Why I Chose to Transition

First of all, I never thought I would have the guts to go through with a full transition over to living 100% as male.  It all seemed like a nice dream but not something I had the courage to undertake.  I was more likely to sky dive and that ain’t ever going to happen.  So what, exactly, was it that tipped the scale and made me decide to go for it?  I’m not sure it was one thing.  How much better and more alive I felt on T certainly played a big part.  A goal of living more authentically and truthfully also played a huge role.  But, honestly, I think it was a lot of little things that added up very gradually that eventually led me to living as male.

I’ve been counseling a friend who is questioning how to proceed in his transition and I’ve been telling him he needs to make a plan and get honest about what he wants to accomplish.  Yeah, that’s bullshit.  I mean, it’s a great idea, but most of the time even the best plans don’t work out and our reasons for doing things shift mid stream.  I kind of had a plan.  At the beginning, all I knew was I wanted to try a low dose of T and see if it made me feel better.  And boy did it.  I was at one of the lowest points of my life when I started taking it and practically overnight my outlook changed 180 degrees into the positive.  This, to me, was evidence that I was on the right track and should keep going.  Other than T, my wish list included getting a hysterectomy, changing my name, and having top surgery, in that order.  It was important to me to get the hysterectomy done while I still had a female name and gender presentation.  But I never honestly thought anyone would ever see me as male or treat me as such.  It just seemed like a big fantasy.  A foolish pipe dream.

Well let me tell you, I upped my low dose of T to a full dose about six months before I had top surgery and by the time my surgery was over I was firmly entrenched on the male side of the spectrum as far as how people perceived my gender.  It happened really suddenly and completely took me by surprise.  It was disconcerting, but inside I was elated.  Could this really be happening to me?  Are these people just humoring me and playing along with me?  Just a few months prior I had worn a binder and my most masculine outfit to go out to dinner and the waiter referred to us as ladies and called me ma’am.  I left feeling demoralized and defeated.  Obviously, I was failing at this whole transition thing.  I felt like giving up.  Instead, I scheduled my top surgery for the next possible date.  While I was away have my surgery I let my facial hair grow out some.  That seemed to do the trick along with not having boobs anymore.  Flat chest and facial hair = Male.  Now I rarely get called ma’am and they usually correct themselves after they look at me better.  Quite the opposite of what used to happen.

I can’t say that I actually had a plan or made any conscious decision to transition with the goal of living as male.  I stumbled blindly through this whole process and really had no idea where I’d end up or even where I wanted to end up.  I was actually hoping that I could be happy staying in the female zone with a more neutral exterior.  Nope.  When I was in that middle zone I was so uncomfortable I could barely stand to go out in public.  Every day was a challenge just to leave the house.  I couldn’t stand not knowing how people would perceive me and I had no answers for them either.  I dreaded the question, “Are you a man or a woman?”  I had no idea.  I was as confused as they were.  So, even though I applaud folks who relish the confusion of gender neutral and non-binary identities, I need to pick a side for my own sanity.  I need to fit into a clear category that I’m comfortable with.  While neither female nor male fits perfectly, male is the closest.  I’m very comfortable in the male role whereas the female role felt completely wrong to me in every way.

Another thing that made a big impact on my decision to go for it was that I was on the precipice of losing everything I cared about.  My life was about to implode and I really felt like I didn’t have anything to lose by going for it.  I figured that if I didn’t start to transition I was dead anyway and if I did start then at least I had a chance of surviving.  I can clearly see now, looking back with 20/20 vision, that my old self was dying.  Literally, dying.  I wasn’t physically ill, but I had no desire to go on the way I was.  My spirit was dying and I didn’t really care about much at all.  I had ruined my relationship and my business and, while it looked from the outside like I had a great life, everything was about to crumble.  So, when you’re practically dead anyway, what do you have to lose?  I was worried about losing my relationship but once I came to the realization that it was over anyway I knew I had nothing left to lose by going for it.  Starting T was the best thing I ever did for myself, my relationship and my life in general.  I don’t mean to make it sound like a magic bullet because it isn’t, but I’m pretty sure that a lot of my problems stemmed from my hormones being out of whack from menopause.  I should note here that my thyroid was also low and I started taking meds for that at the same time.  Together, the two hormones made a huge difference and I felt better than I had felt since before I started puberty.

