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?

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Vocal cord surgery

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

And then they didn’t.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

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

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

My vocal cords post-surgery

Here are four images captured by my surgeon, Dr. Noah Parker, at The Voice Clinic of Indiana in Carmel, during my first visit to him, twelve days after surgery.

I do not, at this time, have any pre-surgery pictures.  I requested those, and he said that I will soon receive in the mail a DVD which will contain all of the images that have been captured, and including a video of the cords while in action.

The first picture is of my vocal cords at rest.  Though this is post-surgery, you can discern the natural shape and length of the cords

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The second image is a bit closer.  Note the white area at the bottom.  Here is where Dr. Parker stitched together the two sides, to make the opening smaller by making the length of the cords shorter.  The larger the space and longer the cords, the slower they vibrate and the lower the pitch, that is, the number of vibrations per second, and the smaller the space and shorter they are the quicker they vibrate and the higher the pitch.

Pre-surgery, my pitch was 115 vibrations per second, right on the average for a male.  Dr. Parker said that female range is 200-250.  Julie’s pitch registered at 246.  Post-surgery, my pitch registered at 240.

The white area will turn pink as the cords heal.  As they heal, the hoarseness with which I now speak will gradually dissipate, akin to one’s being raspy when suffering a severe cold or sore throat and its easing as one recovers.

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Dr. Parker instructed me to vocalize an eeeeeeee sound.  My vocal cords open.  In the next image, the area which he stitched is more visible.

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In the final image, my cords are wide open.  Dr. Parker gave the good news that all looks well.  I was on strict voice rest the first twelve days, but a few words slipped when I was caught off guard.  I was not to cough, practicing the silent cough, but I could not stifle as many as one third of my potential coughs.  I sneezed three times.  Since this was not like a wound on my skin that I could inspect, I had no idea if these occasions were damaging the surgery, causing the stitches to pull apart.  Dr. Parker had said that a bit of tearing always occurs, but if I experienced any he did not comment, nor did I think to ask.

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As I post this on Monday, February 6, it has been six days since I first spoke.  It seems that my hoarseness has lessened a bit.  It is easier to speak and I am able to talk a louder.  In worship, yesterday, I attempted to sing one hymn.  I had to ditch it before completing one stanza, feeling too much strain on my throat.

I return to the doctor on March 7.  After he takes a fresh look at my cords, I will have a session with the voice therapist who specializes in working with trans folks.

In the mean time, I’ll just keep “hoarsing” around.

Silence turned golden

At 2:30, yesterday, Julie and I were ushered into examination room #2 at The Voice Clinic of Indiana. In a moment, the nurse entered to take my vitals. No surprise that my blood pressure was up a bit.

She asked me a question. I hesitated. I pointed to my button, the one they gave me that announces I am on total voice rest. She smiled. “It’s okay. You can talk to me.”

I thought for sure my first words would be at the prompting of the surgeon, and only after specific instructions. Silly me. All right, here we go.

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I opened my mouth to say, “You know I had surgery, right? I thought Dr. Parker would guide my first words.” That’s what I meant to say. That’s what I eventually said. But, on the first try, only silence and air escaped my mouth.

Give it another try, Gina. Ah, here it came. “I thought . . .” and that’s all I could muster. What a croak! Why didn’t anyone warn me how hard it would be to speak and how terrible I would sound twelve days after surgery?

It was rough, but it was glorious. And things just kept getting better.

Dr. Parker arrived. After some opening chit-chat, he put the scope through my nose and into my throat. He had me hold the devise to my neck, then instructed me to give him an eeeeeeeee. I gave him my best eeeeeeeee, and then he gave me the wildest news . . .

Recall that my pre-surgery voice came in at 115 vibrations per second. Dr. Parker said that was right on average for a male. Julie was with me, so he measured her voice. He said that females usually register between 200 and 250. Unsurprisingly, Julie’s feminine voice came in near the top, at 246. Dr. Parker said that if we could get me to 180-200, that would be pretty good. The speech therapist said that voices can be perceived as female as low as 160.

I spent the past twelve days in constant conversation with myself over what to expect, what I wanted, what would work for me. I never expected what Dr. Parker would now announce.

“240.”

I melted into tears of joy. Julie burst into a wide smile. Dr. Parker said, “The emotions are no surprise,” and smiled at me.

My mind was racing. When I am fully recovered, I will sound like a woman. I will be able to talk on the phone and be taken as a female, without hesitation. When I meet people in person—say, our waiter at a restaurant—those pesky “he” pronouns will not trip up folks. When together, Julie always immediately jumped to my defense, “You mean ‘she,’” and I did the correcting when alone. No more! My voice will match my chick glasses and lipstick and necklace and everything else! Yay!!!

Dr. Parker next showed us my vocal cords. “They are healing beautifully.” He brought up a picture from before surgery so we could see the difference, how much shorter they now are. Wow, wow, wow.

All of my concerns were allayed. I had not coughed too much. I had not ripped the stitching apart. His good work took hold. I never imagined such a wonderful report.

Answers to my questions came back as good as I could have hoped:

  • I may resume walking briskly now. In a week, I may run.
  • I may eat acidic foods, but don’t overdo it. I will be on precautionary medication for acid reflux for another month, but there is no need to put it to the test.
  • Sleeping lying down is fine. He said, “I didn’t tell you that you had to sit to sleep.” We debated who told us. Perhaps, it was the nurse in the recovery room, but both Julie and I vividly recall the chat happening—and my being part of it—before surgery. Very befuddling. And I could have been lying down all this time!

I suggested to him that I would have loved to have had the post-op instructions before the surgery, so that I could be prepared, especially for having some appropriate food on hand and being able to practice the silent cough. He responded very favorably, appreciative of my constructive comments.

For now, I am to take care with speaking, limiting it to about half of what I might normally talk. No straining my voice. No singing until it feels like I can do so with ease. In five weeks, I see him again, then have my first voice therapy session.

I am simply over the moon. If you read yesterday’s post, https://eilerspizza.wordpress.com/2017/01/31/post-op-appointment-day/ , you know how on edge I was anticipating this day. To have this under my belt, and for every last aspect to turn out so wonderfully, I’d say I’m speechless but, thankfully, I am not! Praise the Lord!

Finally, lucky you: I have pictures. Oh, yes I do! I know you can’t wait to see the gross-looking things. And I can’t wait to show you.

Silence Is Rusty #8

Post-op appointment day

Today is that day of the week
on which I hope I get to speak.
At what pitch will my voice peak?
Will I be allowed to talk a blue streak?

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

As the days ticked down to the hours, I am filled with questions.

Will Dr. Parker begin by scoping my throat, to see how my stitches look?

If so, what will he find? Have my stitches held well?

If they have not, will he ask probing questions, accusing queries? “Did you follow my instructions, Gina? Have you been talking? Did you stay away from acidic foods? Did you sleep in a sitting position?”

It is my understanding that he will have me talk, but how much?

And then how much will I be allowed to talk over the coming days? I know that am far from healed; it is at least a six week process. As a friend suggested, if I am allowed to talk a little, that might be harder than not talking at all.

At what pitch will I register? Pre-surgery, I came in at a typically-male 115 vibrations per second. The speech therapist said that at 160 my voice should be taken as female. The surgeon suggested 180-200 would be a good level for me. So, what will he have achieved for me through surgery?

If my pitch is in the female range, will it feel right on me?

And what if it hasn’t changed? What if the surgery didn’t work? Whether it were that the stitches pulled apart, or the surgery simply did not affect the desired change, what if my pitch continues to register in the low 100s?

Have I become a worry wart?

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

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I offer the following section because the vast majority of people admit to being worriers. Yet, no one need be one. Being a worrier is not who you are as, say, being left handed or an American. And I want to help people to learn how to stop being worriers.

When I was a minister, worry came up so often that I asked people about it. Were they truly worrying, or did they really mean that they were concerned about something? In some cases, theirs was a case of concern. In most, it was worry.

Along the way, I came up with my definition for worry. Worry is concern that has gotten out of hand.

I am a former worrier. It ceased in my thirties. It wasn’t a conscience decision; I can’t take credit for it. I believe that important experiences and conquering huge fears is what did it, some of which were:

  • performing on stage;
  • becoming a manager and traveling for my job;
  • living through my son’s death;
  • growing in my trust in Jesus Christ;
  • especially, growing in my knowledge of who my Lord is and who I am in Him.

When I was young, all of my worries revolved around the same thing. Fear of the unknown. I was scared stiff of new things and I worried about things out of my control. After I lived through and conquered the hardest things for me, I knew that I never had to worry about them. That I could do it. I could succeed.

That meant that if something new and extremely challenging came to me—two great examples are officiating funerals for young people tragically killed and going out into the world as a female when I hardly look like one—I didn’t worry about it. I didn’t have to. Experience taught me that.

Did that make these huge challenges easier? While it did not alter them, it did make them easier in the sense that I was able to think them through with a clear head, allowing me to be properly prepared from them.

One of my favorite quotes is, “There are a lot of things to think about, but there is nothing to worry about.” Not only does worry do no good, it is destructive. Physically, it becomes a roadblock to rational thinking. Spiritually, it chips away at one’s faith. Emotionally, it eats at contentment. Relationally, it is a connection killer.

What I am is a thinker. And a pray-er. And a preparer. If something can be planned or mapped or figured out beforehand, I will work it out. You know, plan your work and work your plan—another favorite quote.

And another: Be prepared.

Yeah, I was a cub scout in my youth. I was the one at the pond faking that the frogs were too elusive to catch.

Nothing causes us to worry more than being a patient. I have known a number of people who did not see a doctor for years, who only finally would do so when they became so sick they could not go on. Fear is the foundation. Upon the fear foundation, worry builds the walls which imprisons them.

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Being a pastor was a great training ground for being a patient. I sat with far too many folks who had no questions for their doctors. Who let fear take over, instead of taking over so there would be no need to fear. “What if it’s something bad?” Who never prepared. “I didn’t know what to ask.” Who didn’t write anything down. “I forgot to ask.”

I learned to ask questions for them. Pastors get a wide and varied experience with ailments, diseases, surgeries, and treatments. I love cultivating information and retrieving it when it can be useful. So, if a doctor or nurse or therapist came to see one of my folks when I was visiting, and if I sensed there were things not being covered, that my member was not able to conjure questions, I was not shy to do so. I was confident when they were hoping I’d jump in and ask things that would never occur to them, because we discussed it before the professional entered their room.

When it comes to our health, pussyfooting around is no good for anyone. We have a lot of time and effort and money invested in our health.

Julie and I will have a lot of money invested in my surgeries. I need to get all the bang I can for our bucks.

So, if I am not worried, is there a different question to ask? Am I anxious?

I am more edgy than anxious. Pensive. The way most folks feel right before a big life event.

I know that it is not anxiety, because I have been anxious before. In 2007, at age fifty, after receiving two heart stents, I suffered my first anxiety attack. It was so bad that I thought it was the same chest pain which had landed me in the hospital two days earlier. I was readmitted. My heart was fine, but I was not.

I was not consciously worried, but my body did not allow me to relax. That’s a common form of anxiety. It is similar to being depressed. Depression is not feeling sorry for yourself, but is a real, physical problem in which the sufferer cannot consciously or logically break out of it, just as were the two brief episodes I suffered during these twelve days of silence.

Anxiety works the same way. You don’t go and get it; it comes and gets you.

In 2007, I suffered one bad anxiety attack. For a year after receiving the stents, I experienced a handful of smaller ones. My doctor prescribed Xanax. I asked him why the anxiety came on when I had never had an attack in my entire life. He said, “You can get along with a broken arm, but if your heart doesn’t work you die.”

I loved the logic of it.

Anxiety and depression are conditions which happen to us, not by us. Worry is a condition which happens by us, not to us. Understanding the difference is key. Taking appropriate action is vital.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I am prepared for this afternoon. I have planned the visit and visited my plan. On my half-a-page of items are three questions.

  • When may I resume running?
  • When may I resume acidic foods?
  • When may I resume lying flat?

Julie will take time off work to be with me, which I always appreciate so much. Besides, I might need her to verbalize my list of questions and concerns.

More than edgy, I am excited. Julie and I are excited. This day was not only twelve days in the making, but many years.

Many years of starts and stops, of planning and mapping and preparing, of “this can never be” to “this needs to be.”

We have arrived.

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Silence Is Rusty #7

This is why I write

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Just when I could use a lift, I received the most wonderful text from a friend. You can skip down to the third section if you don’t want to read the set-up.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

As I post this, it was exactly one week ago that I had come out of surgery on my vocal cords.

“Gina. Gina, can you wake up? Don’t talk. Don’t try to talk.”

Nothing.

“Gina, dear. Can you wake up? Be sure that you don’t talk. You can’t say anything, but can you show me your eyes?”

Cracks appear. Eyes slowly open.

“If you want to say anything, you need to write it. Here is a pen and some paper.”

In the worst handwriting ever to come from me: “I was having such a nice dream when you woke me!”

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As the grogginess dissipated, my handwriting improved. The No Talking rule remained. Seven full days now.

I am afraid to say that I have talked. In a few situations, where something caught me off guard, I have uttered some two word phrases. Always two words. The first was, “My arm!” as I had to quickly move it out of the way of my granddaughter. Several have been, “O, Lord,” which turned into prayers for strength. Each utterance has been soft; I don’t even know if I could speak loudly if I tried to.

And if you are curious, no, I can’t tell you if the pitch is higher or the same. Each utterance as been too soft. Too quick.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I need strength. After a half-a-day of depression on Saturday, it returned yesterday. I so badly need this silence to be done.

My world feels so small right now.

As Julie was on her way home last evening, I realized that I had not been asking her about her day. As soon as we can, either as we eat or right after, our practice is to fill each other in on our day. Often, I have news, even if only to discuss my latest encounter with Barb the Impaler. Julie always has lots of work stuff that is helpful for her to talk out.

She got home late last evening. I was done eating. As she finished my delicious chicken thighs on rice with steamed broccoli, I wrote her a note. “How was your day? How has your week been?” As she talked, I nodded my head, I shook it, I smiled, I frowned. She said how exhausting certain things can be. I wrote, “You do exhausting work.”

She asked about my day. I handed her my pad. “I wrote a lot. I had lunch. Then I got depressed.” She asked about the depression. I summed it up, “My world is so small right now.” She commiserated with me.

And that was that. We turned on Netflix.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

This morning, I rejoiced that I hit the one week mark, that I only have five days to go, but I could not shake the depression. I went to work writing, working on chapter 27 of my book.

Yeah, I’m finally writing my story for a book. If you would find me a publisher, I’d be ever so thankful!

At 10:30, I checked my phone. I had a text from a friend, a woman who used to be a member of one of my churches and with whom I grew very close.

She wrote, “Just wanted to say praying for you and very proud you are finally going to be you soon with these surgeries. I got a new coworker recently whose brother started the hormone replacement and starting his transformation and she was angry and confused. Had her read your posts and she is flying out to be with him for his first surgery. You truly are an inspiration. Love and miss ya!”

She. Made. My. Day.

Since my late twenties, when I figured out what my gifts and skills were and what fulfilled me and brought joy, all I wanted to do was to help people. I found my niche as a pastor. To lose that the way it happened hurt so deeply.

I took to blogging in order to educate and proclaim—to educate about all things transgender and to proclaim the Lord’s love in Jesus Christ. In this way, I have been able to continue to use my gifts and skills, and to be fulfilled and experience joy.

But too often being physically cut off from people has remained a thorn in my flesh. I have a long way to go, to get physically reconnected way more than I am. To re-enlarge my world.

Feeling so disconnected this past week, the walls have closed in on me. If I could at least go jogging!

I remain optimistic. I know that I will get through this just fine. But I’m still in the midst of it. It’s like when you have a sore throat. The pain does not allow you to remember what it is like to swallow without pain, and you can’t imagine not having the sore throat anymore. That’s where I am with not being able to talk.

So, for my friend, with whom I’ve not texted in some time, to pop into my life this morning was the best medicine. Using the above comparison, my throat doesn’t feel quite so sore right now.

Though I cannot talk, my voice is being heard.

And people are receiving help.

And this gives me joy. And gratitude. And that wonderful feeling of fulfillment.

Thank you, Lord. It came at just the right time.

One week under my belt.

Five days to go.

Silence Is Rusty #6

smiley-face-zippered

This is no normal Wednesday Hump Day, but my personal Hump Day in my Twelve Days of Silence. To mark the day, a mostly lighter look at the silent treatment.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

To aid healing, I am to drink a lot of water, half of my body weight in ounces every day. I am a large person so that means, well, it means I am filling my container often.  And emptying it just as often. At night, I am tickled when I get four straight hours before “the call” can no longer be ignored.

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The second day, Julie fell into the habit of mimicking me; not making fun of me, but doing as I was. I had made hand motions which she did not comprehend. Instead of asking me what I meant, she replied with hand motions. I had to grab my pad and ask her to use words. Even more, I had found that I really needed to hear her voice. She replied, “This is new for me, too.” And so it has affected both of us.

On Sunday, my nine-year-old grandson really struggled with talking to me. At first, he mouthed words to me. (I’m not supposed to mouth words, but fall into it a bit.) I wrote him a note asking him to please speak normally to me. The rest of the afternoon, each time he spoke he still couldn’t muster anything much more than a whisper—something I never thought I’d hear from him!

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I went to the grocery store yesterday. One of my favorite gals was working the cash register. She also struggled to speak up to me, with most of her words in the hushed tones of the hospital room of a very ill person.

I went prepared. On the reverse of my “I can’t talk. I had throat surgery” note, I wrote a couple of sentences of explanation. They paid off as the three folks to whom I showed the note all wanted to know a few details.

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When one cannot talk, many opportunities get lost. Those little quips one makes during a movie get lost on the cutting room floor. The odd or interesting statistics that come to mind while watching a football game remain on the sidelines.

If a tree falls in the woods and no one comments on it, did it really happen?

By the time I can grab my pad and write my quip or stat or fact, and include enough info to provide context so that it would make sense, the moment is gone.

So many Eilerisms are being lost.  I know, I know.  It’s hard on you, too.

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In everyday life, we make so much small talk, so many passing comments, that saying nothing at all in these moments feels like when two people are angry at each other, snubbing each other, with no desire to talk to each other. It can be disconcerting when Julie and I are near each other, say working in the kitchen.

If we make eye contact, I smile at her so that she knows I’m in here. Even better is to touch each other. Before we got married, I told her how important to me are little touches, how they help me feel connected and loved. From day one of our marriage, we have been touchers. My favorite place is her . . . um, well, let’s just say that she looks very tempting . . . er, I mean great in a pair of jeans.

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On Saturday, it got up to 66 degrees in Indianapolis, shattering the January 20 all time high by five degrees. Julie and I sat on our front porch, basking in the sun. Our neighbor was going by with her dogs and walked up for a chat. After Julie explained about me, the two of them talked. I got the rare reference or eye contact, pretty much what I thought would happen. I felt like I was listening in on a conversation, not a part of one.

If I could never speak again, I can only begin to fathom how much it would impact my life. How separated from the world I would feel.

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So, solve the problem!  Just use hand motions, right? It’s as simple as that. Replace your words with gestures. Trouble resolved.

A friend correctly noted that, unless you agree beforehand on what hand signals mean, they do not work. I’ll say.

Julie’s coworker suggested that she answer my every hand signal with, “What’s that, hon? You want me to make you some toast?” Ugh.

After nearly a week, still only the most rudimentary hand motions are effective. I can indicate when supper is ready by doing the spoon to mouth action. I can nod my head for yes and shake it for no. That’s about it.

I’m practicing a very special motion to try on Julie. My goal is to get her to ask, “What’s that, girl? Timmy fell into the well?”

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I took a phone call yesterday. Oh yes I did.

I was texting with a friend. She wanted to share something with me that was too much to type. So, I suggested a hand signal (!) that I would use for my end of the call. I would click my fingers.

Twice as she talked I clicked to indicate that I was liking what I was hearing. To end the call, I literally clicked off. To give my feedback, I texted her.

I am pleased that I was able to disprove the old saying. You CAN teach an old dog new clicks.

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