6 months after top surgery

A couple of days ago, something suddenly dawned on me:  It finally clicked why things weren’t looking too good in terms of symmetry.  I previously had not paid attention, but my rib cage is actually fairly uneven.   I’ve known that my hips are askew for forever – I have mild scoliosis.  My waist is off – it goes straight down on the left side, and curves in on the right.  We all have these little quirks…  Other things:  my eyes are not the same – one eyelid is droopier than the other.  One nostril is a little bigger than the other.  You know that swirl everyone has within their hair (cowlick)?  It’s never dead center, is it?  – It’s over to one side.  Some people even have 2!  My point is, we’re all a little different, even on a structural level.  And I had been ignoring/avoiding my chest and rib cage – possibly because of the dysphoria surrounding that area.

I knew there was a weird dent on the left side, but beyond that, my ribs were pretty foreign to me.  Recently, I started poking around.  The bones are not in the same place, between my left and right!  The left side even juts out a little further than the right.

Despite this, my breasts actually had been symmetrical, but that’s probably because there was all that extra tissue as a buffer.  When the surgeon went to take that all out, bones were a hindrance as to what she could do, I’m finally realizing.  (And yeah, I am actually that skinny that my ribs stick out a little bit.  I wish I had some more meat on me there!)

I recently took some photos, so that finally, I could post my results on transbucket (you can check it out – you just have to create an account to access the website, first).  And I found that things don’t look as bad, through the camera lens, as they do when I’m scrutinizing every little thing in the mirror.  I had also taken photos of my chest, pre-op, and this was the first time I looked at those since surgery – my breasts seem a lot bigger than I remember them!  Haha.

Here’s what I wrote on transbucket (a summary of sorts):

“Had surgery in June of 2016.  Was reimbursed for 40% of the total cost, which I wasn’t expecting!  This surgeon and her staff were subpar with patient care and availability.  I have barely seen / spoken to Dr. Rumer during this process.  All follow-up appts. (been doing them through Skype) have been with a physician’s assistant.  The only other time to see her will be at the 1 year-follow-up.

I was not completely satisfied with the results (although these pics don’t look too bad).  The left side is larger than the right, and the nipples are uneven, a little sunken in, and (at 6 months) purplish in color.  It’s tough to see from the pics, but I believe some muscle tissue was taken out on the right side, and there’s a dent to the right of the nipple.  Sensation is touchy, but slowly improving.  I recently realized that my rib cage is not symmetrical, so that may have impacted my results.

I plan on seeking a nipple revision, at the least, in the future.  Since I would have to pay more for this, from Dr. Rumer, I will be looking at options elsewhere as well.

At the time of surgery, I was not on T.  I’d been on a super-low dose prior, for 2.5 years, but I do not think that impacted my musculature.

More information can be found at:  https://janitorqueer.com/category/top-surgery/ ”

Here are past updates about top surgery, documenting as I go:
4.5 months after top surgery:  4.5 months is an odd point – but it seems worthwhile to write now, mostly because within the last couple of weeks, sensation has been returning at a faster rate. and I want to make note of that. …
3 months after top surgery:  I did not expect to feel much different other than a cerebral satisfaction regarding being able to wear anything from now on.  But it’s more of a gut- level confidence. …
1 month after top surgery:  I can live with that for now, but I doubt things are going to change enough for it to actually look good.  I’m not happy with the results. …
2 weeks after top surgery:  Right now, there is not enough symmetry, in multiple regards. …
6 days after top surgery:  Everything went smoothly, except for the fact that the surgeon was about to do the wrong procedure. …


Branching out

 

I started writing occasionally for a website called Transgender Universe.  Here’s the first article that I’ve posted!  It’s about pride flags being burned in my neighborhood, following the election, and then an impromptu rally, as a response to this hate crime.

(This first appeared on Transgender Universe, here:  From Burning Pride Flags to a Neighborhood Rally)

lgbt-rally

The morning after the election, I woke up to a text from a friend who said, “Hi! We’d like to get a rainbow flag to hang at the house in solidarity after what happened yesterday. Do you know where we could purchase one?” When he had said, “what happened yesterday,” I figured he meant Trump, but once I got on facebook, I saw that two pride flags had been burned in my neighborhood the evening before. Talk about getting hit close to home! It is being investigated as both arson and a hate crime, but so far there are no suspects.

So I looked up information for the gay pride store that had been a mainstay in our city, first opening in 1989 as a leather and fetish supplier, and later changing ownership a couple of times and morphing into a place that had something for everyone in the LGBTQ+ community. I was shocked and saddened to learn that it had closed in August with the death of the current owner. So instead I recommended a couple of novelty stores to my friend, hoping he’d be able to track one down.

“AS THE EVENTS UNFOLDED, IT BECAME APPARENT THAT THERE WAS NOWHERE, LOCALLY, TO GET A PRIDE FLAG BECAUSE EVERY PLACE HAD SOLD OUT!”

