My new life as a transexual

I would like to start by apologizing for the long break between posts. A little thing called life intervenes and my writing suffers. Family, health, work, friends, and a couple video games sucked up some time. Add in the sudden death of a friend from cancer and on the other end of the emotional scale a wedding between two close friends and writing didn’t have a chance. Also there was a lot of deep thoughts that I had to process. All this has lead me to rethink this blog. I started it when I was struggling to find out who I was and who I was becoming. I’ve kind of outgrown the FrugalCD. It’s not who I am anymore. I’ve been toying with a new blog focusing on the next stage in my life. I’ll let you all know when I make my decision. Until then I’ll keep plodding along.

I had two comments to recent posts I stopped to consider. I haven’t responded until know because I didn’t want to throw out whatever quick comment my brain kicked out. In one the commenter laid out a scenario where my transition would destroy most of what makes my life worth living. Regret would rule my life if I continued on my transitional path. It was suggested I examine my life and stop living a fantasy and detransition. Then I could be happier and things would be normal again. Well considering I had a regret or two and some doubts I thought it wise not to dismiss this offhand.

The second commenter looked back into the depths of my archive to pull out passages where I mentioned I was turned on sexually by dressing female. This person called me an autogynophile. For those that don’t know what this means I’ll explain. Psychiatry professor Ray Blanchard coined the term which basically states that male to female transexuals fetishize having a female body. The commenter was so sure of this diagnosis that they posted it to a blog that calls out autogynephiles. As much as that idea seemed absurd I also decided to think on this.

I’m taking these topics in reverse order. I dug through my brain to get at the reasons I wanted to live as a woman. Was one of them because I coveted a female body? Was I that aroused at the idea of me having breasts and possibly a vagina? Could I be suffering from autogynephilia? I will admit to checking myself out in the mirror waiting for the body changes HRT would bring on. I couldn’t wait for my chest to bud into real breasts. I may even have pleasured myself (while the equipment functioned) reveling in my newly developing female body. After about a year on HRT and almost a year and a half of being full time at work things changed. My body just was. I cleaned it, dressed it, worked out in it; basically I took care of it. My body is a source of pleasure including sexual pleasure. But so was my old body, just in a different way. I wasn’t running around in sexy outfits, fondling my boobs and masturbating furiously to myself. I went on with my life as boring and mundane as ever. Nowadays if I fondle myself it’s to do a breast self exam, not exactly sexy (a necessity given the history of breast cancer in my family) I look in the mirror and don’t think “you’re hot!”, I think “should have done a couple more reps at the gym”. My libido has been tempered by the hormones and I love it. Before I had the typical male feelings towards sex, it clouded my thoughts and colored my relationships with women. I had sex on the brain. Today, right now, I crave closeness and love. The feel of my wife’s hand in mine as we walk down the beach. Lesbian maybe, autogynophiliac hardly.

As for the second commenter and his concerned plea for me to detransition. Happiness and regret are part of my life. Male or female it doesn’t matter. I regret not taking a sales job at a large marketing firm in my early twenties. I regret not finishing my college degree. I regret not being at my mom’s side as she was dying. I regret putting my family through my transition. I regret not transitioning sooner.

I have talked to a number of people who regret transitioning. Some detransitioned. I learned about their regrets and their choices. I had a long conversation with a transwoman who had major regrets about having gender reassignment surgery. I didn’t go into transition in a vacuum. I also had doubts. But I sought these people out to hear their stories. I had a need to hear the worst so I could make informed decisions. The first support group I attended nearly every participant told me to be ready to lose everything; my family, my job, my home if I transitioned. Why did they tell me this? Because they had lost everything. However I also sought out the couples that made it all work. Not the ones with a bisexual or lesbian partner who embraced their partners change of gender. I sought the straight partners, the ones who struggled against everything and stayed with their trans partners. The common threads amongst their stories are love and time. A love that says “don’t give up just yet”. Time to see where that love leads.

