Shit is on a roll

Well, if I didn’t know before that transgender folks have two very different divergent paths, I sure do now. My wife’s transition is going to be a lot harder than mine.

This is in large part due to the difference between estrogen and testosterone. Estrogen can’t change a lot of secondary masculine sex characteristics, where as testosterone will completely overnight a lot of secondary feminine sex characteristics.

That means for me, my transition was getting on testosterone, letting time and the HRT do it’s thing, and top surgery. The bottom surgery was a bonus.

For my wife? It’s a helluva lot more involved.

There is facial hair removal appointments because that never goes away once you grow it. She’s had 4 laser removal appointments, and it gets the dark hairs, but the white ones will need to be done with electrolysis. That runs $100+ an hour, so we are seriously considering spending $3500 for me to attend a Dallas electrolysis class to learn. The $750 machine is included, so there is that. Another transgender lady sent her partner there to learn, and said it’s the best savings on money ever because each treatment is only 75% to 80% effective so you have to keep going back.

We just had an orchi consult for her removal of her testicles in April. She’s taking so much spirolactone to try and suppress the testosterone it’s making her blood pressure low, and she’s light headed all the time.

Then there is an upcoming facial feminization surgery consult for a lot of facial work in December. We will have to fly to Phoenix for that. Few surgeons do this, and even fewer have the experience and skill to do it right, so going to the right doc is imperative.

We haven’t even looked at breast implants because her face is her biggest imperative, but that is something she wants as well.

My transition in comparison was just so much easier at it’s most basic level. My face masculinized with testosterone. I didn’t have to get surgery to take it in that directions.

Not all of this is remotely covered, either. She’s terrified of the costs, but I want her to have everything she needs. They can’t take it back once it’s done, so I’d rather pay for it even if it’s on credit.

We are definitely getting into the thick of it, though.

 

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Reality of Being Transgender

When I came out, and started transitioning, I’d darkly joke that trying to figure out how wether people were going to be cool or not is like the Shrodinger’s cat in a box. The cat’s state is indeterminate until you look at it, then it’s either alive or dead. (That is not how it really works, but that’s how the joke works, so go with it.)

Trying to find out if folks are going to be cool with you, is the same. Everyone is a Shrodinger’s ally. I have never been able to tell, until it comes to it. Super liberal friends have turned around and fucked me over about being trans in a hardcore fashion. Weird redneck good ‘ol boys have ended up being staunch supporters. I have never found a rhyme or reason, other than these people’s own hidden views on how they feel towards trans folks.

My wife ran into that last weekend. She knew, when she came out that this would happen, but living it is different.

One of the first folks I went to coffee with, at an IKEA, when I first came out decided to question me loudly about if I was getting a dick. At IKEA, in the diner, with everyone around staring. . . My wife and I sat there not knowing what to do.

Now it was my wife’s turn to sit at a restaurant with a trusted friend of over ten years, to discuss her excited plans to get Facial Feminization Surgery, only to have that friend lean forward and tell my wife that she had something inappropriate she had to say. The two leaned close, and the friend stated it’s good my wife is getting surgery on her face because right now she’d make one ugly woman. . .

I watched my wife deflate, crushed. This was her every agonizing fear, and one of the reasons she decided to transition was that she is a woman, and has to look at a man’s face every day. Her face bothers her more than any other part of her body.

To see the hormones reshape her face, and add the further bonus of $20,000 worth of facial surgery will change her life so she can look at herself in the mirror and not feel self loathing. It’s already happening with just the hormones. I see her mother and sister in her face more every day. I suspect she’ll be farther along than she thinks before even getting the surgery.

I watched my wife, to see how she wanted me to react. After being together for 25 years, I could see she wanted to sweep it under the rug. That it had hurt her so much to have someone she was friends with do that, all she wanted to do was make it go away and get out of there. The rest of the lunch was short, and I made sure to point out we had to go.

The day’s original plan was to go clothes shopping, For the first time in her life my wife has been excited for that because she’s lost 75 pounds. Suddenly she kept saying she couldn’t look at herself in a mirror, and didn’t want to.

