Who am I?

whoami

April 28, 2018

Prior to my facial surgery a friend asked me, “When you look in the mirror do you know who you are?”

I was puzzled. I wasn’t sure I understood the question and I certainly didn’t know the answer. I guess prior to discovering that I am transgender I wasn’t really sure who I was. I have my likes and dislikes. I enjoy windup phonographs, repairing them and playing them. I love metal detecting. I love history, all kinds. I love music, singing it and playing it. I love all kinds of art from the great impressionists through pop art and modern art, even some performance art, and especially little kid’s art.

But those are things that I enjoy. Is any of that who I am?!

Even now, after living for 9 months as Tiffany I’m not sure who I am. Of course I’m still in flux with more surgery possibly before the end of the year. But surgery doesn’t define one. It’s interesting that I never think of my diabetes, which I’ve had for 34 years, as part of who I am, or what defines me.

So, who am I?

If I search myself now for an answer I guess I’d say that I am someone who is concerned with other people’s feelings. I try to think of another person’s perspective. I try to do good. If I have extra I will gladly give to someone in need. If I won the lottery I think I would donate a lot to well-run charitable organizations and medical research. I would love to start a company to produce a generic insulin for diabetics in need.

Who am I?

Hmmmm, well, I’m very concerned with my quality of life especially as I age. My family genetics is not great. It’s not as bad as others, but it definitely worries me and how it will affect those that I love and am around.

I’m not all that religious. I was baptized and confirmed Catholic. While in my early 20’s I jump started the folk choir at my church. But I have questions with my relation to the church as a whole. I do believe in something, but I guess I categorize myself as agnostic. I definitely don’t agree with the some people’s use of religion and not just here in the USA. Any group that uses their religion or religious stance as a reason to hate anyone else is contrary to the love that most religion’s preach. But I don’t want to get into religion or politics. I am not intelligent enough on either subject.

Recently I was talking with a friend that I met in college years ago. They were talking about my writing style and how easy it seems to flow. I admit that this is the easiest I’ve ever been able to write. I used to carry a journal with me all the time. It started around the sometime in the early 90’s. I wrote all kinds of things from journal entry’s to words or phrases that people would say. The thing is that I always wrote in the style of the author of a book that was then reading. It wasn’t “my” style. Now I am finally writing in my own style, in my own hand.

Another thing is that I never, ever wrote about my feminine thoughts. I never put down to paper the fact that I wore female clothing in secret, or that I had an internal dilemma with posing as a put-together male on the outside but having a feminine mind and thoughts inside. How could I? It would be the end of existence if anyone accidentally read that! They could read anything else; who I had a crush on, what I had for lunch, what train I rode, but not who I truly was. So I wrote about fluff, about facts, but not about my feelings. Not about me. I think that says a lot about who I am, or who I was.

As the saying goes “Write what you know.”

With my revelation first to myself and then to the world, my world, that I am transgender, I can finally be more “me.” I’m finally writing “what I know.” I don’t think there’s any way that I could be more vulnerable. Even before I took the steps to reveal myself I had always admired anyone, gay or lesbian, for “coming out.” They put themselves out for ridicule, harassment, abandonment, bodily harm, to be who they really are. They are true heroes to me. They are the people in my mind know who know who they truly are.

So now my writing flows because I am living true as myself and I’m writing what I know and what I’m no longer afraid for anyone else to read. I’m on my true path to find out who I am.

Are you?

– Tiff

My Surgery Consultation (caution: graphic surgical terminology ahead!)

barbie.png

April 21, 2018

When I first thought about how much I wanted to tell people about my transition process I was hesitant to reveal the details of both my top (breasts) and bottom (genital) surgeries. Like, do I really want to tell that much about myself? But, isn’t that the whole point of this blog? I mean, I wanted a place to log my transition, but I also wanted this to be a resource for other trans-individuals, friends, and families of trans-folk and everyone on this planet. When it comes to talking, or more to the point, asking someone about their top and/or bottom surgery, generally it’s not something one should do. It’s a social faux pas, a no-no. It would be like asking a married couple how they have sex. It’s personal.  But, I really want this blog to be open and honest.