Time, for many in transition, especially late transitioners is a commodity in short supply. The tendency to want it all now can cause us to rush forward leaving our loved ones fighting to catch up. Sometimes the pace is too much for even the most well meaning partner or family. They give up. They stop trying to run with you. Emotions will flare. The loved ones will accuse the trans person of being extremely selfish (transition in and of itself is a selfish process). In turn the transitioner might counter with “you are trying to hold me back!”

I made a conscious decision to work through my issues at an almost glacial pace. I was even accused by other trans people as giving into my families demands to not transition. The thing is neither of us, me and my family, knew what transition was going to be like. Fear, plain and simple ruled over us. My fear of never being able to finally be myself. My wife’s fears that I would destroy my kids’ lives and that I would be running around like some over made up drag queen in a sequined ball gown and stripper heels. I forced myself to work through each small step. I had starts and stops. I had small detransitions. Eventually it became clearer to my wife and I that transition was inevitable. Still I went slow. I didn’t start HRT until long after I was issued my prescriptions. I only dressed as female at work for two years before it became a burden on me. Even then I would leave dressed after my kids went to school and changed before I came home. After two and a half years I finally came out to my boys. It ended up being anticlimactic. They pretty much figured it out and were waiting for myself or their mother to confirm it.

Jump forward another year and a half. My older son’s girlfriend and her family have met me. They have no issues with my son having two moms. My younger son I thought would have the most problems with me being a woman. So far since I came out his grades have soared. He has more friends and even invites them over to play video games. He’s not ashamed of me being trans. In many ways he’s proud of having a dad with such a unique life. He even volunteered to go to Arizona with me to see my dad before he passed. Then there is my daughter. She has grown up and moved out on her own. My biggest fear four years ago was losing her. When I came out she said “if you become a woman I will hate you for the rest of my life”. Since then her boyfriend has watched me transition. He still gives me a hug when they come over for dinner once a week. My daughter and I attended our first lesbian wedding where we even participated as legal witnesses. Her roommate used to be in a lesbian relationship but now she’s seeing a trans guy. In my daughter’s life LGBTQI aren’t just letters, they represent friends, customers and family members.

Lastly there is my wife. We became friends before we started dating. Over five years went by before we considered marriage. She thought she knew me while I thought I knew myself. When I came out to her she felt betrayed. I was accused of lying to her. She also accused me of using her to get a family. We fought more that year than in our first twenty years of marriage combined. Both of us felt lost. We talked and yelled, sobbed and sometimes laughed. She was afraid of what everyone would think of her. She hated that people would assume we are lesbians. My wife tried to understand and to find help. More often than not she was told to either accept me and my transness or get out while you can. Each step in my transition brought more pain and fighting. She watched with aching slowness her husband dissolve away to be replaced by ‘some woman’. Then we confronted the biggest lie trans people tell. We say “but I’m still the same person inside”. Parts of who you used to be have to change otherwise you end up the same miserable person you were before transition. There are also things trans people feel they have to rid themselves of to make room for the new feminine things (or masculine in the case of female to male persons). My wife complained that this new ‘girl’ I was become lost everything that made me, me. For me the turning point was when I stopped trying to be female and let myself just be. I started doing those things I liked doing before transition. My sense of humor gradually came back. She started to see in me the things that made her like me when we met. I became a woman who didn’t rely on ‘girly’ things to be female (oh I’m still very femme though). I ended up being a true female version of my male self.

My wife and I have reached a point where we can go food shopping and being clocked as a lesbian couple is no longer a big deal. She even laughs when people try to guess our relationship. Her response is usually “you wouldn’t believe it if you tried”. We argue over the same old shit we did before transition. Talking about trans things doesn’t cause her to run out of the room in tears. And we end our days sleeping in the same bed together; sometimes sharing it with the two cats when they let us.

Things aren’t perfect. But time gave us the opportunity for her to see how much happier I am. It also showed her that we raised great kids together. My being a woman hasn’t ruined their lives. The only difference is that their dad is the woman in a tank top and yoga pants dropping them off at school. Transition has not been easy for us. But in many ways it’s changed our family for the better.

