Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Out of it

I ate lunch through a straw yesterday. I woke up just fine, but during the morning, I just seemed to move into this state of not feeling so well. I wasn't tired, I wasn't alert, I wasn't in pain...I just felt out of it. My stomach didn't feel too queasy, but something just didn't feel right.

I ran a few errands before picking up my liquid lunch, and on my way back to work, I saw someone driving the exact same car that I was driving. We caught eye of one another, and each of us waved. It was that little cosmic bond, or something, of meeting someone with your exact same taste in something. Being out of it and also feeling that cosmic bonding was kinda weird. It almost seemed like a dream, in a way.

Today, I still felt a little out of it. My mom called this afternoon, and said that the latest tests were showing some possibilities that the cancer is back. She's been running a consistent temperature and losing more weight...big indicators that something is amiss. She told me before her last session in November that she didn't want to go through any more treatments, and that the cancer usually came back sooner after each treatment if she wasn't in remission.

I talked to my dad a little afterward. Mom isn't in good spirits. I don't blame her...I'm pretty out of it again tonight. The news puts this uneasy feeling in the back of your mind. I'm worried about my mom, but there isn't much I can do but try to lend my support.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Craig Ferguson loves transsexuals

I was up a bit late one night last week, and still had the channel on CBS after watching Survivor earlier in the evening. Craig Ferguson was on, and I have to admit, he's one very funny man. The facial expressions, the singing, the way he moves from topic to topic, the total corniness, and of course...that accent.

I was just about to turn it off when he did a bit on emails. Luckily, someone has the clip on youtube, so you can watch it there. Sure, you have to catch the first couple of minutes before the part I'm talking about, but that part is still funny. Before this segment, he was talking about the woman that posted all of her husband's dirt on youtube because she wasn't getting enough out of their divorce...and how he was a Broadway producer and never had sex with her.

Anyway, the email segment has Craig answer the question: Are butterflies the transsexuals of the insect kingdom?

Although Craig's perspective is from a mature butterfly, he didn't quite see the reference of the caterpillar developing into the beautiful butterfly...but his little skit is kinda cute...that, or maybe he just enjoys saying "junk" a lot. Overall, I still think the butterfly will be used a lot by the MTF world.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

The L Word

I'm about 4 or 5 years behind, but I finally watched my first L Word: Season 1 episodes. I'm on Netflix and have the first season intermixed with my regular dose of movies. The first disc included the first four episodes...including the initial pilot.

I liked it. I think it's interesting watching the show after having numerous lesbian friends the past 3 years. Perhaps it is best to experience some of the community before actually watching the show so that I'm not tainted with the drama infested venue we call television...sorta like knowing Donna Rose before actually reading her book. (I'm glad I read her book after meeting see that she somehow made it through transition, despite all of what she went through in getting there.)

The initial dynamics of the show are interesting....a couple in turmoil trying to have a baby; a young woman trying to figure out if she likes women or men; the older sensual woman trying to lure the young woman away from men; the athletic woman still afraid to be out as a lesbian because it will affect her public image; the goofy writer who is bisexual because she has this love-hate relationship with women; and the sexaholic lesbian dyke who seems to have a different girl every hour. There were a few other dynamics going on, as well, but those were the main ones I saw. I know they mix in an FTM later on, so that should be pretty interesting to watch develop.

Monday, April 14, 2008

SF Chronicle article on Phantom Genitalia

It kinda speaks for itself:

Gender Identity and Phantom Genitalia

I never really associated with having a penis, and pretty much did not like having it. Yes, it felt good at times, but that was more along the lines of satisfying the nerve bundles in the right way.

After SRS, I did experience a phantom penis sensation for a little while. I think as my mind started to deal with the genital origami (as JoanB puts it), it started to remap where everything was and started to line things up in the new fashion. There are some nerves that I think are still not quite in the right area, but at this point, there isn't much I can do about it. I know where they are, and I know how to take care of them.

