Born This Way

“Don’t be a drag, just be a queen
Whether you’re broke or evergreen
You’re black, white, beige, chola descent
You’re Lebanese, you’re orient
Whether life’s disabilities
Left you outcast, bullied, or teased
Rejoice and love yourself today
’cause baby you were born this way

No matter gay, straight, or bi,
Lesbian, transgendered life,
I’m on the right track baby,
I was born to survive.
No matter black, white or beige
Chola or orient made,
I’m on the right track baby,
I was born to be brave.” – Lady Gaga

I was born transgender.  I was born a transgender baby.  A boy with female sex organs.  Unfortunately in 1962 and still today not much is known about being transgender.  What we do know is that it is not something that you can catch or become at a later time.  It’s something one is born with.  The prevailing theory today is that it has to do with hormonal fluctuations while we’re developing in the womb that result in a mismatch between brain sex and physical sex.  I’m not a scientist or a doctor so I don’t understand it completely but I understand enough to know that this is not something I can change and it isn’t my fault.  It’s not a moral issue or a question of right and wrong.  It’s similar to being born with any other abnormality like deafness, blindness, or Down syndrome.  Most birth defects are easily detectable and, once detected can be corrected if possible or at least learned to live with.  It affects the child for the rest of their lives if a cure doesn’t come around.  Outsiders and family don’t judge the parents or the child for being born this way.  They accept it and deal with it.  But for a transgender child it isn’t so obvious and most often they are shamed and ridiculed for speaking up about how they feel wrong in their body.  In 1962 it was not even a notion in anyone’s head that there could actually be a scientific reason for why I was so miserable being raised as a girl.  I was simply labeled a “Tomboy” or told I was being a bad kid for fighting about wearing dresses and playing with dolls.  I grew up rebellious, angry and confused.

But suppose for a minute that I was born in 2015 with the knowledge we have today of what it is to be transgender and I started acting the way I did in the early ’60s around my gender.  Today it is possible that someone might consider my behavior a symptom of a bigger problem than just being rebellious or a Tomboy.  It’s possible that I could have realized myself at a much younger age that I was transgender instead of mis-diagnosing myself for 30+ years as a lesbian.

It’s confusing, I know.  Sex and gender are closely related.  Sexuality and gender presentation are related.  Who we’re attracted to sexually is related to gender expression in many ways.  It’s a rare person who is gender blind or gender fluid.  For so many years I thought I understood myself but I didn’t.  The knowledge just wasn’t in my head yet to figure it all out.  But now the knowledge and understanding is there, not just in my mind but in the world’s mind if they’ll only listen.

The truth is that transgenderism is a medical condition.  It’s not something to be ashamed of or shunned because of.  Religion has no right to judge it.  No one has a right to judge it any more than they would judge a deaf child or a child with Down syndrome.  The child didn’t choose to be born that way but there is a responsibility for society to help that child live and develop into the best person they can be.  It’s no different for trans kids.  Society has a responsibility to give them every possible option to live a full and happy life as their true authentic selves.  This is not a question of morality or religious values.

The usual treatment plan for transgenderism includes allowing the child (or adult) to live as the gender that is right for them, hormone therapy, and correction of any physical attributes that cause them dysphoria or get in the way of them living as their true gender.  If science suddenly came up for a cure for Down’s Syndrome don’t you think that most people would jump at the chance to get the medicine?  It’s possible I’m speaking about something I shouldn’t here and if I am then I apologize but I chose Down’s as an example because the symptoms of it are both external and internal.  In my hypothetical example the medicine would cure the internal aspect of the syndrome and surgeries may or may not be elected, determined by the patient, to change the physical symptoms.  Being trans is similar in that there are both internal and external problems to solve.  Hormones help with the internal part and surgeries align the physical body to the mind’s eye as much as possible.  This is the only known cure at this time.  Some people decide to live with it instead of going through the arduous task of changing their lives and bodies.  That’s their choice to make and it doesn’t make them any less transgender.  Even with the hormones and surgeries that I may opt to have I will always be transgender.  There isn’t really a ‘cure’ that will make it go away but there certainly are viable options to make living with it a whole lot easier and nearly a non topic in one’s life unless i choose to address it regularly.

We need more education about what it is to be transgender and debunk the myths of this being a choice or a mental illness or a bizarre sexual fetish.  Society is still in the dark to a huge degree and still misunderstand what it really is.  Being transgender is not a reason to be shamed or ridiculed or shunned.  It is not a reason to be beaten or raped or murdered and it is not a reason to end your life.  There is so much to be hopeful about but also so much more work to be done.  Every one of us who lives our lives and educates friends, family, co-workers and medical professionals is doing a part in paving the way for a brighter future for the young trans children of tomorrow.

