Summertime, and the Living is Easy..

.. or is it?

Let me tell you something about being a preop trans man in the summer: It’s pretty terrible.

Binding is without a doubt the worst part of my everyday life in regard to my transition. I deal with the general weirdness of second puberty while working an adult job full time and also making sure my very real responsibilities are taken care of. I deal with acne, mood swings, lack of attention span, and manic excitement/irritation over the smallest things. All of this is perfectly fine, and I (sort of) knew what I was getting into. Binding is a process I love for its ability to give me a reprieve from dysphoria, but hate for the reasons I’m about to talk about.

For those who may not know: binding (or using a binder) is a process/garment for trans men to alleviate discomfort with their chests prior to top surgery. In short, my binder is a piece of clothing that will quite literally mash my body into submission so that I can walk out my door without dealing with the crippling dysphoria I’m plagued with.

Most days, the pros of binding far outweigh the cons; no matter how uncomfortable it is at times, it sure as hell beats the other option. I use option very loosely here, because the method I’m referring to would be to wear a bra or sports bra and I’m going to real here… that just can’t happen. Sorry, no, played that game for too many years.

It was 92 degrees outside today, and humid as hell. Most people don’t even want to wear a t-shirt that fits too tightly in weather like this, never mind one that clings to their body. Days like today, I have to take into careful consideration if I actually need to leave the house. That might seem extreme, but since these binders are pretty intentionally made not to have much give to them, staying home and not fighting to get it on can be very appealing.

Think of it like this: you have a tank top that is made of 70% nylon and 30% spandex, but it has been ordered roughly 2 sizes too small. Now put that tank top on and wear it for an entire 8 hour workday. Or go out on a weekend and spend upwards of 10-12 hours walking around a city in it. Add to that the need to layer clothing to help even out the lumps that a binder leaves behind under just a t-shirt. Doesn’t sound ideal, right? It’s not, nor is it overtly healthy. When I go outside on any given day, I am wearing at least two shirts (probably three) plus a binder. I am unable to take a true deep breath in because of the nature of the compression being applied to my torso. Physical activity isn’t only uncomfortable, it’s downright dangerous.

Unfortunately, the only way to alleviate the need to bind at this point is to have surgery, which just isn’t on the table right now. It’s not an inexpensive procedure, and I would need to take more time off of work than I ever have before. Eventually, I’ll get there. It will take some planning and a whole lot of saving, but I’ll get there. For this, I can be patient.

This is part of what I signed up for, but it’s also why I’m very cautious in accepting summer plans that involve being in the heat for too long. I love the heat and I love summer, but if I decline an invite somewhere, don’t hate me. I’m just trying not to put myself in a dangerous situation.

Stay cool, friends.

This is Me..

Another round of bullets hits my skin, well fire away ‘cause today I won’t let the shame sink in. 

It’s funny how shame doesn’t need to be brought on by another human in order to have a negative effect. Sometimes, it is brought on by situations out of our control.

In my time in the “out and proud” trans world, I haven’t seen very many people talk about what I’m about to talk about; I think it’s because just experiencing it brings on a certain amount of shame. It certainly brings on dysphoria, if nothing else. For any people reading this who may also be trans men, be warned: this may trigger dysphoria.

I spent most of my weekend this weekend curled up in the fetal position, experiencing what I’ve come to describe as “phantom shark week.” That is to say, I suffered from fairly extreme cramping that is remnicient of the days when I would bleed once a month.

This is not something I’ve experienced in almost a year, as shark week hasn’t occurred since my first month on testosterone. I thought I had escaped it for good.

I tried looking up some information on it, mostly to be sure I wasn’t dying (I am very dramatic and immediately assume the worst when something is off).. but I didn’t come up with much. There were a couple of posts in some forums that said they were experiencing the same thing I am. Each one said the same thing:

“I feel like dudes don’t talk about this because they’re ashamed of it.”

Or, “I debated on whether to post this; I feel like I’m the only one going through it.”

