My New Invisible M

I am at least as happy as this little pup because it's official: I got another 'M'. Only this one is invisible.

I spent a lot of time over the past few years talking to the Health Administration department. I have spoken to a number of people who work there and described my situation to them on more than one occasion. I have been transparent about my transition and have even had my doctor and surgeon talk to them on my behalf. I requested a change to the gender marker on my health care card after a number of disturbing incidents at the hospital and clinic. On at least one occassion I was left in a curtained area in the emergency room for over four hours without the doctor even stopping in to look at me once. Every time I had to go give blood at the lab there was an issue, sometimes resulting in embarrassing or uncomfortable experiences. As if getting a needle jabbed in your arm wasn't uncomfortable enough.

After my hysterectomy in February I tried again, and was told that I had to change my birth certificate in order to have my health care card changed. It seemed ridiculous to me to have to change my birth certificate to get the gender marker changed on my health care card. To change my birth certificate I would require proof of gender reassignment surgery from the surgeon and confirmation from my GP...all of which had been paid for by Health and Social Services! I was stuck in another briar patch of red tape and needed to find a way to get myself out. Like Brer Rabbit, I would have to be clever.

I learned a lot of helpful hints when I started my new job. I learned how to research case law and where to look for precedents. I learned that BC was in the process of changing their policy on gender markers and that Alberta had already established a trans-friendly way to have the health care marker changed. I compiled all my evidence and wrote another letter explaining my situation, describing my experiences at the hospital and sent it off to the Director of Health Administration.

And I copied the Minister of Health, the Deputy Minister of Health, and the Director and Deputy Directors of Health Care Policy Legislation and Communication and my GP.

It took just over a month but I received an email that stated that in light of this new information my gender marker would be changed immediately and they apologized for the delay and any inconvenience that it had caused me.

Pretty much a total win. Even though there is no gender marker on my health care card, my gender is visible to any person who has access to my health care information from admitting clerks to lab techs to the ophthalmologist. Since my gender is irrelevant for all of those people, it will be nice not to have to explain why my appearance doesn't match what they see on their screens.

I will be writing them one last time to thank them for being open to change and for being accommodating, right before I ask to see the revised policy.


Alive and Well in the Afterlife

Harvey Milk, (May 22, 1930 – November 27, 1978)
Since completing my transition insofar as surgeries are concerned, I have been struggling with the before and after: life before transition and life after. The completion of my hysterectomy has made me come face to face with the reality of being a transsexual. I am grappling with exactly how I want to exist in the here and now as someone who has experienced the world as a woman and who is now un-learning some of that to live in it as a man. It's odd to be learning about men from this perspective and I see what misconceptions some women have and how so much of what I thought I knew is completely false.

I now exist in the after world in a sense: after surgery, after hormones, living the post-trauma of gender dysphoria. Here I stand in this remodelled body navigating the paradigm shift that is my new reality as a man. I no longer feel awkward, I don't feel shame about my body, I don't feel like I need to cower inside baggy clothes or "act" in my every day life. Behaviours that were previously considered "inappropriate for a lady" are no longer anything to be ashamed of. I can just be. I don't have to make excuses or feel like a liar. Every time I see the shape of my body in a t-shirt, every time I catch a glimpse of my emerging moustache or hear someone refer to me a "he" or "him" I feel good. But sometimes when I hear myself referred to with male pronouns I panic as if someone has found out my secret but that must be some sort of leftover fear, a programmed emotional re-run from years of being taught to be ashamed of wanting to be a boy.

I've posted a lot about becoming a man and what that means. As I learn more about what it means to be a man and work on becoming my own man I realized something else: I have to decide what kind of transsexual I want to be. Am I going be in the closet living quietly as an an anonymous face in the crowd or am I going lead by example and be a role model for those who still need an example of a regular boring trans guy, not a celebrity or guest on an entertainment talk show. Regular folks, your neighbours, coworkers, community need to see that transsexuals aren't something to fear. It was Harvey Milk's speech about gays coming out that sits in the back of my mind, that makes me think I have an obligation to be visible so that it will be easier for others in the future:

Come out to your relatives... come out to your friends... if indeed they are your friends. Come out to your neighbors... to your fellow workers... to the people who work where you eat and shop... come out only to the people you know, and who know you. Not to anyone else. But once and for all, break down the myths, destroy the lies and distortions. For your sake. For their sake. For the sake of the youngsters.....