My Dog is Smarter Than the Average Human

dog wisdom

My dog and I have a few things in common.  We both hate to get in trouble and don’t like drama.  Neither of us can understand why everyone can’t get along and at least just leave each other alone and not fight about stuff.  We’re both a little nervous and anxious in new situations and like to understand what’s going on before we can get comfortable and relax.  We’re both smart and distrustful of new people.  She’s a peace keeper at her doggie daycare and quickly breaks up fights by getting the other dogs to play with her.  I, too, prefer to play than fight.  Life’s just too short to be angry all the time.

So it’s really hard for me to understand why strangers and even friends get so upset over someone coming out (or being perceived) as gay or transgender to them.  I especially don’t understand getting violently angry towards someone for being different than society’s standards.  How does my gender actually effect you?  How does who I choose to love effect you?  What’s there to be so angry about?  It all seems so simple to me.  People come in all shapes, sizes, colors and variations just like flowers and paint colors.  It makes no more sense to me to hate a trans woman than to hate a hybrid rose.  The rose had no choice in being created as a hybrid version of a rose than the standard red rose did.  Does the red rose feel superior to the hybrid because of its purity?  I doubt it.  Aren’t they both beautiful in their own way?  It’s as silly as hating red heads or people with green eyes.  How about people with two different eye colors?  Now that’s something to really get violently angry about!

So if you were born in the body that suits your personality, soul and mind and you are attracted to the opposite sex then, congratulations, you are normal by society’s standards and easily able to live within society’s expectations of you.  But if you weren’t and you are a variety on the societal norm why is that such a bad thing?  We hear messages all of the time about being authentic and being ourselves yet society is constantly trying to condemn anyone who isn’t straight and cis-gender, normal.  It’s assumed from birth that we’re all straight and cis.  But, while the majority are, some aren’t.  It’s not their fault.  And it isn’t a fault at all really.  It’s just a variation of the human experience.  Some people are born into Christian families, some into Muslim families or Jewish families.  Some are born in Italy or Mexico, Ireland or Japan.  Some are born into poverty or wealth.  Some are born with brain sexes that don’t match their physical anatomy.  Some are born being attracted to people that are like them instead of the opposite.  Some people want to get tattooed so they look like a lizard.  What’s the big deal?  If that’s not for you then don’t do it.  It’s pretty simple, people.

It’s funny actually when you think about it.  A lot of times people really like hybrid things.  I consider myself a  hybrid and I’m a fan of hybrid things (except cars, though I won’t hold it against you if you drive one).  I just discovered a really cute little dog breed called a Pomsky the other day.  It’s a cross between a Husky and a Pomeranian.  They’re adorable!  And very expensive.  So they’re valuable and highly sought after or they wouldn’t be so expensive, right?  Why shouldn’t I be valuable too?  I’m a cross between a woman and a man with a lot of the good virtues of both mixed in, plus I’ve experienced life as both straight and gay.  Perhaps, in some ways, I’m a really awesome example of a human because I share qualities of both sexes and have walked a mile in a variety of shoes.  I certainly think the argument could be made for that.

But society doesn’t see it the way I do.  People, though they claim to celebrate diversity, really want everyone to be the same and what they expect them to be.  It’s pathetic really.  I don’t want everyone to be the same.  I can’t imagine a more boring world than if we were all alike.  Why do people travel to strange and new places if they put such a high value on “normal”?  Hitler wanted to create a super race of humans that all shared the same traits.  That didn’t go so well and thank God it didn’t!  I remember my mother telling me what I was going to be like when I grew up as if being born female had only one end result and it terrified me.  Even at five I could see that there had to be other choices for me than being a wife and a mother.  There’s nothing wrong with that but it wasn’t what I wanted to be.  It didn’t feel right to me.

All any of us really want is to be allowed to be free to peacefully live our lives without fear of danger or persecution.  Like my dog, I really can’t understand why people can’t just get along and truly appreciate the diversity that is the human condition.  If you don’t like someone then don’t spend time with them.  If you can’t avoid spending time with them then at least be civil to each other.  Life’s too short for all of this hatred and fighting.

