7.27.2010

Topless at the Hospital

Unfortunately over the last couple days I have spent a bit of time between the hospital and at the doctors office. Normally this isn't a big deal but lately I have been experiencing anxiety when I get in a situation where my ID betrays my true identity. I have applied for a new medical card but will have to wait for a new driver's license until I can get back to BC.

While I am here I will likely need a doctor to have check ups, refill my T prescription, monitor my hormone levels and just in case I actually get my surgery and need someone to monitor my recovery. I had a requisition form from my endocrinologist but because he doesn't have hospital priveleges here I had to get a doctor here to sign my papers so I could have the blood test. I booked an appointment and went. I was glad that the nurse at the desk didn't really make a big deal out of me making the appointment as Marcus and not having my health care card match my preferred name. The nurse called me in by Marcus so I was happy.

Once I got in the exam room I asked the nurse if she could recommend a doctor for me and I told her a little bit about my situation. I explained about my transgender self and how when I called the insured services department of NWT Health they told me not to move because none of my transgender related surgical visits, or psychiatric visits or referrals would be covered. They told me flat out: don't come here. Needless to say I am a little suspicious of other health care people now knowing that the system is completely biased. She immediately gave me the name of a doctor and said that of all of them at this particular clinic and considering my situation that he would be the doctor for me. She said once I met him I would understand why she recommended him to me...

While I was there seeing the locum, I asked about a medical issue that has once again reared its ugly head. To be thorough the doctor ordered another set of blood tests and an ekg. I didn't really think too much of this yesterday but today I had a different reaction. This isn't my first EKG. I've had a lot of them. this was the first time I ever felt like crying from embarrassment. I had to strip off my t shirt and binder and there was no gown or shirt or anything. The tech offered me a towel and that was it. I felt so awkward and it occurred to me that things were only going to get worse. As I grow into my new body, as I begin to recognize myself as the "he" in other people's conversation, as I become more accustomed to being called Marcus and labelled a man, I know that my breasts are going to make me even more uneasy, more self conscious about presenting a coherent identity. 

I am still not sure how to address these feelings and I am sure that situations will arise where I have no choice but to feel uncomfortable. I just hope that like today the nurse, or doctor, or other person can be as nonchalant as the wonderful tech I had today who treated me as if there was nothing wrong, nothing weird and like girls have had boy names since the beginning of time.

7.24.2010

Shopping for a New Myth

There are a few things that I have come to realize in my transition about the differences between women and men. When I was little I felt as though I was a little boy and as life and puberty would have it, I grew up and into the trap of thinking that I needed to be what everyone expected me to be. I almost convinced myself that I could be a wife and a mother and live the life of a normal woman but what a tangled mess that would have been to escape!

At work today, my boss printed out an e-mail, a joke about kids who were taking their GED and the funny answers that some of them gave on the exam. I don't remember much of it but something struck me about one of the aside comments made by the author who was female (and I know this without knowing her name or reading anything except her little comments). Women really don't have any clue about men. They have perpetrated a stereotype about men and have been so busy talking about what they know about us that they haven't really listened to anything and therefore haven't learned anything.

Today I realized I will soon appear a member of the male gender;  women will  see me as a man and will make certain assumptions about me based on what they think they "know" about the male species.  I am a little disappointed by this and I found that the more I thought about it the more I realized that I  had been guilty of the same crimes. I have learned about men from women, not from men. How can I expect to become a man when I have been taught to be afraid and suspicious of them? How on earth can I expect to pass as a man when I have no unbiased ideas about what it is to be a man? Women seem to have made their decision about what men should be. But as trannies know, what people think you should be and what you are are often two very different things.

I get e-mails forwarded to me from women I know that warn me about men. How to protect myself from them, defend myself against them, be smarter and more Men are predators. They will rape you, rape your kids, take your car, your purse, your dignity, your kids, your money, your car, and your security. They take your confidence, your self-esteem, and your ability to see yourself as just another human being in relation to them. When women talk about men there seems to be a double-edged sword of desire and fear. They want a man to provide for them, help them raise their children, fuck them to an imaginary script, do housework and protect them from danger (ie other men). What women don't understand about men and what men don't understand about women is clear to a transsexual: biologically men and women are different.

Men think and feel the world differently than women. This is a result of testosterone. Go ahead, scoff. But until you have been (and I borrow this from my brother) primarily an estrogen based organism and start taking testosterone and feel the difference it makes in the way you feel, think, and act you can't really argue that you know it's all a bunch of hooey. I am sure that all the women who have been trapped in male bodies have discovered that estrogen wreaks havoc on your emotional and mental state despite the fact they are exempt from the monthly roller coaster biological women already accept as normal.

