30 chest hairs and how to be OK with changing slowly

This morning my girlfriend inspected my facial hair progression as she often does, and she said a corner mustache hair was much more red than the other hairs. I said, “They don’t call me Redbeard for nothing!” (These are the jokes I always make. I’m so sorry to everyone who knows me).

Since we met, she’s been pointing out my changes and it makes this frustratingly long journey to beard fulfillment a little more bearable. It just occurs to her to check out my chin and make delightful comments like, “This is grown in so much since we met! Do you remember when you just had a tiny patch right here?”

She’s truly a gem among us.

I spend a lot less time looking at my chest. I think the critical need for top surgery makes it difficult to look down and then look back up again. But today, I’m feeling good, and I decided to actually count those chest hairs.

It seemed forEVER there were about 16 of them. But lately I’ve noticed a little growth spurt, and I was not wrong–there are 30 now. I realize many men have hundreds, thousands of chest hairs. But like, this is my slow progression and it’s okay.

Note: I also have two back hairs, and that’s only what I can see over my shoulder. We won’t focus on this.

Tonight, I’ve been playing around in my Poems folder, and I re-read those five poems I was telling you about yesterday. It was a disappointing exercise. First of all, there aren’t even five poems, there are four. And I had to delete one because it was so bad. So now I have three poems and I don’t really love any of them.

I went to try and make some initial edits and I just had to quit. It feels like I’ve completely forgotten how to write. Poems aren’t even something you can measure, except maybe the number of them, or the number of lines or whatever. But even through the subjectivity there is this expectation I’m holding over myself, that I have to be improving or performing always, that I have to either be the best I can possibly be, or be moving quickly to get there.

One of the biggest obstacles that holds me back sometimes is that I am a little bit bad about practicing self-care. The classic example is that I probably took 1/3 of my T shots I was supposed to in 2015-early 2016. That may even be generous.

If confused all the medical professionals–don’t you WANT to be taking T? Should we get you off of it? Are you actually trans? Why aren’t you taking this thing you’ve fought so hard for?

When in actuality, it had nothing to do with the ~legitimacy~ of my trans-ness. It was just that I put off some things that are good for me.

And it has contributed to my very slow hair growth. My own actions kinda made this happen. How is that supposed to make me feel?

I’ve been thinking about moving slowly for a couple weeks. Since I started #180to180, I have been making very small decisions, just a handful every day, to better my health and habits. I don’t deprive myself of simple pleasures so much as just be more conscientious of what’s happening with my actions. It’s an ongoing project. I’ve lost five pounds so far.

I think if this were a couple of years ago, I’d be frustrated it wasn’t 10 pounds. I’d be constantly re-evaluating to see if I’m actually a failure after all. But I am really proud of these five little pounds. I feel like the slowness of the project is helping make it more of a life change than a phase.

I am learning to be more patient. And still, the beard grows, the beard grows.

(and the poems simmer)

(and the back hairs thicken)

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Understanding weight loss as a capitalistic industry but also feeling bad about yourself, a love story

cw: body image feels

One of the things that I keep thinking about after my disaster of a consultation besides “will I ever even get top surgery?” is “Maybe she’s right about me being fat.”

I’m telling you this probably because I’m a little too open. But I feel like if it’s in my self-identified ~vocation~ to document and share about my ~trans experience~ I should probably tell you stuff even if it’s hard. Well, it’s not really obligatory but it feels like my instinct.

Having someone touch your unwanted chest and squeeze and poke your fat rolls for several very long minutes is a little more than eye-opening. It’s something that makes me wonder if my girlfriend, the only one who sees me without a shirt or binder, is merely tolerating me. How can I be attractive? I am not.

Note: As I’ve stated before, I do not think fat = unattractive when it comes to people other than myself.

Another Note: My girlfriend has not given me any reason to think she doesn’t think I’m attractive, and this is purely led by internalized bullshit. (I also realize that attractiveness itself is subjective and even if I wasn’t “attractive” I still have value.

It’s something that makes me wonder if I’ll just keep getting bigger my whole life. I haven’t stopped gaining weight for like two years. Every couple weeks is another pound. My torso is marked by having a chest I don’t want, but now it’s also marked by having a torso I don’t want.

This surgeon spent like 40 minutes with me and it has me questioning my life choices. But then I question my questioning, because I know that weight loss is an INDUSTRY that relies on people feeling poorly about themselves in some way. Sure, being overweight might lead to health issues but that’s drastically overstated, and it’s not like you can’t be skinny and unhealthy. There are many, many factors at play.

