Finding Felicity

Running account of my MTF transition

Follow Up to Voice Feminization Surgery

It has been five+ months since my voice surgery at Korea.  I thought I’ll provide some update.

To start, it has been a success!   I have been slowly tracking my recovery and finally saw my speech therapist last week.  I read some passages to her and she figured out my dynamic range, my ‘tired’ voice mean pitch, and my ‘elevated’ voice mean pitch.   The ‘tired’ voice is when I speak without any effort to feminize my voice.  My ‘elevated’ voice is when I speak with some effort at the same time not straining it–I thought of it as the same as speaking on the phone.

My ‘tired’ voice is about 50Hz above my previous average (jumping from 140Hz to 190Hz).  She broke out the psychoacoustic range when a voice is gendered female and said it is around 185Hz.  She warned me that a gender-ambiguous voice is unfortunately usually gendered male.  My ‘elevated’ voice is the next note up, around 196Hz.   For me to be comfortably gendered female, I should hit my ‘elevated’ voice.    Comparing this ‘elevated’ voice to my pre-surgical voice, this is so much easier to maintain without killing my throat.   Plus, the full pitch increase is not supposed to stabilize until up to a year after surgery.   She also noted that my pitch goes down a bit when the volume goes up.

My dynamic range has decreased on the low and high ends.  This is expected.  I will need to continue to rehab my voice to regain my range.   Singing will help.

There are certainly other parts of my voice to work on– I’ve always had this smooth voice with an occasional ‘machine-gun’ splatter of words when I get excited.  I often try to emulate other women who use a more dynamically harmonic voice and who talk with so much variation even in one sentence.  But my therapist made it a point to me that this is a stylistic, personality nuance, not a gendered-female issue.   I speak high enough now and I haven’t had a booming resonance in my voice for years.

So far, the confidence in speaking with others has increased.  I’m less afraid when people look at me when I talk, not so much as worrying ‘what’s wrong with this picture?’ but more like what are they thinking when they hear the ideas I am conveying.

As far as the surgery and all the physical recovery, I will admit it was scary.  Not being able to speak is scary.  Being so careful not to cough or speak so as to not endanger the recovery was even scarier.  In the first month, I probably spoke way too much more than the doctor’s orders. It’s very difficult for me to remain silent in the middle of work or when excited in friends’ conversations.   I had a lot of odd, unfamiliar lumpy sensations in my throat, and I even checked it up with a local throat specialist to make sure everything is fine.   I had acid reflux, which extends the recovery time.  Note to others–when the doctor says not to eat spicy food or drink caffeine, there’s a good reason!

Anyways…I hope to only gain more confidence as time moves along and my voice improves.

The journey continues…

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May 25, 2015 Posted by | Transgender | Leave a comment

Voice Feminization Surgery

 

Howdy,

It has been three years since my last entry.  I thought I’d update my transition blog with something on the horizon.

I scheduled an operation to increase my vocal pitch with Dr. Kim from the Yeson Voice Center in South Korea.  This is happening during the week of Christmas, and it’s going to an exciting, scary time.  I discovered this surgeon this year after a renewed effort in looking for ways to improve my voice.  The other surgical techniques had too much risk; I have met some trans women who underwent these surgeries, and their voices, although feminine, were too hoarse for my needs.  Hearing the vocal samples from a forum of women who underwent surgery with Dr. Kim gave me much optimism.

After much thought, I decided the risk was low enough and, frankly, I was tired of being “sir”-ed still on the phone or acting extremely self-conscious of my voice when talking with a stranger.  Feminization speech therapy and hours of practice had not been enough for me to ever feel comfortable with a natural feminine range with volume.

The cost is bearable ($7500 for surgery + plane/hotel expenses).  For one week after the surgery, I will not be allowed to speak.  Then, for three weeks, I can utter 1-2 words a day.   With future speech therapy, they claim that a patient can even sing!  It is a 1-hour outpatient surgery.  The procedure uses an endoscopic device that performs all the surgical operations; there is no incision.

