Sex and sexuality questions

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My physical, sexual anatomy transition has prompted new questions about sex and my sexuality, questions which had not arisen since August of 2015 when I changed my profile from Greg to Gina. At that time, I was asked if I now considered myself a lesbian, since I was married to a woman. It was a question worthy of putting before me. Because I had not asked myself about my orientation since I began the process, I then had to once again examine myself.

Did transitioning to female make me a lesbian, since I remained attracted to women? Crazy as it seems, I came up with a no. Here’s how.

I am a genetic male. That I fathered five children proves it. And, because I understand the reason for my gender identity issue to have its origins in my endocrine system’s being disrupted when I was forming in the womb, I consider my desire to be a female to be out of order for the person my genetics say I would otherwise be.

So, no matter how I live or what surgeries I have, my starting point is male. Because I am male and am attracted to females, I consider myself a heterosexual male. Yet, I have an intersex condition, which prompted my gender dysphoria, which then led me to transition.  Now, I identify as a heterosexual male who is a transgender woman.

For some reason, Sesame Street, Electric Company, and Blues Clues never taught me about this!

Now, having actually had my male genitals reformed to female, new questions have surfaced. I am pleased to answer them because this is an excellent, teachable moment, because folks simply don’t know anything about what we trans folks experience, and when they ask logical questions, and do so in a respectful way, I am happy about it and eager to answer.

One friend had trouble grasping how I could now have sex reassignment but remain married to Julie. After we explored this a bit, I came to recognize something which had not occurred to me, that folks naturally equate my having had this surgery with my desire to have sexual relations.

Did I have the surgery because I desire relations with a male? Do I want to experience being a female in this way?

It makes total sense that folks would think that I would want to change my sex organ so as to enjoy sex in the manner in which I identify myself now, as a female. But, for whatever reason, that thought never dawned on me. Why didn’t it occur to me? I suspect it is because it was never the issue.

I have joked that I have no business daydreaming about having sex with a man (or another woman) because I am married! Actually, that is a true statement. I am married to Julie. My heart and desire belongs to her. I long to be faithful to my vows. My first desire is to be an upstanding, highly ethical Christian and spouse.

Now, let’s ask: Does transitioning ever alter one’s sexual orientation? Some folks who transition do experience a change in attraction, but from my reading it is a smaller percentage. Changed desires, along with the inability for one in the couple to cope with transitioning, and much more have split up many couples. Easily, Julie could have said, “I didn’t sign up for this. I am not a lesbian. I married a man and I want a man for a husband.” Thankfully, she has lived our marriage vow, “For better or for worse. In sickness and in health. Till death parts us.”

When my hormones changed after I had been on hormone replacement therapy (HRT) for awhile—meaning that my estrogen was higher and testosterone lower to match that of a genetic female in my age bracket—my sexual appetite was all but extinguished, leaving me with little to no sex drive. I was thankful for that, because I could no longer emotionally practice sex as a male. Yet, my attraction to Julie never wavered (nor hers for me), even though I could do nothing more with it than to be affectionate.

This is hardly the case for all. Indeed, I might be in the minority. I know of plenty of trans folks—male, female, pansexual, gender fluid, queer—who continue to enjoy sex with their natal anatomy. As with all of life’s experiences, there is no one-size-fits-all to this.

Am I curious as to how my body will react after I heal from surgery? Will my sex drive reignite? Will I have any change in desire? What things might happen which I cannot predict or know to look for?

How about after I go back on HRT this week, which I have been off for six weeks for the sake of undergoing surgery? When my hormones return to female-oriented levels—hopefully in about a month—and I now have female anatomy, will this new situation give me such a feeling of wholeness and rightness that I experience new feelings, and cause my sex drive to return?

As for Julie and me, we believe that our attraction remained, though neither of us have changed our sexual orientation, because our attraction is built upon our love for each other. Remember, we fell in love through our writing, before we ever saw each other’s picture.

https://eilerspizza.wordpress.com/2015/05/09/wow-um-wow/

I personally know a few couples—in each case, heterosexual couples in which the genetic male transitioned to female—who have not skipped a beat in their love and commitment to each other.

This all has been a grand lesson in sex and attraction and love. Sex is neither reduced to nor confined to one’s genitals. Yes, mine are now different, but I remain the same person. To me, that is the key. The essence of the human does not change even as some significant aspects of that person are altered. The sex act is a performance of the whole person—body, mind, and spirit.

Sex never was my reason for the surgery. Possessing body parts which are correct to my identity was my reason for sex reassignment surgery. Male genitals simply were wrong on me. I neither wanted to see nor touch myself.

If I were not married, other things could come into play for me. Since I am a turning-sixty-years-old-this-month married person, they are out of bounds. I don’t even ponder them. Ultimately, I much prefer my situation in life, because I have Julie and, well, you know how I feel about Julie. I am as blessed a human being as there is.

