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  • Writer's picturetatebholden

Making Appointments

I’m an alcoholic. A very functional one. I never get hangovers. I never miss work because of it. I don’t get mean or loud - maybe a little romantic or needy but... Most of the time you would never know I was drinking if it weren’t for the dozens of empty bottles in my kitchen. And end table. And nightstand. And bathroom sink. And all of the bottle caps on the floor. Shhhh. They’re cat toys. Oh, and the obesity.

I’ve dealt with every kind of eating disorder there is, just about. ED NOS, bulimia, anorexia. I’ve been 97 pounds and I’ve been 242 pounds. My relationship with food and drink is...tumultuous.

Since I made the final decision to go ahead and transition, however, and especially after securing my initial transition related appointments, I’ve decided that I don’t need to drown and bury myself in alcohol and food. I’ve been losing weight steadily, easily, healthily. I’ve been drinking less, which if you know me is a freaking miracle. Only two beers today instead of ten? OK. Go to bed sober? Mmmmm… it’ll be a challenge, but OK.

Like many women with such problems, my food and alcohol addictions are very tied up with my self image. They help me get numb and hide. I feel the need to hide because I don’t like my body. Specifically, I don’t like my female body. These things give me a release from my anxiety. From my constant state of being on guard and aware of myself. They give me something to do when it feels like nothing is worth doing.

Restrictive eating and alcoholism are very common among transmen. The thinner you are, the less feminine your shape. The more dysphoric you are about your body, the emptier the glass gets. Likewise, overeating and alcoholism are rampant among lesbians. Heart disease is an epidemic in this population. Some research is going in to finding better ways of addressing these problems in minority populations, but there needs to be even more. More awareness, more education, and more accessible resources. “It is estimated that between 20 percent to 30 percent of gay and transgender people abuse substances, compared to about 9 percent of the general population.” Why? It could be to deal with the “daily battles with discrimination and stigma” that they/we face. (American Progress)

Gay/Lesbian/Bi people and trans people are also less likely to seek help due to the fear of discrimination, or they may very well be turned away. Thanks to the new Conscience and Religious Freedom Division in the HHS Office for Civil Rights (OCR), doctors are allowed to cite their right to religious freedom as a reason to turn a client away.

Now that we’re all sad and angry, let’s get back to those transition appointments...I did research for several months trying to find doctors who could prescribe hormones and perform top surgery. Finally, last week, I made appointments for both. Being that I’m 34, I couldn’t take advantage of the University of Virginia’s transgender resources which are supposed to be very good and only 40 minutes away. They are only for youth and young adults up to about age 26. I’ll unfortunately have to drive a little farther to Richmond for the hormones at Planned Parenthood. At my appointment, which will happen on September 7, I’ll meet with a Transgender Specialist, I suppose so they can find out if I’m trans enough. Then I’ll meet with a doctor to make sure I’m healthy enough. If all goes well, I’ll receive a prescription, take it to a local pharmacy to be filled, then bring the unicorn blood back to PP to learn how to stab myself. I was very fortunate that they were able to do it so soon and all on one day. Usually it is split into two separate appointments, but apparently they understand that that can be difficult for people coming from far away. Eventually, I will also be able to get the paperwork necessary to have my gender markers changed legally from them.

Fast forward to September 28, Charlotte, NC. I happened upon what I believe is going to be a fantastic surgeon. Dr. Hope Sherie at Cosmetic Concierge specializes in transgender procedures (85-90% of her procedures) and has even developed a new option for top surgery called the buttonhole chest technique. She is also the only person who offers it. She does 4-5 top surgeries a week! Their website is loaded with before and after pictures showing all of the major top surgery methods. I emailed for more information and the very next business day received a kind and informative message back from Kevin. So I called to set up a consultation. I was really impressed by the receptionist, Max. Right off the bat he asked for both my legal AND preferred name and preferred pronouns before he even knew I wanted a transgender related surgery. The cost of the consultation will be applied to the procedure, and the price of the procedure is exactly in the range I expected from the research I’d done. Another great thing about this clinic is that they do the procedures in their own operating rooms on site with their own staff, so I won’t have to worry about being in a hospital with possibly transphobic nurses.

I’m really looking forward to both appointments. I hope I’m healthy enough to go on T right away and I hope we can schedule the surgery for January or February so I won’t be too missed at work. I’m also hoping I’m a candidate for a top surgery procedure called keyhole. It only works on women who have a small amount of breast tissue. And in my opinion, I’m not too well endowed. Unlike most procedures which result in long scars under each breast, in the keyhole option, the incision is only made around the aureola and all of the unwanted gobbledygook is sucked out with liposuction.

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