7 months later

I should be in bed, and I don’t think I have quite decided yet what it is I want to say, but I’m going to try to put my feelings into words.

It’s been about 7 months now since I decided to “detransition”, that is to stop hormone replacement therapy and go back to living as a woman. I got a lot of attention when I made that announcement, understandably I guess, since my original transition was quite public. Thankfully people have mostly been very supportive and I am incredibly grateful for that. Nevertheless, the last few months have been difficult, and I’ve had a lot of soul searching to do.

I didn’t want to talk about it much to begin with. I didn’t feel ready to express what I was going through or to justify my choices without possibly making things more difficult for other trans people. While being trans and deciding to transition is a deeply personal thing, it can have an incredible impact on so many other people, and I felt the weight of that responsibility very intensely. I didn’t want to talk about what I was feeling until I really understood it myself. And now, 7 months later, I still don’t quite understand.

What I’ve done has had consequences for my life. Some I had foreseen and somewhat prepared myself for, but there were some that I couldn’t possibly understand without experiencing them. To be fair, my experience has largely been positive, but much of what I’ve struggled with has been very internal and personal, and I don’t think most people in my life have any idea. Mostly because I haven’t wanted them to.

I took my last shot of testosterone in September. I was supposed to get another one in December, but I didn’t take it. In the 6 months or so that I was on hormones not much had changed aside from very slight “beard” growth which I can easily hide (and will probably have permanently removed at some point), some more hair in other places and bigger muscles. All of my hair growth is still perfectly within the normal “range” for women, and the added muscle tone is gone. My menstrual cycle hasn’t returned however, and I was surprised by how much that has worried me.

All of a sudden it has hit me that I do probably want to have kids some day and I’m terrified that I might have ruined my chances of ever being a mother. What if my ovaries are just permanently damaged? I had PCOS before, what if I made it worse? Every single time I go to the toilet I am disappointed that I haven’t started my period. Every time I feel a tingle somewhere in my lower abdomen I hope that it’s PMS or possibly ovulation or something. But month after month nothing has happened. I keep meaning to go see an ob-gyn about it, but I think I’m too scared to really know. It’s strange how much my hopes and plans for the future have changed in such a short period of time.

My voice is much lower than it was. My speaking voice isn’t freakishly deep or anything, I think I mostly sound a bit like I have a cold all the time. That’s ok, I guess with time I’ll get used to it and stop feeling so self conscious about it. My singing voice dropped considerably however, and at the moment it’s pretty much stuck in the baritone range.

I know I should just feel all cool and special about it. I keep trying to tell myself that it makes me kind of unique and that I can probably make something of it. But I don’t feel it yet. And I worry that I will never get to the point where I can accept that as a part of me. I love singing…like, a lot. I have always loved singing. But now I feel so defeated because I’ll never sound like I used to, and my voice is still so messed up. I’ll need a lot of training to make anything of it and the task feels too overwhelming.

I tried to rejoin the Reykjavik Queer Choir, but I felt so out of place singing the bass line that I just couldn’t deal with it. Every practice I went home feeling worse. I’m not a bass (thankfully!) and I can’t reach all the deepest notes, but my high notes are too messed up and I can’t sing even half of the tenor range…and I just felt useless, freaky, out of place, and utterly depressed about it all.

Maybe it’ll all be ok. Maybe I’ll end up loving my strange voice. Maybe my ovaries are fine and I’ll find someone who won’t mind my strange history, who’ll actually want to have kids with me.

That’s another thing. Even though I have chosen to live as a woman and I have mostly made peace with that, I still have a trans history. I have explored and tried out something that will never occur to most people. I have changed my name and attempted to live as a man. I have attempted to use hormones to change my body. And in this small country I feel like I will never get away from that. Like I will always be that person. Am I too messed up by now?

No. I don’t believe I am, but a part of me still worries. I do somewhat regret what I’ve done. I regret how difficult this has been, I regret the anxiety, and I regret what I’ve put my family and loved ones through. But ultimately it did answer questions which probably would’ve otherwise haunted me for the rest of my life, and I don’t regret finding those answers.

I am not trans. I’m a woman. For some reason it was incredibly difficult for me to learn that about myself. I’ve felt like a failure as a woman for most of my life, I’m not sure why, and I don’t think it’s healthy to dwell on that too much. I have come to understand that there is no such thing as failing as a woman or a man, you can’t fail to be a human being. I am me, and I am a woman, and therefore I have succeeded in being a woman. There is no one womanhood which we all must aspire to live up to, even though society has this insidious way of trying to convince us otherwise.

I am a little weird and I don’t always fit in. I’m not small and delicate and über feminine. But I’m still a woman and I’m perfectly ok as who I am. Even if it’s taken me this long to realise that.

Don’t get me wrong. I am perfectly aware that trans people do exist. There are people whose sense of themselves really does not fit the body they were born in, and they should be able to correct that. People who change their minds and detransition are rare, and this happens for a number of reasons. I don’t want anyone to look at me and take me as proof that trans people are all just mistaken or sick. Because they are not. I’m the one who was mistaken, I was wrong, and I’m sorry for that. Even as I realise it was something I needed to do.

I have learned a lot about myself this last year. I have learned through working with children that if I ever have kids of my own, I will be a great mother. I have a lot of love to give and I want to give it. I have learned that I’m allowed to exist in this body of mine, even if it’s not “beautiful” according to society, and that I’m worth loving as who I am. And I have learned that despite everything I have the strength to make difficult choices, to admit when I am wrong, and to keep going. So I’m going to do that, keep going. And I’ll be ok.

Why I changed my mind

About a year ago I announced to my loved ones and everyone on Facebook that I was trans and that I intended to begin my transition towards living as a man. Since then a lot has happened and I participated in a number of projects aimed at improving education about trans people.

To begin with everything went well and I felt really good about my decision. I started hormone replacement therapy in late March and planned on getting my chest reconstruction done this fall. I decided however to postpone my surgery because the stress over my dissertation had left my health in a poor state and I needed to start working as soon as possible so as to have an income.

After I had made that decision I realised that I felt relieved. As a result I started examining how I felt about everything and what it meant. After a few weeks I decided that despite my gender identity being fluid and confusing, transitioning simply isn’t right for me.

There are so many aspects of all of this that are so complicated and difficult. My relationship with the people around me, particularly my family and old friends, has become weird and awkward, and everything to do with relationships and love is complicated and my options are limited. I hate being unable to go swimming or to the gym without a hassle and meeting new people is always strange and I hate having to constantly explain things.

There are pros and cons to going through with the transition, just as there are pros and cons to not doing it. When I decided to start, last year, I didn’t have all the information I needed to really compare the two options. I don’t regret doing what I’ve done. I needed to do it to understand myself and better evaluate my options in life. I now see that the consequences and sacrifices that come with transitioning are things I am not willing to live with. I believe it is healthier for me, at this point in time, to try to find a way to live with myself as I am and to be happy in this body the way it is.

I want it to be clear that this decision of mine does NOT reflect on other trans people. This does not mean that all the other trans people also just need to learn to live with themselves as they are, or that it’s all a phase or some kind of madness. It is a privilege to be able to decide not to do this. I thought when I started that this was the only way for me to survive, but I see now that it isn’t…in my case. In the case of many trans people (if not most) it really is a question of life and death. Transitioning is the only way to survive.

The process is at every stage designed so that there is space for people to change their minds. This is the biggest decision a person can make, and the most drastic change anyone can go through. It is a large and difficult decision to make to go through with this and no one does so without being serious. I was serious. But it is also a huge decision to stop and I need support in doing so as much as I did before.

So from now on I am Dora once more. It’ll be strange to get used to that again and in many ways not easy. I have a long period ahead of me where I need to work through how I feel and what I can do to find my place in life.

At this point I feel it is important to note that I do not want to hear “I always knew it would go this way” or any kind of speculations about my mental health. The only person who can explain what this is all about or what it mean, is me!

