitioning my gender presentation and owning my transgender history. Coming out as a transgender woman wasn’t easy. It took a lot of work, discipline, and self-awareness, a lot of moving beyond blocks in order to get to where I am, but even now, that resistance still can cripple me in an instant.

Transgender women are some of the most skilled at resisting change in their lives. Whether it means resisting positive choices, letting go of old defenses, or embracing new challenges in their hard fought gender, resisting is still the common theme amongst our community. We are shaped much more by our defenses, by how we have learned to deny, than by our possibilities.

My life is no exception. I let my ego talk trash to me as it works to convince me that I am just not worthy of any compliment from a glamorous Hollywood star. My accomplishments are meaningless. When I believed that, my ego had won again.

I’ve always had numerous accomplishments in everything I did. I seem to have talent, a knack for figuring things out. A glow people have pointed out that resonates like a beacon, allowing strangers to approach me and confide in me what they fear to tell their closest friends and family. I have talents for sure.

But when the lights fade, and I’m all by myself, that’s when my demons are the strongest and their loudest. My ego leads these troops into a battle to convince me to resist believing the evidence of my life, warning me to stay small, to go back to old patterns that kept me safe but didn’t do me any good in the long run. The troops then loudly proclaim that ships in the harbor are safe; why venture out to the unknown and face possible shipwrecks?

I have a moment, between stimulus and response, where I could step in and move beyond those habitual fears to give my tender feminine heart — the one that was locked away as sick for so many decades — a token of my wisdom, a confident affirmation through a tender gesture that I don’t need to play small and go back to the strait-jacket life of my past. That being magnificent is okay. In fact, it is more than okay. I run most efficient when my boilers are up to maximum core temperature, when I’m running hot and wowing myself. I thrive and find beauty in everything in those moments, and seem to have no limit to my connection to the eternal. I am in the zone when I allow myself to be free of the shackles my ego makes me wear, and the precision and beauty I can concoct during those segments of life are — and have been — beautiful.

These days I am much more aware when my ego flares up and calls in the troops for backup. I am quicker to notice when it berates me and sounds off on the microphone. During those times, I remind myself that there are nights like the night of January 28, 2016 when Cheryl Tiegs complimented me and gave me a hug; where Nicole affirmed my womanhood through caretaking; and so many more I have lost count.

It’s time to own them and revisit them, so the ammunition to quiet my ego is ready and available.

Because in the end, like Ms. Tiegs warmly affirmed to me, I am fabulous.

Natalie Yeh

Liminal Spaces with Natalie Yeh -- aerospace engineer with a penchant for the spiritual, artistic, and cerebral -- is an attempt where she tries to accept her own messy humanity in exploring the gifts in her everyday stories and milestones with compassion, gratitude, and mindfulness. Gifts she believes we can all share and learn from when we choose to see our continuous threads of connection in our common humanity rather than uphold paper walls of illusions of separation that some treat as real. When she has free time, she loves to cook, shoot landscape photography, practice martial arts, write and dance. Her Chinese American background, bilingual upbringing, and transgender history all lend to her experiences in exploring the liminal spaces where her history, her present and her future are at odds and of a piece, creating herself and her writing as unique, cross cultural art.

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