While I’d known my whole life what needed to happen I took my first big steps in Transition early in 2004, I began Hormone Replacement Therapy. I was living in Washington DC at the time and was lucky to be surrounded by caring and supportive friends, family, and coworkers. Though most of the people in my life were 100% supportive, I had (and still have) many trans friends who aren’t so lucky. Many trans women and men are harassed not only on the streets but also by “friends” and coworkers, and even disowned by their families. I’m here, whether in person or via consultations, to be a friend and supporter for anyone who needs someone on their side. Many women may have supportive families and friends but none who have ability to take a month off of work and other responsibilities to join you through this momentous occasion.
In 2008 I traveled to Bangkok Thailand to have Sex Reassignment Surgery with Dr. Chettawut. My mom and my best friend Becky were by my side. Spending a week in the hospital and then an additional three weeks in a hotel alone would have been very difficult on both a physical and emotional level. Let’s face it, many of us work towards and think about the moment of SRS for many years or even decades and when we are finally there it is a moment of extreme joy and strong emotions. It is also a major surgery often taking place in a foreign land where English is the second language of most hospital staff members. While the nurses and doctors typically speak some English and they are very professional and proficient, sometimes the language barrier can be a challenge. Having an ally by your side the whole time who can advocate for you when needed, rub your feet, or just reassure you that such and such is normal, is invaluable. Having that ally be someone who has had that same (or very similar) surgery, under similar circumstances is even better.
About a year after my surgery I had a friend email me. A friend of theirs was going to Dr. Chettawut and their support person had something come up fairly last minute and couldn’t go. Not many people could drop everything and go to Thailand for a month last minute. Luckily I had a fairly flexible job at the time and was able to take a 4 week leave of absence with very little notice. Within a few weeks of that email I was on a plane to Thailand. It was an empowering and exciting trip. I remembered clearly how valuable it was having my mom by my side during my trip. I remembered watching her go room to room helping other patients and playing the all around doula role and being a bit jealous. I knew even while I was still in the hospital bed that I wanted to hold others’ hands throughout this process. Being back in Bangkok and able to be that support person for another woman just made me glow. I spent three weeks answering questions, fetching food, and helping her through the hard days. So when another local woman emailed me about six months after I returned to DC asking for company, I jumped at the opportunity. It was another wonderful month of working and learning together to help make her dreams come true.
I’ve spent the last few years dreaming up ways I could continue this work. I’ve since moved to Vermont and set up my life in such a way that I can leave home for large chunks of time without too much notice for the next friend, or friend of a friend, who wants some company on their journey. Maybe that friend will be you?
You can learn more about me, and the life style I’ve developed to allow myself this flexibility at my blog, http://www.tinyhouseadventures.com. I hope to see you in Bangkok!