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Starting HRT

Dear Reader,

Hi again! Last time I talked about how we legally changed our names (click here to check that out) but this time will be about starting hormone replacement therapy (HRT). We (my husband Chris and I) actually started testosterone or “T” twice. I will take you back to the very beginning, a long long time ago in the year 2013.

Chris and I were wanting to get married, but we wanted to start our life together in marriage after we started taking T. We realized that with the short amount of time before the wedding, it wasn’t going to produce any noticeable changes, but it would be a step for us. A step towards our future in marriage vows as well as transition. And so we started looking for a doctor.

I had just started working for a company whose insurance covered transgender related treatments. A friend of ours was seeing a doctor about an hour away from us and recommended we check him out. Since the insurance covered it, I immediately set an appointment. The first appointment was a wellness check such as vitals, blood check, etc.  Then, the magic mixture was given to us.

We weren’t immediately given a testosterone prescription and sent on our merry way. Nope. We had to go back to the endocrinologist every two weeks for the next SIX MONTHS or so before we were given that luxury. He wanted to monitor how we responded to the medication in order to either increase the dosage or slide it down. Honestly, it was a good thing he did that because come to find out I am allergic to the sunflower seed oil used as a suspension in some brands of testosterone. The doctor switched me to Axiron, which is a topical way to receive HRT. I used this for about 8 months until I reached the year marker. I had pretty good results from Axiron, and I highly recommend it to anyone who has the financial means to get it (this medication is crazy expensive).

Then, things hit the fan. I lost my job, good pay, and most importantly the insurance. For the next three years I couldn’t find a job that had good enough pay and insurance to allow us the ability to get back on HRT. I lost my facial and body hair. My body started to soften again. I had some of the worst dysphoria I’ve ever experienced in my life. I still passed for the most part, but it was like I was stuck as an “in-between” and I struggled to see a light at the end of the tunnel. It wasn’t until I found a job in January of 2017 that finally things started to turn around.

I was able to find a new doctor (Planned Parenthood) that took our new insurance. Our old doctor skipped town in the three years we were off. We were prescribed testosterone the first day of our appointments in April of that same year. We have officially been back on HRT for 1 year and 8 months. I finally have some facial hair growing back. My body hair has become ridiculous, and I couldn’t be any happier. Chris never lost his facial hair despite going off testosterone the same amount of time as myself. We aren’t sure if he just naturally has higher T levels or what.

This post was a bit all over the place, but I wanted to put our experience out there. Things aren’t a straight line of expectations when starting HRT. Unfortunately things can block your way and it can feel like your world is falling apart. If there is anything to take from this post, it’s don’t lose hope. Don’t give up.

Until next time,

Alexander Mason Burchnell

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Legal Name Change

Dear Reader,

I am making an effort to post on a regular basis. In addition to life updates, I want to post helpful information. Transitioning can be arduous when dealing with legal stuff, so I will be posting different steps Chris (my husband) and I went through. This post will be all about how we legally changed our names.

Our first step to start the process was to go to our county clerks office. We had to file a form that they had there for our request. We also had to pay about $100 each which would cover our court costs. They gave us a court date to appear in front of the judge. Daunting I know.

The day of the court date we were full of nerves, but thankful we got to appear on the same date. Chris got called up first (by his birth name). The judge asked stated why he was there and asked him how long he had been living by his requested name. The whole conversation lasted maybe 5 minutes. The judge then said she will honor his request and grant him legal documentation in order to change all ID’s. I was called next, and my hearing went much the same way.

After our hearings, we picked up our official documents. We each got three forms with the courts seal, it was important since we would have to send off the original document to change some items such as our birth certificates. We immediately went to the DMV to get our licenses changed, which was an easy process. We presented the documents given to us by the court, and the DMV handled the rest. The cost of the new license was $10 each.

Later, we wanted to change our social security information. This was a little more difficult for a couple reasons. They needed a copy of our birth certificates which neither of us had access to. My birth certificate was ruined in a flood (long story), and Chris was born in Florida (we live in TN). I was able to get mine in one day by going down to a local office, but Chris had to order his. So, we waited for the good ol’ postal service. Once we both got our birth certificates, we were able to go down to the social security office to get things finalized. This final step was pretty straight forward. We brought all our documents and the clerks were able to get this done pretty quickly.

