I finally made a resource page, of sorts

This is just an announcement that I added some stuff to my blog!  For the longest time, the additional tabs were “ask me something,” “what it’s about,” and “glossary of janitorial words and phrases.”  And that was it.

About two weeks ago, an outreach specialist who works for drugrehab.com reached out and asked if I would add their website.  She wrote,

“Studies have shown that individuals in the LGBT community are more likely to use and abuse alcohol and drugs and tend to continue abuse throughout their lives. We work to spread awareness and to be an informational resource for those impacted by alcohol and drug dependence.

I believe that our website would be a valuable addition to your resources listed on your page.  Would you please review our resource and consider adding it to your website to spread awareness”

And that got me thinking, because I don’t have anything like that on my blog!  But I decided that I could – she kind of got me going to start organizing a resource page.  I told her, “I’ll need to start from scratch because I have yet to provide a resource page at all, but I love the idea, so thanks for that push!”  And then I started working.

I had always been of the mindset that although many blogs do have links to online safe spaces, hotlines, etc., I don’t need to be one of those blogs – people can google whatever they want to google and glean information from myriad places.  I wouldn’t even know how to narrow down a page.  Some, like Micah’s on Neutrois Nonsense, for example, are so comprehensive, I don’t really have anything to add!

So, mine might be a bit random, and it’s definitely not complete, by a long shot.  I included the one for the drug rehab site first, since she was the one to get me going.  I then added two overarching sites for mental health, Micah’s blog (of course!), the blog of a professional gender therapist who is very hands-on, and then two sites that are geared toward brainstorming and creativity, when it comes to gender.

You can take a look here:  LGBTQIA-GSM Resources.  Please lemme know if you want me to add anything in particular…  (The GSM stands for “gender and sexual minorities,” because there are not enough letters in the alphabet to cover everyone!)

I’ll just end with a little more information about the drug rehab website, mostly because I was so tickled that they wrote and wanted me to “advertise” for them.  It makes me feel like, wow, cool, my blog really is reaching people.  (This is something that waxes and wanes for me, whether it’s really out there or not.)  So, the outreach specialist said,

We are a free informational resource for those  battling mental health and substance abuse issues. Our website tackles many issues currently facing society today. We have a team of doctors and writers who update our content daily.
We do have a hotline that you can call with questions about different treatment options, as we know every individual is unique and so should treatment be as well.
If you want further information, check out my new resource page!!!  LGBTQIA-GSM Resources

Priorities, at my most vulnerable

I was in the hospital for psychiatric reasons, for a week in mid-May.  It went so much smoother than my two other “stays.”  (Those occurred in 1999 and 2015).  I attribute that smoothness to:

– Having a complete social network around me for the first time in my life

– The fact that even though I had never been to THIS hospital, I was able to draw from my experience in 2015, and use that blueprint to (semi)-successfully navigate my way through, this time around.

– I was already on meds that were working pretty well, for the first time ever.  This means that my psychiatrist wasn’t just taking a shot in the dark.  She was just tweaking what was already working.  (For me, specifically, this meant getting my Seroquel (anti-psychotic) increased from 200mg, to 600mg, dispersed into three 200mg doses throughout the day, and discontinuing the Wellbutrin (anti-depressant), at least for now.*

So, what were my priorities?
1. Getting on an adequate sleep schedule.
2. Eating the hospital food without having too many digestive issues (this included not relying too heavily on food visitors brought me, even though I was so grateful that they were doing this.)
3. Interacting as opposed to shutting down:  Unless I was knocked out on meds, I was up and about, talking with people (sometimes shouting at them), pacing the halls (“going for a walk”), coloring with different medias and different methods / trying to do number puzzles (figuring out what was feeling more “right brained / left brained”), marking my turf / territory in ways that may have been specific to me (this, right here, would be a post unto itself… I’ll leave that for another day…

