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[what gives me away?]

November 30, 2012

Transition is slow. Slow. S-L-O-W.

Patience is a tough thing to come by in a situation like this. Imagine going from feeling extremely uncomfortable all the time to having the knowledge that one day you won’t be uncomfortable. Knowing that there will be a day where you don’t feel uncomfortable doesn’t do anything to ease your current state of discomfort. I think that’s the best way to describe the waiting game associated with transition.

The embarrassment of being out in public in “girl mode,” but still publicly viewed as a boy… sigh… it’s annoying, it’s frustrating, it’s saddening. I just want to know what it is that gives me away.

A friend suggested that maybe it’s my voice. Maybe it is. My voice isn’t deep, but I think it just has “dude resonance,” which is not the most feminine sounding thing in the world. There are techniques I could practice, but I have such difficulty going from hearing/reading/seeing these techniques to actually being able to mimic them with my own throat.

And, if it is my voice that gives me away, no amount of hormones in the world will correct that (hormones do not affect voice). That’s a bummer. I really wish I knew how to manipulate the muscles in my throat the correct way.

But that might not even be it. I still don’t really know what I need to do. I have trouble seeing any actual physical changes. “Patience, patience” is the answer, but it’s certainly not a satisfying one.

park

[HRT update: Day 48]

November 28, 2012

I really want to write a book. Fiction, non-fiction, or total garbage. Ever since starting hormones, I’ve just had such a rush of emotions coursing through my mind, begging for a true outlet.

This is certainly a change from the pre-HRT days of either no emotions or only negative emotions (frustration, anger).

I just want to get out there and share a story. It doesn’t have to be my story, necessarily (I’m certainly not interesting enough, nor self-absorbed enough to warrant more than a blog post centered around me here and there), but just a story.

Add this to a list of “projects that will likely never be completed… or even started.”

On a side note: here are two pictures I took of myself the other night. I think I’m starting to see some progress, but I’m not quite sure.

Here, in Chicago, trans* individuals can gain access to hormones through a relatively simple 3-step “informed consent” process at Howard Brown Health Center. For that, we are lucky.

More and more, I’m finding accounts of trans individuals who have been held back by various gatekeepers, making them jump through hoops for months (or years) before providing them access to hormones, based on the antiquated WPATH “Standards of Care”. While the intentions of the SoC were good, they end up preventing individuals from receiving the medical attention they need. Furthermore, by adding the additional costs associated with following the SoC verbatim, transition becomes something that only the well-off can pursue.

It’s just not right.

With so many obstacles in the way, it’s no wonder that so many trans people self-medicate (which can be extremely unsafe without a doctor’s supervision) or forgo transition entirely, feeling like it’s something that is beyond their means. The fact that many insurance companies exclude coverage for transition-related costs makes the gatekeeper-ism that much more of a challenge to these vulnerable individuals.

I think we, as a community, need to highlight the existing informed consent clinics available across the US, letting those contemplating transition know that this is more attainable than they may have thought. And areas without a clinic? Raise awareness of the demand for such a clinic in that area.

By trade, I specialize in search engine marketing/digital marketing, and I’d like to offer my services to any IC clinic that can use additional local awareness, free of charge. Any clinic that might be interested in this can reach me at callmeparkermarie@gmail.com.

Oh, ABC Family… Why must you switch from family-themed made-for-TV movies (last night, I watched “12 Dates of Christmas“, staring Amy Smart & the guy who played Zack Morris on “Saved By the Bell”). As soon as this, uh, delightful little movie ended (spoiler: it’s basically the same story as “Groundhog Day”, but with a Christmas theme and a smaller budget), I started to get ready for bed.

Unfortunately, I forgot that ABC Family starts doing religious-themed programming (“700 Club”, “Joel Osteen”, etc.) at a random point each night. Osteen’s show popped on, and the theme was basically, “God don’t make no mistakes.”

