Accidental Fudge

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Big Days in Transness

Yesterday felt like a big day for me.

It was National Coming Out Day, which I have complicated feelings about – I feel like there can be too much emphasis on the importance of coming out and not enough on the importance of personal safety. Not everyone is privileged enough to be able to come out safely, and they shouldn’t feel like they need to do it “for the cause” if it means that they’re jeopardizing themselves.

I do have the privilege of relative safety, though, and I do feel like it’s important for me to be out and proud as much as possible, because I have seen firsthand the powerful change that can come about in people’s perspectives when they realize queer people and trans people are people they know, and not just nameless, faceless statistics.

After the election, I decided I was going to make a point to be more out at work. I was terrified, but I also felt like it was some small way that I could reclaim some power in what felt (and still often feels) like a hopeless situation. And then we added a new member to our department in the spring, and I decided that I wasn’t comfortable coming out to her, because we share an office and she seemed quite a bit more conservative than I am, and I didn’t want to make things awkward.

Two weeks ago, this coworker thought they had met a trans person for the first time, and she was freaking out about this person using the women’s restroom, and (probably assuming that, since I was a young, gay man, I could do this) she asked me to “explain transgender” to her.

I admit my initial reaction was not great – I laughed. What else could I do? So many of my coming out experiences have felt forced, and here was another. So I told her I was transgender (to which she responded, “No, you’re not!”). I told her we just need to pee like anyone else, that nothing was going to happen to her because a trans person was using the same restroom she was.

We haven’t talked about it since, but now I feel compelled, once again, to be out and proud wherever I can. I have so much privilege in that I am read 99% of the time as a cis man, and I’m white on top of that, and I need to use that privilege for good.

Aside from being National Coming Out Day, yesterday was my one-year post-op anniversary from chest masculinization surgery. It feels simultaneously like it’s been more and less than a year – on the one hand, I feel so much more comfortable in this body. On the other hand, I still vividly remember what it was like to bind every day (and my lungs remember, too), and when I am tired and have changed out of work clothes have occasionally had to remind myself that leaving the house again might mean putting on pants, but it doesn’t mean wrestling my way into a binder anymore.

Surgery was not a thing I thought I was going to want when I started thinking about transition, but it was definitely the right decision for me. I am still grateful and blown away that my insurance wound up paying for it. The fact that I had surgery doesn’t make me more trans (or more legitimate) than anyone else, but it was a way that I was able to make my body feel more like home, and really, that’s something I wish for everyone.

On Being a Burden

Yesterday was a rough news day here in the US, particularly for those of us who are trans, as we learned of 45’s intention to ban transgender people from serving in the military, ostensibly because our healthcare costs are too much of a burden.

First off, this is bullshit for a lot of reasons. 45 spends more on his trips to Mar-A-Lago than the military would spend on trans healthcare. The military spent ten times more on Viagra in 2014 than the high end of estimates of what healthcare for trans service members would cost. Estimating generously, trans healthcare would take up, at most 0.14% of the military’s healthcare budget. (Teen Vogue, who are delightfully leading the charge in the media revolution, aggregated some of this great info [which I also saw several other places] here.)

I’ll be honest: I think we spend entirely too much money on the military (or at least that we spend the money in the wrong way, when we focus on warmongering rather than caring for veterans in the aftermath of what we’ve put them through). But I’m afraid for the 10,000+ trans folks currently serving in the military. I’m afraid for trans veterans. And I’m afraid for trans folks in general, military aside. 

Because, here’s the thing: arguing that trans healthcare is too much of a burden for the bloated military budget to handle is only a short hop away from arguing that trans healthcare is too costly, period. As we watch Congress attempt to systematically dismantle the ACA and take healthcare away from millions of Americans, it’s not hard to imagine the GOP using this as a further selling point with their base. Because of the systemic oppression faced by trans people (particularly trans people of color), trans folks already often struggle to obtain and afford affirming healthcare. This is only going to make it harder. 

Trans people are not a burden. Treating us as human beings and affirming our identities is not a burden. But as I look at 45 and his fear- and hate-mongering, I find myself wishing that I could be a burden on his conscience. Sadly, to do that, he would need a conscience.

Three Years

Yesterday marked three years since I started this blog!

