Best Doctor’s Appointment Ever

OK, reader, I have a lot of good news to share. Are you ready for all this positivity and progress and victory? If not, this probably is not the post for you, and you should keep scrolling through dank memes and cat videos and reposts of clever tweets.

I saw a doctor I’ve seen once before at Family Care Health Center in St Louis today. I went in there with like a 10-item agenda. I was prepared to have to argue with the new doc about my treatment and to fight with her about what is and isn’t true, but she is an amazing listener, and even better, she actually did the research she was saying she would do after our last session in November. I did my research, too, so we both came prepared to meet minds and make informed decisions. I think she is a resident instead of a full MD, but I will follow her to whatever practice she goes to after this one because of this awesomeness. So the good news here is that I lucked into having a curious, listening, collaborative, and informed doctor, finally, after so many ignorant, authoritative, self-important ones.

We’re just getting started with the good news here though.

1) She upped the dose of my depression medication, so I don’t have to pay out of pocket to see a psychiatrist for that! Huzzah!

2) She gave me the OK to start estrogen injections NEXT MONTH! This is so great, as I’ve been seeking a doctor since 2017 to give me the clear and to monitor me while I start it. It’s double great because the sublingual estrogen I’ve been taking is part of the reason I had my gall bladder removed, and sublingual E can lead to liver damage, so this is not just a move toward healthy HRT–it’s a way to stop my current HRT from further damaging my organs. Technically she gave me the ok to start them today (!), but I said we should wait a month to do smarter science because of item 3.

3) She gave me the OK to up my progesterone IMMEDIATELY. She read some stuff recently that says progesterone functions as a testosterone blocker (!) which is like SUCH A BONUS to its already awesome effects of filling out my breasts and acting as a mood stabilizer and interacting with estrogen to keep me from getting all sorts of other health problems.

4) Based on the last round of labs I did in November, I WAS RIGHT in suspecting that my testosterone had climbed back up out of the female range. I’m at 91 ng/dl Tnow, which is 41 ng/dl too high to be considered in the female range. I WAS RIGHT THIS WHOLE TIME THAT MY HORMONES WERE MESSED EVEN THOUGH MY LAST DOC SAID THEY WERE IN A GOOD SPOT. Now we know precisely how messed they were, and which kind of mess, and my inner sense of “something is off here” has been validated.

5) She referred me to a local dermatologist to get a cyst I’ve have on my face since 2013 removed!

6) She wrote me the letter I’ve needed for my passport IN LIKE FIVE MINUTES DURING THE APPOINTMENT. She also commented that the language in it was offensive to her, and that this entire process seemed unnecessarily discriminatory for me to have to go through, and that it didn’t make sense since like obvi I’m a woman obvi I’ve been transitioning for five years now, and she even understood that transition is a process and that standards of completion are different for everybody (some folks want surgery and some don’t, some folks want HRT and some don’t, etc), so why are the feds asking for this letter anyway whatever here give me a few minutes. Basically my doctor is a bamf and an ally and hopefully I’ve finished this passport process because I’m mailing out the letter tomorrow morning.

7) She’s giving me access to the clinic’s psychology services so I can see a therapist and psychiatrist through them, which will be covered by their local insurance program, so I won’t have to pay for therapy, and said they are happy to refer me somewhere else if they can’t meet my needs there! So, that whole process of finding a county mental health clinic with sliding scale fees and trans-accepting providers I was trying and failing to do after I left the psych hospital is moot now. Someone from the clinic is contacting me tomorrow to set up an intake appointment for ASAP.

8) She said she is interested in the science I am reading about HRT things she hasn’t heard of, and asked me to bring her what I’ve been reading so she can integrate it into her practice and so we can both make informed decisions regarding my care through her. Was mostly referring to why we want progesterone levels to be in the luteal phase range, and evidence for why sublingual E messes with the liver and gall bladder. THIS IS HUGE. She trusts me enough to do my own research. She doesn’t think I’m crazy, incompetent, ignorant, or deceptive, like so many of my prior providers have. I’m valid. She sees me. She listens. She trusts. We are collaborating. I love it.

9) She renewed my scrip for the anti anxiety medication I have been taking that helps me sleep and helps me leave the house! She even upped the dose, and gave me license to drop it back to the current dose if I don’t tolerate it well. Again with the trust. Feels so good.

10) She told me there is current research saying the proton-pulse inhibitor I’ve been taking since surgery to help with my digestion (Zantac) can be difficult to stop if I take it for a few months (I plan to take it all year until my guts even out from surgery) because it can produce acid bounceback after stopping it, so we switched to Ranitidine, which either isn’t a PPI and/or doesn’t have a documented history of producing bounceback after cessation. BONUS.

