Sunday, February 8, 2015

Update

I haven't written in here for a while, but I wrote up my current story elsewhere so I figured I would share it here as well.

My name is Danielle Ensign (I go by Dani or Danielle), and I'm biologically male, and identify as androgynous female, which is under the genderqueer spectrum. This is super long, so I get if you don't read it, but it will make my day if you do ^ - ^.

So growing up Gender Dysphoria was never too big of a deal for me. I did kinda struggle with fitting in but was otherwise okay, except about 5th or 6th grade I started getting way depressed. I was like looking back at some poetry I wrote and it was like "my soul is filled with impending doom." Or like in I think 5th grade I didn't shower for a week, then eventually came into my parents and cried explaining that I wasn't showering and they were just like "it's fine just go shower now" and I was like "okay" because I didn't really understand the reason that I didn't want to shower (looking back it's because I hated what was down there). And then I almost flunked out of 6th grade.

So 7th grade came, and I started to get even more depressed, and didn't understand why. So I found that, just seeing myself as female going through normal life felt right to me. Yet I was like "this is obviously not right" so I tried to convince myself I was male, doing things like saying to myself in my head "I'm male I'm male I'm male" and stuff. But this didn't work, and instead made me more suicidal, and I tried to drown myself in the bathtub in 7th grade.

Luckily I wasn't successful, but sadly this also meant noone ever found out that I was struggling with anything. So I kinda got over it with the hope that I could get over these feelings combined with goals for my future life and worrying about how it would hurt those I loved, and basically chugged along like that all throughout junior high and high school. I was still struggling with it daily, sometimes having to just go sit down in the bathroom just so I could pray desperately asking for the strength to manage this better cause I couldn't really do that myself.

That didn't work, and I kept getting really frustrated towards the end of school years, and especially towards the end of junior high and high school, because I was like "how am I not over this yet." I also dated girls throughout high school, and even dated this one girl rather often, but to me it was just spending good times with friends. And I did have some really fun dates, but mostly dating was really triggering for me because I knew they saw me as a guy. Basically my heart wasn't really in it, and I was dating for the wrong reasons. I didn't understand why this was at the time, other than I knew that I didn't understand myself well enough to really feel comfortable in any serious relationship.

So finally college came and I was like "okay this is a new environment so hopefully I can put this all behind me now" and living up there I had awesome roomates and really enjoyed my ward, and believed that I really could get over GD for about a week or two. But then it started to really come back hard, and I really wanted to fight it so I did. But finally a few months later I was getting ready to put in my mission papers and such we're told to be honest about everything so I met with my bishop and broke down in tears again just explaining that I basically "wanted to be a girl," as I understood it. I also tried to explain it to my Bishop when I was in 8th grade but I guess I just wasn't to the point of understanding it well enough myself that I could adequately express it, or something. I dunno.

So my Singles Ward Bishop at the University of Utah referred me to a lds family services therapist who referred me to an awesome therapist, that helped me learn that being transgender aka having gender dysphoria wasn't something to be ashamed of, wasn't something I caused, and a perfectly "normal" trial for some people. So I should just learn to accept it, while still focusing on achieving the goals I want to achieve in life.

This was awesome for a while, and I was probably the most outgoing I had ever been, and got a 4.0 that semester, because I was finally beginning to be okay with myself. I also like slept through half my classes though and was really struggling internally as I went through trying to understand all this, but overall I felt like things were improving.

I also came out to my parents at this time, which was terrifying, but my Bishop gave me a blessing beforehand, and it went okay. I was figuring all this out because I wanted to have it addressed as best I could before I went on my mission (because I felt so depressed over it) so eventually we just decided that a mission wasn't for me, which was really hard for me and my parents because I came out to them and explained that I wasn't able to go on a mission at the same time. Frustrating too because I'd been going to mission prep for like 2 years and been preparing since a little kid and really wanted to go. But such is life. This was all in the fall/spring semester of 2012/2013. At this point a year or so later my parents are relatively supportitive but generally we just don't talk about GD, because they disagree with my decision to transition so we get in arguments when we try and talk about this, which is meh. But they are using female pronouns and calling me Dani so I can't complain too much.

But eventually I reached the point where I was like "okay, I understand myself good enough, and I'm not really struggling with shame anymore, but I'm still really struggling with just gender dysphoria, so what do I do about that?" And at this point I discovered the North Star Transgender/Intersex mailing list, which was way way helpful for me just to understand better how this fits into the gospel.

