Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Stuck In The Middle With Me (or 2 == 0)

Back by popular demand! Ok, exactly two people asked me recently about the blog. As you can see (in the picture), scientifically proven and all that, TWO is NOT ZERO. So here I am.

Truth is, I have been nerding out a little lately. Kinda don't have a choice, so luckily it has become a bit fun at least. I may have mentioned that my job is completely different now, albeit with the same company. So, learning has been the theme for the past couple of weeks. Mostly I am embracing it.

My company as a whole wants us all to get AWS certified. That was the case even in my old position, but while I started it, there was rarely time to devote to it. Now, there is more time. And I'm slogging away at that.

The AWS training doesn't immediately help with my actual JOB, which I have been learning as well. And as you can see in the picture above, I have been learning Python at my manager's request. I am enjoying that task the most, having dug into it in my free time on Sunday (when I couldn't focus on AWS) and yesterday. Already it has paid off, as I was tasked with something yesterday in my job that can be done using Python. By the way, Python is named after Monty Python, not the snake. This is useful information!

That's my life mostly right now. Working to become relevant and stay useful in my job. There has been little job security for me in the past 5-6 years, and it has worn me down. At the moment though, my resiliency is higher and I am riding that wave as long as it will last. I have the sense that even when I struggle, I can pull myself together a little quicker than before. Hopefully, I have not just jinxed myself.

And what of gender, you might ask? I guess that's where the phrase "stuck in the middle with me" comes in. Yes, I will link to the Stealer's Wheel song at the end. WARNING: I'm posting the scene from Reservoir Dogs with the song, and it's slightly gruesome. Gosh, I was such a different person back in 1992. Not for the faint of heart.

Anyway, why am I saying "stuck in the middle"? I guess it's because these days, I have less inclination towards either of the binary genders. I find myself in the middle, or at least it FEELS like I am. As usual, I haven't really been anywhere and so the clothing choices tend towards "male slob" (my wardrobe needs "girl slob" clothes and an environment to wear them in). And yet, I do the feminine things I like at times. I wore feminine clothes on Sunday when I went running an errand by myself. I wear my earrings (just studs mostly). I shave my legs, that kinda thing. Right now I am wearing my grey cardigan for the first time in what seems like a year.

So, clearly, I am still myself, no real change there. The weird thing is that I expected to feel MORE inclined to these things after surgery, not less. I am a little bothered by the facial hair issue. Without the T-blockers, it grows faster. Orchiectomy doesn't slow that down at all and they don't tell you that beforehand. So, I deal with it. I shave more often. I have started to think about the removal of the hair on a more permanent basis. Luckily, body hair is still very slight, that IS a result of the surgery and the HRT meds before and presently, and that's a very good thing. I can't imagine being hairy like that ever again.

As for my activities, I am still seeking that elusive cheap-in-the-time-of-COVID hobby. It's not a huge focus, since most of my mental energies are going into learning for my career. I do some stuff that is from the past, like watching hockey, and some stuff from the present like watching old movies (Katharine Hepburn has been a focus lately; there was just something about her) and watching shows like The Good Doctor and This Is Us. I had to take a break from This Is Us when the job news came in December and I found myself upset because I couldn't be like Jack. I was then reminded, nobody could be like Jack. Anyway, I digress. I'm back to it.

I remind myself also that I don't have to stick to stereotypically feminine or masculine things to prove myself to anyone, including me. I do MY things. It's been a bit difficult to put into words (thus the reason there have been less frequent blogs) some of the thoughts and feelings as I live more of the life of me instead of him, even though I still look like him. Interacting with family and friends has taught me how little most people think in terms of gender. Which is good. None of us should ever think about gender. Gender is such a weird concept. I stop short of saying it's "stupid".

Gender helps people make sense of the world. It also causes great pain to those of us who have dysphoria over it. And maybe that's where I am right now. The general dysphoria is low. I have other issues to tackle and goals to accomplish. I am staying in the middle until I have the opportunity to express myself more openly. I don't feel in a hurry (but am not waiting!). I think it took writing this today to realize that, right now at least, being stuck in the middle with me isn't as negative a thing as it seemed when I started writing today. It's ok. I'm ok.

