Writing at “Steel City”

20-30 minute prompt: A Big Favor

I have a tendency not to ask too many–favors, that is. I’m inclined to believe it may be due to my upbringing. What isn’t connected to my upbringing, I think.

I was brought up not to expect too much to come my way; emotionally at least. Crumbs come to mind. Take what you get. Don’t ask for what you can’t get. I grew up this way. As a woman. You are not a cis, white, affluent male, so…

And, guess what? I grew not to expect to be listened to or have my opinion respected or my gender expression recognized. Never mind ever to have the opportunity to live as an encouraged non-binary person.

A big favor…not so big…would be for you to stop misgendering me. So, you’re being asked NOT to do something. Hard for you to do because I present as female. Please don’t misgender me.

I can’t take hormones. At age sixty, my body has rejected them. Please don’t misgender me. Top surgery is an issue. I won’t be getting it, for a variety of reasons.  Please don’t misgender me.

You are my mother; my father. Each still living. Please don’t disown me. Those on the Internet, the street corner, the churches–with or without steeples–Big favor: Please don’t wish me dead.

To All the rest. Big Favor: Please don’t misgender me.

 

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Elevator Angel

Before today, I didn’t have an advanced directive stating my desires surrounding my end of life. Today I will ask my friends, T, and D, to witness my signature on the form G brought home.

 

“Are you okay?” asked the stranger.

I was not. I was a wreck.

“No,” I said, “My best friend just died. They took her off life support.”

“I’m so sorry,” said the woman as she held me in an embrace.

We’d reached the ground floor of the hospital and folks began to pour into the elevator. I looked up to thank the woman who’d so kindly reached out. She was gone.

That hug gave me enough strength to make the thirty minute drive home. I’d spent the day, from seven in the morning, to two o’clock in the afternoon, waiting for Barb to have the ventilator removed following a massive coronary, which had killed her at approximately eleven o’clock the previous night.

Barb was set to undergo a procedure on her heart. She died before the procedure could be done. She was sick. Without a doubt. When told, umpteen times, to quit smoking, she balked, basically, until it was too late. The damage was done.

Barb didn’t like to be told what to do. By anyone. Not even the doctors. Fiercely independent, she ran her own show. Till the end. So she presumed. She remembered signing ‘something’ telling not to keep her alive by machine. Unfortunately, there was no copy of the advanced directive on her chart. No DNR. So, I had all sorts of visions charging through my mind of nurses and doctors racing around, beating on her chest. Inserting this here and that there. It sickened me. It saddens me.

We always talked about not wanting to be kept alive by machines amongst ourselves. When Barb was dying, the nurse told me she was asked if she wanted to be put on the ventilator. Barb said Yes. She meant No.

By the time I’d gotten to the hospital, I knew that my favorite friend in the world was gone. One look and I knew. So, at two o’clock, when a copy of Barb’s advance directive was finally faxed over from her lawyer’s office, I kissed Barb’s lips, her eyelids and hand. And I left. To grieve heavily. Uncontrollably at times. Still.

I am certain that I’ve encountered other angels in my waking life and greet even more. The others are with me. Ones I don’t necessarily see but I know and feel them there. And the ones that surround Barb as she exclaims with glee, Oh, Jan, It’s so beau-T-ful here! Because that’s how she’d describe Heaven. With extra emphasis on the T.

 

 

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Bewildered?

Writing this in hopes of connecting. My soul’s been on disconnect for much longer than expected. Simple tasks had become behemoth; brushing my teeth, a feat of massive proportions. And I spent another five weeks searching deeper into my head and heart during October and November behind the scenes, as it were. Scaling beneath the surface of angst looking for a place where I could be. Just be. Inside the walls of the psych unit.

Fortunately, I didn’t stay stuck, though it would have been easy enough to do. Thrashing, I tore through membrane and sinewy shards to be here. Honestly, from a different perspective, I can’t answer where else, if I’d had other options, I’d be.

The landscape sure looks brighter from where I stand. Shocked and in awe, I find my friendships intact. My marriage, for lack of a better term, is surviving its brush with death. The communication gods have bestowed upon us the proper way to educate ourselves out of the bleakness. Me, being raised by wolves and all. Sometimes I feel I couldn’t find my way past the grocery clerk in the checkout line with the skills I was handed.

