A Holiday Tradition: My Thanksgiving Coming-Out Poem

It’s not Thanksgiving without sharing this. Happy Thanksgiving to all. May it be safe and full of great food and good cheer.

Matt Kailey's Tranifesto

GeeseIt’s an annual tradition – my Thanksgiving coming-out poem. Hope you are having a great day.

My regular readers have likely seen this poem more times than they care to, but if you’re new, welcome to the tradition. Thanks for reading, and here we go:

 A Thanksgiving Coming Out

By Matt Kailey

There’s a holiday coming on which we give thanks
For the wonderful things in our lives.
Not cell phones or new cars or what’s in the bank,
But our partners or husbands or wives.

We think of our loved ones as we plan our trips.
To see them will be a real treat.
And we know that the question on everyone’s lips
Will be, “When the heck do we eat?”

Now I’ve been through many a Thanksgiving feast
And lived to tell the story.
I can’t really rank them from most fun to least —
They all…

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PBB…Pubescent Boy Brain

A couple of nights ago Candace made spaghetti for dinner.  After a few bites I asked her if she used a new sauce.  She hadn’t started eating yet because she is notoriously slow at prepping her food before she can start eating.  I call it “finessing” her food.  Didn’t want you to think I’m rude or anything but after 18 years of watching her take 15 minutes to get her food just right I don’t feel bad about starting before she does anymore.  Anyway, she said, “Yes.  Why?  Is it bad?”  I said, “No.  It’s just different.  Thicker and sweeter.”  Pretty mundane dinner conversation I know.  Hang with me.  Then I said it reminded me of Ragu and we talked about Ragu for a while.  I mentioned that when I was poor and single I always bought Prego brand.  Then I said Ragu pretty much sucks but the name is pretty fun to say.  And then I said Ragu a bunch of times.  A few minutes went by and I said, “Actually Prego is a fun word to say too.”  She looked at me and said there’s your male brain again and we laughed for a moment.  She told me that she was going to start calling me MB for Male Brain.  I told her it was more like a boy brain.  A pubescent boy brain.  I said she should call me PBB.  She thought that was too complicated.

Now, I know that little interchange might be cute if you’re sitting at our dinner table and not so cute if you’re reading about it three days later but it got me thinking.  My Life Coach, this guy, told me the other day that it’s like I’m going through puberty again and that I remind him of a teenage boy.  He’s a cis guy and really doesn’t know much at all about being transgender but he’s all about being your true you and we have a good relationship so he can joke around with me without worrying about offending me.  I told Candace he said that to me and she felt pretty good about herself for agreeing with Jeff who she knows I look up to.

Then there’s my taste in music.  I like a lot of different kinds of music and always have.  I can listen to anything and usually find something I enjoy…maybe with the exception of rap.  Sorry, I’m just too old to be able to appreciate it as music.  Growing up I liked Billy Joel, Supertramp, Jethro Tull, Men at Work, Earth Wind and Fire and a host of other groups.  Mostly I was a big Billy Joel fan.  I liked his dark, moody side.  Once he got all happy and married Christie Brinkley I fell off the Billy Joel wagon.  I just couldn’t listen to Uptown Girl without gagging.  I hated heavy metal music as a teenager or as we called it back then, Hard Rock.  But now, all of a sudden, I’m really digging some hard rock music.  I’ve newly discovered a liking for ACDC and Rush and find myself listening a lot to the 70s channel or the classic rock channel.   I find it interesting that I’m attracted to the music of my teenage years again, especially some of the stuff I would never have listened to back then as a girl.  I seem to really like loud, powerful, masculine music these days.  I still like pop stuff too like Megan Trainer, Katy Perry, Lady Gaga and Taylor Swift.  What’s not to like?  They’re fun and cute songs.  I’m actually a huge Gaga fan and I’m not ashamed to admit it.  I can listen to jazz or classical too if I’m in the mood.  I keep the 40’s channel on pre-set in my truck as well so sometimes I roll with some big band music.  But, at heart, I’m a rock guy.  And speaking of Heart, they’re awesome too.

Anyway, my brain is doing some strange stuff these days.  I’m not so bad that I giggle if I burp or fart but I wouldn’t be surprised if that started any day now.  I won’t bore you with the sexual stuff that pops into my crazy head.  You wouldn’t want to know about it.  Let’s just say that sometimes I freak myself out a little bit, especially coming from a feminist background.  T is a powerful hormone.  The body changes are profound but the brain changes are equally, and maybe more, surprising.  Learning to control and harness this brain of mine is a daily challenge but also a pretty wild ride to be enjoyed.

 

Another Anxiety Attack and Top Surgery

the scream

I don’t know where this post will lead today.  Let me put out a disclaimer right here and now that this is not a well thought out post and it might not make much sense to anyone.  Sorry about that.  But I need to write and I need to reach out.  Everyone in my life that I rely on is at work and I can’t reach them.  I left a message on my therapist’s voice mail but she hasn’t called back either.  So WordPress is my go to outlet when the crap hits the fan in my mental head space.

I’m coming down off of one of the biggest and longest panic/anxiety attacks I’ve ever had.  Not sure what caused it exactly.  I have this fear of losing my mind which is exacerbated by the fact that I’ve experienced two episodes of Transient Global Amnesia (TGA) and I get freaked out when I can’t remember stuff like my birthday.  It’s a snowball kind of thing that eventually leads to me feeling like I’m totally losing my mind and experiencing a full blown panic attack.  It doesn’t help that Candace is away on a business trip today and tomorrow so I’m responsible for myself.  I don’t think that’s the cause though.  It certainly makes me feel uneasy that she’s not close by right now to give me a hug but she’s close enough that if I really needed her she could be here in a couple of hours.

I’m wondering if what brought this on is that I’ve been looking into getting top surgery again and had two consults with surgeons this month.  I was hoping to maybe get it done before the end of the year because I’ve met all of my insurance deductibles and co-pays this calendar year and if I could get it covered even a little bit it would save me a lot of money.  The panic attack started shortly after I listened to a message from Dr. Beverly Fischer‘s office from the person who helps you get insurance coverage for surgeries.  She didn’t tell me any good news like that they got it approved or anything like that.  She told me I needed to get a letter stating medical necessity from a doctor or therapist to proceed with insurance.  Nothing there to really cause a panic attack I don’t think.  I’m sure my therapist and/or my endocrinologist would write me such a letter.  Maybe it’s the reality of the situation hitting home.  Maybe I’m not mentally ready to let go of my chest yet.  Maybe I got scared.  Maybe it has nothing to do with my chest.  Maybe it’s a sign that I don’t want Dr. Fischer to do the surgery.  I don’t know.

My consult with Dr. Fischer was two years ago.  I had a consult with Dr. Paul Steinwald yesterday and one with Dr. Hope Sherie two weeks ago.  I really am hoping to have a flatter chest and keep nipple sensation (erotic sensation).  Dr. Fischer is local and takes my insurance if we can get them to cover it but she does not perform the surgery I want to have and my only option with her is a double incision with nipple grafts.  The chance of keeping sensitivity in this procedure is pretty low.  My consult with Dr. Sherie, who operates out of Charlotte, NC, went very well.  She’s super nice and her staff are awesome.  She is willing to do an “inverted-T” top surgery on me and her price is comparable to those who do the standard double incision technique.  Problem is, she’s relatively new and there aren’t any after results of her work that she can show me.  I’ve seen her double incision results and they look great but I’d feel exponentially better if I could actually see her inverted-T results…even just one example.  She learned from Dr. Mangubat in Seattle who I’ve heard good things about.  My consultation with Dr. Steinwald was disappointing.  He initially tried to sway me to have the double incision surgery but did say he would be willing to “attempt” his version of the inverted-T.  That didn’t make me feel very confident.  I would fly to Denver not knowing for sure what results I would end up with.  He wanted me to stay there for two weeks to make sure the nipples took and there was still a chance I would have to have grafts in the end.  Ugg.  He’s also a lot more expensive than the others at $10,350 + airfare and hotel/food for two+ weeks.  I love his results though so I’m torn.  I know I’ll feel awful if I fly all the way to Denver and spend $5000 more dollars to end up with double incision that I could have gotten here at home for a lot less.

I’m leaning toward Dr. Sherie at this point even though I can’t find any results of her inverted-T surgeries on-line.  Price-wise she’s comparable to Dr. Fischer and I have family in Charlotte that I can stay with while I recuperate.  Unfortunately, I would be mostly on my own with trying to get insurance to cover the surgery if I end up going with her.  Her office tells me that they’ll assist me in getting coverage but they are not part of my network so I don’t hold out much hope.  Dr. Fischer’s office is part of my network and give me the best chance of getting some financial assistance with this.  It’s a bit moot though because I have the money saved to cover all of it myself, but Candace, the money manager in the family, really wants me to get insurance to cover it if I can.  For Candace, this is an easy decision.  She would send me to Dr. Fischer who is only two hours away, is the cheapest and takes my insurance.  No-brainer!  BUT…she doesn’t have to live the rest of her life with my decision.  I do.  I have the money so my opinion is that if insurance re-pays me some or all of it that’s great but my top priority is finding the surgeon who I think will give me the results that will make me the happiest for the rest of my life.  Dr. Fischer is a great surgeon, don’t get me wrong.  But her specialty really is the keyhole or periareolar technique which I am not a candidate for.  Her double incision work is respectable but not my favorite in terms of aesthetic or sensory results.

I think at this point I can rule out Dr. Steinwald.  He did say that if I wasn’t in a hurry and could lose some more weight it would make the surgery easier.  I’m leaning towards going to Dr. Sherie and, of course, Dr. Fischer is not a bad choice at all.  I like to go into these kinds of things feeling confident in my decision and right now I’m feeling pretty unsure which way to proceed.  I want to get this done ASAP but I know that rushing into a decision is not wise either.  Candace put pressure on me to get this done this calendar year because my insurance out-of-pocket/c0-pay stuff is all paid up.  She’s an insurance agent and financial adviser so that’s where her head naturally goes.  But I have to listen to my own heart and only proceed when I’m ready and sure despite the financial side of it.  I know that drives Candace crazy but it’s just the way I have to do this.  If I can lose some more weight and get into better shape who knows what my options might be down the road.  I’m thinking that that might be the route to go.  Estimates are good for 6 months from these doctors so if I give myself 3-4 months of dedicated working out and dieting perhaps I’ll have a better chance at getting the chest I really want in the end.

As for my anxiety attack, it’s mostly subsided now and my head is starting to feel normal again.  I still have a residual buzzing in my ears and a bit of clouded vision but it’ll get better gradually as the day wears on.  Eating will help too.  I’m diabetic so keeping my blood sugar level is a top priority.   I just think my head started to spin out of control this morning as a result of low blood sugar and all of this stuff going on in my mind.  Thanks for listening to my ramble today.  I’m so thankful I have this community to vent to when my life spins out of control.  Peace and hope to all of you out there who read this far.

 

 

Shame, Narcissism and Gender

I’ve been studying shame lately.  I tend to get obsessed with a subject and delve into it until I can see it from every angle.  Shame is tough to do that with due to how dense a topic it is.  I’m not talking about shame we feel when we did some little thing wrong or had an accident of some sort.  I’m talking about core shame.  Toxic shame.  Shame based living.  There’s a lot of good stuff out there on the subject if one is interested.  I’ll share some of it at the end of this.

I’m interested in shame because I have been dealing with it in my own life recently around my gender transition.  I’ve said this already but I’ll say it again.  I’m not ashamed of being transgender.  My shame comes from early childhood.  I was raised by a narcissistic mother who was grieving the loss of my dad who died suddenly when I was 14 months old and left her to support two children on social security and no skills with which to get a job.  It was 1963 and not many women worked outside of the home so it wasn’t something she had been expected to do.  I can only imagine the stress that put on her with a little baby to take care of.  Was she narcissistic before my dad died or did it develop as a defense after the fact?  I have no idea.  My brother is convinced that she was a saint so he is no help at all in figuring out this mystery.  And I guess it’s really irrelevant in the grand scheme of things.  What matters is that as early as I can remember I felt unsafe to tell the truth at home in fear of getting in trouble.  My pattern of telling lies persisted into early adulthood.  Guilt trips, shaming and irrational behavior (changing the rules haphazardly) were typical tools she used in her efforts to control me.

I think a lot about when I started to feel like a boy inside and how that exactly manifested itself in my life.  I can’t remember a beginning point of it.  I can’t remember ever not feeling like I should have been born a boy.  I wanted a penis but don’t remember laying in bed at night praying that God miraculously turn me into a boy.  I didn’t think it was possible.  What I wanted was to be able to do, act and dress how I wanted whether I was a girl or not.  The adults called me a “tomboy”.  It was said in a derogatory way.  God how I hated that term and the snide tone of voice that accompanied it.  I was told that I’d outgrow it one day.  I sort of did.  When puberty hit my mother pressed me hard to start looking and acting more lady-like and I did really try.  She told me I should wear earrings because people will know I’m a girl despite my short hair.  So I got my ears pierced and wore earrings every day for most of my life.  I was paranoid to leave the house without them.  She pushed me to date boys earlier than I think I should have.  It was obvious to me that all she was concerned with was making sure that I didn’t embarrass her by being too boyish.  It went against my nature but I did it.  Once I was out of college I let all of that go for the most part but I was still deeply ashamed of my masculine side.  It was so ingrained in me that I would get extremely upset if anyone mistook me for a man.  I would get angry and in the person’s face about it, defending my female gender while feeling deeply ashamed that I wasn’t performing female better.

I have shame so deep in me that I don’t know where it ends.  Toxic shame is a profound sense of being worthless at your core.  I was raised with the belief that children are to be seen and not heard.  I was not to be a bother to my mother or any of the adults that came to our house.  I don’t remember our family being huggy or showing love towards each other often.  I wonder how much attention I got as a child.  I remember having to make myself occupied a lot, being lonely, and creating great adventures in my head.  I was creative but quiet, often preferring to stick with the adults than to hang out with the other kids.  I never really learned how to socialize and play with other kids.  My street was short and I wasn’t allowed to play with the other kids on it because they were trouble makers.  They actually were bad kids and I got in trouble every time I defied my mother’s orders to leave them alone.

So now, all these years later I’m realizing, with the help of some pretty amazing people like Darlene Tando, Brene Brown and John Bradshaw that the shame I feel is built on a lie.  I’m not worthless and never was.  There’s no such thing as too masculine.  To quote Darlene Tando in an email she sent me:

“You have to remind yourself that your mother was shaming you for something that didn’t exist. It wasn’t real. She was shaming a “girl” for being “too boyish”. We know this isn’t even possible, to be “too boyish”, some girls are just more masculine than others. That said, you WERE NOT A GIRL, YOU WERE A BOY. So you were acting natural and she just didn’t know who you were. ”

I was shocked at how simply she unpacked that shame I was feeling walking around as myself in my present day skin.  I feel really vulnerable and naked when I go out into public looking “too masculine”.  I’ve devised all of these rules around what I can and can’t wear.  What is acceptable and what isn’t.  How I should behave.  I’ve spent a lifetime protecting my male side from scrutiny and hiding it from the light.  And now that I finally have given myself permission to live authentically I’m struggling with all of this shame.

But Darlene is right.  I have been ashamed all of these years for who I really am and not allowing myself to behave in the way that came naturally to me.  It’s monumentally difficult to put that shame to rest but this is a good start.  Becoming aware of the shame is the beginning.  Uncovering the lie underneath it and shining light on it is what will heal it.  There is nothing inherently bad about me, even though I’ve felt like there was for most of my life.  Brene’ Brown says that shame keeps us from connecting with other people.  How true that is!  I’m really fortunate to have a handful of really true friends who honestly know me and love me despite my flaws but the vast majority of people in my life really don’t know me at all.  I honestly want to change that.  I want to connect with people and let my natural personality shine through.  I’ve hidden it for long enough and who knows, maybe I’ll make a few new friends along the way.  And those who don’t like the real me?  Well, you know where they can go.

