It was on this date, in 2015, when I went public that I was six weeks into the Real Life Test of living as a female to see whether it calmed the fire in my brain and if I could succeed in the world as a woman.
On both the first and second anniversaries, I posted photos to show the progress I was making, the evolution of myself. With the biggest change of all occuring in me this year, it seems a final post is in order.
Before I get to that, I have a fun quiz for you.
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What do Clark Kent and Superman, and Gina and Greg have in common? Two clues are tucked between the photos. The answer is revealed at the end of the post.
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November, 2011: before I crashed with gender dysphoria:
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CLUE #1: Clark/Superman and Greg/Gina each have their parting ways.
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August 19, 2015: the transition begins:
August 19, 2016: do you see a difference from 2015?
August 19, 2017: the final one before my face surgery in November.
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CLUE #2: when Superman and Greg make a spectacle of themselves, they cease making a spectacle upon themselves.
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November 22, 2017: facial feminization surgery day.
Christmas, 2017: healing from surgery, this is the new me. Gina is ready for 2018 . . . she thinks.
In January of 2018, I had cataract surgery. It went so well, I no longer needed glasses, making the Christmas photo all the more appropriate, when I had Julie take some pics of me without my glasses.
At the time of the eye procedure, I was in the early days of my identity shift, of which you now know the story.
August 15, 2018: three months into living full time as Greg.
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Trivia Time Answer:
Since all online photos of Clark Kent and Superman are copyrighted, I can’t copy them to post here. You can easily find them, or you likely recall the parting ways and spectacle of the two clues.
Clark Kent and Superman part their hair on opposite sides. So do Greg and Gina. Did you ever catch that?
Clark Kent wears glasses, while Superman . . . well, he wouldn’t be super with glasses! Gina wore glasses and, now feeling like a super man—and with the aid of cataract surgery—Greg does not. Now, to acquire that Xray vision thing . . .
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A final side-by-side look nicely closes this monumental chapter of my life:
Today’s post prompts the question, why do I write on the topics on which I write?
Over and over, I hear from folks who are trying not to transition, or are beginning or in the process, or have transitioned, those who are fellow Christians and those for whom questions of religion do not come into play, all who are pleased to learn about my various experiences, both wondering what they might expect or to see if anyone else has gone through what they have. That they found me, and the many ways in which I have written, proves tremendously helpful for them—and gratifying for me.
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Outside of my surgeries, 2017 was notable for one other thing. It’s another thing I could have never imagined.
When I look back over my life, and how I observed trans women, especially those who look and dress and speak so thoroughly differently as females from their former males selves, I always thought—and I suspect this is natural, but perhaps you don’t think this way—that, post-transition, they must experience life differently, and experience themselves differently, because, after all, they changed so dramatically.
I wonder now if my thought had not been completely wrong, or at least largely so. I now admit: What did I know?
Not only do I, having fully transitioned, not experience life, or myself, differently (check off one surprise), I came full circle in 2017 (check off one that’s a downright shock).
In September of 2016, I posted a piece entitled, “Gina Deepens as Greg Lessens.” In that post, I explained that more than ever I experienced myself as a female, which meant that male-feeling moments were coming less often, and they were not as intense when they arose. I also noted how pondering my formerly living as a male was as if I were looking at the photo album of my former self, indeed that this was a completely separate person from whom I now was.
As I perceived in myself this gradual and thorough changing of the guard in me, I could only expect it to continue and complete itself, that I would become what I always perceived in the transsexuals I had observed from my youth. In 2017, not only did it not continue to completion, it reversed itself.
After I had sex reassignment/gender confirming surgery in April, the reverting began. (Great timing, huh?) Because it occurred after this profound changing of my body, for awhile—as much as a couple of months—I wished I never had felt I needed to have the surgery. Yet, even as I had those thoughts, the surgery always felt correct on me.
I got through that period last spring and accepted my situation in life, and then became content with it. Even if, at some future date, I were to resume living as a male (yes, I always leave open that possibility), I would never again have a penis. During the two months of struggle, this bothered me, the single thing I have done in transitioning which is irreversible. After negotiating those rough waters, since last summer I have been able to stop pondering this. I am content and pleased with the new shape of my body.
