Thursday, August 04, 2011

Poles Apart

Did you know all the time but it never bothered you anyway
Leading the blind while I stared out the steel in your eyes

-David Gilmore

I've not been around a lot lately.  I have regrets about that.  Basically my life is so full that I do not have as much time to write as I once did.  I'm also far enough into transition that most of my day to day life doesn't revolve around gender anymore, and it leaves me with little relevant to say here on a regular basis.  It's just work and love and family an all the mundane things that mark a typical life now.  There are steps I still need to take in transition, but in the interim, I have very little to contribute.  

Lately I've been thinking about some of the blogs I once followed closely, and friends I haven't spoken to in a while.  I just wanted to catch up, so I returned to read.  But the very first entry I read reminded me of the divides in the trans blogging world. 

On one side, you have a faction of crossdressers who lash out at transexual women.  They assume that transexual women have the same motivations they do, that they are delusional, and that transition is not healthy for anyone.  

On the opposite side, you have a few elitist transexuals who think that anyone who does not share their motivations (or in some cases, just have not completed the transition process) have no right to express their gender.

Between these two extremes you have so many people who are just innocently trying to document their transition or their transgender experience, who get bombarded with comments that pull them into this completely pointless debate.

What I really want to ask, is why can we not all get along?  Can we not accept that people have different motivations, different goals, and that there is no reason to judge each other?

We are each the primary stakeholder with regards to our own gender identity.  Why can't we just accept each other at face value, give each other the proper respect and move on?  Does it matter if someone else is on a different path, has different motivations, or has a different understanding of gender?  Some of it deserves intelligent debate perhaps.  But does misgendering, bullying and childish name calling really contribute to an understanding of gender?  I don't think it does.

I'll probably be quiet again for a while after this.  The whole debate just makes me sad and I don't like getting pulled into it. This little corner of the internet used to be so pleasant and informative.  Now it feels like two polar opposite factions vying for control and everyone else just in the middle trying to dodge the bullets.  

The irony is that both sides of this want mainstream society to embrace them, take them at face value and give them respect.  If you can't respect another view, and respect another's right to gender expression, how is it fair to expect the mainstream to embrace you?  Don't ask for more than you are willing to give.  

Monday, June 06, 2011

Casa De Las Flores

Saturday April 23 was my first day waking up at Casa De Las Flores.  Despite the pain from my surgeries two days past, the quaint charm of my surroundings was not lost on me.  The walls had niches and inset areas, and everything was painted in unthinkable color combinations.  If someone painted a room yellow, green and pink in America, it would not work.  For some reason when you see it in Mexico it just feels bold and striking.  The colors were not the only reminder that I was not in Kentucky anymore.  Every flat surface and decorative niche was filled with beautiful Mexican folk art, and all the counters were done in tiny hand painted tiles.  A giant picture window looked out on the courtyard, which was an absolute wonder.  I had seen it online, but was still taken by surprise at its beauty upon arrival the previous day.

From the street, Casa De Las Flores looks like a small two story building that would not be big enough to have guest rooms.  It is situated on an urban street.  From outside you can't see any ground that isn't paved.   But once you step inside, you are greeted with office space and a large common area filled with lavish folk art.  The back door opens onto the garden courtyard.  Two story walls shield the area and exotic plants fill the space with surprising density.  Their variety and beauty are impressive.  Pavers lead from the outdoor dining area adjoining the front offices, across the courtyard in sweeping curves, to the rear building that contains the guest rooms.

From my angle on the bed, looking out the window gave the impression that my room was in a tropical rain forest rather than adjoining a courtyard.  The beautiful foliage blocked the view back to the front building completely.  At least 5 kinds of birds were calling constantly outside.

While the view from my bed was a wonderful combination of crafts and art inside, with plants and sun outside my window, I was still far from comfortable.  My head felt numb and strange, but not particularly painful and my throat hurt a little from my tracheal shave.  The main source of discomfort was definitely my breasts.  I had opted for 450 mL anatomical implants, and had chosen sub-pectoral placement.   That means that instead of placing the implants directly under my existing mammary tissue, they actually lifted the muscles of my chest and placed the implants under them.

It has advantages and disadvantages.  Some research suggests this placement makes a few complications less likely.  Plus, since the implants have more separation from the mammary tissue, they do not complicate mammograms as much as sub-glandular implants.  It also masks the edges of the implant, making it harder to detect their shape.  There are a few drawbacks, but the most immediate one is pain.  According to some articles, choosing sub-pectoral implant placement takes breast augmentation from medium pain levels, right past high and potentially into severe.

