Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Laser Hair Removal

I had my first appointment of laser hair removal for my face and neck today :) It hurt, but will be so worth it. She said "your skin may be a little red the next couple days because your follicles don't like you right now" but it's fair because I don't like them either.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Who I'm attracted to

I've hesitated to even make a post about this. I've talked about an aspect of this briefly in Dysphoria Crush and elsewhere, but haven't really given the full explanation, because I'm not convinced that stereotypes like that are important. I mean I recognize that same sex attraction (aka gay or lesbian) is a very real thing for some people, as is being bisexual, straight, demisexual, pansexual, etc. I'm just really not sure which applies best to me, nor do I know if they'd necessarily be constructive to apply to me.

Part of this has to do with how my attractions work: For the most part, I could care less about appearance. For example with guys, I don't really know what someone means when they say "hot guy." I mean I guess I can recognize the traits we typically classify as "hot" (well groomed, muscular, 18-25 years old, probably without a shirt, very little body hair besides maybe a flavor-savor lol jk please no, etc.), but those physical traits don't really make that much of a difference to me. Like I remember when I first recognized that I had some attraction to guys, it was really relieving. I was like "I can actually say he's attractive. Like totes OMGoodness he's so hot" but not really referring to anyone. I just basically recognized that I had some level of attraction to males - part of that "some males I know fit that description of my 'perfect girl' better than any girl I've ever met" - which was a relieving thing. Like for example there were some guys that, when I met them in middle school or high school, I was just like "wow this guy is perfect, he's like what I've been looking for in a friend for so long" without realizing it was actually a "crush," if you want to call it that. It was never really a "physical attraction," just instead like this insanely strong emotional bond that decided it wanted to irrationally try and form. Though to be clear my close friends I consider family - and I'm not attracted to family - so these were more random guys that I would probably consider more acquaintances than anything else. Or like Johnny Depp, Jimmy Kimmell, or Steven Colbert, my "celebrity crushes" I guess you could say. Anyway sorry if all this makes any guys that knew me feel awkward just don't flatter yourself - I mean if it helps great whatever works for you - but just know for most people I didn't care that much either way. I was more focused on just figuring out my "other stuff," IE why in the world I identified as a girl. But still, just recognizing that I had these feelings of attractions to guys, and not shoving them in to a corner anymore, was a positive and relieving thing, I think.

This was also after I came to understand I was trans (identified as a girl internally), so I guess in that way maybe it made sense to me [girls are attracted to guys so I must be too would be my thought of maybe how the logic goes]. On the other hand, I remember when I realized I had some level of attraction to guys I was essentially like "f*** my life." (sorry about the language but I was in a lot of stress at the time) I was like, okay, I've got enough to worry about with Gender Dysphoria. Now I have another thing on my plate to worry about? K thx life.

This gets into my other point. I had no idea who it was okay to be attracted to. More specifically, since it's said that "it's not the feelings but how you act on them that matters", in the long run, who (from a religious standpoint) would it be okay for me to date, marry, possibly have kids/adopt with, etc.? I know that if I don't transition marriage to another female is probably okay (I've met guys with GD who are in temple marriages like this today), however I'm comfortable with the decision to transition and am doing so (see the last few posts for clarifications on why I think that's okay for me). But I had no idea how the doctrine works out for someone that's transitioned. Because, as I said in those posts staying in the church is a constant for me - I know it's true - so I want to do what's doctrinally right. And I know that the doctorine is pretty clear that same-sex marriage is breaking the law of chastity. But as I've mentioned before, I have no idea what that means in my case. My gender is female, but my sex is male. Thus, marrying a guy is probably same-sex marriage with respect to our sex. And marrying a girl is same-sex marriage with respect to our gender. The only person it makes sense is with another transitioned FtM person, but it's still difficult to know how the temple roles work in that case.

What I mean is that, in the LDS culture, there is sorta this goal of "temple marriage." The temple is where we baptize for the dead, perform family sealings for eternity, and make sacred promises to the lord and each other in marriage. It's called the "temple" in reference to the old temples in Jerusalem - we see it as The House of the Lord. One can only attend after being interviewed by their bishop and being found "worthy," which means that they follow the LDS standards: No coffee, drugs, tea or alcohol, no sexual intimacy outside of marriage, that they have a testimony of the savior, are baptized and given the gift of the holy ghost, etc. We don't make this restriction because the ceremonies and such we perform there are really "secret," instead they're just very sacred to us so we don't share them openly.