11) I went in there with a laundry list of stuff I needed to discuss and we covered all of it. In short, I’m getting what I’ve known I needed regarding my progesterone, my estrogen, my testosterone, my whole HRT regimen, the hormone imbalance and the accompanying dysphoria that I’ve been carrying since I stopped spiro over a year ago and have been unable to meaningfully address through no fault of my own. I’m getting the followup care I was supposed to be getting after my stay in the psychiatric hospital but couldn’t because I’ve been homeless and moving around too much after surgery to access facilities due to residency requirements I couldn’t establish. I’m getting my meds renewed and adjusted. I have access to therapy again. I’m taking care of issues I’ve been carrying for years. I’m finally finishing (fingers crossed) my passport application. This session addressed SO MUCH. It was so necessary. I left it feeling like a huge burden had left my body.

TLDR: I just had the best doc’s appointment ever and I’m looking forward to another with this person next month. But mostly I’m stoked to have forward motion again regarding my healing. It’s possible. Healing is still possible. Even in St Louis.

Wish me all the luck!

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Plan to Solve Everything

After two weeks out of the hospital sleeping on friends’ couches, talking about my problems and listening to advice, I think I finally have a Plan To Solve Everything ™:
 
1A) Problem: I’m homeless. Need shelter.
1B) Solution: Go to St Louis next week for rent-free shelter for roughly a month. Won’t be permanent, but will be more stable than sleeping on a different couch every week in Kansas City.
 
2A) Problem: I’m ill. Need to heal.
2B) Get in with a county health clinic for meds monitoring and therapy.
 
3A) Problem: I’m broke. Need money.
3B) Solution: Drain retirement money for funds to live on.
 
4A) Problem: I’ve been living on social services and the finite generosity of friends and family. Need stability. Need something resembling sustainable independence.
4B) Solution: Throw information in with staffing/temp agencies in both KC and StL until I land something. Scour Indeed. One job app a day. Look for data entry/data processing/technical writing/behind the scenes and away from random humans work.
4C) Solution: Once I have money, rent the cheapest place I can find that lets me feel safe. Furnished room in Kansas City plz.
 
5A) Problem: I’m trans and dysphoric and my transition has been a shitshow. Need safety. Need to look in the mirror and see myself. Need to open my mouth and hear myself. Need stable hormones at safe levels.
5B) Solution: Start electrolysis. Restart voice lessons once I’m recovered enough from surgery. Find a place that does makeup lessons and get a few looks in my kit. Find new doctor, take the safest antiandrogen out there to get my E levels up until I have enough stability to start E injections.
 
6) Oh right I just had surgery so take it easy or something.
 
There are others but these are the most pressing right now. The biggest challenge here will be work. I don’t know if I’m healthy enough to work yet, but I have to throw myself at this to know if I can do it or not, and with the power of better living through chemistry I feel like I can at least do the application process until I land something and go from there. Work will directly and indirectly solve so many of these problems (but only because America ties your ability to survive to your ability to sell your labor to someone who adequately values it), assuming I can find a kind of work that won’t wreck my health.
 
Friends this last year have been an amazing resource with things like resume building, where to apply, interview outfits, job databases, funds for my transition, and other things I didn’t know would be problems until I repeatedly failed at them or found myself out of options and not knowing what to do next. All I will ask now is that if you hear of anything freelancey or project based or writerly in the slightest, please send it my way.
 
I’ve already had 2 hit and misses with one temp agency last week, and am getting my info in with another today, so I think this plan has an increasing chance of working as long as I keep giving it time and energy each day.
 
I hate living like this. I want to be able to live a self-determined life again, and not have to struggle to meet my basic needs as much as I have been for the last year and a half.
 
Time to shine. Wish me luck.

Leaving KC

Life Update: I (hopefully) start hormone injections with a doctor I trust in St. Louis next month. As it could take months of labs to test my levels regularly and to learn how to do injections safely and reliably on myself, I will be moving back in with my mother in St Louis.
 
The irony of re-entering what last year was a life-threatening living environment, so that this year I can address my hormone deficiency in order to save my life (or at the very least remove the barriers living with a hormone deficiency erects before my efforts to build a livable life, dispel its constant debuffs) is not lost on me. Given my means, this is the only realistic solution I can access at the moment. So, I go to St. Louis and live with my mother again while adjusting my hormone levels. Once hormones are set and my vitality is back, I plan the next move. I don’t have the means to get my stuff back to St Louis either, so KC friends are holding on to my belongings while I get my health in order.
 
Depending on how the hair removal Groupons shuffle out, I may or may not be travelling back and forth from Kansas City once a month in order to do hair removal while being based in St Louis.
 
Voice lessons start next week with money from the fundraiser. Thank you to everyone who gave!
 
