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An Update For April 2016

I’ve not had a lot to write about here on my blog this year. Life as me is settling down quite nicely. There’s no change on the family front. My eldest son remains estranged, by his own choice. My youngest son remains distant. My daughter and I grow closer, or at least it feels that way to me. She’s also undergoing some trying times in her life, as her husband has finally received the heart transplant he’s needed for so long. They’re on a long road back to a reasonably normal life but that process has begun, with all its fits, stops, starts along the way trying her patience and strength. Yet she perseveres as the amazing and strong young woman that she is. I am proud of her.

My siblings continue to not speak to me or respond to attempts to communicate. Their failure to respond tells me all  I need to know about how they feel about me. That’s their choice, not mine.

I continue to watch with anger and sadness as the Republican party actively scapegoats transgender women, trying to paint a series of lies as the basis for denying out civil rights. What boggles my mind even further is that there are trans women, almost all older, who still cling to their conservative Republican politics despite their own party trying to disenfranchise, dehumanize, and scapegoat them personally. It must take a really special form of lying to yourself to make yourself believe that being a Republican makes any sense whatsoever as a trans women in 2016. It’s delusional. And it appears, to me, to be symptomatic of our pre-transition lives and our desire to lie to ourselves. This will likely piss off some right wing trans women. Don’t like it? Stop reading or pull your head out of your ass. The GOP is the party of hate, bigotry, lies, and scapegoating others. There’s no way around that fact. A trans woman supporting the GOP in 2016 is like a Jew supporting the Nazis in 1936. It’s stupid and it goes against your own self-interest in the extreme.

The last “medical” thing on my transition list was also my first – facial hair removal. That process continues and we continue to make progress but it’s also not done yet. I’m at 81 hours in the chair at E3000 up in Lewisville, Texas, and I expect several more sessions yet though they continue to get shorter and shorter, and cost less and less each time.

I bought a bathing suit and I think it looks great. Yes, it’s a one piece. No, I don’t know if I’ll have the nerve to try a bikini. It’s OK! Laugh at me. I’m laughing too at this topic!

And finally, my tax liability for the crazy 2015, in which I pulled money from a retirement account to complete my surgeries, appears to have been less than I expected. I thank the experts at H&R Block for that assistance. Next year I can return to doing my taxes myself as they’ll be much simpler again.

There are still things on my plate for this year. Julie and I are talking about a road trip, maybe, to see some friends this summer. Ren Fest will be next fall again and I hope to see people there too.

Life goes on, and for me, finally, it’s a life that doesn’t have thoughts of suicide and worthlessness every few days the way I did for decades before facing my own truths. Here’s to hoping that each of you can find that level of peace too.

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Looking Back at 2015

The year 2015 will be a pretty important year for me in numerous respects. A lot happened and I learned a lot along the way. 2015 was the first year I lived as myself full time. My legal paperwork was done in September 2014 and I was full time thereafter, no looking back.

In January of 2015, I decided to make things happen and stop waiting for them to happen. I have one life to live and I decided I wasn’t sacrificing that life for my spouse’s retirement, especially since she no longer plans to be with me. So I cashed out one of my IRAs and put that money to work.

In February I scurried about getting paperwork submitted for my passport, which I paid extra for “express” handling and I got it just a few weeks later. My name, photo, and a nice big “F” in the gender box made me smile. March became a waiting game, basically waiting for April, and also further realigning myself at work as my colleagues continued to become accustomed to my new presentation.

I underwent FFS in April with Dr. Cardenas, in Guadalajara, Mexico, where I also met the amazing Anne Kelley. We shared a particularly powerful moment during both our recoveries that was bonding, and was a revelation. It was about Anne so if people want to know the details, they should ask her, but for me it was emotionally powerful to see someone coming to terms with themselves in such a beautiful and loving manner.

May was recovery. Let me tell you right now that FFS was far worse and harder in terms of recovery than my GCS, which came later in 2015. FFS was so worth it, but it was a bear in terms of recovery for the first few weeks. I’m happy with my appearance though and I’ve gotten compliments on it, and most importantly, it helped me to stop seeing “him” in the mirror anymore.

June was more waiting and continued recover. Friends and I began planning for Ren Fest in November. We always try to plan several months in advance to give people time to plan for a specific weekend. There were also details to complete, medical tests and exams before my GCS surgery, all of which had to be submitted to Dr. Chettawut’s staff in Bangkok before I even left.

July came and a good friend, Ashley Wilson headed to Thailand ahead of me by about two weeks. I did get to see her while I was there later, before she flew back to the US. And after seeing her, it was my turn. I awoke from GCS and really wasn’t in much pain at all, mainly just uncomfortable. They kept me pretty well controlled with pain meds and such. And my dear, dear friend, Julie Jeznach, had traveled to Thailand with me and was there to visit while I was in the hospital and to help me with my recovery for the three weeks afterwards. We had a lot of fun for the month we were there. I over stressed myself once, got scolded for it, then spent a day and a half recovering from it. Fortunately, no permanent damage. And I learned the tedium and the joys of dilating! And yet we saw things, ate fascinating food, met people, and Julie got to see the Tiger Temple!