Finally, we were able to change other items like our banks, credit cards, and other non-legal items. It tooks us a bit of time to get everything finished, but it’s done. The only thing we haven’t changed was our birth certificates. We could, but we haven’t had a reason to present them to anyone. In addition, since I was born in TN, if I were to change it all they would do would be to cross my old name out and put my new name beside it. Not very helpful. So, we will just get passports.

I hope this was helpful. As always, you can reach out to us via email or other social media all linked below:

Email

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Thanks for reading,

Alexander M. Burchnell

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How did we afford top surgery?

December 6, 2018

Dear Reader,

I mentioned in my last post that I would explain how we managed to afford top surgery, and I have returned to do just that. Let me start by stating our combined income would put us in the lower class, so we in no way had the full out of pocket funds available to us. What we did have was access to insurance, over-time at work, and crowd funding.

I work for a bank that has some pretty amazing insurance: Blue Cross Blue Shield. The company also covers same-sex partners/spouses. I obviously put Chris (my husband of 5 years) on the insurance. With a little digging I found out that the plan also covers transgender related medical expenses…including surgery! I called up the help line and got to work. I found out what our max out of pocket co-pay for his top surgery would be, which came out to $3,000. Ouch.

Next, we got a list of doctors within reason from where we lived. Then, we narrowed the list down to doctors who took insurance. After that, we called each one up to discuss options. Once we started talking prices and time-frame, we decided on Dr. Emerson of Gastonia, North Carolina.

Our first visit was simply meeting the doctor, him reviewing Chris’ chest, and getting an idea of what to expect. We paid $80 for the consultation. The office handled all paperwork with our insurance. We brought a therapist letter confirming his gender-identity disorder and Planned Parenthood faxed over documents advising how long he had been on hormones. The documents were going to be compiled from Dr. Emerson’s office to present a case to Blue Cross Blue Shield in order to guarantee the coverage.

It took a couple weeks for someone to get back to us about the coverage, and we waited on pins and needles the whole time. Finally, I got a call while I was at work informing the insurance approved the surgery and now we just needed to decide on a date. November 20th, 2018. I had yet to get a full quote of cost, but that would come a few weeks later.

Dr. Emerson’s office sent me an email with a quote of about $450 of upfront cost. This news sent us into some pretty heavy emotion of relief. I was freaking out not knowing how to cover the cost prior to this. Usually the cost of top surgery can be anywhere from $3,000-$10,000 depending on the surgeon. Luckily, with our insurance coverage, our out of pocket was just going to be less than $500. We were ecstatic.

We still needed to save up money so we got to work. I picked up about 10 hours of overtime each pay period. We had a yard sale which made about $80. And we crowd funded…hard. I blasted every bit of social media I had to raise money. Friends, family, and strangers all donated to our cause. We are so grateful for all the kindness, and there is no way I can express how thankful I am. If it wasn’t for everyone pitching in, we wouldn’t have made it. Thank you.

I do want to mention a hiccup we had at Chris’ pre-op appointment. We gave the upfront cost of $450 to Dr. Emerson’s office, and then headed over to the hospital where he would be having the surgery. We didn’t know prior to that he would be having a pre-op appointment there as well. Luckily, the hospital was across the street from Emerson’s office. We got there and did the paperwork, but there was a small matter of about $2,700 that they wanted before the surgery happened. We expressed that wouldn’t be possible. The lady doing the paper work was surprised and asked us if anyone called us prior to our visit. The only person to call us was a representative getting Chris’ basic information nothing about payment.

