6

The case of 2016

I’ve been putting off writing this all month, partially because I’ve been lazy and depressed since the election, but mostly because thinking about 2016 makes me feel weird and guilty. 2016 has been an awful hell year in almost every way imaginable. We lost celebrities and public figures who have inspired us and changed our lives. We lost scientific figures who made important discoveries. We elected Donald Trump as our next President after the worst election year pretty much any of us have been a live to see. North Carolina passed HB2. 2016 was a long year of terrible things and you couldn’t close your eyes for a second without something else terrible happening.

While all of this was happening in the world, 2016 was busy being one of the biggest years of my life, if not the biggest. I don’t know that I’d call it the best because it wasn’t at all easy, but it was certainly the most eventful and pivotal.

2016 started off with my first Dopey Challenge in Disney World. I’d previously done the Goofy Challenge three times so while it was just adding a 5k and 10k to the back-to-back half marathon and marathon weekend I’ve done before, it was still a fun challenge. Of the four Disney World marathons I’ve done, I think this one might have been the most fun. It was also my fastest time, not that I’ve ever raced a Disney marathon for time. Overall, how well this race went was a nice surprise considering it was following up a rough year of running in 2015.

Disney Marathon!

Look at all these medals!

Look at all these medals!

Not even three weeks after the Dopey Challenge, I underwent genital reconstruction surgery (or SRS or GCS or GRS or bottom surgery or any other of the dozens of terms trans people can’t agree on to call this surgery). This is a major surgery and I don’t think I could possibly overstate anything about how big of a deal it was. Of everything in my 33 years on this planet, the only thing more life-changing than this was transitioning itself. This was physically painful in ways I can’t describe and terrifying beyond anything else I’ve ever experienced.

About 90 minutes after waking up from surgery

While 11 months later, the swelling still hasn’t fully gone down, this surgery has already had a profoundly positive effect on my life. Recovery was hell and there were major points of depression and borderline regret for a while as I dealt with large amounts of granulation, but I couldn’t be happier with my decision. My body feels more like mine than it ever has before. My gender dysphoria isn’t gone entirely, but it has been greatly reduced. In addition to how it’s made me feel, it’s also made life easier in many regards. The simple act of picking out clothes to wear and getting dressed no longer requires thinking about how to hide my junk. I can put on running tights or wear leggings as pants without worry. My jeans fit better. I can wear a fucking bathing suit without epic levels of stress.

Of course, most of this year was made many times harder because of the recovery from this surgery. I also spent much of this year being more isolated and holed up at home because it, as well. My dilation schedule frequently meant making it an earlier and more sober night than I otherwise would have. This is something I’ve still not fully reverted back from. In a way, it seems like this is my new normal, that I’ve changed. I’m less interested in being out late and I’m less interested in being drunk or even buzzed than I used to be. I spend less time with friends. Despite this, it’s been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my life.

Dealing with just the surgery recovery would have been enough to keep me busy, but that was only part of what I had going on in the first half of this year.

The non-profit startup I co-founded launched in May. MyTransHealth was a project I started in the fall of 2014 and worked hard to bring to life. Our launch was the culmination of a very successful Kickstarter campaign and thousands of hours of work I put in through 2015 and the first half of 2016 (I mean, we all put in a lot of work, but this is a post about my year). The final months of work for MyTransHealth were put in while juggling intense post-surgery granulation pain and being hopped up on painkillers, but I learned a lot about myself and my dedication to something I care about. It was a level of work I didn’t know I had in me. I learned I’m stronger than I thought I was. And, on top of that, I built something that I’m extremely proud of.

The flip side of MyTransHealth is that it also ruined a very good friendship of mine. It hurt to lose this friend and I’m still working through the feelings associated with that. And just as importantly as losing that friendship, I’m also no longer involved with MyTransHealth. Leaving the organization hurt just as much as losing the friendship did, but…well, it is what it is.

