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Jan 24 2015

From Reparative Therapy to HRT

I use the second person quite a bit in this blog post (you, your, you’re) that is intentional. The goal is for you, the reader, to imagine yourself in these situations more importantly that you cannot be happy unless this is your path. It is an exercise for those of you who are confident in your gender to think about what life is like for those of us who have some kind of gender mismatch in our lives from what society expects of us. For many it will be difficult, near impossible, to imagine. Just like it is nearly impossible for me to imagine being happy with who I am, although now that I have started my transition (you will read more about what that means) I feel like it is possible for me to be a whole, complete, and happy person the first time in my life.

The LBGTQ (Lesbian, Bisexual, Gay, Transgender, and Queer) A.K.A. the LGBPTTQQIIAA+ (alphabet soup of gender identity quandaries – Note the plus represents more unmentioned groups) community has always fought against the idea that their situation needs to be treated. However, from my experience one of those things requires some kind of treatment. The LBGTQ+ community is really two communities that formed into one around “gender identity issues” the LBG+ is about what gender you wish to be with as a mate. The TQ+ is about what gender you are and has very little to do with sex and physical intimacy. I hope the two communities begin to separate again to bring more light to the difference. I will save that for another blog post. Since I am a transgender person, it is that upon which I speak.

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Being a transgender person is an ultimate mismatch within yourself. It has nothing to do with society or your relationship with your partner. Those things are pulled in by the nature of the problem but you are in essence the same person you always were, and you still (hopefully) love the same person you have always loved. The mismatch being a transgender person creates is a mismatch between your mind, and your body. In my case, I was born male but my mind is that of a woman. This “condition” does absolutely need treatment in my mind, however it does not mean anything is wrong with the person in question. Whereas, being Lesbian, Bi, or Gay does not need treatment once accepted. There is no problem with liking someone of the same sex. There is a problem with the mismatch in personal identity that is uncorrectable by yourself. It at least causes depression and an inability to build up self-esteem and self-confidence; it can cause many more symptoms. It is like any other disease like bronchitis and influenza. I have no problem calling it a disease. I have no problem saying that I am suffering. I am seeking treatment to get it fixed.

There are so many variants of transgender. Some of those people seek to avoid treatment. Some of those people, like me, seek treatment. I feel like there is a stigma against ‘treatment’ for these kind of conditions in our society and that even people that have them will not admit they are receiving treatment because it implies something is wrong with them. Transgender people who seek to receive treatment are looked as fundamentally wrong people in the eyes of “normal” society. Some will think we are crazy, some will think we are going to hell. There is no telling how people will react if you tell someone “I am a transgender person.” The confidence of being able to be open about who they really are is one of the hidden rights granted to people who are comfortable with their gender (hereto after termed cis-gender.) I have had to be nervous, and lie about who I really am because I have no idea what emotion will greet me when I tell people the truth. I feel that the issue I have is no different from being ill with bronchitis. Nothing is fundamentally wrong with people if they get bronchitis, but they still get treatment. They are fixing something that is preventing them from living the way they wish too, that is all. In addition, transgenderism like many illnesses can cause death, e.g. Leelah Alcorn. I will speak a little more about her later. To me, her cause of death is “Suicide due to depression from improperly treated transgenderism.”

Because biological gender is clear before birth and nobody can ask you “are you a boy or girl on the inside,” many transgender people live their lives as the “wrong” gender for the first few years at least. When someone is born, society assumes the child to have a mental gender and gender expression that matches his or her physical gender. Society also assumes they are straight, that is love people of the opposite gender. If you are anything other than that setup, you have to “come out.” When people have a baby, it is hard to give consideration that the child may be transgender. Even if they do it would be hard to say that to the people around you. If the baby has a penis, it is a boy, Simple as that. Once the person can start speaking and say, “I’m actually a girl” or “I’m actually a boy” it becomes a matter of if their parents, siblings, friends, etc. will believe and accept them. People are starting to come out as transgender at younger ages than before, sometimes as early as three years old. Can a three year old really know that biology has misgendered them? Absolutely. Can they say it clearly? Absolutely not. For me, people believed and accepted me. In many ways, I got lucky. For many people coming out is the hardest part because it leads to hate and anger from those around them. I was in my late 20s when I came out and they had seen that I was clearly right in mind and it explained a lot of the unexplainable oddities and actions in my life. However, I was in treatment long before I came out. I had subjected myself to a type of treatment called reparative therapy. Reparative therapy was crucial to my survival until I was ready to face who I am. I think if I had come out and had to face this before I was in my late 20s I would have shared Leelah’s fate.

