Talisman 🦋

The Blue Morpho butterfly is very special to me. It has become my symbol of transition and healing, partly due to its presence in the emoji lexicon. I use it on social media posts to denote transition progress and joy. I have always found its iridescence beautiful, as beautiful as I wanted to be, as I knew I could be, as I knew I was.

You can see the pain in how I presented myself to the world before I transitioned. Always in black, head-to-toe, with some dashes of brightness in my shoes and my sunglasses. They were the only iridescence I would allow the world to see from day to day.

Until, one day, I allowed myself to dream, and then quite a while later, after much soul searching and resignation, allowed that dream to become reality. I went into a cocoon of transition in the fall of 2020, and inside that cocoon, I liquefied in order to resolidify some time later as Nicole.

My outfits became colorful, vibrant, full of life. Today, I went to the Denver Botanic Garden to bask in the warmth, wet greenness, and wonderful smells of the rainforest. A treasure for the people of Denver on York Street.

I love the colors, the life, the beauty. I allow myself luxuries I did not, before. The joy of an orchid.

It’s important for human beings to create symbols for themselves, objects and ideas which guide the course of their life, and act as reminders of hope in the dark times. In the gift shop, on the way out of the gardens, I saw a framed set of Blue Morphos. I have wanted this set for years. I didn’t know why, before. Now I do.

So, I bought myself a gift.

The Morphos are a Talisman for me, a symbol of life, hope, joy in the brief time we have to emblazon ourselves with iridescence on the memories of those around us. Let me fly for a brief time under the sun, my wings shimmering with blue, aquamarine and flecks of violet. That is what I want.

Manifest

Let me feel the breadth and depth of life
Seeing the path laid before me by my own spirit
Unafraid of the darkness
The moon glittering on the hills and streams

Let me yearn for freedom but not power
Awake in the days when life proves my worth
A scent of sweet pea blossoms glowing in the evening
Smoke rolling in from distant mountain fires

Let me be settled in a time and place of my choosing
A home full of love and joy
A garden of sunlight to bask in
Passion cooking on the stove, a hug and a kiss the fountain of days to come

Let me breathe life into others and they into me
Listening to their stories and joining their path for a time
Divergence becoming a gift, knowing we may never see one another again
Taking their stories with me and spreading them like seeds

Let me cast spells into the lake of time
A rose in my right hand
The iridule of a mussel shell between thumb and forefinger
Intent of my heart to wind a cosmic spring

Let me cast forth my power into the night of the universe
Unearthed and desolate
A span of iron forged in the cores of ten billion suns
Harmonic foam scintillating with the radiation of me

End

She came out in the summer of 2020, when it was no longer bearable to remain submerged in fake masculinity. She had grown unimaginably tired of the ever-increasing levels of effort it took to maintain that façade. To look at herself in the bathroom mirror in the morning and try not to cry at the sight of stubble and receding hairline, broad shoulders and square jaw.

So, bit by bit, she told her wife, her friends, her family and her colleagues. And then she changed her name.

The next summer, she and her wife got Blizzards at the Dairy Queen on Araphoe Road, on a warm summer night. They feasted in the red smoky haze of the forest-fire twilight overlooking the city center from fifteen miles south. And then she saw it: A pulse of blinding light high above the core of the urban front-range, and she told her wife of the vision. She tried to put it out of her head.

She thought the whole process of transition would probably take about two years, and she was right.

Alone, in the winter night, in her hospital bed just south of downtown Denver, no wife and no friends by her side, IVs slowly dripping Vancomycin and narcotics into the vein in her right arm, she watched the news of the invasion on her iPad.

This evil old boomer is there on live TV, bashing her. Literally blaming what she is for his monstrous acts of war:

“Do we really want … it drilled into children in our schools … that there are supposedly genders besides women and men, and [children to be] offered the chance to undergo sex change operations? … We have a different future, our own future.”

She cannot believe what she’s hearing. She kept it inside for so long, and she only just became brave enough to show up as herself. It seemed like maybe the world was becoming more accepting. And then this.

