End of an Era

Wednesday was a big day. I went to my local courthouse for my hearing on my name and gender change in the morning. After some time waiting for my turn, I got the petition approved. I am officially Ryan now.

There was a lot of thoughts and feelings going through my head (good ones, for that matter). I felt very happy (obviously). I felt relieved. I felt like a big weight has been lifted off my shoulders. I felt like a curse had been undone. I felt like I had a better sense of security. I felt free and liberated. I felt validated. And most of all, I felt like myself.

My new (legal) name? Ryan Eli Torres Turner.

I actually added a second last name and I added a middle name. I added “Eli” as my middle name. I found out about the name through one of my favorite motocross athletes. His name is Eli Tomac. I though he was a great rider (and person), that I was able to relate to, with a really cool (and pretty unique) name. I tried it out for myself and it ended sticking around – I really became attached to the name. I was originally going to add a second middle name – “Ethan”, which I felt really suited me (and still do) – but I was afraid my (full) name would get too long (but it will always be a part of me. You can all use it as a nickname for me).

I also added “Turner” as a second last name (“Torres” is my birth last name). The reason for this was because I thought it would look unique and I really liked the name. There’s actually a long history behind it: I began using this name back when I was a teen. I was growing up in a pretty dysfunctional family and I just wanted to get away from them. I was going through some pretty though times back then. I found out about the name from watching the Fairly Odd Parents growing up. I thought the name was cool and began using it. Little did I know it would really stick. I originally was going to drop “Torres” from my name (to disassociate from them) but I eventually ended up forgiving my parents. I have long forgiven them but the name has stuck – it has become such a big part of my life that I just had to keep it. (The other reason I wanted to keep “Torres” was so I can have a piece of my Latino heritage – and also because two of my closest cousins have it.) I feel like this is also going to be useful for separating my public life from my private life, but we’ll have to wait and see how its going to play out in the long run.

The next and final step in this transition of mine is to (of course) update/fix my legal/identity documents. First up is Social Security, then Medi-Cal, the DMV, the Department of Vital Statistics (to fix my birth certificate), and my doctors (PCP and Endocrinologist), and then everything else. Once this is all completed, my transition and Rite of Passage into manhood will be completed. I should be completing all this stuff by the end of the year and before the start of the new year. This means that I will enter 2015 with a fresh, brand new start!

Its been a long two and a half years, with a lot of big ups and downs. I am so glad to finally be able to put all this behind me. The lessons I’ve learned from this experience have definitely shaped me into a better person and these lessons learned will be sticking with me for life and will translate into other areas of life – like my emerging music career (which is why this is such a great Rite of Passage).

Never in a million years did I think I would be where I am right now. I always acted like and saw myself as male but I didn’t think I would actually be one (both biologically and psychologically). Even more so, I never thought I would actually turn out to be and find out that I was intersex this whole time, with a gender misassignment at birth. I never thought I would end up (legally) transitioning into my true self (from female to male).

It is the end of an era, and the start of a new one!

Nearing the End of My Journey

July was a pretty busy month! Quite a bit happened last month and its not over yet!

First, I went over to my local Social Security office to update my gender from female to male. I handed them my doctor’s letter (as well as a form of identification) and that was the end of that. I had to wait about 1 ½ hours to get service but the wait was well worth it. Two weeks later, and my gender had been updated to male. I went there in mid-July, and on August 1st, I called Social Security to see if the changes went into effect and they told me it did.

On July 18th, I filed my petition at my local court to change my name and gender legally – plus, a fee waiver that was approved. I have my hearing on September 24 in the morning. I’m really excited about this and I’m sure things will go very well.

Finally, I received my new ID on Monday – with a male gender marker!

Like I said earlier, its not over yet! Tomorrow, I’m going to go update my gender with my insurance. Hopefully after this I will be able to get my insurance to cover T. Not only that but I will be making my next appointment with my Endocrinologist tomorrow (which I’m going to see if I can book for 2 weeks from now). Hopefully I’ll finally be able to get T on my next appointment.

I feel like things are finally coming together. I feel as if I’m finally making real progress here. Since the beginning of this month, I’ve felt like my stress levels have gone down significantly – since I now have less hurdles to jump. Once I’m on T (remember, its independent of my transition), get my petition granted, and update all of my identity documents, my Rite of Passage will be completed and I will finally be able to start the next chapter in my life. I’ll no longer suffer from Low T or Gender Dysphoria after this. I will finally be able to live a normal, calm life, where I get to fulfill my potential. It will be the first time (at least since childhood) that I’ve ever felt “normal”. I’m nearing the end of this 2 – 2 ½ year journey. I can’t wait!

