Personal Journey

TWT – Now on video!

I haven’t written much recently. A lot of that has to do with being in grad school, the last thing I want to do is even more writing. 🙂 So I’ve decided to start creating some videos. This is the intro video where I tell my story and I eventually hope to make more videos about detransition and alternative ways to deal with gender dysphoria.

Transcript:


Hello, my name is TW. I am the author of the blog Third Way Trans and I thought I would make a video about detransition and also about different ways to deal with gender dysphoria. This is inspired by several of the detransitioned women that have been recently making videos and so I decided that there should be videos from the detransitioned men as well.There’s already a few and there should be more. This is going to be the first in a series.

This is just an introduction. One of the reasons is to help other people who are transitioning so they feel like they’re not alone and they can have someone to talk to. So if you are ready to detransitioning or considering detransitioning you can definitely email me at the address that is given by the video and you know i would be happy to chat with you. A second reason is also to help people deal with their dysphoria. One of the things that I discovered in this journey is that there were other ways to deal with my dysphoria that would work better and also would have been less harmful. I had to go through this whole transition first in order to figure all that out and I had to spend 20 years being transitioned. I transitioned when I was 19 and detransitioned when i was 39. I’m 42 now. I spent all this time transitioned and modified my body in many ways which is still causing problems to this day and I want to help people be able to deal with these issues without having to go through that. To be clear, I don’t oppose transition and I really understand how debilitating gender dysphoria can be.  So I don’t propose to ban transition or eliminate it, or to eliminate treatments like hormones and medical treatments.

I don’t think these treatments should be eliminated but at the same time we should help as many people as possible to work through these issues without having to go through that because it’s a horrible thing to go through, and it’s imperfect and leads to social problems and potential medical problems including sterility. The last is very important. Having children is very important to many people and may not seem so important when you are young.

Transition has become much more visible as many more people are identifying as trans than there used to be. I remember when I first looking at these issues back 20-25 years ago the reported incidence was about somewhere between 1 in 10,000-100,000. 10 years later the incidence numbers look more like 1 in 1200 – 3,000. Recent numbers used at this point are 0.3% or about 1 in 300, and a recent survey shows something like 0.6% which is about 1 in 150 or 1 in 125 or so. The question is what is this? Is this because of greater social acceptance as some people say? Some people say, oh it’s great people can be themselves. Or is there an element of social contagion which is leading more and more people to jump on the bandwagon of trans. I think it can be both.

I definitely think that there are benefits to having more social acceptance because a lot of the issues to do with being trans have to do with lack of social acceptance and all of the
stigma. That will help trans people to live better lives but at the same time I think there’s also some elements of social contagion. People who would have not transitioned in other times but in this time consider it, are probably the ones who maybe have better ways to deal with their issues and so I think there’s definitely a problem going on. I think it’s a problem with therapists that rubber-stamp people’s transitions. For example, seeing them once and approving them for hormones which I think is pretty bad practice. Especially because I have training as a therapist. I have a master’s degree in psychology and I am now in a PhD program in clinical psychology. I worked in three different clinics seeing a lot of clients including trans clients.

One of the things I learned in my clinical training is just in general how little you know about someone when you see them once or twice or three times. There’s so much we don’t know.  They don’t really trust you as much in the beginning.  If you’ve been a client in therapy you probably know  what it is like to work with a new therapist or psychologist.  You don’t really know them and it takes time to be comfortable with them and to be able to tell them things. As the therapist it also takes time to figure out what is going on. It takes time. I mean, the places I work we don’t even make a treatment plan until three or four sessions because we don’t really know you, like we have to figure it out. If you are writing a letter to somebody after one session you don’t know them. You don’t know enough There’s no way even really great therapists can know enough. Again, I do think people benefit from this practice, and I do think it should exist, but I also think there needs to be a lot more exploration beforehand.

Particularly, people who transition often talk about issues of trauma. They talk about abuse, sometimes there is sexual abuse. Sometimes there is kind of aversion to being their sex because they hate their sex. For example if you’re a woman that hates being a woman because they don’t like dealing with men or things like that. These are things that can be worked with psychologically sometimes.  OCD can be there sometimes too. I think there needs to be a lot more of this kind of exploring beforehand and definitely more than just 1-2 sessions. I don’t know how someone can have the clinical training I have and think that is good practice. Especially someone who has been with clients and known how much complexity they have and how much depth they have and how much you don’t know about them.