I’m realizing now that I never should have gone to Kansas City after my arrest. Had I not had the trauma of my arrest to deal with on top of everything else I brought here with me, maybe I’d be looking at a different reality rn. Maybe I would have been able to find work, even with my hormone deficiency and beard and man voice and the insecurities and unmanageable anxiety and real safety issues those bring.

All the planning and fundraising I did in February and March was done under the pretense that KC would be a healthy escape from my mother’s, a place with more opportunity, where I had more community, where the city offered better trans resources, where my place of residence afforded me many potential places of employment within walking distance. That was all before my arrest the weekend before I was supposed to rent the moving van, which I couldn’t rent due to my arrest, and which should have been a sign to call off the move. Friends I spoke with encouraged me to go through with the move anyway, but I should have listened to the part of me that was curled up in a ball screaming hoarse at the void every night, should have known myself better, should have listened to my instinct to withdraw and focus on caring for myself rather than my urge to take on all these new burdens as I had planned to, to buckle down and muscle up and and power through and all that.

I was so eager to gtfo my mother’s that even though I was traumatized from having to deal with law enforcement and from being back in the legal system in the same college town I fled almost a decade ago, I saw a shiny way out of my immediate circumstances and I took it, hoping things would go as I had planned before this new factor rose up and shadowed everything like a DOOM MONOLITH.

The problem was, that monolith followed me to KC. And dealing with it on top of everything else I brought took the three month buffer of not paying rent my landlady had offered me so I could have an easier time finding work and getting settled in this new city, and turned them into 3 months of dealing with escalating trauma and escalating legal consequences and escalating legal fees I couldn’t afford and didn’t know how to pay and the escalating health consequences of carrying that in a foreign city while you’re supposed to be taking on the other burdens of building a life.

This trip became one of encountering my limits and understanding what is and is not possible to power through. I had hoped it would be a trip of putting down roots and finding sources of money to get out from under my maxed credit cards (which are now in collections) and my private student loan (currently in default) and my health problems (which my new fundraiser is finally helping me address, thank you so much).

 
I know now that the grad school Z who can head an organization planning and hosting and running an interdisciplinary conference, be second in command running a literary magazine and managing a pool of readers and coming up with fundraising strategies and doing layout on final proofs, write her thesis, research her transness, apply to further graduate school, move twice in one school year, and come out to her family all at once…that Z is gone. Or sleeping. Or on hiatus. Maybe not forever, but for now, she needs more rest and more care than she used to, and can’t do all the things at once like she used to.
 
This is how I understand why I am moving back in with my mother again, after this false start, after doing all this work to get away from that place, after literally a lifetime of putting distance between me and St Louis first by travelling to the middle of nowhere for undergrad, then to the desert for grad school part 1 where I finally felt safe enough to come out, then to the further possible coast for grad school part 2 where I finally felt courageous enough and sure enough of myself to start transitioning, then to LA to try…actually what I was trying in KC (professionalizing while recovering from trauma, which didn’t work there either) then to Knoxville as a way out, then to StL to relearn I couldn’t exist there, then to Knoxville to professionalize (again abortively due to trauma) then back to StL, then to KC to try professionalizing-under-trauma abortively again, just for shits this time I suppose. 
I have learned my lesson. One cannot professionalize when one’s health is in the gutter. So I am addressing what I can with what I have. But I want this to be the last fucking time I return with my head hung low to this accursed city that sucks you in like a singularity and just won’t let go.
 
Still, this is what I can do for now, so it is what I am doing. Back to St Louis, to heal. I suppose it’s different this time in that I am aware of all this while returning, but it feels so goddam the same already that it is difficult–but not impossible–to have real hope that I can do what I need to do there–HEAL. I need to heal. Hormones, you come first. Voice, you come next. Beard, you’re next-next.
 
Still, I did a lot of work to heal while in KC. Thanks to the Kansas City Anti-Violence project hooking me up with therapy, thanks to my therapist for being a fucking badass and exactly whom I needed, thanks to KCAVP again helping me get ID, and thanks to both of them for helping me become able to feed myself through food stamps and access to pantries.
 
KC was not a complete wash. I reconnected with the friends I have here. I healed, I learned how else to heal, learned other angles of healing. I obtained ID, I obtained access to food, and I obtained vital self-knowledge that I NEED to put my health first in all things, or else this cycle of abortive and expensive attempts at professionalizing will continue.
 
Health comes first. 
If you can, consider giving to my fundraiser. It will help me get my hormones to liveable levels, finish hair removal on my face, and feminize my voice so that internally my body becomes easier to live in, and so that externally I can pass better in public. All of this will long-term help me be a healthier human and one day be able to support myself again. Thank you for anything you can give.

Cursory Hormones Research

Doing more research about hormones. Apparently, both E and T regulate/impact seratonin response, so either being low can result in depression. My E has been low since last October, when I stopped taking the antiandrogen that kept my T down but almost killed me. I was already depressed then, and I’ve been climbing out of another gutter since I got arrested in March, but what’s important here is that MY E HAS BEEN LOW SINCE LAST OCTOBER AND THAT CAN RESULT IN DEPRESSION.
 
