Monday, March 22, 2010
You'd think with Friday being a pleasant 70 degrees and Saturday the first official day of spring we wouldn't get 5" if snow on Sunday. What crazy weather.
My wife and I are building a fence for our [future] horses. It has been a fun process and the church is coming to help us dig all the post holes on Saturday. My wife has been getting more involved with the church as the missionaries have been visiting her regularly. We were fortunately blessed with sister missionaries who aren't afraid of my wife's snake.
I am still looking for another job as currently I am underemployed a the game store I work at. The newest opportunity I had the pleasure of interviewing at is my wife's company working as an HR representative. Were I to get the job, she and I could carpool and *gasp* actually SEE each other more than 2 days a week (right now we have opposite schedules). It is also about double the pay I make now. I have all of the qualifications so I should be okay, but then again, I've been turned down for easier jobs this past year.
That day of the awaited interview (last Thursday) I got a flat tire on the highway on the way there - fortunately they were able to reschedule the interview as I would have been 15 minutes late. The interview itself went amazing - all 1.5 hours of it. I figured the long interview meant it probably went better than worse because who wants to waste an hour and a half interviewing someone you don't like. I hope to hear back next week.
In the end if I get this job, it will mean my wife and I will be able to move forward having children. We have a doctor's appointment next Monday to find out what is left to do to start the artificial insemination process (cause as you all know, I am quite sterile).
Last week was SO busy I got off of my GID-prevention regimen which was a bad thing. It wasn't 3 or 4 days I was off of it that the feelings started to get at me - especially while my friends and I were at the Muse concert (they were great BTW). It ended with me by the end of the night in tears cursing my body and pleading why did I have to be born wrong!
Because I don't think you all know what my GID-prevention regimen is, I'll tell you. Since a lot of my GID triggers involve my body, I have to make sure not to let myself go. Even if I'm feeling alright, going a few days without doing what I can to keep it from going too "male" can make it really hard to get out of a depressive episode later if GID strikes. Once I'm depressed it is a vicious cycle - all I see is the terrible man in the mirror which makes me hopeless which makes me ickier and ickier, which makes the depression worse.
So to keep GID at bay, I stay focused on the fact I am not going to be the male-type-person I have been in the past, but be myself. I get up, read my scriptures for 15 minutes, say my morning prayers, work out on Dance Dance Revolution for 20 minutes, get showered up, SHAVE regardless of growth, do my hair complete with product (andro styles), shape and clean up my eye brows (if they get a little ratty), and dress nicely - normally something also andro. It takes me an hour and a half to two hours each day. It might seem a bit much, but when I keep up this routine, I barely feel more than a buzz of my GID throughout the day and into the night.
I also try to stay focused on a period of release or a goal. For instance, some MTF with GID will dress on their own or under their clothes to help stave off the effects. As we have discussed in the past, this has never worked for me. I must be perceived AS a girl or at least NOT as a guy to receive real relief. As you can imagine, with a regular job and such, this doesn't happen very often. I have to look for opportunities when it can. Coming up in June there will be a convention in Dallas. I plan to be ready to go full andro to this convention. I don't intend to try to pass as a girl or anything, but definitely in between. There will be a concert and dance there and I'm ecstatic. I love to dance, but I tend to dance like a girl, so being andro will help that a bit - plus I can dance with ANYONE!
Sorry I've been so absent! My world has been so busy of late!
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
When I first started coming out to friends and family about my intention to transition, I used the typical transsexual shtick to explain it. I told people some version of the following: “I’ve always known I was really girl; I hate my body; I cannot stand living as a male any longer, etc.” This however was a lie. Why didn’t I tell the truth? Mostly because I felt it would be socially unacceptable to do so and I feared lack of support from those I cared most about in my decision.
The truth behind my reasons to transition would be better stated this way: “I’ve never fit in as a male physically or in the male social role. I am much more feminine than masculine and it would be easier to live life as a female than as a male. I prefer the female social role. I feel this option to become a heterosexual female is more socially acceptable than to live as a feminine gay man.” Essentially what I would have said were I to be honest was that I was becoming a woman because I didn’t want to be imprisoned in the male social role and felt I was a good candidate for making a passable female. I worried this would not be an acceptable reason to transition and my fears had a solid basis.
When I first entered into the world of transsexuality, it was through an emerging interface: the internet. Primitive chat rooms and message boards were my only connection to others who found themselves to be in similar predicaments. One of the first things I picked up being on these transsexual chat rooms and boards was what made one a “true” transsexual. Listening to the same mantra over and over again, I began to absorb it and even changed elements about my past in order to be match it. I wanted desperately to be seen as “real”. Telling people that I didn’t always “feel” I was female but rather was becoming one for convenience would put me in a negative box from which I might never escape. Previous to this time I lived in a world of rejection – mostly because of my feminine mannerisms and interests – and longed for belonging. The thought of being rejected by my fellow transsexuals was sufficiently motivating to deceive myself into matching my back story to the patterns they presented. Despite this, and the subsequent acceptance my story bought me, I couldn’t forget that it was fake.
So when I came out to others I used the same story I learned from other transsexuals feeling it to be story that would enable people to be the most receptive to my plight. The vast majority of people I came out to were accepting of me and my decision. I doubt their acceptance had much to do with my story and far more to do with the fact that most people in my life, specifically those who were adults (parents of my friends) assumed that I either was, or would grow up to be, gay. Coming out as transsexual wasn’t too big of a leap for them.
Regardless of their reasons for acceptance, I knew the transsexual community would only accept me if I stuck to my contrived story. It also didn’t hurt to validate them. In fact, over time I found the transsexual community to be a cesspool of people seeking validation – just like I was. My self-deception left an empty feeling inside – like I wasn’t completely whole. That hole left room for doubt to creep in – doubt that I might be doing the wrong thing, doubt that I wasn’t really “real.”