All in all, I think this whole process has occurred over the past six years.  I’ve gone incredibly slow intentionally.  I needed the time to adjust to the changes and figure out what to do next.  I’ve had a lot of self doubt along the way and have questioned myself non stop.  Now that I’m on the other side of things though I can confidently tell you that this was the best thing that I ever did for myself.  I’m dramatically happier, less moody, less depressed, less anxious, a better person, more engaged in life and more optimistic than I’ve ever been.  My relationship has been through hell and we’ve come out the other side together somehow stronger than ever and are planning our wedding.  My business somehow survived despite my best efforts to destroy it and, while I wouldn’t say I’m rolling in dough, I actually showed a profit for the first time in a long time and things are pretty stable again.  I’m easier to get along with and I think people like me more now because I’m happier with myself.  I’m a lot less angry than I used to be.*  The only thing I’m really dissatisfied with is my gut.  The T has made all of my fat redistribute to my belly and I have a huge gut now.  I hate it!!  But, I’m working on it so it will get better.  It’s a hell of a lot easier to deal with one issue than a multitude of issues at one time.  Now that most everything else is taken care of I can focus a lot of my energy on my weight and physical health.  I’m looking forward to building up some nice muscular biceps and trimming down my waistline so I look good on my wedding day.

 

* One of the bad raps that Testosterone gets is that it can make people more aggressive and have anger issues.  This is definitely true.  I have noticed that I am quicker to anger and it boils up really fast inside me like a wild fire.  Before T, I was just dealing with a low grade constant feeling of being angry and pissed off on a daily basis.  After T, I’m pretty laid back but when I do get angry it happens fast and sudden.  Learning to control that impulse is a challenge that requires a lot of deep breaths and taking time to let it dissipate before I open my mouth to speak.  Just like a teenage boy has to learn to control his impulses, so do Trans Men when they start off on T, no matter their biological age.

 

PBB…Pubescent Boy Brain

A couple of nights ago Candace made spaghetti for dinner.  After a few bites I asked her if she used a new sauce.  She hadn’t started eating yet because she is notoriously slow at prepping her food before she can start eating.  I call it “finessing” her food.  Didn’t want you to think I’m rude or anything but after 18 years of watching her take 15 minutes to get her food just right I don’t feel bad about starting before she does anymore.  Anyway, she said, “Yes.  Why?  Is it bad?”  I said, “No.  It’s just different.  Thicker and sweeter.”  Pretty mundane dinner conversation I know.  Hang with me.  Then I said it reminded me of Ragu and we talked about Ragu for a while.  I mentioned that when I was poor and single I always bought Prego brand.  Then I said Ragu pretty much sucks but the name is pretty fun to say.  And then I said Ragu a bunch of times.  A few minutes went by and I said, “Actually Prego is a fun word to say too.”  She looked at me and said there’s your male brain again and we laughed for a moment.  She told me that she was going to start calling me MB for Male Brain.  I told her it was more like a boy brain.  A pubescent boy brain.  I said she should call me PBB.  She thought that was too complicated.

Now, I know that little interchange might be cute if you’re sitting at our dinner table and not so cute if you’re reading about it three days later but it got me thinking.  My Life Coach, this guy, told me the other day that it’s like I’m going through puberty again and that I remind him of a teenage boy.  He’s a cis guy and really doesn’t know much at all about being transgender but he’s all about being your true you and we have a good relationship so he can joke around with me without worrying about offending me.  I told Candace he said that to me and she felt pretty good about herself for agreeing with Jeff who she knows I look up to.

