Friday, January 24, 2020

Burn Out and Checking Out Are Also Parts of Transition

So, I am about to turn 40. Not only is that a major milestone, it also means that my official transition started five years ago. And, back in 2015 when I started this process, I dove right into it head first. Not only did I start updating this blog twice a week, I also started doing weekly Gender Rebels episodes with my partner Kath. Then we started our Patreon page which meant generating patron-only content and we also launched the Gender Rebels YouTube channel. With all that going on, I was starting to grow my hair out, deal with hormones, and get laser hair removal on my face. Beyond that I was also writing novels and, oh yeah, working my normal 40 hour a week day job.

For three years, I think I just rode on this new transition high. Everything was so new and exciting. It was an adventure, eagerly waiting for hormone effects, coming out at work, starting full time, getting rid of all my boy clothes, changing my name, changing my gender marker, getting new paperwork on everything. It was wonderful. It was heady and something full of endless possibilities.

Then, as I reached my two years on HRT, I decided to go in for the surgeries. And I think this is where that excitement hit a big wall. Thud. First there was bureaucratic gathering of letters and paperwork, making consultation appointments, figuring things out. It was starting to sap my energy a little, but I soldiered on.

But then came the emotional roller coaster that was my fight against my health insurance company. They had denied my FFS and I was determined to fight them on it. My FFS surgery date got pushed back and back multiple times as I dealt with endless paperwork, denials, appeals, a deposition, accepting that I was going to lose, and...then finally I won. I won eleven days before my FFS date.

Then I spent time recovering from my FFS. For a month I looked like an absolute ghoul; covered forehead to chin in dark, black bruises, one eye droopy, a head so swollen it looked like a bowling ball full of surgical staples. My numb mouth that meant I couldn't drink from a cup from a normal person and had to use a straw for a couple months (it's still not quite there). Plus my ear-to-ear head wound scabbed over like crazy until the scabs got intermingled with my hair and decided to just stick around permanently. Thankfully, a couple dermatologist visits and some creams got that normal again.

Just as I was nearing the end of the healing on my FFS, it was time for my breast augmentation! Thanks to the legal battle pushing the date back, my FFS and breast augmentation ended up being about 90 days apart. That's about as close as you can get surgeries. I mean, the doctor signed off on it. But it still felt super quick. Then, there was the recovery from that, which I'm still dealing with as of this writing.

Needless to say, it's been a lot. And I found myself with no energy at all for creative endeavors. My blog fell fallow, and I Kath and I had to stop doing weekly Gender Rebels episodes. I just didn't, as they say, have enough spoons. Two surgeries and a legal battle wore me down and left me exhausted.

And that is something that I never really realized was a part of transition. It's been five years and so many changes. It burns you out. That is where I am right now...kind of burned out on the whole thing. and yet, there's still miles to go before I sleep because my next surgery is coming up in about 100 days.

When I first dipped my toe in the trans community over twenty years ago, I remember feeling for the first time that I really wasn't alone. I absorbed it all like a sponge. I talked to everyone I could and met so many cool, amazing people. Many of them I've lost touch with over the years, but at least once a month I get an email from someone who happens upon the podcast and tells me that they remember me from some old forum or another. I needed the community. I need to read other people's stories, their successes, their advice.

One odd thing I do remember from that old online community was that there existing something of a hierarchy. Crossdressers were right at the bottom, part time trans-women were only a little higher, full timers were higher still, people who had actually started hormones were higher than the HRT-less full timers, out trans-women were higher up than them, and post-operative trans-women were the true queens. Back then I was kind of at the bottom and looking up.

In about 100 days, I will reach my queendom, at the top of the heap. Not that anyone really cares about that hierarchy anymore. In about 100 days, my transition will be "complete." There will always be some more electrolysis, but I will, for all intents and purposes, be done. I will have transitioned. Ages ago, I would sit on the subway, young 22 year old me, and write out these plans, these transition checklists. Well, my checklist is almost done. What does that really mean?

For the past few months, I have found myself needing to check out from all of it. I unsubscribed from all the trans subreddits I used to read. I've found myself unsubscribing to trans YouTubers I've enjoyed for years. I honestly don't know why. But I don't think that it's because I'm "done" with my transition. I think that checking out of it all, taking a break from it all, is something that you need to do some times.

Five years. For five years I have been living and breathing and drinking and eating transition. Transition has been the central part of my life. And it seems like I will be doing that for at least another year. I think the reason I've kind of checked out of the transgender community is because not only do a need a break, but I just want to be "normal." After five years, I'm over transitioning and just want to live my life.

So that's where I am right now. I'm checking out and burning out and I'm not sure I like either. I do want to be part of the community that has brought me so much strength and encouragement, and to which it turn, I can provide strength and encouragement to the next generation. And I want to be be burned out! have the energy, all that lovely restless energy, for weekly podcasts and blog posts, and writing, and trying to get published. I still want to write and direct my own Frances Ha style mumblecore movie. It's something I've always wanted to do.

But, I think that burn out and checking out are parts of transition. There's no escaping them. Transition is hard! It takes over your life for years! It's an energy and attention vampire. At some point burn out and checking out will catch up with you. I'm not sure if anyone ever told me that, but I think that it's something unavoidable. Well, let me get through this next year. And then, I think in 2021, I'll have all my spoons back and be ready to hit the ground running creatively and community-wise too.

And don't worry, I'll have plenty to post this year too. Wishing you all the best. 


  1. Faith:

    You continue to be an inspiration to me and, I suspect, to many others. I’m 69, have been like this my entire life, but came of age when there just wasn’t any good information available, and fewer options for a young confused CD. Then marriage, jobs, child, illness, and later death of wife, all while deep in the closet, brought me to my current place. If I’d been born later, I’d have followed your path in a heartbeat.

    I wish I could lift the burden and weariness from you, so you could fully enjoy your true self more fully while you sprint towards the next finish line. The next best thing is to cheer you on and offer a robust “You go, girl!”

    You. Are fast becoming all the woman you can be, and I’m glad to be able to benefit from your generous sharing of the joys, trials, tribulations, and successes. You are an inspiration. No pressure, but please keep writing.


  2. Having listened to the podcast these past couple years, and reading your blog, I still find it amazing that you've all you've done in essentially 5 years. I'm 1 year on hormones and don't even have a checklist. And it gets tiring. I appreciated reading the high-level retrospective in this post. I truly hope you get your spoons back, because I think you are important to those coming next, and in the middle of it now, like me. You've been invaluable, so thanks for what you've given back so far.

    I doubt I should do this, but am going to anyway. I'm trying to feel my way forward, and so I write too. I feel lame about it, but maybe one person sees this and will get something from my words on my little blog,

    If anyone ever wants to give me a shout out, I'd be eternally grateful. It's part of the whole "not feeling alone" thing. Thank you!

  3. Faith, I haven't checked in with you in a while though I listen to every Gender Rebels broadcast. I'm right in parallel with you, same year it was that I started (fewer surgeries, though). I feel every word you wrote. Just going to say this one thing: thanks. Community-wise, few of us have given more than you have. The signed pride flag you & Kath sent me hangs in a prominent place in my house. It. Is. Hard. But it's been worth every second of it, partly because you helped me.

  4. I am so happy to have read this. You are a amazing woman that I admire. I am a male to female trans woman that’s almost complete with everything. I’m ready for a relationship ,& possibly a marriage. I hope the right guy is out there,& if not I will look for a woman that can make me happy. XOXO