Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Painful Price of Vanity

I had a whitening appointment today.  It was supposed to be a really great thing.  It ruined my entire day and has really made me think about transition.  Some might suggest today’s experience was simply karmic retribution for enjoying far too many pleasant days in a row – we will discount the fact that I have been sick for the last week, as even sick, I have to admit my days have been pleasant.  I am not so sure; I suspect it was a lesson in personal vanity.

The morning started with a rush to prepare and multiple decisions about whether to dress for the day or for the dentist.  I was supposed to have my long awaited initial appointment with my HRT doctor this afternoon and was unsure whether time would permit my returning home to prepare for that.  Given that the procedure was to last about two and a half hours, I should have had plenty of time; but I know how medical offices are.  I dressed somewhere in between and crossed my fingers that I would have time to stop home and fix up a little prior to my afternoon appointment.

I arrived at the dental office a solid fifteen minutes early, ready to fill out paperwork in preparation for my appointment… or so I thought.  I immediately received a clipboard containing something resembling the constitution and was told to return the completed paperwork to the receptionist... an awful lot of prep for a teeth-whitening appointment, I thought.  Of course, I had only about half of the information I needed.  As generally seems to be the case with these kinds of adventures – the ones where I am supposed to just “show up” and everything will be ready – the chasm between the information I had and the information these people needed was wide.  When we finally established that all I was there to do was have my teeth whitened and that I did not intend to ask anyone else to pay for it, things really got going; and I sat for a solid forty five minutes while the wheels of modern dentistry turned.

When the mysterious door did open, I was escorted not to the whitening chair, but to an X-ray room.  This launched a series of poking and prodding and zapping and frothing that ate up another solid hour.  Finally, ready to perform a whitening procedure (after yet another assurance that I did, in fact, intend to pay for the session), I made my way to the chair.  I asked, of course, how much longer this will require, calculating that I had already been in the office for two of the two and a half hours this should have taken, and the chipper little assistant informed me that they would need no more than - you guessed it - two and a half hours.  Checking the time, I admonished that if it was going to be any longer than that I would miss my afternoon appointment (one that I set over four months ago), so to please be realistic.  She assured me I would be on my way, and we were off… to wait another fifteen minutes.

What followed this was easily the most uncomfortable two hours I have ever experienced.  What followed that was pain.  When the lead dental assistant finally completed the process, she unveiled a set of beautifully white teeth… which began to ache almost the moment the guards, and gauze, and glue, and mortar, and whatever the hell else was jammed in my mouth was removed.  In her glorious Indian dialect, she carefully explained what I should expect and what I needed to do for the next couple days – I understood the “okay?” and “very pretty smile.”  Looking at the clock, I realized that I had roughly 3 minutes to get out of that office and on the highway if I had any hope of making it to my HRT appointment; so with a steadily increasing pain index, and an only slight hemorrhage at the final sticker price, I tossed a well worn debit card to the chipper young assistant and was on my way.  I made it to the doctor’s office with about fifteen minutes to spare.  So what is wrong?

My smile – well, the whiteness of my teeth – is beautiful.  To achieve that style point, I spent almost five hours trudging around a massive dental factory, listening to every new dentist, dental assistant, and pit-crew member to enter my presence continually pepper me with male pronouns.  Short of wearing a dress and heels, I could not have appeared less masculine today.  I spent the entire morning feeling completely lost and unprepared; having no idea how to answer the twenty questions any of the forty times they were asked.  I shelled out several hundred dollars for a treatment that will last only if I continue to torture myself with chemicals indefinitely, which is explained in great detail AFTER the treatment is complete.  I am in so much pain, even several hours later, that at times I cannot help screaming at the spasmodic knife jabs that keep exploding in my mouth.  I literally curled up in a ball on my bedroom floor and cried myself to sleep when I finally made it home.  I woke up screaming – imagine every nerve ending in your mouth being simultaneously exposed to a burst of frigid air.  That would hurt almost as much.  But the worst part of all:

After all of the hurdles of the morning, and finally arriving at my long awaited (did I mention I scheduled the appointment over four months ago?) HRT appointment, I was informed that the appointment was incorrectly booked and that I would not get to begin that part of my journey today.  Priceless.

