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The Problem of Pain (a Caitlin On . . . post)

9 October, 2011

Dearest Reader, let’s you and I step away from the heady, intellectual stuff of the last several posts and get back to the down and dirty, the smut of regeneration as the republican candidates would say. Specifically, the concept of pain. Pain is a familiar, if rough, lover for the regenerating individual. Whether they are MtF, FtM, androgynous, agender, bigender, two-spirited, or some new understanding of self not yet categorized or demonized by the gender elite, they understand pain. There is the psychological pain of living contrary to yourself and then of coming out to those close to you along with the rest of a mixed-reaction world. And there is the physical pain associated with harassment and opposition; along with the physical pain of tucking/binding and surgical changes. But there is one type of pain reserved as unique to the MtF regeneration: electrolysis.

Electrolysis becomes a necessary pain for the MtF. There comes a point in her journey where she says, Enough with the razor! Words cannot express how tiresome the act of shaving becomes. And no ladies you do not understand what I am talking about. You shave your legs and underarms, this is true, but that is less than half of the area transwomen shave. The average transwoman shaves her legs, arms, underarms, hands, chest, and stomach every few days and her face every single day. Early in the regenerative process, she may have to shave her face twice or even three times in one day just to prevent the Harry Mudd look. It is exhausting and eventually wears her down duller than her (several thousand) discarded razor blades. Not to mention the damage constant shaving does to the sensitive skin of the face, particularly for those ladies of Celtic and Nordic decent.

Electrolysis becomes the answer, but it is not a pleasant one. Despite the advances in medical science the art of hair removal has not changed much. Yes, there is laser hair removal but it is not guaranteed successful, and if you have blond or red hair it will not work at all. So that leaves a number of transwomen, myself included, with no alternative to burning the individual hairs off the face one — at — a — time. The process is slow. It needs to be because they are destroying each hair at the root, multiple times to finally kill it. This is done by inserting a very thin, very hot needle into the skin to burn out the root. On average this process takes somewhere between two and three hundred hours depending on how hairy the woman is and runs between two and five thousand dollars and that is just the facial hair! Imagine getting other areas done [there are transwomen who do]!

I am currently undergoing this treatment. The doctor said I am doing marvelously well and I handle the pain better than the majority of people do. But that does not make the experience pleasant. It feels like being poked and plucked by a pair of electrified tweezers. After the procedure, my face feels raw and sore, as though a smelter had just poured molten iron across it. So far I have completed two out of three hundred hour long sessions and am now almost one precent done with treatment. So the next time, ladies, you groan about having to get up early to shave your legs or, gentlemen, you your face, think about the transwomen and consider yourself fortunate you have to do so little.

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