Reparative therapy is usually the type of treatment preferred by families or LBGTQ+ people that are in denial about the problem. Reparative Therapy seeks to fix the mind. Transgender, gay, lesbian, and bisexual people who feel it would be too difficult to “come out” also use it as an avoidance of the problem. Most of the LBGTQ+ community will tell you that reparative therapy is not a valid treatment for these issues. I claim it is, but the only person that can decide if it will work is the person receiving treatment. Reparative therapy will always fail if the subject rejects it. Sometimes like in the case of myself a transsexual person will do this type of therapy to themselves to avoid facing or realizing the problem and coming out. The advantage to reparative therapy is that it involves the least number of people in the process. During reparative therapy, only a couple of people know that the individual is not a normal cis-gendered straight person. Sometimes nobody knows. It is a way to solve the problem without medical intervention. For LBGTQ+ people that are in denial already it is the solution of choice. The biggest problem with reparative therapy is that it requires constant upkeep. When building the filter, and if it ever cracks, depression and chance for suicide become much worse. That is what happened to Leelah Alcorn. Her parents decided that reparative therapy was the correct option and was not aware of or didn’t care about the increased depression associated with that particularly when the transgender person opposes reparative therapy as an option as she did. Most transsexual people, who realize their situation and accept it, like her, oppose reparative therapy. Many in the LBGTQ+ community believe that reparative therapy goes something like this:

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Reparative therapy is a kin to living a lie. You trick yourself to believe that you are someone you are not. You trick yourself to believe you are the gender your body tells you are, or you are attracted to the people you “should” be attracted to. It is difficult to suppress the things you want to say, or do things that you do not really want to. Reparative Therapy succeeds when you have fully repressed your true self. It is a conscious choice, and a lot of work to maintain the effects of reparative therapy. For me the maintenance was almost constant. It caused me to do poorly in school because I was always thinking “is this right for a man to do?”, “Is it okay that a man says this?” It caused extreme stress within me. Maintaining this situation was constant anxiety and depression trying to “fake” my way through my life. Reparative therapy will only work if the LBGTQ+ person wants to avoid and ignore the problem for their entire life. Upon the failure of reparative therapy, which it usually does, LBGTQ+ people need another option. This is where the two groups diverge.

For LBG+ people, those who have a mismatch between societies expectations and what they feel about people they love. The only next option is coming out an acceptance. That road can be very difficult in certain places of this country and the world. For TQ+ people, those people who have an internal mismatch in gender the road gets a lot more complicated. Sure, they have to come out like everyone in the other group but then they have to enter something called “transition.” Transition is a very difficult road where you change yourself physically to meet the demands of what your mental gender sees you as. This could be as little as changing wardrobe, it could be as much as changing the hormones in your body or changing physical sexual characteristics. Each TQ+ person has a different path though this transition.

Transition usually requires the knowledge and acceptance of everyone the transgender person interacts with on a daily basis to be successful. Trasition seeks to fix the body. The earlier that transition happens in life the easier it tends to be for the individual. This requires being “out” to everyone you meet during the time of transition. Some choose to stay out for the rest of their life. Some transsexual people try to go “stealth” and make it look and sound like they were never their birth assigned gender and have always been what they are in the end. Some go as far as to say things like “when I was a little girl” after having been born a boy. The biggest positive with transition as a solution is that it is permanent, and fulfilling. This is the method of accepting those inner feelings instead of avoiding them with reparative therapy.

Transitions come in a range of change. Not every transgender person transitions in the same way or to the same amount. Those with the least change where you are still your assigned gender to most people (if your mind will allow that) call themselves Transvestites. They will wear clothes of the opposing gender indifferent situations and go by a different name but only in front of select people or groups. Their transgenderism is limited to certain situations and actions. Those situations could range from those situations of dating, in the bedroom or going to work, even something as mundane as making breakfast. Most of the time they remain their assigned gender and most people know them as their assigned gender. They are okay with that. This type of transition will involve the smallest number people and legal issues. Can you imagine yourself living as a man in front of some people and being a woman in front of others? For some people in this world it is the only option to make them a happy and fulfilled person.

The largest amount of transition is for people that call themselves transsexuals. This transition will produce many changes in a various order. Keep in mind many of the changes listed include many changes in and of themselves. Changes include but are not limited to: clothing, hormones in body, and the way they present themselves, their legal name, their gender marker on many documents, up to and including birth certificate, and there may be many surgeries including: facial feminization surgery, breast augmentation, or reduction, vocal surgeries, as far as a complete change of the physical genitalia. The goal of a transsexual is to become as close to their preferred gender as possible. These people refer to themselves during transition as their origin and destination genders. Example: someone going through my experience who was born as a man and becoming a woman will refer to them self as MtF (Male to Female.) Either way transition is a path from an old life of depression and sadness, to a new life of happiness and fulfillment.

