Sunday, June 15, 2014

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.

No comments:

Post a Comment