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.

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?

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.