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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

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

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

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

 

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

 

8 Month Summary

Sifan 20131213cLots happening – I’ve been very busy the last month.

My partner’s brother died a week or so after we got back home.  He had a rough night and then a peaceful 40 hours or so before he died.  He was asleep for most of those 40 hours.  My partner is the estate executor so she became very busy.  He had a business and it was a bit messy taking care of  that.  One of the employees quit, necessitating that we sell off the business right away.  Turns out the other employee (and the one my partner’s brother wanted to give the business to) wanted it (with the help of his relative).  We then found out that the employee that quit  was trying to steal the customers!  What a mess.  All that is settled now.  We will be going back to California next week to continue her executor duties.

Most of this month I have been working very hard at that secure Air Force computing facility.  We are now moving a 15 rack cluster to another building a couple of blocks up the street.  There’s one guy and three of us women lifting 100 pound systems out of the rack, into boxes, onto a truck then out of the truck, out of the boxes and back into the rack in the new location.  With anywhere from 8 to 20 in a rack – do the math – this is a lot of work.  They had estimated two days per rack.  We are doing 2 racks a day – 4 times faster then the estimate.  Of course I kid them that this is doing the opposite of what I wanted to do at this point in my transition – building arm muscles!!  At one point we were transporting a computer rack in a pickup truck.  We had it laying down (barely enough room) and three of us were sitting in the truck bed holding onto it.  I was in the back corner with one leg along the bottom and the other along the side of the rack (my legs were 90 deg apart) when suddenly the rack moved directly at me.  We all laughed and joked that this could save me the cost of my ‘operation’ ….. (these are close friends and we can have fun this way).  I am looking forward to our trip to California for a number of reasons – one of which is to have a breather from this heavy work.

I had my third hair styling with Karen.  She is great.  This time she also waxed my eye brows, plucked them and colored them.  She says I’m over the hump as far as the hair growing in and it will be easier now to keep a style as my hair fills out.  I am happy with my hair at last, but still can’t wait until it’s long enough to put in a pony tail or have other options.  I love my bangs.

I belong to a netgroup of older transgenders – mostly woman.  One of them started a thread discussing effects of being on HRT.  One of those effects was  that they no longer had this huge urgency to convert to a woman.  And it suddenly dawned on me – they are right – I don’t have the urgency and the angst that was there before.  Now, how much of this is due to being on HRT or to the fact that I’m living as a woman and being accepted as one.  After all, that was one of the most important aspects of this – to be able to be myself and have other accept me as myself.  Imagine that you have to put on an act – that people will not give you notice unless you do – you have to act and behave a certain way just to be able to live and get along.  But this is not who you are – you just want to be your self and have people accept you for that.  You want your natural tendencies of expression, emotion, body language, etc. to just come out, not to have to suppress them.  That’s what it was like.  And now, it’s beautiful – I am free to express, emote and be who I naturally am!

The pressure is not off completely …  For example, this does not mean I do not need bottom surgery (GRS).  One might ask “well, now that you are passing, you are a woman for all purposes, why do you need surgery – no one will know if you do or don’t”?  That is true, however it misses a very important point.  While being accepted by others as who I am is important, it is only 1/2 of the situation of being a transsexual.  I have written a lot on this blog about the external/sociological aspects of transsexualism and hardly anything at all about the internal/physiological aspects. I suppose partly because in my experience dealing with others, it is the sociological aspects that are always questioned or that are easier for others to understand and perhaps accept.

Me – I am a  woman – I was born with something that does not belong there.  My body was flooded by hormones that distorted me both physically, mentally and emotionally.  What is between my legs does not belong there, I never liked it:  I did not like what it did to me.  From my earliest memories as a child it did not ‘look’ right.  It was when my sister was born that I had my first real inkling of what I should have been.  This is the other 1/2 of being transsexual – me – my body – it is not what it is supposed to be.

Now please understand – I do not hate men – I do not hate ‘down there’ on men or myself.  That has nothing to do with this.  In fact, as a man I think I looked pretty darn good!  It’s just – that is ‘not’ who I am – that is not me.  Men are awesome (so are women), I’m just not a male.

So, the planning for gender affirmation surgery is in full swing.  Both my partner and myself are excited and are looking forward to … after I recover ….  I have narrowed it down to three surgeons: Montreal, San Francisco, and Bankok.  Lots of pro’s for each and very little cons for any.  Everyone I talk to that has had GRS with any of these three, all have glowing recommendations.  That makes this choice even more difficult!  I talked with GP doctor and she is willing to review them for me and give me her opinion – I’m grateful for that.  So I will be seeing her again next month to discuss this and  the pre-surgery requirements and tests.

I met with my endocrinologist this month too.  All my hormone levels are where they belong – mid-range typical woman.  I thought my testosterone levels were a bit high and wanted to increase my spiro dosage – but he pointed out that my levels are well within the norm for a woman and also, with surgery coming up – I won’t be taking spiro anymore!

Physically, I’ve added an inch to my bust line, my waist has reduced a bit and my bottom padded out a bit, giving me a bit more curves.  I still have soreness in my breasts, but perhaps not like before.  I started taking progesterone but stopped.  I’m not sure of it’s effect but I suppose I have not really tried it long enough.  I may start taking it again and see if it helps with breast soreness.  My endocrinologist was 50/50 as far as benefits of using it and totally left it up to me.  I bought something called “Happy PMS” that has the correct dosage of progesterone.

So here it is, end of January 2014.  It’s a year ago that transition suddenly became a critical life goal – the hair cut incident in my post about my history.  It is 6 months until my GRS and 3 months until our marriage.  Oh, I have to lose so much weight !!

