Friday, August 03, 2012


I noticed an email from Caroline a few hours ago that reminded me I haven't written in ages.  I've often wanted to, but everything has just been so busy. 

While it has been a long time since I have written,itI feels even longer to me, because it has been such a turbulent year and my life has changed so much in that short time. 

Katie and I are doing well.  This time a year ago I was in love, but I really wasn't sure how well I knew her.  Over this year, we have grown so close, and found so much in common.  Her companionship has made the last year so much easier, and through the hardships of the past few months, I'm not sure how I would have made it without her. 

Transition-wise, things are basically at a stand still right now.  I've gained wide acceptance in my town, and am treated well.  My day to day life feels very typical.  I no longer have the feeling that I could be insulted any second when I'm out in town, and I don't sit at fast food restaurants looking around to see if I'm about to get insulted. At work, people almost always get pronouns correctly, and if they slip up, they correct themselves imediately.  My boss used to seem uncomfortable around me, to the point that I worked in isolation, mostly cut off from the rest of the department.  Now things are less awkward between us, and I have been mostly re-integrated.

It has been long enough since my surgeries that everything has settled.  I'm very pleased with my face, though teh differences are subtle.  Just a little more open around the eyes, and my brow doesn't look so heavy in ccertain lighting.  It was something that I was very self concious about.  My only complaint is that one corner of my hairline is noticably higher than the other.  I could probably get a free revision, only, it wouldn't be free since it would involve travel to Mexico.  I'd rather save my money ahead for GRS. 

My breast augmentation went very well.  I can't honestly claim to look natural, but I'm pleased with the results anyone.  I was at the Lexigton, KY Pride event last month with Katie, and I met a gay male couple at an ATM.  One asked if my boobs were real.  The other said "Of course that's all real. Don't be rude!"  The first guy said something like "Honey, when your straps fall down and the boobs go up instead of down... that's not natural."  LOL!  I had been drinking margaritas and really didn't have enough focus to keep the top of my dress under control.

Got to add this! It turned out we were all going to the same place.  When we got to the bar, me and the second guy ended up at the counter at the same time.  We were sitting around chatting and he was like "I just have to say, you are absolutely gorgeous.  You remind me of Angelina Jolie.  I feel like I'm sitting here talking to Angelina Jolie!"  It was probably the most flattering thing anyone has ever said to me, and he meant it.  He wasn't interesting and trying to pick me up and had no real reason to suck up to me.  Of course, he was also half drunk.  There's that beer goggle effect, you know?  LOL!

Amid all the positive changes and pleasant experiences though, this has been the hardest year of my life.  Not because of transition, but because I lost my mother.  Through a lot of last year, she had strange medical symptoms, and wasn't looking well.  I tried to be supportive and encouraging.  Even when she was going for exaimations, I had myself convinced whatever was happening was going to be something treatable. In November we found out she had cancer, and they weren't sure what kind.  I still clung to the hope that it would be something treatable.

In May we lost her.  The chemo and radiation never really helped.  Nor any of the surgeries.  In the end, her quality of life would have probably been better if she had just stayed home.  But she was a fighter, and she wouldn't let go.  Through it all, she never complained.  I have always felt I was tough, standing up through the things I've been through.  But Mom was tougher.

I have so many regrets about Mom.  Most of my life, I felt distant from my family, because I was harboring such heavy secrets that I felt they didn't know me.  Then, since I came out, she and I have had such a war of wills.  Some of the things she said to me are hard to forget.  But what I didn't know was that the emotional distance I put between us to avoid fighting would eventually hurt more than words ever could. Most of her last healthy months, we got along and didn't fight, but never did a lot together.

In the end, she accepted me and we were back on good terms.  The last day she was alert enough to hear, I held her hand and told her how proud I was of her strength, and how much I wanted to be like her.  I told her so many things that were important to me.  But now the memory is hazy and it doesn't feel real.  It's like my mind is trying to push those memories away to protect me.  But I do remember that she had the look around her eyes that she always got when she smiled, and then a tear fell fromm her eye.  At the time she couldn't talk or even move.  The tear let me know she could hear, and that the smile around her eyes wasn't just my imagination.  It was the first time I'd been able to really tell her she was a role model to me, and how much I admired the way she lived her life.  How much I appreciated the selfless loving way that she raised me.  I so wish I had told her so a long time ago.  But, in truth, I don't think she would have been any more ready to hear it, than I was ready to say it. 

