'Tis the Season...

Christmas is coming! I am so excited that I will be back home for the holidays. Every year we have a family gathering that rounds up a bunch of aunts uncles and cousins for a day of food, fun and catching up. Unfortunately I haven't always been able to make it. This year it comes too early for me to attend but I do hope that while I am in the neighbourhood that I will get a chance to visit with at least some of my extended family.

I have a lot to look forward to with a few days to relax and travel. I am hoping the weather holds so I can make it back to my home in BC as well. I am a little apprehensive about seeing everyone after so much time away but every time it gets a little easier and I hope that is the case for them as well. I can't remember the last Christmas I spent at home with my mom so this year will be really special for me. I will actually get two celebrations because my sister and her partner will be coming for Boxing Day.

For most people, six months isn't a long time and usually you'd have no trouble recognising your friends or relatives save a new haircut or diet perhaps.  For someone who is transitioning six months can be the difference between who you were and who you've always wanted to be. Between the girl or woman your family remembers to the man they now see emerging in front of them. It can be difficult for people who haven't seen you for a while to reconcile how they remember you and who they now see in front of them.

I haven't been home since my surgery in July and before that it was April to visit my grandmother for her 90th birthday. There was some staring and stumbling and some awkwardness which was to be expected but overall I was really proud of my family for being so accepting and adaptive. It is always nice to be surprised when you have been imagining the worst.

Living far away from friends and family has been really difficult for me and transitioning while being so far away has definitely had an impact on me. While I have been more prone to bouts of depression from homesickness and severe loneliness after my break up part of that could also be attributed to the long dark winter of the arctic. Holidays are really difficult times to be alone and the isolation I've experienced over the last year has certainly shaped my character but in a positive way despite the hardships.

I can honestly say I am becoming my own man without any interference (for lack of a better word) from parents or friends or other family members. Even though they would have likely had my best interests in mind, I am glad that decisions about who I want to be and how I want to express myself have been entirely my choices. I have asked for and taken advice, questioned myself and explored parts of myself that have been hidden away for a very long time.

This Christmas I will appreciate my family more than I have for a long time. I will be generous and patient and enjoy them for who they are and how each of them has taught me something about myself and about life. This Christmas I will return home to the landscape I love, the mountains that make my heart ache for a time long a go when life seemed simple. I will soak up the spirit of the holiday and try to remember the feeling s of love and happiness and kindness when the misery of March trickles past. I will visit friends and make every moment I can a happy authentic experience so that I might bring back the memories and reflect on them when the distance becomes too much.

The countdown is on to the holiday!


A Pair of Giant Glittery Dancing Christmas Balls

So I have a brand new addition to my list of men I admire: Preston Leatherman, (probably not his REAL name), but how do you not love a kid that calls himself Leatherman!

I am a super chicken shit when it comes to doing anything in public. Public speaking, or an art demo or even a workshop I am ok with but being a total goof like singing forget it and dancing well I am terrified of it but deep down I wanna dance like that in a mall too. Watching this video made me really want to break out of this fear that is holding me prisoner and live one happy blissful Christmas Carol dancing through the mall with reckless joyful abandon. Every time I watch this I want to BE him just so I can experience the joy he is feeling. This kid makes me so happy, I couldn't help but post it for everyone.

Preston, wherever you are and whatever you do, don't stop dancing in public with your ipod. I can see the absolute joy in your face and feel your happiness just by watching. Thank you so much for sharing and for being so very brave!

Merry Christmas to a kid with a great big pair of glittering Christmas balls!


Time for a Little Catching Up!

I must apologize for neglecting the blog for so long. It has been a busy year and now that winter has descended upon the arctic in the most miserable way I will finally have some time to write again! So here's to a little catching up.

I haven't had too much to say about the influence of Testosterone, but will give you a peek at how 18 months is looking and how the chest is healing up this weekend after I get all cleaned up for my Christmas party. It's a semi-formal dinner affair so I got me a new sweater vest and tie to wear with my shirt and cuff links. Can't wait to see how this boy cleans up!

I have kept busy and though I have gone through a couple rough patches with respect to my mood and mental state, I am optimistic about the winter. I mentioned that a lot of my friends have moved south for the winter and even though I stepped down from the SPCA, I joined a new board of directors for the local Arts Society which will keep me busy volunteering and involved with the Art scene.  I will be working with a group of artists, musicians, storytellers, and dancers on a production of the circumpolar folktale of Sedna, the goddess of the sea and marine animals. I am pretty excited about working on the production and pushing myself in a new uncomfortable direction by performing on stage for 3 shows in March! We will be rehearsing all winter sometimes with the dancers and musicians and sometimes just as artists (more on this later).

I will be visiting the doctor tomorrow to get the results of blood work, adjust prescriptions, and talk about possible revisions to my top surgery, and at long last, the hysterectomy. I have been pretty good about eating well and while the only exercise I get on a  regular basis is shoveling snow, I plan to use the snowshoes I bought if/when the weather warms up.....to at least -20C.

Work is going really well, I recently received a nice compliment and a raise so looks like the upcoming year will bring me closer to getting out of debt and a lot of valuable work experience. A few more weeks of hard work and I'll be on vacation celebrating Christmas with my family. So that pretty much catches you up at the moment. A more detailed description of T changes and a post surgical update coming soon!


Myths of Male Privilege

Men's rights activist Herb Goldberg[24], for example, claimed in 1976 that "the myth that the male is culturally favoured ...is clung to, despite the fact that every critical statistic in the area of longevity, disease, suicide, crime, accidents, childhood emotional disorders, alcoholism, and drug addiction shows a disproportionately higher male rate." He sees males as "oppressed by the cultural pressures that have denied him his feelings, by the mythology of the woman and the distorted and self destructive way he sees and relates to her, by the urgency for him to 'act like a man' which blocks his ability to respond ... both emotionally and physiologically, and by a generalized self hate that causes him to [not] feel comfortable ... when he lives for joy and for personal growth."

This topic has come up quite a bit around the trans blogs and I have sat back and read and chewed on this idea for a quite some time. The straw that broke my back about this was the Halloween post by Matt Kailey at Tranifesto about male privilege in the trans community. I have been trying to write this post for months and I think I am finally ready to say my piece.

Male privilege suggests there is some positive gain or some "have" men get that women "have not". I am unsure what exactly this is and from reading a lot off the comments following posts about male privilege I see that there is almost NEVER anything specific deiscussed just this giant ethereal myth like a giant secret that men have from women. Sure men might want to have a club where they can meet and just be a guy without a woman saying they have no right to congregate together because somehow it steps on their right to be involved in everything men are involved in. While I think that access to programs, and publicly funded events should have a genderless set of eyes when making policy, I do not feel like private clubs and associations should be obligated to make everything open to both/all genders. This of course gets tricky when we still have difficulty separating biological sex from gender.

I think it's interesting that we FTMs seem to carry a LOT of our socialized gendered upbringing "across the border" if you will. I am a lot older than a lot of the guys on here but I think that at least in my country (Canada) there is an argument to be made that women have a considerable amount of privilege especially in areas centred around the family.  Consider the following:

1. Women and men have nearly achieved equality in the workplace with a few exceptions. (another discussion for another day)

2. Men have been eliminated from the family unit. They have few rights when it comes to custody of their children (usually ALWAYS awarded to the mother) and are the ones most often sought after to pay child support with or without access to their own children.

3. Men pay alimony to ex-wives. This is based upon the fallacy that all men make more money than women and therefore need to support their former spouses (aside from child support) because women can't get a job of their own and support themselves.

4. It is still socially acceptable for women to make horrible demeaning and degrading jokes about men. Watch The View or any other TV show hosted by or starring women and it is apparent that men are still neanderthal sex maniacs who are only useful in that they can support a woman (see above). How many emails do you get from women that talk about killing men, dismembering them, disfiguring them or how to protect yourself from all the robbers/rapists/arsonists/child molesters who of course again are all men? Hilarious for sure.

5. Men are often seen as criminals when it comes to children. Many fathers/uncles/cousins can not go out in public with a child relative without at least some women glaring staring or surveying the situation. Most likely they're thinking he is a pedophile or sleazy creep. I can't offer to babysit for my neighbour, offer a kid a ride home during a -40 blizzard, talk to that adorable kidlet in line at the grocery store, or smile at a young girl dressed up in a fairy costume on her way to her first dance recital without risking a public scolding.

