Well, it’s been almost four months since I’ve posted anything on here. My last post was a bit of a dangling downer, so I figured I’d write a personal update before delving back into theory and politics. I think I’ve successfully burned off most of the old painful bullshit I was dealing with and am excited for some new beginnings.
The initial cause of my blogging break was a vacation in Japan. I’ve never traveled alone, and doing so has been on my agenda since 2012, when I read No More Mr. Nice Guy, an eye-opening if overblown repackaging of codependency recovery applied to “males.” While the book is unfortunately sullied by anti-feminism and re-shaming into “masculinity,” it was extremely useful in helping me acknowledge and release the unconscious shame I was holding onto because of rigid gender schemas.
Anyway, Japan was awesome. Wandering around without any expectations or assurances and entering places without any idea whether I was welcome or what was inside has helped immensely with my confidence and social anxiety. I hitch-biked all over central and western Honshu staying in capsule hotels and ryokan, tent-camping in city parks, savoring delicious mysteries, crashing cherry blossom viewing parties, hiking the Nakasendō, relaxing in elaborate onsen, mourning at Hiroshima, watching Kabuki, playing Go, and dropping my jaw at magestic temples, gardens, and shrines. Toward the end of my trip I was wearing my leopard-print ombré jeggings and purse at Shibuya crossing and this person stopped me and said ne was an assistant photographer for a “street fashion” zine and ne wanted me to be nir “mo-day-ru.” Unfortunately my flight back left the next day.
When I got back I immediately decided to cut my hair. Before the trip, I started Propecia, the DHT-blocking hair loss drug I discussed in a previous series of posts. I was only taking it for prevention “in case I’m transsexual and decide in the future to ‘become a woman'” whatever that means, but I only took it for like three days before realizing that was a dumb rationale since I’m rather confident I’m never going to do that. My hair was falling out at an alarming rate and I was tired of looking like Ernie McCracken from the movie Kingpin. Several people in Japan called me Jesus, which is better, but still not quite the look I was going for. So I shaved it all off. I’m pretty satisfied with the super-short look and now I don’t have to spend an hour a day taming it.
Then I set my sights on genderfucking in the last frontiers of my social and professional life. I put together this fantastically “feminine” but tasteful outfit with a black skirt, black tights, and a white-on-black conservatively cut polka-dot blouse and rocked it at a professional business conference. I thought this would be career suicide, but I actually got some new contracts at the conference that were perfect for the direction I want to take my business! I also busted the same look out at my fifteen year high school reunion at the posh prep academy I attended in the foothills of the San Fernando Valley.
Then I fired up my OkCupid profile and started dating again. For some reason, half of the matches who want to date me work in the sex or porn industry, which I found surprising, but I suppose that’s not a deal-breaker.
Yesterday was “Founder’s Day” at my intentional community and there was a big party with a progressive dinner that meandered through a few of the units. I volunteered to be one of the hosts. I finally got my place set up with the condo-size version of the sofa I had agonized over previously. People couldn’t stop complimenting me enough on it, actually. It makes me wonder a bit whether one of the residents to whom I showed my blog months ago went around telling people to admire it. But I think I’m done with all that delusional nonsense. Doggone it, people like me! *facepalm*
My blog’s probably about to get a lot more journal-ly and self-involved, possibly less interesting to random interweb readers, and painfully awkward for people who actually know me. Oh well, whatever. I’m doing this for me anyway. Aren’t I?
Trans isn’t on my mind so much lately as is attachment. I have a fearful-avoidant attachment style. Sometimes I think the severity of it approaches what could be classified as “avoidant personality disorder.” I have deep-seated beliefs that I am unlovable, unacceptable, not okay, defective; and that everyone else is untrustworthy and an inevitable source of rejection and pain. I desperately want to have close relationships but I’m terrified of being known well enough to make that happen. I believe everyone knows how relationships are supposed to work except for me. I believe that if I let someone see me with transparency and asked them to love me that only two results are possible: they would recoil in horror and disgust, or they would reluctantly offer me pity for my less-than-human nature.
