Defining Our Norm…

Next month (April 30) we will celebrate Laine’s one year “T-versary.” We are ending this first year by celebrating with a complete hysterectomy. Woo-hoo! Ok, so most of you are thinking why in the world would anyone be excited about having surgery?? But the fact is, as a transman, he doesn’t need the parts and the parts are only causing him pain (as crappy as that is, it does mean the procedure is medically necessary and therefore insurance coverage helps pay for it).  He (and I) are looking forward to this surgery because his high sex drive equals need for orgasm release. Orgasm and fibroids are not a good combination…they equal pain post sex. Hysterectomy will solve this little issue.  Hence our excitement. Next Friday March 18, we will be (not so bright eyed) at 530 in the morning as we check into the hospital to complete another step in this transition process.  My anxiety is semi high regarding this surgery, not because of the surgery itself.  I know Laine will soar through it and recover quickly.  My anxiety stems from the thought of how many times will Laine have to “come out” or explain himself during this process, something that can be frustrating on any given day, much less when undergoing or recovering from a surgery.  I had to call the hospital billing department this week to make the copayment for the procedure, no less than 4 times did I have to correct the woman on the phone…HE, HIM, HE, HIM…”DO YOU UNDERSTAND THE WORDS COMING OUT OF MY MOUTH?!?”  What is really amusing is when Laine and I are sitting together, across a desk from a medical assistant and they start explaining the process and procedures etc. and the woman is making eye contact with me, clearly addressing her spiel to me and we have to politely inform her… “I’m not Laine…he is.” (This happened.)

Over the past month we have settled nicely into our new home and our lives. It is strange really, we have lived together since December of 2014, but that first year we never really settled into life. Laine moved in with me and the kids, into a home my ex and I had purchased a few years prior. For that first year of our lives together, that location served as a house for us, but never our home. There was always something preventing us from finding a routine. Something keeping us from creating a fluid transition from the early morning waking hours to bedtime each day. Now in OUR home, we have found the fluid schedule and routine that works for all of us, adults and kids alike. Life has finally settled in and I like it. I didn’t realize how much I craved what we now have, until we found it. Chaos has always been routine. Anxiety was normal for me. Now we have established a new (non-chaotic) routine and the day flows.  We are happy, the kids are happy.  Life is comfortable, but not at all in a boring way (!!!) and therefore life is wonderful.

Our youngest baby (ok so she’s a four legged furry baby) had surgery last week.  She had a bad knee that refused to remain in socket causing her to hop around on three legs for weeks now.  (I have never seen anything run so fast on three legs in my life, nothing slows this mutt down!)  She is healing nicely now and hopefully will be back on all fours within a few weeks.  Leave it to us to rescue a puppy with patella luxation. The day of her surgery, I woke at 230 in the morning with the stomach flu.  This meant I was out of commission for the day.  Laine handled kids, his work, household chores, vet drop off and pick up, cooked dinner (NOT TAKEOUT), and diligently took care of me while I got myself back in working order.  He deserved a Super Dad medal to say the least.  As if that wasn’t enough, the 11-year-old had a Mother/Daughter tea party the next day that all three girls were looking forward to.  With Mom (me) still recovering from dehydration, (step) dad had to jump in and save the day, even if he was the only guy in the room.  They decorated hats, ate finger sandwiches and cupcakes and made bracelets.  He lived to tell about it, and based on the pictures, I think he might have even had a little bit of fun.  😉

Towards the end of February, we gathered our friends and celebrated the last 9 months of our journey with a housewarming/engagement/celebrate legal name changes/birthday (Mel turns 29 for the 6th time) party.  As if having our house full of our family and friends wasn’t enough, we were extremely lucky that Sarah Smith was passing through Phoenix at the end of her tour.  If you haven’t heard of Sarah and her music, check her out (www.sarahsmithmusic.com) …her music is flipping amazing, and she’s pretty damn cool!  She (and Ken) performed LIVE IN OUR LIVING ROOM!!!!! (I’m fairly certain I am still trying to come down from that excitement high.) We are so happy we could share this experience with all of you who joined us that evening for food, drinks, laughs and live music.  Those of you who were unable to attend with us, we missed you and hope you will join us in October for our next big step.  Our circle of family and friends are what make our journey through life memorable.

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Today’s post is brought to you by the letter “T” for TSA, Travel, and Trans*

TSA security checkpoints at the airport can be quite the experience no matter who you are. Heck, just a few months ago on the return flight home from the Philadelphia Trans Health Conference, I was flagged at TSA for explosives on my hands after a random swab sweep. One full body groping, a complete bag search and 15 minutes of my life later, I was cleared to go based on the determination that my hand lotion is what flagged the system. Fast forward to this past weekend, we flew to and from Las Vegas and my anxiety was a bit extreme. This time the anxiety was not for me, as I made a point to skip the lotion and let my hands go dry to avoid that fiasco again. Instead, my anxiety stemmed from this being the first time Laine would be flying as legally male.

We see and hear horror stories all the time about TSA agents being disrespectful to the Trans community when passing through security. I am in NO way saying all TSA agents are jerks, because they are not…keep reading for proof that is in fact not the case at all!! But being the protective partner that I am, any possible risk of threat puts me on my toes.

