“Comparison is the thief of joy.”

I have a lot on my mind today, though the thoughts are muted, like when my head is buried under both our pillows, but I can still hear the morning alarm sound off. I’m ok with this fogginess because I feel like I have been hyper-focused lately. There’s a lot I am settling in my brain, which is not unusual, but the one thing that sticks out that I feel I need to share is this: I have been a judgmental, “stone-throwing” person in my life, and I am ok with that. I have not always been as upstanding as I can be, and I really wish I was more of a Champion – but I am only just finding my voice and style of standing up to people. I am proud of who I am and how I act now, which is what matters most because I have done a lot of work to get here. So, please always remember that if what I am saying seems very one-sided, I have absolutely considered the other side. If we are disagreeing, I hope you will consider the argument from my position as well, before reacting and maybe ‘firing’ me (/ˈfī(ə)riNG/: a condition common in my family, of quickly and forever removing yourself from the friendship because your perceived opposites seem to be too great to fuse).

I have just read Jennifer Finney Boylan’s opinion piece “Coming Out as Trans Isn’t a Teenage Fad” and am feeling all sorts of things. I’ll start with the deepest scratch: R.O.G.D.

Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria is the term used by Lisa Littman in her “scientific” paper where she describes her um, methods(?), for determining the phenomenon of post-pubescent gender identity change (mean age 16.4 yrs). I’ll save you the read because her study is based on a 90-question survey available online to parents of children expressing this behavior. Her means of distributing the survey? 

“Placed on three websites where parents had reported rapid onsets of gender dysphoria. Website moderators and potential participants were encouraged to share the recruitment information and link to the survey with any individuals or communities that they thought might include eligible participants to expand the reach of the project through snowball sampling techniques”

Lisa Littman

I am not trying to devalue the importance of parents in this journey. I have the highest regard for parents, I just feel like asking them to be the ones to weigh in on the mental journey of figuring out if you are trans is like asking vegans about their experience digesting the newest wagyu meat. I appreciate that she says this is a launch-pad only, that,

One of the main conclusions is that more research needs to be done…. you can’t tell cause and effect, and you can’t tell prevalence. It’s going to take more studies to bring in more information, but this is a start.

And yet, friend, your launch pad is exactly what certain politicians, religious leaders, doctors and, sadly, parents are hungrily searching for to disprove the experience their child is having. 

I had a cousin, a beautiful boy I didn’t really know. His name was Aiden – and he killed himself.   

While his parents innately validated all aspects of his identity, the world at large did not. Why? I don’t know; he had been very pretty and soft. He looked a lot like me, actually; big gentle blue eyes and an impish smile filled with childlike wonder. I won’t tell the whole story here, but I will let you know this: the world may have doubted his ability to choose his identity (he was trans), but this sixteen-year-old was mature enough to find a place to end his life where 1. it would not ruin a memory for his friends or family, and 2. where it was unlikely that he would be found by someone that loved him. When someone is gone, their gender is so insignificant compared to the loss and grief you feel when you realize you’ll never see what that wonderful smirk would have grown into, who they would have become and what they would have accomplished.

My world is seeing a shift with me. My sister and I are now having frank conversations about my gender identity (or lack thereof!), which is extending rapidly to her family and friends. Aisha and duderonomy are totally in the loop. But this slow and gentle shift of mine into a “true” gender is not new. I’ve never felt like my peers. Any of them. I came late to sexual attraction and urges. What I distinctly remember is watching Bryan shoot hoops in grade eight, seriously conflicted about whether what I was feeling was finally ‘attraction’, or if I just wanted his muscles and power, or if I just wanted to be sporty instead of artsy. I had always wanted his body as my own; the grade eight body that looked like a twenty-year-old with lean muscles, bulging pecs, and hands that let go of that ball with such grace and power. Bryan also appeared as my checkpoint when I was trying to figure out the gay thing. I came out without having touched another human in a sexual way. Ever. I’ll tell that story another time, but the thing is I just knew. And the day I really really knew, I remember looking up and there he was, through the cafeteria doorway, no joke, the light surrounding him and his 6′ something frame, his shaggy brown hair resting across his forehead (sixteen guys, he was so gorgeous) as he leaned against a table. My eyes caressed his frame for the last time, and I walked away from gender-based doubts, because guys, I was gay! I wanted Bryan’s body, not him!

What I am skirting around is the actual mental stuff that has taken me a long time to figure out and is no easier at 35. It is hard being disjointed, uncomfortable or knowing you are not ‘performing’ your gender correctly. It sucks being shunned by friends because they, too, know you aren’t ‘right’ yet. The fact that I had a lot of other stuff going on during puberty and therefore couldn’t focus on my gender, probably saved my life. 

I’ll leave the details and statistics of this study for you to read and I encourage you to do so. I just can’t figure out how to present them without taking up a billion pages. So, I’ll go back to my original genuine question to Lisa Littman: At what age is it appropriate to decide you are trans? It is not valid before puberty, because well, you are a child; It is not valid if the subject suddenly expresses themselves after puberty since they may then be diagnosed with R.O.G.D because well shit, they were fine until sixteen, so this is obviously a ‘social contagion’ (Yes, I just wrote “social contagion”, but not my words).  And finally, it also isn’t ok (and in a lot of countries and states it’s actually illegal) to make this choice when you are old enough to vote. 

I know it’s uncomfortable. I know that people busting out of their gender boxes makes people feel like they have to adjust or consider their own box (no pun intended). But you don’t at all because it has nothing to do with you. 

When I try and find my footing in this debate, the “something can’t be real because I don’t like it” debate, I can’t. It’s like when people try and argue with me that ‘bisexuality’ isn’t valid. Why? Why isn’t it, because I happen to know a few very happy, well adjusted, and real, bisexuals. I can’t weigh in on the validity of their attraction because I am not attracted to men. So, the thing is: it is what it is. Trans people are here. GNC people are here. Gays. Bi’s. Asexual people too. Super straight seeming people who are actually kinky-AF behind closed doors are here, in spades, folks. And so are cis-gendered, heteros. Don’t worry.

“Comparison is the thief of joy” and the grass is not greener. I think the chicken and egg showed up at the same time (no, I don’t). But hate is the action spurred on by jealousy and insecurity. Judging comes from a place where you aren’t speaking the words you need to. So instead of people being worried about what trans/non/multi/whatever gender or sexual orientation or this whole unicorn movement thing may have an effect on, worry about things that matter when we’re ALL gone. I focus on garbage reduction and water cleanliness, personally. 

I loved how Jennifer ended her piece. I loved so much about it, and I’ll say it – I especially loved that she is trans, and wrote about the negative, impulsive feelings she felt when her child also came out as trans. Because no one ever wants someone to suffer the exact hurt you’ve worked your life to avoid. I know the people in my world are going to be gentle with me. I know this because I already have support from those (minus one because they don’t know) who matter most. 

What I wish was more prevalent as the take-away from Littman’s piece is that there are a lot of children in the world right now who have anywhere between 1-7 mental health disorders or neurodevelopmental disabilities. There are children who are pulling away from established friends and family because they don’t feel connected. It does not matter that these kids happen to be trans – I want to find the children of the parent-respondents and ask them if they are actually unhappier now that they’ve come out. Because I am fairly certain they’d just like a voice.

No matter what your political views are or which side you’re on, You must be a decent human being, care, help & do good. Period! ❤️

George Stamatis

— Jo

Botched Surgeries, BuJo & Big Decisions: What’s New

Hi all, remember me? I’m the other half of this blog that doesn’t really write much, haha. 

For those of you that know us, you know that we’ve had a helluva few weeks. We’ve been trying to be vigilant about keeping our Facebook friends up to date, but for those that don’t have the incredible privilege of being our friend IRL (*insert snorting laughter here*), consider this a super informal, we’re-meeting-over-coffee kind of catch up. Because a big part of my personal “mission statement” to running this blog was to be completely genuine and honest — so, honestly… It’s been a roller coaster.

In the last post I published here, I talked about getting a last minute call to go in for a long-awaited spinal surgery called a microdiscectomy, how it got to this point (getting hurt, closing a business, the aftermath) and my vague and convoluted thoughts about being a 25 year old with chronic pain. If you haven’t read it, it’s a pretty quick walkthrough of the events leading up to January 24th (the day I got the call), and will help what I’m about to write make more sense. 

Anyway, three weeks, not one, but two surgeries later and it would be an extreme understatement to say that things are a little bit different now. 

The day of surgery #1, Monday, January 28th, came — regardless of my preparedness. Getting ready for someone to cut bits off your spine is nerve-racking to say the very least, and I spent the evening before with Jo, watching Trevor Noah on Netflix (10/10 we recommend any and all of his stand up), eating junk food (until I had to start fasting at midnight), and trying to keep my mind off of how anxious I was about the next morning. The brotato chip stayed overnight with his grandmother as I was due to be at Hamilton General Hospital at 8:00am, and surgery was scheduled for 10:30. 

I got up early, showered, and we hit the road in good time. Arrival, parking, check-in — for the most part everything went smoothly. We hit a bump when we found out that my surgery had been moved to noon, and then again to 1:30pm. I was hungry, I was anxious, I may or may not have yelled at one of the Same-Day-Surgery nurses (sorry!) so Jo, being the saviour that they are, managed to find a nice nurse that gave me a sexy Lavender gown and an Ativan to calm me the f*ck down until they were ready to wheel me in.

This was probably post-Ativan, because I was actually smiling and laughing. Even wearing that awful gown, haha. January 2019.

My surgery took about two and a half hours. A lot of the disc that was bulging out and pushing on my nerves had calcified, so my surgeon had a bit of extra work to do, but, apparently, went into the waiting room and told Jo that I’d be feeling 70%-90% better by the time the anaesthetic wore off that evening. We were hopeful. I didn’t even care that I threw up three times waking up because anesthesia does something to my body that is alien to me. I was fixed! 

After about 30 minutes of waking up, they wheeled me into recovery, I was allowed to see Jo and we were sent home with a pamphlet for “after care” (this is a bold faced lie — after care for this type of surgery doesn’t really exist other than no bending, lifting or twisting [BLT] for six weeks) and instructions to come back if I had any pain — and that the loss of sensation in my three smallest toes (and outer half of my leg… and outside of my left foot… and butt… and crotch…) was  “normal”. So, I went to bed that night not being able to feel any of those parts of my body…

And I woke up the same way.

Now, Jo and I didn’t panic right away. Spinal surgery is a crazy, involved, complex endeavour and we knew that. But it did seem weird that I wasn’t feeling any better — if anything I was feeling less able than I did before surgery — so we decided to wait until the afternoon, and if nothing changed, we’d call Telehealth. 

[ For those that don’t know — in Ontario we have this awesome service called Telehealth, which is a phone-operated resource where anyone with a valid OHIP number / health card can call and speak to a registered nurse about a variety of different health concerns. This service is especially helpful if you’re trying to figure out whether or not your situation is an emergency, which is what we were doing. If you need emergency help, please just go to your nearest ER. ]

When nothing changed that afternoon we decided to do just that — Jo called and briefly spoke to the nurse about my surgery and what I was experiencing, and then handed me the phone so I could answer a few questions. The call took about 15 minutes, but by the end of it the nurse was so concerned that I practically had to swear on my first-born’s life that I’d be headed straight to an emergency room after I hung up the phone or she would be sending an ambulance to our house to get me. 

We spent almost 2 days at the St. Catharines General Hospital. I had MRI’s, exams of all kinds, an emotional breakdown or two, and was transferred to Hamilton and back again before finally being allowed to sign myself out. I won’t get into too many of the details but we were bullied, demeaned, and disrespected at St. Catharines General and I would never go back to their ER for another situation like what we were experiencing, but, they managed to get my MRI results to my surgeon in Hamilton, I was prescribed a steroid to help strengthen my muscles and regain sensation (we hoped) and told to go back and see my surgeon in a few days if nothing changed. Guess what?

Nothing did. (Surprise!)

Getting transferred from St. Catharines General to Hamilton General. It sure was warm in that patient transfer bus! January 2019.

Yadda, yadda, yadda, medical details, blah blah blah. In seeing my surgeon and looking at my MRI we found out that I’d somehow herniated more of my disc post-operation, and that that was what was causing my partial paralysis. There was a 10% chance that would happen — and I like to stand out (though not really stand, apparently), so why not? Best option was to do another surgery — the same surgery — as soon as possible to fix the new pressure and to get my leg back!!!

