How do you think you would feel if one day everything you did in regards to the sensation of touch felt different and your fingertips were hypersensitive? This is what I got to experience as I realized that for over five years I had modified sensation in the left side of my body. When I was paralyzed doctors tested my sensation and without further discussion thought I had full sensation because i could sense the cold, pointed tipped metal object that they touched against my skin.
Up until Luke warm water ran across my hands followed by excruciating pain I had not realized that the left side of my body had minimized sensation. When I started to regain sensation in my healing side everything was painful for about a week, whenever I managed to get a water temperature correct to not experience any pain either way I had to stop and mindfully observe how different it felt to have the bead of water run across my skin.
A wonderful part of regaining sensation is feeling the pain from my tattoo sittings. Honestly feeling that pain on the most sensitive spots to tattoo is now becoming intense enough to distract from my day to day body pain for that day and for a couple days after the crash from the adrenaline high. Hiding the stretch Mark’s from my paralysis and not seeing the constant visible reminders of that time period has also been a huge relief of my tattoos.
Regaining sensation has resulted in feeling it when I do not clear a doorway with my arm or shoulder from the slind spots though. It might be similar to that scene in my novel that I walked into a cement pillar at work, but with more profanity Haha. The most comical point of realizing I had less sensation than even I though was realizing that I hadn’t just been emotionally numb for years, I’ve been physically numb too.
What have you been doing to heal lately?
Few things are as empowering and equally as lonely as making the choice to transition medically. From the isolation to the generalized misunderstanding outside the trans community the entire process can be pretty rough. Most of us have to make concessions to be able to transition medically, for reasons of social wellbeing, financial wellbeing, and or overall health. My move back to BC was both for my recovery and my transition, but moving back here also meant being back in my hometown with all the acquaintances and friends I never had here. Recently I started the process of my legal name change to actually be Addison Blake on paper and have never felt more comfortable in my own skin.
Between my weekly/monthly physical improvements and knowing that my medical transition is done and I’m just waiting for surgery, I no longer feel as trapped here as I used to. After I get my grs (hopefully this year) I can go live wherever I want and even go back to school if I want to. Now as I continue to heal it has started to become easier to get social and make new friends, which would have been much more appreciated through the beginning of my transition when it would have helped to have a local friend by my side on the journey. It has only been a few months since I started to feel more comfortable in my gender and less concerned about how I may be perceived publicly in a place that is not exactly the safest for any queer minority.
The stigma behind the ridiculous concept of ‘passing’ is real. I am lucky in that I confidently try to not look cisgender in my daily life as a non binary individual. The other day I even got misgendered dropping off signed copies of my novel at a local joint and instead of being offended I just quietly chuckled to myself, which seemed to embarrass the person. The best part of my name change is that for me it’s a fresh start of who I have always seen myself as internally. instead of having an overtly masculine name my first and middle names are fully gender neutral, which is perfect for me because I am fairly androgynous. There are tonnes of people who will tell you that they hate being trans, but I am not one of them. I am glad i live in a day and age in a country where i have the ability to be who I am, whatever that may be. Even in spite of how lonely parts of my journey have been I am grateful to be on this journey being visible for the following generations to witness and see that authenticity is a possibility.
What is something you’ve done to live your fierce authenticity?
I cannot believe that I started this beautiful and fulfilling medical journey to becoming who I had always been on the inside a year ago. So far my medical transition has been relatively seamless and fairly “straight-forward”. Other than some dosage adjustments here and there and the torment of dysphoria I experience as a non-binary person. The social transition (name, pronouns etc.) Has been a lot tougher. It has been an amazing year where recently I even started to see my inner me and not the toned fit boy I hid as for the longest time. In no way is being trans or transitioning easy, but just as I said in my speech, it is worth it no matter the struggle. For the first time in my life I’ve been at peace with my body and I’m still recovering from paralysis too.
At the beginning I truly believed I identified as female, but it did not take long for me to realize i was much more in the non-binary section of the gender spectrum and this was different because personally I experience bits and pieces of both trans feminine and trans masculine dysphoria. My dysphoria is the lowest when I present as androgynous as I can. I have always loved being kind of androgynous so it’s no real surprise that is where i am most comfortable, but with my now very feminine figure it can be harder to present androgynous without wearing a bunch of men’s clothes. Even at the beginning I had started doing facial hair electrolysis but I quickly realized it made me more dysphoric to not have the shadow or stubble so I stopped the hair removal and am enjoying letting it fill back in.
