I have a mild case of trichotillomania. It’s come and gone during different times in my life, and it’s always been specific to the hair on my face, not on my scalp.
Trichotillomania, to paraphrase wikipedia, is an impulse control disorder, also known as “hair pulling.” It’s generally triggered by anxiety and stress, and is usually treated with CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy.)
In the past, I have honed in on eyebrow and eyelash plucking, using my thumbnail and pointer finger-nail as tweezers. It hasn’t been bad over-all, like I still have eyebrows and eyelashes, it’s just that my left eyebrow is a little bit sparse. It’s barely noticeable.
I also would get chin hairs, from time to time, starting in adolescence, and I would pluck those too, with my fingers or tweezers. This was, apparently, “pro-social” behavior, because I was socialized as a female, and therefore, it’s necessary to eradicate any hint of a mustache or “chin whiskers.” ??? I mean, there’s a whole industry just devoted to that – bleaching the “mustache,” laser-hair removal, waxing, etc. Blah!
Still though, I keep pulling those hairs out not as a gendered statement, but rather because I liked the sensation of getting at them from the follicle, that very specific and very minutely visceral feeling of a “pull” away from something rooted underneath some of the layers of the skin. It’s much more satisfying to get them with my fingernails, but I also use tweezers, so I can get ’em all! The reason I’d say it’s within the realm of “trichotillomania” is because I will do this out in public and I can’t seem to get myself to stop. It’s not just in front of my bathroom mirror. It’s during break at work, with people sitting in the same vicinity. It’s during a meeting, because I am bored. It’s during a movie with a stranger sitting two seats away. Etc. Honestly, it doesn’t feel like a big deal. It’s a rough life to be constantly conforming to societal standards, at least in my opinion…
Facial hair, for me, is a hard limit. I do not want a beard. If I have a shadowy mustache, that’s fine by me, but that mustache never stays for very long before I start plucking out each hair individually. It’ll always happen eventually.
Now that I’m on a regular-ish dose of testosterone, I am getting more facial hair. And I just will not give in and shave. First off, I don’t feel like it! I prefer my methods, even if it ends up taking 10 minutes per day – more or less – to “groom” my face. Secondly, I do think that I believe that old wives’ tale, on some level, about the more you shave, the thicker and darker the hairs will fill in. I do not want to do anything that could potentially promote more facial hair growth.
I do realize this is a little bit counter-intuitive (is that the phrase I’m looking for?) Like, most people who are taking testosterone are embracing the full effect, whatever that means for them. But as someone who is non-binary, it’s a little trickier. Like, I like this effect, but this other thing screams “masculine” a little too loudly, and I’m not really feelin’ it. Something to that effect.
If my facial hair growth ever did start to feel unruly / out of my control, and / or the “grooming” ritual were creeping up toward closer to a half hour per day, something like that, I would not rule out laser hair removal At this time, it just seems a little too extreme, expensive, and unnecessary. But, hey, with this kind of journey, sometimes you never know what is coming up next!
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!
Content note: This post might not make a whole lot of sense unless you really like 70’s and 80’s music and/or gender. And writing and the English language…
In my city, there are two chain-type places to go to get an average oil change within about a half-hour wait. One also sells it’s brand of oil (nationwide? internationally? not sure). The other is more of a gas station / car wash place.
For the sake of anonymity, I’ll call them:
LV – the oil specific place
SD – the gas station
I almost always go to SD because my parents give me coupons for free oil changes there, every xmas. And also because there is one on my way to / from work. About 3 years ago, I started trying LV a couple of times, but I concluded that it was too expensive, and I switched back.
I was overdue for an oil change, but I didn’t want to go to the SD in the suburb where I work, cuz I don’t really want to be seen out and about, while I am out of work for medical reasons. So I went to one in a further away suburb. I had been there once before, and it was kind of anxiety provoking (in my head, at the time).
Why? Because the style was Drive Thru, as opposed to giving the mechanic your keys and sitting in a waiting room. “Drive Thru” is one of my longest lasting fears, almost bordering on a phobia before I reigned it in a few years ago. This included parking garages, anything with a “gate,” car washes, etc.
