10.20.2011

The Darker Side of Transition

The Ice Road
I changed my name almost 2 years ago, have been on testosterone for over a year and had top surgery just  a few short months ago. I am happy to finally have some dominion over my emotions, to feel comfortable in my own skin and lately even think I might have some control of my own destiny. My transition has been difficult, probably more difficult than I have let on. I want to remain encouraging and positive about my  experience but at the same time I want to be honest and tell you about some of the most difficult parts of transitioning...in my experience.

The hardest part of the past year for me has been being alone. I have talked about being lonely and homesick but I also think a lack of access to my psychiatrist has been detrimental to my mental health. I have been away from my family, my closest friends, the landscape that I love so dearly and access to particularly satisfying elements. I have never really experienced the ache of homesickness like I have in the past year. Perhaps because at my time of greatest need for comfort I find myself alone in an unfamilliar and hostile environment. Now I don't mean just the landscape but I am also talking about my body as a hostile environment.

Up until my top surgery, my gender dysphoria worsened as I transitioned. As testosterone changed my voice and my body mass, rearranged my body fat, changed my body temperature, and marked me with the scars of pubescent acne, my anxiety about my chest increased. I wore a binder nearly everyday and there were times when it made breathing difficult. They are hot and tight and uncomfortable as anyone who's ever worn one will tell you. But even with them strapped down I still worried someone would notice my breasts and call me out as a liar, a fake, and a fraud. This anxiety made me antisocial and I stopped going out. Sure you might say that it was all in my head but it wasn't just my behaviour that changed.

A large majority of the group of people I kept company with were lesbians and they were all friends or acquaintances of my girlfriend at the time. When I realized that my partner couldn't support me from within our relationship I broke it off. We still live together and it has been difficult working through the anger and hurt we each experienced since those phases didn't come at the same time for us. It didn't take too long before I was no longer invited out or included in group outings. UI suppose partly because people feel a need to pick a side and partly because I was no longer a lesbian in their eyes. It was weird to have a guy around especially the guy who is the ex girlfriend of a friend. I understand it doesn't help me feel better about it.

I survived the break up of my relationship and subsequent isolation from my peers by hibernating in a childish pity throughout the winter. While that solitude allowed a lot of wounds to heal I was subject to a second loss of innocence, realizing that my relationships were changing. I was forced to be self-sufficient and figure out how to survive the city and the people on my own. By the time spring came around, my reclusive winter had taken its toll and my resulting depression only made things worse. I was unbearable. The lonliness is excruciating. Being the only one of your kind really makes it even more difficult to reach out and ask for help because there is no one who can really understand what it's like to be trans unless they've dealt with similar issues of gender.

Spring brought a thaw both to my mood and to my isolation. I got a new job and surrounded myslef with new people, new strangers, blank slates who didn't have opinions about whether my transition was right or wrong or good or bad. They have no idea there is a former me to compare to and so I can be my new self, and figure out how I fit into a this new environment.

I was lucky that spring also brought me a handful of people who literally saved me from myself. At the time I needed someone the most, an acquaintance showed up for a conference here in town and invitied me out for supper. It was my melting point. I finally had someone who could understand the struggle, someone I could talk to, someone who would listen and who didn't know my ex and therefore had not real opinion about who was right or wrong. We went out fishing together and sat in the sun on the rocks talking about life and love, families and fathers, tits and top surgery, gender misconceptions and what on earth might motivate someone to just disappear....that is the second time she has saved me.

In June I had top surgery. Total victory. Win. Score. Jackpot.

In July my best trans friend and his sweet and awesome fiancee moved up for the summer and it was so nice to just hang out and feel comfortable in my new skin. It was so nice to have someone make me laugh, to be able to laugh at myself and make the tires on a minivan squeal on the pavement. It was ok to be angry and frustrated and scared and finally just relax in the company of someone who vibrates at the same frequency.

I even made some new friends, sure they are cisgendered but that's ok with me. I like them just the way they are. we talked about the thing we share in common: art. Passionate creative and inspiring conversation that motivated me to begin working again, drawing and creating and giving a cathartic release to my emotions.

I finally got to use my kayak and while I was by myslef in the boat I was outside on the land.  Anyone who goes out on the land knows when you're out there, you aren't alone. I might yet get out one or two more times before things freeze.... even if it does snow. I'm sure it will be beautiful.

Unfortunately none of these friends will be around for the winter. They are all off on adventures some to struggle, some to explore, some who got a little something they never expected. I face the upcoming winter alone again and I am nervous. I am making plans to keep busy and go out but I am afraid the isolation might once again drag me into a frozen depression. I have work, I have a novel to write, a Christmas vacation and opportunities to advance at work. My friends have flown south for the winter but I know that it won't be long before spring and the melt will come once again.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

I've read every single blog post of yours and you may have addressed this question but if you have, I don't remember what you said. It sounds like your family, friends, doctors, and environment that you crave and miss so deeply aren't where you are, they are further south. You don't sound happy and I'm unsure why you still live there. Why don't you move somewhere that will be more suited to your desires?

LuckyJack said...

I have been asking myself the same question for months but there are a few reasons keeping me here. The first and biggest of them is money. There are no jobs in the small town I moved away from so leaving a good job with good pay won't help me get ahead. I have a lot of student debt to pay off and the cost of moving would just put me further behind. Another reason I am hesitant to move home is I am scared it would be a huge disappointment. Nostalgia always colours the past with a certain amount of longing but I am not sure I could return without feeling like I was trying to re-enter the past. I am at a crossroads facing my future as a man and I need to stop and hibernate, meditate, and procrastinate a little before I make up my mind about my future.