This is what happens. Folks tell you things you would never think possible when you are transgender. I mean, I’m not sure at what point telling someone they are an ugly woman is ever okay, let alone to someone that hates how they look so thoroughly they haven’t been able to go clothes shopping their entire lives without some serious resolve.

The next day, or so, that friend decided to text my wife and apologize. My wife accepted, and was polite, but that friend texted yesterday as well with some “do you still like me” stuff.

Now my wife is being asked to perform emotional labor to an ally that said something shitty. It’s not my wife’s job to make sure this friend feels like it was okay after all. It’s not my wife’s job to ignore her own hurt, to smooth over this friend’s realization that she was shitty.

This is literally part of being out of the closet when you are transgender. I told my wife that this is how it begins. People you know react in ways you’d never ever guess. You can’t gauge it, you can’t foresee it, but it’s there. Then they want you to make them feel better when they realize they are shitty as hell, instead of just apologizing and leaving it at that.

Everyone you know become’s Shrodinger’s Ally. You don’t know if they are cool with you until you look inside the box.

First Surgery Consults

There is a convention in Seattle called Gender Odyssey. It’s a small convention for transgender people, and has a medical track where surgeons discuss different techniques, and what is available. The also have a good family track on how to work with family issues in child and parent transitions.

I have known about this since my fledgling baby transman days. I haven’t gone though. I don’t tend to go to transgender meet ups much.

When we lived North of Seattle I went to a few meet ups. They were run like an AA meeting, and were very structured. That’s not really my thing, and the similarity to an AA meeting isn’t really a selling point for me. I felt that even though, my wife and I were both open about being trans, they viewed her with suspicion. I was transitioning first, and she said she had no plans at that time. She got questioned about her intentions with me, her husband of 19 years at the time. It was well meaning, but it wasn’t comfortable because I love my wife, even if at the time she looked like a hyper masculine 6’2″ man. It hurt her feelings, and that was enough for me.

Over the years I do like meeting other transgender people. We have an extraordinary experience in common, and it’s impossible not to feel a sense of familial kinship. Yet, the only thing we often have in common is that we are transgender. That isn’t always the easiest way to build a friendship.

A lot of that was why I never pursued going to Gender Odyssey for myself. I’m kind of a low key ex-nurse, who is completely happy with my own research and choices. I also have a protective ego that bolsters my confidence. I never worried, or considered the my path through transition needed to be approved in any way by any one.

My wife? She’s more tentative. She had crippling self esteem issues sometimes. So when she said she wanted one of the free “informal” consults from Dr. Ley and Dr. Meltzer on what she wanted to get done facially, I was all for it.

After a 9 hour day at work, and 2 hours of bad traffic, we arrived in downtown Seattle to head over the The W Hotel. The doctors do the consult in a hotel room.

A nice gal from the office named Rachel came down to get us, after I had some sticker shock on beer prices in the lounge. We made our way up, and eventually got to see both surgeons.

Dr. Ley did my metoidioplasty, with Dr. Meltzer as her training wheels. Dr. Meltzers been in the biz for 30 years, and I suspect Dr. Ley is going to take over his practice. I had no issues with the surgeries, and felt that they both have an artistic eye. Dr. Ley did the bulk of my work, and I have no complaints with her work. She’s good with a scalpel.

My spouse arrived, and talked about what she wanted. She’s got a very masculine face, and the hormones will only be able to do so much. At 4 months on estrogen, I can definitely see the differences. It’s hard to split it all up, because she’s also lost 70lbs because she’s just not depressed anymore. The two issues combine to make her sort of David Bowie-esque with her feathered grown out hair, and thinning face.

