Thursday, December 26, 2002

Ruminations of Time

Editor's Note: This entry is backdated from my old website I had back in 2002.

Well, it's the day after Christmas... actually the night after Christmas and I'm thinking about all that has happened this year. I became single again, I got a new nose, I've moved to a new apartment, I got a raise and a "lateral shift" at work, I turned a third of a century old. I marvelled at Spiderman and Star Wars: Episode II, I found out what tequila does to my sister, I went to Ft. Lauderdale and South Beach for vacation, I frolicked at GayDays 2002, I saw The Crystal Method live, and so many other things that I really can't remember right now.

And now, I'm thinking about my future. Where will things go from here? Well, with regard to my transition, I've made a tentative plan to schedule my final surgery (the BIG one) in late 2003. I've talked about it before... my choice is to go to Thailand and have Dr. Suporn perform the honors. But what happens after that?

Many t-girls tend to see the surgery as the ultimate goal. The final piece of the jigsaw puzzle that will make everything okay. But I'm only 33. I'll only be 34 after my surgery is complete. So what do I do with the remaining 30 to 50 years of my life? That's a long time to be sitting around without a goal!

Well, I have already decided that my next big adventure after that is to go back to school. I never actually finished college. I ducked out near the end because I was bored with it. I wanted to get my hands dirty. I wanted to get out there and work, not deal with classes and memorization, and all of that clap-trap.

But now, things are different. I have a hunger for knowledge and the desire to change not only my life, but others' lives as well. So, I've chosen to go back to school for Nursing this time. The computer industry has left me feeling used and dirty. All my life I have created non-existent constructs that represent other non-existent constructs which, for some reason, mean SO MUCH to SO MANY people. But in the end, it doesn't better anyone's life. It doesn't hold a child's hand when he's scared. It doesn't reassure an elderly woman that she will be fine and that her son is on his way. It doesn't rush in in the nick of time and save someone from an early and unnatural death. All it does is put hard-working people out of work and on the streets. Because that's what automation software is designed to do.

Now, I'm not deluded that my life will be all peaches and cream as a nurse. I'm sure I'll have my share of backsides to wash, urinals to empty, vomit to clean up, enemas to deliver, etc. But even these things mean so much more than making 1s and 0s jump through hoops. I've become stagnant and depressed... and it's time to get my spiritual groove back.

I'm reminded of the parable Christ told about the lambs and the goats. Even the smallest action, when done selflessly for another, is enough for heaven's rewards. I want to make change in peoples' lives. Maybe it's a need to finish the work I began. When my surgery is complete, I'll be physically where I want to be. But what about everyone else? So maybe it's my need to keep making things better. Either way, it's where I'm headed. My path is set and my goals continue to elude me... just the way I like it. :)


Monday, July 29, 2002

she ain't necessarily so... oh really??

Editor's Note: This entry is backdated from my old website I had back in 2002.

A friend of mine recently sent me an article that I found interesting. Although I can't re-publish the article here, I have provided a link to the article here. It is by the online editor Jonathan Last of The Daily Standard and it is regarding transgendered people. After reading it, I was compelled to write Mr. Last and reveal my feelings about his viewpoint. This is a rare thing for me to do. Outing myself here, to family, or a friend is one thing. Outing myself to a public voice is completely another thing. However, from one of my favorite movies, Strictly Ballroom, comes one of my favorite phrases: A life lived in fear is a life half-lived. I have posted the content of my letter to Mr. Last here in this post to my transition journal.

Mr. Last,

A friend e-mailed to me your article concerning transgendered persons entitled "She Ain't Necessarily So." I read it, at first, with enthusiasm, but then it seemed to me as if you had missed the point. I would like to take a moment or two of your time to point out some issues I have with your article.

Most of what you said is true. There was one factual error: the tracheal shave for the male-to-female transsexual does not raise the pitch. Sadly, nothing can do that short of vocal chord surgery. The change of voice in a pubescent male is due to the vocal chords stretching to accommodate a deeper range. Once they stretch, they don't stretch back... and removing the cartilage (that also affects some women) will not alter the voice in any fashion. The way most transsexuals deal with this is through intense vocal training.

The portion of your article that I had the largest issue with was the political standpoint that you presented transsexuals as having. It really all boils down to one thing. Not special rights... just equal rights. I have yet to see a law that gave "permission" to do something. In fact, laws are defined to determine what we shouldn't do. We shouldn't kill, steal, discriminate, lie under oath, drive under the influence, etc. These types of laws are defined to protect the greater good of the people.

