One Year Post Top Surgery

It’s hard to believe that it’s almost been a year since my top surgery but it has.  At first, I was posting updates every few weeks but then I stopped updating about my results.  Why?  Well, because I had a very serious complication and I got pretty sick for a while and I didn’t want to share what was going on.  After a few weeks it was pretty obvious that my right nipple was infected and wasn’t going to heal like the other one.  I sent my surgeon pictures nearly daily of what it looked like, she ordered more antibiotics, and finally she asked me to drive back down to her so she could see it in real life.  She ended up cutting the dead nipple out of my chest and I spent about six weeks hooked up to a wound vac which sucked the infection out of the wound where my nipple used to be.  I continued on a regiment of different antibiotics during that time period and suffered from sever diarrhea from the drugs.  Through all of this she also had to open up some of my incision for drainage so my scar is jagged where that was done.

At the time all of this was happening I got fairly depressed.  I wasn’t so upset that I had lost a nipple but I was worried about my health and the experience of being attached to a machine 24 hours a day for six weeks made me feel miserable mentally.  At times, I wondered if I would ever heal and get back to my old life.  Never, though, did I regret the surgery or the surgeon I chose.  She did a fairly new procedure on me and I knew going into it that it had its risks.  I feel like my surgeon did everything in her power to help me get through this and went above and beyond what most would have done in this situation so I don’t hold her responsible at all and just chalk it up to shit that happens sometimes.

I’ve decided to share that experience here finally at this stage of the game.  I’m completely healed now from the surgery and the wound.  Now, instead of a nipple on my right chest I have a slightly sunken pink scar that looks a little like a nipple.  There never was any pain.  I’m happy to report that my left nipple is healthy and has excellent sensation.  The sensation is different than it was before surgery but it’s quite alive and thriving nonetheless.  My scars are starting to fade pretty well now and all in all I think my chest looks pretty good.

In a few weeks I will be heading back down to see my surgeon and she will do a scar revision on the nipple so that I can get a tattoo later on and make it look like the other, healthy one.  It won’t have sensation and won’t react like a normal nipple, but it should make the overall appearance much better.  I have to admit that I’m a bit nervous about doing any more surgical work to this area after the experience I had, but I trust that it will go much better this time.

While I am overall pleased with the look of my chest surgery I want to talk about something that I am not happy about and that bothers me greatly in regards to my chest.  I’ve heard a few people talk about this phenomenon but I don’t know how prevalent it is.  Along my scar line, where she made the incision, I feel a tightness and pulling internally that I find to be extremely annoying and uncomfortable.  If I stretch my chest muscles and under my arms it seems to help to loosen it up.   Massage seems to help it.  Rubbing, and even tapping on the scar seems to help.  But it’s still there every day and seems to feel worse when I wear a jacket or heavier shirt where the fabric pushes down on my skin.

I’ve talked to my surgeon about it in the past and she thought it would loosen up with time.  Maybe it has loosened up some, but it’s still pretty aggravating.   I’m going to talk to her about it again when I see her in April.  I don’t know if this will ever go away but I sure hope it does because it’s very uncomfortable.  I don’t want to be aware of my chest at all and this is almost as uncomfortable to me as binding or wearing a bra was.

Other than the discomfort, which I may just have to learn to live with, I have thoroughly enjoyed not having breasts and seeing myself with a flat chest.  It’s an amazing feeling to be able to wear a shirt and not have those pesky things protruding and getting in the way.  I love not having to hide them and just being able to throw on a t shirt in the morning.  I very unceremoniously dumped my old bras in the trash shortly after surgery and donated my old binders.  I’m thrilled to never need any of that again.  I’m seriously considering getting a tattoo across my chest to hide my scars at some point down the road.  I’m not sure what the tattoo will be at this point but once I decide and get it done I’ll make sure and let all of you know.

Why I Chose to Transition

First of all, I never thought I would have the guts to go through with a full transition over to living 100% as male.  It all seemed like a nice dream but not something I had the courage to undertake.  I was more likely to sky dive and that ain’t ever going to happen.  So what, exactly, was it that tipped the scale and made me decide to go for it?  I’m not sure it was one thing.  How much better and more alive I felt on T certainly played a big part.  A goal of living more authentically and truthfully also played a huge role.  But, honestly, I think it was a lot of little things that added up very gradually that eventually led me to living as male.