  • She wants to get her hairline pulled forward, which they can do up to a half an inch. She had a good hairline, so that will probably be just enough to bring it into a feminine line.
  • She also wants her eyebrows raised, and to have her eyes done, with some brow shaping. This is the part that scares me the most, but I do trust the surgeons.
  • She also wants her jaw sorted out. She has a bit of a congenital jaw issue to begin with that will complicate things. They felt they might be able to correct that a little while they were in there.
  • Lastly, a bit of silicone implanted in her upper lip to make it fuller, and more feminine.
  • She also wants to get breast implants. She’s a big girl, and Dr. Meltzer said that she’d need larger implants. That’s what she wants anyways because that’s how all the women in her family are built.
  • A possible tummy tuck, if her weight loss doesn’t not slim down skin-wise. She’s got a bit of lose skin. Not as much as you’d think for her massive weight loss, and even a month ago the skin was far looser. She’ll have to wait a couple years and see.

It was a good visit, because she got to hear what was possible. I was personally pleased, because there was no upselling. in any of it. They didn’t even mention her nose, which is actually exactly like her mother and sister’s, so it’s not really an issue to begin with. (Plus, rhinoplasty hurts like a motherfucker.)

Then, the next morning, we turned around and came back to meet with Raelene, our Kaiser transgender case manager. (I am happy to provide her info to any transgender folks in Washington state using Kaiser. She’s a miracle worker. ) We brought her a flower, and our thanks. Raelene saved by butt by getting me a metoidoplasty years ahead of the wait period because I worked for the Department of Defense at the time, and we were told I might lose insurance coverage. To be fair, Dr. Ley and Dr. Meltzer’s staff also pulled strings to help me.

Then we went to the one panel we came to see. Dr. Ley and Dr. Meltzer’s feminization panel. I had not realized that Dr. Ley had been a pediatric cranial surgeon, nor the she’d done microsurgery on hands as a specialty. That made me feel much better about my wife going for cranioplasty with her.

When I came home I looked up results, and found Casey Love Baron:

She’s had FFS with Dr. Meltzer. If you look at her most recent videos you can really see the changes.

AT the panel we also learned that a Brazilian Butt Lift has a death rate of 1 in 3000 women that get it done. This is because of the injection of fat, into that area of the body, is incredibly risky. That it’s just too easy to create a fat embolism.

My first thought was of Stef Sanjati:

She’s had the fat injections done. She had said they had a hard time getting enough fat off of her, and Dr. Ley and Dr. Meltzer said that is a problem with transgender women. They just don’t have enough fat in the right places to harvest.

So now, if the hormones are not going to get my wife where she wants, she’ll consider implants.

It’s really really starting. I’m very glad for her.

Our first fight

Well, we had our first fight about my spouses transition. Last Sunday I helped my spouse blow out her hair, and showed her how to use hairspray, mouse, and whatnot. She was happy, and talking about clothing and shoes, and she planned her transition timeline. She’s like me, and wants it fast and done.

Then she arrived at my computer table with her fingernail polish. It was dark goth blue. I asked if she was going to remove it for work, but she wasn’t going to. I pointed out the dark goth blue might not be work appropriate at her super conservative workplace. She’s only 4 months on HRT, and isn’t out of the closet and works with a ton of conservative assholes.

There is a second part of this. She has a history where she likes to engineer issues at bad jobs where she can tell someone to piss off, and leave. It’s kind of a thing. I don’t actually care, but I can see it gearing up. This is not a good job, and the environment isn’t one she can transition in, most likely. The only reason she is in the job at all is because we are waiting on a payout from our last job. As soon as that happens, we can afford her to quit if she choses. I don’t want her to be in a job she hates, that might not be a safe transition environment. I think she views the job as a slow down to her transition, and she’s absolutely right.

The blue fingernail polish wasn’t the problem. The problem was that the HRT isn’t moving fast enough, and she’s stuck working in a situation where she has to be in the closet.

The outcome was that I was a dick for not being on board with it. I offered to give her a manicure and do her nails in her only other color, which was a clear top coat until she could go tom Ulta and pick up some more color choices. She wasn’t having it. She was mad, and I understand why.

I felt really bad. I get the urge to hurry, but I am also terrified for her. I have no problem with her painting her nails, I just thought if she started with something less loudly in your face, it might go better.

