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Surgery in Thailand – Part 2, Hospital

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

With Aloha,

Sifan

POISONED !

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

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

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

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

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

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

That … is the big difference.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I was POISONED!!!!

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

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

As a woman – I was POISONED by testosterone!

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

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

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

I now understand.

I am now free.

With much aloha,

Sifan

Pono

Another incredible experience: Today is my last day here in Chonburi (unless a certain typhoon that is scheduled to land at Tokyo the same time our plane does – actually does …. grrrr).

So today I had the last visit by the staff. Again, I do not want to mention her name because all of them are so very special, so this post is dedicated to staff of Dr. Suporn’s clinic.

She made a comment about my optimism and enthusiasm – about how that has helped the staff to remember just how much of an impact they make. It is so difficult and hard to work with people from all over the world, all of different cultures and personalities. Some not prepared psychologically – not about transition – but about being in a situation far away from home, having such a radical surgery performed, being in a foreign culture (maybe for their first time) – all these things add up and a person can become quite negative and demanding.

But this staff tries hard, not just surgery related, but as a helping hand, someone to listen to, someone to give advice and help, especially in this culture.

I can commiserate with them: for 13 years I was a director of international training. I was overseas 1 out of every 5 weeks! One heck of a lot of travel. Many time, the overseas offices in the entire region would send their students to where ever I was teaching. For example, if I was teaching in Singapore, the Thailand office, the Taipei, Hong Kong, Seoul, and Tokoyo offices would send their students to Singapore or where ever I was.

As a result, I was the ‘only’ common person they had with the country and culture of that venue. I had to not only teach, but take care of these people – much like the staff here does for us. Same as the staff here, personalities range from demanding to enthusiastic. I have first hand experience of what they do and I commend them highly! It can be so difficult.

Ok, small story: was teaching in London and had a handful of French students in the class. They ‘hated’ English food – so who did they ask for suggestions and help – me. That was scary: an American giving culinary advice to the French – the top of the list experts on food !! They liked it, only one hitch: the English always have a condiments tray that has about 5 different mustards, etc., one of these was called ‘French’ mustard. Oh boy – the comments: “Dis is NOT ze French Muesterd ….” etc.

Can’t help it – another small story:  I was teaching in Seoul, Korea in the winter.  We had people from all over the region including Singapore up there.  For many of the Singaporeans, this was their first taste of very cold weather.  Well on the 2nd day of training, they are all looking to the front of class but I’m looking out at them and the windows beyond, and noticed it started to snow.  I stopped the class and brought the people from Singapore outside to experience the very first snow fall in their lives!  What an experience to watch the joy and happiness in their faces!

One only has to look at the experiences and blogs of others that have had surgery else where, especially in the US with it’s tight Insurance grip resulting in minimization of expenses, to see how wonderful we have it here in Chonburi. Back there, they do not have a clinic staff to hold our hands, sit with us all night after the surgery, pick us up, arrange medicine and care in the middle of the night …. etc.

So once again, I am thrilled that someone noticed kindness and joy and as she said – brings back the feelings of why they choose to be and do what they do – to balance out their hardships with others and to again demonstrate how much of a difference they make in the lives of others.

And for me – what an affirmation of my spirit – that for me, is the best and most important experience I take away. I, in some small way have helped.

In Hawaii we have a saying about pono (do what is right and show respect) and do everything with and always show aloha (love):

“When a person is Pono they have the feeling of contentment that all is good and all is right in their life, a life of full integrity: Ma‘alahi is a Hawaiian word we’ll often use to describe this feeling, for it’s “a pervasive persuasion toward calm, peace, and serenity.”

With much aloha,
Sifan Kahale
Hoku Wahine (Hawaiian: literally “star woman, eg. woman astronomer)

Transition: Mental and Physical

I just had an incredible experience: Dr. Suporn’s clinic staff make daily rounds between 10am and noon. I’m not going to mention her name because what I’m going to say applies to all of them.

This was her last time she was going to see me (as they take rotations and I’m leaving on Monday). So she took extra time to sit and talk.

This was unexpected – she thanked me for my positive attitude and optimism. I can only imagine the range of people and personal issues they have to deal with and this is what I want to share with everyone: this staff goes so far beyond just simple care, they truly are amazing. To me, this was a high complement – it’s also means that I really did touch others here – I hope I was able to make my trans-sisters more comfortable but also the staff and everyone else.

Yes, everyone has different experiences – but think about what the staff has to do (and what they have to put up with). And they do it with love and a smile!

You know – it’s sort of like my last post about being able to tolerate pain having a down side. Dr. Suporn’s surgery is (for a lot of us) almost pain free – it’s like little has happened. We get back to the hotel feeling so good and ready to party on the town, not fully taking into account the 7 hour surgery, 7 days in a hospital, etc. And then those that do, get in trouble.