6. Mens bathrooms reek. Ladies rooms always have softer toilet paper, smell better and are generally larger and better decorated than the mens room.

7. In Canada there are places where the good jobs (government, large corporation, union, etc.) are given to qualified candidates in this order:  Aboriginal, natural resident of the province or territory, women, handicapable, and finally at the very bottom of that list is the healthy (white) male.

8. Men die younger because they generally have more physical and stressful jobs than women. They also have cultural pressure to "act like a man" which involves supressing their emotions, acting out in shows of masculine competition and performing stupid human tricks to amuse others. This takes a toll on men's health both mentally and physically and men are more likely to suffer heart attacks and depression than women though most won't seek treatment until it is too late. Men are more likely to commit suicide. That is not a privilege.

This is not a criticism, but just scratches the surface of issues facing men in today's society. Of course this is a way bigger knot when you introduce sexual orientation, transgender issues, race and culture, and socio-economic factors but seriously, I am still looking for exactly what specific privileges people are referring to when they talk about male privilege.

I would really like to know because as I see it, there is no longer even equality between the sexes, never mind privilege.


The Darker Side of Transition

The Ice Road
I changed my name almost 2 years ago, have been on testosterone for over a year and had top surgery just  a few short months ago. I am happy to finally have some dominion over my emotions, to feel comfortable in my own skin and lately even think I might have some control of my own destiny. My transition has been difficult, probably more difficult than I have let on. I want to remain encouraging and positive about my  experience but at the same time I want to be honest and tell you about some of the most difficult parts of transitioning...in my experience.

The hardest part of the past year for me has been being alone. I have talked about being lonely and homesick but I also think a lack of access to my psychiatrist has been detrimental to my mental health. I have been away from my family, my closest friends, the landscape that I love so dearly and access to particularly satisfying elements. I have never really experienced the ache of homesickness like I have in the past year. Perhaps because at my time of greatest need for comfort I find myself alone in an unfamilliar and hostile environment. Now I don't mean just the landscape but I am also talking about my body as a hostile environment.

Up until my top surgery, my gender dysphoria worsened as I transitioned. As testosterone changed my voice and my body mass, rearranged my body fat, changed my body temperature, and marked me with the scars of pubescent acne, my anxiety about my chest increased. I wore a binder nearly everyday and there were times when it made breathing difficult. They are hot and tight and uncomfortable as anyone who's ever worn one will tell you. But even with them strapped down I still worried someone would notice my breasts and call me out as a liar, a fake, and a fraud. This anxiety made me antisocial and I stopped going out. Sure you might say that it was all in my head but it wasn't just my behaviour that changed.

A large majority of the group of people I kept company with were lesbians and they were all friends or acquaintances of my girlfriend at the time. When I realized that my partner couldn't support me from within our relationship I broke it off. We still live together and it has been difficult working through the anger and hurt we each experienced since those phases didn't come at the same time for us. It didn't take too long before I was no longer invited out or included in group outings. UI suppose partly because people feel a need to pick a side and partly because I was no longer a lesbian in their eyes. It was weird to have a guy around especially the guy who is the ex girlfriend of a friend. I understand it doesn't help me feel better about it.

I survived the break up of my relationship and subsequent isolation from my peers by hibernating in a childish pity throughout the winter. While that solitude allowed a lot of wounds to heal I was subject to a second loss of innocence, realizing that my relationships were changing. I was forced to be self-sufficient and figure out how to survive the city and the people on my own. By the time spring came around, my reclusive winter had taken its toll and my resulting depression only made things worse. I was unbearable. The lonliness is excruciating. Being the only one of your kind really makes it even more difficult to reach out and ask for help because there is no one who can really understand what it's like to be trans unless they've dealt with similar issues of gender.

Spring brought a thaw both to my mood and to my isolation. I got a new job and surrounded myslef with new people, new strangers, blank slates who didn't have opinions about whether my transition was right or wrong or good or bad. They have no idea there is a former me to compare to and so I can be my new self, and figure out how I fit into a this new environment.

I was lucky that spring also brought me a handful of people who literally saved me from myself. At the time I needed someone the most, an acquaintance showed up for a conference here in town and invitied me out for supper. It was my melting point. I finally had someone who could understand the struggle, someone I could talk to, someone who would listen and who didn't know my ex and therefore had not real opinion about who was right or wrong. We went out fishing together and sat in the sun on the rocks talking about life and love, families and fathers, tits and top surgery, gender misconceptions and what on earth might motivate someone to just disappear....that is the second time she has saved me.

In June I had top surgery. Total victory. Win. Score. Jackpot.

In July my best trans friend and his sweet and awesome fiancee moved up for the summer and it was so nice to just hang out and feel comfortable in my new skin. It was so nice to have someone make me laugh, to be able to laugh at myself and make the tires on a minivan squeal on the pavement. It was ok to be angry and frustrated and scared and finally just relax in the company of someone who vibrates at the same frequency.

I even made some new friends, sure they are cisgendered but that's ok with me. I like them just the way they are. we talked about the thing we share in common: art. Passionate creative and inspiring conversation that motivated me to begin working again, drawing and creating and giving a cathartic release to my emotions.

I finally got to use my kayak and while I was by myslef in the boat I was outside on the land.  Anyone who goes out on the land knows when you're out there, you aren't alone. I might yet get out one or two more times before things freeze.... even if it does snow. I'm sure it will be beautiful.

Unfortunately none of these friends will be around for the winter. They are all off on adventures some to struggle, some to explore, some who got a little something they never expected. I face the upcoming winter alone again and I am nervous. I am making plans to keep busy and go out but I am afraid the isolation might once again drag me into a frozen depression. I have work, I have a novel to write, a Christmas vacation and opportunities to advance at work. My friends have flown south for the winter but I know that it won't be long before spring and the melt will come once again.


A Bachelor's Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a great time of year and a welcome holiday. Usually it means filling up on great home-cooked meals just in time for mid terms and long overdue visits with family. This year I am spending it single and sharing the event with my cats who frankly don't give a shit about the great meal I prepared and are pissed off that it's snowing. Looking back at the past year has given me some perspective on how much one can accomplish in one year. I am thankful for a lot of things this year and here are just a few:

1. Top surgery. June was the long awaited boob-removal surgery and so far one of the most significant events of my life. I am still extremely happy with the results and despite a few less than perfect spots (that might be fixable with a small revision) I finally feel like I can walk around in my own skin. Being comfortable in my own body is like getting a second chance at living the life I have always wanted.

2. My family. I love my family very much and I know that my transition has been really difficult for some of them but I have to say they have surprised me and I have surprised myself with the ways in which our relationships are changing and growing. I owe a special thanks to my mom who drove me to and fromt eh hospital and looked after me while I recovered after my surgery. I am also super proud of my father who when put on the spot never missed a beat in introducing me to a crowd of extended family as his son. It was a big step for him and I was busting with pride and love for him. My cousins and aunts and uncles were all supportive and accepting of me and I am thankful for so many great relatives. Testosterone has eased my formerly volatile emotions and I feel like I can deal with things more rationally and with less anxiety than before. I look forward to growing closer to my family as a son, brother and nephew

3. My health. Having spent some time at the hospital this last year with T check ups and pre-surgery medicals and post-op checks I have to say I am really thankful for my health. I have slowly been taking better and better care of myself and I think a big part of it is finally feeling like I get to be myself. I quit drinking like a twenty something and started spending more time outdoors. With my new kayak a lot of great adventures were had on the water, solitary adventures but adventures none the less. I am preparing for winter and hope to get some exercize out on the snow and ice with my new snowshoes. Along with health is my faculties. Iam so glad I have a brain in my head that once in a while I put to good use. Future plans include a Masters so staying sharp is extremely important.

4. My job. The way teh economy has been going of late I have to say I am extremely thankful for a decent job that I actually enjoy. I get to use my brain (sometimes) and once in a while I can even be creative. I look forward to gaining some experience, getting myself out of debt and saving for more education.

5. My friends.  This past year I have made a couple of new friends. While our relationships are still in the early stages I am really excited about meeting some folks that have similar interests. I hope the future brings collaborations and more good times. Keeping in touch with old friends can get difficult when distance plays a factor but I have been trying to keep in touch with friends through good old fashioned snail mail. There is nothing quite like a letter or postcard from a friend to brighten your day. Even a quick note on the back of a photograph can remind someone you are thinking of them. Even if I'm not always in touch doesn't mean I've forgotten about you!

