I finished up the week at work easily enough. We had a little happy hour yesterday, and about 12 people showed up from work. That was fun. I didn't drink. I don't think my doctor said I had to give up alcohol, but I'd heard from someone that it was a good idea to cut it out going into surgery. Whatever helps.
I've been running around for what feels like a week straight, getting ready for my trip tomorrow. Everything on my list is done, except for packing, which is nearly done, too. I'm exhausted. Today, I also feel sort of weak and not quite myself. Maybe it's the hormone deprivation finally kicking in, or maybe it's just stress combined with hunger. I haven't had any solid food today, so aside from soup and fruit juice and a couple cans of Slim Fast, I haven't eaten anything. Tomorrow, I'm down to just clear liquids. I don't expect to be feeling very good tomorrow night. Last night, I got very lonely and just started crying uncontrollably after I went to bed. I really wished Alison had been there to hold me.
Monday, 6 am. That's my check-in time. I'm focused on that, and trying to distract myself until then, because the reality is that I don't have much to do between now and then, I'm terrified, and I don't feel great about any of this. I'll get past it, but not without a lot of pain and anxiety.
My mom is with me now to help me through this. I picked her up a few hours ago at the airport. She's going to be with me for the next two weeks. We'll drive up to Philadelphia together in the morning, then we're going to meet up with my friend Lisa who lives up there. By late afternoon, I start my surgery prep, which involves lots of laxatives. I spoke to Alison her night before surgery right after she had done her bowel prep. She sounded exhausted and miserable. I got a voicemail from her this morning, and she sounded even worse, even though she's doing well with her recovery. I wish I hadn't missed her call. I can't call her; I have to wait until she calls me again, and we're in timezones 12 hours apart.
My friend Jani and I talked for over an hour the other night, while she was recovering from her latest round at E3000. Jani is now 10 weeks post-op. She seemed tired and frustrated with the dilation. It seems annoying and very time-consuming. Jani was one of the most gung-ho people I've ever seen for this surgery. It would take a lot to break her spirit.
I'm hopeful I'll be happy with the results. I think I will be. Alison and Jani will be, too. It's just going to take going through a lot of not very pleasant stuff to get there. A lot of work.
People tell me they think I'm brave, but I'm really not. I don't feel at all brave, really. All I am is determined. Scared, but determined.
I finally got home early enough to get out for a run before the sun set completely. First time that's happened all week. It felt really good. I was getting really sick of the gym. Running uphill on a treadmill for an hour in an empty gym while staring at a wall is probably a good metaphor for something, but it's also just damned boring, especially when someone changed the channel on the TVs from CNN to ESPN and they're showing boxing (blech!). I'm pretty sure I could at least have been watching President Obama as he tried to convince me things are gonna be all right.
Every other day this week, I've been getting home around 10 or 11 at night. Today, though, I finally got pretty much everything I need to do done at work before I go on leave, and so not only did I go home just after 5, I also decided that tomorrow morning I'll volunteer to answer the phones for our foreclosure hotline (and really, who wouldn't want a transsexual helping them with advice about their mortgage?), since I don't really have anything else much to do. Projects are all chugging along nicely, with documentation and plans all in place. They might screw everything up when I'm gone, but that won't be my fault. At least I'll know I left things in good shape.
Most of the rest of what I have to do between now and Monday is just packing, a few errands, and some shopping. My paperwork's all in place. I've been following my doctor's instructions. I'm all set, pretty much.
On Tuesday, when I went to Health Services to get the forms for my short-term disability, there was a new nurse running the place. I had to explain my condition all over, and she was very encouraging and enthusiastic. After I told her I was having sex reassignment surgery, she said something like, "Oh, so you'll be changing your name as part of this?" I just laughed and told her no, I've taken care of that already. Suzanne is the new name.
I think I've told that anecdote at least like 4 times now. I must be insecure. Well, it made me feel good most of the day.