I haven’t been exercising because I don’t want to wear a binder to the gym. I went about a dozen times late this summer, wearing a sports bra and baggy shirts, but I got obvious looks in the locker room. I was trying to be discreet but it didn’t work. It feels like I can’t go back to the gym until I get top surgery. It feels impossible.

(Nobody approached me or gave me anything but confused/annoyed looks, but it still feels devastating and like something I cannot resolve).

But like, going to the gym is not just beneficial for weight loss. It’s also for feeling better mentally. It’s about getting minerals to pass through the blood-brain barrier. Those are good things. I always feel stronger when I work out even just once. I love myself more when I exercise. And it’s not like the pounds fly off or anything, I just feel more in tune with my body. Right now I just use my body to drive to work or drive to get food. I never use it and LIVE in it.

But like, I know in my heart of hearts that I will be going to the gym driven by the desire to be different. I want to look different than I do. I want people to tell me I look really good, like they did after I had pneumonia and lost 10 pounds because I couldn’t eat. This is undeniable. I both understand this issue intellectually and also feel it because I’ve been raised with this system. I wish the “intellectual” side of it were more powerful in actually affecting how I feel.

So I’m divided. Part of me is super motivated now to start paying attention to my diet and exercise. I would throw on an older binder so it wouldn’t be as tight (they stretch out over time) and just wash it constantly so it didn’t smell like cardio. I’m motivated to pull out my “Lose It!” app and start recording again. Reset my goals.

I’m also of the mind that I’d be a stereotype. Everyone wants to lose weight in January. I’m also of the mind that if I’m driven by the hope I won’t be “fat” anymore, this motivation will lose its power eventually and as I’ve always done, I will fall off the discipline wagon.

I don’t really know what to do. But hating myself and continuing the same behavior isn’t working. It seems like a crapshoot. I can’t really see my eating patterns changing much. I like food. Eating butter is a pastime. (That was a joke but also not).

I’ll keep you posted.

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Relinquishing boobs is no gravy train

I bring forth this cheeky and lighthearted title to mask my immense disappointment.

If I may, I’d like to talk about my top surgery consultation from this afternoon. I’m mostly writing this because I am having a hard time articulating what went wrong exactly. A friend even went with me and I wonder if she saw anything go wrong. What I do know is that I felt like shit after this appointment. It seems rather hopeless, even though it probably isn’t.

I will start with one thing I’ve figured out so far. The surgeon was not gentle when it came to my body and my body image. When it came to physical examination, she didn’t really tell or ask me if she could touch my chest–she just kind of did. And then she went on and on about how I really need to lose weight or she will have to leave a bunch of breast tissue so I don’t look “dented.” She explained the process and it makes logical sense but there was nothing kind or gentle about it. It felt judged for being fat.

And like, I have gained weight. My driver’s license says one thing and the scale says another. She was pinching the slight fat rolls that have accumulated near the front of my arm pit and she said, “You’ll want to get as close to your goal weight as possible so I have something to work with.” And it was just devastating. Maybe everything she said was true but I felt like a walrus. She went on and on about it. I felt disgusting. She was going back and forth about how she could do the equivalent of a tummy tuck for certain parts of my chest while she’s doing the breast removal–something I never asked for. It’s hard enough being vulnerable with an open medical gown and having a stranger touch your unwanted breast tissue, poking it, pinching it, squeezing it. That’s bad enough. But then receiving a bunch of evidence that you are indeed fat and you need to get your life together–well, my heart can’t take it.

So that was the first thing I can articulate.

Secondly, I have some advice for anyone who’s seeking top surgery: do not break up with your therapist the day before your top surgery consultation. You need a letter from a therapist saying you indeed should proceed with top surgery because being transgender has become medicalized to be a disorder and you apparently need ~proof~ from NOT ONLY a doctor BUT ALSO a therapist.

I see a number of things that are problematic about this, one of which is that not every trans person needs to see a therapist. I, for example, see a therapist because I’m depressed. We do talk about gender, but hardly more than anyone else? It’s not like an irrelevant part of my life, but it’s by no means the focal point. Why do people need a letter from a therapist AND a doctor?

And this process is not this particular surgeon’s fault, it’s just the way it works to get covered by insurance. I should be over the moon that it’s even possible. I feel like I should be grateful it’s something I can move forward with. But I do not feel that way right now.

The surgeon did talk about how removal of breast tissue is a very important decision, how it’s very rare but some people do change their minds, how this [problematic] process is in place to protect me because what if I want boobs again someday?

