Transitioning to acceptance

Posted on 06 Aug 2009 at 4:47pm
By Renee Baker Contributing Writer

Local transgender couple says remaining visible allows others to see that they’re human


Oliver Blumer, left, and Mary Kay Cody. RENEE BAKER/Dallas Voice

When Melanie Blumer transitioned to Oliver Blumer, his counselor recommended he allow his inner child to come out and play, so he could experience what he missed not growing up as a boy.

The 56-year-old Blumer has indeed played, and he hasn’t had to play alone.

Mary Kay Cody is a nurse and the partner of Blumer, a chiropractor. While it’s Blumer who’s physically changed, it’s both Cody and Blumer who’ve undergone a life transition.

Cody says she’s supported Blumer in his journey to self by allowing him to have fun and "be a child." For Valentine’s Day this year, she pulled out her checkbook and went shopping for the "little boy" in her partner.

When Cody came home, Blumer received military action figures, Matchbox cars, Play Doh and books for a 12-year-old. Blumer was delighted and is grateful for the support Cody has given him.

"If it weren’t for the love of an understanding partner, this journey would have been very difficult," he said.

Together, they say their love has made the transition work. And because of their love for each other, and for themselves, they’ve found support in society and in their family.

"We are not experiencing animosity, but acceptance," Cody says.

The couple, who live in Dallas, says the transition has challenged them in many ways, including their identities, their sexuality, their relationships and their well-being. But so far, the challenges have brought them closer together.

Blumer and Cody share a love of song, and both are members of Resounding Harmony, the Dallas-based men’s and women’s choral group conducted by Timothy Seelig. In the group, Blumer and Cody have found a comforting home and also a platform from which to share their life as a transitioned couple with others.

Blumer says he previously was an alto, but with hormone treatments, his voice continues to drop in pitch, and he isn’t sure what its final range will be. Blumer sang for the Women’s Chorus of Dallas for 11 years and was a board member for five of them.

Cody says because they’re open about themselves, such as in Resounding Harmony, the couple has been able to help others. For example, she was approached by a woman who was considering transitioning and said, "I heard a rumor Mel was transitioning. Can we talk?"

Blumer, whose first name was formerly Mel, or Melanie, changed his name to Oliver to honor his mother, whose name is Olive. He chose Louis for his middle name after his father.

Together, the name Oliver Louis means, "peaceful warrior." It seems to describe Blumer, who says he somehow "crosses two universes — the yin and the yang."

Blumer has also found a voice at Youth First Texas, a nonprofit organization supporting LGBT youth in North Texas. He’s a board member and attends the youth gender identity support group, where there is a majority of female-to-male youth.

"I spend a lot of time talking to those in transition," he says, "[because] if they can’t find support, what are they going to do?"

Cody smiles when she speaks about how others have been inspired by their love. "Our lives are better for knowing you," a gay couple once told them tearfully, "and we are touched by how much you love each other."

Cody and Blumer say the connection between them is magnetic, and they’ve found a loving bond that transcends identity. It might be tempting to say they’ve gone from lesbian to straight, but neither partner feels comfortable with that terminology.

Cody defines their relationship as a "moving, evolving, organic couple with a different complexion of relationship, one that caused us to explore each other."

Blumer agrees they aren’t a "straight" couple like "his sister and brother-in-law," but they are "comfortable in this world." He says what defines them is on the inside, and not what others say they are.

Cody says regardless of what people call them, it’s important for them to remain visible so that people can see that they’re human.

Blumer says his story is similar to that of most transgender people. He grew up in small-town Texas where everybody knew his folks, and he never had the opportunity to fully express his masculine side.

"It seemed impossible to change," he said of not being able to transition. "Life [went] on, and I adapted and found sanity identifying as a lesbian."

When Blumer was finally able to "slow his life down" and get into serious therapy, he began to consider the option of transition.

Blumer has undergone two major surgeries, a hysterectomy in 2008 and transgender chest surgery earlier this year, both with Dr. Peter Raphael of Plano.

He says he’s decided to forgo genital reconstruction because it can result in complications for people his age. He also says the procedures are lacking in terms of "performance and aesthetics."

"If I were younger, perhaps I would, but not all trans men feel that having that surgery is fulfilling," he said. "It doesn’t make the man."

Blumer is also taking testosterone. He says he feels like a 15-year-old going through puberty. In addition to his voice deepening, his skin has toughened and he has a much more masculine appearance.

"Taking ‘T’ [testosterone] hasn’t automatically made me want to go to sports bars, drink beer and scratch my crotch," he jokes, "but it has made me break out in acne."

Blumer also says testosterone gives him a hormonal balance that makes him feel calmer and provides an additional sense of mental clarity.

Transitioning has also forced Blumer to come out twice in his life to his parents — first as a lesbian and second as a transgender man. This time his parents were in their 80s, but they seem to have taken it as well as one could expect.

Blumer’s father initially teased, "Just don’t get a mohawk!" But he also asked whether he should say he has three sons or two sons and a daughter.

Blumer told him, "Dad, go ahead and do what you want." He says he didn’t really expect his father to make changes at this point in his life.

Blumer’s mother found the change a little harder, having to grieve for another daughter after previously losing an infant girl who drowned.

Cody said Blumer’s parents were very sweet, though, and gave their new son their blessing, saying, "We are with you on this journey."

Blumer and Cody want to continue to share their lives openly and are now shooting footage for a documentary, for which they still need funding.

They are celebrating their second anniversary this month after been married in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

They will also be making a presentation in September at the Gender Odyssey Conference in Seattle.

Renee Baker is a licensed massage therapist and transgender diversity consultant. She can be reached on her website at www.ReneeBaker.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 7, 2009.

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