Hello, World! Part five.

There are times for patience and and deliberation and there are times for haste and action. In the five years(!) since my last installment, I shifted from decades of deliberation to the action of gender transition.

In December 2011, I had recently stopped taking hormones after a few months and given up on the idea of transition.

Why? I didn’t think I was trans enough and wasn’t sure transition would make me feel better:

“Unlike the last couple of times, this feels more like a stop than a pause.

My personal truth is that while I have strong affinity and desire to be female, I don’t intrinsically believe myself to be female. At least not yet, because I believe myself to be somewhere in between.”

This particular personal demon still pops out to harass me on a regular basis, and I am still learning to not chase it down its hole and become lost in its dark and endless labyrinthine warren.

It leaps from nowhere for my jugular sometimes when I’m around women I find beautiful by putting its blade to my neck and holding me frozen without breath and forcing me to look at her as it whispers, “You’re not that and you never will be,” before disappearing like a mist in the bright glares at my awkward stares.

It’s there when I’m alone in the dressing room, teasing me almost to tears by telling me I’m a fraud when the pants don’t fit in the butt, or the top that looked amazing on the clothes hanger makes my shoulders look huge.

It’s there when I can’t get my makeup just right by cackling I’m a painted caricature.

Even with the massive widening of the gender spectrum and space created in the past several years to be more inclusive of non-binary and genderqueer people, the world at large still aims to sort people into male or female, man or woman to preserve a simplistic worldview that requires little thought or examination. Even with the recent strides in transgender equality we have taken, in most places we are still policed by these demons to perform for our life-saving care, to be treated with civil rights, to be accorded the humanity that is our birthright.

Those demons are fucking assholes that pop up and out in public a million times a day and a million times a day I ignore or wave and bat them away, but the full stable of demons have yet to be fully tamed or banished because the demons that haunt me when I am alone are often inescapable personal truths, only conquerable by love.

They are the sedimentary layers of hurtful comments turned to stone that weigh me down, they are past moments that still make me flinch in fear from shadows in sunlight, they are the blows that broke me to toughen me up.

After years of transition, my truth is still feeling not-right, an unclassified evolutionary mutation in the species homo trans. Worse, my metamorphoses is still incomplete, muddling self-classification. While I have achieved most of my transition goals I feel I am upon a new plateau marked by recent decisions about more physical changes I’m gated on by time and money.

As angsty as this all sounds, it’s mostly background noise at this point compared to the multiple klaxons going off alerting me to transition five years ago. My self-doubt tends to be fleeting, measured in seconds to minutes, and ever-more rarely hours to days.

Self-love conquers most of my fears and I’ve learned to love many of the parts of myself I used to consider unlovable. I’ve moved closer to accepting the things I will never have and its concomitant joys of letting go and not giving a fuck. Part of that self-love is working towards dismantling my impossible internal ideals of my feminine expression while finding my feminism.

Most of those impossible ideals came from the culture of men I was raised in, where women are treated as objects and the prettier they are, the more value they have in simultaneously being collected by men and then protected from other men. Being unconcerned with participating in that dynamic, I’ve shifted taking my femme cues from the male gaze-driven beauty culture towards more realistic and acheiveable femme queer and lesbian women.

This has helped de-fang much of my angst around measuring up to other women by discovering my own beauty. But the razor cuts both ways. The more I embrace my look, the more I expose myself to misgenderings and the risks that come with it.

So I grit my teeth at the truth demon of wanting surgical internventions to more closely approximate my internal self-view of my body and the social benefits it would bequeath, not knowing which is the chicken and which is the egg. I’m confident in time I’ll be able to bat this demon away, too.

This sort of introspection was difficult before my gender dysphoria diminished post-transition. Compared to when my brain would vapor-lock while trying to decide on a shirt to wear, it’s a whole new world.

I like this world.

Posted in coming out, gender transition, observations, personal history, self-acceptance, transgender, transition | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Lucky 🍀 magic carpet! Investment opportunity! $30,000 USD, firm. Cash only. Serious inquires only.

magiccarpet(I AM NOT SELLING DONALD TRUMP’S STOLEN HAIRPIECE. STOP EMAILING ME.)

