I’ve long talked about moving away from Kentucky. To some far away place with great civil rights, lots of lesbians, and maybe some awesome seafood. I talk about how terrible Kentucky is and this Commonwealth is in a tight race with Indiana for the coveted title of “Worst EvAr.”
But do I really hate Louisville, or even Kentucky at-large? Or do I just hate Fern Creek? It’s probably not that simple, but it still deserves a moment of pause and consideration. Because why move one thousand miles away, when you really just need like eight miles, right?
I should explain how this thought appeared on my radar. As a side note, continuing that radar metaphor, I suspect if my brain was illustrated it would look like an ATC screen on the day before Thanksgiving. Very cluttered and busy. Hard to say.
Anyway, I got up and decided to go out and try to find an undershirt before clinicals. Something light, long-sleeve, and clingy to go under my scrubs. After Marshall’s was closed, and Target didn’t have anything to fit the bill, I thought that I would go eat breakfast. Which is my first mistake, being that it was 11:00 on a Sunday morning which means Church crowds. I rode by First Watch, but they looked busy and their food isn’t really my favorite. So I rode down to ZEGGZ in Middletown. As I’m creeping along on the motorcycle looking for a place to park, I notice the crowd demo. Mostly older, white, straight people. All I could think was, “Could we not?”
So I rode on and on and on, and eventually I ended up at North End Cafe on Frankfort. I ended up foregoing breakfast altogether in favor of their Bacon Cheeseburger, cooked medium, with some sort of decadent white cheddar. It was really good. The atmosphere was better too. Sure, it was mostly white people, but that’s to be expected, because gentrification is Louisville’s fourth favorite pastime. Right behind Basketball, Bourbon, and Horse Racing. In no particular order.
I had tweeted recently that for the most part, the closer a restaurant is to my house, the more out of place I’m going to feel. This is about the same with bars. This is not me saying that I’m better than the other patrons. I mean I am, but I digress. However, as a queer trans woman, I just don’t fit. There’s no where in my zip code for me. I went to Outback the other night, because it was near-by. I was the youngest person at the bar by like a couple decades. It was odd.
The statistical probability that I'll meet my soulmate only increased by .003% when I relocated from my desk to this bar stool at Outback.
Everywhere I’ve lived, with the exception of the two years I spent in Texas, has been along the Southern Jefferson county border or beyond, out in Bullitt county. I’ve never lived anywhere that one would charitably describe as “fun” and/or “hip.” It’s with a certain amount of longing that I stare off into the good time daydreams of places like New England or California. Forgetting about things like shit tons of snow and buying heating oil in bulk, or the horror stories of housing prices in the Bay Area. Which leads me back to my original question. Do I hate Kentucky and, by extension, Louisville because they’re terrible? Or do I just think that because living in Fern Creek is so bland?
When I posed the question on Twitter, Liz responded to my question with a question, asking, “Why not both?”
I know what she’s getting at, and she’s probably close to the truth, regardless of what I’d like to admit. Instead of answers, I’m left with yet another question: What do I do with this information?
I was sitting in the car at a stop light earlier this morning and Sum 41’s “With Me” came on the radio, courtesy of my old iPod that hasn’t been updated since probably 2010. Instantly, the song took me back in time and I nearly teared up. It made me think back to a month or so ago, when something similar happened, but this time with Less Than Jake’s “The Rest Of My Life.” At the time, I was in a severely depressed state and was fighting with suicidal ideation. The song came on about 4:30 in the morning, as I was pulling into the parking lot of my office. I probably hadn’t heard the song in five or more years, but I knew the words. And those words hit me like a ton of bricks.
I started crying in a parking spot outside work. Luckily at 4:30 in the morning, there’s not a lot of people to notice. Plus it’s dark. But I started thinking that it would be the song I wanted people to hear when I was dead. As the course played and rolled into the second verse, I wept uncontrollably. Thinking of all my mistakes, all the wasted times, all the words I never said, and just everything that had been bringing me down over the last year or two. Depression loves a person like me who can’t let go of the past. That way it can fester and build upon all those events that you play over and over in your head. Depression loves that you can’t seem to let go of feelings for someone who has moved on. Depression is always looking for an in. A crack in the dam. A window left unlatched. Depression doesn’t mind waiting, and all I could hear was it shouting at me, over those lyrics being played through dry-rotted car speakers.
