T at home

When I first got started on testosterone, I was prescribed androgel, which I had to apply to my abdomen, upper arms and/or shoulders daily. Each dosage came in a sealed packet, which I found hard to open due to my EDS. So after a couple of months I switched to sustanon injections once every two weeks.

I got my first injections administered by my GP’s assistant, who subsequently taught me how to do it myself. I’ve been giving myself these injections under his supervision for a couple of months, until I felt ready to do this at home, without any supervision.

Last Thursday I administered my first jab at home. Alone. I wasn’t nervous. I’d done it so many times, I knew I could do it, so nothing to worry about. However, what I had not thought about, was how much preparation it took.

When I went to the GP’s assistant, everything was ready when I came in. All I had to do, was get my vial of testosterone out of my backpack and get on with the job. Not this time. I had to lay out a syringe, two needles and some gauzes beforehand. (Sorry, just the packaging on the picture, as I didn’t take pics until after I’d done the deed.)

T-1

Also, some sticking plaster, a pair of scissors and – most importantly – the sustanon itself.

T-2

Administering the injection was pretty straightforward. Jab in the leg, insert testosterone, pull back needle, all done. As the testosterone comes in a rather oily solution, you insert it slowly, so as to minimise pain and discomfort afterwards. Usually, my muscle is only a little sore for one or two days after the injection, but nothing too bad and I very much prefer my injections over the application of the gel.

Now, at the GP’s they had this special box to dispose of the needles and vial, but at home I didn’t have any such thing, and I’d forgotten to ask for one at the pharmacy, so I had to come up with a clever idea pronto. As I’m a huge fan of Greek yogurt, I usually have one or two empty yogurt containers taking up space in my kitchen, so I grabbed a yogurt container and had my impromptu needle container. No need to get a fancy one from the pharmacy, as far as I’m concerned.

T-3

Now all I had to do, was sort the waste (paper and plastic wrappers will be recycled), and I was almost done.

T-4

I wrote down my next “appointment” in my diary, and added an L in brackets, to make sure I remember to stick the needle in my left leg next time.

T-5

All in all this first injection at home took almost as much time as it would have done had I gone to the GP’s assistant again, but I’m sure this will improve once I have established my own routine here.

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The clothes make the man

The other day my niece got married. Up until the very last  moment I didn’t know whether or not I wanted to go to the wedding. Don’t get me wrong, I love my niece, but I don’t feel at all comfortable going to church, and that’s exactly where we were going if we wanted to go to the wedding. In the end my love for my niece won.

So that morning I donned my tuxedo, complete with bow tie and dress shoes – though with a simple basic shirt as I have not been able to find a dress shirt that fits me properly yet – and was quite content with what I saw in the mirror. That was definitely a guy looking back at me, and about time too. To complete the look, I put on my glasses (strength zero on both sides) and was even happier with the man looking back at me.

My ex came to fetch me, and we arrived at the church with time to spare. Found the wheelchair entrance, and nobody objected to my taking my service dog with me into church. I had been a little nervous about that, and was prepared to stand up for my rights if I had to.

The church was beautiful both inside and out. It was an old Roman Catholic church, built after the Iconoclastic Fury, so all statues and other decorations were in good condition. The pews, as so often is the case, were torturously narrow and I was happy to have my own comfortable chair on wheels. At least no back pain for me.

My niece looked beautiful in her sleeveless, backless white gown with lace train. I wondered if she wouldn’t get cold, seeing that it’s only March and it was really rather nippy outside.

After the church service we had – barely – time to congratulate the bride and groom, and less than a handful of the relatives and then they were all of them gone already, on their way to the establishment where they would be dining and celebrating. We went back home again.

It was the rush hour and soon we found ourselves in a traffic jam. To make things worse, I was deliriously hungry, as I often am these days. I can’t eat more per meal than I used to, but I get hungry again much faster and need to eat more between meals, which I often forget to plan for. That day was no different from other days in that respect. I had no food whatsoever with me. Not even a biscuit or a chocolate bar, more fool me.