Until then, I’m going to go back to enjoying my vacation from almost everything – because once I’m on T (for anywhere from 2 weeks to 3 months), its back to work!

P.S. I’m planning on launching my video blog series somewhere this upcoming fall or winter, so watch out for that! (I’m currently still in the production stage. And yes, I will still be updating this blog.)

Journey To Manhood

This transition and quest towards getting TRT (which is independent from my transition) is really my “Rite of Passsage”. I’ve never had one before, and this was my perfect opportunity to have one so I decided to make my own (I’ve been doing this for 2 years now). While I may already be exhibing all the characteristics of a man, I still don’t feel completely like one. I still feel like I’m stuck in childhood. I feel like I’ve “unofficially” or “partially” entered manhood. The problem lies with my body and identity documents (but primarily my body).

Mentally, I feel like a man, since I’m exhibiting all the (psychological/mental) characteristics of one. But physically, I still feel like a boy. My body is pretty androgynous and boyish, not manish. I have a strong male gender identity, so I need my body to conform to that. Its pretty frustrating to have to compare yourself to other 24 year old men and see that they basically have entered manhood (physically, at least), while you’re still stuck in boyhood. Even looking at a teenage boy brings frustration – their bodies are developing into that of a man, and therefore entering manhood. Then you look at your body and realize that you’re 24 and didn’t really have a puberty (talk about arrested development!), therefore you haven’t officially entered manhood. It easy to get jealous of your peers (young men), as well as teen boys (I’m not afraid to admit that I get jealous sometimes). And when you’re Low Testosterone (Low T), its easy to get down and ruminate on this since Low T messes with your brain (I’m very convinced that the worst symptoms of Low T are the neurological ones).

I have low muscle mass (even though I’m fit), building muscle is very hard when you’re Low T. Stamina is down, so I can’t do physically demanding activities for very long. Weight management is difficult, so I’m underweight. Facial and other body hair is scanty, so I can’t grow a noticeable beard and I look too young. My voice still sounds boyish, not manly. Lets not forget about the neurological effects of Low T, it makes you feel like total crap! (Again, these would have to be the worst symptoms of low T.) Overall, low T makes you less of a man. It basically turns you into a “girly man”, or (if you’ve had Low T since puberty) turns you into a “man child”. You really don’t feel like a man at all. Testosterone is everything to us guys. It profoundly affects our brains, and differentiates us from the opposite sex/gender. I think you can all see how important T is for manhood (its basically its foundation, which in return defines it).

Lets not forget that I had a gender misassignment at birth. It can be hard to believe sometimes that one little marker can affect your whole life – how people perceive and treat you. It can either validate or invalidate you. It can make your life great or hell. It’s just really frustrating when you have to deal with situations that require you to show identity docuements, and find out about your illegitimate identity. Its sometimes frustrating to have to tell and correct people about your true identity and how you’re working on fixing your identity documents. It is frustrating to have to deal with places and people who basically treat you like someone you’re not, or see you as someone you’re not. Its just so frustrating when your own government doesn’t recognize who you really are. You feel invalidated. When you identify as a man, your manhood is basically straight-out denied and invalidated.

Let’s face it, if we were still hunter-gatherers, I would be totally screwed. Sure, my intersex and transition would be respected, but my manhood would either be denied, or only partially approved (since manhood is an earned status). My body would not be producing enough T, so I would be unable to do a lot of the manly activities expected of me – I would get tired too quickly, be unable to concentrate, be unable to recover quickly, be anxous and on edge all the time, be tired and fatigued all the time, and basically still be a boy (or at least still be seen as one). Since there’s no advanced medicine in those societies, I would have no way of treating my T deficiency, so I would be doomed to be a “man child” forever and a life of mediocrity, where I don’t get to fulfill my manly responsibilities and my potential. With all of that in mind, I feel very lucky that we don’t live in that type of environment anymore. I feel very lucky to live in a more advanced society, with advances in science, technology, and yes, medicine.

After everything I’ve been through, I’m not taking my manhood for granted. I think that unlike a lot of my peers, I’m taking great advantage of it. I, after all, have more to prove, more to gain, and nothing to lose than most of them. When you’ve lived the first 21 years of your life in the wrong gender role and were forced to be someone you’re not, you obviously have more to prove, more to gain, and nothing to lose. I think that a lot of people these days take things like manhood, identity documents, gender roles, and that sort of stuff, for granted. If you’re trans and/or intersex, then you’ll know what I mean.