Aside

Af hverju ég hætti við

Fyrir um ári síðan tilkynnti ég fólkinu í lífi mínu og öllum á Facebook að ég væri trans og að ég ætlaði að hefja ferlið í áttina að því að lifa sem karlmaður. Síðan hefur margt gerst og ég tók þátt í ýmsum verkefnum sem snérust um að fræða almenning um það hvað það þýðir að vera trans.

Til að byrja með gekk allt vel og mér leið virkilega vel með þá ákvörðun sem ég hafði tekið. Ég hóf hormónameðferð í lok mars og stefndi á að fara í brjóstnám núna í haust. Hinsvegar þegar leið á sumarið og ég var sem mest á kafi í stressi yfir mastersritgerðinni (sem nú er lokið) þá ákvað ég að fresta aðgerðinni. Ég var ekki í líkamlegu standi til að díla við stóra skurðaðgerð auk þess sem ég þurfti að fara að vinna sem fyrst til að hafa einhverjar tekjur.

Eftir að sú ákvörðun hafði verið tekin áttaði ég mig á því hversu mikið mér létti við það. Í framhaldinu fór ég að hugsa meira um það hvað þetta þýðir allt saman fyrir mig. Eftir nokkurra vikna umhugsun hef ég ákveðið að þótt kynvitund mín sé á reiki og ég eigi erfitt með að átta mig á því hvar ég stend, þá er ferlið ekki rétta leiðin fyrir mig.

Það er svo margt í þessu öllu saman sem er svo flókið og erfitt. Samskipti við fólk í kringum mig, þá sérstaklega fjölskylduna og gamla vini, eru skrítin og klunnaleg og allt sem viðkemur ástarsamböndum og slíku er flókið og valmöguleikar mínir fáir. Mér finnst erfitt að geta ekki farið í sund eða ræktina án þess að það sé mikið mál. Það er alltaf hálfleiðinlegt að hitta nýtt fólk og að þurfa alltaf að vera að útskýra hlutina.

Það eru kostir og gallar sem fylgja því að fara í gegnum ferlið, alveg eins og það eru kostir og gallar sem fylgja því að gera það ekki. Þegar ég tók þá ákvörðun að byrja á þessu, þá gat ég illa borið þessa valkosti saman. Ég sé ekkert eftir því að hafa farið þessa leið, ég þurfti að gera það til að skilja mig betur og meta almennilega hvað mér stendur til boða í lífinu. Ég sé núna að gallarnir og fórnirnar sem fylgja því að fara alla leið í þessu ferli eru eitthvað sem ég er ekki tilbúin til að lifa með. Ég tel að það sé heilbrigðara fyrir mig, á þessum tímapunkti, að finna leið til að vera hamingjusöm í líkama mínum eins og hann er.

Ég vil hinsvegar að það sé alveg á hreinu að þessi ákvörðun mín hefur EKKERT að gera með annað transfólk. Þetta þýðir ekki að allt annað transfólk eigi bara líka að reyna að vera sátt eins og það er, eða að þetta sé allt saman bara einhver geðveiki eða eitthvað furðulegt tímabil. Það eru forréttindi að vera í þeirri stöðu að geta ákveðið að gera þetta ekki. Ég hélt þegar ég byrjaði að það væri eina leiðin til að lifa af, en ég sé núna að það er ekki rétt…í mínu tilfelli. Í tilfelli margs transfólks (ef ekki flests) þá er það spurning um líf og dauða. Ferlið er eina leiðin til að lifa af.

Ferlið er á öllum stigum hannað þannig að það sé í boði að snúa við. Þetta er stærsta ákvörðun sem nokkur manneskja getur tekið, og umsvifamestu breytingar sem nokkur sál getur gengið í gegnum. Það er stór og erfið ákvörðun að gera þetta. Það fer enginn út í þetta nema að vera alvara…og mér var alvara. En það er líka stór og erfið ákvörðun að hætta við og ég þarf alveg jafn mikinn stuðning til þess.

Ég er því núna Dóra (Halldóra) enn á ný. Það verður skrítið að venjast því aftur og að miklu leiti ekki auðvelt. Ég á langt tímabil framundan þar sem ég þarf mikið að vinna með það hvernig mér líður og hvað ég get gert til að finna minn stað í lífinu.

Ég vil taka það strax fram að ég vil ekki fá að heyra “ég vissi allan tímann að þetta færi svona” eða einhvers konar pælingar um geðheilsu mína. Eina manneskjan sem getur eitthvað útskýrt um hvað þetta snýst eða hvað það þýðir er ég!

Aside

The beginning of my transition

I should either be asleep (since I’m sick) or working on my dissertation. I am not a very sensible person, so I’ve decided to write a blog post instead.

It’s been a week and 2 days (3 days? It’s after midnight) since I got my very first shot of male hormones. This means I get my next one in a month. It was rather anti-climatic at the time, I’d been waiting for so long and been feeling so excited/anxious that by the time I finally got the shot, it was like I was expecting everything to change immediately.

It didn’t. In fact, I didn’t feel anything of note for several days. I got some weird flashes of energy and buzziness, but aside from that nothing.

Since then I have noticed some changes. Nothing much has happened physically. I look the same, and everything pretty much feels the same. I think I might have built up some extra muscle already, but I’m not sure. I’ve noticed that I smell a bit different, it was particularly obvious to begin with, but it’s either not as strong now, or I’ve gotten used to it. My appetite went through the roof, and it’s been a bit hard to keep it in check. I’m hoping that won’t last too long. And my skin is getting greasier and spottier, ugh!

As for my voice, I don’t think it’s noticeably deeper yet, but my throat has felt scratchy for a while now and I sound a bit like I have a cold.

The biggest changes that I have noticed have been mental more than physical. I get irritated quicker, and over sillier things. It’s actually quite difficult to deal with because it feels like I’ve gone back to my teen years, but at the same time I still have the maturity and wisdom that I have acquired through the years, so I KNOW I’m being unreasonable and annoying. Therefore I feel a mixture of irritation and guilt and I feel sometimes like I should just hide myself away for a while.

My boyfriend says I tease him more, but then, that might just be me getting more relaxed around him. :P

It’s hard to describe how I feel. I feel pretty good about things, and I’m honestly quite glad that it’s all happening so slowly. I feel a bit more dude-like, as silly as that sounds. I don’t think it’s my subconscious trying to be more manly because it thinks I should be, I don’t really care about being manly. I just feel more relaxed, and yet somehow more assertive. It’s all a little strange.

But then again, it’s only been 2 weeks (and 2-3 days!) and I will be slowly changing for months and even years. I’m happy about it and excited to deal with the future. I think I can handle being a bit irritated for a while.

Question is: can everyone else?

Transphobia in Iceland

My last post on this blog was in Icelandic and it raised quite a furor in Iceland. Only about an hour after I posted it it had been talked about in a newspaper called DV, quickly after that I received a phone call from a DV journalist, the next day I was contacted by Stöð 2 and I met up with one of their journalists for an interview for the news. I was also interviewed by a lady from Rás 2 and I went to the X-ið 97.7 studio for another interview.

The topic of my last post was the beating a friend of mine took in town early in the morning on the 26th of March. He was quite drunk, he’d been having a good night out with friends, and after the club Gay 46 closed he headed over to Faktorý for a few more drinks. While there we went to use the toilet, and since he’s a trans man he went to the men’s room. Three men took offense and started shouting abuse at him. He decided to leave to get away from this confrontation, but they followed him out and beat him to the ground.

He eventually managed to get away and get into a taxi. Unfortunately, instead of the sympathy and help he should have received, the taxi driver gave him a verbal beating that left him even more shaken than he’d been. According to the driver there is no proof that trans people exists and therefore gender identity disorder is obviously a mental illness. He says he knows this because his mother is some kind of specialist in Sweden.

Just so you know, he is wrong. But even if there were no indication that GID had a biological basis, that still wouldn’t change the fact that we exist and we have a right to be treated equally and given the chance to live our lives safe from physical and verbal abuse.

