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Why have Surgery

This is something that happened the night before surgery.  I never doubted or questioned what I was doing.  I knew this must be done.  But there was a piece of the puzzle that was missing.  Now I know why.

The night before surgery, it all came to me.  I had spent so much time on the mental aspects and removing the layers of learned male behavior some of which disgusted me (the testosterone fog).  The piece that was missing was physical part.  “Why would surgery matter if you are already living as a woman?” type of question.

But the night before, my early childhood came back to me.  The memories of something wrong – it was supposed to be smooth down there, I was not supposed to have this thing sticking out.  This was long before I know anything of the sexes – I just knew it was supposed to be smooth.  In fact, I remember wondering how I could possibly urinate if it was smooth!  Then my sister was born and for the first time I figured out what ‘smooth’ was supposed to be.

Fast forward to the night before surgery and my discussion with the psychiatrist, my mind had pushed that out of the way so completely, yet the extreme dissonance remained all my life and caused just as much grief as the mental aspects.  But, just like the mental aspects, there were many layers of this physical part that also had to be removed – and that night before surgery it became clear.

After surgery I have to use a mirror when I do my ‘maintenance’ and the feeling of not only completeness but of wholeness is almost overwhelming.  It’s like being back to what I was (even though I never was this way) but that is the feeling – being correct and true and just ‘me’.  It is so wonderful, so incredibly ‘natural’ – I’m running out of words to describe this.

I’ve mentioned before about a body map, a part of the brain that sort of knows what you are, what you have, and where and what these parts are doing.  The example often given is of an amputee who not only still feels their arm but can tell you exactly where it is in relation to their body.  This body map for me is what tells me I’m female, both in the physical and the mental aspects.  The memory from my childhood shows this clearly – I didn’t know what I was supposed to have down there, only that this didn’t match what my body map had.  This is the HUGE relief I have now, when I do my dilation, etc. having to use a mirror and in contact with ‘me’.  It is what was missing, it is what inside me says is supposed to be there.  Now it is!!!!

With much aloha,

Sifan

1 Year Summary !

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And what a year this has been!

So much happened just this last month.  Lisa and I got married (or here in Maui we say we just got Maui’d) and my GRS surgery is scheduled and paid for.

I have just added a separate post including pictures and a transcript of our ceremony.  It was a fantastic Hawaiian beach wedding.  As you can see in this picture of Lisa and me – we are soooo happy!  It was the perfect day, we had 12 guests, beautiful morning at the beach, wonderful spot and we had brunch at the Grand Wailea.  The hula band even played a special song so the two of us could have our wedding dance!  The Hawaiian ceremony was full of symbolism and meaning.  I have always dreamed of being the bride at a wedding (well, one of the brides …).  So this was very special for me.

We were wearing so many flowers – I’m barely visible from under them!  Both of us had haku leis (crown lei on our heads) and we wore two leis around our necks (one for our outfit the other to exchange during the ceremony).  I also wore a kupu’u lei on my wrist and one on my ankle.  To top it all off I had a cascading bouquet that I carried (which my friend from work almost continuously had to hold for me during the ceremony – I hope ‘he’ didn’t mind!).

The other major event this month was getting the surgery date confirmed.  We sent in the full amount to pay for the surgery, the hotel and spending money as we live there for one month.  We have our plane reserved too.  Lisa got us in first class on JAL on the way home.  I’ll need that as sitting for that length of time is going to be hard.  The extra room and comfort will be very welcome right about then.  I’m glad that this surgeon keeps his GRS patients for a month.  I will feet better and  be more able to survive that trip home from Thailand!  Plus, if there are any problems, they will more than likely show up before then and they will be able to take care of me.

GRS Surgery Schedule “SK” is confirmed! (Red means confirmed)

We just received the official wedding certificate, so Lisa was able to change her name on her drivers license and social security.  Next we will be going to the passport office and getting that changed for both of us (I had not changed mine yet).