To me, my marriage lacks nothing. Julie so fills me in every wonderful way that I do not find myself wanting for a thing. I always live in her love. And she in mine. I would not trade our marriage—as much as we have been through, as challenging as it has been, and even as unusual as it became and the spotlight under which we found ourselves—for anything in the whole world.

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Next time, I will address the asking of questions, and how one might know what is okay to ask a trans person and what is not, and what situations can inform a person when a question will be fair play and when it will not.

First post-op check-up

This post is only for those who are okay reading specifics about sex reassignment surgery (SRS) and recuperating from it. I have written in detail because there are some who have expressed a desire to learn, and I have some readers who are contemplating the surgery. If you do not want details, check this out: http://foundmagazine.com/

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You recognize Julie, to my right, and to my left is my super-surgeon, Dr. Sidhbh Gallagher.

My first visit to Dr. Gallagher was on Wednesday, April 19, eight days after my surgery. Of all of the items on my checklist, 90% came back positive. And the 10% negative? The one item that makes up that amount could be better, but is not bad.

Well, wait. There were two negatives, but one of them was only momentary. It was the removal of the catheter. As Dr. G gently pulled it through my urethra, the pain was hot and heavy. I told her and Julie that it felt like I was peeing a fire hose’s worth of water through that tiny channel.

I shrieked pretty loudly. I had to breathe hard as I recovered. Julie held my head and stroked it. Dr. G went for a cup of water. It took a few minutes for me to calm down. If I ever have to have a catheter again . . .

That negative done with, the one that I count as the 10% is the amount of swelling and bruising to the wound area. I asked how bad. Dr. G put it in the 70th percentile. Even with that, she expressed no concern. Though I look pretty rough, there is nothing unusual.

Onto the good stuff.

As I previously reported, my excellent health was an item on which several folks commented before and after surgery. At my post-op appointment, Dr. G remarked that not only am I in tremendously good physical condition for someone turning SIXTY, most of her patients are under FIFTY and are not in such good shape. Few go home after the minimum number of days—three—yet I did.

Can you see me beaming?

Before I was released from the hospital last Friday, Dr. G gave us her cell number and encouraged us to call if need be. I now asked her if she had been expecting to get a call from me. She said that of the nearly ten SRS she has performed, I am the first not to call her at least once. Yes, more beaming.

I told Dr. G that I had not been ready to look down there. I was pleased when she took the lead. “Lots of girls feel that way. Most of them tell me that in the first few days they asked themselves, ‘What did I do to myself?’” I replied that I had asked myself the same thing, and that it was primarily motivated by how lousy I felt and how long is the recovery road.

Using an implement, she touched me in a few spots. I did not feel the first two, and felt the third. She said that my amount of numbness is common. She cleaned me up a bit—I bleed at least a little, most of the time—and the next order of business arrived.

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My new companions.

She took out a set of dilators. I was terribly skittish to begin this process, having no idea how it would feel. Would it hurt at first? If so, how badly? For sixty years, I did not have a vagina, and now I had to learn how to slide a hard plastic rod into it as deeply as possible, holding it in place for fifteen minutes, and do that five times a day for now.

I wanted to watch, so Dr. G retrieved a small mirror. Truly, I was not so sure I was going to be able to look down there—and, ugh, I am as black and blue as anything I have ever seen—but I found myself doing well with it. Besides, I needed to see this process so that I could do it myself.

Thankfully, her effort to insert the dilator went smoothly. After getting it four inches in, she was able to achieve one more, for a total of five inches of depth. That is good depth for post-surgery/pre-dilating. After surgery, she had told Julie she had plenty of material to work with in forming my new genitals.

Dr. G removed the dilator. It was my turn. Julie held the mirror as I went to work. The first trick was to get the correct angle. After that, I found the dilator to insert fairly smoothly. Eventually, I slid it in the full five inches.

Apparently, this went very well, so it prompted Dr. G to suggest trying the next larger size. I was reluctant, but did it. It went in harder, and I felt it a lot more. I only got it in a few inches. Dilating at home, I am sticking with the smallest size for now.

We had a number of questions for her.

  • When may I drive? I may drive when I feel ready. Now is okay if it feels okay.
  • How about mowing and gardening? I can do these as it feels okay, taking care to mind my body, not to overdo it.
  • Walking? The same goes for how much walking I do.
  • Do I have to keep sleeping on my back? Nope. I can sleep as it is comfortable.
  • How about sitting on the inflated ring? Use it if I need it, but I don’t need to.

I ditched the ring.

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Truth be told, I staged this picture.  Old ringy sits on a shelf, just in case.

Last evening, Julie and I went for a walk. Without the catheter, I could walk way faster than I was! I’ve stretched out my walks to three tenths of a mile. As feels okay, I will keep adding to it, and try to walk four or five times a day, as I have been.

