Tag Archives: ftm

The Paperwork Obstacle Course

Babe Didrikson, demonstrates her hurdling technique. 1932.

Babe Didrikson, demonstrates her hurdling technique. 1932.

In July, after my intake appointment at Callen-Lorde (NYC’s LGBT health clinic), my nurse practitioner told me that my cholesterol was high. I needed to lower it before I considered starting testosterone. I bought a bottle of fish oil.

I carried a card in my wallet, with the name of a prominent cardiologist on it, for three months. When I called, the office manager told me that I can’t schedule an appointment until the cardiologist looks at my file. She gave me her name and the fax number, which I wrote down on the back of an envelope.

The next day, I pulled up the Callen-Lorde patient portal expecting to send my results over. I attempted to log in. I tried every permutation of my user IDs and passwords. I phoned Callen-Lorde, and they realized that when they initially registered me they incorrectly entered my e-mail address in my profile (which explained why I never got any emails from them). I dropped by their office to straighten it out and re-register.

I went home, set up the user name and password, wrote the password down on the patient portal information sheet, opened up my file to get my results, and couldn’t find them. I clicked around a lot and gave up. I was going to call Callen-Lorde back and ask where to find my test results, but it was late in the day and the medical records office was closed. I had to wait until the morning.

I thought about calling Callen-Lorde every day, but there was always an excuse to put it off. I waited for a month. Continue reading

Ma’am and Microaggressions

Comic by Transitive Properties (see notes).

Comic by Transitive Properties (see notes).

Every time I get called Ma’am, it’s like getting slapped in the face with a dead fish.

For years I’ve tried to adjust to strangers calling me Ma’am. I’ve tried to ignore it. To acknowledge it and let it roll off of me. To accept that in a cisnormative society I’m perceived as a masculine female or as a butch lesbian. To accept that some people must use only Sir, Miss, or Ma’am in their jobs. To accept that other people can’t imagine any other alternatives, even when one is standing right in front of them.

I’ve tried to listen to the tone of the Ma’am. To guess the intention. Is it friendly? Is it innocent? Is it automatic? Is it sardonic? Is it because they don’t know what else to call me?

I wish it didn’t bother me. There are far worse things going on in the world than the cashier at Whole Foods calling me Ma’am. Or the bank teller. Or the staff at the front desk of the gym. Yet each Ma’am smacks me in the face.

I don’t know if calling me Ma’am counts as a microaggression, but it feels like one to me. Columbia Professor Derald Wing Sue defines microaggressions as “brief, everyday exchanges that send denigrating messages to certain individuals because of their group membership.” Microaggressions are “different from deliberate acts of bigotry because the people perpetrating microaggressions often intend no offense and are unaware they are causing harm.” Microaggressions “include statements that position the dominant culture as normal and the minority one as aberrant or pathological, that express disapproval of or discomfort with the minority group, that assume all minority group members are the same.” Continue reading

I’m Ready to Ring in 2016

Jamie-Resolutions

Calvin and Hobbes

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions. I have a mental list of stuff I ought to do that I didn’t get around to doing in 2015. Some items are holdovers from 2014, perpetually on the verge of almost being attended to.

I had great hopes for 2015, but it was a hard year. I’m glad it is over. I’m not going to sugar coat it. Donna’s open heart surgery, hospitalization, and recovery took a lot out of me. I was discouraged (and furious) on Labor Day weekend, when she missed a step, fell, and broke her ankle. She ended up in the hospital again, and then in rehab. She came home in a wheelchair, and slowly progressed to using a walker, and last week to using a cane. I love her, but I don’t love being her caretaker. We got on each other’s nerves. We adjusted. We are getting back to normal.

We didn’t go to Italy (we cancelled the trip after Donna’s fall). I didn’t make time for ice skating. I never finished cleaning out my room (I did clear out a closet, a dresser, and take 6 quarts of coins ($712) to the bank). I let the mail pile up out of control again. I let my legal and financial paperwork fester. I didn’t call my brother.

I did go for my top surgery revision, see a doctor for a physical, get a colonoscopy, maintain my weight, and go to the gym irregularly enough to not lose ground. I swam in the ocean in board shorts and a rash guard. I didn’t go to hell in a handbasket. I’m in a satisfactory place to start 2016. Continue reading

You Don’t Need To Explain

Ever-widening-gulfLast week I went a Weight Watchers meeting at a new location. Before weighing in, I asked the woman at the front desk where the restroom was. She handed me the men’s room key and told me it was down the hall and on the left. I put the key back down on the counter without saying anything and picked up the women’s room key. When I came back, I weighed in at 139 lb. I want to stay close to my goal weight of 140 lb. through the holiday season. I don’t want to use food or wine to numb out my feelings. This post is my reminder.