I think part of it is that she was brought up as male. Men and boys can do anything and nobody cares at all fashion-wise. Women? Every detail of what you do is scrutinized by everyone. If you make a misstep, people say shit. I just don’t want that for her. The impact of her choices will be so much louder than what she’s used to. I fear she will be hurt emotionally.

4 months in

Well, things are progressing. My soon to be wife is still going in “boy mode” and using masculine pronouns for now.

The thing she she started on the super masculine side of the pendulum, yet with 4 months of HRT, I can see the changes for her. (I’m just going to use female pronouns here because it’s easier and we are headed that way anyways.)

Add to this she’s lost somewhere around 70 pounds since she came out. Depression eating is definitely her thing. We have not really done much but stop eating garbage snacks all the time. I’ve actually lost ten pounds, so yay? I even gave her a pair of 38 waisted shorts I had. She was ecstatic. My hips require sizing up, because testosterone ain’t gonna make that go away, so we might end up in the same clothing size, possibly.

In a funny weird effect, it was easier to find 3X women’s clothing for her, than the same size in masculine clothing. As she keeps losing weight, she can buy at places like Target, and we can actually get wardrobe basics more easily. We haven’t gotten her a lot of clothes yet, because 1) she’s still in boy mode, 2) we just moved and are broke, and 3) she keeps losing weight, and sizing out of anything we do buy.

In her face I can see her skin is softer, and her eyes are more feminine. Her hair is growing out, but she seems terrified of it. She’s always been so invested in masculine gender norms, that the idea that she could actually do something with that mop on her head while in “boy mode” seems to be terrifying her. Even using a hair dryer is like a bridge too far sometimes. Add in the confusing world of hair products and she’s completely overwhelmed, and I can’t really help her but to encourage her to just do it.

Unfortunately for her, women’s looks are scrutinized to a massive degree. Nobody cares if I look like a crazy middle aged man with bad clothes. When I looked like a woman, before I transitioned, this would have been an issue. Women routinely get pulled into work discussions about appropriate clothing, and standards when men never do.

I just want my wife to be safe and protected, and figuring out how to deal with hair, clothing, makeup, and presentation will be her only armor against so many wrongs faced by transgender women, and cis gender women both.

She took a job with a fancy title recently. I worry about that, because it’s a more conservative environment. It’s definitely not a forever job. She’s good at what she does, and it’s high paying for us. It’ll help us get some bills paid off, but we are both very aware that getting a job once she steps out of masculine presentation will be crazy hard.

Our financial goals is to get everything paid off as best we can, and that way I can support us as she fights transition related job issues.

I still remember my job hunting while mid transition. It was awful. I am very aware it’s ten times worse for trans feminine folks, too.

I guess my biggest worries are still about her safety. She’s 6’2″ and capable, but she’s going to suddenly find herself in a spotlight every time she leaves the house, and I hate that for her. So safety is still my number one concern.

When Family isn’t Family?

I was actually lucky, in a way, when I transitioned. Things had gone South so badly with my family that I had stopped speaking to them years before. I had not managed to ever reconcile well with my father, who’s physical violence was the reason I ended up as a homeless teen. My mother’s complete support for that violence, and emotionally abusive outbursts and manipulations were breathtaking towards the end.

So the only family I had to deal with for transition was my spouse. He (Still using male pronouns for now.) had wonderful parents that never blinked when I transitioned. His siblings accepted it, but I think having his parents lead the way was a part of that.

A lot has happened since those days. Both his parents have passed away, and his siblings have behaved in an absolutely deplorable manner. His sister stole pain meds, tried to steal my truck I’d given to his parents, and was every nightmare a heroin using junky could be. His brother was strung out on meth, and gave away or sold a huge portion of my mother-in-laws belongings when she was in the hospital, before we even knew she was dying.

My spouses sister actively reached out to emotionally abuse my spouse via text for the year after they passed, trying to play some blame game alternating with requests for money. With my in-laws gone, the pipeline of money we gave to them, which she actively sought to get was gone, and she was trying to remove the middle man from that equation. It was bad enough that my spouse mostly. . . . mostly. . . . doesn’t talk to her anymore.

