Penny's Story

A cute little drummer living her dream.

Archive for September, 2010

Me and Old Photos

I’m sure I’ve written about pictures before, but it seems to come up from time-to-time. It’ll probably come up less and less, but there will always be a gigantic gap in my photographic history. At least the part I’m excited about looking at or comfortable displaying. In the last few days I’ve been hanging some pictures on the wall in my living room. There used to be a big mirror there. And then I decided that pictures would look nicer there, so I got this huge mosaic print with all these different pics of me and my ex boyfriend. It was something like 40”x60”. Naturally, when the ex went, so did the pic. Which left the wall over my couch empty. It stood like that for quite a while.

One of the things that the Darling Boyfriend has been requesting, in the pursuit of making my house more his home, has been to hang some pictures of his family on the wall. I realized that the living room wall would make a great place for pictures of important people. I can procrastinate, and I have, but I’ve finally gotten around to the project.

I’ve been hanging and sorting pictures for the last couple days. I have tons of pictures of my family from both my mom’s childhood and my grandparents’ childhoods. I have some pictures that are so far back that I’m not even sure who the people are. I have pictures of my parents’ wedding, my grandfather’s soccer team, and my grandmother’s confirmation, among lots of others. There are now tons of pictures on my wall, with a few more to be hung. It makes me feel so good having friends and family on my wall; it makes me feel as though they’re always with me.

As I go through old pictures, though, it always hits me anew: I’m really uncomfortable with lots of the pictures of me. There are pictures with my mom, and my grandparents, and my ex-girlfriends, and old friends, and my ex-wife, and even one with my dad. And I look at them all, and I feel disconnected from them in a way that just stinks. I look at the man I tried to be, and I barely know that person. I look happy in lots of the pictures, and as much as I was broken before, it’s nice to know that I did have some happy moments. But I have trouble recognizing the person in the pictures; I know it was “me,” but it doesn’t ~feel~ like me. And that makes some of the pictures feel foreign in a way that’s uncomfortable, and perhaps difficult to explain. Hanging pictures of me and my mom, or me and my gram, or me and my grampa, or me and any of my old bands, or me and any of my ex-girlfriends, or me and my ex-wife just seems wrong. Not wrong in the sense of a bad thing, just wrong in the sense that when I look at those pictures I don’t feel the connections between me and those people – I just see the pain I used to be in. I see these pictures and I wonder what could have been if I had been right all along. Maybe I would never have met some of these people, but maybe we would have had relationships that were even better. Maybe my ex-wife and I would have just been best friends all along. Maybe my mom would have had a daughter right from the start to dress in frills and bows. Maybe I’d have married and not gotten divorced and already have my family.

See?

The pictures trigger some heavy, not-entirely pleasant lines of thought.

And I’m not even really talking about how I look in those pics. Bluntly: I look like a guy.

I have some friends who can be so unabashed about displaying pictures of themselves before their transitions when they have beards and the like, but I just can’t do that. But some pictures of me pre-transition have made it on the wall. There’s a couple of me and my mom when I was very little, and my parents’ wedding picture. And I realized that it seems like facial and body hair are the biggies for me. When I look at pictures of myself when I was very young, I can see a girl dressed like a boy. I joke that I was butch, and such a tomboy, and that my mom was so silly dressing me in blue. But once my hair issues began, it’s hard to look at those pics and see ~me~. And so there are no pictures of me from when I was 13 (my parents’ wedding) until I was 36 on my wall. It’s a big gap in the “history of me.”

And I can be sanguine, and say that I do love my life right now, and I do. But I would be wicked lying if I said that those pictures didn’t remind of the way things were to supposed to have been.

And I really hate that I don’t have any pictures of me with my gram.

But the wall looks very nice.

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Reclaiming the Flannel

When I was in high school, I wore flannel shirts almost every day. It was a Catholic school for boys. The dress code was pretty chill: shirts with a collar (pretty much of any kind) and pretty much any kind of pants besides jeans. I got sick of flannel shirts, but they were good at hiding my breasts, and so I wore them a lot.

I still wore them after high school, though with much less frequency.

