The Medical Side of Things

“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.”

~ E.E. Cummings

From day one, Kaden expressed a desire to medically transition with cross hormones and gender confirming surgeries. Back then, we were comfortable with him socially transitioning, but couldn’t wrap our heads around the medical side of things. From what we researched, not all transgender people desire to medically transition. Some people don’t do anything medically, some only take hormones while others don’t feel “complete” until they have every procedure. To be honest, we were scared for Kaden and hoped he would decide against the medical interventions. But just as in other aspects of Kaden’s transition, once we were able to process through all the research and stories from people who actually had the procedures, it was our hearts and minds that had changed. In the end, the information we gathered convinced us that however far Kaden needed to medically transition, we would utilize all our resources to help him.

We strongly believe that there is no better time than right now, while he is young, living under our roof, and our loving protection, for him to undergo these procedures. And we know that our decisions with and for Kaden are the right ones for him to launch confidently into the world as the young man he is.

Initially, we were thinking that Kaden would have to wait until he was 18 years old in order to begin taking testosterone. We didn’t know if he fully understood that it would have a permanent effect on his body and that once he began he would have to continue taking it forever. We also weren’t sure that it was the right decision for us to make for our minor child. What if we regretted it? What if he regretted it? What if this whole thing actually was a phase???? Kaden wanted to move quickly and asked to be put on testosterone the very same night he cut his hair on December 10, 2016. I couldn’t believe that I was faced with taking another step before I had a chance to adjust to the one we had just taken.  It was overwhelming in every way.  So Scott and I had to let Kaden know that if we were ever going to feel comfortable putting him on cross-hormones, it had to be done at a pace that felt comfortable to all of us.  We also committed to learning as much as we could about testosterone.   During those first few months, I did my research, but what I did more was watch the way my child was becoming a son to Scotty and I, and a brother to Cameron and Claire. I saw something new emerge from within him that helped convince me that putting him on hormones was the next right thing.

On April 26, 2017, Kaden injected, into his abdomen, his very first dose of testosterone, the hormone responsible for developing secondary sex characteristics in males. That first shot was the beginning of some pretty amazing changes for Kaden. The most noticeable being the deepening of his voice, increase in body hair, and the masculinization of his face. He has been on “T” for about 20 months and feels more himself than ever. With each dose, his body, mind, and spirit become more aligned and I love watching all the ways he is settling into himself. Testosterone is something he administers weekly and will continue for the rest of his life.

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Kaden had a lot of gender dysphoria {distress, discomfort, dissatisfaction} about his chest. Once his transition started, we invested in a couple high quality chest binders for him to wear in order to minimize his dysphoria. We learned that many people use ace bandages or tape to fasten down their breasts, but neither of those options are safe and can cause physical injury and restrict breathing, leading to lung damage. Proper binders are made of nylon and spandex and fasten down the breast tissue so as to appear more masculine/less feminine. While they helped Kaden feel better about himself in shirts, the binders were extremely difficult to get on and off. Most of the time he needed my help and even then, I often worried that I would break his shoulders or ribs. They were great under clothing, but he wasn’t able to enjoy a lot of activities while wearing one. As a result, Kaden began talking about having “top surgery” {double mastectomy} quite soon after he began wearing the binders. Scotty and I weren’t sure about putting him under the knife, but over time we realized that it was, in fact, something that was in his best interest.

On November 16, 2017, under the care of an incredible doctor and medical team at Cedars Sinai in Los Angeles, Kaden underwent his first gender confirming surgery. He had a Double Incision Bilateral Mastectomy. Aside from the fact that it was difficult to see my child in pain, allowing him to have this procedure was one of the best things we have done for him. I cannot adequately express in words how top surgery changed his life. It was like without that tissue, he was free to live unencumbered. He no longer felt like hiding, and was able to walk with his head held even higher. I’ll never forget one of his post-op appointments when the nurse came in to take some “after” photos and asked if Kaden needed to wear a robe. He and I answered at the same time. I said, “yes,” and he said, “no.” My mind hadn’t quite caught up with the change, but within seconds I realized that I was speaking from a girl’s/women’s point of view. He didn’t share that POV and felt very comfortable sitting shirtless in front of the nurse and doctor. It made perfect sense. Kaden is a boy. His freedom was most felt at his favorite place, the beach. For the first time EVER, Kaden could wear a pair of trunks without a shirt and body board to his heart’s content. Scott and I loved seeing our boy so happy and so free.

