Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Expressing Gratitude, something I rarely do...

I woke up early this morning. I felt tired, but that is not new. I did some surfing on the Internet, and went to put away the dishes. When my legs and hips started to hurt, a thought occurred to me. I wondered if I had been focused so much on what has gone wrong in the past year that I have failed to appreciate the good things in my life.  As I walked out to the kitchen, thinking that it needs a good cleaning, as I usually do, I thought I would take the time to inventory them.

First, there’s the housemate.  I don’t really know how to thank her for what she’s done. She’s given me a place to stay.  This place has allowed me to transition. Cathy may almost be as stubborn as a Pennsylvania Dutchwoman, and I’m slowly trying to adopt her into this tribe, particularly with food offerings, but she thinks it’s better to remain a Hoosier.  Let’s boil this down to the basic facts. Without her, I’d be on the streets right now, and things would be much worse for me than they are. She is one of my transgender sisters, who I often fail to appreciate.  It’s hard to realize that the people closest to us suffer with us, even if they cannot fully understand what is happening inside of our bodies.

Then there’s my biological sister.  She may be stubborn, opinionated, and a Fox News devotee, but she’s almost always been there when I needed her.  700 miles may separate us, but she’s always been the biological family member I’ve been closest to. I know she does not think much of people who have my diagnosis, and does not necessarily understand the invisible part of the illness, but I think she acknowledges something is wrong. I think she might think I’m exaggerating, and sometimes I wonder if I am. Usually when I get this way, a really bad pain day will come along to remind me that I still have issues.

Before I forget them, my brothers. I was going to separate this into half- and full-, but I realized that’s ridiculous. They’re still blood relatives, no matter how many of my parents’ DNA we share. Andy and I may not get along or see eye to eye, but there are still times when he has been there for me, and my actions – particularly regarding refusing to use State Farm because of what his State Farm agent did while he was in Afghanistan – have surprised him.  Bill probably would like to have known his other siblings better when he grew up, but circumstances prevented this. He is trying to reach out now, and that is what counts.

My family in general. My grandmother has tried, even though I have kept information from her. I don’t want to worry an 88-year-old woman unnecessarily. My father still tries, even though he thinks what I’m going through is merely the result of getting older. (I’m getting tired of hearing this from people, by the way.  The only normal part of aging out of this has been the need to wear eyeglasses constantly.)  The remaining aunts and uncles have offered as much support as they can, if they’ve paid any attention to my Facebook page.

Online Friends.  I have always felt more comfortable sharing my feelings online in semi-anonymity than I do in real life.  Partly, this is the whole socialized as male thing, which I hate in more ways than I can describe. Even though I hate it, these behaviors have long become habit.  Vlad has been there to offer a shoulder to cry on the most throughout this process, and I’ve probably adopted them as an unlikely mentor who guides me through unfamiliar territory.

Online support groups have been helpful, and I’ve tried to focus a lot of my complaining there.  At first, I told everyone, but that started to get old, even for me.  The people I chat with regularly in the Fibro support group I’m in, who I know as Poolgoddess, Quilter’s Way, E1989 and QueenPink know the struggles and the ups and downs of going through the disability process.  One of them, Quilter’s Way, managed to get it on the first time through. PoolGoddess and I are going through reconsideration, and QueenPink, who lives in Ireland, has not had to go through the social security administration to get disability benefits.

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Friday, July 24, 2015

I still hide certain emotions, even though I no longer need to

 People who are socialized as male – whether they are male or not – are taught to keep most of their feelings to themselves. They are expected to display three feelings at most. Anger, joy and a null state of emotions are all society allows. Feminists decry this as one way the patriarchy harms men, but I am not going to use their language, even if I am using their arguments.  However, transition is in many ways a life-changing experience. While I would not give up what I have gained in the past few years, it is also important to note that I have lost things in the process as well.   Sometimes, however, transgender people do not take advantage of what they have gained, even though they should. Being able to display feelings more openly is one advantage of transition that does not take place easily.  Hormones do not change a lifetime of societally-enforced behavior. Even if someone can show their emotions more freely, it does not mean that they will. Crying might be one of the biggest examples of this.