I’m 24. I’m supposed to be out there conquering the world like all my other peers, not at home resting and depending on others for resources (due to illness). My mind is ready (and wants) to conquer the world, but my body isn’t. It just really sucks when you sometimes feel like you’re the only one going through this. I just really, really, REALLY can’t wait to get over this stupid low T. I can’t wait to get my identity documents fixed. I can’t wait to finally and officially enter manhood.

Forget puberty. Forget adolescense. 24 is my REAL coming of age! (Better late than never, right?)

Journey Towards Legal Authenticity

I was originally going to write and post this on Monday or Tuesday, but unfortunately, I got caught up with some stuff. In addition, I had a very hard time getting started on this because Low T makes it hard for me to concentrate and get started on stuff – because of low energy, fatigue, and overall cognitive dysfunction – so you’re much more prone to procrastinating. Its even like this with my work, which is why I’m so slow with putting out new music, designs, and other stuff. Low T also makes you more prone to getting writer’s block, and getting rid of it can be very difficult (to nearly impossible). Testosterone profoundly affects the male brain, and my struggles show that.

Anyways…

I went to see my PCP (Primary Care Physician) on Monday. I did exactly what I set out to do, which is ask him to write my letter so I can update my gender with the Social Security Administration (SSA). I explained to him why I needed to do that, and he was more than happy to do that for me (I just love my PCP!). It cost me $25 to make the note but I was more than happy to pay it, because I knew it would be worth it and plus I really needed that note. At first I thought that $25 for a note was pretty excessive. But after I got the note written, I found out that it was worth it. The note was very well-written and looked very professional. They even put it in an envelope! It really surpassed my expectations.

Now the next thing I need to do is go to my local SSA office and update my gender. Unfortunately, it will have to wait a little while because I need some form of identification. For me, that would be my state ID. I just renewed my ID last Monday and I’m currently waiting for it to come in the mail. They told me it would take 2 weeks to get it. I really hope this is the case because I really need to do this already – I should’ve had done this a very long time ago. Hopefully after I get this over with, I’ll be able to get my insurance to cover my TRT while keeping my Hypogonadism diagnosis, and without submitting proof that I had therapy to treat Gender Dysphoria (GD). I really don’t want to deal with Low T anymore.

In the meantime, I’m going to try to “decode” the special instructions that I have to follow in order to get to my local SSA office. One of the instructions is pretty confusing to me, so I am going to ask one of my relatives to help me out with that. In addition, I am going to try to get some legal help regarding my health care coverage, as a transgender person, with Medi-Cal. Basically what I’m going to ask them is if I will be able to get TRT, without showing proof that I had therapy for GD, if I update my gender with the SSA. Hopefully I’ll get something good out of this.

I’m officially on my way towards getting the government to recognize my authentic self! The next two things I have to do is get my legal name changed and get a new birth certificate, reflecting my real gender and name. I will be starting the name change and birth certificate amendment process in July. Since my transition is purely legal, I will officially complete my transition after I’m done with these two things!

New Year, Big Plans

2013 was a huge year for me. The majority of events that happened last year revolved around gender. 2013 was the year that I began my journey to get Hormone Replacement Therapy for my Hypogonadism (Low Testoserone, in my case). This was also the year that I continued my journey to legally transition from female to male.

2014 will be the year that I really (read: actually) begin my legal transition. Last year, California introduced and passed a new law – also known as the “Transgender Identity Law” – which allows Trans folks to have a more streamlined and inexpensive way to change their names. Part 1 (the first half) of the law went into effect on January 1st. Trans folks no longer have to go to court to change (more like “fix”) their gender marker on their birth certificates. All we have to do now is get a note from a doctor citing that we’ve undergone ‘appropriate’ treatment for a gender transition (it can be anything, and it doesn’t have to be specified). Then afterwards, we can go directly to the Office of Vital Records and change/fix the gender marker on our birth certificates that way. Part 2 (the second half) of the law will go into effect July 1st. This is when we will be able to change our names without having to put a notice up in the newspaper to do it (I heard you won’t even have to show up at the hearing).

I am very excited about the new changes. This is something that I’ve been wanting since I first started this journey in 2012. I actually never thought this day would come, and neither did I think it would come this soon. This provides us with an easier and more inexpensive way to fix our legal documents (name and gender, in this case). Not only that, but it also gives us more privacy, as we’re no longer going to be required to publish a notice up in a newspaper. That right there, is something that I’ve been intimidated of, as this is something that should be dealt in private. Not only that but I’ll be able to save a lot of money, as I’ll only have to file a fee waiver to have my filing/court fees waived, and I’ll only have to pay for a new birth certificate and ID (if I get the fee waiver granted, which I’m sure I will).

2014 will also be the year I overcome Low Testosterone (Hypogonadism). I really can’t wait to finally get this over with. It’s had such a negative impact in my life. I’m so sick and tired of feeling tired and fatigued all the time, as well as not being able to work out as often as I would like and not being able to put on muscle easily. Additionally, I’m so sick and tired of looking and sounding like a young boy (I’m 23, for goodness sake and shouldn’t have to go through this), and even worse, risking being mistaken for a masculine girl/woman. If you’ve ever suffered from, or are currently suffering from low t then you’ll know how this all feels (and how I’m feeling). I should be getting my prescription for T (and Arimidex or Tamixofen) during the first half of this year (anywhere from February through April, or during Winter or Spring) – at least I’m hoping so.

A Great Experience With The Healthcare System

I had my last doctor’s appointment on November 22nd. This appointment was different from all my other ones because I was going to see my new Primary Care Physician (PCP) for the first time. I was going to an unfamiliar place – a place I’ve never been to before. I was excited, and a little nervous as well. I wondered if I was going to receive great service like I did with my previous PCP. Additionally, I wondered how they were going to handle an Intersex person, who’s also in the process of legally transitioning from female to male, after having a gender misassignment at birth.

My new doctor’s office wasn’t far away from my place of residence. It was so close that I could walk there – which is what I did. My former doctor’s office was a little further away (but not very far). It was in the same city where I live, but I had to go there by car. It was cold, windy, and rainy that day, but it wasn’t raining when I left. Although, it started to rain once I got there (which tapered off when I went back home).

The first thing I noticed when I got in there, is that it was bigger than my old doctor’s place. There were also a few more receptionists than in my old doctor’s place (where there was only one, since it was smaller). Some of the receptionists/nurses seemed a little more aloof than at my old doctor’s place (where it felt a bit warmer), so things felt a little awkward, but I was able to overcome it as I got more familiar with the place. When I got there, there were also a lot of people, so I had a wait for quite a bit.

About 30-45 minutes later (not sure how long I had to wait since I didn’t have a watch with me – this is just my lucky guess), I was finally called in to see my doctor. The nurse did the usual stuff they do to you when you go visit the doctor – check weight, height, vital signs, etc. and then I was made to wait for my doctor to see me. About 20-30 mintues later, my doctor came into the room the nurse put me in. He introduced himself to me, asked me why I wanted to see him (I told him that I wanted to go on Testosterone Replacement Therapy), and then checked my heartbeat.

After he did that, we discussed my inquiry about going on Hormone Replacement Therapy. During the discussion, he asked my why I wanted to go on H/TRT. I told him because I wanted to treat hypogonadism (or low testosterone). He then asked me how I found out I had hypogonadism. I told him that I took a blood test in early October, and then I showed him the copy of my results. As he was going over the results, I told him I was a genetic male and that I was born intersex. In addition, I told him that I go by the name Ryan on a daily basis and not my legal name (and that I’m in the process of changing my name).

He took all of this very well. He was really nice and cool about it. I even told him I wanted to change the gender marker on my ID and social security records but that I needed a doctor to fill out my form (for the DMV) and write me a note (for the SSA), and guess what? He filled out my form! (He’s going to give me the letter for the SSA later.) He even suggested that I see a psychologist on a daily basis so I can deal with all the bs that society throws at me! What’s more? He knows what intersex is, so I didn’t have to explain it to him! Overall, he seems to know about LGBTI issues and seems to be an advocate for us.

At the end of my visit, he told me he was going to refer me to an endocrinologist. My referral is still pending to this day – my guess is because of understaffing due to the fact that my current insurance will be ending on December 31st and Medi-Cal will be my new provider on January 1st, and we’re all getting transferred there. My guess is that I probably won’t be seeing the endo until January. Oh well, at least it’s almost January.

I was so happy when I left my doctor’s office and went back home. I love my new doctor! He’s very nice, laid-back, and understanding. I’m really looking forward to my next visit. Another positive part about my visit was that, no one asked me questions related to female health matters! So what that means is that nobody asked me, ‘when did I get my last pap smear’ or anything like that! This must be because I put down “male” on my application form rather than “female” on the space where it says “sex” – or “gender” (that’s right, I took the “risk” 🙂 ).

And that’s how my last visit to the doctor went – it was a great experience.

Happy New Year everyone! See you all in 2014!

Reincarnation: The Transition 6

Plenty of stuff has happened since my last post, and I got some good news and some bad news.