About the only highlight of the day was the enjoyment I got from the flummoxed expressions of the staff that had been belligerently calling me “sir” all morning, when they kindly showed me to the restrooms… and I walked unabashedly into the ladies’.  Fuck them.

So what does this have to do with transition?  Just this: after the pain I am suffering for the sake of a whiter smile, I really have to wonder if I am vain enough to endure the pain of FFS.  I certainly would not repeat the teeth-whitening experience.

Much for young Katgirl to consider, this is.
Peace and love, friends.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

A Quick Hello from Transadise

Today marks one week since I took a new step (well, decided to) toward the final transition.  Granted, it will be a bit of a shuffle step, but I like to dance.  Last Thursday was when I took a leap, told the slimy, slithering snakes who were trying to unhinge me with their holy wars and live Katgirl sacrifices to bite it, and started a (hopefully) short sabbatical to get my head together before starting a new job.  The catch was, at the time all I had were possibilities, no actual new jobs.  It was a very scary thing to do, but so far I am really happy that I did it.

For the first time in over a decade, I slept without stress, without nightmares about work, and without the overwhelming misery and anxiety that my old job inspired.  I would compare the act of Katgirl escaping that hell, to Batman escaping one of the Joker’s attempts at destroying him and his trusty companion… but that comparison would be unfair to the Joker.  He was a far more honorable and honest character than the bible-thumping fiend who tormented me during my last months.  Certainly, I was in no position to endure a prolonged bought of unemployment, but I was also in no condition to continue submitting myself to that world.  So, for the moment I am unemployed.

But wait!  It would seem Karma might be smiling on Katgirl.  Without getting too excited or jinxing myself, I just have to share that one of the prospects I was banking on came through yesterday.  It is not completely final yet, but I have signed an offer and taken the first steps.  If all goes well, my vacation will end in about two weeks beginning a new career and a first step out on very solid financial footing.  In fact, (again hoping not to jinx myself), the current outlook is so bright that FFS may actually happen THIS year!  Can you believe that?

I have shared previously that I am not waiting on surgical intervention to start my life, and that is truer today than it was even a week ago.  I am living.  I truly love life, and I feel absolutely no rush to take that next major step.  But if the opportunity arises, I will most certainly go for it.  I am learning that, while planning and navigating life with caution is generally a good thing, sometimes taking an extreme step really is the best way to move forward.

Fingers crossed!

Until next time, friends,

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Being Found By Love (Happy Valentine's Day)

Relationships are seldom easy for a trans person. They are not easy for any person who truly invests herself in the relationship; but they bring a whole special set of challenges for trans people. Being in a committed relationship implies having no secrets, but so often, we feel we have no choice but to break that most basic covenant. Whether for our own safety, or from some misguided hope that keeping our nature secret will allow the relationship to grow, we attempt to hide our personal reality from the one person who should know us most deeply. How can we hope to preserve and grow that most special bond, when we do not give all of ourselves to our partners?

Keeping a secret like this creates so many problems. The most fundamental are that from the beginning we withhold information; by default we do not fully invest ourselves in our partners, and we demonstrate a lack of trust in our partners. I would never presume to judge, and I would never suggest a trans woman is wrong for keeping the secret; but I think we at least have to understand how it can lead to significant issues in a relationship. Sadly, the issues often become less about the acceptance of an alternative personality and more about the shaky foundations of the relationship itself. I have to wonder how often a partner's inability or unwillingness to accept his or her partner's true self is not because he or she cannot accept transsexualism, but simply because of the sense of betrayal that partner feels upon learning the new information.