This immediately triggered me, but I couldn’t look away. I watched as he went on about anyone who is unhappy with how they are, saying they just need “God’s help” to get things straightened out. His sermon basically denied the existence and legitimacy of trans people.

Finally, after about 5 minutes, I managed to change the channel, crawled into bed, shaking until I slept.

Why, oh, why can’t you just stick to programming that’s actually friendly to families, ABC Family?

Anyone interested in seeing the clip I’m talking about can check it out here (start at 2:42):

Human Rights Campaign recently donated $250 to Chicago’s Center on Halsted to be put towards the upcoming “Night of Fallen Stars” Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR) event. As a result of this donation, Center on Halsted’s volunteer transgender liaison, June LaTrobe, resigned from her position, stating that she “can not be a part of putting money above principle.”

It should be noted that LaTrobe’s resignation letter included a few factual errors, most notably, that HRC was “added as a sponsor” to the event (from her letter: “When I learned that Lara Brooks, Manager of the Broadway Youth Center (BYC) had not been consulted about HRC sponsoring BYC’s ‘Night of Fallen Stars,’ much less told about, or offered  share of the grant money, my path was clear.”).

Brian Richardson, spokesperson for Center on Halsted, has stated that “HRC is not appearing as a sponsor of the event. Rather, the money was a contribution.”

The trans* community has certainly had its fair share of mixed feelings over HRC over the years. Many within the community are still upset HRC supported a 2007 version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) that did not include workplace protections for transgender individuals. It should be noted that HRC supports the current version of this bill, currently stalled in Congress do to Republican opposition, that includes protection for people within the transgender and gender non-conforming spectrum.

From a personal standpoint, I think it’s time to give HRC another shot.

I feel like this type of resistance might be better put to use against groups that actively work against trans rights, whereas, in the case if HRC’s support of ENDA without trans protection was more a passive statement of where trans rights stand in HRC’s order of priorities (that is, lower than LGB).

It’s not like HRC asks for trans provisions to be stripped from protective legislation, but just that it’s the first thing they’re willing to compromise on when push back to their agenda is felt (which is very unfortunate, but not necessarily a reason, to me, to treat them as toxic in all situations).

I feel that the more productive route would be to present HRC with a list of realistic (ENDA wasn’t ever going to survive in 2007 with Bush’s veto pen ready, and the most recent version of ENDA did include trans provisions as it wouldn’t have faced a veto threat from president Obama) and actionable items they can take to improve their standing with trans individuals.

They do need to be held accountable for the times they used the “we’ll come back for you (but we never come back)” tactic in advancing their agenda. I don’t see an issue with the “small ball” (sports metaphor #1) approach to winning, so long as when the game is over, you have a complete and total victory. As a strategy, that might be the only realistic way to get to achieve their goals. Sometimes throwing up a Hail Mary (sports metaphor #2) doesn’t make sense. I suppose it’s like, if a basketball team (sports metaphor #3) is down by 2 with a minute left, do they go for the win with the lower-percentage 3-point shot or do they try to reach the same outcome with 2 higher-percentage 2-point shots? It depends. What kind of defense are you facing?

It’s a means-to-an-end approach. We just need to make sure we’re included in the “means” so we can reach the end.

(I hate sports metaphors)

My e-mail to my parents:

Sometimes I am absolutely terrible with articulating my words on important issues. And as I won’t see you for Thanksgiving ([my partner] and I are going to spend it with her family this year), I felt like this was the right time to send this. I ask that you reply to this e-mail to acknowledge its receipt and provide initial reactions, and then, after 48 hours to take it all in, we can chat on the phone to discuss this:

Dear Mom & Dad,

I know that the two of you have always told me that I could tell you anything and you’d still love me just the same, and so I feel like there’s something I need to tell you (if at any point during this e-mail, you get confused or frustrated, go back and read this sentence again):

As you know, most of my life, I’ve been riddled with intense bouts of anxiety, sadness, depression, social ineptitude, awkwardness, anger issues, etc. Really, it’s been every day of my life since I was 8 or 9, I think. I’ve tried working this out in a number of ways (way 1: bottle everything up and end up hospitalized with a stomach ulcer… not exactly the most pleasant route. way 2: therapy. way 3: medication), but it’s not something I can bottle up or dull with medication anymore.

