Short but intense day as J. and I did our in-take with the clinic.
Trip to the hospital for x-rays, EKG, and blood tests. Annoyingly the nurse failed to draw enough blood (she was having trouble finding a vein), so I had to go back for a second blood draw.
Then lots of paperwork at Dr. Suporn’s office.
Thanks to the ever-increasing hostile environment in the States towards LGBT people, and trans people in particular, I opted to spend extra getting a notarized statement that I’ve had sexual reassignment surgery.
Hopefully, I’ll never need it, but until only a few years ago, the only way you could get your proper sex listed on your passport was if you had proof of SRS. And given the current administration, I fully expect them to revert back to that requirement — and it wouldn’t surprise me if they attempt to further roll things back to force your passport to show the sex listed on your birth certificated. Which needless to say makes it dangerous for trans people to travel to a number of countries — which is one reason for doing it. Fortunately, California allowed me to update my birth certificate (and the original is sealed), but I wouldn’t put it past the Talibaptists to try to circumvent that as well.
Then it was an exam with Dr. Suporn and Dr. Bank (who will be doing my surgeon under Dr. Suporn’s supervision) to make sure my nether regions had sufficient donor material to be reconstructed into lady parts.
Finally got a look at the dilators 😲😲😲 — they’re far more intimidator to see in person.
Post-surgery you have to dilate to prevent the neo-vagina from closing up, since to your body it’s essentially a ginormous puncture wound. Most surgeons just have you insert the dilator and leave it there for a half-hour to an hour, but Dr. Suporn has you take a more aggressive approach, which requires you to push against the scar tissue to prevent contracture. Good for maintaining depth, but it hurts. It definitely hurts. Just gotta embrace the suck.
Three times a day for the first three months, twice a day for the next three months, and once a day for another six months until you’re fully healed. (That’s assuming healing goes according to plan. If not, then the frequency can be more for longer.) After that it’s maintenance mode, of at least once a week for the rest of my life.
Just got picked up by the driver to take us down to the clinic. One of Dr. Suporn’s assistants gave us our scheduling info.
Shit’s getting really real.
They tell you that going on hormones is like a second puberty, and it is. But lately I’ve also been feeling like I’m going that teenage gawkiness where my mind hasn’t yet caught up to changes in my body.
Admittedly, my body *has* been through a lot of changes during the last 16 months, with some another major change coming in two months.
There’s definitely a bit of cognitive dissonance every time FB surfaces old photos of me. A big part of it is seeing my face pre-facial feminization surgery. I mean, I know it’s my face, but at the same time, I don’t quite recognize the person in the photo. Especially as some of the facial changes have been accentuated by losing a lot of weight (which I’ll get to in a second).
The other big body mod obviously is my breast augmentation back in January. Even though it’s only been a few months, it’s getting hard to imagine a time when I didn’t have them. That image of my body has gone down the memory. (And we’ve always been at war with Eurasia.)
OTOH, I’m now about a cup size smaller than when I wore breast forms — and while my breasts look really natural, I also think they’re a little small for my frame. No one’s fault, all the surgeons I consulted agreed on the recommended size of the implants, and my surgeon even went a size larger while I was on the table because he could tell my chest muscles were acting like a giant sports bra to schmush things down. But disappointing. Obviously, I’m not the first woman to be dissatisfied with the size of her breasts, but it’s especially disappointing given I paid a lot of money for them (not covered by insurances), and there’s no easy fix,* and because I was used to being a size larger when I was wearing breast forms.
But probably most of the feeling of being out of sorts with my body has been due to the weight loss — 35 pounds so far, and I need to lose another 15 in the next two months for bottom surgery.
It’s meant that I’ve dropped from a size 20/22 down to a size 14/16. Which has meant constantly not having clothes that fit right — either too baggy, or a bit tight, since I’m trying to avoid buying too many “interim clothes.” It’s suddenly having rings become too loose, and knowing that I’ll need to get the heirloom rings resized, but not until I know what my new weight will stabilize at. On the plus side, now that I can fit into misses-sizes clothes, and that opens up a far wider range of clothes than when I was plus-sized. But it’s still a bit odd to realize that stores I hadn’t even bothered to look at previously now have clothes that might actually fit me. (And yes, I’m well aware of the thin privilege that I’ve now gained.)
But the biggest challenge is coming to terms with being “big bodied” but not necessarily fat. I’m not squishy like most women my size. Admittedly, I’ve always been built that way, and it was hard to love my curves when I didn’t have any. Well except the one curve from my belly that makes me look male, and is fraught with gender-related body dysphoria issues.
