Monday, April 20, 2009


This Sunday was a day made for dark thoughts.  Grim clouds gripped the sky, like the last tendrils of winter refusing to let go.  Rain fell cold.  It was one of those times when the world seems like a dreary place where every dream, even those as simple as warmth and light, feels out of reach.

Also it was the second day of a weekend spent mostly indoors, and completely in drab.  As stressful as it is to work where you are not accepted, it is even harder to go home and sit idly, waiting for things that are weeks, months and years away. 

I had not shaved all weekend, because the stubble left over from laser seems to shed a little easier if left alone.  I was giving my hair a break from flat ironing, and the humidity and showering had left my hair frizzy and full of random curl.  In the mirror I looked to myself, not only male, but feral besides.  And so I was spending my weekend feeling like an ugly creature, locked away from a cold and un-accepting world.  

Then Mom and Dad asked if I would like to ride out with them for a little lunch and I accepted. And so, I left unshaven, with ratty hair, a men's tee and baggy jeans.  I was still feeling bad about myself but getting outside and talking to Mom and Dad made me feel a lot better.  Then as we left for home, there was this man beside the road.

The cold rain was still falling, and he was standing on the road shoulder, head lowered.  A neglected sign asking help hung in his hand.  He looked completely defeated standing there in the downpour. It was a heartbreaking thing to see.  

Mom wanted to give him cash. Dad argued that you didn't know what he would do with it. I stayed out of it, because I use plastic and never carry money anyway. I was pulling for Mom though. He just looked so pitiful, and you would have to be desperate to stand in near freezing rain in hopes that a few people will help.

In the end, Mom did get Dad to stop. And I was on the side of the car facing him, so I was handed the bills.  He didn't notice us with his head lowered, so I addressed him, "Sir? Here take this."

And then he looked up.  He was probably in his late fifties or early sixties.  He looked like he had seen some hard years, but his face was dominated by a sincere and grateful smile. As he took the money, he said, "Thank you miss."

Then he hesitated a moment, looking a little embarrased and perplexed. He stepped closer to the car, straining his  obviously weak eyes. "Or, sir?" he said. "I'm sorry."

I smiled and shook my head. "It's ok." I said with a little laugh.  Then the window was back up and I was riding home.  His vision was definitely not good . But going by my voice and the limited visual cues he could, he had seen what others ussualy can not.  His first assessment was right. I am a woman.

Mom and Dad never mentioned, and didn't seem disraught.  I rode home feeling a bit better.  This man's simple thank you was a powerful validation for me.  And his situation reminded me how truly blessed I am. How can I feel alienated, when I'm employed, and have a loving family supporting me, despite my life path being one they find hard to accept.  I have my health. I have my vision. I have a place to call home.

And  though the world can be cruel, it is not fair to assume people are. There's no way to know how this man will spend the money he gets.  There is always that possibility that he is wasting others' wages on cigarettes and liquor. Yet people have the compassion to stop and give him the benefit of the doubt, and hope he will buy some food and take care of himself.

I'm happy. I got recognized as a girl even while I was trying to do the guy thing, which felt nice despite the extenuating circumstances.  And I got a little reminder of how silly self pity is, and a small lesson in human compassion.  Its interesting how much can happen in a brief, chance encounter.

I hope he is safe and sound somewhere tonight. He seemed such a sweet soul.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Minor Update

Warning! Boring entry unless you are curious about the recovery process for laser and IPL hair removal.  Its just a cut and dry description of my recovery so far.

I had the procedure Wednesday, and was off form work until Monday, with the hope that I would look pretty normal by then.  When I left the doctor's office last Wednesday, I was looking very rough.  Inflamed skin under the entire bearded area.  All the hair was burned to a pitch black crisp, and seemed to have expanded. My beard shadow looked more course and dark than ever.  