The one last BIG thing I need to do – is lose weight – like 15 pounds – by Sept.  I was talking about this at work and the women all agreed – it’s so much easier for men to lose weight.  All they have to do is skip desert and they are 5 pounds lighter the next day.  For me (and judging by the other women at work – this is the same for all woman) not only is it hard to lose any weight what so ever, but when we do lose weight it’s where we want to keep it (like the breasts)!  The other day I had one egg and a piece of celery for breakfast, a small bowl of noddle soup for lunch and one egg and a piece of toast bread for supper.  I lost, oh, maybe, a whomping .1 of a pound!  Before my transition (well first of all I would have been on my death bed with only that to eat) I would have lost 2 or 4 pounds doing something like that.  One of the woman at work remarked:  “Ya, you ‘are’ a woman.   See, see what’s it like!!”

Who would have guessed – a hair dryer is ‘not’ for drying your hair – silly men:  I added a few more entries in my differences page.

Last month I posted about being passable and my comfort level in being out in public.  This was the first time my family (brother and sister and significant others) have seen me since I started transition.  I was worried how I would be accepted.  I was happy with the warm reception I received from my sister and her friend when I picked them up from the airport.  The hardest time is when I met them at their resort to go swimming.  I wore a two piece, the bottom being a swim skirt.  Because of my shape, a two piece is the only way I can get everything to fit properly.  I think this might have been a bit much for them at first.  As the day wore on, everyone seemed to be more comfortable.  The last day my brother and wife were here we went out to what is probably the best most Hawaiian restaurant here on Maui.  I wore my long black dress – the one I wore way back when I surprised Lisa when she returned home.

My sister and her friend stayed for an extra week.  For me, one of the highlights of their visit was taking them out snorkeling and then going out shopping for clothes.  This was the first time I ever went shopping with my sister – as her sister!  It was precious!  Something I will remember.  We would find clothes for each other, critic, advise and just had fun.

Every trans* person knows that kids (being uninhibited) will be the ones to challenge you.  On our wedding day, Lisa and I took the elevator to get to the brunch.  A mother and her two little girls were in the elevator and rode down to our floor.  Just as the door opened and Lisa and I were getting out, the little girl asks if I’m a woman.  Without batting an eye I answered I was.  She seemed to accept that and continued to chat away!  I impressed myself by the fact that this didn’t bother me in the least.

But, you can imagine my trepidation a week ago when I had to teach astronomy to around 210 3rd graders.  Only one student sort of kind of asked in a roundabout way if I was a women.  Other than that I had a couple of strange looks and heads tipped to the side as they first sat down.  To teach 3rd graders, I put together a high energy talk with lots of enthusiasm and great pictures that illustrate events from stellar births in the Orion Nebula to massive supper novas and the mighty explosions in space.  Once I start, gender is the furthest thing in their minds.  Success to me is measured in how many hugs and high fives I get.  By that measure, this year was awesome – even though this was my first time as a woman teaching this class.  I even had one student from a different class come back during break to ask me additional questions.

Changes this month:  except for a few confirmations of being a woman (see above “see, see what’s it like!”) not too much has changed.  Lisa and others told me my face has changed some more and people have noticed I have curves.  I’ve had a few comments on my weight loss progress too.  My breasts have not been sore for a while, but just these last two night a bit of soreness has come back.

Oh, breaking news ….. there is a military coup in Thailand.  We’ll watch that closely.  For now things still look do’able.  We are changing our return flight to a bit earlier however.

Now to gt back to concentrating on losing weight ….

With Aloha,

Sifan

Our Maui Wedding

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On May 4, 2014, Lisa and I were married at Palauea Beach, Makena, Maui.  I included some pictures and the wording from our wedding which also includes explanations and meanings of the various ceremonies that were a part of our wonderful day.  Enjoy !   Here I am, all ready and waiting for Lisa before we […]

11 Month Summary

With the wedding happening in 11 days and how busy we are getting ready, you would think I’d be late on my 11 month posting, especially since I was late on the previous ones ….  Who knows how these things work – certainly not me!

