Suporn is 18 months out, but not for you!

I’m in IT. That means I spend a lot of time around systems and figuring out how to automate or otherwise make my life easier, as well as monitoring to know about issues before people come to complain at my desk. So once I made the decision to get SRS with Suporn I started to look to see if I could move my date up a bit as I didn’t want to wait the 15 months it was going to be. So I started to refresh the Suporn scheduling page on my phone and at home twice a day roughly. But I realized that due to the time differences as well as infrequency of my refreshes, it would be likely I’d miss an opening. So I found a way to automate this task and got my date moved up a year (to the day funny enough). Here’s how.

Knowing I’d need to monitor the page for changes I checked the source code to see how easy it would be to create a script to go and poll it to watch for changes. The code is easy enough, and I could’ve written a script to do exactly that. But knowing there are services that watch external website pages for companies, I did some quick googling and experimented with a few of the results. Most sucked, didn’t monitor it right, or required pay for services to monitor more frequently than a day. But one, Follow That Page, wasn’t like that.

So, I needed to setup an alert. With a free account you get one check per hour. This was good enough for me. So I setup an account using a unique Gmail address for it. As an aside, Gmail ignores anything after a “+” symbol which means your gmail address “transgirl@gmail.com” will get email for “transgirl+suporn@gmail.com” and “transgirl+reddit@gmail.com” for example. You can replace “suporn” or “reddit” with other text and thus create a unique email address per site (better security since you don’t reuse credentials, along with the ability to see who sold/gave up your email address). Coupled with a password manager that has 2 factor authentication and you’re in a pretty good spot for online accounts. But I digress.

Once the account was created, under the tab “Your pages” I setup an alert:

address to monitor

After clicking “Next” you’re brought to a page that has a few options, but we only care about changing the polling frequency to every hour (in yellow):

Page monitoring settings

The side provides a preview of how it reads through the page you’re monitoring. This is similar to what you’ll see in the email alerts. It removes some of the pretty colors, but you don’t care about that. You care about when a date with initials changes to a number. That’s what’s important for moving your date up. Here’s the preview though:

Preview

Once you’ve clicked save you’re done. Now just sit back and watch as the emails come in. I usually get 1-2 a day Mon-Fri (US Eastern), usually in the morning although sometimes afternoon and evenings as well. The emails can certainly be used to track changes directly, however the problem is it doesn’t include what year the changes are in. This means when you see “September” it could be for September 2016 or 2017. For me I found it’s easier to just refresh the page on my phone when I get an alert, but you can do more work to get this customized if you want. I didn’t. So when the site gets updated, I get an email that looks like this:

Email

In this example you can see that Jul 13th opened up, September 6th/14th were reserved, and November 15th opened up. It also tells you when it was updated (the surgery date line) if you’re interested. When you see something open, email them ASAP and it’s likely you’ll get moved up. If not, keep watching it. Stuff opens up usually 60 days out (mine was 63 days out when it opened up) due to how Suporn does the deposit and losing part of it <60 days in most cases.

Good luck!

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Flight for SRS is in two weeks… (-19 days until SRS)

The past two weeks have been rough. Since coming back from Cisco Live I have had a really hard time and struggled a lot with SRS and going through with things. Last week was rough because I had a lot of time to myself thanks to work. It left me time to get into my own head and I did. Monday or Tuesday I woke up when my gf left for work, and got super depressed about things and feeling a sense of “loss” around my male parts. Worrying I’ll miss it and subsequently regret SRS. After she left I cried for about an hour. My other gf got ready and I made it seem like I was sleeping still so she wouldn’t see. And she didn’t.

This week hasn’t gotten a ton better. Anytime I’m at home and go pee I feel the “omg what am I doing, I’m going to miss peeing standing up” (which I do because I can for 2 more weeks and it’s much faster/less of a hassle). That leads to the fear of “losing” my male bits, even though there is still a happiness thinking about having female bits. But that fear is overwhelming. And I don’t know how to handle it. It’s been pretty rough many of these days over the past two weeks. Oh and my final payment needed to get sent, which I knew once I sent I was locked in (as if I switch dates I’ll lose my entire deposit at this point).

