Melanie's FFS Journal & Pictures, Melanie's Transition Diary,
Melanie's Home Page, Transgender Support Site

by Melanie Anne

(My experiences immediately after Feminizing Facial Surgery ~ FFS)

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Prologue

I never thought I'd write another word for the transgender community - EVER!

Yet, here I am.

You see, for the last seventeen years I've penned my most personal experiences along the road from living as a male to living as a female. And, quite honestly, I had simply grown tired of it.

I kept wondering what it would be like to have a more normal existence - one in which every passion or insight that crossed my eyes didn't have to be reported as if I were covering a story about somebody else.

Last year I documented my most harrowing emotional journey to date - a day-by-day description of what it felt like to have my lover of eight years prepare for and ultimately receive Feminizing Facial Surgery.

In that volume I came to question the essence of my own identity, my legitimacy at thinking of myself as female for all these years, and to redefine my understanding of the difference between the book and its cover.

Even in light of all that I had previously encountered, this most recent bout of self-exploration was so devastating and left me so raw that I had had enough.

So, being, perhaps above all, a diligent and responsible writer (or so I see myself), I closed off that diary and then tied up all the loose ends in a series of essays, called Iterations, which were compiled into a volume I named Journey's End.

Each of these short articles was intended to focus on a single aspect of the transgender experience and, rather than following a diary format as before, would serve to bring together all I had learned about each specific subject throughout my meanderings.

Once completed, I graciously bowed out, a pioneer and founding sister of the modern transgender community, realizing she had become less than relevant in today's more tolerant and educated society - putting myself out to pasture as I dropped my final pearls of wisdom - a last noble gesture by an aging icon of the Old School.

In another sense, Journey's End was intended to rattle some cages - to shake the pillars of the community that I, myself, had had no small part in raising. It seemed to me that the loose conglomeration of experts and celebrities whose ebb and flow of passion, hubris, opinion, and dogma form the ever-morphing essence of the community at large, by their very interactions, had ceased to be forces for change and insight, and rather had become agents of stagnation as their differential and conflicting ideologies formed standing waves of undulating energies whose ebbs and flows no longer progressed laterally into new realms of understanding, but rather formed complex wheels of repetitive patterns which recurred from time to time in great circles. And so, despite everyone's intentions, the more the movers and shakers moved and shook, the more firmly the concentric gears meshed their teeth, until the entire transgender philosophy had become as static as web made of rubber bands.

Buckminster Fuller said that the flow of energy through a system tends to organize that system. The corollary he did not propose is that the opposing flow of multiple energies through the same system tends limit the spontaneous appearance of chaos, and ultimately calcifies both structure and dynamics into a closed system as neatly protected from any outside alterations as an event horizon, as fully resilient to its original form as a prejudice.

Thus, I devised a two-pronged approach to my exit from the community spotlight: one, to bathe myself in a halo-like backlight as I ascended into the shadows, the other to shoot out the bulbs from several other spotlights while everyone was otherwise occupied watching me transcend. In this manner, I might rolf the rigid muscles of the collective community soul and restore or at least foster a return to a more flexible spirit that might, through the diligent exercise of other, younger minds, become strong yet again.

My Farewell Performance unfolded flawlessly, and I stepped out from the center of the Transgender Organism to explore the terrain outside its membrane walls.

All might then have slipped away into reminiscent drift upon the gentle currents of time, save for one thing alone: I began to have trouble passing in public.

It had been seventeen years since my initial transition, and in that time, I always had confidence in my ability to pass as a female in society. As I got older, to be sure, there were more "bad" days that required additional efforts with my hair or make-up to feel I would pass undetected. But, with few exceptions, if I chose to put on the mask, I could move in public in my chosen gender role without fear.

Yet, almost suddenly, I found it impossible to pass except at a distance and under the very best of lighting conditions. As often is the case with unexpected changes in status quo of great proportions, the even itself is not the problem, nor even a precursor, but rather just the first of many symptoms to soon be uncovered of a much more pervasive problem.

And, also, the first symptom you see is hardly ever the first that had appeared, but merely the first you had noticed. Therefore, it is prudent to scan back over time in the attempt to discover previous symptoms so that we might gather enough information to make a more accurate diagnosis of the underlying disease itself. Thus, I journeyed backward through my writings to discover the roots of my current discomfiture.

More than one thousand pages on the subject lay behind me. I must confess, due to the frank descriptions they contained of every aspect of my transition and personal tribulation (and also due to the "cringe" factor of revisiting earlier stages of being "in-between" and militant - i.e. "I'm a transsexual, and therefore, even though I haven't had surgery and still look like a man, I demand that you treat me as a woman, or you're a bigot!"), I simply could not bring myself to actually re-read any of that bulk of material.

Instead, I grouped my writings into its major movements, each of which described a specific phase of my adventures in self-discovery and self-actualization.

The first (and largest part) spanned the years from my decision to begin hormone therapy and see where this whole ridiculous thing went (1989), and concluded in 1996 more than three years after SRS, when I had finally come to terms with the changes in my body and in my new societal role.

This mini-magnum opus was followed by an eight year hiatus during which I kept no journal and in which I decided to move out from living with my wife, Mary and to move in with my life partner, Teresa. We left Southern California for the mountains surrounding the San Joaquin Valley, rented a house, then bought a house, then sold the house to pay for Teresa's FFS surgery.

That is when I began the second major section of my writing as I had to come to terms with the pending changes in look and personality to my mate of eight years and with my own feelings of being left behind, left incomplete, and being forced by circumstance to acknowledge she had finally ceased to be a transsexual and truly become a woman, while I had now become fully aware I was not the woman I thought I had been, but rather had always remained a transsexual.

This movement followed my emotional journey and documented Teresa's physical journey up to, during, and through the aftermath and ramifications of FFS on both of us. Included was my own minor foray into the realm of altering my facial identity as I underwent a short procedure to shorten my upper lip.

I had hoped that this minor cosmetic maneuver would reverse the increasing problems in passing that I was experiencing. And, by the end of my discourse, I was convinced that it had.

After a month's certainty that my inner and outer journeys were truly over, I penned the third section of my writings - the aforementioned Journey's End.

A month after that, I was still basking (or perhaps wallowing) in the afterglow of the end of that seventeen year trail of tears. I viewed Teresa (post-FFS) as being at perfect parity with me (post-lip surgery). After all, I had been prettier than she was before her FFS, and though she leapt past me with her surgery, the small job I had done brought me up to her new level.

In addition, Teresa had finally convinced me, some months before, to switch from an estrogen-only hormone regimen dispensed in pill form to an estrogen/progesterone mix in injectable form.

As a result of this change, my skin softened, the fat in my face rearranged, my sex drive increased, my butt got rounder. Apparently, I had been hormone starved for years on my previous dosages, and was now going through something of a late puberty.

Altogether then, my lip was prettier, my face and body more feminine, my mind and emotions more sound. I was sure I had gone as far as I could go. And then I began to get read again.

It started innocently enough with odd looks when I got close enough to the clerk in a check-out line for her to clearly see my features. At first, I attributed it to perhaps the wearing of clothes too young for me, and since I looked young of face at a distance, it was only when I got close enough for them to see the crow's feet that they registered mild surprise.

But then, it began to happen in all kinds of public places, regardless of what I was wearing, how much sleep I had, how my hair was arranged, and so on. It didn't take long to draw the conclusion that my days of easy passing were at an end.

But why?

Was it the loss of the fat of youth in my face? Was it that I had begun to act far more femininely due to my most recent expeditions of self-discovery, and it simply didn't "play" with my look or age?

I came to think that perhaps there is a difference between being pretty and being feminine or even female. I always had a pretty face, and such qualities allow one to look good when presenting in either gender. But as youth fades, the prettiness fades as well, and then one if assessed by others on the basis of facial markers alone.

We all have both feminine and masculine facial markers. Those that are seen as being more facially appropriate to their gender roles have the greatest number of markers associated with their sex, and the fewest and mildest markers associated with the other.

For an androgynously countenanced individual such as myself, once robbed of the prettiness of youth, natural aging processes which occur to the face begin to mask the feminine features while accentuating the masculine ones. Add to this a few extra pounds, a wardrobe too young for your apparent age, and a more youthful and feminine manner due to self-acceptance, and you have a recipe for increasing troubles in passing in the world.

As I began to understand some of the factors at work, and as Teresa continued to heal over the course of a full year past FFS, becoming more beautiful each week, I became depressed and began to feel that perhaps my life would best be over, and at worst would drag on in a manner in which within just a couple more years and I would not be able to pass as a woman at all under any circumstances or conditions.

There was only one way out - I needed to have feminizing facial surgery myself. But I was afraid.

It wasn't the pain that terrified me. I can deal with pain. It wasn't whether or not those around me would accept me, for with all my previous transitions and surgeries I had already discovered who would stand by my side no matter what.

The aspect that gave me pause - the one key element of FFS that scared the living bejesus out of me was the loss of identity. I mean, to change your face - to alter all the touch points of the person you see in the mirror and have learned to call yourself - well, I can't think of a greater loss to which one can be required to submit.

It is not unlike watching your mind slowly dissolve through the onset of senility. Only in this case, the very nature of your physical self (and not just your body map, but the most uniquely personal of your private attributes - the cover to your book - the advertisement of your soul) is to be given up as payment, handed over to the surgeon to sculpt away and ship off for incineration as organic waste. What a price to pay.

But even more fitful is the consideration of what will replace your identity. People treat you as they do because your face falls into a particular type. We act as we do because of people's expectations of our behavior based on our facial attributes.

How much of our sense of identity has anything to do with inherent qualities present at birth, and how much is developed as our attempt to mold the basic substance of our emoto-plasm into a form the fits most comfortably within the mask into which we are born?

When all the identifying features of that outer shell are wiped away to be replaced with a whole new set, one can not long support the sense of self that used to live within, and will be helpless but to adapt to the new expectations of others (and of ourselves) based on the new architecture of our countenance.

It is the inability to predict what form into which that new identity will coalesce that leaves one feeling lost, cast adrift in limbo, lacking not only an anchor without, but any one within as well.

And so one stares into the abyss, afraid of who one will become, of what it will feel like to be someone else. Or so it appears at the moment that you must make that leap of faith and decide to take a change on becoming a new being for the rest of your life or to forever hold your peace and remain the incomplete, fragmented, angst-laden creature your have been since your earliest memory.

This, then, was the decision I made - to follow in Teresa's footsteps - to bridge the gap that had formed between us - to join her on the other side of a complete change of identity and to finally, once and for all put gender dysphoria behind me by altering every last remaining feature that either reminded me of my former self or could possibly alert anyone I might encounter as to the nature of my past.

And having been made, that decision moved into the past, and my speculations into the future to consider with almost giddy speculation what it might be to truly feel inside and out like a "real" woman, so different from any transsexual that I need never think of myself as one again.

And beyond, to note with some degree of erotic anticipation, realizing the fantasy of having the very bones of your face permanently altered so you are indeed trapped as a woman, unable to ever return to the world of men. All that had been previously done can be disguised and denied. But unless you want to spend the rest of your life with a bag over your head, feminizing facial surgery permanently moves you in with the group of women and permanently bars you from the world of men.

It was in this state of mind that I began another journal to document the undoing of my previous self and the building of a new one. I called it "The Destruction of Melanie Anne," and in it, I speak at length on the above issues and many more.

It seemed to me that this was, of all things, the most extraordinary opportunity for a writer - to describe the dissolution of identity and the birth of a completely new person within your own head.

But something happened along the way - something that had never occurred to me before. I lost interest in the project. I found myself completely unmotivated to write another word.

It wasn't writer's block - I was completely capable of spilling out the words in just as prolific a manner as ever. I just didn't want to.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that the most interesting part of the story would be the comparison of my new self (as it evolved) to the old one. But in my heart, I wanted this experience to be about leaving the old self behind and never referring to it again.

Would I be true to my calling as a writer and to my (literally) legions of readers who had followed my story since 1989, or would I be true to myself and let it go.

About four days before my surgery was scheduled, I quickly drew the curtain on this latest journal, clumsily tied up as many loose ends as I could, and bowed myself off stage.

Yet here I am again.

Just ten days after surgery have I violated my personal vow? No. I have actually become a new person. And this new person has no trouble with continuing the tale.