Faith abounds. Love that sentence. It does. It has. It will. Not necessarily in that order. My kitty, best-friend-in-the-whole-wide-world, is dying. And, as Sam is a pseudonym and my cat’s name isn’t really Mango, I want to give Cookie Girl her recognition. The best, you are, my little love.

Instead of changing “religions” I inadvertently checked out a new church. Inadvertently, because I had not been paying attention apparently, as some members of my old congregation flocked to the one I now attend. They’re both UU. How cool is that? Only what struck me–what roped me and drew me in–was the BAND! Rock my soul.

Recently, I totalled the number of writing groups of which I am a part. Five. Twice weekly and three monthly. Sometimes it costs money to belong. One great group consists of three of us. One is brand new memoir writers. It’s all such fun; a focal point for me. Very nice social outlet. However, outside of the groups, I am not writing. This blog lay dormant for the better part of six months.  I’ve yet to sit and tap out a story about anything/nothing for me. For the hell of it.

So, I am going to do that. And, I am going to read a book of fantasy. Beginning Saturday, I will take walks. It’s snowing furiously at the moment and tomorrow I will have surgery to remove and replace a descended lens (inserteted to correct cataracts years ago) in my right eye.

Once back on track, and I can see myself clearly, I will at least stand a fighting chance. Because, as so many people who have been confronted with issues that seem insurmountable, I am a willing fighter. I like to think of myself sometimes as a close friend puts it: superhero. Plain. Simple. I am.

 

 

Posted in Community, Connection, Family, Friendship, Hope, Psych Hospitalization, Reality, sadness, superhero | 15 Comments

Three Strikes?

Headaches, in general, have not been a problem for me. Muscle discomfort. PMS strife. Pain following twelve hour scoliosis surgery. All familiar. The near-migraines ( have experienced those, as well) that have plagued me in the last couple of weeks are a new and less than exciting addition to my discomfort repertoire. Between pain and discomfort, I’m not certain where to log them.

What I am certain of, however, is they began following my August 31st dose of T. Good old T. Gave it a try in February 2016 and broke out in an itchy, sunburn-type rash “downstairs” and discontinued treatment with HRT. Once again, in April of this year, gave T a second go around. Same rash. Quit. Four months of designated cognitive therapy passed and I was granted permission by the T fairy to try it again. This time, I opted for injections. Rash returned but I didn’t care. This time, determined, there was nothing gonna stop me. I was on a roll.

I love injecting T. It doesn’t go into the muscle; it’s injected subcutaneously. The needle is tiny, isn’t painful and causes a weird euphoric feeling. Besides the rash, I’ve developed eczema on my face that is hardly an issue. Because it’s only been a few shots, my voice hasn’t changed, no hair loss or hair growth, at this point. Just these damned headaches. The first one scared the crap out of me. Immediately, I emailed my T provider and he didn’t think there was anything out of the ordinary. Saw my primary for another issue and she said, as well, there was no need to worry.

Then I really dug in to reading the side effects of T long-range. It can cause bone cancer. Kinda knew that and ignored the severe effects the steroid can have since I thought I needed to have it. Wanted to have it. Badly. Polycythemia, which comes up as a misspelling just now, is the technical name and one of the symptoms is headaches. After my measly five injections , my paranoid mind travels. Could I have this dreaded disease? The red blood cell count goes up and is distinguishable in a blood test. Plan is to get my blood tested ASAP.

My one thought automatically veers toward cutting T out of my life. Extricating it. Forever. The rest of me is hoping I’m not on the slippery slope of giving up my elixir. Last month, two days before my third shot, I strained a muscle in the groin area of my right leg while attempting to navigate the dunes and slight surf of the beach. The sand has always been a detractor. It’s hard to walk on it when you have the balance issue I have. Since that day, I’ve been back on the cane full-time. It precludes me from visiting my therapist weekly downtown. Determined (my catchword), I have every intention to walk through the strain and not be infirm. The orthopedist said to fear not. After he’d twisted me like a pretzel, there was no way anything of significance had been whacked out of place. A smile and handshake. Told me to exercise.

