Tag Archives: transgender

Book Review: The Complicated Geography of Alice by Jules Vilmur

The Complicated Geography of Alice by Jules Vilmur

The Complicated Geography of Alice by Jules Vilmur

In the early years of my transition from male to female I was a daily participant on a few select gender identity boards; notably the Transgender Canada Forum and the apparently defunct “GID forum” based in the U.S. I also flirted with “Twitter” and although my account is all but dormant these days (for the morbidly curious I post as CanadaGirl58) it did afford me the opportunity to connect with Jules Vilmur. Under the name of “@Laurustina”, Jules allowed some of us on Twitter to view selections from a book she hoped to publish one day. That book of course turned out to be “The Complicated Geography of Alice”.

Jules’ memoir of her daughter, Alice’s own journey from male to female is a harrowing, out-of-control ride into the depths of drug abuse and chronic addiction. You’ll want a pharmaceutical lexicon to keep track of the seemingly endless list of chemicals young Alice managed to consume. The book is brilliantly written and Jules’ struggle to understand her daughter’s conflicted, and decidedly complex psyche becomes the reader’s own.  There’s a real temptation to try and “fix” Alice and the author’s frustrations with a chronically ill-informed medical profession shackled by assumptions and prejudices too numerous to mention will have you shaking your head.

Despite opposition from various quarters— including members of their own family, Jules and Alice find a measure of support, (some of it simply outstanding) from members of the GBLTQ community. Religious prejudice plays a role here but the author rises above it and treats “spiritual” opposition to her daughter’s transition with a notable lack of rancor and a healthy dose of grace. The book features a colorful cast of supporting characters but at the center of it all is the person of Alice.

Fortunately, you cannot help but love the cocky, stubborn, willful— yet sensitive and fun-loving, mercurial mix of iron and clay that is, Alice. The author masterfully communicates her roller-coaster emotions of rising hope and optimism followed by gut-wrenching fear, concern, and despair.

This is an intensely personal book but one that will resonate strongly with people from all walks of life by virtue of its fundamental humanity. Its essential truth reveals a story fueled by a mother’s unquenchable love for her child. I smiled, I winced and I cried… a lot… but the book is compelling; and yes it will stay with you long after the last page is turned.

A modern tale of a modern family that manages to transcend by far the boundaries of Transgender biography. 

Available for purchase at Amazon.com

TITLE: The Complicated Geography of Alice

Product Details
Paperback: 332 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (December 1, 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1503021769
ISBN-13: 978-1503021761
Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 8 inches
Shipping Weight: 1 pounds

Follow Jules Vilmur on Twitter @Laurustina and on Facebook: Laurustina.com

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A Review of “Full Circle: A Father’s Journey with a Transgender Child” by Derry Rundlett & Nicole Rundlett

"Full Circle: A Father's Journey with a Transgender Child" by Derry Rundlett & Nicole Rundlett.

“Full Circle: A Father’s Journey with a Transgender Child” by Derry Rundlett & Nicole Rundlett.

As a post-operative transsexual woman, myself, and as someone who counts Nicole Rundlett amongst her personal friends I can hardly enter a review of “Full Circle” as an unbiased observer. However, Nicole knows me well enough to know that I am lavish on praise where it is due and overtly critical of actions and opinions where they lack merit or validity. See my article on “Passing 101 or The Emperor’s New Clothes (REVISITED)” as an example of my critical edge.

( https://chrysalid58.wordpress.com/2014/02/12/passing-101-or-the-emperors-new-clothes-revisited/ )

I first met Nicole in Montreal at Dr. Pierre Brassard’s  Clinique de chirurgie plastique et esthétique in early November 2009. She was there for SRS (sex reassignment surgery) supported by her then girlfriend, and now, wife,  Arlene (Ar) and I was there for brow work, rhinoplasty, and breast augmentation by Dr. Eric Bensimon. A year earlier I had undergone SRS myself under the skilled hands of Dr. Brassard.

