“The Big Reveal,” and the week leading up to it…

There are times I come here to write and I have nothing to say, or rather nothing that I feel is worth saying.  Then there are other days I come here and I am so overwhelmed with what needs to be said, that I don’t know where to start…today is one of THOSE days.  I have decided that the best way to go about this is to break it up a bit, so over the next few days you may see multiple posts come across this page.  I apologize now, but by breaking it up into sections, you can pick and choose what you want to read or view, and I can take a break in between.

That being said, let’s work backwards, as yesterday was “THE BIG REVEAL.”

On June 5, we flew from Phoenix to San Francisco, full of anticipation about what the next week would hold.  This was the last time Laine would have to explain to TSA WHY his chest appears as an anomaly on their body scanner when they press the male button prior to a scan.  This would be the last 48 hours of wearing the grey tank top style binder that has become a part of him over the past 18 months.  This trip would be the end to those painful moments of looking in the mirror and wanting to quickly look away because he was unhappy with what he saw looking back, his body not matching his spirit.  On Tuesday June 7, Laine had top surgery scheduled with Dr. Satterwhite, a partner at Brownstein and Crane in Greenbrae, CA, just outside of San Francisco.

We rented a very comfortable studio apartment from a wonderful lady named France.  (I highly recommend this location, to anyone looking to stay near Brownstein and Crane/ Greenbrae Surgery Center.  The apartment was homey, affordable, comfortable, and France was so sweet and very hospitable.  If you Google “Kentfield Haven” you will find the apartment available for rent on VRBO, Air B&B, etc.  I will add her personal email address here when I get it from her.)

Monday was the pre-op appointment, which was fairly uneventful but necessary.  Dr. Satterwhite took a final look at Laine’s chest, and we were given instructions about surgery and what to expect the following day. We utilized the rest of Monday by taking a ferry from Tiburon into San Francisco, Pier 41.  (This made me extremely happy, as I have a slight…and by slight I mean MAJOR…obsession with the city… and with fresh Clam Chowder in a sourdough bread bowl.)

Tuesday morning we arrived early for surgery, but ended up waiting about an hour before they began prepping Laine.  After three IV sticks, (testosterone has changed his easy to stick veins into tough and complicated which refuse to bleed.) he was hooked up, gowned up and ready to go.  They took him into the OR around 9am and surgery began around 930.  By 12:30 we were back at the apartment.  Yes, you read that correctly, three hours between the time surgery started, surgery was completed, recovery was monitored and we drove home (granted it was a 4 minute drive.)  Now the fun began…and by fun I mean battling with the extremely tight, chest compressing binder for one week.

Laine was given Vicoden for pain and Zofran for nausea.  Fortunately, he only had very little of the nausea and only needed to take a total of two Zofran.  The pain on the other hand, although it wasn’t extreme, it was extremely uncomfortable.  At the pre-op appointment and during surgery prep, multiple nurses informed Laine that the compression binder would be the worst part of it all.  Due to the fact that Brownstein and Crane doesn’t utilize drains post-surgery, the compression binder works to control swelling and to encourage the body to reabsorb the excess fluids.  Think about having your underwear band too tight on your waist, cutting into your flesh, and when you pull it away from the skin the elastic has left a deep, raw impression.  Now imagine that starting just above your belly button, and covering your upper torso, up to just under your armpits.  Feels good huh?

The week went fairly smooth, we hung out in the apartment for a good portion of the time (Grey’s Anatomy marathon helped pass the time) and we did manage to get out a bit for a change of scenery.  One day we went to a small town, two screen movie theater which was neat compared to our massive AMC and Harkins we have here locally.  Both Saturday and Sunday we were able to meet up with two different sets of friends for lunch.  It was wonderful to get to meet people I have only seen though Facebook, women that Laine introduced me to.  Both sets of women being amazing couples who I hope to get to know better with time and visit with again soon.

