Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Time, time, time, see what's become of me

It's pretty interesting how the circumstances in one's life can change so dramatically in such a short time. Short is relative, of course, but in the almost-two months since my previous post, I can barely recognize the life I used to lead.

Before, the internet was the most important thing in my day. Twitter, Flickr, Facebook, this blog, all my news feeds... that took up a lot of time, and yet it was very typical that I was all caught up with everything before lunchtime. I would then poke around for most of the rest of the day, talking to recruiters, working on various computer-related projects, but always in front of the machine, or close to it. I spent some time each day, possibly several hours, in Second Life, sometimes visiting with my friends, sometimes just exploring.

Now, just a couple short months later, my days are dramatically different. I moved to a new apartment. I began culinary school. I started seeing someone, and that relationship has blossomed quickly into something very special. The biggest change has been that I am rarely even in front of a computer any longer. Strangely enough, I don't especially miss it. I do miss the relationships that I have formed via the various social sites that used to fill my days. I feel like I'm neglecting those people - that I'm not being a very good friend. For a while, I did try to keep up with my Twitter people, but the traffic was just too fast, especially since I was only able to read at most once per day. If there's one thing I regret, it has been the loss of those connections.

I wonder sometimes what has made the transition from techno-nerd to a relatively tech-free existence so seamless. Perhaps the great number of other drastic changes in such a short time helped; there was so much going on, it was hard to focus on the changes in any one specific area.

Sometimes it feels like my old life is being completely erased. I feel like I'm even losing a little contact with some of the people in my day-to-day existence.

One thing that I've said to others in the past is that when one door closes, another opens. Perhaps this is just a series of doors closing and opening up for me all at the same time. Only time will tell how everything will turn out.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Not going to be That Girl...

You know the one, she posts "OMG, I'm so sorry that I haven't been updating my blog very much lately, I promise that I will post all the time now!" And then she doesn't? I'm not going to be her. I'm just going to post when I have something to say, and if that turns out to be infrequently, then I just won't make a lot of posts. That doesn't mean that I won't beat myself up about it a little bit, it just means that you won't have to read about it. I'm looking out for you, dear readers.

I'm in a pretty serious transitional period right now. Funny, I thought I was all done with the transitional periods, now that most of my gender transition stuff is done. Not even close, it turns out.

All this new transition started with the loss of my job back at the end of May. My first thought was, of course, "not again", since my last period of unemployment lasted some seventeen months, and was, in a word, difficult. But that feeling of stress and loathing started to give way to something else. Something more positive. A feeling of relief. I didn't have to go back to that job anymore, but I also didn't necessarily have to go back to that career anymore. And, after a lot of thinking, I've decided that I will not. Next week, I start at culinary school, in the baking and pastry program.

It is said that the average adult changes her profession four times over the course of her career. This will be change number two for me. First, I was a programmer. Then, a system administrator. Soon, a pastry chef. After that, who knows? Restauranteur? Teacher? Maybe something even more different.

My new direction has me so excited for my future. I feel like I'm finally taking control of my life, and not settling any longer. The radical jump feels pretty... radical, but there is so much more potential for happiness, for me, in this direction. This has become my new mantra: always move toward happiness. There is so much discord and unhappiness in the world, and there has been so much in my life, that I've had enough of it. I will be the change that I would like to see in the world (thank you karmatic1110), and live my own example, and I will try to increase my happiness every day.

But as big and exciting as that is, that's not the biggest new thing. I've recently begun seeing someone. I had all but given up on even the possibility that I would find someone ever again, but managed to meet someone anyway. So far, we've been out six times, and things are going fantastically. I'm usually pretty private about my relationships, and I think I'll continue that for now, but I did want to at least mention it, because it's extremely positive, and she's a person who is bringing a great amount of happiness to my life.

Toward happiness!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Wages of Privilege

I've started this entry about five times now, and I keep getting frustrated with the overly-strident tone and finger-pointingness of it. I know there have been lots of different blogs and various other things written about privilege, or lack thereof. But it hadn't yet reared its ugly head in my life. Until now.

A friend had made an incredibly cissexist and transphobic comment, which I felt certain was just thoughtlessness on hir part. Zie had been friendly to me since before my physical transition had even begun. When I mentioned to hir that comments like that hurt all transpeople, zie blew me off. The sentiment was basically "I don't feel that I have hurt anyone, so therefore I haven't." I wouldn't have brought something like that up, if nobody was hurt. I was hurt. And I felt like, somehow, my feelings had become a non-consideration for hir.

So a series of unfollowings and emails ensued, and it appears that we are no longer friends. Any chance of reconciliation any time soon is pretty close to zero. And that's a shame, because it didn't have to happen.

I won't lie: I'm angry at the way things went down. I'm angry that it had to happen in the first place. But I'm most angry that zie seemed quite unwilling to consider my position. It seemed like the core of the whole thing was an unwillingness to consider the positions of privilege that were at work.

I've radically changed positions in my life. I started out at the top of the privilege heap: male, white, heterosexual. And I didn't do a thing to get those privileges; they were mine simply by accident of birth. Now that I've shifted so many of those categories, it's hard to know where I stand. I'm still white, but I'm now a woman - a transgender woman at that - and a lesbian. I have never before had to consider the role of privilege. I was so disconnected from everyone and everything, I'm not sure what, if anything, it would have meant to me anyway. I always felt like I existed as something of a ghost on the very edge of the world. But now the clarity with which privilege is making itself known to me... it's a little overwhelming. And more than a little disgusting.

So in my previous role, it would have been inconsequential to have made the same comment as my friend did. I was above all those categories - sexism, cissexism, transphobia. But now, having started to experience some of those things first hand, I can say that privilege is a millstone around the neck of society as a whole. Privileged and non-privileged alike are burdened by it. It's laziness, pure and simple. It eliminates the need to actually get to know someone before making a judgement about who they are. I would suggest that those on the lower end of the privilege curve might even have the capacity to be worse in preserving the disparity than those on top; they're downtrodden, so rather than be content with everybody standing on their neck, they might seek to push somebody down, so they don't have to live at the bottom of that curve.

The problem is that this makes the problem worse, not better. Those at the top of the heap can just watch all those underneath fight it out to not be the worst. But all it does is preserves the status quo. Those on top remain, and those on the bottom remain, and none are truly benefitted.

The core of the whole thing is respect. Respect is a funny thing, though. It functions best when it is given, rather than when it is received. And rather than being in a limited supply, the more respect that is given, the more that comes back, and the more one has to give to others. Everyone is uplifted, and nobody is diminished. The trick is that it's a chain, and any weak or broken link can make the whole thing fall apart. It's a practical example of an iterated prisoner's dilemma, and there is no consequence for defecting, especially for those who already have the power of their privilege. Power they acquired by doing nothing more dramatic than drawing breath.

Ridiculous quote aside, it seems a bit crazy that the true solution is for everyone to "be excellent to each other", but it really is just that simple. First we need to form a chain of respect that encompasses everyone. Then we need to just not break it. I don't know if human nature would ever allow us to do that, but we could do far worse than to strive for such an ideal.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Inflection point

Seems like I've hit another big inflection point. Or maybe a couple of them, clumped right together.

I've long thought that the doctor who was originally managing my hormone replacement was not doing a very good job, so I found another doctor, and have seen him a couple times now. Our first visit was an extremely affirming experience, and it made me immediately glad that I had finally made a change. I saw him again a little over a week ago, for a six-week followup appointment, to see how things had changed or progressed.

He went over the results from my first blood tests, and described the main parts of interest. My testosterone level is 6.7, which is about what we would expect, he said, given my current physiology. My estradiol level was 80, which he said was very low; ideally it would be around 200. Levels of the two precursor hormones, FSH and LH, which are produced by the pituitary gland and signal the body to produce the main sex hormones, were very high. This indicated, the doctor said, that my body is not seeing enough sex hormones, and it was trying to spur my body to produce more. I don't have the right body parts to produce a whole lot of estrogen, of course, so what it actually indicated was that my hormone replacement dosages were too low. He had placed me on a different estrogen medication, which he hoped would increase the levels. This office visit was to confirm if this actually happened. So, he sent me over to the lab, and they drew the necessary blood, and off I went.

A few days later, I called back for the results. My estradiol level was apparently still very low, and the doctor wanted to double my dosage. Gulp! So, all this time, I've been on such a low dosage, and have had less-than-stellar development; I chalked that up to my being almost 40 years old, and my body just reacting less to the new hormones that were coursing through it. Everyone is different, of course, but it seems that older bodies typically react less-well to transition. But with this new information, it seems like my depression and nihilism might have been a side effect of my body trying to tell me something: more, please! So, ok, more estrogen.

It's only been a few days on the new dosage, so it's still really early to tell if I'm feeling different, or if I'll see another spurt of development. Maybe in a few weeks, I'll have a better idea.

The other big change is regarding my career. I've been working in the IT industry for many years now, and despite the fact that I am good at what I do, I just can't generate any interest for it any longer. I mean, like none.

