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6 Months Post-Op

3/11/2015 Working at the summit

3/11/2015 Working at the summit

The ‘big’ 6!  This is the second milestone of recovery from SRS (4 months, 6 months and 1 year).  At 4 months the contractions and nerve re-connections pretty much stopped.  Now at 6 months most of the rest of the constant pain has gone away.  Whereas before it felt like something very hard was just inside under everything – that has now gone away.  Before, there was a constant low level pain – every second.  Regardless of what I was or was not doing – I always felt “down there” – constantly.  Only when I took pain medicine was it normal – with out pain or a constant swollen feeling.

Now, it’s just occasionally that there is any pain down there.  Today I didn’t even use my seat cushion at work – and I worked at the summit (it’s harder when working up there).  I’ve graduated to only using my seat cushion if it’s a hard chair.  Trust me – that is a lot of progress!  I can also sleep at night without having a pillow between my legs to keep them apart.

This all happened the day before my 6 month anniversary.  Just like the 4th month anniversary, seems like it took me right up until the day before for things to fall into place – but they did …

I’ve gained about 8 pounds since the operation.  Now that I’m feeling better, I’m going to start my walking again.  I bought a weighted hula-hoop for exercise too.  And oh boy – it’s not so easy to lose weight like it was before.  My goal is to drop another 30 lbs over the next year.

It’s been very cold here in Hawaii, especially upcountry here.  It’s been down in the 50’s.  Now, back when I lived in Minnesota, with furnaces in every house, even at -40 below zero, our house was a nice comfortable 72.  But we do not have heaters here.  So when it’s 50 degrees outside, it’s ever so slightly warmer inside – like 52 ….  That is cold even for Minnesota for inside.  And worse:  since my operation it’s very easy for me to get a chill.  I feel like I’m freezing almost all the time.  Life has changed.

I have three wonderful women that I’m privileged to have had as mentors as I transitioned to full womanhood.  Lisa of course and two others that I work with at the observatory.  One of them now, no longer works there.  She is the only one that would wear a dress or a skirt to work.  Almost everyone else is in t-shirts and jeans.  She was my inspiration for many things, style was one of them.  She is also the person that ran interference for me when I first started using the women’s restroom.  The other woman at work has also been an inspiration and huge help.  I would best describe her as a ‘wild woman’ in the best way – the way we all should aspire too.  Lisa on the other hand is my conservative mentor – right down the middle of the other two.  She keeps my feet on the ground and everything ‘real’.  I’m fortunate to have these three woman around me and mentoring me.

I still see the woman, that left the observatory, for lunch now and then, and just gave her and her sister’s family a tour of our observatory.  They had two sons, 5 and 9 I believe.  The older son was asking lots of very good questions – I wish everyone that I gave tours to would ask these kinds of questions!  But the younger child was getting bored fast.  He raised his hand and when I asked what his question was, he stated:  “I raised my hand three times …”  Oh dear ….

The spring is a busy time for me as I’m preparing and getting ready for some astronomy outreach events.  I am giving a demonstration on how we find NEOs (near earth objects – asteroids that are close to the earth’s orbit) using a 3D virtual model of our observatory.  The first is for the University of Hawaii’s open house in Manoa (Oahu) and then on the big island for their AstroDays celebration.  Later I teach about 320 3rd graders some elementary astronomy.  So I’ve been busy polishing up my presentations.  I enjoy these!

Soon we will be going back to Brookings to look for houses or lots again.  More houses and lots will be coming back on the market with the coming of spring.  Lisa is diligently watching and saving those we are interested in.  I can’t wait to get back there.  That is a magical place – just like Maui is.  Like other times in my life, it seems when it’s time to move on, I get behind it and put my energy into it.  It’s not that I want to leave, it’s just that I know I must.  I am going to miss Maui greatly.  I have spent two decades traveling the globe, have lived in a number of places – none I would actually call home, any more than home was where-ever I was.  Maui was the first and only place that actually was a home to me – and always will be.  This is the only place where the land beneath my feet has a deep connection to my spirit.  I chose my surname to honor this:  literally “the home”.  This is hard, but I embrace this move to Brookings and am investing my future there.

Not sure if I’ll couple a trip back to Minnesota with the next Brookings trip or the one after.  But I can not wait to go back and see my two sons, their wives and the four grandsons I have now.  And also to see many of my friends and some old friends that have stayed with me.  Somehow, now, this is very important to me, this re-connection.  I think a lot of this has to do with feeling that, for them, I’m now on the other side of transition.  The last time I saw them was when I came out to them at the very beginning of all of this.  I know so much more now and am so different from back then (it’s been awhile).  I wish I could go back to that time with the knowledge I have now.  Now, few will ask, most will quietly attempt to accept and carry on.  I wish I would have the opportunity for a full and deep discussion with them – but I truly doubt that a situation would arise to allow it.  Advice for others:  make it good the first time ….

For the first time I’m seeing scientific and medical papers being published about older transsexuals and the uniqueness of our stories, especially my story.  Today, children 4 or 5 years old express their gender truth and because there is enough information out there, parents, schools and society acknowledges them and they never have to live their lives coping with disphoira (it’s getting there – there are still a lot of horror stories).  For those older but not my generation, there was enough information, usually hidden, but enough that they knew they were the opposite gender even though they did not know the terms for it or if anyone else was like them or anything else about it.  They usually fought it – they became ultra-masculine: top navy seal, football quarterback for a top 10 team, even getting married and having children – as a way to prove to themselves they were what society said they were – men.

But older than that – me for example – there just wasn’t such a thing – nothing and society back then was very strict and fierce.  The only option, at least the way I explained it to myself, was that I was different – I was a boy, but I had all these other abilities (which were all feminine – but these all got twisted into somehow being masculine and acceptable).  But it really comes down to what we are inside and when that is in direct conflict with society (everything external to us, family, school, friends, relations, etc.) and this conflict is dangerous – then our subconsciousness deploys protection mechanisms.

When I was very young, I had a number of incidents that wound up driving this deep underground.  I was also a fast learner and when I saw others in deep trouble, this reinforced my protections.  Since there was no way to know or understand what my conflict was all about – part of me simply hid and made up a story – a story that would take 60 more years to unravel (see my beginnings blog for more information).  It’s nice to see these research papers basically stating the same – at last.

A number of people (family, spouse, older friends) have mentioned that they never saw this coming.  Along the lines of “I just don’t see how you could have hidden this for all these years – I did not see any indications of this in you”.  Well, nether did I !!  That is a consequence of how we create these protections within ourselves.  Ask anyone who has had childhood trauma, for example repeated familial rape.  They might even see the perpetrators as benevolent as they have to in order to survive.  These protections last a life time and only when things are ‘safe’ and these protections are no longer needed, will cracks start to appear and slowly layers upon layers peal back to reveal what actually happened – and we slowly heal.  It took seven years with a therapist and a ‘safe’ environment with Lisa to be able to bring all this out and start to understand.  And as I’ve stated before:  “As I allowed myself to become more of a woman, I started to notice something. It was more like my maleness was falling away then a femaleness was being attained. I was not becoming more of a woman, rather, like layers of an onion, my maleness was being peeled back.  I realized, I’m not becoming a woman – I am a woman.”

