Body Image

Mi Cara Cara

Even though I haven’t posted much in the last couple days, I’ve been doing well. Worst of the swelling peaked on Sunday as predicted. Now they have me massaging my face to get the swelling out. I look a bit scarier now, with lots of yellow bruising.

At Monday’s follow-up, the doctors thought I was healing faster than expected, so they’re removing the stitches from my eyelids tomorrow, a day earlier than planned.

Getting stronger each day, and getting out of the apartment for a bit. Good thing, because I was starting to get cabin fever. Per a friend’s wise counsel about not risking overdoing it, I’m only doing 20% of what I think I’m able to do. But I managed to do two walks of 15-20 minutes, albeit punctuated by stops at the parks and for afternoon coffee. Will do another shorter walk in a bit to go out to dinner. I was hoping to go to one of the major art museums today, but they’re closed on Tuesdays. So that’s on the agenda tomorrow.

Hopefully, by the weekend, I’ll have more stamina for some longer trips via either bus or taxi to other parts of Palermo. (Palermo is a neighborhood of Buenos Aires, but it’s got a population of 250,000, and there’s several sub-neighborhoods. Palermo Soho is the trendy shopping area that’s supposed to be reminiscent of Soho in NYC. So that would make a fun day trip. Sadly, I’m sure there’s nothing in my size.

Then Monday, it’s back for the second round of surgery. This time I’ll be smart and take my cell phone, so I’m not bored to death when they hold me overnight, like last time.

The enforced downtime has been a good thing. I’ve been pushing myself far too hard for far too many years. People kept telling me they didn’t know how I did it. Well the answer was that I was not only burning the candle at both ends, but in the middle too. Add transition on top of that, and the past years, and especially the past three months, have been the most stressful in my life. So there’s a lot of accumulated burn out.

I think no matter how much you say you’re not going to let transition take over your life, it still does. Admittedly, I did things concurrently, like electrolysis 3x/week and planning facial feminization surgery that people often spread out over longer time periods. Having to do a last-minute scramble changing ID didn’t help. I’m just so thankful my bosses were willing to give me abundant flexibility before I went on medical leave because I was running around doing ID stuff and getting the necessary pre-surgical tests done.

When I get back, I definitely need to take a look at better life/work balance. Unfortunately, many of the same challenges are there. In Silicon Valley, 40 hours/week is a part-time job, and trying to have a performing career is also time consuming. Not living in San Francisco or Oakland also means I spent a lot of time driving up there, whether it’s for my shows, other people’s shows, or to visit friends. Trying to build up some friendships with people who aren’t 30 miles away will be one of my major goals for the year.

Anyway, is FFS worth the time, money and hassle? For me, so far the answer is definitely yes. I was fortunate to not had a particularly masculine face, but I never thought I had a particularly feminine face either. Through the swelling, I’m starting to see the contours of mi cara cara, and it’s exciting. My jowls, which I’ve hated for years, are gone. My jaw is less square, my chin more pointed. I can’t yet see the cheekbones clearly, but I can definitely feel them. And we’re only half done. Next round, we’ll subdue the hated hairline, although it’ll take a follow-up hair transplant in March to fully fill that in. But lowering the hairline and filling in the corners a bit will definitely help solve one of my major hair styling challenges.

Some people have a bit of a freak out after FFS (or other facial plastic surgery). There’s something about changing your face that can touch something primal. Not me (at least so far). It’s more like the reaction I had after going on hormones, and in the weeks since going full-time — it just kind of feels right. It’s me, but just more so.

Let The Healing Begin

One of the doctors stopped by for a follow-up exam and said things are healing well. Next follow up is Monday at the hospital (they’ll have a driver take to/from).

The big news is that the bandages came off. Yay!

Not only a lot more comfortable, but meant I could get serious using the cold packs to reduce the swelling. Doctor today said swelling usually peaks around the third day, so hopefully Monday I’ll start looking better.

Looks awful, but doesn’t particularly hurt, although I’m still on painkillers through tonight. (Can do them longer if needed but it tends to messes with your stomach.)

Mostly my face just feels weird. Learned the hard way that I needed to move my head rather than my eyes, although that’s getting better, and it’s a little weird seeing in my peripheral vision the swollen bags under my eye.

Some parts of my face are a little numb — probably some cut nerves from when the cheek implants went into. Usually the nerves regrow later. Could also be just that the skin is being stretched so hard that it’s throwing off the sensation.

With all the swelling it’s hard to tell how effective the under-neck lips was, but my face definitely looks narrower and less jowly. Probably the combination of face lift and cheek lipo, as well as shaving down the jawbone. I’ve hated my jowls for years, so that’s exciting. Also seems like I’m a bit less square-jawed now, but hard to tell with the swelling.

Hard to guess what the eyes will end up looking like, but hopefully it’ll reduce the bags under my eyes. (Plus there’s more work to be done in round 2, grinding down the orbital bones to give the eyes a more open look — eyes being one the things Dr. Di Maggio takes great pride in.)

Definitely no regrets so far.

