Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Transitioning Past a Past of Transitioning

In the coming days, you may notice some changes about this blog and the connected youtube channel. The names and titles and even domain names are going to be changing again.

The reasoning behind this is that I would like to be able to live life without worrying about who can google my first name and find out that the 4th link from the top leads directly to the inner depths of my soul and my past on this very blog. I'd rather be the one who eventually tells people (when I deem necessary) about such things instead of having them find out on their own.

Mind you, the changes I am making will not only take some time to take effect but they are also not foolproof. I don't plan on changing the content of any of my past videos even if they do mention my name and of course bear at least a similarity to how I look now and will in the future. But it will at least provide a certain comfort level for myself not only when dating but also when meeting new friends.

I hold on to the fact that my past is just that: my past. And not everyone I come across needs to know about it. At the same time, I've been told countless times that my story and all of the documentation that goes with it has been an inspiration to many and so I refuse to take it all down.

I do plan to continue to keep up this blog and the attached video logs but I have a feeling that with time, how often it gets updated will slow down as the updates transform from a transitioning woman to just the life of a woman.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Letter to a Mother

How can you be so cruel?
How can you go through feeling what it's like to lose a mother
and then not even begin to see from my shoes?
Do you realize that every time you send me an email
my heart is filled with such grief
and my eyes with such tears
that I want to cut my throat to make it stop?
And yet instead of cutting you off completely
I leave myself open for you to stomp on my heart again
only because I want to love you somehow
through your hate, past your vindication.
Do you wish that I was dead?
Would that be any different than what it is now?
Can you ever understand that this has been life or death for me?
The problem isn't that you refuse to understand
it's that you're too afraid
to even try.

The 12 days of Post-op

So today is 12 days since my surgery. I have experienced some amount of boredom being stuck at home (for the most part) so keep that in mind when approaching the following "12 days of post-op" I wrote up to the tune of "The 12 days of Christmas". It's very tongue and cheek.

On the twelfth day of post-op, my surgeon gave to me:
twelve kindle books, eleven baby wipes, ten bathroom breaks, nine hundred airmiles, eight ibuprofen, seven hours of swelling, six yards of packing, five headaches mean....four bouts of nausea, three new stitches, two percocets, and a catheter with which I could pee.

But in all seriousness, things are going very well. I'm still trying to contemplate the change, let it wash over me like a new morning....and it just hasn't quite happened yet. There are several reasons for this, I think. One is that I don't have quite all my feeling down there yet and it's not fully healed and pretty yet (although it's definitely getting there). Another is probably because the change really isn't all that different, it doesnt make me pass more, etc. Thirdly, for some reason going through surgery, I was mostly very calm and almost emotionless. My mom commented on it several times and I'm not sure if it was the testosterone in my system or what.

So yeah, I'm still waiting for it to hit me. =)

Friday, March 25, 2011

My Journey

My mom gave me a gift after I had my surgery. It's a Journey Ring.

What is a Journey Ring? eHow.com says:
A journey [ring] is a relatively new kind of jewelry that is used to commemorate and recognize special moments, dreams, adventures and journeys that occur in life. These [pieces of jewelry] can either be presented as gifts to loved ones or they can even be purchased for yourself to commemorate something special you plan to do.

Mom said it was a symbol of my own journey, this transition I've made in my life. And what a journey it has been...and still will be....for many years to come.

Monday, March 21, 2011

"Home"

The last three days were spent at Gwen's Post Op Recovery Place. Recovery has been slow but steady. We left this morning after saying goodbye to Gwen who gave us big hugs and kisses and told us what street to not work. I, in perfect consistency, immediately got on the free way heading away from San Mateo and had find a place to exit and turn around. Traffic on 101 was back and forth good and bad, but we finally got back to the hotel. At first I thought I had misplaced some of the items she needed for her appointment at Marci's be we found them. Dr. Bower's office was running behind and it was long wait. She was finally called back to get her packing out, the catheter out and be dilated the first time. She came out with a small smile on her face but looked tired. We were both hungry and glad to get back to the hotel. I fixed her a couple of simple things and then went to the store for more food for the next couple days.