With with all of the blogs and forums out on the internet, it has been difficult even for me to find out what I want and need to know about these surgeries. Interestingly enough, the people that I have surrounded myself with to aid in my transition don’t have all of the answers either. They do know their part of things. And I liken it to the crew on a submarine. No one person operates a submarine. There is a main officer, a helmsman, crew in the engine room, a navigator, and so on.

For my transition I have a therapist to help me with my emotional and mental state, and to make a formal diagnosis which is required for making the legal change as well as beginning the medical portion of the transition. I have an endocrinologist who assists in the prescribing hormones and in my case testosterone blockers for transition. An endocrinologist is also the type of medical specialist that a diabetic would see to help control insulin levels so I benefit two-fold from seeing an endocrinologist. I had/have a plastic surgeon who performed my facial feminization surgery. And now I am employing another plastic surgeon who is trained in the medical practice of changing the primary and secondary sexual characteristics for a transgender individual to the characteristics of the gender to which they identify.

Each of these individuals is an expert in their own right but not necessarily the bearer of the keys to all of the knowledge on every aspect of transitioning. I have had to scour the internet and talk to my medical team to piece information together. I admit I haven’t reached out to my local LGBT center but I guess in a way I don’t feel like I belong there. Not because they have given off that vibe but because I feel like I’m in a kind of floating limbo. Half in and half out of cis and trans. This is my own hang-up really and I suppose one that I should bring up in therapy next time.

Yesterday I had a consultation with a female surgeon in Madison, Wisconsin. I live in Milwaukee, about 75 miles east of Madison. I’m so fortunate to have a gender affirmation surgeon this close to me. Not only is she a practicing surgeon but also a teacher at the University Hospital. In fact, most of my medical team is associated with medical colleges, another aspect of my health care that I am fortunate to have, and one which I feel is very important in my overall health care.

The first thing that I’d like to say is that the nurse that I met with prior to seeing the doctor introduced herself and said, “My preferred pronouns are “she” and “her”, what is your name and preferred pronouns?” This is such a wonderful way to instill a sense of confidence in my choice to see this doctor at this facility. I think so many people feel that they don’t have a choice in their medical care.

Over the years, through a very long medical history of doctors, I have developed the view that I am more the customer than the patient. I am the one paying for the service of medical care. I also am very well informed about my body and my medical needs. I have “fired” doctors from general care physicians to specialists when I am certain that I know more about my specific needs and when I feel that they are contradicting me. I don’t want to give anyone the idea that I am a know-it-all but when I am prescribed a medication that I know would interacts poorly with either a medicine that I am currently taking or one that would negatively impact a surgery or health care path that I am currently working toward. Example; within the past few years I was prescribed a maintenance medication by a specialists that I had seen a total of three times and about 5 minutes each time. After that visit of being prescribed the drug in question I went home and researched the medication only to find out that once on it I would experience increased risk should I ever cease taking it. Additionally, it would complicate any future surgeries. I messaged the surgeon with my concerns only to have his assistant tell me to “just start taking the medication immediately.” I sought a second opinion at a completely different hospital where I was given a diagnosis contrary to the initial one and more in-line with what I felt was improper.  To be clear, I wasn’t just looking for a doctor to tell me what I wanted to hear. I was also doing my research on my own and taking a risk that what I was doing was the correct path. But remember that you are responsible for your health with everything from what you eat and drink to whom you seek for your health care. I see any one of my doctors about every 3-4 months. Granted, I have a chronic health condition, but I believe most insurance plans allow you to see your doctor annually.

OK. Here endeth the lesson. I don’t want to get too preachy!

I guess what I am trying to say is that the staff at the hospital was interested in making the patients feel welcome and cared for from the very greeting, and it didn’t go unnoticed.

I’m going to get technical and personal here.
If you’re squeamish or in any way prudish please stop reading now.

In my previous post “Time Flies…“, I talk about the options for “Top” and “Bottom” surgery.

For top surgery or breast augmentation I personally am going to have a round silicone insert placed under the breast muscles. Modern silicone breast implants are not your mother’s implants. The problems associate with the leaking silicone breast implants of the 1980s have long-since been fixed, and the inferred risks and negative side effects been refuted. Modern silicone implants are a cohesive gel which, even when ruptured will not “leak” into the surrounding tissue. They would also retain pretty much the same shape much like a run-flat tire, and just need to be removed and replaced with a new implant, Saline implants, if ruptured, would deflate and the saline would absorb into the body leaving a flat breast. Also, the exterior structure of both the silicon and saline implants are made of silicone, so either way there is a silicone portion to the implant.

There are two shapes to the implants, that I am aware of, round and tear-drop. My surgeon only uses the round implant. One potentially negative complication of the tear-drop is the possibility of it turning inside the body and creating an unflattering shape which would then need surgery to correct. The placement of the implant can be either on top of the muscle or underneath. I do not know if one is a more involved surgery than the other, but the doctor did say that placing the implant under the muscle produces a more natural and flattering look when finished. The incision would be under the breast as opposed to around the nipple, two options.

Onward and downward!

The four options for bottom surgery are Penile Inversion, Sigmoid Colon, Peritoneal, and Limited-Depth. I’m choosing the fourth, limited depth. Basically it is all of the surgeries involved in bottom surgery without the creation of the neo-vagina. The reason for this is for the simple fact that I am 48, I am married to a woman, and I have no intent to engage in an intimate relationship with a man. Also, by omitting the procedure of creating a neo-vagina, the surgery is less involved, less expensive, recovery time is greatly reduced and after-care is less intense. “Traditional” bottom surgery involves the following procedures:

  • Orchiectomy (removal of testicles)
  • Penectomy (removal of penis)
  • Clitoroplasty (creation of clitoris)
  • Labiaplasty (creation of labia)
  • Urethroplasty (reconstruction of female urethra)
    and finally
  • Vaginoplasty (creation of vagina)

I will have all of the above except for the final one, Vaginoplasty. The after care for vaginoplasty requires the use of dilators to prevent the neo-vagina for closing up like an ear piercing when the earring is left out for too long. The schedule for using these dilators is multiple times per day for the first few months and taper off to once a week for the rest of the person’s life. For clarification, intercourse is not accepted as dilation. Many trans-women have published articles describing the after-care of bottom surgery. This is just not for me. There are some trans-women, trans-women of all ages, that want a fully functioning vagina. Every person’s journey is different.

All through my research for bottom surgery I had been saying, “I want everything but the vaginoplasty. I just want a to look like a Barbie Doll!” , and that is exactly what the doctor said to me!

There are some pre-surgery things that I will need to have done, chiefly making certain that my insurance covers both top and bottom surgery, and obtaining proper mental health paperwork. These are actually the first steps and I’m already in the throes of doing so. I had said that wanted to have all of my transition surgeries completed by the time I turn 50 in late 2019. It looks like I may attain that goal much sooner! I think I may have to change the name of our bungalow to The Barbie Dream House!

– Tiff

All information above is gathered by myself and any errors are entirely by accident.

 

Time Flies…

timeflies

April 18, 2018

It feels like it wasn’t that long ago that I started looking into Facial Feminization Surgery (FFS). In the grand scheme of things it actually wasn’t that long ago. But, it’s already been six weeks since I had the surgery.

I also remember back when I started taking estrogen by patch. I thought to myself, “This is it! This is the beginning! It’s going to take a long time before my body will change.” But I was already making plans for how I’d change and how happy I would be. My skin would soften. Fat would redistribute in my face and body. My facial hair would slow and become finer.

10 days later I had the mini-stroke and I felt the crushing blow of uncertainty. It felt like I was cut off from what had taken so long to find and accept. I suddenly had tests and procedures, and appointment after appointment with this doctor or that. I was eventually able to see some forward movement by that November, just 4 months later and not very long after all, but when you’re waiting for a bus in the rain it feels like it will never come.

