Tuesday, October 17, 2017

After Transition... Now What?

This post is geared towards people who have transitioned, are considering it, or are in the process of doing so. I completely understand that transition and surgery are not markers of success and not everyone is interested in it (SPOILER: it is actually partially the point of this post). However, if you are then please take some time to consider the following:

What Happens Next?!

Google states that the word "Transition" means the following:
tran·si·tion
tranˈziSH(ə)n,tranˈsiSH(ə)n/
noun
  1. 1.
    the process or a period of changing from one state or condition to another.

    "students in transition from one program to another"

    synonyms:changepassagemovetransformationconversionmetamorphosisalterationhandoverchangeoverMore
verb
  1. 1.
    undergo or cause to undergo a process or period of transition.

    "the network ought to be built by the federal government and then transitioned into private industry"
I have written about setting realistic transition goals before, but I want to go into a little more detail about one aspect here and that is what happens after transition.

The simple answer to this, and I mean this in the best most exciting way possible, is that life goes on and you should be excited for it and plan!

As of writing this post in Fall of 2017 it has been almost 9 years since I started my journey. As far as what I have done in this time regarding my gender / sex: I have started hormones, changed my name, had surgery, got my drivers license, SSN, passport gender markers changed, and have spent thousands on getting hair removed... Am I still transitioning? Personally I do not think so, at least not in the classic transgender sense. In the more metaphysical sense, sure. We are all always transitioning from one place, time, thing, to another. In that sense we all transition (even cisgender people) and we will never stop. But in regards to my journey from living as a man to living as a woman I think I have long wrapped up that journey... Or have I?

Part of me always feels a bit off, a bit not quite done. It is most likely the years of missing social upbringing, but every day I live is one more day I learn. Does any of this make me less of a woman? I do not think so. I know plenty of cis women who were not "raised" like girls or in a traditional feminine way. This argument against trans identities (used my some anti-trans groups) is nonsense.

Regardless, one thing we need to remember aside from the previous thoughts, and I try to remind people I talk to about (and myself) this often, is that transition is a path to something and that on the other side there needs to be goals as well. We spend so much time and energy hyper focused on the journey it is easy to miss that life goes on on the other side. I know for me I still struggle sometimes with fitting in but I for the most part have tried to focus on other things: my career, travel, etc. It is easy to fall into a "now what?" mentality and this can leave you feeling depressed or with doubts. If you prepare and focus on more then just the one goal of transitioning however, you may find this all might be easier to manage once your thoughts stop drifting from "what if" on to "what now".

Some things I have done since I started transitioning:
  • Got my college degree
  • Started traveling a lot more
  • Moved to Chicagoland and started being a food snob :)
I am not suggesting you uproot your life, but you should be prepared to do something. Transition should be exactly as it is defined. A period of time that you take to move from living one way to another and it should slowly start to morph from your gender to more exciting (and mundane) every day things.

As always, your comments and experiences are appreciated!

Monday, October 16, 2017

Biological Basis for The Transgender Experience

Just read an article in Scientific American from January 2016 called "Is There Something Unique about the Transgender Brain?". While it highlights some great research being done in the area of biological differences / similarities between transgender and cisgender I still hold my belief that in terms of validating who I am as a trans person, my biology should not matter.

I absolutely believe that we need to look at the biological influences  that our brains can have on who we are. However, your identity, regardless if you chose to be a certain way or you simply have always identified as such, is valid. We should not use the argument that we were born a certain way as a crutch or as an apology of sorts. This pushes us towards tolerance and to me the goal of trans inclusiveness should be more than that. We should be seen as simply part of the normal variation of human existence. Studies can absolutely help with this, do not get me wrong; however, it is all in the framing. Humans have a hard time adapting changes to cultural norms. That is obvious in race relations today but change can happen if we help guide it in the right direction.

So what is my point? Again, articles like this offer great insight into our minds but the findings in these studies should not be the only things used to validate our experience. We are who we are and we should never need to explain or apologize for it. It is more important to show how we are part of this world rather than a deviation from it.

I want to point out that my views above are not meant to invalidate people who identify as X, Y, Z because they deliberately want to not be part of the norm. This is a different discussion but the central argument is the same. Virtually all identities are valid as long as they do not harm others and it does not matter if they are chosen or based on one's biology.

Anyway, have a read and as always share your thoughts in the comments.