First, the bad news:
1. I got the referral to the Urologist, but unfortunately, it didn’t work out. Apparently, the one I got assigned to doesn’t treat hypogonadism (my doctor actually put “Transsexualism” – which is problematic because I’m not Transsexual, I’m only Transgender and on top of that, I’m Intersex). On the bright side, I think I owe it to Obamacare for not getting discriminated against this time around 🙂 . As a result of all this, I had to go through hell for several days. Fortunately, I’m back on my feet.

2. I had to switch doctors because my now-former doctor will no longer be covered under my insurance starting on the 25th. This is because my current insurance won’t be around after December 31. Since Medi-Cal is getting expanded, there is no need for the insurance program I’m on right now. As a result, I’ll be getting transferred to Medi-Cal and that will become my health insurance on January 1st. My former doctor will be under the Medi-Cal program but its going to take 6 months for it to be approved, so he won’t be able to serve me. I’m actually very excited about the switch to Medi-Cal – I’ll be able to get more benefits, which includes getting T covered.

Now, the good news:
I got a new doctor last Friday, so that means I’ll be able to start fresh and forget everything that’s happened these last several weeks. The last few visits to the doctor have been about trying to get a second opinion on my Intersex before going on hormones, and just getting a physical examination based on that (which included checking my hormone levels before initiating HRT). Well, I already did that, so I don’t need to do anything else. Everything’s good down there and a specialist (a gynecologist) agreed with me about my intersex. My previous PCP wanted me to get an ultrasound, but I don’t think its necessary. He wanted to be sure that there were no ovaries or other internal female reproductive organs – which I know there aren’t.

My testes are palpable (you can feel and see them) from my bifid scrotum (which look like labia), so I know I don’t have ovaries. Its impossible for humans to have both a fully working set of testes and ovaries, since they’re both derived from the same tissue. My guess is that my former PCP was just misinformed – and I don’t blame him for that since there still isn’t a lot of awareness about intersex…there are still a lot of misconceptions about it. I’m guessing that the specialist (a gynecologist) that saw me back in late September kept this in mind (he seemed to be a bit more informed about intersex), so he didn’t didn’t have me do an ultrasound. If the testes weren’t palpable in the labioscrotal folds (the bifid scrotum), then he would’ve had me do one.

In addition to the testes, I also have a penis that looks like a clitoris but isn’t one (it is about 4cm long when its stretched). It is capable of erections and ejaculations, and in my case, the urethra attaches to it. I can even have sex (both partner and solo) like any other guy. My sex drive is like that of a regular (read: “standard-bodied”) guy. Additionally, I have something that looks like vagina but isn’t…what it really is is something called a urogenital sinus, and yeah, it doesn’t do anything – its just ‘there’ (and yeah, if you haven’t guessed already, I don’t have a vagina).

I’ve done enough research (lots of it) to know that I’m not genetically female, and I am indeed intersex and genetically male. I trust both my research and my instincts. I no longer need to undergo any physical examinations. The only thing I would love to do is get karyotyped and get my genes sequenced, so I can know what kind of mutation I really have. I know its 5 Alpha Reductase Deficiency (or even 17 beta hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase deficiency – I really think its the former, but you never know), but I really want to know what I really have. I really want to know if the type of mutation I have is novel (which I suspect it is), and if it has even been discovered yet. I’m just really curious to know. But I can wait, and I’ll need to. Getting one of these tests is going to cost me a lot of money (about $700 for each test – that is, to get tested for both 5ARD and 17BHSD).

So I’ll be seeing my doctor on Friday. When I go see him, I’m just going to tell him that I want to go on TRT (Testosterone Replacement Therapy) to treat hypogonadism (I also want to go on Arimidex, btw). Additionally, I’m going to tell him that I was born as a genetic male, who didn’t know he was one until just last year and that at the same time last year, he also came to the realization that it would be best for him to live the rest of his live as male since that’s how he’s always felt. Hopefully everything goes well, and I can finally start treatment and get back to my life. Hopefully he can also help me to fix the gender marker on my SSA records and ID. I think this time around, I’ll be able to try the Endocrinologist again (because of Obamacare prohibiting the time of discrimination I went through the other time around – which was before Obamacare went into effect), but I’m going to see what my doctor recommends this time around.

In addition, I’m also going to conduct a small experiment. When I fill out my application, I’m going to mark “Male” where it says “sex” or” gender”. In the past, I either marked “Female” (based on my ID and SSA records) or left it blank (I did this when I first went to see my previous PCP). I’m hoping that goes well. Hopefully, I won’t get asked anymore questions like “when when was your last pap smear?”, and hopefully I won’t need to answer “I don’t have a cervix, so I don’t need to get one” or “I don’t have cervix because I’m intersex, so I don’t need to get one”.

Hopefully, I’ll get my needs met.