December 19, 2007

I Got No Strings on Me!

Posted in family, food, surgery, Vegas at 5:41 pm by Michael

Yesterday was a bit of a milestone in my recovery from FFS. Two things really – the bruising on my face is basically gone. (I have a little tiny spot under my left eye – but given that it was swollen shut and totally purple less than three weeks ago, I’ll call that good!). And, for the first time since November 29, all of the sutures in my mouth are gone!

Just as a note, if you are squeamish, skip the next paragraph. I’ll get into some detail.

I only ended up with three visible scars on my face – under my nose (nose work, plus upper lip), under my chin (adam’s apple removal), and right at my hairline (ear to ear scar, only visible at the top – hairline modification plus brow sculpting). I also have scars behind each ear, from having them tucked back. But, inside my mouth was the real masterwork. All of the jaw and chin work was done from in there. No visible scars as a result, but a ton of sutures (dissolvable) inside my mouth. Basically, I had a top to bottom “Z” incision on each cheek, and along the bottom edge of my jawline, where the skin on the cheek meets the gum, there was an incision, and dissolvable sutures.

Yesterday, the last of those dissolvable sutures “dissolved”, and were gone!

I thought of the song from the Disney Pinocchio movie: “I Got No Strings”. I’ll do my best to remember the lyrics:

I got no strings to hold me down
To make me smile
To make me frown
I got no strings to hold on me
I got no strings on me!

Not totally apropos, but still – this felt like a milestone!

Last night Anh and I went to Bradley Ogden for dinner at Caesar’s Palace. We had been there for dinner before, a while ago w/friends, and Anh had been there for dessert again recently and said it was great.

Well, it was great. It was amazing. The service was spectacular – it was a discussion between us and our waiter Berke .We started with a fresh Alaskan King Crab appetizer that came with these little bits of gold – nuts, deep fried potato, just amazingly well put together and beautiful. Of course, the split each thing we ordered into two, with great presentation, insuring that we both had the full effect. This is not something we see super often, but it was appreciated. Our waiter also thought that the crab would work best with a sparkling wine, so he served us a generously portioned taste of a California Rose sparkling wine.

We then had a salad with this amazing little blue cheese soufflé. Yes, that’s right a blue cheese soufflé.

Berke and Bradley Ogden’s son had helped us to pick out a great ’96 Dunn Cabernet, that was so silky smooth, it was an experience.

Next there was a ribeye steak that we split – amazingly plated, with winter veggies underlying.

Berke recommended trying the Kobe steak as well – from Japan – really. He said that they ship over porterhouse cuts, then butcher them to just get the strip cut. Its prepared on a teppan style grill, seared three times – first with soy, then with a salt/pepper mix, then finished with soy. The serve by the ounce, so we got four, and went for it.

Wow… like eating fois gras, without the guilt! It was an amazing experience.

Dessert was killer as well – chocolate three ways, a meringue, and an amazing Far Niente Dolce.

It was dead in the restaurant, just like Vegas in general this time of year – right before Christmas, right before New Years. So, the waiter was chatty. We liked it.

He had initially been calling me “He” or “Sir”, but I did correct him, since we’d be there for a while, and introduced myself “Hi, my name is Megan, and I really prefer “She”!”. He said, “Nice to meet you Megan!”

As we were getting dessert, we asked him if he had figured out our story, and he said yes.  He gave me his card, I wrote down the address of this blog, and he started talking.

It turned out that he has two transgendered friends. These were MTF folks, who had transitioned before he knew them. One from where he came from, one from in Vegas. He was clearly a nice guy, and had other interesting stories to tell. 

“You Never Know!” when you meet people about their background, their story, and their history.

I look forward to our next trip to Vegas, where we will undoubtedly go see the fine folks at Bradley Ogden again.

Oh, and after dinner, we went to the Mirage and had great luck at the Double Deck Blackjack table… always good to leave on a positive note!

No strings attached!