Anyway, I made it through no problem, but I was noticing all these little “masculine touches” / masculine underlying communications, body language, etc. Stuff that’s barely worth paying attention to. Stuff I generally am not around because normally I’d be sitting in a waiting room. An example would be a giant truck in line honking, just because he(?) wanted to get an attendant to come over ahead of time for some reason. (As opposed to reading signs to find out the information). These are all assumptions, of course, but I’m just saying I was in tune to things in a different way than I normally would have been. And I was the opposite of anxious.
While waiting in my car, I was listening to a mix CD that a friend gave me in our early 20’s. Before he hardly knew me. And now he’s one of my longest-lasting, solid friends here locally.
While hypo-manic currently, I’ve been spending most of my time at home organizing and cleaning and catagorize-ing things. One thing I uncovered was this mix CD, which he had titled, “A DRUM IS A THING IS A DRUM,” (all caps.) which, for me, is reminiscent of Wire’s album (one of my favorite albums ever,) “A BELL IS A CUP UNTIL IT IS STRUCK” (all caps.) The song that stood out the most, from the others was:
T-Rex – Jeepster. So GLAM / FLAMING / FLAMBOYANT!
When the CD ended, I could overhear what was playing in the garage / mechanic dock. It was:
Elton John – Benny and the Jets. SO GAY!
Anyway, I got the oil change and then went to this place that used to be called The Stereo Shop. It’s now called something like, “Digital audiophile visual environments.” I wanted to go there because there was a used cd / record store in the back of this high end Hi Fi Sound Equipment store. When I got there, I asked the guy at the front about the cd store, and he said it wasn’t there anymore. It had moved. I asked if he could write it down for me, and he did. I don’t think any music was playing in there, or if it was, I didn’t pick up on it.
Back in my car, I was listening to a station that claims it is the only station that matters (that’s their “tag line.”) A song came on that is unusual for their roster, and also happens to be a song I sing along with / almost know by heart. That would be:
David Bowie – Diamond Dogs SO GLAM!
I got to the new location, and realized they didn’t open for another 45 minutes. So I went down the road to another record store. When I walked in, what happened to be playing?
THE CARS – MOVING IN STEREO!!! In my book, it doesn’t get any more classic / fabulous than that.
I was really just browsing, not looking for anything in particular. A bunch of stuff popped out to me as “must have’s.” I got a handful of 7-inches, and a couple of records.
I’d recently started thinking I need to upgrade a few records, if I come across copies in better condition, because I am a DJ (That’s a Bowie song!), and it sucks to play crappy sounding vinyl.
Five days prior, I’d told a friend that I probably need a new copy of Culture Club’s “Colour by Numbers.” Me ‘n this record have a loooooong history together. It doesn’t get any more basic than that. Sure enough, at this record store, they had two options!!! Either:
An original, still factory sealed, for $9.99, or
An original, still with the plastic plus promo stickers saying “Grammy Nominee,” and “All New Songs!” (and then it listed 4 song titles. This one was $10 even.
I went with the one with bonus stickers!
(PS – $10 is pretty much the most I’m willing to spend on a record, and it better be pristine and/or hard to find!)
Another exciting find was:
PETE SHELLEY* – HOMOSAPIEN* (Elongated Dancepartydubmix) !!!
Anyway, back to the story: So I bought this stuff and went back to the music store I had really wanted to check out. It was small and quiet (I think he was playing music, but I have no recollection of anything playing!) and there were just a couple of older dudes coming in and out, with special requests and just to shoot the breeze. I was only there for about an hour, but I left with a HUGE HAUL. I spent more on records and cds than I ever have before (meaning within one store at one time.) Almost everything I found was $5 or under, and it was an extreme pick-through type situation. Meaning, don’t go looking for anything in particular, just start looking at everything!