This carpet doesn’t fly but it is lucky and will bring you riches!

This carpet was my grandparents’ and it was in their house for years before they gave it to my mom and then it was in my house growing up.

It’s from Seattle’s iconic Frederick & Nelson department store circa the 1950’s and my great-grandfather used to play solitaire, which he cheated at (I think grandma said he used to run liquor in from Canada to a downtown speakeasy during Prohibition?), while drinking Jack Daniels neat seated at a card table upon it.

He used to shuffle his feet when he wasn’t shuffling the cards and wore down the tufts to the backing, at which point my grandparents turned the carpet 180° and then he wore it down until he died, so the other side isn’t as bad as the side shown in the picture.

My mom gave me the rug about a decade ago and it languished in a damp garage until I moved about four years ago and I realized I could put it down on the floor in the new garage and then call the garage a shop.

I know shop sounds pretentious, but I’m not a man so it can’t be a man cave and it’s not a craft space because I cut and sand wood, not needlepoint and knitting, and workshop makes it sound like I house a cluster of feral MFA’s out there.

As the granddaughter of a State Department foreign service officer and the daughter of an amazing bullshitter, the true story is that my grandfather scored the carpet from the former U.S. Ambassador to Iran, who received it as a personal gift from the Shah, who gave it to him as a gift in thanks for the Central Intelligence Agency’s help in releasing questionable cables right before the coup d’état.

(Funny aside: The Russian FSB, née KGB, used similar tactics in the 2016 U.S. election!)

From the Shah’s personal collection, he claimed it was the very carpet Ali stood upon in Medina when he took Telha and Zobier’s hand and became Fourth Caliph and as such, it was especially blessed.

Not long after my divorce a few years back international bandits heard of the carpet, traced the carpet to me, invaded my home, rolled me up in it, and kidnapped me to a small village in Fünfvenue where they turned me transgender.

Seizing upon their opportunity to create an invisible sleeper agent to hasten the end of the decadent West, they attempted to indoctrinate me with jihadi passion before sending me naked and rolled to the House of Saud as an exotic court concubine, but while I did acquire a few broken phrases of Arabic I still find it impossible to read and spent most of my days nodding along with my instructors as we read what might have been text lifted from cookbooks for all I know.

Imagine my surprise when I returned home after fleeing into the desert on caravan with the carpet slung over the pommel of my camel’s saddle and making my way to Dubai where I turned tricks on the carpet in alleyways and cheap hotels to acquire sufficient funds for clothing and airfare home, only to discover that I liked being trans on account of the fact that the forced feminization hormones they fed me during captivity gave me boobs and I really liked having boobs on my body.

Now that I’m recently transitioned I’ve come to realize how rich I am in life experience and that the next step on my journey is the re-configuration of my penis into a vulva and vagina.

This surgery is not without its costs and the cost is about $30,000 when you include time off and underemployment from future work, travel, lodging, after-care supplies and checkups, and potential revision work, which is amazingly exactly how much the carpet is going for.

The riches the carpet might bring to you could be like mine, where you could be kidnapped by bandits and turned transgender or you could have it cleaned and repaired, and sell it at auction for least $100,000 at a significant profit or, and this is a wild idea, don’t clean and repair it and point out how the sawdust, dirt, and odd smells and stains are all part of the patina from travelling through the time and the space of half of the world, and set a reserve price of $1,000,000.

What type of person would purchase such a fine and rare artifact at auction?

Why, any number of people heading to Washington, D.C. with more money than sense and who want to do nothing more than impress each other and the folks back home instead of governing a pluralistic, heterogeneous society and feel they could do that by telling their cocktail party guests that they are standing on a one-of-a-kind carpet once owned by a certified Muslim dictator.

I would auction it myself that way but cash is king right now and I need the cash quick to become a queen.

If you wish to forego an escrow and would rather meet in person to consummate this transaction, I am willing to travel to and within select countries at your pre-paid expense, and deliver it in person with the caveat I will attend the actual exchange with armed guards.

Public key available upon request.

