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Three and a half years!

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Fishing vessel at sunset

Fishing vessel at sunset

Wow, it’s hard to believe all this time has passed by and here I am, a woman, living next to the ocean in beautiful Oregon.  Just now, watching a gorgeous sunset, strips of thin clouds floating across the ocean from the north, fishing vessel out in front and I occasionally hear a sea lion barking!  It’s starting to get dim so my living room lights just came on.  Perhaps I’ll light a fire tonight.

I’ll cover some recent events and then talk about transition:

I had a chance to go back to Maui.  I was excited but also a little, well, scared.  I was worried about being in and among all the memories and places Lisa and I enjoyed and then the vary hard and sad years that I was there after she passed away.  It’s still very hard when I write about this.

Sifan Anniversary

Anniversary Remembrance

The people that owned the ohana where Lisa and I lived for seven years (an ohana is  a small house on the same property as the main house – meant for mother-in-laws – but usually rented out).  They asked me to house sit for them as they went on a three week vacation.  So, basically, I was right above the house where Lisa and I lived – all those memories…

It was hard.  But also beautiful and a celebration of the love we have.  When I had time, I visited a long list of places that were very special to both of us and places that hold special significance for me.

And – well, I worked almost 60 hours each week I was there, it rained all the time except for perhaps 2 days (got down to the beach on one of those days!) and the heat and humidity conspired to keep me awake most of the nights!  Wow, I don’t think I ever had this bad of weather the 8 years I lived there!

I came back with an appreciation for Oregon and where I now live.  This confirmed for me that I had indeed made the right decision.  I love Maui and it will always be in my heart, as well as the people and culture there.  I feel that it is a huge part of me and I feel as I’m a part of there.  It was interesting being and feeling both as a tourist and as a kama’aina (local)!  More than anywhere else that I have lived, Maui feels more like that was home, like the home where one grew up.

Lately, I’ve been spending a lot of time building out a remote observatory.  I have been creating instruments to control the telescope, automate tracking, acquisition and camera, plus dome control and environmental monitoring.  Lots of fun actually.  This brings together a lot of skills and talents I’ve honed throughout my entire life.  I will be using this for teaching and for astronomy clubs in this area.  And, of course, for my enjoyment.

And at last, friends from Maui are starting to take trips out this way and have stopped in to see me.  I’m always overjoyed to have them over.  This is a beautiful place and I love sharing it and showing people around this awesome area!

I’m not sure if I had mentioned this before – I’m at the end of a cul-d-sac and the houses on each side of me are owned by single women.  Together we’ll go out to events, have each other over, cook special treats for each other and help one another with projects  or whatever.  For me, this is part of what it means to be a woman.  This is not at all the same for men.

A while ago, I started a post about ‘The Secret Women’s Club” or perhaps “The Secret Smile”.  I never finished it, but perhaps I could put the just of it here as that last paragraph really touches on that:

This probably has a lot more to do with our patriarchal society than anything else.  As a woman, when I first came out (or more precisely, when I ‘passed’ well enough…), I would notice that other woman would smile at me.  Mind you, it is dangerous and misleading if as a woman you smiled at a random man passing by…  But I’ve notice that most women will do this with other women – all the time.  I think there are at least of couple of reasons for this.  One is, of course, there is a level of safety when one women smiles at another.  But there is also a sort of  we’re in the together type of thing, or “I understand and am with you”.

There is ‘gifting’.  We will make little things for each other.  No strings attached (unless they are tied in a bow of course)!  Or cook or bake and bring a piece over to our women friends to share.  There is no expectation of reciprocity either.  I have received tops, blouses, skirts, jewelry, pies, cakes, meals, little presents and on and on.  And I have given the same as well (just made a German chocolate cake with lots of icing and distributed that around my neighbors…).

A while ago, I was reading a book written by another transitioned MtF that also mentioned this.  I was elated to see someone else had noticed this as well.  She also mentioned the levels of friendship women have.  She mentioned three levels, the casual, the good friend and the one or two girlfriends that you can call at 3am when you need to!

Then there is ‘girl’ talk!  I’ve been trying hard to stay away from comparisons but in this case I have to:  men will discuss sports, or other competitive adventures, tell stories, each ‘upping’ the other for best/worst/most dangerous/most stupid etc.  If one sits back and listens, you can see the one ups’men’ship at play – always competitive.  Now, yes, of course, this is a generalization – women do this too.  But much more often, women have deeper, serious and ‘level’ conversations and about topics that concern us, as women (that includes style, shopping etc).  No wonder we always group together apart from the men!  I have to chuckle each time a women friend has told her husband or male friend to:  a) go get a drink, b) how’s the game doing, c)  aren’t the guys calling you or when all else fails d) please go back in and leave us alone!!

I’m sure there’s many other examples, these are the ones I had in my draft post.  Ah, now I can remove that draft!

For me this is wonderful, as this expresses who I am, what I feel and before transition had wished that I could express myself as.  I suppose in one way, this is yet another affirmation of who I am and that progressing through transition was exactly the best thing I ever did (apart from being with Lisa of course!).

(Interjection:  wheeee, the house just shook – a huge ‘sneaker’ wave just crashed into the shore… wow!)

