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  • Happy Third T-Day!

    It’s hard to believe that it’s been a whole three years already since I started on T. At the same time it’s hard to believe it’s only been three years. I’m starting to feel like I’ve always been this person, that I’ve always been Eric and that my previous life was some kind of bizarre dream.

    More than that, it’s hard to imagine that I was ever not a writer. I began to take my writing seriously back in November 2010, and I’ve been pulled deeper and deeper ever since. I’m still slogging through Fallen Things with my critique group and am sending chapters out to beta readers at the same time, and this process has improved my writing incredibly.

    One thing that made a huge difference was writing the first draft of the second book in the series, Hidden Things. I got to know my characters so much better; when I went back to editing Fallen Things, I had a much clearer idea of what I was doing with them. My view of the story is so clear, in fact, that I have to completely rewrite just about everything from this point on because I can now see how far off my first (and second) draft was. This is amazing. This is incredible. This is what gets me up in the morning (and often keeps me up at night). This, even more than a name and an affirmation of gender, is Who I Am.

    That said, it’s great to take the chance to look back over the past year and all the things I’ve accomplished. For the first time since I went to college, I have a job that’s lasted more than three months. Even more, it’s a full time job that still gives me plenty of time to write, which is an amazing thing. I started as a desk clerk at a small motel almost a year ago, and I have no plans of leaving any time soon. After a few years without stable employment, having a steady income and a schedule I can count on is a luxury I don’t want to lose. The fact that I genuinely enjoy the work itself helps a great deal, of course.

    And now–because if I don’t stop I’ll blather on forever about my writing–it’s time for progress photos:

    Feb26-2010

     

    I’m not even sure what to say about this one anymore. It’s like looking at a stranger; it’s hard to imagine being this person now.

    Feb26-2011_2

     

    A wee bit of scruff on the chin, desperately in need of a haircut, and still way too much in love with the filters in Vignette when taking pictures with my phone. It’s still incredible how much of a difference a year makes.

    Feb26-2012

     

    Still in desperate need of a haircut, but at least I’ve ditched the earrings now… I almost wonder why I held on to them as long as I did. The beard’s gone from ‘scruffy’ to ‘respectable’ and is still one of the things I’m most pleased with.

    Feb26-2013

     

    And here I am today. I finally got a haircut! And new glasses! (One of two pairs I bought recently; the others are simple, squarish, black frames.) And I finally stopped taking my picture in the bathroom! (Yes, that is a Dalek on my living room wall.) Bow ties are still cool, and my beard has gained a photographically-visible presence!

    And that, as they say, is that. Until next year.



  • Grab-Bag Week

    This has really just been One Of Those Weeks so rather than posting on a single topic, I’m giving you all a whole bunch of topics. Aren’t you lucky? And now, in no particular order:

    Standing Up For Yourself

    I haven’t always had the greatest track record in this area. Most days I’d rather let something slide than risk conflict or risk losing/not getting a service I need. This time however, I realized I needed to take a stand.

    Those of you on Twitter may have noticed me mention ‘awkward questions about my genitals’. Without going into too much detail, during the interview for an unrelated psych evaluation, the psychologist got overly curious about my trans history, to the point that I felt uncomfortable. I decided I needed to let him know how I felt about it, so I wrote him a letter. I kept it calm and reasonable, using ‘I feel’ language rather than accusatory, even if part of me wanted to call him an insensitive idiot, and other invectives along those lines. I also included some of the ‘what is trans*’ resources I received at the gender clinic, because I think it’s important to educate where I can, whatever the topic.

    And you know what? I think it worked. I got a call from him thanking me for the feedback and the articles, and apologizing for putting me in that position. Does that make what he did all right? No. Did his apology wipe the slate clean and repair my trust? No. But now he knows and can do better next time, and I have closure and have taken away his ability to hurt me. (This, by the way, is what forgiveness is really about. Letting go of the hurt someone else has caused, not ignoring the hurt and letting them hurt you again.)

