In addition to the PTWC and Gender Odyssey, The TIC is a well established, long-time running, trans- and gender specific conference that happens every year at the University of Vermont in Burlington. I went once prior, in 2005, but I can’t remember a whole lot – really just attending a workshop led by DRED, drag king, actress, etc. about gender expression and clothing as play.
This year, my spouse and I decided to check it out and make a trip of it. In addition to the conference (which is packed into one day, this year, November 3rd), we, walked around Burlington a lot, and we also took a ferry across Lake Champlain into Plattsburgh, where we met with some friends.
Here’s a rundown of what I got out of the conference!
We eased into the day by going to Fluid Identities Within the Classroom and the Workplace: A Dialogue Toward Trans Liberation in Binary Spaces. It was an interactive structure where we spend time talking with the people around us and then reporting back to the whole group, and also writing our own thoughts on post-it notes that were then displayed out in the hall for the rest of the day. It was pretty basic, information-wise; what felt worthwhile was hearing about others’ experiences.
I then went to Q&A: Queens and Activism. This was a presentation led by two local, politically active drag queens, in character, which was pretty entertaining. It was framed as, “Here’s us and what we’re doing and all about us,” which could have been limiting, but they’ve been involved in so much that although it was Vermont specific, it was a great way to show both the people behind the queens, and the range of avenues to help LGBTQ people and causes, making it fun along the way. Such as Drag Queen Story Hour.
Next up was lunch, which was provided at a subsidized cost, within the same building as all the workshops. That was totally awesome!
Next I went to Take Your Top Off: A Top Surgery Information Session and Show and Tell. This was just like the show and tells I’ve been to at the PTWC, but on a much smaller scale, and with more general information provided up front. I decided pretty much on the spot that I was going to participate, which is a huge deal for me because I’ve only been topless in front of other people (excluding my spouse!) on 2 other occasions. I mostly decided I felt comfortable because is was such a smaller and more intimate group of people and because I thought I might likely be the only one up there who could show an example of the periareolar procedure. And I was right on both counts – there were about 12 people up there taking their shirts off, as opposed to upwards of 40-50, at the PTWC. And I was the only one who hadn’t had DI (double incision). Each person took a turn on the microphone, talking about their surgeon, their experience, nerve sensation, cost, and overall satisfaction. Then people could come up to talk to us individually. One person came up to me to say, “I have a consultation with Dr. Rumer [my surgeon] next week. I already paid and everything. Should I just scrap that and cut my losses?” This was based on me not having all that much positive to say about Dr. Rumer. I think I did a pretty good job talking it through with this person, trying to open them up to as many possibilities as I could, something I never really was able to do for myself. I feel like I have a lot more to say about this, but it could easily take up way too much space, so I’m going to stop here for now. Maybe a separate future blog post!
I went to Trans in the Workplace Panel. I always like to go to at least one panel – it’s a good way to just sit back and hear personal experiences from a good cross-section of different perspectives. This one featured an agender person who works in bars and also is self-employed as a sex educator, a trans-woman who is an EMT and also works in an urgent care facility, a trans-man who works for the state as an advocate for those who are incarcerated, and a non-binary trans-person who is a gym teacher and also makes and sells bow ties.
Finally I went to Transmasculine Caucus, a safe space set up in a circle, with a mod, to talk about whatever anyone wanted to bring up. I was one of the few people older than 22, it seemed, which made it tougher to feel motivated to speak up, but I did manage to talk on 2 occasions. Topics ranged from name change and being carded before a gender marker change, to always appearing much younger, sexual orientation shifts after hormones, and much much more.
The final event was the keynote, with CeCe McDonald, a transgender prison reform activist who had been sentenced to 41 months for manslaughter. (Laverne Cox of “Orange is the New Black has said she plays her character as an homage to CeCe, and she is producing a documentary about her story.) It was very off-the-cuff, informal, and full of energy.
Compared to the PTWC, this conference was much smaller, which came with a lot of benefits! People seemed much more friendly, just striking up conversations with those around them; it just had a more intimate vibe overall – I felt more comfortable speaking up, participating, and just people-watching / feeling a part of things. I’d definitely go again!