A subtler form of this conflict plays out in more mundane interactions with acquaintances and strangers. I’m hyper-vigilant for signs of rejection and am either extremely reserved or sort of disorganized in my communication. If I have to say something personal about myself I feel like I’m not actually communicating but adjusting this convoluted sequence of mirrors and lenses that will hopefully allow another person to see some vague impression of what I’m talking about while staying detached from whatever it is.
It’s taken me a lot of work to uncover that this way of thinking is ruling my life, and I feel proud of the success of finding that awareness, but now I wonder: what do I do with that? How do I change it? Where the fuck do I go from here? It’s not a way to live. I’m so tired of it.
Sometimes I think it’s impossible to change it. It’s a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy. If I’m really this hung up on myself then I’m going to shoot myself in the foot in most interactions with people and they really will perceive me negatively and reject me. When I think it’s impossible to change, then thoughts of suicide creep in. Not serious thoughts, interwebs. I’ve experienced those and know the difference. I went ahead and scored myself on the suicidal ideation scale: 11/38. No need to worry, I promise.
This fear extends to the stupidest ideas. For example, I’m living on my own for the first time at the age of thirty-one, having met my ex-wife at college, where we were on the same dormitory floor, and having co-habitated with her ever since. My condo is kinda small and I work from home and have an electronic drum kit and a treadmill which take up a lot of the space so I bought a love seat that was curved so you can walk around it even though I plopped it in the middle of traffic to make room for my other stuff. I also wanted it to be conducive to a romantic or sexual atmosphere because the condo is a one-bedroom and the bedroom has my child’s loft bed and toys and what not and is not a very sexay space. (I sleep on the floor when my child is here.) So the sofa is upholstered in a deep scarlet velour. The pillows are, of course, fashioned with every transfeminine person’s favorite symbol–the butterfly.
The design of this curved love seat is really awkward. Two people can hardly sit on it without a stilted, erect posture. And I feel like it screams out in desperation for an unwelcome level of intimacy.
A few weeks ago I invited a friend over to play some music and it was my perception that ne was avoiding sitting on the sofa, which ordinarily would be fine, since there’s another chair. But the other chair is an antique rocker and a bit awkward as well, so ne sat on the floor practically the entire time. I was also wearing a pretty ridiculous outfit I acquired at the thrift store–hot pink micro-corduroy jeggings and a Mudd Jeans juniors floral denim shirt that really resonated with the girl I locked in my psyche back in 1990. I imagine a grown “man” in 2015 donning something Mayim Bialik might have worn while splaying nir jazz hands on the intro to Blossom is probably not very appealing.
My friend had written in several text messages about how ne wanted to kiss me so I finally asked nem to get up off the floor and sit on the couch with me and we kissed for a while. It was awkward. I’ve spent most of my life with a straight submissive so I’m only interested in being with a top right now. This new friend is probably a bit of a pillow queen. I hope that doesn’t sound like sour grapes. Anyway ne’s fallen in love with a butch woman. I’m really happy for nem. Ne follows my blog, so writing this is rather embarrassing. Oh well, hopefully ne can keep a straight face if we see each other again. I’d still very much like to be nir friend.
So here’s the stupid idea. I have this irrational belief that anyone I would invite over to my place would view the awkwardness of my furniture as a tragic character flaw representative of my utter ineptitude at life. When I moved into this cohousing community, where all the neighbors are involved in each others lives by working on the property together and sharing community meals, I had this plan after I got some furniture to invite one household a week over to my unit for dinner or tea but because I ordered this awkward love seat I can’t bring myself to expose myself to the potential awkwardness of hosting them without a comfortable seating arrangement. So I’m thinking about ordering the same sofa in the condo size rather than the love seat and waiting another six weeks for it to arrive before inviting anyone over again. This is after having already bought the same love seat in a different fabric on craigslist before realizing that it smelled like dog pee and was too orange to go with the desaturated cyan color I’d painted the walls. I failed trying to clean it and dye it red before taking it to the dump and buying the same model new in a different fabric. If I buy another one it will be the third attempt and $300 (craigslist) + $ 1800 (new love seat) + $2200 (new condo sofa) = $4300 spent to get it right, although I would put the new love seat up for consignment.