So the problem is that all the ceremonies performed in the temple are very gender specific. Especially the marriage one. In the case of trans people - even if we pass as our identified gender, in the LDS church's eyes we are still seen as our biological sex. Why this is I don't know, but through multiple letters from apostles to trans people we know that our leaders are aware of the situation, but it's just complicated. In the case of intersex people even more so, though I'm pretty sure it's all mostly just treated as a very individual thing with no "general" ruling, which I will trust church leaders have their good reasons for that right now. More pertinently though, this means that, even if they are transitioned and pass, a MtF person would have to fill a male role in the ceremonies, and a FtM person would have to fill a female role in the ceremonies. Besides being triggering, the physical effects of hormones and such could make that a pretty different thing for most people involved. Enough so that the stake president (local church leader sorta in charge at this stage) may just not be comfortable allowing the ceremony to take place at all, I don't know. There are just clearly many concerns that they'd have.

Also, I'm not sure I'm really that attracted to trans people. I guess it's the "perfect couple" in the sense that we would understand each other on the trans side of things in a way no non-trans person would, however of course beyond that we'd have to find similarities just like any other couple. And trans people are so rare that's really hard to do. Besides that, the whole "opposites attract" I think is really relevant here. It would be nice to relate to other trans people, but I feel like that makes more sense for friends (I have many trans friends I care about deeply) than it does for relationships. I feel like two trans people would be unbalanced, at least in my opinion. For those that it works well I'm happy for them and that's good, but in my case I think I would almost prefer a cis person because I'm ready to eventually transition and put this stuff behind me for the rest of my life, no offense to other trans people intended. Maybe they would feel the same way and it would work out, I don't know. But yea most of that would depend on if I ever meet a person that I feel like it could work anyway. Like alongside that right now I'm still just trying to find the kind of people I'm interested in/not interested in, because that feels like more important first.

*Edit - I've realized the above paragraph is actually really discriminatory towards trans-men. I apologize for that. The truth is there are basically as many different kinds of trans-men as men, because trans-men are men. So I suppose the point I've been getting at is more that, for me, I have some physical attraction towards men, but like not really much of a romantic attraction towards them, in terms of emotional connections and stuff, I think. This is true for men in general, including trans-men. So far, again things could change, I don't know, and I'm gonna try and avoid labeling myself for the reason of keeping an open mind because I don't know exactly what will happen in my future.

Anyway, so that's sorta my feelings on the MtF and FtM couple. It might work, but it still has quite a few complications (well I mean any couple does but specific to this situation), and personally I'm just not that attracted to FtM people. Specifically I'm much more attracted to more feminine males, and most FtM people I know are pretty masculine.

There's another side of all this though: I'm pretty sure I'm attracted to females.

Again, the pretty sure comes because I really don't fully understand my attractions. I would have to be in a relationship with someone to really know, and I've mostly dated girls that I wasn't attracted to as part of hiding all of these feelings. However, as I sorta alluded to in my Dysphoria Crush post, there are some girls that I feel this almost like crush-like attraction towards. Typically they are more masculine girls, and there is some level of "unhealthy," almost jealousy type attraction. Except now that I've started on transition and hormones, this jealousy aspect has hugely decreased. I no longer really have these overwhelming surges of "I want to be you." Instead it's just more like, "hey, I really like your makeup/style. I think it's cute" or "Where did you get that shirt I heart it so much" kind of thing. I'm also starting to learn that I have some kind of physical attraction to some girls that's more than just that jealousy thing. It's a much more "clean" feeling attraction that that gross jealousy stuff, just like, well I guess a "normal" attraction. If someone says "hey she's really attractive" I still don't have much of opinion because I don't know them at all first, but I am starting to learn that there are some physical and personality characteristics that I find attractive in girls. It's pretty rare that I find a girl that I am attracted to, and most girls attraction wise I could care less about, but there is certainly an attraction to some girls that exists there. For example my female celebrity crushes are probably Lauren Mayberry, Grimes (Claire Elise Boucher), Lorde, or Kat Dennings.

