Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Dead Phone Zone

Most Black lesbians were closeted, correctly recognizing the Black community's lack of interest in our position, as well as the many more immediate threats to our survival as Black people in a racist society.
-- Audre Lorde, Zami: A New Spelling of My Name

My phone died and it will be the weekend before I can take it to be fixed. Sunday morning, a Windows Mobile update was pushed to the phone and by 8 PM, it was dead and refused to take a charge.

I found some incredibly nice people at the South Valley Unitarian Society (read: Church) a few miles from my place. The women of the church gave me a wonderful welcome Sunday and I attended the Interweave (the UU organization for promoting LGBT rights) potluck halfway up the mountain. As usual, I was the only trans person there, among the wonderful gay men and lesbians, and we just talked about whatever was on our minds. Peter told me as I was sitting there that I just radiated "woman." (Pretty amazing for someone who was once "all boy" before puberty.) I understand that more specific trans community support is available at the Pride Center.

A coworker took me to lunch yesterday and today. There's a cafeteria we walk to where I can get a small soup, salad and small fountain drink for little over three dollars; besides, it's nice to have her along for company. She tells me there is a lesbian club in town called the Paper Moon, picking up on the fact that I'm mostly lesbian. It sounds so similar to the hangout in Louisville I sometimes frequented that it's worth checking out.

Again, my supposed reputation seems to proceed me, as the Senior Vice President of Technology asked me yesterday on the way out the door if I was Sophie, was glad they finally got to meet me and said, "I have heard great things about you." I could only meekly reply, "I hope I can live up to my expectations."

My children are thriving. My oldest, almost 13, has made honor band, the volleyball team and is in AP courses. My youngest, just turned 7, is in Excel, expects me to call and tell her "Good Night" every night. Sometimes, on the phone, she slips and calls me "Mom," pauses and corrects it before I realize she was actually talking to me. It's going to be hard the next few days since my cell phone just died out of the clear blue Sunday. Meanwhile, I'm keeping my chat window open until 8:30 PM mountain time.

I am starting to finally adjust to my new place. It's starting to feel like home--my home. I am back to playing a lot of Farmville and reading to while away the time. Eventually, I'll restore my activity levels to their former state.

Meanwhile, I think I have crops to harvest.

Hugs and God Bless,

Monday, September 27, 2010

Laid Bare

She is laid bare
For all to see
This creature that once
Was inside me.

No 5 o'clock shadow
Mars her face
The locks of hair
Her jawline grace.

Is this comely woman
In the mirror I see
Really my reality?

I'm lovely.
I'm me.
My image fits,

This woman outside
Was once trapped inside.
No wonder she clawed
Through the facade.

I fought this battle
To hold on...
Only to lose...
To win.

Is this really me
I see
My reality

Saturday, September 25, 2010

A Tremendous Shift

The next thing I knew, Cortez was grabbing my shoulders.
-- Kelly Armstrong, Dime Store Magic

I have made a tremendous shift, and I don't know when it will feel like home. As I was at a rest stop at the highest point of Interstate 80, high up in the rocky mountains of Wyoming, the moment of crossing a tremendous hurdle was made absolutely physical to me.

Two time zones separate me now from my support group and friends in Kentucky, one from my family and friends in Texas. In the last week and a half, I have been starting over.

Last week, I arrived at my apartment; I had two to select from, preferring the upstairs apartment with balconies front and back. The lawns are well kept, I got my furniture on the same day and I found myself making multiple runs to the store to get everything I need.

I live right across the street from a Target. From the store, the mountain range is absolutely beautiful. The road that separates the apartment from Target is on the same side as my bedroom and the traffic is quite noisy. Yet, somehow, I do get to sleep.

Sunday morning, I explored Salt Lake City Unitarian Church. I had some culture shock as I walked in and sat through the morning service. The greeter introduced herself after I had signed in and was preparing my own badge, there was no Adult Round Table, no Story for All Ages and no sharing of Joys and Concerns. As I listened from my pew near the back, I noticed that the minister performed the entire service solo. It was after the service, however, that everyone seemed to warm up around cups of coffee and ministry tables during the coffee hour.