It’s gonna kill me the rest of my life
Let me apologize while I’m still alive
I know it’s time to face, all of my past mistakes
It’s gonna kill me for the rest of my life
This is my all time low
Somehow it feels so familiar
Somehow it seems so familiar
I feel like letting go
And every second that goes by
I’m screaming out for a second try
Said goodbye, to my best friend
Sometimes there’s no one left to tell you the truth
I wanted to die, or at the very least lay in the warm embrace of the shambles of my life. In those situations, I go back to blaming myself for transitioning. As if *not* transitioning wouldn’t have killed me by now. But that’s not what I think about. Depression tells me that I’m here because I decided to transition. It’s partly true, but not 100% accurate. There are elements of truth in there, but it’s so much more than that. In any event, I didn’t die. I didn’t wallow. I dried my eyes and trudged into work, begrudgingly.
Flashback to today. I’m sitting in the car, thinking about that and simultaneously thinking about how much better my outlook is at the moment. The problems are all the same. I’m still all the things I said up a couple of paragraphs, but my mental health has improved. Nothing in my life changed, except that I finally got treatment for my ADD. When I can focus on tasks, I don’t have time to obsess over shit that I can’t fix. Sure, many of those things still run through my brain about as many times as a 14 year old boy thinks about sex in an hour, but I can not let it paralyze my day and my life. It’s been about three weeks since I started taking Adderall and it’s not without its own drawbacks, but the pros outweigh the cons. I’m happier, I’m struggling less at school and I’m getting more done at work.
I still haven’t found an antidepressant that works for me. My treating psychiatrist has had me gene tested to determine a treatment course, but I’ve not been able to see the results yet. I am thinking that with the combination of ADD treatment and an effective antidepressant, I might be able to get a hold on everything and be in a much better place. Even from where I am right now, which is not so terrible.
Note: Title comes from The Early November’s track of the same name.
(This is a piece I wrote for my ENG 101 class. I thought I might share it here.)
Minutes To Memories
When I was a small child, my father and I were as close as close could be. While we didn’t spend much time together, as he only had custody of me every other weekend, the time that we did spend together was great. In a lot of ways, during those years, he was a better parent to me than I am to my own children. While not the most eloquent, he would often tell me, “Suck it up, tough it out, and be the best you can.”
It was my father who took me to my first real concert. Sure, we had been to concerts in the park, usually with whatever woman he was dating at the time. But this was different. This was a major concert in what I considered to be a huge venue. Freedom Hall. At five years old, just the name alone inspired awe in my mind.
We saw John Cougar Mellencamp, as he was known at the time. Mr. Mellencamp had completed three fourths of his journey from his humble beginnings as Johnny Cougar to John Mellencamp. His 1986 tour found him and his bandmates playing in support of his latest LP, Scarecrow. It was an oft played album in our house, with verses telling tales of love, rock-n-roll, and the downtrodden times of farmers struggling to make ends meet in middle America. It was from one of the songs that my dad co-opted that line to he’d frequently share with me, and even going so far as to write it in letters and postcards. Dad would tell me, “You are young, and you are the future, so suck it up and tough it out, and be the best you can.”
Some thirty plus years have passed since that concert on a cold night in February of 1986. I still remember that concert but not as much for the music, not so much for the venue, but more for the memory of my father. Our seats were on the upper level, but my dad convinced the security guard to allow us down on to the lower level. Sometimes the memories when no one speaks, and everyone listens paint the best memories, decades later.
Most of the memories of my father in years since were not of the warm and fuzzy variety. We often found ourselves at each other’s throats, metaphorically speaking. We both knew which of our respective buttons to push and rarely was there a holiday or family event that didn’t end with one of us mad. I recall wondering if I was just that much of a disappointment to him or that he just couldn’t derive joy from anything other than someone else’s misery.
Yet for all the vitriol that we spat, I still think about the good times. He’s been gone for over five years now and I often find myself lamenting our relationship and how things could have been different. More than that, I consider how he might feel about the woman I’ve become. In many ways, I’m a person he never knew. But that’s another story altogether.
My father was a complicated person. For the life of me, I have never been able to figure out what brought him joy in life. Born in 1954, he was the middle child of Leroy and Deloris Newton. He started dating my mother when they were both teenagers. Of five pregnancies, I was the only child that they would have together and although he would go one to have another daughter with his second wife, my mother never had any other children.
It seems that the vast span of years that my parents were together were punctuated by his alcoholism. While he was at the bottom of a bottle, my mother was often left to deal with the aftermath. This included his inability to maintain gainful employment, the numerous wrecked cars, and other things she’ll never tell. All of this while caring for an infant child. Having finally had her fill of that life, she filed for divorce when I was just two years old.