Later on that day, I got seriously pissed off in a meeting, when I felt like I was being accused of trying to make a unilateral decision when really all I was doing was recapping a decision made by another group in a prior meeting -- a meeting I didn't even set up in the first place. I wrote an email to the offender telling him the points he was bringing up and the objections he had were good ones, and he should follow up on them, but I didn't care for his tone. "You're right, but lose the attitude," is how I closed it. We're still friends. Air cleared. I may have been extra sensitive from the hormone level changes. Can't really tell, to be honest, because I'm moody and stressed out when I'm on the hormones a lot of times, too. Anyway, I gave them all fair warning I might be flipping out this week. Storming out of one meeting in a week isn't a bad record on that. I've held it together pretty well, considering the pressure I'm feeling.
But not today. Today I got home early and I went for a run and then had some dinner, and everything that needs to be done is done, and everything I need to do is easily doable. I may be a mess in 4 more days, but right now I'm okay.
Oh, and halfway around the world, Alison should be checking in to the hospital for her surgery in about 1/2 hour. I should get an update on how she's doing by morning.
I have a week left here in DC before I head up to Philly. One more week at work, a few miscellaneous things to do, and not much else. Really, I'm just tying up some loose ends and waiting for my surgery date. I'm not as freaked out by this as I thought I'd be at this stage. Maybe the reality of it hasn't completely sunk in yet.
I had my last appointment with my therapist, Dr. Payne, until after the surgery. We spent the session mostly just chatting, like we often do when I don't have anything that's really bothering me on my mind. She's genuinely excited for me, and I think a little proud of how far I've come. She said she wasn't expecting to feel so excited. She's made a huge difference in my life, and has helped me through some big changes. This upcoming change seems small compared to all the other stuff, but it carries a lot of weight. She gave me a hug at the end of our session.
I drove Alison to the airport this morning. She's on a plane to Thailand as I write this. I cried a little when I dropped her off, because I'll be a little worried about her (even though she'll be fine) and I won't see her again for a month. When she gets back, we'll both be pretty far along in our recoveries. Our surgery dates are 3 days apart. We can help each other through the rest of the process, whatever it entails (and I still don't want to know, because I scare easily).
I was glad I cried this morning. I guess I found out I'm not an unfeeling robot when denying myself estrogen and progesterone. It's been a week since I took any hormones, and I still don't really feel any of the bad effects from that I'd heard about. I feel okay, just a little less emotionally volatile. Yesterday, I ran from Alison's place to the Capital (3 miles), then around the National Mall and back to her place. A little over 10 miles in all, I think. I felt fine, although it was a little longer than I'd been used to running since the cold weather set in. Maybe lots of exercise helps offset whatever sorts of hormonal hangover symptoms my body was supposed to be feeling. I want to run a lot this week, anyway. I'll be taking probably 5 weeks off from running, and I want my legs to be strong going into that.
Alison and I spent a lot of time together this week, largely for the same reason. I'm gonna miss that crazy girl. But not so much her zombie impersonation, which is a little too convincing and genuinely scares me (plus, she bites!). Okay, it makes me laugh, too, but it is scary -- trust me.
Back to my upcoming surgery, I've been thinking a lot about why I even want to do this. I figure it's a good time to think that through, before I actually go through with it. Part of the reason is definitely for convenience. There are situations (locker rooms, hospitals, jails, having sex, wearing tight jeans) when not having the genitalia expected of your sex can be an uncomfortable or dangerous situation. I don't think that alone is such a great reason to go through with such a painful, difficult and expensive operation, but it can help. A bigger factor is that I can't conceive of a situation where I'd really feel comfortable anymore with the male equipment nature chose to bestow on me. It all works and everything (although I don't produce sperm anymore, I can still produce plenty of erections and orgasms and such), but it doesn't feel at all right. I think I'll feel more comfortable just in general with genitalia that looks female. And then there are the medical reasons, too. I can't go on taking spironalactone (anti-androgen) forever, because it's not good for you long-term. You've got to get rid of the source of testosterone one way or another. This seems like the best option to me for that (there is one other, mind you) and there's no way I'm going back on testosterone.
All in all, then, I don't have any real reservations about this, except for the idea of what I'm about to go through scares the hell out of me. It won't be so bad in the end, and even if it is, I'll get through it and it will have been worth it. Seems funny to me that I'm comfortable with this. Sex reassignment surgery was not something I used to see as something I'd ever want, and that was one of the main reasons I couldn't conceive of transitioning even two years ago. Now, it feels like something I really need to do.
