Tag Archives: Transition

The Land of Enchantment

Near-Los-Alamos

New Mexico landscape

Pico Iyer wrote “We travel, initially, to lose ourselves; and we travel, next, to find ourselves.” in two weeks Donna and I will be going on an eleven day trip to New Mexico. It is the first time we’ve traveled together in two years. First, Donna had open heart surgery. Then, after she completed cardio rehab, we planned a trip to northern Italy. The week after we paid for our airline tickets she broke her ankle. Donna is walking with a cane, but it is the cancelled trip to Italy that still hurts.

New Mexico should be a painless trip. Donna won’t have to do a lot of walking. We won’t have jet lag. We will be driving though a beautiful part of the country, with many Pueblos, adobe churches, ancient cliff dwellings, and petroglyphs to visit. We were there 25 years ago, but I barely remember it, even when I look at the pictures.

Jamie, 1992, New Mexico

Jamie, 1992, New Mexico

We both need to shake up our routine, and traveling is the best way for us to do it. Sometimes you can only make sense of your world by stepping out of it. After we visit Santa Fe and Taos, I have no idea where we are going, except that I’ve insisted that it include a soak in a hot springs.

We are trying to not read too much into the trip, but we are both thinking that if we enjoy it then we might be able go to Italy in October. Donna doesn’t know if her current condition is as good as it is going to get, or whether her energy and walking strength will continue to improve. I don’t want New Mexico to turn into an eleven day stress test to see how much she can do before she wilts. We need to figure out what pace is comfortable, and make our peace with it.

Donna is anxious about the effect of the altitude (7000 ft. above sea level). I am anxious about the attitude. The airport security, public bathrooms, making a spectacle of myself by wearing trunks and a rash guard in the hot springs, and getting a massage.

I haven’t flown since I had top surgery. The last coupe of times I went though airport security were stressful. The TSA stopped me, patted me down thoroughly, questioned me, and swabbed my palms for explosives. There was also an unpleasant incident with a male security guard in the women’s restroom in the Houston Airport (this time we have a stop over in Dallas). I am bracing myself for another strange encounter.

If anything, this time around I am a bit more ambiguous, and a lot less likely to apologize when something happens. When I laid out my clothes for the trip (using Rick Steves’ Packing Checklist) I realized that I will be a study in blue. Blue striped T-shirts, blue plaid button downs, a chambray workshirt, blue swim trunks, and denim jeans. A blue zip hoodie and a midnight blue Gore-Tex jacket. Everything I am packing is something that I am 100% comfortable in. It is the best travel wardrobe I’ve ever assembled and not coincidentally, the most masculine.

One thing I like about travel is that I can leave my personal history at home, and be anonymous, or at least taken at face value. I experience myself differently in a new place, through my own eyes, and through other people’s eyes. Hopefully, I can take a break from my incessant questioning of where my transition is going, and just enjoy being where I am. The land of enchantment.

Notes: The Pico Iyer piece “Why We Travel” can be read, in its entirety, here.

The “Land of Enchantment” is the official nickname of New Mexico. Unfortunately, the official nickname of New York State is the “Empire State” which is much less enchanting.

Magical Thinking

fast-transitionWhen I was a child, I believed that I could become a boy by wearing boy’s clothes and acting like a boy. My first attempt to transition was when I was five. I got a short hair cut and I took a new name (I didn’t tell anyone that I changed my name, but I thought of myself as Paul). I refused to wear dresses. I waited for other changes to start happening. I waited for people to notice that I was really a boy. 

It was magical thinking. I really believed that if I tried hard enough and wished for it fervently, then something would happen. Then my mother would finally allow me to wear pants to school. Then my teacher would allow me to lineup with the boys. 

I refused to accept the obvious because it hurt more than insisting on the imaginary. I kept believing that it was possible, even probable, that I would wake up one day and be boy. While I waited, I lived “as if”.

According to Piaget, the prime ages for magical thinking are between two and seven years old. I started on time, but I missed the cutoff by about 50 years. I am a magical thinker. Continue reading

Reason for Visit?

