How to be busy

Happy Smiley Face

[A bit of the text for this post somehow disappeared, I’m writing it again now]

I used to be allergic to being busy. I hated it. It made me want to hide under the covers and sleep all day. Usually I had school work, a job, and some errands to run. I didn’t have much of a social life and I was unhappy.

Now I am busy. Very busy. There’s something going on almost every night, I have a dissertation to work on, I have stuff to do for the various social groups I am involved in. And I’m loving it!

I am in the Reykjavik Queer Choir (which is fabulous), and I am in charge of organising fundraising sales. I am the secretary for Q, the Queer Student Organisation, and I have quite a few things to do there. I have also been elected onto the 10 person advisory board (I think it’s called in English) for Samtökin 78, the National Queer Organisation.

As previously mentioned I also have a dissertation to write. I have also been in touch with the Red Cross in Iceland about doing some research for them. Oh, and I’m looking for a job.

So yeah. Busy. But it’s awesome! I have a social life, I have friends I meet regularly, I have things to do. And I have figured out why this is working for me now.

  1. I am much happier today than I was just about 6 months ago. I have come out of the closet and I have begun living my life as who I am. I am more confident and I feel like my relationships with people are more honest and fulfilling.
  2. I LOVE WHAT I’M DOING! This is incredibly important. If you’re busy all the time with things you hate, you can’t possibly enjoy them. But if you’re really passionate about your work, and enjoying the heck out of it, then you’re less likely to be bothered by being busy.

Obviously it’s not quite this simple. For me it’s a combination of things: I am happier because I am less depressed. Because I am less depressed I have more energy and passion for what I do. I am less depressed because I am being true to myself. I am also less depressed because I’m doing things that I love.

According to the theory of cognitive behaviour therapy, being depressed is often like a very negative downward spiral. You are unhappy, you think unhappy thoughts, you react to these thoughts in a negative way, you become more unhappy, you think more unhappy thoughts, etc. What I am going through now is the opposite of this. It’s a very positive upwards spiral and it’s hard to pick out the one thing that made it happen. While coming out was clearly a catalyst for change in my life, it’s not the only thing that made my life what it is now. It’s a combination of good things. It makes it easier and easier to combat the negative thoughts, and to deal with the difficult stuff that inevitably comes along.

I’m starting to sound terribly sappy now, but it’s true. I’m happy because I’m doing good things, and I am doing good things because I’m happy.

Moving again

Life is a bit crazy these days. Recently it was discovered that because of an undetected leak there is a huge mildew problem in the flat I live in. My housemate Heiðar (who owns the place) now has to tear it all apart and rebuild it to properly get rid of it. This is going to take 2-3 months, and I have to move in with another friend of mine for the duration.

This means that I’ve had to pack all of my things again and I’m moving to my friend’s place tomorrow.

It’s frustrating. I don’t blame Heiðar for this situation, if I’m frustrated, I can’t even begin to imagine how he feels about it. It’s frustrating for me because I have been on the move more or less since last summer. I was only able to unpack properly just before Christmas, and now I’m packing again. I just wanted to be all settled down so I could just relax and focus on my dissertation work.

Still, I am going to look on the bright side. The flat will be AMAZING when this is done, and so much fun to live in. Living with my friend for a while will be an opportunity to get to know him better, and I’ll be living within walking distance from my mother. It’s all good.

I also finally have an appointment with an endocrinologist, which means that I can start hormone therapy. Unfortunately the appointment isn’t until 25th April, but I’m on a waiting list, so maybe I’ll be able to get in sooner.

I’m also looking for a job. I’m smart and edumacated and stuff! Please hire me?

In September I will have finished my dissertation, I will have been on hormones for a few months, some of my debts will be settled, I’ll be able to get a full time job. It’s just 6-7 more months and then I can hopefully relax a little bit.

I get ideas

I want to do all sorts of things. I come up with new ideas all the time, and if I forget to write them down, I forget them completely.

I get ideas for art work. But then I can’t be arsed to practice drawing/painting, so they never get done. I really want to learn to work with water colours. Maybe one day when I can afford to spend a lot of money on art supplies.