Sunday morning, we woke up looking forward to the final countdown of the last 24 hours of the compression binder.  Our excitement quickly turned to heartache when we checked breaking news on our phones (a normal daily routine for us).  We turned on the TV to get caught up on the early morning happenings in Orlando.  I have many thoughts and words about the tragedy in Orlando, but that is one of those things which deserves its OWN post in the near future.  It should not simply be thrown into the mix and quickly breezed over.  I will leave it simple here, and ask you to return to read about our reactions and emotions later, however it was a key turning point (of emotions) for the week, so I needed to be sure it was included in the story of our surgery experience.

Monday finally arrived and after packing our suitcases and loading the car, we headed to see Dr. Satterwhite for the post-op appointment.  This time we entered the exam room excited and anxious.  In just a few minutes we would see what Laine has waited a lifetime for, a male chest.  Kate (the nurse, who is super sweet I might add) came in and began to remove the binder and dressings.  (At this point I was slightly afraid Laine might fall in love with Kate right then and there, merely because she removed that binder and he could breathe again.)  J

As the gauze was pulled away from his chest, I was intrigued with what was being revealed underneath.  I even got up off my chair and went over for a closer look.  Kate removed the stitches around the nipples and explained to us that the nipples (which had been created from Laine’s original nipples, shaved down from original size to create a male nipple) would take 2-3 weeks to heal.  During surgery a natural scab is created out of a piece of Laine’s skin, placed over the recreated nipple.  Bacitracin is applied twice a day and the nipples are then covered with a gauze square.  Eventually this “scab” will peel off and his nipples will be healed.  When Kate finished up she told us Dr. Satterwhite would be in shortly to check the incisions and she left the room.  I looked at Laine and asked him how he felt.  At this moment, we both teared up and emotions overflowed. We managed to pull it together before Dr. Satterwhite entered the room.

We were told the tape covering the incisions which follow a very natural pec muscle line, would naturally fall off over the next two weeks.  We were taught how to apply the ointment and dress the nipples.  We were given after care instructions and reminders of limitations for the next few weeks.  And then we were sent on our way.  Laine stepping out into the world for the first time with his new male chest.

We returned home that evening, surviving an eventful afternoon of flights being delayed, rearranged and rerouted from a nonstop flight (SFO to PHX) to a flight which included changing planes in San Diego. After 9 days away, we were glad to be home and it was refreshing to sleep in our own bed, even if it did mean the dogs would wake us up at 5am and life would resume right where we had left off the week prior.  The only difference, now when Laine looks in the mirror, he no longer has to hide from himself.

As a side note, I just wanted to add, that anyone who may be considering using Dr. Satterwhite at Brownstein and Crane as your surgeon…do it!  He lives up to the reviews.  He does amazing work.  He has a positive personality and I’m fairly certain that man NEVER stops smiling.  The office staff is friendly, respectful and well trained regarding the trans* community.  The Greenbrae Surgery Center was wonderful as well.  They are literally in the same building as Dr. Satterwhite’s office which is super convenient.  The recovery nurses were great and we didn’t meet a single staff member we didn’t like.  So if you are considering top surgery, we highly recommend Dr. Thomas Satterwhite at Brownstein and Crane

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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.

Did You Miss Us???

It has been weeks, ok more like months, since I last sat down to type.  Some of you have even reached out to see if we are doing ok, since you haven’t heard from me in awhile.  The answer is yes, we are good…we are more than good, we are wonderful!  I can only blame my absence partially on writer’s block, the rest I have to blame on life.  There are never enough hours in the day, and by evening after the kids are in bed all I want is a glass of wine and quiet time with Laine.

Our biggest current piece of news is that the home we were building, which was projected to take 4-6 months to build and estimated to be move in ready around February…we moved into it two weeks ago.  Much to our surprise, the week of Thanksgiving, I opened an email that informed us we would be closing before the end of 2015!  Bittersweet. (NEW home SOONER than expected…YEAH!!!  Moving ONE week after the holidays…ummm…really???)  This meant the house we were currently living in needed to be prepped for sale and put on the market.  (Anyone here ever had four kids home on winter break, while trying to keep the house spotless just in case a potential buyer wants to drop in…I don’t recommend this process.)  We are still waiting for that house to sell, but we are all moved into OUR new home and life here is good.  (It is even better now that the 4 dogs figured out how to use the doggie door we had professionally installed…if I had to listen to them chop a hole in our brand new wall to put the damn thing in, the least the dogs could do is USE it without me tossing them through it!)

