Let´s Talk Gynecomastia

gyno

Gynecomastia, a disorder of the endocrine system which causes an increase in male breast tissue, is usually attributed to cisguys. It is caused by an irregular amount of estrogen in the body, either due to a hormonal imbalance or the use of anabolic steroids (which will make the body produce estrogen in order to counteract testosterone).

I´m grateful for cisguys who speak up about this issue, because just like transmen, they deal with self-esteem issues, self-harm and even suicidal thoughts because of this. Many said they very much wanted to “shave off” their chest, and were too ashamed to take off their shirt or go swimming, some even having been ridiculed by women.

I´m glad that cisguys talk about this because they understand the ways in which even a benign condition, medically speaking, can destroy your confidence and turn your world upside down. Since my coming out, my experience is that there are people who tend to talk it down, even saying that “if they had breasts, they would not mind…”.

Obviously there are people with breasts who do not mind, and that´s fine. However it kind of bothers me when people who have no serious dysphoria tell me that if they were me, it would not be a big deal. You just have to love yourself, is what they say. Or it doesn´t matter if people judge you, as long as you cherish your own body.

Although such advice is probably well intended, I have a very hard time believing that these people have such superhuman levels of confidence that body-shaming and dysphoria would not faze them at all. I still to this day have to meet the person who is confident with everything while having dysphoria, trans or otherwise.

It´s encouraging to know that there´s cis folks out there who go through similar problems, that being trans isn´t about having unique problems that will just go away by upping your confidence. I say kudos to anyone who can love themselves despite it, and to the others; hang in there, this situation isn´t permanent.

Pain and Strength

alone

Before I start, you need to know something. This is not a post where I romanticize pain by saying that any hardship you go through, will make you more resilient. I went through a lot of traumatic pain in my life and it has not transformed me into an ubermensch who can handle the most difficult of hurdles.

It transformed me into a mess. For a long time, I was not able to handle anything. Chronic pain, whether physical or psychological, has a negative influence on the function of your body and your brain, and decreases your ability to withstand strong impact in the long run, rather than make you invulnerable to pain later on.

Having gone through physical and mental abuse does not mean that I can handle transition any better than those who are healthy. Transitioning does not make me any stronger than people who are not transitioning – and believing so is a load of horse-shit. All it means is that I will need to process this whole experience later on.

Transitioning, for me, is a traumatic experience. From day to day, I can´t be sure of my continued survival, and I inflict physical harm upon myself because I don´t know how to otherwise deal with the extreme stress that it entails. And I am not talking about taking hormones or having surgery. Those are actually easing the stress.

I am talking about the red tape. About being forced to undergo psychological screening, even if doing so triggers old traumatic experiences, about being forced to deal with dysphoria because gender  reassignment surgery is viewed with less urgency that say, genital reconstruction for a cisgender person.

If I survive this, if somehow I make it through, this is not a statement about my personality. If anything, it is a testimony to how ridiculously difficult transition becomes when third parties, such as insurance companies, are allowed to interfere in the process and demand that someone´s gender identity be psychologically tested.

 

Beneficial Rage II

roaring

Any negative emotion conveys power regardless of the message we choose to draw from it. If we merely accept that we feel insufficient or lacking, and project this unto other people – or unto ourselves, then hatred is damaging. If on the other hand, we choose to harness the hate and take a look at our selves, it can be constructive.

I´m telling you this because hate is a predominant topic in my life. I´ve felt hate very often. Most of the time, the anger and resentment I was feeling stemmed from being made to feel inferior and obsolete. As I internalized these feelings, it was easy to believe that I was truly inferior, and consequently hate the world for it.

The emotion of hate stemmed from a gut feeling that the world was wrong for putting me in an inferior position. And so, by accident, I had discovered my own truth: that the feeling of inferiority was untrue. The hate I was feeling told me that I should drop the idea that I was inferior and embrace my own power.

Unfortunately we are human and we never learn our lessons at once. Instead we stumble on and repeat the same old tired pattern until we´ve fooled and bruised ourselves a thousand times. Hence, despite these things I´m typing, I still deal with the same old tired emotions of inferiority and rage.

The difference, after taking hundreds of hits, is that now it takes me three months to recognize the nature of these emotions – instead of six months. And when I do, I can stop fooling myself and stop believing that I can be conquered by dysphoria. I can choose to look myself in the mirror and embrace the force of these emotions.

It´s a journey without end, for us to recognize and wield our emotions as a force for good, instead of becoming entangled in them. And while negative emotions can drive us to despair and even unto the brink of suicide, it is the same force that can give us that push we need to stay alive, and trust ourselves.

Beneficial Rage

kingofthejungle

Quite a while ago, I posted two posts that dealt with hate. In those posts, I stated that hate, as an emotion, is not always negative. The feedback that I got was (understandably) that hate is necessarily bad and that it isn´t constructive. I disagree. By this I do not mean that hate crimes are great and hating other people is fantastic.

No. I don´t mean that. What I mean, is that hate, as well as other overwhelming negative emotions, often conveys messages and insights to us. Most of the resentment, intense anger and hate we feel results from either suppressing ourselves (for example, denying our own sexuality) or being actively suppressed by others.

Hate and rage carry overwhelming power. And I mean overwhelming. They can be so devastating, that when people project their feelings of insufficiency onto the world, it often results in violence. Other times, the feeling of not being sufficient is projected unto ourselves and we direct this violence towards ourselves.