Three more years would pass before he would embrace sobriety and I can still remember the fights they had prior to him putting down the drink. One such incident would be permanently singed into my memory, with him caving in the door of my mother’s Volkswagen as I sat in the back seat. The metal of the poor car groaned and creaked as he dispatched the kind of savage punishment most people only see in a gang movie. This was in the driveway of my grandmother’s house on a cold, wintery Sunday night. This was a place I considered to be my safe haven. And while he spent the next 27 years of his life sober, those memories never real fade away.
My father owned his sobriety. Through A.A., he sponsored numerous other people who like him were struggling to get clean. Professionally, he worked hard trying to make up for the lost time in his career. In 1992, he started a home repair business and made an honest living for himself and my sister. He dealt with a fair share of setbacks, including another bitter divorce, but he seemed to live by those words that he’d said to me so often. “Suck it up, tough it out, and be the best you can.” He saw us as the young and the future.
I don’t feel as young as I once did, yet I know I am still young in comparison to my parents. Personally, I’ve have weathered some very rough seas in my life and they’ve become more tumultuous in recent years. Most days, I fear that I have still not seen the worst of what life has in store for me. Nevertheless, even when I’ve wanted to quite literally give up on life, I’ve somehow managed to suck it up and tough it out. Every day, I try to be the best I can. However, by my own estimation, I come up short most days.
Throughout it all, we persevere. I know that no matter the complicated circumstances that surrounded our relationship, he wanted nothing but the best for his children. I do my best to bestow that mindset upon my own children, as they are the young and they are the future and I want them to be the best that they can. Passing that idea on from generation to generation is the narrative of the song from which that line is borrowed. I hope that when I’m gone, their memories are less littered with pain and hurt feelings that the one my father left me. In the end, memories are all we leave behind.
Title comes from “One Year Later” by The Get Up Kids. Interestingly, not the first time I’ve used a line from that song as a blog title. See also: “This is not a swan song, but it goes”
I did want to follow-up on my Thanksgiving post and thank Jordan for reaching out to me. It meant a lot, as we’d not really spoken before. I suppose that I struck a chord with Kayla, as she blocked me on Instagram. That reaction seemed odd, as I didn’t reply or interact with the post. I just took a screenshot. In my mind, I would think blocking me on Twitter and/or Facebook would be more productive, but what do I know?
I worked today. 174 stops, 209 packages. It was a long day. I was struggling with the severity of my situation and really just in crisis. I’m not sure what happened, but I managed to slip out of it for a couple hours, bust out the work. But as soon as I was in my car, off the clock, the sadness crept back in, though not as dire as it was this morning.
Despite what I tweet and blog, I actually spend most of my time worrying about money. I’ve looted everything that I had and then some. I work a lot, but I don’t make enough to cover my expenses. I’m moving towards eliminating as many bills as possible with the skoolie conversion, but it’s not happening fast enough. Nor do I have the budget to really complete the build. That instability is really what’s had me on the rails for the last few months. The heartbreak is just more romantic to talk about.
It’s all sort of intertwined, when you think about it. My financial situation and the heartache. They are joined together at the hip. I explained the financial stuff to some friends over tacos the other night. Just the broad strokes. Their response was somewhere between bewildered and “are you fucking kidding me” and “Why?”
That’s an easy question to answer though. It’s that you (I) do stupid things when you’re (I’m) in love. Allow me to be your cautionary tale. It is entirely possible that my only purpose on earth is to be cautionary tale for others. “Look what she did, don’t do any of these things,” the tour guide says, as they walk by my exhibit in the freak show.
I should go to bed. Another 200 packages await me in the morning. Capitalism never sleeps, but I should.
I’m going to try to update more often. As I mentioned in my last entry, things for the last 8 months seem fuzzy to me. The memories seem shallow and I feel somehow disconnected from them. My psychologist suggested that keeping a daily journal might help cement things better. I don’t know that I’m going to want to do this daily, but more frequently I can probably manage.
I had a job interview today. I have to say, applying for jobs as a trans person sucks. You’re forced to out yourself every time. For the purposes of a background check, they ask for any former names. So you’ve got to put your dead name on that app. I was filling one out today on paper (!?) and I considered leaving it blank. However later in the app, it asks again for the purposes of them calling all your previous employers to verify what you’ve put down. I know a background check without my old name will fly through without issues, but they’re not going to be able to verify employment for Addison at places that I worked five years ago. So you’re stuck. Begrudgingly, you hand out the only clue that you’re trans. It’s one of those things that you’ll never fully escape, unless you’re lucky enough to stay with one company long enough that they don’t even go back and check other employers.
