Sunday, 31 December 2017

Postscript: Adieu

 Once, inspired by other blogs, I started my own so that I could tell my story: how I got to where I was, how I knew I was who I was, how it was going being who I was. From HRT, electrolysis, full-time living, coming out, surgery and recovery, and reintegration into life which is and will alwasy be ... life.

The time has come after six and a half years for me to put this blog to rest. Someone in the community once said that you transition everyday for the rest of your life, always becoming who you are, renewing your commitment to yourself ... everyday. I believe this. But, this blog was about my medical and social transition, and those are complete. My struggles are outside of that now.

I want to thank all of you who have followed me since May 2011. Those of you no longer with us watching from another plain, thank you as well. This blog will not be coming down, but will stay up as one story of woman who found herself, finally, and made up for lost time and began to heal parts of her life and her relationships; she realized that we are all works of progress. It is both beautiful and heartbreaking. I will leave the welcome mat out for anyone out there who happens by with questions keeping them awake and walking through the nights and stumbling out-of-body through the days. Good luck to you, you are not alone. Learn what you can here. Share it.

And, lastly, no I am not going away, but I have a different online presence in mind which you will be able to reach from here at a later date.

Goodbye. I love you.

New Year's Eve 2017

Happy New Year 2018!

It took everything I had to put that enthusiastic looking exclamation mark after the new year in the title. After the grimness of last year's new year's post, I had hoped for a better year globally, locally and personally, at least personally. It was anxiety provoking and extremely draining.

On the other hand, there were some very special moments this year as well: healing, reconnecting with friends and family, time spent animals, plants, trees, renewed spiritual focus. A renewed commitment to my mental and physical health, in short, what brought me out west twenty-two years ago.

Life has become a series of rebirths and reunions.

I have experienced a rebirth of enthusiasm for my professional work as well as for writing.

I went swing dancing for my birthday after I returned to Vancouver in September; the faces have changed, but I enjoy dancing from time to time.

I occasionally see folks from the community garden (which I left in December 2016); things seem to be going well and the garden is being passed down to another generation of food security activists and community builders. I concentrate on my home garden and look forward to the day when I can live a complete permaculture life, earthship and all.

I have returned to practicing t'ai chi, something I once discovered as a deeply shutdown undergraduate student practicing my way out of asthma symptoms, practicing on my dying mother's apartment balcony and carrying on after moving out west.

I recently went to visit my old meditation centre as they were packing up to move to another location after over 40 years in the same storefront; I saw many old faces and my real self got reacquainted with them. I look forward to sitting with them again in the new year.

I consider my own neighbourhood a community; I have made friends with folks up and down the street, in the shops, cafes, restaurants, the local library branch where I get to be a library user for a change of pace. They were all there for me through transition, through the good times and bad, through the world's ups and downs and my own. I am grateful that they were there for me this year; I love you all very much.

You know what?

Happy New Year 2018! (with an exclamation mark!)

About Me: The Winter-Summer-Winter of My Discontent

Almost two months ago, I re-caulked my shower stall, and at the end of the year, it looks like I'll need to do it again. A pain to be sure, but necessary in so many ways. Not just because the stall and the washroom need it, but I do too, for reasons related to my respiratory health. After a couple of years of breathing and coughing symptoms, I was finally diagnosed with asthma this past August. It was three days after the smoke cleared out of the Lower Mainland from the interior BC forest fires. Finally, things had cleared up. In many more ways than one.

2016/17 was, as Queen Elizabeth II once said, annus horribilis; every area of the world and my own life seemingly on a tail spin. By the time of my second anniversary Post-Op, it had taken its toll and I was in trouble. 2016 was the year that I was supposed settle into myself, finally, and deal with some unfinished health business: namely, the sleep and eating issues that I had developed over years of being closeted. I had just begun that when, suddenly, my work environment was in turmoil. The above mentioned issues became exacerbated. Then came the news that the clinic I had been in for SRS had been attacked. I had (and have) many fond memories of staying there and it had been a healing moment for myself and friends and family; now, it had literally been charred. Six weeks later, the Orlando shooting happened, and my sense of personal safety shattered. Then there was the social and political chaos in the US and EU. By year's end, I was exhausted. My respiratory problems worsened.

