Archive for October, 2010

Itchy wounds at night

Boy oh boy does healing make you itchy! My chest seems to be healing up alright so far this time (knock on wood) but it’s all I can do to NOT reach over and scratch the heck out of myself! It made me think, though, about how healing involves moving from one stage of discomfort into the next until, finally, the discomfort dissipates entirely and you are left with a scar, perhaps, and a bundle of hazy memories.

One valuable lesson I will take from my long convalescence is the value of patience. Patience is a virtue I’ve struggled with since I was a child — I am reminded of sitting next to my babysitter, surrounded with puzzle blocks and frustrated to no end. Why couldn’t everything just find its OWN place?

While I think of myself as results-oriented, the process of getting to that result is often a windy path of false starts and narrowly-avoided pitfalls. I thrive off of that chaos, but only if I know that the ending is near and that all will soon be resolved. In high school this meant that I would only enjoy tackling a science or math problem if I already knew what the answer was. Once the anxiety of never finding the answer was removed, I could concentrate on enjoying the path that would lead me there. Backward, I know.

Come to think of it, I am living the ultimate resolved question: life. We each know what the answer will be — there is no escaping our own mortality. So that means it’s time to relax into the process of living, dammit! Death can take it’s merry old time.

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October 28, 2010 at 5:02 am Leave a comment

Growing up with depression

Part of growing up feeling different is that when you finally make peace with your difference, you realize that you overlooked a chunk of your life – in my case the all-important teenage years – when you were supposed to be learning how to interact with other people. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a total social imbecile but I’m also acutely aware that my lack of masculine socialization means that I constantly feel like I’m a step behind when it comes to interacting with others.

Women and I, we tend to get along just fine. Having grown up with sisters as siblings, and no brothers, I learned a lot about female friendship circles. But I did not have a whole lot of help in the male bonding experience. In my early teens, before my family moved from Canada to South Africa, I began to make many good friends, a lot of them male. They were my buddies and we were on the same wave-length. I played soccer with the boys – goalie – and I was damn good.

The move to South Africa when I was eleven coincided with my social withdrawal. Initially the children, mostly the children of parents who were friends with my parents, reached out to me, but I struggled to find my footing. I retreated more and more. I surrounded myself with a select few friends. Of my female friends, only two were close to me during my high school years, and to these two I told nothing about my growing doubts regarding my sexuality, my gender and about the severity of my depression. I had two male friends over this period. One lived in Belgium and we corresponded over the Internet. The other lived with us briefly as a renter, before he disappeared unannounced.

It’s a hell of a way to live your teens.

The point I am getting to is that the period where, if I had been able to verbalize my feelings, I should have been able to make friends and go out and party, I did not. Leaving me now a thirty-something man with a chip on his shoulder. The trick is to make up for lost time. But I don’t want to feel like I’m always catching up. Part of overcoming that feeling, is reaching out to new people and new experiences. Practice, practice, practice. It’s a second childhood. And it’s just as scary as the first.

It’s also exciting.

October 25, 2010 at 7:56 am 1 comment

Obama says it gets better

Barack Obama has made a powerful contribution to Dan Savage’s It Gets Better project. Savage, a popular US sex advice columnist, started the project in response to the growing number of gay teen suicide stories in the news.

The website posts the following startling statistics which, I assume, apply to the United States – land of the “free”:

  • 9 out of 10 LGBT students have experienced harassment at school.
  • LGBT teens are bullied 2 to 3 times as much as straight teens.
  • More than 1/3 of LGBT kids have attempted to commit suicide.
  • LGBT kids are 4 times as likely to attempt suicide then our straight peers.
  • LGBT youth with “highly rejecting” families are 8 times more likely to attempt suicide than those whose families accept them.

