Called "One of the transgender pioneers of the internet," Faith DaBrooke has been entertaining millions with her videos, writing and modeling for well over a decade. Based in Brooklyn, NY, she also enjoys creating art and comics, thrift shops, and watching cats make biscuits.
Today's a big day for me! Today I cross the threshold. You see, as of today I have been working at my job as me (the real feminine me) longer than I have worked as my old (more masculine) self! Exciting.
Back in September of 2016 I had my first, nerve wracked conversation with Human Resources. And I still need to get my Lorde "Bravado" tattoo that I had promised myself. In November of that year I started working as the real me. It was a decision that required a lot of courage and a huge leap of faith. But I'm so glad I did it. In retrospect it seems like it has been no big deal. But the anticipation of it was scary to say the least. It's been really fantastic though.
And today marks that point where I have officially been working here longer as me than as old boy me. Exciting! A real reason to celebrate.
In other news, my fight to get my insurance company to pay for facial feminization surgery continues without an end in sight. I've moved my potential surgery date back to late summer. From what I understand they have denied my second appeal. That means that I will be pursuing an external appeal with the help of legal counsel.
Of course doing that requires getting a written notice of the appeal denial. Five or six calls and I'm still trying to get my hands on that written notice. It's frustrating to say the least, especially with a surgery date looming. And people wonder why I'm a socialist. Ah well. We keep up the good fight because there's nothing else to do. Except to stop sometimes to celebrate big milestones. :)
My last post was something of a downer. And it got me thinking. I remember years ago (thinking mid-90s) I watched a documentary on Discovery Channel. It was a British made documentary that followed two or three transgender women as they went about their transition. Of course it was fascinating to watch. The whole time I was enthralled, but at the same time afraid someone might walk in and see what I was watching. Thankfully no one did.
But something struck me about the documentary. Its tone was decidedly a mournful one. One transwoman was working as an exotic dancer to pay for her surgery and another was an older woman who was having trouble finding work in the field where she had been employed for twenty years or more. Transition was presented as sad.
And I think this is an idea that pervades our culture in a lot of ways. It's a carryover from that whole stupid idea of trans-people, especially trans-women as "freaks" at the fringes of society. In this view trans-people are to be puttied for the painful lives they endure. A lot of media focuses on homelessness, poverty, sex work, or violence against trans-people. The whole thing presents this ever present idea that transition is sad, that trans people are to be pitied.
While there are legitimate issues that trans people face, including all of the above and a heaping helping of discrimination, I don't think transition is sad. And I don't think transgender people are, on the whole, a sad group.
Transition is a wonderful thing. It's the moment when you truly accept yourself. It's an adventure. It's fun. Oh my gosh, it is so much to just be myself every single day. I get to do that! I wish I could go back in time and tell a sixteen or twenty-five year old me how great this is, how much fun their life turns out to be. Transition is so much fun. I'm just me now. There's no more hiding, no more secret to be kept. I'm out, I'm proud, I'm me. And I'm having fun.
But like anyone I will have my down times. Transition does mean dealing with stupid stuff too. But on the whole it's amazing. I'm glad I did it and it is not at all sad. Pity me not! But also speak up when you encounter transphobia.
It started last Wednesday. Upon coming home from work I checked the mail and saw a letter from my insurance company. Before I even walked my dogs, I tore it open. And though I kinda knew what it was going to say, I still shook my head in annoyance and disbelief. The insurance company had denied coverage for my facial feminizaiton surgery. They had decided that this was purely cosmetic and thus not covered by my policy.
Though I knew intellectually that this sucked, I was numb. This numbness had been building for a good month or so. It had been a non stop back and forth between my surgeon, my general practitioner, mental health professionals, and my cardiologist. First I had to get three letters, then they needed to be updated. Then the insurance requested a fourth letter. Then I ended up playing a frustrating game of telephone where my surgeon and my cardiologist were talking through their receptionists, then me, then other receptionists, then practitioners and surgical coordinators. Getting any single document was a completely frustrating experience. Once I had finally gotten everything I was left utterly drained.
At home that night, I was by myself. Kath was out with coworkers and I was alone. I wanted to cry. But I couldn't. Finally I resorted to watching especially emotional video clips on YouTube. The power speech from the series finale of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the Whip It trailer, and what finally got me was Jennifer Garner's speech in Love Simon, the one where she first talks to her son about his coming out.
Love, Simon: “You are still you, Simon.” - YouTube
Once the tears came I started to sob and I kept sobbing, just letting it all out.
And I took a picture. And I shared it on Instagram. Why? Because I always share my best. That's what everyone on the internet does right? That's social media. We all share our happy vacation pics, our best photos with our best makeup, us having great fun and us being fancy. Well, I didn't want to show that. I wanted to, for once, not show the polished me, but rather the real emotion. No filters.
