The pull of one magnet to another

I’m sitting here with a glass of wine and a snoring dog curled up beside me. I just got back from a trip to Detroit to see Tegan and Sara (The Con X tour) and, for no reason at all except an urge to write, thought I should pick up this blog again and say something. When I opened it to post, I saw that it has been exactly a year and a day since my last post. Also almost a year since the first time I saw T&S with K. Funny that.

The photo at the top of the post is from Detroit, from the Mbad African Bead Museum. On the whole, I found Detroit to be depressing, run down and full of collapsing buildings and desolate streets. The museum was a bright spot, though. We didn’t get to go inside because it was closed, but the building is surrounded by art installations, sculptures of salvaged materials, huge and raucous and a little overwhelming in their strange beauty. I highly recommend it if you find yourself in Detroit.

So much has happened in this year that I’m not even sure where to start. K and I separated about a year ago now. I read back through my posts from last year and it boggles my mind, how surprised I was that our relationship was ending. When I look back, it isn’t surprising at all. Neither of us had been happy for a long time, and I’m not sure what I was so determined to hold on to, to save. It wasn’t the relationship I wanted. I guess I was just holding on so tightly because I’m afraid of change, always have been. I’m not sure where that fear comes from, but it’s certainly been a driving force in my life. I stay in places too long, relationships too long, jobs too long…all because I’m terrified about what might come next, and about hurting other people. But the thing is, is that someone always pays the price. It’s just that that person has been me. And, in the end, I just end up angry, sad, resentful. I’m not going to do that again. I can’t.

I started T in January 2017. I was so afraid of changing, that I wouldn’t like who I would become, or that my family would reject me. But now it’s been over 10 months and I’m doing just fine. I’ve experienced most of the usual changes that come with taking testosterone (lower voice, muscle growth, etc.) and I’ve been mostly happy with all of them. I don’t regret my decision, at all. I am at a more comfortable place with my gender identity – I’ve landed on non-binary. It just feels right, more so than either man or woman. I’m something else, something in between, both and neither. I’m excited to see what the next year brings. I’d like to get top surgery, but other things come first.

I moved into my own place, a studio in the same neighborhood. It’s even closer to the train, and it has a separate kitchen, a walk-in closet, and a little sun room. It’s not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but it feels good to have a place of my own.

After many months of feeling better, my back pain is back, and worse than ever. Likely a consequence of moving. I didn’t do any heavy lifting, but I did a lot of bending and twisting when packing and re-painting the old place. I’m in pain all of the time, the kind of pain that sits at the forefront of your mind and blots out everything else. It takes my breath away and sometimes I just want to curl up in a ball and cry, and just give up. I have a pain management specialist again, but he’s mostly useless. He recommends a fusion because he doesn’t know anything else. I’ve done a ton of research and the success rates for fusion are abysmal. There are doctors in Europe, Germany especially, who are doing amazing things with artificial disc replacement. That might be the way I go, but I need to get more tests done. I got my doc to write the orders for the tests I need, but I haven’t scheduled them yet. Yet again, fear. Fear of change, fear of the unknown. And, of course, fear of being sliced open from groin to above the belly button. The surgery requires them to go in through the front. Terrifying, yes, but not as terrifying as fusion. I need to stop fucking around and just do what I need to do to get some opinions from these doctors. One foot in front of the other.

I dated J for a few months, starting in December 2016, but it was on again, off again. That relationship burned bright and fizzled out. She is poly and I thought I could handle it and make it work, but I just couldn’t. I spent too much time being jealous and sad, and lying to myself that I could change and be something that I’m not. We took some time apart and I went back on OKC in the interim. That’s when I met B.

I’ve spent a lot of time fantasizing about what I dreamed my ideal relationship would be like. Someone I could be honest with, talk to about anything, laugh with, play with, someone who would see beauty in the small things and not be ashamed of it. Someone who was on my level intellectually, someone who would challenge me, but also comfort me, someone who thought about things and asked big questions. Someone I could be myself with, and not feel ashamed. I would revisit these feelings every so often, and generally dismiss them as fantasies. That person and those situations never seemed attainable. I would struggle to cultivate those feelings in my relationships but it was always just out of my grasp.

B changed all that. They are, without a doubt, the most special person I’ve ever been with. They are kind, passionate, caring, sexy, driven, funny…and I have everything I wanted in a relationship, and more.We communicate so well, share so many of the same desires. This is the person I want to be with, for as long as they’ll have me. I want to buy a house with them, have kids with them, grow old with them. And for the first time, it all seems possible. We’ve been together almost nine months and I am still giddy, butterflies-in-my-stomach, head over heels in love. We’ve had a few bumps in the road, but we’ve talked through them and come out on the other side stronger.

Work is going well. I’m still on the Tech Support team but I mostly do training these days. I do a good deal of the teaching for new hires and develop and lead a lot of the ongoing training. I also might finally (finally!) get a new position at the same company. If all goes well, I should have that lined up by the first of the year.