I have a lot to be thankful for. Even though I have been single for almost a year and there are times I get awfully lonely I am pretty satisfied with where I am right now. I have plans for the future and instead of just waiting around for opportunities I'll be out looking for them..Over the next couple of years I will be sorting out the details of plans to help me get where I want. Life is short and I feel like I've been waiting, for what I am not sure but it's time to start living the life I've wanted as the man I've always wanted to be. Yeah I might be a few years behind on my plans, I might not be where I wanted to be at this point in my life but I know what I want and I am going to go get it. One day at a time, eventually all those days will add up.


Reader Challenge #1: WIN Coyote Books!

Ivan Coyote is a writer from Whitehorse Yukon who writes about her experiences navigating the world as one of us gender variant individuals. She goes into schools and educates youth on queer and gender issues and participates in workshops for gender variant youth. One of the workshop programs is called Camp Fyrelfy and is run out of the University of Alberta. It is a great opportunity for kids from small communities to get together and meet their peers and make friends who can really understand them.

When I was a kid there was no such thing and so much of my self discovery took place in my twenties and much of my understanding about gender, queerness, and acceptance came from reading Ivan's books. I felt that at least in print I had someone that understood me and I didn't feel so "queer" after all. When I had a chance to actually meet Ivan I had to muster up all of my courage to actually go see her. I am pretty shy when it comes to meeting strangers and meeting someone who had such a profound influence on me was actually terrifying. I never actually told her how much of an influence she had on my life but more than once she saved my life. So before I gush any more I am going to say go out and get yourself a few of her books OR participate in the reader challenge and win two of them right here from yours truly!

How do I win? I am looking for more followers! So tweet this or share this on your facebook page or email your friends, your neighbours, your gaybourhood! Tell them about Transcanada Coyote and get them to follow my blog. Every tweet or facebook share of this post or anyone who retweets a post about this blog from @luckyjackpress will also get an entry into the draw. And of course, any new blog followers will also be entered.  It's easy to sign up just click the follow me button to the right. You can follow privately if you're shy and only I will be able to see you!

The contest runs until October 15th so you have lots of time to help me spread the word about Trans Canada Coyote. I have some more great giveaways coming up so be sure to check back once in a while! The Winner will be announced on October 17th!

OK it's a bit early but the winner of the Ivan Coyote books and print from yours truly is @journeytomeftm. Congratulations! Your books and print will be on their way shortly! Thanks to everyone for their participation!


Three Months Post Surgery

Three months ago I went under the knife to have my breasts removed and while I was less concerned about how it would look than I was about finally getting them off my chest I am excited about how things are progressing. The puckering and swelling has gone down considerably and the area I was most concerned about has definitely healed up  better than I was anticipating. Recovery has been a lot like watching yourself get old...you don't really notice that you aren't 16 anymore until you look back through your yearbook and wonder when you ever looked so young! The scars don't change so much as you'd notice from day to day but looking back over the last 3 weeks I am amazed at how quickly and how well things are going! At the one year mark I will be able to look back and see how much things have changed.

The biggest thing I've noticed over the last month is how much the scars are flattening out. I know it will take quite a bit more time for them to fade but I am happy with how things are looking. The other thing that is really exciting is the amount of chest hair sprouting up! While it is still pretty fine I'm watching it fill in slowly....almost as slowly as my moustache! I have been noticing that I have bouts of itch but from what I understand that is a sign of healing. I continue to use the bio-oil (when I remember) and hope that the dog ears flatten out over the next few months. I am not in a hurry to get revisions and will wait at least a year to see how everything works out before deciding whether or not to pursue revisions.

I am so much more comfortable in my body and finally being able to wear the clothes that I've imagined for my whole life on a body that I'm starting to love is awesome. Shirts and ties are making appearances in my wardrobe and this year I am actually looking forward to winter and sweaters knowing that I won't have to wear a binder underneath. There will be extra room in my parka this year and after another longwinter hibernation a brand new man will emerge in the spring!


Visibility and the Big Gay Parade

I read a post the other day by Native Son a transguy from Kentucky and he said something that really hit home for me: ...one can either be proud of their identity as a trans person or they can deny it and spend their time enforcing their legitimacy in the binary that brought us here in the first place... 

I am having a really hard time deciding whether or not to be "out" at work. Some days I could care less but other days I am just too tired and worn down to deal with all the cisgender male posturing that goes on in our office. If I hear my co-worker say "that's what she said" one more time I swear I will staple his lips to his desk.

In my quest to become a good man I am trying really hard to be tolerant and patient and kind but it seems that I have come to expect that same behaviour from others as well. I don't know if that is a bad thing but it certainly seems to be unrealistic. Manners and common courtesy have flown the coop and I am rapidly losing faith that others will be consistently considerate. I suppose it bothers me more so at work since I expect a certain degree of professionalism in an office and I feel like I am working in a sports bar. But look, I have gone off on a rant....

Living your life as a trans person out or not is really a matter of personal choice. Expecting everyone to live their life as an activist is unrealistic. Some of us are happy to finally feel comfortable in our own skin and yes, finally feel "normal". While I do hope that the future brings with it more tolerance and understanding, cisgender heterosexuality is always going to be the "norm" by way of majority. That is a fact. While we can definitely hope for equality, tolerance, understanding and eventually apathy at some point, right now we are still in a struggle within the GBLT community for equality, tolerance and understanding. Why have we destroyed our solidarity by placing more and more exclusive labels on each other? Why do we only stand behind the principles of equality when we are fighting against discrimination from mainstream? Why are we not arguing for equal recognition and acceptance from within?

I want to be a role model for those who  are struggling now. I grew up in a time when being transgendered meant you were perverted in some way, that you were sick in the head and there was never any talk about "those people". Here we are today and we have had movies and magazine articles, and now a mainstream television show making transgendered people "real" people. We are no longer the freaks or the butt of all the jokes but are regular people with families and feelings that can be hurt and mended.

So to Kentucky's Native Son I wanted to say thanks. I’ve been trying to remember why I put myself in danger, why I feel so afraid, why I am angry that I have become the tranny instead of a guy with a name. I forgot why I tolerate people talking about me behind my back. I remind myself the reason that  people in this small town gossip. I worry I won’t be taken seriously, I worry I’ll never be a “real” boy in the eyes of others. I worry that I might never find a partner that will really love and understand me.
But I read your words and they remind me to be strong. I see my trans brothers taking risks and standing out front and saying here I am love it or leave it. I admire their bravery and want to be able to close my eyes swallow my fear and walk up to the front and stand beside them.  Every choice I make to be “out” or not affects someone’s future. I had brothers that came before- some who gave their lives and hearts just to be free. I just have to remember to breathe and be brave.


Clouds and Rainbows

For the last eleven months I have been a single guy. I don't go out much, I stay home and don't really socialize too much. There are a few people who's company I enjoy but for the most part I have become more of a loner. Part of the reason is I don't want to have to explain myself all the time. I don't want to have to answer questions about my genitalia or sexuality or feel like I am satisfying someone's curiosity about transexuals. I feel alone a lot of the time and honestly sometimes the lonliness is unbearable.

I have been trying hard to make new friends but since transitioning my normal outgoing confident self has become a shy and quiet guy who keeps mostly to himself. I am ok one on one or in very small groups or very large groups where I can sort of just blend into a crowd. I have been trying to get out and meet people but as a quiet sort of laid back guy who usually prefers his own company, it's easier said than done.

I volunteer with the local SPCA and I am working on becoming more involved in the Arts Community. Our little city is big on music and performing arts but sucks the big one when it comes to visual arts of any kind. There isn't a single public gallery space in the capital city and funding is only available after you have been a resident for two years. How frustrating. Still, I am making work and attending events. Sooner or later I hope to meet some people that I can spend time with on a regular basis.

I have met a few people here that I hope will become really good friends. I know that the longer I stay the harder it will be to leave them behind. There are things I will miss- the writers festival, Saturday afternoon salvaging at the dump, and things like the bitter cold winter and expensive everything that come with living in arctic isolation. I wish there was a special someone in my life but recently I have been reminded that no matter how lonesome it gets I would rather be alone than with a jerk.

Out for a beer with a few friends one night I met a young man who seemed pretty cool. He was smart and funny and nice looking. I was not interested in dating him but having someone to hang out with would have been nice. He was after a date but after talking with him for a little while I began to hear things that I didn't like. A flippant comment here, a little insult there and then he said something so offensive to me that I basically told him I was no longer interested in spending any more time getting to know him.

I felt stupid, I felt betrayed and I felt angry. It is hard enough being queer in a small city (although I have to say this one seems to have a high concentration of queers in it for it's size) without being gay and an ass. I was pissed right off for a couple of reasons. Saying something offensive and then claiming you were just joking (even if you were) insinuates that you think I should be complacent or participate in your behaviour regardless of whether or not it was serious. You must be too young then to remember the history of pride and the rights that GLBT people are till fighting for today. Participating in that oppression by using the derogatory language of hatred does not help to foster understanding or peaceful co-existence. Thinking it's funny to insult people who are standing up to protect your rights is despicable.

For as much as I would like some companionship, I am not willing to sacrifice my ethics. It has taken me far to long to become the man I've always wanted to begin compromising my beliefs. It's too bad that there always seem to be dark clouds hanging around the beautiful rainbows.


Mind your Ps and Qs

It had to happen eventually and thank goodness for comment moderation. While I try to keep this blog honest about the challenges of being trans, I also strive to keep a fairly positive outlook on things. So when some strager comes along and posts a comment that is intended to help/save/piss me off I try to see the lesson in it. Or I just laugh hysterically. I received one such comment this morning from someone you all know and love to hate: Anonymous. Anonymous felt the need to tell me how sad they felt for me, how upset they were that I couldn't find happiness as such a beautiful woman....hello? Did you even look past the first page? Not very often was I "mistaken" for a woman! They suggested I should sue my surgeon for "butchering" my chest. Thanks for your constructive pity but please, save it for someone who needs it. (Tell me again, why isn't there a sarcasm font?)

Not everyone understands what it is to be transgendered. Not everyone understands what it is to be a homosexual. What irks me when people who are perfectly comfortable in the own straight cisgender universe decide to tell me that they are sad I don't feel the same way they do. Poor me. Yes God gave me a brain and I use it...everyday. I think for myself and have my own opinions. I don't expect other people to share them and I certainly don't pity them if they have some of their own. Here's the part I want you to hear: I don't care if you don't like what I am doing. I am happy. This is my life and my body. I am an adult an I feel no need to explain myself to you. Thank you for your concern. Now please be on your way and find someone else to pity who might listen to your lame excuse about caring about their well-being. Oh, and if you plan on making comments Anonymous, try this link: http://www.amishrakefight.org/gfy/.

That said I can get back to writing about my life. If you follow this blog and my journey, I want to say thanks. Most of the comments I get are supportive and encouraging and I intend to keep this a positive hate-free place for all people no matter how they identify. I know there are some misguided individuals out there who are threatened by what they don't (or refuse to) understand. There are people out there that just wantto spread hate and misery. For those of you considering being haters please, visit the above link. Aggression comes from fear. I get that. But getting sucked into a battle over who is right, or better, or more virtuous is stupid. What ever happend to agree to disagree and live and let live. Every adult has a right to make their own life choices and have sovereignty over their own body. Stop worrying about what other people are doing and look after yourself.

Once that's done, consider putting something positive out into the world. Get out of your small town or your uncaring city mind set and look around at the people with whom you share your life, your neighbourhood, your community. What can you do to help someone else get what they need to be happy? Hug a homeless person. Smile at someone who looks like they are having a bad day. Buy flowers and hand them out one at a time to people who look sad....men or women. Compliment a complete stranger. Give something you love to someone who has nothing. Eat with that person sitting alone. Visit the old folks home with soft shortbread cookies. Talk to a young person and make them feel important. Give the wait person who's having a crappy day a $20 tip. Listen to someone vent without trying to solve thier problems. The people who need you the most are the ones you usually try to avoid. You might be surprised to find what you can learn from closing your eyes and opening your heart.


Eight Weeks Post-Surgery

Eight weeks have passed since I had my breasts removed and every day I am thankful they are finally gone. I have hated them since they started growing like tumors in the 4th grade. They always made me feel awkward and I had an incredible amount of dysphoria related to them. The past two months without them  has been incredible. I love how I look in my dress shirts. I love how I look in my t-shirts. I love that I can wear a muscle shirt and a pair of jeans and not feel awkward. I love that my chest is flat. I love that it doesn't bounce when I run or wobble when I walk up stairs or jiggle when I laugh. It doesn't hurt once a month and doesn't swell up when I don't eat properly. I don't have sore shoulders from wearing a bra. I don't have chest pain and difficulty breathing from wearing a binder....or two even.  And no one is looking at my chest anymore unless I am walking around with out a shirt on. Since I only do that at home the only ones that ever stare are the cats and I'm pretty sure they don't give a damn.

I have become pretty lazy with the oil and vitamin E cream but I am trying to get back into the routine of massaging the scar tissue and applying the bio oil before bed. I am still a little concerned with the right side since it is quite a bit "looser" than the left. I am really happy with how the left side looks but I am concerned I lost quite a bit of nipple and a lot of what at first appears to be "areola" is actually scar tissue. If the scar tissue fades to white I will have to get the rest tattooed on which is no big deal I guess. I still have hopes that the right side will settle down and smooth out. I am going to start working out the pec muscles a bit and see if the dog ears and skin will tighten up and smooth out. The shooting pains are mostly gone except when I massage the scars but once they fade I am sure they will hardly be noticeable. In other news the fur is coming. Hairs area appearing around the nipple area and the pecs are getting fuzzy....looks like I'll get at least some chest hair which I am now totally stoked for.....almost as much as the slowest moustache ever.


One Year, Three Months on T

15 Months on T
I can't believe how fast this second year has gone. Summer is nearly over once again and come spring I will have been taking testosterone for two years. It seems far now but I know it will be here in no time. It's been a crazy busy month kayaking, fishing, visiting, and of course the big boob-off. As for the rest of the month, this is how it shaped up:

Acne: Well this is pretty much staying the same. The antibiotic treatments are working to control the breakouts but what I eat definitely has an impact. I won't be posting any more about my skin unless there is a significant change.

Body: My chest is healing nicely which you can read about when I post the Two Month post op update. I finally feel like I have the body I was supposed to have. I wore a shirt and tie for the first time since top surgery: it rocked. I might consider wearing a shirt and tie to work at least one day a week. I also love that I can do pushups and lift heavy things. I love that I don't feel tired and weak anymore. Part of that is likely my blood pressure increase and the increase in red blood cells. On the downside of that I sweat a lot. I am sure my core body temperature has increased as I can't remember the last time I had cold feet. Physically I feel pretty damn good.

Injection: Well this is getting boring, again since there have been no significant advancements or injuries resulting from self-injection there's really no point in talking about it anymore. But if something exciting happens of course I'll keep you posted.

Voice: I am really starting to love my voice. Although I don't use it too much, (I seem to have become pretty shy and soft spoken since transitioning) I do like the way it sounds. I like that I still sound like me but just a different version of me. No one has ever mistaken me for someone else and everyone who knows me and/or know me before still recognizes my voice. Yeah they tell me it's deep but not so much that I sound like a different person. Next up...getting some volume behind it so I don't feel like I might break it if I use it.

Hair: It's coming. Slowly but surely the hair is growing in. I have increased the amount of protein in my diet and I am noticing that my body has been using it to make hair. Things start out fuzzy and then get really fine fuzzy then the sparse dark hairs grow in a s things thicken up. I am happy to report that the chest and belly are getting really fuzzy and the happy trail is working its way up toward my belly button. I noticed hair on my toes and I think there's a good chance it is also going to spread down from my wrists and start growing on the tops of my hands as well. Most of my hair is fine and fairly light so it's hard to tell sometimes. In other news my long awaited moustache is still coming in at a snail's pace.

Mood: My mood is a swing. Seriously. Some days are good and some are bad but for the most part life is pretty good. I feel like I have a handle on  my emotions and I am more content on a day to day basis. I am definitely not as quick to get angry as I used to be. I also seem to deal with anger a lot differently than I used to as well. I find I have the urge to do something physical to "burn it off".  I find doing something physical is the easiest and quickest way to dissipate anger. I am much better at letting things go and realizing what I should and shouldn't be worrying about. I no longer make someone else's behaviour my responsibility and try to just live my life for me and do what will make me happy. I'm a single guy and I am trying really hard to be a solid, ethical, consistent and kind man. Some days it's easier than others.

