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For those of you following this blog you might have noticed a gradual decline in posting frequency. The odd thing is, I really haven’t noticed it much. Which is to say, I haven’t missed it. Which is also to say, I don’t see this posting desert of a blog changing any time soon.

I speculated about ending Salad Bingo about a month ago. I’ve decided that’s not what I’m going to do. Every now and then I’m sure I’ll have a trans related essay pop out of my keyboard, and I’d hate to lack for a place to post it. So the blog will remain. But the posting will be – at least for the moment – on an extended hiatus.

But before I head off into the business of getting on with my life, I suppose a bit of a retrospective and some closing thoughts would be proper.

I started Salad Bingo a little over a year ago, but it feels like a lifetime ago. At that time I was looking forward to the beginning of my Real Life Experience, under the WPATH Standards of Care and the experience of coming out in my workplace. I had previously completed a couple of years of therapy in preparation for that point, but I was hardly “cured” yet.  I was still full of so much fear, doubt, and shame.

I was constantly battling expectations of total failure. With every step forward, I half expected to lose everything. But I had come to accept that standing still was no solution. Only the feeling of progress toward an authentic life held the demons of suicidal depression at bay. And so I rode the roller-coaster of emotion that came with each necessary but terrifying step. A lot of those emotions were the basis of my earlier posts here, but some were so intense I didn’t even try to give them words.

As the year progressed I broke down walls, coming out to friends and family alike. In the process a number of dormant relationships were rekindled rather than broken. And while I envied the support many others received from their parents, few others had a partner as consistently supportive of their transition as Ellen was for me. In the process our relationship – and our family – has grown stronger and closer than ever before. Over the same period of time my frosty relationship with my parents gradually warmed as well.

Coming out at work was a huge challenge for me – emotionally, professionally, and potentially financially. But I’d favorably compare the support and professionalism with which the matter was handled by my company to anyone’s. It went from the main issue dominating my life into normal and routine within a shockingly short period of time. The support of my colleagues and management never wavered a single time.

And so I reached a point this past spring where it became apparent to me that I had begun to experience life on the gentle downward slope of a successful transition. For the first time in my life the life I was living felt like it “fit.” The overwhelming sense of wrongness and gender dysphoria, which had once been so strong it almost killed me, had retreated to a couple of isolated areas which are well on their way to being corrected (e.g. “the surgery,” which is being planned in private rather than blogged about in public).

The main challenges I see looking ahead are no longer specifically transsexual challenges –  they’re human challenges. I have some serious catching up to do in learning to live a healthy and fulfilling life as a mom, spouse, sister, daughter, professional and friend. But I finally feel like I’m properly equipped for the task. As I confront these things I am finding the greatest insight and camaraderie by reading and interacting with non-trans people  – most often but not exclusively other women. In saying this I mean no disrespect to the trans community. In fact some of the friends I hope to keep with me moving forward in life come from that same community. But it won’t be our transsexual past that holds us together going forward so much as our shared humanity, finally unleashed from its transsexual prison.

In short, I have experienced a lot, shared a lot, and learned a lot in the preceding year. If my words have helped anyone else with their own struggles, I’m very pleased. I’m grateful to those who read my words, and especially those who took the opportunity to comment or e-mail as a result. Having people to interact with as I’ve gone through this challenging time has helped me quite a lot.

So that’s all for now. I may post again on occasion, but I’ll set no expectations around frequency. I’m not deleting anything. The old posts will remain. I’m still writing quite a lot, but not about the topic of this blog, so it won’t be posted here. If anyone feels the need to reach me, the e-mail address in the right side bar is your best bet.

As the saying goes, this is not adieu but au revoir.

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One of the things I have always enjoyed about writing is that it brings clarity to my thought process. The formality of writing something down – the decisions that go into word selection, word placement, punctuation, sequencing of ideas – forces me to think through things logically and coherently.

For this reason I can usually tell when something big is still in the process of coming together in my mind by the exercise of trying to write it out. If I can’t get it into words and yet the ideas are jumbling around all over my mind, that’s a sign that something major is brewing upstairs. I don’t necessarily know what it is, but I can tell when it’s over because I can write about it after the fact.

I’ve got that going on lately and it has severely limited the repertoire of trans-related things I am capable of writing about. Yet I don’t want this blog to be my stream-of-conscious dumping ground. It’s kind of got a theme, you know? It’s written right under the blog title: “Diana’s thoughts about navigating gender transition.” If I start writing about my favorite television shows, and work issues, and the kids’ latest illness it becomes… well it becomes Facebook. And I’ve already got a Facebook account.

So in lieu of my preferred, essay-like writing style, and yet still keeping to the blog theme, here’s a few brief thoughts on my mind.

