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Why the ‘Year Long Test’ to Get “The Surgery” is Kind of BS

testI’m now 9 months into what my gender specialist calls my ‘Year Long Test’, or what I simply call the rest of my life. For those who may be unfamiliar, The Test is the period of time a trans person must live as the gender of their identity in order to qualify for GRS, or as 99% of the population knows it, The Surgery. Ugh, nothing like a slew of capital ‘The’s’ to seriously aggrandize everything. Anyway, I got thinking about this and have a few bits to share.

My first thought on hearing about this requirement was, “How ridiculous. If I know, I know.” My specialist begged to differ and painted it as a huge event upon which the rest of my life would be based, if I even ever got to that point. I humored him to some degree, but took exception to every instance he brought it up. “When you start your Real Life Test…” Hmm? Oh, yeah, you mean when I’ve finally managed to come out to everyone and start living the rest of my existence correctly? I didn’t say I wasn’t a difficult patient, and I suspected he had a well justified voodoo doll of me locked in his desk drawer that he used to make sure I could not find my car upon leaving. I don’t blame him; I’m just saying.

My point of view was very simplistic as I’ve said. The hard part was the long and painstaking effort of telling everyone, but once they knew, I felt weird and uncomfortable around them presenting myself as male as it didn’t exactly jibe with what I revealed. I hated that and knew in my heart of hearts that the real effect was adding to the habit they had of calling me “Mike” and referring to to me as “him”. Once I went full time, it would be pure bliss and I could not imagine ever wanting to go back for even a second.

Well, we live and learn now, don’t we? I will say that I have never considered for a moment going back, but I do see why temptation might present itself. All the big firsts were no-sleepers leading up, like the first day of work, first presenting myself to my family, my child, and old friends. Less stressful, but still on the mind were the first time to the grocery store, taking my son to a birthday party, and my favorite hardware store. Quick note on the last one. The boys at Hector’s never blinked when I came in looking for something and were as friendly and helpful as always in finding the exact right thing to repair a steel cable the dog managed to chew through. Compared to the alternative, however, no contest.

From a different point of view, things might have been different. If I didn’t have the ability to tune out the rest of the world and walk around in a state of blissful dissociation, there is the possibility that the stares would get to me. I don’t actually notice them myself, but my spouse does. If I lost my job and went on 42 interviews where I could tell I was dead in the water just walking through the door, an element of despair may have crept in. If I had no patience for the hour it took to make it out the door after discovering I only had 1 egg left when I needed 2, I may have had second thoughts.

Although I think it may be the exception rather than the rule, I can see where a yearlong test might be useful in seeing if you are ready to live and work as the gender opposite that on your original birth certificate. I consider myself lucky for having the personality I do, not to mention the elements of sheer luck that fell in my favor. Life can grind someone down, even if pursuing something so important and integral to their identity. Now for the big question.

Many aspects of the medical intervention aspect of transition are purely for the comfort of having one’s physical attributes match gender identity. If life becomes so heinous that social transition to the gender of best fit is in no way sustainable, does this change the desire to have one’s body match what is in their head? GRS is not really going to change any aspect of my non-romantic social life. No one is going to be able to see the change and the only marginal benefit is being able to wear slightly tighter pants, which let’s be honest, I probably shouldn’t do anyway. So why the assumption that failing the social Real Life Test means a person is going to be any more comfortable with what lies below the belt?

I believe the assumption is that for those of us who feel so strongly that GRS is an absolute necessity, we will do whatever it takes to grin and bear it through that year. Failure to do so must be indicative that the person is not really transsexual, or at least not sufficiently so to also have a deep personal need to make physical changes. This looks like a big whooping case of flawed logic to me. If the WPATH goal is the alleviation of suffering and the possibility of a fulfilled happy life, taking a rigid stand on this might be hugely counterproductive in certain cases.  Life circumstances can rarely be boiled down to a cold Boolean logic scenario where if A, then B; if not A, then not B, where A is the Real Life Test and B is GRS. In the words of Dennis Miller, “That is my opinion; I could be wrong.” I don’t think so though.