I tried to find the worst cases about the surgery.  So far, the worst has been patients who said that their pitch is not increased as much as expected (the Center claim ~70Hz increase on average).  Another story, I read that some aspect of a patient’s toothwork (crowns or dentures, I forget) were damaged by the endoscopic device.  The Center did give this precaution.  I have a history of bad teeth and a horrific bicycle accident that has led to implants.   I asked my dentist, and she said that my teeth should be structurally sound.

It will be my first trip to Korea.  My Korean roommate warned me it will be freezing, and I will be packing warm clothes for this.  The worst would be to get sick before the surgery and then disqualifying myself for the procedure.

 

November 26, 2014 Posted by | Transgender | 1 Comment

Mature Queerness

My straight friends of my age are getting pregnant left and right.  They are becoming mothers and fathers. They are becoming impressively responsible people literally right before my eyes.  They spend their free time with less drinking, giving more priority to family, doing lots of “weights on their shoulder” tasks.  Their dress is becoming more conservative.  The mothers are shortening their hair.  Conversation topics with these people have inherently less drama and are more focused.

Almost all my straight friends who are not expecting children are in mature long-term relationships.  Marriage is just a matter of time.  These friends are mostly living with their heterosexual partners, having already surpassed the relatively simpler experience of telling their parents, and not afraid to show the rest of their world their non-stigmatized relationships.

Even my straight friends who are not in relationships are mature.  They have found their own inner strength and figured out their dos and don’ts amidst many years of relatively conflict-free sexuality.  They travel around the world full of confidence and a quiet flair without needing to get caught up in other people’s business.

Most of my queer friends of my age are still carousing and living emotional-filled lives with strong peaks and valleys in their day-to-day moods.  Strong opinions abound.  These friends are still figuring out themselves and the world.  The few friends who are in relationships are still exploring their boundaries.  There is a sense of immaturity still present that is evident when compared to my straight friends.  It seems that due to the lack of experience in their newfound sexuality or gender, they are still searching how to be comfortable with themselves, to their families, and to society.  However, the difference between them and my heterosexual friends has one large factor–time.

What is that ticking internal clock in heterosexual minds that force them to make decisions and grow up at a quicker rate than queer minds?  Ie, that ticking clock to start a family by a certain age.  10-20 years of straight sexuality eventually lead to a good stable relationship and a nice family.  Queer people (at least, my contemporaries) do not find their sexual/gender identity until at least in their 20’s.   I, myself, did not find my queerness until my 30’s.  So does this mean I have to be in my 40’s to 50’s to find a great stable relationship?   There is no pregnancy clock within me that pressures me to find a nice relationship now. Even if I found a decent person to date, there is nothing to ‘force’ me to push me and my partner to really find that nest together by some internal clock.

I feel conflicted about this.  I am generally a mature person.  I was a precocious youth, mired in shyness, dealing with a guilty secret.  I feel comfortable in the conversations with my straight friends.  I am constantly envious of their nice relationships and babies.   As for my queer friends, I enjoy sharing similar experiences in exploration and sexuality.  I find good connections with them, talking about similar queer upbringings.  At the same time, the constant emotional turmoil can be draining.   These days, I yearn for the stability but at the same time realize I have not even scratched the surface of my exploration.  I have only been out for three years.

August 19, 2011 Posted by | Blogroll, Transgender | , , | Leave a comment

Night Out with Ambiguous Gender Person

I just had one of my most bizarre nights ever a couple of days ago.  I drove to and back Santa Cruz for an hour and a half with a stranger in my car.  And the stranger would not leave my car for a good 30 minutes.  This was how it all started:

I was spending one of my weeknights at Starbucks, grinding away at preparations for an upcoming event in front of my laptop.  I saw this person in the corner, drinking a coffee.  I noticed immediately the gender queer nature of this person.  I was debating in my mind whether this person was a butch-like lesbian or a trans FTM individual.  During the entire time, this person walked back and forth, in and out.  I thought this person might have been hitting on the barrista a couple of times.

I packed up during closing time.  Just when I was ready to leave, the person, let’s call Sam, who was sitting next to me at this point, asked me for a ride home.  I asked Sam where did they want to go, and Sam said home was seven blocks away.  Perhaps feeling a bit kind, probably a tad bored looking for excitement, and most definitely fueled by Sam’s gender/sexual ambiguity, I agreed.

And there the adventure started!  Seven blocks begat “by the expressway” begat “off the freeway.”  At no time did I get a clear answer where was the destination.  Sam was clearly very high or very mentally ill.  Eventually, I drove far enough along the freeway that I was stuck going to Santa Cruz.  Sam’s heavy leather jacket covered any possible gender identification.  Sam had a deep feminine voice with shaggy hair.  Sam smelled of liquor.

I finally threatened to drop Sam off at the first gas station in Santa Cruz.  After a bit of arguing, I agreed to take Sam back to the Starbucks from which we originally left.  “Homeless shelter” begat “best friend’s place.”  Everything Sam uttered was bullshit. …except the stuff that was too incredulous to be a lie.  I believed Sam saying they were from a mental institute.  I believe Sam saying he/she walked out after an argument with Sam’s father.  I believe Sam being from Alaska.

Anyway, 90 minutes later, we arrived back at the Starbucks.  I was tired.  I pled for Sam to leave my car, but Sam refused.  I tried to negotiate, threaten, reason, all to no avail.  Sam kept on trying to get me to take him/her to the “real place.”  Sam also tried to get me to call Sam’s best friend, but I called Sam’s bluff when Sam refused to give me the number.  Sam said, right then, I was Sam’s best friend.  Sam was also saying how he/she wanted a wife and be with his/her kids.

Finally, tired of the lies, I walked out of the car and knocked on the door of the pizzeria next to the Starbucks.  I had earlier seen activity there and knew people were inside.  I asked the guys inside to help me remove Sam from my car.  They agreed and proceeded to get Sam to finally get out.  Sam still seemed unfocused and not lucid of the surroundings.  I sat in my car while the pizzeria folks talked with Sam.  They were trying hard to be polite.  They accused Sam of being high and carrying something illegal.  In the end, one of them threatened to call the police.  I left at this point.

At some point, I will return to that pizzeria and try to get an update.  I asked Sam for his/her name during the drive, but Sam never answered that.  I wonder if Sam really was mentally ill and Sam’s obvious sexual/gender ambiguity was related to it.  I don’t know if that makes me feel more sympathy for Sam.  Despite all of Sam’s pleading to drive him/her more, I was just plain disgusted with the lying.  I can only hope Sam finds his/her home.

June 17, 2011 Posted by | Blogroll, Transgender | , , | 1 Comment

Parents Who Understand

As much as I am happy about the increasing number of my friends becoming proud parents of babies, wishing this and that for their unborn son or daughter, I get extremely squeamish when I see them siccing obvious gender stereotypes.  The pink clothes *must* go with the girls, the blue clothes *must* go with the boys.  The son will get the toy truck, the daughter will get the doll.

So I was extremely personally gratified to read this:

http://news.yahoo.com/s/yblog_thelookout/20110524/ts_yblog_thelookout/parents-keep-childs-gender-under-wraps

Finally, some cis-gendered parents who get the gender role versus sex and who do not push conformative gender roles on their babies.  Unfortunately, a lot of the comments on this article are ignorant.  If percentages play correct, 9999/10000 times, the baby, if born with boy genitals, will also be masculine and male.  Same if the baby is born with girl genitals.  But I am glad these parents have that sensitivity.

May 24, 2011 Posted by | Blogroll, Transgender | , , | Leave a comment

University Disappointment

I was wandering around the grounds of my grad school the other day.  Lo and behold, I saw the following:

<sigh> So much for the theory that this university is strongly progressive.  Not only are the blatant “No transgender” words hung, but then it says “gays and lesbians welcome.”  There is some serious backlash at separating the LGB from the T.  I did hear rumors that this university had finally added unisex restrooms too.

February 15, 2011 Posted by | Blogroll, Transgender | , , | 3 Comments

Needs and Wants

What I want, I often deny because I would rather address my needs.

What I need, I often deny because I mistake it as a want.

What I want, I often deny to the point that it becomes my need.

What I need, I often deny to the point that it festers.

What I want, I often deny because I view it as selfish.

What I need, I often deny because I view it as sacrificial.

 

When I address my wants, I often obsess to the point of denying my needs.

When I address my needs, I often obsess to the point of really wanting it.

When I address my wants, I often obsess to the point of causing guilt.

When I address my needs, I often obsess to the point that it causes my depression.

 

When I learn to accept my wants, I learn to be happy.

When I learn to accept my needs, I learn to be human.

January 26, 2011 Posted by | Blogroll, Transgender | , , | 1 Comment

…Add Another TG Celebrity

I have heard rumors about this for a couple of years, but it looks like IMDB is validating the news.  The Wachowski brothers (of The Matrix and V for Vendetta fame) seem to be no more.  Larry Wachowski is now Lana Wachowski on the website.  Her description does not say anything about the transition, but the link says it all as well as some pictures of the new lady in the discussion board.  Anyway, without snooping too much further in her personal life, as she may not be officially out,  I just have to add that she seems happy.  We are everywhere ^^

December 14, 2010 Posted by | Blogroll, Transgender | , , | Leave a comment

Still Depressed

I wrote the following on November 3.  I was in a dark place and hesitated to post it.  My original motivation of my blog was to show hope and positivity for other future transgendered individuals.  It is not a happy post at all, but after a couple of weeks, my depression waned a bit.  I feel it is important to the honesty and integrity of my journey to show the deeply negative with the deeply positive.  Perhaps, I do not feel as hopeless as I was a couple of weeks ago.   We shall see…after all, that is the journey.

“I’m still depressed.  And I’m afraid of the inevitabilty of this.  I see the cycles of happiness and darkness, but it’s always the darkness that haunts me more.  Whether gender or family or some complex myriad of biological and environmental factors I cannot clearly piece, I always reach that unhappy place.  The place where my judgmentalism of other people are constant.  The place where I cannot find the strength to engage with other people. 

“My bed becomes my prison as I struggle to leave, with nothing to live for.  I lie awake, resting, losing my sanity.  On weekdays, my job responsibility forces me out of bed.  On weekends, hunger takes me out, but only having been weakened from the lack of food, appetite, and smarting a bit of a headache.    I have resorted to restarting my fluoxetine (aka prozac) to abate some of the sadness, but I have a lot of lethargy.  I have all these high expectations and hopes for myself, and yet I have accomplished nothing.  Not entirely true, I am truly happy about my transition and my PhD.  And yet, the emptiness for the future awaits.  My overly analytical mind and introspective demeanor overloads my desires during these dark moments.   During those times I am able to escape the bullshit that is my analyzing obsession and enjoy the emotional connections with other people, I often reach that point of vulnerability and weakness where I reach out and I will encounter nothing but disappointment from other people.  The abandonments that I have felt growing up come back to haunt me, and I isolate myself once again.  During this isolation, I feel engulfed by anyone giving me attention, feeling some sort of projected self-hate onto others.  My expectations of myself are mired into my expectations of others.  I am trapped. 

“Crying helps occasionally as some physical catharsis is necessary to rid myself of this numbness and pain.  My needs for intimacy are betrayed by the same fear of intimacy and being hurt.  I have become a paradox of living and unliving.  My thoughts of death are inevitable.  Cutting myself versus doing something external–the former seems easier for me.  But I know, the cutting is only my expression of self-punishment of my pain.   It is my repressed cry for help.  I enter another irony where I need help but refuse to ask for it directly because doing so cheapens the emotional impact.  It is not true suicide, but it is a death in my mind.  And I know gender is not a good reason–all my transgender friends do not suffer from the same bullshit.  Family is not a good reason either–my brother and sister and all other repressed Asians figure it out and do not resort to suicidal feelings.  Of course, I don’t really know that–I know everybody has their down times but I do not think everybody goes so far down as questioning their life. 

