Heigh Ho, Heigh Ho, It’s Back to Work I Go…

Monday marked my first day of work after a three week absence for surgery and recovery. I worked from home to catch up on emails, and was back in the office on Tuesday.

When our office manager saw me Tuesday, he asked if I’d been bored taking so much time off.

I wasn’t.

It was really, really wonderful to not have to worry about work for a few weeks. The fact that I came back to an office packed pretty much wall-to-wall with computers and peripherals that need to be re-homed (which is not my job, but part of our department’s function sometimes), nearly preventing me from even getting to my desk, did not help to ease the transition back. I’ve felt claustrophobic in my windowless, packed office, achy and tired from so much extra activity, and just generally grouchy.

Still, it’s been nice to see the enthusiasm of coworkers at having me back in the office. Someone informed me on Tuesday that when she told her team I was back, they applauded.

I’m still healing well, although I’m trying hard not to push myself too much with being back at work. The last thing I want is to set myself back to the point where I need to take more days off from work, because I burned through all of my remaining personal and sick time for the three weeks I already took. I’m definitely in the place where I feel like I have more energy than I do, which means I crash a bit at night, and mornings feel like a challenge (although challenging mornings are sort of par for the course for my entire life).

Because I’m feeling like I have my energy back for the most part, and because I’m increasingly happy with how my body looks as it heals, I’m getting really excited about the prospect of self-care in the form of exercise. The problem is that I can’t really exert myself yet, and so I have all of this motivation to work out and very little ability to act on it for the next two or three weeks, by which point the motivation may or may not still be there. Meanwhile, I’m researching various gym and fitness program options and trying to figure out what my budget is for that.

The most exciting news from my week was that I learned that my insurance officially paid for surgery. I may still have a small portion to pay depending on how the hospital billed, but the $30,000+ bulk of the surgery has been covered, and that is an enormous relief!

Momentum

Despite the fact that the entire rest of my work team was on vacation last week, making for a rather sleepy week at the office, it feels like my life is really picking up speed.

I’m less than 50 days out from chest masculinization surgery. There are a handful of details to finish nailing down between now and then, but for the most part, it looks like it really is going to happen. It’s starting to feel real. It still feels like it’s a long way off, but then I start looking at the actual numbers, and really…it’s coming up faster than I think I’m allowing myself to process.

I’m playing two different shows in the next couple of weeks. Sunday night I’ll be playing my longest on-stage set ever (a whopping 45 minutes). I was asked to do the show with one week’s notice, and in a moment of madness, I agreed. I’ll manage to get everything polished enough to play by then, but it’s definitely nerve-wracking. It might be my last big show of the year, depending on how recovery goes after surgery, so there’s also some self-inflicted pressure there, to go out with a bang.

In a few weeks, I’ll be participating in a show comprised entirely of covers of songs written by one of my dear songwriting friends. So that’s two additional songs I need to get cemented in my head within the next few weeks. I’m excited and honored to have been asked to participate, and I think it’ll be a really fun night. I never really do covers, because I generally feel like I can’t do another musician’s work justice. So it’s an exciting challenge.

I’m trying to cherish all the time I’m spending playing my guitar right now, since it’s going to be a major challenge (and for a while, an impossibility) post-op.

I’ve been a little down the past few days, for no real reason I can figure aside from the cyclical nature of my brain. But I’m aware that things are falling into place, and that’s a comforting thing to realize.

Transition, Present Tense

I was struggling to find a topic for the blog today, and then I remembered a conversation I had with a friend a couple of weeks ago that I had thought would be a great topic for a post. (Thanks, KW!)

My friend asked me if I thought of “transition” as a past tense verb for myself, here in this stage when I have the ability to grow awesome sideburns and am read more and more frequently as male. The immediate answer was a resounding, “No!” There are still things I’m waiting for, like the arrival of a full beard, and concrete steps I still want to take in terms of physical transition at some point in the future, like top surgery. I am still very much “transitioning” – present progressive tense, dynamic and ever-evolving.

But the more I thought about it, the more I realized…I don’t believe that “transition” will ever be a past tense verb for me. I think I will always be evolving and learning, shifting and growing. What allows me to feel comfortable in my body today might not tomorrow, or next month, or next year, or five or ten years from now. I am transgender, and queer, and those things won’t change…but precisely what those words mean to me just might.

It’s entirely possible that this outlook is a product of where I’m at in life. The six years that have passed since I took my first tentative steps out of the closet have been packed with change. Every six months or so has brought with it another world-shattering revelation. Every time I think things have slowed down and I have achieved equilibrium, something else comes up. It’s been quite a wild ride, though in retrospect I wouldn’t give up those big revelations for the world – I’m so much happier now. Still, it’s hard, from my current vantage point, to believe that things will ever really slow down. I could very well be wrong. This is another thing the past six years have taught me – I do not know everything about anything, including myself. There’s always something more to learn.

In any case, this is where I am for the moment – in transition, present tense.

Some Things Change; Some Stay the Same

It’s the first Thursday of November.

The first Thursday of November last year, I learned how to self-administer testosterone injections, and gave myself my first shot.

It’s been a year.

A year ago, I wasn’t entirely convinced that I was making the right choice. I was convinced, however, that I had to do something, and since starting HRT was suddenly an option that was open to me, I went for it.