By Monday, most of the redness was gone, but there was lots of dry skin. The hair was slowly being pushed out in the shedding process, as though it were still growing.  Yet it can barely be shaved because of the dense, tough texture caused by the heat.  I managed to shave, but it was definitely not a close shave. My face felt like sandpaper due to the thick, fried hair.  

Well, tonight makes 7 days.  And things are finally starting to look up. I pulled a couple of the hairs with tweezers, to find out how much length was still below the surface, and found out they are almost ready to fall out! 

Maybe tomorrow noticeable quantities will start to fall out. My skin is healing pretty well too.  Hopefully I'll be healed up on time for shopping with Tina Saturday! But if not, there's always next weekend. :P

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Youch!! Laser Day Part 2

In my last blog, I had arrived at the laser hair removal place after a long drive dominated by thoughts of guilt, a sense that I can't have what I want out of life no matter how hard I try, and other generally depressing things.

But little did I know, my day was finally about to make a turn for the better. I signed in and one of the girls who worked with me last time called me back almost immediately.  She was all smiles, and I felt welcome. She mentioned how long it had been since she saw me last and that I was looking well.  Shortly after my dermatolgist came in and joined the chat. They were both very sweet and supportive.  I found myself loosening up and letting down the defenses and self consciousness that had arisen from the day's earlier exchange with dad.  

I was just me, and they understood. I was being myself, and I was suddenly happy. I could feel my smile returning, and was now just a girl chatting with acquaintances and feeling very much in my element.

But of course, the fun was short lived.  Soon I had foul smelling numbing cream on my face, waiting to go numb enough to endure ILP (intense pulsed light).  When they said I was ready, I washed away the cream. It turned out my face was so numb that I couldn't even dry without a mirror because cold water against my skin didn't even register with my nerves. I found this comforting, because numbness could only be good under these circumstances.

I can't even imagine what laser  treatments would feel like without the numbing cream.  It was even harder to endure than I remembered.  The sensation of each light pulse literally frying hundreds of hair follicles to a crisp is sensory overload.  After the first hit, the smell of the  cream combines with the stench of fried hair in a really gross way.

We actually continued to chat. But most of the conversation was devoted to continual appologies for the pain, and my reassurances that I was fine.  I tried to hold on to my poise. I didn't want to cause them to switch to a lower setting. This needed to be as effective as possible.  

Half way through I couldn't handle it anymore and asked for a break. I sat up a few moments and my doctor gave me a little back massage, with more apologies for the pain.  It was a really nice gesture and felt so nice.  When I was finally ready for more, I laid back in the chair and said "Ok, I'm ready. Hit me!", with a laugh.  And hit me they did! 

When it was all over they peeled the little protective stickers from my eyes and the tears trapped behind them ran down my face. So much for keeping my poise! I checked the mirror. Hair looked utterly and completely scorched, but as lst time, much more prominent than before the treatment. The light fries the hair to a ptich black char.  Darker hair equals more shadow.  Plus the texture of the hair actually changes visibly. It is hard to explain, but even at a distance it just looks fried.  My skin looked even worse than the beard.  Splotchy and red. It had the appearance of a burn in places. 

I had walked in depressed, but now I was ecstatic.  I had stood up to Dad, and taken  a major permanent step toward my transition without sneaking around to accomplish it. I would have less beard as a result of this forever. Maybe enough to change my makeup strategy and extend my days  out with less worry.  In my newly corrected mood, I was realizing again that I had just accomplished something life changing.  

The areas that had taken well to laser last time did not hurt as much this time.  And they also did not show as much irritation. Less hair equals fewer after effects in an area, and less pain during the procedure it seems.  So next time will be even easier, assuming this takes well.  And it will have fewer visible signs, meaning I may be able to do it without five days in a row off from work when I go again.

On the way home all the friends I had tried to call on my lonely drive down started to call back one by one, adding even a little more to my pleasant mood.  