I have not worn a flannel shirt since my transition.

Until the other day in Atlanta.

The Darling Boyfriend let me borrow one of his shirts to bring with me to Dragon*Con. He doesn’t wear flannel too much, but he let me choose from a few shirts, and this one just seemed snuggy. I wore it as a jacket on our last night in Atlanta when we went out to a pub for dinner. I had reservations about wearing it. It’s amazing how much emotional weight an article of clothing can carry. Flannel shirts are strongly associated with high school for me, one of the worst times in my life – and one of the periods when I was most trapped and repressed and shame-filled. So it was with some trepidation that I put that shirt on and wore it out.

I actually thought, at least in the deep recesses of my brain, that a flannel shirt would suddenly make people see me as a boy again. Perhaps I’m making a mountain of a molehill, but I was worried about being mistaken for a man when I put the shirt on.

But then we got to the restaurant, and it was all, “Hi ladies.” And the like. And all was well.

It’s funny that I still have worries sometimes. And yet, it’s only been four years since I transitioned, and it had been 36 years of trying to present as a man, so it makes sense that some of those fears would be deep enough to surface every now and again. Especially when there’s something that has a strong association with the Before Time.

Flannel. Powerful stuff. Who knew?

Dragon*Con 2010

So, I just got attended my first Dragon*Con. It was pretty awesome. I very much hope it will not be my last.

I got some cool pictures of the parade and some awesome costumes. I went to some super-cool panels about feminism, gender, nuclear power, dealing with police, adult themes in Star Wars, steampunk fashions, skepticism in education, G-d in sci/fi and fantasy, and several others.

Some highlights from the weekend were:

The Venture Bros. panel was cool, but I really didn’t think it was worth the hour-long wait in line. It was neat seeing all the folks being excited about my favorite show and it was very cool seeing the clip of the upcoming season. However, I realized that I generally don’t get all that worked up about seeing celebrities (with at least one notable exception below), and so waiting for this panel convinced me to not wait in similar lines for the rest of the weekend.

The Clone Wars panel was super-cool. I’ve heard the cast interviewed before, so I knew they were all just down-to-earth lovely folks. I love the show, and the discussion was fun and informative.

The Browncoats: Redemption Firefly fan movie was super-awesome. Go to the website and buy it and see (it’s all for charity!).

By far the most memorable experience of the weekend was the q&a with Avery Brooks. He spoke for about an hour and took questions from the audience. He talked about the importance of the “ing,” as in “do-ing,” “act-ing,” “chang-ing,” “liv-ing.” He said that trying to remove anyone from the planet whether for race, or oil, or gender is creating a malignancy. He spoke of making the world better. And I cried at least three times. I was inspired, moved, called, and ministered to. I had always loved Avery Brooks’ roles and acting, but seeing him speak I feel like I am now a fan of Avery Brooks the man. I even asked him a question about the spirituality of Benjamin Sisko in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, and how his own spirituality helped him to play that role. It was towards the end of the time, so his answer was fairly brief. He talked about simply having the spiritual grounding by just being a man. The power of his speech, the penetration of his eyes (even through tinted glasses), and the general elegance of his presence all contributed to this being an hour I will never forget.

I did buy some art, as I am wont to do at cons, because it seems like a good way to personally memorialize the con for me as a special event. I got a print by Jasmine Becket-Griffith called “Skulls and Stars” and a print by Kate Lebherz-Gelinas called “Expecting.” Both pieces are just very ~me~ and are lovely additions to my slowly-growing meager art collection.

I went with a friend, and was super-great to spend some time with her. We did lots of stuff together, but also went our own way for things. I realized that this was the first time since my transition that I had traveled with a female friend for a vacation. It was very cool. We had lots of fun and I feel like our friendship is even stronger than before. Yay!

So, yea, Dragon*Con good!

[here are the pics]

Trans Camp

So, a couple weeks ago I was a camp counselor at a camp for gender-variant and trans kids. It was a sleep-away camp that lasted for a week. I’d never really gone to a sleep-away camp, so I wasn’t completely sure what to expect. Also, it was the first time ever for this camp (or, I believe, even for a camp like this anywhere), so we were all sort of learning as we went.