I’ve been counseling a friend who is questioning how to proceed in his transition and I’ve been telling him he needs to make a plan and get honest about what he wants to accomplish.  Yeah, that’s bullshit.  I mean, it’s a great idea, but most of the time even the best plans don’t work out and our reasons for doing things shift mid stream.  I kind of had a plan.  At the beginning, all I knew was I wanted to try a low dose of T and see if it made me feel better.  And boy did it.  I was at one of the lowest points of my life when I started taking it and practically overnight my outlook changed 180 degrees into the positive.  This, to me, was evidence that I was on the right track and should keep going.  Other than T, my wish list included getting a hysterectomy, changing my name, and having top surgery, in that order.  It was important to me to get the hysterectomy done while I still had a female name and gender presentation.  But I never honestly thought anyone would ever see me as male or treat me as such.  It just seemed like a big fantasy.  A foolish pipe dream.

Well let me tell you, I upped my low dose of T to a full dose about six months before I had top surgery and by the time my surgery was over I was firmly entrenched on the male side of the spectrum as far as how people perceived my gender.  It happened really suddenly and completely took me by surprise.  It was disconcerting, but inside I was elated.  Could this really be happening to me?  Are these people just humoring me and playing along with me?  Just a few months prior I had worn a binder and my most masculine outfit to go out to dinner and the waiter referred to us as ladies and called me ma’am.  I left feeling demoralized and defeated.  Obviously, I was failing at this whole transition thing.  I felt like giving up.  Instead, I scheduled my top surgery for the next possible date.  While I was away have my surgery I let my facial hair grow out some.  That seemed to do the trick along with not having boobs anymore.  Flat chest and facial hair = Male.  Now I rarely get called ma’am and they usually correct themselves after they look at me better.  Quite the opposite of what used to happen.

I can’t say that I actually had a plan or made any conscious decision to transition with the goal of living as male.  I stumbled blindly through this whole process and really had no idea where I’d end up or even where I wanted to end up.  I was actually hoping that I could be happy staying in the female zone with a more neutral exterior.  Nope.  When I was in that middle zone I was so uncomfortable I could barely stand to go out in public.  Every day was a challenge just to leave the house.  I couldn’t stand not knowing how people would perceive me and I had no answers for them either.  I dreaded the question, “Are you a man or a woman?”  I had no idea.  I was as confused as they were.  So, even though I applaud folks who relish the confusion of gender neutral and non-binary identities, I need to pick a side for my own sanity.  I need to fit into a clear category that I’m comfortable with.  While neither female nor male fits perfectly, male is the closest.  I’m very comfortable in the male role whereas the female role felt completely wrong to me in every way.

Another thing that made a big impact on my decision to go for it was that I was on the precipice of losing everything I cared about.  My life was about to implode and I really felt like I didn’t have anything to lose by going for it.  I figured that if I didn’t start to transition I was dead anyway and if I did start then at least I had a chance of surviving.  I can clearly see now, looking back with 20/20 vision, that my old self was dying.  Literally, dying.  I wasn’t physically ill, but I had no desire to go on the way I was.  My spirit was dying and I didn’t really care about much at all.  I had ruined my relationship and my business and, while it looked from the outside like I had a great life, everything was about to crumble.  So, when you’re practically dead anyway, what do you have to lose?  I was worried about losing my relationship but once I came to the realization that it was over anyway I knew I had nothing left to lose by going for it.  Starting T was the best thing I ever did for myself, my relationship and my life in general.  I don’t mean to make it sound like a magic bullet because it isn’t, but I’m pretty sure that a lot of my problems stemmed from my hormones being out of whack from menopause.  I should note here that my thyroid was also low and I started taking meds for that at the same time.  Together, the two hormones made a huge difference and I felt better than I had felt since before I started puberty.

All in all, I think this whole process has occurred over the past six years.  I’ve gone incredibly slow intentionally.  I needed the time to adjust to the changes and figure out what to do next.  I’ve had a lot of self doubt along the way and have questioned myself non stop.  Now that I’m on the other side of things though I can confidently tell you that this was the best thing that I ever did for myself.  I’m dramatically happier, less moody, less depressed, less anxious, a better person, more engaged in life and more optimistic than I’ve ever been.  My relationship has been through hell and we’ve come out the other side together somehow stronger than ever and are planning our wedding.  My business somehow survived despite my best efforts to destroy it and, while I wouldn’t say I’m rolling in dough, I actually showed a profit for the first time in a long time and things are pretty stable again.  I’m easier to get along with and I think people like me more now because I’m happier with myself.  I’m a lot less angry than I used to be.*  The only thing I’m really dissatisfied with is my gut.  The T has made all of my fat redistribute to my belly and I have a huge gut now.  I hate it!!  But, I’m working on it so it will get better.  It’s a hell of a lot easier to deal with one issue than a multitude of issues at one time.  Now that most everything else is taken care of I can focus a lot of my energy on my weight and physical health.  I’m looking forward to building up some nice muscular biceps and trimming down my waistline so I look good on my wedding day.