It is also of interest that both my ex-wife and my spouse now, have said that what initially attracted them to me were these female ‘sensitivities’ in a male.  They both see that it was the woman that I was underneath that was the attraction:  “you are not like other men….”.  Of course neither see themselves as anything other than heterosexual and would not have even giving me the time of day if I was a woman when we first met.  And of course when we first met – I still thought I was a man – only with all these ‘extras’.

These two things have always been difficult for me to explain:  why I didn’t have a clearer picture of myself as a girl at an early age and why no one, including myself, understood this or could even see my transsexualness for most of my life.  Only in hindsight is all of this clear to me.  I hope this post helps to answer this for you.  I’m glad to see research covering this as well.

What a journey!

With aloha,

Sifan

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4 Months Post-Op

01/01/2015 At Mama's Fish House

01/01/2015 At Mama’s Fish House

Progress seems so very slow.  Sometimes the only way to measure is by the week and by seemingly small changes.  However, when I look back at what I have already gone through and realize what is now in the past – it amazes me.

Probably the largest change and one that I will never forget is getting over the UTI complication and being able to use the restroom like a normal woman.  As I’ve stated before – I will NEVER take going to the restroom for granted ever again in my life.  Almost every time I do use the restroom – I remember how difficult and painful it used to be and how it seemed like I would be that way forever.  This is the single most wonderful achievement other then being anatomically correct now.

With all of that behind me, now it’s the ‘normal’ recovery process for SRS that I face.  Of course now that this is front and center it takes over as the number one pain and stress of life and now becomes the next issue that I am waiting to get past.  Everything is swollen ‘down there’ – very normal but as I’ve described it before – it felt like a bowling ball between my legs.  At night, trying to sleep, I have to keep a pillow between my legs because I cannot put my knees together.  But there is progress – it feels like a baseball now.  Slow progress….

There is a whole new drama unfolding within the sisterhood that in some ways was expected but perhaps none of us really understood the full ramifications.  That is post-op depression. For some it’s huge.  For me it’s a slight sidelight hardly worth mentioning.  Basically we have spent an inordinate amount of time and energy planning, researching, questioning ourselves and preparing for transition – taking almost every second of our day and occupying our dreams at night.  Suddenly, it’s over, done, accomplished – even the dreams stop.  This was a large enough subject to warrant it’s own post.

Good news from the sisterhood (those of us that were together at Chonburi for our SRS plus others I know that had surgery with a different clinic around the same time):  a number of my sisters have reported that almost overnight, at about this point in time, the swelling suddenly subsided and things looked, felt and became – normal.  Well, I still have a baseball and am waiting for that to go away.  It is a constant low level pain.  I really feel sorry for and sympathize with those that have chronic pain.  Wearing anything puts pressure there.  Mostly I wear dresses or a skirt, but even panties will sometimes hurt.  Usually I can’t wait to get home and lay back, either in my comfy chair (where I can almost lay out flat!) or in bed.

The other good news from the sisterhood is that an increasing number of them have reported going beyond sensate and achieving the ‘big O’!  I am certainly sensate – but in no way do I want to go beyond that yet.  I’m just way too sore and protective of that area.  I can see where, just like I had to relearn how to urinate as that is completely different from a male, that this might be along the same line.  I am just hoping that my protectiveness does not complicate this.  From the sisterhood I know that I must learn to let go, to relax, trust and open up fully.  But this is all for the future – not now.

The granulations that I mentioned in the 3 month post, are still there – I did not have my doctor remove them.  I wrote to the clinic (and attached pictures) and they recommended to leave them alone, that they will heal by themselves.  They also pointed out that the rawness of the vestibule (center/floor of the inner labia below the clitoris) was actually due to two additional granulations, one of which is about 1/4 inch long – ugh.  My doctor agrees:  if it’s not causing pain or getting in the way – leave it.  These will bleed slightly now and then – but never very much and seems to be less and less.  My doctor says she can always remove them later if needed.  I cringe either way…

The other really good news is that I only dilate once a day now.  Usually that starts at month 6.  But I was able to reduce from 3 a day to 2 a day back in month 2, to only once a day now.  I’m also dilating with the ‘big’ one now.  Before it was only the medium.  The important thing is to be able to maintain depth and I have not lost any depth since leaving Chonburi.  Like my other sisters, I check every time I dilate and watch trends.  I will temporarily lose depth if I’m stressed or was sitting or had a car ride.  But I do my dilations just before going to bed.  This way I’m relaxed and can douche, wash up and go right to bed.  I also do not have any issue in getting to depth.  There have been some horror stories out there in the sisterhood of 1 to 2 hours just to get to depth.  Usually it only takes about 20 seconds for me.  One lesson I have learned – the intruitis and vaginal vault are totally separate from all the other parts down there as far as pain and discomfort are concerned.  The outer labia may be swollen and painful, but that has nothing to do with and no connection to dilation.  Wheeee – thank you very much!

Like everyone else in the sisterhood, every time we dilate, we all take out our mirrors and a light to meticulously inspect everything down there, watching for anything new or changed or a different color or troublesome, etc.  Just like everyone else, I am so careful with hygiene, washing before and after, being careful what I sit on, wiping seats down before I go, being selective where I go, using two different toilet papers for front and back, always wiping to the back and doing the back last.  That UTI taught me and others a big lesson…

I haven’t talked about HRT changes since before the surgery – time to catch up a bit.  Today is 19 months (slightly more than 1 1/2 years) since I started taking hormones.   Of course after the surgery I no longer take testosterone blockers – I’m only on Estrodiol.  Recently I have had additional breast growth.  Like before, areas of my breasts would get tender, then sore, then hard and then finally turn into growth in that area.  My aureoles have finally expanded along with my nipples – I’m looking much more natural now – they have caught up with the rest!  That was something that I wondered about – so note to others – this took a year and a half.  In fact I ‘show’ too much if all I wear is a shelf bra cami – I have to either wear a bra or use ‘hidden petals’ as they are called.  My skin is softer, my bottom is more rounded and the hair growth over most of my body has slowed down and changed.  I shave my legs and arms maybe once every two weeks (used to be once a week).  I shave my stomach and chest about every other day to every 3rd day (used to be every day).  So changes are still happening.

My estrogen levels have suddenly dropped this last month.  I see my endocrinologist later this week, so I’ll know more then.  They were normal for a younger woman (which is what I need to be at, at this point), now the level is about 1/4 of what it was – still normal for a post-menopausal woman – but not where I need to be just yet!  I’m going to ask for a retest.  There could be a number of reasons for the drop, including that I missed a day or two taking my hormones, could be where I apply the gel is getting less able to absorb it, could be the test itself or that the lady parts goes through phases where it exudes estrogen..  I’m hoping it’s the latter – just a phase of healing.

My new one piece bathing suit.