The easiest way to assuage that doubt was to talk to other transsexuals who were more than ready to affirm my validity as a transsexual. They would often share with me stories about themselves that they felt validated them as transsexuals, and I, often relating to such stories, therefore validated myself. In fact, any evidence a transsexual could conjure up, either from their own experiences, from the experiences of others, or from papers, essays, articles, and research that validated their existence as a “real” transsexual was often shared with others, who would do the same. Online tests and quizzes that validated one as female were especially popular as were studies that showed transsexuals as having a biological or intersexed basis for their transsexuality.
The more time I spent in the community (both online and later in person), the more I saw what I would eventually call the “cycle of validation”. Many transsexuals often doubted themselves, their validity as transsexuals, or the future that life would hold for them as women. Often older transsexuals seemed to be the first to comfort a younger transsexual when she began to doubt herself or bemoan her circumstances (be it affording surgeries, getting clocked, etc). They took on the role of what I can only describe as “mother hens” cautiously guarding and protecting her “chicks” (the younger transsexuals). They often helped reaffirm the younger transsexuals’ status as a transsexual. As an additional source of validation, or perhaps just fear mongering, the older transsexuals would often tell a doubting younger transsexual that life would be much worse for the younger transsexual if they quit transition (often using as anecdotal evidence horror stories of how many times the older transsexual quit transitioning/purged/married/divorced before they accepted transition and how happy they were now). Finally the older transsexuals guided the younger ones down the multi-step path to successful transition – where to get hormones, how to get your letters from your therapist, where to learn the female voice, and where to get SRS on the cheap. Usually the younger transsexuals showed extreme gratitude to the older transsexuals, but it seemed the younger transsexuals weren’t the only ones benefiting from this arrangement.
It seemed to me that the older transsexuals were often unhappy – even more so than their younger counterparts. They too seemed to have doubts concerning their transition – especially those who were still pre-op or had families. However, no sooner than an older transsexual would show this unhappiness than a wealth of her chicks would come to her rescue and tell her how much of an inspiration she has been to them. They acted as a cheerleading squad and validated the older transsexual’s life promising, even as they had been promised, that life would be better for them if they didn’t give up. And so it went, round and round, everyone validating and being validated by one another. Now perhaps this is the normal way a support group works, but it seemed peculiar to me often because of the hostilities that always seemed to lie just below the surface.
This hostility took two avenues. The first was a definitive dislike and envy shown toward passable transsexuals (particularly if they were young) who left the community. The argument, as presented by the older transsexuals, was that those who left the community only used it to get what they wanted but now would do nothing to further the community that did so much for them. While I could see their argument, especially as they put it, it seemed to me more likely that the frustration was over the envy the older, less passable, transsexuals felt toward one of their chicks who they groomed to the beautiful women they became, only to be abandoned. Leaving the community seemed to be the ultimate betrayal.
The second avenue hostility was directed at was anything that made a member of the community feel less validated. People, transsexual or not, who didn’t use the right terminology (such as referring to a male to female transsexual as “she”) often met disdain. Also people who questioned the source of their transsexual feelings or that of the transsexual community as a whole were rarely tolerated. Worse yet were those who claimed that transsexual identity was a choice, and still worse yet were those of a religious persuasion who implied the same. Often transsexuals would bring to the attention of the community any paper, research, or finding that they felt invalidated them as transsexuals so that it could be universally denounced.
I saw this validation and even saw myself using it, but what was my alternative? I had already engaged in such a degree of self deception that seriously questioning my motives at that point seemed incredibly counter productive. I rationalized that I was just afraid of the unknown and that my doubts would be quelled through transition. I should have known that too was a lie.
At the beginning of my transition I often interacted exclusively with other transsexuals. My experiences however were rarely positive. After one support meeting I found myself going to a restaurant with about eight other transsexuals who had received special permission from the restaurant prior to going. Once we sat down, I couldn’t believe what I saw. Most of the older transsexuals were making fools of themselves. We had male waiters and the transsexuals I was with were making incredibly lewd (and loud) comments toward the waiters. They made both real and implied sexual advances toward which made the waiters visibly uncomfortable. When the waiters were not present, similar lewd comments were made about other patrons of the restaurant (usually male), and unfortunately, in a voice that most of the surrounding tables could hear. I sat there in complete misery and utterly humiliated. I was trapped. Excusing myself and leaving would unavoidably leave a negative impression with the others. For one thing, I was much younger, only 19 and my leaving them might be interpreted as snootiness, and would not be validating to them.
That night made me question myself all over again. Was I doing the right thing? I obviously had nothing in common with these people! If they were “real” transsexuals then what was I? I rationalized away my fears however telling myself that I might had just met a bad group and reminded myself of the horror stories of those who stopped transition. Still, the experience left its mark and would be repeated throughout my transition.
I continued to transition. I kept up the appearance that I was like any other “normal” transsexual with all the exact same motivations they had. I told my therapist the same and had no problems getting hormones or my papers.
In time I went full time. There was no more validating of a time that I was doing the right thing than when I went full time. Why this was the case can be easily seen in this, one of my first experiences with being full time.
I moved out of state to go full time, living with someone whom I had met online, another young male to female transsexual. She was already living full time, had room for me on her couch, and got me a job working with her. My first full day there I was introduced to the local GBLT youth community which my roommate and her lesbian girlfriend were apart of.
I met the leaders of the youth group and everyone was really nice. Because I was new, I was told that I had to be interviewed. The women’s leader came to interview me. She asked me a little about myself, where I was from, how I found out about them, etc. She then asked when I discovered that I was a lesbian. I looked at her confusedly. I told her that I was not a lesbian, but that I was transsexual. Her jaw nearly hit the floor. She called to the men’s leader to come over and told him, “[my name] here, is not a lesbian, she is actually transsexual.” He looked shocked as well and asked me how long I had been living as a girl. When I told him only 2 days, he hugged me and told me, “Honey, you were born for this!” They both continued to insist to one another that they thought I was a lesbian.
