Saturday, April 24, 2010

A Visit, Progress, and McAfee

Its been such an eventful week.  I got to visit a couple of local friends and catch up, which was so nice.  Plus I've been in a dorky mood lately, and they were in the mood to play video games, and actually suggested one of my favorites that I had not had the chance to play in multiplayer for some time.  It was nice, and very nostalgic too.  

At work, things have been busy, but I've not felt to stressed.  McAfee released a bad dat file that destroyed svchost.exe on Windows XP Service Pack 3 computers.  We use Windows XP Service Pack 3 on most of our machines, and the state has mandated McaFee for every workstation, so the impact was severe in my office, with lots of sudden problems Wednesday.  The cleaning process is tedious. Several services stop working correctly, including networking.  So unless you have some solution to boot to something else to replace files, clean up is completely manual.  That is basically the situation with us.

So from Wednesday through Friday, i've been doing the "sneakernet" thing. You have to strap on some fast shoes and run from machine to machine replacing files.  A bit ago, that would have been terrifying.  In early transition, all the looks, all the comments,  all the wondering what the crowd around me was thinking was too much to handle.  I'd put off work that involved staying in a populated classroom more than a few moments out of fear.  Even just walking the hall, worrying what people were thinking and when someone was going to scream something derogatory, was draining and I'd always have to unwind in my office a moment after a trip.

Slowly I've adjusted to being a bit of a curiosity though and learned to accept it. M my stress level has dropped with that lesson and I've become more efficient.  Its a good thing too, because there was no time to unwind this week.  I've been on the run, but I've enjoyed it.  For the most part, I got nothing but respect, and I've felt calm and focused, with only occasional bouts of social anxiety during the process.  

Also I've got to say this has been a very eventful few weeks in terms of physical transition.  My whole body shape continues to change in subtly feminine ways, and I've had several spurts of breast growth.  It complicates my passing as male, but I'm past caring.  In light of recent evidence it seems I'm very nearly out anyway, and I'm proud of the changes in my body. 

I'm hoping they can tolerate me in this androgynous state just a little longer as I finish laser and get my orchiectomy.  Soon after I'll be announcing my intent, and no matter what their decision about keeping me, I'll be out, and finally free to be myself.  I just hope until then my transition keeps progressing, and they keep accepting me.   JUst so thankful for my progress.  Its all so amazing I can't think about it without smiling. :)

Saturday, April 17, 2010

A Suprise

Fascinating week here.  Work was absolutely wild and I've got a lot done.  Things at home have been comparatively tranquil.  More importantly though, my perception of my situation here as suddenly changed drastically.

A bit back I posted that because of some events out of town, that I was questioning how effective my presentation was and how much people around me have guessed or heard at this point.  Since that time, there has been more local evidence that people definitely know something is up, though I'm still left with lots of questions.

Most of the evidence is trivial stuff in conversation.  Students just definitely seem to see whats happening.  More and more, lots of them seem supportive.  Many take the time to say hi every time they see me at this point, and I even get some encouraging compliments from time to time.  Last week I was at the middle school and as I was hastily making my way down the hall to a job, a girl passing the other direction reached out to offer a high five. :)

With adults, things are improving as well.  People who seemed a bit uneasy about me as my appearance started to shift seem to be finding a comfort level with me now.  Maybe they have figured it out and are dealing with it now that the mystery is solved.  Maybe the newness and shock of my unusual presentation has worn off. Really it is hard to know.  But I have noticed that certain people go out of their away to avoid using male titles and pronouns for me unnecessarily.

Last week, I did something I've wanted to do forever.  I apologized to my ex from back in my high school and college days.  We dated for three years after meeting near the end of high school, and then married.  It was all a huge mistake, and a few months later she left and we had the marriage anulled.  Since then we have not been in touch often, but at one point she called to apologize for the manner in which she left, because she was suffering with guilt.

I always felt awful about simply accepting that apology, because really it was all my fault.  I misrepresented myself on so many levels in that relationship, and there was really no chance it could have lasted.  I was the one who should have ben apologizing to her, and this week, I finally found her online and explained everything.

It turned out she already knew.  She saw me on Thanksgiving weekend in 2008, when she came to visit my parents.  At the time, I knew she expected.  After all, she did tell me that at first she thought I was my mom.  She is telling me now that she had it pretty much figured out at that point. Besides that, her mother has since mentioned to her that a relative saw me in London, KY wearing a dress.