Lobby Day

NCTE's Transgender Lobby Day activities run today and tomorrow. When I heard about Lobby Day during the Transgender Leadership Summit I actually thought about heading to D.C. and participating. Unfortunately, my representative had special circumstances and would likely not be in session at this time period.

Instead, a friend of mine is looking to arrange a local meeting with our rep so we can discuss ENDA and other transgender issues. I've printed out some of the material NCTE has on their website and I still need to review it before our meeting...but there is a lot of good stuff there.

I almost wonder if we are preaching to the choir, though, in that our California reps are a little more attuned to transgender stuff or not. On a recent trip to see my parents, though, they told me about some local legislature giving transgender workers better protections. It's very impressive. Obviously it took a lot of hard work to get protections in that area of the country...and I bet the city council voters probably took some heat for their votes. I don't know if it came in response to one of their police force transitioning last year or if their city council saw other cities doing it and said, "Hey, we need to protect everyone" and added in the gender identity clause.

Either way, bravo to them. Our voices are being heard.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Tragedy +/-5 seconds

About a month or so ago, there was a local accident involving 3 cyclists and a sheriff’s deputy patrol car. The cyclists were in a larger group pedaling in the area hills on a Sunday morning. They were going up-hill at the time. A sheriff’s deputy was on duty and driving down the hill. At some point, the deputy fell asleep and crossed over the center line, head on into 2 of the cyclists. A third rider was nearly right behind the front two and was also injured.

The first rider, a male, was instantly killed. The second rider, a female, had her foot sheared off and was barely breathing. The third rider had a broken collarbone and survived. The fourth rider, the first one upon the scene and who was not injured, basically held the woman in his arms until she died. She was an Olympic hopeful.

Besides the loss of life, the deputy will be scarred for life. He was seen immediately outside his patrol car saying he fell asleep and that his life is over. He’s probably right.

Three people lost their lives that day...the two cyclists and the deputy. Another ended up injured. Even more ended up losing their friends, lovers, and family.

And all of this happened with a tolerance likely less than 5 seconds. If the cyclists had been a few seconds slower, hanging back with the fourth rider, they would be OK. If they had been a few seconds faster, the car never would have hit them and the deputy would just be marking up his accident that he fell asleep. Or, what if the deputy had taken 5 seconds less time somewhere along his morning...or slept in one minute later or one minute earlier.

It seems so unfair. Yes, I know life is unfair, but why does it have to be both unfair and so cruel.

The whole situation reminds me of this time as a kid. My dad and I were at the military bowling alley in late winter. There were still remnants of snow in the parking lot. As we walked to our car, I made a snowball and threw it at him. He laughed, and threw some back. We had our own little impromptu snowball fight. After a few minutes, though, my bare hands were likely very cold and we called it a truce.

The route home took us along an overpass. On the other side of the overpass, a side road teed into our road at an elevated level. As we approached, we saw a car down the side embankment that hadn’t braked as it neared our road and had crashed through the guard rail. It had happened less than a minutes before we arrived. I stayed in the car, but my dad got out to check on things.

There were no cell phones or 911 then, so help would have to arrive via someone calling on a land line. Luckily, there were others who stopped just before us, so they checked to see if the guy was OK.

My dad and I continued home. I even pondered to him what would have happened if we hadn’t had that snowball fight...would we have been sideswiped by the car and forced down the embankment, too?

The deputy running over the cyclists made me remember that childhood event. It also made me realize that my fears when out riding my bicycle in the past were not so far fetched. All it took was one person to lose control of their vehicle or simply not pay attention for a few seconds and I would be road kill.

My dad said we were lucky. We were.