Some peripheral priorities / goals that I tackled / attempted and had some success with was:
1. Watching out for other people, checking in to see if they felt safe.
2. Micromanaging free-dance party / art times.
3. Getting other people condiments and other things they might need / want.
4. Modeling my behavior off of others / acting as a role model.
5. Pushing for Gym Time and Therapy Dog visits.
6. Reinforcing privacy vs. getting help.  Also reinforcing quiet hours and other scheduled parts of the day.
7. Taking a shower every day (night) at the same time (10pm).
8. Dispensing important information.
____________________________________________________

Notes:

I realize this post is a pretty vague sketch of some important things – this might serve as just an outline for me to fill in more interesting details / experiences / stories…

*I was also administered a shot, which I refer to as a “Haldol Cocktail.”  5 parts Haldol, 2 parts Ativan, 50 parts Benadryl.  Plus, of course, my Testosterone shot – 50mg.

 


I was in the hospital (again)

Oh, hey, dang, I’ve been absent for a while.  I was in the hospital, again because I was manic (the time before that was January, 2015).  This time it was a week:  from May 15th-22nd.  I’m currently out of work until June 19th.  I’m sure once I’m feeling up to it, I’ll be writing a lot in the upcoming weeks.  For now though, I’m thinking I’ll have a handful of short, somewhat abstract updates to this blog.  The first one being:

I am a transgender person and I was hospitalized for mania and my blood was tested, and I was administered my testosterone shot, but my T-levels in my bloodstream were not monitored at any point in time during my stay.

I feel legitimately angry, like, about as angry as I am capable of getting, about this.  Because I experienced some really really bizarre symptoms while there, that I would chalk up to hormonal issues, but there’s nothing for me to measure that against.

I was shouting A LOT.  Like, I am not a shouter.  I was SUPER vocal, the entire time I was there..

My menstrual cycle came back in a super condensed, concentrated form, for about 3 days…

Digestive issues…

Sex drive??  Zero

I called people out in their shit, in real time (generally something might occur to me later, what I should have said)…

I was actually able to keep my anxiety in check this time…

Smells and tastes were all over the place…

 

Blah!  When will it sink in, that transgender people face different challenges, and these need monitoring too!


Emotions and taking testosterone

Lately, I’ve felt an increased breadth of emotionality, and I’ve been wanting to embrace that and document it.  At this point, I’ve been on injections for about 2 months.  I’d say I could first recognize this about a month ago – I saw the film, Moonlight, and I felt choked up / on the verge of tears a couple of times.  This was no small event:  I haven’t cried or even come close for a very very long time.

About two years ago, I was seriously depressed for a year.  It’s definitely different for everyone, but whenever I’ve been depressed in that way, I do not cry.  I don’t have any emotional experiences, really, other than fear and panic and deadened mental capabilities.  And physical pain, but not in the way where I want to cry.  Then, after about a year of trying different meds, I got on one that I actually like, for the first time ever.  It helps me sleep.  It helps me not think in obsessive ways.  It helps me absorb new information and changes and take those things in stride.  I’ve had some serious high notes, in this past year.  This drug has actually helped with that, perplexingly.  I’ve also had a couple of anxiety attacks, but they were extremely few and far between, and related to stressful times.

But I had not felt sad, or any of those nuanced pallets / ranges within the emotion called “sadness.”  Until I started (again) on testosterone – which is kinda interesting because the more likely narrative is “once I started T, I couldn’t cry anymore.”  I have yet to actually cry, but the sensation is there, and I welcome it.

Today, I was listening to a podcast, and I felt overwhelmed with emotion.  Like I said, this has been so rare, that I embraced it.  It was “This American Life,” the episode called, “Ask the Grown Ups.”  Tig Notaro was giving some advice to a teenage girl who’s mom had recently passed away.  It was so moving that the world around me changed, temporarily.

Also, I’ve recently been seeking out music that I listened to while I was depressed, 2 years ago.  (There’s not much at all to uncover because I listened to so little music.  It’s basically 2 albums by Royksopp, something by The Notwist, and, probably a couple more I could track down if I really wanted to dig…)  It’s been… interesting.  There have also been big changes in my life lately, mostly at work, that has triggered some images of violence to flash before my eyes.  I’m all too familiar with this, and in the scheme of things, it’s been super mild.  But, yeah, haven’t experienced that in a very long time.  Instead of acting on it or obsessing on it though, I just came home, took my pills, and went to bed early.  I feel sooooo grateful that that’s all I have to do.  And then the next day it is not too bad.  What???!!!  It’s true!