And so, with the previous pages as prelude, I will now devote myself to a description of my FFS. But as oft I have in the past, it won't be a simple nuts-and-bolts description of the process of surgery, recovery, and results (though these will be peppered throughout the narrative). Yet as I never have in the past, it will not be a diary style journal with dated entries, nor will it be a topical summary a la Journey's End.

What follows are nothing more or less than musings ranging from long thoughts to short essays, each of which explores any aspect of this experience that rises up to my conscious mind long enough (and filled with enough interest) to linger upon for a while.

Time is irrelevant. If an idea is not yet mature, I may delay days or weeks before feeling it is ripe enough to be considered fully in these pages. If a notion, like Athena, is born full grown from my now reduced and sculpted forehead, I shall present it at once before its purity is lost by rubbing elbows with other thoughts.

Each entry will be labeled by when it was made in terms of the number of days since surgery. By the time I am finished, you will not know so much about what facial feminization surgery is as you will know what it is like to go through it.

Ten Days Post Surgery

Being the first entry, there is already a serious backlog of considerations I am eager to relate. Trying to convey them all at once, however, would simply stir up the bottom mud and reduce visibility rather than foster clarity.

So I shall restrain myself from simultaneously embracing a multiplicity of purposes and settle for one at a time, ordering them by personal priority with no deference to their actual chronological sequence nor to their importance in the matrix as a whole.

A Slap In The Face

Perhaps foremost on my mind at this moment is to describe the head rush I get from seeing my new face in the mirror. It starts with a jolt of non-recognition. My countenance has changed so much that I honestly can find no touch points at all with my former self.

I scan my hairline, my forehead, my eyes, my nose, my lips, my jaw line, my chin. None of them are the same - each has been surgically altered in ways that just don't seem possible to my heart.

This combination of undeniable reality yet impossible actuality creates a mental paradox that splits into a schism between sense and sensory. And, like deeply buried rocks splitting from divergent pressures, the fracture in my mind sends shock waves through my thoughts and my feelings with such intensity that my entire body involuntarily shudders. The spasm moves down my neck, along my spine, and buckles my legs so that I must reach out for support. Simply put, the truth hits so hard that I am staggered by its power.

I recover, of course, in but a moment. Yet echoes of the experience continue to reverberate throughout my mind for the minutes that follow:

How can I look in the mirror and see a woman's face? How can this be? Before FFS I thought I saw my face as female. But now, at some primal human level below my conscious awareness I simply know that face to be female. And with this new assessment for comparison, I realize for the first time that despite my perception of my pre-surgical face as female, there were so many male markers that the same primal response determined it was a male face in disguise.

And this is from whence my gender dysphoria truly sprang - the differential between the intuitive manner in which I saw my face and the altered consciousness I struggled so hard to maintain in which I tricked myself into seeing it as I wished it were. But now, how can I possibly consider myself a transsexual when it is clearly a woman staring back at me in the reflection?

Something happens on the table. Teresa tells me that many have spoken of it. You truly go to sleep as a man and wake up as a woman. You see, no matter how much you convince yourself you are female before FFS - no matter how much you may have mentally progressed to even feel that you have fully transcended transsexuality, from the moment you reawaken you are aware something fundamental has changed.

You are in a new realm that you thought you had already achieved. At once you realize that you had no idea what it was to be a woman until you opened your eyes post surgery.

You don't have to see your face. It is fully bandaged anyway. You don't even have to touch the bandages. Before you are even fully cognizant of your body much less your surroundings, there is some different foundation at work within you, almost as if the program that defines you has been rewritten while you slept.

And in this recognition, you know you are now a woman, fully and completely, just as strongly as you can now see that scant hours before you were really nothing more than a man with tits and a cunt.

You find that you have fully integrated into your body at a level you never imagined. The words, "feeling like you were born this way," cannot be appreciated with this full degree of understanding until after you have had FFS.

I'm sorry to say so, for it smacks of elitism, but unless you have feminizing facial surgery, you will never know what it truly is to be. Perhaps the only saving grace is that pre-FFS you can also not imagine how much you are missing - a blessing, since knowledge of how much you do not yet have would be a burden few of us could bear.

What Was Surgery Like?

If you are truly interested in FFS, you have either already visited, or soon will, one or more web sites which fully describe the procedure from a surgical standpoint.

Though I may come to touch on those logistic details in some future musing, the issue currently on my mind is the experience of surgery itself, from just moments before to moments afterward.

I'll begin with my final wave to Teresa and my daughter Mindi as they watched me being wheeled on a gurney down the long corridor to the pre-surgery room. No visitors are allowed past the entry doors to the corridor, and as I passed that border, I recalled how I stood with my daughter and watched Teresa take the very same journey just a year and a week earlier.

Evoking that memory, I replicated what Teresa had done for the FFS video of her experiences I was shooting at that moment. Just before she had disappeared around the corner at the far end of the hall, she bravely lifted her arm high goodbye to the two of us and the camera. And so, I followed suit and did the same.

Just nine months ago, I had also been down that corridor for my lip-bob surgery to make my upper lip shorter and therefore more feminine. So, unlike Teresa's earlier experience, I now already had pre-knowledge of what lay beyond.

So I was familiar with the short path from 'round that corner to a small side room with four stalls for four gurneys. This time, the orderly parked me outside the room, then went inside to discover if there was a free berth. There was - at the very far end of the small room.

She returned, and wheeled me into my space pas the other three patients currently waiting to be taken to their respective surgical rooms for their respective procedures.

I was told by the orderly that my anesthesiologist would be with me shortly to ask some questions and explain some procedures. Just minutes later, I heard another anesthesiologist speaking with another of the patients. I tuned out their conversation and looked around the room.

During the preceding four days I had not felt a moment's tension or anxiety about the surgery. This was far from usual for me. I have always handled my nerves well, but in all previous surgeries I had ever undergone, I always had to work at remaining calm.

Yet, even now, with surgery just minutes away, I simply felt at peace. I had told Teresa earlier that once the decision had been made and the money arranged, the rest was easy - all I had to do was let them put me to sleep and I would wake up with a new face. No work on my part at all.

I considered this as I scanned the walls, fixing my gaze upon a rack of magazines near my gurney. There were titles like "Money This Week," and several others, all of which seemed the farthest things from what I might want to read while waiting to go under the knife.

Further, how would one get a magazine from the rack? Did you have to wait for someone to wander by and then request it? And what's more, the magazines were all dog-eared. How many hands had leafed through them?

I recalled that they never washed my hands before I was wheeled down to surgery. So how many germs might be growing on those well-thumbed pages? Did I really want to take them onto by body just before it was about to be splayed open for eight and a half hours?

And in the middle of that thought, like a cut from one scene to another in a movie, I found myself throwing up into a plastic basin. I hear voices. They were Teresa and Mindi, and they were telling me it was okay, just to relax, it was good to get it out of my stomach.

Apparently, I was done with surgery and back in my room.

I had never waken up from surgery like this before. It has always been a slow drift into awareness, like gently coming to consciousness on a lazy Sunday morning. At first things are a bit foggy, but gradually the higher elements of thinking come on line until I have become cognizant of my surroundings and the situation surround that.

But this time, I had no memory of speaking with my anesthesiologist, being wheeled into surgery, being moved from the gurney to the surgical table, or being put under the anesthetic. And I also had no memory of coming to in recovery, being wheeled up to my room, changing from the gurney to the bed, or sitting up to vomit.

Complete and total amnesia from the magazine rack to puking into the bucket. And not a slow morphing from one moment to the other, but an immediate "hard cut" between the two without a missed beat.

If I had been more awake, I'm sure it would have been one of the most jolting experiences of my life - like being instantly transported from one place, time, and circumstance to another that was wholly different creating a mental clash that left me disoriented as Neo waking up in his pod in the movie The Matrix. One moment he is with Morpheus being covered in silver, the next he jolts instantly into awareness that he is underwater, breathing through a tube, and tied into the system through a series of cable-like connections running into his body.

Yep, it was like that.

Eleven Days Post Surgery

The Odo Syndrome

Do you remember the television series, "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine"? How about the character "Odo" - the shape-shifting constable who oversaw law enforcement on the space station?

Odo had the weirdest damn make-up I've ever seen on an alien. He was like "puffy" from the forehead, through the top of the eye orbitals, and right on down the nose. From there down, he was actually rather human.

Same here. When you have FFS from Dr. Ousterhaut, you can pretty much expect to experience the Odo Syndrome for the first couple of weeks as a post-op.

It really makes you feel a little non-human, though clearly a female non-human.

The Hospital Stay

I suppose I ought to say a few words about my hospital stay. After all, though you absolutely won't do this surgery if you don't need it so badly that you are willing to pay any price and suffer any pain, that doesn't mean you aren't at least a little bit curious about just how much excruciation you are going to have to endure.

In a nut shell then, it was fucking hell.

Let me be more clear: It was fucking hell.

Get the picture?

Pain? Not really the problem. For me, on a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being the worst pain I can imagine, it never got beyond 4. And that was just until I got the hang of pushing the button that pumps measured amounts of morphine into my system through the IV. After that, pain was mostly around 2-ish, and rarely got beyond 3.

Essentially, it was never worse than a moderate headache - pretty much like the feeling right after having your braces tightened as a kid. Only difference is, the pain is along the bottom of your jaw, centering on the chin where the bone was sawed through and reattached.

The head itself hardly even ached at all - and that is still true to this day, which surprises the hell out of me since they cut out a portion of your forehead, shape it, and then reattach it with wires! Why it doesn't hurt, I haven't got a clue. Teresa says it was the same for her.

Oh, and finally, in regard to the pain of FFS in general, so far there are not nor have been any sharp stabbing pains at all. Not one. Rather, the pain is all in the form of a dull ache, and it really hasn't throbbed either.

"Aside from that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you like the play?" Okay, other than the pain (which wasn't so bad) what made the two days in the hospital so awful? The discomfort.

First of all, you are likely to vomit a few time when you first get up to your room. This is because some blood almost always leaks past the packing placed in your throat during surgery and gets into your stomach.

I'm told I vomited four times within the first few hours. Teresa upchucked twelve times in a twenty hour period. Some don't heave at all, and some don't even get nauseous.

Next, you are weak as a kitten. So you can barely even move your fingers. Then, because your nose is packed with absorbent material from the rhinoplasty, you can only breathe through your mouth. As a result, your tongue dries out to leather, the inside of your mouth is like parchment, and therefore you can neither talk nor swallow, nor do anything about it.

If you have a touch of claustrophobia like me, having only one way to breathe and not being able to swallow is a horrible experience that gets worth with time. Now how much would you pay? But wait… there's more! To help the incisions made in your gums between the outside of your teeth and the inside of your cheeks so that your jaw bones can be shaved - to help these incisions drain, they insert small flexible plastic tubes on the inside of each side of your mouth.

As a result, you can't close your mouth completely, which not only adds to the difficulty in swallowing (especially pills) but also makes you feel tied down and restricted (which really gets that claustrophobia going).

On top of all this, your face is completely bandaged except for your eyes and mouth. There is a compression bandage around your chin that holds your mouth shut and the edge of which presses against your neck, making you feel a bit like you are being suffocated.

Plus, for the first half day, your eyes are so swollen you can't even open them a crack to see through.

And, they have placed you in self-inflating post-surgical stockings which feel like blood pressure cuffs on your legs from the ankle to the top of the thigh. An annoyingly loud portable compressor alternately inflates and deflates the stockings every few seconds. And this constant noise and constrictive squeezing of your legs goes on constantly for a full day before the stockings are finally removed.

They bring food and drink three times a day, but you can hardly get a sip down for the first twenty four hours, though you get pretty hungry pretty fast. But that is just as well because your bowels shut down any time you have general anesthesia, so at least you don't have to go to the bathroom. And, if you have to pee, you are connected to a catheter that lets it just drip out.

Problem is, after the first day they disconnect the catheter and then you have to use the bed pan or get up and go to the rest room. But, to do the later, you have to call the nurse to disconnect you from the IV long enough to pee, then reconnect you afterward.

If you have someone staying with you (which in my mind is essential), they can disconnect your IV from the electric plug in the wall and you can take it with you to the restroom, since it sometimes takes the nurses quite a while to get there after you call.

Okay, you get the idea. But do I have any useful tips? You betcha!

Tip One: Have a friend or relative with you 24 hours a day while you are in the hospital. For the first few hours you can't even find, much less push the morphine dose button, and you are going to want it. Also, you are too weak to call the nurse with the button, so you might have to wait up to four hours if you need something before she makes her rounds. You'll want ice chips and then water as soon as you can tolerate it in order to combat the dry mouth. Your care-giver can get it for you immediately. In addition, some of the nurses speak with heavy accents, and even if they don't, you can't speak very well with the tubes and dry mouth. Your care-giver knows how you speak normally, and can translate your requests to the nursing staff that they would simply not otherwise understand.

Tip Two: Morphine causes nausea in many people. If you find it does for you, they can switch to pills instead (Perkoset or Vicodin). But, since you can't swallow well, these powdery pills might make you choke. If you tell the nurses, they'll crush the pills and mix them into some apple sauce, jell-o, or pudding. Pudding sticks to the back of my throat, and I didn't want to choke. Jell-o goes down well and slippery, but it is hard to get the meds mixed in it so it tastes very bitter. Apple sauce goes down easily and accepts the powdered pills easily, but they only had unsweetened, so it was very bitter with the pills mixed in. Still, I found the apple sauce to be the best medium, and therefore I was never worried about choking on a pill (for which my claustrophobia was quite happy!)

Tip Three: Speaking of claustrophobia, TAKE THE VALIUM!!! The minute I mentioned the problem at the hospital, they gave me a valium and the tension almost immediately receded to manageable levels. Also, keep the room lights on all the time. The worst feelings of being trapped and restrained come in the dark. Get up and walk, if you can, trailing your IV behind you, at least to the bathroom.

Aside from these three tips, just use your common sense - take it easy, keep in mind it is only two days (though, honest to gosh, you sleep so little at a time it really, truly, feels as long as two weeks normally feel!) As Teresa told me, "Just tough it out." And truly, that is the only way.

One final thought - when Dr. O. removes the drains on your mouth and most of the head bandages in the morning, 48 hours after your surgery and just before you leave to go to Cocoon House - things begin to get better immediately. And day by day after that, the discomfort drops by half. So just tough out the first two days and the rest is a piece of cake by comparison.

Unreadability

You enter the pipeline toward FFS with one purpose and exit the process with another.

Perhaps you are just starting out in transition and know you cannot easily disguise your features. FFS is a fine tool to pave the way toward an easier cross-over to living as another sex. And since you are probably not so self-delusional as to think that once you look like a woman you will instantly be accepted as one, you are prepared to put in however many years it takes after facial surgery to drop your old male facades and to naturally unveil your female self.

Or you may have been "getting by" as a woman for years, even decades, but never feeling that you are truly passing, for you also scorn self-delusion, and know that you only pass on days when you are rested, your hair is right, your make-up good, and you are lucky enough not to encounter any unflattering lighting that might cast shadows that enhance your masculine features. FFS, for you, becomes a means of no longer falling short, no longer having to dress up to pass.

Maybe you are an old-timer, started young. Blessed with a pretty face, you never experienced much of being read, and then, only for a short time until you learned the ropes. But as age robbed you of the beauty of youth, you now find yourself having trouble when in public. You get strange, questioning looks that occur more and more frequently and eventually grow into out and out "hard clockings." FFS for you, is a ticket back to your youthful bliss: an opportunity to put an end to these troubles that you feel you should not have to endure after all the years of dues you have paid.

Regardless of why you choose to make perhaps the most courageous decision of your life, once on the other side, even the very day of it, you understand a greater purpose you could never have imagined beforehand:

The moment you awaken, you are free of gender dysphoria.

No matter if you started young or waited until late in the day, no matter if you passed well or poorly, you have suffered every conscious instant with the pain of not feeling at ease in your own body, as your birth sex.

If you are like me, you chalk up the discomfort of your early years to feeling inadequate as a male, and perhaps cast your dreams of being female as just an erotic fantasy with which you are also cursed.

If you are like Teresa, you knew you were female of mind, of spirit, from your oldest childhood memories, and sought, craved, prayed for a way to transform your body into the physical likeness of your inner self.

Yet, for both kinds of transsexuals (and all other kinds of which I am aware), your focus shifts at some point from the pain of feeling transsexual to an obsession with passing in society as a woman.

You come to believe that if no one can clock you under any circumstances as a previous male, then the confidence this inspires will free you from your dysphoria and allow you to finally live your life in peace as a complete woman.

Alas, this is simply not true. It is a delusion that helps us continue to cope with our dysphoria, for in reality, we can never be completely sure that we are unreadable for we constantly read ourselves. We are always aware of how we started, and as long as we bear that knowledge, we do not pass to at least one human on the planet.

To seek to be unreadable is to chase the horizon. It keeps us going because it can never be achieved.

This is the greater purpose that becomes understood when one wakes from feminizing facial surgery - you have stepped over the unreachable limit line and, while you slept, crossed to the other side.

Like the speed of light, you can approach it, but not match it. What you do not realize is that does not prevent you from traveling faster than light, as long as you do not travel at the speed of light on the way to exceeding it.

The magic cannot happen while you are watching. And so, the anesthesiologist puts you under. Only then can the Powers That Be perform the miracle upon you.

If you suddenly found yourself traveling faster than light, many polarities would be reversed. As before, you would have to expend great energies to stay near that constant, but unlike life on the previous side, the less energy you use, the faster you go, until if you expend no energy at all your speed would approach infinity.

Similarly, when your eyes open for the first time as a post- FFS woman, you discover that just by knowing that the bones of your face have been rearranged into perfect female form, you simply can no longer read yourself. To even get close to being read by others as a male you would have to use all the energy you have. The less energy you use, the more strongly you come across as a woman.

In other words, your womanhood is now the norm and requires no action on your part to maintain it. To all whom you meet, even to yourself in the mirror, you are a woman by nature, without trying. The change is permanent. You are locked in. And it is then that you understand the greater purpose: that passing as a woman is as meaningless and ridiculous a phrase in regard to your life as truly being one was prior to facial surgery.

Thirteen Days Post Surgery

FES

FFS is Feminizing Facial Surgery. It is performed by a skilled and artistically inspired doctor. FES is Feminizing Emotional Surgery. You have to perform it on yourself.

FFS grinds, shifts, and adjusts your soft tissue and bones to remove all physical male markers from your face so that there remain absolutely no touch points with that gender, leaving your countenance completely female in form.

FES dissolves, alters, and realigns your feelings and moods to remove all mental male markers from your mind, so there remain absolutely no touch points with that gender, leaving your consciousness completely female in function.

Part of this happens on the table, under the knife. You know what will be happening to your face when you are wheeled into surgery. So, when you awaken and touch your face to verify that the complete job was done, you then realize that without any further effort on your part, your face is now a woman's face, always will be, and there is nothing you can do about it. That is your look now and for the rest of your days.

This changes your underlying self image so that you no longer feel the need to make compromise acting as you have always felt inside. You no longer have to hide any feminine aspect of your character, for it will "play" now with the way you look, even though it had never played before.

Therefore, you no longer need to maintain more masculine attributes (markers) that you kept in your personality to fill the holes where your true feminine attributes would not have been appropriate coming from someone with your previous face.

Knowing the magnitude and permanence of the change that has been made to your face, you feel completely justified in going beyond simply story away those old substitute male emotional markers (in case you should need them again someday) and easily and comfortably let them go, throw them out with the trash, deconstruct them so they no longer exist.

That is the first process of FES, and it leaves you without your gender dysphoria within the first micro-seconds of coming awake after surgery. And it never comes back. Your gender dysphoria is gone, permanently, and never to return.

This changes the face of your underlying mood - your long term background sense of self. You realize that you can go anywhere, do anything, meet anyone under any conditions, and there will be no fear of being "read" because the concept has become so ridiculous that your mind can no longer grasp it.

If mood is the backbone of your emotional self, feelings are the more pliable soft tissues of your mind. And they are altered by FES as well.

As you see your new self in the mirror every day, as the swelling goes down and your female nature emerges ever more fully, at first you celebrate. You look at pictures of yourself from before surgery and compare them to your reflection or to pictures taken in the last few days. The comparison between the two is staggering. It is like night and day. There is a picture of a man. Here is a picture of a woman. I was that. Now I am this.

Your stomach does a summersault and the butterflies bounce around inside. You feel such relief at having a face like this rather than like that, that your heart leaps for joy. But as long as it does, you haven't completely the "soft-tissue" equivalent of FES.

You revel in the feelings generated by this differential. But, for the differential to exist it requires not only an appreciation of the new, but also holding onto the old for comparison. Meaning? You haven't let it go.

If you really want to feel fully female, you have to stop comparing your new look to your old male look, for what woman would do that? Yet the feeling is so tempting, the exhilaration so great, the triumph so sweet, that it is extremely hard to give up that pleasure after so many years of pain.

Not to worry. You don't have to take action to rip it from you. Rather, the more you get used to your new look, the thrill of the difference wears off in time, just as the joy of owning a new car eventually fades as the car becomes used and loses its new car feel.

Similarly, unless you intentionally refuse to let go of your previous self image because you become addicted to the high, in time, that will also fade away until your feelings are about how you look, no longer about how your look has changed.

For Teresa, this took several months. She was the first of us to have FFS and therefore needed more time to adjust to this unknown post-surgical territory. For me, I've had a full year of making internal adjustments initiated by my feelings of self-worth compared to her constantly improving new look. It caused me to grow considerably - to let go of so much in advance of surgery. And it showed me the way, the time it would all take, and the nature of the changes I could expect to occur.

So for me, I reached this point today - where I stopped celebrating the difference and simply enjoy the nature of myself as it is now.

A potential road block to this early accomplishment: my face is still swollen and puffy and changing daily. How could I be so aware of what has changed, yet put aside any consideration of the degree and nature of the change? A simple mental trick: I no longer think about having had FFS. Rather, I tell myself I've simply had a facelift, a nose job, and some facial contouring.

This takes gender out of the equation and gives me the same opportunity to celebrate a surgical improvement in my appearance as any woman. I acknowledge the change, but compare it to my previous face as being a woman's face made better, not a man's or transsexual's face made female.

I know myself to always have been female of mind since before birth. So the face I bore up until FFS must have been a woman's face, just an overly masculine one that did not match my internal self image.

Like any woman who felt strongly that her appearance did not reflect her true self, and got in the way of making close relationships and of having confidence in social scenarios, I leapt at the chance to have cosmetic surgery to improve my look.

Armed with this attitude and with the advantages of the past year's inner growth and observation of Teresa's progress, the celebration of the gender difference in my face dissolved today and was replaced with a celebration of equal job of the improvement surgery made to my previous face.

The hardest thing is that once you begin transition, you have to force yourself to see your face as female even when it looks like a male face. It is the only way to muster the inner strength necessary to present yourself in the new gender role in society.

But it is also a curse, for you no longer see your face as others see it, but only in an idealized form that has altered your perception to the point you actually come to believe you look more feminine than you truly do.

This is natural - we all do it, gender dysphoria or not. We idealize our features to bolster our confidence or degrade our appearance as penance for some unworthiness or transgression we believe we have committed.

Some, such as anorexics, see themselves in a negative perceptive way that does not match reality, and therefore starve themselves so that they no longer appear fat to their own eye.

But to become committed to undergo the pain, risk, and cost of FFS, we first must cast away that feminine self image of ourselves and see our faces for what they really are.

Yet after surgery, to let it go, we must recast our perceptions of our former faces yet again. The key is to see yourself not as have a male face, but a masculine one. You are a woman with a masculine face.

Then, as transition progresses, you focus on the feminine qualities of your countenance and soften the masculine ones in your own perception. This gives you the confidence to get through transition.

Before FFS, drop the lopsided perception of your face. But don't think of it as a male face, just see if as being as a masculine face for a woman. Then, after FFS, it is easy to lose the gender element of your celebration of your new look, for it was never included in the first place.

You simply compare your old look to your new one as having finally gotten rid of those masculine elements of your face so that you could appear more feminine, prettier, more desirable as a woman.

I know a number of folk who've had FFS and still marvel at how female they look, rather than how feminine they look, years after having made the change. They have had no more gender dysphoria since FFS, but have never let go of their previous male self-image.

Do you really think they can ever fully function as a normal woman until they do?

