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High Pain Tolerance in not a good thing

I just figured out – it is a bad thing to have a high pain tolerance ….

While recuperating from SRS surgery here in Thailand, I had a complication, an extended bladder.  I had 2 severe episodes.  I went way way to long before saying something. The first was 3 nights of excruciating pain – I endured it thinking it will get better.

The second time, I waited till morning to call for help. Stupid!!! I could have called in the middle of the night and a nurse would have come to my hotel room and re-inserted the catheter (as is what happened the second time but in the morning). I’m learning.

So, now, when something is just a bit painful, I tell Lisa and we figure out if it is more serious or not. Ack, never thought that having a high pain tolerance would be an issue!

When I look back, I see that a number of times I’ve over extended myself, but not enough to feel the pain that I should have.  Only to have a very sore ‘whatever it was that I did’ show up three days later.

But this episode with an over extended bladder was the worst pain in my life – yet I endured way longer than I should have.  Mostly because I either thought it would go away or because I didn’t want to wake someone up in the middle of the night.

I’m learning.  Being female brings with it a whole new regime of care and maintenance.  It also brings a new appreciation for listening closely to one’s body and taking heed of what it says.

Being this much in touch with my body is a new experience.  It’s also one that I knew I was missing before transition.  This is actually a very beautiful and wonderful feeling.  It’s not just being in touch with the body, but also with nature and it’s cycles.  It brings so much together.  It is wondrous.

With much aloha,

Sifan

Hoku Wahine (Hawaiian: literally star woman, eg. woman astronomer)

GRS and Recovery

On September 11, I had my Gender Affirmation Surgery (as I and many others prefer to call it).  It was a 7 hour long surgery, followed by a 7 day stay in the hospital where I could not leave the bed.  I’ve now been back in the hotel by the clinic for 3 days.  They send nurses here to the hotel to keep track of our progress.

If there ever could be a pain free experience, this was very close.  The most inconvenience I had was my butt on that bed for 7 days and not being able to move except to turn partially to one side or the other.  That was bad but hardly anything to complain about considering this type of surgery.  I have a seat cushion (donut) that is probably the most important item in my possession at the moment!

One of the most valuable parts of this experience is of all things breakfast.  All the woman, pre and post operative usually come done at 9 am for breakfast.   It’s a large family and ‘everything’ is discussed – which is extreme TMI (too much information) for anyone else.  But for us it it invaluable.

The camaraderie, just being with others like oneself and learning of both our commonalities and our differences.  This is very international, I know I now have life long friends in Germany, England, Australia, France, the US and many other locations around the world.

Hearing the experiences of those that are further along then us is invaluable as well.  I have learned a lot and am able to be prepared for what comes next.

Hearing about and sharing issues and problems has also helped alleviate concerns.  For example, I had a bruise appear a day after leaving the hospital, but it turns out many do and it’s just a normal result of the surgery we had.  But without the other’s input I would have been much more concerned.  This extends to other medical and ‘mechanical’ issues as well with lots of helpful advice.

I have created a private FaceBook page that I’m using as a sort of diary with input from others here.  I’ll be distilling this information and creating additional posts here in hopes to help others.

With Aloha,

Sifan

A Witness to Gender Differences – the Glass Ceiling – it’s Real

the glass ceilingI just saw an excellent article on societal gender differences.  Jessica Nordell in her article “Why Aren’t Women Advancing At Work?  Ask a Transgender Person” makes a number of very good points:  “Having experienced the workplace from both perspectives, they hold the key to its biases.” she wrote in the New Repblic eZine.

One major point is that there is a finite window where transsexuals like me, that are mature, have a scientific background and have experience in both genders, will be available to give unique witness to how people treat men and women differently . People 40 or 50 yrs ago did not fully transition and young people now are taking puberty blockers and will never have the experience in the other gender. The window of time for the world to hear and record our stories is only now.

What this article points out and what I have been saying – is that I have experienced life as a male (and careful here, my bias is that I experience male birth sex BUT as a gender of a woman). As they say, if you are living in a black and white world you have no concept of colors. Living as a man (gender) in a male (birth sex) body (what we term ‘cis’) – or vice-versa, a woman (gender) in a female body (birth sex) – you are in a black and white world. Not that I and other transsexuals see beautiful brilliant colors – be we ‘do’ see colors and as this article points out, our perspectives and stories can be very helpful and constructive for everyone.

The article specifically talks about transsexuals being in a unique position to witness how people respond differently to gender, especially if they stay in the same job through transition.  Topics that were mentioned that I personally resonate with include:


Being taken seriously:  as a male there was a certain amount of non-questioning of my opinion by others.  As a female I find that I have to defend my position a lot more.

Blame it on the hormones: reacting the same way to similar situations as before, now as a female people have made comments that my reaction was due to hormones.

Assumptions of weakness and non-capable-ness: Men will step in to do something for me or take over (or attempt to).  One example, I have already embarrassed a few when they could not lift something or do something physical and I stepped back in to hold it as ‘they’ recovered.   This also goes for holding doors or other seemingly ‘gentlemen’ types of actions.  ‘We’ (woman) can tell the difference between someone actually being gentlemanly vs taking over, assuming we can not handle a situation.

Not being heard: As a man, I had a voice and was heard and listened to.  This is more subtle, but I’m finding it harder to ‘break-into’ the conversation these days.  It is taking more effort and then as my first point above – I have to explain/defend my point of view more critically.


Qero-ShamanBut I want to add that there is a lot more than just being witness to the reality of the glass ceiling.  And this goes back to the shamans, healers, medicine women and high priests of old, which to a sizable extend were transgender people.  In life, transsexuals experience this ‘color’.  This gives us a unique gift to be able to help others and to bridge the genders of a particular society.  Once we go through our journey, to the depths of our being, akin to the phoenix we arise but as a wise crone, able, if society allows us, to be of great service.

Perhaps this is one reason we are put down, misunderstood and mistreated.  Perhaps we possess something that power fears, something potentially immensely transformative.

All I can say is that I’m 3/4 way through that infamous valley and am climbing up to the col.  I’m here for those that wish to converse and learn.  However, I have no time or patience with trolls or phobics.

With much aloha,

Sifan

Month 2 Summary

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50This is going faster than I anticipated !

Well, what was a maybe last month is a definite this month.  There is no doubt about it: my breasts have grown, there are real and at times they are very sensitive and sometimes they hurt!  Growing pains.  I really did not expect anything for a few months at the least, so I’m surprised and happy.  I’m even showing cleavage.

My endocrinologist had originally placed me on 1/4 the spiro dosage (25 mg) due to my marginally low blood pressure and of course the normal starting estrodiol level (1 mg gel, higher efficiency).  I had my second appointment with him and the blood tests were remarkable.  Total testosterone dropped from 401 to 73, free testosterone is down to 9 and estrogen is up to 159.  That is more estrogen and less testosterone than a postmenopausal women has and is where I was targeted to be at in 6 months!

At the end of the doctors visit, my partner asked if he would be upping my dosages —– I responded first with a ‘why’ … I’m there already”!  So now it’s just allowing the body to catch up and judging from the growing pains – it is.  It’s great to have these results with this low a dosage – these hormones are very powerful indeed.

You hear a lot of warnings about not doing this yourself with black market drugs etc. – I can sure support that.  From my support group (many of them also see the same doctor), we learned that everyone is different – different dosages, different hormones, etc.  Judging from myself – one really has to be monitored and appropriately prescribed.  This is powerful stuff and getting it wrong has lots of bad consequences.

A few other firsts this month:  first time en femme in a restaurant, shopping, and at a formal 5 star restaurant for my birthday.  With the help of my partner, I have found a ‘look’  that both suits me well and allows for a more comfortable (less stress that is) experience.

I submitted my name change and that was approved.  Now I am waiting for the official ‘order of change of name’ to proceed with changing all my documents.  I also obtained the paperwork, signed by my doctors, to allow the gender marker to be changed on my drivers license, social security and at work.  All of that should be finished this next month.

My concerns going forward are that I am now entering what I call the ugly duckling phase.  My breasts are growing and it will be harder to hid that fact.  At the same time my hair is not long enough yet, my face has not changed and I still have a lot of weight to lose.  It is going to take a lot of months to get through this phase.

Even though everyone at work knows about my transition, I still feel that I do not want to ‘push it’ so to speak, until both my body and myself (being comfortable presenting as a woman) are ready.

At least I am past the stage of having to be ‘ultra-femme’.  In a way, I see that was necessary to break out of the role or facade of life as a male.  We all have to rebel in order to transcend and find ourselves.  I would classify where I am now as a settling down in who I am – finding myself, my style, my ‘normality’.  Things are settling and because of that a lot of pressure, disphoria and discomfort are gone.  All the dreams and wishing and intense scrutiny and drive are now replaced with a contentment and a relaxing into finding and just being myself.  There is a long way to go – but there is tremendous progress and a joy in seeing and experiencing the reality of ‘me’ coming through.

We will be getting married next year and are starting our planning.  It will be a small wedding but that does not diminish the planning that is involved.  I am thoroughly enjoying sharing and planning this together with my love.  I started a wiki page to collect our thoughts, plans and track progress and decisions.  Its exciting and difficult finding a dress that will match my expectations and realistically a style that will suit me.  So much is starting to come together!

