One month ago, I resumed my once-a-week injections of estradiol, which is the proper name for what we commonly lump with estrogen. I had ceased injections in February. As a result, my estrogen and testosterone both were very low and, as it turned out, too low.
In May, I began to experience hot flashes, which grew to an every day occurrence, as often as half-a-dozen times a day and at predictable times. Then, by late summer my leg muscles were adversely affected, and they continually worsened.
I was tremendously concerned that resuming the taking of estradiol would upset the balance I had achieved, in which my gender dysphoria disappeared. But, while I could have put up with the hot flashes for however long they would have continued, I could not live with my leg muscles as they were. I struggled with my running, my muscles were so sore and my joints stiff. I could barely run five miles, and my pace slowed to what I used to be able to do when walking fast. When I got up in the morning, I could barely move at first.
I resumed the estradiol a month ago, on November 10. As of this past Sunday, I’ve now injected five times. This month brought significant indications that my estrogen has increased.
After two weeks, I noticed the hot flashes to be almost completely gone. It was a huge surprise that this happened so quickly. I found myself saying, “Hey, you’ve not had a hot flash, today. And did you have any, yesterday? Woo hoo!” The few times I have felt one come on, it has been minor, perhaps ten percent of what they were. Whew!
In the third week, two signs came which I expected. My breasts grew tender and my sex drive increased. I expected them because I’ve restarted hormone therapy so many times, and those two areas are always affected, yet they arrived surprisingly soon. It’s as if my body now expects this, so it reacts quickly, with a hearty here we go, again!
With the developments of the second and third weeks, I was hopeful that my doctor’s suggestion might prove on the mark, that I could see muscle improvement by the fourth week. Last Friday, we finally had blue skies, and the temperature rose above freezing. I went running for the first time in thirty-five days.
Having been off so long, I didn’t want to overdo it. I went 3.33 miles, of which I ran two. If I had not experienced the muscles troubles, I would have recognized nothing out of the ordinary. Every bit of out-of-shape feeling I had, and the soreness afterward, was typical and to be expected. Whew!
I ran again on Sunday. I felt great, so I increased it to 3.9 miles, of which I ran three. I felt good. I’m writing this Monday morning. I intend to run, this afternoon.
Now, to the biggest issue. How am I feeling about who I am, as in my gender identity? Has this increasing of my estrogen reintroduced feminine feelings?
I am elated to report that I continue to feel completely male. I have noted nothing, whatsoever, to warn me that gender dysphoria might be returning. Whew, whew, whew!
It’s early, and I have learned how turbulent this can be in me, so I am not pronouncing myself as being past any concern. Yet, I am pleased to report that soon after I restarted the injections I have possessed an insistence—almost a stubborn resolve—that gender dysphoria will not be returning, that it is a thing of the past for me.
I was hoping that this December would have me for the first time passing 1,000 miles of jogging and fast walking in one year. I had no surgeries on the schedule, as last year, and I just missed 1,000 miles in 2017. But, rats, the muscle thing rose up and bit me, and I will not make 1,000 this year.
I am using December to get myself back up to speed. I intend to hit the ground running in 2019.
Watch out, 1,000 miles. I will be gunning for you!
This op-ed, the title of which I discreetly edited for my heading, published in The New York Times on November 24, quickly fueled a storm of conversation about trans persons, surgeries, insurance coverage, and oh so much more. You can read it here:
Andrea Long Chu begins with this: “Next Thursday, I will get a vagina. . . . Until the day I die, my body will regard the vagina as a wound; as a result, it will require regular, painful attention to maintain. This is what I want, but there is no guarantee it will make me happier. In fact, I don’t expect it to. That shouldn’t disqualify me from getting it.”
If Chu were looking to be provocative, to gain a name for herself, she nailed it. But if she wanted to be helpful—
helpful to other trans folks,
helpful to those who are weighing whether to have surgeries or begin HRT,
helpful to those who are pondering bringing loved ones into their tightly held secret that they suffer gender dysphoria,
even to be helpful to ultra-conservative trans-deniers that they might come to understand trans persons
—then I find her to have laid a big, fat egg.
And the egg isn’t only on her face. It’s all over transgender persons and the transgender conversation.