That winter saw several snow storms locally, the cold and damp of which affected my health. I took many days off work to recuperate, at times waking up not being able to breathe properly at all. And my antidote to despair had been to become more politically active, but after the January Women's March, I was simply too fatigued. When I went to the local drop in clinic, I was (mis) diagnosed and given what would turn out to be the wrong inhaler. I returned to my regular routines, feeling better, but it would not last.

Isolation is usually, not the best thing health wise, but that is exactly what I became as winter gradually became spring. A late snow storm in early March made going outside treacherous breating wise. So, aside from work, I stayed home, only able to peer at the world I had wanted to engage as it became more and more chaotic. I watched as the local anti-racism march was attacked by white supremacists, I heard of friends and friends of friends being threatened and attacked themselves. Every day brought a fresh hell from south of the border and, sometimes on this side of the border.

Tatum's health mirrored my own in this strange symbiosis that exists between humans and their pets. Often, I felt that he was all I had; he had been with me through it all and I with him. I feared losing my job and my financial footing and having to give him up; once, years ago, he had been surrendered in northern BC and months later I had adopted him. The though of abandoning him kept me up at night.

As snow turned to regular and torrential rain, I tried to keep up with my responsibilities, but floundered. I felt my self worth plummet. When my respiratory issues failed to clear up completely, I booked an appointment with my regular doctor and was put on to a waiting list for the lung clinic: it was six months long.

Sometime in April, I heard that a friend (who had arranged for free travel back to Montreal for surgery) was in the hospital in Toronto with congestive heart failure. I knew that I could afford to travel there, and felt horrible, but kept in touch with mutual friends to get updated about his condition. I felt some relief when he was discharged.


I had been living in Vancouver nearly 22 years; I had arrived in a city of desperate hope and strangers with a mountain of grief and unexplored issues on my shoulders. I wanted to continue my mother's personal growth work to avoid the tail spin she had got into in her last years. She had died at 47; in 2017, I would be 47; on the first of June 2017, she would have been 70. As Mother's Day approached, it was all too much. I began posting the kind of desperate social media posts that I had posted back 2009 when my life had seemed at a dead end. The work week leading up to that May weekend had been particularly stressful and came out of it feeling that I had lost my way in life. Then, that weekend, my friend in Toronto had a massive stroke. Information was sporadic, but I learned that the stroke has left him half paralyzed and with his short term memory gone. Again, I could not get there.

I staggered through the next two work days alternately angry and depressed; I was awakened at night by panic attacks; I would gaze at Tatum and burst into tears not wanting to lose him. After my late shift that Tuesday, I went home in a daze and wrote down my own funeral arrangements in a notebook. it sounds profane that while my dear friend was fighting to live, I was making preparations to die, but I had developed tunnel vision feeling I was of no use to anybody. Early on Wednesday afternoon, after my morning shift and lunch break, I had a nervous breakdown and went on stress leave. In a blur, I got my things together and numbly walked out to the bus stop to go home, all nineteen years at my organization passing in front of my eyes. I would not return for four months.

I began six weeks of crisis counseling that week with a phone call to an employee counseling service 1-800 number. I give a lot of credit to the counselor I spoke to for helping me regain my will to live. Tatum had a lot to do with it as well. I was placed with an in-person counselor starting the Thursday evening of that first week. The following weekend was Victoria Day long weekend; I had booked an appointment with my regular doctor's office. Another doctor who was substituting evaluated my anxiety levels: almost all my indicators were tops. Oddly, it was almost as much of a relief as it was an upset. I would be re-evaluated every two weeks by my doctor. Documentation would be sent back and forth, phone calls, emails, faxes: in the middle of it all I began to gradually get my footing again.