I am learning now that men are not ruled by their emotions. They think. They act. Yes we feel but not in the same way women do. Women are emotional creatures far more so than men. I doubt that men feel like victims very often and more unlikely they feel it in the company of women. Many women have a tendency to bash men and think it is ok to think poorly of them. Listen closely to the way in which women speak about men...there is always a little dig that women are more evolved, or smarter, or could do just about everything better than men. That men do nothing but drink beer and think about sex. Yeah sure it seems all in fun but there is a prevalent attitude that men are inferior and lack emotional substance while thinking about nothing getting laid. It's true men have a higher sex drive than women but that is thanks to testosterone and trust me, at times it really is nearly impossible to control...think of thirteen year old boys carrying textbooks everywhere they go because they have no control over the way testosterone acts upon their body; about as easy as talking yourself out of PMS... Good luck ladies!

I have known men that defy and debunk all of the myths that women have about us and it makes me sad to think that fathers and sons, uncles, grandfathers, mentors, teachers, community leaders, scout masters, ministers, and coaches are all painted with the same dark and fearful brush. There are upstanding and wonderful men in the world and I have been blessed to know a few of them. I can
honestly say that the majority of influential people in my life have been men. Men who are compassionate, loving, caring, listeners who will help you out by sitting quietly with you, encouraging you to seek your own truth, turning you around and pointing you in the right direction when you get lost, or taking you out and getting you completely shit-faced when you need it the most. I have been lucky knowing a handful of really good men both straight and gay, who have characteristics I want to possess as a man. While I grow into my new skin and construct my own masculinity I will remember the ones who have taught me what it means to be a good man, a gentleman a friend. I hope very soon I can make them all proud and prove to some of the ladies out there that men are interesting creatures that just need a little understanding... testosterone is nothing to be afraid of.

7.22.2010

The Importance of a Solid Foundation

It's common sense that you wouldn't build a house on a swamp. A home needs a solid foundation; it has to be a place you can go to weather a storm without fear that you will be buried in rubble. A home is a sanctuary, a place you can dance naked in celebration or a haven you can go to quietly lick your wounds. A home is a place you feel secure, a place you are loved no matter what even if it's only by the stoic tabby on the back of the couch. Home is where you are happy, where you put down roots, home is a place that makes you feel good.

Place is intricately tied to my idea of home and recently, in more ways than one, I have become homeless. I have moved to a place where I have no roots, no tie to the hard ground or harsh climate. The horizon is a single nearly flat line that puts me out in the open and vulnerable. I miss the mountains of the province that has been my home for ten years and the mountains of the province in which I was born. I miss the familiar, I miss my people and my creatures. I long for the silty grey blue river where my heart and takes flight as a golden dragonfly.

This place for which I long smells like home, even the trees and the weather became a part of me. I could exist alone for hours along the rocky banks of any number of rivers talking to the ravens and feeling the eyes of the coyote on my back. The land is alive in the place I called home and I am lonely without the scent of a mixed forest, the call of a barred owl in the evening stillness, the silent swooping shadows of the bats under the barn light. I wanted to stay there forever in the cradle of the mountain valley searching its many slopes and canyons for magic and truth.

I had no way to afford to make a living and like so many small towns in BC the loss of a mill or a mine  can destroy a town, turn it from something familiar to something unrecognizable. How is it you can walk the street of a town of 3000 and not recognize a single face? Tourism fills the town with money in the summer but the illness of winter makes the town frail. Locals can no longer afford their houses, can no longer find work to feed their families. Industry had dried up, corporations come and cut down the forest, re-route the rivers kill off the bears, and caribou, coyotes and spotted owls to satisfy the cravings of foreigners there long enough to consume, defecate, and leave behind a fistful of money. Soon there will be no one left to cook their food, turn down their beds, cut the grass on their golf courses, pump their gas, clean their condominiums. Where can you live when rent averages $900-$1500 /month before utilities when you only make  $12/hr?

I fear that I will never be able to return to my home to stay, that I have to say goodbye to the places where  learned about love, loss, life, and death. I can not afford to return to that place that healed my sorrows, filled my heart with happiness and my soul with a purpose because there is no work and I would become a tourist in my own home returning to those special places only to lament it is not what I remember.

