Reflections On my Chest

proud bustAs I prepare myself mentally for top surgery I find myself reflecting back on the relationship I’ve had with my chest over the years.  It’s been a complicated relationship to say the least, which I’m sure most of you can relate.  At this point in my life I’m not hugely dysphoric about them, but I most definitely always know they’re there, in my way, protruding where I don’t want protrusions, and for all to see, declaring me female gendered whether I want that or not.  Physically, they do bother me.  Like I said, I’m very aware of them.  I don’t want to be aware of them.  If I focus on it, this awareness can give me pretty severe dysphoria.  Some days I notice them more than others.  On the days when I notice them the most I feel like they take up the whole room.  I usually end up taking off my bra and putting on some loose layers to help soothe this feeling.  I don’t know if it’s related but I’ve never been able to deal with close fitting shirts or scratchy fabrics against my skin.  This is a big reason why I can’t deal with binding.  The binder is tight, not just on my chest but around my back and my mid section as well.  Even the ones that don’t bind all the way down are too much for me to deal with.  I just can’t do it.  So I’m forced to wear a bra, which I can deal with most days, or go with loose layers and let it all hang loose (my favorite system).  But, I also can’t stand to get over heated and sweaty either so the days where I can actually do the layer thing are limited.

Back when I was a child, before puberty, I loved to go shirtless in the summer.  As my chest started to develop breasts I tried to ignore them and pretend they weren’t really there.  I continued to go shirtless at home until I was told to stop it.  That was a sad day in my life.  Still, I didn’t wear a bra even though I probably should have and continued to be in denial.  One day my mom bought me a “training bra” and I actually liked it because it was loose and yet kept my budding boobage close to my body and stopped the bouncing that I hated so much.  Eventually, though I got too big for the trainer and had to step up to a real bra.  Mom took me to the local department store to get fitted for one.  The first few they tried to put me in caused almost a violent reaction in me and I started to cry.  These were bras that held the boobs up and pointed them out.  My mom loved it.

madonna

OK for Madonna but not for me, thanks.

I hated it.  I burst into tears and couldn’t get that thing off of me quick enough.  I would have ripped it off if I could.  Finally the sales lady brought me one to try on that was padded and made them rounder instead of pointing straight out and I felt better wearing it.  I still didn’t like it but I could handle it.

What made the whole breast thing worse for me was that I thought mine were ugly.  They weren’t perky and small like other girls my age.  Mine were saggy and droopy and big.  I hated them.  Not only could I not go shirtless anymore I couldn’t stand to go bra-less either.  I had a huge phobia about anyone ever seeing my nipples so I always wore a padded bra.  I eventually slept in my bra and only took it off to shower.  I couldn’t stand to not have my bra on.  I remember at sleep overs with my girl friends they would all strip down to their panties and put on a t shirt or nightgown to go to sleep in.  I kept my bra on and just put a t shirt over it.  This was how I slept at home as well.  My friends gave me a hard time about this and told me I need to let them “air out”.  NO!  NEVER!!  I couldn’t stand to see myself without a bra or to let anyone see me without one.  I know this now to be dysphoria.  It was pretty severe when I was a teenager.  My bra was my binder and I couldn’t stand to see myself without it.

Somewhere along the way I got over this and started to enjoy letting them hang free.  Still I think they’re ugly and can’t stand the idea of anyone seeing my nipples through my clothes.  Usually at home I will go without my bra on the weekends unless we’re going out but I always have to have a soft t shirt or loose tank under a sweat shirt or something like that so I am not too aware of them.

I’m trying to have surgery to remove my baggy boobage in the next month or so (March 31, hopefully).  My resistance to having surgery is complicated and I’m not sure I understand it fully.  I think the biggest part of it is that my chest is the last vestige of femininity that the general public sees on my person.  I feel like once my boobs are gone so will be my past as a lesbian and a woman.  I know that the surgery can’t erase my past but it feels like it will definitely erase any last chance of being part of the lesbian community.  I mourn this loss.  But, I’m also not actively part of a lesbian community anymore.  It’s been 20 years since I really participated in anything other than a lesbian cruise we took about eight years ago.  It’s the price I have to pay to be myself.  I know this.  And I’m willing to let that all go.  It’s hard for me to fathom a future without breasts.  They’ve become part of my struggle.  I wonder if one can get addicted to pain or suffering and actually miss it once it’s gone.  Or is it just such a relief that you wonder why you waited so long?  I’m guessing it’s the latter.  I worry about getting depressed after surgery.  I have such strong feelings towards my chest that I wonder how I’ll be emotionally around having them removed.  I have a feeling that it will be a complicated rush of emotions and I’m hoping it will make me cry, because I sure could use a good cry.