If you are reading this before May 5th (2014), check back after then – I am waiting till then to post a picture from our wedding here.

Where to start ….  I’m on my second dress for the wedding (wrote about this in previous posts).  The first one was hand tailored but the material turned out to be way more “champagne” than ivory and from the weight I lost, was now too large.  In the last post I mentioned the white holoku (Hawaiian) style dress I purchased instead.  The problem with this dress is that I was still to ‘large’ ….  So I’ve been eating less and eating right plus walking around the block at work 2 to 4 times each night (we are on a mountain – a block here is has an elevation gain/loss of over 60 feet).

I talked with my doctor about losing weight as well, since I will need to lose tonnage before surgery later this fall too.  I told her about how losing weight had changed since HRT.  A lot of  ‘weight’ (fat actually …) has moved around as I went from a typical male distribution to female – but none went ‘away’ – ack.  There are the obvious ones:  stomach went down to the buttocks and up to the breasts, arm muscle mass reduced (not by much – they had me lifting heavy systems at work – side note here:  I was helping one of the guys here lift an extremely heavy (probably over 300 #) disk array unit back into the rack.  He got very red in the face and almost could not make it.  At one point I was holding the majority of the weight as he tried to get a better position.  The next day I find out he blew out his knee and pulled an arm muscle doing that.  For me, it was heavy, but do’able.  I don’t exactly want to be known for this and I think the guys are a bit embarrassed ….

There was also a weight shift I didn’t expect:  stomach ‘plumpness’ moved up!  Below the belly-button I’m fairly flat now – it has moved up to just above the belly-button to just below the rib cage.  And of course in losing weight, this is the ‘last’ place that seems to go away.  Everything else loses weight first – like my breasts – grrrrrrr.  So after all these months getting to an ‘ok’ size, now they are shrinking -ack.  My doctor said:  “welcome to womanhood”!

Just in case my efforts at losing weight before the wedding do not pan out (especially now that I have this beautiful dress) – I bought a corset.  Oh boy.  Well, the dress fits perfectly now and the other good news is that I actually can still breathe (sort of).  I have found that it enforces the rules of posture quite well indeed!  I can still put on my wedding sandals as well as the rest of my clothes – but I do have to be mindful of how I’m moving – wheeeee!  And yes, as Lisa pulled tightly on the strings in back, I had to hang on to something to keep from being pulled over.  Ahhh, the joys of being a woman…

The other big news is that not only have I decided on a date for my GRS surgery but the clinic has accepted me.  I will be having my surgery in mid September with Dr. Suporn in Thailand.   It has taken me a long time and a lot of research to come to this point.  I wrote an entire post just on how I chose him (Choosing a Surgeon).

Summarizing my transition at 11 months:  other than weight moving around and losing bust-line, everything is ‘normal’ – exactly what and how I want to feel – normal – but as a woman!  I had described this in a previous post (Ah – ‘Nothing’ at last …).

My partner noted a couple other changes recently as well.  She says my face has changed yet again – more feminine.  Also my waist is coming in giving me more of the appearance of curves.

At this point in my transition, my ideas surrounding being ‘passable’ are changing.  I’m along the lines of “that is their assumption – no biggie”.  This turned out to be a much larger topic than I thought, so I cut this out and created yet another post (On Being Passable).

Well, now to go back to dreaming of my wedding, the gown, the flowers and leis, the beach and most of all, my Kealoha (beloved) ….

With much Aloha,

Sifan

 

On Being Passable

As I started this transition, a lot of time and energy (and worry) went into being “passable” as a woman.  I’ve read and heard a lot of debate on this, mostly about being yourself and what others think does not matter.  And while that is true, when one is on the beginning part of transition looking forward this is a huge concern.  It has only been after HRT’s effects have had time to take hold, that I was able to be comfortable enough to be able to let down my guard and be able to perhaps see the larger picture where these statements are true.

