Changing your gender from female to male takes balls. And if you’re going to do it in front of 500 coworkers at one of the top ad agencies in the country, you better have a pretty big set! At a time when the term “transgender” didn’t really exist, and with support from family, friends, and a great therapist, Chris Edwards endured 28 surgeries to become the man he always knew he was meant to be. He used what he learned working in advertising along with his ever-present sense of humor to rebrand himself and orchestrate what was quite possibly the most widely accepted and embraced gender transition of its kind. He’s a pioneer who changed the perception of an entire community, and his memoir, BALLS, will touch readers’ hearts and open their minds. Edwards is funny, brazen, and endearing, and BALLS is the hilarious and moving story about family, friends, and the courage to be your true self. It boldly and fearlessly goes where other trans memoirs haven’t. If you’ve ever felt uncomfortable in your own skin, for whatever reason, you will be inspired and empowered by this book. A portion of the proceeds of BALLS will be donated to Camp Aranu’tiq (camparanutiq.org), a nonprofit program serving transgender youth and their families.
|Publisher:||Greenleaf Book Group Press|
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x (d)|
|Age Range:||3 Months to 18 Years|
About the Author
Chris Edwards grew up in the Boston suburbs and was voted Most Likely to Get an Ulcer by his high school classmates. He went on to attend Colgate University, where he majored in psychology and minored in keg stands. After building an award-winning advertising career spanning nearly 20 years, Chris left his post as EVP, Group Creative Director at Arnold Worldwide to write his memoir, BALLS. Since then he’s become a sought-after speaker, inspiring audiences with his courageous story and compelling message that we actually have the power to control how others define us. He has yet to develop an ulcer.
Read an Excerpt
It Takes Some To Get Some
By Chris Edwards
Greenleaf Book Group PressCopyright © 2016 Christopher Edwards
All rights reserved.
I PEE, THEREFORE I AM
March 1, 2004
So I'm standing there, peeing at a urinal for the first time.
What makes my situation different from the rite of passage most guys experience is two things:
1. I'm thirty-four years old.
2. There's a man behind me, cheering me on.
To clarify point two, the man is a doctor, not a pervert. He also made my penis.
"Aim down ... and don't bend your knees," he says, sounding like a Little League coach. I hear the pride in his voice and wonder if it's his handiwork or me he's really proud of.
"Did you check underneath the stalls?" I ask Doc, paranoid. The men's room appeared to be empty, but you never know.
"Yes, yes," he assures, then squats down to actually check.
I was "stalling" at the urinal, but my confidence was in the toilet and for good reason.
It was the night before my flight home to Boston. I'd been in Nashville for thirteen days — three in a hospital room and ten in a hotel room, only the last few of which were catheter-free. I was peeing standing up all right, mostly all over the bathroom floor and myself. What's a no-brainer for most guys was proving to be a major challenge for me due to a few factors that make my man-made urethra a bit different from theirs.
First, there's the opening, which is a bit larger in diameter. Creating just the right size involves trial and error. If it's too narrow, some of the pee might get trapped inside and potentially cause an infection. So Doc had erred on the wider side, which explained the showerhead effect I had going on. Then there's the inconsistency of flow and direction due to post-surgical swelling. This was the reason my pee was shooting out at a forty-five-degree angle, forcing me to stand a full foot left of the bowl in order to get even close to hitting it. Finally there's the shape. Instead of being straight, the extended part of my urethra resembles the letter U — kind of like the pipe under a sink. Whenever I peed, some always collected in a "reservoir," which is why every time I'd think I was done and zip up, I'd get a warm sensation running down my leg.
I could deal with this in the privacy of my hotel bathroom, but as I packed my suitcase, I decided there was no way in hell I was ready to attempt to pee in a public restroom, let alone out in the open at a urinal.
Doc must have sensed my apprehension because just then my phone rang. "Heeeey, Chris. I've been thinking about your peeing. I want you to use the urinal before you go. And I want to be there when you do. Meet me at the bar in your hotel for a drink. I'll be there in ten minutes."