So why don’t I cancel it or move it? Well two main reasons. First and foremost I know that if I cancel it I’m doing it out of fear. Not because I don’t want SRS or think I don’t need it. I know I’ll need it, but does it have to be now? And I know that if I cancel it, I’m going to regret it. Likely for the rest of my life. Right now I’ll have a pussy when I turn 30. I might even be able to have (careful) sex with it for the first time on my 30th. It means another year of dealing with the shit I’ve been dealing with this year. It means hiding in my hotel when I want to go to the pool. It means constantly worrying if my tucking has come out of place. It means a ton of issues around sex and likely not having it much, if at all, longer. And for what gain? The second reason is because not once have I had the thought I don’t want a pussy. It’s solely a I don’t want to “lose” this existing stuff because I know how it works. It boils down to essentially post-SRS there is no “back” or “undo”, and I have to figure out how life works as a chick. I can’t meander between genders (not that I have since starting transition, but I know I *could* go back to presenting male if I wanted to… I just haven’t wanted to). It means I’m tied to the stress around being a chick and holding myself to a high standard of how I present myself. That takes a lot more time and energy to do. But really it’s a fear of losing that safety net.

Here’s the thing though. I have said, know, and feel I cannot go back to who I was and be happy now that I know this life is totally do-able and I’m immensely more happy living this life. I would be going “but I know this happy place exists… I want to be there.” So if there is no actual foreseeable way I’d want to go “back”, then what? I either stay where I’m at, or move forward. Staying where I’m at means feeling “trapped” between two genders. It means worrying about my anatomy constantly and feeling that grating on me. It means issues dating due to my issues around sex because it makes me feel I’m just a really good fake or copy of a chick. Not actually a chick. Staying here isn’t a long term solution. So with those two options non-options, it means I have to move forward. That means I have to embrace being a chick and get it so that I can forget about being trans. To do that I need to mentally let myself be who I am, acknowledge and let emotions become a part of me and let myself feel them, socially be seen and treated as a chick, sexually and romantically not have a persistent reminder of the current situation, and physically have nothing that reminds me I wasn’t born into a life of a chick. That physicality necessitates SRS.

Unfortunately I expect to have these issues over the next few weeks. Two threads on Reddit /r/asktransgender have kind of helped though. The first was one I posted about my fears and just rambling. The responses were helpful to make me think through why I have these fears. The second was a thread I saw today about denial and how it affected you. I read through the comments. And it reminded me that so many of the things people in there talk about experiencing, I understand and experience or have in the past. It’s a reminder that I wasn’t happy before. A reminder that I wanted to transition before (and likely would’ve if my past employers had been more forward in their policies/support of LGBT people). A reminder that living as female is right for me, even though sometimes I just want to go back because it was easier. So, yeah I sent my final payment a few days ago (got notified today of being 100%+ paid) and am just trying to make it these next two weeks. I know once I get on the plane I’ll be so busy that those last few days will fly by (literally). So I just need to get through these next two weeks. Then get through the two months after.

SRS Cost estimation (Suporn and Chet)

So there seems to be an unknown for many people around how much SRS costs. And there is no singular answer. It depends on your specific situation. What country are you having it done in? What’s the exchange rate (if applicable)? Do you have insurance?* Will they cover it? Penile inversion or Thai method? Do you need a skin graft? Are you doing anything else like BA at the same time? How long do you want to stay? On and on and on.

However, this doesn’t mean there isn’t information out there that can help you figure out how much this will cost and start saving, begging, asking, or however else you need to get to that magic number. About a year ago I came across a spreadsheet that a reddit user (/u/soontobekate) had created for Chet on Google docs. I copied it over to my own docs and went to town editing it and playing with numbers. One of the really handy things about this doc is that it was tied to Google Finance and the exchange rate automatically updated. This was pretty awesome. Unfortunately it only was around for Chet, and over time I ultimately decided on Suporn instead of Chet. So much for that document huh?