You are valid. You don’t need to explain your identity. You can use as many labels as you need or no labels at all. You can use a label that doesn’t fit properly if the right label doesn’t exist yet. You can go back and forth between butch, queer, genderqueer, non-binary, and transgender. The label changes nothing.

You don’t have to prove anything to anyone else. You know who you are inside. You don’t have to match up exactly inside and out. You need to look in the mirror and see yourself in the reflection. You are both fine the way you are and you need to change. There will always be discrepancies and inconsistencies. You don’t have to be defensive about them.

Once you acknowledged your identity you began to transition. There is no starting line and no finishing line. There is no set of steps you have to follow. You don’t need to run as fast as you can. You don’t need to be constantly in motion. It is hard to speed things up, but it is possible to slow them down. It is not a race. It is not a competition. You are not trying to win a trophy. Continue reading

My Top Surgery Revision

top-surgery-revision

Operation!

At 9 AM I hopped into a taxi with my friend Tracey, and we zig zagged through midtown traffic to Dr. Weiss’ office. He and I talked about the pucker in the front of my chest and the size of my nipples. I apologized for being a fussbudget. He reassured me. Lots of people want their nipples redone.

I stayed vaguely awake during surgery. I kept my eyes closed, but I could feel where he was working. Whenever I winced he gave me another shot of local anesthesia. It was over in less that an hour. He dressed my wounds with three 3×3 inch gauze pads and some tape. He told me to refrain from showering for 24 hours, to change the dressing daily, and to take it easy for a couple of days. Come back in two weeks; call if there is any discharge or anything unusual. I had a little trouble buttoning my shirt and tying my sneakers. Although I am a veteran of several surgeries, I forgot to wear slip-ons. I also left the after care instructions in his office.

I was home by noon. The pain meds wore off at 4 PM. I took a Tramadol that was left over from my last surgery, then a few hours later I took another. Continue reading

Two Things I Learned From My Colonoscopy

First, I need to find a less awkward way to tell medical staff that I had top surgery. Second, I need to learn how to ask for help when I need it. Third, no one wants to hear about my colonoscopy.

my-butch-colonoscopyWhen you see a new doctor, you fill out a form and list all of your surgeries. I’ve had surgery to repair a torn meniscus (knee), to remove fibroid tumors, to remove my uterus (partial hysterectomy), and to remove my breasts (top surgery). The nurse at East Side Endoscopy didn’t know what I meant by top surgery, so I told her I had a bi-lateral mastectomy. She asked if it was for cancer, and I said no, and left it at that, but I felt her question dangling, unanswered.

I only had gotten three hours of sleep, and I hadn’t had any coffee, and I nearly said cosmetic, but I caught myself. My transition, no matter how ambiguous it is, no matter how much it has to do with how I look, is not cosmetic. I’m still angry that my health insurance refused to pay for top surgery. They claimed it was not medically necessary. I couldn’t find the words to explain to the nurse that top surgery is gender confirmation surgery or to tell her which gender it confirmed.

I’d like to find a phrase that is clear. That isn’t pathologized. That doesn’t sound like a euphemism. That tells the truth. Continue reading

The Empty Pouch in My Boxer Briefs

how-i-pack

A genuine Jockey underwear advertisement, circa 1955.

There is an empty pouch in my boxer briefs. I notice it, but it doesn’t bother me. I don’t pack.

I never thought I was missing a penis. I was envious of my brother because he was a boy; not because he had a penis. I kept hoping that I’d wake up and be a boy. I prepared myself for this by practicing boy things, including standing up to pee. I gave that up after a few days, and went back to memorizing baseball statistics and solving math puzzles.

There is a hole in my vocabulary. I rarely talk about my genitals or anyone else’s. I don’t like to use either scientific terms or slang. The words sound foreign to me. Growing up, I pretended there was nothing there, the way male and female dolls are smooth and intact under their clothes.

Maybe because I was attracted to women, I didn’t pay any attention to penises. They seemed superfluous, and vaguely unclean, except on marble statues in the museum. Maybe because they seemed so important to everyone else I decided they were unimportant to me. Denial and dissociation as a defense against dysphoria.

I refused to wear fancy underpants. The kind with lace or hearts. I really wanted to wear my brother’s Fruit of the Looms. I knew not to ask (once in a while I stole a pair), and settled for six packs of plain white panties. When I grew up, I bought the simplest cotton hipsters I could find. White, black, gray, or navy. Jockey for Her. I pulled on my Levi’s to cover them up. Then it occurred to me that I could wear whatever underwear I wanted, regardless of what went in them, or what they were designed to cover. Continue reading

You Look Great, Did You Lose Weight?