Enough of my current situation and thoughts – on with transition and ‘where I am’/’what’s going on lately’ type of thing…   Once again, this could be TMI and is personal.  I’m putting this here for those that follow so you can see at least one person’s journey.  Like they say:  your mileage may vary …

As mentioned previously, everything has pretty much stabilized, probably around 1.5 to 2 years after surgery, physiologically.  For those of you that are within those two years – trust me – it actually does get better (that is so hard to believe when you are going through those first years).  Physiologically, we are equivalent to a woman that has had a hysterectomy: we need to take estrogen, etc.  After about 1.5 years, your body just falls right into that rhythm – it is absolutely amazing what hormones do and the effect they have on a body.  They really do switch the body over, and not just external features, but a lot more.

I never thought my male face would ever come close to passing – this was a huge concern of mine and was a cause of a lot of dysphoria for me (one of many …).  I’ve had years of electrolysis (there are less hairs on my face than most women have!).  This helped, of course, but it was the estrogen that built up a (hate to say this) ‘fat’ layer under the skin.  This makes the face, arms, legs (everything) much softer and more feminine.  I can’t believe the before pictures of me compared to how I look now.  I also can’t believe how soft my skin is now – and omg, after a massage and spa treatment – wheeee!!

Just after my transition, there was a lot of talk among our group of sisters (those that went through surgery at the same time), about cycles, being moist and where sensations were located.  You have to remember, these were new bodies for us and we were in a leaning curve!  At the same time estrogen was reacting with our new parts and making itself at home.  So things were changing over time.  That’s one reason they say this takes a year or two for everything to settle down.  That’s pretty amazing considering it takes a natal women (or man) roughly 14 years to do that same …

I had just switched doctors to one that was much closer to where I live.  She believes in connections and cycles and nature – and I’m grateful to have found her.  But I was still surprised when she recommended that I get a ‘period tracker’ app for my phone!  I had been noticing that periodically I will put on (extra) weight for half a week or so (bloating actually), then suddenly one day I’m sitting urinating almost every 45 mins – and we’re talking a lot of volume each time.  This is through the night as well – ugh.  Well when I was at the doctors this last time, I had to use the restroom twice and I explained to her that this happens every so often, repeating slightly less than a months time.  So she suggested the tracker.  After a few months I’ll report what I find.  I know some other sisters have experienced this too but I’m not sure how prevalent this is.

Something else we had talked about back then within that 1 year post transition time – some sisters would be moist there.  Now, natal women are naturally moist there (mostly), this is a way it has of keeping itself clean and it’s environment stable.  But we don’t have those same glans.  Yet a number of sisters report that they are moist.  Well, I wasn’t then but am now.  I wear liners all  the time.  It’s not much but it’s there.  My own thoughts on this are that is takes time for estrogen to ‘link up’ with what ever we have that is available it to and it does it’s job like it is supposed to.

Perhaps this is why my endocrinologist wants me to stay on a higher dose of estrogen.  There are probably a number of other things that takes time to re-align and a high dose facilitates that.  My previous doctor reduced my dosage due to a high level from one of the blood tests.  Back on Maui, when I had a high level and was concerned, my endo said not to worry, it spikes and will level out.  Well, now with my new doctor, I’m back on my normal dose.  Which is good, because I was starting to have hot flashes etc.  Now things are back to my normal!  We are all different, but I’m at .2mg/day using estradiol patches.  My levels of estrogen are around 250 for comparison.

One of the hard parts for me is weight – ugh.  So easy to put on and as a woman – sooooo very hard to take off.  I’ve been struggling to lose weight for almost a year and instead I’ve gained about 10 pounds.  I’m eating ok, but I need to get out and do a lot more exercise.  Wow, it is a lot harder to lose weight as a female!

Well, that’s the physiological side of things, now the sociological and psychological aspects.

I don’t think it’s humanly possible for a trans*person to not think about passing.  Lots of advice about be yourself, it is you that matters not what others think, and on and on.  Heck, we say  this to each other and to ourselves.  And try hard to not think about it or let it bother us.  Who are we kidding ….  Nice as a pep talk but then there is that good ‘ol reality thingie sitting right up in front!  Ok, obsessing is bad, agree.  Letting it get to you is not good ether.

Humm, right about here I should explain my thoughts regarding transgender vs transsexual:  I still make a difference between those two even though no one uses or likes the term ‘transsexual’ anymore because of it’s past connotations.  This has a baring on passing.

The term transgender, is a very broad term encompassing many things – but basically it’s anyone who is ‘in the middle’ gender-wise.  Passing doesn’t matter, most don’t want to pass, they are who they are – some a mixture, some neither, some nothing and some definitely not male nor female – a huge spectrum!

Transsexual (note, the bad press this gets is due to the three letter word in the middle, most taking that as the ‘verb’ – but it’s actually the noun – as in what sex are you) – does not really fit inside the broad strokes of transgender – transsexual is someone born one sex but is the complete opposite – not middle by a long shot.  We are the ones that need and go through surgery.  I don’t see myself as a mixture of male and female, one day maybe more of one than the other, any more than most natal male/females do.  I’m female, not androgenous nor male.  Passing matters!

Obsessing and letting it get to you are bad – agree.  But, you know, dressing right, posture correct, voice check, hair put up nicely – for me these are important.  To a lot of women, it is also routine (well maybe not the voice check…).  This is the sociological aspect, I want to be seen and accepted as who I am – a woman.  When I carry out conversations, I want those to be interpreted as coming from a woman and responded to in kind.  (I think I wrote an entire post about this already – having spent time in a virtual world as a female avatar before starting this long road to transition, I had noticed this huge difference in how we converse – this showed me my natural way of conversing and set me on my path – or more correct – showed me my path).