    All The Fun Jobs Require A Degree

    Brain-mush and inappropriate questions aside, I actually enjoy psych evaluations. I love seeing what’s going on in my brain (and I kind of feel like it’s a licence to show off.) So I asked one of the ladies administering the tests how I could get a job doing that, and the answer was pretty much: “You need a degree.” This is pretty much true for everything I would like to do. Librarian? Need a degree. Minister? Need a degree. Even Graphic Designer; for anything in-house you’re better off with a degree. All of this pretty much leaves me with the question of how do I afford going back to school? Because one way or another, I’ll be going back.

    AndroGel Is Not A Good Long-Term Substitute For Delatestryl

    This may not be true for everyone of course, but for me it’s no contest. Delatestryl is an injection every two weeks that is effective, inexpensive, and covered under my insurance. AndroGel is a daily topical gel that is ineffective for me, can be transferred to others if I’m not careful, is expensive, and is, of course, not covered by my insurance. Granted, it might be more effective at full dose, but since I can’t really afford the starting dose as it is? Yeah. Unfortunately, I have very few options right now, since Delatestryl and all other injectable testosterone compounds are currently unavailable in Canada due to manufacturer shortage.

    In Spite Of It All, I’m On The Right Path

    One thing I have gotten out of this is yet another confirmation that I am headed in the right direction for me. Yesterday, even after all the awkward questions, my first genuine smile of the day was when I talked about my experience guest preaching at my church. Remembering how it felt to look at the text, to find the message in it, and to share it with others… it was amazing. Just the memory of that connection cut through all the crap of that day and reminded me of the most important thing: this is what I’m meant to do. This is my path. As crazy as it sounds, this queer trans boy is going to be a Christian minister. And I feel good about it.



  • And The Clock Is Ticking

    It’s been five days since the day I should have stabbed myself in the leg. Five days since my latest dose of T was due.

    And I still haven’t gotten any.

    All this fun is because of something as simple as a manufacturer’s shortage. The pharmacy can’t get a hold of it, so neither can I. And I get that I can’t just substitute another product without checking with the endo to see how best to go about it, but in the mean time I’m going without. And I’m obsessing.

    I’m watching every little thing about me, trying to see if some of the changes are slipping away already. Am I more emotional, or is that just the stress? How’s my apatite? Was that blood in the toilet? Will I really have to deal with that again so soon, or am I being paranoid? How long before it all slips away like a dream?

    I know some things are permanent. The facial hair, the voice; these will be with me forever, and I’m grateful. But I’m afraid of going back to a brain that doesn’t work as well as it should, that keeps me in a hormone-imbalanced fog. I’m afraid of going back to that back pain, knowing what it means, and what will I do about public washrooms then?

    And I’m afraid that this is a luxury. I love this modern world of ours, with its conveniences and progress, even its problems. But how long can it last? I can’t help that cynical streak that warns me that this could all disappear tomorrow, dropping us into some dark dystopia. It’s why I keep one foot in the analogue world; the printed word can’t be deleted.

    I hope I’m wrong. I hope this digital age finds some way to endure, and that we find a way to do better with the resources we have. I hope the modern world delivers on its promises this time. But for now, I’m waiting on an elixir in a tiny vial, and the clock is ticking.



  • Trans, ADHD, And Accessing Employment Services

    Well. That was an interesting day. The kind of day that really drives home why I was so reluctant to apply for any kind of assistance before now. Unfortunately, I need some kind of gainful employment, or the next best thing, and doing it on my own hasn’t been working. So.

    Off I go to the Alberta Employment and Immigration office. I don’t know exactly what I need, except that I need help. I’d gotten a form to fill out when I was there Friday, but other than that and a handful of mostly contradictory ID, I’m unprepared. I think I know what I want to say, but most of what I say comes out of my mouth too fast and in the wrong order. I’m easily confused, and I’m not sure I know what’s going on. But I concentrate, and read things over twice, three times if I need to. Remember, breathe.

    One of the things I’m applying for is Income Support. Since it’s a provincial service, I happily fill everything out as Eric, confident that this is, in fact, my legal name. There’s a certificate to prove it and everything! Then the worker tells me that they need to know it I qualify for Employment Insurance before we can go ahead with the IS application. I just have to go across the hall to Service Canada and ask. Easy, right?

    Well, this is where being trans intersects with being ADHD to great effect. Remember how I was filling everything out as Eric? Well, that all well and good for provincial stuff, but as far as the federal level is concerned, my old identity is still in effect. I don’t even want to know how this will affect my applications across the hall; it’s bad enough typing in the name still attached to my Social Insurance Number. Worst part? I’m still too agitated and confused to properly explain to the lady helping me (read: practically filling out the form for me) what my problem is, and most of my corroborating ID is back across the hall. At this point, I can only hope that the information I provided is someone’s version of correct and that I won’t be locked up for fraud.  I’m probably overreacting, but I can’t help it.

    Back across the hall in Alberta, I have a slightly easier time explaining myself. She gives not only gives me information for employment services I can use, but also legal guidance so I can get some advice on this whole identity thing. By now I have all my forms and whatnot together to take to the third floor where the actual application process happens. Ok. After a quick detour to the coffee shop on the corner for a desperately needed Earl Grey, I’m upstairs, ready to fill everything in and get this process started.

    Well, not quite. I’m still missing my banking information.

    A trip home to grab a blank cheque and print up some bank statements, and a second Earl Grey later, I’m back up on the third floor. I have succeeded in replacing ‘agitated’ with ‘stoned,’ but at least I have all my information together. I go through the line, hand in my forms, and wait to be called up. With all this running around trying to get some kind of employment support, sitting in the waiting room of Alberta Works is when I get a call for a job interview.

    Of course.

    I still don’t know what’s going on, but I think it’s getting better, yeah?



  • I Got Her Pregnant, Now What?

    That title is probably going to confuse a lot of people, so to clarify: no, I’m not anybody’s baby-daddy, and I myself am not pregnant, either.

    No, I’m talking about getting my character pregnant, which is horrifying enough as it is.

    For some reason, I’m very uncomfortable with the idea of making my female characters pregnant. (Same with my male characters, though for slightly different reasons.) I don’t like the idea of turning the women in my stories into brood mares. It makes me feel like the rich, complex person I’ve created is suddenly made redundant, as though every other purpose she could have is overshadowed by her ability to make babies.

    This is probably me having a reaction to society at large, and more than likely my feminist streak showing.

    I know that ignoring pregnancy and the possibility of pregnancy leaves out a huge aspect of the human experience. I know that for some women it’s a blessing, while for other women it’s a curse. I know that some women will never know that joy, and that some are just as happy without it.

    What I don’t know, exactly, is how to deal with the issue without belittling the idea of motherhood while at the same time not making that the character’s single most important characteristic, or doing it just for the sake of a plot point. So of course, I get one of my characters pregnant. And it worries me.

    That I feel comfortable making a plot point out of just about any other issue but this one puzzles and intrigues me. Do I not want to deal with is because I’m a guy, or because I’m a guy who, under the right circumstances, could become pregnant? Is it just that I feel weird writing a birthing when I’ve never given birth and the most vivid description I have is my Girl Guide leader saying it’s “like pooping a pineapple?”

    Do I even have a point to this post aside from highlighting my discomfort with this issue?

    Please, weigh in, and while I don’t usually like doing these things by gender, ladies especially, let me know what you think. I’m sure you have a perspective here that I can’t grasp just yet.



  • When You Know More Than Your Doctor

    “So you’re doing hormone therapy, testosterone. How long will that be going on for, a few months, years…?”

    “No, it’s pretty much a life-long thing.”

    For anyone who has never experienced this, it’s pretty disconcerting to realize that you know more about your medical treatment than your own doctor does. Maybe it’s all the research I’ve done, but I find it incredible that anyone, let alone a medical professional, would think that hormone replacement therapy on this level would be a short round of treatment and then you’re good to go after that.

    I want to say, though I honestly didn’t think about it until much later, “Did your body produce oestrogen for the first few months of puberty and then stop? No. This is the same thing.”

    But of course she doesn’t know. She’s a GP, and the treatment of trans patients is well outside of her expertise. However, I don’t really want to be bouncing around getting my prescriptions from multiple doctors. I’d feel a lot more comfortable having one person handling the majority of my physical health care, so I take it upon myself to educate her.

    I tell her that though I still have a decent supply left on my current script that I got from the endocrinologist, when that’s done I’d rather get that refilled here rather than try to get in to see the specialist (will I need another referral? I don’t even know. That’s the sort of thing that confuses the hell out of me.) or try to catch my original prescribing doctor during his walk-in hours. I let her know, based on what the other two doctors were monitoring, what she should keep an eye on with regards to my blood tests. We also discuss what I may or may not need in terms of birth control (the information from the pharmacy includes the directive “don’t get pregnant”, but we agree that adding an hormonal contraceptive would be more messing around than either of us want to deal with.)

    Still, at the end of the day this is the sort of thing that puts the doctor-patient relationship into perspective. We’re all human. Nobody knows everything about anything, not even doctors.



  • AD/HD and Self-Education

    I’m a pretty out guy about most things. I’m out about being queer, I’m out about being trans, and I’m out about my writing and my bow tie addiction. One thing I’ve been conspicuously silent on is my AD/HD.

    Part of it is that despite having ‘known’ for most of my life and getting an official diagnosis in 2004, I really don’t know all that much about it. I have a basic understanding of how Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder affects my life, and I know that a low dose of Concerta helps mitigate my distractability without damaging my personality and creativity, but that’s about it. My coping mechanisms are hit and miss; I’m flying blind.

    With all the rest, I took the initiative to go searching for information about myself. I dove into transgender and transsexual research and gender theory to the point that I now know more about what’s happening to my body on T than my doctor does. I pore over every writer’s blog and piece of industry information I can find. I even looked up how to tie a bow tie. The point is, with each of these things I went out of my way to educated myself. AD/HD, I’ve mostly ignored.

    Ironically, one of the things I do know about my AD/HD is that self-education works better than trying to learn in a traditional school environment. When I’m truly passionate about a subject, I can happily spend hours doing research that would be pulling teeth otherwise. Maybe the problem is that I was accustomed to the idea that yes, I have AD/HD but we’re not supposed to do anything about it, but it’s taken me a long time to realise that I want to know more. I want to know what I’m dealing with so that I can actually, well, deal with it. It’s time for me to educate myself, help myself, and work towards the things that really matter to me.



  • Happy T-day, and a Shiny New Website

    Yesterday I stabbed myself in the leg for the 27th time. The first time this stabbing occurred was exactly a year ago today.

    If you have no idea what I’m talking about, I should probably explain the whole “stabbing myself in the leg” bit. When I say that, what I mean is that I’m giving myself a testosterone injection, something I’ve been doing every two weeks for a year. Ok, so the nurse at the clinic gave me my first few injections, but since then it’s been all me, baby!

    Hard to believe it’s been a year. On the one hand, so much has changed that I almost don’t feel like the same person. On the other, each new shot is as exciting as the first; there’s no way I’ve spent a whole year doing this, is there? Well, it seems I have. And just for nostalgia’s sake, lets take a look at what I looked like a year ago today:

     

    Woah, who's that kid?

    Strangely, my first thought was how skinny my neck was. I mean seriously, looked like a bobble-head doll! Today I look a lot more like, oh say, this:

    Bow ties are cool.

    Behold the difference one year of accelerated puberty makes! The shape of the face, the scruff on the chin – the hair in desperate need of a trim… Oh well, that can’t be helped. It goes with my eccentric writer image, anyway.

    Of course, it’s not just my face that’s changed, or the camera I use to capture its image for that matter. I’ve grown into an adult (more or less.) I’ve moved house, gained confidence, and solidified the path I want to follow in my life. I’ve battled through the depths of winter in search of my name, and have won it. I’m learning to deal with some of the things that have been holding me back, and while some things are still up in the air for me, I can tell you for sure that I am a hell of a lot happier than I was around the time of that first picture.

    And it’s not all because of the T, though it is one of the things that makes me the man I am today (pun intended? Why not.) In all things, this has been a year to celebrate, and what better way to do that than to launch a brand new website? So from writing to leg-stabbing, and everything else in between, welcome to the new cyber-home of Eric Satchwill.