That’s me in the corner. That’s me in the spotlight, losing my repression.

Gender is very possibly one of those things you never notice until something jolts you, and then, like the karaoke singer who suddenly realizes she can’t really hold a tune, you become very, very conscious of gender — your gender, more specifically. Me, having sung the entire Beatles repertoire off-key for the past 18 months, am beginning to realize how badly I was singing and am now finding that I’m beginning to sing right again, thoughtlessly, without worries. I’m really looking forward to a time when I go days or weeks without thinking about gender at all.

I feel as if I am being radically transformed from the inside out, losing my repression and morphing in my body and my mind. Back in December, I wrote about cognition in hormone therapy, and all of what I felt 4 months ago still applies, but just amplified.

Take memory. I don’t think I’m remembering facts, dates, scholarly facts, and those types of things anything better or worse than I used to. But I really think differently — the way I process things and contextualize the past and the way I see the present is very, very different. My memories seem to be modified, even while my memory function (broadly speaking) seems to remain about the same as before. For example, I feel (and find myself saying and thinking) that I have always enjoyed things like long, slow kisses or snuggling. When I actually say such things, Mary Jo looks at me and we burst out laughing together because no, I did NOT always enjoy those things, and I even seem to remember that I didn’t do those things, yet I feel deeply that these things have always been part of me.

I don’t know if it’s a problem of the brain, cognition, memory, or psychology. I don’t even know that it’s a problem. It doesn’t bother me. I don’t think it’s a sign that I’m constructing a fake past, but I honestly feel certain things that are probably not true. To keep from sounding so obviously mistaken, I’ve learned to say “I love to kiss for hours” instead of “I have always loved to kiss for hours,” which, semantically at least, gets around the problem.

However I’ve arrived at this point, I think it all points to a shift in some of my deep core processes, memories, beliefs. Maybe it has to to with finally coming to terms with my authentic self, and all of these cognitive changes are psychological; or maybe they’re all attributable to the hormones. Frankly, the reason for these feelings isn’t really important because the indisputable fact is that I absolutely love where I am, mentally, emotionally, socially, and physically. There is no amount of enticement on this earth that would make me give this up or go backwards into my former misery. I feel more connected to life and to people, more physically embodied, and more whole to myself than ever before.

So if this is a brain problem, then give me more of it. It’s the end of the world as I’ve known it, and I feel fine.

Paid a visit to Dr. Simon today to get the results of my bloodwork from a few weeks ago. And after a year of HRT, I’m very happy to report that my numbers are terrific.

If you look at me as a man (but not for too long, please), I’m far, far below the normal testosterone (T) levels for men and I’m far, far above the normal estrogen (E1), estrone (E2), and progesterone (P) levels for men. In other words, I’m not a man any more, biochemically speaking. I thought something felt different :)

If you look at me as a normal, mature woman, my numbers are either average or well above average for E1, E2, and P. I’m still above the normal T levels for women, and we’ll be trying to bring that number down by half or more over the coming months.

There are so few concrete and objective measurements in this transition that I find these bloodwork results all very satisfying. I don’t know if I’m feeling “normal” because I’ve learned these numbers or if learning these numbers simply validates a “normal” feeling I’ve been having with increasing intensity as of late.

I have begun to feel as if all the pieces of my life are falling into place; I think they were mostly all there before, but the pieces didn’t fit just right, like a 500-piece jigsaw puzzle with a piece that you’ve sort of squeezed into a shape that kind of looks right, but really isn’t. Finding the right place for it is very satisfying, even if it leaves a hole you thought was complete elsewhere.

Felt the physical sensation today for the first time of my buttocks bouncing as I was going down the stairs at work. I’ve been used to the feeling of breasts and hold them in with my right arm as a precaution against pain. But as I was going down the stairs, I was suddenly very, very aware of bouncing in my pants, which was pretty odd and a little freaky.

I learned that Dr. Clinton was giving up the practice because his costs were too high and he could still practice medicine as a traveling emergency room doctor. Since he’s a pilot, he’d be able to fly his plane to all these small towns — it actually sounded fun to me, and I would have been super enthusiastic if it weren’t for the fact that this was the one person in whom I had confided beyond the small circle of my wife and therapist. It was really, really hard to get up the nerve to go do see him, and I felt we were on a roll with the hormones and the medical side of my treatment.

So now I was faced with finding a new doctor. Dr. Clinton reassured me in a number of ways, some of which were reassuring. First, my files would be moved to the Kelly Clinic for 50 years, so they were safe and secure. Second, while he didn’t have any idea as to who might be a good PCP with sympathy for gender issues, he suggested the Kelly Clinic because a) they’re good people, b) they have my files, c) they’re new and need new patients, and d) they have some young residents who have probably been exposed to GID more than old farts. Third, we discussed my prescription and he said he was happy with my levels and that he’d write me a 12-month scrip at 60 pills per month, which would allow me to continue at my current levels for 24 months or I could double my dose and make them last a year. Since I was already thinking of doubling, this sounded good to me. This year, he explained, ought to be plenty of time for me to find a new doctor. Fourth, he’d still be my aviation medical examiner (AME), probably at a friend’s clinic and probably once or twice a month, so that aspect of my GID ought not to involve any doctor transition as he was already familiar with all my issues.

I said farewell, paid my bill, and left, feeling quite alone in the world. Where do you find a new doctor in this neck of the woods who knows about sex changes? I figured it would be a long and straining process. Still, one must try, so I filled my prescriptions, doubled my dose, and began my search.