We decided to get off the motorway and find ourselves a nice restaurant. Pricey, but a drive-through was out of the question, seeing that I needed to use the restroom, and entering a fast food restaurant didn’t seem like a good idea either. Not with me wearing my tux.

So a nice restaurant it was. Again, no one made any objections to my taking my dog with me, and we were given a table in a quiet corner. Now, normally when I go have a drink or a bite to eat with someone, people almost always address my companion rather than me, even when I am the one in charge. Apparently many people still seem to think that my brain is as damaged as my feet. Not this time though. The waitress addressed me first, “Can I serve you a drink, sir?”

Wait! What? Can we play that back one or two, or maybe even three times?

“Can I serve you a drink, sir?”

That was a pleasant surprise. Not only to be addressed first, but to be addressed correctly as ‘sir’ too. This never happened before. One look at my face, and everyone assumed that I was a woman. But not this time. It was sir. Not a hesitating, …erm… sir?, but a direct, unfaltering sir. No doubts. None at all.

Was it the tux? The glasses? The combination of these two? Probably the latter, but there might be more to it. Because these days I really do see a more masculine face when I look in the mirror. The changes are subtle, and other than the slightly receding hairline I can’t really tell what has changed, but it’s there. Unmistakably.

I think I’ll be wearing my glasses more often now in public. They’re uncomfortable, but if that’s the price I have to pay (for now) to stop people from misgendering me, I’m quite willing to do so.

The morning after the wedding my mum phoned. I was just leaving the house to walk the dog, so I refused the call and called back later that morning. Mum seemed to have had a good time at my niece’s wedding party and had spoken to quite a few people, including my ex-BIL’s girlfriend, who apparently wanted to exchange some pleasantries with my mum and dad, but since they hate her guts, that didn’t go over all too well. Poor woman.

Anyway, Mum had also spoken to my niece’s foster mother, who wondered if I’d been to the wedding at all, as she hadn’t seen me. She had seen my ex though, with “some invalid lad in a wheelchair, with a service dog and a lot of rings on his fingers.” So Mum told her, “That was (insert deadname), but she’s calling herself Liam now.”

Way to go, Mum. I am not just calling myself Liam*, it’s my official name, and BTW I’m a man – also officially – and thus my pronouns are he, him and his.

Now, as much as I hate it when people call me an invalid, I will forgive my niece’s foster mother for using that word (just this time) because she more than made up for it by not recognising  me and correctly gendering me as male.

She’d best not call me an invalid again though. Ever. I hate that word with a passion. Hate it even more than the word disabled. I’m a very able and capable person, who just happens to be in a wheelchair. No big fucking deal.

As for the “a lot of rings”, they’re not actually rings. They’re called silver splints. Custom made orthotics to prevent my fingers from hyper extending and dislocating. They may look like jewellery, but are a purely functional and necessary addition to my attire. Much like my wheelchair, my custom made orthopedic shoes and my braces.

I’m not the kind of guy who likes to wear jewellery. I’m this man who likes nice clothes and hardly needs an excuse to dress up in a tuxedo.

 

* Actually, Liam is just the pseudonym I’m using here on the blog, but you get the drift.

 

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Is it love?

I’ve been away from the blog for months. Writing doesn’t come as easily as it used to. I don’t know what I can write safely. These days writing – and even talking – about the hurt my relatives keep causing me, makes me feel like a traitor.

I’m wary. On edge. Sad. I don’t want to hurt my relatives, but on the other hand, it gets increasingly hard for me to deal with the pain they are constantly inflicting upon me.

Recently I celebrated my birthday. There was a family get-together, I got nice presents, and it should have been great, which – in a way – it was. But my day was clouded. Overshadowed by the rejection I continue to feel from my relatives.

Mum wrote me a birthday card. Or actually, she wrote me two birthday cards. But instead of addressing them “Dear Liam”, she wrote,”Lieve jarige”, which would translate into “Dear Birthday Person”.