(P.S. – Family heirloom Masonic sword also available, $50 USD obo.)

Posted in activism, coming out, gender transition, health, healthcare, personal history, politics, random, transgender, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Week 153 – Five years later…

Five years ago, my ex-father-in-law sent me this letter:

filletter

It pissed me off. I wrote a response, but never sent it. It was rambling and made me do a lot of work, so I sat on it.

Flash forward to a little over a year ago and he showed up in town, ostensibly to help, and then bailed. Since then, my ex and ex-sister-in-law have confirmed he only visited to proselytize us and has left phone messages for them, which they have not returned.

He’s upped the ante lately by sending a letter to my ex, and it’s as self-serving as the letter above, asking her and her sister to forgive him, but qualifying his actions as a direct result of their failure to accept his faith. Doubling down, he sent a *photocopy* of the same letter to her sister and then texted some self-serving bullshit to my ex.

These antics have stirred their pots, which trickles down to my kids, and its butterfly effect blew into my world. Realizing it was time to say my piece, I finally re-wrote my response, presented below. I’m going to sleep on it before sending. His worldview doesn’t respond to appeals to logic or empathy, so I grasped the scepter of righteousness hoping to beat some sense into him by not sparing the rod.

10 January 2017

[Ex-father-in-law],

Surprise! I wrote a response to your letter from five years ago but set it aside, deeming it lacking. Over the years, I’ve taken both out to re-read and tinker with, but I was never happy with it. I’m not entirely happy with this one either, but such is the curse of word-craft.

You wrote to me in love, and I return the favor. This comes from my heart of righteous love.

“A wicked person earns deceptive wages, but the one who sows righteousness reaps a sure reward.” – Proverbs 11:18

You, sir, are a coward and a sham.

How dare you even attempt to lecture me about responsibility and love. Your weak attempt to conflate your desire to chase skirts and abandon your children with my right to wear a skirt around mine is beyond insulting.

Unlike you, I have shouldered my adult responsibilities and remained in my children’s lives to love and support them as best I can emotionally and materially as a half-time parent, even when those responsibilities threaten to crush me. Further, I have and will continue to remain in their lives longer than you ever did. You shirked your parental responsibilities and made countless decisions over the years to continue to do so.

That I would take parenting advice from you is ludicrous, especially given what transpired with your last visit. Your admirable offer of help to your daughters sparked hope in them before your arrival.

Instead, your cowardly retreat left ashes in hearts where warm fires should have banked. That you had to be arm-twisted into saying goodbye to your grandchildren poured urine upon any remaining embers.

Its craven narcissism still astonishes me along with the recent, hypocritical effluent you have been spewing at your daughters in an attempt to guilt them into forgiving your patently uncaring and unkind behavior.

I am not of your or any faith, but I can see a certain literary nobility in believing in one so fervently you’d abandon your children if they didn’t accept yours in their greatest hour of need.

That you travelled at great distance and cost only to minister to their souls and not to their great and apparent corporeal needs reveals your fealty to a cult that values the dead over the living. Their real, lived suffering wasn’t reason enough to remain and help, and your proselytizing was revealed to be the tool of emotional blackmail it is.

While the whole arc makes a great plot for a novel, the tangible legacy of your self-professed errand of salvation and mercy was your children feeling shattered, angry, and abandoned yet again, and your grandchildren wondering why grandpa left abruptly.

For shame you charlatan! Shame!

If you are unable to see that you did the exact. same. thing. you did when they were younger by chasing after piety instead of a skirt, you are blinded by your faith and abide in darkness of soul and a mirror-house of self-deception.

Unless and until you see that you have been using your infidelities, faith, and alcohol as insulators between you fully accepting responsibility and learning from your mistakes & changing your behavior accordingly, your family will be estranged, because you simply can’t be reached at your remove. That’s not your family’s fault and it is not their gap to close, it is yours.

May Jesus’ love fill the hole you cut from your own heart until you find a way to mend it.

Heather

(I’ve found that reading it in the voice of Samuel L. Jackson and throwing in a  few motherfuckers here and there really makes it sing, but YMMV.)