As the events had unfolded, it became apparent that there was nowhere, locally, to get a pride flag because every place had sold out! A fellow neighbor had ordered 120 more flags, and she was formulating a plan to get these out to people and acquire more, flooding the area with rainbows.

On Friday evening, another friend in the neighborhood had texted me to see whether my spouse and I were going to the rally in the morning (I feel fortunate that I have so many friends who are in the loop, because there are times when I am totally living under a rock!). I said, “Yes,” as if I knew all about it (ha ha), and we made a plan to go together.

And so, my spouse and friends (a queer couple with a 10 year-old son) and I walked over to a nearby park Saturday morning, carrying signs and wearing fun outfits. As we approached, I felt a wave of emotion, moved by the size of the gathering, the amount of rainbows flying in the air, and the openness of everyone there.

A community comes together and holds an impromptu rally after two LGBTQ+ flags were burned in their neighborhood in an apparent hate crime.

Mary Moore, the organizer and the neighbor that ordered the flags, stood up on a table to announce the intentions of this rally: to hand out more flags for community members to show solidarity, and to show LGBTQ+ members in this neighborhood how much support is out there. Mission accomplished, by leaps and bounds! There were so many allies and families, along with people who identify as LGBTQ+. I walked around the outskirts of the crowd, taking photos and scoping out all that was happening. There was a station for people to make rainbows out of ribbons, as well as a spot to make construction-paper rainbows. Someone was doing face painting, and there was also a place to sign up to order a flag, because the 120 that Mary had ordered for the rally had sold out in 9 minutes!

The director of the local gay alliance also stopped by, got up on the table, and delivered a similar message of hope and love. I started to feel more comfortable, and moving into the crowd and approaching people with signs, asking whether I could take their photograph. I saw a couple of acquaintances, and where I would normally be too shy to strike up a conversation, in this environment, I went right up to them to say hey and chat for a while. My spouse and friends also connected with neighbors we know, as well as meeting a few new people.

I posted a photo album of the event on Facebook and watched my social network do its work, spider-webbing outwards from friends I had tagged, to friends of friends and beyond. I also messaged Mary, the organizer, to thank her and to ask her a couple of questions.

“…I LEARNED THAT SHE HAS BEEN AN ALLY AND SUPPORTER OF LGBTQ+ RIGHTS FOR A LONG TIME.”

We talked on the phone for a bit this morning, and I learned that she has been an ally and supporter of LGBTQ+ rights for a long time, even doing advocacy work in Washington DC. She said that for the past 8 years though, she could ease up because there was someone in the White House who was pushing for the same things; she could focus on her career, working as a lawyer in private practice, and on her family.

She first heard about the 2 flag burning incidents from a friend, while picking her kids up from daycare. Her husband had heard about it through the website, nextdoor.com, which acts as a community bulletin board and a way to connect with others nearby. I just joined, myself, to see what it’s all about (and to try not living under a rock quite so much). Sure enough, 5 days ago, there was a post from one of the victims of the hate crime, stating, “I hang a rainbow flag on my front porch and someone burned it down. Thankfully my house didn’t catch fire. The [police are] currently investigating; please keep an eye out for suspicious behavior in the area.”

And then, as a response, Mary Moore created the event, “Let’s Gather to Support Our Community.” She wrote:

In response to the burning of two rainbow flags in [our] area, let’s stand together and show that our community is tolerant and welcoming, regardless of who you love, where you worship, where you were born, your political affiliation, the color of your skin, or how much money you have. Many people in [our] neighborhood have been buying rainbow flags to put out in solidarity and to give to friends. … Would people be interested in organizing a central meeting place this weekend or next to give out flags and just to stand with our community in solidarity? … Please comment below if you would be interested in a gathering like this, if you have or can buy flags to distribute, and/or if you can assist with finding a location for this gathering. If there is interest, then we can set up a formal event on here.

I know that this is just one of many issues and injustices within our communities and that we are all so very busy, but we have to start somewhere and do what we can with what we’ve got every day. Let’s not be bullied or let our neighbors be bullied.

A community comes together and holds an impromptu rally after two LGBTQ+ flags were burned in their neighborhood in an apparent hate crime.

It all came together from there. I want to personally thank Mary Moore for showing my friends, my spouse, me, and everyone else who could be there for how much we are supported by our neighbors!

Regarding our rainbow flag status: We don’t have one, but when we moved into our house ten years ago, we dubbed it the “Rainbow Ranch” (it’s really a Colonial), and I spray painted a rainbow on our garage door. I sure as hell hope that never gets burned down – we just put a new roof on it a couple years ago!


