Monthly Archives: June 2012

Me and My Surgically Created Vulva: A Love Story

My own pride n’ joy was created under the gifted and extremely skilled hands of Dr. Pierre Brassard of Montreal, Quebec Canada

A NOTE FROM RACHEL’S MINISTRY OF PUBIC AWARENESS

Before we *ahem* delve into the delights of my female anatomy you’ll probably want to move on if you are a younger person and/or are offended by words beginning with the letter V. I really do try and keep this site as family friendly as possible despite dealing with the nitty-gritty of transgendered life—but at times it’s simply impossible.

Okay, now that that my debt to social responsibility has been paid, I’d like to discuss the realities of life when one possesses a surgically created vulva. I’d use the more commonly used word, vagina, but apart from sounding like a certain Swedish automobile, vulva is the more accurate term insomuch as it encompasses more of the female anatomy including (but not limited to) the clitoris, and labia majora and minora—all of which I now possess.

Some may wonder why I would chose to discuss such a private and intimate subject in a public forum but the reason is quite simple. There remains a lot of misinformation and curiosity surrounding transsexuals—especially post-operative ones such as myself. So in the interest of furthering our collective knowledge and perhaps dispelling some falsehoods in the process I offer the following observations.

I was operated on by Dr. Pierre Brassard of the Clinique de chirurgie esthétique at 995, De Salaberry East Montréal Québec on Tuesday, June 3rd, 2008. So as of this writing I am 4 years post-operative. Wow! does time ever fly!

The name of the procedure is called vaginoplasty. Various techniques exist but I’ll simply focus on the specific procedure employed by Dr. Brassard. And what better way to answer the details of Dr. Brassard’s technique than to do a quick cut and paste from his own website:

The technique used is the one step penile inversion. It is done under general or spinal anaesthesia as an inpatient in the hospital. The duration is 2 ½ hours. The scrotal skin is removed along with the testicles. The neoclitoris is fashioned from the tip of the penis (glans) keeping its blood and nerve supply (neurovascular island flap).

The labia majora are formed with some of the penis skin, the hood and the labia minora with urethral mucosa and penis skin.

The space for the vagina is dissected behind the meatus (urinary tube) between the bladder and the rectum. The penis skin is inverted to line the vagina and the thinned scrotal skin graft is sutured to the end of the penis skin tube. Hair roots on the scrotal skin graft are destroyed with the cauthery. A urinary catheter is put into the bladder, a packing of cotton covered with a condom is put inside the vagina. The prostate is not removed.

Source: http://srsmontreal.com/2009/09/08/vaginoplasty-description/

Well, I certainly hope that got your juices flowing. Yeesh!

After a few days the catheter and cotton covered condom is removed. And it’s a case of getting familiar with your own portable sitz bath and walking awkwardly (what we called, the Montreal straddle, hobble, waddle, etc…). The days immediately following surgery are not much fun to say the least. The most obvious challenge was sitting down to eat. I confess I did a lot of eating while standing at the dinner table. 🙂 Nonetheless, the near euphoria obtained from finally looking like a woman down there; not to mention the effect of post-operative medications contributed to a general state of well being.

The operative expression here (pardon the pun) is no regrets!

Obviously, the most frequently asked question about all this is can you orgasm? The answer is an unqualified, yes! I had my first inkling as to how things were going to work in this regard during the flight back from Montreal. Knowing I’d be out of commission for some period of time during my stay in Montreal I wisely brought along a few books to read. Notable among these was Holly Black’s excellent “Tithe” Trilogy (I blog about Melissa Marr and Holly Black elsewhere on this site). It’s an epic romance fantasy adventure seated within the urban faerie genre.

Holly is a great writer and there’s some mild but undeniably hot scenes in Tithe. Well, I came across one of these erotically tinged vignettes and reacted pretty much as you might expect a woman to react. My new anatomy responded with an involuntary spasm that sent an unmistakable signal of pleasure to the dopamine receptors in my brain. I couldn’t help smiling to myself as I contentedly thought, “So this is how this is going to work!”

Just over a week post-op I was able to experience my first full-blown orgasm. The things I am aware of when it comes to my female orgasm as opposed to the ones I had as a male is that now I tingle all over my body and I’m aware of extra sensation both in my nipples and toes. While I have not had sex with a man post-op I have tried out a little vibrator I picked up at a sex-toy party one of the girls from work hosted. My only complaint—I should have purchased a larger model!

