Surgery is a headache and a half.

I’ve been transitioning as a TransMan for the past year. I say transitioning because I don’t feel like I’m done with my preferred method of acquiring medical/surgical intervention. And also, life is a transition, so I’m constantly transitioning in all areas of my life. I celebrated my official one year on testosterone on June 20. I couldn’t believe this year has flown by! I have grown and changed into the man that I always hoped I could be. It’s been full of life lessons and hardships, and I constantly have to keep myself and my privilege in check. Being true to myself in terms of my gender identity has opened up so much for me. I started back to school trying to finish my degree in Social Work. I met the love of my life and could not have asked for a better partner. I’ve moved into a really lovely apartment. I’ve also been granted contentment, peace, serenity, happiness and joy. It’s been a life-changing year.

Right now, I’m trying to deal with figuring out how and when to have top surgery. I want to have a complete mastectomy with chest reconstruction so that I will have a male chest. I’ve been contacting surgeons on the east coast and looking at their work. I’ve called my insurance company. I’ve cried over money and time and travel. It is a huge deal. It’s a huge process. It seems never-ending. It is emotionally exhausting. It is taxing on everyone around me, especially my partner. I am constantly anxious and worried and have no fucking clue how I’m going to have enough money for surgery. My insurance will likely cover a set amount of the surgery, for which I am so grateful for. However, I will likely have to spend $5,000 out-of-pocket for the other costs of the surgery (anesthesia fees, doctors fees, cosmetic detailing of the scars).

I never ever ever ever wanted to be one of those people where surgery became a life-saving option. I never thought it would be. I have always wanted top surgery, but I didn’t have a time frame laid out for when it would happen. I thought that I would be okay in waiting for however long it needed to be before I was able to afford it. I thought that I would be okay with those certain body parts. I never worried about it in terms of being intimate with a partner. I just thought that I would be okay in wearing a tank top or rash guard when swimming. All of the things that I promised myself wouldn’t be a problem and would set me apart from other trans*masculine folk is starting to really bother me and disrupt my sanity.

I worry about my safety a lot. I know that I look male and sound male, but I can’t help but be scared that people would cause me physical harm if they knew that I had breasts. I worry that people will walk into my room when I’m naked or changing and see the top half of my body. I’m worried that my partners friends and family will ostracize me or see me or cause me harm if they ever suspected I had those body parts or saw my body. I am afraid that people can see my binder all the time. I am afraid to wear tank tops because I don’t want people to make assumptions about me. This whole thing has and continues to take a huge toll on my mental health. And pair that with worries about money and timing of surgery….well, it’s ripe for a lot of anxiety that I cannot shake.

I feel as thought I’m constantly irritable, worried, anxious, thinking about everything all at once. I think the worst part is that I could have surgery and nothing changes for me. It’s been suggested to me by multiple sources to strive for contentment and happiness right now, regardless of what I have going on (or not going on). And that is way harder said then done. I cannot accurately describe how much I need this surgery and preferably within this next year, hopefully even the next couple months. I think that I do need to find happiness and contentment and serenity. The surgery is no guarantee that my life will magically feel better. I may then just continue to fixate on my scars or not be happy with how my chest turned out. Who knows. It could open another can of worms I am not expecting or ready for. However, I need to have this surgery. Need. Need. Need. Need. My mental health impinges upon it. I’m just hoping and praying that if I ask people for help, that I will get it.

I’m not saying that I do not love my body or am uncomfortable with it. I love that I have a Trans* body. I love my body parts and the way they function. They are mine. They are whole. They are lovely and natural and beautiful. Surgery is a huge deal. I am losing parts of me, whether I love them or not. My chest however is me and it is not me all at the same time. I love it now because it belongs to me, but it also needs to be different. And that’s okay.

Looking Through the Mirror

Have you ever looked straight at yourself in the mirror and couldn’t see yourself? I mean, like, right at yourself in the mirror and your very face was unrecognizable.

That’s how my dysphoria feels.

When I have flare-ups of dysphoria, everything is uncomfortable. My body. My thought process. The way I interact with people. How I see myself. How I carry myself. How I choose to build up and tear down my self-esteem is different. It’s like a constant pity party, even if everything else around me is going swell.