Of course I’m blaming this stupid sofa as a rationalization for the fact that I don’t want to let anyone in. The sofa has nothing to do with it. It’s me. I don’t want them to see me because I’ll create some stupid narrative about how I embarrassed myself and they saw through to my supposed underlying irredeemability. Someone with healthy self-esteem would of course know that they are acceptable as they exist despite the horrific flaw of having an awkward curved love seat as their only seating. Not me, though. And there’s the vicious circle: none of this shit that I worry about is a problem but this lack of esteem for myself actually is a pathetic, irredeemable character flaw.
Which came first: the avoidance or teh trans?
This low self-esteem, fear, and avoidance could be caused by being trans, but sometimes I think teh trans might be a fantasy used to resolve an underlying attachment conflict. Maybe somebody with an abusive father and a neglectful mother flees from the “masculine” and tries to internalize the “feminine” as a way of coping with the situation. I suppose a cross-gender identification could be a multifactorial system with reinforcing feedback loops between denied gender inclinations and unhealthy attachment patterns, rather than one causing the other. In any case I think chalking cross-gender identities entirely up to an innate neurobiological phenomenon without considering the environment is a mistake.
My style of interacting with others is causing me more distress now than any conflict over my cross-gender inclinations. The parallel between my self-concept and the experience of other adults who experienced childhood emotional neglect is eerie. I think that is really my core issue.
The issue still strains my relationship with my mother. She called me the other day to ask a favor of me and I said in frustration that I’m dealing with a lot of stuff now and don’t want to be on the hook for it. Ne asked if there was any way that ne could help. As I paused to think about it for a few seconds ne jumped right to saying “I wish I could help. If I can, let me know. Okay? Bye.” and abruptly ended the conversation.
I don’t blame my mom for being avoidant nemself. And I’m not just saying that because ne’s following my blog as well. When I first started talking to nem about my father’s abuse of me after my father’s death in 2009, my mom said I should have seen how abusive nir father was. Nir father died before I was born, but I believe nem. And nir mom was not a paragon of empathy either. So I believe my mom did the best ne could. And maybe I felt neglected because of my gender inclinations, which I repressed and hid. How was ne supposed to know? But, god damn I wish I did not still feel so empty. And I wish I were not repeating emotional neglect with my own child.
I had a lucid dream the other night after working on my attachment issues in therapy and trying to work up the courage to talk to some strangers at a bar. In the first dream I was at a historical museum and I saw a beautiful woman with an androgynous, cropped-back hairstyle. I was following nem through the crowd and working up the courage to go talk to nem when I looked down at my hand to count my fingers and noticed I had six, which is my most reliable reality test for lucid dreaming. At that point, since I knew I was dreaming, I started pushing my way aggressively through the crowd because I knew there was no longer any reason to fear talking to nem. But I couldn’t find nem anymore. I started making my way to the exit, but found myself in in the kitchen of my childhood home. There was a woman there and without saying anything I just wrapped my arms around nem and kissed nem and kneeled down and lay backward, pulling nem down on top of me. We made out for a while and then I realized ne was a trans woman. For some reason, ne started showing me nir hair removal routine, and then I woke up.
This awakening turned out to be a false awakening, however. I woke up in the house I used to share with my ex-wife. As I went down the stairs I performed a reality check again and realized I was dreaming. I was wearing only underwear and a tee shirt, but decided to go outside like that anyway since I was dreaming. It was in the pre-dawn twilight and snow covered the ground. There were people in lively groups cross-country skiing and ice skating in the snow (never mind how that makes no sense). They were all enjoying themselves, but I was too cold. So I decided I was going to force the sun to rise. The sun did not come up over the horizon quickly, but rather burst into the sky like I had etched into glass with a corrosive. As the dim, mottled ball appeared in the cornflower canopy it made a tremendous sound like a firecracker, and then everyone on the street all stopped what they were doing and looked at me with alarm, confusion, and irritation, challenging my reasons for disrupting their peaceful morning. And then I awoke…for real.