I don't really want to get too much more into what traits and such I personally find attractive because that feels like a pretty personal thing, and it really depends on the person. I also don't really want to discuss genitalia here because I feel that's equally as personal and sacred, however know that I'm factoring that into all my decisions here as well (because for example I know most guys are much less attracted to females that they learn have male genitalia). Back to the point of this post, so far the conclusion that I'm at is that I find some guys and girls attractive, and I think I could probably have a satisfying relationship with either, religious concerns aside.

But wait! You say. A while back you said "even the idea of say dating a girl repulses me - AKA I'm a straight female"!

Well, that's how I thought I felt at the time too. Because dating a girl is really triggering, if I feel they see me as male. The same is true for guys - I feel extremely uncomfortable in any kind of relationship with a male if I think they see me as a male. But the experiences I've had around some people while presenting mostly as female have been the opposite - it's why I think a relationship with a male or female could work for me. So that's why I'm (socially) transitioning first, I feel like I would just be very uncomfortable in a relationship otherwise. Some people are able to manage these relationships once they find someone they're attracted to, but I don't get that personally. It would be way too exhausting for me, which would be unhealthy for the both of us because I wouldn't really be that committed to it because I'd need too much time to heal from that exhaustion/anxiety/distress. Or the other way around: Because I'm still not that emotionally stable right now, I could get very dependent on someone fast. I understand that whole "clingy girlfriend" thing, that's described me at times. And that's also not a healthy relationship at all, for either of us. I need to learn to take care of and love myself before I can expect to love anyone else/be loved in a healthy way, I think. So I'm working on that, alongside with/while I transition, because transition helps with how I feel about myself on some levels.

Okay, so back to whether I want to date a biological guy, a biological girl, or a trans person.

Biological Guy: I'm pretty sure the LDS doctrine is clear that me pursuing marriage with a guy is same-sex (hence "sex" and not "gender" here) marriage, which is "breaking the law of chastity," IE wrong. The same is even more true with dating a MtF trans person, on the sex and gender levels. So I'm not interested in pursuing a relationship with a biological guy. To be clear that's a rule I feel I need to follow for myself, but is no reason for me to judge others - I know those in same-sex relationships that are very happy, and I'm happy for them. I don't have to fully agree with them to still be their friends, I feel like we all have more pieces of pie that are alike than not alike anyway.

Biological Girl: The doctrine is less clear here. If I choose not to transition, this is probably totally allowed. It would just be very difficult for me and for her to be going through gender dysphoria most likely for the rest of my life, so I would definitely come out to anyone that I was dating seriously before considering any long term commitments - helping make sure they understand how seriously GD will impact me for probably the rest of my life. I've explained this elsewhere though, and won't get into it in that much detail here because I plan on transitioning.

The other option here is transitioning, and then being in a relationship with a girl. At this point they would probably have to have same-sex attraction, as they would need to be attracted to me as a female to be interested in a relationship.

I've discussed this option in great detail with my Stake President and Bishop (local church leaders), asking what kind of reactions they feel would make sense/if it's okay or not from a doctrinal perspective. My Stake President's response was "you have agency, and it's not my position to tell you what to do." I laughed and agreed (he's awesome), however I explained I just more wanted to understand what kind of church repercussions I might expect if I was pursuing that kind of relationship. He said that he really can't promise how church leaders in the future will react, but that most Bishops would probably have some issue with two girls in his congregation being in a relationship with each other. It's "technically" not against the law of chastity, but externally looks wrong from what most understand the church standpoint to be. He concluded with saying that he can see why it's a little unclear though, that we have the power of personal revelation, and that he looks forward to a future email response from me when I have received an answer from the Lord. Again, he's awesome.

So I later went to discuss this with my Bishop. We talked about the three reasons why people typically are given church discipline:

1: They refuse to change. For example, someone could have a serious drinking problem, and refuse to try and stop. Drinking by itself can cause one to be subject to church discipline, but it's really the part about refusing to try and change that matters.

2: They are putting others in danger/harming others, for example abuse. I think he was saying this is also applicable if they are convincing others to do wrong. If someone thinks, say, smoking weed is really good for them, and starts convincing others to do so as well, there is a bigger problem than if it is just themselves struggling with a drug addiction.

3: It threatens the integrity of the church. This would be something like the ordain women leader - though it's okay for her to question some of what the leaders say, if she starts actively protesting and that causes others to question their faith/question whether or not they even want to consider joining the church, there is a problem. In a way this goes under 2, but I think it's different enough to warrant it's own category.

