I was transgender: I have no regrets

On February 11, 2019, USA Today published Walt Heyer’s essay, “Hormones, surgery, regret: I was a transgender woman for 8 years—time I can’t get back.” Read it here:
https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/voices/2019/02/11/transgender-debate-transitioning-sex-gender-column/1894076002/?fb_action_ids=10156189577938494&fb_action_types=og.comments&fbclid=IwAR06NJxBcezkH4EbV2UDy1mkP7uRN6Zr-dR4aXkqDuBb0H1aSq7kXLEY994

I found Heyer’s take on gender dysphoria—the condition with which one is diagnosed before transitioning—overly simplistic. The result is that it does not shed light and provide the help I am sure he intends. Instead, it does harm. Thus, my rebuttal, which I submitted on February 19.

Hoping to have USA Today publish my essay, I could not directly refer to Heyer. I did not hear from them within seventy-two hours, indicating they are not interested in my piece, which means I can now post it.

Here are the areas in which I take exception with Heyer:

  • He regrets the eight years he lived as a trans woman. I speak to that in my paragraph two.
  • He finds all gender identity issues to be psychological. See my paragraph three.
  • He asserts that genetics are immutable. See my paragraph four and onward.
  • He claims many trans persons regret their transitions. See my paragraph twelve.

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I was transgender: I have no regrets

From 2015 to 2018, I lived as a transgender woman. In 2017, I had sex reassignment/gender confirmation surgery. I have since resumed living as a male.

It is common for those who have detransitioned to speak of regretting they had been transgender and underwent surgery. While I certainly wish I could have avoided the crushing gender dysphoria which led to my transition and surgeries, everything I learned, the people I met, and the experiences I otherwise could not have had, leave me grateful for what happened and where I now am. I have no regrets.

Hoping my gender identity crisis was psychological, as I sought to think my way out of suffering during the first months of talk therapy I found a physical reason for my gender conflict and, ultimately, why it resolved. Intense study led me to learn that one’s suffering incongruity between his body/sex and mind/gender is complex and far from understood.

Opponents of transitioning claim genetics can’t be changed and one’s sex is immutable. But, wait. There are women who have XY male chromosomes, and men who have XX female ones. Outwardly, they appear to be the females and males they were identified at birth, but it’s not that simple. They have an intersex condition. There also are intersex conditions which reside in the genitals and hormones, such as androgen insensitivity syndrome.

As for one’s sex being immutable, the word means “unchanging.” but if the person is born with attributes which do not line up with either male or female, the person will experience the consequences. Sometimes, they suffer conflict. This conflict can erupt into dysphoria, which means they have ill feelings about their sex and gender not matching.

Not all people with an intersex condition have an incongruity of body and identity. However, when a person does the suffering is real. It is not simply “in their head.” It is physical. And it often is successfully treated by their transitioning and identifying as transgender.

The causes of gender conflict remain mysterious. Some locate a psychological reason. I believe mine came from my endocrine system having been disrupted when I was in the womb, that my mom was given diethylstilbestrol (DES)—an artificial estrogen—to keep her from miscarrying me. DES has been found to be harmful to fetuses and is no longer prescribed to pregnant women.

Before transitioning, my testosterone and estrogen levels were typical of a man my age. But they didn’t work for me. As I took cross-sex hormones and my levels changed, I experienced great fluctuation in how I experienced myself. At times, I felt totally male. When my hormone levels shifted, my dysphoria returned. After gender confirmation surgery, I stopped producing large amounts of testosterone. Within months, I found myself feeling completely male. That sense has remained stable.

My hormone levels now reflect those of a genetic women my age, yet I feel like a man. I have learned of other men who take cross-sex hormones in order to realign their levels, striving to feel good as males. One man is in his third year. Having shifted his hormones without surgery, he’s found contentment being a male.

While there is yet no definitive proof that a disrupted endocrine system might be the cause of gender dysphoria, there are many maladies caused by altered hormones and we know their causes can be pharmaceuticals, chemicals, and plasticizers. Thus, when a three year old child, who is not yet old enough to have logical understanding of sex and gender, is able to persist, insist, and consistently proclaim that he or she is not the boy or girl as identified at birth, we are wise to dig deeply for a physical reason. A disrupted endocrine system could be the culprit.

As with uncovering psychological causes of gender dysphoria, discussing possible physical reasons indicates there is a malady. Many trans persons insist there is nothing wrong with them. They are fine being transgender. Thus, it is important to be respectful of all people in this delicate matter.

One reads arguments against transitioning, that there are large numbers of trans folks who regret it. Large numbers do not necessarily mean a majority, or even a significant minority. One can find many whose transition has provided them the wholeness of being they sought. I’ve gotten to know some of them. They report enjoying healthy lives as transgender persons.

Sex and gender, chromosomes and hormones, and every human is a complex being of mind, body, and spirit. Let us especially address with respect and patience the confounding condition which is gender dysphoria.

Greg Eilers is a former Lutheran minister, who writes at gregeilers.com. He recently published his memoir, “A Roller Coaster Through a Hurricane—One Wile Ride: My Journey with Gender Identity.”