And now without further ado, some gratuitous violence set to a solid 1970s gold soundtrack. I'll catch you all later.


Monday, January 4, 2021

So Begins Another Day

That phrase popped in my head just now, "so begins another day". It's a day that is familiar, yet also very foreign. Many days, most days, we have an idea of how things will transpire between the time we shake off the mental cobwebs and when we let them again overtake us to produce rest.

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

The One Where 2020 Ends

I have no idea why, but when thinking about blog titles lately, I've been wanting to make them like titles of Friends episodes. There's no rhyme or reason to it, and while I have been taking in some 80s and 90s goodness lately (Hello NBC baseball game of the week and you too, Buffy the Vampire Slayer), I have not watched Friends in forever. Could happen yet, but hasn't.

The reality of it is, the past couple of weeks have been quite a struggle, and I'm trying to write now while I'm on an upswing. The latest has been dealing with impending job loss and all that goes along with that. The mental struggles that have resulted have kinda been really tough, and I spent the better part of last week in some sort of hazy hopelessness. But there still is hope, and I'm clinging to it now. So let's ignore the lack of money, loss of health insurance, house, car, etc., that could result. It's too depressing and, as I mentioned, I'm feeling more positive the past couple of days.

What else has been going on? Well, the orchiectomy surgery was successful. The incisions are healing nicely, I don't anticipate too much scarring there, and at the doctor's a week or so ago, my testosterone level read 30, which is not nothing but pretty minuscule comparatively speaking. So that has allowed me to drop Spiro as expected and I feel safer about that. My estrogen, on the other hand, is still very low, so I have actually gotten a second patch added to my routine at least for now, to boost the level. It was only 37 when they look for 100 or above. So, work in progress there.

The holidays are here for most of us. Things are pretty quiet in that regard this year, as was last year. Money's tight and such, and the tension of who I am versus what they need is always there, so we are all doing the best we can, I think. I hesitate when saying "doing my best", but as my old counselor told me, in the moment, we really mostly all are doing our best. And life is moment-to-moment. Only when projecting forward or looking back (and we know what happens if we look back too much) should we even think about reassessing the "doing our best" thing.

I am looking forward to spending some time with my cousin Bryce, and also his fiancee Kat again over Christmas. Her mom has been having some issues very recently, so have been a bit concerned for all of them in the past week, and hope that they can enjoy a nice holiday season despite the struggles. If I can add anything to their good cheer, I certainly mean to try. All of the cousins on my dad's side might have a group Zoom call as well, and that should be a lot of fun if most or all of them can make it.

And what of 2020? I have thought, especially post-surgery and pre-bad work situation news, to do a full retrospective of the year. The big reason for that was to prove to myself that I had actually made a lot of progress this year. I think I will actually do it briefly here (yeah right, briefly, you're thinking) instead. There's no need to go into great detail. The blogs are all still there.

When 2020 began, most of us had no idea what we were in for. I think it's safe to say that we have not faced such a difficult year as a species in our lifetimes. I don't need to go over everything, we all know what's gone on. Our way of life was globally rocked and we are still dealing with it. COVID brought unique challenges and we face more as we see a vaccine coming available at long last. I had no idea when I started working from home in March that I wouldn't go back there. I know I was very fortunate to have even lasted this long, as so many others didn't and have yet to recover. I didn't get sick from COVID and my family was more-or-less spared so far. I'm grateful. We all just need to hang in a bit longer. It WILL get better.

As for me, I had a plan coming into the year. To think I'd achieve it, and exceed it, is still quite amazing. With the help, support, encouragement from a group of family and friends (not to mention some gentle prodding; I'm looking at you, J9), I managed to make myself known to the world. That was the plan and goal. Where the goal got surpassed was in the EMBRACE. I just got a little choked up after writing that sentence. It's easy to "like" or give a thumbs-up on a Facebook post or picture, and simply move on. And while that happened, for which I'm grateful, so much more happened.