One other thing to mention:  I will sometimes get this certain feeling when I’m in a store or restaurant or group of people, I’ll be concerned whether I’m ‘passing’ or not, or perhaps just an un-comfortableness.  I will usually excuse myself and leave.  Just recently someone was badly beaten up in Portland.  Then another incident down south in the Willamette valley.  To a certain extent, I think it’s important to be concerned about how we look and ‘passing’.  I think there is a healthy side to this.  This is similar to what a lot of natal women experience as well, regarding how they dress and how they are seen.

Ouch, this was longer than expected.  My apologies.

With much aloha,

Sifan

 

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Update from the Coast

Winter Ocean

It’s a foggy rainy winter day:  the ocean waves are noisy and pounding, the sand is once again back covering the bedrock of the beach.  Some flowers are just starting to bloom – amazing!  Fireplace is on and Bella, my cat, is cuddled and cozy on my lap – putting up with my typing, but occasionally demanding attention.

It is Thanksgiving, in a bit I will be preparing a dish to bring with me to the community dinner and celebration.  Tomorrow I’ll be joining my neighbors in another celebration next door.  I still have to figure out what I’m going to cook for that.

I just got home from up in Portland where I was attending the TDOR events (Transgender Day Of Remembrance).  We have come so far, but yet suffer so much – this is the highest number of murders yet in a single year.  It’s so sad.  One of the speakers, a very shy and private person, said she was out and active precisely because of the political climate now – that of all periods in history, this is so critically important – ‘now’.  She is right, not just for transgender, but for so many others as well.

Tree across snowy road in the high Cascades

As usual, I went the opposite direction on my way home (intentionally, in order to explore this beautiful land).  And as usual, I wound up high in the Cascade mountains, this time almost got stuck in the snow and had to backtrack almost 50 miles before I could cut back across.  I love these adventures and the raw nature that I’m experiencing!

So, where am I in my transition?  Am I still in transition?  Wow, good question!

Some say we are always in transition.  Hummm.  I guess that depends on what you mean.  I see myself growing, especially spiritually.  The changes now are those paths that would be followed regardless of physically and psychologically transgender related issues.  That would be a whole new post!

For the most part, I view myself as having transitioned to a woman or more precisely to a female (was born a woman).  Even during my drive across the country and staying in out-of-the-way places, I was never miss-gendered.  Which I consider somewhat remarkable given I traveled through some very conservative territories.

There are still some dysphoric moments:  my hair will be wet or blown and my face will look to masculine, a combination of clothes might make me look not feminine enough and there are times in a public place that I just have this feeling, uncomfortable and want to leave.  But a lot of my women friends feel this way at times as well.

 

Winter Blooms

There was a phase I went through where I felt I had to be overly feminine, perhaps out of a fear of not passing or perhaps that finally I’ve transitioned and had a lot to catch up on.  Lisa would call that ‘fru fru’!  I do miss being able to wear all the colorful flowery outfits in Hawaii.  It’s quite drab here on the coast compared to there.  Being here has certainly helped in grounding me fashion wise.  However, I do love to find a ‘fancy’ event so that I can dress up a bit!

Three year update – post transition (this section meant for those in transition or about to start):

Everything has settled down.  About a half year ago my Estrogen levels were way up, so my doctor cut me back by 25%.  I’m on Estradiol patches which I think are great!  I apply only twice a week, so very little maintenance compared to nightly rubbing gel on my thighs.  I don’t like shots and oral pills are not good for your liver – so this is the best solution for me.

I found (as many other sisters have) that I only need to dilate about twice a month.  Better still, I have regained the depth that the doctor measured right after the operation.  And … now and then I measured a greater depth.  I still use the ‘big’ dilator given me at the clinic.  I have had no issues with the exception of experiencing ‘Merlin’s Sword’ syndrome twice (didn’t use enough lube and it gets stuck).  If you’re dilating and this happens to you: take a deep breadth and ‘slowly’ twist and extract.  Not a biggie.

Another huge change a half year ago – I had a follicle transplant.  Today, those hairs are about 2 inches long!  Very soon I’ll be able to have them incorporated into a style and colored as well.  But already, it has made a huge difference in how my face looks.  This was the cause of a lot of additional dysphoria.  It’s so nice to get beyond that.

It took me awhile to determine if this was true:  I do have a roughly monthly cycle of bloating for about a week then a day of using the restroom almost every half hour!  This is also coupled with being more sensual and sensitive.  At first I thought maybe I drank too much coffee or something!  So I decided to keep track and yup, not quite monthly.  I wonder if others that have transitioned MtF have noticed anything like this?

Life beyond transition – yes, this was a lifesaver and was the second most important thing in my life (first was Lisa and oh do I wish she was still alive).

With much aloha,

Sifan

Starting my Life on the Oregon Coast

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Teaching at the Community College

I’ve been giving astronomy talks and presentations here in Oregon since I moved here last year.  This plus so many other activities have allowed me to make connections with lots of wonderful people here.

Last week I finished teaching the last course at the community college here.  It was a 2 hour talk about the up coming eclipse.  The head of the college introduced me by saying that once the community here found out I was an astronomer that everyone has been taking full advantage of me!  In the room were the fire chief, a talk radio host, news paper editor, city manager and a couple of other community leaders that have already had me at their meetings or on the radio or news paper!  They all had a good giggle!  Oh, and also the head of our Coronado Shores club where I live – they had me give 2 talks already as well.