One more week. It's coming up fast. Let it come. I'm ready.
[This is the first in a series of posts in which I will document my upcoming surgery and recovery. Yes, there will probably be pictures. No, definitely not ofthat -- think more along the lines of me in a hospital bed giving a thumbs-up sign while grimacing in pain.]
I think "sex reassignment surgery" or "sex-change operation" are currently the most commonly-known terms for the procedure I'm scheduled to undergo in 10 days, but those terms are out of favor with the trans community. I really don't feel like going into a big discussion on why the terminology is so sensitive, or writing about how I feel about it (hint: I don't really care except that I prefer to be understood), but since I don't much like any of the other terms being thrown about these days, either, I'm going with what Wikipedia claims is the medical lingo: "feminizing genitoplasty".
Actually, I kind of like that. It gets around the objections I've heard to the other terms ("you're not really changing your sex") while having certain clarity some of the other terms lack (e.g. "gender confirmation", "gender affirmation" -- I don't think surgery's a good tool for confirming things so much as fixing them, and I feel pretty affirmed in my chosen gender as is, besides). Okay, feminizing genitoplasty it is then. "Vaginoplasty" is the other medical term I've heard for it, but it lacks pizzaz. "Getting your dick chopped off" is probably closer to the street patois, and certainly has flare, but it seems a touch informal, and also it's a terribly inacurate picture of what the procedure actually entails.
Not that I know a whole lot about what the procedure entails, but as I was explaining earlier today to my friend Rob when he asked me what am I going to do with it after the surgery ("donate it to a female-to-male transsexual?"), very few parts are actually wasted in this procedure. It's a rearrangement, not a lopping-off. I don't really want to know more about it. I am very squeamish about medical stuff. Fortunately, I don't need to know. I am paying Dr. McGinn to do this, and even though I never technically saw any credentials, I am pretty sure she must have gone to medical school or at least watched a video on how to do this. She's the one that has to know what to do with all the parts, not me. I plan to be asleep.
For my part, I'm trying to get myself as healthy and ready for this as possible. I've got a whole list of things to do: foods to avoid, places to shave, medicines to take and not to take. I went off my hormones three days ago. I don't get to go back on them until two weeks after surgery, because they can cause blood clots, which could kill me during (or presumably after) the operation. Not dying is a big part of my contribution to this process. That and $16,500.
I was expecting that getting off the hormones would have a bigger effect on me than it has so far. It's only been three days, so maybe the worst is yet to come, but I thought I'd be bitchy and moody and miserable. If anything, I feel less emotional and more steady. I don't like the feeling. It feels ... wrong. I'd almost rather be a mess. I feel like I should be an emotional wreck, like that would make more sense. Instead, I feel pretty calm and more or less in a kind of jokey mood. I also feel colder than usual, and tired. The tired part is probably because I went to the gym after therapy tonight and ran 6 miles on the treadmill then did the stationary bike for 40 mins (while watching Ann Coulter on Larry King Live -- am I trying to punish myself?) and then had a sauna.
Which, by the way, gives me another good idea for a name for this operation: "make-me-not-feel-like-a-total-fucking-freak-in-the-women's-locker-room surgery". Because that's a big part of it. I'll still find lots of things not to like about my body, but at least I won't be quite so frantic to cover it up with a towel once this is over.
Anyway, maybe in a couple of days, I'll be a complete mess from the hormone changes. Let's hope. For the next 10 days, I'll be trying to eat healthy, get lots of rest, and exercise a lot. When this all goes horribly wrong in the end, I don't want it to have been my fault. We'll see in about two weeks.
Alison's got to be sick of me poking fun at her for beating me up on Valentine's Day, so I won't do it here, even though she doesn't read my blog and probably never will. The fact is that she knocked a champagne glass off the edge of the bathtub completely by accident (while trying to move the flowers she got me for Valentine's Day out of my way), and by some strange happenstance, the glass just happened to fling directly into my eye in such a way that it both cut me and gave me a black eye. I can't really explain how, because the glass itself didn't even break, and it doesn't have any sharp edges. I bled a fair bit and although it's healing fine, my eye is still pretty bruised up.