I remember Dr. Suporn’s words about mentally relaxing and not worrying etc. that a lot of this has to do with the inside aspects of ourselves. And that brings up another huge issue: this is both MENTAL and PHYSICAL. You have to ‘solve’ both of these for yourself. His surgery solves the physical – if you are not mentally ready – after surgery you are now going to have to deal with the other half.

I was fortunate. I had a great therapist and worked on the mental aspects of this for more than 10 years. This surgery was the icing on the cake as they say. The night before surgery is when the final pieces of the physical aspects came into sharp focus. See “Why have Surgery” for more on that.

That was the big message the person from the clinic and I came to this morning – being prepared both mentally and physically for this.

And I really do hope that I shed cheer and happiness to those around me – to me, that is an important aspect of my life.

With much aloha,

Sifan
“Hoku Wahine” (literally: star woman, eg female astronomer)

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

14 Month Summary

Everything is now focused on next month:  SRS.  Because I’m ‘older’ they wanted a cardiac stress test.  Now, I’m in pretty good shape and that, for a stress test, is bad news.  It means they keep you on the treadmill longer, faster and at a higher incline (and keep increasing until you start pumping harder).  The good doctor brought me up to heart rate required for the stress test, looked at me and said, “want to see what you can do?”.  You know, I must be slow in the uptake or maybe I was just not completely taking in what he just said.  Well, from my perspective, all hell broke loose – not supposed to run just walk fast, the darn thing was now a ramp to the ceiling – but, like a fool, I did it.  Then he asked me again – I think my muffled huffing response sounded like a yes.  Right after they had me lay down and they took sonograms of my heart – asking me to ‘hold my breath’ – I was like “WHAT” – that’s not fair and it’s impossible!!  They actually can measure the thicknesses of the different walls, measure blood velocities, etc.  Very impressive.  Well, I passed – however – about three days later my entire upper chest was sore and I had what seems to be a muscle strained under my arm.  It took me a few more days to finally connect this to the stress test.  I was using my upper body – hands on the front bar of the treadmill – to do a lot of work.  When I hike in the mountains I use hiking sticks that basically do the same.  My legs are in the best shape because of the walking/hiking I do, but my upper body was not used to that.  It’s now almost a week later and at last I’m slowly recovering.  Wow – mental note – don’t accept a ‘dare’ from a doctor doing a stress test on you!  Unfortunately, I had to work up at the summit the rest of that week – this really zapped me.

I was sent an invitation to a private FaceBook group for those that have surgery with Dr. S. in Thailand – and for those that have been accepted for surgery.  It’s turning out to be a great resource.  Everyone is helping everyone, lots of good advice, worries, complications, things around town and the clinic and doctors weigh in as well.  So good sound advice.  One person said they just arrived – about 20 others replied with where they are meeting for breakfast, who to see and what to do before hand.  I joined the fray and said I would be arriving next month and already I have 4 other gals (two from here in Hawaii) that will be there the same time – we’ll be getting together!  By far the best is to go back about 1 year and read all the questions and answers, issues real and those easily fixed, what to expect and how everyone else has fared.  I have lots of good advice and perhaps an even better idea for what to expect almost each and every day I am there (one month).


 

One of the purposes of my blog site here is to help others, especially those that are older, to get the information they need to understand and know what this is all about.  To that end, I plan on making as many posts from Thailand as I am able to.  Some might be a bit detailed but I’ll warn you right up front – continue to read at your own …. whatever ….  I’ll probably write the first one tomorrow – about planning and pre-travel.


 

On a different note:

I had a conversation with Lisa a while back.  I was telling her about catching myself in unconscious automatic behaviors, feminine behaviors, behaviors that were not learned or made automatic by rote – how could they be.

We went out to eat at a restaurant in an outdoor mall (most of our malls in Hawaii have open air promenades).  We had a wonderful meal and had strolled down the open air mall talking and admiring clothes and nick knacks in the store windows.  On the way back to the car I mentioned that I had just noticed how I instinctively held my skirt down before a gust of wind suddenly blew and then smoothed it out.  Then it struck me that there are many other instinctive automatic things I do as well – feminine actions that I did not learn and was unconscious of doing.

What is intriguing is the recognition that these behaviors or actions were unconscious and very normal – what I would describe as just being me.  This is in contrast to before when I was presenting as a male – most of that had to be leaned and was deployed  ‘consciously’.   Having had to do this for the majority of my life, it sometimes baffles me to realize that most people have never had to consciously ‘be’ what society says is their gender.  That for most people, suddenly realizing that they are acting authentically, is simply never seen or experienced.

I learned quickly at a very young age.  I saw what happened to others, the harassment and bullying they endured and I was blessed with a quick intellect that allowed me to quickly assimilate their examples into a workable model for my own existence.  I learned to keep my truth inside – not hiding from myself – but to present what was expected.  It’s sort of like the cliches “pick your battles” or “work from within the system” or “know your truth and pick the right timing”.