So, let’s sum all this up. Since I’m not sexually obsessed with my female body, I’m not an autogynophiliac. (Shocking revelation here, none of the trans women I know are. Well maybe one, she’s weird). I’m still married to a wonderful woman. My kids aren’t scarred for life. I happen to be happier and more productive at work. Which kind of rules out the idea that I’ll be happier going back to being my old miserable male self. In fact this average trans woman is looking forward to whatever transition brings in the years to come. Good or bad. I’ll leave it to eternity to figure it out.

When people say “how could you do this to your loved ones?” I am reminded by something my wife said years ago. My daughter talked her mom into dying her hair purple. A group of moms were picking up their kids from school and they made some nasty comments to my wife. They seemed very offended by her purple hair. In front of my daughter and her friends she turned to these women and shouted, “I bet you have never done anything for yourselves to make you feel happy”. That day she earned the respect of her daughter and a dozen little girls. It also just happens to sum up what transition is all about.

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Buttlerflys

I was watching an episode of the UK series Black Mirror. In this episode a widow receives a synthetic replica of her dead husband. At first she is overjoyed to have her lost love back. After a while she starts to notice the subtle differences that distinguish a live human from a synthetic one. In the end she can’t stand to have it around. She wants it to terminate itself but in the end she can’t let it. The synthetic husband then ends up in the attic. It is still in the house but not part of the family. Tolerated because of what it represents, not for what it is.

I wonder if that’s my role in the home. Kept on because of the memories I invoke but not because of what I am. In some ways I look back and remembered feeling like that synthetic being. Able to recite memories and events trying hard to match up the appropriate emotions or reactions to them. Failing that asking for the expected response. My situation however is like the reverse of the television show. Now I feel like the complete emotional and physical being who comes after the automaton.

But is that the way my wife and kids see it? They knew me for so long as someone who filled the role of husband and father. Acting like I was following a prepared script with multiple choices for outcomes. Like a robot reading a Chose Your Own Adventure book. Could it be that that was all they expected of me? And now, it’s like I am a being that reminds them too much like the former self. A new being that is too different, too alien for them to relate to. This new being doesn’t follow the scripts; it wants to create new and sometimes out of the ordinary experiences.

I noticed during the show that the synthetic being was aware of what he was. He also seemed to know he owed his existence to the dead husband. He was able to simulate the husband by reading emails and text messages. Also by watching videos of the husband before his death. But there were still gaps in his portrayal. Subtle nuances he couldn’t grasp.

I wonder about this as it pertains to my transition. I owe my existence to the another. A man with a wife and family who loved him. A man who had to give up his life so that I could live. My family says I am not the same. Did I lose those nuances that made him, him? I am told by other trans people that I am now living a more authentic life. The thing is he did live a life just as authentic. He had friends, family, several jobs, hobbies, skills, memories.

Aren’t caterpillars just as authentic as the butterfly’s they become? Or, as in the narratives of many trans people their former selves (the caterpillar) were a shell, a pantomime of a ‘real’ person (or butterfly)? Does the butterfly retain all that made the caterpillar ‘real’? Or in becoming a butterfly is the caterpillar destroyed in the change?

I thought in honor of the Transgender Day of Visibility, I would post this.

 

I had to go to the local urgent care facility the other night. The attending doctor brought up my medical record and started asking questions. First off she remarked about my age, “you are almost 50? Wow, you look so young.” I blushed. “I see you are on progesterone; do you still have your uterus?” This confused me and I said no. “When was your hysterectomy?” I had to stop her at this point to mention I was a male to female trans person. I was never born with female reproductive organs.

 

This made her pause and stare. That’s when I realized she never paid attention to my gender marker which clearly says ‘M’. “You look amazing, very pretty”, said the doctor. “I’ve had transexual patients before, but you, I would never had guessed.” She finished her exam and concluded I had a UTI. After entering my prescription for antibiotics, she stared at me again. “You haven’t had any surgeries?” I shook my head no. She said “you are a very lucky woman”.