In mid-August we flew back home. It seemed almost surreal, Julie and I going our separate ways. I also know that Thailand had been good for Julie too. Good food, regular exercise, walking (for us both as little as I could do) all contributed to Bangkok being a positive experience for us. But then it was over. I rested another week then returned to work while working from home. Working from home was a blessing. As circumstances turned out, and as the changes on our team at work developed, it would arise that I wouldn’t need to actually go back into the office until some time in January, 2016. The rest of 2015 was 100% from home, which gave me time to adapt to my dilation schedule, take breaks as needed, etc. Often my work day the rest of the year went past 6 pm, but that included time for breaks and medical necessities throughout the day as well.

September and October were much the same, except the reminder and the ongoing lesson that I don’t really have family anymore.  I know there are some who might disagree, but being ignored, having things said behind your back, pretending you don’t exist on important family days (birthdays and holiday), does not constitute “love” except in some sort of deranged “religious” mind. I won’t comment further about that except that their behavior reveals a lot more about them than it does about anything else.

Out of that comes a lesson, for me at least. We’re repeatedly told to remove toxic people from our lives. I subscribe to that idea, but implementing it in practice is complicated and is often a process, not a single decision. It’s a process because our hearts don’t always listen to what our heads tell us, and vice-versa. In this case, my head knows I don’t have family and I need to let go and treat them like I treated my father, someone to whom I was biologically related but who are anything except family, based on their behavior. But the heart takes time to let go, often not wanting to accept what the mind otherwise knows to be true.

The last few years have been that process for me and I think I hit rock bottom and was finally able to put this behind me in December of 2015. And no, there was no danger of self harm, just a great sadness and listlessness as my heart realized what my mind has been telling me for a number of years now – you have no blood family.

I also began an online dating experiment in autumn of 2015, and discovered that clearly stating that I am a post-op transgender woman, up front, is a sure way to not get responses from anyone except thoughtless men, who in turn blocked me when they did find out, or from identity thieves, whom I seem to be getting better at identifying, especially since some of them are so pathetic. Out of nearly 400 messages received thus far, only 4 read my profile and realized I was trans, and only 2 of those were really interested in some sort of friendship or relationship. Unfortunately, both of them were very far away and both they and I were looking for someone closer.

November was fun, with time at Ren Fest spent with my friend Elizabeth and myself both dressed up in garish costumes. But I think I want to modify mine more for next year. Maybe replace the heavy leather shoulder pauldrons with fur ones and a few other changes. There were also minor outings, manicure and pedicure, buying some new clothes, and otherwise enjoying myself.

November blended into December, and for the most part, I ignored the Christmas season. Dwelling on it too much was painful. And my mind and heart had to work that out in their own way, as I described earlier.

2015 ended and I was in a sense, relieved. It was over. Time marches on and 2016 is before us. I’m hoping to carve out time for at least one trip this year, perhaps back to Memphis. And maybe, if I can financially swing it, a trip elsewhere. We’ll see.

Choosing to be myself has had a cost, a saddening cost but one which I would still pay, because the alternative was no longer being able to live with myself. Despite rejection from those I’ve loved and to whom I’ve literally given my heart, my life, and even my finances for over thirty years, I still would make the same choice. My choice was to live and I am content with that choice, despite the costs.

September 7th, A Day To Remember

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It was 19 years ago today, September 7th, that I was wheeled into surgery to remove the remains of a tumor that had been destroyed by months of chemotherapy. Prior to that chemotherapy, I had been about 195 pounds. By the end I was around 140, and honestly probably more in the 130s. By the end of chemotherapy, most days were enough time awake to eat, maybe watch a single TV show or two, and then sleep, 20-22 hours per day. And then I was told the tumor was dead.

Chemotherapy was over in mid-July of 1996. I was given basically 6 weeks to gain a little strength, then the surgery would ensure that the remains of that tumor were gone.

What was supposed to be a 4 hour surgery became 10. The tumor had apparently been wrapped around my aorta and in dying to the chemo, it had become this rock hard substance. My surgeon visited me later and apologized for the extra time but said he was literally chipping that stuff off my aorta, like flakes of cement.

The tumor had also been wrapped around the nerve to the left vocal cord. That nerve is a bit weird and shows how evolution does things, not always in the most sensible way. That nerve comes from the spine, over to the heart first, then back up to the left vocal cord. There was no way to separate the remains of the tumor from that nerve so it got cut.

This left me unable to speak since the left vocal cord was flaccid and unable to flex to meet the right cord, since no neural signals could now reach it. To correct that, a plastic implant was inserted in that vocal cord in another surgery in early November of 1996. I still have slight numbness in my hands and feet from chemotherapy. My scalp was ravaged by chemotherapy and never really recovered. And my hearing, already a 20 decibel loss in my good right ear, became a 50+ decibel loss and I finally admitted that I needed a hearing aid.

Despite all this, I survived. But this all also made me think very hard about myself, who I was, what I’d done to myself emotionally and psychologically to get to where I was then. I also got to see my children graduate from high school, get married, go to college, have children of their own. It took me another 8 years, to about 2004, to really learn about and understand the words transsexual and transgender but I’d bought into another lie – that if I hadn’t transitioned early, I couldn’t transition at all. It was six more years after that, 2010, that the mother of all dysphoria episodes began that simply would not relent and which drove me to the brink of suicide, before I finally admitted I needed help, and with prodding from Julie Jeznach, I finally sought that help.

The rest, as they say, is “herstory”. People to whom I gave my life, my time, my love, my earnings, have rejected me. That’s their choice and I have to accept that, but it’s still bitter. And knowing what I know today, I can honestly say that I do have regrets. We’re not supposed to have regrets and I know that I can’t change the past so I don’t plan to wallow in these regrets at all. But I do acknowledge them. And if I’d known 30 years ago what I know now, I would have just walked away instead of worrying about other people’s emotions and opinions.

So I write this today with my younger trans friends in mind. Being trans can suck. People can be ugly, cruel, callous, hateful. But we’re trans and we can’t escape that truth. My advice to you, to each of you, is make your decisions for yourself first. Anyone who can’t handle the decisions that you need to make for you neither loved you nor is your friend so is not worthy of your consideration of their opinions.

While I am very happy with where I am in life right now, in one sense, I write this today to my younger trans friends to say “Don’t be me.” Don’t put others ahead of yourself. Don’t defer what you need to be happy to make others happy first. Most of the time they won’t care about you. Not really. And those that do care? They’ll have your back and be there for you.

Have a good September 7th, a good Labor Day, and a good day for yourself first and foremost.

Of Nerve Endings, and Random Sensations, Coupled Against Unlikely Future Probabilities.

When I came out to my spouse in 2012, I knew the risks. Part of me held to some silly vain stupid hope that my marriage could be salvaged. Part of me wanted to believe that she and I, we, were better than that. I should have known better. I shouldn’t have even given the tiniest spark to such vain hopes. I didn’t choose to end that marriage. She did, no matter what she claims to the contrary. She’s the one that laid down the ultimatum of “transition, and we’re done”.

But I saw this exactly like I saw my fight against cancer in 1996. I had a great medical team, therapists, doctors, endocrinologists, and they all agreed that my health and well being were best served by transitioning. So with great reluctance I began that process, and I spent two months crying myself to sleep in 2012, grieving for my marriage. There’s lots I could say that I learned here about how others felt about me, but I don’t want to focus on such negatives, so I won’t.

Throughout my transition, up to now, this point, after having had GCS, I’ve been celibate and not actively looking at the dating community at all. I am aware that there is an entire fetish subculture that chases pre-op and non-op trans women as “chicks with dicks”. If you don’t like that phrase, it’s the ugly reality of how our society views pre-op and non-op trans women. It’s ugly. The woman is viewed as a “thing” and she’s used as a thing. The complete epitome of male sexual objectification of women occurs in the trans “chaser” community and how they treat those women.

For that reason alone, I stayed out of the dating pool. And because I was technically still married. It’s just a marriage of tax convenience but this too will end soon enough. But now GCS is done. And things are changing. I’m still a long ways off from being a responsive sexual partner to someone, but the nerves are beginning to wake up.

And wake up, do they! Random firings all over the place. An electric shock sensation that would make me leap out of bed except certain sutures are pretty sore at the moment. Random neural firings just all over the place.

Of course, then there’s dilation too. I’m not very far along on this yet but already I’m discovering that certain sensations are pleasant, that they even make me wonder what certain experiences would ultimately be like.

And that leads to day dreams. I suppose many women, trans or not, dream of finding Mr. Right (and some of finding Ms. Right). I admit to such thoughts, such dreams. But I also admit to the cold reality that trans acceptance among those my age, late 50s give or take a few years, is pathetically, horribly low. And that’s where day dreams snap back to reality. Within all probability, my remaining years will be spent alone, fending off dates from men who want nothing but sex, with almost zero chance of finding that person who wants a relationship, a friendship, a sexual intimacy, all together with a person with whom they could spend the rest of their life.

Could it happen? Yes, the odds are not zero. But will it? The odds are not good and I know this. It crosses my mind every single day. And I knew this going into transition and still chose transition, because the alternative was to die.

When people say trans people have a “choice”, it’s not much of a choice when the choice is between finally being yourself or dying. Yet I know people who would have preferred I had killed myself. Unfortunately for them, I chose life, even if that turns out to be a life alone.

In the meanwhile, I have close friends, supportive friends. Two of my three children accept me and want me involved more in their lives. I have nieces, nephews, a sister-in-law all who support me and eagerly want to see me again. It’s been a few too many years since I was back to Ohio.

What I plan to do is live my life. I’ll be open to that day that Mr. Right walks into my life but I won’t pine away wondering if or when he ever will. If it happens, good. And if not? Someone lost a chance to find out how much this trans woman could value a life partner.

The odds aren’t good but if I don’t play the game, I can never win, right?