I’m finally able to take it easy.  Except that I’m putting together what I need for the eclipse.  I bought a Nikon camera, telescope interfaces and accessories and software to automate both the telescope and the camera.  I’ve been out during the day with all the equipment testing out the setup.  My goal is to setup at the beach cabana here with the camera/telescope/computer and have a large screen monitor so everyone can watch at once (and not have to look through the telescope).  It’s coming along.  There are a few more pieces I need – just waiting for my next paycheck…

Oh – reminds me – I found this awesome astronomy dress – call ‘MoonStruck’.  It’s a maxi, dark with stars/moon/nebulas!  The last talk I gave (at the community college) I wore my star dress (knee length, glows in the dark …).  This will be a nice complement!  Got to do something unique for these talks – hate to wear the same thing everywhere …. (!!).

The biggest accomplishment for me was getting the final mortgage taken care of on the house here.  I now have a reverse mortgage so I am covered for the rest of my life.  There are no payments (I have to keep insurance and taxes up to day) and I can draw out the excess equity when I need (the equity earns >6% interest if I leave it in).  I’m not sure why – but this was a ‘huge’ relief for me.  I think I have a greater need for security than I realize…

Oh, you should see all the little things I’ve placed around the house and the garden.  In anticipation of the grandkids visiting, I’ve created little nooks out and around – some with little faeries, some with glowing colored stones, artwork and wind blown things – all match into the landscape so that one has to look for them and hopefully be delighted when found!  (Ok, grandkids was only an excuse …!!)  I remember Aunt Mae and her house in upper Michigan.  She had so many special places around her house.   Also, Lisa (and I) would create these intimate nooks in SecondLife.  These were very peaceful places to visit (as an avatar) and held meaning and beauty.  I have preserved all of those and go there often.  I am finding that my time in the virtual worlds have allowed me to find and cultivate more of my spirit than I had thought.  And now, I’m able to actualize these – not because I’m duplicating anything, but because this is me.  If anything that last statement is hindsight – it’s realizing after the fact that ‘oh, we did this in SL…’.

One other interesting correlation to SL:  Lisa had created a beautifully artistic tray and perfume bottles (and makeup) for a dressing table in SecondLife.  She even created a jeweled powder case.  After I finally moved here to Oregon and unpacked everything – including a dressing table we had in storage in Carlsbad – there it is – a try filled with beautiful colored perfume bottles in many shapes, a jeweled powder case and much more.  I just wish she was here to enjoy this with me!

I’ve been out and about on beaches, mountains tops, kayaking lakes and hiking out cliff edges …  Also posted pictures of sea lions and birds right from my deck here.  I am sooo glad I chose this location.  It really encompasses so many of the things my soul/spirit needs!  The people here are awesome.  I go to a woman’s breakfast, then we have a woman’s coffee and then there is a dine out.  This is in addition to picnics and potlucks.

I have a number of good friends now as well.  I meet my new good friends on Wends and Thurs mornings for “Life between Lives” and “Socrates Cafe”.  We go out after for lunch which usually winds up taking 5 hours!  I have a friend in Corvallis that will call me and we’ll get together for hiking or kayaking and another friend that will get together with me to go see plays and events at the Newport cultural center.  There are a couple of people up in Portland and also in Seattle that have been twisting my arm to come up and stay with them.  The neighbors on both sides of me are single women, and we will get together at each others house or go to events together.  So, I’m plugged in, it’s keeping me quite busy – ha, no time left for work!!

Oh, but the grief.  Yes …  It’s so very strange, there are times when I feel Lisa so so close, within me, and I feel comfort and bliss with her walking with me.  Then there are times when loss completely overcomes me and I’ll lay in bed crying for hours.  It’s been more of the former and less of the latter lately.  But the roller coaster continues.  I’ll never know.  Sometimes things trigger it – other times those same triggers are actually comforting as I am so very grateful to have spent these years with Lisa.  I just never know what a trigger might do to me.

An interesting thing happened a couple of weeks ago at one of the ‘Life between Lives” sessions.  One of the women there said she needed to talk to me after.  She said her ‘guides’ (she channels) had a very important message for me.  She said it was from a spouse that had passed away.  She said I was supposed to drink plenty of fluids – that (Lisa) was impeded from coming through to me because of this and that she would be able to communicate with me if I did.  This was interesting because a week or so prior to this, both my doctor and my electrologist had just told me the same thing!  Well, two days later, after drinking a lot of fluids, just before bed when I was very relaxed and calm – I had a nice ‘chat’ with Lisa!!!  In all the time since she passed away, I have never felt so serene and calm as that night and the following day.  Parts were even blissful!  I noticed that there was an intensity that night, that made it hard to maintain.  I’m still ‘pondering’ that (as Lisa would say…).
With Aloha,
Sifan

Back in Touch …

sifan-in-snow-by-coos-bay

Snow on the Coast

Oh boy it’s been a long time since I posted and a lot has happened.  I’ll attempt to fill in the gaps and then cover updates to my transition.

In December I moved from Maui to my new home on the Oregon coast.  I’m semi-retired, working remotely from here.  I spent half of December packing up a shipping container and the other half traveling over but also spending time with my family in Minnesota.  The first part of January was spent moving the contents of the container to my home on the coast and then starting the process of unpacking.  My ex-spouse (1st marriage) came over to Maui to help and is staying here for a number of weeks helping me sort through and setup my home here.  She is also giving me moral support in this very difficult time.

big-waves-out-front-window

Big waves take out the living room window

My kealoha Lisa, passed away 22 months ago and I am still in very deep grief.  Leaving Maui was difficult but leaving all the places and memories of the life we have spent together was infinitely more painful.   As they say, severe grief comes in waves – that is very true.  The more intense the love shared – the greater the grief experienced.  The worst thing one can do is try to suppress or try to ‘get over it’.  There is no such thing as getting over it – it’s for the rest of one’s life.  All that can be done is to learn how to live with this new reality.

I’ve eluded to this in past posts, I feel Lisa’s presence strongly.  She has always ‘been there’ for me when I needed her or called to her for help.  One example was when I was out to eat with her brother and his wife.  There were these beautiful flowers on the table, ones that Lisa knew and had on our lanai.  But I couldn’t remember it’s name.  I asked Lisa for help and within seconds the flower’s name came to me.  This has happened many times since.  There are also times when I felt a physical presence, tap on shoulder, bed depressing behind me as she would sit down on the side of the bed, and the list goes on.

I have documented a lot of these and have promised to write a post here about those.  That is yet to come.  Lisa wrote a book on spiritual awakening which is now ready for publishing.  More on that in another post.

I am very fortunate that my ex-spouse and I are on such wonderful terms.  As she puts it, now that I’m a woman, she sees me as one of her best girl friends.  At first she could not understand what had happened to us or during that time how different and changed I was.  At that time – nether did I.  Back then, I did not know that I was beginning the process of peeling back the layers and the woman inside me was struggling to get out as the testosterone in me fought to keep in control.  The result was messy and led to our divorce.  It wasn’t until nearly 4 years later that I even knew what transgender was and that I was one.  My ex-spouse (and myself) were very confused by this change that seemingly came out of nowhere.

When I finally figured out what/who I was, she and many others questioned  this, as they had not seen any signs of this in all my years with them.  Now, most everyone sees my gender in my past years.  My ex now realizes (as did Lisa) that they had fallen in love with me precisely because of my female gender – I was not (as they both have said) a ‘regular’ male – I was more sensitive, caring and ‘not chauvinistic’ like all the other men.

But at that time, when the internal wars began, this was not obvious.  Lisa had terrible trauma when she was a very young child.  This lasted her entire life time and it was only in the last year or so of her life that she was able to recognize this and to understand the great influence this had on her life and the great grief she carried.  Lisa was the first to point out that I too had something deeply buried.  And indeed, I had.

The greater the trauma, the deeper it is buried and the greater the internal protections become in order for one to both cope with similar situations but also to avoid those situations entirely.  In my case that created a powerful male layer that denied my gender in all ways possible, my true identity.  When I was very young, I knew I was a woman.  After this trauma, all that was deeply buried.  That layer then sought out to ‘prove’ in all ways possible, my maleness – like climbing, being a leader, getting married and having children and the list goes on.  Yes, I know that climbing, being a leader, starting a company etc. are not related to gender – however, 50 to 60 years ago – it was.

Being a woman and also being ‘under the influence’ of testosterone led to some very difficult situations in my past years, pre-transition.  But it really started to come to a head in the last years with my ex, before I met Lisa.  It takes a lot to  break a lifetime of testosterone based ‘protection’.  There was so much disphoria: the internal conflict between hormone directed actions and my feminine being.  This is all in hindsight – and was very confusing at that time.

Lisa was awesome in her acceptance of me and in her guidance and help.  She had difficulties with this.  She wrote about this in a previous post.  But despite that, she was a great ally and gave total support.  This is yet another reason I miss her so very much.

Update to my transition:

I was taking Divigel, which is a topological drug – daily I would empty two packets of this gel on my upper legs and rub that in.  The drug plan that I was on, changed their formulary, making this very expense (it went from $17/mo to about $75/mo).  Worse, for medicare plans, this was almost $250/mo!  I talked with my endocrinologist and was changed over to the Estrogen patch instead.  This costs me $11 for three months worth!!  What a difference.  I had blood tests done after I was on the patches for a bit and my levels have stayed about the same.  Even better, I put two patches on, twice a week.  So there is no longer a nightly routine of applying Divigel.  All I do now is change patches on Monday and Thursday.  So much better and easier.  I have yet to find a doctor here – I have 2 months of patches left, so that gives me a little time to find the right doctor.  But having to find someone who is trans* friendly is a bit daunting.

My final doctors visit on Maui turned out great, but sad.  I will miss them a lot.  Those were wonderful people.  I had a thorough exam: she said “wow, you have a good looking vagina”!  Everything ‘down there’ is looking good and in proper order.  Basically at the hormone levels that I’m at, I’m equivalent to a pre-menopausal woman that has had a hysterectomy.  I need to take estrogen for the rest of my life.  If I don’t or if I lapse, I will go into menopause (hot flashes and all) until I get back on and stabilize.  Menopause for the rest of my life is not a good thing…  I had a taste of that before my SRS – I had to go off all medications for a month before.

I still wear liners.  I find that, like many pre-menopausal woman, I have a slight discharge from the upper area.  Wearing liners just keeps things cleaner (and less washing…).  I do ‘get wet’ there when aroused.  From what  I understand from the doctors and research, SRS does not put reconstruct the female glans that allow for those discharges.  However, many of the trans*women that I know, also secret normally during the month but especially if aroused.  I’m happy I’m one of them!

My breasts are perhaps a tab larger than before, so even 3 and 1/2 years after starting estrogen, they are still growing, although just slightly.  Lately they are very firm as well.

And oh yes – once a female, if you put on weight, it is very very difficult to get off.  Even with all this moving and exercise and not eating much (well until the holidays came around) I hardly lost any weight.  Since the holidays, I’ve gained about 6 pounds which I’m now trying to lose.  I have a long way to go to get back to my SRS weight, but that is my goal.