The fact that I’ve managed to write weekly posts for three years running with only a handful of missed weeks continues to amaze me. I often don’t know what I’m going to say when I sit down to write these posts. My life is not often terribly exciting or eventful (which is exactly how I like it – I am a creature of habit and routine), and it often feels like I don’t have much to talk about. But it still feels like a worthwhile exercise to make myself follow through each week.

Three years and a handful of weeks ago, I took my first shot of testosterone. I started this blog as a chronicle of my experience with transition, but it’s morphed over the years into something slightly different – still generally self-indulgent and focused around my life and experience most of the time, but it’s been less about transition directly and more about life generally, because I came to realize that, really, there weren’t weekly milestones in my physical transition to document. Broadly, it’s very exciting, but in the day-to-day, it’s really a rather boring process, and doesn’t make for very good blog fodder.

I appreciate those of you who come back each week to take a peek at the parts of my life that I share here. There aren’t huge numbers of you, but you come from all over the globe, and that’s pretty cool. Thanks for reading, and I hope you’ll join me for another year of Accidental Fudge!

Highs and Lows

via Mochimochiland on GIPHY

It’s been a rough week. I’m trying not to wallow in grief, because I feel that I have a responsibility to be ready to stand up for my fellow humans who don’t have a level of privilege that even gives them the option to wallow. As an introvert and a generally non-confrontational person, it’s hard not to feel totally paralyzed.

So I am starting small. I have two coworkers with trans or non-binary kids, and I am knitting things for both kids. I am commuting without headphones, so that I’m more alert and ready to stand up to harassment on transit. My partner and I are figuring out what we need to do to take care of each other.

I am grateful that despite the fact that all hell seems to have broken loose, I am in a pretty okay place personally, and well-supported by friends and chosen family. I am less afraid for myself than I am for a lot of the people around me, which is certainly a privileged place to be in.

In the midst of all of this, last Friday I hit one month post-op. I didn’t even realize it until I was about to go to bed. I’m still feeling really good about the decision to have surgery, and I’m really grateful I was able to do it when I did, but it’s hard to feel particularly celebratory when it feels like the whole country is going to pieces. Still, I hope you’ll permit me the small self-indulgence of a selfie from Friday, because I am pretty happy with how I look these days:

One month post-op

One month post-op

Heigh Ho, Heigh Ho, It’s Back to Work I Go…

Monday marked my first day of work after a three week absence for surgery and recovery. I worked from home to catch up on emails, and was back in the office on Tuesday.

When our office manager saw me Tuesday, he asked if I’d been bored taking so much time off.

I wasn’t.

It was really, really wonderful to not have to worry about work for a few weeks. The fact that I came back to an office packed pretty much wall-to-wall with computers and peripherals that need to be re-homed (which is not my job, but part of our department’s function sometimes), nearly preventing me from even getting to my desk, did not help to ease the transition back. I’ve felt claustrophobic in my windowless, packed office, achy and tired from so much extra activity, and just generally grouchy.

Still, it’s been nice to see the enthusiasm of coworkers at having me back in the office. Someone informed me on Tuesday that when she told her team I was back, they applauded.

I’m still healing well, although I’m trying hard not to push myself too much with being back at work. The last thing I want is to set myself back to the point where I need to take more days off from work, because I burned through all of my remaining personal and sick time for the three weeks I already took. I’m definitely in the place where I feel like I have more energy than I do, which means I crash a bit at night, and mornings feel like a challenge (although challenging mornings are sort of par for the course for my entire life).

Because I’m feeling like I have my energy back for the most part, and because I’m increasingly happy with how my body looks as it heals, I’m getting really excited about the prospect of self-care in the form of exercise. The problem is that I can’t really exert myself yet, and so I have all of this motivation to work out and very little ability to act on it for the next two or three weeks, by which point the motivation may or may not still be there. Meanwhile, I’m researching various gym and fitness program options and trying to figure out what my budget is for that.

The most exciting news from my week was that I learned that my insurance officially paid for surgery. I may still have a small portion to pay depending on how the hospital billed, but the $30,000+ bulk of the surgery has been covered, and that is an enormous relief!

Choices

I am continuing to heal. This has been the last week that I’ll get to take off from work, and while I’m really enjoying all the free time, there is definitely a part of me that’s looking forward to getting back into a routine.

It’s been an interesting week of lots of emotions, for reasons I’m not going to get into here (although if we’re friends, feel free to ask me about it elsewhere and I can fill you in). It’s also been my first full week without drains, and I feel like, despite some continued swelling on the right side of my chest, I am finally getting a sense of what my body looks like now.

