Confessionals

Riding The Roller Coaster

It’s been an emotional roller coaster the past two days.

Thursday brought some  good news for a change…

Got my latest blood tests back from yesterday’s blood test and while things are not fully back to normal yet, my kidneys are doing significantly better after stopping my testosterone blocker a week ago.

Meanwhile my hormone doctor started me on progesterone, which both blocks testosterone (although not as effectively as the first drug) and may cause some additional breast growth. Need to follow-up with my hormone doctor to see if that might avoid the need to do the orchiectomy — although progesterone has its own potential side-effects that might rule that out.

But just when I thought things were working out, I got some complicating news this morning.

The surgeon who will be doing my bottom surgery recommended against doing the orchiectomy because the scar needs to be fully healed and pliable, which takes 6-12 months, so there’s a good risk that I’d have to cancel the surgery if it’s not ready. And if I cancel the surgery, I probably wouldn’t be able to be rescheduled for another 12-18 months minimum, given how booked the surgeon is. Plus the new surgeon who’s taking over the practice would be operating solo, without his predecessor overseeing things.

They’re not worried about the effects of normal levels of testosterone for another eight months — but I’m definitely uncomfortable with my body remasculizing during that time, plus whether that may pose an issue for getting breast implants this spring.

Then I heard back from my hormone doctor that he thinks the amount of masculinization may be minor, which potentially means not needing to do the orchi (my interpretation). But need to meet with him in person to get a clearer picture.

Some hard, hard decisions ahead.

 

Speed Bumps Not Roadblocks

Doing a lot better this morning.

The kidney problems are a speed bump, not a roadblock. Sent messages off to my primary care doctor and hormone doctor to get things rolling towards a solution.

Not looking forward to an extra surgery, but so be it. Thankfully an orchiectomy is relatively minor as surgeries go.

Side Effects

Met with my regular doctor today and he confirmed the bad news I was expecting: spirolactone, the testosterone blocker I’m on is not only worsening my diabetes, but it’s now starting to cause serious kidney problems that could cause me to have to go on dialysis, or kill me if left unchecked.

So I need to go off it. But no testosterone blocker means my body will start re-masculizing. We’re doing a week-long test to see if maybe I can still take a smaller dose, but I’m not optimistic that’ll solve the kidney problems, nor prevent my body from changing in ways that are emotionally traumatic.

The ultimate solution is to have an orchiectomy to remove the testicles. Bye bye balls means no more testosterone. I wouldn’t mind seeing them gone, but doing that makes getting bottom surgery a bit more challenging next year. Without getting too TMI, one wants to avoid losing tissue and having scar tissue to work around. And Maude know if I can insurance to cover the orchi — my insurer will probably argue it’s “cosmetic” surgery and thus not covered (since they specifically prohibit coverage of almost all trans-related surgeries).

FML, just FML…

Celebrating My Transition

Today’s celebration of my transition was moving and much needed. Being sidelined with the pinched nerve for the first half of the year meant I never got a chance to mark the change at the time.

Thanks to all the amazing women who attended, and all the even more amazing women who helped make it happen.

When Universe Whispers In Your Ear

Still resonating. Even more so. Last year, I was starting into the tunnel vision that a countdown to transition typically brings as it takes over your life.

This year I’m starting to settle into my “new” life, now that I’m past the physical difficulties over the first half of the year. Transition can be more than just an opportunity to live one’s life congruently gender-wise, it can also be a chance to reinvent oneself and one’s life.

“Living as your authentic self” goes far beyond gender, and I’m still finding my way — but that’s part of the adventure. Thankful for the chance to hit the reset button in a way that most people don’t get.

”I think midlife is when the universe gently places her hands upon your shoulders, pulls you close, and whispers in your ear:

I’m not screwing around. It’s time. All of this pretending and performing – these coping mechanisms that you’ve developed to protect yourself from feeling inadequate and getting hurt – has to go.

Your armor is preventing you from growing into your gifts. I understand that you needed these protections when you were small. I understand that you believed your armor could help you secure all of the things you needed to feel worthy of love and belonging, but you’re still searching and you’re more lost than ever.

Time is growing short. There are unexplored adventures ahead of you. You can’t live the rest of your life worried about what other people think. You were born worthy of love and belonging. Courage and daring are coursing through you. You were made to live and love with your whole heart. It’s time to show up and be seen.”