It’s been almost two years since my false start with hormones and accompanying medical mishap. I’ve come a long way, I’m on my testosterone blocker and am at the full dosage that is recommended for mtf trans-women. It took a while to increase the dosage to the full level because of the potentially harmful side-affects with the rest of my health concerns.

I have to remember that I’ve made a lot of progress. I’ve been living full-time as Tiffany for almost 8 months now, my name and gender have been legally changed, and I’ve had facial feminization surgery.

Tomorrow, April 19th, will begin the next phase of my transition. I have an appointment to consult with a plastic surgeon on top and bottom surgery.

Being transgender is very different today than it was 30, 20, even 10 years ago. I only know this from reading about other folks and their experience transitioning. I feel that the public is more accepting of transgender, gender-fluid and non-binary people today. It feels to my like anyone under the age of 30 has grown up with trans and gender fluid people in their midst and so the taboo doesn’t exist as it had decades ago.

The options for surgeries and surgeons has grown too. However, not every trans-person chooses to undergo top and/or bottom surgery. There has been greater acceptance for those choosing to not undergo these very expensive and time intensive procedures. It is also extremely inappropriate to ask a transgender woman or man if they’ve had either top or bottom surgery. It is a very personal part of one’s transition and unless the information is offered up it shouldn’t be asked about, and if learned it should never be given out freely to any one else.

Reputable doctors (most doctors) follow the WPATH “Standards of Care for the Health of Transsexual, Transgender, and Gender Nonconforming People.” These standards of care were first drafted in 1979 and are periodically revised. The latest standards were revised in 2011. (You can read the actual standards here: www.wpath.org/publications/soc) These standards require specific goals or steps in transitioning. For instance a letter from a mental health professional documenting ongoing therapy and gender dysphoria is required prior to medical intervention for hormone replacement therapy. Another requires a letter from a mental health professional for breast augmentation or chest reconstruction. Two letters are required for genital surgery. These are the safety checks and balances that have been adhered to by health professionals to aid in the physical and mental well being and transitioning of trans and gender nonconforming people. Prior to these guidelines there were no global standards for following a path to assist in the development or transition. All of the doctors on my team follow these guidelines.

So let’s talk breasts and vaginas…

Breast augmentation for a transgender woman is not “required” or even sought by all whom are transitioning. First of all a transgender woman must complete a period of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) for a period of time if possible. This is where I have a conflict. I am not a viable candidate for HRT because of my risk of strokes from taking estrogen. Secondly. if you are a transgender woman looking to get breast augmentation you will want to seek out a plastic surgeon that is familiar with transgender woman and the difference in anatomy between a trans-woman and a cis-gender woman. Also, there are options for your breast augmentation or “top” surgery. Your surgeon will go over options such as saline or silicone, tear-drop or round, and most importantly size! You will want a size that fits your frame. Some insurance companies cover this procedure and some don’t. I am still investigating whether or not mine does. I think they do. I hope they do!

Now for the biggie, bottom surgery, or as some call it “The Surgery!” I am by far not an expert on any of this. I am just in the process of investigating it for myself and trying to determine if any of it is right for me, or if the risks out weigh the benefits. When it came to my facial feminization surgery the benefits did outweigh the risks, and I’m happy to say they paid off! But back to bottom surgery.

As I understand it there are several methods for creating a “neo-vagina.” The most popular is penile inversion where the skin of the penis is used to create the vagina, kind of like turning a sock inside out. If this hasn’t made you squirm, you can see a computer generated example on Vimeo of how this surgery is performed by clicking this link.

The second method is by using a portion of the sigmoid colon called Rectosigmoid Vaginoplasty, or Sigmoid Colon Vaginoplasty. This is, as I understand it, a longer and more expensive surgery as the procedure to remove a section of sigmoid colon is also required. And, there a more draw-backs to this procedure.

