This time last year I was on campus feeling very alone. I learned that there wasn’t a queer club before I started and decided that I wanted to make it happen.
Right before I got on the plane home from YIMBYtown on Tuesday, I got an email from the club advisor saying that the Laney Queers has been officially chartered!
Bathrooms are going to be in my building on campus very soon, and we’re going to have 4 dedicated all gender bathrooms in trades department buildings by the end of the semester.
I have a list of almost 50 people on campus who want to be part of building something and making it better. I’m working on bridging the gap in communication between faculty staff and students and when I stop to breathe and look around for a second, I’m really proud of myself.
I honestly don’t know what I’m doing. I’ve never been part of a school club. I don’t know what you can and can’t do with them. I don’t know. I’m just a trans boi who wants to make campus feel less hostile.
I keep coming back to that part in the Prisoner of Azkaban where Harry asks why the Dementors seem to affect him more than other people, and Lupin explains that the Dementors feed on every good memory until all that’s left is trauma, they affect Harry the most because he has actual horrors in his life, things his classmates have never experienced.
This is resonating with me a lot lately. I’m taking an English class which I was really excited about because I miss writing. Our teacher is having us read A Taste of Power and Gather Together In My Name, and our research essays are one of 6 topics that have to do with current social issues (prison industrial complex, healthcare, war on drugs, military industrial complex, electoral college, and the Berlin Conference of 1885 for “something different”).
On one hand, I love this. I appreciate that he’s using this class as a way to get people to think more deeply about what’s happening in the world around us and how we’re impacted.
On the other hand, this class has drudged up and revealed so much trauma. Every class has brought something to the surface, reading A Taste of Power reminds me of growing up in fundamentalism, and reading healthcare papers that dehumanize my existence is its own beast.
I got a C+ on my first essay which was supposed to be a scene from something that happened in elementary school. I turned in, essentially, an unfinished draft. Trying to find something to write about that happened as part of school between the ages of 6 and 11 was not easy. I wrote about the day we started homeschooling, when I was 5 or whatever. I was devastated when I saw the grade. I re-read my paper and it objectively wasn’t great, I was upset because it was so much work to write.
While I was supposed to be working on that essay we were also watching The House I Live In and Sicko in class which both dredged up a lot of trauma and feelings that I wasn’t ready for, and made it impossible to finish by the time I needed to.
So last week I emailed asking for an extension on my research paper because between dredging up trauma in class, reading A Taste Of Power, and trying to research, I just could not write.
Asking for the extension felt harder than writing, but I needed to do it. I needed to get over myself and ask for the accommodations I need to get through school with CPTSD and as-of-yet-untreated/diagnosed ADHD. I didn’t get the extension until we met during office hours and I vaguely explained my trauma and how my background being homeschooled makes navigating this infrastructure really difficult.
He told me he’d never thought about how homeschooling affected college experiences and basically implied I’m the first student he’s had with all of these intersections, so he’ll work with me. It was an exhausting conversation even though it ended well.
I’ve spent the better half of the month trying to cope with the feelings of inadequacy and failure because the class that was supposed to be fun and easy turned out to be the opposite. I’m frustrated because this is the class I wasn’t supposed to need help with. This was supposed to be the one that I did fine at because writing is like breathing to me. But no, instead this class steps on every mine and reveals new ones. Instead, we are doing so many things at once that tackle so many of the intersections I’m hyper-aware of that I don’t have the emotional stamina to keep up and make it to my other classes.
The class I was supposed to ace I’m getting C’s in, and I’d be lying if I said that wasn’t fucking with me.
I feel very alone in my class in this way. My classmates know I’m a good writer, that I’ve spent the better part of my life writing, and they seek me out for feedback, which I really enjoy. Meanwhile, I’m falling behind everyone because of mental health issues that are making the pacing of this class feel like breakneck speed and I’m not doing as well as I thought I would be able to. My expectation of myself (and what I know I’m capable of) and what I am actually doing are two drastically different things and I’m honestly not taking that super well.
I know that how I’m preforming in a class (that steps on all my triggers and thus impacts me differently than my classmates without CPTSD) has no bearing on how good of a writer I am, but it doesn’t really feel that way.
I know I’m better than what I’m managing to write, I just need time to work through all the trauma it’s bringing up. Which is why I went in, and why I talked to my teacher about it, and why I am now fucking exhausted.
I’m 10 days post-op, the stabbing sensation has largely subsided. I’m still spotting a bit, the incisions ache if I move or stretch too much, but I’ve been fine with two ibuprofen 600s (one around noon after I eat, and one after dinner/before bed) for most of the week, and I haven’t needed Percocet since Sunday.
I haven’t been hit with menopause (no backup ovary + HRT), but my body is freaking out at the sudden ONLY TESTOSTERONE nature of itself.
My voice has dropped a ton since surgery (listen to the last episode and next week’s episode of Kitchen Table Cult and you’ll notice). My hair instantly started to curl and now my cowlicks have cowlicks. My smell is changing a lot, the pheromones are intensifying, and I sweat easier? My skin thickened and became extremely greasy. I need to shower every day or my skin feels like there’s just a weird film over it. My acne feels like it’s buried deeper in my skin, and some of that is ingrown beard hairs that want to sprout.
I’ve ordered tea tree oil and a cream that my brother recommended. I’m using Differin on my face at least once a day, followed by argon oil and aftershave and that seems to be helping there. But all the rest of my body also has skin and it’s the weird hand-grease that is really obnoxious right now.
The upside, I suppose, is that it’s really easy to keep my incisions clean since I constantly feel in need of a shower.
I went to see my Doctor on Monday because my throat hurt and I couldn’t swallow. I was worried I might have caught strep but apparently I have a canker sore on my tonsil (and that’s just a thing that happens?!) so I’ve also been going through all of our salt doing gargles so I can stay fed and hydrated while I’m recovering.
The most annoying part is the lack of energy. I guess it’s also good because if I had a lot of energy I would be using it and not resting and letting the stitches in my belly button heal like I should, but my peak awakeness being between 9am and noon, and then needing to nap until 3 gets old quickly.
Today, I’m compromising by doing some freelance work or playing games on my laptop while reclining instead. So my body is resting, but my brain doesn’t have to shut down.
I am extremely looking forward to:
Laying on my stomach
Stretching my stomach
Walking more than 5 blocks without becoming exhausted
Riding my bike
The crusty skin glue getting out of my belly button
Not having ghost cervix itches (internal stitches/whatever suuuuck sometimes)
Being done spotting
Being able to fuck again
Being able to lift things over 20lbs (but realistically like, 5lbs)
Monday I had a complete hysterectomy. I got to Mt. Zion hospital at 5:45am, surgery started around 8am, I was out at 11:30 and discharged around noon. Then I went on a really bumpy car ride to Concord, where I am resting and marathoning Harry Potter all week.
My surgery was laparoscopic so it was less invasive than it could have been and since we took out literally everything there was no need to carefully comb through my ovaries looking for endo.
I stopped bleeding yesterday, right now the most discomfort that I’m in is from the gas that is still in my body from surgery.
Being on testosterone before getting a complete hysto worked really well, I think. Because I have hormones in my body I’m not going into surgical menopause (plus I already went through menopause when I started T) and I feel like this helps make recovery easier too.
I didn’t really feel different as soon as I woke up, I was mostly just foggy and in pain, but after the drowsymaking painmeds wore off, I noticed that like…all the tension in my body around my uterus was just gone.
I feel right.
I feel whole.
I feel like the Thing That Was Incorrect Is Gone (because it is) and now I’m just me.
I’ve instantly stopped being at war with myself and the change is almost disorienting. I knew my uterus was where my dysphoria lived, but I didn’t expect it to go away so quickly. That was the first thing I noticed when the fogginess wore off.
I’m. not. at. war. with. myself. anymore.
I feel present in a way I’ve never felt present before. Not disassociating is easy now? I’m so used to being disassociated by default that I usually have to actually work to be in my body, but now it’s like I’m home?
My energy levels are still real low, I haven’t showered in days, but holy shit.
I did it.