In his brief but insightful video, Obama raises some important issues, most notably around the nature of discrimination:

  • Feeling like you don’t belong is not an exclusively gay problem.
  • Anyone who has experienced bullying, whether based on sexuality or for some other reason, needs to understand that bullying is NOT a rite of passage.
  • NO ONE deserves to be bullied.
  • There are people out there who care about you just as you are. Reach out to them; don’t be afraid.
  • Being different can be a source of pride.
  • Looking back on your struggles in the past with an open heart filled with compassion will help you be a better adult.
  • Everybody deserves respect.
  • Each of us has the right to pursue our own version of happiness.
  • We have the right to speak our minds and be true to ourselves.

I, for one, am heartened that President Obama took the time to reach out from the Oval Office and speak out on behalf of those who feel they have no reason to live.

Life may not always be pretty but it is precious. And it DOES get better.

October 23, 2010 at 9:50 pm Leave a comment

Surgery times six

I am an FTM (female-to-male transsexual). Part of my journey has been physical – i.e. chest masculinization and the removal of the ovaries/uterus.

I have had six surgeries in three years. Five of those surgeries were to masculinize my chest (i.e. mastectomy, and then four revisions, three of them under general anaesthetics). The other surgery was to remove my uterus and ovaries. The latter one went smoothly, mostly, aside from a bladder infection a few days after the nurse removed the catheter. The chest, however, has been a painful process.

It all started with my developing a hematoma after the first surgery. A hematoma is basically a big bruise and it causes excessive swelling that can cut off the blood supply to the nipple – which is what happened in my case. As I recovered, slowly, the left nipple turned black and most of it just fell off. So I went back under the knife, this time to minimize the damage. Where my nipple used to be was mostly scar tissue now. I had minimal sensation (still do). The third surgery involved taking part of my healthy right nipple and grafting it to the remaining left nipple. The surgeon did a spiral cut into the original and transferred it over. I woke up with drains in my sides. The healing was slow, and again, the scarring around the areola pretty severe. Both nipples stretched out badly. I would need to go back in to reduce the size and remove the scarring. Round four.

Before round four came was when I went in for my hysterectomy. Thankfully that surgery was smooth. Well, smooth enough. During my follow-up appointment, I mentioned that I was still bleeding lightly, and the doctor said he should take a look. He scraped out a blood clot from inside me (the surgery was laporoscopic). The bleeding stopped. Thankfully.

Four weeks after my hysterectomy, I got a call from my chest surgeon’s office to say that there was an Operating Room opening and did I want to come in for my revision. Because I was still covered by short term disability (for the hysto) through my work, it seemed like good timing. Round four saw the surgeon cut away at both nipples. But when I went to see him two weeks later, the skin had pulled away from the areola on both sides. The left side look especially bad – the skin tight and not very elastic. I would have to go back in. This time, at least, it would be under local anaesthetics. I thought it would be easier. I discovered during the surgery that I could still feel things. And it turns out recovering from local anaesthetics is not a lot of fun. The swelling was fairly severe and blood oozed into my dressing.

Two weeks later, and I went back to the doctor. The right side was still healing well. The left side, the one that had had the hematoma, popped open again. But it didn’t look so bad. The doctor didn’t bother to book me into an OR room. He pulled out the needle filled with painkiller and went to work right there in his consulting room. I don’t even count this one as one of the surgeries.

For anyone out there who decides to have chest surgery – make sure you have people to help you when you’re recovering. When the doctor tells you no lifting, he means no lifting. No quick movements, no twists or push ups or anything that can strain your chest muscles. Surgery’s no joking matter. Take it from me.

October 22, 2010 at 5:06 am Leave a comment

“It’s not you it’s me”

“Why did you turn yourself into a guy if you were interested in dating guys?” they ask. And I don’t know where to begin. Well, that’s not quite true. I usually begin by explaining that gender identity and sexual orientation are two distinct categories. That is, what I feel myself to be is unrelated to who I feel myself attracted to. Transguys can view themselves as straight, gay, bi, pansexual or any other label that’s out there. Unfortunately, for those of us who come to the realization that we may be gay transguys, the road can get complicated.