 

* One of the bad raps that Testosterone gets is that it can make people more aggressive and have anger issues.  This is definitely true.  I have noticed that I am quicker to anger and it boils up really fast inside me like a wild fire.  Before T, I was just dealing with a low grade constant feeling of being angry and pissed off on a daily basis.  After T, I’m pretty laid back but when I do get angry it happens fast and sudden.  Learning to control that impulse is a challenge that requires a lot of deep breaths and taking time to let it dissipate before I open my mouth to speak.  Just like a teenage boy has to learn to control his impulses, so do Trans Men when they start off on T, no matter their biological age.

 

The Deeper Side of Transition

When I started to transition from a butch lesbian to something on the male side of the spectrum I knew I needed to take things slowly.  I needed time to wrap my mind around exactly what I was doing and where I wanted to go with hormones, surgeries, name changes and the like.  I knew I needed time to wrap my mind around the idea of not being a lesbian anymore.  Of not being a sister and a daughter anymore.  Of being seen as male.  A white, heterosexual male.  I knew that the social side of transitioning was going to be the hardest part for me to navigate.  I wasn’t really sure I could handle it, or if my relationships could handle it.  In general, it’s been easier than I ever imagined.  But it’s also been tougher than I ever imagined too.  The person who’s given me the hardest time about everything is myself.  I get in my own way.  I’m not comfortable talking about my personal life to even my dearest friends.  I still feel like I’m walking around naked a lot of the time and everyone can see all of my flaws, scars and short-comings.  I still struggle with coming out to people, especially face-to-face, or even telling someone I changed my name.

I’ve been fortunate though.  The hormones have changed my looks gradually, lowered my voice to a definite male timbre, and top surgery seemed to seal the deal of helping me look like the man I’ve always felt like inside.  Before top surgery, I probably was perceived as male about 70% of the time and could still use a women’s washroom without too much fear.  I had started to work towards using the men’s but still didn’t feel like I could go in there safely 100% of the time.  Post top surgery, something magical happened and I was suddenly thrust over into the male side of the spectrum and it became clear to me very quickly that I was now seen primarily (98%) as male to the general public.  Generally, I’m happy with this turn of events, but it happened so suddenly that I wasn’t quite prepared for all of the repercussions this would foist on me and my family.  Now I am Candace’s husband, even though we’re not married, and I am my brother’s brother, and Candace’s mom’s son-in-law.  I don’t know if I could manage to pull off a non-binary transition now if I wanted to.  Luckily, I don’t want that but it’s still a little uncomfortable and strange for people to refer to me as someone’s brother or husband.  There’s a part of me that feels like I should be ok with this and it should feel natural.  Sometimes it does feel natural, but mostly it feels strange.  I’ve gotten totally comfortable with being referred to as sir and he/him by strangers but the titles still throw me.  I think it’s just a matter of getting used to it and will take time.  My brother also has to get used to this, and thankfully, has been very gracious about it so far.  He stumbles sometimes, but so do I.  I still avoid telling people I’m his brother by saying that he is MY brother and leaving my gender up to them to decide.

Basically, though, I’m really enjoying being a guy in public.  I went shopping at a jewelry store yesterday and it was really cool that everyone assumed I was shopping for my wife.  When I made my purchase, another man and I had a fun interchange about being good husbands.  Living the role of man, husband and brother in the real world is feeling like it fits much better than woman, wife, and sister ever did.  I feel freer in a lot of ways.  Socially, with the exception of a few people, I’m out to everyone.  It’s still awkward at times and we all have some adjustments to make, but I would consider this transition a success at this point.

