Thursday, April 30, 2015

The Pharmacy

I suppose that the pharmacy is one area I haven't handled my transition as well as I could have.  Or have I?  All I know is my interactions there, in a pursuit to acquire pharmaceutical hormones, have developed rather organically.

When I first got my prescriptions for hormones (on May 15, 2012) I decided to drop them off at the suburban Walmart pharmacy.  That was the first pharmacy I passed on the way into town from my doctor's office in the Raleigh area.  This is the newer, cleaner, less crowded Walmart and I enjoy shopping there more than the one in the city of Rocky Mount.  I admit that part of the reason I went there was I felt there would be less chance of running into someone I knew.

The best way I can describe myself that day, going to the doctor's office and dropping off my prescriptions, was androgynous.  I didn't think I was ready for prime time yet without the aid of a wig and makeup but I wanted to be real at my new doctor's office.  I did wear casual female clothes, jeans and t shirt, and maybe a little lip gloss and brow liner.  I'd been growing my hair almost 6 months and had my ears pierced already, so this was a look that might make some wonder....

Yes, I was on a high when I got home that evening around dinner time.  I asked my spouse Joan if she wanted to go out to dinner with me at a little Mexican place we enjoyed frequenting in Nashville.  We weren't getting along well then but she said sure, so I thought I would try a little something different with my presentation.

I'd never been out with her presenting fully female (she had wanted no part of it) but that night I thought I'd push the envelope a bit.  I changed into a little nicer clothes, fluffed my hair up for as feminine look as possible, put on some bigger earrings, a bra, a little more makeup and off we went. 

She didn't balk at my look, which I viewed as progress of sorts.  I was nervous being out like that for a couple of reasons.  First, it wasn't my best look at that time by any means.  I could be more "passable" if I spent more time with makeup and wore a wig.  I could also be recognized more easily by people who could know me or my parents, and this is a look that people who didn't know I was transitioning just wouldn't understand.  Though I was 80% out of it by then, I was still an active local real estate agent at that time.

I wasn't transitioning to hide, not anymore, so off we went.  The suburban Nashville Walmart is where I had dropped off my prescriptions and the Mexican restaurant is maybe a mile away.  I stopped by the pharmacy to pick up my prescriptions before we went to dinner.  I don't recall Joan going in with me.

When we got to the restaurant I wondered if anyone who worked there would recognize me as we had been there a few times before.  On the way in a man held the door for both Joan and I.  She looked at me a little differently over that dinner, I guess for good reason, and I could feel our relationship slipping yet farther away from (quasi) marriage and more towards one of pure friendship. 

I enjoyed that dinner and remember it well.  We were both in good moods and we had good conversation.  I seem to remember going to the ladies room and thinking that was a bold but liberating move.

When we got home I took my first hormones and the medical stage of my transition was off and running.  Joan knew everything at that point but was nonchalant about the hormones.  I think she feared what they would do and knew they were just another nail in the coffin of our marriage, but she didn't pay much attention to it.  When I had very emotional bouts over the next few weeks she would sort of walk away from me, not offering comfort. 


The first prescriptions I got were in my original legal name.  I suppose this made it much easier at the pharmacy because this was what was on my driver's license and insurance card.  So I picked up estrogen and spironolcatone prescriptions under the name Thomas Matthews. 

The next time I saw my doctor and got refills he asked me what name to use.  I must have said Tammy because that's what was on the prescriptions.  I never really explained that to the pharmacist or the customer service reps.  I looked more like Tammy by then (without the help of wig and makeup), a couple months after picking up my initial prescriptions, and the refills started coming back with the name Tammy Thomas Matthews on them.  I would ask for prescriptions for Tammy Matthews and the clerks addressed me as Tammy.

Over the seven months between the time I began hormones and went full time I probably went to the pharmacy in various stages of presentation, but never in a fully "male mode."  I do remember a few times I was due for electrolysis and had to go in with a couple of days of hair growth, during the stage when that was a problem. 

So there were some pretty awkward moments at the pharmacy along the way.  Actually I never experienced awkwardness from anyone else, just in the way that I felt.  When I went full time and began to present fully as myself every minute of every day, life became much less awkward.

There is an in between stage during transition, if we don't mask it.  I guess I felt it first at the pharmacy first because of my name incongruity as well as the fact that I was listed as male and picking up female hormones.   When I got my name legally changed and insurance cards changed I felt more at ease at the pharmacy, but no one there ever treated me in a way to make me feel uneasy. 

What got me thinking about this was being at the pharmacy this week and seeing one of the same clerks I've dealt with since I started.  She's always extremely nice but I feel that she's privy to a little secret the people in line behind me do not know.  She gives me a little smile.  I guess it's our little secret.

In the first paragraph here I alluded to the fact that perhaps I haven't handled my transition at the pharmacy as well as I should have.  What I am thinking is that perhaps I should change to a new pharmacy where they don't know my history and sort of start over.  I'm considering that but I believe I have gotten medication from all the drug stores here in the area at one time or another.  Because my social security number hasn't changed I think that would cause me to have to a name change at those other pharmacies.  So we are back to square one.


We change a lot during transition.  We evolve in our presentation, name changes at some point, the medications cause noticeable changes.  Some have surgeries that cause an abrupt, sometimes dramatic change.  I have wondered if pharmacists look for any of that and put two and two together knowing the effects of the meds they fill and the situation that causes us to have the prescriptions.

I've heard some of my friends describe being asked by pharmacists why they are taking estrogen.  Some will go in presenting female one month and male the next month.  It can be an interesting dynamic.  I'd love for you to share your own experiences with going to the pharmacy during transition in the comments section below.  People starting out do benefit from hearing my experiences and your experiences.  Some of them can be a little disconcerting and some can be comical.

Once again, thanks for reading my blog and thanks for sharing.  Please don't forget to take your medications.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Being Bruce Isn't Easy

"Being Bruce isn't easy."

In Bruce Jenner's highly promoted interview with Dianne Sawyer, he revealed to the world what was hardly a secret anymore.  Amid the buzz of years of rumors reaching a crescendo with the recent 2 hour prime time special, Bruce has revealed the secret that has tormented him since childhood.  Indeed it has tormented her for so long, as Bruce revealed he is a woman.

Once known as "The World's Greatest Athlete" for his overpowering gold medal performance in the rigorous decathlon event of Montreal's 1976 Olympics, Bruce Jenner is in the spotlight once again and coming back with a message.  If the World's Greatest Athlete can be transgender, anyone can be transgender.  If Bruce Jenner can be the nation's hero in 1976, he can have the respect and acceptance of the world in 2015. 

"Being Bruce isn't easy,"  he says.  I can relate to those words all too well.  Bruce is saying it's been extremely difficult to be this person that he has had to be all these years.  Now he can't take it anymore and he has to be himself.  Bruce says that he has the soul of a woman.  That she is part of him and he just can't hold her back anymore.

I am one of the people that remembers Bruce in the Olympics, winning the nation's heart along with the gold.  But after that he became obscure to most of us until he reemerged in the reality television show "Keeping Up With the Kardashians," with his role as Kris Jenner's husband.  This is a role that I have observed him in over the last few years, as a fan of the show.

As Bruce revealed in the interview, he had the real story inside him all this time.  While the show launched the celebrity careers of Kim, her sisters and the rest of the Kardashians, Bruce slid into the mundane role of an everyday parent.  Driving the kids around, giving fatherly advice and often being made to look a little foolish or taken for granted, Bruce usually comes across as the straight guy in a show that mixes "real life" comedy and drama.

Indeed, Bruce has been playing a role all of his life.  "Being Bruce isn't easy."  Now that he has come out as transgender woman, at age 65, Bruce will finally get to be himself.  Yes, herself is the correct terminology, but in this interview Bruce preferred to use the name he was born with and the male pronouns that go with it.  Soon, she will reemerge for all the world to see.

This was Bruce's last hoorah, his big goodbye.  The first episode of this year's "Keeping Up With the Kardashians" also came across across as a goodbye to viewers.  That episode featured Bruce leaving the family home in Old Town Calabasas (west of Bevelry Hills), moving to an oceanfront cottage in Malibu and setting up life on his own.  Memories from 23 years with the Kardashians, scenes with the children (including his children from two previous marriages) and his evolving relationship with Kris were shown.  Bruce was moving on and tears were shed.

Now we are poised for a new reality show that will presumably deal with Bruce's transition from male to female.  He states that he doesn't feel he is trapped in a woman's body but does indeed have a woman's soul.  Trans people are not all the same but we do share the same core feelings and experiences, although we may express them differently in words or how we live our lives.  I believe all transgender people can relate to at least parts of his story.  Hopefully Jenner's celebrity status and new role in the spotlight will allow others to relate to it as well.

Many are criticizing Bruce for using his status to be so vocal about coming out.  He is privileged, he is wealthy and he is a celebrity so how can he possibly relate to the struggles so many trans people face?  He doesn't have to worry about finding a job, housing, the acceptance of his family or paying for a transition that can often be very expensive, they complain. 