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I was thinking about all the documentation that needs to change to make me happy. In terms of specifics: Over 50 pieces of documentation need either a name change, a gender marker change, or both. This goes as deep as needing to order new checks, changing the name on my bank accounts and getting new credit cards from all the companies I work with. To each one of them I have to explain why name is changing from Joseph to Josephine. I will need to change my passport, driver’s license, work documentation, legal tax documentation.

This is all because I am not able to be a content person in my body. Why would I go through all that work for something that many people will consider the meaningless? Because every time I people refer to me as a man, it is like a stab in the chest. Each time people use him, his, etc. in reference to me I feel inadequate, I feel worthless, and I feel depressed. I have tried to change how my mind reacts to those things. I have tried to repress these feelings and build self-confidence and self-esteem on top of them. I have tried to grow out of the pain and become the person I wish to be. It has not worked. So now, I have to force society to see me in the way I see myself. After years of work, my mind does not, allow itself to change it will always react the same way. That means physical change is required. Can you imagine being in a position where tiny three and four letter words are the most painful part of your existence? Each time I hear those words they are a new stab wound in my heart. Most people do not give those words a second of thought. They just are a man or a woman, and that is comfortable to them. I hurt every time people use those words. Even the smallest changes toward being a woman have made me so happy. I am already happier than I have ever been before. I see only more change and more happiness to come. Soon, I will begin Hormone Replacement Therapy. At least it is hopeful that I will begin it.

Hormone Replacement therapy is the process transgender people go through to correct what amounts to the poisoning they have experienced from having the wrong balance of gender hormones (Testosterone, Estrogen.) It is because my body has more testosterone than my mind can handle that I am in this situation. My body has produced an excess of testosterone and not enough estrogen. The goal is to correct that. Some would say this is “God’s Choice” and I should not correct it. In that case, it was also “God’s Choice” to give me the mind of a female. The two living together cause me pain. One of them needs treatment to fix. If I were a very religious person I would not say that giving me a male body and a female mind was God’s Choice, I would say He give me this challenge to overcome. To overcome it either the mind or the body needs repair. The next step in that repair is Hormone Replacement Therapy. I wish Leelah were given the chance to get where I am. She couldn’t take the pain because she had reparative therapy forced upon her. A fate that no transgender person should have to bear. She brought though her life national light to our struggle. Thank you Leelah, many of us will always be grateful for the post you made that day and the words you used. I wish many more people supported us, as you did. The society as a whole does need fixing, I agree.

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However, the thing I am struggling with right now is that there are certain conditions or test results that can prevent Hormone Replacement Therapy from being possible. I know my mind cannot be “corrected.” What would happen if I cannot correct the hormones within my body? For me to understand that I first had to realize what changing the hormones would do to my body. The most obvious is that hormones would make it so I started growing breasts. To find a way around that block I would have to get surgical implants or prosthetics to wear. Each thing that hormones will do for me I will need to find a non-hormone replacement. Hormones would permanently thin out or remove body hair. That will require laser or electrolysis hair removal, which I will probably need to do anyway for my own self-image. Hormones will redistribute and help me gain weight, something I have needed to do for a long time; this will be one of the hardest things to accomplish without hormones. If for some reason, I cannot start hormones my options really are to transition without them anyway, or to not transition at all. I do not think I could bear the latter option, which returns me to the hell I have lived with for 28 years. To a transgender person, life as a normal person is a type of hell on earth. I constantly had to hide from the truth; I had to hide who I was. I could not be “pretty” as I wanted to be. Everyone described me as “handsome” which to most people born as a boy is a compliment. To me it was one of the greatest insults imaginable. To me that was like saying “You look good for a man.” Go up to any woman on the street and say that to them. She will slap you. Which is exactly what I wanted to do whenever anyone said that word to me. I had to hold back that emotion and bottle it though. That caused further pain above the original insult. I tried many times to “get over it” or “move on” but my mind is clearly that of a woman. No amount of practice, training, or therapy can fix that.

When I was Leelah’s age I thought about suicide, I even attempted it. Where she managed to succeed, I did not. To an extent I am glad she does not have to suffer anymore and will find a better life on the other side, however, I am sad that she could not become happy in life here. This world can be beautiful, it is very difficult to see for people who are transgender because some of the smallest words hurt the most. The most pain can come from seemly mundane things. Walking past his and her towel sets in the store brought me pain. I knew that was my future but I had no way to get there. It was always just beyond reach. I always wanted his and her towels but never could until now, because I was the “her” and nobody (not even me at the time) understood that. Even the smallest things cut very deeply. Walking into men’s bathrooms caused me (and sill causes me) a great deal of pain and anxiety. I do not belong there. What is worse is that I if I happen to be in there with a man they want to talk to me, about things that do not interest me at all. I have had situations where I have hyperventilated in men’s washrooms before. I found myself trapped in men’s washrooms before simply because I cannot bear myself to leave the stall with a man in the room. I have been looked at funny because I would stand in front of the mirror and fix my hair.