I guess I’ll also talk about my own story. When I was a child I experienced trauma issues with bullying. When I was young I was physically the slowest boy but also very intellectually advanced like a child prodigy. By fourth grade I was going to the high school to take high school math, and on the other hand I was the weakest. So I was singled out for being a kind of super nerd. This didn’t make me popular at all. It made me popular with the adults actually but not my peers. So I suffered a lot of bullying and violence. It peaked in middle school where every day I would have some sort of violence directed at me.

When I was a child I started to have this fantasy of being a girl, because it meant I could be safe and not suffer from this violence due to being at the bottom of the male hierarchy. I could also be more soft. I used to cry a lot and that was also something that was not seen as good for a boy. I could be free of all of that and also still be intellectual because everyone was saying that girls can be smart too.  Of course I did’t understand the complexity of society then and all the prior sexism behind that message because I was six. It became a fantasy that kept me comfortable, not something that could really happen, more like a fantasy I had.

Then when I got to adolescence it continued and became tied to sexuality. I was also attracted to women so it was confusing, and my dating life didn’t got well when I was a young teenager. I was a late bloomer but eventually once I got to be a junior in high school I did have some success in dating and had several different girlfriends. After that my gender dysphoria declined.

When I got to college, in the first few months I didn’t meet any women and it felt like a real step back and my gender feelings resurfaced again.  Now I understand that one of the reasons I was successful in dating as a high school senior was because I was at the top of the heap and then when I became a freshman in college I was at the bottom of the heap. This was in 1993, so I was on the early pre-WWW internet and at the same a trans newsgroup was created on Usenet, and I heard people who had similar feelings to mine and it was like a revelation! Other people had these feelings too and I could relate to them. It meant you could really do this. It could really happen!

One of the first things I did was go to my university counseling enter and talk to the intern there. He seemed freaked out. Then I went back a second time and he said this was beyond the scope of the counseling center but we have these referrals to give and they gave me a referral to a gender clinic. I was kind of mad at that because I had to pay for it. The counseling was free at school, I didn’t have much money as I was a student. Ok, I went to the clinic and told the psychologist my story and that I wanted to be female. I didn’t talk about bullying and I was unaware that it was related in any way. This is something I sorted out later when I was in real therapy.

So, I was just like this is who I am and this who I want to be and they were like that’s great. There was no kind of anything, just two session and I was given hormones. One thing I’d like to point out that is kind of ironic is that at the time this was not considered good practice and a violation of the standards of care. At that time they said you had to have at least 12 sessions of therapy for hormones. That’s not true any more. Lots of people are doing it after just one, two or three sessions. This thing that was harmful in my life has now become standard practice in the clinical community.

This really became my identity, and I was young and there were very few young transitioners then, so it wasn’t actually that hard to become seen as a woman, and I started to get a lot of positive attention. That felt really good, I felt like things were going well, but objectively that wasn’t the case. I always got really good grades, but I was put on these really high doses of hormones which were crazy. We don’t do stuff like this any more but I was on the equivalent of 17 birth control pills/day at some point. Just unbelievable! It seemed like the medical community was like okay we are just going to do weird stuff with you people and not follow any good practices. That has actually gotten a lot better over the years.  I think there is a lot more understanding now of hormone practices.

This caused me a lot of problems like my brain wasn’t working right. I was not able to do my work in school. It was also hard because my transition was very visible at a small school and this wasn’t common then. Also there were still things that were wrong. This was supposed to cure my dysphoria, however what I found is that it didn’t actually do that.  It just made me uncomfortable with different parts of my body that weren’t feminine. I had really big hands and a big jaw and so I still had the same problem of hating parts of my body.

Now, I had additionally the problems of being trans in the world, like a lot of social problems. Sometimes people would be aware I was trans and sometimes they wouldn’t and all of those were problems. If they weren’t aware there was a sense of I can’t tell them about it, and that really closes off intimacy because you can’t share this really important part of your life. If they did know about it there would be lots of different reactions. Some people were fine. A lot of people were fine on the surface, but they would really act differently towards me. It almost felt like having no gender at all and being outside of humanity. It was a really awful feeling.

I really thought this was was my identity and what I had to do. Even though there problems I thought it was something I had to do because it was my truth. There were other problems too. My body was really tense all the time and I was disconnected from my body a lot and had a lot of dissociation. I wasn’t even aware it was dissociation, it was just kind of the way I was. It is only now that I am in my body that I understand the difference. So yes, there was a lot of problems.

I had difficulty romantically too. There were actually a lot of people interested in my but I was not able to bond with people. This was really frustrating and eventually I started to go to therapy. I wasn’t working on my gender, but on why I couldn’t have relationships and why my body was so tense.  I started to do therapy and all of these embodied practices. I got involved in meditation. I got involved in doing dance practice. I got involved in doing a practice called Biodanza which is a sort of practice where you learn to connect to yourself and other people. I eventually became aware I was really disconnected to my body. I eventually came to the realization that a lot of this had to do with my attempt to present myself female which was unnatural for my body. I was holding my shoulders in and holding my butt out, and doing all sorts of things that were outside the natural movement of my body. This was causing strain and stress on my body.

I came gradually to the realization that this was actually a problem. That this whole transition was actually a problem. It was still difficult because I still had this feeling like maybe I should be a man, but it was totally unsafe emotionally and I couldn’t do it. I did a lot more therapy and eventually came to understand the roots of this with the bullying and feelings unsafe about being myself and a man in the world. I didn’t see things this way in an intellectual sense, but in a visceral. So, it was a long process and eventually I worked through. It was also a big revelation because I thought my gender identity of being female was fundamental. It seemed like an absolute truth and an absolute axiom, and then it turned out not be that at all. It turned out to be something that could be change.

This was very surprising to me because there is all this thought around gender identity being something that can’t be changed and that it is permanent. Although now it is getting kind of confused because it’s permanent but it also can be fluid and it can also change but it doesn’t change and there is no real kind of consistency in the whole ideology behind it.  Having learned that it could be changed, its really something I would not have wanted to do through because it’d be much better have dealt with my issues without changing my body so that I wouldn’t have the difficulties I have now.

I can’t really get my hormones right. I take testosterone but it doesn’t work right, its always a problem because I can’t find the right balance of it and never get it right. I know I can’t recover my body all the way. For example I look way younger than I am which people think is positive. I don’t like it because it reminds me it isn’t right. I want to look like a 42 year old man because that is where I am and not being seen as that is frustrating sometimes. There is also breast growth and stuff like that. I could get rid of it but it also feels like that is just changing my body more so it brings issues.

If you’re interested in the clinical implications I experienced this and other people have experienced this and they are talking about they have dealt with dysphoria A lot of women have gone back, and there are some men as well that found ways to deal with dysphoria. They found ways to work with it, and it is very important for the clinical community to be aware there are ways to work with it. We should be working on this a lot more even if we support transition. I do support it for some people. We should still simultaneously be working on how we can help people deal with these issues without doing that because it would save people a lot of trouble and a lot of expensive imperfect medical interventions.

One of the reasons I went on to a PhD program because I want to research those ideas and also ways to work with dysphoria. In this series I am going to start making some videos and focus on the ways I’ve seen other deal with dysphoria as well as just some general psychological principles. Sometimes it seems like we just throw out the basic principles of psychology, and we need to put back some of these ideas. It takes a while to know someone and human nature is complex. I think things would be better if we kept that in mind. That’s all I have for today. It is just an intro to tell you about myself and I’ll be making more videos. Also feel free to read my blog which is listed in the comments and email me if you have any questions. Either questions about dealing with dysphoria, or maybe you don’t want to transition or have questions about detransition and want support about that. Thank you.

Where did I go?

Where did I go?   I fell into a grad school hole.   I started a PhD program in clinical psychology this fall, and our workload for the first quarter was very demanding. I ended up regularly working 60-70 hour weeks and the last thing I wanted to do was more writing. Now the quarter is over, and I am back.

I am questioning whether school is something I want to continue with or not.   I was hoping to get more involved in the scientific/research end of psychology in addition to the clinical end which I really can’t do with counseling degree.   However, I am wondering if this is interfering with my work rather than aiding it. This path greatly delays the amount of time it will take until I will be able to be in independent practice, something I could do in about 1.5 – 2 years at the Master’s level, but will take more like 5-6 years on this path.   Also it will be several years before I can actually do any kind of research on my own interests. I do feel it is very complimentary to my previous training, my master’s program was in holistic counseling, and this program is very much in the academic/scientific tradition which has a totally different culture to it.   So, that is something for me to figure out.

It has been good to take a break from writing the blog, I find it very difficult to avoid getting sucked into all of the toxic politics around these issues. My primary goal for this blog is to help people dealing with dysphoria, and finding better ways to deal with their dysphoria than transition.   I don’t expect those ways to work for everyone, but even if they work for some people that is a good thing.   I don’t have any moral or philosophical objection to transition, hormones or surgery. I just think they are awful experiences that people should not have to undergo unless necessary. I feel that I lost a lot of opportunities as a result of this, from not being able to have a family, to dealing with social stigma, to relationship difficulties, and various mental health issues stemming from untreated trauma and taking too high dosages of estrogen.   On the other hand I recognize that some of the challenges of transition arise directly from stigma, and I don’t want to contribute to the stigma faced by trans people either.

Although, I do have a secondary goal of bringing awareness of these issues to mental health professionals, both the issues of detransitioners, and even more importantly working to find ways to prevent unnecessary transitioning.   Increasingly, at least in the USA, there is no exploration happening at all, and some therapists even find it offensive to explore or question with their clients. I think a lot of this ties into “social justice” ideology, which I wrote about a little bit here. and guest poster Lane on the blog also wrote about.   I will write some more on this, as I am finding this ideology very prevalent in my psychology program, I don’t know if many people realize the extent to which it has taken over many parts of the field. It is important to note that one can oppose social justice ideology, without being against its goals of equality or ending oppression which are admirable.   Indeed one important reason to oppose it is the harm that it can cause to minorities and particularly vulnerable people dealing with gender issues.   Jonathan Haidt and others write about the issues of political monocultures leading to groupthink and blind spots and the people at Heterodox Academy write about these issues well.

Also, I have been taking some time to reflect upon detransition.   It has been over 2 years since my detransition, and over 3 years since I started on T. There have been things that are good about detransition, but there have been some losses as well. It is not possible to fully restore things to the way things were.   In some ways things are better. It is so great to let go of having to speak with a voice that was not my own, and to just be able to be myself without worrying about how my gender is perceived. I also find much to my surprise that I really enjoy hanging out in groups of guys as a guy, I feel like I fit in there. None of the guys I hang out with are “dudebros”, some of them are gay/bi, a lot of them are nerdy or psychology people, but it feels really good to hang out with them. Also being on testosterone has granted me more vitality and energy, greater emotional stability and generally sharper thinking.

However there are still problems that remain. For one it is impossible to get my hormone levels right. I have experimented with a wide variety of different levels and gotten it the best I can. If my levels are too low I suffer from low energy and fatigue, if they are too high I end up with too many angry thoughts and too much sex drive. I find the best middle I can but it doesn’t quite work right.   I even experimented briefly with not having it, which leads to feeling calm and peaceful but not quite alive. Also going without sex hormones is bad for long-term health. But, who knows what the long-term health consequences are. I have no idea if I am helping or harming my health by taking T, compared to nothing at all or E.

Another problem is I keenly feel a loss of community.   I was an active part of various queer communities for the past 20 years.   When I was younger I was largely focused on the bi community but also spent time in general alternative sexual minority communities.   I once co-hosted a radio show on bi issues, went to conferenes of various kinds, and worked in a queer counseling center.   The queer community was my people, and now I feel alienated from those communities due to my detransition and critical views around gender.   It is hard to go against what I considered to be my people, but I think it is very important to speak truth.

It is especially strange to be doing this right in the middle of time where there are more out trans people than ever and in many ways trans people are celebrated. I don’t at all mean to say that trans people don’t suffer a lot of stigma and problems, but there are certain subcultures where this is well accepted.   They happen to be the subcultures that I mostly live in, and I feel like I will get in far more trouble for being critical around gender issues than for being trans.   Letting go of my trans identity right at the moment when more acceptance is happening feels especially strange. I still struggle with shame around transitioning in the first place and ending up in this place. I haven’t shared about my transition/detransition with my grad school colleagues or many of my newer acquaintances/friends.

Another area that is especially challenging is dating. Even though dating as a trans woman was definitely a challenge, there were actually quite a lot of people that were attracted to me. Some of these people also didn’t have any problem with my being trans. The irony is that the real problem was me. A lot of people that were attracted to me were attracted to aspects of my androgyny or even appreciated that I was trans. However, that was unacceptable to me, as I was so wrapped up in my “gender identity” that I was very closed off about talking about being trans, and wanted to people to validate my identity, so if they were attracted to my being trans or masculine qualities that was very uncomfortable and unacceptable. I became very difficult to get close to, and that closed offness was a bigger barrier to relationships than being trans was actually.

Now, I just feel invisible. I do get read as male, but still have quite a bit of breast growth and barely grow any facial hair. I am pretty sure I will do something about my breast growth, and I think it will feel better not to feel the need to wear baggy clothes and conceal things all the time. Part of me feels good about doing that, but part of me procrastinates because it feels like it is doing the same thing again, changing my body so I can be myself.   I did briefly date a woman who was a friend that I knew before detranstion, but since then haven’t met anyone. I think I am reluctant to approach people because I don’t know how to explain my body to them, I know that is something I need to get over. I just really wanted to share the good of detransition as well as the bad, I think that is important.

