Transgender Shame

shame

In accepting a nomination for the Liebster Award, I answered ten random questions from a fellow blogger (read the questions and my answers here). Several of those questions made me contemplate my own emotions in relation to my transition, and how transitioning has affected my perception of myself.

When asked what I thought about forgiveness, I said that forgiveness is a good strategy to have when we expect too much of ourselves. I also said that this applies to transgender people in the sense of forgiving themselves for being transgender. This is an interesting discussion to have, because being trans is not a bad thing.

And yet, I often feel (and I don´t think I am alone in this) that being trans is somehow deplorable. When this is discussed in different forums around the web, people tend to frame this as “internalized trans phobia”. I think this is a bit rough. If transgender people were inherently trans-phobic, they would not transition. Ever.

And yet I know a lot of people who transition and feel shame. Which kind of makes sense. I mean, our society revolves around discussions about which bathrooms we are “allowed” to use, which is inherently humiliating and dehumanizing. We are growing up in an environment that regards us with suspicion and mistrust.

As a child who grew up in this type of environment, I think I can safely argue that if your value in society is constantly questioned, you are bound to start thinking that you indeed must be rather despicable. While not trans-phobic (in my honest opinion), we do internalize the fears and negative bias that society holds towards us.

This brings up an important question: how do we get over feelings of shame? How do we let go of judgement, and stop beating ourselves – figuratively, and in some cases, even literally. The first step towards a changed perception is probably the realization that they are wrong. Period. In devaluing ourselves, we contribute to their erred perception.

More on this in a later post.

Chaos in Transland II

sleep

As previous micro-dosages had obviously been too high, the next time I used, I took half of what I´d previously used. This time, there were no hallucinogenic effects. I did not notice much of anything at all, to be honest. I felt “meh” at best, and the breakdown, again, was quite intense. Not as much anxiety as before, but still quite exhausting.

Microdosing is usually done over a longer period of time, but after these three times, continuing seems like a bad idea. It is possible that the substance has some good influence on my mental and emotional configuration, like being able to notice my own tendency to over-analyze everything, and perhaps trying to quit that and just exist.

Another difference is one I noticed only after these tree micro-dosages; in the middle of the most horrible panic attack, where again I was having suicidal thoughts, I felt the roaring anger within rear its furious head and scream at the suicidal thoughts: “Go f*ck yourself, I want to live!” with an intensity I never experienced before.

I find myself, still, in the middle of a tug of war between the desire to rest (permanently) and the desire to live. The main difference is that I do not want to live while trapped in my body, while I do want to break free, and with the help of surgery I will be able to do so. However surgery still seems far away, five months is a long, long time, for me.

As long as every day is longer than the last one, and every day I´m thinking “this could be my last day”, those five months seem like an eternity. I know it isn´t, and I know that when I make it (not if) I will be eternally glad that I did not end my life when I had so much life and potential ahead of me. Dear God, just help me get myself to that point.

Chaos in Transland I

high.JPG

In the first part of my post, I told you about my hard times with dysphoria, and my rather desperate attempt to find anything that could help mellow me out besides my regular medication. In any experimentation with drugs, I´m always very careful not to mix the wrong substances, and very conscious of the dosage and use.

Microdosing is not very well known in mainstream society. What it means is that you take a minute amount of drugs, a fraction of what you would need to trip, and then repeat this for a certain duration, with a certain amount of days in between. The first two times I dosed, the amount was too high, resulting in a mild trip.

The first trip was very pleasant. It did what I wanted it to do: disconnect me from my top dysphoria and put me in a perspective where I could analyze my feelings from a calm, rational point of view. In this tranquil state of mind, I not only accepted myself but also felt happier with life in general. It did not give me a “crash” or hangover.

When three days had passed, I took a smaller amount and went for a walk in the forest. Mistake, it turned out. It was still strong enough to “enhance” everything around me: I could feel the life in the plants and trees around me, and details, like water trickling down from the tree bark, were amazing. I spent a couple of hours there.

While I´d felt good in the forest, microdosing also kicked my thinking in overdrive. And by thinking, I mean this vaguely conscious and incessant over-analysis of everything I see, everything I feel, and everything I think. In a brain that is always looking for meaning, even when there needn´t be any, this is not necessarily good.

I did not have any dysphoria during the trip, but when I came down, I sure did. The protective barrier that usually filters input between stimuli and the brain, was gone. Completely gone. This ensured that I felt dysphoria more strongly, but also everything around. Any street noise, any small noise at all in the house. So I went to sleep.

Chaos in Transland

Capture2

Well, the last couple of weeks have been… interesting. After my accident with the scissors in July, I felt pretty much messed up beyond all recognition and very much in need of something strong to forget all about this mess. My experience with marijuana for anxiety relief had been good but at the same time, it made me complacent.

I found myself being more and more dependent on smoking it, needing each time a stronger amount in order to feel the same buzz. When I mentioned it  to my therapist, she said something about marijuana decreasing the strength of your mind, temporarily enabling you to feel less, but also sort of softening your brainpower, so to speak.

I did not like that. I quit for a while, but the anger at myself for having chesticles became so overwhelming, so bewildering and scary that I needed to do something dramatic to overcome it. I found myself being able to handle the situation by doing mindfulness practice some days but not others. Those days, it´d become destructive.