Twenty One Days Post Surgery

A Strong Chin

Gender isn't the only issue. There is also the way in which your face leads others to size you up and determine what kind of man or woman you are - what your basic personality is.

There isn't just one sort of man or woman. Culturally, perhaps instinctively, we separate members of each gender into many different personality types. We base these expectations on physical characteristics, primarily on facial attributes.

The intuitive reason we do this is to have a basis of upon which to interact with those we have not yet met. By pre-determining a template of fundamentals regarding how we anticipate people will react, we then approach them in what we perceive is an appropriate manner.

Although we like to believe that we should not judge a book by its cover, we cannot help it. What's more, there really is a correlation between the physical characteristics of an individual and their facial type.

No, I'm not talking about phrenetics, the discredited pseudo-science that purported to link qualities of the skull to attributes such as intelligence and creativity. Rather I'm referring to such facial manifestations as a solid brow indicating strength, a square jaw promising determination and tenacity, or a strong chin - a sure sign of leadership.

Though there may be a true biologic connection between certain facial features and particular broad types of behavior, at the very least there are certain ingrained cultural stereotypes associated with them.

As we grow from children to adults, as our initial features alter and refine, we are treated differently by others due to how they read our personality through the physical attributes of our faces.

As a result, our social experience base is quite different from someone with another type of face. Because we are treated in a particular way, we learn to respond in that way. And because we come to share the same pre-conceptions of facial/personality stereotypes, what we see in the mirror brings us to nurture the very same personality traits in ourselves that others expect of us. In the end, we fashion our selves as fully as possible into the mold or pattern that has been assigned to us.

If those traits are truly a subset of those we actually possess, we might be quite content to live our lives within those limits, especially if we match the template closely.

But if our inner selves are too divergent from the expectations placed upon us by our type of face, then we live our lives in conflict with the first impressions we give to all we encounter.

This, then, has been my situation: I have always been plagued by an extension, or perhaps overlay on top of my previous gender dysphoria. I was cursed with a strong chin.

Due to my facial features, people looked to me to exhibit leadership qualities. Unfortunately, I have none. That may seem a strange admission in context of my web site and my career as a teacher of story, but all of those accomplishments were my way of trying to live up to the impressions made by my face.

Inside, I have always longed to be support personnel, an assistant, perhaps the photographer on an expedition but not the leader. Yet, my looks have literally thrust me into leadership positions against my will for as far back as I can remember.

One of the larger reasons why I changed sex in the first place was to step into a more subordinate role in society, but due to my strong features, even though I passed completely, I was still looked to for taking charge.

While I was passing in my early years after SRS this was a disappointment, but was largely masked by my new found freedoms of self-expression in a female role.

But as my passability faded with age, not only did my gender dysphoria bloom again, but my discomfort at expectations of leadership amplified my discontent.

When finally I decided absolutely to have FFS, it gradually dawned on me that this was an opportunity to resolve two deep-seated problems at once. I've seen post-op patients of Dr. O that maintained strong features such as I had, and those that looked so much softer than before - more like I have always felt inside.

I peripherally mentioned this to Teresa, but didn't want to belabor the point, as I as still unsure of how she viewed herself in terms of being "take charge" or support.

Though amazingly charismatic, Teresa has always favored the support position, avoiding the limelight. But, that was partly in response to her insecurities regarding her apparent gender identity before FFS.

Post FFS, she and I have danced around the issue of who should be head of the household. I wanted her to take that position, even though I had always filled it during all the previous years of our relationship. In fact, Teresa later told me that one reason she had deferred to me all these years was the leader-quality of my face.

Yet, each time we tried that relationship arrangement pre my FFS, it just didn't work. And that, as it turns out, was due to my facial features. Especially after Teresa's FFS she looked so much more feminine than me that I had trouble not falling into my old leader role, and she had trouble not seeing me as a leader by comparison.

This, of course, just deepened the gap I felt between her and myself, as now she was completely female in look and here I was feeling my transsexual than ever and, due to those looks, having to assume and even expand my role as head of household over the beautiful feminine woman she had literally just become.

So, I kept most of these concerns to myself even during and after my initial consultation with Dr. O just over a month ago. At that meeting, I spoke only of my desire to rid myself of my male markers.

Before we left, we discovered that a surgery date had opened up just nine days later. When I accepted that date, though, I began to think seriously about what, if anything, to say to Dr. O about the non-gender changes I wanted in my face.

When Teresa and I returned to San Francisco the day before surgery and had my final pre-surgery meeting with the doctor, I could help myself no longer. I told him of how my face always cast me in a leadership role, and how I had always loathed it.

I said that my sharper features and strong chin made me feel that people thought of me like Maria Shriver, all business-like, logical, hard edged and strong. I layed my heart out to him and asked, almost begged him to relieve me of that burden if he could. I told him that while others might see that kind of instant respect and status as qualities to be envied, and the rejection of them as some demented desire to hobble oneself, or like abdicating from the hereditary position of King, for me, it was the only way to be free of expectations I never wanted and of a person in the mirror that did not reflect the true person inside.

So I urged him, it at all possible, that wherever he had the option to go with a stronger or softer look, that he would give me gentler features so that no one would even consider that I might be capable of leading. If I ever wanted to lead in the future, I wanted to have to fight for it by overcoming my supporter look, not to be handed it on a platter whether I wanted it or not.

He said he would do his best. And that is what he did.

My strong chin is gone, my diamond shaped face is now oval shaped. My eyes are so open due to his shaving the bones of the orbitals that I look almost wide-eyed like an anime cartoon female.

My lips have been augmented and my nose upturned, and no one will ever expect that I was capable of anything but being emotional and looking pretty.

Finally, both burdens have been lifted at once, and with each passing day as the swelling goes down I look in the mirror and see a woman who is clearly no leader at all.

In our relationship, Teresa and I have now settled into a new mode. She will be taking over the running of my business, and I will be taking care of the household chores.

This doesn't mean that I won't still be teaching classes, writing articles, and creating products, but the running of the business is hers. It doesn't mean Teresa won't ever cook again or tidy the house, but that it will be the exception, and it will be my job to handle the household chores.

Teresa, post-FFS, is finally confident to step into this role and use her charisma to lead our family as head of household. And I, for the first time, can now give up those roles to which she is truly far more suited than I, and to move into the role of her wife.

This isn't a dictatorship, but a partnership. And yet, for any such relationship to work, one party must step up and take the initiative. And in deadlocks, one partner must defer. I choose to defer, and she now chooses to lead.

FFS has saved not only both of our lives, but our relationship as well.

Twenty Three Days Post Surgery

Funky Face

A year ago, Teresa (while healing from FFS) began to complain that her face looked "goofy" to her in the mirror. Since healing occurs erratically over the face with different areas healing at different rates, I chalked it up to that. Her experiences in this respect continued on and off until a couple of months ago when healing was more or less complete.

In the last few days I have encountered the same experience for myself, and have come to an alternate explanation for the phenomenon. First let me describe what it feels like when it happens.

I look into the mirror and the arrangement of the features of my face (sometimes) seems odd or distorted. And size and shape of features strikes me as a bit funky. The initial reaction is that this is due to swelling, and one simply hopes that, in time, everything will adjust itself to a more normal template.

For example, have you ever heard of the practice of "gurning"? Gurning is a facial distortion some people do for fun or shock value where it looks like they have swallowed their lower jaw and chin. It makes them look chinless, and therefore like the bottom half of their face is missing.

In pictures, my chin looks fine to me, but in the mirror, it appears as if everything below my lower lip is far to squat or short, disproportionate in the extreme. I was about to fall back on my previous assessment that it was simply the different rates of healing for different features when I saw a particular face of a woman on television that was reminiscent of how I look now.

I was then struck by a strange juxtaposition: Her face looked normal, but when I looked at my own similarly shaped face in the hand mirror I keep by my chair, my face looked odd. How could this be, since the features were so very much the same?

And then it struck me: We (human beings) use different aesthetic templates to determine what is normal or attractive in male vs. female faces. In other words, when we examine the face of a man, the distance from one feature to another and each feature's relative size is judged against one aesthetic standard, while the face of a woman is judged against another. And those standards are quite different.

Women's chins, for example, are far shorter from the lower lip to the bottom of the chin than are men's. As a result, a many with a short chin looks odds to us, as does a woman with a long one.

Now, Dr. O has made a career of noting these differences, but his purpose has been to understand how to alter male skull structure to match female structural templates instead. But from a subjective standpoint, was it possible that through transition and up to this day I was still using a male structural layout against which to judge my face, and that is why it was looking odd?

Armed with this hypothesis, I spent the last couple of days (in a casual manner) examining hundreds of male and female faces on television. And I came to the conclusion that my current features are as properly arranged and sized against the female model as my old features were against the male.

That is why my face before, while feminine, was not female. That's why FFS was necessary. And that's why my face now (and Teresa's last year) appeared goofy: we had been measuring the aesthetics of our faces against a male template, not a female one.

I decided then to try a little experiment. Do you know those optical illusions I've written about before where you see a cube drawn on a page and by changing how you choose to look at it, the cube either appears to have depth into the page or up out of the page? If you swap the two perceptions of the cube back and forth enough, you learn to do it easily at will. You can choose to see it going into the page or rising out of it whenever you so deem.

So I stood in front of the mirror and, without knowing exactly how or where to look for it, tried to shift my view of my face from my template for male standard to my template for female.

Shazaam! The magic happened. Just as with the cube, I could make my facial features alternately look funky or normal. What an odd feeling!

After exhausting my amazement, I went back to the television and found I could do it with all the male and female faces. If I looked at women with a male template they looked all squished and distorted. And if I looked at men with a female template they appeared all elongated and disproportioned.

This, then, is why one still feels transsexual before FFS even after living and accepting oneself in the female role for fifteen years. The face, the seat of our identity, while feminine was never female. So the best we could do was to see ourselves as feminine men, no matter how female we felt in our hearts.

This, then, was in conflict with the breasts and female genitalia we also now possessed, leaving us with a sense that we were like centaurs, only in our case, female from the neck down and feminine male from the neck up.

That is why gender dysphoria could not be transcended and why depression inevitably smothered the elation of having changed sex in the first place.

Now, in looking at my face, I use the proper template and my face no longer appears funky at all. But sometimes, just for fun, I look at others while intentionally using the wrong template, making them (both male and female) look quirkily odd, or, recalling something Teresa had mentioned from time to time over the years, "From a given perspective, all human faces look like strangely configured hairless monkeys."

Twenty Five Days Post Surgery

Expectations

There are many expectations infused throughout the FFS process. I call it a process because although the surgery is completed in a but a few hours, one's face changes dramatically up to a year after surgery.

In Teresa's case I can say unequivocally that she looked like a swollen gnome until about one month into recovery at which point be began to appear pretty normal. By three months she became no longer pretty normal, but simply pretty. By six months she was bordering on beautiful, especially when she smiles. But even up to the end of the first year her features refined, became more distinct, and balanced themselves together.

So the first expectation I had regarding FFS was to follow the same slow course of recovery, and so far that has held true. Yet, I must admit that at this point, just half a week shy of my one-month mark, my results are so far beyond what I expected that I dared not even dream of such luck going into the process. If Teresa's course continues to hold true for me, I am almost afraid of how attractive I might become, especially for a fifty three year old.

Why I should be afraid of this… well, let me continue along another line in the discussion of expectations that might better illuminate the reasons behind that feeling.

Going into FFS, and having observed Teresa, I also expected to find myself changed by the experience of seeing a different face in the mirror and knowing that I not only looked female but that the very structure of my skull was completely female.

Yet I was wholly unprepared for the subtle, almost subversive manner in which my underlying subconscious self has changed beneath me, almost behind my back, and completely beyond my control.

I made a pact with myself a year ago when Teresa first pried open the door to my true self just a crack while I cared for her during her post FFS days at Cocoon House. I realized that my life was essentially at a dead end, stalled out, in free fall, and that my only hope was to go beyond simple transition and find a way to completely transcend gender dysphoria once and for all. The alternative, quite simply, was death.

So I promised myself that I would never hold back. No matter how embarrassing or how unnerving, I would never limit the changes that occurred within due to this direction I had chosen. Nor would I ever intentionally enhance or amplify any of the changes because I wanted to be more of a certain way. Rather, I would simply stand back, take a hands-off approach to my own self, and simply let the changes happen on their own.