Hella barf. I’m sorry, but I would not have dragged my ass to that plastic surgeon office if I didn’t know this was good for me. People can do all sorts of plastic surgery without needing permission from two health providers. But because it’s boobs, a highly sexualized body part, we gotta protect them and make it harder.

Absolute bullshit.

Also the first words this surgeon said to me when she walked into the exam room were “You didn’t bring your paperwork!” Like, nice to meet you too? Jesus Christ. It wasn’t a good start and I felt pretty much increasingly worse as the appointment went on. Even the nurse ahead of time asked me, “So when did you start ~going as male~?” To someone not particularly well-versed in queer careful language, this may seem innocent. But really it implies that I’m not male, and I’m just putting on a costume each morning and playing a boy all day.

I am sorry this post is so negative. But I’m truly disappointed. I was nervous for the appointment but I thought it would go WELL. I thought it would generate hope. Now it just feels like this process is way too hard and maybe I just shouldn’t do it. I’m apparently too fat to get good results anyway.

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New Chest’s Eve

Tomorrow is the day I meet with a plastic surgeon to have my first consultation for top surgery. This is a meeting I’ve canceled before, in part because of insurance uncertainties and in part because of cold feet.

I rescheduled a month or more ago, and now it’s tomorrow. It’s kind of surreal. I feel shy.

Because most of you had something to do with the ability to pursue this (many of you gave money to my GoFundMe or you shared my post or you looked me in the eyes and said you were excited for me), I want to keep you posted on how it’s going. I feel like it’s the least I can do.

Tonight I feel kind of nervous, like tomorrow I’m going to a job interview and I have to choose what I should wear. Do I need to impress her? Do I need to prove how badly I want this? How can I prove the tissue closest to my heart needs to go?

Here’s a poem from my latest chapbook. I don’t have a lot of words right now, but maybe this will do:

Chest

the first time you suggested we shower together
I placed a hand over my chest
bound to my lungs with spandex.
you undressed in front of me
smiling and kissing me between
each garment.

I sat on the toilet lid fully clothed
while water plummeted your nakedness
behind a curtain.
I don’t know if you saw me
but I got up several times,
pulled an arm through the sleeve,
put it back out,
sat back down,
put my head in my hands
combed my hair back with my fingers
pulled–

you told me I didn’t have to join
but after standing up several times
just to sit back,
I walked out of the bathroom
let the steam go.

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Betty White and me

(isn’t it cool I found a creative commons photo with Betty White and a ginger?)

In the year 2016 we’ve lost a lot of incredible public figures. To some, it even marked the end of American hope. By the end of the year, many people online were talking about people 2016 would ~probably~ take if it can help it. One of the most beloved celebrities is probably Betty White, and thus she was talked about as someone we must protect.

As the dialogue continued about who we’re afraid of dying, I couldn’t help thinking about myself. I know, sounds selfish when put that way. But people in my life really love me, or at least really think I’m worth the resources I consume. And yet I was so afraid of dying that I actually was quite unafraid of dying. I refused to reach out to people at several points. And when I would talk to people, they would be at a loss of what to say. At the time I usually took that as a sign I SHOULD die because nobody can argue with my “logic” and “persuasive argument” for my self-inflicted death.

I made a plan. I wrote a note. I even had an addendum to the note, when I thought of something I wanted to add. My note was not a vague scribble of hopelessness. It was like an essay with citations. It was insane. I felt so insane.

The last 6 weeks have been the worst of my life. I thought (and I KNEW, like I believed it as fact) that these 6 weeks would be my last. I took Lexapro for 5 weeks and it was truly the worst thing that could have happened to me. When they say to be careful and that thoughts of suicide may be a side-effect of antidepressants, don’t do what I did and think that’s just so they don’t get sued. It’s real shit. It made my suicidal ideation and helpless “planning” into TRUE PLANNING. I knew how I was going to do it, what time of day I was going to do it, where, and why. I just didn’t have the day picked out yet.

I’m only able to talk to you about it because I’m out of it. There’s this nurse I’ve been talking to at the clinic where my doctor works and she’s just super rad. I was talking about this whole thing with my girlfriend last night and I described this nurse as “the real MVP of my recovery.”

She got me an emergency visit with a CNP and this CNP ended up being a godsend. She actually reads! She is 67 but she isn’t old school by any means–she is extremely up-to-date with the latest research on mental health treatments. I went in with a terrible attitude about the appointment. I only went because that nurse I’ve been talking to practically made me. But I went willfully and expected it to go poorly, as every other psychiatry appointment has gone for me. Even halfway into the talk I was still very skeptical. But then once she started describing what my body is probably actually needing (and not just guessing, as so many before her have done), she wrote it all out for me and made me feel like there was actual hope for my future. I won’t even just have a good future, I’ll have a future at all.

