Monday, October 10, 2011

Twenty Things I'd Like You to Know (about Me)

Since becoming active in the local transgender community, I've made some wonderful friends.  One of the more recent and more dear friends to me, Jennell, shared something that I thought really captured a lot of what I've personally felt at different times along my transition so far, and a lot of what I've heard echoed in the stories of others.  I share it here with her permission, verbatim as she shared it with me.  I only wish I'd written it myself - I think it's beautiful.

--Stacey


Jennell's Journnell

Writing helps me think things through and distill my thoughts. It's a form of therapy for me. Some of it I keep private. Other parts I feel a need to share. Here are twenty personal truths about my transition that I'd like you to know. These are not universal truths. These are MY truths, from my story. If you happen to be trans, feel free to cherry pick and share the ones that tell your story. Or share the entire document. I don't mind.

Jennell J.
Oct. 9, 2011

Twenty Things I'd Like you to Know (about Me)

  1. Being transsexual is about me, not anyone else. I've been this way since birth. No one else caused this. No one else is responsible for this. Any pain that I cause someone else is not intentional.
  2. This is a medical condition I have, not a psychiatric one. It needs treating. The treatment is conforming my appearance and gender presentation to match what has been true along (female, not male). If this was surprising to YOU, imagine how shocking it was to ME when I realized what needed to happen. 
  3. I did not choose this for myself. I really don't want to be this way. I would far rather have been what passes for "normal" these days, but that was never in the cards for me. So, I am choosing to do something positive about this. Changing my gender certainly beats being terminally depressed for the rest of my life.
  4. I want you to know that I'm happy. Really happy. Perhaps for the first time in my life. Who knew? Because I love myself and what I am allowing myself to become.
  5. I'm changing my name and my gender presentation, but I have not become someone else. I'm the same person. Having said that, there are likely to be minor differences. If you knew me before, you have a running start on knowing me now.
  6. I chose my new name with a lot of thought and am particularly comfortable "wearing" it. It's affirming to me when you say it or write it ... and use the female pronouns associated with it. Especially right now, before I go full time.
  7. If you are willing, it's possible that our relationship can become stronger because of this. It's amazing to me how much easier social intimacy has become as I free myself of keeping my darkest secret hidden. 
  8.  I'm not gay. Gay would be so much easier by comparison. Gay doesn’t have a “cover charge.” Gay doesn’t require a complete (and seasonal!) wardrobe change, burning the hair out of one’s face, makeup, hair care, nails, accessories, jewelry, weight loss, hormone treatments, witness-protection plan level facial reconstruction, or surgical origami on one’s nether regions to make it work. 
  9. Gender is about identity. Sexuality is about who you choose to love. I know my gender. As my treatment progresses, I'm no longer quite so naively certain about my sexuality. Right now, I'd just like my libido back ... before I try to figure out what or who wakes it up and gets it moving.
  10. I'm not here to glamorize the "transgender lifestyle", to brainwash, to proselytize, or otherwise make children, teens or other adults want to be transsexuals. I would not want this for them. If someone isn't transsexual already, nothing I can do will "convert" them. If they are transsexual, then seeing a happy transsexual in person could mean the difference between life and death for them. Literally.
  11. I have no interest in stealing away anyone's sexual partner. To be honest, if someone is worried about that, then they have bigger problems to resolve than my gender presentation.
  12. Changing genders doesn't significantly change my ability to do my job, just the clothes I choose to wear to work. It also means not having to wear the damn ponytail all the time.
  13. I believe tolerance is a two way street. That means that not only do I want you to tolerate me being the way I am, but that I recognize that I have to tolerate you the way you are. Two way street. I've already started doing this with you. I hope you'll join me. Once we have toleration going, that can easily escalate to respect.
  14. Don't pull a "God guilt trip" on me. You see, I believe that God does not make mistakes. There's that passage of scripture where it says that God knew me in my mother's womb and made me as I am.  EXACTLY as I am. Which means that He had a reason to make me transgender. I believe God made me different, NOT wrong.  There was a reason for it. It just took a very long time for me to understand and accept it.
  15. If I was romantically involved with you in the past, please understand that was real. My feelings for you at the time were authentic. Perhaps a bit confused, but still authentic.
  16. Changing genders is a status change. You wouldn't discriminate against (or fire) someone who had some other status change ... like getting married, or divorced, or having kids, or discovering that they liked coffee, or that they liked the music of David Hasselhoff (OK, maybe that last thing is ok to discriminate against).
  17. I need to be able to use gender-appropriate bathrooms in public places as much as other people do, including the mall, parks, and of course, the office. The only thing that's going to happen in there is that I'm going to sit down, do my business, clean up (probably check my makeup and hair, fix what needs fixing) and leave.  And for the record, I'm not curious about anything someone else may be trying to keep covered. 
  18. I have no interest in denying anyone insurance-paid access to any type of necessary health care procedure. In fact, you'd probably be pretty upset if I lobbied to deny you healthcare coverage for things like ... oh, maternity care, or cancer treatment, or gall bladder removal because they added to my insurance premium cost. Generally speaking, even the most expensive procedures that directly relate to treating my Gender Idendity Dysphoria condition are cheaper than a lot procedures you take for granted in your health care coverage. Something to think about and discuss with your own insurance provider. Doing so may save a life.
  19. If you were born genetically female, understand My decision to live as a female is not a challenge to or mockery of your feminity or experiences as a woman. That's what drag queens are for.
  20. My wonderful therapist once noted that the noisiest detractors about social issues involving transsexuality or homosexuality may be dealing with that same problem in their own lives, maybe even with themselves. Be extra nice to them. They're hurting inside.

Friday, October 7, 2011

One Month Full-time and SCC

As of yesterday I have been living full-time as female for one month.  I'm not even sure what to write, because, well, things are incredibly normal - a frenzied, blur of normal life!  Really, the only changes I can put my finger on are these:

1.  My mornings take longer now.
I can't just roll out of bed 15 minutes before I'm supposed to be out the door, brush my teeth, wet my hair, rifle through the closet & drawers and be on my way.  Now, there's skin care, and more thought required for clothing (more options), make-up, hair, remembering to grab my hormones (etc.). This all takes maybe 30-45 minutes typically, but before coffee, it might be an hour or more.  Add in a few ounces of paranoia about being late or having to contend with a bad hair day, and I'm getting up two hours earlier than before.

2.  Work is the same -- almost.
My work functions are unchanged.  The ways in which people interact with me haven't changed too much.  My boss, Chandra, still struggles with pronouns - or maybe she just refuses to switch.  Whatever.  Monthly, Chandra go shopping at one of those giant warehouse grocery stores (either Sam's or CostCo), and comes back with large amounts of food and beverages that all the rest of us (until now, all of the "guys") go and retrieve.  Going down there with "the guys" to help out, one of them said to me this time, "I figured you wouldn't be joining us."  I laughed, said I would do what I could.  The truth is I am physically weaker now.  I've noticed this in several ways.  But, I'm not just going to sit around and not try to do what I can.  For the most part, though, I'm able to concentrate better on my work.  I feel comfortable now and my mind isn't as distracted as it had been especially in recent months.

3.  I have more time the rest of the day.
When I come home from work, I don't have to switch gender presentations anymore.  I'm ready to go out to see friends, or go to a support group, or grocery shopping - anything.  If someone wanted to meet for lunch during the day, I actually could do that now!  Before, I'd have to either decline, or explain to them that I would not look the way they'd expect me to look if we met for lunch because I'd have been in "boy mode" - always an awkward conversation even with people who know my full history.

I did finally get rid of all of my old guy clothes.  There was a definite weird feeling when I did that.  None of those old clothes would have ever really looked "right" on me anymore, especially the suits, but there's a different feel to life knowing that they are gone.  Having the old wardrobe was sort of a safety net that I never planned to ever use, but if somehow this transitional life all became too hard, or I felt that, day after day, I was failing miserably at it, then there was always an "escape hatch".  But, more and more my days of experience as myself teach me that it's not too hard, it's actually incredibly easy, and I'm not failing by any measure.  The part of life that was hard was the part that came before, and the clothes from that time are nothing more than symbols that remind me of it all.  So, my old male clothing has all been taken to donation, suits included!

This time last year, I was just about to start researching cross-gender hormone therapy and gender therapists in the Atlanta area.  Now, I'm full-time, my hair's getting to more of an appropriate length and fullness, I've been on hormone therapy for six months, and electrolysis is down to half-hour appointments every two weeks.  This time last year, where I am today felt like a nearly impossible dream.  The name "Stacey" was an internal moniker only.  No one in my life then knew that name in association with me.  Now, few people know me by any other.

Last Friday, after 9 long months of separation, my ex and I finally signed the divorce papers at her lawyer's office.  Our divorce should be final within a month or two I'm told.  It's bittersweet, as I wish nothing but happiness for my ex.  I've seen her smile some recently when I've been over there picking up or dropping off our daughter.  I hope she will smile more and more as times goes on.  On the flip side, her lawyer used male pronouns when referring to me while we were all gathered around a conference room table going over the stacks of paperwork - which rather annoyed me.  I suspect he did that intentionally.  His notary did the same thing at first, but at least she corrected herself.  I hate that I let that jerk get to me, but I said when I started this blog I would always be honest here.  So, when I spent most of last weekend in bed with my head under the covers in darkness, I don't know if I was just catching up on sleep after so many weeks of insomnia, if I was reacting to the divorce itself or to the lawyer's ignorance.  Either way, I sure did get rested, but I lost most of an entire weekend in the process.

The week before was SCC, Atlanta's Southern Comfort Conference, which is one of the longest running and largest transgender conventions in the U.S. (this year was their 21st annual conference). It was my first time going to any conference, and the density of information was overwhelming.  I was even able to get three free consultations with different doctors there.  We talked about FFS, BA and SRS (facial feminization surgery, breast augmentation, and sex reassignment surgery).  I learned a lot, and have some ballpark numbers for how much it will take for me to get what I need done.  After calculating the several thousands of dollars in lost income due to increased tax withholding for becoming single again, I realize it's going to take me a longer time than I'd hoped - unless I can find a decent second job (or a rather generous benefactor - LOL).  According to WPATH's Standards of Care which are followed by most healthcare professionals who work with transgender patients, I will need to be living in my gender full-time for a year before I will meet the guidelines for SRS.  So, it's not like I don't have nearly a year to wait at a minimum anyway.  On the other hand, some SRS surgeons have about a one year waiting list for surgery.  So, it's not as straightforward a timeline as one would think.  Those are U.S. surgeons.  Some of the more well-regarded surgeons elsewhere (e.g., Thailand) can be booked from one to two months in advance.  Really, the whole idea of surgery seems fantastical and completely out of reach right now.  However, I try to keep in mind that so did coming out, as did starting HRT, getting my name change and going full-time.  So, I realize that even though the rest still seems impossible, it really isn't.  It's very much possible!