I cannot imagine mowing or gardening right now. I suspect those are a week or two off.

Because my mid section is so swollen and black and blue, lying on my side is not very comfortable. When I do it, I put a pillow between my legs, at my knees. As for lying on my stomach? I don’t think so—and that’s always my first position, when I go to bed. I am pleased to report that every night I have gotten into bed, onto my back, and have not had trouble falling asleep. Whew.

As I complete this post Thursday afternoon, I have had three dilation sessions at home. Last evening, Julie was here to help, and I needed her help. It went well. This morning, I attempted it by myself, mirror in my right hand and dilator in my left. After a couple of attempts, I got the dilator in to four inches. Later in the morning, after five attempts I gave up, only being able to insert the dilator about an inch. No matter how I relaxed, shifted my body, and adjusted the dilator, it was no use. It is now time to go give it one more try before Julie gets home from work.

Finally, I am peeing on my own! After she removed the catheter, I asked Dr. G if I should be concerned about not being able to pee (though, typically, folks report the opposite, not being able to control their bladder) and, if I can’t produce, how is it treated. She said not to be concerned. Continuing, she revealed, “If you can’t pee, a smaller catheter is inserted.”

I became one highly motivated pee-er!

Last evening, as the feeling of fullness grew, I sat on the toilet. Nothing happened. By bedtime, I was trying not to freak out, still not having produced. I went to bed.

I awoke at midnight, really feeling the urge. Gently placing myself on the toilet, within seconds I felt the warm flow releasing itself. I cried tears of joy and relief.

I am pleased to report that, looking at my new anatomy, it is what I was hoping it would be.  This feels correct on me, where male genitals did not.  I will be grateful for full physical healing as I am very happy that the emotional healing is well under way.

Now, where’s that orange dilator . . .

SRS post-op-servations

I wasn’t nervous. Talking with me, one might have thought it was just another morning.

I enjoyed a marvelous peace in the days leading up to surgery. I never came close to a meltdown, and one was virtually expected as every major transitioning step had brought one. A few days before surgery, Julie said that she had been waiting for it. The only thing I experienced came a week-and-a-half before surgery, when for half a day I felt pulled apart. That arrived soon after I sensed my hormones shifting. Even as my testosterone had risen, causing me extreme physical discomfort, it still did not affect my mental and emotional stability. That it did not was, in a word, astonishing. I have thanked the Lord innumerable times for this.

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Waiting to be taken into surgery.

The morning of the surgery, I remained at peace. I did not even have the kind of nerves one gets when highly excited about something—and I had a bit of that the morning of my January vocal cord surgery. I was as calm and collected as can be. My blood pressure even reflected it, sitting right on what is normal for me. You could have knocked me over with an IV bag.

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The operation lasted something over six hours. One can easily imagine that it is a serious surgery. The area in question, the amount of restructuring, and the possible complications all play together to put this near the top of serious scale.

Dr. Gallagher has quickly gained a reputation as a skilled surgeon. Before surgery, and especially after, those on the surgery team raved about her work. One scrub nurse, who paid us two lovely visits afterward, marveled at the quality of Dr. Gallagher’s talent.

Indeed, I suspect her fine work is why I have experienced very little bleeding post-surgery, and why things progressed perfectly in the three days from surgery to dismissal, so that I had the shortest possible hospital stay. My thankfulness is through the roof.

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Coming out of sedation was crazy hard and very weird. I spoke to Julie about it as soon as I could, so that I might retain some memory of it. That I can write the following is only because I told Julie; otherwise, it has been wiped from my memory.

Waking up from surgery was as if I were at the same time trying to break through a door which was impossible to open, as if I were busting apart the most infuriatingly intertwined vines, as if I were doing this while standing in thick mud, as if dozens of hands were pawing at me, and as if something were trying to suck me away from my task.

I came out of anesthesia only very briefly. After I awoke a second time, the nurse told me that I had been crying when I came out of it the first time. I know that I was talking, and I even remember thinking at the time that I wanted to be logical in what I was saying so that I might be taken seriously. What did I say? Sadly, that is lost.

When I awoke a second time, I asked for Julie. When I told her what had happened, she said, “It’s no wonder what you experienced. It sounds like the summation of your entire life. Trying to break through. The total frustration you experienced. The many ways things held you back.”

I find it impossible to disagree with her.

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As I write this on Saturday and Easter Sunday, four and five days after my surgery, I am pleased to report that nothing unusual has transpired. This easily is the biggest surgery I have experienced. When I say that I am doing well, it means that everything is as it should be, and as expected. But, wow, I sure have not felt good!

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The hall felt long on Thursday, when I first was allowed to walk.  It felt great to be on my feet, even as it hurt like crazy.