I made addressing my known hormone deficiency a lower priority when I was arrested because I ran out of money and staying out of prison (by paying the requisite legal fees to avoid violation the orders of my probation) took priority over almost everything else. Pmuch I couldn’t afford to address it, and I figured it was better to live with E deficiency and stay out of jail than go to ail and risk not getting hormones at all. I still can’t afford to fix this. Endorinologists cost hundreds per visit, but this new knowledge necessitates action. Gonna ask the new doc in StL about switching to injections to try to get my E up, even tho I won’t be able to see them much because I’m in KC so often these days. There’s also a Planned Parenthood a few miles from my house I’ve been pointed to–maybe I can do it there.
 
I’d love to take pills forever, but oral estrogen damages your liver over time, and taking them sublingually isn’t very realistic–the pills need to be absorbed through the mouth tissue over a period of about thirty minutes and mine are usually gone/swallowed/dripping down my throat around five.
 
Also I have a rather severe needle phobia that I plan to get over either before or during my first injection.
 
Also have I mentioned how much I hate transitioning.

TLDR: girl can’t get a break.

Breasts and New Bras pt 2

K so quick history: my breasts have grown QUITE A BIT since I started taking progesterone in October, and they’ve grown even more since I started consistently taking it as a suppository in December. None of my old bras fit anymore, which made my breasts constantly sore (ball-havers, imagine squeezing your balls into too-tighty-whiteys for months, like, 2-4 sizes too small), so I threw down on some new bras, from Torrid. I was wearing exclusively Maidenform 38B bras for the last three years, except for random sports bras I found at Ross or on sale at Target.

These Torrid bras are the comfiest things I’ve ever wrapped around my girls.

I’m definitely a 42 band size. Everything I ordered was a 42. I measured myself before I ordered and I was closer to 42 than 41 but still in between, so I gambled a little and got lucky. 42 feels right. Snug but not tight. In place but not pinching. I ordered mostly D cups with a few Cs and Bs thrown in there in case I had measured wrong.

Turns out I measured wrong. I followed a few guides, measured around the fullest part of the bust, still got the wrong cup size. Guess my boobs are just reaching for the stars.

After an afternoon of trying on seven bras, I’m returning five. I’m keeping the 42Bs, one demi, one sports, and returning all the rest. Just too much room in the cups in those.

Once things get returned and I get reimbursed, I’m def ordering more. Like, this is a memory foam demi, but I want to try some more basic T-shirt bras in more common colors (this one is a lush dark purple, sale ftw) and styles (give me some lace I want to feel sexy sometimes) (also is probs a good idea to have more than one sports bra, espesh if I’m planning to starts sportsing more). I’ll have more money when my freelancing gig pays up in a few weeks, but can’t order anything now, so I have time to strategize.

Good news: This 42B demi is just THE comfiest thing. There is really no feeling like…tfw metal wires aren’t digging into the sides of your breasts. The underwire (cozily cushioned) points up into my armpit rather than to my shoulders, so I’m convinced 42 is the band I need. Victory!

SMALL DILEMMA THO: There’s still a little room in the cups. Like, when I sit down and lean back, the upper lip (?) of the cup rises off my breast maybe a centimeter, more on the right breast. Again, super comfy, but that’s the roomiest I’ve ever worn a comfy bra.

Fellow boob-havers, does this mean the bra is too big? Should I maybe order a few more bras down a band size and up a cup size to see if they’re too snug before deciding i am def a 42B at the moment? Like, 40Cs and 40Bs? I’d look for 40As but I don’t have the money for custom bras rn.

Also, my girls are still growing, so I don’t want to invest too much in bras–I need just enough underwear to be functional until my girls are finished coming into their own–so maybe I should just stick with 42Bs for a minute and wait to grow into em more?

Anyways, if y’all were in my situation (female puberty), what would you consider? Thanks for any tips!

WTF at the UWM

Angry post: heartbroken that a trans sister had to go through this in the name of bullshit nazi free speech rhetoric on campus. I’m reading the student’s letter to her college president and being like, “yes, preach it sister,” and also being like “why can’t so many cis people see the difference between harassment and free speech when it comes to blatantly transphobic attacks like this?”
 