In other news, I’m trying to keep myself out of the darkness. It’s hard, but I’m doing better. There’s not an hour that goes by that things don’t cross my mind, but I’m trying not to focus on that. Besides, If I need something to be depressed about, I can always just brood over my untenable financial situation. Right? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
As many of you know, I live my life through music and song lyrics. It’s an addiction and I’m proud to be #emo4lyfe. You’ll also probably remember that I’m a huge Manchester Orchestra fan. But for whatever reason, I’ve ignored Andy Hull’s other project called Right Away, Great Captain! I’ve been listening to the album “The Church of the Good Thief” and it’s really powerful stuff. The title of this entry is a line from a song called “Fur Stop Caring.” The second chorus goes:
“Stupid is as stupid does
And stupidly I pulled the plug on you
Finally stopped beating
Stupid is as stupid does
And somehow you’ll forgive the both of us
The load that we still carry
I am not me
I am not me
I am not me”
Hey there. Long time no chat. So, I’ve been wanting to write something here for months. I just really didn’t know what to say. I felt, and still feel, as if my voice is somewhat taken away from me. That’s vague, and I would love to elaborate, but it is what it is. I will try to write something soon. However, I have started a new project and am starting a new chapter in my life. I am building a “Skoolie.” For those of you that don’t know what that means, it’s a school bus that’s been converted into a tiny house on wheels. I will be documenting it via blog and probably YouTube. The YouTube thing is something I really want to do, but between my dysphoria surrounding my voice, the comments that will come with that, and the time involved in editing video.. I’m still working my way up to it. In any event, I’ve created a separate wordpress site to have some sort of delineation between my personal blog and the bus content. You can find the new site at: http://skoolie.transventures.org/
Standard mom stuff: If you’re thinking about suicide, please call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room.
So here we are again. I’m back staring at this screen. For a second there, I thought I had written my last entry.
This post is a couple of things, which I’ll get to assuredly. This post is going to be the realist shit that I’m likely to share to a public audience ever again. By the time I’ve hit post here, I’ll still be alive. Thankfully. But I’ll be metaphorically naked in front of all of you. I am baring it all. What it’s not… is a cry for help, a ploy for attention, or an invitation to post a reply such as “I’m always here if you want to talk.”
Does that seem rude? It’s not intended to be. I know it’s what you say when you want to say something but you don’t know what to say. I just want people to know that I’m not the type that typically reaches out in that kind of way. The people who I reach to already know who they are.
I am not posting this for my own good, but in the hope that it helps someone else pull the proverbial panic cord, pump their brakes, call a timeout, or whatever metaphor you find works best. For the people who don’t suffer from some sort of mental illness, maybe it brings better understanding.
Throughout the post, I’m going to reference things that I’ve taken away from the Biodyne model of suicide assessment and prevention. I shouldn’t have to disclaim this, but of course, I’m not a doctor, I’m not a mental health professional. I’m just a person who struggles with her own mental health and who also sees others around her struggle with their own. Beyond that, the people who are left in the wake of disaster, the warm blanket of oblivion ripped rudely off of them in the night. With that said, onward and upward, shall we?
Starting sometime during the week of June 12th, thoughts of suicide started to creep into the forefront of my brain. They’re never far away, always lurking somewhere in shadows, waiting for a chance to seize the day. Waiting for the chance to become the all consuming thing that you can’t avoid, until they succeed in making you another statistic, a hash tag, a sad story. Or you “pump the brakes” and slow down long enough to take a look around.
By the end of last weekend, it was more than a passing thought. It had taken up residence right in front of me. It was all I could see. I had entered what they refer to as Stage 1. This is not unfamiliar territory to me. I’ve been there a number of times, it normally passes pretty quick and I move along, sending a passing email to my therapist saying something like “Hey, this happened, I’m okay but I wanted you to know.” Then we could talk about it at my next session.
Of course, this time, I didn’t do that. I didn’t send any emails. On the outside, I don’t think anyone could see the big black dog named depression that was following me around. Hell, I even went out and danced, something I don’t do, with random Lyft customers turned friends on Saturday night. I had fun. That’s the thing about depression. It’s not all sitting around, sulking and listening to Brand New and The Get Up Kids.
