Looking on the Bright Side

Being trans can be rough and even dangerous but it’s not always doom and gloom. I’ve whined about my life here quite a bit and even I get tired of hearing myself whine. So, here are some good things about my life.

Up front, I have to acknowledge my privileges. I’m white, I grew up in a middle-class family in the suburbs, went to college, and entered the job market when there was still an unstated assumption children would have a better life than their parents. Transitioning in my 40’s, I had years of male privilege going for me that helped my career and smooth out some life bumps along the way.

Unasked for and unearned, those privileges have and continue to impact my life for the positive in ways that I’m sure I will never fully understand, but I acknowledge that the intersection of my race, class, and age insulate(d) me from many transition and other life issues that so many others face.

Me and my children have our physical health. None of us have a chronic disease or physical disability that impact our lives. My family’s mental health orbits around autism for one of my kids and I struggle with episodic depression, but on the whole we’re functional and able to enjoy life most of the time.

Through aforementioned privileges, I was able to put money away for retirement when I was working. When I had to stop working to save my sanity and focus on my autistic kid, I was able to live off of that money, (but ouch that tax bill and who needs a retirement fund, right?) and have enough left for another year’s worth of expenses before things get dire and I have to start selling everything to pay bills.

I decide how I spend my time, and being able to just be with my kids and not have to worry about childcare closing because I have to work late is priceless. One kid is thriving and I feel like I’m closer to getting the other to a more positive space.

The rough, emotional days of my transition are (hopefully and permanently) behind me and I’m lucky enough to be able to move forward with surgery, hopefully next year. Being trans no longer consumes or defines my life and is now just another thing about me.

The house I live in suits me well and is in a beautiful place. The bird feeders attract all sorts of birds, I often see deer and other wildlife, and the greenery I’m surrounded by helps soothe my soul.

I’m about 95% done processing my mom’s estate and getting her condo sold the other month allowed me to pay off a huge credit card.

The business I’ve been incubating is about to hatch, and I’m very excited about being able to put more attention into it after this past summer when I was consumed with estate work. If the business doesn’t go well, I have skills ranging from technology to trade labor to fall back on to earn money with.

Though my girlfriend moved to California earlier this year and realized he was a trans man, I treasure and love our friendship. Hearing about how well his job is going and upcoming transition makes me happy for him, and it’s fun to hear how dating is treating him.

I reconnected with someone I dated a couple of times a couple of years ago and am enjoying getting to know her better.

I’m very proud of myself for learning to play the guitar and playing and recording my music brings me great joy.

The relationship I have with my ex centers our kids and we do each other favors from time to time.

In the petty schadenfreude department, I am happier and have a more stable life than my ex, who got fired, dumped by her boyfriend, and had car troubles all in the space of a week last month.

Lastly, I’m thankful for my friends near and far who continue to help me through this thing we call life.


©Heather Coldstream

I’m on Twitter @cistotrans

Please consider supporting my writing by sharing it with others with attribution and linking back or buying one of my poetry collections from the Kindle store. Thank you!

2016: Poems from a Year of Change

Uncertain: Poems About Gender Transition

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You Should Still Transition

Last year I wrote a post called You Should Transition. I believe that even with all the negative shit happening for trans people right now, you should still transition.

Why?

Because you’re suffering from gender dysphoria and it won’t get any better unless you transition. You’ll suffer alone and not have a community to help you keep it together.

You’ll watch from the sidelines as things at first get worse and then they’ll get better. While things get worse, your fear of being outed will grow and it will make your life harder. It will be harder because the stakes for trans people will be higher.

When things hit the lowest point before they start getting better, you may feel hopeless. It will seem like you’re permanently trapped in the gender assigned to you because the entire world around you is aligned to keep you where you are.

Then the tide will turn.

It will be hard to tell at first. It takes time for things to work through the system. But like spring flowers, they’ll be a few early blooms in the gloom before a riot of color erupts in the sunshine.

Feeling more free to start to transition then, you may come to realize that facing the fears from within is a bigger challenge than facing the fears from without, and you may kick yourself for waiting to confront those fears.

You should still transition, because the world has always been a mixture and cycle of shit and beauty, and waiting for beauty to come around again before you transition means waiting, and every day you wait is one less day to live wholly.

Live whole. Transition.


©Heather Coldstream

Please consider supporting my writing by sharing it with others with attribution and linking back or buying one of my poetry collections from the Kindle store. Thank you!

2016: Poems from a Year of Change

Uncertain: Poems About Gender Transition

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[CW: violence] Dear Motherfuckers Who Go Out of Their Way to Tell Trans People They Wish We Were Dead

[CW: violence]

Dear motherfuckers who go out of their way to tell trans people they wish we were dead,

Due to the recent overwhelming number of messages trans people have been receiving to tell us they wish we were dead, we’re finding it hard to respond to everyone in a timely fashion and we’re sorry about that. We’ve developed the following form to help expedite your hurling of invective and help us route it the to correct department for a response.

Thank you for your patience and happy transphobia!

Sincerely,
Transgender Cabal, Inc.

A parody of a death request form

Twitter Transgender Death Request

 


©Heather Coldstream

Please consider supporting my writing by sharing it with others with attribution and linking back or buying one of my poetry collections from the Kindle store. Thank you!

2016: Poems from a Year of Change

Uncertain: Poems About Gender Transition

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In Case of an Emergency…

Ominous clouds

…here’s what I’d want.

Everything should be in waterproof bags or containers. Clothing should be wool or synthetic. Check local laws and regulations for potential firearm and blade restrictions. Adjust quantities as necessary depending on the size of your party, physical ability to carry, and if you’re sheltering in place or travelling. Add/delete items depending on your local climate; I’m a Northwest gal so I have to be prepared for cold rain, snow, and mountains so it skews that way.

Core paperwork kit A – For moving through urban environments, crossing borders, or applying for aid or asylum.

* Corrected driver’s license
* Corrected birth certificate
* Corrected passport
* Corrected credit/debit cards
* Cash; mix of bills but tilt towards lower denominations
* Dollar and quarter coins

Core paperwork kit B – For proof of identity when original documents aren’t needed.

* Hard copy of corrected birth certificate
* Hard copy of corrected driver’s license
* Hard copy of corrected passport
* Hard copies of health/auto/home insurance cards
* Hard copies of checking/savings/retirement account numbers
* Hard copies of debit/credit card numbers
* Hard copies of passwords
* Electronic copies of all of the above

Alternate paperwork kit A – You’ve been saving your old, uncorrected documents in case you need to temporarily present as your old self in an emergency to deal with a hostile bureaucracy or get across a border, right?

* Uncorrected driver’s license
* Uncorrected birth certificate
* Uncorrected passport
* Uncorrected credit/debit cards
* Cash; mix of bills but tilt towards lower denominations
* Dollar and quarter coins

Alternate paperwork kit B – Just in case you need to leave a copy with someone.

* Hard copy of uncorrected birth certificate
* Hard copy of uncorrected driver’s license
* Hard copy of uncorrected passport
* Electronic copies of all of the above

Core Supplies – Useful for short-term natural and man-made emergencies for sheltering in place, or travelling short-to-medium distances or through moderate terrain.

* 2-3 changes street clothes (1 set androgynous)
* Androgynous wallet
* Map and compass
* Headlamp and extra batteries
* Sunglasses, sunscreen, and brimmed hat
* First aid kit
* Insect repellant
* Moleskin
* Small knife
* 5′ – 550 paracord
* Lighter and tinder
* Emergency shelter/bivvy/space blanket
* Extra food
* Water filter and purification tablets
* Rain/snow jacket
* Rain/snow pants
* Fleece jacket
* Warm hat/beanie
* Extra clothes (wool or GoreTex)
* Hiking boots
* Hiking pole
* Folding shovel
* Toilet paper
* Hand sanitizer
* Prescription medicine
* Extra prescription medicine
* Over the counter painkillers (ibuprofen and acetaminophen)
* Prescription strength painkillers
* Topical painkiller
* Spork
* Water bottle
* Backpack
* Solar-powered light source
* Burner phone w/extra battery
* Pepper spray
* Pencils, pens, sharpies, paper
* Extra Ziplock bags
* 2 XL, heavy-duty garbage bags
* Signal mirror
* Whistle
* Hand warmers
* Dry bag
* Toothbrush
* Toothpaste
* Safety razors
* Bungee cord
* Makeup
* Jewelry (if fine jewelry, also useful for bribes)
* Contact lenses and solution
* Glasses
* Paper towels
* Bar soap
* Sewing kit
* Running shoes
* Hand-crank radio
* Crescent wrench
* Pliers
* Needle nose pliers
* Feminine hygiene products
* Books, cards, dice, games
* Edible plant guide
* Fishing kit

Advanced Supplies – Useful for extended natural and man-made emergencies for sheltering in place, or travelling long distances or through extreme terrain.

* Tent
* Mountaineering stove and fuel
* Cooking pot
* Plate
* Camp soap
* 4 regular carabiners
* 2 locking carabiners
* Descender
* Climbing pulley
* Climbing harness
* 100′ climbing rope
* Crampons
* Gaiters
* Snow goggles, clear
* Ice axe
* Leather gloves
* Ski gloves
* Large tarp
* Gun and loose ammo
* Solar device charger
* Hatchet/hammer
* Hack saw
* Machete
* 5 gallon collapsible water jug
* 100′ green 550 paracord
* 100′ black 550 paracord
* 100′ tan 550 paracord
* 100′ dun earth 550 paracord
* 1 case MREs
* Washcloth
* Hand towels
* Bath towel
* 2 road flares
* Bolt cutters
* Manual can opener
* 2 dust masks
* Zip ties, various sizes/colors
* 1 gallon bleach
* Sleeping bag
* Wool blanket
* Sharpening stone
* Tools of a trade
* Scissors
* Inflatable raft
* Tree saw
* Binoculars

Advanced Medical Supplies – With this stuff you’ll be prepared to patch yourself or someone else up after a mega-quake, a colossal hurricane, civil unrest, or alien invasion.

* Tactical trauma kit
* Surgical tool set
* Survival suture kit
* Disposable skin stapler
* Clotting kit
* Burn gel
* 200 pcs 3″ gauze
* 200 pcs 2″ gauze
* 20 rolls 2″ gauze
* 20 rolls 4″ gauze
* 200 steri strips
* 6 rolls surgical tape
* 9 ace bandages (various width/lengths)
* Bacitracin
* Coban (self-adhering) first aid tape
* 24 abdominal trauma pads
* 4 – 1qt hydrogen peroxide
* 1qt providine iodine
* 90% isopropyl alcohol
* 500 alcohol prep pads
* Saline solution
* 2 eye patches
* 4 arm slings
* Sling w/shoulder immobilizer
* 2 knee braces
* 2 elbow braces
* Ankle brace
* Padded leg splint
* Padded arm splint
* 3″ webbed tourniquet
* 1″ cloth tourniquet
* 200 antibacterial wipes
* 1 box nitrile exam gloves
* 4 IV kits w/PICC-line butterflies and extension tubes
* 50′ medical fishnet sock
* 100 sterile saline IV flush syringes
* 6 ice packs
* 6 heat compresses
* Anti-diarrheal
* Laxatives


©Heather Coldstream

Please consider supporting my writing by sharing it with others with attribution and linking back or buying one of my poetry collections from the Kindle store. Thank you!

2016: Poems from a Year of Change

Uncertain: Poems About Gender Transition

Posted in gender transition, LGBT, observations, opinion, random, safety, transgender, transition | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Fading Away

21 October, 2018

Trump Administration Eyes Defining Transgender Out of Existence

4 November, 2020

I feel the pull of the ethereal plane. I’m already so transparent I’m forgetting to open doors and hunger is but another fading memory, just as I am.

At first, I didn’t notice the change. I still got up every morning, took a shower, and brushed my teeth. I paid my taxes. I played with my kids. But day by day, I began to fade.

It showed up first in my shadow. The usual fuzzy halo at the edges was fuzzier, the black center just that much lighter. I brushed it off as scaremongering. There was no way the state could define me out of existence. It’s unpossible.

But then there was the day I urgently had to go to the bathroom when I was shopping at WalMart. I had given up using public restrooms entirely after the 2018 elections; it had simply become too dangerous. My identification had been forcibly changed in 2019 and I couldn’t use it to scan in anywhere that wasn’t allowed by public policy.

I tried to tailgate in the door after another woman, but she looked at me like I was some sort of demon and I had to shamefully use the other bathroom. Luckily I was able to avoid the men, but it scared me. It wasn’t until I was home that I realized there was the slightest shimmer emanating from me, like a heat wave.

My evaporation accelerated when my passport disappeared. One day it was there and the next day it wasn’t. When I went to reapply, I was told I couldn’t dress in costume for my photo. Costume! I didn’t know what they meant so for my re-takes I wore stud earrings instead and pulled my hair back. But like a vampire, I didn’t appear in the photo no matter how much the person fiddled with the camera.

That really shook me.

I realized there were places I couldn’t go even if I could leave.

There was some sort of test I could take to prove I existed, but I’d heard it didn’t always work, and then there was the issue of the government having access to my genetic record. The thought of failing the test scared me even more, because then I’d disappear in an instant.

Even though I’ve accepted my fate, it’s my kids I worry about the most.

They’ll have no body to bury. My name is already unpronounceable to them and I have become a wraith. They’ll be kids with a single parent, like Jesus, and that will make filling out forms in the future a hell for them as they explain, no, really they only have one parent.

