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The Naked Truth

wig offSo, this happened. The running narrative inside my head had the wheels come off this past weekend. More specifically, I ran that train right off the track and still processing a bit as I was taken by complete surprise in more ways than one. The narrative is that of mighty, unbreakable Michelle. Unflappable Michelle. Fearless Michelle. First in the fire, no man left behind. I love this narrative as it gives me confidence, or at least the reasonable illusion thereof, much like a pair of Underoos did as a kid, never mind the absence of Wonder Woman in my drawer.

I had a class assignment due this weekend that involved presenting on four personal artifacts; two each representing symbols of personal privilege and oppression. It seemed easy enough, holding both white male and trans female cards in my hip pocket. I brought in an old necktie and my employee badge to speak to my privilege, one from each side of the fence that divides my life. For oppression I picked a comic book to illustrate my adolescent geekery, from long before it was chic-ery, and an old wig to illustrate the paradigm that ‘women have hair’. I volunteered to go when no one else wanted to, and in this case it meant last.

As the presentations progressed, I was overwhelmed. My classmates, my cohort, are wonderful people with diverse backgrounds, ethnicities, cultures, religions, and of course personal experiences. Every single one of them shared right from the heart, and more than once I felt tears well into my eyes. A video of black children being shown dolls, one black and one white, with the children identifying with the black doll, but calling the white one the “good” doll, the pretty one. Stories of switchings in foster homes. The unimaginable pain and loss of an ancestral culture slowly wiped out as the world looks on with disinterest. “I have nowhere that is really home” Persecution, belittling, and shame over faith, hairstyle, and appearance. The lone while male even demonstrated courage in admitting that he had no symbols of oppression. Everyone there lay their pain on the table with frank candor and vulnerability.

I sat there, with my little bag of artifacts and well-rehearsed dialog rife with self-deprecating jokes. My safe space. I’m comfortable with vulnerable, so long as it’s canned and well-aged. I wanted to go for the laughs, but it wouldn’t be real. Worse, it would disrespect my classmates. I couldn’t do that. When my time came at last, I made a rambling speech out of my first three artifacts; Lord knows what I said as my nerves were already twisting. When I got to the fourth, and with my old wig still inside the bag, I reached up and pulled the one off my head instead. Things did not go as planned.

Let me exonerate my class first. They were amazing, and I was looked at, not gawked at, with kind eyes and understanding. I couldn’t imagine a safer public place. What I didn’t plan on was the complete dissolution of Mighty Michelle. She was there with me all morning, all afternoon, but there in the moment of exposure, she fled. In a microsecond I was transported back to years past, before my transition, when every day was an exercised control of terror and revelation. I had thought it all behind me.

I had expected to speak of the weight  of the wig and the power it held. The shame it covered; the mark of Costanza. How it’s like wearing a hat in the summertime. How I have anxiety dreams of accidentally leaving the house without it. How I yell to my spouse to please close the drapes so I can walk through the living room at night once I’d removed it. The discomfort of overnight guests and meticulously planning on how not to be seen. How it itches. Why it’s one of the first reasons I took myself out of the running for any future romantic relationship no matter what happens. How it goes from looking fabulous to a frizzy crinkled mess within weeks of laying down $300 dollars. How I’m not me without it. This inanimate thing, this accessory, this affectation. I may have said some of that. Who knows, I was on autopilot by then. I vaguely recall slowly stepping backwards toward the wall, away from everyone, terrified.

At some point, probably within 20 or 30 seconds, I just stopped speaking and hurried to put it back on. I needed Mighty Michelle back, badly. The class clapped loudly, my professor kindly said I looked pretty without it, and my friend called me “bad-ass brave” on the ride home. In retrospect, I am filled with immense gratitude, but at the time I was somewhere else. What the hell just happened back there? And what was wrong with me? Who do I even think I am?

I considered my transition to be an unveiling to the truth of my existence. I peeled away the accoutrements of my maleness, both externally imposed and inherited and considered myself free from the old cage. Given my reaction to the self-motivated and very temporary shedding of a symbol of my female life, I have to wonder if I simply wandered from one prison to another. At the very least I find genderqueer much more relatable now as the binary has serious drawbacks.

As things go, it’s hard to really look at this as a big deal. I had heard some really heartbreaking things in that room that day. A white privileged male turned white privileged trans female (yes, trans by nature is very hard, but I also kept my job, my marriage, and launched a hundred side efforts, so…) doffs her wig in the presence of lovely supportive nurturing people. It’s about as forgettable an event as they come. I had to unpack this, and if there was anything to be learned, share.

I can understand why my actions triggered me the way they did. My internal narrative is pretty effective. I believe it and live it on a day to day basis. Enough so that at least some of it should be true, just clearly not all of it. I take unwarranted pride in putting myself, my life, and my truth out there without thought or concern about what people think. Well, that is, when I look the way I think I should. Look at the cringe worthy details of my life all you want, so long as you pay no attention to the girl behind the makeup and mono-filament polymer hair. I found my Achilles heel through clumsy stabbing in an exercise of reciprocity. I only wish I had known it was there.

