T. T. Testosterone

About a year ago (almost exactly), I made a big announcement here, do y’all remember?

If not, here’s a brief recap: I very excitedly revealed that because of the gender dysphoria that I had been experiencing, I was making the big decision to have Gender Affirming Surgery, aka Top Surgery. I think I said something like “holy shit, no more tits”. That sounds like something I would do, right?

Well, here I am again, in a similar situation, one that is yet again affected by gender dysphoria.

I was confident as hell going into Top Surgery. I’d known since puberty that I wasn’t meant to have breasts, and was ready to go as soon as the decision was made (from the first consult to the surgery day took about 3 months. This will be important later.)

I was also confident that once my chest was flat that my dysphoria would decrease to a livable level. Because when you fell outside of the gender binary, you have to be realistic about the fact that things won’t be perfect, but they will be good enough that it won’t affect your life too much.

It’s baffling how wrong I can be about myself. Don’t get me wrong, I love my new chest, it’s everything I ever hoped for. And to give myself some credit, my dysphoria about that part of my body is basically gone. Unfortunately, and unpredictably, even more dysphoria has rushed in and filled the void. I was in no way expecting this.

I considered myself lucky because my insurance company doesn’t require hormone therapy before top surgery like a lot of them do. I knew that hormones were an option and that lots of nonbinary folks do opt to use them, but back then there seemed like so many downsides, so many things that I didn’t want to happen to my body that it outweighed the results that I was interested in.

Testosterone things I want: fat redistribution, more muscle, facial shape changes. Testosterone things I don’t want: facial hair (other body hair is fine, I’m already super hairy), bottom growth. Testosterone things I’m neutral about: voice deepening.

Looking over the pros and cons on that list, to me, it drifts slightly towards hormones not being worth it. But when I started to think about it, I started to realize that these were not the only factors. A strange phenomenon started happening to me a few months after my surgery, and since then has been the driving factor when it comes to making T an option, and it’s not about how I see myself anymore, but about how other people see me.

I was so surprised at the rage that I felt the first time someone called me ‘ma’am’ after my surgery. My brain was screaming at the universe “I went through the pain of surgery and recovery and still people think I’m a girl?!!” It just didn’t seem fair. I’ve been using they/them pronouns for a while now, and I certainly don’t mind when people call me he or him or sir. But at this point in my life, she/her/ma’am makes my blood boil. I’m also at the point in my schooling where I’m thinking about internships and jobs, and how much more confidence I’ll have if I feel comfortable in my body.

I mentioned earlier how it took a while to go from consult to surgery last year. So when I finally made the decision to see an endocrinologist in a gender clinic, I assumed that it would be the same initial consult, secondary consult, required therapy, doctors notes, wait wait wait. Again, I was wrong. The doctor’s appointment was awesome. They asked about preferred names and pronouns (and used them!) The doctor and I talked for 20 minutes, and as it wound down, I expected him to tell me how many hoops I’d have to jump through next. As it turns out, the answer was zero hoops.

Right now. He said I could start right now.

Color me surprised. And that color would be the color of panic because I hadn’t expected that at all. Turns out there are doctors out there who respect the fact that you’re a well-informed adult who can make their own decision. The autistic part of my brain froze up, of course. There was a lot of sputtering and stammering. My wife had to remind me that we’d been talking about for almost a year, and then she humored me and we made a pro/con list.

I bet you all know what the end decision way. If you don’t, I’d like to direct you to the 3 dozen needles, box of alcohol wipes, and the viscous vial of pure dude juice in my bathroom.

It’s been two weeks, I’ve had 3 doses. I don’t feel anything yet, and I’m not expecting to yet. I’ll give you the same warning I’m going to all my friends- I will be going through puberty. Again. So if I’m irritable and smelly and hangry all the time and pimple faced and my voice cracks, 1: you have the right to poke fun at me, and 2: I’m still me, no matter what.

 

5 Reasons Why My Gender is Complicated

Ladies, gentlemen, and all genders in between: I have glorious news!

