Find Good People 

There’s no sure way forward. In fact even the plausible ways appear daunting. But I’m feeling better now than I have in a while, and a big part of that is getting out and interacting. Of course right this moment I’m at home by myself with the music playing, at least I’m writing. And I have coffee.. and ice cream 😀  It is in fact coffee ice cream! …

Last night I attended the monthly church group I’ve been going to and it was one of the best times I’ve had in ages. The group is diverse and very friendly, we did a photo scavenger hunt. It was a total blast and I am about to go into detail, in case you want out now. 

The night started with me chatting up a very friendly person, recently out of the closet and eager to tell their story. We spoke for a bit as others trickled in and after a few minutes the host announced the plan for the evening, the second annual photo scavenger hunt, we were divided into three groups, four in my group, three in the other two. With me was my new friend, a person I had met a few weeks before and a person I met just then. 

The evening was warm, clear sky and slightly humid. We trekked through the neighborhood, searching for the myriad items on the list. By the end we were two shy of the total. One shy if you count the one we submitted that was on the phone before 😀 … They didn’t count that one. 

Over the course of an hour the four of us went from one end of the neighborhood to the other, with smiles on our faces the entire time. We had to find an affirming business, and we were told by one of the hosts there was only one, though by the end of the evening we identified at least three. One such business was a local candy store, the woman who ran it was very kind and helpful, we were able to check off four items from that store alone.

One of the entries required a video of us singing to a group for 5-10 seconds. We sang ‘you are my sunshine’ to a cheerful group of young people who were happy to help us, and seemed to have as much fun with it as we did. At one point I ran into a good work friend who had yet to see me post transition, they didn’t recognize me at first but were ecstatic when they realized who I was.

After it was done we met back up at the church where the hosts had put together a slideshow of everyone’s submissions. There were some great pictures, we all laughed and told jokes as we watched through them. It felt pretty great to be out and accepted, afterwards people lingered and talked, I had a few wonderful conversations with some really awesome people. It’s made a world of difference, and I find myself wishing they met more than once a month. As I was walking out I decided I wanted to get more involved at the church. I’ve emailed the host about putting me in touch with their volunteer coordinators. 

I would like to say thank you to Cherokee Doll for including me in the ‘Very Inspiring Blogger Award’ It means a lot to be thought of 😀

And since I haven’t been doing as much writing as I maybe should, I present in penance this mostly random doodle, stare at it, and seek to find meaning in the meaningless. 

.

Failure

Unpacking my life has been a surreal and exhausting experience. Depression has hit pretty hard of late, I’ve spent much of the last few days moping around my apartment. It’s not healthy, and a tad self indulgent, but there it is. So what do I do to pull myself out if the melancholic stupor? Examine every part of my life from every angle 😀 and you get to come along for the ride. 

As a child I saw my feelings of dysphoria as a personal failing. My mind was always running, a facet of ADD I’m told. I’m often juggling multiple trains of thought, one of those threads was almost constantly dedicated to gender, and it had a tendency to weave through the others. I considered every possibility, I internalized every opinion regarding transgender folk. One possibility that’s never left me is the idea that it’s just plain wrong to feel this way, and I am therefore doing something wrong. 

Even now there are many people of this opinion. I read it from lobbyists and pundits, celebrities, family and strangers. For me the feeling of dysphoria seems indelibly tied with failure. I failed at a lot of things, I was called a failure by a lot of people, they may have used different verbiage but they all meant the same thing. I would fail and tell myself it was because I was being too feminine, I had to stand up, stop being such a… well I don’t feeling comfortable putting that word on the page. Anyway it became self feeding. I would feel these urges, and believe that I was failing in some way. I would fail, and believe I was condemning myself further. 