Soon afterwards, my friend's sisters had him flown from Toronto to Richmond Hospital where he underwent more tests and procedures. I visited once on a very hot spring day. On a rainy June 1st, my mother's 70th, a mutual friend and myself went to see him. He was stabilizing; he was due to go to St Paul's for a procedure for a few days, then he would be sent to the G F Strong Rehabilitation Centre in Vancouver. I spent the rest of June 1st with a counseling session and another friend's comic book launch.

Near the end of June, I touched base with a friend I had gone to library school with who volunteered at the local Van Dusen Botanical Gardens. We spent an afternoon there. I realized that I had missed being around nature. I also began writing again, poems mostly, although I also had a couple of ideas for TV that I needed feedback on. Other times I would walk down to my neighbourhood park, sit on a bench, write, read (spiritual, emotional healing books: Gabor Mate, Mark Epstein, Mark Wolynn, Pema Chodron) or just sit while the sounds of life moved around and through me. On Saturdays, I doubled down on the internal martial arts practices I had started at the beginning of the year.

But it was with friends, visiting one friend at the Rehabilitation Centre, spending an afternoon with another at Crescent Beach, taking long walks with yet another, that I regained a sense of being connected others, catching up on our lives, seeing the value in each day.


A couple of weeks after Canada Day, I was contacted about an appointment at the lung clinic. My breathing had cleared up with the weather, but I was happy that my wait four months instead of six.
Not long after, smoke from the Interior BC forest fires was pushed out to the coast by changing air currents where it stayed for three weeks. I had been gardening a fair bit and getting to know the nature in my backyard, but now I had to close the windows and stay inside. Some of my symptoms returned. I stayed in and watched old 60s and 70s TV shows on DVD at home, occasionally have a friend over. I didn't walk in the Trans March this year but instead waited at the end point in a park, and with a breathing mask, welcomed the marchers home.

When the smoke cleared, in mid-August, I went for my lung clinic appointment. I was tested on a Monday and the following day I got the diagnosis. Asthma. I had grown up with one smoking parent at a time when there was no awareness of second hand smoke. Over the years, my chest colds had been particularly harsh and my dry coughs lasted quite a while afterwards. Then there were my spells of pneumonia in November 2015 and February 2016. One of my inhalers was replaced with another with different medication. My symptoms improved over the next couple of weeks.


A week later, on the morning of the total eclipse, I woke up to a deep orange light and strange shadows. Perfect in an unusual year.


Exactly one week after the eclipse, I flew back home for two weeks. Returning to my roots seemed very fitting this year. I feel that since coming out to them a few years ago, my family and I have been doing very subtle but deep healing work. Along with that, the joy of renewed connections and the sadness of missing years surfaced in me. My couple of weeks were everything a trip home should be, everything seemed to have added meaning. I have always been a very nostalgic person, and this was no exception. Maybe it was a brand of biscuit that I remembered growing up, or a song that I had heard. We spent an afternoon at a foodie-type festival down at the old port. On the morning of my 47th birthday, I woke up to find the kitchen table decorated with a gift bag and card: I felt 16 ... the right kind of 16 this time.

On my last Friday in Montreal, my stepmother, her sister and myself went to the Rue St Hubert shopping district. It was mostly window shopping, but my stepmother treated me to a new 2-piece outfit from a boutique. Lunch was at a classic Montreal diner with a 50s rock 'n roll playlist. Dinner that evening was back in the old neighbourhood at a great pizza restaurant with a few other relatives.
The next afternoon, we literally went walking down memory lane; I saw my old elementary school, a shell of its former self, streets that I remembered, one of my old pre-schools, the building was there, but it now occupied by someone else. I felt the impact of that walk the next day, I was flying out that evening. I was once repairing the relationship to my mother and then, she died. Now, I was growing closer to my father and stepmother and I feared losing them. I burst into tears over brunch the next morning and again back at the apartment while old songs played in the background. It was a rare moment when I felt the passage of time move all of us along.

And then, we were at the airport departures, me a mess, them watching over me as I moved through the security line until I was out of sight: a girl all grown up.

And then, I was home greeted by Tatum.

And then, I was back at work the next afternoon. There was a little welcome back party for me with tea and refreshments. It was touching, I managed to keep my tears in.