Large hands and feet, broad shoulders, muscular arms etc. do not bother me – no disphoria there.  However, my face is another story.   I’m not sure what to do about it.  I have a high hair line and I wear bangs.  But I have to comb hair from past the middle of the top forward in order to cover it.  When it’s blowing etc, this tends to move the hair of the bangs to one side exposing a very high hairline on the other side.  Having a good trim and style is very important.  Since the move, I have not been able to get one – but I’m scheduled for next week.  I’m hoping that will help with this.

And as for that other very important aspect of being trans* – getting ‘clocked’.  So far nothing obvious has happened.  No one has mis-gendered me.  However, there were some places where I just felt very uneasy.  Whether or not people were looking or mis-gendering me, I had these feelings.  I have learned, now that I have transitioned, to respect these feelings.  So in these situations, I will graciously extract myself.

I just finished writing another post, this one talking about what are we post transition: woman or trans-woman.  Have a look.

Now that I’m starting to settle in this new life, I’m hoping to post here more often.  Mahalo to everyone that is following these posts.

With much Aloha,

Sifan

 

Post transition: Woman or Trans-Woman

transgenderWhen is one finished transitioning?  Or for a more controversial topic – when is one a ‘woman’ and no longer a ‘trans-woman’?  This is a difficult question, one with heated disagreement on both sides of the answer.  First off, for me, I do not consider myself a transgender.  That term is very broad and in my opinion describes persons that are non-binary, somewhere in the middle between man and woman.  I’m a transsexual, someone who ‘is’ binary, just the opposite from the obvious birth characteristics.

There are problems with all of this.  For example, no one is completely a man or a woman, everyone has a bit of both.  Technically there is no binary gender system at all:  everyone is transgender!  Second, the word ‘transsexual’ has a lot of bad connotations to it – mostly because of the word ‘sex’ in it.  However, this is the noun ‘sex’ not the verb – something lost on most people … (eg noun as in what ‘gender’ you are, not verb as in having sex).  Because of this, I’m very hesitant to use that word and will use transgender when I’m discussing this with someone.

For a transsexual then, most of us (but not everyone) are driven to correct our situation (SRS surgery, hormones, etc).  Our goal is to become or actualize our correct gender, which is opposite (binary) from our designated birth ‘sex’.  (I’m very carefully stating this:  I was always a woman, but was ‘designated’ male, by someone ‘else’ when I was born).  None the less, having the wrong external sex characteristics and wrong hormones coursing in my veins caused great internal stress (disphoria).  So for me (and others) it was very important to become or actualize who we really are.

Here’s the dilemma:  as a transsexual, once I am past transition, I’m a woman – that’s what this transition was all about.  At the same time, I’m part of the ‘transgender’ community and today especially, it’s very important to not only stay connected but also to support and further that cause.

That’s the crux of the matter:  a lot of people have very strong opinions both ways:  one is always trans* and once transitioned, one is now fully their target sex (they were always their target gender).

And yes, for the cis-women in the world – I/we will never be that.  I don’t have the same life experiences as you.  However, do not discount that too quickly.  I grew up as a woman inside.  As a result I suffered very similar social injustice and prejudices and as a child suffered severe trauma.  Not the same, but a similar very rocky road.  Additionally, I had many confusing situations where I was either completely misunderstood or could not believe how the other boys/men around me acted.  In other times, I could not believe what my testosterone driven body was doing or feeling – which was completely opposite of what and who I was.  This is disphoria.

For me personally, I’m someplace in the middle.  I am a woman, I have been since before I was born.  I consider myself fully transitioned – I am now a female (sex) woman (gender).  At the same time, I am trans*:  I went through my transition and am here to support and help others.

However, I will not expose or openly declare my trans* status.  It is too risky in this day and age (still) and it can be deadly.  Also, I am a woman and want to fully engage in society as such.  In a trusted environment, in appropriate places, I will engage openly as a trans*woman.

Others are fighters, willing to push the frontiers.  We all need to respect each others limits and capabilities.

With much Aloha,

Sifan

23 Months Post Op

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Address the Maui Pride remembrance for Orlando

Wow, a lot has happened since my last post and the continuing grief and loss I have over losing my Keahola (beloved) Lisa.  I haven’t written about my transition for such a long time, mostly because Lisa’s passing has completely overwhelmed everything else in my life.  Perhaps that is good, as it seems a lot of the worry I had before about transition had been replaced by this loss and my thoughts about transition seem to have simply vanished.

At this point in my transition (is it still a transition?) everything for me, being a women that is, is very much normal and almost taken for granted.  I used the word ‘almost’ because I can never take this for granted after all I’ve gone through – what I mean is that daily activity as a woman is not questioned by me nor looked at with this “oh wow – I’ve made it” type of wonderment.  Back in 2013 I wrote a post about wanting to feel ‘nothing‘ – meaning everything is seen, felt and communicated – gender wise – correctly and not with extensive disphoria.  That is where I am today.

There are occasional disphoric moments, for example, seeing a reflection of myself when my hair is blown back and my face seemingly looking too masculine or interpreting a look from someone as evidence I’m not “passing”.  These are rare and for the most part I now walk through life with the assumption that everyone’s first impression of me is as a female.  In other words, I have a confidence now.  In situations where there are people that know that I’m a trans-woman, I have no issue being open and sharing, as long as they respect me ‘as a woman’!  And that is the norm – yayayayay!

The picture I chose above is when I addressed a gathering of over 300 people in remembrance of the shootings in Orlando at an LGBT* nightclub.  This was put together by the Maui Pride organization which I was elected to as a board member.  Just one of the things I’ve been doing since Lisa passed away.  And, a biggie for me, I was accepted into a Womyn’s group.  Another was being inducted into the service organization of the Rotary.  In all of these I am out and known as a trans*woman and accepted as a woman.

