Becoming a Dude: Part Three-Problem Solving
I think I was drawn to see myself as trans so I could try to turn a confusing mess of problems into a singular problem with a clear solution. Some of this I vaguely knew I was doing at the time, but most of this I only notice in hindsight. Some of these problems directly concerned the question of what I was, some came from my past, while still others were taking place co-currently with my obsessive gender introspection. Consciously and unconsciously, I tried to interrelate and connect my problems with my gender/body dysphoria and solve them all by transitioning. Here’s a look at a few of them.
Problem One: WTF am I?!
I spent a long time not totally sure what I was and I became uncomfortable with that. I came to feel like I ought to have stable identity and felt a need to be taken seriously by other people and becoming a man fulfilled those needs, at least for a while. I tried to create my own version of what a man could be, adapt it so that it could contain what I thought of as my genderqueerness.
I had all these confused impulses inside of me that I was trying to express. On one hand I’d internalized a lot of negativity about being a butch female/genderweirdo but liked being “masculine” and passing as a guy. I also tried to embrace my gender oddity but felt like it wasn’t enough. It was too insubstantial. I wanted it to be “realer”, I wanted my gender in general to be taken more seriously and respected by other people. I felt like changing my body would force people to acknowledge my sense of gender.
I wanted to fulfill what now look like conflicting desires. I both wanted to be a man, have my masculinity authenticated by assuming physical maleness and wanted to “queer my body”, become a “third sex” or something like that. I wanted to both enhance my ability to pass and enhance my gender strangeness. I even thought I would finally be able to stop thinking about gender once I’d been on t a while which now seems absurdly naive.
It’s not like I didn’t put in a lot of thought before I decided to take t. I’m obsessively analytical, I couldn’t stop thinking about it if I’d wanted to. I thought a lot about it and considered potential negative consequences. (Interesting enough, my two biggest concerns, losing queer visibility and how t would effect me psychologically ended up being major factors that lead me to stop taking t.) I took this shit seriously and I don’t feel like I rushed into it. I thought about it all intensely but thoughts can deceive as much as they can clarify and I still had a long way to go before I figured out how bad my mind could distort shit. I feel like I was so damn curious about t that I ended up finding the reasons I needed to to try it. I was fascinated by the idea of watching my body change dramatically. I was looking for an event to transform me and fix up all my bullshit. I couldn’t resist trying out t as an almost magickal solution to my problems.
Problem Two: “I’m lonely and everyone hates me!” or Growing Up an Odd Female
Like many queers I had a hard time growing up and shit got really bad when I moved from an urban suburb bordering a major city to a town about an hour and a half away. I dealt with some major culture shock and soon found I was ostracized for being too smart, too weird and not enough of what a girl is supposed to be. I was a freak for being a girl who liked reptiles and insects, it was that bad. This lasted from half-way through the fourth grade up through high school. Middle school was the worst. I made almost no friends at school. Of the few kids at school who were cool with me, I hung out with virtually none outside of class. I made a few friends at my UU church youth group (definitely lucked out on having Unitarian parents) and during high school I discovered queer youth groups and made some friends there but I was never one of the popular, cool gays.
I was largely isolated from and harassed by my peers for about nine years. Eventually I stopped giving a shit about fitting in and started fucking with the people who were fucking with me. I got into playing the freak and weirding people out. I developed a lot of loner tendencies and I still have some issues relating to other people, feeling at ease with them.
I didn’t realize how much of the shit I dealt with when I was younger had to do with gender until a few years back. By the time I was in high school, I knew I was getting a lot of shit for not being straight but by that time I was already blocking my younger years from my mind. I didn’t want to think about all that awful shit and if I didn’t remember it I also couldn’t look back and reflect on why it happened. I knew I got shit cuz I was different but I didn’t consider that a lot of the bullshit I got was because I wasn’t a proper girl. If I’d had been a boy I still would have gotten shit but I think that I at least would have been able to hang out with other awkward geeky boys. Being a brainy girl who wanted to grow up to be a sci-fi writer and didn’t give a shit about fashion and “femininity” left me with few people to turn to. I wanted to play with the boys but they won’t have me and the girls didn’t interest me much.
I still have trouble remembering those years because they were so painful and humiliating. Some memories started returning after I’d been on t a while and that’s when I began to realize how great a role gender had played in my youthful alienation. That’s also one of the first times I started to question why exactly I was taking t and living as a dude.
Living through all that left me with a busted sense of self I wanted to get away from. I wanted to escape from my past. I saw transitioning as a way to die and be reborn, to become a new and better person.
Problem Three: Don’t Wanna End Up Like My Mom
While I was pondering gender and hormones, my mom was busy going deeper and deeper into depression until she psychologically disintegrated and killed herself.
I grew up very close to my mom. She was one of the only people there for me when most of my peers wanted nothing to do with me. We looked alike, our bodies and faces were put together similarly. We shared some psychological traits too but in other ways our personalities clashed dramatically.
As a teen I became threatened by our resemblance and felt a strong need to distinguish myself from her. I played up our differences, argued with her and provoked her. I often tried to distance myself from her by treating her cruelly. I’d bought into this idea that “masculine” meant macho, meant dominant and aggressive. Trouble was I was pretty damn low on the social pyramid at school, close to the very bottom. So to feel more powerful, I’d say all sorts of fucked up shit to my mom, take out my anger and frustration while trying to assert how I was different from her, try make myself seem “strong” next to her “weakness”. Other kids would fuck with me and I’d turn around and yell at my mom, try to make her hurt. I still feel ashamed of my behavior towards her.
I don’t know when my mom started to struggle with depression. Seems like it could’ve started long before I was born. I know it got pretty bad near the end of my high school years. My senior year she tried to kill herself. She spent some time in a psych ward and the meds they gave her and therapy they put her through seemed to help. Later she went off her meds and feel into a deep depression that she never came out of. She was put back on meds but they didn’t seems to help much. I think some of the meds they gave her made her worse. She suffered constantly and didn’t seem to be herself anymore. She seemed zombie-like and miserable. She stopped taking care of herself and would spend much of her time aimlessly pacing around, face stuck in a grimace.
I felt so horrified I couldn’t fully absorb the reality in front of me, couldn’t let myself be hurt by it. I hated being around her. I saw her as already dead, like her mind, what had made her alive was gone and just her tortured flesh remained. When she ended up killing herself at first I felt relief. Her suffering was finally over. I stayed emotionally numb for over a year before I fell apart and had a breakdown of sorts. I didn’t cry about her death until after that year had passed.
I didn’t want to be like my mom before she lost her head but when she started getting really bad that desire intensified a thousandfold. I didn’t want to end up a useless shell. I thought my mom was weak and had been crushed by the world. I wanted to be as different from her as possible. I think becoming a man had something to do with separating myself from her, trying to ensure I never shared her fate.
It was also a way of dissociating from the pain of her sickness and suicide and other awful shit. I feel like I created this male identity in response to to various stresses in my life and as a way to adapt and survive. These stresses ranged from psychological damage I’d taken growing up to coping with my mom going crazy and killing herself.