My clitoris is gloriously sensate but it can be super annoying if a stray pubic hair happens to come in contact with it; which has happened on occasion. Fortunately, it’s mostly just a little pleasure bud awaiting some gentle stimulation in order for it to perform as intended.

With regards to sex with men—I am in a permanent life-long committed relationship with a loving, attractive female so in my case that admittedly tantalizing prospect is off my bucket list. However, I welcome my post-op sisters who have had that experience and do not mind discussing it to post their comments here.

With regards to a related question: How deep is your vagina? In my case I have a depth of 5 inches which according to my gynecologist and Dr. Brassard is entirely satisfactory for male-female coitus. Of course, I can hear the comments of some men from here:

Not deep enough for me baby!”

These are the guys that show up at the local drugstore determined to buy the product designed especially for them:

Vanity marketing? Do you have these in XXL?
All Prices are Canadian 🙂

My vagina also lubricates. Part of the reason for that is the presence of my prostate gland. Does it bother me that the prostate wasn’t removed? Frankly yes, but the rationale for its presence postoperatively is that it does help lubricate my vulva. Keep in mind, my trust in Brassard’s expertise when it came to entrusting my self to his care was pretty near absolute. Therefore, his insistence on maintaining the overtly masculine gland was accepted albeit with a tinge of regret.

Does my vagina smell like a cisgendered woman’s? Yes. However, I lack some of the naturally occurring bacteria that help keep a woman’s vulva fresh smelling. Therefore I have to be more vigilant with regards to my hygiene. It’s not overly concerning, but something I need to be aware of. In my case, disposable wipes handle any outstanding issues nicely.

Does my vulva look like a cisgendered woman’s? Again, the answer is yes. My wife can certainly affirm that but so can my gynecologist. Yes, I get one of those now too 🙂 I see him only infrequently but I must say I was delighted with his comments following my first appointment. I guess he did not have many post-operative patients but what he said warmed my heart—if not my vagina—those instruments are cold!

He looked up from where he had been inspecting Dr. Brassard’s handiwork and he said to me with a voice that resonated with a respect that bordered on awe.

“I want you to know that the man who did this was extremely [he then paused for dramatic effect] extremely skilled.”

Of course I had to ask outright—does it look like other vaginas you see?

The answer was an unqualified Yes.

Well, I think I could have floated out of the room at that point. I was certainly on cloud 9.

Again, I try and keep this blog generally accessible for all  but you can see examples of Brassard’s surgical outcomes at the following website:

http://www.annelawrence.com/brassard.html

Dr. Lawrence takes a critical and objective analysis of Brassard’s work but generally rates him highly. I know I certainly do!

In order to maintain my vagina’s depth I am required to dilate a recommended time of 15 minutes once a week, but life being what it is generally results in a more frequent schedule of once every two-weeks. It’s a bit uncomfortable as I have to insert a stent inside my delicate lady bits.

Ahhh… The Stuff Dreams are Made of

The dilators come in a variety of widths and you generally progress from smallest to largest as your new anatomy continues to heal. Since I have been post-op for so long I get to enjoy the company of “Mr. Big” the number 6 in the set I was given. Of course, when not in use they make lovely candle like decorations when displayed to effect! I’m joking! I’m joking!

Am I glad I had the operation? Yes! Yes! Yes!

Again, I have “no regrets” at all. If I had to do it all over again, I would—but sooner! For me the whole process of transitioning has been like Goldilocks finding that specific bed, porridge, and chair and concluding just as she did that “this one is just right!”

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I am Woman: Glorious Wonderful Woman

The greatest desire for most male to female transsexuals is simply to take our place within that wonderful mosaic of women found everywhere

My 20th post! Thanks to everyone that’s dropped by for something other than nude pictures of Justin Bieber. My latest entry posits that most basic question: “Why on earth would you change you sex? And um… why choose the weaker sex of the two?” The simplest answer is the easiest to forward. I identity as a transwoman.

Now, everyone, including my worst critics get the “trans” part. What many don’t get is the woman part.