 

“You are a very lucky woman,” I started thinking about that. I don’t feel lucky. I was born with a defect that caused my mind to be misaligned with my body. During my childhood I was raised to live as the gender that was counter to my internal sense of gender. I even grew up believing that I was male. I tailored my life to fit that assumption until it became impossible for me to continue. I don’t call that luck. More like a curse.

 

“Lucky woman”. If I take a look at how my transition has gone I guess others (especially trans folk) would consider me lucky. My body is slight of build and my features soft compared to most males. I am short for a man but average height for a woman. In grade school and even beyond, people remarked at how feminine my hands were. I do not suffer from male pattern baldness. My Adam’s apple is not prominent. I wear a woman’s size 8 shoe. I am wholly unremarkable.

 

I live a life one would consider semi-stealth. I don’t advertise I am trans. However, I do not deny it if asked. But I’m not asked often. Even when I have to present my ID which hasn’t been changed I get people telling me  I have my husband’s ID. A few have expressed bewilderment that I am still forced to use that documentation. All the while I am still gendered in their eyes as female. They rarely use the wrong pronouns.

 

Why then would I consider all this as my doing an injustice to the trans community. For the very reason that I am not visible. I am not an example for trans people because the public doesn’t consider me trans. People expect masculine features, a heavy voice, prominent Adam’s apple or big hands. They almost expect a ‘man in a dress’ which trans people (MTF) definitely are not. I do not willfully out myself to make a point or to educate others. I don’t march in pride parades or do any public speaking. There are members of my own community who look at me with envy or jealousy. I feel unwelcome at times because of this. Also my trans narrative doesn’t fit the ones we come to regard as commonplace for MTF trans people. As such I don’t share what would be considered common experiences many transgender people have. No one has cast trans slurs at me. I have not been openly discriminated against because of my appearance or manner.  I have never been denied medical treatment because I am trans. I am not divorced or have estranged children or family members.

 

There are times I laugh to myself. A horrible, cynical laugh. I look at the people who call me ma’am and miss and wonder if they are blind. I want to know why they can’t see the obvious masculine traits I see in the mirror every morning. I can’t believe they just gloss over the light stubble on my jaw and upper lip. How can they possibly hear my obviously non female voice and still gender me female?

 

What it all comes down to is they see a woman, plain and simple. They don’t pick up on a masculine vibe that isn’t there. They don’t see hard edges and strong features that never really existed. They hear a voice that has the right intonation if not the right pitch. The world believes me to be another cisgender woman. In my heart and soul I know myself as trans. I am invisible in my visibility.

This past Wednesday I took another step forward in my life. I saw my therapist that morning and finally asked for the letter that was offered to me months ago. He brought up the previous letter and updated it. Then he filled out the contract for GRS surgery and asked me several questions relating to informed consent. I answered, then he handed me the contract which I initialed and we both signed. Done. Maybe twenty minutes top and my life had changed dramatically again.

Since starting my transition I was pretty clear that I didn’t need surgery to live my life. I still don’t ‘need’ it. My wife asked me at the beginning “So this means you want THE surgery?” I said not now, maybe not ever, but there may come a time when I DO want it. She cried hard that night. Not since her parents passed away had she cried so much. It broke my heart.

In the two and a half years since that night my transition has gone very well. I work full time as a woman, I have come out to my family, and I no longer try to hide who I am. Recently a sense of wrongness about my body has been building. My dysphoria has increased and I see no signs of it abating. What it comes down to is I ‘want’ GRS for myself. I thought I could push it aside. I can’t anymore. I didn’t even realize how much in denial I was until my therapist handed me the bright pink folder (coincidence) that held my copies of the paperwork. I went to shake his hand and say thank you. But I was overcome and hugged him fiercely. I thanked him while on the verge of tears. He quietly and calmly said into my ear “Don’t thank me Rachel, you have earned this”.

Whatever happens in this next year I can handle it. This could even be the final step that ends my marriage. I may have to prepare for that possibility. One thing is certain; I finally believe in my heart I have earned this.

Music, faces, and assholes

While eating my microwave lasagna I was struck by the inspiration hammer. Ouch. Lately I have had a few things on my mind; music, faces, and assholes. This seems like it will be hard to explain. Not really; music is a common thread in my life.

