3

Marathon training, I guess

IMG_1322It’s been about five months since I had surgery and over a year since I last did a formal marathon training cycle. And it’s fifteen and a half weeks until Chicago Marathon. So, I guess, it’s time to start a new training cycle.

Going into surgery, I had just run the Dopey Challenge and was crushing as many runs as I could fit into my schedule. I had to stop all of my hormones a month before the ol’ knifing so my testosterone level was starting to come back up and I was finding my body recovering from runs quicker and having no problem chewing up fast miles. I didn’t hate it. Well, the running potion, that is; everything else about not having proper hormones in my body was the worst. Anyway, I went into surgery in excellent running shape. My wife joked that I should not have surgery and instead focus on a spring marathon. I think I’d have crushed it.

Surgery kept me from running for six and a half weeks, but even when I started, it was up and down for a bit and quite inconsistent. It wasn’t until closer to sixteen weeks that I started getting more consistency back into my running schedule. That didn’t leave me a lot of time to build my base mileage back up and properly prepare for marathon training.

When I scheduled surgery, I knew I couldn’t make any firm goals for a fall marathon this year. There was too much unknown. I knew I’d likely not be able to race a marathon, but being able to run a marathon, even just for fun, felt realistic. Having deferred my Chicago entry from 2015, I knew Chicago would be my race. I wished it was a late-fall race, rather than an early one, but it is what it is. This was the biggest factor in choosing a date for surgery.

Ideally, I’d like my weekly mileage going into training to be over 30. I did 28 the other week and then did a step back last week, but this was far from a sustained weekly mileage. The last two weekends have seen ten mile long runs, but they weren’t easy. On the flip side, it seems I didn’t lose quite as much strength as I expected and I’m running slightly faster than I was going into the last marathon training cycle I did. Certainly faster than I expected to be, I’m still far from where I’d prefer to be.

My weekly mileage in 2016 so far

My weekly mileage in 2016 so far

I also don’t yet know how my body’s hormone levels have evened out after surgery (I haven’t gotten labs done yet). My hope is that my testosterone level has moved up into the normal female range—it was just barely above zero prior to surgery which makes building strength and overall training very difficult. My body may be able to do more with less than it has been able to for the last few years. Or it might not. That remains to be seen. What I do know is my body did a lot more than I expected with low mileage and making up a plan as I went along while training for my last two Disney Marathons I’ve done so it could also turn out that my body just works better with plans that aren’t as aggressive and intense.

So that’s where I am and the reality I’m dealing with. I waited until the last possible minute to make a training plan and sat down on Sunday to look over my previous plans and put together something that was going to push me while still keeping me from diving head first into a pool with no water. What I came up with was the least aggressive training plan I’ve done since the first time I ran Chicago, in 2012—six months before starting hormone replacement therapy.

I don’t have a goal for this race outside of having a solid training cycle, building strength, and not getting injured. A BQ (Boston qualifying time) is almost certainly out of the question. This race will be just a little too late for a 2017 BQ and I jump an age group for 2018 so my qualifying time goes from 3:35 to 3:40. I actually think I could get close to 3:40, but going under would be a stretch and going under enough to guarantee actually getting into the race would be even more of a stretch. It just doesn’t make sense to put my body through pushing for that right now. That said, my post-testosterone PR is a 3:44 so a PR isn’t impossible, but I’d be jumping the gun right now if I made that a goal. I don’t want to get ahead of myself.

(As a side note, my PR before I transitioned was from that 2012 Chicago race.)

The end result of all of this is marathon training started this week. I’ve got a plan. It’s not super aggressive, but we’ll see how it goes. I’m going to hold off on setting a goal time until much closer to the race and focus on running by effort rather than hitting specific times throughout training.

Wish me luck!IMG_1404

5

All about being on the cover of a magazine

tumblr_2016-Jun-13It’s been a week since it was announced that I’m the cover model for the July issue of Women’s Running and I’m still trying to gather my thoughts on all of it. I’ve been trying to sit down and write this for weeks now, since well before the news even broke, but I’ve struggled to fully grasp it all. Most of last week has been spent with my phone vibrating with notifications faster than I could even read them. Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram, Google Alerts, and texts. It’s been distracting to say the least!

I won’t lie, being on the cover of a magazine is kinda cool. I can’t act like I don’t think it is, especially when, apparently, I’m making history by being the first transgender woman on the cover of a women’s fitness magazine. I’ve been told I’m even the first trans woman on the cover of any fitness magazine, but I don’t don’t know that’s actually true or not. Honestly, it doesn’t make much of a difference to me so I haven’t bothered to look into it.

A lot of people have asked me what it all feels like. My answer is usually just something about it being super surreal and totally weird. Sometimes, I make a joke about how this is just my 15 minutes of fame and it’ll all be over soon. While my friends and coworkers have asked me about it, most of the attention is online so when I step away from the computer or my phone I get to go back to being a normal person. I like that. No one has recognized me (yet) out on the streets or anything and I’m thankful for that. I don’t want to be recognized! Though, if you are reading this and you do recognize me, totally say hi! For real! I’m awkward, but friendly.

As cool as all of this is and as proud of it as I am, I was hesitant to say yes. It wasn’t that I wasn’t excited, I was. It’s that being a trans woman isn’t exactly all unicorns and rainbows. As you’re probably aware, our country is currently in the midst of a big debate about whether or not people like me are even human and deserving of simple basic rights. You know, things like access to restrooms. For most cis people (cis just means “not transgender”), this is relatively new, but we’ve been dealing with this for forever. The only difference is now this is happening with a lot of media attention. This isn’t the post to go into detail about how hard this world makes it for people like me to exist, but trust me when I say it’s extremely dangerous to be transgender right now. And it’s even worse for transgender women of color than it is for those of us who are white.

When Women’s Running’s editor-in-chief, Jessica Sebor, emailed me to ask if I wanted to be on the cover, part of me wanted to immediately write back with a resounding FUCK YES, but I couldn’t. I knew I had to really think this through. I spoke with my wife about it, I reached out to a few friends, both trans and cis, for their thoughts, and I slept on it. I almost said no.

I’m no stranger to visibility. I live my life very visibly. I’m open about being trans and wear that on my sleeve. I’m proud of it because it’s part of what makes me me. Between a number of articles I’ve had written about me before in regards to being a trans athlete and/or the startup I co-founded, MyTransHealth, I’ve also had a fair bit of attention outside of my daily life. To be honest, most of it kind of makes me feel weird. I say yes to things I think could be a net positive for trans people, but I generally don’t like intense amounts of attention on me. When I’m with friends, I’m certainly an attention-grabber, but outside of small groups of people I’m comfortable with, I get very uncomfortable. I don’t even like when I have to get up and speak at my company’s weekly all-team meeting.

This visibility is totally different though. This isn’t just a small one-off article that few people will actually read. This is the cover of a fucking magazine—I mean, it’s not TIME or Sports Illustrated, but Women’s Running has a respectable readership level. And because I’m, apparently, making history, there is a lot of attention around the cover from various news sources. Huffington Post, People, Cosmopolitan, USA Today, Shape, New York Magazine, BuzzFeed, Adweek, TIME, Today, NY Daily News, Jezebel, Pink News, New York Times, Hello Giggles, Pop Sugar, Business Insider, Perez Hilton, Greatist. Well, you get the idea. There’s been a lot. Plus, tweets seen by tens of millions of people. This is a lot.

I had to think about all of that. I knew there’d be attention and visibility, though, I didn’t quite expect this many news outlets to pick it up. This kind of attention isn’t just exhausting, but it’s dangerous. NYC is a hugely diverse city, but we have much more than our fair share of anti-trans violence. While most people will forget about me pretty quickly, I still risk being recognized by violent transphobes while out in the world. I have to endure an influx of internet bigots harassing me online and starting threads on Reddit and wherever else to talk about me. Over the past week, I’ve been called a man, it, freak, pedophile, and all kinds of other things thousands of times—yes, I broke the number one rule of the internet and read the comments. This is all par for the course for anyone like me who even dares as to so much as exist, but it’s greatly elevated over the normal level right now. While the reality of the last week has actually been much better than I expected it to be, I had to really think about this risk.

I also had to think beyond myself and about the rest of the trans community. Am I fueling unwanted visibility for trans people everywhere and giving into the cisgender voyeurism of trans lives? Am I making things harder for others, the way that Caitlyn Jenner has? Is another magazine cover really what trans people need? Ultimately, I would never want to do anything that makes things harder for others or sells out my community for a quick dose of fame.

And let’s not skip over the article itself. I wanted to know exactly what I was going to be on the cover of. I asked to read a draft of the feature before agreeing. I wanted to be sure the article was accurate and positive for trans people. Women’s Running, of course, had no issue with letting me read a draft ahead of time. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t expect an issue here. Women’s Running has always been amazing with anything else I’ve worked with them on, but I had to be sure.

Finally, I had no desire to be “the face of transgender running.” Or even the face of anything. There are many others like me out there and I could never speak for them all. We’re all unique people. I do my best to be clear that when I talk about my experience, I’m speaking for myself. Still, I was already likely the most well-known transgender (woman) runner out there. Trust me, that’s not saying much. Mostly, it’s just because I’m a loudmouth on the internet and not because I’m special in any other way. I’m certainly not the fastest. I’m definitely not the most well-spoken. There are plenty of high school and college trans athletes who are more deserving than I am. And on the trans men side of things, let’s not forget we’ve got the amazing Chris Mosier kicking ass and making the US National Team for the duathlon. Really, I’m not all that special, I’m just a loudmouth.

Anyway, you’d think I’d have already figured most of this out after being a finalist for the Cover Runner Contest last fall. I entered because why not? I didn’t think it’d go anywhere. I was shocked when I was a finalist, but I still didn’t expect to win (and I didn’t). I never felt like I needed to actually face it as a reality.

Ultimately, I said yes to the dress cover, obviously. The shoot happened less than two weeks later at 5 freaking a.m. in Brooklyn (normally an hour from Jersey City by subway). I spent a few hours running 30ish feet at a camera while photographer James Farrell, said “one more time!” which turned out to mean “a hundred more times. We brought a few outfits with us, but I only ended up wearing two of them—I changed in a Starbucks bathroom.