Sadly, we live in a culture inundated with disbelief. “No No”, they say. “You are a man. You are an XY chromosome combination and therefore you are a male. No ifs ands or buts, “buddy“. Ouch! That’ll leave a mark for sure. Fortunately, I have “some” science on my side and a good deal of history. First the history bit; do you know when the XY chromosome was discovered? If you didn’t, that’s ok, neither did I. But thanks to the ever resourceful “Google” search function I came across the following from no less an authority than the Encyclopedia  Britannica (online edition). Now for all you undergraduates mentally reciting your prof’s warning: “Encyclopedias are not credible sources” I say, Pffft! This is just a blog entry so relax. 🙂

Anyways, back to said Encyclopedia:

Clarence E. McClung,  (born April 6, 1870, Clayton, Calif., U.S.—died Jan. 17, 1946, Swarthmore, Pa.), American zoologist whose study of the mechanisms of heredity led to his 1901 hypothesis that an extra, or accessory, chromosome was the determiner of sex. The discovery of the sex-determining chromosome provided some of the earliest evidence that a given chromosome carries a definable set of hereditary traits. He also studied how the behaviour of chromosomes in the sex cells of different organisms affects their heredity.

Source: http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/353973/Clarence-E-McClung

1901! Wow!

So what this means is that anyone living before 1901 could not possibly have used the XY/XX chromosome differential as an arbiter in determining ones’ sex. But we still had males and females prior to 1901. How then could they tell if someone is male or female?

“Oh that’s easy we just look at them naked. Males have their magnificent albeit intimidating outdoor plumbing and females have their complex and sophisticated and oh so mysterious indoor plumbing.

But it’s not so easy as that. Various conditions can affect normal sexual development so that females develop male characteristics and vise versa. Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome (AIS) is one such condition and Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasiais  (CAH) is another.

See the websites below for some images showing just how unreliable a cursory physical examination of an individual’s anatomy is in determining one’s true sex. I’d include them here but they are pretty graphic.

Source: http://imueos.wordpress.com/2010/04/29/adrenal-disorders-%E2%80%93-adrenogenital-syndrome/

Source: http://carolguze.com/text/442-6-sexual_differentiation.shtml

So basically, prior to 1901, sexual identification would be based simply on appearance since those living at the time lacked any other basis on which to assign one’s gender. In fact, even today that’s what it comes down to. Unless you know an individual’s medical history the woman sitting next to you may in fact be an XY male and vise versa.

But what about people like myself that lack any obvious physical determinant in identifying with the opposite sex. Well, we have some interesting research available on that front. It’s all a bit tedious but basically it comes down to possessing something akin to a “female brain”. A number of studies exist each focusing on some aspect of  the brain’s functioning.  Those interested can check out the Wikipedia entry on the causes here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Causes_of_transsexualism

On a much more immediate level being able to live, interact, and function as a female is akin to Goldilocks finding that perfect chair, porridge, or  bed. This one is just right (cue contented sigh). I love being female! Sure, I have a male past but even then I had a strong feminine impulse—one I spent a lifetime suppressing. I was like Atlas carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders. My transition was inevitable it was only a matter of time before I collapsed under the sheer pressure of it all.

The pull towards the feminine has been with me as long as I remember. Fear immobilized me. Fear of my parent’s reaction, that of friends, and to a lesser extent, society all worked to constrain me. Coming out as transgendered and specifically as a transsexual was really a means of releasing all that pressure. I knew who I was. I just decided to let the world in on my secret. The feminine impulse acted much like a boat’s rudder steering me unerringly into female waters.

As to being the weaker sex—well, yes women don’t possess the upper body strength that males do. They also have lighter smaller bones, lack brow bossing and have a greater fat to muscle ratio than males. It’s astounding that so many males have misappropriated that saying by applying it to every aspect of the female gender.  How incredibly misogynistic! How utterly foolish! and how fundamentally wrong such an assertion is.

The human story is replete with women who have sacrificed themselves for a higher good; stared death in the face; demonstrated enduring irreproachable faith and have inspired a hurting world to better itself. A woman’s ability to empathize with and comfort others is something to see and anyone fortunate to witness it should be humbled by the experience.

I remember back in “boy world” as I call it, sneaking away at social functions to sit with the women present, and listen happily to them chat away about their lives, the lives of their children, and their interests and concerns. Inevitably, my “buddies” would notice my absence and I’d be called back by the boys to watch the rest of the game or rehash some adolescent adventure we had undertaken. Thankfully, now I get to stay with the girls at these sort of events without fearing a call to join the men (cue contented sigh again).