And after a year, I have to say…I haven’t regretted it for an instant.

It’s not that I hated being a woman. I just…wasn’t particularly good at it. This body that I recreated with the help of hormones fits my soul in ways it never did before.

I am infinitely more comfortable and confident now. This doesn’t mean that I am comfortable and confident 100% of the time, but I waste much less energy on self-loathing than I used to.

The sound of my own voice rarely causes me to cringe anymore. On the best days, I love it. On the worst, I just realize that old speech patterns, just like any other habits, sometimes die hard.

I have an ever-increasing volume and distribution of facial hair. I realized this week that I have actually reached the point where I can shave in the morning and have stubble by the end of the work day. I’m sure there are men who find this annoying. I think it’s wonderful. And I’m learning to feel a sort of benevolence toward the hair sprouting pretty much everywhere else on my body. The hair on the top of my head may not be growing as quickly as it was…and it’s possible that I’m losing it more quickly than I used to. But I’m not any more afraid of balding than I ever was of going grey (which is to say, I’m pretty sure I can rock it however it plays out).

I’m still soft, and I have curves, but they’re distributed in some different places. My lower body is much more compact, where my upper body feels more solidly built. And for the first time since, well, the onset of my first round of puberty, really, my weight hasn’t fluctuated more than five pounds in the past year.

My Bipolar cycles have evened out to some extent. They’re still there, and still noticeable, certainly…but I have fewer days lost to feelings of madness, and it’s much rarer for me to feel like I’m out of control.

In a couple of weeks, I have a court hearing scheduled to legally change my name. I still have a few loose ends to figure out, but everything feels like it’s clicking into place.

I’ve been unspeakably lucky. I have a supportive partner, supportive friends and chosen family, and even a largely supportive work environment. I have dear friends on their own similar journeys who have not always been so fortunate, and I hope I never lose sight of how much of a privileged life I lead.

It’s been quite the ride, but I wouldn’t give it up for the world. Here’s to a year of adventure ahead!

Little Soul

This is a rough recording of the song I wrote for my songwriting class this past week. I’ve made a couple of minor changes since class on Tuesday, but it’s mostly here.

I am inordinately proud of this song. First of all, I did some cool things with chords, and I feel like I exercised a lot of what I’ve been learning in my songwriting classes. But aside from that…I love how my voice sounds. I have never, in all my life, been so pleased with a recording of my singing voice. My voice in this recording sounds like I want my voice to sound in my head. While I have dreams of being a baritone, I’m quite pleased with this solidly tenor sweet spot I’ve settled into for the moment. And so I’m sharing this sound clip with you, because while I’m not really using this blog to document my transition process anymore, this is a pretty big personal milestone.

(A funny story about this song: on Sunday, our neighbor’s cat escaped and wound up darting into our apartment as we were headed out the door. Since I hadn’t yet written my assignment for my Tuesday class, my partner jokingly suggested I write a song about the cat. So this song may sound like it has some depth, but really, it’s a pretty song about a cat who got loose.)

Three Months

Tomorrow (February 7, 2014) marks three months that I’ve been on testosterone!

It’s been quite a journey. And I’ve finally gotten my first lab results back (a lab visit, a lost test result, a second lab visit, and two weeks later) as of Monday, which has been great. I’m continuing on my initial dosage, since my progress has been good (estrogen is negligibly above the goal level [or was, back in December, and is less than half what it started at], and testosterone is well within the goal range [more than ten times where it started]). It’s nice to have some concrete numbers to back up the changes I’m seeing and feeling day to day.

Things that have changed in the last three months:

  • My voice. Holy shit, my voice. (Pop down two posts for a sound clip comparing November and January: it’s even a bit deeper now.) My voice was the thing that most bothered me prior to starting on T (and was one of the only things that made me dysphoric), and I am loving the changes I’m hearing. I’m much more comfortable answering the phone at work, and although I’ve been singing in a high tenor range for years, it’s gotten a lot more comfortable.
  • My hair. Mostly, there’s more of it. On my stomach, my arms, my legs, my back (not so happy about this recent development), and on my face. Up to this point I mostly just have peach fuzz on my face, but there’s been enough of it that I’ve shaved a few times, and I’m noticing more dark hairs coming in between shaves, particularly on/under my chin.
  • The distribution of my body fat. My butt is smaller. My hips might be, too (though not much…thanks to my skeletal structure I’ll always have wide-ish hips). My stomach is maybe a little bigger. They’re not huge changes, but they’re big enough that I’ve noticed.
  • My appetite. Prior to starting T, it wasn’t uncommon for me to skip meals, either out of distraction or because I simply wasn’t hungry. I joked that I had the metabolism of a stationary boulder. After starting T, I was suddenly hungry ALL THE TIME. It’s evened out a bit (finally…feeding a teenage boy is expensive), but I still am hungry way more often than I used to be.
  • My need for sleep. Whether it means I’m a teenage boy or an old man, I’m not sure, but I’m going to be earlier and waking up later than I was before.

Overall, I’m extremely pleased with the changes I’m seeing. While I don’t love everything about it (like the handful of back hairs that have shown up, or the fact that I can never seem to get the injections in my right leg to go as smoothly as the ones in my left), I definitely don’t have any regrets about starting down this road. I look forward to seeing what new changes lie ahead!