Friday, October 26, 2018

First Electrolysis Appointment


After my previous attempt to start electrolysis failed, I reached out on r/MtF about it. You see, for electrolysis to work you have to grow your hair out for three days. Now imagine trying to present female with three days of beard growth. My gender dysphoria was through the roof. At noon I broke down, went home from work, and shaved. So, on Reddit a few people recommended leaving only a postage stamp sized area unshaved. That way you could still get electrolysis but you wouldn't feel like a lumberjack* at the same time.

So that is what I did. The eight sessions of laser that I got definitely thinned out my hair quite a bit. There are still two dark patches on either side of my mouth but otherwise it's not too bad. I picked one of those chin to mouth triangles of thick hair and left it unshaved for three days. Honestly it wasn't that bad doing just a tiny section. Makeup mostly covered it up and since it wasn't my whole face I didn't feel too dysphoric.

In choosing an electrologist, I also went out to some other local transgirls for advice. I found one that was local, that was a transgender woman herself, and who had decent yelp reviews and recommendations. I wasn't thrilled about the idea that they were working out of their apartment (that didn't seem too professional to me) but they had come highly recommended so I decided to just go with them. The other place I was considering was a fancier place in Midtown that cost at least three times as much. Now, sometimes you do get what you pay for, but other times you get ripped off by people trying to sell luxury when really you just need a service.

With a little patch of three days of beard growth, I headed out for my post-work appointment. I was a tab bit perturbed when I sat down. This is because the woman was talking to me and she had the electric wand/applicator in her hand. I feared that she was about to start and I hadn't yet mentally prepared myself. So I asked her to pause and go over what she was going to do.

It turns out that I was wrong - she wasn't near starting yet. But, she still took a few minutes to go over the process as well as both short and long term effects. She even had handy illustrated charts. Mostly I knew this but didn't mind the primer again. In electrolysis a probe is inserted in the hair follicle. In this method is uses radio waves to heat up the water molecules in the follicle and kills it. It's kind of like a miniature microwave oven. Then it gets plucked out. There are apparently other methods but my practitioner said those could cause injury. The radio version was safer. Well that's good.

We started on my facial patch. This was to be my introductory fifteen minutes. It hurt. Yes, it hurt. It wasn't fun. But I think each kill hurt less than laser, there were more kills overall. So it's like would you rather have 50 hits at pain level 20 or 20 hits at pain level 50? Still it wasn't as bad as threading. Nothing is as bad as threading. The pain level was probably comparable with plucking.

She kept talking as she did the procedure. It was tricky because I didn't want to talk and potentially ruin something. So I mostly responded with hmmms and uhmmms. After what only felt like about four minutes, she paused and I took the opportunity to ask how far along we were. We were in fact ten minutes along. That was good. It wasn't fun but it also wasn't that bad. I'm not sure I would want to do an hour of it. But fifteen minutes wasn't that bad.

Afterward she had me put an icepack on it for about five minutes. Then she put on some special post-electrolysis cream. I was told to not put anything on it for at least a week; no lotions or soaps. Instead she said that one had to use witch hazel as it's an astringent. Electrolysis can leave the former hair follicles open and if there is too much moisture bacteria will move in. That's why she also recommended a triple antibiotic ointment. So I'm doing both those four times a day.

Now I have a quarter sized hairless patch on my face. It's good to know that, while those hairs hurt, they are done. They never need to be removed again! Now, because hairs go through a dormancy cycle, you have to do each area twice. And then often you need to go back one more time to get any stray stragglers. So fifteen minutes down. Fifteen hundred minutes to go. My next appointment will be for twenty minutes. Wish me luck.


*Lumberjack might be a bad example.

Friday, October 19, 2018

I am Rather Terrified of SRS



My first sex reassignment surgery consultation is scheduled for December. It's just under two months away. I've gotten the five (five!) letters I needed. I've talked to therapists and spilled my guts. And now I have the appointment. It's both exciting and terrifying. So in that sense it's a lot like a roller coaster, only with way more blood. 

For years I've thought about this surgery. I've imagined what it would be like to be complete, to be normal, to "finish" my transition. Since I first got the internet I've researched SRS and learned all I could about it. The lyric from the Velvet Undergound's "Candy Says" resonates in my head; "I've come to hate my body / And all that it requires in this world." And now, I stand at the precipice. This can totally happen. This can happen within a year. This could be my 2019.

And I'm both excited and terrified by the prospect of that. I've never had surgery before. Sure, I had minor surgery when I was about three but I don't remember it. I've never stayed overnight at a hospital. Heck I've never even been in a hospital other than an emergency room. And this isn't a minor surgery. This is slicing up genitals and rearranging them. It scares me.