Were this the only experience I had like this, I might have thought they were lying to make me feel welcomed, but I found over and over again, that people perceived me as female. This was never more evident than when I had to show identification. In the first few months of being full time, all of my identification was still that of a male. Most of the time I was questioned it was for using my “husband’s” credit card. Embarrassingly I would explain to the store clerks that it was actually me which usually resulted in a great deal of confusion and more explaining. Still, awkward as these experiences were, they certainly validated that I at least passed and was being actively perceived as being a natural born female.
During this time, I felt alive like I never had before and hopeful about my future. The things I wanted in life seemed attainable as I became more and more the woman I’d always desired to be. Life did seem much more manageable and I blended in well as a girl. This, however, brought its own problems.
I was used to people perceiving me as a girl. Unfortunately this often led to discussions that would invoke stories about my past. For instance, talking to a coworker about a movie you saw with your parents might need a little tailoring to not give away that you were a boy when you saw that movie. This was a common occurrence for me: tweaking and tailoring past experiences to fit my new image so as not to give any hint to my transsexuality. Unfortuately, this tweaking, felt like dishonesty. Here I was again, having to lie. Here I was, living the life I always wanted, the role I always intended, and seemed to have precious little holding me back, yet I was still lying. The lies were eating me from the inside. I felt my relationships could hold no real value because they were based on some sort of lie. At first it was easy to ignore because so many other aspects of my life were finally fitting into place, it seemed a small price to pay.
I had a few close male to female transsexual friends. One in particular was not an active member of the community, and it was to her that I grew the closest. We would often go to gay bars to hang out and meet guys. Neither of us were particularly interested in having a long term relationship with a gay male, but considering our pre-operative status, there wasn’t much of an option for relationships with straight males. During that time I met one particular guy whom I really fell hard for. He and I got along well and ended up spending a lot of time together away from the bar. He would often invite me over for dinner, or a movie, or just to talk. He was in his thirties, attractive, very kind and mature. He had a beautiful penthouse downtown overlooking the skyline. It was always nice spending time with him, and he seemed to enjoy my company.
We had been spending time with one another for several months. I really wanted to move the relationship beyond the friendship stage, but was waiting for him to make the move. He seemed to pick up on it and one night, after I made dinner for him, he sat down with me to talk about it. He told me that he really liked me a lot, that I was smart, funny, and beautiful, but that ultimately he was not attracted to me. He said he tried to imagine the two of us working out, tried to imagine me as a male but couldn’t do it. He said, “You are just too much of a girl, and I want to be with a guy.” I told him I was willing to postpone elements of my transition, such as surgery, but he told me that no matter what I did, he would always see me as a girl.
I left that night in a fit of tears. I was crushed. I began to look at my future and see it rather bleakly. If a gay male couldn’t accept me (who was still pre-op), how could I hope to have a successful relationship with a straight male. I felt the rejection all over again. I started to feel that I would never achieve my dreams, that ultimately I would be alone and sad. I then thought of the older transsexuals I knew and started to see why they seemed so unhappy all of the time. I started to have fears, real fears, that I would end up like them.
Eventually I got over the loss of the potential relationship and we remained friends. I continued to go to the gay bars but was far less forward with the men there. I continued to go to the transsexual support meetings and watched the cycle of validation. I continued to lie to those in the community about “always knowing I was a girl” and continued to lie to people in my day to day life about my past as a male. I continued to strive for my goal but felt nagging doubt that I would find the long term happiness I sought as a female, and much of this doubt rested on the idea that I would never find a man who would accept me. Despite my success as a female, something had to give.
I started doing the unthinkable. I started actually “coming out” to people in my regular life telling them I was really transsexual and that I used to be a male. Despite the initial shock shown by those few I told, they were generally accepting – if for no other reason than they found it hard to think of me as anything but a girl. I found it strangely relieving for them to know the truth. I felt like I wasn’t lying anymore (at least to them) and it felt good. I got to live as a girl, be accepted as a girl, but to not have to lie anymore about always being a girl.
I told my support group about my action and it was met with confusion and antagonism. They seemed upset that I had outted myself as if it were a personal blow to them. I didn’t really understand it. Fortunately not everyone felt this way. But everyone did feel that I was making a mistake. Most often they cited gruesome horror stories of what happens to transsexual women when they are found out to have once been men. These, as frightening as they were, seemed like they couldn’t happen to me, and fortunately, they never did.
Coming out to a few others helped somewhat with the constant deception, but what I couldn’t get past through the next few months was negativity about my future. I thought about my straight male friends back home. I thought about how they would react if they found out their girlfriend used to be a man. None of them would react well – not to the extent of violence, but they would all feel hurt and deceived. And there was that word again – deceived. If I was to have any success with heterosexual men, it would require deception. I debated at first telling them up front thus giving them the utmost level of honesty, but I knew that would turn off potentially accepting males had they just gotten to know me first. A bigger fear though of telling men up front was that they would be okay with my past. I didn’t want to end up with a tranny chaser, or someone who pursued transsexual women (though I knew a few male to female transsexuals who did and they seemed remotely happy). So if I wasn’t willing to tell the men I dated up front, it meant I’d need to deceive them. The thought was terrifying. What if we really ended up liking one another? When would I tell him? The longer I waited the worse the reaction would be, but if I told too early, he might reject me. And if he did accept me, would he want children like I did? Should I tell me children about my past? Would my children accept me or would they reject me as their mother? Rejection. Lies. Rejection. Lies. No matter what I did, it always seemed to lead back to the same place. I began to lose hope that the future held the value I once hoped it would.