From what Chu wrote about her experience on hormones, I wouldn’t expect her to be overly optimistic that she will be happier after gender affirmation surgery. She wrote this: “I feel demonstrably worse since I started on hormones.” And this: “Like many of my trans friends, I’ve watched my dysphoria balloon since I began transition.” And this: “I was not suicidal before hormones. Now I often am.”
Truly, I am befuddled why Chu transitioned, or, when recognizing these dramatic negatives, she continued.
And who are her trans friends? I’ve not heard these things from the many trans women and trans men I’ve gotten to know.
And I went through gender affirmation surgery. My neo vagina healed nicely. If my body reckons it as a wound, it hasn’t informed me that it does. And, painful attention to maintain the neo vagina? Yeah, there is some pain. For awhile. It wears off.
Sheesh, Andrea. Talk about painting something as negatively as one can.
All of this might arise from her mindset. Earlier in the piece, she wrote, “I like to say that being trans is the second-worst thing that ever happened to me. (The worst was being born a boy.)” [parentheses hers] I understand this thinking and have written about it. Since the mind is the quarterback of the body, it calls the shots, and if a person identifies as female, then the easy, even automatic, response is to wish the body conformed to the brain. But why not the other way around? Could not Chu just as easily, from another mindset, have written the following? “The worst was being born with a mismatch of brain and body. Oh, that I could always have felt that I am a boy to match my body!”
Before writing how she feels worse since starting hormones, Chu says it is wrong for a person to think that feeling better will accompany transitioning. But isn’t that the entire point of transitioning? Isn’t it improved health which is behind every aspect of the process, to get the mind and body and the way one lives into alignment so that one feels better?
When I undertook living full time as a female—and, if you are curious, what happened with me, this year, resuming living as a male, is unrelated to any of this conversation—my twins demons were addressed. My suicidal thoughts almost entirely resolved; only rarely did a short term one pop up. The fear I had, that I would lose my mind—which had grown so severe, so real, that I often thought it would happen any given day—was entirely extinguished.
If I could sit with Andrea Long Chu, I would softly and compassionately ask her why she continued with her transition, and why she is going through with having her genitals reformed. From her essay, for the world of me it seems that she is doing all of this to prove a point, which she makes toward the end of her essay, and on which I comment in my concluding paragraphs.
I’ve read one response from a trans person, who noted that Chu doesn’t speak for all trans folks. She sure doesn’t. To me, not only is Chu not on the same playing field with the transgender population, she’s not even observing from the bleachers.
Chu seems to have forgotten a vital point, especially when someone lives in a way which is controversial—in this case, transgender—and discusses a topic which is controversial—here, gender affirmation surgery and all of the other aspects of transitioning—and writes about it publicly, and all the more so in a world-wide-read publication such as The New York Times: Chu doesn’t speak for all of us, but many—especially the trans-deniers—will hear her as doing so.
I feel that she threw all of us under the struggle bus.
I am confident she submitted this with the desire to do good, to benefit others. I find that she completely and utterly failed.
Chu concludes her essay: “There are no good outcomes in transition. There are only people, begging to be taken seriously.”
Yes, Andrea, every trans persons longs to be taken seriously, and who are you to suggest that there are no good outcomes in transition? Do you not see that your former assertion negates your latter point?
If a thing will not have a good outcome, why do the thing? If a thing will not have a good outcome, isn’t that a thing from which we run, a thing we avoid, a thing to be set aside in search of a thing which will produce a good outcome?
We figure out Chu’s thesis along the way but, finally, nearing the conclusion, she states it: “Let me be clear: I believe that surgeries of all kinds can and do make an enormous difference in the lives of trans people. But I also believe that surgery’s only prerequisite should be a simple demonstration of want.”
There it is. “A simple demonstration of want.” I want it, therefore I get to have it.
No, Andrea Long Chu. Not a simple demonstration of want. Need? You betcha. Need, for the purpose of healing and improved health? You betcha.
As I did four previous places where I had newly moved, when Julie and I bought Merrymoss in 2015 I began a garden. From scratch.