The other fascinating aspect of this, was that I had a detached presence as I watched these behaviors unfold.  That was what prompted the conversation with Lisa.


 

And, I thought I would include a response I wrote to an article questioning why a ‘man’ would ever ‘want’ to change into a woman, considering all the disadvantage:

I’m a transwoman, let me see if I can make some sense here – I can only speak for myself. I was born this way, this is not a choice or something I ‘want’. It’s who I am. The issue becomes how do I deal with this – not about which gender has it easiest. There are a lot of false stereotypes and beliefs surrounding this – that compounded the issue for me as well. As a result it took me until I was older to sort out what and who I am. Just like everyone else, I had to sort out what was real – then I had to accept who I am and then despite all of that plus, as you stated “the disadvantages of being a woman in today’s society” – to proceed and become true to who I am. The fact that there is so much against this should speak for itself.  It has nothing to do with advantages/disadvantages, etc.  For many trans* it is life or death (or even a living death) – makes the disadvantages seem moot huh. To have your core being at odds is very disconcerting. Ask yourself if you really know what it feels like to be a woman (or man) – I mean, do you really know? On a personal level the only way to know is to actually know the opposite. For a trans* person this is a daily and deep question: who am I – not what do I want to be or the relative merits of one gender vs the other. This was one of the reasons it took me so long to come to terms with and accept who I am. The mind does a wonderful job of trying to protect and therefore deny or explain away things it thinks will be harmful – especially in this case. I am glad that trans* issues are becoming better known and slowly things are getting better – especially for the younger trans*. I hope they don’t have to go through what I and many others have.  My hope is that society will understand this better and drop all these pre-conceptions, stereotypes and false beliefs.

With aloha,

Sifan

 

13 Month Summary

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It20140706_192518 feels good to be past the one year mark.  From what I hear from my trans friends that are going through or have been through transition, most of the emotional changes and a majority of the physical ones are now over and things stabilize.  That’s how I feel right now too.  Of course time will tell – I’ll have to revisit this one year from now …

The biggest challenge I have yet is my weight.  I’ve lost about 30 pounds since I’ve started.  I have to lose another 6 but I would like to lose 11 more pounds.  That gives me a leeway for the surgery requirement.  It’s very strange that when I was 30 pounds heavier, I did not feel fat at all and it was sooo easy to lose weight.  Now, I feel fat, I have a little belly,  even though I’m 30 pounds less.  I do have a smaller frame.  It is now very hard to lose pounds – I no longer care that I’m losing weight in the wrong places (my breasts are getting smaller etc.), I just want those pounds gone!

The countdown is on!  Today is 60 days away from GRS (surgery).  Like I’ve responded to those who have been asking recently – I’m ‘not’ looking forward to the surgery – I’m looking forward to about 3 weeks ‘after’ the surgery  when I’m recovered enough to start my new life in earnest.  Even then I won’t be at anything near running speed.  But at least I hope to have my head above the water by then.

One of the women at work caught me in the kitchen and asked me a couple of questions today. First she complimented me on how much I have changed and that I actually look much younger! She asked me what it feels like now. I told her ‘normal’ and that before and for most of my life I felt like I had to conform to what was expected of a male and that I could not just be me. I said that now it’s mostly a feeling of freedom – I can just be myself. I also said that I’m in a unique position to be able to experience the differences between male and female and it is huge. But we didn’t have time to go into that much further.  Maybe I’ll enter a post just on that sometime in the future.

Lisa and I took a beautiful ride on the sw shore of Maui around to Kaupo today. I felt ‘extra’ feminine for some reason. Was a great day to be a woman. Lisa had to go pretty bad so when we got to the top of our favorite hill back there, we parked and walked up and just down the other side – enough so that no one would see. She went first – I gave her some napkins to clean up. Then it was my turn – she asked if I wanted some napkins before she remembered I still had boy parts down there. We laughed about it. She said she had forgotten that I wasn’t physically a woman down there yet and said she actually had visualized me having a vagina! I guess she is truly seeing me as a woman now!

A very good friend of mine from back in my college days got back in touch with me recently.  He had some very good questions and I thought I would share my responses.  These are questions I get asked now and then and perhaps this will help others understand trans* people better.

The first was a comment about memories and the person I was.  For some people, they morn the loss of the ‘former’ me.  My response:

That was a great time we had back then, I also have many wonderful memories.  Those memories along with all of my past don’t and should not go away – they are a part of me.  It took my ex-wife a while to understand that as well.  This does not negate nor dismiss those.  It can be hard to understand, but I was ‘this’ person I am now – back then – and all through my life.  What and who you knew ‘as’ me – the ‘me’ of today – was all along.  What is changing is ‘presentation’.  The latest science on this (both medical and psychological) define these as completely separate: birth sex, gender, presentation and preference (as in partner).  A person can be any combination within these – one does not pre-dispose any other (trans* people have the same ratios of hetro, gay, bi, etc. as the normative cis population).  Of those, latest research shows that only presentation is societal – the rest a person is born with (there is a lot of false beliefs out there claiming nonsense).