I had a nice conversation with the owner while he rung things up (in a way so as not to distract him, haha, he was super methodical with his calculator and his mechanical receipt machine.) I told him he’s got lots of great obscure stuff, and I might be back within 6 months or a year or whatever. He asked me if I live here or am passing through. I said I went to his old store with my mom a lot and he then seemed to maybe remember me. I said I do live here, I’m a DJ, I like 80’s music, etc. It took him a long time to ring everything individually, so I started browsing to pass more time. Found 3 more cds to buy, and then, as a last minute thing, the “DAVID BOWIE” category within the records popped out. There were two records in there:
DIAMOND DOGS* (pristine and currently hard to find) for $15.98 and
LET’S DANCE* (pristine and currently hard to find) for $9.98
I bought Diamond Dogs because that more or less completes my Bowie On Vinyl collection (no new pressings or record store day garbage, haha.) I left Let’s Dance behind because I already have it, but, hey everybody,
LET’S DANCE, everybody, DIAMOND DOGS and BENNY AND THE JETS included! We’re all HOMOSAPIENS, we’re all JEEPSTERs, MOVING IN STEREO, sex and drugs and rock ‘n roll…
*All Capital Letters
This is, by far, the longest post I’ve ever written.
Does the song “Bye Bye Love” by The Cars have 3 F-Bombs in it? Also, are they saying, “It’s OMG Style.”???
Pete Shelley was the lead singer of original English punk-rockers, The Buzzcocks.
Another exciting find was TWO copies (one for me, one for my friend) of a pink marbled vinyl original 7″ EP by The Stranglers from 1977, one of our fave bands! They were $4.00 each. (Hugs Work!)
I’m listening to The Cars S/T debut while I write this.
If you haven’t yet, check out the music video for “Hello Again.” It’s prob on youtube or some shit.
Today marks 3 months on T-injections. My prescription is for 50ml / week, but I’ll admit I was using more than that for the first 6 weeks. I’ve been doing 50 regularly for the last 6 weeks though, leading up to my blood test, because I really do want to see where the levels are, at that amount. I have an appointment on Thursday with the endocrinologist to discuss this. I’m going to ask to be put on a higher dose. Which I may or may not bump myself up to. I… just really like to stockpile testosterone and to have some personal control over it.
Changes have been occurring at a comfortable pace. I’ve gained maybe 8 pounds, mostly in my abs, shoulders, and pecs. I get more dark hairs on my chin and upper lip, which just means I gotta use the tweezers more often! My voice definitely dropped within the last month – I’d say that is the most noticeable thing. And I have mixed feelings about that, because it is such a permanent thing. But, so far I’d say I’m getting used to it and will probably ultimately be happy about it.
We went to Easter Sunday at my Aunt’s, and it was the first time I’d seen my relatives since these changes have occurred. I felt a little self-conscious, because they do know I’m trans and that I changed my name and some of them know about my top surgery. But I haven’t said I am on testosterone. And I’m not gonna. It will just be.
Being out at work has been going super well. Everyone is consistent with “Kameron.” The “he/she,” “Mr.” etc is all over the place, which is overall fine by me because my gender is all over the place, and at least everyone knows that I said, “Kameron/he/Mx.”
Other than that, it’s been pretty low key. It’s certainly not as big a deal in my head as getting on Androgel, 4 years ago, was. I imagine I’ll be on the injections for a few more months at this point. And then on and off of them, sporadically, for the rest of my life. Probably.
I came up with a new term in my head, today, to describe my gender. I’m definitely not “mannish,” but I do think that I am “male-ish.”
Here’s my face: Other than not being able to get the lighting right, I think that my cheeks and neck have filled out a bit…
Oh, also, I almost forgot! I barely got my period this month – it was way late, and it was sooooo light, at that. That was awesome. It kinda freaks me out that that’s all it takes, and there are no health consequences(?) for the cessation of menses. But, I guess it’s relatively normal, like with birth control and stuff…
Also, yesterday at work, we were using swing machines, which is uncommon (extra work over break). And they require a lot of upper body strength. I’d normally be sore after that, but today? Not sore!
First off, happy Trans Day of Visibility to you!
It’s been a long time since I’ve done any sort of performing. I felt compelled to do something for a DJ’s birthday bash at a bar, because I thought it’d be low key and fun. And because I had a good idea. And because this is a group of acquaintances I’d like to get to know better. And also I had been asked about a month ago by someone in this group, and I declined at the time, but it got me thinking.