Why cannot I not join in and revel in the wintry early morning twilight? Why do I feel compelled to hide away unless I can force the sun to rise?
I went ahead and ordered the condo size sofa after mulling it over for a few weeks. I arrived at that conclusion in a roundabout fashion.
Last night I openly “cross-dressed” and attended a “men’s group” and did personal development “men’s work,” whatever that means. I’m trying to work on relaxing gender schemas as recommended by ThirdWayTrans, so I figure if I can present the same person at a “trans women’s group” and a “men’s group” and integrate the supposed polarities called “masculine” and “feminine” and be both “masculine” and “feminine” with the “trans women” and both “feminine” and “masculine” with the “men,” then I’m on the right path.
When it was my time to “claim space” in the circle and work on my issue I, after a brief foray into a diatribe on the nonsense of sexual identity, discussed my difficulties with attachment, and the facilitator offered me an interesting exercise. Ne asked me to visually represent with my hands a balance scale with my desire for safety on one side and my desire for connection on the other. I thrust both of my hands to the ground. Ne said, with the understanding that I (correctly) inferred could only come from someone who had also experienced a traumatic youth, that I should honor the beliefs and coping mechanisms that have helped me to survive until now, but that I need to recalibrate this scale so it functions again if I’m going to make any progress. As someone who has experienced a drug-induced near death experience, I find it difficult to judge which weights I can test on this scale because they all seem to have catastrophic potential, but I suppose I’ve survived every weight I’ve tested in a while.
I went out for drinks with the facilitator afterward, and described the book I’m reading, The Invisible Partners, which I picked up from ThirdWayTrans’s re-post of a redditor’s third way of crossdreaming. (I’m going to need to start abbreviating that TWT given how much I refer to nem!) The book describes how bringing the “anima,” or Jung’s conception of the unconscious projection of internal psychological phenomena in a person raised as a male onto people raised as female, into conscious awareness can benefit one’s relationships. In response the facilitator discussed Jung’s supposedly masculine archetypes of the King, Warrior, Magician, and Lover (which I’m guessing ne picked up from this book.) Apparently, the king (which could just as easily be a queen in my view) is a chooser, the warrior is a doer, the magician is a knower, and the lover is a feeler.
I rather like these images because they quickly reveal where I am out of alignment. My magician is very highly developed. My lover has recovered somewhat. But my…um…monarch?…is snoozing and my warrior has locked nemself in the dungeon, cowering in fear. So today the monarch woke up and ordered the warrior to trust the magician and upgrade the sofa.
My real challenge now is to invite some more people over in the twilight before it arrives. Because if I don’t I’ll always be able to find some other reason to keep the sun behind the horizon.
I’m starting to think my struggle may be more related to my body than I wanted to believe. My childhood is mostly a blur, but one of my earliest memories is of the relief I would feel when I tucked my penis behind my legs and imagined the image of myself in the mirror to be that of a girl. When I was seven I performed “surgery” on my baby doll Charles Cherry Cherry Coquette by cutting out nir penis with a pair of scissors. To this day, when my nail polish is looking good, I want to chop a finger off and put it in a jar of formaldehyde so it can be preserved in all its girlyness without the shame of being attached to me. When I have sex sometimes having my chest touched feels wrong and awkward. The other day I went against my own advice and wore a dress because it looked pretty good combined with pants and and a cardigan and a wide belt to give the illusion of a waist, and I definitely experienced having phantom breasts, which was strange.
If I were to drink the Trans-Aid, I would conclude that I have a female “subconscious sex.” That my brain is wired in a “female” pattern and my suffering results from a “map” in the brain that does not match my body. I haven’t ruled this out, but I think it’s much more likely that these bodily sensations are the result of psychogenic pain and misattribution of arousal. I propose that the indignities experienced by a gender-variant person in our society are so great that anger at society and anger at oneself is turned toward the body as a protective distraction to keep dangerous repressed emotions from being consciously experienced. And I believe the anxiety brought on by the cognitive dissonance of gender-non-conforming presentations leads to perceptions such as phantom breasts because maintaining the conflicting beliefs “I am male” and “I am wearing women’s clothes in broad daylight” is so distressing.