I was ‘trained’ to be a man – I think I did a pretty good job of it.  Society back then did not allow for anyone like me – it was just an impossibility back then.  Like so many things in my youth, I learned to adjust and to live with it.  Like many other trans*, I over reached in order to prove I was who society said I was supposed to be.  Don’t get me wrong here – I am very grateful for what was, including being married and fathering two wonderful men.

It took a long time to unravel from all of that.  I started almost 10 years ago.  But it actually started even longer ago when I became a professional instructor and then director of the international technical training for the corporation I worked for back then.  I was much more effective than both genders in that trade.  My style and philosophy of training matched that of a female.  That was 20 some years ago and laid the groundwork – the crack in the dam.

Can you imagine your entire life – knowing something is different, that you do not match who everyone (parents, school, friends – everyone) says you are and not knowing why.  I knew I didn’t fit in and was not quite like the other guys.  I also knew I matched more closely to the girls I knew.  But I also knew that physically I was a boy.  There was life long confusion and dysphoria.

This is such a relief now – it explains so much for me and as they say – it hits the nail right on the head.  I am very happy now – this is a huge load off the shoulders.  This may sound strange, but one of the largest dysphoric situations was being addressed/treated/spoken to as a male – especially in public situations.  To be mistaken like that was hard.  That’s not who I am.  By changing my gender presentation to be consistent with who I am, makes all the difference.  The standard explanation (which is totally wrong however, but it does put this into perspective) is to image you wake up in the morning as female but with all your memories, responses, actions, beliefs etc. remaining male – and worse – no one believes you.  You are relegated to live your life from this point on as a woman.  Well, reverse that and that is me – only without the explicit knowledge of what underlies this until recently.  So, ya – like 1000 times better now!  Not just happiness but quality of life, spirituality, knowing and accepting myself – and the list goes on.

A lot of people have mentioned that my ex-wife and myself had one of the most wonderful marriages and they just can not understand how this could have ended:

Hummm, how can I say this ….. I’ve had a lot of people say the same thing about my ex-wife and my relationship.  It was a wonderful and great period of my life.  I’m very grateful and celebrate what we had.  Like all relationships there were wrinkles and cracks under the surface that were not visible to anyone else.  Perhaps the saying “the bigger they are the harder they fall” has some bearing here – not sure.  Two things I can say:  there’s a lot more to the story and we are both in a better place today then if we tried to stay together.  In no way does this negate my ex-wife’s and my life together – I cherish those times and memories and am very glad I was given that time and experience.

Regarding societies stereotypes:

As you can imagine, this is a very difficult and highly personal thing.  I too had to overcome a lifetime of misconceptions and stereotypes and then to embrace who I am knowing that the majority of the world still carries those.  Not exactly the cup of tea I needed … but we are dealt a hand and are committed to play it.  If nothing else, this should attest to the seriousness of this and speak for the determination to transition.  Even in spite of these, it is that important and necessary!

Lisa came along at the right time and not only accepted who I was but embraced it.  This is difficult for her as she does not see herself as lesbian, however, society now does.  You can imagine the confusion  However – one nice thing about being older (and hopefully wiser) – one sees through that and instead embraces their true selves.  After all, is she really a lesbian?  Her preference is for males, her love is for me, regardless of gender.  And does this make my ex-wife a lesbian?  After all I was born this way, therefore I was a woman all along ……  You can see the difficulty with our current language and the assumptions inherent within !  As a society, we need to start transcending this transphobic misogyny and get real.

Keeping pictures of the ‘former’ me from the past:

As for pictures of Steph (I admit – even I talk about Steph in the 3rd person) – I’m glad you are keeping those – that is so nice!  Let me re-emphasize:  who I am now – I always was: as Steph and now as Sifan.  I’m proud of my life and celebrate ‘all’ of it.  I’m not out to deny any of it – it all goes into the ‘me’ that is here and now.  That is the one part of that analogy that is so wrong (“imagine tomorrow you woke up as a woman”) – this is not a bad thing – nor something I regret – nor was living my life as a man all those years.  It just simple ‘is’ and it is my life’s story.  Would I have rather been born cis (same birth sex as gender) – of course!  Given that I’m trans – would I have rather transitioned back then – of course!  But this is my life and even with this, it is a wonderful life.  Now, it’s just that much more wonderful !

I’m hoping this helps others (trans* and friends of trans) understand just a bit better.

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