When it comes to a garden, “from scratch” means tearing up part of the yard. One never knows what he will get. I’ve been greeted by quite the variety, from sandy soil to hard clay. In Montague, I learned the hard way that, back in the day, people buried their trash. I was regularly pulling cans and bottles from the garden.
At Merrymoss, I found decent dirt, but it was on the hard side. It had not been touched, perhaps ever, but certainly not since the lawn was created in the mid ’50s when the house was built. When a lawn, not only does the ground compact, it never gets fresh material added, which both improves the soil and adds air to it, making it lighter.
In the autumn of 1985, after my first year of my first new garden, I rototilled into the garden the maple leaves from our front yard trees. It seemed impossible that the mess they were after the first pass of the tiller would result in their being completely mixed in and decomposed by the time I planted in the spring.
But, they did, and, wow, did they ever improve the soil. So, I kept at it, and everywhere I’ve lived I’ve had trees which provide me with leaves.
At Merrymoss, we have a front yard oak tree. Oak leaves do not decompose quickly, and their make-up isn’t as good for the soil as most other leaves. So, I rake and bag those. Our back yard has four large trees, as seen, below, from a photo from last summer: a beech, two maples, and a tulip tree.
The fallen leaves need to be moved. A good method helps to make the work go smoothly, and it goes more quickly than I think it will when I undertake it each autumn.
I have found that using a tarp works more quickly than filling bags or a container. As I rake and pile leaves, it is easy to rake a mess onto the tarp.
I gather the four corners and twist them into a handle. It drags easily.
I head around the house and to the front yard.
The tarp dumps easily onto the ground. I proceed to kick out the leaves, to fairly evenly cover the soil, two to four inches thick.
I didn’t count the number of tarps it took. I think it was between 16 and 20. The next photo shows the covered garden before rototilling. The second shot is after I ran the tiller over it one time.
It hardly appears that I got any leaves into the soil. This close-up shows a nice mixture of dirt and leaves, which will help the process of decomposing. If the weather permits, in a week or two I will rototill one more time before winter.
In the spring, many leaves will still be evident, but after one rototilling they will break down quickly. The soil will look mostly like dirt. By May, and one or two more tillings, no more leaves will be evident, but the ground will be lighter, more airy, and richer.
And, oh, how the worms will love it, and worms are very important to soil health!
I’ll provide photos in the spring. Now, for the next four months to pass smoothly . . .
I titled this piece “Do you know beans about giving thanks?” because, well, I’m going to wax a little poetic bean this Thanksgiving. Why would I aspire to this adventure, you wonder, as you ponder your holiday feast? Why, exactly for this reason: because beans are impressive things.
See, you can’t simply say, “Let’s have beans with dinner.” That statement can only be answered with an abundance of questions:
You want beans with dinner, do you? Well, would you like green beans, or yellow beans, or waxed beans?
And, if you choose one of these, shall they been regular cut or french? Canned or frozen or fresh (if I can find fresh this time of year)? And shall I serve them unadorned, or mix them into a casserole?
Do you prefer Del Monte, or Fresh-Like, or the Jolly Green Giant? Or will the local grocery store brand sufficiently stimulate your tastebuds, bud?
Is this what you are thinking, or did you not have a garden variety garden variety in mind? Perhaps you are leaning quixotic or exotic?
If this is so, would your tongue be tied by any of these lusty legumes—the lima, the fava, or the garbanzo?
Or are you testing me—do you think I’m bean-brained (in this case, that would be a compliment)—wondering if I am aware of these lesser-known pod poppers:
• such as the Hyacinth, which is grown in southern Asia, and is akin to our Southern Pea;
• or the Horse Bean, which they might enjoy where I used to live in Michigan, as it is also known as the Pigeon Bean;
• or, perhaps, the Scarlet Runner, also called the Fire Bean, but which isn’t really grown for its bean, but as an ornamental flower?
Now, I know that time is wasting away (unlike your belly), but I have yet begun to dig the fertile soil of beanery. Shall I proceed to the categories of beans which one normally finds mixed up into a lovely culinary concoction?
You are well aware of kidney beans, are you not? Would you care for those in a pot? Shall they be red or white, light or dark?
Black beans are all the rave these days. Do you have a prized recipe up your sleeve?
You wouldn’t start a war, would you, if I suggested navy or soldier beans baked up with some pork?
