A Rare, Post-FFS Infection!

One week ago, I wrote about my facial feminization surgery (FFS). I thought after almost 5 weeks, I was on the road to recovery. This week showed me that the road was anything but straight, as I write from my hospital room.

In the last post, I mentioned that I was having more swelling on one side of my jaw than the other. Last week, that swelling suddenly became large, firm, and sometimes painful. I contacted my surgeon’s office, and they suggested I come in for an urgent appointment the next day. Maybe just a possible fluid build-up, they conjectured. The team would drain it, and I could move on.

Unfortunately, when they looked at it last Friday, they determined that there wasn’t really fluid there. Something else was wrong. They suggested I come back at my next scheduled follow-up appointment on Wednesday so that the surgeon himself could take a look. So, for five days, I continued life. I pushed through worked. I spent time with the kids. I started taking ibuprofen to help with the swelling and bouts of stinging pain that would occasional strike me. There was clearly problem. My jaw line began to turn red. My neck puffed up.

On Tuesday, I went to see my primary care physician on a previously scheduled visit to talk about routine lab results. She was very concerned about my jaw and neck, and she preemptively prescribed me two antibiotics as a just in case. The next day, I finally was able to see my surgeon. He took one look at me and decided we needed to aspirate the infection. A few minutes and a few needles later, and he had pulled a vial of pus out of my face. I felt a little better from the immediate release of tension, but plenty of firmness still remained. He sent that culture to the lab for testing. In the meantime, he wanted me to start the antibiotics my PCP prescribed and return two days later to evaluate progress.

On Friday, I went to work an opening 4-hour shift at work, and then I headed to San Francisco with my family to the follow-up appointment. The infection had shifted slightly towards my throat and was certainly no smaller than it had been two days prior. He aspirated again, and then sat quietly for a couple of minutes in the procedure room. He then came to the conclusion that I needed to be admitted, and that we would need to go back into surgery to clean out the infection. After discussing it with my wife, we agreed to walk across the street to the hospital for direct and immediate admission to start broad spectrum IV antibiotics and to prepare for surgery the next morning.

On Saturday, the surgery lasted about 30-45 minutes, paling in comparison to the nearly 7 1/2-hour initial surgery. Within hours, I was out of recovery and back in my room, now equipped with a drain attached to my face Then, it became a waiting game. We waited for the results of the cultures from last Wednesday to come back. We waited to see what kind of output the drain would produce. The whole thing was supposed to take a day or two. It did not. The labs took forever to determine that I was being afflicted by two different bacteria, and they needed to determine the best antibiotic to combat those bacteria narrowly.

Further, a strange complication arose: I was experiencing double vision. How was that possible, since the infection and surgery only concentrated on my jaw and neck? So now I had consultations with ophthalmology, complete with eye tests. They initially concluded the issue was a congenital palsy, indicating that this was something I always had and that surgery may have just triggered it. I thought they were nuts, as I have had excellent vision all of my life. The simpler answer, as we know from Occam’s Razor is usually the correct answer, was that something happened during surgery, as the vision problems did not start until after I came back from surgery.

There was talk of me going home with the drain in my face. There was talk of me going home with the vision problem and returning in a few weeks to the ophthalmologist’s clinic to treat my new eye condition. I complained. Luckily for me, the drain situation took care of itself. Output reduced to the point where it was determined it could come out before I left the hospital. On the crazy eye issue, my surgical team asked the ophthalmology department to see me again with an attending physician to see if a better explanation and treatment could be found.

All in all, between the surgery, recovery, drain issues, and eye issues (let alone my poor, bloated right arm from several days of continuous IV), I am still in the hospital after five full days. Barring a sudden change for the worse, I should be going home tomorrow without a drain, with the proper antibiotics, and a recovering eyeball.