Leaving Phoenix, I passed through the full body scanner and was cleared to proceed on. Then Laine walked into and out of the scanner, while I waited a few feet ahead near the conveyor belt where I needed to pick up my purse. The older woman working security begins frantically looking around, and asking the other guard, “Where did the female go?” “How did I miss a female?” Meanwhile Laine is standing in front of her waiting for clearance. I didn’t even realize what was going on until I finally processed what Laine was saying to the woman. He had to explain that he IS the female body that she is looking for and he is a Trans Man. The woman gave an embarrassed apology, did a quick hand sweep to the chest due to the fact that Laine’s binder flashes on the screen as an abnormality, and we were on our way to Las Vegas.

The return flight home followed along the same path. The lines at the Las Vegas security point were very long and Laine was calmer than I was waiting for our turn. This time I again went through security and waited for Laine who was behind me. This time he came through the scanner and the woman working the scanner immediately apologized, saying she “figured it out too late and was sorry she didn’t change the settings on the machine.” Again the binder had flashed yellow on the screen and again a very brief hand sweep was performed. The TSA agent was super respectful and friendly about all of it.

I’m quite certain it helped in both situations that Laine remained very calm, and respectful towards both agents. Of course both agents were quick to apologize and were respectful of him as well. I know this isn’t always the situation, so we are relieved he ended up with the individuals he did.

After this happening a second time, where the agents see Laine as male but the machine sees female, we started doing some research. I haven’t fully figured out how the machines work, but from what we have learned it looks like the agents select male or female setting based on their assumption of your gender. Notice I said assumption…we all know where assumptions can land us… The fact that Laine is fully passing as male is certainly pretty freaking exciting, but the fact that these machines read an individual based on what another human’s assumption is…could (and does) lead to problems. After reading more we learned that these machines commonly detect binders and packers, leading to possibly awkward situations for both the individual and the agent. For MTF patrons, if an agent selects female and bottom surgery has not been performed…guess what…that nice yellow box is going to flash on the screen.

I found some great information from the National Center for Transgender Equality about knowing your rights when traveling. These tips and the information provided are great to read and know when flying and interacting with TSA.   If you haven’t already, check out their page here: http://www.transequality.org/know-your-rights/airport-security

Assumptions make an A** out of U!

WHEN DOES THE MISGENDERING STOP??? This isn’t a rhetorical question, so if you are reading this and you have an answer, please comment here or on my facebook posting…it’s making me crazy. Maybe it isn’t my place to be so worked up over it, Laine doesn’t seem to be, in fact he has to remind me to breathe in these moments…but it seriously makes me crazy. I know I am jaded, as I see him for who he is, and to me that is male. He, him, his. I expect everyone else to do the same and yes I know that is unrealistic only 8.5 weeks into hormone treatment, but I can see the changes, why cant other people???? (He is shaving every 3 days to keep the mustache growth under control…that is pretty quick progress if you ask me!)

I’m not talking about friends and family either, I understand that is a process…for those people that have known him as “she” for years, months, or even weeks prior to transition, I get it. It takes 3 days to create a habit and 21 days to break one. For those who personally know him, it is a process, and you all have been wonderful about making the necessary adjustments and correcting your pronouns when appropriate. (Except for my future mother in law, but I’ve already explained that situation…to date there are no changes.)

I am referring to the general public. Those who have no idea who Laine is or what pronoun he goes by. We as a society make way too many assumptions in life. Waitresses at any given restaurant “Have a nice day ladies!” (I want to respond with “Thanks I will, and HE would too if you used the proper pronouns!!”) Greeters within the antique stores in Palm Springs…PALM SPRINGS…one of the LGBT capitals of America…but again, the T is excluded there and if you are not a gay man then you MUST be a lesbian couple and therefore Laine MUST be a butch lesbian, who happens to be wearing a clearly visible pendant around his neck of the Trans* symbol. Pretty sad when our own community needs some 101 training on the basics, what does that symbol mean again?

If I ran the country, (hmm that’s a scary thought) I would require all customer service related job fields to be trained in gender-neutral pronouns, or communication that excludes pronouns. “Have a great day!” would be sufficient, drop the “ladies” from the end of that. Everyone needs to quit making assumptions. (Of course this would be beneficial in all aspects of life I do believe…most assumptions tend to land everyone in more trouble than not.) While we are in the process of training society about proper pronoun use, we’ll also be renovating every public restroom into a gender-neutral facility. No more “pants and capes” on the door. No “M or W” on the shiny little plaque. Just individual single stall bathrooms that are open to everyone. (#Puskar2016)   Just Kidding…but only about the election hashtag, the rest I am drop dead serious about, society needs to make some changes.

One of the best ways to push for changes is to educate. That is part of the reason we tell our story so openly; although this is a very personal and private process, we invite you all in to experience it with us. People are curious and they have questions. If you think about how we learn as children it involves about 400 questions per day…why stop as adults? If the answer to your question will help you better understand something you are unfamiliar with, then ask the question in a respectful manner. There is very little information for public consumption surrounding personal experiences with this process. There are even less options for the experience of partners like myself. That is why Monday morning I completed a Skype interview with Elspeth Brown, a researcher out of Toronto. She is focusing her study on historicizing the experiences of the partners of Trans*men, specifically those who were with their partner before and during transition. Her goal is to document our stories and get them written down.

If you happen to be reading this and are a partner of an FTM individual and you two were together pre-transition and then during transition, or know someone who is (and this is NOT just for the cis-gender females either, it is for any partner of a Trans*man, no matter how you identify) check out her website at:

http://www.elspethbrown.org/page/transpartners-project

Her email address is located on the page where you can contact her if you are interested in being a part of the study and sharing your own story regarding your partner’s transition. (It’s all done using anonymous alias’) She also has a fabulous list of resources on her page for partners of FTM individuals, or anyone looking for more information on the process in general.