I haven’t had huge bouts of dysphoria since I’ve built up more Testosterone in my system. But, small bouts do still happen. They always pass, but it’s never any fun while they’re happening. I can’t say for sure why I’m struggling right now, but perhaps it’s because my mom and I are taking a trip to visit some relatives. We’re going almost a year to the day that I had planned to come out as Trans* to my mother. How weird is the universe with timing? Last year at this time, I had talked with a lot of people about possibly coming out to my mother as we drove to Upstate New York to see family. I thought it would be a perfect idea because we’d be in the car for 5 hours each way, and usually we have really great and open conversations during long drives. I don’t know what it is about the car that sparks such good communication! Some of my people had suggested that I NOT come out during the trip, as it may backfire and not turn out like I had hoped and planned. I’m glad I listened to those people, because it really would have been a shit show. Honestly. I had a wonderful weekend with my mother and relatives that weekend last year, regardless of coming out or not. I did come out to my aunt over Facebook a couple of days after the trip, and that was a great experience.

Perhaps, my subconscious is honing in on this memory…almost a year later with the exact same set-up of sorts. We’ll be driving the same route in a couple weekends, probably stopping at the same spots to pee, seeing the same relatives, doing the same things we did that weekend last year. My brain is focusing on where I was last year, how I felt and what I experienced. I’ve come a LONG way in a year. Huge leaps of faith and trust in the transition process. But, I can’t help to settle into that place of not seeing who I am right now and focusing on who I was. I literally see a woman when I look at myself in the mirror. My body feels too feminine. My voice, even if it is pretty deep right now, somehow doesn’t sound masculine to my ears. It’s like my brain is trying to sabotage all the happiness I have going for me right now. Focusing on the parts of my body and lived experience that don’t feel particularly good or whole to me. I love to look at myself in the mirror these days. I’m cute, sexy, kind looking. It’s so frustrating when dysphoria forces me to look through those awesome qualities and see either nothing, or someone that I’m not.

This too shall pass. It always does.

 

I used to sing this song to myself.

I love Beyonce and when I heard this song, I used to sing it incessantly to myself. I just desperately wanted to be a boy. Even before I fully realized I wanted to be a boy (slash am a boy), I used to think, “What if? What If I were a boy?”

*Not that I agree with the sexism and misogyny that is presented in this song with shallow stereotypes of what it means to be a boy/man.

Where has 7 months gone?

Today is my seven month on Testosterone marker.

Where has the time gone?

I cannot believe that seven months ago I had very different fears, hesitations and doubts then I have now. I almost feel like I have some selective amnesia. I don’t want to minimize my life details or forget the struggle(s), but I somehow have. Maybe it’s just seeing things from a new and different perspective.

I have such a different relationship with my family now. Things are smooth and good, not always perfect, but I’m not perfect, so it works out. I hold myself so differently. I don’t struggle with doubts of transitioning anymore. I’m dealing with how I want to present and be read in this world.

Overall, I’m happy and that’s really the only fucking thing I care about. Life is an adventure and I really took a leap seven months ago. I’m glad I jumped. I could not picture my life any differently.

A realization!

I went to a Social Justice retreat this past weekend. Even if I was sick and coughing, I went to enter into conversations of social justice and to make friends. The retreat was for my university. I had such a good time. One of the most wonderful and healing conversations was during an affinity group surrounding gender. There was of course a group for those who identify as men, women, and genderfree/liberated/Trans*. I had no interest whatsoever to go to the group for men, even if it was all inclusive. I didn’t just go to the Trans* group based solely on my Trans* identity. During this group I felt as though I was able to share my gender journey so openly, authentically, and candidly. I was able to open up in ways that I haven’t been able to prior to that point. I talked about how I was born a woman, and I don’t always feel like I’ve been a man, because the truth is I haven’t. I talked about how some days I wake up and feel butch and manly, and some days I wake up and feel femme and feminine. It’s all so fluid these days. I told the group that the beautiful thing about my gender is that it’s my choice. No one else gets to define it for me. I work so hard to deconstruct binaries, so I don’t want to have to live in another binary of “male” that I’ve constructed for myself. Being in the affinity group gave me total affinity with the other members of this group, and I loved hearing their experience and where they’re coming from. It was such an uplifting place. It was hard to go back to the larger group where my identity and gender may be misinterpreted or assumed. And those things absolutely happened when I got back to the larger group, it was unfortunate, but I grew through those experiences. It’s challenging and confusing for myself and others because I do identify as a Transgender Male, but I also identify as genderqueer and a little bit gender liberated. It’s really important to be seen as male and have male pronouns used towards me, but I still feel in between and I want to be seen as a gender fuck or blurring gender lines. I’ve been giving it a little though to delaying hormones for a bit so I can live in this in between for the time being. I read mostly as male, which is helpful, but I’d like there to be some sort of ambiguity or confusion for people. Saying that, I recognize that I have a huge privilege to be read as male probably 80% of the time, so I have a lot of comfort in that.