My constant discomfort is only very gradually easing.  This begs the question: how much should doctors, or those who have gone through the surgery, discuss the pure misery which is the recovery period, what one experiences in her body, how it can deeply impact one’s emotions, how this is just plain hard in every way?  On the one hand, a person doesn’t want to keep from something so important to her because of some very challenging days or weeks—goodness, no one would take on any of life’s huge challenges, like having a baby, or getting a college degree, or marriage—yet, one should never enter into things like this with any naivete, whatsoever.  I was not naive, yet no one could have adequately explained what I have been experiencing.

My bodily functions have been completely out of whack. The bloating, which continued for three days, was easily the worst, most painful which has ever plagued me. I could feel hungry one moment, and the next moment nothing sounded good. Thankfully, I was able to consume a decent amount of calories, and have gotten back to eating at my regular breakfast, lunch, and supper times. Since Saturday afternoon, the bloating has ceased.

Saturday afternoon, I was unable to nap.  I felt crappy in every way.  Recovery felt like a road that wound around the world a dozen times.  Lying on the couch, I cried.  Hard.  It took more than an hour to come around.  When I did, Julie was, as always, there for me. I poured out my heart to her.

Julie’s marvelous love for me is on constant display. She hesitates at nothing on my behalf. Jumping into nursing duties has come naturally for her. When my dressing needs changing, she’s on the task like a seasoned veteran. My love for her continues to grow to a level I never knew possible.

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I have always been an emotional person. That has intensified the past four years. I thought there was a high chance that when I came out of anesthesia I would cry profoundly from a sense of relief and joy that I finally had completed the surgery which I never could have imagined for myself.

I did not cry. I did not experience anything profound. I have remained very even keel. I think I know why.

A year ago, when I got my name changed, I did not walk out of the courthouse bouncing with joy. It was a relief to have it done, but I had wished I had not needed to come to changing my name. When I left the courthouse, a lot of work remained regarding my name—every place my name exists, from drivers license, to credit cards, to you name it, had to be changed—so instead of having accomplished something it was more like I was only beginning something.

That’s how I have been feeling, post-surgery. My recovery is so long, and so intense, I cannot yet experience it with joy. As I did after vocal cord surgery, I have asked myself, “What did you do to yourself?” because the road to recovery is so steep and long.

I am confident the joy will come—it did with my name change, and with every other step in transitioning—but it is many days to weeks off.

I am thankful for the gift of patience, even as I have fallen into tears a few times because of the general misery which is my existence right now.

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Wednesday brings the next step.

Surely, it will come as no surprise that a Foley catheter was inserted, a first for me. On Wednesday, that will come out. Because there is a lot of swelling, and the swelling will take months to reduce, I am told that urinating will be an adventure. Woo hoo!

Read the next paragraph only if you are okay with learning a bit more specific info. If not, skip to the paragraph following.

After Dr. Gallagher created my neo-vagina, she packed it. On Wednesday, she will unpack it. She will teach me how to dilate. Dilation’s purpose is to gradually increase the width and depth of the neo-vagina. Dilation will be a rigorous exercise at first. The size of the dilators increase over time. Eventually, the need to dilate will level off and be required less frequently, but will need to continue to keep the skin healthy. Though she said it will not be painful, dilating will be uncomfortable. I cannot say that I am excited at the prospect of it, but I knew what I was getting myself into.

Assuming I get a good report, which is what I expect at this point, it will only be a few days after Wednesday that I will be permitted to drive. I will remain on low-impact activity for four weeks. (Julie has already mowed the lawn.) By the first week of May, I hope to feel good enough and to be allowed to get out and walk as fast and as far as feels okay, and want that to also mean I can mow and work at the garden as feels okay to do. Dr. Gallagher has told me that I might be jogging again at the six week mark. That is my goal.

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I am not a worrier, and am thankful to be a logical person. Even so, two complications were very real possibilities for me during or after surgery: infection and blood clots. I ran a low grade fever for a few days, but it never became a concern. My temp has been good the past few days. I remain on an antibiotic for a few more days. Infections can rear their ugly heads at any time, but my confidence is good that one will not bring me down.

Blood clots can be peskier. Two years ago, they nearly took the lives of my son and my sister. In the hospital, I had compression sleeves on my calves. They felt like blood pressure cuffs. Every minute, one calf, then the other, were constricted and eased. Since I was allowed to walk on Friday, I have gotten up and out many times, at least every few hours. I don’t go far—and I wonder what our neighbors are thinking about my short jaunts at such a slow pace, especially when they’ve always seen me as the runner!—but the regular movement is vital to keeping any blood clot from forming.

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The weather has cooperated wonderfully, helping me to want to get up, get out, and get walking the street in front of our house.