I don’t have a uterus anymore
I cannot reproduce
I can never have a period again
I will never need another pap smear
I will never have to worry about an ectopic pregnancy
I will never have to worry about not having access to birth control
I don’t have to worry about going back to being estrogen based if my HRT gets taken away (it will just suck to have zero hormones, but at least I won’t bleed)
I was raised to be a wife and mother, to train an army for god.
And I just took ALL OF THAT out of my body.
I’m reclining with a heating pad and blankets and liquid feeling slightly achey and really gassy, but I’ve never felt better or more at home in my skin than I do now.
I’ve been wanting needing to get my uterus out for years. I have talked to so many doctors about this, and about sterilization before that. I will document the process that I went through to get here later, but the big news is:
Monday, July 30th, 2018, at 9:30am I will be undergoing a total hysterectomy with bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy which in english means: it’s all coming out. No ovaries, no cervix, no uterus. GONE.
Gone and donated to science but maybe I will ask for a picture or something to burn later.
On Thursday, I’ll be meeting with the surgeon and sometime after that talking to the anesthesia people about what I need to do to prepare.
The more I’ve been wanting to write, the more I’ve been resisting sitting down and doing it.
Depression has been eating me alive lately. The world seems to have gotten dimmer since school let out, and it feels like we’ve plummeted off the edge of a cliff, we’re past the point of no return and I’m finding myself struggling to stay motivated, hopeful.
I’ve been talking to my therapist about organizing and how that’s the way I cope with the world. I see everything going to shit and I know I can’t change all of it, but I do know how to change small parts of it.
Most of the time this is enough to keep me going. I can get up in the morning if I can make a small corner of the space I inhabit a little bit better. But sometimes depression is stronger than that and I get halfway through the week and then I lose all sense of motivation and the numbness sets in. I look around at everything getting worse, I worry, I know we haven’t even begun to see the worst of it and I don’t entirely know how to prepare.
I grew up on the other side of this. It’s….weird. It’s painful. It’s exactly what I ran away from but on a much larger scale. It’s gonna get so much worse before it gets better, and I feel that in my bones and I can’t shake it.
But I can organize. I can change my little corner of the space I inhabit. I can make a little bit of a haven, a little bit of change, and that little bit adds to everyone else’s and eventually….a long time from now, it’ll lead back to okay.
I started realizing that I need to come to terms with the physical effects of CPTSD throughout the last semester. I have to come to terms with my own disability.
And a lot of that starts by saying it out loud.
I really don’t want to.
I don’t want to admit that I am not able.
But my dudes.
I missed my last day of shop class because of pain I’ve had in my shoulder off and on for the last 4 years (after taking off the entire week before because I was so overwhelmed that everything was being triggered and I was not in a safe headspace to machine). On Tuesday I couldn’t tie my shoes without wincing let alone use a vertical mill to drill some holes in a block.
I am disabled.
My CPTSD isn’t a fun fact, it is a disability and it impacts me physically just as much as it does psychologically and mentally. That combined with my recently identified extreme likelihood of AD/HD has made getting through this last semester of school extremely difficult.
But I did it.
I made it through and I got help at school and from friends. I now have all of the accommodations and I’m seeing a psychiatrist next week to talk about how to treat learning disabilities. I’m starting Physical Therapy for my shoulder in June, because the intermittent massages I’ve been getting, while helpful, aren’t enough to get rid of Sir Knotsalot.
I’m trying hard not to overburden myself next semester and taking most classes later in the day (save Jazz, which is a morning class, but also it’s dance, so) when my brain is more able to focus.
I don’t have a point to end this on, I’m still trying to hold all of these pieces and deal with the limits of a body that’s held more stress than it deserves. It’s a feel, lemme tell you.
Last night, I was curled into a ball crying in my partner’s arms because everything about school is hard. It’s not necessarily the material or the course load, it’s that Laney isn’t designed and has no support structure for visibly/non-passing trans students to exist in. Let alone the ones who are out and openly existing outside of the binary with no hope or intention of passing.
I eat and drink just what I need to get through the day without passing out. I am essentially starving and dehydrating myself because the labeled single stall, all gender bathrooms are in the tower or across campus in the bistro (nowhere near where I am machining all day). I’ve been called out for using the “wrong” restroom in multiple places on campus already.