Men are taught not to cry, or if they do, not to do it openly. Special circumstances, such as the death of a loved one, grant an exception.  Since starting HRT, I’ve found that tears come more easily, especially if it’s something that makes me sad, like hearing of the death of someone’s pet.  Last night, was one of those occasions.  Even though I can cry more freely and openly, I felt the need to hide my tears, because that is what I have always done.

HRT caused many changes, physical, social and emotional.  One of the more difficult ones I faced was experiencing a greater range of emotions at first. (Of course, there was also a childish glee at having breasts, something I wish would have subsided much sooner than it did.)  Even the way I felt anger changed.  It is not the expression of normally repressed emotions; it’s generally because I have reasons to be angry.

And I must admit I’ve experienced a greater range of mixed emotions, although they are not necessarily contradictory. Perhaps the most recent example is finding out I have the beginnings of osteoarthritis.  While I’m not pleased about this, I was happy that it wasn’t what I feared. In fact, I felt like celebrating because the news was considerably less bad than I feared. (If German doesn’t have a word for this, it should. It’d probably be a variation of schadenfreude.)  I also have mixed feelings about being referred to a physical therapist. I’m afraid, excited, and filled with a desire to waste as much of Anthem Blue Cross/Blue Shields funds as possible for all the crap that they’ve put me through over covering my estradiol in the past. There’s also a desire to use as many of Indiana’s resources as possible because of their failure to provide adequate safety nets.  Experiencing an array of emotions over a situation is something I rarely experienced presenting as male. I might have once, but my peers, bullies and other quickly taught me that emotions were bad things to have.

As I go through the process of learning to be female, an experience I was denied, I find myself questioning whether I should be hiding this. People may state something if I become too emotionally charged, or view me as overly emotional, but they won’t openly ridicule me.  Women may do a lot of things behind the scenes that I do not understand or know about, and this, unfortunately, is also part of the learning process, and because it’s a social skill, I’m not sure I’ll ever learn it fully.  Maybe one day I’ll even be okay with openly crying rather than trying to hide it.  [Spoiler Alert!] At least for the moment, I’m glad no one saw me cry when Tris’s mother gave up her life for her in Divergent.

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Thursday, January 15, 2015

Preliminary thoughts on My Husband's Not Gay

I watched TLC’s “My Husband’s Not Gay” last Sunday.  The show promised a lot of clueless Mormon wives denying their reality of their husband’s sexualities. It also promised to show Gay Mormon men denying a fundamental truth about who they are in order to live the Gospel®.
The show offered all of the Mormon-speak faithful and former Mormon viewers would expect, and it offered enough eye candy to appeal to the straight women and gay men who probably make up The Learning Channel’s Target Audience. However, the show failed to do one thing that every show must do in some way. It must entertain the viewer.

Mormon denial may be appropriate for North Pine meetings, but an outside viewer can see the men trying to deny who they are.  Each wife, however, is holding onto their husband in order to live up to what the church expects of them. Church doctrine requires marriage in one of the organization’s temples for an individual to get into the highest degree of Heaven.  Children, however, are not required.

Official doctrine allows male members to have more than one wife in the Celestial Kingdom, in fact, the Doctrine and Covenants still says that it is a requirement for achieving exaltation.  As long as the men do not receive a divorce for eternity, they have completed the requirement. Even if the women dissolve the marriages in a civil court, they still remain married to their husbands for eternity in the church’s eyes. If they find another husband, they cannot have another temple wedding.  (In fact, they remain married to their first husbands. Men can marry more than one woman for eternity, but this rule does not apply to women.)

Even people not inclined to criticize the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints describe its structure as patriarchal. The husbands of this show, much like the husbands in every Mormon marriage, retain their power. The women often stick with their spouses for the sake of their family or because they do not think they can find another husband.