Finally changing my name legally

I started going by “Kameron,” socially, in May of last year.  I had a turning-point conversation with my spouse a couple of months before that, but I wanted to let it sink in, because once, years ago, I picked out a name I thought I wanted to go by.  But then I just didn’t do anything more with it.  So I wanted to see if that was going to happen again, or if I would actually move ahead.  My spouse started calling me the name around the house, and then, a pivotal moment was trying the name out within a group of strangers that I was only seeing on a temporary basis:  Being transgender while in a partial hospitalization program.  That helped immensely; to hear the name repeatedly and see if it would sink in.  Once that felt right, I emailed a bunch of people with this new information (and with a new phone number).  That was a big move, but I haven’t regretted it.  It’s been a super easy transition – no one, surprisingly, has messed up in front of me, once.  Plus, acquaintances and friends of friends heard word from others, so I barely had to tell or remind anyone!  So cool!  (Well, ok, except for family members, which is different).

Last Monday, I finally went downtown to get the process rolling on getting it legally changed.  I think the hold-up was:  I wasn’t ready to come out at work, and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to change my last name, too, while I was at it.

I’m now feeling good about coming out at work within the near future.  Also, I decided to change my first, middle, and last name.  That’s going to take some getting used to, since I haven’t changed that anywhere yet, even socially.  Guess I gotta come up with a new signature too.

The process was not too bad:  I printed some documents out from an online site, and fortunately my spouse’s dad is a notary, so we were able to go over to her parents’ house to get that all in order and signed, the day before.  I had Monday off work, and it turned out to be a gorgeous day, so I decided to bike.  (So glad I did because I ended up having to go back and forth, and to a few places.  Parking is tough downtown, and I was able to zip around and lock up at VIP spots anywhere I was going, haha – VIP spots meaning street signs and trees.)

I first went to the information desk at the County Clerks’ office.  The lady was brusque, giving me 2 other documents that had to be filled out, asking me if I had my index #, and telling me I needed 3 copies of all these papers.  Luckily, my spouse’s dad, who works downtown, had told me I could contact him if I needed anything else.  I called him, biked over the few blocks to his office – it was cool to see where he works! – and he helped me fill out the rest, plus he made copies of everything and paper-clipped everything neatly and efficiently, with clips on both the top and the sides!)  I thanked him and rode back and got in line, where I stood for probably a half hour.  When it was my turn though, I got through quickly.  I paid the $210 fee, got my index number, and got a receipt.

They told me I then had to go to the Hall of Justice, to the Judicial Clerk’s office.  This involved more bike riding, plus a walk through a metal detector and asking around in order to find the right room.  Things went smoothly there too, although I noticed that on the receipt I got from the County Clerk’s office, they spelled “Kameron,” “Kamerson.”  Aarrgh!  I asked if this was going to be a problem, and I was assured that it was fine – the judge wasn’t going to be looking at that at all.

I then biked to a coffee shop and worked on some writing for the rest of the afternoon.  About to head home, I ran into a friend, and we chatted for a while.  Then a stranger approached us with a digital recorder, and he asked if he could ask us a question for a radio show.  I said, “probably!”  So he launched into, “OK, so the Cubs won the world series, and that hasn’t happened in 108 years.  And then Trump was actually elected president.  So, with all this going on, what’s next?”  I said, “Flying lizards,” just because it was the first thing that popped into my head, but if I had thought for even just a second, in retrospect, I would have said, “SUPERMOON!” because I’d heard that on that day, (November 14th), it was the biggest it’s been in 69 years, and it’s not going to be that big again for another 34!

supermoon

Oh well.  Next time I’ll make more sense.


Anniversaries, traumas, deaths, and name change

Game changing significance was loaded on top of more and more significance, this past week.  On Monday the 7th, Leonard Cohen passed away.  Then, of course, the upsetting election results.  My spouse woke me up to tell me the news.  I was in a hazy half-sleep, largely induced by my medications (I think), and I just replied, “Ohhhhhhh,” and immediately fell back asleep.  It was a surreal half-consciousness, and, in a way, I continued on in that space for a long time after, even now, as I try to wrap my head around it.

She also texted me later that morning saying “Happy anniversary of our ‘legal’ marriage today.”  I had completely forgotten about that.  We have much more meaningful anniversaries between us; this one is not a big deal.  But, interesting that it happens to fall on this same date.  Plus!  It was the one year mark of the launch date for the radio station I am a DJ at.  Also on this day, a friend’s father passed away.  The next day, my spouse’s sister proposed to her boyfriend!

The following day, I heard word that two pride flags had been burned in our neighborhood.  Talk about being hit close to home!  More on that in an upcoming post.  We attended a rally on Saturday morning with some friends, and the spirit of that event was totally incredible.

Also, around this time, 17 years ago, I was hospitalized for 19 days, and was traumatized by the process, for a very very long time.  I take a moment every year to think about this and reflect.  (In the past, it’d been much more than “a moment” to reflect.  For too long, it had felt like constant rumination.)

