How I returned to myself

I thought I would give a brief overview of how I returned to myself and let go of my transgender identity.

My story was pretty typical at the beginning.  I had fantasies of being female in childhood which then become eroticized in puberty.  During my teenage years, I didn’t think there was anyway I would ever actually transition, but then when I got to college I discovered some of the beginnings of transgender culture on the internet and transitioned at age 19.   I eventually had SRS at 24.  From the outside I was pretty well-adjusted. I still have the letter from one of the psychologists that evaluated me for SRS describing me as a “well-adjusted professional young woman”.  From the inside my life was a wreck. I was in an abusive relationship, my body was twisted in knots, hormones made it so that I couldn’t think clearly.  I was not a very healthy person.

Right before I got SRS I was required to be off hormones for 3 weeks, without the influence of the estrogen, it felt like coming back to myself after a 5 year strange dream.   I had quite a few doubts about having surgery but I wasn’t able to stop, there was just too much momentum. All of the friends I talked to about it encouraged me to do it. After all, I had been wanting it a long time. I remember thinking it wasn’t possible for me to return to being male, as I had already eliminated my facial hair and “could never be normal”, this seems ridiculous in retrospect.  Afterwards, I felt like I had to just go with it and what was done was done.

I settled into life but I felt something was missing.   My body was still a twisted wreck and it was very frustrating to me.  I tried things like yoga and massage and that would help but it would only be temporary.  I briefly explored meditation but then moved into the pagan community.  I loved paganism and was able to have ecstatic experiences and connect to parts of my unconscious.  This was the beginning of my ability to heal but it was not an embodied practice nor was it particularly relational.  I discovered later that these two things were important for my healing.  I was still looking for something but not finding it there.

I eventually discovered dance and embodied practice. I started out with 5 rhythms and eventually branched on to biodanza and doing partner dance. When I began to do partner dance I was so disconnected from my body I wasn’t able to trust another. Biodanza was particularly helpful because it involved learning how to connect to others. Connection and attachment require connecting to embodied instincts. Gradually my body began to thaw. I also had a relationship with someone who was able to see me for who I was regardless of whether I put on a false self or not.

I also began therapy, not with any intent on working on gender issues, but rather the intention on working on relationships and connection. Then I eventually went to school for my masters in psychology. During the 1st year my body began to have a shaking motion. I wasn’t sure what this was and briefly thought it might be a neurological issue. Luckily, I happened to be surround by somatic therapists at school, and they suggested it might be a trauma release. This continued on and I eventually realized that was my body’s masculine instincts starting to unwind and be released. My body confirmed this by unwinding further.

Eventually I decided to experiment with getting of estrogen, and much to my surprise that seemed to fix a lot of my issues with social anxiety, and desensitized my nervous system so I didn’t feel so fragile. I stayed off hormones for three months and then tried testosterone which made me feel really amazing and euphoric. The euphoria only lasted a few months but I continue to enjoy much better mental functioning and a sense of vitality. I decided to do what was best for my body and listen to it.

Although this also caused several new issues. My body was re-masculinizing which was scary. There was a part of me that found that to be very terrifying. I did work in therapy using IFS and EMDR and discovered a lot of this fear was related to feeling that men were evil and that it was unsafe to be a man. Once I healed from that I was able to gradually become more and more comfortable with being perceived as male.

I also experienced a surge in erotic fantasies about being female, which were similar to what I experienced as a teenager. These threatened to have an obsessive quality but once I healed from the trauma, they were only contained in my fantasy life. I tried to resist them which made things worse, but eventually learned how to accept them and acknowledge that they are just fantasies and I don’t have to identify with them. I think this part is unchangeable and will always be present. However presenting as male feels like a letting go of affectation, and that I am able to just be who I am without pretending to be something else.

I am still not done with this process. I still have yet to change my legal id, which causes various problems as I present as a male and have a clearly female name on my id. I also find it awkward to be around people that have known me as a woman, it feels on some level they have seen me enacting a fantasy and I feel shame about that, even though I know that I had no way to avoid it without the knowledge I have now.

18 comments

  1. I am curious, how did you feel when you started estrogen? What differences did you notice in your emotional stability, outlook on life, and self-awareness in general? I am asking this because what you have described as your experience going back on testosterone is precisely my experience after starting estrogen about 3.5 months ago.

    1. It is hard to remember what starting estrogen was actually like because it was 20 years ago. I did have a few times where I stopped and started due to finances or surgeries. I know having no sex hormones at all leads to me feeling calm, but also fatigued, brain fuzzed and feeling not quite alive. When I would take estrogen it would give a kind of floaty feeling, almost opiate like, the higher the dose the more so. It would also amplify my emotions and if I forgot a dose or two I would be quite moody the next day. It also caused my thoughts to become fuzzy and my nervous system to be very sensitive so I would cry easy and have a lower threshold of feeling anxiety. Too much estrogen caused a lot of anxiety, but also was a kind of high.

      The testosterone feeling is different, it is more like caffeine than opiate. The first couple of days I ended up having so much energy I had to run around the block several times.

      This euphoria was a temporary effect that only lasted for 3-4 months. It was part of what kept me going on T, in the early part of retransition. This is one of the reasons I think the idea of hormones being diagnostic is dangerous, because hormones make you high, especially at first. I did react to the euphoria of my restart of T as proof that it was really right, but that euphoria was temporary.

  2. What is your view of being stealth vs out, the pros and cons? How was that for you when you were exploring a feminine gender role?

    1. I think stealth vs. out is a complicated issue. I was definitely treated better by people when they thought I was cis woman. Coming out to people might or might not change the way they related to me, it was totally unpredictable. Some people would decide I was then a man on an unconscious level and react differently and others wouldn’t. This seemed to have no correlation with their open-mindedness or any other beliefs. However being stealth meant I could talk about my life openly and that created a lack of intimacy and a loneliness. So it is really a double-bind with no good solution. I ended up being stealth to some people and out to others which is what most people do I think. Also, sometimes people would figure it out or hear about it so I didn’t control the situation. It is a pretty awful quandary with no good solution!

  3. This for me is the most interesting part of your article…

    I also experienced a surge in erotic fantasies about being female, which were similar to what I experienced as a teenager. These threatened to have an obsessive quality but once I healed from the trauma, they were only contained in my fantasy life. I tried to resist them which made things worse, but eventually learned how to accept them and acknowledge that they are just fantasies and I don’t have to identify with them.

    You were asking me for feedback and about what I would find helpful; well, it is contained within your words above.

    For those of us who don’t allow ourselves to get carried away on a wave of transitioning and body changing, how are we to view and live with our powerful desires and fantasies? Do we invalidate them and see them as some kind of computer error? Do we celebrate them? Do we see them as tragic – an urge for somthing we can never have? In other words, as AGP fantasies will still rage strong within us what are we to do with them? Personally, I don’t want to see them as some error to be disregarded but at the same time I see a kind of depressing pointlessness in being bound to fantasise about something that I can never have.

    I would be very grateful for your thoughts on these questions.

    L.

    1. I try to just accept them when they happen, they don’t have to mean anything. I think both invalidating them and celebrating them has a potential to make them stronger. The middle ground is accepting it. Besides, most erotic fantasies are things we don’t necessarily want in reality.

      Jung said that we all have to integrate the anima or animus which is the opposite sex component of the psyche. He also said that we all have more potential lives than we can live, and those aspects of life that we choose not to live can be lived in fantasy if not in reality. One can integrate and express the feminine side without transitioning or living as a woman. Jung said that the inner woman can be an important guide, but also stressed the importance of not identifying with any archetype. He told a story of a man who worked in business but had a part of him that wanted to be a priest. He could not live both lives, and chose to live the life of the priest in his fantasy life.

      I think you just have to experiment and find what works, paying attention to what enhances life and what diminishes life.

  4. I try to just accept them when they happen, they don’t have to mean anything. I think both invalidating them and celebrating them has a potential to make them stronger. The middle ground is accepting it. Besides, most erotic fantasies are things we don’t necessarily want in reality.

    Jung said that we all have to integrate the anima or animus which is the opposite sex component of the psyche. He also said that we all have more potential lives than we can live, and those aspects of life that we choose not to live can be lived in fantasy if not in reality. One can integrate and express the feminine side without transitioning or living as a woman. Jung said that the inner woman can be an important guide, but also stressed the importance of not identifying with any archetype. He told a story of a man who worked in business but had a part of him that wanted to be a priest. He could not live both lives, and chose to live the life of the priest in his fantasy life.

    I think you just have to experiment and find what works, paying attention to what enhances life and what diminishes life.

  5. great blog. so do you think part of your transitions were to, in a way, opt out of the standard role of males in todays society (god and bad parts of that)? as a ciswoman, i think there is a lot of damaging imagery of not only women but men too, creating a lot of conflict in ppls minds, because we are shown these stereotypical images of what to be that conflict with the range of elements within a person. i guess an analogy is what with you did with transitioning inside and outside, other cis ppl fight witgh those roles in daily live in how to behave but in other formats (im generalizing, but im sure there are guys who dont fit the brash, violent, meathead role that gets perpetuated too, and the like). id like to hear your thoughts on that.

    1. Yes, or at least my childhood idea of it. It seemed like I could be all of who I was only as a woman. It seemed like I could be just as nerdy, but also be feeling and kind and soft as well. This of course doesn’t require being a woman.

      It also seemed that I would be protected from violence because I suffered constant violence for being at the bottom of the male hierarchy in school. This was a child’s understanding, but this idea that I formed when I was a child was still buried in the psyche and made it feel primally unsafe to be seen as a man, that is part of how trauma works.

      I think there is imagery of men that is highly distorted in our society and that contributes to things. It is like the image of men has been stripped of all positive traits. Like a man can be a thug, or unable to control his sexuality or the bumbling father, or maybe an adorable clown at best. You almost have to go back to earlier times to find positive imagery of men.

      1. I myself weirdly started to experience dysphoria and autogynephilia only at the age of 23. At first I started to get crushes on men and had particularly strong homosexual fantasies that were intrusive. Then later I came to the horrifying conclusion that I was disgusted to be a man. This escalated to the point where I couldn’t anymore feel to have the right to have a male identity without hiding something. I regard myself somewhat androgynous, or genderfluid. I’m now in a feminine phase, and have learned to accept it, although I don’t always like it much.

        I have noticed that it is not that I want to be a woman or a man but more like fulfilling needs I have. For example if I put on a false masculine front, it backfires usually after some time. Then comes dysphoria and sometimes autogynephilia, which for me seems to be an extreme form of fulfilling feminine aspects of myself. Similarily I feel pressure to transition these times. I feel the best way is to pay attention to aspects of self in a balanced, integrated and accepting manner. Denying is not a good strategy, active repression seems worst. Also it doesn’t seem good to slave oneself into some actual different identities because they tend to deny others. Sometimes I have been so succesful, I have been without dysphoria for months. I have just been me, free from any obsessions regarding gender.

        As I have experimented different approaches and things I have too noticed that I have actually a pretty bad image of men. I don’t care about athlethics or a muscular body myself, thus women, being much more beautiful, are more appealing to me. I think I was somehow envious of women sometimes, I felt they had priviledges I didn’t have. Also I felt I had to be this super alpha male to be of any value. After about 5 years of trying to teach myself to be an “alpha male” came all this confusion in gender. This I think happened partly because the alpha male identity didn’t integrate vital parts of me to action, repressing needs, and that all the time I was reinforcing the fact that ‘I’ really was not this I’m trying to be, which is a ‘real man’. It is not surprising that some day my mind made the conclusion that I’m not a ‘real man’ and not a man at all. How can I be when all I see is differences between me and other ‘real men’. Maybe if I was gay right from the start, I could have lived in a more integrated manner, as one my friend who settled into a gay man identity after crossdressing in childhood and having confusion in gender.

        Even now, I find similarities between me and other men the easiest by reading older books, such as from Dostoyevsky etc. If I imagine any kind of deep feeling, in my mind, it can’t belong to any men I know in everyday life… and certainly not any ‘real’ form of feminity, just gay effeminaty which is not a “real form of feminity”. Sometimes it is as if big part of me just couldn’t believe there was anybody like me in the world. This is self-evidently fucked up in many ways.

        I have read of your mother issues somewhere in your blog. Similarily I myself have thought my mother wants me to be an ultimate man, that she can admire endlessly. And that only now, I have noticed this fact.

        1. “Then comes dysphoria and sometimes autogynephilia, which for me seems to be an extreme form of fulfilling feminine aspects of myself. Similarily I feel pressure to transition these times. I feel the best way is to pay attention to aspects of self in a balanced, integrated and accepting manner.”

          Appreciating the fact that an internalized emotional attachment regarding an object of sexual desire, routinely (especially in the case of the fetishism which has commonly come to be referred to as autogynephilia) will psychologically derive from the fetishism, the notion the fetishism as being a form of fulfilling feminine/homosexual aspects of oneself, is rather the speculation whether your sexualized emasculation trauma was on the basis of any real effeminacy/homosexuality, as opposed to the anxiety ITSELF regarding the fulfilment of masculine expectation (emasculation anxiety).

          A common issue is also regarding the nature of homosexuality, in differentiating between authentic androphilia and themes within the masochistic emasculation fetish (“autogynephilia”).

        2. I found looking at older archetypes of masculinity really helpful to counter some of the strange of views of masculinity in our culture. In particular I became involved with Victorian Dance, and found a lot that appealed to me about the archetype of the Victorian gentlemen, who was refined and gentle by nature.

          I have a lot of friendships with men that are therapists or healers, and also gay men which helps me to see all the diverse ways that men can be men.

  6. Darling, so sorry but everything you say clearly identifies you as having issues other than what could be considered “classic transsexualism”. I hear this often “I wished I could be a girl” versus “I was a girl and they didn’t get it because of my body” – the latter is identity and the former is coming from another place. much of the former type of language is wrapped up in how you describe your early life. I knew very young I was a girl and this stayed with me.

    I transitioned at 14 years of age in the early 70’s without parental approval. I was blessed with hypogonadism and didn’t have a male puberty. I had SRS in 1983 . . . all the time I knew I was a girl/woman. I always have as an innate part of my being. After SRS this challenge of identity versus body (I am a woman) vanished as my identity, sex and gender expression were fully integrated and I am simply me and I happen to be a woman – I fit into a woman’s world and into my relationships and community as such. This does not in any way equate to your story where you saw transition as a “fix”, etc. For me, transition was simply a natural and necessary move towards revealing myself and living happily, wholly and authentically: moving to a full and free expression of my being, my femininity and womanhood.

    So I think it would be wrong to interpret your story as a warning for those who regard themselves as trans or perhaps to delegitimise the experience of all trans people. Perhaps it is a call for a little more vigilance on the part of consulting psychs or stronger calls for self examination among those who present as candidates for SRS.

    I wish you well.

    1. I’m glad you are happy with your transition and subsequent life afterwards. I never said that no one should transition or that people won’t be happy with it.

      It would also be really great if we could differentiate better between those who would be happy or who wouldn’t. I don’t think the distinction between “I am a girl” vs. “I wish I could be a girl” is a way to do it though. I definitely thought of myself very strong as being a woman and it was a fundamental axiom of my being. It was just that 20 years later it turned out to be untrue that it was as fundamental as I thought it was.

      The way I describe my earlier life now is based on the lens of having gone through everything I did. When it was an identity for me I would have described in very differently.

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