Socialization: I have been having troubles with the whole idea of stealth. I thought that perhaps a monthly update on some of the "passing" into society might be good here since I am eliminating discussion about other physical things. I am still trying to decide whether or not to "out" myself at the office. I despise being the topic of gossip but realize I have no control over what others say, all I can control is my response assuming they address me directly. A couple people at the office are quite derogatory towards others and have a narrow and rather snobbish view of others. I find it difficult to listen to them degrade others in our town and can only imagine what the gossip would be if they found out a transexual was working amongst them. This is a pretty small town still and gossip spreads like wildfire and I am sure that a lot of people that I meet know what I am and either don't care or keep their opinions to themselves....at least until they can share it with someone else behind my back. I'll have more to say about his in another post.

Other: I am staying really busy and making new friends. I am starting to enjoy this place a little more now that I have some of my own friends and opportunities at work. I might be the only one of my kind in town for now but once in a while a brother shows up to keep me company. I have things to look forward to every week (not just Fridays) and will hopefully make some more new friends and settle into my own northern rhythm.


Calming Top Surgery Recovery Anxiety

I have been worrying a little about how my chest looks and yes I know it is still early in the game. I haven't really been able to get answers to all the questions I had about how long things take to recover. I have been massaging my scars and I have one spot on my right side that is particularly chunky with scar tissue. I have been worrying about whether or not my right pec will ever return to a normal shape and if the loose flab and remaining swelling that reminds me of the boob that used to be there will EVER go away.

I put the bio-oil or generic version of it on my scars once a day when I remember and I have a couple silicone scar reducing pads that I want to use but just haven't got around to patching on. I know the bio-oil will reduce the appearance of the scars but I am more concerned about the scar tissue under the skin than at the incision site. One thing I am really excited about is the chest hair that seems to be sprouting like crazy. If I am lucky enough to be a fuzzy guy then I will worry a lot less about how things look on the surface.

While I was Googling scar management and chest surgery, this page Recovering from Gynomastia caught my attention. Not only is it about chest surgery recovery for MEN but it answered ALL the questions I had and even a couple I didn't! If you've recently had top surgery or are planning to have it in the future this is a great resource to keep handy when you start to worry about how things look. The recovery time is L-O-N-G. So while your initial recovery will be approximately 6 weeks the actual recovery time to see final results will be more like 12-18 months. Just another thing for a trans person to count.


...And Now Back to Your Regularly Scheduled Summer

It's official. I can now return to my regular activities. The six week recovery flew by and although the first couple were difficult the last week was probably the hardest. I say that because I felt great and summer is short so every moment that I couldn't be out on the water fishing with my new kayak was frustrating. To make up for it I am going to kayak a LOT from now until one of two things happens: the water freezes or I can't fit into the kayak wearing my parka. The weather has been beautiful here and I am hoping September will have at least a few nice weeks where I can get out and explore some of the smaller lakes near my house.

Today I went on a hike to a place called Cameron Falls, it's quite beautiful and I actually did it.... Yes my friends, after years and years of avoidance, I finally went swimming. Wow. So fun. I forgot about how great swimming feels and finally being able to wear just a pair of trunks into the water was an amazing experience. It didn't hurt that the weather was hot and the water cold and the falls beautiful! Even the little bit of sunburn was totally worth it!

Of course I took my fishing rod. You never know when you might get a chance to use one.... Even though I wasn't supposed to fish before the 6 week mark it's pretty hard NOT to fish when you are out in a boat with your best friend and the sun is shining. So yeah I kinda broke that rule last week... but it was totally worth it! The fishing was fantastic! I caught a bunch o'fish and had an awesome visit!

My doctor was pretty excited about the results so far and figures that once everything is all healed up it will look fantastic so that was exciting news. He said there was no reason to worry about the incisions widening or anything tearing or anything like that. Everything has healed up really nice so far in his opinion and there's nothing I shouldn't be able to do....I mean I can't fly or anything, but sometimes it sure feels like I might. So with only a few short weeks left in the arctic summer I am off to have a quick peek at the northern lights and enjoy the quiet stillness of the night before embarking on another fishing and kayaking adventure.


The Tranny's New Clothes

I went for a walk on my lunch break. It was a beautiful sunny day with a nice breeze and I as I wandered along the street I felt it: contentment. My body finally felt normal....well different but normal. I could feel the wind on my skin without the burden of breasts or shame. I ran up the stairs to the library without my chest bouncing. I bent over to pick up my pen and didn't feel the weight of them hanging off my chest.

I felt tall. I felt happy. Even though I am still getting used to the amputation and the phantom boobs I am hoping in time my brain will clue in and the memory of how my body used to feel will disappear. I am hoping too that the sharp pains and the aches will subside eventually and I can not even think about it until I take off my shirt and see the scars and think...oh yeah...I used to have boobs! Every day I am thankful and excited to walk around in my "new" body. I love the way I look and I love the way it feels to finally be free!!

It's been just over one month since me top surgery but I am ready to go out and get myself a new wardrobe! I have been relishing the last six....ok three weeks of being able to wear nothing but a t-shirt....well I mean nothing under my t-shirt except for me! Every morning I get dressed I feel like there is something I am forgetting....but since I only have to wear one shirt now instead of 2 or three my life is definitely cooler!

Before I had top surgery, a binder would make my chest and stomach flat to about even so I looked fit and pretty flat from top to bottom. Now that my chest has been reshaped my stomach needs a little work....My jeans are getting looser and since I have been eating well and healthy for some time now I think I might have a few reasons to get myself some new clothes! I believe I mentioned my preferred "woodsman" style in the Lumberjack Post , now with a nice flat chest my options are opening up....just a bit. Since it's pretty cool here most of the year I am usually dressed in layers. Only now my layers won't have to consist on anything tight or made of spandex.I do have to wear busness casual at work but I am even looking forward to buying some nice new dress shirts and even a few more ties!

When I finally have time and money to go shopping for some new clothes, I will now be able to buy clothes that fit! Granted, I still don't have the body of a male model but when I see something I like it will finally fit me the way I want it to. I won't have to buy things big to cover my breasts now I can get clothes that fit, clothes I wouldn't have purchased before because they were too tight or the material was too thin to be able to wear with a bra or binder. I have a few dress shirts I am looking forward to wearing already! Instead of worrying about shirts fitting over my chest I now have to make sure they will fit me through the shoulders and arms....what's with all the skinny-armed shirts out there anyway?

I went through my dresser the other day and tried on a bunch of clothes that haven't fit my for a while. I was pretty excited to see that now even the smallest of them fit. Looking at myself in the mirror wearing a t-shirt or fitted dress shirt makes me so happy because I finally see what I have dreamed about for so long: broad shoulders and a beautiful flat chest. Every time I see myself reflected back in a smooth surface I am reminded that I no longer have to shrug, I can stand up tall and proud and have my body finally reinforce the identity of the guy that's been trapped inside it for so long! 


One Year, Two Months

I know I have been neglecting this a little recently. There has been a lot going on and I'll  of course get to it  eventually! I am already fourteen months on T and there are still changes to be noted! It's true the changes come fast and furious in the beginning and the first year on T is definitely a whirlwind of changes: your body, your voice, your relationships. It really is like a second puberty but this time you go through it alone. So for the most part I haven't really noticed a huge change but there are a few things to note so as usual, here is the monthly low down:

Acne: Still. Seriously. I was hoping this would have cleared up by now. The medication is working pretty well but nothing ever worked as well as sunshine! Seeing as how we are headed into the dark cold months here being able to lie out in the sun is not really an option unless you want to freeze to death. I will ask my doc on my next visit and see if this is something that will eventually go away or not....if anyone has good news let me know would you?

Body: My body has been having it's own little roller coaster ride lately. At first I was worried about getting too chubby. It seems this second puberty works a lot like the first where you chunk out just before a growth spurt. Lately my jeans have become too big when only a few months ago I was worried I was going to tear out the seams. granted I have been eating a LOT better and I have given up alcohol for the most part....one or two beer here or there but a six pack can last me for months...not bad when it costs $18. (yes, I do know that's crazy). Top surgery also helped re-shape things and I gotta say I am happy with the results so far.

