Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Transsexual Advice

Hi! This post is for an intended audience, as the title implies. If the subject does not appeal to you, or if you'd rather read about something else, I invite you to stand over in the corner here, mill about, and talk with each other about the latest celebrity gossip. I do have another entry I'm planning to post shortly.

So, what I'd like to do is present some thoughts, ideas, and experiences from the last three years, relating to being transsexual. I think it's a good time to do so, having recently recovered from GRS surgery and finishing the "transition," as it's called, for all intents and purposes. More than anything, I'd like this to be advice to the person considering the process, or just starting out. Without further ado, then, my advice to transsexuals like myself.

Welcome! You're just beginning a trip down a long and winding road. Or perhaps you're already some distance down the road, and don't know where to turn, or need some support for your decisions. I'm here today to talk about my ideas and what I've learned while traveling down that same road. Now, some of them you may not agree with; you may think I'm a foolish dimwit full of delusions by the time I'm done. That may be. Hear me out, and bear with me. You'll see where it all leads in the end.

1. Be absolutely sure.

I’m certain that you’re sure about where you want to go right now. And who wouldn’t be! It’s taken a long time to get to this point, where you’re going to go ahead and make this change, and you’re ready, and ready now!

So wait a minute. It’s taken plenty of time to get here; a little bit longer won’t ultimately make a difference in the end. This is going to affect the rest of your life, in ways you can’t even imagine. You know what you want, and that’s great; the question is, can you do it?

If you can answer yes, good! Get started; begin learning about all the things you have to do, if you haven’t already. There will be many more opportunities to answer the question of “Am I sure?” Always remember to ask yourself that question occasionally; there will be time to get out before you reach the Day of Reckoning, as I call it.

If you can’t be certain, or say no, then don’t worry. This may not be the right time, or there might be another way to do some of the things you need. You can always come back to this at another time and ask the question again.

Either way, though, you’re going to need help. That’s my next point:

2. Find a good therapist.

Hopefully, you already have. If you haven’t, then find one that lists “transgender” in their interests or specialties. Every state has an association for psychological professionals, and they will be happy to help you find someone to help you. If you already have a therapist, then this is the time to bring up the issue, if you already haven’t done so.

Don’t be nervous! Your therapist is there to help you, not the other way around. This is all new and different to you, but they have heard this before. They know what they’re doing. Chances are you’ll be referred to another, more specialized person. This is a good thing. You’ll have a fresh start, with your gender issues front and center. Now you can get to work on this thing.

I’ve been tremendously lucky to work with five different people throughout the course of my transition. They have been wonderful! Each of them had a different perspective, and a way of looking at the problems and troubles I was having. They knew when it was a good time to talk to another person, and look at things from 90 degrees away. If you’re willing to share what you’re thinking, without worrying about “what will they think of me,” you can get a plan in place.

Your therapist will know all the things you have to do, from a technical standpoint, to satisfy the requirements in the Standards of Care. This is a daunting document, and is written for doctors and psychologists to lay out the ways to treat transsexual cases, among other things. It gives the guidelines for administering hormones and recommendations for surgery, so if this is where you’re headed, you’ll be learning about them. The full text can be found at this address, (, which is current at the time of this writing.

Finally, your therapist (or therapists, but you’ll usually be most comfortable with one of them) may recommend group therapy, too. I wholeheartedly agree. You’ll meet others who have the same problems, but entirely different circumstances, or points of view. This may be very uncomfortable at first; you’ve just started talking to someone about this professionally, and now you’re going to be dropped into a whole group of people that don’t even know you, and you’re expected to talk about this? Relax. The group was there before you were in it, and they’ll already be talking about some things from beforehand. Listen to them. Hear what they have to say. Before you know it, you’ll have a question about something, and you’ll ask it. And you’re talking with them! Soon enough, you’ll be an active member or your new group, and you’ll all be learning things from each other.

Take advantage of all that therapists have to offer. They are there to help you, and they’re very happy to do so!

3. Telling people about your decision.

This is never easy. You’re about to tell people about what you’re about to do. You’ve feared this from the beginning; if you’re like me, it’s one of the reasons you’ve waited so long, the fear of what people’s reactions will be. But, there’s no getting around it, you have to let them know. Oh, sure, you could let them know by just appearing in your new gender role to them and saying “Surprise!” However, that’s probably not the best way to engender good will.