I was really nervous to do the shoot. I’m not photogenic and I’m very particular about how I’m photographed. To be honest, though, it was a completely fun experience and everyone I worked with that day was super amazing. I didn’t want it to end! Not because I wanted to keep running laps in front of a camera, but because I was enjoying the time hanging out with the crew. And, yes, I got to keep the clothes!
tumblr_o8too2wrYX1trnxvxo1_540

After the shoot, it was pretty quiet until the week before the magazine came out—the interview for the feature had been done well before I was asked to be on the cover. Since then, it’s been a total whirlwind. Women’s Running had me make a video to introduce myself and asked if I would take over their Instagram and Snapchat accounts for a day. I did Instagram the day the issue hit shelves and Snapchat this past weekend. And, of course, there have been a bunch of talking to writers for articles about the cover.

In the end, I know I made the right decision. With everything blowing out of control over the last few months about bathrooms, this feels like a bit of a win for trans people right now. Of course, the timing of this coming out right after the awful and hateful attack in Orlando was a coincidence, but many reached out to tell me that this news served as a much needed ray of light for them. My heart has been so heavy since last Sunday, but knowing I was at least part of something positive for the LGBT community last week means a lot to me.

In the last week, I’ve had so many people contact me to tell me what it’s meant to them to see someone like them on the cover of a magazine. Not someone who is already a celebrity, but someone who is an everyday person like they are. I certainly don’t want to be anyone’s role model, and I shouldn’t be either, but I wanted to be able to show other trans people what’s possible. I wanted to do something that would give some amount of hope to other trans people right now, especially those who are seriously doubting whether or not they should transition or can survive in this world as a trans person.

Lastly, I just want to hit one last point since I saw someone comment about this. The feature does discuss the fact that I have had surgery. I was never asked about this. This was information I volunteered because it was relevant to my answers during the interview. Savita was respectful and never asked anything inappropriate. Besides, it’s not like it isn’t public information at this point anyway. I’ve written 10,000 words about it here!

On a shelf

A photo posted by Amelia Gapin (@entirelyamelia) on

10

16 weeks post-surgery update

This is the fourth post in a 10,000+ word series about my experience with getting my junk rearranged. The other parts are: Are You Excited?, I Got Sliced All The Fuck Up!, and Recovery Update.


IMG_0497I know, I know. I haven’t updated in a while. A lot of people have asked me to, but I honestly just haven’t really had a chance to sit down and write it all out. Since mylast update two and a half months ago, things have been a bit of a rollercoaster—I guess that happens with a major surgery—and there are a lot of things I’ve been wanting to share, many of which are things I was never told going into surgery or just had no idea to expect.

As usual, all kinds of content warnings and such ahead. Don’t say I didn’t warn you! Also, this post is kind of a poorly-written mess of updates. There’s just too much to cover to try to get it out coherently. So why even try?

I went back to work, like actually commuting into NYC, at five weeks post-op. I had planned for this to be six weeks. However, I was losing my mind at home and really eager to try to get back to some sort of a normal life. So, after things were looking perfect at my five week checkup, I went for it. Walking was doable, but not great. The swelling had gone down enough that it wasn’t inhibiting me anymore, but I still had stitches that were in the process of coming out and they hurt…a lot. It was difficult to move much without having them slice me up down there. It took another couple of weeks for them the finish coming out. Without a doubt, this was the worst part of weeks four through seven.

Also around the five week mark, I was able to switch from needing maxi pads to just using pantyliners. There was very little bleeding at this point and not needing a giant pad between my legs all the time was a major comfort improvement. Though, I find I still need to keep a pantyliner in place pretty much at all times to catch all the lube that is constantly oozing out of me. I don’t expect this to change until my dilation is less frequent.

Sitting at my desk at work, or anywhere, required positioning myself so there wasn’t any weight on my genitals. I found I was best if I was leaning to one side or just slouching a ton. It was doable most of the time, but some harder surfaces were tough for a while. I couldn’t really get comfortable on bar stools or hard benches until closer to like eight weeks. Oddly, even at five weeks, I was able to sit with my legs crossed and this was actually one of the more comfortable positions. Now, at sixteen weeks, I can pretty much sit however I want and not even that to think twice about it. I just can’t like plop myself down too hard.

At six and a half weeks, I started running again. My first run was a very tough one mile, but it felt really great to get out there again. Over the course of a the next four weeks, I built myself back up to five miles, but there was a lot of atrophying in my legs from spending five weeks barely leaving the couch.

First mile with a vagina!

First mile with a vagina!

Around the seven week mark I developed what was basically diaper rash on my perineum. Hey, I warned you! It only gets worse from here. Anyway, yeah, that was awful. It hurt a ton and it took sending another awkward photo of my frankenvag to my doctor to be sure of what it was. It cleared up in a couple of weeks after consistent heavy application of Desitin. I guess my in-between area was a little sensitive and not yet used to the idea of having a pantyliner rubbing against it all day while out and about.

Weeks six through ten where a very, very slow progression of healing. I had good days. I had bad days. I had really bad days. I had many days so bad I had to work from home or leave work early. Most of the time, it was just pain that could be easily relieved by laying down on the couch. It was not optimal at all and, at points, I was struggling to keep up with my job.

After five weeks, I was able to start dilating three times a day instead of four. This was a nice life improvement as it felt slightly less like I was just living my life from one dilation to the next. Dilating at work is definitely super awkward, but I worked out with HR a place for me to do it in the office. Unfortunately, my office doesn’t have a lot of rooms with a locking door, no windows, and a place for me to lay down. In fact, we only have one room that really fits all of that and it’s in the basement. The idea of locking myself in a room in the basement to dilate seems kinda like hiding the tranny out of sight, but the room has a sink and its own thermostat. The thermostat is very helpful for when you’re laying there with no pants on and lube is oozing out of you and down your asscrack. Yum. Every once in a while, someone tries to come into the room, but only a couple of people have keys and they know the deal so it’s generally okay…except for that time when it wasn’t and two of my coworkers walked in on me. Awk. Ward. Still, the basement is fine by me. I’m more than happy to work with what we’ve got and there’s less traffic down there than anywhere else so it feels more private.

Around eight weeks or so, I was starting to feel reasonably okay. I still had pain, but things were looking up enough for me to consider maybe trying to take this thing for a spin. Mostly, I just wanted to see if things still worked. I carefully started touching myself down there to feel things out. I really had NO idea how to operate my new genitals. Do I stick my fingers inside? Do I rub my clit? Do I do both? Should I use a vibrator? How much is too much? What if I can’t figure out how to set this thing off anymore? I also had a lot of trouble with where I needed to be mentally. Just, like, the idea of thinking about sex with a vagina instead of a penis was weird. I mean, I’ve thought about it pretty much every day for 20+ years, but this was totally different. I kept feeling like I didn’t know what to do without having a penis. Things also weren’t helped by the fact that I still had a lot of swelling that made it difficult to even get to my clit. Eventually, after long while of trying things inside and out, I was able to start getting somewhere. A few times I got really close, but just couldn’t quite get over the edge. The really interesting thing was the difference in how my body was responding to stimulation. It was a bit more full-body and there was a lot more tensing. Anyway, after a while, I gave up, but I tried again a few days later and succeeded. It was a really, really interesting feeling. It felt good, don’t get me wrong, but it was odd. The same, yet different. Unfortunately, it took over a month before I was able to perform an encore.

Shortly after the first time I was able to orgasm, I started having a ton of pain. Literally everywhere down there hurt. Inside. Outside. The area around it. It was beyond terrible. It built over the course of a couple weeks, but just kept getting worse and worse. I stopped running completely. I basically skipped out on my birthday because I was in too much pain to deal with being alive. I started taking expensive Uber rides home from work just to avoid having to be on my feet for the commute home. At the peak, it got so bad that I missed an entire week of work (this was the 12th week post-op). I don’t mean I worked from home, I mean I didn’t work at all. I spent the week curled up on the couch crying and popping Percocets like they were candy. I had never felt such pain—even in the first few days after surgery—and it was everywhere and every type of pain you can imagine. It was sharp, shooting, dull, achy, burny, stabbing, and anything else you can imagine. And the Percocets were doing nothing.

The pain was also made worse by dilating. I couldn’t stick anything in without feeling like Satan was fucking my vagina with a flaming spiked dick. It was the worst pain. And the pain caused me to start to dread dilating at all. I would get really tense and struggle to relax myself enough to get a dilator in. This, of course, made it hurt more which only fed back into this. I started using more and more lube to try to get my dilators in—as if I wasn’t already swimming in enough as it was—but eventually I had to stop using my largest one altogether. I just couldn’t get it in. Even my middle-sized one was difficult. It’d take me 10-15 minutes to slowly work it in while trying to do creating exercises to relax myself.

At week eleven, before things really peaked, I called the doctor’s office and the PA asked me to send another vag pic. She prescribed Estrace, which is basically an estrogen cream you inject into your vagina. Yup, the estrogen I inject into my leg with a needle on a weekly basis wasn’t enough for my body, I needed to also inject it straight into my vagina (is there anything more lady-like than this?). Moar lady juice! This was even more hell, though, as the applicator wasn’t exactly the most comfortable thing in the world. The tip was rough and caused me even more pain when I inserted it. I’m in pain just writing about it now. I kept this up for two weeks total, but it didn’t seem to make much of a noticeable difference. The PA also told me to start dilating four times a day again, but who’s got time for that when you’ve got a job?

At this point, I was completely regretting having surgery at all. I didn’t know what was wrong, but I was inconsolable. I just curled up on the couch and hated my life. I started to feel like I had some permanent problem and would spend the rest of my life in pain. You know, like those random people you read stories about who had some surgery and spend the rest of their life suffering because of it. Couple this pain with the stress of MyTransHealth‘s impending launch and the crazy amount of work I was putting in to get us ready and I was stretched beyond my means. This week was mentally and emotionally taxing beyond all possible comprehension. I was utterly defeated.

Waiting to get the granulation literally burned out of my vagina

Waiting to get the granulation literally burned out of my vagina

Back to week twelve, the peak of my vaginal hellstorm, I called the doctor again to see what was up. This time, I spoke to my actual doctor and not the PA. She was completely calm and collected about it. “Sounds like you have some granulation. Come in tomorrow and we’ll cauterize it for you.” I still don’t really understand what granulation is and why it hurts so bad except that it’s a relatively normal thing that happens—I mean, I’ve read about it so I kinda know, but I still don’t quite get it. It also, apparently, can result in displaced pain so it can hurt in places besides where it actually is. Who knew? I didn’t! No one told me about this beforehand!