While the finishing touches to MyTransHealth were being put together, I was approached by Women’s Running to be on the friggin’ cover of their July issue. Some of you are aware that I was a finalist in their annual cover contest in 2015 and lost so it was amazing to have the opportunity to be on their cover outside of a contest. This was not an easy decision to make. Being a focus of the cover story on the issue, I know that made me a logical choice for the cover, but it was a lot of attention to invite on myself. I’m no a stranger to attention, but this was a whole new level for me. And it wasn’t just being on the cover, it was also being the first openly trans person on the cover of any fitness magazine. This added even more attention.

IT ME!!!!

As we all know, I did say yes. Less than a week after the launch of MyTransHealth, I had my photoshoot with them and that itself was its own experience. It was wonderful and the issue turned out great. I couldn’t have been more proud to see myself on the cover. While the first few days after the issue hit were an intense ride of media stories about me, things quickly settled down after a couple weeks and I got back to normal life. I was proud of the cover, but at the same time intense levels of attention make me extremely awkward. All I wanted was for no one to recognize me in public. Lucky for me, they didn’t. But the most amazing part was all of the people who reached out to me to tell me how important this was for them and the hope that it gave them. It’s weird to be called an inspiration and I’ve never wanted to be called a role model, but knowing I’ve had a positive effect on so many people’s lives is greatly important to me. I take this seriously and I know the responsibility that comes with it. I do my best to respect that and it’s something that has given me strength through the tough things in my life.

Whaaaaaa???

At over 1,200 words, that just about covers 2016…the first six months.

Come on, you already know I get a little wordy around these parts.

With the Women’s Running cover landing at the end of June, the first half of 2016 was pretty intense and wildly busy. Going into the second half, honestly, all I wanted was a little bit of a rest. I wanted to finish recovering from surgery and I wanted some relaxation. Most of all, I wanted to focus on training for my first marathon post-surgery.

For the most part, that’s how I spent summer and early fall, training for Chicago. I didn’t enter training in the shape I was hoping to be in, but I was within where I had expected to be after a major surgery. I knew just running a fall marathon at all wasn’t a given so I was happy to even be able to train. But training went beyond swimmingly. Much better than I could have imagined it’d go. I went from starting training with a “we’ll see how it goes, but it’d be super rad to snag a small PR” attitude to wrapping up with “fuck it, I’m going for a huge PR and Boston qualifying time.”

The race itself went better than I could have imagined and I ran a nearly flawless race. Not only did I get an 11-minute BQ, but I I also snagged a 16-minute PR. I ran more than a minute faster than my time goal for the last three years—the time I did everything to work towards for New Jersey Marathon 2014 and Grandma’s Marathon 2015 and failed to get. A sub-3:30 marathon had been my running goal since I started transition years ago and I finally got it. And even more importantly than that, after five and a half years of caring more about qualifying for Boston than pretty much anything else in my life, I did that too. I got that 🦄! This wasn’t just my most important running goal, it was one of my most important life goals period. And the truth is, it was possibly my biggest reason for going ahead with having surgery in the first place. To have that pay off so quickly was the nicest surprise I could have ever expected this year.

Amelia Gapin with 2016 Chicago Marathon medal in Grant Park

Oh, yes, look at that smile!

So that was the big stuff in 2016. And it’s a lot of big stuff. But 2016 was also the year I become comfortable enough with my body to run in just a sports bra and shorts or even just wear a bikini. It was my year of body positivity. And, despite not being able to run consistently for the first five months of the year, I still racked up 1,150 miles and scored a new half marathon PR. And my Twitter account got verified.

Running a new half marathon PR in just a sports bra!

Me and Tamar at the Tumblr beach trip!

It was quite the year, to say the least.

Anyway, I kept the second half of the year a lot more sane than the first—like I had hoped—but the reality about 2016 is that none of it has been sane. This has been the year from hell. I know years are mostly just arbitrary markers of time that humans use and we’ve collectively treated 2016 as a sentient being while, in reality, years are an utterly meaningless concept in the universe. But, here’s the thing, we use years as a way to mark time and group things together. People don’t die because of a year and, with the exception of the weather and astronomical events, things that do happen based on the calendar are human constructs. Sure. Absolutely. But we still live by the calendar. We plan by these numbers we assign to the Earth’s position around the Sun. It’s a natural way for use to group things and break our lives down into smaller subdivisions.