The day of her funeral, I was just in shock.  So much so that I totaled my car.  My mind was just working so slowly that I looked over to see if my phone was in the passenger seat, and it took me so long to process it, that by the time I faced forward again, I was already running off the road.  It flipped and I just remember sliding along vaguely hoping to live.  There wasn't even a shaky adrenalin rush.  Just stepped out of the car in my black dress covered in glass, and my sliced, bloody hose, and stood around completely detached from the whole thing.  It just wasn't important enough to care. 

The last two weeks of July, Dad, Katie and I went to Yellowstone together.  We all love nature, photography and getting outside, which has been good for Dad and I. We just try to give eachother things to look forward to, to pull through.  It's very hard for Dad, but he stays busy.  On the vacation, we explored the park more thoroughly than we ever have, and came back with lots of great landscape and wildlifephotos.  Dad says he wants Katie and I in his life as much as possible, which makes me very happy.  This fall, he and I are going to build kayaks together, and hopefully we all have lots more outdoor adventures in our future. 

I've been happier since vacation. It gave me enough distance from Mom's passing, and my everyday existence to gain some perspective.  I have a lot to live for. Lots to be thankful for.  I've recommited to my fitness since mid June, and I feel so vital right now.  I'm surrounded by good friends, and a wonderful family.  Life is short, but its a blessing.  A very fragile, temporary blessing and you have to relish every moment, and cherish every close human connection.  It's all temporary, and it can all change in a heartbeat, but that is not something to be bitter about.  It is what makes it all so precious.

Wednesday was Chic-fil-a appreciation day.  Ridiculuosly high turnouts of people protecting the right to disccriminate against others, with a thin excuse that it was really about freedom of speech.  Most of us are fine with the man and the company have a right to an opinion, and a right to spend their profits where we wish.  We just do not wish to support it with our money.  And yet conservatives come out in droves to protest our boycott, calling us hypocrites, for using our freedom to simply choose where we wish to spend our money. 

Reading all the hateful and ignorant messages in news story reader comments and social media all day, I started feeling more alienated than I have in a long time.  It made me feel like all the optimism I've felt about our direction as a culture was misplaced. I felt outnumbered, vulnerable, and suddenly the future looked bleak.  I dreaded Thursday. Going to my largely conservative work place.  I thought I would feel so out of place.  Instead, everyone was unusually nice, and my tensions started to ease. I was being naive, and the world is not that dark.  And the acceptance I have recieved localy is very real after all.  Still I felt a paranoia, and an insecurity in town that I haven't felt in over a year. 

When I got home, I decided to fight it.  I wanted to remind myself that I have the same rights as anyone else, and can go where I want, and do what I want.  So I slipped into some pink spandex running shorts and a job bra and took my 1 mile evening run doing laps around town square instead of around the highschool track.  .

I half wanted confrontation, or at least some mean stares.  If there were any rednecks feeling smug and thinking their kind rules the country after Wednesday, I wanted to remind them that they don't control me,  I'm not afraid of them, and that I'm still proud of who I am.  Didn't even get an odd look though.  Some guys watched me run, but not in an offendedvsort of  way. 

Afterward, I walked into BP to buy a drink.  I hit the door feeling like a 5'11", sweat drenched tranny in skin tight running gear, out to be confrontational and make the statement "I go where I like, and if you don't like it, you'll have to deal."  Left just feeling like a regular girl- stopping by for a Gatorade after a run, like any normal person has a right too.  No odd looks.  No stares.  The lady in line in front of me gave me her place in line. 

"You go first!"

"Are you sure?"

"Yes, you only have one item, and you look burnt up honey!"

"Yeh, I've been out running."

"I'd pass out running in this heat!"

I guess I don't have the shock value I used to.  Feels nice! 

By the time I got home, I felt like a normal person again.  The fearful ghosts conjured by the Chic-fil-a fiasco had dissapeared as quickly as they had emerged.

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.