I am behind in all of my classes, and on the verge of failing welding because of this.
It’s just peeing.
It feels so stupid.
It feels like I’m making it up.
It’s ridiculous that the most basic need of my meatcage is something that creates anxiety that interferes with my ability to be fully present on campus (where I operate heavy machinery and open flames on the reg).
I went to Cal State East Bay Queer Con today and got to vent about that a lot. It was really helpful to be listened to by people who also understand what this feels like. And be understood (or at least seen) by people who don’t have that experience.
I am worried every time I’m on campus, every time I enter a bathroom, that someone is going to lose their shit and report me for harassment for peeing in the “wrong” place. I choose the danger I know, so I use the women’s room. I still get she’d half the time on campus and the men’s rooms are in more of a state of disrepair and have very little privacy (sometimes the doors don’t even shut), so I don’t usually even dare with that. I choose the danger I know.
And I get that I have glorious facial hair and look super masc especially when I’m wearing my safety glasses or skullcap, but I still have to pee. somewhere.
It feels stupid that this one simple thing is holding me back so much. It’s devastating my health and school performance. I’ve talked to the queer faculty about it and they are on board with All Gender Bathrooms and support infrastructure being things that exist. But all of the progress there is just stuck in some kind of ether and I can’t seem to make it move. No one seems to have spoons to do the work needed to get shit off the ground and I’m losing stamina.
I don’t know how much more I need to literally be destroying my body and ruining my ability to focus and study and shouting it from the rooftops before something changes. I don’t know if it will change before I become too overwhelmed by trying to hold being a student (which Laney somehow expects to exist outside of my trans experience) and existing that I decide the physical, mental, and emotional toll is too much of a price to pay and drop out.
I can’t keep this up for ever.
I’m fighting as hard as I can, but I’m really tired, and really lonely.
But if any faculty or staff member asks me how school is going for the remainder of a semester, they are getting an earful of school while trans issues dumped on them, because if I have to hold this and am expected to somehow put it aside and get good grades, they at least get to know the fucking overhead they’re not helping me carry.
All of the advice that I’ve been given today, by people who’ve started clubs or are faculty is all stuff that I have already done. I don’t know what else to do.
I meant to write a retrospective before my birthday, but 2018 has been one hell of a year already, let me tell you.
I got distracted going through my instagram account and watching the story of the last seven or so years unfold in the archives. I look so radically different now than I did when I left home, I am radically different now. And what’s really interesting is all the ways I’m still the same.
I feel the most me-ish that I’ve ever been. I’m not repressing entire swaths of my personality or identity anymore. All the juxtapositional parts of me can just be themselves, like they wanted to all along.
All of the little parts of myself that I caught glimpses of and wanted to unearth when I was stuck at home as a kid are now able to actually bloom and come into fruition. I can be good at science, and organize communities (outside of some old man’s authority), I have the wherewithal to be assertive when I want to be, I bend metal to my will (:3), my body makes sense, I’m in school, I have friends who I see in person on a regular basis. All of this seemed impossible and unattainable years ago, I wasn’t ready yet.
I look different, I sound different, I carry myself differently – I take up more space than I ever have, I have a base level of confidence, I’m happier, I feel capable. I’m taking on things I didn’t think I’d be able to.
I’m really proud of myself for getting this far, and even on my bad days, I know I’ll be able to come out on the other side better than I was before. Having learned something, if it’s just “this doesn’t work”.
I wanted to go into more details and get lengthy, but I am exhausted.
I have a full day of homework tomorrow, and organizing if I can finish all my other things. My life right now is school, organizing for housing, and organizing for a homeschool statute in California. Therapy is keeping me sane, and one day I will have the words and the energy to write all the things that are building up in my brain.
But not today.
Today I’m just happy I’m here, and surrounded by people who care deeply about me. These are the things I cling to when I get overwhelmed and life gets hard.
Oh, but the ratio: I’m 27, and it’s been 9 years since I escaped. In 2011 I found a poem that’s stuck with me and became advice I took.