So, cis people: read her account of what it’s like to be constantly and actively misgendered toward the letter’s end. Then tell me I’m making too big a deal out of people getting my name and pronouns right (family has told me this). Tell me I shouldn’t spend money on lasering my beard off (family has told me this, former friends have told me God made me a certain way and that shouldn’t change). Tell me I need to be more patient with my misgendering family members (family). Tell me I should just “smile more” to life hack my way into something resembling improved mental health (friends). Her account is better than anything I’ve ever tried to write about being misgendered.

http://overpasslightbrigade.org/hates-insidious-face-uw-milwaukee-and-the-alt-right/

On (Alternate) Realities

*Note* this post is in parts reflective, in parts analytical, and dwells in the abstract

Yesterday I canceled my subscription to the Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game I play (Eorzea, I miss you already).


Partly because I want to do other things. I miss reading casually, new stuff, in the afternoon, in bed late into the night. I miss being fit, and doing fit person things, a casual jog, a quick walk after dinner. I miss eating well. I have been wanting to learn to cook new things, for years: Thai food, Mexican, Greek. I miss my real life friends. I miss having what feels like a real life. I have let the game consume all these things.

Partly because the appeal of alternate realities, alternate identities, alternate systems of effort and reward…I think I have let them color my real life more than I was aware.

Party because I want to stop believing that not-reality is superior to reality.

Rather than participate in an alternate reality as an attempt to attain what lived reality does not provide (gender congruence, financial stability, no fear of discrimination, direct recourse against it if it occurs, cisgender privilege and/or passing privilege, feelings of independence, of strength, of toughness, of forward motion, of control, of accomplishment, of esteem, of belonging), I want to take the energy I devote to the game and apply it to my real life again. I want to locate those things within it, and not need to jump into a proxyverse to get them. I want to get them in the life I wake up to instead of the life I log in to.

Here is my bias: waking reality is garbage, overall. We’re duped into trading our health, our youth, our time, our labor, our lives, for pittances that don’t provide what we are promised they will. Industrialized societies force humans to partake in sociopolitical systems that dehumanize, isolate, exhaust, and break us, as individuals, as groups. The few benefit at the expense of the many. We work and work and get nowhere and nothing changes. American life is a scam. Our species is destroying the biosphere in the name of cheap profit–we cannot live without a biosphere; profit is meaningless without a biosphere; yet on we march deeper into suffocating oblivion. The legal system, the stories we tell each other, the expectations we are taught about people, the language itself, our American culture has no room for trans people in it. We are fighting for room. We are making it, slowly. The constant fight sucks. It frustrates. It exhausts on top of all the other exhausting things.
 
Still, knowing all this, I also know I used to enjoy reality much more than I have in recent years. I want to believe I can do that again. Even in these apocalyptic times, I want to believe reality can sustain me, like it used to. Even with all the garbage.

I am not sure how this will happen. I keep thinking of that line from Rogue One, “rebellions are built on hope.” My rebellion here is returning a significant portion of my being to reality. My hope is that reality will not crush me and drive me away like it so often has. Or that if reality crushes me, I will become better from the experience of learning how I fall apart, and how I come back together, and how to remain coherent in all this disorienting madness.

Forgive me for being abstract and figurative. I suppose I am rather abstract and figurative.

Redistributing my realities means more than “I’m stopping playing video games for a while.”

Staying as deep and as long in game as I have means more than “I haven’t been the same person since my father died four years ago and I used video games to create some form of solace after, and I miss the person I was before.” More than “I get to be as close to cisgender as I will ever be, in-game, which consoles my gender dysphoria in a significant way.” More than “The small achievements I earn in-game convince my major depressive disorder to cool out.” More than “Social interaction from a relatively safe place at my keyboard behind my avatar in a world designed around cooperation and sharing helps my anxiety disorder avoid triggering.” More than “I get to be around affirming people in an affirming environment as long as I stay logged in.” More than “In-game realities have, for years, made more sense than out-of-game realities, so I stuck around.”

Leaving that behind means I am attempting to reclaim my lived experience from a force I consciously sacrificed much of it to in exchange for comfort.

This experience, then, will be necessarily discomforting. I hope the discomfort will be useful. I hope, after some time, I can learn to feel more like myself again, without the necessity of an avatar.
~Z

Fear and Passing In Gameland

1.

Know what? Ever since I got back from Minneapolis last weekend, I haven’t worked on my voice at all.

I don’t want to. I feel like I have to (in order to pass, in order to feel safer, in order to access the privileges afforded cis women). Feeling like I have to makes me not want to do it.

I don’t want to feel like my transness is some kind of performance, like performance is an innate part of it. I don’t want it to feel forced, I don’t want it to feel like something I can fuck up. If it feels forced and tenuous, it stops being fun, it stops feeling…something like authentic, whatever that means.

I don’t want my appearance, or my manner, to feel like something I do, especially something I do to appease anyone, something for anyone besides myself.

So I don’t know where I’m at with my voice anymore.

2.

A friend told me years ago that the most radical thing (or one of them) an oppressed person can do is to live as if ze is not oppressed. Meaning to afford oppressive forces no quarter on shaping one’s existence, or to disregard those forces and demand to be treated fairly when they arise.