Birthdays and Goals

So, please believe me when I tell you I’m not fishing for birthday wishes, but tomorrow is my birthday and since it’s on a Saturday this year I feel obligated to spend at least some of it with my brother, which I rarely enjoy.  I’m less than thrilled.  Birthdays are kind of a big deal to me.  Not in the usual, cake and ice cream, get lots of presents, aren’t I special kind of way, but in a marking of another year in my life, where I’ve come from and where I want to go in the next year kind of way.  It’s a time of going inside for me.  I like to spend the majority of the day alone.  I usually take the day off of work and do some things by myself that I enjoy doing, reflect a bit, and just have a nice me day.  I hate it when it lands on a weekend day.  It makes it really hard to have my ritual of being alone without it seeming like I’m weird (which I probably am) or anti-social (which I definitely am most of the time).

For a change I decided to take some time today, on the eve of my birthday, to take some me time and work on one of my goals for the year which is to get my diplomas and college records changed to my new legal name.  I live about 40 minutes from my college alma mater so I just drove on down there this morning and headed over to the registrar’s office to ask about changing my records and obtaining a new, updated diploma.  Several years ago I invested in really nice matted frames for both of my degrees and I hang them in my office at work.  I’d like them to have the right name on them.  I probably could have handled this over the phone but it’s much more fun to poke around one’s old haunts, especially when one loves said haunt very much.  The registrar told me I needed to go to the Alumni office and have them change my name and then they could get me a diploma so I headed over there and ended up talking to 3 very lovely ladies who really had very little clue about what they were doing.  Ironically, it all ended up being handled by the registrar in the end.  However, the first lady I talked to at Alumni remembered me from doing a small announcement in the alumni magazine last year on my business.  That was nice.  And now I’m standing in her office telling her I want to change my name in her database.  She’s chatting away at me and all of a sudden she stops and says, “I have to ask you a sensitive question now”.  I thought, oh God, here it comes and yes, Georgia, she asked me if I was changing my gender too.  Sigh.  No, I have not had that legally changed yet I told her.  She said, “Are you going by sir now?  You definitely don’t want to be a Ms  anymore, do you?  Would you like me to leave it blank?”  Why yes, that would be wonderful.  Thank you very much!  It was all so pleasant and cheerful and left me feeling very good about my alma mater.  She was still confused about getting my diploma changed when I left but assured me she would contact the person who would definitely know the answer and have her contact me.  By the time I got to work I had an email from the expert on diplomas asking me for a copy of my court order which I emailed her immediately after which she told me I could send in my application for the diploma along with a check for $30 and they would take care of it.  Done!

Next I needed to work on my other alma mater where I got my master’s degree.  This is a major university in the Midwest, far from my home.  I looked on their website and found the form for obtaining a revised diploma no problem (I learned a lot earlier that day from the other school about how this is done) and printed it off.  Next I looked to see how I go about changing my name in the school records.  It had stuff for current students but only said that once you graduate or leave the school whatever name you had at that time is what will be on you permanent records.  It didn’t look like it was possible to get it changed.  I sat back and scratched my head in astonishment.  How can it be that my little rinky dink liberal arts college was more progressive than one of the finest institutions in the land?  Impossible, I thought.  So I called them.  I was told that yes, it’s true you can not change your name on the records unless you fit one of two categories.  I have no idea what the second category is because I stopped her after the first one which was if you  had pursued a gender reassignment.  Bingo!!  I said, tell me what you mean by that and what you need from me to prove it.  She got very excited and animated and was genuinely helpful in trying to find a way to get me what I wanted without having to have my gender marker changed on my license.  I pictured her with her hand over the receiver pointing to the phone to her co-workers and mouthing “I have a transgender on the phone!”  It made me chuckle a bit.  She was super nice and gave me a couple people to contact that handled this situation, gave me advice on what to say and wished me good luck.  It was, all in all, a pleasant experience.  But unproductive.  I emailed the lady in charge of the diplomas but hadn’t heard back by the end of the day.  Hopefully Monday she’ll answer my questions.

I really don’t care about my transcripts having my legal name on them.  I really just want my diplomas amended.  But, especially at my home college where I do occasionally participate in alumni activities I’d like to make it easy for them to find me with the right name in their system.  I think I accomplished that today.  As for the other school, really all I care about is the diploma.  I never participate in anything with them anymore.  The graduate program there was only one year so I really never bonded with anyone at that school.  Regardless, I’m curious about it and want to pursue this to see where it leads.  I am confident they will handle it well.  All in all, I got a good feeling about the high level of respect, care and concern I was afforded by both institutions today.  It made me feel proud of my schools and of the progress that is being made on my behalf.

