Accidental Fudge

Updates Thursdays

Tag: transgender (page 1 of 5)

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

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.

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.

Things are Looking Up

Last week was awfully full of feelings, many of them rather negative.

This past week has been full of feelings, too, but largely of a more positive variety.

Last Thursday night, my partner and I went to a songwriting workshop at the Old Town School put on by one of Mouths of Babes, one of our favorite folk duos. It was phenomenal and inspiring and made me want to write all the songs.

I haven’t really had time yet to start on writing all the songs, though. Friday morning I picked up a giant rental SUV before work, and that evening, my partner and I went to IKEA, where we picked up four pieces of furniture and a handful of other organizational tools. Saturday was spent building furniture and rearranging most of our apartment. We finished up Sunday, and even had time to go to MSI with a friend and then to a Mouths of Babes concert (which was also phenomenal and inspiring).

And then Monday came.

Monday evening, a friend arrived in town who will be staying with us for a total of almost two weeks. My partner and I can’t take any time off during the week, but we’re looking forward to playing tourist a bit over the weekend and take advantage of some city sites we haven’t taken in yet in the 3+ years we’ve lived here!

But before that, on Monday, I worked half a day, and then went to a consultation appointment with a surgeon here in Chicago who, among other things, performs gender-affirming chest masculinization surgery for transmasculine folks.

The appointment went really, really well – the surgeon was charming and knowledgeable, and considering the rather intense anxiety I generally have regarding medical facilities, professionals, and procedures, I felt surprisingly safe.

Long story short, I set a date for surgery, so come October, I will be getting two literal weights off my chest. I am unbelievably happy, and far less anxious than I was a week ago now that I have that giant unknown better nailed down.

Momentum

A friend of mine who writes zines was commenting the other day about how much harder it is to find things to write about when life is going well, and I have to say, they’re totally right. I’ve been at a bit of a loss the past several weeks whenever I sit down to blog, because life is generally pretty good right now, and I don’t feel like I have much to process by blogging about it. And while life isn’t boring by any means, it’s definitely fallen into a routine, so I don’t often feel like I have big news to share here.

This week did have its particularly bright points, though, which include some exciting news:

  1. I finally finished the sweater I’ve been working on, and it turned out super handsome. I think it’s the best-fitting thing I’ve ever made for myself. I’m hoping to wear it to Yarn Con this weekend. Here’s a picture of me wearing it before I blocked it and wove in all the ends (I was being shy about posing, so my partner decided to pose me as a teapot to take the picture):
    IMG_1746
  2. I spent some time researching over the weekend, and on Sunday evening I contacted a surgeon here in Chicago who does gender-affirming surgeries. First thing Monday morning, I heard back from the patient coordinator (who was very friendly and helpful), and over my lunch break I ended up calling and scheduling a consultation for chest-masculinization surgery. I also sat down and took a hard look at my finances, and assuming I click with this surgeon and am able to move forward, I should be able to work out the financial side of surgery, and I’ll have enough PTO saved up to take the time off I’m expecting to need plus a little extra just in case.
  3. I signed up to play my second live show (not counting end-of-class showcases). It’s not until early May, so I have plenty of time to work out a solid set list. This time I know to prepare more than I think will fit in the allotted time, because I rush a bit when I’m nervous. I’ve written some stuff I’m actually pretty proud of since the last show I did back in January, so I’m excited to try it again.

Balance

Having an internet presence is a constant balancing act.

I love having this blog. I love that it makes me slow down long enough to write every week, often about things I might not otherwise take the time to think about.

But it’s always a balancing act. How much do I put out into the vast expanse of the internet? How much of my life am I willing to share with friends and strangers? When can I let myself vent about specific people or situations, and to what extent, and when do I need to just keep quiet?

I’ve been dealing with some pretty major emotional stuff lately, and I haven’t known how much to share here. But I think I need to say something, because I have a feeling it’ll come up on its own sooner rather than later, and I want to give some context before it does.

I haven’t spoken to my family of origin since March.

I just wrote 1000 words of explanation, but I am not going to post them, because this is part of the balancing act: I do not want to contribute to further drama. Suffice it to say that right when things seemed to be getting a little better, they turned around and got a whole lot worse, and I had to cut ties in order to maintain my sanity.

I don’t regret the decision to establish some distance. (Boundaries are a thing I’ve always struggled with, and it’s become very clear that I came by that honestly.) But it hasn’t been easy.

I’ve also recently realized that I’ve been avoiding dealing with how I relate to my body. Dysphoria, for me, has mostly manifested in me being very detached from my body…of course, once I realized this, remaining detached got harder, and now I’m painfully aware of my discomfort with my body.

Starting next month, I’ll be on an insurance plan that will make it a lot easier for me to see a therapist, so that’s my plan at this point, because I have a lot of feelings about family and about my body that I need to process, and my partner shouldn’t have to be the only person in the world to listen to me blather as I try to work through those things.

So that’s where I’m at: seeking balance. Whether I achieve it is still hit or miss, but I think I’m getting there. Thanks for coming along for the ride.

 

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