I’d like to live in a world where no matter what kind of body you have, or voice you speak with, or clothes you wear or can afford, people treat you with dignity. I do not think this world is that world. I think it wants to be there though.

I see trans people on facebook, on twitter, and often I see images of trans people who look super natural and at ease in bodies that aren’t easily categorized. They look like they can touch something vital  and good and fulfilling that way. I am assuming of course. I am assuming they are not-passing intentionally. I assume if they wanted to, they could pass, though I know this is wrong of me, to make an assumption about someone, and to assume passing is possible where perhaps it is not.

I want to be one of those badasses who lives as if ze doesn’t waste any time caring about passing. I used to know what that was like, before I started transitioning. It was infinitely easier. OF course, then, I didn’t have to try. I didn’t even know what passing was.

I want to be radical and let my body act as a message, as confounding evidence against the gender binary, as evidence of the value of femininity, as evidence of gender equality, of gender fluidity, against biological determinism, yatta yatta. But I don’t actively encourage those messages in my appearance. Maybe they’re there whether I want them to be or not. I would like to be IN YOUR FACE trans. For now, I am not. I am afraid, anxious, somewhere on the spectrum between reasonably and unreasonably fearful/anxious. Maybe that’s the anxiety disorder doing the thinking. Maybe that’s the transphobia I internalized when I was growing up in a transphobic home.

Considering I am trans, I would like to unlearn that very pointed and particular fear. I would like to reach into my skull and pluck out the bad circuits, the ones that get caught in paralyzing feedback loops and keep me indoors and afraid of nothing more than phantoms I invent and situations I recreate in my mind’s eye.

No good comes from this fear of and disdain for myself that keep me from celebrating myself. I would unlearn them as swiftly as possible.

3.

I have been thinking about fear a lot recently. How it shapes me and my decisions. I am learning fear is a significant dimension of my transition so far, larger after the PULSE massacre, larger when examining possible futures after the presidential election (i have not decided how to vote yet). I would like it to be a smaller part of my life. More useful, less of a barrier.

Recently, the leader of my guild (a loose group of gamers who share a chat box and help each other out in-game) said some transphobic stuff. This was a tremendous surprise, because this was the nicest, most welcoming, and most helpful group of gamers I had ever met online. I probably jumped between twenty or so guilds before I stopped playing World of Warcraft this spring. I left them all because of insensitive and hateful language that nobody seemed to care about. I don’t play games to invite more hate and judgment into my life.

She wanted me to not post about anything related to my trans experience in guild chat. I had mentioned something about trying to change my voice in guild chat, since I was out to the guild already, but some people were curious. Many players thought I was male. Some said it was because of how I write. I guess I don’t pass even when my body isn’t a factor.

When I pressed the guild leader for why, she invoked religion. To her, trans people are violating our bodies–given to us by god under some sort of unspoken contract–by changing them, because god makes everyone perfect and so undergoing a gender transition is sacrilege and *gasp* offensive. I told her that made me feel silenced and hurt. My attempts to educate her (I was trans all my life before I started transitioning, you don’t need to change your body to be trans, what about puberty, what about illness, what about healing, what about medicine, doesn’t Jesus’ apparent message of love apply to everyone, lepers, sinners, prostitutes, the ill, thieves, etc) of course failed. I expected them to. Her mind was made up before we started typing at each other. And if the Trump nomination means anything, it means that in some circles, information, facts, and truths no longer change people’s minds. At one point, she said something like, “I don’t hate you, I just think you’re defying the will of god.” I told her I would probably leave the guild, and did.

I felt awful. Existentially disappointed. This was the best guild I had been in ever. It felt like a family. I’d been in it for three months but I felt like I knew people enough to be open with them, to be out with them, vulnerable.

I spoke to some other guildies who were on, because I needed help figuring out how to leave, and they expressed surprise and mild outrage, said they wanted to have words with her.

I learned from a friend a few days later that there was a voice chat (like a conference call through a separate communication client) between the guild leader, a bunch of officers, and other members about what had gone down. Some officers (high-ranking members of the guild with responsibilities like recruitment, raid organizing, managing the guild bank, etc) stood up for me, called her on her hate, and left.

A few of us banded together (classic RPG lingo) and formed our own guild, to make an lgbtq-safe space. I’m still friends with the folks who went a separate way after they left, and we chat on occasion, help each other with in-game stuff, run dungeons together. You know. Normal gamer stuff

I did not expect people to stand up for me. It was really refreshing to learn they did. Gamer culture is notoriously awful at inclusivity, at sexism, at queer-bashing. Women are basically invisible in gamer spaces. Trans women and other lgbtq folks  might as well not exist outside of the epithets players insult each other with. To be a part of a space where I don’t have to fear that is a big deal.