I forgot to bring in her pads that she needs to lay on while she's doing her dilation and she had to wait for me to get back. I did finally quit lolly-gagging around Safeway and came back. I brought in the pads and she laid one out on the bed and did her first dilation herself. I watched her close. I did not see any pain or discomfort on her face. And she got 6" of depth. Really good start!

She has done just amazing through all of this! The headaches and the nausea, the bladder discomfort, the bleeding.. She's come through it all with a calm I can't fathom. I just can't.

-Shannon

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Saturday Evening

The last two days have been a little bit hectic.  Yesterday [Friday] Dr. Bowers came by, looked Debra over, removed the drain and gave her some instructions for the next three days.  I went to the airport in Oakland and picked up her Auntie Korine and Uncle Dave.  Debra and I were texting back and forth and she told me Gwen, the lovely, fierce woman who runs the Post-Op Recovery Place [http://www.postoprecoveryplace.com/] was on the way to pick Debra up and Auntie Korine, Uncle Dave and I headed for San Francisco and the Post-op place.  Our plan [plans never survive contact with the enemy!!] had been to find the house, and grab something to eat and then go back, hoping that Debra would be there by the time we finished.  We got to San Francisco and I lost all confidence in where I was going and got off the freeway -- turns out, just one exit earlier than I was supposed to.  Then we really got turned around trying to get to where we were going.  We finally pulled up to the house, just as Debra and Gwen were shutting the garage door.  We tried to stay out of the way and still help her get settled. Then Auntie, Uncle and I went down to finally catch lunch!

When we got back, Gwen let us know how things go here at the Post Op Recovery Place.  She has a way about her I can only call fierce!  I should try to define what I mean by "fierce."  There is no gray with this woman!  She is positive and energetic!  And she takes no shit of anyone! She won't answer the door in the morning before 11AM and we have to say goodnight by 8PM.  She is intensely interested in what Debra can eat and pumped me for everything!  But to say she works with her clients is such an understatement I cannot begin to describe it.  She is fierce for the women that come here! Fierce for their rest! Fierce their privacy! Fierce for their well being!  I have NO reservations about the health and well being of my girl here.  If come back next year, this is the place I am doing my recovery!

Debra was looking really gray yesterday and her anemia is a real concern to all of us.  Auntie Korine, Uncle Dave and I went to Trader Joe's and picked up some food we think she will eat and brought it back.  Yesterday she was still having real problems with pain and nausea, so eating was not her most favorite activity.  She didn't sleep well last night due to her pain and a severe [8 out of 10] headache.  The percocet/oxycodone is doing very little for her pain and is a source for her nausea. The doctor told us she should try some ibuprofen and today that seemed to help. She got up this afternoon and took a shower and felt and looked much better. The doctor prescribed a sleep aide to help her get some rest.

She had visitors today.  Sophia and Zoe stopped by on their way to Washington and visited for a couple hours.  Auntie Korine and Uncle Dave visited with her a couple of hours too.

I cannot say enough…  It really makes me choke up to think of Auntie Korine and Uncle Dave giving her the space to be herself, and to spend the time out of their busy lives to come up here and give her support.  And it was important that Sophia and Zoe came by for a little bit.

After Sophia and Zoe, and then Auntie Korine and Uncle Dave left, Gwen gave her the sleeping meds and she was out hard for almost 3 hours.  She came up to eat with the other post-op woman here and had a very good conversation.  She ate all that was given her including a second helping of salad!

She's gone back down to bed.  I am going to close up here and go down and give her a good night kiss and then go back to the hotel.

Again, always I guess, I really ask that you keep her in your prayers.  She is not here at the Pos Op Recovery Place for fun and games or vacation.  She still has a great deal of healing yet to do and your prayers are essential to that.

-Shannon

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Feverish Nightmares

When hearing about "sex change" surgery, most men seem to respond by shuddering, cupping their own genitals to make sure they're still there, and trying to hide a slightly horrified expression on their face.

