Power Relations II

powerstruggle

I actually already published the Part II of this post, but after reading it again, I feel it needs some revision (complete rephrasing). The problem with this topic is that it is very easy to fall into the tyrant-victim trap, where one person is exploited by the other and how unjust and unfair this is.

Obviously there are many relations in which this is actually true (think relation between abusive parent and child). In everyday life though, power relations tend to be much more nuanced and barely noticeable, which is exactly why it can be so hard to discern them (and address them).

The dynamic I addressed in my last post basically rested on an assumption on part of the provider. In these cases, the provider assumes: I know what´s in their best interest, because I studied this topic, and because I am established in my field, having offered this service countless times.

Of course when the client goes along with this, there is no problem, and there is no struggle of any type. Yet sometimes, a client will also have a degree of expertise – namely people who have recurring experiences with particular providers and are informed about the nature of their own problems.

These are clients who will try to give advice to their provider, and will want to engage in an equal relationship, where both sides share power and adjust to each other. In my experience, these providers are not only true professionals in their field, they are also relatively rare.

Here´s where I think that most providers, having settled in a routine, are happy to remain in that routine, and not so happy about any “laymen” who challenge their position as the sole authority. Here is where I also think the power struggle actually starts.

More on that in Part III.

 

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Just Some Dude II

lebowski

In my last post, I described how there´s an incongruence between how I view my (past) self, and how others view my (past) self. I feel like I have always been male – albeit in a deceitful package. Therefore, I don´t really think of myself as transgender, or as FtM. I see myself as transsexual.

The distinction I´m making lies in the fact that although I was never actually female, I did have physical features that fooled me (and everybody else) into thinking otherwise. When I came out, the first thing I realized was that if I wanted to be seen as myself, these features had to go.

I view surgery and hormones as a medical treatment to become who I am, not as a transition (or a departure) from opposite gender. In order for that to be true, I would have had to have been (oh dear God) female in the complete sense of the word: physically, but also mentally and emotionally.

In keeping true to my own sense of self, I am happy to go through life as (you guessed it) Just Some Dude. I don´t want any special status, I am uninterested in being a phenomenon – I am in it for the sheer, boredom-inducing normalcy of it. Because this is the first time I have ever felt normal.

I guess that´s new and/or unusual information to some of my cis-gender friends. Their efforts to understand my point of view are awesome and I know well-meant.  But my point of view is really much the same as that of any guy. And, like any guy, I like to feel like I am just that.

Having to see myself as “female to male” (i.e, transgender) is painful because it forces me to acknowledge a time when I felt genuinely, often unbearably unhappy. The term also implies a change and departure in gender that in my experience never actually happened.

So yeah. Rather than feeling fragmented into two separate (old and new) selves, what I´d like is to just exist as Rowan, and forget about being anything other than that. That´s a mindset that will make me happier, more confident, and more optimistic about the future.

 

Just Some Dude

thedude

I´d hoped to go to bed more or less early this time. Ah well. It “ain´t gonna happen”, so I might as well tell you why I´m awake. I was interfacing with my smartphone, my new source of empty entertainment – specially at times when I should be relaxing and enjoying peace of mind.

A friend of mine and fellow night-owl texted me. “We should get together some time soon“, he said. Good plan. We set a date, then drifted off into some unrelated conversation. “A colleague of mine at work came out as trans”, he said. He was surprised about how honest she (the colleague) had been.

“Okay”, I said, “good for them!”. Other than that I really didn´t know what to say. I mean, I don´t know her, so that´s pretty much end of story, for me. Can´t say that I can relate to her because well, other than some pre-manufactured hormones we might have nothing in common.

Can´t say that I feel a particular fellowship with them because they´re trans“, I said. Which my friend understood. He said, he was drawing comparisons as a way to understand the feeling, really. I told him it´s like being a dude except you have a prosthetic dick, which sometimes feels a bit emasculating.

There´s more to it, but when it comes to gender, I really want to be as black and white as possible. Why? Because I´m done being a chick, and now I´m a guy. It´s as simple as that. Being “female” was really some sick prank God pulled on me – slap some breasts and ovaries on me, and pretend I´m a woman.

Any pretenses were wiped away with the discovery of my true identity. This is who I am, and this is who I always have been. The past – insofar as it is defined by gender – completely ceases to exist, and when I think of myself in the past now, I see a young guy. Herein lies a complication.

Namely, others have a different recollection of me. Insofar as gender is concerned, they do think of me as “female” to “male”… whereas in my mind, I´m male without testosterone to male with testosterone. Therefore, not really transgender… nor FtM. The only thing that makes me “trans” are my surgeries.

Read on… in part II.

 

 

 

Power Relations I

maze

My throughly defeating encounter with the dentist on Friday exemplified, once again, how impossible it can seem to pry yourself loose from people who have power over you. Or from people who think they have power over you. The dentist is just one example; I´ve dealt with a lot of people like this.

The frustrating thing about this, is that aside from you,* there are not that many people who are actually aware of the permanent and constant power-struggle between small players, by which I mean you and your health-care professional, you and your employer,you and your telecom provider.

Evidently, the degree of power-play between you and any authority depends on a bunch of different aspects. But generally speaking, you rely on them as providers. We put our faith in these people and assume that they have our best interest at heart. And maybe they do.