She called her boss to ask what she should do. Both of them saw in Chris’ records that no one contacted us about payment arrangement, so she documented that heavily and said someone would be in touch to work this out. We were freaked. I called the billing department the next day to get this handled sooner rather than later. I got in contact with a very nice woman who soothed my concerns pretty quickly. She explained that the cost would be total expenses, including what we’ve paid the doctor and what the insurance paid. This was not the amount we had to pay in full. She advised that once all was said and done, I could call her back and make arrangements for anything else that needed to be paid. She calculated that roughly we would need to pay $800 to the hospital. I nearly cried. We had expected this situation to put a complete stop to Chris’ surgery. We were able to proceed with his top surgery of which he had completed on November 20th.

I recognize how privileged we were to be able to achieve this mile stone in my husband’s life. I wanted to share how we got here so that others could get an idea of options. Feel free to contact us at the email below or on any of our social media. I plan to have my surgery next year, and since my husband went first, we have a better idea of what to expect with me.

Thank you again,

Alexander M. Burchnell

queerchristianfamilyvalues@gmail.com

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Life finally feels on track.

September 13, 2018

Dear Reader,

Another bit of lengthy time has past since I last wrote an entry but not too much has changed. Mom is recovering from her amputation. She is still at a nursing care facility until she is healed/strong enough to return to her apartment. We hope that this event will bump her up in the waiting list for someone to visit her regularly to care for her home/help her around the house.

I am still enjoying my job at the bank. I have continued to work a ton of over time almost doubling my paycheck. I am trying to be careful on burning myself out but I can see Chris’ surgery looming in the horizon and I am doing all I can to prepare for it come November. We have nearly saved the minimum required amount for the upfront cost but I want to save a bit more just encase some unexpected expenses arise.

My anxiety is so-so at the moment mostly due to the fact I had to go without my medication for a week or more. I went to renew my meds but I apparently ran out of refills so I had to fight with the doctors to get one before my next appointment in October. But I am back on and adjusting back to the dosage. I feel like this time around the medicine isn’t as effective but it could also be that I am having to get use to it all over again.

Even though I have just spilled a lot of feelings on here I do feel very positive about our lives right now. We are able to pay bills and still have money left over at the end of the pay period to put into savings. I was able to pay all the bills for the month yesterday and it felt amazing and I didn’t have to let a bill slide like I have done in the past. I am riding an “adulting” high right now and I hope it continues. Also, I plan on making another video for the Instagram page but not quite sure what the topic should be. If you have any suggestions let me know.

Thanks for reading,

Alexander M. Burchnell

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Life has been crazy…

August 31, 2018

It has been a bit since I wrote last. Where do I start? If you follow me on Instagram (@QueerChristianFamilyValues) you may know that my mother recently had to have her leg amputated. She is diabetic and unfortunately some sores got super infected to the point they couldn’t save it. She was in the hospital for quite some time and has now been moved to a rehab care facility until she is well enough to live on her own again. I am hoping this will move her up on the waiting list to have someone come over and help her cook and clean.

In the meantime I have been caring for her cat and her apartment. In addition, I have been working a ton of overtime in order to raise money for my husband’s top-surgery. We found out that his upfront cost is waaaay less than we originally thought thanks to our insurance coverage. Due to the lowered cost it has taken a huge burden off our shoulders. We have made cuts to what we use to spend for health reasons but also financial. Chris needs this surgery desperately and we are so close. His surgery date is November 20th with Dr. Emerson. Its so close I can taste it!

On a completely other note, I switched back to my trusty flip phone. What?! Yup! I have an issue called “smartphone addiction” soooo I decided I would carry only my flip phone and at home I can use my smartphone when needed. I am an all or nothing kind of person so having access to social media 24/7 isn’t something I can have self control over hence the “dumb phone”. I have posted extensive phone selfies on Instagram showing off my old tech swag piece. I will admit though, the odd looks I get from other millennials is a bit funny.

Welp I think that is all the news I have for now. I will catch you in the next one!

-Alexander M. Burchnell

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August 11, 2018

Hi again!

So I wanted to talk about how I started hormones. I started testosterone back in 2013. I was lucky enough to have a job whose insurance covered transition related medical needs. A friend referred me to an endocrinologist he was seeing. Now, the first appointment was simply him checking blood work and discussing what we were looking to get out of this treatment. My husband went to his appointment first because I was working, but I eventually went myself. (My husband and I are both trans men…read the first blog entry for background.)