After working that summer in Cali, I came back to school, except I was living at home now because it's cheaper. At this time we started trying meds, but they all seemed to just give me the manic side of bipolar like symptoms (Type II) which was worse so I kinda gave up with those about august. Over that summer I had also decided that I was probably comfortable with the decision to transition, because I didn't see any reason to think that it was wrong in the context of the gospel, and met many people that had decided to not transition. For all of them GD had never gone away, and they were still really struggling, but doing things about it was really complicated because they now had a family and such. So I didn't want to be in that position, so I figured transition seemed like a good alternative because it was possible to have pretty good results at my age. I also met a person (on this group) that had transitioned, then detransitioned because of religious reasons. They were also still (somewhat) active in the gospel and they were mostly very helpful for me to just understand what to expect out of transition, to get a real perspective from someone that's been there.

I also at this time I also came to terms with the fact that I was attracted to guys, and after figuring out that the "perfect girl" that I was always looking for was actually a set of traits that described a lot of guys I knew better than it did any girls I knew. So that was really hard at first and added to my depression, because I was pretty sure I couldn't date guys since I was LDS. I also thought that this meant I was "straight" though in the context of being a female, so that seemed kinda nice because it seemed like transition could work better I guess maybe. I really didn't know at that point, and I tried to figure out exactly how this all works out and eventually later figured out that basically we have no idea but it's probably okay to date girls or trans-men, even after transition. But that's getting ahead of myself, I didn't learn that till 2014. At this point I was just like "okay I'm attracted to guys but I can't date them and that's just how it goes, either way I still wanna figure my trans stuff out first"

So once I was comfortable with my decision to transition, I wanted to really practice the mannerisms and voice needed for transition and grow out my hair and get the right clothes and start on male hormone blockers and female hormones. With that last piece, at this time my therapist of about a year decided that I needed to be "referred to someone else" but we couldn't find anyone else and so this basically just meant that I was left without a therapist. We hunted hard trying to find one that specialized in GD, but the first was kinda repairitive oriented and ended up being moderately helpful but sorta not helpful, since his focus was on "accepting that I'm a male that has all the personality characteristics and traits that I have." We then found Colette Malan, who is a registered sexologist and would have been fantastic, but she was really expensive and my parents felt she was too liberal, and so since they were helping pay for therapy they kinda had say in that regard.

The final one ended up being very repairitive and thinking that this arose out of "fanties as a child as a means of escape from being bullied as a kid," which after pouring out my heart to him and trusting him like my other therapists, this turned into a really traumatic experience for me. So at this point eventually my sessions ended with him once he was like "look this isn't helpful for you" which was cool of him I guess but so yea then I was like "I'm done with therapy."

So the problem was I knew hormones were a pretty important part of transition (and addressing GD in general), and that if anything they would stop my body from going in a direction I didn't want. But I thought that I needed 6 months of therapy and a referral to get hormones, so that's why I was searching so hard for a therapist. I did talk to my family doctor though and he was willing to prescribe sprio (a testosterone blocker) which put me a little more at ease. Kinda. Around the time things were going poorly with my final therapist I started getting really suicidal and depressed, and ended up in the psych ward towards the end of 2013. I got out and they tried a med that hypothetically seemed to be working, and I was hoping I could find hormones by just contacting the doctors directly since therapy was failing. The first endo I called and set up an apointment a few months in advance, and was very excited and counting down the days but then a week or so before the appointment they called and asked what it was for and we said hormones for gender dysphoria and they said that they didn't do that and canceled the appointment.

So this put me into a really dark time. Also my med that seemed to be working that I started on in the psych ward actually caused a different kind of panicky moments type thing, where I would be filled with this massive desire to harm myself, and start having panic attacks where I would start like violently shaking for a few minutes. And so for a time because I hated my body so much I did start cutting myself and harmed my genitalia a little as well. Also, I had this one time where I had missed a med, and got in an even worse panicky irrational state than is normal where I was I don't even know and so randomly decided to shave my head. After trying to grow my hair out and conditioning it like daily for like a half a year or so that was really depressing. Basically I was just doing really bad in general.

But finally in Feburary we found an endo that was willing to work with prescribing estradiol and so I started on 0.5mg, and then upped the dosage to 1.0mg in 3 months after I gave him my documentation from when I was in the hospital, since I explained everything to the staff while I was there. Starting on this pretty much stopped those really panicky states from happening, and I stopped harming myself (physically) in about march.