This is really where the case of me marrying another female is applicable. Even if it's not technically wrong, if others see that my Bishop/SP/The temple is endorsing a marriage between two females, it sends a message that's very contrary to established doctrine (same-sex marriage is breaking the law of chastity). This will most likely cause some people to question their testimonies and what they know is true. Thus it threatens the integrity of the church, which is why, sadly, it probably wouldn't be allowed. Basically it has all the concerns explained above with the MtF to FtM marriage in the temple for the trans person in the relationship, alongside looking externally like a same-sex relationship. If it would be possible to simply get married in such a way that we just sorta "quietly" went through the temple and not many people knew about it that might be okay, but that's not that possible in our modern day. So a civil marriage might be the best I could do, but it's good to know that that's still an option of some sorts nonetheless.

All of the above is also true for dating FtM people, as well as any other kind of trans person that is biologically female (say gender-queer, bigender, non-binary, neuter, etc.). Pursuing a relationship with another trans person would also look more "right" from the standpoint of people's reactions in church, so it might be preferable, but I think I'd personally be more comfortable with a biological female. I'm pretty open to whatever happens though. Mostly I just want to find someone that I'm attracted to, can relax and have fun with, can have meaningful conversations with, has similar standards, and we think the relationship could work well and be a positive thing for both of us. If I do find someone I think meets that description, it's still very possible it just won't pan out in the long run, and I'll repeat for a while, but the hope is eventually I'll find someone with whom we can make life work as best we can. As with any of these options there would still be many things to discuss and work through first (me being trans and whether or not we want to have kids/adopt being some of the biggest ones), but I feel like that's true with any relationship.

So that's nice to have that understanding and goal set out, it's nice to know what my options are. Of course I don't expect to actually find anyone for quite some time, and there's quite a bit of relationship preparation work I can do in the meantime (like learning to better love myself, learning how to form healthy and balanced friendships, learning how to assert my opinions in a non-argumentative way, learning to meaningfully get through arguments, building Christlike attributes, etc.) alongside transition, but at least I know who it's okay to look for now. It's a little counter intuitive that the best relationship doctrinally for me besides with someone who is FtM is a lesbian one, but hey, it is what it is.

Church

I went to church today, still presenting as male. Though it was a good experience (I was a substitute and helped my Mom take care of the primary kids including being assigned to read a story to and draw a picture with this autistic kid since he'll often misbehave in class), it was very triggering again. Once I got home my parents and family having been awesome in using correct pronouns and "Dani" for a while now, and that helped prevent things building to panic attack level, but I was still feeling really worn out, and just not really wanting to talk to anyone while presenting like this (as male).

The same thing happened when I hung out with 2 MtF trans friends yesterday and at the north star conference a few weeks ago - I still was presenting as male, so I had little desire to even be there. I still try and make the best with what situation I'm given in life right now, but it's just so exhausting. Not to mention that pretty much eliminates any desire to actually be outgoing and spend time with others. I still do because it's necessary to stay healthy, and I care about my family and friends, but it's just always been hard while presenting as male. It's interesting though - there is a very tangible difference between when people use my male name and male pronouns and Dani and female pronouns. I mean now that my family is using female pronouns and Dani the panic attacks have basically stopped. Maybe I've explained this before but I can't just stress how much that helps, for reasons I don't fully understand. There is still quite a bit of distress related to presenting as male, but it's much more manageable. Yet things like Church where they refer to me as male and my male name are a real challenge for me because of that triggering aspect, as is clothes and such being pretty gender specific there. That's why I've been working for a while towards getting to a place where I can present as female at church (at a new singles ward) and elsewhere, because then it's more reasonable/easy for most people to use the right pronouns and name, but it just takes time.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Why you shouldn't transition

Okay so I admit the name of this post is a little biased. My point was simply that I don't want anyone to think that because I'm transitioning it's the right thing for them as well. My hope is this isn't the case for anyone - since most likely most people reading this blog (if any) aren't transgender, but still, my reason for saying that is twofold.

1: I haven't transitioned yet. Thus, I can't really say "It's worked for me." It's helped so far, but it's a process, and there are other options (like therapy, only hormones, meds, etc.) that could probably help about as much. So it's not fair to say I recommend transition for anyone else, since I haven't even been through it fully myself.