But some laws or rules are already "special" rights in and of their own natures. Two primary examples are the current employment non-discrimination laws and the defense of marriage act. Currently, it is unlawful to discriminate for reasons of age, gender, race, religion, physical handicap, etc. But why do we need the "for reasons of" clause at all? Shouldn't it just be that it's unlawful to discriminate? If someone is willing and able to perform the job that is required of them, that should be the only reason an employer would want to discriminate. Transgendered persons are often vastly intelligent people with skills to offer society that are hard to parallel. In my own personal case, it was a way to keep my mind off my inner conflicts. I poured myself into my work, into learning, into my hobbies, into being everything that I could for everyone else except myself. This is a common situation amongst my "kin."

I know computer scientists, engineers, medical professionals, mechanics, and service industry workers that take exceptional pride in their work and happen to be transgendered. Often this is because of their own dedication to perfection and often it is because of the microscope they feel like they are under... and sometimes it's both.

I myself am a software developer with over 10 years experience in 6 different programming languages. Yet my own situation which is emblazoned upon my permanent record for all to see often denies me an appropriate position for my skill set and experience. All we want is to be productive and recognized members of society, be comfortable in our own skins, and occasionally get an "Atta Girl" or "Atta Boy" from someone for our efforts.

The Defense of Marriage Act (or DOMA) specifically indicates that marriage is solely defined as a union between one man and one woman. But what business does the government have in defining something that is clearly within the bounds of religion? In my opinion, legal marital benefits are classist. They reward people for being heterosexual, "gender-normal" couples. When a significant percentage of people are unable to fulfill this requirement, they are forced to file an inordinate amount of legal work to simply protect their homes, their rights to see each other when one is hospitalized, their rights to provide for their "spouse" in the event of their death, the list goes on and on. Yet all of these things are taken for granted with a marriage license... which is only available to the preferred majority.

Do we need to create new laws that protect all the special interests? No. That's silly and costly bureaucracy. We simply need to re-examine the laws we have and say, "Does this serve ALL the people or just some of them?" In one extreme case, a female-to-male transsexual (Robert Allen Eads) was denied medical treatment multiple times for uterine cancer at a time when it was completely operable, simply due to the prejudice held by the doctors available to him. He was the subject of a documentary called "Southern Comfort" if you're interested in learning more about that case.

I'll close this with one final comparison. I have a cousin that is suffering from a neurological disease (the name escapes me). She is bound to a wheelchair and unable to manipulate her limbs or even produce more than a marginal amount of facial expressions.. and completely unable to speak. When I look at her, and see the love in her eyes, and I see the sheer beauty of the person inside, it's as if I'm looking at a mirror. She too is trapped within a body that isn't right. I know how desperately she wants to stand up, dance, laugh, cry, read and learn, walk through a field barefoot, articulate how she loves the smell of rain, etc... all the simple pleasures of life. But her body keeps her trapped, unable to express herself the way she WANTS to... she can only express it as much as she is able to.

If there were a way to cure her, we would praise the medical industry until our voices were hoarse, and then do it all over again. Yet, there IS a cure for me and my brothers and sisters... but it is not praised and there is no rejoicing for rescuing a trapped soul. Instead, it's a subject of ridicule, scorn and often violent hatred. You wonder why there is no "hard data" available for your inspection? It's because it's a closely guarded secret... for fear that we might lose it.

I hope I've helped illuminate some of the inner feelings that a transgendered person deals with when dealing with society. Other countries are not so quick to judge as ours. But I love this country as much as anyone else... and I want to be a part of it as much as anyone else.

Best Regards,
Jenna Ramsey
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Monday, July 1, 2002

Doubting Thomas (and Mark and Peter and Elvis and...)

Editor's Note: This entry is backdated from my old website I had back in 2002.

"That's right," shouted Vroomfondel, "we demand rigidly defined areas of doubt and uncertainty!" -- The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

I'm having doubts. No no no, not doubts about whether or not I'm REALLY a female. I'm having doubts about Dr. Suporn. If there's one thing that's hard to quantify and qualify in my life, it's information. Everyone has their side of the story. When it comes to things like doctors and life-changing events like surgical procedures, you want absolute solid certainty that you're trusting your future to the right person. The only way to do that is to do research. The more important the issue, the more research required.

