Made a new Tumblr. Long story short: I deleted my first one. Then I realized I kept tabs on different friends and acquaintances using Tumblr. So, here’s version 2.0: http://mxtrmeike13.tumblr.com/.
First of all, I want to preface this by saying that I don’t pass 100% of the time. On a related note, I’m still working on correcting random strangers when I end up being misgendered. That all being said, I’m stealth at work, and at this point this makes up at least 50% of my life. And although I’m sure my coworkers either know or have guessed at my trans identity, none of my clients seem to have a clue. So I go about my life pretending that I’m stealth in the workplace. It’s a nice fantasy.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what it means to be stealth. This isn’t just a workplace issue. This extends to friends, family, even the web. I know of people on various social networking sites that have separate accounts so that they remain stealth online. Basically, being stealth extends to just about every aspect of life.
And while I may prance about at work, not making any mention of my past life growing up female, and not really addressing my trans status at all…this is not my first choice. Ideally, I would be open and honest with everyone I interact with for any great length of time. It’s not so much that I want or need people to know I’m trans — I just like people to know exactly where I’m at, and what sorts of goodies I can bring to the proverbial table. Knowing that I grew up as female, but now prefer to be closer to the manly/neutral side of things, is as essential to knowing who I am as it is for me to know what someone else’s hobbies are, or what sort of music they listen to. Basically, it’s kind of important to understanding me as a human being.
There is a part of me that just wants to slide neatly into the male categorization in general interactions, don’t get me wrong. I just feel as though I’m holding back from people if I don’t tell them I’m transgender. I’m not entirely sure how to address this odd place I find myself in, but I suppose only time will tell how it’ll all work out.
It’s been a while since I posted one of these….
I’ve been thinking lately about what my plans are for my transition, and specifically about how they’ve changed over the past three or so years since I started identifying as transgender. So now I’m going to write about it and force you all to think about it, too. Merry belated Christmas.
As I’ve probably alluded to before in other posts, I’m an incredibly oblivious person, especially when it involves myself. The fact that I can exhibit any amount of personal insight and write this astounds me. So it should come as no surprise that when I started questioning myself and my gender identity, back around Christmastime of 2009, I had absolutely no plans for transitioning. I didn’t even see myself as transgender, to be honest. I just thought there was something wrong with me that required psychological attention.
So then I start therapy around April or May of 2010, and I went into the appointments understanding that my therapist specialized in sexual and gender identity issues. But I still had no intention of transitioning. Fast forward to Germany later that year, and by the time Christmas rolled around again I finally started identifying as trans. So far, so good. But I was solidly convinced that I would never take hormones, and instead I chose to focus my efforts on top surgery. This remained the case until I returned back home to Minnesota, when my therapist pointed out to me that, typically, surgery took place after hormone replacement therapy.
By the time Christmas of 2011 took place I was walking a very thin line between identities and plans for transition. I knew for sure that I wanted top surgery, but hormones and other potential surgeries were still up in the air. To top things off, I had started to question my previous identity of being gender-neutral; could I possibly be FTM? I still wasn’t ready to make this leap, but through therapy and much angst on my end of things, I determined that hormones was something I needed to seriously consider utilizing. And finally, on September 12th, 2012, I started on testosterone.
I breathed a sigh of relief on that day. I’ve been pretty relaxed about transition since that point, since it honestly gave me the chance to sit back and let things progress at their natural pace. At this point I anticipate being on hormones for the long haul, but that doesn’t mean that my transition is anywhere close to being over. I’ll be working on my legal name change by the end of this month, and one of my New Year’s resolutions to myself is to figure out when I’ll be having top surgery done. So where does this leave my blog? Right here, of course! I’ll be documenting changes and big news here, as per usual. Be prepared to follow along for the ride.
