Saturday, September 27, 2014

GRS: Recovery in the Hospital

My surgery was only one hour forty five minutes from start to finish.  Brassard's surgeries are shorter than most but you have to take into account that there are 2 surgeons working in tandem here and that they do a lot of these procedures.  This is one of the top rated and most popular destinations worldwide for GRS, and when you consider that many from the US and other countries choose to come here and most of the Canadian provincial governments fund surgeries, you can see why Drs. Brassard and Belanger stay so busy.

Right now I am in the recovery center next door to the hospital.  Commonly known as "the residence", this is more of a convalescent house and it is named L'Asclepiade.  I'm writing this blog on Saturday, still only three days post op.  I was taken to this house yesterday morning in a wheelchair, across the parking lot from the hospital.  This post will focus on my initial recovery in the hospital, before being rolled into L'Asclepiade.


By the time I'd made it into my room after surgery, I was awake and aware enough of what was going on to ask Mitchell to snap a few pictures of me in my mobile bed.  The smile on my face showed that I was very happy to have made it through the operation but was tempered by being groggy and in whatever pain I could feel at that time. 

My roommate Samantha, who had surgery directly before me, was not yet back in our room when I was taken upstairs, but she was back when I returned about 2:45 PM.  Mitchell and Mama were in the room waiting for me, of course, and they had smiles and relieved looks on their faces.  I guess at that point we were all happy to have it over with.

For this surgery I was given a spinal block that consists of a shot into the spine that deadens the area below the waist.  This is similar to the epidurals women are often given during childbirth and assures that we won't feel any pain in the surgical area during the operation.  My understanding is that the effective duration of these spinal blocks is about 3 hours, so the fact that Brassard/Belanger are able to complete the GRS procedure in a much shorter time period than other surgeons allows this to be an option here.

In addition to the spinal block, an injection is given to put us into a "twilight sleep" during the operation.  I can say that very soon after that needle went into my left arm I was completely out until after the surgery.  There have been cases of patients waking up during surgery, or being awaken by staff if any problems were encountered. 

This was a major concern of mine during the time I was researching the surgery and at one point I'd considered insisting on general anesthesia so there was no chance of my waking up during surgery.   The fact that general anesthesia comes with greater side effects and more of an element of risk helped me decide on the spinal block/twilight sleep method of sedation.  The Brassard Clinic really pushes this safer method of anesthesia  and the fact that they are able to do this here is one of the advantages to having GRS in Montreal.


As the afternoon progressed into evening, pain set in as the spinal block and other medications used during surgery gradually wore off.  I was given an injection of dilaudid every 3 hours all the way through the first night post op.  I didn't get much actual sleep, just nappy pass outs from the medicines, and the nurses also came in at least every three hours to check all vital signs.

During surgery, a catheter was placed into my bladder so all of my urine essentially ran into a bag secured beside the bed.  There was also another tube draining blood from the surgical area into a fist sized container, but it never accumulated a large quantity of fluid.  These drains were emptied periodically by the nursing staff, who also made regular checks and cleanings of the surgical area.

As far as the vagina itself, a stent was packed into it that is goes in approximately 6" and is the thickness of one of the larger dilators.  A large mound of gauze is placed over the entire area and the catheter extends from that mass.  This gauze is sewed into the skin and other gauze pads, that are regularly changed, are placed all around it.  The area around the mound of gauze is kept dry and clean but the gauze mound itself will adsorb blood and other fluids over the next few days, until it is removed.


During the first night the pain was more aggravating than intense.  There was a constant feeling of needing to urinate that I am told is caused by the catheter and the stent.  It seems like every time pain would begin to overwhelm me, a nurse would come in with another dilaudid injection. 

Later in the evening, maybe 8 hours after surgery, nurses came into the room to help me stand up.  That was pretty much it for the first day, just get up and stand for a minute beside the bed.  Believe me, that took a lot of effort and concentration.  I felt like I'd walked a couple of miles after that.  Having had her surgery a little earlier, Sam was doing these steps before I did, but by the next day we were pretty much on similar schedules that were governed more by how we felt that than anything else.

I will note that I was very aware the entire day after waking up post operation.  I drifted off to sleep a few times and was in sort of a druggy haze, but i was not completely out of it.  As the evening drug on past their usual dinner time, I advised Mama and Mitchell to leave and get something to eat.  They could visit whenever they wanted to the next day, so soon after dark they took off.


I got a lot of rest that evening, posting on Facebook periodically, but I didn't feel like concentrating on anything enough to read any of my books, write, blog, etc.  There was no television in the hospital rooms.  I was allowed to eat some crackers but by that time nausea, caused mostly by the narcotic pain killers, had set in and I coughed them back up.  Through the night I got sick a few more times, mostly from water, but by morning I wasn't drinking much water and was reduced to dry heaves.

The nurses also gave me injections for nausea, which allowed me to not vomit so much.  That made me feel a little bit better but I still could not hold down much water.  It would be morning before any real food was served.  Someone came by soon after wake up, when the room lights come on and activity begins to pick up in the halls.  The first vital signs for the day are taken and we received our injections as we made some choices from a simple breakfast menu.


I was sort of groggy when the surgeons came into the room to check us out.  It was a little before 7 AM and when Dr. Brassard saw me he said I looked pale and asked if I was nauseated.  I was a little sick at the moment but after both doctors examined me they said I was doing fine and everything in the surgical area looked great.  That made me feel a little bit better but when breakfast arrived I barely touched it.

By lunch I was not as nauseous and ate some mashed potatoes and vegetables but didn't really touch the ham.  I had made the choice for ice cream and I did enjoy that. :)  My loved ones visited me that afternoon, as well as my new big sister Evonne and a couple more local friends I'd met online, Isabel and Erica.  Samantha's mother had arrived from Edmonton to spend time with her, so much of the afternoon was spent talking to friends and loved ones.

Around mid day, they took us off the pain killer shots and gave us pills.   Both Samantha and I began to be bothered by pain after making this switch, so we called the nurse in to address the issue.  She put in a call to Dr. Brassard, who was in his final surgery of the day, and when he finally got out of the operating room and responded he sent the order for us to each get one more injection, then switch to the pill form of dilaudid. 

During the time of increased pain, both Samantha and I experienced burning sensations in the surgical area and I also remember a stabbing feeling.  Those feelings have come and gone since surgery but the dilaudid has been able to manage it, while the pills they initially gave us, (oxycodone) didn't.

I did get in two walks Thursday, one in the morning and one in the afternoon.  Mitchell went with me on my second walk, in place of a nurse, and I got a little frisky and made it almost 2 times around the small circular hall of the hospital's first floor.  These were indeed baby steps but I was less than 24 hours out of major surgery when I took them.  They have told me since the beginning here that the quicker I get active, the quicker I will recover, although it is key not to overdo it.


Thursday evening Mitchell and Mama went back to the bed and breakfast right before dark.  I knew that the next morning I would be heading next door to the recovery center between 9 AM and noon, so I told them I'd just see them when I got over there.  Having eaten a decent dinner myself, my first good meal since surgery (with ice cream dessert) and back on an effective regimen of pain management, I expected to have a decent night and maybe even get some sleep.

About 9 PM I decided to make one more venture out of bed.  I'd asked the nurse if I could go into the bathroom, brush my teeth, wash off and shave.  She said that would be alright and she helped me get up and get going to the bathroom, which was next door but seemed like quite a distance. 

When I came out of the bathroom, there was no nurse, but I managed to get everything back into my room and get into bed.  Such a normally routine activity was a production on this night, but I felt so much better after having freshened up.

From my bed I finished my blog on The Surgery, as I wanted to get that one written and posted while the big event was still fresh in my head.  When midnight rolled around, it was time for another round of pain killers and then I planned to get some much needed rest.  All the visitation, walking, writing and basically anything I'd done that day had tired me out.

When the midnight medicine came through I had the nurse cut my light out and prepared for sleep but Samantha, who'd been sleeping for the last few hours, woke up in some pain and had trouble sleeping the next few hours.  She did get up a walk a couple of times during the night, as they told us that would help, and it wasn't until the 3 AM round of medication that both of us were able to fall soundly asleep.


Friday morning they let us sleep a little longer, until just after 6:30 AM, and the same older gentleman who woke me up the morning of my surgery and spoke to me as I was on the operating table being put to sleep, was the first to greet us on this last morning in the hospital. It turns out he is a very nice fellow, not sinister at all.  I think I had just gotten creeped out when he asked me if I remembered him, as I was being put to sleep before the operation.  I guess at that moment, with all that was in my head, I really didn't remember who he was.

So, we had our breakfast, and I ate a good one, then lay in bed waiting for the orders to go next door.  Sam was to go first, at 10, and then I was scheduled to depart at 10:30.  Dr. Belanger came in to check on us and she helped take my catheter bag off as well as the blood drain.  At the recovery house I would have the catheter tube hanging loose and have to manually operate it when I peed, standing up.  She also said everything was looking good.  :)

A lot of things were about to change as we made the move from hospital to convalescent home.  I'd only been in the hospital 44 hours post op but it seemed like much longer than that.  As my things were packed up and I headed to the door, I took a brief look back at my temporary home in the house of pain.  It seems like it should have been a nightmare but it really seemed more like just taking care of business. 

Walking down some steps and out the door of Centre Metropolitain De Chirurgie I was placed into a wheelchair and rolled quickly across the parking lot by the young male attendant.  I had only seen the brick building before me in pictures, L'Asclepiade.  What would I face in this recovery center?  Stay tuned for the next installment to find out.....


Some of my live postings on Facebook in the hours following surgery....

I just wanted you all to know that my surgery went well, I am awake and not having too much pain right now. The operation took one hour 45 minutes and I'm told it was successful. I'm extremely happy right now and a little hungry but cannot eat yet.


They just helped me stand up for a minute.
— at Dr Brassard & Dr BĂ©langer: Sex reassignment and plastic surgery in Montreal.

The pressure and intense feeling of having to urinate is really wearing on me. The catheter is doing it's job but this feeling is by far the biggest source of discomfort right now. As I near 12 hours post up the actual pain is subsiding as long as I lie still. I'm told everything is normal right now but I'm starting to really, really look forward to getting this Stent out. Almost time for another dilaudid injection, which makes me nauseated.

I'm not going to let pain get me down and am so happy to be doing so well here only 15 hours post.

After my walk and a downgrade in the strength of my pain medication, the pain is quite intense. My roommate Samantha, who had surgery right before me, is experiencing something similar.

I just woke up from a good nap. I'm back on dilaudid now and pain is manageable. Also my loved ones arrived after visiting the Basilica this morning.

Ice is your friend.


Thursday, September 25, 2014

GRS: The Surgery

The lights came on in my hospital room at 6:30 AM yesterday as staff members came in to wake up my roommate Samantha and I.  This was the day we were both having GRS (Gender Reassignment Surgery) with Dr. Pierre Brassard and Dr. Maude Belanger.  Sam got in the shower first, as her surgery was before mine, and we got no breakfast that morning.

After my shower I enjoyed a visit with my friend from the bed and breakfast, Marcilene, who was lying on the hospital bed in her room fighting her pain from the previous day's procedure.  Then I came back to room to finish my presurgery blog, GRS in Montreal: Arrival and Surgery Prep, before Mama and Mitchell showed up. 

Sam was called back about 9:30, as hers was the second of three surgeries yesterday.  Soon after her departure my loved ones showed up and we visited for about an hour, until a nurse came down to tell me it was my turn.  I still find it hard to believe, but I felt like my nerves were extremely calm even after hearing those words and knowing it was my time to head upstairs to the second floor operating room.  Mitchell told me he could tell I was nervous but I didn't feel that way.

The nurse walked me down the hall to the elevator and we got in the for the short ride upstairs.  We walked into a small doctor's waiting room and I was told the doctors would be out in a minute for my consultation.  I had to use the restroom one more time (significant, in a way) and when I came out the door was open to the doctors' office.

Sitting behind a long desk were Drs. Brassard and Belanger, dressed in dark blue scrubs and surgical caps.  I was told to sit down and was asked if I had any questions.  I did have a few questions written down on a sheet of paper, but it only took a few minutes to go over them with the surgeons. 

What happened next was surreal and the fact that this series of events went down so quickly and in a nonchalant fashion by both the staff and I is beyond fascinating.  It's as if I was sleepwalking in a dream world.....


Beyond the door on the other side of the doctors' office was a large room, well lit by overhead lights and long, glass windows.  In this room there were all kinds of tables, machines and many people dressed in blue scrubs, scurrying about.  The room had a magical feel to it, dressed up in a slick, shiny, sci fi package.  Everything happened so fast and in the state of mind that I was in when I absorbed it, I cannot honestly describe that room with words that will do it justice.  I will, however, attempt to describe my memory of what happened in that room. 

I was led by some of the blue clad people to a table, an operating table with blinding lights shining down upon it, where I was told to lie down in a central position.  Several people on each side of the table helped guide me into the exact position they desired.  One of the blue clad people, an older grey haired gentleman, spoke to me through his surgical mask and asked if I remembered him.  I did recall him as he was one of the assistants who woke us up that morning.

There was an almost sinister air to the man's look and words, but I dismissed it as everyone was being so nice and reassuring as they positioned me onto the table, saying things like "right here madame" and "perfect."  The French accents of the blue clad people and french language used when they were not speaking directly to me, added to the surreality of the experience.

Once the blue clad people had me positioned perfectly on the table, the anesthesiologist who'd spoken to me in the office earlier, told me to lean forward so she could place the needle in my spine.  I was being given a spinal block which would numb me from the waist down for the duration of the surgery.  Of course there were people on either side of me helping guide me to just the right spot for the anesthesiologist's needle.  As I was being guided into position, someone else told me they were giving me something to make me sleepy, as they slid the long, cold needle into my left arm.

All I remember from this point is being eased down onto my back and hearing many voices speaking quickly in French.  Next someone was leaning down close to my face and gently said, in a soft French accent, that the surgery was over.  I physically did not feel a thing at that moment but emotionally I felt a peaceful calm and I believe a smile crept upon my lips.

My table was rolled to a different part of the room and people came to stand around it and asked how I was feeling, and if I could move my legs.  I could move them but I don't believe I could feel them. One feeling I did not have at that moment was pain.

Next, I was moved from the larger operating table onto a hospital bed and rolled down the hall where people who were lined up along the walls smiled at me.  In retrospect, perhaps I was moved to the hospital bed from a stationary operating table right after the surgery.  Many of these details are a blur but through the fog I remember them as I would remember a vivid dream upon waking.

The result of my surgery was, quite simply, a dream come true. In our next installment we will cover the beginning of the long road to recovery, and I can already tell you that is going to involve a lot of pain. 

Post Op: Mitchell snapped this picture right after I was wheeled back to my hospital room after the surgery.