And as far as these arbitrary subdivisions go, the one labeled 2016 has been exceptionally difficult. I won’t deny there is, of course, some level of confirmation bias going on and every time something bad happens, it seems to confirm our feelings rather than simply existing in our minds as another unrelated event. Yet these things add up. And in the case of politics and the world outside of celebrity deaths and such, these things are frequently interconnected. They build on and influence each other.

Much of 2016 was dominated by the election. It was brutal and it put on display just how ugly our world can be. How divided humanity is. It’s terrifying, to be honest. 2016 has eroded our democracy and set forth a wrecking ball that will affect our lives for decades to come. Looking ahead to 2017, it’s hard to see a place for people like me. Many members of marginalized groups won’t survive because of what we’ve done this year. LGBT people, black people, Muslims, Jews, and women are all at major risk because of decisions made in 2016. Looking out beyond just 2017, it’s very difficult to see a way in which America’s hyperpartisanship can be healed. For many of us, it’s much easier to see a second American Civil War (this isn’t necessarily my personal prediction, but the way things look and feel).

Obviously, all of the things that have led us down this path towards major war sequels didn’t just come about in 2016. They’ve been there for a long time. Some lying dormant and some, such as racism, existing to various degrees for hundreds of years. But 2016 is when they all bubbled to the surface in ways humanity hasn’t seen in a (relatively) long time. Whether it’s World War III, Cold War II, or Civil War II, it seems quite likely that years—decades—from now we’ll look back on 2016 as being the turning point, the year that it all just started to go to shit.

Basically 2016

Now, that’s a bit of a tangent to go off on in a post that I wanted to write focused on my 2016, but it’s important. 2016 hasn’t been exclusively bad, but it has been a year of garbage all over the place. What I’ve been struggling with for months now is how to reconcile it all. 2016 has been an amazing year for me personally in so many ways, but it’s also been awful in the world. These two things absolutely don’t have to be mutually exclusive and can both be true, but it’s still difficult to come to terms with how to feel about 2016. At best, my feelings are complex and complicated. I am incredibly grateful, happy, and proud of these things from my personal life, but I am heartbroken, enraged, and disgusted by the world around us. These things in my personal life have opened doors for my future. I can now focus on new running goals. I can help more trans people get through their transitions. I can simply live my life more easily. Yet, at the same time, things in 2016 will mean many doors will close in 2017. I won’t be able to live my life as openly and safely as a trans person. There will be more transphobia, homophobia, and misogyny to deal with, in addition to the racism, islamophobia, anti-semitism, and other forms of bigotry (and fascism and white nationalism) that will become even more overt in our country and around the world. The progress we’ve made over the last eight years will be eroded away. It’s quite a dichotomy to try to reason about and accept.

Ultimately, I’m taking these positive and amazing things from my life in 2016 and walking away with my head held high because of them. They can’t be taken from me. And at the same time, I am moving forward with sadness for all the people we’ve lost this year who have had a positive effect on the world and changed it for the better. I am also going forward angry and charged for a new, but more difficult, fight for our rights and our future.

2017 will, almost without a doubt, be worse than 2016, but we don’t have to lie down and accept that quietly. We can stand up and keep on fighting. 2017 may be even worse than 2016, but that doesn’t mean this has to be a thing we’ll say every year going forward. We can put in the work to make this not being the darkest timeline, but just a dark spot in an otherwise brightening timeline. And along the way, we can accept that good and bad things can happen simultaneously. We can accept and enjoy the good while lamenting and fighting against the bad. Life and the world are weird like that and the balance between good and bad things isn’t a constant. It’s a pendulum that swings back and forth.

So, finally, thank you for the good things you gave me, 2016, but mostly fuck you.

PS: If you’re one of those people who come to my blog to leave antagonistic comments or you feel you have something you just have to say in contradiction to my feelings about politics, either specifically related to 2016 or more generally, don’t. Just move along.

4

2014 -> 2015

I’m going to be real here, 2014 was kinda crappy. I had such high hopes for it, but it just didn’t live up to them. It seems like this is a rather common feeling going around, so I don’t feel too badly about it.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t see the calendar year as being a truly meaningful measurement of our lives. It’s length may have some significance, but it’s start and end are based on a date that is entirely arbitrary to us (set by Julius Caesar to line up with the consular year…blah blah blah). Why is it that these 365/366 days should make up some important block of time? It’s actually kind of silly, but if the whole world is going to go along with something and it’s not hurting anyone, you might as well go along with it too, right?