It’s only in the last couple of months, where coincidentally I’m ‘passable’ enough, that now ‘passing’ is not that important and I can say things like “it does not matter what others think” or “what/who is important is you”.  Perhaps the better way of putting this is: “what is important is what you think”.  This changes as you go through a transition, this means wanting to be passable at the start is just as valid as seeing that it does not matter after you are through.

Lately (I’m starting month 12 as I write this), most of the places I go, people I see or ‘massively public’ areas I’m in, I am not noticing any side looks, comments or raised eyebrows.  Now, I have had to be ‘up in front’ at public events a number of times recently, giving a talk on astronomy, manning a booth at the astronomy open house (1500 people came through), teaching astronomy at a local school (320 students), etc., and have never experienced problems or issues.

At this point in my transition, my ideas surrounding being ‘passable’ are changing.  I’m now along the lines of “that is their assumption – no biggie”.  Yes, I am who I am and I’m the happiest I have ever been in my life.  Everything matches, especially my gender and my gender expression.  And for the most part, that is reflected back to me from society.  Now, I do not believe that I am fully ‘passable’ – not by a long shot.  But enough of the ‘clues’ are present that people seem to assume I’m female and treat me as such.  Even those that hear me first (my voice has a long way to go) and use the wrong pronoun usually will look a bit embarrassed once they see me.

But the real difference is that I no longer mind.  The ‘sting’ is gone.  I’ve had women tell me that they have been called ‘sir’.  I’m sort of at the point I guess – people make mistakes in this area – but more important I know who I am and this does not challenge that, nor does it in any way negate it.

Transitioning is a scary and potentially dangerous thing to do.  It is fraught with high stress and anxiety, especially when starting.  Being concerned with passing when you start is not only ok – it could be necessary.  Yes, some transsexuals will never be able to pass.  Taken at a ‘healthy’ level, this fear can be helpful and prevent potentially dangerous situations.

This is a long winded way of trying to say it’s ok to want to be able to pass.  Perhaps, like me, that was a phase (not completely through it  – maybe at some level I’ll never be).

As the months pass and I settle into my true being, more and more of these things that back then were paramount are now starting to seem trivial.  They are not – it’s just that my journey is now a bit more “down the road”.

With much Aloha,

Sifan

Choosing a Surgeon

I have finally chosen the doctor and clinic for my GRS  (gender re-affirmation surgery).  I will have my surgery in mid September.

In order to qualify for GRS (some call it ‘bottom’ surgery), a transsexual person needs to have:

  • Signed letter by a therapist stating you are indeed a transsexual and that surgery is required, plus that you do not have any other psychological disorders that would prohibit or complicate this
  • Documentation showing that you have lived at least one year totally and completely in the chosen gender (this is called the RLE – real life experience)
  • Medical documentation that you are fit and can ‘live’ through a 7 hour procedure.

It has been difficult to choose a surgeon/clinic for my GRS.

Basically, from everyone I have talked to, emailed, read blogs, etc. that have personally been through GRS plus reading many different clinic web sites and information – it came down to three:  Dr. Bassard in Canada, Dr Bowers in California and Dr. Suporn in Thailand.  Anyone that had been to any of these three had raving reviews for their doctor and would go to them again.  Everything put these three at being precisely equal as well.  This made the decision all that much harder.

Dr Suporn’s method is not the standard method for GRS.  It is not the ‘inversion’ method and it results in most everything being ‘reused’.  This results in most of the same areas being sensate that a natal female has.  One of the women I talked to stated that this was a very high importance to her and Dr. Suporn came through.  She stated that other doctors would not guarantee the result would be orgasmic, however Dr. Suporn did (however she would have to pay the airfare to come back for corrective surgery – but he would guarantee it and the corrective surgery would be paid by him).

Two other factors also helped in choosing Dr. Suporn.  As my GP doctor stated:  “go with who has the most experience” and that is Dr. Suporn by a long shot.  His fees are lower as well.  I’ll be able to get both the GRS and a breast augmentation for the same price as the GRS alone here in the states (and that includes the travel expenses and the hotels).  They also keep you longer.  I will be staying in Thailand for 30 days, verses the two weeks with the others.