By Tuesday, I had swiftly exited the ideation phase and was actively planning the end of my own life. I started putting together certain documents, keys, passcodes, passwords, blank checks and other things that I knew people would need in the wake of it all. I started on my “note.” What it ended up being, near as makes no difference, was a 4100 word of drivel. A long, sad tale that ranged from my own failings to the perceived failings of others. At times a scathing, no-holds-barred airing of grievances that only one other person has read at this point. I intend to keep it that way.
Throughout my planning, I was even taking smaller details into consideration. Things that a stereotypical suicidal character on a Lifetime made for TV drama wouldn’t. I knew that more than anything, I didn’t want my kids to find me. I know that Grayson can sometimes be anywhere between 2-10 minutes faster than Megan to get inside my house. He doesn’t knock. Additionally, I didn’t want someone like the fire department to have to kick in a door. Someone would have to fix that later, right?
I even made a playlist. I’m not really sure who it was for. I think it was for me than anything. It started as 33 tracks and eventually I whittled it down to about 17. About the perfect length for a mix CD, 73 minutes. Of course, I didn’t have an optical drive in my laptop, and Spotify wasn’t going to let me burn it anyway.. but there it was.
This happened all throughout the course of Tuesday afternoon and Thursday morning. The only thing that really kept me out of the third and final phase was that I didn’t have a time frame for when this was all supposed to go down. I had a mental to-do list of the things I needed to accomplish before I could even get to scheduling the end of the end.
Tuesday evening, I went to dinner with Brian. We had wings and beer, as customary with the two of us.. I had been texting with a friend intermittently throughout the day, and as I understood, she was having a shitty afternoon. I invited her to come down and have a beer. She politely declined, as I expected. “Maybe next time,” I replied. It felt hollow, because I wasn’t expecting there to be a next time. A day late friend, I mused to myself.
My short term memory is so bad, I don’t remember what I did Wednesday morning. I know at some point, I went to Home Depot to pick up something I would need. Utility knife blades. Then I went next door to Tumbleweed and had lunch by myself. I ordered my usual burrito and a beer. I sat at the bar alone. Both in physical presence and mentally. The mix of even a really low dose of Klonopin, only a sixth of what my former psychiatry nurse practitioner had prescribed, and the beer apparently was a bad choice.
As soon as I got home, I passed out. When I awoke, later that evening, I knew I wasn’t going to be able to go back to sleep. Through out the night, I cried all the tears I had out as I worked on the playlists and the note.
Around 5am, the sun was rising and I felt satisfied with what I had written. I hadn’t eaten dinner the night before and had been living off Coca-Cola and loud music. I got dressed and went to Waffle House by myself. I sat in a dirty booth that no one bothered to wipe down after the previous guests had departed. As I sat in a dirty booth, eating my breakfast, I started beginning to have a moment of clarity. I paid for my half-eaten meal, got back in my car and pulled out onto Bardstown Rd, thinking about all that had happened in the last 36 or so hours. I considered certain contradictions in what I was planning. My jaw and head ached from clenching my teeth throughout the night, having foregone any additional Klonopin to ease the anxiety.
I pulled into the parking lot at Kroger, and went inside to buy some Ibuprofen. I couldn’t seem to locate the bottle at my house. Assuming either we had taken it all, or that it was sitting in a box somewhere in Rhode Island.
As I exited the store, I realized that I hadn’t bought anything to drink to actually take the ibuprofen with. Sitting in my car, with the engine idling and the transmission in park. I considered going back inside to buy a coke. I felt to numb, too out of sorts to even bother. I opened the bottle and took two pills, swallowing them dry.
Then instead of putting the car in drive and heading home, I pulled out my phone. I opened the app that I use to communicate with my doctor and I typed out the following message:
I’m officially pulling the fire alarm. This dizziness, lightheadedness, vertigo thing that I’ve got going on is starting to get out of control.
More importantly, certainly more time critical, is that I’ve passed through stage 2 of the biodyne model of suicidal thoughts. I know there’s nothing worse than having a Graduate of the Google School of Medicine for a patient, but I found this page:
And by my own self-assessment I’m at the completion of stage 2, entering stage 3, but not quite in what they call the “Auto pilot” mode. I considered going to the emergency room, but I haven’t, because well it seemed a little scary.
I’ve backed away from the proverbial ledge, but I’ve been up all night and realized at about 6am that I’ve amassed more than just a note, it’s 4100 words.
I’m safe right now, but I’m going to reach out now, in the interest of full disclosure, for better or worse.
Call, text, write. Love y’all.
Then I went home and went to sleep and waited from a call from them. I was in contact with them throughout the day, as they checked in on me and went over my medications. I should back up a bit and explain..