Filled with dread, I finished packing and took the elevator down to the lobby bar where my doctor sat, sipping a martini. I chased a vodka soda with two tall glasses of water and, armed with a full bladder and a clear view of the men's room door, psyched myself up. Once the only guy I saw go in had come out, I made my move. Doc followed a few paces behind me and waited by the sinks as I took my place on urinal row. Which brings me back to where I started and ...
I have to say it was one of the most liberating experiences of my life.
No longer boxed in by a stall, it felt strange — almost like I was peeing outdoors. No more trying to balance myself to avoid touching the seat. Just unzip, whip it out, and go. The curved sides of the urinal also made it much safer to use than the toilet. No muss, no fuss, no worries about spraying guys next to me and getting my ass kicked.
On the flight back to Boston, I began making a mental bucket list of all the "guy things" I wanted to do now that I could pee standing up. Number one on the list: Write my name in the snow. It was the beginning of March; there was still time. My visualization of yellow letters on a fluffy white canvas was interrupted by the urge to pee followed by the joyous realization that I'd never have to squat in a godforsaken airplane lavatory again. The less time spent in those hellholes, the better. But thanks to my aiming difficulties and a bout of turbulence, I actually ended up spending twice as long in this one cleaning up the mess I made. Write my name in the snow? Yeah, right. I couldn't even hit the bowl — never mind forming actual letters.
Over the next few months, nobody's bathroom was safe. The direction of my pee was becoming more erratic. I walked around mentally assigning a degree of difficulty — from 1 to 10 — to every toilet bowl I encountered: the smaller and rounder, the higher the degree. The things I had feared the most — urinals — were now my saviors; but still there were times when even they betrayed me, like that fateful night at the Loews Theater.
The movie had just let out. My friend Price waited in the lobby while I followed the throng of guys filing into the men's room. I took my place in line, praying that when my turn came up, one of the urinals would be free. Usually they rotated more frequently than the stalls, so I felt the odds were in my favor. But what opened up was the worst possible outcome: the center stall in a row of five. I froze, hoping the slight delay would give me another shot at a urinal, but the guy behind me helpfully pointed out the now wide-open metal door. I had no choice but to go in, unzip, and concentrate.
My pee actually squirted up and hit the wall in front of me. Then, as if defying all laws of physics, it veered right at a hard downward angle, shooting under the partition and into the next stall. I quickly adjusted my aim to counteract this directional disaster but overcompensated. My pee made a sharp left under the stall on the other side. I was certain any moment now, one or both of my neighbors were going to bust down my stall door with a pee-covered shoe and beat me with it. At the very least I expected a string of swear words to be hurled my way. But nobody yelled. And nobody tried to break in. Still, I stayed in that stall a good ten minutes, waiting out the crowd before making my exit.
I spotted Price where I'd left her. She looked concerned.
"Is everything okay?"
"Just keep walking."
The next morning I called Doc and recounted the "incident."
He laughed and then assured me he could fix my problem by making the urethral opening smaller. "One stitch should do it," he said.
Back to Music City I went — straight to Doc's office, where he put a stitch at the opening of the urethra. Afterward, I drank a bottle of water and we waited. And waited. And when I finally felt the urge, my pee ... came out sideways.
This was not good.
"I need time to think," Doc said. "Let's go get a drink."
We found a dive bar off West End Avenue. Three-quarters of the way through my Diet Coke, I had to "go."
"I'll stay here this time," Doc said chuckling. Good thing he did. The men's room was the size of a broom closet and the urinal the size of a salad bowl. No savior here. Degree of difficulty: 9.5.
I returned to the table to find my surgeon drawing on a cocktail napkin.
"It wasn't pretty," I said.
"I figured it out," he announced.
Doc showed me his sketch of the head of my penis and then drew in how he would create a drawstring with the sutures to pull the urethral opening tighter and make it smaller from all sides. It worked. That one adjustment gave me the ability to pee with sniperlike precision and the confidence that I could handle any men's room situation that came my way.
I knew then what I know now: My gender identity is not defined by what's between my legs. Still, this was truly a defining moment for me as a man. And while there was still a lot more I'd have to go through before I'd finally feel complete, it would be nothing compared to what I'd already endured.CHAPTER 2
ARE YOU TALKING TO ME?
I came out to my grandmother when I was five. I just didn't know I was doing it.
Neither did she.
I can't tell you what Gram was wearing at the time, but I'm sure it was something fashionable, which likely meant one of her bell-bottom pantsuits and a wrap turban with some bright, crazy pattern on it. Her mother, my Great Gram, was the matriarch of our family and owned a summer cottage on Cape Cod that served as the hub of our extended family gatherings from July through August. Because Great Gram's house was a short walk to Old Silver Beach, it wasn't uncommon to find six or seven of my relatives' cars wedged in like a jigsaw puzzle on the front lawn (and by lawn I mean crabgrass). On this particular day, my parents' wood-paneled station wagon was wedged in among them. Gram had driven down with us, which always made the ninety-minute ride more fun, and as usual my older sister, Wendy, and I fought over who got to sit next to her. There was only room for three people in the backseat, so with Grampa up front with Dad, and Mom in the back holding my baby sister, Jill, that meant one of us was destined for isolation in the way back. Still, Gram kept us both entertained by playing "I Spy" or having us compete to see who could spot the most VW bugs. When we got bored of that she'd tell us stories that she'd make up on the spot or put her own twist on classics like "Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves." That one was my favorite.
Gram loved the beach and once she gathered up her necessities — aluminum folding beach chair, sticky bottles of suntan oils, and rubber swim cap dotted with plastic daisies to protect her frosted hair — she walked us down to Old Silver where we spent the whole day taking in the sun. With both sides of my family being Armenian, most of my relatives had dark hair, brown eyes, and olive skin like Gram's that tanned easily. Wendy and I fit the bill. But it was sunblock slather sessions for Jill, who was inexplicably born with light brown hair, blue eyes, and fair skin. (We'd later tell her she was adopted and that the pale Ukrainian man who delivered Mom and Dad's dry cleaning was her real father.)
After a full day at the beach, Wendy and I were back at Great Gram's house in our t-shirts and shorts, hair still wet from the outside shower. We sprawled out on the faded Oriental rug in the family room with our coloring books and crayons, while Gram repeatedly passed by us on her route from the kitchen to the dining room carrying platters of shish kebab, salad, and pilaf.
On her last pass she yelled, "Come on, girls, dinner's ready."
Wendy immediately sprang up and followed her to the table. I didn't flinch. I honestly didn't think she was talking to me. Soon Gram was back kneeling across from me at eye level.
"Didn't you hear me calling you?" she asked.
"I said, 'Come on, girls.'"
"I'm not a girl," I replied, insulted.
"Yes ... you are," she said gently.
"No, I'm not. I'm a boy."
"No, you're not, sweetheart."
"Well, then I'm gonna be," I insisted.
"You can't, darling," she said, then smiled sympathetically and walked back into the kitchen.
I'll show her! I thought.
Since everything about me was boy-like — my clothes, my toys, my obsession with all superheroes except for Wonder Woman and her lame, invisible plane — I put my five-year-old brain to work and determined that the only thing lumping me in with the girls was my hair length. Girls had long hair; boys had short hair. So to clear up Gram's and anyone else's future confusion on this matter, as soon as we got back home from the Cape I told my mom I wanted my hair cut "like Daddy's."
Many moms would have said "no way" to such a request, but my mom wasn't too concerned with gender stereotypes. "Nano," as friends and family called her, may have been traditional when it came to family, but she was relatively hip as far as moms went. She had given up her career in nursing to stay home and raise three kids while my dad worked his way up the ladder in advertising. She was extremely involved in our school activities from kindergarten through high school and was known as the "fun mom" who would plan the best birthday parties and supply endless trays of snacks and candy whenever friends came over. She'd even let us watch scary movies, though usually to our own detriment. Seeing Jaws at age seven led to an entire summer on dry land. Forget swimming in the ocean; I wouldn't even go near a pool. What if the shark came up through the drain?
Mom wasn't — and still isn't — a big skirt or dress wearer, so she never put Wendy or me in anything particularly girly when we were little — only Jill, whose favorite colors were pink and purple. Wendy and I were both tomboys. For us it was OshKosh overalls in neutral colors, Levi's corduroys, and "alligator" shirts. So when I asked to get my hair cut short, Mom took me to the barbershop in the center of town. After that, sure enough, everyone outside my family started calling me a boy.
See, Gram, that wasn't so hard.
It wasn't until the following summer that I realized I was lacking certain "equipment." Still sandy from the beach, Wendy and I were eating popsicles with our younger cousin Adam on Great Gram's back deck, a danger zone for bare feet. I was standing on my wet towel in an effort to avoid another painful splinter-removal session with Mom's sewing needle when Adam nudged me and said, "Watch this." He then turned his back, and a stream of what I thought was water came shooting out of his red swim trunks over the deck rail in a perfect arc.
I was in awe. "How'd you do that?" I asked. "Do you have a squirt gun in there?"
Wendy, seventeen months my senior and always ready to educate (she dropped the "there is no Santa Claus" bomb on me seconds after finding out the awful truth), fielded the question quickly and effortlessly in a "could-you-be-any-dumber?" tone.
"It's not a squirt gun. He's peeing."
How was this possible? When I peed it went straight down and I had to sit.
"But how does he get it to go up like that?"
"Because he has a pee-nis."
This answer only raised more questions in my mind: What is a "penis" and how come I don't have one? I was too embarrassed to ask and something told me I didn't want to know the answers, for fear they would only lead to more evidence that Gram and everyone else in my family was right: I wasn't a boy like I thought — not even with my short haircut. It was easier to talk myself into believing my penis hadn't grown yet than to face that possibility. So every night I prayed that my body would change into a boy's body. That I would grow a penis — whatever that was — and everyone would finally realize they were wrong for thinking I was a girl.
Well, my body changed all right. Just not in the way I'd hoped.
Puberty struck and it betrayed me in the worst possible ways I could imagine. First, two buds began to protrude from my formerly flat chest, so I wore extra layers of clothing to hide them from myself and everybody else. I couldn't think of anything more traumatizing than having to wear a bra, let alone shopping for one.
I couldn't have been more wrong.
It happened the summer after my twelfth birthday on a fittingly stormy summer night. My family now had our own cottage in Old Silver Beach Village, directly across the street from Great Gram's house. While Jill had her own room, Wendy and I shared the larger front bedroom with its wood-paneled walls, cooling cross-breeze, and "magic" closet that you could walk into, turn a corner, and wind up in my parents' bedroom. The house had only one bathroom, which was decorated in a nautical theme and centrally located at the top of the stairs. It was so small you could sit on the toilet, stretch your legs out, and rest your feet on the tub. The living area was divided into a family room where we'd watch TV and a sunroom where we kept all our toys and games along with a bright green folding card table, the one piece of furniture in the house that got the most use.
Wendy and I were babysitting Jill and our cousins Adam and Dana while our moms were out bowling. The five of us were at the card table embroiled in yet another never-ending game of Monopoly. Looking past our reflection in the darkness of the picture window, I could see the rain coming down sideways in the glow of the street lamp, the sound of thunder getting closer and closer. Since everyone was focused on the lopsided trade Wendy was trying to con Dana into, I decided it was a good time to run upstairs for a pee break. And that's when I saw it: the red splotch.
I froze, my mind flashing back to the movie I had been forced to watch with all the girls in my fifth-grade class. My first thought was, This can't be happening. Wendy's older than me. She's supposed to get it first.
My second thought was, I'm doomed.