The moral of this story for me is that I navigate through the world with an unrelenting sense of naked self, but that self is no more than a creation I have come to identify with. I can only speak to myself, but suspect many of us do this, and not just the trans folk. Knowing this, regardless of the discomfort and disillusion, is a gift. It is an opportunity to explore how much of Mighty Michelle can be gingerly placed on a Styrofoam head every night, or wiped off with a moist towelette, and how much is anchored deep in the foundation below the surface of my skin. My ‘know thyself’ journey is not yet over and was just on hiatus due to a badly folded map.

For the record, I’m not chucking the wig, or the makeup, or any aspect of my current look just yet. I like it, and like the way it makes me feel. I also like the way facilitates my plugging into society and how I am perceived and treated. It might be a new cage after all, but at least now I understand. If the time comes where I’m ready to put that aside as well, so be it.

As a last thought, it’s probably best for everyone in that room that my wig outweighed my bra as a symbol of oppression.

Folding Up The Transgender Umbrella

transumbrella“I’ve never heard the term transsexual before” This came as a surprise to me when answered by a young trans man who attended the most recent support group meeting. I asked him and the other Millennials in attendance what they thought of themselves as; transsexual or transgender. Let’s back up a bit.

When I first came out four years ago I was introduced to the concept of the ‘transgender umbrella’. Beneath the term ‘transgender’ was anyone considered to be gender variant: transsexuals, cross-dressers, genderqueers, drag kings and queens, two-spirit, and every other variation of non-traditional gender identification and expression. Intersex people had already removed themselves from this umbrella (understandably), but the rest remained comfortably sheltered. I liked the concept and have long since incorporated into my Trans 101 seminar. It looks like I need to make some updates.

“Transgender” was first coined back in the 60’s and was originally conceived as an umbrella term from the get-go. By the mid-80’s, it was already firmly established, though not without some contention as to whom, specifically, the term applied. This was a wonderful evolution from the Stonewall days when anyone not hetero-cis normative was simply labeled ‘queer’. So what’s happening now?

I’ll be honest, I’ve never particularly liked the word “transsexual”. It sounds too… well, sexual. That and it conjures up images of Dr. Frank-n-furter from ‘The Rocky Horror Picture Show’. It may be a cinematic masterpiece, but I don’t need anyone picturing me in a leather bustier and fishnets. That isn’t good for anyone. Granted the ‘sex’ is intended to refer to physical genitalia, but unless speaking to informed clinicians, the point is lost. As a result, I and many of my Generation X irreverent generation, took to co-opting the term to mean us. It seems the media, for the most part, has jumped on the bandwagon bringing us to today where the next generation isn’t even aware of the creepy old description.

Given that transsexual and transgender have now been conflated to the point where the two terms are virtually interchangeable with the former bordering on complete extinction, I think it’s time we folded up the old Transgender Umbrella. Due to these recent changes, mainly on the part of the media, the other gender variant folks are not particularly excited to be included anymore for the most part. Cross-dressers (less those who are not yet admitting things to themselves) have no desire to undergo gender transitions. The drag performers are just that; performers comfortable with their birth gender, appearances aside. With genderqueer folks it depends who you ask, but many don’t appear particularly fond of labels anyway.

It makes sense. Decades ago when differentiation was finally being made between sexuality and gender identity, it was advantageous for the gender variant people to remain cohesive, if only for the numbers. We pretty much all look the same (at least on the feminine side of things), thus making us virtually indistinguishable from one to another with the general public. In today’s reality, however, we have very different agendas. Put us in a room together and the disparate conversations are readily apparent. One group is talking hormone coverage by insurance while another is recounting tales of near misses in being recognized. A third has strategies for making Lady Gaga look like a plain-Jane, and the forth is explaining third gender pronouns. It doesn’t mean we can’t all remain friends, hang out, and enjoy each other; just that the need to huddle under one cover from the elements no longer has urgency.

Now if only we could set some of the terminology set in stone, at least for a few weeks at a time.

Questioning Caitlyn?

CaitlynEverybody’s talkin’ at me; I don’t hear a word they’re sayin’. Just driving around in Jon Voigt’s car. ~ George Costanza (paraphrased)

The internet is now aflutter. Caitlyn Jenner, looking suspiciously like Jessica Lange, hit the cover of Vanity Fair, and the public just can’t seem to get enough. Many fans of Jenner, fans of the Kardashians, and folks who are fans of neither think this is awesome and praise her for her bravery. Many activists think this is a train wreck, and many others are simply tired of hearing about it already. I’m not a fan of Jenner, the Kardashians, and while not so much an activist as an educator, I think this is a pistachio hot fudge sundae with whipped cream and a cherry. Kool Whip, not that homemade crap. Surprised? Let’s talk about that for a minute.

To give my activist friends their due, I freely admit that the whole rigmarole is exploitative, an exercise in showmanship, and carries forward the archetypal pervasive myth of the boy who gets wheeled through the swinging door of the OR and emerges hours later a stunning woman. It’s true, this is exactly what happened here. Last we saw Caitlyn she was sitting with Diane Sawyer still looking kind of butch, and now just over a month later, which is hardly anything in real life transition time, she’s outshining the spotlights on the magazine rack. With her magazine cover caliber rack nonetheless.