On a separate subject, they say that a certain percentage of post-op trans women experience a slight regret after they've had surgery.

Given these 2 bits of information, I wanted to share with you a dream I had last night. I was in a lot of pain last night both at the surgical site as well as my head. I didn't get much sleep but for the little time I did, I guess I had dreams.

I found myself awoken in my bed and something felt weird downstairs so I checked my underwear and to my ultimate surprise and disgust, I still seemed to have male genitalia!! I wanted to scream but no sound came out and then I woke up again. This time, I felt like there was something leaking in my underwear, which was odd because my catheter should have been taking care of that. So I went to the bathroom and pulled the underwear down only to once again find the dreaded male bits I had paid so much to get rid of. I found myself crying and screaming things like "How can this be????!?!" and "What happened?!?!?!?". Then I ran outside and saw some familiar people barbequing and ran towards them and started to see if I could jump up in the air and fly ....and I could! I was relieved. It was really just still a dream.

I forced myself to end the dream and woke up in the real world and started crying, half afraid to check my underwear again. But I did and my new female anatomy was a sight for sore eyes. I cried in relief and frustration. So much for sleeping.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Post-op: A complication and getting up


Before I go into Day 2 of being post-op, I have to cover the events of last night.

After I made the "Day after surgery" VLOG, I realized by the hoarseness of my voice that'd overdone it so I settled down with no other plans for the rest of the day. They came in to change my bandage again and within 20 minutes or so I noticed that I was bleeding through the bandage again. I told mom with tears in my eyes and frustration in my voice : "I'm bleeding again!" and she ran out to get the nurse. They called Dr. Bowers in and re-bandaged me up again until she got there. They also set this big surgery packet on my side table, it looked like the kind that has everything someone needs to perform open heart surgery. Inside, I thought "Oh no" but outside, I tried to stay calm. I still had tears in my eyes though. Mom pointed out to me the major surgery kit sitting there and I told her "I know, it's like what Dexter uses." She gave me a look halfway between wanting to laugh and wanting to cry.

When Marci arrived, she removed the bandage and saw all the bleeding and told my mom to leave the room. The nurses helped her by bringing her sutures (stitches?) and a needle and scissor like thingies that held the needle. I got to watch as she sewed me up in a few places down there...I couldn't see exactly what she was doing but I did see the needle and thread go in and out of me a few times. Thank God I couldn't feel it. But she finally stopped the bleeding and they rebandaged me up. She said that this was a little unusual but not too much, probably happens every couple months or so. Given she does this surgery 4-5 times a week, that's probably a 1 in 40 chance of it happening to someone. I got the unlucky ticket but she fixed it. If that's the only complication, I'll be thankful. Because of that though, I lost a lot more blood...not enough to need a transfusion..but still.

After that ordeal last night, I was relieved and with the help of ibuprofin and ambien, i did get to sleep and I think at least close to 8 hours of it. This morning I had a headache, however, and I began to feel a bit nauseous. Dr. Bowers came by and they removed the bandage permanently and there was no extra blood seepage! So her stitching the night before had definitely fixed things. We switched to just a maxi pad and panties. They also removed the bandage on my neck, revealing just a thin pad of gauze with a bit of seepage from what will be a scar for a while. When I looked in the mirror at my neck, I was amazed! The adam's apple was completely gone. It was so flat!

The rest of the day was mostly spent resting and trying to get rid of the headache and nausea. Around mid-afternoon, the headache had been reduced to a lull and the nausea was not as bad so I told the nurse I wanted to try to walk and/or sit in a chair. This is all part of the process. Every surgeon is different but for Marci, her patients get up after 48 hrs just to get circulation going and such. Well I got out of bed, standing wasn't too bad, walking was harder than I thought it would be and then sitting in a chair on a foam donut....was just odd. I wasn't sure how to place myself on the thing. I ended up sticking my butt into it in such a way that it left me in a half kind of reclined position. It still left me with a pain level of 3. The nurse helped me up after a little bit and I tried to walk across the room. Every step I took, my nausea got worse to the point where I thought I was going to vomit, so I turned back and laid back down into my bed. I was immediately relieved of the nausea and I noticed that my whole body had broken out in sweat. It was a workout just to walk! Soon after that ordeal, I had dinner and that helped ease my aching hunger pangs that were fighting with the nausea all day.