I get ideas for stories and books. I’ve half written one in my head already. I have the characters and the settings and whole scenes floating around in my head. It’s incredibly vivid, but for some reason I keep putting off actually sitting down and writing it.

I want to do fundraisers of all kinds. I want to put together a charity gig. I want to do a huge bake sale. I want to design stuff that I can sell (t-shirts, buttons, Christmas cards).

I want to walk along the Icelandic ring road. I’d bring a video camera and film all sorts of things. I’d dig up folklore and bits of history and film myself telling the story when I get to a relevant place. Then after the trip is finished I’d edit the videos into a series of episodes and put them on Youtube. I actually plan on following through with this one, summer of 2013.

I want to research infectious diseases in Iceland and write a history of them. It would be a complicated look at the way the diseases reached Iceland, how they spread, and the effect they had. It would be a huge Geographical, Historical, Sociological, Epidemiological (etc.) project and it would take a long time to do. But I think it would be worth it.

I want to knit hats and scarves. I want to knit or crotchet a huge blanket for my bed. I want to write deep and meaningful blog posts about important things. I want to win the lottery.

And then I spend all day refreshing Facebook/Tumblr/Twitter and don’t get anything done. How do people motivate themselves to follow their dreams?

Coldness, milkshakes, and bad naps

Sheffield is cold!

So I’m currently in Sheffield. I came here to get back to work on my dissertation. I had a meeting with my supervisor and I plan to make use of the library while I can. I fly back to Iceland on 15th February.

It’s fucking cold here though! England is more humid than Iceland, so the cold is harder to deal with. There’s also something of a lack of access to wonderful, lovely, awesome geothermal heating, so the houses are cold. And then most of the houses I’ve been staying in have been old-ish and therefore not as well insulated as I’m accustomed to.

This means I’m cold all the time! I’m starting to get used to it though.

I’m addicted to Friji’s Fudge Brownie Milkshake

I never want to stop drinking it! Too bad I won’t have access to it in Iceland. *saddest face ever*

It’s just sooooo yummy!

So thick and smooth and glorious and full of chocolatey goodness.

And it’s currently 2-for-1 at Tesco’s. I’m almost out, I’ll need to buy more tomorrow. :P

Two days ago I took a nap

I somehow managed to twist my neck in some strange fashion. It’s been super sore ever since and I almost can’t turn or lean my head to the right. Today I took a nap again and did something weird to the left side of my neck.

Lesson learned: naps are bad!

Stitch is there to express my sadness over this.

My name

For some time now I have been introducing myself to people as Þór Matthías. In the last few days I’ve been thinking about this name more and more and whether it is actually a name that I want to keep for the rest of my life.

I have decided that it is not. I like Þór, I’m quite used to being called Þór by now, but I want my full name to be a bit more…of a mouthful I guess. I’m not used to having a one syllable name and it feels weird. I’ve always kind of liked having a full name and then a shortened version (Halldóra-Dóra). I also have something of an attachment to the letter H, for some reason.

So I have decided to change Þór into Hafþór (Haf=ocean). I like the idea of people who don’t know me calling me Hafþór, but reserving Þór for those who know me better. It’s also just a fuller, more meaty name, I suppose.

The other part of this is that Matthías is a name I had chosen for myself several years ago. I wanted to keep it in order to connect these two periods in my life, but I have come to realise that it’s actually just reminding me of a time when I was very unhappy. I feel quite distant from it now and I’m uncomfortable with it. Hafþór Matthías is also just about too long.

I went through a list of names the other day and found many that I liked. I decided not to go too far into the weird (with Huginn or Draupnir, even though they are cool) and decided to go with Loki instead. It’s short, it’s not a very common name, it’s interesting and it’s in keeping with the Nordic theme. Also Hafþór Loki just sounds cool, it’s rolls off the tongue quite nicely.

Choosing a new name is very tricky. I want to feel close to it, like it’s mine. I want it to represent me and fit me. I like Hafþór because I come from an island surrounded by the ocean and I’m used to seeing it every day. Þór represents strength and toughness to me, which is something I need. It’s something to live up to. Loki is fun, it has a lot of mischief to it and a kind of stubbornness. It’s a name full of life; a stormy, mischievous, strong name. I like it.