She tried to kill herself in March, but didn’t want to make her family sad. She couldn’t bring herself to do it.

Months passed, more surgeries, more friends lost. The pandemic started to ease. She went to Europe for work. People smiled at her out in the world. She was only pointed at and called a “boy” by a few people that summer. She drove through Texas to prove to herself that the world wasn’t as scary as she had feared. It mostly went OK.

In August, she survived an attack and carjacking by a man wielding a knife. Physically unharmed, mentally obliterated.

Work was OK, almost all she had left, sometimes.

She went to a concert with her ex-wife, it was fun. Afterwards, she cried for two days about what she had lost. She asked to be put on antidepressants. And then more antidepressants.

At Christmas, she kissed a girl for the first time as herself. Held hands. Both hands. Stared into the eyes of this person and saw a soul staring back at her that she hoped would melt into her own. The two of them becoming one, slowly, over time. Learning from each other, sharing with each other. Adventuring together through the rest of their lives.

They were happy, these two women who had to fight for everything they had, had to fight to be themselves.

It was a sunny, July day in 2024, and they were out on the trail, they loved to run together. They were both pretty slow, but they didn’t care. As they crested the ridge overlooking downtown Denver, they both stopped to catch their breath, and to peer through the leaves. And then a bright light

And then they were gone.

Another Dream

A few nights ago, I had the first dream that I could remember the details of, in over two years. It was an old 8-millimeter film home movie, silent. The kind that parents used to make of their kids, before video cameras were a thing. The kind of film my dad used to use to capture West African mask performances for his research, and used to film me and my sister when we were young children.

In the home movie, I am wearing a pink-purple-and-white-striped dress. I’m probably about four years old, so this would have been in 1982. I’m playing with my sister. This never happened in “real life”, but I think somehow it happened in a parallel universe.

I had this overwhelming feeling of joy during the dream. A family friend had somehow discovered this old film of me, and showed it to me. They were overjoyed to have found this proof of me as a little girl. I was so happy they had found it.

For a while, I thought the friend who found it was the person who had filmed it. Today, my sister pointed out that the person who would have been filming would have been my dad. The dream was about my dad seeing me as I am. As I was. As a little girl, his older daughter. In some universe, this is true. Maybe he did see me as I am. Maybe, it is our universe after all.

SECO

You can flip back through the pagеs
And you won’t find I was making any promises
You’re the dеsert, I’m the rain
And we both know I never stay
But still you wanted it

– “Slow Song” by The Knocks and Dragonette

Explosive bolts keep firing in my mind, decoupling the thing I tried to be from the thing I am – in spasms of emotional and physical joy and pain. This is the craziest time I’ve ever experienced in my life. Part of the explosive decoupling is admitting things that I never could believe about myself before. Things I hoped for, things I dreamed to be, but was certain were reserved for people braver than me, or who were lucky enough to be born as cisgender women. I can’t claim that my experience is representative of any other trans experience but my own. It’s important to listen to other types of trans voices, but here’s mine, and I’m going to shout a lot.

Many powerful people in the United States have decided that the most powerless, smallest segment of society – trans kids – are a nice easy target to beat up on and make money off of their victimization. I can’t bear to look at the news these days. Every day, there’s something about state-sponsored violence against trans kids. Why do these a-holes go after kids? I am so fucking mad that society made me *absolutely terrified* to ask my doctor for hormone blockers when I was twelve, in 1990. I would have done it. I almost did. But my brain said, “If you ask, they’ll know. They’ll know that *you’re gay*. And you’re making a permanent change, and are you really a girl? You don’t know! Don’t fuck up your life.” (In 1990, the prospect of being a gay adolescent in the middle of the country was absolutely terrifying. In fact, I had no idea that gay women even existed, and I knew I wasn’t a gay man.)