Words hurt. They have consequences. As a writer, my existence is a consequence of words.

I spent the better part of three months deciding when would be a good time to tell the guild I was trans. I asked for female pronouns a few weeks in, but I worried about outing myself, though I wanted to be out, to have more authentic, whatever that means, relationships, to not have to erase parts of my history or mark them as unshareable.

Visibility matters. The more visible trans people are, the more acceptance we create, the more normal we seem, the more immediate trans issues and lives can become to people who don’t otherwise know or encounter any of us. It’s a very, very small way to help the movement for equality, but it’s there and it’s real.

I don’t want to worry about being out any more. Yet I feel I have to. The trans people I admire don’t appear to.

Now that I’m in a safe space in-game, where most of my social interaction occurs these days, that’s that much less worrying to undergo. That fewer things to fear.

4.

I need to go shopping for clothes tomorrow for an interview. Though I would like the clerks to treat me a certain way and to call me certain things and not others, I will try not to care.

The Voice

So I couldn’t sleep again tonight, which led me to Youtubing transition stuff.

My transition has been stalled–beyond buying clothes, finding a doc in StL to run labs and renew my meds in April, and that one laser appointment I had when I visited Corvallis in May–since I lost health insurance over a year ago. It has since become mountingly frustrating to do, well, almost anything that involves interacting with people who aren’t trans, friends, on the other side of a computer, or allies (read: 99% of the public, from pizza guys [almost always guys] to baristas to bus drivers to librarians to clerks to servers to people sitting next to me and not doing anything in coffee shops to nice folks striking up conversation in passing at the grocery store or at a wedding or really everywhere).

Thing is, I’m a social creature, or at least I used to be, and I don’t want to let that go (I’ve tried and I can’t get it off me). I’m still trying to figuring out what I’m doing with makeup (almost nothing), which can get expensive and bring its own set of frustrations (why won’t my eyelids stop trembling and just ACCEPT the eyeliner?!). So I’m trying some new stuff with my voice, because it’s free.

I don’t have the deepest voice, but my natural voice is firmly in the male register. It used to be deeper. I used to WANT it to be deeper, so I could hide better in the maleness I encouraged people to read onto me. Smoking made it way deep when I was an undergrad (eight years smoke-free this month yaaaaay!). It’s better now, but I still feel it outs me perhaps more than any other gender cue (which produces more anxiety than it should, but that’s a separate project). I have felt there was little I could do about my voice. I mean, even on days I shave my face and my pits and my legs, I can’t shave my voice. I can’t tweeze my voice into a better shape, or take pills to alter the shape and feel and proportion and chemistry of my voice.

Youtube sez it takes months for a new voice to feel natural, but I found some vids with some tips, and in just a night now I can speak in a less masculine register (I had already been paying attention to inflection and pitch variations, which are FUN) and sound way closer to what feels good

….for a few minutes. Folks, talking is HARD. My throat muscles get sore. Not my throat. My throat is amazing (well I think it is), but it’s the muscles that shape my voice that are getting sore. Fast. So while I might have found a place close to the WHERE of my voice (above my Adam’s apple, but closer to it than to my jaw, for now), the HOW will take some time.

I’m writing this for myself, to have a record of how my transition went, and so it can maybe be a resource for allies and other trans folks in a similar position(s) as myself. But I’m also writing this particular post for my friends and fam and other people in my life I see often.

I may sound different for a bit.

In the past, I probably would want feedback on something like this. I asked some of my MFA cohort for feedback on my outfits and my use of makeup when I started transitioning two summers ago. While that was tremendously useful then, and I totally appreciate their help, transition-related feedback has become less useful.

This is partly me wanting to resist something I’ve noticed people do (people here means “folks who aren’t in my MFA cohort,” since I don’t see y’all except, well, almost never, because the reality of geography D:). People comment on my appearance way more often than they did before I was transitioning, and think they’re helping.

I know that’s something American culture does to women–teaches us our appearance is the most important part of us. Fuck that and I hate it. It’s objectifying, degrading, insulting, damaging, and expensive. However, my appearance IS an important part of my life right now, for safety reasons. It can also be fun. I would like it to be more fun.

So in a way, that sort of attention is helping, and in a way, it isn’t. Though appearance comments might be intended as confidence-boosters, the attention they draw to how I look recently makes me feel more uncomfortable than before we started talking about my appearance, which is something I frequently feel I have less control over than I probably do, and is something that matters more than it ever did (though it shouldn’t).

If I want to talk about my voice, or how my clothes fit, or my hair, I will. And I have! And what I’ve learned so far has been useful and awesome.

But not now. This is gonna take a while, and probably suck for a bit. I don’t need to know you know my voice sucks when I already know it.

