Next Stop Surgery

I have to admit that I am losing interest in writing this blog and thus posts are likely to be quite infrequent from now on; I doubt they will be particularly missed in this disposable society that we live in. I had a lovely holiday in Austria at the end of August but now, at the end of October, it seems a bit pointless writing about it… even if, should I write about it on a grey, miserable day, I might enjoy the reminiscence. But I set this blog up to write about life as I transition and live life as my true, female self, and I suppose I feel a tiny obligation to continue writing about pertinent matters if only so that it will help others on the same path.

At the start of October I had four health appointments. One was with Endrocrinology to check my progress with hormones and to do a blood test to check oestrogen levels, during which I was told that in 2-3 weeks I’d get a letter confirming those levels – unsurprisingly, three weeks have passed and I have heard nothing. Another was for a non-transition health issue which remains and worries me after an appointment with my doctor today – more tests and a scan on the horizon. The third appointment was for my three-monthly blocker injection… which does not seem to have been totally successful this time… causing some distressing moments. The final, and most significant, appointment was a milestone on my transition path which was an assessment for surgery.

In the UK, or Northern Ireland anyway, one is considered for surgery at some point after having been on hormones for over 12 months and as this target passed for me in July then I was therefore due for surgical assessment at some point. In the past, patients have been sent over to Brighton, where the surgery takes place, for this assessment, but due to what would seem to be a sensible cost saving measure, perhaps due to the increasing number of transsexual people passing through the healthcare system, Dr Thomas from Brighton and two of his assistants were invited over to the Belfast GIC for an ‘assessment open day’. The near two-hour appointment was split into two parts. The first session was conducted by a very pleasant lady who talked to three girls including myself through the surgery path from admittance to care and procedures once at home again a week after surgery, including pre-surgery preparations. The second session, following a form-filling exercise, was with Dr Thomas himself who asked a few questions about my path and my health and medical history, answered my questions on surgery and explained risks, and conducted an examination to confirm if I would need electrolysis to the male appendage that I am still lumbered with; although this session was informative, it all felt increasingly rushed to me just like a lot of sessions at the doctor and in the end it was as if he couldn’t kick me out quick enough.

Now, as some/many of you may know, there are at least two options as regards surgery… well, three actually, because one can decide to have nothing done at all… although unless there is some particular health reason or circumstance to not have anything done at all I personally find it bizarre to be a woman but remain with the deformity of a male organ. Anyway, casting that option swiftly aside, the option chosen by many is the full works, with the male genitalia dispensed with and parts of it used to fashion a realistic female anatomy including a full vagina and also a clitoris – sorry, can’t use the male anatomy words vividly, I hate them too much, but you can Google details on the surgery procedure if you want to. However, there is a third option, which is a cosmetic option consisting of the full-works option minus the vaginoplasty, such that cosmetically everything looks just as good but there is no functioning vagina. Now I have to say that so many people seem to assume that every transsexual would have the full-works option, and indeed someone said to me last year “don’t even think about not having a vagina”… but how does anyone know what is right for me except for me?!? Another opinion I have heard is that they “wouldn’t feel complete as a woman without a vagina”… and it is fine for them to have that opinion for them… yet I feel complete already, everyday I live as woman, do everything in a typically female fashion, and get along fine with practically never any bother from anyone, even if I do hate having the male appendage that becomes visible when I am inside a toilet cubicle… and so to remove it will make me feel physically right. Going back to the appointment, it seemed to me that the people from Brighton also assume by default (unless advised perhaps of any medical issue) that everyone is going for the full works option, and never at any point was any mention of the other option made, apart from when I brought it up in private… because, you see, I have pretty much always been in two minds since I started this path as to which of the two surgeries are most appropriate for me. There are pros and cons with both options of course – for example, to not have a vagina obviously rules out penetrative sexual activity and consequently rules out a relationship with a proportion of male partners who would want that (although, let’s be honest and realistic, I’m already ruled out from having a relationship with the majority of available partners because of my transsexual gender history), but on the flip side to have a vaginoplasty means a variety of increased risks with surgery, having to dilate for the rest of one’s life (or have intercourse with a partner on a fairly regular basis – not a problem for some if they have a partner I guess) to keep the vagina open with a very time-consuming dilation routine in the initial few months, having to have (what I presume to be painful) electrolysis on the male appendage prior to surgery, having a prolonged recovery period, and so on. Another factor is one’s current attitude to the male genitalia – some people can put up with the bits without too much bother although do want to get rid of them while I am to the other extreme and loath them, have almost developed a phobia of them such that I can’t even imagine having intercourse with a guy (although like the idea of close companionship and kisses/hugs), and can’t watch a couple making love on the screen (for other reasons I won’t go into)… and there are others whose opinion is in between. Therefore, I went back into the lady conducting the first session on my own and went through the whole thing again on the premise that if I went for the cosmetic option then what would the revised schedule be… and I explained my current preference more for the cosmetic routine and she understood my view… even if she had not considered age to be a factor as she thought I was about 35! 🙂