She decided to start living the life she imagined. She believed she could, so she did. She replaced her fear of the unknown with curiosity. She looked around, and life was pretty amazing.
And then I became a boi.
And I looked around, and life was pretty amazing after all.
I’ve started the process of getting a hysterectomy and let me tell you, has it been a rollercoaster. Apparently complete hysterectomies are somehow not part of trans surgeries. So my Doctor got me a referral to a clinic that does Gender Confirmation Surgeries, but they don’t offer 3D Printer de-embedding. They referred me to someone else for that, but not before making me fill out an extensive intake form that made me need to start hunting for an additional therapist, because apparently one therapist’s letter is not enough for making your body match you. Anyway this new person in S.F. doesn’t take my insurance like the other place did, and I asked them to recommend me to someone who would take my insurance, and they said no. So I called my doctor again, and his medical assistant is going to do some research and get back to me this week.
In the meantime, I have scheduled a consultation appointment with the new surgeon who does not take my insurance but will cost $490 for the one visit if I don’t get something lined up before then. I also need to know if I will need two letters or not, still. I’m going to assume that I will if we can get this done going the gender-dysphoria route as opposed to the probably-have-loads-of-endo route.
The upside of a hysterectomy is that (despite its apparent rare-ness as a route for trans masc types) it’s a fairly common procedure and we even developed robots to do it better with smaller holes. So the wait time would probably be less than if I were going to try and forge myself a cock (which I have thought about, but T is uh…working well with that so it’s becoming less of a thing).
I’m coming up on the end of my first semester and I am nervous. I’m on top of two classes, behind? in the self-paced math class, and…..I need to live in the machine shop because working on this mill project has taken me for ever. I was hoping to work on it or finishing the grinds on my lathe tools over the weekend but the problem with making precision tools is you need to be able to measure and angle them precisely and I couldn’t get all the things I would need.
I can’t believe I’ve actually managed to get this far – I’m almost halfway to being a certified industrial maintenance machinist. Machining is all about turning chunks of metal into things that keep infrastructure working. I’ve always been drawn to making and maintaining infrastructures, weirdly enough. I am really into the prospect of going on to join a union and work in some kind of infrastructure project, be it housing, transit, utilities….I want to be part of the invisible set of things that no one sees but everything would collapse without. One of my projects is making screw threads on a lathe. After that, if anyone ever needs screws, I will at the very least know how to make them.
I’m currently working on a vertical mill project, making a precision angle plate. This is what is stressing me out currently, because the mills have to be aligned perfectly before I can even start cutting my hunk of cold rolled steel. This is a process called tramming and it takes me an eternity.
Picture, if you will, a 5′ tall, 110lb, barely dextrous blue haired floof trying to put all of their weight into a 7′ tall, 2 ton machine that requires a step stool to reach all of the important knobs. Yeah, the mill has been beating me for a solid month now, and I have the joint and muscle pain to show for it. It’s not that I don’t know how to tram it. I understand it just fine, I just can’t maneuver myself around the mill with a wrench (or chain of wrenches) well enough to loosen the bolts some burly dude from the night before tightened too well.
People ask me why I decided to take up machining. It’s a really good question. I’ve had this question sitting in my drafts for an eternity, and the answer is, it’s complicated.
Some of it is because I want to do something that isn’t emotional support as a job, and machines tend to have less overwhelming feelings.
Some of it is because the trades were entirely off limits to me so I never got to learn how to make anything, and I want to learn how to make things – the program I’m in at Laney will teach me the most things, and I’m really excited about that.
My goal in life really is to kinda be a hack of all trades – know how to do (and teach) basically everything. Always be learning.
Another aspect of this is that unlike political science, history, writing, what-have-you, machining and everything about construction and industrial type stuff is something I have no context or frame of reference for, so all of the information I’m learning is fresh and new and exciting. I can feel new pathways form as I add all of these new skills and ways of understanding the world around me to everything else I know.
I really want to be a part of maintaining infrastructure, building housing, part of keeping cities going. I want to make really amazing art. Eventually, I want to go back and teach too.
I guess the long and short of it is, I chose the machining program because I wanted to learn something new, and do something really different.