I have been quiet of late. Busy trying to recuperate from surgery. Lots of hand therapy and wound care. I didn’t appreciate how much time this would take. I get little else done.
I promised a friend I’d write a narrative for a new book on transmen. But I’m older and from Appalachian roots. I can’t help but feel my story is a bit obsolete at this point. Maybe the world isn’t ready for “Coal Miner’s grandtranson”?
Today is my natal birthday so I’m a bit reflective.
I remember the hospital bassinet card my mother kept in an old photo album. The first name is “Girl”. She was so sure she was having a boy that she hadn’t settled on a girl name. It’s too bad her strong sense of who I was in utero was obliterated by a god in a white coat examining genitals and declaring “girl” most likely as soon as I drew my first breath.
While studying Anthropology I read accounts of Native American tribes that didn’t assign gender at birth. Instead they waited to see what the child did that reflected gender in that culture. I knew had I been born in that time and place there would have been no question that my gender was male. My life experience would have been congruent. My existential struggle different.
But I was not born in that place and time. And I did have to struggle for half a century from that early mistake – not my mistake but the one set in
motion by the god in the white coat.
For the past three years more enlightened gods in white coats have tried to undo what that first god started so long ago. Five surgeries later and hormonal elixirs have made a difference. And while this won’t undo the 50 years I endured being forced to be female, it’s a start. It’s restoring my much depleted store of energy – energy needed to live out the last part of my life more authentically. I feel as if I may finally be able search for a life cause and meaning outside of myself – beyond gender.
This last surgery has been the most intense. And I have been relatively lucky because physical complications, very common in this procedure, have been minimal. I still have physical healing to do but the next phase – the psychological work is just beginning.
Yesterday the surgeon noted how well things were going and I qualified it by adding the phrase “for an old guy”. He paused for a moment and said “in this case it wasn’t about age. You were mentally ready.”
Yes I was ready – and now I have to get ready again. Today is my birthday and though I am tempted to change it to the day I first took hormones or the day of my last surgery I won’t. I drew my first breath today so many years ago in a coal town clinic and was declared a girl. Every day since has been a battle against that declaration. From now on, on this birthday, I will give thanks for final victory over that battle.
Trigger warning – medical procedures
Yesterday I went for my two week check up.
All looked good except for some swelling and inflammation in the groin area. Luckily upon closer examination the doctor noticed that the Doppler wire had not been pulled. I thought it was just the end of a stitch coming out of the incision.
He proceeded to pull it and the first inch or so was fine. Then he had to tug a bit harder and I felt a twinge. Not pleasant but it all finally came out – maybe six inches or so.
Maybe it’s my imagination but I think some of the swelling is down today but I’m still a bit red. No fever so he didn’t restart any antibiotics.
I stopped taking the bladder spasm meds last night to move on to getting my bladder ready for the suprapubic catheter removal. I left the bag on overnight while the meds worked out of my system. I worried I might get spasms over night but luckily did not.
This morning I disconnected the bag and plugged the catheter as instructed. I then drank a big glass of water and waited for the blessed event.
What a strange sensation. The stream was tiny but strong and no pain or burning. After I am done I then have to unplug the catheter to release any residual from the bladder. This is an indicator of how much bladder tone I need to develop. Once this residual gets low enough the catheter can come out. I guesstimated I am at 40% residual. Not bad for the first go.
I go back to the doctor in six days and my goal is to get that residual down low enough to get the catheter out.
Let the water works begin!
Trigger warning – dysphoria and surgery
So now I face Winter. This is the dead space. I don’t know if the surgery will result in anything I can feel. It will take months until I know whether the nerves will awaken. I told myself that wouldn’t matter so long as I feel whole and safe in my own skin. But now, faced with the reality of an insensate piece of flesh brought into being at the cost of pain and permanent disfigurement of my arm and lengthy rehabilitation for my hand, I waiver in my resolve. I could not stay as I was. But will I make it through this Winter of uncertainty? Will I finally be able to take all the energy I’m using to transition to actually live instead of fighting to live? Will there be any energy left?