Penny's Story

A cute little drummer living her dream.

Archive for March, 2009

Transgender Day of Visibility

   So, apparently today is the first “Transgender Day of Visibility.” I say “apparently” because when I google for the phrase, I have very little success in finding anything remotely official or organised-looking. I’ve seen it mentioned in a few places, including on Facebook, but it seems very underground. That’s fine, I guess sometimes I just think that there are more transfolk than there are. I was hoping there’d at least be a domain dedicated to the day (you know: “www.transgenderdayofvisibility.com”) or something. But, whatever, maybe that just proves the point of why a day like this is important. What could be a better example of transfolks’ invisibility?

   I struggle with this sort of thing all the time. I’m pretty comfortable identifying as a woman nowadays, with no prefixes or suffixes, and the rest of the world seems pretty happy with that as well. I didn’t ask for the physical anamoly of my birth, nor am I particularly proud of the fact that I’m transgendered (I’m not the slightest bit ashamed, either, mind you), yet it will always remain a part of the history of my life. That’s one reason I really dig the phrase “woman of transsexual history,” because it puts the fact that I am a woman front and center, but also acknowledges my history. But for most people that I encounter during my day, I’m “just” a woman.

   So, how do I work on my “visibility” as a transperson?

   The real answer is that I’m not sure. I’m out to pretty much everyone who knows me, I blog very openly about things, and I’ll answer even the most prying questions from relative strangers. But I still usually think I could be doing more. I guess today when I went to Walgreen’s I think I was supposed to wear this shirt proclaiming my transsexuality for all the world to see. I can’t help it, when I go about my everyday life, everyone sees me as a woman. As I said in a recent post, I’m not trying anymore, it just is what it is. I don’t know how I could ~more~ visibly trans without handing out business cards to everyone I meet, and I’m not going to do that.

   I think this is one of those issues within the trans-community (such as it is): the folks who integrate and blend well in their “target gender” tend to just sort of recede into the woodwork, so the folks that are left to be “visible” are the folks that have trouble integrating into their target gender, or the folks who have less interest in blending anyway (genderqueer people, androgynes, and the like). Women who are like me seem to be much less visible, especially post-surgery. Sometimes there’s an argument in the trans-community that in the popular vernacular most people think that “transgender” and “transsexual” are synonymous (they’re not). I am both transgendered and transsexual, but one can be transgendered without being transsexual (my boyfriend, as a crossdresser, would be an example of that, actually). But, lots of people think that since I’ve had my surgery I’m not any sort of “trans” anymore (I’ve had a few of my cisgendered friends ask me that, actually). For the record, I will always have a transsexual history, so I still include “transsexual” in the littany that is my identity (“woman” comes before “drummer,” and “drummer” comes before “transsexual,” and “transsexual” comes before “Swedish,” and so on). It gets so confusing, so many folks that are visible as transgendered people are visible only because they feel they have no choice, and many people that can blend just do (wouldn’t you? it’s pretty tiring sometimes being the “visible transperson” in a room full of cisgendered folks).

   And I have mixed feelings about women like me being totally invisible when people think of transgendered folks. Most transfolk I know are just everyday folks, going about their lives, but in the popular imagination transfolk are the extremists of gender transgression. Sometimes I feel invisible both as a transsexual living in a cisgendered world, but also as a very gender-conforming woman in a world which considers transgendered folks as gender-rebels. 

   Huh.

   This seems like one of those posts wherein I ask a lot more questions than I find answers. I’m never sure if I’m visible enough. I’ll talk to almost anyone about my life and my story, but I don’t run around screaming that I have a transsexual history in crowded restaurants either. It’s a very fine line. I just want to live my life; I’m a woman with a fairly interesting history, and I’m part of a very small and very misunderstood minority. I guess I just do the best I can.

   Happy First Transgender Day of Visibility.