The same rings true for my body right now. My soul is caught in a place between the familiar and the remembered. So many things feel the same but look different and there is an odd illusion when I look in the mirror and see a familiar face from my future looking back at me for just a moment. I see the man I have felt inside for so long and I can feel him filling out. I have moments where I don't recognize parts of myself and that is the strangest feeling. This body is becoming more strange as it morphs into something that resembles the invisible spirit that inhabits it. I am more uncomfortable with my breasts and thighs and buttocks each so vociferously feminine that even under the spandex and lycra of a binder I fear that strangers can see their muffled cries.

I may not ever be back in the place I used to call home but hopefully my body and my spirit can find a place that will feel like it.  Someday soon I hope that my spirit is comfortable and relaxed in my body and my body is comforted once again by the sight and smell of mountains.

7.21.2010

The Philosophy of Harry Potter

I read something in a Harry Potter book that has stuck with me for a long time:
....there will come a time when you have to make a choice between what is right and what is easy
I think about this quote a lot when I think about my life and the choices I have made and I use its wisdom often.

For many transgendered people, the choice to transition was the right choice but by no means is it an easy one. Too often I find myself seriously considering the easy choice instead of the right one. This usually ends up in some short and immediate gratification which is great at the time but satisfaction is short lived and sometimes the consequences of my actions are unforeseen. I find that the right choice is often far more challenging and difficult, even daunting and seemingly impossible at times. In the end however, there is a deep sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. I am hoping to feel that way when I finally reach my destination.

I have been thinking a lot about the things that are getting left behind as I make my way through this transition. It's weird to feel like I am losing something when all my life I have been trying to get to where I am headed in one way or another. I am glad that some of my family has decided to join me on this journey although I have to say they have been pretty quiet passengers so far: only two have talked to me about my transition.

This journey is a lesson about making choices. What will I keep and what will I sacrifice to make me the man I want to become? I will sacrifice my voice. I will sacrifice sensation in my nipples and chest. I have sacrificed my name for a new one. I will sacrifice my ovaries and uterus to slay the F that appears on my birth record, my driver's license, my passport.  I will sacrifice some friends, maybe even some family, to complete myself. I have sacrificed confidence, comfort, and to some degree my identity as I am somehow between the girl I was and the man I will become. I might end up sacrificing more than I anticipated before this journey is over. Along the way there will be wounds that will lead to scars, some you will see and some you won't.



Everyone's life is a journey of choices; not everyone chooses the right path all the time and many of us have learned hard lessons from making the easy choice instead of the right one. Everyone has had to sacrifice something as they grow up sometimes by choice and sometimes by force. I am lucky that most of my decisions have been made by me although I must say I have had many epic failures when trying to decide what is right for me.

Transitioning has been one of the best decisions I have ever made and it has put my life and my soul to purpose. I am no longer trying to please those who are apathetic, to receive some praise and attention for doing things that I know will please others. Now I am finally growing that spine, that courage to say, no, I am a boy. I am an artist. I am selfish. This is me. I am happy and I am going to do those things which make me happy. I will no longer hide from the truth and no longer back down from challenges that may seem insane. Transitioning has focused me and made me more aware of all the reasons I need to fledge. I anticipate the future with a bit of anxiety but know that I will be deeply satisfied and finally my soul will be able to rest in its vessel and reach its full potential.

When the time comes for you to make an important decision, choose wisely my friends. Often the destination at the end of the road less travelled is more scenic and more rewarding than the shortcut.

7.16.2010

Quiet Time and a Bad Haircut

I am starting to be more uneasy around strangers and I feel like I am getting more anti-social as a result. I don't go out to events as much as I am afraid I will get caught in the awkward crossfire between someone who knows me as that guy Marcus and someone who knew me before I began my transition and doesn't know about my new life or my new name....it's happened once and wow it was awkward. Worse than farting in church.

I am reaching that awkward stage I think and I suppose I should have seen it coming; the weird stage when strangers still aren't quite sure about me. I sound like a guy, have a masculine name, but there's still something not quite right.... I'm like the bad haircut or the awkward stage of growing your hair where there's really nothing you can do but hide it under a ball cap. You have to make a decision: have patience and let it grow or get out the clippers and a broom.