"That's What America Is," speech given in San Francisco on Gay Freedom Day (1978-06-25)

I am sure there will be days when I want to just blend in with the crowd and days that I will need to face fear and stand up for those who aren't ready. I haven't been very good at that in the past and it's something I'll be working on in the future. I'll keep you posted.


More Health Care Bureaucracy

Every six months or so I have to go to the hospital and into the lab to have my blood taken. I get the testosterone levels tested, a hematocrit and liver function tests done so that my doctor can ensure that all is going well with my hormone therapy. Every single time without fail there is confusion about what's going on and it usually results in everyone feeling embarrassed and awful.

This past week, instead of just calling my damn name they decided I needed to be "Miss" because NWT Health refuses to change my gendermarker on my health care forms. I have written and requested this happen but they say I need to change my birth certificate. I will not change my birth certificate. I will explain that choice in a future post.

To change my birth certificate, I need to get a letter from my surgeon that says that I have indeed undergone gender reassignment surgery. The most ridiculous part of all of this is that NWT health approved and performed my hysterectomy yet still want me to change my birth certificate.

I will be writing another letter to the director of NWT Health as well as to the minister of Health and as well to my MLA and MP. It seems incongruous to me that one arm of the government will have no problem changing your gender marker to reflect your gender presentation while another completely ignores you or refuses to enable you when they ahve already helped you complete your transition.

My hands are sticky with the glue of red tape.

I'll keep you posted.


Passport to Freedom

I haven't travelled outside of Canada for quite some time. I am actually terrified of travelling to the US by airplane and still fearful of crossing the border by car. I have put my hopes of visiting Oregon and Wyoming on hold until the paranoid insanity of the US dissipates, which unfortuneately doesn't seem like it will happen anytime soon.

As a transgendered person international travel has seemed like wishful thinking. I have avoided renewing my passport because I envisioned another humiliating experience of having to explain why my birth certificate and my driver's license have different genders on them. I am tired of trying to justify my reasons for not wanting to change my birth certificate and feel there really is no reason any country needs to know what my genitals look like if I am there as a tourist.

But recently I have been itching to see a little tiny piece of the world called Iceland. I want to go there and celebrate my transition, my independence, and my 40th birthday which is coming up next year. I was prepared to go there by myself and tour the country for a few weeks taking photos and checking a few things off my bucket list.

After an extremely successful summer road trip, my best friend and I decided we need to take more trips. When I told him about my plans to go to Iceland he jumped on board. I was super excited until I remembered I would have to renew my passport. At some point before my next birthday I'll need to get it all sorted out. So the other day I sucked it up and called Passport Canada.

I was totally shocked by their response.

Despite having read all sorts of nightmare stories about the difficulties with getting a passport if you are transgendered, the person I spoke to was extremely helpful and assured me there would be no problem. Provided I write a letter requesting the gender on my passport, and as long as I have government identification that support my gender marker request, I will have no problems attaining a passport with the gender marker I need to safely pass into a country without setting off any red flags or enjoying any complimentary cavity searches.

I happen to have two pieces of government photo ID, my driver's licence and my FAC certificate which both have my gender marked as male. It seems as though Canada really is moving forward with making things easier for transgender people. Yay Canada!

So with that happy news, I will start my application to have a 10 year passport.  Maybe I'll even get out once in a while and see a little more of the world, but I'll start that journey with Iceland next summer.


The Fragility of Alliances

One of the things I didn't mention in my last post about NWT Pride was the one controversial episode that leaves me with more questions than answers. Once again the man-in-a-dress scenario got me asking questions and left me with a bitter taste in my mouth.

 photo: Meagan Wohlberg, Northern Journal
Pride organizers were insistent on creating a safe space for everyone. as well as being a safe place for queers of all orientations and genders it was also meant to be a space free of sexism, racism and all the other negative "ism"s.

I was torn about whether or not to call attention to the two cis men in dresses as they seemed to be getting a lot of attention from the media folks and every person with a camera. I find it difficult to determine whether cis gendered men in dresses qualifies as an allegiance even if thier intentions are pure and good hearted. I am still not convinced that this is the best way to be an ally mostly because it is the socialized reaction to them that is offensive and oppressive.

