Tag Archives: transsexuals

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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Filed under Christianity, Publishing, Transgender

My System: How I lost my excess weight

Tools of the Weight Loss Trade

Tools of the Weight Loss Trade

As the old saying goes: “Your mileage may vary” so this particular blog entry is a highly individualized description of what worked for me. Obviously, it will work for anyone but vegans will cringe at my routinized use of “Lean Cuisine” dinners and others simply hate jogging or long distance walks.   Nonetheless, I’m hoping a specific description of how I dropped from 235 to 180 lbs may prove useful for others fighting the battle of the bulge.

Disclaimers: I’m not a fitness or diet specialist in any way shape or form. I’m simply sharing the ways and means by which I tackled my own weight issues. I am also not endorsing any of the products or brand-names I used in obtaining my weight-loss goals. Again, I am simply identifying them for the sake of describing exactly how I was able to drop my excess weight.

HOW I DID IT

The first step was identifying the problem. Not so much the issue of “Am I overweight?” (that was obvious) but rather “Why am I overweight?” In my case the problem was simply a lack of portion control combined with a sedentary lifestyle. Of course, recognizing the problem was just the beginning. Somehow, I had to find the motivation to do something about it. In my case it simply boiled down to a question of “is this bothering me to the point where I want to do something about it?” Fortunately, the answer was a resounding “yes!”

So what to do? Well, I recognized that portion control was a BIG (pardon the pun) problem. For breakfast, I loved having bacon, eggs, hash browns and toast. However, none of this was measured out. So I found myself eating maybe 4 slices of toast and eating as much bacon as I deemed it necessary to feel full! Hash browns (frequently, a pre-packaged McCain’s brand) were a particular treat and I would return to the pot as often as necessary to scoop out another cupful or more! Admittedly, those days where I consumed bacon were infrequent at best but the eggs, hash browns, and toast were pretty much a staple.

Dinners frequently consisted of pasta or rice and much as I had done with breakfast, I’d find myself returning to the pot 2 or 3 times to scoop out more pasta or rice. The other issue was my lack of physical activity. I would invariably sit for hours at a time glued to the chair in front of my computer. Changes had to be made!

PORTION CONTROL

The first thing I did was to reign in my out of control food portions. Much as a child will enjoy the extra-stability provided by training wheels when first learning to ride a bicycle, I had to have some restrictive measures enacted to rope in my out-of-control appetite. To help me out I purchased a meal replacement drink for breakfast. I chose “Ensure” [high protein] see: http://www.ensure.ca/. It comes with a few flavour choices, notably,  Strawberry, Chocolate, and Vanilla. Fortunately, they all taste good to my palate. The great thing about the meal replacement is that I can easily go 4 hours before experiencing any hunger following ingestion. Moreover, because these replacement meals are so accessible I never miss out on having at least something for breakfast. And yes, a single cup of coffee with milk and sugar remains a constant at breakfast too.

Lunch frequently takes the form of a cup of homemade Lentil Soup and two pieces of toast and butter. It lasts a good long while in the fridge and is tastefully delicious. For Dinner, it’s frequently a green salad with 1/2 a tablespoon E-V-O-O (as Rachael Ray would say) and 1/2 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar along with a tablespoon of unsalted sunflower seeds. The salad compliments a microwavable Lean Cuisine Dinner see: http://www.leancuisine.ca/. Lean Cuisine comes with a number of choices and chicken-“something” (pasta, veg, rice) is a frequent choice. I also average an apple or two a day as part of my “snacking” choice as well as hummus on a low cal cracker.

DOING THE MATH

I hate math! But I had to suck it up as well as my expanding gut in order to lose weight. Like so many of us these days, I am tied to my cell-phone. In fact, I don’t even own a land-line anymore. However, my cell-phone or rather “smart-phone” has been a huge help in my quest to lose weight and keep it off thanks to a wonderful free application called “Lose It” see: http://www.loseit.com/ 

This “app” is the coolest, easiest to use, thing you can imagine. It even has a built-in bar code scanner that you can use to read the nutritional data off of most commercial food products. If it fails to find the item in question you can easily create an entry from scratch by simply recording the nutritional information available from the product label ( calories per serving, fat percentage, protein, carbohydrates, etc…). Nonetheless, pay attention to the numbers. Occasionally, there will be a discrepancy between Lose It!’s data and the nutritional information on the product’s label. Fortunately, you can quickly edit any information in Lose Its database and adjust the numbers accordingly. It also records your weekly and daily nutritional intake.

Perhaps, best of all is that it calculated the amount of calories I needed to drop in order to reach my goal weight. In my case, that amounted to a daily intake of 1,409 calories in order to lose 2 pounds per week. Of course, men have the advantage in that they can consume 200-500 more calories than women can on a daily basis in order to reach their target weight.  Other factors such as age and height are also factored in.