At first, I was on limited hours, four hours a day for four days. I gradually got back to full hours after six weeks. I found that I had a center now, I could handle the pace. The pace seemed easier. Perhaps the pace and me met somewhere in the middle.

Autumn was a blur, but I felt better as time went on. My doctor's assessments reflected that. My respiratory health was manageable and improving. I dove into Christmas early, immersed in the cozy and twinkle of it. I spent Christmas with an old friend and her family. Meanwhile, the friend that had had a stroke was doing much better and spending the holidays with family in the Interior BC.

As usual, I grew reflective towards the end of the year. Earlier in the fall, I gave myself a project, to paint and re-caulk the bathroom. The painting went fine, the re-caulking, as I started this piece off with, needs to be redone. What better time than at the end of a year like this one.

Monday, 2 January 2017

2016 Goals Review and 2017 Goals

Writing this year's goals, or getting the motivation to write them, is more difficult this time around. I have a lot of trepidation about the future from this point onward (not uniquely, I'm sure). I'm posting them a day later than normal. I spent this afternoon vacuuming, finishing laundry and, most importantly, moving books around. The last one is the most important because, like my intellectual mind, my suite has been filled with piles of books and putting them in order felt like doing the same mentally; I first realized this years ago. I dusted off my shrine after years and moved my Buddhist books back into its shelves. Likewise I rearranged books in all of the other topics, music and pop culture, gardening, food and permaculture, literature, social justice and black history. My mind is clearer and my priorities have come into focus.

Here is what I posted last year:

"Health will continue to be a top priority: overwhelm, sleep, mood, nutrition and diet, and fitness will remain important. This year, I have three goals:

1. Finishing my recovery period
2. Improving my overall health and fitness
3. Focusing only on my writing (outside of work) as a creative activity

To elaborate:

1. I will continue to follow my aftercare (dilation) schedule which is currently once daily and will change to once weekly starting March 21 and continue that way for the rest of my life. Also, I will get regular check-ups, lab tests and any other health care service I require as soon as required.

2. I will (other than this blog) avoid social media involvement after 11:00 pm nightly and will get to sleep promptly, doing anything I need to do to facilitate the proper amount of night time sleep. I will eat a more balanced diet (I have a sweet tooth which I am sure has deep emotional roots) and take up a fitness routine, likely something t'ai chi related along with some light cardio.

3. For years, I have tried to do as much as possible: I can no longer sustain this. I choose to focus on writing this year as I would to further develop some ideas I have had in mind."

I succeeded and completed number 1. No complications to date and my weekly schedule continues. I struggled with the second goal throughout 2016 thanks to the many curve balls thrown on various levels, but I persist. I will renew, with slight modifications, my commitment to it in 2017 (more later on in this post). Regarding number 3, my (paid for) writing and other creative activities saw fruition with the completion of a radio documentary and the screening of a TV sitcom which I contributed to a few years earlier. I nurtured a few other ideas, but they are to date still at the concept stage.

For 2017, my goals (outside of my career) are split. There are my personal (health) goals and there are my activist goals. My personal goals are as follows:

1. I will (other than this blog) avoid social media involvement after 11:00 pm nightly and will get to sleep promptly, doing anything I need to do to facilitate the proper amount of night time sleep.

2. I will eat a more balanced diet and continue t'ai chi classes and related fitness activities along with some light cardio (walking).

3. I will also get some bodywork (massage, chiropractic or shiatsu) done to relieve and release stress in my body.

4. I will reintroduce meditation into my schedule and consult with a psychotherapist (as I did in 2016) whenever required.

5. I will continue to write and blog.

6. I will finish up any last ID changes (provincial and passport) that need to be done.

7. I will, with help, set up a financial plan.

These seem like more then enough for one year and will likely continue past that.
Because of the oppressive trends (none of them new) that became more visible in 2016, my activist goal is:
1. Participate in a local social justice organization.

2. Get involved in a local permaculture organization.

3. Continue to educate myself about intersectional (race, gender, class) and environmental issues through books and other media.

These are my 2017 goals. Best of luck with whatever goals you may set for yourself!