The dentist who drilled my teeth – and consequently, my self-esteem – may have had my best interest at heart. However, it seems more plausible (to me) that she thought she did, and therefore anything she asked from me was completely justified. Even if meant ignoring my warning.*

Here´s a question I have been asking myself. How do you get someone to see where they go wrong, if they think their approach is the best one they can offer? In her mind, it makes perfect sense to be mad at me, because after all I rejected her approach and put my own best interest first.

As if I know what´s good for me. Strange as though it may seem, this conflict of interest exists with innumerable people who provide services. We don´t hear much about it, because a lot of people are happy just receiving the service the person provides. And that´s fine.

Problems arise when clients demand an individual approach; when they want to be seen as persons who have distinct personalities, problems and backgrounds; and who wish to give some guidance to the provider, instead of being guided. More on that in a later post.

 

“You´re So Brave”

awyeahthumbsup

Way back, in the before-time, I was often mistaken for a guy. Whenever cashiers called me “sir”, I would respond in the snarl that is customary for women when called men. So when I finally started testosterone, I had no problems passing. I am just some ordinary dude. Until you get to know me.

It´s a position of privilege I´m very aware of. It means I am easily accepted in cisgender society and therefore I have very little reason to be weary of them, other than my PTSD (which regularly makes me hate most people). Sometimes however, cisgender people make no sense at all.

One concept that comes into play here is bravery. It seems that this quality has very different connotations for those who are in some sort of transition and those who are not.* For me, and most other transgender individuals, bravery means keeping cool in a world where you are somewhat of a phenomenon.

A phenomenon that is often discussed in ways that are less than flattering. Are we real? Do we even exist? Are we mentally ill? Does going to our toilet of preference make us sexual predators? We are guests in this world, frequently on stage, with a bizarre limelight above our head.

When we aren´t the subject of discussion, we´re busy figuring out how to to deal with our social and/or physical dysphoria. How to go swimming without getting a deluge of unwanted nonverbal attention. How to have sex. From my perspective, these are challenges that require bravery.

Personally, getting surgery has just been a way to alleviate these. Getting surgery means I can go swimming, I can have sex (in the future), and I can live free of that everlasting anxiety. If it had not been for PTSD, surgery would have been one of the easier parts of my transition.

It is easy to see surgery as The Big Scary Thing transgenders deal with. But in most cases, I daresay we are braver for facing the world non-op, than we are in deciding to get surgery and live a more-or-less uneventful life, more at peace within our own bodies and out of the transgender limelight.

 

 

* By “those who are not”, I exclusively mean cisgender individuals. 

Labels & CPTSD

gotptsd

I recently got into a bit of an argument with Sam Dylan Finch. In his post “Am I Traumatized Enough For A Complex PTSD Diagnosis?” he described the hesitance people often have in claiming this diagnosis, and failing to address the importance of their condition.

I thought it was an interesting question. I played devil´s advocate and wrote that a diagnosis as serious might inhibit someones ability to understand the temporary nature of their pain, and move past the event. If your hamster just died, a cPTSD diagnosis would not help.

The best thing to do, I said, would be to talk to a therapist. The therapist and you can determine whether you are suffering from cPTSD or just in understandable pain because your hamster died. Sam disagreed, and said therapy is a privilege not everyone can afford.

I think he meant that often, people will only take themselves seriously after receiving a formal diagnosis. Which is in part true. Back when I had undiagnosed cPTSD, I was afraid people would think I was just pretending to be messed up in order to get some attention.

It took me a while to figure out that I was suffering  from this condition, and it would not be until six years later that I received the “official” diagnosis from a psychiatrist. But here´s the thing. I had been through sixteen years of violence. I feared for my life more than once.

PTSD is a devastating, awful condition to have. It can put you in a very vulnerable position – the position of a victim. Validating your own symptoms is a good thing – but thinking that you have a condition that will ruin the rest of your life, is potentially debilitating.

I think everybody who has ever searched their own symptoms on Google – only to find out that they had terminal cancer and have a major panic attack – can agree with me here. Take yourself seriously, examine what you are feeling, and if you suspect you have PTSD – seek help.

 

Transition & God II

rubikscube

This post is the second part of Transition & God I, where I discuss transitioning (and being transgender) within the context of faith. I described how identity is a big aspect of our relationship with God, and how to some people, transgender confusion about identity could indicate a lack of such relationship.

We all raised in a context that shapes our identity, whether we like it or not. We adapt to values, expectations, learn behaviors and unlearn others. Through this process, we often learn who we are. I talked about that with a friend recently. For transgenders, I daresay that this process is the opposite.

Our experiences with the identity that we are given, teach us who we are not. For example, whenever I tried to adapt to the idea of being a daughter, granddaughter, or niece, I would feel excruciatingly uncomfortable. I never felt genuine, and in fact, I felt like I was lying to the world, fooling everyone.

Twenty-five years passed before I realized that all that time, I had been feeling like I was just playing a role. I put on my female identity like a mask, and pretended that it was me. Putting on a mask and feeling like you have to hide yourself isn´t exclusionary to transgender identity.

Every one of us experiences a point in life where they are acutely aware that something is wrong. Sometimes we feel this through a midlife crisis, or through a depression. However, it always results in change and always brings us closer to our true selves. For transgender people, this feeling is constant.

Imagine living your entire life in crisis because you know who you are, but your assigned identity does not seem to match. And that is the moral of this story. Sure, there is confusion about identity that was assigned at birth, and societal expectations thereafter. Self-discovery dissolves this confusion.

Read the last part of  this post in part III.