Sunday, June 26, 2011

Levels of Activism

I've never been an activist. I have my own opinion and beliefs and I'm definitely liable to express them on my blog or when asked but I don't usually go out of my way to make them known to all around me. That being said, before having surgery, I was much more involved with the trans and LGBT community. I went to support meetings, I blogged and vlogged using my real name, I frequented online trans community forums, I outed myself to people I met, and I even agreed to speak in front of a class at a college.

Going into surgery, I kind of expected to be less active in the trans community and my desire to out myself or discuss trans-related issues had already come down from its peak. I was already beginning to just live my life without any more worry of what people would think but soon after my operation, it started to become even more apparent. I changed the name I blog/vlog from, I stopped actively attending support meetings, and I stopped outing myself to people I met.

I don't consider myself stealth but in a lot of ways and to a lot of people, I am just another woman now. The professor who had asked if I'd like to speak in front of her class contacted me a couple months after I'd recovered and was hoping I was still willing to come speak in front of her class. I expressed to her my change of heart and instead pointed her towards a resource, a good friend of mine, who does this kind of thing all the time. She was both supportive and grateful.

Most recently, I had a PFLAG member ask if I could present some of my videos and possibly answer questions at some sort of small convention. I politely told her that I didn't really feel comfortable doing that kind of thing anymore but that I would love it if she used my videos for such education. She seemed to understand as well.

Today was the Gay Pride Parade and my adopted mom and other friends attended but I did not. It's never been my thing to march in parades. Maybe I view it as another form of activism that I don't care to take part in, I'm not entirely sure.

The dictionary defines 'activist' as someone who is vigorously active for a cause. While I definitely still support civil rights and many other causes, I guess I'd just prefer to work from behind the scenes and in a way that doesn't involve me directly outing myself as a transsexual woman. My preference is still and will always be to be seen and treated as a natal woman. That's how I'd like to live my life.

With that being said, I do admit to feeling a little guilty but I still talk to many transitioning girls I've met online and I still seem to have an audience for both past and present blog/vlogs. I could definitely do more for the trans community if I worked as an activist but I prefer to keep things to my little corner of the web as well as something in my pocket that I can pull out when the time to educate may arise.

Monday, June 20, 2011

A Different Angle on The "Trans" Debate

There's a debate that's been going around the blogosphere for a while now. I've opted out of the conversation for a while. I was of course busy recovering from surgery and my blog has generally been more about my journey and less about politics. That being said, I thought I'd add my two cents today.

First you should know up front that I don't care to argue. Yes I have strong opinions but whenever an argument ensues, I try to back down and fade into the wall, for the most part. I'll even often jump in to settle an argument between friends....or stay neutral when hearing someone's side to a story. I've always seen myself as sort of a peacemaker.

The debate I'm speaking of is a difference of opinion for defining the labels transsexual and transgender. When I started my transition I understood that transgender was an umbrella term and I didn't quite understand why some people took issue with being under that umbrella. A couple months ago, I read some more descriptive definitions for Transsexualism vs. Transgenderism and they made a little more sense to me.

The way they were defined was that a transsexual individual was someone who felt a very binary gender but was not born with the matching sex that went along with society's idea of that gender. On the flip side, a transgender individual did not necessarily feel one gender or the other all of the time....but feels the need to express themselves in more of a spectrum without actually altering their sex.

While these definitions make total sense to me, I put myself on the other side of the argument and I can understand why those who may not be seeking a surgical fix may have problems with it. I'm sure there are plenty of transsexual individuals out there who don't want to have surgery for reasons like lack of financing or lack of surgical functionality, etc. Just because someone doesn't seek surgery does that invalidate their binary gender even if they weren't born with the right sex? I wouldn't think so.

That aside, I think the primary concern by all of the people arguing for keeping transgender as an umbrella label is that they feel because they are not as understood as transsexual individuals, then they will not receive the same rights. It seems to come down to that issue mostly: rights.

Just a quick note about where I feel I fall in this spectrum of labels. I feel like I was born female with the body of a male mistakenly. After many years of trying to conform to that body and finally realizing there was another way, I took the steps to transition my body to match my sense of self, at least as much as science and medicine would allow me to. I feel I always had a female gender but now have at least what is closer to a female sex. It has made me a much more 'open' person. The mantra I find myself repeating to everyone is: "Just because you don't understand how somebody feels, it does not mean their view is any less right or valid. Everyone is different and the only way to fully understand them is to walk in their shoes." Given this and the definitions as I understand them, I consider myself a transsexual woman.

Now, given all of this, my opinion is simply this: These are all labels. Whether you are transsexual, transgender, crossdresser, genderqueer, or even if you don't find any of these labels fitting still deserve rights. We all fall under the label of : Human Being and should be treated as such and be allowed to express ourselves.

And as for worry over grouping transgender and transsexual people under one umbrella delaying civil rights, yes it will make things more difficult. I agree that it's possible that civil rights may very well more easily be accomplished for binary transsexual people separately. While society is still not quite ready for the gender continuum, they can at least partially understand the gender binary switched. But should we as transsexual people leave our transgender brothers and sisters behind because we can? No way! We already complain about the LGB community leaving us out, why would we do the same, dividing ourselves further?