This infection came out of nowhere. Most post-op infections occur in the first week or two. Mine waited 4 1/2 weeks to manifest. Quite rare. I am happy we took the steps to properly treat it, but pressing the pause button on my life has been very difficult. I lost work. I lost time with the kids (although, they did visit me everyday in the hospital). I was not able to contribute to the family’s greater good from my hospital bed. That took an emotional toll on me this week, as it did on the family. My son has been sick. My wife has been stressed running the house solo and worrying about me. It has been tough on everyone.

Those that do not understand why I had FFS in the first place may think that I made a bad decision, especially since it led to this infection. Those people do not get why I had the initial surgery in the first place. This week, it was easy to ask myself, “Why am I here right now?” Those thoughts made me cry. What makes it right is remembering why I had the initial surgery: to address my dysphoria, to make right what I felt was wrong. FFS is more than a cosmetic procedure. It is life affirming. Unfortunately for me, I had to deal with a severe infection that landed me a second surgery and what looks to be six days in the hospital. However, that does not mean I regret going through this process because ultimately, I had to do it. It was a need, not a want. It was a good decision.

I look forward to going home and finalizing my recovery from both surgeries. I relish jumping back in to my mom role and kissing the kids good night, watching TV with my wife, petting my cat who has not seen me in a week. Work has been stressful, but I need to be there, too. It is time to un-pause, press play once again, and move forward with life with my improved, non-infected feminized face.

Although, I will miss the awesome view of the Golden Gate Bridge outside my hospital room window—even if my blurred vision makes it look like it has four towers instead of two. Recovery continues.

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My Facial Feminization Surgery Experience in Brief

Over five weeks ago, I had the first major surgery of my lifetime: Facial Feminization Surgery (FFS). The recovery process has been trying, but I am happy I did it.

In the grand scheme of things, the surgery itself and the hospital stay were not incredibly remarkable—other than the spectacular view of San Francisco from my private room. Even though I had never personally had major surgery or been a patient for a hospital stay, I was not especially nervous going into surgery. In recovery, even though I was super groggy and in some pain, I apparently corrected my father misgendering me while talking to the nurse. When I got to my room, I panicked a little after I vomited twice, which was a result of the anesthesia, ans so I asked my wife to stay overnight in my room with me. My young children were well prepped for what to expect when they saw me, and they seemed to handle the whole experience well. I am thankful for most everyone who took care of me for the approximately 30 hours I spent at the hospital.

The first few days at home were not too bad. I tried not to be a troublesome patient to my wife and kids. I tried to sleep. I kept to my liquid diet. I took my pain meds. When I had to go to the surgeon’s office five days post-op, I was embarrassed to be out in public with a big bruise on my overly swollen jaw, a nose splint, and a Frankenstein incision at my hairline. A week later at my next appointment, I was less nervous, as my bruising and swelling were reducing. I put make-up on for the first time. I started trying to get myself back into the world more.

After three weeks, I returned to work, where everyone was anxious to see what I looked like. Many saw the subtle changes; others didn’t think there had been a big change. Why? Well, full healing takes about six months. They were expecting something more dramatic. Over time, they will hopefully see more changes as I heal more.

The recovery process has been stressful. First, I did not want to leave my house. Then, I tried to get into back into routine, but that was easier said than done. It is hard to pick up routine when I have to explain to everyone what I went through and how it is not the final result yet. Even five weeks post-op, I am not at 100% energy, and last week, I suffered a setback which caused one side of my jaw to significantly swell up again. I’m in the process of dealing with that now, but I am a little scared how the situation will resolve. I get more information on that in the morning with my next doctor’s appointment.

The adjustment at home is difficult to read. My children have handled it well. Even though my face is swollen and healing, my daughter still calls me beautiful and a princess. Now that I am getting more sensation back in the tip of my nose, we can nuzzle each other once again, which is a thing with us. My son, being 7, is preoccupied with himself, so I have not really got much reaction from him. At least it hasn’t been negative. My wife keeps things to herself. She was a great nurse and helped me with everything I needed in the first few weeks, but it was clearly a position she did not want to have to fulfill. She aided me because she knew it was a procedure I needed for myself, and she feels obligated to take care of me, even though she wants little to do with me in the long run. She has been stuck between a rock and a hard place since I began this journey, and she does not know how to extricate herself without the entire family hurting. Neither do I.