The latest in the arena of vaginoplasty surgery is in using a portion of the peritoneum, a membrane that covers the abdominal organs. This is known as pull-through peritoneal vaginoplasty. My understanding is that the greatest benefit of this method is that the peritoneum is self-lubricating unlike the other methods.

There is a fourth type of bottom surgery. I’ve read it referred to as “limited-depth” vaginoplasty. It involves the reconstruction of the urethra into a female form and creates the appearance of a full vagina but without the full depth and need to dilate, which is a process of using dilators to exercise the aperture and prevent it from closing. Think removing your earrings and the holes closing up!

All of this is so new to me. I’ve been reading some great articles of trans-women who have gone through bottom surgery. They give invaluable first-hand knowledge of the physical and emotion sides of what one goes through. Recovery for these surgeries is somewhere along the lines of 6-8 weeks, that’s for bottom surgery and not breast augmentation.

I’m excited and apprehensive about my appointment. I just keep it in my head that this is just a consultation. I’m not being pressured into anything and in the end the choice is mine.

I’ll post an update when I know more!

– Tiff

My Authentic Self

madeinchina

I grew up in the 1970s and ’80s in a family with 6 siblings.

I am the second youngest child, with my two sisters being eldest, and the remainder being boys.

When I was growing up, my parents were much older than all of my friends’ parents. My dad was born in 1924 and served in the US Navy in WWII. He was already 45 when I was born (47 when my younger brother was born!). My dad had his share of health issues: a triple coronary bypass in the 1970s, type 1 adult onset diabetes.

In March of 1984, when I was 14, I caught a pretty bad cold. I recovered from my cold, but my pancreas didn’t.

The first troubling sign was that I started wetting my bed. This eventually got to the point where it was happening twice or more a night. I was also eating ravenously. I recall that for lunch, one Saturday, I consumed a sandwich, an entire pot of macaroni and cheese, and an entire pitcher of Kool-Aid, probably grape. Mind you, I was a pretty skinny kid, but despite my continual appetite, I was dropping weight rapidly. My vision started getting blurry, and my energy level was so bad that I couldn’t climb two flights of stairs at one time.

In school I  had joined track and was running as a sprinter. At our first outdoor meet, I remember having to go to the bathroom so badly, but the coach wouldn’t allow anyone inside the building. I didn’t tell anyone what I had been going through, so I can’t fault him for sticking to the rules. It was a frightfully cold evening. I had to run 330-yard low-hurdles and my energy plummeted. I made it around about two-thirds of the track before failing to get over two hurdles and smacking them. I ended up walking around the last several and just made it across the finish line.

My mother knew something was up with me and told me that she thought that maybe I had become diabetic. I was used to seeing my dad inject his insulin every morning and the smell of alcohol was a familiar accompaniment at breakfast, so diabetes itself wasn’t weird for me, but the idea that it could happen to me was shocking.

Mom made an appointment for me to see our family doctor. Dr. Malone had not only delivered me as a baby, but he’d also delivered every one of my siblings. He had become my Dad’s doctor when his original doctor retired at a ripe old age. Eventually, when my parents married, he became the family doctor, not just for us, but for my mom’s parents too. He remained the family doctor for years, through my grandparents death as well as my father’s strokes, dementia and death. My mother had still been seeing him when he was in his late 80s.

Mom made an appointment for Friday, April 27th. The previous Sunday, the 22nd, was Easter. I remember that I was very fatigued, always hungry, and going to the bathroom about every 50-70 minutes. My grandmother had an appointment with our doctor the following day, Monday the 23rd. She told my mom that she and I should switch appointments.

It was a good thing that we did because when Dr. Malone checked my blood sugar, it was almost 900. That kind of blood sugar level would send the average person into a coma. I think my youth helped me in this case.

I didn’t go home for a week. The doctor marched me and my mom out of his office, which was located in the physician’s building next to the Hospital, and through the connected doorway to the emergency room. I was admitted immediately and placed on an insulin drip to bring me into a safe range.

