Saturday, March 31, 2012

My Transgender History Follows Me

Our heroine has struggled for years. Fighting through the thick fog of self-doubt and apprehension, battling demons of the soul that rise up to block her divine path and steeling herself while those she once loved flee her presence.

Her body is battered and bruised. Skillfully cut by the surgeons knife her physical wounds have yet to knit and pain dogs each wretched step she takes into the future.

Her spirit is weary with fatigue. The long journey has taken it's toll as her optimism flags and the emotional scars of loved ones lost encrust her heart. She cries herself to sleep at night, on those few nights when rest overtakes her. Each new waking promises a difficult day of sojourn to herself.

Her soul is black and numb. The rise and fall from hope to despair has dimmed the light within. She struggles to see the goodness within others even as her own fades.

She grasps the truth, only to realize it is crawling with lies. Like an overripe fruit, it is too late to enjoy her authentic self now covered with maggots.

My transgender history follows me long after I've embraced the truth of who I am. I must suppress the lie of who I was, lest the faint peace of congruity slip from this present moment. Yet in doing so I usher in the pestilence of falsehood to infect today.

I am caught. Do I deny my transgender history, and lie to those I now hold dear?  Or do I let my transgender history in, and lie to my deepest self?

The words from the Jars of Clay song, Worlds Apart echo through my mind as I wrestle with the challenge of becoming myself without forgetting myself.

I am the only one to blame for this
Somehow it all ends up the same
Soaring on the wings of selfish pride
I flew too high and like Icarus I collide
With a world I try so hard to leave behind
To rid myself of all but love
to give and die

To turn away and not become
Another nail to pierce the skin of one who loves
more deeply than the oceans,
more abundant than the tears
Of a world embracing every heartache

Can I be the one to sacrifice
Or grip the spear and watch the blood and water flow

To love you - take my world apart
To need you - I am on my knees
To love you - take my world apart
To need you - broken on my knees

All said and done I stand alone
Amongst remains of a life I should not own
It takes all I am to believe
In the mercy that covers me

Did you really have to die for me?
All I am for all you are
Because what I need and what I believe are worlds apart
And I pray
To love you - take my world apart
To need you - I am on my knees
To love you - take my world apart
To need you - broken on my knees, on my knees

I look beyond the empty cross
forgetting what my life has cost
and wipe away the crimson stains
and dull the nails that still remain
More and more I need you now,
I owe you more each passing hour
the battle between grace and pride
I gave up not so long ago
So steal my heart and take the pain
and wash the feet and cleanse my pride
take the selfish, take the weak,
and all the things I cannot hide
take the beauty, take my tears
the sin-soaked heart and make it yours
take my world all apart
take it now, take it now
and serve the ones that I despise
speak the words I can't deny
watch the world I used to love
fall to dust and thrown away
I look beyond the empty cross
forgetting what my life has cost
so wipe away the crimson stains
and dull the nails that still remain
so steal my heart and take the pain
take the selfish, take the weak
and all the things I cannot hide
take the beauty, take my tears
take my world apart, take my world apart
I pray, I pray, I pray
take my world apart

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

It's Over

Monday March 26th marks a seminal day in my gender journey. For a brief moment the meaning of it overcomes my nerves as I'm wheeled into the operating theater. As the anesthetic begins to take hold I ponder briefly the pain and heart ache it has taken to get this far.

Joy after transgender surgery
Joy after transgender surgery
The emotional turmoil fades further into the distance as the memory of my recent physical trauma assaults me. I am still bruised and swollen for my penultimate surgery. The narcotics cover up that memory like a mother gently tucking her child in for the night and I close my eyes for the final time. My last transgender surgery.

Deft knife wielding surgeons

I had planned my first surgery for more than a year. Hoping to begin my journey with gender reassignment surgery and erase the cacophony of physical incoherance with my opening gambit. Yet I ran headlong into the establishment gatekeepers who demand an adequate compensation in time and resources. My first planned surgery was ten months after I went full time, and my therapist deemed my full time experience insufficient.

Never mind the fact that I had sacrificed my marriage, lost many friends and told all my colleagues at work. Never mind that I had already made life altering decisions that could never be undone. My experience did not meet the ”standards of care”. I would not be allowed to have my gender reassignment surgery ”early”. (The WPATH standards of care were recently changed to no longer require a year of real life experience).

I was outraged, but directed my anger to scheduling another surgery even earlier. I scheduled a number of procedures for nine months after going full time. It still amuses me that I can rearrange every part of my body - except one- without needing permission.