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Links to back up all factual information in my essay:

https://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/condition/swyer-syndrome

https://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=25059

https://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/condition/androgen-insensitivity-syndrome

https://www.cdc.gov/des/consumers/about/history.html

https://eilerspizza.wordpress.com/2017/06/14/using-hrt-to-remain-male/

https://www.niehs.nih.gov/health/topics/agents/endocrine/index.cfm)

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2017: The culmination (1)

 

The microwave take

I had set my goal to be fully transitioned by the time I turned sixty. Over the course of four years, I had done everything to set up 2017 to complete the task in time, having the surgeries I desired.  My birthday is in April, after the eleventh.

  1. January 19: Vocal cord surgery
  2. April 11: Sex reassignment/gender confirming surgery
  3. November 22: Facial feminization surgery and breast implants

When I fudge my stated goal—to have all of my surgeries in the calendar year in which I turned sixty—I can claim to have achieved it.

3d_man_climbing_ladder_for_reaching_on_goal_stock_photo_Slide01
That was one crazy ladder.

The crock pot take

It was 2013. A few months after I began seeing a therapist that April, I had decided that I would need to attempt transitioning, to see if it would help me feel better. Actually, I was on about my tenth decision to transition, and my mind would remain on the I-will/I-won’t swivel for more than two years.

That January, I had crashed. As I reflect on things, I now see that I was in the process of crashing for a few years, since my very early fifties. My life was like watching a slow motion video of a football running back who is hurling through the air, stretching for the end zone, only to have the enormous linebacker awaiting.

It was five years ago that I finally made contact with that linebacker. I was crushed, crunched, and crashed.

kradfttag
Yeah, that’s me—new look, same great taste, and still a dip!

Back to the therapist’s office, that summer I had once again decided I would need to give transitioning a try. Nothing else was working. I was getting worse. Meltdowns were my too-frequent visitors. I cried almost as much as I breathed. If I could have torn off my flesh, I would have.

Having announced my decision, I said to my therapist, “I have a goal. I want to be fully transitioned, with whatever surgeries I will decide to have, by my sixtieth birthday, in April of 2017.”

At the time, I had plenty of time. As I tore off calendar pages, it felt like sand seeping out of the hour glass and through my fingers. Before 2013 was out, I had begun hormone replacement therapy (HRT), and in 2014 I retired. Outside of retiring, everything else was a seesaw, including the HRT which I stopped and started four times. Up and down I went, and with every hard landing came the next crash, more jarring than the others.

While suicidal thoughts regularly came calling, I never was close to trying. What came close, and I truly thought was going to land and stick, was losing my mind, going insane, becoming a blithering idiot of a person who could do no more than sit around, eating and watching television.

UNI_14901_UFS_May_Web_Update_620x300_US_v1_0000x0000_0
Nice, but I like my new packaging better.

That is where I found myself in June of 2015. On April 29, I had gone public online, that I had struggled all my life with my gender identity. I was so hoping that fighting my battle in public, openly writing about it, would strengthen me in my resolve to remain male. I found that while writing was therapeutic, being public about this was no cure. In June, I decided to begin to live full time as a female, to see if it would help. I set July 2 as the date to go all Gina, all of the time.

I was finding relief. Thus, in mid-August, I went public about it. I changed my online presence from Greg to Gina. While I continued to have seesaw-situations, each one was situational A pattern emerged. Every time I took the next step, I subconsciously rebelled against it.

And, every time, not only did I fight through the rebellion, taking the step proved beneficial. I succeeded at living as a female. I legally changed my name on May 2, 2016. I scheduled visits with surgeons. I kept going forward.

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Extra!  Extra!  Read all about it!

In 2017, I had every surgery I planned to have. If surgeries did not take so long to accomplish, I would have made my goal of being fully transitioned by my sixtieth birthday. After I hit sixty, the lone thing I had to do was my face surgery and breast implants. At least, I can say that I got them done during the year that I turned sixty. Yeah, I’ll go with that, reaching my fudged goal.

Since my final surgery, I have been on a high. It is a combination thing. I am both tremendously happy with the surgery and riding the wave of being done. If I had a pizza for every time I have verbally proclaimed a huge, smile-accompanied “Whew!”—well, I’d be continually sauced.

NewLookSameGreatTaste
I’ll take four of these and leave the “33% more!!!”

The other thing I find myself saying is, “I am a completely transitioned transsexual.” This boggles my mind. From my middle-school years, when I first learned about transsexuals and was so intrigued by them, to the many years that my regular lament was, “All I want in life is to be a girl,” of all of the daydreams I had where I could not ponder actually transitioning, so foreign to my life was that notion.

And now here I am. I am one of them—a male who is a fully transitioned trans woman.

If I had been selected in high school to be part of some crazy send-a-teenager-to-the-moon program of NASA, and had been the youngest person to lope the lunar landscape, it would not have been any wilder in my imagination than the ground on which I am now walking.

It turns out the man in the moon is transgender.

dolunay

Ain’t that cheesy?

Trans Ed 101: sex and gender

In the news: Kim Kardashian accidently revealed the gender of her baby on Ellen. My reaction: Um, nope; she didn’t.