Perhaps others, in similar situation, would turn to drinking. I don´t know. I know that whenever I try to drink any type of strong alcohol, I have a gag reflex immediately – which is something recent and something I can´t quite explain. Yet, there still was something else I could try – microdosing.

I´d read that ingesting minute amounts of psychedelics (like magic mushrooms) over a longer period of time can help some people with depression. In the past, the experience I have had is that psychedelics show me my flaws, most often giving me a message to be more kind towards myself. So I thought, why not try and see what happens.

Running & Scissors

scissors

It´s been a while since I last wrote. I feel like quite a lot of things have happened. For one, I cut myself with a pair of scissors during last bout of PMDD. It went more than halfway through – brace yourself – the palm of my hand. I was already dizzy with anxiety, the sudden gash in my skin made me dissociate some more.

While outside the festivities of the four day marches buzzed, I held onto my bike with one hand, crying, and pedaled to the GP´s offices. I had a tetanus shot and was prescribed an antibiotics treatment. It was one of those days that I was really grateful for modern medicine. What would´ve happened if I had gotten an infection?

Five days have passed and the wound has mostly closed. The palm of my hand feels rigid and still painful, it has been a bit difficult to clean up around me, make food. My mind is still a mess. Way too much anxiety, mostly top dysphoria, some hormonal. My day-night cycle is completely messed up. Yesterday night, I went running.

I did not think I could run so fast. I ran faster than I´ve ever done. I held on to the anger that had injured my hand and released it, with vengeance, on the asphalt. After one block I was out of breath, nauseous and ready to puke. Yet on I went again. I ran for about an hour. In the morning, I collapsed on my bed and fell asleep.

When I woke up, I felt sick. My stomach feels messed up. I decided to do nothing for yet another day – try to cope and nothing more. No injuring myself, no judging myself, just rest until me and my hand feel somewhat normal again. Every day that passes is one less until top surgery and one less of this strange mess.

The Dysphoria Trap III

dysphoriatrap

It´s been really warm today. I´ve spent most of it inside, waiting until the temperature drops, so I can escape my room and get some groceries. Since I don´t have a lot more to do and there are no more episodes of Last Week Tonight, I figured I might as well write the third part to the dysphoria trilogy.

In my first post, I explained how it´s possible to deal with dysphoria by distancing yourself from any mental associations your brain may create. Sort of observing yourself without judgement. This method requires that you either have or create a lot of mental fortitude, for example though meditation or working on your general awareness.

Testosterone lessened the dysphoria for me, before coming back with a vengeance and making it unbearable. With my body looking gradually more masculine, the zen-master approach no longer worked for me. The chesticles and genitals were a sore reminder of the fact that I was not born the way that I wanted to.

When the surgeon first declined my referral for top surgery, I flipped out and hurt myself quite a lot, wearing the KT tape way too long and also intentionally damaging those areas. Neither mindfulness nor being active, nor taking calming medication was helping anymore, so I resorted to the last option I had; going to the coffeeshop.

The coffeeshop here is a place where you can get not just coffee, but an array of weed and hashish. To any outsider it may seem strange that you can just wander around the block and buy some drugs, although in my opinion it is no different (even more benign) than buying alcohol or getting a prescription for antidepressant drugs.

I am not advocating that everybody with dysphoria just go to the dealer and buy soft drugs. After all everybody is different, and marijuana may or may not help you with anxiety. For some people, it makes anxiety worse. I personally am glad that I tried this last resort. It was the only thing that helped ease the extreme stress I was in.

Mission: Impossible II

jump

Usually, I don´t post pictures of myself on here, but I will make an exception. You cannot tell that it is me anyway; I´ve changed so much since the above moment, that people would not recognize me. Anyway, yeah. The above was my first skydive jump. I went static line, which means my chute immediately deployed as I fell.

In my quest to find out who the (offensive swearing) I was, I tried a lot of things. Skydiving was one of those things; I wanted to overcome, explore my horizons, and figure out what lay beyond. I explored the new-age hippie movement (basically woodstock 2.0), took flying lessons, and you know the rest.

I eventually found out what was missing from my life. As you know it was my own, unexpressed – and to some extent repressed – gender identity. When I finally found out, I mistakenly thought that I had reached the ultimate goal. More accurately, I did not understand that my goal was not an end-destination, barely a new beginning.

While testosterone re-aligned me with my true self, now more than ever I wanted to be free, to liberate myself from the 27 years in which I lived as a mere shadow of my potential. Despite the personal growth and the physical and mental changes that testosterone handed to me, my body gradually became harder to tolerate.

It´s this fight that I´m dancing with now, the challenge of living in a body belonging to the past, to some extent even feeling trapped in the past. I want nothing more than to break the chains and jump. It´s been much more difficult than I ever could have imagined. Impossible to tolerate, even. And yet I am doing it.

I have a hardheaded, non-negotiable, and hard-line drive to survive. While paradoxically this is the same drive that often makes me hurt myself, and sometimes drives me to the very edge, it might just be the factor that ultimately enables me to endure. Rather than hope, it is the cynical nay-sayer in me, that helps me get through this.