My new one piece bathing suit.

Finally after waiting so long, I made it to the beach!  I bought a new one piece bathing suit just for this moment.  The beaches and the ocean have meant a lot to me and having to abstain from swimming and wading for these three months following surgery was hard.  During my recovery in the hospital, swimming in the ocean was one of the things I would think and dream about.  That helped me through some of the rough times.  Here in Maui, especially on the south shore by Kihei, the water is nice (almost warm) even in the middle of winter.  I usually will try to go swimming on Mondays right after finishing electrolysis.  I’ll head down to the beach around noon and spend an hour there before heading back up home to get ready for work.

Oh, speaking of the beach – last Sunday I again went to the beach but the waves were in the 5 to 7 foot range.  It took me awhile to gather enough courage to go in.  Like they say, never put your back to the ocean (except to duck under the wave…).  I tried to measure one of them:  I was in about 5 1/2 feet of water – just before the wave the water went down to 2 feet and the wave topped my out-stretched arm – I figure about 6 to 7 feet worth of wave.  You have to know what you are doing out there – how to duck dive and what to do if you get rolled – which happened when I tried to measure that wave ….  Nothing like being in the ‘washing machine’ on spin cycle!  The water was grey with sand – and this was 1,000 feet out from the beach.  One lesson I learned:  lady parts and sand are not a happy combination – for days after!  I’ve rinsed out my new bathing suit a number of times and I’m still getting sand out (and same with my lady parts …).  Ack!

First time at the beach since my surgery.

First time at the beach since my surgery.

My electrologist found a new, better and much more powerful numbing cream.  She tried this out on me 3 weeks ago and was able to get at the very sensitive hairs beneath the nose (oh girl those used to be painful).  Previously, I had a dentist numb my face directly before going in for a 2 hour electrolysis session.  This past Monday I had my second 2 hour session where she used this new cream.  She would apply it, cover it, then work on a different area of my face as that area would numb up.  She is using topicaine.  She says its very important to occlude it.  Wow, she can get a lot done this way.  I’m seeing a lot of improvements.

Facial hair remains one of the more difficult self-conscientiousness issues.  It is difficult for any woman, but especially so for me as I have to stop shaving on Friday and let everything grow out over the weekend so there is enough to ‘grab’ for electrolysis on Monday.  This makes going out or doing anything on Saturday and Sundays difficult and embarrassing.  Right now, I have a faint 5 oclock shadow in a thin strip above my upper lip.  I noticed at work, that a couple of the women there have this as well.  So I’m getting there.

For the last month, occasionally I would wake up in the middle of the night (3am ‘ish).  I would be very sensitive to everything:  weight of the blankets on me, discomfort of my lady parts, refrigerator kicking in, dog barking in the distance, wind rustling the trees, my spouse cuddling me or being too close (normally we cuddle the entire night as we sleep).  These would prevent me from going back to sleep.  My mind was clear – no issues, nothing bothering me, etc.  My doctor gave me a prescriptions for pain, sleep and anxiety pills – none of which I want to use regularly.  Finally I found that I could take a Tylenol – it would take 30 mins but I would be able to sleep and more importantly, to be able to cuddle!  I’m going to talk to my therapist and doctor more about this.  I also posted to the sisterhood to see if anyone else went through something like this.

Jan. 3, 2015 Snow at the summit of Mt. Haleakala

Jan. 3, 2015 Snow at the summit of Mt. Haleakala

Seems this winter has it’s share of storms.  In the beginnings of January we had this ‘small’ storm come across the island of Maui.  The information from radar and satellite didn’t concern us at the observatory so no extra precautions were taken.  Oh girl – this storm flared up as it hit us and wound up dumping a bunch of snow and ice at the summit.  Could have been worse – the big island had blizzard condition on top Mauna Kea.  As usual, one of the engineers and I were the ones that had to run up and rescue things the next day.  It was freezing cold up there.  I had to fall back on my Minnesota experience: dressing in layers, shoveling snow and chopping ice just in order to get into the door of the observatory!   I had fun making a snow ball – first time in about 7 years since I had left Minnesota.  Next day, I found a little snowman in this same spot. I wound up having to go up to the summit three days in a row before the observatory was back on-line and on-sky.  Even now there are 5 remaining non-critical issues that I will have to get back up there to fix (I’ll probably go up this week sometime).

Dec 25, 2014 Christmas dinner at the Makena Beach resort

Dec 25, 2014 Christmas dinner at the Makena Beach resort

Lisa and I had a wonderful holiday.  I bought a new red dress for Christmas dinner.  We went out to the Makena Beach resort.  It’s a beautiful resort situated on a beach and overlooking the ocean.  Of course we got there a bit before sunset and watched as the sky turned beautiful pastel colors out over the ocean.  They have a huge smorgasbord of food from around the world.  It was a quite the feast with so many different foods and flavors.  It was difficult to choose from as there is no way a person could taste even a small piece of everything and not be wheeled out in a wheelbarrow!  Plus we celebrated with a bottle of delicious champagne – what an evening to remember!

For New Years, we went out to another favorite spot here on Maui – Mama’s Fish House.  This has got to be one of the best restaurants in Maui – if not all of Hawaii.  It’s on a cove on the north shore and is filled with memorabilia and nick-knacks, its architecture a bit eclectic with twisted tree limbs and roots for some walls, ship’s propeller and outrigger canoes as parts of the ceiling!  The food is very delicious.  This is where we go to celebrate my birthday.   Hummm, how do I convince Lisa that we should celebrate my new birthday (the date of my surgery) by going to Mama’s twice ….

01/01/2015 Celebrated New Years at Mama's Fish House

01/01/2015 Celebrated New Years at Mama’s Fish House

For the holidays, Mama’s Fish House put up a ‘sandman’ (a snowman would not last very long in the cove with the sea mists blowing over …).  So I had to get a picture with the sandman!

Overall, four months out from surgery, I would summarize by saying life is starting to settle into a new rhythm.  I am finding out more about myself, my body, as everything meshes and comes together.  Looking back, I think the biggest realization occurred right before and directly after surgery when I discovered that my body had disphoria in addition to my head.  I had spent all that time ‘in the head’ beforehand – that was very important – but I had missed all the clues from my body.  Perhaps being on the right hormones and now finally having SRS, I’m able to listen to my body – to be in touch with it and to love it.  Maybe it’s because of the lack of testosterone, perhaps it’s finally being congruent or maybe it’s just being female.  Such a difference from before …. such a difference …

With much Aloha,

Sifan

3 Months Post Opt

20141127_173748Oh this has been a long 3 months….  part of it was the most painful of my life.  I’m still quite sore down there but remembering what I went through – this is nothing. See my previous posts for details of the SRS operation, my recovery and painful complications I went through.  For the most part the pain had to do with the complications – the UTI, not being able to urinate and extending my bladder.  Without that complication this operation and recovery, especially in the first month would hardly rate as discomfort or low level pain.  For that I am glad – glad that I didn’t have to deal with anything else over and above the complication.