I had always thought that I might have been recognized there, as it is one of the closer, larger towns from here and lots of us go over.  As a tech working in a crowded school, there are more people who know me, than people I know.  Besides that, I have worked here for eight years, which means lots of graduates who are out working and living all over south eastern Kentucky could probably recognize me.

Back at one point, I wrote about a cashier asking me why I was in a dress in wig (when I was actually wearing my natural hair) over in London.  One possibility on why I was read has always been that they recognized me from school, and I simply didn't remember them.  Seems likely now that is the case.

So now I finally know definitively that at least some people in my community know.  Something like that doesn't happen without causing rumors when you live in a small town. With appearance changes corroborating  the rumor, I'd say I'm pretty much out on some level.  That thought was scary at first after our conversation, but then I realized, that really that I've always wished people could know the truth, and now apparently they do.

My boss has been complimenting my work, I feel secure at my job, and more welcome in this community than ever before.  Now I'm finding out that is all happening even with people at least partially knowing my situation.  As my contract comes up for renewal two months from now, I find myself wondering what happens next, but with more curiosity than fear. :)

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Weight of My Transgressions

Today, I should be happy. Hormones are working. Laser is working. I'm feeling better about myself than I ever have.  My work day was productive. The weather is pretty. Everything is for once clicking away like clockwork.

And yet, today my thoughts are heavy. Weighted  by guilt, and concern for a dear friend.

I was doing desk work this afternoon, when she logged in to google chat. I asked her how she was and she said she was feeling a little down. She's been having a hard time. Life for a single mother is always stressful. And now her car has been out of commission despite lots of parts being replaced over the past few weeks. But most importantly, she  had to leave a boyfriend  a few days ago; someone she had become really close to.

I found myself wishing so much I could see her and know she's okay. I wanted to hug her. But we are literally half a world apart. For I am here. And she is in South Africa. When she said that she was having a hard day, all I could do was struggle for some encouraging words.  She bravely sent back a little smiley in response.  And then I sat at my desk crying in frustration.

Partly I was just hurt that she was going through this again. Such a loving person, again by herself, struggling to detangle herself from emotions and memories that now cause pain. It was only a short time ago that she had to endure this same process.

But the main reason I cry is guilt. Because the boyfriend before this one, was me.  More than a boyfriend, I was her fiance.  If I had stayed with her until death due us part as I told her I would, she would not be alone.

We met online at a parrot forum.  I was in middle of the most thorough emotional "purge" of my life. What started as innocent flirting quickly turned into a strong emotional connection, growing steadily at both ends. For her, I was the sensitive man who always knew just what to say. Someone more like her than any man she had known; easy to relate to, and so in sync with her thoughts.  For me, she was the first person I had managed to truly bond with romantically in over ten years.  Also she was the most charming and engaging person I had ever met.  She was so caring and open minded in her perspective.  Besides all that she was the most beautiful creature I had ever seen.  

Her love for me was a healthy and wonderful thing.  And part of what I felt for her was just as healthy. But there were some dark under currents.  She met me at a point where I was trying to prove to myself once and for all that I could be a man. She became the justification for my continuing to exist as male.  She was the center of my life. 

She always said I knew just what to say and just what she needed. But the truth is, I knew how to act because I knew what I would want, were I her.  I bolstered her weak self esteam, and tried my best to make her feel loved, and beautiful.  I was living out my storybook romance, only, from the wrong end.

As our relationship progressed, we managed to spend time toegether in person. I flew to visit her in Cape Town once for three weeks. She came to me here twice. We toured Washington D.C., and Atlanta together.  For three years she was my world. She was the one thing that made my life make sense. And during that time we were both faithful to each other as we waited for a chance to live on the same continent.  My life revolved around our vacations together, and I was forever tethered through instant messaging, online games and phone calls; anything to keep us connected across the span.

But there was always turbulence.  After our first visit in person, my gender dysphoria, which I was denying more thoroughly than I ever had in my life, came raging back. It was 6 months into our relationship and I told her everything of my past.  I managed to keep it mostly at bay, but on higher and higher levels of my conscience I was aware that I was defying my true nature to make this work. 

