Saturday, May 24, 2014

Philadelphia



This spring is sprouting some fascinating adventures in Tammy World, big and small.  Life continues to be amazing!  With the flowers of May in full bloom, my journey again took me north to the Keystone State.  This time I would make even more of a mini vacation out of it and see even more friends.  As icing on the cake (or perhaps cheese on the cheesesteak), on this trip I would get to visit Philadelphia.

The adventure got off to a rocky start, almost delaying my departure by a day.  Mitchell had arrived on Sunday night and was to leave for Virginia early Tuesday morning to go to work.  I would get up with him then leave for Pa. later that morning.  Those plans were foiled Monday when we both got oil changes for our cars and he decided to get another engine service that the shop was offering on special.  When we went back Monday afternoon to pick his car up several men were standing around his car.  The hood was up and they looked perplexed.  He knew right away the news was not going to be good.  Something happened to his engine during that procedure that essentially blew it up. :(

Tuesday morning was spent making phone calls and trying to figure out what the shop was going to do to repair his car.  It quickly became apparent that whatever they were going to do was going to take time and he would need to rent a car.  Deciding who was going to pay for the rental also took awhile.  Finally, Mitchell found out he would have to pay out of his own pocket for the rental but the shop's insurance company would compensate him later.  They really make your life miserable when they make a mistake and blow up your car.

Apparently cars are not as easy to rent in these smaller cities as they are at major airports.  We called and drove all over town looking for a decent car at a reasonable rate and finally he found a place that promised a suitable vehicle would be ready before 5 in the afternoon.  It was already pushing 3 o'clock so we decided I should leave and my mother would drive him to the rental agency.  I finally hit the highway for the long drive north but Mitchell's interesting, hair pulling day was not over yet.  They ended up having to drive to a nearby city to get the car and made it there just minutes before the business closed. 

I'd never left so late for such a long drive but I felt rested so I knew it would be okay.  When my baby is here I always get a good night's sleep.  I was hopeful that the late start would allow me to miss the rush hour traffic I usually hit around Washington DC or Baltimore, and luckily that was the case.  Except for a minor delay around Richmond at 5 PM, traffic wasn't a problem.  It was after 11 when I finally arrived at my hotel in King of Prussia, too late to see my friends Sophie Lynne and Linda Lewis.  When I found out that Rachael Kruse had been up to visit from Baltimore that night , I really hated having been so late.  At least I'd made it to my destination, against formidable odds, and there was always tomorrow.

King of Prussia, Pa. 
It turns out that my hotel was across the street from the largest mall in the country.  I never made it inside the mall on this trip, further proof that I am not a shopaholic.
Into the City

Wednesday was the day to spend with Sophie and Linda.  My electrolysis appointment was Friday but Sophie had to work the rest of the week and I needed to be home Saturday night so I wouldn't miss Mother's Day.  Of course that meant that Tuesday was my last day shaving that week, but that wouldn't slow me down on this trip.  My treatments so far have really helped so with a little makeup I was ready to go.


Considering that I was staying next to the huge King of Prussia Mall, Sophie asked me if I wanted to go into the city first or go to the mall.  This may surprise some of you but that was really a no brainer.  I've been wanting to go to Philadelphia for years, having only visited that city once as a child.  So off to the big city it was, just in time for lunch at one of Philly's most famous cheesesteak shops, Jim's Steaks.

We decided to use my car for the day's tour but I let Sophie drive because she knows the area like the back of her hand and I figured she would be the better city driver.  It would be enough of a handicap for her driving around Philly with North Carolina tags, but she's a savvy enough driver to pull it off.  Besides, traffic really wasn't too bad in the middle of the day. 

As I found out on my last trip to the Philadelphia area, Sophie is an excellent tour guide.  She pointed out all kinds of sights on the ride into the city.  That area is so rich with history and culture that we could spend a week touring and barely touch the highlights, but Sophie had a plan to show us a few very special places.  Linda had only been living there a few months, having moved down from Michigan, and with Pennsylvania just thawing out from a long, hard winter this would also be her first time getting a real taste of Philly.
 

Our first stop in Philly was at Jim's on South Street and nothing tastes more like Philly than an authentic cheesesteak.  We arrived around noon and luckily the line was not bad.  These places can get very crowded at lunchtime and according to Sophie you have to know how to order there, so we let her order for us.  I was kind of expecting a "Soup Nazi" environment but I found the people working at Jim's to be super friendly.  Maybe it was because they weren't too crowded or maybe they heard my southern accent and took pity on me, but one of the older guys making the sandwiches went out of his way to remind us we were at the best steak shop around and to tell us to come back.


Making the cheesesteaks and serving them up..
Jim's Steaks South Street
We all had our cheesesteaks provolone wit' (with provolone) instead of the classic Cheese Whiz I've always heard about.  One day I might try a sandwich with it but that processed Cheese Whiz is pretty nasty, as I recall from childhood, so I think we made the right choice.  We took our sandwiches up to the second floor to eat and got a window table with a view of South Street.  Sometime I need to go back to South Street at night.  There's block after block of really cool shops and bars, many with live music nightly.  Apparently there used to be a big Punk scene down there but it's still a rock and roll destination for sure. 
Happy to finally get a real Philly cheesesteak
Linda wit' her cheesesteak
Sophie displaying her cheesesteak.
The Star:  Provolone Wit' Cheesesteak from Jim's Steaks...
South Street, Philadelphia
After devouring the juicy, delicious cheesesteaks we walked down South Street for a few blocks then went inside a little corner bar.  Sophie had a couple of surprises for Linda and I before we left the city.  It turns out that this place, Jon's Bar and Grille, was once a home and is the birthplace of Larry Fine of Three Stooges fame.  So the three of us sat down at the bar and ordered a beer.  At this early hour, yes it was going to be that kind of day!
The Three Stooges?