Normally (with out complications) the first month is pretty easy.  It’s the second and third months that are hardest.  This is due to a number of factors.  First Dr. Suporn’s technique is very ‘accurate’ and true to the female anatomy – his technique is the different from all the rest and results are as they say, the Cadillac of the business. This means there is a lot more surgery and construction underneath/inside and this takes longer to heal.  It’s like scare tissue which becomes swollen and hard and progresses from one area to another as it heals.  This is one reason we have to dilate, to keep the neo vagina open, soft, and to depth.  One of the ‘sisters’ called it “beating the dragon” (I prefer to call it ‘training’ the dragon …).  By the way, I call the other women that were there in Chonburi having SRS along with me – ‘sisters’ as we formed an international closeness and constantly keep in touch.

This becomes difficult during the 2nd and 3rd months where most of the healing takes place.  It gradually gets easier and for some even pleasurable.  For others this period is very hard – even extremely hard.  I’ve heard of some that took hours to get to depth – which you have to do before you can start timing your dilation.  I was lucky this way – the worst I had was maybe 1 min before I reached depth.  It is recommended that we do 3 dilations a day – so you can imagine the pain and agony some have had.  I had cut down to 2 a day because I was able to maintain my depth.  I feel lucky that way.  It was hard for a while and I had a hard time preparing mentally for them.  But they gradual became easier, less painful and became routine.  I will have to dilate the rest of my life – but the frequency tapers off to once a week after 1 year (3 times a day until month 4, 1 once a day after month 6, then once a week or so after a year – mostly to check depth).

Those are the major milestones as well.  After the 3rd month things get easier and we can start doing just about everything (swimming, hiking, long trips, working, baths, some exercise, etc.).  Then month 6 is another milestone and 1 year basically marks completion.  Ya, one year ….  Of course every ‘body’ is different and these are only approximate timings for the majority of people that go through this.

In this next section I’m going to tell it like it is – this could be TMI (too much information) for some, so be warned.  However, for those who are going to have surgery, I think this is important to know – I wish I had known this beforehand – not that it would have changed anything – just so I could have been more prepared and aware.  Of course this is ‘my’ experience and reading the private accounts of others tells me that I’m in the middle as far as my experience and pain/discomfort is concerned.

By the way:  most surgeons or clinics have a private FaceBook page that is only for ‘post’ opts.  These are very helpful for us to a) keep in touch b) ask questions c) see how others are doing d) peer into the future to see what to expect.  Unfortunately they really do need to be kept only for those that are post-opt or immediately pre-opt.  But this information is invaluable if you are going to have surgery.  They recommend that once you are invited into their group, that you read back 1 year to get a full understanding of what to expect.

For me, right now, I’m going through multiple phases where ‘things get tight’ down there.  First a very hard ball (size of a marble) formed just above everything (up by the pubic bone).  I had to stay in bed for a couple of days with nothing on down there (as everything, even the weight of the bad sheet, hurt).  This gradually ‘morphed’ down along both sides of the frenulum, basically tightening that entire area up (it was all swollen, so this is actually ok, just a bit painful).  Now the same sort of thing is happening starting at the tops of the outer labia and working down.  Which is also good because my outer labia is huge (swollen) making it difficult at times to close my legs, especially when I want to sleep on my side at night – I have to place a hard thick pillow between my legs.

I still can not sit without using the infamous seat cushion although it is getting better.  I forgot it once and was able to carefully sit on a hard chair for about 10 mins.  However, if I do too much, like a long car ride or sitting too long at work, or like one day I had to go up to the summit to work – the next day I wind up in bed, legs spread apart and nothing on to let it heal.  Sometime I have to take pain meds – sometimes I’ll take a pain pill before I need to do something (like a long ride) where I know it’s going to be hard.  At times, it feels like a bowling ball down there between my legs – and I walk like I’ve been riding a horse for hours.  My panties feel like they are crushing me during those times and I can’t wait to get home and lay down in bed and allow my bottom to ease up.  These times seem to coincide with the ‘tightening’ phases I mentioned above.  So I’ll be ok, even ‘great’ for a few days and then another one of these ‘phases’ kicks in and I have to take it easy, stay home and sometime stay in bed.  But these ‘seem’ to be getting less as time goes on – progress is being made (although soooo slowly it seems).

I saw my GP doctor today – another checkup.  My UA came back ambiguous – but at least it didn’t have the bacteria  (e-coli) that caused all the pain and agony before.  I sent a question off to the clinic regarding this and they said (and my doctor agrees) that if none of the symptoms are present than all is ok.  There are high levels of something I don’t remember what, but those can also be do to the SRS surgery.  So we are leaving things alone unless symptoms come back.  That is good news!

I’ve been having bleeding  (very minor) about once a week, all coming from the same spot (at the bottom inside where the major and minor labia come together on the left side).  The doctor examined that in more detail and found it was the equivalent of a ‘skin tag’ – an 8th in long growth protruding out.  This can happen as internal ‘sacs’ sometimes comes out through the skin (the labia are created with many layers of internal stitching and sometimes as these heal one of these small sacs can pop out).  So the middle of January I go back and will have it removed (plenty of local anesthesia ….!).  I’m relieved to know that is all it is.

Other than that, everything looks and operates correctly now.  There is sensation is all the correct places.  Still sore so I’m very careful with my new parts.  A number of the ‘sisters’ that had SRS the same time as me are now reporting they had their first umm, “The Big O’ ….  For me, the surrounding areas down there are still too sore for me to even contemplate that ….  Put it this way, I still cringe when I see another woman riding a bike or motorcycle.  Maybe someday I’ll be able to do that but right now I have that automatic ‘pain’ – same as when someone talks about getting a flu shot – you automatically feel pain in your arm … or when someone talks about going to the dentist … ya … that kind of thing:  my bottom immediately goes into panic mode!

So today is the 11th, my 3 month celebration as finally being the true authentic me.  I can not tell you how absolutely wonderful it is.  First you have to understand the shear disphoria that was before – I’m not sure I have words to describe that horror – the pain of my complications can not come close to the lifelong battle I have gone through attempting to live in the opposite gender.  Now I am free to ‘be’, to express myself and to live as who I always was.  It is a fantastic and welcome change.

It just struck me – theoretically I am finished with transition!  I say theoretically because I could argue both sides of that.  Some transsexuals go stealth now that they are fully a woman, truly marking this as the end of transition and simply blend into society as women.  Even though this is a completion – on so many levels – I feel that it is important, especially today, to be visible to some degree.  The more society sees that transsexuals are ‘normal’ people, involved in normal or credible vocations or even honored/esteemed positions, the better it is going to be for those that follow.  The more professionals like myself that come out, the more that society will start seeing us as part and parcel of the human condition.  Just like red hair or blue eyes, transsexuals are but one more variation of the human condition.  There is a balance of course – this can be and has been deadly (we just honored those murdered on Nov 20th – TDOR – Transgender Day of Remembrance).  I am cautious:  I do not proclaim who/what I am to just anyone – but I am an advocate and will do what I can to help achieve parity for everyone.