I stayed in the hospital the entire week of spring break 1984, learning how to draw and inject insulin, measure food, all of the intricacies of managing my new condition. I had lost so much weight over the previous weeks that I was down to 93 pounds. The only place I could inject was into my stomach.

I only cried twice during that period.

The first time was weeks earlier, at breakfast, when my mom told me that she thought something was wrong with me and that she thought that I was exhibiting symptoms of diabetes.

The second time was the day I had to give myself my first injection.

I had been learning for a couple days prior on how to do this. I would draw an amount of saline into a syringe and inject it into a rubber ball. The day that I had to “graduate,” I drew the syringe, thinking that I would be practicing again with the ball, but the nurse educator said that I would injecting into myself that day.

I was scared.

It was a lot less like standing at the end of diving board and being afraid to jump, because you can’t turn around and climb down the ladder. You just have to do it.

It’s not fun, and it was the beginning of something that will never end, but I did it. I pinched as much skin as I could, lined up the needle, pushed it in, pressed the plunger, and drew the needle out. I cried that time, but not because it hurt; I barely felt anything. I think I cried because this was my life now, and I didn’t want it. It wasn’t my choice.

But with time and reflection, I realize that none of us has a choice with absolutely everything in our lives.  And some of the choices thrust on us aren’t fun or fair. I’m very lucky though. There are many other chronic or fatal health conditions that I could be forced to deal with.

Back in 1984, when I was diagnosed, there weren’t personal glucometers for checking your glucose levels at home or on the go. I spent months going to the hospital multiple times a week with my dad to give blood to check my glucose levels. Now, 34 years later, we have so many advancements in the personal care and management of diabetes, and in the understanding of how food, activity, and stress affect the short and long-term health of a diabetic.

After 20+ years taking multiple injections daily, I was able to graduate to an insulin pump. I am now on my fourth pump, and it has changed my life for the better.

There are still complications to my body because of this insidious disease.

I have stage two kidney disease. I’ve received multiple rounds of laser eye surgery for retinopathy, which has now progressed to foveal cysts forming in the macula of my left eye. And I’ve suffered a stroke and a TIA (a transient ischemic attack).

I’ve had people say to me, with good intentions, that they may find a cure yet!

That may be true, but they won’t be able to repair the damaged nerves, my lost vision, my damaged kidneys. Those are permanent hurts.

The worst is when someone insists that if I just change my diet, I can kick my diabetes. Or worse yet that I can “pray” it away. I know people mean well, but the road to hell is paved with good intentions, as they say.

I think that one major factor in not realizing until my mid-40s that I was born transgender is having been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 14, an age when puberty had just started and my body was already flooded with hormones and emotions.

It was also the early 80s, and suburban Milwaukee wasn’t a place where transgenderism was on my radar. I knew that I was heterosexual as a male – that much I could identify. I had certainly questioned myself on that point (as did several other people). I knew I liked girls. But I also I knew that the softer feminine things resonated with me. Sure, I still liked climbing trees and having an adventure – but those aren’t strictly male things.

There are things that I’ve done through the years that, afterwards, I had attributed to the emotional baggage of being saddled with diabetes. At age 14, I had to become responsible for my health in a way that none of my friends did. I had to take on some adult responsibilities when I mentally wasn’t ready for it. There were times that I pushed the envelope, especially in the early years. I ate foods that I shouldn’t have eaten, sometimes in quantity. I casually picked up cigarettes during college. All these things were poor choices, but I never intentionally missed an injection, and I never consciously did something to “get back at” my diabetes.

Since entering therapy for gender dysphoria, I’ve been able to look back on some of my choices, chiefly in relationships, and identify that the failures and mistakes were, more often than not, due to the fact that I wasn’t who I really needed to be, and I didn’t know why. It was like I was running away from admitting I was gay, but I knew I wasn’t a homosexual male. To be clear, I’m not talking about sex; I’m talking about relationships, and gender, and identity. There were many girls that I dated with whom I think I must have sabotaged any future or longevity, because it was getting to the point where I felt I couldn’t be honest about who I was and what I was feeling, even though I really didn’t know either of those things.