If I had time to cook cornbread, too, would you delight in a nice pinto bean stew?
Oh, what am I thinking with all this heavy fare? Could you have been speculating a salad bar . . . stuffed with sprouts of beans, of course?
Well, I’ve about emptied my noggin of all my bean jargon. There’s just one bean left on which I could spout, but with all these questions I’m just too tuckered out to tackle the ever-popular soy. Oh, boy. Now, there’s a bean which brings the whole world joy in a thousand different ways that one can employ.
After all this blather, I could use some caffeine. Would you grind up a pot of my favorite java bean? Oh, and something sweet for my belly. How about some of those colorful beans made of jelly?
Now having stifled, with your Cliff Claven clatter, the person who made such a simple request, you’d better be prepared for their dazed reply: “I think I’ll just open a can of corn!”
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
I have long felt that beans are a fine representative of just how good to us is the Lord, and why He deserves our thanksgiving praise. In creating this world, God certainly did not have to create so much variety of food. If He were focused on giving us meat, fruit, and vegetable, He could have only given us the cow, the apple, and, if the vegetable had to be the bean, it could have simply been green. If this is all we had, we wouldn’t know that we were lacking, and we would be satisfied. But, God isn’t a God who only satisfies. He is a God who delights.
Just how good is this creative God, from whom all blessings flow? He creates so many different kinds of beans that neither do we tire of eating them, nor do we exhaust uses for them. Exhibit A: the soybean.
And not only do we have the cow, but we have a horde four-legged meat factories, and plenty of poultry, and oceans of fish and other seafood. And not only do we have the apple, but we have so many forms of tree-grown fruit and vines with berries.
And vegetables—oh, my!—but beans are far from the magnitude of the menu.
• We have round ones, and leafy ones.
• We have green ones and white ones and red ones and every color one can imagine.
• We have those that grow in the ground and on the vine and on the stem.
• We can freeze them, and can them, and dry them.
• We can fry them and bake them and boil them, and turn them into tons of tasty treats.
• We can stew them, and soup them, and kabob them.
As with creating songs from the notes on the musical scale, there is no end to the dishes we can devise from the variety of vegetables the Lord has set on our table.
But you know all of this, don’t you? There isn’t a thing that you have heard that you haven’t heard, before—except, perhaps, for Pigeon beans, as I had never heard of them, myself, before researching all about beans.
Yes, we know all of this, but this Thanksgiving essay is designed to get you to say, “Wow! What a great God we have! How generous He is to us, His creation!” My friends, we need to be wowed, and we need to know to whom to point our wow, or we will so take for granted the gifts with which the Lord overfills our horn of plenty.
Yes, to celebrate Thanksgiving, and to rejoice that the harvest is home—not only because we are surrounded by a farming culture, but because all people gain from the goodness of Almighty God—to take a day to give thanks is a most essential endeavor.
Even the least religious among us is prone to turning their eyes upward in acknowledgment that the gifts aplenty which they enjoy come from the hands of a giver. However you understand this giver, I hope you humble yourselves in thanksgiving.
Because I am blessed to know the Giver by name, I give my thanks to Him, to my Lord Jesus Christ, on Thanksgiving, and every day I awake from my night’s sleep. My Lord Jesus is the One who knows all of the beans about both creation and salvation, and He has opened my eyes to see Him for who He is, the Creator and Savior.
“When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the Lord your God for the good land he has given you (Deuteronomy 8:10).”
Thanks be to you, dear Lord Jesus, this Thanksgiving Day and forever!
Imagine being killed, simply because you are different.
It’s easy, if you try.
The lives of our fellow humans are unjustly ended in every conceivable situation, when one person is so prejudiced, and is so filled with hatred that he (or she, but, yeah, it’s almost always a man) finds a way to give himself permission to kill the object of his contempt.
The murdered person need not have done anything but existed as a fellow human being, but of a different color, or different religion, or different nationality, or different culture, or different language or different sexual identity, or different you name it . . . including different gender identity.
Often, different is all it takes to fuel the flame which ignites into the inferno of homicide.
The murderer need have no other motivation than his prejudice, which fuels his hatred, in which he possesses a skewed sense of superiority.