Adding to the stress has been the fact that we are losing Medi-Cal at the end of this month. (I apparently got my surgery just in time!) That means we have to buy into the health care exchanges with money we really don’t have. The timing couldn’t be worse considering the setback I am having with my swelling. We are having to switch primary doctors, do cost-benefit analyses, read benefit summaries… and do it all on an accelerated schedule. Tack on on all the other personal stuff we have going on, and the whole thing is incredibly overwhelming. I am not sure how I am remaining sane, let alone her.

I am happy that I got FFS. The results are not all there yet, and I have to deal with this strange additional swelling, but parts of my face are showing positive signs. My nose is smaller. My brow bones looks great. The hairline where they shaved is growing back. The non-inflamed side of my jaw is healing well and providing me a preview of what is to come. There are great positives, and my improved face will be worth it in the long run. The dysphoria I experience looking into a mirror should be reduced over time—and that was the whole point. Now, it’s mainly a wait-and-see.

Finding My Happiness Again

In the quest to find my authentic self, there has been been an additional goal: to find my happiness. Now 3 years into my transition, I am proud to have found my womanhood, my motherhood, and once again found my heart—all of which contribute to my happiness.

When I began questioning my gender, I was more depressed than I had ever been in my life (even though I was not admitting it to myself). I had realized parts of my life’s dream. I had found and married the love of my life. I was the parent of two beautiful children. Something was missing, though. I was missing.

Growing up, I was full of emotions, empathy, and love. While my family was fractured due to my parents’ divorce when I was two, my sense of family was strong. On my mom’s side, I had… well, my mom, who was the most important person in my life. As she raised me the best she could, she encouraged me to be accepting and respectful of all people. She frequently expressed how much she loved me and how she would go to the ends of the Earth to make sure I was safe and healthy. On my dad’s side, there was a large stereotypical Sicilian family headed by a grandfather. Holidays were always fun and loud, with 30 or more people crammed into a 2-bedroom apartment and a dinner table that extended into the living room. Teasing, joking, and brutal honesty were the name of the game, but all comments were heartfelt and full of love. Influenced from both sides, I developed a strong sense of family. By extension, I treated friends as if they were family and gave most people the benefit of the doubt.

I was an emotional child. I cried at movies. I was super sensitive to having my heart broken. I was easily taken advantage of as the nerdy, outcast kid. I had very few romantic relationships, and even then, many bordered on the friend zone. Still, I was happy being me—or so I thought. College brought a different set of friends but also increased personal hardships. My family broke apart further as the older set passed away. My mom and I suffered a rift when I suddenly moved out of the house after being disqualified from school. Eventually, I was on my own without a degree or a sense of purpose.

I eventually started turning my life around in my own time, but I effectively wasted 10 years before doing any real work on myself. I found some happiness when I met the woman who would eventually be my wife. She accepted me for who I was at the time. She found my nerdiness endearing, my loyalty infectious, and my commitment to love irresistible. She had strong connections to family, as well. We were seemingly a good pair. That pair resulted in the births of two amazing children. I thought my life was turning around. The dreams I had as a child were being realized. I should have been realizing happiness, too.

But there was a hidden, unrealized dream.

The dream of being a woman was one that I feel was suppressed for most of my life. I did not know when I was 3. I did not know in school, the 10 years I wasted, or even after I started my own family. I did not realize it until three years ago. In hindsight, there were signs. I missed them. What was really missing, though, was a love for myself. I had all of this love for my family, my friends, my children, my wife… but not for me. The individuality I expressed as a child was muddled. The emotions I once wore on my sleeve were now hiding behind emotional walls. When my mom died, I thought it would be the most horrific moment of my life because we were so close to each other. I barely cried. I remained stoic, as I had with every other death I experienced in my lifetime. That was not right. That was not the real me. I was lost and did not know it.

When I finally turned the focus on myself, I began to see these things. I missed the emotional, loving person I was as a child. I also came to see that unrealized dream I had not even known was there. Transition made sense. Identifying as a woman made sense. My head and my heart read woman—emotional, sensitive, loving, empathetic—the same as my child self. My jealousy of my wife and her pregnancies made sense. My desire to want everything a bride wanted at my wedding made sense. The emotional ties to my children were more motherly than fatherly in my mind. This is who I was supposed to be all along.

Transition has opened my eyes to my true self. Living as the authentic me has brought out the woman, the mother, the person I was meant to be. I am full of love and emotion that I am free to express and not wall off to the world. I am not depressed because of who I am or what I represent. I am a woman. I am a mother. I am loving, accepting, and wanting more. I am happier. I am me.

Of course, life challenges still exist. Financial, career, and relationship problems are squarely in my purview and need addressing. But I am once again on the path to dreaming, for that is what I truly am: a dreamer.

Dreaming of Recaptured Wedding Bliss

The dreamer in me appreciates the idealism, joy, and love I witnessed at the wedding I attended yesterday.  I cannot help but think back to my own wedding nearly nine years ago, and how I want to recapture the love of that day.

I have vivid memories of the intricate details of my wedding on a warm August day that began with my wife and I going to a Toys R Us for the express purpose of buying a whiffle ball & bat for pictures.  I had mani/pedis and my hair done with the bridal party, and I even waxed my eyebrows for the first time.  I remember being at the park, and spying on our friends & family, as we ran five minutes late for the ceremony and my bride got ready in another room.  I walked down the aisle with my mom, because even though our wedding occurred pre-transition, I still wanted to walk down the aisle like a bride.  I even had my own music.  During the ceremony, our unity candle would not light because of the wind (we had contingency ceremony text for that possibility), and the laying on of hands we added to our ceremony was a special touch.  I was given keys to my wife’s aunt’s house in Florida in case we wanted to use the house on the honeymoon—you know, the one my wife did not know we were taking until we were at the airport later in the week.  Our cake was lopsided; our song was “At Last.”  We took pictures of the bridal party on a baseball diamond with the whiffle ball and bat we had purchased in the morning.  And as we traveled home after a long party, I remember our truck breaking down on the freeway, and us awkwardly opening gifts as we waited for the tow truck to arrive.  The details are clear in my partially photographic mind.  The day was truly special.  A framed picture from that day still hangs prominently in our living room.

We were truly in love.  My wife and I vowed to be newlyweds for five years after our wedding.  We were going to beat the odds and not fall out of love no matter the challenges.  We would hold on to everything we held dear about each other.

The thought was nice.

About a year after our wedding, the newlywed bliss ended around the time my wife became pregnant with our first child.  She had an incredibly difficult pregnancy complete with neverending morning sickness and dehydration.  During labor, she had a tear that needed emergency fixing.  Breastfeeding was a problem, as the baby did not want to consistently latch.  The stresses built up, as did our debt.  Reality set in, and the challenges really started to hit us.  The repercussions of those challenges and how we dealt with them are still felt in small parts today.  A second child, careers shifts, and now my transition, and we are on the brink of disaster as a married couple.  Neither of us wear our wedding rings anymore.

While we are in a wildly different place than we were nine years ago, some things do not change.  The idealistic love I have—that I yearn so deeply for—still fills my heart.  I still love and want to be loved as wholeheartedly as I loved and was loved on my wedding day.  Watching our friends get married yesterday made me both ecstatic and sad.  I am so incredibly happy for the them.  One half of the couple told me she was have the most amazing day of her life, and I was happy with her.  Then, I watched the couple dance, kiss, and gaze into each other’s eyes, just as I did with my wife on our wedding day.  That pureness—that joy—cannot be replicated.  I cannot express how much I miss those moments and wish they could be mine again.

Yesterday when I left for work, my wife told me that she loved me.  I had not heard those words from her in a long time, and they immediately made me smile, even if she could not see my reaction.  I do not know why she said it in that moment.  I did not ask her.  I can only presume she meant it honestly and to make me feel good.  I miss the days when that was a regular thing.  A kiss before we separated.  An “I love you” out the door.  An “I missed you” when we reconnected.  Now, we don’t even dance together at our friends’ wedding.  There used to be days when we would dance in the living room without any music.

Love exists between us.  It will never fully erase itself, but it will never be like it was on our wedding day.  I am a woman now, and that is not what she married.  I do not know how to move on.  I want to find the love of that day all over again.  I want another chance to be newlyweds for five years.  Instead, I do not even know if we will celebrate our anniversary in any meaningful way.

I hold on to the past; I must love in the future.  Someday, I want to reconnect with that wedding bliss—that total and complete joy—and to do it in a wedding dress.  Since that will not come in a re-commitment ceremony, I must find a way to open myself up to another.  I have so much love still to give.  I hope there is someone out there willing to receive my love and offer their undying love in return.

Congratulations to my friends.  I am truly happy for the two of you—even if I am simultaneously jealous of what you have right now.

Finding, Losing, and Re-finding My Own Independence

As we celebrate Brexit 1776, I look back at how transition has forced me to begin re-finding my own independence that I once had and gave away.

For a vast majority of my life, I have been very independent (for better or worse).  As an only child raised by a working single mom, I was thrown into adult situations early in life, and I trusted to be on my own for hours each day.  By second grade, I was a latchkey kid.  I wore a key on a cord around my neck.  The school bus would drop me off a block-and-a-half away from my house.  I would walk home and let myself in.  At some point, my mom would call (with a coded ring in the landline days) to ensure I made it home safely while she continued to work.  At that age, independence was short-lived.  When mom came home, she took control.

My mom gave me latitude to make my own choices under her watchful eye.  I did not really test those limits to great extent.  Like any teen, I was challenged when I did something stupid.  I believe there were a a few things I got away with that she may have known about but never questioned because I was allowed to make mistakes and learn from them.  Still, she kept careful tabs on me, and “no” was a frequent answer, so while I thought I might have been free to do what I wanted, I really was never as free as I would have liked.  I asked permission for almost everything.  I was a dutiful, non-wild child.

Going off to college was the first time I really had total independence over my actions and choices.  My academics suffered, as did my life.  I made several negative choices that affected me for a long time.  At one point, I effectively put my life on hold for a year.  The better part of my 20s was spent trying to right the ship I had self-sabotaged.  However, while I was struggling to advance my life, I had complete control.  I planned well; it was the execution of those plans that lacked a bit.  Still, I was independent and free.  By the end of my 20s, I was finally making better choices and overcoming the obstacles I had put in my own way.  During that time, I met the woman who become my wife.

Married life brought changes—and co-dependency.  The two of us were very independent people before we met each other, but we intertwined out lives so much that we became to heavily rely on each other.  She is clinically depressed, and when I became depressed myself a few years ago, that co-dependency caused many problems, even though I denied such a situation existed at the time.  I eventually became so depressed that I began to evaluate how I got to that point.  That self-evaluation is when the idea that I might be transgender began to make a lot of sense.

I have been transitioning three years now, and with that, I have found out a few things.  By finding the authentic me, I have gained back much of the control over my body that I had denied myself for a lifetime.  I am so much more comfortable in my body as it changes into what it always should have been, and when I complete facial feminization surgery next month, I will be that much closer.  GRS, which is likely several years away, will hopefully finalize that piece of the puzzle.  As independent as I thought I had always been, I was not really free of myself until I began transition.  It was like being released from a prison I never really knew I was in.

However, the co-dependency of my marriage remains.  I love my wife with all of my heart.  I do not want to lose her.  The circumstances of our situation, though, do not benefit either of us (or our children) in the long-run.  Ultimately, we cannot sustain this relationship, and the longer we remain together, the less independent either of us will end up.  To be the best versions of ourselves, we must separate.  I cry about that inevitability.  It is what stops me from seriously dating others.  Separation would allow or more freedom for the both of us.  I envy those who have transitioned with partners that remained by their sides and were able to maintain that love for each other.  My story will not end that way, and that is understandable.  I cannot make her stay if she is not attracted to me.  Still, the logistics of separating are daunting.  We are both scared.  Transition has scarred us both, and those wounds may not heal for quite sometime.  At least I get the benefit of freeing my body and my personality, but we both end up in an unfulfilling relationship.

Transition has brought me new independence.  My body and my mind are free.  I am able to be the authentic me, and that is truly liberating.  On the flip side, transition unofficially put the nail in the coffin of my marriage, which was once a bedrock of my life.  I dreamed of being married, starting a family, and living the rest of my life in love.  Had I not felt the need to transition, maybe I could have had all of those things on the surface.  The problem is that I would not have loved myself, and that, in and of itself, is a wasted life.  Transition has taught me to love and appreciate myself as much as I love and appreciate others.  That is a huge win.  It comes with a the huge loss of shattering the rest of my dreams (and hers).

My 20s were largely wasted because of newfound independence.  My 30s were about building a loving family while voluntarily ceding that freedom.  My 40s will be about regaining that independence, learning to love myself, and attempting to redefine the family dynamics as my transition winds down.  I found myself.  Now, I need to re-learn how to live by myself (and my children).

Love Still Hurts After Three Years of Transition

I am deeply empathetic.  I also love deeply.  It is the hopeless romantic inside me that has always been there no matter my gender.  However, the ability to love wholeheartedly comes with a price.

Today marks three years since I began my transition—three years since I told my wife I was having “gender issues.”  I am a much more complete and happier person that I was at the start of this journey.  I am a better parent.  I am a better friend.  I wish I could be a better partner.

I have written extensively in this space about my relationship with my wife.  We have moved from an extremely hostile and adversarial place to one of mutual friendship and effective co-mothers.  We continue to live together and raise our children, mainly bound by necessity, as neither of us have the financial support to live on our own.  We no longer fight about my transition, and she supports me even when I talk of life-altering surgeries.  I continue to support her efforts to advance in her career path.  While we are not perfect, we have always done fairly well supporting each other.  We make a good pair, but ultimately, we are doomed for failure.

As recently as two weeks ago, she reiterated her desire for a divorce.  She is not happy being with me because I cannot provide for her needs.  Primarily, that comes down to the fact that she is not attracted to women, and by extension, me.  She did not marry a woman; she is not a lesbian.  She would rather be alone than in a sexless marriage.  As much as it hurts to think about, her reasoning is sound.  If she is not attracted to me, how can I be a good partner for her?

Further, she states she is not able to fulfill all of my needs.  That is a little harder for me to accept because I am not really sure what my needs are these days.  We have been together over 11 years and married almost nine years.  Despite all of the major changes and tumultuous times, I still love her.  I love her deeply and with all of my heart.  Can she fulfill all of my needs?  I do not know.

There are so many things that remind me of what we had.  Music, movies, memories.  Our children.  I reminisce about our happier times (we did have them!).  I miss the shared jokes, the intimacy, the cuddling.  I miss the “I love you”s, the hugs, the shared dreaming.  I always contended that despite my transition, I was essentially the same person.  My ability to love, empathize, and support remained unchanged.  These are the parts of me she truly loved.  I was never that physically attractive as a man.  My main selling points were what was beneath the surface:  intelligence and heart.  Estrogen has not taken those things away.  I am still smart and full of love.  I think that is what makes the concept of divorce so challenging to me.  I believe I have a lot to offer—the same things I offered at the beginning.

What has changed is my physical appearance and how I present to the world.  Those are not minor things.  I understand that.  I just wish that love was enough.  I wish I was enough for her.

I cry when I think of the special moments we have shared.  I cry when I watch characters in TV and movies resolve the challenges in the relationships to come together again.  I frequently draw parallels between fictional stories and my own.  That makes me sad because I love my wife, my children, and my marriage.  The problem is that I feel myself shifting back into a mindset where I think I might be able to attain the impossible:  Keeping my marriage.  That is a dangerous realm to live in, though, because as long as she does not want me, it does not matter how much I want to stay.  Marriage and relationships take two, and without both of us invested, there is no relationship.

In those moments I snap back to reality, I think about the possibility of dating.  Part of me is anxious to meet someone who will accept me as a woman and be attracted to me for all parts of me.  At the same time, I am reluctant to dip my toe in that pool because I cannot fully detach myself from the memories.  I just love and care too much.  That would be an attractive quality for anyone—or so I thought.

If I cannot overcome resolve this stagnant situation and stop looking into the mirror of the past, life will move on without me, and I will be unprepared for the future.  My wife is only about a year from a major career move, which could include a location move.  Our finances our stretched super thin.  We will be forced to make big decisions sooner than later regarding our futures, and as much as I would like that future to be shared, I must get my head out of the clouds and prepare for a separated life.  It makes me cry just thinking about that, though.

I love my wife.  I love my children.  I love my family.  I wish love was enough.

Celebrating a Milestone Birthday on Vacation in the Face of Uncertainty

I turned the Big 4-0.  I’m not happy about that, but I am a happier person overall since transitioning.  While on a family vacation, I am reminded that while my family supports me, there is a limit and a continued uneasiness that lies under the surface of that support.

In October 2015, I wrote a piece about how I was grieving my marriage.  At the time, I had just determined that I needed to live the rest of my life as a woman, and I went full-time three months later.  In order for me to take that giant step, I had to resolve that my relationship with my wife was effectively over without any kind of reconciliation.  I realized I needed to give up on the idea of staying together if I was going to be able to become my authentic self.

Since then, I have taken some steps to become more independent and separated from the person with which I still awkwardly share a bed.  I allowed myself to be be wooed (to varying levels) by two different women.  I tried not to be angry when my wife reconnected once again with her best friend of 20 years who has always been a toxic influence on her life.  I have tried to create a little distance knowing that we are not meant to be together in the long-term.  However, neither of us rush out to file divorce papers.

Since I went full-time, my wife’s level of support of me has been exponentially stronger.  She had defended me in public and in private.  She has encouraged me to pursue surgeries (one of which is only 2 months away!).  She has allowed me to embrace the title of Mom with the children.  When I wrote that entry about grieving my marriage, these are things I never thought I would be writing about today.  In the last 1 1/2 years, we have taken huge strides in repairing our friendship.  In my opinion, we make a great team, even if she does not find me attractive anymore.  This growth and new bonding has made me question whether or not we could survive together as a non-sexual couple buoyed by mutual love and respect.  I have allowed myself to fall back into a comfortable place I once felt when things were better between us.  By doing so, I am fooling myself.  Things simply cannot be that way, and that reminder was soundly presented to me this evening.

I am on vacation with my family in Orlando.  We are here 10 days to primarily visit family in the area.  We are also taking the time to visit the magical Walt Disney World and to celebrate my 40th birthday.  That was not always the plan, though.  Back in January, my wife’s aunts began planning a trip out here for February that only involved my wife and children–not me–all without asking me.  It was very rushed and felt secretive, and ultimately I felt like my children were going to be taken away from me involuntarily for a week.  The thought of that crushed me.  Because of some technical issues with the booking of flights, the trip was postponed to June, and alternatively the family travelled to Washington State to see my wife’s father.  To avoid conflict, I was invited on both trips, so I would not be forcibly separated from the children.

Washington went fairly well.  Her father and stepmother frequently travel to our area, so they are well-acquainted with me at this point.  The Floridians, however, took a defensive position when I transitioned and staunchly supported my wife.  They influenced her to move to the East Coast.  They nearly cut off communication to me.  While they have seen pictures and followed my transition on Facebook, they are still uneasy about my presence, and so I naturally bring tension to the current situation by no real fault of my own.  In addition to two aunts, my wife’s grandmother lives out here, and—as Murphy’s Law would have it no other way—she shares my birthday.  Grandma is in her 80s; her health is poor.  This may be the last time my children get to spend time with her.  However, she is old school and completely against my transition.