I pass well. People say I’m handsome and intelligent and sometimes I think they’re surprised that I appear to be as level-headed as I am. I imagine them going home and talking to their friends about the date they had with the transguy and then coming to the shocking realization that the transguy was actually kind of interesting. What to do with that?

One of the first gay men I went on a date with, was younger than me, cute and we really hit it off, I thought. I had also not had sex in a while so when we started fooling around, I was pretty eager to get it on. We’d talked about my physical condition, my lack of a penis, and although he seemed slightly befuddled by it, he was too polite to speak up too loudly. But my eagerness was too much for him. A few days later he wrote to tell me that he really enjoyed my company, that he was sexually attracted to me, but that he was having real trouble wrapping his head around the whole lack of a penis thing. Could we just be friends?

Because I appreciated his honesty and didn’t want to lose his friendship, I said it was OK. What I didn’t tell him is how much it hurt to hear him say that. Because I realized that if he couldn’t understand – and he was an activist who had some knowledge of trans issues – then what kind of chance in the world would I have, out there in the gay dating pool, where the majority of gay men hadn’t ever encountered someone like me.

Let me be clear – he did nothing wrong. I don’t feel offended by his close-mindedness or angry that he didn’t see the man behind the pussy. He had every right to feel discombobulated and I appreciated his honesty. But that did nothing to soften the sinking feeling that I wouldn’t ever meet someone who could love me, including my body, the way it is. I struggle enough to accept myself without having to worry about other people finding me repulsive.

Not all of us are meant to be with someone. Having friends – platonic friends – is important and I’ve had some pretty fabulous friends in my life. But every now and again I feel pangs of jealousy when I see a straight couple holding hands in the park, or a gay couple happily nuzzling on the bus. Do I wish that dating was easier, that I could just go to a gay bar and pick up some hot dude and roll in the sack? You bet. But that’s not my reality. I suppose I could lie and somehow try to fool my partner by not telling him about my past, but I’m not interested in that. If I wanted only sex, there’s plenty of porn on the internet. What I’m looking for is a grown-up relationship with all the good stuff: commitment, understanding, trust, acceptance.

Maybe, for some of us, that’s too much to ask.

October 20, 2010 at 5:32 am 2 comments

Forgiveness is a process

I used to think people just forgave people, and that was that – you moved on. But I realize, now, that forgiving takes time. In fact, it’s not an event but a process that never ends. Forgiveness, like love, grows stronger as one engages in it. And some days are easier than others. Old habits, like anger, resentment, bitterness, they die hard. But die they must, or the damage they cause will perpetuate itself across generations.

I am by no means a devout Buddhist. I meditate when I remember to, and I listen to dharma talks usually when my mood starts to dip. I have no real sangha because I am, still, too much of a loner although I’m working on that. But my dabblings in Buddhism have taught me one valuable thing: just because you have a feeling, doesn’t mean you need to indulge it. Just because that anger bubbles up into your throat and leaves a bitter taste in your mouth, doesn’t mean you need to spew it out at the first person that happens across your path. Anger, bitterness, rage, hate — these are all just forms of energy that can be transformed. They NEED to be transformed or else they will distort you; make you ugly and devour you like a vampire. They CAN be transformed. It may sound trite, but they can be turned into love.

For the people in my life who hurt me, I forgive you. But forgiveness takes time so be patient with me. And with that realization comes another: the people I hurt, the ones who didn’t understand why I treated them so badly, they, too, will not forgive me overnight. How can they? Being comfortable with that discomfort, that – to me – is part of growing up.

So this is what it feels like to make peace with the past.

October 19, 2010 at 5:57 am 1 comment

The packer

It’s pinkish and limp
and fits into my palm
like some oversize alien sperm

the balls are wrinkled,
the dick 3″ flaccid and
never gets hard–
erections cost extra

I like how the silicone warms
against my pubic bone,
turns into an extension
of me. I like how

the bulge is barely visible
behind my jeans when I walk or stand,
but I know it’s there–

and that makes all the difference.

October 18, 2010 at 6:59 am Leave a comment

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