Finally, the thing that I loved hearing the most, both before and after surgery, from both nurses and doctors, was that I am a very healthy person. Though I carry too many pounds, Dr. Gallagher said that she found me very physically fit. I beamed each time someone took note of my good health! Taking care of myself is paying off big time as I move through recovery.

I am quickly approaching sixty years of age. Bring it on! I intend to grow into a fine specimen of an old person!

Neither proud nor ashamed

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Friday, April 7, I had my hair and makeup done for a party, a first for me.
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It was a masquerade party.  This is the first time I posted a full body picture of my new self.

I once read from a transwoman, “I am proud to be transgender.” I thought, “Huh?” It felt akin to one’s saying, “I am proud to be left handed,” or, “I am proud to be a white person.”

Though I found the statement ill-fitting, I understood it. We trans folks have been pushed around, disrespected, made fun of, and called every evil name in the book. When a person is terribly mistreated, it is natural to battle back.

That’s why the Gay Pride movement arose. That’s why we now have Trans Pride. That’s why a transwoman writes, “I am proud to be transgender.”

We trans folks stand up, speak up, and shout out because of the hatred, the prejudice, the misunderstanding about us, the people who turn their backs on us, the rights we are deprived, and much more. It takes a lot of standing, speaking, and shouting to be heard.

I was taught not to be full of myself, to keep my ego in check. When folks dig into their pride (even when they’ve earned it), less than honorable words and actions often accompany it. We pump up our chest. We might think we are better than others. As a Christian, from the Word of God I can find no good usage of pride when a person speaks of herself.

Thus, when I post pictures as the two, above, I stay away from saying, “I’m proud that I look nice when I’m all made up,” and, “I’m proud to have nice, runner’s legs.” Of course, I am PLEASED with how I look. I ENJOY dressing up. I FEEL GREAT these days.

But I’m not proud. More importantly, I am not ashamed.

I am ashamed of nothing in my having transitioned. I am ashamed of nothing in my being a son and brother, a husband and father, a Christian and that I retired from the ministry because of this. I have strived to address everyone and everything in a patient and loving way, and in an ethical manner befitting of a Christian.

I am not ashamed because I had an honest-to-goodness as-difficult-as-anything-in-life situation, and I set out to learn about it and handle it in an appropriate manner.

I am not ashamed because I gave it my all, again and again and again, to remain male. I can look myself in the eye without blinking, knowing that when I tried my hardest, I tried even more, and then I tried even longer and harder, always pushing myself to feeling I would either kill myself or literally go insane.

I am not ashamed because I have undertaken every step of transitioning methodically, slowly, continually studying and learning, and bathing each decision in prayer. Lest I sound boastful, I will tell you that I am tremendously pleased with how I have stayed firm in my Christian faith. Rather than take pride in me, I boast in the Holy Spirit, for He has fulfilled every promise to remain with me, to continually drive me to my Lord Jesus, so that I have remained diligent in the Word and continued steadfast in the doctrine to which I vowed as a minister.

I am not ashamed because, when I first told my close family members and friends, church leaders and pastors, and then went public with my blog, I resolved that I would answer every single person, even when people were mean and ugly with me, and never lash back when someone was nasty. I have, indeed, responded to 100% of those who inquired of me. While there are times when my written words were taken in a way I did not intend them (and I could have done a better job of writing), I have never reacted harshly with anyone. And, in the few cases where someone took offense at me, I asked them to please forgive me (and they have).

I am not ashamed because I have used my blog essays and videos to teach and explain everything from every imaginable angle, never feigning from any hard question, and I have worked hard to do everything in a way which would be enlightening and helpful, and often returned to speaking of my Lord Jesus and His enduring love for me.

As my sex reassignment surgery (SRS) neared, I found myself remembering Tuesday, April 26, 1994. On that day, near the end of my second year of seminary, I received my vicarage assignment. Vicarage is the seminarian’s one year internship, where a man and his family move to a church and the student is submersed in the work he will do after graduating, after he returns to the seminary for a final year of education.

When my turn came to learn where we Eilers were headed, I stood in Kramer Chapel, at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana, front and center. There was a vicarage in which I had great interest, which was the place where the man was serving who rented the house we were in, and they were moving back to it when we took off, and then we hoped to move back into it when we returned from vicarage.

It was a country church outside of Osage, Iowa. It had no pastor because it was small. The vicar was the man. His supervising pastor was in St. Ansgar, about ten miles away. Most vicars serve under a resident pastor and only get to preach once a month or even less, and don’t get some of the less common experiences. The Osage vicar preached every week, and got to handle everything that came his way.

I wanted it. I wanted it but bad. I wanted to learn how to preach. Only once a month sounded lousy to me. Please, give me Osage!

Now came the announcement. “Gregory John Eilers. St. John Lutheran Church. Osage, Iowa.”