Think about who you’re going to talk to in person. These are the people you’re closest to in life. Now, what do you do? Once you have them in mind, tell one of them. It sounds simple, right? Well, try telling one of the people you’re pretty sure will react well when they first hear it. That way, you’ve done it once! I chose one of my cousins first. It wasn’t easy to bring up the subject; so I said “Can I talk to you about something?” It’s always a way to alert someone that something serious is coming. It went well, too. I was able to get the subject out in the open with someone (finally!), and it was so much easier to do again, once I had done it once.

So now you can start to work your way up the ladder. Let’s face it, not all of your reactions will be positive. Some will be absolutely appalled. If you’ve made it this far, though, you’re sure about your decision (you are sure, right?), and you’ll be able to, hopefully, explain your reasons. If you can’t, or the reaction is vehemently negative, let them be for now. You’ve been dealing with this for a long, long time. This is the first time they’re hearing about it. People’s reactions tend to be strong and emotional with such a subject. They will need time. However, you’ve chosen to tell these people first because you care about them and they care about you. Let them have their time to sort out all the emotions that ran through them, and think about it for a while. After some time, if you haven’t heard from them, try them again. Most likely, they’re in a better mood to talk about it after they’ve had a chance to process what you’ve told them. And they do care about you!

Obviously, you can’t go around and have heart-to-heart discussions with each and every person you know. Well, you could, but it would take a whole lot of time, and I’m guessing that you want to keep things moving along (you are sure, right?). Then take the time to write a letter and mail it to each of the people you want to tell, but don’t need to speak to in depth, person-to-person about it. No, do not send an E-mail. This is serious personal business; treat it as such. In the letter, explain your decision briefly, and provide a way for them to contact you. You’ll be hearing from them shortly.

Sometimes, no matter what you do or say, some people are not going to like it. It’s the reaction you feared. The best thing, for you to do, is to let the person go. If you’ve made every argument, said everything that you can say, then the ball is in their court. Just as it is your right to go ahead and do this, if they choose to be angry, and cut you out of your life, that is their right. You may be responsible for bringing this reaction about, but how they react is their responsibility. Be open and ready to listen, though. People do change; the person you think hates you now may begin to think about you, and that they miss you, much later. Always be willing to listen to what they have to say.

You will, most likely, see two reactions from each person. When you tell them, and when they see you for the first time. The first time it’s abstract; they know something is coming, but it’s in the future. The second time, they have to deal with it. You’re going to get different reactions the second time around. When you do, do your best to make them comfortable. Be yourself; after all, you’re really not so different. You’re the same person you were before, they just didn’t know all of you. Show them that you really are still you. Try to make your first appearance when you can do it with several people at once. You can all do something together, something that’s familiar to all of you. That helps put people at ease, they’ve been there before. And if they see that you still are just as at ease as before, then you’ll go a long way to helping them see that’s it just you, the person they know and love.

4. Bring your life along.

Keep your friends, and your family, too, in your life. You don’t want to do this alone. It’s a trying time, and it’s a long time from beginning to end. They’re your friends, and they’ll be there for you. They’ll know when something isn’t going right, or when you’re frustrated. They know you best! They care for and about you, just like you do about them.

That may seem obvious, and it is. Too many people, however, decide that this is the beginning of a whole new life for them. They have to cut the old life off, and begin again, with all new friends and a new occupation and workplace. No one shall ever know of their previous life.

This is my opinion: That’s just not possible. Once you’ve begun your transitions, and you’re moving on with life, you’re going to leave traces behind. There’s a legal trail, for a start. That name change you get is public record. Then you have to inform everyone that you’ve changed it. You will forget to tell at least one, and probably many more, businesses, entities, and what have you, that you’ve changed your name. Until something shows up in your mailbox with your old name on it. You can change your birth certificate, too, with your new name and gender on it. But there’s a record of that change being made. There will be doctor bills. There will be old phone books. And there will be people that knew you previously.

Would you really want to cast aside long, in some cases lifelong, friendships? Your family? All the people that care about you, that love you, simply to have a clean start? Don’t get me wrong, it is a new beginning, in many ways. But everything that made you who you are is your past. You’ve lived in the real world, and will continue to do so. Be open and honest about yourself. You keep everything that was good about the past that way, and all the new people in your life will know the real you. If you try to hide the past, break the history from the present, what will all of your new friends think of the trust they had in you when (not if, when) something from that past surfaces?

5. Real Life.

OK, so here you are, ready to face the world in your new gender. You’re set! You’ve got a great new look, some nice new clothes, and a terrific new attitude! Open the front door, and head on out!