She’s making something often monstrously hard, prohibitively expensive, and soul crushingly depressing look fresh and easy as a summer’s eve. I can see why many who have worked, sacrificed, and made so many tiny forward steps while drowning in a sea of failure and regret might hate her, maybe just a tiny little bit. She’s privileged. She’s white. She’s rich. She’s famous. I don’t care. That’s her life, not mine, not that of anyone I know, so I leave her to it. What I do care about is that people are talking. More importantly, people are asking questions.

Just yesterday a friend asked me, “Is it OK to start calling her ‘she’ now? Is that right?” Some of you reading this just face-palmed. The woman who asked, however, is both big hearted and brilliant. I’m also the first trans person she met, and has treated me from the get go with great respect and genuine interest in my life, non-trans elements included. I was thrilled she asked so I could tell her. I did a Trans 101 seminar about a month back, and during my Q&A, the organizer who contacted me and put the whole thing together admitted, “When I wrote you I wasn’t sure whether to address you as Ms. or Mr.” I was ecstatic that she said something.

Questions and statements like these are gifts I receive nearly every day. I call them gifts because it means the people asking are genuinely interested. People sitting in a seminar are generally being talked at. I know when I’m being talked at I’m usually either a million miles away, or I’ve taken umbrage and tuning them out while I craft my devastatingly clever response. I think it’s the same for everyone. When I ask a question, it’s because I really want to know. I think that is the same for everyone as well. It’s also because I, and I assume we, don’t know. It could be plastered on a billboard in front of my eyes, but it’s still entirely possible, or even probable, that I don’t know anyway. If it’s not a part of my direct experience, my interest is low, and my eyes glaze over as I concentrate on things that are relevant to me.

It doesn’t matter that I’m not a super fan of the Kardashians or Caitlyn. Frankly I wasn’t completely sure who they were, why they are famous, or even that Jenner was a part of their whole shtick. Millions, however, are. Millions invite Caitlyn into their living rooms and bedrooms every week on the tube or in the gossip rags. Caitlyn is part of their cultural experience. They care if she gets into a car accident. They care if she’s spotted getting a Venti Chowdertino from Starbucks. They care if she undergoes gender transition. They are paying attention, and they will ask questions. Startling obvious questions sometimes, but so telling about how far the trans experience has permeated or failed to seep to the core of our cultural consciousness. How sweet it is.

At the heart of it, it doesn’t matter that she’s white, privileged, wealthy, famous, has it comparatively easy in respect to the rest of us, and might even be coming out in this way for all the wrong reasons. It does matter that people are talking about it, asking those questions, broadening their awareness, and gaining the ability to identify with her as a person. I work very hard to achieve that same thing every day; people in my life, people who come to my seminars, anyone who reads my words. In one swoop, flashy, gaudy, and misleading as it may be, she captured the interest of millions, and the questions are flowing. Every one of them is gold, and represents one less person I and every other trans have to talk at.

Lionessess, More Grad School, Oh My

Hand RaiseThis is going to shock the bejeezus out of most of you, but I’ve been a wee bit too busy lately to keep up with this blog. Strike that, I’ve not been busy enough. I generally do my best writing when attempting to procrastinate items of consequence. Now that I have a number of those piling up, I expect you will be tortured on a regular basis by my bizarre notions, questionably accurate recounting of events past, and long confusing sentences that I still hold to be grammatically perfect, invented words and all.

I wanted to share with you all, including both of you who actually give a frog’s buttery behind, about my excruciatingly told exploits. I had the opportunity a few weeks ago to meet up with the Lioness of Edinburgh herself, my spiritual sister Becky of lost lamented ‘I Hate Roller Coasters’ fame. She still hates them, by the way, albeit being a compulsory rider of some note(1). We walked the length and breadth of Manhattan, although I’ll share that the Lioness wore more sensible shoes than me leading to the introduction of new mighty scars to my ragged dogs. It didn’t matter that it was our first real life meeting; it was as if we grew up together. Some people you understand from first encounter that you are simply supposed to know them. I love it when that happens.

Spending the time with her was inspirational, and could not have come at a better time. Here I was scribbling a sporadic opinion or two over the year, while she, though brilliant maneuvering, exceptionally hard work, gracious heart, and frighteningly effective interpersonal skills, is now hobnobbing with the upper echelons of government and enacting positive change for LGBT people in the UK and affiliated Commonwealth. While her stories are awe inspiring, they made it abundantly clear that this was exactly what I didn’t want to do. Ugh, I’m just so glad someone else is picking up that fun little horse chestnut. Look, after decades of introversion I’ve only worked my way up to co-chairing a monthly Spectrum meeting and sporadically eating lunch with new people instead of crawling into the bushes to read(2). Give me some time people; my spirit animal is a goat, so there is only so much to work with.