After years of dysphoria, lots of therapy, and jumping through insurances’ hoops, I have been approved!

For what, you ask? For surgery- Top Surgery! Finally, twenty years after developing this painful and unwieldy chest that never felt like it was mine, as of yesterday (for you, I’m writing this on Sunday- Greetings, from the past!) will be rid of them. Goodbye boobs, and good riddance.

After years of stressing about what my gender is, or should be, I have come to the realization that gender is complicated, and mine (and yours!) will never be the same as anyone else’s.

So I give to you some of the reasons why gender is complicated.

1. Gender is a social construct: So gender seems like a pretty straightforward thing, right? From a young age, we’re told that girls wear pink and play with dolls, and boys wear blue and earn $0.18 more per dollar. But for me, it’s not that easy. Honestly, I didn’t even think about it until puberty, when everyone suddenly had opinions about what I should be like. I was a girl because people said I was- that’s it. Each society gets to define what gender is, and while most western societies only have two: Boy and Girl, other societies have more. I’m not particularly interested in stressing about gender, I am me, and it doesn’t matter what my body looks like. I was Nonbinary with boobs, and I am now without them. I’m Meesh, and I’m just trying to make my body fit my spirit.

2. There’s a lot of gender vocab: Trans, cis, nonbinary, demi boy, demi girl, gender fluid, genderqueer, neutrois. These are just some of the language used to talk about gender these days, and it’s great! Because it’s so important to have an identity that fits you. It can make things complicated because new terms are being developed, and a lot of them aren’t standardized. For example, nonbinary is a very broad term- it’s definition means that it includes anything outside of the gender binary, aka, anything that isn’t male or female. In fact, if you look at all the terms that come after it, they all fall under the nonbinary umbrella. That means that people who are nonbinary can identity incredibly differently. Nothing wrong with that, just another complication.

3. Body dysmorphia vs gender dysphoria: I come from an Eating Disorder background, where body dysmorphia runs rampant. Most people with eating disorders experience this to some degree- when they look in the mirror, they can’t see their body for how it is. They see fat even when they’re underweight. This phenomenon is surprisingly similar to gender dysphoria. When I look in the mirror and see breasts and feminine curves, I feel anxious and detached. Both body dysmorphia and gender dysphoria make me hate my body, and it can be hard to tell which one is causing my distress. Do I hate my curves because they make me feel fat, or because they make me look like a girl? Being able to tell the difference is vital for my mental health, but trying to figure out which is which is complicated.

4. Them/them/theirs: Oh pronouns. How can something that seems so simple get so complicated so fast? Traditionally, the English language only has two pronouns: she and he. And when the majority of people only identified as one of two genders, the pronouns worked fine. But now that we know that there are many genders, he and she just aren’t going to cut it. But what will the new pronouns be? Can we just make shit up? The answer is yes, we can totally make shit up, which is how we got pronouns like xe, sie, and zir. The other option is to borrow an already existing pronoun, in this case, they. I use they/them/their pronouns, mostly because they’re easy to explain, not because I’m drawn to them, or because they fit me perfectly. The grammar snob in me hates my pronouns, it screams that you can’t hit a plural pronoun for a singular person. I agree, but since I can’t stand being called ‘she’, ‘they’ will have to suffice for now.

5. Neither here nor there: Once upon a time, there were only two gender identities, Cis, and Trans. You either identified with the gender that was assigned to you at birth (Cisgender), or you didn’t (Transgender). In recent years, we’ve begun to understand that there is a lot more to gender than the trans/cis binary. That there are genders that exist in between them, or in some cases, completely outside of them. This is a fantastic development for people like me, who thought that even though they felt uncomfortable in their bodies, that they must be Cis because the Trans label just didn’t fit. As fantastic as this is, it can leave Nonbinary folks like me in a crappy place- it’s easy to feel like we don’t belong anywhere. Many people, myself included, want to feel like there are other people like us, who share our experiences and can be a resource to us. Actually, that’s a lot like the Autism community too, isn’t it? I guess most minority groups have a lot in common. Feeling like I don’t belong in Trans spaces, or in Cis spaces, can be really lonely. I’m lucky to have 2 other NB people in my life, but even so, sometimes I just want to slide easily into a clearly marked box.