I went back in for surgery #2 on February 11th and woke up feeling no different. I told my surgeon, he told me not to worry, that there was a lot of debris on my spine and he moved things around a lot, so I’d be fine in a couple of days. He sat with Jo for 20 minutes and talked to them about how it went, what he did, and, again, that I’d be fine. If nothing changed, I was not to come and see him before the one week mark. So, we’re seeing him on Wednesday.

We had only been in the hospital for 6 or so hours at this point – hence why we’re both smiling. January 2019.

I realize I’m not paralyzed. I realize there are so many people in the world that have it so much worse than I do. I am grateful I can still stand, walk around my house, maybe make it through a grocery shopping trip if I’m feeling extra adventurous. I’m grateful it’s not “bad enough” that I’ve had to live the last three weeks of my life in a hospital, that I was able to get in for surgery #2 quickly and that I have a surgeon that I believe truly wants to make me feel better. But I don’t feel better, this was supposed to be easily fixed, and quickly, and my life has now become something completely different than what it was nearly guaranteed to look like. 

I’ve been looking at ways to pass the time, but stay productive and focused so I don’t end up spinning out into this floaty, unstable being that has no clue what’s going on — because I tend to do that. I came across the #bujo tag on instagram and the videos there have totally been getting me through pain flare ups, while inspiring me to get back into tickling my creativity. I’ve also felt the need to get more “organized” (though I’ve been looking for a different word for this because my vague definition and Jo’s more rigid one are very different) and have a better idea of what’s happening in my life now that I can’t measure my schedule based on cookie orders and / or dog walks. 

I also had a slip-up this week where I didn’t realize broseidon had a P.A. Day from school until the day before — having ADD and being someone whose entire life kind of just got flipped on its’ head means that I can’t keep track of anything. I’ve tried to get into Bullet Journaling in the past but thought my ADD brain was too scattered to even know where to start, until I found out that the creator of the BuJo system, Ryder Carroll, was diagnosed and struggled with ADD, which led to him creating the system in the first place. So it is something my brain can handle and, if anything, is a system that is designed with my brain in mind (get it?!).

We also have a bit of a countdown going now which is why I think I’m feeling the need to get my shit together — kind of like nesting when you’re pregnant. I remember, a month before Edgar Allen Bro was born, I ran around my entire room (which, at the time, looked like a hurricane had gone through it) and organized all my clothes, all of the diapers I’d gotten, all of his clothes, hung up pictures, etc. etc. etc. It’s like you’re preparing for this big thing to happen even though you really have no idea of when it’s happening. I can’t divulge too many details about our upcoming plans yet because there are some people close to us that need to hear them first, but, suffice to say the three of us are excited for a new chapter, and I hope that the changes affect this blog in a positive way.

Anyway, so now that I can’t really move and am sort of dealing with a disability I’m thinking about starting to Bullet Journal. I had forgotten that a year or two ago I had bought Ryder Carroll’s book, The Bullet Journal Method. I started reading it today and I really like how he has laid out the system in a way that’s almost a “Learn First, Practice Later” approach, which I have always responded really well to. I think it will even help me keep track of my ideas on what to write about here and maybe help keep me on schedule so our posts will become more regular and hopefully more enjoyable to keep up with. I’d love if I could post some spreads eventually, because I absolutely love looking at the artists I’ve found on IG like @jannplansthings , @kirbycat.bujo and @bujoist . Check them out if you haven’t already, even just for super satisfying stationary photos, haha!

So that’s what’s new here. Surgery was kind of a bomb, both times, but I’m trying my hardest to stay positive and keep myself occupied until we can come up with a better plan. I’m excited to get into doing some things that inspire me and push me to be a little bit more creative. I’m sad that I will probably have to stop taking large cookie / cake orders, and even more sad that a lot of the dog friends I’ve made since last summer will probably have to find a new sitter. I’m excited to see what life has in store for us and our family if this is what my life is going to look like — but I suppose I’m still grieving the idea of what I thought it would be. Instead it feels like this is going to be a time of rebirth, reinvention and reevaluating where I want to focus my time, now that I have more of it to spare, and, if anything, I’m especially grateful for that.

The bad thing that happens today could be paving the way for the good things coming tomorrow. Trust the process.”

— Mandy Hale

This has been a long one, guys. Thanks for getting all the way to the end — I know I’m a bit of a rambler!

— Aisha