I came out to Florida fully willing to share my birthday, to show respect and extend an olive branch in an uneasy situation.  The plan:  My birthday would be celebrated at a breakfast, while her birthday would be celebrated at a dinner later that night.  My wife chose to keep my breakfast closed to just me, herself, and our children.  Dinner was to be an all-family affair.  The night before it was to all happen, the plans changed.  Grandma was now requesting only my wife’s presence without myself or the children.  This behavior upset me greatly, as I felt the move was a premeditated, disingenuous act.  My wife decided to agree, and after all of my day was done, our immediate family was separated, while my wife and her family could talk about me while I was unable to speak for myself.

It’s not that I do not trust my wife to defend and support me, but at the same time, this was the first time in a long time that I felt that support fade away.  She chose to allow me to be excluded in a situation where we could have presented a united front demonstrating that we have been working well together.  Instead, my wife did not see that opportunity.  While she felt I had a right to be upset by the changes, she chose to walk out that door and wish me “Happy Birthday” while leaving me alone to babysit our children in our hotel room.  When she returned, she could not understand why I had been stressed and upset while she was gone.

The conversation that resulted was a tough one.  She reminded me that she still wanted a divorce.  She complimented me in the sense that she felt we make a great co-parenting team and that she wants me to be nearby when she eventually is offered a job in the future (probably over a year away).  However, that is as far as she would go.  The tone was different than the cooperative and friendly tone I had started to which I had become accustomed.  She was redrawing the same lines she had drawn before:  a future divorce due to unhappiness with me and our situation.  Her taking the kids when she moves.  Following this talk, I fear an ultimatum and a child custody fight in our future.  That is something I certainly want to avoid.  Our children mean to the world to each of us individually.  They keep us safe and alive.  They are a reason to live and a reason to love.  From my prospective, my children are why I did not attempt suicide when I was in my darkest moments.  My attachment and love for them was why my fight to be called Mom was so important to me.  It is why I am on this vacation instead of allowing my children to travel 3,000 miles away without me.  It’s not that I do not trust my wife to take care of them.  It is that they are an essential part of me.  She feels similarly.  She reiterated tonight that she would die without her children.  If we are not to stay together, then there will be some extremely difficult negotiations ahead at some unpredictable time.

Part of what made this conversation difficult was because I care too much for someone that ultimately does not want to be my partner.  I thought I had grieved our marriage.  I thought I had moved on, but I have not.  I have misinterpreted her increased friendship and support as symbols of love—a love that simply is not there for me anymore.  I have allowed myself to slip and become dependent on this relationship again.  However, doing so will set me up for failure and increased personal pain.  I feel I need to grieve some more, separate some more.  How can I when my love is still there?  I can suppress those feelings but then I am the one being disingenuous.

An uncertain future faces me.  The decisions and events of the next year or two will determine the fate of my life, my wife’s life, and the lives of our children.  My 40th birthday was filled with Disney magic (and even some Universal enjoyment), but I will always yearn for the magic my wife and I once had.  It is so difficult to let go.  I thought I cleanly broke that dependency a year ago.  I was sorely mistaken, and now I do not know what to do about it.

This vacation will go on, and I will continue to be my authentic self in front of the family.  I hope they will begin to accept me a little more, but I am also not hear to twist arms.   I am not holding out hope that Grandma will see the light, but I am not going to alter my being for them.  I will continue to love on my children and respond to “Mom.”  I will wear a cute dress, which is my definitive style.  I will be me.  Thankfully, I have not been asked to act differently around the family.  We shall see how this goes.

The hamster wheel in my head will turning, though, as I start my 40s in an uneasy place.  I grieved, but it was incomplete.  I slipped and became complacent.  I will need to grieve again and ask myself another time:  If not this marriage, what do I want?