Pomsky

Pomsky pup

Shake It Off Video Montage

I just had to share this awesome music video put together by Darlene Tando to the Shake it Off song. Enjoy and if you don’t know Darlene yet, check out her blog. She’s an amazing ally and has written some beautiful posts on her site.

Gender Blog by Darlene Tando, LCSW

I had a lot of fun creating a music video montage to Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off” song. My goal of this video is to raise awareness and acceptance of transgender youth and adults. Being transgender is NOT a mental illness, it is just a variation of the human condition. We need more understanding and more allies!! Those who are transgender should not live in shame or in fear of coming out. And for those who face adversity every day, here is my reminder to try your best to “shake it off”. For any one person who is against you, there are more people who will stand for you.

A sincere thanks to everyone who contributed videos for this project, and to my sister Emily who sang the modified lyrics.

Enjoy the video below, and feel free to share! 🙂

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Trans Bathroom Blues: The Public Restroom

More on the bathroom issue from Matt’s book “Just Add Hormones”. A good read if you haven’t already checked it out.

Matt Kailey's Tranifesto

Men's RoomThe Maine Human Rights Commission appears to be pretty progressive. Recently, they ruled in favorof a transgender male-to-female student’s right to use the girls’ restroom at school.

And in May, they ruled in favorof a trans woman’s right to use the women’s restroom at a Denny’s restaurant.

Public restroom issues can get messy for trans people — but most public restrooms are pretty messy, anyway. It’s not like we want to hang out in there. We just want to take care of business and get on with life.

What I’m posting today is a section from my book, Just Add Hormones, that discusses the public restroom issue for trans people (thanks to Abigail Jensen for the link to the stories above).

From Just Add Hormones:

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Hysterectomy. The Middle Surgery.

Somebody used the term “middle surgery” for the hysterectomy and I liked it so much more than simply “hysterectomy” for our purposes as trans* people.  The word hysterectomy was coined in the late 1800’s to denote the removal of the hysteria of women caused by the malfunctioning uterus.  Nothing about that word is positive to me.  I am not and was not hysterical and there’s nothing funny about it in my mind.  So from here out I will refer to it as my middle surgery.  Will there be a bottom surgery at a later point in time?  Doubtful, but I would not rule it out completely as options continue to improve in the future.

So now that I am almost a week post surgery I want to share some of my observations and experiences with others out there who may be considering this option for themselves.  First, I want to make it clear that I don’t think my surgery was typical.  Normally the procedure should take between 2 1/2 and 3 hours to complete.  Mine took  nearly 8 hours.  Going into surgery no one knew this would be the case.  Is this because my doctor didn’t take a close enough look at me before hand or was it simply impossible to know ahead of time?  I don’t know.  What she found was a lot of heavy scarring, presumably from having my appendix removed 40+ years ago and that my uterus had adhered itself to fatty tissue in my bowel area.  It took her a long time to separate it and cut through the scar tissue.  She performed the entire surgery through 3 small holes with the assistance of laporasopic devices.  I have no idea how this works and since I have an intolerance for learning about this stuff I will never know.  If you’re interested in that, knock yourself out.  The biggest problem with the length of the surgery is that none of us were prepared for it.  I woke up in recovery at 9pm after going in at noon and was very confused.  My partner, I later learned, was left for 8 hours in the waiting area wondering if I was dead or dying.  I woke up extremely grumpy and confused, in pain and unable to speak very well due to them having a tube in my mouth (to assist in my breathing I assume while I was still sleeping).