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Supporting Jaysen as he recites his poem.

I also have the opportunity to help a teenage youth, FtM, gain confidence as he transitions.  I’ve given him a tour of the summit observatories and did some stargazing while we were up there.  It’s so very rewarding to watch him gain confidence in himself and move forward in life.  He was a co-speaker at remembrance for Orlando as well.  As he started to read the poem he wrote especially for this event, he had a hard time getting started – so I went around and came up behind him and placed my had on his shoulder.  That was all he needed and his confidence was back!  He is now engaged in a lot of activities on the Island and is becoming known as the youth spokesperson for Trans*.  This is so awesome.  I’m very proud of him and honored to have been able to be a part.

Both of us were on a radio talk show here on Maui to discuss being trans, some of the misconceptions, and generally more information about trans* to help set the record straight.  It’s an hour long but I think very good.  Suzanne (the host) did a great job of asking the right questions.  At one point even I did mix up the  terms, placing sexual orientation words in a statement I was making about non-binary gender identity.  So embarrassing especially after just talking about sexual orientation is completely different from gender identity!  I know it’s long but please have a listen to the entire recorded show here on my YouTube site.  My mic was quite soft so you might need to turn up the volume to hear what I had to say.

I have been able to do so much and come so far, but all of this has been possible because Lisa had passed away.  I would not have gone out and got involved if Lisa was still alive.  I would have continued as we were, together, in love and always in each others company.  This troubles me a lot and is another source of terrible grief.  I remember Lisa telling me how badly she grieved after her brother died.  Lisa was the estate executor and she would say over and over again how she would rather have him be alive then have part of his estate.  I am now in the same situation, I have accomplished so much in the last 15 months since she passed away.  I would much rather have her alive and the two of us quietly sitting at home, together, enjoying life than everything I’ve accomplished since.  It’s painful.  I knew from the first day after she passed away that I had to get out there and be a part of everything I could:  Maui Pride, Hiking Groups, Maui Adventures, Womyn’s groups, Sunday brunch groups, Rotary and the list goes on.

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Giving a tour and stargazing at the summit of Haleakala

Lisa wanted to retire back to Oregon the second I turned 66 – my full retirement age.  We had even put an offer on a house and had it accepted.  We were waiting for the inspection report before finalizing – and that is when she passed away.  The day she passed away I had to call and cancel that offer.  I have now come full circle – I have just purchased a home on the beach in Oregon – a huge dream of hers (and mine).  I will be retiring there on the 1st of Jan, 2017.  During the first two weeks that I stayed in the new home, I could feel Lisa’s presence in the chair next to me.  I could feel her happiness.  I can’t tell you how happy I am to have felt that and her acceptance of this home.  The irony is, she would not have purchased this when she was alive due to her bad knees, but she would have enjoyed this immensely in our retirement.

Back to transition ….

Once again a caveat … this is meant for those that are following me in transition, others may consider some of what comes next as TMI (too much information).  You have been warned!

Most everything has stabilized.  It is very hard to lose weight and so very easy to gain it.  This is very different from before hormones.  As a result, I’m up about 10 pounds from when I had my surgery.  My breasts have grown perhaps just a little, my aoreolas are more pronounced and I definitely need to either wear a bra or ‘peddles’ to conceal my nipples under a top.  I would also say I have some curves in the right places that I didn’t have before.

I still wear liners.  For one, panties go a lot longer.  I have a slight continuous discharge, not from the vagina but from the upper areas close to the clitoris.  My doctor told me that was normal for a lot of woman and due to estrogen.  This slight wetness keeps everything clean and healthy.  When I shower I don’t use soap there:  I rinse thoroughly with water under the shower, making sure to get into all the folds (after surgery for a number of months I used soap).   At first I had the ‘cheesies’:  deep in some of the folds a yellowish cheesie deposit would form and this did not smell very nice.  Again my doctor found and showed me where and how to clean.  This has not happened for quite a while now.

I still do not like to wear jeans or anything tight down there, but I am able to tolerate that longer now.  However, if I take a long arduous hike, etc., I’ll notice that it will be tender and sometimes sore.  Once my liner had a slightly pink color – so something bleed a little.  That was after a pretty hard long hike in the mountains here.  A few months after my surgery I had what felt like a bowling ball directly under my clitoris – very hard and sore.  It was only after that went away (shrunk and then disappeared) that I was able to sit without using a cushion.  Well, once after a difficult all day hike wearing tight jeans, this came back – maybe only marble size, but in the same place and with the same soreness and tenderness.  It went away withing 24 hours, but I thought that was noteworthy as it was almost the same thing.

And orgasms ….  I have not had any ‘over-the-top’ knock down, blows one’s mind out orgasm (yet).  I will have these mini-orgasms that will peak but will go away quickly.  These are full body and wonderful, but very short and perhaps not so intense.  One of my problems might be that when they happen, my mind kicks in with ‘oh wow’ and then ‘keep going’ – all distracting from the event itself.  Others that have transitioned the same time as me have figured it out and others still have not even had one, just like in the normal female population.  I consider myself fortunate to be able to have this.  Plus I think I’m placing too much pressure and ‘thought’ behind it.  I have to learn how to let go even more.  I really wish I had a partner in times like this ….  I remember how totally awesome it was for Lisa.