2: Being transgender is a very individual thing. This is a really important point to stress. As I discussed in the Why I'm Transitioning and Spirit Gender posts, for some people social transition is not the best option for them right now. This could be because they're married (so they have other commitments transition would affect), because their body is in such a way they don't have a very good chance of "passing" as their identified gender, or simply because they feel another path is better for them. All of these are perfectly okay, and none is better than another. It's simply about finding what combinations of treatment options works best for you right now. This can change with time/as life changes as well, which is also perfectly okay.

To reiterate, my reason for sharing the last few posts was to explain why I feel transition is best for me, as a form of record for myself and to help others understand that decision. If sharing this has caused anyone to change their minds and choose transition for themselves, I want you to reconsider that decision, and think about what factors existed before my story that are more important. I'd really like to think I'm not a powerful enough writer/this blog is obscure enough/I can kinda ramble at times/etc. that it's not having such an influence, but I just wanted to be clear.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Why I'm Transitioning - Part 3

The last post was getting kid of long, so I split it into two.

So at that wish-washy stage, I shared my testimony about and then talked with my Bishop about falling back to what you know, to first doubt my doubts before doubting my faith.

Really, there were only two constants I could come up with.

I know the LDS church is true. I can't deny that. As a result, I didn't want to do anything that was clearly against policy. This includes SRS, because I would also like to go to the temple as endowments and such are an important part of my salvation (even if marriage has to wait for the next life). I want to stay active and in good standing with in the church, and continue to strengthen my relationship with Christ.

I identify as female. It really doesn't seem to be changing. As a result, I knew I needed to treat the distress this caused me in some way. I knew that HRT works for many people, and the church has no official stance on HRT. That it's basically just seen as a medical treatment (like blood pressure medication or something), and is okay, while of course working closely with church leaders. I also knew of people that were very active in the church and married, and able to more successfully fill their male roles in both through HRT alleviating some of the distress.

So I was pretty sure that HRT makes sense for me. The challenge is that it also makes me infertile, but I eventually reached the point where I was comfortable with just adoption, if I ever would have kids in this life (not until marriage of course). That right now mental health is more important for me to be safe, and hormones help with that.

I also came to understand that, for every person I've met that struggles with GD that I've talked to that got married, it didn't go away after marriage. That it came back at times just as strong as ever. Many of them learned ways to mostly deal with it most of the time, but it was still an extremely difficult trial for them and their wives. Some of them had to present as their identified gender some of the time. Some of them went on HRT. More recently I've learned that for many it was still so difficult that it was hard to even get out of bed at times/focus in work and otherwise, because of how overwhelmed with emotion they felt. One couple I talked with he wasn't really able to advance that well in his career either because of the distress GD caused. He found ways to be self employed and do his best, but GD was such a daily part of his life it was hard. I also met a few people that GD broke up their marriage, often after they had kids.

Thus the other constant became that, before I get married, I will make sure to tell that person that I still struggle with GD very much. Because many I've heard from say they made the mistake of thinking they had GD under control, to learn that they didn't and it was actually just receding for a time. That "pushing it away" never helped in the long run, and they had to find other ways to address it.

As an aside, my heart really goes out to these people. I don't think many people understand the sacrifice these husbands and wives go through. The husbands give up living authentically as themselves for all the distress I described in the previous post, because transition would make their wives understandably too uncomfortable. The wives also compromise amazingly, holding princess parties for their husbands, sperm banking to preserve kids so the husbands can go on HRT, talking often about a very difficult topic and trying to understand their spouse and his struggles, letting him present as female part time, etc. All because they love each other.

Still, I'm very iffy on intentionally putting myself and a spouse in such a position for the rest of my life. Many of them were acting on the limited information they had, assuming they had their GD under control and it was something that could be cured. In retrospect they learned that was an incorrect assumption, and so are doing the best they can with where they're at now. But knowing all of that I'm not sure if I could make a similar marriage commitment.

All of this means there are a few decisions that are clear to me.