Such is life.  Some people struggle with the basics while others do not.  Having the full acceptance of a large number of family members is unusual as well, both for transgender children and parents.  All of his 10 children accept his transition and embrace her, as Bruce describes "his female side."  His celebrity status will hopefully bring more awareness and acceptance to this often obscure and troubled community. 

This should bring more attention to all of our struggles as well.  For all the glory, fame and fortune that the world knows him for, it is certain that Bruce has led a life of inner pain.  I have to believe that by this major revelation, being able to live life as herself out in the open and this transition will allow Bruce to find happiness and peace. 

Indeed, one can see the peace now in Bruce's eyes.  Some of it I am sure is the hormones, as they bring a calm to the brain of a transgender person.  The interview highlighted the recently confirmed fact that gender is indeed located in the brain.  Having the wrong sex hormones coursing through the brain can cause conflict, confusion and utter torment.  Almost all of us have felt this pain and its obvious Bruce has as well.  "Being Bruce isn't easy."

During the Interview a child psychologist spoke to the fact that if treatment or intervention is not present in a trans person's life by the teen years to at latest the mid 20's there is usually a crisis developing that can become catastrophic.  Many will commit suicide, turn to drugs, heavy alcohol or other self destructive behavior.  At best, a life of miserable hiding (sometimes from oneself as well as others) enfolds whether one lives in isolation or buries themselves in the obligations of family, work etc.

The psychologist also spoke to the fact that some transgender people can turn that inner struggle to outer success by pushing themselves to greatness in some area.  This is something that has always fascinated me about many of my trans brothers and sisters and Bruce is a shining example of this phenomenon.  Not only did he embrace pursuits characteristic of the most macho male, (which is common as many trans women enter the military or male dominated careers) he excelled at the highest level in one of the most demanding sports known to man.

Not as well known as professional sports, Olympic sports often provide the highest test of the skilled athlete.  The decathlon consists of 10 track and field events and is a grueling competition of the most highly trained athletes.  It also involves multitasking.  Bruce crushed his competitors and took a victory lap after the last event while the other athletes writhed on the ground in pain.  On the podium, accepting his prestigious award, Bruce celebrated with an empty anguish behind his eyes.

The struggle, the torment, focused inner pain into outer victory.  "Being Bruce isn't easy."  Now a smile meekly comes across his face as Bruce somewhat timidly explains his journey to the national television audience.  In that smile comes a relief.  Not only to be rid of this secret and experience this incredible journey but to be put in the position to share it with the world. 

How will his journey unfold?  What will his name for her be?  There has already been hormone treatment and facial surgery, but what other steps will Bruce take in transition?  He mentions Khloe Kardashian (not his biological daughter) as the only one of his children to express any real misgivings about this change, but she is also the one that told him if he is going to live the life of a woman, to be a woman, he needs to "have a vajayjay" as she puts it. 

He speaks of wanting to quietly have SRS, or gender reassignment surgery.   Having this surgery will likely make his transition more socially acceptable and hopefully will bring him another level of inner peace that simply living as herself may not.  Indeed, for many of us this surgical step brings a tremendous sense of relief and a feeling of completion not possible without it.

Like so many other trans people, Bruce still struggles with sexuality and sexual preference even while finally admitting and embracing his gender identity.  He says that for now he is asexual and is only attracted to females.  No matter, he has to follow his heart on matters of the heart as well as all other aspects of this transition, as this is a very personal and individualized process.  The only difference is in this case it is going to be a very public transition, one that will come with own reality show.

We all hope it will be tastefully done.  I hope the world, especially those not informed or in touch with transgender issues, is watching.  Stay tuned!

Once again, I am pulling for Bruce Jenner.

This is a link to The interview with Bruce Jenner

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Losing My Smile

There was once a time, just a few years ago, when I was facing the real possibility that I would transition,  The fate of this life changing event was moving from possibility to probability, from dream to reality.  Every time I would think about living full time as myself or having the surgery (GRS), a big smile would cross my face.  If I could only follow through with what I knew I needed to do.

One question kept popping into my head.  Would I still transition if something bad happened to me?  If I was in a wreck, ended up in a wheelchair, badly burned, contracted some life threatening disease or worse, would I still do it?  

When I realized I had no choice, a sense of peace came over me.  There was no decision to make after all.  I had to be me no matter what.  Whether I could pass, whether I would be pretty, whether everyone in my life shut me out and I was left on the street.  Whatever life threw at me, I would face as a female and it would be imminently better for me than the alternative. 

When you realize you Have to be yourself and you cannot take it anymore, you move forward regardless.  When the repression has been stripped away, the coping mechanisms are gone and you just can't take it anymore, you move forward.  No matter what, I was finally going to be myself and face whatever life threw at me from an authentic perspective.

So far my transition has gone extremely well, exceeding my expectations in terms of acceptance from my (small) family and society in general.  I was even lucky enough to find love, true love the way I was meant to experience it, for the first time in my life.  I know I've been very fortunate in all this as well as being blessed with a pleasant appearance and being able to pass fairly easily.  Up until now, nothing bad has happened to mess that up.

Beauty is fleeting. In one second we can lose it. Inner beauty can last forever.

This week, I am getting my first taste of what life will be like if and when (it is inevitable isn't it?) something comes along to take my health or beauty away.  After a strange headache set upon me last weekend, along with neck and earaches, I noticed some odd changes in my facial expression Sunday evening.  By the time I woke up Monday it looked like half my face was paralyzed, as if I'd had a stroke.

Fortunately, Mitchell had spent the weekend with me and he decided to take Monday off work and drive me to the doctor.  I already had an appointment that afternoon with a new general practitioner, primarily for hormones, but now the appointment would take on a different focus.

My diagnosis is Bell's Palsey.  The doctor said there's a 95% chance I have Bell's Palsy and gave me some medicine. It should clear up in a few weeks to a few months and there's a 94% none of the effects will be permanent. It' still sucks though as it seems like half my face is paralyzed.

Losing my smile.
So, for now I have lost my smile.  At least I have lost my ability to smile on the outside, but you better believe I have not lost my smile on the inside.  I'm going to keep a positive attitude and I know I'm going to beat this thing.  The fact that it is temporary in a vast majority of cases is encouraging.  The fact that my boyfriend still thinks I'm beautiful is amazing. 

True love is much deeper than skin deep.  I am so lucky to have found both the love of a good man and the love of myself.  I never had either before, and they are making all the difference.

I am going to ride on, and I will Not give up.  Not Ever!

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

6 Months Post Op: Blossoming

Wow, I am now over 6 months post op and I feel like I am blossoming all over.  I guess I am mimicking spring in that respect but I finally feel more like myself than ever before.  Sensing that I am "over the hump" as far as healing, I am now starting to enjoy myself and my new body more and more.

The magic elixirs (hormones) seem to be working their alchemy almost like never before.  It is sort of like starting anew again.  Even though I've gained a little weight, much of it at least seems to be going to the right places.  Curves appear to be coming in faster than before the surgery. 

Inside I feel bright and new.  Having just gotten some good news, feeling better, and Spring's effect of longer days has me energized in a way I haven't been in awhile, not truly.  I even rode my bicycle the other day for the first time since early September.
Modus of transportation
Ergonomic seat protects the kitty
The good news I received week before last is that my granulation has finally cleared up!  It's been a few weeks since I have seen any blood from dilating or anything else.  Pain is almost nonexistent now, even when using the largest dilator.  This can make a huge difference in your mental state as well as physical well being.  Recently I stopped wearing the panty liners and that is another relief felt on a daily basis.

I'm still having some discomfort in the area where I (apparently) had a swollen gland.  The ultrasound confirmed it was nothing serious but something is still there, even though it seems very small and not problematic now.  I really only feel it when I cross my legs tightly. 

I suppose my next move will be going to see a gynecologist who will check me out good, inside and out.  This is actually something that any post op woman should do anyway and I hope this thorough check up will quell my remaining fears.

I will also be seeing a new GP (doctor) in a couple of weeks.  This doctor will be my "hormone doctor" as well as my regular doctor.  My old doctor moved his practice and went into semi retirement, so rather than dance around his sporadic schedule I will give this female physician a try.  I've heard good things about her and have high hopes.  I do like having only one doctor for all my medical needs (outside of any needed specialists) and have never seen an endocrinologist for hormones.


Health wise, I am getting my energy back, getting my mojo back, coming out of my funk.  I am just beginning to blossom inside and out.  That's the best way I can describe the feeling I've had this last couple of weeks.  Being a woman (physically as well as mentally) really suits me in a way that even I did not expect.  I knew it would better but I had no idea it would feel this right, feel this good. 

I'm told it will be about another 6 months until I am fully healed.  I can buy that, as some things are still a little tender and some spots have not completely healed yet, like the small area that was granulated.  I think just truly being able to see the light at the end of the tunnel is liberating. 

The physical sensations I am feeling are beyond amazing and unlike anything I've experienced before.  Not only can I now see and feel the other side of transition, occasionally for a fleeting moment, I forget I was ever on the wrong side of myself.

Nothing beats time with Mitchell