I have been in very few relationships. Just three serious ones in my entire life. I dated more people than that, but I have seldom taken that full dive. In all three instances, my partner knew at least part of the truth about me early in the relationship. The first two lasted for a time, largely in spite of who I was – never a good recipe for a sustainable situation. It is the last relationship I want to discuss. I say “last” rather than “most recent,” because I want to be clear that I truly believe this is the last relationship I will ever enter. I am so fortunate to have actually found “the one,” that I sometimes have to pinch myself to be sure it is real. I have not discussed our relationship in any great detail here, but being Valentine's Day, it seems like a good time to finally share at least part of our story with you.

My partner and I met at a work function. She is beautiful, and I felt an immediate attraction. But I was in a really bad place in my life at that time. I had recently decided to “put away” my past. I had not only packed up and stored all of my girl stuff, but I had even put away most of my musical instruments. However poorly thought out, I had decided that I needed to separate from all of the things I associated with my “female side.” I was not even thinking of the woman in me as “me;” I had relegated her to just a part of my psyche that needed to be rooted out and fixed. In short, I was a mess, so when this beautiful creature actually sought me out following the class, I was both taken aback, and instantly forced to realize I was in no condition to have a relationship.

She would not be ignored though, and within a few short weeks, we met on a personal level for the first time. She came to my home for a small party with some of my friends. She was wonderful. I was a mess. One of the most significant things I remember about that first night, and something I have never shared before now, is somehow in her presence; I actually felt my falseness. I thought until that moment that I had been doing a pretty good job of “being a man,” but something about her made me aware of the thinness of that veil. It was the beginning of a whole new problem. I was so very attracted to her, but I was so freaked out at how inept I felt in her presence.  In reality, I was inept whether or not I was in her presence; I just did not realize it at the time. I decided that I could not allow her to get any closer. And so the game began.

In so many ways, the early parts of our relationship seem so typical, when you dismiss which of us was born in which body. She pursued me. I resisted, but my resistance was weak. Finally, I decided I had to drop the bomb that would no doubt bring an end to the madness. One night over dinner and drinks with a couple of our friends (there was a little collateral damage there... only one of them knew the truth about me before that night), I put it all out on the table. I told her that I was actually a woman, that I had always felt the need to correct my body to be able to live as my true self. I did not say it in those words, exactly, I cannot remember it exactly – I had gotten myself a little drunk in order to find the courage to say it. What I do remember was her unflinching response, which was in essence, “and?”.

We left the bar with me convinced that I would never see her again, and her convinced that she would never let me go. Still it was not until our next meeting that my resistance finally melted. I still believed that she would arise from the shock the next day and realize just how lucky she was to be able to get out before things went too far. That is not at all what happened, and the next time we met ended with an hours long conversation about just how perfect we were for each other. I was hooked, and I knew then that I had to admit to myself that I loved her.

[NOTE: There are so many great stories to share about what is no longer my journey, but now our journey.  It is more than I can fit in this one blog post.  I will save those for the book.  Read on:]

We were married less than a year later. Since that first night, so much has happened, and so many things have changed. We have had all the same fights that most couples have (plus a few probably... I am very picky about my kitchen [sheepish grin]). We have faced difficulties. We have shared so many laughs and more tears than some probably share in a lifetime. It has been almost three years since we met, and every day that has passed since that first one has brought us closer together. Sometimes that is her moving closer to me, and sometimes it is me moving closer to her, but always we are moving toward each other. I cannot imagine a life without her. She is my champion – in many, many ways.

I know I am one of the most fortunate women alive. I have found the one person who loves me for who I really am, and who's love I feel more every single day. More accurately, love has found me. I once would have said that I never deserved to be so happy, but today, I believe I do deserve it. I deserve to share my life with the most wonderful woman on the planet. She deserves to have all of my love and devotion for as long as we both live. We both deserve each other, and you know what? You deserve exactly the same thing.

And when you can finally let yourself be seen, and allow someone to really know you; it will be there for you too. I believe that with all of my heart. We all deserve love.

I love you, Jamie. You are my hero.

And Happy Valentine's Day, everyone!


P.S. Are you happy now? I have made myself cry... happy tears, but still.

Monday, February 13, 2012

The Biology of a Trans Woman

My beautiful partner, and Derrick, and I were lying in bed last Friday night with the trusty Mac catching up on our Hulu queue. Why are you looking at me that way? It is a pretty normal Friday night for us, and no we are not old… just tired. Oh, you want to know about Derrick. It is not what you think.

Derrick sleeps with us, and he is just the cutest little thing. Relax, he is a stuffed animal. He was a valentine’s gift from my wife to me... we call him our love child.  It amuses us. We know he is a boy, because his name is Derrick, and he is incorrigible. He was named after the character from “Criminal Minds,” (I know, right?). He is not quite as buff as Derrick Morgan, but he has the same steamy gaze and is every bit as gorgeous. His girlfriend, Penelope, hangs out on the night stand. Yes, he is straight; sorry boys.

So, we were all lying in bed last Friday night watching the latest episode of Glee. One thing to know about me – you may already – is that I cry a lot, and it usually takes very little to inspire tears. It is not a happiness thing, or a sadness thing; it just is. I cry when things make me sad, I cry when things make me happy, I cry when I am angry, I cry when I stub my toe, and I often cry watching TV or movies. Glee almost always makes me cry. I hate that. This particular episode was no exception, technically. Like clockwork, I began crying mid-way through the show; but I was not crying because of the show. This is where it gets weird, so grab some popcorn and read on. As we were lying there, I realized something; I had been holding Derrick just like I would hold a newborn child – cradling him.

When I looked down at him and noticed what I had been doing, I was overwhelmed by one simple thought: “I want to have a baby.” And it was powerful. I instantly began to weep. My next thought, of course, was “where the hell did that come from?” I am almost forrrr... (ahem, ahem) years old. I do not want any more children. We already have four of them, and not one requires nursing, burping, or changing, and besides; we will be lucky if the four we already have do not put us in the poor house. I should be looking forward to Grandchildren now, not thinking about having babies! Never mind that I cannot physically do that anyway! Why on earth would a thought like that materialize, and why would it make me so emotional?

Thinking about it even now brings tears, and it is not just remembering the emotion. There are so many parts of being a woman that I will never experience, that I will never feel. I know that many genetic women complain about their bodies and the various biological functions and idiosyncrasies that occur within them. I think it is the thing that most commonly perplexes genetic women about trans women – why anyone would actually want to endure the “trials of womanhood.” I know it is one of the most frequent queries I hear from other women. But when your mind and your emotions are geared toward those parts of life, toward menstrual cycles, and toward child-rearing, whether logical or not; the absence of those experiences hurts.

Sometimes it hurts a lot.  Knowing that I will always be absent some of the most fundamental building blocks of who I am as a woman can be a devastating realization.  I realize that the p.c. sorts may take offense, but I have to imagine it is very similar to what a genetic woman feels when she learns she cannot have children, or to the hollowness experienced by a runner who loses her leg. One might suggest that the situations are different, because in mine there was no trauma associated with the condition. But I would offer that for anyone to think there is no trauma associated with living as a trans woman – or as any trans person for that matter – shows just how little that person really knows about trans issues. Every single path I had to walk to get to this place in my life was traumatic.

And the trauma is not over. There are still many hardships and painful moments to face. There are more trials, confrontations, treatments, procedures, and hopefully one day soon, surgeries. But I am so fortunate to have the opportunity to pursue all of those, and to know that I will not be facing them alone. I may never, technically be a complete woman. The best I may ever hope for is to physically emulate the female body, absent the biological processes and quirks. But there is no mimicry in my heart or in my mind. If the best my body can do is emulate womanhood, then at least it will depict the reality of what is in my soul. I can live with that, and I believe I can do it happily.