Same-sex attracted people, as the church once called gays and lesbians, are not cured by marriage. Materials provided by Church even state this.  North Pine, the organization that took the place of Evergreen International, continues its reparative therapy techniques, but it does not get the official support of the leadership in Salt Lake. Despite the lack of official support, many branch presidents, bishops and stake presidents support the organization and its goals.

Despite TLC’s denial that the show supports reparative therapy, it is exactly what it does. The first episode also shows something even more dangerous. It shows children who are in danger of watching their parents’ divorce as they get older.  Taking camping trips with other men who say they suffer from same-sex attraction probably does not help the men identify with their gender. It is more likely that the same-sex attracted men, as they call themselves, use these trips to conduct certain activities away from their prying eyes of their wives.  (Note: As someone who has never been on one of this group’s camping trips, I do not really know what goes on.)

TLC’s “My Husband’s Not Gay” proves only one thing. People are good at lying to themselves when it suits their needs. Sadly, church leaders probably encourage these couples to stay together. 

Monday, December 08, 2014

Indiana's Attorney General, Pill Mills, and an Apology from Lara (aka The Sinister Porpoise)

It was a cool spring morning in Terre Haute as I pulled into the Vigo County Annex. The press secretary for Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller had sent out an e-mail about a press conference his boss planned to hold in Terre Haute.  As had been the case with the previous e-mail, the mailing did not discuss the topic of the press conference in length.  He also had sent the e-mail out the night before, giving reporters little time to do any research on the topic.  As with the previous press conference I had attended, I expected it to be a chance for local politicians to further their own career while a politician desperately attempted to carefully control the information given to local reporters.

As I went into the building, I sat down and saw the attorney general wave at me. Someone cracks a joke about how a certain Indiana town is pro-amendment. Another attendee asks if the person who made the statement counted the number of gun stores in Terre Haute.  A few minutes later, everyone settled down and the press conference began.

Zoeller highlights two laws he proposed, both of which eventually passed. The first one provided stiffer penalties for people engaged in human trafficking and added legal protections for victims who came forward to report the case.  It seems harmless to me, and I jot down a few notes in my reporter’s notebook. 

He moved on to a bill addressing the problem of pill mills when he finished talking about human trafficking. As a former Mormon with anti-drug views, this interested me more. Despite my libertarian-leanings, I liked what I heard.  Zoeller’s new rules would force doctors to treat all opioid prescription painkillers as class 2 substances.  Patients would need to get a written note from their doctor every time they need a refill. The hard-line anti-drug Mormon in me rejoices. By now, I should have learned how mistakenly self-righteous I could be.  It never crosses my mind that this might make it harder for someone with chronic pain conditions  to access medications that provide a moderate amount of relief.  It did not occur to me that Zoeller's overreaching law might ever affect me.

I go home and write my Examiner.com story covering the event.  The tone taken in the piece suggested that the attorney general solved a drug problem plaguing our communities, although it did not explicitly use those words. At the time I held the opinion that everyone who used these drugs long-term was an drug addict. 

The story might have ended there. It would have if I had not developed fibromyalgia nearly a year later.  At first, I thought it was not a big deal. It just felt like cramping. Working out and spironaloctone from my hormone replacement therapy seemed like possible causes. I did not have health insurance, so I let it slide.  The pain started to get worse. One morning, I even woke up with pain in my thigh that lasted all day.  I started to worry and went to the emergency room.  The emergency room tests my electrolyte levels, rules out a blood clot and then sends me home with a prescription for 800 milligrams of Motrin.  I take the medication, but it does nothing for the pain.

Going to the emergency did little except give me a $780 bill that I am slowly paying off.  As the pain increases, I try to figure out what the problem is on my own. As I had been working out, tendinitis seemed most likely.  I started icing and wrapping the area above my knee. I also do my best to stay off that leg.  This does absolutely nothing. By now, cramping at night is keeping me awake. I even start complaining about it on Facebook.  

I realized that the emergency room and my own diagnosis were probably incorrect. After hearing my coworker talk about it, I decide to go to a new free clinic that opened up in Terre Haute.  It took several hours to get into see someone, but the appointment seems to take much longer than it should. The doctors here checked for diabetes, asked questions about multiple sclerosis, a few other conditions I do not remember, and they acted acted in a bizarre manner. Eventually one doctor comes in with a smile on his face and simply says it's a pinched nerve in the hip. His diagnosis fit the symptoms and I stopped worrying. He did nothing for the pain, however, other than to tell me to lose more weight. 

I did not go back to that clinic because I realize I needed a longer-term solution.  I remembered a health center ran by the Sisters of Providence in Terre Haute. I set up an appointment there. The pain starts to spread to other areas of the body, but it starts out as just minor cramps again. She asked questions that amused me as a transgender person, but also prods the knee above the actual painful area. She claims she gets me to jump. I went home from that appointment with a knee brace and an X-ray order.  When the clinic gets the order back, they admit, as I had told them, that the knee was not the problem.

When I got health insurance coverage again, I went see my regular doctor. Towards the end of the visit, my doctor took out the pad and started writing prescriptions. He gives me a prescription for tramadol and a prescription for a muscle relaxant. I asked my doctor what they are for, and he told me I had fibromyalgia.  He also orders a hip X-ray, which I get done the following Saturday.

My primary care physician does no additional testing, and I never manage to convince him that such testing was necessary.  I fill his prescription and start ta king the medication.  For the first time in months, my pain levels drop to the level of aches from the flu. Of course, there are still days when my pain soared to higher levels, but the painkillers allowed me to function at work.  Even though I wished my doctor had gone to other options first, the synthetic opioid allows me to work without too much complaint, and I can stop using a cane most of the time. 

I have only used tramadol* since October.  I’ve stopped taking it because of a possible allergy.  I have not developed an addiction or dependency yet, although it is possible that I might in the future.  The situation forced me to change my perception of prescription pain medications and those who use them.  A small percentage of people have abused them, but many people who use them are following their doctor’s instructions and trying to get through a bad situation.

Developing fibromyalgia and chronic pain has also caused me to realize that I owe everyone who uses pain medications to function in their daily lives an apology.  Society sends constant hints that no one really needs these drugs.  These messages come from people who either never have or never will face that type of pain.  Facing this particular chronic illness also makes me realize that there are many more things I will never be able to understand because I will never go through them.

*I do not think I should have been prescribed the medication the way it was. The directions say 1 tablet, 3 times per day with meals.  I have talked to other people who have taken this medication and prescribing it this way is unusual.

Note: I have also sought out a second opinion and went to a doctor who ordered tests to rule other conditions out. While I was  going through all of  this, I learned that rheumatoid arthritis runs in my family.  The blood tests, along with the X-rays on my right hip and right knee, do not completely rule out RA in its early stages, but they do make fibromyalgia more likely.

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

How Many Times Have You Been Pregnant in the Last Twelve Months?

Surreal is the one word that describes the last half of this year for me.  I have gone from expecting to recover from a repetitive stress injury to realizing that it's going to last for a long time.  This became clearer when my doctor uttered the word “fibromyalgia.”  The condition drains energy, and it prevents sufferers from enjoying their favorite activities. Even though fibromyalgia makes things harder, it does have its lighter moments. For me, these lighter moments came about through the actions of well-meaning individuals.

I did not try to hide the pain when it began, and I would double over in pain frequently.  People asked if I were all right.  Several customers asked if they could get someone for me.  The most concerned customers had a relaxed attitude about the legality of sharing prescription painkillers and offered some to me. Because these offers occurred before I was given any medications, I was sorely tempted to take these kind customers up on their offers.  (The first solution I was given was to lose more weight.)

The pain continued, but the medical professionals eventually came to the realization that I needed something more than exercise to deal with the pain.   I know take gabapentin and tramadol to help manage it. Medications allow me to make it through the day most of the time, but painkillers cannot always stop pain. One such day occurred a few weeks ago. My right hip and left knee bugged me. In fact, both felt like they were grinding when I moved them. An older customer in a mobility scooter noticed this and offered to let me sit down in her chair. She was rather insistent about it. If I had not informed her that I had my own supply of pain meds the conversation would have continued much longer than it did.

Neither of these stories is laugh-out loud funny, nor do they top today's most bizarre question. ("How many times have you been pregnant in the last twelve months?*) It also helps me from displaying my brilliant dark wit to one of my supervisors. The supervisor has informed me that getting older is fun and that I’m too young to be falling apart.

*I was going to inform the survey taker that I had my last period in 1962, but I realized she probably would not have appreciated this as a response.

Friday, November 07, 2014

Attempting to forego bread and other staples of the Western Diet...

I am going to try going gluten free.  For many years, I have been skeptical of this trend. Cutting out wheat is not healthier for people who do not have Celiac Disease, and the scientific evidence does not fully support non-celiac gluten sensitivity.  My skepticism of this trend will remain even if I am willing to try it. However, I have made this decision out of desperation.  My doctor jumped to fibromyalgia after only taking an X-ray, and I am just as skeptical of his diagnosis.  Choosing to go gluten free for a while will not harm me, and it might help.

An outside observer would probably ask why I think it might help, especially if I have no evidence that a wheat allergy contributes to my symptoms. Fibromyalgia treatment is a guessing game in itself, and since my primary care physician has not ruled out anything, it might be Celiac disease. Of course, it also might be any variety of fun things.  Lyme disease, thyroid dysfunction, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis and Lupus can all start with similar symptoms.* (As a House fan, I know it’s not Lupus.)

Two people said I should go gluten free, and I know they mean well. My sister told me it helped with her achiness when I asked her about it. Now, I’m not sure if I’d describe the times when I was crying from the pain as achiness, but she might have. I hope she is not disappointed if her diet alteration does not work. The only way it would work is if I have a wheat allergy, but if it does not provide any relief, I can return to my normal diet.

Now, I do not expect anything from this, and it is important for the well-meaning people who suggested it to understand that removing gluten from my diet is not a panacea.  What worked for them may not work for me.

*I also know that worrying about all of this makes me feel like a hypochondriac. I choose to believe the doctor’s diagnosis because it's the most likely.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Questions I'll Probably Never Get to Ask the Mormon Missionaries

Since coming to Indiana, the Mormon missionaries have come to the door several times. Unfortunately, I have not been at home on any of these occasions. This has left my roommate to utter a polite “I’m not interested” and turn them away. However, I still feel disappointed. There are a lot of questions I want to ask them now. If nothing else, it would result in uncomfortable squirming and doctrinal attempts to answer my absurd questions.

Some of these questions are rather obvious to anyone with even a passing familiarity with the religion. Such questions include asking why god cares so much about underwear, why all of the faith-promoting garment stories I’ve heard involve the death of the wearer, and which star in the night sky does Kolob orbit.  A quick missionary would probably deflect these answers rather than providing serious answers, but there are deeper ones to ask.

Because I am now presenting as female, I’d now have to ask how long pregnancies last on Kolob, if they have any advice on how to deal with my own eternally pregnant sister wives, and if it’s necessary to date an active Mormon. Since going through the motions is more important than actually believing the religion, can’t I just date someone who went through them all and gain entry into the Celestial Kingdom by proxy? 

This leads into other questions. Since I was ordained as an Aaronic priesthood holder and am legally female, does that mean I can bestow the priesthood on my other spiritual sisters?  (Yes, I know the church has very carefully avoided addressing transgender issues on a deeper level.)  Will I be male or female in the Celestial Kingdom? Don’t forget the ever popular, “Are you sure having a harem with eternally pregnant wives is actually how I want to spend my afterlife?”  If they answer yes, I’m going to remind them that atheists offer a much better deal.