As I neared my twin procedures in November—facial feminization and breast implants—I continued to feel like my pre-transition self. Check that. There was something missing from my pre-transition self. I no longer had the gender dysphoria which had been seeking to destroy me.
Feeling more like the person I was before I crashed in 2013—actually, because I now can see that the linebacker had, in my slo-mo crash, been approaching for several years before 2013 (I initiated that metaphor in the previous 2017 review post)—I had to remind myself that even in the first five decades of my life I was a troubled person, not yet hating being a male but feeling so strongly about being a female. Now, in late 2017, I felt all of the good things of my pre-crash life without any of the longing which had turned into suicidal-thought-inducing self-hatred.
Here I now sit, in January of 2018, having done everything a person can do to transition sexes, feeling that I have fully arrived, and landing in a spot I could have never imagined. Not only had I been unable, for my entire life, imagine that I could transition, now that I have transitioned and feel the same about myself, and experience the world and all of my relationships the same as before I crashed . . . well, I am dumbfounded, befuddled, and giddy.
Healthy once more—truly, finding myself healthier than I have been since I was elementary-school-aged, before my gender issues arose—I am content with myself. (Okay, I long to shed more weight, and I always wish my hair were thicker. Go away, self-critical thoughts!)
I have that wonderful sense of fulfillment that comes with having conquered a big job. I felt it in the mid-’80s, after remodeling our house from the condemned mess that it was when we purchased it. I enjoyed it in the mid-’90s, after having uprooted my family to go to seminary, succeeded at it, and was ordained a minister. And now, in the two months since my final surgery, I have experienced it quite profoundly.
While I thought some things in me would change—and I perceived that some things were changing—nothing changed which is integral to my being. I worked hard at my life, the things I believe and admire, the relationships I have, my morals and ethics, and my lifestyle. That I gave in to nothing, that I continue to hold dear what I always held dear, that I interact the same with my family and friends—wow, wow, wow, I am so pleased that I am reduced to tears of joy and prayers of praise to the Lord.
Thinking of all of the product pictures I have placed throughout this and the previous post, am I both new and improved? Or, would my honest sales pitch be, “A different package contains the same old product”?
I’ll let you decide. Please be kind. This same old product does have feelings, you know.
P.S. I suspect that some of you have been onto something, and you have wondered if I am, too. The question: Will I remain where I now am?
Since my life has been volatile for so long, have I reached an end—which sure is how I came off in all that I wrote—or am I now in what will only be another phase? While I hope this is not temporary, I know enough not to be naive about it. Since I write regarding every important thing I experience, should anything change I will certainly keep you posted.
I had set my goal to be fully transitioned by the time I turned sixty. Over the course of four years, I had done everything to set up 2017 to complete the task in time, having the surgeries I desired. My birthday is in April, after the eleventh.
January 19:Vocal cord surgery
April 11:Sex reassignment/gender confirming surgery
November 22:Facial feminization surgery and breast implants
When I fudge my stated goal—to have all of my surgeries in the calendar year in which I turned sixty—I can claim to have achieved it.
The crock pot take
It was 2013. A few months after I began seeing a therapist that April, I had decided that I would need to attempt transitioning, to see if it would help me feel better. Actually, I was on about my tenth decision to transition, and my mind would remain on the I-will/I-won’t swivel for more than two years.
That January, I had crashed. As I reflect on things, I now see that I was in the process of crashing for a few years, since my very early fifties. My life was like watching a slow motion video of a football running back who is hurling through the air, stretching for the end zone, only to have the enormous linebacker awaiting.
It was five years ago that I finally made contact with that linebacker. I was crushed, crunched, and crashed.
Back to the therapist’s office, that summer I had once again decided I would need to give transitioning a try. Nothing else was working. I was getting worse. Meltdowns were my too-frequent visitors. I cried almost as much as I breathed. If I could have torn off my flesh, I would have.
Having announced my decision, I said to my therapist, “I have a goal. I want to be fully transitioned, with whatever surgeries I will decide to have, by my sixtieth birthday, in April of 2017.”
At the time, I had plenty of time. As I tore off calendar pages, it felt like sand seeping out of the hour glass and through my fingers. Before 2013 was out, I had begun hormone replacement therapy (HRT), and in 2014 I retired. Outside of retiring, everything else was a seesaw, including the HRT which I stopped and started four times. Up and down I went, and with every hard landing came the next crash, more jarring than the others.
While suicidal thoughts regularly came calling, I never was close to trying. What came close, and I truly thought was going to land and stick, was losing my mind, going insane, becoming a blithering idiot of a person who could do no more than sit around, eating and watching television.
That is where I found myself in June of 2015. On April 29, I had gone public online, that I had struggled all my life with my gender identity. I was so hoping that fighting my battle in public, openly writing about it, would strengthen me in my resolve to remain male. I found that while writing was therapeutic, being public about this was no cure. In June, I decided to begin to live full time as a female, to see if it would help. I set July 2 as the date to go all Gina, all of the time.
I was finding relief. Thus, in mid-August, I went public about it. I changed my online presence from Greg to Gina. While I continued to have seesaw-situations, each one was situational A pattern emerged. Every time I took the next step, I subconsciously rebelled against it.
And, every time, not only did I fight through the rebellion, taking the step proved beneficial. I succeeded at living as a female. I legally changed my name on May 2, 2016. I scheduled visits with surgeons. I kept going forward.
In 2017, I had every surgery I planned to have. If surgeries did not take so long to accomplish, I would have made my goal of being fully transitioned by my sixtieth birthday. After I hit sixty, the lone thing I had to do was my face surgery and breast implants. At least, I can say that I got them done during the year that I turned sixty. Yeah, I’ll go with that, reaching my fudged goal.
Since my final surgery, I have been on a high. It is a combination thing. I am both tremendously happy with the surgery and riding the wave of being done. If I had a pizza for every time I have verbally proclaimed a huge, smile-accompanied “Whew!”—well, I’d be continually sauced.
The other thing I find myself saying is, “I am a completely transitioned transsexual.” This boggles my mind. From my middle-school years, when I first learned about transsexuals and was so intrigued by them, to the many years that my regular lament was, “All I want in life is to be a girl,” of all of the daydreams I had where I could not ponder actually transitioning, so foreign to my life was that notion.
And now here I am. I am one of them—a male who is a fully transitioned trans woman.
If I had been selected in high school to be part of some crazy send-a-teenager-to-the-moon program of NASA, and had been the youngest person to lope the lunar landscape, it would not have been any wilder in my imagination than the ground on which I am now walking.
Dr. Barry Eppley had finished removing the stitches and staples from my lips and scalp. We were chatting about how I now looked, and whether I might be content with where I am or possibly want him to do more.
We talked about each aspect of my face. As we were dissecting my features, he asked if I knew the word, “gestalt.” Before explaining that, consider this.
Picture your favorite hamburger, with all the fixin’s you like. Mmm, all the flavors together taste so good.
What if you were to eat that same burger, one part at a time. First, the patty. Then, the bun. Now, the ketchup, then the mustard. Chomp on the pickles, and finish up with the onions.
How do you like that hamburger, now? It’s the same burger, and yet it is not.
Here is what “gestalt” means: “A configuration, pattern, or organized field having specific properties that cannot be derived from the summation of its component parts; a unified whole.”
To be enjoyed, a hamburger must be a unified whole. How much more the human face, and the entire human body?
As I used three posts to roll out my face surgery, showing you my brow, then my lips, and finally my neck—especially placing together before and after shots—was okay, but not nearly as satisfying as showing my entire face. Even more, in my transitioning, my face could not alone be addressed, but also my chest and bottom, along with my hormones—even my legal name. I needed to be a unified whole.
Gestalt, baby! Here we go! I’ve arrived, the completed Gina Joy Eilers!
Before I had my face surgery, I told folks that I will still look like me, and I will look differently. I do believe that idea has worked perfectly.
So, here I am. And, not only my face, because, as I said, my entire person was part of this transition.
A favorite Bible verse is Philippians 4:13: “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” The Lord strengthens me spiritually, and He gives me earthly gifts to do the same. My greatest earthly gift is Julie. With Julie, I have been able to do all that I have needed to get healthy!
Referring to the two photos, below, I still love the Detroit Tigers and hot dogs with mustard and onions, and shows like The Simpsons. I am dazzled that I have done everything a person can do in transitioning, and in every important way—my Christian faith, everyone and everything I love and value, my personality and sense of humor, and how I live my daily life—did not change a bit.
And even got better, deeper, and enriched, including my faith in Jesus Christ growing much stronger.
Finally, after a nearly lifelong struggle, and closing in on four years since I became suicidal because I was in such mental and emotional anguish, I am healthy. Indeed, I find myself the most healthy in mind, body, and soul as I have ever been.
Thank you, Lord Jesus, for all of your goodness to me, both now and forever! Thank you, Julie, for living your marriage vow to me as thoroughly as a person can!
I continue the move down my face, from my brow to my lips, now arriving at my neck.
That I had this work on my neck is not specific to facial feminization. I had a standard face lift, something which any person—I’m trying to refrain from saying, “Something for any older woman or man, who has been afflicted with the nasty affects of aging!”—might desire so as to enjoy a nicer, more youthful look.
By the time I hit my late fifties, my neck had sagged quite badly and I had formed some nasty jowls. I especially noticed my neck when I shaved, the flappy, floppy skin right below my chin flipping and flupping as I ran my razor over it. The other giveaway was a side view of my face, which had me greeting myself, “Hello, turkey!”
Thus, there was no question that a face lift would be part of the work I would have Dr. Barry Eppley perform on me. That, however, created a situation: I had thought I would have him sculpt my jaw as part of the feminizing of my face. but I couldn’t have both during the same surgery.
Why my jaw? As with brows/foreheads, male jaws jut more than females’. As Dr. Eppley smoothed out my brow line, I wanted him to do the same with my jaw. He informed me that he could not work on the jaw and do the face lift in the same operation; it simply was too much for one area, in one operation.
I definitely wanted the face lift, so the jaw was out. Now that I am post-op, I am finding my jaw to be in the same neighborhood as my nose, that is, not terribly male-looking. And, with my jowls gone, my jaw—which had become more square because of the jowls—was nicely round (see the photo at the top). When Dr. Eppley removed my stitches and staples, I told him that, so far, I am pleased with how I look and don’t anticipate having him shape my jaw.
If you have pondered having a face lift, consider me to be encouraging you. I am very pleased with the result. Yes, the early days of recovery are significant, but, thankfully, they go by fast.
My neck grew very black and blue, and sensitive. I have a lot of stitches in front of both ears and up each lobe to the antitragus—you know, the hard thingy that sticks up near the ear opening. See the chart.
The sides of my face became totally numb and, even at three weeks post-op, are only now regaining feeling.
My jaws were stiff for about two weeks. This, along with my very sore lips, impeded eating the first few days. If my lips had not hurt, my jaws, while stiff, would not have kept me from eating just about anything but the toughest foods. Now, at three weeks, my jaws are fine.
For you guys, shaving was very unpleasant until I got to the three week mark post-op. I am not done with electrolysis, and very few whiskers have been removed from my neck. It was a touchy chore to run my razor on my neck, and in front of my ears was very challenging because I was totally numb.
But, again, and with every aspect of these negatives of recovery, they don’t last and, truly, the time passes quickly enough. My philosophy is not to let a few weeks of discomfort overrule many years of enjoying the results.
That’s it—three posts to cover my face: brow, lips, and neck. Now, to reveal the entire image. In preparation for that, learn this word: gestalt. As you do, ponder your favorite hamburger, and what it would be like to eat it one ingredient at a time.
On Friday, December 15, I get my hair done. So I will see you again on Monday, the 18th, and you will see the entire from-the-neck-up new me.