So this was last night – it consisted of 2 DJs, one other performer and then me, and an MC kind of trying to get people to play ridiculous games for a little while, and then another DJ.
My plan was to get the birthday gal situated in a chair, have a birthday song play as I come out with so many layers on (including a motorcycle helmet with a party hat on top) that she has no idea who it is, pass out birthday hats and those tootle things, get people involved in a chaotic way, and then for this song, “Strip” to play, by Adam Ant, and just start taking off all the coats and other clothes I’m wearing. Not to the point where I’m down to underwear or less, haha, please! My “base layer” was a vest, bow tie, pirate pants, and socks. Plus full on Adam Ant make-up, which was one of the best parts about it!
My drag name is Adam Andro-matic. It’s derived from Adam Ant, but, after all this time, I had never once portrayed him! Not sure why! One of the first CDs I bought with my own money, as a youth, from Media Play, was the best of Adam Ant. I know almost all those hits and non-hits by heart. As I planned out this performance, I really embraced it / him. “Strip” is such a ridiculous song. The video is even more so, I just learned! But it’s also just purely joyous, which is something I’d never gotten from it, in the past.
Last night, also, was just purely joyous. I didn’t have any pre-performance jitters or anxieties. Generally, my anxieties around performing manifest themselves by being too much of a perfectionist and obsessively timing things out. This time, not at all! I just went in there, hung out, got ready, did my thing, and then stayed in costume for the rest of the night, talking to people I’d never talked to before, getting trapped into dancing with some drunk people who seemed to really want to dance with me, etc. The birthday gal really really loved the striptease / lap-dance, and so did her boyfriend! She hugged me a bunch of times and kissed my cheek. This may have been the most fun I’ve ever had, during a night I was performing. All the stress was out of the equation. So was the extreme elation / relief when it was over, but I’ll take the straight up fun over all that intensity!
The MC introduced me as Adam Andromeda. Haha. I’ll have to think on that!
Oh, and also, later in the night, I was dancing to a favorite song – “Revenge” by Ministry, when a woman I’d never seen before came up to me. She said, “Will you come with me for a minute?” I followed her without hesitation, and she presented her boyfriend to me. I knew this guy! I’m not great with faces, but I narrowed it down to it being 2 possible people… We shook hands. He said, “Do you know me?” I said, “You work at [the food co-op].” He shook his head, no. “You work at [school],” I said next, and he affirmed that. I see him almost every day, at the YMCA after school program where I work. His girlfriend asked me, “Is he good with the kids? Do the kids love him?” I just nodded slowly, because the answer is, “No,” from what I can observe, but she seemed to want to hear good things, haha. He said he was buying me a drink. I was pretty much done drinking by then, but I thought it’d be nicer to accept. I said, sure, a PBR. A couple of minutes later, he handed me TWO PBRs. I shook my head and kept saying, “no, just one!” But he kinda forced them, nicely, at me. I took them both, drank half of one of them, and put them up on a piano, for safe-keeping. Really the only reason I would waste beer – so that I can get home safely!
Also, I saw my neighbor on the dance floor. This tiny, older woman who is ALWAYS out at clubs and bars, dancing and not drinking. She just seems so mild mannered!
I stayed out till closing time. Things had gotten really chaotic on the dance floor. It was interesting to observe, dip my toes into… When I got home I got ready to take a shower / get all the make-up off my face. I noticed I had a kiss mark, from the birthday gal, on my cheek. Haha.
Over the summer, I decided I wanted to try injections, short-term. In September, I started working toward making that happen. It has taken this long, because it took a very long time to even make an appointment.
Once I got in, though, things progressed super quickly. A lot faster than I envisioned.
I had an appointment with an endocrinologist on January 10th. It went super well. I recall going to therapy a couple of times this past May, and talking about my plans for going on T injections. I told my therapist that I wasn’t sure what to tell the endo; I might resort to white lying just so I could be guaranteed access. You know, feign being into being binary and things that I am not. She replied, “Why would you do that?” She was being fairly forceful too – like, please, give people some credit! I replied, almost yelling, “Because it wasn’t all that long ago that you couldn’t be somewhere in the middle, there were such strict guidelines about how to transition. I don’t know who is where, within that thinking!” We continued discussing until I was convinced, and agreed to proceed in an authentic way.
