Not A Life Choice – Father’s Day

FathersDayTie

Ah Father’s day, the great tie day.

Father’s Day has always been a mixed bag for me. My own Father and I were never really close. I was the second of seven kids. He was also working multiple jobs to feed and clothe all of us. Besides his regular job, he also worked for a neighbor creating shavings. Not sure if they were just for the neighbors farm or if they sold it, but it was a second. The other job was drumming. My Father could drum pretty well. He played for a number of bands around, playing mostly jazz, ’40’s type music, etc. That was one gift he gave me was an appreciation of music. I hopefully passed that on to my kids as I exposed them to everything from Beethoven to Alice Cooper.

I had two kids with my second wife. I found that Father’s Day wasn’t that important. Most of the time, I would end up at the ball field, because while Mother’s Day, they didn’t schedule games, Father’s Day, it seemed like they double-booked. I asked about it and was told that of course they have games on Father’s Day, all Father’s want to be at the field with their kids. Yeah, McJock, not all. I would have preferred taking my kids to ride the subway in Boston or to the Science Museum, or out in the State Forest splashing through puddles with the truck. I always loved taking them on the T. I would get us all day passes and just ride and pop up somewhere and take in the sights and then back into the subway and maybe finish the day at Quincy Market for something to eat.

Father’s Day always made me sad. In part because I wasn’t close to my Father, but mostly because I didn’t want to be the Dad. I wanted to be the Mom. Many years, I would sink into depression when Father’s Day would come around. Even after the divorce, I did manage to have my kids for Father’s Day. That helped soften the depression a bit. Having to spend it at ball fields didn’t. Once they were older and all done with sports we got to do what we wanted, but I was forced to ensure that I took them to Church. I had left the Catholic Church, but took them anyway.

Probably one of the biggest regrets, and one of the least understood by others, is that I never carried a child. Thanks to whatever force that decided I should be born a girl with boy parts, I would never be able to. I always dreamed about it. Sometimes I would puff out my belly just to pretend I was pregnant. Of course, I did this all in hiding as no one knew, not even myself, who I really was. That took years of therapy with a psychologist. Sadly, even when we finally got the diagnose of late stage Gender Identity Disorder, as it was called back then, and soon to change to Gender Dysphoria, I always had to hide who I truly was.

These days, I still have issues with Father’s Day. I still wanted to be “Mom”, but that role is already taken. I am stuck with “Dad”. People don’t get it. I am close to my daughter, thankfully, but my son and I are distanced. My daughter says he is like that with everyone. He is off in his own world. I do miss when he used to crawl into my lap when we watched movies. They do grow up. He is taller than me now, so that won’t work.

This is a personal observation. This may not apply to other transgender women. It was just an observation I wanted to share. I do hold out hope for the future. With the recent uterus transplant where the woman was able to give birth, maybe gives hope in the future to others who feel like I do. One day, with the advance of science, they may resolve the issues that prevent someone who once had male parts from having a full functioning vagina and uterus. For now, I have to settle for the vagina. That is if my endo ever gets that letter to BMC so I can be approved and move forward. They said they sent it twice, but just not getting to the right person.

I chose to hold off rather than writing this on Father’s Day. I felt it was a special day for some and didn’t want to darken it in any way. My daughter and I agreed that at home I can be Dad, but when we are in public, just call me Emma. I cannot use Mom. So it’s the best I can do.

Thank you for continuing on my journey, my heart to your heart, one heart, one spirit.

