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.