What if the surgery gets botched? What it it doesn't heal properly? How bad is the recovery going to be? I hate the idea of changing bandages and having a catheter. I hate the idea of being cooped up, unable to walk or go out. I hate not being able to shower. How much pain will there be? What it it's so painful that I get addicted to opiates? Will I really need to get electrolysis down there before hand?
Will my new parts work right? Will all the nerves connect right? Will it change things in my relationship? What if I don't dilate properly? What if I'm a slacker about following the doctor's orders? Will I wreck it and ruin everything? What if it doesn't look right?

So needless to say, I'm frightened by this. But also excited. Luckily this is a feeling that I've become well acquainted with during my transition. Guess we'll see how it goes. December is just a consult. I don't have to make a decision.

Well, I should probably make an electrolysis appointment.


Also what's the best term to use? For years it was sex reassignment surgery (SRS). And then a couple years ago gender reassignment surgery (GRS) started popping up. And now I've started to hear gender confirmation surgery (GCS). Not sure if any of those names really get it right, but I tend to use SRS for a couple reasons. For one it's the first term I ever heard. Secondly I grew up near a nuclear plant called the Savannah River Site, which every called SRS. So it's a fun subversion of that.

Gender Rebels Podcast: Does Transition Change Your Hogwarts House?



Listener Vanessa is asking the hard questions!  What if you used to be Gryffindor but now come up Ravenclaw? Are all transpeople automatically Gryffindor? What is the Sorting Hat's actual methodology of personality assessment? Is the Sorting Hat clairvoyant? And the name "Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry" is so binary. What do enbies do?

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Gender Rebels News


We are so exciting to announce that we are going back to weekly episodes! Now you'll get a heapin' helpin' of Gender Rebels goodness (with all the fixins) each and every Thursday! Check it out at genderrebels.com


Also we are introducing a new podcast! It's a limited run podcast where Faith, a huge fan of the show Buffy the Vampire Slayer rewatches key episodes with newbie Kath who's never seen it. Faith loves BtVS so much that she took her name from one the characters (try and guess which one!).

The first block of episodes that we'll release will explore the main arc of the second season.  If you want to enjoy Faith & Kath: Vampire Slayers, support us on patreon by going to patreon.com/genderrebels

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Colette: A Transgender Girl's Thoughts


There's a moment in Colette when our protagonist, the toast of fin de siècle Parisian society, returns home to her rural town and the embrace of her mother. Exciting though life in Paris may seem, she lives under the thumb of a controlling and lecherous husband. Colette laments "I must get used to marriage," only to have her mother respond "Better to make marriage get used to you." We follow Colette as she does indeed make marriage, her husband, and Paris get used to her.

Colette tells the story of the Nobel prize nominated French novelist of the same name. She was a young farm girl when she married writer and literary critic Henry Gauthier-Villars, better known by his nom de plume of Willy, who was fourteen years her senior. He takes her to Paris where he introduces her to the salon set; the intellectuals, writers, artists, and performers. Unashamed as she is by her farm girl roots, Colette struggles to fit in and suffers through the boring parties. She quickly discovers that her husband has chosen to ignore their marriage vows, openly flirting with and having affairs with young women. When she confronts him about this, he shrugs her off and tells her that such behavior is expected of men in his station.


Willy's opinion of extramarital affairs is much more traditional when he sees Colette seated with a couple at a party, happily having her palm read by the husband. Hypocritically enraged, Willy demands that Colette leave the party with him. On their ride home he chastises her for flirting with another man. It's then that Colette surprises him. It wasn't the husband that Willy should be jealous of. It was the wife that had caught Colette's eye. Unsurprisingly Willy isn't bothered by the idea of Colette having lesbian affairs. And so Colette finds her first taste of the freedom she has been longing for.

As the perpetually broke Willy is unable to pay more ghost writers, he enlists Colette to begin writing a novel for him. She pens Claudine à l'école, a semi-autobiographical novel about her school days. Due to its honesty and feminine style it begins flying off shelves, becoming especially popular with the young women of Paris. Frustrated as she is forced to watch Willy take credit for her novel's success, Colette begins an affair with the young Southern belle Georgie Raoul-Duval. Ultimately Willy discovers this affair and, in a selfishly sadistic turn, begins his own affair with Georgie. Upon discovering her husband's actions, Colette is enraged and heartbroken.


Throughout the film we see Colette's need for personal agency, be it romantic or professional, repeatedly denied by her husband Willy. This is a struggle that LGBTQ+ people often face in their lives. Those who say that they love us, or who have promised to love unconditionally, are often the same ones seeking to control our behaviors and to deny us the freedom to be ourselves.