The second appointment was where the doctor final approved us for testosterone. For the first three months, the endo wanted us to come to his office for the nurse to administer our shots. He wanted to make sure there were no negative side effects. I am thankful he had us come back because it turns out I was allergic to the suspension oil in the t shots. I had developed hives at the shot site, so he switched me to a topical version called Axiron. The medication was an alcohol based gel I had to put on like deodorant. It dried me out BIG TIME! I stayed on that for about a year before we had to go off testosterone completely due to losing insurance and my job. I will make another blog post about that time and changes since I was forced to go off treatments for 3 years. But for now, I will fast forward to April 2017 when we started back.

We had been hunting for a place to start hormones again. I had started a job with relatively decent insurance as well as pay, so we had the means to finally start hormone replacement therapy again, but where at? Luckily, that same friend referred us to Planned Parenthood. We had our appointment and were given a testosterone prescription the same day! We were ecstatic. They have honestly been the best doctors we’ve had. They are super respectful and move at a speed we are comfortable with. We are so thankful we have a Planned Parenthood close enough to us and that they accept our insurance.

Next blog will be on how we found my husband’s top surgeon!

-Alexander M. Burchnell

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August 9,2018

Hi! My name is Alexander Mason Burchnell but you can call me Alex. I never thought I would create a blog simply because I’m not the best at grammar, that role is reserved to my husband (Christopher). The reason I decided to jump into this was simply that I wanted a place to put my thoughts without the need to make an exciting video or get lost on my Tumblr page. I wanted a blank space as a journal of sorts but maybe this “diary” will help others that share similar experiences to mine.

Maybe some back story is in order? Where to start…ok so, I am 27 and have been married to my husband for over 5 years. We have been together since we were 19 which means we’ve been together a total of 7 years! Time flies. I run an Instagram page that is about our life as trans men. Yes, transgender men…female to male. The site is dedicated to our faith as well as medical/social stuff that comes up due to our gender identity. Chris is hardly ever shown on the page simply because he is shy and is a hermit but I love him dearly. He will be having his top surgery come November so we are in the process of fundraising and saving for the costs.

Now, if you are still reading after all of my rambling I hope you stick around and check out my social media. I think I may talk more in depth about how we got legally married before gay marriage was legalized here in the U.S. but more specifically Tennessee where we live. I may also talk about the legal and medical steps we had to take to transition in case anyone out there might be interested. For those who have read up to this point thank you and I hope to see you again.

Thank you,

Alexander M. Burchnell

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Mile Stone

December 4, 2018

Dear Reader,

It has been some time since I last wrote but so much has happened I don’t know where to start. If you connect with me on other social media then you know that my husband (Chris) had top-surgery on November 20th. A cool fact is that it happened on Transgender Day of Rememberance.

He is healing fantastically which was something we were worried about. When his surgeon revealed his chest for the first time his right side looked like it may have a hematoma. Luckily, he simply had swelling and some hardcore bruising. We have been putting antibiotic ointment on his incision lines and most importantly his nipples. He is two weeks post-op and we couldn’t be happier.

I want to sit down and explain step by step how we found his doctor, insurance process, and how we paid for his surgery. I will try to do that in my next post if that interests you. But until next time have a good week!

-Alexander M. Burchnell

We are finally here…

October 10, 2018

Dear Reader,

We are finally meeting goal for Chris’ top surgery. I can’t believe it. Last year if you asked either of us if we would ever get here we would have said maybe in a few years. We were struggling financially, mentally, and emaotionally. We didn’t know if it would ever happen for him…for us. You see, this surgery isn’t just about my husband feeling better in his own skin but in a way it’s about me gaining my husband fully and completely. Don’t get me wrong, if he never had surgery I would still love him with every fiber of my being. What I am saying that my husband can finally LIVE! He can be the man that is inside himself. He can do activities out and about without the need to cover up under a baggy hoody causing heat stroke. This will open up so many doors for him to explore. I can’t wait to see his growth. Thank you for reading this and sharing in our joy. My last note to you dear reader…we are still taking donations for his surgery. Yes, we are almost at his surgery goal but we still have pre opp appointments and post surgery bills. Here is the link to our PayPal: https://www.paypal.me/qcfv

