My Brain is Unpredictable

My brain is unpredictable. This is nothing new. I am Bipolar, and have been aware of that fact for almost six years. I have navigating my way through unexpected brainspace down to a fine science.

In the past week, though, my brain threw me for a loop: this week, I was unexpectedly visited by the dysphoria monster.

I should have known it was coming. I mean, I’m a trans guy. It had to happen eventually.

It’s not the first time I’ve dealt with dysphoria. Not entirely. But my whole previous experience with dysphoria was centered around my voice, and how uncomfortable that made me, and with the introduction of testosterone into my system, that faded into the background.

No, this is a new experience. I knew I was incredibly lucky, up to this point, to not have experienced a great deal of body-related dysphoria. I’ve seen many people near and dear to me go through it, and was grateful to have dodged that bullet. It seems, though, that my relationship with my body is changing.

On the one hand, I’ve reached a point where, for the first time in my life, I actually like myself. I’ve gone from loathing to tolerating to feeling benevolently indifferent to actually liking who I am as a person the majority of the time.

On the other hand, I’m finding myself increasingly anxious about how I’m perceived by the rest of the world, particularly because of certain realities about my anatomy.

I bind my chest pretty much every day (unless I’m not leaving the house, and even then, I might). But I can’t wear binders that are especially tight, because I have an enormous ribcage, and the tighter the binder, the more my ribs hurt, and the more I’m at risk for causing myself some serious medical problems. Lately, I’ve felt like the binder I have that I was satisfied with a couple of months ago just isn’t cutting it anymore: every day I’m more conscious of the fact that I often look like a butch lesbian with sideburns. (Which is not to say anything against butch lesbians – I think they’re delightful – I’m just not one of them. I’m not a lesbian at all. I’m a [very] queer man.)

Before I started pursuing HRT, I went over the course of about a month from being reasonably okay with the fact that the world was insisting on seeing me as a woman to having daily panic attacks because I was terrified that no one would ever see me as anything else. I haven’t gotten back to the point of panic attacks, but I’m worried that it could be lurking right around the corner.

My brain hasn’t been too bad a place to live in for a while now. I don’t love that I’m going to have to relearn some coping mechanisms that I’ve let slide since the last time I had to wrestle regularly with myself. But I guess that’s all part of life in transition.

Some Things Change; Some Stay the Same

It’s the first Thursday of November.

The first Thursday of November last year, I learned how to self-administer testosterone injections, and gave myself my first shot.

It’s been a year.

A year ago, I wasn’t entirely convinced that I was making the right choice. I was convinced, however, that I had to do something, and since starting HRT was suddenly an option that was open to me, I went for it.

And after a year, I have to say…I haven’t regretted it for an instant.

It’s not that I hated being a woman. I just…wasn’t particularly good at it. This body that I recreated with the help of hormones fits my soul in ways it never did before.

I am infinitely more comfortable and confident now. This doesn’t mean that I am comfortable and confident 100% of the time, but I waste much less energy on self-loathing than I used to.

The sound of my own voice rarely causes me to cringe anymore. On the best days, I love it. On the worst, I just realize that old speech patterns, just like any other habits, sometimes die hard.

I have an ever-increasing volume and distribution of facial hair. I realized this week that I have actually reached the point where I can shave in the morning and have stubble by the end of the work day. I’m sure there are men who find this annoying. I think it’s wonderful. And I’m learning to feel a sort of benevolence toward the hair sprouting pretty much everywhere else on my body. The hair on the top of my head may not be growing as quickly as it was…and it’s possible that I’m losing it more quickly than I used to. But I’m not any more afraid of balding than I ever was of going grey (which is to say, I’m pretty sure I can rock it however it plays out).

I’m still soft, and I have curves, but they’re distributed in some different places. My lower body is much more compact, where my upper body feels more solidly built. And for the first time since, well, the onset of my first round of puberty, really, my weight hasn’t fluctuated more than five pounds in the past year.

My Bipolar cycles have evened out to some extent. They’re still there, and still noticeable, certainly…but I have fewer days lost to feelings of madness, and it’s much rarer for me to feel like I’m out of control.

In a couple of weeks, I have a court hearing scheduled to legally change my name. I still have a few loose ends to figure out, but everything feels like it’s clicking into place.

I’ve been unspeakably lucky. I have a supportive partner, supportive friends and chosen family, and even a largely supportive work environment. I have dear friends on their own similar journeys who have not always been so fortunate, and I hope I never lose sight of how much of a privileged life I lead.

It’s been quite the ride, but I wouldn’t give it up for the world. Here’s to a year of adventure ahead!

A Week of New Beginnings

It’s been a week of beginnings, and of reflections on beginnings.

Last Tuesday, I did something scary. I went to an Aikido dojo, and watched a class, and wound up signing up for membership for June and buying a gi. Sunday, I went to my first practice. While the fact that I never quite managed to execute anything perfectly was frustrating, I surprised myself by sticking with it the whole practice and not taking breaks. Everyone was really friendly, and there was a minimum of awkwardness around pronouns, and no one questioned my presence in the men’s changing room, so that was great. I intended to go back yesterday morning (it’s another Jewish holiday, so I wound up with two free days this week), but I caved to the desire to get some extra sleep. I will be going back tomorrow after work, though. I’m going to try to make two practices a week for the month of June, and if I decide at that point to stick with it, I’ll probably try to work in a third in coming months. (For the record, as I am writing this three days after the fact, I am still sore in places I didn’t know I had. I still plan to go back. This is a big deal.)

