This is my fourth in a series of posts documenting my experiences with Electrology 3000 in Dallas, TX, which specializes in hair removal for people who are transgender, like me. Go back and read the first, second, and third installments as well, if you like.
Wednesday, February 11:
I haven't shaved since Saturday, and I'm extremely happy with the amount of beard shadow I have left at this point. I didn't feel all that self-conscious flying with some stubble the last two trips, and this time it's almost not even on my mind, because you really can't see it unless you look close. At work this week, nobody notices at all that I haven't been shaving. So I point it out to people: "Look close. I have stubble! See that? I haven't shaved since Saturday." I am bad at being "stealth" at work.
I've got a 5:00 flight from Baltimore, with a 2-hour layover in Charlotte. I leave work a little after 2 pm after a remarkably productive morning and a quick lunch with some friends outside (it's over 60 degrees in DC today -- can't miss a chance to eat outside on a day like this in February). Anyway, I'm glad to get a bunch of things done at work today, because I'll be out the rest of this week, Monday's a holiday, and two weeks after that is my surgery. I have a busy couple of weeks ahead to get things ready for me to be gone starting in March.
Speaking of surgery, here's a quick sidebar:
E3000 (Dallas) versus Papillon Center (Philadelphia)
In preparation for surgery, besides the trips to Dallas for facial and genital electro, I made one trip two weeks ago up to Dr. Christine McGinn's office outside of Philly. Her office offers full-service transitioning help, including electrolysis similar to what E3000 does, but it's much closer to me. I'm also going to Dr. McGinn for my sex reassignment surgery (or "gender confirmation surgery" if you prefer).
The techniques are basically the same. Papillon charged $100/hr versus the $150/hr E3000 charges for "South Pole" work. Dr. McGinn's office is only set up to handle one electrologist at a time working on you, plus as of this writing, she only has one electrologist on staff. Overall, I'd say the injections themselves hurt slightly less with Dr. McGinn, but that might have been because I popped a vicodin beforehand. The electrolysis was slightly more painful but was very tollerable. Total time to clear my genital area was 3 hours, versus 2 at E3000, but I think some of the extra time was due to the fact that there was some confusion about how much needed to be cleared. E3000 technicians are more experienced and have handled lots of sugical prep work. I got a larger area cleared at Papillon Center, some of which may not have been necessary, but it's probably still good to get rid of some of that excess hair.
I had horrible, excruciating pain the evening after my clearing with Papillon Center, starting about 6 hours after the treatment. It felt like shooting and burning pain in the genital area, mainly at the lidocaine injection points. It was so bad the first night, I called Alison and Jani on the phone to cry. I have a theory that possibly Dr. McGinn used a thicker needle, which left me with a lot more soreness. My groin was bruised and sore for about a week. With E3000, I had some minor soreness afterwards for a couple of days, but no real pain to speak of.
It could also have been a fluke, or it could be because I got more electrolysis with Papillon Center (3 hours). If that's the case, I highly recommend not doing more than 2-hour sessions. I'm sorry that I won't be able to experiment with that anymore for you, but I'm done with surgical prep work (And thank god -- I did not at all enjoy my time spent getting needles stuck in my ... well, down there -- some people actually might, but more on that later).
Wednesday, February 11 (again):
I've got a pretty tight schedule in mind for this trip. I'm supposed to get in to Dallas at 10:15 pm. I've got a rental car lined up and a hotel near E3000, in Addison. My flight back to DC is for Thursday at 8:15 pm. Like last time, I figure it's easier to fly back the same night as my clearing, since swelling is always worse on the day after treatment.
On the way back, I'll have a direct flight home, but for this flight, I'm stopping over in Charlotte. I think I did the same thing last trip. The Charlotte airport sure has a familiar look to it. No, wait -- I think I stopped here on my way down to Jacksonville, FL for my grandmother's 90th birthday. Yeah, that would make more sense, because that's actually on the way to Florida. I don't think Charlotte's on the way to Dallas, because the 2nd leg of my flight today is 3 hours, which is about the same as DC to Dallas. Anyway, layovers and delays are about to make this a long day for me...
As soon as I land in Charlotte, within 100 feet of getting off the plane, I get called "miss" and "young lady". I almost always get "ma'am", generally. I strongly prefer "ma'am" to "sir", of course, but "miss" has a nice, youthful ring to it, and "young lady" just about makes my freakin' day. Yeah, I like Charlotte. I think I may have to move here. According to their standards, I am both young and a lady, both of which are very much open for debate in most other places, trust me.