So, essentially what I’m saying is that I have felt some intense emotions over the past couple of years, but very rarely did that involve any form of sadness.  Which, is pretty bizarre if I think about it.  And that’s been due to depression and medication.  And then, this higher dose of T opens back up a world I have not been able to access.  It includes nostalgia and emotional connectedness and feelings associated with the weather and isolation and the season and the environment, etc. etc.

As long as I’m not continuously bawling my eyes out, it’s all good.

If you’re interested in this topic, I also wrote these posts:
Depression and taking testosterone
Depression and taking testosterone pt. 2


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.


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.


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.


New App: LGBTQ+ health care info & reviews!

I recently connected with Nic and Cat, a duo based in Philadelphia, who have been working super hard for about a year, creating an app for anyone who is LGBTQ+ and is looking for a health care provider. It will be simple, straightforward, user-based, and reliable.  A beta version will be available soon, and Nic says, “the more the merrier, because once we’re beta testing we want to have as many reviews on there as possible–that’s what’s gonna make the app useful.”

qspaces-hard-at-work2 qspaces-hard-at-work

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I already signed up.  You can too!  At:  https://qspacesapp.com/qreview/

I definitely will have a lot to add, from
The first primary care doctor who proscribed me T,
The terrible consultation I had for top surgery in my area,
and, yeah, there will be much more.  I have thoughts on my current doctor.  Thoughts about the surgeon who did do my top surgery.  Thoughts about my sometimes therapist and my psychiatrist (refreshingly, those two are all positive.)

I asked Nic a few questions to get a better sense of who they are and what their project is all about…

K:  I’m curious, do you and Cat have experience in web design?  Or, what are your backgrounds?

Nic:  I have some experience with coding, but not enough to be able to pull off an app like this. I’m currently a 2nd year in medical school with a background in crisis counseling, EMS, and performance. Cat is a jack-of-all-trades. In the past, she’s used design principles to build community dialogue around social issues and is currently working for Johnson & Johnson on their TAP program, and starting her first year at University of the Arts in the Design for Social Impact Master’s program. She always has a million little projects going on, from trying to create the perfect denim work jean for butches, tomboys, transmen, and anyone else who has trouble finding a durable, well-fitting work jean, to cataloguing every queer movie in existence, and more.  When she had the idea for the app and shared it with me, I was like, there has to be something like this already out there. We looked around and there were a few options, but nothing that gave tangible results. She started drawing up some sketches and we’ve been unstoppable ever since.
qspaces

K:  Was there a specific moment or incident where you said, “We need an app to fill in this void of information.”

Nic:  We had just moved to Philadelphia so I could go to medical school and we were both trying to establish care with a primary doctor. Cat had very recently had a terrible doctor experience and she didn’t want to go through that again. So she turned to an online forum, a queer philly group. The posts were all over the place, and it was just generally inefficient. I was also meeting with a group called the Gender Interest group at the time, which is an interprofessional group for folks in healthcare who are trying to push systematic change at their home institutions around attitudes + policies affecting gender diverse folks. I was pretty blown away by how professional, dedicated, and compassionate these healthcare providers were and I realized that patients could only find out who had adequate training in LGBTQ patient issues by word of mouth.  I mean, almost 10% of the population is lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer, and / or trans. Yet we give hours and hours of lectures on the most rare of congenital metabolic diseases. I think that’s a problem. 

So there wasn’t one exact moment. It was basically a culmination of all of our experiences up until that point. Cat + I realized that 1. we could do something about it and 2. that we were actually the perfect team for this project.

K:  What has been the most rewarding parts of the process of getting it off the ground so far?  What about the most frustrating?
Nic:  So many great experiences. My favorite parts have been where people approach us and say, yeah- but have you thought of this? I love working with people, and building off of ideas, so the amount of collaboration that this has led to has been truly incredible. We’re working with a web dev team called Webjunto in Philadelphia and they’re really awesome. A good part of the team is queer and they have a lot of great insights. Even the straight, cis people have some great insights. 😉

The most frustrating part, by far, has been trying to convince straight, cis folks that there is a need for this kind of app. You can quote statistics at them all day long (like over 56% of lgb folks have had discriminatory experiences at their healthcare provider’s office, and over 70% when looking at transgender and gender non-conforming people) but they’ll just reply, ‘Well, not at this institution’ (which I know for a fact to be untrue). The institutional support matters because we need funding, we need investors in order to set up a sustainable business model. The reason some of these other sites are stalling out is because they are non-profits that run on volunteer work. Cat + I would love to devote ourselves full time to this app, and it’s important that it stays totally free for the folks using it.

Besides, we have so many other ideas, including things like having a Clubhouse- a community space for lgbtq folks to chill + hang out that isn’t centered around alcohol. Maybe one day! 
_______________
I’ll share more info about this app as it becomes available.  This is SUPER important.  (I’ll also share updates about this magical Clubhouse as that materializes as well.  🙂 )

Letters 2 Ollie

There’s a trans-kid out there who could use some words of support and encouragement right now.  (There are many trans-kids out there who need help; here’s one way you can make a direct impact!)  Tell Ollie your story and how you get through hard times related to depression and gender dysphoria, by sending him an email at letters2ollie@gmail.com.  I sent one in last night!

It started with, on Tuesday, I read an email that was dispersed through a closed Facebook group I am a member of, and I contacted the writer, Aldana, to see if I could share her message.  The following is posted with her permission.  Please do forward to specific people who might be interested, via email!  If you would like to re-blog or share on social media, please contact me at janitorqueer@gmail.com first…  Aldana has conveyed that it’s a fine balance between wanting to get the word out and get more letters sent in, and on the other hand, the potential of it spinning out of control, having the message get watered down, and possibly having the surprise no longer be a surprise.

Aldana, a friend of Ollie’s father, wrote, (Edited version.)
____________________

Hi guys,

I apologize for an email coming out of left field but I need some help and I hope you might be able to point me in the right direction.  My name is Aldana and I have a very close friend who has a 17 year old transgender son named Oliver. Ollie just came out the end of last year and suffers from extreme gender dysphoria and depression. He has been going through a really rough time for a while now.  He needs help and support so badly, and his dad does too.

I looked up local mentorship programs to send to his dad because I really believe that if Ollie had a mentor in his life, he would have someone to relate to and to talk about what he is going through.  Besides sending mentorship information, I thought there might be another way to help Ollie feel love and support right now. It might be a long shot, but I wanted to put it out there just in case you might be able to help me make this happen!

I thought that it would be so great and powerful if people who went through similar hard times and came out the other side, were able to write a letter to Ollie telling him their story and how they overcame their challenges.  This young soul is in desperate need of acceptance and love and I would appreciate any help or guidance you can give me in helping me make this “Letters 2 Ollie” project happen.

I went ahead and created an email account that I can give to his dad to share with him once people start writing him letters. The email address is letters2ollie@gmail.com.  I am hoping to get about 30 but would be grateful for any amount to be honest.

I know this is an ambitious project and I want to thank you in advance for any help or guidance you can offer. You have my permission to forward this email to anyone you think might be able to help me make this “Letters 2 Ollie” project a reality. Thanks for your time!

Best,

Aldana
____________________

Here’s what I wrote to Ollie:

Hey Ollie,

My name is Kameron, and I’m a 34 year-old trans-person. (Oh man, that makes me twice your age!)  I wanted to write to you, share a little bit about myself, and hopefully learn more about you.

When I was 17, I was going through a really rough time too.  I felt depressed, and stressed out about trying to make friends, plus juggling school, cross-country running, and a part-time job.  (I worked at McDonald’s.  It sucked.)  On top of all of this, I was putting a lot of pressure on myself to figure out my sexual identity (gender identity questions ended up coming later for me) and to be more open and honest. I was really shy.