The comments that first day, back on my birthday, I simply will never forget. And what I note more since that day is that a lot of those same people, some of you even reading this, have continued to not only "like" and comment and support me, so many didn't bat an eye when I decided to abandon my other Facebook profile for the one in which I am fully me. Friends and family have just adjusted in many cases, calling me Shannyn, using feminine pronouns, without hesitation. I know that couldn't have been automatic in their minds, or even hearts. Someone telling me I looked beautiful or even nice (neither of which are true, by the way, but I loved hearing it nonetheless) meant so much. It spurred me on and continues to do so.

I don't dress feminine all that often. I just don't. I want to; it makes me immeasurably happier. I might not get to anytime soon, or then again I might. But now I know I can and that's a big bit of progress right there. I have tremendous weight still on my shoulders that crushes me down onto the floor sometimes. But not hiding, having the ability to express ALL my thoughts, removes a ton(ne).

I know so many like me who don't have such an advantage now, and due to their circumstances, possibly never will, which makes me sad but thankful for what I have. All my friends who are CD, trans, or whoever are doing what they can to get by, just like me. Whether it's a single night spent away in femme mode (most often alone, mind you) during a business trip or repeated, painful discussions with a loving spouse to make their progress, they are fighting on. I need to keep at it. We all do. Including cis people and LGBTQ2+ folks and everyone affected by what 2020 and COVID brought us.

Let me end by making a long post longer, and just say to everyone in my "bubble" (big bubble) who have been there: THANK YOU! And to everyone who reads this, I hope that this holiday season brings you peace and if I dare mention, even some happiness. Don't be too hard on 2020, it did the best it could. But let's make 2021 even better.

So no one told you life was gonna be this way
Your job's a joke, you're broke
Your love life's DOA
It's like you're always stuck in second gear
When it hasn't been your day, your week, your month
Or even your year, but

I'll be there for you (When the rain starts to pour)
I'll be there for you (Like I've been there before)
I'll be there for you ('Cause you're there for me too)

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Time Gap Dysphoria

I think there's a stage in a gender transition that I am just now being able to put into some words. I'm not quite sure yet if there is a certain order to these stages, but for me it seems to have fallen after the "accept yourself" stage and maybe before the cis people in your life can really get what goes on in your mind as you try to make sense of a new world. By the time I finish this, I'll name this stage somehow, but as I type, I can only say it's related to time.

I kinda fell apart this morning, and I can only attribute it to dysphoria. I have recovered nicely but it's been on my mind ever since as my mind has imaginary conversations to try to explain my behavior. It doesn't feel exactly like regular gender dysphoria, in which a lot is related to appearance. Although appearance greatly impacted my little meltdown this morning.

What I noticed as I tried to process, and form explanations for what happened during the time my emotions took total control and freaked me out, was maybe another way to describe the dysphoria. Basically, it's this:

My emotions and life experience feels very stuck in an earlier phase of life. Whereas my body, and the lives of everyone around me, are in the present. There is an unavoidable, very real, and very large, gap.

Like, I am 46 years old, but there are times a 15-year-old version of me just takes over. Or an even younger version of me. And this version of me is female. It's female and desperately trying to catch up with the present.

I have made it to Thanksgiving, and am very greatly glad I did. This is very good for me, and present-age me knows this. Present-age me writes these blogs. However, younger me also has access to the internet, and she often says stuff only someone much younger might say. At least in my opinion.

I have written before about how make-up intimidates me. I don't take time to practise and my home life is not conducive to it anyway. This is where the age gap comes in. Younger me NEEDS outings to dress up and add makeup to feel nice about myself.

I targeted Thanksgiving as a day I could do myself up, within reason, and fully experience myself as I wish to be seen. That meant some cute (I think so anyway), age-appropriate clothes, makeup and all that goes with it. Even though I knew I was going to spend the day with family that was spending the day in a very casual manner.

The outfit wasn't anything crazy dressy, not at all. The day, for late November, turned out to be way too warm for the sweater dress I had bought a couple months ago. I was going with skinny jeans, a nice feminine black top I just bought, and some black boots I have yet to wear anywhere. And the makeup.

My family at home does not want to see me dressed this way. So I already had apprehension over my hands after painting my nails after I thought they'd all gone to bed last night. They all buzzed around, and I hid my hands. I sleep alone, so once I went to bed, no big deal.

Today's plan was to get up early and do everything else to present myself, and get out of there early. I hadn't been given a specific time to arrive for dinner, so I targeted late morning. I was leaving lots of time for makeup. And talking to myself that it would be ok.

Working backward from my determined departure time, I had done the mundane, eating breakfast, shaving real close, and showering. And talking to myself about the makeup. It will be ok.

I got dressed and was about to start makeup. It will be ok. And then, suddenly dinner got moved way back, and then younger me took over. I knew I didn't want to hang around the house fully dressed femme, it had been enough with my hands last night.

I determined to go back to crappy dude clothes, part of the disguise I still need at home. What else could I do? Present-day me usually stops me from danger, luckily, and so that was the one thing that version decided. Teenage me was then fully in control.

Teenage me had been psyched for months at the idea of not being alone on Thanksgiving, and also getting to look nice, and not, well, male. This is the age gap thing. Younger me has never gotten to do all these things that cis people don't even register. So, despite the fact my hosts could not possibly have known I get triggered by a change in plans, unfortunately I did. How could they know I would if I didn't even know I would?

You might think, why didn't you just chill and wait? Delays happen all the time. People in their 40's certainly know this. But I was not 46 in that moment. I was 15 (or so) and I was trying to bridge of 30 years not lived. 

There's no way to bridge that gap. You just can't, because time keeps moving. Somehow I have to be present-day me and compensate for the years not lived. And that's the really hard part. There are ways to compensate, in terms of environment and the people I am around. It just takes....time.

I eventually straightened up enough to go, but I had to remove the self imposed need to present fully feminine, with makeup. I am wearing all femme things, but no makeup, no boots. A nice tshirt and jeans, some small hoop earrings and a fun bracelet. It had to do; I was spent otherwise, and as much as I tried to push people away and be alone, I didn't REALLY want to be alone, so that's the compromise I made with myself.

I am at present having a nice relaxing time. I'm fully Shannyn here and am glad to be here with people who love me. That means more than any clothing I would wear, and luckily present-day me convinced younger me of that, so I could get on my way.

So what to title this post? Best I can come up with is "Time Gap Dysphoria". Not very scientific, but it will have to do.

To all the readers in the USA, Happy Thanksgiving. To everyone else, I hope the days are treating you well. I'm thankful for all of you.

Thursday, November 19, 2020

A Welcomed Emptiness

I suspect more words will be available for me to wax poetic in the days and weeks ahead, but they escape me now. Perhaps my brain is still dulled by pain meds and anesthetic. 

I had my orchiectomy on Monday. The day, for me, could not have gone any smoother. Other than puking in the car on the ride home. I guess I wasn't ready for so much water yet. I think the patient often has it the easiest. I like to think that my support system for the few days wasn't too put out by it all. I think I was a pretty easy houseguest. You'd need to ask them.

Once again family came through for me, which I guess should not surprise me at all, but it still does. Things that seem like a huge deal to me, I guess they just aren't. Major, MAJOR kudos, and thanks to my awesome cousin Bryce and his amazing bride-to-be, Kat. No one will ever know how much it all means to me.

I'm not even 100% sure what it all means FOR me yet. The effects of the surgery and how my life is forever altered. It's been 3 days now, and I have yet to get a good grasp on it, despite knowing a good amount of the science involved and having planned this all for months. I know the benefits to my mental and physical health, but of course, it goes deeper than that. And thus you are all spared the long blog post. For now, anyway.

"A Welcomed Emptiness" is a nod to the physical only. Emotionally, I feel very good, despite many of the same external issues being there as they were before. I don't feel much different physically yet, but I suspect that that is only a matter of time. Recovery is going well, the pain is very minimal. It's more of a bit of pressure on my incisions. That is mitigated very well with ice and pain meds. In fact, I suspect that I won't need the meds much longer. I'm a wimp about pain, so being careful to not let anything get out of hand.

Otherwise, I'm back to work for a second day today, and that's going pretty ok. It's not great sitting for long periods, but again, very minimal pain.

Looking forward to the next chapter, whatever that is.