But I’m getting ahead of myself.  How did I go about getting this surgery done when I didn’t have a real medical reason for it?  Fortunately, I kind of did.  I’m 53 and had not had a period in several years and suddenly started bleeding and cramping again last year so the insurance company was told that I had “post menopausal bleeding”.  This was reason enough for them.  My insurance does NOT cover any trans related surgeries.  If yours does, then you probably don’t need a medical reason for the surgery.  I don’t know much about that side of this.  My therapist put me in touch with a gynecological practice that has a history of providing services to trans men.  It’s a big practice but one doctor there was their “trans specialist”.  Unfortunately, when I called to set an appointment they told me he had retired and they now had a new doctor handling such things.  So I made an appointment to meet with her to discuss the possibility of having the middle surgery performed with a special interest in it being done laparoscopically.  I also mentioned an issue with my bladder that was troubling me.  Once I told the person on the phone I was transgender she immediately started using male pronouns with me and made a note in my file that I was transgender so my doctor and others in the office would know.  I appreciated her efforts, yet, as we all know here, pronouns are very individual and assuming male is not always a good idea.  I just went with it and didn’t say anything but, clearly, I think some education is in order.  I find that, in general, even in the psychiatry world of gender therapists, there is a lot of out of date information that needs to be updated.  The doctor was pleasant and reassuring that she could do the procedure and that there wouldn’t be a problem with insurance due to my recent bleeding issues.  She performed a biopsy that day to rule out cancer and sent me home to get an ultrasound and a mammogram.  I wasn’t prepared for the biopsy and how uncomfortable it would make me both during and for quite a while after it was done.  To her credit, I know she was as careful and respectful about it as she could be.  Nevertheless, I had a two hour drive after it was done and felt like I was having the worst period cramps of my life the entire time.  Another thing to note here is that, since I live in a very rural area, I have to get my trans care up in the city which is 1 1/2 to 2 hours drive for me each way.  All the tests came back normal and I was good to go for surgery.  I chose to use my birth/legal name and pronouns throughout this process and did not press the transgender part of this with my doctor or the hospital.  Others of you who are in different places in your journey will handle that however you feel is best for you.  I didn’t feel it was necessary to use my chosen name or new pronouns at this time.  My line of thought was that this is a one time thing and it’s the last time I’ll have to deal with my girl parts so I just wanted to get through it as quickly and stress-free as possible.  Hopefully I’ll never need to see a gynecologist again after I’m healed up.

I hadn’t had a surgery since I was a kid, and being an anxious sort of person I felt pretty nervous about it.  Genderneutral, here on wordpress, suggested I read a book called Prepare for Surgery, Heal Faster by Peggy Huddleston and listen to the accompanying CD to help me relax and envision a positive outcome to the experience.  It helped calm me down tremendously and the day of surgery I was pretty mentally together and ready to get it done.  I did not ask my doctor or anesthesiologist to say the phrases that the author suggests in the book.  Maybe I should have but I wasn’t comfortable with it so I left it out.  I’m wondering if, because my surgery was difficult, there was a lot of negativity in the operating room and if that had something to do with my grumpy attitude when I woke up.  Also, especially for the first few days after coming home I have felt traumatized emotionally from the experience.  I feel like my body went to war.  I’ve used the phrase “epic battle” to describe the surgery.  I guess I won’t ever know for sure but I’m assuming that as the surgery went on and they struggled with me, even bringing in a second surgeon for “a fresh set of eyes” and a 3rd year resident to assist that there was a lot of negativity in the room.  I’m a sensitive person so for me to pick that up and carry it out with me would not surprise me in the least.  A friend suggested that I hug the anxious traumatic feelings like a small scared child and give it love.  That was a brilliant idea and has helped diffuse the feelings almost entirely, though I still feel it some every day.

Like I said, waking up in recovery I was grumpy and confused.  I have no idea how normal this is.  I just know that it was my reality.  I was upset because it was so late and I didn’t understand why, I was in pain, though I thought I just had to pee really bad (no, I had a catheter so that wasn’t the problem), I couldn’t speak due to that tube thing in my mouth, my left foot felt like it was broken and my left eye felt like there was something in it and kept watering and was blurry.  Also, I was thirsty and I kept asking for Candace who I was told would be waiting for me in my room.  Finally they decided I could go up to my room and it felt like some drunk guy pushed my bed into every thing in his path to get there.  I told him at one point he was a terrible driver.  Apparently this offended him.  Sorry.  Finally I saw Candace, who was totally exhausted from the stress of waiting and I started to slowly understand why it was so late and what had happened.  I was angry that they kept her out there with no word.  I’m still angry about that.

I won’t go into the hospital stay part other than to say I was only in there one night.  I hated my first nurse and was thankful when the morning came and I got a new one, who I adored.  The room sucked and I had to share it with a pregnant lady who couldn’t stop throwing up.  It was hot and I thought the bed was horrible.  So other than that, it was awesome.  In the morning several doctors came to see me, including my own and after they took my catheter out, I ate some food and kept it down, and went pee on my own  they released me to go home.  Two hours in the car was no fun but my wonderful nurse made sure to give me a nice hit of pain meds for the drive home.