Looking back, programming and system administration was something I sort of fell into. I had aptitude and ability, and it was something that I had done since I was a child, but there was never a desperate desire to do it. There are aspects of the job that I enjoyed: one must continually learn new things, and a lot of the job is governed by logical cause-and-effect. That is how I approach most things, so it seemed a perfect match.

All except that I don't care anymore. If I ever even did.

I like to make things. When I was little, my favorite toys were LEGO. Most of my current hobbies involve some sort of craft, and some act of creation. And as time goes on, the physical aspect of creation seems to have become more and more important; I enjoy photography, for example, but the modern moving-bits-around instead of standing in the dark and making something, seems too much like work to me.

And then there's another large aspect which never seemed important before: I like working with people, and it turns out that I like it when people are happy, and especially if I can make them happy with something I've done. Now, it seems like this aspect has grown more important than feeding my brain. I get excited when I know I'll have a chance to make someone happy, and I find myself drawn to doing that, as strongly as I've ever felt anything ever before. Here is that deep need, that desperate desire that I've always wondered if I had.

I keep feeling nudges here, and seeing signs there, and hearing people talking about change, and it seems like this is all conspiring to tell me something. Now is the time. Just as there was a time in which I had to say I will now become who I need to be, this seems like the time when I need to say I will now do what I need to do.

It is time to take another leap.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

More family stuff

I feel like I've been a bit of a broken record here, going on and on about the same thing. But, as a friend once said, it's hard to just talk about whatever, when there's something specific and important on your mind. Since most of my physical and social transition stuff is done, the only things that are left are sort of cleaning up around the edges. And my family stuff has been pretty messy, so that's what I've got to work on.

I had a long and productive conversation with my mom on Wednesday night. I originally went over because I just needed some comfort; my unemployment, which is continuing, is becoming way too much stress for me to handle by myself. Money, ever the evil that it has always been, is showing me a bad image of my future, unless I'm able to do something. What that something is, well, I'm not entirely sure. So I thought my mom might have some ideas, since she's really practical about things like this. I had some really basic ideas of things I might do, and she helped me sort of work out a rough plan.

Once that was all done, we sort of segued into other stuff; I asked about her recent vacation to her high school reunion, and her visits with the family who still lives there. After that ran down a bit, I told her that I had been corresponding with one of my cousins recently.

I had wished my cousin a happy birthday on facebook a month or two ago, and at the time he said that we should catch up soon. This week seemed to be the time. We traded several messages, and he relayed his complete support, which was such a wonderful change from what I've heard from many of the other family members. He also asked about who else on his side of the family knew about me; I guessed probably nobody. He suggested that all of them should be fine with my transition, and that I should just call them. I thought it might be a little weird for some random girl to call them and claim to be their former male cousin/nephew, so asked if he'd be willing to out me to them, which he was more than happy to do. He got back to me a day or so later, and said that everybody was accepting and glad that I was able to do what I needed to do. He also suggested that I follow up with a call to each, which I haven't done yet.

After relating this to my mother, she mentioned that my father had shown her the email I sent him last week, discussing my name change. This seemed to be a pretty big deal to me, that he would reach out to my mom with something like that, since my dad is usually pretty self-contained about such things. At that point, it seemed like a good opportunity to tell her about what was really in my heart. I told her that when she used my old name, and used 'he' and 'him', it hurt me every time. I went on a bit about the semi-rant I wrote a couple blog posts ago, and asked how she was unable to see the changes that I had made. She said that the changes were very clear to her. I told her that I didn't go through all this time and effort and expense, for nothing to happen. I'm her daughter now, and that carries some necessary changes with it. And through all the effort and expense, even though it has been the hardest thing I have ever done, the benefits so greatly outweigh any price I've had to pay, I would willingly and gladly pay that price again.

This past week, I've had a few moments which really made clear to me the purpose of my transition and the goals which I had hoped to accomplish. Before, I was in such a state of detachment, that I was rarely ever able to have even a moment when I felt comfortable. I can remember one fleeting time, ever. But since my transition has been done, I've had those moments pretty often. This past week, a friend was visiting from out of town, and one day we were planning to just spend time together at my house. I had gotten out of bed, put on clothes, brushed my hair and teeth, and gotten in the car to go get her from the hotel. I'm sure I looked exactly like somebody who had just woken up (since, y'know, I had), but at that moment, I had such a feeling of peace and contentment... It was so powerful. All I could do was smile. That feeling is worth any price.

I related that feeling to my mom, and I think that made a real impression. As I was sort of running out of steam, I said that it was probably impossible for any cis person to really understand what being transgender means, and that I didn't really need her to understand what I've been through, but that I just needed her to accept me as I am now - that's who I really am, and who I've always wanted to be.

We finished our talk well past midnight, which we haven't done ever. She seems more willing to let those new ideas take root; perhaps my passion helped convey just what all this means to me.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Mr. Postman

Short update: the letter to my sister is written, and in the envelope. I dropped it into the mailbox just a short while ago, so it should probably arrive at her house by Thursday or Friday. After that, I'm not sure what I expect to happen. She could write back, or send an email, or even call. Or, she could do nothing.

I feel like the sending of this letter is a hopeful act, so I'll remain hopeful for the outcome.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Family

I've been thinking about my family lately. I've spent the last months growing apart from them; they're not comfortable with the changes I've made in my life, and I have no patience for people who would hold me back or deny my identity. We definitely seem to be moving in different directions. And that is a shame.

I do keep talking to my parents; after all, they live a very short distance away, and they do at least seem willing to still be my parents. I'm still their child, and they don't seem willing to give up on that, for which I feel pretty grateful. I've heard too many stories about trans folks' parents completely giving up on them, or disowning them, and that just makes my skin crawl. But they're both unwilling to try out my name or the pronouns that are appropriate for my identity. And every time they do it, it's like a knife to my heart. I didn't go through all this effort and expense for no reason. I'm not and never really have been a he. I'm a she, and I will abide nothing and nobody who tries to take that away from me.

So, that is a continuing source of friction between us. I hope that it can be resolved in time, but how much time that might be, I can't even imagine. Old dogs have to want to learn new tricks, before they can actually learn them.

My sister, on the other hand... She's made it fairly clear that she wants nothing to do with me in my new identity. In one of our last communications, she said that she wanted to save her brother. The one who was a thin veneer over top of someone different. Fa├žade. Artifice.

I do realize that I have upset her view of me, and in some ways, of the world. But it seems counterproductive to deny reality, rather than look around and try to figure out what is really going on. And try to decide how you would like to relate to that changed reality. The world changes every day, and it is up to each of us to handle those changes in whatever way we can.

My brother-in-law, when we had our short, horrible discussion before the Christmas holiday last year, said that my sister still wanted to have a relationship with me. He didn't say anything further than that, but from my reading of that comment, and our subsequent interaction (i.e. none), she seems to want a relationship with me on her terms - the old terms, which are no longer available. Now that I have unilaterally changed the terms of our interaction, she seems unwilling to accept those new terms. So, we have had no interaction.

I have a very small family. One sister, two parents, three cousins, two aunts, two uncles. There are further-removed family members, but I have only a fleeting idea that they exist, let alone who they are. So those family members who I do know are very precious, and when I lose one of them, that's a huge loss. And it seems like a big waste, all over something that really is small potatoes - a new name, and some new pronouns. That's learnable, and it's absolutely not rocket science. I have many friends, some who have known me for a very long time, who have successfully done it. And I've done it too - I've unlearned my old name such that it actually sounds really weird to me. So it doesn't seem like a huge imposition to ask my family to learn a new name for me.

And yet, there seems to be active resistance to doing it. My mom has commented that I would not understand what my old identity means to her. And I agree: I don't understand. But she seems to be unwilling to try to understand things from my perspective. I realize that transgenderism is a difficult idea to contemplate. But, I have presented the idea with as much clarity as I am able, and still they reject it, despite the fact that they see and hear me, and they have to realize that I am living in a different social role. They can't not realize that. I mean, there are some people who I've known for many years, who no longer recognize me. How much more clear could it be?

My parents know who I am now. They can see it, often. Whether or not they're willing to accept me is a question for another day. My sister, on the other hand, has not seen me or talked to me since Christmas, and is unlikely to see or talk to me anytime soon. So I think it's probably up to me to try again. I have been contemplating writing her a letter, snail-mail style, to let her know that I am still here, and she is still my family, and it would be pretty great if she could somehow talk to me again, as she once did. But the big difficulty is not rubbing her nose in anything, or making her feel foolish or stupid in any way. And I think that's why I haven't done anything about it yet - that's going to be very difficult, considering my current "I am me, and too bad if you don't like it" attitude. Perhaps just doing some free-writing, throwing words at a page and seeing what sticks, could work. Or at least get me moving in some direction at all.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

State of the nation

There is quite a bit going on, but nothing that can really warrant its own post. And given my lack of consistent posting in recent months, I thought I could just do a "state of the nation" post, as it were.