I’m only one trans man, so I can’t speak for the entire community here.. but shark week for me brings on the worst of my dysphoria. It’s one of the only things that will literally and figuratively bring me to my knees. I suffered through it for about 13 years, somehow surviving it but battling severe depression every time. At the time, of course, I thought everyone who had a period felt this way. I know now that feeling so disproportionately off is not a “normal” experience. So when I got rid of it, I was elated.

Why is it so taboo in the transmasculine community to discuss that we struggle with this? Why does everyone seem to want to keep quiet about a seemingly shared experience?

I know for me, experiencing this kind of pain makes me feel less like the man I am. I haven’t wanted to talk about it before right now because acknowledging the kind of pain it was would mean outwardly saying “I am experiencing something that ‘real’ men don’t have to go through.”

That’s bullshit, for lack of a better phrase. This doesn’t make me any less of a man. My path to manhood may be different, and it may come with struggles that cis men don’t have to face.. but that only gives me the opportunity to fight through it and come out on the other side knowing that I fought hard to be where I’m at.

We should be able to talk about the struggles we face, because 9.5/10 times I can guarantee we aren’t alike in what we’re feeling. The problem is building the strength and courage to be completely open about our experiences.

I will come out on the other side of this fine. Phantom shark week will disappear, and I will be back to my normal self. For today, though, I will allow myself to not feel 100%. It’s okay not to be on top of my game all the time. I’ll get to the other side of this hill, I just have to work at it.

I wont lie, most days I’m okay with the whole trans thing. I wasn’t given anything in my life that I can’t handle, and most days I’m okay with the battles I face. But it would be nice now and again to feel like I belong.

Until next time.

 

I’m Not a Joke…

I had the unfortunate experience today of being the punchline of someone’s joke.

There was more to this story than just the following statement, of course, but to give you a small taste (I changed the names he used to avoid any sort of issue): “It was funny because Bob was so confused when we told him, ‘well yeah, but you know that *Justin* used to be *Justine*’ and he was just so confused! We had him really going.”

The person telling this anecdote thought it was funny, and the people he was telling the story to certainly laughed. I immediately went silent as I pondered whether or not to say anything. In the end I kept my mouth firmly shut, swallowed all statements, and just went about my business. I’m not confident enough in my ability to remain calm in these situations yet, so it ended up being better that I refrained from comment.

I am not a joke. Being trans is not a joke. Making a joke out of anyone’s sexuality, gender, gender identity, race, religion, or whatever else it is that makes them different is not appropriate or entertaining in any way. If people laugh, it’s either because they’re as small-minded as you are or because they’re uncomfortable with what you’ve just said. Don’t mistake their laughter for entertainment, because it likely wasn’t.

I try to just let these things go. I try to just let it roll off my back and acknowledge that the person likely had no ill intent when a) joking with whoever he was joking with in the story and b) telling the story in the setting that he did. But this person is well aware of my situation, and where I come from. He is well aware (or should be) how seemingly insignificant comments like this can affect someone. This is not the first time I’ve had this conversation. Unfortunately, I also know that it will not be the last time I have a conversation such as this, or write a blog post about it. That is a sacrifice I make each and every day.

I have worked hard to build safe spaces for myself throughout my transition whether that be my home, my workplace, or the public spaces I frequent; each and every space I occupy regularly must be a place I feel safe and included. That was taken away from me today, at least in part. It wasn’t intentional and it wasn’t directed at me, but it happened nonetheless. Casual transphobia is real and it is hurtful. It doesn’t matter if he “meant” to be transphobic or not, the fact remains that it was.

I implore each of you to think very carefully about what you speak of and to whom you’re speaking. All it takes is one misplaced comment and you could truly tear someone’s world apart.

Until next time.

 

 

A Year In…

It’s now been going on a year since I transitioned socially, and has been just over a year since I finally came out to the final (and arguably most important) people in my life.

As it seems to happen with me, December tends to be a month filled with reflection. I take time throughout the month to think about where I was last year, and where my journey has brought me in the previous 365 days.

This year is no exception, although this year might make all previous years in my existence look trivial. I have come so far in the last 12 months. From new best friends, to physical changes, to the absolute and powerful shift in my mental health, I truly have come into myself.