"Severe" felt about right this morning.  The compression bra still tore into my back and sides, and a sneeze felt like my ribs were breaking.  My breasts felt tight and my pectoral muscles seemed stretched and painful.  My arms were practically unusable.  Laying on my back made the incisions on my chest feel dangerously stretched.  I spent the night propped up on pillows so I could sleep sitting almost upright.  But I still needed help getting up.  It is fortunate that our friend Jen was there, because Kay was in no position to help me.  Only one day ahead of me in recovery, her mobility was almost as restricted as mine.

Kay did not feel like having breakfast the first morning.  I didn't either, but I knew my body was healing and that I needed nourishment.  So when Jen reminded us that it was time for breakfast,  I went reluctantly and Kay chose to stay in the room.

The breakfast was great.  I don't really know how to explain what it was, but it was delicious and filling. After breakfast Jen decided to have a walk around the neighborhood.  Kay chose to sit it out.  I thought walking might remind me that most of my body was still healthy and help me focus on the positive.  Plus exploring seemed a good way to take my mind off the pain. When we stepped out, we both imediately noticed a beautiful old cathedral a few blocks away.  I said I wanted to try to walk to it.  Jen seemed surprised that I would try for such a distance on my  first walk post-surgery, but was optimistic.

Walking did help me feel better.  The sun, the architecture,  and all the little nuances that distinguish a community filled my senses and thoughts, distracting me from the pain.  I kept up with Jen but breathing deeply hurt.  At one point I accidentally stepped off the curb and the sudden shock sent a wave of pain through my chest.

 A few days ago I had been staying at Hotel Morales in Guadalajara city center.  My last sight seeing day there, I had worn my favorite strapless floral dress.  I got quite a few looks and cat calls.  At one point I had been approached by a local guy who asked my name.  When I told him, he pretended not to hear me, so that I would lean in closer to repeat it.  He kissed me on the cheek.  It was more attention than I wanted, but at the same time it was all very flattering.

Those recent memories made my treatment today seem comparatively discouraging.  I felt like a freak, out with visible stitches over unhealed incisions on  my head and throat, and with my face still continuing to swell and bruise.  The thought was there.  "I did this to look better and feel more confident, and now I'm a disfigured freak."  I kept reminding myself that it was all temporary and that in a month things would be mostly healed.  It was hard to make it feel real though.

That walk was the first of many.  The next morning Kay came to breakfast and started exploring town too.  We kept venturing farther, and our walks became souvenir shopping trips.  We got to sample lots of local food, and take in quite a bit of local culture.  We both got stronger as we went, and toward the end we finally had enough mobility to cuddle at night instead of sleeping completely propped up side by side on pillows.  I think that made me happier than any other progress during recovery.

In the beginning, the pain didn't seem bearable, and it was hard to imagine being free of it.  But each day it was noticeably better so I kept reminding myself that eventually I would heal.  Often, I worried that I would run out of time to heal.  I couldn't imagine handling airports and planes, feeling the way I felt.  But by the time of our exit exams at the clinic, much of the pain was gone and I felt positive about the trip home.

Saturday, June 04, 2011


I was sitting on the edge of my hospital bed in the Clinica Angeles Chapalita, looking down at the Clinica Angeles Chapalita logo slippers on my feet as I thought through my doubts and fears.  I already felt pretty much committed.  Still with only moments left before the anesthesiologist would place the mask on my face, I think it is only natural that I had second thoughts.

I had spent the previous night in my girlfriend Kay's clinic room, trying to help her and keep her comfortable after her series of surgeries.  This morning it was my turn.

During the planning phase of this trip, I had misgivings about being scheduled second.  I'm squeamish of all things medical, and I was not sure I could see Kay post surgery and still be able to go through with mine.

Instead, it worked out very well.  I was too worried about Kay to worry about myself before her surgery.  Then after, I was so concerned with trying to make her comfortable that I wasn't thinking about my operations at all.

At this point I was in my own room though.  The doctors had been in just moments before.  Doctor Cardenas, another plastic surgeon, and lots of support staff had come into my room.  While everyone watched, Cardenas began drawing the incision marks on my chest, throat and forehead. I think that is when the fear set in.  Sitting there on the table feeling the marker draw lines that would soon be traced by a scalpel.