With much Aloha,

Sifan

PS: I’m hoping to swim in the ocean this weekend – I have missed that soooo much ….

Surgery in Thailand – Part 4, Hotel

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From my hospital room they wheeled me down to the waiting van carrying all my supplies and luggage, Lisa holding my hand on the way.  Now remember, it was only the day before that I was allowed up out of bed.  Sitting on anything – using the special seat cushion – was a new experience and not exactly a good one.  Trying to find a comfortable position was difficult.  Then shifting from the wheelchair into the van was another experience in patience and ‘logistics’.  Normally the trip between the hospital and the hotel was about 20 mins or so.  However, this time there was a lot of traffic and it took perhaps twice as long.  It was difficult just sitting, but then bouncing along on those not so good roads in heavy traffic, stopping and starting, bumps etc. – well, let’s just say I stayed in bed most of the rest of that day letting my new bottom recover!

27384a183062f9d63e8825a94be11dcbWe got settled back into our hotel room, put everything away and ordered some food in.  Later one of the clinic staff came in to help me get organized for and do my first dilation (see part 3 about dilation).  Everything had a place and everything was handy for doing my dilations.   Even still, I would forget something and had to ask Lisa to bring it to me (once I’m in position, it is hard to get up until I’m finished).  There were a number of ‘special’ features in these rooms that made it quite nice for trans* people recovering.  I have a feeling, since almost the entire 3rd and 7th floors are for us, that Dr. Suporn had a hand in specifying these.  For example, there was a fresh water (tap water was not drinkable) spray hose for rinsing our selves off after using the toilet.  It was important that it was ‘clean’ water and of course not cold!  All these little features really made my stay there comfortable and convenient.

a7e2a1e6c70d49f7dfb6eed4a957d18cThat evening we went down to eat at the hotels restaurant.  We had a wonderful Thai meal with delicious appetizers, some with the famous Thai peanut sauce.

This is also where we had breakfast with all the other transwomen each morning.  This was one of the most important parts of being here in Thailand at Dr. Suporn’s clinic – to be able to meet and becomes friends with so many others like myself.  All different, yet so much in common.  They came from all over the globe.  We formed a sisterhood that has kept going long after we left Thailand.  There is lots of support and shared knowledge between us.  We can ask advice and others will respond with how they handled the same issues.  When one of us is in pain or depressed or having a hard time – we all respond.  This is so awesome – what a community – what a sisterhood!

cbf2e12c0e68190a8f60ea31f6c67aeaThis is the main lobby of the hotel where we would wait for the clinic van to take pick us up.  A lot of times the ‘sisters’ would meet down here too and just have fun.  In the far corner was an ice cream vendor, plus wine and cakes.  I made use of that a few times.  Nothing like ice cream to ease recovery a bit!

Off to the other side was a door that led out to a small garden nestled between parts of the hotel.  Lisa and would take walks out there during the times I wore the catheter and could not leave the hotel.  This gave me a little exercise without over doing it.

0df80b9f88abd6ae148e05701abd0861On our floor (7th floor – the top floor) we had a wonderful little waiting area that had current magazines (mostly in Thai however), but also books (in English) and videos that we could borrow.  The window looked out over the bay and the ocean.  Lisa and I watched a few storms pass by from this window.  For those sisters staying on this floor, this was a nice place to meet, chat and just relax.  Since just about everyone on this floor was a patient – this sort of was our private little area.  The third floor also was for Dr. Suporn’s patients.  They had a similar area there too, but there was a patio outside they could go on.  Many of us would get something to eat or drink and bring it out there – pending on the heat and humidity and occasional thunderstorms.

We seldom have thunderstorms in Hawaii (almost never) so those were exciting.  Lisa and I would leave the curtains open at night during a storm just to watch and enjoy the storm.  Most days it was partly cloudy to overcast and hot and humid.  This was after the monsoon season so we only got an occasional storm.

20140918_193113This is the view out our window.  We were facing east and had the morning sun.  For me that felt great as Lisa liked to have our room cold – the sun streaming in warmed up that area of the room and I made use of that.  I would sit in the chair under the window, legs up on the bed, seat cushion under my and plenty of pillows around me.  I had either my computer or my tablet and would spend the time reading e-books or on-line.  Almost all of the sisters were on FB and we kept in touch that way, including making plans for diner or if someone could not get up – we would get them what they needed.

In this view you can see a giant Buddha over on the hill side and just below to the right is a huge Chinese temple complex, you can see the one large building with the orange double roof.  One day we say a powered hang glider flying around by the Bhudda!

The farthest away we got was to a 7/11 about 3 blocks down from us.  It was interesting trying to find what we needed as everything was in Thai.  Finally Lisa had to point to her bottom to ask where the liners and pads where!  Because of my complications I was not able to do much more than this.  Lisa however, was able to cross the main street and explore the mall on the other side.  There was a great pizza place over there and an ice cream place too.  I wish I could have gone!

One thing Lisa and I did do towards the end of our stay was to use the hotel’s car and driver and to the Central Plaza  – which is a HUGE mall they have there.  We arranged for them to pick us back up 1 hour later.  This place was really huge.  We wanted to buy some Thai souvenirs – but this mall was for them, not tourists – as a result everything in there was ‘western’ stuff – no traditional Thai nick knacks!  I was really sore after that trip.

The next post will cover the complications I suffered and at the time I’m writing this – I’m still not recovered from them.

With Aloha,

Sifan

 

Surgery in Thailand – Part 3, Dilation

20140929_155212Caution this post contains TMI (for some this could be “too much information”).  Continue only if you wish – you have been warned.  I will be discussing the routine ‘maintenance’ that I now must do a number of times each day.  I’m writing this for those that are contemplating SRS so they can get an idea of what to expect.

After we arrived at the hotel from being discharged from the hospital, one of the clinic staff came up to our room and helped setup the room for my new daily routine.  Oh boy, life is now a bit more complicated then it ever used to be.  Things like showering and even how to wipe oneself after using the toilet are now vastly different and hygiene takes on a whole new level of importance.  More about this later.

For the rest of my life, I, like anyone who has SRS, must dilate.  Basically the body views the neo-vagina as a wound and will attempt to close it up.  Dr. Suporn’s technique uses a mesh, which new skin grows on, to form the vagina.  It also forms new tissue deeper inside surrounding the vagina as well.  One way to think of this is scare tissue – in some ways it is similar – but not really.  This new tissue will form hard and expand closing the vagina if not countered.  And that is what dilation is all about.