As I moved from my spot and up the chancel steps, to shake hands and receive my documents, I immediately said to myself, “You got what you wanted, now what are you going to do with it?”

That question stuck with me. It helped me to put into my vicarage everything I could, so that I would get out of it everything I needed, so that I might become a good minister. And, wow, what a marvelous year of experiences I had.

That question has been visiting me again. Even though I am almost done with every step of transitioning, this step is, perhaps, the biggest. For me, I am changing my genitals. I do not enter into that lightly, even as I anticipate great joy at finally possessing what I find to be the correct body for me. For others, this is the most controversial step in transitioning and, even though it affects no one in how I interact with them, everyone knows that I am having the surgery, that I went this far, that I changed my body.

Now, here I am, only one day before the surgery. There are a lot of people who are against this. I have been asked, “How can you?” I have been urged, “Don’t do it.” I have been told, “I don’t understand why you would want that.”

Of course, they don’t understand. And when they form an opinion about something they know nothing about, and cannot begin to understand because it is completely foreign to anything they have experienced, they are doing a disservice to me, and the many like me, who have to live this life, who have to make hard decisions—tell your family the hard news, go on hormone replacement therapy, live full time as your desired sex, change your name, and much more—and because so many don’t understand, because too many are prejudiced, because the haters love to be vocal, it is common for us trans folks to be shamed.

I have had every one of these either directly or indirectly tossed at me:

  • “Why didn’t you try harder?”
  • “You know, you’ll never really be a woman.”
  • “If the HRT makes you feel better, why do you still need to wear women’s clothes?”
  • “You should divorce Julie.”
  • “How dare you think you can be a member of a Missouri Synod Lutheran church.”
  • “Stay the hell out of my bathroom.”
  • “I love you, but I won’t be able to deal with you.”

To sum it all up, “Shame on you.  Shame on all of you transgender people. You are not worthy of we who have our act together. You are less than us.”

Thankfully, so many of you have been tremendously kind and understanding. You did not know anything about this gender dysphoria stuff, but you listened. And you heard. And you were educated. And you have been able to say, “I sure learned something, and you are the same person I always knew and liked and loved.”

I am so pleased about you! Thank you!

I am so pleased to finally feel right about myself, after a lifetime of struggle.

I am so pleased that I have accomplished so much, and so well, with my transition.

I am so pleased with all that I undertook and have done with my blog and videos, my magazine article and podcasts, and with the book I now need to get published.

I am pleased that I can look myself in the eye, ask the question, “What are you going to do with this?” and reply, “Quite a bit, and not too shabby either, thank you. And I am far from done.”

As for me, and the gifts I possess and use, all of my boasting goes to my Creator and Savior, my Brother and Friend, Jesus Christ. He is my pride and my joy.  “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 1:31).”

I live by faith and with confidence in my Lord Jesus’ love for me. Now living as a female, I have no shame going before Him in prayer, or worshiping in His house. I rejoice that this promise is true for me, Romans 10:11: “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.”

Bring on tomorrow! And every tomorrow the Lord has for me to enjoy!

Voice recovery setback

On Tuesday, I returned to The Voice Clinic of Indiana for a fourth therapy session. I drove to Carmel feeling terribly frustrated, finding that my improvement had hit a wall soon after beginning the vocal fold strengthening exercises. I could not imagine what my therapist, Gabrielle, would have for me, to help me.

We sat down together and caught up on things. She agreed with my frustration that under most circumstances I should be producing a more clear voice. I was pleased that she suggested we scope my throat to determine if there were anything physical going on.

This was the fourth time I experienced the weird sensation of the scope being run up into my nose and down to my throat. There is a spot, when it nears its destination, that it feels nasty, despite the numbing spray that had been applied.

Gabrielle had me make a series of noises, do them at various pitches from low to high, and then simply talk for awhile. This all provided lots of video to observe.

As we watched some of it, I noticed two things. First, there was no more white area, so I assumed the surgical wound had completely healed. Second, at the base of where the surgery had been done, there was a round area of flesh, which did not look correct.

Dr. Parker entered and went right to the video. Very soon, he commented on the spot I noticed. “You have a granuloma. That’s why your vocal cords won’t close toward the bottom of the opening.” Indeed, the video showed that the top half of the opening was closing nicely as I spoke, but a small gap remained in the bottom half.

He explained that a granuloma often grows at the sight on an injury. As far as my body was concerned, the surgery was an injury.

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The above image is not of my vocal cords. The granuloma in this picture is the closest I could find to the size and location of mine, though mine is at the very bottom of my vocal cords, with no gap below it.

Thankfully, almost always a granuloma can be reduced, and the area returned to normal, with medication. Dr. Parker said it can take weeks to months, pinning it most likely to a couple of months. Because of my surgery next week, I can’t begin the medication until I get approval after the surgery, so I wait.

