Penny's Story

A cute little drummer living her dream.

Archive for October, 2010

Bone Dry

TMI warning. This is one ~those~ posts that’ll be pretty personal and maybe graphic. If that’s too much, please consider this as one to skip.

So, less than a month ago I was lamenting that I was having a little bit of spotting in this post. I’ve also mentioned a few times that I’ve still been wearing panty liners everyday. I was having pretty random discharge, and so I didn’t necessarily need them everyday, but I had to wear them everyday. It wasn’t too bad, but I sort of started to feel like it was a perpetual thing that I would have to live with forever.

Well, within a couple days of that post I referenced, I had another experience of annoying spotting – fresh blood when I wiped after peeing and some discharge. I was as annoyed like I always was. I was still debating seeing my doctor about it. After all, I had surgery in February, 2009. I know my body heals slowly, but over eighteen months seemed like an exceptionally long time, even for me.

But then, as I was still putting off going to the doctor about it, it just stopped. At first I figured it was more of the same. I expected the discharge would reappear within a few days. I had times before when I would have no discharge for days at a time, and then I’d have a day with moderate discharge out of the blue. There seemed to be no pattern, but it seemed like it always came back. So at first I was hesitant was to get excited about a few days with no discharge. But the days stretched to weeks, and my liners remained dry.

I was skeptical. But the dryness persisted.

Finally, I decided to be brave and go without a liner in my panties for a few hours, and then a whole day. They were bone dry.

I’m pretty ecstatic. It seems like the internal granulation tissue has finally fully healed. It’s still possible that I could have some discharge, I suppose (I guess I’m still a little skeptical), but it’s been a couple weeks at this point, and nothing. So I’ll be braving it for a while, and I really think I’m through wearing liners, unless something unforeseen happens.

One slightly less positive side-effect of the healing of the granulation tissue is that I seem to be less self-lubricating when I have sex, which makes sense. That’s a minor annoyance, but something I can certainly live with. It’s better to be fully healed.

I think my healing has been very personal. I think it’s important to share my story so other folks contemplating SRS can see one potential outcome. But, like anything else YMMV, so I don’t really want to say that healing from SRS typically takes 18 months, or that in 18 months everything will definitely be perfect. This is my story, and is just one possibility. I share it just so there are as many possibilities as possible out there.

But, yay. Eighteen months after surgery I think I’m fully healed (yep, that’s ~slow~ healing right there). It feels really nice. And super yay, I get to stop wearing panty liners every single day.

Outing to the Darling Boyfriend’s Mom – part 2

So, I’m out. Or, I guess, we’re out.

I suppose it went well, but I’m painfully aware of why so many folks with trans histories keep that to themselves and never tell anyone. The questions about growing up “as a boy” and such are just really painful. I was never a boy. I was never a guy. I was never a man. Lots of people, myself included, mistook me for those things, but I never was any of those things. But explaining that is really Trans 201 (or perhaps even 301), and so when outing to someone with not much experience dealing with trans folk, questions and assumptions like that come up. And some of them did.

We went for a bike ride with the Darling Boyfriend’s mom, and while we were sitting by the beautiful water view, we made our move. Somehow we started talking about sports. I mentioned that I played baseball and basketball – the “tomboy” sorts of sports. The Darling Boyfriend said that at the time I may not have been thought of as a tomboy. He paused, and we exchanged a look, my look basically conveyed, “Go for it.”

And oh he did.

So out he comes with, “You see, Penny was born with ambiguous genitalia.”

Wow. Really? He went right to the genitals? Wow.

Yep, ~that’s~ my boyfriend.

I curled up in a ball (as much as I could sitting on a bench), but his mom was really sweet. She patted my leg and said something about family secrets. We went through the whole thing. That I transitioned about four years ago. That I had a surgery when I was 3. That I was married to a woman. That I went to an all-boys Catholic High School. That my friends were all beautiful and lovely during my transition.

She said, “So when you were little, you were a little drummer boy.”


I hate that.

She also kept saying that it was very interesting. I ~hate~ being interesting because of this.

I’m not mad at her or anything for the few statements like that. She was actually incredibly lovely and understanding. We sat on the bench and chatted for quite a while. The Darling Boyfriend’s father actually went to high school with someone who went on to become one of the first “big famous” transsexuals, which was really ironic (no, I’m not saying who it was). It’s just really tiring to deal with stuff like that. It brings me back to the time when people ~did~ think I was a boy. It’s just pretty painful to remember and face. But seriously, his mom was lovely. The Darling Boyfriend’s impression was that it went as well as it could have. I guess that I’d say that I agree with that assessment.