Emma Morgaine Croft

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Not A Life Choice – Why So Long?

strongwoman

A friend of mine asked a question on Facebook asking if the Drag Queens had any influence on us older women coming out. It was a great question and got a lot of responses. My response was as follows:

I knew that something was off when I was around 6. I was presenting as a female, though physically male. I was beaten and told they were not having a sissy boy in the family. As Jennifer mentioned about Milton Berle and Flip Wilson, among so many others, I saw that being something other than what was foisted on you at birth, was only get met with violence, ridicule, and ostricization. I learned early on that being gay was bad, and if you were effeminate, they equated that to being gay. I also saw a classmate being constantly abused because he tried to present feminine. They called Arthur, Martha. He was ridiculed and beaten. Not sure what happened, but it cemented in me that I had to bury who I was and learn from my brothers how I should act. While I didn’t go as far as becoming a Navy Seal like Kirsten Beck, I did play football (sandlot), joined the Air Force and was Sergeant of our mobility team. I didn’t have much exposure to Drag Queens, surprising given our proximity to Provincetown. I think what got me thinking the what-ifs was when I heard of Christine Jorgenson and Renée Richards. I always wanted to take an Excacto knife to myself, but fortunately, never did as I found you actually need that bloody thing. 

So long story short, Drag Queens had little influence if any. It was more societal pressure that kept me from being who I was until I first attempted to come out in the 90’s. Even then, it was not well known. I had also taken the COGIATI. Funny hearing about that from Helga. I got involved with some IRC groups that really opened my eyes. I started researching as best I could. I finally went to a psychologist and was officially diagnosed. After losing my marriage, home, family, restricted access to my kids and finally my job, I reverted as I had two kids to support. I complied. It wasn’t until a friend had a heart attack a few years back that awoke that part of me again. I was plotting my death and had written Emma, An Unlived Life, which was to serve as a suicide note. Fortunately, my wife intervened. Next month, I will be two years full time and legally Emma.
I think what helped me was getting more information. As I grew in understanding why I always felt the way I did, I was able to then make the changes needed. Unfortunately, there were no protections when I first came out. Heck, my company only made changes to their transgender health care after I brought it to their attention. In the 90’s was a whole different ball game. Unfortunately, things like electrolysis and laser are still not covered, but who knows, maybe one day. Learning what I did from that IRC channel and taking the COGIATI test, did help me to decide to seek out help. I ended with with a psychologist who saw me as a person that was all messed up. She basically broke me down and then rebuilt me. Only this time, I was built as me, and not what everyone else wanted me to be. That was a huge step.
Getting more information so that I was able to separate the idea of gender and sexual orientation was also a big help. I no longer equated being effeminate to being gay. I was able to toss that on the scrap heap. I came to understand that I am me, a woman. A lot of people did not like that revelation and I lost quite a few friends and some family, however, I became a much happier person in the end. While my first attempt to come out in the 90’s was a huge failure, this time I was ready for the losses, though not prepared for the acceptance. As my counselor told me, I was still suffering from the PTSD from the last time that I was always waiting for the other shoe to drop this time. I think the acceptance is what has made this journey that much easier. Imagine if we took the time to educate ourselves as soon as we found out a loved one was transgender or gay, and just loved them? Maybe that would go a long way to lowering the suicide rate.
I am a senior cloud engineer for my company. I am respected by my peers. Had I not had the love and acceptance this time around, Emma, An Unlived Life, might have just been my suicide note. Instead, I am here trying to educate and remove the ignorance surrounding transgender people. I am trying to be a light shining in the darkness.
candle
I am Emma Morgaine Croft. I am Transgender. I am Woman!
My heart to your heart, one heart, one spirit.
Emma
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Not A Life Choice – The Slooow Road

I had my meeting with the nurse coordinator. Outside of her checking the surgical area for clearing progress, we could have done it over the phone. Every time I go in there, I have to take a day off since getting around Boston is a bear. Usually, if I have to go into Boston, I will take the T. I used to work on Comm Ave so I learned the subways over the years. I used to love to take my kids subway surfing where we would jump from one train to another and pop up somewhere and take in the sites and then back down, but that is another story.

She was just slightly late as she had to find my file. We met and went over the process. She told me what to expect afterwards. She also noted that their process was fluid so it was possible that things could change. This was due to them adjusting their process as they only have been doing this for a year or two.

She informed me that she hadn’t gotten letters from my PCP or my endocrinologist. I checked with both, PCP said he had sent it, which they later found. My endo, I had to ask again. I posted the request in the portal and followed up with a call to her secretary. I have not heard from anyone either my endo or BMC as to the letter being sent.