Which is where a lot of the language of the body positivity movement has fallen flat for me. Don’t get me wrong, I *do* believe one should be able to embrace one’s curves. That you should love your body, no matter the shape or size. But you *don’t* necessarily need to love it “exactly the way it is.” As Sam Dylan Finch points out, that sort of language is definitely off-putting for trans people. Because, as Finch says, “no amount of self-love and validation can change the fact that, when I step out into the world, my body precedes me and erases a very important aspect of my identity.”
More to the point, it’s damn hard to find — even within the body positivity movement — positive images of women with bodies like me. I’m glamazon-sized. With wide child-bearing shoulders, no hips and not much of ass (which makes it really tough to find jeans that fit). Big hands, big arms, big feet.
Laverne Cox may have reached a point where: “I am not beautiful despite my big hands, my big feet, my wide shoulders, my height, my deep voice and all the things that make me beautifully and noticeably trans. I am beautiful because of those things” but reaching that level of self-love is a helluva lot easier when you look like, well, Laverne Cox.** Personally, I’m still struggling.
Especially because as I’m settling into my identity as a woman living as a woman, the stakes are changing. For years, my sense of being attractive came with an asterisk — pretty good for a crossdresser, pretty good for a drag queen, pretty good for someone who was gender queer. The asterisk was always there because I just assumed I was “visibly trans.” I’m realizing that that’s not necessarily always the case. So the goal posts have moved significantly…. Now it’s, how attractive am I as a *woman*? Especially one of a certain age, an age when many women become invisible.
And yes, I realize I’m falling into the “beauty myth” trap, and so I’ve got that layer of self-criticism going on too (i.e. why can’t I shrug it off). But it’s hard to avoid, as a women living in our culture, and especially as a woman in burlesque, where I’m putting my body on display. And where, although there’s lot of talk about body positivity and beauty at all sizes, there’s also still a strong undercurrent of preference for a certain body type, and certain plus-size body type (hour-glass), that I don’t have, that I’ll never have. Testosterone wreaked changes on my body that can’t be undone.
As I said, it’s complicated. I’m still doing a lot of processing.
In the meantime, I’m trying to remind myself there are women built like me. Going to Kansas City last year, I saw a number of large, stocky women, ones who shared a heritage of being the daughters of German peasants, with bodies suited to working the farm. I’ve looked for role models. Olympic hammer thrower Amanda Bingson, who was featured in the famous 2015 Sports Illustrated “Body” issue, with its photos of naked athletes of various shapes and sizes. I’ve seen myself in crew members of collegiate rowing teams. I’ve seen myself in Xena (even if I’d much rather have the body of Gabrielle).
One day, I hope to be able love all the things that make me “big bodied” (and probably “visibly trans” as well). To internalize it. To truly believe it. But for now, it’s one day at a time.
*The FDA currently only has approved silicone breast implants up to 800cc in size, which is a size larger than what I have now, and at most would maybe add a half-cup in size. To go larger, I’d have to switch to saline implants, which I’d prefer not to do. But it’s all moot at this point anyway, since any potential redo will need to wait until 2019.
**No disrespect to Ms. Cox, who I adore, and who’s made it clear it took her years to reach that level of self-acceptance. But fact of the matter is that she’s also beautiful in ways that fit the cis-het norms.
Six days post-surgery for the hair transplants, which means now that the follicles have been absorbed into their new locations, I no longer have to use the ultra-gooey antibiotic gel on my scalp, and I can wash away any of the remaining scabbing.
I can’t tell you how happy both of these make me.
***Dr. Suporn has a waiting list of well over year, and by that point you’ve paid a hefty non-refundable surgical fee, so you have to be pretty committed to doing the surgery by the time you arrive in Thailand for the evaluation.
A quick post before I catch the flight back from LA…
Hair transplants went well. Now I’m sporting a stylish surgical cap for the next week until the scalp heals.
It’ll take up to three months before the newly relocated follicles get over “transplant shock” and start growing hair again.
Been a long day. Glad to be heading home.
Down in Beverly Hills, getting ready to do a third round of hair transplants. Unlike the first two, they’re not reshaping my hairline (it was changed to have a classically female upside down-U shape). Today it’s just filling two areas on the sides of my forehead that look really thin when I part my hair.
They’re going to use a different procedure this time. Instead of cutting out a strip of scalp as the donor for he transplanted follicles, this time they’ll be using the robotic method, where the robot exacts follicles individually.
The good news is that there won’t be an incision at the back of my head this time, and things should heal much faster.
The bad news is that they’ll need to shave at least two stripes 2cm wide in the back of my head, where the robot will be taking out follicles. Thankfully, the bare stripes aren’t visible afterwards because they’re covered by your other hair. However given how long it’s taken to grow out my hair, I’m still ready to cry whenever I think about it.
But as far as my transition, sacrifices must be made, and this is one of them.