I’ve definitely been convinced that there is some fundamental difference in the brains of transgender persons which manifests before birth. But I reject the idea that the pain that results from this difference could possibly be best treated by modifying the body with surgery and hormones.
Excessive Humanity Disorder
Part of the reason I am so reluctant to try hormones is that I have an intense distrust of the medical industry. I’m not sure how much that distrust is rational and how much is borne from being raised by an abusive psychiatrist who diagnosed me with Oppositional Defiant Disorder, physically abused me, and subjected me to cold showers and scorn to punish me every time I would engage in “anal expulsive” behavior when I failed (or refused, according to my father) to be potty trained at the age of four. In any case I believe most doctors have their pocketbooks more than my well-being at heart.
Psychiatry especially has no idea what the fuck it is doing. I mean, sure it has improved somewhat from last century’s shock therapies and lobotomies, but the change in its barbarism is not in quality and only in degree.
The reason psychiatry adopted a pharmaceutical model is not that it would cure mental “illness” but because of an embarrassing business problem. Overcrowding in mental hospitals cages was reaching the proportions of an untenable crisis. Meanwhile, Smith, Kline & French were using a shotgun approach to finding a market for the serendipitously “tranquilizing” Thorazine, which was discovered when trying to find a cure for malaria. The pharmaceutical company marketed the powerful drug for a wide range of conditions from asthma to menopause before discovering that it was the perfect solution to the contemporary crisis in the business model of psychiatry. Of course, the drug didn’t cure the patients. It just disabled their brains to such an extent that they were no longer able to experience psychosis. While the marketing said one thing, all the experts agreed it was just a “chemical lobotomy.”
The growth in the psychiatric drug industry since this watershed of deinstitutionalization is unfathomable. The APA, FDA, and pharmaceutical companies formed an incestuous relationship with the intent of pathologizing humanity to the extent that over twenty percent of Amerikans now take psychiatric drugs. Does one in five people really require psychiatric drugging?
Below are two advertisements for psychiatric drugs, one for Serentil from the 1960s, and one for Paxil from the 1990s. Both of them position the drugs as solutions to wholly ordinary problems, whether “for the newcomer in town who can’t make friends,” or for the person who “would love to find someone special, only can’t.”
“Serene-til” was a potent “antipsychotic” with a high risk of permanent side effects such as tardive dyskenesia, cardiac arrhythmia, and sudden death. It was finally withdrawn from the market more than forty years after release in 2004. “Peace-il” is a supposedly safe “antidepressant” that allegedly functions by selectively inhibiting the reuptake of serotonin in the brain. However, the evidence shows that SSRIs produce dependence and withdrawal just like an addictive drug, only the psychiatrists call this addiction “antidepressant discontinuation syndrome.” Cocaine happens to be another serotonin reuptake inhibitor. I wonder if history’s greatest proponent Sigmund Freud had “cocaine discontinuation syndrome.”
SSRIs can also induce mania and akathisia, and have been implicated in many violent episodes including murder and suicide. Of course, if an SSRI causes someone to have a manic episode, the psychiatrists say the “medication” “uncovered” the “patient’s” “underlying” “bipolar” “disorder.” Not “Oops we poisoned this guy with powerfully toxic psychoactive chemicals and it caused nem to gun down forty people in a movie theater. Sorry.” How long will it be until Paxil is taken off the market just like Serentil?
Most psychological “disorders” and “syndromes” are just regurgitations and collations of the subjective experiences reported by patients themselves–fabricated pathologizations of natural human experience subjected to the inhumanity of modern society. No one would prescribe Paxil for “major depressive disorder” because Prozac was generic and cost one-tenth as much. Therefore Glaxo Smith Kline took ordinary shyness and invented a new illness “Social Anxiety Disorder” and got it into the DSM-IV. Paxil became the only drug approved for use in this disorder, and so GSK could then market its patented drug and rake in the revenue.