Transitioning is funny though because we can’t always count on how the hormones or a surgery will effect how we’re perceived.  Just like a teenager, we can have a sudden growth spurt or physical change.  You could wake up one day and realize that you’re losing your hair at a much faster pace than expected.  Or your beard could suddenly sprout like a lumber jack.  If we’re not prepared socially for these changes it can really play havoc with our progress and mental space.  Whenever we inject a hormone we have to be prepared for whatever side effect it gives us and often, we think we are prepared until it does something unexpected.  In this case, the physical transition moves faster than our mental and social transition and causes a lot of problems.  Sometimes it’s more than we can handle at the moment and we have to make the heart breaking decision to stop our transition, temporarily or permanently.  I can’t say that I started hormones willing to take all of the possible side effects no matter what.  As time has progressed though, I’ve become willing to take them all no matter what.  I don’t relish the idea of becoming a bald guy, but I accept that it could happen.  I’ve seen my hairline recede quite a bit in the past couple of years and I know that my hair is thinner than it used to be up top.  Baldness is creeping up on me and I know it.  I don’t expect to go completely bald, but I do expect to lose quite a bit of hair.

Another, deeper, side to transitioning is erasure of our pasts.  Now that I look male, people make a lot of assumptions about my past that just aren’t true.  I did not have all of the opportunities handed to me that I would have if I’d been born with male genitalia.  I was not raised as a boy.  I never was a Boy Scout.  I never played Little League or any male sport growing up.  I grew up queer, a Tom Boy, a lesbian and I had to fight and prove myself every inch of the way to get where I am today.  I played girl’s softball and was a Girl Scout growing up.  All of that is forgotten now and definitely does not seem to fit with my current persona.  This can be very disturbing and upsetting if we’re not prepared for it.  Personally, I don’t care that much and I never really liked being a “female role model” anyway, so it’s sort of a relief.  I know my history and that’s what matters to me.  No one ever handed me anything and I’ve had to work my butt off to get what I have and I don’t care who knows that about me.  Others, though, could find this to be very upsetting and it’s something to keep in mind.

Balancing the emotional and physical sides of the transition process is tricky and not for the faint of heart.  There are a lot of days where I still wonder if I can handle all of this and even whether I want to.  There are days when I wonder if I made the right decisions along the way.  But then I think about the option of going back to living as a butch lesbian and I know that I could never do that again.  So, it’s onward I go as there is no turning back for me at this point in time.  What the future brings is anybody’s guess, but I know I will handle it to the best of my ability.

Brother Follow Up and Other Randoms

I finally was able to bring my brother home this past Saturday evening.  They had kept him about a week past when we thought he’d go home to observe some other, new issues he was having.  I had to put my big boy panties on and get pretty butch with them because they wanted to hold him over the weekend once again to get a sonogram on Monday, which had already been put off since Friday.  We agreed he could go home and get the sonogram done at his home hospital.  While they were “observing” him I had stayed away to try and catch up on my own life and get some work caught up.  When I arrived on Saturday I was surprised to see on his chart that they had me listed as his brother.  Feeling emboldened by my desire to get him out of there I embraced the idea of being his brother and introduced myself to his nurse that way.  I was in total male mode while I talked to her calmly yet sternly about the situation and somehow it worked.  I would not have suggested they let him go if I thought for a second that it wasn’t in his best interest.  He had sat around that place for an entire week while they ran blood tests and checked his vitals.  Enough was enough.

Since then, the hospital has called me a couple of times looking for him and I have told them I’m his brother and redirected them to his phone line.  I was definitely feeling pretty proud of myself for taking good care of him and helping to spring him from the hospital like any good brother (or sister) would do.  Pat on the back.  I want to use the word sibling, and maybe I will in the future, but somehow I never can think to say it in the heat of the moment.  I get flustered and mumble brother or sister or he’s my brother.  I need to get a grip on this because this problem is not going to go away on its own.

On another note, I’ve been having some in depth email discussions with an old work friend who I’m still in contact with.  She’s totally cool with me being trans but also curious and asks questions, which I am happy to answer to the best of my ability and based on my experiences.  I talked to her about how it’s really surreal to be seen as male all of a sudden.  It seems like top surgery really bumped me over into the male category in a very sudden way.  It’s kind of freaky and cool at the same time.  It’s taking my brain a little time to catch up with all of it though. I’m totally loving being called Mr. LastName and sir out in public.  There have been a couple younger guys (early 20s?) who have helped me in stores who seem to want to chat with me a little bit about random stuff or comment on my ball cap and that’s pretty cool.  My friend asked me how it felt to be part of a different sect of society now and I honestly don’t feel like I ever was part of any sect before, except maybe the lesbian community for a while and I assured her that I have not been welcomed into the men’s club yet.  Though I have noticed, instead of the lesbian nod that I’m used to, there seems to be a man nod that I get now and then.  Random men will nod at me and sometimes say hey as we’re passing in a store or a parking lot.  Maybe that’s part of the men’s club thing, if there is such a thing.  But, how does it feel to be seen as a man now?  Strange.  Disconcerting.  And yet, also comforting and relaxed at the same time.  Surprisingly, I used to worry that I looked feminine enough and that I might get dirty looks from women for being too masculine, even before starting to transition.  Every sir I got back in those days was a confirmation that I was not pulling off looking and acting like a woman good enough.  Now, I just go through my day being myself and don’t have to worry about passing as female anymore.  I can relax and just accept that people will see me as any other middle aged guy and pay me no mind at all.