   🙂

The Never Ending Outing

So, I got outed today, which is a weird thing to be able to say since I’m pretty much as out as I can be. At the same time, it’s not like I make sure everyone that comes into contact with me knows every aspect of my history, including the fact that I’m transsexual. I usually don’t make a point out of telling people anymore, but it comes up sometimes as I get to know people just because it’s an integral part of my history and it has a lot to do with me being me.

So getting outed is weird and sort of pointless. I don’t really want to detail who outed me and to whom, but I’ll just say that the person that outed me doesn’t even know me, and they outed me to someone that I haven’t met yet but am planning on meeting very soon. The bizarre thing being that I felt like this person should be told, and I was planning on being part of telling them as soon as our first meeting (if not sooner). So the “outing” really is just goofy in the grand scheme of things.

And yet, why do people think that they have the right to spread my personal details around? Yes, it’s very true that I live my life as a ~very~ open book, but when someone goes out of their way to tell someone something about me (and it’s always that I’m a transsexual, it’s never that I’m Swedish), it kind of rubs me the wrong way. How about letting me decide who I share my details with? Is it really relevant to anyone but me and my boyfriend what’s in my panties? (which, ironically enough, is now ~A VAGINA~! {yes, fine, I love saying that}) I don’t think it’s anyone else’s business; I share as much as I do because I think it’s important to have as many transsexual “success stories” floating around as possible. I went through my share of hell; I know that being transgendered can feel like an impossible burden to carry; I want people to see that you can turn things around and succeed in the face of it all.

It’s been a very long time since I got outed, which I think makes sense considering how open I am about my life – it’s pretty hard for anyone to find someone that ~doesn’t~ know that I’m a transsexual. And I guess I naively thought that after surgery I was beyond being outed. Nope; apparently as long as I have the history that I do (which obviously will be forever) I have the potential to be outed.

All this does is make me want to scream from the rooftops: “I AM A TRANSSEXUAL, AND I ROCK!”

“Bad” words

Lately I’ve been reading a lot of things written by transgendered folks about the word “tranny.” It’s made me think about “bad” words and political correctness and the context of language and ideas and how we conduct ourselves in a polite society.

First a disclaimer: I don’t mind the word “tranny” when applied to transgendered folks (and specifically me), it’s always struck me as cute and playful (and anyone who knows me knows that I’m cute and playful). I use the term “tranny” fairly often myself, though less often than I once did. And yet I certainly don’t approve of hateful language directed at transgendered folks (or any group, for that matter).

So where’s the line?

I often like to say that context is more important than specific words, but there are words that I find offensive in any context [“she-male;” “he-she;” and “chicks with dicks,” for example], so there must be more than just context. Or perhaps there are words that simply carry so much baggage that they bring such a specific meaning as to have their own context that is difficult or impossible to alter. Words must have meanings, after all, or communication becomes impossible.

Should we “outlaw” certain words? If not by law, then by social contract? That’s how we ended up with the “n-word.” Is that really a good idea? I don’t think so. I’ve even heard people say that “tranny” is transgendered people’s “n-word.” I don’t want an “n-word;” I don’t think that’s helpful in any way.

What seems to make the most sense to me is to encourage people to use a careful heart when choosing their words. Words are powerful and they should be chosen deliberately. I don’t think it’s a good idea to jump on someone just for using a certain word, but by the same token I think people have a responsibility to use emotionally-charged words in a way that is consistent with what they mean. There are people who want to say provocative things, even people who choose to knowingly say patently offensive things; I’m not saying that these things shouldn’t be allowed, but I am saying that you should be aware of what you’re saying, and use those emotionally-charged words carefully.

Perhaps the philosophy that I find the most troubling is that “trannies” are allowed to use the word “tranny,” but “non-trannies” aren’t allowed to use the word “tranny.” I think that is absolutely ridiculous; talk about the very definition of segregation. I’ve been around transgendered folks who have used words in ways that I have found incredibly reprehensible, and I have been around cisgendered folks who have used supposedly “us-only” words in ways that were respectful and made perfect sense given their context. I find the entire concept of words that only the members of a group are “allowed” to use as completely antithetical to any sort of community-building; we’re either all in this together or we’re not. I’ve always hated any sort of “us vs. them” mind-set, this is no different.