Read the article

Friday, October 13, 2017

Permanent Hair Removal For Trans Women

One of the most frustrating and necessary aspects of an successful transition plan for the male to female transsexual is hair removal. It can also be one of the best things to help you pass as well! So why doesn't estrogen help with this? Unlike some things, estrogen does not help remove facial hair once it is there. Like bone structure, facial hair is a direct result of male puberty. The only way to get rid of the hair for ever is electrolysis or laser. Tweezing, waxing, and shaving will only get you so far (although in the mean time you should know how to effectively manage your facial hair). The reality is if you want it gone you will need to invest some money and time.

Also, if you plan on having sexual reassignment surgery you will most likely have to have some hair removed from your genitals beforehand... Your surgeon will go over this in your consult, if not definitely ask.

As I said, this either option costs money; in fact, please be aware that this can be one of the most time consuming and expensive physical change we as trans women can expect to go through. The reason for this is that electrolysis is paid for by the hour (I paid around the average of $65 an hour, 3 times a week for over a year). Laser can be paid for by the session but it is usually better to buy a package. I paid about the same both places I've had laser treatments done (maybe 9 treatments), about $250 a session.

Yes that is a lot. I also had a LOT of red hairs which evidently can be hard to treat, but not impossible :)

Anyway, below is a bit more specific information on the types of permanent hair removal that are out there.

Electrolysis

Electrolysis is a method of hair removal that involves inserting a probe into the hair follicle and passing a small bit of electricity into it. Once the hair has been zapped it is usually pulled out by the electrolysis technician. With enough treatment the hair follicle eventually dies and the hair will no longer regrow.

As you can image this method is very time consuming and can be very painful. Also there must be enough hair above the skin for the technician to grab with a pair of tweezers. This almost always means NO SHAVING before an appointment!

The major benefit however is that it is 100% permanent regardless of hair color. Also, electrolysis can be done anywhere on the body.

Laser Hair Removal

Laser hair removal is a procedure that involves sending a concentrated pulse of light into the hair follicle to kill the root of the hair. Theoretically this causes the follicle to die which means hair will no longer grow. I say "theoretically" because the success rate of laser is dependent on a lot of factors. The quality of the laser, its settings (stronger is not always better) and most importantly the contrast between one's hair color and one's skin tone. For example, a very fair skinned individual with dark drown facial hair is going to have much better results then someone with light skin and a blond hair or dark skinned people with dark hair. I have had very good and very long lasting results!

Laser can be less painful but not always and possibly less expensive in the long run that electrolysis; however, it may not be a viable option for everyone.

One thing with laser hair removal is to make sure you get a really good shave before you go. You will need a good razor (I still use my good old handy Mach 3) and the closer the better! I have some more advice on this in my article "Getting rid of that 5 o'clock shadow".

Points to Consider

  • Electrolysis is 100% permanent while laser is not... Sometimes. (It can be for some people.)
  • Laser works best on people whose facial hair is a color that contrasts with their complexion. The greater the contrast the better the results. Unfortunately that means African Americans (who sometimes have the thickest beards) are usually stuck with electrolysis.
  • Electrolysis takes a long time... If you are having it done, be patient. It definitely works.
  • Laser is much faster and to me less painful. I suggest this route if you are a good candidate. Even if you don't think you are I would still suggest you schedule a free consultation to find out.
  • Both hurt so prepare before you appointment:


    1. Put lidocaine on the area to be treated about 45 minutes before your appointment.
    2. Cover the lidocaine with plastic wrap. This helps tremendously to prevent it from drying which helps it to continue numbing your face. You look like a dork but it is worth it!
    3. Take two pain relievers about 30 minutes before you treatment. It is easier to prevent pain then to treat it.
    4. Drink water not caffeine.
    5. Try and relax... Think to yourself how much happier you will be once you are facial hair free.


The best advice I can give is this. You must be realistic. I had a coarse beard so it has taken longer then the averages you will find online elsewhere. Still assume that it will take a long time... Over a year, maybe two, three, or more for some of us. I myself have had 200+ hours of electrolysis and 9 laser treatments. I am also not done... I still have hairs, albeit far far less then I used to. I will say that I do not have a beard rather about 100 hairs that grow in patches on my upper lip and right under it. Any hair that grows on my cheeks is fine and unnoticeable. I have a few stubborn one on my neck and chin as well but not a lot.

Locations and Resources

Below are a few links pointing to some lists of electrolysis technicians and laser hair removal places. This can be a very hard experience not only because it hurts so freaking bad but also because of the nature of why we are doing it.
I have been treated respectfully at both places above but cannot speak for every location, only my experience at the ones I went to.


P.S. I would love to hear about your experience with facial hair removal... I more experiences we share the more information for others to form realistic expectations. Comments are very much encouraged!