I was always envious. When we were together in person, it was always so hard for me. She was delicate, smooth, so infinitely feminine.    Lying behind her at night, wrapped protectively around her small delicate form probably would have made a man feel strong, happy, and lucky to have such an amazing mate. But feeling her soft, curvy, feminine body against me mostly made me feel hopelessly disfigured and sad.  Sometimes I was unable to sleep. I would just lay behind her, half wishing I could have what she had and half clinging desperately to the strong, protective role that gave my pitiful male existence purpose.


This was written several months back.  At the time I just didn't have strength to finish.  I was cleaning up all my unused old drafts today and decided to try finishing the story.   The visits were amazing in ways.  I lived for them actually, even though one a year is all we could afford.  I have all these memories of us playing in the snow,  shopping two continents, hanging out at restaurants in Cape Town and exploring the city together.   Of course when you have that much emotion for someone all the affection is wonderful too.

In the end we were just not right for each other.  It was never an even relationship.  For her, it was love.  For me it was that and more.  Too much more.  It was a justification for living male. It was the one thing that made some sense of it all.  I was doing it because I loved her, so I was being what she needed.  This made the perfect excuse to keep taking the path of least resistance in my life.

By the end she had started picking up on that.  She started to realize that the relationship was the crutch propping up my male existence.  My life making sense depended on her, and that led to my desperately clinging to her.  With all my insecurities, and this need to defend the relationship combined, I was the most pitifully co-dependant, jealous, controlling creature imaginable.  For her, it was too much responsibility. And, me, I had become something less than human.  I was just her envious little satellite, able to exist only because of her.

I think it lasted as long as it did because beneath all of that, we really did have a lot of love for each other, and the distance was a bit of a buffer from the truth of our incompatibilities.  In the end though, the pull to be myself was too strong, and I came to resent what I had allowed myself to become.  I didn't want to be a satellite anymore, with who I am dictated by gravitation to someone else.  I wanted to be free to be myself.

The split was so difficult.  The memory that stands out the most is sitting in the floor with my back against a wall, with a cell phone in my hand.  I was crying.  She asked the question for the second time.  "So this is it? You're leaving me?" I could hear the pain in her voice. The first time she asked, I wasn't able to find the words.  This time, I managed a weak yes. And we both cried together.

It wasn't an even relationship.  For me, it's losing my orbit, my path, my reason for existence. Because I had become but a moon.  For her, you would think it easier to let go of her pesky little satellite, with its insecurities and its constant calls.  But satellites have their own tiny gravitational force, that effects the tides and a thousand other little things.  Losing one comes with its own pains.

When I answered her question with "yes", it was an agonizing moment for both of us, but something magical happened.  Satellites are supposed to slowly get closer as they orbit, until there's eventually a crash.  But in that moment, a moon lifted painfully and floated into space to find her own path.  All my life up tot hat moment, I took the path of least resistance, content to orbit someone or something else. But though it was hard at first, in that moment planet Shannon started defying gravity.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Of Furrows and Mule's Ears

This week a farmer passed away here in my town.  I didn't know him, but he always seemed such an interesting character.  He was 94 years old, and was still sharp as a tack.  He was still gardening and driving, and just loved to talk.  I guess there is something to say for eating organic home grown foods almost exclusively and staying physically active, but I think luck and genetics favored him a bit as well probably.  He was really down to earth, and a thinker.  In fact, he was a bit famous for offering lots of colorful unsolicited wisdom in the form of long monologues.  Everyone loved him though and he was a pleasure to talk to.

The day before he died, an area television station came to interview him about a mining accident that happened here many years ago.  Hhis family went to his room to wake him to watch the interview on television and found him in his chair.  He had passed quietly at home at 94.

This morning Dad mentioned watching that last interview on the station's web site.  Particularly an analogy caught his attention.  The farmer was talking about his dad and some advice on plowing from years ago.  The father had said that when you plow, you don't look behind at the plow.  You keep looking straight ahead, right between the mule's ears or you might end up three furrows over.  The farmer said he had applied this to a lot of areas in life beyond plowing.  I guess its a fairly colorful way of saying "Keep your eye on the prize."

I think anyone in transition can take a lot from that statement if you think about it.  Don't look back over where you have been.  There's not much point in looking back over what you wish you had done.  And looking to the side at furrows still left isn't too useful.  The important thing is the furrow that you are on in the hear and now, and keeping it straight with a keen eye on the immediate objective ahead.  