I stopped in a grocery store this morning to pick up something I shouldn’t be eating (donuts) and on my way out two elderly ladies were coming in together.  I paused a few seconds to let them through the doors before I proceeded out.  It seemed like the gentlemanly thing to do.  One of the ladies looked at me and smiled and wished me a good morning.  It’s a little thing on both of our parts, but I could tell that she saw a respectful man when she looked at me and that made me feel proud of who I’m becoming.

I used to talk a lot about transition being also a transformation and I certainly still believe that to be true, especially for myself.  I see this as an opportunity to finally be the person I’ve always known I was, not only on the outside, but on the inside as well.  It’s a rare and precious gift to be given this chance at bettering myself and becoming whole in mind, body and spirit.  My mind has some catching up to do with my body and spirit but eventually it will get there.  There have been moments when I’ve felt like I’m splitting apart mentally and that I don’t know who I am anymore.  This has been known to scare the crap right out of me.  But, I think it’s part of the process of breaking out of the old programming and creating a new pattern for myself.  I ask myself sometimes, “who is Shawn and how is he different than Dawn?”  It’s a complicated and paradoxical question to ask oneself.  Technically we are the same person, owning the same soul and spirit, personality, body, history, possessions, talents, skills, knowledge, etc.  The differences are subtle.  Shawn isn’t necessarily a better person than Dawn.  Dawn was a pretty awesome person in her own right and set up a fantastic future for Shawn to traverse.  The difference lies mostly in the fact that Shawn is sure of himself in a way that Dawn was never able to be.  Shawn knows that people really see him.  Dawn was always afraid that people WOULD see her.  Shawn knows who he is.  Dawn was always searching for answers to questions she had never asked herself before.  Yet, Shawn has big shoes to fill in a lot of ways.  He can’t rest on Dawn’s accomplishments and just coast through the rest of this life.  He needs to make his own mark and accomplish his own goals.  This is where it starts to get really fun and interesting to see what he comes up with next.

Wardrobe Malfunctions and General Grumpiness

I had one of those mornings today where nothing i put on to wear felt right to me.  Strangely, I had thought those days were long over since I now have the luxury of wearing anything I want.  Apparently they aren’t.  I used to blame my tantrums over my wardrobe on hormones, or my period, or chest dysphoria.   I didn’t want to wear another polo shirt today and I didn’t want to wear jeans.  I’m getting sick of wearing the same old crap day in and day out.  But I work in a shop and I don’t dare to wear anything nice to work either, so I have about 5 black or navy blue polos that I usually wear throughout the week.  It’s pretty boring and I was wanting something different today.  Part of my problem is that I’ve lost weight in the past year and top surgery has made my shirts all much looser than they used to be, so I end up feeling frumpy in even my nicer clothes.  I found a pair of black chinos that I had forgotten I had and put them on.  I couldn’t decide on a shirt.  I must have put on four shirts until I settled on a light blue plaid button up that I used to really enjoy wearing.  It’s way too big now but I tucked it in and it looked a lot better.  I surveyed myself in the full length mirror in my bedroom and decided that it was the best I could do so I proceeded to get myself out of the house.  About a third of the way to work (I have a 20 minute commute), I started getting a panicky anxiety attack about how I looked today and I turned around to go back home.  I made a deal with myself that I’d just get a t shirt to take in case I needed to take the shirt off later in the day.  Once I was home, I ended up changing into one of my better v-neck t shirts and, though I still wasn’t in love with my reflection, I decided to stick with it and go to work.

So what’s the problem?  What did that shirt trigger in me?