At the beginning of the month, I had visited because my fatigue was so bad that I couldn’t do anything productive. The doctor came up with a treatment plan, because she advised the combination of drugs he had prescribed had significant risks, including seizures. She tried to do it in such a way that the side effects of withdraw would be minimized, but still told me to stay close and let her know how it was going. Once I was tapered back to a safe dosage, we would reassess my treatment options. That appointment was/is scheduled for the first week of July. However, the side effects had continued to get worse, the more I tapered down on the medication that was being eliminating. Even yesterday, I was still feeling disconnected and kind of dizzy. Like things getting to my brain were being passed through a wah-wah pedal first.
Today is the first day in a long time, that I have a sense of clarity. I’ve got a touch of a headache, but at least I’m not clenching my jaw in an attempt to grind my teeth into a bloody pulp. It’s scary that I could have been a day too hasty in giving up.
The Edge… There is no honest way to explain it because the only people who really know where it is are the ones who have gone over.
So there it is, my week. Why I’ve not been at work. Why I’ve been acting distant. Why I’ve been a bitch to a couple people, namely my mother. A lot of things. I quoted the verse “Let me tell you what I wish I’d known when I was young and dreamed of glory. You have no control. Who lives, who dies, who tells your story?” from the Hamilton musical. For today, I’m still at the helm, I still tell my own story. However, I came close to the edge.
I think I now know where the edge is, but as Hunter S. Thompson famously penned, “The Edge… There is no honest way to explain it because the only people who really know where it is are the ones who have gone over. The others the living-are those who pushed their control as far as they felt they could handle it, and then pulled back, or slowed down, or did whatever they had to when it came time to choose between Now and Later. But the edge is still out there.”
And we always made it work, no matter how much it did hurt…
On the eve of the 364th day of vagina ownership, I feel that a update is required. However, I don’t really know what more to say. Once the initial healing was done, the dilations tapered down, things just got sort of normal.
Things I’ve learned about having a vagina:
Unlike your dick, it has more than 3 smells. Dick has a tendency to smell like one of a couple of things. Freshly showered, Dude you need a shower, and “OMG WHAT HAVE YOU BEEN DOING WITH THAT THING?” A vagina has approximately 15 or more smells. I know what only some of them mean.
Bacterial Vaginosis is a thing. A thing that I don’t like.
Yeast is used for more than just making bread and beer.
Make sure the toilet paper is actually free of your, uhh, folds before you stand up.
Other than that, things have been fine. My underwear fit for the first time in the last 18-20 years. My pants fit better. I bought a swimsuit that I neither hate or love, which as I gather, is success. I still don’t have hips, nor a butt. No one gets it all.
Over that period, I lost my newest and last form of virginity. As if I was 15 and in high school, I thought it was with the person I would die with, but months later I found that was not true. Even with my best efforts. I made Lloyd Dobler look like a fucking amatuer, and for a fleeting time I thought I did it, but it was all to no avail. Just like the rap guys misogynistically say that you can’t make a ho a housewife, the same applies to politicians.
It’s been a year of triumph, it’s been a year of utter failure. I honestly can’t tell you that I’m better today mentally than I was a year ago. That has nothing to do with my genitals though. I can tell you, without question, I’d rather be in San Francisco tonight, on the eve of this surgery all over, than here in Kentucky. I’ll never forget the feeling of waking up that morning, not tucking, not caring. The thought that nothing else really mattered today. That feeling of waking up in post-op. A brief bit of terror, asking the nurse if the surgery happened, then tears of joy after she told me that it went just fine.
All the exams, all the “frog legs,” all the poking, prodding, the bleeding, a month long period, all those pads, the catheter, the miralax. All worth it. So worth it. There were moments of fear, of terror. Not that I had made a mistake, but that something was wrong and I was going to end up with some complication. Pictures taken from awkward angles, texted to my surgeon and the replies always similar “Looks fine, just be patient.” All the while thinking, “Bitch, you don’t know me. I don’t do patient.”
I would do it 100 times over. There’s not really a good way to explain how much better my life is because of it, but it has changed my life in a way that only a trans person can understand. A huge source of dissonance between my mind and my body corrected after a lifetime of conflict.
From the days of being a 15 year old “boy” laying on the bed, with hands not on the genitals, but on the spot where the vaginal canal was supposed to be, imagining what it was like. Thinking of what I believed I was supposed to have from the womb. Through the years of searching for “sex change operations” in the back corner of the all-boys school computer lab. All of the years of thinking about being a girl and then being overwhelmed with shame and feelings of filth. To today, where I am the woman, ready to stomp on anyone that says otherwise, it’s been a long wild ride.