So here we are! You, reading on your screen, and me, propped up on the couch and dozing on painkillers. It’s a little weird to be putting this together beforehand (although here in the past, I am still on the couch).

I may not be able to respond for a week or two, but I’ll still ask the question. Is there anything about you that is Complicated? How do you handle it?

If you read this far down, send some virtual good vibes my way!

Anti-Resolution 2018

Happy New Years! It’s 2018, the Year of the Dog and the year of the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang South Korea! We all know that the New Year comes with the ball dropping, lots of sensory unfriendly fireworks, and the worst thing- New Years Resolutions.

I hate resolutions. Every year that I’ve tried to make resolutions, I’ve felt terrible pressure to always be working towards them, and terrible guilt when I fail. That’s a terrible way to start a new year, right?

In treatment, there’s a big focus on making goals, and as I’m sure you can guess, that’s didn’t go so well for me. I got lucky though, I work with an Occupational Therapist, and she suggested rather than put the focus on making goals, I should think about things I want in my life, but don’t have. Ways that I want life to be different. Then I could find ways to make those things a reality (which I know is just a different way of saying goals, but hey, it works for me.)

So instead of posting about my New Years Resolutions with you, I’m going to share what I want to be different in 2018

  1. I want to be more independent. I didn’t realize until recently that I don’t really do things by myself. I rarely leave the house alone, mostly because I’m worried about autism problems, like getting lost, becoming nonverbal, and having meltdowns. Going new places, and going places that trigger sensory overload (like grocery stores- why must your fluorescent lights be so bright and everything be so loud?) I feel like a need a buddy just in case something goes wrong, and it can be very limiting. So here’s hoping that 2018 is the year of independence!
  2. I want to be more involved in my community. I wasn’t diagnosed with Autism until 2016 when I was 28, and it wasn’t until almost a year later that I, with great joy, discovered the vibrant and brilliant autistic online community. I immediately knew that this was something that I wanted to be a part of, even though I rarely used social media in my “real” life. I’ve taken small steps, this blog being one of them, but I want more. I want to educate, I want to be an advocate, I want to lead.  I’m planning on continuing to do what I’m doing and to look for opportunities and contribute and connect.
  3. I want my health to be better. I’ve mentioned before that not only do I have a neurological condition called Dysautonomia (POTS is the specific syndrome), I’m also dealing with some hip/nerve issues that we haven’t really found an answer for yet. They’re both highly limiting. There’s not a lot that I can proactively do about my hip, but once it’s doing better, there’s a lot I can do for the POTS, it can’t be cured, but I can reduce the symptoms. Right now, I can stand for about 2 minutes, and walk for about 5, before I become at risk for fainting. There’s a physical therapy protocol that I’m going to try, so I can get back to doing things that I love, like hiking, longboarding, and rock climbing.
  4. I want to be more comfortable with my gender. Right now, I identify as Nonbinary, which is a word I love, because it gives me so many options. I spent so much time being frustrated because I knew that I wasn’t a girl, but I didn’t think that I was male enough to be transgender. I’m happily settled with the Nonbinary identifier, but one thing I haven’t figured out yet is pronouns. She/her/hers makes me uncomfortable, but they/them/theirs bothers the grammar nerd that still lives within me. Xe and Ey and everything else don’t seem to fit either, and I’m not sure that I’m boy enough to use he/his. So this year, I want to figure out my pronouns. This year I want to figure out what will be necessary to help me deal with dysphoria. This year, I want to be more comfortable with who I am.

I know sharing resolutions can be sort of stressful, but if you’ve got any that you’ve like to talk about or share, I’d love to hear them!