Social Construction


I haven’t been on hormones in a week and I want to die again. It’s amazing to me the difference in how my mind works. I was only using estrogen for a month. A low dose, 4mg per day and no blockers. I don’t think I want to use them, I’m not sure they’re good. But with only 4mg a day of estradiol all this pain I’ve carried around in my head for more than two decades, vanished.

This pain that completely disrupted my life. I had everything going for me as far as I could see. Good education, decent home. I’m bilingual, fairly intelligent, I should have been set. But my mind was torn apart by mental illness. I could never figure it out. I was a little boy and then right at puberty a light went out in my head. I fell into a terrible depression. A depression I never recovered from. I was suddenly living in the world through a plate of glass.

I tried hard to live my life. I put enormous effort into it. I never cared to be wildly successful, but I can’t even seem to get the basics. It’s like my emotional center has just been off. Everything is bad, ALL the time. Nothing seems real and I’m not even living in the world. I just sit by helplessly, watching everyone else live their lives. Unable to live my own. Struggling to just be IN the world. Eventually, despite my efforts it’s was like the gears of my life just ground to a halt. Nothing moved and I’ve been frozen in place. I haven’t been able to do anything despite every effort, effort upon effort, because of this immense pain I’ve been suffering from.

It’s just pain. Pure pain. It has no circumference and it’s center is everywhere. I lost the ability to feel emotions. I feel numb. And I’m looking around, at my life, seeing all of the advantages I’m supposed to have and wondering how things got so fucked up. And I’m looking around, at my life, seeing all of the advantages I’m supposed to have and wondering how things got so fucked up. Then eventually I stopped even caring to try. Eventually I realized that it’s OK, actually. I finally came to accept that I’m just broken.

I had great ambition to be a force for good in this world, to use my time here to help other people. There’s a lot of pain in this world. I had great ambition to be a force for good in this world, to use my time here to help other people. There’s a lot of pain in this world. In the end though, it turns out I couldn’t even help myself. Wha-whaaaaaaaaa

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I got into a stupid argument online last weekend. The topic was male privilege and whether trans women experience it. Before they transition. There are undoubtedly trans women who will say they did. There are undoubtedly TW who actually did. And as similar as everyone’s experience seems to be sometimes, everyone has their own way of understanding this and their own interpretation.

I figured out a couple of years ago I was “probably trans.” I still have no real clue if I “am” or not. How could anyone know for sure? The science of the whole thing is still somewhat of a mystery. The shift for me though wasn’t 

“I am a man” >>> “I am a woman and I definitely need to transition for my sanity”

 It was more like 

“what is happening this sucks why can’t I just be a girl, please god can I just be a girl, why does everything hurt all the time, I can’t seem to be friends with guys and I don’t really want to anyway I wish I could just be included in the girls’ group, oh, here’s a cool girl maybe I could be friends with her, nope I guess not she thinks I’m trying to date her and she’s ghosting me now. (I’m not much of a guy) What’s up with my sexuality, why is it so weird, I’m not gay but I’m not straight either. I wish I could have a relationship with someone. I what’s up with my sexuality, why is it so weird, I’m not gay but I’m not straight either. (I don’t feel like a man) I wish I could have a relationship with someone. Why can’t I just be a man? When is this puberty thing going to hit me with a surge of masculinity and make me feel like a man? Why can’t I seem to interact with people at all anyway? Why does the world feel like it’s separated from me by a wall of glass? (I’m not a man) Oh, this girl makes me feel better maybe I should give up on abstinence, god will understand, maybe I just need a lot of sex then I’ll be OK. Abort! God most definitely does not understand! (I’m not a man) Why can’t I seem to feel anything during sex? Netscape: how do you change sex? Wow look at all these transition timelines. Huh, all my friends are gay men. They’re the only people I can seem to connect with. What is going on with me? (I’M NOT A MAN) Jesus this depression thing hurts so bad, why won’t it go away, everything is grey and I can’t seem to feel joy, or food about anything and I’ll never have a good relationship with anyone at this rate, I’m so isolated and alone I just want to die, I feel like I’m already dead, a walking corpse, etc.” >>> “Maybe I’m traaaaaans?”

