Tuesday, 29 January 2013

About Me: A New Afterword

Like the old folk song says, "last night I had the strangest dream, I'd ever dreamed before". In it, my ex from five years ago was settled down with a husband and, somehow, I found myself at her mother's place. Of course, I was now me, not the "old me". Oddly, she did not recognize me. Later, when her daughter and son-in-law came by, my ex appeared stunned, more that I had transitioned than that I was there at all. For most of the dream, I struggled with an overwhelming sense of awkwardness at being there: how did I get there? Why was I there at all? A later scene in the dream had me returning something to a large pet store where my ex worked, in the dream. I remember prepping myself before I entered the store ... confidence! confidence! ... I've come a long way now. And so, I just stood up and walked tall into the store, made my return, and walked through the store out. I had done it ... I had finally moved on.

And The Sun Will Shine

So, over two years after starting HRT, more than a year and a half after starting this blog and nearly a year since finishing my autobio "About Me" section, here I am writing a new afterward.

2011 was a year of revolutions in the world and at home, politically and personally. A great year to come out publicly or to begin transition as I did. To go through so my changes as the old orders everywhere appeared to crumble and topple into the street was exhilarating. After a few years of being stymied on so many front, life and the world both seemed to accelerate. We were all on fast-forward. For me, it was a year of hormone prescription adjustments, tedious, but much needed facial hair removal and a steady process of coming out to more and more people, thankfully, with great results.

2012, almost by contrast, was a more challenging year. Just as people in the post-Arab Spring world focused on the very difficult task of running their new political set-ups and as the Occupy movements ran up against their own limitations, some fading away entirely, the Red Square student movement in Quebec and the various anti-austerity protests in Europe struggled to keep up the momentum of the previous year. And it was also a tough battle uphill for liberal and progressive forces in the US during a nail biting election year (thankfully, it turned out alright).

The day-to-day realities of that personal revolution known as gender transition became very clear to me in 2012. What hormones could and could not do. The huge cost, in time and money, of hair removal. The logistics of coming out everywhere and transitioning at work, in order to live 24/7 as myself. Coming out to my parents, or in my case, not just yet.

One thing became clear to me throughout last year: how much of a ripple effect has been caused by my transition process. Virtually no area of my life has been left untouched by it. In a good way. Once, I was centered, grounded in who I was, my confidence rose significantly. I became more outspoken, more eager to   engage others, to contribute to whatever group I was involved with. I also became much more comfortable with being single (with no relationship) and, even alone (in downtime) when necessary. Gone was the intense melancholy that came with feeling inadequate. It was as if I was now confident enough that I could trust myself to know when I need to be with others and when I needed to be alone.

The summer of 2012 saw many interesting new developments. After nearly two years of taking writing courses, I began work on two nonfiction book proposals. One of my instructors, a book review editor for an academic journal, invited to begin writing book reviews for that publication: all with a local/BC focus. Pride week saw me involved in my first Trans March and marching with the Trans-Alliance Society banner in the general Pride Parade a couple of days later. Finally, I became involved with the sitcom project currently known by the title "The Switch" in late September. I felt that I was boldly entering new turf almost daily.

Down On Me

The fall of 2012 had much bad karma. As we were all reminded all too regularly of the violence and deranged hatred in the world, it was truly a sad season.

With all of this happening, I was also reminded through tense moments with friends and others of my own foibles and vulnerable spots. 2011 and 2012 came with some personal losses also. I lost my eldest uncle  early 2011, he had been seriously ill for many years and died from cancer only days after his seventy-third birthday. I lost another relative on my father's side in early 2012 who had also been battling cancer for several years. Then, the Thursday before Halloween, my surviving grandmother who I had last seen in June passed away after stroke. Perhaps in the long run, I needed to go through my own blue period in order to touch my own basic goodness again. By the time the holidays rolled around, I realized that I was very tired and in need of some sort of break. I decided that I would take a vacation for the last three weeks in January. It would serve two purposes: a much needed break and emotional hibernation, and break from work after which I would return as myself, finally. So, after spending most of the holidays working with only the actually statutory holidays off, I spent the first week of the new year preparing for both.

There Was a Time

Once upon a time, I considered transition a huge chasm that I dared not cross: it was just too much risk, others would hate me for crossing it. Two years later, I almost have to pinch myself to realize that I am alive, awake and that I have actually made it. It has been filled with scary anxiety-filled moments as much as it has been with delightful surreal ones: I am not who I was or am I yet who I will be. Yet, I am who I have been inside since as long as I could remember, and obvious to some people who have known me for many years.

I spent the first week of my vacation getting my name change paperwork in order and filed with the Vital Statistics Agency. The second week, I began (as per my resolutions for this year) cleaning up my suite, getting rid of the very last of my male clothes as well as those that I wore early in transition. Organizing my life, becoming more purposeful and responsible for myself are my currents goals. It is a challenge, but certainly not impossible: old habits can be undone with time and patience.

The rest of my time I spent socializing, writing, napping, dancing, djing, creating and generally, recovering a sense of wholeness. I sense myself being pulled back into a somewhat contemplative life, but a much less deprived one in terms of feeling isolated. A nice way to settle into mid-life.

Both Sides Now

As I spend my last week in hibernation, I am preparing myself for full time real life experience. Part of it scares me, the wildcard of public service and its unpredictable nature, the reality of being fully out and that family conversation getting closer once again. But, I also look forward to it. Double living is now a thing of the past. I am now me everywhere, not just "on my own time". As it should be, of course. A new chapter begins now.


This is a new afterword for my autobio series which I will be adding to its table of contents along with my short series of posts about going home to Montreal last June. In the next little while, I will be giving this blog a much needed redecorating, with a new layout included. Stay tuned.

Love, Vanessa

Last week of January 2013

Sunday, 13 January 2013

An Alternate Set of Resolutions

On New Year's Day, a friend posted an interesting suggestion on Facebook:

"Instead of making resolutions I suggest this, write a list of all your accomplishments, things that brought you joy and ways that you surprised yourself from this past year. Then, at the top of the list write New Years Resolutions 2012 and then go down this list and check each one off. Start the year with a feeling of accomplishment to attract more of the same in the new year."

So, here are my accomplishments from last year:

1. I began work on two nonfiction books.
2. I started writing for The Switch.
3. I celebrated six years on the air.
4. I stayed the course with transitioning (no regrets).
5. I supervised the planting of eleven fruit trees in my community garden's orchard.
6. I got rid of my male clothes.
7. I completely nearly a decade and a half in my chosen career.
8. I arrived at a state where I generally felt good about myself.

and the joys:

1. more friends
2. much dancing
3. much writing
4. much laughing
5. good health

and the ways that I surprised myself:

1. My stronger sense of my own boundaries around family.
2. Me taking more ownership of my issues (self-esteem, perceptions of others, role in interpersonal issues).

So, as a result of doing this exercise ... I feel even better about where I am at and ready to take on the Year of the Water Snake. Bring it!

Saturday, 12 January 2013

HRT 2nd Anniversary!!!

Two years ago today, I swallowed my first anti-androgen pill and placed my first estrogen skin patch. I wouldn't say that it has been clear sailing ever since, but it has been pretty good. I have felt better, more grounded in who I am. It is my belief that, when someone is truly themselves, authentic, at peace internally, that huge reserves of energy are released from within. One is better able to weather the stormy seas of life in the world.

And now, on the verge of presenting as myself everywhere, 24/7, I am ready to set sail on wider seas.

Ship ahoy!

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

2012 Goals Review and 2013 Goals

"A little Learning is a dang'rous Thing;
Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian Spring:
There shallow Draughts intoxicate the Brain,
And drinking largely sobers us again.
Fir'd at first Sight with what the Muse imparts,
In fearless Youth we tempt the Heights of Arts,
While from the bounded Level of our Mind,
Short Views we take, nor see the lengths behind,
But more advanc'd, behold with strange Surprize
New, distant Scenes of endless Science rise!
So pleas'd at first, the towring Alps we try,
Mount o'er the Vales, and seem to tread the Sky;
Th' Eternal Snows appear already past,
And the first Clouds and Mountains seem the last:
But those attain'd, we tremble to survey
The growing Labours of the lengthen'd Way,
Th' increasing Prospect tires our wandering Eyes,Hills peep o'er Hills, and Alps on Alps arise!"

- from Alexander Pope's "Essay On Criticism", 1711

I was first introduced to that three hundred year-old quote during my first year as an undergraduate over twenty years ago. It is about not taking on too much in academic studies, and that what looks easy may in fact be much more difficult once you start down the path of your chosen pursuits.

New Year's Day and coming down to earth, gently but firmly, go hand-in-hand. So, time for a progress report. Last year in New Year's Resolution post, I listed the following goals:

"Transition Goals:

1. Find a comfortable voise pitch/level and then work on making it my regular voice.
2. Come out to my family.
3. Continue with HRT and hair removal.
4. Apply to Vital Statistics for my name change.
5. Find a new psychiatrist/clinical psychologist.
6. Buy hair styling appliances (dryer with diffuser, flat iron, styling iron).
7. Buy woman's winter coat and rain coat.
8. Buy new purses and a laptop carrier.
9. Present myself as a woman at work (prepare for this).