Going on this retreat was so uplifting for myself and sort of patched some holes in my soul that I’ve been feeling. I was able to express myself in a soft and feminine manner, but also be read as male and interacted with as such. Difficult balance. I felt absolutely and totally comfortable in myself and I felt like people treated me as a human being, rather then just a man. I felt like people saw me as Tate and not directly as a gendered person or man. It felt wholesome. I’ve never felt like that before, because I don’t know that I was read that way before. It’s been a huge struggle being back in classes and interacting with my larger community. Gender is such a pervasive thing and I felt like I was able to side-step it this past weekend, but it’s all around; apparent and subliminal, conscious and unconscious.

Sometimes I think it’s an interesting turn of events that I did fight so hard to transition and be seen as male, and now I’m playing with gender. This all is a process, but I wish I didn’t have so much anxiety about society’s rules of gender and presentation.

The Dangers of Binding

I use the Underworks Tri-top Chest Binder to flatten my chestal region down. Those binders are a little more expensive, but I have a larger chest, so I find that they’re really the only thing that work for a flat finish. I’ve worn one out for the past 8 months or so and I bought a new one. I forgot how tight the Underworks binders are and so very tight. I wear my binders for everything – every day, almost all day, during exercise, work, classes, etc. The only time I don’t have on a binder is when I’m by myself going to sleep and if I’m hanging around my house with no one else around. It’s really not healthy, and I would not recommend exercising in a binder! Any who, I’ve been sick for the past month. I’ve had an upper respiratory infection, pharyngitis, pink eye, etc! Yuck! I’ve been on the mend for the most part, but I’ve had a lingering cough for the past two weeks really. I’ve been coughing for the past month, which is very pesky. I got my new Underworks binder about a month ago and started wearing it and trying to break it in to a more comfortable fit. I’ve substituted in and out looser binders during that time as well. I started coughing pretty hard a week ago and was wearing the new binder all the time. A week ago I also started having rib pain on my right side just where the binder cinches into my torso. I was supposed to go on a trip, so I didn’t want to cancel it, but my chest started hurting and I could barely breathe because of the cough and I have asthma, so I had tons of asthma flare-ups. I handled the weekend okay, but my ribs were in so much pain. I kept opting to wear the new binder, even though it hurt to wear and was pressing on my sore ribs. I kept coughing and my chest literally had no where to expand because of the tightness of the binder. I would take the binder off at night, even if I was surrounded by complete strangers because I couldn’t handle the pain. I had started to suspect my ribs were probably broken. At the end of the trip and returning back home, I decided to get checked out by a doctor even though I had been to the ER twice over the course of the month for my symptoms and the doctors said everything would go away and I’d get better on my own. Fast forward to the doctors appointment….As I was leaving the appointment with an order to get an xray for the following day to rule out pneumonia and a broken rib, I coughed so hard and felt and heard a pop in my rib cage. Mind you, I had changed from using the ultra tight new binder to a lose one a couple days prior. Turns out I had broken my rib from coughing. FROM COUGHING I BROKE MY RIB. I have to suspect that wearing the new binder that was extra snug and coughing definitely started to wear down the rib that broke. Ironically, the doctor I saw told me to keep wearing my binder because it might help stabilize the rib that broke.

I just want to caution people who wear binders. They’re NOT healthy for a body. They’re way to constrictive, don’t allow for blood flow or general movement and can lead to BROKEN RIBS. I’m not one to say, “ditch them all together! Don’t wear them for health reasons!” Because, I’m not about to not wear one, because if I didn’t, my dysphoria would be sky high. I just hope y’all will be careful and give your body rests, if you can handle spending that time with some maybe pesky body parts. I cannot sleep with a binder on any way, as I find it’s uncomfortable and I need the air flow, so at least I have that going for me. Just be careful!