I decided that I must be a lesbian, since I was so masculine and it seemed like I would probably date women, although I wasn’t so sure about that.  I didn’t know about transgender identities.  I didn’t know of anyone who was trans, or even what that really meant – it wasn’t talked about at the time, and I didn’t know about any resources.  I could barely come to terms with the idea of being gay, anyway, so maybe it was for the best!  To end up exploring these things in stages…

After a couple of months of feeling such intense pressure in my senior year of high school, I broke down and ended up in a psychiatric hospital for three weeks.  The rest of that school year was really really hard.  I had to drop out of a few of my classes.  I went to more study halls and art classes, but that didn’t really help.  I was not able to focus on my school work or anything else, not even TV!

Things did get better though, slowly but surely.  I don’t want to sound too cliche, but it does get better.  At least for me it did.  And I think if you were to really ask people who struggle with depression and gender dysphoria and everything else, most of them would tell you the same thing.

My mom was supportive, and she found out about an LGBT youth group that I started going to every Sunday morning.  (It prevented me from going to church with my parents, but I was secretly happy about that.)  I will say that I found it difficult to connect with people at first, because I was so shy, but I at least started to feel a little bit more confident at my school.  At the time, my school didn’t even have a gay-straight alliance or any club like that!  Does your school?

When I went to college, a lot changed for me, largely because it was an opportunity to re-invent myself.  Everyone was new.  Also, I learned about so many things I was not aware of, including gender identity.  Do you have plans to go to college?  Even if you don’t, there are all sorts of opportunities to be the person you see yourself as, even if most people know you as someone else right now.  Whether you join a new gym or start a new job or join a new group, I feel like people are more and more accepting and understanding about transgender identities, by the minute, these days.  It’s really incredible how fast things are changing.

I would not have believed I could be where I am today, when I was 17 (the year you were born!  Were you born in 1999?)  I changed my pronouns to he/him/his about 10 years ago.  I changed my name socially, and I want to change it legally too.  I was on testosterone for a few years.  I just had top surgery 3 weeks ago!  My transition has ended up not being as straightforward, partly because I identify as non-binary, but that’s a different story.  Also, I got married to a totally amazing person, and I have a blog, and I’m a radio DJ, and despite having some bouts of depression at different times, I am usually happy and want to get as much out of life as I can!

I’ve been thinking about you and hoping that things are at least getting a little better, every day.  I wonder if you’d want to write back and forth more?  I’d love to hear about what kinds of stuff you like.  I just talked a whole lot about myself, but I’m actually more interested in learning more about you!  Also, if you want to ask me something, go for it! I doubt I will think anything is “too personal.”  I’m pretty open!

Your pen pal,
Kameron


6 days post top surgery

Going into surgery, I was in pretty rough shape.  I felt sick (although I didn’t want to say so, specifically, to anyone other than my spouse… I kept saying “slight head cold”) and exhausted.  Luckily, my cold symptoms were not too worrisome, medically:  no fever, no chest congestion / trouble breathing.  Other than the cold, I felt mentally prepared.  In retrospect, I totally was. But, not so much prepared for the recovery process…

office / home / guest rooms mansion

office/home/guest rooms mansion

Surgery Day:  We arrived at 6:15am, surgery was from 7:30-9am, I was sleeping till about 10:30, and we were leaving by 11:30.  At which point, I felt a lot better than I had for days – it even felt like my cold magically disappeared.

Everything went smoothly, except for the fact that the surgeon was about to do the wrong procedure.  I was afraid this was the case because during the entire process including the consultation, the paperwork continually listed “double incision mastectomy with free nipple grafts.”  Even after I called a month ago to verify we were on the same page with the peri-areolar procedure and was assured that we were.  So when she came in and said, “Double incision.”  I said no, and luckily wasn’t phased by the mix up.   She said peri-areolar, I said yes, and she drew circles around my areolas.  I talked to her about nipple size, saying I wanted them small.  She said, “They’ll be smaller.  Your nipples will be nipple-sized.”  That was not very reassuring, but after she left, and before the anesthesiologist came back around, my spouse clarified that she had said, “your nipples will be nickle-sized.”  That sounded better.