The violent, homophobic, transphobic, misogynistic things that society made me tell myself are exactly the arguments these so-called “representatives” use to destroy the lives of kids and force them to experience the wrong puberty in front of their peers. If I could have stopped my puberty, if someone had grabbed me by the shoulders and said, “Nicole, you can stop this. You *don’t* have to have facial hair, you *don’t* have to have your skull distorted by testosterone, you can *keep* your voice, you can *have boobs*!!!” I would have burst into tears and immediately said “PLEASE do it.”

So, some day, I will write a book about my experience. And I will talk about my experience. And I will try, desperately, for the rest of my life, to convince just one parent at a time that *It’s OK* to let your trans son or trans daughter live their life the way they know that they should. Please stop telling kids that they’re not really trans. Please believe them. Please stop this violence against kids.

I’ll tell you how an RBMK reactor explodes

“Sex” by Cheat Codes
Do it on the counter, we’ll fuck for hours (let’s talk about sex)
Any way you want it, you can have it
Talk about sex, baby
Do it in the shower, pussy power

“This Woman’s Work” by Kate Bush
I should be crying, but I just can’t let it show
I should be hoping, but I can’t stop thinking
Of all the things I should’ve said
That I never said
All the things we should’ve done
That we never did
All the things I should’ve given
But I didn’t
Oh, darling, make it go
Make it go away

I was holding my breath for a week.

I still acted like I had a dick. I wouldn’t let myself look at my vagina. The packing felt like it was just tucked, I was just in “too long of a tuck” and I was sure the instant the packing was gone, my dick would be back.

The packing came out. Oh my god it was like a clown-car. Just kept going and going and going. And then it was out. And then the catheter was out. And then I peed, with my junk in the configuration it should have been in for 43 years. And it was amazing. I didn’t cry yet. Then the PT person came in, and we dilated. I had a mirror to hold up to my vagina. Seeing it, that was intense.

In the car on the way home from the hospital, I drove. I felt so good. I felt like me, a new me, in a way I had never imagined. Mental barriers that I didn’t know existed came crashing down left and right. Certain behaviors that were “wrong” when I was a boy, I started to realize that they were right, they were default, they were “just how it is for a girl.” Wearing a bikini. Wanting to be seen, wanting guys to want me, wanting to be a mom. I don’t want to be essentialist, but girl let me tell you.

To have these mental loops in your head playing for your entire life, suppressing things, even when you have transitioned, still suppressing things and behaviors. I couldn’t talk like me before. All of a sudden, without effort, I started to be able to talk like me, how I knew I always should have talked. To have that mental bandwidth suddenly freed up by this situation. My mind grasped for an analogy.

The only thing I could see was technicians trying to avert some crisis. Desperately flipping switches to try to save the situation. And they can’t, because some of the switches are too small for their fingers to flip, little dip switches. So they get out the tweezers, but it’s not fast enough. And then in walks the doctor, with a giant flat piece of plastic, and just flips all those switches from “off” to “on” with one motion. And then the day is saved. More than that. A day that has never existed before in the history of the earth now exists for me.

This torture loop of “this thing I’m doing right now is not what a woman would be doing” is gone. I don’t have to think that any more. I don’t have to metathink about the thing that I have to hide any more. This is the biggest gift anyone could ever receive. Is this what it feels like to be a human being? Oh my god. I have been missing out.

I cried so much. This could have happened years ago and I would have been pain-free. Girl, let me tell you that it couldn’t. It took the length of time it needed to take and not a second more or less.

Innie

If you’ve read this blog, you probably know that I put a lot of personal details out here. There are three reasons for this: One, I think adults probably are used to dealing with pretty tough topics. Two, I hope that by putting a bunch of this out here, it will start to be de-stigmatized. This is normal stuff, human being stuff that all of us go through. Just different stuff for different people. Three, I really do appreciate and need your help, kind of now more than ever.

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That said, if extreme realness isn’t your bag (and I don’t blame you) probably best to stop reading here.

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OK.