There are a number of free-to-use weight-date calculators available on the World Wide Web. In my case they generally calculate approximately 7 months in order to go from my initial 235 lbs to my 180 goal weight. I began all this on December 2, 2012 so somewhere towards June/July 2013 I’ll have obtained my goal. At the time of this writing I am at 205 pounds. I’m happy to report I’m 30 pounds down with 25 more to go! Once I reach 180 pounds I’ll be in a position to reassess things and decide if more weight-loss is required.

Finally, I replaced a teaspoon dipped in the sugar bowl with an actual measuring spoon! In fact, measuring spoons and cups can be found throughout my kitchen sitting in receptacles for various food items. It takes all the guess-work out of wondering how much food I’m ingesting and a quick touch of a button records it in my iPhone’s Lose It! app in order to maintain an ongoing record of my progress. It’s simplicity itself.

EXERCISE

Once again this is a highly personal issue. My advice is to find a staple exercise you enjoy or “somewhat” enjoy and make that your “go-to”. In my case this takes the form of jogging. Well, to be honest, for about 6 months it took the form of walking. However, as the pounds dropped and my strength grew I eventually turned my walk into a jog. Once again, my Lose It! app came in handy as I was able to record my daily exercise referencing the approximate calorie burn provided by the activity.  On days where I simply couldn’t muster the energy and/or motivation to get out there I supplemented with an alternative.

I purchased a set of 5 lb free weights (dumb bells) which are heavy for me and incorporated them into a series of exercises I found on Youtube. In order of when I incorporated them; they are:

Even now, these are not my preferred or go-to exercise routines. I much prefer my jog— still, I try to get some weight training-cardio in to build strength, and to up my metabolic rate.

My jog features a scenic 13k summer route and a truncated 8k version I enjoy for the winter months. Sunscreen, sunglasses (yes, they invariably steam up) and my ubiquitous headphones are standard equipment for my daily outing. I’ve become a familiar sight in my local area and people frequently recognize me from my jogging excursions. I created a specific playlist on my iPod for my workout featuring some up-tempo syncopated magic to help keep me moving at pace. If anyone reading this has a fave song or 2 that helps them move during their own workout please drop me a line or comment with a recommendation. I’m always on the lookout for more tunes to move to.

Two scenic views frequented on my daily jogging route

Two scenic views frequented on my daily jogging route

Final Thoughts

I’m probably a bit OCD when it comes to weight-loss which isn’t entirely a bad thing. I’m constantly going to the scale and looking for that tenacious pound to drop. Again, this kind of behaviour will likely drive some personality types to the edge but it works fine for me. I’m aware that all this scale minding is short-term and is basically a by-product of such close scrutiny of my weight-loss goal. However, I’m never really discouraged by the numbers that somehow seem to stay the same or even go up on occasion! I know that ultimately they must fall. I also take advantage of my measuring tape keeping tabs on the inches lost around my waist, arms, boobs, and thighs. It’s really encouraging seeing the numbers fall as my dedication to my weight-loss goals are realized in the flesh so-to-speak.

The only real math needed to win the diet war is this simple equation:

BURN MORE CALORIES THAN YOU TAKE IN!

That’s a mantra we all need to memorize. Regardless of what diet or program you adhere to the end result boils down to that simple equation.

Oh, and forwarned is forearmed as they say. Be prepared to encounter and overcome weight loss PLATEAUS! These are awful things. Basically, you’re dieting and exercising, staying the course, and yet impossibly you seem to be stuck at a certain weight. Rest assured, the math doesn’t lie. If you burn more calories than you take in you will lose the weight. So far I’ve encountered two plateaus on my way to 180 lbs. I encountered one at 220 lbs and a second at 210. In both cases, I helped propel myself forward by upping my calorie burn by adding in further exercise. However, I didn’t see the results over-night.

It’s important to remember that losing weight isn’t a 100 yard dash it’s a long-distance run. So be patient, settle-in and stick to whatever program is working for you. Honestly, I have learned to control my eating much as I learned to control my cigarette habit. I was a pack and a half a day smoker for close to 30 years. I quit 13 years ago coming up this May 13th. It was difficult but I did it. However, I remain vigilant and simply internalized the truth that I can never again afford the luxury of having even one cigarette. Should I fail in that goal I’d be right back smoking a pack and a half a day in no time at all.

My portion-control issues are the same. Measuring cups and spoons are here to stay. For me they are not an option. Perhaps in time I may be able to let go of my handy-dandy “Lose It!” side-kick; but I wouldn’t bet on it. And my daily jog will likely devolve towards a daily walk at some point. We all get older. However, my commitment to physical activity must be a daily ongoing affair. If I’m fortunate enough to reach my golden years. I wish them to be truly golden as opposed to infirmity and poor health— a fixture in some old folks home unable to move or think with any true purpose.