Half Way Though the First Year!

waitingroom

Today marks my six month mark since going to full time transition. Well, allegedly anyway; who knows when I will actually post this. In any case, I thought it worthwhile to look back on the previous half year to celebrate this major milestone in my “Real Life Test”. I hate that term by the way. I don’t really look at is as a test, but simply a start date of my authentic living thereafter. The only reason the year marker means anything is that it is a requirement for surgery. Tranny probation so to speak.

To anyone who is keeping track, six months ago, back in July, the good people I work with found my blog. I wrote about this of course, in a post cleverly titled ‘So, It Looks Like They Found My Blog’. Actually some of them found it around the beginning of June or something, leading to over a full month of paranoia as my radar was pinging through the roof. It was good to know that my equipment was functioning correctly. It was always a possible part of my plan, by the way, that this would happen. I just didn’t expect it would be kept secret for a good month making me wonder.

The suckiest part in all that was the 3 days I worked still in male mode after everyone knew and I knew they knew. That was bad, but terrible was the fact that I no longer felt comfortable making jaunts into the men’s room. My solution was to dehydrate myself all day and run over to Wal-Mart at lunch and use the bathroom there. Good times, good times. After that though it all got much better, with the one hardest being walking in here that first day. In the car I steeled myself by saying, “this is something you will never, ever have to do again”, and it worked. Six months later, I never even think about it anymore.

Without question, the biggest relief I’ve felt, and actually continue to feel even now, is being just one gender. I had no idea how much waffling between myself and male mode was sucking the life out of me. Things are simply just easier now. Um, kind of. I still miss being able to roll out of bed and nip out to the store in less than 5 minutes and all, but that is pretty much it. My boy clothes are all gone. Again, kind of – they are in garbage bags in the garage awaiting the next AmVets pickup, but same thing. I’ve never had occasion to open one since I put them down there last summer. The only male clothes still in my room are a bag of my dad’s I simply couldn’t part with because they still smell like him.

Challenges for the next 6 months? Nothing in terms of everyday living. I’m good now and could never, ever even contemplate going back for anything. I do have my fairly ridiculous set of New Year’s goals, but those are all about personal improvement more than anything. I know I have my surgery in there, but I consider that the easy one. I’ve been mentally and emotionally prepared for a while, so now it’s just going through the wickets until I wake up in the recovery room. What a sweet day that will be!

To any of you contemplating this journey, a few small words of advice. Real stuff too; not my usual Little Miss Wise-Ass shit this time. Numero uno: listen to all the advice you can, but don’t necessarily follow any of it. Everyone is going to speak to their own experience with the expectation that yours will be the same, and seriously, when is that ever true? Kind of puts a damper on any other advice I have, doesn’t it? It’s OK, it is supposed to. Anyone who tells you, “here is what you have to do” is just as likely as not to be completely wrong about it for your situation.

The advice I have that is most likely to apply is to wait until you are really ready to do anything, but once you are, don’t hesitate. Pushing yourself before you are prepared can give you crippling anxiety. Wait too long because you think it will get easier, you are likely to find both that it won’t, and that every day becomes harder to bear. Try your best to be very considerate of those around you, especially spouses, children, and immediate family. Whether they accept you immediately, damn you for all time, or somewhere in between, you will never go wrong making it as easy on them as possible. Chances are you had decades to get mentally used to the idea, and they have a whole lot of catching up to do without the benefit of being inside your head for the panoramic view.

Finally, be good to yourself. No matter how easy it goes or how hard, it’s a mentally challenging time to say the least. Do what you need to in order to get through it. You can work off that extra piece of cake that makes you feel better right now, so don’t beat yourself up about it. I’m not saying go and get yourself a heroin habit or start picking bar fights with hipsters or anything. If you allow yourself reasonable things, it’s all OK. Don’t worry, coming out the other side is faster than you think and you can deal with it then. So, sally forth, my brave little Vikings, your world awaits you.

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