In August, before any shot, I went to the eye doctor for a problem with blurriness in my right eye. Diagnosed me with Vitreous Prolapse and scheduled me with an eye surgeon. The appointment is tomorrow. I will mention the headaches, naturally, and pray it’s not a difficult fix. I feel the need to be heard. Desire someone, somewhere, to give me the thumbs up. Fire that starting pistol. I’m older. My body’s hyper-sensitive. To drugs. To even the sun. I want to be healthy enough. Have someone say, “Hail to the T!” Then send me on my way.

In a few weeks, on a rather related/unrelated topic, I have a consult with a plastic surgeon to discuss removal of my breasts. I have every thought, prayer and intention to get myself in physical shape by May of 2017 to receive a double mastectomy. Eat right. Exercise. Hard. Those who know me get me. Those who take what they know of me and of the situation, unfortunately don’t. G is in my corner. My closest friends support me. Even the trans men, ESPECIALLY the trans men, on FB rally behind those of us in the process of our journey to seek top surgery/T. Whether it be T or top surgery– if not one then the other– or none, I must thrive. Get up to bat. Swing and a miss. Swing and a hit. Swing and a grand slam. Go for the gold. No matter what. This, I owe myself.

 

Posted in Celebration, Dignity, Friendship, FTM, Hope, Hormone Replacement Therapy, Testosterone, Therapy, Top Surgery | Tagged , , , , , | 10 Comments

High Road

Can’t say there’s a reason I’d abandoned Sams Space. Possibly because I’d stepped away from me for a while. Ironic, since I returned to cognitive therapy sessions as a precursor to hormone therapy, as requested by my provider of T. On May twenty-third, when I last saw D., I made him aware that things in my world had gotten bleak. Hadn’t apprised him previously, via email or otherwise, I’d been hospitalized in April for wanting to be gone from this earth. He was concerned about putting me right back on T.

Mentioned to him I’d become distraught and no longer wished to be trans. Actually, it’s why I wanted to die. What I neglected to say was, I don’t want to live as a trans person/male in a female body. Also, said I was especially bummed because I thought I was allergic, somehow, to the testosterone itself. We discussed alternatives to the gel I’d tried; he told me he didn’t feel T would have caused the allergic reaction. Perhaps it’d been the oil the T was suspended in. Then he had a behavioral health consultant meet with me.

C. is a cool guy. Liked him immediately and wished he could have become my counselor. He was there for crises only but made excellent referrals. When I phoned the first recommended psych center they were not taking new patients. Phoned the second and was told there’d be a three month (at the earliest) wait to be seen. That was early June. By some miracle I was granted an appointment for the 16th and have been seeing A., same name as my mother–eek– since. At my first visit, A. determined I needed weekly visits and got me on a scholarship so I could afford them. Don’t know what the winter will be like, traveling to and from the city, but I am passionate about my journey.

Opening up to A. was not difficult. Saying as much about her as it does me. She’s kind, caring and supportive. There’d been years of therapy on my part, more than half my life devoted to the cause; this was just one more chance to have someone listen and help me sort out my dysfunctional upbringing and the ensuing pain brought on. Last week, at a loss for something to focus and zoom in on, I told her I’d hoped she had an arsenal of questions for me. She did and therapy continues.

Because I am not yet on T, ( I have an appointment with D. next month to possibly try the patch), there’s no delving into behaviors which may arise as a result of introducing said hormone. So I talk about fears. Not directly tied to going through second puberty, this time as male, but other fears. One day, shortly before I was interviewed and on the evening news discussing the mess of a railway system in our fair city, I looked around. It dawned on me there were no emergency exits from where I sat, underground, in the train station. I know a good deal about safety and its concerns. Drove a school bus for twenty-plus years and worked as a security guard for a time. Know danger. Be aware of a way out. Always.

Naturally, A. must inquire as to whether I obsess on thoughts of crises, fire and the like. My answer: No. But, I am aware of my surroundings, I tell her. Have decided if there is a likely menace and no escape, I will kneel, say a prayer and stay put. The thought of being trampled in an attempt to escape a crowded tunnel, which, in essence, is what the train station is, does not appeal to my good senses. That said, I say a prayer each time I embark/disembark. And go on my way.

