It has been a while since the last time I wrote. Life has been good in the pandemic, because I stayed with good friends who embraced my transness (is there such a word?), and could avoid most social issues that tended to invalidate my feelings (impostor syndrome).
In this post-Trump year, it also feels better overall. We can breathe. But his troops are agitating in some states by passing anti-transgender laws (and anti-abortion laws), and it feels like we will always be under attack. It feels like most of the time we are used, our bodies are used, as a threat to male dominance. And it’s no surprise that the same people seem to be anti-abortion, which is also the expression of male dominance over women’s bodies.
I’m from a family of 7 children, the middle child who seemed to be the pivot on many issues. I seem to be the pivot in Catholic belief, for example. My younger siblings were indoctrinated by a new parish priest who led them into a youth group. One became a priest. I never found much interest in the church, and couldn’t really pretend there was a god listening to my thoughts, because nothing ever seemed to come out of repeating rites and prayers. At the same time, Quebec society in the 1960’s started leaving the church and move on to the question of Quebec identity. To me, it was like moving from one religion to another, and I have always felt excluded from the mainstream.
But I should fast forward to today… Just by chance Dr. Erica showed up on my linkedin (I have abandoned all social media, but I tried linkedin to find someone I wanted to contact) and informed me that she was interviewed on “60 Minutes.” So I watched, and it brought up this issue of some youth who had transitioned too quickly and then de-transitioned. This is often used to invalidate us, but the problem seems to come from overly enthusiastic health care providers. It seems to me like the rush to prescribe pain killers and anti-depressants when presented with symptoms in need of a quick solution.
It’s a bit funny, in fact, that more people can be questioning the COVID vaccine than, say, the need to do surgery to fix knee or back problems which could be relieved by focused exercise and physical therapy. I had a neighbor who died after knee surgery. I once damaged a ligament in my wrist and the first orthopedic surgeon I saw was quick to offer surgery, while the second opinion from an older doctor with a strong reputation with hand problems, which involved more of my participation, led me to conclude I could live with it. It’s been fine. I’m a runner, and I understood how to solve knee problems without medical intervention (it’s a matter of changing how you run, massaging trigger points, strengthening key muscles).
All that leads me to today, when I could certainly get HRT, but also cosmetic surgery, and ultimately gender-reassignment surgery. Gender dysphoria is a strange thing, and for me it remained unidentified because it got mixed up with childhood trauma that I somehow solved by shutting myself down and making sure I got good grades in school. There were a few traumatic episodes in the decades that followed, and I’m not sure, given the understanding we have now of gender dysphoria, that it could have been uncovered under the several layers of protection my mind and body had developed. But today, now that I got rid of a lot of noise in my mind, I would love to have a magic wand because I’m still resisting medical intervention.
So what’s my recipe? I don’t have one to give you, but it certainly involves self-introspection instead of imitation of others. I have been dealing with this for many years, and I guess being older I tend to be less radical (I’ve never been). I would suggest, however, to stop looking for “influencers” on the internet. I remember being excited seeing vlog of young people going through transition, I so wanted to be like them. But I was looking at success stories and ignoring the greater number of people who may or may not have a good time with it. Judging from the experience of watching my nieces grow up into adulthood, I saw that they were trying at all costs to conform to the expectations put on them that I wouldn’t be surprised if a great number look for a way out of their assigned gender. I heard cisgendered women talk about how they were like trans people because they went to the hardware store and talked man-to-man there (hint: that is just pointing out the absurdity of gender norms).
So yes, I’m suggesting to look at it in the long term. Go to a support group at your local LGBTQ center, it gives you a reality check and the people are great. Grow your hair long (it feels more female) or short (it feels more male). Wear make up, but not too much. Spend less time in front of the mirror. Nail polish is so great (but I recently had significant nail damage, so I paused). Ignore small misgendering (they called you Sir? Ignore it, they don’t know anything). Make friends who recognize and celebrate your gender. See less people who don’t. And exercise! I run, and I stretch, and I hula-hoop!