I just had a follow-up call with Dr. Zukowski, my facial surgeon. It has been four months since my surgery, and he was very happy with my progress, based on the photos I sent. He did say that there is still a lot of swelling along my jaw, which is completely normal, and will take another several months to disappear. I am to continue my massages, once per day, and he wants to talk to me again in another two months. I also mentioned that I would be coming through Chicago this weekend, and he jumped at the chance to possibly see me. I'm still working out details with the various people who are involved, but hopefully we'll be able to work everything out.

Speaking of being in Chicago, this weekend I am heading up to Wisconsin to visit with a bunch of Second Life friends. Last year's meetup was a super-fun weekend, and this year should be every bit as fun. I'm taking the Amtrak into Chicago, and my friend J will drive up the rest of the way with me. I really do love taking the train - it has become my favorite way to travel. As much as I love to drive, grinding out hundreds of miles in a straight line just loses its flavor after a couple hours, and a trip to Wisconsin is about 20 hours of driving each way. And my car is not a good road-trip car; 35-series tires are great in the corners and on the track, but are completely comfort-free on a long trip.

Last week, I had a follow-up call with my new endocrinologist, and he wanted to slightly increase my estrogen dosage, and also change the type of medication I was taking. I have been on estradiol for the duration of my HRT, and he changed me over to estropipate. He said it stays pretty consistent in the bloodstream for 24 hours, rather than spiking shortly after taking it, and decaying over the day, as with estradiol. Ok, sounds good.

It has not been roses and sunshine, however. My body is freaking out a little bit at the changes, and the past couple days have been pretty awful from a mood standpoint. It seems like I've been on the edge of tears for most of the past couple days. Today isn't too bad so far, so hopefully I'm getting used to the changes. Also, I seem to have a ravenous hunger, and have gained some weight, so I'll need to keep an eye on that.

Some of my depression is probably related to my facial hair too. I haven't been to see my electrologist in almost a month, and I needed an appointment last week. Unfortunately, she has been recovering from a stomach bug of some sort over the past week, so I won't be able to see her until next Wednesday. So, I just have to let it be, and try not to make myself crazy. So far, I'm failing pretty spectacularly at that.

The fact that I'm still looking for a job surely doesn't help either. The uncertainty is awful for me, as is the fact that most of the jobs I'm hearing about are contract - more uncertainty. I've had a number of phone interviews, and a couple face-to-face interviews, but nothing has come out of them. My severance has run out, so I applied for unemployment earlier this week. I really hope I don't need to spend much time on unemployment, but there's no telling. I also sent in my COBRA paperwork, so at least I'll be covered for health insurance.

So, the state of my particular microcosm could probably be summarized as "not fantastic". More bad than good, it seems like. Hopefully something will stabilize for me sometime soon. Thoughts of an ending have been trying to creep back in; I'm doing my best to keep them at bay, but they are relentless, and I don't want to have to go through making that decision again.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Doctors

Specifically, new doctors. Or new-to-me doctors.

I went to see a new endocrinologist today, because I have not been happy with the care my previous doctor had been giving me with respect to my hormone replacement. I found the new doctor's name and contact information via the local transgender group's site. I had called about the appointment about a month ago, but today was the first available new-patient appointment slot they had. So, I had to wait.

So far, it seems that it was well worth the wait. I immediately felt at ease, and felt that he cared about me not as a problem to be solved, but as a patient, a person, to be cared for. We talked for several minutes about my path so far, after which he declared me to be a post-operative menopausal woman - so, in my current physical state, I am no different from a natal woman who has undergone a hysterectomy. Then he actually looked at me, to see how things were going. Just basic exam type stuff: reflexes, pulse, and listening to my heart and lungs. The other guy never even did that. He also asked to look at my breasts, and noted that the development so far was good, and that the tissue was all breast tissue, and not much fat. So, there is apparently more growth to be done. I can not even begin to convey how excited I was to hear that! He also said that a majority of trans women these days have enough breast growth that they do not need breast implants, as opposed to the 1970s when he began his practice. Also good news!

We went back into his office, and he asked a bunch more questions about my medical history, my family history, and I told him about my depression. We talked about that for a good while, and we both agreed that getting my hormone levels figured out was probably the best (and simplest) first step, which might make other more drastic treatments unnecessary. He described some of the ways the various hormones interact and how they affect the brain, and some of the basic diagnostic tools that are available. I asked a few questions, and he answered them at length. All the while, he was taking lots of notes, but at no time did I feel like he was not paying absolute attention to me.

Once we got done talking, he said that he wanted to take some blood and run some tests on it for hormone levels, and that the results would be ready by Thursday. They drew the blood in another part of the office, and after I took some of it to another lab in the same building, I was done.

I had an extremely positive first experience with the new doctor, and he seems very committed to giving me excellent care. And not just physical care, emotional care as well. It's very obvious to me that he cares about his patients very much, and I'm glad I was finally able to see him. A little bit of hope has trickled into my heart.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Big surgeries

It seems like a lot of trans girls with whom I am acquainted are talking and thinking about their various surgeries, particularly the Big Surgery. I've been thinking about it a lot, and... I'm not sure what to think.

It's something that hasn't been on my radar. Like at all. I've just never really had a whole lot of interest in it. But now hearing so many people talk about it, and reading blogs about it, and watching videos about it, and seeing television programs about it, and knowing a few girls who have recently gone through it, it's on my mind. I really don't want to say what is on my mind now, because it doesn't paint a nice picture, but it's how I'm feeling.

I'm feeling pressure to conform.

Nothing overt, certainly. I know that each of us is very clear that every girl's journey is her own, and no two are required to be alike. We all share many similarities, of course, since our respective goals run along the same lines. But all the same, it feels like there's an expectation there. That's one of the things that I'm "supposed" to do, to take that final step. But what is the real source of that pressure? Despite never having interest before, I'm wondering if that's something that I should think about, something that I do need.

It's got me doubting myself. Have I been living under this false assumption all along, that I won't feel completed until I walk across that bridge? Is this something that I really do want, but that I never even knew about?

I've known for a long time who I was. I didn't want to admit it to myself, or to other people, but eventually the anguish just got too much to handle, and I had to move. But nothing was terribly surprising. It was all there, the whole time. But now this new wrinkle seems to be coming out of nowhere, catching me completely off guard.

I've had two surgeries already. The first was not too bad; both the surgery itself and the recovery were quick and reasonably painless. The other has been a long road. The results are very good, but if I had known then what I know now, I may not have gone as far with it as I did. And now I'm wondering if I need yet another surgery? One that I never anticipated?

I'm spooked, I'm scared, and I'm confused. I've already hit a "what now?" point - I've got a fairly strong suspicion that this awful bout of depression from which I may be emerging, is a direct result of that "what now?" feeling - and now I'm wondering if there isn't more to come. Or is it just the depression talking? Am I manufacturing this as a possible route out from under this huge weight?

I can't relate to many of my trans sisters, because I can't talk to them about it. I don't know about it, because I haven't thought that I would go that route. And I can't share their anticipation and joy. Sometimes, I even feel some anger at them. Why must they rub my nose in it? But when those thoughts come, I have to wonder why I feel like they're rubbing my nose in it, even at the same time that I realize they aren't, but just want to share their hopes and dreams with me. This is the part that hurts the most; it once again puts me on the outside of a group to which I rightly belong. I've been fighting against that my whole life, and now it's happening again.

I don't think I'm gaining much insight from writing this tonight, but sometimes it helps to just get some words out.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

A crisis of "faith"?

I am currently out of work, and looking for a new job. Looking for work is never fun, since it can easily turn into a seemingly-endless gauntlet of negative affirmations that "you're not good enough". That takes a tremendous toll on any person, no matter how well adjusted they are.

And apart from that aspect, there's finding something that would actually make you happy, that would make you excited to spend a large part of your life doing. There are a lot of jobs out there, at lots of different companies, with different management and work styles, and finding that precious golden needle in a stack of needles... that can cause a bit of anxiety. Am I looking in the right place? Is this company going to treat me well? Will I get along with my manager and coworkers? Am I going to be able to do this job for the next several years? Or the most important one: is this really what I want to do when I grow up?

I've been doing system administration for the past several years, in various capacities. That kind of job attracted me initially because there seemed to be an infinite variety of tasks which fell under the job description, and on any given day, I would get to do something completely different than what I was doing yesterday. It would keep things interesting, for sure, and there would be great opportunity to expand my knowledge and skills almost without limit.

And exactly as I had hoped, I do have a wide array of skills and abilities at my command. I have had the great fortune to work in some diverse companies, which were using a wide variety of different equipment, in a wide variety of different ways. Some of those companies were not shy about trying new things, and looking in different directions to accomplish their goals, and I was lucky to be able to participate in choosing those new directions and helping to shape the environment in which I worked. I recently acquired a professional certification for which my knowledge of the subject was such that I was able to pass the exam without even studying.

Despite my success, the reality of the situation has come crashing down upon me. Most companies don't actually want people to do a wide variety of things, and they are not interested in letting people expand themselves to take on other tasks; they want people who do one thing, and they want them to do that one thing in a prescribed way. They want cogs. They want limited-use, replaceable, discardable, faceless, nameless, interchangeable nobodies.

