“Testosterone did not bring me closer to the truth. It just helped to mask the pain.”
I was so moved by the truth of so much of what you said, and in the palpable sense in which you immersed yourself in the honesty of your words. Your mind’s analysis of the trans* experience is articulate, nuanced, and brilliant. As another transgender individual I only wanted share my similar experience, and how I interpreted it differently.
I Missed Who I Was After Transitioning:
I think that this is definitely a fact of our experience, and it increases in magnitude – I believe – correspondingly with one’s previous level of self-worth cultured through one’s experience in our initially assigned gender. My experience was not one of hiding, but understanding that a choice was also a real aspect of the trans* experience. I am a college advisor, and I suppose that this knowledge was rooted in my understanding of human development. In an individual’s path toward authenticity and their self-examined, articulated journey of defining oneself it is normative to be compelled to make choices and experience regrets for the paths which we cannot take. Choices are often insoluble, and become prerequisites for new choices while leaving other opportunities no longer reachable. It is very much like the Robert Frost poem “The Road Not Taken.” In that poem Frost writes:
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
The ending of the poem is rather famous, “Two roads diverged in a woods, and I – I took the one less taken and that has made all of the difference.” Although not specifically written regarding the trans* experience it captures the trans* reality of reaching a crossroads experience, and being compelled to make a choice. Recognizing the gender dysphoric feelings in your words, and sharing the experience myself, it is sometimes a desperate choice of escaping to viability, or of being able to live within one’s experience of skin.
I miss who I was; or those now missing elements of whom I was that thrived under the testosterone feeding of my skin, neurological responses, and other aspects of my previous self. But, I am also so similar to whom I was while being cataclysmically different. I see hormones influencing cells, and opening gates of behavior or predispositions as appropriate; or in the absence of testosterone or estrogen leaving other gates dormant. Measuring my responses of the influence of both hormones in my cells, neurons, and brain; I sense the medically prompted organic change in processes from transitioning genders. I suppose that I was intellectually never unhappy with who I was as a man. I can see that I was dynamic and had in outward appearance a great life; but it was an impossible state that because of the gender dysphoria left me always stunted, always fractured, and unable to be whole. For me transition has brought me peace in my skin, ending the dysphoria, and a real – finally – joy to my being. It did not bring me a cis-gender experience. I consider myself inseparable from my male and female experiences, and see my gender experience as a whole composed in its rounded aspect of both. Transitioning gave me the sense of no longer being fractured; and put me in space to finally be able to focus on building a life, rather than being numbingly absent from self, and waiting for my existence in maleness to forthwithly end. I like who I am today. I liked who I was before, but could not stop the withering. I am transgendered. I would be so whether I hormonally and surgically transitioned or not. I simply chose where I could breathe. I could not have made any other choice. There was no more path on the road I been given to travel so I diverted to the only route available to me.
Dismissing the gender binary and embracing the insolubility of the dysphoria is a real choice and option in relation to articulating a gender-variant self. It has been my experience that it takes a super-human strength to present the impossibility of “for others an impossible gender juxtaposition of female and male” in one body. The companion of transphobia makes revitalization a challenge. Stealth for me has always seemed a denial of self. It is invisibility. Experiencing transitioning and transphobic bigotry brought home for me the pragmatic value of being unobtrusive. Like many trans* folks I have experienced being terminated and harassed after transitioning on the job, refused medical attention, and shortly will be homeless. But, I have never found having to be stealth to avoid the cultural marginalization to feel right to me. I protest. I have the right to exist – to be me. I would rather that the bigotry of culture and those that practice it be challenged. I refuse to surrender my self-worth. I can’t help but feel that the desire to be invisible or stealth is rooted in our fear response to transphobia.
I once said that transitioning was very much a “take it or leave it” experience for me. I elaborated that my quality of life was virtually the same. As a man my discomfort was internally based in the mismatch of my gender mapping between my body and mind. As a woman my difficulties all lie outside of me in the bigotry of others, and the overwhelming cultural marginalization. One experience was viable, and the other no longer so. The only important difference is that I now feel happy within my skin. With the consistency of awareness of self that follows despite any gender I feel the like me, and know myself to be the same person as before. It is the cultural prescription to cis-gender privilege that has an investment in defining me as different, and as “other.”
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Society of Adults Who Played With Inappropriate Gender Toys As Children