Picking your own name like this is very difficult and a bit sad. I’m leaving behind a good name that I’ve identified with for a very long time. A lot of people around me have to get used to calling me by a new name, and in doing so they might find themselves seeing me differently as a result. It’s a strange experience, but one that I sort of enjoy having. I feel like it’s an opportunity to really find myself, but to reinvent myself at the same time. A chance to take control of my life and set things straight.

Things are all a bit up in the air right now and unstable. I’m in the process of changing and becoming something new, it’s going to take a while and everyone’s a little confused. It’s not going to be the one thing that fixes everything, but it’s something I need to do to find my right place. I am allowing myself to enjoy the journey as well, rather than focusing exclusively on the final result.

Besides, is there every really a final result in life? Each journey gives us the wisdom and knowledge we need to embark on another journey. We collect the necessary tools to enable us to evolve even further. That is the joy of life, this ever evolving adventure.

Educate yourself

A big part of any battle for equal rights, respect, and better lives, is advocacy and education. In order to reach the general public and make the issues of minorities and downtrodden social groups known, it is imperative to make reliable information readily available. The responsibility for the education of the individual does not lie entirely on the shoulders of the social group in question however. We are, each and every one of us, responsible for our own behaviour, and therefore we are also responsible for finding the information we use to shape that behaviour.

If it is important to you to gain understanding of the issues faced by (for instance) trans people in order to treat them with respect and avoid doing or saying something which makes them uncomfortable, don’t just assume that they are always willing to point out what you’ve done wrong, or to sit down and answer lots of questions. Many of us have had, and continue to have, so many conversations with well meaning (and less well meaning) curious people. It gets tiring. Sometimes we just want to hang out and talk about something else. I am more than just a trans person. I am also a human being with interests and feelings and worries. I am a Geographer, I like to bake, I love books and horror movies and fun TV shows. I’m interested in international development and global health. I sometimes spend hours playing stupid Facebook games and I really adore kittens. My trans status isn’t the most important thing about me. By demanding that we always take the time to answer all your questions, you risk making us feel like we are some kind of freaks or oddities, and that we are only interesting to you because we challenge your ideas of sex and gender.

There is also another side to this issue. Being transgender is a deeply personal experience, we go through difficult and often painful physical changes, including big surgeries. Some of us have surgeries on our breasts and genitals. We don’t want to talk about that with everyone. My genitals are no one’s business but mine. But people often seem to feel that we owe them some kind of explanation for the choices we make, that we need to tell them the current situation with our genitals. Why? Does the presence/absence of a penis tell you all you need to know about who I really am? Isn’t it enough for me to tell you that I’m a man? You really don’t need proof.

It is important that you take the time to educate yourself for a number of reasons:

  1. I might not want to have this conversation with you. I am not your only source of information.
  2. Every trans person’s experience is different. Whatever I tell you is not going to cover everything you need to know about every other trans person. Doing your own research online will give you a much wider picture.
  3. When you get your information from your own research you will find out in a much less awkward way which words to avoid using, what you shouldn’t ask about, and what to avoid doing. It will be much more awkward for everyone involved if I have to tell you in person that you’re making me uncomfortable.

Don’t get me wrong though. If you’ve done your research and you’re just curious to know me better and understand what I am going through personally, that’s ok. You can ask. But I reserve the right to say no. I am generally more than happy to talk about what I’m going through, up to a certain limit. There are certain things I am not going to want to talk about, particularly if I don’t know you very well.

The points that I have made here are not only pertinent to trans people. They also apply to other LGBTQ people, people with disabilities, immigrants, people of races other than your own, people of different cultures, and many more. A functional, compassionate society is based on reliable information, and we are all a part of that.