Dead in the middle of the holidays, packing, moving fiasco, we had to suddenly deal with every parent’s (Ok, at least THIS parent’s) nightmare…LICE!  Our oldest daughter (11 years old) came to me one evening saying her head itched.  I thought very little of it due to the fact that her beta blockers have always caused quite the case of psoriasis on her scalp.  So I started checking her scalp thinking I would need to get a treatment for her psoriasis in order to stop her from scratching her scalp…and then I saw it.  A little tiny brown bug in her hair.  WTF?  So I dug deeper…I said a few choice words…and then I freaked out.  Full blown case of lice!  AGH!!!  This discovery took place after the other children were in bed asleep, so I took my phone as a flashlight and started performing scalp checks on the other children.  Our son was clear, but both of the younger two girls, carriers as well.  I said a few additional choice words and then began rapidly Googling.  I left a message for the Lice Knowing You in Scottsdale and hoped they would call me first thing in the morning, preferably before the mommy melt down set in too deep.

We couldn’t do too much over night so the next morning began the process of washing and hot drying EVERYTHING!  And anything that could not be put in the dryer went into the freezer for 24 hours.  I haven’t ever done that much laundry in a single day before in my entire life!  Fortunately, the girls at Lice Knowing You called me by 8:30 that morning (keep in mind this is December 23, meaning Christmas Eve festivities were scheduled with family the next day…I had to get these kids cleaned and cleared or else Christmas was going to be shot to hell.)  The girls at the shop got ALL of us in within an hour or two.  All three girls were treated and our oldest, myself and Laine had scalp checks just to be sure we weren’t carrying any stow-a-ways as well.  (This isn’t a cheap service by any means, but it was well worth it, since those girls stand there and comb every single nit and louse from the kids’ heads and then guarantee their work for 30 days.) Due to the fact that the kids all have split schedules between our house and my Ex’s homes (two go one direction, two go another) that meant three households total had to be checked, cleaned and cleared of these pests.  (Oh and did I mention we also shared our lice with the neighbor who is like a sister to our kids…sorry Jess!!!)

Here we are almost a month later and the youngest has an outbreak at Preschool.  I had to go pick her up early on Tuesday due to the fact they found some nits in her hair during a random classroom check.  Thank goodness for that 30 day guarantee at Lice Knowing You!  Even though it wasn’t their fault the suckers came back, they still treated her again free of charge.  I found out later that 5 other kids also got called for pickup this week just in her class.  And 5 classrooms total right now are red tagged with Lice infestations.  Have I mentioned I would homeschool if I would have been given the gift of patience and a higher (or maybe it would be considered lower) level of sanity???

Laine’s transition is progressing smoothly overall.  It has its ups and downs, and fortunately there have been more ups than downs.  I could sugar coat it and tell you that it is always 110% perfection, but that would be lying.  If you are here reading this, then you probably want the truth and the facts right?  There are moments, and yes sometimes even a day or two at a time where Laine falls into a dark place of self doubt and frustration, one that I don’t and won’t ever understand.  Those days I feel helpless because I can’t always bring him back as quickly as I would like.  I have to give him the space, yet the support, he needs in order to pull through those moments.  Somedays I am better at that combination than others.  Space is a hard thing for me because I want him to always be happy and present.  When he falls into those dark moments I just want him back NOW.  Hormones are powerful, they change how he reacts to life.  They create mood swings and sometimes inconsistencies.  It is no joke when they say the first year of transition is comparable to being in puberty.  Watching it happen from the outside, I can see the moments Laine swaps from a 52-year-old man to a 14 year old teenager and back again.