I’ve been going to a therapist for the past 7 or 8 months on a weekly basis to try to root out this issue before it led to self-harm, and after that time, here’s what I’ve come to:

I’m transgender.

Yep. Transgender. Essentially, my brain is wired to be female, but I was born male. This is something that I’ve known (to varying extents) since I was 8 or 9, but had never truly accepted (leading to anger issues, frustration, awkwardness, depression, et al.). It was that point 7 or 8 months ago, where I hit a true breaking point in my existence. Not knowing what to make of this/what to do about this, I started going to see a therapist specializing in gender issues.

From there, the next part was extremely hard: telling [my partner]. I love [my partner] with all my heart, and this was something I thought would absolutely destroy her/ruin our relationship. Luckily, it wasn’t. While a bit of a shock, she still loves me as much as ever. If there was ever a sign that I have found “the one,” this was it. Through thick and thin, truly. (and yes, to answer a frequently asked question: I am still only attracted to women. Gender and sexuality are two completely different things)

[My brother] one one of the next people in my life I told about this, and he’s been amazing as well. He’s offered his support in every possible capacity, and has teared up over a beer, expressing how happy he is for me. He’s truly a wonderful man.

I’ve met some wonderful friends over these past few months, as well; many of whom are also transgender. Knowing these individuals has been a life saver, as I know that this is proof that life can be better.

Over the next several months & years, I’ll be working my way through “transition.” Essentially, that means that I do hope to eventually live full time as a woman (not a “dude in a dress” or any of the other stereotypes, but a  human being, for the first time). There are a lot of obstacles to overcome, but I’m building myself up to be able to take them on. My work has a program specifically designed to accommodate transgender individuals as they transition, so it looks like I lucked out on ending up here.

I’ve started the process of going through hormone replacement therapy (HRT), which is, essentially, replacing testosterone in my system with estrogen. This will have subtle effects on my mind & my body. [my partner] can vouch for me when I say that my mood and outlook has improved remarkably since I’ve started (roughly 1 month ago).

So, basically, that’s it. I’m still the same person, just, maybe more so. I will still have, essentially, the same personality. I will still enjoy sports & music. I will still be a grouch about politics.

I understand this may be hard for you two, as well, but this was something I needed to tell you as I love you both so very much. I guess, just rather than having 2 sons and a daughter, you can think of it as having 2 daughters and a son ([my brother] jokingly complains that it’s unfair that as the most masculine of the 3 of us, he’s the shortest).

Getting used to a new me may be a challenge, but I want to give you all the time in the world you need to come to terms with this.  I don’t expect you to be perfect when it comes to getting my pronouns right (I prefer “she/her/hers,” etc.), but this is me. I don’t expect you to be able to use my chosen name right at first(“[birth name]” wouldn’t exactly work in the long-term – the name I prefer is “Parker” – with the full name being “Parker Marie [last name],” middle name borrowed from mom).

I honestly, and truly hope that you two can still love me through this, as your love and support means so very, very much to me.

I love you. I do. I really, really do. Obviously, I don’t want you to hurt, but I hope that we can celebrate the fact that I won’t be so mentally anguished anymore.

Here are some resources on the subject, if you’re interested in learning more (which, I hope you are). You can also talk with [my brother] if you need another perspective, but I do ask that you hold off on calling me for 48 hours and instead just shoot me a short e-mail in the interim. This way, I know you’ve had time to digest everything here.

http://www.hrc.org/issues/pages/transgender

http://community.pflag.org/Document.Doc?id=202

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My Dad’s Response:

[birth name],

As I have said from day one, I love you with all of my heart and there has never been a day where I haven’t been proud of you. There have been so many times throughout my life that I’ve kicked myself and second guessed myself for having been too tough on you and made you too competitive and for that I truly ask your forgiveness.