Valuable resources for further depth into this subject:

Brene’ Brown’s TED talk: Listening to Shame

John Bradshaw’s 6 part series on Healing the Shame that Binds You

and his groundbreaking book on the subject of shame

Gender Blog by Darlene Tando…not really about shame but she’s AWESOME so check her out if you haven’t already.

Good Advice from Mark Twain

Sometimes I read an article and I think it had a lot of really valuable and usable advice in it for anyone to read regardless of their circumstances.  I’m sharing one of those today with you.  Good sound advice for a productive and happy life can be found in these selected quotes and interpretations of Mark Twain’s wise words.

Enjoy!

Mark Twain’s Top 7 Tips for a Simple and Successful Life

A New Attitude

After my three day experiment of trying to live out (my term for pass) as a man last week I was exhausted and mentally drained.  I have spent a lot of time this weekend thinking about the experience and what I’m going to do next.  I’ve come to the conclusion that the thing that exhausted me the most was binding.  I had built up in my mind that binding was going to give me some special golden ticket into the men’s club and it clearly didn’t.  That was disappointing especially how uncomfortable it made me.  Binding actually causes dysphoria in me in a way that a bra doesn’t.  I don’t think I’ll ever wear a binder again until I have to for top surgery.  There’s something about having all of that pressure around my chest and being so aware of it that pushes my anxiety over the top and I just can’t keep doing that to myself.

I’m not doing this to make myself feel worse.  This is supposed to be a freeing and liberating experience and that’s what I intend to make it.  Binding sucks so I’m not doing it anymore.  I’ll either wear a bra or a compression shirt or nothing under my other clothes.  The other thing I realized is that I’m pissed off about my last haircut.  I’ve been going to the same person for a long time at her house and I’ve asked her a few times about getting a clipper cut.  She always tells me to go to a barber for that.  Last time I saw her we talked about it again and she said she would do a clipper cut on me like she does for her nephews and brother but when I went to get my haircut this time she had “forgotten” to bring her clippers home with her so she did my hair pretty much like she always does but a bit shorter.  It’s an ok cut but I really had my heart set on getting my first real man’s haircut and I’m disappointed.  More disappointed than I thought.  So I think I’m going to go to a barber this week and get the cut I really want.

So I’ve decided to stop putting so much pressure on myself and just do the things I want to do and set myself free from worrying about passing and being seen as a man.  I want to be seen as myself so the first step is to be myself not some stereotypical resemblance of a man.  I want to get that haircut, not because it’ll make me look more masculine, though it undoubtedly will, but because I want it.  I’m going to wear the clothes I want to wear whether they make me look more like a man or not.  I’m sick of worrying all of the time about what people see.  It makes no more sense to start trying to look like a man than it did to pretend to be a woman.  I’m who and what I am now and that will continue to evolve as time goes on.

My confidence has been at an all time low lately too and that certainly doesn’t help me feel good about myself.  People can sense that lack of confidence and it makes all of us uneasy.  I need to just go be myself whatever that is and stop all the fretting over whether they see me as male or female.  It really doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things.  I just need to be confident in who I am.  That’s what matters.  If I’m comfortable then others will be more at ease with me too.

As for the bathroom, I think that’s going to continue to be a challenge but eventually it’ll work itself out.  I just can’t afford to push myself to the point of a nervous breakdown over where to pee.  I’ll pee where I think I should pee wherever that may be.  I have an F on my driver’s license so legally I have a right to be in the women’s room.  And I do think I look masculine enough most days to go into the men’s without too much notice as well.  So I can use whichever one I feel good about going into that day.

Pressure is off.  I can’t handle it anymore.  Three days of it was enough to push me nearly to a mental breaking point.  All of this thinking about gender and fretting about passing is taking any enjoyment out of transitioning for me.  Between the pressure I put on myself and what I’ve felt from other people I’ve not really enjoyed this process and it’s taken a toll on me.  So now, from here out I’m not pressing myself to do anything I’m not ready for and that won’t make me happy.  I want my transition to be a joyous experience.  I’ve waited 50 years to finally be able to express myself as I really am and I’ll be damned if I’m going to let anyone, including myself, ruin it and make it a living hell.  If it doesn’t make me smile I’m not doing it.

Peace Out!