She said to me, “You’ll never be in the ditch, ever again.”

Part of me cannot comprehend this. I’ve been depressed my whole life. But she spoke with such sincerity and hope that it was contagious. I believe I will live.

A few thoughts:

  • When I was in the deepest pits of despair, I was worried about what people would say when I died, inevitably. I was so concerned that people would think I was a trans kid trope, that I killed myself just because I was trans and sad about it. This couldn’t be further from the case. I barely even thought about gender for 6 weeks. It was all based on my inability to come up for air. Even post-bout, I want everyone to know that trans kids don’t necessarily die because they’re trans. Don’t conflate being transgender with being mentally ill. THEY ARE NOT THE SAME. It feels so important for me to tell you that.
  • My coworkers are amazing.
  • If your doctor (especially if they’re not a specialist, but even if they are) tells you an SSRI of any kind (i.e. Lexapro) is amazing and you will for sure get better on it, be skeptical. Ask questions. Ask them for the research about the success rates in professional studies. How many people ACTUALLY get better on Lexapro? (It’s 6%, which I didn’t know until I almost died).
  • When you’re as depressed as I was, there is nothing that will help except hope. And hope is impossible to generate if you have no energy to think about anything but death. But if you are in that place, just keep putting off the death, ok? Keep postponing it. That’s what I did. It helped save my life.
  • If a loved one of yours is in that place, PLEASE do not give up on them ever. Even if you’re exasperated or tired. Take care of yourself too of course but if someone is reaching out to you, that takes a ton of energy and sometimes even just listening can mean the world to someone.
  • Betty White and I are both going to live through this year. I probably have a few more years than her, since she’s like 90-something, but in a way we will both be around for a very long time.

Thanks everyone. Here’s to a 2017 worth living! Check out my New Year’s Resolution post if you’re interested.

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Getting top surgery when you are used to having something on your chest

My consultation appointment is a month from tomorrow.

The last time I made a consultation appointment, I canceled the day before. In someways it was bad timing with my new insurance kicking in and stuff–there was logistical reasoning behind it. But let’s be real, too. I was totally freaked out.

I understand now why people who get married get “cold feet” on their wedding day. It’s exciting, exhilarating, a life-changing decision. But it’s also forever in an uncontrollable way. It’s admitting you deserve better. Sometimes I wonder if I can do that.

But I gotta. I feel like there are some things I really want to do for myself, and my boobs are binding me to my old self. I can’t imagine life with a free chest. Will it be easier to breathe? Will I grow more chest hairs because I won’t be wearing a tight binder all the time? Will I feel more open? Less hot in the summer? Like a man I can be proud of? Will I know what to do with myself? Will I be able to wear a shirt without wondering if my boobs are showing? Will I be able to wear cute boy tanks? Will I ever love my body?

It was almost easier when I didn’t have insurance that covered it. I could lean on that–yeah, I don’t have the money 😦 so I can’t get it :(. But I’ve had the good insurance for a couple of months. I’ve had knowledge of the upcoming good insurance for even longer. I could have made steps sooner. What’s my excuse now?

It doesn’t matter. I really want it to matter, but it doesn’t. Top surgery is about taking care of myself. I need to also take care of my process.

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The moment your former self dies

Have you read Still Alice? That book changed my life. I guess it’s a movie now too. 2014? Where have I been?

A lot of the focus in real life (maybe too much?) is on the family and loved ones AROUND a person with dementia. It’s a hard experience to be forgotten by someone you’ve always known. What Still Alice does is give the reader more empathy for the person WITH dementia/early onset Alzheimer’s and what they go through, as their entire sense of awareness deteriorates behind their eyes.

This post is not meant to be a plug for this book, but I thought of it this weekend during Thanksgiving. My grandmother has dementia. I don’t make time to see her–I’m really bad about that. I don’t write her letters, I don’t call. I moved away to Minneapolis and then I came back to my hometown as a young man. She would have a hard time recalling me, her oldest grandchild, even if I had stayed mostly the same. But that person doesn’t even exist anymore.

I try to introduce myself as her grandson, try to say inside jokes we used to have to bring forth a light of recollection, and the vacant look in her eyes is too much. My grandma didn’t ever have a grandson–only six granddaughters.

What does she think of her oldest granddaughter? She never even comes to Thanksgiving and Christmas.

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