I became terrified of failure, and obsessed with self improvement. Ironically my biggest problems have always been stress related. One thing I hear a lot is the idea that my problems will be solved by a closer relationship with Christ. I honestly can’t remember a time when I haven’t turned to Christ with my problems. I went to bible camp every summer, I’ve been baptized more times than I can easily remember, one time was in a lake. I did my absolute best to live by the gospel, and still do, but the feelings persist. Is this another sign of my failings?

What is it that I’m doing wrong? The other night I had an epiphany of sorts, I was feeling particularly low and I asked this very question, the answer that came to me is that I’m not doing anything wrong. I cried, I knew where the answer came from and still could not believe it. I’ve spent a lifetime hating myself and I’m finding it very hard to let go of that. This is why a good couselor is so important 🙂

Connotation

I read an article recently called “The raging battle over transgender kids.” Trigger warning if it wasn’t obvious. 

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-debate/the-raging-battle-over-transgender-kids/article24333224/

In it there is a quote that states “The trans lobby has got us on the run,” 

Why does there have to be running? This is indicative of my problem with the article as a whole, not only are we represented as being hostile, essentially every argument it makes presumes being transgender is inherently negative, that heteronormative is the preferred. Take for example this fairly overt contradiction,

“They never tried to force my son into something he wasn’t,” one mother told me. Her son had been a hyper-anxious child since birth. In kindergarten he became obsessed with dressing like a girl. The CAMH therapists determined that anxiety, not gender, was the key issue, and advised the parents to discourage their son’s obsession with girls’ clothing. 

So not forced, but merely discouraged. The article goes on to describe the subject as now being a “well-adjusted young adult with a girlfriend and no interest in women’s clothes.”

Sigh. This speaks to my personal experience all too closely. I never had the nerve to stand up in the first place. When I was a child I found negative opinions towards gender non conformity to be palpable. No one had to discourage me from wearing women’s cloths, I discouraged myself. Given the reaction from my family when I came out it seems I did a pretty good job of presenting myself as a so called ‘well adjusted young adult.’ As if having a girlfriend and no interest in women’s clothing was the goal. 

Anyway enough politics, let’s move on to more interesting things. That is of course if you consider the trivialities of my day to day life to be interesting, which I personally do. I am perhaps becoming a little vain.

Monday evening I had tea with my mother, we had a lovely conversation and I really feel like she’s growing a lot more comfortable with my transition. Tuesday night I had had nice long talk with my cousin over the phone. She’s had her own challenges growing up and has become an incredible woman. Her support means the world to me. 

Wednesday I had a meeting with my counselor. They were glad to see that I was staying socially active. Working from home has certainly made transition a lot easier but it also runs a serious risk of isolation. Another significant aspect of working from home is that I rarely come face to face with the people I work with. Rarely.

Yesterday I went into the office for a day of training. My previous training session was a small class consisting entirely of people on my team, which I’ve come out to via email. Thursday’s training was more general, which meant a large class of people I work with, but none of whom knew I was trans, this included our teacher. 

I was presenting full female, and looking pretty good if I do say so myself. Actually a lot of people said so, including the teacher. So yes it seems I am somewhat vain. Anyway when I first arrived the teacher had no idea, then it came time to write our names down. On big pieces of paper that are taped to the back of our monitors. 

I’ve been with the company for seven years, and this teacher was the one who oversaw my initial training. I was actually a member of the first class they taught for the company. So they remember me, and there was a moment of absolute confusion when they looked at my name, then up at me, then back at the name and proceeded to stare at it for several seconds. I smiled sheepishly and said hi.

On break they approached me and admitted to not recognizing me, which I took as a compliment 🙂 They used the word beautiful, I may have blushed. Definitely vain. As I’ve said in the past I work for a pretty great company, and very much appreciate how lucky I am. 