Monday morning, I started crying, because I put the wrong address into the GPS of AT&T Navigator on my cell phone. It was rapdily approaching 9 AM, the time I was supposed to start work and I was utterly lost. The number 411 gave me was not answered, I tried several gas stations and finally it dawned on me that I had my supervisor's number in my call history--he had called me Saturday as I was driving cross country. With his help I eventually made it in.

I met my supervisor downstairs, he showed me my new cubicle and we went downstairs to find out when the next employee orientation was; it was 15 minutes in progress, already. So as I was filling out my paperwork, making a mess with a blueberry muffin, one of the Human Resources representatives came over to snap my badge picture in my red gold and black blouse. When I saw how well that turned out, I made a vow to scan it and use it as my new profile. During the orientation, I was pleased to see that sexual orientation and gender identity have been added to the company's list of protected categories, even though they don't appear on the application. I also found out that if I know any other Java developers, they will pay an $8000 referral for anyone that I recommend that lasts 6 months or longer.

It took about a week, but my computer has been set up, I am back at work with my first task, and we are overcoming the last "new employee" hurdles so that I can start developing. I have already jumped in with some intellectual discussion with my team members and am starting to get really involved.

I had to break stealth with human resources to try to find out whether or not the medical plan will cover sexual reassignment surgery. The exclusions were deliberately vague, and in the end, I received the following confirmation from SelectHealth:

Unfortunately, Sophie is correct, SelectHealth does not provide  coverage for this type of procedure.  The member would have the opportunity to
appeal and we can certainly provide information with regard to that process.

With regard to which plan would be most advantageous for the member - I don't fee comfortable making a recomendation, although, if they have truly confirmed that IRS guidelines allow the HSA funds to be used for the procedure they would at least benefit from the tax savings. 

It looks like I am still going to be faced with the same fight.

I have almost finished putting everything away, I finally got decent internet service the day before yesterday (my first attempt with Clear was a mistake), got to know a couple of my neighbors and got the address of the other Unitarian community and their directions today. The Interweave group (for LGBT concerns) of the church appears to be having a Potluck tomorrow at 5 PM, and, even though I am not in a state to bring something to the potluck, contacted the organizers, leaving them my number to call back.

I noticed there is some local Transgender support here in Salt Lake City, via a few web searches, and my next priority after establishing a church home is to get involved with them again.

Last Saturday, I discovered an open mic event at the coffee shop down the street and relatively cute guy by the name of Owen introduced himself as I was leaving, saying he was a talent scout in search of poets for open mic events.

I had already made up my mind I was returning.

Hugs and God Bless,

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Emptying the Abode

He noticed a young fair-haired woman watching him with a yearning expression as he cheerfully lost stacks of silver pennies on the throw of the dice.
--Ken Follett, World Without End
I have little over one work day left, before I am temporarily unemployed, before I start my three day trip to Salt Lake City. I just solved probably my last programming challenge at my current employer (the elimination of a Transactional annotation that was causing TransactionNotFoundExceptions), but enough geek talk.

My living room is fairly empty. I hauled the bookcase, mini-trampoline, coffee table and sleeper sofa out by the bin where all but the sleeper sofa were claimed by other residents. The furniture costs me less to replace than hiring professional movers. I was almost talked into renting a U-Haul, but since I am traveling alone, it would put me in a vulnerable situation needing someone to help me unload, and I'd rather not put myself in that kind of position again.

I still have more packing to do, and more furniture to carry out.

Meanwhile, it seems that everyone is going to the hospital these days. My mother is in for a heart attack she suffered. They have her on a medicated stint to help prevent clotting, a genetic condition that I just found out runs in the family. She's really weak, but there was no permanent damage done to her heart.

My Aunt, my dad's sister, fell in the bathtub and hurt either her shoulder or her hip. I heard both as my foster sister explained it to me. She had to wait until my cousin showed up to help her out of the bathtub and to the hospital.

And then last night around 1 AM I got a call from a girlfriend asking me to pick her up from the local hospital because of an altercation she got into with her parents. She was fine. One of her therapists insisted that she get an immediate psychiatric evaluation done. As a result, I brought her back home with me so that she can recover.

And I wound up having heart-to-heart chats with my adopted little brother trying to help him understand how someone who was "all boy" would have needed to change genders over 30 years later. It had been 13 or more years since we last talked, and we caught up, filling in the details. We have both changed significantly over the years, but I would have to say I probably have changed a bit more. After chatting online via Facebook the night before last, I heard his voice and his wife's voice and they heard mine. All-in-all, our friendship still stands, while I get to know him a little better and vice versa.

So my plans tonight are to print out my last timesheet for tomorrow and focus on having all the packing done and large furniture out the door. It might be a late night, and for some reason, I'm thinking cheap 5 dollar pizza.

Hugs and God Bless,

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Tying It All Together

The thing that really bothers me of late is the fact that I had another inguinal hernia caused by my retractile testes again over the weekend. As usually happens, I was experiencing pain in my lower abdomen, significantly above the groin. When I investigated, I found that, as it chronically happens every few months, my significantly smaller testicle on the left side had retracted, and by applying pressure on the abdomen, I eventually returned it to the upper groin, where I was able to finally get it back out. It's ipsilateral, which means it only occurs on my left side.

Technically, this is considered a version of cryptorchidism, which I may have inherited from my father, who was born with an undescended testicle on the same side, and had to have it surgically corrected through a process called orchipexy, where the testes is surgically attached to the scrotum. If uterine tissue is present, usually a hysterectomy is also performed. In my case, it descends and stays down most of the time, so the doctors only repeatedly threatened an operation if it became problematic.

My first recallable incident, according to my mother, occurred when she took me to the doctor afraid that I may have appendicitis because of my abdominal pain. The doctor at the time noticed the "undescenced" testicle and issued the first "threat of surgery" that I can recall.

There is a possiblity that the condition may have been engendered by my own mother's high hormone counts, as she recalls a checkup with the doctor for her own puberty giving her such a diagnosis.

I found the following article snippet suggesting evidence to support a link between natal estrogen levels  and cryptorchidism:

The major clinical data concern the boys born of women treated during their pregnancy with diethylstilbestrol (DES), a very potent estrogen agonist, from 1950 to 1970. Some studies have reported alterations in sperm quality and a higher incidence of genital malformations, cryptorchidism, and testicular cancer than for the control population (Glaze 1984, Strohsnitter et al. 2001), whereas others found no such change (Wilcox et al. 1995). These discrepancies may be due to differences in the period of treatment during pregnancy, suggesting that there may be a specific period of sensitivity to xenoestrogens in the testis. A recent analysis of these epidemiological studies by Storgaard et al.(2006) pointed out that DES seems to have a negative effect on sperm count only if administered at high dose during the first semester of pregnancy.

-- Géraldine Delbès, Christine Levacher, and René Habert, "Estrogen effects on fetal and neonatal testicular development"

But it doesn't explain the fact that my rectractile experience is so intense, that it only occurs on one side or that I can swear there is a cervix and at least a vaginal cavity under my left scrotum, where someone drunkenly thought they were penetrating a vagina, and being able to penetrate deeply using my own hand.

But then I found in an article on Wikipedia that there is a genetic hormone deficiency that might explain not only the potentially hidden female parts, but also the cryptorchidism and the specific form of gender identity disorder that I have, where I have a fluid sense that is predominantly female and feminine, but slightly androgynous male from time to time:

Anti-Müllerian hormone also known as AMH is a protein that, in humans, is encoded by the AMH gene. It inhibits the development of the Müllerian ducts (paramesonephric ducts) in the male embryo...

...AMH prevents the development of the mullerian ducts into the uterus and other mullerian structures. The effect is ipsilateral, that is each testis suppresses Müllerian development only on its own side. In humans, this action takes place during the first 8 weeks of gestation. If no hormone is produced from the gonads, the Mullerian ducts automatically develop, while the Wolffian ducts, which are responsible for male reproductive ducts, automatically die...

Functional AMH receptors have also been found to be expressed on neurons in the brains of embryonic mice, and are thought to play a role in sexually diamorphic brain development and consequent development of gender-specific behaviours...