I embraced my non-straight hair

I embraced my non-straight hair

I don’t do resolutions. I never have, really. I do, however, like to set some goals at the start of each year. It’s just a way of taking a moment to think about what it is I’d like to accomplish and set a little direction for myself. In 2014 I set a bunch of goals and for the most part, I’ve accomplished none of them. The thing is, though, I don’t even really care that much.

I had a lot of running goals early on. I wanted to BQ (qualify for Boston), run three marathons, keep up with strength work, etc. I didn’t really do any of those (I did cheer at Boston though!). I really struggled through running, actually, but there’s no need to keep harping on that. I’ve come to terms with it. I’m okay. I also spent a lot of time dealing with serious depression this year. I can blame a lot of it on making changes to my hormones, but not all of it. I’m pretty good right now so that’s cool, but there were some dark times this year.

I could go on and on about that crappiness of 2014, but there isn’t that much of a point. A ton of good things happened too. It wasn’t just unexpectedly bad, it was unexpectedly good too.

We added Hattie to our family. It’s been a bit crazy with three cats here, but there’s so much cuteness and love in this house that I wouldn’t have it any other way. They constantly make me smile. I also got a completely amazingly awesome new job and moved to Jersey City. My job and where we lived were two things I really wanted to change in 2014, but I didn’t expect it to work out like this. I really couldn’t be any happier with this move. It’s been great so far!

Hattie!

Hattie!

Despite it being a tough running year for me, I still knocked out 1,500 miles! Well, technically, I’m at 1,498 miles as I type this, but tomorrow’s run will put me over the top. Sure, by the end of April, I was on pace for 2,200 miles, but 1,500 is still almost 20% more than any previous year. I’m actually pretty psyched I was able to pump out that many miles and, as the year closes, it’s helped me start to fall back in love with running.

It was a busy year and a lot happened. Even if there was a lot of bad, there was a lot of awesome too and I’m definitely a much better person and my life is in a way better place than a year ago.

I think one of the best things all year was making good on my claim that it would be the year of meeting internet friends in meatspace. I’m not even going to try to list everyone here because the list is well over fifty people, but it’s been truly awesome. And some of them are even people I spend time with regularly now.

At Delirium Cafe in Brussels

At Delirium Cafe in Brussels

I think the last really notable thing about 2014 was just that it was full of a lot of firsts. Having only openly come out as transgender late in 2013, there was a lot of “first <whatever> since transitioning.” Birthday, snowboarding, job interview, traveling (Brussels!…which I thought I had blogged about, but it seems I didn’t), attending a wedding, Disney, etc. Lots of firsts. Then, of course, there were the more everyday trans firsts like picking out (and then subsequently wearing) a bathing suit and getting a haircut that are a little scary for the first time when you’re all self-conscious about…everything. Even trans stuff aside, I still had some firsts like selling my first photo and getting my first tattoo.

First tattoo

First tattoo. I totally look like I have a beard here.

Hanging with Phineas and Ferb on the obligatory Disney trip

Hanging with Phineas and Ferb on the obligatory Disney trip

Okay, I think that’s enough rambling about 2014. It’s time to ramble about 2015. The future in Back to the Future.

I’m not setting any goals for this year. I just kind of want to do whatever comes up, no long term goals. There are a few things I’d love to work towards, and I will, but I’m not setting anything firm. No 3:30 marathon or 2,000 miles. No “I’m going to learn x, y, z programming languages.” No “seriously, I’m going to get back into photography.” And there certainly won’t be any “I need to make this major change in my life,” I think I’ve done more than enough of those over the last couple of years.

I’m not saying any of that crap. No pressures this year. I just want 2015 to be fun and positive. The foundations for any goals I would set are already a part of my life. I don’t need to set goals to keep them up.

I don’t really know what 2015 will be like, but I’m feeling pretty good about starting a new year right now.