How hard would it have been to just write “dear Liam”? How hard would it have been to simply not send a card at all? I am not some distant acquaintance, I am her son.

For all her, “We love you the way you are” rubbish, these cards tell me the exact opposite. They say, we love the daughter you took from us and nothing is going to make us accept – leave alone – love you as our son. And how could they? They never wanted a son in the first place, and didn’t even have a name for a boy. I’d have gone through life nameless – which is exactly what’s happening here. They have reduced me to some nameless being and that’s an utterly painful and humiliating experience.

It’s come to the point where I find myself thinking, “I wish they’d just cut me off the day I told them I’m trans”. That would have hurt too, but not nearly as much as this. I don’t know how I can continue seeing them. Talking to them. Facing this rejection and humiliation again and again and again.

I dread phoning them. Dread visiting them. Dread having them over for a visit. But I feel obliged. They are my parents. She is my little sister. But the pain is getting too much and I don’t know for how much longer I can keep this up.

They still cling to their false belief that I am deluded. That I am going through some kind of identity crisis – or maybe even a psychosis – and everything will go back to “normal” when I get better and come to my senses.

They think (and I know this for a fact, because Mum told my daughter so) that Dick Swaab’s book “We are our brains” made me think I am transgender. Which only proves that they don’t think very highly of me.

I was a psychology student in uni before I fell ill. If a book had the power to do that to me, I’d not only be transgender, but I’d also be suffering from a host of imaginary mental illnesses and brain dysfunctions, including but not limited to schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, aphasia, narcolepsy, autism, and conversion disorder. None of which I am suffering from. Neither in real life, nor in my imagination.

Come to think of it, I’d probably suffer from a whole host of imaginary physical conditions as well – apart from the ones I’ve actually been diagnosed with. I’d quite likely imagine I were lactose and gluten intolerant, allergic to dogs, cats and rabbits, suffering from ME and fibromyalgia, and heaven knows what else.

Funny thing is, none of my relatives seem to doubt that I really do suffer from migraines. None of them ever suggested I might not really have EDS. And they bloody well seem to take my major depressions more seriously than I do.

I can read up on migraines, on EDS, on major depressive disorder, and no one will ever suggest I got any of these conditions because I read about them. But when I read up on gender dysphoria, my reading suddenly caused the dysphoria? That’s ludicrous.

For years, no decades, I wanted nothing to do with anything transgender. Even people just talking about it would cause my mind to close off instantly. I’d go completely blank. It scared the living daylights out of me.

Why? Because deep down I knew. But being brought up in this religion of guilt and shame, how could I possibly admit that I never felt like I was a girl, a woman? The shame and guilt weighed me down so much that I tried to take my own life, convinced that I didn’t have the right to live. Not once, but twice. And there were many times when I struggled not to do myself in. Struggles that lasted for weeks, if not months.

And that same religion, I feel, is the very thing that’s keeping my parents and younger sister from really, truly accepting me as their son and brother. Because their God made me, and gave me female genitals. And this God doesn’t make mistakes. Not even when he made my daughter and somehow, in his infinite wisdom, decided it would be best if her brain stem were not fully developed, so her autonomous functions (you know, basic things like breathing and swallowing) were severely impaired and she died at age five. No mistakes there.

They say their God is love, but I’m not so sure. My God is nothing like theirs. My God is not omnipotent, because if he were, he wouldn’t be a loving God, and I’d have no other option but to turn my back on him. I need a loving God who’s there for me. Not one who inflicts pain and then tells me it is all for the best or some such bull.

“If that were God’s plan, it’s a bad bargain; I don’t want to have to deal with a God like that…My sense is God and I came to an accommodation with each other a couple of decades ago, where he’s gotten used to the things that I’m not capable of and I’ve come to terms with things he’s not capable of…and we care very much about each other.”
Harold S. Kushner

 

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When will it end?

