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…