|Fridge drawing "Venus"|
This drawing of me resides magnetized to our refrigerator. It was drawn by the oldest daughter of a then nearby LGBT couple for whom I did some remodel/handy work early last winter. She drew it in about five minutes in their kitchen just after she and I met when I dropped by their house to see what all needed to be done. Halfway through this visit, she came back and handed it to me.
I love the detail; my torn leggings, bangs, earrings, and glasses, and she even caught my coffin purse, but accidently inverted the angles of it.
I love this drawing.
As I discussed with her two mothers some of their house repair needs, she followed while carrying my coffin purse for me. Then out of the blue, she asked me how I identified. (She actually used this specific language.) "..now do you identify as a boy? ...or a girl?" She asked, then waited earnestly for my reply. I took a breath, thanked her for asking, and told her a girl. She expressed so much happiness at that answer and immediately had a billion things to talk about. One of which was how cruddy it was to have to wear glasses because, she told me, she also has to wear glasses and had just accidently broken hers on the playground, and she showed them to me. Eventually, and with some prompting from one of her Moms, I was able to return to the repair discussions and schedule the needed work.
The reason I'm including this drawing and this short preamble, is twofold: First the remembrance of it sustains my hope for our future. These kids are gonna pull us through. No matter what. I truly believe it.
And second, I feel her drawing captures quite well, what she saw as my "inner" self.
On Dec 12 2018, I had GRS surgery. I posted a blog here about that decision. You may have read and remember, but if not, you can find it here. It changed my life, Then again, my life was already changed when I was four years old, and realized that inside, I wasn't what people imagined.
Soon after my GRS, which was a physically challenging event, but an emotionally positively-powerful event, I'd say maybe within months, early 2019, I began to feel the beginning of a disconnect between my new body and myself. Or more specifically, my internal "me."
And weirdly, if I might attempt to explain further, this internal "me," to be specifically accurate, I felt was directly and invisibly connected, from my mind to my face.
This unexpected disconnect, which began small but steadily grew till it sped forward, eventually gave me as much gender dysphoria as I had when growing up as a kid, and then as a young adult before I initially came out in 1988. –– It unexpectedly began to re-crush me. My old depressions threatened. And here's the thing, I'd expected my gender reassignment surgery to have solved everything. And it did solve so much. I had begun finally to truly find myself. After a lifetime. But it turned out not to be the final step as I'd hoped. Instead, became a first step.
10 months ago I had the first phase of FFS done. Facial Feminization Surgery. The bone work. Back at the Mayo. This, after having to fight with my insurance for coverage. Six months of legal challenges, letter writings, research and appeals to demonstrate, as a trans-person, the decision for FFS (or for female-to-male trans-people, the decision for FMS,) does not fall under cosmetic. It is as fundamentally significant for trans-people as the decision for either type of GRS. Perhaps even more so as new research tells us.
I had my facial flesh pulled away from my skull, and the bones underneath altered. My jaw brought back to a more pre-testosterone line. My upper skull, brow and eye sockets, also pre-testosterone-influence smoothed. Just enough, I'd hoped, to align my "inner-self" with my new body.
I had in effect, as I had done with my GRS, jumped off a cliff. And obviously, in doing this, once done, there was no going back.
And I am used to jumping off cliffs. It's exactly why, I think, I am a performer. Why I can climb onstage and risk social-anxiety-disaster in my attempt to share as close to, if not in actuality, pure raw emotion. When I sing. When I strip naked on the art stage. When I light fire on my body. When my band and I, both vocally and instrumentally, belt out our songs, our sets, full volume colliding into each other, powering through mistakes, wrong notes, technical failures, and all manner of various physical mishaps which is after all, what the core of glam-fetish-punk-rock is all about. Which is what my art and what I am all about. An attempt to touch truth.
However, when the swelling from my bone surgery diminished, I was left at a halfway point, many steps backwards from where I had been before my FFS began. I had not at all prepared for this. With my jawbone specifically, now smaller and narrower that it had been before, what remained, was excess skin which previously had fit nicely over my larger male sized jaw. I felt panic. I questioned my sanity. This was a hard crash at the bottom of the cliff. Not the splash into a cool deep pool I'd expected. A deep depression overtook me. For months on end. As I mentioned above, my "inner-me" now reflected back through an unrecognized and severed invisible connection with my mind. Altered beyond repair. No going back. No re-do. This was not in the least, what I had hoped to have happen.
To make matters worse, as I struggled trying to get back onto solid emotional ground, settling in for an unanticipated wait till this excess flesh could be dealt with, I discovered my insurance had denied my now-obvious-to-me needed, second FFS phase.
Despite the emotional precariousness I found myself in, I had no choice but to re-launch, from scratch, another full-on insurance fight. I began to slowly climb back up the damn cliff so I could hopefully, somehow, make another leap.
After five months of secondary appeals, letter-writing, more research, and determination, I was finally awarded secondary coverage at the end of February 2020. It was thankfully recognized and deemed necessary reconstructive surgery. Not cosmetic.
Then, as we all know too well, Covid hit.
I cautiously pushed myself to continue performing through all of this. Searching for my inner strength as I sang, wrote music, let myself fall back into art. Some of you joined me during this time: My performing at First Unitarian Society for Joe Szurszewski's photo documentation of twenty years photographing behind the scene shots of me and my band "All The Pretty Horses." My various readings of excerpts from my work-in-progress memoir. My opening set for Nic Lincoln's "Too Much" at BLB. A fundraiser for the LGB-Trans-advocacy legal group who assisted me in my insurance battles: JustUs Health. My multiple Covid Live-Streams via my YouTube channel and my Patreon page, when we all went on pandemic lock-down.
Slowly, because of art, I regained my emotional stability. Art did the important work it had always done for me in the past. It provided clarity, insight, complexity, balance, and strength.
On Monday, July 27, 2020, early in the morning, my wife Lynette and I entered Mayo one more time so I could be prepped for my final FFS phase. Another leap off a cliff. It turned out to be another 7+ hour surgery.
Let's do the math:
Along with the previous bone surgery, my full FFS took almost 15 hours under the knife. Add to this my GRS. That makes my full surgical gender-transition having taken more than 20 hours. Add HRT: I began hormones in May of 1994. This means my full physical gender-transition has taken 26 years.
Add to this my inner-self.
My actual life-gender-transition has now taken 60 years. And I suspect, it will continue.
Throughout everything, art has guided me forward. Deep-dives inwards towards my emotional core has given me courage. Facing all manner of ridicule, diminishment, and dismissal for more than half of my life externally, and at times self-inflicted damage, for all of my life internally, because I refused to hide my transgenderism, has given me strength, empathic clarity, and insights I would have never achieved in any other manner.
I stand now with two months of final healing ahead of me. And I also stand excited for a future, and for whatever it might hold.
I suspect I will continue to leap off my metaphorical cliffs. It appears to be my nature. But I think I can safely say now that I have finally accomplished a lifetime quest. One I did not choose to journey.
Woven throughout are many, many individuals who continually gave me support. From day one. Some I know intimately and personally. Some occasionally walked with me along this same difficult road. Many I know from the distance between stage and audience. Many more now, I've come to know from our present cyber world's vast digital breadth.
Thank you all for helping me along this infinitely, ever-changing, multi-dimensionally-complex gender and life path.
You know who you are.
I owe you everything.
-Venus de Mars
|Venus, 12 days post final FFS surgery (..sans make-up)|