Thursday, January 29, 2009

Children's Love freely given

There are times and situations in one’s life that make you hit the pause button, if there was a pause or a re-wind to one’s live.

Why is it that adults let prejudice get in the way of relationships with other family members? Having a unpleasant experience involving a sister turn sour and finally realize that she has been hiding her true feelings about me, made for a rather awkward family gathering. Over the past year and a half, several of my uncles have passed away and it was recommended that I not come for fear of upsetting other family members who would be present at the funeral services. So when one of my Uncles passed away last Friday, I had mixed feelings. Kay and I thought that since family was scattered they would arrange for the funeral to take place on Thursday or Friday. His daughter was flying in from California on Sunday and after discussing arrangements with her brother, the funeral was scheduled for Wednesday at 2 pm.

I talked with my Cousin, whom I had never met; told her about myself up front and she seemed to have no problem with my being trans. I really wanted to go despite not really knowing my Uncle very well as I only met him a few times during other funerals. As events turn out, we could not change appointments or arrange for someone to care for our puppies; and since it would mean a day and a half driving time, we called and talked to my nephew to let him know we would not be able to make it to Western Arkansas for my Uncle’s funeral. I could tell by his tone of voice that he obviously had his problems with me; and his responses were short, curt, distanced and a hint of hostility thrown in the mix.

As things turned out the weather turned nasty with the ice and snow storm that blew through the area and everyone lost power on Wednesday; don’t exactly know how much this small town was affected by the storm, but after seeing the reports Kay said she would have Freaked out if she was stranded by the storm.

So all of these rejections from family members were tossed aside with the huge amount of love and hugs and kisses we get from the children who know us from church. There are several families with young children who love to come to Auntie Sarah and Kay’s house as well as children who show us so much affection for us. Last Sunday, a beautiful curly headed girl wanted to say good-bye, so I managed to squat down to tell her to have a good week, and she gave me a huge hug, with a big kiss and to top it off, she threw me a big kiss; which I caught and pulled it into my heart for safe keeping. She thought that was funny, and am glad she didn’t see the tears welling in my eyes.

We are so fortunate to know and be around such small people with such big hearts; who are free of so much of the hateful bigotry that parents and adults spew towards those who seem to be different. Thank goodness that such abounding love and kisses so freely given can cure so much other stuff in one’s heart.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Transition w/o estrogen?

Once I detected the lump in my breast and it was diagnosed as breast cancer I quit taking or using all forms of estrogen; as my hormone receptors were estrogen positive. There are a large number of manufactured products that use phytoestrogen or create these altered forms of estrogen which we use every day and are exposed to during our daily activities.

So after spending a few years testing the waters of transition and being able to find a doctor who would prescribe and monitor HRT, it only took 14 months for my cancerous lump to show up. I spent 3 or 4 months discussing my options while my testosterone raged back throughout my body reversing some of the changes that had been developing.

After getting recommendation to use Lupron injections from all of my doctors that were involved with my medical care; I was given the hormone blockers for about 32 months. My body did very well while I was using Lupron, I lost almost all of my body hair and my shape really shifted to the feminine side. Extreme hot flashes rages throughout my system, I could actually feel the edge of heat rushing up through my chest. Sweat would sit and collect on my skin enough that it seemed as if I had just stepped out of the shower. On our cold Georgia nights, my wife loved to snuggle up against me to warm up. At least I was providing something useful.

As the changes happened to my body, I was achieving my desired feminine results except for breast development. Since I knew that I would never achieve breast size that I have always dreamed about since I even thought I could be a girl, I settled with using a set of breast prosthesis for two years; which was a good alternative; but they weren’t me.

Having to undergo a mastectomy as the treatment for breast cancer with my health care’s authorization, they couldn’t deny breast reconstruction because that would have been medical discrimination based on gender. I am just completing the 10 month reconstruction process. But I was still receiving the Lupron hormone blockers as authorized by my heath care; and I would have to take Lupron for the rest of my life at a cost of $1700 for each injection. An alternate treatment for my male breast cancer with estrogen positive receptors would require the removal of the testes; a procedure characterized as ‘feminizing’ and gender changing surgery prohibited by my HMO. My urologist’s recommendation and request for the Orchiectomy was quickly denied at the first level. We quickly sent documents to appeal the first decision and after 3 weeks we received the recommendation that they would uphold the original denial; we were also given a period to appeal a second time to higher channels. So again we sent documents and letters for an appeal; after 4 weeks I received the letter from my HMO overturning the original denial and authorizated the procedure:

“Dear First Sergeant Riggle:

Thank you for providing us the opportunity to review the denial of “*” preauthorization for the above referenced care.
We are pleased to inform you that “*” preauthorization has been approved. The appeal decision accomplishing this, including the rationale for the reversal of the previous determination, is enclosed……..”

* my military HMO

So, I have been very “fortunate”, if you characterize getting breast cancer a good thing, to have so many procedures paid for that other HMO refuse to perform for trans women. Having my HMO finally characterize the removal of the testes as a viable treatment for male breast cancer over the 'feminizing affects' with receptors that are estrogen positive was vindication enough. When one compares the cost of receiving Lupon for the next 18 years at $367,200, as opposed to the charges of one procedure at $10,586, one would immediately see the savings of $356,614.

I will have to continue to take Tamoxifen for control of the breast cancer which also helps to block the natural occurring estrogen to which everyone is exposed to some levels. Since the last procedure, I have noticed a dramatic reduction of the number of 'hot flashes' and their intensity; which is a good thing.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Prayers Ascending

For all the hoopla and innuendo spouted about what kind of prayers that would be read during the Inauguration events for President Obama, I heard joy and beginnings in the Benediction offered by the The Rev. Joseph E. Lowery which included the following;

“And as we leave this mountain top, help us to hold on to the spirit of fellowship and the oneness of our family. Let us take that power back to our homes, our workplaces, our churches, our temples, our mosques, or wherever we seek your will.”

And ends so eloquently with;

“Lord, in the memory of all the saints who from their labors rest, and in the joy of a new beginning, we ask you to help us work for that day
when black will not be asked to get in back,
when brown can stick around ...
when yellow will be mellow ...
when the red man can get ahead, man; and
when white will embrace what is right.

That all those who do justice and love mercy say Amen.”

And on Bishop Robinson’s remarks about his thoughts concerning the Invocation given by Rev Rich Warren and reasons for his prayer of inclusion:
Why Robinson decided to not pray an explicitly Christian prayer.

"I went back and read the inaugural invocations and I was simply horrified about how aggressively Christian they were. All I could think of was, If I were a Jew, a Christian, a Hindu I would feel so excluded. I would be screaming at the TTV set - hey what about me!
The God of my understanding. It made me remember that there are as many understandings of God as there are people...No one faith has God in a box. Whatever God is he's more than any of us can articulate.
What I really wanted was a prayer that all people of faith could pray with me.

On Saddleback not allowing gays to be members (and taking that notice off their website):
I'd like to think it was because he had newly and freshly aware of how hurtful that is and how it doesn't reflect our reality of gay and lesbian people.

On those who say gays should try suppress their homosexual inclinations:
I've been the reparative therapy route.... My own experience is it doesn't work. teaches gay and lesbian people to become so self loathing that they are willing to not act in a natural way,
It only underscores the way the church has gotten this wrong. God doesn't ever get it wrong but the church often does……..
I think even the likes of Rick Warren and his congregation will come to see that gay people are a gift from God to the world and to the church."

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Wonderful Memories

How far back are precious memories lodged on one’s mind? Is it how quick we can recall detail? How vividly the smells, sounds, tastes and touch create the connections which surround good memories?
Last week we received word from a good friend’s wife that her husband passed away very suddenly. It’s not that they had not been on our minds of late, but they decided to move away to Ohio a few years ago, and we have missed them very much. When they started going to our church we didn’t reveal my personal history to them and we just felt that they really accepted us as friends; they were just a fun and friendly couple. Frequently, Charlie chimed up and said that I look just like a woman they knew back in such-a-place.
My most vivid and precious memories that I will always keep close to my heart happened one evening at a church dance; I forget the reason, but we all were having a great time. We had cleared a small space for a makeshift dance floor and there were two or three couples dancing to most of the songs we were spinning on the CD. The dancing couples were trading partners frequently when all of a sudden one of the women dancing with Charlie, suddenly grab my hand, lead me over to his and thrust me into his arms. Charlie was one of the few men who just happened to be taller than I, even with heels on. Charlie didn’t flinch, or protested with one word, he just grabbed me in his big arms and led me across the dance floor; I was on cloud-nine and didn’t know where the floor was. Just to be dancing a slow dance with someone was a dream come true for me. I tried desperately to let Charlie lead me around the floor, but I knew that this was just a dance, and a once in a lifetime dance for me.
I have never been asked or pushed into someone’s arms since, but that’s OK; I will get another dance. A few weeks before Charlie and Annabelle left, we did confide to them that I was a trans woman and waited for some sort of sign that what I said was news to them. They just grinned; shoot, they said they always known that I was trans because someone they knew was trans and everything about me fit their perceptions.
Thank you Charlie for giving me such wonderful memories and I will love you always for giving me a dance that I will never forget.

Bishop Gene Robinson's Prayer

A Prayer for the Nation and Our Next President, Barack Obama

By The Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson, Episcopal Bishop of New Hampshire

Opening Inaugural Event
Lincoln Memorial, Washington, DC
January 18, 2009

Welcome to Washington! The fun is about to begin, but first, please join me in pausing for a moment, to ask God’s blessing upon our nation and our next president.

O God of our many understandings, we pray that you will…

Bless us with tears – for a world in which over a billion people exist on less than a dollar a day, where young women from many lands are beaten and raped for wanting an education, and thousands die daily from malnutrition, malaria, and AIDS.

Bless us with anger – at discrimination, at home and abroad, against refugees and immigrants, women, people of color, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.

Bless us with discomfort – at the easy, simplistic “answers” we’ve preferred to hear from our politicians, instead of the truth, about ourselves and the world, which we need to face if we are going to rise to the challenges of the future.

Bless us with patience – and the knowledge that none of what ails us will be “fixed” anytime soon, and the understanding that our new president is a human being, not a messiah.

Bless us with humility – open to understanding that our own needs must always be balanced with those of the world.

Bless us with freedom from mere tolerance – replacing it with a genuine respect and warm embrace of our differences, and an understanding that in our diversity, we are stronger.

Bless us with compassion and generosity – remembering that every religion’s God judges us by the way we care for the most vulnerable in the human community, whether across town or across the world.

And God, we give you thanks for your child Barack, as he assumes the office of President of the United States.

Give him wisdom beyond his years, and inspire him with Lincoln’s reconciling leadership style, President Kennedy’s ability to enlist our best efforts, and Dr. King’s dream of a nation for ALL the people.

Give him a quiet heart, for our Ship of State needs a steady, calm captain in these times.

Give him stirring words, for we will need to be inspired and motivated to make the personal and common sacrifices necessary to facing the challenges ahead.

Make him color-blind, reminding him of his own words that under his leadership, there will be neither red nor blue states, but the United States.

Help him remember his own oppression as a minority, drawing on that experience of discrimination, that he might seek to change the lives of those who are still its victims.

Give him the strength to find family time and privacy, and help him remember that even though he is president, a father only gets one shot at his daughters’ childhoods.

And please, God, keep him safe. We know we ask too much of our presidents, and we’re asking FAR too much of this one. We know the risk he and his wife are taking for all of us, and we implore you, O good and great God, to keep him safe. Hold him in the palm of your hand – that he might do the work we have called him to do, that he might find joy in this impossible calling, and that in the end, he might lead us as a nation to a place of integrity, prosperity and peace.


From the Episcopal Cafe

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

For all it’s worth,

Kay and I were discussing the significant difference with having Rick Warren give the invocation on the day of the inauguration and having +Gene Robinson give his blessing before the first event of the week. It should be noted that +Robinson is giving his blessing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial lined with stone upon which Lincoln's words have been inscribed; the same person and place that president-elect Obama holds in high esteem.

Kay asked me if I could remember who gave the benedictions during the last two inaugurations; and as much as I searched I couldn’t remember. But we as a nation remember other historical moments in time which took place on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial; Dr. Kings historic "I Have a Dream" speech and Marian Anderson, for her performance on Easter Sunday, 1939 on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. In 1939, the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) refused permission for Anderson to sing to an integrated audience in Constitution Hall. The District of Columbia Board of Education declined a request to use the auditorium of a white public high school. As a result of the ensuing furor, thousands of DAR members, including First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, resigned.

I believe Rev. Gene Robinson’s words and message that he will deliver from the steps before the Lincoln Memorial will be given a greater place in our Nation’s history; that his message will be long remember by those of us who have been pushed aside than the prayer uttered by Rick Warren on the steps of our Nations Capital.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Gainesville’s Transgender and Bathroom Problem

I wrote this post in response to Ryans questions about Gainesville’s and the Transgender and Bathroom Problem, but it grew into a larger comment which I needed to post here.

Is the author of this post advocating a National Register for all people who express themselves to be Gender Variant? Or just for the Gainesville area? When you write, "Did they register as Transgendered-Americans?”; do we have to make foreign visitors declare their, Sexual Presentation, or Gender Identity before we will let them enter the country? Let’s take this question one step back and ask, "Who gets to medically declare and verify if someone is 'male', or 'female'?" By what means do we medically test the population? By visual inspection, by Genetics, Chromosomally; how far do we invade someone’s personal information in determining someone’s sex? We can't use name, because too many name are gender neutral; we can check by visual inspection, but a person who appears to be female could be male with gonads that didn't descend; testing for chromosomes isn't viable because people have female sex characteristic and could have male chromosomes markers, and then which label would you use. And what do we do with persons who are intersex? Are you really sure there are only two genders? If there would be any way to really count the number of people who express themselves to be 'transgender' you would probable find more than 500 in a population the size of Gainesville. Couldn't there be a hundred variations of gender? Are the people who protest so much so blinded by their own sexual wanderings that they do not want others looking too hard at their lives?

To tell you the truth, as a trans woman, I have been going to a doctor in Gainesville and to the VA Hospital and have never, ever been asked to leave a restroom, even when I was standing in a line to use a restroom. I really don't understand; what do 'real' women do differently in a bathroom than I would do?

Where are the news stories of trans women molesting young girls, there should be thousands of these horror stories, where are they? Who molests young Girls? Pedophiles molests children, not trans people and once we get that difference straightened out in our muddled mush for brains the better society will be. I'll charge you to search news records for stories about who abuses children and you will probable read about our 'teachers' our youth ministers and people who work with children molesting children more than someone who identifies as a trans woman. People’s reasons to transition are not to hunt down girls for any vile, perversion. Gender variant people's urge to transition is real,because there is a dissonance with the sex the brain thinks a person should be (subconscious sex), with the sex characteristics of their body. A "trans person" determination to resolve this dissonance is by transiting genders to match the gender identification with the subconscious sex.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Post Breast surgery checkup

Yesterday was my follow up appointment to check how my reconstructed breast was doing and schedule the nipple reconstruction; every thing was OK but the tissue appeared to be too thin to do the nipple reconstruction. So we are waiting for two more months and we will see how the skin is doing. His plan for the nipple reconstruction will consist to making an “S” cut and drawing them together to create the nipple. Drawbacks are that the new nipple could flatten out somewhat so he is planning to take extra tissue from someplace on the stomach to build up and support the newly created nipple, which will be an outpatient procedure. The other difficulties would be with the large scar tissue which lies across the middle of the breast; so the new nipple might have to be placed a little off-centered.
I am finding my Doctor’s attitude to be quite skilled and concerned with creating the “best” breast that he can, given the remaining tissue and breast area that he had to work with. I firmly believe that he would do no less for any other of his patients. I am so glad that he agreed to perform the surgery in the first place. His staff members and assistants could not have been more caring or supportive, more cheerful or friendlier than they have been with us.
We ask permission to shoot some video for a possible documentary to be produced by one of the Sociologist professors at the University and my Doctor mentions that he has overheard his staff say how impressed they were with Kay and me as a couple and as patients.
This process of surgery to reconstruct the remaining tissue from my mastectomy began on May 13, 08, just two weeks before my 62nd birthday. It will be almost 10 months of appointments and 3 different surgeries to complete the transformations of my breasts; certainly a relatively short time when comparing to my transformation and transition to Sarah, a lesbian, trans woman and wife.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

What a difference a year makes

Happy New Year!! How do you assign a value to achievements? A year ago things were good; we spent quality time getting reacquainted with my daughter, we celebrated our first anniversary and we lived out our ordinary lives. This last year Kay and I had several milestones as a lives together grew by leaps and bounds. I invited myself, sort of, to be included in the Universities production of the ‘Vagina Monologues’; which was a huge success. I had people telling me that had seen the production and loved my part. Then we went to New Orleans to see the Major production of ‘V Day to the 10th’, and had a great time with the girls of the Universities production. Then we attended the Southern Comfort Conference in Atlanta and met some wonderful sisters and courageous young people. I got a great letter of acceptance from my daughter for ‘Father’s’ Day; I still will be called her father regardless. Our relationship with her has blossomed again and for that, I am grateful.

Kay and I helped start a new PFLAG group in town with great success; we only hope that everyone returns for January’s meeting. We have expanded our story telling to a new college class and expect to have several repeat engagements early this year.
But to be able to get my New Year’s Wish fulfilled was more satisfying that anything else. I am speaking of getting breast reconstruction and bi-lateral implants. My new breasts fulfill my childhood dreams of developing into the woman I have become. Of course, having breast cancer destroyed all chances of developing my breast naturally through hormone replacement therapy, so we had to resort to other means. It was especially helpful that my health care provider had to pay for all of my surgeries. They couldn’t discriminate and not pay for the reconstruction and implants just because I developed male breast cancer.

Having been laid off of my job in November of 05, I hadn’t been able to find any work; or get an interview. I have wondered as to why that was; too old, too much education, too much supervisory experience as to intimidate the young people, having debt begin to pile up because I was strapped for income. Was it because I had to use my male name even though I presented female? Too many silent discrimination factors surrounding me block my way for a decent job.

But for the New Year ahead of us, we are looking for new adventures as the Lesbian couple; the two ladies, the two Auntees for the children who know and love us. I we are happy now! I have one more wish, or dream for the new year if you will, that will let me share my love with my wife in new and exciting ways.
I have begun to draw social security and with my half of my retirement, I am paying off my bill and still able to go places and do things with my wife. As the Two Ladies of our Church, we spend our day helping other who needs childcare or a shoulder to lean on, or to create quilts to be sold by the Church Women. Our time gets spread around working for LGBT causes and telling our story to those who listen. Living in the Deep South, we are like small animals chewing our way out from under the hold of the Conservative Christian thinkers, one small bite at a time; changing a few minds here and there as we live our life, openly with integrity.