The fight for my basic rights as a human are not over, but I have the body. I have the confidence. The confidence to tell anyone who thinks I’m anything but the woman to go fuck themselves. It’s liberating.
I wanted to write this up before I forget any of the finer details. As I’ve mentioned before, I tend to take my mental health very seriously. With the amount of stressors that I have experienced in the last 2 years, I’m not ashamed to say that depression has been a problem. When you also consider that one of my best friends committed suicide about 10 months ago after losing his battle with depression, it becomes even more important to me.
Over the last year, I’ve been working with my family doctor and my psychologist to find a balance. My GP has tried adjusting my dosages, as well as trying different drugs, to no avail. Both at separate times suggested that I see a psychiatrist that had more specific knowledge on psychotropics. I was recommended to a center that was staffed with both nurse practitioners and doctors of psychiatry. I called and set up an appointment for this past Thursday.
As I normally do when visiting a new doctor, I downloaded their intake paperwork completed it a couple days prior to the appointment. Nevertheless, I arrived about 13 minutes early for my 10:15 appointment. I signed in at the front desk and took a seat. The first thing I noticed was how busy the place was. The building being a repurposed house didn’t have a large waiting room and it was full. Additionally, some of the people waiting had restaurant style pagers.
10:15 came and went as I amused myself on the internet as usual. As 10:30 came, I called my
manager to let him know that I would be coming in later due to a doctor’s appointment. At 10:38, I finally got up and went back to the window to see if they had forgotten about me. She motioned towards the check-in book.
“I signed in at 10:03. The sticker I signed has been peeled off”, I replied.
With no apology or explanation, she took my paperwork and a copy of my ID, then provided me with a pager of my own. I sat across from a mother and daughter, who were waiting for a 10AM appointment. She was finally paged at 10:52. In less than 5 minutes, her appointment was over. I’m thinking, “Seriously? SERIOUSLY?” in my best Meredith Grey voice.
About that time, I get called and simultaneously vibrated as my table for four is ready.. Oh wait, this is a mental health office, not Texas Roadhouse. So I meet my new person. His name is, well, we’ll call him Steve. So Steve invites me into his office. The first thing I notice is that it’s like my office at home. A mess. Stuff everywhere. Which, I can’t cast stones in glass houses, but hey! I don’t see patients in my office. We just play video games and post passive aggressive tweets. I digress.
He introduces himself, and we’re exchanging pleasantries. He mentions that there’s an Addison in his family, but that Addison is a boy. I told him that a hundred years ago, Addison was primarily a masculine name, but in recent decades has become more popular as a woman’s name. I also mentioned that I had a non-binary/agender friend and their name is Addison as well. This is where things started to go sideways.
“What is non-binary?” he asks.
At first I think he’s joking. Then as I look at his face, I can actually see the puzzled look on his face. It’s the same face my seven year old makes when I explain something technical. It’s not dramatically different than my dogs cocking their heads to one side when you say, “Who’s a good dog?”
I explained that there are people who don’t identify with either male or female, that there are people who are fluid between genders and then some, like my friend, who are agender. They don’t identify as any gender. I got the feeling that, maybe.. I was his first trans patient. Somehow, it feels slightly unfair that this guy brings in at least $75-100 an hour, but I have to educate him on things that he could find on google.
Next, Steve starts with a brief history. I give him the broad strokes, my laundry list of medications. What we’ve tried, etc. I always like when a professional asks me, “Why such a low dose of X?” To which I’m thinking, “Uh, IDK. That’s what the doctor told me to take???”
Anyway, he asks about family history. I tell him what I know, in terms of mental health. Then we go into alcoholism and addiction. I explain about my father and his sobriety up until his passing. He pushes deeper about the rest of the family.
“Well, I was raised catholic, so that should give you an idea”, I quipped.
He doesn’t get the joke and continues to push on it. I explain that if you go AA’s “Twelve Questions Only You Can Answer” page, many of my family members would have fallen on the spectrum at some point in their lives.
Finally, moving on, I’m asked about any past surgeries. Mind you, all of this was listed on my intake paperwork. I tell him that I had GRS in May and then Breast Augmentation in November. That I had my wisdom teeth out about 16-17 years ago but other than that, no other significant medical interventions.
I explain that I’m having a number of issues aside from just typical depression. My problem list:
Issues staying on task
Constant exhaustion, lethargy, and malaise.
Clenching my jaw subconsciously when I’m awake.