There is no fast track to manhood or womanhood for those of you on the same road heading the other direction. Puberty was brutal the first time. It made me self conscious, awkward, shy, tested my confidence, challenged my identity, and made me look like a  newborn moose for a couple years but eventually it all turned out ok. It's weird having to go through puberty again at 35 dealing with the overwhelming need to sleep, trying to get the best zit cream, worrying if people are making fun of you behind your back. It really does make me feel like my identity is being challenged again in fundamental ways. How much does my body influence the way I see myself? How much does the way others see me influence my identity? Which of these influences is stronger? Which of these influences is right? Is my identity independent from my body or the way others see me? Is it all in my head?

Spending time alone isn't a bad thing. I enjoy it. It gives me time to try and answer some of the questions I just asked! I try to make sure my girlfriend knows that how I am feeling has nothing to do with her, that I just need this incubation time, this hibernation period to grow into my new body. To sort out the doubts in my head to organize my thoughts into different patterns. I need some time to learn who I can be, what will now be acceptable and what will not. I need to be able to sort out why I want to change certain behaviours or why I think some of my old behaviours will no longer be acceptable if I am to exist in the world as a man. Can I still be me or is there yet another self-sacrifice in order?

I have been doing a lot of volunteer work for the SPCA lately and enjoy the company of the animals, no questions accusations, odd glances, awkward re-introductions. I have been building a new website for the SPCA and walking shelter dogs after work. I look forward to going over there and taking a long walk with a quiet loving spirit that doesn't judge. It's true that there is so much we can learn from animals if only we could let go of our own egos!

I hope that as time goes by and my hair grows in (literally and figuratively) I will feel more at ease in my body, more at ease around other people. I want to feel like a normal guy, not like I am being looked at sideways or asked questions that are WAY too personal. I just want to be able to walk a dog, feel comfortable in my own skin, and feel at ease enough to participate in conversations with strangers. I just want to be able to interact with the world as me, no questions asked.

This transition is a metamorphosis. I have spent the last two months eating and now it's time to grow a hard outer skin and gestate inside my pupa case until enough time has passed that I can break it open and crawl out a fuzzy moth and fly toward the bright lights.

7.15.2010

Two months on T

Here it is two months already! I feel like things are still moving at a snail's pace. I would love the metabolism to kick in any time and burn some of this extra weight off.  My pants are getting tight in the thighs and it seems like I am putting muscle only on one side of my body. Anyhow here's the two month update.


Month Two


1. Acne: Oh my god. The combination of summer heat and sweat and being stuffed inside a binder for most of the day has not done anything to help my acne. Breakouts that seemed to occur only on my back have now spread to my chest. I am hoping that this is a sign that hair will begin to appear there sooner than later. My skin is getting more oily and I find I need to wash my face at least twice a day and use some type of product to tame single blemishes on my face and neck.


2. Body: Hello Chubb! Well the increase in my appetite has not been offset in any way by a migration of body fat or an increase in metabolism or ability to burn fat. My jeans are getting tighter in the thighs and around the waist. My feet used to get cold all the time but haven’t had that problem for quite a while now. I have noticed an increase in my body temperature and I am drinking a lot more water and sweating a lot more too. It is summer so there’s a chance this is all just related to the weather! I have noticed that my legs are quite a bit thicker and my forearms are filling out. My neck is bigger because my necklace tells me so as it gets tighter!But I am getting the shoulders I have always dreamt of!


3. Drawers: Increased in size. Increase in sex drive. Increase in sensitivity. Still no sign of mother nature. I love testosterone.


4. Hair: Facial hair is growing in faster but still shave only about once a  week. The hair is getting stiffer but not coarse and darker hairs are appearing one by one mostly on my chin. Upper thighs are getting fuzzy. I haven't got any distinctly manly hairs yet, except the thirty or so on my chin. It might be an illusion but I think my eyebrows are getting thicker?


5. Mood: Stable. I am feeling more confident, stable, normal. I am able to control my emotions and I am less easily upset by things. I am less likely to back down in an argument or disagreement and more likely to stand up for myself. I say a lot less than I used to and I don't feel a lot like talking much these days. I am isolating myself from social situations a little more and feeling the need to have a significant amount of "alone time". I'm not depressed just like being by myself right now.


6. Voice: Getting deeper bit by bit notice some cracking when I try to call my cats in from outside!


7. Other: The skin on my face is more masculine somehow. I can see where my hair is going to grow and my pores seem larger. I sweat a lot more and I definitely notice that my body fluids smell differently. I am feeling awkward in my body right now and very self-conscious about my chest if I am not binding particularly around strangers. Also I have had pain in my legs like cramping a couple days after my injection. Switched to a 1" 22 gauge needle from a 1" 21guage. Poking myself in the leg is getting harder...got to learn to landmark the glutes!