The other week, I was disrespected by an acquaintance when I revealed I was in counseling for trans issues. I know I put myself out there. For eight years, J. and I have been members of the same group. Part of me was testing the waters. Would I be accepted as trans in the all- women’s atmosphere? When I ‘came out’ to the moderator of the group, she assured me I’d be welcomed. This was to see how another might feel, within the ranks, so to speak.

“What did you say?!” “Did you say transitioning?!” J. asked. It was at a party and it was kinda loud. I nodded. Then she turned, spat and said, ” Fa putz on that!” Shocked and on my way out the door, anyway, I turned and left. Didn’t confront J. Until a few days later when I wrote a type of email.  “Anyone has a problem with me being trans, I wanna know NOW,” I wrote. Something to that effect. More diplomatic. I was pissed.

Folks gave a bit of feedback and I felt even more widely accepted  than when the moderator warmly calmed my fears of discrimination. Contacted the moderator and genuinely wanted the woman removed from membership. At her suggestion, I got in touch with J. and we chatted. J. was all apologies.  Said I must have heard her wrong. When confronted, she had the nerve to say she never used the term and wouldn’t know what it meant. To me, quite simply, it means, FUCK THAT! So, she’s been exposed. She’ll think twice before ever offending anyone again, I’d wager.

That’s where I’ve been these weeks and moving forward. Continuing therapy. Looking forward to trying T for the second time. Taking the high road when necessary.

 

Posted in CBT, Celebration, Community, Dignity, Hormone Replacement Therapy, Lesbian, Mental health, Pride, Testosterone | Tagged , , , , , | 8 Comments

Around the Bend…

This weekend was a whirlwind of activity for me; someone who generally is not too active on a regular basis. Friday I attended the Trans Health Conference sans cane. Hung with my close bud, B, and managed both physically and emotionally.

Saturday morning, G, and I geared up for another day downtown via the train. I have gotten to love that dear train ride. Yet I was wiped before I’d had my first cup of coffee. I was also extremely psyched. I was going to be in trans space two days in a row. Two wonderfully marvelous days to be me. Off we went.

Sunday rolled around and there had been a snafu at the van dealership and we couldn’t get the van for our UU Fellowship to participate in Pride, as we call it here. So G. and I figured we’d go to church, get some lunch afterward and maybe take a walk later. At 7:20 a.m. I got a notification a group was headed to the parade in a couple cars. I was game.

While I focused on preparing for my trip downtown– it takes a bit of arranging when you have physical difficulties– I pretty much glazed over the news report about a shooting in Orlando. I wasn’t insensitive or being stupid, I just wasn’t tuned in. Didn’t read about it online, see the coverage. Nothing.

This year I drove my friend P’s car in the parade. We had a blast! Handed out the 342 buttons I’d made with our churches “motto,” Standing on the Side of Love. Everything went without a proverbial hitch. The weather cooperated. GPS got us off the expressway and back on again missing miles of back-up. YAY for us.

It wasn’t until I had come home, peeled my damp clothes off and grabbed a shower that I learned of the massacre of so many of my community/family members and their grieving relatives. “It’s a shame what happened in Orlando,” I said. “Know any of the details?”

“The shooting took place in a Gay Bar called Pulse,” said G. I froze. I shook. The lump in my throat turned from anger to sadness and back to anger again. I briefly talked to P, who is family. “Did you hear the latest count?” he asked. “50,” was the answer. Goose bumps covered me.

Tomorrow back downtown. For a Candlelight Vigil for so many members of our community and their families. We are all a family. If I lost sight of that, for whatever reasons in the past, I’m now in touch more than ever with the depth of this loss. It’s my loss. It’s all our loss. Gay or not gay.

 

Posted in Family, massacre, Orlando, Pride, sadness, UU Fellowship | Tagged | 12 Comments

Baby Bird

Like a little bird. How I see myself these days. In a way, I hope it won’t last because of the vulnerability factor. At the same time, it’s a reminder I have lots of growing ahead. Mental health issues sometimes plague transgender people but, as in any demographic, there are those who have the benefit of not having nightmares each night. Many who, by chance or science, don’t take a cocktail of pills to keep themselves on track.

What my life has been, the particular hell I’ve weathered, makes me who I am. It doesn’t behoove me to drool over what might have been. As difficult as it is, I am trying to live in the present moment. Therapy is at the forefront of each thought, dredging up stuff I’d love to keep buried yet don’t dare, because it’ll bite me in the ass a different day when I’m not watching.

My gender therapist confronted me the Thursday before I signed into the hospital. She said, “Sam, you’ve got to make a choice! You can’t be both man and woman!” And, “I’m certainly glad you’re not having surgery any time soon!” This, in response to my confusion over my not wanting to give up some female traits and possibly adopt some not-so-hot male ones. Then the session was up. In the end, I felt injured. Frightened. Disgusted.

At age twenty-four, I was seduced by my female therapist. We carried on a secret, sleazy, sexual affair that lasted two years. This followed my discharge from the unit where the initial seduction had taken place. The experience was mind blowing and devastating. My trust in therapists became stronger over the years and I’d met and worked with some fantastic women. L was to be my last. My adventure toward transformation as trans male had begun. And I sought a little back up.

That relationship with L came to an abrupt halt last week and before I knew it, a new therapist was in the picture. It’s protocol the social worker on the unit hook you up with someone prior to discharge.  Not really sure I need or even want a therapist, I’ve entered into a relationship with T. I could tell from our first visit together she takes no shit. She gave homework, was sure I was willing to work hard and listen. Before I left, she said, “I know you were interviewing me. Did I get the job?” I’m relieved the answer was ‘yes.’

I’d like to say I could hold my own in the wide, weird, world of my transition. At this juncture, my allergy to T and my fear of top surgery, I’m convinced God is challenging me. Here you are, Sam. You will be asked to transform emotionally and spiritually without promise of any physical change. I had hoped to join my over-forty “crowd”; the guys I meet on FB who seem to me to have achieved ninety per cent of their medical transition. They seem really happy.

God, I believe, loves the baby bird. The sparrow. If he can love me as much as he loves the sparrow, that makes me happy. He loves me, not as well as the baby bird, but far more. As the bird’s mother would not deliberately drop her young, God didn’t bring me this far to drop me on my head. So, I’ll keep plugging and have faith in my blessings I will continue to learn and ultimately fly.

 

 

Posted in Dignity, Gratititude, Hope, Mental health, Pride, Progression, Psych Hospitalization, PTSD, Therapy | Tagged , , , , | 6 Comments

Weathering the Front

Winds whipped. Gusts beyond 60 miles per hour. Trees– tall, majestic– ripped like carrots from a backyard garden. Frozen tundra came to mind. Spaghetti-strewn wires adorned darkened, bare streets. Teeth chattered. Windows rattled. Ordinarily I’d sleep through it all. Not this time. Jolted, I crouched low anticipating disaster. It never came.

Hardly at once. Open the door. Inhale deeply till your lungs burst. No time for mindfulness. Fight or flight. Remain curious. Face facts. Good old transition. Wild, wide, knowing. Why did it bite so hard? Tearing at my flesh literally. Came out to declare: “I can’t very well go back in the closet!” A bit on the defensive side.  Who am I kidding? Give me an inch, I’ll take a mile. Let me at that fucking closet, Bitch.

Look at me. Can’t tell I’m mental. Bipolar? No way. Can’t envision me trans. Don’t ask how I’m doing ’cause you’ll get an earful. Wanna hear about the cream I’m applying for the next two weeks to my labia? That T might have caused a fungal infection. You’ve suspended T? No way! It was so important to you. Thank Goddess you have two therapists, you blink. You shake your head as I walk away. Poor, dear thing, she/he could have made something of themselves if not for…

Limbo? Maybe. Thanks to A.A. I’m strong. “God don’t make no junk!” Irritated. Bold. Stand in front of the mirror and repeat, I AM NOT A VICTIM! Scared shitless of being transgender. What the fuck? Who wants to die? Anyone gets in your face turn and ask, ‘What skeletons are in YOUR closet?’ Yeah, that’ll work. BTW, I quit group. Questions fly. Happy and proud. Nothing can touch me. Proverbial chime rings. Session’s up. Drive home. Start again the next day.