I spoke to another transgendered person at the festival to see if what I was feeling was just an over-reaction to what was probably supposed to be entirely non-confrontational. This other person felt as strongly as I did that this wasn't really cool. Granted the boys were there trying to make a point: that men should be able to wear dresses in public if they want and not be ridiculed, and I have to admit that for the most part they did a pretty good job educating people when they were confronted. Most of their spectators (and I use this word specifically) were taunting them to get "girly" for photo ops. While the boys may have been trying to teach, the people in the beer garden appeared to be mostly interested in getting a picture with "the dudes in the dresses". Is it appropriate for cis men to wear dresses to a pride event? I tried to imagine how I might feel if I was a transwoman at that event and saw these two guys. Mostly I was angry and disgusted.

99.99% of the time you see a man wearing a dress it is supposed to be a joke. But what is funny about trying to live your life authentically? I am not arguing that a man can't wear a dress, what I am saying is that the act of doing so it makes it much more difficult for transwomen to be taken seriously as WOMEN. How can these guys even begin to understand the struggles a trans person goes through? By making themselves visible as cis men in dresses do they make transwomen more any less vulnerable to violence or ridicule?

It is a sad state at the present moment transwomen are too often beaten, raped and killed simply because they are trying to live their lives as their true gender. We all read heartbreaking news every week that involves violence against transwomen. And yes these guys may very well be allies and feminists and hopeful that they can educate and support and teach people about trans culture, or gender, or cross-dressing for that matter. But is it the best way to be an ally? Is being a cis man and wearing a dress to Pride the best way to be an ally to transwomen?

Ladies? What do you say? I would really like to hear your opinion.


Pride, Bravery, and the Cliks

The Cliks Play NWT Pride in Yellowknife, NT

This past weekend marked the second annual Pride Festival in Yellowknife. I have been trying to find more opportunities to be "out" and to mentor queer youth. Last year I simply attended the festival but this year I stepped up to volunteer. I spent nearly all day at the festival site working as security at the gate to ensure no weapons or alcohol were smuggled in. I checked a lot of ID cards because everyone looked so damn young but I guess that happens when you approach 40!

There were a lot of really great workshops again this year. From the healing power of the Dene Drum, to understanding two spirit identity, all the way to good old fashioned sex education to capitalism and LGBT issues. There was a lot of great information, discussion and of course fun! (The scissoring contest was particularly hysterical)

We were honoured with the presence of Lucas Silveira and the Cliks who played both Friday and Saturday nights. Lucas did a solo gig Friday night and played with the Cliks late Saturday, the first dark hot night of the summer. Once again the Northern Lights graced the sky over the festival and gave us that little bit of northern magic.

Northern Lights Grace the pride festival once again

I didn't really know that much about Lucas or the Cliks before this year's Pride but of course we all do our internet research via Google and what I learned about the man who performed at our festival was really inspiring.

Lucas Silveira at NWT Pride 2013

There are not a lot of "visible" transfolk out there. Probably because it is still a very vulnerable place to be. Despite the fact that the din over sexuality is hushing in Canada and parts of the US there are still places in this world where it's not ok to be any degree of queer. Lucas has decided either consciously or by happenstance to stand out and be recognized as trans and take all the crap that comes along with that position. Being out front is like being the lead goose on a long migration, you get all the bugs in your teeth and have to break the wind to make it easier for everyone else coming up behind you.

Lucas Silveira. Give him a hug, tell him thanks.
Lucas is standing up and standing out and being visible but in doing so he is vulnerable in a way many of us will never understand. Bullying, ostracization, and discrimination have likely been a part of our experience as trans people. Self doubt, paranoia, loneliness as well. Yet it is unlikely we have experienced that as a form of public humiliation as Lucas has being in the limelight. Having editors take and twist and cut your words so that your voice is lost and castrated before even being heard is not likely something many of us have experienced. And yet here stands a soft spoken and gentle man ready to take the brunt of crap for all of us and often without gratitude or appreciation. But it is events like pride that let us see ourselves and be proud so that we can stand beside the ones out front. It is our time to stand up and take the hands of the ones who have been fighting and let them rest. Let's show them they are not alone and that despite all they feel they are carrying on their shoulders we are holding them up upon ours.

Thank you Lucas, for everything.