I began to wonder if I should continue transition. It was becoming increasingly stressful. I knew that if I continued, more of the changes to my body would be permanent (especially if I got SRS), and as much as I hated to admit it, living life as a lonely, rejected, male seemed preferable (if only slightly) to being a lonely, rejected, transsexual female. At least as a male I wouldn’t have to lie anymore, and I could go back to church (something that previously brought a lot of peace).
These doubts culminated into action. I began to openly question my transsexual status. Whereas before I had kept my story to the status quo, I began to challenge it. First I did so in private. I needed to determine if I was really a transsexual or not. If I was a transsexual, then I felt I should continue transition for fear of repeating the same mistakes so many older transsexual had. However, if I were not a real transsexual, then I should de-transition and wouldn’t be doomed to a miserable life as a male. I began to analyze my motivations in ways I had always been afraid too.
This analysis led to experimentation. I would occasionally go to the bars or out with friends dressed as a male (or as male as I could get). I wanted to see how terrible it was. It wasn’t really all that bad, but I knew I couldn’t base my potential future life as a male on a few trips to the mall or to a bar. I needed something more conclusive.
Up to that date I had been a virgin. I never had sexual encounters with anyone (heterosexual or homosexual). At the time I was living two other transsexuals who were also part of my support group. The older of the two had a daughter from a previous marriage who came to visit. She, a self proclaimed bi-sexual, found me interesting and attractive. We sat watching a movie one night, and she asked me if I still had my penis to which I affirmed. We started talking about sex and it was uncovered that I was a virgin. She propositioned me. Having never had sex before and in the midst of doubting my transsexuality, in addition to being a stupid kid, I decided to try it out. We had sex that night, with her on top doing everything. Afterwards, she left and went to bed on the couch. I lay there feeling guilty and filthy.
All hell broke loose the next morning. The older transsexual I was living with found out what we had done, and kicked her ex-daughter out and threatened us both with violence. I fled my home and moved in with my close transsexual friend whom I mentioned earlier. I felt more lost than ever and didn’t go to work for a week. Obviously the sex hadn’t solved anything – just made me feel terrible. I never wanted to do that again.
I still questioned everything though, whether transition was right for me. I was lost in a sea of confusion – I had so many evidences for my being transsexual but also had many that seemed to point to the fact that I was not – the greatest of those being that my experiences seemed to differ so much from the other transsexuals I knew. I mean, I wasn’t even doing my transition the “right” way.
Right around this time, the 9/11 attacks happened. This provoked a telephone call from my parents who decided to come and visit me. I was very happy to see them and the visit overall was emotional, but rewarding. I missed them tremendously having not seen them since I started full time.
Reflecting on their visit I began to wonder if I should go back to the life I once knew. I wondered how bad it would be to see my old friends again and my parents as well. I needed stability and support and wasn’t getting it any longer from the transsexual community. In fact, the more I interacted with them the more I was reminded of how different I was from them, the more I stopped participating in the cycle of validation, the more they began to doubt me. My other relationships I made while living full time were fulfilling, but ultimately still fragile enough I didn’t feel I could rely on them like I could that with my old friends.
I decided to go to home for a visit and did so in male clothing. My friends, when they saw me, were ecstatic. We spent a great deal of time talking and stayed up all night together. I felt accepted, which offered a bit of confusion. On the drive home the next day, I thought about the experience. My friends obviously knew I was living full time as a girl, but that didn’t seem to bother them. In fact, they treated me very well, even careful to use proper pronouns even though I was dressed as a male. They seemed to accept me, not as the male they once knew, nor as the female that I lived as now, but rather as a sort of hybrid between the two. This revelation had important implications.
I stated to realize that I could probably live life as male again, however, it couldn’t be as a standard male. Living as a male had only brought pain and sadness but that is because I adopted all of the social roles expected of a male. My friends, armed with the knowledge that I did not see myself as male and preferred the female role, treated me differently. I could be myself with them in a way I never could before. It seemed reasonable that if I came out to everyone I met, from here on out, that I wasn’t a typical male and stopped trying unsuccessfully to adopt that role, that I could remain a male (avoiding painful surgeries and the potential future social problems) and still be at least comfortable.
This thought continued to linger as the time went on. I continued to live my life as a female for a period after that, but I continued to think about this extraordinary idea. It still wasn’t enough though to provoke me to de-transition. I needed one more tipping point. I needed absolution that I would make it as a male were I to de-transition. I needed to know, not think, but know, that I wouldn’t be back trying to transition again if I de-transitioned. That knowledge could only come from one source. I went to God.
It could be explained that I was merely looking for a reason to de-transition, or it could be explained as a miraculous occurrence, but I got my answer from God, and it was that I would find life bearable if I de-transitioned. So with that final motivation, I took steps to do so.
It has been many years since then. I am a male, but not like I was before. I’m much more open about my situation, about my interests, and my preferences. I’ve never been able to stop analyzing the nuances of my condition. When asked now if I’m a real transsexual, I reply with a resounding yes. However I feel fortunate to understand my own condition enough to have learned to deal with it. I realize this cannot be said for all transsexuals, and as such I make no judgment nor decision with regard to their transition status, my path is my own. I still remain an active member of several online communities, but often my story is met with extreme skepticism usually because of its religious overtones (regardless of how minor a part they played), and on more than one occasion I have been publicly scorned and rejected. Fortunately I no longer need their validation.
I have written this to explain to both allies and enemies why it is that I made the decisions I did. I realize that my enemies will only use it to further invalidate my claims that I am a real transsexual, but it doesn’t matter. I hope someone will read this, someone who needs to know what I have written, someone who isn’t looking for validation but is trying to better understand their own situation and will look for parallels in our experiences (if any are to be found). I hope my experiences will better prepare them to make their own decisions.
Let me end by saying that transition was not a mistake for me and I do not regret it. It was a path on the road to the person I have become, and I am better for having experienced it.