Some of this hormonal conflict may be due to his Estrogen levels still fighting his Testosterone.  At his doctor visit this past week we got results from his most recent blood draw.  The blood results showed us that yet again his estrogen isn’t shutting down.  His doctor expects that his body should be in a forced menopause by now due to the testosterone, however its not.  There is no monthly physical cycle, but hormones are still functioning at a normal “female” level.  (In conjunction with a normal “male” range of hormones as well.)  Between those results and the results of a recent abdominal ultrasound where two fibroids were found to have grown in only 6 months’ time, he has a consult with our GYN next week.  (That appointment right there should make for a great blog post…although our GYN is totally on board with the transition process and she understands it, there is always the staff we have to explain things to 15 times, beginning with the receptionist on the phone when I called for his appointment and had to explain the legal name change since last visit and the girl still continued to call him “her” and “she” a dozen times…stay tuned for that potential circus.)  We are discussing a full hysterectomy.  Laine’s is looking to be medically necessary, which means insurance will cover it, which is a bonus. Everything else reported from the blood draw looks good.  His blood donation every 8 weeks is keeping his red blood cell count at a normal level and preventing it from getting too high.  Being on the T, there is still always the option that the levels will rise and he will have to donate every 4-6 weeks (or more often) instead of every 8 weeks, but the doctor has already said she will write the script for this procedure if we decide its necessary in the future.  All blood tests will be repeated in 3 months to continue to follow Laine’s overall health.

Therapy has been very beneficial for Laine throughout this process.  Laine has learned how to better cope in those (hormonal) moments and for the most part how to redirect himself when his hormones get the best of him.  This is part of the reason he has remained loyal to therapy on a monthly basis instead of only completing the bare minimum required per doctor’s requests.  I can’t imagine how others navigate this process without that monthly (or more often) check in with a professional.  He always seems to come home after a session with a new outlook on things.  She gives him things to think about and new ways to process.  She is real with him when he needs to change his thinking and look at things from a different perspective.  Changing your life and everything about yourself at ANY age must be difficult.  At the age of 52, the life experience which is built up can only make it more difficult.  Although I have always had a therapist aversion, if I could clone Laine’s therapist and give a copy of her to everyone, I would do it.  She doesn’t fit in my past experience mold of therapy and counseling and I’m so grateful she is a key player in Laine’s transition process.

Ending this post on a happy educational moment story, Laine needed a notary to transfer some paperwork to his daughter about a week ago.  The paperwork was under his birth name.  We weren’t sure how the notary would deal with this issue and if it would indeed BE an issue.  So he took the paperwork, both his old and his new ID, and his legal name change document with him to the notary.  The first thing the man behind the counter said when Laine placed the document on the counter was “Who is Joyce?”  Laine then had to “come out” and explain the situation.  The guy behind the counter, who was a retired PD office, was very cool about it and said “ok, lets figure this out.”  Laine was the first transgender individual in which he had an interaction like this with.  It was an educational experience for the notary and it was an educating others experience for Laine.  All it takes sometimes is one simple conversation to educate others.

This only begins to touch on the past two or three months of our lives, but I figure this is enough of my rambling for today.  🙂

 

The scent of HIS perfume….

The little glass bottle with the gold spray top has sat on the vanity untouched for over six months now. That is not entirely true, I have moved it long enough to clean the countertop, to wipe the settling dust from the bottle, and return it to the spot it calls home in the collection of perfumes and colognes.

This morning the smallest child entered the master bathroom and demanded she wear a spritz of the amber colored liquid, she wanted to smell good for picture day. Thinking nothing of it, I grabbed the bottle from its resting place, pressed the gold button top until the scent was released into the air and onto her tiny little wrist. With that one push of the button top, she was happy and on her way, and I was immediately thrown back almost 365 days in time.

Its funny to me how something so simple as a familiar scent, can mentally return us immediately to a place in time that we haven’t necessarily forgotten, but we have tucked away for safe keeping. For me that spray of perfume meant September of 2014. It was only a year ago, but it feels like much longer. So much has changed and developed and emerged over the past year, it’s hard to believe it all happened only a short time ago.