It’s fun! It’s wonderful, really, you’re out, you’re living life the in the way you’ve dreamed. You’ll find out there’s so much more to the world than you ever knew. Live your life and enjoy it! Yes, it really is simple. This is what you’ve been waiting for. It may take some practice at first, getting used to the things you need to do now, but it doesn’t take long.

Of course, there will be problems. You’re going to get looks. You’re going to get rude people. You’re going to get annoyed. You knew this would happen, right? These things are going to sound like clichés, and there’s a reason for that. They are. But they wouldn’t have become clichés if they weren’t true!

Don’t descend to anyone else’s level. Look at all you’ve done to get here. Look at what you’re doing right now. You’re living life the way you’ve wanted to, all this time; you’ve denied yourself this for how long? Chances are the person that’s offending you isn’t doing that. They’re not living they way they’ve had in their hearts forever. You are better than they are. Smile at their nasty look. Say something nice to the rude person. Give them exactly the opposite of what they’re hoping to provoke.

What if the rude person is standing in the way of something you need, though? What if it’s your job? What if you require something governmental, and they’re giving you trouble? Stay calm. I know you’re mad, you’re embarrassed, and you really would like to say something nasty back. Don’t; you don’t need to. Start by going over the person’s head. Ask to see a manager or supervisor. If they won’t, leave and immediately call and ask for that person’s supervisor. Treat the workplace the same way. If you have to, take it higher. If this is dealing with a business, either your workplace or a transaction, you will reach someone that has the business’s interests in mind: money. And your money is as good as anyone else’s. They want it. Or if it’s work, they want the best efficiency to make money, and conflict at work certainly won’t help that! You will be able to speak to someone that can make a difference for both of you.

If it’s a government thing, then the law is usually on your side. It may take jumping through some hoops, or some minimal lawyeriffic effort, but you can normally get things to go your way. If it is a major issue, however, you’ll have to decide if it’s worth it to pursue. Not just financially; is it worth your time, and the upset it may cause? Sometimes, as always, life is going to hand you lemons. Know when it’s time to make lemonade.

In general, though, real life is just like it was before. You still get up in the morning, get ready for the day, breakfast, go to work, have fun in the evening, pay the bills, go on vacation, and all the rest. Except now it’s much better. You can make it through the tough times, because you’ve been through the worst already.

6. Hormones.

Hormones are nice, they do make the body do some wonderful things! If you’ve gotten to the point where hormones are a real option, and not just a dream, then you know what they can do. They’re not magic; you’ll get a big push in the right direction, though.

However, this is where the Day of Reckoning comes. Hormones will do things that are irreversible. There will be no more children in your future, after not much time on hormones. You’ve got one last chance. YOU ARE SURE, AREN’T YOU? Go over that question one last time. Up until now, you have been able to go back to the way things were. Once you begin, you don’t have much time to change your mind. This is it, the point of no return. You can still turn around and go back, but it won’t be the same as before any longer. I’m not saying you shouldn’t, at all. I can’t stress this enough, though. Be certain. If you are, then welcome aboard! You’re moving along nicely! And never think less of yourself if you can’t be certain right now. This is, if not the biggest, one of the biggest decisions you’ll

ever make. Do not be afraid to wait, and be sure this is the right thing for you.

7. Surgery.

Take what I said above and multiply it by ten. Then do that again. Surgery is the last step in the chain, but it’s also the hardest on your body. Make sure that not only are you certain that it’s the right thing for you, but that you know the possibilities and limitations, as well. Again, this isn’t magic. There’s a lot to learn about it. Fortunately, if you’ve reached the point of making this decision, information isn’t very hard to come by. Your therapist knows the available surgeons and options, and all of the surgeons and their staffs are more than willing to talk to you about it, too.

Surgery is also expensive. If you’re contemplating it, start saving for it now, or find out if your medical insurance will cover it. You may be surprised by your insurance carrier, if you have the right recommendations stating that it’s medically necessary. Proper processing and paperwork for insurance may be a pain, but will be well worth it in the end. Talk with the surgeons and see what options are available for payment.

Financial arrangements often are what makes someone wait the longest to have their surgery done, but there is also the surgeon’s calendars to consider. There is often a lengthy waiting list. You’re going to have to wait, even once you’ve been cleared to have it done. Use the time to think about what you’re going to do once it’s over. You’ve spent a long time with this as a goal; what will you do afterwards? Fulfilling a dream of a lifetime is a tremendous experience! The thing is, now you no longer have that goal. The day after I was released from the hospital, I sat on the couch, and was suddenly hit with a thought, “Well, what NOW?” Even if you do know, and I did, you’re going to have an emotional letdown. They’ve been building for so long, right up to this moment, and boom! It’s done! It’s not a bad thing. Once you think about it a bit, it all makes sense. Getting ready for this, for so long, takes a lot out of you! Now that you’re into the recovery, everything begins to “recharge,” including your emotions. It takes time to realize that it’s really all done, and that’s when I began to really, really feel good about myself!