I worry about some of the same stuff when out running. In college, a number of runners in our group were almost hit by a car once. Well, I think it actually glanced off a few of us, but no one was really injured at all. The lead runner in our group wasn’t looking to see if the car we were running in front of actually saw us before the car turned into the road we were running along. That little event has led me to always ensure I made eye contact before I ran in front of a car that was making a turn. And even now, I still often times run out of my way to run behind the car so I don’t even have to worry about it...because sometimes I can’t tell if they see me or not.

I don’t know how any of this relates to any trans-issues. I guess it doesn’t....but it reminded me of a childhood event that made me ponder. There are numerous people that have affected my life, and there are numerous people whose lives I have affected. I have two friends that are married and have children, but I don’t know if either of them would have met their current wives if I hadn’t seen a little job posting in the newspaper a long time ago. None of us would have ended up working together for a few years.

And maybe I wouldn’t have had a friend that got married the same weekend I was in Ohio for work and the same weekend as Columbus, Ohio’s Gay Pride event where I saw my first transsexual. And maybe I wouldn’t have seen that little job posting in the newspaper about a biotech firm in California, or ever even searched for a new job. I could be plugging away at my old job trying to make things work....and driving my inner self into a place I could never escape unharmed.

Perhaps all of our little connected stories merge and provide the guidance, courage, opportunity...something...for the rest of us. All of our transitions combine to add validity to one another's paths. Take for example, a 10-year-old girl named Lucia (thanks to Becca for the link). She was born male but told her mom at a very early age that she was a girl. Her mom listened. I think more and more parents are doing that now, but the numbers are still low...but as more and more stories are told, the potential tragedies are being lessened. People are keeping their jobs more and more. People are keeping their family members and friends. More importantly, though, hopefully fewer trans-children are killing themselves.

Plus or minus five seconds. It’s amazing how all of our life’s little decisions create such a complex bigger picture mingled with one another.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Who am I?

(Sorry for the length of this entry....but that's what happens when you stick me in a place with my laptop and no internet.)

It’s been over 2 years since E and I broke up. Because I was just barely post-op when we first met, I still hadn’t been through the little identity crisis. Now, though, and in the past 2 years, I think I’ve been searching. I’m not alone. I see a lot of us searching for who we are and where we fit in to this thing we call life.

And the sad part is, the sky doesn’t seem as bright as it once did. I’m sorry I sound so morbid. With my mom going through cancer treatments the past 2.5 years, I see how mortal we all are. And this life only brings with it one shot. And the harder part is that if we don’t figure out our identity early on, we’re often stuck along a path that doesn’t bring with it the joys that others find. It’s very difficult for this old train to jump tracks to the one she belongs on.

It’s hard to describe this to people. Sure, I took the mini-online test not long ago to see what profession would work best for me. It said I should be, of all things, an engineer. I’m already an engineer, and you would likely think I would be happy. Sure, there are certain aspects of my job that I like, but it doesn’t seem as rewarding. I don’t get to see the customer enjoying our products and making great scientific breakthroughs. All I get to see is the customer complaints when something goes wrong or somehow the customer thinks our products did not perform as expected. Typically, this is less than 0.1% of the products we sell, but it’s a very loud 0.1%.

I think one of the aspects to this search for identity deals with lost time. Imagine, if you will, a 14 year old child that is time-warped into a 37 year old adult. How will they make a living? What part of them can grow up? What part of them can adapt and sustain their life based on their new surroundings? What part of a 14 year old children makes them grow up so fast they can fight in wars...present and past. What part of me hasn’t grown up because I simply did not experience that part of life that makes you grow up? Does our maturity depend on life’s experiences?

And yet, I feel I have been wandering...not necessarily aimlessly, but rather, wandering around the wilderness with a backpack filled with supplies. I can sustain my life, but I haven’t found a place to set up permanent camp. I think I’m too far into the wilderness to find my way back and take the other path. I can see if there are any paths ahead of me that lead off to other paths, but those trails are not well worn.