That is where I am now, I am hoping to get a few more posts out over my break, and catch up with people.

To the young gender questioners, I was you.

When I read some of the young MTF gender questioners, I can really identify with them, because I remember a time when I was them. Things were somewhat different then, I think there were like 4 of us young folk on the internet, in a community completely dominated by older transitioners, and completely dominated by MTFs. I remember we thought the older ones were skeevy too, I think that is just a part of being young, and some of them really were skeevy! I too was frequently hit on by some of these older transitioners, and found it creepy. I went to support groups and everyone was 20 years older than me. That part is different now, because there is substantial community of young trans people.

My dysphoria was rampant during my early teenage years, but subsided once I turned 16 and for the first time had some success with dating. It only reappeared with a vengeance when I discovered alt.transgendered, a then new Usenet group for trans folk. I couldn’t believe there were people in the real world that felt like me! Also I was dealing with the stress of newly being in college and being away from home for the first time. I felt so euphoric when I discovered people with similar feelings, and begun to believe that it was possible for me transition.

I came to believe that I had an essential transgender identity and it was important to express it. Both the community and the therapist I saw twice before being prescribed hormones confirmed it. I was on a high dose of estrogen and it created a kind of euphoria and emotional intensity I hadn’t experienced before. This was considered to be confirmation that I found my true self. I’ve said elsewhere that when I went back on T I liked it because it relieved my brain fog and social anxiety. That wasn’t what I felt then. I felt that E was truly right for me, and my new connection to my feelings was proof of it. There was a certain buzz that estrogen provided, almost like vicodin. I thought my social anxiety was due to passing fears and other trans-related issues. Now I believe that hormones just make you high in large doses. I had a similar effect when I started back on T, I remember the intense euphoria of my first T dose, but it only lasted a few months, and I returned to baseline.

I was tall, but I was young and people didn’t have as much trans awareness then. Not only did I pass (at least outside the queer community) but I was attractive. I got quite a bit of attention from men, many of them the same sort of men that used to bully me as a teenager. This attention validated my then fragile sense of self-worth and validated I was on the right path.

If you had asked me more than three years ago if I felt that transition was necessary , I would have said absolutely. No matter how many problems it caused in my life, I thought that being male was so repulsive that it was necessary. But, there were problems, besides the general difficulties of living as a trans woman, I still felt dysphoria. I still felt my body was wrong and wanted to make more changes. I considered implants and FFS, but something always drew me back when I got to the brink of it. In addition, no matter how much validation my sense of “being a woman” received I always needed more. If someone gendered me as male, it felt like a threat to my very existence.

However, there was always also a thread leading me home, I was seeking out experiences leading to my own healing. I wasn’t sure what I needed but I knew when I found it. I discovered embodied practice, studied psychology, went to therapy and had someone love me for who I was. Eventually I saw this “fixed and essential” female identity was nothing but an illusion, and was just something I created to keep me safe, because I couldn’t be myself as a man. Now, I know that is nonsense, as I can be myself and be accepted. Indeed, the very construct “being yourself as something” is a contradiction, because being yourself is not being as anything, it is just being.

So I don’t know which of you need to transition and which of you don’t, or if any of you do. I do support you whatever you decide. But I do know I see some of the same patterns that led me to transition, and it concerns me. Looking back it would have been nice to avoid all of that unnecessary suffering. I also see your doubts being brushed aside by rampant cheerleading, and that is dangerous.

Reflections

I haven’t wanted to write much the past few days. I am busy moving, and that is part of it. I also have been reflecting on the blog and why I write it. I felt burnt out after last week and did not want to write.

I have initially focused a lot on psychology and theory. I am glad to have written the things I have written, however much of the fruit of that seems to be to have provoked debates about psychology and theory. Discussing theory is good, but theory in and of itself is insufficient to produce growth. I fear that I may just be contributing to the incendiary discourse around these issues. There has been a lot of psychological writing on trans issues over the years, and I had read much of it during the time I identified and lived as a woman. It did not help me in any real way. Insight is also insufficient to produce change. I think particularly about reading Anne Lawrence’s book. She clearly has keen insight into her circumstances and what motivates her, however this insight does nothing to allow her to change them.