When I got home Mom would not look at me or speak a word. She tried hard not to be in the same room with me all night.  Dad did not talk about transition or hair removal, but did start some normal domestic conversations to show me we were still on speaking terms.

Thursday morning things were better. Mom was showing me her new Helen of Troy iron and I was trying to decide how much enthusiasm it was safe to show on the subject.  I complimented her on the new hair cut she had gotten while I was out for hair removal Wednesday and she smiled.  We ended up driving around together all day, me and my parents.  The subject of transition never came up, but everyone seemed happy and had a good time.  

I think we have all made major progress this week.  I have been so wound up, that now with everything over, all I want to do is lay around basking in the calm following the storm.  My face still looks terrible, but at least today I was finally able to shave again. Also, washing my face, 2 hairs fell out.  I remember from last time that it's the first sign of shedding.  Hopefully Monday or Tuesday morning I'll be seeing tons of short black hairs on my hands each time I wash my face. And shortly after that, I'll be nearly beardless. Some of it will grow back, and more treatments will be required. But I will likely have a week or two preview of what it will be like to live beardless.  It has been over a year since I experienced it and I can hardly wait to try it again.

Slowly I am standing up for who I am and what I need. And my transition is moving along steadily. There are lots of challenges ahead, and turbulent times for me and my family I am sure. But for now I'm thrilled with my blessings and accomplishments. Today feels like serenity dipped in sunshine and sprinkled with hope. Its yummy. LOL!

Youch!! Laser Day Part I

 I don't think I have ever blogged about it, but before I really came out to my family with my intent to finally transition, I scheduled laser hair removal, and managed to fit in one session. Then I got caught and had one of the biggest fights I have ever had with my Mom. Dad was standing by trying to turn our fight into something more productive, but in the end it was just a miserable,  highly emotional experience for everyone involved and I promised my parents I would not do anything else permanent until I had some counseling.

Well, almost exactly a year of counseling has passed. I am on hormones and they are ware of it. I have been on them long enough that the effects are starting to show in subtle ways.  And having a beard seems more and more frustrating to me.  Mainly it just feels unnatural.  And I hate the way it makes me look. Even thoroughly shaved, it seems it accentuates every masculine feature of my face.  

It causes me to need more makeup than I would really like to wear. With dresses and nicer clothes, heavy makeup doesn't look out of place. But I really want to be able to pull off ultra casual looks.  And wearing  your clothes casual and careless with tons of makeup just looks peculiar to me.  Maybe I am just paranoid but I am always imagining everyone thinking "Hmm, jeans, a tee, and four pounds of makeup? Bet there's a beard under there..."

Also it complicates my routine. I have to use liquid concealer over the beard. A liquid foundation over my entire face, which can only be applied once the concealer has set. Then mineral foundation over that, which again, requires waiting on the previous layer to set. It takes forever! It is hard to feel good about yourself, when you have to hide your face under layers upon layers of stuff before people can recognize you as your actual gender.

And the third thing is that it wrecks my confidence. It grows quickly, and in public I always have to wonder when its going to grow out enough to mess up the texture of my makeup and become visible.  Its like every time I go out, I am running against the clock.

So for months I have planned to get another laser appointment in over this week. I knew I would be off 5 days in a row, so that my skin would be mostly healed before returning to work.  And as the date has drawn closer, I have dreaded the imminent discussions surrounding this decision more and more. Finally, last week, I called and set the appointment.  And since then, I have been trying to figure out how to tell the parents.  

In the end, I waited until the very last minute and talked to dad about it just before leaving.  It was just as emotional as the other hair removal conversation over a year ago. But it was not at all confrontational.  Dad is incredibly logical, diplomatic and empathetic in his dealings. It isn't in my nature, but I have always seen the results of his communication style and admired him for it. So, I tend to manage disagreements the same way he does. 

When we are at odds, it doesn't feel like an argument. We are both calm and level. We openly discuss our feelings, express our points.  We respectfully listen and then make our counterpoints.  