Hopefully, some of you may find my own experience helpful and this particular blog entry of some use. Once upon a time I weighed 254 pounds! Perhaps even more. Ouch! When I finally reach my goal I promise to post a picture of me then with one at my goal weight. The contrast should be interesting to say the least. 🙂

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Filed under Diet and Exercise, Transgender

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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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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Pregnant Men and Lactating Guys: Pushing the Gender Envelope

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Well it’s Mother’s Day so what better way to celebrate this annual observance than to throw a wrench into the works and discuss transgendered males that welcome the joys of pregnancy and breastfeeding? Once again, I find myself challenged by divergent behaviors within the trans community. Not only that, but I recognize the inherent hypocrisy within myself for questioning the validity of these maternal expressions coming from my transgendered brothers.

But let me say that as a post-operative, male-female, transsexual I have undertaken every procedure current medicine is able to provide in furthering my goal to mirror, reflect—to become, as indistinguishable from my cisgendered sisters as is medically possible. In my case that has meant undergoing sexual reassignment and refashioning my penis into a functioning vagina, breast augmentation (a “D” cup in my case) forehead reconstruction, electrolysis, laser hair removal, and rhinoplasty.

And if it were medically possible, I would undertake whatever procedure would ensure menstruation and the associated risks of pregnancy. In short, I would welcome whatever biological functions are reflective of the female sex. Now, I am acutely aware that there exist many people who are passionately adverse to lending any credence to my claim of female status. Nonetheless, as I have written elsewhere in this blog, my appeal is towards a social definition of sex designation one that embodies an active effort on the part of people to project and embrace norms reflective of their chosen gender.

Whilst fervently, actively pursuing a feminine expression of self I have also divested myself of anything biologically seen as the exclusive purview of the male sex. First and foremost I have absolutely no interest in owning those rights. So, men fill your boots and have at er’. I’ll happily take my place with the women.

Honestly, I am challenged and perplexed when I see transmen embracing sexual functions related to their female heritage. I just don’t get it! In my case I spent a great deal of time, money, and effort to rid myself of my male heritage. Not only do I wish to be rid of it but there was a large degree of emotional discomfort in possessing it in the first place.

In a world where women as beautiful, articulate, and feminine as Jenna Talackova, and Jamie Clayton have their legitimacy questioned seeing transmen such as Thomas Beatie (the pregnant man) and Trevor MacDonald ( a Winnipeg transman making headlines for breastfeeding) embrace such female related sexual functions can only add fuel to the fires of criticism. I admit that we have little hope in winning over all our critics, but certainly sending mixed messages of the sort Beatie and MacDonald have delivered is in no one’s interest.

Unfortunately, I’m sure to raise the ire of others in the GBLT community but this article is an honest reflection of what I feel. Certainly, I do not advocate censure or any other move aimed at limiting freedom of  choice from individuals seeking to embrace biological functions associated with the opposite sex. I am saying that these behaviors further confuse and frustrate a public already challenged by the notion of transgender.

Yes, I am aware that at least when it comes to lactation there is some anecdotal references to males generating breast milk—and even breastfeeding in some instances. In fact, years ago when self medicating with a friend’s discarded birth control pills I was generating visible droplets of prolactin from my nipples. Self administering estrogen or testosterone is not advised by the way and can be extremely dangerous. Fortunately, I ended up under an endocrinologist’s care and my hormone levels were reduced to normal female levels. Nonetheless, I embraced the issuance of prolactin as a distinctly female condition and psychologically warmed to the notion that I was in some way functioning in a female manner.

Nonetheless, fair is fair and in that spirit you may read of Mr. MacDonald’s adventures in breastfeeding via his own blog at: http://www.milkjunkies.net/

Thomas Beatie’s homepage here: http://www.definenormal.com/PregnantMan/Home.html

Happy Mother’s Day gentlemen. Will it be a cigar or flowers? 😉

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Bye Bye Gender Binary?

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Krista Kleiner, aka Miss  Bb. Pilipinas-International 2010, aka  Krissa Mae, recently came  out as opposed to transgendered participants in the Miss Universe pageant.

 Kleiner stressed that people should not forget what the Miss Universe pageant is about:  expressing the “real essence of a woman.”

 “The essence of a woman is something that’s always asked in the pageant. By adding  this element (transgenders), it will totally change the whole concept of a beauty  pageant for women,” she said.

Source: http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/lifestyle/04/19/12/another-beauty-queen-scores-transgender-policy

Ironic considering that Ms. Kleiner, herself, has been the victim of prejudicial thinking:

Stir.ph actually has a related story about it entitled “Krissa Mae robbed of Binibining Pilipinas Universe title” and the article says that BPCI chairman Stella Marquez Araneta allegedly switched the original titles of Raj as International and Kleiner as Universe because Kleiner is born in the US and she looks like Miss Puerto Rico more than Miss Philippines.

Source: http://worldshowbiz.info/beauty-contest/miss-universe-philippines-2010-scandal-gets-worse/

The point is, barring women such as Jenna Talackova from participating in the Miss Universe pageant is just as prejudicial as saying Ms. Kleiner is disqualified from representing the Philippines because of her US birthright and mixed ethnicity.  To use Ms. Kleiner’s own argument against her it is like saying  she is incapable of understanding or projecting “the  essence of a Filipina“. How, foolish and steeped in ignorance, such perceptions are.

Moreover, Ms. Kleiner goes on to state:

“For me, I think there should be a separate pageant for the transgenders. “They can do a ‘Miss Gay Universe.’ That would be great.

Well, that’s enlightening, to be sure. Ms. Kleiner can be forgiven if she blurs definitions and interpretations of transgender expression. For her part, Jenna Talackova has made it clear that she sees herself as a female. However, within the transgender community, itself, there are wide variations on the theme and on some level we (the transgender community) have ourselves to blame for Ms. Kleiner’s confusing the issue.

Gender Queers, Gender Fucks, Androgynes, Gender Fluids, Ambigendereds, Multigendereds, and Pangendereds are just some of the terms used to describe a percentage of the trans-community. Even the notion of a “trans-community” is subject to scrutiny and debate, insomuch as it represents such a broad (pardon the pun) spectrum (pardon the visual cliché) of people and interests.

Jenna Talackova does not seek to be “other” or to represent “the third, fourth, or fifth sex”. Rather, her self-identification lies comfortably on the feminine side within the traditional gender binary.  She effortlessly emanates a feminine persona and essence, and at the risk of citing an over-used word her inclusion in the Miss Universe Pageant furthers the societal value of tolerance.

As to exploding the gender binary—my own instincts are to move cautiously and with sensitivity. Admittedly, our society continues to evolve, but running roughshod over the  security and sensitivities of a public outside of a trans-perspective is at best hypocritical and at worst, dictatorial.

Recently, the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal in Canada made the provision that:

“A man doesn’t need to have his penis removed to legally become a woman…”

Source: http://news.nationalpost.com/2012/04/19/tribunal-to-would-be-women-you-can-take-it-with-you/

Fair enough, given that the process of transitioning from one sex to the other is never an easy proposition. However, there are obvious social implications of such a move.

On that note, a personal anecdote may prove enlightening. While employed at Royal Jubilee Hospital as a housekeeper, a complaint/concern was raised concerning my use of the women’s washroom prior to my having surgery.  One day, a Union rep. came up to where I was working and escorted me to our manager’s office. Management also brought in a Human Resources rep. to oversee the proceedings. They wanted to move cautiously and with sensitivity recognizing the obvious human rights implications involved.

However, once I understood the source of the complaint I immediately conceded the point. I agreed to avoid the women’s locker room and female only washrooms until such a time as my surgery had taken place. I understood that some women could take issue with my use of the facilities and that there could be some justifiable concern with my presence in “female only” designated areas.

In contrast to my attitude, a trans-friend of mine saw the Institution’s response as an infringement on my basic human rights. She encouraged me to fight the system and push for my “right of access”. But in all honesty, I felt no sense of moral outrage. I thought the request was reasonable. My only stipulation being that I wanted full access to the “female only” areas following my surgery; a privilege I was granted.

Really, I was guided by one overriding concern, namely, that I would never wish to make a woman uncomfortable by virtue of my presence. Notwithstanding, any prejudicial issues she may hold regarding transsexuals, in general.

The National Post article quoted Mercedes Allen as saying:

…the decision is bound to spark some division within the trans community, particularly among those who have already undergone reassignment surgery. They have trouble sometimes understanding how a person could transition and not require [surgery],” she said.

There is a sense of “why would you even want to be in that situation?” she added.

‘They have trouble sometimes understanding how a person could transition and not require [surgery]‘

She added: “Personally, I don’t think the ability to correct documents should be the reason to have surgery.

Ms. Allen is correct in seeing the ruling as divisive. It’s not an easy issue to reconcile, but again, I simply urge sensitivity and for my transgendered peers to recognize that the wider world out there is frequently ignorant and often uninterested in the nuances surrounding definitions and interpretations of gender. I believe there exists some moral responsibility on our part to both educate and exercise discretion when dealing with a largely uninformed public.

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