Anyway, somehow, I was able to make the two hour drive down to my doctor with all this pain and she numbed me up down there and took care of it in a couple minutes. Despite her literally burning the granulation out of my vagina, I immediately had relief. After a few days, I was feeling GREAT. I was even able to start running again…again. However, my doctor had told me there would almost definitely be more. Still, a week of almost no pain at all was great! Well, no pain except for that damn Estrace applicator. Fuck that thing.

My doctor was right and the pain started coming back a couple weeks later, but no where near as bad as it was. So I went back again to have more taken care of. This was last week and I’ve been feeling pretty damn great this week. Though, I’m going back yet again next week for more, but I’m in not in pain from it anymore.

According to the original dilation schedule I was given, I should have been able to drop down from three times a day to just two earlier this month. Unfortunately, the granulation set me back a bit and I’m still doing it three times daily and it doesn’t look like that’s going to change any time soon. Missing a dilation right now still makes the next one really suck. And I’m still trying to get the biggest dilator back in again. I’ve only been able to do it a few times since I stopped using it.

Hattie really likes to lay with my while I dilate

Hattie really likes to lay with my while I dilate

That’s mostly the gist of what it’s been like for the last two and a half months. Of course, there have been some other random notable bits…

The swelling was still causing my pee to spray everywhere for a while. It was only a few weeks ago that this finally stopped being an issue. The worst part was how unpredictable it was, though. Sometimes, it’d be fine. Other times, it’d somehow spray out of the toilet and all over the wall and my pants and underwear. This especially sucks when you’re at work!

I think in my last update, I had talked about nerve mappings and being able to tell where feelings, sensations, and touches are. It seems like almost everything is fully re-mapped now. I can tell where feelings and sensations are coming from without having to consciously think about it. When I touch various spots, the feeling I have feels like it’s coming from the spot I’m touching. Much of this slowly happened without me even realizing. Somewhere over the course of the last couple of months, I went from feeling like things were coming from their old locations or not being able to really tell exactly where it was coming from to it all feeling like it’s working as if it came like this out of the box (pun intended).

By three months, I expected more of the swelling to be gone and I expected the pain to pretty much be over with. I knew the swelling would take a while, but I went in expecting it to be 3-6 months, with most of the visible swelling being down by three months. Apparently, it’s really a full year for all the swelling to disappear. On one hand, I’m not terribly surprised it takes that long, but on the other, I just wish this was made more clear beforehand (I’m sure it was mentioned at least once, but there’s a lot to take in so it could have used more emphasis). While it does look like a vagina, it just feels like it really looking like a normal vagina is so far away still. My doctor assures me everything is looking perfect, though. As for The Pain™, I feel like it likely would’ve been mostly gone by three months if not for all of my granulation issues. Hopefully, that will be completely over with soon. I, honestly, don’t think I could take anymore of it.

Anyway, this week has been pretty good. I’m feeling mostly great. I got up to running 6.2 miles last weekend and felt great so that’s a huge plus. I’m feeling close to a real person again and finally starting to remember what feeling physically comfortable is like.

Seriously, every time I'm dilating

Seriously, every time I’m dilating

Lastly, a few other thoughts that didn’t really fit in anywhere else…

Up until just about last week, jeans were still really uncomfortable to wear. Granted, I typically only wear skinny jeans, but you don’t realize how little give there is in the crotch when you’re sitting or bending. It was just too much pressure on my vagina and I’d barely even get into work before regretting it. I spent most of the last 11 weeks since coming back to work trying to stick with dresses and leggings as much as possible, but my wardrobe only has so many options on this front. I never thought I’d be so excited to wear jeans, but here we are.

That does bring me to my next point, though. It’s amazing to be able to wear leggings, running tights and spandex shorts, and other tight bottoms that I couldn’t wear before. It’s just a lot more freeing in how I dress myself. I can throw on a pair of yoga pants without worry of wearing a long top. Or I can wear leggings as pants without worry that my shirt isn’t quite long enough to hide my junk. I mean, it’s not really about the clothes. It’s about the lack of having to think about my genitals just to run out to grab a coffee. And there’s a comfort level with my body that’s totally new to me and it’s great. Even just walking down the street feels more natural and normal to me in a way that I can’t explain but has been extremely apparent to me. I’m only just starting to fully experience all of this this week.

It’s hard to believe I’ve had a vagina for just 16 of my 1,721 weeks on this planet and I’m already forgetting what it’s like to have a penis. I mean, like I mentioned above, there’s still some weird muscle memory around stuff like masturbation, but there’s this weird inability to conceptualize what it was like with a penis and how it felt to just like…I don’t know, exist with one. It feels 100% normal to look down or in a mirror and see a vagina. It almost feels like it’s always been like that. Which is pretty wild.

It’s been a really rough 16 weeks and, like I said at the beginning, a big rollercoaster of ups and downs and everything in between. Mentally, emotionally, and physically, this vagina has been one giant pain in the dick. But the worst is definitely behind me and things are looking up (*knocks on wood*). Except for that one really dark week—fuck you, week twelve—it all feels worth it now that I’m finally starting to feel like one coherent human being. I look at my body and I actually see something that looks relatively like I feel like it should. I still have a lot of dysphoria around parts of my body, but it’s an order of magnitude better than it used to be.

Before I end this, I just kind of wanted to touch on how much I’ve shared regarding this. A few people have brought it up to me that I’ve been very open and personal about it (mostly thanking me for it). Part of this, honestly, is for my own personal documentation, but a lot is because I hope it will be helpful to others. Very little of what I actually experienced was expected or known beforehand. There is so much that no one ever tells you. I’m sure a fair bit of it exists in various places around the internet like Reddit, Tumblr, and private communities, but it’s hard to find without really digging. Most of what I was able to find consisted of small bits of information buried within larger conversations (some of which were minefields of problematic bullshit) that lacked a larger context for being able to really understand how it would relate to my own experience. But, overall, yeah, it’s weird to write about my genitals and things like masturbation in such a public way on a blog that I know friends, family, and coworkers read.

This is an awkward way to dilate

This is an awkward way to dilate

If she's not laying with me, she's watching

If she’s not laying with me, she’s watching

8

Recovery update

Thumbs up!

Thumbs up!

Today marks one month since my surgery and, I guess, I should give an update?

Overall, I’m feeling reasonably good, I think. It’s really hard to say, to be honest. One of the hardest parts about recovery is that it’s entirely unknown. I don’t know if things are going well. I don’t know how things are supposed to look or feel. I don’t know if that pus-like stuff coming out of me is normal or not. I have nothing to compare this to. What I do know, though, is I’ve been consistently trending towards feeling better. Most of the time, it feels like two steps forward and one back. Every few days, there’s a day that feels worse than the day before.

These were yummy! My wife got them for me as part of a care package!

These were yummy! My wife got them for me as part of a care package!

While things are still swollen a lot, the swelling has gone down a ton and it continues to each day in a noticeable way. My genitals are looking less like a butcher’s shop and more like an actual vagina. Over the last few weeks, I’ve gotten more mobile and can do more. At this point, I’m able to leave the house and go places, slowly. I even made a trip into the city (NYC) via the PATH (subway) a few days ago for a coworker’s going away happy hour. The subway steps were a bit much, but it was doable…except for almost blacking out on the subway on my way home. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

I’m certainly not pain-free, but most of the time, it’s pretty okay. As long as I don’t get too crazy, it’s not a problem. The worst pain has been from the stitches coming out. They’re prickly! And the slice you up!

I still don’t feel comfortable sitting completely upright. I just spend my days on the couch with a solid slouch going so my weight is off my vagina. My back is probably at a 60-75º angle most of the time. However, I can sit more upright if I cross my leg under me to prop my vagina up a little. I can sleep on my side if I keep a pillow between my legs, but I still sleep on my back every night to be safe. We’ve let the cats sleep with us a couple nights, but I’ve been too nervous to do it more than two or three nights so far.

Let me pause for a second there and try to connect back to my last post a few weeks ago here…

I stopped taking my pain killers and switched from adult diapers to overnight maxi pads about 12 days after surgery. I was pretty impressed by this, to be honest. I thought I was going to end up needing pain killers for much longer. It was a nice surprise. This allowed me to actually start pooping regularly without needing to take a stool softener every other day or so—if you watched the Super Bowl this year, I’m sure you saw the commercial talking about opioid-induced constipation. It also allowed me to start thinking clearly again. Switching to pads and getting to go back to wearing regular underwear was a nice comfort upgrade as well.

Another huge upgrade was getting to start taking estrogen again two weeks ago. It was a full seven weeks without it and my boobs pretty much disappeared and my face started reverting back to how it used to look before HRT.

It took about a week after getting the catheter out to finally figure out how to pee…or even know if I have to pee.

It was probably a few days after my last post that I was mostly self-sufficient around the house and, as the last few weeks have gone on, I’ve been able to do more and more.

I started officially working from home 19 days after surgery, but I was able to do a few small things the week before. Working from home hasn’t been nearly as productive as I’d like, but I’m generally the kind of person who works better in the office anyway so I’m not too surprised.

Leaving the house for the first time was really nice!

Leaving the house for the first time was really nice!

My first time leaving the house after surgery, aside from my doctors appointment a week after surgery, was after 17 days. I went to a nearby micro brewery with a few friends who were kind enough to pick me up and drive me. It was manageable, but not pain-free. The following day, a friend of mine came to Jersey to have lunch with me at the diner three (short) blocks from my house. I was able to walk there and back just fine. A few days after that, I decided to push my range a little more and walked to the drug store six blocks away. That felt like it was pushing it though. I was in a bit of pain by the time I got there, but it didn’t last too long after I got back home and rested a bit. I was able to go back out to meet a couple friends at a bar five blocks from my house that evening.

Figuring out my limitations is still an everyday process. “I dropped something, can I bend down to pick it up?” “Can I reach up to that shelf?” “Can I lift this?” Each day getting in/out of bed, up/down from the couch gets a bit easier and more normal, but I never really know how much I can move in a certain direction or what I can do until I try it…slowly.

I’ve only really been showering twice a week. It’s kind of a lot of work and I’m still afraid I’ll slip or something dumb. It’s getting better though.

Dilating is…getting old. It’s just so time consuming. I feel like every time I look at the clock it’s dilate o’clock. And I’m tired of having lube oozing out of me. And don’t get me started on how dry my skin has been from all the hand and dilator washing. On the bright side, I get to step down from four times a day to three on Thursday so I’ve got that to look forward to.

I’ve had a lot of freakouts about things. As I mentioned, it’s all so unknown. I’ve called the doctor a few times to double check things and even had to leave this message, “Hi…I was wondering if…I feel like…can I…it looks weird to me…can I…send a picture for Dr Rumer to look at to make sure everything looks okay…it…looks weird?” I don’t know how dudes send dick pics out all willy-nilly, it’s so weird to send an unsolicited photo of your junk! I spent a solid ten minutes just thinking of a proper subject line for the email that would give warning that “hey, you’re about to get a facefull of frankenpussy.” It turned out everything was fine and the part that looked really weird to me was actually just my clit! Who knew?

Fry purr programs with me sometimes.

Fry purr programs with me sometimes. And, yikes, I’ve got a bit of a beard going there. Also, where’d my boobs go?

I have my five week post-op appointment on Thursday which I’m actually looking forward to. I want to have the doctor look at everything and tell me it’s healing right. I want to hear from her when I can run again—still hopeful for the six week mark. I’m hoping to start going back into the office by the end of the week, but we’ll see if I can.

At this point, though, I’m really getting anxious to get back to my normal life. I’m tired of recovery. It sucks. I want to run. I want to go back to work. I want to not be recovering anymore. I don’t remember what not-recovery is like. What’s normal life? I have no idea anymore! My depression kicked in hardcore last week. Luckily, not my suicidal depression, but just my “I feel…nothing…at all” depression. Today seems better though.

Anyway, that’s about where I’m at. I think it’s all about normal?

PS: I’ve lost ten pounds.

PPS: I’ve reached down to…uh…jiggle after peeing twice.

23

I got sliced all the fuck up!

Hello from the other siiiiiiide…

Okay, sorry. I don’t even really like that song, but it felt appropriate? Nah, I just couldn’t think of a better way to start this thing off. This is gonna be…a graphic and super TMI post, but I feel like some of it could be helpful to some and worth reading for others. Mostly, I just kind of want to write about it for my own sake. But yeah, if you’re squeamish or don’t want to read awkward details about surgery and shit (literally and figuratively), I’d advise moving along here. Otherwise, yeah, I’ll try to deliver this with my typical snark, tone, and raunchiness. Good luck?

Pre-surgery

I was dreading pretty much every part of having surgery, but the prep stuff sounded extra awful.

Danielle (my wife) and I showed up at the hotel I was going to be staying in the night before–and she’d be staying in until we went home–around noon the day before my surgery. We checked in and hit up the grocery store a block down the street to get some last minute items. I was already twelve hours into my clear liquids only diet and starting to regret going for my last pre-surgery run that morning because it had really set off my runger. I was starving! This didn’t help my mess of nerves much either.

At this point, it was time to start the bowel-prep process. Ugh. I chugged a bottle of mag citrate and popped a few laxatives. I knew I couldn’t be far from a toilet from here on out, but I still had to head to the doctor’s office for my pre-surgery appointment. Luckily, we made it there and back before the action started, but I was really worried I was going to shit myself while sitting in the examining room at the doctor. Eep!

Well, bottoms up?

Well, bottoms up?

Everyone I saw kept asking if I was excited and ready. And really, I wasn’t? I was terrified as fuck. I think the first thing I said to Danielle that morning was “what the fuck am I doing? Really? Why would I do this? Why would anyone do this?” I’ve mentioned this before, but I’ve never had surgery before and I’ve never been under general anesthesia. And it’s even more scary when you’re coming out the other side with your junk all rearranged and having no idea how it’s going to work or feel or really what recovery is going to be like. And it’s hard for me to give up control and be vulnerable. Letting someone put me to sleep so they can do shit to my body is the scariest thing to me.

So night-before texts.

So night-before texts.

Anyway, most of the day was pretty uneventful. Mostly just me getting up every so often to run to the bathroom and shit my brains out. Actually, I’d describe it more as pissing out my ass. Though, oddly, it wasn’t quite as bad as I expected it to be. It was just tiring and weird. Mostly, I wanted a sandwich.

I didn’t get much sleep, but I figured that wouldn’t matter much anyway, I’d be taking a nice four-hour nap during surgery.

Surgery day

Surgery day started early. Not quite as early as Disney race days, but it was a 4am wake-up. I had to chug another half a bottle of mag citrate and…give myself an enema. Now, I’ve never given myself an enema before, but let me tell you, it’s weird. Would not recommend! Unfortunately, this process didn’t go as smoothly as I would have hoped. I followed the instructions and then sat on the toilet for a few minutes waiting for everything to come out. Then…I blacked out. And started convulsing. And blacked out again. This all woke Danielle up who came running to help me. She stayed there with me and calmed me down until the lights in my head came back on. I honestly thought I was dying. In reality, it was probably due to the fact that I hadn’t eaten in like 30 hours at this point and had drained my body of just about everything inside of it.

Once that whole ordeal was over, I got dressed and gathered up the stuff I had to bring with me to the hospital. I really wasn’t ready for this. Danielle drove to the hospital, which was good because I don’t think I could have really done it myself. We arrived at 6am and there was pretty much no one to be found. It was eerily quiet and we were kind of unsure where we were going, but eventually a nurse came out and asked what we were trying to find. When I said I was having surgery and told her my name, she remembered it from her list and got me checked in.

After being checked in, the nurse took me to a room to prep for everything. I thought my nerves were as bad as they could have been, but they kept getting worse. She provided instructions for how to properly wipe my body down and wear the gown and such. I was struggling to keep it together while she was talking and the moment she walked out of the room, I completely lost it. I mean, full on waterworks. I was hysterically crying and freaking out. I’ve literally never been so scared in my life. I wanted to dive head first out the window. Could I back out? I couldn’t do this! Gahhhh. It was bad. I’m not proud of this.

Prepped for surgery! Notice how a month off my hormones made my boobs disappear :(

Prepped for surgery! Notice how a month off my hormones made my boobs disappear :(

Through all of this, Danielle was amazing. She was my rock. She was calming and reassuring. She stayed next to me and held my hand and was strong for me, when I couldn’t be. Between this, the convulsive-black-out affair from a few hours earlier, and all my emotional freak-outs the day before, she was incredible. It’s not being hyperbolic to say I wouldn’t have made it to surgery without her. She was my everything. I don’t know how people do this alone. I couldn’t have. And the kicker is we had gotten into a huge fight two days before and I told her I didn’t want her help and refused it. I told her not to come with me and to be out of the house when I got back from the hospital. Look, I haven’t had any of my hormones this year because of being required to stop them for surgery so I’ve not quite been myself recently, okay? I was being an asshole and terrified and not handling shit well–figuratively, at this point, since all the literal shit had been forcefully removed from my body. But she wouldn’t let me push her away even as I tried to end our marriage. God, I’m a fucking asshole.

Moving on…

My doctor came in and told me I’d do great and I just tried not to cry more.  Then the anesthesiology team came in and I was fighting to keep myself together again, but I had Danielle’s hand in mine. While the anesthesiologist went through his checklist of questions and explained this to me, the student (or resident or nurse or…honestly, I don’t really remember) stuck the needle into the vein in my hand. I didn’t even notice. It was a pretty slick distraction move. Not that it matters, I’m not bothered by needles.

Once they got the IV going, they told me they’d put something in there to calm me down, but I had to say goodbye to Danielle. I was on my own now. I got wheeled out of the room and down the hall. Fuck I was freaking. Honestly, I’m freaking again just typing this. There are literally tears coming out of my eyes. It’s weird, I cry more while off estrogen than I do on it (which is pretty much never).

Look, I really want to be clear here…I was not okay. I didn’t even believe I was going to be okay.

After I was in the operating room and they moved me to the table, the mask went on my face. Everyone tried to be so calming and reassuring and I just wanted to not make a fool of myself with my freaking out. And, well, that’s the last thing I remember. I was out.

I woke up roughly three and half hours later. The first thing I remember feeling was “okay, that’s over…I’m alive…I woke up. FUCK. Holy shit! I didn’t die! And…that’s a good thing!” I turned to the nurse and immediately asked when I could see my wife. All I wanted was Danielle. Nothing matter more than Danielle right then and there. They said in a little bit. Then I asked about 32 times if everything was okay or if there were any complications. It’s like I couldn’t believe them that things went well.

After another hour and a half of me being in and out of consciousness, I got wheeled into my room and Danielle was there. I’m pretty sure I cried again just seeing her. But it was a good cry this time. She said the doctor told her everything went perfectly, but that was it. I had made it. I had proper parts.

Danielle took this when she first saw me, about 90 minutes after being woken up.

Danielle took this when she first saw me, about 90 minutes after being woken up.

In the hospital

The next three days were mostly uneventful. My butt was sore from only being able to lay on my back with a very low incline. The food was surprisingly not terrible. Though, I couldn’t eat my first meal, I got super nauseous after a single bite of lettuce. The nurses and techs were incredibly friendly, but not exactly super speedy to respond to some of my calls.

French toast, scrambled eggs, sausage, and oatmeal!

French toast, scrambled eggs, sausage, and oatmeal!

Scrambled eggs with cheese, french toast, bacon, english muffin, oatmeal, apple slices, plain greek yogurt. I didn't eat all of this, but just a little bit of each.

Scrambled eggs with cheese, french toast, bacon, english muffin, oatmeal, apple slices, plain greek yogurt. I didn’t eat all of this, but just a little bit of each.

Most importantly, I had my little friend. My morphine button. I pressed it and I got morphine. This was a relationship I could get behind. The pain was pretty manageable with the button, to be honest. I also had these compression things on my calves that basically just continuously massaged them to prevent blood clots. It was heaven. I wanted to steal them and take them home with me.

Let me tell you, this button is GREAT!

Let me tell you, this button is GREAT!

I didn’t see the doctor until the day after my surgery, but she said everything went perfectly and was looking good. For some reason, I wasn’t really prepared to believe this. I asked if I could see everything and she told me I didn’t want to yet and wouldn’t let me.

Thank you for the flowers, Ellen!

Thank you for the flowers, Ellen!