So, don’t chastise people for using specific words, ask them to clarify their thoughts. Be patient with each other. Be careful with each other.

Each to their own journey

I was talking with a friend earlier and she said something about being “behind the curve” in an area of her life related to other people. My response was to say that there is no curve because we’re all on our own journey.

It got me thinking about my own journey…

Lots of transgender folks live their lives wishing that things had been different. I went through a pretty interesting path myself, including an extended period of denial and repression and then a few years when I got lost in my own regrets and bitterness.

And then I got better.

I’m still not sure when things turned around. I know I had been working very hard at it for several years, and it seems like everything came together last summer. I guess it, like everything, was a process. And so, of course, it’s an ongoing process.

But this morning, after chatting with my friend, I realized that my journey has been special and magical. I could get caught up in thoughts of how my life could have been better, but I don’t have time for that. My life as it is has taught me lessons that most people could never dream of. I have learned to value simple things that most people take for granted. It’s easy to see your journey however you want to color it; almost everyone’s life has painful hardships and untold blessings – which ones you focus on really give your life its flavor. I choose to count my blessings; I choose to see my personal journey as something unique and special; I choose to believe in things I can’t see.

I have learned to see my way around my obstacles; I have learned to take pain in stride; I am happy with what I have accomplished and yet excited to do more. My transition was part of my journey that was particularly arduous, but it was incredibly rewarding; how could I possibly wish that it hadn’t happened?

Of all the surprises of my last few years, the fact that I have become so resilient is one of the biggest. Just a couple years ago I felt weak and powerless. Now I feel strong and happy and peaceful. My journey has been difficult at times, but it has taken me past beautiful vistas and amazing relationships.

Everything I have seen leads me to believe that my journey gets more amazing from here …

I can’t wait to see what happens next.

🙂

Sinking In…

I have a vagina.

I have a vagina.

I.

Have.

A.

Vagina.

It’s been three weeks since ~the surgery~ that transformed my body into what it should have been all along. It’s gradually sinking in that I have the correct parts. Having spent 38 years with parts that were just wrong was exhausting. One of the biggest differences I’ve noticed since surgery is that the noise in my brain is gone; there was always a gnawing, nagging awareness deep down in my soul that something was very wrong; it has just evaporated. It’s been interesting getting used to this feeling. I can’t think of an analogy that feels right; I just feel ~right~, calm and peaceful in a way that I never have before.

Before surgery I tried to keep everything in perspective; I knew that surgery in and of itself doesn’t really change your life. And yet it seems like if anything I underestimated the importance of surgery. Now that I’m on the other side it’s surprising how different I feel. I look at my body and I can just smile. The change is more profound and inexplicable than I could have imagined. How many different ways can I say that having the correct body feels amazing? And the interesting thing has been that having a vagina feels wonderful, but ~not~ having a penis feels equally good. Yay.

As far as healing, it goes well. The swelling has gone down gradually, though my left labia remains larger than the right. The suture line that opened on my left labia seems to be healing from the inside out, which is pretty much what I expected it to do; there is very little blood or discharge. My clitoral area is still very numb, but seems to be healing well. Dilating is easy but boring and takes forever (my therapist joked that I’m making up for all the tampons I never had to use – ha!). Overall, considering that surgery was almost exactly three weeks ago, I think I’m more healed than I expected to be at this point.

I have a vagina.

Wow.

I had to work really hard to get here, but I was right: having the correct crotch is something truly special.

I.have.a.vagina.

Hooray!

Redux: Penny’s Excellent Adventure

[This is part of my ongoing diary about my SRS experience in Trinidad, Colorado with Dr. Marci Bowers. See the main page here: Penny’s Excellent Adventure.]

So, I’ve been home for a week, it seems like I should do a little wrap-up of my wonderful trip to Colorado that I dubbed, in my inimitable style, my “Excellent Adventure.” It was everything I had hoped it would be and more. It was truly the trip of a lifetime.

I am so glad that Jayme was able to be with me for as much of the trip as she was; it was amazing having my mom and Alana and Wendy and Sarah with me as well. Before surgery I was able to have so much fun with Jayme; climbing Capulin Volcano with Jayme was one of the most amazing experiences of my entire life. I had never been in that part of the country before, and I was blown away with the beauty I saw. The Garden of the Gods was magnificent.

Everything about my surgery was about as perfect as I could possibly have expected. My surgeon was wonderful, her office staff was brilliant, the hospital was great, the nurses were beyond amazing, the Morning After House was warm and cozy, and the town was sweet and lovely. I would recommend Dr. Bowers to anyone considering GRS without hesitation. The whole package that I got was more than I could have imagined. I had some misgivings about having such a major surgery two thousand miles from home, but having been through it, I would make the same decision again in a heartbeat.

My healing goes well. There’s still more swelling than I’d like, but there always is when it comes to my body, and it gets better every day. There is basically no pain. Dilating is fairly easy, though very boring.

I wish I had some brilliant way to wrap-up this whole experience, but it seems beyond words. This was my wish that I never expected to be fulfilled, and yet here I am, after the fact, writing about it. It happened. It was as incredible as I thought it would be. When I got home, the first time I saw my whole body in a mirror (seeing my face and my vagina in the same “picture”) it was an incredibly moving experience. I am whole.

This adventure of mine was indeed most excellent. And the neat thing is that I have a feeling that my journey isn’t over, but that it has only just begun.

Correcting the Errors

I’ve jokingly said in the past that I considered my having been born with a penis as similar to someone being born with a cleft palate. It’s very clear to me at this point that I’ve always been female, I was just saddled until recently with a very interesting quirk of my birth. Just as a cleft palate doesn’t have anything to do with the gender of the person with the birth anomaly, having the wrong genitals doesn’t imply anything about one’s gender (the saying in the transgender community is that “sex is what’s between your legs and gender is what’s between your ears”). So, I pretty much considered my GRS as a matter of correcting that physical issue of my genitals not matching my gender (that’s why I don’t mind the phrase “Sex Reassignment Surgery,” because my gender has always been female, it was my genitals, or sex organs, that needed to be corrected).

Anyway, today I corrected another error that had been made at the time of my birth. Because babies are gendered based on visible genitalia (which works for most folks, though it leaves us trans-folk completely unrecognized), and I had a penis when I was born, my birth certificate mistakenly recorded my birth as that of a boy. Today I was able to amend my birth record to correctly list my birth as that of a girl. (I sat and stared at the damn thing for a while after I got it – seeing the space: “Name of Child: Penelope Jane Larson” was just mind-blowing.)

I think I’ve pretty much corrected all the errors surrounding my birth at this point. There may be one or two small ones left, but it feels really, really good to have official documents recognize who I truly am; and who I always was.

Yay.

Day 13: Penny’s Excellent Adventure

[This is part of my ongoing diary about my SRS experience in Trinidad, Colorado with Dr. Marci Bowers. See the main page here: Penny’s Excellent Adventure.]

6:21 AM:

~Don’t~ wanna be up this early. I am tired, and I am not looking forward to the very long day ahead of me. First I have to go through the whole rigamarole of getting ready, then the two-hour drive to Colorado Springs, flight to Dallas, two-hour layover, flight to Boston. I won’t be home till midnight, and the first thing I’m gonna have to do when I get home is dilate. No wonder I feel exhausted already.

 

12:10 PM (MST) – Colorado Springs Airport:

[I wrote some frustrated stuff, and I’ve decided not to print it, but I did feel I should acknowledge the big edit.]