Wednesday, September 24, 2014

GRS in Montreal: Arrival and Surgery Prep

About 5:30 yesterday evening Chantal, who runs the bed and breakfast where we've been staying, called me down to dinner for what would be my last meal before surgery.  I had just gotten out of the shower after having done the first of two required enemas at 4 pm.  I was also instructed to shave the entire surgery area (groin), which wasn't a problem for me because I keep myself shaved all over all the time.  We were told to be ready at 6:45 for the cab ride that would take us to the hospital.
My last meal before surgery, and it was a good one.  I also had a piece of apple pie for dessert and a bowl of raisin bran.  I'm told the bran cereal is supposed to help us out after surgery by allowing us to go to the bathroom easier.
At 6:45, my roommate Samantha, Mama, Mitchell and I got in the cab for the (approximately 10 minute) ride.  My first impressions of the hospital (CENTRE'  Metropolitain De Chirurgie) were that it is clean, quiet and small.  It's even located on a relatively quiet street in a mostly residential area of the city.  We re on the northern side of Montreal, across the river from suburban Laval.

Arriving at the hospital
Samantha and I are sharing a room here and she will be having surgery later this morning (GRS, same as me).  She is a young lady from Edmonton and we haven't met the third girl who is having her surgery right now.  My other new friend from Edmonton, Marci, is an a room across the haul with a girl from Omaha and they both had their surgeries yesterday. 

Marci is the one who dubbed Mama 'The Ambassador of Awesome" and we all checked in on her last night when Mama was here.  She sent for me later and I went over for a visit before I had to fill out my paperwork, get vitals and weight tested and get checked to make sure that I'd shaved properly.  I passed all the tests although I must say my blood pressure was running high.  That is to be expected I guess, as I do have blood pressure that runs a little high as well as white coat syndrome.  The nurse mentioned that maybe they would give me something for it but I haven't heard more about it.

The higher blood pressure reading is the only sign so far that I might be nervous or feeling stress about the upcoming procedure.  Marci was in quite a bit of pain last night, as is to be expected, and when I paid a short visit to her this morning she was still really hurting.  I guess that pain will also be my fate when I wake up later this afternoon.

I had a visitor last night, Evonee, who I'd met online through my Vanity Club sister Stephanie.  I'd talked to her some online in the last few months and we Skyped once before coming up.  Evonne lives in Montreal, had her surgery with Dr. Brassard about 3 years ago and has since served as a big sister, helping many of the girls get through this difficult process.  I'm lucky to have her on my side and look forward to seeing more of her over the coming week.  I also hope she just comes for visits and doesn't have to help me through any problems, like she does for many others.

My roommate and surgery mate Samantha, me and Evonne, during visiting hours last night.
After visiting hours were over everyone left.  Mitchell and Mama are coming back today before I go into the operating room, but we spent some time saying goodbye and goodnight.  Then I had to do another enema and take the first of two antiseptic showers. 

After 10 we were allowed to take a sleeping pill.  In typical fashion, as I tend to put off sleep, I waited until midnight to take my pill.  Samantha had taken hers closer to 10 and I talked to her over an hour before she began to feel sleepy.  She is very cool and sort of a trip so i really enjoy talking to her.  When I finally took my pill I started working on this blog and dozed off, waking up sometime later to a screen full of zzzzzzzzzzzzz's, as I might have pressed against the keyboard as I napped.  To me the sleeping pill was very strong and worked quickly, although I am not groggy this morning after about 5 hours sleep.

The enemas are really a piece of cake although some complain about them.  Some also complain about the shaving or don't do it well enough and have to be do it over.  That's pretty much all I've had to do so far except rest and sit by in idle anticipation.  I did have to put my hospital gown on after this morning's second and final pre surgery shower using, and  antiseptic soap.

WELL, as I was typing that last sentence, at 9:15 AM, my roommate Sam has been called to go back for surgery.  When they are done with her it will be my turn!  NOW I am getting a little bit nervous, but I still feel everything will be fine and over very soon.  Please stay tuned....

My loving family and I back at the bed and breakfast..

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Off to the See the Wizard

When we got on the road Friday morning, heading to Raleigh Durham International Airport for our flight to Montreal, I posted a selfie and captioned it "Off To See The Wizard."  Those words came to me as an off the cuff remark but they may be fitting in a way.  I was leaving on a quest to find a missing piece of myself, and I was not alone on this journey.

Our flight had one layover at LaGuardia Airport in New York where we changed planes for the final flight into Montreal.  Our total travel time from Raleigh to Montreal was about 5 hours and we were in the air about half that time.  Mama and I had not flown since 911 so we'd never dealt with all the TSA checkpoints but I have to report that we had no trouble going though any of the security and customs checks in the USA or Canada. 

The last three days in Montreal have been amazing.  It's been a whirlwind (pre surgery) vacation in a fascinating city that has a decidedly European feel.  I think the travel up on Friday and all of the walking Saturday tired Mama out, so Mitchell and I have left her back at the bed and breakfast to rest for the last 2 days as we've continued to tour the city.  Mitchell has barely been able to keep up with me as we have done so much walking between points of interest.  The Metro (subway system) has been our only means of mechanized transportation.

We've done so much since we arrived here that I really won't be able to cover it all in this blog post alone.
  I'm also having computer and internet connection issues so I'll have to wait to post more of the pictures.  Today I'm staying close to the bed and breakfast and preparing to go to the hospital tonight at 7.  My GRS will happen sometime tomorrow and I wanted to take a little time to post this update on my thoughts and feelings as the big event draws near.


Last Thursday night, the day before our departure, I woke up early in the morning after having a dream that inspired some degree of trepidation as I lay in bed with Mitchell.  When he woke up we talked about things and I felt that familiar sense of calm come over me again.  I remembered that I was not alone and all of my fears flew out the window. 

I've actually felt very little fear over the course of the last week but I have felt a lot of happiness, much of it related to the upcoming surgery and my decision to come to Montreal and Dr. Brassard's clinic.  A couple of days ago someone asked me how I was feeling and the answer that came to mind was that I was exuberant.  I really believe I have come to the right place at the right time.

Last night around midnight, just before bed, that feeling of giddiness came over me again.  Even though I am getting a little nervous right now as I know I will be in the hospital in just a few hours, I feel at peace.  I just know everything will be alright and I'll come through this surgery just fine.  The other side is not so far away now and it cannot get here fast enough.

There is another girl here at the B & B who will also be having surgery tomorrow.  There were two more here Sunday who left for the hospital last night and are having surgery today.  These are all young women, 20 somethings from other provinces, who have their surgeries paid for by the Canadian government.  One of the girls that left last night kind of adopted my mom and dubbed her "The Ambassador of Awesome." 

The two of us took a long walk yesterday to get Mama some stomach medicine and something mild to eat.  She has such a bright, positive attitude and sort of reminds me of myself in that way.  She doesn't really know many details of what will go on at the hospital and doesn't really want to know.  I guess she will find out soon enough.  Maybe I know too much, having done so much research and talking to so many others who've been here.  It hasn't scared me away though but I still don't know how any of this is going to feel physically.  I guess I will find that out soon enough. 

The first night here at the B & B I had another dream.  In it my daddy was alive and he was very happy.  In that dream I remember seeing him laugh and get in the car with a man who was driving him around.  In this dream I was also making plans to spend more time with Daddy but I cannot remember what any of us were doing.  When I woke up I did have the feeling that my father was with me, here in Canada and also in the rest of my life and journey.  It's very comforting to know that he has not left me.

I lit a candle in remembrance of Daddy yesterday in the grand Notre Dame Basillica of Montreal.  Mitchell and I took the Metro yesterday to visit that church, take a walk and have dinner in Old Montreal.  We took the twenty minute tour then spent a couple of hours in the church.  It was a great place to meditate on where my life has brought me and what lies ahead.  We said a prayer together, shed a couple of tears, and lit that candle for Daddy.  Both of us felt a distinctive presence, spiritual in nature, as we sat on the pews of that grand cathedral. 