Going into FFS, I reaffirmed that vow, and though I had expectations of how I might be changed - educated expectations based on watching Teresa for a full year - I could never have anticipated the way it feels to actually go through it.

Each day as I look in the mirror, I see my face a little altered from the day before. Each day I see someone staring back at me that is just slightly different in one or several subtle ways that the image I saw the day before.

I had though that being post FFS would be getting used to having a female face and then waiting until it healed. But in truth, it is more like getting used to having a different female face each day.

And though the initial reaction was one of seeing myself no longer as a male trying to look as female as I could to feeling, due to the lady in the mirror, that I had been born female, as the healing process continues, the sense of what kind of woman I am must be newly determined each morning.

As mentioned in earlier entries, we all judge the book by its cover. And we judge ourselves by the same standards. When we see that we fall into a particular type, we begin to act like the type we feel we are. We have expectations of how a person that looks like us will act, and we subconsciously seek to fulfill them.

But when the type of person you are steadily morphs so that you appear a slightly different type every twenty four hours, then your sense of self and the traits you bring forth within yourself also must alter.

When they do, it changes the way you feel to yourself. You think of yourself as being a different kind of person, even if just slightly. And so, recovery from FFS becomes an odd roller coaster of self perceptions that is probably unlike anything most people have an opportunity to experience.

Yet behind even that is still a deeper level of self-propaganda that alters the very foundations of your psyche. While adapting to each new flavor of personality that plays across your mirror, you lose sight of the fact that every one of them is a female personality. That part never changes.

In essence, the farther through this you go, the more entrenched you become in thinking of yourself as truly female, not just a pretender to the gender. And as that classification sets within you, all the truth of yourself that you have held back all of your life because you knew, accurately, that actions driven by that much femininity would simply look ridiculous if enacted by a person who looked as you did, all the unconscious mannerisms, expressions, and even perceptions that you had locked away begin to seep out on their own, beneath the level of your own awareness. Though every once in a while, you (or someone near you - Teresa in my case) will note something about you that is far beyond any degree of femininity you had ever previously displayed.

You realize then, almost as if you are in an elevator and the bottom drops out, you realize how much of a woman you have become in practice while you were busy looking at the physical changes in front of your face.

The sudden rush of that sense that you have now and finally altered your physical self and the identity of your face so far as to be completely at the other end of the scale from male, leaves you almost gasping. And then, in its wake, new expectations arise that you have never anticipated at all.

All of your life, you felt that you were bound and tied to the expectations society places upon males, both in what is restricted and what is required. And your journey to change your gender has been one of bucking society's expectations to become more like the person inside.

This has always left you feeling like it is you against the system, and the after taste is that you feel outside of society's bounds. Yet this is not a place most women ever experience. And so, no matter how female you may feel, you can never feel quite like any other female. But after FFS, after having succumbed to a complete alteration of your self-appraised gender to that of being fully female, and knowing that, physically, you look so fully female that there can be no doubt in the eyes of those you meet as to your birth gender, you suddenly find that you have left that middle ground, that demilitarized zone between the genders and have now come under the authority of society's expectations of a female.

Though you may have previously lived as if you were a citizen of that country, perhaps even for decades, you have really been there only on a visa, or at the very best have enjoyed a dual citizenship, knowing that should you find the climate in your adopted land becoming unpleasant, you could always return home to the land of your birth.

Now (because your face has been made undeniably female) you are forced to renounce your citizenship in the male world, and have become a citizen solely of the world of women. As such, adherence to the laws of the land is no longer an option.

Society's expectations of you are that it requires you to act in certain ways and restricts you to specific bounds that you cannot cross without incurring the wrath of the populace at large any more than you were previously unable to violate a different set of expectations put upon you as a male.

Think of it. Think of the significance. Before - before anything you ever did to change your physical gender - if you had spoken, acted, moved, or expressed yourself in any way that you have for years since transition, you would have been ostracized from society persona non grata.

But now, if you don't act that way, you will be ostracized with equal social force. And, should you attempt to claim any of the rights of manhood or to play in their back yard, you will have a rough row to hoe indeed.

What you saw before as forbidden fruit is now required of you, and you must eat of it daily or become a soul without a country accepted neither in the female nor male nations.

But do you feel confined by this, as you did in your earlier male role? No, not at all. Rather, as with most members of a society, you find comfort in the limitations put upon you, for they do not so much define deadlines beyond which you dare not venture, but serve to you a useful purpose, making clear the range of self-expression you, by nature, find comfortable. They feel more like friendly guidelines that help you steer clear of activities outside your pleasure and point out areas that will likely bring you great fulfillment.

Society's expectations have changed now for me, as have both my expectations for society and for myself within it.

Thirty Two Days Post Surgery

Real Life

For most of the time since surgery I have pretty much been house-bound, energy too low and swelling to apparent to venture out in the world nor to pick up the reigns of my previous everyday life.

That, however, changed in a big way this last week as Teresa and I were obliged to drive four hundred miles from our home in Northern California to visit my daughter for her annual family Thanksgiving dinner in Southern California.

Last year, Teresa was just five weeks past FFS, and I did the driving. This year, the reverse was true, with the slight difference that I was just four weeks beyond surgery.

On a trip of such length, naturally there are restroom breaks and food stops, and these began five days of re-entry into real life in a subtly different form.

To me, of course, I seemed far too swollen to move unnoticed in public. And yet, to my surprise, no one I encountered (from counter clerks to women in line for the ladies room) paid me any heed in that regard.

In addition, the extra scrutiny I had previously experienced whenever out amongst the people was missing. Before, people I passed would look initially at my eyes, then shift their gaze to examine the rest of my face. Now, eye contact was made and their look remained focused on my eyes.

When Teresa had her surgery, it was her eyes and forehead that initially struck me as soon as she was wheeled up to her room from the operating theater. And as she healed, it was that magic triangle described by a point above each eye and anchored at the base of the nose that proved to be her most female feature.

It was also that area in myself where I had been previously most disturbed by seeing my former male self in the mirror. Since my FFS, I have never again seen Dave's eyes in my reflection, even if I am tired or just out of the shower. But could this truly subtle difference really have any major impact on how one is classed when in close contact with strangers? Apparently so.

Throughout our trip, no matter where we stopped, my interactions were the same. Once, on the way home, we sat at the counter at a Denny's. I would have been terrified to do so just a little over a month ago. But now, there was joking and inclusion by the waitresses that even after seventeen years of living in the role I had never previously experienced.

When going to pay the bill, a waitress and the cashier were having a discussion of some guy, and though we had come into the center of their conversation, they continued on in the same conspiratorial tone.

I'd never heard that kind of interchange before because in past similar situations the women would also alter their conversation once I came close. This time, I (and Teresa) were simply included, members of the sisterhood without having to present and ID card.

And this isn't the same kind of inclusion I'd previously felt when I looked my best over the years. Hey, I passed with the best of them in my prime. But honestly, though I don't think I was ever "read" in those good days, I believe the more masculine of my features created a subconscious impact on the women with whom I interacted and led them to close me out to some degree as they would men.

Clearly, when I transitioned, I became aware of all sorts of new experiences of inclusion with women that I had previously imagined from a male role. But, because I was convinced that I was passing (not just passing consciously but being "read" as male-ish subconsciously) I thought that was the sum total of the female experience.

But now, only now after FFS, do I know there is so much more. It is so much closer among women, so much more inclusive, I remain shocked. I realize now that I had been living an almost isolated life compared to the instant rapport I am now granted as an equal.

As a side note, the interactions with my family were far more positive than I could have hoped for. But I don't want to detail specifics here, as I find myself becoming more private a person daily. Therefore, for the first time since I began my writings of the effort to fully join my peers, I shall leave some things unreported. Not because there is anything embarrassing or inconsistent, but simply because I choose not to relate them.

We returned home on the evening of the fourth day, and greeted our three cats who had missed us terribly. But the very next day, we needed to make a number of trips around town to re-supply and to prepare for the coming first snow storm of the year.

Our first stop was the place we buy pellets for our heating stove. Both Teresa and I went in to order them. In terms of logistics, it was the same as a previous trip we had made there last year - we ordered, we paid, they loaded the car. But, this time, there was a huge subtle difference in the way the men spoke to me, the way they treated me. I was spoken to in a protective, slightly condescending manner as if I was expected to not quite "get it" without extra explanation. As I've written earlier, part of the surgery was to remove any male markers, and the other part was to remove any markers of being capable, competent, in-charge, or possessing of authority. All that is gone now (thank, God!) and so I was treated not only fully as a woman, but with a deference I had never before enjoyed. How much myself it made me feel! Finally, after all these decades of pain, to be treated as I truly am, not as how I appear to be!

Next stop was Walmart for some needed supplies. Throughout the store, not an untoward look, not a second glance. Women passed much closer to me than ever before. One woman who had been stocking a shelf had to pass right by me and said, "Excuse me, hon…" I'd been called "sweetie" or "dear" by women throughout my post-transition years, but never "hon". By itself, this is just one of a number of strange changes. Collectively they form the fabric of a fundamental, subliminal change in my world.

Next, Teresa surprised me by taking a side street and taking me to one of our favorite Mexican restaurants in the area. Again, no one noticed the swelling, and both male and female staff treated me with nuances I had never before known. Real life was turning out to be far different, far better, than simply passing again.

Next, we went to Sears to buy a snow blower, then to Home Depot to compare prices, then back to Sears again to make the purchase. We had bought a dishwasher from the same sales lady a number of months ago. She didn't remember us, but her treatment of me was so different from the first time.

Before, she had approached me as a supplicant, seeking my purchase. This time she came on as being in-charge and took the role of guiding me to the model we needed.

I hadn't realized there was such a noticeable pecking order in the internal workings of authority status in the female tribe. Both interactions were friendly, but with my old look, I was expected to lead the transaction whereas with my new look I was expected to follow. In fact, when it came time to pay, she put her had on the small of my back and guided me to the desk. I'd never experienced that kind of assumption that I am okay to be touched and guided, but it happens all the time now.

After we purchased, we discovered that the big ol' snow blower might not fit in our compact car, so the fellow who assembles them at the store came out to measure. He wasn't sure it would work either, but he mentioned a man and his wife were just purchasing another snow blower, he had a pick-up truck, and perhaps, for a small fee, might carry ours to our home for us.

Still unsure of myself, but rising to the opportunity to test the new look, I walked across the parking lot, greeted the fellow, and asked if he could help us out for a few dollars. He named an acceptable sum, and it was arranged.

His wife wasn't too happy at first, but she warmed to us, and eventually was even running the show a bit. Again, no odd looks, and nothing but an indescribable sense that I was finally part of the right clan.

I know that those who have not had FFS will read these words and say, "Hey, I've had that for years, I have that now." But you are wrong. You will never know just how wrong unless you someday have FFS. I've never seen or met someone in the community who didn't have a face that sported enough of a degree of masculinity to create a subconscious backlash in both men and women, so that while they pass, they are held somewhat at arm's length.

You don't know it is that way for it is all that you know. And, it is such an improvement in how you are treated over your years in the male role that you simply see the progress and the betterment. But that is a siren song - a fiction - based on your own lack of awareness about how you would be treated if all those male markers were fully and completely removed. When that is done, the experience of interacting with others is ratcheted up a magnitude or two. It is like switching from standard television to High Def, like going from LPs to CDs, like realizing you have been looking at the world through a screen door and now you can actually go out and touch it, and have it touch you.

Today, all of this came home to roost. The experiences of the last few days summed themselves up and forced an embryonic shift in my self-image. I found myself beginning to believe in my new look - not as something that would soon come to be when I healed a bit more, but as something that had already come to pass - something I am right now.

With this, came an increasing awareness of how much of my life was spent without this new connection to others. In male days I had been accepted but was completely insecure in that role. And my insecurity separated me from others, both male and female. After transition, I was accepted but still insecure, so I was unable to improve my relationships with either men or women, close or casual.

I thought of all the times I felt trapped into taking responsibilities and being in charge either because of my status as a male or because of my strong features as a woman. And I began to get mad. I mean REALLY pissed off!

Previous to the last few days, I didn't know it could be better than it was, so while I was unhappy with my relationships with others, I more or less accepted it as unchangeable. But in having my eyes opened to how wonderful it has now become post FFS, I became livid at the lost years, the specific instances in my memory when I had subjugated my need, my own self, to act in ways expected of me because of my birth gender or my features post-transition.

I never get this angry, but today there seemed to be no limit. And then, Teresa mentioned something regarding a contact in the transgender community, and suddenly my feelings that until FFS I had only transitioned from being male on the outside to being female on the outside and transsexual on the inside broke out and I lashed out at her and the community in harsh and inconsiderate ways.

She was hurt. She became mad. We barely spoke to each other for hours. This was the worst time between us in over a year. But, eventually, we each began to thaw. Ill feelings began to fade, and after another hour, we let it all go and made up.

We spoke afterward, while cuddling, and came to realize that my anger had opened a new doorway for me. I had reached a point where I could no longer run my business or handle the logistics of life because I was always expected to do this by virtue of my gender and later by virtue of my look. I had burned out because I felt trapped.

I expected FFS to relieve me of these obligations, and therefore I would be free. But as it turns out, now that my new look means I will never again be expected to take charge or be immediately assumed to be capable, it is MY choice if I want to have some control or step up to assume responsibility. And since it is my choice, I don't have to let my business die or dump everything on Teresa's shoulders. Rather, I find I WANT to make my business work because it is my decision, not my imprisonment.

And with that understanding came a complete belief in my new look and its impact, and the awareness that I had two problems all my life, not one. I didn't want to be assumed to be a leader, and I was born the wrong physical sex for my mind.

Either problem might have been solved independently earlier in my life. But I always thought it was just one problem, and that my desire to change sex was partly due to my desire to be "second-classed" so that I wouldn't have to lead any more.

As it turns out, FFS solved both problems at the same time. And since it is a solution that is already working for me, no more waiting for additional healing, I can finally, fully integrate my sense of how I look facially with the female body I have already possessed for so many years.

In so doing, I no longer feel masculine if I exhibit assertiveness. I no longer have to play a stereotypical female role to hide from responsibilities. Sure, there is plenty of healing yet to be done. But that will just refine what is already in place.

Real life is not at all what I expected, or even anything I could have anticipated. It is better… FAR better. And I have a newly developed sense of being real, of being equal, of being normal that is beyond my imagination.

So this is what it is like to be a woman.

Thirty Six Days Post Surgery

Hodge Podge

"The Phoenix" has been a different kind of writing for me. I have been writing essays about topics rather than about the events of the day specifically, yet presenting each essay in the order in which it was written, identified by how many days post surgery.

Up to this point the selection of a topic was not a problem, as they suggested themselves. Essentially, in the days since FFS a number of similar experiences would occur spread out over time. When enough of these of a like kind had collected, they became the subject of my next entry.

There were usually several concepts that were floating around in my mind at any given moment, some with just a few experiential items, others with many. As a particular collection reached critical mass, I'd weave them together into a personal understanding, then share with y'all.

After the last entry several new topics came up, but strangely, none of them ever reached that magic number of instances that would allow them to congeal into a complete exploration.

Is this a sign that my new experiences are dwindling? Or perhaps I'm just getting used to having new experiences…. On another hand, maybe I've changed so much already that I'm simply not recognizing the new experiences any more.

Regardless, since nothing at the moment is substantial enough to stand on its own, I've decided to describe each in whatever state it currently exists so I can put them behind me and move on.

But as I approach this "Hodge Podge" of notions, I cannot help but wonder if the well is finally running dry. Will any other worthy topics suggest themselves, or could this actually be the true and actual end of having anything valuable to relate to the gender community?

I suppose we'll all know in short order.

Partial Topic One: Stealth Bubbles

Before transition, you learn to wrap up your natural tendencies toward femininity and replace them with manufactured alternatives that are more acceptable to the role in which you are stuck. Lest you forget to enact these alternatives and give yourself away, you put them on autopilot. And then, to make sure you won't accidentally disable one and let the truth out, you throw away the key by wrapping the whole shebang up in a stealth bubble so you don't even remember you ever created the thing.

After transition you don't have to learn how to be female, you have to unlearn pretending to be male. This is pretty hard because all those substitute masculine behaviorisms and responses are being run from within the stealth bubbles which, by design, you cannot see and don't even remember exist.

It takes years, really, to stumble across these bubbles before you can pop them all, disable their mechanisms, and get back to the basics of who you really are. By the time you complete your task, you are so many years into living the new role that the familiarity and comfort compared to the old role convince you that you've truly left all that self-deception behind. So it is with no small shock when you discover after FFS that there are still an unknown number of stealth bubbles floating around in your brain.

These are even more insidious because they conceal parts of your true self you've never even consciously seen. Apparently, just like robots that build more robots, the mechanisms you created way back when to hide the feminine parts of yourself of which you were aware took things to the next generation and began hiding aspects of your nature of which you hadn't yet even discovered yet.

Perhaps those unknown areas of your mind simply hadn't been explored by you yet. Or maybe they were set to go online as you matured as a normal female mind, but were nipped in the bud by the auto-mechanisms. Either way, you never even knew they existed.

So, after FFS, when people start treating you differently, when you start seeing yourself differently, you begin to run into black holes in your mind - little dark areas where something ought to be but are seemingly vacant. And one day you realize that you aren't really looking at those areas of your mind. Rather, the vision of your inner eye is being warped around those areas by a whole new set of stealth bubbles.

But how can you get inside them: they are impervious to your attempts at a direct assault? What you find yourself doing is examining the area all around them and reverse engineering to determine what ought to be there.

One by one, you pop the bubbles and rebuild your mind the way it ought to be. Only then do you see a pattern in what was hidden. They are the parts of yourself that are most delicate, the parts that truly make you of female spirit, the most feminine aspects of your soul.

Even after years of successful living post transition, after perhaps two decades of believing you knew the full depth of your femininity, or what it was to be a woman you must acknowledge the fact that you didn't know a fraction of it.

And with this knowledge comes a flood of new experience, new outlook, new actions and reactions. You feel yourself transformed at such a basic core level that all connection to transgenderism is severed. All attributes associated with the male of the species are finally and irrevocably vanquished. Identification with the female of the species is complete.

Yes, you realize that there are still ways in which your original gender might be determined physically, but not in any way you can see, touch, or feel. Physically, your body feels to you exactly as any woman's feels to her. And mentally, there isn't a test or procedure in the world that could differentiate your mind from a female mind because it is, in fact, a female mind.

In short, you can find nothing about yourself, inside or out, that belies your female nature. And so, though you are aware of the "truth" of the matter, emotionally, responsively, you feel as much as if you were born to this gender as does any woman.

Your journey of change is over. There is nowhere left to go, nothing left to do. There is no "farther" to which you can aspire.

Perhaps if they someday discover a way to re-write your chromosomes or your genetic code there may be one final step. But short of that, and at every level you can sense, examine, or experience in yourself, you have fully realized your mind and fully altered your body to be completely and invariably female. And I honestly believe that even if you did transform your DNA, it wouldn't feel any different to you in any way you can notice from the way you feel now.

Forty Days Post Surgery

So, we're watching TV this evening - the animated movie, "Madagascar" - I put the program on pause and head over to neck a little with Teresa. And as we're getting hot and bothered, I say to Teresa, "Now we're girls on the outside as much as we always were on the inside. So, what do girls do on a Monday evening?"

******

I've really changed in my look today. Teresa spent most of the day dropping her jaw and losing track of whatever she was saying every time she focused on my face.

I've looked in the mirror - it is astounding. Teresa says that right now, there are still enough touch points that there is some resemblance between the person I used to be and how I look now, though all the male markers are gone. But she says that in the next four and a half months (at six month's post-surgery) all of those will be gone.

She says that will lead to amazing internal changes in my mind, in my self-image. She says that once I see myself with the face I will have then and the body I already have, plus at the 20 pounds I hope to lose by that time, that the collective impact will "fuck with my mind." She is concerned that it might just fuck with me too much, and urges me to be careful.

******

Teresa and I have become increasingly active in holding, hugging, kissing, fondling. We each grew up with the fantasy of making love to a beautiful woman while being beautiful women ourselves. Now, post-FFS and after everything we had to do to get here, that fantasy is true for both of us, and the energy created between us now has reached critical mass, and we can hardly keep our hands off of each other.

******

Tough question as to whether I should have any connection to the TG community in the future. I mean, if the dream is to totally become, then how many women who were born female hang out with the TG community.

Though after FFS I no longer feel intimidated by the prospect of guilt by association, I can't forget the years I suffered trying to become myself, and all of that time was in the community.

So every time I talk to someone in that sub-culture or spend time with one, I feel drawn right back into that pain and suffering like a war experience flashback.

But Teresa is a mentor in the community, and shows no sign a year after FFS of lessening her involvement. I can't shut that whole part of her life out of my life, our life. So, I need to become larger. I need to realize that while I have no desire to proactively seek companionship or interchange in the community any longer, I do want to support Teresa in her work.

The reason I write these entries rather than interact on a message board is because, as a writer, I am compelled to express my feelings and experiences in words. Writer's like audiences. I've had an audience in the community for almost two decades.

I used to have message boards on my support web site. But as I started to drift away about eight years ago, I asked Teresa to take them over because she was not losing her interest in the community as I was.

She found benefactors to "own" the message boards by moving them to a different domain. They've changed hands a few times but Teresa is known as the creator of the post-my-site message boards and has built them, maintained them, and moderated them on and off for all that time.

She remains extremely active in that endeavor to this day, and in fact, if posting another message on them even as I type (while we watch Studio 60 on television).

I ask myself sometimes that if I made a friend and after several years found out she had changed sex, would I still be able to be her friend? Or would I not be able to get past it and end it?

For now, I guess, my solution is that I'll continue making these one-way communication entries as long as I have something to say. I expect they'll peter off again like they did ten years ago. Last time, I was gone for nine years before I came back (which I only did because Teresa was going to have FFS and I had to work it out in my head). That process has still not completed, since it led to my FFS and I'm still recovering. But as the year post-surgery progresses, I suppose that process will dwindle down until, "poof!" I'm gone again.

But I won't really be gone. I'll just no longer be pro-active in the community, no social life there, no work created for it, I already don't visit any web sites and correspond only when cornered. But I'll remain passively, responsively involved for Teresa's sake and for peace and freedom in our relationship. So, if she needs to talk about something or someone in the community or wants to meet someone for lunch, or even have guests from that group over for dinner, I'll be happy to be involved.

I suppose in a perfect world, I'd never see or hear about the community ever again as long as I live. But, at least (being post-FFS) I can feel disconnected even if Teresa's calling as a councilor keeps it all around me.

******

I used to think that it was ethical to tell a guy about your past if it wasn't just a one-night stand. But now, with my body and face complete, my morality has changed. There is no more of my past in my physical being and my mind has transcended any programming installed by those years. So why should I give a wrong impression of who I am now by telling the truth about who I was then?

You see, absolute power does corrupt absolutely, but you never realize you are corrupted once it happens.

******

Teresa was right, after just five weeks and change you can't remember how you used to look. I tried to see it in the mirror this morning, but the old face wouldn't come to mind. And the new one (which felt so geeky and alien just days ago) now feels so natural that I can't imagine it ever having been any other way.

I touch my face at night. (I remember Teresa doing this a lot). Before I go to sleep, I run my hands across my forehead and down over my eyes and along my jaw line from my ear to my shortened and recessed chin. That still feels strange. Though visually I have fully integrated myself with the new look, apparently the sense of touch lags behind. I must remember to ask Teresa if that happened to her as well.

When I was posting some new pictures of myself today on my web site, I couldn't help but glance at my collection of "before" pictures. What a shocker! Having acclimated to the new look, suddenly I saw this transsexual smiling into the camera where I used to think I saw a woman.

As Teresa says, you fool yourself into seeing your androgynous features as female in order to get by, in order to force yourself out the door each day. But you really don't look like a woman. And you'd never even be able to pull it off without dressing up in costume.

Oh, sure, when you are young, everyone's pretty. But add a few years and the girls turn back into men in drag. But you can't see it. You can't afford to. Until after FFS. And then you can't shut it out - the knowledge of how everyone else saw you when you thought you were pretty.

And worst of all, even scant weeks after FFS, you have experienced so many subtly different ways in which men and women interact with you that NEVER happened before FFS,, that you know for a fact that you were either read by everyone you met, or at best they subconsciously had you figured and it affected their manner with you so you never really knew how people treat women until after FFS.