Even though I’d love to ask these questions, the only contact I’ve had with the Mormon missionaries came while I was on my way back from work one day. I was wearing the typical work uniform that involved a white shirt and black pants.  They mistook me for a missionary and waved, even though my 1994 Chevy Astro clearly wasn’t a church vehicle.  The answer to all of these important questions will have to wait.  I suppose I could ask these questions at Christmas if my father brings up religion. He once offered this bit of advice, "Mormonism is easy for the woman. All she has to do is what her husband tells her."  With this sentence, he made sure his current wife will forever remain Catholic.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

I want this pain to go away.

The last few months have turned me into my mother.  I have spent a great deal of time whining about pain.  Of course, there are certain levels of pain I put up with willingly on a daily basis.  Stabbing, burning pain that causes me to shout or cry out does not fall into this category.  The pinched nerve – if that is what it is* – has caused me to act more in a more curmudgeonly manner.  I have also whined about it a bit.   This post contains more whining, but it will not be about the problem. It’ll be about the circumstances and conflicting emotions related to it. I don’t even want to think of myself as temporarily physically disabled. I suffer from a mix and dismay about the situation.
The dismay first hit me when my roommate suggested I use a cane. She noticed a lack of stability I had not.  I resisted, even though I was several weeks into the burning, stabbing thigh pain at this point. I did not want to be one of those people.  Eventually I gave into her request. Using the cane helped reduce the pain. It also gave me something to lean on when it flared up. (I do not use it while I am  on the floor at work. This results in excruciating pain by the time I end my shift.)

The second realization that all was not well came when I entered a local Sam’s Club. The old lady who checks for membership cards asked me if I needed a scooter.  The suggestion appalled me. I almost said, “Do I look like someone who needs a scooter?”  Although my mouth frequently acts independently of my brain, I realized that that this was a good time to shut up.  She was doing her job, and I should not have taken offense. I had seen many people with canes using the store’s mobility scooters while handing out samples.

The leg still goes through the sharp, stabbing pain phases. Two nights ago I could not even touch it without screaming in pain. Last night I almost cried myself to sleep. Everything I’ve read tells me my experience should be temporary. However, I’ve suffered from anxiety problems for years. It wants to interpret every symptom as something more serious. As the burning pain has spread to other areas of the body, I want to give into my mind’s subconscious whispers. That part of the brain tells me I might have to put up with this for a long time.  Feeling kidney stone-level pain when I touched the skin above my thigh a two nights ago did nothing to help this.

I have curtailed my activities when it became obvious I would have to.  An exercise bike reduced me to tears.  I had to ask someone to slow down while walking to a local gaming convention. It dawned on me that this condition is debilitating in me. Everything I’ve read so far tells me it should be temporary. My subconscious mind, however, is busy feeding my anxieties. (As someone who suffers from an anxiety disorder, I ignore it as much as I can. Physical evidence is starting to weigh in on its side, however Burning sensations in the wrists, elbows, knees, and feet suggest that the initial diagnosis is wrong.)

I want out of this position. I want the doctor to do something that will help with the pain. Although a part of me likes the attention I receive because of this situation, I would gladly forgo it.  There’s also a part of me that wants to yell at the person every time someone asks me if I’m all right.  The truth is I am not okay, but I know the people who ask these questions cannot do anything to help me. I want this to end, but I’m afraid this may be a permanent disability.  I am scared.

*The doctor who told me the lateral femoral cutaneous nerve was pinched performed no tests. This results in a condition known as meralgia paresthetica. I was willing to accept this diagnosis because his staff was asking questions about a family history of multiple sclerosis and fibromyalgia.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Unexpected Changes

I knew I should expect social changes during the transition process. Some of these changes were expected, others came as a complete surprise. The ones that shock me the most are not the ones that I expected or even the ones that cause me to fear for my safety. The most surprising changes are the ones I did not expect. Because I did not expect them, I did not prepare for them in anyway. Some of these changes involve learning the unwritten social rules that govern behavior between women, and others involve me learning new vulnerabilities.