When I first started looking into all things gender, it became clear to me that a lot people going through a gender transition have some sort of mentor. Or someone that’s been super-duper supportive of their transition, was the first to get on board, etc. Someone that either has been where they are, or is going along on the journey with them and is their number one ally. And I get it, we all have mentors for various things. When I was an itty bitty person, my mentor was probably my dad. But as I embarked on my gender journey I came to a depressing realization: I did not have a mentor. And not only that, but I would search and search, dismantle the internet and ravage the books, and still find no one. Ultimately, I felt alone in my decision to transition.
I think this left me with a huge complex. Seriously. I would run into older trans* folk, or people further along in their transition, and I would get ridiculously frustrated or sad. I’d get that whole “not trans* enough” thing going on. It’s not the happiest place to be. But then I realized that this is what we were ultimately told when beginning transition: “Find somebody to model or emulate.” With vocal training especially, I noticed that lots of my trans friends were told to find someone they could copy vocal patterns, or even body language, from.
So then I got to thinking. And I decided that maybe it wasn’t so bad that I was figuring out myself all by myself. I mean, isn’t the point to transition more fully into who you are? Considering this, I wondered why we were being told to copy other people. It made no sense to me, and the point continues to elude me. While there may still be times that I long for someone who I can identify as my trans* role model, in the end I’m happy that I can claim sole responsibility for my becoming who I am today. (Not to say that I haven’t been influenced at all by my friends and family, of course.)
I admit that this is kind of a vague topic on my part. So I’m curious about whoever’s reading this: have you had mentors, for transition or for any other important life event? What are your thoughts about the whole thing? Are they necessary for transition to occur, or just a natural part of the process? Inquiring minds are dying to know.
I’ve been sitting on this topic for a while, primarily because it’s one that hits very close to home for me. But the more I think about it, and the more I experience it, it becomes undeniably clear that this is a post that desperately needs to be written. Plus, it gives me an opportunity to stick my Psychology BA hat on and look all smart and learned. Go me.
As I mentioned in this post, I was diagnosed sometime within the last three years as having dysthymia, also known as dysthymic disorder. But the more open I become with friends, family, or others about my mental health status, it becomes increasingly obvious that almost no one outside of the mental health community is familiar with this diagnosis. The short, nitty gritty definition I usually give is “chronic, low-grade depression”. But this too fails to properly encompass the essence of dysthymia, and in the end people tend to not take this diagnosis terribly seriously. One may think,
“Well, it’s just low-grade depression — that means it’s not all that bad, right?”
Sadly, this is most certainly not the case. And this misconception is one that hurts the individual diagnosed the most, which in the end could have them thinking the same thing about themselves. It’s a vicious cycle. So here’s what important to know about dysthymia….
The chronic aspect of the definition is obvious; it is recurring, and not something that is just cured one day and gone the next. The current version of the DSM describes it like so:
“Depressed mood for most of the day, for more days than not…for at least 2 years.”
It goes on to say that:
“During the 2-year period of the disturbance, the person has never been without the symptoms…for more than 2 months at a time.”
Basically, the negativity and low mood is constantly with you, day in and day out. It’s exhausting, to put it mildly. This is a departure from major depression, which is what we usually think of when we talk about depression. Major depressive episodes come and go, and one could be not depressed for months or years before feeling depressed again. Additionally, one could never have a depressive episode again. But with dysthymia, the low mood never really goes away, and if it does it’s incredibly short-lived.
Here are the basic symptoms associated with dysthymia:
Poor Appetite or Overeating
Insomnia or Hypersomnia
Low Energy or Fatigue
Poor Concentration or Difficulty Making Decisions
Feelings of Hopelessness
Here’s the interesting aspect of all of this: while you could be suffering from these symptoms, a major depressive episode could sneak up on you. So not only would you be dysthymic, but you would be majorly depressed as well. And once the depressive episode goes away the dysthymia is still there — and since you’re not depressed anymore, the dysthymia starts to feel pretty normal and non-threatening. But all the while, the disorder is still there effecting your daily life, sometimes without your knowing it.
This is why most, if not all, mental health professionals tell me that dysthymia is so much harder to treat than depression. Many also go so far as to say that dysthymia is virtually untreatable, save for managing the symptoms. To anyone seeing a professional for depression and looking for a good outcome for treatment, dysthymia is kind of like a death sentence. There is no fast and easy way to get out of the disorder, mainly because after a while it becomes more of a personality trait than a set of symptoms.
But like many other mental health diagnoses, there are certainly things you can do to help yourself if you are diagnosed with dysthymia. Cognitive behavioral therapies, dialectical behavioral therapy, and a few Eastern practices like mindfulness (and, by extension, mindfulness-based therapies and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy) usually are very beneficial in addressing dysthymia both in the short- and long-term. Like any bad habit, the symptoms of dysthymia can be fought against through constant practice and use of the methods taught in these forms of therapy. It is important to continuously practice them, however, because once the coping strategies fall away it gives a chance for the disorder to start right back up again from where it left off.
So to all suffering from dysthymia, or those who know someone with the diagnosis: there is hope. It just takes a lot of willpower, and practice, to get there.
While I may not be writing many blog posts, I did make a quick video the other day. So for anyone who’s interested in changes on T weeks 0-7.5, here it is.
Hey all. I haven’t updated in a while, and I’m afraid this might last until the end of the month. For those who are unaware, November is National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo. I’ve often said that writing is therapeutic for me, but it’s really more than that. Writing is a full-time hobby (when I have time, that is) and it’s something I’m deeply passionate about. It’s also, if I can boast, the one thing I feel like I excel at doing. For 10+ years now, I’ve had a dream of publishing a book before I die. I had said before I graduate high school, but since that date’s long since past, I’ll broaden my scope a little….
So, in short, I’m focusing my writing efforts this month on attending to my fiction. For those of you interested in participating, there’s still 27 days left! And the website can be found here. Additionally, you can find my writer’s bio, novel information, etc. at this link here. Feel free to add me as a writing buddy. =]
Until next time,
As I near the sixth day of training for my new job, I have some things to report. The first of which is that, following my e-mail to the HR department, I was written back a very nice e-mail which thanked me for my honesty, and let me know that they were forwarding the message to the HR director. After this I was asked to do a phone conference with both HR and the director of the program I’d be working in. This went very well, and we agreed that the best course of action would be to introduce me as male right off the bat.
This has been a most interesting experience thus far. I don’t particularly enjoy being confrontational, or even all that upfront about myself or my identity. I allow a huge room for error or confusion, and I tend not to correct people right away if they misgender me. But so far I’ve corrected two people about pronouns, only one of which was necessary, the second of which being just a precaution on my part. I’ve also started saying things here and there to let people know that I’m “male”: for instance, stating my preference for working with male clients, since as a guy I can relate to them better, etc.
But I’ve also found myself making last-minute white lies to keep up appearances. As an example, a coworker in my orientation group asked if I’d ever had my hair longer. Of
course I have; I had it halfway down my back throughout half of high school! But I said, ”No” in the most matter of fact way, when normally I would have responded with complete honesty. I’ve also had a cold for the past week or so, and my voice has been lower, so thankfully my gender presentation has gone unchallenged. However, it’s somewhat unsettling to be going almost completely stealth so early on in my transition, especially when I had no real intentions of going totally stealth in the first place.
I have come out to one coworker, however. My suspicions of her being LGBTQ were confirmed fairly early on, and when she asked me about being a twin, I paused for a moment before telling her the truth. The fact that she was so amazed at “opposite-sexed twins” being identical was too close to home for me, and I told her in as few words as possible that we weren’t exactly opposite. She has been totally cool about it, and we’ve had many a conversation about our respective partners and experiences since then.
Basically, my whole trans* identity is being kept well below the radar. It’s not so much an issue with me being trans, but it has more to do with not wanting to upset the clients I’m working with. And I’m honestly okay with that. Now I’m just waiting to see how things go.
Yes, I succumbed….But really, micro-blogging about music, books, etc…SO much better than Facebook! Anyways, should you wish to follow me, here it is: