Going Through the Motions

Being in transition for me feels like everything in my life is temporary. For the past 2 years I’ve been taking all these steps to try to feel like a normal human. This week is my two year anniversary of being on hormones and I’ve also had my braces for over 2 years now as I get my bite corrected. I’ve been getting hair removal all over my body and preparing for bottom surgery. I’m been doing all the necessary things to treat my gender dysphoria and address other medical problems that I’ve been putting off for when I had good health insurance. But all these things just feel like going through the motions in hope that on the other end I can rejoin the real world and live the life I actually want.

Many days I feel like a ghost, like an interloper from another plane of existence trying to navigate a world that isn’t built for me. I feel like I can interact with the real world but I’m not a part of it yet. Like I need to somehow “earn” my way into that life by doing all the right things. And in the meantime my life feels ethereal and temporary, like it could all be washed away by a really bad day.

And now with all of the Seattle area on lockdown for this COVID-19 pandemic, life feels even more temporary. It’s hard to make plans not knowing how long this will last. And scary to know that my surgery date could be effected.

It’s not that I’m afraid of dying; in fact that’s partly the root of the problem. I don’t feel any attachment to living because most days I feel like I never actually have. I’ve never fully lived the life I want as the person I want to be yet so I have no stake in protecting that. The only thing that keeps me going is the hope that after all this transition work, I can actually have that life. I don’t know if it will be better or feel more real, but it’s the only anchor I have to reality right now.

And now that I’ve lost a lot of my routines and physical interactions, even more of my life feels unmoored. I feel like I’m adrift in a world that is panicking and chaotic while I sit here at home mostly feeling numb. I keep saying that I’m ok but if I’m honest I’m not really. I’m spending most of my time dissociating by playing video games to fully immerse myself in a different reality. A reality where I have achievable goals and can actually go out and kill the bad guys and save the day.┬áDon’t get me wrong, the video games are essential to my survival right now. But they are also part of this temporary feeling where the real world isn’t real to me.

I’m not sure when these pandemic measures will all end but I keep holding on to the hope that I will still be able to have surgery in August. And that surgery gives me some grounding in my body and in the real world. Because I do want to live. I just don’t know how to yet.

Jaw feminization

I just talked to my oral surgeon about what can be done to feminize my chin, the biggest source of dysphoria for me at this point, when I go in to align my teeth this Winter. This is a major oral surgery I’ve been dreading for almost 10 years now as I waited for the right insurance and financial stability to make it possible. But now that there is the possibility it could make my face more tolerable, I’m actually excited.

I started the process 2 years ago when I first met with the surgeon before I was out and thinking about what the impact of my prominent, square, cleft chin was. I’ve been using my beard to cover it up for so long that I sometimes forget that this really ugly-feeling part of me is underneath. I found out just how much it would cost and realized I needed a new job to make this work. The next step was the braces I got installed in January which re-align my teeth back to where they will need to be after the surgery. Unfortunately, in the short term, the braces have made my dysphoria and confidence worse. The first day I had them I dissociated so badly that I felt like I was walking around viewing the world through a long, dark tunnel. It has gotten better since but I still can’t wait to get them off.

But the end of stage one is finally in sight so I got up the courage to reach out to the surgeons office to find out if there were parts of facial feminization that could be accomplished as part of this procedure. I was both excited and terrified as the appointment got close this month fearing that he would just dismiss my concerns and focus on function. But it went surprisingly well. For an old white cis dude he seemed to really get it. He talked about the various things that he can do to tilt the lower jaw back, shave off the harsher edges, and bring it more in line with the rest of my face. He even was aware enough of the gendered aspects that he is suggesting increasing how much of my upper teeth are visible when my lips part because apparently that is a feminine trait.

He was cautious about over-promising and he is limited with how much he can do because of the potential impacts on my breathing and sleep apnea and the amount of muscle I have on my chin. But I am hopeful that it can be enough better that I can actually face myself in the mirror without my beard. He promised to do some advanced prediction models and show me several options we can discuss at our pre-surgery appointment so I can have some say in how my new face will look.

I’m especially excited for this since my insurance doesn’t cover facial feminization. And overall that’s not really a primary concern of mine on the rest of my face since I have great cheekbones (even according to the surgeon) and a good nose that balances my face. So if I can get this all done in one surgery that I’ve been planning for so long, I will be very happy.

Now to see if I can actually live without the beard for the next few months before surgery. I haven’t gotten up the courage to go into the barber yet…