Out Fishing with the Boys

Last year I submitted a couple of photos to the CPAWS Love the Land Calendar Contest and won a guided fishing trip with the executive director of CPAWS NWT.  Unfortunately the  prizes were handed out late in the season so I had to wait all winter to cash it in. Finally on June 16 I met him down at the dock for a day of fishing on Great Slave Lake.
Our day started off a little cool, the ice had only come off the bay a week earlier and the water was still near freezing. Fog covered the bay and once we moved away from the dock and past the apparitions of bobbing houseboats, it was easy to imagine being lost at sea. We were all bundled up in our long sleeves, sweaters, and windbreakers and there may have been a toque present despite the fact it was mid-June.
The plan was to go after some Inconnu, Lake Trout and Pike as a last resort. After all, there’s probably not a lake in the whole Territory you can drop a Five of diamonds into and not catch a Pike.  We trawled along the eastern shore of Yellowknife Bay in about 30 feet of water. We took our time and chatted a bit about fishing and watched the fog rise like a white mountain from the grey surface of the water. The Inconnu and Trout were just not biting so we decided to try our luck at a different location. We made our way to the chain of rocky islands just southeast of Detah, finally breaking through the edge of the weather and out into the sunshine.
Now at some point after a couple of cups of coffee, you have to go. The guys each stood up on either end of the boat and just began watering I however was stuck to my seat wishing there was an easier way to get to shore than to have to lie about needing to find a more substantial plot of land for my business. I didn't really feel I wanted to out myself on the trip just to have a pee but there I was needing to go pretty bad and having to watch the guys leisurely relieving themselves with no thought. This was one of those days I wished I had spent more time practising with my STP. Anyhow I sheepishly asked if we could go to shore and besides finally getting to empty my bladder I had a chance to warm up on the rocks before climbing back in the boat.
With the sun out and the wind easing up, we were able to strip out of our winter gear and enjoy fishing around the islands. We caught a few good sized Pike in the shallows of a protected area out of the wind. We tucked them into the boat and promptly found ourselves a nice sunny spot with a view of the city to cook up our shore lunch. Beer is an especially welcome compliment to freshly fried Great-Slave Northern Pike after a cool day of being out on the water along with beer, our guide brought fresh greens from his greenhouse and an incredible home-made dressing and in minutes I dug into my very first shore lunch.
Despite the slight inconvenience and awkwardness of the bathroom break all in all a pretty good day for this guy. 
Have you had any awkward experiences like this? Share them in the comments!


Arctic Pride

This is a little post about the supportive queer community up north. Last August, I attended the first of the newly revived NWT Pride celebrations. I wasn't sure what to expect going in but I was impressed with the diversity and support the event received from the people of the city. There was a tiny little protest by way of poster thieving but I like to think the posters were just so cool that someone needed them to paper the inside of their own miserable closet.

The event was promoted and supported by the NWT Pride and It gets Better YK who had the amazing band Hunter Valentine headline the big event. There were workshops on drag make-up, two-spirit identity, retirement questions for queers, and many information sessions and booths featuring queer friendly organizations. It was a great opportunity to hang out, be out, and meet people. There was a great turnout for the Saturday night show and when the aurora started across the sky it seemed as though the summer came to a perfect end.

This summer, pride celebrations come earlier and I hope that we have great weather and another great turnout for the festival.I am planning to volunteer some time to the festivities so be sure to check back and have a look at some arctic pride.


Man-iversary Number 3

Can you believe my 3 year man-iversary came and went and I totally forgot about it? I knew it was coming up and I started a post and then it totally slipped my mind. So I guess after the fact, here is the post that should have been up two weeks ago.

I can't believe three years have passed since I started T and two have passed since I had top surgery. This whole becoming a new man thing has really gone pretty quickly though three years ago I would have said things were taking forever to move forward.

Life goes on whether you are transitioning or just living your life, trying to find work, buy a house, or have a family. Life is too short to make waiting around for one specific thing to happen your primary focus in life.

I've made a lot of new friends since moving north. I am proud to say that I have a few really cool friends who have shown me that there are caring, kind people out there who don't give a rat's ass that I am a trans sexual.  I am learning how to live comfortably as myself and trying not to take things too seriously.

I've been working really hard at my job and though I hit a really rough patch  for a few months I have come to understand that there are a lot of things that I can't control. I am trying to focus on becoming better at my job and worrying solely about the things that are my responsibility. No job is worth being miserable and nothing is forever, two rules to remember when things aren't feeling like they're working out.

As an artist, my career is picking up. I have had a number of exhibitions this year and I am working at building up an audience. I had a great show opening just a week ago and have a couple more shows to participate in this year. I got a grant to buy a press so I am looking to create a new body of work for exhibit and will be working to make some work for sale in the winter.