Dr. Bowers is herself a transsexual, having had the surgery from one of the pioneering doctors in this field and going on to study from him and eventually take over his clinic when he retired.   It was hard not to choose her.

I’ve had glowing reviews from people I know that went to Dr. Bassard’s clinic in Montreal.  My sons and grandsons live in Minnesota and I would have been able to stop over on my way back, breaking up the journey and being able to recuperate closer to the clinic.

But in the end, it was a letter from a friend that went to Dr. Suporn that finally allowed me to decide.  The different technique, the additional sensate tissues and layers, the more ‘normal’ appearance and the additional comfort that Thailand affords, all added up to make it the winning ticket!

Of course there are other things that I now have to take care of:

  • Airline tickets that cross the international date line (the flight is 21 hours, plus crossing the date line – so exactly which day do I actually land?  The tickets give the time of landing but not the date – ack)
  • Getting my passport updated, in time.  I already had turned this in only to have it returned stating that I used the wrong form and please attach a letter from my doctor, which I had and they did not return!
  • Getting a visitor visa for Thailand.  Their consulate here is on a different island, so I may have to fly over there just to get this.
  • Transferring a large amount of money overseas – governments don’t like that – smells of terrorism.  So lots of red tape plus a lot of intermediate banks that all want to charge a fee.
  • Cardiac stress tests (like why do I want to stress that?  Does not sound nice at all) and other medical tests.
  • My partner (will be my spouse a week from now) is coming with and will have to deal with all the name changing and especially passport and visa issues.

I’ll keep posting as this progresses.

With much Aloha,

Sifan

10 Month Summary

sifan 2Once again I’m late posting ….

We traveled to southern California again.  This time for the memorial and ash scattering ceremony.  Met some of the friends we made before – was great to see them again and made new friends too.  We also took a road trip up to Oregon and visited her family on the way back.  So much driving and it rained almost the entire time!  The house is coming along: new windows, doors, ready for painting, kitchen is looking great, etc.  It should be ready to be listed next month, so we might be going back again.

We chose the Kahuna for our wedding, chose the beach location and visited the florist to pick out our haku (head lei), kupe’e (wrist and ankle lei) and neck lei.  We had fun putting our ceremony together and designing our announcements (we took a picture of a flower in our yard as the background), printing and sending them out.  I bought a Hawaiian style wedding dress, white with white embossed flowers.  My sandals and some of my undergarments have arrived as well.  It’s exciting – only 5 weeks away!

I chose the surgeon that I will go to for my operations.  It will be in Thailand.  The requirements are the same as here – everyone follows the Harry Benjamin WPATH rules.  I sent in all my letters and materials and have been accepted.  The next step is to send a portion of the fee to reserve a date.  I’m hoping for sometime this fall.  One last thing I have to accomplish is to lose another 20 pounds (which I should do for the wedding anyway)!

Changes this month seem small compared to all the other months.  Breasts are still sore, bottom is a bit larger (more curvy) but now it’s soft compared to before.  I hope that when I lose the rest of the weight that my curves will show more.

Lately there seems to be a lot more in the national news about transgender.  More and more professionals, athletes and personalities are coming out very publicly.  More states are adding transgender to their protected lists.  Today was the Transgender Day of Visibility – worldwide.  Geena Rocero (famous model) chose today to come out.  I love this quote from her TED talk:  “I was not born a boy, I was assigned boy at birth. Understanding the difference between the two is crucial to our culture and society moving forward in the way we treat — and talk about — transgender individuals.”  She is talking about being assigned a ‘boy’ gender along with a natal sex of male (boy/man/girl/woman=gender, male/female=natal sex).  The difference she is referring to is the difference between natal sex and gender and that they are separate.  There are those of us where natal sex and gender do not match.  It’s great to see all this in the media.  I hope people are listening and will start to understand.  This is ‘not’ a choice (who would ever chose something this painful) – we are born this way and have to deal with it every moment of our lives.

With much aloha,

Sifan