First, I know I want to go on HRT. I have no medical reasons that I know of for being unable to take it, and so far it combined with a level of transition has helped those panicky things be less often and me have more energy and motivation to go through life. If anything it also helps me be more comfortable in my own skin. I also will do laser hair removal (on my face and neck), because I hate shaving. That's another thing like HRT that is just to manage my GD, and not right out transition. I am comfortable with adoption as well if I do choose to have kids later in life if I get married as well, but that's something I would have to discuss in great detail with my spouse. I also will sperm bank later if I can afford it and if it's still viable because I'm not infertile yet.

Second, regardless of marriage and transition, I want to live my life the best I can, with friends and family and other things like work I care about and can devote my life to. I'm very service oriented, so my goal in my career is to serve and help others (in whatever way my career in CS lends to), which is also true with my family and friends. This is all kinda a given, but I still feel is important to state since it really affects what other decisions I choose to make.

With these decisions made, I could either:

1: Not transition, and remain presenting as male, just looking a little more feminine than most guys being on HRT. The truth is I went through male puberty, so this is sadly probably always possible if I want. I then would go through life, hopefully doing the best I can in accomplishing my goal of living a good life serving others. I would also stay active in the church, and may or may not marry in this life. I don't know, it really depends and I'd take things as they come.

2: Transition socially. This includes HRT and laser hair removal, but also growing out my hair, practicing with makeup, slowly easing into more feminine clothes, and asking others to use female pronouns and "Dani". I feel I could remain in good standing with the church while doing so, but it's still a very difficult thing to do because it's such a huge change. And I have no idea what possibilities for marriage exist on this route. I don't know, it really depends and I'd take things as they come.

So with those stated, I feel it makes sense to choose number two. This probably isn't too much of a surprise given the title of these posts, but my reason is partially because I feel like it makes sense to at least try. I'm pretty much out to everyone so any social "damage" is already done, so it doesn't seem like I have much else to lose in trying social transition, not having any family commitments or anything. Worse case scenario it doesn't work for me, I detransition, and I find other ways to cope with life.

More importantly is my goal I stated above of living my life in a way that serves and helps others. That's what really pushed me over the edge, so to speak: I came to realize that, due to the mental health concerns and exhaustion presenting as a male creates, I'm actually better able to serve others while trying to present as female. Transition is obviously not an immediate fix, and either way requires me to work through shame and the mental health issues that I currently struggle with. But I feel like, with time, it has the best chance to help me be functional enough to best serve others. There's quite a bit more I'd like to say on this topic, but this seems sufficient for now.

Why I'm Transitioning - Part 2

The last two posts explained why I feel someone with GD that is LDS hypothetically could transition and be comfortable with that choice from a doctrinal standpoint, but I didn't explain why I feel it's the best option for me.

There are a few things related to GD that have given me reason to consider transition. Many of these are intertwined with mental health, which regardless of what I choose to do about GD I will need to work through as best I can as well.

1: The panic times. TRIGGER WARNING. There have been moments where the emotions of hating being male have overwhelmed me, and I've took a razor and made slices all down my arm because I hated myself/body, multiple times I tried to remove my own testicles and bled out pretty severely, tried plucking all my pretty thick facial hair, simply had a panic attack and violently shook, etc. Not only are these extremely unpleasant, they are also coupled with a desire to do something. Basically, so much anxiety builds up typically related to GD that I just sit there and violently shake for a bit. Then the self hate is still raging, and I get really irrational, and decide that I need to harm myself in some way to let that out. I know, it's really irrational, and I'm working on it (I haven't cut myself in a while, and got through a panic attack last night relatively well), but it still sucks.

The thing is, that by itself is something that happens to people that don't have GD. It's often labeled as an anxiety disorder, and can be triggered from social interaction, family, social, school, or job stressors, because of traumatic experiences, etc. Either way, they have good treatments for this, which include ways of managing your stress (say through focusing on doing something important to me like school), and meds. I'm on an anti-anxiety med that is take as needed, and it really does help. For a while I didn't have panic attacks. This was while I presented in my wig and more feminine clothes daily, and people referred to me as Dani and with female pronouns. Now that school is over till fall and my wig/hat doesn't really look good in the summer (I'm working on that), these things that helped me be at peace with myself are gone. My family typically uses male pronouns and my male name because they're "not comfortable with female pronouns," which they've known me for a while as male so I can't blame them too much. However, the panic attacks have came back, coupled with these increased desires to self-harm. Explaining this to them my family agreed just last week to start using female pronouns and Dani, and it made a tangible difference, plus I'm just not extremely worn out after spending any time with them now.