I've been personally asked before how I would feel about a male coworker coming to work dressed in a dress and with a beard and hairy legs. Do I find the thought of that comfortable? Not really. Should that person not be allowed to do so? No, I don't believe so. It will definitely be a change and something I would have to get used to though.

In history, I'm sure many racist white people were uncomfortable with African-American people receiving rights at first and that many men felt very uncomfortable with women entering the workplace and the like. It's only natural for us to gravitate towards what we are used to and away from what we don't understand.

Yes this will be difficult for society and it will definitely take time to get used to some of the changes in expressing individuality. But the discomfort that needs to be worked through is merely based on tradition and should in no way be elevated to an importance such that it squashes out how others feel they need to express their unique individuality.

Just another opinion voiced by a post-op transsexual female human being.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

First Trimester Post-op

As of today, I've officially been post-op for 3 months. It has by no means been an easy recovery. If I compare it to the personal stories I've heard of friends' surgeries it could almost seem to be a complete nightmare.

Three months ago today, I had a healthy "mostly" female body with one simple birth defect that needed correction. A day later, I was met with bleeding that wouldn't stop and extra stitches as a result. A week later, I found my urethra flow cut off because of extra swelling. After I'd returned home, I realized a lot of stitches had come out due to dilation and the extra swelling. This resulted in ugly granulation tissue that wouldn't heal on its own.

Near the end of my 2nd month, after conferring with my surgeon several times, I became aware that I could have silver nitrate treatments administered to the granulation tissue. I had 3 of these in May, thanks to my family doctor and a 4th at the beginning of June when I had a followup with the surgeon herself. I had another treatment today with my doctor and it will probably not be my last.

As I said before, most of the girls I know personally have not had the difficulty I had with my surgery. I won't lie. There were times when I cried and times when I was worried or scared but here I am at a pinnacle point where (hopefully) the worst part of recovery is over. I can now sit on certain seats without any special cushion, I am back to working out again, life is actively returning to my social calendar, wearing pads has become less needed (although liners are still required), and I'm medically cleared for sexual intercourse when I deem appropriate.

Despite its difficulties, the surgery was very much a success and I am very happy about the result. It's odd how a change to a part of the body that's covered by clothes 99% of the time can cause such a change in someone's life. In some ways it's such a small change and yet in others it's just so inconceivably huge. My mom and others have commented on how much I've changed since surgery and I have to admit to being surprised to hear that. I don't necessarily see it but I guess I'm just living my life now, whereas before, I was merely 'in waiting' for this big surgery event before I could go on with my life.

And what an amazing life I have ahead of me. =)

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Becoming Accustomed

The other day, I had a slight revelation. I know, I know, you're telling yourself "Here we go again, something obvious" but it's actually not.

I realized that I'm getting used to my new life in all forms. This includes life without my biological parents in it. Sure, I have been known to cry about it and miss them periodically but on an everyday basis, I don't end up thinking much about them. They've decided to move on and live in a world they created where I don't exist and there's nothing I can do to change that.

Don't get me wrong, my heart still longs for them to call me daughter, for my mom to want to go shopping and get our nails done together, for my dad to want to go have coffee like the old days, for us all to have BBQs, weekends, and holidays together, all of that and more.

But I guess I'm getting to a point where I can finally accept the fact that they may never come to accept me. I'm coming to terms with it. I've lived this new life for almost 2 years now and they have chosen not to hold much of a part in it. And yet it's been some of the best times of my life.

I'll still try to show them love at every turn but it feels good to know that I can indeed still live with the present circumstances, knowing there's nothing else I can really do about them.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Unique Understanding Inside Us

This morning, as I was getting ready for the day, I was thinking about how happy I am now, living a completely different life than I did 2 years ago.

About a year ago, my counselor had told me it didn't matter if I really was a girl inside biologically, chemically, or medically. If living as a woman was what made me happy and helped me integrate into society better then it was worth changing.

At the time, I refused her reasoning because I believed to make this painful and lossy transition, you had to have biological and medical backing. Not simply mental, as she proposed. But as I was doing my makeup today and looking at myself in the mirror in just my underwear, I could only smile and ponder how I could have ever lived any other way.

And if I can feel like my life is so much more fulfilled even with what medical backing I believe I have, why can't someone who didn't, feel the same? Why can't we live our lives the way we as individuals, need to? Whether you believe it's medical or mental, as long as they're not harming anyone, what does it really hurt?

CNN had an article yesterday about a boy who went through repairative therapy at a very young age and committed suicide at age 38. It's an extremely sad story that struck several different cords with me. Those around him said he lived a fairly 'normal' life after the therapy but it would seem that there was still trouble brewing inside.

While reading this article, my thoughts were taken back to when I was struggling with my own identity and the solutions my parents and church asked me to consider such as testosterone and repairative therapy. Where would I have been today if I had gone along with such plans? I can only assume that if I had survived, I may have still ended up like the boy in the article, committing suicide with many years still left ahead of me.

Society has these standards that we are all supposed to conform to. Some of these standards are merely fads that fade in and out over the years and others have still only been around for a couple of centuries. As our understanding grows about the human way of life, I hope that more people can open their minds and hearts to the differences found in each one of us....even if they'll never fully understand them personally.

Every one of us is a unique human being and while we can relate to other individuals in various ways, there will always be those parts of us that nobody could ever understand unless they lived inside of us.

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