With much Aloha,

Sifan

Month 7 Summary

Sifan 20131213bI’m a bit late posting this, so Mele Kalikimaka and Hau’oli Makahiki Hou!

There are a number of miscellaneous things that happened this month:

I had to work at a secure military site – we had to pack up and move about 6 tons of computer gear (our equipment).  This was the first time I had been there as a woman, so passing the security check with my new name was ‘daunting’ to say the least – especially because I had to show the before and after paperwork plus the supporting documents.  This resulted in the guards calling me ‘sir’ – but the next time I was in they got it right.  Because this was a secure site, we were under constant guard  We had an escort and we all had to stay together – even when we went to the restrooms!   It was hard work and hot (even though it was in an air conditioned computer room).  I had to take off my shirt (wore a tank top under it) and I caught the guards checking me out!  Our ‘team’ included two other women and one guy.  This was the first time I was in the woman’s restroom with others from my work.   When my partner and I use the public restroom we talk etc. but this was the first time with others where we carried on conversations and stood around fixing our hair, etc. – it was quite refreshing actually!

Just before Christmas my partner and I went out dress shopping.  I mostly wear jeans and tank tops (sometimes with shirts) both to work and around town, so I didn’t have very many dresses and I guess I wasn’t in any hurry to buy any.  Well, given this sale and the resulting prices and the wonderful selection …. ya, bought seven dresses including one long red dress and also a red top and red skirt, both for dressing up for Christmas.  A number of the other dresses are boho – and I’m starting to really love that style.  While we were in southern California, I wore a number of these dresses.  That seems to be a change for me:  before I would only wear a dress if it was a special occasion.  Now I’m starting to ‘want’ to wear a dress when going out, more often.

My partners’ brother is in the final phases of cancer.  He came down with a bad infection so we flew over to southern California to be with him over Christmas.  It was a time for me to be caring and nurturing both to her brother but especially to my partner.  We celebrated Christmas in his bed room.  He has recovered from the infection, so we are now back home.  (Update: he died today Jan 12 – we will be going back soon – my partner is the estate executor).

It’s a little colder in southern California than it is in Maui (ya, we are spoiled). All I brought with were flippa’s – my feet were freezing! So I went out and bought my first pair of stylish above ankle boots. Nice and comfy and ‘warm’ (good thing my jeans are boot cut).  But, as long as I was there … (giggles, you know where this is going):  well, they had this awesome pair of 3″ heels (my size) on sale – yup, my first pair of 3″ heels!  I needed something to go with my red Christmas dress.   Before buying them, I walked all over the store, back and forth in front of mirrors – making sure I could do handle these.  So far I’m doing ok – haven’t killed myself – not even a bruise yet. Only problem is I’m getting nose bleeds from this high altitude!   Lisa wanted to take a walk – so I did – went about a block – up/down stairs, over curbs, uneven pavements, dashed out of the way of a truck ….. feet are a just a little sore but the heels (and me) are working out great !  After we got back home to Maui we went out to a fancy restaurant and I had another change to wear my heels.

Opening the ton of mail after we got back home I found a Christmas card from my ex.  In it she wrote “how does it feel, your first Christmas as a woman?”  Wow, that was very nice of her.

I’ve been noticing an interesting occurrence:  a sweet type of smile from other women – store clerks, waitresses, in the mall or on the street or beach.  I’ve first noticed this when I started coming out as a woman in public.  But it happens a lot more now.  This ‘never’ happened when I was a male.  At first I thought nothing of it, they were just being friendly – and I’m always friendly.  But the more it happens the more I realize it’s something else.  Then I read this book where the transgender author also noticed this and called it “the secret smile”.  So I had a discussion with my partner about it and yes – there is such a thing as a secret smile a woman gives to another women – a sort of acknowledgement of being in this together.  I watch for it all the time now and make sure I return it.  As I progress in my transition I am noticing the secret smile more and more.

Friendships are another area where woman are very different from men.  There is an extra ‘level’ – what could be called the ‘3am friend’.  This is a friend that you can call or they can call you at 3am and talk – just because.  You can’t have very many of these – I count three in my life now and feel very grateful for them.

There was a huge surprise in the stack of mail when we returned home.  A package!  I couldn’t wait to open it and try it on – it was my special order wedding dress!!  And – it fit perfectly!  I’m so happy – now on to shoes, leis/haku/kupe’e, jewelry ……  Less than four months away – wheeeee!!

External changes:

I have noticed in comparing my face from before to now that it has changed to oval.  This one ‘snuck’ up on me!  My hair is growing out a lot more – I’ll be getting my third styling soon.  I’m wearing earrings everyday now, but I still put my studs back in at night for sleeping.  I have curves: 46-40-44 which also says I need to lose some serious weight.  My breasts are still growing (still having pains).  My partner told me she saw them ‘bouncing’ …

Internal changes:

I am starting to have the feeling of being over the hump – the secret smiles, the 3am girlfriends, more comfortable in public, so much more at ease and feeling of not being afraid of letting the real me out.  There was even a time when a waiter called me sir and I didn’t even care or get upset.  I am me and I know who I am and it just does not matter if they see me differently.  It’s not going to change how I feel.  I’m more confident of myself and of being a woman.  I’m getting so much affirmation – not just here in Hawaii (which is more open and accepting) but also on the mainland.  There is still a long way to go, but I have a feeling of having accomplished so much and am therefore much more at ease.

Ke mana’olana nei au e hau’oli wale no ‘oe (wishing everyone happiness),

Sifan