Having considered the pros and cons… I am still considering them… and I will continue to do so for a while, especially as I am soon likely to experience some interaction with one or two potential male partners and when I eventually tell them of my history, if they don’t run a mile, I will broach the subject of intercourse (although have already done so with one) and consider reactions. But at the moment, having had the assessment, I have verged even more towards the cosmetic option taking account of my age, my work lifestyle which involves a huge amount of commuting time, that I live in an isolated location with little local support should anything go wrong, consequent risk aversion, my hatred of male genitalia (if only due to being stuck with it for such an awful long time), and my dislike of sex. I will go think some more… my opinion may change… or may not…

Happy Big Birthday To Me!

A few weeks ago it was a big birthday for me and 50 was the milestone age I became – I have to say that I was kinda dreading it, 50 is half a century and it sounds such a big number, but in the end I did quite a bit of celebrating and on the whole it was very enjoyable… so this is what I’ll blog about, sometimes I try and ignore birthdays but this special one I decided to make the best of… especially as it was Andrea’s first big birthday.

My birthday started extremely early in the morning because I was returning from my main20160910_180126 summer holiday (which I’ll blog about in a week or two) and the second flight leg of my journey was delayed a lot (thanks Ryanair… favourite airline, huh?) so I didn’t get home until 1.40am… just 10 minutes after the time I was actually born on my birthday. I got out of my car, grabbed one of my travel bags, and went to the back door of my house… to be confronted by a large, rectangular box! I dragged it inside and opened it up to reveal a huge bunch of flowers which had been sent to me by an old uni friend! I was soooo touched that I got a bit teary eyed… and so, once all my luggage was inside and a supper drink made, I was busy arranging flowers at 2.00am – well, it’s only the second time in my life I have ever been given flowers, so I had to look after them. Then I opened my cards… including one from a friend who did not know the nature of my ‘big’ birthday (i.e. only knew it was big, not the number) and consequently guessed/assumed it to be my 40th – well, I can only say that I am extremely flattered J

Owing to such a late night I was hardly going to be getting up for my normal, early train to work, and so I got the next one, leaving Newry just before 9.00. I only just got to the station in time, and entered the platform after the train had pulled in and the female train manager had alighted at the first class carriages. Now, I don’t travel first class, but it was my special birthday so after saying hello I asked her if there was any possibility of a free upgrade as it was my 50th – she looked around sheepishly, and then let me on board, 20160908_091753saying I didn’t look older than 21! After my lengthy day of travelling the day before I was quite tired and hungry, so being in first class I decided to treat myself to a waiter-delivered breakfast for the first time in my almost-17 years of commuting – a lady brought me a complimentary orange juice and hot towel along with a menu, and presently I ordered a full breakfast with a peppermint tea which was delivered on a wide rectangular tray (see picture); it was tasty, with a good poached egg, and a real super way to start my birthday morning.

I only spent about four and a half hours at work, as I had arranged with my boss to go early … although I was a bit disappointed that he had forgotten the reason why and did not give me any birthday wishes. I did a quick grocery shop for a few essentials and hurriedly dropped them at home, picked up some posh clothes, and headed to my hairdresser – dear Paul Meekin – to get my hair done. He kindly gave me a goodie bag with theimg_9065e shampoo and conditioner I normally use, as well as a couple of extra things to try; I got my hair washed and conditioned, then Paul blow-dried and styled it nicely for me. We were meeting for dinner but he had to go home first to drop his dogs off and jazz up his appea
rance, with a nice jacket as it turned out, so I filled the time by popping to a nearby supermarket for a few more things and then returning to his salon to put an evening dress on. Paul was just a few minutes late arriving at the restaurant owing to a taxi mess-up, and at 7.50 we entered Zen, a hip Japanese restaurant in Belfast. I had never been there before, or in fact any Japanese restaurant on this side of the Irish Sea, so after a lot of pouring over the menu we decided to share several dishes. Over two hours later we had waded  through sashimi salmon, huge filo prawns,  two separate orders of maki rolls, a mixed tempura basket, and a duck that arrived with glowing flames after something had been poured over it! We also had some bonus courses that the restaurant head threw in for free (probably as Paul knows him) including a mixed fruit juice and an ice cream dessert. As usual with restaurants, Little Miss Softly-Spoken here had a problem with the 20160908_202833noise in the place after a while, but most of the time was able to make myself heard. I eventually dropped Paul at his apartment, where we chatted outside for a while before I headed home shortly before midnight. I had a thoroughly enjoyable evening with delicious food and exceptional company… a great way to spend my birthday evening.

The following day I was into work early… for my birthday celebrations were not at an end by any means – the previous day I had emailed a former work colleague who I am still in touch with to see if he fancied lunch, so at just before 1.00 I was walking into our usual Italian restaurant in Dublin to meet him. We had a lovely lunch, I had the seafood pasta special with a glass of merlot followed by a seriously good tiramisu… and, the best treat of all, he paid!

Saturday I had a reasonable lie in, but was back at Paul’s salon again around lunchtime just for a quick hairstyle freshen-up, as another birthday dinner beckoned. I followed my salon visit with a bit of shopping and returned something (and bought other clothes – birthday treat, of course), and then met up with Kirsty – we had a panini and coffee/hot choc snack, did a bit of shopping (successful purchases for both of us), and then drove to my house as I had invited her to stay over for my special birthday. After a while we glammed up and Kirsty then chauffeured me to a regular restaurant, The Plough, to meet Michelle. Unfortunately the meal did not live up to expectations… in a number of ways – two out of my three courses I have ordered before and were not as good this time, but worst of all the meal was ruined by our little party attracting some periodic trans* curiosity from a nearby table once it had changed from a family dining to a couple of young couples; I nearly didn’t bother with dessert at all L Kirsty and I returned home at which point the evening became more fun with a bottle of champagne, some alcoholic chocolates, a few strawberries (which are supposed to go well with champagne… or the other way round… the jury is out) and good chat; I don’t know whether I have ever had champagne before, but it was a lovely treat, and quite an experience drinking it, the bubbles seemed to sparkle and explode as they hit the back of my throat. We were very late going to bed, around 2.00am… and I was obviously quite sozzled, as I started brushing my teeth with facewash before realising that something didn’t taste quite right. Bleah!

On Sunday we had a leisurely morning doing nothing of note, then drove for an hour to have what turned out to be a very tasty lunch at Balloo House east of Belfast near Killyleagh… although alas I got car sick owing to twisty roads not helped by a diversion; a couple of times during the meal I had to get fresh air as the warm room made me feel worse. Anyway, I had a good chowder, I think I had fish for main course, and dessert was a sticky toffee pudding. It was a really, really windy day and so we didn’t end up doing anything afterwards, and once dropped at my car I just went home to bed.

Monday was the final day of anything birthday-ish. My boss brought in a nice chocolate cake for me, which I of course shared with assorted team members, so we all had a small slice each.

So that was my 50th birthday – nothing mad, but lots of nice things to remember – I think I am going to have to be 50 more often!