One year ago we were impatient and nervous to inject that first dose of testosterone. We knew it wouldn’t change anything over night, but we truly had no idea how much it would change our lives over the next year. My hand shook as I pulled back on the syringe to measure out the clear liquid. I was cautious and strategic in my actions, making sure I was doing every thing exactly as the pharmacist had explained to us. This morning I did the same, for the 53rd time…only this time I was groggy from just waking up. No longer nervous, the steps have become a Thursday morning routine. A routine I have perfected, almost able to do in my sleep. I know the 18g needle is used to draw up the liquid, and there should be no air in the syringe which would prevent an accurate measurement of .5cc. I know to change the needle out to a 21g before I inject. I know how to check the injection site for any signs of a vein or prior bruising, wiping with alcohol as I inspect. I know what it should feel like when I push the tip of the needle straight through his skin and into the muscle. I know how to hold the needle steady and how to avoid making him bleed. And I know that next week we will do it all over again.
That first dose, and the 51 others which followed over the past year have changed his life. They have changed OUR lives. In some way or another they may have even changed the life of everyone reading this blog. That is why I document this journey, because everyone is impacted in some way by it. I don’t say that from an egotistical point of view, I say that because transition affects everyone we come in contact with. This is something I didn’t know would happen when this journey started. From doctors and nurses, waitresses, strangers, friends and family, acquaintances and silent followers, everyone we have stopped and taken the time to interact with, to have a conversation with, or who reads this blog and returns time after time, has been affected by this journey.
I could write a page, or ten, about this past year…but you always get to hear from me. This time I feel it is most appropriate to hear it directly from him…and he is finally ready to break his silence. The following words are written by Laine, they are his real, raw and honest reflections of the first year of this lifelong journey.
With my 53rd injection this morning, today marks day one of my second year of transition. I got up this morning and I shaved my sparse facial hair. Yes, it’s finally growing at a rate where I need to shave every few days for work. I can’t believe it’s already been one year since I began masculinization hormone therapy. During the first chapters of my journey, I was so impatient, time was moving slowly and I was beginning to think I would never have any facial hair or be referred to as sir by anyone, ever.
Someone recently asked me, what’s been the best part about transitioning so far. It’s the incredible confidence I feel in being authentic and true to myself and coming out at work. Thanks to my awesome therapist, I understand and have embraced that my transition has never been, and will never be, JUST about me. And I’m speaking only for me. My transition has affected almost every single person I have interacted with since coming out in early 2015. Looking back, I remember being so worried about how I was going to come out at work and struggled a bit with where to begin. I should have known better considering the amazing company I work for and their commitment to diversity and inclusion. While I did struggle with some of the steps for coming out at work, I understood the need for the approach and more importantly the value and am extremely proud to have worked for this company now for almost 30 years.
Then the next question was, of course, what’s been the largest challenge. The highs and lows. I wish I could tell you the last 12 months have been completely filled with confidence and happiness and all that is good. I am not going to tell you that lie. The lows were difficult and happened way too often. Prior to beginning my transition, I viewed myself as having myself together on most days. And if I didn’t, at least I appeared I did. I should have known with that very first, and surprisingly intense hormone crash, less than 2 weeks after my first testosterone injection, this was going to be one of the biggest, if not the largest, roller coaster rides of my life. Even with all my change management experience and managing change risk, I wasn’t as prepared as I thought I was when it came to knowing and understanding just how testosterone was going to affect my body, my mind and my soul. My therapist, Dianne, and nurse practitioner, Tracy, have had, and continue to have, a crucial role in helping me navigate the storm within me. Dianne, as a very experienced and knowledgeable care provider for the transgender community, quite frankly didn’t accept any of my shit. I am not a fan of therapy at all, but as my session draws near each month, I actually look forward to it and evaluate my experiences since the last session to identify what we need to address. There is always something that needs to be addressed. I truly can’t imagine not having Dianne along with me on this journey.
And then there’s Tracy, my nurse practitioner who has a passion for what she does and while not highly experienced…yet… in providing transgender care, her commitment to my health and my well-being surpasses every single doctor I have had care for me…EVER. Her willingness to listen to me and acknowledge my concerns is a dream come true when it comes to a medical health care provider. She spends time talking to me and getting to know me. Being her first trans man client, I am honored to work with her and to know she wants only the best for me and will spend endless hours researching, reading and asking questions to ensure I am getting the best care possible. Some may say I’m foolish, but to me, she is a gift. Every three months I get my labs drawn and we review results. This approach has allowed me to avoid medications to address concerns with numbers for blood pressure, red blood cells and diabetes. It also allowed us to identify the growth of fibroids that had remained unchanged in size for years prior to starting testosterone, which then led me to a complete hysterectomy in March. During my hysterectomy surgery experience, I found myself again working with care providers that had no experience whatsoever with trans men. And again, they listened, they understood and hopefully they learned. Throughout the last year and all the health providers I have chosen to interact with, I have not had a single bad experience. And most have never had the opportunity to provide service or care to a transgender individual. I found by choosing to be open and transparent, my experiences always yielded a positive result.
My support system has been and remains incredibly exceptional at work and at home. I work with the most amazing people at work and I am so grateful for their support. But I truly now need to shift my reflection and appreciation to the woman in my life who has endured it all; the good, the bad and yes, the ugly. She has had to process the mood swings from lover to bastard so many times that I sometimes question how it’s even possible to love someone that deeply. But she does love me that deeply. She never gives up on me even when she says she does in a moment of anger. You all know her as Melanie, my fiancée. To me she is my everything every day; my therapist, my care provider, my partner, my friend, my lover, my heart and my soul. Without her, the last 365 days would have been unbearable at times. And while I made many of those days unbearable for her, she has remained steadfast and unwavering. Don’t’ get me wrong, she had days where she just wanted to give up on me. Hell, I wanted to give up on me. I know there are many transgender individuals who would do just about anything to be loved by someone the way she loves me. And to be loved like that during transition, it’s so rare and exceptional. For that reason, when I step into behavior which is not reflective of the man I want to be, I only have to remind myself of how wonderful my life is and just how lucky I am.
To sum up my first year of transition, I’m the happiest I have ever been. I wish I could find the words to share what it feels like to finally live my life as the real me. Those words are elusive at this time, but the confidence is growing, the self-esteem issues are decreasing and I am working on making mirrors a place for affirmations versus self-degradation.
For now, I am looking forward to my upcoming top surgery in June and have high hopes this will help me eliminate any remaining negative talk and be the last obstacle standing in the way of Melanie and me embracing our dream to travel and educate others through the sharing of our story.