A loud clap of thunder crashed as if to accentuate the horror of my situation, followed by playful screams from below. I didn't know what to do so I began frantically stuffing the crotch of my underwear with toilet paper, the escalating storm echoing my panic. I walked downstairs with the gait of someone who'd just ridden his first rodeo to find my sisters and cousins staring out the window as a lightning bolt struck the telephone pole across the street. The lights inside the house flickered. They all screamed in unison, more out of excitement than fear, while I sat there trancelike on the couch. Just then, my mom and her sister burst open the door, soaked from the rain. Sensing what was to come, Mom rushed to the kitchen to find a flashlight and some candles while Aunty Barbie headed for the sunroom. Within seconds, another bolt of lightning struck and the whole house and street went dark. More playful screaming like what you'd hear on a roller coaster filled the room, only to be drowned out by uncontrollable sobbing. My aunt followed that particular sound to the couch and, after whacking her shin on the coffee table, felt her way to my shoulder and put her arm around me. "It's okay, don't be scared, Jilly."
Excerpted from Balls by Chris Edwards. Copyright © 2016 Christopher Edwards. Excerpted by permission of Greenleaf Book Group Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
ContentsI Pee, Therefore I Am,
Are You Talking To Me?,
All In The Family,
No, I'm Not Just Really Really Gay,
The "Hit List",
The Morning After,
Let The Transition Begin,
What's In A Name?,
Bye Bye Boobies,
Please Allow Me To Reintroduce Myself,
Business Or Pleasure?,
Take My Uterus. Please.,
The Art (and Pain) Of Hair Removal,
What's Up, Doc?,
So Much For Those Eight Inches,
Cathy & Jared,
The Big One,
A Pain In The Balls,
My Doctor The Matchmaker,
The Dating Game,
The 40-year-old Virgin,
About The Author,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Warm, funny, heartbreaking, honest. The vast majority of us can't imagine what it would be like to look in a mirror and see the wrong person looking back at us. How would you find the path to becoming your true self? For Chris, it was through a lot of hard work: emotional, psychological, professional and physical. He was very open about how fortunate he was in having the full support of his family, friends, and community as he undertook a painstaking and painful journey. He also recognizes that not everyone is as fortunate, but hopefully by bringing this story to others, he can in some way make their journey a little easier, no matter what path they choose. Going through all of this with grace and humor takes a certain kind of person. To then relive the experience and share it with the world takes another: one with the unique ability to put himself out there in the hopes that others will find reassurance that they are not alone. One that has BALLS.
A timely subject made easier to understand from someone who could be a friend. Thank you for the education.
He went through so much to achieve happiness and it was well worth it for him. Hope other transgenders can get the help and support they need. Well written and very informative.
One Man's Journey Enlightens Us All I first saw Chris Edwards giving a speech on gender matters to a 2nd year class of Harvard Medical School Students. There he described the difference between gender identity and gender preference. The conversation was intriguing and it sent me to his webpage in search of his Memoir "Balls." I quickly purchased a copy and also downloaded the e-book version to get a head start on reading it. "Balls" follows Edwards' transition from female to male and details all of the hurdles and successes that he had to endure and overcome, on his path to becoming the person - on the outside - that he always knew he was - on the inside. Along the way, we learn about the effects and side-effects of Testosterone, some profound, some hilarious - at least for bystanders! My background: I'm a real technical geek who works mainly with electronics and electromechanical equipment in transportation. I only ever read tech manuals. Imagine my surprise when I found myself held captive by this book! Every chapter led me to wanting more! Would his co-workers accept him? What about customers? What about his employer? How would it all play out? I won't give away all the details but, suffice it to say, the end had me CHEERING! Bravo! A funny side note... I've only ever seen the Author as a guy. When reading the book, I kept visualizing him dressed in female drag, desperately trying to make it through life. When he finally sheds those fake clothes, so that others can see who he really is, life is good! I have three friends who made this transition, so the subject matter was not new to me. What WAS new, was learning the dos and don'ts, when a friend, co-worker or family member decides to take this journey. Most people want to be supportive but may not understand the friend's NEED to change. This book will answer all those questions for you, as well as some that you should NEVER ask of your friend. You don't need to know someone who is making a transition to enjoy "Balls," you need only have heart and empathy. If you DO know someone who has made or will make it, this book will enlighten, enrich, and entertain you! "Mazel Tov," Chris! Your story will make a positive difference in many people's lives.