Body Dysphoria: A Fact of Life
This post has been very difficult for me to write and has gone though a couple of incarnations and a couple of different titles. It is a look at the Body Dysphoria I have experienced. It also is mostly unedited because it is 2AM and I do have to get up rather early but I wanted to get this posted and of my chest… LOL, off my chest. That’s funny….
I was working on a post about my body dysphoria, however all of a sudden it stopped flowing. I wasn’t angry anymore. I couldn’t write anymore. Body Dysphoria for those of you who don’t know is the feeling that transgender people experience that they were born in the wrong body. The idea that the thing that had the most negative impact on my life over the course of my life was being assigned male at birth. Yes, something that was decided mere moments after I was born, has caused a lasting impact of pain throughout the course of thirty years. Yet, I don’t find myself angry anymore.
Originally I was going to title the post: “God’s Gift: My Body Dysphoria” but I realized that doesn’t apply anymore. For I while I was going to name it “Society’s Gift: My Body Dysphoria” This is where I was on the previous incarnation of this blog post…
“Your body is God’s gift to you, why can’t you be happy with it?” That is a line that has offended many transgender people. Yet, transgender people are still forced to hear it from time to time from the ultra-religious. It is not uncommon, and yet, I’ve only heard it from one person. That person is, me. My goal today is to explain why that is the most offensive thing you can say to a transgender person struggling with Body Dysphoria, what even Body Dysphoria is, and how it can be helped. How do you rationalize a religion where God makes no mistakes? The body I was born into has to be a mistake.
For me, the Gift is not the body I am in but the will to challenge it. The need to challenge it and become the person I was meant to be.
I almost erased the starting of this post and completely started over. I feel like it doesn’t set the setting of the post right, but at the same time I like the sound of it, the angst and the frustration. Body dysphoria, the hate for my own body, is something I have struggled with since puberty. Many transgender people struggle with it as far back as they can remember. For me, it didn’t really hit hard until puberty began. For many years I didn’t understand the difference between girls and boys. I missed health in 5th grade because one school did it in 5th and one did it in 6th and I transferred in-between the two years. And health class really contains all there is on gender education pre-puberty.
My hair was always kept short, and I always fell in with the boys, but I didn’t understand why. Why did the doctor who presided over my birth assign me Male? Shouldn’t that have been my choice to make? Then I realized there is a physical difference between the two genders, which I did not comprehend at first. Like I knew they were different but I had no idea how different that physical difference made the genders. I started puberty faster than many of the people around me, but I spent much longer in puberty than people around me. I resisted the changes happening to me so much, because I hated each and every one of them.
As I write this thinking back has me really upset. The kind of upset that reminds me of all the pain I’ve suffered. The kind of upset that makes me want to erase everything. The kind of upset that makes me not want to continue writing, but some of this needs to be aired out and brought into the daylight. Over time the testosterone built up in my body, it was like a gentle poisoning. There is a fable about a frog being dropped into a boiling pot jumping out immediately. However, if the frog is dropped in cool pot of water and the heat is slowly increased it will end up boiling to death. That, slow increase, were testosterone’s effect on me. I boiled to death.
When I was very young, before testosterone I just…
Something odd happened over the last thirty-six hours. Somehow I feel comfortable. I have been so angry over the last thirty years. And yet mere hours make me feel better? I have over the years done some terrible things to my body. Some of that has caused me to have two surgeries on the parts of the body that have identified me as male. I have told some of that to certain people around me. Those surgeries were called a Hydrocele in my particular case it was Hydrocele Testis. In most cases the cause is unknown and that is the case with me. Except, I know this issue, both times, was the result of blunt force trauma to the area. That is the part I have not said before.
Many people in my situation, and a great deal who are not, at some point in their life they cause themselves self-harm. I am no exception. For the majority of people that self-harm resulted in taking a sharp object cutting into the skin and drawing blood. That issue effects many who are transgender and many who are not. But occurrence within those who are transgender is much higher than the general population average. I have not talked to a transgender person yet, who has not had some kind of self-harm in their life. I’m sure there are some, but it appears they are quite rare. The purpose of this self-harm, at least for me, and it appears many others, is to convert mental/emotional pain to physical pain. Physical pain always faded faster so it was easier to cope with.
In my case I was horribly afraid of blood. If you are not sure yet, why please see my other blog post: Darkness v. Light: The First Darkness. For me this self-harm took the form of blunt force trauma and biting. Most of the small scars on my hands and arms are from me biting down on myself too hard. I during the course of high school I almost constantly had a bruise on my body somewhere. I did well at putting them in places that most of the time could be easily covered up. However, there are certain places that I went after more often than not. My most common targets were the parts that caused me to be assigned male at birth, and my chest. I felt betrayed by my chest, because nothing ever grew… I hid mirrors, refused to look into them. I covered every part of my body I could for so long. I wore t-shirts in the pool/water parks I went to because I felt uncomfortable exposing really any part of my body.
The core of this transition for me is the physical transition. Fixing my body in such a way so that my mind, heart and soul can live within this society in such a way that they can be happy. As I have said before being assigned male at birth has been, one of, if not, the most detrimental decision of my life. It was something a doctor did without thinking mere moments after I was born. It was something he did out of habit on November 17, 1985. The world was a different place then. However, I proposed a change. Each doctor writes, “Unknown” for gender on that birth certificate. I know that will never happen, but if that were the case, I probably would not be in the position I am right now.
At this point I have been on hormone replacement therapy for nine months and three weeks and three days. Yes, I keep track. There will be a huge party on February 23, 2016. I don’t care that it is a week day, I will be taking it off and celebrating the hell out of that day. Hormone therapy has changed my life. While the changes were not instant, I am thankful that they have occurred. Today, after much procrastination, I have made an appointment for February to have my facial hair removed. That in and of itself was difficult for me, and I now have a little under two months to psych myself up for it. I have greatly feared burns my whole life, just as I have feared blood. I have been very afraid of that for so long. It was this fear that prevented me from calling and getting the help I need to change my body.
I have begun considering the surgeries that will change the shape of my neck and will, hopefully, be reaching out for a consultation in regards to that. However, I have mixed feelings about surgery. I have had three major surgeries in my life. In addition to the two mentioned above I had Pyloric Stenosis when I was only a couple of weeks old. Surgery has been a rare occurrence for me. And most importantly the two that I remember did not result in things that I wanted. I did not want that area repaired, I wanted it taken off. However, the symptoms were too much to handle so something needed to be done. However, I couldn’t say “please just remove it” so I said “Just do whatever needs to be done.”
My history with surgery is mixed. One surgery saved my life, the others have extended my pain. Each time I had surgery I dreamed of waking up with all of it completely removed, and in bliss. The first time I woke up It was painful sure, but the emotional pain of finding it all still attached was far worse. I was angrier than ever before. I was ashamed of the things I had done to myself, but that didn’t keep me from doing them again. Mere weeks after the surgery I continued to cause myself self-harm in such a way that caused the symptoms to start coming back over time. The more I did it, the more symptoms I had. Eventually the symptoms got too painful and I had to go see the doctor again… “Just do whatever needs to be done.”
A little while after saying that I had my second dream of freedom from my own body, and I again woke up after surgery. I cried and screamed, partly from the physical pain, which was worse. But also from the emotional pain. It was still attached. So, my life continued in pain. It was shortly thereafter that I did everything I could do to never be naked. I wore swim trunks or underwear into the shower and would have that area exposed, even to myself as little as possible. I was ashamed of the parts I had attached to me. They felt like a plague.
When I went away to college it was the worst possible situation. The floor was determined to be a male floor and the washrooms on that floor were attached to the shower room, which was far from private. It looked like a bathhouse shower room with curtains drawn. I attempted to shower at odd times between 2 and 4am. I explicitly set an alarm, so I could wake me up in the middle of the night to shower and go back to bed. I would never enter the washroom to shower if there was another person anywhere in the room. This alone caused me to go 3-4 days at a time without showering sometimes. If someone came in while I was showering for any person I would be immobilized in terror hiding in the corner of the shower until they left. For some reason anyone seeing my body scared me greatly. I was ashamed of what I had between my legs, and I was likewise ashamed of what I didn’t have on my chest…. However, I didn’t know that at the time.
The biggest problem is that since I grew up with this issue it was normal for me. How was I to know that people my age didn’t have the same problems I did? I assumed everyone my age was causing themselves physical harm. I assumed everyone my age was ashamed of their body. This caused me to not mention it. In some cases, go so far as to actively hide it. Why was I any different? I assumed nobody really talked about this kind of stuff but everyone carried it along with them. I would not find out till many years later that that could not have been be further from the truth.
As my chest continues to grow from the hormones my dysphoria is slowly changing to euphoria. There is a part of my body that is no longer embarrassing for me. It’s amazing to me. I shave every day to keep the hair off my face, I didn’t before. I shave many parts of my body that I didn’t before. My hair is growing out on my head and it’s going to be reaching my shoulders soon. My body dysphoria slowly is going away…. I still bite myself from time to time, but that has become a nervous tick more than anything else. I don’t actively injure myself because, I’m starting to be happy.
Some of the simplest changes, regular shaving and growing out my hair were the most effective in healing my mental and emotional state. Piercing my ears helped me see the little bit of girl within me about a year ago as I was just coming out. Even though men wear piercings, to me, piercing my ears was a rite of passage. I felt like that little girl finally going to get it done.
There are still things I don’t like. I still have moments that are very difficult for me. I still cry over certain things that are attached to my body, but the frequency is going down quickly. I still cry over some of the places hair grow where I do not want it.
For a while I said this was God’s Error. For a while I said this was Society’s Error. For a while I said this was Biology’s Error. For a while, I thought it was a Doctor’s Error. For a while, I just cried. Now, the cause doesn’t matter. I just have to deal with Body Dysphoria, I am one of many transgender people who do. It was at times very debilitating, but I thought it was normal so I never asked for help. I will continue to shave every day; I will take steps one at a time to correct each issue I have, with this body I live in.
So, While I await and prepare myself for an impending meeting with a laser, I will fortify myself to make a call to speak to a doctor about surgery to remove my Adam’s Apple… Maybe surgery may turn out the way I want for once…