Posted in coming out, gender transition, transgender | Tagged , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Week 152 – Lather, rinse, repeat

Nine months post full-time, my days have settled into familiar repetition. This period of time is savory to me after threading the variable treacle needle of transition so many of us pass through.

There are the days I do not leave my property and I am free to ignore the expectations that others place upon me with regards to hair, makeup, and clothes to claim my rightful place. Some days my pajamas are my couture, especially if I don’t have to do any dirty tasks around the house. On those days I save thirty to sixty minutes a day, and I prowl around my lair free, but with an invisible fence of presentability keeping me in.

I chafe at this confinement some days, yet for others I am content to wear pants with pockets and not have to wear underwear and shapeware that sausage in my crotch and midsection, scrub makeup off my face before bed, or inhibit my breathing with a bra.

The other days I spend thinking about what clothes I’m going to wear, (jeans or a dress? will those work skirts I bought ever see the light of day?) how I’ll tame my hair into presentable shape, which earrings I want to wear, how I really should level up my makeup even though I know it’s already presentable enough, and which shoes or boots will work with my outfit.

There’s a happy satisfaction to pulling myself together well that I try to capture in selfies that I post to Twitter, and my friends buoy me with likes and supportive comments. That makes me feel good and helps my confidence.

My beauty ritual is mandatory, not optional. It’s an invisible jail around me, and I move through the world worrying that someone will break in and drag me out to the stockade in the town square just for the spectacle of it.

When venturing out, I buttress myself with steel. It’s a superstructure bolted on top of my rush job exoskeleton with gaps most women grow from childhood to protect themselves from men. My armor now easily deflects the glances, the stares, and active ignorings that unexpectedly pop up like prairie dogs across the landscape of a day.

It also absorbs the now less-frequent misgenderings and I pray it will give me the strength to resist an active bigot should I encounter one.

The predictability of my daily experiences are in a way a comfort.

I’m no longer a timid mouse fearing the shadows of foe and friends alike. In pre- and early transition every situation seemed to require immense, conscious analysis, (‘Did they read me?’, ‘Oh god, these shoes don’t match.’, ‘Is she expecting me to hug her in greeting or not?’) that left me exhausted and often wondering if I’d done the right thing.

Some social rituals still flummox me, but on the whole I do okay and the certitude of my path becomes more solid with each passing day. Looking back, I’m amazed I was able to wait as long as I did and made it out alive without going barking mad.

While one of my deeper fears of transition from years ago has manifested itself–trading one gender box for another–I am mostly at peace with the confines of my new box. Unlike the other one, I see the way to remodel and expand, and even venture beyond should I choose to.

For the first time in years, I have plans and goals for my future. I’m glad I’m here to make them and begin working towards them. There were days I wasn’t sure I’d make it, and after the chaos of the past few years I’m fine with some dull predictability for a spell before things get complex again.

Posted in gender transition, observations, self-acceptance, transgender, transition | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

Uncertain: Poetry About Gender Transition, now available for sale

Uncertain: Poems About Gender Transition cover

I’ve just self-published to Kindle a collection of 48 poems, titled Uncertain: Poems About Gender Transition and I’d really appreciate it if you bought a copy and wrote a review or suggest it to a friend. 🙂

My life changes that started in late 2015 degraded my ability to write long form works and in December, I resolved to try to keep my writing skills warm by writing a daily poem. In April 2016 I shifted that work to a dedicted poetry blog, Heather’s Heath. While I didn’t create a poem every day, I did most days and these are selected from that body of work.

Thank you for taking a look and supporting my writing!

Heather

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Week 151 – Surgical thoughts

Right around the first time I almost transitioned in 1999, I knew most of my major and minor surgeries and surgeons inside out.

There was SRS/GCS (sexual reassignment surgery/gender confirmation surgery), FFS (facial feminization surgery) including rhinoplasty and brow bossing/supraorbial rim adjustment, orchiectomy (removal of the testes), tracheal shave, laryngoplasty (voice surgery), and breast implants.