I have to admit that I felt a little melancholy driving back from my college today after I erased my former self from their database.  It was a strange feeling of sadness that I hadn’t expected but it didn’t last long.  The name has been changed and it’s for the best but I felt a little of my old self fade away today and that put a lump in my throat.  Birthdays make me melancholy anyway for s0me reason.  Candace never knows how I’ll be when the day comes.  She’s been asking me for a couple of weeks what I want to do, where do I want to eat, what do I want to get, etc. over and over.  My answer is always the same.  I don’t really care.  This year I’m very not into my birthday for some reason.  Even tonight she offered to take me bowling with some friends of ours who had reluctantly agreed to sacrifice their Friday night to help me celebrate.  I wasn’t interested in it even though I love to go bowling and rarely get a chance to do it.  Turning 54 just doesn’t seem like much of a reason to celebrate.

Is He or Isn’t She?

This morning I decided I couldn’t put off any longer two very time consuming chores that I’ve been dragging my heels about.  I needed to get blood drawn for my endocrinologist appointment next week and I needed to get my driver’s license renewed.  Both take a lot of time and are a pain in the butt.  I chose to go to the hospital first since I have to fast for the blood work and I was hungry.  At registration the nice lady that helped me was going along with no hitches until she got to a perplexing question on her computer screen.  She looked at me apologetically confused and said it’s telling me to ask you when your last menstrual cycle was because we have you in here as female.  I could tell from the way she said this that she had pegged me as male.  I just said, well I had a hysterectomy about a year ago and she didn’t miss a beat and said, oh ok, so about a year ago, right?  Well, no not really but I didn’t want to get into all that with an office worker.  I just said, yes, that’s correct.  Upstairs, after a bit of a wait the blood was drawn with no issues.  I was thankful that the building had unisex bathrooms so I could pee before going to the MVA for the long wait where they do not have unisex restrooms.  Oh, the things we worry about.

Sitting at the MVA (Motor Vehicle Administration) I felt myself getting nervous about whether they were going to say anything to me about my gender marker.  When my number was finally called, after about an hour of waiting, I was just relieved to be getting it done.  The lady that helped me was the same one that helped me change my name just last year.  I had a hard time understanding a couple of things she said to me and she did ask me something that might have been about my gender marker but I can’t be sure.  I answered no because I knew it was about a change and I knew I wasn’t making any at this time.  But I’m still not sure what she asked me.  It doesn’t matter.  The picture sucks worse than the last one which I hated but at least I’m legal to drive for another 8 years and the two troublesome chores are done and out of my head now.

No one gendered me at all after the incident with the receptionist at the hospital, which I find interesting.  No ma’am, miss, or sir in relation to me.  When my new license was ready she just called out my last name.  Previous people had been called either by their full names or Mr/Ms/Mrs/Miss.  I found this interesting.

On another, yet related, topic, I’m hoping to have chest surgery in March or April of this year.  I haven’t set the date yet.  I have picked my surgeon though.  I’m going with Dr. Hope Sherie in Charlotte, NC.  She’s near enough I can drive.  I have family down there I can stay with.  And she performs the T-anchor surgery I’ve been wanting.  Her prices are in line with most double incision surgeries..around $8k.  Not having to travel far or pay for hotels/food helps a lot too.  She and her staff have been absolutely great to talk to on the phone and I feel very comfortable and confident in my decision.  I mention this here for two reasons.  One, as an update, since I’ve talked about it in the past and two, to lead into my feelings around changing my gender markers.

I’m still on the fence about changing my gender markers at this point, but the deeper I get into transition with hormones and physical changes the more I think it’s going to become really uncomfortable in the future if I don’t change them.  My biggest fear of putting the M on my license is that if I ever get arrested I’ll be put in with men.  Think about what it would be like for a person without a penis to have to share a cell with a cis-male.  This thought terrifies me.  BUT, how likely is that to happen?  I have never been arrested yet and don’t plan on doing anything to get arrested in the future so it’s pretty unlikely.  It’s a legitimate concern but not one I should be focusing on as much as I do.  That’s my anxiety going wild.  I think the advantages of having the M on the license and all my records out-weighs the negatives.  I won’t be asked about menstrual cycles or mammograms anymore which confuses people and aggravates me.  I will feel legit to use the men’s room.  It will just make a lot of things easier.  I’m leaning hard towards doing it once my chest surgery is completed.  I don’t absolutely need a surgeon’s letter to get the gender changed in my state but it is the easiest way to go about it.