So despite the physical pain, I have so much to be happy about. I’m in the healthiest relationship I’ve ever been in, I have a job I like and hopefully soon, a job I love. I’m hopeful that I can turn my health around. And, of course, I have a glass of wine on the table and a snoring dog in the bed. Things are good.

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Misery’s so addictive

Life has been pretty awful lately – our dog is sick but we’re struggling financially. We had originally intended to do at home euthanasia but with the cremation and everything, it’ll be close to $600. We just can’t afford that right now and I feel so incredibly guilty. I’ve loved this dog for over ten years and I just want to do right by her. The thought of taking her to the vet to be put to sleep is overwhelming. The vet is her least favorite place in the world…she’s always so scared when we have to go. I can’t imagine her last moments filled with so much fear and anxiety. Maybe I should just suck it up and go into more debt. She deserves better.

K says she doesn’t want to stay together. She’s unhappy but won’t tell me why. She says it’s not because of my gender identity, but if it’s not that, then what? This has been such a shitty year for both of us, in so many ways…I just don’t understand what is so terrible in our relationship that it’s worth giving up on. She’s agreed to a therapy session with both of our therapists. I’m not sure if that means that she’s willing to try and make things better of it’s just to confirm things. 

Depression has definitely got its claws in me the last few days. I got home from work last night and pretty much went straight to bed. Didn’t even eat dinner. I called out of work this morning and slept until noon. I just didn’t want any part of the world. I’m wavering between overwhelming anger and sadness, and a dull emptiness…a sort of self-protective detachment. 

I’ve noticed my number of followers hasn’t changed in a while, and I haven’t had any recent comments either. I suppose this is because I’m all doom and gloom. Sorry, not sorry. 

Home, but not at home 

K (my wife) and I are visiting our families this weekend while we’re in the area to see Tegan and Sara. It’s good to see my parents and relax for a bit out of the city. I love being a city dweller, but it does get overwhelming at times. It’s always nice to slow down for a minute and enjoy the quiet. 

That said, it is weird to hang out with family because I’m still not out to them. I haven’t worn my binder since we got here, which makes me feel weird and uncomfortable. Knowing my family they might not even notice, but if they did I wouldn’t want to deal with the questions. So I feel cowardly, like I’m continuing to hide important parts of myself out of fear and shame. Not to mention that the political climate here (there are Trump signs planted firmly in many yards around here) makes me feel anxious and unsafe. I knew I’d never want to live here again, but this cements it. 

In other news, an old grade school friend of mine works for a neurosurgeon in the area. She took my MRI images and reports to him and he was vehemently against me having a fusion. He said that based on what he sees in my scans, a fusion would be disastrous – it’s clear that I’m predisposed to disc issues, and a fusion would just exacerbate the process. I’d probably be totally disabled within a few years. He also said there’s no reason I can’t have another microdiscectomy – if my doctor won’t do it, that’s his prerogative, but there’s no medical reason why it couldn’t be done. He said he prefers waiting at least 6 months post surgery before doing another surgery, but he’s going to give me some names of some surgeons in Chicago. I guess if that doesn’t pan out, I’ll come down here to see him. It’s a weird combo of emotions. I’ll be glad to get back to my regular routine. 

Tomorrow we drive home, but tonight – Tegan and Sara. I’m stoked. 

Currently reading: Trans Canada My Way, from the very beginning. What an amazing blog – I identify with so much of it so far. 

Where does the good go?

I feel like I’ve come to a weird crossroads in my life, which is an odd feeling at 37 when I thought I had everything all figured out. I’ve been with my wife for over ten years (we’ve been married since 2011), I have a job that I like, in a city that I like enough to stay in for awhile longer. No kids but I’d like one. 

Everything was fine. And then, for whatever reason, a series of events occurred that made me question my gender identity. After a scary revelation, months of secret contemplation and then months of therapy, the most I can say at this point is that I’m not cis. Transmasculine feels close, and so does neutrois. I don’t know that trans man fits, because I don’t identify as a “man” and don’t know that I ever will. So far the only thing that’s changed about me is that I usually wear a binder if I go out in public and have short hair. I haven’t taken hormones or had surgery, or any other steps to actually transition. I think about gender more, and talk about it more, but that’s about it. I’ve thought about taking T for a while now, but I have other health issues that make me feel like it’s not a great idea for me right now. That may change. Nothing is for certain, I suppose. 

Anyway, here I am at 37 and the person I’ve loved for ten years suddenly doesn’t seem to want to be with me anymore, because I’ve changed too much. Or something. I’m still not sure of the reasons, only that she’s really unhappy and won’t get into specifics right now. I’m not sure if we’re staying together or not, though I said I’d like to go to a couples therapist to see if we can work it out. Something in the way she looks at me is telling me that her mind is made up even though she doesn’t want to say it out loud yet. Also, our dog (who is 17 and has had a long and happy life) is dying of heart failure. She’s on medications that are making a difference, but we’re only prolonging the inevitable. 