I spent most of the time in the hospital much more coherent than expected. I only slept a few hours each night and spent most of my time awake for like an hour and then asleep for a half hour. In person, I would sometimes start talking and then trail off, but I was able to tweet, text, chat, and read on my phone. My friends were really great. Mostly I just texted them jokes about having a vagina. “It’s going to be a pink Valentine’s Day!” “I’ve had a vagina for exactly one day and I’m already binging on Gilmore Girls.” Lots and lots…and lots of taco-related jokes.

Would have loved a good shave.

Would have loved a good shave.

So sexy.

So sexy.

My mom visited me a couple times and one of my best and oldest friends came by to spend a couple hours with me, as well. It was nice to have visitors. Danielle spent a lot of time with me, but she has friends in Philly and I wanted her to take some time to see them as well. I know this has been a long stressful process for her too and she was short on sleep. But it was a lot nicer when I wasn’t just hanging out by myself.

Honestly, I didn’t really want to go home yet at the end of the three days. I had a catheter and drains sticking out of me. It was hard to move and I didn’t even get to sit up, let alone stand or walk, until I was preparing to be discharged. I was afraid of the cats jumping on me at home and not having my morphine button.

Well, I'm out of the bed!

Well, I’m out of the bed!

Getting up out of the bed wasn’t as bad as I thought. I just sat there in a chair for a while afterwards until we were ready to actually go home. Then, I got wheeled out to the car and I tried to set up as best I could in there for our two-hour drive back to Jersey City. I slept most of the ride home.

My sweet ride!

My sweet ride! And, yes,, that is a bag of my pee in my hand.

At home

After getting out of bed, the car ride, and the walking from the car to the house and up our front steps, I was starting to hurt quite a bit. Just a bit too much moving. I had some Percocets in me though, so that helped a bit.

Danielle worked from home the first day I was home and I just stayed in the bed while she took care of everything I needed. I couldn’t do much and it was hard to move because of the catheter and drains and crap hanging out of my body. Everything was a big production. I also hadn’t pooped since before the surgery and I was starting to get a little worried about that. I had no idea how that was going to work. I couldn’t push at all. I started popping stool softeners to help, but those can take a little while to work.

For my first few days at home, I just stayed in bed and kept the bedroom door closed to keep the cats out. They were not thrilled by this. They love to sleep on the bed and Hattie and Fry are really needy for my attention. The two of them love to sleep between my legs.

My best buddy in the world hung out with me to watch the recording of last week's all team meeting at work.

My best buddy in the world hung out with me to watch the recording of last week’s all team meeting at work.

At one point, a package was being delivered and I had to answer the door while holding a bag of my own urine. So I can check that off my bucket list now!

On my sixth day after surgery, I had my post-surgery appointment. This was to check on how things were doing and remove the catheter, drains, and packing from inside my brand new, top-of-the-line 2016 Vagina™. I was also going to be given my dilators and actually get to see thing. I’m going to be honest here, my crotch looked kinda like someone exploded a grenade inside a cheeseburger. Or a sandwich from Arby’s. Not a pretty site, but it kinda looked like a (very, very swollen) vagina.

The dilation is important because your body treats it like a wound and you want to make sure it doesn’t close up. To maintain width and depth, you have to insert a dilator a few times a day and keep it in there for a while.

Again, I was a wreck though. I was really scared of it hurting when the doctor pulled everything out of me. I didn’t know what to expect. My doctor was amazing though. She was calming and reassuring and honest. She told me everything was great and the surgery went perfectly and things were looking great. Nothing really hurt coming out, but it was some of the weirdest feeling things I’ve ever felt. SO weird! I practiced dilating and then that was about it. About four hours roundtrip driving and an hour in at the doctor. I just wanted to get back home and get back in bed…also poop.

So now that I was home again, I realized…I didn’t know how to pee…or poop still. I hadn’t pooped in a week at this point, but with the percocets and having everything completely emptied prior to surgery, it wasn’t terribly surprising. Well, that night, the stool softeners kicked in and went a good four or five times. Felt good to get it out! Peeing was weird. I still don’t really know how to reliably tell if I even have to go. And then when I sit on the toilet, I don’t know how to do it, how to push control the right muscles. I just kind of sit and wait for the magic to happen. And then it just sprays EVERYWHERE. I mean, everywhere. I guess that’ll change once the swelling goes down.

Anyway, things got a lot better once I had everything out of me. I was more comfortable and had a lot more mobility. I could get up on my own and move around and not have to worry as much about the cats. Though, somewhere in the process of resting in the hospital bed and getting home, I had pinched my sciatic nerve and so I’ve still had to be careful how I bend because of that.

It’s now nine days post-op and I’m making progress. I can feel it and see it. Dilating is weird, but not the worst thing. Mostly, it’s just boring and leaves me sore afterwards. I still kind of dread it each time, but it’s never as bad as I expect it to be. I’ve been able to do it with the biggest dilator too, which is encouraging. Though, I have gotten lube on my work computer’s keyboard in the process. Oops.

I’ve been starting to let the cats back in the bedroom with me for a bit. I have a lapdesk that I just keep in place over my crotch at all times to protect me from them. They just like to sleep a little further down between my legs. Hattie likes to lay on my chest, all up in my face.

It’s nice to be on the mend, but I still have sooooo far to go. I can get up and move around the house and lay on the couch and stuff, but I still can’t quite sit up straight for more than a little bit at a time without being in pain. And I’m still not feeling well enough to be stir-crazy yet. I’m certainly not even missing running yet. Today is the first day I actually feel up to being able to do any sort of work, hence why this post is happening today. Still, I feel gross. I haven’t showered in nine days and my hair is a knotty mess that completely holds the shape of the ponytail it’s been in since 4am the morning of surgery when I take the hair tie out. I was only just given the OK to shower on Wednesday, but I’m still kind of scared to do it. I’m sure it will be fine, but I need to work up the courage. I need to get clean and wash my hair.

I’m also totally over wearing diapers and would love to put my big girl undies back on.

I had no idea what it was going to be like to look down and not see a penis anymore, to see a vagina. But it wasn’t weird at all. It felt so normal. Just kind of like, of course I have a vagina…why wouldn’t I? What is weird, though, is the mapping of nerves. It’s hard to tell for sure where pain or an itch is. “My balls itch…but I don’t have balls.” “The head of my penis hurts…so…my clitoris?” I know this will work itself out over time as my body figures out where all my old nerves are now, but it’s an interesting feeling!

Overall, the pain is mostly manageable with the percocets. I try to take as few of them as possible, but it’s getting better day-by-day. Sometimes, I wake up in a bunch of pain or if I move around too much for a while, the pain will start to creep back up on me. Still, those first five or six days really sucked. No one can prepare you for how rough they are. You’re totally helpless to do anything on your own, relying on pain meds, unable to move much, and don’t even know how your body works.

A bit on why?

So, I mean, why go through all of this? I don’t expect cisgender people (people who aren’t trans) to really understand, but it’s a feeling of oneness with my body. To have genitals that feel like mine instead of just something attached to me. It’s freedom to live a more normal life and have to worry less about public restroom access and the TSA. To dress and present myself how I want without worry of people seeing what I’ve got going on down there.

At this point, after having been living openly as a woman (i.e. myself) for more than two years, my last remaining dysphoria was related to my genitals and my breast size. This fixes one of them. It allows me to just feel more comfortable with being me.

And a big bit of it is running. In theory, with where my testosterone level was on blockers, it should actually go up a bit now. I was at practically zero and now I have a chance to maybe be in the normal female range. We’ll see if this actually pans out, anything could happen, but I’m hopeful. Regardless, to no longer have to deal with the side-effects of Spironolactone (my blocker) will be a big deal on its own. I truly expect to be a stronger, faster, and happier runner after this. And, as you know, running is #1 to me.

That’s about all I’m going to say about that. I’m not going to justify what I neededI had to do that enough just to be able to have surgery in the first place.

Other stuff

I’m sure some of you, mostly just those who are trans, are wondering who did my surgery and details like that. I went to Dr Rumer in Ardmore, PA. Surgery was in Drexel Hill, which is basically Philly. We don’t really get a lot of options for doctors when it comes to bottom surgery in the US, but my first choice was originally McGinn. Unfortunately, that was going to be a year wait for surgery. Heck, it was six months just to get a consultation. With Rumor, I got my consultation inside a week and a half. And my surgery date was three months later, mostly because I wanted to wait until January, not because she couldn’t schedule it sooner.

Up until this point, and you should probably ask me again once I’m healed up, Dr Rumer has been great! She has a really great bedside manner that is calming, yet honest. She makes it easy to trust her and feel comfortable. She wasn’t phased at all by my horrible anxiety.

Rumer also worked with my insurance so I didn’t have to pay $20k out of pocket and then go through reimbursement. Though, just having insurance that covers bottom surgery is still a big deal that I’m very grateful for.

I know some people do this on their own, but I don’t know how they do it. I couldn’t have done it without Danielle. Both before and after surgery, I needed her so much. I wouldn’t have made it otherwise. The other day, she said to me, “what I learned in the last week is that you’re not as strong as I thought you were, but I’m much stronger than I thought I was.” It may sound like a weird thing to say to your wife, but it felt perfect. It felt real and honest. And it meant that I was finally able to show my wife of four and a half years something I’ve never been able to before.

It’s kind of weird to have this over with. For twenty years, I had such a weird relationship with the idea of even having surgery and then when I finally made a decision for what I needed, this moved pretty quickly. I still don’t even really know what to call it, SRS (sex reassignment surgery), GRS (gender reassignment surgery or genital reconstruction surgery), bottom surgery, GCS (gender confirmation surgery), the surgery, taco installation, getting your junk rearranged. The more serious terms in that list are pretty problematic for their own reasons so I tend to just stick with making a joke.

15

Are you excited?!?

Content warning: This one gets kinda real and possibly graphic.

No. Not really. I’m not, actually. Sorry?

At this point, it’s kind of like an open secret. I’m having surgery next week. And because I’m trans, when I say this, people automatically assume it’s THE SURGERY™. Some people get kind of weird like “is…this…like…down there?” In this case, they’re actually right, but it’s such a weird thing to just be like “hey, I’m getting my dick cut off! WOOOOOO!!” Talking about your genitals is kinda weird, ya know? I’m generally a pretty open and candid kind of person, I don’t shy away from talking openly about things, but it’s still kinda awkward. Mostly I just make jokes about it that make everyone around me feel uncomfortable…

“Yeah, I’m getting all kinds of 🔪ed the fuck up.”
“🌭🔪🌮”
“🔪🍆”
“I’m getting my outtie turned into an innie.”
“I’m going to a BYOT party…bring your own taco.”