By the time I was in my mid-30s, I had been through some bad break-ups, and I had an opportunity to move to North-Central California to get away from it all and try to make a fresh start. I moved to Marin County, just north of San Francisco across the Golden Gate Bridge. I lived there for a year, and I really had a chance to understand some things about myself, and about who I needed to be for myself, before I could be in a relationship. I still didn’t know I was transgender. I was still secretly wearing feminine underthings and still living in fear that I would be noticed or “caught.”

I came back to Milwaukee after a failed career attempt. That’s when I met the woman who I would eventually marry and who accepted me as the person I was – a person who, much like myself, underwent a personal time of relationship turmoil followed by a period of reflection and rebuilding.

When we first met, we were just friends. We were honest with each other. The stress in our previous relationships in trying to become who we thought the other person wanted us to be was detrimental to our spirits and growth personally as well as for the relationships. We wanted to enjoy each others’ friendship. I told her of my secret dressing. She told me of her relationships with both men and women. We shared a common upbringing culturally with older parents, and found comfort in talking to each other.

We were friends first and foremost before we were a couple. We still are.

We eventually became very close and started dating. Within a couple of years we were living together and eventually married. She would occasionally ask if I ever thought of transitioning. At the time, I didn’t think I would or could transition.

I pictured my life falling apart if anyone knew at the very least that I was spending a lot of my evenings and weekends wearing feminine attire around the house. What would my friends and family think? Would I lose my job? I worked with retired military servicemen, hardly the people I thought would be OK with my choice to be whom I really was.

But you know what? I’m still friends with many of those people even after switching jobs. They have been some of my most ardent supporters in my journey to become my true self.

I think the turning point for me in deciding to come out was due to multiple factors.

Caitlyn Jenner had brought transgenderism to public attention with her own revelation and transition. That helped open the door.

I had also been dealing with so much stress in my life that it was manifesting physically. Having a disease that is made worse by stress, having a father with similar health concerns and having died at 69 because of stress related issues, and feeling like I had no future goals led me to the point where I had to do something.

I entered therapy in April 2016 after a friend had described me as transgender to an acquaintance.

“What do you think about it?” she’d asked me.

Was I transgender? Was I? I knew I was attracted to women. I also knew that I was far more comfortable in feminine attire – and not just in private or at gay clubs that tolerated my then-poor attempts at makeup. Did I want to live as a woman? Was I a woman? Was I transgender?

I feel that everyone should go to therapy at at least one point in their lives.  If your car is acting up you, don’t just hope it gets better, do you? If you have the flu, you don’t just hope you’ll get better. If your heart and your head are aching, it won’t just go away. When the stress manifests itself to the point of physical pain, the best thing to do is get the help that’s needed.

A therapist was the exact mechanic I needed to help figure it all out. I can’t imagine how miserable I would be if I hadn’t sought help. Maybe I would be dead, or worse, maybe I’d have had a debilitating stroke and be in nursing care, still living as a closeted, mixed-up person with little chance of figuring out my life.

But I did take that first step.

April 18th will mark two years since I began therapy and my journey to my authentic self.

And April 23rd will mark 34 years since becoming diabetic, my “diabetiversary”  – so it’s a significant month for me.

You know, it took me until my mid-40s to figure out who I was. I’m still working at it.

Some are lucky to be born aligned in gender. Some are lucky to have parents that understand these things at an earlier point in their child’s life. I’m just lucky to have friends, family, coworkers, and most importantly a spouse who all accept me for who I am and who I’m trying to be: my authentic self.

–  Tiff

The Two-Spirited Twin

twospiritedtwin.png

April 8, 2018

A couple of days ago my friend Claire asked me, “Do you have any Tom clothes that you still love to wear?”

The simple answer is no.

But it’s more than that.