My works have also be decaying to nothing, the same as the other disappearing. When I read the news and hear of trains crashing, computer systems going down, music and movies fading from the record, I nod my head knowingly. The world itself is becoming thinner and easier to tear.

At least no other generation will suffer this genocide, as we will be the last, because those that don’t exist cannot be erased because they never existed in the first place.

Farewell.


©Heather Coldstream

Please consider supporting my writing by sharing it with others with attribution and linking back or buying one of my poetry collections from the Kindle store. Thank you!

2016: Poems from a Year of Change

Uncertain: Poems About Gender Transition

Posted in activism, gender transition, LGBT, politics, transgender, transition | Tagged , , , , | 5 Comments

Waiting Room

My navigation app guides me north from San Jose to Burlingame on the 101. My appointment is at 3 pm and even though traffic is light, I’m concerned I might be late because I dawdled at my hotel. I speed up to 80 mph. The rental Mazda hums along the California concrete without the rattles and road roar of my ancient Subaru back in Seattle. I should make it on time.

I mentally kick myself for not leaving earlier. I’m almost always early so when I run late it’s because of extenuating circumstances or resistance born of anxiousness that makes me dawdle.

I’m anxious as fuck. Feeling like I’m running late takes it up just that one more notch and I practice my meditative breathing as I drive. Deep inhale. Pause. Exhale. I repeat this four more times while hurtling down the highway and the irony of the juxtaposition is not lost upon me.

I shouldn’t be late for my surgical consultation. It’s the last step before gaining something I’ve desperately wanted since I was fourteen, maybe even younger. I should be early like I usually am for things that are important to me. Maybe I have an unconscious need to make this step hard to prove to myself I’m really trans. Internalized transphobia sucks.

I’m almost there and construction cones and detour signs send the navigator into a series of, ‘Turn left here’, ‘Make a u-turn here’, and ‘Turn right here’-s before I shut it off. I see the building. I’m not lost. Street parking is easy and free and I walk back in the warm afternoon sun.

The front of the building is blocked off so I follow a sign and then a hedge-lined path to the back entrance. The lobby is spartan and nondescript. There’s no furniture, not even a plant. Only a directory board and doors with large, brass plates. None of the offices has windows that look out on the lobby.

I wonder if I’m in the right place. The door I think I’m supposed to go through looks like it might lead to a private space not an office. I check the directory again. There are no other listings so I enter. It’s 2:55 pm. The door slams loudly behind me as it shuts.

It’s the right place.

There’s a young woman, maybe in her late teens or early twenties, waiting with her parents and another woman waiting by herself. They look like they might be anxious too, but maybe I’m projecting. So there’s going to be a wait.

The receptionist tells me they’re running about forty-five minutes late. She doesn’t look happy about it either and alludes that something happened earlier in the day to throw the schedule off. I don’t have to be anywhere at any time so it doesn’t matter to me so I take a seat in the corner next to the door.

The single woman is called back around 3:15. I’m reviewing my notes when a woman walks in and there’s something about her that has a familiar air to me. I can’t see her face and she sits down across the door from me and rummages in her bag so I only get a partial profile.

Then my brain clicks with who she reminds me of and I dismiss it as preposterous. There’s no way a woman I went on a couple of dates with years ago in Seattle, WA could just happen to have an appointment time overlapping mine in Burlingame, CA. But her voice, her shape, how she moves sure seems familiar. I tweet about it to distract myself and think how silly I’m being.

The daughter and her parents are called back. I wish I had parents to come with me, too. I envy her and then let it dissolve into happiness for her.

The woman across the way shifts over to the corner next to me so she can plug in her laptop. I get a clear look at her face. It’s her.

‘Excuse me, are you from Seattle?’

‘Um, yes,’ she replies. I re-introduce myself and she remembers me. As we’re catching up two women come in, and we find out they are married and from Minneapolis. They’re chatty and there’s trans small talk of surgeons and surgeries. The family leaves and I’m finally called back. It’s close to 4:30.

I undress below the waist and wait, sweating into the thin paper sheet on the exam table. After a bit the doctor comes in, trailed by a resident learning the ropes. I’m asked familiar questions about who I am and what I’m about.

When did I first have cross-gender feelings? When did I start hormones? When did I transition? What’s my story? What questions do I have?

I have a printed list organized by type: SURGICAL, WAITING LIST, PAPERWORK/BILLING, and MISC. I obtain the dubious notoriety of asking two questions she’s never been asked before.

The first one, (do you use a surgical checklist,) has her look at me like I’ve dropped a turd on the floor. ‘Yes.’