An interesting thing happened when I dropped off the rental car; I asked the guy if I could get a receipt inside, and he said, “Yes, sir.” And then immediately corrected himself (he was obviously embarrassed at making the mistake, actually). Something is different even just since surgery about my confidence. I noticed that he did that, but it didn’t bother me at all – at all. I’ve been gaining confidence over the last couple years, but it seems like I might finally be “there.” Whatever, I’m a woman, all women are occassionally mis-gendered (as are all men); it happens, it’s a mistake on the part of the person speaking. It no longer feels like I’m being “read,” it feels like the person made a mistake.

Something completely unexpected is that I’m actually feeling very well rested. The drive was long, but not bad. Checking in at security was interesting. I had to declare my prescription vaginal gel, and my bag seemed to take a little extra time – I wonder what they thought of my dilators. 😉

 

5:15 PM (CST) – Dallas/Ft. Worth Airport:

Nice flight from Colorado Springs to Dallas. An interesting thing I noticed was that adjusting my position while sitting is tricky with my current level of healing. I ended up sitting pretty much in the exact same position for the flight; my right hip got very tired by the end of the flight.

I called my mom and Tim when we got to Dallas; I miss my boyfriend a lot.

 

1:29 AM (EST) – home:

I was right, I really wasn’t in the mood to dilate when I got home, but I did. Wow, I am really quite tired. It feels nice to be home. I feel like there was something profound I wanted to say, but it has left me, and I’m much too tired to hope for it to return this evening.

Good night, and the Adventure has come to an end (I’ll probably do a redux in the next couple days).

Thank you to everyone who prayed for me, kept me in their thoughts, or however you want to describe expressing positive energy toward another.

Day 12: Penny’s Excellent Adventure

[This is part of my ongoing diary about my SRS experience in Trinidad, Colorado with Dr. Marci Bowers. See the main page here: Penny’s Excellent Adventure.]

8:51 AM

Okay, on my blog there’s a feature that lets me see the search engine terms people have used to find my blog. My absolute favorite was this morning: “pee after srs.”   lol

So, this morning I had to do, like, ~everything~: pee, poop, dilate, shower, apply ointment. Whew, I am exhausted and I just got up!

 

2:55 PM

So, even though I’ve moved out of the Morning After House my roomie and I are still hanging out. I brought her some flowers, and she treated me to a massage. I think I got the better end of the deal. I’ve never had a proper massage before; it was pretty damned awesome. I leaked through onto my bed pad last night, so the whole time I was on my back at the massage I was worried about leaking. even though I had just put on a new pad (I didn’t leak – thank god!). Once I got on my stomach I was in heaven.

Said goodbye to Carol and my roomie, and now Sarah and Wendy and I are going to go eat Mexican food, then we’ve got to basically pack up all our stuff tonight, as we’re off by 9:00 AM. Part of me is excited to come home, but part of me will always stay here (stop the dirty-mind; that’s not what I mean  – a piece of my heart belongs to Trinidad).

 

6:31 PM:

It seems like I’m already increasing my depth ever-so-slightly when I’m dilating. I’ve only done it four times, and it seems pretty easy. I’m certain it’ll get annoying and I’ll get sick of it, but so far so good. I think I’m getting boring. I feel like the interesting parts of the journey may be pretty close to over; it seems very appropriate that I’m flying home tomorrow morning. I am looking forward to my own bed and my own shower.

 

9:13 PM:

So, basically packed. How the hell did I buy so much clothing while I was here? My suitcase is brimming with stuff. In twelve hours we’ll be on the road to Colorado Springs Airport, and in just about 24 hours, we’ll be back in Boston. It’s amazing that for so long I thought I would be stuck with the wrong body, and now I’m going home from Colorado with my vagina. This certainly has been a dream come true and the trip of a lifetime.

Day 11: Penny’s Excellent Adventure

[This is part of my ongoing diary about my SRS experience in Trinidad, Colorado with Dr. Marci Bowers. See the main page here: Penny’s Excellent Adventure.]

7:22 AM:

So, it seemed like the bleeding from the j-tube drain had slowed considerably before I went to bed last night, and the swelling also seems like it’s gradually getting better. When I met with my surgeon before surgery, she told me that the thing I would need the most of during my recovery would be patience; it seems like that’s proving accurate.

Today I finally get my catheter out – yay! Also, the packing in my vagina gets taken out. There’s something like 30′ (that’s thirty ~feet~) of packing inside me; no wonder I’m still waddling.

So, I get to actually see how much of a mess I make when I pee today (I’m going to make a mess until the swelling gets considerably better).

I also have to start dilating today. Since my vagina was surgically constructed I have to dilate it to help keep its shape and depth and width. They gave me the dilators the other day, and all I can say is that I’m very intimidated – even the small one is ~big~. Like, ~big~. So, I’m very excited to get the packing out, but I’m kind of nervous about how dilating is going to go, especially at first.

 

7:57 AM:

Okay, so I’m rotten, but I’m pretty glad that I’m out of Boston during the crazy snow today. It’s not like I’d be able to shovel anyway, but a foot of snow? Damn.

 

8:00 AM:

Hmm, gonna be a busy writing day apparently. The tears are getting crazy; I can’t stop crying tears of joy; I am just so happy. There is peace and joy and bliss and … and … I have ~never~ felt like this before – I feel magnificent.

 

9:25 AM:

All showered and ready to leave the Morning After House. I’m definitely riding mood-swings; for a few hours I’ll feel like I’m doing great and right on track, and then I’ll feel like it looks horrible and is too swollen and taking too long. I’m thinking this is pretty normal for this process, but it’s kind of emotionally taxing.

 

3:49 PM:

Back at the hotel. I’ve been to the doctor, been “un-packed” and de-catheterized. The dilating process was so not as bad as I was fearing. There is enough swelling that the doctor made that “concerned doctor” face, but she settled down pretty quick and essentially said that patience should resolve it, and within three weeks the swelling should be way down. I actually got up to the middle dilator and didn’t feel pain at all. I mentioned the blood to the doctor, and she said, “You’re a woman now, get used to it.” And I said, “Hey, no making fun of the new girl.”  😉  Yep, I really like my surgeon (she said that she likes me too).

After the doctor Wendy and I went to lunch and then to the Social Security office in town where I changed the gender marker on my Social Security file. Big, big YAY!

 

4:28 PM:

I forgot that while I was on the table at the doctor’s office dilating I was using my hand mirror to see what I was doing. I turned the mirror just a little so I could see my face, and I said to myself in the mirror, “You have a pussy; and you have a dildo up your pussy.” I confess that it made me feel pretty awesome. I’m such a goofball sometimes.

😉

 

6:38 PM:

I peed! It was easy! It was definitely a bit of a spray, but it was much less messy than I was expecting. An interesting thing that I noticed is that when I used to pee with a penis, there would be the pee that would come out when I relaxed my muscles, and then that would stop, and there would be a few drops left that I would squeeze out. Well, now there’s nothing left to squeeze; I just relaxed, and the pee came out and then it stopped, and then it was done. I knew that was how it would be now, but it was still an interesting thing to actually experience.

 

11:01 PM:

So, my first time dilating without the doctor’s aid was a little trickier, but I still managed to pull it off, and again I’d say there was no pain involved. I even would say that I enjoyed it (like, really, I wasn’t trying to get excited or anything, but I was definitely feeling some very nice sensations, even while just sitting there trying to stretch); yay. When I was cleaning up I got a really good look at the suture line that’s opened up a little, the swelling and all the structures. At this point it looks like most of the blood is actually coming from the open suture line. Even swollen and red and bruised I’d say that I’m pretty damned pleased with my vulva.

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