In men, inadequate embryonal AMH activity can lead to the Persistent Müllerian duct syndrome (PMDS), in which a rudimentary uterus is present and testes are usually undescended. The AMH gene (AMH) or the gene (AMH-RII) for its receptor are usually abnormal. AMH measurements have also become widely used in the evaluation of testicular presence and function in infants with intersex conditions, ambiguous genitalia, and cryptorchidism.
-- "Anti-Müllerian hormone

So an AMH defiency is a very plausible hypothesis for me, and as the following Wikipedia suggests explains that what I have felt physically since I was 16 is potentially grounded in reality, and not wishful thinking. As a matter of fact, it seems a reasonable diagnosis, via Occam's razor. The actual Wikipedia article on PMDS (Persistent Mullerian Duct Syndrome) is rather enlightening:

Typical features include undescended testes (cryptorchidism) and the presence of a small, underdeveloped uterus in a male infant or adult...

Cryptorchidism in AMH deficiency suggests that AMH may play a role in transabdominal testicular descent, perhaps by facilitating contraction of the gubernaculum.

Other Müllerian derivatives which may be present in at least a rudimentary form are the cervix, upper part of the vagina, and fallopian tubes.

Although persistent Müllerian duct syndrome is classified as an intersex condition, it does not involve ambiguity or malformation of the external genitalia.

-- "Persistent Mullerian duct syndrome"

As likely as it may seem in my case, it usually takes surgery to confirm, even though I have seen no other condition, yet, that adequately "explains the pain."

The other concern is that there are SRS doctors who will refuse to operate on intersex patients, possibly because it implies custom procedures, rather than something that can be reliably factorized.

The good news is that while I did disclose my retractile testicle, the surgeon saw no indicators that he could not perform my SRS.

It's just a matter now of getting to Salt Lake City in a couple of weeks, getting my relocation bonus once I start working, and use part of it to schedule the procedure with the required downpayment, then "things" should indeed seem normal for once in my life.

Hugs and God Bless,

Friday, September 3, 2010

Yang for My Yin

The yin-yang view of the world is serenely cyclic. Fortune and misfortune, life and death, whether on small scale or vast, come and go everlastingly without beginning or end, and the whole system is protected from monotony by the fact that, in just the same way, remembering alternates with forgetting.
-- Alan Watts, Tao: The Watercourse Way

"I'll do it," I heard a voice say and looked up from the mats I had just spread in front of the shredded tire to see a clean-cut handsome young gentleman walking up the road toward me.

And behind him, another gentleman asked, "Do you need any help?"

After they conferred for a few moments among themselves, it was decided who would change my tire.

That made the third time in a row that gentlemen have taken oven the tire changing process for me.When I told Mike a little later, he snarked, "Maybe I should wear a dress."

That was yesterday morning on the way to work.

To make matters more interesting, I got a call later that morning from my hiring manager that the company I am leaving was willing to do something for me that they have never done for anyone else. They offered to up my hourly rate to almost match the company, offered to convert me to salaried contract with not quite as much paid time off as the new company and a promise to do what the could to fix my insurance next April.

This made my decision to leave tougher. But in the end three factors decided it for me: 1) the benefits at the new company are hard to ignore, 2) where were these benefits when I asked for them 4 1/2 months ago, and 3) I have already announced to people that I am leaving for Salt Lake City. I told her today when she called back that I was incredibly honored by their proposal and that made it an even tougher decision. She replied that she is not looking forward to breaking my supervisor's heart.

Yesterday, after work, I notified my landlord I was moving. We discussed the purse snatching and he told me that he was waiving the break-lease so that I could put the unfortunate events behind me. I was given the apartment checklist so that I would know exactly what I would be charged for if I failed to clean and vacate the apartment.

This morning, I noticed a huge blister leaking water high up on the bathroom wall. I called emergency maintenance this morning for them to take care of it. There were definite traces indicating that the leak was probably coming from upstairs.

I don't know if they checked the apartment upstairs, but the last I heard they had peeled the blister open and the water was still leaking--then went off somewhere.

I still have to call the Salt Lake City landlord to let her know that I am ready to move forward, given the photos and information she sent me. Of course, I don't know yet how I am going to afford it if my application for a new credit card to cover the moving expenses until my first paycheck arrives gets denied.

It seems like I am in a tight Yin-Yang spiral where fortune and misfortune are following rapidly on each others' heels.

Hugs and God Bless,