A new lease on life

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As I child I remember staring at myself in the mirror, wishing and hoping I could be somebody else. I was confused and hurt as to why I was having these feelings. I didn’t understand why I felt the way I did. There were no other kids I knew of in the same position as me. I had never known what transgender was, other than Chaz Bono in the media, until I was around 19 years old. That changed when I moved to Victoria, BC. I began meeting all kinds of people; transgender, bisexual, pansexual, lesbian, gay, non-binary, the list goes on. Even with my new found knowledge, I had it in my mind that I could never transition. I told myself I wasn’t strong enough, my family would never accept me, I would never find the courage to do it. I fought this feeling for a couple of years until my depression reached a point that therapy and fitness could not fix. I had reached the point where I couldn’t continue to live in the body I was born in. I couldn’t continue to live a lie and live my life in order to protect the feelings of others. Right then and there I decided I was going to take the risk, for myself and for my life. I was going to medically transition.

Through hours of therapy, hormone readiness assessments and a whole lot of research, I was cleared and ready to embark on a journey that would save my life. On February 26, 2016, I received my first shot of testosterone. I am now almost three years on testosterone, administering my own shots on a weekly basis and never looking back. The amount of gratitude, the amount of fight, the amount of courage I have discovered within is something I thought I would never be able to embody. Still to this day I am in shock and awe of what I am accomplishing.

The hours I’ve spent visualizing my ideal body, my ideal facial features, the way I’d dress if I were born male, has all become a reality. I am now 26 and almost 3 years on testosterone. Over the years I’ve put in hours at the gym, hours of therapy, undergone multiple surgeries, all to create the man I’ve always been on the inside. I’ve fought hard for my body and I will continue to fight. The things that matter most in this lifetime you will fight for; nothing worthwhile comes easy. Don’t get me wrong, I still have my bad days, I still experience dysphoria and depression/anxiety, but now my good days outnumber my bad days. When I stare back in the mirror I see what I’ve always meant to see; I see a man staring back at me, and that is the greatest gift I could ever receive. It is a surreal out of body experience and I feel truly blessed to be able to experience it. Transitioning, and the hardships it brings, is all worth the struggle, it is worth the fight. I promise you if you keep fighting, you will get there too.

 

Top Surgery

February 1st 2016: Double Mastectomy with Free Nipple Graft
Location: Victoria, BC
Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery: Dr. Chris Taylor

On February 1st, 2016 I travelled to Victoria, BC to get the surgery I’ve been waiting my whole life to get. I was put on the waitlist for about 2.5 years, as there were only two surgeons in BC at the time (Vancouver and Victoria) who were trained to do the type of surgery I needed. The waitlist was long as you can imagine.

Surgery: I live in Canada, so luckily with our health care system, the surgery was covered (unless you dont want to wait). It took place in a plastic surgery office which was much more comforting than a hospital setting.  The surgery took about 2 hours to complete and I was in the recovery room for 2 hours before going home that evening.

Post Surgery: I remeber waking up was very painful and confusing. Out of sorts and in a lot of pain until the recovery nurse gave me something to ease the pain.
Weeks 1-2: The most uncomfortable phase. The drains in my sides to drain any buildup of fluid were the worst part. They sat uncomfortably and pulled from the inside due to the compression binder I had to wear for the first month. Not much movement for simple tasks. Luckily I could go for daily walks, which helped with the pain. I was even walking to a coffee shop with my Dad the next day. I was advised not to shower until the graft dressings had been removed from the surgeon/nurse.

Weeks 2-4: Finally showered, but couldn’t lift my arms above head for about the first month. Range of motion was limited. Getting dressed was easier. My drains were taken out by the nurse during this time frame. It was painful and uncomfortable for me as scar tissue had formed around the drain sites, but the pain was over quickly.

Weeks 4-6: I was staying the month in Victoria to recover and was set to fly home to Kelowna February 27th. Healing was going well and my incisions were healing nicely. My range of motion was improving, but I still couldn’t lift much. At this point when you are feeling better, you have to remember to continue to take it easy. You are still healing quite a lot. It’ll take a while to get back to your old self. But remember it’s temporary.

After 6 weeks: Most research you do will tell you that you can go back to the gym right away, but take it easy. Listen to your body. Depending on the type of surgery you got, in my case I had large scarring to work around,  I didn’t want to risk stretching them too much in their crucial healing phase. Stick to cardio and legs. You have your whole life to gym. You have one shot at healing successfully, or risk having to get a revision, which in some cases it is unavoidable depending if your body takes the skin graft. Rest, Recover.

Recovery Tips:
*Plan to wear loose fitting clothing, preferably only shirts that button up in the front as range of motion is limited.
*Plan to have someone take care of you, not just for the first day. Every task is challenging, even sleeping at the beginning and sorting your pillows out. You wont be able to lift anything heavy or even cook much as you won’t be able to reach anything. Think of having T-Rex arms.
*Scarring: Products I’ve used for my scars: Vitamin E oil, Jojoba Oil, Scar Away Strips and Doc Spartan Scar Cream (online)
*Most importantly: Be patient. Give your body time to heal. You have one chance to heal. That’s it. I am an avid gym goer, and not being able to go for months was hard both mentally and physically. What got me through was appreciating how far I’ve come and how well my body was healing because I was allowing it the time to heal.

 

Fear 1.1

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1.1 Public Restrooms

Being transgender comes with a whole new set of fears that someone who is cisgendered* would never even think twice about. Dysphoria* and anxiety lie strong with these fears.

This is one of the most awkward areas to navigate. Espeically in the early stages of transitioning when you’re not quite “passing” as the gender you align with. In my experience, the first couple years of using public washrooms were a nightmare. I feared for my safety, as the looks I received were that of disgust if I used the women’s bathroom, or looks of confusion if I used the men’s. People have told me I am in the wrong washroom or asked what I was doing in here. There were no gender neutral options when I first started transitioning, so I had no choice. I still get anxious to this day when I need to use a public restroom, but at least the most guys will ever think now is, man this guy shits a lot.

I rarely go out to a nightclub in Kelowna, as the restroom situations are the worst part of the night. I find myself awkardly waiting for the only stall while lines of guys pass through the urinal. I’ve been hassled by security watching me closely as if I am waiting to do drugs; which I am not. And if there is no stall, or one without a door, which I have encountered, I am out of luck. Men have approached me looking for a fight, or looking at me sexually in a way I was not into. Just a few of the negative aspects many trans men face on the daily, all just to use the bathroom they feel comfortable with.

Tips for washroom use for transmen:

Bring an ally with you in there, a close friend or family member to watch your back and ease any tension that may be present. When solo, watch the door to see the foot traffic. When your opportunity hits and not many people are in the bathroom, now’s your time. May seem annoying to keep watch, but could save you the hassle. If security is giving you hassle, bring up your situation to them if you feel safe doing so, and if not, make a complaint to the bar on your way out to bring aware for others in your situation.

At the end of the day, everyone knows which washroom they are supposed to be in; they don’t need you to tell them where to be.

Photo: http://time.com/3653871/womens-bathroom-lines-sexist-potty-parity/

*Cisgendered: The sex and gender you were assigned to at birth is the one you identify with.
*Dysphoria: The distress a person experiences as a result of the sex and gender they were assigned at birth.

I am Human

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Being transgender is no walk in the park. I have my hardships, I struggle with depression and anxiety on the daily. I’ve spent a lifetime wishing I was born in a different body than my own. But I am grateful to see and feel things most human beings don’t get the opportunity to feel. To feel loved for being my true self. How many people can be their true authentic self, putting themselves out there as their true identity. To all my trans brothers and Sisters, I’m so proud of how far you’ve come and who you are becoming. To all my homies who received hate instead of acceptance and love from people they called family; you are loved. Know you are loved. Family is not blood, it is the love from your community and those you choose and who choose you. Remember that.

Facing my Fears

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I’m scared to live my life in Kelowna. Victoria is my safety net. The place I want to flee to, where my heart lies, because that’s where I discovered my true self and did everything I could to become that. I’ve come so far. It’s scary to rise up to the challenge of going back to the town you grew up in as a gender different from the one you were once known as. Yeah it’s scary, but it would not be worth it if it wasn’t scary. It’s some real ass shit you’re dealing with. Stop apologizing for who you are! Own your shit, chase your dreams. Because no one ever got to discover their true self without going through hell to get there.