What I saw in the mirror looking back at me was an old man.  A grumpy old man.  A fat, grumpy old man.  I have a grumpy resting face.  I wish I didn’t, but I do.  I have a lot of extra skin around my neck from losing weight and it makes me look older than I am.  I don’t love my face like I used to and that upsets me.  I like it better than I did before I lost weight and started T but it’s still a very different face than I used to have for most of my life and I don’t like it as well.  I look in the mirror and don’t really recognize myself anymore.  And I’m not in love with the new look.  Plus, I need a haircut and that always puts me in a grumpy mood.  And my hair is a bone of contention that I’ve been trying to ignore for a while now.  I used to have really nice thick hair and I really liked it.  T has thinned it out and I’m still getting my haircuts from the same lady that did them before I started transitioning.  She does a little clipper work on the bottom and sides now but the top is still styled like it used to be.  I’m not 100% happy with it.

Maybe I’m just in a bad mood today and nothing is going to make me happy.

Maybe it’s the black chinos throwing me out of whack.

Maybe I need to go to a barber and get a proper men’s haircut.

Maybe I need some clothes that fit me properly.

Maybe it’s the fact that I’m still struggling with my identity and when I wear button up shirts it makes me feel like the whole world sees me and that makes me feel naked and vulnerable.

Maybe this is one of those days where I just don’t have it in me to go to work and present as male and deal with that if someone who I haven’t come out to happens to walk in and wants to talk to me.

I’m tired.  I’m tired of thinking about gender all of the time.  I’m tired of not feeling comfortable in my own skin or the clothes I want to wear.  I’m tired of seeing my old, grumpy, sad face reflecting back at me in the mirror.  I want to look younger and happy.  I’m tired of feeling afraid to be out in public in fear of running into someone I used to know before I transitioned and dealing with their shock or having to explain.  I want a fresh start in a new place where I can just be myself and not worry about going about my life.  I want to go to work and do my job without the fear of some old “friend” popping in to say hi and asking for Dawn.  I’m tired of being ashamed of myself and living in fear.

Maybe it’s just all getting to me today.

 

 

An Epic Journey

I have a little sun room in my house where I like to sit in the morning, sipping coffee while reading or writing on my laptop.  I remember sitting there five years ago feeling desperate, alone, misunderstood, unloved, depressed, tears streaming down my face as I struggled to decide whether to start moving towards transition or not.  My relationship was near ruin and on the brink of breaking apart.  We had just built a beautiful new home that I dearly loved and all I could see was that if I moved forward towards living as male I would lose everything I had built over the past 15 years, including my partner and my pets.  My business was struggling too because I had been ignoring it for the past couple of years due to a vast depressive period I had gone through.  My life was falling apart.  I had escaped into an alternate reality to escape my life and now it was all coming to a head and there was no avoiding reality any longer.

I had to do something.

But I felt boxed in.  Every direction I looked all I saw was loss. All of my options were lose-lose.  Where was the win in any of this?  I couldn’t see any.  My partner had made it plainly clear that if I transitioned than we were done.  And if I transitioned I’d be alone, poor, probably living on a cot in my shop and eating instant mac and cheese if I could even afford that.  And how would I even attempt to transition without any money or health insurance?  This was my rock bottom and it was pretty awful.

I look back at that time now and I’m overwhelmed by how far I’ve come.  How far my family and friends have come.  How far my relationship and my business have come.  I still have my partner, my pets, my home and my business.  All are thriving.  And me?  I’m living as a man.  Sure, my partner still calls me she, but we’re working on that.  Or we will be soon.

How did I get here?  Well, my partner and I separated for a few months and slowly started “dating” each other again.  I started seeing a gender therapist who sent me to an endocrinologist for hormones who also checked other things and found that my thyroid levels were very low.  So I started taking thyroid pills two weeks before I started taking a low dose of T (androgel).  Remarkably, the thyroid pills made me feel better immediately.  My mood lifted significantly from that alone.  And then I added the T in and my outlook on life shifted 180 degrees.  In my darkest hours, alone, separated from my family, I knew without a shadow of a doubt that this was all going to work out somehow.  I had no idea how, but I was 100% convinced that it would.

And the rest, as they say, is history.  My partner and I slowly rebuilt trust and our life together again.  I came out to some close friends.  I changed my name.  I had a hysterectomy and top surgery.  I went from a low dose to a full dose of T (about 2 years ago).  And now, I get called sir at drive-thrus and can walk into the men’s room without anyone batting an eye.  It’s amazing!

