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If I ever go on injectable Estradiol I am so calling it "Liquid Wench."

Work did department photos recently. Here's me!

Managed to snag this shot with a camera phone. It was in a display with great lighting already.

I think I figured out part of my surgery misgivings - I still have extensive swelling. I'm told it's rather late in the game and am being advised by friends that a gyn visit is a good idea, which terrifies me.
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I can't remember the last time I posted anything here. Life goes on.
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Interesting day Monday.

I worked a half-day, having my wife drop me off in the morning then pick me up at 12:30. We drove to the to a nearby hospital campus where I had a consultation with a plastic surgeon who does FFS.

This consultation was for two procedures: Facial Feminization Surgery (FFS) and Breast Augmentation (BA.) For FFS it involved a lot of me telling her what I don't like about my face. It amounted to a bit of brow ridge work and eyebrow lift, rhinoplasty, cheek implants, and liposuction under my jaw. Also with some attention to an old scar above one eyebrow (where I was hit by a golf club my brother swung - truly an accident - when we were both little.) For BA it involved her performing a breast exam on me and then an experiment that I describe as a more clinical version of stuffing socks into ones bra. She had demonstration models of the implants (Mentor Memorygel models) in various sizes; she'd hand me one of the size and I'd slip it into my bra then see how it looked. Curiously, 300cc and 500cc both looked good, while the 400cc didn't. I didn't think I would but, from the experience, I'm giving serious thought to 500cc implants.

Later in the afternoon I had a Skype consultation with another surgeon. I made a decision that I would do BA locally so this was just for FFS. It amounted to the same as above, but she does fat graft for the cheeks.

What struck me was how different this felt than when I dealt with SRS. I felt that I had a measure of agency that wasn't present with SRS. There's none of the gatekeeping, hoop-jumping, etc. I got to discuss with a plastic surgeon what I would like to change about my body, much as any other woman could.

Updatiness!

Aug. 4th, 2013 01:27 am
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I've had some rough days of late, and the last week was particularly nasty; probably the worst I've had since having suicide ideation over a year ago.

I submitted my essay to the ABC-CLIO editor for inclusion in a perspectives chapter of a book about LGBT issues. The feedback was wonderful.

I had a rough couple of weeks. Depression simply kicked my ass, probably not helped by me having briefly run out of my SSRI.

Friday saw things begin to get better, and date night was lovely. I did have a new experience at work midday: a technical meeting in which were 10 women and 1 man. I've never been in one where there were more women than men before. There was a late afternoon work do at a sports pub near work to celebrate my former manager's new job (still with the company but a different division.) At one point, observing that the coworkers seated across from me were named Bill and Ted, I remarked, "Excellent!"

We went to a GastroPub in Durham named G2B for date night. It honestly wasn't bad, but it's not going to be my favorite place. It's tapas style and their thing is meats and beers. I'm not a beer drinker, though their cocktails are okay. We did their large plate selections, both of us picking the dry-rubbed hickory smoked hangar steak, which was very good. I found the establishment by looking up who had listings in Open Table. We like exploring our adopted hometown (it's more home to both of us then where we grew-up) and some of the incredible offerings it now has.

Saturday, Angela had to work so I was off with 10 other women for a morning of kayaking or canoeing and swimming on the Eno River followed by a potluck lunch. I think I now feel the best I have since mid-May.
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As I write this, it's just after dinner in the Eastern Timezone. I'm in Montréal, Quebec, Canada, at the recovery residence of Drs Brassard and Bélanger. I will be released tomorrow, spend that night and the next at a Bed&Breakfast in Laval, and fly back to Durham on Saturday.

On Tuesday, May 14, a nineteen year fight to have my body on my terms finally ended with me victorious. I finally feel that my res cogitans and res extensa enjoy unity; I am whole and at peace.

On to the rest of my life!
agent_dani: (Dressed-up)
There is an old phrase, of dubious attribution, that says, "May you live in Interesting times."