It was never really an option before. It was a thing weird pple did. Sick pple. Compulsive sexually deviant crazy pple. Extremely gay pple. People who transitioned had to do sex work. Had to be in porn or be an escort. Basically had to sleep with men because there were no other options. You wouldn’t ever be able to live in society normally. You would always be rejected. I didn’t think I had it in me. I was actually fine with the idea, the personal cost, I just felt gross and impossible because I wasn’t attracted to men.

The narrative was all skewed. I thought if I transitioned I’d be cut off from female attention. I never considered lesbians even existed. Not entirely true. I knew they existed <<in theory>> but if they did they’d for sure never want a boy. No matter how feminized he was. I was 12. Ellen didn’t even come out for a few years. This was the dark ages of LGBT. I mean I HEARD about gay men. My first roommate was gay. Funny story, but not because of the gay part.  After that though slowly but surely it turned into all my friends are gay men, somehow, just organically. (“Hey this guy is cool,” “finally a normal human being,”) The first out gay boy I met was in high school though, a friend of a friend from another school. He was positive I was gay and just didn’t know it yet. He was not the last person to tell me that.

So, the privilege thing. There was a statement someone made online about how she thought the assertion that trans women experience male privilege before they transition was misguided. It was a misunderstanding of TW’s experience. I had already been through that in my own head. My thoughts being “it’s not a privilege to be a man when you’re not one.” Her thoughts resonated with mine and several others so I wrote as much. My experience wasn’t one of male privilege. I was a little boy, then I was living behind a wall of glass. I couldn’t be in society with everyone else if I tried. And I tried. The only time I was ever able to interact with people was when they came to me and invited me into theirs. I lived exclusively through other people. The person I presented on the outside a mere reflection of what I thought they expected to see. I was never really there. 

Any time “society” gave me acknowledgement as a man for any reason at all, it was an inexplicably painful experience. I didn’t understand it, and I still don’t. But that was a great source of stress for me. Stress that has eaten up my whole life. I am in pieces as a human being, ready to check out because of it. So this is why I thought that, and this is why I say that and it may be different for other people but from where I sat women were holding all the cards. That was just my perspective on the world and I understand other people don’t have that experience but it is mine and it is the only one I have. I don’t know what it’s like to be a man. I don’t know what it’s like to be a woman either. I only know what it feels like to be “not a man,” and to be completely denied the ability to feel what it’s like to be a girl on every level, to be a “not a man” and a “not a woman.” I only know what it feels like not to exist. Apparently I’m not alone either though I expect other people will differ.

_______________

So then, an apparently white straight cis guy, high on leftist liberal talking points wanted to set me straight. And I was high on estradiol. Normally a conversation like that would have caused me to block him immediately lest I spiral out again. My emotional center is complete trash anymore. This time though, all that pain was gone and this guy was coming at me for something I said and have experienced firsthand  very deeply. And this guy’s whole premise was based on the idea that gender is a “social construct.” 

Gender is a social construct and you were always a woman but you used to be a man so therefore social male privilege. 

So, to me, gender is so absolutely not a social construct. It’s something I figured out a long time ago. The idea was tempting at first as a way to feel better about maybe transitioning one day. But I was also a teenager and it was a comforting thought in a sea of confusion. But it’s wrong. And in the current writings about the idea it seems far more concerned with clothing and cultural affectations and gender identity over any notions about gender. Somehow sexuality is gendered and people’s bodies are gendered but for some reason your actual feeling of gender is not. That part is formed and given to you by society. 

It took me a while to recognize it myself and it was with some reluctance that I have to accept that it is. That gender is real and that I may have a legitimate medical issue of a mismatch to resolve or I may not be able to live any more of my life. I am more than happy to find out I’m wrong. That’s there is some other way. That my nightmare of a life has only just been something else all along. But I’ve checked everything else as much as I can think of anyway. This is really my last ditch effort to resolve my pain and rejoin the world. Or, even join it in the first place. And I found out that estradiol is magic.

So now it seems very certain that my brain really is gendered, that all the gas lighting from society has been just that, and I’m being confronted by someone who holds conflicting views (both with mine and internally) and he’s set on lecturing me on something I’ve only been studying, watching, contemplating for more than 20 years. And now, high on estradiol and seeing him abuse all of the other TW in that space, a space that they came to to find each other and get a sense of community because part of the trans experience is often being completely isolated from other, I was like no… I don’t think I’m going to just take that from you. 

I was too harsh with him and we talked last each other for a bit as he just dismissed everything I tried to tell him, making the whole thing into an academic debate. I realized I put myself in a position where I was meant to justify my life to him while he got the privilege of judging my experience. It ended with him telling me he “didn’t believe me,” and calling me a “pretentious white trans woman,” and “fucking crazy.” He threw in something about me not accepting this whole privilege narrative and how that was so awful of me because an intersex person was beaten to death in Niceragua. I’m not sure how that connected but it was clear to me he has no context for what life has been like for me and what life is for a lot of trans people. He came into this group like a bull in a China shop and I know he’ll never quite understand where he was going wrong.

 So, whatever. That happened and I feel bad because I let my emotions get the better of me and I could have been nicer but he was so arrogant and so belligerent and dismissive and so, just… wrong about everything  he thought he knew, about me, about the topic… it became a painful conversation to have and I quit. He didn’t get it and he wouldn’t listen or I couldn’t explain it well enough. I’m sure it’s my fault in some way. His narrative is skewed though, because his premise is flawed. He thinks that I (and others) are boys and then decided to become women because we always were women and so we did have a time when we experienced life as a man. Im sure some people must have felt it that way but I didn’t. I was a boy who felt wrong and his life fell apart, I was a girl who wasn’t allowed to think of herself as girl, was shamed and guilted into accepting boyhood and watched in horror as her body masculinized and she was denied the Social position of girlhood and the privilege of living her own life. That’s the only privilege I see insofar as gender is concerned. And it’s cis privilege. And I would be shocked is a cis person was ever able to really understand and empathize with that.

Incidentally I’m not the only person to ever have thoughts like this:

 

And in addition to that post, and all the comments on it and all the people saying these things on Reddit and FB and Twitter and Tumblr there are blog posts like these as well:

What Trans Women Have Is Far More Complicated Than Gender

No, Trans Women Like Me Did Not Grow Up With Male Privilege

It’s not a controversial idea in these circles, and these people largely came upon this thinking organically and in isolation from each other. The thing about trans people is we don’t get to talk to each other and form communities like other groups. Were taught in various ways not to talk about it at all, even to yourself. It’s only a very recent phenomen that we can meet and share ideas with each other in social forums over the internet. The sometimes striking similarity of experience in that light is stunning to me sometimes. Imagine reading a novel by a total stranger and have her explain your entire life to including details you’ve ever shared with anyone. Its just evidence to me that something worth paying attention to is going on there and that it isn’t groupthink.

______________

Surprisingly though, the estradiol really did help. It seems like it normalized my brain function and allowed me to process that conversation, a usually very stressful conversation that’s so bad I avoid at all costs, and just have it. 
Then I went off E for various reasons and the pain is back now and my emotions are all erratic again and life seems hopeless once more and I’m ready to die all over again and this stupid conversation won’t leave me alone. This is why it’s better just not to engaged I guess. This is why I should just leave people to their opinions even when it seems like they are coming at me full on seeking to delegitimize my life. Because now, my brain can’t process the emotional response and I have this voice in my head telling me how pretentious I really am and how maybe it is really just in my head, maybe it’s not this medical necessity after all and maybe transition is impossible and I just need to quit while I’m ahead and check out of life because if it’s not possible then I’m out of ideas and this life, the one I’m living now is just not for me. There’s just nothing here for me and everyone would be better off without the burden of having me around just burning reaources, leeching, and contributing nothing.

It appears that Hormones are fucking powerful. I can’t even imagine what it was like to feel normal anymore. I’ve been smoking weed again lately just to deal with the pain. Estradiol, and now the lack of it completely changed my perception of everything, and to such a degree that it’s shocking and a little bit frightening. It gets down to a level so deep it effects the signals my mind give me in an unconscious level. I feel like this is a big part of why suicides happen and it needs to be discussed more. Denying people HRT, even and maybe especially teenagers, is exceptionally cruel. My life would have been substantially different if I even just had a small supplement of E as I started the awful process of transitioning into a man.

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