In keeping with the tradition of living a life punctuated by incomprehensible changes, I’ve enrolled in a Master’s program for Marriage and Family Therapy. I truly have no idea where this is going to take me, but the breezes are a blowin’ in the right direction. Not only do I find the material frighteningly engaging, but I also managed to emerge from a marathon weekend of back to back 8 hour classes feeling elated. This is new. Having the attention span of a coked up housecat, I found it nearly implausible that I remained mentally present the entire time and even participated. Instead of pulses of glowering disdain and bits of malevolence at my cheerfully engaged classmates, I truly want to get to know them all better and even establish friendships. I’m not sure what the hell is wrong with me(3).

The truth of the matter is that I have changed. Instead of adhering to the lifelong pattern of pursuing avenues my warped perception indicated were suitable for my misfit gender expectations, I’m simply following my calling(4). If only I had known the road to new directions(5) was as easy as gender transition(6), I would have paid a lot less attention in math.

  1. The Queensferry Gazette recently featured a glossy cover photo of her descending rapidly, hair fanned out in a magnificent mane, with a look of perturbed irritation on her face.
  2. Generally with a book, as I cared little for reading bushes.
  3. Then again, my last program was an MBA with night classes after long workdays with scads of dreary subjects like finance and accounting. I think that’s enough to make anyone not forged in the corporate kiln want to mosey into an ISIS training camp and bust their balls a little bit.
  4. For the last time, no, I’m not hearing voices in my head. When I say things like, “the dog told me to have that last piece of pizza”, I don’t mean literally. It’s just that she’s so obvious about wanting it, and I’ve had enough of tomatoey dog farts ruining my enjoyment of ‘Outlander’.
  5. Not a ‘Glee’ reference. That ‘New Directions’ has been dead to me since they killed off Finn. Yes, yes, I know, but they could have seamlessly replaced him with Drake or something.
  6. Compared to that last Accounting project (that I still don’t fully understand), therapy, second puberty, hundreds of hours of electrolysis, major surgery, and stumbling around looking like Strawberry Shortcake on a bender until I figured things out were cake.

Inside Out, A Trans Documentary

InsideOut Photo 1Contrary to some hopeful rumors, I continue to breathe and move about the world. Not in a Kwai Chang Caine way where I skulk about the countryside involving myself in strangers lives and use to slow paced Kung Fu to solve all their problems, but nevertheless, I am here. I did take a little hiatus from blogging after I ran out of things to say that I haven’t already covered. In the mean time while I dream up and concoct some new spins on things you were only dimly aware of and not that interested in, I’d like to use my now cobwebby space here to let you know about a way you and 79,999 of your friends can change the world. Without further ado, I present your golden opportunity join the burgeoning crowd sourcing industry and lend your support to a worthy trans project.

Wanted: 80,000 People to Change the World!

 Inside Out – The Documentary is a feature film that will follow for one year the lives of five transgender and gender non-conforming children and youth. On Valentine’s Day Inside Out launched a 30-day campaign on its website (www.insideout-thedocumentary.com) asking 80,000 people to donate $10 – the price of a movie ticket – to fund the film.

 This campaign marks the first time in history a community of this size has come together to fund a documentary. Achieving this goal will: ·      Make a newsworthy statement about the breadth of support for transgender and gender non-conforming people ·      Deliver a strong message about the size of the film’s audience that no distributor or festival can ignore – ensuring the largest possible mainstream reach.·      Make a difference in the lives of transgender and gender non-conforming children. Organizations supporting Inside Out include: NCLR, TYFA, Trans Youth Equality Foundation, TransActive, The Pride Foundation, Gender Odyssey, and Gender Diversity.

 Inside Out is the first film to take us deep inside the lives of these children and their families. It will inspire empathy, increase awareness, and broaden the public’s understanding of all trans* people.  Your donation will help make a movie that will really make a difference! I look forward to seeing your name on the big screen!

Website:        www.insideout-thedocumentary.com

Facebook:     www.facebook.com/InsideOutTheDocumentary

Twitter:           @InsideOutTheDoc

And with that we successfully conclude today’s public service announcement brought to you by Schweppes*. If you won’t drink something imbued with the great taste of Schweppervescence, well then who the hell will? Seriously though, I’m donating, and if you do, I promise to read through all the film credits on ‘pause’, stop, and nod appreciatively when I see your name. It may not be much of a reward, but still a far sight better than those bowling trophies you garbage picked a couple decades ago.

Peace, my brave little Vikings, and talk soon.

 

*Not really. Seriously, please don’t tell them I said that. The last person who ran afoul of the powerful ginger ale industry was forced to seek asylum in Walla Walla, Washington and endure a lifetime of restrained snarky chuckles while explaining to family and friends.

Finding Frank Goldberg

 

Frank GoldbergI have no idea why I didn’t think of this before. I think the mangy gerbil in her rusty wheel that powers my brain finally pooped out on diet of complete and utter crap I’ve been feeding her for the past 2 weeks. It occurred to me while driving to Burger King to try the new Big Mac rip-off (freakishly gross by the way) that the power of the blogosphere can actually be used for something other than smarmy self-indulgent ramblings. I know, right? Who have thunk it. If we can’t use this space to help one of our own, what are we really doing here?