One problem with Charlotte, though, is that they're not equipped to handle a light drizzle any better than DC is equipped to handle snow. If you've ever been in DC for the first dusting of snow of Winter, you know what I mean. Anyway, all the flights out are delayed, and mine is no exception. We push off from the gate about 20 minutes late, then sit on the runway for about an hour, watching plane after plane take off southbound. The captain periodically comes on the intercom to tell us about how they keep stopping all of the westbound flights because of winds, plus there's a lot of westbound flights ahead of us even if they did start letting us take off. It doesn't look all that windy. The pilot's very vague about even guessing how long this is going to be, but he doesn't sound at all optimistic when he says "folks, ... er, it looks like it's gonna be... er... at least another 15 minutes I'd say..." over and over again.
After an hour of this, I suggest to the woman next to me that maybe we could take off heading South, then, you know, once we're up in the air, maybe the pilot could turn the little steering wheel thingy a bit to the right. I'm sure I've seen them perform this sort of maneuver before in fancy Hollywood movies and air shows and suchlike. She agrees it's a good idea. If she and I were flying the plane, we'd be up in the air as of 45 minutes ago (or, more likely, possibly crashed someplace by now, but definitely not sitting on the runway). We finally take off well over an hour late in any case.
We don't make up any time in the air. I remember when airlines used to do this (and offer you free alcohol when you were delayed an hour), but that was before jet fuel prices went way up. Also, they're charging $2 for a soda now. Screw that, by the way.
I land in Dallas at 11:45 and hop the shuttle to the rental counter. Fortunately, Hertz is still open. Some of them seem to be closed. I'd be taking a lot of cabs if I didn't get a car tonight. Maybe next time I should book an earlier flight. I was trying to fly as late as possible so I could work at least half a day today. Some of you who follow my blog closely may wonder why. I'm not sure I know, but bear in mind that anything I write here about work is usually me venting, so you only see the bad stuff. I guess I still feel a fair bit of loyalty to my company. They are giving me paid sick leave for this electrolysis, which doesn't eat into my vacation time. That's really pretty nice of them, when you get down to it.
I swing by a CVS for essential supplies: a can of soup (clam chowder, low sodium), a chocolate bar (Green and Black's) and toothpaste (I couldn't find my travel-sized one). I check in to "America's Best Value Hotel" in Addison (hey, I didn't name it -- it's $45 a night though) at 1:30 am. The front desk clerk looks very sleepy. I am, too. So sleepy that I decide not to go back to the front desk when room 109 turns out to have been slightly used since it was last cleaned. All the towels have been used, save one, and the bed is still made but the pillows are piled up like someone was sitting on it watching TV. Good enough. I've got one clean towel. The room doesn't smell bad and seems okay. I fall asleep right away, after a really long day.
Thursday, February 12:
I've arranged to meet my friend Lisa for breakfast at 8 am. She lives pretty near this area. She also lives right near George W. Bush's new place. I live right near Dick Cheney's new place. I think she got the better of that deal, neighbor-wise.
Breakfast was nice. We chatted about a bunch of stuff, including my upcoming surgery and Lisa's massage school. The morning's off to a nice start, and it's a gorgeous day in Dallas. 70 degrees and sunny. I'm popping vicodin and advil in preparation for E3000, and I also smear some aloe and lidocaine lotion on my face. I don't know if that will help any with the shots, but it's worth a try.
9:30 am. I'm ready for round 4. I've got Sabrina and Star again. They're a good combination for some interesting chatter. Our conversations revolve around such topics as Star's upcoming due date (a boy, due in April), my upcoming surgery, the woman who gave birth to octuplets, movies, Hollywood hunks (and some who haven't aged well), the pregnant man (Star and Sabrina: that's weird. Me: yeah, pretty much), other celebrity transsexuals, and creepy E3000 wannabe clients who seem to just want to have the ladies inspect their private areas. I ask Sabrina if anyone has ever gotten -- erm -- excited when undergoing the genital electrolysis. Oh yeah, and they're outta here fast is the reply. I suppose maybe that leaves a niche business possibility for someone else out there.
Anyway, today is probably the closest I've had to having fun in the chair (appropriate girl-talk fun, mind you, not the other kind -- get your minds out of the gutters). I mean except for the shots, which are about as not fun as non-fun gets. I'm a big baby, though, honestly. Except for around the lips, this level of pain is not at all intollerable. It's really my aversion to shots that's killing me and making me whimper with each injection. I just hate shots. I hate them even if they don't hurt. I hate them more when they do hurt. These do. The vicodin is a big help. I pop another at lunchtime, and I'm downing Advil like they're Tic-Tacs all day. Someone (Lisa in Dr. McGinn's office, maybe?) told me you can safely take like 20 Advils in a day. I had been doing 10 max. I'm popping more this time to see if it helps with the pain and swelling.