It's no longer "personnel", it's "human resources". We're no longer people, who have feelings and families and dogs and lives, we're resources to be used up and thrown away. In my particular job, I'm often treated exactly the same as the machines which I manage - expected to be working and productive 24 hours per day, all the time, never break down, never require maintenance, and take on an ever-increasing workload with no additional resources. To the contrary, both the machines and I need downtime, we need maintenance, and we have needs which must be fulfilled. We have limits which must be observed. When those limits are inevitably surpassed, bad things start to occur. Breakage, sometimes catastrophic, is common in overtaxed systems, and in overtaxed people.

I think I may have suffered the ultimate, critical, catastrophic failure. Finding another system admin job feels like it would destroy me, utterly and irrevocably.

I can't just leave IT and do something else, because that would mean I would lose my earning power, and be forced to start from square one, making entry-level pay. Not only that, but starting any new career fresh would probably mean going back to doing entry-level work, and there's a lot of entry-level work out there that, truth be told, is just the mind-numbing work that nobody else wants to do. It gets shifted onto the people who need the experience, and are willing to endure quite a bit of indignity simply to establish themselves in their industry, whatever that industry might be.

The problem is that I've been there, and I've done that, and I am unwilling to go down that road again. I am not as young as I once was, and I can't play those young-persons' games anymore. But I am smart, and I can learn new things, and I have experience simply being out in the working world.

I had a conversation with C yesterday, during which he brought up an idea which I've had percolating in the back of my mind for some time now: try something related, but not exactly the same. Programming, perhaps. After thinking of what that would mean, I came to the realization that most of my hobbies involve creating something. Programmers create new things, out of mere thought. I have worked as a programmer in the past. A large part of working as a system administrator, at least the way that I approach the job, involves writing new tools to accomplish various tasks. Programming. Creation. This aspect of my past jobs has always brought me the greatest happiness.

My first job in the IT industry was as a programmer. When I cast my mind back, I realize that what made me want to leave the job wasn't that I disliked the work, it was that I disliked the way the company was run, and the way I was treated. Creating new things was a great reward, and a great source of fun and of satisfaction and happiness.

So all this rumination raises the question: have I actually figured out what I want to be when I grow up?

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Working, or not

Last post was pretty scary, not only to read (I would imagine), but also to post. That's not a good way to feel, ever. But I've gotten some nice support in some unlikely places, and though I don't know that it's helped per se, just knowing that others are going through similar stuff offers a little bit of comfort. I'm not nearly out of the woods on that, but I've got a plan of sorts. It'll just take some time.

The latest development: I lost my job last Thursday. It wasn't because of my transness, it was because I didn't like the job, and didn't do a super-great job at it. But despite the relief at not having to go back there, there is now the stress of having to find a new job. And not only that, I get to go through the interviewing process in a whole new role.

So far it's been... just another day. I've had one interview on this current job search, and it seemed to go really well. I was able to answer all the interviewers' questions but one, and they seemed happy with my answers. I'm hopeful, but I did also post my resume on a couple of the major job sites this afternoon. More chances is always better than less.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

A bit of a rant

My friend K recently emailed to comment that I hadn't written a blog entry in a while, despite the fact that I have twittered about working on a couple posts. And I'd imagine he's not the only one who's curious about my silence, so I thought I would post a sanitized version of it here, for all to read.

The crushing depression has returned.

I have no energy or motivation to do anything. Half the time, I'm on the edge of tears, for no apparent reason. When at work, I go into this auto-pilot mode, and once I leave, it's all a blur. I have all these things that I want or need to do, but can't summon the energy to do any of them. I have piles of dirty laundry sitting around, and can't be bothered to start up the washing machine. I have piles of mail that I desperately want to GO AWAY, and I can't find a way to start cleaning them up. I didn't even file my taxes this year, because I didn't get all the information I needed, and just can't get the motivation to call the people I need to call to get the appropriate information. That's something that could really cause some serious trouble, and I just can't bring myself to care. My twice-daily massages, I am lucky if I actually complete one over a two-day period. I need to make a whole bunch of phone calls to various people and agencies; some regarding name-changes, some to doctors, and others. One of the big ones is to another endocrinologist, who might be able to help with the depression - if my hormone levels are out of whack, adjusting them could dramatically help. The doctor who is currently "managing" my hormones, isn't doing a thing. I've tried to talk to him about it, but he poo-poos my questions. My therapist keeps challenging me "oh why didn't you blahblah" about it, and I'm sick of going to her office only to be scolded for 45 minutes, and paying for that dubious privilege. I'm strongly considering cancelling the appointment that I have with her on Tuesday because I don't want to go through that yet again.

And on top of all that, I go home to the den of squalor that is my apartment every night (which also causes me plenty of stress, since I just can't get the energy to do anything about it), and sit there BY MYSELF. The only single, non-kids-having friends I have are you and L, and you both might as well live on the opposite end of the planet from me. We can't just visit on a moment's notice. Couple that with the treatment I am receiving at work: nobody talks to me anymore, unless they need something from me. I realize that things have changed, but they have not changed that much. I feel like this pariah or something.

And when I'm home alone, sitting staring at the wall, wishing for this all to go away, I can't even get excited about things that I really do love to do. I bake seldom anymore, and rarely practice my drums, and haven't been on the bike in literally months. I've got two half-done sewing projects sitting out, neither of which I've touched in weeks. I have a project car sitting in my garage that I'm strongly tempted to wheel out into the courtyard and SET ON FIRE, just so it will go away.

I'm just so sick of all this, but I feel like it's impossible to start crawling up out of this morass. At this point, it feels like this parasite that just won't die. I am so close to just giving up, but I can't do that. I didn't give up before, so I can't now.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Letter to my Congressman

The debate over ENDA, the Emploment Non-Discrimination Act, is heating up. Fundamentalist groups are spewing their hateful, panicked rhetoric. LGBT groups are preaching equality for all. Since I'm part of the latter, by definition, I felt that I should try to do my small part to help the cause which will directly benefit me. I composed a message to send to my representative, John Culberson, who is on record as saying that he believes trans-ness is a choice.

I am writing to you today to urge you to vote YES on HR 3017, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

I am a transgender person. I am also a citizen. My fellow transgender people and I are routinely denied our rights as citizens, for no valid reason. We face discrimination for jobs, housing, and medical services, as a matter of course. We face violence and murder, simply because we must live in this society which condones such behaviour. Passase of ENDA will send a clear message, not only to employers, but to all people, that this sort of blanket discrimination will not be tolerated.

There are several very vocal groups who are trying to sow fear about transgender people, suggesting that the restrooms of America will no longer be safe. I can state categorically that these fears are unfounded. Transgender people need to answer nature's call just like anyone else, and forcing them to use a restroom which doesn't match their outward identity exposes everyone to risk. There are people in society who might escalate such a situation with violence.

The purpose of HR 3017 is to level the playing field for Americans. We are a country founded on the ideal of equality for all, and this bill will enhance that equality. I strongly urge you to vote YES on this bill.

Thank you for your time.


Hopefully he'll read and understand, and more importantly, vote yes.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Recovery progress

I had a follow-up call with Dr. Zukowski this past Wednesday. So far, he's happy with the progress he's seeing, and he has assured me that I'm doing well with my recovery. Some very good things came out of this week's call.

First, and most important: I only have to massage twice a day, instead of three times. I was so excited when he told me that. The massages are becoming a lot easier to bear, as the pain levels have gone way down in the past couple weeks. But each one still ends up taking the better part of an hour, and it's a bit of a hassle to shoehorn one into my workday. Now that I don't have to worry about them other than when I wake up, and sometime after I get home for the evening is a big weight off my shoulders.

Up to now, I have been wearing the support garment when I was at home. It had gone from a major hassle to a nuisance, though it may have played a part in a couple of brief blackouts I had. Dr. Z said I didn't need to wear it at all anymore. That simplifies my maintenance a good bit, and it should also help my skin recover - I've had some really dry patches under where the garment laid across my cheeks.

I asked about the low-sodium diet I've been on, and he said that I could probably go back to eating about whatever I wanted, except for super-super salty foods. I specifically asked about pizza, and he said it is back on the menu! It's been so nice to eat foods that taste like something for the past few days. I've missed them so!

One new part is that he wants me to begin using minoxidil along my hairline incision, to try to kickstart the hair there to start growing again. I haven't gotten to the pharmacy to get the medication yet, but plan to do that tomorrow evening.

He wants to talk to me again in two months, so I'll be on my current recovery regimen for at least that much longer. It's much more livable and less intrusive than it was previously. It doesn't hurt nearly as much as it once did, and I'm starting to see a lot of progress as a result of my efforts, so it doesn't feel like nearly as much of a burden now.