8. Be true to yourself.

This is what I think is the most important thing. This is all about you. No matter what, you’re the most important person walking down this road. In a sense, you are alone. No one else is going through what you are; you’re the one that’s dealing with it. But you’re only alone in the sense that you’re the one that has to take the steps. Everyone else in your life is here with you, but they can’t make you move your feet.

So take time to listen to yourself. Make sure that what you’re doing, and how you’re doing it, is right for you. You’ve taken the time to read what I have to say. Does that make it right for you? No, not because I say it is. What I’ve said is true for me, and for the people that have helped me get where I am today. That may not be what works for you. Certainly not all of it will. I hope that some of what I said will make an impression, and maybe you’ll learn from it. There are a bunch of other websites out there, too. Some are first-rate, some are ho-hum, and some are lousy. I’ll bet my lunch that our opinions will differ on which is which.

You’ll have people that will tell you that it’s your responsibility, now, to be an “ambassador,” or a representative of the transgender community, and other things of that sort. Again, if that’s not for you, then don’t do it. This is an intimately personal, life-changing, gut-wrenching experience. The degree of which you share it is also intimately personal. Be You! Never let yourself be forced into taking a path that doesn’t feel right for you. You made this decision for yourself. Keep it about yourself, and you’ll be the happiest. If it’s time to leave behind the TG world once you’ve been through all this, then I salute you, and wish you the best future you can have!

Ultimately, I’m so much happier than I was before. The changes in my confidence, my well-being, self esteem, and how I interact with the world are astonishing to me, so much more so than I ever had thought possible! This essay is just me being me, and it’s my hope that you’ll find time, once you’ve reached your destination, wherever that may be, to make some sort of record. Be it advice, or a poem, a song, or a book. If not, that’s certainly all right, too. Everything, from beginning to end, is all up to you!

Oh, one last thing: You are sure, right?

Saturday, January 9, 2010

What's the Message?

Advertising is, by it's nature, getting you to do something you wouldn't have done without its help. I wouldn't own a Snuggie, nor have given them as gifts, if it wasn't for advertising. Would you know about the great deal on Coke this weekend at the grocery store, if you didn't have the flyer from the newspaper? How would you know who the candidates in that upcoming election are, and what's wrong with their opponent, without commercials? Perhaps that's taking things a bit far. Nevertheless, it's all about getting you the information you need to choose to do what they would like you to do.

"As Seen On TV!" may not carry the cachet it once did, since there are so many other ways to get your message out, but it's still one of the most powerful mediums available. Think of the sheer number of products you've heard about on your television. The message can last forever, long past the actual product's lifetime. "It slices, it dices!" Thank you, Ginsu knife! Then there are the items that you remember because of the pitchman, and how well he does his job. Billy Mays sold millions of products, simply by doing a fantastic presentation in a short time. OxiClean, OrangeGlo, Mighty Putty (and many, many more!) are all in use in lots of homes, thanks to him. And don't forget K-Tel. Why spend $20, $30, or more for all those different albums, when they've put together the best tracks of the year all on one platter, and for only $4.95? If you've been in range of a TV in your lifetime, you know how well the message gets through on TV.

Of course, there are so many ways to mangle your message. For every "Everyone know's it's Slinky!" there is a Domino's Noid. Sprint's commercials with all the numbers are clever once, but they grow old quickly, and the only reason I remember Sprint is because their ads annoy me. But there's one product I have in mind that, at least for me, completely misses the mark, and makes me want to not only avoid their product, but convince others not to buy it either. Those of you who know me, you know what's coming. If you've watched a football game in the last sixteen weeks, you've definitely heard from them. I speak of Cialis.