  • When I see young trans people try to make sense of older trans people’s lives it’s apparent that they cannot conceive of a pre-internet world where information about trans topics was rare and specialized. They seem to think the only difference between the world then versus now was cultural tolerance, and that’s not even half the story. They literally cannot imagine what it was like to not have any information – not even the words – to make sense of your gender confusion. Nor can they conceive that information used to be so localized. Growing up trans before the internet age was hugely influenced by your geography in a way that just doesn’t apply in an age when Google is everywhere. Of course the opposite is just as true. I can’t imagine what it would have been like to grow up trans with all this information around. What would that life look like? It’s so different from what I knew it’s like imagining the life of a completely different person. So yeah… the trans generational divide is fascinating to me. And I’m jealously admiring the green, green grass on the other side.
  • Ninety percent of the advice I’ve seen about transitioning in the workplace is horrible. I got a sense of this when I was planning my own workplace transition. But I see it a lot more clearly now. So I’d like to offer a few items of better advice to anyone still planning this:
  1. Pay attention to your own intuition. If you think your employer/co-workers seem likely to reject your transition, you’re probably right. Take this seriously into account in your transition plan (“seriously” does not equate to “hoping it all works out anyway”).
  2. Even if you do believe your employer will be cool, make a transition plan which includes the possibility that you’ll lose your job. Call it Plan B and feel free to hope you never have to use it, but don’t skimp on the planning.
  3. Hold yourself to a higher performance standard than any of your coworkers – before, during, and after transition. Most employers will be far more persuaded by your value to the business than personal feelings.
  4. Look for others of your target gender in similar positions at your workplace who are well respected (if you can’t find any, remember point #1). Study their habits and their manners of dress, speech, and communication. Use them as professional role models.
  5. Do not, under any circumstances, justify behavior that would be unprofessional in your former gender by assuming your new gender gives you the excuse.
  6. Do not assume anyone at your office has any good information about trans people or gender transition. Not your boss, not your friends, not your HR department. If you want them to know you’re not like the trans people they’ve seen on Jerry Springer, assume that you’ll need to educate them.
  • I am really tired of the constant attempts by some within the trans community to label others within the trans community (i.e. you’re not a trans-this, you’re just a trans-that. you don’t get to be called “her” you’re still just a “him,” etc. ad infinitum). Yes, it is important to discuss ideas about identity, sex, and gender, and in the process labels and categories get thrown around. But at the same time – jebus! I don’t care what the label de jour says about someone. People are not labels. They’re human beings with feelings, and doubts, and a lot more questions than answers. And if they’re battling with any form of the weirdness we call gender dysphoria they’re living through a bit of hell, or at least did at one time. Despite pretensions to the contrary, most of the other-labellers are not skilled theoreticians about all matters trans. They’re mostly just people trying to sort out their own place in the world and lashing out in frustration when others seem to get in the way.  Or sometimes they’re just being a**holes. In any case I wish they’d all stop it.

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A lot of recent discussion about the scientific basis for transsexualism has gotten me in the mood to write about that topic. It’s not the first time. Last summer I wrote three posts as part of an ongoing series, “Transsexuals – Facts Not Opinions.”  (For those who missed them, here are the links: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3)

I left off part three with the following statement:

“Next post, I’ll start to explore some of [the] research attempting to describe the mechanisms involved in organization-activation within humans, and how this relates to transsexuals, intersexed people, and everyone else.”

In case it’s not self-evident, that was a rather ambitious goal for someone on the cusp of some fairly major life-altering events. Check that. It was a rather ambitious goal period. It became a laughably unrealistic goal considering said life-altering events. Or at least it was for a time.

But now that my life has calmed I’m starting to regain my capacity for digging deep into complex and unfamiliar topics. And wow, does this topic ever require that capacity!

When you look into the science underlying gender identity you get into areas which lie at the cutting edge of current scientific understanding. There is very little written for the easy consumption of the general layman with an interest in this topic. To get far beyond your high school biology basics – and this topic requires that we do – you’re mostly dealing with sources that involve scientists writing for other scientists within very specialized areas of research. It’s incredibly interesting but it’s also extremely difficult to assemble into any kind of “big picture,” which is the goal of my narrative.

I tried to rely upon the narrative instincts of Dr. Veronica Drantz as my unofficial guide. Dr. Drantz is a physiologist who put together a series of presentations (including this mega-presentation) attempting to address this topic for general audience, and in my opinion she does an excellent job of it. However I ran into a problem trying to draw from her approach. Drantz’s presentation relies heavily on visual illustrations to address some of the baseline physiology. When writing in narrative form I need to accomplish the same thing with words… and the words in question are things like “bipotential primordium,” “dihydrotestosterone,” and “5 * reductase receptors.” Since I can’t translate those into pictures I need to translate them into more easily understandable text.

To perform this textual translation I looked for assistance from two other sources. One is a journal intended for medical students, from which I identified a “Beginners guide to genetics: sex and genetics.” The other is a recent article about “sex determination and gonadal development in mammals” from the American Physiological Society.

One thing you’ll notice about both of these articles is that neither one is intended to speak specifically about gender identity, or transsexualism. These sources are focused, instead, on the basic mechanisms underlying sexual differentiation in mammals. In trying to build this narrative it became clear that  in order to understand the discoveries speaking to gender identity formation in trans people, we need to understand how it appears to be like or unlike what we know about sexual differentiation in the “standard” model. And, in case you didn’t know, the standard model of mammalian sexual differentiation is WAY more complex (and more of a mystery) than anything you learned in high school biology.

This is a long way of explaining that I am once again intending to put together, in as many posts as it takes, the promised narrative covering current understanding about the physiology underlying transsexualism. Right now I have something in my draft folder called “Big Ol’ Physiology Post” containing a lot of bullet points and quotes and a semi-coherent narrative sequence. Given enough time and cursing I should be able to turn that into some kind of post within the next week or two.

In the mean time, if anyone knows of other good examples of such work I might be able to draw upon, please let me know.

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And… We’re Back

We lost our internet connection this entire weekend due to a snow storm. Because our television and phones come from the same cable as the internet connection, I’ve been completely out of touch with anything going on in the world until I made it into the office this morning.

I haven’t checked yet, but I’m presuming nothing hugely significant happened in the past 48 hours. No new wars. No outbreak of the zombie apocolypse. No additional Cher farewell tours.

Anyway, in my spare time I’m going to try to catch up on people, events, and blogs I’ve missed. But you know how these things go. Once you’re behind you feel like you never really catch back up. So if anything truly important happened and it seems like I’m intentionally ignoring it, please understand.

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Strangely Positive

Strange days lately. Unexpectedly, I feel my life coasting into the decidedly non-turbulent waters of middle-class normalcy. This comes in sharp contrast to the previous years of inner conflict, massive depression, and social chaos caused by my pending crisis, coming out, and subsequent transition.

It turns out that, underlying all of the previous tumultuousness, the basics of my life are rather pleasant.

These days for the very first time in my life I’m able to spend time with my family at home while feeling entirely present and entirely loved. It’s an amazing feeling, none the less so for its seeming banality. Those of you who have known this sort of thing previously, please indulge me as I get to enjoy it for the first time in my life.

However there is a downside to all of this. Pleasantly banal lives lived in the enjoyment of ones family make for mighty good living, but not very good telling. The blog posting is certainly suffering. I’m not apologizing, just explaining.

I feel like I’m starting my real transition, which isn’t so much about changing gender as it is about changing my life. I feel like I’ve been suffering from congenital illness all my life and, while I believed I was in the process of getting better, suddenly I’m actually feeling better. The difference in outlook is striking.

There’s still a lot of sadness and anger in the trans community and I think I’m developing some survivor guilt about that. I’ve been there, and you don’t have to go back too far on this blog to see the evidence. But now I feel myself getting out… getting away from a tormented trans life, and getting into just living a life. I feel like I’ve escaped something horrible, and I wonder why I got to be one of the lucky ones.

Truth be told, I never wanted to be a trans person. I’ve always aspired to just be a person person. The trans thing was simply an unfortunate condition I had to deal with. And even though there is still more “dealing” to do, it’s feeling more and more like that’s just minor details. The main stuff is over. My “trans” life is being replaced by my “life” life.

None of this is leading up to an announcement of ending the blog or anything. I still have more I want to cover here, it’s just coming up less frequently. It’s sad but undeniable that it’s easier for me to write out of pain and torment than out of more positive emotions. But if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to hang onto those positive emotions all the same.

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Personal Update

It was a long, angst filled weekend. I caught a couple of breaks through the kindness of friends, but the rest of the time was pretty taxing.

Oh, I didn’t really do anything. That’s not the kind of “taxing” I mean. I was a lazy slug around the house all weekend. The problem was that my mind has commenced what I expect to be a month long process of beating myself up over the upcoming workplace transition. I’m seeing all the worst case scenarios played out in every variation imaginable. Even when my mind is more positive I’m obsessing over every detail of the transition plan. It intrudes into my thoughts all day long, and has even invaded my dreams.

On top of that I went to bed with a migraine and when I woke up it had gotten worse.

I’m going to try to post some more analytical pieces this week, partly to engage my mind in something other than self-doubt. In between that and throwing myself into my work, I’m going dry (too tempting to handle my stress with the bottle).

It’s going to be a rough few weeks, but I’ve overcome worse to get where I am now. I’ll make it through. Apologies in advance for the excessive crankiness though.

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Grounded


We now interrupt your regularly scheduled blog posts for a brief parental adjustment. Regular programming will resume if said adjustment leaves any survivors.

(For those out of the loop – This means my parents are now officially in town. Presumably this situation will remedy itself by Monday.)

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