7.12.2010

Binding in the Heat

It's hot here in the north. I don't want to hear any complaining from Toronto, you already think you live in the centre of the universe, now it just feels like it's also the centre of the sun. But here we are not used to hot and when I say hot I mean twenty degrees. I thought I would be able to wear jeans and t shirts all summer but no, here it is twenty-five and I am dying. My biggest problem with the heat besides the fact I just want to sleep is that binding becomes and absolute nightmare.

I have four different binders, all of which are from underworks which I highly recommend. I have the compression t-shirt, the cotton compression muscle shirt, the double front compression undershirt and a cotton undershirt. I ordered the same size cotton undershirts as the spandex ones but found that the compression is not as good and I could have actually ordered a size smaller. I usually wear the cotton muscle shirt over the plain undershirt and the double compression gives an excellent and comfortable presentation for about four to five hours. The t-shirts are awesome, comfortable and easy to wear for a whole work day but they are hot and despite what they say about them being breathable, they stil make you feel like you're wearing someone else's skin over your own.

I went for a two hour walk a couple days ago and it wasn't as hot as it was today and I sweat right through it and had a hard time peeling it off. On top of having to wear an extra layer during the dog days of summer the compression also seems to promote the growth of acne. Now once that starts and you wear the compression shirts again the problem is compounded; heat+sweat+ tight shirt= misery. So I have been wearing a standard old sports bra on the days that it is just too damn hot to wear a binder to work.

I hate wearing a bra and having to wear one at work today made me really self conscious and uncomfortable. I spend so much more time conscious of what I might wear on any given day than I ever did before. I don't really have any clothes that are casual enough for work without looking like I might drop everything at any second and gut something. I have a lot of really good dress shirts but they all have long sleeves and are a little more formal than what most of my colleagues are wearing to the office. I want to be able to just wear a t-shirt but without binding I don't feel comfortable in a t-shirt. To wear two t shirts in this heat is a death wish (we have no A/C) and so I am trying to find clothes baggy enough to hide my breasts while I am forced into a tit sling. I am considering hunting down a tighter sports bra ( oh good, a trip to the ladies delicates department is about as fun as going to work topless)  and maybe trying to wear my larger t-shirts until the weather cools off. I'll tell you one thing: I am really looking forward to winter when I can wear four or five layers and binding will not be an issue...it might actually help keep me warm!

7.11.2010

Shaving

Before I started testosterone, I shaved about once every three weeks maybe four. The peach fuzz on my face grew back slowly and never got any more coarse...I guess it's a big ol' wives tale that hair grows back coarse and dark if you keep shaving it. If that was the case I would have started shaving when I was thirteen!! Instead, shaving will soon become a necessity.

Right now, I shave every 3-4 days. I have a pretty good set of whiskers on the bottom of my chin and they seem to be spreading. I can feel the hair getting thicker and more coarse every time I shave and new dark whiskers are appearing along my sideburns every couple of days. I am starting to see the hairs on my upper lip, yeah I have to look real close but they're there! I am hoping that I will be able to grow a decent amount of facial hair by Christmas maybe on my chin or have some decent sideburns... no, not mutton chops!

I have been reading a lot about how long it might take to get a decent amount of facial hair and the thing is like everything with testosterone, there are no guarantees. It could take six months or six years to be able to grow a decent moustache or goatee. I am hoping that with my dose the fur will come sooner than later!! I am learning about shaving. The first lesson I ever had was from the greatest man I've ever known: my Grandpa Jack. I was about four years old when he sat me up on the counter beside the sink and we brushed our teeth and he rinsed and gargled with the horrible yellow Listerine. That stuff made my mouth burn and burn and to this day I can't stand the taste of it although the smell of it makes me think of him.

Anyhow, Grandad used the brush and cup of foam as his method of choice. He added a couple of drops of water to the cup and swirled the brush around and made the thick white foam that he painted over his cheeks and chin. I can still remember the sound and the scraping noise when he would drag the razor across his skin. Once in a while he would put the lather on my face and I would shave it off with a tongue depressor. Sometimes he'd use an electric razor and buzz my cheeks with. He'd use that to trim long whiskers before he shaved with a razor.