LOW-DOSE-TESTOSTERONE-RISKSOn the part of the form that said “Reason for visit?” I wrote “discuss high cholesterol and the potential health risks of starting testosterone”. The Cardiologist listened to my heart with a stethoscope, took an EKG, looked at my blood work, asked me some questions about my exercise and diet, and asked about the circumstances of my parents’ deaths. I walked out with a prescription for low dose Atorvastatin (20mg once a week to lower my cholesterol) and a follow-up appointment in May.

He also gave me the green light for going on testosterone. He said that if I thought I’d be overall happier and healthier on testosterone then I should start taking it and we’d watch and manage my cholesterol. I should be ecstatic; my cholesterol was the only medical obstacle to starting testosterone. Instead, it sent me into another confused tailspin.

I talked to my Nurse Practitioner at Callen-Lorde. She offered to write me a prescription for testosterone and I told her I wanted to wait. She said to call her when I was ready. My next appointment isn’t until September.

Putting off taking taking testosterone feels different than saying “I’ve decided not to go on it.” Even if the outcome is the same. When I think about never going on testosterone, I get very sad. Crying sad. Raging at the unfairness sad.

It lets loose all of my childhood denial. I’m not really a girl, I can’t really be a girl, there has got to be a fix for this, I’m really a boy, and someday I’m going to turn into one. Somewhere in there I still have hope, even though nothing short of a time travel machine can turn me back into a boy. Starting testosterone won’t do it; it will make me look and sound like a man.

My reasons for wanting to start are straight forward. If I don’t try it then I will never know if it is the right thing for me to do. If I don’t like it, I can stop and call it quits. I want it to lower my voice. I want it to make people stop Ma’aming me. I want it to nudge me along.

My reasons for refraining are also simple. I might not like how I masculinize. Donna might not like how I masculinize. I will have a lot of explaining to do as I change, and I’m not sure what to say about it. Continue reading

Being Visibly Queer

darn-butchI was visibly queer before I was conscious of being queer. Back then, I was one of those kids you could spot a mile away and say “She’s going to be a lesbian when she grows up.” Now, you’d probably say “That kid is going to transition as soon as they can.” I’ve never been able to hide it. I never tried to look “normal”.

I didn’t know that I was trying to manage my dysphoria, I just knew that I wanted to look like a boy. I knew that every compromise hurt.

All through elementary school I wore dresses to school because it was “the law”. I wore the least feminine dress possible, but a dress is a dress, even if it is olive drab. Putting a dress on felt like a punishment for waking up. I swore that when I grew up I wouldn’t get married, have kids, or ever wear a dress.

I said I was a tomboy, and that I didn’t mind being a girl. I claimed that I wanted to wear boy’s clothing and sneakers because they were comfortable and practical. I didn’t tell anyone that I wanted to be a boy, or that I was a boy. No one wanted to hear the truth, even though it was obvious.

I repeated versions of that lie right through my adolescence and into adulthood. The olive drab dress gave way to jeans and a flannel shirt. When I came out, I liked that I was visibly, recognizably, butch. What was once a problem was now a solution. I went from being an outcast to being part of a community. Continue reading

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

Why I Hate Filling Out Forms

filling-out-forms-while-transI ended up being listed as Queer and Genderqueer in Callen-Lorde’s computers (with no preferred pronouns). Callen-Lorde is NYC’s LGBT health clinic. You make an appointment, fill out the forms, talk to a nurse, get your blood drawn, wait two weeks for the results, and if everything is good, you can get a prescription for cross-gender hormones. Normally I’m pretty speedy filling out forms. I’d already put down my sex assigned at birth (F) and the sex on my insurance (F), but I was flummoxed by these two questions:

Screen Shot 2015-08-07 at 3.38.45 PM

If the questions were fill-in-the-blanks I would have answered Sexual Orientation: butch (attracted to femme women) and Gender Identity: trans. Instead, I held the pen in the air and just stared at the questions. Confused. Lots of choices, but none of them are mine. Continue reading

Greetings from the Philadelphia Trans-Health Conference

philly-trans-healthI just came back from the 2015 Philadelphia Trans-Heatlh Conference. I’d gone there once before, in 2012, when I didn’t know what to do except that I needed to do something. I had a funny feeling that I didn’t want to transition directly to Male with a capital M.