HOWEVER: people I spend a lot of time with will know how I talk, will probably hear ticks I’m not aware of. My last therapist once told me my voice drops especially lower when I’m thinking aloud or contemplating something. So I realize some people may be in a better position to tell me how I sound than me.

I am using a voice recorder. I’m reading my poems aloud in femme-voice and playing them back, so the exercise becomes useful for my writing too, and so I’ll want to do it more. I also really like my reading voice (I have no shame in saying I love the sound of my own voice…I’m a writer, a poet of all things, and this is a blog. Writer clichés, fulfilled!). My current reading voice took years to develop, and I can’t replicate the type of fluidity and…precision of tone with my femme voice that I can produce with my male voice, so I’m entertaining keeping male-voice around for reading events until femme-voice is ready for something as demanding as that.

Voice recorder is helping me learn how high/low in my throat the pitches live, and being able to locate them physically on my body has helped a lot already, on day one of the voice project. Knowing where they live can also be a good way to gauge my progress: as I push into higher registers, I’ll be able to feel them.

But would I ever have noticed that my voice gets low when I’m thinking aloud or contemplating something, by using voice recorder? Never.

So maybe some feedback here could be useful. Maybe it’s best to just say I’ll ask for feedback if I want it, so please withhold any critiques unless the subject is there already. Yeah.

(But if you want to lavish me with compliments, tbh, it’s been a shit month and my self-esteem could use a boost)

Voice Feminizing Links!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hWHGS7s7ffY

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DIydrtPplqw

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a02_j7PGTPI    (i think her voice and mine are kinda close, our male voices. listen at her go!)

ZPH

Continue reading

Dysphoria

From Queer Voices. http://queer-voices.com/2015/10/dysphoria-bodily-mentally-socially/

The article categorizes three forms of gender dysphoria: Social, Mental, and Physical. Before hormones, I would get a lot of Physical dysphoria. Treating that is the reason I take hormones, which help immensely but not completely. Mental dysphoria I used to deal with more pre-transition as well, but it’s easier now that forces beyond myself (friends and sometimes family) are helping validate my gender (and that my physical form and my inner narratives are now more validating of it too).

Social dysphoria I still get all the time. I don’t pass as female as often as I pass as male, so people misgender me lots still, which causes its own sort of pain beyond social awkwardness.

I was in a bowling alley a few weeks ago watching two high-school-age women in the seats across from my team. They were being…I think the appropriate phrase is “TOTES ADORBS.” Sitting in each other’s laps. Hugging. Giggling and fawning at cute things on their phones. It was a display of proto-femininity I found difficult to ignore, partly because I have always wanted to express my femininity so easily in public, partly because I was envious of the acceptance and invisibility they received from their friends and passersby while behaving like…like themselves. Partly because I envied it so much it hurt to watch.

Watching the girls ended up killing the evening for me. My mood plummeted, I noticed I was tearing up when I gutterballed, I withdrew from conversation with the friends I was bowling with, and I started to despair, to feel lethargic, to want skip my turns or leave the alley completely.

But I didn’t say anything, because my friends were enjoying themselves, catching lucky strikes and telling Star Trek jokes. Later on, David spoke in the car: “That was fun.” Ben said, “AGREED,” doing his best Picard. I was sitting in the front passenger seat, nexus of car conversation, so I had to respond. I didn’t want to seem ungrateful, or like I was sad because my scores were bad, or like I didn’t enjoy socializing (though that’s becoming increasingly true) since we hadn’t gone out much in the past few weeks. So I said yeah, it was fun, which was a lie, and therefore disrespectful of my friends.

Had I said it wasn’t, would that have seemed disrespectful too? I didn’t want to talk about why. I had told Ben earlier about my mood and the women. He said he could understand why social situations were hard for me. As much as I appreciated his words, I knew he couldn’t mean them fully.

Does the Buddha say Desire is the source of all suffering? Am I wrong to desire the type of easy outward public femininity the high schoolers were displaying? Am I a coward for avoiding the scorn such a display would invite? Whose lap would I sit in? Who would I take to http://www.cuteoverload.com to gush over images of baby polar bears and hedgehogs and hedgehogs again? To be honest, so much of these feels feel so instinctual it feels wrong to resist or interrogate or question them. How can one not desire what one is drawn to?

I bring this up to illustrate social dysphoria. Something as simple as encountering femininity in the world can trigger it.

I suppose I am lucky that I do have respite from the dysphorias. Hormones mitigate the physical dysphoria to the point of restoring function to my life. When I say “my life,” I mean the whole thing. Being alone is the easiest way I’ve encountered for mitigating the social dysphoria–the job I just received lets me work from home, and I love that. The mental dysphoria, feeling “trapped by gender confines,” interplays with all the others, but I don’t have to go through the crippling self-doubt that kept me from transitioning until two years ago anymore, at least.

Anyway, there is that. Thanks for reading.