Then I found a wig that I wore with a beanie (because it looked real besides the part at the top) to school, and it helped but basically people just thought I was a guy with long hair. I also came out to all my friends around this time, and was blessed with really supportive friends so that helped. I asked that they use female pronouns at least when it was just us, and it was hard but they started to get it down and that started really helping make my dysphoria more manageable. I also came out to my little brother and sister that I've been close to all my life (they were in junior high at the time), and they were super supportive, and like "that makes so much sense". Which was a huge relief, and our relationship hasn't changed at all since, and probably is even better. Alongside all this I introduced myself as "Dani" to everyone new I met, because it's not my biological name but a name I like because long story. But still most people just thought I was a guy named dani since I wasn't really comfortable with wearing female clothes or anything like that yet, so typically people that I didn't know that well/didn't have a chance to come out to still used male pronouns since I basically hadn't transitioned at all, but at least I was working on it.

However I was still depressed during spring of 2014 partially because after getting on hormones my antidepressant still didn't really work, and mostly it just left me with little to no motivation, so I failed like half of my classes. Summer came and I figured it was a good time to kinda recuperate, but all I really managed to do was complete a project to make up an incomplete for a class, and get a very part-time job as a substitute janitor towards the end of the summer. So I was pretty dysfunctional. I eventually decided that that med wasn't working that I had been on since the end of 2012 and I wasn't willing to put up with it anymore, so we took me off that and just figured since nothing was working we would see how things work on my own. The bipoloar symptoms weren't really there anymore since I had gotten used to them about june, but I was still having panic attacks at times and mostly had no motivation so I figured it was worth a try.

Going off meds actually did help me do a little better, and (after the horrid withdrawals) I started to get some motivation back which was really my drive that has kept me going all my life. Like I'd be social, then get tired, then work on personal projects to heal, then go back and be social, and etc. But then I got depressed and didn't want to do either of the two, and that was really the problem that so far meds hadn't addressed, and meds just created more problems instead.

So then school was starting and I was feeling hopeful it would go good, and I had learned makeup over the summer and found more feminine clothes so I figured that would help as well so I could hopefully present as female to school. Right at that time though it was also time to increase my estradiol to 2.0mg, and this started causing those really bad panicky epsidoes where I was filled with this massive desire to harm myself and starting having panic attacks and stuff, basically the manic epsodes of the bipolar that my anti-depressants had given me before. Which sucked because the very thing that was supposed to help some of my distress (at least the gender-based portion) was making it worse. It also caused some other things that are the more normal experiences that most people describe (like having way stronger emotional reactions to things or breast growth or issues with heat regulation/etc.), but this was different.

However, in school, I actually had people generally using female pronouns when they referred to me even if like they didn't even know me (or that I was trans) and such, and all of my friends were much better at using them too so that was really nice. But I just got overwhelmed with those (like nightly) panicky moments that I ended up having to take a medical leave from school that semester.

At this point I also started to realize that I was a little genderqueer. What this means is that, well, my dysphoria is social dysphoria, so if I feel like people are percieving me as female then it's a non-issue, but if I feel like people are perceiving me as male than that's what creates all the typically symptoms of gender dysphoria that many other members of the group here experience. So I've had times where I was like "I'm okay how I look" even when I looked like a guy, but then I go out and people treat me like a guy and then I get really depressed and starting hating my body as a result.

So I knew all this, but I was thinking about, honestly, if I could look however I wanted, I would prefer to look unambigiously like a girl, since being perceived as female is what's important to me. And would be comfortable in a female body, though to some extent I'm still greatful I mostly avoided periods. However beyond that, I would probably have more inbetween mannerisms, and generally wear guys clothes and not spend that much time getting ready or anything. I'd also probably be in CS and still be attracted primarily to girls, which would be a factor as well.

The biggest thing though is that, in dating, I've found that I prefer to be the person that asks the girl out and holds the door open for her and puts my arm around her in movies or etc., and when I tried going on a date with a guy I was really akward trying to let him do all that. But the thing is I also would like to be seen as a female when doing all that, so yea it's weird. But I mean some people just say "oh you're just a tomboy," but I'm like no this is different, I mean when I first came out as trans people were like "oh you're a feminine guy," and I was like no, I'm not a guy, and not even that feminine. So yea that's why I like androgyne/androgynous as my gender identity, because it's pretty consistently in the middle, just learning a little more towards the feminine side. But the difficulty about this is that just presenting as female will then give me some gender dysphoria because I still won't be comfortable how I look, so I'll sorta be perpetually transitioning in terms of pretty much always being in that middle zone.