Then there’s my taste in music.  I like a lot of different kinds of music and always have.  I can listen to anything and usually find something I enjoy…maybe with the exception of rap.  Sorry, I’m just too old to be able to appreciate it as music.  Growing up I liked Billy Joel, Supertramp, Jethro Tull, Men at Work, Earth Wind and Fire and a host of other groups.  Mostly I was a big Billy Joel fan.  I liked his dark, moody side.  Once he got all happy and married Christie Brinkley I fell off the Billy Joel wagon.  I just couldn’t listen to Uptown Girl without gagging.  I hated heavy metal music as a teenager or as we called it back then, Hard Rock.  But now, all of a sudden, I’m really digging some hard rock music.  I’ve newly discovered a liking for ACDC and Rush and find myself listening a lot to the 70s channel or the classic rock channel.   I find it interesting that I’m attracted to the music of my teenage years again, especially some of the stuff I would never have listened to back then as a girl.  I seem to really like loud, powerful, masculine music these days.  I still like pop stuff too like Megan Trainer, Katy Perry, Lady Gaga and Taylor Swift.  What’s not to like?  They’re fun and cute songs.  I’m actually a huge Gaga fan and I’m not ashamed to admit it.  I can listen to jazz or classical too if I’m in the mood.  I keep the 40’s channel on pre-set in my truck as well so sometimes I roll with some big band music.  But, at heart, I’m a rock guy.  And speaking of Heart, they’re awesome too.

Anyway, my brain is doing some strange stuff these days.  I’m not so bad that I giggle if I burp or fart but I wouldn’t be surprised if that started any day now.  I won’t bore you with the sexual stuff that pops into my crazy head.  You wouldn’t want to know about it.  Let’s just say that sometimes I freak myself out a little bit, especially coming from a feminist background.  T is a powerful hormone.  The body changes are profound but the brain changes are equally, and maybe more, surprising.  Learning to control and harness this brain of mine is a daily challenge but also a pretty wild ride to be enjoyed.

 

Born This Way

“Don’t be a drag, just be a queen
Whether you’re broke or evergreen
You’re black, white, beige, chola descent
You’re Lebanese, you’re orient
Whether life’s disabilities
Left you outcast, bullied, or teased
Rejoice and love yourself today
’cause baby you were born this way

No matter gay, straight, or bi,
Lesbian, transgendered life,
I’m on the right track baby,
I was born to survive.
No matter black, white or beige
Chola or orient made,
I’m on the right track baby,
I was born to be brave.” – Lady Gaga

I was born transgender.  I was born a transgender baby.  A boy with female sex organs.  Unfortunately in 1962 and still today not much is known about being transgender.  What we do know is that it is not something that you can catch or become at a later time.  It’s something one is born with.  The prevailing theory today is that it has to do with hormonal fluctuations while we’re developing in the womb that result in a mismatch between brain sex and physical sex.  I’m not a scientist or a doctor so I don’t understand it completely but I understand enough to know that this is not something I can change and it isn’t my fault.  It’s not a moral issue or a question of right and wrong.  It’s similar to being born with any other abnormality like deafness, blindness, or Down syndrome.  Most birth defects are easily detectable and, once detected can be corrected if possible or at least learned to live with.  It affects the child for the rest of their lives if a cure doesn’t come around.  Outsiders and family don’t judge the parents or the child for being born this way.  They accept it and deal with it.  But for a transgender child it isn’t so obvious and most often they are shamed and ridiculed for speaking up about how they feel wrong in their body.  In 1962 it was not even a notion in anyone’s head that there could actually be a scientific reason for why I was so miserable being raised as a girl.  I was simply labeled a “Tomboy” or told I was being a bad kid for fighting about wearing dresses and playing with dolls.  I grew up rebellious, angry and confused.

But suppose for a minute that I was born in 2015 with the knowledge we have today of what it is to be transgender and I started acting the way I did in the early ’60s around my gender.  Today it is possible that someone might consider my behavior a symptom of a bigger problem than just being rebellious or a Tomboy.  It’s possible that I could have realized myself at a much younger age that I was transgender instead of mis-diagnosing myself for 30+ years as a lesbian.

It’s confusing, I know.  Sex and gender are closely related.  Sexuality and gender presentation are related.  Who we’re attracted to sexually is related to gender expression in many ways.  It’s a rare person who is gender blind or gender fluid.  For so many years I thought I understood myself but I didn’t.  The knowledge just wasn’t in my head yet to figure it all out.  But now the knowledge and understanding is there, not just in my mind but in the world’s mind if they’ll only listen.

The truth is that transgenderism is a medical condition.  It’s not something to be ashamed of or shunned because of.  Religion has no right to judge it.  No one has a right to judge it any more than they would judge a deaf child or a child with Down syndrome.  The child didn’t choose to be born that way but there is a responsibility for society to help that child live and develop into the best person they can be.  It’s no different for trans kids.  Society has a responsibility to give them every possible option to live a full and happy life as their true authentic selves.  This is not a question of morality or religious values.

The usual treatment plan for transgenderism includes allowing the child (or adult) to live as the gender that is right for them, hormone therapy, and correction of any physical attributes that cause them dysphoria or get in the way of them living as their true gender.  If science suddenly came up for a cure for Down’s Syndrome don’t you think that most people would jump at the chance to get the medicine?  It’s possible I’m speaking about something I shouldn’t here and if I am then I apologize but I chose Down’s as an example because the symptoms of it are both external and internal.  In my hypothetical example the medicine would cure the internal aspect of the syndrome and surgeries may or may not be elected, determined by the patient, to change the physical symptoms.  Being trans is similar in that there are both internal and external problems to solve.  Hormones help with the internal part and surgeries align the physical body to the mind’s eye as much as possible.  This is the only known cure at this time.  Some people decide to live with it instead of going through the arduous task of changing their lives and bodies.  That’s their choice to make and it doesn’t make them any less transgender.  Even with the hormones and surgeries that I may opt to have I will always be transgender.  There isn’t really a ‘cure’ that will make it go away but there certainly are viable options to make living with it a whole lot easier and nearly a non topic in one’s life unless i choose to address it regularly.

We need more education about what it is to be transgender and debunk the myths of this being a choice or a mental illness or a bizarre sexual fetish.  Society is still in the dark to a huge degree and still misunderstand what it really is.  Being transgender is not a reason to be shamed or ridiculed or shunned.  It is not a reason to be beaten or raped or murdered and it is not a reason to end your life.  There is so much to be hopeful about but also so much more work to be done.  Every one of us who lives our lives and educates friends, family, co-workers and medical professionals is doing a part in paving the way for a brighter future for the young trans children of tomorrow.

I Miss Matt Kailey

We lost a great trans brother and educator last year when Matt Kailey suddenly passed away in his sleep of heart failure.  I looked forward to his weekly “Ask Matt” emails in my inbox and even wrote in one time myself to get his opinion on a question I had.  I could always rely on Matt for an honest, sometimes witty and completely fair opinion on matters of importance to my heart.  I’m sure I’m not alone in saying that Matt’s voice is sorely missed.  His book Just Add Hormones was one of the first transgender books I read and the only one I re-read a few years later.  I began blogging because of Matt.  I came to WordPress because this is the site Matt used.  I figured if it was good enough for him it was good enough for me.  I wasn’t wrong in that assessment.

If you don’t know who Matt Kailey was you can learn more about him here.  His obituary can be found here.  And if you’d like to check out his vast amount of blog entries that discuss everything you can imagine about being trans*  here is his website.  I highly recommend checking it out.

I worry about what will happen to his website now that he’s no longer here to monitor it.  I’m pretty sure it’s one of those premium accounts you have to pay money to have and I wonder if anyone has the ability to get into the account and update it.  My fear is that one day it will be taken down because no one paid the subscription fee.  I’m hoping I’m wrong about this.  Either way, I’ve decided that every Thursday I will post a selection from his site on my blog to share with my followers.

So, without further delay, here is my first Matt Kailey excerpt: It’s Time to Lose ‘I Didn’t Choose’ (to be Transgender)