So, our plan is to have her spread it to the rest of the family. We haven’t asked her yet, and I’m not sure how she’ll feel about being enlisted in the outing process. I think she’ll be fine.

So, I’m out to his mom, and it seems like all is well. Yay.

Outing to the Darling Boyfriend’s Mom – part 1

So, tomorrow’s the day that the Darling Boyfriend and I tell his mom (and, by extension, his family) about my medical history of transsexualism. We’ve decided that it’s time to tell them for a few reasons. Our relationship has reached a point where it makes sense for us to be planning for a potentially long life together. We’ve both starting to seriously consider the possibility of growing old together. This, as the Darling Boyfriend says, is a way of increasing our level of intimacy. There are also day-to-day practicalities. I’m annoyed that I can’t share with them the joys of the camp for trans youth that I volunteered at this past summer, or the Laramie Project panel of which I was a part, or, more so, that my ex-wife is reduced to being labeled as “one of my best friends.” As much as that is true, she is a best friend, it changes the context to know that she and I were married. Finally, and I guess the deciding element is what has been happening to Nikki Araguz. When that story broke I joked with the Darling Boyfriend that I wanted his family to sign an affidavit saying that they know about my history. I do not ~ever~ want to be accused of deceiving anyone. To say nothing of it being just in my nature to be fully open and honest about my life with the people that are close to me. I’m getting closer to his family, so it’s time.

I confess to being a bit apprehensive about this decision. This is the first time I will be outing myself to loved ones in quite a while. I out myself all the time, but nowadays I seem to be outing myself more and more to strangers, and their opinions naturally mean less than those of people I care about. So the stakes are higher than they’ve been in some time. Also, the Darling Boyfriend has never really outed himself about anything, so this is totally new territory for him. He has cutely thought that it might come up in conversation the other times I’ve visited his family; to which I’ve asked the question: “How often do your parents ask about your girlfriend’s genitals?” It just doesn’t come up,and so it hasn’t. So we’re taking the bull by the horns and doing this as an intentional act.

I expect it will go fine. His mom is a lovely and intelligent woman. His family is quite liberal and supportive of gay civil rights. They are open-minded and not bigoted in any way that I’ve seen. Blah, blah, blah. And yet, I’ve been surprised before. The thing I’ve learned through all of my experiences with coming out is that it is unpredictable. People will have their reactions to knowing about my trans experience; sometimes the reactions are visceral, emotional. The Darling Boyfriend has two sisters and a brother. Each of them have a son. His nephews are every conceivable age: 2, 12, and 18. It’s quite possible that could color his family’s reactions. Still, we have to do the best job we can of telling my, and our, story, and then let them react as they will. That is what it is, and I can’t help that. I can only be me.

It’s possible that they will wonder why we waited so long to share this news with them. I guess to that I would say that, as the Darling Boyfriend says, this is about my personal medical history, and that’s not always something that people reveal instantaneously. The Darling Boyfriend feels that now is the time, and as this is his family, I have been letting him drive the bus on the timing of this decision. It’s also possible that they will wonder why they needed to be told at all, and I guess I feel like I addressed those reasons in my first paragraph.

Now’s the time.

There is also the irony of October 11th being National Coming Out Day. We’ll be a day early.

So, wish us luck.


The Project of Laramie

So, the other day I saw a live performance of The Laramie Project. It was the first time I had ever seen it in any form. I also got to see the ten-year epilogue, The Laramie Project: Ten Years Later. Both plays were extremely moving and very well directed and performed. I cried lots. The first play I attended alone, while for the ten-year follow-up I was accompanied by the Darling Boyfriend.

I confess that I vaguely remember the play when it first was done. I certainly remember Matthew Shepard’s brutal murder, but I was still so confused and hiding in 1998 that I couldn’t fully connect with any efforts to make the world better, even from afar simply as a spectator. I was also a little old; I’ve been amazed at how many young people saw the play (or performed in it) in their high schools. Truly amazing. But in 1998, when Matthew Shepard was killed, I was still agoraphobic, repressed, depressed, and even though I at the time thought I was bisexual, I was in deep denial about being trans (even though I knew, ya know? I suppose that’s what “denial” means), and I had never connected with, or really felt connected to, the queer community. So I felt horrible when Matthew Shepard was murdered, but I didn’t connect fully with the fact that I too could be ~hated~ like he was.