In 2012 I was a lurker. I hadn’t changed my name. I hadn’t started to blog, I didn’t know any trans men, and I didn’t know anyone at the conference. I day-tripped from New York so I could go to a workshop on non-binary transition (given by Micah of Neutrois Nonsense). I didn’t talk to anyone, I just gawked. I didn’t feel like I belonged. I felt like a wanna be. Except that I wasn’t sure what I wanted to be.

I was envious of the middle-aged guys who transitioned ten years ago.  I was envious of the guys who high-fived their long-lost friends and seemed to know everyone at the conference. I went home from the 2012 conference thinking that I wasn’t going to transition, I was just going to do a few things to make myself feel more comfortable. I decided  to start by legally changing my name. Continue reading

The Rest of the Testosterone Circus in My Head

The Bearded Lady is 3rd from the left.

The Bearded Lady is 4th from the left.

Last week I posted part of my internal dialogue on low dose testosterone. This week I continue the argument. I also learned two new terms: “androgenic alopecia” which is the medical term for male-pattern baldness, and “hypertrichoisis” which is short for abnormal hair growth on the body.

You say you are in the middle, but you are actually just at the far end of female. To get to the real middle you need to take testosterone.

I know where I am. I don’t need to take testosterone to feel like I’m in the middle. I get read either way until I speak. Strangers resist seeing the middle. It confuses them. They want to pigeonhole me back into something they understand: butch lesbian. A Jamie on a low dose of testosterone could look just as confusing as a Jamie on no dose, except for maybe a lower voice.

There is no “real middle” in-between the two social constructs of female and male; there is only a place that I call the middle. I’m not sure why I don’t call it genderqueer. I’m not sure why I don’t call it non-binary.

The part of the middle I am comfortable in is the masculine middle, not the feminine middle. I am not fluid. I don’t have days where I feel female or want to be read as female. I’m in the middle, but it is the boy/man middle. I’m not sure how much deeper into the middle I can go. I’m not sure that testosterone will take me into the middle instead of directly to male.

You only want to take testosterone to fit in. You want to be able to say that you are on testosterone so that people will take you seriously.

I’m embarrassed that there is some truth in this statement. I’ve never felt like I fit in anywhere and mostly I’m OK with that. I didn’t fit in as a girl. I didn’t fit in as a butch lesbian. I’m used to being an outsider. I’m used to being a couple of standard deviations away from the average. Continue reading

No Dose Testosterone

super-trans-hormonesTestosterone. I talk myself into and out of taking it about once a week. I’m intrigued, but skeptical. Back when I thought the choice was to stay butch or transition to male, I decided not to start it. Then I realized that was a false choice. That regardless of how I identified, I could do whatever I needed to do to feel whole and authentic. Nothing was off the table.

Testosterone. I flinch when I write the word. I forget that I create my own testosterone. Everyone creates natural estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone, but in radically different proportions. I have no idea what my hormone levels are, but I know testosterone is in the mix. Do I want more?

I taunt myself with the question “If you are really transgender, then why are you so hesitant about increasing your testosterone level?” This is a rephrasing of “If you were really transgender you’d be taking hormones.”

I can debunk that. Testosterone, as we know it, has only been available since the late 1930’s. Transgender people existed before synthetic hormones existed. There are people who can’t get access to hormones (money, gatekeepers, availability), and people who have medical contraindications. And people who choose not to take hormones. They are all still trans.

Taking hormones doesn’t make you transgender. Surgery doesn’t make you transgender. Your choice of pronouns doesn’t make you transgender. I don’t identify with the sex I was assigned at birth. That is what makes me trans. That is what I would tell my seventeen year old self. If they would listen. Continue reading

Sitting on the Fence

It is hard to lasso Androgel.

Getty_Images  It is hard to lasso Androgel.

Donna caught me by surprise. She said “Stop saying that you’re not taking testosterone because I’m against it. I don’t want to be in that position anymore. Make up your own mind. Do whatever you want.”

It would be nice if Donna had said this lovingly, with the caveat that she will support me whole heartedly. That I will always be her Jamie no matter what path I take. Whether I am butch or trans. That I should do whatever I think is best for me. But that wasn’t exactly what she meant.

In January Donna had open heart surgery to replace a heart valve. The outcome, according to all her doctors, is excellent. The valve took, she didn’t get an infection, her heart is pumping properly, her heart rhythm is good, she doesn’t have atrial fibrillation. Continue reading