I don’t know, it’s just too awkward to talk about without jokes, I guess.

Honestly, I didn’t even plan to talk about it all. I wanted to keep this quiet. It’s not really anyone’s business what’s going on with my body and I really didn’t want it to be a thing. Really, I didn’t even think I was ever going to have this surgery until a few weeks before I scheduled my consultation in early October. However, it’s hard to tell people “hey, I’m going to be out of the office for six weeks” or “I won’t be able to run for at least six weeks and I don’t know how to deal with that” and not have them ask why. Or people who are trying to make plans with me and I’m like “yeah, I’ll be stuck on the couch.” Or trying to deal with my current pre-surgery dietary restrictions.

So it just kind of slowly started coming out because I’m not really the kind of person who likes to make up lies or dance around the truth. I’m nothing if not brutally honest and I lived a lie for way too many years to want to be making up more now. Besides, there have been a lot of situations where being secretive about it was more effort than just be like “yup, getting all vagina-ed up!”

When people find out they’re like “OMG ARE YOU EXCITED?!” And, yeah, I get it, what do you say when someone tells you they’re getting a 🌮 installed? But…no, I’m not excited. I’m feeling every damn emotion ever, but excitement is like the least of them. I’m just anxious for this to be over with. I’m ready for all the stress of trying to make this happen to be gone. It’s actually a lot of work to get someone to cut your dick off. You’ve got to deal with:

  • insurance and figuring out how a $20,000 surgery gets paid for
  • getting multiple doctors to talk to each other and share info
  • setting up and going to a bunch of doctors appointments for consultations, pre-surgery, labs, physicals, etc
  • multiple therapists whom you have to convince you’re trans-enough to deserver proper genitals so they can write you letters stating such
  • working out with HR and your manager taking time off of work
  • who is going to feed your cats while you’re in the hospital
  • who will help you during recovery
  • a sorta tough list of dietary restrictions for two weeks prior to surgery
  • getting a prescription filled for Percocet can apparently be difficult?
  • pre-surgery bowl prep 💩
  • NO HORMONES FOR FOUR WEEKS BEFORE SURGERY SO OOPS YOU’RE SLOWLY TURNING BACK INTO A MAN* AND BEING AN EMOTIONAL SMORGASBORD OF BITCHTITUDE TO EVERYONE ANYWHERE IN THE TRI-STATE AREA BECAUSE WHAT EVEN IS HAPPENING TO YOUR MIND AND BODY RIGHT NOW?!

And that’s all stuff to do before you can even have surgery.

Do people get excited for surgery? Is that a thing that happens? It’s certainly not for me. Sure, I’m excited for the improvement to my overall quality of life months down the road, but there’s still a long way to go for that. I’m not exactly going to get to enjoy having a vagina for a while, ya know? Realistically, I’m just trying to deal with the fact that I’ve never had surgery before or been under general anesthesia and it’s kind of a scary thing. And I can’t run for a while so it’s going be full-on CRAZY AMY UP IN HUR!

It just sort of feels like the world is still stuck on this idea that when people transition, surgery is the ultimate goal and that all trans people want this. “Now you’re really a woman.” Not really. Diving into an actual discussion about this is a whole separate topic that many posts could be written about–and much more seriously than this disaster right here. But, quickly, not all trans people want to have surgery. Everyone transitions differently and in a way that feels right for them and is within their economic/life/work/whatever means. And the goal of transition is simply to be able to live life as yourself. Surgery, if part of that at all, is just a step to enable that end.

So yeah, I’m really not excited about it. It’s kind of like having a busted car sitting in your driveway for a long time and then finally having the money to get it fixed. You’re not excited to fork over the money and take it to the mechanic, but it’ll be really nice when you have it back and can go about your life again.

Anyway, this isn’t meant to call anyone out or whatever. I’m not mad at anyone or anything. If you’ve said this to me, it’s cool. We’re cool. I just kinda…have had this on my mind for a while now. And I do appreciate all the great support I’ve gotten and the countless people who have made it really clear they want to be there for me and help in whatever way they can during my recovery. That stuff is super awesome and I love you all.

And now the whole internet knows about my junk ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

* I wasn’t actually a man, ever, so I can’t turn “back into one.”  Trans women have always been women, even before transition. This is just my personal shorthand for “the changes from HRT that make my body and mind feel more in line with who I am are quickly being undone and now my body is growing hair again and my face is starting to look weird and fuck.”

** Also, let me just drop in here this whole thing is based on how I feel and should not be taken as representative of all trans people.

12

2016 Walt Disney World Dopey Challenge

Look at all these medals!

Look at all these medals!

I’m going to try to do a recap of all of the runDisney Dopey Challenge in a single post here. We’ll see how this goes, but I’ll try to keep it short.

This was my first time doing the Dopey Challenge–if you’re not familiar, it’s a 5k, 10k, half marathon, and marathon over four days in Disney World. I’d done the Goofy Challenge, just the half marathon and marathon part, three previous times and the half marathon by itself once before that. So I felt like I had a pretty good idea of what to expect going it.

Training

My training was pretty weak, much like how most of 2015 was. Looking back, it was much better than my training was for the 2015 Goofy Challenge, but I came into this race with 300 fewer miles in 2015 than I ran in 2014. While my training was short (we’ll call it nine weeks) and overall mileage was much lower than I’d like, if you just looked at the last two weeks, you’d think I was in good shape. My peak week was 52 miles with an unplanned-but-totally-felt-amazing 20-miler. This is what I held onto going into the race, knowing that I felt great running 20 miles when I had planned 15. Not to mention that last year’s Goofy Challenge went really well with less training so I was feeling like I’d at least have fun and not struggle too much. I mean, with this being my eight marathon and my goal being “have fun,” I felt like i had the experience and attitude to overcome short training.

This is my weekly mileage in the second half of 2015, ending with the week including the Dopey Challenge. Not sure why DailyMile split the week spanning 2015 and 2016 into two bars on the graph, but weeks 53 and 1 are the same week. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

This is my weekly mileage in the second half of 2015, ending with the week including the Dopey Challenge. Not sure why DailyMile split the week spanning 2015 and 2016 into two bars on the graph, but weeks 53 and 1 are the same week. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Pre-races

I made the trip down to Disney with my wife and our friend, Ellen. We flew down on Wednesday and promptly went to the expo. We didn’t actually spend much time there because we wanted to get a little Magic Kingdom time in before calling it an early night.

5k – 27:39

Because the 5k starts a little later than the other races–6am, as opposed to 5:30am–we got to “sleep in” a little until 3:45 before getting up to head to the buses. Unfortunately, there was a major bus issue and we waited for over 40 minutes for any bus to come at all. Still, we had plenty of time, but it was definitely annoying!

Flat Amy for the 5k

Flat Amy for the 5k

Ellen and I quickly hit the porta-potties and then hopped in the corral. Before we knew it, the race was off!

Knowing it was just the first of four races, we kept things nice and easy and just had fun with it. It was over in the blink of an eye!

Before the 5k with Ellen

Before the 5k with Ellen

416807_216637872_XLarge

416807_216637836_XLarge

10k – 57:36

My wife joined Ellen and I for the 10k with our slightly earlier wake up time of 3:30. Other than a slightly earlier wake up, our morning was much the same as the 5k was. While waiting in the corral, an old radio station friend, Jaclyn, found us to say hi. I hadn’t seen her in probably close to a decade at this point, many many years before I even thought about transitioning, so it was nice to see her.

Flat Amy for the 10k

Flat Amy for the 10k

Once the race was off, Ellen and Danielle (my wife) took off and left me behind. I didn’t mind too much, I just was going to do my own thing. But after a minute or two, I found myself right next to Ellen again. My wife was no where to be found. It turns out that she ran an accidental PR and was 29th overall and 5th in her age group. Typical.

Before the half marathon with Danielle!

Before the half marathon with Danielle!

The 10k really wasn’t much different than the 5k except for the fact it was raining a bit. Nothing too bad, though. Besides, I love running in the rain! For real, it’s my favorite.

Wet.

Wet.

With about a half mile left, we passed Phineas and Ferb and you KNOW I had to get a photo with them. Ellen kept on running and after two other runners rudely cut me in line before I could get my photo, I took off at a 6:15 min/mile or so pace to catch up to Ellen before the finish line. Probably not the smartest thing to do.

Phineas and Ferb!

Phineas and Ferb!

And almost as quickly as the 5k was over, so was the 10k! I had planned a 60-minute even 10k, but ended up running a bit faster and finished with a 57:36, which was still well within my “taking it real slow and easy” range.416807_216760450_XLarge

After the race, I showered and ran over to the Boardwalk for a meetup with Lauren, Patrick, Nathan, Amanda, and a few others.

Eat Up Tweet Up!

Eat Up Tweet Up!

Through the afternoon, my calves were feeling really tight. While I attributed this to just being on my feet a lot while in the parks, I was pretty worried about it and tried to rest them as much as possible throughout the day. We called it a day pretty early, around 6:30 or so, and I spent some time stretching, foam rolling, and ice bathing my legs to make sure they’d be good to go for the half marathon. Even with all of that, I was able to get to bed by 8:30!

Ice bath! Brrrr!

Ice bath! Brrrr!

Half Marathon – 2:14:02

Waking up at 3:15, my legs felt a little better. They were nowhere near where I wanted them to be, but there was some improvement. The weather was warm, around 60º and very humid, 100%. I met up with a few of my #runchat friends before getting in the corral, but I was a little nervous about how tight my legs were feeling.

Half Marathon Flat Amy

Half Marathon Flat Amy

Ellen, Danielle, and I all started in the corral together, but as soon as the race started, we got separated. They were off and I was left behind on my own. I didn’t mind too much as I prefer to run alone, but I would have preferred to plan that from the start so I could have started in my own corral and had slightly shorter waits for photos.

Fireworks to start the race!

Fireworks to start the race!

416807_216924523_XLarge

Magic Kingdom!

Magic Kingdom!

Tomorrowland!

Tomorrowland!