December 18, 2007

Vegas, It’s All Good, Even if Everyone Thinks I’m a Guy

Posted in food, Identification, transgender, Vegas at 1:06 pm by Michael

Getting to Vegas was amazingly uneventful. The security line I had a bit of a question on initially – how would TSA react to my new ID? Megan Jenna, but “M”? The TSA woman took a look at my ID, a look at me, and said “Ok, let me see here….”, and then stamped our boarding passes, and off we went. Now, I fully believe that part of the reason that this was easy was because I was traveling w/Anh and Samwich, but still – I was not given a hard time at all.

Our flight on Alaska left the gate on time, was early getting down here, and was just a breeze. There was even an in-flight, over the PA marriage proposal (she said yes). That was a first for both of us. We sat next to a player from the Central Washington University basketball team, who was studying Fashion Merchandising, and he talked about what he knew about playing basketball in Europe (interesting!).

The cab line in Vegas was as empty as I’ve ever seen it – cabs waiting for people! I honestly have never seen this before, and we are down here 6+ times a year. This time right before/right after Christmas (but up to the 30th) is very quiet.

We checked in to the Venetian – no line, no problem. (TIP: They have recently redone a significant number of their rooms – the new rooms are much better (upgraded linens, flatscreens, etc) – just ask for a remodeled room – same price, different floors). We did reserve the room in Anh’s name, because I don’t yet have credit cards that match my license yet (after the first of the year).

After checking in, we went shopping/browsing for a while (mostly for Anh!). The shopping wasn’t that interesting, but wow, interesting with how people would react to me. At virtually every opportunity, I got “Sir’ed”. A lot. Now, I wasn’t wearing a poofy coat or anything. I was wearing jeans, a top, and a somewhat tight overshirt. Unless there was a gynecomastia ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gynecomastia ) convention in town, well, there was something else going on.

The only time that was even close to shitty (and maybe I need to count this in the “Crappy Look Counter”) was when we walked into a clothing store – Anh in front, carrying the baby, me right behind. The saleswoman (mid 40’s) says to me, with some stridency: “Men’s clothes are over there.” I say: “Interesting, I don’t need any though – thanks!”

This morning, I went down to get Samwich some breakfast, and again – t-shirt, sweater (somewhat tight), and fleece pants. I got sir’ed by the breakfast place lady. Then, on the elevator back up, a Venetian security guard got on (female, mid 40’s), and she remarked how cute Samwich is (he was in the stroller), then as I was getting off, I got the hearty: “Have a good day Sir!”.

Allright… I know I haven’t made this easy. My stache is dark. I hate it. I don’t wear makeup. I have very little jewelry on (only my wedding band and a diamond all-over band that Anh gave me in SFO – sweet). My clothes don’t exactly scream “Female”.

I have two thoughts on this, other than I have a long way to go till actually passing easily.

I saw a documentary a few years ago showing how innately people identify folks as male or female. They did an experiment where they used the “lighted dots” method – basically put “dots” on people on their nose, and then at the major joints – shoulder, elbow, wrist, hips, knees, ankles. Then, they asked people to walk and do other activities. They then videotaped it, then image processed the people out, and ended up with box/stick figures. They then asked people to ID the stick figure as male or female. The hit rate was > 95%. Wow.

Secondly, Anh and I were talking about how the default gender for people may be “male”. Just in written terms, when most people write and are referring to an unknown person, they refer to he/him/his. It seems noticeable when you read she/her/hers. So, we have this theory that for people to see you as female, you need to prove it on all visual cues. So for me, one big thing – my stache, and a bunch of little things – posture, makeup etc, make me “male” every time. Having one big “pro-female” factor – cleavage – not enough to overcome. In addition, the Dr. O surgery really does “work” – my forehead, hairline, lack of Adam’s apple, not to mention a much softer jawline… all softer and more feminine. However, this isn’t “enough” to overcome the smaller, but more important stuff mentioned above.

One other side comment – my voice. I don’t have the deepest voice, but it’s clearly male. I have intentionally not done anything to change this. It seems too personal to change. I know, my face, and chest, not personal? Hard to explain, but I don’t want to change it.

Anyway, is it frustrating? Sure it is. Am I upset, no, not really. Do I wish that I wouldn’t get immediately read? Of course I do. The words from another trans-woman at Microsoft’s words ring in my ears – I asked “What was the hardest thing in the first year for you?” Answer – rapidly: “Hair removal. I just couldn’t get rid of the little buggers fast enough!”

Well mustache and lower lip hairs – your day with destiny is next Friday.

Anyway, last night Anh and I went to L’Atelier du Joel Robuchon at MGM Grand for dinner. I won’t try to do a restaurant review here, but it’s amazing. This is probably our fifth time, and its always amazing. You sit at the counter, around the working kitchen, watch the chefs work (quietly, but in French). The tasting portions are perfect. Try everything – especially the Langoustine Fritters, and the Potato Pureee du Robuchon. For a more full review, check out what Hillel at Tastingmenu.com has to say:

http://www.tastingmenu.com/archive/2006/07-july/20060718.htm

After that, we gambled (lost – surprise! Odds and Math work!), then went to bed.

One other note, we are huge fans of “Noodle Asia” at the Venetian (right next to the sports book). We had lunch there today (as we do at least once or twice on every Vegas trip). It’s not super expensive, but the food is very well done. Great stuff there: Potstickers, Black Pepper Udon, Night Market Fried Rice, BBQ Plate (small or large)… again, try it all! We have found no better Chinese food in Vegas – at any price (and we’ve tried every one that we can find…).

Yes, I still love Vegas, even if everyone thinks I’m a guy.

December 14, 2007

How are you? “Fantastic!” No, Really. “Really!”

Posted in family, food, friends, NE Patriots, Vegas at 3:02 pm by Michael

Yesterday was another pretty pedestrian day here on the two week mark since my face got discombobulated and recombobulated.

Marvin

Why was Bugs Bunny ever afraid of Marvin the Martian – that just doesn’t make sense. Marvin, besides having the special disintegration ray, had absolutely nuthin. And that hat – some sort of Martian/Trojan/Push Broom hybrid – again – don’t get it.

While I’m being random, wow, Legend seems super disappointing.  3rd time, same story – Vincent Price was one of the older leads…. Was this what that mystery trailer w/the crazy flying Statue of Liberty head was all about? Really? That’s all?

I can’t wait for the Pats v. Jets game. When the game gets to 72-0 in the 2nd quarter, I might have to slaughter a goat (or some Tofu – we are very inclusive here at the Casa).

Is anyone surprised by the Mitchell Report? Baseball Players Did Steroids. Wow, and amphetamines too! Maybe 162 games is a few too many to be played by humans on pure air.

I’m filling – yesterday morning was boring – Anh went out to the Dr, and then lunch w/a friend, and I stayed w/Samwich. We had stuff to do, so we did it – UPS, Home Depot for light bulbs (hard to find mini-spots). We then went to “Szechwan Noodle Bowl” in the ID in Seattle for lunch – met Hillel too… Great dumplings… good dan dan noodles –Samwich is crazy about those.

We did a bunch of house stuff (like put holes in our leaked ceiling to control further leakage – super exciting!)

At five yesterday I had my first scheduled therapy appointment since surgery. It was weird. I felt completely unemotional – most of the emotion of the past is just gone – not suppressed, just gone. While I absolutely have loved and valued my time with her, I feel like I’m mostly done with therapy. I’ll still go, but certainly not every week, unless something radically changes. WHEW!

I’ve gotten feedback from my therapist (and others) that I seem almost “hyper” these days. Well, here’s the deal – all the gender stuff, plus concerns about me and Anh were taking up “HUGE” amounts of headspace. That’s all just gone… all of that headspace is now open to be filled up with other stuff. Hence the increase in energy – it was always there, it was just doing background tasks before. Wow… what an unexpected benefit!

Last night we then went to our first post-transition work function. It was Debra’s (my last boss – written about many times before) staff/guest holiday dinner at Elemental in Seattle. Anh and I were the first to show up – was nice – had the whole place to ourselves, and got to share a private glass of champagne before anyone else showed up. Was nice… Plus, the place was super dark, so it was hard to see the crazy stuff going on with my face still!

As folks filtered in, we saw people we had met and not met before, folks who I’ve been super close to, and those who we have not been as close to. Overall, and this is pretty boring as well – I felt just normal. Anh felt normal. We talked with people about a lot of things. There were a couple of folks who have read tons of this blog (Hello!) and were talking about events that occurred in our lives like they had been there. This was both spooky and interesting at the same time. Boy, this blogging thing actually WORKS!

Universally, folks would ask: “How are you doing?” As avid readers of this space now, my answer usually ranges from “Great!” to “Fantastic!” When I’d say this, usually, I’d get a bit of a pause from the asker, then “Really?”, and I’d say “Really!”. I felt like people in general have thought that I would look dramatically, or unrecognizably different, or that I’d feel horrible still. I don’t and I don’t. In no way is this meant to disrespect the question – but just to state how clearly we have defied expectations. Honestly, it’s exceeding mine too!

With folks like Debra and others, they had a lot more questions about our experience in San Francisco, and how we are doing, and we talked about that too. I don’t shy away from it, but I don’t want to talk about it all the time – I expect this will tail off dramatically pretty soon.

We cabbed it home (city living!), and crashed… Today was a big day – my first day back at work (kind of). I had some stuff to do at work, and decided to come in from 10-3.

My day started beautifully, as I walked to my office and opened the door, I noticed that my nametag had been changed already by Tina (my longtime AA), and when I opened my door, on my meeting table were lovely flowers, and a frame with a card from Tina and my staff here. Wow, super nice! What a nice way to start your first day back.

I did all my meetings and work functions – and you know what? Fundamentally, it was just “normal”. Sure, people asked how I was feeling, but I didn’t get any weird vibe at all. We had work to do – and we did it!

I’m finishing this up now from my office here in Microsoft in Redmond (I’m still on vacation you know! HA!).

I’m looking forward to a couple of days of “Vacation” next week in Vegas, but then coming home for the holidays, and just continuing to enjoy life with Anh, with Peri, John and Samwich, and all of our friends and family.

Sorry… not much excitement for the past two days, but honestly, that was our life before, and its great to see it coming back to that.

December 12, 2007

“Do you know why I call you Megan?”

Posted in family, Nordstrom, PEPS, transgender, Vegas at 9:39 pm by Michael

That question was posed to me by Anh today. Super interesting reason, but you’ll have to read (or at least scroll) to near the end.

Note that the pictures page is updated – same series as always, front, both profiles. I took a full body pic as well, but I didn’t like it so I didn’t post it. Too bad. When I get one I like, then I will. Anh and I get dolled up tomorrow night for a company Holiday Dinner, so maybe I’ll post something from that. If there are no “Crappy Looks”

Crappy Look Counter is still at 5… no change since Monday.

Anh and I (and Samwich) are going to Vegas next Monday/Weds. Why? Some sort of convention? NO WAY! We are going to eat (lots – or at least as much as I can?), drink, gamble and shop. (Samwich gets a sitter for the non-kid-friendly bits – same one as always…) Standard Vegas trip for us – this is a cheap time of year, we usually do it in this timeframe (and lots of other timeframes too). THAT will be interesting to see how that goes. I don’t know if the crappy look counter will spike or flatline. Stay tuned.

Ok, so this morning we continued with the “Wow, we have a ton of stuff to do!” escapade, and since today Anh had to do online training for her volunteer tax preparation gig, I took Samwich to PEPS (or post-Peps). PEPS is a parent/baby group that’s county-run (http://www.pepsgroup.org/familyresources/newparentguide.htm). Basically, its local to your community, and a weekly, moderated discussion about being a parent and having a baby. Highly recommended for new parents, esp. first timers, but even for all your kids. You get to see other kids and how they are simul-developing (cuz there’s an age range for each group that’s only about 4-6 weeks), and also just talk to and hear from other parents (usually moms) and what they are doing, and how they are dealing – because its hard raising kids!

Anh is a member of a group right in our neighborhood and has really enjoyed it. This was my first ever meeting, even with three kids. Dads do go at times, and are always welcome, but its infrequent. I had just met most of these folks Sunday (see Sunday post), and we had a great time at the holiday party, so it was awesome to see them in a new context. Again, great time – good baby talk, good to see the other babies and what they are doing, great to hear how other moms (all moms today) do stuff, and good just to chat w/new people (I love to chat f2f!). There was even a little trans-talk at the end – we got there because we were talking about schedules, and I was talking about our pre-surgery schedule which most mornings included running w/Samwich and how he napped. I commented that I couldn’t run for a while (another month), and one of the people asked why, which turned into what I had done, which turned into a ton of thoughtful questions like “What will Samwich call you, and what do the older kids call you, and how do you introduce yourself?” (In short, Maddy, Daddy, “Parent of”, but if asked Who’s Their Daddy, I say “ME!”).

What I’ve found is when people take the time to ask really good questions it means that they are interested and they care, and that says a lot. Our deal here is different than most – I get it – but I got treated like one of the “Moms”. It was super fun. I loved it. I felt at home, at ease, and deeply respected. Thanks again, PEPS QA moms, you all are very special people.

I got home from that, all energized and feeling great, Anh was home doing her deal, and feeling great. (I know-BO-RING), then my clothes came from Nordy’s down in SFO – as promised – AWESOME! (See “Last Full Day in SFO” post for more Nordstrom Personal Shopper info – short version – DO IT!)

I then cleaned out my closet. Big deal, right? Well, this is where I got rid of 100% of my guy stuff. All in bags, ready for donation, post the family-pick-over. I also put a lot of my women’s clothes that weren’t “right” in that stack too. Talk about cleaning out your closet. I thought this might be emotional, but if anything it was way more fun than any closet clean I’ve done before. Zero Tears. And its way clean, which got me at *least* a smile from the lovely, and every-day-more talented Anh-O.

As I finished up with that, we decided to have dinner at home (still people working in the house – blinds and a Murphy bed today), so I went to the store, and then Anh made dinner (her version of Pad Thai (family fave) – its chewier, spicier, crunchier – bet you didn’t know that in addition to everything else great about Anh-O, she’s a fantastic cook.

So we sit down, are eating, almost done, and she says:

“Do you know why I call you Megan?”

Now, some short background. We talked about this A LOT “Before”. She had said that post transition that it was going to be hard to do. One of the reasons for the “Hall Pass for Calling me Michael” thing was that I thought Anh might have to do this for a while, and I didn’t want her to be the only one who had “Permission”. So, I was prepared.

But an amazing thing happened – ever since I came out from the first surgery, she has always (everyone goofs – including me), has called me “Megan”, “She”, “Her”, etc…

So, I wasn’t sure about this question, other than the obvious “It’s my legal name, duh?” But it was clearly deeper than that.

So I said, honestly “No, I don’t.”

She said: “Well, when you were in your first surgery, I was talking to people, in person and on the phone. All of a sudden I figured out that everyone else is going to get their clues from me about how to treat you – just like in everything – they get their clues from you and me first. But on this one, for you to be “Megan” and “She” to everyone else, I needed to start from me. So, I decided that to make this work, it was the only way, even though it was hard. But today, I don’t even think about you as Michael. I said goodbye to Michael the Sunday before. You are Megan to me – just Megan, and I love YOU and am proud to be with you.”

“Wow, you are amazing. I know how hard that was. Thank you, and as always, I love you!”

I can’t add anything to that it is so good.