I sometimes wonder what type of legacy we all leave in this life. I’ve always felt like somewhat of an environmentalist. When I worked in the auto industry, I tried to ensure my processes were sound and that we tried to recycle when we could. I helped establish a recycling center in the county, and volunteered there on the weekends. I have always lived within 3 miles of work such that my commute was minimal. I recycle paper, metal, and plastic at home. I recycle what I can at work. Part of this desire to be an environmentalist, though, kinda makes me feel like it hampers the capitalist in me. I have a conflicting desire to create something tangible simply because I know it would eventually do nothing but end up in a landfill.

One of the questions that always comes back around, though, is “who are you?”

Who am I?

My name is Kara, but does that really say who I am?

From there, it all comes down to more labels and how we choose to define ourselves.

I’m a woman. I play sports. I’m an engineer. I’m 37.

I like to sleep in, exercise, eat good food and converse with good friends, to watch sunsets and sunrises, to enjoy views of the city nightscape, and cuddling in bed.

I like to smash my Frosted Flakes into small bits to get more of a sugar rush. I don’t like to be in certain confined spaces. I don’t mind the sight of surgery, but I have a hard time watching people suffer. I like listening to music. I like surfing the web. I don’t like celery or any bean other than green ones.

When I spoke at Stanford earlier this year, the woman who organized the event conversed with a few of us at the reception. She asked me how I knew what type of woman I wanted to be.

I love those questions, for you see, I can’t answer it any better than she could answer it, and in fact, I usually lead them to their own answer.

“What type of woman did you want to be?”

“Well, I wanted to be intelligent and (this and that)”

“But how did you know you wanted to be that?”

“Because that’s who I am”

“There you go. I knew what type of woman I wanted to be because that’s who I am.”

In the airport terminal the other day, a guy sat down right next to me as I was about to eat my lunch. I’d picked up a high quality burger with some fries at a local airport deli, but I saw him start to unroll this healthy looking turkey sandwich.

“Great, now you’re going to make me feel guilty about not eating as healthy a lunch as you.”

We joked around for a few minutes then entered this really friendly conversation. He was a conductor out in San Francisco for a few performances. We were both headed off to the same destination, but he told me he was from New York.

“Really? You don’t seem like a New Yorker.”

“Thanks,” as he smiled.

Is that how I defined him...New York conductor? To him, I was this female athletic engineer liberal military brat living in San Francisco.

But you know, I’m still not sure who I am.

I’d love to be a super model actress. But I’m not. Super models aren’t made, they just are. They’re these skinny little girls who look either really hot or really unique. They’re like 90% looks, and 10% sass. I have plenty of sass, but not enough to make up for the lack of looks. I could probably model for Women’s Muscle Fitness clothes or Trans-Attire, but I still don’t have that tiny waist.

I’d love to be a musician or an artist, but it takes years and years to learn music, and then years and years trying to make a name for yourself. I need to start taking music lessons. I have to start somewhere, I guess, and see if I like it or not.

I’d really love to be a writer. I wrote half of a story, realized I wasn’t where I was supposed to be at half way and that my ending wasn’t going to fit as well anymore, so I have it shelved in the hopes that my mind can come up with better sequences to move it along. In the meantime, I’ve been working on a few other stories and trying to capture how they should flow. I really need to write more.

And of course, I’d really love to just find someone to share my life with...definition based on the definition of someone else? I am so-and-so’s girlfriend.

But who am I?

Are we defined by how we look on the outside? Is it a reflection of the inside? For transsexuals, it can be difficult to manifest the outside to look like the inside...and that is, perhaps, one of the hardest parts to transition. A lot of us just want to be who we are and live our lives. Transition throws a huge monkey wrench into a portion of our lives...hiding in the dark twisting area of our inner essence, then jumping on our back like a big gorilla for a few years. Only after we pry that big ape off do we start working on who we are...because for so long, we’re simply known as the girl with the big gorilla on her back.