I've had some challenges this year as well. Some of the people who I used to call friends have decided they want nothing to do with me. After many attempts to contact them and never ever getting a response I took the hint and have stopped trying to continue any sort of relationship. I am really disappointed about this but life goes on. I would hope that the friends I have now would be open enough to talk to me if there was a problem and that I would be important enough in their lives for them to want to maintain a relationship. I suppose people move on and so I have stopped worrying about what I did or didn't do as I just don't have any more time to waste worrying about it.

I am really looking forward to the upcoming year, to seeing new places and trying new things. I am looking forward to new adventures, new opportunities and new challenges. (Ok honestly not the challenges but they're gonna come so I have to be prepared). Another year on the road to manhood.


Hey You. Here's what's New!

I've Been Touring Around Taking Photos of the Territory
Ok, you feel neglected. I understand. It's been a while since I posted an update on well, anything. My 3 year milestone is just around the corner and honestly I can't believe I STILL don't have a moustache! But I'll get to that later.

So first things first. Overall things are pretty good. I am still having random migraines though not as frequently as right after my hysterectomy so I am hoping they will taper off and disappear altogether. All of the itty bitty incisions finally healed up and I have very little scarring in that respect. The bleeding took weeks to finally quit but all in all I think we have finally established a new normal and it's terrific. Never again will I have to undergo a pap or a cramp or a tampon. Hooray!

My chest surgery has smoothed out considerably though I have some seriously mean looking scars from the revision. I am not sure if there is any way to sort them out now but perhaps either ultrasound or silicone gel will break up the keloid tissue and remove some of the redness. The scars used to be quite painful and tight but I guess the elasticity returned and the pain has mostly disappeared.

The mood swing is still a bit concerning and I am having trouble deciding whether this is a seasonal mood thing or an actual depression. Honestly who wouldn't be depressed at the prospect of 4 months or more of weather in the -30C to -50C with only a few hours of daylight a day. I actually feel like I came to love the winter even more despite the crappy temperatures and havoc it wreaked on my car, (that's another story).

I have been really busy with my art practice and have participated in three shows already this year with three more yet to come. I've also been volunteering on a couple of boards and working a lot though I am starting to think I may need to cut back on saying yes to everything and start making some time for myself again.

I am looking forward to a big road trip this summer, camping, hiking, fishing and photographing the southern part of the Territory. I am really looking forward to the break and the adventure and  a lengthy portion of time outdoors enjoying "boy time" in the bush. Of course I will give you a full report with images when I return.  

In the meantime I have a few posts up my sleeve so be sure to check in once in a while to see what's new!


Strange Post-Surgery Side Effects

It's been 5 weeks since my surgery and I am doing pretty well. I have had a few issues with healing and likely it is because I feel ok and then do something that sets me back.....like shovelling snow. I worked from home for two weeks then did half days a the office before returning to full days this week. I am still experiencing some bleeding and a bit of pain on my right side which may or may not be related to the surgery.  For the most part I feel like I can do most of my regular activities and because I feel ok I think I do things that I maybe shouldn't.

Just last weekend I went out with a friend to chase down the aurora for an all night photo shoot across one of the ice roads. I waited three weeks to start driving again just to be sure I didn't over do it. But there have been a few weird little glitches that I didn't count on the most significant being the return of migraines.

When I was about fifteen, I remember getting a brutal migraine on the bus on the way to school. Before I could even make it to my first class I was in the bathroom on my knees puking my guts out and wishing someone would take the axe out of my head. I remember thinking there was no way a headache could be this bad and that a person would survive. I remember this all happening right around the time I started taking the birth control pill and after a few months of random headaches they went away. I didn't have another headache until I was in my mid twenties and went off the pill. Now, I've had my hysterectomy and again the migraines are back.

I actually had my last migraine the same night my buddy and I went out chasing the aurora – just a week ago. I had to have a him drive me home from work because I had lost a significant portion of my vision, kind of a dangerous thing if you are driving. I left work early and took an anti-inflammatory as soon as I got home. Then I lay down on the couch with an ice pack on the back of my neck and waited for the headache to run its course. By the time we were supposed to leave (about six hours later), the pain had mostly dissipated. I still had a pretty good headache but I just took another pill, washed it down with coffee and let the cold air and fresh air soothe the ache.