I’m profoundly sad. Everything is changing and I just want to scream, “No, I didn’t want any of this!” I just keep thinking, if I’d only known what a Pandora’s Box all of this gender stuff was going to be, I never would have opened it in the first place. This is why so many trans people never come out, because they don’t want their lives blown to bits. I wish I could take it back, forget it ever happened, but I can’t. Understanding this part of myself has changed me. I feel less angry, less frustrated, less restless and depressed for  reasons I never understood. I wish I’d known this about myself 20 years ago, but the world was a different place then, and I had no concept of trans. 

I hope my wife realizes I’m still me. Maybe she won’t, maybe I’m just not what she wants anymore…and I hope if that’s true that I’ll be okay with it. I guess I’ll have to be. But for now, dealing with all this uncertainty is making me anxious, paranoid, angry and sad. I’m just trying to wrap my brain around possibly starting over at 37, and I can’t quite do it. 

It’s been too long

I haven’t posted here in a very long time. Sorry about that. 

I’ve had a lot of issues with my health in the past few months. I have had ongoing issues with my back since 2013 or so. It all started with a twinge that wouldn’t go away, and then eventually turned into crippling sciatica. I had my first back surgery (when I still lived in NYC) to remove the portion of my herniated disc that was compressing my sciatic nerve. After that initial surgery, I was pain free for just shy of a year. 

Then last winter (around December) the pain came back, all at once. I recognized the pain for what it was, but let it stretch out for months, both because I let my doctor talk me into more conservative treatments that I knew wouldn’t work, and because I was scared to have another surgery. I had another MRI and it confirmed my suspicions – my disk had re-herniated. I was back to square one. After over 8 months of pain, I gave up and booked an appointment with a highly regarded neurosurgeon in Chicago (where I live now). 

He booked the procedure less than a week later. I got the time off work and went in to it very optimistic – it had worked before right? And this doctor was sure it would work again, and I’d be good to go. There was a very small chance, he said, that the disc could re-herniated again. But only 5%. Those were good odds to me. I had the surgery and from day one, it didn’t seem right. Unlike the first time, I still felt the sciatic nerve pain shooting down my leg. By the way if you’ve never experienced nerve pain, think about any time you’ve ever had a toothache. The pain is almost identical…only imagine it taking over an entire side of your body, and it almost never stops. Yeah. 

Anyway, they told me this was likely because the nerve was inflamed from being compressed for so long. They gave me some steroids and I went along with it. But it didn’t get better, only worse. The next week I called and told them that something was definitely not right. My pain was worse than it was prior to the surgery. They gave me a referral for another MRI. Guess what? The disc had already re-herniated. 

And now that the disc has herniated 3 times, the doctor will only move forward with a spinal fusion, and not another microdiscectomy. I spent about two days crying after I got the news. I felt like life was over. Fusion has a so-so success rate, and the way things are going for me, I wouldn’t be surprised if I ended up even worse off. I couldn’t imagine spending the rest of my life in this kind of pain. What would be the point? It was a rough couple of days…I was in a very dark place. 

But I’m still here. I have an appointment with my doctor in the morning. I’ll hear him out, but I’m not scheduling a thing until I get some other opinions. A friend of mine from grade school works for a neurosurgeon in St. Louis – apparently he rarely does fusions, especially on younger people, because the long term outcomes aren’t great. I’m going to get all my records and images and send them to her for him to look at. I have hope, even if just a glimmer. 

Talking heads

I’ve never liked the sound of my voice. I don’t think that’s particular to trans people, but voice dysphoria turns a “sort of dislike” into its own special kind of misery. And, of course, now that I’m unpacking the gender box (worst present ever btw), I have a job that requires me to speak on the phone for roughly half of my shift. I’ve tried speaking in a lower register but that requires so much focus that I forget what people are saying, and that’s just not going to work. 

I can’t ask not to be on phones, since that’s just an unfortunate part of the job description. I’m keeping my eyes open for job openings on other teams that don’t have phone interaction. I mean, I’ve been working customer service in some capacity or another for half of my life now. I wouldn’t mind not dealing with people at all. 

My voice is naturally high enough that there’s not much I can do to lower it without either taking hormones or getting a vocal coach (is that what you call it?). I have a feeling that I’d probably end up needing both. I’ve often wondered why guys who transition younger (like early 20s or younger) tend to have such deeper voices than guys who transition over 30. Now that I think about it some more, I wonder if it’s that people are over 30 are more fixed in using their voices in a particular way, not that their vocal cords don’t lengthen out. I have no proof of this, of course. 

So I went to a genderqueer support group

And it was not awesome. It was a small meeting and I got there a couple of minutes late (literally, because the meeting started at 7 and I walked in at 7:02) so I immediately felt awkward. An older trans woman stared at me (with like laser beams) for way too long, and I just felt myself shrinking in my seat. I wanted to like the meeting. I wanted to meet people like me, and I was happy when I saw two genderqueer transmasculine folks sitting near me. Read More