On a purely nuts-and-bolts level, the swelling is down quite a bit now. I'm starting to see a bit of definition in my cheeks, and my jawline is starting to show hints of... something. The sutures in my under-nose incision have stopped coming out, so I think they've all either dissolved or I've pulled them out. There are still some sutures hanging out in my nose, but they are coming out bit by bit. A few more sutures are poking through my hairline incision, but they're being a bit more tenacious than the others. The major incision lines have faded quite a bit, to my eye, and hurt quite a bit less when I massage them. My skin is getting back into good shape, since I'm able to moisturize consistently. Feeling is coming back slowly. Most of the still-numb part of my scalp itches constantly, and it's having hints of feeling. My lower lip is starting to get hot/cold feeling back, though when it gets a sensation, it pushes that sensation to a large part of my chin. So rather than not knowing what's going on when eating or drinking, it feels like I'm drooling all over myself whenever I put something in my mouth. It's terribly disconcerting. But it's progress.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Home again, for the first time

Over the past few weeks, I've been back at work, getting back into the groove of living life. March's convalescence was not a fun experience, and certainly not one that I'd like to repeat. But getting back to a more normal existence has been very comforting. I'm in a far better emotional space than I have been.

Yesterday, I went to a going-away party for my oldest friend K. He recently got a new job, and he needs to move another state for it. The party was basically just family and very close friends of the family, though of the few friends-of-family who had been invited, I was the only one who attended. Most everyone there knew about me, though I hadn't seen most of them since early February, so it was a bit of a new experience for almost everyone. A few took a good look when I first arrived, but most were very cool about me. I just chatted with everyone, just like I normally would. After the mosquitoes chased me inside, I sat with V for quite some time, talking about a bunch of different things. It was a low-key get-together, which is pretty typical for that crowd, and I enjoyed myself and everyone's company immensely.

A few people paid me some lovely compliments, which felt really nice. One was having a bit of trouble, and though he did apologize, that didn't feel quite so nice. One of the younger ones took a good long look when she first saw me, which was a bit unnerving. I wanted to talk to her a little, but I didn't really get a chance; that will have to wait for another time. One of the few who didn't know a thing about my transition didn't recognize me. Somebody related that she commented that me-as-guy would like me-as-girl, since we were a lot alike. When she was told that we were the same person, she apparently didn't even bat an eyelash. So after all was done, it was a very fun and affirming experience.

I think some of the discomfort I've been feeling has been my percieved lack of a safety net. I am still within the first month of really being out in the world, so this is all still very new to me. I haven't really had much of an idea what to expect. My forays out into the world before had been limited, and there was almost always somebody there with me, as a bit of a security blanket or safety net, who could step in and help if necessary. And now I am discovering that I don't seem to really need that safety net - even people who have long considered me as a part of their family don't recognize me, and don't read me at all. That's helping a lot of that baseline anxiety to simply evaporate. In its place, I am starting to feel a general sense of comfort, and I am finally starting feel at home in my own skin.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Wallowing, or How not to go about a surgical recovery

It's a difficult thing to pull yourself up out of the muck. My previous post, while there was a small bit of hope in there, was still heavily colored by despair. There have been a few noteworthy things that have happened since then, but I couldn't find the words to write about them, or the enthusiasm to even try.

This past Monday, I went back to work. The going-back part was almost as much of a non-issue as it could have possibly been. All my coworkers have made a great effort to getting name and pronouns right, and everyone has been doing really well. It has also started getting me back into a better rhythm for my days, and has given me something to think about and do other than focus on myself and my situation. After a week of being back, it's starting to get there. My sleep schedule is still out of whack, and I know from lots of past experience that it will take some time to get back in sync.

Physically, I'm doing reasonably well. I'm spending a lot of time without the support garment, which I do not have to wear while at work, and it's not nearly as uncomfortable as I expected. The massages continue, three blessed times each and every day. They are starting to get less uncomfortable, and I am seeing some progress, particularly on the hairline incision. The problem is that I'm past sick of doing them, and when it's time, I still put them off. That often pushes the evening massage until far later than it should be, which is another part of the sleep schedule problem. There is a bit of an end coming in a few weeks; at the two-month mark, I should be able to drop to only once per day. Until then, the torture must continue. The cleaning that goes along with the massage is almost becoming pro forma. There are still a few tails of sutures in my nose, and some tiny pieces poking to the surface underneath my nose, but there have been no scabs for weeks. All the cleaning and massaging does tend to rob the moisture from my skin, so I'm having to be very conscientious about moisturizing.

There are still large areas of my face and head which have no feeling. There are few signs that the front half of my scalp will be coming back any time soon, other than the fact that there are some itchy spots in the middle of the numbness. Of course, those spots are still numb, so scratching them is an exercise in futility. My lower lip has some temperature sensitivity, though it's kind of weird. When I get some cold or hot on the inside of my lip, my entire chin feels that sensation. I'm constantly having to check whether I'm dribbling whatever it is that I'm eating. I am starting to get back a little bit more muscle control in my lips and jaw too.

The swelling is probably much lower, though it's very difficult for me to see. C and K both commented on Friday that they were starting to see my cheekbones again. I do feel much less squishy when doing my massages, but whenever I look in a mirror, it still looks like the bottom half of my face has been taken over by a balloon. That will likely fade away slowly, and my jaw will eventually become jaw-shaped again.

The challenge is not focusing on the here-and-now, and not getting too discouraged. I am failing to do either, and as a result, I feel like a disgusting troll most of the time, and I feel like it will never end. I got a very appropriate fortune out of a fortune cookie the other day. It said "right now, you need to be patient." Sigh.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Possibilities

I've been in the worst head-space over the past few days. I'm finally home again, free of the chemical fence that's been keeping me away. But that sense of relief at being able to be in my own place has given way to some of the loneliness that I experienced after my previous surgery, in the few days' recovery period that went along with it. I have felt like my progress has been zero at the very best, or more negative. I've felt like I'll never look normal or feel normal again. A pretty profound sense of regret. Yes, regret.

For something that has been lurking on my personal horizon since basically the very beginning, I've found that part especially disheartening. I've spent my entire savings, plus some. I've gone to another city, and dragged someone else along with me for almost two weeks. I put them through that experience, which, at times, I imagine might have been a little terrifying. And I have been in pain, both physical and emotional, ever since. And I have been regretting doing it. I could have saved myself and others an immense amount of time, money, and trouble if I hadn't gone and done this reckless, crazy thing.

The pain and recovery period so far has been categorically awful. It's entirely possible, even probable, that I went into this surgery with unrealistic expectations. I was seeing the magical end product, at the other end of a long, dark tunnel, and not even realizing that there was a long, dark tunnel to begin with. The zero-or-negative progress part. The shocking-loss-of-strength-and-coordination part. The "you want me to do what to these wounds on my face?!" part. Long and dark.

Tonight, as is my custom for most Wednesdays, I went to C & E's for dinner. I knew that the mere presence of people would at least help, so even though I was absolutely not interested in expending the energy to shower and put on clothes and get out and drive the car, that I had to do it. It was that, or sink into the madness that was beginning to clutch at me.

I've often believed that the absolute worst way to view something that was changing, was from the middle of it. One too often gets focused on the micro-changes that are happening all the time, and usually can not see the broader changes, over time. And that's another part of the zero-or-negative progress thing, too. Macro-changes do happen, but we often can't notice them, because perhaps we're not looking, or we're looking in the wrong place. We're used to one view, and can't figure out how to switch to another. Or we can't realize that we need to switch to another view.

E was the first to remark on the most obvious changes she saw in me. Come to think about it, she was the only to comment. The young children don't consider such things, and C... our relationship lives in a bit different place than that. E's pretty concrete about things, very practical. C seems to live inside his head a lot more. But E's comment, if it didn't pop that bubble of zero-or-negative, at least put a big hole in the side of it. And it wasn't even immediate; it took some time for it to sink in, and then it took a quick look in the mirror as I was doing my second massage of the day after we finished eating.

Wonder of wonders, there was a human looking back at me, for once. Not a collection of "oh that spot hurts" and "can I get some feeling there sometime soon?" and "that looks terrible" and especially "is that doctor serious?!" She's still a little rough around the edges, that human peering out of the mirror, but there's somebody there. Or there's possibility there, at least. My view has been shifted enough to allow for the possible, instead of merely the present.

I'm sure that I'm not out of the woods of self-doubt yet, but perhaps I can see a glimmer of daylight from the edge.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Back on track?

Seems like after those first few days of this week, that things are starting to fall back into place. My self-maintenance items (massaging, basically, since Dr. Z said I could discontinue all the peroxide and triple-antibiotic cream stuff) have fallen into a tentative schedule. I'd like to work it a bit earlier in the day, since staying up to maul my tender face until after midnight is for the birds. But since it's not really hurting so much as just being uncomfortable, I don't dread it quite as much as I have been.

I continue to feel weird twinges in different parts of my head, mostly the front of my scalp, which remains partially without feeling. I was poking around earlier this evening, and it seems that the numb part has shrunk since I really spent time probing around to see where feeling started. The chin and lower lip are still being stubborn; the whole chin, and especially along my jawline, is constantly tingly and feels strange. I'm taking it to mean that nerves are starting to wake back up, but I really wish they'd just get on with it. I also felt some itching in a still-numb area of my lip during this evening's massage, so I'm hoping that means a return of some sort of feeling beyond the pins-and-needles pain I'm getting so far. Dribbling while drinking is starting to get a little old, and brushing my teeth down in front still concerns me a little bit, since I can't feel anything that's happening.

I told my mother this afternoon that I'd like to move back into my own apartment starting next week, and she tentatively agreed. The tacit understanding was that once I was off all the pain meds, of which I've taken none for a couple days, that I was probably much more ready to be on my own again.

I also went for a fairly typical Friday evening with C & E and K, who generously ferried me around this evening. As the doctor said, doing typical things can really help with the post-surgery funk, and so far it seems like he's exactly right. Even though I'm still fairly low-energy and my endurance is pretty pathetic, it's got me back into a good state of mind, and is giving me a much better outlook on the near future. Things were feeling pretty bleak and never-ending for a while there, but now I'm actually feeling a little... hopeful?

But on a bit sillier note, I'm typing away with "Rock Star Pink" nails tonight. E was doing her daughters' nails, and just started doing mine when she had finished with all the little ones'. So I'm all glittery and pink, and it's completely silly. I'm going to be getting glitter everywhere. But, y'know, it's a thing, so I'll just go with it. My mother will probably lose it when she sees them, which may be kind of amusing.

But at any rate, final massage of the day is done, I have nothing further required of me for today, and I'm about to pass out from exhaustion. I think I'll just go ahead and do that.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Post-surgical funk

And I'm not talking about that cool, hip-shaking kind of funk either. This is the down-and-dirty, lie-in-bed-and-wish-for-death, cry-and-feel-like-you'll-never-stop kind of funk. And it's descended upon me.

Both Dr. Zukowski, my surgeon, and Elaine, one of the nurses, warned both me and C that we could expect something like this. A couple weeks into the recovery, and it seems like not much is happening, and things just head south. With rapidity.

Sunday was the worst so far. I woke up looking like a balloon, swollen way beyond what I had been the day before, and felt like I was about 10 or 5000 steps behind where I had been. There were a lot of tears that day. My mom just kept being a mom, and trying to engage me to eat, and trying to generate a little enthusiasm for doing my maintenance stuff. She managed to get me through, and I think I probably just listened to music and twittered and surfed the 'tubes all afternoon. Then Monday when I woke up, the swelling had gone way down, and things seemed to be back on track.

Monday seemed fine. I went to my therapist's office for the first time since late January, with my mother no less. That was a really productive session, I thought, so that day ended on a pretty good note. I was tired from the being out and moving around, but I felt pretty satisfied.

Tuesday was less than fine. Swelling was down further, and the day seemed to start off well. Dinner time rolled around, and I had disintegrated to the point where I had no interest in eating, or doing much of anything other than crying. I ate probably half of what I had been given, and went back to bed, where I proceeded to sleep for about 14 hours.

This morning, once I woke up, things were still not all roses and sunshine. I had an early surgical follow-up call with Dr. Z, and he assured me that everything that's going on, both physically and emotionally, is very very normal. We talked a little about some of the weird tingling and sensations I've been having, and he assured me that they were good signs, that full sensation is slowly coming back to those areas. He also said I could stop the thrice-daily cleaning sessions (yaay!), but reiterated that the thrice-daily massage sessions were still very important (ugh). So the morning was not too bad.

After lunch, which was delicious and I had exactly zero interest in eating, the tears started again. The suggestions of both Dr. Z and Elaine were to do something usual. Well, I thought maybe just lounging around at my apartment might help; other than being at work, that's probably the thing I do most frequently. I could poke with my computers, or marvel at my piles of mail, or watch a video, or something simple and dumb and usual.

I've been at my own house for something less than a half hour since February. That's two and a half weeks. I'm a bit of a homebody, and I get twitchy when I'm not able to be home for a while. Vacations are not especially relaxing for me, simply because I'm not home. And my folks' house, as close as it is, isn't my house any longer.

So I'm blogging from the big computer downstairs, and the clack-tronic Model-M keyboard, and the normal chair, and other than the weird sensations returning to my head, it is helping. It feels astonishingly normal, almost just like any other day off from work. I'm ripping a couple CDs down to MP3s. It's about time for me to massage my face for the afternoon, which isn't quite typical, but I could probably wander upstairs, park myself on the couch in video-watching position, put on a video, do my massaging, and even that might be pretty normal too.

At least the tears have stopped, and don't feel like they're threatening to return.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Getting better all the time

It must be month of lyrically-referencing blog titles or something for me. Whatever the reason, it seems to be working. Music seems to be having some pretty strong effects on me these days, so I'll just go with it.

Recovery is humming along. I'm installed at my parents' house, and my mom is doting a bit. She's being very creative with food ideas, and going to a lot of effort on my behalf, for which I'm very grateful. Hydration is my personal paramount importance, and of course getting good nourishment so my body will have the energy it needs to do the repair it needs to do. Time periods between pain pills is starting to stretch out a bit, which makes me feel a lot more confident in how things are going. My face is still fairly swollen, and my jaw becomes uncomfortable fairly quickly when I'm not wearing my "hat" (my name for the support garment that I wear on my head). When I'm able to relax, and have had a nice meal, and am well hydrated, I feel about as comfortable as I figure it's possible for me to feel right now. I'm doing pretty good.

I got a call from L this morning, who asked about the possiblity of coming over for a visit. I know I'm probably still a bit of a scary sight, but I can think of no better therapy than to have supportive visitors. She and K came by for a bit to visit, and brought their 3-month old, very well-behaved baby with them, and we had a lovely time. I only regret that we all didn't have the opportunity to see each other for longer, but life is long, and there will be many other days.

I also traded a couple of texts with a dear SL friend, who was concerned and hadn't heard any news for several days. She was happy to hear of my good progress, and I hope to be able to see her in-world very soon.

This morning, I also decided it was time to have the name talk with my mom. It's been almost a month since the name-change stuff was complete, and I've been afraid to broach the topic. She took it about as well as I could have hoped, and though she's nowhere near ready to start using a new name for me, she does seem a lot more open to switching pronouns. I will accept each small victory when it occurs. And with such a victory, I certainly don't view it as me-versus-them, I think it's a struggle of old-versus-new. Old is well entrenched, and will take time and persistence to unseat, but I think we'll eventually get there.

I've got a couple things left on my to-do list left for today. The first is to call my supervisor at work and let him know how things went with me, and see how things went with the rest of the team. I'm guardedly hopeful. The other is to finish up some writing on what I'm calling "The Facebook Bomb", which I intend to drop tomorrow. The bulk of it is done, though it does need a lot of editing down, to a length which most people will be willing to actually read.

And right now, I'm almost an hour overdue for my second facial massage for today, so I should get moving on that. If it will help me to heal more quickly and successfully, I'm for it, uncomfortable as it may be. Then after the massage are the cleanings, which are just more of a hassle than any real discomfort. Boys who complain about high-maintenance women don't know anything, compared to what I go through on a daily basis.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Feeling Good

Birds flying high you know how I feel
Sun in the sky you know how I feel
Breeze driftin' on by you know how I feel

It's a new dawn
It's a new day
It's a new life
For me
And I'm feeling good


— Nina Simone


It's been a difficult night; I've slept very little due to pain, and due to trip anxiety, and due to a storm of ideas in my head. And yet this is the best morning I've ever had in my life, simply because of the possibilities that feel like they are now open to me. That Nina Simone quote has been echoing around, and I think my heart is finally open to all this pain and sacrifice and whatever else I've been through. I'm free as a bird, free as the breeze, free as the sun. Every day from now is a gift to me, and it would be such a disrespect to myself and all those who have supported me all along the way not to view them as such.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Pain

I'm up at some dumb time of the morning because I can't sleep due to the pain. Pain medication can only take me so far, but it seems that the rest I must simply bear. Most all of my dressings have been removed at this point. The only things that remain are the nose splint (which will be removed on Monday) and the pressure garment which I am to wear as much as is reasonably possible over the next month. My throat is parched to the point at which it is very difficult to swallow due to the pain, and this headache has become a constant companion.

My concern now is whether I'll be able to make it. Sleep is very, very optional. C seems to be quite peaceful next to me, snoring away, mocking my inability for relief. I want to take something heavy and wake him up, so he can join me in my agony.

I just want this all to be over.

My tear ducts still work fine.

Friday, March 5, 2010

So many hands...

The outpouring of support for my recent surgery has been no less than completely astounding to me.

I've been weak and feeling like sleeping pretty much all the time. C has been working literally around the clock to keep all my dressings clean, and keep me fed and hydrated, and just making my experience as awesome as it can possibly be, all things considered. He's currently out grabbing some much-needed lunch and probably also enjoying a bit of "me time", since he's been on call for basically a week straight.

There have been times when he has not left my side, even as I slept, holding my hand, and simply letting me know that he was there. I've got him on speed-dial on my phone, which sits next to me on the bed should I need something during the night. The need for that has tailed off quite a bit, for which I'm sure he's happy.

