Different Paths….Similar Stories

I feel that when I come here to write, it should be focused on some major event, deep thoughts or a really good “guess what happened today” story. However those things don’t happen daily and the fact is, our lives are really no different than yours. We are two adults raising 4 children and creating a life together. We have work, volunteering, pets, ups, downs, a wedding to plan, bills to pay and at some point we eat and sleep. The fact that we have to take an extra 5 minutes out of every Thursday morning to give Laine a shot of testosterone, is only a very minor factor in a world full of normal chaos.

That being said, I haven’t been here in a few days…did you miss me? (Bulgaria I’m fairly certain YOU did.) Life has been crazy this past week, or rather life has been normal. Nothing out of the ordinary happened, no major life changes took place, yet we haven’t really sat down all week.

We arrived home from Philly on Sunday evening. Within 2 hours, 2 of the 4 children arrived back home. By 7 am Monday morning, all 4 were reunited. Keep in mind this is summer vacation at our house, so there is consistently someone who is bored, whiny or being tortured because they are asked to take out the trash.

Laine returned to work on Monday morning, and my part time job required max hours this week. Between kids and work, I am also devoting massive hours to organizing the Phoenix Pride Silent Auction for the upcoming Gala. What I’m saying is, life cuts into my writing time. 🙂

After being at the conference in Philly last week, I walked away with a few thoughts. First major thought…Laine definitely made the right choice in surgeons. We sat through multiple presentations by multiple surgeons from all over the country. Dr. Curtis Crane presented the very last surgical presentation we attended. We went into the presentation already scheduled with his office for an August consultation. We walked out 110% certain this will be the only consultation we need and will be able to move forward from there without consulting with any other doctors. His professionalism, yet welcoming humor and personality eases this process for the patient and their support providers. His process (NO DRAINS!!!) is his specialized and perfected technique, which is proven to successfully shorten the pain and healing time. His extensive training shows through in his presentation and in the photos of his work. (Yes, this is a huge benefit of attending a conference like this where multiple doctors present themselves.) After the presentation we introduced ourselves to his business partner Dr. Satterwhite, the Dr. that Laine’s phone consult is scheduled with. For dinner that evening we went to Hard Rock, and guess who was seated at the table next to us…Dr. Crane and Dr. Satterwhite. Upon leaving the restaurant I interrupted his dinner (Sorry Sir!!) to thank him for an awesome presentation and for putting so many of Laine’s questions at ease even before his one on one consult. He stood up and shook both our hands and didn’t even mind that I caught him right in mid-bite of salad.

One of the most impactful workshops for me was presented by Denise Maynard. She presented a workshop for partners of Trans* individuals. This type of workshop is a minority at the conference, but she did it and she did it well. I only wish it was a double block or a part one, part two, two day workshop. She begins by telling her story about her partner transitioning (FTM) and how it impacted her life. There is some minor small group conversation and then it turns into a Q&A open conversation for anyone who wants to speak.

As partners, we have to transition throughout this process too. Some of us handle that transition easier than others. There are a variety of ups and downs, many of those within the same day, or even within a few hours of one another. As we discussed in the workshop, it is similar to raising a child. The hormone treatments cause parallel puberty effects, the changes in some cases are like starting over with a newborn, in which you don’t know what to do, because they don’t come with an instruction manual. You have no choice but to dive in headfirst and hope you know how to swim.

I listened to many other partners speak; I believe they were all cisgender women, but their partners were a mix of MTF and FTM. A few of them were still very angry, and for some it has been awhile since their partner began this process. They felt betrayed, hurt, and grieved a loss of who their partner was prior to beginning this journey. I sat and listened to the anger in their stories and I almost felt guilty. I never went through this phase with Laine’s transition. I was never angry with him, never felt like he lied to me, never felt the loss the others spoke of. Is this wrong of me? I don’t know. But I can’t force myself to feel something I don’t.

I attribute this lack of negative emotions to the fact that his transition began so near to the beginning of our relationship. Yes, we knew each other for almost a year prior to becoming a couple, but we truly got to KNOW one another when I started asking those questions (see the“Becoming Laine post). The changes I saw within him almost immediately once this journey began, left no room for any feeling of loss. I truly feel I didn’t suffer a loss, in fact I only gained the REAL Laine. I gained the person he has been all along and no one has ever allowed him TO be. I have no reason to feel any sense of loss, because since that day he came out to me, it has been an every growing mountain of authenticity and of him giving himself fully to me in every way possible without any holding back, no hesitation. I have seen the changes within him and his level of happiness and confidence is so much greater than before, I can’t imagine him NOT being on this journey.

So no, I didn’t experience any grief or loss throughout this process. Is it wrong, I don’t know, but it’s my path and for me it is right. Am I saying others are incorrect in their paths when they DO suffer that feeling of loss or grief; Of course not!! We all have different stories to tell. We all process things differently and deal with emotions in very different ways. For those partners who were sitting in that room and expressing their anger, I’m certain they found comfort in others who have gone through the journey on a similar path. I found comfort in the stories of anger of strangers mis-gendering one’s transitioning partner. (A huge pet peeve of mine and it’s good to know I’m not alone.) I related to the stories of dealing with the transitioning partner’s hormonal mood swings where one minute you want to kill them and the next you want to throw yourself in front of a moving train to protect them if that’s what it takes. I am almost certain everyone in that room related to at least one other person’s story in some way, shape of form.