After my friend made his way home he called me. He was crying, in shock, and talking about how he was starting to feel that the fight to be who he is is just hopeless and too painful. I went to him and sat with him for an hour or two as he cried and shook and hated himself.

I knew he didn’t want people to know who he is. He has small children he wants to protect and a family that isn’t entirely supportive. But I also knew that people needed to know about this. Icelanders like to tell themselves that they are so tolerant and free from prejudice, but they are wrong. Expressing homophobia/transphobia is not acceptable, but the hatred simmers under the surface and this hidden problem needs to be exposed if we are supposed to tackle the issue and make some changes.

Trans people ARE discriminated against. There is no mention of trans people in Icelandic law, and it is technically legal to deny a person a job or housing based on their gender identity. A new bill was introduced to Alþingi recently which is meant to deal with this problem and bring the issues of trans people into the real world. If this bill goes through we will be granted equal rights to medical care, our rights to our children will be protected, and there will be a legal recognition of our existence. This is incredibly important, especially in light of what happened to my friend.

We need to get the information out there and open people’s eyes. We are here, we will continue to exist and challenge the heteronormativity of this society and people will just have to adjust dammit!

Ofbeldi í garð transfólks á Íslandi

Yfirleitt skrifa ég á ensku á þessu bloggi, en í þetta skiptið skrifa ég á íslensku vegna þess að ég vil að sem flestir Íslendingar lesi þetta.

Ég er mjög sorgmæddur í dag. Sorgmæddur, reiður, sár og þreyttur. Síðan ég kom út úr skápnum sem trans þá hef ég sem betur fer almennt fengið góð viðbrögð frá þeim sem ég díla við. Hinsvegar eru ekki allir eins opnir og umburðarlyndir í garð þeirra sem eru öðruvísi.

Í morgun hringdi góður vinur minn sem einnig er trans í mig. Klukkan var 6 og hann var alveg í henglum. Ég flýtti mér til hans og sat með honum heillengi á meðan hann sagði mér frá 3 mönnum sem hann rakst á á skemmtistaðnum Faktorý. Þeir ákváðu að þeir væru ósáttir við að hann skildi “voga sér” að fylgja sannfæringu sinni og fara á karlaklósettið. Þeir börðu hann niður þangað til honum tókst að flýja. Hann fór í leigubíl og útskýrði hvað hefði gerst og var þá tilkynnt af þessum bílstjóraskratta að það væri geðveiki að vera trans og að hann vissi það sko af því að mamma hans er víst “sérfræðingur” í Svíþjóð.

Vinur minn komst loksins heim til sín niðurbrotinn, sár og óttasleginn og velti fyrir sér hvort þetta væri þess virði.

Við erum hræddir og við höfum ástæðu til að vera það. Það er fólk í samfélaginu sem býr yfir svo yfirgengilegu hatri og mannvonsku í okkar garð að ef við förum ekki varlega þá megum við búast við líkamlegu ofbeldi.

Vinur minn sagði aftur og aftur í gær “ég hélt það væri 2012, að fólk væri ekki lengur lamið svona”. Ég get ekki annað en verið sammála. Ég hélt að þessi þjóð væri komin yfir svona lagað, en það er ekki hægt að treysta á það.

Það er einn skemmtistaður á Íslandi þar sem við getum átt von á því að vera tiltölulega örugg. Það er Gay 46, en jafnvel þar þurfum við að fara varlega. Fordómar í garð transfólks koma úr öllum áttum. Það er sérstaklega sárt að rekstaraðilar staðarins gera sér ekki grein fyrir því að “samkynhneigð” og “hinsegin” eru ekki samheiti og því stöndum við frammi fyrir því að transfólk, tvíkynhneigðir, ókynhneigðir og annað hinsegin fólk getur ekki verið visst um að tilveruréttur þeirra sé virtur nokkurs staðar.