20141014_131948We were given four dilation stents, one small one, two medium ones and one large.  We start off with the medium stent, inserting it all the way back and then applying pressure to the back to keep our depth.  When Dr. Suporn took out all that packing, he inserted this same stent showing me how to do it and measured my depth (I was 6″ in the hospital).  Each stent has markings in both inches and cm.  As you can see in the picture, these are HUGE (both is length and width) and FRIGHTENING at first.  The first couple of dilations I did, I was amazed I could take all that!  At first, we have to dilate twice a day, 30 minutes each – basically I have to go to full depth and then push hard.  That was difficult.  It is somewhere between uncomfortable and mildly painful.  Some people take pain meds before they dilate.  I did at first but quickly found I didn’t need to.  One has to sit up straight (usually on the bed, pillows behind, plastic sheet on the bed and an absorbent bed sheet on top of that), legs must be straight out, no bending and somewhat close together.  Any other position will engage muscles that will make dilation harder.  We are taught that no matter what complications or difficulties we face – we always MUST dilate.  As you will see later – I had complications where the last thing I wanted to do was dilate – but I still did.

We start with the medium stent and later (6 weeks) we graduate to the larger one.  The small stent is used if it becomes difficult to insert the medium one.  We then have to dilate with the small one for 5 mins or so and then move up to the medium and complete the dilation.  The white stent is an extra medium size and is a bit softer.  I think everyone loses a little depth from what was measured in the hospital.  I’m at 5.5 inches and have stayed at that ever since – it could be the way they measured it there vs how I measure.  The important part is to maintain depth.  As I was told, depth will change with the time of day, if we just ate, if we didn’t go to the bathroom first, etc.  So it fluctuates, but again, what is important is that it stays somewhat consistent.

20140918_193204There is an entire procedure surrounding this.  The person from the clinic setup the bed table and bathroom so that everything I needed is close at hand.  As you can see – there is a lot.  The procedure gets better and less intense with time.  But at first, we shower to clean off, using a special surgical soap on our new bottom – and rinse it off immediately as it can actually burn the skin if left on or used to much.  I then lay down as stated above, put on surgical gloves, place a condom over the stent and apply a lot of lube – that last bit is important!

Until things heal enough (Dr. Suporn tells us when) we do ‘static’ dilation which I described above – straight back and apply pressure.  When told to, we start dynamic dilation (about 2 weeks after surgery for me – but that is different for each person).  Dynamic dilation is a bit easier I think.  I start by fully inserting the stent, applying pressure for 10 seconds, then rest, then ‘stir’ it around to enlarge the sides for 10 times.  Then we repeat this for 15 mins and have to do this 3 times a day.  Months 2 and 3 is where the most healing occurs and where this is most important.  The internal tissue is building and this needs to be countered and ‘softened’.  Unfortunately, the nerves are becoming active during this same time …..  I’m 1/2 way through month 2 at the moment – so far ok.

Then we have to clean up after.  This includes douching with warm water three times then a fourth time with a mild solution of betadine.  Then a half shower washing our new parts with that surgical soap.  For the first month we also have to apply betadine to the stitch lines down there and apply a silver cream to the inside of the inner labia.  And then – collapse on the bed and rest!

At home we no longer have to coat the stitches (most of which have already dissolved), but we do need to get a douche kit that fully reaches inside.  As they said – lube plus byproducts of healing inside create an idea culture for bacteria – all lube has to be rinsed out.  Also at home we can use regular soap.

One issue is the trip home vs dilation.  Having to dilate 3 times a day and having a flight home that for most of us is 20 some hours long makes for an interesting dilemma – no we do not dilate on the plane or in the airport!  So we dilate extra long just before we leave for the airport (the van came to pick us up at 4 am … that meant I was up and dilating around 2:30 am….).  Then we need to dilate when we get home.  The trouble is, it’s been a long time, things down there have already started to tighten up and the flight home has made us very tense – what a mess.  So, we are to wait an hour or so after we get home – do something relaxing – have a glass of wine – whatever to relax us.  Then we dilate – this is where some people have to resort to the small stent to get started.  I was ok – my depth went down to 5.1″ but withing the next 2 days I was back to my 5.5″.

Sifan at Thailand airportAs you can see from this picture – there is a lot of stuff we bring back with us (the huge pink bag).  This includes supplies to last us for a month or so after we get home.  It includes betadine solution, bed pads, tons of lube and condoms, a mirror, clock, my stents of course and pantie liners and pads.  They gave us a large bottle of betadine but I also had a smaller bottle.  The airport security ‘found’ the big bottle and confiscated it, but left the small bottle alone … go figure.  Other transwomen were allowed to take theirs – as far as I’ve heard – I’m the only one that this happened to – ratso!

Some last points regarding dilation:

Contrary to what you would think – if you are having troubles dilating, then you need to ‘increase’ the number of times.  They can be shorter in time, but you need to do more of them during the day.

As time goes on, we get to reduce the number of dilations each day.  Until the end of the critical period (month 3) we need to do three a day.  After that we can reduce to 2 a day.  After 6 months about once a day and finally after a full year we can reduce to a couple per week – basically to check depth and then if needed do more dilations.

Also, once past month 3 – dilations become easier and other umm activity can substitute for a dilation, making it pleasurable indeed …

I should also mention some of the problems that could be encountered dilating.  Make sure you use plenty of lube, you could chaff and that’s no fun.  Also a veteran post-opt warned us about the ‘sword in stone’ problem that could happen when you are too tight and when withdrawing the dilator it gets ‘stuck’ (probably because of a vacuum being created above it inside).  Just take it slow and use dynamic dilation to ease it out.  Something else we all find out right away is sneezing, coughing, laughing too hard and a close lightening strike (I found out about this last one the hard way) can all make for an uncomfortable experience.  I wonder if anyone broke things in their room due to flying dilators (to my knowledge only one person said their dilator actually came out – but just barely, mostly it just hurt a bit)!

Another issue is bleeding.  As you dilate, you are basically stretching scare tissue (first 3 months) and it will sometimes bleed.  Also as things heal, little ‘bumps’ (granulation) can poke up and dilating will cause those to bleed.  Counter to what one would think – the solution is to reinsert the dilator and hold it there to stop the bleeding.  I had this happened to me twice.  Others have said they bled the entire 2 months!  Most said they never bled.  Everyone is different and this goes away with time and healing.

I had some severe complications which I will talk about in the next post.  But even during that period of time – I still had to dilate.  It was difficult, but had to be done.  Nothing like complicating a complication ….

With Aloha,

Sifan

Surgery in Thailand – Part 2, Hospital

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Day before surgery – Lisa and I doing a ‘selfie’. I love this picture!

Our third day in Chonburi, Thailand started like the previous ones, get up, wash, dress and then meet the other transwomen for breakfast on the first floor of the hotel at 9 am.  Breakfast usually takes an hour as we sit and chat.  Then promptly at 10 am everyone goes back to their rooms.  Later I would find out that the clinic staff starts their rounds at 10 am and everyone needs to be in their room then.  But that would not effect me until after I came back from the hospital.  I was told to be waiting at the front lobby at noon for the clinic van for my ride to the hospital.  So we went up to our room to select and pack the few things we would need.  I brought a dress (and wore another one), my get well cards, computer and tablet to have something to do and some of my astronomy magazines to read.  Not much for a week in the hospital!  Before we knew it, they called up from the lobby – again our room clock was wrong but was close enough that we were ready and were almost out the door anyway.