I do not think it is possible for someone who was born in the right body to experience the things I have experienced, nor do I want them to. Many people in situation choose to exit the situation by any means necessary (including death.) It is a sad reality. I wish more people could find the treatment they needed. I thought about if I would consider that kind of thing again if for some reason hormones would not work for me. I do not think I will. My life is already so much better than it was before I came out. I can find a way around not having hormones if I need to. From here, there is no more reason to run. That is what that option is. Escape, and hope for a better life next time, or in the afterlife. Leelah believed, Anywhere is better than here and crossed her fingers. I’m sorry you had to do that Leelah, but I am happy you found your peace. I was in that mindset before, I failed, and in the end I’m happy I did. I hope that no transgender person ever has to do that again, but I expect some will have to.

Where the little things can be so painful, the little things can be so gratifying also. Every time someone uses female words and pronouns to speak about me it give me the biggest smile. People are starting to say I am pretty instead of handsome. People are finally starting to see me how I always saw myself. I am finally starting to look at pictures of myself and be happy with them. 29 years after I appeared in my first picture, I have liked a couple of them. Each picture of me before my 29th birthday is a reminder that I was born as the wrong gender. Each picture after my 29th birthday is a reminder that I will be how I have always imagined myself. I’ve started wearing jewelry and love it! There is no reason to run anymore. No matter how good things have been since I came out, I do have to say the best is yet to come.

P.S. To those of you wondering why I choose to go through all this. (Because I know, there are some of you out there) The answer is I am not choosing this. Some people think that transgender people are “tricking” themselves to want to be a gender they are not. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Nobody would ever choose to be part of a minority. Nobody would ever choose to consider major surgery to remove their sexual organs if they could avoid it. Nobody would ever choose to expose themselves to the hatred yelling and abuse that transgender people receive. I do this because I do not have a choice. All of this is the treatment I need to get over my “illness.” I have had “bronchitis” for 29 years. I am finally going to a doctor to get medicine.

About the author

Josie

I’ve never been good at writing about myself. I’ve never been good at ‘talking up my strengths’ but at least I should try…

I am a 30 year old (gasp), woman. To me, it is just that simple. My life is slowly coming together into a form where I can be proud to call it my life.

Who am I? I’m a strong, loving woman that was assigned male at birth and is finally correcting that egregious error by biology. For most women if they have an urge like wearing a sundress, they just do it. For my first 29 years on this planet, that wasn’t a possibility.

I write to heal, then publish to inform. I hope my journey can make the journeys of people that come after me just a little less painful.

I also have a ‘day job’ as a Data Center Technician. I do an incredibly physical job lifting fixing and moving servers. I daily, walk into and then maintain ‘the cloud.’ Servers are still quite a bit larger and heavier than your desktop at home. So much so that I am the only woman on my team of 20 and one of 5 in the entire building of about 75. Technology is without a doubt a male dominated industry. Which makes me quite sad.

I wish I could better express who I am. I don’t feel like I’ve done justice to my history, my life, and my story, but for now, this will have to do. To me the most beautiful thing in the world is understanding and empathy. If we can have only one thing for each other person on this planet, I choose empathy.

8 comments

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  1. Marcy

    I am so very proud of you. This takes so much strength and commitment. You make this world a better place for so many people but especially me. I love you

  2. Paul

    <3

    I need to read these more.

  3. Brandy

    Congrats to you on a well written blog post, and thank you for sharing your journey with us. I’m so happy for you and wish you the best going forward.

  4. Tracy

    I am so incredibly awed by you Jo! You have opened my eyes, and I am sure many others as well. Good luck on your journey, I will be following!

  5. Susie

    Great read Jo!!

  6. Crisan Manchac

    Your strength and bravery are amazing and so inspiring Jo. I love ❤ reading your writing and I know you are going to touch and help many people through it.

  7. Stacia

    Jo, you write wonderfully and it is so good for me to hear your perspective. You are beautiful inside and out! Looking forward to giving you moral support on your journey.

  8. Bob Iverson

    Jo, this is an absolutely brilliant blog post! I am so proud of your strength, conviction, and that you are living your TRUTH! I am wishing you the best as you continue finding your path and becoming the person that you were always meant to be — kind, beautiful, and AWESOME!!!

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