Other Goals:

1. Get at least 8 hours of sleep per night; get up early enough in the morning.
2. Take the nonfiction book writing course at UBC.
3. Continue to research/write my two books.
4. Close my radio program Facebook group and start a blog for it instead.

Well, I'm looking forward to seeing where I will be with these a year from today."

And today, a year later, this is where I stand.

Some goals may seem easier, or at least more straight forward, when listing them on a page, but when it comes time to do them, they turn out to be much more challenging.

Voice Training

I have worked on my voice for much of the past twelve months, but began to slack off in the latter part of last year. And I reaped the result: the early part of last year my voice seemed to change in leaps and bounds, I could hear the difference when listening back to my radio program. Friends, and some co-workers claimed that they could hear a change and it encouraged me. But, by late summer, largely due to scheduling issues, I began having some difficulty booking sessions with my trainer. I had an appointment in October and then, again, in December. But, mostly, I had stopped practicing for a time. My progress slowed down. In fact, thought I was regressing. Then, at my December session, we played the archived digital samples of my voice from my first session from October 2011, one from mid-2012 and from that day's session. Turns out, my voice has changed ... significantly! Much softer, more "typically feminine" inflections; my first ever session sample sounded like someone else entirely: some guy.


Ahem, yes, well, as last spring made clear, I was not ready to come out to my immediate family after all. It just took a full week back in Montreal to realize it. At times, I was so close to breaking the ice, at others, a chasm away. In the end, I went my way and they went theirs, without a word about it.

HRT and Hair Removal

Now, here is a goal that played out in very straight forward fashion. After having my dosages modified in late 2011, I stayed the hormone course throughout the year. There was some concern with my potassium levels right after I came back from Montreal, but they resolved themselves. Currently I am on the same dosages as I was a year ago, but I will be, as of today, replacing my Spironolactone with Cyproterone for three weeks to see how that works. I will need to do a blood test for my doctor towards the end of that time. Fingers crossed that all goes well.

My hair removal reached a tipping point just after I got back from back east. Suddenly, I could have large areas treated in one two-hour electrolysis session. By the fall, I could have all the hair left on my face (not much, but of the tedious variety) removed with two hours. My appointments went from being weekly to being every three to four weeks. More of my hairs were white and stunted. I am at the light at the end of this tunnel.

Name Change

Three words: workin' on it.

Psychiatrist/Clinical Psychologist

If my memory serves me correctly, this goal was about trying to find one with whom to do an assessment for SRS. Well, just from how I worded that last sentence, it is obvious that SRS is not a clear goal for me, yet.

Hair Styling

Bought the dryer, still need a diffuser. Bought a flat iron, still need a styling iron. Also got a round comb and some hair product to prevent frizzing.  Most of these are professional brands, bought wholesale.


Rain coat, two winter coats (on sale last February for half price), sweaters, boots (one pair given, two others on sale for thirty dollars each at a small store closing out sale in my neighbourhood), various other clothes, all done! I need to get some more clothes for work, and any guy and early transition clothes need to be gotten rid of.


The good kind. One free purse in great condition which goes with anything I am wearing. Bought some other carrying cases for a laptop and for books, folders, etc. this past summer: all with the sense that I was finally getting my s*#t together.

Present As Myself

This just in ... I will be taking the last part of the month off and returning to work in early February as (drumroll, cymbal) me! More in future posts.

Other Goals

Sleep continues to be an issue. Old habits die hard. But, it is a new year, and I will use my break at the end of the month to begin to recalibrate my sleep patterns. I took the nonfiction book writing course from early February to late March; it went very well and, currently, my writing are many and diverse, including the two books that I was working on last year, writing book reviews for BC Studies, a UBC-based academic journal and writing for a new trans-themed sitcom called The Switch (more on that in later posts). Lastly, I have both kept my radio show's Facebook group and launched a blog for it. And may the best social media presence win.

So, there is my progress report. The secret is to not take on too much and to set goals that are doable, winnable and realistic. For 2013, my new goals are:

1. Apply for name change certificate
2. Transition fully at work
3. Work on getting to bed earlier and getting up earlier
4. Get my finances in order
5. Continue with my various writing projects
6. Get my living quarters tidied up and organized (more closet organizers for clothes and accessories and properly store my music collection)
7. Invite more people into my home, welcome them into my life, show them how much I love them.

And I approach these goals fully knowing that more goals will appear as start down this year's path of chosen pursuits.

Happy New Year!

Best wishes for the coming year to all my readers! Look forward to much more on this blog this year!