******

It was the Christmas show on Studio 60. The show was created by one of my favorite writer/producers: Aaron Sorkin. In this episode, it is discovered (in the story) that studio musicians on the late night shows are calling in sick so that homeless musicians who came to town from New Orleans after being refuges from the hurricane could sit in and take their places (though they didn't yet have their union cards) to make a few bucks.

The fictional producer of the show arranges to have several of these homeless musicians perform on stage in place of scheduled sketches so they could get their cards and also get paid.

And it struck me that Aaron Sorkin probably used actual out-of-work Orleans musicians in the Studio 60 show for the same reason, so that art imitates life imitates art.

In other words, knowing of the plight of the displaced musicians, Sorkin determined to help them out and specifically wrote that scenario in the television episode to accomplish it for real, and made the fictional producer of the show appear to be a hero, effectively hiding the fact that Sorkin himself was the real hero.

Why all this? Because it led up to this: When I figured this out, I explained it to Teresa and noted (regarding Sorkin), "I want to be on his side." And suddenly it struck me - that is one of those mental changes that occur post FFS that are so foundational and insidious that you hardly ever know they've happened to you.

You see, all of my life I've always said, "I want him on MY side," when such a situation came up. But this time I said, "I want to be on HIS side." I don't know why such a change would occur nor of what underlying shift it is indicative. But I can tell you that my response tonight did not come forth from the me I have always known myself to be. Clearly, I have become someone other than myself, and am continuing to become.

I wonder just how far this will go…..

Six weeks (42 Days)

The six week marker is a big one. It is halfway to the three month point at which healing will have progressed so far that the scar on my forehead is hardly visible, the raised ropey mound that runs under is will be flat again, bones will have completely mended, dissolvable stitches will have all dissolved, and all that will remain is additional swelling reduction on the bones and tightening of loose skin left from the larger bones that used to support it.

From this day forward, one tends to think in terms of weeks, rather than days. Though I can still perceive daily changes in my appearance, the rate of change has finally slowed enough that big changes will probably be observable on a weekly basis.

So, beginning with today's thoughts, I'll not identify them by the day in which they were written, but the week instead. Therefore:

Thoughts from the sixth week:

Okay, if I'm not inclined to socialize with the transgender community, it behooves me to consider what specifically bothers me about the group of people.

I can tell you right off the bat that it has nothing to do with the individuals. No, it is the nature of the transgender sub-culture itself that makes me uncomfortable. I think a large part of that is that the community covers such a diverse range of sexual proclivities and gender preferences. As a result, even if you relate to just a small segment of the community population, you have to identify yourself with the entire range of variations or you are branded as some sort of bigot.

Look, I have nothing against crossdressers, but don't have anything in common with them either - at least, not in the gender expression area. I might have a ton of things in common with any given transvestite such as being an Oakland Raiders fan, but when it comes to transgender issues, we are like alien races who not only don't share the same language, but don't even have the same cultural prerogatives. What's more, most (in not all) crossdressers have male minds and simply enjoy dressing as women either for a sense of peace and/or for sexual pleasure, while I (and those like me) have female minds and dress as women because we innately like the same kind attire as most other women, and also enjoy wearing the uniform of our true peer group.

Similarly, it is important to differentiate between transsexuals, transsexual women, and women born in male bodies. Transsexuals are those who change sex. Doesn't matter if your mind is male or female or why you did it. If you did it, you are transsexual. Transsexual women proclaim their minds are wholly female, but that they choose not to hide from or deny the physical nature of their birth sex, and rather embrace it as part of their heritage, even after reassignment surgery. To the transsexual woman, once a transsexual, always a transsexual, and if even if you had surgery twenty years ago and have no contact with anyone in the community, you are still a transsexual woman. If you don't publicly acknowledge your past with pride and involvement, your are just lying to yourself. And those who go "stealth" are the most dishonest, self-delusional, and bigoted bunch of the lot. But, a woman born in a male body, well that would a person who simply realized she was wrapped in the wrong meat, did the best she could to overcome that via various surgeries, and then moved on as if she had simply corrected a birth defect. Man, it is something to see when these groups go to war with each other, trying to label each other and tell each other how to behave and how to think of themselves. No matter, there's always the "transgenderists" who keep chanting, "Can't we all just get along?" And anyway, the public thinks we're all just perverts anyway, deviants at best, and are just another offshoot from the gay community. After all, "La Cage aux Folles."

Teresa told me of a friend of hers today who had coined the phrase, "skin transvestites" to describe those who have sex change surgery because they are the most extreme form of crossdressers who are not content to just wear the clothes of women but want to wear their skin as well. But suggest to the more common form of transvestite who simply enjoys "dressing up" from time to time that they ought to have SRS and they'll pull back like a turtle into its shell at the thought of actually losing their "manhood."

And what's this whole thing about calling Sex Reassignment Surgery (SRS Gender Reassignment Surgery (GRS) instead? What you have between your legs determines your sex as male or female. What you have between your ears determines whether you are masculine or feminine. The body determines the sex and the mind determines the gender. So, is GRS supposed to be brain surgery?

There are endless variations that range from the flaming gay female impersonator to the five year old who is already recognized by her parents as a girl at heart and (with the aid of a therapist) is already attending kindergarten in the preferred gender role.

But, hang out in the community and you have to rub elbows with this whole spectrum of human sexual and gender variations. Some may enjoy that sort of thing, but I can guarantee you that I'm not the only one who finds it somewhat uncomfortable. Worse, the public at large groups us all together as well, and thinks the same about me as they do about any other shade in the spectrum. As far as the public is concerned, I'm no different that those flamboyant, in-your-face gender unspecific guests on Jerry Springer.

Yeah, I want to socialize with THAT community. You betcha!

So you see, I would probably be okay hobnobbing with others like me who simply want to live as the women we know ourselves to be, look good enough (by one means or another) to fit right in with our real peer group, and honestly don't have any interest in the gender community except for the history of our own journey through it.

Problem is, no matter how much you might want to be done with the community, unless you are lucky enough to have a truly female skull, or are post FFS, then you always carry the fear of discovery within you. And that is a fear no woman knows - they have lots of other fears, but not that one. And due to that fear, even if you have it largely suppressed, you have a need to speak to others who share your experiences.

Now in my case, Teresa is my peer and confidant. Whenever she or I need to do a core dump of any TG issues we've been building up, we just converse about it and move on. I suppose that, in general, you need at least one person like that unless you have FFS and so integrate into a normal role in society that it is as if you never came from a transgender past.

But, back to me. I've got my Teresa. She's all I need to slough off the occasional TG steam. So what do I want to associate with members of the community for? Yet, Teresa still wants to. In fact, this week she is seeking out old TG friends she hadn't spoken to in years, and is setting up meetings with whole new ones. She can't seem to explain to me in any way I can understand why she spends so much time conversing with friends in the community and cultivating more. I can't seem to explain to her why I find that somewhat repugnant.

Still, we love each other and live together, and I have pretty much come to terms with what I think of as her odd hobby. But I'll tell you, the method I use to overcome my aversion to such folk is to think of them as Teresa's Transsexual Friends, and to think of myself as just another woman.

Weird, huh?

Well, let me obfuscate the issue even more….

I've been giving a lot of thought to whether or not others who have considered and then obtained FFS have had the same emotional journey that I have. I hear that a lot of people these days are having FFS before SRS to make transition easier. It accomplishes this in a physical sense of course, but if they haven't gone full time until after FFS, then they have developed no womanly social skills and may not even have a female sounding voice. As a result, they face a whole different kind of "reading" than having someone spot you as a man in drag from across a parking lot. For them, if they just stand and pose they get by fine, but the moment they start to walk or talk the jig is up.

So, does it require completing all the various surgeries and also putting in a certain number of years in the role to reach the state of mind in which I find myself? Is one sequence or order of having the surgeries more conducive to enlightenment than another? Should there be a particular amount of time between the surgeries? Is the adjustment time to the new role and new patterns of thinking dependent upon how young one transitions? If you transition at age five like my example above, do you need any time at all? And wouldn't it be better to just get all the surgeries as soon as you are old enough so as little as possible interferes with your normal female upbringing?

Ah, shit. Makes my head hurt. Oh, wait, that's some stitches that haven't yet dissolved.

*********

Now, as mentioned above, I'm no longer being pro-active with Teresa in any transgender discussions (or at least, trying to break out of the habit) but am quite content (at this point) to be enthusiastically responsive if there is something she wants to discuss.

So, Teresa and I have spoken on and off over the last year about the schism between those who transitioned young and those who transitioned later in life. Today she decided to write an article about it, so she started gathering research material including some videos of young transitioners that she found on U-Tube.

For one of these she was curious how I would respond to a question she wanted to pose after I had seen it, so we watched it together. It was of a thirteen year old trans-kid whose parents didn't know, but whose brother thought it was cool. She couldn't transition because of the parents and didn't have access to clothes, or anything else that could help.

As she spoke, it was clear this was actually a video letter to someone she had met online who was also transgendered. Though the details of her situation were rather typical, what was striking was how she sounded and how she looked. Here hair was shoulder length and curly, parted in the middle. Her voice, mannerisms, and facial expressions were so totally naturally female that my first impression was, "How could her parents NOT know! And how could she even go to school as a boy?" But apparently, she hid it well enough most of the time, but fell into her true self whenever she had the opportunity.

When the clip ended, Teresa asked her question: "Were you that clear-headed about who you really were at that age?" I thought back to that time in my mind, and then realized an opportunity existed here. Teresa transitioned at nineteen. I didn't start until I was thirty-eight. Though I knew I had previously described many times to her why I waited so long, I also knew that she never quite "got it." Perhaps, this time, I could use that video to have Teresa actually understand and empathize with the reasons for our transitioning at different ages.

Some of what follows has been documented in my overall transition diary, but I don't believe I ever pulled it all together in one place. Similarly, I had never gathered it into a single scene for Teresa either. Maybe that is what was needed.

I began by reminding Teresa of my earliest transgender memory. At age three or four, my mother had insisted I wear a dress she had gotten from my same age cousin during a trip to Chicago to visit relatives. The trip was months earlier, so apparently she had planned this in advance. She also put me in a wig she had used in a role she played in local theater.

I cried and screamed. I didn't want to go out as a girl. But she made me. And every time I went up to trick or treat, the person at the door would say, "Oh, what a cute little girl! What are you supposed to be?" I was so embarrassed.

Now, is that the behavior of a "true" transsexual? Or, since I transitioned late, are the young transitioners right - that I'm not the genuine article? Here's the secret - you can't look at what was done or even how you felt. You have to look at WHY you felt as you did.

So, why was I so set against dressing up as a girl? Because I thought I had displeased my mother in my performance as a boy. I was so gentle, so concerned with making others happy, even at my expense, that I had interpreted her desire to dress me as a girl as a statement that I had failed to be the boy she wanted.

After all, she had always told me how she had wanted a little boy, and that she was so happy to have had one. And all I wanted to do was please my mother. And I understood that boys and girls were different, and which one I was supposed to be. So, I absolutely didn't want to accept the possibility I had failed to be the boy she had hoped for, and I wanted another chance to prove I could be good and be just like she wanted me to be.

The more I screamed, the harder she insisted. Eventually, she told me that this was the only costume we had, so I must wear it or there would be no trick-or-treating. Eventually, I relented, but resented every moment of it, seeing it as a punishment for not being a boy as well as I should have been to meet with her approval.

Did I secretly want to wear that dress? No. I didn't care about clothes at all. I just wanted my mother's approval. In looking back (and in recalling how I felt on ordinary days during that time) I know I was a very gentle, caring, un-assertive child. In fact, I had all the character traits of the most feminine of young girls. And that was my problem. I was SO eager to please, SO feminine, that I was so much more concerned with having others find me sufficient that I hardly ever stopped to consider what I might want.

So, what would initially appear as a young boy who didn't want to be feminine was actually a young girl who just wanted to please her mother. You REALLY have to look behind the scenes to understand the person. You can't just assume because they acted a particular way.

Other examples - when playing in my sand box with the little girl next door who was also my age (around five, perhaps), it was SHE who dumped sand on MY head and made me cry. And I also distinctly remember asking my mother if I could have a sun suit like the one that little girl had, so she bought me one. It had thing little straps on the shoulder and alternating thin blue and white stripes.