I realized on Tuesday that I am already certain that undergoing this surgery was one of the best decisions I have ever made. I knew that I would feel different after surgery, and I was pretty sure that different would be better. I had no idea how much more comfortable I would feel in my skin, though. Even though I’m still in some pain and am far from fully healed, I’m still so much more comfortable. I can breathe so much more easily, not just metaphorically, but literally, my lung capacity has increased now that I’m not binding. And I’m sure that will continue once I’m done with the compression vest, too. (I started a new harmonica class at the Old Town School of Folk Music this week. It’s been about a year since I had my harmonicas out, and I could not believe how much easier it was to play now that I’m not fighting my clothing for deep breaths.)

I’m happier with how my shirts fit. I’ve been wearing a lot of hand knit sweaters this week, since it’s cooled off, and while I liked most of them well enough before, I like them even more now. The super oversized sweater I knit last year that I never really wore because I hated how it hung off my chest? Now it’s just a super oversized sweater that feels cozy and comfortable. I had thought I’d never really knit a cardigan because I hated how they gapped across my chest. No longer a problem!

I’m going to finish this post off, for the curious, with a link to a photo of one of my very first shirtless selfies, taken last week. If you’re weirded out by medical things, you might not want to click through (my incisions still look pretty gnarly), but for those of you interested in a visual on how my healing is going, you can find that here!

Recovery Continues

It’s been just over a week since I had chest masculinization surgery.

Generally, I’m feeling great. I’m beyond ready to have the drains removed, but by the time you read this, that’s probably already happened – the appointment is scheduled for Thursday morning. That’s also when I’ll get a better look at what my chest is really looking like. I’ve seen under the compression vest I’m in a couple of times now, but it’s been accompanied by the stress of a shower (which, when you’re not allowed to face the water or let the little nipple bolster/cushion things be hit directly by the water, and you don’t have your full range of arm motion, is a pretty stressful experience), and the ever-present drains were a factor then. Still, from what I can see, I’m pretty happy. The right side of my chest is pretty bruised, but that’s not particularly surprising after surgery. All in all, my biggest reaction so far has been feeling like this wasn’t that big of a change. This is untrue, but since my chest in real life now looks like it already did in my head, it feels a little like not much happened.

A couple of days ago I traded the heavier pain killers for ibuprofen, which has been working out fine. The worst I’ve had for pain has been what feel like muscle aches. Nothing too serious, mostly just distracting when it happens. The meds have done a good job of taking the edge off, which is about all I ever hope for with pain medication.

My partner’s dad stayed with us and helped out around the apartment for the past ten days; he went home last night. It was great to have him here, and I’m grateful for his help and support!

My week has mostly involved reading (I’ve finished Mara Wilson’s autobiography, Where Am I Now?, which I bought a few days before surgery, and Terry Pratchett’s Wintersmith, which my best friend sent me for recovery reading), knitting (slowly, on a project where tension and gauge don’t make much of a difference), napping, and watching movies. Which is to say it’s been relaxing and (thankfully) uneventful. Next week I will be totally on my own at home, so that’ll be an adventure, but I’m not worried about it. I’m supposed to go back to work the week after, but I might opt to work from home that week, just to ease back into things. We’ll see how it goes.

Thanks for all of your support. I’ve been flooded with sweet texts, emails, and Facebook messages, and I have no doubt all the love coming my way is part of what’s making this all go so smoothly.

Post-Op

Hello, friends! I am writing this Wednesday morning, my first full day post-op, so this is going to be a short one, probably.

Surgery happened yesterday afternoon, and went very well. The operation itself took less time than the surgeon had estimated it would, although I made up for that time in recovery (I was a sleepy bear and it took me a while to wake up all the way). I really wasn’t nervous at all – the entire staff at the surgical center was charming and kind, and I felt very well-informed every step of the way. By far the worst part of the process was getting the IV started (my line is always, “I am not afraid of needles, but my veins are,” and that definitely proved true yesterday), but even that wasn’t unbearable.

Today I’m pretty sore, but thanks to help from my partner and his dad, who came down to help us out this first week, I’m staying on top of meds and getting top-notch aftercare.

Thanks to everyone who has texted, emailed, Facebooked, or otherwise sent good vibes my way! I’m definitely feeling them.

Counting Down

The countdown to surgery is officially in the single digits, now. All the paperwork has been submitted, insurance has approved it, and I’m all set to go.