2: Expression deprivation. This really gets to the heart of the issue: I have two types of dysphoria - social dysphoria and body dysphoria. My body dysphoria is represented in those violent irrational moments, but the truth is, the majority of dysphoria for me comes from social dysphoria. I've even had moments where I look at my reflection and am relatively okay with it, if only others perceived me as female. The best way I can describe this is that I very strongly identify as female. In those times where I have felt okay expressing this (at school while presenting as female and around close friends mostly), I act pretty feminine. My mannerisms, way of talking, etc. show accurately how I feel inside. For example, as I mentioned earlier when a friend was interviewing me about these trans things for a documentary he wanted to make, at the end he said "if I had any doubts that you were female they are gone now. You even think like one".

Yet, when I feel like I'm in a place where it's not okay to act in a more feminine way, I start getting pretty clammed up internally. I have a more maleish self I can present as needed, but it's extremely exhausting to do so. It's like being an actor on a stage 24/7. Being authentic to yourself in this way is important for me, I feel for that reason. This being drained of energy manifests in those anxiety attacks, depression, lack of desire to be around anyone, etc. For example, before I started transition, you could probably describe me best as an introvert. I enjoyed the time I spent around others, but it drained me so much I had to spend a significant amount of time by myself just rebuilding that energy - typically doing homework, listening to music, programming, self study, writing, etc. However as I started to transition, I was amazed at how much extra energy I had. Being around people wasn't nearly as draining, because I didn't feel like I needed to put on a mask. As a result, there were often times when I wasn't around others and I felt a little sad and looked for friends to spend more time with because I wanted to. This had never happened before, and was ontop a life where I was spending far more time (like 5 or 6 hours a day) around others. I understood what's meant by being an extrovert - being around others actually energized me. I still needed my alone time (typically on the train) of course, but it was far less needed.

3: My future goals. My goal for life was to go on a mission, come back, graduate college, get married in the temple to a female, and raise a family in the gospel that I loved and cared about deeply. I feel like these were reasonable goals too. For the first one, I took notes daily in seminary, I attended mission prep for 2 or 3 years, read my scriptures daily and prayed daily, worked on developing christlike attributes, etc. I know the church is true, and as a result wanted to share it with others. I feel that was also expected of me, which since I wanted to go on a mission that wasn't a negative cultural pressure at all. Yet, when I was interviewing for sending in my mission papers, I really felt like I needed to be honest with my Bishop with these feelings I'd been having. So I broke down into tears and explained him as best I could what I'd been feeling, which after a few meetings of just getting comfortable sharing these things I said "the truth is, I just want to be a girl." I've shared this in more detail elsewhere, but long story short, he felt it made sense to try some therapy first. I agree - I doubt I was at a stage where I could have functioned that well on a mission, because poor mental health that existed alongside/partially because of gender dysphoria. I had still finished my papers though, and was ready to send them in, but they thought it made sense to wait a bit. I even interviewed with my SP (part of the process), and he felt that I was ready, but it made sense to, as I understood it at that stage, "learn to accept myself as male." Especially while I was on my mission presenting as such. I hadn't told my parents at this point, so I was driving with my Dad in the car to turn them in when, before we did, I burst down in tears and explained that I needed to wait, and explained this the best I could. Me and him and my Mom had many discussions after this, and the consensus (they even told me before all of this) was that, regardless of what path I choose, they would love me. That even if I decided to transition they would still let me live in their home (because it's cheaper). They were very clear that they wouldn't agree with my decision, but would love me regardless.

So, sadly, a mission was no longer really an option for me at this point. I would still love to, but after a year and a half of working through these things I'm still struggling to the point I feel it's iffy as to whether or not I could serve like that - especially since I would be presenting as male 24/7 (that's kinda required of a missionary). This was really difficult for me to accept. The line "every worthy, able young man should prepare to serve a mission" [emphasis added] helped, but I still felt quite a bit of shame over this. I think really the conclusion to all of this was when I met with my Stake President a bit ago, and his words were "You shouldn't feel any guilt over not being able to serve a mission. Some people aren't able to at 19, and you have other things (GD) you are working through right now. Both me and Bishop understand it wasn't an option for you at this time, and that's simply the reality of the situation. It's perfectly okay."