Grateful to my caring, kind, loving partner, G. We’ll celebrate seventeen years together next month. To God. Friends become family. For texts. Facebook blogs and groups. Doing IT all yet not on my own. Who do I remind every day to be kewl, collected? Gotta walk in these shoes, Bro. No other way. I look back and see, think, feel a small kid. Lost. Unafraid. Lonely. Angry. Frustrated. It’s all me. What’s the saying?  ‘Everything that’s happened in this life has made me what I’ve become.’ All right. I’m good with that.

 

 

 

Posted in Celebration, Community, Connection, FTM, Hope, Hope, Hormone Replacement Therapy, Mental health, Progression, Reality, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Half the Battle

At the last span of the dreaded whopping head cold spreading what seems the nation. It couldn’t have come at a better time. There hasn’t been a bunch of focus on the events of the past week. Till now. While I graciously (wildly) accepted the hard copy of the prescription for T last Tuesday, it’s been lost in the red tape insurance company vortex. Hobbled five blocks from the train station in the rain with my partner, G, an umbrella and cane to make the 1:20 p.m. appointment at the medical center. Figure that’s how I caught the cold.

We walked slowly back to the station, rode home and made a bee line for the pharmacy. Although cautioned by my practitioner the likelihood of the script being filled with insurance monies was practically nil, I held hope. Screech! Sorry, prior authorization required. I could tell the guy behind the counter cared. By his look. We know one another from my frequent visits filling my scripts for psyche meds. Plus, it wasn’t for estrogen, after all. He couldn’t know I’d been forewarned the companies “hesitate” to fill prescriptions for T when the patient is female.

There are many more awkward, sensitive, trifling and ungodly acts occurring in the world and the result of my T being held up fits narrowly within its structure. There is, however, the surprise appointment availability of receiving a top surgery consult with the plastic surgeon for next week. Less apt to jump up and down over this, for various reasons, I find I’m more complacent than anything. When I came out to myself as trans, I turned to food as comfort and in the nine month period to now I’ve put on twenty hefty pounds. Getting my BMI back to normal and raising money for the procedure has me putting breaks on like crazy where all is concerned.

Missed a gender therapy appointment due to silly cold and an intake with a prospective couples’ therapist. My hair, which is buzzed yet styled, is mercilessly weighing on my brain. Like I said, there is so much more to worry about than having crappy hair. Having good thoughts of being physically well enough to attend my weekly meeting of J.W. tomorrow. And attend the new group  in which I’ve enrolled, scheduled Wednesdays for the following twelve weeks, entitled: Managing Strong Emotions. Getting there, is half the battle, or so I’m told.

Posted in FTM, Gratititude, Hope, Hormone Replacement Therapy, Mental health, Reality | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

T and T

Yesterday, my good friend, R, reminded me softly to be patient. There’s an issue for me between taking testosterone and having stage three chronic kidney disease. They don’t mix. Part of me is moving quickly and didn’t look at facts from day one. At the beginning of this journey I was convinced I wanted no part of either testosterone or top surgery. In ten months, all that has changed. All of it.

In denial still, I tell myself on the twenty-third of this month, my PA-C will prescribe low dose T in gel form and I’ll be fine. Just a squirt here and there and my sanity will return, as though it were ever there in the first place. This will match that. Gratefully I’ll endure the puberty of a fourteen year old boy and get on with life each step closer to top surgery. It’s all a process; no magic here.

So it goes. No one has said I can’t have T. But, I had to Google things and slipped into the deepest depression I’ve felt in eight years. Called in the troops. Besides G, there are several non-biological family members, therapists and friends with whom I’d shared the good news  (following the January twenty-seventh appointment) where I’d learned T would be an option. They all came forward with hugs and love.

Disappointment doesn’t come easily. Of all my years in a twelve step program it took nearly half those years to learn to live a day at a time. Some don’t get it; I thought I’d be one of those people. I’m grateful, humble, etc., and honestly mean it. My bottom was bare bones; not just scary but creepy. There’s talk around the rooms of losing family and cars and homes. And minds. I was a fucked up person and  won’t go into details.

Back in the world, on track,  having the tools to perform, exist, subside, I want to live. Inside, I’m who I am with or without physical changes  I didn’t know I’d want or need. It’s up to me to garner as much strength as possible, with as many avenues open, to push like I were weight training or skiing down a mountain. Perhaps begin on a bunny slope and take it from there.

 

Posted in FTM | 10 Comments