Frank Goldberg is a Buffalo, NY area LGBT activist who went missing last week Monday night and hasn’t been seen since. I’m going to copy and paste the text from the Facebook page (link here) below because it says it much better, and not even a teensy bit in a smarmy self-indulgent way. Just a note – no one is misgendering Frank – she is genderqueer and uses female pronouns:

Our dear sister, Frank Goldberg (given name, Aimee), has been MISSING since Monday evening, December 16, 2013 around 9PM while she was visiting in Buffalo (home for the holidays from Portland, Oregon). If you see her or hear from her or hear of any information, please post here or message us directly at FindFrankGoldberg@gmail.com. We will update here with news as soon as we learn anything. And please keep her and our family in your thoughts and prayers.

At present, the Buffalo police have a detective assigned and the local effort also hired a private investigator. The latter is not meant to reflect poorly on the Buffalo police, whom I don’t want to come to my house and shoot out my tires, but because Frank is an adult and if found, they have legal obligation to pretend they didn’t if that is what Frank wishes. The gumshoe, however, will do what he’s damn well paid to and hopefully bring some measure of comfort to Frank’s family and friends.

At present, there are multiple theories out there. Frank is in a dark place and went off the grid. Frank did the unthinkable and hasn’t been discovered yet. Frank is hitching back to the west coast where she hails from. Frank is the victim of foul play. In any case, there have been no sightings, no clues, and hope is beginning to dim that we will see Frank alive and well again.

I’m asking all of you, people who read my blog for some reason, to take a look at the picture and try to recall if you have seen Frank in the past 2 weeks. I’m also politely, but firmly, asking my sister and brother bloggers to repost this in the hopes that the information circles the globe a few dozen times. We have the power to put this information out into the world where so many people will see it.

If you have information, or by some miracle happen to be Frank, I’m urging you to please contact the email address above. You may also contact me and I guarantee your anonymity if you need that to speak up.

Have Dilator, Will Travel… GRS Journey Concluded

TSAEver wake up in the morning and suddenly realize, “Hey! Did I just have my original genitals replaced with other very different genitals? Holy shit!” Actually, some of you probably have. Today we are going to conclude my first ever six post story on this blog, up from the previous record of a one post story. Last we left me, I agreed with great trepidation to skip town 3 days earlier than medically advisable. We’ll get to that in a second; the opening question deserves a bit of time.

I’ve spoken to other post-op ladies, and it’s apparently not uncommon for one to emerge from surgery and be slammed with a “oh my God, what have I done?” feeling. Close, but not quite. From the time I woke up to present, 8 weeks later, never once did I wish I had the old meat and veggies back down there. I did, however, get that moment of slightly panicked breathlessness. Have nothing but time to think, I thought. It wasn’t a feeling of regret or worry. It was a feeling have having locked in to something big and life altering. It was the same attack of the willies as signing the first mortgage, saying “I do”, and most of all, bringing a crying baby home from the hospital knowing there are no backsies on that one. Until the surgery, I had a foot in both camps. Sure, I was living female, but it wouldn’t take a whole lot of effort to swap back and being one of the boys again. The gender fluidity I had since self awareness was gone for good. I picked a side and took it all the way. It’s all good. I chose wisely. You’re going to hear me roar.

My second McGinn appointment went very smooth for the most part. My gigantic bag was packed in the trunk and I cautioned my father and brother in laws not to say anything about me booking out early. I saw both Heather and Dr. McGinn briefly. “Your vagina didn’t fall out or anything, did it?” Na. “Looks good! We now permit you to go for dinner if you wish, but no walking around or shopping or anything. You are leaving Saturday, yes?” Absolutely on all counts. I emerged and my father in law broke into loud conversation as I awaited my paperwork and surgical certificate. “Did she say it was OK for you to fly today?”  My frantic arm waving and ‘shut the fuck up’ gesturing didn’t deter him a lick. I don’t know if they heard, and didn’t ask. I was free.

At the Philly airport I learned again why bringing a suitcase large enough to smuggle Louie Anderson is not such a hot idea. “Gotta pull some stuff out hun, or I gotta charge you another $90”. In pain and flummoxed by the idea of what to abandon to lose 9 pounds, I started to cry and explained that I just had surgery. The kind woman took my bag without another word and charged me nothing, though she did slap a ‘whoa, this motha’ is heavy!’ sticker on it.  Though I’m not saying crying to manipulate a situation has never once been practiced in the big wide world, I can say that sometimes it just happens, and if some good comes of it, so be it.

Going through the security line, I wondered how they were going to react to the fact that I had 2 dilators in my purse, and found out. I waited nervously, saw them stop the belt when my purse was mid scan, call someone over, then pulled me aside to say they had to scan it again. Oh, here we go. Tired of viewing the electronic image of what appeared to be two dildos, they took me over to the table and asked if they could look inside because, “we just need to see something.” They pulled out the felt pouch that housed them and I immediately went into a nervous talking jag and compressed the whole story of my GRS and need to dilate into a 30 second high speed spiel. The female guard looked at me blankly, put them back, and sent me on my way. To celebrate, I grabbed a slice from Sbarro and upgraded to get the garlic knot with it. They were fantastic.

The flight was uneventful, though turbulent, and I was very pleased to find that my vagina did not need to be popped like my ears on the descent. I was in the window seat and that could have been very awkward, especially for my seatmate who was trying his damndest to pretend I took I different flight instead. I wasn’t exactly looking my best. The plane landed at the furthest possible gate at the Buffalo airport, which frankly, isn’t really all that far unless you are hobbling with loins on fire. Exiting security I found my spouse waiting for me, and couldn’t have been gladder to be home.

In coming posts, I’ll explain the recovery process, go into detail how dilation often feels like being screwed by Iron Man with his armor still on, and present some handy tips and hints for those of you contemplating this journey. Hopefully you will listen better than I did.

Frankenpussy…Yeah, Not a Halloween Post… GRS Journey cont…

FrankenpussyWe last left our poorly planned protagonist a weepy pee and blood covered mess attempting to make it through the day and not foul up the quaint little bedroom too badly. I recalled the Billy Joel classic, “These are the Times to Remember” and decided he definitely didn’t mean this, but decided to capture them anyway in writing in order to provide ample fodder for future embarrassment. Sunday, after my family left, was a nightmare of splitting headaches chased with Vicodin that only seemed to exacerbate the problem. Why could they not have just given me some morphine to take home? Was that too much to ask?

On Monday I had my first follow up with Dr. McGinn and my spouse’s father and brother kindly drove in from Jersey to take me there. Her office set up seems designed to enhance feeling of awkwardness for both her and her patients. The waiting area is the hallway between her office and the examination room, that requires her to scooch by everyone to go from one to the other. Furtive side-glance acknowledgement exists between you, but you both understand it’s not the time to talk, even though you really want to. Personally, I would have removed some ceiling tiles to crawl above, dropping down in front of the exposed patient like Batgirl. It’s not like she can really get any cooler, but that move alone would double her patient load.

In the mean time, I got to chat with Debbi, who was lovely to deal with in completing my 93 point pre-surgical checklist, and frankly, it was a treat. When my time finally came, I got to see Heather first, who we last encountered giving me the ‘here is everything that might go horribly wrong’ spiel right before they put me out. As she removed my bandages, I found why sitting up felt like I was perched on a WW1 German helmet sewn between my thighs, because the packing was actually sutured on. Next she removed the internal packing material, seeming to endlessly pull a thin strip of batting out like a magician with scarves. I imagined a tiny pissed off mummy in there spinning around as he’s being unexpectedly denuded. I’m not 100% there isn’t, and that he’s armed with a sharp little sword he likes to jab about when agitated.

“When I take this off, it’s going to feel like you are going to pee all over me, but don’t worry, you aren’t.” Catheter removal is so much fun, and she was right; I was sure I was going to pee in her face and then we would have this horrible thing between us forcing me to flee and never come back. Luckily she was right on the money. “Want to take a look?” Hells, yeah I did! Well, it sure wasn’t pretty. Not by a long shot. First of all, holy Bride of Frankenstein with all the angry looking stitches! I felt my neck for bolts just in case, and Heather assured me everything looked good. There was also quite a bit of swelling, and the vaginal opening was stretched open so far it looked like I just serviced the starting lineup of the Buffalo Bills. “That’s just from the packing. It will close on its own and in a few months, no one but your gynecologist will be able to tell the difference.” While no colorful little butterflies came wafting out, I was grateful that no bats did either.

With my feet propped up in the stirrups, Heather showed me how to dilate. I have to say, this whole process from start to dilation initiation really destroyed any body consciousness and squeamishness I used to have. It’s impossible to feel modest when someone is assisting you in sticking a purple plastic dildo up your vag. Dr. McGinn finally joined us and I was thrilled that she was now allowed to admit I existed. She expressed her pleasure on how well the surgery went, and pronounced the hot mess between my legs as looking just damn tootin’ fine. She didn’t say that, but I translated from medical speak. “Make sure you dilate five times a day, even if it really hurts.” I promised I would, though once again discounted the possibility of it actually hurting. I never learn, do I? That’ll get its own post.

The next couple of days became very routine. Wake. Dilate. Eat breakfast. Sit in chair till it hurts. Dilate. Lay in bed till it hurts. Go back to chair. Dilate. Call people. Any people. Seriously, I’ll talk to anyone at this point. Eat. Dilate. Open daily gift (sent with love from Sandy and Tricia).  Eat candy. Lots of candy. Dilate. Fall into uneasy sleep.

By Tuesday night I was about fed up with this schtick. I called my spouse and she suggested heresy. “Why don’t you just fly home after your Thursday appointment?” I could not believe what she was suggesting. I’m supposed to be here until Saturday! What if Dr. McGinn finds out? Anyone who knows me well should be very surprised by this; I’m not exactly known for being a rule follower. Dear lord, what the hell happened to me? What’s she going to do? Find an unused penis and stick it back on me? “So? You’re miserable and you can’t tell me you can’t rest up and dilate just as well at home.” The spell of medical compliance was broken. Book me a ticket. I’m coming home.