An aspect of my life, particularly transition, is that I do so. It affects my life in a thousand odd ways, such as the fun of having a vasectomy in my prior medical history.

Two more interesting items are in my coming days:
1: On Monday evening, Duke University Medical School's Gay-Straight Alliance is holding a Transgender Health Panel on which I am a panelist. The audience is approximately 40 medical and nursing students. I am preparing both the brief introduction the MC will use for me, and what I wish to say (each panelist is asked to speak for 5-10 minutes, then the panel will be heavily driven by audience questions.)

2: An acquaintance from a book club where I am out as a trans woman (it was relevant to a point of discussion in Cheryl Strayed's "Wild" about names - she wrote something that meant a great deal to me) is writing an article about transgender people for the North Carolina Psychological Association's newsletter an will be interviewing me.

At this point, I am willing to do these and be part of the community. It is an amount of paying-forward a debt when I benefited from those who came before me and who helped me. There will come a day when I stop, because I need to simply move on with my life and have closure of this chapter, but there is good that I can effect today.

Work stuff

Mar. 11th, 2013 04:38 pm
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Had my annual review in late January. My manager changed several of my self-eval rankings, all to increase the rating. I walked out of the meeting with an "Exceptional Performer" overall rating, the second highest. We also talked about some career moves to a different team, which interests me.

A week later, in our weekly 1:1 meeting, he told me he went to HR to reopen the review as he needed to change a rating - he wanted me to have "Distinguished," the highest.

Last Friday I received word about annual bonuses; got 14%.

Today I received word that the move to the other team will, in fact, be a promotion - I'll officially be a Senior System Administrator.
agent_dani: (headphones)
My surgery confirmation packet arrived Saturday. Aside from a mystery $75CDN still on the price (the initial documentation I was sent gave the price for SRS as $19,300 but the contract has $19,375) everything is in order.

Unfortunately, the one thing I don't have is a sense of confidence in this. I feel very conflicted. What if this is a mistake and I will regret it, even if only spending the money on something that has come to mean so little.

Then again, I think back and know I was certain about it at past points. How much of the uncertainty is the years of gatekeeper bullshit?

I just don't know, and doubt I ever will.
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This took me a while to be able to write, most out of fear that saying this would hurt friends.

Perhaps the most painful thing about 2012 was seeing a number of good friends realize their goals of surgery. I want to be absolutely clear here that I am so very happy for them, and that procedure for them as such is not at all what this is about.

What I found difficult was that many of them began transition well after I did and were able to have progress that I was heavily and intentionally prevented from having in spite of my strong desire to have it. The news brought with it that internal pain - that I had been powerless to change it and yet it still cost me years that I spent living my life on hold until therapists and physicians deigned to grant me permission. Even at the end of it that was made clear, for having no objection left to raise as I had met all of their requirements, they still sought to avoid writing the permission slip for me to have access to surgery.

This came soon after the prescription change that plunged me into depression, and I can't help wondering how much the two were intertwined and part of that night when I first had that horrible vision in my mind (there have been others.)
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I looked at this blog post today: http://www.librarygeekgirl.net/2012/11/28/ill-say-it-again-be-awesome/ While reading through it I came upon a phrase that spoke to a problem about how privilege and oppression work.

"Now, the next transperson who runs for anything will have to deal with the shade of Stacie Laughton, and re-build the trust–not just in New Hampshire’s Ward 4, but all over the US–that she has tampered with."

The short form of this is explained by xkcd: http://xkcd.com/385/

In the longer form, I'd like to introduce you to one Bob Bolus of Scranton, Pennsylvania: http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/bolus-makes-another-quixotic-bid-for-office-1.21654

He's a convicted felon who keeps trying to run for elected office even though the conviction is an absolute bar to his ability to legally hold the office under the Commonwealth's constitution. He tried to run several times in my years living there, and, apparently, tried again since I moved (and had another conviction.)

These two illustrate a specific property of privilege versus oppression on an axis of (non-)membership in a minority group.