Every bit as clear as the contrast between the brows of males and females is the difference in our lips. In most cases, especially with Caucasians, females are lavished with larger lips and males sport smaller ones. (If this is not true for you, always remember that, as with a car’s miles-per-gallon, your genetics may vary.)
As Dr. Eppley put it when assessing my face, “Your lips are pencil thin.” He was right, and so my lips were in play as an important aspect of my facial feminization.
While there are several ways to enhance one’s lips, Dr. Eppley quickly dismissed fillers and injections for me as they would leave me not with top-to-bottom larger lips, but with them puffed up and perhaps unnatural looking.
Leading into the method he had in mind, Dr. Eppley said, “Vermilion is stretchy.” While this did not sound particularly surprising, who thinks about how stretchy are the lips? Even more, at what was he getting? He was interested in removing a small amount of skin from around the vermilion border, then reattaching my lips, making good use of their stretchiness and achieving the desired goal: I would have larger, feminine-looking lips.
Two things immediately presented themselves to me. First, how would we decide how far to go? Second—and for a short time of greater concern—how much would this hurt? I could easily imagine that the early days of recovery would be no-fun nasty.
I was correct.
Before I get to that, how does one decide how much increase would work well? I drew on my face. I began with a red lip pencil. After a couple of attempts, I had drawn on a respectable outline. I then filled in with lipstick.
My lips looked pretty good. I measured them. I had added about 1/8″ all around. I showed Julie. We were in agreement that this is what I would tell Dr. Eppley, and see what his idea would be.
He agreed, though he translated it to three millimeters, which is a hair under my measurement.
You can bet your tube of Chapstick that I asked how painful this would be, and whether it would affect my eating as I recovered. I don’t fault Dr. Eppley for giving me a pretty brief and simple answer, as I am now a veteran of four significant surgeries and I have found all of my surgeons not to have gone into depth as to the troubles of recovery.
Besides, how would they do that? Patient:“Doctor, how bad will I hurt?”Doctor:“Let me put it this way: I hope I never have done to me what I’m going to do to you.” Yikes.
I always go into surgery the way that I try exotic foods for the first time. With food, I figure that folks of other cultures wouldn’t eat it if it tasted terrible. (The lone exception so far? Vegemite. You Australians must have some wacky taste buds.) So I reckon with surgery; they wouldn’t do the surgery—especially elective surgery, as my three 2017 ones have been—if it had in store a near-impossible-to-endure recovery period.
Where my brow made the early days of recovery problematic because of the new hole in my head (see yesterday’s post), the first week after surgery on my lips made eating and drinking nightmarish chores.
My lips were numb. The stitch line hurt. On Black Friday, two days after surgery, with Julie back at work, in the mid-morning I was hungry and could not think of anything to eat that I would be able to eat. I couldn’t feel a fork on my lips, and moving them was painful.
An idea struck. I headed to the kitchen. I took out the milk, eggs, and sugar. I have now made homemade eggnog enough to recall the portions of each ingredient. I didn’t have heavy cream, so this would not be as tasty as usual, but it would do the job that I needed. It would be easy to drink through a straw, taste yummy, and provide me with the calories I needed.
It worked. I am now preparing a marketing plan for the Post-op Eggnog Diet. (Don’t be so quick to dismiss my genius!)
The day after surgery, Dr. Eppley revealed a bit of news which I sure did not want to hear. He had not used dissolving stitches in my lips. The stitches would have to come out. One day, during one of the two times a day I applied antibiotic cream to them, I counted the stitches. Their were more than forty. Ugh.
I had somehow made it to age sixty without ever having experienced stitch removal. As I asked folks, everyone said, “It feels like a tug, but it doesn’t really hurt.” Then, some added, “But I don’t know about around your lips.”
They sure didn’t know about around the lips. Many of them qualified as the tug, very similar to the zap of the more-than-one-hundred-hours of electrolysis I’ve had done on my facial hair. The rest? They hurt. A lot. A few left me out of breath and Dr. Eppley feeling badly for causing me so much pain.