Mind you, the letter is nor a requirement of WPATH which sets the standards for Transgender care. Rather, this is more for the insurance companies. BMC just wants to dot their i’s and cross their t’s so as not to have any issues with insurance down the road. Needless to say, this isn’t the first time my endo has not been forthcoming with a letter. The last time was trying to get the gender designation on my driver’s license changed. She said she had to put it through their legal department and it was months before I got the letter I needed. All it had to say was that she was treating me. Worse, I can download the history from the portal, but they need the doctor to sign off. So I could prove it, but that doesn’t help. I had to threaten to get a lawyer involved before I got a response.

That is the frustrating part. I can do everything that is asked of me, but all these “gatekeepers” have a say and need to sign off. WPATH states that I only need two letters of referral from mental health providers. I got that. Yet, my holdup is due to my endocrinologist.

Of course, getting a call from the nurse coordinator to go back over what we discussed because she accidentally deleted her notes on me, does not give me warm fuzzies. This is the person who will be handling my after surgery care and teaching me all the fun things like dilating.

I sometimes think it would have been faster and cheaper to just go to Thailand. I know a few people who have and are happy with the results. I just felt that going to a local surgeon would be good especially if there are complications or adjustments. I thought also about Mt. Sinai, but then again, a friend is going there and saying she is having the same issues. So I guess I will stay with BMC, but given the issues I have had with insurance with my breast augmentation, I definitely have to gird up the warrioress.

Oh, yeah, that is the other development. The insurance company sent me a letter last week saying that I had to repay them over $700 because they shouldn’t have paid a claim. This was to pay for the anesthesiologist. My insurance is Aetna, and so many have made claims against them that they deny claims, even if they pre-approved as they did mine.

You really have to be your own advocate when it comes to insurance and health care. Nothing is easy. We really need to get rid of insurance companies and go to single payer. Their whole goal is profit, not patient health. How much further along would I be if I didn’t keep having to get approvals for this and that.

So, last week, I did another back to back with surgical area on Wednesday and face on Thursday. The EMLA cream helped somewhat with the surgical area. She still hit a few spots that made me jump out of my skin. My next surgical clearing is June 6th. I am thinking about bathing in EMLA before I go, just to be sure. Of course, by the end of the session it is starting to wear off, but if I can get through the brunt of it.

So I am doing my part to keep this all on track. I wish I could say the same for the doctors. I have still not heard back from my endocrinologist as to whether she sent in the requested letter. I haven’t heard from BMC saying they still haven’t received it. So basically, it is a waiting game. You really need to have patience to go through all of this, as well as a high threshold for pain.

As always, my heart to your heart, one heart, one spirit.

Emma

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Not A Life Choice – Continuing Prep

I won’t get into the graphics to spare some of you. However, this whole surgery prep is a loooong drawn out process.  I have had a number of laser sessions to clear the surgical area. Since I am older, there are a lot of greys, so we are now on to electrolysis. Laser wasn’t too bad, but let me tell you, when they start electrolysis, that is some serious pain. I had some lidocaine cream prescribed, but the operator is allergic. I had to go back and get EMLA. One other note about this is that even with an hour drive out there, I really need to get that cream on before I go. I was finally getting numb by the time were were ready to wrap up. I had tears at some points. I tried to keep my sense of humor up and commented how some people who are ignorant to all we have to go through, say it is a life choice. Um, that much pain and you are ready to spill state secrets.

So I have had two electrology sessions and have another scheduled in three weeks. In the interim, I did get my appointment set up with the nurse coordinator. I will see her a week from Monday. I had to take the day as I have to go into Boston. I am hoping that we can get more details ironed out and potentially get me in the schedule with a date. Given what was told to me at First Event back in February, they were talking they were booked out until next year. I am hoping at worst, they are only booking out a year. That would get me into next year with more time off and hopefully a decent bonus to offset the insurance copays. This stuff ain’t cheap.