Speaking of a Kardashian, I am reminded of Caitlyn Jenner, of whom it’s often been questioned whether she’s had gender reassignment surgery. The answer is “no,” even without asking her. The reason? No one has ever had gender reassignment surgery, because it doesn’t exist.

On my driver’s license, I had my gender marker changed from male to female. Or, wait—I had my sex marker changed. Ugh. Which is it?

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Sex and gender are not the same thing. To help keep it straight, it is bluntly said that sex is what is between your legs and gender is what’s between your ears. More scientifically speaking, sex is biological and gender is experienced. Or, to put it yet another way, sex is objective—I can identify my sex organs with my eyes—and gender is subjective—by simply looking at another person, I can’t tell whether this one or that identifies as female or male or questioning/queer.

tumblr_lq17xb4mvK1qe0cm1

In this age of our finally, openly talking about transgender issues, it is bewildering so often to hear sex and gender being used interchangeably, as if they mean the same thing. Turning my bewilderment to downright consternation is that even transgender folks are heard confusing the two.

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I begin with this thing which, along with baby bump selfies, has become popular: the gender reveal.

The doctor moves the sonogram wand over the pregnant woman’s belly, gets a good view of the fetus, and then asks, “Do you want to know the baby’s sex?”

Catch that: the baby’s sex. The doctor sees the genitals of the fetus and feels confident making a pronouncement. Assuming the genitals do not appear ambiguous, one of two determinations is made: boy or girl—the baby’s sex.

Sex, not gender. The sonogram wand cannot read the baby’s mind, to determine her or his or their gender.

Somehow, identifying the baby’s sex has gotten translated to revealing the baby’s gender. Despite our new awareness of all things sex and gender, I should not be surprise; almost everyone uses “jealous” when they mean “envious.” We simply don’t pay enough attention to words.

[In case you’re curious, and I hope you are, think of jealousy and envy this way: when you are jealous of someone, you don’t want her to have what she has, and when you are envious you want what she has. Jealousy: “I wish that guy were my boyfriend, not Monica’s.” Envy: “I wish I had as nice a boyfriend as Monica’s.”]

Trans folks have preferred to get away from the use of the word “sex,” because it can cause hearers to think that this is about sex, or the act of having sex, and having sex is not what we want heard. So, the original word, “transsexual,” has largely fallen out of favor and replaced with “transgender.”

This takes me to the term “gender reassignment surgery.” The original term for the surgical alteration of one’s genitals was “sex reassignment surgery.” With the new preference for using “transgender” over “transsexual,” it seems that folks simply replaced “sex” with “gender” for the term for this surgery. Not so fast.

The gender of a person is not being changed. To alter one’s gender would mean to do brain surgery, to perform a self-identity-altering procedure. Such an operation does not exist. If it had, I might have opted for it, so that I could have successfully lived as a cisgender male, “cisgender” referring to one whose sex and gender identity match.

Since “sex” is no longer preferred for this surgery, how might we replace it with “gender”? It’s easy enough and is done by those who are paying attention. Many now call it “gender confirmation (or confirming) surgery,” while others, such as the University of Michigan’s hospital, use “gender affirmation (or affirming) surgery.”

I like the sound of “affirming,” but I refrain from typing the term as an acronym, as U of M does: GAS. Believe you me, having this surgery was not a gas! [Note to those of a younger generation regarding having a gas: https://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/having+a+gas ]

Onto the driver’s license, and the question on so many forms. Are we being asked our sex or gender? Historically, the request was: “Sex: Male___ Female___.” Nowadays, forms might ask your sex, and they might ask your gender. There seems to be no rhyme or reason.

Maybe, they should ask both.

When I was in the early stages of transitioning, months before I had my name and, ahem, gender marker legally changed, and well over a year before my GAS (see? It looks weird), I was filling out a form at my dentist. Asked for my sex, I indecisively circled “male” and moved on. I returned to it and circled “female.” I then made a line joining the two and wrote “transgender.”

Some places are getting away from asking one to indicate sex/gender, while other places are offering a number of options, and still others simply present a __________ and let the person decide how to indicate this personal designation. Facebook tries to offer every imaginable option, now with up to seventy-one gender—um, sex—well, which is it?—opportunities for a person’s self-identity, including “asexual,” “intersex man,” “gender neutral,” “male to female transsexual woman” and—catch the difference!—“male to female transgender woman.”

While folks are busy making their “gender” reveals, others are saying that babies are assigned a sex at birth. No longer do we say of a trans woman, “She was born a male,” but, “She was assigned male at birth.” It makes sense. Naturally, I was assigned male; I had a penis. No one could know that I would have a gender identity issue and one day be transgender.

The following cartoon humorously takes this entire issue to its ludicrous conclusion. Well, wait; for we who experience the tremendously challenging and difficult disassociation of sex and gender, it’s not funny at all.

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No, I’m not jealous of you cisgender folks but, I gotta be honest, I am envious.

All of this talk has not touched on sexual orientation.  Instead of making this a long and ponderous post, the following diagram nicely and succinctly encompasses the entire conversation.  Memorize this, and you will have it!

1600-Genderbread-Person