That is why I tell our story here. If this story, OUR story, impacts just one other person…if one other individual can relate and it makes a difference in their world, then I have been successful. One day you will come here to read this blog and you will leave with a feeling that you are not alone. Someone in this world, (maybe you personally know Laine or me, and maybe you don’t) shares a similar piece of your story, no matter how large or small. When you leave with that feeling I hope you will remember how it feels to not feel so alone in this great big world and then maybe you too will tell your story, in whatever format that looks like, and you can pass on that feeling to someone else.

Advertisements

“Excuse me SIR, would you like a drink?”

We made it to Philadelphia! I’m fairly certain this is one of the most trans* advanced cities in the U.S. Today City Hall raised the Trans* Flag for the first time in city history, how cool is that??? Not to mention they have a city ordinance in place that includes gender protection and they are working diligently with their local police department to implement and uphold policies for interacting with the Trans* community.  That being said, even with as forward moving as they are, they still face the same issues as the rest of the country, a Trans-woman was murdered here just last month. There is still so much work to be done, it inspires and exhausts me all at the same time.

The keynote speakers today were powerful. The youth speaker reminded everyone in the room that we each have a story and every story counts. The main keynote, Tiq Milan a transman from GLADD….amazing!   Enough said. I don’t even know where to start with explaining the words of this man. He touched on the fact that although Caitlyn Jenner is a wonderful individual, Caitlyn is not the norm for mainstream Trans-women. The majority of trans-women don’t have access to the best surgeons and even if they did, they don’t have access to the funds to pay them. Caitlyn might get the conversations started within the media, but it is up to the mainstream community to normalize these conversations and make them realistic and true to life.

Not going to lie, I am in the minority here at this conference. As a cis-gender female, I had a brief moment where I thought, “Do I belong here? Is this ok, or am I invading a sacred space?” But when Tiq talked about telling our stories and utilizing social media as a very powerful tool to do so, Laine squeezed my hand and gave me that look that said “He’s talking to you!” My thought of “Do I belong here?” immediately dissipated and I reminded myself that as a SOFFA and an Ally, I am a part of this too. If Laine’s story though my eyes can impact just one individual, then I have made a difference by documenting his story.

The last workshop of the day focused on changing legal documents. I don’t know if you have ever thought about how many legal documents you might have that contain your name and/or gender, but when you write them all down, there is more than a handful. In order to change anything, you must begin with an official court order. This takes time and money. Every state is different but in AZ it will cost over $300 to file the court application. After appearing in court on whatever date the court assigns him, (which could take a few months depending on their availability) and presenting his case as to WHY he wants his name changed, Laine will receive an official court order of name change. From there he goes to the MVD with his court order and a letter from his doctor, at which point he can then change both his name and gender marker on his drivers license. Keep in mind the MVD must be done at least 2 days after the SS Office, but no more than 10 days after he receives the court order, so he’s working on a tight timeline. Once these items are completed he can continue on to update his passport, bank accounts, credit cards, and any other documents in which his name and gender appear.

The thought of all the steps involved in this process is a bit overwhelming, but when you break it down it becomes manageable if you take it one step at a time. I have to remind him of this and remind him I am here to help him through this process. We’ll conquer it together and before he knows it everything will be legal and there wont be any more explaining the double names or why the gender marker doesn’t match his presentation.

On this topic, yesterday was a pretty cool day for Laine when it came to travel. During the TSA check-in, the agent did a double take, trying to figure out why the “F” on the driver’s license didn’t match the male presentation. (Photo has been updated but the gender marker comes with a name change, which is as I outlined above, is a process we plan to begin as soon as we return from Philly.) Getting onto the plane, the airline attendant who was scanning boarding passes was calling everyone by Mr. or Mrs. and then their last name. When it was Laine’s turn, the attendant saw his legal (female) name on the document, saw his male presentation, and then skipped the pronoun completely and just utilized his last name. This made us laugh as we walked down the ramp to board the plane. While on the plane, the flight attendant came by to offer drinks and used “Sir” when referring to Laine. We both got overly giddy by this…if only the attendant had been a waitress, there would have been a $100 tip in it for her!

At only 5 weeks (today) on ‘T’ the physical changes are becoming more apparent to the general public. Even though I know there are days he feels like the changes are taking forever to appear, looking back over the past 5 weeks I can see the changes already taking place and I know he sees them too. Before we know it we’ll be headed to San Francisco for Top Surgery, a stranger referring to him as “Sir” will no longer make us giddy but instead become the norm, and I’ll certainly be pestering him to shave his “manstache” in order to save my own face from scruff burn when he kisses me. 🙂