Now I joke that, even though I’m a straight woman, my history of transsexualism grants me a lifetime all-access pass to the queer community. That might sound glib, and I really hope it doesn’t. But in some respects I do find it interesting that it was only after my transition that I have felt comfortable embracing the queer community. And while in some respects I feel more like a straight ally, there’s no denying that my history gives me a certain perspective. I have a place in the world that it is what it is, and for me that means a connection to the queer community that will always exist.

And so the plays hit me very strongly. Matthew Shepard was killed because he was gay. We’re approaching the Transgender Day of Remembrance, when we remember folks who were killed in the previous year in hate crimes. I feel that I live a pretty safe life, yet there’s no denying that some people are terrified by my existence. I believe that most hate comes out of fear, and that the unknown is often the scariest thing around. [That’s why, as much as I used to think I would gradually live a fairly stealth life, I’m still telling my story so often and so publicly: if folks are afraid of the unknown, I want them to know that people like me are just ordinary people, and being so open seems the best way for me to do that.] But the reality is that I could be a victim simply because of who I am. I don’t live in constant fear or anything, but it is a sobering thought.

Anyway, the first play tells the story of Matthew’s murder. We meet Matt, members of the community, and the murderers. It is a very complete picture. There are reports from the young man who found Matthew, tied to a fence, clinging to life (Matthew died six days after the attack), the first officer on the scene, and the Emergency Room doctor. The play is a dry account of the townspeople’s words, but it is anything but flat. The words weave together into a compelling narrative. Laramie is a portrayed as a pretty normal town, the proverbial “any town,” with its own character, of course, but a sense of community that is strong and vital. The play introduces us to several gay townsfolk, almost all of whom find Laramie a mixed bag of a place to live. Perhaps my strongest emotional reaction was when the play introduced Matthew’s father.

It feels impossible to give the play a fair synopsis, beyond simply saying that it tries to tell the very complex story of how two young men brutally murdered another simply for being different than them and the community’s reaction to that crime.

The follow-up play, created ten years after Matthew’s murder, tells the story of the town now. I was saddened but how much some of the town’s residents have rewritten history. There are rumors of drugs and robbery (there were no drugs found in any of the three young men’s systems – and the investigating officers were livid at such assertions). There is the sense that the “New York Media” fabricated the hate crime to push their agenda. There is a protectiveness about the town by its residents: they don’t like Laramie being known for a hate crime. The problem with their thinking, to me, is that by saying “it could have happened anywhere,” they’re missing the point that, yes, it could happen anywhere, and that’s why we need to work to end hatred – everywhere.

Perhaps the most disturbing thing about the second play is the 20/20 report from 2004 which planted the seeds for all the false rumors about Matthew’s murder. The circumstances of the show, it’s obvious agenda, it’s treatment of the real evidence of the trial and investigation, which amounted to ignoring facts in favor of salacious rumor-mongering and victim-blaming was just shocking. At one time I watched 20/20 pretty regularly. I was disappointed that anyone considered a journalist would so distort the truth. Really sad.

There was a very touching part of the second play, when a bench at the University of Wyoming was dedicated to Matthew Shepard, and his father spoke. He had an obviously broken nose, and he told how when Matthew had been alive the two had an informal “competition” going to see who would break their nose more times. His father said that when Matthew had died he was ahead 3 to 2, and that now he had evened the score. And oh how I cried.

Both plays were powerful beyond anything I was expecting. It is so sad that we can let our fear and our hate so get the better of us that we can be driven to such horrible acts. Just sad.

As part of the plays production there were a couple panels organized. I actually sat on one. It was called “Be Part of the Solution” and we talked about ending hate crimes and programs and such. I ended up talking a lot about the camp for trans youth that I was a part of this past summer. The panel included some real heavy-hitters (someone involved with the Matthew Shepard Foundation, someone from GSLEN, someone from GLADD, the director that put on the first high school performance of The Laramie Project, and a couple others). It was sitting on that panel, and realizing that I belonged with the heavy hitters, that I finally realized that I have indeed become an activist. It was a heavy realization.

“Penny Larson, activist for transgender equality.”


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