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Christine’s Journey 7/15

| Jul 20, 2015
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crossroadsA Lot to talk about, involving Friends, Neighbors, and Family.

Shortly following my last blog, I started the process of telling my closest local friends and neighbors. Before doing so however, I spoke to my ex-wife and daughter to make them aware, and also discussed this with my son’s counselor. Word would certainly “get around” quickly and I was concerned about my son, social media, and any negative reaction from his friends or others that could result. We all knew this time would eventually come.

The reaction from my neighbors was very heartwarming: “It doesn’t change anything!, As long as You are happy! You are Still You!”

Coming out to my best local friend was a little more difficult. In many ways he’s my “Russo” as to Jennifer Finney Boylan in her book She’s Not There. In his late 40s, and a “man’s man,” he and I have become very close over the last 15+ years. We’ve shared details of our most personal thoughts and struggles about family, marriage, children, religion, politics, and sports, while on a golf course, watching a ballgame, around a campfire, after funerals, or often just chilling after work over a beer or shot (feel very free to use the plural here).

christine-072015Meeting at a local watering hole (where else?), the mood was very serious as I spoke about my hidden lifelong struggle. I sensed much hesitation and discomfort in his “As Long as You’re Happy” comment. I’m sure he felt, as I did at that moment, that the relationship we had enjoyed all these years was now changed, or was now something different.

Impressing upon him that I hoped that the tone of our future conversations would never change, especially all the humor (and language) of our past, I offered acceptance of joking about My transition (as long as it was not degrading or condescending). The mood then changed. Over the next 1-1/2 hours we began talking about other’s issues like we always had. In the following days, we’ve also texted normally, which is comforting. His wife has even “friended” me on Facebook, sending me a supportive message using the words “brave, and strong.”

I was also in Annapolis, MD recently for an annual conference of an industry consultant association. Annapolis is beautiful with its colonial history and architecture, the US Naval Academy, shops and restaurants. As a member of this group, I have supported many consultants and their clients for years, and it will be important that I make everyone very much aware of ‘me,’ in a few months. I have to believe however, that many are already “on alert,” given my hair and earrings (LOL). One evening during the conference I also confided in a close friend and his wife. Their acceptance and love was wonderful, along with their belief that our Industry will be accepting as well.

Now time for “something completely different” (to quote messieurs Python). As I noted in the last blog on Tuesday, June 30, I visited About You hair removal in Willamette, IL (Chicago) for Large Volume Electrolysis on my face, neck and chest areas. About You is located inside the offices of Dr. Mark Zukowski (Dr. Z), well known for Transgender FFS services.

Running the gauntlet through the Philadelphia airport the prior day, in drab having not shaved for 6 days ( but looking less drab every day), I proceeded through security. The female TSA Agent commented “I have to pat you down, oops, I mean HE will have to pat you down.” I smiled. Walking toward the gate, an airline booth vendor called out “Miss, do you have a Frequent Flyer number?” Another smile, another reinforcement. This trip was starting out very well ( BTW I cannot tell you how many times I get “ma’am-ed” these days, LOL).

My overall experience with About You was wonderful, as was Belle Brine, (herself TG), and Irina (Irene) Cardos both of whom performed the work. I was booked for their 12 hour package (2 electrologists working at the same time, 24 hours total service). I’ll TRY to be brief on the details.

The procedure to get pretty is not pretty.

The procedure to get pretty is not pretty.

Belle picked me up at my hotel at 5 a.m., about a 10 minute drive to Dr. Z’s offices. After getting settled into the comfortable chair (which by 2 p.m. it was “not so comfortable”), I met Irene, Belle’s business partner, a Romanian immigrant (and owner of Precision Hair Removal and Skin Care in Chicago). Both Belle and Irene are loving, caring, and extremely professional (and efficient as I was to learn).

A nurse arrived and hooked me up to an IV, followed shortly by Dr. Z who administered 1.5 to 3 cc’s each of Fentanyl and Verset to induce a “twilight sleep” which would last about 45 minutes. The twilight sleep is to inhibit the discomfort of the facial injections to follow. I was told that some girls stay fully awake throughout the ‘twilight” period. I however, was a “cheap date,” as Belle said she could recall only a few patients who went “out like a light” (BTW please don’t let that ‘cheap date’ comment get around).

Dr. Z then injected two 20 ml syringes of both Marcaine and Xylocaine at various locations over my face and neck, all this while monitoring my oxygen and heart rate, and administering some oxygen for a short period of time. Then the work began.

About You uses Flash Termolysis High Frequency Electrolysis. (A description of 3 commonly used methods can be found online) Belle mentioned that they each zap 4 hairs every 5 seconds (one can easily do the math) with 1, 2 or 3 pulses per hair depending upon the local stubbornness, using an Apilus Platinum 27 MHz machine. We had a lengthy Q & A following my session, Belle knew I would be writing and she was very open.

After about 30-45 minutes I slowly awoke from my nap into the twilight sedation mode. It was certainly different. I could hear the conversation, however with my mouth also numb from the injections (some friends might say a good thing), I could communicate initially only with hand signals. I went slowly from mumbling, to being able to talk, and our chat lasted throughout the whole day. Belle joked that they could not ‘shut me up.’ With respect to the process, on my face, ears (a few hairs there), and then neck, I felt “next to nothing” (again I was told the level of comfort or discomfort will vary patient to patient).

As they got closer to finishing my neck, a topical 20/10/10 combination of Benzocaine, Lidocaine, and Tetracaine was applied to my chest and abdomen and then covered to numb that area. Once they reached my chest Irene worked independently since they said it was “much easier solo.” The topical numbing worked extremely well for me (I had heard beforehand from a friend that the upper chest area could be extremely sensitive) Other than some discomfort around the areola area, all was very good.

By around 2 p.m. the work was completed, well ahead of the planned schedule. They then applied an Iontophoresis procedure to my face, a low voltage, ion producing current to produce a mild ph, calm the redness, close the follicles and inhibit bacteria. Neosporin cream was prescribed for the first 24 hours, followed by Aquaphor, a healing ointment commonly used for baby’s skin care. By 3 p.m. Belle and I headed out for lunch. Given the time taken to ‘do me’ was much shorter than anticipated, Belle adjusted the cost accordingly.

I’m told this initial session should remove 50% of the hair, with subsequent sessions (6-8 weeks apart) of shorter length and lower cost. While hair growth never totally stops, I am told it can get to a level where a local electrolygist can do a ‘touch up’ when required.

It’s now been about 3 weeks since my Chicago visit. It’s taken almost 2 weeks to see growth again, much less on my chest for sure. I’m looking forward to my return visit in late August.

On my way back to Philly from Chicago, I received a message from my best friend’s wife asking to “meet us for happy hour.” Words cannot express how that invitation made me feel. The evening included the 3 of us, plus her sister and husband ( a tough guy Philly cop with a heart of gold), and her 21-year-old niece.

The evening was wonderful. “Anything you ever need, we’re here for you” said the cop. His wife, “When are we going shopping?; and, “Please tell me you don’t like football anymore!” ( I had to disappoint her on that last one! ). And in the end, “toasting” to their newfound (girl) friend.

Before all the highs of coming out to my friends and neighbors I had to make a 2+ hour drive up to Wilkes-Barre, PA, to take my 89 year old mom for blood work, prior to a doctor’s appointment later in the month. She had commented in the past about my lengthy hair, but was about to be exposed to (and shocked by) my earrings. Keep in mind that this woman is very old school, and fairly religious (Catholic).

It went about as well (not really) as expected, with her in her own unique, and interesting way, questioning my morals and sexuality asking, “Are you part of a Men’s Club?,” (ie gay?) I still chuckle over that one. While (at this time) I diverted and diffused much of the questioning, she remained withdrawn much of the day, and was upset that I would not tell her “why” these changes were taking place.

On Saturday July 4th, I decided to engage the Catholic Church (while I’m not a fanatic, it is part of who I am), by walking into a confessional before a late afternoon mass. A 20 minute conversation ensued. After I told the priest “if you bounce me out on my head, I’m coming back!,” he calmly said not worry about that. He then started into sexual and moral issues, most likely a standard clergy educated response. I explained how I’m just a normal (?), good, person just trying to live MY life. It’s “Not About Sex, it’s about ME and how I’ve felt since 4 or 5. It’s who I AM.” The tone then changed. More later.

christine_062015This past Saturday it was back up to Wilkes-Barre. My one cousin has twin daughters and it was their high school graduation party. All 4 of my closest cousins would be there. Mom, worried about my “look” asked “what do I tell them about your hair and earrings?” “Not to worry,” I replied.

Before the first pair of sisters left the party, I pulled them off to the side and we talked for about 15-20 minutes. They were concerned but happy that I was happy, however they were Very concerned about how my mom might react.

Toward the end of the evening, I took mom home and returned to help clean up. Later my two cousins (who lived next door growing up), and I spent about 90 minutes talking and laughing about me, kids, family, and life. They were wonderful, but they were also concerned about how my mother might react.

Sunday was non-eventful running errands. I took mom to see my older brother ( I have a brother who is 4 years older than I), who is mentally handicapped, and lives in a community home about 5 minutes away. With an approximate 4th grade reading level, and taking a lot of meds over 55+ years, my brother can at times be surprisingly aware about what’s going on around him, although expressing himself is difficult at times. It’s funny however that while he has not commented on my earrings yet (seen twice now), he always asks “You shave your legs don’t you?” So amazingly cute in his own way at times, my brother always keeps me well grounded.

Monday was doctor’s appointments for mom before heading back home. The morning seemed the perfect opportunity to be seized. Following breakfast, after commenting that “no one made any issue with my hair and earrings,” I explained everything. Over the next 30 minutes we chatted, between her tears, confusion, and frustration, as she tried to understand “why?” and Mom saying “I don’t want you to become a woman.”

I spent the next 6 hours with her, through her appointments and other errands. At some times it was like nothing ever changed with normal back and forth conversation. I explained my timeline and goals, and she asked questions about hormones, and surgery. And of course, she asked if I had spoken to a priest (but of course, LOL).

I told her I loved her and that would never change. She said the same but still struggled with “why?” I texted my cousin who said she would look in on her a few times this week. Over the past week I’ve called mom every day. Every day she cries, “Why?” concerned about me, concerned about all the social and legal complications.

Okay, now back to my confessional story. While I do believe that I can walk into 10 different churches and perhaps get 10 different reactions, I was very surprised and uplifted.

At the end of some 20 minutes of fairly frank conversation about being transgender, the priest offered beautiful words of support specifically relating it to me, “For those who believe, no explanation is necessary. For those who do not believe, no explanation will suffice.” He had me in tears! Maybe, just maybe, for perhaps one of the most conservative, and inflexible of institutions, there is some hope.

And while there was so much to be thankful for over the journey’s last month, there will always be challenges, some of which I can only hope will improve with time, however long that may take. I saw my (14 year old) son for the first time in 8 weeks, for one hour.




Once in a vision
I came on some woods
And stood at a fork in the road
My choices were clear
Yet I froze with the fear
Of not knowing which way to go
One road was simple
Acceptance of life
The other road offered sweet peace
When I made my decision
My vision became my release.

(from Netherlands by Dan Fogelberg)

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Category: Transgender Body & Soul


About the Author ()

Part of the Philadelphia area Transgender community living in Sewell NJ. A Penn State grad, working in TV and FM Radio Broadcast equipment sales. Full time (about time !) since Nov. 2015. My frequent travel schedule allows me to visit TG friendly locales and attend events around the US.

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