2017: The culmination (2)

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.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

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).

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Hmm, maybe this is me—not both new and improved, but a new look while tasting the same?

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.

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This one might better reflect the new me, with the “Same Great Taste!” stressed more than the “New Look.”

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.

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Ah, yes!  This is the one!  The new/old me indeed tastes heavenly!

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.

2017: The culmination (1)

 

The microwave take

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.

  1. January 19: Vocal cord surgery
  2. April 11: Sex reassignment/gender confirming surgery
  3. 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.

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That was one crazy ladder.

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.

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Yeah, that’s me—new look, same great taste, and still a dip!

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.

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Nice, but I like my new packaging better.

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.

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Extra!  Extra!  Read all about it!

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.

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I’ll take four of these and leave the “33% more!!!”

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.

It turns out the man in the moon is transgender.

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Ain’t that cheesy?

Pics of my surgery

Each time I visit Dr. Gallagher, the doctor who performed my sex reassignment/gender affirmation surgery, the appointment begins with her asking, “May I take a picture?”

I appreciate that she does this, and that I am now in possession of those pictures. I was glad to be able to see the healing path. And, I am pleased to be able to share these with those interested in seeing the process.

But, wait. Can’t you find online all the pictures you want? Yes, you can. I’ve searched for them. There are plenty. Over and over, I see surgical work that looks identical to what I have and, frankly, younger people who look better than I. So, why the need for me to make available my own pictures?

The answer is that mine show the work of Dr. Sidhbh Gallagher and, in the short time since she arrived in Indianapolis two years ago, interest in Dr. Gallagher has quickly taken root, blossomed, and exploded into full color. I have had several folks contact me with questions regarding her, and some of whom have followed through by inquiring of her for information.

Thus, the obvious folks who might want to see my pictures are those trans women who are contemplating the surgery, especially if they are considering Dr. Gallagher. Others having interest might be family and friends of trans folks, who seek to learn more and be compassionate, though these folks can satisfy that desire by searching the internet.

If you would like me to send you my pictures, please email me, providing a brief reason as to why you desire the pictures. For my email address, click on my photo in the upper right of the banner bar, then click on My Profile. You will find it toward the end of the About Me section.

SRS: six months post-op

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October 11 marks six months since I underwent sex reassignment/gender affirmation surgery. After posting a few times soon after surgery, I waited for the six month mark to write again in the hopes that I would be fully healed, or nearly completely so.

I am pleased to report that I have, indeed, met this goal.

I feel good. I have no pain, whatsoever. As I sit, typing at my computer, I am completely comfortable. If I did not know I had surgery, I, um, would not know I had surgery.

As I healed, sitting up, pain free, on hard chairs and in the car took the longest to come around. Sitting up puts all of one’s weight right smack where I was healing, and it was not until I was essentially fully healed that I could sit for long periods.

Two events speak best to this. The beginning of August, nearly four months post-op, I drove home to West Michigan, a nearly five hour trip. I handled it well until the last twenty miles, when I got uncomfortable. Then, I sat far too much as I visited friends. I was in a lot of pain. I had to take great care on my return trip, which, surprisingly and thankfully, went okay. Only a month later, almost five months post-op, Julie and I went to Iowa, which, with a few stops mixed in, takes eleven hours. To my joy-filled amazement, I experienced no pain, not a bit of discomfort. What a difference that month made in finishing up my healing.

Even more important than being pain-free is that this surgery feels correct for me. Whether looking at myself or pondering the new configuration of my genitals, I have a good reaction. And, because of Dr. Gallagher’s supreme skills, not only does the surgery area look nice, it is virtually indistinguishable from a genetic female’s.  Even more, everything functions properly.

When one makes a decision about a life-changing thing, the hope is for the outcome to match the desire. This surgery was long-coming for me, and I had hoped I was reading myself correctly in opting for it, yet I could never know how I would react to it until I actually lived it.

I’ve previously written that my immediate reaction was, “What have I done to myself?” This was more a response to the intense pain, mixed with the knowledge that I faced a long recovery, as it was to the fact of what the surgery did in changing me. My spirits were buoyed when Dr. G said that every one of her patients has experienced this reaction. Whew.

I have, however, experienced times of regret. Mostly, the lament has been that I never will be able to be the husband whom Julie deserves in me, whom I always wanted to be. I’ve had to remind myself that it wasn’t like I had ever been that man, that romance always was problematic for me, that I experienced terrible negatives in what should have been a union of only positives with my wife.

So, here I am, six months down a road I never dreamed I would travel, and I feel good. I feel right. I am pleased to have had the surgery. Everything is healing perfectly. Despite the difficulties I had—especially the shooting nerve pain and pesky pelvic muscles not liking me dilating—I jumped those short-term hurdles.

I continue to be amazed and dumbfounded that this is a reality. This is something I always wanted, yet never wanted to have to come to pass; that I dreamed about, yet could never imagine.

I continue to move forward.  The Lord blesses me physically and spiritually.  I rejoice in His gifts of creation and salvation, which I possess both now and forever.

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).”

 

“I don’t understand”

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A couple of weeks after undergoing sex reassignment surgery (SRS), I had a long, profitable, wonderful conversation with a man who is dear to me. I’ve not interacted much with this man since I transitioned, and have longed to have a meaningful conversation.

He had not rejected me; he didn’t know what to do with me. He didn’t know how to talk with me. He didn’t know what to call me, and admitted that he could not bring himself to use “Gina” for me. He didn’t know what to make of my being transgender.

We had very briefly seen each other, only one time since I transitioned, and he now admitted that he struggled with seeing me dressed as a woman.

It was easier simply to keep some distance between us.

How did we get reconnected? He gets all of the credit. He texted me, to tell me that he had been praying for me. He knew that I had just undergone SRS. I used this to seek a phone call. He was hesitant. He owned up to not being ready. I asked how a person gets ready for this, to take this step.

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NOTE: Soon after I posted this, Rick Cruse made some insightful comments.  I commend you to read them, below.  Rick’s comments reminded me that I neglected an important point: I had vowed to be patient with everyone in my life, grasping that I had surprised them with the revelation of my gender dysphoria, then compounding it when I transitioned.  In each one’s own way, my being transgender is as hard on them as on me.

As with the person in question in this piece, I have given everyone space, never pestering them or acting out to them.  It has been very hard, in many instances, to leave people be and give them time.  I continue to wait on many, am resigned to the worst with some and, thankfully, have had lovely success with others.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I hope I wrote gently, but I continued to press him to call me. I told him that being disconnected was very hard on me, that it felt like rejection. I assured him that I spoke the same as always—well, my voice would sound hoarse because I was still recovering from surgery to my vocal cords—that I talked and acted exactly as he always knew me. I told him that he could call me whatever was comfortable for him, either Greg or one of the nicknames that he’d used over the years.

He said he would call. Seconds later, we were saying our hellos. We immediately fell into talking with each other in the same manner as we had so many times before.

As we got into discussing my transitioning, and what that means for me being a Christian, a familiar pattern emerged. With his every comment after concern after question, he began, “I don’t understand.”

He asked me about everything. How I got to the point of transitioning. What it meant for my marriage to Julie. How I understood it as a Christian. What will happen when I die, and when we are resurrected from the dead. And more.

Everything was now on the table that had been left unsaid, unasked over the past few years since I first told him about my gender dysphoria.

It wasn’t long before I noted and addressed how he kept beginning a new thought, “But, I don’t understand . . .” I said, “Have you heard yourself? You have been saying how you don’t understand, and then you ask me an excellent question, a question for which I need to have an answer, and I’ve had good answers for all of your questions. Because you’ve never asked your questions, you have never given yourself a chance to understand. You’ve never given me a chance to explain. Now that we are talking, you finally have a fighting chance to understand.”

“Yeah. You’re right.”

We talked for ninety minutes. Eventually, we caught up on happenings in our families and shared interests. We made our goodbyes with promises to stay connected.

As I make the next statement, I do not mean it to sound judgmental, but simply as what the situation was: he let this situation become worse than it was and harder than it needed to be.

What happened with him is terribly common. When something is very foreign, really challenging, tremendously troubling, we all can be prone to avoiding it. I know that I’ve sure been that way plenty of times. We make the thing bigger than it is, harder than it needs to be, and it finally becomes virtually impossible to tackle.

We let “I don’t understand” tumble around in our head so long and so often that coming to an understanding seems so unlikely that we give up on trying to tackle it.

Relationships should be too important to allow “I don’t understand” to win the day. Whether it is parent and child, sibling and sibling, friend and friend, church and member, teammates or coworkers or fellow Americans, people who are important to us should be—no, need to be those for whom we will not allow unknown, troubling, and foreign things to keep us apart.

Love perseveres. Well, it’s supposed to, anyway.

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I don’t begin to imagine that one conversation removed every struggle for the man regarding me, and those concerns he has involving the entirety of the topic of transgender. It didn’t have to. The first step has been taken. We are once again walking together.

One month post-op; the hellish parts

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Now I know why this sign was posted at the door of my hospital room!

May 11 means that I am one month post-op from my sex reassignment surgery (SRS). I am pleased to report that, at my second post-op appointment last week, Dr. Gallagher pronounced me to be healing nicely, with everything in order.

I am thankful for that! Yet, even as things are progressing as they should, and I am slowly and gradually feeling better, there are a few areas which have been tremendously challenging. I share these for two reasons, both in my ongoing desire to educate about that with which we transgender folks have to grapple and because I am getting feedback from trans women who have either also had SRS or, especially, those who are contemplating it or have it in their near future.

From least to worst, here are three areas which have plagued me.

The nerve!

To perform SRS, the surgeon has the patient’s feet in stirrups. While the stirrups are padded, and the surgery team keeps close watch over every inch of the patient, that the surgery takes at least six hours creates a troubling situation for the feet.

I awoke from surgery, immediately noting the tremendous pain in my left heel. The next day, Wednesday, the pain eased. On Thursday, I was out of bed and walking—and noticing that my left foot was almost entirely numb, with the numbness climbing my leg halfway to my knee. My right foot and leg were okay.

Touching my foot, I found it tremendously sensitive. Speaking with Dr. Gallagher about it, she explained that the condition—neuropathy—is a sometimes unhappy result of the feet so long in the stirrups. She said it almost always resolves itself in several weeks, with no treatment. If needed, there is a drug to help it, but the drug causes extreme drowsiness. I have opted, so far, to forego the drug.

Here’s the tough part. The nerves are waking up—yay!—but, where the problem is centered at the top of my foot I am being jabbed with intense pain. Not all the time, mind you. It comes and goes. But, when it comes, wow, it has at times been so severe that it has left me in tears.

It appears I am through the worst of that. The past few days, the jabs have been fewer and not so intense. At the touch, my leg and instep now have feeling. The neuropathy has not impeded me—it has not stopped me from my walking!—but, all should be aware that this is a real, ornery complication of SRS.

Take that! And that!

Not surprisingly, my entire bottom was numb after surgery. And swelled. Oh, boy, was I swelled. And I still am. As Dr. G said last week, the swelling has come down a lot, but it still has a ways to go.

I suspect that you can easily picture two rows of stitches running down either side of my urethra and neo vagina, a few inches long. At the bottom of them, the nerves have been playing a game of “I can jab you worse than your foot could ever do it!”

Before seeing Dr. G last week, I researched this to be sure it was typical. Yup. Totally. Dr. G confirmed it. Well, kids, typical does not lessen the pain. And, oh me oh my, but when I had the worst of these jabs they accompanied the ones in my foot . . . the evening of my birthday.

Happy—JAB—birthday—STAB—Gina—ELECTRIC JOLT.

Blow out your cake’s candles if you can catch your breath!

With each stab, my body shook. With the worst jabs, I cried out in pain.

Then I was bawling.

I got up and walked around, trying anything to ease the pain and distract my mind.  Poor Julie was so concerned, longing to help. We rode it out. Finally, both areas eased up by the time I wanted to go to sleep. That was eleven days ago. Almost every day, I notice that the jabs are less stabby, and the stabs are less jabby, and I am hopeful that this phase will soon be completed.

My song is out of hormone-y

My poor body has gone through way more than ever in its sixty years. Starting hormone replacement therapy (HRT) nearly four years ago, I sought to bring my brain and body into harmony. As my testosterone lowered and my estrogen increased, the gender dysphoria-induced fire in my brain was largely doused. I just plain felt better.

I had my share of ups and downs, and keeping my hormones at good levels proved a challenge until about a year ago. Then, in a bit of news that almost made me want to halt having SRS, I was told that I had to stop taking my HRT a month before surgery. Why? Estrogen makes one prone to blood clots, and surgery in one’s mid-section does the same. To go off HRT would drop my estrogen to a safer level, but it also would allow my testosterone to return to that of a male.

I truly thought I would suffer a meltdown in the final days before surgery, as I would be fighting off the discord that had made me suicidal in 2013. That no meltdown arose was nothing short of amazing. Yes, a week-and-a-half before surgery I felt my hormones shift, even experiencing testosterone’s physical affects, but I remained at peace with myself.

On April 11, I faced the greatest shift of my life in my hormone production. My testosterone factory was about to be dismantled.

The testicles are the main testosterone producers, yet both sexes make a bit of the male sex hormone in the adrenal glands (that’s why genetic females also have a small amount of testosterone). By late afternoon on April 11, my testicles were gone. My predominant testosterone production immediately and abruptly ceased.

A few trans women, who have had the surgery, warned me that I might experience any number of emotions because of this. I’ll say.

It took a week, and then it hit me. It nailed me, well, like those jabs and stabs in my foot and mid-section.

I found myself feeling completely asexual. Neither female nor male. The sexual equivalent of eating food but unable to taste it.

My outlook on life turned bland.

I tried thinking about dressing nicely, in a skirt and heels. No reaction. I thought about dressing in a guy’s tie and sport coat. No reaction.

I thought about some shirts and jeans that I have, that either a gal or guy could wear. That sounded good to me.

And it scared me.

I tried to see myself detransitioning. I WANTED to see myself resuming my life as a male. And the weight of that came tumbling down upon me like that rock that Sisyphus never could get over the top.

I have cried many times in these days.

Despite this, I have not regretted having had SRS. Even more, I continue to feel strongly that I needed it. My body feels correct. It looks right to me.

I have had to talk with myself in a logical manner, just as with the jabs and stabs, that I am far from healed, but I am healing. My hormones will get back into order. I have every reason to believe that when they do I will feel as good as I did before my pre-surgery stopping of HRT.  Indeed, I have sensed things easing this week.

This situation, as when my son died and my wife divorced me, are important teachers that one shall never say, “I know what you’re going through.” Even if you buried a loved one or lost a marriage, and even if you had the same surgery, your experience is your experience, and mine is mine, and the acts of observing others or having them explain how hard something is does not begin to approach the experiencing of it.  Respect others for their burdens; don’t dismiss them with comments which only serve to offend.

This has been a mighty tough period. I am tremendously happy to have one month under my belt. Each of the three troubles of which I have written are way less than they were. I can now picture the day when I am fully healed.

Thankfully, I have gotten through each day, each terrible moment, in the strength of the Lord, to whom I turn in prayer innumerable times every day.  He is always faithful to His promises to uphold me with His righteous right hand.

And, thankfully, I always have my Julie. She is my little Jesus, whose devotion toward me never ceases.

This is not a surgery through which one should try to go it alone.

Recovery? It’s a piece of cake!

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A piece of the first chocolate cake I ever made.

 

All right, I’ll be honest. The past sixteen days have not been a piece of cake. But, see, I was working on this post at a time when I was in a really good mood, with my having settled into a nice pattern of all that I have to do each day and enjoying consistent healing, and I had taken out of the freezer this piece of cake to enjoy with a cup of coffee, and so, well, do I really have to say anymore in this already terribly long sentence?

Here are some of the significant goings-on that have me going on with my goings-on.

Dilation Nation

It occurred to me that when I told you I began dilation, I did not tell you why dilating is needed.

The neo vagina is formed by the surgeon creating a space next to the anus. Literally, what was taking residing in that area is pushed aside to tunnel the four to six inches in, depending on how much flesh the person possessed to create the neo vagina. Once put into place, the skin gradually grows together, holding the neo vagina in place. That takes care of the outer side, but not the inside.

Without dilation, the neo vagina would shrink and collapse. (Picture a barn, which you watch slowly age and rot and fall in. Okay, maybe not.) By placing a dilator into the neo vagina and holding it there—these first few months, I am doing it five times a day, for fifteen minutes per session—the skin is strengthened and it learns where to remain. (Sessions become fewer to where, eventually, only once-a-week to once-a-month dilating is necessary.)

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These days, orange rhymes with dilating

Within a week or so, I will increase the width of the dilator, and there are two more sizes after that. The trans woman, who desires sexual relations with a male, wants to achieve as much width and depth as she can, so that she has a typically-sized vagina. I am not concerned about size, but I want good health so I will dilate as instructed.

Dilating five times a day means doing so about every three hours. Each time I finish, I look at the clock to determine the next one. I am a terribly time-sensitive person, so each next session is regularly on my mind. Ugh.

Not quite ready for the Indy 500

On Tuesday, April 25, I drove for the first time since my April 11 surgery—exactly two weeks post-op. Driving was not a problem—and our car has manual transmission—but sitting in that position pushed all of my weight to my center, exactly where I don’t want it. Yeah, it hurt.

Julie suggested I take a towel, form it into a U, and sit on it to take off the pressure. I did. It helped a lot. She’s a savvy chick.

Oh, and the reason for my taking Julie to work so that I had the car for the day? I returned to Barb the Impaler, so she can continue working on permanently removing my facial hair. I’ve now had eighty hours of electrolysis on my face. I am over halfway done. Do the math. I have dozens more hours left of painful pokes where the electrified needle is inserted into the follicle, zapped, and the hair pulled out.

One every five or so seconds.

In hour-long sessions.

I must be a sadist.

Call me Gumby, but not Pokey

One of the harder things about the first ten days after surgery was the lack of being able to move about as I am used to doing. Simply getting into a chair and back out was a slow, methodical process, mostly so as to avoid causing myself pain. The very thick dressing that I wore the first eight days further worsened the problem. Besides, wow, I cannot begin to describe the level of soreness I experienced, and it was constantly concentrated at the very center of my bottom.

I noticed, a couple of days ago, how I can now pop up off the couch or out of a chair, just about as nimbly as ever. I can lie on my side, sleeping that way for as long as an hour (though I’ve yet to try lying on my stomach), and I can bring either leg up to my side, bending it so that my foot rests against the knee of my other leg. Also, I can put on socks, and I can bend down and pick up things from the floor.

I feel really good when walking. And though I am several weeks from running, and I can’t walk as fast as when I do on the days that I take a break from running (as fast as 14:00 per mile), I have improved my walking from 23:00 per mile, to 21:00 per mile, to 19:00 per mile, and increased my distance to 1.5 miles.

I had been so concerned about injuring myself, and about breaking open stitches, not to cause myself a setback, and because I was so swollen, that I was leery about doing too much. That leads me to this . . .

Swelling and stitches and black-and-blue, oh my!

How does one speak of sensitive things in a way which does not cause the reader to cry out, “TMI!”?

Here is the best way I can delicately write about how swollen and ugly was the surgical area. It was eleven days after surgery before I could see my stitches.

I use a mirror to assist my inserting the dilator. Last Saturday afternoon, both the swelling and the amount of black-and-blue had receded enough that I found myself calling out to Julie, “I can see my stitches!”

I have a long way to go, but I’ve come a long way. Progress is a wonderful thing. Progress provides hope. And when we have hope, we can cope.

The nerve of those nerves

As the numbness has worn off, the nerves have been waking up. Nerves have a funny way to rise and shine. They don’t simply stretch and yawn and head to the kitchen to put on the coffee. No, they jump out of bed loaded for bear, filling the air full of lead.

They certainly get my attention.

A couple of times a day, it seems—midday and evening—they stab at me the most. They are especially bothersome in the evening, when I settle down to relax by watching the Detroit Tigers or something on Netflix. The stabbing jabs are so hard that I jerk my body. Sometimes, I reflexively call out, “Ahhhh!” and have to catch my breath. And writhe. And hope that Julie notices and gives me some sympathy,

I eat up the sympathy.

The pot at the end of the rainbow was a medicine chest

Remember how I told you that so many of the medical professionals commented on my excellent health? Post-surgery, this picture is worth a thousand pills.

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Here’s the rundown of what I have.

  • For my heart: aspirin.
  • Hormone replacement therapy (HRT): two daily pills and a weekly injection.
  • For pain: ibuprofen.
  • For the ongoing bleeding: iron supplement.
  • To ease the swelling: Bromelain.
  • For the granuloma (fancy talk for a growth) on my vocal cords: one pill and an inhaler.

Over the weeks, this one and then that one will drop off the list—soon, I think it will be the ibuprofen—so that, hopefully in June, I will be back to only my trusty aspirin and HRT.

Despite ongoing discomfort, and when the nerves jab the snot out of me, I feel healthy and strong and full of vigor. Age sixty arrives in a few days. Bring it on!

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.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

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 . . .