For now, I don’t need to continue voice exercises. My voice will be raspy until the medicine can do its work. Because the top half of my folds close nicely, I am hopeful—and Gabrielle agreed—that once the granuloma is gone I should have a nice, clear voice.

While I am frustrated for the setback, I am glad to have it pinned down, and for it to be something that should heal fully, easily, and not take terribly long. I can easily live with that, and be thankful.

Till then, I will continue to seek ways to describe my voice. Today, it is croaky. Yesterday, it was raspy. Tomorrow, what will it be? Might it be gruff, or rough, or tough to speak? Will it sound scratchy, patchy, or catchy? How about hoarse and coarse, showing that something is amiss at the source?

Even though my voice sounds crappy, I will strive to remain happy, especially on those days I can get in my nappy.

Meet Julie

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Julie wrote this poem to me soon after we admitted our affection for each other in our email relationship.  She has proven every word to be true.

Always

by Julie
for me

Everything went wrong and the whole day long
I’d feel so blue.
For the longest while, I’d forget to smile.
Then I met you.

Now that my blue days have passed,
Now that I’ve found you at last,
I’ll be loving you always
With a love that’s true always.

When the things you planned need a helping hand
I will understand always, always.
Days may not be fair always,
That’s when I’ll be there always.

Not for just an hour,
Not for just a day,
Not for just a year,
But always.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Julie Kaye is the fourth of five kids among her band of Leckbands. Her dad, Larry, with his first wife, who sadly died young, brought Laurie and Mark with him when he and Vonna married. Together, they welcomed Sheri, Julie, and Amber.

 

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Julie at five months old, enjoying her first cookie.
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Julie at ten months.  Strike a pose, girl!

Growing up a few miles south of tiny Ocheyedan (Oh CHEE dn), in northwest Iowa, they inhabited the family farm from which Dad eased away and into other endeavors. Around the time Julie was graduating from high school, Dad and Mom left the farm for a spot fewer than two miles directly north on which they built a large ranch-style house that sits in front of a huge pond created by Dad.

Both sides of Julie’s family have long Lutheran lines. On the Leckband side, a number of pastors inhabit several generations. Julie was brought up in the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. She was confirmed at the usual age of fourteen. Then, as is common to so many youth, she found the faith wanting.

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Julie the teenager.  If we would have been in high school together…

In high school, Julie was very active. She played basketball for the Sibley-Ocheyedan Generals. She was cute and friendly, which translated into an active dating life.

She got into journalism  While still in high school, she wrote, and even became sports page editor for, the local weekly newspaper. The kid was good. To see how good a writer she is, here is the piece she wrote for my blog:
https://eilerspizza.wordpress.com/2015/07/07/julie-speaks/

Her high school experience taught her that she loved this work. She headed to college, taking her bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Iowa.

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Julie and I fell for each other via email, before we ever saw each other’s picture.  This is the one she sent to me, the first time I ever saw her.  I found her so beautiful.  I hoped that when she saw my picture she would not run away in horror.

While in college, she took a job with a newspaper which was in a town near Iowa City, where U of I is. She also took to her boss. They eventually married. Newspaper work took them to South Dakota, then a career change for him took them back to Northwest Iowa and to Julie’s going to work for her dad.

Running heavy machinery.

And the chick loved it.

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That’s Julie, in the cab.  This is one of the big machines she ran when working with her dad.
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Farm towns love their tractor-pull competitions, and Julie loves to show how it’s done!

Julie’s marriage was not what is should have been. Since college, her faith in the Lord had all but disappeared. I recently heard her tell someone, “I was pretty worldly.” A series of things brought her to the crossroads which eventually brought her to me, but first these things brought her back to the Lord.

She called on the pastor of her childhood congregation. Not only did the Holy Spirit use him to heal Julie’s soul, her rekindled faith turned into a marvelous zeal for the Word of God.

She was still married, but terribly troubled. Since I have written in detail how this brought her to me, I will let you read that if you do not know the story. Hey, it’s the best love story in the history of the world, so if you’ve never read it you simply must click this:
https://eilerspizza.wordpress.com/2015/05/09/wow-um-wow/

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I love this picture for the spirit it catches in Julie.  This is the morning of our wedding.  In the background are daughter Erin and my best bud, Tim Todd.

When I describe the woman whom I am blessed to call my own, there is no bias in my describing her as a one-of-a-kind. Among her lovely attributes—kind, compassionate, funny, generous—she is a tireless worker. When we were in Port Hope, those ten years that she worked for H & R Block had her toiling seven days a week from February through April 15, leaving the house at 7:30 and often not returning until 11:00 p.m., midnight, and even later.

And she never complained. There was no whining about the grind. The most I might hear was “I could use more sleep,” but then she would be off and running, with the smile on her face which she had for everyone.