Tumblr holiday party

Tumblr holiday party

Tumblr ladies invading the Instagram booth at the Grace Hopper Celebration!

Tumblr ladies invading the Instagram booth at the Grace Hopper Celebration!

And with some friends we made

And with some friends we made

I dove into a ball pit

1

Looking back at my favorite moments of 2013

On my old blog, the pre-transition one, I used to enjoy doing end of the year posts so I figured why not continue the tradition here with a list of my favorite parts of 2013!

Walt Disney World and the Goofy Challenge

2013 started out much like the last four years did, with an awesome trip to Disney World with my wife! This year, we ran the Goofy Challenge (half marathon one day and a marathon the next) for the second year in a row and it was every bit as awesome and magical as it’s ever been. And besides the race, Disney World was as much of a blast as it always is, I’ll ever tire of that place. Oh, and not to be forgotten was finally getting to hang out with our awesome Twitter friend Krissy Murphy!

Walt Disney World - Epcot - Monorail

Finally got my ass on hormone replacement therapy!

I made my decision to transition all the way back in May of 2012, but things were slow moving for a while and I had some setbacks, but, on April 1, I finally started HRT and got my transition in gear. HRT has been arguably the biggest life-changing thing I’ve ever done. It’s helped me get myself together emotionally and finally start to feel like a real person.

Transgender Hormone Replacement Therapy

Dumbo Double Dare, Disneyland, and San Francisco

To cap off a somewhat lackluster summer, my wife and I took an amazing trip out to California. We started it off with the Disney Dumbo Double Dare which featured the Disneyland 10k and Disneyland Half Marathon. These two races were great and actually turned out to be even more fun than the races we’ve done in Disney World. They spent more time in the parks and weren’t nearly as draining as the Goofy Challenge tends to be. This was our first time in Disneyland (well, I’d been when I was about three years old, but we’re not counting that) and, despite the ridiculous heat wave at the time, it was ridiculously fun! In a weird way, I kind of liked Disneyland better than Disney World, sort of.

Then after Disney, we took a quick flight up to San Francisco for some sightseeing and lots and lots of eating! And we ended the trip with a day in wine country with our friend Nikki!

As I type this, I realize that I still have not posted any photos from that trip so right after I finish up here, I’m going to work on that and schedule it for later this week! I kind of phoned it in on this trip, but there are a few good ones in there!Disneyland10kFinishLine2013
runDisneyDumboDoubleDareMedals2013
SanFrancisco2013-009

Starting this blog!

My writing has been a little sparse in the last few weeks, but starting a new blog has given me a place to write about some of the things that need more than just 140 characters to convey. I’ve been able to share so much about my transition with people and I think I’ve been able to help a lot of cisgender people start to understand what being transgender is like.

Going live with Me 2.0!

Without a doubt, this was the biggest “I can’t believe it’s actually real” moment of my life. After 30 years of hiding myself, I finally came out to friends and coworkers and started living my life as I should have been for a long time. I was amazed at how awesome everyone I knew was about it and how accepted I felt. When I walked into the women’s room at work to see that my coworkers had written “Welcome Amelia” on the mirror, I had to fight to hold back the tears.Living my life as myself and beginning to not only like myself but actually love myself has been something that’s beyond all words. I’ve been smiling nonstop! FirstDayOutfit
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Rocking the Richmond Marathon!

After having a totally awesome training season and breaking both my weekly and monthly personal distance records, I went out there and destroyed the Richmond Marathon in the rain. It was an amazing race and my first marathon since starting HRT. I nailed my goal for the race on a tough course in crappy weather, I really couldn’t have been happier with the day.

I need to actually buy this photo, I look half decent!

Richmond Marathon Medal

Joining an amazing community and getting to know some really amazing people!

I spent a lot of 2012 trying to connect with other trans people, but it felt like a giant fail. This year, I became very active on Twitter and got involved in the transgender community there. I’ve found some of the smartest and most amazing people out there and become a part of a community that’s been incredibly uplifting and taught me so much. Without the wonderful people I’ve connected with on Twitter, I don’t know where I’d be now.

Looking back at 2013, it’s been pretty damn monumental and life-changing. No complaints here!