My local friend Juju has been as constant a companion as she has been able to manage outside her work schedule. She has also taken on the task of being C's and my transportation around the city as she's been able. This morning she came by for a few hours just to sit with us and talk and hold my hand. Just knowing that she's there is also taking a great load off my heart.

Over the past couple days, I've gone from out-of-my-mind with pain, to the current state of reasonably uncomfortable. My dressings have gone from very restrictive and uncomfortable, to the current one which is not really too bad. Medication regimen has fallen into a pretty simple schedule, and next dosage should be coming up soon. It's recovery, and recovery from any surgery, minor or major, is recovery; as my sister says, it is what it is.

I have been deluged with good wishes from people on twitter, and text messages from various friends, and calls from family and friends. My mom has declared that I will be staying at her house for at least a few days when I get back home, and L has also declared that she will be spending at least a few days visiting daily once I'm back home in my own bed.

C just arrived again, so it's time for Trinity-maintenance. It honors me to be in so many of your thoughts and prayers, and I firmly believe that with so many hands holding me up, there is no way I can possibly fall.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Countdown!

We are now approximately 7 hours away from surgery. I'm all showered and clean, and C has changed out my industrial barbell for the PTFE one. We're going over all the checklists and stuff that the doctor supplied, to make sure we have all the necessary supplies.

After seeing the doctor, I feel a lot better and more excited about everything. It's going to be a long road of recovery, but all the results will be worth the trouble and cost.

There's not a whole lot else to say. Thank you all again for your support! I'll see you on the other side.

En route!

Just making a quick post from a MOVING TRAIN! We stopped in St. Louis for supplies and whatever else they needed to do (fuel?)

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Getting ready

The last couple nights have been spent getting ready for the upcoming trip - picking up a lot of the items I'll need, including some comfy clothes, medical supplies, and last night, a dose of sanity.

As you might expect, this is freaking me out beyond any and all places I've ever been before. It's going to be brutal. I'll be ugly and scary looking for a number of days after. And I'm going to hurt. There's going to be pain, and more pain, and some more pain after that. I've got a decently high pain tolerance, but... well, I really don't know what's coming.

There's that fear of the unknown again. And this unknown is about as big as it gets. In the meanwhile, I'm just trying to take it as easy as possible, and trying to not get so stressed out that I, say, get sick. Total fail on that last bit, but oh well.

I'm not sure what else there is to be said. The trip begins in earnest on Saturday, at a bit past one in the afternoon. I'll try to keep everyone up to date here and on twitter. I'll also have C send periodic updates to twitter, when I am... indisposed.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Try, try again

I spent some time with my mother on Saturday. I hadn't really told her much about what was coming up, and figured I ought, since the things that are coming up are so dramatic. We spent a couple hours talking, though a lot of that time was spent with each of us in our own heads. She's absolutely panicked that I won't come back from the surgery, that I'm going to die. I assured her that I would come back to her, probably as much to settle her fears as to settle my own. And I tried again to explain the why of it all. I might have done a better job this time, or at least given her some decent things to think about. There was a glimmer of understanding behind her eyes.

She also did accept that I am much more comfortable with myself than I have ever been. She said that when the whole family was there over Christmas, she could see it in my body language. Even with all the tension, I was very relaxed with myself.

I still haven't told her my new name. I can't even go there. I just can't. She's going to do that you-killed-my-dog face again, I just know it. I know she probably doesn't mean to do it, but she does. And knowing that it's the things I'm telling her that are making that face... I can't do that. I want her to ask about it; then I would know she's at least considered the idea, and might not completely disintegrate. Right now, though, she's not ready for that.

I did assure her that C and I would keep her up to date while we were away in Chicago. It's the absolute least I can do. She finally seems to be trying, and I can't just gloss over that. Before, I think she was mostly just hoping it was a phase, and would go away on its own. But now that she knows I'm spending a ridiculous amount of money, and heading halfway across the country, and having such a dramatic surgery, that this is 100% real. I also offered that she come with me for my next appointment with my therapist, which I have done before on more than one occasion, but this time she actually accepted.

There were a lot of tears. It seems like most of our interaction is like that now. Hopefully that will ease, now that the big changes are coming to a close. I know that it will probably take a good bit more time, and things may never end up the way they were before. She might need to mourn the loss of her son for the rest of her life. She may never be able to understand or accept that she has a new daughter. Only time will tell.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

A whole new (legal) person

This past Friday, I did the scariest thing yet: I changed my name. For the last couple weeks, I've been collecting various pieces of documentation, and fretting over the court date. I knew there was probably very little to worry about, since the lawyer was very experienced in these matters, but as I've said on several occasions before, I never let reality get in the way of a good panic. And as it usually is, the whole thing ended up being not much of anything. The activity was pretty simple, but the implications were pretty incredible.

K had volunteered to come along as moral support, and he stayed over on Thursday night so we could get started at the correct hour. We had a few hours of travel to get to the venue, so the alarm went off at a ridiculously early time. I was actually surprised that I was able to sleep halfway decently; I expected to be staring at the ceiling for a few hours. But we got up and got going just a few minutes after I had hoped. Travel time was almost exactly what I had budgeted, and we got to the courthouse early, as I had intended. We found the room where we were to meet the lawyer, and I had a small breakfast.

Once the lawyer appeared, we convened with another trans person who was changing his name too, and headed off to a very crowded courtroom. A few minutes later, we left that room and headed off in search of another courtroom. The lawyer said that the judge in the second court was somebody she knew and had worked with before. The second courtroom was almost empty, so we filed in and sat down. The lawyer spoke with the judge for a minute or so, and then called us up. I waited for a few minutes while the lawyer presented the petition of the other person, and was surprised at how simple it was. The judge signed the order, and that was all done... now it was my turn!

I stepped up and the lawyer went over the petition we were presenting, and over all the papers I had collected. She asked me a number of questions, which we had gone over before. We presented the judge with two different decrees for her signature: one for name and gender change, and one for name, gender, and birth certificate amendment. She chose the latter, and with a smile, wished me luck. It was just that simple.

K later remarked that he had never seen me smiling bigger than I was as I made my way back to the benches. I was in a fog at the time, so I didn't really have any concept of anything. I'll take his word for it.

The lawyer spoke with the judge for another minute or two, and we filed out of the room. We then headed to the clerk, to retrieve our certified copies of our orders. Then we were done. We said our goodbyes, and went back to the car.

I had suggested to K earlier that if we got done early enough, I'd like to visit a DPS office and/or a Social Security office, to get those changes underway. Seeing as it was only 10:30, and we had plenty of time, we headed off to a DPS office to do the drivers license. There was one person in front of me in line; I waited my turn, presented my court order, and it was done. New photo, new signature, and of course, new name. That took all of twenty minutes.

Next stop was the Social Security office, and after a mishap with choosing an incorrect office, we got to another, and began the typical government office interminable wait. We were probably sitting for an hour when we were finally called. The clerk who made the changes was very nice, and we were done in probably ten minutes.

Once we got done with everything, it was a bit after noon, and I was starting to get a headache from stress and not eating. We found a good restaurant, had lunch, and then after a quick detour, got back on the road home.

So now I've got a new name, and a new legal gender. It is kind of a surreal feeling. I'm this whole new person, sort of, but not really. I'm still just me. And since I am not using that identity on a full-time basis yet, it's still something of an academic distinction. It probably just needs a little time to sink in, and I am guessing that once those new ID cards start appearing in the mail, that it will really hit me.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Soon, soon

I met with the lawyer today, to go over the petitions that we're going to file, and the orders we hope to have signed. Friday is the court date, and then... it should be done. Then I'll get to go around to all the various agencies and show them the orders, and get them to update my records.

I should probably be excited and ecstatic, and all those other good things. I have to say that I'm more numbed by the whole thing; my stress level is so high, I can barely even think half the time. I haven't slept worth a darn in the last month or more. I don't expect much sleep Thursday night, and I expect to be sleepwalking through Friday, and I expect to be a zombie for most of the coming weekend. The implications of what's about to happen are so completely lost on me right now, and that's really sad.

I also had an appointment with my doctor this morning. The surgeon who will be doing my upcoming facial surgery requested several tests, which involved poking and listening, and drawing of blood, and an EKG. I also asked him about possibly taking over management of my HRT, since the doctor who's currently handling mine has yet to perform a single test on me, after 14 months. He said he was not very well versed on such matters, but he would at least try.

No big insights to offer. Just a status update.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Papers, please!

I've been fretting over the paperwork I've had to collect for my upcoming name change. It seemed like a big long list at first, but as I've gotten pieces here and there, the list is actually pretty short. This evening, I spent a little time writing the couple of letters which the lawyer requested that I write, and a letter from Dr. Raphael came in the mail today, and I got another copy of the letter from my endocrinologist this afternoon, so I've almost got everything. The only thing left is a fingerprint card, for which I have scheduled an appointment at lunchtime tomorrow. Then I'll just have to write a check, and take everything to the lawyer's office.

Then the court date is next Friday. It's happening very quickly! Whoosh, and we're almost done! After that, I get to visit various government offices and get records changed.