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Imagine that you’ve just had a very bad day – one among a long line of bad days. Perhaps the kids have worn you down or your job has leached away all your energy. Maybe you feel extremely depressed or lonely and isolated, or maybe you feel hopelessness seeking to overwhelm you. Now imagine you believed that your bad day, as well as all the bad days preceding it, were brought on by a single cause. Imagine if you believed the majority of your life’s struggles, failures, and disappointments all stemmed from one source. Wouldn’t you do anything to fix it? Wouldn’t you do anything to make the pain go away so you could live a happy, normal life?
For a person struggling with GID, the source of their problems is linked to their gender, or at least that is how it seems. “Oh that I were born the other sex, my life would not be so bad!” is a trite representation of a thought often echoed by the gender dysphoric. One’s sex might seem an odd thing to implicate for life’s shortcomings and tragedies, but for people with GID, this thought is so encompassing it drives us to ends that put us on the very fringe of society – those who would pursue changing their sex.
One would think that changing one’s sex, especially when you are a balding, overweight, male, in his forties would certainly create more problems than it would solve, but to the gender dysphoric, it seems to be the only alternative to a lifetime of continued misery. What is worse, we often are convinced that if we aren’t allowed to pursue sex change, that suicide is the only escape from the pain we feel.
Sex change is an incredibly difficult process with plenty of dangers including the risk of hormone treatments, surgery, loss of income and employment, and the looming potential to suffer violence. These dangers, coupled with the knowledge that one’s status in society will take a plunge and that one will lose or at least severely damage most of one’s personal relationships, makes transition a path only for the boldest or most desperate of gender dysphorics. As such, people who choose to transition normally seek out others like themselves to support one another during this incredibly trying life decision.
As with most outcast groups, the polarization of being with like-minded (or in this case, like-disordered individuals) can be empowering and endow one with a certain resistance to being given any advice from someone who “doesn’t understand you” and enable one to readily reject anyone who doesn’t totally accept him or her while cleaving to members of their in-group. Typically attempts to change the mind of one going through this process only results in further determination by the individual to continue in the path of transition. After all, to the dysphoric, this isn’t about social status, the health of their relationships, or income potential, it transcends all of those things – it is about being oneself; it is about being able to look at the mirror each day and be happy with the person they see; and for many it is about survival.
You might ask, but why change one’s sex? Isn’t there another way to cure one’s gender dysphoria? The reason is simply that no other method appears to work. The transsexual groups are rife with individuals who tried other ways to deal with the pain only to end up right back where they started and usually worse for wear for the effort. Indeed for one who is dysphoric it seems the only true fix is to change one’s body. Any other suggested method is often met with disdain. After all, the transsexual’s mantra is “transition or die.”
It was this way for me once. I was in the prime of my youth, a 19 year old male, trim, fit, and willing to do whatever was necessary to rid myself of my gender dysphoria, to end the source of my life’s problems, and to be accepted as the sex I thought I really was. I considered myself fortunate. Living in the 90’s, information about gender dysphoria, transsexuals, and sex change abounded. Online support groups and group therapy sessions were easy to find. Despite losing the support of many of my friends and family members, I considered them acceptable losses in pursuit of the only thing I believed could end my suffering and ever make me truly happy.
So I transitioned to being a female successfully and did so in about two year’s time. My dysphoria was basically non-existent, and I looked forward to a peaceful life as a bright, young, college-going woman who was ready to take on the world. I would ultimately take another path however. Due to some personal events that occurred in my life as well as some observations I made concerning my own GID, I began to wonder if it were possible to live life successfully as a male without transition.
Doing this placed me into a position to learn more about GID, more about why it affects me, how it operates, and most importantly, how to combat it without retreating into escapist activities or going back to transition. Not all of this understanding happened at once, it has taken many bumps and bruises along the way, and I have been tested many times even right to the brink of my ability to cope, but I am stronger for it and have a great deal to share now.
It is important to make note that all information detailed further applies only to my own understanding of GID. Some of the things I have written will fit for some dysphorics while others may feel my experiences to be completely foreign. Understand one thing though. With an identity issue, self-justification is of paramount importance. Challenging a person’s identity regardless of whether it is real or perceived is walking into dangerous territory for any individual. This goes doubly so for dealing with a person with an actual identity disorder like GID. Blanketly applying that which I have written to another person with GID is fraught with the possibility of alienating the person you are trying to understand. As such, take this for what it is worth, the experience of one person and what he has learned about his own gender dysphoria.
GID operates very similarly to a phobia. Just as phobias have triggers and are negatively reinforced by responding to them, so too is gender dysphoria. For an example take arachnophobia. This is an irrational and overwhelming fear of spiders. For the arachnophobe, interaction with a spider or spider like creature serves as the trigger which provokes the distress. The phobic individual then seeks to relieve the stress by fleeing from (or sometimes squashing) the spider. This behavior only further reinforces (strengthens) the desire to flee from the spider rather than be comfortable in its presence (the desired goal for the phobic individual). Only by being forced repeatedly and consistently to confront the spider and remain in its presence long enough to obtain some relief does one unlearn the connection that relief from the spider only comes by retreating from it.
This example works also with GID. Gender dysphoric feelings often have a trigger. For many dysphoric males, a trigger could be seeing a group of young girls at a restaurant laughing and enjoying “girl” time together. This scene provokes unhappy feelings of envy and sadness in the dysphoric male in that he is reminded of the life he feels he should have had and has been denied.
The feelings of gender dysphoria begin to come on very strongly as the dysphoric’s mind leaps into a cycle blaming one depressive attribute after another on the fact that he is male while at the same time romanticizing the idea that being female would bring relief from such pains. Just as with the arachnophobic, the relief from the trigger seems to come from escaping the problem. The arachnophobic flees the scene while the dysphoric fantasizes about being the other sex reinforcing the idea that his sex is the source of his woes while being the other sex would alleviate them.
It is important to note that triggers are not limited to external events. For most people with gender dysphoria their own bodies – even their reflection in a mirror can be a great source of discomfort. In addition to this body dysmorphia, triggers can also include statements or impressions held or made by others. The female gender dysphoric doesn’t want to hear how “pretty” or “feminine” she is no more than the male gender dysphoric wants to be compared to other males. Sometimes even the act of referring to the dysphoric by a gender-specific title like Mister or Miss is enough to provoke a rage of dysphoric feelings in the individual.
Unfortunately for gender dysphorics, there is rarely ever only one trigger and to make matters worse, one trigger can take on a life of its own. To use my example, what may start as a trigger related to girls laughing in a restaurant may be generalized to include seeing a girl at a restaurant then eventually generalize to such a degree that even the sight of a restaurant provokes unwanted dysphoric feelings. It isn’t hard to see how for the dysphoric, even living every day life can become debilitating.
In order to alleviate these dysphoric feelings provoked by these triggers, most people with GID take steps to assume, at least in private, the life of the other sex. They may find relief dressing as the other sex, fantasizing about being the other sex, interacting with others anonymously – such as in an internet chat room – as a person of the other sex, or by engaging materials that allow them to escape from their current sex. This is a vicious cycle however. Since doing cross-gender activities relieves the dysphoria, the individual becomes reliant upon them to stave off depression.
Unfortunately, merely “pretending” to be the other sex is not “being” the other sex and can lead to greater and greater efforts to live life as the other sex. In a cruel irony, even these acts of relief can become their own source of gender dysphoria. For example the male dysphoric who looks at himself in the mirror dressed to the nines realizes he is still only a male in female clothing and not the girl he’d always hoped to be which, in turn, further provokes his gender dysphoria.
This cycle, if left to itself, can only intensify dysphoric feelings until eventually they can become unbearable for the individual leaving them desperately seeking relief but running out of ways to cope. Eventually, this cycle and the depression it brings leads to only one unavoidable conclusion, “transition or die.”
So how does one break the cycle? It isn’t easy, but I have found that the first task in doing it is identifying one’s triggers. For individuals who have been severely dysphoric for several years, it may be hard to pinpoint what their triggers are because they have generalized so much. It may seem to them that everything provokes their dysphoria. Still it is important to identify at least some triggers and work on them one at a time. Once identified, normally avoidance of the trigger can serve to offer some relief. If seeing a women’s clothing store sets off your dysphoric feelings, then stay out of the mall for the time being. The dysphoric needs the opportunity to not be so consumed with their dysphoria so as to allow them to really tackle what triggers it.
Once a trigger has been identified and a level of self-sustainability has been maintained, it is time to work to neutralize it. Neutralization refers to the action of taking a stimulus that provokes GID and turning it into one that doesn’t. The way this is done is similar to how phobias are dealt with. When in the presence of the triggering stimulus, gender dysphoric feelings will certainly manifest, but instead of finding relief from them by escaping or avoiding the thoughts, instead begin to focus on something else entirely. In other words, pair the stimulus with a new response. For me, it involved telling the people I was with that I was feeling gender dysphoric, what was provoking it, and that I needed help to keep from getting depressed. Those with me would then take the time to talk it over with me or would seek to entertain me. Eventually, the triggering stimulus began to be paired with pleasant experiences of understanding from others and merriment rather than alienation, depression, and self loathing.
Of course, one cannot always be with others in the presence of a trigger. When alone and in the presence of a trigger where gender dysphoric feelings were manifesting, I forced myself to think about all the good things about my male life. In other words, all the stuff I would have to give up or leave behind were I to become a female. This focus on what I had (the benefits of my current male life) instead of what I didn’t (the benefits of having a female life) became the backbone to my coping strategy and my number one defense against gender dysphoric feelings. In fact, in the presence of some triggers, I automatically begin to feel grateful for the things I have in my life – completely the opposite of the feelings once inspired by the same stimulus.
Can this be done alone? I do not believe so – it would have been much, much harder without the caring understanding and open ears from my church, friends, and family who helped me – especially during the darkest times when in the grip of crushing depression brought on by dysphoria. That being said, if you are reading this know that you too can be a great ally to one suffering with GID. Having someone willing to listen to them, their struggles, and their thoughts, as alien as they might seem to you, can become one of the greatest weapons the dysphoric has in his or her arsenal against the debilitating effects of the disorder. The more time you take to learn about the feelings of the dysphoric individual, the less alone they will feel. Their feelings must not be in any way belittled or it may encourage the dysphoric to alienate themselves further. I know this from personal experience as some attempted to help me by making light of my feelings and it only provoked me to avoid future interactions with them.
While the causes of GID are yet unknown and treatment of it is severely limited, it is not necessarily a sentence to a life of misery. Regardless of the choice of the dysphoric to transition to the other sex or not, they can benefit from learning to break their dysphoric associations by identifying and systematically neutralizing their triggering stimuli. While this might not bring complete peace from gender dysphoria, it can go a long way to providing the relief the dysphoric needs in order to make decisions about how to deal with their GID long term while not engulfed in pain from their condition.
Sunday, May 17, 2009
First, I thought of my mom. She passed away in January of this year. I am the first of my family to ever graduate college and my father, sister, and mother all looked forward to this eventual day. I take solace in that my mother knew that this was my last semester in school before graduation, but still it hurt to know she wasn't there knowing how proud she would have been of me this day. My dad and sister also seemed keenly aware of her absence, holding back tears when her name was mentioned or alluded to. These thoughts heightened my emotional levels, lessening my resistance to further depressing feelings.