The rest of the evening up until that point had been perfectly nice, with a quiet evening at my house relaxing and cooking dinner (a shrimp curry noodle dish of my own invention that Alison had seconds of and then polished off the leftovers for lunch the next day, so I guess she liked it) and splitting a bottle of wine and then a bottle of champagne and a nice bubble bath. The rest of the evening after the champagne glass incident involved us driving to the all-night drugstore for medical supplies, with me bleeding and crying and probably not in the best frame of mind to be driving at all in the first place.
Alison picked a bad time to accidentally cut my face. I was already self-conscious about the fact that I was still a little swollen and sore from my last marathon electrolysis session in Dallas two days before. I was still holding a lot of stress from the past few days and worries over my upcoming surgery. I was half drunk. And then there's the fear... and this brought it out again suddenly and in a big flood: that fear that here I'm already working pretty hard just to try to look feminine, and that at some point I won't be able to keep that up. It's vanity, I suppose, but it's hard not to be a little obsessed about your looks when they won't match your gender identity if you leave them up to nature. When you feel like you're working as hard as you can, and you're not making any headway at all, a minor setback can seem like a tragedy.
Anyway, I'm fine now. I felt silly even at the time bawling like a child over a fairly small cut, but in my weakened mental state, it was already distorting itself into a hideous scar. I knew I was overreacting, but I guess I also knew I just needed to let some things out, and so I did. Alison felt horrible about hurting me, and I felt horrible making her feel so guilty in turn. To her credit, though, she didn't get mad at me or tell me I was being stupid, which I was and I knew it. She just let me cry and then she put some ointment and a band-aid on my cut and then she held me and told me it would be okay.
In the end, I guess it was a pretty nice Valentine's Day.
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.
I don't usually go in for chain emails or the little Facebook gimmicky things, but I decided to finally get in on the "25 Random Things" craze.
If I'm going to force this upon 25 of my friends on Facebook, why not the rest of you, while I'm at it? Here is my list (some of this is nothing new):
1. It took me about 10 minutes to figure out how to post a note here on Facebook, and I'm still not sure I get these notes.
2. When I was a child, I had a severe phobia of heights. I couldn't even go up the stairs in the back of our house, because they only had the horizontal part and not the vertical backings. I was afraid I'd slip through and fall. I could climb about 2 rungs on a ladder before I'd be terrified and shaking.
3. I still can't handle heights very well, but I am able to control my fears better now. Three years ago, I rented an articulated boom lift, and used it to do some work on my townhouse. It went 40' up. I was terrified, but I did it.
4. In high school, I was a finalist in the Westinghouse (now Intel) Science Talent Search. I got an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington DC (where I now live) and $1000 cash (a lot of money to me at the time) along with 40 other finalists. I felt like I was the one kid who had no business being there. The girl who won had cured cancer or something. I made a volcano using paper mache, baking soda and vinegar (no, not really -- it was something on modelling elastic collisions between rods, but still).
5. I can sleep through almost anything. I once slept for about 30 minutes while all the smoke alarms in my house were going off (my roommate at the time was trying to light a fire in the fireplace and didn't open the flue). On more than one occasion, I have managed to sleep all the way through my alarm clock (or, at least I assume it went off, anyway).
6. My heart once stopped for about 3 or 4 seconds, causing me to pass out. I regained consciousness with my nose pressed to the hardwood floor. My hands were bruised, so I guess I caught my fall. That was a little over a year ago. My heart does that sometimes, but it usually doesn't stop for that long.
7. I once fainted in Health Ed class (8th grade?) when they showed us a Navy training film that showed a live birth. There was blood everywhere (in the film), then I felt really dizzy and cold and sweaty. The next thing I knew, the film had stopped, the lights were on, and I was staring up from the floor at my classmates and my teacher, who looked very concerned.