Bangkok and Montreal looked like the best places to go for SRS/GCS from the dozen or so choices and FSS was Ousterhout, hands-down. Orchiectomy was if you decided you couldn’t afford or didn’t want SRS/GCS and was usually done by a local, sympathetic urologist. Voice surgery was a crapshoot and providers seemed to shift around depending on technique, cost, and results. Breast implants could be done just about anywhere if you had the money.

Back then, insurance didn’t pay for anything. It was all out-of-pocket. So it’d be no surprise that the vast majority of before and after photos and testimonials were from white women. Luckily things are changing on both accounts now.

At the time I desperately wanted all the surgeries. All of them. But I was self-employed and married to a woman who while tolerant, was only tentatively supportive. With only enough money saved up for one major procedure, I decided I wanted SRS/GCS.

But there was one tiny, little problem. I hadn’t transitioned. And I certainly hadn’t transitioned and had my year of RLT (real-life test of living in the target gender; it feels icky even to write that down nowadays, like my life is some sort of test.) FFS seemed like a good backup option, but again, having not transitioned it would have been difficult to have that done and not transition.

Fear of losing my business and my marriage kept me from transitioning and by 2001 I was divorced, underemployed, living off my savings, and working very hard to pretend I wasn’t trans. By 2003 I was almost homeless and even the deeply closeted hopes and dreams around transition and surgeries evaporated.

In 2006 I landed a good job with great medical benefits that paid for my kids to be born and all the other maladies that happen in life, and they covered trans-related medical care, including surgery. Oh!

But again, I was scared. I didn’t want to end my marriage and maybe lose my kids over transition. And well, you can read my blog from the beginning if you want to know my story about all that to today.

Recently I’ve been asking myself what happened to that girl who wanted it all done?

Mostly, she’s older and hopefully a bit wiser. Getting all those nips and tucks doesn’t feel as urgent with almost three years of feminizing HRT (hormone replacement therapy) and nine months of living as myself, post-transition.

Some of my reticence comes from watching dozens of other women blast through transition and surgeries as fast as possible and seeing more than I would have expected crash and burn emotionally afterwards. For them, it was too much too fast to process. Being a very slow emotional processor, I wanted to avoid that.

Then there’s the fact that I’m lucky. HRT has done much for me and while my voice is still sometimes problematic, it seems like I pass fairly well. FFS feels less like something I really, really have to have in order to pass and more like something that will enhance what I already have.

Fears of complications have also haunted me. I stopped reading about complication outcomes years ago. They were scary and depressing and everything new I read is even scarier edge cases. Finding time for recovery is also somewhat problematic being a part-time parent and single.

The wheel keeps on turning and I’m back to being unemployed with limited health insurance, but I have promised myself I’ll get something done in 2017. It’s time. I’m ready. It’s a relief to be at a spot where it’s coming from a spot of deliberative choice instead of compulsion. Onward!

Posted in coming out, gender transition, health, healthcare, observations, personal history, transgender, transition | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Week 150 – Recharging

I’m back to not knowing what the hell I’m doing and I wonder if this is my default state. Transition provided a goal to focus on with clear steps to follow to make it happen. Even with all the uncertainty in my life, it was an anchor holding me from floating away.

Today I fell adrift. Worse, I know I’m drifting closer to the undertow of financial ruin and my inflatable raft is slowly losing air and I hardly have the energy to blow into it. Instead, I’m using the stuffing from my life jacket to try and plug holes, which means that I’m doubly screwed if I sink.

And I’m lucky. I have retirement savings to burn through. That’s what ties my brain in knots.

I tell myself that it’s okay to take a break, to rest, to recharge, to use that money to chill the fuck out, but the longer I don’t do anything the harder it becomes to do something. I’ve promised myself I’ll kick it into gear in January, but now I’m starting to worry that will be too late.

Once again I’m placing most of my eggs into a single basket by tying to start another business, and it’s scary as hell. There are other, smaller baskets, but I know those won’t pay the bills that need to be paid. With kids, the stakes are different this time.

Intellectually, I know I’ll find a way. I always have. But the doubts whisper to me. Somewhere in the past few years I feel like I spent my reserves of confidence on transition. I have to trust they’re there, even if I don’t see them.

©Heather Coldstream

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