I lived as Tom to the outside world and Tiff to a few close friends for decades. I’ve had two dressers full of two sets of clothes. I think I had way more pairs of shoes for Tiffany than I ever had as Tom. So really, I had been living two lives for a very long time. But, there aren’t any ‘male’ clothes that I wore as a male that I still wear. There are a few unisex clothes that I still have, a few costume pieces, but I’ve longed to wear what I now wear on a daily basis for so long that I feel in a way that I’m making up for lost time.

Some people don’t like the split between male and female attire. And while I think it’s true that there are way more choices for clothing as a woman, I personally like the difference between make and female clothing. I don’t know if this is because of having to wear male clothes for most of my life. For me, a skirt or dress, tights, and heels or boots is a way more comfortable outfit physically as well as mentally than jeans and a shirt. It “feels” right. That’s just the kind of girl I am. There are plenty of women that don’t like wearing makeup, or heels, or pantyhose, or skinny leg jeans. It’s all preference. It’s that diversity that makes us great.

Something that I hadn’t anticipated from my transition was the change in my likes and dislikes. My therapist explained it like this. She said that often when a person transitions later in life, they’ve had to live with two personalities, two lives, two wardrobes, etc., for so long that it’s like they are two different people. And once they transition, there are things that as the previous version of themselves they no longer can or want to mentally do. I ran into this at work about a year ago. I was having an extremely difficult time transitioning but still walking in my old shoes and path. Once I was able to talk this over with my employers and therapist, and I understood what was happening, I think it helped ease things quite a bit.

I’ve been embracing my changes, both physical and mental. I used to drink coffee black. Now I like it with creamer and sweetener. I used to be more introverted, but now I am more interested in being social. I’m more interested in what other people think and how they feel. I’ve noticed that my decorating style is different as well. I was very much into the Pottery Barn look, lots of leather and dark wood. Now I’m really into ‘shabby chic’, fluffy blankets, more color, less Mission style and more mid-century modern. These may not be gender specific, but they are different for me, compared to what I used to like.

Recently I found a solution to a potential dilemma I thought I had. I have items from growing up, key things or moments that I really can’t see parting with; childhood report cards, high school awards, year books…  So, I found myself an old metal document box. I’ve started to collect those things in the box. I lived so long, more than half of my life, with Tiffany compartmentalized inside myself. I can’t just discard Tom. So my solution is that I’m keeping a little compartment of him around.

I am now 48, and I have some friends that I’ve known most of my life. Some friends have asked how I would prefer that they reference the times and memories of Tom from before I started to transition and live as Tiffany. I rather like to think of it like the British sci-fi TV show Dr. Who. For those of you unfamiliar with the intricacies of the show, the main character is a man, The Doctor, who is from a distant planet, and he can regenerate his body when it gets damaged. It solves the problem of longevity for the show by allowing many actors to portray this same character over the length of the series which started in 1963. Interestingly enough, the current regeneration of The Doctor is a woman.

I’ve told people to think of my former life as Tom like a previous incarnation of Dr. Who. And that now I’ve regenerated into Tiffany, I can’t ignore or rewrite everything that happened before, and I don’t want to. My entire life has lead up to my awakening. Much of what ‘was’ is still part of me. My wife, my friends, my family…. Every step has led me to this point.

October 17th, 2017 is the day that I had my legal name change. I get teary eyed thinking about it. In the courtroom that day it was just four people: the judge, the court stenographer, the court clerk, and me. My wife couldn’t make it because she flew out of the country that morning. After the very sterile and legal nature of the preceding was over, the judge said “It’s such an unremarkable legal process for such a momentous event.” She congratulated me and I cried. It was such an important event for my journey to who I want and need to be.

I took my former first name, ‘Thomas,’ as my new last name. To the first nations Lakota people, a transgender person or winkte  is considered to be ‘two-spirited’ because they are “two genders residing within one person,” and my birth name Thomas in Aramaic means ‘twin’. I thought that being two-spirited, and christened Thomas at birth, to be significant. I like to think that Tiffany and Tom are the twins: The Two-Spirited Twins.

-Tiff