March 27, 2018
Yesterday was my first day back at work. I had taken a leave of absence for the entire month but since my recovery was going so well I wanted to return a week early. It’s interesting, when I was sitting at home resting I felt like I could do so much more but I was also not active for the 9 hours I am when at work. So yesterday was tough for me. It wasn’t tough in interacting with my coworkers after having had craniofacial surgery. Everyone knew why I had been gone. They’d known for months leading up to my departure. In fact the last day at work before leaving for surgery the girls in the front office had a luncheon for me. I have some wonderful coworkers who are excited to witness my transition first-hand. They are all very supportive. No, yesterday was physically difficult. I didn’t have a large work load, and I am not permitted to do any strenuous activities. My marching orders from the surgeon are as follows:
- Avoid strenuous activities for one month.
- No glasses for six weeks after surgery.
- No strenuous activities that may result in trauma to the nose for three months. ( I think I’ll avoid any trauma to the nose indefinitely!)
- Avoid getting sunburn for three months after surgery.
These were outlined on my release to return to work. I think that not being able to wear my glasses is more challenging than I thought it would be. Oh sure, I can purchase a headband that has a hook for lifting the nose rest of the glasses off of the bridge of my nose, but the elastic of the headband would be too tight around my head incision. I do have a cute lorgnette with reading glass strength that I use to look at the computer but it certainly isn’t convenient when I type with both hands. I’ve resorted to increasing the computer text as large as I can, typing while looking at the keys, and then reviewing and fixing afterwards. It seems to be a decent enough work around for now. So please be advised, if you are having similar surgery and you wear glasses daily for near and far sight, you will have to figure out a temporary solution for 6-8 weeks! Luckily I have an appointment with my ophthalmologist next week. I will be asking him about the possibility of contact lenses. Last December he discovered the presence of foveal cysts in the macula of my left eye which are signs of macular edema. This is a side-effect of my type 1 diabetes of 34 years. I have been managing diabetic retinopathy for about the past 20 years. It has stabilized since being on an insulin pump these past 13 years, but macular edema is the next step in the progression of that condition. I have had numerous rounds of laser surgery in both eyes, and at one point in 2005 sustained a pretty large hemorrhage in that left eye that left me almost completely blind in that eye for 4 months.
My diabetes and all of the accompanying complications have affected any kind of normal or sustained progress in my transition but they haven’t stopped it! I will not let my uncertain chronic health affect my continued transition. I’ve lived in an uncertain state of who I am for 46 years. I’m not stopping now! I am so much happier. Everything makes sense. It may be difficult for others to understand how I can suddenly become the person that I now am after living for years as a male. I’ve had experienced entire narratives in those 46 years with distinct beginnings, middles and ends…jobs, relationships, friendships….trips, fascinations, hobbies….but always with, as a dear friend stated upon her first impression of meeting me, a quiet sadness. I’ve never felt as complete in my body as I do now. And since my facial surgery I have never smiled as much. I’m still questioning whether the casual observer sees those male elements in my face that used to be a dead giveaway or are they now gone, hidden away like those lost narratives. Do people finally see me as Tiffany, as a woman? Do “I”? So much of this is about my perception of who “I” am. Now, sometimes when I dream I’m conscious of that fact that I dream of myself as a woman. Sometimes I’m still very much my assigned ‘male-at-birth’ incarnation. I’m sure that will continue much the same way that we dream of our relatives who have passed on being very much alive while in our dream state.
Throughout my life, it actually started when I was young, like in my early teenage years, I would have this dream of a female presence. I never saw her face, but I knew that I loved her. She would always be behind me or in my periphery. The first time I can remember dreaming about her I was sitting on a pier along a body of water. She was behind me to the back left and was moving counterclockwise around me but I never saw her face. I just knew I loved her to the core of my being. At first I thought it was the girl I would meet and marry. When I would dream about her in my 20s and 30s I thought she was the child that I would help create and nurture. I’m sure you can see where this is going. Now I know that it was me I had been dreaming about since my tween years. It was the 2nd self that I’d been carrying around my whole life. It WAS a child that I was nurturing into the woman that I would eventually become.
I believe that because I was diagnosed with diabetes at age 14, around the time of puberty, I didn’t identify what I was feeling. I suddenly had a much more complicated situation to deal with. Insulin is a hormone and affects one’s mood, drastically at times. I think it also redirected any thoughts away from the question of who am I. The mid-1980s, when I was diagnosed, were not a time of transgender awareness. I remember having had thoughts of questioning whether or not I was gay, but I knew I was attracted to women. I was also attracted to dressing as a woman. In my world, at that time, I only knew gay, lesbian, and straight. What I was feeling at that time not only didn’t fall into those categories but also seemed so strange to me, like I was the only one who felt that way and there wasn’t a pop culture figure that I could imprint on. The closest things to gender queer in my awareness at that time were the male bands wearing eyeliner and makeup, or someone like Boy George, a gay male, wearing feminine things and appearing closer to a female than a male, or K.D. Lang in the mirrored opposite of Boy George. None of it seemed to fit what I felt, so I continued on with my life dressing in secret and assembling an exterior that I was comfortable in, but was composed from the only pallet that I thought was available to me. “You can choose from these suits, these shoes, this furniture, these likes and dislikes. But that’s it.’
Hindsight is 20/20. Through this current self-discovery (Is it self-discovery when your therapist helps you?!) I can now identify the questionable choices I’ve made through my life and see how they relate to not being my true self. I don’t feel cheated out on the past several decades though. The people and experiences throughout my life helped me to get where I am. They certainly helped shape who I am, the person that was finally able to break out of the shell. In nature, the seed cones of the Lodgepole pine tree will stay on its branch anywhere from 10 to 20 years. The cones build up this thick internal resin that encapsulates the seeds within. The only thing that will melt this resin and free the seed is extreme heat like that of a forest fire. The seed can’t even begin its journey of life until it has been freed by fire. I like to think that the time that I lived up until now was my fire. And now I’m finally free to grow strong in the sun. At least strong enough to survive a day back at work!