Cialis must be doing something right, since they keep making the ads. I cannot, for the life of me, figure out what it is. You've got a nondescript couple doing either everyday things, or obviously special things, all the while shooting lurid glances at each other. They live on isolated cliffs, or in homes so uncluttered and large that they could start a basketball game in the entrance hall; perhaps they're so bored from being so far apart from themselves in the large house and isolated from others, they can't help acting this way when they see each other. Or maybe it's the Cialis. It must be, because the very same man
that we've just seen acting all teenagerish is about to stop what he's doing and talk directly out of the TV at us. Wait, what? You're all Cialis-ed up, been making googly eyes at your wife, even went to the trouble of hauling two bathtubs up the cliff so they could each sit in one and hold hands in between them while admiring the view (HUH?), and you're going to stop right now and tell us about the side effects? So, we get what Cialis does, all right. Perhaps it's not the E.D. that's the trouble in the relationship, Mr. Creepy, but maybe it's the talking to the mysterious people right smack in the middle of your romantic moment that's causing the bedroom to be a bit cooler than the rest of the house!

Augh! Thanks for letting me get that out. I obviously have no need for Cialis, so maybe I just don't get it. Even if I were to have a friend that needed some help, I'd tell him, "do what you have to do, but stay away from Cialis." Everything about those commercials just rubs me the wrong way. If ever an ad campaign failed to make a positive impression, it's this one.

Now if Billy Mays had sold Cialis, I'd have bought several hundred dollars worth by now.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Love and Loathing of Language

I love the English language. I really do. There are so many ways to express yourself, always a word better than the one you actually use. The right phrase can make you look intelligent, be persuasive, express your creativity, and emphatically make your point. Conversely, you could use the same language to lose your argument, or worse, leave the other person thinking, "Did she just say what I think she said?"

Too often, certain "colorful metaphors," shall we say, get used as a substitute for creative thinking. Oh, they're certainly versatile words; our friend the "F-Bomb" can be used as every part of speech imaginable. But it just doesn't stand out from the crowd anymore. Why, instead of saying "That f***er just f***ed up the whole f***ing thing," you could say "That moron completely wasted our time, and now we've got a calamity to deal with!" See? It's easy, and fun! Calamity is a wonderful word; it brings to mind stagecoaches running out of control, or a raging wildfire bearing down on a colorful mountain village. Doesn't that make your point much better than the old standby? You're certainly welcome to use the F-ing word, but it's not nearly as memorable as your own unique phrase.

However, there are some phrases that just make people's skin crawl. There are different ones for different people, but they annoy to no end. Most of the time, you have no idea until it's too late. So I'll gladly share a few of my peeves right now, to avoid awkward situations later:

"At risk." You've heard it. Most likely, it was "at risk children," or along those lines. At risk of what? Lightning strikes? Unruly hair? Please, we need details!

"At the end of the day." At the end of the day, the sun goes down, and people go to sleep. Most of us aren't comparing notes to figure out who does the worst job. Unless you're the type of person who says "At the end of the day, who had the best score?"

"On lockdown." It'll lead the news: "Roberts Middle School was on lockdown today, when a suspicious bag appeared in the hallway outside room 105. The bag was later determined to contain Justin Lemon's lunch, after it was detonated by the bomb squad." No, it was locked down, it's simple grammar! (Don't get me started on grammar. That's a whole new post.)

"It is what it is." Yup. It sure is. But what is it?

Now I'm curious, too. What are your favorite words and phrases to work into your conversations? Or make you want to cause a calamity? Comment below!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Welcome to My Blog!

Welcome to Jennifer's Spot on the web! It's my very first post to my very own blog, and I'm not quite sure where I'll be going with this yet. This will be a place where you'll be able to read about what's going on with me, what I'm thinking, my opinions about things, and stuff along those lines. Yes, it's all about me. But I hope it won't be for long. You'll be a part of it, too, with your comments. I hope we'll have some conversations with the comments, and everyone will get to know each other better. I'd like this to be about things that are cultural (and you'll probably see my sarcastic side when I hit those topics), experiential (mine or yours), and trying to keep one's life together in this world. I would definitely not like to veer into the three things never to discuss with people: religion, politics, and the Great Pumpkin. I realize that sometimes that's inevitable, and who can tell where I'll go from here, but I don't plan to go there right now.

So what is there to know about me? Here are some basic facts, in case you're dropping in for the first time, and would find it handy to know. I live in Shakopee, Minnesota, am 37 years old, transsexual, a parent of one wonderful son, and like many kinds of music, don't like much of what's programmed on TV as of late (excepting The Amazing Race), do enjoy gaming if it was published before 1990, or doesn't require a controller with eight buttons and three thumbpads. I can be found many evenings operating the scoreboards for my old high school for volleyball and girls' and boys' basketball. If I'm not busy with that, you'll find me reading, or messing about with the internets, following the Minnesota Twins, or trying not to care about the current NFL season.

That's a good start, I think. If you're interested, please do click on my subscribe button to learn when I've published again. This should be fun!