I hadn’t forgotten that. When talking with the endo, I was nothing but honest. I will say though: A) it helps that I am 35 years old, which means I have been an adult for a while now. B) it helps that I have legally changed my name. C) it helps that I’ve had top surgery. D) it helps that I have a support network.
I still hear plenty of stories about people being denied or being put on hold or having to jump through hoops they don’t want to go through, etc. It is a reality.
This endo was super open though. She seemed to have a checklist, basically of questions to go through. They were all fine, until she got to my childhood. “How did you feel as a child? Did you feel like something was wrong? Who were your playmates?” I cut her off and said, while smiling, “I find these questions interesting, but I don’t see how they are pertinent to the here-and-now.” She replied that, well, for some people… and trailed off. And then we changed directions. It was awesome.
She told me that the next step is bloodwork, then she will prescribe the T. Then I go pick it up and come back and learn how to inject myself, from a nurse practitioner. I figured all this could take around a month. I got the bloodwork done the next day. I got a message that the endo filled the prescription 6 days later. I got a call that the pharmacy will have it in stock the next day (today). Then I got a call from the endo’s office saying we could schedule an appointment tomorrow at 8am. Whoa. Whirlwind! After all the time and effort it took to make the appointment in the first place, this was so super speedy and efficient.
Am I ready? I’m not sure! Like, I am definitely ready because it’s something I’ve planned on and talked about for a long time now. And because it is a big part of my ultimate goal, which is to present in such a way that people really cannot tell whether I am male or female.
But to enter that space is super scary. I’m generally viewed as female, and it feels safe. I use women’s public restrooms, I am legally female, and I am not viewed as threatening / I don’t feel threatened. That could change. I’m not sure where I will feel most comfortable – I guess going on T-injections is one of the ways of finding that out.
This definitely feels different from the time I started Androgel, which was 4 years ago. At that time, I was soooo excited. And once I started, the excitement only increased. BUT, at the same time, I was hyper-vigilant about not physically changing; I didn’t feel comfortable with that at all at the time. When my voice sounded only the slightest bit different, I freaked and lowered the dose even more. And I hit a sweet spot, where I stayed for almost 3 years.
That sweet spot has shifted, and I’m not sure where it is now! And I’m not all that excited about it either! Who knows, I may hate it and stop after 2 or 3 shots. Or I may end up loving it more than I anticipated, and staying on it long-term. My guess is I’ll want to stay on for 6-8 months or so. …Let’s see if I’m right!
For the sake of clarity, I’m going to give myself a pseudonym dead-name, for this article. Assume that before changing my name, my name was “KD Shorts.” And my new, legal name is “Kameron.”
A little over two years ago, I was at a workshop at the Philadelphia Trans-Health Conference, and one of the presenters was mentioning that they go by the honorific, Mx. (Mixter) in their professional settings. I had heard of this before, but I thought it was just a theoretical pipe dream. Here was someone who was actually using it, in their actual life! I felt soooo jealous. I thought to myself (with a good dose of biting envy), “Oooh, look at the progressive academic who gets to waltz around in an enlightened and indulgent bubble all day long.” I never thought I would get there. Furthermore, even though I’m in my thirties, it was tough to envision a world where I was grown-up enough to have an honorific of my own.
I’d done an excellent job at avoiding it. No Mr. or Ms. for me! I am a janitor at an elementary school: a place where there’s a lot of “Mr. / Mrs. / Miss / Ms. [last name]” around the kids, and then first names amongst ourselves. Except for the custodial staff. It’s first names all around for us, generally. Everywhere except for our name plates on the custodial office door. There, we are “Mr. [last name]” and “Mrs. [last name]” I had somehow gotten away with requesting that I be simply “KD Shorts.” It was awesome.