I do have a few more things to say about theory, but I think I need to focus more on personal stories and connection. This blog has not done as much as I would like in connecting with others and sharing our stories. By presenting a lot of theory, I have taken too much of an expert stance. I also need support around these issues, because detransitioning is difficult too. It is a lot like transitioning but there is no large support network around it, and the territory is much more unknown.

Also my journey is not really about gender at all, it was a very long, very slow recovery from narcissism. I was trapped in a hall of mirrors, looking for love in my own reflection, where it can never be found. The gender detransition is almost a side effect of letting go of that. I felt like I could not be myself and be loved and so constructed another identity. The ironic price of that is that it makes it impossible to experience true connection, because everything is filtered through this image. It was facing my own mortality, learning how to connect with others, discovering how to be part of a group, learning the true joy of service, and listening to my body that enabled me to let go of that identity. It was not any study of theory or psychological ideas that helped me. I think I would like to say more about that.

So I will think more about that, and what I want to say next, as I pack up and begin my move to my next adventures.

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.

Starting college and hormones – Personal Journey pt. 2

When I got to college, I thought my gender feelings were behind me. It only took a few months before they would reappear. I found myself struggling to make new friends, and again was having no luck dating beyond a brief fling with a woman I met during orientation. I also continued to feel some attraction for men and began to acknowledge that to myself. I began to read usenet groups such as soc.bi and started to consider myself bisexual. Then, one day I learned of a new Usenet group, alt.transgender, and I found there were people that had similar feelings towards me. Real people! Not just people I read about in books. I then found a listserv called TRANSGEN, and heard people echoing feelings that I had.

I was still living in the dorms and felt like I couldn’t explore going out as a woman. I was also in the middle of Texas making it extra-scary. However, the summer after my freshman year I ended up getting an apartment with a friend. My friend was coming out as gay so we had a certain kinship. Now I had a base away from the university to explore my gender. I remember being terrified the first time I went out as a woman and people stared at me, but it quickly got better. This was Texas where no one had much trans awareness outside of the LGBT community.

When sophomore year started, I wanted to proceed with transition. I made an appointment at the university counseling center to talk to a therapist. The grad student intern that I saw was very clearly freaked out by the situation, and in our next meeting referred me to a gender clinic and said he couldn’t help.

I went to visit the gender clinic and after just 2 meetings the psychologist I saw said I had was transgender and referred me for hormones. I visited the endocrinologist associated with the clinic as was given a prescription for hormones. I was excited for the future as I felt I could achieve my dream after all.

It started with a dream – Personal Journey pt. 1

My gender struggle began with a childhood fantasy. I was a highly intelligent child but physically weak. I was advanced in math and science which earned the praise of the adults, but was always picked last for teams and constantly bullied. Being smart was definitely not valued on the playground! I used to pray to be stronger and this caused me a lot of distress. I was bullied nearly daily by the stronger more popular kids. When I was around 5, I developed the fantasy of being turned into a girl. It seemed that if I were a girl, I could be a smart as I was, but then not suffer from the daily violence that I faced as a bit. Now I know how false that is, but I was 5 at the time!

I used the fantasy to help me sleep at night, and it was comforting. When I got to the 6th grade puberty started, and this fantasy became eroticised. I was also very definitely attracted to women, but then sometimes felt attraction for men as well. This was very confusing! My parents gave me a book about sex which contained a one page description of transvestites and transsexuals. It said that transvestites were men with a fetish for women’s clothing, while transsexuals were really women and would transform their body to make the outside match the inside. It clearly sounded better to be a transsexual, and since I had these fantasies of being a woman that must be what I am. It seemed so far fetched that I would ever do anything about it, but I felt that was the truth about me.

I felt very confused as I was also greatly desiring to find a girlfriend. Sometimes it felt like I was trying to be my own girlfriend. Plus, I was still sometimes attracted to men, which I tried to suppress. I had no success with dating at all until I was 16. Then I got online. This was 1990 before the internet was mainstream, so it was mostly on BBSs, and a local IRC (internet chat). This was something of a unique time, because the online world was only known to quirky, nerdy, smart kids. There were only a few of us at each high school, but together we formed a community of nearly 100 teenagers in the metro area. I was able to date successfully for the first time. I had 6 short-lived relationships with different girls that I met, mostly through this community. My transgender fantasies diminished and began to go away. I think this was partially because I was sucessful in dating, and partially because puberty advanced to the point where I could no longer see a woman in the mirror. I thought this problem had come to an end, and didn’t think about it much until I got to college…