I've talked to girls who have been through this surgery and they always say "Don't overdo it" and they talk about how they walked all over the place and it really took a toll on them. Well I've tried to keep that in mind but what I'm realizing today is that it's not just the physically walking around that can take a toll but also the vlogging I did and even writing this blog post. It's taken me a few hours while resting in between paragraphs just to get this written out.

It would be easier if I could actually get to sleep. Because I can't, I'm stuck for most of the day laying around with my eyes closed, trying to sleep.

That being said, I'm going to sign off and rest up some more. =)

Friday, March 11, 2011

Thank you, RAF

So today was my last day at work and now I'm officially on vacation for at least 1 month. This is starting to become real and yet sometimes I can still hardly believe it. I've caught myself wondering who that person was, a year and a half ago, for the 28 years prior. The old life just seems like a dream.

Throughout my transition, I've tried to check in with myself: Is this really who I am? Is this worth it? Can life really be this good? And the answer after more careful pondering was always yes. Sometimes it's just so hard to imagine ever being that awkward computer nerd most people remember me as.

I wrote an email to the managers and a choice few others at work, letting them know my status on the projects I'd been working on as well as my availability for emergency bug fixes and builds during the next month (excluding next week). At the end of the email, I wrote: "Thank you all for working with me to make this happen." My eyes started tearing up after I wrote that and I realized how grateful I am to have the employer I have, especially during this difficult transition.

So many people with similar transitions are often fired or laid off simply because they need to stop living a lie and yet for some reason I was given this blessing to be able to keep my job and even still, be accepted at work.

I just want to say thank you again, RAF Technology. Know that all of you have helped this woman find peace.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Nerves?

I'm on my 10th day of re-experiencing testosterone in my system and it's been like a roller coaster. Yesterday was probably the worst day so far and even worse that night. I've been keeping a private journal regarding my days of "Testosterone Re-entry". I'd like to share an excerpt of that from yesterday:

I had olive garden salad for lunch and some home made nachos for dinner. Not much really. Still sweating like crazy and at both the hair place and at Olive Garden, I felt self conscious....the look in peoples' eyes was one of curiosity which usually means I'm not passing. After lunch, my headache came back no matter how much water I drank. I started getting cranky and emotional at work by the end of the day. I cried about something else at work but I Forget what it was now. I ran some errands and went home and tried on my goods from Victoria's Secret. The bikini tops did not fit very nicely and it wasnt the size of my boobs as much as how wide my chest is in comparison. I was really sad about that and frustrated. Then I tried on the new bras. These bras are NOT ultra-padded but barely at all, slightly pushup but when I tried all 3 of them on, I looked in the mirror and I felt myself and they fill the cup and it looked amazing and I cried tears of joy. It just felt and looked so right for the first time in a long time....like it had a long time coming. Also I think the realization: "I can fit into regular bras now!" was HUGE.

After that I watched a couple TV shows and found myself unable to hold back both tears of sadness and joy at the events in both of those shows. I really am an emotional wreck tonight. Mom thinks it may be at least partially nerves. People ask if I'm nervous and I say no, I'm not .... but I suppose there is a part of me that is nervous but the optimist side of me won't let it dominate me and cause me to worry....so maybe it's getting expressed in other ways instead.

As you can see, last night was quite an emotional upheaval. Probably because of the weird mix of hormones in my system right now and maybe part of it is really about nerves too. The surgery that's coming up in just 5 days will be life-changing and there are so many things that can go wrong outside of the mandatory and difficult healing process itself. I guess it's good to remember that and acknowledge the nerves even if I still continue to let optimism exude from me.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

International Women's Day

So today is International Women's Day and everyone seems to be blogging about it. I figured I'd join the crowd. Today also has a couple other milestones. It's going to be my last session of yoga for a long time. I am really going to miss yoga and I will have to find out from Marci when I can start it again because I really love it. And of course the surgery is now exactly one week away.

That being said, Glamour Magazine had a couple ideas of how to celebrate International Women's Day. I picked 2 of these ideas.

People tell me often I have a lot to be proud of and that always makes me feel good, whether they point out in detail what those things are or not. It's much harder however to try to point out my own accomplishments myself. I always feel like I'm boasting or having too much pride. That being said, I gave it my best and these 5 are the things I came up with:

1. How I've been able to handle criticism of my life and path in a more mature way
2. That I've been able to keep a positive attitude despite some negative circumstances
3. How after having such a closed-minded background, I've been able to be open to other people's circumstances and beliefs even if I don't completely understand them.
4. How I've been able to be happy without a significant other currently, even if I want that to change in the future.
5. How recently I've been able to be partially satisfied with some of the changes and milestones I've encountered in my transition, even if I still hope for more.

Also, I'd like to thank all the wonderful women in my life. I'll start with my adopted mother, Shannon. I probably spend most of my time with her and she is the woman I am currently closest to. She has been the mother a newfound daughter especially needs.

I'd like to thank both of my cousins, Missy and Ashley for how they've treated me throughout my whole transition, in a very caring and understanding way, even while having to balance that with respecting how my parents feel about it. My dad's sister, Aunt Korine has also been a very supportive woman in my life but especially when I transitioned.

There are so many more women I'd like to thank but I cannot do them by name because it would go on forever. With that in mind, all of the girl friends I've had growing up, women in the work place who have supported me and respected me, other women in the family who have been supportive as well, the many many girls I've met at Trans Support Groups and Events or even online, and the groups of women that have included me into their midst so easily and with understanding: my zumba girls and crafting group girls.

Finally, I'd also like to thank my mother, grandmother, ex-wife, and sister as well. They may not be supportive of my transition but they have still been caring, loving, female figures in my life in so many ways.

Thank you all, I celebrate all of you!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Ten

When I was 10 years old, I was out at recess with my best friend (who happened to be a girl) and we were just hanging out talking by the basketball courts. She was a tomboy and she mentioned to me that boys had it easy and she listed off things that she wanted to do but felt like she couldn't because she was a girl. I don't know what about that conversation made me feel comfortable enough to share but the words that came out of my mouth were: "Yeah, well I wish I was a girl".

I've tried for a long time now to remember how she reacted to that. It's like the rest of that memory is blocked out forever. I don't remember her reacting negatively though, I think that might have made more of an impression. But it was still something I never expressed again in that way so who knows.

When I was in 10th grade, I had a different best friend but again she was a girl. I was over at her house hanging out and she decided she was going to paint my nails. I rolled my eyes and laughed about it as she painted each nail with light green and a purple dot. It looked ridiculous and she laughed and I found myself making comments like "what are you doing to me?" and laughing with her. Inside, I know I felt something different, a slight serenity.

Instead of simply asking my mother for nail polish remover, I went to bed that night and went to school with painted nails. All day long people looked at me weird and made comments like "WTF dude?". I of course responded rolling my eyes and saying "yeah, she did it to me" like I was helpless. That didn't completely satisfy the inquiries though. By the end of the day, I was begging my friend to take it off...and I never let her do that again.

10 years ago this month is when I met another best friend. A best friend who appreciated my feminine qualities in a romantic fashion. A best friend who became my girlfriend. A best friend who 1.5 years later would become my fiance and another 1.5 years after that, my wife.

10 months ago, I moved into my own apartment and started my own life anew. My ex-wife and I divorced amicably after 5 years of marriage. I'm no longer afraid to speak my mind about who I am, I no longer worry about what people think about me wearing nail polish, and I now date boys exclusively. You could say a lot has changed.

And in just 10 days from now, my dreams of being physically complete will finally be realized.

Friday, March 4, 2011

A Joyful Union

Tomorrow is March 5th and my ex-wife is getting re-married. First of all, let me say that I am completely happy for her and her to-be husband. The fact that she has found happiness so soon gives me great joy and I know for a fact that it has helped her move on much easier than if she hadn't met him. That aside, from what I've heard of him, he seems like an excellent man so that just makes it all the better. All I ever wanted was for her to be happy and in turn, for me to be happy. It just turned out that we couldn't be happy together.

Ironically, the day we filed for divorce was March 5th of last year. We had been separated for about 3 months already by that time and I didn't see any hope of her ever accepting me as a woman and she didn't see a whole lot of hope of me ever wanting to be her 'man' again. So we amicably agreed to terms and filed the paperwork.

On March 10th, she came over to the house to get something or other and was still seriously going on about if I'd changed my mind yet and I told her: "You can't even say my name, how could we possibly be together?". She left crying and I thought she said "Bye Debra" as she left. That tiny act of respect set me off and I cried my eyes out after she left. But it made me question, could we really work out after all? So I wrote her the following email to make sure she knew what it would really mean if we stayed together:

Dearest Baybo~

I left you a voicemail but I guess it's been on my mind tonight so I thought I'd go into more detail. When you left, crying, I'm not sure what you said and maybe it was my imagination but I thought I heard you say "Bye Debra". Anyway, because of that I cried for a long time after you left. I cried because I do love you and because I DO need you to call me by my name, to use female pronouns when referring to me even to other people, to really and truly believe that I am a woman and still love and accept me as I am that way. You say you can do some of those things because you're feeling desperate but I think you need to understand what that really means.

It's not just using my correct name or female pronouns around me, it's using them around others. When my parents ask "How is J***** doing?", it's you responding "Debra is doing really well, thanks. She's been writing iphone apps again.....etc". The same goes for people at your church or anybody else at all. It's realizing and believing that I am a woman, that God allowed me to be born with a male body because of sin in the world. No matter if you believe I was born this way or that it's a product of my raising, the fact is, it is who I am and God loves me as his daughter. It also means when we have sex (pre or post operative surgery), that you are not only ok with it but embrace it...not because you consider me a man but because you love me as a woman. It would truly be a lesbian relationship.

I'm at a point where I need to be loved for who I am, as a woman. I don't want all the male roles, in fact they are painful to me. I want to be taken care of, held, loved, acknowledged, adored, etc.

I also realize that even if you really could bring your heart, mind, and soul to believe these things and be able to begin loving me in this way, that there are other things that are different now too. We go to 2 different churches because our beliefs about homosexuality differ, among others. You want to go back to school, I need to save for surgeries. Both my family and your family are speaking to you while neither speak to me.

I guess my point is, no you should not stay with me because we made solemn vows to do so no matter what. That's not a good reason in my opinion. It's a blind blanket statement that has no meaning because it simply means staying married for the heck of it without any of the love and acceptance that is needed in a real marriage. It would only be one of roommates, something I don't want any part of.

No, you should stay with me if you love me enough to really understand me and open your heart to my changes, knowing I've become a healthier, happier person and reflecting the image of God in female likeness as any other woman of God would. In all this, you'd have to love me for the person that I am while accepting that that person is indeed a woman.

Can you do all of this?

The next day, she called me up and told me straight up that she read my email and she could not adhere to all of what it entailed. And so our divorce stayed filed and later became final on June 9th. I think, for the better of both of us.

We're not exactly on speaking terms right now but to close, I'd just like to say something to both Jessica and her new husband:
Congratulations to both of you. I am truly filled with joy that you two found each other and I pray your marriage will succeed where ours failed. I hope you have the happiest years of your lives from here on out.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Sunny Revival

Colors painted across the sky
remind me of a bedroom before 8
a variegation painted in love
in an unlikely place;
a desert with little rain
except for infant showers
or midnight pitter-patters
from nightmares fading.
Soap opera 'resting'
magnetic colorful alphabets
giving myself away
unable to lie.
Thoughts of the past flow
to the present schism
where an endless downpour
keeps us apart.
Future hopes must include
open, accepting, loving arms
a rainbow in the distance
before sunny revival.

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