The second, (what do you wish more people had a deeper understanding about pre- or post-surgery,) elicits a more positive response. ‘One: the necessity of dilation, and two: it won’t make sex better.’

The latter point leads to an interesting discussion about expectations, knowing your pleasure pathways to begin with, and her expressed fear that trans kids may struggle in the future because they have little to no sexual experience prior to surgery.

Probing where I was on the waiting list was the main reason I was having the consultation. My surgical date is in 2021(!) but I’m on the waitlist and I was hoping to get a sense of how fast that list moves so I can plan accordingly. The good news is that while she couldn’t commit to a date, there’s a glimmer it could happen in 2019 and that 2020 was more likely.

This is huge progress as far as I’m concerned and it made the whole trip worth it.


©Heather Coldstream

Please consider supporting my writing by sharing it with others with attribution and linking back or buying one of my poetry collections from the Kindle store. Thank you!

2016: Poems from a Year of Change

Uncertain: Poems About Gender Transition

Posted in gender transition, health, healthcare, LGBT, personal history, transgender, transition | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Shut up, anxiety

I am up before the sun, before even the furnace awakens from its slumber to heat the house and I have slept maybe four hours. My anxiety, which procrastinated away last night’s hours in a movie, laundry, dishes, updating my phone, and playing my guitar before agreeing to participate in packing stares back at me from the mirror and worries. I want to cry, but I don’t have the time. I have to take a shower and get going.

The sun breaks above a dark cloud deck hovering over the city like an ominous alien spacecraft. The light pierces my tired eyes as I walk to the bus stop. Crows and pigeons take flight at my approach and for some unknown reason take laps around a mature Douglas fir until I pass. My dread grows and anxiety whispers beyond my hearing of today’s possible fates.

The light rail is uncrowded and I ignore the man who follows me on and sits down right behind me when there are many other open seats. This is a threat I understand, with probabilities and known outcomes. My anxiety notices the threat and passes it along to vigilance because it has a bigger fish on the line.

After I arrive, I head straight for the bathroom. It’s important to have an empty bladder in case there’s a problem because if something goes wrong, my anxiety tells me I have no idea when I’ll be able to use one again.

I adjust myself and both pairs of underwear to smooth any lines. My tight, stretchy jeans bind some in the crotch and cling to my legs. My shirt is loose and hangs down to hide my muffin top. My anxiety tells me revealing pants and a loose shirt are good.

I remember I forgot to put makeup on so I stop by the mirror near the door and swipe on some concealer and mascara. I groom my eyelashes and primp my hair.

I am not over- or under- dressed or made up. My anxiety tells me it’s good to do all these things.

I put my identification in my pocket and take a deep breath. It’s time.

I judge the lines, scanning for a woman, preferably a woman of color. I end up in a line stationed by a white woman. It’ll do. She stops me before checking my documents. It’s a general stop. It’s not me. I practice my breathing and my bored, disinterested look. My anxiety worries.

The line starts moving again and the first hurdle is past with no incident. I worry about the white supervisor directing people to lines and get lucky when he moves away to groom the lines at the other end.

I study the lines. It looks like I’ll have to pass the gauntlet. I resign myself to this and practice my request to opt out while looking for a line that’s mostly single people and less kids. My anxiety tells me the longer I wait in line, the longer I’m looked at.

The line at the end appears to be all single travelers. A supporting column blocks the view of the X-ray area and it isn’t until I’m in line that I see there’s no scanner. There’s only a metal detector.

I smile. My anxiety moves into background but doesn’t go away. All of us in line wait for a white techbro who’s slow to get all his stuff in trays because he’s not prepared. The agent tells him he also has to take off his belt. The techbro looks surprised. I wait with my laptop out and shoes already half-off.

I’m waved through and wait for my bag. They pull the bag of the man in front of me. He’s brown. I hope he doesn’t get too much hassle and I also feel guilty because I know if they’re busy with him, it’s less attention put on me and my bag.

My bag comes out and as I’m waiting for my shoes, a white guy gets in my personal space. I take a step to the left and he moves forward. Dude, chill out. The belt is slow. I retrieve my shoes, slip them on, and head to my gate.

My anxiety reminds me I’ll still need to fly home.

Shut up, anxiety.


©Heather Coldstream

Please consider supporting my writing by sharing it with others with attribution and linking back or buying one of my poetry collections from the Kindle store. Thank you!

2016: Poems from a Year of Change

Uncertain: Poems About Gender Transition

Posted in gender transition, LGBT, observations, personal history, safety, transgender, transition | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments