Sunday, July 12, 2015

Redifining Happiness

I'm scheduled to have surgery on Tuesday and I’ll be away from work for a while.  I’ve said this to many of the people I work with over the past few weeks, and their response has been something like, “are you okay, is it serious”.  Those questions are difficult to answer, especially in polite conversation. So, here’s a go at it.  As part of my transition and in consultation with my team of doctors and my therapist, I've to decided to have plastic surgery to change areas of my face (eyebrows, nose, lips, cheeks, and jaw) and my neck (an Adam's apple reduction).  In the trans community the procedure is known as FFS (facial feminization surgery).  It is major surgery, and I'll be out of commission for several weeks as I recover and the bruising and swelling dissipate. 

To some, it may seem extreme, but it is my hope that these procedures will help me feel more whole and more confident in the body I inhabit. Since embracing my trans identity and beginning my transition four years ago, I’ve become the woman I've always been, and reconciled with much of my previous identity. I do feel more at home in my own skin and in many social situations, especially when I'm with friends and family, or working on behalf of the trans community.  

Unfortunately, there still remains a large gap between how I feel on the inside and what I see in the mirror, as well the persistent anxiety being out in a world that is still learning to accept people like me.  There isn't a day that goes by where I'm not worrying about what someone might say when they see me or feel like a freak. It’s especially traumatic when families hurd their children in the opposite direction.  Don't get me wrong, I kinda like being trans, it's fascinating seeing the world through my eyes, but it has taken a toll. Most days, I’d rather hide from the world and work in the garden, walk in the woods, swim under the waves, or ride my bike on a long country road, than face people.  I know some out there will say, "you're beautiful the way you are, don't change, fuck society” and while that's lovely to hear, it doesn't erase the dysphoria I live with everyday. So, those are some of the reasons I’m having this surgery. And while I’m excited and impatient to see my new and improved face, that doesn’t mean I’m not completely terrified, anxious, and nervous. But for me, it's what I need to do.

By the way, not all trans people have any surgery at all, but some of us do. Each person’s needs and conditions are different.  Plus, I now have the benefit of health insurance that is helping to cover some of the costs.  The remainder is mostly coming out of a retirement account my dad help set up years ago when I first started teaching. When I called him to talk to him about removing funds from those accounts to help pay for this surgery, I was nervous. We had briefly talked earlier this spring about the procedure and I could tell he was alarmed. I think he was mostly concerned for my safety. Well, he did help close a few of my accounts to get me closer to what I needed, but I was still short by a considerable amount. It was then he said something like, “your mother and I will take care of the rest.”  

Wait, what? That’s not possible, is it?  My eighty one and eighty two year-old, conservative, very Catholic, Fox News watching parents were on board. That's right, as are the rest of my family, well, I think they are. In fact, one of my sisters has bravely volunteered to be with me before, during, and after my surgery. I'm scheduled to spend the night in the hospital after surgery and should be discharged the next day to begin the long healing process, first at a hotel in Boston, then with friends just few blocks from my parents' house in Newton, imagine that. I am fortunate to have so much support during this emotional part of my journey and it is greatly appreciated. So, cross your fingers, rub a crystal, send positive thoughts, and pray if you pray, everything's gonna be alright.