I love music. There really isn’t a genre that doesn’t have at least one song or instrumental piece that I like. My only problem is that I find tremendous amounts of meaning in each one. Some, more than others. The ones that have the most significance appeal to my ADD side. One song on my iPod will be set to repeat for hours, days or weeks at a time. I listen to it while walking, working, driving, mowing the lawn, you name it. I drive my kids nuts when they need to be driven places. For example I played Dave Days “If I Was a Girl” and Katy Perry “Firework” and Lady GaGa “Born This Way” continuous for the first few months of my transition. A few months ago I played “Sharp Dressed Man” by ZZ Top for a few days straight. I was working out how I felt about my male side. Then came Muse “The Resistance” which spoke to my need to fight against our societies treatment of LGB and especially T people. The song helped me work out a rage that was building inside. Another Muse song “Follow Me” helped me deal with the attempted suicide of a friend and my part in stopping it. The song also gave me hope for two close friends who are deeply in love but seperated by a continent and an ocean. Someday one of them eventually follow the other to safety and happiness. However the last song on my recent repeat fear was “Applause”. I have listened to this song over 300 times, over and over. I had to face my need for attention, my deep need for affirmation, my craving for adulation. I only stopped playing it a few days ago. I’ve come to terms with this side of my personality and it’s time to move on. I’m in a period where I set my entire playlist to repeat and shuffle. I take the good and the bad feelings the music brings out equally. Balance.

How do faces fit in to all this? Well I have one. Most people do. For a transwoman a face is more important than almost any other body feature. It’s how others first perceive us. However many of us have to overcome the effects of testosterone. Our features carry telltale signs of maleness. Heavy brows, square jaws, strong chins. All things that can be picked up by others. At worst these features trigger those people to gender us male. At best,with the help of hormones we can pass as our true gender. In between is androgeny, and people will struggle to gender us. They are comfortable with the binary, male and female. Anything else causes confusion. A friend of mine recently underwent facial feminization surgery. Her surgeon performed several procedures to reduce any prominent male features. The final result will be to soften and feminize her face. Once she is healed her gender should no longer be in question. People will see only a woman. In my case I usually pass on hormones alone. I happened to win the genetic lottery starting off with softer male features. Friends and coworkers tell me how feminine I look, even saying I’m pretty. But I look in the mirror and can’t see it. I can’t see ‘her’. I obsess over every little line and ridge. To me my face screams male. I take dozens of pictures of myself, trying to catch a glimpse of this mystery woman. I post a few to my Facebook page. Most without makeup, without Photoshop touch ups. Just raw me. After 2 1/2 years of transition that woman is beginning to become visible. I catch a sideways glance in a mirror or my reflection in a window. The face is mine, still recognizable as me, but different. I have thought about facial surgery. And it scares me. My fear is not about the surgery, it’s the result. A good surgeon could make me beautiful but that face may not be recognizable. The face I have now is a feminine version with all the little flaws that allow my wife to see a resemblance to her husband, and my kids to see their dad. The hardest thing I have had to do during my transition is recognize my own beauty. I will never be a supermodel, I will be a super me. “Dub step Violin” by Lindsey Stirling is on my playlist. The music fills my heart with joy and I feel like dancing.

Which finally brings me to assholes. Everyone has one, but some people qualify as one. This week the governor of my birth state New Jersey proved he is an asshole and a transphobe. A bill to remove the surgery requirement for transgender people looking to change their birth certificate was vetoed by Governor Christie. I was in a rage when I found out. I have the opportunity to get my surgery but there are many that can’t. There are also trans children whose only form of ID is their birth certificate. These children are too young to have gender affirming surgery. The veto of this bill means these children could be subject to discrimination and loss of their privacy. This is why the bill should have been signed. Chris Christie’s ignorance of trans issues and unfounded fears over abuse and fraud just cement his reputation as an asshole and enemy of LGBTQI New Jersey residents. Cee Lo Green’s “Fuck You” just became his theme song.