1: Bob, as a white, middle-class (at least,) cis man, is seen as an individual actor and not representative of all white, middle-class (at least,) cis men.

2: Stacie, as a trans woman, is seen as reflective of all trans women. There are possibly additional axes present for her; the sentence I quoted above does not regard those and I do not have that information at this time (I'm inclined to presume that, given the charges of which she was convicted, a certain financial situation at least recently was present.)

Bob, by being a white, middle-class, cis man, enjoys the privilege of not having his actions be taken as representative of any/all other white, middle-class, cis men.

Stacie, by being a trans woman (again, with the additional axes caveat,) is taken as reflexive of all trans women.

WHT* post.

Nov. 27th, 2012 11:27 pm
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1) What’s your name? Dani

2) Who has been most supportive of your transition?

This is a difficult question to answer. In one sense, it would be my parents, as they never had a moment of doubt. In another, it would be my wife, because she had to go a long way to be able to accept and support me, and it was an often painful path for both of us, dealing with various issues such as being a lesbian couple. Years later she would write, "I see again the person I married."

3) What do most enjoy about your life since beginning transition? That is, what are some of the things you love doing now, that you couldn’t do before? And if you’re not there yet, what about the possibility of transition excites you the most? What do you look forward to?

I'm in the midst of it, and the only thing I can say that I look forward to is looking back on transition - that it is in my past.

4) Who are your trans role models? or Who have you looked up to in the trans community? Who inspires you? Whether it’s someone you know, or someone you’ve admired from afar, this is your chance to give a shout out.

I can't say there's really anyone. I've learned some important things about putting people on that pedestal - when they fall, both get hurt.

5) What change(s) would you most like to see in the world?

To have my experiences of transition, which are of heavy-handed gatekeeping, become a thing of the past for everyone, never happening to others, so that they don't know what it is to be told that transition can't be right for them due to their hobbies, clothing preferences, sexual orientation, or lack of interest in surgery. I do include non-binary IDs, though that was not one of the issues I encountered (I ID as woman.)

6) What are you doing to make those changes happen?

At present? Nothing, as I still need their permission to progress in my transition, which makes it impossible to speak against them without risking repercussions. In the future, when I'm free of that? I plan to undertake some projects to raise the visibility of better, particularly Informed Consent resources in the region.

7, tell us something, anything, special and unique about you, your interests, your story.

I'm a survivor of many things. In addition to the gatekeeping above, I have survived physical and emotional child abuse, and medically sanctioned sexual assault. I have not allowed that to define me, but I do deal with it, accepting that it is a part of who I am and has an important impact on how I view and interact with the world.

I grew-up on a dairy farm in rural Pennsylvania; the sixth, and final, generation to do so.

I have one sibling, with whom I do not have contact.

I have been married for thirteen years and in that relationship for seventeen.

I'm a hobbyist photographer.

I learned to ride motorcycles eight years ago.

I'm an IT professional who is early in a promising career for a certain software company, having spent many years doing IT support work in university environments before this. It's been an incredible move for me, as I've had more career progress in a single year at this company than in most of two decades at the universities.

Also, if I had to begin transition again, knowing what I do today, I would not do it. It's not that I regret what it is intrinsically, but that it has meant pain for too many I love because of a society that is cisnormative and heteronormative. My heart breaks every time my parents have to navigate holidays when they want to spend time with their family but certain segments of it will not be present if I am. I deal with transition providers (perhaps more than most - I've had three different ones for my HRT alone) who project their stereotypes onto me and require that I fulfill them to be granted the endocrinology equivalent of crumbs from their table - years of doses that could not reasonably be expected to accomplish the reason they were prescribed. Ultimately, to be plunged into suicidal depression as a result of those approaches to HRT; a problem with which I struggle to this day. It's that I regret these external factors of which I have no control.
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I don't often get political here; this is my exception. I feel that the results of today's election are more important to me than I have for any past election. I realize this is a bit verbose; if you want to understand a bit more about me, please do read this.