I can’t begin to say what an amazingly positive experience it was for me, to say nothing of what it meant for the kids. The kids were stellar, and it was just really special to be in an environment where everyone got it, and everyone could just be normal. I swear that I got as much or more from the experience than the kids did.

I even got to teach drumming to the kids!

Just a brief note, because there is too much to say that words can’t encompass.

If you want to make the world better, work with kids. They are the next generation…

Another trip to the Doctor

I had a follow-up with my PCP today. I’m sort of getting tired of doctor visits, but at least my doc is awesome.

We talked about the uterus/no-uterus stuff of the last month. We talked about the “non-specific soft tissue” that I apparently have. It seems likely at this point that I’m just destined to have questions about my body that will remain forever unanswered. But, my doc made it clear that she’s game to help me go as far as we can to resolve these questions. I have a follow-up with an endo at the end of the month when I’ll get the results of a karyotype test. After that my doc said that she’ll order an MRI. That’ll most likely be the end of the trail, unless something unexpected is found (like, oh, I don’t know … a uterus (okay, yes, I’m being flippant)).

My doctor said that she thinks I’m unique. We both agree that I was fairly well differentiated with a body that was mostly male at birth. But I continue to believe that there was something different about my body. And my doctor thinks so too. It feels amazing to have an ally. I think this is the first time I’ve ever felt like I had a doctor that really got it. And maybe it took that test result saying that I had a uterus for her to totally see, but it really feels like she’s got it now. She saw how jerked around I felt by that, and she understood that I should feel jerked around by it. So, maybe I’ll still never find out my answers, but at least I feel like I have someone who’ll help me look as long as it’s practical.

It’s just nice to have a doctor not think I’m crazy…

Sucker Punch

I feel like I now have to process a loss for something I didn’t think I had until four weeks ago. I feel like I’ve been sucker punched.

I emailed my surgeon about the report saying that my “uterus … is within normal limits.” She said that I don’t have a uterus. She essentially said that unless she mentioned it at the time there wasn’t anything that she noticed as worth noting about my body. Which, I suppose, is kinda weird. Not, “there’s nothing in the notes” or, “your chart shows…” Just, “If I didn’t mention it, there’s nothing there.” It felt maddeningly vague in the way that I always feel doctors talk to me about my body. She also made a heartless joke about the (lack of) possibility of me menstruating, which made the whole conversation really frustrating. She also said some things that I believe to be patently false, so while I believe her generally about my body, it does make me wonder about her opinions of intersex conditions in general.

I got home from a vacation today to find the initial report that started this whole thing waiting for me, with this addendum:

“Initially what was thought to be a uterus, actually is non-specific soft tissue in the rectovesical space, which could be a Mullerian duct remnant. No well defined full-size uterus is seen.”

Dammit.

I frickin’ knew it.

A month ago I had no inkling that I had a uterus. Why would I? When I saw the initial report from my CT scan I was bowled over. I was given something that I hadn’t been seeking, that has now been yanked back. I really am quite tired of doctors messing with my feelings, whether intentional or not.

I tried really hard for the last few weeks to stay detached from the possibility that I might have a uterus. I honestly felt it seemed like too big of a discrepancy.  I had this sneaking suspicion that it was just another way that doctors were, intentionally or not, messing with my head. But of course I sort of built up some emotion around the idea. I began wondering about “my uterus” and such. This hurts, and I’m not even sure why. It’s not like a uterus with nowhere to go would do me any good anyway.

But dammit, how can I feel like something I never had was taken away from me?

And still, the answer always seems to come back to: “Well, there’s something weird about your body, we just don’t know what the heck it is.”

Gee. Thanks.

I guess I just feel like my dealings with doctors in the last few weeks has sort of gone like this:

“Hey Penny, guess what?”
“What?”
“You have a uterus.”
“I do? Wow. Cool. I guess. Maybe. Weird. But cool, sure. Definitely cool for some inexplicable reason.”

“Hey Penny, you know, about your uterus?”
“Yea?”
“Psych!”

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