One happy trans camper ….

Sifan

“Why are ‘you’ a woman?”

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7586971_f520In coming out, especially to family, I inevitably get the question: “what makes you think you are a woman” and “give me examples through-out your life” followed by “well, men are like that/do that too”.

One can get caught in this game of proof by example …

I always try to start by telling them that since birth I knew myself as female, that this was something inside me and that through-out my life I have struggled either by denying or rationalizing.

Still, they want examples …

It seems like most people want concrete examples, more or less proving that I am a woman.  Situations or characteristics that to them prove who I say I am.  Even those that know me well, start to point out “well, you are a scientist” or “you fixed cars” in trying to dis-prove or perhaps substantiate their own notion of who they ‘knew’ as me.  Even after giving them examples of natal women who hold those roles in life (and who I work with), they still look for other proof, either for or against.

It probably did not help that for most of their lives, I filled the ‘male’ role quite well.  I had kept this under wraps very successfully (and to an extent, even to myself with multiple rationalizations such as “I’m just a guy with these other abilities/characteristics …”).

Most people required someone in an authoritative position to be able to proclaim that I was a woman.  For example, “after 4 years of therapy, Dr. so and so diagnosed me as a transsexual woman”.  I hate using the word ‘diagnosed’ and I usually explain that this is not a ‘condition’ or a mental anything – this is akin to having red hair or green eyes – it’s just another version of the human experience – albeit not as common.

Even then, they dismiss that as “who is Dr so and so, are they qualified, are you sure?” …

I have also started to see or recognize that people are going through phases in dealing with my news.  It usually starts with the type of questioning I mentioned above, almost always from a negative/denial perspective.  Then they start to accept or see or perhaps relate to events where they have personally witnessed me, that they can now, in light of this news, re-interpret as coming from a feminine being.

This is usually followed by another phase where they now start asking ‘genuine’ questions and I can start to see the ‘wheels turning’ as they start to put everything together.  Acceptance is still a ways off, but now they are also more receptive to further information as well.  A lot of times they ask questions that I had already addressed right in the beginning – almost as if they didn’t hear what I had said.  I think most of the time they were just not ready to hear it then and that this was so overwhelming that they could not take it all in.  That is one reason I wrote both the coming out letter and the slides on what transsexualism is (both I have included on this site).

On the one hand I feel sad that people can not accept my feelings about who I am, my internal process, without black and white logistical proof – something that just does not exist in this realm.  About all that can be ‘seen’ externally is this ‘preponderance of evidence’ of example situations from one’s life experiences – things that taken individually can be dismissed quite easily.

This happened to me as well as I came to terms with who I am.  One of the phases I went through (see the tab above titled ‘Beginnings’ – I called them ‘bathtub moments’), was a collection and analysis of all those events that I could remember.  Look around at most of the other transsexual stories you see – almost all of them have major sections devoted to events and incidents through-out their lives attempting to offer proof that they/we are who we say we are – played with the girls, dressed in women’s clothing, not competitive, was creative, etc.  All of these, on a one by one basis could be dismissed, but on a preponderance of evidence criteria, perhaps could offer circumstantial evidence that we are transsexual beings.

But – why does that matter?  We know who we are.  Yes, we want to be accepted by our loved ones, our families and our friends.  How much of their questioning and disbelief comes back inside ourselves and either upsets us or perhaps even forces us to re-examine ourselves – to ask “what am I doing? (not in the context of “am I right” but in the context of what is the extent of the damage I am doing to others).  It forces us to once again weight risks and benefits – as if this is a business decision that can be rationally analyzed ….

In the end, it is our personal fortitude and strength that is tested, over and over again.  Perhaps this is good – it re-affirms who we are.  But why do we allow external forces to effect us?  Don’t get me wrong here:  I know who I am – this is not raising doubts.  However, we are social beings.  As much as some might wish independence – we do need loved ones and friends/family to live happily – at least I do.

We can ignore the plights of others as they go through their stages of accepting us, we can help them understand, we can have patience and show love and/or we can silently suffer through their angst and bewilderment.

I think what is most important is that ‘we’ know our own ‘truth’, know it well and are stable/grounded in it.  We are all different, but I choose to help those that struggle through these phases – I choose to avail myself to them (if they wish) and offer what ever support and love that I can.  Most importantly, I see this as ‘their’ problem/issue.  I am who I am and as a transsexual author friend of mine said (and her book is titled) “It’s ok to be me” !

With much aloha,

Sifan