If you want to read a more detailed account of what it’s like, here’s a good one someone wrote just a few days ago:  Surgery.  It was a lot like that. Back at the guest room, we texted with some people, a Philly friend came and visited for a while, we watched Seinfeld, and we went to sleep early.  I was up a lot that night, ravenously eating snacks and just not able to get comfortable.  I was sleeping sitting up, at the foot of the bed, a lot.

Day after surgery – The next day, we were driving home.  And I was in bed by 6pm.  My cold symptoms were back, and I was not feeling so good anymore.  I’ll bet that first day, I had a good mix of adrenaline and endorphins flowing, plus whatever they put in the IV.  And then I crash.

2 days after surgery – I sat outside for a while.  A friend came over, and we chatted for about 30 minutes before my spouse and they went thrift shopping.  We listened to some podcasts.  I read a book about subway art, written in 1984, a book I had found in the trash at school.  We watched 2 episodes of Mad Men.

drinking water

Drinking water.  Feeling pretty good.

drinking water. I did not plan on wearing this Hawaiian shirt. Turns out I don't have that many short sleeved button down shirts that will comfortably fit over the drains I have in!

Drinking water. (I did not plan on wearing this Hawaiian shirt. Turns out I don’t have that many short sleeved button down shirts that will comfortably fit over the drains!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3 days – Podcasts, Mad Men.  I stopped taking the pain meds (Percocet) because they were causing OIC (opioid induced constipation).  The pain increased throughout the day, but it’s not like Percocet was all that effective anyway.  We went to my spouse’s parents’ house, which did not go so well (I could not bear being social, especially once a family friend came by – I just went and sat outside.)  We went to the grocery store on the way home – that was OK.

4 days – Glad to be off Percocet – realized that there are other pain meds (D’uh!) so I took an Alieve.  I feel like 95% of the pain now is due to this fucking surgical wrap I have to wear for 7 days.  I can only take shallow breaths; I can’t laugh or yawn or cough; it’s digging into my ribs and underarms; it’s way too tight; it just fucking sucks*.  There’s a reason I didn’t bind!  We went to the movies – nice to get out of the house.  Also, one of our cats got suddenly freaked out by my Frankenstein walk (even though I’ve been doing it for days), and she bolted off the table, knocking a bunch of my records onto the floor.  It was loud.  Also, I had a mini melt down about hating asking for things that are so basic, telling my spouse that I keep doing things because I would rather do them than ask – open and close doors, get ice trays out of the freezer, pour water from our britta, reach up high for a Q-tip, carry my laptop…  I gotta stop so I don’t mess up my healing process!  She was on it and strategized a bunch of new ways to make things easier!

5 days – My spouse went back to work.  Our refrigerator was making a loud noise this morning and stopped working.  That was stressful!  I called a repair person, then changed my mind because we should just buy a new one because this thing is super old.  My spouse’s mom came over to save our freezer items for us, store them at her house.  Then the fridge started working again, so it feels like less pressure – we’ll still get a new one, but it doesn’t have to be today.  A friend brought over lunch – I liked that!  My mom stopped by after work.  I felt anxious and lightheaded for a lot of the day.  I was feeling really confined/claustrophobic, as if this binding thing were made of plaster of paris, or steel.  I had a serious melt down (I got an all-too-real glimpse of what it could feel like, if I lost it right now – I felt in danger of becoming more and more triggered), and told my spouse we need more people around us, helping.  She called her parents to make that happen.  We talked and I felt a lot better.

6 days – That’s today!  I only managed to sleep 3 hrs.  I’ll be spending more time with people today.  I’m just going to try to relax.  I also gotta start preparing for going back down there tomorrow, to get this fucking binding off.  Oh, and the drains.  I’m going with my mom.

Overall, I’m in more pain than I thought.  And I’m way less out of it than I thought (like, I didn’t get to be in a fun pain-killer induced haze, haha).  And I don’t like TV that much and I’ve been up and about a lot.  I hate not doing things because it reminds me of being depressed.

*  Note:  this may be the only time I’ve used swear words on this blog (in reference to the surgical binding).  It’s that bad.  Also, though, I appreciate this thing because it reminds me of where the limits are and also it’s preventing me from coughing stitches open or anything like that.