Colette's own coming out is represented realistically. The path is almost never clear for LGBTQ+ people and we see that Colette's path is winding, hesitant, and exciting. We see how absolutely delighted and satisfied she is to seethingly tell her husband that she is attracted to women. This is perhaps the first time she has ever admitted this to anyone in her life. We see her nervousness as she calls on Georgie for the first time, timidly walking up to the door unsure is she is really going to do this. We see her excitement at finally finding another woman to share herself with. And most importantly we see how her confidence grows as she begins to really find herself. 


There is one other important aspect of coming out that the film portrays accurately; the importance of meeting like minded people who can help guide you as you discover your true self.  Colette find this in Mathilde de Morny who his better known by her nickname Missy. An artist and aristocrat, Missy flouts convention by dressing in masculine garb and being an open lesbian.

Colette is immediately drawn to Missy and the two begin a serious romance. One afternoon at Colette's country house, Missy opens up to her about her gender dysphoria. She explains how one day as a child she tried on her brother's school uniform and felt right for the first time in her life. This a moment that many transgender people go through as they discover themselves. The film portrays Missy as a real, complex character who is capable of loving and being loved. It's a wonderful portrait of a transgender person.

Later Colette even corrects Willy when he refers to Missy with female pronouns. Colette insists that Willy use he/him and gender Missy correctly. In the film this presented within the greater context of Colette's rebellion against Willy's manipulative and controlling nature. But it was wonderful to see a film stress the importance of correctly gendering trans people. Willy also states that in the world everything is either feminine or masculine (perhaps using the French language as a basis). So if that is the case what to make of Willy? 


Despite Willy's insistence, Colette rejects the idea that everything must be either masculine or feminine. Like Missy, she begins to crossdress, wickedly flaunting a man's suit while Willy rolls his eyes. Colette even goes out on the town while wearing the suit, risking arrest for crossdressing. We see her beginning to find the power that comes with blurring gender lines and taking control her own presentation. She'll now longer acquiesce to being Willy's little farm girl or school girl.

Throughout the film, Colette journey to discover and accept her true self sexually and gender-wise is fully intertwined with her own rebellion against her husband's authority over her. Colette finds herself suffocated by the legal situation she's in. As a woman she has no rights; over her work, over her household, over her finances, over where she goes and who she sees. She has to depend on her spendthrift gambler of a husband for financial support, even as he makes all his money off her writing and refuses to give her credit. As she begins to accept herself as a queer woman she becomes more confident, bold, and rebellious.

In a satisfying turn of events, Colette finds the strength to divorce Willy and leave him for good. She and Missy go on tour with a dramatic performance of their own creation. The play is openly queer, so much so that it causes a riot on its opening night (caused by some agitators who came specifically to cause trouble).  Queerness and agency go hand in hand in Colette. Ultimately her story is one of finding her true self, a journey which also gives her the courage to break free of her controlling husband. In the end Colette owns her work, her presentation, her gender, and her sexuality. 


It should be stated though that the film looks only at the rich and upper class of Parisian society. While there are maids or clerks in the background, we don't learn their stories or follow their journeys. The characters we meet are all members of the upper class. While the salon society of fin de siècle Paris was more or less accepting of queer people, entry to this society was provided only to the upper classes, and the wealthy. They accepted queerness only within certain class limits. We see Missy, a transgender woman as well, and male characters who are coded gay (although it's not explicitly stated). But these characters are all wealthy and white. Missy's unconventional gender presentation is only accepted because they are titled and descended from royalty. Colette, the child of rural farmers, is only able to be openly queer by marrying into this society.


Colette is an exquisitely shot film chock full with beautiful scenery, elegant costumes, and fantastic performances. I personally love the idea fin de siècle society; all salons and creative people at parties with a simmering queer undertone. Like Weimar Berlin in the 1920s, I think that I am naturally drawn to periods of time and places where people were creative and queerness was open and accepted.

While I think that Colette presents a realistic portrait of queerness and coming out, I am unsure of exactly how realistically it did present the the actual people's lives, unfamiliar as I am with the real people the film is based on. I sympathized with Colette. There were times when I found myself infuriated by Willy. I wish there we saw more of Missy as that would have been a really interesting character to explore.

Still, I enjoyed the movie and its depiction of LGBTQ+ characters. I loved that the film portrays not a strict "queer" role but rather that messy smear of a rainbow that LGBTQ+ people often exist in. Is Missy a transgender man? Gender queer? Non-binary? It's left somewhat open and it is the same with Colette's queerness. Often as LGBTQ+ people find themselves they try on various roles or blend the roles as needed to find their own place. And the film shows that coming out is, ultimately, about agency.

My only real issue with the movie (and it's a tiny one) is that it almost felt like a little bit like superhero origin story. We follow a young and naive farm girl as she discovers her queerness and agency. I wish we would have spent more time on the older, more confident, more daring Colette. Because she was amazing. Here's hoping for the sequel.

Colette with Missy.