Then we take, what feels like, a drastic course change back to Transtown™. First is a question that’s so hard for a trans person to answer, at least in the first couple years.
“Are you still,” motioning with his hands towards his crotch, “…. um… male down there?”
I shot him the kind of look that only a mother would give to her kids when they’re out of line and replied, “I was never male.”
As he stumbled over his words and tried to make a coherent sentence, I asked if it was medically relevant to my mental health? Mind you, if he had read my intake paperwork, or had any familiarity with trans patients, he’d have know without asking. He said it was, because some of the drugs have sexual side effects, including erectile dysfunction.
And once again, I had to come back to Trans 101 and explain that a decent percentage of trans women who are post-op or non-op have issues with getting or maintaining an erection. Because of the use of anti-androgens, such as Spironolactone, our testosterone levels are typically lower than the average cis woman. I explained that mine were normally somewhere in the 8-12 range, on a scale of 8-55 for cis women, cis men having a much higher range from ~300-1000 (ng/dL).
I went on to explain that there was a much better way to ask those questions to a trans person. I suggested, “Do you still have a penis?” Or even better “Do you still have testicles?”
From that point on, I pretty much checked out on this dude. Especially when he started to show me facebook pictures of his sister’s lesbian wedding on his phone. Because, you know I’m a lesbian, so we must all lesbian together. Or something.
In the end, he had two cardboard boxes of some drug called “Trintellix” of which he rummaged through and gave me two sample bottles. He basically claimed it to be the best stuff on the planet and that a number of his patients had seen improvements in 1-3 days. Which is odd, because my understanding of SSRI’s is that they usually take a couple weeks to build up a normal level in your system. He wants to see me back in two weeks.
Today was a good day. I felt useful for a change. In working with Chris Hartman, Executive Director of Fairness Campaign, we’ve always discussed ways that we might take my story of discrimination and harassment at AT&T more public. Today, I made a speech at the Kentucky Fairness Rally in the middle of the Capitol. The media was there as well as tons of supporters from all walks of life. I wanted to let AT&T know why Statewide Fairness is so important. Because if they’re not going to consistently enforce their own non-discrimination policies, then they should be held accountable. That they have an obligation to all of their employees. “DO BETTER,” I say.
While the news coverage didn’t include any of my actual speech, I did get a couple seconds on TV. You can see it here.
For the sake of posterity, I want to share my actual speech. I know I deviated in a couple places, but only in phrasing.
Hi, everyone! My name is Addison Newton, and I’m proud to be here in the capitol as we continue to fight for both LGBT and workers’ rights in Kentucky!
I’m also proud to say that my union, the Communications Workers of America, has been fighting for my rights too! When I came out as a transgender woman at my job at AT&T, I faced a lot of difficulties. Even though my company has pretty good LGBT policies, what I learned is that no one in my workplace really knew how to implement them or had any idea what being transgender meant.
For the next several weeks, AT&T scrambled to figure out where I should go to the bathroom and how to explain to other employees about my transition. It was embarrassing, demeaning, and it shouldn’t have been that difficult. As time progressed, I encountered misgendering on a regular basis, by both staff and management alike. The general manager of my office vehemently refused to refer to me as female. Intent on having me fired, she conspired with another manager who followed me around town. Throughout all of this, I’ve had constant support from my CWA Local 3310. As I saw how the company responded, I decided that I wanted to help other members and I became a job steward.
I’m very proud to be a member of CWA. The leadership has stood by my side every step of the way. We’ve worked tirelessly to hold my employer accountable and sending a message that each and every employee’s needs and safety are truly valued. Most likely, I wouldn’t be here today if not for the support of my union siblings. I want to thank them, especially local vice-president, Larry Gardner, who is here with me today.
However, even with the power of the CWA behind me, fighting for ALL workers’ rights, it’s still not easy. Anti-transgender laws like Representative Nelson’s bathroom bills make it harder and more dangerous for transgender people to live our daily lives and meet our most basic needs. My difficulties with AT&T also illustrate how necessary it is for Kentucky to pass a Statewide Fairness Law. Because even the most well-intentioned corporate policy is no good if the company refuses to enforce it. A Statewide Fairness Law ensures that all businesses in our commonwealth are held to the same standard of respecting the basic dignity of all people, including our LGBT community. So, in closing, I would like to ask AT&T to join the 200 other Kentucky businesses in the Kentucky Competitive Workforce Coalition!
I’m a proud transgender woman, union member, and Kentuckian fighting for Fairness for all!