Bear

This is going to be about gender dysphoria. Mine, naturally enough.

Dysphoria is a captivating word, for me – it literally means “hard to bear”. In recent times, thank goodness, the medical profession has seen things more clearly, and stopped (or is stopping, gradually) calling our condition Gender Identity Disorder, since they now recognise that it has never been a disorder (we caught a later train than homosexuality in that respect, but we’re on it now).

If something causes you dysphoria, it means that it’s sufficiently hard to bear that it interferes with your ability to lead a normal life without doing something about it.

Mine seems to have jumped up quite a few notches suddenly. I have to admit, until now, I never really “got” the intensity with which other trans people talked about this experience.

I think it’s hit me now because lately, I’ve been making a lot of headway in making my femaleness “official” – changing my paperwork, getting official bodies to change my gender on their systems, and that kind of thing – and because I’m slowly feminising physically, and because I’m feeling more and more comfortable in my sense of identity (such as it is) as a Trans Tomboy.

The more I feel like myself (and am accepted as such by the world around me, by people around me), the more I’m jangled by the incongruities that still exist. So it gets harder to be called Sir or Mate by shop assistants and strangers in general. It gets harder to see Mr on correspondence.

But most of all, it’s getting harder to have my body manifest maleness. I notice this especially with regard to facial hair and, excuse me, genitalia. I can’t really shave every day. I’ve never been able to do that, my skin has always been too thin, it gets inflamed and sore and cut if I shave 3 days in a row, even 2 is pushing it. But this is now becoming a more pressing issue. Nearly all of my facial hair is white now, so laser can’t remove it. I’m basically doomed to many, many hours of expensive electrolysis.

A choice I’m facing right now is whether to just keep on having an hour done every couple of weeks locally, or to head down to London and consign myself to an intense 6 hours of (locally anaesthetised) full-on electrolysis by more than one person at once. This could either be a really great, or a really terrible thing to do. If it went right, I’d have got the equivalent of 6 months’-worth of electrolysis done in a day (and for around the same amount of money as that would have been anyway), and be freed of a great deal of my facial hair in one fell swoop. If it went wrong (worst-case scenario wrong), I could end up with a lot of facial scarring that would take a long, long time to heal, during which shaving would be really difficult.

The fact that this has become a real dilemma for me is showing me how much my dysphoria has grown. I can take a run-up at this one, because if I’m going down this path, I’d have to visit them for a consultation first. They have many years of experience working with trans women, so I would expect them to be straight with me about the chances of my thin skin turning lunar surface at their hands. And as it goes, I also suspect they’re way better at what they do than my local electrolysist (I hope that’s a word) is, who’s a bit hit-and-miss. I’m sort of amazed you’re still reading at this point, sorry, it’s all so banal and fraught, let’s quickly move on to genitalia.

Yes. The more my body feminises – the more I have woman-curves instead of man-curves – the more it feels as though someone has stuck this daft thing on my crotch as a prank.

Transition for me has always, always primarily been about the genital surgery. Everything else is less important than that (even though pretty much everything else is more visible than that). But in the last couple of weeks, my impatience to have this surgery done has gone up vastly. Tough – I have to wait at least around 14 months before it’s realistically going to happen. Next October I become eligible, and then there’s a waiting list. But it’s really bothering me now.

I never expected to feel this driven about something I have no control over at all. It’s a pretty intense practice, maintaining patience in the face of this. The Buddhist quality of kṣānti is often translated as “patience, endurance” but it can mean simply the quality of bearing things being the way they are. I have borne for decades being a tomboy in the wrong body, and I’m now getting the opportunity to redress this, to some extent. So I can bear to wait. Just barely.

Meanwhile, to end on a less whiny note, I’m really enjoying how this arrival in myself is heralded by a new sense of assertiveness, of having boundaries, of what I want mattering (even though I may not always get what I want, it’s actually still alright to want). I am becoming a risk-taker, a my-mind-speaker. This has consequences. But so does not acting, not speaking. I’m having to learn new skills, such as that of choosing not to chase someone I know is involved with someone else – which never would have been an issue before, since I’d never have considered myself worth being chased by. Anyway, here’s one of my favourite Navajo poems, in honour of being potentially dangerous.

The song of the black bear

My moccasins are black obsidian,
My leggings are black obsidian,
My shirt is black obsidian.
I am girded with a black arrowsnake.
Black snakes go up from my head.
With zigzag lightning darting from the ends of my feet I step,
With zigzag lightning streaming out from my knees I step,
With zigzag lightning streaming from the tip of my tongue I speak.
Now a disk of pollen rests on the crown of my head.
Grey arrowsnakes and rattlesnakes eat it.
Black obsidian and zigzag lightning streams out from me in four ways,
Where they strike the earth, bad things, bad talk does not like it.
It causes the missiles to spread out.
Long Life, something frightful I am.
Now I am.

There is danger where I move my feet.
I am whirlwind.
There is danger where I move my feet.
I am a grey bear.
When I walk, where I step, lightning flies from me,
Where I walk, one to be feared I am.

Where I walk, Long Life.
One to be feared I am.
There is danger where I walk.

*****

My favourite line from this poem is Now I am.

[The painting is The Angel Israfel, by Edmund Dulac – it just felt appropriate in a “busting out all over” sort of way…]

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