If you are still with me, here’s what’s up. On February 8, 2022, I am having “bottom surgery” or “genital reconstruction surgery” or “gender confirmation surgery” or “gender reassignment surgery” the last two names are pretty problematic for a number of reasons. In any case, I am getting my “outie” turned into an “innie”. It turns out that women’s and men’s sex organs are mostly embryologically very similar and/or develop out of the same tissues. So… they are just going to put things back to how they used to be.
The thought of this surgery used to horrify me. I thought they “cut off your penis” or something. It turns out it is quite delicate and they are able to preserve sexual function. You can have the same level of fun afterwards that you had before. Usually more so because you’re not ashamed of your junk.
For my entire life, I have felt ashamed of my body, and this is a significant part of that shame. I am so excited for this to happen, and also quite scared. There are serious complications that can happen, many of them quite gross and painful, and in some very rare cases, death can happen. I hope that I have little to no complication, but it’s a risk I’m willing to take, in order to be me.
I know that not every trans person wants or needs this kind of surgery, and that is completely valid and they should be accepted absolutely as the gender they present as. In my case, this is a life-saving surgery. My mom is coming to Denver for six weeks in order to help me recover. In some ways, this is sort of like a second birth, and I’m so grateful that she can be here.
If I could go back in time to December, 2019 and talk with my pre-pandemic, pre-transition self, and tell that person that this was going to happen, I wouldn’t. They would not be able to deal with it, they were still firmly in the closet. On the other hand, if I could go back in time and tell 8 year old me that I would be able to grow up to be a woman, I think that person would probably break down crying tears of joy, because that is all they wanted. They wouldn’t believe how it could happen, they’d be very sad about how long it would take, and the emotional and physical pain involved.

Threshold

The first time I injected myself with estrogen, a wave of calm washed over me within 20 minutes. I was driving to the UPS store to drop off a package, and I had to pull over into a parking lot half way there, because I thought I was going to pass out from the feeling of joy. For my entire adult life, my brain had been flooded with a hormone that made it think and feel in ways it was not built to. It was immersed in what, for me, is a poison. Estrogen broke upon the shore of my consciousness like an orgasmic tsunami of encapsulated patience and joy. There is no way to describe the feeling other than being able to drink a cold glass of water after crossing the hottest desert you can imagine surviving – for four decades. The person who injected herself with estrogen that day had no idea what the future held, but she was no longer afraid.

Five minutes after I jumped

Who I am is deeply connected to September 11, 2001. The image of those people jumping out of that building. They were trapped between something so terrifying they had to jump, and the terror of the hopeless jump itself. I lost 140 pounds not very long after that, because I realized that I had been given a gift, and I couldn’t waste it hating myself. After I lost the weight, I remember a very specific time, on the corner of two streets in my trailer park, standing there thinking, “if you can do that, you can be a woman.” Then, the terror of the two places I was trapped between forced a decision. I stayed in the burning building for fear of the jump. I stayed there for 20 more years.

Last week, when I saw those people at the Kabul airport, so terrified of something that they would cling to the side of a C17, knowing it would go to 40,000 feet and there was no way they could survive, still desperate to escape the terror. And then falling to their death, I thought again about September 11, and of jumping off that building. I’ve jumped, and I’m still in mid-air. I’m sure the ground is rapidly approaching. The terror of free-fall trapped me in a reality where I was forced to lie to myself and others, or risk losing everything. I chose to lie. Now that I’m being honest, no one believes me, I can see it in their eyes as they pity this confused soul and strain to… deign to, call it ‘her’.

Requiem For My Former Self

I need to honor Nicholas Spencer Roy. Although I’ve said I don’t like or believe in the othering of the self that happens a lot with trans people when they talk about their lives before transition, I think there is a degree of truth to this. I still feel like me, and you can still see a lot of what I used to look like in my face and body, but it’s rapidly fading. I definitely look like a woman version of myself now. After FFS, that will only become more pronounced. So, I want to say that the man named Nicholas Roy, Nick, was a good, kind, strong, compassionate person. He loved deeply, cared greatly for those he loved. His strength to endure through a world that didn’t know he carried me inside was impressive. Although I caused him pain, I think I also brought him kindness, sweetness, glimmers of beauty. Nick and I needed each other. He’s still here, but now he gets to rest. I love him, I will always love him.