Have I done enough research? Can I be certain of my choices? That's hard to say. There are some choices I made in my life that I wish I hadn't, I can tell you that. I wish I had never started smoking back when I was 22. What a strange age to start. Most will tell you they started at 12 or 13 to be "cool." I just walked in to a convenience store one day, picked up donuts and a Yoohoo and found myself asking for a pack of Marlboro Lights. I don't know why, really, I just did. I wasn't a bar-hopper at the time, I had no clear desire for cancer, and at the time I really had no clue where my life was headed and that "healthy-living" would be a primary drive in my life. It was a rash, compulsive maneuver that made no sense. Given the propensity for such compulsive behavior, I now get nervous when I'm "sure" of something.

Oh, not all the time. There are things I can be certain of. I'm an X-Files fan... but I certainly no Mulder (actually, I always wanted to be Scully and ... uhm... well I had other plans for Mulder). But I can't shake the feeling of doubt. That should be a good indicator to go back and research more and carefully consider this. Part of it is that I've never met the man. When I checked out Dr. Matas, I did my homework. I checked out his degrees and society plaques and made mental notes to research him. Through the research, I found him to be an excellent surgeon, qualified, committed and caring. But it wasn't until I actually *met* him that I felt comfortable. I knew right away that I wanted no one else to perform surgery on my nose or my breasts once I had shook his hand and talked with him a while.

Of course, flying to Thailand to just MEET Dr. Suporn would be rather expensive. There's also the realization that other girls have traveled far and wide to talk to several of the doctors before making an informed decision. Since they're all out of state, this proposes to be an expensive and time-consuming amount of research. In order to be sure, though, I guess I'll be taking some trips.


Wednesday, June 5, 2002

The light at the end of the tunnel

Editor's Note: This entry is backdated from my old website I had back in 2002.

Since it's been almost a year since I last wrote here, I thought I would bring y'all up to date on things in my life. As I sit here, nursing my nose, I'm now thinking about my next goal. I've started planning for SRS. I chosen to go with Dr. Suporn Watanyusakul in Chonburi, Thailand. Many people have had several comments about my choice. Some have criticized, others have expressed fascination, while others were simply indifferent. Dr. Suporn is not that well knowm, I guess, but I'll tell you how and why I made my decision.

I had narrowed it down, originally, to either Dr. Toby Meltzer in Oregon or Dr. Eugene Schrang in Wisconsin. Both are highly respected doctors but for me Dr. Meltzer was on top because of his reputation, his consistency with results, and his commitment to keeping up with new technology and procedures. The cost: a paltry $16,000.00 for the surgery alone.

I was talking with my primary care physician here in Orlando, Dr. Robert Faber, about my choice and has asked me if I had considered Thailand. I told them that I was aware of Dr. Preecha there and his work. But while I was saying that, he started shaking his head and said, "Dr. Suporn." He then began telling me about a patient of his that had seen Dr. Suporn.

She related the tale about how professional their staff was and also about how well they took care of her afterwards. She then showed him the results. According to Dr. Faber, they were absolutely amazing. So this gave me the bug to look into him a little closer.

Dr. Suporn Watanyusakul

  • Born November 20, 1960

  • Medical Training (MD) 1979 - 1985 Chiangmai University

  • General Surgery Training 1985 - 1990 Chonburi Hospital (Certified in 1990)

  • Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery Traning 1990 - 1992 Chulalongkorn University Bangkok Thailand (Certified in 1992)

  • Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery Practice at Chonburi Hospital, Aikchol Hospital and his own Private Clinic 1992 to present.

  • Member of the Royal College Surgeons of Thailand

  • Member of the Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons of Thailand

  • Member of the Society of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeons of Thailand

  • Member of the International Confederation for Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgery

  • Has performed over 350 primary cases of SRS for patients from multiple countries including the U.S.A.

  • Aikchol Hospital

  • First private hospital in the Chonburi Province

  • 6 fully-equipped operation rooms with advanced medical and scientific equipment

  • Clinics in all branches of medicine and facilities in all major areas of surgery

  • Specialists in cosmetic, plastic and sex-reassignment surgery

  • Fleet of stand-by ambulances to pick-up patients from anywhere in Thailand

  • ISO 9002 certification

  • You can read more about his procedure and the hospital at his web site. After taking all of this in, I began to realize that my prejudice about American doctors vs. Non-American doctors was totally unfounded. He's thorough, his staff is friendly, helpful and available 24/7, there are just too many things to list here, really.

    And the cost? $6,200.00 for the surgery, $1,400.00 for the flight, and $400.00 for the hotel (3 weeks). Grand total: $8,000.00. Half of what Dr. Meltzer charges. For me, it's a no-brainer. I can afford Dr. Meltzer if I want to. But after seeing Dr. Suporn's work and reputation... and the testimonials of those he has worked on... I've made my choice. So, sometime next year, the next science project begins!