At age five, I was enthralled with a gold lame skirt my mother had in the close, and also a poodle skirt she had used to wear. On two occasions I can remember, I stood by the open closet looking at these and wondering when I would be old enough to wear them. It never occurred to me that wasn't the way things were supposed to be when I grew up.

In addition, my mother read Dr. Spock, who was very advanced for his day. He suggested that we shouldn't assign genders to kids, but let them pick their own gender by choosing whatever kinds of toys they would like to play with. Put out the guns and dolls and let the children choose.

So, my mom did this. I had a Fanner 50 pistol from Mattel and a doll house with miniature furniture. I had a Zorro outfit complete with sword (with chalk at the end so you could make "Z"s, and a complete child-size kitchen set with stove, refrigerator, and sink.

At least, I used to think my mom was being open-minded. And then I thought that her adamancy in making me wear my cousin's dress on Halloween perhaps indicated some emotional problems she was having, and I was just the victim. But in the last couple of years, it has occurred to me that perhaps that initial ill-fated holiday was actually my mother recognizing my natural female tendencies, and trying aversion therapy to snap me out of it. After all, she had taken many psychology classes in college, read lots of books on child rearing, and even was into cutting edge parenting.

This assessment is supported by her approach to dealing with my having picked up a cigarette butt on the ground and trying to smoke it when I was six or seven. She responded by getting a whole pack of cigarettes and telling me I had to smoke the whole thing, fully inhaling. I got through only a few puffs of one before I turned green, crying the whole time. Yeah, aversion training. Makes sense.

But then why all the girl toys along with the boy toys? Maybe she wasn't consistent. Maybe she was just nuts. Or maybe she was trying to make up for what she saw as an earlier mistake with the Halloween fiasco. I'll never know. She died in 1989. And I can vouch for the fact that she was a troubled soul, based on conversations before she died, though not in regard to my transgenderism which I hid until after her death.

Hmmmm…. Although I was cross dressing since I was seven and was using hormones from faked prescriptions since 1987, I STILL didn't begin transition until her death. But I began full-time use of mail-order hormones on the very day my mother was buried, and six months later was in a complete medical program for hormones, psych, and transition.

So, I waited until I was thirty-eight, but started transition on the day of my mom's funeral. Late transitioner… yeah…. But not really transsexual? Or perhaps MORE transsexual (or at least more feminine) because of my ability to subjugate myself because of my desire for parental approval, and then waiting because I couldn't add another burden to my mother's already troubled life.

But I'm way ahead of myself. Yeah, I started cross dressing at age seven, four years before puberty. Why? Because I was envious of what girls my age got to wear. I wanted to wear those things. I wanted to be like them. No sexual thoughts involved. I had no sexual thoughts in those days. But, my mom was taking in laundry for ironing in those days, and I would sift through it and, like any little girl, play "dress-up" and see how I looked in the mirror in various outfits.

My mom was also with an Avon precursor called "Beauty Councilor" and had tons of samples of lipstick, face powder, and so on. I took every opportunity to play with those as well - all on the sly, of course.

Around eleven years old I even broke into a neighbor's house once by sneaking in through the back yard through the little door behind the fireplace that they emptied the ashes out. I really needed to experience wearing clothes that belonged to an attractive woman.

But how did things change after puberty? I remember being on a twenty mile hike with my Scouting troop. We all camped out in a dry river bed under the stars in our sleeping bags. I remember looking up at the Milky Way and praying to God to turn me into a girl while I slept. I realized that I would be so embarrassed in the morning if I woke up and my wish had been granted (surround by all those other boys), but I still wanted it anyway. It was my first thought when I awoke, but, of course, nothing had changed.

So, with all of this and so much more that I haven't listed (buying one of the first personal tape recorders - still reel to real, but miniature - on the excuse of wanted to record sounds around the neighborhood, but really just so I could listen to feedback of trying to speak like a girl - making secret super-8 movies of myself dressed - snitching a magazine from my aunt and uncle's place that had an article about "The Pill that can Change Your Sex!" - making paper mache boobs from toilet tissue in the bathroom, then putting them under my T-shirt to see how I looked, then flushing them down the toilet to hide the evidence) - well, you get the idea - with all this and so much more, why didn't I transition early?

Two reasons - one, as mentioned above, I didn't want to disappoint anyone (and that is a pretty feminine trait itself). But the second reason is even more intriguing.

I was a really timid, introverted child. I never approached any other kid to play with them. My mom had to force me to go birthday parties for other kids on the street. You see, I was just so afraid that I would do something wrong by accident, because I didn't know what was expected of me, that just wanted to stay home.

But, I had to go to kindergarten, and then all my worst fears were realized. All the boys were so crude, rough, and mean. I couldn't understand how or why they thought like that. Why did they want to be that way? Why didn't they want to be nice and kind and helpful and friendly? Why were they always beating up on each other (and on me too!) What had I done wrong, and why was I different from them?

You'd think I'd then figure out I was really a little girl under the skin, like Teresa had. Well, Teresa was an extrovert. She made friends easily. She had all kinds of friends and acquaintances her whole life, from kindergarten on.

But timid old me, I initially tried to talk to the girls, but they rejected me as well. Why? I figured it out just last year. I was acting like a girl, but looked like a boy. It simply creeped them out.

So, the boys rejected me because I wasn't rough and tumble like them, and the girls rejected me because I acted like them but looked like a boy, and they judged the book by its cover.

Quite simply, it never occurred to me that I was actually a girl at heart because I never had any female friends and had no idea I was so much like them. The shy withdrawn kid - the most feminine and gentile of spirits - the most legitimate of those who might be candidates for sex change - never figured it out!

In spite of being really smart, I always felt that I was simply lacking something all the other boys seemed to have and, oh yeah, I also had this fantasy of becoming a girl. I NEVER PUT TWO AND TWO TOGETHER UNTIL I WAS THIRTY-EIGHT, MARRIED, WITH TWO KIDS!

So, when Teresa asked me if I was as clear headed as that young girl in the video when I was thirteen, I had to answer, "I wasn't clear headed at all, but I was clear hearted.

You see, it was the extreme nature of my femininity that prevented me from having the opportunity to figure it all out, but my heart was always there.

Perhaps the question should be if early transitioners are as legitimate as those who transition late, since they clearly aren't as naturally gentle of spirit as those who subjugated themselves for many more decades to please others, and never got close enough to female peers to know they were the same, due to shyness and timidity.

But that is just as foolish. Fact is, when you transition has nothing to do with whether or not you are really transsexual. And women can be as assertive or passive as guys can be. It is not how forthright you are in taking action that determines your gender - it is what is happening in your head.

Now, put all that in context of all the different kinds of splinter-groups in the sub-culture of the transgender community that I outlined in a previous entry, and there is no wonder that there is so much name-calling and so much self-confusion in trying to understand oneself and how one relates and compares to others.

*******

So it happened today. I was getting ready to go out with Teresa for some chores this morning, finished combing my hair and putting on some minor make-up. I stopped to take stock in the mirror, and nearly collapsed on the floor. THIS was the morning that I actually looked like the girl I'd always dreamed of being.

There wasn't a male marker to be found on my face, my body, my manner - nothing! And it is permanent. I used to have to go out in the morning before my face started to droop, and if I got tired later in the day I looked more and more like a guy.

But this morning - well, I was tired from a bit too little sleep last night, but it didn't change my face in any negative way. I looked in the mirror and this woman looked back. And I'm really comfortable with my new face. Feels like me.

God, I wish I could explain this better… So we went out for chores and I ended up face to face with several different female clerks of all different ages at a number of places we stopped. Each and every time I could feel the inclusion, the peer connection I've always craved but never had with women nor with men - not once in my life. Yet here it was, automatically, without me having to do anything to make it happen. It just was. I just will be for the rest of my life.

Passing? The word doesn't even pertain anymore. There is absolutely NO chance that ANYONE would ever think I was male or former male or transgendered or anything. (Take a look at the six week pictures on my FFS picture page to see what I mean).

There's no way I will ever take this miracle for granted, but starting today I found myself expecting to look female when I looked in the mirror. For the last seventeen years, I went to the mirror to see if I did or not. But now, there can't be a "not." I KNOW I look female - can't help it - nothing can change it. It is who and what I am.

So we returned home, spent the whole day working around here, and not it is nine o'clock in the evening. Just seven weeks ago, the week before FFS, I would have looked like a man by this hour due to face drooping. But I just checked out the reflection again, which is what prompted me to write this entry because there was the same woman staring back at me I had seen in that mirror in the morning.

You know, when you start out young and pretty it is easy to transition. Well, easy compared to many. But youth is often pretty, and that is true for both men and women.

If you have an androgynous face like I did, pretty plays well, and if you doll it up a bit, with a few simple changes like hair or lipstick you can change that androgynous face from male to female. It's almost too easy.

One of the easiest tricks is just to adopt certain facial expressions that women use and men don't. If you've never noticed, women do things with their eyes, and with their lips (such as gently biting your lower lip) that men never do. And vice versa.

So, with an androgynous face, all you have to do to look male is use those expressions, and using the female ones will get you read as a woman. But as you age… aye, there's the rub… The skin begins to sag, and with an androgynous face you can neither look as masculine or as feminine as you once could, even though you still use the same practiced and proven muscle moves that used to give you the right expressions.

You are still doing your job, but the face just doesn't respond the same way anymore. So you get read more and more often until you can't pass to save your life.

You might get a face lift, and that might help for a few years, but then the old problems would gradually come back again and again. The only permanent solution is FFS which doesn't require any expressions at all to make your face female. It just is female. Period.

Now that can be unnerving. Like today. I spent several minutes with the girl who took our order for tacos at "Jim Boy's Tacos." She started the conversation about how she hated how her purse always got cluttered (in response to me pulling out a whole cornucopia of things trying to find the ten dollar bill I knew was in there).

I was nervous as hell. Not because I thought I'd get read - that's impossible now. I was nervous because I realized I have no experience speaking with women in that manner. God, suddenly after all these years I'm on the inside, and I have got a clue how to act. I've got a lot of catching up to do on social skills I should have picked up four decades ago at slumber parties!

At the cell phone company we were upgrading our phones (since the old ones will stop working with the network in the next few months). The associate helping us was a young girl about my daughter's age (who also looked a lot like my daughter) wearing this low cut blouse with amazing cleavage gently covered by delicate lace.

Teresa and this girl and I are having a conversation in between necessary exchanges of information and waiting for things to get authorized by the computer system. I felt nervous there too - not because I was socially lost in this case, but because I really couldn't believe that she didn't see me as anything but what I always wanted to be seen as.

I felt naked. I wasn't doing expressions. I had on only minimal makeup. I was in rotten light, and about two feet away, face to face. And I was just another woman to her - without the slightest conscious or subconscious hesitation on her part.

Here I was, open to the world without any of my practiced protections - just presenting myself as I am, and rather than having to fight to be seen as a woman, I was unequivocally accepted as one without question.

The feeling is so different. I had no idea I was being subconsciously read even on my best days before FFS. Maybe not identified as a male in female clothing, or even as a transsexual, but certainly as something not quite right. And, like not noticing crickets until they stop chirping, I never knew that feeling was there until I stopped having it post-FFS.

There's a whole new level of interconnection that you can't even imagine until you experience it. And I have that now without any efforts on my part to make it happen. It is based on who and what I am.

Conclusion. I must be a woman. I don't mean I am able to pass as a woman. I mean that everything anyone can see, touch or hear of me is female. And more important, everything I can sense about myself, both outside and in, is completely and irrevocably female. Finally, after all these years, after this whole crazy cascade of events and experiences I call my life, I really, truly, feel like a woman.

I know I've written all this before. But I wrote it conceptually. And tonight, I'm writing it experientially. This is the future of the whole rest of my life. I'm just that way now and couldn't change it if I wanted to. In all practical, social, and emotional senses I've truly reached the goal I had almost twenty years ago, and fulfilled the dream I've had since my earliest years.

All that is left are a few more months of healing and refinement. But that pretty much takes care of itself. And even if my features never got any farther along than they are now it won't matter. It will just be gravy if they do. I've already received all that I ever wanted and much, much more.

I'm done.

This Concludes My Writings for the Transgender Community

Read my parting thoughts in:


Verbatim

&


The Luminary

Copyright 2006 Melanie Anne