I have had a couple bad breakouts from shaving and learned a few tricks of the trade by reading up on the art of shaving...who knew! So for all you guys who might need a few helpful tips about shaving here they are:

•     Shave after a shower or use a hot damp towel on your face for a few minutes before shaving

•     If you have sensitive skin use an appropriate shave foam for sensitive skin, trust me on this. I use the Gillette in a blue can (for sensitive skin) and it smells great. Try different kinds till you find one you like. A good place to get tester sizes is the travel section of a drugstore or check on-line sometimes you can get sample packs for free.

•     Use a multi blade razor 3 or more blades, I will likely move up to a four or five blade razor when the hair gets more coarse. Same rule applies for razors: find one you like.

•     Don't use a razor for more than five or six shaves. They are disposable for a reason. Save your face and avoid razor burn and ingrown hairs.

•     Shave in downward strokes only until your skin gets used to shaving. This helps prevent razor burn and ingrown hairs and rash.

•     Remember the first time you tried shaving your legs and scraped all the skin off your ankles? This is your face. You don't need to press hard to get the hair off and really, the hair isn't coarse enough for you to feel like you need a belt sander to get it off your chin. Take it easy. If you have rogue hairs left over after your first try re-apply some shave foam and shave again.

•     When you're finished shaving, rinse with cool water and pat your face dry.

•     Use some type of aftershave. This will help tone your skin after shaving and helps it recover if you get a bit of razor burn. Also if you nick yourself it will help close up the wound. Once again, try different kinds until you find one you like. I prefer Nivea cooling after shave lotion for sensitive skin.

•    If you have a bad breakout or rash avoid shaving until your skin calms down. Get yourself an electric beard trimmer or electric shaver with multiple attachments. This will come in handy if you need a trim but your skin can't tolerate a shave.


These are just some things I learned that really work and my skin had become a lot less irritated after shaving. I also wash my face 2-3 times a day,  once with soap and two or more times with just a wet paper towel I find that it helps with keeping my skin clear since it has become a lot greasier since starting t.

That's it for now. I look forward to hearing the same sandpaper scraping sound that I remember from my first experiences with my Grandpa Jack.If anyone out there has any other shaving tips for those of us just starting out, post them in the comments! I'd love to hear them.

7.10.2010

Close to my Heart

One of the biggest influences on my life has been animals. Ever since I can remember I have had a special place in my heart for animals. I loved watching shows about animals, reading about animals, drawing animals. As I grew up I became more introverted and started to appreciate the companionship of animals. When I moved out to BC I got an orange tabby kitten who is currently living out his days happy and content on a farm in BC.

When I moved in with my partner at the time we had five dogs and four cats. We lost two dogs to old age, the dachshund and the husky malamute, and I adopted my first dog, Jake, a black lab, who came with a "free" kitten. We had a fat old tomcat adopt us. We took in a cat from a friend that had 13 of them and who was expecting another litter, scraped a beautiful tabby siamese cross off the highway and rehabilitated her at home, and were sucked into adopting a pathetic looking black and white kitten who had survived being hit by a train. It was probably a good thing we moved to a farm!!

When we moved to the farm in total we had nine cats and four dogs. Our newest neighbours were keeping their horses at our farm and since we had no big animals to keep the grass down it was no problem. The cats and horses seemed to get along just fine and the dogs got used to them and learned to avoid the back end. Before a year had gone we had three more kittens rescued from a dumpster, and two more dogs. If you're keeping track that's twelve cats, and six dogs.

Living on a farm is a lesson in life and death. We had seen our share of both. the week we moved there were at least three new dead animals every day on a short 35km stretch of highway. The week we moved there were over twenty victims of highway collision. I also learned a hard lesson about cohabitation with wildlife. My little cat that had survived the train had been killed and eaten by coyotes. I was devastated. I hated coyotes and although I would never kill one I did everything I could to keep them away from the house including shooting at them. Little did I know this was the beginning of something very special.

I returned to university the fall that I lost my kitten to coyotes. This was also the summer that my partner had seemingly read my mind about transitioning (see A Second Coming Out) and little did I know that I had all the material I would ever need for my art practice deep inside my subconscious. By the end of my first semester I had sort of figured out that the best art comes from a place of passion. In my opinion really good art can make you think, make you feel, make you curious to know more, teach you something,  and makes you want to investigate something more on your own. Really good art makes a connection.

Living on the farm with all the animals, losing my friends, walking through the bush with them, observing the wild animals and birds al around me made me more passionate about animals and I began to see a connection between the way people treat animals and the way we treat each other. Our culture is ripe with discrimination, persecution, abuse, torture, indifference, and selfishness. Watch the news and see how many inspiring stories of cooperation and kindness cross your screen. For me there was no question about what I was passionate about or what I had to say.


