Recently a couple of very good friends of mine decided to start an online fundraising campaign to help me raise money to finally, finally have the procedure I have been waiting all these years to have. A campaign called, “Friend Lorelei Feeling Fabulous At Forty”. I am frankly in awe of the wonderfulness of my friends. I realize I am a very lucky woman.
But, as the saying goes, “The Lord (substitute here: Friends On The Internet) helps those who help themselves.” So I thought it was only proper to tell you all a little bit about why I’ve wanted this procedure so badly. As well as the slightly extraordinary coincidence coinciding with my, gulp, 40th Birthday.
I’ll start with this procedure my good friends are helping to raise money for and which perhaps you, dear reader, would consider helping with. As you have probably figured out by now by your careful powers of deduction, I am in fact a transgender woman. And as a transgender woman, I know there’s one question I get asked more than any other. “Have you had ‘the surgery’ yet?” Or, as it’s sadly more often phrased, “Have you, ummmm, cut it off?” Which I presume to be referring to SRS (or GRS or GCS or whatever the current vogue for the surgical procedure once known as a “Sex Change Operation” happens to be).
The funny thing is, realistically, this is the least of my concerns. Very few people actually get intimate enough with me for the state of my genitalia to be a concern. And those who do are pretty much already going to be hip enough to deal well with what they find. And frankly, though I may get that surgery someday, it’s so far out of my reach as an independent artist and writer, that I resigned myself to the fact that it may never happen when I decided to start my transition. Honestly too, I’m reasonably comfortable with my body. The hormones have done wonderful things to it and everything, even my genitalia, works in exciting new ways. I feel like a woman, I’m shaped like a woman and when I look in the mirror, I see myself now. And I know I AM a woman.
But there is one thing. One loathsome wretched thing that reminds me everyday that I have not always been gendered thus. That reminds me of all those years spent trying to pretend I was a boy. That can still knock me down and pull me out when I am feeling good about being the woman I knew myself to be.
I still have to shave everyday.
And I hate it. Everyday I wake up and reach a hand to my face to wipe the sleep from my eyes and I feel stubble. Scratchy stubble.
The hormones have even reduced the once fairly thick hair that covered my body to almost nothing. Requiring increasingly less maintenance every year. Not a lot more than any woman. But my beard is unfazed. I’m not even lucky enough to have alight beard. No, it’s thick and it grows fast. Back when I used to occasionally let it have it’s way, I could practically sneeze and find a full beard. In all seriousness I could grow a thick, mountain man beard in around two weeks.
I was 6’4” with a full beard by the time I was a sophomore in High School. I hated it. When other boys were pretending to shave still-clean chins, I was trying to simply ignore the hair sprouting all over my face. I had that first beard for at least a year and I can still remember the first time I shaved it off. My face had physically changed in that year of rampant, testosterone-fueled puberty. When I looked in the mirror after removing all that hair, I saw a stranger. I literally did not recognize the face looking back at me. It was radically different from the last time I saw it. Though I knew reasonably that it was my own reflection, I would not connect with it again, I would not see myself again until I began my transition years later.
This pain, I share with you.
Much is rebalanced now. I see myself in that brutal mirror. The woman I am. But that woman still has to spend 20 minutes everyday just scraping the fresh hair off of her face with a never-ending series of increasingly dull and unjustifiably expensive razor blades. And it hurts like hell.
Not just emotionally either. It is physically very painful.. Not only do I have a very heavy beard, but I have very, very sensitive skin. And I shave much, much closer than an average man would ever bother doing. I have to shave twice in fact to get smooth enough and invisible enough to pass muster and not have to worry about too much returning stubble by evening. I shave first with the grain, and then re-lather to shave again, against the grain.
It is, as I said, intensely painful. Like dragging fire across my face to begin everyday. And there is always blood. Often lots of it
After years of experimentation, I have discovered that I have to shave before I shower if I’m to go on with the day not looking like an extra in a zombie movie. The only thing that stops all the blood and soothes my blazing face somewhat is a good warm shower and my face in the spray for at last a few minutes.
If I’m lucky, my face will not be too red and irritated looking when I get out. If I’m really lucky, there won’t be some nick or cut that keeps bleeding all day. Drying up into an ugly scab only to start bleeding again while I’m out and about. Prompting strangers to tell me I have blood pouring down my face. Always fun.
In point of fact, this routine adds a solid 3 hours to every morning of everyday for me. 2 hours if there’s an emergency…. I have to wait at least an hour after I wake up for the sleep swelling of my face to subside enough for me to be able to get that really clean shave I mentioned. Shave too soon and there’s stubble half way through the day!
Then there’s the razors. Really the only one that does the trick well enough with not too much blood and irritation is the Gillette Mach 3. But the blades are crazy expensive! $15 minimum for a 5 pack! And if I use a blade more than twice, the quality degrades fast, while the pain and blood amps right up. Gods forbid I get cocky and use a cheap disposable thing in an emergency. We’re talking real horrorshow blood oh my droogies.
This need to shave everyday seeps into every aspect of my life. I rarely date, because I’m afraid to go home with a man. I’m terrified of waking up in the morning covered in stubble in a strange bed. Or worse of having to exit quickly in the dress I had on, with an unshaven mug on the bus.
If I’m out at night I feel like Cinderella. I have to get home before the stubble pokes through my makeup and I turn into a pumpkin. Even worse, for someone who loves saying yes to adventures. My need to shave and have a hot shower afterwards severely limits my ability to just go! I must make sure, no matter where I rest my head, that there are shaving and showering facilities available in the morning.
Still not done though. Because my beard is so heavy, there is a “beard blue” hue to my face that can only be hidden by careful and fairly thick makeup. I can never just throw on a little lipstick and mascara and be done. I have found that a little makeup, with out the beard cover and foundation, makes me look, for lack of a better description, like a bad crossdresser.
So it’s lots of makeup or none at all. And none at all has it’s own consequences. With none at all, you can see the slight redness and irritation from shaving and that hint of “beard blue” under the skin. And at 6’4”, well, it’s a good thing I’m okay with being Out as trans….
And not that “passing” is all that important to me. I know I can be a beautiful woman without having to “pass”. But there are some days where I would like to blend in a little bit better. When I’d like to just be read as an average, if very tall girl, out and about.
So, while GRS might be the end all and be all for other transwomen to be able to feel truly like a woman (and I do get that), for me, not having to shave, not having that daily and painful reminder would be a huge step to being able to just be me. To be the woman I am, doing the things I do, with a lot more time to do them!
So, this is why my friends, who have heard this all first hand at one point or another, have launched this campaign to raise funds for me to finally afford to have laser clearance done on my face. It’s not that much really if all the people I have affected with my work and my activism can pitch in a couple of bucks. I would really appreciate it. And it would indeed help me to do even more of what I do! Saving the world with a clean face!!
As for saving the world…. Well, that’s why my friends have timed this around my 40th Birthday. You see, the day I turn Forty (shudder) is December 21st, 2012. Just a couple of weeks from now. And as it happens, it’s also the day the Mayans predicted would be the end of the world.
And hey, maybe it is. Or maybe it’s just the start of a new chapter. One in which Lorelei finally gets to feel as fabulous as people often tell me I am!
So please, if you are able to, click through the link to the fundraising page below. Spread it around to your own contacts if you feel so inclined. It just takes a minute or two and a few dollars each from everyone who reads this to help me reach the goal of $4000. And save my world.
I love you all!