I might disclose more truth than I should here, and for that I am sorry to those who may be affected by my words. But this is our story and it’s our reality. There is no reason to hide behind half-truths and guilt. Looking back to the evening we first met in November of 2013, walking into our first Phoenix Pride board meeting, neither of us knew what the future held for us. Neither of us knew joining that board would change our lives in more ways than one. We spent almost 10 months interacting with one another at events, meetings, etc, no differently than we did anyone else. There are key points along the way where we each can look back and put the pieces together now that we couldn’t before…Why am I a fumbling mess in their presence? …How in the world do I remember so many details about that specific meeting or event when I can’t recall something that happened 10 minutes ago half the time? The universe spent those 10 months slowly introducing us to what was yet to come, introducing us a small bit at a time to our fate and happiness.

In September of last year something happened. Call it the stars aligning, call it fate, call it whatever you want, but those “WTF?” moments began to turn into “OMG” moments.

A few weeks from today will mark our “First year” together as being complete. At the time we knew what we wanted but we had no idea how it would all play out. For those of you who know us personally, you know the reality behind it…we were both married to other women at the time. My relationship unhealthy, and Laine’s comfortable, but lacking.

The scent of “his” perfume this morning, put me right back to our beginning. The beginning of our date nights and our late nights, exhausting ourselves just to spend 5 more minutes together. Our endless online chats, falling asleep apart those first few months, yet together, connected only by our typed words and shared music. The widest range of emotions were felt within those few months in the beginning. The excitement and high of being in love, the hurt and the pain of being apart and of navigating our realities of exiting our previous relationships. The “I need you(s)” “I want you(s)” and “I love you(s)” got us through the “what-ifs” and the unknowns.

After navigating and surviving those first few months apart, we moved in together. That is where our life together truly began, even though on the calendar we were already a few months into “US.”  Moving in together meant a new chapter of “US,” along with the beginning of THIS story, the story of “Becoming Laine.”

I know I have stated before that I never felt a loss when “Joyce” made the decision to live authentically as Laine. I never mourned, never felt any negative emotion at all around it. This is because Laine has always been there, just by another name. Those memories that flooded me this morning, thanks to that mist of scented liquid, I may have experienced with “Joyce,” but Laine was right there the entire time beneath the makeup, the clothes bought in the “female” section of the store, and beneath the perfume.

I hope that every time I pick up that little glass bottle, I will be swept back to the beginning, even if just for a moment. I never want to forget how we got to where we are now. The emotions, the moments, the memories we created so early on. I don’t want to forget them and I wouldn’t trade them for anything.

The scent reminds me of our dinner dates. Our getaway stays. The Sarah Smith fundraiser. Holiday concerts and Zoolights with the kids. Our first trip to Las Vegas and New Years Eve together. Some of those memories will forever remain the same and others will be built upon. When we travel to Las Vegas in a few weeks for a weekend getaway trip, Laine will pack his cologne and the perfume will remain at home, holding it’s place on the vanity top, until the next time a small child asks for a spritz, or until I have a day where I want to go back to the beginning for just a moment…but only for a moment because as much as I cherish the memories from our past, I enjoy the present and look forward to our future just as much.

A Dose of Our Reality…

We took last week off from reality and spent a few days just being together. We labeled it our “Engagement-moon” and escaped to Palm Springs for 4 days. Our road trip consisted of antique shopping (specifically looking for certain items to be utilized within the wedding), time in the pool, eating in, dining out, a few bottles of wine, and one on one time with minimal distractions. It was nice to just get away and relax without any of life’s disruptions.

Don’t get me wrong, I love our life and I would not trade it for anything, and that includes all its disruptions, but some days it is nice to take a true vacation and escape from the schedule and the chaos. Have I ever explained the details of our chaos here? I’m fairly certain I have not so let me give you a glimpse of our daily life.

The day starts around 5:30 am. By “starts” I mean one of the six (yes you read that correctly, SIX) dogs begins barking or howling to be let outside. Once one begins, they all feel it is necessary to chime in, just in case we didn’t hear the single crier.

I typically take on the task of the first to roll out of bed to answer these demands to be let outside. Stumbling half asleep down the hallway, I attempt to avoid stubbing my toe on one of the two pet gates that divide the hall way from the living room and the living room from the kitchen. Everyone is let out into the morning air and stumble back to bed hoping to catch one more hour of sleep. Typically by this point Laine is also at least partially awake and we cuddle up for our last hour of snuggle time.

6:30 rolls around and one of the six, (usually the daschund) begins their morning bark-fest at the neighbor who works out in his backyard bright and early. The others of course join in and since we don’t want the neighborhood to hate us, Laine takes this turn at getting up and bringing the pack back inside. On a weekday, this is about the time Laine then heads to the shower to get ready for work. On Thursdays, this is shot time, which means I roll out of bed too. On a weekend, he returns to bed and hides deep under the covers.

Sometime within the next thirty minutes of the morning, 1-4 of the kids wander out of bed and down the hall to find the TV. (Unless it is a school day, but currently they are on Summer Vacation.) Their noise mixed with the TV noise, prompts the bird (an Indian Ringneck) to begin his fire alarm impersonations. I originally bought this bird under the impression that he would talk, sing and mimic sounds.   The only thing this bird has ever copied (and repeats daily) was the smoke detector the ONE time it was set off by a child dropping something into the burner pan and making the kitchen a bit smokey. My personal recommendation if you value your eardrums, skip the bird.

Laine is ready for work by this point, and depending upon his schedule for the day, we might get to share a moment for a cup of coffee before he leaves for the day. While he goes off to work, I stay home with the kids. I attempt to keep the house in some type of order and keep the laundry from overflowing (there are SIX of us in the house, that equates to two loads per day on average.) I also work on my part time job and any volunteer work I might be involved in on any particular day.

After work hours, Laine returns home and helps me with any tasks that may not have been completed during the day because a child needed a few extra moments of attention or the hours just ran short. We cook and serve dinner around 6, eating around the table as a family. On most evenings after dinner, Laine messes around in the back yard, he claims it is therapeutic. Typically myself and at least the youngest two children find our way outside to join him, which results in Laine forgetting about his goal of yard work and instead playing with the girls. There have been tricycle races, chalkboard creations on the back wall, and bug hunts. The other night he ran laps around the yard pushing the girls in their ride on car. Their laughter and his willingness to be a goof ball in order to prompt that laughter makes my entire day in those few moments.

The day wraps up with an 830 “ready for bed time.” There are teeth to be brushed, pajamas to be found and books to be read. The chaos ends around 9pm when kid lights go out and then it is “our time.” We get to spend just a few hours of quiet time together before we call it a night and lay down in one another’s arms, hoping to get some sleep before it starts all over again tomorrow.

Becoming Laine…

We had only been living together a few weeks when I entered the bathroom and found her standing in front of the mirror. Hands cupped over her breasts, trying to hide them and create the image of a flat chest. I had seen her do this many times before, but I didn’t question it. I assumed it was just a habit, some type of nightly ritual before bed. Every other night as I watched this happen, I didn’t say a word, but tonight was different.

Like a small child I began with the questioning. “Why are you doing that?” “Why are you trying to cover yourself?” “Don’t you like your breasts?” The answer surprised me. “No.”   I could have left it at that, but I didn’t…I began to push for more answers. “Are they too big? Too small? Not perky enough? Too perky?” The answer I received…”I wish I could cut them off.”

This opened a conversation I wasn’t expecting, as I had no idea up to this point how she was feeling. Hiding from the world around her, concerned about what others might think and always trying to conform to societal norms, she never bothered to stop and think about what she wanted or needed to truly be happy. As we explored this conversation deeper, I made her think about what would make her feel complete. The answer I received…”If I could be a boy…..”

Being the ally I am to the transgender community, I sympathized with him. Although I personally have never felt trapped in my body, (in fact if you know me you know I enjoy dresses, heels, makeup and glitter) I have watched others around me throughout all stages of the process. My first “girlfriend” came out as transgender, a few years after we stopped seeing each other and I was the first person he called to share the news that he was officially going to transition. One of my dearest friends is a transgender woman who is destined to change the world, or at least the political system within Arizona. I have marched in equality rallies along side many transgender brothers and sisters. So when my partner came out to me, I instantly became his biggest ally and supporter.

The first major change to take effect was the wardrobe. It started off slowly at first, a shirt or two would find its way to the Goodwill pile because it was too feminine. That pile quickly grew within a few days of embracing his new gender identity. We found our way to the mall to restock the closet, this time with clothing only purchased in the men’s section of the store. We ordered a real binder, which replaced the double-layered sports bras. As his wardrobe changed, so did his personality. He began to smile more. The confidence in his appearance began to shine through. I would find myself just staring at him, taking him all in and truly seeing HIM in front of me. Confident, sexy and handsome, still the individual I fell in love with, and as he began to find himself, I only fell more in love (and continue to do so.)

We began to have more conversations around how deep he wanted this transition to go. Would it stop with the wardrobe and simple gender expression? Would we explore testosterone and top surgery? Name change? I assured him I was good with whatever steps he wanted to take.

We keep in touch throughout the day via chat when we are apart. One day randomly in the middle of another conversation via chat, he slipped a message in that said “New name= Laine. Yep, I’ve been thinking about it.” I would have missed it if I wasn’t careful, but I did catch it, and my heart and soul lit up. Laine was the perfect name for him, and once he explained why he chose it, it instantly stuck. Born as Joyce Elaine, Laine held onto a portion of his given birth name.

Having four children in the house, ranging in age from 4-12, the questions quickly began to pick up in consistency. The youngest two, ages 4 and 5 instantly began to utilize his new name and they love to tell others that “Joyce is a girl, but she is going to be Laine and he is a boy.”   Multiple dinner conversations circled around this topic of discussion. In fact the oldest (and the only bio male in the house) decided he should be the one to give Laine “man lessons.” Entertaining and informative on both ends (you would be surprised what kids are discussing on the playground!!!) these conversations allow the kids to be a part of this process and this change. Transgender is nothing new to the kids, they have been raised to understand and accept diversity and to love people for who they are.   They have known many of my transgender friends and they have never been lied to about “so and so” was born into a male body, but she is actually a girl and vice versa. Children are inquisitive and they want to know how these things work, and I don’t lie to them. If anyone wants to criticize my honesty with them, so be it, but the only way to change the future of the world is to educate our children and to raise them with open hearts and minds.

In March, Laine began seeing a therapist. Neither of us ever having a positive counseling experience in our pasts, we weren’t sure what to expect, but therapy is a requirement in order to move forward in the process of transitioning. He was still undecided at this point regarding testosterone, afraid only of what he didn’t know. I personally was incredibly nervous the first time he went to a session. I’m not sure what I was anxious about, but when he returned from that first session reporting a positive experience, I was excited for him all over again. He returned with a resource guide, a list of doctors for hormone therapy and a list of surgeons for top surgery.

The therapist made him really think about this whole process. How far did he want to go with the transition from female to male? Did it stop at gender expression and an alternate name at home? Did he want top surgery with or without hormone treatment? She gave him the details of testosterone. The effects and the facts, and she dispelled the myths. This reopened the testosterone conversation at home, and we began to research surgeons for Top Surgery.

Laine decided to cut his hair to match his gender expression at this point. This meant short on the sides and back, with just a touch of curls left on the top. A very male model runway style. I loved it the moment he walked in the door after getting it done. It completed his expression and male style. He loved it too, but he was afraid of what his mother was going to say. She is in her mid 70s and isn’t the easiest to talk to about these types of things. Worrying about what she might think is part of the reason Laine waited 51 years to be his authentic self.

We visit her every Sunday afternoon, spending a few hours taking her to lunch and to pick up any groceries she might need for the week. Laine is her primary caregiver and only local family. We were not in her apartment two minutes when the conversation hit the ground running. She questioned why he had cut his hair so short. Laine told her because he wanted to. She then blurted out “What are you a man?” I stood in the kitchen like a deer in the headlights not sure how this conversation was going to turn at any moment. The oldest two children were visiting with us that day and they too stood back to watch this unfold.

Laine walked over and sat on the sofa and replied to his mother “What if I am?” I was watching him across the room, reading his eyes, his face, his body language. He was going to do this. He was having this conversation with her and he wasn’t going to back down this time. When Mom told Laine he is a woman, Laine corrected her and informed her that he has always felt like a boy. Although the conversation didn’t go deep that day, it was at least now out in the open. He did inform her that he will be removing his breasts in the near future, and he gave her a few memories to think about. She will take her own time to process and as more changes become visual hopefully the conversations will progress.

By the third therapy session, Laine had already scheduled an appointment with a local doctor who specializes in transgender healthcare for the following week. Testosterone quickly went from a maybe to a must. The therapist was fully on board with Laine’s request and she gladly wrote her letter of recommendation for the doctor.   The weekend prior to the scheduled doctor appointment, Laine went to the transmen’s support group in which we participate. His buddies there informed him that the doctor would draw blood and he might have to wait another full week before getting his script. Adding another week to the process was comparable to adding a lifetime. He was now at a place where he wanted these official steps started and they needed to start now. We prepared ourselves for the possibility of having to wait yet another week.

While we sat in the doctor’s office waiting room that afternoon, we discussed the process of legally changing his name and gender marker. That would be the next step to tackle on this journey, a multistep legal process, but one he certainly wants to take. The medical assistant called him to the back using “Laine” as his preferred name. This made me happy, as I was getting tired of strangers referring to him in female form. I want to post a sign on the table every time we go to a restaurant that says I’m with HIM, so the serving staff would stop saying “Have a nice day LADIES.”   I know I can’t fault them, as the only changes visual to strangers at this point is the wardrobe. But to me, he is HIM, HE and MALE.

The doctor visit was like any other routine well check. He checked all the basics, and ordered a blood draw to check for pretty much everything. (I have to say how impressed I was with the phlebotomist, Laine wasn’t in that room 2 minutes and he got his two vials. It takes people what feels like hours to get a draw out of my arm and that is after searching, squeezing, typically at least 2 blown veins, and multiple needle sticks!) We were ready to check out and the doctor said “ok, well call you tomorrow when your script gets sent to the pharmacy. See you in 5 months.”   Tomorrow?!?! What happened to having to wait a week? The possibility of starting the hormone before the week was over, made the process a reality all over again. This is happening and the waiting was finally over.

The next day, the doctor office called by 8:30 in the morning. The script was being sent to the pharmacy and would be ready in a few hours. We drove to the pharmacy that afternoon to pick it up. Much of the car ride was spent chatting with the youngest two children who had renamed the testosterone “boy shot” because testosterone was too difficult to say. We had already told all the children that once Laine started taking these shots, he would begin to look like a man as time progressed. To a 4 and 5 year old, that meant that once the shot was administered, he would wake up 110% visually a man the very next morning. (If only it were that easy…) so they had quite a lot of 4 and 5 year old appropriate questions, and we tried to explain the answers the best we could.

The pharmacist explained to us both how to administer the shot. 1 cc every two weeks, directly into a muscle. Fortunately Laine isn’t afraid of needles and neither am I. After we picked up the oldest two children from school, it was time to get this party started. Following the direction of the pharmacist, my hands were shaking slightly while I prepped the shot. Liquid in, air bubbles out, it was ready to go. I held it the way the pharmacist showed me and jab, directly into the right side butt muscle.

Much to the children’s dismay, Laine did not wake up this morning with a full beard and chest hair, but we are on day 2 of official hormone transition, and that is where this blog begins…