I think that's me right now.  I'm not wasting too much time with regrets about my late start in transition anymore.  And I'm not obsessing over the parts still further on, that I don't know how to manage yet.  I've got a plan for the rest of this field, but right now I've got my eye at the end of the furrow I'm making.  

I could maybe use a faster mule though. :P

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Pushing Past The Mist

Take one step at a time.
There's no need to rush.
It's like learning to fly,
or falling in love...

-Jordan Sparks

Anyone who has spent much time around me knows that planning isn't really my forte.  I have a hard time thinking beyond this week, and for the most part, anything farther ahead than that feels impossible to me, unless I'm in a really optimistic mood.

If I do take on something longer term, my plans tend to be very vague and misty.  And so it has always been with my transition.  It's hard for me to break it down into tasks, and the whole thing seems totally impossible.  It has been like a beacon shining in fog, with no way to discern the surrounding landscape.  At first it felt unreachable, but eventually I needed to get there bad enough to start taking little steps into the fog.  With each step I could see just a little farther down the path, and I've reached a point where I'm comfortable with the idea that even though I can't see exactly how to get where I am going, with each step I can see what to do next.

There is still a fear that eventually I'll hit a wall, or thicket or something. If so though, I'll at least be that much closer to where I need to be.  With enough determination I think you can find a way past any obstacle, and though planning is a weak point with me, determination is something I have.

Okay, so, beyond metaphors, what exactly am I trying to say?  When I started out, I didn't know what to do about work or family, I needed counseling, an endocrinologist, a referral, laser, electrolysis, and lots of time for hormones to work.  Then of course, the name change, document updates, the real life test, and of course, the GRS.  At first it was overwhelming but by focusing on one thing at a time, I've made a lot of progress.

The family situation has settled down.  My work situation seems stable so far.  I got a part of the counseling I need, the referral, the hormones, and have had enough time for hormones to make quite a lot of difference.  Also, the facial part of laser is going well. So far so good.  So where to next?

I'm going for more facial laser on the 30th, and I'm going to start asking about laser in a few other areas while continuing with TRIA in the places I use it currently.  On the 1st, back to counseling.  I've decided I want to get an orcheictomy now, because I'm not sure when I'l be able to afford GRS. My counselor is more familiar with the standards of care than me, so I'll be askign her how much red tape is involved.  In the mean time, I'll be researching the potential drawbacks of having an orchi well in advance of a GRS.

Also, I'll be asking her questions about the name change, and what is involved in changing the gender marker on my driver's license in Kentucky.  I know I'm quite a long way from being able to change the birth certificate, but I'm not sure what is involved with the license.

So hopefully if this goes well, I can start making progress toward an orchi, while the hormones and laser are still slowly working.  If I can schedule the orchi, then shortly afterward I intend to handle every name and gender marker I can legally change at this early point, and then come out at work.

I'm hoping it can all happen this year.  I have no idea what will happen at work, or how well things will go at home.  I may need a new place to live, or a new job or both shortly after.  But I will be on my real life test, and will not have to worry about testosterone ever again. From there, its a matter of figuring out how to take care of GRS.  The cost is daunting, and there are so many possible surgeons in so many places.

All that is still out there in the mist though.  Right now I'm just taking little steps, and handling each thing as it materializes.

Monday, April 05, 2010


Well, here we are, its that time again. Today is 10 days after laser and I expect major shedding to start tomorrow!  While I was sitting around plucking at the remaining hair, trying to decide what was going to shed, and what I was stuck with another 5 weeks.  There is some coming back in that I thought until now I was permanently rid of. And it doesn't look like problem areas are going to get a full shed this time.  I am very happy with my overall progress, but on facial hair, I'm a bit concerned.  I think its time to start giving electrolysis a very, very serious look.

I have two more appointments left facially, and then I might do a few more laser appointments for other areas I can't handily reach with a TRIA home laser.  But on my face, it will be electrolysis from there in, unless something really impressive suddenly starts happening with laser.

Still, what laser has been able to get, it has handled efficiently.  THe way I used to be, it would have taken years and years of electrolysis. There was just too much hair.  Now, its down to amounts an electrologist can manage.  Assuming of course, that it doesn't all come back.  That's a scary possibility too.

