Trans Ed 101: passing/blending

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For the transgender person, who wants to transition to female or male (and not be gender fluid),

  • passing is being seen by others in such a way that they do not notice that you are transgender, while
  • blending refers to any trans person, no matter her or his appearance, who achieves the goal of fitting into the environment.

Many transgender women and men are able to transition to where they may be “stealth.”  “Stealth” literally means to be in secret, covert.  That is the idea, that one is able to keep secret that she or he is living opposite of the sex in which they were identified at birth. In other words, the transgender person appears to be cisgender, that is, a person whose gender/identity and sex/body type match.

Because of the many hurdles and potentially harmful situations faced by trans folks, those who are able to pass often prefer to remain stealth, to keep their birth identity secret.  It’s not that they are ashamed to be transgender; quite the opposite, they simply are acting wisely, protecting themselves bodily, economically, and potentially in many other ways.

Many transgender women and men are not able to transition to where they may be stealth.  Lots of things factor into the challenge, including physical size, facial structure, and voice.  One does not want her or his presentation to be a factor, which takes us to blending.

Blending is key, even if one passes, but especially when we don’t, so that passing is not constantly on our mind, and so that we don’t stand out.

I recall the advice that I read before I ever went out as Gina.  Act as if you belong, dress appropriately, and do nothing to draw attention to yourself.

The first place I ever went by myself was to a grocery store.  Women don’t put on a dress and heels to get groceries.  Women wear whatever they’ve been wearing around the house, likely jeans or shorts, flats or sneakers, little or no makeup.

That’s how I dressed.  I entered the store, mustering every ounce of my usual self-confidence, and shopped as a woman as if I’d done it a thousand times before.

Everything went smoothly.  Making my usual friendly small talk with the cashier, she was not responsive, and I felt the look on her face was not positive—that she knew I was transgender and was unapproving—but that might simply have been her usual demeanor.  In the parking lot, when I finished putting the groceries into my trunk and looked up, a few cars down I caught a woman staring at me.  I smiled.  She quickly looked away. I got into my car and headed home.

Upon arrival, I knew that I had been tense because when I entered the kitchen my entire body relaxed.  Finally, I rejoiced that I had done it, and I used the event as my springboard to going anywhere and everywhere and, now in my third year I blend in wherever I go—and I still don’t pass worth beans.

Later that year, I met a trans woman at a public event.  It was outdoors, midday, a weekday, and not a dress-up event.  She came in a dress, very high heels, and lots of makeup.  She stood out, and terribly so.  I wish I could have found a way to gently tell her that she’d overdone it, that she was not blending.

As I think about blending, I am reminded of liars.  Liars tend to talk too much.  They have a subconscious need to convince others that they are telling the truth, so they feel they have to create a truth, a story for people to believe, something on which to latch instead of the thing on which they don’t want them dwelling, the thing that will expose them. People who are telling the truth don’t oversell it.  Since they know what they are saying is true, they don’t feel compelled to over-elaborate.

We trans folks want to appear in public as if we are telling the truth—indeed, this is why we transition; we are seeking to live authentically—that we are whom we are presenting ourselves to be.  This means that we don’t want to appear, act, or speak in ways which make it seem that we are overselling it, that we are trying to cover up anything, that we are striving, if you will, to keep a lie from being exposed.

How do we do this?

  • Dress appropriate to the place and occasion.
  • Act as if you belong.
  • Though you might feel that everyone is looking at you, they probably aren’t.  (This was one of the best things my therapist told me, and repeated until I got it.)  People are busy doing their thing; they aren’t on the watch for the next trans person.
  • If you see someone look at you, give them a friendly smile.  This is the best way to turn a potential negative into a positive.
  • Be wise about where you go.  Don’t go places that are unsafe, or out late at night when punks are more likely to be feeling their oats or using the cover of dark to do their vile deeds.  (A trans man once told of the beating he took at a bar, and displayed some of his injuries which were still healing.  He told of trouble he had there before this event.  I thought, “What a dumb thing, to go back to a place you knew could hold danger.”)
  • Use your gifts and abilities.  Example, if you have the gift for gab, chatting with clerks, or wait staff, or doctor’s office receptionists and nurses will smooth your path.  Friendliness is a marvelous cure for many ills; it sets people at ease.
  • Build on your successes and learn from any failures.

It’s okay to be scared.  We all experience fear in certain places.  For example, though I have never had trouble in a public restroom, I always enter with a bit of trepidation.  It’s okay to be scared—a bit of fear can help us to remain vigilant—but it is not okay to be stifled by fear.  Overcome fear with logical thinking and practical steps.

This is how we trans folks blend into society.  While most of us would love to pass so that no one can tell we are transgender, we recognize that the world is filled with a wide variety of people.  There are tall women and short men.  There are females who don’t have hips and men with big butts.  Some males have high-pitched voices and some females’ voices are taken for males’.  And on and on.

There is no standard.  We are wise to remember this, that we not obsess that we can’t achieve stealth, but always striving to blend in—just another regular person out doing regular things.

My solar eclipse experience

I made a video as I watched the eclipse.  Here in Indianapolis, we had 92% coverage during totality, which was at 2:25 p.m.

When I went outside, before 2:00, we had blue skies overhead.  I saw the edge of the moon over the sun.  The clouds then moved in.  The cloud bank was so large that I feared I would not see the full eclipse.

As you will see in the video, the clouds cleared just in time and I wound up with a great view and a marvelous experience.

The first nearly two minutes of video have me waiting for the clouds to clear.  The best part of the video is from 1:55, lasting for two minutes.

August 19, 2015/16/17

From left, pictures from each August: 2015, 2016, and 2017.

Are you able to spot the difference in these pictures, which are seven years apart?  Give up?  It’s the glasses!

Two years ago, today, I changed my Facebook profile and my name on each of my online accounts.

On July 2, 2015, I had restarted the Real Life Test, which I had initially begun that January 1, but had abandoned as I resumed trying to abide with living as a male. I did this quietly, even though I had, since that April, been posting about my struggle. Before going public, I wanted to see how it would go.

By mid-August, I was feeling so good that I thought I was in for the long haul, that I would be striving to pass the Real Life Test, which would mean that my therapist would agree that transitioning was effective for me and so she would endorse me, giving me the ability to begin the trek toward changing my name and having surgeries.

In 2016, my therapist agreed that I had passed the Real Life Test. I applied for a name change, going to court on May 2. I legally became Gina Joy Eilers, a female.

2017 has been the Year of the Surgeries. On January 19, I had my vocal cords shortened, that I might have a higher-pitched voice. April 11 brought gender affirmation/sex reassignment surgery. On September 13, I will have facial feminization surgery.

I will consider myself as having fully transitioned.

While I continue to have the attitude that I do not celebrate this, I am thankful for the positive changes transitioning has brought me. The fierce hatred I had been experiencing, which crushed me early in 2013, has been quelled. The sense no longer exists that I have two people inside of me, the male and female in constant battle to annihilate the other.

Indeed, though I now live as Gina, Greg is alive and well in me. I never knew this could happen. When I was fighting for Greg’s life, I thought that getting rid of Gina would mean killing her. That horrified me. So, naturally, by transitioning I thought that Greg would be the one who would be killed.

But I’m still Greg. Everything which is fundamental to the person who is typing these words—body, mind, and spirit; Christian, husband, father, brother, grandfather, friend; writer, gardener, jogger, joker—remains me.

Even more, I do not reject that I am, fundamentally, a male. Of all of the changes I have made—and, by my count, I will have done everything possible for a male-to-female person to do—there is one that I deliberately did not do. I did not change my birth certificate. I will not change my birth certificate, unless terrible laws are made which box me in to have to do it to protect myself.

My birth certificate, along with my certificate of baptism, confirm and confess who I am and, even more, whom I will be for eternity.

Gina is temporary. Transitioning is to me no different than the means a hurting person uses to find healing of body or mind, or both. But, of course, it’s temporary healing. It only endures to the day we take our final breaths.

When I take my final breath, the Lord will take me to Himself. As my soul rejoices at the throne of my Lord Jesus, my body will be laid to rest in the earth. Julie knows that I want my headstone to read this way:

Gregory John Eilers

Gina Joy Eilers

I want neither to deny nor disrespect Gina, but Greg comes first. Greg is who I am.