Nevertheless, if we choose to look into the mirror with witch these emotions present us, there is quite a lot we can learn. They tell us that we are actively ignoring or suppressing a part of ourselves; and that we are not harnessing the power of these emotions to live up to our entire potential. Instead, we use them to hide from ourselves.

The fact that people are scared of these emotions makes sense. Because – when we feel these emotions, we often feel that we are lacking, or criticized, or inferior, anything horrible and negative that you can think of. We actively judge these feelings of hatred and resentment and turn them into something that they are not – damaging.

There is one thing that is present when we feel intense negative emotion. Raw power and unfulfilled potential. Rather than letting them destroy our sense of self, and using them to inflict violence, we can wonder what these emotions are trying to tell us, and how they are trying to help. When understood and embraced, they show us who we are.

Giving Good Advice

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In my previous post, I wrote about the honest efforts people make to help their transgender friends and family members along. Also, I described how the best of their intentions might sometimes miss the mark. Comparison with cisgender ailments, in particular, might make them feel misunderstood.

I´m not saying that you can´t say anything to a transgender person. Or that you should think twice about helping them, because they might not take it so well. However I think it is good to have a sense of things that make your transgender family member or friend feel better, and things that make them feel worse.

Most important of all, I think, is to acknowledge their struggle. The trans struggle is an incredible pain in the ass, from dealing with dysphoria (sometimes lifetimes) to coming out, to being screened by therapists, going through endless waiting lists, to covering the cost of surgery, to facing transphobia.

In most cases the struggle takes years. Although there is no average transition time, three to five years is relatively short. That´s a good deal of time and an incredible amount of energy that is being sacrificed to become who they are. There is no greater reward than that; but also there is no other reward than that.

For all these reasons, it´s frequently easier for trans people to discuss hardship among themselves. Explaining gender dysphoria, and its side-effects (possible anxiety, depression, possible self-harm or suicidal feelings) to cisgender friends and relatives can be somewhat scary. If they do, don´t dismiss their feelings.

Transition is a kind of limbo for many. The hope to get hormones, surgery, and finally resemble who they are (and were all along) makes the whole thing somewhat bearable. In the meantime, it helps to work on emotional and physical strength and resilience. These are no solution, but they do help get to the other side.

Good Intentions

intentions

I´m sure you noticed that I have difficulty dealing with life now and then. Things that may seem small to others have an enormous impact on my life, emotionally and psychologically. Fortunately I have many good friends, and a supportive family, not taking my parents into account.*

These good friends and family often try to give me advice that is given with the best of intentions, but does not necessarily make me feel better. This is unfortunate because I know they are making a deliberate effort to help me. The problem mainly resides that in their effort, cis friends and family recur to comparison and relativism.

Being transgender, and having gender dysphoria, cannot be compared to cisgender ailments. You can´t say,  I broke my foot once, and it was terrible, but eventually it healed and then all was fine. Because breaking your foot does not contradict your identity. It does not threaten your sense of who you are.

When I tell people that I´d like to go swimming but can´t because I am pre-op, some of my family and cisgender friends tell me that I should just get over it. Some people are skinny, some people are fat, and some people are men with boobs, they say. Except there is no similarity here. I am trans, not a cisguy with manboobs.

If I were a cisguy with manboobs, I would go to the beach. Manboobs may be a shitty thing to live with (I know all about it), but people don´t stare at you and think “oh my god, that´s really a woman dressed in men´s clothes.”  Again, it does not pose a threat to your identity, and does not provoke the same amount of anxiety.

While well-intended, these comparisons frequently make me feel as though I have no legitimate reason to feel anxious.  Man, being trans is no big deal, I should just chillax, and shelve my dysphoria for the time being. But I can´t just shelve my gender dysphoria. That´s the difference.

It isn´t as though it´s impossible to make me feel better or give me advice. I´ll write a post about that next time.

Body Limitation

handicap

Gender dysphoria, often, is seen as a thing of the mind. Your mind is not accordance with your body; your brain not wired to match the sex you were born with. In the perception of society, dysphoria is often interpreted as a “desire” – and thus, a type of longing that stems from your head.

Dysphoria has been in the DSM for a long time – as an identity disorder – and thus, it makes sense that society at large would view dysphoria in this type of light. I did too, for a while. That is, until I started hormones. For the past nine months, as testosterone aligned with my personality, I have started to discover myself.

Along with this discovery has come the realization that (in my perception), I do not have a mental condition – a scratch on my brain, as it were – but that my entire nature is intrinsically male. Being a man comes natural to me, more natural than any of my awkward life as a “woman” ever was.

I´ve come to view dysphoria as a limitation of the body rather than of the mind. My body proves a mismatch for the way I feel, think and behave; and makes certain aspects of life (such as intimacy) simply impossible. I know that this isn´t the case for all transgender individuals and I don´t mean to generalize.

For me, the limitation of my body feels like a physical handicap. Yes, I am able to walk around (after a quite successful recovery from CRPS), but the severe unease I experience due to my body makes it quite impossible to do a lot of other “normal” stuff. I miss taking a relaxing shower, going swimming, and being intimate.

For some, perhaps, the equation between dysphoria and a physical handicap doesn´t feel right. Doctors will certainly not go along with this idea. Nevertheless, the feeling I had when I was dealing with CRPS (not being able to walk), felt a whole lot like not being able to live normally due to dysphoria.