But before I got to this point I had to go through what, for me, was the second hardest part of transitioning (first being the initial decision to begin).  And that was being in the muddy middle ground between male and female and nobody, including myself, knowing whether I was a girl or a boy.  I struggled hard with my identity at this point.  I didn’t know who I was anymore.  Every day I could feel my old, female self slipping further and further away and this new, more masculine, awkward person emerging.  I wanted to go hide in a cave until it was over.  It was hard to leave my house and go to work, see people, interact with people I have known a long time.  I felt so naked and self conscious.  Vulnerable.  Raw.  Exposed.  My mask was slipping off and I couldn’t hide it anymore.  My deeper voice and receding hairline were giving it away no matter what clothes I wore.  There was no closet big enough for me to hide in.  I couldn’t just stay home all of the time.  This was not an option.

So, with the knowledge that the only way out was through I made a bold decision to just come out about it to as many people as I could as quickly as possible and stop hiding who Shawn is.  I brought Shawn out into the light of day as boldly as I dared, despite my pounding heart and sweaty, shaking hands.  I stood up naked for all to see and it was terrifying at first.  But no one freaked out (well, maybe one person, but she’s better now) and the sky did not fall in on me.  I still have my partner and home and business and pets.  And now I have more friends that I’ve made through blogging and my connections in the trans community.  I have more support than ever and my relationships are genuine and honest, completely honest, for the first time in my life.  No hiding who I really am anymore.  I’m strong enough now to honestly say to myself that if they don’t really like me enough to accept this about me than I don’t need them in my life.  That, my friends, is a HUGE triumph!  I’m so proud of myself for getting to this point that I feel like I could burst.

Last weekend, Candace’s mom had a commitment ceremony with her boyfriend at the annual family reunion.  She asked me to stand up with Candace and her other daughter’s family with her at the ceremony.  She asked me if I wanted to wear what the other men were going to wear.  Yes!  I was nervous.  I’ve never been in a wedding type ceremony before and the whole family was there to watch and SEE who I am now.  Candace reminded me that no one was going to pay attention to me since this wasn’t about me.  Yeah, right!  They noticed me.  Anyway, I did it and a lot of people told me how great I look and no one made any negative comments to me or Candace.  Were they talking about me in private?  I have NO doubt that they were.  And I’m ok with that.

Changing people’s perceptions of us takes a lot of time, effort and patience.  This is a big ship to turn and it doesn’t happen overnight.  Little by little, slowly, gradually, people  start to acknowledge and appreciate who we have always known ourselves to be.  The first step is always in accepting that yourself.  Bringing that which has been hidden out into the light is both liberating and terrifying.  But, just like with anything new and raw, with enough time, light and air, it starts to feel normal and healthy.  Some of us are braver than others.  I am by far not the bravest person in the world.  Most of the time I’m wrought with anxiety, indecision and self doubt.  Most of this process has been extremely slow and gradual.  Excruciatingly slow and gradual.  But that’s the way I had to do it for my own comfort.  Every so often I put a little bit more of myself out there for the world to see and once I’m comfortable with that I add something else.  Some things are bigger than others, like changing my name.  But some things are as small as wearing a button down shirt instead of a polo to work one day.  Or wearing a binder, or a packer.  Will anyone notice?  Will anyone say anything?  It’s all about testing the waters and finding what’s right for me.  And the process continues.  I’ve been growing out my chin and mustache hair for the past month.  I’m sure people have noticed but no one’s said anything to me.  I’m just laying this on top of all the other coming out layers I’ve already set down in place.  This is anything but methodical, but in a way it is.  It’s about testing the waters and gaining confidence.  Do a little thing and observe.  Do another little thing and observe.  Nothing bad happened so lets do another little thing.  Layer upon layer upon layer upon layer.  Thin, delicious slices like a Smith Island cake*.

smith island cake

Classic Smith Island Cake

Eventually you get something that looks like your true self.  Which is continually evolving and changing anyway, so there’s always new layers being added onto the base of what you previously built.  Cake upon cake.

stacks of cakes

Transition, for me, has been more like a death and a rebirth than a transition.  Dawn was already dying when this all began five years ago.  Shawn emerged from the fire of burning down what was left of her.  I’m a better and much improved version of myself now.  Everyone who knows me can see this.  It’s not only about how I look but how much more open and authentic I am now.  I’m still learning to let my guard down, but I’m a lot less guarded and shielded than I’ve ever been before.  My walls had to come down in order to traverse this path.  I’m more at peace with myself and with life now.   I’m less angry.  I’m more patient.  My anxiety and depression is better.  Life is all about evolving and learning as far as I’m concerned.  Staying stuck and stagnant is certain death for me and that’s where I was five years ago.  I’m so thankful that I woke up when I did and had the courage to move forward into a new, uncertain future in spite of all that I seemingly had to lose to get here.  The journey has been incredible and in some ways, it’s just beginning.