“Of course you have, look at what you chose to do!” I had someone say to me a week or two ago. I think that’s a fairly common misconception in my world: people still tend to think that I chose to transition. That I woke up one day and decided to be a boy, and followed that path because I wanted to be different. What I don’t think people realize is that the only thing I chose to do was give myself the chance to live. I chose the option that saw me live past the age of 28. I didn’t do it for any sort of glory, or “to be different.” I did it because it was that or I died. It truly is as simple as that.

As depressing as my last statement may seem, I don’t want this to be a negative post. Quite the contrary, I want to celebrate. I want to celebrate my successes, and evaluate my failures. I want to celebrate starting T, changing my name legally, and navigating second puberty as gracefully as I could have hoped. I want to celebrate that I have made it through the first year without many instances of opposition. I want to celebrate that in spite of the overwhelming odds against me, I made it through.

It is a wonderful feeling, to look at 2018 with nothing but optimism. For the first time, I am not overwhelmingly terrified of what the next year will entail for me. Instead, I am thrilled because I am living Lucas, every single day.

This will likely be the last post here this year, so for that reason I am passing along my well wishes now. I hope that everyone reading this has a wonderful holiday season and end to 2017. May 2018 bring each of you happiness, tranquility, and success.

Until next time.

…Because Why Not?

 

 

Superhero Serum. That’s what I have so lovingly started calling the testosterone that I take weekly as part of my transition. It never fails to make me feel a little bit better after a long week. My shot day is Friday, and I do that on purpose. A rush of hormones to the system weekly has some side effects, and I tend to be a little rambunctious in the first 24-48 hours after my shot. I also feel the best in those first couple of days, so of course I want to time that so that I can enjoy it to its fullest potential.

When I started T, I had no qualms about weekly injections. I grew up around a diabetic mother who would check her blood sugar several times a day and eventually started injecting insulin daily. For several years, I worked in a hospital and got a flu shot without batting an eyelash. I didn’t even hesitate when they asked if I would be okay giving myself injections. For 7 months, I had no issues. Every week I would draw testosterone into a syringe, switch needles out, and inject without a second thought.

Last week, I drew up as normal and switched needles, prepared my injection site as normal, and then froze. A movement that had become so familiar felt foreign, and scary. It took me several moments to be able to actually inject the needle into my muscle, and when I did, I did it so slowly that it ended up burning terribly and hurt for several days afterwards. Something in me was absolutely terrified of the pain, which even as I type it seems ridiculous because it doesn’t hurt for more than a second, if I do it right. I thought maybe it was a fluke, that I’d gotten distracted and just needed to focus more for the next one.

I needed to refill my script this week, as I had run out last week. I found myself putting it off all week, until finally yesterday I had to call and request that my provider change my name on the script so that I could go get it. They did, but then I delayed picking it up. I found every excuse I could not to go pick it up. Finally I did, and I just got done with it in the last several minutes. I had the same reaction this week as I did last, and now I have decided to acknowledge that is an actual problem.

I have developed a fear of the one thing on this planet that brings me a little bit of a reprieve from the dysphoria I feel every day. Very few people have been made aware of this to this point, but I struggle more than I let on with that dysphoria. I very rarely feel comfortable in myself, and am constantly tense when I am going through each day. I don’t look at myself in the mirror often. When people comment on how much more masculine I look, I nod my head in agreement but still see the features that keep me looking just feminine enough to be misgendered in public. Thankfully, that is happening less and less and only seems to be happening now with people who knew prior to me starting T. I speak, and even though I know my voice is worlds away from where it was 7 months ago, it never seems deep enough to fully put my unease to rest.

It’s times like these that make me realize that I may never be fully “through” this. I am legally male, my name has officially been changed, and I have been on T for closer to a year than not. So when do I get to feel like I’m finally me?

Happy Legality…

What’s in a name?

I never knew. I never knew the hold a name could have over someone, until this past Tuesday. Without realizing it, I was holding myself back from fully moving forward. Holding onto my birth name for as long as I did was an intentional step. It wasn’t that I didn’t know how to file for the change, or that I didn’t have the means to do so.

Truthfully, I was afraid. I was afraid of what would happen when I got through the initial checklist. I was afraid to force my family into letting go of who I was. I was afraid to shove who I am into their faces. Most importantly, though, I was afraid to exist.