And, yet, defining ourselves sorta becomes reliant on our own journey. The mountains we climb are so big, we want to tell the world, “You see that big mountain up there? I climbed it...and survived.”

But, defining ourselves by the big mountain leaves us with an apparent handicap to so many.

“Ewww....she climbed the mountain where the big gorillas jump on your back.”

So, we search for other ways to define ourselves...or we change the way we are perceived by others.

Perception is becoming aware of something via the senses. How are you perceived? How am I perceived.

In one of the recent workshops at the Transgender Leadership Summit, we formed an inside circle and an outside circle. The two circles shifted at different times so we were matched up with different people. I was lucky to be paired up with two people I knew I had an instant connection with. One of the topics was to listen to how the other person perceived you and then see how close that perception came to who you were. This session was not for the fragile at heart, as you had to see how others perceived you and you also had to share how you perceived others.

I told the girl that I perceived her as a tall, skinny geeky chick who was into sci-fi. She said I was pretty much right. I don’t remember exactly how she perceived me, but I said I thought others perceived me as a curly-haired sporty chick. I think she said I was dead on.

Is who we are the perception we give others? If I cut my hair really short, wore leather, and rode a motorcycle, would I be perceived differently? How would I be perceived if I never had facial surgery? Or SRS? Or a breast augmentation? Or never had electrolysis. Would I be treated differently? I think I would, but you know, there are some people that, for them, it wouldn’t matter. These are the true perceivers who see people more for who they are than how they look...and these are the people I like to call friends. They are the ones that look past the superficial possessions.

Are we defined by the people we call friends? Is that who I am? I am the friend of E, the friend of JoanB, and the friend of Amber.

Perhaps that is one of the important parts of find ourselves, and as E used to say, “finding our passion.” I think I’m still searching, and perhaps that is who I am, the person searching for who she is. Perhaps the hunt is the defining part of the prize?

“Hi, I’m Kara...and I’m still searching for who I want to be when I grow up.”

If I ever find her, will I no longer be able to define myself? If the goal is reached, is it no longer a goal, but an accomplishment?

The thing is, I think we’re all changing over time. Even people without the darn GID end up maturing. People we knew 20 years ago aren’t the same now as how we knew them then. They’ve changed with life’s experiences. And I think we continue to change throughout life. I think the only way we wouldn’t be able to change is if we were all locked in a little room without any windows...and even then, though, that experience would change us, too.

So, from here on out, I think I’ll just consider myself a work in progress...and leave it at that.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008


I'm sure a lot of people have heard the buzz by now with the pregnant transgender man. He'll be on Oprah this Thursday in what I believe is his first public appearance on this topic.

I have to admit, I'm not the biggest Oprah fan, but I hope she does OK with it. They obviously paid big bucks for the story...AND for him and his family to keep quiet on it until the premiere appearance. Sure, the story is out there, but you haven't seen any interviews with him, have you?

Speaking of Oprah and my not being a big fan, I thought about those talk show hosts that I had seen that did OK with transgender topics...outside of the sensationalism of the actual program. If I had to rate them, I'd say:

1. Montell Williams
2. John Walsh
3. Greg Behrendt
4. Jerry Springer
5. Oprah Winfrey
6. Maury Povich

Yes, I actually have Jerry Springer above Oprah. That may seem so wrong to so many people, but if you listen to Jerry do his little monologue after many transgender related programs, he talks a lot about equality and fairness for everyone, and how that people can be "born in the wrong bodies". Montell and John Walsh are definitely above the rest, and Greg has actually done a fairly decent job...albeit he is a comedian. Maury comes across as being fairly positive, but he seems to push the attractiveness of T's more than anything else. I've never seen Rosie or Ellen talk about T stuff, but since both of them are lesbians, I would only assume they would be near the top. There is still a lot of T-misinformation in the LGB community, though, so it's just an assumption.

Do I think any of these guys have the hots for T's, though? Maybe...and I'll just leave it at that.