Injection: Not too much exciting news here. I'm starting to really get the hang of self injection but should probably be rotating my injection sites more than I am. I am injecting into alternating ventro-gluteal muscles every week but perhaps I should talk to my doctor about that as well. Maybe he can recommend another spot with a little more padding than the quadriceps as alternative injection locations.

Voice: It's happening. It really is getting a little deeper. I notice because it is getting more difficult for me to speak in what I would consider my normal pitch. I find I have to speak from a different spot in my throat, a little lower than I am used to. I suppose my muscles are used to the vibration being in one spot and with the vocal chords lengthening and thickening a bit that it will take a little time to relocate my voice. I can drop my voice pretty low now and I never have my gender confused over the phone. Now I can finally change my voice mail message!

Hair: I think hairs are working their way up from the bottom. My legs are spectacularly hairy except where my socks have worn it all off. My happy trail is emerging and making its way across my stomach. I didn't realize I had quite so much chest hair until i had to cover parts of it with frickin tape and adhesive bandages after surgery. With any luck it will start to fill in and thicken up. I think increasing my protein intake has helped quite a bit. Probably the vitamins didn't hurt either. As for a moustache or goatee, things are taking their time. I have to shave every couple days now otherwise my face looks like a four year old randomly pasted glitter patches all over it. Until things start growing in a more sustainable and cohesive pattern I think I'll stick to staying clean shaven. In other news random hairs are not only appearing on my upper arms they have also started to explore my shoulders.

Mood: For the most part, this has been pretty good. I got to spend time at home while recovering from surgery and I have been really busy with art proposals and projects, recovering from surgery and volunteering. Summer is short but sweet here although the weather hasn't really been cooperating. There's still a month left to get in all the kayaking and fishing I can before we return to the cooler temperatures of fall and the impending winter. I am trying to stay focused on what I want to accomplish while I am here and making sure that I make time to call home and go for a visit whenever I can wil hopefully alleviate some of the homesickness I still suffer. Making sure I stay busy over the winter will help ensure my sanity and cheerfulness.

Other: What else is there. There are definitely things that have changed as a result of T. My muscles are looking good and I am still really happy that I have shoulders and real toes. I am happier, more relaxed, less prone to flying off the handle but I do find myself suppressing a lot of anger and frustration instead of just venting it like I would have before starting T. It is definitely interesting to be able to experience both ends of the gender spectrum: a privilege most people will never have.


One Month Boob-Free!

To be honest, my recovery from this surgery has been more difficult and painful than I anticipated. I was in quite a bit of pain for the first three weeks though not enough to warrant taking pain meds. My skin is still very sensitive and some days it makes wearing shirts absolute torture. But ice is great and works wonders for the burning sensation and when the aching gets to be too much I will eventually take an ibuprofen.

Things are progressing along with the actual recovery. The incisions are feeling pretty good and since quitting the paper tape and switching to Vitamin E cream and Bio-oil, I am finally beginning to feel like a real boy! I have to tell you though I still feel like I am forgetting something when I get dressed in the morning....I feel so naked under my shirts!

I started giving the area around my incisions a bit of a massage this week. The stitches are dissolving and I haven't seen any sign of them coming to the surface. When I massaged the area tonight after a shower I did feel a snapping which I think was the stitches breaking under the skin. Hopefully that will help alleviate some of the puckering and rigidity under the incision.

One thing I am kind of concerned about is the hard areas under my skin. There are a few places where the tissue feels really dense and tough. I am not sure if this is swelling or an accumulation of fluid left over from the bruising. I know that when I had an incision under my chin it took weeks to return to normal but now two years later you can hardly see or feel the scar. I am definitely going to ask my doctor about it and if need be I will seek out some ultrasound therapy if it turns out to be scar tissue.

I am really excited about how things are healing up. I was thinking that there hadn't been much change but then I took a look at the photos I have been taking every few days and from the first reveal to now, things have really changed a lot! I guess when you see something every day you don't notice the changes so much. After looking at the photos I was pleasantly surprised bu how well things are progressing. I look forward to documenting the experience and sharing it with you!

It has been really liberating to finally feel like things are coming together. It has taken a long time for me to come to terms with being transgender and to finally be in a place where I am truly happy with who I am has been a very long and often painful journey not only for me but for a lot of other people as well. I think realizing that I can't make anyone love me, or accept me has been a really hard lesson. I just have to live to be true to myself and the people who can accept that are the ones that truly matter in the end. That's a lot easier to say than it is to live. I am lucky that my family have been supportive. I can't imagine how hard it must be to transition without the love and support of your family.

I have been getting some really positive feedback through comments and I just want to say thanks to everyone who has written to let me know that they read this blog. I really appreciate your comments and I hope that you can get something for yourself from my experience. I know a lot of times the internet will be the first place you get a chance to really "see" what being transgendered is like for someone else. It is nice to know that you have shared similar experiences and feelings. It makes me happy to know that there is comfort between us in these small moments knowing that we are not alone.


Three Weeks Post-Op

The three week mark passed and I am now officially on the down-slope of my six week recovery. I have Been dealing with a lot of surface pain, wearing clothes hurts my skin and the only way to describe it is  like rubbing sandpaper on a sun burn. The right graft is nearly completely healed now and looking good, the left is not and I have been keeping it covered with an advanced healing bandage which acts like a scab and is supposed to minimize scarring. I am kind of worried about how it looks right now but I will be diligent keeping it covered and clean and hope that it will heal up soon. If not I will be sure to have my doctor look at it at.

When I called the surgeon's office they told me I was to keep the incisions covered with paper tape to help flatten the scars out but I'm pretty sure I developed a sensitivity to the adhesive on it so I tried using the advance healing bandage  on them instead. I wore those over the incisions for a week straight but the pain was finally too much and I took them off which was a special kind of torture all its own. I took everything off the incisions and I am applying high potency vitamin E cream to the incisions at least twice a day and for now I am enjoying a huge releif from the pain. I really want to help my body heal with a minimum of scarring but I can't deal with the aching skin anymore. Constant irritation is making me cranky!

So only a few more short weeks and I see my family doc who will hopefully give me the OK to return to life as I knew it. I plan to make up some time hiking, fishing and kayaking before the summer is over. If I'm lucky, September will be beautiful and warm enough to enjoy at least a few weekends on the water. The countdown to my summer is on!


Back to Work

I have been back home for less than a week and at work for only a couple of days and already I am getting really tired of feeling crappy. I was expecting that I would not be in any more pain but my body apparently has other ideas. Wearing a shirt is like having someone rub sandpaper over a sunburn. Parts of my chest are numb to the touch yet can still experience sharp pain like an electric shock. I am exhausted by lunchtime and have spent more time cuddling ice packs than my cats. While it was great to get caught up on some reading, the two weeks I had off work was far from a vacation.

I don't have short term disability coverage with this employer which means I probably returned to work sooner than I should have. I am happy to be feeling productive but not happy that I am still in so much pain I am unable to return to a normal-ish routine. I am hoping another week of taking it easy will put me in better spirits and help my body heal at least to the point where I am not so uncomfortable.

I am thankful that I have a sympathetic and flexible employer and that getting the time off for surgery was not a problem. I am going home an hour early every day this week to a date on the couch with my aforementioned ice princess.  I am am getting kind of worried that I am taking so much longer to heal than what I am used to. Sure I have never had this type of surgery before but I am still bruised and tender at my IV site and it has been almost 3 weeks now since the surgery.

I am taking vitamins every day, using the Vitamin E cream on the parts that are no longer under a dressing, and keeping the ugly graft covered. Up until tonight I had been using paper tape and non adhesive dressing over polysporin but the tape has been wreaking havoc on my already sensitive skin. Instead I am trying a second skin burn pad (and more paper tape) over the graft to see if it will help the graft to finally heal. I am a little worried that the right graft has taken so easily and the stitches are already mostly dissolved and have fallen out. The left is taking it's sweet time and the only reason I can think of is either it doesn't have the same bloodflow or that the swelling in the right helped the graft take more quickly because of the extra fluid.

I took the paper tape of the righ incision and replaced it with a heal fast bandage. My skin needs a break from the paper tape and the pharmacist said I could put them over the incisions. The burn pad worked wonders on the area before I had to remove it but I am still a little worried about how the right side is healing up. The swelling hasn't gone down a lot yet and there is an area under the incision about six inches along the length of it that seems to be making a real mess of itself. It is hard and puckered and creating a real lip under the skin. I hope that as the stitches dissolve, the swelling goes down and the skin tightens everything will smooth out.  I guess if I still have concerns after healing for three months I can call the surgeon's office and make an appointment for advice. Hopefully things will look a LOT different three months from now....