The past four years have held amazing amounts of change for me. Things I could only begin to imagine possible - an future so incredible that I was just starting to see what could be - have come to be reality in my life. Granted, a lot of this is in my private life, but significant aspects are from policies that have come under this administration.

One policy change in particular had a quick, positive, and direct impact on me. In the early fall of 2011, there was a change in the employment eligibility verification system: the gender field, which had been optional for a number of years, was no longer accepted. While this might seem small, even insignificant, to most, it was far from that for me. This was a common way for a discrimination against trans people to happen; due to various laws and policies, many of us have periods where our lived gender - the one in which we live and interact with the world, and are viewed by others - does not match the one that government(s) consider us. I am no exception to that. If the employer entered a gender marker that did not match the one on record for the employee a "gender no match" letter was generated, notifying the employer of this. While I never experienced this, I know people who have, and the experiences they had were across the range of possibilities.

Less than two weeks after that policy change was in effect I was contacted by a recruiter for my current job, and I had already been planning to change jobs. I don't think there's any way I can fully express the relief I felt, knowing that I wouldn't have to face having that job taken away from me a few days into it, or a confrontation, which may not be handed with proper decorum, because of that letter.

I'll wager that many of you never give that process a second thought. Please try to understand what it is to have had to be so very aware of it and know that it could be used against me in a way that had nothing to do with its designed purpose, and then to have that institutional oppression removed from my life.
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Today, October 11, is National Coming Out Day.

I want to preface what I write here with a simple, vital statement: coming or being out is a decision each individual must be given the freedom to make for themselves, and the choice or need to not be out on the part of a given individual must be respected. Additionally, when you do know about someone’s history, please be circumspect about discussing it, as they may have environments in which they are not comfortable having such discussions, and they may have areas of their life in which they are not out.

A fact of my life that I haven’t kept remotely hidden is that I am lesbian. I am out about that in all parts of my life.

Only somewhat less known is that I am a transgender person, specifically a trans woman, which has been a lengthy, sometimes painful, and overall rewarding path in my life. On a note of usage: “trans” is an adjective, requiring a noun to modify. There are parts of my life where I am not out about this. I am intentionally not out at work due to the price I can reasonably expect that being out would bring - I know someone who was because they transitioned while employed there and were subject to some poor treatment, such as being required to use facilities inconsistent with their gender.

I have endured a great deal to get where I am, including things some of you probably can’t imagine: I was threatened with being involuntarily committed, had medical and mental health professionals attempting to enforce gender stereotypes on me, i.e. that women musn’t ride motorcycles or must wear skirts and heels, and lost family. However, I have gained so very much more, including a fantastic amount of professional success.

I am also poly, but am in a monogamous relationship so that aspect is largely academic.
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I really don't seem to be able to catch much in the way of breaks when it comes dealing with the various professionals for transition. Sure, I've not had a lot of major issues (there have been some, no doubt,) but there are just so many little issues that have meant various couple days to weeks delays, and it really adds up.

Today I received word from the surgeon's office that they have not received the second letter. I put that in the post nearly three weeks ago, so it's most likely AWOL. Fortunately, I insisted on having a second copy for my own records, so I can fax a copy of it to the surgeon's office tomorrow.

I learned to do this after the problems with my first endo and getting a copy of my own HRT letter; it was two full years after the letter was written before I had a copy, and with no Informed Consent providers operating in the region then, that matter amounted to iron-fisted therapist control over ones transition.

Obviously, this latest isn't a major issue, but I have to wonder just how far out the asymptotic probability curve my particular combination of issues (some big; a lot small) has run.
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Apparently, my first therapist did manage to get some letters written in a timely fashion through the summer, allowing people to meet the requirements to get dates with the same surgeon in the later part of this year. This was during the time that she was unresponsive for me, taking months to write mine.