In the meantime, I am also continuing my electrolysis on my face. Jen says we are making headway, but my dysphoria rears its head when I have to grow out my beard so she has something to latch onto when zapping hairs. I just noticed my schedule and I am doing another twofer, with bottom clearing one day and face the next. Two different places, as my current electrologist does not do bottom and you have to see specific operators that are educated in what needs to be cleared.

Besides all the pain I have to endure, there is a significant cost. None of the electrolysis is covered by insurance. We are going to try to get the bottom stuff under insurance as that is surgery prep, but that might be a long shot. My breast augmentation had been pre-approved but when  it was submitted they denied it. I had to go back through HR to push it through. For stuff like this, you really have to be your own advocate. Shame that it isn’t easier, but at least my company covers some of the expenses.

I just wanted to give an update. I figure for those who follow this process, you can see how long it takes and all the “gatekeeping” involved. It really flies in the face that this is just a life choice. Why would anyone put themselves through all this pain and expense. I must be nearing 100 sessions for face alone. It would have been nice if I wasn’t old and grey. Laser would have gotten more of it then. Unfortunately, it is the slow process of electrolysis. A slow, arduous march forward.

I will touch base after my meeting with the nurse coordinator Monday after next.

My heart to your heart, one heart, one spirit.

“Lady” Emma Morgaine Croft

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Not A Life Choice – Surgery Prep

Just so people understand, transitioning isn’t like flipping a switch. It is a long, long process. I have been on hormones for over two years now. I was not happy with my breast development, especially for someone my size, so fortunately, my company has the insurance company covering transgender health. I was able to get breast augmentation covered. I feel much happier now. Could go a little larger, but I am hoping another year on hormones will fix that.

I am still going to my electrologist to have my face cleared. Unfortunately, this is not covered by insurance so I am limited on how often I can go. We have pretty much done all the laser we can. We are pretty much stuck with electrolysis for the rest. This could take years to clear. Unfortunately, that is also what is happening with surgery prep.

Laser can only work on dark hairs with light skin. I have heard there is a new laser that can do the grey too, but no one I know has it. So all the rest of my hair removal will be using electrolysis. Nothing like having a probe stuck in your pores and zapping the roots with electricity. I can use lidocaine cream on my face and that takes some sting off, but the person doing my pre-surgery is allergic and needs EMLA cream. Been going without and let me tell you not a happy camper. Really makes you question that whole life choice talk. Okay, let me take a step back as many don’t know what is involved, so let me share some of what the doctor’s office sent me. Guys, you might want to skip this.

Description of a Typical Neo-vaginoplasty

Patients are admitted to the hospital on the day of the procedure.

The operation generally lasts between five and six hours, plus pre-anesthesia and patient preparation and recovery immediately after the surgery. It is always carried out under general anesthetic. Neo-vaginoplasty usually requires the patient to stay for four (4) nights in the hospital from admission until discharge.

We use a penile inversion technique. This means that the skin of the penis will be used to make the new vagina. Sometimes the scrotal skin is also incorporated if the penile skin isn’t sufficient.

The urethra is shortened and repositioned to just in front of the new vaginal opening. Some of the urethra is used to make a strip of pink tissue between the clitoris and urethra.

The skin on the sides of the scrotum is used to make the labia. The space in the body in which the vagina goes is located between the bladder and the rectum. Once that space has been created, the inverted penis skin is put in there, forming vagina walls. The depth of the vagina depends on the individual patient factors including the amount of penis skin available and the amount of scrotal skin used. Once the vagina is in place, surgical packing is used to keep the skin inverted within the vaginal cavity until it heals.

The next stage of surgery involves constructing the clitoris using the portion of the glans (tip) that has been retained together with its nerves and blood vessels. The clitoris is placed above the urethral meatus (opening) and a hood is made to cover it, using scrotal skin. Typically patients retain sensitivity and the ability to enjoy full sexual satisfaction.

Surgery is concluded after constructing the vaginal labia and clitoral hood. In most cases all this surgery can be performed at once but, it is not unusual to need small revisions. We would not do any revision procedures until at least four (4) months post-surgery.


They point you to look at a video by Drs. Slama and Oates on Youtube.

Of course, before you even get to this point, you have to endure many hours of laser and electrolysis to prepare. Here is their synopsis on genital hair removal. Once again, guys may want to turn away.

Genital Hair Removal

Hair removal is mandatory prior to neo-vaginoplasty surgery. This is done either via electrolysis or laser.

Electrolysis
Electrolysis uses electrical currents to destroy individual hair follicles, which are then removed one by one.

Laser
Laser hair removal uses an intense, pulsating beam of light to remove unwanted hair. A laser beam passes through the skin to an individual hair follicle. The intense heat of the laser damages the hair follicle, which inhibits future growth. Laser works best for dark, coarse hair.  – (Not so good for us old timers with a lot of white and grey.)

For the scrotal sac
Remove all hair from the scrotum!

For the Penile Shaft
Remove all hair from the penile shaft, including a 1 inch area around the base. Skin from the penile shaft and mid-scrotum will be utilized to create the new vagina, therefore all hair on the penile shaft should be removed so the inside of the vagina will be hair-free.

For the perineum
Remove the hair from the bottom of the scrotum to one inch above the anus in order to clear a 2.5 wide strip.

Timeline
Typically you will need multiple treatments over a 5-6 month period (usually 3-6 clearings for laser, 5-8 for electrolysis) to ensure effective and permanent hair removal.


Now, I have had a number of laser treatments and we have moved on to electrolysis to get those stubborn grey and white boogers. I really need to try to get some EMLA before my next appointment. I could handle the laser, but wow!, having that electrical probe inserted into a hair follicle down there and zapped, Yowza!!! I tell you, that could get anyone to talk. I almost admitted to killing Jimmy Hoffa even though I never knew him. LOL.

Scheduling makes it tough as I have to go late afternoon for this treatment, while I can get my face done at night. My next appointment isn’t until mid–April. Like I said, this is a process not an instant light switch. I hope at that time to have her say that I am clear enough to advise the doctor that it is time to get on the schedule. Given what I heard at First Event from their team, it might not be until next year. Though, I did hear a friend got a date with her doctor in June! I am resigned to it being next year. I need that date so I can plan vacation time. I will need at least two weeks out of work, one spent in the hospital and the other at home.  That’s when the fun begins with dilations.

I hope this has brought more understanding on the process involved. I hope to educate and remove any ignorance. I see the idea of someone saying this is a life choice as being totally dismissive on what we go through. It really isn’t a life choice. No one would just choose this life. I hope that you have gotten a better understanding from this series. I plan on continuing as I move forward.

As always, my heart to your heart, one heart, one spirit.

Emma Morgaine Croft

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Not a Life Choice – Traveling

Visa

One of the things you are told that you should do when you transition, is to update your passport. I haven’t as yet as my driver’s license and birth certificate are in order and no immediate plans to go out of country.  I do need to do that though. Traveling, though, does raise other issues and concerns. Sometimes, you don’t think about it, especially when you live in a Progressive State such as Massachusetts.

Here in Massachusetts, it was fairly easy to transition. Oh, there are all the numerous forms that have to be filed and new documents issued and updated. There are sites like the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition that have guides to help you maneuver the many agencies you have to deal with. https://www.masstpc.org/  They also give the recommended order to make the changes. In our State, you need to get your Social Security changed first as the RMV goes by that information. Of course, you will have to return to the Social Security office at a later date to get the gender marker changed. A nuisance, but they wouldn’t change the marker unless I had some sort of medical intervention. Given that I now have my birth certificate stating I was born Emma and female, I just have to have time to go back. I ended up having to go back to have the gender marker changed on my license also but that was more because I didn’t realize I needed that additional form to fill out. So two trips to the RMV just to get my new license.  I still need to get my military records amended, but since I am not eligible for benefits anymore, not a real rush. So, my next concentration is to get that passport.

Of course, getting that passport will be a big step, but something else was brought to my attention when my wife went to a significant other support group meeting. It was brought up about international travel. Someone stated that we could never travel to Mexico. Huh, what, why? Yeah, it turns out that to them we would be considered lesbians and that is illegal. So that opened up a whole new awareness of potential destinations. If we are to travel, we have to be aware of the local customs and restrictions. Simply being transgender could get me imprisoned or even killed in some countries. Hadn’t given much thought to the idea that some places might see us as lesbians which brings a whole new kettle of fish to the table.