“My psyche now is telling me to escape, to move, to find new friends.  To give in to this feeling is to accept my negative attitudes and my self-criticism.  I love my friends and I am constantly hurt by them.  People often say to go with what you feel in your heart, but they never say that if it affects themselves as well in a negative light.  I view things by the glass half empty versus the glass half full.  Finding optimism and hope takes a lot of effort.  These days, I live automatically.  I am hubris incarnate.  I want to go home.  Back to the core, back to the womb, back to the life before life.  My life right now is purgatory and I am not even halfway through.  I am reaching for answers when I do not even know the questions.”

November 18, 2010 Posted by | Blogroll, Transgender | , , | 3 Comments

Labiaplasty (Day After)

I woke up around 5am.  The pain, although sore, was not close to the intensity from SRS.  There were some familiar faces entering the room–Tamya, the patient tech (checking sheets, checking blood pressure), Julie, the food service assistant (taking and delivering hospital food), and Tasha, Dr. Meltzer’s always glamorously dressed nurse.

My catheter was quickly removed, and I soon went to the bathroom (thank God!!).  The IV was removed quickly too, the blood pressure cuff was removed quickly, and I was practically ready to be discharged.  There was one thing missing–my glasses.  Apparently, during the nurse change of shift, my glasses were seen by the replacing nurse at the front desk.  But they had trouble finding it.  I was pretty much blind with my severe astigmatism the entire time in the room.  The staff was panicking a bit.  But I was too preoccupied with pain management and I knew that they would reimburse me for new frames if I asked for it.  I also had my contact lens back at my hotel.  Nonetheless, I did want my glasses found.

Dr. Meltzer checked in for about five minutes.  Smiling and cheery as usual, he claimed my surgery to be successful.  When I asked him about my urethra, he laughed.  Apparently, I asked him twice during the operation.  He said it was fixed, and my urine trajectory should be okay now.  He also addressed my dilation concerns.  (I was dilating every four to five days and bleeding usually persisted for two days before stopping.  I also told him that my depth seemed to have diminished by half an inch.)  Dr. Meltzer said that he noticed some sort of “banding” of my vagina.  I do not know what this means, but he said he fixed it and dilation should be much easier after this.  I can only surmise that the dilation past the three-inch point would be easier.  (For those unaware, it is this distance when the dilator must squeeze underneath the force from the pelvic floor and under the muscle.  It is the tightest and most difficult part of the dilation.)  I may need to increase my frequency again to regain my depth–he did not really comment.  Hopefully, my depth is regainable.

My mom called me up at my room, and I was very happy to hear her voice.
It was needed after feeling so isolated.

Soon after, I was discharged, and Rachael picked me up at the hospital.   Unfortunately, the staff still did not find my glasses.  They apologized again. They gave me information to submit a reimbursement claim when I buy my replacement pair.  Exhausted, I went home and slept until early evening.

Waking up, I finally was able to examine the new labia minora.  Quite disgusting as expected, it looked like tissue from a bad hernia.  I was told that it will subside in a few days.  Rachael, who had undergone labiaplasty herself recently, said it will look like a row of blackberries soon.  =)  After staying in my room for an hour, I grew bored and drove to the nearby mall, bought a nice purse, and stayed at the bookstore for a period of time.

Apparently I do not have to see Dr. Meltzer at all the next day for a followup.  He just wants his patients to stay an extra night locally to allow the wound to heal. So, back at the hotel, I am now writing this journal, eager to return home tomorrow, eager to be surgery-free (barring illness) the rest of my life.

October 19, 2010 Posted by | Blogroll, Transgender | , , | Leave a comment