It still doesn’t feel totally real. But it’s getting closer to feeling like reality every day.

I’m excited, but it’s not a particularly exuberant excitement. I’ve got some pre-op jitters, for sure, but for the most part, I’m feeling pretty calm. It’s a quiet sort of excitement. It feels right. It’s been a long time coming, and considering the fact that binding is increasingly painful (even just in the past few weeks), it’s definitely the right time to do this. (On that note, I saw this study on binding going around on Facebook, which has also been a long time coming, and I hope to see more like this.)

There’s an awareness suffusing the excitement of the fact that there’s no going back from this. Not that I want that as an option, but I’m aware that this is a level of permanent change that could keep relationships with certain members of my extended family from ever coming back. I don’t know that most of those relationships are salvageable, anyway, but this does feel more…final, I guess.

I’ve been binding for five years as of this month. I’ve squeezed myself into various rib-crushing configurations of compression shirts almost every single day of that five years. When I started, I thought it was going to be a thing I just did occasionally, to play with gender. I didn’t have any idea how much I would like my flat-chested silhouette. The first day I wore a binder, I spent most of it aware of how much harder it was to breathe, and I wasn’t sure I’d be able to do it again. The next morning, I put it back on without thinking much about it. There were times when the particular type of binder I was using caused so much pain in my ribs that I had to stop binding and switch to sports bras for a few weeks, and that was almost more agonizing that the rib pain. Thankfully, binder technology has come a long way in five years, and thanks to gc2b I’ve been able to bind much more comfortably (and, presumably, more safely) for the past couple of years. But I am so, so ready to be done.

I am ready to be done wearing a binder plus and undershirt plus a regular shirt every. single. day.

I am ready to relearn what it’s like to breathe to my full lung capacity.

I am ready to be done with aching ribs and chest muscles.

And most of all, I’m ready to be able to look in the mirror and see a reflection that matches my mental image of myself.

Heartache and Heaviness

It’s been a rough week.

By now, you’ve likely heard about the mass shooting that happened over the weekend at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando.

It’s entirely possible that, by now, you’ve moved on. This is America, where we value the right to gun ownership over the lives of human beings, particularly if those human beings are queer and/or not white. Shit happens, we move on and try not to think too hard about it.

I’m angry and sad and scared all at once on so many different levels. And let’s be clear: as a white person who is, most of the time, read correctly by others as a man, I have some of the least reason to be any of those things. I’m safe, relatively speaking. But that didn’t stop me from a moment or two of hesitation before holding my partner’s hand as we walked to the grocery store the day after the shooting. Because it could still have happened to us.

I don’t have a lot of coherent thoughts about it all. There’s so much at play here: racism, homophobia, transphobia, Islamophobia, gun control vs. gun owners’ rights, and on and on and on. There aren’t a lot of easy answers, and the few that should be easy are made hard by politics and skewed perceptions of reality. About all I know with certainty is that this has been a really hard week.

On Monday I stumbled across a Facebook event for a healing ritual at a nearby beach. That evening, my partner and I went to the event, where we stood in community with others who were hurting, and did our best to soothe each other’s wounds and send as much healing and protective energy as we could to the LGBTQIA+ community at large. And it helped. We left feeling lighter than we had when we arrived.

The trouble is, there’s still a lot of vitriol going in multiple directions on social media over all of this, and some of it I agree with and some of it hurts like hell, and the obvious solution would be to back off social media for a while, but it’s a hard thing to do when you also feel compelled to check up on your friends and community elsewhere. And so while I feel less hopeless about the world than I did before the ritual on Monday, there’s still a weight on my chest.

What I want for my community, more than anything else, is safe spaces in which we can be fully ourselves, spaces so large that we are able to move through the whole world while holding our heads high. I want transgender/nonbinary/gender-adjacent folks to feel safe and seen as themselves, not limited by the arbitrary assignment of the labels they received at birth. I want queer folks to be able to be affectionate with one another in public the same way straight folks are, and for it to be a complete non-event. I want us all to feel like we can take ownership of our identities and how we express them, and to do so without wondering if this is what’s finally going to push the world around us to far, if it’s too much of a risk.

To my straight, cisgender friends and family who checked in on me this week, thank you. It really was appreciated.

To my queer friends and family, I’m sorry I haven’t done the greatest job of checking in with you.

Everyone, let’s do our best to keep each other safe, because the world won’t do it for us.

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