It’s hard to explain to people just what I mean by that statement. How on earth can someone not know how to exist? “You exist just by breathing!” they say to me. Yes, that is technically true. Also true is the fact that the existence I lived prior to this year was not an existence I would wish on anyone. To be frank, my life prior to this year was never going to be a long one. I don’t say that often, partly because I’ve tried to shield the most important people in my life from the reality. I have decided it’s important to point out, now that I’ve come through that on the other side: it was either the people in my life got used to me as male, or they buried me as female. There was never an alternative.

When you don’t plan for your future, you learn how to just make it through. I made it through high school. I made it through one crappy job after another. I made it through my day to day. I plastered a smile on my face for years, trying to convince those around me that I was happy. For a time, it worked. When you’re used to pretending, it’s hard to learn how to actually live. I don’t know how to allow myself to be happy because I’m so accustomed to pretending to be just that.

Learning how to live fully is not the worst thing that I could be required to do, and I will certainly do so. I have already come leaps and bounds from where I once was, and that will always remind me that even in the difficult times, this is worth it. Every day when I wake up and get irritated that my voice hasn’t settled fully; every week when I have to inject testosterone into my body because my body doesn’t create it naturally as it should. Every month when I catch my reflection in the mirror and don’t recognize myself. Each and every one of the annoying bits of this are worth it.

These past couple of days have been incredible. I have taken my first breaths as Lucas legally and now have a license that reflects that not only is that my name, but also that I am male. I find myself looking at it repeatedly, and actually got a little bit sad that I didn’t get asked for my ID when we went out for dinner to celebrate on Tuesday. In the photo, I look like the most ridiculous fool on the planet, but I will treasure that photo until this license expires because it represents everything that I’ve worked for in the last year.

For the first time in my life, I am excited at the prospect of a future.

My life has finally begun.

30 Days In…

It has officially been 30 days since I had my first shot. 39 days, if you want to get really technical, because I’ve been putting this post off for days. I’ve been putting it off intentionally, because I’ve been afraid of it to a certain extent.

I am overall thrilled with my transition thus far; I have the greatest support system someone could possibly hope to have while going through something like this. I haven’t faced much by way of opposition, at least not by outside factors. But this post will not be the sunshine, rainbows, and “my life is so wonderful” post you might think should come around this point.

While I am happy overall and wouldn’t change any major decision I have made so far, I feel that it is also important to be honest. The fact of the matter is, this is an overwhelmingly large change in not only my life but in the lives of everyone who interacts with me on a regular basis. And while it’s true that they are also going through a transition to a certain extent, this really is mostly about me. And that’s okay; I’m allowed to be a little selfish here.

My first experience with any negative aspect of this journey came in the workplace. This was the one place that I hoped it wouldn’t; in fact, I went into this thinking that I could effectively “turn off” anything related to my transition while at work. I knew that the hormones would effect me and that I would be going through a second puberty, if you will- but I told myself that I would be able to be an adult at work and then when I went home I could be a moody teenager. It became very apparent to me very quickly that this would not be the case, and it came in the form of a small outburst that caught everyone, including myself off guard. I am fairly laid back in the workplace, or at least I was. All this took was one misplaced comment and I was loudly exclaiming that I was going through puberty. It’s humorous now, but it certainly wasn’t in the moment when the bossman was looking at me like I’d sprouted an additional head right in front of him. Regardless, it prompted me to panic and request a meeting so that we could all discuss what is happening and how I’m processing (or not processing, incidentally) all of the changes that are beginning to take hold.

I am unable to focus on anything for more than half an hour or so, whereas before I began hormones I could sit down and work on a project for 8 hours solid without even batting an eyelash. I get agitated very easily by too much stimuli at once, where I could once tune out even the loudest of interruptors. I get sidetracked very easily, and my short term memory is, at times, on the same level as a certain lovable little blue fish in the Disney universe. I don’t process things as quickly, and it takes me longer to work out the solution to a problem or come up with an answer.

These are all side effects that I didn’t prepare for, because I thought I would certainly be able to work through them quickly and efficiently. I was sorely mistaken. Luckily, I have an incredible management and HR team behind me at work, and out of the meeting came a fairly successful combination of several workarounds to the struggles that I’m facing. They have also been wonderful in checking in more regularly now that it’s been made clear just how much I was struggling. I didn’t want to admit that I needed to figure out a new plan, because to a certain extent, I felt weak. I didn’t want anyone to think that I was less committed than I have been, or that I don’t care about my job any longer, because that couldn’t be further from the truth.

Once work was sorted out for the most part, I settled back in for a week or so and things were fine. And then, last weekend happened. Friday night rolled around, and I was reminded in no uncertain terms that I was born biologically female. Mix that emotional roller coaster with the dysphoria that was stirred up, and I was already a mess. Saturday morning I went on a short adventure with boy twin number 2 to the grocery store. When we went to check out, the clerk made a comment about just how alike we look. We started to laugh, because that’s actually something that has begun happening more frequently as of late. We do share several physical features that are incredibly similar, and we have very similar personalities to match. At one point, she made the comment, “you could be brother and sister.”

In that moment, my whole world stopped, everything got quiet, and I realized for the first time that though I feel as though I am miles away from the person I was born as, I am not quite as far from that person as I thought I was. It was the first time I had been truly misgendered in public, and I was devastated. It hurt more than I would like to admit to be referred to as a female. This was the first time it actually upset me, but I haven’t been able to stop thinking about how bad it made me feel for days.

Fast forward a few hours; we had a great day watching movies (and napping, if we’re being honest- we had stayed up until 4 or so talking on my couch), and then everyone convened at my place so that we could go out and celebrate that I was officially 4 weeks on T. At some point, we started watching videos on Facebook. There are some old videos of me before I came out where I was involved in a lip-sync battle, as were several of the people in the room. We decided to click through them and give them a watch, because they are extremely comical.

Looking back on it, and after speaking through this with several people, this was a terrible idea. At the time, though, I had no idea that it was going to trigger me the way that it did. I didn’t know until we were already clicking into my old videos that it was going to be one of the most difficult things I’ve ever come across. By the time I realized it we were so invested in the videos that I didn’t want to put an end to the fun we were having. I watched myself on that screen, but for the first time it didn’t feel like me. I got up and walked away at one point, because there was a particular video playing of me lip-syncing to Dolly Parton’s (love you, Dolly!) “9 to 5.” dressed to the nines in a dress, heels, and a blonde wig. I couldn’t watch it. It made me so physically uncomfortable that I felt sick to my stomach.

When that video was done, we moved on to Youtube, where I found an outdated channel I used to have with my roommate. In the spirit of having fun, I pulled up one that doesn’t make me uncomfortable- our lip-synced (are you noticing a pattern here?) version of “I’ll Make a Man out of You” from Mulan. From there, a couple of older videos played. During one in particular, one of my friends made a perfectly innocent comment of “look how happy you look.”

That comment threw me into a tailspin I wasn’t prepared for. All I could see when I looked at that video was how unhappy I was, and here someone was looking at me thinking that I was the exact opposite. It made me realize how large of a front I was able to put up. I constructed walls that I forgot were there, and put on a brave face every day to show people how happy I was, when really that was the farthest from the truth. Someone recently told me, “the clowns are always the saddest… and those who go to ridiculous lengths to be silly and smile and bring levity to life are often fighting for their own.”

This stuck with me throughout the week, and continues to stick with me now (as I put on my battle armor to finish the post that I’ve been trying to write for almost 7 days). The thing about this statement is that it so accurately describes what I was feeling in most of those old videos. I was never actually happy, never felt 100% content with my life. Instead, I worked hard to be okay; I was so desperate to actually be okay that it became my standard operating procedure to go out of my way to show just how happy I was.

This week was one giant struggle after another, but I made it through. It took several conversations throughout the week, and several people checking in pretty regularly, but I made it through. I would love to say that I bounced back quickly and that I am back in the “I love everything” mindset I had been in before this setback, but I cannot do so. I have to remind myself daily that I don’t have to love every day of this journey.

I just have to take it one day at a time.