Three years ago, I wrote about how I finally gained access to the medical records from my hospital stay, and how I started to process things differently with the help of my therapist:  Continuing to work through a specific trauma.

Then two years ago, I wrote about finally bringing that record into therapy and how it felt to have her go through it.  I was starting to realize that maybe I didn’t need to pick it all apart; maybe my perspective was shifting naturally, over time:  That specific trauma is still there.

Last year, I wrote about how much time has changed things, and it no longer felt like a big deal.  The fact that I had been hospitalized again, that year, surprisingly helped me find ways to heal, rather than adding more baggage onto the feeling of it:  That specific trauma is no longer a big deal.

This year, this personal matter has simply been buried underneath all this other stuff going on.  I don’t have the capacity to think about it and write about it right now.  I don’t see that as a problem.  It’s not like I am grieving the loss of space and emotional energy to be with this thing.  It was a thing.  And it gradually became not as much of a thing.  It is OK.

I also experienced an upswing this week.  Probably galvanized by the shitty stuff going on.  I cancelled a doctor’s appointment that I didn’t want to go to.  I called my grandpa and talked to him about different ways to save for retirement.  I solidified plans for my spouse and I to take a trip to Washington D.C. for her birthday – right around Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and just in time to get the fuck out of there before the presidential inauguration.  We are going to go to the National Museum of African American History and Culture, part of the Smithsonian, which just opened a few months ago.

I also submitted my stuff to legally change my name!  Finally!  I did this yesterday.  (This might also be a separate upcoming post.)  I also emailed a lawyer to see if he would be willing to work with me toward gaining legal non-binary status.  I haven’t heard back yet, and I realized that the timing is shit.  This is such a low priority right now, as transgender people scramble to get their Social Security card, passport, etc. in order before the Trump take-over.  And I know this lawyer in particular is probably swamped with going above and beyond to help people with this.  So, I’m going to wait on it.

But a time will come.  I know it.


The Secret Emotional Life of Clothes

When I think about Halloween, I think candy, jack-o-lanterns, movies, and all that stuff, but I also think about it as the perfect opportunity to try out something totally different, appearance-wise, and test out whether it’s worth exploring past that.  I’ve definitely seized it as an opportunity in the past, both to try out a different type of “masculinity” – dressing like my idea of a punk a few times, something I was definitely interested in; and also to see what it felt like to dress femme.  I think a lot of people try out things like this too, in the guise of a “Halloween costume.”

I wrote about that here:  Hey Halloween! (how costumes fit into our lives)

I just listened to a really interesting podcast about how what you wear can affect how you feel, how you’re treated, what you decide to do, your cognitive abilities, your identity, and so much more!  It starts with a brief snippet of a Halloween night, with kids running around a neighborhood in all kinds of costumes.  Here’s part of that transcript, talking with a girl who is afraid of flying:

FRANNY: I’m wearing a leather jacket and an aviator hat and aviator goggles and jeans, boots and an aviator scarf.
ROSIN: Franny’s dressed as…
FRANNY: Amelia Earhart.
MILLER: Yep, a woman who ate airplanes for breakfast.  Who was…
FRANNY: Awesome and brave.
ROSIN: And as Franny puts on the white silk scarf, the leather jacket, the hat with the floppy ears…  …Guess what happens?  The nervous disappears.  If I put you in an airplane right now, what would happen?
FRANNY: I’d feel like a pro.

It’s true, to an extent!  We’ve all experienced this, somehow or another, I think.

Listen to the full podcast here:  Invisibilia

For me, shoes have always been a big deal – probably my favorite element of self expression.  I remember the first time I got to get a pair of boy’s shoes, in 3rd grade, and the emotional tenor of that moment and of every single day that I got to wear them.  It was the best thing ever.  And of years later, in my early 20s, when I first got a pair of skateboarding sneakers – it was that same feeling (or, OK, maybe a diluted young-adult version of that same feeling) because I decided that I was worthy of wearing the type of shoes I always coveted.  And I was an adult.  And I could buy and wear whatever I wanted (I had a hard time “letting” myself buy things that I wanted.)  And now!  I recently got a pair of Reebok pump basketball shoes, and I have such a fun time just putting them on!  I’m not a skater or a b-ball player, but that’s OK, shoes say so much more than “basketball,” “running,” “work-boot,” etc.

What are your favorite articles of clothing to play around with?
Have you used Halloween as an opportunity to try out something new, that you might want to incorporate into everyday life?

