whence my trans body? some notes on medically transitioning
For the longest time I said I wouldn’t bother ‘medically’ transitioning. I guess I can’t say that anymore now that I’ve been on hormones for some months now and since getting ~top~ surgery. These are two things I never really thought would be accessible (hormones bc of my liver problems and cyborg tits bc of poverty) but… Obviously, life worked out such that they were accessible. So I took advantage. And now it’s been four (maybe five?) months that I’ve been occupying this new Trans Body. My overwhelming feelings about the matter are ‘meh’.
It’s no secret that I don’t experience a lot of physical dysphoria (I guess negligible amounts for the most part) so medically transitioning wasn’t really a huge priority. It wasn’t necessary for me in the same way it is for a lot of trans ppl I know. Perhaps part of this is being ‘non-binary’. Perhaps it is disassociation. I don’t even really know at this point.
The main thing is that I think my lack of physical dysphoria arises from the fact that I don’t feel, in any meaningful way, connected to my body. It is there and I am there and we exist together. But that’s about as far as it goes. I don’t have (and haven’t for as long as I can remember) any strong feelings about my body one way or another. I don’t like it but I don’t particularly dislike it either. It’s just there. Like, idk, a chair or something. Like that chair over there, it doesn’t have any relevance to me (as a person).
Except that it does, of course.
In thinking about whether or not to write about all of this, I did a little googling and, yes, it looks like this is just plain old disassociation. Which I ought to not be surprised about (nor am I particularly surprised by the likely candidates causing it: depression, anxiety, and/or cptsd). But I don’t think disassociation alone can account for my relationship to my body. I know trans ppl who also deal with disassociation this doesn’t appear (from the outside since I’ve never specifically asked anyone about this) to have a significant impact on their physical dysphoria. In other words: I don’t think its plausible to think that disassociation could or would cancel out dysphoria (particularly not if the disassociation is partially caused by the dysphoria in the first place).
So. What does this all mean? Especially in relation to my gender?
Looking back, I probably wouldn’t bother with getting breast augmentation knowing what I know now. I don’t regret it or anything. I just don’t really see the point. At one point in my life, yes, I thought having tits would be awesome. Now that I have them? Meh. Just meh. I don’t really like them enough for it to be worth the pain and trauma of surgery. I know that I’m not going to keep them forever (since implants do not necessarily last your entire life). Someday, down the road, they’ll be coming out because I don’t want to deal with the maintaince. My main reason for not wanting them in the first place (the idea that I’d need multiple surgeries throughout my life to maintain them) remains true. I don’t want to deal with that. Not sure how long I’ll end up keeping them. Probably have to wait until I have enough money to actually do the thing.
What about the hormones? I feel the same on estrogen as I did with testosterone. The only thing that is slightly different is that I don’t get erect in the mornings (or really ever). But I barely got erections on testosterone too. And, yes, I was within normal ‘male’ range for that. The real issue here is being asexual. What about the other things I’ve heard about? Being a little more emotional. Crying unexpectedly… none of that for me. I literally feel the exact same. No change. Nothing. It’s funny too because one of the reasons why I decided to try HRT was because I was curious if I’d feel more attached or connected to my body. I don’t. And I could blame the emotional stuff on either being alexythemic or on cptsd. It’s hard to say.
I think I wouldn’t be so necessarily hung up on all of this if, at one point a long long time ago, I do have memories of feeling differently. But my memory of the past is really skewed and I have no idea anymore. Although some of what I remember has been verified by outside parties. At one point, I really was an outgoing, happy sort of child. But I don’t think that lasted much longer than age 6 or something (around the time I started school, come to think of it). I have no memories of having body dysphoria. I do have memories of wanting a different body (at times) but not in a way I find distressing.
Part of the question I’m asking myself at this moment is, is my disassociation so profound that it has utterly swamped any potential body dysphoria I might have? Do I simply just not have it? And, of course, what does this all mean?
I’ve been saying for years that medical transition/body dysphoria isn’t the defining characteristic of being trans. And it really isn’t. At no point in any of this am I questioning whether or not I’m ‘trans enough’, I honestly could not care less what anyone thinks about this. What’s getting at me is just wondering what my relationship to my body really is. Perhaps it isn’t disassociation and this is simply how I am. Don’t really know (although the alexythemia plus the disconnected feeling from my body heavily suggests that disassociation is most definitely a factor here).
I’m also realizing that, well, I’ve been trying too hard to be stealth. Like. Not “i’m in the closet” stealth, but “women don’t scream at me in public washrooms” stealth. It mattered to me. It still does, to an extent, because safety is most definitely a concern. But I’m also realizing that (particularly now that I’m a busty superstar) I actually did enjoy having a more… ambiguous gender presentation than I currently do.
Sometimes I forget that being gendered (by people who don’t know me) as a woman is still misgendering for me. I like it more than people thinking I’m a man (gross. seriously gross) so I let it slide because non-binary just isn’t on the radar for your average person. And I don’t particularly relish the idea of having to explain myself to everyone in order to be gendered correctly. The woman thing doesn’t bother me. It doesn’t cause me any joy and it doesn’t feel like me, but its better than the alternative and easier than the reality.
Part of all of this is making me realize just how… closed off and inaccessible the space of ‘non-binary’ is for ppl like me. It hasn’t been long enough that my presentation has been this unambiguous that I don’t remember the constant looks of disgust and the staring and the hostility. Hypervisibility and transmisogyny are very real things. And they make the world so dangerous for #girlslikeus. The non-binary space for people with bodies like mine is the space of monstrosity. Well, okay, anything other than a fully coherent and realized sex change is the space of monstrosity. Creatures so terrible and awful that states must legislate us out of washrooms and the like.
This was my other other other thought about my body the other day. Naked and in front of a mirror, getting ready for a shower, and looking at my tits as I pee standing up. The realization: the configuration of my body and what I’m doing with it are disgusting and horrific for a lot of ppl in the world. Whenever I pee in public, I squat bc I don’t want to draw attention to myself but I prefer standing. But I also remember getting chased out of a men’s room bc I was way too femme that day.
I kind of wish I still had my beard.
But it was such a definitive gender marker. And I’m realizing now that want I prize most (what I desire most) is to have a level of fluidity precluded by a visible beard (and one that no shave – no matter how close – ever makes the shadow disappear. It isn’t that my gender is fluid (I am and always have been and always will be bakla) but I now find that I do want my presentation to be fluid. Small hormone breasts can be easy to hide, so I probably would’ve been happy with that. Or none at all. Turns out I don’t care. Not really. Or not enough.
I’m probably going to stay stick with HRT while its convenient. Its easy and accessible in the city I currently live in. I don’t think I’d go through the trouble of keeping it up with in a place where it’d require any more effort than it does now (and this is very very little effort). Or I’ll stop in a year or two. Whichever comes first.
All of which is making me realize that there are so… few stories, really, about non-binary femmes like myself. It always seems like it has to be all or nothing. You either challenge gender by having a beard and lipstick or you do full cisnormative female. This is funny to me because I know quite a few non-binary trans women. Or enough, anyway, that you’d think this wouldn’t be so… strange.
But there are real peer/social pressures for medical transition. Political ones too. I’m lucky enough to live in a jurisdiction that does not require any kind of medical transition in order to change my documents. But this isn’t the case in most of the world. Entrance to the secret (fictitious) sisterhood of trans women is dependent on medical transition (and many other things but this is part of it). Regardless of what the current discourse is and what everyone says, the trans community is still so heavily focused on the body. We say gender and sex are social constructions, but our communities are built on bodies. Through bodies. Bodies are the fundamental currency, particularly if you do want any kind of connection to the ‘community’. You trade your body for a sense of belonging. And if you don’t? Then you don’t belong.