Even though I’ve got a lot of energy, I’m staying inside to today to use the cold packs every half hour — plus it’s 87 and muggy outside. But tonight I might walk down the block to the gelateria, even if I may scare small children along the way.

Back Among the Living

I just got back to the apartment, feeling pretty good considering.

They had a medical resident, Milagra, spend the night afternoon/night with me at the hospital, and she’ll be with me again until 9 tonight.

Milagra said I’ve been in the best shape of the other patients she’s since, most of whom are out-of-it or who complain a lot. So that bodes well.

Doctor will come to the apartment tomorrow for a another follow-up.

Face The Face

So a year ago today, I went under the knife for the first of two rounds of what’s referred to as facial feminization surgery, with the amazing Dr. Marcelo Di Maggio in Buenos Aires.

I may not be the prettiest woman, but it’s still a remarkable transformation* given what he had to work with.

Sometimes people have post-surgery moments of “what have I done” — altering one’s face is rather primal — but I’ve never regretted it for a second.

This is the face that feels like me, it’s my “before” face that looks odd and alien to me when I look at old photos.

———

* With the help of two rounds of hair transplants, done separately.

When the Illusions Come Off

I suppose I should explain the context of my last post. Burlesque and BurlyCon have always been a double-edge sword for me.

OTOH, being able to be just another woman in the company of woman is hugely helpful helpful to the social aspects of my gender dysphoria. OTOH, it also usually kicks up the gender-related discomfort I have with my body.

I’m fortunate, unlike some trans people, I don’t feel like my body (or parts of it) are completely alien. But I’ve yet to feel really at home in it. With my clothes on, I can approximate the body I wish I had, the body that’s slowly moving closer to the body I have in my mind’s eye — although it will never be that body, I’ve been too fucked over by the androgyny fairy for that. It’s been a major issues I’ve had to come to terms with, and mostly I’ve made my peace with it. Mostly.

But when the clothes come off, well, so do the illusions. In both senses of the word.

It doesn’t help that in burly spaces I’m often around women who, if I could have their kind of bodies, I would do many terrible, terrible things.

Now hating your body is all too pervasive among women, given the way we’re socialized. Unfortunately the body positivity movement often rings hollow for me. “Love your body just the way it is”… well that doesn’t work so well if you’re trans. In fact it often feels damn exclusionary (even if it’s unintentional). It’s not just that I’m fat, but I’m fat in ways that are characteristic of someone who’s male-bodied. It’s not just that I have wide child-bearing shoulders, it’s that they combined with my narrow hips are characteristic of someone who’s male-bodied. It’s not just my large hands and feet make it extremely difficult to find rings and shoes that will fit, it’s that they’re characteristic of someone who’s male-bodied.

Earlier I had reached a bit of a detente with body, but with transition looming I’ve actually become become far less comfortable in my body as of late. The gap between what it is, and what it may be (after surgery and more time for hormones to take effect) seems unbearably wide at the moment.

Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes…

During my workout tonight I needed to drop the weight by 10 pounds for one set of exercises — for something I had no trouble doing two weeks ago.

And my Gyrotonics instructor, who’s got a great eye for the subtleties of my body and movement, said he’s started seeing a decrease in muscle mass in my arms.

So the estrogen is definitely kicking in. Now if it’ll just do something about reducing the size of my wide child-bearing shoulders….

Changing Your Body is Self-Love Too

Given that in all likelihood I’ll eventually end up getting breast implants (after waiting to see what grows naturally) — as well as other body mods — this resonates:

“All cosmetic surgery, whatever that surgery may be, is about embracing the identity you already know you have. It is a tool you can use to help achieve your true identity. End of story.

Of course no one should make you feel ashamed of the body you have, and if you have the body you want, no one should try and make you conform it to their rules. But on the same hand if your body does not reflect the You that you see, whatever You that is, and you have the capacity to safely change it, you should not be shamed for doing so, either.”

I Must, I Must, I Must Increase My Bust

Three months on estrogen, two months on the testosterone blocker and things are definitely starting to change.

My skin has already gotten softer, and body hair is growing a lot more slower. But this week one of my breast definitely started budding. The nipple’s gotten plumper and there’s lumps behind the nipple where the breast tissue is developing Thankfully things aren’t sore — yet.

Now the other boob just needs to get with the program.

Better Living Through Biochemistry

On a happier note, I’m at the salon for my mani/pedi and the owner is working today because the woman I normally see is on vacation. I haven’t seen the owner in a while because she doesn’t work Sundays, and she commented that I looked different.

Probably a combination of the electrolysis — pores in the cleared areas are smaller because the hair no longer holds the pore open — plus the hormones may starting to cause skin changes. She thinks my skin is looking really good.

Scales Falling From My Eyes

Sometimes it’s the little things…

My new scale asks you to choose male/female when you set it up, in order to correctly* calculate the body fat percentage. So I chose male.**

But seeing that little male icon appear on the scale every morning, just felt wrong and bothered me much more than I thought it would. Changed it to female today.

* Yes, I know home scales are pretty erratic as far calculating percentage body fat.

** Though I had planned to change it after hormones kicked in, and my body is more hormonally female.