Lunch was Hershey's kisses from the E3000 candy bowl and some low-sodium clam chowder. I've been watching my salt intake this week because someone commented on an earlier installment of this series that it might keep me from swelling as much. I call my mom at lunchtime, because she sent me an email saying to. We go over some of the details of my upcoming surgery. She's going to be with me for the first two weeks, to make sure I'm okay. That's really great of her.
Today's electrolysis is over before 4pm, and it went by fast. Almost pleasant, really. Not at all bad for about 10 hours total of electrolysis. I had been hoping my clearings were down to more like 8 hours at this point, but it's still big progress. Last time was mostly 2 technicians all day until after 6 pm. This time, I'll have plenty of time to catch my flight back. I'm not at all rushed.
Jani's not with me again this trip because we had originally both booked Feb 23, and then I moved my date to Feb 12 so I could get in another genital clearing in before surgery. Then it turned out Feb 12 was still too close to my surgery date, and I'd already made travel arrangements, so here I am alone and not getting a clearing down there, anyway. I've been text-messaging Jani during the breaks today to coordinate our next trip, since neither of us has booked it yet. She wants April 23, then when I book and confirm that for both of us, she wants a Monday instead. Grrr. I'm having a hard time relaying this to Star as I keep changing what dates we want, and Jani won't answer her stupid phone. Somehow it ends up with me trying to explain why Jani wanted April 23 (2 months exactly from Feb 23) and then changed her mind and wanted a Monday (so she can grow facial hair in Dallas over the weekend).
For some reason as part of this, I ask Star to check Feb 23, and Jani's name should be there. She does. It's not. I send Jani a text: "You're not booked for Feb 23. When is your next appt? Call me." She finally calls me, and she's noticeably upset because she's already made plane reservations, etc., etc., but I already have her back on this -- E3000 has a slot on the 23rd open, and I just want to be doubly sure that's her date before I go booking that in her name and confusing matters worse than they already are.
Me and Jani are BFFs (or BFsF?). I've always got her back. Always. I get her in the books for Feb 23, and set us up for our next trip on April 21 (not a Monday, I know -- don't ask, okay?). Friends should always have each others' backs. That was always in the guy code. I figure it's in the girl code, too, or if not, let's add it, because it needs to be there. For transgirls, especially, we need friends we can count on for lots of this stuff, because life can be pretty hard at times.
4:00 pm. I'm out of E3000, and I head to Burger Street for an olive burger and a small fries. Lots of salt in that, I am well aware, thereby blowing my experiment on low sodium intake and it's effect on swelling. Okay, so sue me. The manager at the Burger Street is really sweet. He asks me what's wrong with my face, since it looks kind of like I got beat up. A guy in the parking lot just asked me the same thing. Must be the ice pack. I tell the parking lot guy I'm okay, just burned. I tell the Burger Street guy I just got electrolysis. He says his friend had a bad reaction to waxing once and swelled up. I tell him this is way worse than waxing, but more permanent. I'm off to the airport with tons of time to get my flight (almost 4 hours still).
At the airport, the TSA girl likes my outfit. "Look at you with your little chocolate outfit. It's cute." Thanks. So, I look burned but cute. I think so, too. I'm trying to make a new ice pack using a TSA baggie and a scoop of ice from the bartender at the airport Chili's (want the recipe?) when Alison calls me in tears. Shit. I can barely hear her with the stupid PA system going at 400 decibels and a million people walking and talking all around me. I manage to find a semi-quiet area so I can try to hear what's wrong.
Alison's flight to Thailand is next Sunday, so 10 days from today. I'm driving her to the airport. Her surgery's less than a week after that. Her friend Kayley, who was going to come with her for two weeks and help get her set up and see her through the first week of recovery, just cancelled on her. Jesus. I'd go with her myself, only my surgery is 3 days after Alison's. We booked those dates before we'd ever met each other. Otherwise, I'm sure we'd have worked it out so that we could help each other through our surgeries. See? This is what I'm talking about with regard to back-having of your friends, and the virtues thereof (see previous discussion, above).
Alison's friend aparently does not have her back, and now everything goes straight to hell and she's left scrambling and possibly alone on a trip for a very scary procedure in a far away country. Which is pretty fucked up, if you ask me. Alison is 7 hours away from me at least, and she needs a hug right now from the sound of it. I can barely hear her on a cell phone in a noisy airport. That's also pretty fucked up. This is bad timing all around. I wish I had stuck with the 23rd, as originally planned. I guess I should have, so I'd have also had Jani's back for her next trip to Dallas. Probably the whole reason Jani's reservation got messed up was when I changed mine. It's a bad day for people having one another's back. That's all there is to it.
I'm having a hard day, myself. I got 5 hours of sleep last night, I've been in a chair and on painkillers all day, my face is burned, and now all this. I check my email on my iPhone and there's more bad news: Dr. McGinn's office still doesn't have my chest xray from two weeks ago. Last Friday, the woman on the phone at the film lab in Georgetown University Hospital told me she was faxing it to Dr. McGinn right away. I guess not. Now, I'll have to sort that mess out again. This shouldn't be this hard, for a doctor to ask for an xray and for a hospital to produce it. I'm feeling stressed and helpless.
Then I do a really stupid thing. Yesterday or the day before, I saw a headline about a 16-year-old transsexual who had a sex change operation. I wisely did not click on it, thinking that it would depress me to see this girl and how pretty she no doubt is, with no trace of masculinity to her. I see the same link now, posted on someone's Facebook page. I click it for some reason, maybe because I'm at an airport with two hours until my flight, or maybe because I'm still a little loopy from all the Advil I'm popping. Whatever the reason, it's a mistake. First off, she's gorgeous. She started hormone replacement at 12 or something. How nice for her. Then, it says in the article that she's also a model and a singer, and she's got a hit song or something. She'll never have to fly down to Dallas to have every hair on her face electrocuted over and over and over and over. She'll never have to work on changing her voice, because it never dropped. Her face, her body, everything will develop just like any other girl's.
Screw this. Seriously. I didn't need to see that right just then. I'm feeling really bad, and now I think I'm starting to finally get a handle on what's been scaring me about my upcoming surgery. I mean aside from the obvious risk of complications and whatnot. No, because I'm thinking about this little-miss-perfect-transsexual girl and I'm wondering to myself why do I care? I'm not all that jealous of Jessica Simpson or any other beautiful pop star/model/actress girls, so why should I care if this girl got lucky. I mean, good for her for realizing who she was early enough to avoid all this crap. But it's not just jealousy. Some of it is, but that's not all of it. I'm worried that this is too hard, and that I'll give up at some point. I'm not strong enough. Up until surgery, I still feel like I have the option to give up. Afterwards, if it's not liveable, I don't know what would be. I think that's what's got me nervous about taking this big step forward in a couple of weeks.
Rationally, I don't see any way I'd change my mind about living this way, but it sure does hurt sometimes to think about the chances I wasted when testosterone started to take me over physically and I was too scared to admit I didn't want those changes. So now I'm sitting in an airport in Dallas, my face looks like 5 lbs of raw hamburger, my girlfriend's crying 1500 miles away and there's nothing I can do about it, and I'm feeling crappy about myself. I want to cry, seriously.
I sleep most of the flight home, which landed 15 minutes early. On the shuttle bus to the parking lot, some guy slams his suitcase into my knee as he passes and doesn't even apologize. Thanks, asshole. I needed that to punctuate the day.
I'm home by about 1 am, and I ice my face some more, slather on zinc oxide and go to bed around 2.
Friday, February 13:
My friend Jessica was supposed to be a guest on a local radio show this morning: Elliott in the Morning. I got a text message from her last night about it when I landed in Baltimore. I set the alarm radio for when she was going to be on, but they had a different guest on for the brief period I maintained consciousness, and I woke up long after the show was over. Too bad, because I like it how Elliott talks about having "our friend Jessica, the transgender" on the show. Jessica's a frequent guest.
I'd say my face looks much better than last time at this point, even. Each trip is getting easier, recovery-wise. My face is tight, and I am swollen, but not to comic proportions. I continue with icing through early afternoon. It really isn't at all bad.
I think I've gotten the mixup taken care of with my chest xrays, and they claim (again) to have faxed the results to Dr. McGinn's office. Lisa from Dr. McGinn's office confirmed already that they have everything else (my letters, EKG and stress test results, and my check). I should be all set.
Alison's busy packing. Tomorrow I'll help her move to her new place. Then we'll deal with the other stuff. She sent me flowers for Valentine's Day. Nobody's ever done that before, I don't think.
4 weeks ago