To make this all easier for you, here are a few links to places where you can read about trans people:

Not Your Mom’s Trans 101

http://tranarchism.com/2010/11/26/not-your-moms-trans-101/

A list of commonly used terms:

http://www.thefword.org.uk/features/2008/03/trans_101

Trans etiquette for non-trans people

http://tranifesto.com/transgender-faqs-and-info/trans-etiquette-for-non-trans-people/

Another etiquette article

http://iamtransgendered.com/Etiquette.aspx

Ten things not to say to a trans person

http://tranifesto.com/transgender-faqs-and-info/ten-things-not-to-say-to-a-trans-person/

My trans experience

People tend to be rather ignorant when it comes to the issues of trans people. For the most part this ignorance is not deliberate or born of any hatred, trans people are simply not very visible in society and there is little to no discussion of us. This needs to change. We are real, and we need the world to acknowledge our existence and accept who we are.

My name is Þór Matthías Theódórsson and I am transgender. It took me a long time to get to the point where I was able to really accept this about myself, and feel strong enough to come out and share this with the people in my life. To be honest I had reached a point in my life where I felt that something needed to change, or I wouldn’t be able to live with myself much longer.

This process has been very difficult for me, because the image most people have of transgender people didn’t fit me at all. I haven’t been insisting that I’m a boy since I was a child. I didn’t fight against wearing skirts and dresses or playing with dolls. I did pretty much what was excepted of me and I didn’t question it much. I don’t feel like a “man trapped in a woman’s body”. This body is mine and I’ve lived in it for 28 years, I don’t hate it, it just doesn’t fit me very well.

It didn’t even occurr to me that I was trans until my early twenties. Looking back I can see that most of my life I was confused, I felt left out and I didn’t understand why people did what they did. The girls didn’t make sense to me, the boys didn’t either. I tried on all sorts of identities and styles and never felt comfortable or settled. It wasn’t until I was about 21 or 22 that I started realising that something wasn’t quite right. Maybe it wasn’t that I was just a failure as a human being, but that what was excepted of me simply wasn’t right for me. At first I thought maybe I was gay, I tried that on a bit, but it didn’t fit. I am much more attracted to men than women and I realised quickly that I definitely wasn’t a lesbian. I knew I wasn’t a straight woman, I knew I belonged somewhere in the LGBT community, I just wasn’t sure where.

Eventually I came to the realisation that things didn’t feel right because the way people saw me didn’t fit with who I was on the inside. I realised that while I was in fact attracted to men, I didn’t want to be with them as a woman, I wanted to be with them as a man. For the first time in my life something made sense.

I’d heard of trans women before. Men who wanted to be women, who had known since they were children, who were “trapped in the wrong body”, who had hormone therapy and surgery to be as feminine as possible, who wanted to be with men. But the trans experience is so much more varied than that. For a long time I hadn’t even realised that it could work in the other direction, that sometimes trans people were men who had been born female.

I tried to come out of the closet several years ago. I told my family, I bought some men’s clothing, I saw a psychiatrist. But I realised soon that I wasn’t ready, I didn’t understand myself and what I was doing well enough, and there wasn’t much of a support network to rely on. I crawled back into the closet and spent years trying to convince the world and myself that I was in fact a woman. I just skipped the whole dating game, it was too painful to navigate.

About a year ago I started allowing myself to look at this again. I started reading and getting in touch with people online. Finally I realised that there is no one way to be trans. I don’t have to be über-man. I don’t have to change my personality to fit into some kind of transgender mold. I could be trans…and still be me.

So here I am. My name is Þór Matthías Theódórsson and I am transgender. I am not very masculine, I never have been, I am in fact quite feminine. I still like nail polish and fancy earrings. I still have a weakness for bags. I still think high heals make my legs look hot. But I am not a woman. I don’t want to have breasts, I don’t want to have a woman’s voice, I don’t want to live my life as something I am not.

I am going to go through the process of transition, get hormore replacement therapy and the surgeries I feel I need to to be comfortable in my body. But I will still be the same person, with the same interests. I will still be silly, a bit girly, wear make up sometimes. But I will be a man.

Think about this for a second. A man who was born male, who is attracted to other men, who wears make up sometimes, who is very feminine, is still a man if he says he is. A woman can be very “butch”, never wear dresses or shave her legs or wear make up, but she is still a woman. I am a man, and just like every other man, I can be exactly the kind of man I want to be.

 

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