Then, on the Great Day, the Day our Lord returns in glory, my Jesus will resurrect me from the grave as a new man, fulfilling in me His promises in 1 Corinthians 15, giving me an imperishable, glorified, powerful, spiritual body; a body which will transcend anything we know in this world.

I will be a man.  I will be a male.  I will finally be whole.

And the many tears of this life—the weeping I have been doing as I’ve typed these last paragraphs, as these matters have once again struck me to my soul, my desire so strong to run the race of the Christian faith to completion and my longing for eternal healing being so great—finally, the many tears of this life will be a thing of the past. No more crying, or pain, or mourning, or death (Revelation 21:4).

As I mark two years in the books of my publicly living as Gina, I am thankful for the blessings I have received, for the healing I have experienced, and for the many positive things I have been able to do and the folks I have gotten to know. I have sought to use my situation for good, to achieve positive things, to educate, and to continue to show my fellow Christians that a transgender person does not have to give up his or her correct doctrine and faith.

The purpose of my life remains unchanged. First, that I love the Lord my God with all my heart and soul and strength. And, second, that I show my love for the Lord by loving my neighbor as I love myself.

“Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven (Matthew 5:16).”

 

Giggles, goofs, and gaffes

Declaring the solar eclipse potentially too dangerous for its citizens, the state of Indiana has outlawed it.

Local politicians weigh in:

Indiana state senator Phil I. Buster: “We studied the results of previous eclipses. Finding that 0.00017% of Americans suffered vision damage from the last eclipse, we simply could not take that risk. Besides, reports of excited school students and exhilarated adults concerned us. Indianans aren’t equipped to handle that much excitement.”

Representative Lesley Lature laid down the law, “Either the sun or the moon will have to shift its course when it cruises over our state. If not, they will have their Indiana rights and privileges revoked.”

When lawmaker Mr. Righteousindignation was found to have made plans to go to Ohio next week, the press pressed him. Fidgeting, he finally blurted out, “I have to go to my grandmother’s funeral!” Mr. Righteousindignation is 77. Why hadn’t the media been all over the death of his grandmother, who surely was the world’s oldest person?

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Facing fierce congressional pressure, I stand firm: I never met with a single Russian official during my transition.

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The man became addicted to communicating only by way of internet images. Some people are just so meme-spirited.

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I just got a job as a tour guide. My first tour will be to guide a group of tour guides who are in town to examine our museum’s historical collection of printed tour guides.

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When a medical examiner has died of a heart attack, was the fatal blow a coronerary?

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Rabbit pick-up line: “Come on, baby. Let your hare down.”

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When it comes to creeks, I might not be brook smart, but I have stream smarts.

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No longer am I only the gardener. That’s me, below.  I’ve been promoted to branch manager!

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If you think

This piece was written in the wake of the turbulence in Charlottesville, Virginia, thus it is aimed at anyone who identifies with white supremacists.  However, any person, of any color, creed, culture, or country can take the admonition for her- or himself, should it apply.

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If you think you are better than others, then act better than others.

If you believe that white is the dominant race, then prove it by showing that love is the dominant trait of humankind.

If you desire to live in peace, live as a peaceful person. But if it is okay with you to be cut down in your youth through violence, then aim your hatred and ready your trigger. And if you dare to think so singularly, know that you have done more than abandoned your own blood relations, but also put them into harm’s way. And if you are a U. S. citizen, know that you are acting in opposition to both the law of the land and the values on which it is built. And if you claim to be a Christian, not only are you sadly mistaken about the Word of God, you are blaspheming it.

If you want to claim for whites this land which stretches from the Atlantic to the Pacific, remember that you took it from the natives who populated it for long before your ancestors ever knew it existed.

If you hold that you are superior, then show your superiority not in easy things, such as casting off others, but by embracing them; not by standing over the harmed and hurting, but by bending down to help and comfort them. It is easy to dominate and divide; it takes hard work, from a heart which is filled with compassion, to serve and unite your fellow man.