This makes for a clear pattern of behavior. She intentionally made longer requirements for me for both access to HRT and surgery. When, due to life circumstances, the longer requirement for a surgery letter didn't impact me she went out of her way to cause a delay (and, for the record, it did cause a delay of my surgery date, but not a significant one.)
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On Tuesday I had a Noon appointment scheduled with a new therapist to see about getting a first letter since Kimball's office had been non-responsive for a month. At 10-11 that morning, I called her office again, reached one of her staff, and learned that my letter was written and about to be faxed to the surgeon's office!

I went to the therapy appointment anyhow, owing to the late lead time for cancelling and that I didn't actually have a copy of that letter yet (I requested that they send me it; they did via e-mail and it arrived as an attachment in a proprietary file format.) I still don't have a serviceable copy of my own, but I do know that the surgeon's office has received it.

This comes four years to the day - and nearly to the hour - after my first session with Kimball.

On Wednesday I received two copies of my second letter, too.

It's over! I've finally won that gatekeeping battle. I have cried so many tears of relief and joy this week that I can't express it. There's nothing left but to wait for mid-May to arrive.
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This post will probably get a little dark. I assure you that I am okay, just not great right now.

I've struggled with thoughts of suicide. Last night I realized that one of the more powerful motivators against it for me is that if I did, my death would be used as part of the fucked-up justification supporting ever more restrictions of the bullshit sort that I have endured for four years (and counting.) That's how it works with gatekeepers and their supporters - that people have problems under that system is used as proof that the system is good. That I have any regrets from dealing with the process, even that those regrets are of having to deal with the bullshit, are taken as proof that it is necessary and needs to be made even more stringent.

I describe myself as both lesbian and a trans woman. While neither can be truly separated for me because they are tightly intertwined, they are still distinct in many ways. One example is that I am comfortable being out as lesbian at work but I am not comfortable being out as a trans woman at work. There's a simple reason at play: being out as lesbian does not put me under undue scrutiny while being out as a trans woman will. It's a matter of familiarity; lesbian and gay individuals aren't so foreign to them and, thus, the actions of one aren't so much used to judge all. I know that I get a significant amount of that already as a woman in a part of the IT field which is very much overwhelmingly male; being out as a trans woman would most likely make me the only one they know and that has the effect of putting me under a microscope that I do not want.

I am also asexual, which doesn't factor into this point, though I have had punitive treatment from medical professionals for that reason.)

I feel even more that I sold my soul. With the customer last week I was directly supporting something with which I strongly disagree. Also, a part that I didn't say from the therapy appointment, was seeing someone I know, who is fairly early in transition, walk in for the next appointment as I was leaving, knowing I had effectively just reinforced what was being enforced upon her.
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They say that every person has their price. I used to pride myself on not having one, but this week I discovered in a major way both that I do and what mine is.

From a more personal and moral position was my Wednesday session with my first therapist for a surgery letter. To get that I had to agree to (claim to) fit so very many trans tropes and stereotypes. Some do, indeed, describe bits of my life (i.e. that I knew from a very young age) but I have a disagreement with those being a required part of this process because it is part of claiming invalid the gender of those who did not have those experiences, and I deeply hate having to be a part of that. My choice was to be complicit or to find another therapist and delay surgery by a year.

On a professional side, I have long said there were places for whom I would not work because of my own disagreements with what they do. Tomorrow I begin a week of doing work for such an agency as part of my job. It means being able to afford surgery.

I've made my choices; now I need to live with them and find my peace.
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1376 days...that's how long it's been since this journey began; how long since I began the fight for proper medical care.

Today, while at work and, fortunately, in my office, I received a phone call from Planned Parenthood, a follow-up on the dose increase I requested at my last appointment, which couldn't be done at the time because the physician was on vacation (I see a clinician.) The answer given to me today was, "so long as you understand the risks, there is no medical reason to not increase your dose." I got the increase that I requested!

With those words that nearly four-year battle ended. I closed my office door and began to weep in joy and relief. It's over; it's really over.
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