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Follow Aoife’s Transition Diary from the start here
My Transition Diary #2 | Trans People Can’t Just Be
Why can’t trans people just be? This is a question I often ask myself. Cis people are just themselves. They aren’t aware that they are cis – at least, not on any conscious level. But for trans people it’s different. At least, it is for me and, while I can only speak for myself, I am sure that I’m not the only trans person who feels like this.
From when I wake up in the morning to when I go to bed at night, and often in my dreams, I am aware that I am trans. Sometimes it’s just a low echo at the back of my mind, like the hum of traffic outside the window – a noise that can be ignored if you try and concentrate on something else – but at other times it’s a blaring klaxon, a cacophony of bells whose tintinnabulation threatens to drown out everything else.
Trans people can’t be because society won’t let us. We won’t let us. Every day we are reminded that we are not cis. When we go to work, when we socialise, when we just exist. We are aware and we are made aware that we are different, that we are other.
Does this ever change or get better? Maybe if you’re a cis-passing trans person it does. Maybe if society thinks you’re a cis woman or a cis man then it’s not an issue or maybe cis-passing trans people are plagued with the same doubts and fears as non cis-passing trans people.
My morning routine is similar to that of many people. I get up, I shower, I have breakfast, I mainline coffee, I go to work. But all the time my brain is telling me that something is wrong. My body does not match my brain’s perception of what it thinks it should be. Many people might wish they were slimmer or taller or had better hair or more muscles or whatever. I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about when your body does not match the gender of your brain. This can lead to gender dysphoria. So, as soon as I step into that shower – hell, before I step into that shower – I am aware that my body and my brain are at odds with each other. This is why I avoid mirrors as much as possible. I don’t like to see myself naked. It reminds me that I’m not cis.
And so, we try to change our bodies to match our brains. And this is where things get difficult because, you see, getting access to trans healthcare in Ireland is difficult and somewhat arbitrary. You need to be referred to an endocrinologist. But in order to be referred you need to tell your GP that you are trans. You then have to hope that your GP has some understanding of what this means so that he or she can refer you.
When I told my GP that I was transgender she was, straight away, business-like. She knew exactly where to refer me and made an appointment for me in Loughlinstown. Even then it was almost a 12 month wait to be seen by the endocrinologist. I was then referred to a psychiatrist who confirmed (tell me something I don’t already know) that I was trans.
In fact, he said that I had Gender Identity Disorder (GID). Yes folks, being transgender is still considered a mental disorder according to the World Health Organisation (WHO) but this is currently under review. Being told that I had GID was in one sense affirming. I now had an official diagnosis. I could now point to this and say, “See? Told you so!” But on the other hand it was also demeaning. I had to answer some very personal questions about me, about my family, about my relationships that I did not want to answer – not least to a complete stranger, and all to tell me something that I’ve known since I was 4 years old.
So, official diagnosis in hand, it was back to the endocrinologist who, at last, prescribed hormone blockers for me. I remember the feeling of relief that I was, finally, on the road to being me. I couldn’t wait to get to the pharmacy to fill the subscription. The blocker itself is administered by subcutaneous injection as an implant below the navel line.
The first time I saw the needle I thought, “Oh shit, how am I gonna inject myself in the stomach with that?” But your author is nothing if not fearless and it was, in the end, surprisingly easy. On the day I injected myself I was surprisingly calm. I had always been afraid that when the moment came I would have doubts, that I would begin to wonder if I was doing the right thing. But no. For once I finally felt that I had arrived in a good place. For a few blissful moments the bells were silent.
Since then I’ve been injecting myself every 28 days as prescribed. It’s now yet another part of the dull routine of being trans: the trip to the pharmacy, the needle, pinching the tummy, the initial prick before pushing the needle all the way in, the feeling of relief. It’s had a few side effects: night sweats (they’re fun, aren’t they?), loss of libido and, initially, mood swings. But the biggest side effect is the inner peace it gives me knowing that my body isn’t producing testosterone.
This is just a small example of what trans people go through to just be. I dream of the day that I wake up and just be. A day where the first thought I have isn’t that I am trans and that my body and brain are at odds with each other. That day, however, is a long way off. Indeed, it’s a day that might never come but that doesn’t mean I should stop striving for that day.
I’m due to start hormone replacement therapy next month. That’ll be another big step.
Another moment to quieten those bells.