If you believe that white is the superior skin color, then live according to the symbolism by which white is understood. White stands for purity. White represents holiness. And goodness. And innocence. And safety.

White does not stand for bigotry.  White does not represent evil.  Or ugliness.  Or smug supremacy.  Or racism.

Never racism.

If you think you are a member of the perfect people group, then be perfect. Be perfect in your every thought. Be perfect in your every word. Be perfect in your every deed.

If you think you are better than others, then act better than others.

If you think.

Vocal cord surgery

On January 19, I had surgery on my vocal cords for the purpose of making them shorter, allowing me to speak in a higher pitch. At my first two post-op appointments, the scope showed that I was healing perfectly. I began voice training, exercises to strengthen my vocal folds so that they fully close over my reshaped vocal cords. The exercises went well for a month.

And then they didn’t.

My voice sounded very raspy. My therapist, who thought my voice would sound clear by this time, knew that we needed to see what was up, so down went the scope.

I had a granuloma, which is a growth that sometimes occurs at the spot of an injury. My body reacted to the surgery by growing this thing which now was protruding so that the bottom of my vocal folds would not close, leaving me sounding hoarse. The cure? Use a steroid inhaler for two months.

This was early April. I was to have sex reassignment surgery on April 11. I was not allowed to begin the steroid before surgery, and then not until two weeks after. From late April to late June, I sucked two puffs from the inhaler twice each morning and twice each evening.

I thought I detected less hoarseness in my voice, so I had hoped the granuloma had shrunk. I returned to The Voice Clinic of Indiana on July 18. Through my nose went the scope. After the requisite, “Gina, say eeeee,” and other commands, the scope was removed and I got to see the video.

The granuloma was gone. Even more, Dr. Parker pointed out how my surgery had healed exactly as he had hoped. Finally, one day short of six months after surgery I was done with the process.

Well, the physical part, anyway. My new task was to learn how to hit the right chords with my cords. I was now physically able to speak at a higher pitch, but I was not used to it. Even more, because I was so used to the way I talked, I struggled to change. Even worse, speaking in a higher pitch seemed so foreign that I didn’t want to make my family have to hear it; I feel that I have put them through so much.

Sounding female is one thing; talking in a feminine manner is another. When I work at using my new, higher pitch, which falls nicely into the range for females, I tend to talk differently. Not only do I add more ups and downs and inflections—to a large degree, females speak with much more range and emotion than do males—I find that I also alter my expressions, hand gestures, and body language, especially when I practice by myself.

Because I sound female, I feel that much more female. It washes through me.

I like it. I’ve been desiring it and working toward it. Yet, the change feels so great that it feels stark. Too much—this is my thinking—to ask others to hear. So, what have I been doing for the last few weeks? I’ve been fighting it, struggling even to practice speaking in a higher pitch around Julie, who encourages me to practice.

With my face surgery only a month away, I have to be prepared. When I will finally look like a female, I will need to speak like a female. I am now motivated to get my voice where I want it.

Here is a short video in which I demonstrate where my voice is these days. After I recorded it, I found my higher-pitched voice to sound like me, only higher and softer. I have a lot of work to do in strengthening it and getting used to this, and speaking less like a guy and more as a woman.

For comparison, here is my voice the day before I had surgery.

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I have removed from the blog menu all of the previous posts regarding my vocal cord surgery and progress. Here are the links to those.

https://eilerspizza.wordpress.com/2017/01/20/pics-from-vocal-cord-surgery/
https://eilerspizza.wordpress.com/2017/02/06/my-vocal-cords-post-surgery/
https://eilerspizza.wordpress.com/2017/01/20/silence-is-rusty-1/
https://eilerspizza.wordpress.com/2017/01/21/silence-is-rusty-2/
https://eilerspizza.wordpress.com/2017/01/22/silence-is-rusty-3/
https://eilerspizza.wordpress.com/2017/01/23/silence-is-rusty-4/
https://eilerspizza.wordpress.com/2017/01/24/silence-is-rusty-5/
https://eilerspizza.wordpress.com/2017/01/25/silence-is-rusty-6/
https://eilerspizza.wordpress.com/2017/01/26/silence-is-rusty-7/
https://eilerspizza.wordpress.com/2017/01/31/post-op-appointment-day/
https://eilerspizza.wordpress.com/2017/02/01/silence-turned-golden/
https://eilerspizza.wordpress.com/2017/03/19/voice-therapy/
https://eilerspizza.wordpress.com/2017/04/04/my-voice-progress/
https://eilerspizza.wordpress.com/2017/04/07/voice-recovery-setback/

Facial feminization surgery

I am scheduled for the third surgery of my transition, all in 2017. On September 13, I will have several procedures done on my face so that I appear female. The process is called Facial Feminization Surgery, or FFS.

I should not be surprised that many people do not know how differently-shaped are male and female faces, since I only became aware of it when I looked seriously into transitioning. Because there are many areas of the face that add up to make us look dramatically different, FFS has many aspects to it.

First, why have FFS? I am having it because the face is the main point of contact we have with each other. Since mine is definitely male-shaped, then add in my height and male-shaped body and large frame, simply growing my hair and dressing as a woman does not allow me to be perceived as a female.

It is not my goal to be beautiful, or even pretty. No, I simply want to be presentable, to have those facial attributes of a female so that when I look in the mirror, and when anyone looks at me, a female is seen.

I still want to look like me—a female version of me.

Beginning at the top of my head, here are the procedures which will make up what Dr. Barry Eppley anticipates to be an eight hour surgery

Hairline

Dr. Eppley will move my scalp forward as much as he can. Sadly, I’ve lost so much hair, and my hairline is, as he says, no longer really a line, this will not gain me a lot. At this point, I will take what I can get in my effort to stave off the wearing of a wig.

Browline

This might be the most distinctive difference in our faces. Males have a prominent brow and lower eyebrows than females. To match a genetic female, my brow bone will be shaved and my eyebrows raised.

Cheeks

Small disks will be placed into the cheeks to provide, well, more cheek. (As if I’m not cheeky enough, right?)

Nose

Dr. Eppley found my nose neither unusually large nor real male-looking, but a slight reduction, with a tiny bob, will go a long way toward my entire facial presentation.

Lips

You might already know that females generally have larger lips than males. What you likely do not know—I didn’t, before my consultation—is that males have a larger space between the upper lip and nose. To lessen that space and provide me a larger upper lip, a small strip of skin will be removed and the lip lifted.

Chin and jaw

What makes a ruggedly handsome man? Often, it is a strong chin and square jaw. Well, that’s what Hollywood has always thought. They certainly never sought that attribute in a leading lady.

My chin and jaw will be rounded, in order to soften my appearance. Alas, that wedding photographer, who used to say I resemble Clint Eastwood, will never look at me the same.

Neck

Okay, this isn’t technically part of my face, and I don’t think there is such a thing as a male neck. Well, there is, if there is an Adam’s Apple—and there is a procedure to shave that so that it no longer protrudes—but I don’t have one, so, yeah, I get a pass on one procedure.

As for my neck, it suffers from my being sixty years old. So, a neck lift it is. I’ll love your assessments as to how many years younger it makes me look.

All those procedures accomplished, what might the final product be?  If you do an online search of “facial feminization surgery before and after,” you can find hundreds of examples.  I selected three, for comment.

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These before and after shots, above, nicely demonstrate the differences in the major areas—brow, nose, and chin.  Imagine the person in the before pictures wearing makeup and hoping to be perceived as a female.  This person was a nice looking guy, but now she has a lovely face which only will be perceived as female. I would gladly take a sixty-year-old version of this.

ffs-before-and-afterI selected the one, above, because the hairline is similar to mine.  The wig makes such a difference that the surgery is almost lost.  But, look closely at the key areas. The changes are remarkable.

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I selected this three-photo image to show what I do not desire, a change so dramatic that I would no longer resemble me. Well, that’s what I see—a tremendously different person.

It pains me to post the following two pictures of myself, taken the day I am posting this, in which I deliberately did not smile and removed my glasses so as to show exactly that with which Dr. Eppley is going to be working.

 

The silly person in me simply has to conclude: Dr. Eppley has his work cut out for him, and I can only improve from here.

FFS, here we come!