Before completing the first week post-op, I could again feel a fork on my lips and drink from a cup. As I write this nearing the three week mark post-op, the stitch line feels tight. While I have full movement, when I laugh or smile widely the tightness is very evident. Dr. Eppley said it helps the healing to stretch my lips, so have at the laughing and smiling.
There is a red line where my lips were reattached. It makes my lips look a bit odd for now. It will take awhile to fade away.
Dr. Eppley has blogged about my lip procedure. Sorry, to you who like surgery pictures; unlike with my brow there are no during-surgery photos this time.
Thankfully, I can envision the finished product. Especially when I smile, I find my lips to be what I had wanted. However, only looking at my lips does not provide context. For that—to see how my brow and lips look together—I stick my neck out asking for one more day of your patience. Before I reveal my entire face, I have a face lift to display and discuss.
Until 2013, I was not aware of the significant differences in the structures of male and female faces. Thus, since my surgery, I should not be surprised how many times I have heard, “I never noticed this!”
Because of the difference, it is not as simple as a genetic male, who is transitioning to female, to grow hair, and to trim eyebrows and apply makeup, so as to completely achieve a female appearance. This is why, on November 22, I underwent facial feminization surgery, which is commonly known as FFS.
In this post, I unfurrow my brow. In the coming days I will pucker my lips, then stick out my neck, and then finally reveal my entire face.
Thanks to Dr. Eppley for taking all of the appropriate photographs. In the process, I learned that he is an active blogger. If you would like to read the expert’s rendition of his surgery on my brow, click the following link. Be prepared for several pictures of my actual surgery, with my forehead exposed. To me, they are pretty gruesome photos, so be forewarned if that kind of thing creeps you out.
I present my lay-person’s version of what Dr. Eppley professionally wrote. As he refers to it, my male brow provided a Neanderthal Man look. Though male brows of today are not quite so jutting as the Neanderthals, that is a handy reference as everyone immediately has an image to conjure.
I had viewed loads of photos in anticipation of my surgery. I am pleased to report that these photos show exactly what I was hoping would be achieved.
Female brows are smooth, and don’t jut out. See the difference in the photo at the opening of this post, the side view providing the most vivid angle to see the difference.
Female eyebrows are set higher on the face. If you had not known these two things—the jut versus smooth, and the lower-set versus higher-set—pay attention. Look—but don’t stare!—at men and women. Now that you know the difference, you will see the difference. This quickly explains why we have such things as masculine and feminine appearances. We’re simply built differently.
These pictures fascinate me. I see the same person, yet I see a dramatic difference. With age, my brows were sagging. Now lifted, my eyes look more alive. And a bit more youthful? Perhaps.
Dr. Eppley used a reciprocating saw to reduce my brow bone. He then performed a brow lift. Combine this with a scalp advancement—he was hoping to move my scalp forward about a centimeter, close to 4/10″—the other gain for me was both a less-prominent forehead and the removal of the wrinkles of aging.
Shaving the bone created a hole in my head. (As if I need another hole in my head.) When he visited Julie and me the day after surgery, he warned me not to blow my nose for the next couple of weeks as the surgery healed, and if I were to sneeze to place the palm of one hand firmly over my forehead. If I were not to do that, I would feel a rush of air, and it would be very uncomfortable.
Worry not, I sneezed. And I blew my nose a few times, forgetting to palm my forehead. I learned the hard way: I was officially an airhead.
What is the feeling of air rushing into one’s forehead? It didn’t so much hurt as it was just plain weird. The air seemed to rattle about for several seconds, like a pinball bouncing around the machine.
Two weeks after surgery, I was finally able to trust blowing my nose, palming my forehead, so that I didn’t experience the big rush. It got to where I felt about a dime-sized spot, between and just above my eyebrows, giving just a bit of a harmless puff with each blow.
As I am nearing the three week mark post-op, I am still palming my head, but I am no longer feeling even the dime-sized spot. Soon, I will have confidence to go all out, trusting that what Dr. Eppley had pulled back in order to shave my bone has now re-adhered itself.
My brow now completed, next time I will give you some lip.