The first type of incident occurred several weeks ago. Even though the current summer has barely reached the 90s, I’ve still gone to the local lake on days where it’s particularly hot and humid.  I departed for the lake at the local park early in the day, hoping I would avoid the crowds that came later. The early departure provided the opportunity to get some swimming in without bumping into other people. Sure, I could go to the local pool or use the facilities at the YMCA, but locker rooms still scare me.

Although I managed to perform some cardiovascular exercise, people eventually started trickling into the area.  One woman struck up a conversation. She asked me about my children. This conversation did not involve any discomfort, because it is a normal conversation topic. When I replied that I don’t have any, she offered her sympathies. (If she actually met some of my younger relatives and my parents, she might understand my reluctance to produce younger versions of myself.)   The awkward part of the trip came as I prepared to leave. While I was walking out of the water to return to my vehicle, another woman asked me to rub sunscreen lotion on her back.

My brain went into a form of shock.  If a man had asked me that question several months ago, it would have led to violence. My body activated its own fight or flight mechanisms. I remained there.  The woman repeated the request.  Although the discomfort I felt remained, I did as she asked.  Not a single thing I feared happened. My hand got greasy and she gained sunburn protection.  I asked others if this was normal behavior later. Women have much more relaxed attitudes about this type of contact than men do.
Another incident that caused me to realize that my societal rules were changing occurred this winter.  I ran out of gas as I was driving to work. When my Chevy Astro started sputtering due to a fuel-starved state, I pulled alongside of the road.  I took the gas can out of the back and headed toward the nearest gas station. A number of drivers asked me if I needed help, and a few drivers offered to give a ride.  One person even told me that I could trust him.

Every word in the sentence was familiar, but the context was foreign.  Why would he need to tell anyone that was trustworthy? Wouldn't his actions let others know if he was worthy of their trust?  I experienced an epiphany. The complicated relationship between men and women made him feel that this statement was necessary.  Thousands of sexual assault stories began a woman accepting a ride from an unknown man.  The man wanted me to know that he was not one of those creeps.

I did not accept his offer despite the cold temperatures. It was my first encounter with a new-found social vulnerability.  I realized I needed to worry about sexual assaults far more than I did before.   This incident occurred a few months after I started transition.  I knew the increased risk on an intellectual level, but it never occurred to me on an emotional level.  As someone who knows the statistics, I usually carry pepper spray with me in case I have to incapacitate an attacker.  However, I started carrying this out of fear of physical assaults. (I did this before I moved to small city.  Carrying this item became a habit when I lived in a town of 7,000 people.   Anyone who has traveled to Shamokin, PA and met its inhabitants will probably have the same reaction I did.)

Monday, July 14, 2014

"Hey, Girl!" And Other Random Annoyances

While I was out walking tonight, I heard someone shout, “Hey, Girl!” from a car. It is not the first time I have heard a similar phrase. I've also received wolf whistles, car honks and other forms of cat calls.  As a trans woman, I have mixed feelings about them. I am happy that others see me as the woman I am, but I also find the unwanted attention disconcerting.

If someone has seen my more recent pictures, they can easily figure out why I've started to have this experience. It’s something all women go through.  The first few times someone directed a catcall in my direction, I assume they were directing it at someone else. When I realized that they were trying to get my attention, I had assumed they were being sarcastic or blind. Eventually, I realized that many of the people who sent this attention my way were not being sarcastic.  They were being immature jerks.

As a latecomer to this particular form of interaction, I know cisgender women learned to expect this from men long before I did.  I also know of transgender women, including one Vice columnist, enjoy the attention for the reasons I mentioned above. I imagine there are even people who have met romantic and sexual partners through catcalls, wolf whistles, and car horn honking.  Just because I have never heard of such a story, it does not mean that it does not exist. On the other hand, loud catcalls are often scary and disconcerting. 

I have referred to the people who do this as immature jerks.  I should admit I have not developed a sophisticated response to this particular problem.  Sometimes I just walk on and ignore the responses. If the offense has been more egregious, I extend my middle finger as a form of greeting. Neither of these responses are sophisticated, but they give the offender an indication of how I feel about their unwanted attention.