8. I was 17 the first time I kissed a girl.
9. I was 21 the first time I kissed a boy.
10. I like to cook. I've been cooking since I was in kindergarten. I think I probably made dinner for the whole family by age 8 (Mom's idea -- she liked to put us kids to work).
11. When I was 17, I took a year off between high school and college. I moved to London. I knew nobody there. I had almost no money. I shared a 100-square-foot room in a house with an Israeli guy (Yoshi) and worked whatever jobs I could find. I didn't have a work permit. I travelled around on the continent on a Eurail Pass for a little over 2 months, and lived in England for about 6 months. I slept in parks and on trains sometimes.
12. I knew I wanted to be a girl when I was 4 or 5 years old. I remember feeling very ashamed of that, even back then.
13. I always wanted to be Wonder Woman. I especially liked her army uniform. So I guess I mostly wanted to be Diana Prince.
14. I seem to have a natural talent for games, especially card games. I used to win enough money playing poker in high school and college that I never really had to work a side job. I think people owed me about $3000 in uncollectible I.O.U.s by the time I left college.
15. I played in the World Series of Poker twice, in 2004 and 2005. I didn't win.
16. I kind of hate poker now. I don't like games where if I win, someone else is going to feel bad for losing. It makes me feel guilty for winning. I like games where the point is for everyone to have fun. Competitive fun.
17. I wrote these out of order. #17 and 18 are the last ones I'm writing, and I can't decide which of the remaining billions of things about me should make the cut. So I think I'll just put "I like kittens" in for #18. Or maybe that I have a secret crush on Demetri Martin (no, that's just too personal -- better keep that secret).
18. I like kittens. Yes, definitely.
19. I don't consider myself to be completely male or female. I side more towards female. but I think that a large part of my personality is decidedly male. I don't like that side as much, but I tollerate it most of the time.
20. I almost always think that I am fat, or worry that I am getting fat. I thought I was fat when I was 6. I wasn't, but I thought I was. I had kind of a distended belly, like those little malnourished kids in Africa.
21. As of recently, I feel a strong compulsion to be truthful at all times.
22. I am an extremely good liar. Especially to myself. Years and years of practice.
23. I sometimes worry that the real me has been buried so deep inside me for so long that she can't ever fully come out. But I'm trying.
24. I often cry when I think about all the things I didn't do because I was scared or ashamed.
I should feel lucky that I have a job at all in this economy. As a transgender woman, especially. I should.
The thing is, what I really feel is that just at the point in my life when I'm really starting to feel good about who I am -- as soon as I accept myself for what I am -- everything's coming crashing down around me. The nearer I get to my surgery date, the more things deteriorate in my personal finances, my company, and the world economy.
Today, I found out that when I get back from my recovery from surgery, I'll have my old job waiting for me. Unfortunately, it sounds like my old job from 6 years ago, before I was promoted to team lead then project manager then senior project manager. Plus, with my team's budget, I don't even see how I fit in there, even if it were possible for me to go back to programming. I don't see how this is going to work at all, but at least I'll have the option to start looking for new jobs once I'm post-op. Meanwhile, if they want to pay me to try to brush up on my programming skills, I guess there's no real harm in that. It's a demotion, yes. It hurts, yes. It sucks, in fact. But I can deal with this and a whole lot more to get what I want.
Up until now, I've felt trapped by the fact that I couldn't even look for a new job when I'm planning to take so much time off in the next couple of months. There was one position I interviewed for within my current company a few months ago that I am nearly 100% sure I could have gotten if not for the fact that I told the interviewing manager (and friend of mine) that I'd need March and April off. Needing this time off is limiting my options. As things got worse and worse with my company and I saw others flee for positions with companies that are not losing $500 million per day, I didn't even send out my resume (I wanted to, believe me) because there would be no way to take off the time I need with a new company without first establishing myself.
I'll be really glad when I'm past this surgery. It's really starting to feel like it's holding me back, just by being out there. 3 1/2 weeks until I go under the knife. Two months after that until I can return to work full time. Compared with everything I've done so far, that's nothing.
Overall, I'm really happy with where I am right now. I'm happy with who I am. Things are going really well between me and Alison. Everything else is sort of a mess, but I feel pretty good about myself.