Gender Dysphoria seems to be the one case where the psychiatric community has finally admitted that it is unable to diagnose someone with a disorder. If you go to a psychiatrist and say “I think I have depression, what do you think?”the psychiatrist will conduct an interview and make an official diagnosis that you have “major depressive disorder” or not. If you go to a psychiatrist and say “I think I have gender dysphoria, what do you think?” the psychiatrist will say no one can determine that but yourself. So the sole diagnostic criterion for whether you have gender dysphoria is that you decide you have gender dysphoria. I would call that simply no longer being blind to how gender is traumatizing to everyone.
The fact that transgender identities are no longer seen as pathological by psychiatry does not change the fact that the medical industry is still over-medicating the condition. The psychiatrists are just passing on the business and referring it to more lucrative specialists in endocrinology and plastic surgery. When all you have is a hammer, it’s irrelevant that every individual is a uniquely shaped peg and society contains only round and square holes. You’re going to pound on the problem the only way you know how just the same.
About now is when the psychiatrists start to wonder whether I have “paranoid personality disorder.” I guess it’s possible I am excessively distrustful. I’ve never taken an SSRI. If I were going to buy into the medical model of treating the individual traumas of a dysfunctional society, it would be crazy not to try an SSRI before I leaped to estrogen, don’t you think? Unfortunately I believe an SSRI or estrogen have about as much potential to make me happy as a fuller head of hair or a new car for that matter. My happiness is only going to come from within.
Dysphoria or Dissociation?
The author of ThirdWayTrans wrote an insightful post about how “dysphoria is very ordinary.” On one level I agree. The experience of a flat-chested person wanting breasts is not fundamentally different in a qualitative way from the experience of a bald-headed person wanting hair. The problems only differ in the narratives that are used to understand the problems and the intensity with which the dissatisfaction is felt. If society were arranged so that bald people shopped in different clothing departments, or were expected to paint their scalps to be beautiful, someone might very well feel like a full-haired person trapped in a bald-haired body.
On another level, I do think gender dysphoria is unique. The ordinary parts of gender dysphoria discussed by ThirdWayTrans are its conscious manifestations, like the desire to wear different clothes, or be treated differently and be recognized as a different gender, or have different morphological characteristics. To me the extraordinary parts of dysphoria are its unconscious manifestations.
It may be that, as an early transitioner, the author of ThirdWayTrans did not have the experience trans people who did not transition at an early age report, where gender dysphoria manifests as unconscious malaise, repression, and dissociation as described accurately by Anne Vitale and Jamie Veale. I believe this experience is fundamentally different from ordinary dissatisfaction (or dukkha as the Buddha would call it).
To this day, the joy and sense of rightness that the idea of being female arouses within me occurs in fleeting moments before it is exiled from my consciousness by my psychological defenses. It feels like a faint echo from another galaxy that somehow managed to reach me through the vacuum of space. It feels like my life is a film in black and white, but someone who wants me to know I am more spliced in a disorienting frame of technicolor. It feels like I’m in touch with a ghost from a past life. It feels like I’ve yet to be born. It feels like feeling it for more than a split second would warp the fabric of space-time and catapult me into another dimension I could never possibly have comprehended before. It feels like everything else is just this strange nightmare that I’m too afraid to accept is not real. I guess derealization and depersonalization such as this might be “ordinary,” and occur on a spectrum, and I’m just more dissociated than the average person, but it’s still terrifying.
The psychotherapist Daniel Mackler produced a film called the Four Stages of Emotional Healing where ne outlines a path of 1) dissociation, 2) depression, 3) grieving, and 4) enlightenment. In the film, ne astutely identifies that the modus operandi of most psychological practitioners is to bring clients backward from depression into the inferior state of dissociation. It’s pretty obvious that the function of “transition” is to bring clients back from suffering into a dissociated state. Anyone with a penis who says ne is a woman is in pretty much the epitome of a dissociated, or perhaps even delusional state.
As ThirdWayTrans wrote in October, “I think people really are letting go of a false self in the process of transition, the trick is not to just adopt a second one.” I hope to master this trick. However, if I know one thing it’s that I have to reunite myself with that fleeting joy. I hope that reunion does not require me to pretend to be a woman, but if it does, so be it. I can no longer stand feeling so utterly disconnected from myself.
