Friday, June 26, 2009

Adventures in Transition, Special North Dallas Forty Edition: Face the Pain

Greetings, ducks, from Dallas, where today it didn't crack 100 degrees Fahrenheit. That actually made the news. Today, we continue our unintentional Trans Week (good week for it, though) with yet more about body modifications:

In the 26 months since I decided to transition, I've made a number of physical alterations to my body, both to make me feel better about myself, and to make it easier for me to blend in the world as a woman. The vaginoplasty you already know about; I've made oblique mention to the fact that I had breast implants done at the same time. (The rumors are true about that: the augmentation hurt more than the GRS; it's one thing to not be able to sit up for several weeks, and quite another to not be able to move your arms for four days.) And seventeen months ago, right when I went fulltime, I had plastic surgery to trim down my jaw and chin, which were quite heavy once upon a time.

None of these visible surgeries were to make me more conventionally beautiful, not even the breast implants--it was always about just trying to have something resembling the female body I feel I should have had, if things had only turned out differently. (Seriously, Scout's honor, and you know, I was a Boy Scout once.)

But my longest investment in time and money has been electrolysis, to remove what's left of my beard.

Getting rid of my facial hair was actually a project I began long before I began to seriously consider transition; I started laser treatments about a month after I separated from my wife. Even though I wasn't really thinking of it as a step towards transition, I still had a lot of trepidation about it--after all, ti was the first thing I had ever tried to permanently feminize my appearance, and as such it became a mental Rubicon of sorts; if I crossed that barrier, would I inevitably start on a transition path? (Er--yes, but not because of the laser.)

Unfortunately, I have light hair and light skin, which is only one half (the light skin) part of the ideal candidate profile for laser treatments. While it definitely helped somewhat (I was fairly quickly able to stop wearing heavy foundation and switch to tinted moisturizer), laser was never going to be the final answer for me. So two years ago, after I had started hormones, I began getting electrolysis.

Ducks, you need to know this: I am a wimp about pain. Sure, I can take it when I need to, but in general I try to minimize it as much as possible. And since I also had the disposable income, I decided to go to Electrology 3000, in Dallas. I chose them not only because they are really good at hair removal, but because uniquely amongst electolyisists in North America, they use anesthetic during the sessions. That is, they inject your face with lidocaine.

This has a lot of advantages--since you have to let your hairs grow (so they can tell which ones are active) for several days, there's an advantage to having your whole face cleared in a single day, something not really possible without anesthetic. (I've felt electrolysis without the lidocaine--not something you'd want to sit through for a couple of hours.)

The problem is, the lidocaine hurts: it gets injected at a shallow angle, multiple times, and it burns like acid under the skin. Sure, it's just for a few minutes, but those few minutes are pretty hellish--I cried the first time.

I still think it's worth it. Not because I couldn't be a woman with some facial hair; I've known plenty of women like that. No, it's worth it because of what it does for me--because shaving was the most masculine thing I did every day; because the things I had to do to cover up my beard were so frustrating and annoying, and such a reminder of who I wasn't; and because stubble is one of the things that remind me most of who I was.

So I keep coming. After a while, the lidocaine gets hurts less. And so does my past.


  1. I had electrolysis done today, and every other week since sometime during winter vacation. Three hours every time. She puts on some topical anesthetic, better than nothing but not that great.
    Yeah, it hurts quite a lot. Today I whimpered when the lower lip was done. In the past the upper lip drew tears to my eyes and lots of sneezes... (*zap* *ow* *sneeze* *zap* *ow* *sneeze* repeat)

  2. Is laser removal the same as photoepilation? Because photoepi is pretty bearable, except the hair grows back, maddeningly. I've had it done on my legs because I am so sick of constant hair landscaping there, and the treatments are a breeze, but if I don't go regularly, the follicles are all, "Hey! We are alive! Let's party!"

    Ugh, hair removal. That's a feminine experience if ever there was one. I wish I could be all hairy and still feel beautiful and ladylike, but alas, it would require brain surgery of some kind.

  3. P.S. Would getting drunk first help, with the electrolysis, do you think?

  4. @spatula,

    Laser uses light to do theromlysis, so I guess they're related. Getting drunk is supposed to help with both electro and laser--I used to drop in a wine bar on my way to laser that was later featured in an episode of Law and Order: CI.

    Sadly, E3K starts at 9.30, which is early even for me to start drinking. Sometimes I'd take one of the percocets I have lying around from my plastic surgery, but the truth is you just suffer through the injections. Self-hypnosis helps, as does chanting my mantra ("there is no pain, there is no pain") since like many things, the pain is increased by anticipation.