I have noticed that I have synchronized with the other women in the office.  For about a week each month, I bloat up only to loss all the water weight all at once over a 16 hour period – using the restroom as often as every 45 mins or so, with a large volume each time.

It’s just before this week that I have any inclination or wish for stimulation (what a huge difference from being a male!!).  I am really grateful for that actually.  As a male, testosterone imparted this almost constant drive that I hated.  As a women, I knew that was not part of me and I hated how that had effected me.  This is another one of the many parts of disphoria – a disconnect between one’s self and one’s body.

Dilation is not a problem at all any more.  I dilate once a week, but there have been times when I missed – and had no problem the next time.  I know others that can not miss a week without having trouble getting to depth or having tightness.  I’m lucky.  There was a discussion within the forums about switching to using a dildo or vibrator of the same width and depth instead of the lucite dilator.  So, well, I bought one!  It certainly makes dilation a lot easier!  But it’s not as rigid as the dilator, so I alternate to make sure I keep the depth and width.

After I had my surgery and the doctor removed the packing, he inserted the dilator and showed me the initial depth – it was 6.5 inches.  However, every time after that when I dilated, I measured 5.5 inches.  Now, in the last couple of months, I have reached the 6.5 inches!  So for me at least, I was able (after almost 2 years) to get back to my original depth.  Not that his matters – I don’t have a partner and even if I do find someone – a new partner would almost certainly be female.  But, as another trans*sister put it – you paid a lot of money/pain/effort for this …

Every now and then I wake up in the middle of the night and adjust the blanket – taking it off a bit because I got too hot only to put it back on later because I got too cold.  For a while I thought this was outside temperature changes (in Maui I have all the windows and the sliding door to the lanai open in my bedroom – Lisa and I both loved the fresh air).  But this was happening too often for this to be that.  It’s night sweats – mini hot flashes.  Cis women that I know that are post-menopausal have said that ya, they never really go away.  Not as intense, but still there.

I’m still having electrolysis.  The only part left is under my chin/neck and that is more than 1/2 way finished.  I do not shave above my jaw line at all any more – I only shave part of my neck.  That is a huge YAYAYAYAYAY!  I can not wait to have this completed.  I have electrolysis twice a week – 2 hours each time.  Since I’m moving to Oregon in Jan. I’m hoping to have this completed by then.

I also had electrolysis to remove the hairs on my back as well.  I didn’t have many, so that went pretty quickly.  Now, I’m having laser on my front and finally getting that under control.  I’ll have electrolysis on anything that is left on my front (just below the bikini line up to the neck).

In my experience, hormones did not have very much of an effect on my back and front hairs.  I had to shave/wax both all along (about twice a week).  However, the hormones did effect the leg and arm hair.  Mine are now much softer and much less.  I shave legs and arms perhaps once every three weeks to a month.  Just under my knee caps is the only place where it’s noticeable.

The heath provider from work just removed Divigel (estrogen – very very critical for me) from their formulations – meaning I no longer pay the $20 co-pay for it but now am charged $75 !!  What an increase!  I want to fight it, but omg what a mess that is.  In 5 months I retire and will get a medicare plan that will cover it.  I could just wait.  But I think I want to fight this – at least for others and those coming after me.  So we’ll see.  This will be difficult as there are so many other things that need to be done before I retire.  Messy ….

Well, there you go – finally got a post out!  I’ve learned not to promise when the next one will come – but I’ll try.  Things seem to be getting better now.

With much aloha,

Sifan

Finality – A Year of Grief and Loss

A good friend of mine had lost her father and we discussed the finality of death and how hard it is to accept along with the grief and deep loss felt.  I thought I would post my reply here because this might help others.

My spouse, the most beautiful love I have ever shared, passed away a little more than a year ago now.  She was with me during my transition and during my operation.  So very supportive.  She passed away about 6 months after that operation.  This last year has been horrific in the pain of the loss and grief felt and accounts for the lack of posts on this blog site.  I know I’ve promised to write more here – enough so that I don’t dare promise anything except that I will try.  There are a lot of things I would like to write and I will.

Here is my response to the feelings of the finality when a person you love dearly passes:

Oh the finality …. I found there are two very distinct parts to that.  I spent 3 hours or so with Lisa’s body in the hospital after she was pronounced dead and before they came to pick her up (oh boy this is difficult to write…).  And then just before she was cremated I viewed her body for about 1/2 hour after which she was brought right to the back and cremated.  It was so hard leaving there, I walked backwards out the building looking at her the entire time until I could not anymore – my last sight of her physical-ness – ever.  Her brother was there with me and came rushing up to support me as I was stumbling and collapsing.

Even though this is so very hard to bring this memory back up – it ‘proved’ beyond a doubt that Lisa had passed – I knew from a visceral level that she was gone – no way to come back.  And that brought closure for me – in a way.
But then, more than a year later, I still grieve so intensely.  There seems to be another part of me that still battles that ‘finality’.  Some other aspect of myself.  From my experience it never goes away, instead I am just learning how to live again, how to get back my sense of purpose and enjoyment of life, but now living alone.  Everything seems ‘just under the surface’ and grief and loss strike at any time – still.  I have found that time helps with coping, but does not diminish the loss or grief and in a way the finality either.  Like you mentioned, we just learn to life like this now.
I do talk to Lisa all the time and in the first person.  I tell her about my day, ask her for help or guidance, etc.  I’m trying to learn how to live with her, together, but in this new ‘state’ of being or relationship.  That does help.
That was my response.  There is so much more about grieving and loss of a loved one to write about.  I will try…
Much Aloha,
Sifan
(much tears)