Okay, so there is no need to freak out. I do not really want to have a baby, but the experience has really made me think. I do not know from where my mind conjured the image, nor do I fully understand what was really behind it. I am sure it is not nearly as simple as actually wanting to have a baby. That is okay though. It is just one more sign that life is right.

Take care, my friends.

Friday, February 10, 2012

A Little More Time To Be

Well, I have just been blessed with an abundance of free time. To be honest, I am still trying to convince myself this is a blessing. I know it is. But there are a lot of things I know that I do not actually feel. That is one of my problems; I am smart, but I do not trust even my own thinking. I have been working on it, and I am proud to report that I have gotten better. I believe that I am finally on the other side of the “I am okay” concept. Now I just have to internalize the “this situation is okay” concept. I will get there.

The good news is that the most significant challenge to my mental health has been resolved. The hell that was my job and the demons who used to torment me there (bosses, etc.) are now officially a part of my past. That leaves me with an incredible sense of peace. The possibility that this life change could result in my evolution from blogging about food to begging for it does have me just a tad worried, but I am mostly optimistic that it will all work out okay. I have options; there are still a number of fall-back plans I can employ if needed. And more importantly, I now have WAY more room in my closet for when I do have the money to go shopping again.

So, starting today, I am a housewife... for a little while. One of the first chores I completed this morning was to dispose of all but a few male items from my closet... YAY... getting close. To be clear, I do not have very much figured out right now. There is a strong probability that I will not be done with that part of my life just yet, but gliding one step closer to that end felt so good. What I do know, and what I can say for certain is that regardless of the new challenges this may create; it was the right thing. I feel more at peace right now than I have in several years. In a life event that would typically indicate things falling apart, I feel things finally coming together. I am honestly and truly happy.

Until next time, friends,

Friday, February 3, 2012

Life in Transition – An Update

It occurs to me that while I have begun to settle back into a somewhat regular writing schedule, I have not stayed true to the premise of this journal lately. Well, as the journal is intended to share stories from my experiences through transition, I am on track in as much as I am sharing stories and events from my life; but I have not spent much time discussing my actual transition. So today, dear readers, I will humbly attempt to update you on my progress.

I think one of the reasons my focus has shifted in recent months is that transition has been primarily background noise. In many ways, life – outside of work, anyway – has settled into a very normal feeling pattern. Kate lives. Kate cooks, Kate cleans, Kate goes to the grocery store, and runs errands. Kate goes to parties, Kate goes to bars, Kate goes to restaurants, and even uses public restrooms (sparingly). Kate attends sporting events, goes to recitals, and school functions. Kate has even entered a church building and did not burst into flames!

Okay, all of these third person references to myself are starting to freak me out. You get the idea.

In almost every way, my existence has taken on a feeling of ordinary life. I do not freak out at the idea of leaving the house. When the doorbell rings (usually because I skipped cooking for a night and just ordered pizza), I feel no apprehension about answering. I make eye contact with passers-by and smile, no matter their demeanor – they usually return the smile... or fail to notice. I do not always wear makeup, nor do I always wear the nicest outfit. In fact, it is quite normal to see me strolling the mall or the grocery store in jeans and a t-shirt or casual knit top (I usually wear makeup to the mall... I guess I am funny that way). I am more likely to throw in a headband or clip my bangs out of my eyes with a barrette, than I am to spend hours in front of the mirror doing my hair (my arms get tired). Yet, everywhere I go and in virtually every interaction, I am addressed appropriately, and there is no sense of awkwardness in any way or from any person. For the most part, I have arrived.