There was another sticking point though: every year, at school pictures time. We get our pics taken, and then we get some freebies, as well as a sheet of all the staff pics – just like a student would get a sheet of their class. And so, we had to give our names, to be recorded on the sheet. It would vary from year to year, depending on how vocal/empowered I was feeling. I usually told the portrait employee, “no Ms. or Mr. Just KD Shorts.” There were a few years though, where I was “Ms. Shorts” as the default.
These past few weeks, I’ve been riding the wave of legally changing my name, which has been especially gratifying at work, where I was still known as KD Shorts, (she/her/hers). Everywhere else in my life, I had been going by “Kameron” for about two years, and (he/him/his) for many many years prior to that. So, essentially, I utilized this time of change as a chance to come out at work.
I talked to the principal and assistant principal on Friday, December 23rd. I stated that I was changing my name and my pronouns, and that I identify as neither a man nor a woman. The impromptu meeting was less than stellar – they fixated on bathrooms and the fact that the change was going to be hard for people to remember. They did mention that they wanted me to feel comfortable, but didn’t offer any concrete ways that that could happen. I did not panic though – I was thinking, “do not catastrophize this.” I remained neutral and open, but I didn’t use it as a teaching moment. I shouldn’t have to! I thought that things would work out fine, ultimately, and if not, I could always call in the big guns: my local gay alliance’s speaker’s bureau, to do the educating on my behalf.
We all took a time out for winter recess. I then came in on Tuesday, January 3rd, and the principal asked me if I’d come speak to her. Of her own volition, she had consulted the head of HR, and she had basically done a 180. We had a much more fruitful discussion. She still was strong in her opinions, but she made it clear that every choice was up to me, and I could take some time to think it over. We ended up talking about:
– How to come out, and the timeline
– How my name would appear on my name plate on the custodial office door
Coming out: I said that I have already pretty much told the people I would naturally tell in person, the ones I see regularly or semi-regularly. And I wasn’t going to be able to get to everyone, so if she could either make an announcement at the next staff meeting and/or send an email, that’d be great. We agreed she would do both. I told her I’d get back to her with the content I’d like her to say.
Name plate: The biggie! I said I had two ideas, but I didn’t say exactly what they were. (I’ll say it here though! Either 1. just “Kameron” and nothing else. 2. Mx. [last name].) She said that her thought was that my co-workers have Mr. _____ and Mrs. _____, so it’d be great if I conformed to that and picked one or the other. I said, “OK! Great, there is another option that I will go with. It’s Mx. That’s pronounced ‘Mixter.'” She wrote it down in her notes. It was a done deal!
Bathrooms: I could write an additional article about this (heck, probably more like a dissertation!), but to keep it short and sweet: We agreed that I get to pick where I go, and I am making no big deal of it, and it does not need to be a part of any announcement.
All’s how it should be! Just one more small way I am joining the world of adults. That’s Mixter, to you.
About a year ago, I featured the story of an internet friend, here: Guest post – Kale
We lost touch for a while, but as the year came to a close, I wanted to see where they were at, transition-wise and otherwise. We corresponded for a bit, and they sent this update:
Hi! My name is Kale and I wrote a guest blog post for Kameron over a year ago when I first started taking testosterone. I live, mostly, in Newfoundland, where it’s cold and grey a lot of the year. I suppose it goes without saying that a lot has changed for me in the past year. I’m writing this today after making a monumental change to my appearance and expression of self this very morning. After five years of having them I decided to cut off my dreadlocks. I know some of you might be thinking “what does that have to do with taking testosterone or being transmasculine?” Well, I believe that all the choices we make about our bodies, not just the big ones like taking hormones or having surgery, impact our experience of self enormously. And though I hate to think on my dreads in a negative way I know they were a kind of crutch for me for a long time. If you think about it dreads are very gender neutral. Whether a man or a woman has dreads it doesn’t matter; the dreads will more or less look the same. And certainly once my dreads were long enough they obscured my neck, my slender feminine neck.
