Thursday, June 25, 2015

Womanhood: Earning Your Tigress Stripes

Every year my wife and I take two types of vacations: one is either a trip to a beach house 'wherever' we choose and the other one is just a good ol' fashioned "staycation", where we get to stay home and take little day trips wherever we want. Staycations are great though. We get to fully enjoy our home with no stressors about money or questions about if our dog can come tag along with us or not. From BBQs and hanging out with the family, to going around our hometown discovering new places to visit or dine. So now on our first day back to status "norm" -- the happy face you see on my pup has turned to a sad look of, "Well what happened? Why aren't we going bye bye today?" And I'm trying to incorporate a two mile walk every day in the park with her so that we both don't get depressed. Wouldn't hurt to lose a few pounds anyway.

Of course as a writer, I had a lot of things on my mind. Since I was in pain for much of the end part of my time off, I couldn't help but think of something.

I remember an article I read about a transgender woman named, "Chelsea Attonley" who wanted to return as a man and reuse his original name, "Matthew". One of the biggest debates of this was that his welfare benefits paid for this option, and now he wanted the taxpayers to also pay for the return of being a man once again.

But that is not the issue I want to talk about. It's what was said.

"I feel like I am living a lie," 30-year-old Matthew "Chelsea" Attonley told the Mirror. "I have always longed to be a woman, but no amount of surgery can give me an actual female body."

"It is exhausting putting on make-up and wearing heels all the time. Even then I don't feel I look like a proper woman," he complained, adding that "I suffered from depression and anxiety as a result of the [female] hormones, too. I can't work at the moment because I am too upset after what I have been through. I have realized it would be easier to stop fighting the way I look naturally and accept that I was born a man physically," he said.

Now, as a transgender advocate, I must say that this person was not truly a transgender woman. But why do some transgender women feel the need to exaggerate their femininity to prove that they're now a "real" woman? I remember a transgender friend of mine asked, "Hey Deb, would you mind if I just came over in jeans and no makeup?" I'll never forget that question. I mean -- doesn't every single woman out there love to just go casual once in a while? So I said, "Umm, would I mind? Isn't that what every girl does when she's hanging out with her friends? Who cares?" Do they feel they would be less feminine -- less "woman-like" if they went all natural once in a while? And I believe that's the fear -- to possibly appear as a "man".

I sometimes joke around saying, "I want to have my reassignment surgery now," because it is absolutely, excruciatingly painful to be a woman. In fact, I am having surgery to remove all of my womanhood (partial hysterectomy) so that I can live a normal life. I have what's called, dysmenorrhea. It's excessive menstraul pain that interferes daily activities. It disrupts. life. entirely. There've been times when I was at work sitting at my desk, when the next moment, I was waking up in some conference room with my manager pouring water over my head screaming, "Deb! Wake up!" Shortly after, I would be carried out on a gurney and into the ambulance with all of my coworkers watching out of their cubical windows.

There were quite a few times when I would carry a small bottle of blackberry brandy so it could relieve my pain. Only blackberry brandy would work. It's an old fashion Italian remedy for menstraul cramps. One day while sitting at my desk, I had to leave and take a swig of my brandy in the ladies' room just to try and take the pain away. The 800 mg of Motrin stopped working. I had been taking 800 mg of Motrin since I was 12 years old. Not only did it rip a hole in my stomach, but it left me without any pain relievers to take. At that point, I was admitted to the hospital for pain management. The staff could not believe that 2 Percocets didn't even touch the surface of my pain, to where they had to administer Demerol intravenously.

I stopped working conventional types of jobs because no company would ever allow a woman to take off 2-3 days a month. I am debilitated for the length of 2-3 days -- cannot. function. at. all. I am doubled over rocking back and forth in pain, sometimes crying, sometimes screaming. My doctor has diagnosed me with dysmenorrhea with an "overactive uterus". So now, at the age of 41, I have chosen to remove my uterus and Fallopian tubes. All sorts of mental destress goes into this big decision because it crushes my dreams to ever have a biological baby of my own, even though I would probably adopt anyway. It's the concept of having a choice -- having that option of "I can" if I ever wanted to. Now that has been taken away from me and as a woman, that wreaks havoc on the female brain -- it destroys those little girl dreams of being a mama one day. It really (for a lack of better words) fucks with your head.

And you thought I was crazy now...
But it doesn't stop there. I am also entering my first phases of perimenopause, which isn't fun at all. Some nights I wake up with wet hair. I seriously thought that Madelene had poured a cup of water on me. I then realize, my shirt is drenched as well. So, I have to get up, clean myself off and change. Sometimes right in the middle of the day I'll catch a major hot flash and nothing other than turning the A/C down to 60 degrees will slightly help the situation. Shortly after, the mood swing will hit. That's when you see people running. Between the heart palpitations, anxiety, depression, dizzy spells, migraines, weight gain, insomnia and generalized body aches, it's enough to sit out on a ledge somewhere.

Do you want to know what it feels like being me?

Picture someone holding up a voodoo doll and placing pins on each side of the breasts as an indicator that "Aunt Flo" is about to arrive. Then the pins penetrate the ovaries, letting you know ovulation has set in. And once you are finally in the midst of Flo's visit -- there are days when you cannot leave the bathroom because you are hemorrhaging so badly. The entire restroom looks like a crime scene. It's all you can do to clean up because the lack of blood has you exasperated from the lack of iron.  It's also amazing how brave you can be and decide to go shopping or do something normal when all of the sudden, you have to stop in the middle of an aisle to have your 'pseudo baby' (and that's what it feels like). The blood clots are so large that it almost looks like an aborted fetus. And that's the most disgusting description of what it's like to be a woman. Too much info? Not for someone who goes through it -- they'll completely nod in agreement that this is helluva' curse, or perhaps earned stripes of being a woman.

You're lucky I can't go into the details of child bearing, because I have never had an opportunity to have a child of my own. But I'm sure that's a whole other can-o-beans to endure.

So, to any transgender female thinking about being a full-time woman -- it has little to do with hair and makeup. It hardly identifies you in a flowery dress or nice jewelry. But you do get to experience the emotional ups and downs as a woman with the hormonal therapy. That estrogen can be a real kick in the ass, and if you can stand it -- then you are indeed, quite the woman. You don't need to have gone through the extreme pain that I have endured all my life, because some women never experience that level of intense agony. The hard part isn't about the the makeup, the hair, the nails or dress -- it's about what womanhood penalizes you with emotionally and sometimes physically, so that you can earn your stripes of being a woman and hearing yourself roar.

For more of Deb's articles, please visit: www.debrapasquella.com or join her on Facebook and Twitter. Check out her cooking blog for some of her famous recipes!