The one and only gap is work, which is becoming a problem. I mentioned recently that the tide has truly turned. My life now is close to being a single path, and opposite from a year ago, switching to be a boy – even for just a few hours, much less all week – is a monumental effort both physically and emotionally. I thought when I started on this path that, one, I would be able to handle an “in place” transition, and two, I would be able to manage that split in my life until after FFS. It is becoming increasingly clear that neither idea is still true. Of course, several things have changed since I started this adventure about a year ago. There have been a number of material changes surrounding my work life, but those are irrelevant.

I think the most significant change, and the one thing driving my discomfort (ironically) has been the change inside of me. A year ago, I did not believe I could live happily as Kate until after surgical intervention. I believed no one would perceive me as female until I corrected the features that erode that image. I was also extremely uncomfortable in public settings. I was afraid to leave my house as Kate. Those attitudes have drastically changed. I am not suggesting things are perfect; for example, I know that I still “get read” occasionally. My experience has been, though, that in those situations, at least half the time; it makes no difference to my interaction with the person. More importantly, the fact that someone reads me as genetically male just does not matter to me, as long as the reader does not make an issue of it. 

I know that I am a woman, and I am comfortable in my skin. I still have a few “to dos” to check off the list, certainly; but I am happy with who I am inside. One day very soon, I hope also to be happy with my external life. I do not mean post-surgery life; I mean post- “still pretending to be a boy sometimes” life. I am still planning to engage the same surgical options I planned a year ago; in fact, I have even made the decision that I do want to go all the way. That is something I had not worked out until just recently. I am also still very excited to bring all of that to fruition, and even more excited to finally have all of those milestones behind me. The difference is that I am not waiting for any of those events to kick-start my life.

While I await the final milestones, I am comfortable, and I am happy. I am not in a hurry to get things done, I do not rush until life is no fun. All I really have to do is live and die, but I am not in a hurry, and I know why (Sorry, that was a terrible play on song. I am still a huge dork – that will never change!)...

The life I have always wanted is the life I already have. It looks a little different from how I first imagined it, but if anything, it is even better than what I first imagined. It is funny how that can happen sometimes.

Ciao for now!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Harassment and Unfair Treatment

Friends, I am so angry I cannot see straight.  I will be speaking once again in vague and sweeping generalities (it is fun; you should try it) in order to maintain a level of discretion.  I sincerely hope that by the time I can tell you in detail what has inspired this rant, that I have long since moved on and am no longer haunted enough to bother dredging it up.  That might just mean you will have to live the whole rest of your lives steeped in morbid curiosity over just what the hell KatGirl was talking about today.  Sorry [insert sheepish grin].

I have been tolerating a situation for far too long, and it is about time that something happens.  Unfortunately, I am likely the one who will be hurt by addressing the situation, but at this point, I want only to be done with it by whatever means necessary.  How can any person who purports to "love all god's children" endeavor to - much less get away with it - treat someone so terribly?

It proves to me even more fervently that people with deep seeded and radically fundamental belief structures (religious, political, or otherwise) are the last people on earth who should be trusted.  I have never encountered such pure and righteously disguised evil as I am perceiving in this particular corner of my life.  How a person can make a grand public display of support and collaboration only to deliberately withhold both in private is beyond me.  And how the same person can so flippantly throw the blame for that offense back on the person who was left hanging is also completely beyond me.  It is cold, callous, and cruel.  And apparently, completely condoned.

I know exactly what is going on, and despite my faint hopes that someone else might eventually recognize it; I fear I am approaching a pivotal point when my ability to continue to wait for that relief is overwhelmed by the fury I feel every time these situations arise  Yes, situations - I am not referring to an incident, but to a string of events that begin to look very much like a pattern.  It appears though that only I see the pattern (or that only I acknowledge it).  In the end, I will be the one saving myself, and it will most likely appear that I am the ass.  It no longer matters.  Whatever the means, I have got to extricate myself from this heaping pile of crap that has become my station.

Life is too good and far too short to waste under someone else' shit.

Sorry... I told you I was pissed.

Sweet Kate will return soon.  I promise.

Much love to my friends,