This past weekend I spent two days at the Be-All, a 30 year old Chicago gathering of T-folk. It was a hugely worthwhile time for me in a number of ways.
First of all, the presentations were very informative. I went to ones that focussed on gender re-assigment ("the" surgery that non-trans folk always think of first when talking about MtF transitions), facial feminization (the surgery that trans folk often think of first) and one on the process of transitioning at work. The latter was enormously helpful, giving not just a gameplan but people to contact (and have our HR contact) for more education and support. I talked to several knowledgable folk about it and the unanimous consensus was that I'm in a pretty good place to transition, paritculary if I can manage to point some HR folks the right way at the beginning.
The GRS and FFS talks were useful in that I got to hear different surgeons explain their philosophies and approaches, which has given me a much better understanding of the process and what's involved. It won't be easy, but knowing the lay of the land makes me understand that it is doable. I also had facial feminization consults with two different surgeons, since they were free. For those who aren't familiar, FFS is plastic surgery that adjusts bone, skin, etc to make the proportions and shape of the face more feminine. While I don't have an extremely masculine face, it's not very feminine either, and several things could be done to help that. A plus for someone my age is that the process would include several things to make me look younger, at least 10 years younger, according to both doctors.Oh yeah, and let's fix that slightly deviated septum while we're at it.
A parenthetic note - all of the surgeons I talked to were extremely personable and charming guys in their own different ways, more so than I would expect... However, each and every one of them was pretty clear that they were the only one who knew anatomy and all the others were amateur hacks. That must say something about their business, but I'm not quite sure what.
In my case, even though FFS is insanely expensive, I'm seriously considering it, providing I feel comfortable with the doctor. I know it's impossible to make any choice in this area without implicitly making a political statement - about the perception of beauty, the position of women, the evils of the medical system, "good trans", "bad trans", etc. and all of the various ways they interact, and I have to admit that for a while I was pretty sure I'd try to avoid that surgery as much as possible. However I've slowly been changing my mind as I think and learn more about it, and I have to admit that I've been increasingly attracted to the idea of looking younger, and there are some things that I'd just love to change. So having a couple of surgeons size me up and give me some recommendations and estimates (for no charge) was great.
But perhaps the most important thing wasn't exactly connected to the conference itself, even though I'm sure the environment made it possible. I've been on full HRT (hormone replacement therapy) for just under 6 weeks. At first I wasn't really noticing any mental (or even much physical) effect. My blood pressure did drop right down to normal, but that's more the function of the spironolactone I take to block testosterone than is of the estrogen. From the estrogen I'd been expecting more - both physically and mentally. The physical development has started (let's just say I need a little support when I run now), and last week I noticed that I was working harder to run and bike slower. Both would be expected effects of estrogen.
However on the mental side, I was not seeing much of the expected good feelings others had spoken of, beyond flashes of feeling at peace and maybe a slowly building feeling of mellowness. Until this weekend, that is. This weekend the feeling of well-being, of satisfaction, of being "right" really hit me. Every time I looked in the mirror, I'd smile! I could see that I hadn't really changed that much, but still it just looked right!
Looking in the mirror... and smiling...
I was also more relaxed and willing to enjoy the social side of the event. After dinner on Friday night a local blues band was playing and for the first time in my life I felt the urge to dance! Of course, I've danced before in my life, but mainly because of the circumstances of the situation, who I was with, etc. And I've always loved slow dancing with my sweetie, but in all of those cases it wasn't the dancing itself that was the point - never felt like fun just to dance. This time I just danced and I meant it!