(Originally posted on social media May 16, 2021)

Is There Anybody Out There?

What do you see when you look in the mirror?

I don’t know what it’s like for you, but I can tell you what it’s like for me.

In 1991, when I was thirteen years old, I had my first severe dissociative episode. I was looking in the bathroom mirror in my parents’ house, and I realized that I did not recognize the person in the mirror as me. I had seen this reflection my entire life, but this time was different. Imagine looking in the mirror and quite literally seeing someone who is not you, looking back at you. That is the plot of a horror movie. I got closer and closer to the mirror, staring deeply into my own eyes, letting my facial features blur. The only thing I could recognize in the image, were my eyes. I started to feel dizzy. I started to get very “meta” in my thoughts. I thought, “If that’s not me, who am I? Maybe I’m not really here. I don’t really exist.”

This was the first time I remember having facial dysphoria. The result of this episode was that I felt like I was “outside my body” for the entire rest of the day. It was extremely disturbing. After that, puberty started to kick in to high gear. I became increasingly depressed. I tried to avoid shaving for a long time, because I heard that if you shaved, you’d make the hair grow in faster. Then one day, a classmate of mine told me that I “missed a spot” and pointed at a patch on my cheek. I was distraught. I started shaving the next day. It got worse from there.

I hadn’t had the life experience to understand what was making me upset. I thought everyone just dissociated when they looked in mirrors. After a while, my brain formed a cyst around this thought process, in order to protect me. I stopped having dysphoric and dissociative episodes from looking in mirrors. Instead, I was just depressed all the time. I started eating Kraft Macaroni and Cheese by the box, frozen pepperoni pizzas whole in one sitting, frozen dutch apple pies. I hated my body so much, but I did not understand why. The facial padding that weighing 300 pounds gave me hid my prominent brow ridge, wide-set jaw and enlarged trachea. It made my cheeks puffy and baby-like. The weight also gave me breasts. I didn’t realize that I liked these things. What I hated was what the weight did to the the rest of my body, my health, my prospects of joy or life in the future.

When I decided to lose this weight, I made it happen quickly. When I am motivated, I do things very rapidly. I lost 140 pounds in nine months. As the weight came off, I felt joy and vigor at being able to do increasing levels of activity that I had not been able to do in years. Unfortunately, my sharp facial features emerged, and I started to have to build up that cyst around them in some other way. I internalized the self-hatred and channeled it into things like my career, bettering myself constantly, always striving for a better skillset, a better job. I rewarded myself with a better outward appearance, in the form of a series of increasingly fancy cars. The cars were the projection of a desire to look attractive in a way that I could not. I’d buy a new one every year. This was not healthy, even if I was starting to become more physically healthy and seem more mentally healthy.

I was a genuinely more happy person, and I thought I had “fixed myself,” all the while continuing to ignore the parts of myself that I had encysted. They went far beyond my own image in a mirror or a photo, but I’ll save these other things for discussion at a later date. In any case, I tried to live as a man. I tried for 30 years. And then, one day, I gave up. Like a meteor impacting the earth and wiping out the dinosaurs, a series of mental self-revelations careened into the stream of my life and blew away the outer shell of “Nicholas Spencer Roy.” As I started to do things to align myself with this deeply-ingrained gender identity that is different from my assigned gender at birth, the cysts started to dissolve, and all these behaviors, fears, images, reactions and thoughts came to the surface. One of the most painful turned out to be about my face. I hated, have always hated, and will always hate the prominent brow ridge, hooded orbits, wide and angular jaw, and Adam’s apple. So, I have to do something about them.

It turns out that changing these things will be expensive, but not anywhere nearly as expensive as I had feared. It’s achievable, and so I will do it. You may wonder why I would subject myself to the physical pain of this procedure, which will be significant. I can only tell you that the pain of the procedure is slight, compared to the pain of looking in the mirror. The harder, and easily the hardest part for me, is what this will do to those I love. I hope that the love you see in my slightly different face makes up for that.