I searched the web for “Bedford Falls & gender & doctor” and came up empty handed. I asked Chuck and he didn’t know, although he said I might like Art Simon because of his open mindedness and demeanor, but that he wasn’t on my insurance. I next broadened my search by studying the Kelly Clinic’s website and their doctors and their specialties. Most seemed to be good old boys from around here with a few exceptions. So, using my Yahoo account as Joyce, I wrote them and explained my situation and asked if anyone on the staff was familiar or could take me on. I got a reply back a few days later saying no, no one knew anything and good luck. Fairly straightforward rejection, but I figured maybe I had asked too specific of a question — maybe asking if anyone knows anything about GID is perhaps too narrow.

I did the same thing at the University Medical Center, looking through their typically bureaucratic website for some kind of contact info. I could only find a vague email about family practice, so I sent the same email to them, getting no reply. Well, I thought, I’m probably screwed.

I looked on the web for Art Simon, since Chuck had mentioned his name, and discovered that he’s not only a family doctor (independent), but he’s also a specialist in sex hormones and thyroid issues, and has a glowing reputation on the web with lots of endorsements. This was promising, I told myself.

I figured, well, I have time, with 12 months of hormones, and all, so I let things rest. But as October came around, my sense of despair grew and I felt almost pushed into doing something, anything, to sooth my tormented mind (too dramatic? Well, it felt like it at the time, ok.)

Serendipity arrived in the form of a flyer in my faculty mailbox for the family practice at the UMC and it had an email link called something like newpatientqueries@umc.org, which was not the email I had used before. Ok, I thought. Maybe they didn’t answer me because of the labyrinthine and outdated nature of their website. So I mailed my query to them again.

This time, I got a very nice note back from one of the staff who said that they had discussed this with family practice, and yes, from a general practitioner perspective, they were familiar and could help. She listed several doctors who were taking new patients. I was quite thrilled and studied their website looking at their pictures and specialties. One of the doctors the clerk listed was a nurse practitioner (Meredith) who everyone I know raves about, so I wrote another letter asking about which doctor should I choose, could I switch around between them if I needed something different, and could I also see Meredith instead of the docs. I got another fabulous note from a different woman this time who said yes, I could move around, even though I had picked a named PCP, and yes, I could see Meredith.

While I was focusing on this new hair on top of my head, something snuck up on me very subtly. I was putting on shoes or something and noticed that my leg hair, just above my ankle on the outside of both legs, was missing. I examined more closely and I believe that the long-awaited thinning of trunk and limb hair may be starting. The feet are still hairy, but the calf, from midway down all the way down to the ankle, is thinner or bare. The inside of the legs is not bare, but considerably thinner.

Well, I thought, that’s really cool. During our vacation, I noticed something else. I think the hair on my hands is thinner. here’s this zone that covers my thumbs, index fingers and middle fingers, and then in a semi-circle down to join that whole area, that’s thinner or missing. Here’s a numerical approach. Let’s count dark hairs on the first zone (from the joint to the finger tip). Left hand first. Index finger 0, middle, 6, ring, 18, pinky, 14, Thumb (next zone, 4 or 5 soft hairs). I honestly think I had something like my ring finger hair on all my other fingers, but I don’t’ have any documentation about it. But my sense is that there are follicles on various places that are dropping out from the dark, thick hairs and either going dormant under the absence of testosterone or the presence of estrogen, or they’re now producing finer, light brown hairs.

This is a good sign — I can’t see any difference on my chest and belly or elsewhere, but it could be quite subtle. I guess I’ll hold off lasering my chest for a while — there’s no hurry, and we’ll see if we get some progress through hormones.

Just yesterday or the day before, I noticed that the hair just above my ankle, sort of halfway up my calf, is either gone or much thinner. I haven’t been wearing footwear that rubs, so I’m wondering if this is a side-effect of the hormones. If so, that’s really a great thing if the hairs are going to be replaced with vellus-type hair — and it’s exciting. I don’t see any difference on hair elsewhere.

I’m going to need to do a second beard laser when we get back from vacation — whatever wasn’t killed before is back. I’ve noticed that the water when I shave is more gray, indicating more gray hairs than the proportion used to be — so that’s a good thing.

Body fat — I think I feel subcutaneous fat building, but the measuring tape doesn’t indicate it and I really can’t tell. I feel like my butt is a lot jigglier and bigger, but that could be just perception — same for thighs, which feel bigger and looser. Having lost weight may also contribute to this feeling.

I guess the big thing is the breasts, which continue to grow and which seem to stand out a lot more prominently than before (at least from my perspective). The left one is still bigger than the right, but I think the right one gained some definition in the last week or so. When I catch myself in a window or a mirror, it’s kind of surprising, as it seems pretty clear there are boobs there. They’re awfully sore, too, both to the touch and when they bounce.

After being really sore up to two days ago, my breasts aren’t so bad yesterday and this morning. There’s a hard nodule that seems to have sprung up behind the right nipple yesterday, and I’m very aware of it, but otherwise, they’re fine — a lot less tender.

I feel quite peaceful and I don’t know whether that’s some sort of backsliding, calm before the storm, or something else.

I was talking with Ashley Lynch in Second Life a couple of days ago, and she and I seem to be very much in the same place — she’s wondering if she’s just making up this crisis and that she’s playing some sort of game or that she’s crazy delusional. What if she’s not really transsexual? Why isn’t there a simple test for GID? Why would a normal man, I respond, do these things — take hormones, etc? I think the test is in the desire, and although it wanes and waxes, experience tells us that it never goes away. I’ve never met anyone who reported it goes away.

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