Guess we'll see!

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Revisiting A Very,Very Tired Conversation LOL

Picture if you will, a courtyard. An ocean of violets in bloom.  The animals strike curious poses.....  Oops, wrong scenario.

Okay, lets try again.

Picture if you will, a theatre.  A tranny is in the men's room.  Four teenage thugs strike curious poses.  They feel that she, that she is in the wrong room.

Oops, I'm sorry. My sense of humor can be a little quirky.  For those who missed it, the lyrics are a Prince reference.  Er, the top set.  The spoof version, I take full responsibility for, so throw the tomatoes this direction.  I love 'em!   I think a Prince song just popped into my head because this story happens to hinge around androgyny. :P

Alright, and now on to the story. Seriously!

A few weekends back, I was in London, Kentucky with friends.  While we were out shopping around, we decided to go catch a movie.  Eventually everyone settled on "She's Out Of My League", and after the tickets were purchased we made our way to the refreshments counter.

I was pretty close to home, due for laser, and traveling light.  So I had elected to go as a guy.  It was very obvious that my presentation was suspicious at best.  I had received lots of odd looks at a Cracker Barrel restaurant earlier that day, and had been addressed "ladies" by the waitress.  That sort of thing is great for my confidence, because my goal in guy mode is really not to pass fully, but rather to get by.

Inside the theatre, I was getting tons of weird looks, which I really didn't mind.  No one seemed threatening.  Then something happened that made me think.

I went t the restroom about half way through the movie.  All the shows had started within a few minutes of each other, and were all right in the middle of their run time.  The lobby was mostly desserted, but there were employees around and it  felt pretty safe.

As I have done all my life, I stepped into the men's room in men's clothes, without any consideration.  As I rounded the corner inside, I was shocked by the sight of four rough looking teen guys.  One was pointing a small knife in the direction of another, and one had his head in the sink.

As they noticed me round the corner, the knife quickly disappeared into a pocket and one of the guys began shaking the one with his head in the sink to get up.  The other two were both looking at me like I shouldn't be there. One of them opened his mouth to speak, but then stood quietly, still looking in my direction.

My heart was racing.  This situation didn't feel safe. These were just kids, but they looked like absolute thugs.  The knife was probably just out to carve something into a wall or something, but still they were staring at me, and they had a weapon somewhere.  At least it was a good sign that they had put it away.

I had an option at this point. Turn and walk out, or walk past to get to a stall.  I felt myself wanting to back up to the door and leave.  For some reason though, after a moment I found myself walking past as they observed me curiously.  I was still terrified, but trying hard to look like I belonged there.

As I closed the stall door, they all began to laugh and someone said "That dude looked like a girl!"  My fear started to subside.  I've seen kids offended by my appearance, and I've seen kids who simply think I'm a big joke.  These kids didn't show any signs of that fear driven transphobic hatred, but instead an amused curiosity.  I tried to hold on to that thought as I sat protected only by four thin metal walls and a puny bathroom stall latch.

Everything went quiet, and I waited to step out.  First I glanced around the floor through the gap around the bottom of the stall wall.  There was no sign of them, so I quickly made my way back to the lobby.

The rest of night went a lot better but this experience left me with lots of questions.  What if those guys had been the sort who would react violently to someone like me?  They could have chosen to kill me as quickly as they chose to put the knife away.   They were pretty sure the restroom was safely deserted or they would not have picked it as a hangout probably.

On the bathroom question, I have always thought it is simple.  If you are presenting male, with any degree of success, I figured you should be in the men's room.  If you are presenting female, and people are accepting that in their interactions, you should be going to the women's room.  They were simple rules, but have served me well until now.

But what happens, when you are at a point where you can't always present as female, yet can't pass consistently as a male?  I think right now, depending on distances, angles, and variables that shift from day to day, I can be perceived as anything from a very effiminite male, to an obvious transexual, to a tall woman with strange fashion sense.

I guess the obvious answer would be to go full time if I can't consistently pass as male.  But with my employment situation as it is, that has major financial risks.  Especially before I finish laser, I consider it a bad idea.

I suppose really all I can do for now is do guy mode in unfamiliar places only when it's necessary, be mindful of how my presentation is working on any given day, and just be careful of the possible consequences.

I'm looking forward to a day when I don't have to worry about it anymore.