Needless to say, I will sit down with mom tonight and I expect that she will feel the same as me when I say, we live to see you be happy, truly happy. Certainly we can talk whenever you wish to talk and I can tell you, from my end, I will be very supportive and I hope mom will as well.

I do ask that you become much closer with us moving forward. It has always been tough on mom to not have you stay in touch in a fairly regular basis so I hope this revelation will bring us all closer.

I do ask that you become happier and lose the edge you have always carried. Sometimes, I just didn’t understand the anger and hopefully this would explain it and relieve it forever.

Lastly, I am so happy [my partner] is there with you through this. She is a good person and she has been good for you [birth name]. In many instances I thought how she may have saved you from destruction.

Thank you for feeling strong enough to discuss it and I hope this will take a gigantic burden off of your shoulders.

I love you dearly and I am so happy that you are at peace with yourself maybe for the first time ever.

Dad

[HRT update: 1 month]

November 12, 2012

1 month down. 31 days.

The past week has been a true trip for me. So many ups and downs, I’m still trying to make sense of where I’m at. Overall, though, I’m proud of myself. This is a point that, even 10 months ago, seemed like nothing but a dream. After battling this dissonance between mind and body for the better part of my life, I’m truly proud of myself for finally taking the steps I need to in order to get myself on track to being more than an empty shell sliding through life. Still, the process is very interesting on an internal level.

One of my good friends updated her Facebook with a status the other day, and it’s something I’m starting to be able to relate to, myself:

switching from hating yourself a bit more each day to loving yourself a bit more each day is a total mindfuck

I really do understand what she’s saying. While I wouldn’t quite say that I’m “loving myself a bit more each day,” I’m certainly not still travelling down the path of hating myself more each day (something I have certainly been guilty of, especially during the past few years). I think I’ve hit a plateau, and hopefully I’ll start climbing back up the ladder again, coming closer to feeling something I haven’t felt in too long: peace and acceptance of myself.

So here’s to many more months of this battle, growing as a person.

[dealt a transition-y blow]

November 2, 2012

At work, I met with my supervisor this afternoon over coffee to discuss “my career.” I was initially hired in February 2012 as a “3 month contract-to-hire” employee; where at the end of 3 months, if I was bad at my job, they’d let me go; if I was good, they’d hire me on full time.

Hello, November (9 months later). Still here, still in the same position, and still a contract employee. I had hoped that today’s scheduled coffee meeting would contain some positive news when it came to my precarious work situation. Unfortunately, I was told that HR still had some sort of hiring freeze in place, and a negative mid-year review (it said I had “attitude problems”) would prevent me from being hired on full time until “sometime in 2013” (though, even with that 365 day window, I was told that none of that was set in stone as far as a timeline is concerned).

sigh.

There are a number of reasons this upsets me (lack of a stable paycheck, insurance, etc.), but the one that’s really frustrating me: officially transitioning from [birth name] to Parker on the job will be delayed.

While I could go ahead with transitioning at work while still an hourly temp, I see a lot of risk in that: when they hire employees on, they renegotiate your pay and you could, in theory, end up making less than you currently were. Now, there’s always the chance that I try to transition and they find a way to just never hire me on as they’d rather not deal with me (and, they’d be in the clear HR-wise, because I was technically not an employee). But really, I just think that the salary they’ll offer me as (what they believe to be) a cis male will be higher than that they’d offer a trans female. They might low ball me on the offer, offering much less than I’m currently making, in hopes that I’d just quit.

But, then again, this is all speculation, and it’s all in my head.

The longer I put off transitioning, the more pain I have to endure on the inside. Plus, the longer I put off transitioning, the more the effects of my hormones become apparent to my co-workers. It’s kind of lose-lose.

In either case, ugggggggggghhhhhhhhh.

[hrt update: day 23]

November 2, 2012

Basically, the best way to describe this…

This is my brain before hormones:

This is my brain after hormones: