Thursday, September 30, 2010

In between

I received the following email through the networks that I get queer and trans new updates from. Please read for your own info and continue below to my thoughts:

    Fwd: Information regarding MSP approved FTM Chest Surgery:

    If you know of anyone else who is MSP-approved for FtM chest surgery and has
    not had their surgery yet, would you please ask them to contact me? We will
    be actively seeking those who have not had their surgery, but if people
    approach me directly it helps the process.

    Thanks very much!

    Carol Anne

    Carol Anne McNeill
    Policy Analyst
    BC Ministry of Health Services
    ph: 250.952.1555

    Further information:

    Those who are transitioning from FtM and are approved for funding for
    mastectomy (via MSP) will be contacted at the end of this month, providing
    more details regarding where and when surgery will be done.

    * Dr. Bowman has been given OR privileges in a public hospital to perform
    FtM chest surgery. This will be available to MSP-approved FtM transitioning
    men at NO cost to them (including any consults and male chest contouring).*

    *This applies to ALL FtM transitioning men who have been MSP-approved and
    have not had their surgery*, including those who may have been on Dr.Musto's
    waitlist or on a waitlist at a private facility. This surgery will not be
    available to anyone who has not gone through the MSP approval process. Feel
    free to post this as necessary – hopefully it will control the rumour mill.

    Carol Anne McNeill
I have been approved. I was not yet on a wait list as shortly after I got my approval I started having second thoughts. These thoughts were fueled by a number of things but I will try and break them down in a way that makes sense.

Firstly I was primarily responsible for the pre, during and post surgical care of one of my best friends/former lovers. The surgery was incredibly intense, and after a few days of helping empty drains and comfort my friend because the anaesthesia had backed up his digestive system I had to bail. As he dealt with the compound pain of A)just having had all his breast tissue removed, B) having the remaining skin and muscle pulled and sutured into a way that would look more "appropriately male" C) Having drain tubes coming out his sides for a week + D) AND the OMG I haven't shat in a week and I can feel everything i've eaten slowing backing up and threatening an exploded colon feeling. For him, that procedure was self motivated. He was getting the chest he wanted, could see himself with, dreamt of himself having and ultimately what he needed to survive. He bound so heavily everyday before surgery that he was developing back problems, but ultimately if he hadn't bound so tightly or been so stealth about being trans he wouldn't have survived his everyday work environment.

I do not live with that type of pressure. I do not bind. I haven't for a couple years, primarilly because I find that having asthma and pectus excavetum I already operate on limited oxygen. When I bind that puts me at a level where I am running on constant dizziness, increased fatigue and generally, I can't do my life in a way that feels safe or comfortable. Which should, ultimately be the point in binding, to make you more safe and comfortable in the world with the way that your body appears.

I am incredibly lucky, as the jobs that I have held and positions that I have had within institutions have allowed me a freedom wherein I can express my gender queerly, I can have a beard and visible breasts, I can be publicly trans. I don't know that that will be the case for ever. In some situations within my life do I dress in a baggier shirt and keep my lips sealed around issues of gender, this is a matter of self preservation. But I also think critically about my motivation within these circumstances. For example, if I was teaching a shop class of 15 year old boys, I would most likely be on the DL. WHY? Because 15 year old boys bodies are developing in a way that causes many of them to be incredibly self concious. They are receiving media messages and peer pressures that they SHOULDN'T have breasts. Breasts to teenagers become a dividing point. A sexualized feature present on girls (who in turn become sexualized) and a mark of "Freak" on anyone else. For a person, especially a skinny person, who appears to be male and has visible breasts, this stands out as "wrong". No one in our society is more tune to what our society deems as right and wrong body presentations as teenagers. This is compounded by their own self conscience. But being a model of the error in that right/wrong system also opens space for people to expand their perceptions and lesson the pressures that they have on their own bodies. I think that body positive movements will have a great impact on the ways that the media effects body image, creating space for self love in place of eating disorders and self harm. I just don't know how long I want my body to be the front lines of that battle.

I intend to have a child, from my own body, as I have written about here in the past. I want to ensure that my child has the best opportunities to nutrition and wellness and I believe that breast feeding would be a part of that. Luckily I have a partner with fully functional breasts, not discordant from her gender identity or presentation in any way, who is into sharing parenting responsibilities, in the best ways we can. She also feels that ensuring that our children can be breast fed is in every bodies best interest, but understands my feelings around maybe not keeping my breasts that long. Having that support makes the decision a little closer to easy, but it's still so far from anything decisive.

I discussed this with a friend who has a similar relationship to his gender, who had top surgery a few years back. He's said that for him, losing his breasts was a tough decision too, but that since surgery he's felt that much more able to play with his gender. I agree with this sentiment, as I have felt so much safer to fuck around with gender since being able to grow a beard. I am a fairy of a fag more than a butch or typical (if there is such a thing) transMAN.

I don't want to lose the opportunity of a free-ride surgery with one of the most experienced and talented surgeons in the country when it's been offered to me. I also don't know if I that is meant to be a part of my transition. I feel so in between. In between genders, in between transition options, in between defending difference and comfortably cutting my way into safe conformity, in between loving my body and hating the way it's looked at and treated by a world that doesn't have space for it.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

In loving memory of Deloris

I never thought I'd be a car person. Then I got hit by one. It's been a little over a year since I was struck in an intersection while riding my bike. The ways that this has impacted me are numerous, but this post is not about that, as much as how it changed my relationship to the automobile.

So as I said, I was struck, smashed from the side by a luxury urban SUV being driven through a traffic circle that crosses a bike lane and thrown to the road. I sustained numerous soft tissue and joint injuries, and my bike was close to totalled. It took me nine months of completely stripping down both my physical condition and also my ride to get them back on the road, and still, I have a limited capacity compared to before. About a month or 2 after the crash my parents told me that they were planning on scrapping their old car, and asked me what I wanted for my birthday. I was preparing to start a term of automotive class in January, where we were recommended to have a beater to work on. It all fit together quite nicely. I worked on the car, and developed a relationship with it. I hit the road in it in February to escape the Olympics, and found that her name was Deloris (or Del when feeling particularly butch). The first trip down the coast resulted in her heater core blowing out in Portland. I was lucky, and very grateful, for the man at the jiffy lube who showed me which pipes I could disconnect and bypass to avoid the 600$+ 2 day + repair. When I got back to Vancouver, my automotive lab partner and I disected the car. We took it apart far enough to get into the heater core (which sits under the dash, behind the instrument panels, past the steering column.) We got it apart, we put it all back together. It seemed like an endless project, and that made it that much better when we completed it. We put a new stereo in, as well as air filters, belts, a battery. We tweaked and tuned the accessories, replaced a couple tires, re-habed the brakes, balanced the wheels, replaced a CV joint on the drivers side axel. We went through the car finding problems, diagnosing them and fixing them.
All this was happening as I was going through physio, relearning ways to cope with stairs, sitting down for low things like toilets. Finding the right combinations of vitamins and pain meds to get through each day. I got to know Deloris as I got to know myself. Since the crash my medical situation has spiralled in complexity. As doctors try and figure out how they can classify my connective tissue problems I have taken at least 5 chest x-rays, 10 EKGs, 2 echocardiograms, a contrast CT, a spinal MRI, an abdominal and thorax aortic MRI w and without contrast, a stress test, numerous flexibility tests, body measurement procedures, opthomalgist's exam, a genetic screening, a chromosomal kereotyping, and have had my blood pressure taken at least 100 times. The doctors still don't know what's up.

After all the tests and repairs on Deloris we still had no idea how deep her problems ran. She was a life line for me, an access to mobility that I needed so much. She was a way for me to stay involved with community activities when the process of getting there was too much. I was able to become the sober driver. The helper who'd pick things up and make sure people could get home safe. I was the accompaniment to the big box stores, the access point to acquiring things that were just too big, too far for a bike cart or a transit trip. She was the easy ticket to the woods, making it easy to go berry picking, take dog adventure hikes, and go midnight swimming. I took her on my first date with my partner. Having a car played a big role in the role I could play in my community. As I had become the one who couldn't help move things, couldn't do the heavy lifting, the physically demanding, I had a tool, that even in a community of people who are "green" and socially conscious and don't like cars, they really appreciate having one around.

This past weekend I drove Deloris to Calgary. I was scheduled to have another series of tests done, still looking for answers to my body and it's challenges. I drove with a couple friends and as we crested the foothills and started the decent into Cow-town, she started to smoke. It was getting too hot, and there didn't seem to be much I could do to help. I added water to the coolant system, gave her a break and coasted in. We made it to 5 minutes away from our destination when she finally kicked it. We pulled over and added coolant, noticing that it was spurting out of the coolant flange. I got the part and replaced it. Probably one of the easiest repairs I'd done on the car, it had to be too easy. I went to start it up again. Dead. The battery had drained over night with an accessory left plugged in while I was in the hospital. Jumped. Still wouldn't go, we called a tow and then I noticed the broken wire between the starter and the battery. Reconnected these wires and then dismissed the tow. It was fine. Drove her down the hill and went in the house for dinner. I felt so relieved, as this was not just a matter of my car, my mobility, my way home, but also the way for my friends and the dog to get home. I had a sense of accomplishment that I had found, diagnosed and solved so many problems, all just on the side of the road, without help, with out a shop at my disposal. As I leaned over and fixed the wiring I was able to name and explain every part under the hood that my travelling companion inquired on. I felt proud and accomplished. After dinner we piled back in the car, and she was dead again. I The next day tried again, big jump from the tow truck got it going and we dismissed the truck, before noticing 10 minutes later as she sputtered and died that there was still coolant leaking from somewhere else. Somewhere less easily accessible. Luckily my friends mom purchased me an CAA membership on the Saturday, and by Monday morning it was activated and we were able to call the final tow on my account. We had it towed to a garage, and after a long day of waiting to hear the verdict, they finally told me, that her head gasket was most likely shot, and there was a possibility that her engine block cracked. Her water pump was gone and to fix everything it would take another day we didn't have and upwards of 1300$. There was no way I could rationalize spending that money. It was money I sure don't have, and more than the car is worth. She's old. She's tired. She's jenky and persnickity. So I took off her plates, pulled out that new stereo and drove away in a rental. I left her to be pieced off, or crushed, or maybe repaired on someone else's bill. But I had to leave her there.
The mechanic said that a lot of her little problems were attached to this big one. It was a number of symptoms that in a big picture were telling of something integral. It took so long, so many tests to find the problem, and even then, even at the giving up point, it could've been something bigger. Tests, tests, tests, small solutions to bigger problems. Big mystery problems that don't have names, don't have bounds, beginnings or ends.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Biological sex - gender

I am well aware that there are many people who have a gender identity that is in contrast to their hormonal sex, or biological appearance, and I am really exploring how those things feel for me as my body reassigns itself to female secondary sex characteristics.
It's been almost 6 months since I stopped taking testosterone. I was 3 weeks short of 3 years, and it had really worked its way through my body. My breasts had shrunk to almost nothing and my general muscle/fat distribution was doing things in a "male" sort of way. My face was sporting a full moustache and beard. I smelled like a man, talked like a man. Any situation that I wanted to pass in, I could, so long as I could keep at least one layer of clothes on.
I stopped taking T because I want to have a baby. I wrote about this back in April in the post "Paternity Pulsations". My feelings about that have changed, but only in the sense that I don't know that I will be a FATHER, per se. I have really had the opportunity to claim my genderqueerness this past year. Getting past the "neutral pronouns are too complicated and confusing for people" bullshit, to the point where I can admit that pronouns are complicated. Pronouns, and the genders attached to them are so complicated I don't know from day to day where I can fit within them. And I am finding myself really spun by the biological determinant bullshit that, politically and emotionally I refute beyond all doubt.
What I mean is, as my body is undoing the undoable effects of T (my boobs grew back, my beard has softened and I shaved it off, my cycles started again, I am capable of experiencing and expressing emotion with an intensity I hadn't seen for years) I am being sent on the roller coaster of SEX/GENDER. I am feeling that for me, my gender, and the way that I relate to it, and the ways I am challenged by it is shifting with my secondary sex characteristics. I find it hard to feel male as I am changing a tampon, but likewise I find it hard to feel male while I am changing oil in a car. I don't know about "feeling male", as I am not entirely sure what male is, so how would I know where to or how to feel it. I know what it means to be perceived as male, and I know that the less my body is feeling "male" the worse that perception/presumption feels. There are some parts of my body that will never be as they were pre-T. I am post-T, I can never be pre-T again. And I don't say this out of regret for choosing to go on testosterone. But I feel like my gender is BIGGER and more encompassing than one perceived biological sex can contain. This is where genderqueer feels like home, but also has its limits. I will not be losing my tits at any time in the foreseeable future. My face is not going to stop growing hairs either. I fall some where in between the boob-ed man and the bearded lady, while being both and neither all at once.
I know that this whole thing comes across as rather scattered, hard to follow and unput together. But, maybe that's the whole point. I am all over the place. I don't fit neatly in one, the other, or even the "other". I don't even do trans in a way that is expected or understood. The joys of being genderfull in a world that's still just starting to try and understand.