There are 6 other stories in the podcast, including someone who uses sunglasses to avoid getting bullied, and then ends up feeling so strongly about their magical powers that he just ends up never taking them off.  This was my favorite story, and it’s the first one, so if you wanna just hear that one, it’s totally worth it!

clothing1

Parts 2 and 3 are also really good.  Part 2 is about a person who started out as a cross-dresser, and then after a breakup, they started wearing feminine clothing all of the time, and identifying as a trans-woman.  She was also a fairly public figure, doing stand-up comedy regularly and being covered in the media.  She was also 6’5″, never passed, and always was on guard, feeling paranoid and defensive.  It was wearing her down, and the feminine clothing had lost their allure.  After about 7 months, she went back, from “Sarah,” to “Will.”  And he endured backlash from the trans-community for doing so.

Part 3 was about a social science experiment (I think I’d read about it in a book, as well), where people were asked to put on a white lab/doctor’s coat, and then go through a battery of concentration tests.  The control group wore their regular clothes.  And it was proven that those with the coat on did twice as well as those without!  Was it something about the extra weight on the shoulders?  No, that was tested for with just pressure being applied.  What about if the coat was referred to as a “painter’s coat” instead of a “doctor’s coat?”  No go – that did not produce any improvements.  It appears that when people feel like they are putting on something that has a particular meaning, they will, largely subconsciously, act accordingly.


Why is it so hard to make an appointment?

I made a decision that I’d like to get on testosterone injections, temporarily.  I’ve thought on-and-off about it for a while, and I think the idea solidified over the summer, like, once I’m back to normal after recovering from surgery, I’m going to look into it.  Unfortunately I knew I couldn’t just get this from my Primary Care Physician – she had been OK with maintaining my androgel dosage, but not comfortable with changing / increasing anything.

On September 26, I called the local LGBTQ+ health clinic and explained what I’m looking for.  They said they could get me in on January 25th.  I said, OK set the appointment, but in my head, I was thinking, this is a ridiculous amount of time to wait.  (And, I know, I know, relatively speaking, it’s not at all, especially looking at it from a global perspective.  But, if I think I can do better than that, why not try?)

From there, I looked up endocrinologists in my area and what types of care they covered.  I found one that hypothetically seemed like a good fit, and I posted about it on the local transmen Facebook page.  I got one comment that yeah, she and her staff are good, and a few more comments agreeing with the inefficiency of the clinic.  In terms of vetting, that seemed good enough.

clockcalendarI called her office on September 27th and was told I’ll need a referral from my Primary Care Physician, and then once that’s in, I should hear back within a week.  I called my PCP’s office, and they said they’d send that over right away.  I then waited 10 days before calling.  I was told the referral didn’t get received, huh, not sure, can you have them send it again?  Got that done, this time with a confirmation plus I got a copy, and waited another few days.  I got a call from my PCP’s office, saying that the endo needs an additional referral, from a psychiatrist.  GATEKEEPING at its finest.  I would have been super pissed, and probably would have stopped trying to go this route, if it weren’t for the fact that I actually do have a psychiatrist right now.  So although I hate that I had to do it, it wasn’t actually much of a hassle.

I emailed my psychiatrist (she was already aware that I was pursuing this), summarized the nature of the referral from my PCP, and asked her to also write a letter.  I said that including pertinent information, like the fact that I’ve been on a low dose before, that I’ve had top surgery, and/or that I identify as non-binary would be great.  She replied that she could write the dates she’s seen my, my diagnosis (meaning my mental health diagnosis), medications she prescribes, and mental stability status.  “OK?”

I replied, “OK that’d be great, thanks.”  Guess I didn’t want to argue or push it.

I then waited another 8 days (by this point, it was Oct. 25th, a whole month later and I still hadn’t secured an appt.) and called the endo’s office again.  I was given a wishy-washy answer by the administrative assistant.  That the endo is still in the process of finding more information, and she is currently booking out till January – they can get me in for January 10th.  But at the same time, she can put me on a waiting list to get me in sooner.  I asked, if I were to call and check my status, would that help me “jump the line”? (I didn’t actually use this phrase.)  She implied that sure, that could help.

At this point, I took a step back and thought about what’s happening.  So far, the endo got a referral from my PCP, and that didn’t include any history of care:  just Female to Male transgender person (F64.1), chronic.  In addition, they got information from a psychiatrist that I am bipolar, that I have been seeing her for 9 months, and that I’ve been stable during that time (relatively, this is such a short amount of time; it’s kind of implying that the rest of my “bipolar disorder” time is a wildcard.)  I don’t want to get too paranoid, but this collection of information is not working for me at all.  That plus the fact that it’s straight up inaccurate.

Feeling like the system is working against me, I decided to pull from my bag of tricks and email my therapist.  If there’s anything that could help this stalemate, it’d be her.  I relayed this whole series of events and asked her if she could also write a referral, actually filling in the background information.  She replied in 10 MINUTES – such a refreshing change! and said crazy that this is so hard, and sure she’d write a letter, and is there anything else I’d want to make sure she includes?

So she’s writing a letter.  My intent is, essentially, that this is not a new diagnosis, coming out of nowhere.  That I’ve already been on T in the past, I’ve had top surgery, I’m in the process of legally changing my name, etc.  So, this should be a continuation of ongoing care (timely, please!).  I’m not starting from square one here.  I imagine this endo has access of my medical records (?? not sure how that works), so if she looked into it, she’d find this stuff.  I’m just having my therapist bring it to the forefront, which will hopefully change something?

Because, I feel like if it went the other way – my doctor sending the referral first on my behalf, instead of me going backwards to get this stuff covered, I would have been given an appointment within a more reasonable window.  Not sure if that’d be true or not – there could be dozens of reasons outside of my control – maybe she’s just really busy.  But, I gotta try…

Blah.


7 recent LGBTQ+ films to check out

My spouse and I attended more films than ever before, at the annual LGBTQ+ film festival in our town, recently.  Most of these links are to trailers; a couple are to the film’s website directly.  I highly recommend the first 6, and then I don’t recommend the 7th at all.

Suicide Kale – This film was shot in 5 days, with no budget.  Even without stipulating that, it’s an intriguing and complex look into the dynamics between 2 lesbian couples at a lunch party, and what happens when one of them finds a suicide note tucked away somewhere.  Sounds like it’d be intense, but it’s actually fairly lighthearted and humorous.  Very well attended, mostly women in the audience.

Paris 05:59: Theo and Hugo – This film takes place in real time, as two men fall for each other in a love/lust at first sight type-of-way.  Things start out in a laid back, sexually explicit environment / vibe, but quickly become complicated as the two grapple with an emotional twist, and whether the connection is worth working through it.  Super well attended; roughly 98% men, 2% women.

closet-monsterCloset Monster – This might have been my favorite one this year.  It’s a coming-of-age story of an 18-year old boy coming to terms with his gay identity, complicated by flashbacks of a hate crime he witnessed as a young child.  There were body horror elements to the film, which I was really into.  Plus, Isabella Rossellini’s voice is featured as a talking pet hamster!  Well attended, very diverse audience, including young adults, which isn’t usually the case.

strike-a-poseStrike A Pose – This also was possibly my favorite one this year.  It’s a documentary about the 7 dancers who went on tour with Madonna in 1990, and where they’re at now.  Not all of them are gay!  Some of them had a lot of secrets at the time, and they are now much more open about things.  Way more emotional than I would have thought, going into the film.  Very well attended, diverse audience but definitely mostly men.

Girls Lost – A film from Finland.  Magical realism.  3 tight-knit female friends, about 14 years old, are frequently bullied at school but find solace in each other and a greenhouse they regularly retreat to.  Suddenly, a magical flower appears; they drink the nectar and turn into boys, for about 12 hours.  One of them realizes he is transgender, and he becomes addicted to the feelings the nectar brings.  At the same time, he is self-destructive, in an effort to understand himself.  Really well attended, diverse audience.

Real Boy – This is a documentary spanning over a few years, as a singer/songwriter FTM person starts his transition.  It focuses on the relationship between him and his mom, between him and a best friend who is also trans, and between him and another trans singer/songwriter who is a little older and acts as a mentor of sorts.  Issues that are discussed:  hormones, sobriety, top surgery, family dynamics.  Also really well attended, diverse audience including young adults, which is not generally the case.

Lovesong – This was a flop.  My spouse and I were attracted to it partly because it stars Jena Malone, and also it seemed like a complex story-line.  It was fairly complex, but they characters were not at all likeable.  Two female friends who go way back, dabble in acting on their attraction to each other, at various points spanning a few years.  Kinda boring.  Sparsely attended, mostly women.

My spouse and I diligently filled out audience participation ballots for each film, and a survey about the festival in general.  My most important feedback:  more films with trans characters please.  And also, please make it more affordable.


4.5 months after top surgery

4.5 months is an odd point – but it seems worthwhile to write now, mostly because within the last couple of weeks, sensation has been returning at a faster rate. and I want to make note of that.

I was really afraid I was going to be left with a huge amount of sensation lost permanently.  That’s definitely what it felt like for a while.  Despite being fully aware that it takes months, years even, for nerves to come back in fully, or to the extent that they are going to.

It was just really uncomfortable to have something touching anywhere around my chest, because of the not feeling of the thing.  I didn’t even really want to be touching it myself, but I did / do, every day, to massage the areas around the areolas.  I worried about carrying boxes when I came back to work, but that actually was fine; I’m not using my chest as a balancing point as much as I thought I did – it’s more abs, I think.

Earlier, I’d say that there was numbness for about an inch radius around each nipple.  And it seemed to stagnate there, for a long time.  Now, I have feeling everywhere except the nipples.  Is it the same kind of feeling as before?  Not quite, at least not yet, on the right side especially.  Light touch feels normal; pressure still feels tender in a lot of spots.  I’m super happy about this progress.

Something else that is slowly changing, I’d say, is my overall expectation.  I’m still not happy with the results, and I’m sure I will eventually get a revision (nipple revisions if nothing else).  But it isn’t something that bothers me.  I’d say I went through a week (OK maybe 10 days) of being really down and disappointed, early on.  After that, it felt like, OK, it’s actually good enough, for now, so no need to keep harping on it.

I got a lot of feedback that it’d be best if I just lowered my expectations about how good it could look.  Many cis-people have weird chests, many trans-people have botched chests.  I had mixed feelings:

– I’m totally grateful for how it is, as opposed to how it was.  I am continuously happy about it, every day.  Can I be happy about it and still want it to be better?  Definitely.  It can be tough not to compare it to other chests I’ve seen, but, in general I’ve just been comparing it to how it was.  And in that regard, I’m psyched.

– It’s true that many people end up with really bad results.  And I feel angry about that, like, why aren’t the standards better yet??  But, I know nothing about it, from an anatomical perspective, and I’m sure there are so many factors that go into how well it can be executed, beyond what we commonly know about.

– I saw a lot of shirtless men this summer, and paid a lot more attention than I used to.  Many men have chests that are not quite desirable, but every one was symmetrical.  I know it’s common for women to have one breast bigger or shaped differently from the other, but I gotta say, I’ve never seen an asymmetrical cis-male chest.

Overall, I think it helps to hear that adjusting your expectation will help in the long run (even if the knee jerk reaction is something along the lines of, “butt out!”  Haha.)  I strongly believe this is happening naturally, without me trying to change the way I am thinking.

I thought that since my chest was so small, it would be easy to get it right.  Now I’m thinking, whoa, no, it’s way more complicated than that, and I barely know the first thing about it.

What I do know is that my surgeon does not offer free revisions (although the cost I was quoted, more or less, seems reasonable).  Also I know it is not a priority for the foreseeable future.  I imagine that within a year or two, I will have consulted with a few surgeons (I’d definitely hesitate to go back to my original surgeon) and I’ll be moving forward from there.  I’m in no hurry.


World mental health day / Nat’l coming out day

I never before realized that these days are consecutive!  Oh hey, these are the two most frequent topics of this blog!

In the past, I haven’t observed either through writing here, but I currently have a lot to say about both; this’ll probably end up being one of my more personal posts, at least as of lately.

First just real quick – a little bit of background / information about both:

World Mental Health Day (Oct. 10th) was first celebrated in 1992 at the initiative of the World Federation for Mental Health, a global mental health organization with members and contacts in more than 150 countries.  This year’s theme is “psychological first aid.”  My first thought was that it refers to how to handle someone who is in a mental health crisis, but it actually refers to being a support to someone who just witnessed or experienced a terrible tragedy.  There is a world of difference between the two, even though there’s also overlap; of course, learning about both types of situations is going to be important.

natl-coming-out-dayNat’l Coming Out Day (Oct. 11th) was founded in 1988 by Robert Eichberg and Jean O’Leary.  Oct. 11th was chosen to commemorate the anniversary of the 1987 Nat’l March on Washington for Gay and Lesbian Rights.  It is observed in the spirit of the personal being political and the idea that homophobia cannot thrive once people know someone personally who is LGBT+.

(Information is coming from the World Health Organization website and wikipedia.)

Last night, I saw an amazing documentary called Strike A Pose, which just came out last year.  It’s about the seven young male dancers from the NYC underground (the origins of voguing) who were personally selected by Madonna for her tour.  They also ended up starring in a behind-the-scenes documentary at the time, called Truth or Dare.  Madonna was very outspoken about AIDS, gay rights, safe sex, and of course, Expressing Yourself!  [Spoiler Alert:]  What was most interesting though, was that at the same time these young men were embodying those messages on her behalf, they were not all on board or comfortable with it.  Three of the men had been diagnosed with HIV prior to the start of the tour, and they all were silent about it to the extreme, not even telling friends or loved ones.  Also, one of the men sued Madonna after the tour, for forced outing, partially spurred by a coerced kiss with one of the other dancers in the Truth or Dare doc.  He was not ready or willing to be that person, to be making that statement.

So, I guess what I’m saying with all that is that Nat’l Coming Out Day is great and celebratory and everything, but in order to actually be empowering, it has to be on each individuals’ own terms.  Once I outed a friend (about something totally unrelated to being LGBT) as part of a joke, and then I felt really crummy about it.  I just let time wash over that one, but it’s still a prominent memory.

So where am I at?  I still have a fair share of coming out to do.  I’m not doing any of it today.  It does feel imminent though – I’d say within the next 6 months.  I look forward to the day that my driver’s license, signature, little plastic rectangle on the custodial office, Facebook page, the words out of teachers’ and co-workers’ mouths, and everything else, all say the same thing!  As of now, I have 5 different names going on in different places, and none of them are the full name I actually want to go by!

Here’s something I wrote that really captures this feeling (I wrote it almost exactly 2 years ago.  Dang, that is a long time!):  Fractured identity and fragmented feelings

Moving on to mental health:

My mental health has improved by leaps and bounds within the past 9 months, and I have not written about it.  Actually, the most recent thing I did write was 9 months ago, here:  A full year later / Making major changes.  I was hopeful but tentative.  I had had 23 good days in a row (an anomaly), due to starting yet another drug.  I am still on that drug, and I am still having good day after good day after good day (other than not so great days due to a cold, a handful of really bad days during the stress of surgery).

Overall, I am more stable and happy than I ever have been before, BY FAR.  And I feel certain that I can attribute that to a drug, something I never would have thought possible before (I’ve been on lots of drugs over a span of many years, and did not have a good experience with any of them.  I had gone off medications completely for 10 years because I thought it was hopeless.  I always downplayed the usefulness of psychotropic drugs.  When I was younger, I thought I was the only one who had this reaction; now I know it’s fairly common to have to go through a trial and error period, searching for something that will actually be a good match.

During those 10 years I was not taking medications, I focused on other things to improve my well-being.  Most of that was social in nature – focusing on not isolating, focusing on positive connections with people, focusing on emotional intimacy.  It worked.  To an extent.  I started to think that getting back into therapy would probably help.  That worked too.  It felt miraculous for a while at first, actually.  But as the years went by, kinda only to an extent.  I found myself in a situation where I HAD to get back on medications, and I was not happy about that at all.  In fact, I recall thinking a lot about when I’d be able to get off of them (maybe 6 months? I was thinking…)

In the end, it has worked out better than I ever could have imagined.  I am neither pro-med nor anti-med.  It’s way too personal, and different for each individual, to have a general feeling about it.  But I can say that I used to be anti-med, and now I feel that, for some people, it can be that one game changer that makes all the difference.


California recognizes legal non-binary status

Two states down, 48 to go!
I am starting to work toward getting in on this!

In June, I posted about Jamie Shupe, the first person in the US to successfully petition for the gender status of “non-binary.”  Now as of September 26th, Sara Kelley Keenan is also legally non-binary.  Here is a full article about it:  Californian Becomes Second US Citizen Granted ‘Non-Binary’ Gender Status.

I want to be the third!  (Or the fourth, or the fifth, or the sixth, etc.  The number doesn’t matter to me at all; just that I get to do it, eventually.)

I’ve been stalling about changing my name legally, for a long time now.  It’s been a year and a half since I socially changed it, everywhere except for work.  Part of the reason for waiting is because I don’t know what I’m doing with my last name.  And if there’s a chance I’m going to change it, I don’t want to go through this process twice!

And yeah, work is the other reason.  I mean, I can legally change my name without coming out at work, but it would be great if the two goals aligned.

And now I’m wondering if I can change my name and also request the status of “non-binary” all at once.  I’m in the process of finding this out.  There is a social justice group called Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund (TLDEF) that partners with lawyers and law firms for pro bono work on issues including the Name Change Project.  Luckily, I fall within their geographical range, so I filled out their form, and should hear back within two weeks!

I also am fairly close to feeling good about moving forward with a new last name.  I had one idea a long time ago but was unsure.  Over time, I stopped thinking about it entirely, until just last week.  I went to a therapy appointment for the first time in a few months, and that jump-started some thought processes that had been calcifying in the corners of my brain.  Things got shaken up, and I’ve been feeling consistently euphoric ever since.

A little more about Sara Kelley Keenan:  She is a 55 year-old retired paralegal who was born intersex.  According to the article,

Her court petition was a quiet, unannounced test case for a group of California people who also seek to change their legal genders to non-binary rather than female or male. About five people—all working with the Intersex and Genderqueer Recognition Project—plan to petition courts in the counties of San Francisco, Alameda, Santa Clara and Sacramento over the next few weeks.

How awesome is that?!  I’m picturing a floodgate opening and people just pouring through.  First five more people.  Next fifty!

  …  “I’m 55 years old, this doesn’t really change my life very much.  But I want to leave the world a better place for younger intersex people. This represents a huge opportunity for acceptance and awareness for young non-binary and intersex and trans people—and for their parents.”

There are still more barriers, though, of course.  The DMV.  Getting a passport.  Other documents.  Things are changing though, slowly but surely.  Just last week, Shupe’s attorney got an email from the Oregon DMV, stating,

“[the Oregon] DMV received the okay to move forth with forming an advisory committee and drafting administrative rules regarding the capturing of sex on the driver license. The rules will allow DMV to capture and print an identifier for sex other than M for male and F for female on the driver license, permit, and ID card.”

Hassles!  But, things are moving…