One of the pieces of documentation I had to collect was a copy of my birth certificate, which my parents have. My dad took care of digging out the form and making the copy; he was very matter-of-fact about the whole thing, which was great. My mom, when I told her why I needed it, made a face like I had killed her dog. I know she's having trouble, but every time she does that, it's like she's trying to guilt me into stopping and going back. I'd really like to get in her face about it, but I'm sure that would do little else but make her dig her heels in and resist all the more, or give her a more upset feeling about the whole thing. I know I've got to give everyone time, and they'll see the importance of these changes, but it's just hard. I waited on myself for a long time, and now it seems I have little patience to wait on anyone else.

Monday, February 1, 2010

A rose by any other...

One of the things that I've left off doing until now, is changing my name. It seems most appropriate to do now that I'm right at the point of needing my name to match my new identity. The timing and the amount of things I need to do, at the same time as all the other things that are going on... It's doing its best to turn into a stress bomb.

I met with the lawyer last Thursday, and she went over most of the stuff I needed to do. I guess the list isn't terribly difficult, and I already have some of the papers. But it's just more things to do. Then there's the cost. This particular lawyer is only willing to advise when she gets to handle all the court stuff, and of course that comes at a very lawyer-like price. Just another expense that I didn't need right now, since I'm struggling a little with surgery costs at the moment too.

So, documents and a big check will put me on the docket for the 12th. I do have to get it done, and this lawyer is supposedly the one to work with for transgender name changes. I understand her reasons for how she handles things, and can appreciate that she's got a lot of experience, and many good contacts, and she does need to run her business and make a living, but her total cutthroat attitude does not make me happy. I'm not getting a very warm feeling from the experience so far - I don't feel like a client, but rather just a source of money. Once the court date rolls around, we'll see how things go.

On the bright side, once the court decree comes through (which should be on the same day as the court session), I'll be able to get name and gender changed on my social security card and my driver's license, and I'll also be able to get a passport in my new name and gender. Then the process of getting everything else changed begins. Bank accounts, work records, all that stuff.

Speaking of work, I met with the HR director and the benefits coordinator on Friday, along with my manager. We talked about my plans regarding surgery, and vacation/leave, and they gave me a bunch of forms to fill out. No HR department is complete without a big stack of forms. I think we have a pretty good plan; I'll probably need to finalize some minor details with my manager, but it seems like we're on track for a pretty smooth transition.

This post feels pretty incomplete, but I did want to get something down, even though I have very little mental and emotional energy right now. Next post will hopefully be better.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Money, or lack thereof

It's expensive to be a trans woman. We've got a lot of things we need to do, and most of those things are expensive, and many of them are not covered by any kind of insurance. We need to get all the hair removed from our faces, and some opt for other places too. That means laser or electrolysis, both of which are time-consuming, painful, expensive, and not covered by insurance. Then we need to visit a psychotherapist of some sort, possibly for an extended duration; even odds as to whether it's covered by insurance. Then we need to visit an endocrinologist, which is probably not covered. Then we need to take hormones for the rest of our lives, which may or may not be covered. Then come the surgeries. Not covered, because they're considered cosmetic and elective, and "not medically necessary". Which, right, sure, whatever, you insurance guys just go on and keep believing that.

So starting right off, we know we're pretty far in the big ol' money pit which is the lot of being a transitioning trans girl. And then compound that with the fact that we're often rejected by those who might help us, simply for being who we are, and you've got a pretty bad situation brewing. Sometimes we're fired, or kicked out of the places we live, and we have absolutely no recourse.

So far, I've been fairly lucky. I'm still employed and seem likely to remain so, and I still have a place to live. I've had reasonable luck with my health insurance, which pays for a lot of my psychotherapy and my medication. But now that I'm getting to the endgame - a time which involves expensive surgeries for many of us - I'm expected to pay for some pretty big-ticket items, and my health insurance is nowhere to be found.

A few posts ago, I talked about my upcoming facial surgery. It's terribly expensive. Like new car expensive. I have been working through the logistics for getting there and back, and staying someplace while I'm there, and that's going to be expensive on its own. But then there's the actual surgical bill. I've got most of the money for it, but not all. Luckily there are organizations which will loan money to people for cosmetic surgery. I've contacted one, and they can get me about halfway through what I have left to pay. Halfway. I have a few others to contact, but all of these organizations are going to charge the same stupid interest rates as the first, and I'm going to have two (or more, perish the thought) of those ridiculous payments at one time. I like eating and having a place to live and all that, and the numbers don't lie: I'm going to have to make brutal changes to accommodate it at all.

There is the possibility of postponing the surgery, which is not an option at all. This won't wait.

As loath as I am to do it, I'm actually considering talking to my parents and seeing if they are willing to help. I will insist on paying them back, of course, but the good side of that is that they surely won't charge the usurious interest rates those other organizations do. If they won't help, I'm not going to be in good shape.

Lean times are ahead.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

This is the end, my friend

My therapist brought up an interesting point during our session this evening. Since the boy-me is soon coming to an end, I may need to spend some time mourning the loss of him.

That's something I have never considered. But it does make some amount of sense: I've spent how many ever years with him around, and now he's going to be gone, forever.

Forever.

I'm not sure what to say about that. I've spent a lot of time and effort over the past couple years making this moment a reality, when boy-me would finally be gone, and girl-me could take the reins. I've tortured myself physically, emotionally, and mentally. I've dared my friends and family to accept me, and not all of them took me up on the challenge. I've put myself in a position which could bring me tremendous hardship at the hands of a cruel society. And all of that in the hope that one day, what's soon to happen would actually happen. So now that it is happening, it seems more than a little strange that I might spend much time lamenting what I have willingly given up.

I suppose it's a "could" or a "might", and not necessarily a "will". But people are weird sometimes, and I guess we'll just have to wait and see how things go.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

BIG

I'm getting down to the last of it. Just a few more big steps, and I'll be ready to call it all done. The latest big step was probably the scariest of all: I called for a surgery date for my facial feminization surgery. March 1! Seems like it's a bit away, but when I think about it again, that's only about a month and a half. That's no time at all! But then, even if it were 6 months or even a year away, the date would arrive in due course, and I would be panicking for that last bit. So, like taking off a band-aid, it's probably best to do it quickly, than to agonize over it, only to find that it's not such a big deal.

When all was said and done, my last surgery experience was nothing to worry about. I worried about it, because I worry about such things. And I'll worry about this one, because I do. I've met the doctor and his staff, and they were warm and I was very comfortable with them. That's probably not it, though. There's a much bigger thing on the other side of this: after it's all done, I'll be a girl all the time. That's the really huge step here. Having a surgery done is time-consuming, and costly, and there's pain, and recovery, and all that stuff. But wounds heal, and time passes, and as they say, this, too, shall pass. But this "all the time" part is the new frontier here. There will be no safety net. There will not always be a security blanket. I am taking that step out onto the proverbial windy street corner.

I would love to be able to say that I'm not worried about it, that I'll finally be able to present myself to everyone, honestly. And that's what I will be doing, presenting myself honestly. But not worried? Right then is when my what-if gland activates itself again... What if I haven't taken enough preparation with any of the myriad things that one needs to do to successfully transition? What if I don't live up to the standards that other people would use to measure me? What if I don't live up to my own standards?

I'm so tired of having fear rule my life. I'm just tired of it. If I could just magically say, ok, that's over and done with, I'm not afraid anymore, that would be awesome. But I can't do that. I don't know how to do that. I've heard a lot of people comment on my courage, and frankly, I have no idea what they're talking about. Long-time readers of this blog know full well that my courage level is somewhere in the negative values.

I commented recently to a friend on Twitter that we know what's important to us, by what we worry about. Some amount of fear or anxiety is probably healthy. And fear of the unknown is pretty natural and universal for people. But I am concerned that I'll become a recluse after this is all done, because I'm too afraid of being that honest, genuine person with everyone. That my honest, genuine self somehow doesn't measure up, or isn't good enough. Perhaps some of my recent experiences with my blood-relatives are lurking in the fore, and coloring my view of how things might go.

I need to get back into boundary-stretching mode again. Over some periods in 2009, things were happening so quickly that sometimes I could scarcely keep up. Near the end of the year, they settled down into a much more static state, while still being short of where they really needed to be. So, since big changes are mere weeks away, I need to get my anxiety with myself under some measure of control. And the best way I know to do that is to push at myself.

And I know in my head that some people won't accept me. I've already had to deal with some of those, and it was pretty bad. It was such a blow, and I'm quite sure that I don't want to have to deal with that again. But I know that I will have to deal with it at some point; there'll be somebody out there who wants to spread hate, and I'll have a nice target painted on my forehead. I'm terrible with confrontations, and yet I'll be forced, perhaps often, to have them.

I was expecting this to be a pretty short post, simply about my excitement with my upcoming surgery, and then it turned into a big heavy thing about fear, that robbed all the excitement I had. Sigh. One of these days I'll learn how not to do this to myself. Unfortunately, today is not that day.