Whether you are religious, spiritual or none of the above I would highly recommend visiting the Basillica if you are ever in Montreal, as the place has such a positive vibe that lift up your soul.  I will take the memories of the impressive images I saw there, as well as the inspirational feelings they gave me, into the hospital with me.


Today marks two weeks off all of my hormone medications.  This period hasn't been as I thought it would be although in the last few days I've felt more  of the effects.  I haven't exactly experienced hot flashes but my temperature seems to be running hot most of the time.  For example, I was walking around Montreal yesterday in a light jacket of just a 3/4 sleeve tshirt while the locals were bundled up on the blustery day, the first day of Fall. 

It seems my facial hair is growing out faster and I'm feeling some of the other effects of the return of testosterone to my mind and body.  I've had some moments of irritability but I'm just thankful the dark dread didn't return, especially with what I am facing this week.  In a way it's almost fitting to feel one last little blast of testosterone before it's source is eliminated tomorrow, once and for all.  This will be a reason for celebration so have your champagne or cigars ready.


I want to thank everyone for the good luck and best wishes that have been sent my way.  I've been too wrapped up in this trip and this leg of my journey to fully respond to everyone but just know that I appreciate your thoughts and will take the positive energy from you all with me to the hospital tonight and onto the operating table tomorrow.  Recovery will be long, painful and difficult but hopefully it will afford me the time to write more of my experiences here and the feelings they have inspired.  It has been simply amazing so far!

I will try to post a little something as soon as possible when I wake up after surgery.  I'm getting very emotional sitting here thinking about it, but in a good way.  Yes, I'm very lucky to have the people I love with me and the support of so many others, but ultimately this is a very personal journey.  In your heart and your mind you have to be ready.  I've told you all before that you have to believe in your dreams before they can have a chance to begin to come true.

.....Remember, the Wizard only gave them what they already had in their hearts.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

GRS: One Week Away From The Big Day

It's now just one week away from "The Big Day."  To most people, Wednesday September 24th will be just another hump day but to me it will be a life changing experience (GRS, SRS, GCS, GAS, "sex change", whatever you want to call it), simply known as The Big Day. 

I've been feeling surprisingly blase' about it although I did post the other day that I was feeling giddy, and I've have some bouts of near giddiness.  The fact that I'm really not experiencing any anxiety about this upcoming event, fireworks aren't going off and I'm not freaking out, is sort of surprising to me.  Talking to a friend tonight on Skype she remarked that I looked and sounded very happy and I suppose that is true.  I'm at least very happy but I am not yet experiencing that feeling you get as the roller coaster makes that first big, slow climb. 

I'm told this lack of over excitement is a good thing.  An even better thing is that I feel ready, although I still wish I'd gotten into better shape.  I am in pretty good shape but being in better shape might make recovery easier, we will see. Hopefully I won't get a feeling of impending doom when I am in the waiting area about to go under the knife.

During the past week I've been blessed to be able to meet with three friends who've also been to Montreal for GRS with Dr. Brassard.  Last Thursday I drove to Raleigh to meet Carla for dinner and a cocktail.  She'd only been back from Canada for a couple of weeks and that was in fact her first day out driving since her return.  She had a lot of stories to tell of her very recent experience and shared a bunch of pictures of the hospital, recovery center and some of the people she'd met.

We had a nice dinner and drinks then decided to go to one more place for dessert and a chocolate martini.  After awhile at our second stop, The Big Easy, Carla had enough sitting (a temporary after effect of the surgery).  She was feeling up for a walk though, so we trekked all over the Fayetteville Street district of downtown Raleigh and she showed me a bunch more of her favorite nightspots.  I'm just learning the ins and out of that area so I'll definitely have to go back after I make my own recovery.
The Chocolate Martini
Friday, Lisa Allyn drove from the triangle area to Rocky Mount to join Mama and I for a nice lunch and some good conversation.  Lisa went to Montreal for her GRS in December 2012.  I was really glad that Mama had a chance to meet one of my  many friends who've gone north of the border for their "big" surgery.  As a stand up comedian, Lisa kept us laughing while we sat at the table having lunch as well as answered some questions and told us more of what to expect in Montreal.  I'm glad Rocky Mount is getting a few classy, new restaurants now so that I can show them off to my friends when they come to town.  Lou Reda's is more similar to the nice places I frequent with my friends when I am in the Raleigh area, where most of them live.
My mom and I with Lisa Allyn after our lunch at Lou Reda's in Rocky Mount.
Saturday afternoon, I had one more friend make the drive down to share her experiences at the Brassard clinic.  Danielle drove her motorcycle from Durham to have lunch with me at Milton and Miles cafe in downtown Rocky Mount.  We had a nice lunch and chat in which she told me all about her GRS in Montreal last May and the long, slow recovery process. 

After lunch we toured the museum, as the cafe is located within the Imperial Center.  This cultural resource is in what used to be a tobacco factory and has a few nice art exhibits among its other interesting features.  The Imperial Center is one of the other high points of Rocky Mount that I like to show to friends visiting from cites richer in culture. 

Danielle and I talked some more about what I could expect on my surgical journey while we viewed the paintings and sculptures.  Then she took off for home on a route that would take her through the pastoral countryside of Nash and Franklin Counties.  She came back to Rocky Mount
Tuesday night for dinner with another friend, Ceri Ann, who was passing through town and stopped for a visit.
Danielle White, Ceri Ann and myself after "pigging out" on a country style barbecue buffet at Gardner's in Rocky Mount.
Meeting with these three friends during this past week has added to my insight on what typically happens at Brassard's hospital in Montreal and the recovery center next door.  I have some idea now of what to expect but I really don't have any idea of what this process will feel like, or the feelings I will experience going through it.  It is supposed to be a very emotional time and, yes, very painful.  Mentally at least, I think I am prepared for the long, tough recovery process that will likely take months and months.

Many more friends who've been through GRS with Brassard or other surgeons, have stopped by Tammy World to chat with me online, by telephone or Skype during the last few weeks.  I've really enjoyed talking to them all, even those who haven't had surgery but just want to wish me luck and show some support.  Saturday night I had my last drink before surgery with some local sisters as well as a good meal and a great time.  The long Skype conversation last night with my sisters Pam and Stephanie
from Oklahoma (who had their surgeries with Dr. Suporn in Thailand) was one of the real highlights of the past week.

I'm really blessed to have met so many great people, online and in person, since embarking on this journey.  Making new friends is a sweet icing on the cake of a journey that is motivated deep within my soul and has been more therapeutic than I'd ever imagined.

I'm also blessed to have my own small but extremely loving family support network traveling to Canada with me.  Mama and Mitchell will be there with me for three and a half days to sight see, relax, enjoy some good meals and shop (of all things) before I check into the hospital Tuesday night.  They will be there with me as long as they can to hold my hand before I go into the operating room, and be there to visit when they can after I get out.

A lot of girls go through this alone and I am so thankful to be able to take my family with me.  I've also made some contacts in Montreal who have been through this before and will be there to visit and offer some assistance.  This morning I visited on Skype with one of them, Evonne, who is going to meet me at the hospital when I check in and help me out when I need it during my stay.  I can thank my Canadian sister Stephanie for introducing us. 

I just can't say enough about all the good people that I've met and am going to meet on this journey to Canada.  For a very important, but not necessarily all fun and games trip, I am really looking forward to it.


My next report in this series will be from north of the Canadian border.  Today I got my hair done with highlights and a layered cut (see photo at top) and tomorrow I'll go to the nail salon to get my gel nails taken off.  I can't have artificial or painted nails,
at least on my index fingers, while in the hospital.

I suppose we will spend the rest of the day tomorrow packing, then try to get some rest before flying out Friday morning.  The worst part of leaving will be saying goodbye to the dogs.  Two weeks will be the longest period of time that I've ever been away from Buddy and Nightingale and I have promised them that this will (most likely) be the longest time we will ever be separated.

Being off hormones for the last 8 days, and reducing my doses for 10 days before that, has not been as bad (so far) as I'd feared it would be.  I have caught myself being a little more irritable a few times and I've had some headaches and allergy attacks that might be partially attributed to a change in body chemistry, but it's been tolerable overall.  At least the dark feeling of dread that was my experience before starting HRT, has not returned.  My therapist told me that my levels wouldn't change drastically during this relatively short period and apparently she was right.


As the day has passed and I realize that in one week It will be over, I am starting to get a little more emotional.  I want this to be over already but I am just going to have to wait a little longer.  This surgery is something that I need very badly in order to fully be myself and it will hopefully put me closer to feeling right inside.  So far, transition has brought me very close to that point of peace within myself and I really feel that GRS will put me even closer.  The longer I get to be me the better it gets, so please stay tuned to see how this next phase of my journey works out.....

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Truck

Today was the day I signed my tuck away.  Joan was finally able to get her own insurance policy (thanks to me) so I was finally able to turn the title of the 2005 Dodge Dakota pickup over to her.   It's been in her possession since she left home in December 2012.   When I started working in real estate and got a mini van, about 6 years ago, the tuck became hers to drive most of the time.  It was fairly new then, as we had bought it new in 2005, and today it has 99,000 miles on it.

I miss that truck, I've got to tell you.  This was the first truck I'd ever bought and I do believe I will never buy another one.  I only bought it to pull a heavy aluminum boat I had at the time and to take the trash to the dumpster when we lived in the country.  That boat was was the prime suspect in the demise of the transmission of my 1996 Jeep Cherokee.  Pulling it may have been too much for the 6 cylinder Jeep so I went and bought that truck, which has 8 cylinders even though it isn't a full size pickup.  I eventually sold the boat to pay for some of my electrolysis.

Do I miss that truck?  Sort of, but I miss the Jeep even more.  I was never much of a truck kind of person, but this is actually a nice vehicle with a comfortable ride.  It was nice having something with 4 wheel drive for that one occasion every 2 or 3 years when it would actually come in handy for me. 

Thinking about losing this truck today doesn't make me shed any tears, but it almost does.  I totally don't miss being the person I used to be.  I don't miss being uncomfortable with myself and uncomfortable in almost every situation, or being in pain inside but there are some aspects of my old life that I do miss. 

I miss living by the pond in the country.  I miss the single wide aluminum mansion surrounded by fields of tall, thick grass that would sway in the wind.  I miss the woods on the other side of the pond and the fields the farmers would harvest every autumn.  I miss seeing the dogs running free in the grass, or going for a swim in the pond on a blistering hot summer day.  I miss Joan coming to get me out of my room after dinner to go canoeing on the still waters of the quiet pond.  I miss seeing the night sky brilliantly lit up by a million stars, and hearing the deep silence broken by the songs of frogs and bugs.

I miss working on the fish farm.  I dream about it a lot.  The hum of pumps running in the back echoed throughout the gargantuan aluminum building.  I miss the explosion of each tank's 15,000 fish as they came up for their hourly feedings, breaking the humdrum monotony of the pumps' droning.  I miss the solitude of running that place and the occasional camaraderie with some good hearted people.  I even miss the smell of the fish themselves and their pungent feed.  I miss playing with the chemistry sets and watching things grow up from eggs to full size creatures, sold and swimming out the door.  I never named any of them.

Yes I miss certain things about that life, but mainly I miss that eight years living in the country. 
Joan really loved it too.  There was something about being a country person that appealed to me, although I am not actually country folk and never will be.  I can certainly see the appeal of it now, in a nostalgic sort of way. 

That truck was all about the country.  We bought it a couple of years before moving back to the city, but it was never happy once it left the peaceful countryside.  It was lost here in the city, even though a lot of people in these small, southern cities drive pickup trucks. 

Seeing little, 100 pound Joan driving this big truck is sort of ironic.  It really doesn't fit her, and she may sell it eventually and buy a smaller car, but it is at least safe.  The fact that she had a wreck in it recently and both her and the truck were unscathed is a testament to why it may be a good idea, and fateful, that this is her vehicle.

I guess it's normal to be nostalgic about certain aspects of the past.  Spending time with Joan today brought back, yet again, some regrets about uprooting her life and destroying the painful pseudo marriage that we enjoyed together.  You know, if we had 15 good minutes each day, along with another crappy 45 minutes, and 23 hours spent separately dreaming of another life, it was all worth it wasn't it?  You bet it wasn't. 

I enjoy missing certain aspects of my old life, much more than I enjoyed living them.  I have to admit that I'm not completely over my marriage breaking up although it is a dream come true.  Today's truck transaction was just one more nail in the coffin of a cadaver who's been dead so long it's rotten smell will make you gag.  That's where the tears come from.  Yeah, that's the ticket.  Goodbye truck!!!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

GRS: Two Weeks Away

It's Wednesday and in exactly two weeks I will have GRS (Gender Reassignment Surgery) in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.  Drs. Brassard and Belanger work together and typically perform 2 or 3 GRS procedures a day, three days a week.  Mine will be on a Wednesday so I could very well be their last surgery of the week.  For us patients it's a one shot deal so I am hoping to catch them on a good day.

Everyone is asking how I feel as the surgery day grows closer and closer.  Am I excited?  Am I nervous?  I guess I am both of those of things but to be honest I'm feeling a little underwhelmed right now.  I am going to take it as a positive that I'm not feeling any real anxiety.  I do feel a little excitement building as the time draws nearer, and I am happy, but I think my main feeling is wanting to get it over with.  The recovery period, especially at first, is something I'm really not looking forward to.

This surgery is something I've wanted since I first heard of it but I really only started to believe it might be possible for me within the last decade.  Still, I couldn't see it happening within a reasonable amount of time until 2012 when I came out to my parents.  Finally my time is coming up.  I think I am to the point where I am already looking past it, trying to envision that day (not too far away) when I've recovered and can resume a normal, female life.

I'm a little disappointed with myself that I haven't gotten into the excellent shape I wanted to be in for this surgery, but then I have to remind myself that I am not running a marathon here.  I will be lying still while I have surgery but being in good condition really helps recovery.  My weight didn't quite get down where I wanted it but I can ride a bike or walk practically all day so I have to believe that I'm physically ready for this process.  It is really more of a process (surgery, healing, then recovery) than an event.  

The days pass quickly now.  I've got plans for each day until we leave and am riding the bike and walking more.  So I am in sort of a training mode, plus I started a 10 day vegetable juice binge today.  Healthy, healthy, that's how I am going to be, especially when I get back.  All those good vitamins and enzymes should aid the healing process.

God, I do not want to be in pain!  Let that part pass quickly, please.  That's enough said or thought about that!  Also, I've just completely stopped taking hormones after reducing my doses over the last 10 days.  I don't look forward to what that is going to feel like either, for the next few weeks.

I've got to be positive about this thing and I really can't wait.  Mentally, I do not think I could be more ready.  One week from today I will be packing and I wonder how I will feel then?  This is just installment one in my GRS series, so stay tuned.....


We are flying out of Raleigh, NC on Friday September 19th, stopping for a layover in New York, then arriving in Montreal that evening.  Mitchell and I have a room reserved at a bed and breakfast and my mom will have her own room.  The clinic is paying for my room for one night, as I am due to check in there on the 22nd and then go to the hospital on the evening of the 23rd.  Getting there early will leave me three days to tour the city and relax before the big day.  I check out of the recovery center and we fly home on October 2nd.

I plan to blog from Montreal, daily if possible, and let you all know what is going on.  My friend Melissa, who had her surgery with Brassard earlier this year, has challenged me to be completely honest and open when writing about my experience.  She thinks too many people sugar coat it when writing or talking about their GRS and it's aftermath.  Everyone I know, including Melissa, speaks highly of their experience at Brassard's clinic, but recovery is a difficult, painful process.  Being open and honest is something I do here anyway and that is what you will get from me.  I just hope I have more good things to write than bad.


For the curious, Dr. Brassard's office sent me this reminder today:

A reminder about your surgery on September 24th  2014.

-       Have your hormones stopped 3 weeks before your surgery.
-       Having stopped vitamins, minerals and natural products 3 weeks before your surgery, they can interfere with blood clotting.
-       Having stopped smoking 2 weeks before your surgery, this can interfere with wound healing.
-       1 week before your surgery, do not take alcohol.
-       2 weeks before your surgery, do not take aspirin or Advil.
-       For the hospital, bring dressing gown, pajamas, slippers and personal effects.
-       If you must take certain medications, bring them with the dosage on the bottle.
-       Do not bring your hormones, you will take them back at home.
-       No jewelry or piercing and no nail polish.
-       Bring soap Dove or Ivory unscented and a portable mirror with a foot.
-       Have shaved from the navel to mid-thigh all the way around including the testicular and perianal area before arriving in Montreal.
-       Avoid having too heavy luggage (maximum 40 pounds) for our staff.


1.    One vaginal douche keep this vaginal douche container for future refills solution of saline water.
2.    Antibacterial dishwashing soap for your dilators with.
3.    Ten tubes of lubricating gel (140g)— K-Y® or another brand consisting of a water based solution.
4.    Four packs of unscented sanitary napkins (light absorption).
5.    One box of disposable blue pads to protect your bed linens (use during dilations).
6.    Two packs of disposable non-perfumed baby wipes.

Note that only one visitor at a time is allowed per patient at the recovery center and the hospital between 1:00 and 8:00 pm.


As a bonus I am throwing in something I've never posted, a totally before picture of me. 

This photo is a comparison of 2008 to 2014.  2008 was significant as it was the first year I made it out of the house presenting as myself.  This was also the year that I fully accepted myself, knew I had to transition and began trying to come out to my spouse then get into therapy.  I'd spent a few years working on a look that would allow me to feel comfortable going out, and allow me to really "see" myself in the mirror.  2010 was my real break out year, when I came out to my spouse and went to a mall for the first time, but I first made it out the door in 2008.   After I came out to Joan things moved fairly quickly and by mid 2011 I was living as myself half the time.

In 2008 I'd lost quite a bit of weight from the year before but I still had more to lose before I started my transition.  I've gained some of the weight back since starting hormones in May 2012 and my weight is close to the same in these two pictures.  The new picture is not my best shot (but you see plenty of my photos here) and I chose this one because it sort of replicated the pose in the older photo. 

I was fairly unhappy almost all the time when the older picture was taken but I was beginning to see a hint of light at the end of the tunnel.  I kept some kind of buzz most of the time, when I wasn't working, and this looks to me like a little buzzed grin in that picture.  I probably need to do another one of these comparing 2011 and 2014 because I really didn't start making any lasting changes until the beginning of 2012.  This photo just shows where I was when the active part of my journey began and where I am now.

I've never had any surgery or "work done" but I feel like hormones have changed me a lot, especially on the inside.  Like I've said before, the feeling I have inside is by far the greatest effect of HRT and well worth the price of admission.  This GRS will not produce any change the outside world will be able to see but I feel it will bring me a sense of peace and completion that will be like icing on the cake of what has so far been an fabulous transition.  Where will my transition and life go from here?  You will have to stay tuned to find out, but one thing is for sure.  I won't be going back!

Life's Transformation:  2008-2014

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The Lonely Road

Taking the road less traveled can often be a lonely journey.  When you feel the need to venture off the expected course, following your own path, you cannot expect others to follow.  You may find that those you love will leave you behind, or you leave them behind.  Lonely is the world when we veer off the beaten path to travel a new road of our own making....

The stared at phone that never rings. 
 The empty closet.
The single toothbrush by the sink.
The cold space in the bedroom, that used to be warm.   
The silence.  
The table set for one.  
The endless darkness of the nights, when the light seems as if it will never come. 
The echoes in the vacant room.  

All are signs from the Lonely Road.  Forging ahead, you have to build new bridges as you map a new course.  In darkness you travel forward, but there is light.  Can't you see it, there on the horizon?

...standing on the road
in the darkness
all you see are taillights fading in the distance...

Monday, September 8, 2014

Anniversary of what?

August 25th.  I have never been able to remember that date, but apparently that was (is) my wedding anniversary.  Each year Joan reminds me of the date and we do something, usually go out to dinner, to celebrate.  Chalk this up as one of the many ways I wasn't the perfect spouse, but not remembering the date of your anniversary can be a little awkward when you are married.  It's still awkward but in different ways.

By contrast, my anniversary with Mitchell is something I can't forget.  It's etched into my brain in a way that my wedding anniversary never was.  We had our first date on September 10th and decided to date each other exclusively only one month later, on October 10th.  With Joan I just have amnesia, always have.  I even had to look up the date to see how long we've been married, and our recent anniversary marked 15 years.  In a couple of days it will have been three years since Mitchell and I first went out.

This year on August 25th I had an appointment with my therapist and had also planned an outing afterwards with Joan, as that appointment would put me in her neck of the woods.  It was strictly coincidence on my end, but here we had made plans to see each other on our anniversary.  A few days before the 25th she reminded me of the significance of the date and a little light bulb went off in my head.

Last year Joan and I went out to dinner on this most important, historical, insignificant and forgetful day.  One part of last year's anniversary that I cannot forget is the tears that welled up in my eyes when dinner was over and it was time to take her home.  I had even cried on the way to dinner and had worried about messing up my eyeliner but when I dropped her off after dinner I was filled with the feeling that I'd let her down, destroyed her life and that I shouldn't be putting her out at her sister's house where she lives in a garage apartment.  With me she had the American Dream and we lived together, in our separate rooms, in the big house.  The dream, it turned out, was an illusion but fortunately we woke up before it became a nightmare.

This year I am dealing with the separation (almost divorce) much better and I believe that Joan is too.  We've gotten over most of the awkward stage of becoming (officially) friends and there usually isn't any tension when we are together.  I have come to realize that after about 2, maybe 3 hours together we seem to get on each others nerves and it's time to go.  Actually, that same phenomenon was true during most of marriage, which is really the sad part. 

So I was actually looking forward to our anniversary this year.  We had planned a seafood dinner, a real favorite for us both.  Then something happened.  Mitchell had stayed here that weekend and was due to leave Monday morning to go back out of town for work, but he decided to stay on into Monday to look at some cars in a nearby city and invited me to go along.  Of course I couldn't say no and was really happy to have a little more time with him that week.  But this would mean canceling the dinner with Joan and rescheduling it on another day.

Mitchell and I had a good day that Monday and even took my mom along with us, enjoying some car shopping and lunch in Wilson, NC.  Actually I think it was fitting that I spent my wedding anniversary with the person I really love, and with whom have a future planned.  The surprising part to me, yet again, was that initially I felt sad and hurt because Joan and I missed our anniversary dinner.  That old monster, guilt, crept back for a quick bite but I quickly kicked it away.  This isn't easy, but I am getting better.

In my most recent therapy appointment we discussed the long, often difficult process for me of letting go of my feelings of responsibility for taking care of Joan.  I know that she is an adult but, as I have probably mentioned here before, she has never lived on her own or had to care for herself.  She didn't sign up for this when we got married and I am sure she fully expected to be taken care of for the rest of her life.  I don't just mean financially, she doesn't like to have to live alone.  I left her alone, even though technically she left me.

Anyway, progress was made this year in that I put my priorities first, spent August 25th with my man and had the dinner with Joan a couple days later.  I didn't shed any tears on my actual anniversary, although there was a close call, and that Thursday when Joan and I got together we were both dry eyed and bushy tailed.  We had a pretty good time.

I picked Joan up that afternoon and we went shopping at a few stores in Cary, NC at Crossroads Plaza.  We both tried on NFL shirts at Old Navy and I found one for my favorite team that I bought, for less than $20.  I bought her a shirt there and some art supplies from Micheal's.  Overall it was a short, sweet shopping jaunt, just a couple of hours.  Perfect for us.

We weren't quite tired of each other yet and a change of scenery always helps, so we drove over to Tony's Oyster Bar for an early dinner.  We split some oysters, shrimp and veggies.  The food was ok but I've had better so we decided to go somewhere else next time.  The key was that we enjoyed dinner that evening and then quietly went our separate ways.  It feels good to be out with her doing some of the few things we enjoy together, like shopping and dining out.  She would never go out with me as myself when we lived together, so I much prefer this new phase of our relationship, the lasting friendship.  Have I told you our marriage sucked when we lived together?

little ol' me, at Tony's
Steamed oysters and steamed shrimp....

Today, two weeks after our 15th anniversary, I mailed the divorce papers to my lawyer.  I went to the bank this morning and put my notarized signature on the white piece of paper with the words Complaint For Absolute Divorce at the top.  Absolute divorce, absolutely.  You can't sugar coat it and you can't beat it with a stick.  The words that have brought (an unexpected) pain and tears over the last year and a half plus, now ring sort of hollow.  They have a good sound to them though.  We've drug it out, but it is time to finish this thing.

Maybe our divorce will create a new anniversary for Joan and I to celebrate every year with a dinner.  Maybe I won't have any trouble remembering this one and something tells me that will be the case.  In fact, somehow I think I am going to be able to remember our wedding anniversary from now on.  It's like, this year when she told it to me it clicked.  Somehow before it never did.  I feel like that is because I never really wanted to get married.  Having realized that I think I have to say that until recently I never really wanted to finalize the divorce.  As strange as this may seem, everything does work out in my life at exactly the right time. 

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

A Little Place Called Home

In the months before my father passed away I would sometimes go to a department store and look for a dress to wear to his eventual funeral.  Often I would be with my ex, as I've had good luck picking out dresses with her, but we never found one that seemed to work.  Of course I wasn't that serious about searching for a funeral dress because I felt it would be a good while before he died, even though his health was poor and failing.  Another big factor was that I would lose weight, of course, before such a dress was needed.  Why buy a dress now when later on I would surely drop a dress size or two?  If I am anything I am optimistic.

For a long time, even when I was getting rid of my male clothes and starting to wear them less and less, I held on to a black suit to wear to my father's funeral.  This was to be saved in the event that they did not accept me as a woman.  Even if I'd had to move away to live my life as myself, I was prepared to come home and put on that suit for one day when the time came.  I thank goodness that I didn't have to do that.  It's no so much about having to go back to a male state for one day as it is the time I got to spend with Daddy, as his daughter after I came out to him.

That year and a half was really special.  I wouldn't trade if for all the money in the world.  The last really special day with him was Memorial Day, which I recounted in this blog post.  As we are now coming up on the Labor Day weekend, I am going take a look back at my father's funeral and the events that occurred during the week after his death.


I feel guilty admitting this, but one of the things that crossed my mind after Daddy passed away was wondering how the funeral was going to go.  Amongst the grief and wishing for more time with him, along with counting my blessings to have had so much time with him including that special year and a half, in the back of my mind I had a little worry over the coming funeral.  My dad had been an extremely prominent citizen in this little city, as you can see by reading his obituary within the blog post Memorial to Daddy.  The city has grown over the years and most of his friends have passed away, but I knew the funeral would still be a big deal.

One of life's bitter ironies is that right after a loved one passes away you have to sit down and plan an event that will be open to the public.  I'm a person who would rather bask in my pain in private, or with a few close loved ones, but the funerals are more of a chance for others outside the inner circle to come show their respect.  Then there is the business side of the event, with the funeral home contracts etc.

At least my dad already had a plot of land, had purchased good life insurance and had spoken with us about what type of service he wanted.  During the planning stage that began the very day he passed away, we decided to have visitors at my mom's house for a few days prior to the funeral instead of setting aside a time for a wake at the funeral home.  I'm sort of glad we did it this way because it would have been terribly overwhelming to meet with all those people for two solid hours in a room with Daddy's casket in it. 

My dad died on a Tuesday and the funeral was Saturday afternoon.  That left three solid days of visitation at my mother's house.  Mitchell was with me that day he passed and he stayed out of work the rest of the week to support my mother and I.  I don't know how I could have gotten through it without him but having him there posed a potentially higher level of awkwardness when meeting my father's friends and relatives.  Worried as I was over how some of them would react to the fact that I had transitioned, I was also afraid having "the boyfriend" there could have made it worse.

Mama never worried about anything like this.  She almost seems proud of the fact that I am trans.  She definitely felt that way when I first came out to her.  She describes her feeling as one of wanting to get on a rooftop and tell the world about me.  She was just happy to finally see me happy and finally know what the deal was with me.  We had to have many "talks" before she pretty much realized that unless someone already knew, or had to know, we didn't need to tell them my life story.  Now things are more normalized and she is happy to simply tell people I am her daughter.


It was Wednesday, the day after Daddy passed away, and they started coming.  The doorbell would ring and there would be somebody with cookies, fried chicken or just a hug and an "I'm sorry."  Part of my duties for the week were keeping up with all the people that brought food or sent flowers by writing them down in a little book.  Later I would send them all thank you notes, and I wrote a lot of thank you notes.

Because there were no set times for people to show up, the doorbell might ring at any time from morning through early evening.  Already in a state of grief and going through daily life at mom's house for the week with my dogs and Mitchell, I wasn't always at my best when people would show up.  I might be having breakfast after having just gotten out of bed, just back from a walk with the dogs or in the middle of a good cry.  It didn't matter, the bell kept ringing.  Half the time I didn't have on makeup, my hair was a mess and had on shorts and tennis shoes from walking. 

Sometimes I was in the shower and missed certain visitors.  Mama was vigalant  and even though these were probably the hardest few days of her life, she pulled her strength from deep within and played the part of the perfect hostess all day.  I don't think she missed a single person that came by the house. 
A few times Mitchell and I walked down the stairs and there would be a room full of people.  I felt sort of awkward sometimes because I thought that at least some of these people either did not understand me or did not approve of me.  What I have to tell you is that, with only 2 exceptions, I was treated nicely by everyone on our visitation list. 

Maybe they felt sympathy or were just being kind.  Maybe it was out of respect for my father and/or mother.  Maybe, like I have come to accept and believe, people in this town generally and genuinely accept me now for who I am. They seemed to accept my relationship to Mitchell as well.  He is quite the talker and a very personable man.  That's part of why Daddy liked him so much but I really believe he impressed a lot of people that week.

I was meeting a few of these people for the first time but I'd met the majority of them at some point in my life.  It was funny, but some folks I hadn't seen in many years and knew distinctly came up to me and introduced themselves as if this was the first time we'd met.  Perhaps this was their way of dealing with my new identity and I respect that.  Others treated me like they'd known me as Tammy all along and a few others had to get an explanation from Mama as to what was going on.  Most just took me at face value and were kind with their words.

There was one elderly couple that I hadn't seen in many years.  The wife talked to me extensively but her husband seemed to be having trouble understanding who I was and who I used to be.  He was also hard of hearing so that made Mama's attempts to explain me to him quite interesting.  I think eventually she gave up. 

The women were definitely much more talkative and sympathetic to me than the men.  Many of the husbands would speak to me briefly but their wives would talk my ear off.  The crowd was generally older or elderly and included many of the genteel society class of the town.  The only 2 people who gave off bad vibes and barely acknowledged me were two of my male cousins.  These were people who I knew would never make an attempt to understand me much less accept me.  They are from my mom's side of the family and we were never close to that side because of an old family dispute over an inheritance.  It's just as well because I consider much of that family, especially those two, the redneck side.

Overall the days passed quickly.  I actually think having to relate to so many people almost constantly sort of quelled the actual grief.  This was probably more true of my mother than anyone else.  She is always the quintessential southern hostess and has on more than one occasion put on the happy, social face when times are difficult. 


One evening after everyone had left, Mitchell and I went to the mall to try to find me a dress for the funeral.  I hadn't been able to find the right dress in my previous half-hearted searches, but this was crunch time and we had to find something.  I had a couple of black dresses that might have worked but I felt like they weren't quite appropriate.  With Mitchell's help we found the right dress in fairly short order and then went to another store to buy a pair of shoes to go with them.  For someone who loves to shop, I really hated having to buy those things.

Saturday came and it was time for the funeral.  My friend Vicki from Atlanta, one of the administrators in my TBN groups, made the drive up and brought her spouse with her.  I really wasn't expecting any of my friends to show up but here Vicki drives all that way, stayed at a hotel overnight, and attended the funeral.  I'd never met her in person but she and her spouse Rhonda not only hit it off with Mitchell and I, but made instant friends with my mom. 

Mama is such a warm, open and sharing person that everyone who meets her loves her.  She'd only met a couple of my trans friends before but she seemed eager to meet more and hear their stories.  I also was surprised at the funeral when 3 more of my friends showed up.  They got to meet Mama too, after the funeral, and we had our own little get together when the rest of the crowd left that night.  I really think having my friends there made Mama's day and helped take the edge off a very painful event.  Even though it was a difficult period, we had a good time.
My friends Donna, Sabrina, Rhonda and Vicki, along with my mother and I, at Mama and Daddy's house after the funeral.
The funeral itself had been hard.  I cried almost the entire time.  The pastor that delivered the sermon read extensively from my father's obituary that I'd written and took up half a page in the newspapers.  There were a couple of references to how much he loved his daughter and no references to his ever having had a son.  The service seemed to drag on forever but was over much too quickly.  When it ended we had to file out from the first row and walk to the back of the chapel while everyone stood up, watching.  We had been kept in a back room with the close friends and family before the service  and now we walked straight to the limo outside, so we really didn't get to interact with anyone at the funeral.

I was in a daze when we walked down the aisle to the car.  I was aware that everyone was looking at us but my tear stained eyes focused on the door.  I did catch a glimpse of maybe 2 people I recognized but I didn't attempt eye contact.  It was like a surreal bad dream and I've had similar feelings in nightmares.  Having Mitchell there to hold my hand made all the difference and allowed me to successfully navigate those painful steps.

The next stop was the cemetery where a smaller group of people showed up for a fairly brief graveside service.  It was a hot, bight sunny day and Mama and I wore sunglasses.  Daddy had a military funeral and before that day I didn't know exactly what that meant. 

There were a couple of men there from the VA and at the end of the service they played taps and took the flag off the closed coffin.  Ceremoniously, they folded the flag in the silence after taps was over.  They were very meticulous and when they'd folded the flag into a tight triangle one of them men walked over to me, leaned down and said Tammy this is for you.  Then the preacher said the service was over and family would be available to greet the funeral goers.  Getting that flag was an unexpected joy, but at that moment it brought a flood of tears.

The flag from Daddy's funeral, on display at my home.
We stuck around a little while.  I spoke to several people, some distant family, who had not come by the house.  My friends were there in a little group and I talked to them briefly and they got to meet a few of the others as well.  I wondered if anyone noticed or thought anything about the little transgender group, as I am pretty much out around this town anyway, especially after this event.  I'd gotten to a point where I really didn't care what others think and I was just glad to have friends that actually cared enough to show up.  None of my friends from my old life showed up or even called during this time period.  The one friend I still have here from those old days said his wife wouldn't let him attend. 


So here I am, living my life in my little city.  I never thought I could be happy here and never dreamed I could transition here.  One of the main reasons for that was that my father was too well known and I felt like the conservative, southern society people would never accept me.  I think part of dad's legacy is leaving me a place here where I can fit in.  People had enough respect for my father The Judge that they are willing to give me a fair shake.  Either that or I am making it on my own, or both.

My lifestyle now is just presenting as any other woman.  I am not in your face about being different and I blend in (for lack of a better word) pretty well.  The people here are more accepting than I thought they would be, as I found out during the time of Daddy's funeral.  Truthfully though, in a city of almost 60,000 people there are not that many that know me or know who I am.  Most of my daily life I fit in just like anyone else.  If people can tell I'm different they don't let on and I am treated normally.  It's almost boring, lol.

I am coming to the realization that Rocky Mount isn't such a bad place to live.  It's not a good place to find a good job because most of the industry is gone, but the cost of living is low and the quality of life is pretty high.  We are even getting a little culture coming in with some museums, a new beer brewery and some nice new restaurants that aren't chain franchises.

There are some things that bother me about this town.  The Southern Baptists are highly ingrained here.  They are not the most accepting lot and their leadership even issued a statement this year opposing transgender people.  I will say that I socialized with Southern Baptists over the course of our visitation week and everyone was nice to me.  I do realize that some of it is southern "bless her heart" hospitality and some was based on the occasion and respect for my parents.  Some people talk disparagingly behind my back, I realize that.  They are not the people that I associate with or want to associate with so I'm not going to let that worry me.

Being in the south, and not the most cosmopolitan city, there is still an air of underlying bigotry here that bothers me.  It really doesn't affect me directly but I am beginning to speak out against it and not sit silently as I have all my life.  Being Me is bringing an empowerment I'd never known before.  I don't feel like I have to sit idly by when disparaging remarks are made about gays, minorities or even trans people.  This town will eventually make it into the 21st century and I hope to live to see it happen.  On a positive note, I will say that this ingrained racism seems more subtle now and not as prevalent as it was 20 years ago when it wasn't uncommon to hear the N word used by white society.  We have a ways to go but progress has been made.  I am proud to say that I never heard that language in my home when I was growing up.

Before transition I called the area east of Raleigh "The Forbidden Zone," but now I feel I can make it here.  I can fit in with the people and finally feel comfortable enough within myself to freely interact with others.  Maybe I can even change some hearts and minds and bring a little bit of often needed enlightenment.  When people get to know someone like me maybe they will be more accepting of others who are different. 

My town isn't perfect but it is my town.  My mother is here and I need to stay here.  Life's not bad and I am enjoying it now.  Since I have roots here, and a home, I am going to find a way to make this place work for my life.  If I didn't realize it before, my dad's passing and all the people it brought me in contact with made me realize that I will be okay here.  Besides, Daddy is still with me here.  I now know that for sure and I will tell you about it later.  It's not much, but for us it is a little place called home.

I will leave you with a photo from the last time Mama, Daddy and I took pictures together.  Mitchell snapped this picture on Easter Monday, 2014.  This is how I want to think of my Daddy, laughing and having a good time with family.  He is with me now and tagging along on my journey, I know that to be true.  I hope he enjoys it as much as I do.....