I am not interested in male-bashing but I decry the way our society has systematically failed to value feminine traits, deeming them inferior to masculine ones. And men, remember, had one change in your XY chromosome pair occurred you’d never have needed those ongoing reminders to lower the toilet seat.  😉

I love my female friends trans and otherwise. Don’t envy the men ladies. Yes, they are exempt from the inconvenience, pain and discomfort of menstruation, hormonal storms, menopause, and the pain of child-birth. However, they cannot rejoice in the sensuousness of the female form—not like we can. Nor can they share the bond a woman has with her children. I love seeing my female friends with their children. There is an invisible but easily detectable energy that flows between them. It impacts me greatly. In other words, I get it.

I am certainly no beauty along the lines of a Jenna Talackova but I am still female and if I may allow myself a moment of self-satisfaction—confess to possessing a beauty of my own. I love people greatly. It brings tears to my eyes—such passion and feeling—never taken for granted and always humbled and thankful—that I am a woman.

THE BEAUTY OF A WOMAN

Author unknown

The beauty of a woman; Is not in the clothes she wears,
The figure that she carries; Or the way she combs her hair.

The beauty of a woman; must be seen from in her eyes, Because that is the doorway to her heart, The place where love resides.

The beauty of a woman; is not in a facial mole, But true beauty in a woman; Is reflected in her soul.

It is the caring that she lovingly gives, The passion that she shows, And the beauty of a woman; With passing years – only grows!

Source: http://feelinfeminine.com/?p=736

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Ontario Transgender Human Rights and Justin Bieber Nude Photos!!!!

JUSTIN BIEBER Totally NAKED! and NUDE! NO SHIRT or NO PANTS would be controversial! but Hot! Steamy! and Sexy! Many TRANSGENDER Females would be happy if he supports TRANSGENDERED RIGHTS! SECRET PHOTOS from a PRIVATE COLLECTION would be DESIRED BY MANY!

Ok, before we get to the

SHOCKING JUSTIN BIEBER NUDE PHOTOS!!!

I need to point your attention to Radell Smith’s DISTURBING! article found here:

http://www.examiner.com/article/luka-magnotta-s-transgendered-ex-gets-new-rights-ontario-human-rights-code.

It’s simply a MUST SEE TO BELIEBE!

Apparently, Ms. Smith felt that NDP representative, Cheri DiNovo’s six-year battle to amend Ontario’s Human Rights legislation to introduce language specifically addressing transgendered individuals was insufficiently newsworthy.In order to remedy this APPALLING! situation she tied in the landmark legislation with a focus on how it will benefit

LUKA MAGNOTTA’S “THE BUTCHER OF MONTREAL’S” TRANSGENDERED EX-GIRLFRIEND!!!

Ok, so I think you get the idea. Smith should be ASHAMED! But this is simply another example of the media’s sensationalist spin on transgender.

Can you imagine what it would be like if we all wrote in such a sensationalist way? Every story disseminated would be interlaced with hyperbolic irrelevant and unrelated information geared simply to generate more traffic/readers to our publications.

In fact, to highlight the excess I decided to generate this blog entry in a style, complimentary to Ms. Smith’s own. Sadly it’s all too easy to do. I would just need to find some related information, regardless of how tenuous such a relation might be to what ostensibly should be the larger subject. In this case:

EXCITING! NUDE PHOTOS OF JUSTIN BIEBER!

I mean, since I’m TRANSGENDERED and I am Canadian just like JUSTIN BIEBER and I love his songs BABY, NEVER SAY NEVER, LOVE ME, EENIE MEENIE, ONE TIME, NEVER LET YOU GO, ONE LESS LONELY GIRL, FAVORITE GIRL, DOWN TO EARTH, AND SOMEBODY TO LOVE it and we both are aware that

TRANGENDERED MISS UNIVERSE CONTESTANT JENNA TALACKOVA WAS NOT ONLY BORN A MALE BUT WAS NAKED AT BIRTH!

Well, the connection is obviously there. Also, we know that Justin Bieber is a caring, kind and warm individual. I’m sure if I could chat with him I could safely affirm:

JUSTIN BIEBER SUPPORTS TRANSGENDER RIGHTS!!!

So that’s just great!

Now about those photos, you know, the ones where

JUSTIN BIEBER IS TOTALLY NAKED!

Wow! they would be amazing wouldn’t they? I mean they sure would be  CONTROVERSIAL!!!

Whew! Anyways, I encourage you to view the readers’ comments at the bottom of Smith’s article. Seems few were fooled by her attempt to generate traffic courtesy of her textbook example of Yellow Journalism.