I remembered the first trip in the van to the hospital and how the woman in the back seat was on her way in for the surgery and how she was feeling – nervous but excited.  I was the same, a feeling of finally, let’s do this.  As we waited in the hospital lobby, an older Thai man and his wife started to chat with us – but they didn’t know any English and of course we didn’t know any Thai.  It was interesting and a bit uncomfortable as he kept staring at me, probably figured out I was transgender.  They were polite, but I couldn’t wait to get up to our room.

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Just got into my room, night before surgery. Waiting for the 2nd bed and soft mattresses.

I had a private room with two beds and a nice view of the bay off of the ocean.  Lisa stayed in the bed next to me the entire time which was quite a comfort.  Being a nurse, she could communicate with the other nurses and the doctors to make sure everything was right, plus she was able to help and to direct my care, given her experience.  At times it sounded like yet another foreign language as they spoke to each other in medical’ese!  I was really impressed with the nursing staff and doctors and the way they treated Lisa as one of them.

Great Thai food – although due to the language difference we sometimes were surprised by what actually showed up.  But that was good too – never disappointed – although surprised.  Also some american food they prepared was, well, the best way of saying this is that is was ‘their’ interpretation of what it was supposed to be.  It was still good.

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View out our window. The bay (tide is in) on the right. This is mud during low tide!

 

I was admitted at noon the day before the operation.  After settling in, getting a special mattress top for the bed (the beds were solid as rock …), we ordered something to eat as the nurses brought all the other ‘stuff’ that I would need afterwards and went through it all with me (dilators, pads, medicines – quite a large amount of stuff).  The anesthesiologist came in and had a long talk with Lisa about what I could and could not take (I have a reaction to ibprofin).

Then a psychologist came in to interview me (making sure I really was a transsexual).  I had to draw two pictures, one of me, the other of some scene, with trees, etc.  The first picture I drew of myself, longer hair, wearing a dress and giving an astronomy talk.  The second picture I drew of a cabin in the woods, on a lake, a porch going out over the sand beach and Lisa and I in inner tubes close to shore.  He asked about each picture, getting details of why I chose what I did.  He seemed impressed by them …

And finally Dr. Suporn and the staff member that would be looking out for me came in.   Later that night, after enjoying a particularly good Thai supper – the enema nurse came in …. oh girl.  I supposed since I had already enjoyed that meal – what difference did it make ….. Trying to make it to the bathroom that final time was um ‘interesting’ and challenging to say the least.

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Right after surgery. I feel great – certainly not how I look tho… This was taken very soon after I came around after surgery.

The next day went soooo fast it’s hard to remember what happened.  I do know they came in early – like 6am or so.  First was a nurse that shaved me down there.  I don’t remember much about that, just that it happened.  Then a bit later they came in and inserted an intravenous tube in my veins.  At 9 am they came to get me.  They wheeled my bed down the hall, into the elevator and down to the operating room.  Boy, watching the ‘ceiling’ move, Lisa by my side, nurses by the other side, was a strange feeling.  Lisa was by my side all the way into the operating room suite, holding my hand tightly and smiling.  I remember holding Lisa’s hand, lots of people in blue and the anesthesiologist (she was very sweet and comforting) talking to me – and then ……. nothing (someone ‘slipped a mickey’ into the intravenous I when I wasn’t watching ….). In the states, they would always say “count backwards from 10” but here, things just went blank.

This next part is from Lisa – as I have no memories of.  Lisa got back to the room at about 9:15am and waited there for me.  I and my bed were wheeled back into our room at 3:20 in the afternoon.   Lisa says that as soon as I saw her, my face just beamed – totally glowing she says.  She said I just kept looking at her, I couldn’t keep my eyes off her! I would fall asleep for a bit, then wake up, hold Lisa’s hand and we would talk for a bit before I would fall back asleep.

My first recollection of conscientiousness was back in my room, in my bed, with Lisa giving me a kiss to wake me up!  My new bottom was fully bandaged with a stent packing inside me.  I had three tubes coming out: urethrae, drain from under the packing and a catheter with a drip bag with a side tube for a morphine drip.  Right away, the first feelings I had were of a very deep body sensation of being ‘right’.  I had a deep visceral feeling of being back to the way I used to be – even though of course, I was never physically female – but that is the feeling.  As things progressed and I was able to register feelings from down there, I was surprised and astonished that these new feelings were oddly very familiar – same way as the visceral feeling of being back to were I was.  Both of these experiences deeply affirmed who and what I am.

That evening, a staff member came and slept on the couch and watched over me the entire night.  It was so reassuring to have her there.  I would look over to Lisa sleeping on one side and the nurse sleeping on the other:  I was surrounded by care and love.  It made that night very relaxing.  I was in no pain what so ever.

On day 4 Dr. Suporn came back and removed the bandages/covering.  Then on day 6 he came back to remove the stent packing inside.  Holy cow – it was like watching a magic show where they pull a scarf out of a hat or something and it just keeps coming and coming and coming …..  There was a lot of stuff in there!  I thought “exactly how big am I” — geeesh.   Now I was allowed to getup out of bed and finally had my first shower – boy that felt good (although I was not allowed to move without a nurse present).

Day 7 was release day – they pinched off the catheter, I had to drink lots of water, then they removed it and I had to prove I could urinate before they would allow me to leave.  This was difficult, but I was finally able to do so by standing in the shower – which is good cuz I could take a shower and when I dried off, the wheelchair was there ready to take me to the waiting van and off Lisa and I went, back to the hotel.

The only ‘pain’ I experienced the entire time in the hospital was a sore butt as I had to stay in the bed for 5 days without getting up.  I remember having 3 tubes in me and having to be very careful when turning side to side.  Thank goodness all three tubes were on the left side – not a problem.  Then on day 4 they moved the catheter to the right side —– that was just not fair …..!!!!  Moving was a tad more complicated then.  I would do small exercises in bed, like lift my bottom up, move my legs and arms around, etc. just to try to prevent them from getting sore laying there.  That did seems to help.  They had the infamous morphine button by my bed too.  I only used that once the entire time, and then it was not because I was in pain, but because I started to feel something down there more and more and thinking it might turn into pain decided to head it off at the pass kind of thing…  Who knows if I really needed to do that.

The next post will cover dilation – something I’ll need to do for the rest of my life.

With Aloha,

Sifan

POISONED !

woman in fog 2Some of the following I have written about in previous posts.  Something wonderful and difficult has happened that brings a slight twist (and then maybe not) to my perspective on being a trans-woman.  Perhaps it’s a nuance, most of what I’m about to write seems like what I have always been feeling and saying.  However, there seems to be a deepening and a visceral understanding of my life as a result of this.

If you have been following my posts, you already know that I had my SRS surgery last month.  In fact I just celebrated my 1st months anniversary.  This is actually a bit scary, as months 2 and 3 are the hardest.  This is when the ‘insides’ finish healing and the nerves start reconnecting and become active.  The body views this as a wound and attempts to close it.  I have to counter that with daily maintenance (three times a day) to soften and keep it’s form.  The combination of these makes these next two months difficult and painful.