Had I really thought this through? Only months ago, all these operations were a fantasy to me.  I had heard about typical US prices and ruled out all these operations because I felt I couldn't afford to do this and GRS too.  Then a chance meeting changed my transition plan.  I had found Kay, fallen in love, and as a result, learned about surgery options I probably never would have explored on my own.  She was already scheduled for surgery on April 20 with Cardenas when we met in early December.  When she had gone over   the pricing, I had been astonished, and a little tempted.  By March, I knew there was no way I could let her go to Mexico for surgery and stay home only getting updates on her condition by sporadic phone calls.

My need to take the trip had made the idea of taking care of some of my own surgical needs more tempting than ever.  If I was going anyway, that meant I could have my surgeries without additional travel and lodging expenses.  Plus,  Kay already had arranged for a good friend to come along, so I would not need to find someone to look after me.  After my own research into  Cardenas's practice as well as the potential risks of the surgeries I felt I needed, I was sure I wanted to do it and began scheduling.

It was barely a month ago that they set my April 21 surgery date.  Had I researched enough? Was I even sure I needed all this work?  Was it safe to have all this done in Guadalajara, Mexico?  I knew these thoughts were no longer constructive.  Just last minute hesitation.  I had researched.  I knew these operations would help my confidence and self esteem.  It was worth it, and that had all been settled.

Moments later they came to take me to the operating room.  It was not at all the way I imagined it would be before arriving here.  The walk was not a big white, sterile corridor with that lingering hospital smell. Instead, the door to my room opened into a courtyard surrounded by two story balconies.  The floor was stone.  Benches and various plants punctuated the open space.  The nurse walked me and my IV bag stand part of the way around the courtyard to another door that opened directly onto the surgical suite, which thankfully looked a lot more sterile, but frightening compared to the open, natural feel of the courtyard.

I was terrified.  My heart was racing as they set me on the operating table and began final preparations.  When they started taking my blood pressure I thought it would come up ridiculously high, but it didn't. The nurses did realize I was scared though and tried to comfort me.  The last thing I remember was looking up into the light, a nurse holding my hand on each side.  The one to my right said "You have such a pretty nose."  Then I was out.

 I awoke.  Just barely.  I couldn't feel pain anywhere, and it never occurred to me to open my eyes.  I just remember the sensation of sliding, as they shifted me from the surgery table to whatever they took me to my room on, and a sense of motion, then sliding again as they placed me back into bed.  Several relaxed voices were conversing in Spanish through my relocation.  I was just awake enough to take the conversational tone as a good sign.

When I became fully awake and opened my eyes, I was back in my room.  I had no idea what I looked like.  No mirrors.  I knew how my head was wrapped because I had seen Kay.  Looking down, it was pretty obvious I wasn't flat chested anymore.  Bandages completely covered my breasts, which seemed impossibly large.  Mentally, I felt a lot sharper than I expected too.  But I could barely move, and every part of me felt stiff, sore and unresponsive.  Fortunately Kay and our friend were there to take care of me.

Breast augmentation, forehead reconstruction, brow lift, hairline advancement, and a tracheal shave were all performed in less than three hours.  The first day, was uncomfortable, but the day after was worse.  Pain was constant all day, but bearable.  Then by 1 AM,  I was out of my bandages and showered.  My breasts felt impossibly heavy and delicate.  My forehead felt painful and hollow.  My throat felt like a typical sore throat and my voice came out raspy.

I was discharged only 24 hours after surgery, feeling weak and nauseous, with my new surgical support bra tearing into my spine and crushing my ribs.  I looked hideous.  My curly hair had not been touched in days, a row of stitches followed my hairline around my scalp, and my face was puffy and swollen.  The driver our bed and breakfast sent for us looked a little puzzled at first sight of us.  I felt awkward being in public at all, and was very pleased to arrive at Casa De La Flores, finish check in and settle into our room for 9 days of healing.  :)

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Facing Fears.

There has been so much happening this year, and I'm sorry I'v not had time to write about most of it properly.  I had to stop by and write this one up though.  After lots of financial wrangling, some research, and a little planning, I am scheduled to go to Guadalajara Mexico in two weeks for facial feminization and breast augmentation.

It has been a hard decision for me.  I could have afforded GRS almost with the money this will cost.  But your face is the first thing people see when they meet you, and while I have been blessed in a lot of ways, there are some things that combined with my height are a dead giveaway.  Since I have been full time I have come to the conclusion that while I am mostly passable in brief encounters, like dining out, passing people in the mall and such. There are other situations where it's a lot harder.  At work or in social situations, people see you day after day, in every kind of lighting, at every angle, and eventually your full range of facial expressions.  Under that kind of scrutiny, the occasional glimpse of an adam's apple, or a heavy brow shading your eyes a bit too much and people can get enough evidence to draw conclusions.

