I really want to be drawing, but something is stopping me.
I spent most of today in bed…during which, I had another one of my “transition” dreams. These (and the accompanying feelings) take a bit of time to negotiate, after the fact.
When I was younger (between 19 and 25), I thought I was FtM; that was, female-to-male transgender. As I got older and gained more experience in transgender and genderqueer communities, that shifted to genderqueer, and at this point it’s settled on gender-fluid; with notable periods of feeling convincingly male. The thing that holds me back, though — or, one of them — is that these feelings are intermittent. If I wait long enough, the certainty of male identity passes (although much the same could be said for every other identity state I move through; hence, an identity as gender-fluid is my only stable point. If and when one of these states sticks long-term, I’ll reconsider the label).
A series of dreams I’ve had, have me exploring the dilemma of testosterone usage. The possibility of testosterone opened up when I was about 20…over about the last 15 years, I’ve been trying to let the process of my maturation take its course, regardless of the outcome with regard to what gender I end up appearing to be.
The story arc of this series is kind of long, as I’ve been having these dreams for probably over a decade, now. At this point, in-dream, I’ve been given a vial of testosterone and a number of syringes by my last gender specialist as a going-away memento/gift. (The last time I saw an experienced gender specialist specifically for therapy, was quite a long time ago. The one I have access to now is so overloaded [presumably] that she doesn’t have time to help me work out my issues, except in a group setting.) In these dreams, I have never actually used the testosterone (with the possible exception of one — but I never got to see the effects).
The point of my noting this is that I reached the conclusion, this time, that there are trade-offs to either using or not using testosterone, for me. The point at which I may utilize testosterone (which will eventually make me look entirely male, except for some things I can’t change, or which I can only change with surgery) is the point at which my life will be better off even with all the drawbacks (most compellingly, a shortened potential life span), than my life without it.
That was a rather profound realization, especially concerning all the drawbacks that I know about which have kept me from transitioning, thus far; and with the high rate of violence and murder, unemployment, underemployment, housing difficulties, harassment, etc., directed at transgender people. This is magnified with trans* people of color, especially trans* women of color. I don’t consider myself a woman of color, but I can easily be mistaken for one; and with my hirsutism (an effect which I let develop because of thinking my body was listening to my brain wanting it to be male), I can be mistaken for a male dressing as female.
(It’s been noted in my family that the cumulative effect of microaggressions, harassment, and being made to feel unsafe, committed by many members of society against specific stigmatized targets, is largely unrecognized by those who don’t have to experience it day in and day out. If you happen to be one of those targets, and not only are you a target where it comes to race, but also where it comes to gender, assumed sexuality, class, etc., these pressures build up upon and magnify each other.)
Right now, I can blend in, relatively speaking. Given enough time and experience, I would probably also learn how to blend in as male. Clearly for me, though — I would never appear to be a cis (non-trans*) male, unless I went through some pretty gruesome surgeries…some of which are both prohibitively expensive and risky, with (usually, from what I’ve seen) relatively poor outcomes.
In my current state, in a pinch, I can claim that I’m a woman (though I’m not certain how much protection that actually affords, when one in four [cis, I assume?] women are raped in their lifetime and one in six trans* women of color are murdered), and pass as cis (although under my definitions, I know I’m not — being trans* or cis, in my mind, depends on identity, not bodily coherence).
If I took testosterone, I would not be able to be seen as cis with my clothes off, ever again. And how much of people saying I “look nice” depends on their perception of my gender presentation coordinating with what is expected for a person with a female body? If I dressed femininely after taking testosterone, I would easily be mistaken for a trans* woman of color (especially without voice training), which is not an enviable societal position (see above).
The point that I reached in-dream, though, is that for some people, a one-in-six chance of being murdered still holds the promise of a better life than the one they have. If I ever took testosterone, bi-weekly injections and balding and heart disease and early death and top surgery and body hair and a hysterectomy with the risk of lifelong urinary incontinence would have to contain a better promise than what I’d be looking forward to, otherwise.
This insight makes it a bit more clear as to what separates those who need to transition from those for whom it isn’t clearly right. Right now, I’m not sure on which side of that line I fall, though I lean toward the latter. It’s hard to tell with my mind as it is; which is the majority of the reason I’ve waited 15 years.
Although it does sound stereotypical — maybe for me it actually is better to just exercise for strength and muscle mass. I had been hoping in the dream that this would be easier without the parts of my body which mark me as female, but that cannot be guaranteed. It looks very different to see a person with breasts and a built upper-body; especially as I don’t shave my body hair (I do clip it once it gets too long). I kind of didn’t realize how it looked to have both feminine and masculine beauty at the same time until I saw a photo of someone else who had what I used to have.
I know for a fact that I need to get my gut under control. If I could start walking and working out, I would probably feel better about my body in general, and maybe that would extend to other areas of self-care (particularly facial and hair care). Right now I’m kind of disheveled and all over the place — including within the genders of my wardrobe (my chest has grown too big to easily wear mens’ shirts, anymore; my lower body is too big to wear mens’ pants — but mens’ and womens’ clothes come in different color schemes, which can often be implicit gendered signals).
Yeah, I…am getting kind of tired, so I’ll sign off. I can only take so much thinking about gender at once. 😉