Music reflects my moods and feelings. Whether I am thinking of myself, or friends, or even current events. If you ever happen to be a passenger in my car and “Kickstart My Heart” starts to play on the stereo, buckle up. When Mötley Crüe wrote “When I get high, I get high on speed” they must have had me in mind.

Whatever should I do?

The longer I go through my transition the more things I tend to be exposed to. However, it seems at times that exposure isn’t enough. For some reason it’s expected that I conform in some way. Umm, no.

I am a Christian, catholic to be exact. I don’t hide that fact but neither do I preach my beliefs on others. There have been a few times that I have been told I should be an athiest. Like atheism is in some way linked to being trans. On the other end I get confused looks when I say I am not the Gaia worshipping person I’m supposed to be. Is this assumed because I am female? No I do not pray to the Goddess. Nor do I tell others to pray to my God. In spite of the fact that my God is called Father, my personal belief is that he/she has no gender at all.

It seems that I have gotten things all wrong on the gender front too. I was told “you were always a girl”. Oh really?! So all those days spent hunting for frogs as the older brother, playing on sports teams with other males in school, getting married and becoming a father (as male) are negated? Seems like it. My brain may have been female because of a chromosome or hormone defect at birth but I grew up male. I was a happy boy. In fact for a long time I was a happy man. I never proscribed to the narrative that I knew when I was three, or five, or 15 that I was female. It was a gradual wearing down of self which triggered my need to transition. Sure looking back there were plenty of ‘aha!!’ moments that hinted at what was to come. I just did the best I could with what I had.

Lastly I was told that testosterone POISONED me. That my greatest goal was to rid myself if this horrible toxin. Maybe others truly believe that and who am I to dispute it. But, this is me I am talking about. I look at it not as a poison but a mistake of genetics. I was born with parts that generated a hormone with which my body wasn’t wholly compatible with. It did things I don’t care much for now and sometimes wish never happened. Testosterone did one positive thing, it was a biological tool that helped me live with my body as it was. My brain might be female but T helped me be more male to fit the body I got stuck with. It also was the catalyst in helping create three wonderful children, who by their very existence are changing the world. I am proud not to have deprived our planet with their presence. (You could say my God had a plan all along, or not. It may have just been random chance….oh like me being born with a male body) Presently I am fixing this hormonal imbalance in my body. It just trading the wrong one for the right one. Not detoxing.

So that’s basically it. I have my own views on life as a transwoman. I tend to live it on my own terms and I expect others to live their lives on their own terms as well. Unless of course when they are wrong and I am right. (That’s a joke in case transition also destroyed your sense of humor).

Today

It’s been almost three years since I felt the need to put my words and experiences down on electronic paper. Over two years of that time I have been able to be myself most of the time. Well, mostly at work. Home time is getting better. Also, I have been on HRT for a year now.

I am starting to realize how much of my life is just normal. I don’t obsess over the ‘girly’ things as much. I got descent at doing makeup, but hardly wear any at all nowadays. Nylons used to be a joy to wear, now they are another piece of clothing I put on when necessary. I have dozens of pairs of earrings, most of the time I wear titanium studs.

I am pretty much unable to do ‘guy’ anymore. I don’t put much effort into it actually. At work I am very femme. At home I am more butch. When I am in public I rarely get gendered male if at all. Even if I try, I get ma’am and ms. My son called me dad in front of a cashier (she was paying attention) she still said “here is your receipt ma’am”. An X-ray tech apologized to me the other day because my chart said male, she went to change it.

At all times I am just me. I watch auto racing. I cheer my football teams on when watching the games. I paint my toenails. I wear a bra because I have to. I do yard work. I put on eyeliner. Sometimes I feel I’m a boyish girl. Others I am a girlish boy. Gender has become fluid and changeable. It has less of a hold on me know.

There are still moments I wish I was a cis gender woman. Even fewer times I think about going back to what amounted to being a cis male. That thought usually comes back when I am with my wife. When I feel sad about taking the man she loved away from her. She has learned to like the new me for the most part. Sometimes I even surprise her by being someone she might even be in love with still. That is what keeps me going.

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