Full Circle is set apart from most other books on the subject as it is told largely by Derry Rundlett— Nicki’s father. The book is in essence a love letter between father and child. Derry chronicles the evolution of his relationship with Nicole from conception through to the birth of son, Nick, and the rebirth of Nick into Nicole. It is at once both moving and profound as the author tackles the issue of his son’s transition from male to female head-on.

Male-to-Female transsexuals can easily fall into the trap of seeing themselves less objectively than the world around them may view them. It was refreshing for me and more importantly, critical to Nicki’s well-being that she largely avoided that common pitfall in the course of her transitioning from male to female.

Both Nicki and her father were keenly aware that Nicole was seen as something “other” during the early phase of her transition. Derry recites an incident where Nicole’s gender was openly questioned. It is generally a difficult period for most male-to-female transsexuals — (I was no exception) and public scrutiny can be intense.

Derry recounts the struggle that both he and other members of the family (both immediate and extended) had in coming to terms with “Nicole”. Some relationships were indeed interrupted if not lost altogether and Nicki’s transition proved the undoing of his first marriage.

There was undeniable confusion and pain for all involved — Nicole included. Derry answers many of the questions raised by those opposed to sex-changes, transgender rights, and the like. A self-identified Christian, Derry recounts the difficulty of trying to apply stereotypical Christian methods of coping to his agnostic/atheist child ( in fairness, I am not sure about Nicki’s stance on the issue of religion).

Many close family and friends of the Rundlett’s are practicing Christians and they are treated with respect and love by Derry despite witnessing many of them failing to embrace Nicole’s new identity.

There are no rose colored glasses here despite an all-encompassing love of a father for his child that trumps any and all arguments that may be leveled against Nicole.

The author is also aware of the high number of suicides committed by gender variant individuals and the book opens and closes with an acknowledgement of that grim fact. No less a personage than Professor Jennifer Finney Boylan is afforded the book’s “Afterword” on the subject.

Full Circle is a fast-easy read despite the subject matter. There is plenty of humor to be found amidst the often controversial subjects of sex and sexuality. The book is especially recommended for parents and other family members coming to grips with the reality of having a gender variant child. Both Nicki and Derry express their shared hope that this book may actually save lives. Their concern is not overstated.

From the publisher’s website:

He had to grieve the loss of a son & welcome the addition of a daughter only to come full circle and find out, in the end, he never lost anything. The essence of his child was still the same person she’d always been.

“Full Circle: A Father’s Journey with a Transgender Child” by Derry Rundlett & Nicole Rundlett can be ordered via aBASK Publishing:

http://www.abaskpublishing.com/full_circle_a_fathers_journey_with_a_transgender_child_by_derry_rundlett__nicole_rundlett_click_here-1

or through Amazon:

http://www.amazon.com/Full-Circle-Fathers-Journey-Transgender/dp/0996239901/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1432627761&sr=8-1&keywords=full+circle+derry+rundlett

Also from the Publisher:

This is a 216 page tradepaper, perfect-bound 5.25″x8″ book with photos in living color. The Foreword is by Wayne Maines whose daughter won the highest transgender rights case in the history of Maine. The Afterword is by Jennifer Finney Boylan, reprinted with permission, “How to Save Your Life.”

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Passing 101 or The Emperor’s New Clothes (REVISITED)

A 2014 update of an article I wrote for a now-defunct forum in 2008

How many of you can recall Hans Christian Anderson’s fable about the Emperor duped by his own vanity parading about naked amongst his subjects?

Emporer

The reason I mention this famous tale is that it frequently comes to mind when  encountering neophyte transitioning Male to Females (MtF’s).

The danger for the transitioning individual who fails to realistically evaluate her  ability to “pass” is two-fold. One: Much like that Emperor of old, she will likely  end up an object of ridicule. Two:  When the reality of her situation finally hits,  she can find herself emotionally devastated, spiralling into a severe bout of  depression.

While I am not advocating a “don’t transition if you can’t pass” policy of  transgender expression; I think it important to balance internal perceptions with  external realities for the reasons stated above.