Isn’t that what these murderers possess? Isn’t it their skewed sense that they are somehow superior? Isn’t this how they acquire the self-permission to mind the business of those who are minding their own business?
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Today is the Transgender Day of Remembrance. Among those whose lives might be unjustly taken are transgender persons, whom prejudiced, hate-fueled, self-superior-minded individuals found to so offend them that the haters gave themselves permission to end their lives. To get them out of the way. Out of their sight.
You know, to cleanse the land of those queers.
But, hey, let’s have the prejudiced haters roam free.
Since 1999, groups all over the country and world have used this day to remember those whose lives were unjustly taken during the past year, and to reflect on the state of things for the sake of those who identify as transgender, in the various ways one might identify as trans.
Over the past twelve months, 309 trans persons worldwide were murdered simply for being trans. That’s to the best of our knowledge. In the USA, the number was 23 of our fellow citizens. I took this information from the TDOR website: https://tdor.info/. If the numbers are incorrect, it is because I made an error in counting.
It is good—yes, it is important—that we remember these trans persons, our fellow human beings. We pause to remember many things, those which make us sad and glad—9/11, the days wars ended, holy days, birthdays, death days, and the like. In our remembrance, we hallow those events, we honor those people and, when we recognize that change must still be accomplished, we hone our hopes for a better remembrance the next year.
We’re all together in this thing called life. We are one human family. Let us love one another. Let us respect the lives of one another, no matter their different.
Let us especially look out for the least of those among us.
Too often, the least among us are those we remember, today.
From Monday, November 12, to Friday, the sixteenth, I camped in the woods of the Manistee National Forest, a twenty-two minute drive northeast of my hometown of Montague, Michigan.
I camped with two of my brothers, two nephews, one cousin, and a family friend.
It’s our family deer camp.
It’s a place to which, the past three years, I thought I would never return, because I was a transgender woman.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
When I was a kid, I tried to get into hunting. I found it to be too much walking and sitting, with too little action. Oh, and it was always so stinking cold.
In 1981, my dad, three brothers, and a few others, decided to camp, rather than daily make the drive to and from home. This caught my attention. I decided to give it a try. In 1982, I became a member of what was quickly named “Dead End Camp,” because, well, camp was set up at the dead end of a two-track road. (That road has since been blocked off by the state. We’ve now moved two times, but still are in the same section of woods.)
(A note for those who do not know what a two-track road is, which, by moving to Iowa in the 1990s, I learned that not all people use this term, though these roads exist everywhere. They are little used, unimproved roads which, by the two tracks of tires that create and sustain them, have a hump of grass in the center, making them, you got it, two-track roads.)
I loved the camping and being with the guys. At one point, our number swelled to over a dozen for the first couple of days of hunting, a mixture of relatives and friends. We developed traditions, such as Festivities Night, which is the eve of Opening Day, when everyone brings some sort of finger food—deviled eggs, rumaki, ham-and-cream-cheese-wrapped pickles, sausage, cheese, and the like—which we set out as the hoity-toity-ly named hors d’oeuvres table. For Festivities Night, we make an oversized campfire. I always had the honors of building it, often making it so large you couldn’t stand within fifteen feet of it, and which we joked that it could be seen from outer space. The festivities were topped off by the reading of the camp poem, which was created by my younger brother, Dave, who wrote it until he ran out of ideas, and then by me for over a decade.
Everyone had his own duties. Older brother Tom was the natural Camp Coordinator. Youngest brother, Mark, was Camp Grounds, because he loved to rake and tidy the camp. I was Camp Pyro, because of my too-large fires. After Dad no longer was able to camp, I took over the cooking of breakfast. Everyone did his part, such as washing dishes. Nothing was left to chance.
In my first years of hunting, I did not see a buck so as to be able to shoot my gun. Though I didn’t want to give up camping with the gang, the long, cold hours sitting in the woods became an unbearable chore. The morning of Opening Day 1986, my fifth year of hunting, I decided that I would hunt out the day, tell the guys I was done, go home, and never return.
After lunch, I sat in a different spot. I wasn’t sitting ten minutes when Tom’s brother-in-law, who had just shot at a buck, hollered, “Shoot him, Greg!” Before I could think, “Shoot what?” the buck came into view. He was forty yards away, running all out—carrying the mail, as we say—from my right to left.