So, I did what any self respecting transgender IT chick who spends way too much time reading about finances would do, and built my own. Originally I found estimated costs from other posters or googling around. But then a few months ago I inquired and got the current numbers. I then further refined my document so all I had to do was A) update my SRS date, and B) input how many days I plan to stay. Everything else was automated. Including getting automatic exchange rate updates so I could see to the penny how much it would cost today. Now unfortunately I can’t predict the market so there was no way to know if I’d be buying high or low, but right now (July 9th 2016) it’s a little over THB35 per USD. This is pretty high overall based on historical data.

But to keep from making this my traditional super long post, here is the document. The only fields that are editable are the date (which will auto update the cost for Suporn based on when you’re getting it done) and the nights in the hotel (which will auto update the cost on either page based on how many nights you’re staying). Everything else is automagical. This is an open document so you may run into others playing with numbers, so if you want your own copy just copy it to your own Google Docs and play with it there. If you do that though, be aware you won’t see any updates I do (new surgeons, fields, etc).

If you have any comments or suggestions on this please let me know!

*Note – I’ll cover insurance on another post as that’s an annoying convoluted thing.

Why do I need SRS?

Many people have asked if I really need SRS/GRS. For a long time I had to set aside any doubts and tell them what I knew they wanted and/or needed to hear. The standard “trans narrative” stuff to a large extent. Sure I would preface it with, “well I’m not entirely sure at this point…” Or otherwise qualify it in some way that while I likely needed it I wasn’t entirely sure. Which was true at the time. But things have changed.

Growing up and through my life up until I got a bit into my transition I didn’t have issues with my boy parts. I wasn’t repulsed by them, grossed out by them, felt they were wrong, etc etc. They just were what I had. Sure if I had been given a choice in the womb, I might’ve chosen differently. But I wasn’t given that choice. So I tried to make the best of it. And I did in many ways. But no matter what I did, it would frequently happen during sex where I’d imagine myself having female bits, or imagine myself in a female role. With women I’d do what I would want done to me (which apparently worked well as most women I was with enjoyed things with me), and with men I’d play a more so-called female role (i.e. more submissive and such). With both partners I’d be doing stuff to please them as I really didn’t get much personal enjoyment out of it. I was always more content watching my partner with somebody else than with being involved myself.

I’d go through phases where I didn’t care about sex, then kind of care about it. I had a hard time maintaining healthy sexual relationships with my partners because I didn’t really enjoy sex as myself. I would frequently force myself to have a sex drive because I knew it was needed for my partner(s). Over the few years leading up to starting transitioning it grew progressively harder and harder to care about sex. When I did have sex I’d just end up wishing I was the girl I was with instead of myself. Then I’d bury that, and avoid sex for a few days. Thankfully I sleep really well so I’d regularly go to sleep before them just to avoid it.

So what changed? Well I realized I could be seen as a woman, feel like a woman, and actually stop hiding shit and be a woman which kicked off the past year and a half of transitioning from who I portrayed I was and into who I am. It didn’t change directly from that though as I was fine with how things were for most of the first year of transitioning. I knew that at some point I’d likely get to where I would need to but there was no urgency to it. Then about 10 months after starting HRT I had gotten to a point I could no longer keep the two lives separate and went full time soon after. The first few months of that were crazy and that’ll be the subject of another post. About three months or so into being “full time” I started to feel a gradual buildup to an urgency about getting SRS. I wrestled with it for almost 2 years (even before transitioning got started) about undergoing SRS.

Here’s when it really become a problem for me. It started when I would have sex with my gf and became uncomfortable with my guy parts touched or played with. The times I would get into or enjoy sex were when I could forget about it. It usually would only last a short period of time though as inevitably it would come back to the forefront of my mind because we changed positions or saw it or something else along those lines. But the hardest point was when I started dating guys (#PolyIsAwesome), and would feel as though I was actually female through entire dates and evenings. Until it got time to get handsy or physical in any capacity. I would instantly feel like I wasn’t a “legitimate woman” and just a good approximation or a really good imitation of one. I have never felt the urge to cry during or after sex until I started getting with guys and my anatomy became obvious. And just to be clear, they guys were great and knew about things up front. They didn’t do anything to cause it. This was solely within my head.

After that happened a few times I realized I could never feel as though I was a woman while I had my old anatomy. It had to go. I started looking into it heavily, shoveling a lot of money aside for it, figured out who my surgeon would be (Suporn), and booked a date. Which happened to get moved up by a year, but once again that’ll be a post for another day.

Who to go to for SRS?

I’m going to need to get SRS for many reasons. So how do I choose a doc? There are hundreds of them, no way to really objectively compare them since you can’t really do it twice, and most people seem to think theirs is the best. Not to mention the cost and do I try to get insurance to cover it, or pay out of pocket? What method do I want to go with, the Thai method or the penile-inversion method? On and on and on.

So let’s start with the basics. What are the two methods used globally, and what are their pros and cons? So first up is the older method which is the penile inversion method. The gist of it is they slice the shaft open, remove things from inside, then use the “casing” so to speak as the inside of the new vaginal canal. Then skin from elsewhere, like the scrotal sack get shaped into the clitoris. This method is widely used, has a lot of knowledge around it, and people who have gotten it are happy with the results from what I’ve read/seen as a general rule.

    Benefits

  • Older technique, more global experience doing it
  • Faster recovery time
  • More docs doing the procedure means insurance likely can get used for it
  • Less travel time and time in the hospital
  • Not as cumbersome dilation requirements
    Drawbacks

  • Results depend on “package” size
  • The sensitive bits are on the inside
  • Requires genital electrolysis before hand
  • No natural lubrication
  • Slight differences from ciswomen’s anatomy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The other method is known as the “Thai method” and was introduced in the early 2000’s and is really only used by docs in Thailand. Instead of taking the penis and turning it “inside out” and using less sensitive skin for the clitoris, they instead take the penis and make that into the clitoris. They take the scrotal sack and score it in a cross hatch (i.e. criss cross) pattern, then that gets turned into the vaginal canal. This skin is already elastic in nature so it can stretch easier, plus the sensitive bits are on the outside like a ciswoman’s are.

    Benefits

  • Most people end up with 6+ inches of depth
  • The sensitive bits are on the outside
  • No electrolysis (they scrape follicles off during surgery)
  • Preserves Cowper gland that provides some lubrication
  • Essentially the same as a ciswoman’s anatomy (or hard to see differences anyways)
    Drawbacks

  • Newer technique, no as many surgeons do it
  • Longer recovery time (plan for a month near the doc)
  • Unlikely to get insurance to pay as it’s not in the US
  • A day of travel each way from where I’m at (US East coast)
  • Much more intensive dilation schedule and requirements

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So, for me what it boils down to is a decision to be made between where I want the sensitive bits (outside/inside), cost to me (entirely on me/insurance), and travel as well as how long I want to stay at that location (1 month/2 weeks). Personally, what matters to me is being able to orgasm after (both methods give that) and be as close to “normal” as I could hope to be in my circumstances. I was torn between the two for a bit.

What ultimately made my decision were two things. First off, the results aesthetically speaking. I looked at many of the surgeons out there doing penile inversion and most of them looked “off”. The reason for this was in part due to the method used. It looks like they sliced a slit, then added some skin in there, and made the clit. It didn’t look quite “right” to me (or either of my gf’s). Secondly was the location of things and lubrication. I want to be able to have some self-lube so I don’t always have to carry it with me, but I also want the sensitive bits like a ciswoman’s would be. This told me I was going to do the Thai method. There are two main surgeons who are used: Suporn and Chettawut.

For completion sake, the main doctors used for penile inversion are: BowersBrassard, Meltzer, Spiegel, and McGinn. There are a ton of others but those are the ones I commonly hear of. Also I have not spent the time researching the non-Thai docs as much as Suporn/Chettawut. And even there you should do your own research on what’s right for you.