This post is a continuation I started last summer, basically in celebration of the fact that I can now wear t-shirts without feeling uncomfortable and self-conscious. Hooray for top-surgery, which was now a year and two months ago.
This beautiful specimen of a shirt was uncovered in a thrift store in Spencer, MA, just outside of Worchester, last summer while my spouse and I were visiting one of my friends from high school, and her husband and toddler. In case it’s hard to make out the print, this says,
“THE MORAL MAJORITY IS NEITHER.”
What does that mean??? At first, I didn’t know, and I don’t have a smart phone to “gooooogle” the phrase ASAP, so I just bought it an forgot about it. I did know I needed to have it, but I wasn’t going to start flaunting it until I found out what it was all about. I had a vague recollection of the term “moral majority” and that it was bad according to me (It really does just sound bad!!!), but that was about it.
I’m sure there’s more to the story, but according to wikipedia, the Moral Majority was a political organization started by Jerry Fallwell (The New Christian Right), mostly active in the 1980s. Critics started stating that “The Moral Majority is neither,” meaning the organization was neither moral nor a majority, and the slogan spread to bumper stickers, and other “swag” items.
This appears to be a homemade t-shirt from that time period (I’m following clues from the tag of the shirt. I could be mistaken), and it seems like it’s iron-on letters that are slightly felted. This added to me falling in love with this shirt. I feel that it is a good time and place to be wearing this t-shirt out and about, frequently, and proudly!
One year ago today, take or leave a day or two, I was at an incredible record store in Concord, NH. I was still recuperating from top surgery, but the worst of it was over, so my spouse and I went on vacation for a week. (OK, for her it was only a partial vacation – she was scheduled to attend a conference for work in Concord for 2 days.
We first went to Greenfield, Northampton, and Worcester, MA to visit friends. We went hiking, swimming (well, for me, it was only up to my torso cuz of surgery), blueberry picking, and shopping. We visited a botanical garden at Smith College, and when we got rained out, we ended up on the semi-precious gemstone wing of the science building. We also tried a Gose-style beer for the first time, and we watched Straight Outta Compton one night after the baby / toddler went to bed.
After all that fun stuff, we headed up to New Hampshire, and pretty much parted ways for the next two days because my spouse had work to do. It was awesome! We first went to the local co-op together to load up on snacks and drinks. After that, we just crashed at this hotel that was getting paid for by her employer. I hadn’t stayed at a hotel in roughly 10 years at that point, so the novelty factor was HUGE! I just kept getting ice from the ice machine, checking out other places my key card gave me access to (like the gym and pool, even though I could barely utilize these perks).
On the one day, I basically walked up and down the main street and did whatever I could do, for a full morning and afternoon. This involved spending many many hours in this old-time-y record store. I even bought a t-shirt from them, to commemorate the experience:
I liked it because it is an iconic image that literally has a pitchfork in it. And often, “pitchfork” and music are synonymous in this way: pitchfork.com
But I strongly feel that this record store preceded the website by many many years. OK, so I just had to follow through and look it up: The store launched in 1973, while pitchfork.com launched in 1995.
It appears as if not much has changed in this store since 1973, which is why I was so happy to just go treasure hunting in there for hours- I got a bunch of cassette tapes that had never been opened, for like a dollar each. And I got soooooo many records for under $3. I had a blast. I wanted to get this shirt in a gold color, but they were out of that color in my size. So I settled for yellow. Not my favorite color, but not a bad one either!
Some of my favorite things to do, ever, are: try new beverages, hunt for records in new towns and cities, and go swimming! And I’m so glad that I can swim again now – so far this summer, I’ve gone 3 times!
Oh, also big news on the traveling / swimming front: I finally solidified plans to visit my brother in Turkey, next month! We are going to explore ancient ruins and go swimming in the Mediterranean Sea. Can’t wait!!!
This post is a continuation of a series I started last summer – basically, the best part of top surgery, for me, is getting to wear t-shirts and tank-tops and button-down shirts without having to layer or bind. So I started featuring a bunch of my favorite t-shirt, and here’s yet another one!
Today is one year and one month after top-surgery. This date seems like much bigger of a deal than my one year anniversary. Why? Just because of a flood of serendipitous things (I am still recovering from my semi-recent hospitalization – still out of work, and lots of things are connecting in my brain that would not normally mean much.)
Anyway, one year ago, today, I went on a day trip because I was bored. I had been out of surgery by a month at that point, and I still had another month before I got back to work. I was itching to not wear the ace bandage and nipple-gauzy thingies. I was tired of staying at home all day, or relying on others for rides because I could not yet lift my arms to drive. Enough time had passed, so I went on a day trip to one of my favorite spots in upstate NY. It felt so good to be out in nature, getting all sweaty and stuff. I remember feeling safe enough that I took off my t-shirt and let the ace bandage air out for a bit. (I distinctly remember the breeze from the lake against my skin.)
Sooooo, what I’m trying to get at: Yesterday, just fairly coincidentally, I ended up at that same beach. I actually went to 4 parks (park hopping!), over the course of 12 hours, again, by myself, and again, I had a blast! This time though, I took a different route – I had looked at maps prior to taking off, and deliberately decided on a course of action.
One of the small towns I was gonna drive through is Fulton, NY. And I’m thinking now that I was drawn there because I have this really old t-shirt I got at a thrift store in my early 20s, and I wear it a lot, but have never been there. You know what? There is no way this image could be correct – this town is landlocked! (Furthermore, it’s technically a city, but it’s so tiny and rundown, I was baffled by that. I bet this town has a history to tell.)
I have a whole lot of shirts that are fairly random and were just thrift store finds over the years. And I wore them all when I was young without any qualms or thinking twice. But now I’m kind of like, “wait, what is the deal with this shirt, anyway?” Or, “I’ve never actually been to this place – the image just looks cool.” Etc.
So, expect some more t-shirt-centric posts from me soon!
You can find the rest of the series, from last summer, here: T-SHIRTS!
Tonight at 10PM (9PM central time), PBS is screening a documentary called Real Boy. If you’re hanging at home tonight, check it out!!
I had the opportunity to see this film twice now:
Last fall, my neighbors and I went, as part of the annual LGBT film festival where we live. I’d have to say that I was a little bit jaded at that time – here is yet another story about young, white, binary, trans-masculine people. Seen that / heard that!!!
The parts about his (Ben’s) mom, and family dynamics were what held it together for me. My neighbor was really touched by it in a different way – there was a lot about singing/songwriting/creativity, and also about recovering from substance abuse and other destructive behaviors.
Then, two weeks ago, I went with my spouse and her parents. It was a free showing, and the two main “characters” were there in person to answer questions and play some of their music as well. I felt really happy that we all saw it together – we then went out to eat and talked about how we related or didn’t, with the movie. Awesome conversations.
I would say that, for me, the second time’s the charm, haha. For one thing, closed captioning was on, so we could all listen and read the dialogue simultaneously, which was kinda necessary because some people mumble more than others. I got a lot more out of it – the way that Ben’s navigating his new life / roles / perceptions as a very young person (I can’t imagine transitioning at that age!!! Hormones are already on full alert and then to mix it up so drastically, must be stressful – both positive and negative stress.) And the male bonding that was going on between the characters felt a lot more touching to me this time for some reason. He has a mentor / protegee dynamic going on with an older musician, and then a housemate / brotherhood with a trans-guy he met through mutual friend.
In terms of content notes, I would give this warning: Topics that are potentially sensitive to those in recovery are brought up: mostly grappling with drug and alcohol abuse, as well as self-injury and family issues / rejection. Also, we follow along as Ben and his housemate move forward with getting top surgery with Dr. Garramone in Florida.
I’d say catch this movie if you can! Although it didn’t really speak to me the first time, I came around to really like it!
With everything else that’s been going on lately, I completely forgot that my one year anniversary was on June 1st. I think I was aware on some level, because I’ve been super vocal with my spouse, the past few days, about where I’m at with this process. So I’ll try to distill those diatribes into something that makes sense!
Most importantly, within the past few weeks, I would say I have grown increasingly more comfortable with the off-beat sensations that I have going on. Nothing is painful, per-se, but there’s still a lot of tenderness. I am finally OK with my spouse resting her head there without warning, and in addition, I’ve realized that the more I ignore/avoid that area of my body, the more it will stagnate. ??? (That’s just a hypothesis, but I hope there’s some truth to that – I’ve been trying to actively “manhandle” some spots, in the hopes that’ll promote more nerve growth, haha.)
I am over the disappointment of it not being picture perfect. At first I was angry with the surgeon (Dr. Rumer). I held onto this anger for a long time. But, as I noted at 6 months, I had been poking and prodding around my rib-cage a lot more, and I came to the conclusion that my bone structure is asymmetrical, and she (the surgeon) had to work around those idiosyncracies, and in the end, I think she did her best. I’m sure it would have looked more even if I had gone with DI, but peri was one of the things I was not negotiating on. I already have scarring on my chest, from my self-injuring behavior years ago, and I really wanted no additional scarring, if possible. And that was accomplished. (Aside from my drain holes – those scars are still visible!!!)
My nipples, I believe, can be “tweaked,” (haha) for sure. They look like they got shrunk and melted on – I think a different surgeon can really change the size and shape and it’ll make me much happier. I am not going with Dr. Rumer any-further. I was supposed to have my one year appointment either in person or over skype, on Thursday, but I cancelled it all together. I am done, and am only now looking ahead to revisions. The appt. wasn’t even going to be with the surgeon – just a nurse-practitioner, like I did over skype at 1 months, 3 months, 6 months, etc. I’m done.
I am grateful that insurance reimbursed a large part of it – I really didn’t think I stood a chance with that.
And, just to wrap up, I want to reiterate how important this step was for me: It’s not just that now I can wear tighter shirts and I don’t have to consider whether to bind or not, etc. It has really affected my self-esteem, self-perception, and social comfort. When I get dressed, I am excited to see how the shirt falls now – does it accentuate my pecs (which are now one of my favorite parts of my body), can I layer things in an interesting way, can I wear this as an open shirt and consider wearing a necklace as well?… etc. Sometimes I will wear two outfits in one day, just to try out new-to-me fashions!
I told my spouse the other day that I used to just feel dumpy all the time, and she was shocked – she said I never looked dumpy. Now it’s the opposite – I feel snazzy!
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. …
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.
Physically, I feel 100%, and I’ve felt that good for the past month – like in terms of lifting, stretching, and moving my body. Aesthetically, I’m still not happy, but I’m starting to get used to / feel OK (for now!) with how things look (I’m sure I’ll be looking at revisions down the road, but I’m not going to worry about that right now.) Sensation-wise, I’m a little worried, but I know it’s still early on. My nipples are still numb, and it feels numb/tender within about an inch radius around both nipples. I’m looking into making some gotu kola oil to massage into the tissue; apparently that’s supposed to help with nerve damage. Better late than never, right?
I have my 3 month follow-up appointment with the physician’s assistant on Tuesday, via Skype, and I’m not really looking forward to that…
It’ll be fine…
Otherwise, I’m super happy. I’m so happy to be wearing what I want to wear and also of walking around the house without a shirt on (which I did do, previously, but not as much, and not while my spouse was around.) A couple of weeks ago, I wrote to a friend, “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: I feel like my posture is different; I walk differently, I carry myself differently. This is what makes it all worth it.” That pretty much sums it up.
Also, I’ve been using 2 pumps of Androgel, daily, for 6 weeks now, without any doctor supervision. I just had some extra bottles laying around, and I felt like starting again (after being off of it for… 6 months?) I contacted my local LGBTQ clinic via email (which is new for me – previously I’d been getting Androgel from a doctor who was reluctant to be a part of my trans-related health) but after more than a week, I haven’t gotten a response. So, I plan to call soon. I’m thinking about trying injections, short term. I think I’ve gotten about as far as the gel will bring me, and I STILL want to look and sound slightly more masculine. Like, enough so, so that people are confused, or at least they’re hesitant to actually say “ladies.” So sick of the “ladies.” It happened again today. Blah.