I began shooting.
I had a shotgun. It held three shells. For having never shot at a deer, I unloaded in quick succession, as if I had done it many times. Thankfully, after the third shot, he dropped.
Amazing myself, I remained calm as I adroitly opened my gun and inserted a fresh shell. I carefully walked up to the buck, which was struggling to stand. Dad’s advice, spoken years earlier, rang inside me: “If you have to finish off a deer, plunk it behind the ear.” And so I did. I walked up to that buck, and with no hesitation I plunked him behind the ear.
He stopped moving and my jaws started moving. I screamed at the top of my lungs: “I got one! I got one! I got one!”
Finally succeeding at bagging a buck, it forever changed my attitude about hunting. Even when I would go a couple of years in a row where I saw no deer during my three to six days of hunting—which were determined by what day of the week November fifteenth’s Opening Day landed and how much vacation time I had—I sustained a love for hunting, for sitting in the woods, and, ahem, reading novels while doing so. (Hey, the hours grow long out there.)
When I moved away in 1992 to go to seminary, and then was a pastor in Iowa, and finally on the other side of Michigan from Montague, going home to camp often was the only time each year that I saw family. Deer camp grew precious. Each year, when we passed Halloween, I counted down the days the way kids do anticipating Christmas.
And then, in 2014, I revealed my gender dysphoria, and that I might need to try transitioning in order to see if it would relieve my suicidal thoughts and fear of losing my mind. I retired from the ministry that summer. I attended camp in 2014.
In 2015, I transitioned to living full time as a woman. I didn’t even have to ask if I would be welcome at camp. Things already had been said. Besides, while I knew a few of the guys would be okay—they would accept what they knew about me, and it would be tempered because, at camp, I would be dressed as they always knew me, in the usual casual clothes and hunting garb—I knew specific ones who would not be able to abide my presence.
Missing camp in 2015 caused me to suffer a terrible meltdown, which lasted for days. 2016 was hard, but not as intense. Last year, I barely was affected. 2018 brought the dramatic change in me, which had me announce in July that I now felt completely male and had resumed living as Greg.
When two brothers, who still are at this camp—last year, one brother fulfilled a long-held dream, buying land and a cabin north of home—urged me to come to camp this year, I was slow to be interested. I knew I wouldn’t hunt, for two reasons. First, a non-resident license is nearly $200. Second, with Opening Day on Thursday, I wouldn’t be able to hunt more than a day or two.
Mostly, I had gotten out of my heart the desire to be at camp, and I didn’t know if I wanted to get back into it.
But, I knew that I needed to seize the opportunity to get reintegrated with family. It was important that I show my brothers how important to me it was that they invited me. And, I knew full well that once I got there I would be happy about it. Plus, when at camp I can drive into town and see other family and friends.
As I made my way to Michigan on Monday morning, I found myself to be in the groove. I was excited and really looking forward to camp and being with the guys.
Because I was three days ahead of Opening Day, I would be at camp by myself the first two days. Mark had his trailer set up, which is where I have slept for years. I got my old bed back.
From Tuesday evening through Wednesday afternoon, the others streamed in. Each one greeted me as usual. All of them said they were pleased to see me, that they were glad I was there. No one acted oddly as to all that had transpired with me, and it would not be fodder for conversation. Only in private, with two of the guys, did I have any openings to discuss my situation.
As much as I long for my loved ones to show their concern by asking me about all that I’ve experienced and suffered, I understand that it’s just too much for them—truly, too weird—and so I have to take their being happy to be back with them as confirmation that they love and accept me.
It’s a good lesson for all of us. As much as we long for acceptance and understanding from others, it’s on us to give to others the same level of bearing with them.
As for me, they saw the same guy they always knew. If they had any fears that I would be different, or not as goofy, they should have quickly melted away.
I plan to return next year. I’m still not sure whether I will hunt, the price of a non-resident license standing as a cost which I might not be able to swallow. But, I’ll be there. Hanging with the guys. Acting like an idiot. Savoring the treats on Festivity Night’s hors d’oeuvre table.