 

*Note:  If you’re curious about the Smith Island cake or Smith Island itself, here are a few links of interest:

http://msa.maryland.gov/msa/mdmanual/01glance/symbols/html/dessert.html

https://smithislandcake.com/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smith_Island,_Maryland

Enough is Enough

Today’s post is a bit of a rant.  I’m actually starting to feel like my old self again, which is good, but I’m also kind of in a grumpy mood today.  I’ve been ruminating about something that was said to me by my brother’s care-taker shortly after I had my top surgery and the more I think about it the more ticked off it makes me.  She told me that he was angry that I had surgery because A) His life sucks and he can’t do anything he wants and I always get to do whatever I want and B) I took this all too far.  It’s part B that ticks me off.  Part A is just typical childishness from a 66 year old boy who has the mental capacity of a thirteen year old.  I’m not being mean (well maybe I am).  It’s the truth though.  Mentally, he is not right and doesn’t function without help.  So why should part B bother me then?

The answer to why it bothers me so much is not that I really care what he thinks.  I don’t.  But the attitude that this is just some kind of bullshit game of dress up and pretend is something that I don’t get just from him but from other people in my life.  I’m not naming names here, but I have heard that I won’t have the guts to do this (transition).  That I never follow through with anything and this is just another thing that I’m using to desperately find happiness.  There are people close to me who still are not using my male pronouns even though I have explicitly asked them to do so.  These people are affecting how other people treat me since they are not leading the way.  They are being supportive in a passive-aggressive kind of way.  Supportive of this, but not of that.  Picking and choosing what they’re comfortable with with little regard to how it makes me feel.

So when my brother says I took this too far, it hurts.  When people who say they love me and support me don’t use my pronouns and still refer to me as a she to strangers and friends, it hurts.  Seriously folks, this is not a fricking game I’m playing.  I’m not pretending to be a trans man.  I am a trans man.  If it makes you uncomfortable that I am finally living my life on my terms that’s just too damned bad.  I’m not apologizing.  No one has ever apologized to me for making me feel uncomfortable being mis-gendered my entire life.  No one has ever said, “I am so sorry that I made you feel like an outcast and a misfit because you just were not like the other little girls.”  or “I’m sorry I forced you to live as a girl when you always knew that was wrong.”  or “I’m sorry I didn’t listen to you about what was wrong.”  No, society will never apologize to us for the degrading and pathologizing and outcasting that they have done to any of us.  They did nothing wrong.  And, well, they didn’t really.  They were just playing their scripts the way they were taught them without thinking it through.  But their thoughtlessness hurt us and it’s still hurting us.  Cis-gender people are so arrogant that they think they can tell me when enough is enough in my transition and actually have the audacity to get angry at me for over stepping what they think is far enough.  Cis-gender people get angry when we impose our need to be seen and treated like who we are instead of what they want to see.  We’re such an imposition on them.  It’s too much work to remember new names and new pronouns.  It’s just too hard!  We ask too much and go too far with all this transition nonsense.  After all, no one’s ever going to take us seriously as our true gender any way.  Why are we wasting our time and making them so uncomfortable?

Why, indeed?

Because it’s time.  It’s time to put an end to the cruelty and abuse of being forced to live and treated like someone we’re not and never have been.  It’s time to end the brainwashing of cis-normative, hetero-normative society on our children and adults.  It’s time to stand up and stake a claim for what is our birthright.  I am beyond sick of other people telling me who and what I am.  Those people don’t know me.  Not really.  They only know what they think they know or want to know.  But they don’t really know who I am or they would never, ever call me she or tell me I’ve gone too far.  I’ve known since I was a child that I wasn’t really a girl but I let them bully me into trying to conform to what they expected of me.  No more!  I have really gotten to a point in my life where other people’s comfort around who I am is not of any concern to me anymore.  I have earned the right to not give a damn.  We all have.  Those people with the audacity to dictate to us what is enough and what is too much have no right to tell me anything is too much.  They have not walked one minute in my shoes and they never will.  Hell, they wouldn’t last a day if they tried.  They think they understand.  They don’t.  They can’t.  There’s no way they can understand that which is outside of their realm of understanding.  But they can leave us alone to live our lives how we see fit and stop judging us and dictating to us and pretending to care until it gets too hard for them.

Rant over.