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!