Last night I had dinner with my aunt and things went wonderfully. I feel she was very receptive of what I had to say about being trans. The food was good and the conversation was deep and cathartic. We parted with great big hug, and since then I’ve felt the best I have in a long time 🙂

I’m more than a little surprised at how smoothly things seem to be going for me. Easy is not a word I would use but my recent experience goes to show that a supportive community makes a world of difference. I’m going to pull another quote from the above article, 

‘But Dr. Bradley cautions that transition is a radical step – involving surgery and a lifetime regime of hormone therapy – and that the road, under the best of circumstances, is rocky. “The child is going to find himself in a really difficult situation,” she points out. “You can argue that it’s society that should change. But despite all the in-betweens that are emerging, we are a two-gender society.”

The problems faced by the LGBTQIA(etc…) community are entirely systemic, when people are accepting and kind there doesn’t seem to be any problem at all. 

Rhetoric

What is wrong with me. That’s usually the question most of us start with, when it becomes evident that our desires are out of synch with the rest of society we assume there’s something wrong with us. For an outsider the question is always ‘what’s wrong with them,’ ‘why must they act in that way.’ The default assumption tends to be the least charitable. 

So let’s explore the science a bit. Some speak of the gender binary in absolute terms, while others feel that gender is more like a broad spectrum. Both concepts serve a purpose but the reality is much more complex. There are currently over 7 billion configurations of human, each one is unique and becoming more so with every moment lived, and this doesn’t even scratch the surface of what’s possible. 

Genetics are pretty complicated, I won’t pretend to understand them. The experts certainly don’t, seriously the first thing any researcher worth their salt will tell you is that our ignorance of the human machine vastly outweighs our insight. That said there are a few things we do know when it comes to gender. The first is that while there are noticeable differences between male and female, we are all built from the same parts, and there are an inconceivable number of parts. 

Hormones tell those parts what to do, but these instructions are given to different parts at different times, it’s been proven that it is absolutely possible for those instructions to go off track. Concrete examples of this include but are not limited to intersex conditions. This is no accident, from a secular standpoint nature thrives on diversity, from a theological standpoint God doesn’t make mistakes. 

Heads up I’m going to talk about body parts now 🙂 We know that every fetus begins in a female state, we know that there is one tiny part of one chromosome that determines whether the gonads become testicles or ovaries. Testicles produce testosterone and eventually the rest of the body gets reconfigured into a male state, no testosterone and the body stays female. Usually. 

As stated earlier we know that there is a lot of room for variation. What we don’t know is precisely what effect these variations might have. This represents a knowledge gap but not an insurmountable one. After all there may be over 7 billion configurations of human but there are trends we can observe. 

Numbers vary depending on who you ask but even with a conservative estimate there are hundreds of thousands of people in the US alone who identify as transgender. Everyone’s journey is a bit different but there are several consistent elements among personal accounts. For example most claim severe distress at living in their assigned gender. Many, though not all claim to have known or at least suspected from a young age. Very few accounts claim that these feelings have changed much over their lifetime.   

It has been established that male and female brains operate differently from one another. It has also been observed that transgender brains operate differently than cisgender brains, and that a transgender brain more closely resembles that of their identified gender. There have been a number of studies with varying conclusions, most support this idea, a few are inconclusive but none refute it. 

This doesn’t necessarily rule out other possibilities, once again 7 billion configurations of human, each one is different. But if someone is going to state that transgenderism simply isn’t a thing I expect them to bring more to the discussion than hollow rhetoric about how a person is not a dinosaur just because they think they’re a dinosaur.  

And really why does it matter what causes it, why can’t we all just accept one another for who we are? Below are some links in support of the facts I’ve stated. I tend to read a lot…

Cercor Oxford Journals – Structural Connectivity Networks of Transgender People 

http://cercor.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2014/09/12/cercor.bhu194.full.pdf

Medical University of Vienna – Networks of the brain reflect the individual gender identity

http://www.meduniwien.ac.at/homepage/1/news-and-topstories/?tx_ttnews%5btt_news%5d=5379&cHash=37835742aa84acd6b6b2505337c854dd

Science Daily – Transgender: Evidence on the biological nature of gender identity

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/02/150213112317.htm

PsyPost – Researchers unravel mechanism that plays key role in sexual differentiation of brain