I remember reading somewhere that migraines could be triggered by changes in hormone levels and I was anticipating headaches after I started taking testosterone but they never happened. Now I am convinced that they are linked to my estrogen levels. I don't know if there is anything that I can do in the meantime besides avoid stress and stay healthy, get enough sleep and be aware of any prodromes (pre-symptoms) and keep a record of when they happen. 

It's been a while since I've experienced a migraine aura which are actually a lot like aurora borealis...sometimes they are faint and hard to see, other times they are really bright and overwhelming. Both aura and aurora move and flicker, both are unpredictable in when they appear, and while the aurora borealis is beautiful and breathtaking, the visual aura of a migraine has it's own odd beauty.

Has anyone ever had migraines as a result of their HRT or had experiences with migraines after having a hysterectomy?


Why a man in a dress is just not funny.

The long standing joke of a man in a dress is becoming a drag. Literally. How often have you heard of a man losing a bet and having to put on a dress? The implication being that it is humiliating for a man to become a woman, that a woman is still somehow less than a man. A woman in pants is not even worth mentioning and would pass only as simple fact or description and likely without any gestures or innuendos about her sexuality either. How many really really bad movies have men even as recently as last year where men dress up as women in the lamest effort to be funny? That these movies are geared toward young men is not an accident and without question helps to perpetrate the idea that a man in a dress is hysterical. But If you stop for a moment and really think about it........is it that funny? And if it is funny, can you pinpoint exactly what you are laughing at?

The photo to the right is gorgeous. It is poignant and relevant at this moment in our history where transgender people are fighting hard for recognition and equality. It was shot in a photography workshop by a student and was one of the few images of the man in the dress that was more serious and I think that gives it power.

The background story goes like this:  When the scheduled model called up to say she was running late, this amazing and courageous young man stepped up and stepped into the dress to model for his classmates. He was not afraid to stand in and allow the other student photographers in the workshop to photograph him in a dress until the "real" model arrived.  This photograph was later posted to a Facebook page and generated a lot of comments most of which were positive and supportive:
  • Awesomely creative! Love it! 
  • this guy is awesome 
  • Your expressive face, with all your hair pulled back so we can see every dramatic emotion, the joy at finally being allowed to wear women's clothing in public. 
  • He rocks that dress better than a lot of women would...and with much more confidence as well!
But sadly many of them were the same old rhetoric :  
  • Hard to drink her pretty!  
  • Nice dress .. Hhahahaha  
  • Horrifically awesome is an apt description! poor guy..
  • ...........no comment................
  • Yikes! 
  • this is just wrong
I debated whether or not to post a comment of my own and finally decided I would because I want to change the way people see transsexuals. I want people to look beyond the clothes and see the beautiful, brave souls wearing the skirts and the shirts and ties. I think it is time to bring awareness about transgender issues back into the collective consciousness so that we aren't falling into the trap of just repeating old tired rhetoric. It's time to be thoughtful and kind and fight with those who still don't have the privileges afforded others. I know it is a hard fight, particularly now in this time of garbage they call news: fear-mongering gossip and titillating sexual scandals. But let's at least try.

How many transgendered women are beaten, raped, or murdered because they are seen as "a man in a dress"? How many LGBT youth are bullied, disowned by their families or commit suicide because it is less terrifying and painful to die than to carry on living as the butt of some tired patriarchal joke? Some people will say I am over reacting and I understand it may seem like it is a little bit out of proportion with the content but where is it you start to draw the line? A stupid comment? A hate speech? Bullying? A physical assault? Rape? Suicide? Murder? Until no person is being killed for the clothes he or she chooses to wear, I will continue to try starting a conversation to help people understand the challenges faced by transgender people. Education is one way to alleviate fear and hopefully by talking about gender identity we can stop to consider the implications of these old jokes on the people who suffer the consequences.

It is time for this joke to end because really, this is no laughing matter.


Hysterectomy Post-Op Update #2

So it's been almost two weeks since I went under the knife for my hysterectomy. Things are progressing but not as quickly as I hoped. I am trying hard to restrain myself from over-doing it which is far too easy when you aren't in a lot of pain. I tried shovelling the sidewalk last week (not a great idea) and though I didn't encounter a lot of pain my bleeding certainly increased which is apparently the biggest sign of overdoing something. I tried a small bit of vacuuming yesterday and seem ok so far. More than anything my mood is what is needing some TLC.