Second, I sat in the audience among a sea of my fellow graduates. I thought about my name, the name I was to be called as I crossed the stage, my name birth name, and I started to day dream a bit. What if I hadn't de-transitioned? What if I had remained a girl? I imagined the extra work it would have taken to get ready that morning, what with doing my makeup, hair, shaving, and pinning my graduation hat to my head. I imagined what it would be like to be on the stage and hear my other name called as I walked across the stage. These thoughts were romanticized somewhat by the idea of walking across the stage to my mother and giving her a big hug. She was my biggest fan when I was transitioning - she was the one who knew me the best, the one least surprised when I came out to her, and the one who helped me the most as I made the transition to living as a girl full-time. As such, it is hard to imagine myself as a girl and not imagine her being there. I got taken away in the daydream, and while it was comforting, realizing it represented a reality that didn't occur, I began to feel more saddened.
When I eventually stood to leave the auditorium to meet up with my family, my thoughts were everywhere else other than where they should have been. I met with and hugged my wife, friends, and family who came, and drove to the restaurant where we intended to have a celebratory lunch. In the car I talked to my wife about my feelings, and about the sadness that came. She reminded me that I cannot be sure of how life would have been had I remained a girl and it is best to remember what I accomplished today. She was right, of course, and I started to feel a bit better. I love her very much.
The thoughts have still lingered in my mind as I prepare to go to bed, mostly because this day has been pretty emotional, but I'm grateful to have a place I can write out these feelings with people who understand them. I might have chosen not to transition, but there are still times I think about it. I love my mother, and I know she would have been proud of me regardless.
Time to focus on the future - the masters degree!
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
All I've ever wanted was to be myself. All I've ever wanted was to be accepted for the person I believe myself to be on the inside. I learned to believe as a child that I could not be myself because I was male. Everything that I thought represented masculinity was not me so I assumed I must not be male. That turned me thinking that I needed to be a girl to truly be me. Denying my true self and embracing a masculine facade only strengthened my resolve to be myself (which by that point I associated with becoming female). When I met others like me, I related to them and their stories, began to identify as a transsexual and took the path of transition.
I'm challenging this all. I'm challenging my base assumption. I realized I was wrong. I am not a female, nor should I ever have been. I am a male who has markedly feminine traits and who should be able to express them to be true to himself. Once I realized all this, I realized I needed to change my idealized self from female to male. As I've done this, as I've reinforced that ideal, I have come to peace with being male. I feel stonger, more powerful, more in control and more peaceful than ever in my life with regard to my GID and it is because I was honest with myself, did some deep searching, recognized its root, challenged its existence, and now can face the truth:
A male child who had tremendously culturally feminine disposition was trounced upon by his male and female peers as well as belittled by the adults in his life. He came to associate his natural state of being as not appropriate for a male and began to pursue more masculine behaviors and attributes. Realizing these didn't accurately represent him, he determined he must be a female. As the child grew up he forgot his initial reasoning for determining he must be female and began to believe it essential to his core until it consumed him.
In essence, I developed the need to be female as a way to be myself. So as long as I can be myself without being female, the need to be female is moot.
I'm learning that now, and I am at peace.
It is challenging though. I realize my need to be female results from a feeling that I cannot be male and myself. I must therefore make a conscious and definitive effort to be myself (show my feminine traits) as a male especially when I am afraid to do so - such as in the presence of a group of other males. If I retreat into my entirely believable Actor persona and find relief, I only reinforce the the initial problem - that I cannot be myself and be male.
It is like fighting a phobia. If I'm afraid of socks and run from socks every time I am presented with them, it only negatively reinforces my fear of socks. Only if I stand in the presence of my fear and begin to associate that fear with less fearful experiences will I truly overcome it, but it will take diligence and effort.
So it is with my GID. I must learn to become comfortable being male and being myself. If I can learn to do that without retreating into my Actor persona, I will beat it the need to be female. While it will always seem nice to be female, it will no longer be associated with being true to myself, and thus will not consume me.
Will this be the end of my GID? I cannot know - but it certainly seems an important step in learning how to live without transition.
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
I would ask that you do not judge me too harshly for the things which I discovered about myself - aspects of them are shameful to me enough as it is. I share my discoveries with you all in hopes you can relate and perhaps this too will help you in understanding your feelings.
I was to be an incredibly sensitive child. I had a bleeding heart for nearly everything and everyone. I didn't meet a person who didn't get the benefit of the doubt, who wasn't worthy of total forgiveness, who wasn't someone I poured my heart out to, and who I wouldn't offer comfort and caring whether they asked for it or not. When met with those who didn't like me, or were angry with me, I was often confused because I didn't want anything but the best for them. I told people often that I loved them and did my best to show it. I would get overwhelmed at times, and even in my prayers as a child in the fact that I couldn't help everyone at the same time, that ultimately helping one person meant leaving another person on the wayside for a time. My prayers themselves were long because I felt the need to fit everyone in - as if their very welfare depended on my adding their names to my young prayers (I didn't grow up Mormon BTW).
I often watched television as a child, movies and kid's shows that often displayed good morals and positive human attributes. Often the attributes showed that most represented me, and those I most modeled were those portrayed by female characters. Specifically self- sacrificial female characters that seemed to find their greatest joy and purpose in giving of themselves wholly to the service of others. I felt these characters were the ultimate role model and most akin to my own heart. I wonder if this isn't where my female associations began - from a very early age. Associations referring to the fact that I took a trait that was my own, something essential to my character and then associated it to a feminine stereotype, rather than accepting it as gender neutral.
As I grew older, telling my male friends, or new males I met that I loved them, offering things like hugs, and reaffirming physical gestures were often met with terrible disdain. I lost so many male friends back then - people whom I cared so much about and wanted to see happy, but who I drove away by my outward gestures of caring. I was called names, told I was gay, and ultimately treated with contempt. The girls though were not nearly as offended by my actions, though some still thought I didn't act enough like a 'boy'. These consistent rejections coupled with my associations that such actions were appropriate for females, but not for males, I think is where my GID began - truly began. I felt that in order to interact appropriately with others according to my sex, I needed to act different than I was - so I became a chameleon and I lost myself in pretending to be like others.
I cannot erase the effects of the chameleon - it has become so ingrained upon my psyche - with exception of one condition. When I transitioned I dropped all pretense of my chameleon self, all traits of the "Actor" as I called him, and became the same person I was as a child, only this time was far more accepted for my outwardly caring behavior. In fact, when I transitioned, I was often told by friends that I cared so much about others that it seemed like it might be a farse - until they really got to know me and realized how real it was. I was asked in all seriousness by a co worker of mine who I comforted after he had a tough time at work one day, if I were really an angel - like a real angel. I laughed and told him no, but he told me that he would have believed me if I told him I was. I don't tell you these things to extol my virtues but to demonstrate as accurately as I can how I tend to behave when uninhibited.
I think I transitioned mostly so that I could become this person again outwardly, someone who I had long buried due to the pains and rejections felt being that person. Transition represented a chance to be an uninhibited me who wouldn't be met with comments that I wasn't acting appropriate to my sex. I realize how sexist this all sounds. Girls are not inherently the way I'm describing myself no more than boys are - it is just in our culture, it is far more acceptable to have a girl act this way than a boy.
When I transitioned back, I went back into hiding. I mean, I let a little bit of myself show through now and then, in times when those closest to me were in deep distress - so I developed close friendships as people came to know that I had their best interests at heart. However, I still felt like the vast majority of the time, and I still feel like this today, that the part of me I keep so sacred, the part of me that represents my true nature, I must kept hid from the world so long as I remain in my male form on this earth.
So, when my GID strikes, it strikes in such a way that: perhaps it is not so much I need to be seen as a girl (though that is how it feels), though that is a strong association I have with it, but it is that I want to be myself, the real ME, the one who is so buried. But I have so strongly associated this notion of myself and my true nature with female that the two feel inseparable now, and it is almost impossible for me to act on my nature while others perceive me as a male - some sort of mental block.
When I feel those terrible feelings of longing to be female that often accompany GID, it is always coupled with times when I wanted to be myself, but felt restrained. As such, I've discovered another one of my triggers.
So what does all this mean? Am I not REALLY a transsexual, but someone who is having a terrible identity crisis? Or does this cultural component play a part in everyone's GID?
Regardless of the what it means, it is real, and I deal with it today. Coming to this realization has been tremendous, and I feel a bit of relief, like... my inner self might soon be able to have full expression even while in my male body. Perhaps I can break those associations, and become an example of a male who epitomizes what are traditionally considered "female" qualities.
My friends have a nickname for me. Everyone here has heard of the Alpha Male? They call me the Omega Male. Perhaps I can define what it means to be an Omega male and pave a path of acceptance for others like me.
Sunday, April 5, 2009
In the ongoing debate concerning gay marriage I repeatedly see two different arguments made by those on each side of the issue. However, despite these primary arguments, the issue is really about something deeper.
Anti-Gay Marriage - Its About Protecting the Definition of Marriage
The primary argument used by those who are against gay marriage is that that allowing gay marriage will redefine marriage. What does redefining marriage mean? According to this argument, marriage is a word that by definition includes only a union between a man and woman. By making this claim they posit that for marriage to be open to allowing same sex couples, then marriage's basic definition will be changed.
The argument against this proposes that marriage is only defined as a union between a man and a woman because that is the traditional definition but is by no means complete. Allowing gay marriage would not change the definition but rather expand its definition to include same sex marriages. This idea is evident in Webster's Dictionary which now contains a definition of marriage for both opposite and same sex couples.
Pro-Gay Marriage - Its About Civil Rights
The primary argument used by those who are for gay marriage revolves around civil rights. The argument is that by not allowing gays the right to marry they are denied various civil rights. Those for gay marriage repeatedly say same sex couples are being denied the right to marry and that by not being allowed to marry, the state or nation where they live will not afford them specific rights given to married individuals.
The argument against this is two fold. Firstly by the traditional definition of marriage, all gays have the right to marry – someone of the opposite sex – and thus are not denied any civil rights. This of course uses the traditional definition of marriage and is not how same-sex couples intend their explanation of their loss of their marriage right – they believe they do not have the right to be married to the person they love regardless of their sex.
Concerning the loss of state and national rights, those against gay marriage explain that a civil union has all the same rights afforded to it as a marriage (at least in California) and so there is no loss in civil rights between the two definitions.
Its Really About Validation
These two arguments are just surface issues though. Sure there is some weight given to those who are against marriage's redefinition just as there is weight to those who claim their civil rights are being denied, but that is not the real issue. The real issue is validation of lifestyle.
If gay marriage is allowed it validates the gay lifestyle in ways that civil unions do not. Marriage is the traditional form of union and that which is most widely understood and accepted. Having a union that is not defined as a marriage diminishes its value (regardless if there is any real difference in practice at all). Gays have been seeking validation for their lifestyle for decades (if not longer) and having their unions solidified by the traditional word, marriage, would represent a new shift in wide scale acceptance of gay lifestyles.
Those who are against gay marriage are against it for the same reason – validation. Most against gay marriage believe it to be fundamentally inappropriate (some say sinful) and not desirous for the population. They have various reasons as to why this is, but in the end, allowing gay marriage would further validate gay lifestyles and legitimize it for this and future generations (promoting more same-sex experimentation and general acceptance among the youth). For those who see this as an issue of moral impurity, validating the gay lifestyle is like endorsing the destruction of society – not an easy thing to ask of anyone who feels strongly about it.
There are idiots on both sides of this discussion, and so we need not judge the validity of the others' arguments by the extremists – there are bigots on both sides. But as long as we continue to focus on the more surface issues of marriage redefinition and civil rights, this debate will go on and on with neither side making progress. When we are honest with ourselves however concerning the true issue, it will allow us to move closer to understanding of both sides. Considering the extreme polarizing moral effects of this decision however, we can only assume things will get worse before they get better.