Until this year, I thought I wanted to try to get by without facial feminization, or at least try to manage without doing it until after GRS.  In the end though this is needed for pass-ability and will help my confidence a lot.  If things go well I think it will leave me passable enough that when I decide to relocate, I can interview comfortably knowing that being trans isn't part of the equation at all. Of course that confidence will make work and everyday interaction easier too.

I have decided not to have any work done on my lower face.  What I will have done is forehead restructuring, a brow lift, and a tracheal shave.  I will probably drop some links summarizing the procedures as the date approaches.

In addition, I am considering breast augmentation as well.  My plan has always been to wait until I am near the end of my growth potential to see if I have a chance at becoming a fairly full A cup on my own. While it was looking hopeful for a while about a year ago, it is pretty obvious now that it is not happening.  My growth spurts have been rare, short lived and almost undetectable in the last 8 months, and I will have been on hormones for 3 years very soon.

Right now implants are on my surgery schedule, but I am still researching it and trying to make up my mind even as the date of my surgery approaches.  I'm almost sure I will go through with it, but just not quite sure.

I'll keep you posted, and I'll try to post before and after photos soon!  For those interested, I am going to Dr. Lazaro Cardenas for the work.  He gets great reviews on FFS newsgroups and seems to have excellent credentials and associations.  In email correspondence he has been very courteous and helpful.

More to come soon!

Monday, February 28, 2011

Star Crossed 2

I got a comment on my last post today that reminded me just how long I have been away from blogger and I feel terrible about it.  I hate it that I have fallen out of touch.  It has just been a busy few months for me.

I think part of the problem is that the longer I go without writing, the more there is that needs to be written, until eventually it feels impossible to catch up and becomes overwhelming.  Things are starting to settle a bit now though and I'm happy to have time to continue. 


The chance encounter I described in the previous installment left me feeling a little confused.  For the next few days, I could scarcely think of anything other than her, which was a bit odd for me.  Those striking blue eyes, those perfectly formed full lips, her delicate form.  Physically, she was beautiful.  But there was more to the attraction than that.  I have met lots of women who are pretty.  While I can acknowledge their beauty there have been very few times that I would have considered myself strongly attracted to a woman. 

It definitely takes more than beauty alone to inspire the level of captivation that I was feeling.  Beauty combined with a subtle hint of interest in me?  No, it's not that simple either. That has happened a few times since I started transition; the rare woman who can accept me as female and finds me attractive.  On the few times that I've encountered that situation, I've felt extremely flattered, but not attracted to my admirer.

Was it because this particular lady happened to be trans like me?  No, that is definitely not it.  Before I met her, I thought I wanted a man.  I had been in relationships with women and decided that was not what I wanted.  And the one thing I was absolutely certain I didn't want was a relationship with another transgender woman.  

Somehow the prospect seemed totally different after meeting her though.  I could imagine how much we would have in common.  Our life journeys so much alike.  Our current situations very similar.  She would understand my vulnerabilities and insecurities.  I would understand hers. Similar needs.  Shared hopes and dreams.   It had never appealed to me before, but suddenly it seemed it would be the most wonderful thing in the world to have that.

I've mentioned what I used to want in a relationship in other entries.  I thought I needed a man.  I loved the duality of a typical heterosexual relationship, the clearly defined roles.  I had been imagining someone who wouldn't trespass very far into my gender role.  Someone who would pursue me, and make me feel attractive.  Someone stronger than me to make me feel vulnerable, yet at the same time, protected.  

It had felt like the sincere desire of my heart, and I've had my share of crushes on men.  But suddenly I found myself not really caring if I ever had that sort of relationship at all.  I became aware that many of the reasons I had wanted it were practical and mundane. I had wanted rigid gender roles because I had thought it would be affirming.  I felt I needed someone stronger and more masculine, to make me feel more confident in my own femininity. 

Plus there are the social aspects.  A relationship with a man is the generally accepted thing for a woman to do, and of course, I have always wanted people to accept me as female.  One of the reasons I ruled out a relationship with a woman, trans or otherwise, is because I felt a strong need to achieve that acceptance.  