Researchers unravel mechanism that plays key role in sexual differentiation of brain

acadamia.edu – What’s in a Gender? Studies of Brain Structure Find Evidence for Neurological Basis of Transgender Identity

http://www.academia.edu/7346016/What_s_in_a_Gender_Studies_of_Brain_Structure_Find_Evidence_for_Neurological_Basis_of_Transgender_Identity

Pub Med – Regional gray matter variation in male-to-female transsexualism.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19341803

Here is another study that doesn’t deal with transgenderism per se, but focuses on the effects of attempting to socialize someone into a gender that doesn’t match their actual gender identity.

New England Journal of Medicine – Discordant Sexual Identity in Some Genetic Males with Cloacal Exstrophy Assigned to Female Sex at Birth

http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa022236

This is a Huffington Post article that elaborates on some misconceptions regarding transgender research.

Huffington Post – Myths About Transition Regrets

http://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/6160626

Here is an article from TransAdvocate, admittedly a biased source but it’s quite thorough and contains several helpful links.

Trans Advocate – Clinging to a dangerous past: Dr Paul McHugh’s selective reading of transgender medical literature

Clinging to a dangerous past: Dr Paul McHugh’s selective reading of transgender medical literature

Out and about 

Today marks 60 days of HRT 😀 and so far… still not much has changed. Or maybe it has, but nothing overt anyway. My chest is more or less the same shape as it was when I started, though I’m on a fairly low dose, I see my doctor next week and anticipate they will prescribe an increase. After that I have an appointment for an electrolysis consultation 😀  

I am living as myself full time these days, when I go out it’s always with makeup and usually a wig. The only time I wear boy clothes is if I’ve left laundry too long, which is happening less and less as my wardrobe expands. Also, potential trigger warning till the end of this paragraph, some may find the following to be inappropriate. I am always tucked. Before transition I had assumed it was something one did when wearing skirts etc to avoid a bulge, and sure. But honestly I find it’s a much nicer place to keep them. 

In the privacy of my own home this is all well and good. I am having to re-adjust to interacting with the world at large. It’s been almost entirely positive, or at least neutral, but nonetheless terrifying. I catch odd looks, and I can’t help but wonder what people think when they see me. I’ve been attending church when my work rotation allows it and that has been a really positive space for me. They also do a monthly group meeting that I have found quite helpful. 

I recently attended my first family gathering in full fem, most of the local kin were in attendance and everyone was incredibly supportive. I am well aware of just how fortunate I am. I had seriously contemplated presenting male or skipping all together, I’m glad I made the decision to go as myself, and recognize that for many people that simply wouldn’t have been an option. To any family that might be reading this you are all incredible, thank you so much.

My work recently rented out the main floor of a local pub for a culture event, and over a hundred and fifty people from my office were present. This wasn’t like the day of training where it was a small class of people I’d worked with for years, but dozen’s of people, many of whom didn’t know I have come out at trans. It was a bit intense but again everyone was super friendly.

Last night I went to see a drag show with my friend Matron and the two of us had an absolute blast. As wonderful as all of this has been these are places with people I know or at least trust, with social safety nets that ensure there will be no serious problems. The most nerve-wracking scenarios have been out in the wilds of the general public.

I am growing ever more comfortable shopping by myself these days. I pick up groceries on a regular basis without incident, and I can even go shopping for women’s clothing without almost having a nervous breakdown. The scariest moment so far was this morning, Matron and I went for breakfast in a crowded restaurant.  

The food was great and the server was very sweet, still I couldn’t help but focus on all of the ways I’ve seen things go poorly for trans individuals in similar circumstances. I live in perpetual dread of the day someone decides to physically assault me. I know this is an irrational fear as Calgary is actually a fairly liberal city, but fear is not something easily conquered by reason. I suck it up and push forward, because really there’s nowhere else to go. And when I step out the door, it feels really good to do so as myself.