Next time in the thrilling conclusion of a tale too long told: McGinn again; why I hate to fly; and the enormity of swapping out one’s genitals .

Yeah, Who Recommended Surgical Recovery in a B&B?… GRS continued…

B&BYou know those Funniest Home Videos, the kind that never win, that feature a douchebag trying to skateboard down a railing and ends up rupturing a testicle?  Through no fault of my driver, the ride to the B&B felt like that. Last we checked in, I was ousted from the hospital like so much riff-raff even though I was under medical orders not to travel and in need of constant care. I’m not sure why I didn’t pick up on this before, but there seems to be a little oopsie in an otherwise flawless treatment plan. Be that as it may, it was a long ride once off the interstate and navigating winding bumpy roads. My poor aunt was so upset every time we hit a bump that I didn’t feel right letting loose the blood curdling screams building in the back of my throat.

We arrived after dark at the Fox and Hound, an absolutely charming place, and the innkeeper who checked me in was gentleman enough to lug my ginormous bag up the steep narrow staircase. I was half hoping he’d lug my sore ass up there as well, but I think he decided I was a two-man lift after eyeing my generous frame. I really need to lose a few pounds if I ever want to be lifted like Baby in ‘Dirty Dancing’. The room was very lovely with a nice bed, little sitting area by the bay windows, and some old timey looking furniture. I could not imagine a better place to spend a romantic fall weekend, or a worse place to lurch around bleeding everywhere. As I could not get out of bed without executing a cumbersome set of maneuvers meant for someone of much greater flexibility, my mom turned over a trash can for me to use as a bedside table and hand grip. They left me alone to get me some groceries and as I lay there taking in my environs, I decided I was well and truly fucked.

Here’s the deal. Nearly all the literature and advice on GRS talks about ‘you and your companion’ in regards to the post surgery recovery. I simply couldn’t wrap my head around the notion of asking anyone to take 2 precious weeks out of their life and sit with a cranky convalescent. Besides, I am Mighty Michelle and need none of this “help” they so speak of. Understanding I was going to be stuck in this second floor room, barely able to move, and in considerable pain somehow managed to find the chink in my armor. My best effort to prop myself up with pillows left my chin poking into my breast. It’s not as comfortable as it sounds. I kept on a brave face while they put away my supplies, but broke into tears when they were saying their goodnights to head back to the hotel near the hospital.

“What’s wrong?” Nothing. Just a long day. Very sore and all that. Really, I’m… ok….sniff. Ugh, this was so not me, but I was just a little freaked out. What if I couldn’t get out of bed? What if I started bleeding uncontrollably? What if a fire started and finally did away with this rickety old place and the New Hope fire department got a look and me and decided to let nature take its course? Every time I thought of one of these things, my little private pity-party kicked into high gear and the water works restarted. Get a grip on it chica. That’s what I call myself when trying to be mentally tough. Just blame it on the pain meds. They probably would have stayed, but both of them looked bone tired so I managed to put on a chipper face and sent them off to get some sleep. The rest of the night was less fun.

In the wee hours of the morning I had to pee. Getting out of bed, I dumped over my ‘waste basket turned night stand’ along with the mostly full open Ensure sitting atop it. I cleaned up best I could with my foot and a wad of paper towels I threw down. I really didn’t want to get hollered at by the innkeeper, and I for sure didn’t want anyone thinking the chocolate drink was something else. I ambled into the bathroom feeling the unholy fire down below and an angry thunderstorm in my tummy. I won’t go into details, but it was unpleasant. Next thing I knew, part of my surgical packing was on the bathroom floor after falling from between my legs and bouncing off the toilet seat. I had no clue what was really going on down there, so I didn’t know if this was critical stuff or not, but didn’t want to put it back after it was dropped wet side down. I freely admit I turned into a sniveling sobbing mess as I tried to approximate the shape of the packing out of two maxi-pads and stuffed it in where I thought it should go. It was a long night of broken sleep, anguished trips to the bathroom, and many snotty tears.

In the morning, things looked a little bit brighter, mainly because the sun was coming through the window. The innkeeper was savvy enough to understand I had no intention of trying to make it down the stairs to sample their award winning breakfast. I’m also sure they preferred I keep my bloody, smelly self away from the guests who were there for more jaunty reasons, and I can’t blame them. They brought me up a lovely frittata, crisp bacon, toast, a fruit cup and hot tea. Unfortunately I had to eat standing up because I couldn’t figure out how to get under the service tray without dumping everything on the bed. Still though, it was mighty sweet. Every outlook is brighter better with bacon.