This Tuesday was my birthday. I am now 26, which is not a particularly exciting age, but it’s a new year, and there’s always something to be said for the beginnings of things. I never would have imagined, looking ahead as I turned 25, that the year would hold so much change. I got a new job, which has been infinitely better than anything I had hoped to find, and which is teaching me new things and giving me opportunities for growth every day. I’m working in a field I’ve always been interested in but never thought I would pursue for a career. There are certainly things about my job that are frustrating, but hey, that’s just kind of part of life, right? I have a great manager, a great immediate supervisor, and a work environment where I can safely be out.

Which brings us to another big change that’s happened since my last birthday: I started on testosterone. When I hit 25, I was only just barely starting to consider testosterone as a possibility, and I assumed it was going to be something in the distant future. Prior to last spring, I had written it off as something I should never try, because I was terrified of the possibility of my fairly well-managed Bipolar brain being destabilized. By August, I had been destabilized by the dissonance between my mental image of myself and the reality I saw in the mirror. I had panic attacks whenever I thought about going out in public. It felt like a snap decision when I made the appointment to talk with my doctor about testosterone, but by the time I started, it was clear that it was a necessary choice for the sake of my well-being. And I can gladly say that I am so much happier and more comfortable in my body now than I was a year ago. I can stand the sound of my own voice (I even enjoy it sometimes). I have some scruffy facial hair, including sideburns that my partner predicts will rather resemble Hugh Jackman’s sideburns as Wolverine when they fill in more (I can dream, right?).

I also started songwriting classes in the last year. I wrote songs in high school (quite a few, actually), but they were all pretty horrible, and I’d only made a couple of attempts since then, none of which were particularly great. It’s been fascinating to watch my progress as I’ve gone through 20-some weeks of classes. I can honestly say I’m proud of a couple of the songs I’ve written, and I can see myself growing less and less afraid of experimenting as time goes on. Between the weekly songwriting assignments and the weekly commitment to keep up this blog have been great for my sanity. I need creative outlets in my life, and it’s been so, so good to have them consistently.

As I take my first tentative steps into this next year of life, I am particularly aware of the fact that I have no idea what the future holds. What I do know is that I am excited about the year ahead. I’m in a much better place than I was a year ago, and for that, I am grateful.

Little Soul

This is a rough recording of the song I wrote for my songwriting class this past week. I’ve made a couple of minor changes since class on Tuesday, but it’s mostly here.

I am inordinately proud of this song. First of all, I did some cool things with chords, and I feel like I exercised a lot of what I’ve been learning in my songwriting classes. But aside from that…I love how my voice sounds. I have never, in all my life, been so pleased with a recording of my singing voice. My voice in this recording sounds like I want my voice to sound in my head. While I have dreams of being a baritone, I’m quite pleased with this solidly tenor sweet spot I’ve settled into for the moment. And so I’m sharing this sound clip with you, because while I’m not really using this blog to document my transition process anymore, this is a pretty big personal milestone.

(A funny story about this song: on Sunday, our neighbor’s cat escaped and wound up darting into our apartment as we were headed out the door. Since I hadn’t yet written my assignment for my Tuesday class, my partner jokingly suggested I write a song about the cat. So this song may sound like it has some depth, but really, it’s a pretty song about a cat who got loose.)

Finding My Voice

For the past eight weeks, I have been taking a songwriting class. I’ve written roughly half a dozen songs, most of which I’ve played for my classmates.

On Sunday, for the first time since high school, I am getting up on a stage and singing. For the first time ever, I will be publicly singing something I wrote.

I’ve watched my words performed on stage by other people. I’ve never actually performed something of my own before.

And I am terrified.

When I was in high school, I sang with our youth group worship band a handful of times. Every time I stepped behind a mic, my voice jumped up an octave. Having a high voice bothered me then, too, even though being trans was nowhere on my radar.

My voice is significantly lower now than it was when I started on testosterone almost four months ago. (Case in point.) And I’m more comfortable in myself now than I was in high school. And I’ve performed on a smaller scale in front of my classmates. And the audience will be almost entirely comprised of people in songwriting classes, or their families and friends, so I really don’t need to be worried.

But I am.

I’m afraid of being misgendered. Because my voice is not so low that it doesn’t happen anymore.

I’m afraid that I’ll get up there and forget all the words that I wrote, or how to play the music.

I’m afraid that my voice will get lost in falsetto.

But I’m going to do it anyway. And I guess, in the end, that’s what matters. Right?

Is That My Voice?

No huge text post this week, as I’m focusing on possible changes to the site (possibly moving it off Tumblr, expanding things, etc). However, for your entertainment and mine, here’s something I discovered this week: HOLY SHIT MY VOICE HAS CHANGED IN TWO MONTHS.

I am recording a chapter of The Phantom Tollbooth each month to track my voice changes. The first part of this clip is from chapter one, recorded 7 November, 2013. The second part is from chapter three, recorded 18 January, 2014. I knew my voice was a bit lower, but hadn’t thought it was all that extreme until I listened to these two side by side. I’ve been giggling about it for days.