So the combination of stress from all of this caused me to be doing so bad that I ended up in the hospital again for suicidal intent, this was at the end of 2014.

In the hospital they decided that since I already had some bipolar now they might as well further cause it with an anti-depressant, then treat that biploar with a mood stabilizer. So they did that, and I started actually doing really well. I managed to get a part-time job at Caption Call (basically a call center), started to work on a personal project with a friend and started studying computational complexity and started learning to sight read piano and play the guitar. I was also going to a choir thing with Brea and Grayson and Rachel and that was awesome and you should all go too. These meds were also a nice option because it allowed me to stay on my current dose of hormones, and we actually were able to then increase it to 2.5mg and I was still doing good.

The downside though was that at night I still had those panicky moments, some of which were worse than the ones that sent me to the hospital, but I was doing so much better otherwise I figured it was worth sticking through. The mood stabilizer also knocked me out for on average about 12 hours a night, which was inconvenient, but not that bad of a side-effect and manageable as long as I planned my schedule around it and planned when to take it.

I also started dating (lesbian or bi) girls, and there were two girls that seemed cool but then were actually people that went clubbing every weekend and then got drunk and passed out and etc. (sorry but I can't relate to that) Then there was another girl that seemed awesome but then after like 4 or 5 months of talking she just randomly stopped talking and blocked me on facebook and stuff, and I went on a date with this other girl and then she randomly didn't show up to the next date and then apologized and invited me out to another date as an apology and then also stopped responding. So I guess I'm just learning that dating sucks and is awesome and sucks. There were also 4 guys and one MtF person that all really wanted to start dating and that I thought were pretty awesome too, and I even went on a date with one of them, but so far I just feel too much guilt over thinking that it's probably wrong on a religious level so that's generally why I'm trying to date gay/bi females. I'm open to dating trans-men as well, but truth is my strongest crushes have been on vary masculine girls or very feminine guys (usually gay guys which doesn't really help since I'm a girl), so since finding a trans-man that I'm personality wise compatible with is hard enough, finding a feminine trans-men is even harder, so I figure my chances are better going for gay females.

I also have been really starting to try to get into religious things again, because I know the church is true (and grew up in it), but for the last year I keep running into the problem of whenever I read my scriptures or pray or go to church or etc., I feel this massive amount of anxiety that makes me more unstable than I already am. Which is weird because throughout high school I read the scriptures and prayed pretty much daily, and took notes in seminary and etc., but my guess is probably that it has to do with, well, the reason I was always so active in religion was that I saw it as a way to cure me of gender dysphoria. So whenever I was reading scriptures or praying or etc., it was always an attempt to learn how to overcome/bury these feelings, and that always felt "right" to me. Which really frustrates me looking back, because I'm like "it was not right why didn't you tell me." Also when it failed to help me get over these feelings, I felt kinda annoyed, but then I was able to go through all that process mentioned above and start working to coming to terms with GD, which seemed good. But then suddenly whenever I started reading scriptures or praying I was filled with that massive anxiety so I just stopped. So I don't really know what to do about that, which is frustrating, because I know the church is true without a doubt, just don't know how to live it in the typical way we're supposed to live it. My guess is it has to do with I still associate spiritual things with buring my gender dysphoria, so it's a trigger of some sort, but whatever it is I don't what to do about it. I've tried presenting as female at church, tried meeting with my Bishop often, tried meeting with my ward mission leader each week instead of normal meetings, etc., but still haven't figured it out and it's still as much of a problem, which is frustrating to me. So generally I've just decided that I'm unstable enough as is that I'll wait until I'm doing a little better to try and figure out all this again.

But so otherwise I was doing so well I figured it was worth trying school again (spring 2015), but unfortunately after some recent breakdowns where I would just like sit there and cry for about an hour I decided that I should probably go back to just one or two classes alongside 15 hours a week with work. So that's what I'm doing, and then continuing to transition as best I can as well. I might even just have to put off school for another semester if necessary, and simply work and save up money, but it's nice that my scholarship at the U accommodates all this because I have legitimate medical (mental health) reasons.

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