Less sweet was the fact that my catheter seemed to have sprung a leak. Though most medical catheters go to a bag that gets conveniently dumped from time to time, this one consisted of a taupe hose emerging from my bandaged loins and capped by a triangular shaped plug. Draining it required standing above the toilet, freeing the plug, waiting for the last few drops to lazily drip out, shaking, then tucking it back in. This all seemed so familiar but I simply couldn’t place it. Anyway, while the ironically flesh colored hose was draining, I couldn’t help but notice that a dampness was creeping down my leg. Just great; like I didn’t feel disgusting enough already. I called Dr. McGinn who impressively picked up on the second ring. Apparently this was common and I should just pee more often. I think I caught her eating dinner.

The best and worst part of this day was a visit from my spouse, son, and mother in law. For a lovely afternoon and evening, I felt loved and embraced. They stocked me up with even more goodies, and I got a wonderful hour alone with my son, who chose to spend the time with Maddy by playing 926 consecutive games of ‘rock-paper-scissors’. I never felt so happy. The bad part, however, was that they had just driven in from Buffalo for the day and were returning home in the morning leaving me alone in my exile for whole additional week. I really should have thought this through a little better.

In our next thrilling episode: The bandages come off, dilation initiation, and Frankenpussy.

I Love the Smell of Anesthesia in the Morning – GRS cont…

Operating RoomThrough no fault of your own, I seem to be back on an accelerated schedule in my writing. Maybe it’s the time off from work, maybe it’s the need to publish after these long hiatuses, but more likely it represents a sadistic desire to have you all share my pain and triumph, but mainly the pain. Ahem, be that as it may…

When last we left off, our heroine was fervently checking her alarm and bemoaning a combination of hunger and a freshly sanded back door. I had just fallen asleep when the alarm went off on schedule. As per my standard, I gave myself enough time to ready myself in a hurry, and then stare at the wall for an hour until it was time for the car service to pick me up and take me to the hospital. The car was due at precisely 5:30 sharp, and by 5:40 I was in a total panic as the creepy lightless street remained headlight free. I was right to be in a Tijuana tizzy as this always seems to happen to me. If a name is going to be left off the roster, it’s always mine. Usually it’s because my last name usually sends me over to the back of the page that no one ever checks. Zelda Zyxzz, you know what I’m talking about girl.

OK, everyone calm down, the car did come after two hissy fit calls to the dispatcher and the ride to the hospital was uneventful. I couldn’t help but notice we passed a gorgeous looking Sheraton right near the hospital with fun looking eateries right nearby. This would haunt me in the days to come. I have to say, the Lower Bucks hospital staff was fantastic and acted like people blew in at the wee hours of the morning every Tuesday to have some major remodeling done to their tackle. A beautiful calm settled over me, which is totally unusual by the way, and I went through the motions of donning the faded backless gown and socks with the little treads on them. For once I didn’t worry about tucking; if anyone had to guess what I had down there, I was in deep shit.

The wheeled me in a gurney to the pre-op area where I was delighted to see that Heather, the PA from Dr. McGinn’s office, also kept drastically early hours. With the best bedside manner ever, she went over the standard mountain of paperwork with me, most of it indemnifying everyone in a 40 mile radius in case anything went wrong. I had to wonder if anyone at that point said, “yeah… fuck that”, hopped off the gurney and went to hunt down their gear. I realized my relaxed state was mainly due to the promise of sweet, sweet anesthesia right around the bend that would take away my hunger pangs and give me some solid shut eye. Hard to have performance anxiety when your primary role is to act like you are sleeping one off. Dr. McGinn dropped by briefly but rushed off like she had something important to get started on for some reason. Shortly thereafter, they wheeled me into a surreal room.

I immediately understood why Target was always short on 1500 watt bulbs as the eastern seaboard supply was simultaneously lit in the operating room. I squinted my eyes as masked men helped me shove my fat ass on to a table nearly identical to the one I was already on. People shuffled around looking professional, very busy, and yet like it was the usual Tuesday morning hump at the same time. I caught another glimpse of Dr. McGinn. I’m going to be able to eat right after this, right? “Um, no.” Dammit. A friendly man put a clear mask over my face after giving me a shot in the arm. Determined to fight the effects for as long as I could, you know, just for kicks, I faded to black.

The piss about anesthesia is that you wake up microseconds later still tired, but the clock is indicating you accomplished nothing all morning, you useless sack of crap. Immobile and disoriented, I was grateful to realize I was in no pain below the waist, though from the neck up I was a hot mess. I once read of an Inquisition era torture technique where they would use water to force a piece of scratchy adhesive linen down the throat, and then yank it out to tear out the esophagus lining and I was reasonably sure this had been done. Fuck, my check to the hospital must have bounced. These guys don’t play around, do they? Let’s just hope they didn’t install additional testicles down there. No, it was just the intubation that somehow managed to produce the same tortuous effect in a caring medical environment over 400 years later.

I yearned for the tiniest sip of water to ease the smoldering wreckage that was once my throat. I painfully croaked my desire to the approaching nurse. “Sorry dear, no water for a while for you. Oh, and here’s the phone. It’s your mom.”

Stay tuned for the thrilling next episode in our serial in which Michelle figures out the exact timing when the morphine pump goes live again, receives visitors, and manages to hump her ass out of bed early to the ire of the other patients.

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