Moreover, I think it incumbent upon the transitioner to maximize the success of her transition socially in order to legitimize transgender expression in the midst of a misinformed/dis-informed public.  Too often, I see outraged MtF’s criticizing society’s institutions for failing to acknowledge their inherent female status while the former still possess significant male physical attributes.

Although, we can all agree that society should offer no refuge for bigotry and ignorance; Neither should we expect a largely uninformed/dis-informed society to embrace such profound changes in its transgendered populace. I think it only fair and reasonable that we provide society the opportunity to come to terms with the intricacies involved in the process of transition.

God forbid that we should appear as modern examples of the naked Emperor along the lines of Little Britain’s Emily Howard (”Britain’s worst transvestite”) and Florence (the one with the moustache). The two of whom zealously hold fast to the standard “We’re Lay-dees” despite all appearances to the contrary.

The disconnect between internal perception and external reality is at once both obvious and painful as Miss Emily and faithful sidekick mince about England, failing repeatedly to convince a sceptical public that they are indeed, female. Sadly, these two “characters” represent a greater reality than many MtF transsexuals are willing to admit.

Simply put, “Methinks the lay-dees doth protest too much!”

Methinks the lay-dees doth protest too much!

Florence and Emily of “Little Britain”

Update:

Much of this touches upon the problematic gender binary strongly opposed by many if not most within the trans community. I have written elsewhere regarding the gender binary—

https://chrysalid58.wordpress.com/2012/04/19/bye-bye-gender-binary/

At any rate the issue is far from resolved. Recently, CNN commentator, Piers Morgan and transgender personality, Janet Mock ran afoul of one another due to the issue of self-identification vs. societal identification of gender. The trans community does not hold a monopoly on the notion of gender identity. It is common to all of us; and yes, even piers Morgan had to at some point resolve that question for himself.

Here you can see the decidedly awkward confrontation following the initial interview:

Basically, it all comes down to Piers working within a traditional binary of male and female and Janet arguing/defending/forwarding a notion of gender that is self-defined— genitalia notwithstanding. Personally, I felt the issue was far too nuanced for mainstream consumption. At the risk of advancing yet another metaphor we in the trans community too often expect the general public to join the fragmented gender arena with the precision of  a finishing carpenter when they are by in-large capable only of bringing the crudest of framing instruments to the discussion.

As an addendum to the topic of passing — Janet Mock advances the elevated idea that she is not trying to “pass” as anything. Rather, she is simply realizing the truth of “being”— in her case as a female. The disconnect occurs because the wider culture does not always add legitimacy to the individual’s perception of self. It can work fairly smoothly for someone like Janet Mock who presents within accepted societal perceptions of femininity. However, simply walking about and living life as a “laydeee” may run a little less smoothly for the Emily Howards of this world.

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Transgendered Athletes: The Fallon Fox Controversy

MMA fighter Fallon Fox

MMA fighter Fallon Fox

This is one of those “ugh” posts where as a transgendered writer I find myself reluctantly siding (at least in part) with critics of a transgendered “sister”. The short and quick of it is Fallon Fox (love her name) has exploded onto the Mixed Martial Arts scene with two crushing victories over other women; one last year, in May and the other just a few weeks ago, March 02, 2013. Her latest victim was dispatched in short order, just 39 seconds into Round 1 with a powerful knee to the head. Mixed Martial Arts is for me a bit of a guilty pleasure. However, my interest is pretty much limited to the Women’s game and I happily count myself amongst the amazing Ronda Rousey’s legions of fans. But, I digress.

The criticisms laid to Ms. Fox’s account center on her status as a post-operative male-to-female transsexual. Critics (and there are many) state that as a transsexual woman she possesses innate physiological advantages over her opponents. Larger lungs, the ability to accrue greater musculature, and a heavier, denser skeletal frame are seen as providing her with an unfair competitive edge.

Although, Fallon states that medical science supports her legitimate claim to participation. I think that to some extent the jury is still out on that question. I have argued elsewhere on this blog that our status as male and female needs to be evaluated based on social criteria. In other words, if we as individuals, dress, present, and behave in a manner consistent with societal norms and expectations of a given sex then our respective governing authorities need to recognize that orientation and legally identify us as such.

However, in the world of sport where steroid use has been universally condemned–Lance Armstrong immediately comes to mind— then some scrutiny of transgendered athletes is fair. The basic question of whether Fallon Fox and other transgendered athletes have an inherent advantage should be examined.

I’m prepared to fall on my own sword in regards to this issue. As I have stated numerous times. I am female but I have a male past and because I transitioned later in life I have certain male features and undoubtedly some hard-wiring that is specifically male oriented. Would I eliminate these aspects of myself if I could? The answer is Yes, unreservedly so. However, the fact remains that physiologically I have certain male attributes that my cis-gendered sisters do not. I believe Fallon does as well.

While I am aware that the Olympic governing body has granted transsexuals the right to compete under the banner of their chosen sex. I believe that participation in any given competitive context needs to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. This is simply common sense.

In the meantime, I urge for kindness and compassion from society at large— to dehumanize us is a disservice to our basic humanity. We are not “its”. Also the word “tranny” is not a good word for us. It is dehumanizing and almost always pejorative. Nor, is Fallon Fox a man; neither should she be viewed as one. She has availed herself of everything medical science currently offers to bring her physiology within female parameters (albeit, within a MMA context). Some of the anti-transgendered rhetoric thrown against her is appalling and should not be tolerated let alone condoned by anyone.

I wish her every success as an athlete but more importantly as a woman. This does not mean I endorse her competing against cis-gendered women. However, neither should she be forced to fight males either. Perhaps a bout against ostracized steroid abuser Christiane “Cyborg” Santos would be an equitable compromise?

At any rate, below are a few YouTube links featuring Fallon Fox in her own words and some of the harsher more prejudicial rants against her.

And a great sports website dedicated to the LGBT community with an article responding to another negative rant towards Fallon Fox.

http://www.outsports.com/2013/3/24/4141668/fallon-fox-john-fain-peggy-morgan-mma-transgender

Fallon Fox is on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/FallonFoxofficial

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Days of Future Past: Joe Walsh, Prophet, and WarBirds Revisited

It’s been awhile since I have posted anything—this summer has really been about shedding some pounds and engaging in a daily 13k walk around my local area. Since I live in glorious BC, Canada, the view I take in on my walk is spectacular and features a mix of rural pastures, thick forested areas with well worn paths and sweeping views of the majestic Pacific Ocean. But I mention all this as a quick aside to the main topic today which has to do with “outing” myself in order to fill in some gaps left over from my transition which began back in 2005.

From 1995 until somewhere around 2004-05 I was heavily involved in what is considered the Internet’s first  “Massively Multi-player Online Game” (MMOG), WarBirds. The game is basically a WWII flight-simulator that allows subscribers to  engage in virtual air combat flying simulated versions of World War II aircraft, including the likeness of the gorgeous Spitfire IX pictured above.

The call letters, PR P, reference yours truly. Before the World Wide Web took over and Facebook and MySpace beckoned a world of non-savvy computer users to post pictures of their pets, zingoing bingo, bejewelling  themselves, and running virtual farms—online entertainment took the form of BBS systems and telephone access to dedicated networks such as CRIS.

Such was the case for Kesmai’s, Airwarrior, a direct predecessor to WarBirds and out of which sprang the latter’s nascent community. In 1994, I remember calling into Kesmai’s server and talking with a male representative who asked me what my “handle” was (think, username). I had come up with the name “Prophet” as a tip of the virtual hat towards my Christian faith. Well, without missing a beat the voice on the other end of the line said “Ok ‘Prop’, let’s get you started” or words to that effect. He punched in the necessary information and exclaimed with no small degree of surprise “Wow! I can’t believe it’s not taken!” Such a pithy, descriptive epithet huh? And it was all mine! So Prophet was shortened to Prop and that’s how I was known (at least online) for the next ten years of my life. “Prop” was such a cool but friendly sounding name. I think it suited me perfectly—although, I do remember one of the Finnish guys telling me: “I always picture you wearing one of those beanies with the propeller on top” LOL! We actually had, not one, but a whole squadron of those “propeller beanie” guys playing WarBirds. Called the “Dweebs of Death ” they were a “can’t miss em’ ” sight at the many conventions we held.

When my gender crisis exploded in full force during the summer of 2005  I knew it was time to hang up my virtual wings and with the exception of my dear friend “JT”, in Memphis, told no one in the WarBirds community of my impending transformation from male to female. Why didn’t I have a big coming out announcement? Honestly, WarBirds was such a testosterone fueled environment that I simply couldn’t cope with it all. Besides, although I was an active member of the WarBirds community I only saw the guys face-to-face semi-annually at the various conventions we attended.

And so I basically disappeared overnight and that was that—close chapter—close book on WarBirds. However, it doesn’t really end there. Earlier this year when I decided to resurrect my dormant writing skills I rediscovered “WarBirds: The Story so far…”  the book I co-authored back in 1997 which chronicled the rise of WarBirds and the evolution of its online community. A Google search resulted in my stumbling across Librarything, a website dedicated to authors and their work. I was somewhat surprised to see my name and book listed there. In fact “WarBirds: The Storyso far…” has about 3 Google page listings featured for it. Frankly, it was encouraging to see.

So, I generated this blog and updated the entry on myself over at Librarything making mention of the fact that I am in fact a post-operative male-to-female transsexual. In some ways, making claim to my book as “Rachel” was a bit like putting a carrot out in order to trap rabbits. It was only a matter of time till my old “buddies” from the WarBirds community would track me down and learn of my newly minted female status.

Yesterday, a trio of brief messages arrived pending my approval here at this blog. Honestly, I was super happy to hear from them. Their words brought a smile to my face and genuine affection from my heart. In fact, it was those messages (see my WarBirds post under the Publishing section if you are at all curious as to what they said) that prompted today’s post. So a very warm and gratitude filled thanks to my old friends—“Poog, Udie and JT”!

You guys are the best ❤

By the way, Udie (pronounced, You Die) is such a nice friendly guy that I could never equate the idea of a ballsy “you die sucker” attitude emanating from his 4-letter handle. So, somehow I had it fixed in my mind that Udie should be read and pronounced as “OOdee” Lol, That right there tells you a lot about me.

Udie’s note to me references Intellevision’s classic, if not legendary, voice modulated title, B-17 Bomber. Udie, hails from Texas and we both remembered playing this early 1980s “flight-sim” mutually recalling with shared mirth the southern drawl excitedly intoning: “Bandits 3 o’clock” and the game’s title “B-17 Bomber!” Although, with that southern inflection it sounded more like “Bayndaits 3 o’clock” and “BaySayvantaeeen Bawm–ber!”

In a related but entirely different context, I was offered a chance to see Joe Walsh perform here a couple days ago. Another dear friend was promoting the show and had offered me a couple of complimentary tickets (in the VIP section, nonetheless). But you know, the thorns on the vine sometimes aren’t worth the fruit. The catch was that shared acquaintances were to be present who displayed a mocking self-satisfied attitude when word of my transition first reached them and others who simply disapproved of my sex-change and with whom my relationship ended pretty much as soon as word came of my impending operation.

I just didn’t feel like subjecting myself to their scrutiny.

And so, I missed out on what was undoubtedly a great concert. But, I have no regrets as to my decision to pass on the opportunity. Personally, I think a passive approach is best when connecting with old friends and acquaintances.  I don’t recommend an “in your face— I’m here I’m Queer” deal with it attitude. Rather, I like the kind of approach expressed in the sentiment below:

If any man have ears to hear, let him hear

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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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