I was still pretty unsure about removing perfectly good organs. Even now I am not sure if I have done the "right" thing. I suppose because there is such a lack of research and therefore evidence of what the future holds with respect to cancer risks, hormone therapy, osteoporosis or other health issues, I am still unconvinced that removing something that wasn't broken was necessary.

You are probably asking why the hell would I go ahead and have a surgery if I wasn't 100% sure? I can't honestly answer this. The reasons I had for going ahead were more important than the ones I had for leaving it alone. I can't predict the future.  Whether or not I developed ovarian cancer or cervical cancer didn't feel like a solely good enough reason to proceed. So if I wasn't having surgery to prevent cancer why was I undergoing a potentially risky surgery to remove something as benign as an unused pair of ovaries and uterus?

My reasons may not make sense to anyone else but I had to be able to justify this to my doctors and to myself. I never really experienced any sort of dysphoria from my reproductive organs. It wasn't as if they were visible or misrepresenting me in any way. I didn't have to hide them and being single meant that no one was interested in getting in my pants except me. Despite experiencing some pain and cramping  everything was as normal as it gets for a trans guy.

I wanted to be able to reduce my testosterone intake and hopefully stop any confusion or conflict created by having both ovaries and testosterone in my body. I found out afterwards that my ovaries were all shrunk up as if they had come out of a menopausal woman. I had my suspicions that estrogen didn't have quite the stronghold on my system as it might in a regular female. It took only one shot of T to shut everything off. It was as if my body was finally relieved that the "true" hormone finally showed up to do its job and estrogen had merely been a temporary solution for survival. The relief was real.

But I suppose the biggest reason to have the surgery was to make it real. I had to make a decision and I had to own it. I had to have faith in that seven year old who knew exactly who he was. I had to beat the fear, the doubt, the what if and just do it. More than anything that was the scariest part. There is no going back. There is no undo button,  no way those pieces back if for any reason I felt I fucked up. I needed to do it or not do it but not paralyze myself with indecision.

So I went through with it.


Hysterctomy Post-Op Update #1

Well here it is three days since I had my total laparoscopic hysterectomy. I am feeling pretty good, taking things easy, recovering at home in the company of my three cats. For the most part, the surgery was exactly what I expected: pain, drugs, sleep, aches, lots of fluids, television and naps.

I am not sure how long the surgery was, I don't remember being in the recovery room at all and only remember moving from the surgical bed into my hospital bed. I do remember making a fuss about the pain and mistaking the pain of the vag packing for the catheter. Once the packing was removed I could finally deal with the catheter and get comfortable enough to sleep for most of the rest of the day.

One of the side effects of T is an increase in haemoglobin which put me at higher risk of developing blood clots. This meant that I had to be on blood thinners before and after surgery. Unfortunately nothing as simple as an Aspirin would do so instead I had shots of Heparin injected in my stomach before and after surgery. Along with the Heparin I wore pressure socks that were hooked up to an air pump to massage my lower limbs, also to help reduce the risk of blood clots.

Anaesthetic has never been a friend of mine and I usually puke at some point after being put under. This time the anaesthesiologist gave me extra anti nausea meds but I still found that I was nauseated. I think there's a chance the sick feeling was a side effect of the morphine as I felt really dizzy after the shot they gave me. My night nurse hooked a little bag up to my IV which made all the nausea disappear and finally I was able to eat without feeling sick to my stomach.

I had great care at the hospital an the doctors and nurses were all really great. No one made me feel awkward or weird about being the transsexual on the floor, and the care I got was really fantastic. I returned home the day following my surgery and honestly probably should have stayed the night. The second day is always worse than the first and I spent most of the day sleeping and re-regulating my meds. I have no doubt that with continued rest and diligent care I will feel much better and need to remind myself to take it easy.

Will post another update soon.


Bye-Bye Baby Maker

In less than one month, I will be going under the knife one last time, and as far as the government is concerned my transition will be complete. It has taken a long time to finally get approval to go ahead and even though it is all set and ready to go I am still apprehensive about it.

When I was awaiting top surgery I was far more anxious about how I looked and even after being on T for a year I still had a great deal of dysphoria about my chest.  I have never really felt anything about my uterus except contempt once a month. Thanks to testosterone that stopped and I haven't really given my baby-making parts much thought since. Now that they are going to be removed I am wondering if their absence will make any difference to how I feel.

