Still a trans advocate (2)

I’ve just been published in a book.

Not my book, but as a guest in another book.

As Gina.

I’m writing about it as I continue to demonstrate that my resuming living as a male changed nothing in my quest to educate regarding gender dysphoria and advocate for transgender persons.

It was a year ago when I received an email from my former therapist informing me that the editors of this book on transgender health and aging were seeking short pieces from older trans persons. The book covers every topic imaginable regarding emotional and physical healthcare for trans persons, and the guest essays provide personal insights into the topic.

At this time last year, I was still living as a female, but I was not feeling female at all. No one, outside of immediate family and a few friends, was aware of what I was experiencing. I knew that if the sense of being male persisted I would be resuming living as a male, and then making it known. Indeed, by mid-April I was going back and forth how I presented depending where I was, then in late May I was back to Greg full time, and on July 9 I made it public.

By the time I decided to submit a piece for the book it was mid-April. I wrote an essay and sent it to the therapist who told me about this opportunity. She sent an encouraging reply, so I submitted my piece.

I submitted it as Gina. I felt a bit disingenuous, not acknowledging what was going on with me. I reasoned that I didn’t know what would transpire, and I was still living as Gina, and I was legally Gina.

In early May, they informed me that my essay would be one of ten included in the book. I was not back full time to Greg, so I left that be. They informed me they would send me a book upon its publication. I received it on March 16.

Regardless of my resuming living as a male, everything I wrote remains true. In the essay, I reflect on an event I had attended in April, mere days before writing the piece. My endocrinologist invited me to a presentation to over one hundred medical professionals of IU Health. A nurse, who has a trans son, gave an excellent presentation, educating about gender dysphoria and one’s being transgender. I then spoke to them for a few minutes regarding my experience transitioning in Indianapolis. Then, I sat with a group for ninety minutes, fielding their questions.

In my essay, I focused on the many doctors trans folks see while transitioning, and the variety of specialists I saw as a trans woman—from two eye specialists, to an oral surgeon, to a podiatrist, to a cardiologist. I stressed that even though my providers all are in the IU Health network, and IU Health admitted they were behind the curve with transgender healthcare, I was pleased to report to them that the care I received from this host of doctors, along with the many nurses, technicians, and office staff I saw, took great care of me.

Transgender persons need good healthcare. They need to know they will be treated seriously, and with respect. And, they need people such as myself, who have been there and done that, who are able to speak up, speak out, and speak loudly, to advocate on their behalf.

My book is now in print!

A Roller Coaster Through a Hurricane—One Wild Ride: My Journey with Gender Identity is now available in print. You may order the paperback edition here:

The back cover copy:

Greg Eilers was at the center of privilege: a respected minister in a conservative church, a middle-class male in a rural community, a family man with a wife and kids. But he harbored a deep secret—a lifetime of questioning his gender identity. In 2013, the questioning had morphed into crushing gender dysphoria, and Eilers found himself in a battle to save his life and sanity. He also found himself in a conundrum: gender identity issues don’t fit with a traditional life and conservative values. How could a man who followed all the rules, and made the church his life’s work, be transgender?In 2015, Eilers transitioned to female to resolve the internal struggle. The road to inner peace, though, was rife with sacrifices. Transitioning took him from the job he loved, put his relationships to the test, and cast him to the margins of society. Scorn replaced privilege. Then, 2018 brought a development just as confounding as 2013’s struggle, and Eilers faced yet another transition.Through it all Eilers held firm to his faith, and found room in the Gospel for an outcast such as himself. He resolved to speak out—to share his story so others would know they’re not alone, and to speak up—to educate the public about transgender and bring dignity to a highly misunderstood group of people.A Roller Coaster Through a Hurricane is a memoir, a unique transgender experience, and an inspiration to the Christian church to lovingly minister to transgender persons.

What readers are saying

17 of 18 readers have given the book FIVE STAR reviews. Snippets from some of their reviews:

  • Richard wrote: [Greg’s] superb and very readable style draws you in and tells you stories – important and true stories of human pain and resilience.
  • Colleen commented: When I started reading this story, I could not put it down. And now, I’m reading through for the second time. I am entranced all the more.
  • Jocelyn said: I had the hardest time putting this book down. I really enjoyed learning about a condition I don’t know much about and getting to know a genuine and wonderful human.

I was transgender: I have no regrets

On February 11, 2019, USA Today published Walt Heyer’s essay, “Hormones, surgery, regret: I was a transgender woman for 8 years—time I can’t get back.” Read it here:
https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/voices/2019/02/11/transgender-debate-transitioning-sex-gender-column/1894076002/?fb_action_ids=10156189577938494&fb_action_types=og.comments&fbclid=IwAR06NJxBcezkH4EbV2UDy1mkP7uRN6Zr-dR4aXkqDuBb0H1aSq7kXLEY994

I found Heyer’s take on gender dysphoria—the condition with which one is diagnosed before transitioning—overly simplistic. The result is that it does not shed light and provide the help I am sure he intends. Instead, it does harm. Thus, my rebuttal, which I submitted on February 19.

Hoping to have USA Today publish my essay, I could not directly refer to Heyer. I did not hear from them within seventy-two hours, indicating they are not interested in my piece, which means I can now post it.

Here are the areas in which I take exception with Heyer:

  • He regrets the eight years he lived as a trans woman. I speak to that in my paragraph two.
  • He finds all gender identity issues to be psychological. See my paragraph three.
  • He asserts that genetics are immutable. See my paragraph four and onward.
  • He claims many trans persons regret their transitions. See my paragraph twelve.

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I was transgender: I have no regrets

From 2015 to 2018, I lived as a transgender woman. In 2017, I had sex reassignment/gender confirmation surgery. I have since resumed living as a male.

It is common for those who have detransitioned to speak of regretting they had been transgender and underwent surgery. While I certainly wish I could have avoided the crushing gender dysphoria which led to my transition and surgeries, everything I learned, the people I met, and the experiences I otherwise could not have had, leave me grateful for what happened and where I now am. I have no regrets.

Hoping my gender identity crisis was psychological, as I sought to think my way out of suffering during the first months of talk therapy I found a physical reason for my gender conflict and, ultimately, why it resolved. Intense study led me to learn that one’s suffering incongruity between his body/sex and mind/gender is complex and far from understood.

Opponents of transitioning claim genetics can’t be changed and one’s sex is immutable. But, wait. There are women who have XY male chromosomes, and men who have XX female ones. Outwardly, they appear to be the females and males they were identified at birth, but it’s not that simple. They have an intersex condition. There also are intersex conditions which reside in the genitals and hormones, such as androgen insensitivity syndrome.

As for one’s sex being immutable, the word means “unchanging.” but if the person is born with attributes which do not line up with either male or female, the person will experience the consequences. Sometimes, they suffer conflict. This conflict can erupt into dysphoria, which means they have ill feelings about their sex and gender not matching.

Not all people with an intersex condition have an incongruity of body and identity. However, when a person does the suffering is real. It is not simply “in their head.” It is physical. And it often is successfully treated by their transitioning and identifying as transgender.

The causes of gender conflict remain mysterious. Some locate a psychological reason. I believe mine came from my endocrine system having been disrupted when I was in the womb, that my mom was given diethylstilbestrol (DES)—an artificial estrogen—to keep her from miscarrying me. DES has been found to be harmful to fetuses and is no longer prescribed to pregnant women.

Before transitioning, my testosterone and estrogen levels were typical of a man my age. But they didn’t work for me. As I took cross-sex hormones and my levels changed, I experienced great fluctuation in how I experienced myself. At times, I felt totally male. When my hormone levels shifted, my dysphoria returned. After gender confirmation surgery, I stopped producing large amounts of testosterone. Within months, I found myself feeling completely male. That sense has remained stable.

My hormone levels now reflect those of a genetic women my age, yet I feel like a man. I have learned of other men who take cross-sex hormones in order to realign their levels, striving to feel good as males. One man is in his third year. Having shifted his hormones without surgery, he’s found contentment being a male.

While there is yet no definitive proof that a disrupted endocrine system might be the cause of gender dysphoria, there are many maladies caused by altered hormones and we know their causes can be pharmaceuticals, chemicals, and plasticizers. Thus, when a three year old child, who is not yet old enough to have logical understanding of sex and gender, is able to persist, insist, and consistently proclaim that he or she is not the boy or girl as identified at birth, we are wise to dig deeply for a physical reason. A disrupted endocrine system could be the culprit.

As with uncovering psychological causes of gender dysphoria, discussing possible physical reasons indicates there is a malady. Many trans persons insist there is nothing wrong with them. They are fine being transgender. Thus, it is important to be respectful of all people in this delicate matter.

One reads arguments against transitioning, that there are large numbers of trans folks who regret it. Large numbers do not necessarily mean a majority, or even a significant minority. One can find many whose transition has provided them the wholeness of being they sought. I’ve gotten to know some of them. They report enjoying healthy lives as transgender persons.

Sex and gender, chromosomes and hormones, and every human is a complex being of mind, body, and spirit. Let us especially address with respect and patience the confounding condition which is gender dysphoria.

Greg Eilers is a former Lutheran minister, who writes at gregeilers.com. He recently published his memoir, “A Roller Coaster Through a Hurricane—One Wile Ride: My Journey with Gender Identity.”

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Links to back up all factual information in my essay:

https://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/condition/swyer-syndrome

https://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=25059

https://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/condition/androgen-insensitivity-syndrome

https://www.cdc.gov/des/consumers/about/history.html

https://eilerspizza.wordpress.com/2017/06/14/using-hrt-to-remain-male/

https://www.niehs.nih.gov/health/topics/agents/endocrine/index.cfm)

Julie’s foreword to my book

Having completed the final edit of my book, Julie said, “I’ve been thinking about writing a foreword.”

“Oh. Wow. Okay. Yeah, I like the sound of that. Do you have in mind what you’d write?”

Giggling, she replied, “No.”

“Well, now that you’ve mentioned it, I love the idea. Just start writing, it will come to you.”

She retrieved a pen and pad. She started writing:

Soon, she was typing. A few hours later, she showed it to me. Immediately, I was dazzled.

I am but a few days from offering the book for sale. I present Julie’s foreword now because she sets the tone for what I’ve written, the spirit in which I’ve described the challenges I’ve endured.

Julie’s spirit shines through her words—the lovely person with whom I fell in love by her words, before I ever saw her face.

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“I would have left in a heartbeat.”

The declaration is volunteered by many, men and women alike, upon hearing the story about a transgender husband transitioning to live as a woman. The question I, the wife, expected—“Did you ever think about leaving?”—is bypassed, and the listeners fast forward to their own bold assertion about hitting the road. As though even asking the question about staying means there is a sliver of possibility they themselves would have to live through something so unfathomable, so unpleasant. Better to nip that in the bud, slam that door shut. Outta here, in a heartbeat.

How a couple handles a big situation has more to do with how they handled all the little things in all the previous years. Since our wedding on December 30, 2001, I’d learned a lot from Greg Eilers about respect, unconditional love, and kindness. We’d built a pretty deep store of those Golden Rule treasures, so it was only natural that we drew upon it when Greg’s gender dysphoria upended our lives.

I couldn’t declare “I didn’t sign up for this”, because this—facing hurdles with my life partner—was exactly what I did sign up to do. I couldn’t turn my back on the person I loved, because I knew he, without hesitation, would face any deluge of difficulties I threw his way. I couldn’t run the other direction because, I asked, what would I want my spouse to do if I were in his shoes? I couldn’t shout “This is not fair!”, because life isn’t about fairness. It’s about being our best for others.

We tend to view relationships as a give and take proposition. That what we give and what we receive is measurable and should somehow balance out the scales. As if every checkmark in the debit column deserves a credit entry on the next line.

What if we saw it this way instead: that both sides of the scale belong equally to both partners, that all the debits and all the credits belong collectively to the team.

Living through a spouse’s gender dysphoria and transition from one gender to another seems a very debit-heavy transaction. It is excruciating to watch the person you love experience the torment of being one gender on the inside and another in public. It is painful to see your spouse feel trapped in an unchangeable life and view death as the only escape. It is sorrowful to mourn the loss of the only identity (husband and wife) you’ve known with this person. It is daunting to fathom an existence where you expect to be condemned and ostracized. It is nerve-racking to think about how your family, your friends, the world will see you.

Life has an abundance of challenges, but the majority of them are understood and accepted. Most everyone will commiserate with you when your spouse has a terminal illness, a disability-causing accident, an affair, a job loss. People can imagine themselves in common situations. They have a frame of reference. You might still feel isolated, but at least you know you’re not the only one.

The crossing of gender boundaries, though, is just too weird, too outlandish, too forbidden for most people to wrap their heads around. You don’t have the luxury of calling up friends and family, of drawing on a readily-available support network, to help get you through this. This—the “my spouse is transgender”—starts out a closely-held yet extremely-loaded secret—a frightening one to share. And when you do begin to share, it’s very often not support you get, but highly-opinionated directives and ultimatums.