Needless to say, this means that I’m quite familiar with my ‘new’ anatomy.  I put quotes around new because it is new only that it’s one month old.  But here’s the kicker:  it’s not new, it’s been there all along ….  Now that might seem a bit strange, so let me explain.  This realization came to me when I was in the hospital, minutes after I woke up from surgery.  My immediate thoughts and feelings were “Finally, I’m back to the way I was” – even though I was never like this.  But that was the internal visceral response I had.

I have talked about the ‘body map’ a few times before.  As a refresher:  medical science has found that we carry a body map located in a part of the hypothalamus.  This map basically says what we have and where it is at any moment in time.  It also tells us what things are supposed to feel like and the feeling those parts are normally supposed to produce.  The oft used example is the person that has their arm amputated yet still feels their fingers and can tell you where their arm is located – even though it’s not there.

My experience post surgery was a huge confirmation of this body map.  That is what I meant “I’m finally back to the way I was” and that this was not something new, but was always there – it was always there in my body map!  My ‘new’ bottom did not feel different – did not seem new – was not strange – I was not missing something.  Instead I felt normal, I felt the ‘nothing’ that everyone else feels about their parts – it’s just simply is who I am.  Ask yourself, what does it feel like to have your ‘parts’?  Does it feel like anything at all or is it just the way it is – that is, just you – nothing – nothing special – just is.

That is how it is now for me.  That was NOT how it was pre-surgery for me:

That … is the big difference.

That … is the hardship a transsexual faces daily until they transition.

My previous ‘down there’ was not in my body map.  Things did not match up to what was supposed to be according to my body map.  And, it is not just the physical aspects but also the mental, emotional and hormonal aspects of the body map that were not in agreement.

Let me re-tell a couple of incidents from my youth plus another one from my previous marriage to illustrate:

As a very small boy, I knew that I was supposed to be smooth down there, I was not supposed to have ‘that’ hanging out.  Ever being the budding scientist, I have a distinct memory of trying to figure out how was I supposed to urinate if it was smooth there!  This is when I was around 5 years old.  I had no concept of sex or what a woman/girl looked like – I just knew this was not me – I was supposed to be ‘smooth’ down there.  When I was 7 years old, my sister was born.  The first time I saw her ‘down there’ – well, everything came together.  For the first time in my young life I knew what I was supposed to look like, what my young body map identified with.

The second incident occurred a few years after this.  My mother was a seamstress – not professionally, but she created clothes for our family, relatives, neighbors and friends.  Being intrigued both by the creativity but also by the mechanics and design aspects of sewing, I would watch and learn.  Finally I felt that I could create and sew something myself – from scratch – no patterns, I would make my own.  So I did.  I made a beautiful skirt that fit me perfectly.  It had a hem (I remember using this stick with a bulb on top and a movable nozzle that would squirt chalk at where you wanted the hem to be – in order to get it perfectly level all the way around), I also had belt loops, elastic around the waist plus a zipper on the side.  I was very proud of my creation.  I did all this without my mother’s knowledge as I wanted to surprise her.  When it was finished, I waited for her to come home and proudly showed off my new creation.  My mother is 100% German and very strict and conservative and was very brutal.  My pride turned to shame is less than a second.  The scolding and punishment and continued reminders of what I did drove any thoughts of me being a girl to be deeply buried.  This was the start of the ‘layers of the onion’ and more and more layers were added to deeply bury any sense of me being a woman.

In one way I consider myself fortunate.  I attended a very conservative Catholic grade school back in the 1950’s, in a very redneck conservative northern city.  I was ‘fortunate’ to witness some of my classmates as they tried to assert who they were (being different than anyone else) and witnessing the severe reaction of both the other kids but also from the teachers, nuns and priests.  I was an observant little girl inside a boy’s body who learned very quickly from others to keep my identity secret.  This sort of sealed the onion layers for good.

Later in my teen years all that was left was a rationalization that I was a boy but with all these extra capabilities – emotions, what I liked, mannerisms, ability to understand and listen to people … the list goes on.  I could not stand the playground games of the boys and would prefer the girls but I had to be careful to mix it up …  I had buried my truth so deep that I no longer knew myself and accepted my role as a boy and rationalized the rest.  It took another 40 to 50 years to unravel and peel back that onion.

Now, here’s the new part.  This revelation suddenly came to me during a talk with my ex-wife.  I don’t think I would have seen this before surgery – somehow it took being whole again to be able to see this next piece.  This is a bit hard to discuss and embarrassing for me – please bear with me as I try to find the words for this ….

During puberty my body changed drastically.  Testosterone was now cursing through me and creating a lot of changes that were upsetting.  However, I could not figure out why – again I had a deep rationalization that I was a boy.  It wasn’t the physical aspect of puberty but the mental and hormonal parts that really disturbed me.  Here it gets hard for me to put this to words – hang on:  one example, it’s a pretty well known fact that most men masturbate many times a week, some daily.  This urge was intense and of course I hated that – that part was not me – why was this happening.  I had so much shame around that but I could never understand.  Of course the Catholic church drills into us that is a sin.  And of course the other boys bragged about it.  Why was this so awful for me?  That wasn’t all – there are other incidents that I was very ashamed of as well, both growing up and throughout married life.  I carried these all my life, not understanding what drove me and carrying the guilt and shame all these years.

In my talk with my ex-wife a couple of days ago it suddenly became crystal clear and I broke down crying.  Hindsight is like that I suppose, but this required me to already have had my surgery in order to be able to put this together.

I was POISONED!!!!

Others have called this the “testosterone fog”.   If you are a male (birth sex) and a man (gender) then testosterone is the correct hormone.  But I am not.  I don’t expect men to get what I’m about to say, but I think any women would and any transsexual definitely will.  As a woman, having a high testosterone level, I would experience these hormone driven urges and their results and was mortified by them.  Disgusted and shamed as I would witness myself in those moments and then the regrets afterwards.  Again, for a male/man these are natural and congruent – no problem.  But for me – this was horrible and these feelings have haunted me my entire life.  But, I didn’t know why – the layers of that onion were so thick by now – I had long ago buried and lost my gender identity.  Only these hints were left.

It’s only now, that I’m physically, mentally, socially, hormonally and internal-chemistry-wise finally a woman that I could solve my last great quandary that has plagued and weighed on me all my life.

As a woman – I was POISONED by testosterone!

I had to go off of spiro (a testosterone blocker) a couple of weeks before the operation – this gave me a really good ‘scientific’ test of what for me was the intensity of this poison. It confirmed and validated my views and led to the realizations that I am writing about here.

Again, testosterone is absolutely appropriate for a male/man, but I am not – I’m a woman and this has tormented me so much.  At last I have come to peace with those disturbing aspects of my life that only now do I realize are part and parcel of being a transsexual woman.

I want to apologize profusely to those that I have hurt  unintentionally and hope for your forgiveness.

I now understand.

I am now free.

With much aloha,

Sifan