Coyotes have come to hold a very special place in my heart among animals. I work with them because they are hunted and persecuted and misunderstood a lot like transgendered people. They are magical and special and in myth and legend can transform at will between animal and man or man and woman. They are the perfect vehicle for carrying a metaphor about transition, and reflect perfectly and accurately that nature is a harsh reality of survival in the wilderness.

Living in the  north I have had to adjust my thinking a bit because survival depends on a relationship with animals. While I am here I hope to make a few discoveries about myself, the animals that are here and learn a few more lessons on how to survive with my new companions.

If you are interested in seeing my art practice visit my website at www.luckyjackpress.com

7.06.2010

The Idea of Dating

I have been reading about other guys and the challenges they face dating. I can only imagine how difficult it might be to meet a girl (or guy) you really really like and have to figure out how to tell them you are trans. Most women and gay guys expect their male partner to have a penis and likely prefer that it works. I have no idea how I would try to explain to my partner that while I look and sound and act a lot like a guy, I lack the equipment that she might expect below the waist. And how would I feel if she were to decide that we had no hope at a future simply because I don't have a dick?

I dated a woman once who's ex partner was quite the opposite. Her last girlfriend told her that everything would work out between them and that life and sex would be perfect once she had a sex change. Her girlfriend wanted her to become male. When she told me I could see that it had really upset her and as a butch I thought it was a pretty big assumption to make that any butch would necessarily want to transition. Her girlfriend was a young femme unsure of her sexuality and still in the closet to her family. She had dated men but met a butch lesbian which seemed to be the next best thing. I am sure she thought  maybe there was a chance she could turn a butch dyke into the man she needed. Of course that wasn't the case.

A lot of guys met their partners before their transition.  Some have had the love and support of that person for the entire transition and others lost their other half somewhere along the way. I am at the beginning of my transition. I told my partner about my decision to transition before we started dating. She has been very supportive even when I have been at my worst. I worry that in the future things could change.

There is a lot of information written about our experiences as trans people but a lot less written from the perspective of our partners or ex partners. Would you still feel the same for your partner if they were to change gender? If suddenly your husband became your wife? Your girlfriend turned into a boyfriend? How would you explain that to your friends and family? How would you deal with their reactions? Are you now gay/straight? Would you be afraid of being ostracized by the queer community since now perhaps you appeared to be in a "normal" relationship?

Often I think transitioning is more complicated for the partners of trans people than for ourselves. While we feel our gender identity is wrong and that by transitioning we are righting that wrong, our partner hasn't necessarily felt that way. For them it must sometimes feel like they are going in the opposite direction of our transition. They might become unsure of themselves and self conscious. They might try to change some aspect of their normal behaviour to placate us or make us feel better about our own transformation. Suddenly the lesbian is with a man. The queer is with a woman, the wife is with another woman, the man is with another man... how do you suppose the woman who has identified as a lesbian all her life feels when suddenly her partner decides to remove most of the physical feminine traits from her body? My partner has historically been attracted to soft breasts, smooth skin the scent and taste of a woman and soon she will finds herself waking up to a flat chested, hairy bummed, guy with a moustache. How does that impact her identity as a lesbian? How do her friends see her? how does the queer community see her? How do strangers see her? Does it matter? Of course. It matters as much as our identity matters to us.

I worry about the future. I worry about losing the girl I have. I worry that I might have to learn to date girls as a guy. I worry that maybe one day my lesbian girlfriend will want a woman. I worry that suddenly my queer friends won't see me as queer. I worry that I might get lost without a label or that the label doesn't accurately describe what's in the package...

But for now I enjoy the little things like going to work and having people call me Marcus, use he and him when talking about me. I enjoy watching my girl count the whiskers growing in on my chin and commenting on how handsome I am becoming. I focus on the little things and hope that in the future neither one of us will be dating.

7.05.2010

The Future of the Workplace

I started a new job today. I was introduced to everyone as Marcus and I am happy to be working in a place that seems so tolerant and accepting. When I went in to sign all the paperwork today I was handed a folder containing the company's discrimination and harassment policy. I had to sign an agreement that I would read it and abide by all the guidelines within it. I have to say that reading it made me smile and feel kinda hopeful for the future. This is a direct quote and a couple excerpts taken from the discrimination and harassment policy document:

The Employer supports a fundamental principle that all persons are equal in dignity and human rights without regard to race, colour, ancestry, nationality, ethnic or place or origin, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, family status, marital status, family affiliation, political association or belief, or convictions for which a pardon has been granted.

Harassment and/or discrimination will not be tolerated.

This policy applies to all employees, suppliers, and customers. 

Discrimination and harassment takes on many forms including but not limited to:
Failure to consider or hire an individual for a job, or promote an individual, based on... any of the prohibited grounds

How awesome is that? How great is it that when I was completely up front about my transition at my interview, BEFORE I got hired that the discrimination policy was working for me? Um, wow I guess I found a pretty good place to work. I hope that one day ALL employers will have such a broad and protective policy against harassment and discrimination not only from within the company but will stand up with their employees against customers and suppliers who do not respect the basic human rights of everyone.

If I am lucky enough to get on with this company as a permanent employee, I hope that getting time off for my surgery or other doctor's appointments will not be an issue. I may not get on permanently but while I am currently employed I will be a positive and hard working team player. I will set a good example for others with my behaviour and give my co-workers the opportunity to learn about transgender, ftm, gender queer people, to see that we are like everyone else.

Knowing someone, working with someone, learning about their life, can make it pretty hard to hate them for no real reason. And it makes it even harder when that person is a good, kind, hard working member of a small community. That queer plays hockey with all the other teachers, golfs with your neighbour, sits on the board of the SPCA, is friends with your sister's wife, lost his brother to cancer too, loves fishing, curls friday nights with your daughter, and lent your son his last ten bucks. It's pretty hard to hate that fag, or those dykes and their kid, or that person you're not quite sure of when you consider that they are part of your community. Who knows, one night you just might find yourself sitting next to a queer family at a charity hockey game for your sick kid/husband/wife/nephew/mother/gram sharing a thermos of hot chocolate.

7.02.2010

Consultation, and then...?

I am now one step closer to having the body I have always imagined. I had my consultation for top surgery today. I showed up at the office, filled out the paperwork and waited to see the surgeon. Understand I went in there with a pretty good idea about what to expect. I have done a lot of research into exactly what top surgery entails, what I am likely to experience, and what other surgeons have their patients do after surgery for a successful recovery. I am a little concerned that some of what I was expecting is not part of this surgeons procedure but I am hoping that my psychiatrist referred me to this surgeon because he trusts this guy knows what he's doing.

When I got in to see him, (I had one of the first appointments of the day) he went over what he would do and basically gave me a quick overview of the double-incision free nipple graft procedure. He told me what to expect more or less and then asked me to step into the small examination room so he could take a look at my chest. While he cleaned his glasses, I stripped out of my shirt and binder and the took one look and basically showed me exactly where the incisions would go. He also explained that he would have to scrape away much of the tissue underlying my nipples to keep them from protruding too much and would trim them and reposition them to appear more male in size and location. Then he told me to get dressed and meet him back in his office.

I struggled back into my binder and t shirt while he waited in the next room and tried to remember everything I wanted to ask.  First, I asked if it was possible to reposition the nipples without a free graft, that I was hoping to retain some sensation and could the nipple be repositioned with a stalk attached. He said no, not unless I wanted to have a breast reduction leaving behind enough breast tissue that I would end up with an A cup or small B cup...uh no thanks. Next I asked him if I would have to wear a compression vest after surgery, again he said no. I was quite concerned about that statement but figured I could wear one anyhow if I wanted what could he do? Every single other surgeon makes their patients wear a compression vest to help with swelling, fluid build up and pain and to help manage scarring. He says I don't need one. Hmm, really? By then I was pretty flustered because things were not going as I anticipated and I totally forgot to ask if I could see some examples of his work. I wanted to see the results of his other patients.

Then I got the news. The details about what I really wanted: when, where, how much? I had to pay the consultation fee out of my own pocket because I don't have AB Health Care Coverage which also implies the possibility of other challenges ahead. Of course there is no way I can afford to pay for the surgery out of my own pocket (it's $12,500) so I am now at the mercy of the government of BC to decide whether or not they will pay for the procedure outside of the province. Before I can book the surgery I need to get a letter from BC Health Insurance stating that they will pay for it.... How long do you suppose that might take??? And do you think they will be cooperative?

The plan is to get all the proper permissions and letters in place this month if at all possible and book the surgery for some time before the end of this year. I am hoping that I can get it done sometime in late October or November so I can be back to normal and nearly 100% for the start of the new year. I expect to be off work for 2 weeks and back to the gym after a month. Lifting will take longer and within three months I expect life to be back to a new normal and better than ever.