"Weird" Larry Fine picture on the wall at Jon's Bar and Grille.
After having the one draft beer, the three of us left Larry's old home and headed up the street for another drink, I mean piece of history.  Our next stop used to be the Dickens Inn and was at one time owned by the great grandson of Charles Dickens.  Now Cavanough's Headhouse, the bar maintains the look and feel of an authentic British pub.  Here we had a locally brewed cider that really hit the spot.  I'm finding that my tastes are changing and I am enjoying more of a variety of food and drinks now, and am especially becoming fond of sweeter drinks. 
Linda, me and Sophie by the old Dickens Inn sign at Cavanaugh's.
Finishing our ciders, it was time to stroll back up South Street then leave Philly before the afternoon traffic got bad.  I took in the sights, sounds and smells of the city as we walked along the lively street.  There is so much to see and do in the big city and there is never a dull moment, but Sophie kept us moving like a good tour guide should.  This taste of Philadelphia was just what I needed but was also just enough to make me want to come back and spend some more time in this vibrant, historic city.
Philadelphia is shrouded in history.
Sophie and Linda on South Street, by Jim's Steaks.  On the street behind them is one of the amphibious "Ducks" (former military vehicles) that serve as tour buses.  We opted for a walking tour and Sophie showing us how to "Philadelphia drive" in my car...
 
In front of the Sexploratorium, one of the unique shops on South Street (no we did not go in).
Larry Fine playing the violin on the outside of Jon's Bar and Grille
The Comcast Center (the tallest building in Philadelphia at 57 stories)
Valley Forge

We rode around a little bit on our way out of Philadelphia, driving by several more landmarks including Independence Hall and the steps made famous in the Rocky movies.  With Sophie's (Philadelphia) driving, I missed my split second opportunity to snap a picture of the Rocky statue.  Oh well, it had been a fun venture into the city and with Mission Accomplished, we headed back for an afternoon in the more relaxed atmosphere of the suburbs.

After a brief stop at the home where Linda and Sophie are staying, we made our way over to Valley Forge.  Though I'd been to Philadelphia many years before, I believe this was my first time visiting this National Historical Park.  They live just a few miles away but had not been there since winter.  Again, Sophie was the perfect tour guide as we made the driving tour through the vast, mostly open spaces of the famous winter encampment of George Washington's Continental Army. 

The Grand Parade grounds at Valley Forge
I quickly found out that Sophie holds a deep, personal connection to Valley Forge Park.  She has spent a lot of time there over many years and she's also a walking textbook of the events that occurred on those hallowed grounds during the winter of 1777-78.  Linda and I took the crash course as we wound our way through the fields and forests that hold so much history.  Despite learning this in school many years ago I don't think I'd ever gleaned a full appreciation for the importance of this regrouping of our Revolutionary War Army. 
Inside one of the cabins at Valley Forge
We made a stop at the statue of Inspector General Baron von Steuben.  On this day I found out that this Prussian general had been enlisted by Congress to assist the Continental Army and General George Washington at Valley Forge.  Inspector General Baron von Steuben is credited with drilling the fledgling American army into a precision military unit.  It seems that precision marching was the key to victory during those times and Stueben provided the expertise to train our young country's forces to act as one on the battlefield, instead of an army made up of individual units displaying different styles. 

That training had paid off by May 1778 and from that point on the Continental Army was able to hold its own against the formidable British Army, eventually allowing us to win the war and gain our independence.  Such pieces of history lie at the very heart of why the Philadelphia area is so key to what we know as American freedom.  Besides, you cannot drive a half mile in those parts without coming across at least one place where George Washington slept.  Washington was a very accomplished general and later president, but he must have really slept a lot.      

The Three of us with Inspector General Baron von Steuben
Sophie poses with the General.
Linda and I looking casual, not exactly in precision drilling formation.
King of Prussia

I also learned that the connection between the Prussian Inspector General Baron von Steuben and Valley Forge is where the neighboring city of King of Prussia got its name.  Speaking of King of Prussia, our next stop was for refreshments at Rock Bottom brewery in the huge mall there.  This was my second visit to Rock Bottom and going back makes me wish I'd signed up for their preferred customer card on my first visit.  In a way it was fateful that I didn't as that card became a card for Sophie, who has since gone full time, and as a regular there she really needs it.  I do get the feeling that I will be back though.  Next time I'm going to make sure to take time for the full tour of the vast King of Prussia Mall, although Not going into the mall on this trip is further prof that I am Not a shopaholic.  :)

Sophie and Linda at Rock Bottom

Early start at Rock Bottom....a large craft beer can be a formidable challenge.
Dinnertime was closing in so we decided to leave the mall vicinity and head to another local establishment I visited on my last trip, McKenzie's.  As fate would have it, this would be our last stop of the evening.  One the way to the restaurant we made a brief stop by the bookstore where Sophie works.  It was really cool to meet a few of her coworkers and I even bought a book about Valley Forge.  I didn't think of it at the time, but with Mother's Day approaching I ended up giving the book to Mom.  This means that we Both get to read it and she will eventually give it back to me anyway. 

McKenzie's is known for great drinks and great food and we arrived on a mission to partake of both delicacies.  Sophie had to work the next day and we'd already been out about 8 hours so I knew it wasn't going to be a long night.  So, when we sat down we went ahead and ordered dinner and I decided to switch from beers to my new favorite drink, Martinis.

The Three of us at McKenzie's

Ordering with my reading glasses, and the awesome Striped bass dinner ,with pink martini.
The dinner was really awesome and the company was even better.  I had a great time that day with these two ladies, who also happen to be Vanity Club sisters of mine.  We had some good conversation and quite a few drinks as darkness fell on the Philadelphia suburbs and the place began to get crowded.  I think we intended to leave a couple of times but decided to stay a little longer.  Eventually the dinner crowd thinned out and the night crowd arrived in time for music trivia.  At least it wasn't karaoke, although I've heard Sophie is quite well known for her karaoke skills.
Sophie posted before, during and after pictures of me on Facebook.  Ordering with my reading glasses was the before, this was the during, and since it's my blog I don't have to post the after, lol.   I Was wide awake when pictured here with our fab waitress...
We were definitely on our last drinks, having proclaimed that on the last round, or the one before.  Sophie was driving so she was keeping it cool and I do believe Linda was getting a little buzz, but me being the out of state visitor blinded by the big city lights, I wasn't leaving anything on the table.  As fate would have it, the three of us won the first round of music trivia as Team Vanity Club.  The prize was a jumbo pitcher of draft beer. Oh boy!    
The pitcher of beer got three boob approval.
Sophie photobomb with some empty glasses.
Sophie says No More!!!
As Sophie put it in her blog, they poured me back into my room a little after 11 pm and I was worn out so I washed up and went right to bed.  I woke up after about 4 hours and couldn't go back to sleep.  It must have been the alcohol or just decompression from a long, exciting day, but I did get some rest and later another hotel breakfast.  My plan for Thursday was to go by their house and get a makeup lesson from Linda, who is an accomplished makeup artist, while Sophie was at work. 

The house is being put on the market and there were some people there cleaning so I missed the opportunity for my makeup lesson with Linda.  Saturday, if there was time, I would go back over for my lesson on my way home to North Carolina but Thursday was going to be another big day followed by the all day fun of electrolysis on Friday. 

The first half of this May adventure in Pa. had been awesome and this blog entry has gotten so big that the rest of the trip will be continued in Part 2.  I want to thank Sophie for being such a great Philadelphia tour guide and thank her and Linda for an awesome day.  Both of them are super people and being able to spend time with good friends like this makes these road trips I've been fortunate to take lately really special.  I can't wait to go back to the Philly area later this year but you'll need to stay tuned for the rest of the story about this fabulous trip.


http://sophielynne1.blogspot.com/

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Wig Shop Window


Wig Shop Window

When I was but a young one
I used to ride my bike downtown
One store in particular
Always caught my eye

The shop with all the pretty wigs
Behind the glass they sat
On faceless heads looking back at me
Wishing I would take one home

My grandmother had such a pretty wig
Bought from the little shop
When I'd get a chance I'd put it on
And stand before her mirror

The head looking back at me now had a face
It felt so good to see myself
 I would ride back by the little shop
Wishing I could take one home




Tuesday, May 13, 2014

badminton

She wanted to play badminton.   We bought a yard games combo that included a badminton set and in the box it sat.  Often, at dinner, she would ask when were we going to play badminton in the back yard.  "Tomorrow," I would say.  "I will set it up tomorrow and we will play badminton in the back yard."

The badminton set was purchsed during a difficult time for us and an awkward time for me.  I was still getting high so that made it easier to put things off for another day.  Being a chronic procrastinator anyway did not help matters.  Also, I'd already come out to her and our married life was continuing along the edge of a straight razor.  She knew who I was but was trying to hang onto something.  I was lost in my fear, but yet there was a great hope on the horizon.


She was like a kid and the older she got the more mature she did not become.  We were alike in that regard, kindred spirits of eternal childhood.  I wanted to play badminton with her just as much as she wanted to play with me.  But I played it out in my mind while the net and rackets sat in the cardboard box.  Reality was a new thing for me but I wanted to experience it.  Really I did.

One day I cleaned all the dog poop out of the back yard, opened the box and set the badminton net up between two trees.  We played badminton.  After awhile she was bored and wanted to do something else.  "Me too", I said, and we retired to our different areas to go about living our separate lives together. 

We not only had separate rooms to go with our separate lives, we had separate houses.  Occasionally we would converge and do some activity together, maybe watch a television program.  But quickly that would become uncomfortable.  Or feel old.  We were tired.  We wanted to play together but we couldn't seem to stand it.  Not for long. 


Today, while cleaning one of the spare rooms, I came across the badminton set.  Barely used and with the net all tangled up in everything, it spoke to me.  "Hey, do you want to play badminton?" 

"Sure," I said.  "I'd love to.  I'm all better now and I'm ready to play.  It would be fun, wouldn't it?"  But I looked around and she wasn't there.  She is somewhere else.  All alone.  Living her life in a separate house, while I build my new life in mine.  It only hurts now when I am alone, when he is not here.  When he is here I am filled with joy and hope.  There is happiness today and hope for a future.  I never really had that before. 


Somewhere a child sits alone.  Longing for someone to play with, she laments being the only kid on the block.  She wishes her friend hadn't moved away.  They used to have such good times together.  Or they wanted to, anyway......

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Consultation and a Trip North

A lot of people have asked me why I chose Dr. Brassard as my GRS surgeon.  Some suggested  I spend a lot of time traveling the country, and possibly the world, interviewing surgeons to find the one I was most comfortable with.  Rather than interviewing the actual surgeons, I chose to spend my time and energy talking to their patients to get a more accurate representation of what to expect.  After all, if I decided on my surgeon based on personal interviews with them I would likely choose the doctor who gave the best presentation or made the best personal connection.

What I was looking for was someone who would do the best job for me in those few hours on the operating table and provide an excellent level of aftercare for the delicate recovery period. I was looking for the surgeon with the best track record. 

There were a few limitations to my considerations, one being I did not want to travel overseas.  There are a few great GRS surgeons in Thailand, a couple I was interested in, but the long travel and longer recovery time that those surgeons require took them out of consideration.  My family situation dictated that I stay closer to home and make the effort to be gone no more than  2 weeks.

So this limited my search to North America.  There are quite a few doctors in the United States who perform GRS and a few of them are gaining recognition as being top surgeons.  Then there is Dr. Brassard in Canada.  If proximity to home was to be a consideration, I needed to give a close look to the three doctors in the Philadelphia, Pa. area, as that is the closest location for any of the major surgeons and less than a day's drive north of Rocky Mount.

Ultimately I chose Dr. Brassard because he has an excellent reputation, is regarded as one of the very top GRS surgeons in the world and I know more people (both online and in person) who had GRS with him than all the other surgeons combined.  My therapist has sat in on one of his surgeries and gives him the highest recommendation.  Dr. Brassard has many years of experience and performs hundreds of these surgeries every year.  There is a fully staffed residence on the grounds of his hospital facility that provides the assisted recovery I feel I will need.  So many great recommendations came in for him that I had to put him on the top of my list, but my decision really came down to my intuition.  I just have a feeling that Dr Brassard is the right surgeon for me and I have learned to trust feelings and instincts.

I will say that there are a few really good surgeons in North America and any of them would have been a good choice.  Sometimes I tell people that the best surgeon in the one that gives you your surgery.  In most cases that is true, as most people I've talked to have been happy with their results. That is not universal though, as a few people I've talked to are not happy with their surgical outcome or wish they had chosen another surgeon.  I only know one trans woman who regrets having surgery at all, but she was just as unhappy before GRS as she is now.  It is no panacea.

There can be problems, sometimes big problems, with any major surgery and GRS is no exception.  In fact this is a very difficult, life changing surgery and anything can happen.  I only hope that I get through it with a minimum of complications and if complications do arise, that they can be dealt with by the medical professionals.  Hopefully I will be able to mentally deal with any complications but ultimately I am hoping for as few problems as possible.  We will just to have to wait and see.

A Trip North

I did interview one surgeon during my decision making process and have been saving my blog post about that consultation for this time.  Back in November I had been full time I had been full time for 11 months and knew that soon I would be completing the one year of Real Life Experience that is recommended by WPATH before receiving qualification letters for surgery.  My friend Facebook Rachael Kruse had been wanting me to come up to Baltimore for a visit.  She was one month post op and had a follow up appointment coming up with her GRS surgeon, Dr. Kathy Rumer, in the Philadelphia suburb of Ardmore.  So I offered to come up, visit her for a couple of days and take her to her doctor's appointment on November 8th.  Just like that I was off on another adventure, my last trip of 2013.

Once I knew the trip was on, I let Rachael know I would be able to give her a ride and also called Dr. Rumer's office to schedule a consultation for myself.  It turns out I had to fill out a lot of paperwork online, basically a complete medical history, in order to get a free consultation.  Dr. Rumer is a plastic surgeon who does the full range of transgender surgeries (FFS, BA,GRS etc.) and also does other cosmetic procedures for the general public.  I had pretty much decided on using Dr. Brassard, at least for GRS, but it does not hurt to learn all you can so I thought why not go for it.  It was free, after all, and I was already going to be right there in her office.

On November 7th I headed north on Interstate 95 and made it to Rachael's that evening.  Rachael has a big, two story house in one of the suburbs surrounding Baltimore and it was already dark when I got there.  She has a really cool, older house with a lot of bedrooms that she shares with two roommates, a married couple.  All the bedrooms except two are occupied with stuff, so I stayed on a couch in the living room during my stay.  There were Halloween decorations everywhere, which I thought were left over from Halloween but Rachael is a real Goth chick and loves that stuff, which also I thought it was really cool.

We hung out that night, talked and watched television.  Rachael loves to keep two or three chats going on on the computer or phone all the time, which in some ways reminds me of myself.  Later that night her roommates came in, said a couple of words then retired to their back room to watch their own television.  I couldn't help but fall in love with their dog, a big lovable Rottweiler named Annabelle.  All dogs seem to fall in love with me too, maybe because they can smell Buddy and Nightingale on my clothes.

The next morning we had to get up at the crack of dawn, so I set my alarm for 7:30 AM.  What we had here is 4 girls and one bathroom, with Rachael and I needing to get ready to go to Ardmore for a 10:30 am appointment and the other two needed to get ready for work.  I did have enough time to take a shower and throw on a little makeup but I didn't have time to dry or style my hair, so I threw on some clothes and rushed out the door.  The main thing was getting there on time and luckily we even made it a few minutes early.

Rachael went in the back for her appointment first as I sat in the waiting room alone.  Dr. Rumer's office is in a large, three story house in suburban Philadelphia.  The offices and examination rooms are on the first floor, the third floor has apartments where patients recover after their operations, and apparently she lives on the second floor.  What a neat building, but it did seem a little strange to have all of this in this big stone house with a tiny yard in an upscale residential neighborhood.

While reading material in the waiting room, I found out that Dr, Rumer was once an aerospace engineer who decided to go back to medical school and become a doctor.  I found the setting there to be quite impressive, if somewhat intimidating, and I was certainly impressed with her credentials.  When Rachael came out I went back and talked to the assistant a bit before Dr. Rumer came in.  I had considered getting consultations for FFS (Facial Feminization Surgery), BA (Breast Augmentation) and GRS, but I chickened out on asking her anything about facial surgery.   Her assistant asked me what I wanted to consult with the doctor about and she asked me how long I had been on hormones (at that time it was almost 18 months).

She said that hormones can really soften soften your features and that I looked great.  I was just afraid that if I asked the doctor a general question of "what would you do to feminize my face?" she would suggest things that I may not really need and that would get into my head later on.  Before I started transition there were a couple of facial procedure I wanted, and there are still a couple of things that I might want done at some point but they are not a priority right now.  I seem to be able to pass with no problems and have a man that thinks I am beautiful so I am pretty happy with things in that regard for now.  

Also, when thinking about any surgeries the only one that terrifies me is having someone cut on my face.  Maybe that comes from being awake when I had the skin cancer next to my eye cut off last year, or a fear of coming out looking worse than I did going in, I don't know.  Anyway, the only two things I consulted about were BA and GRS. 

The BA consultation involved looking at different sizes and material of breast implants, which were kept in a large box.  She explained how the silicone implants were considered safe now and there are made of something like a gummy bear material so that even if they break, they do not leak.  They certainly felt more realistic than the saline implants.  As far as sizes, she pretty much looked me over and asked what size I would want to be.  She didn't take any measurements, which I would have expected in a serious consultation.  She thought that a 500 cc implant would give me a solid D cup and I even put one into my bra to see how it felt.  To me it felt huge and felt bigger than the breast forms I used to wear, but I assume that when placed under the muscle and skin they are more proportionate.  I asked her to give me a quote on that surgery alone, one for GRS and also on the GRS combined with BA.

The GRS consultation consisted of Dr. Rumer showing me a power point presentation on her laptop computer.  She gave me an explanation of her techniques and I asked a few questions.  She asked me when I would meet WPATH qualifications for this surgery and I told her that I had been full time almost a year and that I had 2 therapists and a doctor that would write me letters whenever I needed them.  One thing that impressed me about her is that she says she will see patients for follow ups, and revisions if needed, at any time in her office.  Also everything post op would be free of charge unless you also had to go to the hospital. 

When I walked back into in the waiting room someone called my name and came over to introduce herself.  I recognized her from Facebook but could not think of her name right off hand.  Being in that strange doctor's office was still a little overwhelming but we went outside to chat for a bit and I remembered my friend.  Honestly, if Keri Abrams had not come over and introduced herself I would have thought that she was a genetic female coming to see the doctor, as this doctor sees all sorts of patients. 

It was a little crowded in the office so Keri and I went out on the porch and talked for a couple of minutes.  Rachael was in my van on the phone and it turns out that Keri's mother had made the trip and was in her car, waiting to come in and join her for her appointment.  I was thrilled to find that out and really happy to see someone else with such a supportive mother.  I think mine would go to Canada with me if she could and I believe Keri told me her mother had accompanied her to Chicago for some other surgeries she had there.  Today she came along to meet Dr. Rumer and make sure that she was going to take good care of her daughter.  That sounds like a typical Mom and a good one! 

The good news that has since followed is that Keri's Mom was impressed that day and she went up for her GRS and is now few months post op.  I saw her again recently at the beach while visiting Lisa Lesher and hope to see her again before too long, as she only lives a couple of hours north of me, in Richmond.


*******

The plan was for Rachel and I to go into the city of Philadelphia after leaving suburban Ardmore, have a cheese steak sandwich, do a little sightseeing then drive back to Baltimore.  One of the people she had been texting was Sophie Lynne, who lives very close to Dr. Rumer's office.  Sophie is another Facebook friend, Vanity Club sister and fellow Blogger.  I had been wanting to meet her for some time and it looked like this would be the opportunity.  This was a pleasant surprise so we decided to meet at noon at a nearby brew pub located within in the King of Prussia Mall.


Rachael and I at King of Prussia Mall
We had a nice lunch and a great chat while sampling some of the craft beers brewed right there at Rock Bottom.  Sophie told us that this mall has more stores than any other mall in the country, so after lunch I wanted to take a little walk around.  Actually we'd met Sophie's other side for lunch but she was going to go home and get changed to go out later that afternoon.  Rachael and I took a little stroll around part of expansive mall but she was very tired from being out so soon after surgery, so we cut the tour short and went over to Sophie's house.
 

There I got to meet the real Sophie and have another beer while Rachael rested up a bit.  Sophie has since gone full time but even though she had another name then (part of the time) I only saw her as her true self, even earlier at lunch.  Luckily, Rachael felt good enough to hang out a little longer so we were able to accompany Sophie to another local bar/restaurant to meet with Angela Gardner.  They were working on a project together for Angela's website, TG Forum, and needed to discuss a few things over, what else, more beers.  I could already see that we were never going to make it into the city for that cheesesteak and that being around these Pennsylvania people was a lot of fun.

The talk of cheese steaks led into a discussion between Sophie and Angela about who had the best of the signature Philly sandwiches.  It runs out that there was a place very close by that offered a classic Philly cheesesteak, so we decided to pick some up for dinner.  Sophie is a great tour guide and she had one more bar she wanted to show Rachael and I before dinner, so we tagged along to Mackenzie's.  This is another brew pub and of course we had a couple more of the local craft beers while checking out this great bar and restaurant.  They had good food there but not cheesesteaks, so after we left we picked a couple up from an inconspicuous little place in a strip mall and took them to Sophie's to eat. 

"Provolone wit"..authentic Philly cheesesteak from the suburbs...
Sophie was heading over to have dinner with her family so Rachael and I sat there and munched on the sandwiches.  It turns out that little restaurant had a world class cheesteak, just like Angela and Sophie had said, so I ended up eating the entire thing.  By then it was close to 9 pm and we had to drive back to Maryland, so we snapped a couple of pictures and hit the road.

It had been a great day and it was awesome to finally meet Sophie Lynne and also meet Angela Gardner.  Seeing the city of Philadelphia would have to wait until another day.  The beers of the afternoon had worn off but I got so sleepy on the 2 hour drive home, mostly from being stuffed from the cheesesteak, that Rachel had to drive the last 30 minutes or so.  She said I went to sleep in the passenger seat.

*******

The next day was Saturday and I really didn't feel like going home so I called Mama to make sure Daddy was doing alright, as we didn't have a sitter then and I hated to be away from home for so long.  She said everything was alright there I decided to stay another night and chill with Rachael in Baltimore. 

That afternoon we went over to the Maryland State Fairgrounds to the Irish Festival where I got to meet another friend I knew from Facebook, Faith Davis.  It was a pretty cool festival with music, food and a lot of interesting booths.  We had lunch there, walked around a lot and I bought a few unique gifts to kick off my Christmas shopping.  Later that afternoon we drove back to Rachael's and picked up some fresh, steamed Blue Crabs to tkae back to her house for dinner.  Steamed crabs are a real Maryland specialty but they require a lot of work to eat and are sort of messy.  Loving seafood the way I do and always jumping at the chance to sample local fare, I really enjoyed those crabs.

There was a support group meeting that night in Baltimore and we considered going but decided to relax for awhile and head into the city to meet the girl's from the group at a cool little jazz bar.  Faith Davis was there and I got to meet a few more people as well.  It was really cool being in the city at night and it's so alive on Saturday evenings.  After the group broke up we ended up briefly checking out a local club and having a night cap.  That place was packed, with everybody dancing, but we were both kind of tired from a busy couple of days so we decided to drive back and call it a night. 

Rachael had done a whole lot for someone still recovering from surgery so I have to give it to her for finding the energy to show me around while I was there.  I appreciated the experience of visiting the surgeon, and talking with Rachael about the whole GRS experience.  As usual, I managed to make a mini vacation out of it, meet some awesome people and have a great time.  Driving home on Sunday I even took the scenic route and drove by the US capital building. 

If consulting with every GRS surgeon could have turned into such a fun trip I probably would have met with them all.  In December I got my 2 of my 3 required letters clearing me for surgery then Daddy fell at Christmas.  That pretty much put any more traveling on hold for awhile, although I was able to slip away for a couple of days in January to Pennsylvania for electrolysis and had a little bit longer trip there in March. 

By that time I had already made my decision and scheduled my surgery with Dr. Brassard for June 16th.  I feel good about this decision, great even.  It won't be the end of my transition and in many ways it will be the beginning.  There will be more consultations with other doctors for other things later on, but right now I am focused on my big day coming up very soon.....










Saturday, May 3, 2014

Somewhere in Tammy World: An Update

Somewhere in Tammy World....
Six weeks from tomorrow I will be checking into the hospital.  No, not that hospital, the one in Montreal where Dr. Brassard performs surgery.  I'm not feeling particularly nervous or excited right now but maybe it just hasn't hit me yet.  I have been feeling very happy lately, more than usual and often ecstatic.  I'm going to attribute this surge of feelings to my anticipation of getting this part of transition over with and finally having a body to match my mind.  Looking a few months forward, I think it's going to be really great but I have to get past the pain.  That reality hasn't hit me yet and hopefully it won't until I'm in the recover room.  I'll let you all know exactly how it goes, the good, the bad and the ugly. Hopefully there will be a Lot more good than that other stuff....

This week I went to dinner with my friend Lisa Allyn, who had her GRS with Dr. Brassard in late 2012.  She has a very positive story but she is also very honest with me about all the little things I need to know about going up there.  I'm fortunate to know quite a few friends who have been through GRS, many of them with Dr. Brassard.  A few of them are personal friends so I think I've got a pretty good idea what to expect.  It's different for everybody and never having been in the hospital or having any surgery, I have to admit that even after learning a lot about the experience I have no idea what to expect as far as how I will feel.  It's supposed to be a very emotional time involving a lot of physical pain, but there is a gradual end to the difficult recovery an that's what I am looking forward to.

at dinner with Lisa Allyn....
A quick note about acronyms...

SRS is the older, traditional term for Sex Reassignment Surgery.  Then GRS came along as term denoting Gender Reassignment Surgery.  Now many prefer GCS for Gender Confirmation Surgery.  The evolution of acronyms is sort of like the word transgender replacing transsexual in many cases, as a way to try to remove the word sex from the equation and make it sound better, more politically correct.

In our community you see people use all of these terms plus a few more, sometimes interchangeably.  For me, from now on I am only going to use the acronym GRS because that is what the papers
that I received from Brassard's office state.  I am scheduled for GRS, so GRS it is although I think any of the acronyms are viable.  It must be confusing though, for people who know little or nothing about transition.


It Came!

I wouldn't be going anywhere outside the country if my passport did not arrive, and it finally came this week via special delivery.  Mitchell's passport got here a few weeks ago and all I received was a letter stating that my doctor's letter did not have one of the required pieces of information.  So I had to go back to my doctor and get him to write an all new letter.  At least I didn't have to make a special trip as I did it on the same day I went in for my pre op tests.  Speaking of those tests, it's been almost two weeks and I haven't heard back from the doctor's office about them so I have to assume they didn't find anything wrong with me.  I take that as a good sign anyway and have plans to call them the first of the week to see if they have been sent to Montreal yet. 

The final payment for GRS will be due May 16th, once month before surgery.  We are going to make reservations in the next few days, but the plan is for Mitchell and I to fly to Montreal from Raleigh on Thursday.  We will have Friday and Saturday to relax and sight see, then I check into the hospital Sunday night prior to my surgery Monday, June 16th.  Seeing that passport with my picture on it and F for the gender marker made me feel wonderful.  Hopefully I will a letter stating I've had GRS soon and with that I can also get my new birth certificate, which is the only place left that I am still listed as male. 



License to Practice

When I took the class to be a Real Estate Broker back in 2007 I was thinking, maybe this is something I could do as myself one day, although I was more interested in owning/managing rental properties than sales.  The next year, when the fish farm/hatchery I was managing closed down and an opportunity in Real Estate opened, up I went with it.  The first couple of years I made a little bit of money but the market was in a downward spiral.  It was also becoming very difficult to work as my old self.  It felt very fake.  Add that to the fact that I don't really have a "sales" mentality as I'm probably too honest and laid back. 

Doing that business as someone who was going through a crisis of dsyphoria became impossible, so I slowly dropped out but have kept my license active.  The market is very depressed where I live and I doubt I will get into selling real estate again, or make any money with it here in this town, but if I did I know I would do a lot better and be a LOT more comfortable in that field than I used to be. Changing this license is the last piece of the puzzle as far as changing my name and I had to do it before June so that I can take the 8 hours CE to keep my license active. So I am not active in real estate right now (but I can do referrals) and I'm actually very happy to get this in the mail yesterday and place it on my wall.




Pathways

This week this blog reached 150,000 hits and I want to thank everyone for their support and for tuning into Tammy World.  I outreach with a lot of people on the internet and in person and I hear from a lot of people that I inspire them.  I understand that but I don't see why any of them (You) cannot be inspiring as well.  Sometimes we take inspiration where we can get it and if we can see a pathway to get from where we are now to where we want to be it makes the journey much easier. 

If I could have seen a pathway I would have embarked on this journey much sooner than I did, but I am very thankful to be in the position I am now.  We can't look back and regret any mistakes or delays that we think would make things easier now, not matter the situation or context.  Just move forward at a pace you feel comfortable with but try not to suppress doing something you need to do.  That can lead to some potentially major problems.  Wherever you are in life or whatever you are doing, if you are content then be very happy that you are so blessed.  If you are not content then proceed to take the steps necessary to find contentment.

Someone told me when I posted the message below, that I have the ability to talk about transition like it's a regular event.  Well, to me it is a regular event.  To a lot of people it is a strange event they can't understand.  To many it is an event they want or need in their life but they can't see a way to make it happen.  Whatever it is in life that you need to do, just know that you have inside you what it takes to make it happen.  For too long I did not see any possible pathway for me to be myself, even when I got on the internet and saw others successfully making the journey.  I saw too many obstacles, or roadblocks as my friend Lisa Lesher says.  When I figured out that I could do it, things started to fall in place for me.  Believing is over half the battle....


 
It's nice to know that I inspire so many people just by being myself. I don't think I do anything that special really.  It's very easy, trust me.  So now you know that Just by being yourself you too can be an inspiration.  And in your own life it can make All the difference.





Thursday, May 1, 2014

The Talisman


For years I had looked towards 2012 as a time of great change.  Regardless of any forecasts of global change or even the end of the world, as some say the Mayan calendar predicted, I needed change in my life and was looking for any spark or motivation I could find to get up the courage to go through with it.  The mystery and power of 2012 was to provide the catalyst I needed.

After I came out to my spouse in October 2010 I really started looking forward to 2012 and making actual plans to bring about my change.  Within a week of coming out to her, I went to a mall as myself for the first time and when 2011 arrived I began to go everywhere.  Sometimes I had to push myself out the door and I remember a couple times sitting in my car being nervous to get out and face the people of the real world.  I usually went out alone as I was on a "mission from God."

2011 could not have gone better actually.  As the year progressed I began to get comfortable being out in almost any public situation.  At home, my spouse got comfortable enough with me to sit around the house with me fully dressed but she did not want to go out or be seen in public with me.  One thing she never liked was my wig and she encouraged me to grow my own hair and get my ears pierced.  She had become a unlikely supporter, of sorts.

I was still terrified of climbing Mount Everest (my analogy for coming out to my parents) so I didn't allow myself to do those things yet.  My spouse and I had a disagreement on therapists when I initially came out to her.  I wanted to see a gender therapist I had picked out and she wanted me to see a therapist who would "cure me".  I knew enough at that time to know that I could not be cured and that I couldn't go back to the repression of my past or my hiding of the previous few years. 

In the summer of 2011 we agreed that I would see whatever therapist I wanted and my spouse began to encourage me to come out to my parents, climb Mount Everest.  Once I asked her why she was so encouraging of this and she told me that they should know my true self.  She was right on the money.  She also made a prediction of her own.  My spouse encouraged me to go full time and she said when I did she would leave.  I think
once she finally got to know the real me she didn't understand why I continued the charade.  Still, calling that therapist was right at the top of my "Things that Terrify Me" list.


As the year progressed, one of the things I planned to do was go to the North Carolina State Fair as myself.  This would put me in a Very public situation in front of thousands of "regular" people.  Fate being with me during this time, I met and began to date a man who offered to take me to the Fair.  Now I not only had someone to go with me but someone to hold my hand, literally.  In fact, this man became a real guiding force in my life and someone who both encouraged me to get over my fears and helped me move forward.  I have to believe that he was sent from above and before long I fell in love.

Finally, in the last month of 2011, I called that gender therapist and also started facial hair removal.  Even though I was always one to do things in the 11th hour, at least I did set myself up to begin my transition in 2012.  Fate was on my side. 

New Year's Eve 2011 my boyfriend Mitchell (the man sent from above) and I met in Raleigh, got a hotel room and had a fabulous date.  We walked a few blocks to a crowded restaurant for dinner, and yes I walked the whole way in 5" heels (ouch).  The following was my Flickr and Facebook post prior to going out that evening....



Welcome 2012!!!

Hey ya'll, this is my outfit for ringing in the New Year tonight and I will celebrating with my love in Raleigh.

2011 has been quite a year for me. I have made a lot of progress and some big decisions, but at times it really feels like I am spinning my wheels and life is passing me by. My goal/resolution for 2012 is to go after my dreams and see where they take me. 2012 is supposed to be a year of great cosmic change but I do not think the world will end now. I think that my world is just beginning and I am finally going to grow up as a human being. I am finally going to be myself, no more compromises.

I wish everybody the best in celebrating the new year and especially hope that 2012 will bring positive change for you also, whatever that may be. Kisses!


 Something happened on the way back from that restaurant.  I looked down on the sidewalk and saw something strange but beautiful lying on the concrete, so I picked it up and put it in my purse.  I knew from the moment I held it in my hands that it had special meaning for me.  2012 was just a couple of hours away and I could feel the excitement within my soul.  It was not just a typical New year's Eve, not by any means.  The coming year was going to be very special and I knew it.  I could feel it in every cell in my body. 

What I found on the sidewalk was a single earring.  It was large and heavy.  It looked brilliant but was probably cheap and well used.  Without it's match what was it worth anyway?  The moment I picked up that earring and held it in my hand I proclaimed this was a good sign.  I had found a talisman, I believed, that would bring me good luck on my journey and in the coming year.  Mitchell dismissed that thought of course, as I am apt to my superstitious or grandiose claims, placing extraordinary significance on dates, items or events.  Whatever works for you, right?
 
The talisman must have brought me great luck because 2012 turned out just like I thought it would, better than expected.  Ultimately we create our own luck and I know that, but I have to give credit where credit is due.  Fate was on my side, someone up above was looking out for me, and at my side was the greatest man in the world.  Fortune had been shining on me for some time, after a long absence in my life, but it all came together in that special year of 2012.

As the year approached its end, I knew that in order for 2012 to hold its true meaning for me I Had to make that final climb up that misty mountain.  Everest loomed but in the weeks before my fateful climb I predicted success.  Sure enough I made it up that mountain and later on I wondered what all the fuss had been about.

A strange twist occurred at the end of 2012.  My plans of going full time on New Year's Eve, one year after finding that talisman, were foiled when I actually figured out 10 days before the end of the year, that I was already full time.  It just kind of happened organically and I went with it, just like I have gone with every feeling and intuition since beginning this journey.  The picture and caption below describe what happened when the world was supposed to end, and my new life began. 

Things have gone pretty well since then and that is an understatement.  My journey will reach a new level very soon and there will be yet another beginning.  That talisman still hangs from the rear view mirror of my car.....


12-20-2012...World Changes....My parents had just met the real me for the first time and as I sat at my house and thought about things, I decided that I did not Have to go back to pretending for anyone anymore. This is the very moment that I decided I was full time, that I was never going back again. If my smile seems sort of subdued it is because I was still reeling from my spouse leaving me just days before. Because I had not been myself All day I waited until the next day to call it my first day of being full time. That day was 12-21-2012, the Winter Solstice, last day of the Mayan Calender and the so called "end of the world"...For me it was a new beginning.