Well after a year it seems my neck isn’t as slender as it once was. In fact a lot of things about my body are very different. It amazes me how I can feel so much the same and so very different all at the same time. On the one hand the differences feel right to me, feel like the me I always expected to be, and I know that makes a huge difference. On the other hand I know there is so much about me that is the same, the integral parts of me that will never change, no matter what. I think a lot of folks, myself included, fear changes that will alter who they perceive themselves to be. It’s a legitimate fear but I don’t think it’s grounded in any reality. I know that I am the same person I’ve always been except now I feel closer to that person and so much happier. I should say that I identify with being transmasculine but do not feel comfortable with many labels. Every label I’ve ever tried on did not fit well enough to make me feel comfortable with it. Right now I like to say that I do not feel like a man or a woman. I feel like myself and that person has masculine and feminine traits.
Generally I feel more attuned to my masculine side and that was a huge factor in my choosing HRT. Being read as female, therefore feminine only, made me feel very unlike myself. I could not live that way feeling like no one saw me for who I was. A year later my voice is pretty low and I have the faintest line of hair over my upper lip. My veins pop out of my forearms and my pecs and shoulders have muscles they never had before. Strangers almost always think I’m a man. This is my new reality. It generally feels good to me but it’s not perfect. I’m not a man. I don’t really want to consistently be thought of as one. I take what I can get though because in this society being seen as neither a man nor a woman is a pretty unrealistic goal. I feel closer to my masculine side so being read as a man is less difficult than being read as a woman.
The other huge reason I chose HRT was my association with my genitals and my experiences of sex. For whatever reason I am cursed with the desire to have male genitalia. It fucking sucks. I cannot imagine having bottom surgery despite the fact that I really would rather male genitalia. I’m so not ready to even entertain that idea and I don’t know if that will ever change. I wasn’t entirely sure what testosterone would do for my relationship with my genitals but it certainly seemed worth trying. This was hands down the best choice of my life. I can’t express how thankful I am that I had the ability to make this choice. Before HRT I often could not derive sexual pleasure from my junk; it just didn’t feel like it was a part of me. That feeling was exasperating. I felt incredible guilt because I loved my partner but I could not enjoy sex with them. I don’t know how to describe the difference in my genitals other than it feels like what I imagine having male genitalia feels like. I have experienced some clitoral growth but it’s so much more than that. The difference is mind blowing, truly, and I wish I could find the words to express what it actually feels like but I can’t seem to. I hate to use the cliche but it’s so accurate; my body feels like my body now.
Despite all the ways I am so thankful for testosterone, I don’t like to put excessive emphasis on HRT. It was right for me in that moment in time. It’s not necessarily the right choice for everyone. And certainly I don’t think HRT is the only thing that’s helped me with my sense of self. If I want to I can think about my dreads negatively, as being a crutch. Or I can think about them positively, as being a big part of how I expressed myself authentically. Having dreadlocks and using HRT are both choices I made to feel closer to the person I feel inside. There’s so many ways that we can learn to be happy in our own bodies and the only thing that matters is that; each individual person’s happiness. I am so happy I found the courage to choose HRT but there are still days I look in the mirror and wonder who I am, what I think I’m doing. They’re less often, definitely, but they’re still there. This life is a journey, happiness is a journey and there’s no end until you’re dead. I wish I could say HRT made me completely whole and happy and yay now my days of feeling dysphoria and sadness are over! But it’s just not true. Happiness is not something you attain once and that’s it; it’s something you have to always work for. My intent in saying all this is to remind folks of certain realities. And I need to remember them as much as anyone. Life is hard. Go easy on yourself. Love yourself, no matter what you may feel sometimes. If there’s one thing I’ve taken out of this last year and all my experiences with my changing body it’s this.
I like how Kale starts this piece with hair-related changes, and then gets more into it from there. I also use my hairstyle to obscure my slender feminine neck! What are some things you do to help feel more congruent with your gender identity?
If you’d like to write a guest post, please go for it! You can just click on “ask me something” at the top of the page…
This has been my biggest transition goal. For a long time. I always knew I would / could, at some point in the (distant) future, but usually it felt like there’d be no way. I’ve been riding the waves of my legal name change though, and getting in on that as an opportunity to say that there’s more to it than just that I am going to go by a new name now.
Monday – My supervisor had been out of work for 3 weeks, and Monday was her first day back. During her absence, I had received the signed court order from a judge in the mail, and was starting in on some of the bureaucratic processes: going to the DMV, going to my bank, etc. So it was good timing for when she came back – I told her (again) that I was changing my name, and I deferred to her in terms of what she thought I should do. I did not tell her anything beyond the name change, and she expressed concern that she wasn’t going to remember. I also came out to my 2nd co-worker (my one co-worker has been in my corner this whole time.) She was emotional in her responses, but I’m sure she’ll be fine / nothing will change.
Tuesday – Before work, I went to the “third floor” to speak to the benefits lady. I filled out paperwork. She asked me if I had my new Social Security card, and I was like, “uhhhh…” I made a mental note to get on that. She said we could get things started anyway, without it, and I just send over a copy when I get it. While at work, I came out to my favorite teacher. It went well. The reason I like her is because she just seems real. We don’t talk a whole lot, but when we do, she’s always reserved yet super thoughtful in her insights. She shared with me a couple of impressions her 4-year old daughter has had of me (she’s met me a handful of times.) That was nice. I told her the name and the pronoun thing, but I didn’t get as far as “neither male nor female” in this interaction. It was good enough for me right then; she said, “I’m happy for you,” a couple of times.
Wednesday – I gave it a day or two. My supervisor basically seemed to think now I just wait for things to trickle down from the “third floor.” I wasn’t feeling that – I was feeling more proactive than that, but I gave it a day. I In the meantime, I emailed our union president (the benefits lady prompted me to do this) to give him a heads up. We just had an election in November, and my favorite buildings and grounds guy was elected. It’s always a buildings and grounds guy, and if it has to be one, I’m so glad it’s him because I think he can absorb the news and take the lead on it within all those guys – electricians, plumbers, HVAC, maintenance, conservatives, white men, Trump supporters, etc. etc. Hopefully.
Thursday (today) – I talked to my supervisor about when can I change my badge, stuff like that, and she reiterated that I just wait and it’ll all happen. What I was really most concerned about was talking to the principal (again), so that she hears it from me, and so that she hears all of the information. I knew that once I talked to her, she’d take it from there (I’m not sure how she’ll do it, but the whole school will know through her.) My supervisor said she mentioned it to the principal, and I took that as a green light. I came out to three more teachers (one of them told me about a relative, and I was able to get to the part about “not male or female” with her, which felt great!) I was feeling pressure to talk to the principal either today or tomorrow because we’re going into Xmas Recess, and having everyone know when they come back from break would be ideal. So I made it happen. After school but before the admin. assistants leave for the day, I went to the office to see if the principal was available. The assistant principal happened to be with her in her office right then, which worked out perfectly. Kill two birds with one stone! Plus, the dynamic with both of them was so much better. A lot of times, they are like foils to each other. I said the stuff (the name, the pronouns, the “neither male nor female,”) the principal brought up bathrooms (which I have mixed feelings about), the assistant principal brought the energy and excitement, but also brought up how he was not going to be able to remember, and that’s not anything about me. I said yeah yeah I know it’ll be an adjustment period. (In my head, I’m thinking, how long is this adjustment period, exactly???)
Friday (tomorrow) – I have about 5 other people I’d like to tell in person, if I get the chance. If not, no big deal. Everyone’s gonna be focused on Xmas parties and getting ready for domestic family things and cookies and blah blah blah. We’ll see. The best part is there’s really no more pressure!
And so, that’s it! Now I just wait for things to happen around me. Next week, during Xmas Recess, the only people who will be at the school will be me, my two co-workers, my supervisor, and maybe the principal and assistant principal. So, that’s a whole week for the people who say my name the most, to practice. I have a feeling my co-worker / ally will step up and lead it, followed by me correcting everyone every single time.
Then teachers and kids come back. And teachers will have a heads up from the principal one way or another, and then I just start correcting, correcting, correcting. For how long? Not sure.
(I gotta say, I definitely feel good and accomplished, but I don’t feel that “wheeeeeeeee” feeling that often comes with big comings-out. I’m attributing that to my medication, for better and worse. It makes so many things so much easier, but those roller coaster feelings – yeah, I miss the good ones…)
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. …