Frumvarpinu sem núna er verið að leggja fyrir Alþingi er ætlað til að bæta réttarstöðu transfólks á Íslandi og það er virkileg þörf á því. Eins og staðan er í dag þá er ekki ólöglegt að neita mér um vinnu eða húsnæði. Kynvitund mín er ekki vernduð í íslenskum lögum. Hver sem er má mismuna mér og tala um mig hvernig sem er og ég get ekkert í því gert. Það er löglegt.

Þetta er  þörf umræða. Við viljum bara vera örugg eins og allir aðrir en við erum það ekki.

Self image and the trans identity

For many (if not most) trans people, one of the hardest parts of coming out of the closet and starting the process of living life true to their internal selves, is dealing with reactions of people around them. In some cases it’s not too bad, but many trans people face devastating rejections, and often lose people from their lives.

We often tell ourselves that we’ll just have to be patient. We’ve spent years thinking about who we are, and working up the courage to express our needs. For everyone else the revelation is often a massive bombshell and our loved ones need time to process the change and come to terms with what it means. Coming out as trans isn’t the same as coming out as gay. It’s not only a question of who we date, but we also change our names and our appearance. People have to speak with us differently, talk about us differently, and get used to often quite drastic changes in behaviour.

There is another aspect of this which I have been thinking about quite a lot lately. It is how every person’s self image is intimately entwined with their relationships with other people. A person’s view of themselves and their role in life is not a completely separate entity, created in a vacuum. It is malleable and influenced by the people that surround them. Who we are often differs a little bit (or even a lot) depending on the context. I am not entirely the same person around my family as I am around my friends, or even coworkers. This is in my opinion very relevant to the issues of trans people, and can very much shape the way a person’s transition goes.

Lets take me as an example. I have a family, and a huge extended family. All of which have known me my whole life as a woman. Even as I know deep down that I am not, the way I see myself in relation to them is now quite muddled. I am my parents’ daughter, I am a sister to my siblings, I am aunt, I am niece, I am granddaughter. This is a very deeply rooted identity which I have found hard to shake. I see myself as a man, but I also see myself as a daughter/sister/aunt/niece. Sometimes these conflicting identities have caused me to doubt my decision to transition.

I do think though, that the main reason this has caused doubts has less to do with conflicting identities, and more to do with the almost hegemonic narrative of trans people which goes something like this:

  • trans people know they are trans as children
  • trans people are extremely dysphoric and hate their bodies
  • misgendering a trans person (saying sir to a trans woman for instance) always causes great distress and even anger
  • trans people fit within and accept common gender roles for men and women and aspire to live according to them

This narrative is relatively common and many trans people feel exactly like that. But not all of them do. I don’t. This has caused me to feel doubtful and often quite depressed because I worry that people won’t take me seriously and that I will always be an outcast. I don’t want to toss my feminine side to the curb, I don’t want to “conform” to some kind of masculine standard. I don’t mind that I am someone’s daughter/sister/etc. It’s part of who I am and how my personality was shaped.

At the same time I now have many new and wonderful friends who have never known me as anything other than the gay man Þór. It’s a little strange to me, but also very nice. I shouldn’t need this kind of validation, but it’s still comforting to have it. How I see myself in relation to these people as opposed to how I see myself in relation to my family, is incredibly different. And yet I am still the same person.

This brings me back to my discussion before about how difficult it can be for people to accept that someone is trans. It may not be about hatred of trans people, or doubts about whether it is even possible to be trans. I think that in many cases what is happening is that as someone announces that they are trans and begin their journey towards living according to their true gender, this in turn may affect and even change the self image other people have in relation to this trans person.

If I am now a man rather than a woman, this affects the way my mother sees herself as a mother to me, her daughter. Same applies to everyone else in my family. And also to friends I have had since before I came out. This is a difficult process, and one which people need time to work their way through.

It is imperative that everyone, the trans individual and their loved ones, be patient and open minded to ensure that this process takes place without too much heartache. The transition is complicated and difficult, and to some even a cause for grief. But at the end of the day we are still the same people, we are still here, and we still love each other.

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