This is the third post in a three-part series on hair. Part one focused on a whether the hair loss drug Propecia is a transsexual phenomenon. Part two focused on how posing that question is helping me in deconstructing the monolithic concept of “transition.” This part focuses on the history of my personal relationship with my hair.
My hair and I have had a troubled relationship. In elementary school there was a misunderstanding with the barber about what I wanted and I was devastated with what I got. I cried so much Supercuts gave my mom a refund and a coupon for another free haircut when my hair grew out. I made the mistake of telling a boy at school about this, and ne wrote about it in the school newspaper. Basically the headline was something to the effect of “Sissy Cries About Haircut, Gets Refund: Pathetic or Clever?”
I detest getting my hair cut to this day. I usually just let the hairstylist do whatever ne wants. When I made the now unthinkable mistake of trying to man up and enter the corporate world by applying for actuarial jobs after completing my masters degree in mathematics, I actually had to refer to an online guide to men’s hairstyles for FTMs in order to feel comfortable going to a barber shop. No joke. I didn’t know what FTM meant at the time. I was just relieved to find a resource that had so much information on how to fit in as a man.
In middle school I had fantastic hair. It was thick, and shiny, and reached my shoulders, and for a while I dyed it a deep purple. I was sort of chubby and wore baggy sweatshirts and strangers sometimes thought I was a girl. My mom tried to use these occasions to shame me into cutting my hair but I wasn’t buying it. Lots of “boys” had long hair at this time, Kurt Cobain having had just died. But somehow the other boys who had long hair themselves would tease me for looking and acting like a girl–a specific girl, in my class. Honestly, while I hated being teased, I was flattered by their suggestion. I actually felt guilty that this girl had to suffer being compared to the likes of me.
In ninth grade my parents sent me to a posh preparatory school in the hills near the San Fernando Valley, an hour’s drive away from the strawberry fields I called home. Now I was the only one with long hair. And the dress code was so restrictive I’d taken to tie-dyeing polo shirts to express myself. The prep school kids didn’t so much make fun of me for looking like a girl, but instead for looking like Mitch Kramer, the freshman played by Wiley Wiggins in Dazed and Confused. The kids on the football team (which I joined based on some god forsaken reasoning of mine) actually wouldn’t call me anything but Mitch. Around half of the signatures in my freshman yearbook read something like “You were definitely a weird guy. You sang songs for no reason and talked to yourself, but your [sic] down Mitch.” It didn’t help that I had been skipped a grade and was nearly two years younger than everyone else. One of them started a rumor that I had no pubic hair. I think I much preferred just being compared to a girl.
In that environment it wasn’t long before I cut my hair. And then within a couple weeks the strangest thing happened. I heard tell that one of the girls liked me. You know, like, liked me liked me. Nothing came of it, except I spent nearly every waking moment for the next two years silently observing her and parlaying my own identity development into little factoids and mental images of her. The fact that we both had a pair of mackerel tabby cats was taken to be evidence of our predestined cosmic reunion. (I guess I’m breaking form and abandoning my usual use of gender neutral pronouns for everyone, but a part of me just won’t let me call her nem.)
When I talk about this, I imagine it sounds normal for a thirteen-year-old boy, but I assure you it was really pathological. I mean, if you had asked me back then what she had for lunch three Tuesdays ago, sitting with whom, and at what seat, and at which table, I probably would have been able to tell you. All the while I was writing songs about how I would mutilate my body to have her. Here’s a gem from the vault: “Just to walk with you with my hand in your pocket / I’d tear my eye right out of it’s socket.” Eventually I wrote her a letter wherein I proclaimed that I would cut off my “finger” for her. I suppose it doesn’t take a Viennese psychoanalyst to read through that one.
It was actually seeing her again at our ten-year high school reunion that unlocked my repressed cross-gender longing. Unfortunately, the ensuing emotional turmoil led me to royally fuck up my marriage as I concluded that I didn’t love my wife like I loved my fantasy of this fourteen year old girl. It took me a while to realize I didn’t want her. I wanted to be her.