Though WW-II had been over for almost 20 years when I was born, I grew up in a family where the war was still very much a daily reality.

Where other children might have been afraid of monsters, I feared a German soldier might be hiding under my bed. I’d lie awake at night, listening for footsteps outside: A German soldier coming to get me and take me to one of the concentration camps.

Airplanes where frightening as they might just drop a bomb or fall out of the sky – and I could never decide which of the two would be worse.

My mother and grandmother would tell us their war stories. Real stories of how my uncle would infiltrate the German troups, how he got caught and had his vertebrae crushed with the butt of a rifle, how he escaped and made it back home. Stories of my great uncle being subjected to Spanish water torture, and coming back home a mental wreck.

Looking back I can see that growing up like this – twenty years after the war had ended – was pretty screwed up, but back then I thought this was all perfectly normal. It was my normal.

Sadly, WW-II was not the only war that was going on in my family. Physical and emotional violence were a very real part of my everyday life. My mother always had a rather volatile temper and, unfortunately, nothing has changed there yet, so to this day I still find myself tiptoeing around her. Always vigilant, trying not to set her off. And still it’s not enough.

I like to see myself as a kind and caring person, who always looks to see the best in people. With my mother, I’m constantly second-guessing myself. Why is it so hard to just trust her? Why is it so hard to for me to believe that she’s really trying to accept me as her son?

When my older sister accidentally calls me by my old name, I am 100% convinced that it’s just an honest mistake on her part, and I accept her apologies gladly.

However, when my mother calls me by my deadname, which she does a lot, I find it increasingly difficult to see that as a mistake. In fact, I fear she is not even trying anymore. She did for a while. She did call me Liam a couple of times, so she has to have been trying then. But not anymore, I don’t think so.

She made up a new nickname for me. One she never used before, and she has no trouble using that nickname all the time. My classmates used to call me that back when I was a child, and I hated it. I hate it as much today as I hated it back then. It’s the name of one of the stupidest TV-characters I’ve ever seen, so thank you very much for calling me a half-wit.

When my mother calls me by my old name – and misgenders me, which she still does 100% of the time – she never apologises. Never. Even when I tell her (quite calmly), “it’s Liam,” she will just look annoyed and say, “I know.” And that’s the best case scenario, because there’s every chance she’ll explode into one of her infamous bouts of anger.

She also seems to take  a perverse kind of pleasure in reminding me and all those present of the “woman” I used to be. And it doesn’t seem to bother her in the slightest that she’s hurting me. In fact, judging by the edge to her voice and the glint in her eyes when she makes those spiteful remarks, I cannot but think she’s tearing me apart on purpose. That she’s angry and wants to hurt me.

Even – or maybe especially – when she tells me “we love you the way you are,” I feel bamboozled. Her actions seem to contradict her words, and the words themselves… why the emphasis on the way you are? If she wants to convince me of her good intentions, she has to do better than that. Now, if she wants to trick herself into believing her own lies, that’s a whole different story of course.

She may well think she truly loves me, but I don’t see it. I see someone trying to hold on to a fantasy. The person I think she really loves, is the person she wants me to be. Her daughter, not her son. So now I am her poor misguided daughter who thinks she’s a man, when really she’s a woman. And of course this daughter has to somehow come to her senses and learn to accept herself for who she is.

Honestly, I don’t think there’s any way she’ll ever really see me for the man that I am, let alone love and accept me. We just don’t seem to live in the same world.

There’s so many different worlds
So many different suns
And we have just one world
But we live in different ones

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Three months on T

Testosterone driven savages, that’s what you all are!

Hasty words, spoken by one of my characters who let her emotions get away with her, and consequently came quite close to paying the price for those rash words. Words that convey a stubborn prejudice about men. But how much of this prejudice holds true?