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One of the greatest benefits some trans men experience while on testosterone is the cessation of their menstrual cycle. Unfortunately for Kaden, that never happened. He continued to experience a monthly period that was disruptive and demoralizing. His body continued to betray his gender identity {located in his brain, not his genitals}, causing distress on a fairly regular basis. So in the spring of 2018, Kaden began to research what would be his second gender confirming surgery, a Hysterectomy with Salpingo-Oophorectomy. In English, it’s the removal of the uterus, cervix, fallopian tubes, and ovaries.

I wasn’t ready to go there, so I took my time {I’m talking months} in scheduling a consultation with the highly recommended Orange County doctor. One of my blocks to seeking out this appointment was the absolute no-going-back aspect of a hysterectomy. Scott and I completely trusted and knew that Kaden’s mind wasn’t going to change, but there was a hesitation because of the huge responsibility we have in doing the very best thing for our child. Was this procedure the very best thing for Kaden? We knew that from the time Kaden was little, he was only interested in being the daddy when he played “house” with his friends. He had also insisted that he would never, ever carry a baby. Ultimately, what made us make the appointment was that I learned that the estrogen his body was making and the testosterone he was injecting each week were cancelling each other out. Yes, he had some good results, but the most important benefit to being on testosterone–the end of his period–just never came.

In August 2018, we met with the doctor who would end up taking such good care of our son. He didn’t need my prepared list of bullet points as to why Kaden needed to have this procedure done at such a young age. Instead, he spoke to Kaden with respect and compassion and demonstrated to us that this procedure was in Kaden’s best interest and that he was the best one to perform it.

That brings us to yesterday, December 19, 2018, the monumental day of Kaden’s life changing hysterectomy {#nomoreperiods}. The months leading up to the surgery were filled with so much emotion, but never any doubt that this was exactly what Kaden needed. Again, my feelings are hard to put into words, because I’ve been experiencing so many of them all at once…happiness for Kaden and all of us, gratitude for all our family and friends who have shown us so much love and support through these past two years, sadness that Kaden has to go through so much, and maybe even a little sorrow for a loss that’s difficult to understand.

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The surgery went extremely well and without any complications, but we were shocked at how much pain Kaden was in when we walked into his private room. He couldn’t open his eyes and just cried through that initial pain. It was unbearable to witness. Eventually his pain meds kicked in and he felt a lot better as his pain got under control. He continued to improve as the day passed and was able to go for a walk with the help of his nurse. He slept all night long and felt so much better when he woke up this morning.

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We are home now and are so grateful to be on this side of surgery. This morning I asked Kaden how he was feeling, and he told me he felt so much relief that “those parts” are gone. I couldn’t help but feel the same. Even though his recovery will take some time, he is full of hope for the future, grateful for the love and support he is surrounded by, and happy to have completed this huge step in his transition.

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I have learned so much over the past couple years. I’ve learned to trust my instincts more than ever, how to tune out the voices of people who have never walked in my shoes, and believe in the wisdom my children posses. They known themselves better than anyone else.

I have no hesitation over the next step for Kaden. It will be the biggest part of his medical transition and the final thing he needs to do in order to be completely himself. Although, I would be happy to never see him in so much pain, the consultation with the next doctor is already scheduled.

It has been my absolute honor and privilege to support him through this process. He continues to prove what an incredibly brave and strong young man he is. And I couldn’t be more proud.

xoxo

 

 

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