~ Brené Brown

A Detente With My Armor

 I Like Armor I've my thing

Looking at my Armor
Still shiny but battered and worn in places
Covering me from helm to sabaton
Forged decades ago
Long before I realized I was trans
Long before I even knew what trans was
Protecting me from a world that too often
Felt harsh and lonely
 
Feeling my Armor
Piece added by piece
Layer built up upon layer
Moving stiffly, moving all too carefully, under its weight
These days feeling too tight
A steel carapace tight-corseting me
 
Speaking to my Armor
I honor you for protecting me all those years
I would not be here today without you
But I’d like to lay you down for awhile
Although I know you’ll always be there if I need you
 
Armor speaking to Me
She agrees she’s also a bit weary
And could use a rest as well
She worries for me
But knows it’s time for me to move more freely
She assures me she will be always be there
Should I need to beckon her back to the front
 
Negotiating with my Armor
A roadmap of progressive milestones:
I can lay down my armor when I choose to, and when we both feel safe
I can lay down my armor when I choose to
I can lay down my armor
We hug and agree to terms
 
Still far from fully unencumbered
But my soul feels lighter already

I’m Not the Type Of Girl For You

An interesting interpretation of Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Your Type,” where it reads the song as being about a trans woman who’s in love with her best friend but she will never say anything because she knows that her friend isn’t into trans girls.
“I’m not the type of girl for you
and I’m not going to pretend
I’m the type of girl you want more than a friend”
 
is the kind of line that speaks directly to the fear every trans girl has while attempting dating, especially if she’s stealth — that disclosure will lead to an immediate lack of interest, that no one could be into us for our true selves, that the only people who will ever “love” us are chasers or clients….
Many trans girls have felt the pain of “I’m not the type of girl for you” when attempting to date, whatever the other person’s gender. Conversations abound, especially in queer community, about whether it’s problematic to “not be attracted to” trans girls. It seems like we all have stories about being rejected upon disclosure, or never even being considered if we don’t “pass.””
I think the vast majority of trans people who transition decide the sacrifices (or potential sacrifices) involved. A friend of mine decided she was willing to sacrifice being an up and coming actor, if she could live her life successfully as a woman.*
 
In my case, it was accepting that I might never date again.
 
Partly it’s simply statistics. While men are fun to play with, and I wouldn’t rule out a possible relationship with one, I’m emotionally attracted to women. So that automatically narrows the dating pool to about 5 percent of the population. Then looking at the subset of lesbian/bi women willing — let alone interested — in dating a trans woman and the pool gets very narrow indeed. (It’s one reason it’s not uncommon for trans women to be in relationships with other trans women.)
 
Partly it’s a similar problem that LGB folks face when they see someone of the same sex that they’re attracted to (outside of queer spaces) — because odds are that they’re heterosexual and you don’t know how they’ll react. As the author says:
“All trans girls have rules when it comes to dating. Some of us never disclose until we absolutely have to, some of us are super “out.” I almost never hit on anyone or express romantic interest because I’m tired of being disappointed, and am afraid of a negative reaction. We always have to be careful and follow the rules, because you never know what will happen when you don’t — the reaction could be harsh, even violent.”
Partly it’s being a femme, and facing the problem many femmes face in lesbian spaces, where we’re ignored because people assume we’re straight women crashing the party.
 
Partly it’s me having to get over the feeling like I’m seen as “damaged goods.” Being the trans woman that chasers want to fuck — but not be seen with outside the motel room. Being trans, being a trans woman who don’t always “pass,”** being fat, being a women of a certain age. It’s hard not to internalize at least some of the negativity society expresses toward each. As a wise friend said, it’s hard to swim in a sea of poison and not swallow some.
 
Partly it’s been not having the time or spoons to be in a relationship, to deal with rejection — whether it’s because I’m trans, or for other reasons.
 
Despite all that, I still yearn for that feeling of being loved, of being desired. I’d like to feel that there’s *someone* (or someones) out there for me. It may be a long journey to find them, but it’s time to take that first step come what may.
 

 
* I’m happy to report that years later she’s started acting again and recently earned accolades for her co-starring role in her first big screen debut, in a movie that won a best in category award at the LA Film Festival.
 
** “Passing” is a term I hate — I much prefer blending — but I’m using it here because it’s used in the article, and because “passing privilege” has a long and history important history as a sociological concept.

Post-Transition Blues

So I’ve been a bit absent while I’ve been dealing with some pretty nasty pinched nerve pain (I’m out of pain and doing a lot better, thank you.)