Transition isn't always perfect. Sometimes you will break down. Sometimes you will be so overwhelmed with emotion that you feel numb and have to force yourself to break down. Sometimes you'll have to submit tons of letters with embarrassing, super personal details about your life and emotions to faceless insurance company bureaucrats only to be told that your pain is about nothing but superficial vanity.
There's something I always say, on Gender Rebels or to the listeners who write up. Transition is the time when you discover how strong you really are and how strong you always have been. And it is. I really think that is true.
At this point in my transition, I'm discovering just how utterly true that really is. Though a part of me was relieved to get denied. It meant that the frustration might end. But, I'm going to keep going. Already I've reached out to a lawyer who specializes in this sort of case. So I'm going to do a formal written appeal as well as an external appeal through the state.
My new date is in July. So, let's see. I'm drained, I'm exhausted, I'm super frustrated with the endless bureaucracy, but I'm going to keep fighting. Wish me luck.
Well, it's official. In 64 days I'll be going under the knife. Or is it 63 days already? Either way it is happening way sooner than I had anticipated. Needless to say I am nervous as heck, excited as well, and slightly terrified.
Yesterday I had my consultation. First off, it was rather interesting to be in a waiting room full of other trans girls. Everyone was minding their own business (as one is want to do in a waiting room) but a part of me wanted to be like "Hey, you! You look great. What are you here for?" But you can't do that, of course. Even if you pick up a transmission you can never act on it because it's just letting the other person know you think they don't pass.
After filling out a ton of forms with background information, I was then ushered into an exam room where someone sat down at the computer and asked me all the same information I had just filled out on the forms. Healthcare in America is already shit. Maybe we could improve it a bit by not going through the entire process twice here? Anywho.
Next my doctor came in. She seemed young and for some reason that always blows my mind. Of course, if I had gone to medical school right after college and residency right after that I would have already been a practicing doctor for at least seven years. It just always blows my mind though.
So my doctor walked through what's causing my dysphoria with me. For me it's my brow ridge which makes me feel like my eyes are deep in caves. It's also my nose which is straight but weirdly shaped if you see it from the side. And then there's my chin which juts out. Mostly what bothers me is my profile. I hate, hate, hate seeing myself in profile. It fills me to my depths with the despair of dysphoria. You'll notice neither this blog nor my instagram ever have a photo of me that's not taken from straight on.
She walked through the procedures with me and helped to set my expectations about what she could or couldn't do. It was funny because she more than once referred to my features as "feminine." And I'm thinking like - do you say that to everyone or are my features just feminine? Well, I mean, I didn't get cursed with Abe Vigoda or Jason Momoa face, but still.
For the most part my questions were about recovery and complications. The doctor provided me with answers (recovery for a 2-4 weeks. Nerve damage can happen but it's unlikely. It won't affect my hair transplants). Then I asked here how long the waiting list was and she said they're currently booking for May. May? Of 2019? Yes, May of 2019.
So next I sat down with the Surgical Coordinator who had more paperwork for me. She also said the next available surgery day was April 18. That was too soon for me. The next was early May. That was a little better. Granted it's only twelve days better, but I wasn't imaging this would all happen so quickly. I mean my top and bottom surgery took them a month to even get back to me. And when they did they gave me dates a year or more away. So I picked a date in early May!
Wow. Even typing that makes me nervous. As I was in the room with her I had to ask to borrow a pen because I had so much stuff to do. First I need a cardiologist to sign off, have to move some other appointments, figure out work for perhaps a month, and get some additional insurance paperwork.
In a few days I should hear back on whether my insurance will cover it. I've got multiple medical letters written by people who are experts on this. But will insurance refuse to pay? That's the real crux here. If they don't then I pay then I'm going to have to fight them on it. Then if I lose that fight I have to cancel the surgery. I sure as hell can't pay for it out of pocket.
After all of this I had to go up to radiology to get some head x-rays. And that of course involved filling out more paperwork asking me the exact questions that the previous paperwork and interview had already asked. Seriously, American healthcare? What's up? Do we need to have a talk.
Anyway, the sad thing is that they made me take off my skull earrings and skull necklace for the x-rays of my skull. How cute an image would that be! A real skull with jewelry skulls! Ah well. They wouldn't even let me take a pic of my image. They claimed it was a HIPAA violation. Sure, but it's my HIPAA. Can't I violate my own medical privacy if I want? Apparently not.
So yeah. In a couple months I'm gonna get doctors to cut my face skin, peel it back, and grind off parts of my skull. I've never had surgery. I'm scared. What if I have that thing where you're aware of all the pain but can't move or speak! What if I die on the table? Both are highly unlikely but possible. It's scary.
And I'm nervous about what the results will look like. Thankfully my doctor said that she likes to make sure people still look like them, but with softer features. That's what I want. I still want to look like me. I don't want to look like I have bad Beverley Hills matron face. And I worry about recovery too. And pain. Sure, I'm good with pain but no one likes pain.
And I'm excited because FFS is the tool that allows people to go from maybe passing some times to probably passing most of the time. And while I know passing isn't everyone's goal and it shouldn't have to be a goal, but it's still my goal. I want to be a normal girl. This is a step. And it's a step I'm taking soon.
Last night I had my sixth electrolysis session. For those who are counting this was my fifth facial electrolysis session. The sixth was somewhere else, an area best left unmentioned. And I gotta say I'm kinda sick of it. When I was getting ready to head out the electrolysis office I almost cancelled. But cancelling at the last moment is not only rude, it would also cost me the full session amount. So I went. Laying down with the bright light in the my face, I braced for the now usual pain, figuring that I could just bite the bullet and get through it.
Recently I had found a new electrolysis place. This first one I tried was run out of a trans-woman's apartment and I didn't real like it. It just didn't feel professional. I didn't feel entirely comfortable being poked and prodded in someone's living room. I wanted a place that felt like a business. And I found a better spot in Brooklyn. It's in an office and feels much more official and professional. Plus the first time I went the owner kept asking me about my menstrual cycle until I finally had to tell her that I was trans. So I passed! That makes me like the place even more.
But this time I when I went to the new place, I had a new practitioner. She had never done my face before and I think she had the machine turned up to high. It hurt like hell. I had put on some lidocaine cream before the appointment but it just didn't help. The electrolysis person made me ice up my face but it still hurt. After my half hour session I was so over it.
Honestly, electrolysis is not fun. It's just not. And at this point I'm sick of the constant appointments, the not shaving before hand, the special skin care routine I have to do for days after, the limitations on shaving and makeup after, the pain, all of it. And unlike laser I don't feel like I'm even seeing results.
I have to do my pre-GRS electrolysis. But I think it's time for a break on my face. I can go back to it any time. But I have my whole life to do this. Right now I'm finding electrolysis to be far worse than just shaving every day or every other day. I'll jump back in at some point. But to sum it all up, electrolysis is un-fun.
The good news is that I got my dates for my surgeries! The bad news is that they're a loooong way away. But at least I finally have the dates. The past month has been spent just waiting for my phone to ring, following up, calling back, leaving messages, and being patient. Every time my phone has rung I've had that deep feeling in my gut just hoping that it was the doctor with the dates. Dates, I thought, would make it real. Well I have my dates. It's real.
To be honest I was a tiny bit devastated when the dates were given to me. Partly this was because they were at least six months after the rough idea that the doctor had given me. So I sort of let myself start planning it all out in my head. Getting one's expectations up can be a dangerous thing to do. And I did it to myself.
But a long time is kind of good (I try to tell myself). Firstly, it gives me some serious time to think about things. There's a lot to consider here; everything from recovery, to potential complications, to life adjustments for myself and others. I've known two people to have GRS scheduled and back out at near the last minute. Maybe I will back out? Maybe I won't. Maybe someone else will back out and I'll get bumped ahead. That's why I've already started on my prep work.
Yes, there is a lot of prep work to be done in the mean time. I need to get electrolysis on my junk! Yes, I need to pay good money to have a stranger stick needles in my genitals for an hour. I just had my first session this morning. Thankfully the practitioner was super nice and helped me get over my nervousness. I mean, there's both pain to deal with and my own lack of comfort with being nude in front of strangers.
Thankfully the pain wasn't bad. My doctor prescribed a topic anesthetic cream. Where I had properly applied that I didn't feel a thing. Now there were a few spots where some excruciating hairs were killed. But it was altogether way easier than facial electrolysis. Still not fun, but not as bad as you'd think.
The truth is that this whole process has been a little frustrating and slow. But I am also immensely thankful that I have insurance that covers it. And I intend to fight my insurance company and get them to pay for electrolysis as well. Wish me luck.
I've been lucky. I really have. Transition is slow. But ten years ago I was afraid to even start it for fear of loneliness or rejection or not being able to pay for anything. Every problem I'd imagined has always, in the face of reality, faded to nothing. And as I go forward I'll keep being thankful, I'll try to be patient, and I'll hope that all the fears keep amounting to nothing.
2018 was, all things considered, a good year for me. It was my final year wearing wigs thanks to my new hairline. It marked my second year full time and my third year on HRT. I got to meet one of my heroes, Shirley Manson, and she turned out to be super awesome. I had my first electrolysis on my face. It got to go to the Philadelphia Transgender Wellness conference and had an amazing time. My podcast, Gender Rebels, reached its 100th episode where we interviewed Michelle Hendley and Katie Rain Hill. I signed a modelling contract and got my head shots (though I've yet to be hired - ah well). I went back to my home town for the first time as the real me. And, as 2018 wound down, I had my consultation for GRS and top surgery.
So, that's a pretty awesome year. And I find myself buoyed going into 2019, determined that I will kick this years' ass so hard, as I have many others before it. But right now, as 2019 starts, I find myself waiting. Once again I am waiting. Transition involves a lot of waiting. It is not an undertaking for the impatient. The current thing I'm waiting on are my surgery dates.
In mid-December I went to the offices of Dr. Rachel Bluebond-Langer at NYU Langone medical center. I had actually first gotten that appointment back in May. So, after months of waiting for the consultation appointment, I was pretty excited and looking forward to it. I had to get five separate medical letters for her and for my insurance. Plus there was a mountain of paperwork that I had to fill out for NYU, mostly related to medical history and things.
Then the day finally came! I made sure to look my absolute best. After all I didn't want the doctor to think that I wasn't taking transition or surgery seriously (See, doc! I'm not a fetishist!). After a brief wait and some more paperwork (why is it that doctors always make you fill out the paperwork twice?) I went back to the little examination room. A nurse was there and asked me some basic background questions (ones that I had already answered on the forms). Then after another wait the doctor came in.
She was quick and casual as she described all the particulars of the procedures. Then she reviewed my paperwork and letters (despite having had like six months with the paperwork), and asked me if I had any questions. There were a few that I had, but I had also done a lot of research. During my waiting period I had looked up different types of procedures, various potential complications, and had read a few first hand accounts of people who had had their surgery with Bluebond-Langer.
After that, she handed me a shrink wrapped hospital gown and asked me to strip. While she left the room I put on the gown. It's never a good feeling to be sitting there in a hospital gown. But she did come back in quickly. And she had a measuring tape. She looked at my top first and took some measurements and made some comments. After that she did the same for down below. And then she said I could get dressed because I was done.
"Wait!" my brain screamed. "When do I get the surgery? I thought this was going to involve dates." So I asked her when I would know the scheduled dates. She said, and I remember the words clearly, sometime next week. Her office would call "sometime next week" with dates. That was mid-December. This is now early January. Two weeks have past! Granted, those were holiday weeks. But still. She said one week!
So after nine days I called. Left a voicemail. No response yet. So I emailed on the patient portal. That they responded to. With a response that basically said "we'll let you know." That was a few days ago. And I'm going mad. Every time my phone rings I get excited, even though the only people who ever call me are random Chinese language recordings and people trying to sell me car insurance for a car I don't own. But I remain hopeful.
I just want the dates because that makes it more real. With dates I can start to plan. I can think about the future in concrete terms. Without dates it's all just some nebulous future. I don't want nebulous. I want concrete darn it! And so, for the umpteenth time during my transition- I wait.
I am thankful that I have access to local surgery and that my healthcare will pay for it. I am thankful I have a partner who will help me navigate my recovery. But I do want to know what 2019 really holds. When will I need to buy new bras? Should I get excited about the beach or not? When should I schedule my vacations? I wish I knew. And so, with no real info, I wait.
Before I had my hairline surgically fixed I was pretty much forced to use wigs for everyday wear. It's not a fun thing to wear a wig everyday. They're hot, can get itchy, they can get messed up easily, and sometimes can look really unrealistic. Plus wearing wigs all the time kind of made me feel more like a crossdresser. I know plenty of cis women wear wigs and plenty of transwomen do too. There's no shame in it certainly. But I personally felt somehow less natural. I felt like I was still "dressing up" and not a "real girl." Have I mentioned that I tend to be a fairly anxious person anyway? Transition hasn't really changed that.
Naturally I was super happy when my hair got fixed. It meant no more wigs! And so for the last ten months I've been wig free. It's been nice. My head is cooler. It's less itchy. And my self esteem has gotten much, much better. Plus it's fun to be able to play with your real hair; dye it, put it up in little buns, and just generally play around with it.
But the other day I had off work and decided that it would be fun to do some wig pictures. I would be going out to an art opening at the Museum of Sex with friends that night so I thought it would be a great opportunity to dress up to the nines. Of course it ended up being a freak blizzard that day so didn't wear heels or the wig after all. But it was still fun to dress up a little, especially since I had new fuzzy coats to show off.
Here's some pics I took. I took a ton because when you look that good you have to capture it for future generations.