It’s no wonder most marriages don’t survive a gender transition.

Jesus teaches us in Romans 5 that we should “rejoice in our suffering”. Quoting scripture doesn’t take the hard stuff away. But understanding the point—looking though our earthly suffering to the ultimate spiritual reward God gives us, eternal life with our Savior—helps us take a bigger picture approach to the struggles we have in life.

Despite the trying times, despite the unconquerable mountains and precarious ravines that riddled the landscape of my spouse’s gender dysphoria, I always had one thing to cling to: hope. Hope for the four things I desired for my spouse—that he stay alive, that he keep his sanity, that he be as healthy and whole as possible, and maybe even that he achieve happiness. Hope that Greg and I would emerge as a couple—however that looked—stronger, better, and deeper in our love. Hope is a powerful little thing. Hope let me redefine the debits as credits.

It is my hope that Greg’s story, and the story of all transgender people, will prompt others to see the bigger picture. To set aside their preconceived notions about what it means to be transgender. To turn their ears and listen to a group of people struggling to be heard. To brave their awkward feelings and step into a space they’ve never been.

Comfort zones are tough to give up. When faced with an unfamiliar situation, particularly one vastly different than we are accustomed to, our tendency is to recoil, get back to the easy. Something new might pique our curiosity, but we’re careful about getting too close, cautious about letting ourselves be vulnerable. Yet, there are some really valuable benefits outside our bubbles: Enrichment. Love. Growth. Understanding. Compassion. Selflessness. Humanity.

Would I leave my comfort zone to stay with Greg? In a heartbeat.

“My New V—– Won’t Make Me Happy”

This op-ed, the title of which I discreetly edited for my heading, published in The New York Times on November 24, quickly fueled a storm of conversation about trans persons, surgeries, insurance coverage, and oh so much more. You can read it here:

Andrea Long Chu begins with this: “Next Thursday, I will get a vagina. . . . Until the day I die, my body will regard the vagina as a wound; as a result, it will require regular, painful attention to maintain. This is what I want, but there is no guarantee it will make me happier. In fact, I don’t expect it to. That shouldn’t disqualify me from getting it.”

If Chu were looking to be provocative, to gain a name for herself, she nailed it. But if she wanted to be helpful—

  • helpful to other trans folks,
  • helpful to those who are weighing whether to have surgeries or begin HRT,
  • helpful to those who are pondering bringing loved ones into their tightly held secret that they suffer gender dysphoria,
  • even to be helpful to ultra-conservative trans-deniers that they might come to understand trans persons

—then I find her to have laid a big, fat egg.

And the egg isn’t only on her face. It’s all over transgender persons and the transgender conversation.

From what Chu wrote about her experience on hormones, I wouldn’t expect her to be overly optimistic that she will be happier after gender affirmation surgery. She wrote this: “I feel demonstrably worse since I started on hormones.” And this: “Like many of my trans friends, I’ve watched my dysphoria balloon since I began transition.” And this: “I was not suicidal before hormones. Now I often am.”

Truly, I am befuddled why Chu transitioned, or, when recognizing these dramatic negatives, she continued.

And who are her trans friends? I’ve not heard these things from the many trans women and trans men I’ve gotten to know.

And I went through gender affirmation surgery. My neo vagina healed nicely. If my body reckons it as a wound, it hasn’t informed me that it does. And, painful attention to maintain the neo vagina? Yeah, there is some pain. For awhile.  It wears off.

Sheesh, Andrea. Talk about painting something as negatively as one can.

All of this might arise from her mindset. Earlier in the piece, she wrote, “I like to say that being trans is the second-worst thing that ever happened to me. (The worst was being born a boy.)” [parentheses hers] I understand this thinking and have written about it. Since the mind is the quarterback of the body, it calls the shots, and if a person identifies as female, then the easy, even automatic, response is to wish the body conformed to the brain. But why not the other way around? Could not Chu just as easily, from another mindset, have written the following? “The worst was being born with a mismatch of brain and body. Oh, that I could always have felt that I am a boy to match my body!”

Before writing how she feels worse since starting hormones, Chu says it is wrong for a person to think that feeling better will accompany transitioning. But isn’t that the entire point of transitioning? Isn’t it improved health which is behind every aspect of the process, to get the mind and body and the way one lives into alignment so that one feels better?

When I undertook living full time as a female—and, if you are curious, what happened with me, this year, resuming living as a male, is unrelated to any of this conversation—my twins demons were addressed. My suicidal thoughts almost entirely resolved; only rarely did a short term one pop up. The fear I had, that I would lose my mind—which had grown so severe, so real, that I often thought it would happen any given day—was entirely extinguished.

If I could sit with Andrea Long Chu, I would softly and compassionately ask her why she continued with her transition, and why she is going through with having her genitals reformed. From her essay, for the world of me it seems that she is doing all of this to prove a point, which she makes toward the end of her essay, and on which I comment in my concluding paragraphs.

I’ve read one response from a trans person, who noted that Chu doesn’t speak for all trans folks. She sure doesn’t. To me, not only is Chu not on the same playing field with the transgender population, she’s not even observing from the bleachers.

Chu seems to have forgotten a vital point, especially when someone lives in a way which is controversial—in this case, transgender—and discusses a topic which is controversial—here, gender affirmation surgery and all of the other aspects of transitioning—and writes about it publicly, and all the more so in a world-wide-read publication such as The New York Times: Chu doesn’t speak for all of us, but many—especially the trans-deniers—will hear her as doing so.

I feel that she threw all of us under the struggle bus.

I am confident she submitted this with the desire to do good, to benefit others. I find that she completely and utterly failed.

Chu concludes her essay: “There are no good outcomes in transition. There are only people, begging to be taken seriously.”

Yes, Andrea, every trans persons longs to be taken seriously, and who are you to suggest that there are no good outcomes in transition? Do you not see that your former assertion negates your latter point?

If a thing will not have a good outcome, why do the thing? If a thing will not have a good outcome, isn’t that a thing from which we run, a thing we avoid, a thing to be set aside in search of a thing which will produce a good outcome?

We figure out Chu’s thesis along the way but, finally, nearing the conclusion, she states it: “Let me be clear: I believe that surgeries of all kinds can and do make an enormous difference in the lives of trans people. But I also believe that surgery’s only prerequisite should be a simple demonstration of want.”

There it is. “A simple demonstration of want.” I want it, therefore I get to have it.

No, Andrea Long Chu. Not a simple demonstration of want. Need? You betcha. Need, for the purpose of healing and improved health? You betcha.

August 19, one last time

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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Trivia Time:

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:

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August 19, 2016: do you see a difference from 2015?

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August 19, 2017: the final one before my face surgery in November.

IMG_20170818_141628089

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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.

IMG_20171217_093839095_BURST000_COVER_TOP1.jpg

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.

IMG_20180815_120315143

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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:

Post-transition crash

68a8efbde693349d1821c6f73c490c21.jpg

Finally, for the past three weeks I’ve been feeling better. Since January, I had been struggling something fierce.  Many days, I hated life.  The littlest things set me off. I didn’t know why.

The crazy thing is, I could have been told that finishing my transition might plunge me into depression.

I even could have figured it out for myself.

Letdowns are normal and natural

When I became a minister, a pastor warned me that the day after Easter I might feel a letdown, a depression for a few days. He said that it would be due to the busyness of Lent, which has Lutheran pastors writing two sermons a week and conducting extra services, with the big buildup toward Holy Week and its services on Thursday and Friday, and then the huge crowd on Easter. Easter afternoon would feel great—a successful completion to the seven week sprint—but, on Monday, with everything completed, the letdown likely would arrive.

Sure enough, it did. I was glad to be warned of it. Knowing it might come, I knew what it was. After a few days, I felt better.

I did not associate that with when I crashed hard in 2008. For two full years, I had been minister to two congregations, as the neighboring parish’s pastor had moved to another church.

I. Was. Busy.

In the middle of those two years, I had the heart trouble which resulted in my receiving two stents, and then the last of our four kids, the two boys, moved out. It was a hectic two years, filled with upheaval.

Soon after I was back to only serving one congregation, I was fit to be tied as to why I felt so lousy. As I told my brother pastors, I should have been happy now only serving my own church, yet I felt as if I had a part-time job. And I missed my boys something fierce as this new empty nest thing finally came home to roost in my heart.

I now understand that all of this dramatic change is what caused the deep angst and depression. If only someone would have told me to expect it. If only my brother pastors had been savvy enough to say, “What you are experiencing is a completely normal and natural letdown.” It was the post-Easter thing X 100.

A day or two after I had my sex reassignment/gender affirming surgery a year ago, I experienced a very strong “What did I do to myself?” I physically hurt so badly, and the recovery seemed positively daunting, and here I had gone and done this of my own volition.

At my first post-op appointment, I told Dr. Gallagher. She said, “I’ve heard this from all of my patients.” I don’t think I replied, “Why didn’t you warn me?” but, two weeks ago, at my final visit with her, I did. And more.

I told her how I had been struggling with myself the past three months, that I had experienced a wonderful high after my final surgery in November, that the euphoria lasted until early in the new year, and then I crashed into a nasty depression.

She replied that this is pretty common. It’s like we are unconsciously saying, “The long trek to transitioning is done. It’s time to move on,” but we’ve not prepared ourselves to move on.

I suggested to her that patients need to be told these things, that I found all of my surgeons, for my three surgeries, to have neglected key things about my recovery. I was pleased when she told me that her assistant had been gathering this kind of information and they now give the info to patients who are preparing for surgery.

Within days of seeing her, I saw my endocrinologist. Telling her of this difficult down period, she commented that she’s had patients describe this. A pattern was emerging. Finally, I recalled what happened in 2008, and the mini crashes after every Easter. My experiences have not been unusual, but to be expected. Or at least be aware that they are possibilities, and if they happen they are completely normal and natural.

Weird and unusual are hard to swallow. Normal and natural goes down nicely.

Get thee to a psychologist!

This year’s crash was so bad that, in late March, I engaged a psychologist. (Yes, wiseguys, at the encouragement of Julie. She remains the brains of the Eilers household.) I found a new therapist. I wanted someone who did not know me so that I would be heard with fresh ears, and one who does not specialize with transgender folks so that he might not be prone to only seeing me as a trans person. I found a man who is a tad older than I, with over thirty years in general practice. From the initial phone call, I was confident I had found a counselor who might be up to my task.

Last week, I had what might be the final of six visits with him. Indeed, I found him up to my task. He heard me. He asked good questions. When he suggested ideas, which he was assembling from our discussion, his thoughts about me made sense.

Though I have yet to change anything, I have been feeling better. After the first week with him, with two intense sessions, my load was feeling lighter. I have not had any days in which I feel completely out of sorts. Indeed, I once again feel hopeful about my life.

Happiness: three main ingredients

We talked a lot about how I might move forward. He told me his formula for a person having a happy life. It has three ingredients, which must be fairly consistent. They are meaningful work, love from family and friends, and fun.

We determined that I have pretty consistent portions of love and fun, but am lacking in meaningful work. Indeed, because I had been feeling so lousy, I had been struggling with being interested in writing, which has been my most meaningful work, so the problem was made worse by the crash.

He and I also spent a lot of time talking about my being transgender. Odd as it might sound because I did fully transition, I continue to struggle with being transgender. I wish I were not.

We talked a lot about a person’s worldview. In my worldview, which is that of a Christian who practices a traditional view of the Bible, along with my being highly conservative in every aspect of how I live and think, transgender does not fit.

Worse than putting a square peg into a round hole, my being transgender is like trying to complete a jigsaw puzzle where every piece has been crammed into the wrong spot.

The depression lifting, hopefully the crash is over. It sure helps that spring is here. I have my garden started. I hope that is a metaphor for where I will plant myself, to find a job where I can be fruitful.

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.

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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).

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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.

dolunay

Ain’t that cheesy?

Concern for children transitioning

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At age four, Jazz Jennings expressed that she was not the boy she was thought to be.  At age five, she began social transitioning.  Her story went nationwide when, at age six, she was interviewed by Barbara Walters, which launched her to her own reality TV series.

I recently received a message from a woman’s whose concerns I suspect are those of enough people that this warranted more than a reply only to her. Here is her note, which I have mildly edited to focus on the key points.

Gina, I have some qualms about all the children who are being treated with hormones for dysphoria. We have long held the attitude that children do not have the ability to make life-changing decisions such as marriage and signing binding legal contracts because they are not mature enough to comprehend the ramifications involved. Yet on the simple assertion of a five-year-old that s/he is the other gender, we are now being ordered to treat the child as if this were truth and even begin medical treatments that have lifelong consequences. From what I have read, most children who make these assertions, if not treated, eventually come to terms with who and what they were created to be. If they don’t, then adulthood is maybe a more rational point for them make these decisions? I know I was something of a “tomboy” as a kid, yet there is now no way I would want to have missed being a woman and a mother. I know that isn’t quite the same thing yet why are we encouraging little children to make these decisions? Not just encouraging but actively forcing reluctant parents in some cases.

I have located three areas of concern to address: 1) children transitioning, 2) a child only going through a phase regarding gender, and 3) the encouraging of children to transition, or the forcing of parents for these children to do so. I will work backward through these topics.

I am horrified at the thought of any parents being forced to set a child onto the path of transitioning, or even encouraging a child, which I heard as “pushing” a child.

Yet, I can imagine the scenario. An over-zealous therapist or doctor, who speaks so strongly with the diagnosis that the child is transgender and will only be benefited by transitioning and that the path should be started immediately, and the parents themselves feel pushed—backed into a corner of guilt if they don’t act.

Sadly, there are people in every profession who do not remain inside their boundaries, whose insights and opinions turn into insistence, which virtually bullies a person into the action which they espouse. It happens with teachers and students, with politicians and citizens, with ministers and congregations, in every sphere of life. I can easily imagine it in the area of gender dysphoria and transitioning. Should it happen, that doctor or therapist should be reported to the appropriate person or group.

You are correct in asserting that most children, who express wanting to be the opposite sex, will move on from this, perhaps even quickly. I addressed this and more in the following:

https://eilerspizza.wordpress.com/2017/05/25/children-talking-transgender-with-parents/

In that piece, I discuss PIC—persistent, insistent, consistent. Parents should take a PIC of these children. Does she persist in her desire to be a boy? Is he insisting that you see him wrongly by seeing a boy? Is s/he consistent in what s/he is saying about this?

Parents should not be quick in seeking professional help while they calmly and lovingly listen to these children. If a clear PIC forms, that will be the time to act.

Finally, regarding children transitioning. It is correct that some children transition socially, how they dress and what name is used. It is incorrect that they are given hormones—this is to the best of my knowledge and, below, I explain why—or that any medical steps are taken.

The goal of a child’s socially transitioning is to alleviate the dysphoria—that is, the ill feelings regarding the mismatch of mind and body—and to see if this benefits the child. It is a testing period. If the child finds what s/he seeks, displays and expresses peace and joy in finally living as the gender s/he experiences her- or himself, and if this persists, then good has been achieved for the child.

Not only are children not given hormones, there is no need to do so. The accepted path is this:

  1. Transition socially. If this is sustained, then
  2. when the child nears puberty, prescribe blockers, which arrest puberty.  (For more about puberty blockers in children who begin puberty when very young, see the end of this post.) By postponing puberty, if the child continues into the later teen years and decides to fully transition, the affects of puberty have not adversely affected the child. If the child does not continue, blockers can be stopped and puberty would commence. If s/he desires to transition, at the appropriate time or age
  3. the child, who now likely is at least eighteen or near it, would begin hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and experience puberty in the desired sex.

It may be argued that one in the late teens is still a child and should not take measures which profoundly affect the future. I appreciate serious caution. Where I depart from the caution is that, by the time a person would begin the hormone phase of transitioning, several years have elapsed. If anyone has passed the PIC for this long, we are not talking about a passing phase. Even more, as we know of the great emotional and physical distress caused by gender dysphoria, we never forget the 41% attempted suicide rate. HRT often is healing therapy—it was for me—and even a life-saving measure.

In summary, no children, nor their parents as they are advised regarding their children, should be encouraged to transition, especially if information provided causes them to feel they must do so. Parents should listen closely and patiently to their children, showing them love and compassion. If their children pass the PIC, then they should engage a professional. As puberty nears, medical action can then be taken. Hopefully, if these steps are taken, these children will mature into healthy, well-adjusted adults.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I am thankful for a friend, who is highly educated in these issues, who posted this comment on Facebook regarding puberty blockers:

One point that people miss – hormone blockers that delay puberty have routinely been prescribed for the last 30 years for children with early onset puberty. There are kids who suddenly start puberty at the age of 4 or 5. Helping them put off puberty until they are 16, 17, 18 has been standard procedure for decades and we have years of research that this has no ill effects on young people at all. So delaying puberty for trans kids until they can make informed decisions about their lives isn’t really different.