It’s become undeniable that I need to take some significant steps toward breaking down the psychological fortress I’ve established around my cross-gender identification somehow. I’m starting to cross-dress with a queer look most of the time now. And I’m working with an Internal Family Systems (IFS) therapist to unburden my exiled gender-variant inner child. These steps are helping, but as Rimonim insightfully commented on a previous post about role models, I need to give myself permission to transition medically in addition to socially before I can actually answer the question of whether or not that’s what I want to do.
Writing my last post about whether the hair loss drug Propecia is a transsexual phenomenon has helped me begin to deconstruct the monolithic question “do I want to undertake the medical treatment for transsexualism?” into smaller questions like “do the benefits of taking a systemic medication to prevent hair loss outweigh the risks?” Propecia (finasteride), one of the common drugs taken by MTF transsexuals, is essentially an anti-androgen, despite being taken by many “men” to prevent and reverse hair loss. Thinking that way has a paradoxical effect. While it makes transsexuality seem less extreme, and less frightening to contemplate, it also makes the usual treatment of it seem sort of silly and the need to make a decision about it less dire.
Using a regret minimization framework, I’ve been thinking it might make sense to take finasteride while I figure this trans shit out. If I end up transitioning, but not for a while because of fear and indecision, I’ll certainly be glad I had taken the finasteride and preserved my hair. If I don’t end up transitioning and I’d taken finasteride for a while, there’s only a small risk of permanent side effects. So there’s not a lot of chance for regret there. Likewise, if I don’t take the finasteride and don’t end up transitioning, there’s not much of a chance for regret. However, if I don’t take the finasteride and do end up transitioning after a long period of reconciliation, I sure might regret being bald.
Furthermore, taking finasteride would allow me to test the waters about how I feel about hormonal adjustment therapy. If I take finasteride and have a sense of confirmation that I am on the right track, then that might indicate that doing more would be good. If I take finasteride and have a sense that I don’t like the path I’m on, that might indicate that I should turn back.
Different aspects of transition fare differently when considered using a regret minimization framework. Am I likely to regret showing up at my child’s school wearing tasteful, appropriate “women’s” clothes? Slightly, but I’m more likely to regret not penetrating the veil of secrecy and shame I will live under if I don’t. (I’ve already done this, actually.)
Am I likely to regret taking spiro and estrogen? I am scared of losing sexual function, but I’m not super functional already anyway. I’m a bit afraid of sex, and often have erectile dysfunction or anorgasmia with basically everyone except fat girls anyway. Go figure. And now that I’ve quit porn I usually need anal penetration to cum when I’m masturbating. Maybe estrogen is exactly what I need for good sex after all.
Am I likely to regret telling everyone “I’m a woman” and dealing with the effects this will have on my child’s development? Certainly. But I’m also very likely to regret not doing it, so I don’t have a decision there yet.
In the meantime, my hair loss is accelerating and the finasteride is looking pretty attractive…
Nearly everyone agrees humans can be divided into two distinct sexes: full-haired and bald-haired. Sure, there’s a loony fringe which challenges this concept. They say that other sexual characteristics such as chromosomes, reproductive organs, and hormones don’t always correspond with people’s hairlines. They challenge the widely-held belief that the inter-haired (people who have ambiguous hairlines) are defective and grotesque, and argue for the acceptance of a wide array of sexual diversity. Some even say that the essential sexual categories can be better delineated according to the genitalia. Imagine the fate at the onset of phaliarche of a poor baldie who’d been raised for several decades as a fullie just because nothing was dangling between nir legs at birth! But I digress, these viewpoints are really too outlandish to address here.
The “uncanny valley” or bukimi no tani (不気味の谷) is a concept in the field of human aesthetics first articulated by Japanese robotics professor Masahiro Mori in 1970 that explains the relationship between a human’s subjective response to a rendering of something corporeal and the degree to which the rendering imitates the original. As a pioneer in robotics developing nir craft, Mori attempted to make nir creations look more and more human over time. Initially, people responded more and more favorably to this effort, but eventually Mori found that if a robot came too close to appearing human, people felt disturbed and repulsed by it instead.