Thank you,

-Alexander M. Burchnell

Still Being Misgendered

rant time

September 28, 2018

Dear Reader,

I need to vent. Usually I reserve that for videos on my Instagram page but I wanted to put this in writing. Generally, I don’t get misgendered. I have facial hair, a deep voice, and I bind. I have been back on hormones for a year and a half. I could understand getting misgendered before that because I had to go off T for 3 years due to financial struggles/losing insurance. I lost all my body/facial hair, my voice stalled out, and my body started softening again. I get that I got ma’amed sometimes during that period but now?

Ok, I probably need to explain where this is coming from. There is this girl at my work who is really nice and we get along really well but for some reason she calls me “she”. She corrects herself when I jokingly call her out on it. I don’t want to show my offense to it because I’m stealth and I don’t have a problem with women. I told her I was raised primarily by women so I am not upset she accidentally calls me one. She laughed it off as well. But I thought by me doing it that way she would adjust. But it keeps happening. I don’t know why I let it bother me. Maybe its my OCD that makes me dwell on it? It makes me question whether I look like a man or not. It causes my dysphoria to climb around inside my head.

Another thought, she knows I am married to a man so maybe she is trying to adapt to the gay “sister” culture? Maybe she thinks that all gay men call each other “she”? I feel like that might be grasping at straws. Why do I have to let this get to me? She actually said “she” in front of our boss and he looked confused. So I guess she might be the only one with this issue? Sigh. I realize this will pass. It has just been bothering me since yesterday. Life is good right now but my brain is wired to always obsess negatively on something. I guess she is “IT” right now.

Thanks for letting me vent.

-Alexander M. Burchnell

Relationships Aren’t Easy

September 24, 2018

Relationships aren’t easy. Relationships are effort and practice. Relationships aren’t perfect. Relationships are amazing, beautiful, and can make you feel like you are on cloud 9 but they will never be a fairy tale. I am not cynical, in fact, I am in an wonderful nearly 8 year committed relationship but I see how many think that to be happy you must be… well, happy all the time.

Growing up I was obsessed with Disney movies, the ones that depicts a prince rescuing a princess and they would live happily ever after. I had to learn that real life doesn’t quite work that way. When you find the perfect person for yourself you can’t put them on a pedestal like in the movies. They will fall super hard and it won’t be fair to you or them. The key to a “perfect” relationship has and always will be commitment and communication. Without both of these you will inevitably fail.

My husband and I got engaged just a few short months after dating (fast I know). I wouldn’t change the start of our relationship for anything but I need you to understand that the fact that we are still together is exceedingly rare. We lived apart for about 2 years before moving in together. He lived an hour away from me and we usually saw each other about once a week. Because of the distance we had to build our relationship on communication because we didn’t have the physical side very often. Being forced to simply talk and share our lives in this way helped us tremendously to be able to deal with harder things that would have otherwise torn us apart.

Chris’ parents were absolutely against us being together and tried many times throughout those first few years to get him to leave me. We fought for our relationship and yes it did bring us closer together but it also tested us. The hard times showed that we were both committed to making this work. We knew that in the future when things got hard neither one of us would bail. I am forever grateful for that. I am a very anxious person with low self esteem and I have a fear of losing the ones I love. Knowing that my husband is deeply committed to me makes me feel secure. That security has helped me feel like I can grow and be my own person without the fear of him getting tired of me and running off with someone else.

We both have similar values which is another important factor in a relationship. We both put family before anything else. We value our faith and are committed to God. We both want children and have agreed to adopt in the near future. We aren’t party types and prefer to just spend time at home or with close friends over the club scene any day. We are friends first before lovers and that is the biggest thing that has propelled us to where we are today. I can’t imagine my life without him and I can’t wait to see where another 8 years takes us.

-Alexander M. Burchnell