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Filed under Pet Peeves, Transgender

Media Portraits: Delegitimation of the Transgendered

Jerry Springer’s notoriety hit a new low February 20, 2007 when he featured “Sandra” the legless “transsexual

I admit starting off by referencing what has to be the worst episode ever aired on the Jerry Springer show (and that’s saying a lot) is probably too easy a ploy, but I couldn’t help myself. People that identify as transgendered have a long road to travel because we stand apart from the larger societies in which we live. Media from various countries add to our sense of marginalization because they have overwhelmingly portrayed us as deviant at best, and more often than not as a bunch of psychotics.

The transvestite killer in Brian De Palma’s “Dressed to Kill” comes to mind as does Buffalo Bill, the transgendered psychopath featured in Silence of the Lambs. Check out Gary Gaymon’s top 15 list at: Horroryearbook.com for a detailed discussion of the “transgendered as killer” motif in film. http://www.horroryearbook.com/544026/the-top-15-transexual-killer-movies

Springer’s show is simply a modern day incarnation of the classic “Freak Show”. The “bearded lady” cliche’ exists because it sensationalized the incongruity of a male secondary sex characteristic on a female. I’m sure if bearded ladies could generate ratings we’d see them on his show too. Sadly, Springer is not alone or even the exception when it comes to sensationalizing the transgendered. Maury Povich has aired a number of shows where audience members are asked to guess the birth sex of various contestants. Many feature enticing tag lines such as “Sexy Hot Ladies Or Are They…” and “Glamour Girls Or Sexy Studs?”

Transgendered individuals face challenges from within and without. If you are male to female (MtF) you may feel compromised by the expression of drag queens. Flamboyant in the extreme, many of them physically attractive and gifted in female mimicry they are predominantly homosexual yet happy to remain men physically, and to think of themselves as male. I remember chatting with a male friend who confessed a lot of apprehension in seeing me post-surgery as he pictured us chatting at a restaurant and me appearing more or less as the individual featured below:

All fine and good for an evening out on the town but rather less suited for a casual get together over coffee at your local Starbucks.

Many, if not most, transsexuals simply wish to blend in with other men or women of our identified gender. From a personal perspective, I have no greater desire than to fit in with with every other woman my age indistinguishable from a physical, psychological, and sociological perspective. I suspect most Females to Males (FtM) involuntarily cringe when they read of individuals like Thomas Beatie gushing over the joys of pregnancy. Beatie’s embracing of exclusive female sexual function confuses a public already reeling from a barrage of  misinformation regarding the transgendered.

Females to males generally have an easier go of it from a social perspective. The hormone therapy resulting in frequent hair loss, deepening of voices and overall masculinization allows them to blend in with other males more effectively. MtF’s face greater obstacles unless they transition earlier in life thereby avoiding advanced masculine development.

All this results in a dichotomy within the transgendered community of those that “pass” and those that by default become part of a visible minority. I fall into the latter half and as such have had to accept certain limitations and to impose upon my psyche a more realistic appraisal of my social presentation.  I have blogged about this in detail on another site:

http://www.gender-id.com/blog/?p=40

Collectively, media outlets of all stripes have tended to delegitimize transgendered individuals effectively reducing us to something less than we are and further marginalizing us in the process.  I highly recommend Sass Ragando Sasot’s brilliantly scripted article:

Reclaiming the Humanity of Filipino Transgender People.
http://filipinofreethinkers.org/2012/06/12/reclaiming-the-humanity-of-filipino-transgender-people/

It’s an exceptionally insightful piece of analysis and provided the impetus for my own entry here.

The most effective strategy for improving public perceptions of the transgendered is to generate improved media images. Essentially, we need to borrow a page from our Gay and Lesbian friends and represent in mainstream media. Elton John, Melissa Etheridge and others did so in music. Currently, Life of Agony’s Keith “Mina” Caputo and Against Me!’s Tom “Laura” Gabel have come out as transgendered. The spotlight is on them and so far the press has been fairly even handed in its treatment of the two musicians.

However, we have a long way to go. Obviously, we need to see sympathetic transgendered characters represented on the big and little screens. TransAmerica was excellent despite the fact that a non-transsexual played the lead role. However, it succeeded in creating a sympathetic and fundamentally identifiable character in the person of “Bree”. I admit I was hoping Felicity Huffman would win the coveted best actress award over Reese Witherspoon, whom by her own admission intimated that being a Tennessee girl portraying a Tennessee girl was not much of an acting stretch for her; but it wasn’t to be.

Young women such as the lovely and gifted writer, Janet Mock offer us a chance to see transsexuals in a positive light. She’s an inspiration and whether she welcomes it or not is a role model for young people who identify as transgender. I encourage everyone to visit her website at: http://janetmock.com/

The stunningly beautiful Jenna Talackova who broke the transgender barrier by successfully competing in the Miss Universe Canada pageant is another bright light. Yet, even Jenna, who so successfully mirrors society’s definition of an attractive desirable female has been denigrated in the press. Note the sensationalized (not to mention, inaccurate) heading featured in the magazine below (Jenna at top right) :

Must have been a special transgender issue… look at the various headlines featured **rollseyes**

I’d be remiss if I failed to mention Jamie Clayton, an up and coming model/actress who while acknowledging her transgendered history has made a sincere effort to be judged on her acting credentials alone. She is to be commended as is Chaz Bono the famous son of entertainers, Sonny and Cher, whose female-to-male transition garnered world-wide attention.

The task before us is two-fold: countermand and defeat negative caricatures and stereo-types that have been allowed to propagate, and secondly, to promote positive images that can help us find a place in the wider social context. Notable in this regard is a desire to see a transgendered person functioning as a mainstream news anchor delivering “hard” news. However, since cisgendered females have themselves only recently achieved that goal we may have to wait a bit.

Finally, many of us in the “do-not-pass” camp may have to settle with sympathetic portrayals of transgender akin to Lauren Potter’s Down Syndrome afflicted character in GLEE. Nothing, that dear lady can do will avoid the stigma of “other”; neither can those of us who do not pass ever hope to be defined as the equivalent of  a cisgendered female by virtue of our masculinized past. That’s a hard reality to accept but it does not negate any hope of being treated sympathetically or otherwise avoid being demeaned and dehumanized.

I love this image that came across many of our Facebook screens. I saved a copy of it and made it my personal mantra. I’ll leave you for now with its very positive message:

Words to Live By

In the Breaking News department:

Transgendered celebrity, Carmen Carrera suffered humiliation while filming a segment for TLC’s “The Cake Boss” last night. It’s an apt illustration of the media’s representation and general perception of transgendered people—even those as obviously attractive and desirable as Carmen.

You can read about the story here:

http://www.nj.com/hudson/index.ssf/2012/06/cake_boss_in_hot_water_with_tr.html

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Faeries, Fiction, and Feminism: The Truth of the Batman Princess

katielovestrent's The Batman Princess

Katielovesrent’s The Batman Princess
http://www.flickr.com/photos/hooraymabelmae/

I love what have come to be known as Urban Faerie-Tales. They constitute a genre related to the Twilight phenomenon but instead of sparkly vampires the focus is on those magical beings collectively known as “The Fey”. It’s a sub-genre within the wider milieu of Young Adult fiction that has exploded in popularity thanks to Harry Potter, Twilight, and The Hunger Games.

I’m a self-confessed fangirl; especially of Melissa Marr and Holly Black whose Wicked Lovely and Tithe series introduced me to the genre.

My two faves!

So, wherein lies the attraction? For me, it’s deeply personal. I am transgendered. When I first began transitioning in late 2005 I began a radical process of liberation and personal transformation that allowed a flood of desires and interests to find expression that previously had been almost entirely stifled.

I underwent the big operation in June 2008 at the Centre Métropolitain de Chirurgie in Montreal, Canada. Dr. Pierre Brassard was the gifted surgeon who handled the delicate operation. I am forever in his debt. As part of my pre-flight/pre-surgical preparation I recognized the need for something to read both on the plane and to help pass time while I recovered from the invasive surgical procedure.

With that in mind, I strolled into my local Chapters bookstore and made my way downstairs to the Young Adult section. Now, I’m in my 50’s **cough** but wandering into the Young Adult section of a bookstore is completely suited to my personality as anyone who knows me will testify. I have a quote on my Facebook page that reads: “Rachel’s like a big kid isn’t she?” courtesy of my dear friend, Mallory. And she is correct. I am, indeed, like a big kid. I like to say “I’m about 14 in girl years.” LOL 🙂

Anyways, I knew basically what I wanted to read. I wanted to read an adventure book about faeries! However, in my mind’s eye the kinds of faeries I wanted to read about weren’t like Disney’s Tinkerbell (although, I think she’s great). No, I was thinking of faeries more along the lines of Legolas, the oh-so-cool Elf from The Lord of the Rings. However, I also wanted a female protagonist. Since I was in the process of joining the girls’ team it was important to me (and it remains so) that I read about female characters and female centered adventures.

Fortunately, a young Chapter’s employee came to my rescue, having spotted me wandering misguidedly about the myriad stacks of books. She asked me what I was looking for and I explained that I was interested in books about faeries. I also solicited her advice on what young people considered to be amongst the best or most popular. She rambled off a few titles but soon led me over to where Holly Black’s “Tithe” series was located.

“Tithe” is a trilogy. It consists of  Tithe, Valiant, and Ironside. It was tempting to read them as soon as I got home but I resisted—valiantly so 😉

I was in the middle of reading something else by the time I was due to arrive in Montreal. Honestly, I have no recollection of what it was. However, I definitely remember, “Tithe”. It was a revelation!

Holly Black is a gifted writer, possibly known most for her work collaborating on the popular Spiderwick Chronicles. But for me, she will forever be known, and perhaps unfairly defined by, her work within the sub-genre of Faerie fiction.

Why do I enjoy Faerie fiction so much? I think, for me, it’s a perfect blend of feminine sensibility and edgy, magical, mystical adventure. In the hands of a Holly Black or Melissa Marr it is potent stuff. My son loves classical literature and tells me that Ovid’s “Metamorphosis” touches upon the universal theme of transformation. doubtless, Ovid’s influence is felt in the world of Faerie fiction; however, subtle that influence may be.

Undeniably my own transformation from male to female is one of the most profound journeys of transformation a human being can make. Frequently, within Faerie fiction one finds plot elements involving physical transformations. More often than not, the female protagonist moves from human to faerie, or has some long dormant faerie pedigree that is awakened at some point during the telling. Obviously, this kind of motif resonates powerfully with individuals such as myself.

There exists within Faerie fiction an almost perfect blend of masculine and feminine sensibilities. Yet, too often, I think, feminine traits are decried in a patriarchically infused culture. What a shame! Transsexuals are often criticized for reinforcing a status quo in which females are relegated as sex-objects, and as mere extensions of a male matrix. Proponents of Radical Feminism have been particularly out-spoken in their criticism of transgendered male-to-females.  What a shame! And yet, I believe the beauty and glory of feminine sensibilities are innate and should be afforded equal respect alongside the very boldest manifestations of masculinity.

I really enjoyed reading Louann Brizendine’s, “The Female Brain”. It’s a wonderful book and I highly recommend it to men and women alike. In it, the author relates how a feminist friend of hers wished to raise a daughter free of gender-stamped toys. In a sincere effort to raise her daughter free of such limitations she avoided giving her dolls, tea sets, and other such stereotypical “girl toys”. Her little girl did , however, own a  typical boy’s toy in the form of a red fire engine. I actually gave my copy away to a friend, but fortunately I found a great quote taken from this part of the book:

She walked into her daughter’s room one afternoon to find her cuddling the truck in a baby blanket, rocking it back and forth saying, “Don’t worry, little truckie, everything will be all right.”

This isn’t socialization. This little girl didn’t cuddle her “truckie” because her environment molded her unisex brain. There is no unisex brain. She was born with a female brain, which came complete with its own impulses. Girls arrive already wired as girls, and boys arrive already wired as boys. Their brains are different by the time they’re born, and their brains are what drive their impulses, values, and their very reality.

Source: http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/Books/story?id=2274147&page=1#.T8ozusWwXM0

Wow! I love that. Of course, as a transwoman. I relate strongly to notions of a hardwired female brain. I like to describe it as the small female rudder that determined my masculine boat’s journey into feminine waters. I thank God for it! I urge women to embrace their femininity. As the old song goes, “I enjoy being a girl” and so should every woman that feels that impetus.

However, it’s also about choice and it’s about freedom. Some cisgendered females by their own admission lack that kind of hardwired feminine sensibility. I get that. I was born in a male body so I understand that a woman may feel more masculine than feminine. Obviously, we should recognize her right to define herself as she is.

Nonetheless, let us not decry feminine impulses to emote, nurture, comfort, and embrace a desire to be pretty, and desirable. It’s all part of being a feminine woman or a feminine man as the case may be. For me, those characteristics are to be respected and valued. Melissa Marr has written on numerous occasions that her motive in writing what turned out to be the 5 part Wicked Lovely series was to create something specifically that her daughter might enjoy. I am so happy she did.

And now to the lovely heroine that headlines this particular entry—the Batman Princess. Is she not the most adorable thing? This little girl is the daughter of a woman who recognizes the simple, but profound truth, that her daughter is being true to herself. For a Halloween costume her daughter expressed a desire to be the Batman Princess.

No, not Batgirl, but a Batman Princess. It makes perfect sense to me. When my three-year old is dressed in her Dora the Explorer shoes, shirt, and jacket, she says “I’m a Dora Princess!” Once she called me a princess simply because I was wearing a hat. “Princess” just means “fancy”. Can you be a Batman Princess? Yes, of course. The crafting blogger Donkey’s Alright understands this.

Source: http://www.neatorama.com/neatobambino/2012/02/10/batman-princess-costume/

This little girl is the living embodiment of  an innocent, honest, truthful, representation of self. She is the personification of an edgy yet feminine presentation that should bring a smile of encouragement to anyone recognizing the integrity that rests at the core of this darling girl’s soul.

We can learn from her. After-all, aren’t the Hunger Games’ Katniss Everdeen, Tomb Raider’s Lara Croft, and a host of other edgy-yet-feminine heroines simply grown-up versions of the Batman Princess?

Jesus, himself, is undoubtedly a fan of our little Batman Princess.

“Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like these children.”

Matthew 19:14 New Living Translation (©2007)

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Identify These Silver Screen Actresses

Can you name these actresses? Above is Loretta Young

Hi everyone. There’s this great video on YouTube featuring “The Smiths” classic “Please Please Let Me Get What I Want. It features many actresses from the Silver Screen but the author of the video has never been able to identify them. I made an effort and came up with a few but there’s still plenty of gaps. No doubt, I’ve probably mis-identified a few too. I tried posting to his video channel but unfortunately the list exceeds the allowable character count.

The video can be found here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t3LxEo3Jbps&feature=context-gal (sadly it is not available for mobile)

Here’s what I have so far:

Mary Pickford at 0:01
Lillian Gish at 0:03
Gloria Swanson at 0:04
Marlene Dietrich at 0:07
Norma Shearer at 0:08
Ruth Chatterton at 0:10
Jean Harlow at 0:12
Katharine Hepburn at 0:14
Carole Lombard at 0:15
Bette Davis at 0:17
Greta Garbo at 0:19
Barbara Stanwyck at 0:22
Vivien Leigh at 0:23
Greer Garson 0:25
Hedy Lamarr at 0:27
Rita Hayworth at 0:29
Gene Tierney at 0:30
Olivia de Havilland at 0:32
Ingrid Bergman at 0:34
Joan Crawford at 0:36
Ginger Rogers at 0:38
Loretta Young at 0:40
Deborah Kerr 0:42
Judy Garland at 0:44
Ann Baxter 0:46
Lauren Bacall at 0:47
Susan Hayward at 0:49
Ava Gardner at 0:51
Marilyn Monroe at 0:53
Grace Kelly at 0:55
Lana Turner at 0:57
Elizabeth Taylor at 0:59
Kim Novak at 1:01
Audrey Hepburn at 1:03
Dorothy Dandridge at 1:04
Shirley MacLaine at 1:06
Natalie Wood at 1:08
Rita Moreno at 1:10
Janet Leigh at 1:11
Brigitte Bardot at 1:14
Sophia Loren at 1:16
Ann Margret at 1:18
Shirley Jones at 1:20                     [THANKS TRACY] ❤
Raquel Welch at 1:21
Tuedsay Weld at 1:23
Jane Fonda at 1:25
Julie Christie at 1:27
Faye Dunaway at 1:29
Catherine Deneuve at 1:31
Jacqueline Bisset at 1:33            [THANKS TRACY] ❤
Candice Bergen at 1:34
Isabella Rossalini at 1:36
Diane Keaton at 1:38
Goldie Hawn at 1:40
Meryl Streep at 1:42
Susan Sarandon at 1:43
Jessica Lange 1:45                 [THANKS TRACY] ❤

I’d love to fill in the blanks 🙂

UPDATE SEPTEMBER 18/2012

Apparently the video with the Smiths is simply a lift from the original found here:

All the actresses are identified but I am pleased by the fact I was able to identify most of them independently with the added benefit of adding the time each actress appears. The original video is actually longer and features a number of more recent ladies to grace the silver screen.

At any rate, I am happy to report the mystery is solved.

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