The social transition was the hardest especially because as soon as everyone that was going to roll with it started using she/her I changed my pronouns to they/them and gender neutral pronouns can be fairly hard for people to grasp. She Is still more acceptable than he, but there are very femme people who I let use more feminine pronouns or nicknames to identify me. It’s hard loving the chest I developed over the last year and yet sometimes wanting to tape it away and look as masculine as possible for both my own comfort and safety. I don’t keep anyone in my life that doesn’t respect my name or pronouns, which in turn forced a lot of people out of my life. I may not have a perfect body, but for once it feels like I am living in my skin and no longer a costume or mascot that I fully disassociate with
Above 11 months on HRT
Above: 2 years before HRT
Earlier this week I was honored with the opportunity to speak about my experiences as s transgender person at an event tied into the transgender day of remembrance along with help out with a couple other events. This was the first time I have ever spoken about the violence I experienced as a trans person and it was a truly amazing experience even with a darker topic. Even with its hiccups I will admit the day was a success
While projecting my words with several cracks in my voice my eyes welled up and I let it all out in a full room of strangers. This was a level of raw vulnerability I had yet to experience. The room welled up with me and laughed with me when I tried to lighten the mood by joking about the cooler happier things I have accomplished like my recovery and my novel. They appreciated the attempt and let out a chuckle. It was incredibly intimidating, but everybody in the room was an ally solely there to be better allies to the community. With a few days to process the event I can say that personally, I found crying in front of a room full of people to be cathartic and emotionally I feel lighter and happier.
My community may not be the best, but over the last few years it has gotten significantly better thanks to allies stepping in and joining the fight to a better tomorrow. The other members of the society I was representing were equally emotional throughout the day and at the end saw the day as a success. It may have been tough and the reason I have been quiet for a while, but if I am available next year I hope to partake again. There is literally nothing more rewarding than a day of healthy, open conversation with people who are just trying to learn.
P.s. I’m going to try to get back into a weekly post for you guys.
If there was ever a secret to paralysis recovery I would have to say that it is: indomitable spirit, and Persistence. Yes it is that simple the only reason I have continued to heal is because every day I continue to push my body to its limits. Maybe it had something to do with my high expectations of myself, my need to heal to transition, or knowing that neuroplasticity requires a “use it or lose it”, approach.
All of the above have been serious factors in my ability to stick with it despite all of the times I wanted to just say, “screw it”. Something I have yet to admit publicly is that I had big hopes to come out and begin my transition from Male to female the year I was paralyzed. For me that’s why paralysis was so devastating to me, I was finally ready to be myself and knew I needed to put that on hold for years before I could make it a reality. It was something that brought tears to my face often when i could not sleep in the facility. I admit I am not yet fully recovered and was even less so when I began my medical transition. Other than the deficits I continue to train and recover and I have been able to become the nonbinary person I have dreamed of since I was just five years old.
A huge part of my persistence was thanks to the therapist that told me I would never walk again on my own if I ever got that far. When someone tells me I am not capable of something I make sure that I can do said thing. This fueled some anger, which I took out by working my body to exhaustion every day for years. Fifty-six months later I still push myself to the point where I get so sore I cannot move my affected side. One day when I beat this I will be able to pride myself on the fact that I did the impossible.
No matter the situation if you can find meaningful internal reasons to pursue any goal, then there is nothing you wont be able to do.
Feel free to comment any questions about paralysis recovery or queer stuff and I will answer them as best I can.
It has become apparent to me repeatedly recently that I need to step up how proud I am to be a transgender person. Being genderqueer is one of the highlights of being me. From interview misquotes to even today while I taught at a conference.
Today as I walked the banquet hall looking for individuals that needed help I was pulled aside by a lady who wanted to talk. At first I was a little weary not sure what she wanted to discuss, but I was open to see how it panned out. As it turned out she just wanted to hear about my journey and how things got better after I began my transition and started living an authentic life so she could better support a family member in their journey.( not that I announce my transness to the world, but it could have been the five o’clock shadow beginning to show through my foundation) The conversation melted my heart and was just the reminder I needed today.
I will admit that transitioning is not easy in any way, but it is well worth working through. Once I gave up my nineteen year facade and started working towards my authentic life I found a level of joy and happiness that I had never experienced before. Since I started hormone replacement therapy everything changed as it is supposed to, before HRT I identified as a she and within a few months after I started I knew that I was more in the middle of the spectrum.
Being a they is the most authentic me I’ve ever been, sometimes that’s masculine, sometimes its feminine and thats ok, most people don’t understand that both gender and sexuality are spectrums. I didn’t even fully understand it until I started my journey.
For all the young queer folk out there I hope that you get to live your authentic lives from a younger age.
Happy pride month,