And so Wednesday morning began with the most intense debate of my life.  Dad did not question whether I was transgender. Just what I should do about it.  He made very hard hitting points. 

In the end he broke out the big guns.  He broght up the point that as we age our priorities shift, and that someday I am going to regret not being able to raise children.  He mentioned that adoption isn't the same. That as you age you see your genetic children being  part of you going on after you die.  But he didn't just leave it at that. No, just leaving it at what I would want in the future was not enough. He went on to say he didn't think my brother and his fiance would ever choose to have children and that for him it is hard, seeing the family linage end with his children.

This argument probably didn't strike me the way he would want it to.  But it probably hit me harder.  One of the biggest regreets I have, is that I can not have children. Nnd feeling like I am failing my parents as well makes it that much harder.  

After the most open and heartfelt discssion I have ever had with anyone about my decision to transition, and lots of crying on both sides, Dad let me go. He was obviously very disappointed and upset. I was feeling  guilty and selfish.  I had left him upset to make my vain little appointment. And worse, I had not told Mom and all.  With her, I knew it would be best to find out after the fact. If I let her know while she still perceived an opportunity to stop me it would turn into a tooth and nail struggle; one in which we would both say things we would later regret. But now I would not be home until hours after her. She was going to ask Dad where I was, and he would have to be the one to tell her. I had inadvertently left him behind to do my dirty work.  Thinking about it I almost turned around.  I called to ask Dad what I should do, and to apologize but there was no answer, so I kept driving.

The drive to Sevierville is three and a half hours.  That is a long time to be alone with such dark thoughts. I kept thinking about the things I am giving up. As a guy, I was normal. I could have children, raise a family, walk down the street without fear of being "outed".  Just a normal healthy person in every physical way.   Can I really do this? Can I really just give it all up?

I tried again, for the first time in a few years to imagine the rest of my life playing out, living male.  But I can't imagine being a dad instead of a mom. And I can't imagine being a husband.  I can't imagine keeping up the act.  Life as a man felt as impossible as ever. 

But I can never mother my own child. And I have so many limitations. I guess there is no easy road.  Being myself involves giving up many important things. Playing at being male involves giving up everything. There was  no turning back.  

When I got to the dermatologist's office and went to the restroom. The company logo on the baby changing station was a pink mommy elephant with her little pink baby elephant pressed lovingly against her side.  I sat by myself and cried...

Monday, April 06, 2009

Hitch A Ride To Oblivion

Hmm, I was just going through stuff and found one of my old poems.  At the time I wrote it, I was frustrated with a relationship and I  almost sent this to the person it was written about.  Instead I decided to hold my tongue, and so it has just sat in a cluttered corner of my  hard drive.  

It is a bit cliched, as many things I write are. It is probably also melodramatic and emotionally overwrought.  Plus it qualifies as poetry only by a very loose definition of the term.  Metering, rhyming patterns, and even line count from verse to verse is sporadic at best.  We'll call it free form poetry. Maybe that exists already, or perhaps I just invented it. :P

But there, now I have dispensed with my disclaimer, so on to the poem:


the light is gone form my eyes

theres no fight, no strength

one blink away from nothing left

hope stretched  thin and blown away

carried on the wind to oblivion

oppressive place, my dreams are lost

despair breathes down my neck

with every step i find strength to take

im not the donkey to pin your dreams on

my love is riding the winds to oblivion

nothing for the world to offer,

nothing left for me to give in return

im a husk on the wind to oblivion

im not your angel and i cant show you the way

if you ride with me there's only one road left  to take

if you cant let me go, then take my hand

hitch a ride on my wings to oblivion



 Don't worry about me. I've not felt that miserable in a long time.  I'm being myself. I'm free. I'm happy.  Reading over something from darker times does make me even more thankful for the contentment that has come into my life in this highly liberating period.  Just a little glimpse into my past.