Recovery has been pretty easy in general I think.  Candace had the same surgery done with an incision a few years ago and her recovery was much much harder and longer.  Most of my pain has been handled with ibuprofen for the past few days (I’m now at day 6 post op) and before that I only took percocet.  Even in the hospital I didn’t seem to need a lot of pain meds.  Mostly I feel a lot of pressure in my gut area and have to pee fairly often.  They warned me that I would experience sharp gas pains up into my shoulder area but I haven’t had any of that.  All bodily functions seemed to have come back fairly quickly for me and I did not have any nausea from the anesthetics at all.  I still have some bleeding occasionally and have to wear a light pad (sorry!) but hopefully that will go away soon too.  At this point I don’t feel healed and ready to go back to work but I do feel stronger every day.  I think if things had gone better in the OR than I probably would be feeling much more ready to resume my normal life.  My after care instructions tell me not to do any heavy lifting or sexual activity for at least two weeks or until the doctor clears me.  I see her at exactly the two week mark for a follow up so hopefully I’ll get cleared for normal activity.  Still, I would recommend taking it easy.  This is a MAJOR surgery!  It helps us heal quicker that we WANT this surgery, compared to many women who choose this as a last resort and are not happy about it.  But, it’s still a big deal and recovery should not be rushed.  The last thing I want is to end up in the hospital or the gyno table because I did something stupid so I’m taking it easy for as long as I feel is necessary.  At this point I’m giving myself a full week to rest and then I will try to go into work for short days and do light tasks for another week.  That’s the plan anyway.

So now, looking back, what would I have done differently and what recommendations do I have for those of you considering pursuing this surgery?  Certainly, having a surgeon who is open to doing the procedure with or without medical reasons is a must have as well as their willingness to treat you respectfully for your unique reason for wanting to have it.  Unfortunately, many of the steps it takes to get to the OR are not at your doctor’s office and it’s up to you how open you want to be with the other health professionals you have to deal with.  I chose to not disclose my trans status at all along the way other than to my doctor and it was ok for me.  I think finding a doctor that listens to you and is thorough is important.  Like I said before, this is a major surgery so don’t rush through it.  I feel like I kind of did that and, while I think it worked out ok, I wish I had taken it more seriously at the beginning.  Just because a doctor is willing to “deal” with trans clients doesn’t mean they are your best option.  I’m honestly not sure at this point if my doctor is a superstar or a dud.  I’m told that it’s pretty amazing that she was able to do all that without cutting me open and I am thankful for that.  I’ve had no complications to speak of and I’m also thankful for that.  But, I didn’t feel like she ever addressed my bladder issues and in pre op she sort of chided me for not seeing another doctor to address that issue if it was of concern to me.  She also got on me for not having a pap smear prior to surgery.  Ummm…she never told me to do either of those things.  Isn’t that her responsibility?  I don’t know what the heck I’m supposed to do and I would’ve done anything she asked of me to get through this with the least amount of issues.  So, I’m a bit ticked about that.  The other thing that made me apprehensive about surgery with her was her escalating uncertainty about whether she could do the surgery as I desired or if she could actually remove everything I wanted removed.  I went into the OR not knowing what outcome I’d come out with and that was a huge source of anxiety for me.  Looking back, it would have been nice to have a doctor that felt confident in what they could or could not do for me.  To tell me the day of surgery that I should’ve had more tests or consults is a little too late and, in my opinion, kind of crappy.  I didn’t appreciate it.  I wanted her to come in there pumped up to do the surgery full of confidence in the outcome.  I guess sharing her insecurities about it made her human but it also left me feeling insecure.  Part of her initial concern was over the fact that I’ve never had a baby and have not had a history of vaginal sex so everything is really small and tight.  Yeah, yuck..sorry again.  I understand the concern that there just simply may not be enough room to work.  But again, I feel like she maybe could’ve done some testing to figure that out ahead of time.  Find a good doctor that you feel confident in.  That’s really important.  I’m not sure I did that.  Do the tests they require and don’t sweat them too much.  Most of them are not that bad.  It’s better that they have as much information as possible.  Take it easy on yourself and give yourself plenty of time to recuperate.  I can’t stress that enough.  It is major surgery but it’s also a very routine surgery that most doctors have had a lot of experience with.  Our bodies are all different so results and experiences will vary widely.  Go in with a good attitude and confidence in your surgical team and all will be well.

Hysterectomy Update

I can’t write much today since I just got back from the hospital last night and I’m pretty doped up on drugs still but I wanted to let you all know I made it through the operation and they were able to do it laporascopic without an incision.  That’s the good news.  The bad news is that the 2.5 hour operation took 8 hours and I feel like I’ve been through an epic battle.  I don’t quite understand what the problems were exactly and maybe never will but I’m glad to say that it’s over and only the healing is left to do.  I’ll write a more detailed story once I’m more myself again.  Thank you all for your support.