I am fortunate that I do not have to go to another city for surgery. Having surgery here means I will have two gynecologists performing the surgery instead of one gynecologist and a student. Because I live alone I will actually be admitted to stay the night to make sure I can return home and look after myself. I don't anticipate any problems as I am having the least invasive procedure available, a total laparoscopic hysterectomy. I will only a few small scars on my abdomen where the instruments and camera will be inserted. After two to three weeks I should be able to return to work.

Hopefully everything will go smoothly and I will be home and on the road to recovery in no time. Thank goodness I can work from home and won't have to rely on unemployment to see me through the hardest and busiest month of the year.

As usual, I'll keep you posted on the results and recovery. In the meantime, tell me how your experience was? Was the outcome better or worse than expected? How did your reovery go? Any change in how you felt about yourself, your body, life in general?


New Year, New Man

It's been a while since I've posted and I seem to be saying that more often than I like. What it does tell me though is that I am settling into my new self and am not entirely focused on every minute detail of my transition. I suppose that is mostly because I am finally at a place where I am at peace.

I started this journey just two and a half years ago and it that short amount of time I have become a brand new man. I moved away from my home and family to a small isolated city in the Canadian arctic where I had a chance to start over, to be whomever I wanted. I had a brand new shiny clean start and the new story would be all mine.

I spend a lot of time thinking about the kind of person I want to be; I've even written some posts about men I admire. It's easy to get wrapped up in negativity, gossip, and misery if that is what surrounds you. It is really hard to be positive and kind when so many focus on what's bad, what's wrong, what's lacking in the world around them. Granted there are times when life will be shitty, people will be mean, and bad things will happen but just like with transition there is always light at the end of the tunnel. The hard part (and the most rewarding part) is being that light.

I made some great changes in my life last year and while I won't call them "resolutions" I did set myself some personal goals. I am happy to report that for the most part I achieved everything I set out to. I'd like to share a few of these things with you.

I stopped watching the news. This simple act has had a really profound impact on me. No longer do I feel sad, frustrated, angry and powerless about all the atrocities that are going on in the world, but I also am liberated from being spoon fed an opinion about it. Stop watching the news, be happy.

Another great thing that has really improved my life (and my savings account) is quitting drinking. Alcohol is a depressant and it does nothing to make you feel better. I have met many interesting and wonderful people who are not bar stars and I have a great and easily managed social life that does not involve going to a bar or pub, but instead revolves around, conversation, common interests and fun. Quitting drinking also helped me lose weight and I haven't made any poor decisions as a result of alcohol.

Along with quitting drinking, I stopped eating out at restaurants and the drive-thru. The only exception to this is for coffee and the occasional doughnut. I have learned to enjoy cooking my own food, grocery shopping, and have slowly acquired a fairly well stocked pantry and a lot of nice culinary utensils. I occasionally have people over for supper and always have something in the freezer if I am really not in the mood to cook. I know what I am eating, I know who has touched my food, and I know how long it's been sitting in the fridge. All around tastier and healthier!

This summer I rode my bike a lot. I also spent a lot of time outside in my kayak, hiking, wandering around in the bush and exploring the outdoors. I started taking my camera with me everywhere and all that practice paid off– literally. I sold two photographs this year. That might not sound like much, but it's two more than I sold last year! my goal was to ride my bike to work more days than I drove, so at least 3 of five days I was on two wheels. What I found was I was so out of shape! But more importantly, I LOVED it! The bike trail to downtown is gorgeous, filled with birds, squirrels and the odd red fox. Fresh air, no cars and a view of the lake plus it actually took me less time to bike to work than drive. Saved money on gas and got exercise, that's a double win.

Finally I set myself some financial goals. I took stock of what I had, what I owed, and what I needed to live every month. I created a budget based on the worksheets of the lovely Gail Vaz-Oxlade and stuck to my budget. I set a goal for how much money I wanted to make from my artwork and set a goal for RRSP savings. I achieved all of it. I paid off a ton of debt, saved a small emergency fund, and made a decent contribution to my retirement plan.

You can have a new start any day of the year, you don't have to wait for a new month, or a new year. Start over on a Tuesday in March. Every day is a new day and an opportunity to make choices that reinforce who you want to be. No matter what you want, no matter what your goals, you can start moving toward achieving them one small step at a time.

Best wishes to you all for a happy, healthy, prosperous 2013!