Saturday, January 19, 2013

The Pain I’m Used To

It’s like taking a lit cigar and burning my face, over and over again. As it’s happening, I twitch, sweat, and tear-up, but the pain is fleeting.  The heat only burns dark hairs, not my skin, that is unless you forget to remove your makeup, and then the laser burns your skin too, that happened once.  For those who have tried laser before, you know first-hand, the unique sensation of the intense heat searing hair follicles to their root; it’s like burning a hole in a leaf with a magnifying glass and the sun. The tip of the laser is the size of a nickel, and to cover my face and neck, the procedure takes about 20 minutes.  I constantly remind myself of the eventual outcome and the day I won’t have to shave.  It’s worth it.

During a recent meeting with other trans women, we discussed hair, specifically body hair. I know this topic isn’t very glamorous and is often over looked by the media, but I expect to spend at least 3-5 years and thousands of dollars to rid my body of unwanted hair.  Some trans women are comfortable with their hair, yet many of us aren’t, especially on our faces, and of course, there are women in between.  I decided to remove my facial hair because I had the constant appearance of a beard.  It didn’t matter whether I just shaved or not, that blue green shadow had haunted me most of my adult life.  I know I don’t have the most feminine facial features to begin with, and the darkness along my chin and upper lip, accentuated these masculine characteristics.  This was something I could change over time, and hopefully look and feel more like a woman.  I’m still not confident enough with my appearance to go out in public, without shaving and covering my face with makeup.  

What I didn’t expect after starting my transition were the extremely personal questions, mostly about my anatomy and love life, from strangers and friends.  All of a sudden my genitals and potential romantic partners’ gender were part of polite conversation.  Was I going to have a sex change, are you going to cut off your penis, and do you like guys, were common questions.  I wasn’t prepared, but I decided, as a teacher at heart, to be polite and use that moment as a learning experience.  What I really thought was, why does it suddenly mater whether I have a penis or not, you’ve never cared before. The thought of having gender confirming procedures, like sexual reassignment surgery, is on my mind.  While I’ve only been out for a few years, I’m considering all my options. And when the time comes, I’ll navigate those decisions, being mindful of the risks and realistic outcomes, in pursuit of emotional harmony with my body. 
  
The pain associated with these procedures, pales in comparison to the emotional pain I’ve endured, along with self-hate, and self-inflected pain over a lifetime.  At a recent dinner with friends from childhood, I was reminded how difficult junior high was for some of us. As my friends shared their stories, I thought of an event I had forgotten about for years.   As a new seventh grader, I remember being nervous and scared.  I had heard stories that it was rough and I was afraid of being harassed or hazed.   While I was big for my age, I was still awkward, and lived with a secret.  On one of the first days of school I was coming down the far corner staircase to the locker room for gym class, when I found myself face to face with a notorious bully.  I’m sure I was smartly dressed, like I always was, but he couldn’t have know my secret, but it didn’t matter.  WHERE DO YOU THINK YOU’RE GOING, FAGGOT!  Were the words I heard as he pulled my new shirt up over my head, covering my face, and was repeatedly pushed hard against a cinder block wall. Blinded, I’m surprised I didn’t tumble down the concrete stairs.  During the incident I must have lost my mind, and I tried to fight back.  He must have found this amusing; and left me alone, laughing as he walked away and I struggled to regain my composure.  

This past Wednesday morning, during a typical Maine snowstorm, I drove 70 miles round trip to York and back, for my laser treatment.  I go every 6 weeks and it’s been nearly two years since I started the long painful process.  I’m seeing great results and that makes me so happy.  While I know there is so much more to me, and all trans people, than hormone pills, surgical procedures, and love interests, I thought I’d share a small view into some of the physical aspects of my transition as I try to find peace with my identity.  Unless you’re my roommate, you won’t hear me cry.  The pain I choose is my own, and there’s a thunder in my heart.