But another a big reason is frankly I went through some post-transition blues.

Admittedly with the health issues, I had a pretty hard few months immediately after transition. Especially in contrast to how smoothly things went beforehand. (Obviously other people have hard transitions, losing family, jobs, etc.)

But it was more than that. I’d like to think I went into transition with very little pink fog and realistic expectations about what life post-transition would be like. My attitude was the life pre-transition was chop wood, carry water, and life post-transition would be chop wood, carry water.

And yet…

Don’t get me wrong, it is definitely better.

The background static of my social dysphoria is pretty much gone. And while there’s a big of slog ahead, it’s nowhere near the amount of stress and anxiety I had during last year’s run up to transition. I tell people that I spent the last half of 2016 running on coffee and adrenaline. I’m only half-joking…

In a way it’s a bit like “top drop” in the dungeon. It’s truism in the kink scene that in a scene bottoms get off on endorphins and tops get off on adrenaline. So if you’re topping, at the end of the scene, you’re pumped full of adrenaline and quite literally the best thing to do is go run around the block to burn it off. But you can’t, since you’re responsible for your bottom’s aftercare. Hence you typically get an adrenaline crash, which usually sucks a bit, but you just have to push through it.

Someone one the My Husband Betty forum once wisely noted that hopefully transition resolves your gender issues — but all your other issues remain. And if anything, something else now gets promoted to be your new #1 issue. Which in my case was very true. There’s some other aspects of my life that I’ve wanted to change that are at the forefront.

For me it’s dealing with a lifetime of armoring up. I don’t have many close friends, and the ones who are don’t live locally. And all my more casual friends live 30 miles away in SF and Oakland. I’m single, and while it meant I didn’t have to deal with transition issues related to spouse and kids, it also means on the whole my support system isn’t anywhere what I want/need it to be. All of that was compounded by the nerve pain that kept me mostly housebound.

I’m also having inertia for different reasons. Extreme burn out from 30 years of workaholism to obscure the holes in my life. Not only at work, but 20 years of volunteerism that usually took at least 10-15 a week. Not to mention trying to have a performing career on top of that. People told me frequently they had no idea how I did it all — and in retrospect neither do it. Well, actually I do sort of, a big part of it was sacrificing any sort of personal life.

One reason for the let down was that my work was kind enough to allow me to take an extra two months of (unpaid) medical leave (and yes, I know how incredibly privileged I am to have been able to do so). Which would finally give me a much needed chance to decompress.

But it didn’t happen. There was an unexpected opening in the retirement community my Mom wanted to go, so I had to spend two weeks helping her move. Then the nerve pain really ramped up and I spent weeks in uncontrolled, extreme pain. Not exactly relaxing.

Then finances got really tight. My company switched Jan. 1 from paid-time off to discretionary time-off — so the several weeks of accrued vacation pay I was counting on were frozen (to be paid back when I leave the company). Then California’s EDD, which is supposed to pay short-disability after surgery (even cosmetic surgery) denied my claim on a bullshit technicality, and I’ve not heard anything about the appeal I filed ever since. (Yes, California’s EDD is proof that black holes exist, and they make the DMV look efficient and cheerful.) I didn’t starve, but it wiped out my liquid savings and I couldn’t pay all of my taxes.

I also came back to find out the roof leaked during the torrential rains when had, and needs to be repaired, as well as the interior water damage.

And so on. Sometimes it felt like I was being nibbled to death by ducks.

I tell people that the horrible irony is that the least stressful month I’ve had in the past year is the month I spent recovering from two rounds of major surgery because the only thing I had to do was focus on getting better.

Plus, while my social dysphoria is significantly better, my body dysphoria got significantly worse. That’s a whole post in itself, but short version is that now the stakes are very different from part-time living.

Why I Smile…

I smile because it’s part of my social jujitsu toolkit for dealing with situations where I’m misgendered, or I can tell they’re trying to figure out my gender, or they realize I’m a *trans* woman and trying out to figure out how they feel about it. When I see a woman giving me “the look” — the glance held too long, where I can see the gears turning inside their head, I give her the social smile that woman are trained to do automatically. It may look friendly, but as is often the case with other forms of woman-to-woman communication, there’s subtext: It’s the “I know you’re looking at me, and now you know that I know you’re looking at me” smile.