First blood

My first series of procedures were with Dr. Mark Zukowski in Chicago. I spent 13 hours under anesthetic to complete facial feminization, feminine body sculpting and a Brazilian butt lift. I'll share more of my experience in an upcoming post. Suffice to say I am very happy with the results, but hindsight being devoid of visionary defects, I would not do all three procedures at once if I had a do-over.

Finally whole

My second surgery was gender reassignment surgery with Dr. Toby Meltzer in Scottsdale Arizona. Specifically I had a vaginoplasty. Dr. Meltzer performs reassignment surgery in two phases, the second one being labiaplasty. I had this done just under twelve months after going full time. I had waited long enough to placate the gatekeepers.

As with my first transgender surgery, I had planned this many months in advance. Even to the point of taking five months off work so that I could complete the two most invasive surgeries in one go before returning.

Enough blood

At the time of booking my vaginoplasty I didn’t realize that I needed to wait three months before having a labiapasty. This is done so that there can be enough blood flow to the area to make it safe to operate.

Unfortunately the earliest surgery date was four months out, so I returned to work knowing that my surgeries were not yet complete and that there was still more pain and time off to come. I'll share more details of my labiaplasty in an upcoming post. As I sit here I can still feel the week old pain throbbing down below.

Snap decision

Up until a week ago I had hoped my breasts would naturally grow to a size large enough that I would be satisfied and not need yet one more surgery. Almost 18 months after starting hormones my breasts were still barely visible (okay, an A cup - but that won't turn a man's head...), and a particular incident with a boyfriend made up my mind.

I was going to get breast implants. I wouldn't be happy with my body unless I did. I didn't decide to do it for him, but after months wrestling with the decision he gave me the final insight which pushed me over the edge. He told me that he had noticed how obsessed I was with the size of my breasts and how it was unusual for a woman to wear padded bras all the time. This was in the context of a larger discussion I'm not quite ready to share yet.

The day of my labiaplasty I hopefully asked the doctor if he could do my breasts while I was under. As it turns out I had to wait a week, but that worked out well with my schedule.

All done

Now I'm in pain and finding it difficult to move, but I'm pleased that my string of transgender surgeries has come to end an. It was an ordeal I wouldn't wish on anyone, but I cannot imagine not going through it. I feel free, with my body matching my soul as completely as I could ever have dreamed.

The pain will fade, and the memories of my struggle become distant as I don my future life. I feel as blessed as a transgender woman can be.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

It gets lonely

I’ve just completed my third surgery to correct a physical situation I was born with. I sit with an icepack between my legs and a nightstand full of various pills. There are pain pills and
antibiotics, pills to counteract the ill effects of anesthisia and pills to counter the ill effects of antibiotics.

It’s been just over eight months since my medical journey began. In a few days time I will round the final lap and complete the surgical part of the race to become myself.

I realize that I haven't written a lot about my previous surgeries. The agonizing and frightening facial feminization surgery, or the debilitating vaginoplasty, or the comparatively pain free labiaplasty. Hmm... Maybe that’s just the drugs talking. It was only yesterday after all, and I still have quite a dose running through my system.

In part my silence is because my energy has been sapped doing the work of healing my body. In part it's because I wanted to write a thorough treatise on my experience as a helpful guide for others. And I guess in part I wanted to put the whole experience behind me as quickly as possible. I am eager to move on with my new life and to leave the old behind me.

So a few days away from breast augmentation surgery I ponder the phrase some have used to describe my experience - ”it’s just a phase”. I think the word ”phase” means something different to you and me...

This is my life. Sometimes I dance for joy at being alive. Sometimes I weep as years of pent up grief roll down my cheeks and I realize - this is my life.

Soon at least I will get a reprieve from doctors and nurses. A welcome respite from needles and hospital rooms. Then the real work begins.

In some ways the physical act of transition has been straightforward. Organize the surgeries. Fly there, follow the doctor’s orders. Get cut, survive the pain and heal. Rinse, lather, repeat until medical science has helped create the life I have always lived inside.

But it gets lonely. When all the therapy has been done. When all the name change forms have been filled out. When you've told everyone you know. When the voice therapy has taken you as far as it can and the electrolysis is at it’s end. When plastic surgeons from coast to coast have plied their trade on you. It gets lonely.

I am a woman. Inside and out I am a woman. But I will always have a secret. A secret that will make dating more difficult, that will haunt me in my vulnerable moments.

Sometimes I am lonely and afraid. Yet so far I have made the most of my turn at life. I cannot imagine another future. Even though happiness is at times out of reach, with a bit of luck I will be able to hold it for just a while. Just one more moment.