Speaking just for myself, I can safely say that I haven’t turned into a savage, lust-driven beast. And frankly, I never thought I would. Savagery, I think, has more to do with genes and environment – and in that order – than with hormones. (Please note that this is a personal conviction, based on my own observations. It’s not based on science, so feel free to disagree. I won’t shoot you.)

Three months on T I’m still the same person I was before.

There are changes in the way I feel and handle my emotions, but the emotions themselves are the same. I get annoyed or angry more easily, which suits me just fine. I express my anger and move on. Easy come, easy go.

Anger before T was a nasty thing. Is was a nagging, festering monster inside of my head. An ugly beast that took up residence and would stay for weeks, or even months on end and never leave me alone for long. It was also something that I had to keep locked up inside at all costs because of its toxic nature.

Now, anger is no more than that: just anger. Get it out and over with. No longer is it able to creep into my head and make my life hell. It’s in my body and wants out. Since I can’t go about smashing people’s faces and words aren’t always enough to get rid of the adrenaline coursing through my veins, I exercise. I wear myself out and when I finally crash on the couch, panting and sweating, I feel good about myself.

Anger used to be a mortal enemy. Now it’s my friend.

Other than that, there’s an amazing kind of calm that’s come over me. Before T, there were these tidal waves of emotion which, I thought, just belonged to life. Turns out they only belonged to life because of the female hormones playing havoc with my mind.

On T I experience a level of inner peace I never even knew existed. I used to be in charge of my emotions. And it was a full time job too. Now, my emotions don’t need babysitting any longer. They finally learnt how to behave.

My appetite has changed. I still like and dislike the same foods I did before. I also don’t necessarily eat more – or at least I don’t think so – but I do eat differently.

I used to be a chocoholic. These days, though I still enjoy the taste of choclate, I don’t crave it the way I used to. So now I’ve got bits and pieces of chocolate in a drawer here and a cupboard there, untouched. Remarkable!

I was a sucker for fruits, veggies and biscuits, and never cared much about meat or other protein-rich foods. Now my body seems to scream out for protein-laden foods and even though I still like fruits and veggies, my appetite for biscuits has decreased enormously. I still eat them when I get deliriously hungry, but now it’s usually just to give my  body the fuel it needs to be able to get up and make some real food.

My body is changing, and I think that’s what accounts for my changed appetite too. Women have more fat, men have more muscle. So it stands to reason that my body wants more proteins to build muscle, whereas it doesn’t need as many carbs to turn into fat anymore.

Not that I used to have a lot of fat to start with, but still, there was enough of it to be able to bring children into this world. Now, my belly is flat. Finally. I used to hate that small, but unmistakable rounding of my belly – which was the more conspicuous exactly because I was so thin.

My waist is gradually disappearing, and about time, too.

My hips are reverting back to their pre-pregnancies flat and angular shape. Which of course means I’m forever hauling up my trousers, and may need to buy new ones soon(ish) but seeing that I’m spending more and more time in my wheelchair, I don’t feel the immediate urge to spend money on trousers yet.

Other than that and the voice change, I don’t think I’ve noticed any obvious changes. People still read me as female and my voice drop isn’t significant enough yet for people to recognise me as male when I’m on the phone. It pisses me off, but there’s no helping that. At least I don’t feel shy to tell them, “It’s sir,” anymore.

 

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Not my voice

“But you’ve got such a beautiful voice. Why would you want to ruin that?”

That’s the question my dad and others asked me, and I can see why. It was a beatiful, warm, light soprano. My going on T meant that voice would go. And once the voice change set in, my voice would never be the same again. For all I (and others) knew, I might ruin my voice forever.

I knew this when I decided to go on T, and was quite willing to take that risk. Because no matter what others said, no matter how beautiful my voice was, I was never really happy with it.

I dreaded hearing myself sing. That voice, as beautiful as it was, made me feel awkward at the best of times, and cringe in despair at the worst of times. So to me the question was not, why should I risk it, but rather why should I not take my chances? What did I have to lose?

Of course, going on T, with the very real risk of ruining my voice, I was anxious to find out about other classical singers who’d already done this, but no matter how hard I searched, I couldn’t find any. And then, just the other day, my singing teacher sent me the link to an article on The Opera Stage about a transgender opera singer.

I read, listened and marvelled. A roadmap, finally!

Oh, of course things will be different for me. I wasn’t a mezzo soprano to start with, and never had that full, rich sound this guy had before T. But that doesn’t matter. This is the information I was lacking and couldn’t find anywhere.

Voice change isn’t just – or even primarily – about range. Not that voice range isn’t important, but it’s just one aspect of your voice and not nearly the most important. What really matters, is the quality of your voice. Sound, weight, colour.

I recognise so many things in this man’s story already. The thin, breathy quality of the head voice, which now has that falsetto sound that’s so characteristic for countertenors. The crackly business, which annoys the living daylights out of me, but is something I’ll just have to deal with until I have grown into my mature male voice.

In a way, I do not recognise my own voice anymore – and yet I do. It’s not my voice right now – and yet it still is – but other than Holden Madagame, I never really loved my female voice so it doesn’t distress me. Quite to the contrary. It excites me!

Every day now, I wake up dying to hear my own voice grow and develop. I love the dark, rich timbre of my chest voice. More and more my voice starts sounding the way it should have sounded all along. It’s like finally going home.

Right now, I think my voice sounds a little like Johannes Reichert’s.

I’m singing again, and loving it like I never did before.

 

 

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My voice on T

I’ve been on T for two and a half months now and my voice is still basically the same as it was two weeks on T. No further changes, which annoys me no end. I did get my dosage of T upped two weeks ago, but so far that hasn’t affected my voice yet.

Bugger!

As you may (or may not) know, my voice is pretty important to me. I used to be a trained singer and had plans to study classical singing at the conservatory when I was younger. Never had the guts to audition, so I never went there in the end. But that, of course, did not end my passion for music.

Looking back, I think my voice dysphoria may well have played a large part in my being too cowardly to audition. It’s not that I have a horrible voice – far from that. I’ve always had a beautiful soprano voice. Light, warm, agile. Not quite a coloratura, but close. More of a soprano leggero, I suppose.

Not entirely unlike Marina Murari, I’d say.

The only problem with my voice was that it wasn’t a male voice. I wanted – wanted so badly – to have a nice deep voice. A bass, preferably. And the one and only time I was ever fool enough to mention it to some of my friends… well, I paid for that mistake. One them still calls me “Bas” which not only means bass, but is also a boy’s name in Dutch.

After I got married I stopped taking singing lessons. I became a parent and life was so hectic, I didn’t usually have time to think about how much I missed singing. Yes, I still sang in the shower, but that doesn’t count. It’s not what I’d call singing.

Going on T and losing control of my voice made me stop and think about how much I missed it. I wanted to sing. I wanted to take control of my voice again the way I used to. And I didn’t want to wait till after my voice change. I wanted to have at least some semblance of control especially during the awkward time of the voice change.

So I had my first singing lesson yesterday, and it was good. I marvelled at how much I still remembered, and how easily long-forgotten things came back to me. My new singing teacher said I’d still be able to reach C6 with some training and if I weren’t transitioning she’d definitely focus on training my high vocal range again. But since I am transitioning, she’ll train my voice as if I were a teenage boy going through his voice change.

For now, I’m a countertenor, and I’m happy with that. No pretending I’m a woman. I’m simply a guy with a very high voice. And since we have no way of telling how my voice will develop, we’ll just take it one step at a time.

No pressure. Just making sure I won’t strain and ruin my voice while it’s growing into its new range.

Over the next few weeks I’ll be working on the well known aria ‘Lascia ch’io pianga’ from ‘Rinaldo’ by  G.F.Händel. It’s not a very difficult aria – and in fact one of the first aria’s I sang as a teen – but with enough technical intricacies to keep me on my toes for now.

I’m one happy camper.

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