However my brother in law? He texts and calls regularly through jail, treatment, homelessness. He is pretty actively on meth and drinking. Nothing is his fault, by his estimation, and he seems to have no ability to really think through cause and effect.

My spouse is desperate for his family, and I understand that an awful lot. What I also understand is this is probably a desperation for a family that he can’t have. His siblings will never be the people they should be. They will never really be decent people. They will always disappoint him. That Normal Rockwell painting in his head of what a brother or sister should be, is not something they can give him.

I know this because I have painfully been there. I have gone back again and again in my life to my mother, only to realize she would do the same painful things. She wasn’t capable of change, and as much as I desperately wanted my mother to love and support me, that wasn’t in the cards. When she said she never wanted to talk to me again when I requested we try some family therapy, it was a breaking point and I left to never look back.

With my spouses transition, he wants to tell his brother. His brother was an absolute shit about me coming out. I came out to the people I felt were safe, and since my brother in law’s and I are not close and he lives in another town, he didn’t make the top of my list. he sent me a crappy angry whine fest over facebook about how dare I tell “those people” before him. He was family, was he not?

The thing is, I’d claim my in-laws as family until the day I died. My brother and sister in law? Not so much. They have never once behaved as family to my spouse, let alone me. My brother in law only calls, I am sure, because he is incredibly good at keeping lines of communication open. He has never talked to me except when I was in my spouses presence. That’s why he didn’t make the top of my list. We didn’t have a relationship at all, let alone a close one.

My brother in law reminds me of the book I, Gypsy which I read about a man’s childhood experience traveling with the Romani people in Europe. There was a passage where each man he knew kept his contacts a secret, so if they rolled into town they could meet up, have drinks, and cultivate that relationship. You never gave your contacts to anyone else, because you didn’t want them to become burnt out. You had to cultivate a careful give and take. It was about having contacts you could use to get what you needed. (Caveat, that book is questionable these days on accuracy, but the passage was a good one for this kind of thing.)

That’s what I think of my brother in law. He may, under his meth and alcohol induced cloud really love my spouse. But his addictions have made him a narcissistic nightmare whose only real concerns about what he needs.

This is a long winded way to get to the point that when we went to our home town, and my spouse had made a breakfast meeting at a restaurant to come out to my brother in law, I was shocked.

First, I had no idea. My spouse is on HRT, getting laser hair removal for his face, and growing out his hair. He’s even lost 40 points on his 6’2″ frame. Yet, he’s not come out to anyone. I had not idea he’d chose the one person that has been constantly disappointing him as his first.

I didn’t even know this was the plan until the morning we were leaving, and I kind of blew an overprotective gasket for a few minutes. It seems to me, if my spouse wants to stay in the closet, this is the wrong person to trust.

The issue was moot, though, as we sat at breakfast and his brother in law stood us up, and never bothered to respond to calls or texts.

I didn’t really feel relief, because I know that really sucked for my husband. It was yet another clue that my brother in law didn’t think my spouse was worth even that much.

I really wish my spouse could have the family he deserves, and I don’t know what’s harder to watch. The hope he has when he tries with them, or when it get’s extinguished when they fail.

 

When safety feels like betrayal

My spouse has opted to live as male while starting HRT. He is using pronouns that are masculine, and generally going incognito for safety and job hunting reasons.

Yet, because I now know my spouse is a woman, I feel every masculine pronoun I saw. I am acutely aware of it. I internally wince when I say he, him, or his. I cringe at calling him my husband and not my wife.

I think this is because I am also transgender, and I am hyper aware of pronouns in general.

I also keep buying my “husband” lady things. Phone cases, underwear, pajamas. Whatever I can think of that he might use right now while still pretending as male.

I guess I just want him to be happy, and I feel it would be difficult to ignore your gender while waiting, even if that is safe and practical.

I can’t wait until we get settled, he gets a new job, and the HRT takes hold enough that he can live as she.