My plan for the half was to take it extra, extra slow. I stopped for a quick pee break in the first mile and then just took photos and had a good time. At one point around mile three, I had almost caught up to Danielle and Ellen. I was maybe 20-30 feet back from them, but then I saw Vanellope and Wreck-It Ralph and needed to get my Sugar Rush on a photo with them. The line was super long though and I waited for a solid five minutes. Still, it was worth it!

Vanellope and Wreck-It Ralph!

Vanellope and Wreck-It Ralph!

416807_216932567_XLarge

It was SO foggy all race. I promise you Spaceship Earth is behind me here!

It was SO foggy all race. I promise you Spaceship Earth is behind me here!

416807_217067481_XLarge

416807_217350994_XLarge

Serious high five at the finish!

Most of the rest of the race went by uneventfully. I kept things slow and easy and took a bunch of photos. I just had a lot of fun with it. I took water and ate a gel, two things I don’t normally do in a half marathon, but I wanted to help my body get through and be ready for the marathon. When the race was over, I was so soaked in sweat that I could wring my tank top out four or five times and water still poured out of it like it had be dunked in a bucket of water.416807_217027044_XLarge

After the race, I tried to follow the same course of action as the previous day, rest my legs as much as possible. We had dinner at Mama Melrose in Hollywood Studios–I had a beer, which is something I’ve never done the night before a marathon. After dinner, it was pouring rain, but we still walked all the way back to Beach Club, where we were staying. With my calves being a worry, this wasn’t the smartest idea, but ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. As soon as we stepped foot out of the park, I took my sandals off and walked the rest of the 1.3 miles back barefoot in the rain. It actually felt great! I really enjoy feeling the ground on my bare feet.

I looked ridiculous after the half marathon

I looked ridiculous after the half marathon

Like, really, I looked ridiculous

Like, really, I looked ridiculous

When we got to the room, I followed the same routine as the night before, stretching, foam rolling, and ice-bathing. Got to bed around 8:30 again. Perfect!

Marathon – 3:59:51

Walt Disney World Marathon Flat Amy

Walt Disney World Marathon Flat Amy

We went with another 3:15am wakeup, but I felt great when I woke up. My legs were feeling good and I was awake. The weather was about the same as it was for the half, but without all the fog. Danielle wasn’t running the marathon so Ellen and I quickly got dressed and made our way to the bus. I, again, met up with a few #runchat friends before the race, which was a little too much energy for Ellen, she headed off to the corral early. I got a huge hug from Lauren Bailey…twice! And I made sure to photobomb my friends Erin and Katherine (thanks Christina for making sure I got in it!).

When I got in my corral, I was lined up just behind the 3:45 pacer, a little fast for the level of training I put in and being the day after a half marathon. And that gets me to my race plan, I should probably tell you about that because it was a really good race plan for the training I had and for being the last day of Dopey. I planned a 4:30 finish, taking water at every stop in the first half and Powerade at every stop in the second half, gels every five miles, walking all hills and water stops, and taking all the photos. And, of course, not pooping my pants like I was 100% sure was going to happen last year. So that’s a pretty good plan going into a race as I was and I had been planning that for a couple months. Well, because Race Amy thought she was SOOOOO much smarter than Last Couple of Months Amy, I told a perfectly good race plan to go fuck itself for no reason whatsoever. I stood there in my corral and revised my plan to be no walking and 4:15 or better. Because I’m smart. Yup. </sarcasm>416807_217458443_XLarge

416807_217531946_XLarge

Totally taken before I was ready!

416807_217534905_XLarge

416807_217463345_XLarge

When the race started, I tried to still keep some control over my pace. I was in the C corral so I wasn’t exactly surrounded with slow runners. I let them pass me and kept on a reasonable pace for my new 4:15 goal. As soon as I started running, my legs went from feeling good to feeling like crap, though. Figures.

I kept things steady and just enjoyed myself–the theme of the whole weekend. I took some photos here and there, but didn’t wait more than 30 seconds for anything.

Going through Magic Kingdom, I was feeling okay and running a little ahead of schedule. I really enjoyed the course changes to include New Fantasyland and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.416807_217945231_XLarge

With Disney World Speedway not existing anymore (I can’t believe how quickly that tore that thing out of there!), the trip from Magic to Animal Kingdom was back to the way it used to be prior to the 20th anniversary course changes. I actually didn’t mind the removal of the Speedway from the course, but it would have been nice to have something else in its place to break it up a little besides an additional out-and-back down a random road. Also, the relocation of the RVers messed me up a little. They’re one of my favorite parts of the marathon and I was keeping an eye out for them to take my annual selfie with them.

Again taken before I was ready!

Again taken before I was ready!

I was feeling good when I got to Animal Kingdom and, as I crossed the halfway mark, I was ready to take on the second half. I hit 13.1 at 2:03:52, way ahead of schedule for 4:15. So, I decided, “fuck it, I’m going for sub-4.” Because, again, I’m smart. I started doing some math in my head on how to run the second half in a 1:56 and then started slowly taking my pace down into the mid-8s. I also started taking Powerade at water stops from here on out.416807_217583363_XLarge

I was pretty damn sweaty at this point. I didn’t feel dehydrated, but my clothes were dripping sweat. When I stopped at the graveyard for a photo, I wasted close to a full minute trying to unlock my phone and, eventually, gave up. I was just too sweaty. So sweaty, in fact, that that was the last time I ever saw my phone’s screen turn on. More on that later.

Definitely my favorite photo!

Definitely my favorite photo!

The graveyard photo op was the spot last year where I decided to stop holding back and just let myself go and it felt like a good place to start thinking about the same this year. There were still 12 miles to go, so I couldn’t just let it all go, but I didn’t feel like I needed to be in conserve mode anymore.

I grabbed a gel at mile 15.4 where they were handing them out. I had taken my 0, 5, 10 mile ones on plan, but had held off the 15-mile one. I ended up not finishing this one, my stomach actually wasn’t into it, despite it being my preferred flavor and brand. I didn’t take another gel after this and only took Powerade every other stop.416807_217586448_XLarge

Heading towards ESPN Wide World of Sports and the 17th mile marker, I was starting to feel it a bit. I was still okay, but I was not looking forward to the three miles in Wide World of Sports, which are full of turns and generally feel like eternity. Though, I did end up slightly picking up the pace in here. I also took a banana, but tossed it after one disgusting bite. I hate bananas.

This looks like a baseball card photo!

This looks like a baseball card photo!

I got my name called in the baseball stadium which was nice and got this amazing photo of me looking like I belong on a baseball card. I hit mile 20 on my way out of ESPN and did some mental math, I had 55 minutes to go 10k for a sub-4 finish. Basically, I just had to keep the pace I’d been running and I’d be good. It was time to head to Hollywood Studios!416807_217535962_XLarge

As I started into the big banked onramp where the Toy Story army men like to hang out (in between the 21st and 22nd mile markers), I was starting to feel real tired, but I knew what was ahead of me: the energy and crowds of Hollywood Studios, the walkway to Epcot, and then the World Showcase. I had this.

Unfortunately, my stomach wasn’t feeling super awesome. I knew I was going to be dealing with some nausea for the rest of the race, but I wanted to just stay as strong as long as I could. Miles 22 and 23 were my fastest at 8:07 and 8:10, but my stomach was getting worse and my legs were starting to get pretty tired and sore. I don’t typically have stomach issues while racing, but I have had them before so I knew what the last few miles were going to be like. I knew I was going to have to slow it down a bit and was hoping I’d picked up enough time to still stay under four hours, but I was already starting to feel like I was going to have to let it go…not unlike Elsa.416807_217663099_XLarge

As I came out of Hollywood Studios, I knew my nausea was only going to get worse, but it wasn’t too much farther to go. I crossed the bridge from Boardwalk over to Yacht Club and knew I’d be coming up on where my wife was cheering soon, but I needed a short walk break for my stomach. I was really trying to hold it down. I started running again after a few seconds and passed my wife right where she said she’d be on a bench in front of Beach Club. As I ran by, I yelled “Ice bath! Ice bath! Ice bath!” Channeling my inner Benny “The Jet” Rodriguez (you know, when he yells “Sandlot! Sandlot! Sandlot!” at the end of the movie while running from The Beast). I really wanted that ice bath. <- Never though that’d be a sentence I’d say!

After I rounded the corner into the back of the World Showcase in Epcot, I knew it was going to be a fight for that sub-4 finish. I was down to a run/walk thing to deal with the nausea and eventually gave in and realized I’d be more like a 4:01 or so. I was doing the math and looking at the clock and knew I was losing too much time with the walking.

When I rounded my way out of the World Showcase and into Futureworld, I was determined to run the rest of the way. I knew I had a fighting chance to go sub-4. Then…I took my final walk break just after passing Spaceship Earth and accepted that it just wasn’t going to happen. <Judi Dench> Or so I thought…</Judi Dench> something came over me and I decided I was going to run the rest of the way as fast as my legs would go even if I threw up all over myself. I picked it up and made a break for it. I knew it was going to be a buzzer-beater and, when I got within sight of the clock, I gave it everything I had left. I couldn’t believe it, but I snuck in at 3:59:51! Not bad! I also stopped immediately and bent over about to throw up. A volunteer came running over to help me to the side and held a bag for me, but I ended up keeping everything down.416807_217774363_XLarge

I had SO much fun with this race! I feel like I always do. Unfortunately, I took my phone-which was in a plastic bag-out of my pocket to tweet about my great race only to find that the screen wouldn’t turn on. I sweat so much that I shorted out my phone…not the first time I’ve done this. So I spent the next three days in Disney World with no phone.416807_217927185_XLarge

416807_217962989_XLarge

I really couldn’t be happier about going sub-4 for this race. That’s my third fastest marathon since transitioning and my fastest Disney Marathon by 24 minutes. I’m also now four-for-four with negative splitting this race. If only I could do that in any other marathon!

Look, after you've done the Dopey Challenge, a Road Mickey is necessary

Look, after you’ve done the Dopey Challenge, a Road Mickey is necessary

Overall thoughts

Dopey was great! I had a lot of fun and found it really not that hard to do all the races. However, I don’t know that I’d do it again. It wasn’t the running. The running was fantastic, I loved every minute of it. Dopey is just tough logistically. It’s a lot of extra running stuff to pack (two pairs of running shoes instead of one, etc), a lot of early nights and early wakeup, and a lot of saving your legs instead of enjoying Disney World.