The reason I brought all of that up is that that was my biggest goal I was working towards at that point in my life. With it sorta gone, I struggled for a while learning what I wanted out of life, since my plans were so drastically changed (having GD and all). At this point I recognized that I probably have some attraction to males as well, but the reason I primarily have GD and not SSA is because, even if I could hypothetically marry my dream male in the temple and have kids, I still wouldn't be comfortable in that relationship at all unless I felt like he perceived me as female. Also, I'm pretty sure I have some level of attraction to females - but that's a lot less important to me than working through all this gender stuff first, I think - because I wouldn't be comfortable in a relationship with a female that perceived me as male for the same reason.

At this point, I had learned to accept that GD was simply a "normal" thing some people struggle with, and that I shouldn't feel any shame over it because it's not something I could really cause. I was working very heard on learning to accept myself as a (possibly more feminine but that's okay) male that struggled with GD, a male that still wanted to accomplish important things in his life (like a career in theoretical computer science, marriage, a family, etc.). I really did try hard to do that, for about 7 or 8 months. But it reached a point where I was like "okay, I accept this. I accept me. But there's still this legitimate issue that I need to address, because so far things aren't working." Eventually I got so depressed around this I tried different meds, ended up in a Psych Ward because I was a danger to myself, and really struggled in school because I didn't really see a point to living more as male, or really living more period.

At this same time, I learned of HRT. I explain this in more detail elsewhere, but basically it's where I would take a low dosage of male hormone blockers and female hormones in an attempt to help me function better as male - because my brain is finally getting the hormones it expects. It's what many people that are married and so they can't transition do, and I thought it made sense for me. It's a really complicated process to start on those though, so I eventually started on anti-androgens, but didn't start on female hormones because I thought you needed a recommendation from a therapist after working with them for 3 months. We found one therapist that was specialized in GD and may have been willing to give that kind of recommendation, but she was very expensive and not covered by insurance - I tried filing the claim and arguing with the insurance people etc. but to no avail. My parents also understandably weren't comfortable with her, and they were helping pay for therapy which I really appreciated so long story short she wasn't really an option. We tried many other people, but most of them were more oriented towards the repetitive side/helping accept myself as a male "with all the characteristics and personality traits I have," IE possibly a more feminine male, but it never really helped. I mean, this is why I put "tomboy" in my blog description - the truth is I'm into programming and D&D and such and really not that feminine. But for some reason I still can't really explain, that sometimes help a little, but it's still just very draining presenting as male. For example, in an amazing conversation with my Bishop he helped me understand that the world has imperfect labels (say of male and female), but that we are all made equal through Christ's atonement. That Christ is the perfect example of every characteristic, including empathy, kindness, sensitivity, etc. Yet still, when I focus on trying to convey myself as the person that has the personality and such I identify as because that's okay and labels are imperfect anyway and work towards becoming more like Christ, just yea that aspect of being male becomes really exhausting for some reason. I could try to give many more examples, but that's really what I learned. That somehow when I present as male (in whatever way I choose to do so) it's really exhausting, yet when I present as female in a way that I'm comfortable with it's much less so/at times even a pretty positive thing. Yet presenting as male is something I've never been comfortable with.

At this point, I was going back and forth a ton on what I wanted to do. I would get into these phases where I wanted to learn to accept myself as male, but then get so suicidal I would avoid that for a time, and think about transition. On the flipside I came out to friends as transgender, and learned that proper pronouns and using the name Dani really helped. Shame is deeply tied into this as well, but that deserves a separate post. I also delved very heavily into the doctrine of this wanting to understand what was right and wrong with respect to treating GD, and, as explained in the last two posts, found pretty much nothing, besides SRS banning going to the temple. I have a strong desire to have female genitalia, and hate my genitals, but I feel like social dysphoria is more severe that a social transition may be enough. Maybe. I was really going back and forth for a while on what I wanted to do, and learning a lot, but not really getting anywhere. Then I had this conversation with my sister, explaining to her where I was at, and her thoughts were "I feel like you need to make a decision, and stick with it. Because going back and forth is harmful, and with most things in life eventually we just need to act on what limited information we have. Once you make that choice you can always go back and doubt anything you do, but that's not really that constructive." Eventually it just comes down to making the best choice based on limited information, and moving forward just doing what you can do. I good non-transitioned friend with GD helped me understand this as well.