While international travel is fraught with issues, even simply traveling in the States can be perilous. There are areas that are hostile to transgender, not sure about lesbians. I don’t think they can jail you in the states, but they could refuse service even in a hospital. So planning a trip means taking extra time to research the local acceptance. It is amazing with all the research that has been done and the information available, that this is still an issue. I used to have to travel to Texas for work. The last time was the time I decided to tell my boss and come out at work. I don’t have to travel anymore, but I have to say that going through scanners concerned me. I heard many horror stories of people being humiliated and pulled out of line because their body gave them away in a full scanner. Of course, after I have GRS, that won’t be an issue anymore, but it is just one more thing that we have to think and be concerned about. I have heard that it is getting better and TSA is starting to get the picture but those brave people who subjected themselves to the searches, that came before helped to educate. This was especially so after lawsuits were filed against the TSA. This was under Obama so there was a positive change, but those protections have been removed by Trump, so who knows.

Given that Massachusetts is one of those States that affords protections to transgender people, maybe it is better that I just stay here and visit all the places I haven’t visited yet in Massachusetts. Hopefully, we can overcome the legions of hate and ignorance that are pushing for a repeal of those protections. That is another story though.

So, for a transgender person, we can’t just take for granted that we will be accepted wherever we go. We have to go that further step beyond getting a flight, car, hotel room, to ensuring that wherever we go around the world, we will not find ourselves thrown in jail or murdered for just being. So remind me again, why this is a life choice?

My heart to your heart, one heart, one spirit.

Emma Morgaine Croft

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Saying Goodbye to the Magazine That Gave me a Chance

WHBumperDoneRite

It is sad to see this site going dark. Joe did a heck of a job keeping it going. I remember when they recruited me to write for them. They had seen some of my blog posts and thought I was a good fit. I was given a weekly column and later a video segment. Of course, that was back when I was Ed. I had thought about going back to write for them again. I figured I would reach out to Joe after I got through all the medical issues of transition. I guess I waited too long. Joe has announced that World Wide Hippies was shutting down. Shame.

It seems so long ago now. Joe believed in me and gave me a chance. I was able to cover whatever floated my boat as a columnist. I can’t recall which it was, but I even received an award for online writing, called the Golden Note Award. I remember having that meeting with Joe and being told that. That meant a lot. I enjoyed writing and sharing. However, my life was getting to be a turmoil. The darkness that had enveloped me most of my life was slowing taking over. What people didn’t know was that I was transgender.

I eventually told Joe that I would be stepping away. I really had to deal with my own issues and wasn’t ready to share. I did continue to follow many of my co-writers on Facebook.

Phil Polizzato, who wrote the great book on the 60’s and communes called Hunga Dunga.
Sherry Pasquerello and Diana May-Waldman, whom I endearingly called wifey because she was always on me to make sure I got my column in on time. There was Linda Wolf and PE Nolan, Hippy Woman, Woody, Blind Dog, and of course Winston Smith.

Every week we cranked out articles and news segments that covered a wide range of topics from the environment to activism. It was a way to keep the hippy spirit alive and well. So it is kind of sad to see it go when we need that voice to inspire others to keep the establishment in check. We can only hope that the Parkland kids can keep it going and spread the seed of change. For the first time, I have hope in the new generation.

I want to thank Joe Mcevoy for giving me that chance. The experience I received in writing for World Wide Hippies has helped me to continue writing about things I care about here. I hope that, just as when I wrote for World Wide Hippies, the things I write about, especially my Not A Life Choice series, can inspire, educate, and bring to light the need for change.

As always, My heart to your heart, one heart, one spirit.

“Lady” Emma Morgaine Croft, former writer for World Wide Hippies.

Oh and you can check out Phil’s book, Hunga Dunga on Amazon.

Hunga Dunga

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