Two Weeks Post-Op

My cross-eyed Beauty, LiLu
 Two weeks down and four to go till I am back fishing from my new kayak, sleeping on my stomach, playing and enjoying the rest of the summer. I have got to remember that no matter how good I am feeling I need to be careful and take it easy. I have been doing everything my surgeon told me when I saw him to have my drains out. I called his office yesterday to ask a couple of questions about post-op care of my grafts and incisions and the receptionist called me back today with the answers. Apparently there was a few things I missed.

Now I am pretty sure that I wasn't high when I returned to the hospital to have my drains removed and see my surgeon. I wasn't asleep and I'm sure I didn't dream it. I know what I was told at the post op visit and there was no mention of keeping my incisions covered. I was told to clean the grafts, apply antibiotic ointment and change the non stick dressing every day. This was the exact opposite of what he told the nurse I was to be doing. I should have been covering my incisions with paper tape and left the dressings off my nipple grafts. Huh? Is it really possible that I got the information totally backwards?  

So now I am confused and unsure what the heck I am supposed to do to minimize scarring and promote healing. I feel kind of pissed that I missed an opportunity to minimize my scarring leaving the incisions uncovered. I have been sort of making up my own recovery plan which includes treating the nipple grafts with high potency Vitamin E cream and supplementing my diet with zinc, vitamin E and vitamin C.

I have kept the nipple grafts covered but the right one has healed up more quickly than the left. I am keeping the left covered with antibiotic ointment and a dressing until the scab comes off and I can let it live more comfortably under just a t-shirt.

Arnica ointment helped a lot the first week with pain and swelling. It was cooling and not greasy so I am happy to continue using it until the tube is empty. I began using the vitamin E cream on the incisions after having the drains out and the dressings off. Not having the incisions covered has affected the healing for sure. The right side of my chest near my armpit has begun to pucker and get bumpy so I have tried to undo the scarring damage caused by having it uncovered the last seven days: I am trying Second Skin moist burn pads. They are similar to the silicone gel pads but are about half the price.

Once my six weeks is up I will continue to work on treating the scars and might consider trying to purchase some silicone gel pads. In the mean time I will keep the paper tape over the incisions in an attempt to smooth and flatten them out. Bio oil is also something that I will try to see if I can help fade the scars.

The drain sites are still giving me a considerable amount of pain and irritation and my skin is definitely over sensitive to tht pont that wearing a tshirt feel a lot like wearing sandpaper. Things are tight and sore and achy around the incision sites and I get strange sharp electrical pains deep in the tissue every once in a while. The itching I don;t mind too much as I know it means things are healing but not being able to scratch at it because my skin is so sensitive is its own special kind of torture.

Sleeping is getting easier and I find I can roll partway onto my side now which is saving my back and helping me sleep through the night. I am used to sleeping on my stomach and hope that soon I can return to my sleeping position of choice. I will be back in my own bed tomorrow night for the first time since surgery but I'll have to share the space with a cat or two...

All in all the past two weeks have gone by pretty fast. The first week crawled by a little more slowly than the second which seems to have disappeared more quickly than I would have liked. I am feeling sad about leaving the great comfort of Mom's house and care as I don't get home as much as I'd like.


Lucky Thirteen

Although I started this journey almost two years ago I have been on T for just thirteen months. I am now officially starting another year of my transition and it is going to be just as busy as the last. Top surgery fell the day before my thirteen month mark so it is needless to say I've been a little preoccupied. Changes are still occurring but not as quickly as they did during the first few months.  I think that's partly because I am taking a lower dose of T once a week instead of a higher dose every two weeks. At last check, all of my blood tests have been normal including my t-levels as well as my liver function test.

Acne: I am still battling acne and while the antibiotic has helped, I am starting to wonder if my skin will ever clear up.

Body: I guess with the top surgery finally completed I can say there is a significant change in my body – though not as a result of T! I am definitely going to need some time to fit myself into this body now that it has changed again. I am excited to see how things finally turn out but I am really happy with my results so far. The top surgery page is similar to this T-journal so if you're interested in reading about that of course check it out. Otherwise, not too much to mention except I had been doing push ups to build up my pec muscles but looks like now I'll need to work on the sit-ups!

Hair: Probably the slowest change and for me most one of the more frustrating parts of taking T. I've wanted a moustache for so long but it really is taking its sweet ass time getting here! I shave as often as I am comfortable but with the acne problem I have quit shaving quite so often. With my job it is not imperative that I am clean-shaven every day so I take advantage of that by shaving only twice a week and even then I only shave my cheeks and neck and keep the hair on my chin tidy with an electric razor. I doubt I'll be able to grow a beard by winter but it would be nice if only for the extra warmth. Oh moustache, where are you?

Mood: This has been pretty good lately. Although I experienced a significant amount of anxiety leading up to top surgery, I am feeling pretty good about how it all went. I really feel like I can be myself a little more each day and the feelings of self consciousness have almost completely disappeared. I am confident once I am out of pain and picking up speed at the bottom of the recovery hill, I will feel a lot more like getting out and getting on with my life. Hopefully I can keep busy and continue participating in things that are fulfilling.

Voice: I'm pretty sure this has settled. I think they say two years for it to completely change but I never get mistaken for a lady on the phone so that's a good place to be. I still sound like myself.  People I haven't talked to in a while still recognize my voice over the telephone so it's not like I have to fit into both a new body and a new voice. I keep trying to remember to take voice samples but since I never took one before I started T it is hard to know how much my voice has really changed.

Other: Aside from top surgery, not too much has changed. I am making an effort to involve myself in art related endeavors as the winters are long and cold and having opportunities to meet new people and show my work is a way to make the time fly by. I am going to try the novel writing again in November and I am still debating making a real commitment to Camp Nanowrimo which would give me two months to write a novel instead of one....that's only 900 words a day instead of 1667. Yeah, I guess I can do that. The next year is going to be extremely important: my body will likely have completed the majority of its changes by this time next year. Testosterone will be maintenance not a renovation, my chest will have healed and the scars flattened out and faded, my voice will be permanent, and hopefully my body and facial hair will have filled in and I won't have lost any more of  my hairline. I will have been at my job for a year and summer will once again be on the horizon. A year from now seems a long time away but then again, a year ago feels like just yesterday.


Peace and Quiet

First Paddle
I ordered myself a Pelican fishing kayak in March and it finally arrived at Canadian Tire in June, don't even ask. I was thrilled to finally get a chance to get off the shore and out into the water and do a little sight-seeing and fishing from the middle of the lake.

I went out after supper around 8pm and paddled my way to the end of a small lake near my house. It was beautifully calm and relatively quiet- the airport is right near the lake so there were a few planes coming in for their landings. It took about an hour to paddle all the way to the end of the lake but I tok my time and gawked at the scenery trying not to get too close to the shore as the mosquitoes were ravenous.

As a kid, my dad and grandad often took us out in a canoe when we went to our cabin during the summer holidays and I'm pretty sure learning to canoe is a part of many Canadian gym or Rec Ed programs. Kayaking is a different story. The thing I love most is that it will float in about three inches of water. The thing I love least is that it is way more tippy than a canoe.

For my first trip across the lake I left my fishing gear back in the car: no sense in losing it all if I dump the boat first trip out. I took my time getting used to turning around and moving forward and backward. I pulled into shore and organized the foot pedals which gave me a little more control and helped with my balance. I need quite a bit more practice with paddling though as I got pretty wet from all the drips off the handle, (good thing it came with a spray skirt)!

After gaining confidence with my first two hours of paddling I returned to the car and grabbed my fishing gear. It was only about 10pm so I figured I had at least an hour or two before I would have to pack it in. I set up my fishing rod in the rear rod holder and stuck my gear bag between my legs. I grabbed my hoodie in case it cooled off and fought the mosquitoes again as I fumbled around on shore. I had to paddle fast to out run those little suckers and finally left the hungry swarm behind.

I caught a couple little jackfish (northern pike) while trolling behind the kayak and only got stuck a few times. The nice thing about that is that I could just paddle backwards and free my lure instead of trying to fight it from shore. Fishing from a kayak is challenging. I am glad the fish I caught were relatively small....a larger one might have taken me for quite a ride! While the boat does come with an anchor I think perhaps in pursuit of larger fish I might just paddle to an island or location where I can fish from shore if I'm hunkering for a lunker!

I have to say I am really happy with my investment. The kayak is light and easy to carry weighing only 40 pounds. I can load it and unload it myself and it allows me to do a lot more exploring. I can venture up the river and across lakes, and portage through to smaller lakes that are inaccessible to motorboats. I had the entire lake to myself and as you can see from the photos it was a beautiful calm night for a trip. I was able to see parts of the lake I could never access and found a couple really nice little fishing holes as well as some potential campsites. I shared the lake with nesting ducks, muskrats, ravens and arctic terns who were too busy fishing too try and peck my eyes out (they defend their nest with rabid vengeance).

I have to spend July recovering from my surgery but the prospect of getting back out on the lakes to enjoy the quiet beauty of the outdoors is reassuring. I can't wait to paddle out someplace and set up camp for a night or two, sleep under the aurora and count the stars. I can spend a day or two fishing and exploring, taking photos and maybe even go for a swim. Summer is short enough but with a six week recovery plunked right in the middle I am going to be sure to enjoy every second of whatever is left, especially in my new body.


One week Post-Op

This time last week I was waking up in the recovery room at the hospital after having my top surgery. Today I am sitting out on the patio at my mom's with the cat enjoying the beautiful weather planning my trip home. I want to sleep in my own bed, have more than four shirts to choose from and take a long hot shower under the faucet with pressure like a fire hose. I want to see my cats and the midnight sun and maybe just maybe make some prints before I have to go back to work. I want to get out with my friend in her new boat and watch her reel in my giant 20 lb lake trout, (hey I can dream).

The first week honestly seemed to fly by but since I haven't been very mobile - unable to drive or walk too far, I have felt pretty stuck. As the swelling goes down, the bruising is starting to take it's toll. My skin is sore to the point that even goosebumps are painful. The area around my stitches is hard and bruised and really sensitive to touch even though it's numb.... I know it doesn't make any sense. I found a gel-roll which is basically a tensor bandage that has silicone on one side. I leave it in the freezer overnight and wrap my chest tightly in the morning. The light compression helps immensely with the pain and the cool helps relieve pain and reduce the swelling. I have been using ice packs under my arms and on my chest at least three to five times a day. I tried using second skin burn pads over my incisions but because they are still very uneven they didn't stick. I had to tape them in place which was extremely uncomfortable.

My nipple grafts are ugly. There's really no other way to describe it. They are black and scabby and coated with ointment which makes them weepy. I have to change the dressings every day which means more tape on my already sensitive chest not to mention yanking out some of my precious few chest hairs. Also, now that the swelling has come down a bit and the nerves aren't quite as compressed I am getting weird stinging pains where I used to have nipples....great...phantom nipples...just what I need.

I am happy with how things are progressing for the most part. I am uncomfortable if I move around. Reaching for things over my head is not happening but I am not having any troubles washing my hair or putting on a t-shirt. Now that my breasts are gone I find that my belly sticks out quite a bit more than I like so I guess some sit-ups will be in my future!

I finally got a haircut which is great in the hot weather but will have to go to my guy back home to get it cut properly. I tire out pretty easily and will definitely take advantage of the next week taking it easy and resting up, not lifting anything heavy and making sure that I can make it through an eight hour day when I finally return to work. It's not really a vacation feeling this sore and not being able to do things like drive. Unfortunately I think I will have used up all my vacation time by the time I return to work so getting a vacation to actually relax will be a long time coming. Perhaps I'll even go someplace that has a pool!


The Big Reveal

After five long days I finally got a look at my new chest. And it looks AWESOME! My surgeon Dr. Giuffre did an incredible job and I am stoked about the results so far. I did a lot of research before my top surgery and I have looked at a lot of photos and I gotta say I am super proud of my surgeon and think he is definitely up there with the very best. I was not expecting things to look so good right off the bat and although they still look a bit rough after just five days I can see how great it's going to look once things heal up.

When I arrived at the hospital I checked in and waited only a few minutes before being called into the exam room. I stripped off my t-shirt apologizing for the way I smelled since I hadn't showered for quite a few days. The nurse cut away the binder and tape, removed the dressings, and finally peeled away the steri-strips that covered the incisions. I have dissolving stitches the ends of which hang out where I used to have cleavage and under my arms. Then I was treated to the luxury of a saline wash to clean up the gunk that was trapped under the bandages after surgery. I tell you after five days without water or air my skin felt alive! 

I waited a few more minutes for Dr Giuffre to come in and have a look and remove the dressings that were stitched over my nipple grafts. He clipped the stitches and pulled the dressings off and the nipples stayed put, thank goodness!! Nothing worse than having your brand new nipples ripped off!! Then he made my day by removing the stitches holding my drains in place and finally removing them. What a relief! The majority of the pain I had been experiencing had been from the drain sites where the tubes exited the surgical site.

Ice has been my friend for sure and the relief it offers has been better than any pain medication. I am hoping it will help bring down the swelling under my arms. I started using Arnica ointment in the area around the incision as well which is supposed to be a good topical treatment for pain, swelling and trauma. I have picked up some high potency Vitamin E and will be going to the pharmacy to see if I can find some silicone scar treatment. Taking both of these as soon as possible should help minimize the scars.

The drive back from the hospital was long and hot and tiring and when we finally got home the first thing I did was jump in the shower! It was as good as a shower after a long weekend of camping finally cleaning away all the yuck from my body and giving my skin some life! My hair was also excited to be washed but is looking a little shaggy so I might seek out a barber tomorrow and get myself a new haircut to go with my new body!

I have some serious nerve damage and for now there are large patches of my chest that have no feeling. For right now I am ok with that. Recovery is painful and as nerves and blood supply start to re-establish themselves and things heal up I know that a lot of the sensation will return. I do feel sharp twinges and aches and the itchy feeling is a signal that things are healing up. 

I am confident that once the swelling and bruising go down, the skin tightens up a bit, I put on a little muscle (and chest hair), and the scars fade and smooth out, my chest will look as close to natural as I could ever have wanted. Thanks to the skilled hands of my doctor and the support of my family and friends I am finally moving forward. I am excited to see how things progress over the next year and look forward to sharing my journey.

To see the photos see the top surgery page.


Top Surgery Recovery Day 4

Yesterday was a pretty rough day. I was in quite a bit of pain in particular around the drain sites and along the path of the drains under the incisions. I have been having heartburn which has been keeping me awake at night.  One of the side effects of anaesthetic and codeine is that it slows down your bowel. This has been making me feel pretty crappy (no pun intended) probably more so than anything else. On top of that the binder/bandage I've been wearing since the surgery gets looser every day as the swelling in my chest goes down. With all the extra movement of the bandage, my drain sites and dressings (which are stitched to my body) are getting pretty irritated. I have been trying to get my body back on a schedule but it is not cooperating as quickly as I'd hoped.

Today I went to a family gathering that involved church. It has been a really long time since I stepped foot through the doors of an established place of worship for any religious purpose. On her 90th birthday my grandmother wished that before she dies her entire family would accompany her to church. You can't deny a 90 year old a birthday wish like that so I went. I put aside my feelings about church and religion and despite being sore I went and sat with my family in the small town church.

Once again I was honoured and moved by my family's acceptance of my transition. I was most proud of my father who was sort of put on the spot and asked to introduce his family to his family (our extended family also attended...his cousins and aunts and uncles) and without missing a beat he introduced me as Marcus as if it was the most natural thing in the world. I could have jumped across the table and gave him a giant bear hug. I love being surprised by my dad. Sometimes he shows me that I don't give him enough credit.

I had my mom wrap an extra layer of fabric around my chest and tape it to snug things up which made a big difference. Tomorrow we are headed back to the big city for the first (and hopefully last) post-op visit with the surgeon who will take off the bandage and dressing and hopefully remove the drains (oh please oh please oh please). I will finally get a look at my new chest!! I will definitely post photos as the recovery progresses and you can get a glimpse of my surgeon's fine handiwork.

Just a few more hours and maybe finally once and for all it will sink in that they are really gone, that I don't ever have to wear another bra and I can finally get on with living my life!