It all seemed instantly petty.  If I could have this girl in my life it would mean more to me than acceptance, or gender affirmation, or any of the things I had worried about.  It just didn't matter any more.  I felt I had a chance for something bigger than any of that.  I just knew that she was what I wanted and I couldn't stop imagining how wonderful we could be together.

It took me a couple of days to ask her out.  Not because of any doubt that I wanted to, but because I was terrified.  I'm not used to making the first move, and on the few occasions I ever asked anyone out, it was after I was sure the answer would be yes.  How awkward would it be if she said no?  We had so much in common.  What if I ruined a chance at a very special friendship by admitting an unrequited romantic interest?

Still I was sure I needed to ask her.  For a couple of days we danced awkwardly around it.  She was on my Facebook friends list before we had actually met.  I was afraid to send anything too overtly flirty but I wanted to send her signals clear enough that she would feel confident responding in kind, or maybe ask me out first-which would have made things lots easier.  I would find out later that the same game was being played on her side.  I thought so, but the evidence was never quite clear enough to make me certain.  That was also mutual as it turns out. 

I couldn't sleep.  I just laid awake at night thinking of her.  We had met on Saturday.  By Tuesday, it felt like a month had passed.  Finally I sent her a message in Facebook at 1:30 AM.  There wasn't anything subtle about it, and though I did it somewhat sillily to take some of the gravity out of the situation, I pretty much just asked her out straight up. She was awake too...

And she said yes. :)  Then my life began to change in wonderful ways. :)

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Full Time!

I'm holding off on the next chapter of Star Crossed one more time, to bring more transition news!

A while ago I went to court and started the name change petition process, as I mentioned a bit ago.  They charged me a $53 filing fee and set a court date of January 4, which was this Tuesday.

I showed up at 9:30 as I was advised, and found the courtroom to be packed.  I have been full time since January first, so I was dressed fairly well, though casual. Prisoners in jump suits waiting for hearings sat in rolling office chairs on the front row, while people on civil matters and minor offenses waited  in crowded bench seats.  They called people alphabetically for the most part.  After hearing tons of drug and traffic related judgements and a preliminary trial about a burglary, we were down in the W's and I still had not been called.

When there were only about 8 people left in the room, they called me forward, by my old name.  I got a few odd looks.  I think perhaps I was placed late on the docket intentionally to give me a bit more privacy.  I approached the bench feeling fairly confident.  The judge looked stern, but I had seen him handle quite a few cases at this point and he seemed a nice guy.

He read the petition, then asked me to verify the accuracy of both my chosen name and my given name.  Then he verified my address, date of birth and such.  He was very conversational, at one point asking if this finishes the process for me.  Caught off guard I answered "Almost." with a shy smile.

The form for a name change order was not in the courtroom so he sent someone for it and I was asked to return to my seat.  There were still a few odd looks, and one guy in particular was trying hard not to stare.

When the form arrived and was filled out I was called back forward.  The judge announced that my name change was official and wished me luck.    I settled into the same peaceful content I often feel at milestones now.  I left the courthouse with a huge smile.

Since then I've been spending a bit of time each day away from work running the errands needed to finish the process.  Wednesday I picked up my certified copies of the name change.  4, just in case.  They waived the $3 fee per copy, which was very kind.  On the way out, I stopped by the county clerk to file with them.  I think there was a $12 fee.

Then I drove over to the social security office, where they were very expedient about my name change.  My new social security card should arrive soon!

Today was the exciting part though.  I got to go down and get my driver's license made with my new name and a photo representing my new look.   They were extremely nice at the court clerk's office and chatted with me through the whole process.

Despite the M in the bottom left corner, seeing that license gave me such a sense of accomplishment.  =)

Work has went smoothly, though I went full time on schedule without any communication whatsoever to the general staff.  I have gotten a few odd looks, but most people have been very nice, and even quite complimentary.  I've been called he very few times this week.

In town and away form work things are even better.  I feel pretty much completely accepted.  Ma'ams shes and hers abound.  Also I've had doors held for me several times.

I'm in uncharted territory right now, and I'm very nervous; always looking to gauge the reactions of those around me.  But with every positive interaction my confidence grows.

When my SS card comes I'll file my name change at work and then start communicating with the companies I'm on file with.  Also at that point I'll be asking permission from upper management to send a communication to the staff for clarification.

It's looking like I'll be busy for a while!  But I'm so happy.  Transition is going great, and there's more happy news besides. But that is another entry altogether.  :)