My gender identity is still up in the air though.  Since we only have two options M or F and I am leaning so far towards the M now it does make sense to get it changed.  However, that doesn’t mean that I self identify as male.  Trans-male is more like it.  I still feel resistance to  being grouped in with cis-males.   Accepting the M for male does that and I don’t like it.  But I also understand the government’s need to simplify gender.  I understand society’s need to simplify gender.  It’s just that it isn’t simple for a growing number of the world’s population.   It would be nice if they gave us an option for TM or TF for trans male or trans female and an N for neither or neutral.  I don’t know how many people would take them up on the option of the TM or TF designation since it outs you to everyone that looks at your license but I would do it for sure.  I don’t know what the answer is for any of this and for now the options are limited.  We have to play the hand we were dealt so I’m fairly certain that later this year I will be changing my gender marker along with my pronouns.

Exciting and scary all at the same time!!

Shame

I’m taking Brene’ Brown’s class on Living Brave.  This week’s lesson is on shame.  According to Brene’, shame can not live in the light of day, so if we talk about it it goes away.  I’ve talked about how I’m filled with shame from my childhood on a few occasions here so I thought maybe I’d delve deeper into that topic.  My shame is mostly around two things: my gender presentation and my sexuality.  I think many of you can probably relate to that.  But I also carry shame from not taking better care of myself and my weight, having an anxiety disorder, not being a better partner, not making more money, not being more confident in myself and a multitude of other things.  Every where I turn I feel shame.  Every time I look in the mirror I feel it.  Too fat.  Too short.  Ugly boobs.  How am I ever going to pass as male in the men’s room without facial hair and these huge boobs?  Going out in public is a shame filled experience now.  Perhaps it always has been but it’s just more obvious to me now.

My mother constantly harped on me looking and acting more feminine.  I was never feminine enough for her.  She was afraid I wouldn’t be able to find a boyfriend/husband.  And then when I was outed came out as lesbian I was shamed and disowned because of it.  My mother waged emotional warfare on me to get me to stop being gay.  She threatened to have me institutionalized, to put something in the newspaper about my sordid lifestyle, to call my college and have them kick me out for being lesbian, call my professors, out me if I ever joined the military or decided to be a teacher (both life ambitions at the time which I never dared to do).  In short, she threatened to ruin my life.  She even went as far as to drive around my college campus on weekends looking for me so she could roll the window down and shout nasty things at me when I walked by with my friends.  She came to a jazz band concert I was performing in and before we started stood in front of the band and called me a “finger f@*%er”.  She made my life a living hell.  I have PTSD from the things she did to me.  All in the name of making me turn straight and act like a nice young lady.  So, yeah, I deal with shame a lot.  And anxiety and depression too.

And on top of all that, I’m ashamed that I never stood up to her or told her where to go.  I’m ashamed because I’m weak and let her terrorize me and destroy my self confidence.  It set me up quite nicely to let others treat me just as awful.  I didn’t feel like I deserved respect.  Its’ sickening how much shame resides inside my being.  It’s a wonder I’ve been able to accomplish anything in life at all.  Somehow I just found work-arounds.  Instead of becoming a teacher, I pieced together a living teaching private lessons and doing other odd jobs, always settling for whatever I could get.  I’ve never made much money.  Guess why?  I don’t feel like I deserve it.  I don’t think I have much worth.  Even as a business owner now, I’m very susceptible to the complaint that my prices are too high and always worry that I’m charging too much, when in reality, I probably charge too little.  Shame and self esteem, for me, go hand in hand.

And now that I am finally feeling strong enough to try and live life on my terms I find myself bucking up against the same old shame gremlins I’ve dealt with since I was a child.  I hear my mother telling me I look like a man (in that tone of voice and disgusted look on her face) every time I leave the house wearing the clothes I like to wear.  Every time I get my hair cut I see my mother’s face scowling at me for how boyish I look.  It’s hard to enjoy any of the things that I’m getting to do now.  But I plod through and keep going.  Some days are easier than others.  I tell myself I deserve to live how I want, that no one has the power to shame me like my mother used to do.  I’m stronger now.  I would never allow anyone to say or do the things she did when I was 20.  But the damage is still there and all I can do is support myself and tell myself that it’s all going to be ok.  I got through this 30 years ago and I can get through it now.

I just shared some of my darkest memories with all of you.  I’m ashamed of them.  I’m ashamed that my mother was so awful and that she hated who I was so much.  But I can’t change any of that now.  It’s over and she’s dead.  The past is the past.  But I shared it because I want to shed light on it.  I want it to go away, but I know it won’t ever completely go away.  The scars will always be there.  My mother didn’t love me.  She hated me.  That’s a pretty bitter pill to swallow.  And, no, I’m not proud of that.