I smile at small children because now I can. No longer does smiling at strangers’ children make people presume I’m a potential pedo-creeper.

I smile because there is a casual camaraderie among women. By no means do I want to romanticize that — women can be just as aggressive and nasty as men, and far more micro-aggressive in ways that most men don’t even perceive. But I can’t count the number of casual conversations — in line at the store, in the woman restroom, etc. — that I never had as a man interacting with other men.

I smile because women are trained to smile automatically, practically instinctively. To be nice, to be pleasant. Of course I, like other women, learned the nuances of when and where to smile. Smile at a man you don’t know and he’ll likely think you’re sexually interested in him. Smiling in the street invites sexual harassment. (And even if you don’t smile, catcalls of “hey baby, looking good,” all too rapidly turn into, “why won’t you smile, bitch.”)

I smile because now society allows me a vastly widely range of emotions. In Norah Vincent’s flawed, but still worth reading book, “Self Made Man” (about the 18 months see spend posing as a man to try to better understand masculinity), at the end of the experience she had a nervous breakdown, which in part she attributes to the stress of trying to living within the emotional straightjacket of masculinity.

I smile because why the fuck not. Emotions are contagious, and with all the shitty stuff going on the in world, if I’m feeling like it, why not randomly smile and brighten someone else’s day. Of course, there’s a huge difference between feeling that one *can* smile and and feeling obligated to do so, regardless of how one is feeling. So I someone doesn’t smile back, I don’t take it personally. Maybe they’re having a bad day, maybe they’re from a culture where it’s not acceptable (it’s notable that the thing that reliably identifies Americans overseas is how frequently we smile at strangers), maybe they just don’t feel like smiling back.

I smile because I’m happy. Despite all the trials and tribulations of being a woman, being a trans woman, in our patriarchal society, I’m much happier than I when I was trying to live life as a man.

Getting “Sir”ed Yet Again

So I got “sir”ed again tonight… It’s happening several times a week, and although it always appears to be unconscious and unintentional, it’s still a bee sting to the heart every time it happens — and enough bee stings can kill you.

It’s usually people who I’ve never met before — store clerks, restaurant workers, etc. — so clearly it’s reflecting their first impressions. Whenever it happens, my reaction is: FFS, I’m wearing women’s clothing and shoes, women’s jewelry, make-up, painted fingernails, and sporting a pair of D-cups — what the fuck else do I have to do to get people to realize I should be gendered as a woman?

As you might imagine, it’s fucking disheartening. I’ve spent an enormous amount of money, time and pain over the past year reshaping my body, and still it happens. Don’t get me wrong, the vast majority of people treat me like the woman I am, and yes logically I know that I shouldn’t let a small number of people get under my skin. But the heart and the gut don’t think rationally.

There’s practical concerns being a trans woman who — like most of my trans sisters — who wasn’t blessed by the androgyny fairy, and who probably will never look like the “typical” woman assigned female at birth, and who won’t always blend in as one. Probably the biggest concern is safety, particularly since I like to travel, and the vast majority of the nation, let alone the world, isn’t nearly as trans-friendly as the Bay Area. (Right now, even the U.S. there’s a number of states that have become no-go zones for me.)

But more than that, the incidents have been kicking my body dysphoria into high gear lately. It’s just a constant low-level reminder of the gap between the body I have, and the body I wish I had, but never will. Just I’m reminded whenever I try to look for size 13 shoes, extra large sizes in rings, necklaces and clothing, dresses that always 2-3 inches shorter than intended. Or when I’m in photos with other women and look hulking and towering by comparison.

I agree with Laverne Cox that I should be able to love my large hands and feet, my height, my lower than average voice because they’re beautiful, because trans is beautiful. But — and I mean no disrespect toward her own long struggle towards self-acceptance — it’s much easier to love these things when you have a body that’s otherwise considered extremely attractive according to hetero cisgender standards.

As Sam Dylan Finch says in his excellent essay, “I’m Transgender and I Need Body Positivity Too” my body

“tricks others into seeing me as something that I’m not. And 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.”

I’ve been working with my therapist to shrug off this sort of misgendering, to maybe not love my body as it is but at least reach a detente with it. But it’s a hard place to get to right now.

(And before anyone chimes in with comments like “you’re perfect just the way you are,” or “love your body, no matter the shape or size, exactly as it is,” fucking read Sam’s essay about why those sort of comments are more than a bit… off-putting… to many trans people.)