One_lucky_butchNo, I lost my breasts. Except that I can’t really say that. I can’t easily explain, to someone who barely knows me, that I did lose weight, but they are probably noticing that I had top surgery (in December 2014) and then I went out and bought clothes that fit me. I lost some weight, but mostly I lost my shame. Not all of it, but a healthy chunk.

My dentist was the most recent person to ask me “You look great, did you lose weight?” He is a middle-aged straight white guy. He looks like he is in good shape. I imagine he has an easy life, but all I know about him is that he lives in the suburbs and took over the dental practice when his father retired. We mostly discuss my teeth. He is big on flossing.

He told me to “keep on doing whatever it is you are doing” and I was tempted to explain just what it is that I’m doing. He was picking up on something, but it eluded him. My transition is only visible if you know what you are looking for.

The gracious thing to say is “Thank you, I feel great.” and move on, but I hate when people bring up my weight. His statement implied that I used to look overweight, uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfashionable (true on all counts). He might have meant to pay me a compliment, but instead he fat shamed me. I don’t want it to be all about the weight. Continue reading

Mad About Plaid

too_much_plaidUsually I break out my flannel shirts right after Labor Day, but it is the middle of September and the weather has not changed. It is still summer in the city. I’m wearing my summer plaid.

My summer plaid are Madras. I didn’t plan to have a half-dozen Madras shirts hanging in my closet. I bought them, over the last two years, one at a time, unable to resist the patterns. All summer long, when I didn’t want to wear a T-shirt, but I didn’t want to wear a dress shirt, I threw on a Madras. Then I realized that Madras is as close as you can get to a summer flannel shirt. I love plaid.

I don’t understand how my personal style developed; how plaids got into my subconsciousness. If it is a butch thing, or a guy thing. Why plaid instead of stripes or paisley. Why plaid instead of Tattersall or gingham. How my child brain synthesized the idea of masculinity down into a plaid shirt. How I drifted into some sort of Ivy League goes hiking hybrid style.

madras-are-so-butchMy Madras are classic plaids; not the pastel Easter egg, flashy fluorescent, or psychedelic patchwork plaids. My plaids wouldn’t be out-of-place on flannel. The British brought the Scottish Tartan patterns with them to India, wove them into Madras cloth, and then spread them all over the rest of the British Empire. From India to Bermuda. Madras shorts, pants, jackets, and shirts made the jump to the U.S. in the 1950’s. They have been a preppy staple ever since. I only have the shirts. This article from Gentleman’s Gazette explains everything you might want to know about Madras.

I am lucky that authentic Madras shirts are still made. Even if they are not fashionable, they are still classic. They have not gone the way of bell bottoms or cargo pants. They are not a fashion crime, e.g. wearing over the calf tube socks with shorts.

I like timeless classic men’s fashion. I would like to wear out my favorites. To go back to a store and replace an object with the exact same item. The reality is slightly different. Lapels change, collars change, colors change, and the cut changes. There are a few classic outfits from each decade that could be worn today, but most outfits look dated. Men’s fashion changes more slowly than women’s, but it does change. A lot of guys don’t change with it.

I don’t want to be the middle-aged guy trying too hard to be cool. I don’t want to be the middle-aged guy wearing clothes that were in vogue in 1990. I don’t want to be the middle-aged guy wearing beige and gray. I know I’m at risk. This article from the Daily Mail explains why. Continue reading

Imagining the Future

When I was a child I could not imagine the future. I could not picture myself as an adult. What I might look like, who I would live with, or what I would do. I drew blanks.

I knew what I didn’t want to be. I didn’t want to be a girl. I didn’t want to be like my mother. I didn’t want to marry a man and have kids. I didn’t want to be a wife. I didn’t want to be a career woman in a skirt suit. I didn’t want to grow up. I didn’t want to do the long list of things that my mother did to get ready. I didn’t want to bother with pantyhose, lip stick, eye liner, foundation, perfume, hair spray, or nail polish. I didn’t know there were other options.

I survived by resisting my mother’s attempts to make me look like or act like a girl. I survived, but I did not thrive.

I thought in double-negatives. I didn’t do what I didn’t want to do. This is not the same as doing what you want to do. Whenever possible, I didn’t do the girl stuff. I dragged my feet and resisted. Sometimes I didn’t do anything at all. I stayed in my head or I read.

All of my fantasies were about being a boy. I kept the cognitive dissonance to a minimum by not fantasizing about being either a man or a woman. I didn’t want to grow up. I didn’t want to be a blank. Continue reading