I was really pissed about my phone. Not so much because of the cost to replace it when I got home, but more because I just didn’t have it for taking photos and I felt super disconnected and helpless for the rest of my trip. I also ended up losing some great shots from the first half of the marathon: a selfie with Mr Skellington, my selfie with the RVers, the turtle with a race bib outside of Animal Kingdom, and the starting fireworks.

14

Motivation is tough, a running update

Accidental twinning with the wife for our run together

Accidental twinning with the wife for our run together

There are currently 54 days until the 2016 Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend and I couldn’t be more excited to take on the Dopey Challenge for the first time. I’ve done the Goofy Challenge, a half marathon and marathon on two consecutive days, three times, but Dopey ups the ante by also throwing a 5k and 10k into the mix.

For the second year in a row, I’ll be going into this weekend not really prepared for the races I’ll be lining up for. Much of this year has mirrored last year for me with running ups and downs, mostly downs from May on, so I certainly won’t be going into this race after crushing a few 60-mile weeks. If I’m lucky, I’ll get a couple 45-mile weeks in, but even that will need to be done carefully since I haven’t been running high-mileage since May.

Last year, the races went much better than expected and I had a lot of fun. Most of this was due to smart race-day strategy and not caring about time. I’m weary of expecting the same outcome this year, but I can be hopeful and use the time between now and then to put in as much work as I can.

I’m starting to get myself pulled back out of my latest-in-a-string-of-many ruts, but motivation is still tough. Yes, I love running itself, with or without races. My mental health needs it. Still, that’s rarely enough to just roll yourself out of bed at 5:30am for a pre-work run. That said, in the last couple weeks, I’ve been able to get my body back on track for the early wakeups and I’m back to pre-work 8-milers–one of my measures for how running is going. I’ve got a few strong weeks of running going now and I’m starting to feel great again.

But this is kind of where things get a little weird this time around.

Typically, I have a loose plan in my head for multiple races down the line. My upcoming race is first priority, but I always have an answer to “where will I go from there?” Things almost always change, but no race is ever the finish line, it’s just another mile marker. Even goal races and PRs are mile markers. They’re not an end goal, just a part of the journey. Qualifying for and running the Boston Marathon? More mile markers. I’ve got sooooo many plans and running goals for after that!

Normally, I’d have plans for where I go after this race for added motivation to keep up the hard work. Everything builds on top of what you’ve done and my next race or two should build upon training for this race. That’s typically the plan, before reality and life get in the way, at least.

The problem right now is there are no plans after Dopey. There can’t be plans. After this race, I’ll out from running for anywhere from six to sixteen weeks. No running at all. Nope. None. Insert puke emoji here. This period of time is going to be real rough for my mental…and physical health. Depending on where in that range I come back, I might be starting from basically zero. Even at the short end, I’ll have lost just about anything I do leading up to Dopey.

manhattan sunrise

I’ll miss the view on my morning runs while I’m out

While I have some hopes for what I’ll be able to do by the end of 2016, that’s all they are right now, hopes. I can’t plan anything because I don’t know how long I’ll be out. Will I be able to race a fall marathon? Will I be able to run a fall marathon at all? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ I’m basically going into a black hole.

Coming back to the present, this makes it hard to really push myself now for Dopey. This isn’t a foundation to build upon, it’s kind of just it. In the past couple of weeks, I’ve been able to get myself on track, but on those mornings when it’s really hard to get myself up to run, what will be the motivation? Even injury prevention is kind of moot at this point. Insert another puke emoji here.

Both last year and this year were rough for running, but I think I’ve got a bit of a handle on what caused that and I really believe I’ll come back super strong late next year, but there’s little I can do now to affect that and it’s kind of driving me nuts.

3

I am a transgender woman with mental illness and I am a finalist to be on the cover of Women’s Running

Women's Running Cover Runner Contest

I’m a finalist!

Because my life is totally weird, I’m currently a finalist in the Women’s Running Cover Runner Contest. The eight finalists were chosen from over 3,000 applicants and the winner will find herself on the cover of Women’s Running magazine.

To be perfectly honest, this is a super surreal thing to me. When I entered, I didn’t think there was any chance I’d be chosen as a finalist. Just a quick look at the bios of the other seven finalists makes it clear some really amazing women with incredible stories entered. When I read their bios, my immediate reaction was that I don’t belong among them.

I do have a lot of conflicting feelings about things like this. If you read my bio on the site, I’m not hiding being transgender. I’m pretty upfront about it. However, I’ve always hated the idea of being treated like I’m special. I don’t want to be on the cover of a magazine simply because I was born with the wrong junk and being trans is all the rage in the media these days. I have no desire to play into the voyeurism of trans lives by cis (not trans) people.

If this blog post is not your first introduction to me, you probably know already that I’ve done a bunch of interviews for sites about being a transgender runner, not to mention all the stuff I’ve done for MyTransHealth. I’m sure it looks like I’m someone who seeks attention and loves to have the spotlight on her. The reality is, these things always make me feel intensely awkward and uncomfortable. I’ve even done a few interviews that I never publicly linked to because I didn’t want to add anymore attention.

I’ve also turned down just as many interviews as I’ve done. My first question anytime I’m approached for an interview is what is the story about and what’s the angle? If it feels like my involvement can have even a small positive impact for trans people, I’ll accept. Otherwise, I say no. I look for articles that are trying to highlight the struggles of trans athletes or trans people at the gym and are taking the stance that transphobic bigotry is not acceptable. If a writer isn’t willing to take that stance or is just looking to write the same voyeuristic story about a trans person’s life that’s been done over and over again, I have no interest.

This brings us to the Women’s Running Cover Runner Contest. Why do I want to be on the cover of a magazine? Honestly, it’s not having me on the cover of a magazine that’s super appealing to me. The reason I want to be on the cover and why this matters to me is because for a women’s running magazine to put a transgender woman on their cover means they’re willing to take the stance that trans women count the same as cis women in athletics, or at least running. They can’t put a transgender woman on their cover and then say she’s not a woman. This is really big to me. Of course, a magazine cover doesn’t instantly change the world, but Women’s Running is a major running magazine and having a transgender woman on the cover would still be pretty rad and, at the least, makes a statement. It doesn’t have to be me, it doesn’t matter who it is. It just so happens that right now I have this opportunity to be a part of their support for transgender athletes.

Women's Running Cover Runner Contest

Now, that’s all fine and well, but if you read my bio for the contest, you’ll see that what I really talked about was mental illness and how running has been there for me to help me through. It’s no secret that I suffer from depression. I’m not ashamed of it…anymore. I talk openly about not just about having depression, but also spending a lot of time feeling suicidal and wanting to die. I do this because I don’t think it should be a stigma. I think it should be something that can and should be openly talked about.

The question asked for this contest was “how has running changed your life?” This was my response:

Running has literally saved my life time and time again. When I was transitioning, running was a safe place to deal with all of the things going on in my life and process both the ups and downs of it all. There is no way I would have survived transition without running. Even outside of transitioning, running has always been there for me as an escape from my depression and a way to work through everything so I could move past it. It’s brought me peace and bliss when I most needed it. I’ve started runs feeling on the verge of suicide and by the end had a huge smile on my face and saw nothing but the beauty in the world. I wouldn’t still be here if I didn’t have running in my life.

This isn’t hyperbolic, this is my life. Running isn’t just this amazing thing I love to do because it’s fun, feels great, and makes me feel awesome. It’s literally my lifesaver. The more I run, the more put together and stable I am and the less I want to die. This is what I wrote about because this is the answer to that question. Running keeps me alive.

So, yes, a transgender woman on the cover of a women’s running magazine is pretty rad and super important to me, but my story for how running has changed my life is about mental health. To break it down to the simplest terms, being trans has affected my running, but my running has affected my mental health.

I really do hope I win and I hope you’ll take the time to visit their site every day to vote. I also hope you take the time to read the bios of the over seven finalists. And if you think one of them should be on the cover more than me, please vote for them every day.

2

Do I even have a blog anymore?

behind the ear cat tattoo

It’s so cute!

Oh hai! I guess this blog is still a thing, huh? I’ve been super busy lately, but I feel like I always say that. Anyway, I just wanted to drop a quick update here.

In most recent news, I got a new tattoo last night on a whim…while not entirely sober. To be fair, the idea for the tattoo wasn’t new as of last night, I’d been wanting it for a while and the opportunity just sort of came up to make it happen. I guess this definitely solidifies my cat lady status, though.

I’ve also been running again, which is basically great and I feel like a human again. My mileage hasn’t been high, by any means, but for the last six or seven weeks (with the exception of last week), I’ve run 22-28 miles. I will definitely take that! In fact, I even ran seven days straight for the first time ever a couple weeks ago. Typically, it’s rare for me to run even five days straight if I’m not actually in training mode, but I kept waking up in the morning wanting to run. A couple days, I actually woke up at 5:30am and tried to talk myself into going back to sleep and failed. That’s literally never happened before.

I’m still not going to be running Chicago Marathon this year, but at least I’m running again and beat the depression.

Unfortunately, I still don’t know for sure what was causing my problems, but taking vitamin-D supplements and lowering my testosterone blocker dosage seems to have have helped. For the most part, I still don’t feel strong and as energetic as I did in the winter and spring, but I’m at least on the right track.

Lastly, the thing that’s been sucking up ALL my time has been MyTransHealth. If you haven’t heard about this yet, it’s the non-profit and website I’ve been working on building with a few of my friends. We want to help connect trans people with doctors who are knowledgeable about trans health. Things are going really great, but it’s been sucking all my time. We just ended our Kickstarter last week after raising over $33,000! We hit our goal in three days and hit two stretch goals after that! I’m still so floored by that!

Besides starting the #transhealthfail conversation on Twitter, we also got some amazing press. I talked to Mashable, TechCrunch, Cosmo, BuzzFeed, and a bunch of other sites. I also was a guest on the Less Than Or Equal podcast! And that’s just the press stuff that I handled. We also had articles in Crain’s, Vox, Tech Insider, The Daily Dot, UpWorthyMic, and a ton more. It’s been a really wild thing so far, but I really love our team and I love what we’re doing. We’re looking to launch this fall and we’ve got big plans!

I guess that’s it? Yeah, that’s probably it for now. Fingers crossed that I find some time to write more here. I miss it!