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“Really?  You think you can get to that plate of yummy bread?  All right then, but you’d better give it your best shot.”

Julie has a tremendous ability to think of others first. For a few years, she was our church school’s secretary. Fifteen hours a week were paid. She worked way more than that. When the principal needed work on the school computers, Julie jumped in. Julie loves a challenge, and she has a passion for research and learning. She turned herself into a computer geek. Almost no problem can stump her.

During the tax off season, she donated long hours to the school. On a Friday or Saturday, she might go over in the morning and not return until well into the afternoon. Many a Sunday afternoon was spent the same way.

If a job needs to be done, she does it.

One time, some ladies in the church put on a fashion show of clothes from years past. Julie served as one of the models. She walked and turned and smiled and dazzled as if she had done this a thousand times before. And, oh! Was she so cute!

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I could post a hundred pics like this to show that dazzling smile that I love so much.  I included this one because it gives a glimpse of the lovely back yard we enjoyed in Port Hope.  Behind me is son Alex.  To my left is son Addison, to his left is my brother Tom, and standing in the rear is daughter Jackie.

Though she had no children of her own, she came into our house and fell into place as if she were a grizzled veteran of a mother. When we were married, Erin was twenty, Jackie was eighteen, Addison was fifteen, and Alex was twelve. Jackie was in college and the rest were at home.

It was not long before I was telling people that Julie’s relating to the kids, and their interacting with her, was as firm and friendly and loving as if she had been their mother their entire lives. I often thought that folks found me exaggerating. I was not. The kids would easily attest to their love and respect for Julie.

I love telling about a phone call that occurred many times. After the kids grew and moved out, when they called home the conversation often went like this:
Me: “Hello?”
Child: “Hi, Dad, it’s _____.”
Me: “Hey, what’s up?”
Child: “Oh, not much. How are you?”
Me: “I’m cool.”
Child: “Good. Um, is Julie there?”

My ten seconds turned into Julie’s forty-five minutes. I kid you not.

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“What did I get myself into?  I don’t know what is going on next to me.  I can’t bring myself to look.”

Julie was not only the Lord’s gift to me, but to the entire family. Now, the grandchildren adore her, too. “Nana! Will you play a game with me?”

 

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One of my favorite pictures.  That wonderfully expressive face!  Nana carries granddaughter Maggie down the slide as granddaughter Margot assures their safe landing.

The summer after we married, Julie’s folks threw a reception-like party for us at their place. There was one older couple, cousins of some sort, who acted like newlyweds despite their having been married fifty or so years. Julie and I decided we wanted to be like them.

After fifteen years, we are. We are silly together, and sweet, and affectionate. A day never goes by that we do not express our love—every morning when she leaves for work, and every night when we go to bed. I often find myself telling her, “I’m crazy about you.” I think she is the most adorable thing around.

Julie has the kind of personality which allows her to deal with things in a compassionate, understanding manner. When, before we married, I told her of my gender issues, she didn’t blink. “I don’t know anything about it. Teach me.” And, eleven years later, when gender dysphoria finally crushed me and I said the words I never thought I would utter, “I might not survive if I don’t transition,” she replied, “Then we will figure it out.”

And that is what we have done. As a team. She had always lived her poem to me.  Now, she lived it as deeply as any spouse would ever have to.

Every couple should talk as much as Julie and I. As she suffered at my side my many meltdowns, she talked me through them. She shared ideas from what she witnessed. Because I could trust her, I was able to be totally honest with her.

Trust, honesty, and communication. Foundational things for a solid marriage. A solid friendship. A solid any-sort-of-relationship.

When I retired, Julie had to take on the job of bringing home the bacon. She did it without hesitation. Even more—though I was still striving to remain male at the time I retired—she determined to only apply for jobs with companies which are trans-friendly, with health insurance which covers transitioning. She got the only job for which she applied, with Charles Schwab, the financial services company.

Once again, she finds herself working hard, long hours. Her department is under-staffed and overworked. As they address that, she has been working ten and eleven hours a day, and almost every Saturday. Just as when she was doing taxes, she never utters a discouraging word.

One spouse transitioning sexes can completely disrupt a marriage. Many do not survive it. Julie would have none of that. She has been my rock these past four years. And my biggest cheerleader. She has been as happy as I with each step I’ve taken.

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February, 2016. Julie and I posed, with daughter Jackie behind the camera. The pic was used in my Indianapolis Monthly article.

Our feelings for each other are the same as when we fell in love, and even more so.

It’s all because of her. Because she gives me everything she has, and that girl has it all.

I learned this from her early on. She said, “You’re the second-best thing to happen to me. The best thing is being a baptized child of God.” I picked it up for myself.

Yes, Julie is second to the Lord but, because she shows me the heart of Jesus, she’s a really close second.

Always.