I'm a disabled artist with CFS/ME, a complex nuero-immune metabolic illness that causes me to be limited to my house and often my bed. Explore my life making art with CFS/ME through my blog and videos!
Apr 03, 2019 | Posted by Zeraph
Over a year ago, I decided to take a step that I had wanted (and feared) for many years, since I was a teenager. I made an appointment with a provider to get a prescription for testosterone.
The extremely painful disconnect that trans people often feel with their bodies is gender dysphoria, and I had had it for my entire adult life and some time before that as well.
When you live this way for a very long time, it becomes the elephant in the room that you work around.
It becomes “Life just isn’t that great.”
It becomes, “I’ll never really have what I want.”
You settle for something less, something incomplete, and try to convince yourself that that is normal.
Even though I wasn’t happy in that area, I was afraid and apprehensive about fixing the problem. Sometimes it feels easier just to do nothing. But even doing nothing is doing something.
It’s giving something up that you could have; it’s giving up time, and joy.
For me, it was also giving up real connections that I wasn’t able to build with people in my life, and the people I wanted to be in my life.
I didn’t want to be seen or referred to as a woman because of my looks or my “failure” to transition already, so I had withdrawn from old friends and from family members; from my community. I was perpetually hanging perpendicular to some aspects of life, not quite aligned nor connecting.
You can get used to not having a body.
My body felt like a lot of fragments hanging near each other but not connected to each other. It was like being reflected in a windchime made of mirrors that perpetually flashed my “self” back at me, yet I couldn’t connect those fragmented images into a solid image of a person. And I didn’t like many of the fragments, either.
However, I held back from change. I hung on to a middle ground, afraid of relinquishing some allegiance to my pre-metamorphic self, to the person who family and old friends had loved and felt they knew.
I knew I wasn’t masculine, and when I’d first come out, people were eager to point this out to me as evidence for why I should not refer to myself as male. I didn’t fit female or male gender roles, nor had I ever wanted to, and especially in the early 2000s, this was a source of violence, denial and hatred from others— on the street, in the genuine hate mail I got in my mailbox and email, and in the punk scene and among peers and so-called friends.
I knew I was not only a man in some ways, but also nonbinary, meaning that in aspects of myself I’m not either a man or a woman. I wanted to hang on to everything and be all things to all people, including to myself. I wanted to freeze in place, conceding no ground.
But over time, I experienced lots more of life, and lots of pain. And then I realized I just wanted to be happy.
There was nothing I needed to retain allegiance toward, nothing I owed anyone in terms of my presentation. All my debts were paid. The world, also, had changed. In twenty years, trans people had gone from the occasional Jerry Springer guest to actresses in major television shows, authors, community leaders and elected representatives. My attitude was now outdated, archaic. Born in trauma, it was no longer worth keeping alive. I said thank you. I said goodbye.
Left: In the clinic, waiting to get my first script for testosterone from primary care nurse Cynthia Leiffer.
Changing out the estrogen in my body for testosterone did a lot of positive things for me very quickly. Physically, mentally and emotionally I started to feel like the pieces were coming together.
It is important to note that transitioning with hormones, or surgery, does not make someone a man or a woman. Transitioning is something they do because it makes them feel better in their body. Gender doesn’t depend on the amount of hair, the softness of skin, the deepness of voice.
If it is real at all, it exists in the in-between spaces. Moments, thoughts, wants, words, sensations, translating the indescribable. When you’re trans, gender comes through like static on a broken radio. It takes a while to find the right signal, to boost it and make it your own, if that’s your goal.
It is a work in progress. But through taking hormones, I have more of a sense of having a body, now; I have an identity that I can communicate through the way I look. So, I can be present in ways I could not be present before. Transitioning is a bridge-building between oneself and the world.
For me, it has become less and less about seeing myself as a gender, and more about just letting go. For me, often, that’s letting go into a lightness of not having to worry about it all the time anymore!
It is not necessary to be masculine; it is not even necessary to “be a man.” For most people, gender is not that complicated. Non-trans men don’t go around thinking about being men all the time. It is just what is. I wanted that freedom, too; that lightness, in which to experience my own unique human gender, life, and body.
I feel more apt to connect with my family and even with people I went to school with, knowing that they will be able to “see” me better, and I won’t feel stuck being someone else.
Though it’s difficult for me, I’m working slowly on sharing more of my experience, because I don’t want anyone to feel they have to wait as long as I did if this is something they need as well. And, I also wish to become a student of connection.
Telling stories and sharing perspectives creates sparks of understanding that go both ways. I’m reaching out to people after having held back for a long time, and in turn I am providing my truth as well.
Thank you for reading my story! I tried to include as much as I can, but inevitably I’ve left some things out about these very complex experiences, including how they might affect other people. I’d like to make another post eventually about the medical and practical aspects of being on hormone replacement therapy while having ME/CFS and being mostly housebound. If there’s anything you would like to hear more about in particular, please let me know!