the complications of love and language

I bring up my ex, Brandon, and how “different” Matt is quite often. My immediate reaction is to apologize.

It’s not fair to compare the two. Brandon was younger. He was less mature. Most importantly, he had less experience with life.

The only heartbreak Brandon had ever known was saying goodbye to his kid sister at the end of a visit. His biggest accomplishment was his high school diploma. His life goal was a steady 9-5 with a desk and a window.

None of this was bad. None of it was wrong, or unacceptable. It just wasn’t good enough for me.

When I was still engaged to Brandon, I had a moment. I realized that there was a language that some couples spoke that I hadn’t learned.

I fluently spoke mediocre-relationship. I was good at passive-aggressively defending my desire for a specific restaurant. I was excellent at coercing him to run with me. I could teach a college course on navigating sub-par conversations and I aced the final in wrapping up one’s self-worth in the happiness of someone else. I’d settled for not feeling wanted. I’d grown great at pretending to be in a healthy, loving, and balanced relationship.

He was content with our static life. It pleased him. It was good enough for him.

The carpet underfoot would crunch with ramen noodles when I came home from a weekend away. It would never cross his mind to vacuum. It wasn’t on his radar.

His laundry would pile up and I would surprise him by washing it and putting it away, only for him to complain that it was on the wrong shelf.

His hand never found its way into mine. We would hold hands when I reached for his, but never a second sooner.

His idea of cooking dinner for me after a long day was unwrapping the plastic on a frozen pizza and pre-heating the oven.

I didn’t realize what I was missing until I saw another couple communicating in a completely different language than the one that I was using.

Once I saw that something else existed, I knew I couldn’t stay any longer. I was tired of us speaking past each other.

When I met Matt, I knew immediately that he and I communicated in a language that I’d never spoken.

When I talk, I know Matt is listening. Not because I’ve asked him a hundred times explicitly, but because I know that he wants to hear what I have to say.

When it started to snow last night and Matt noticed first, he pointed out the window to show me. When I looked back at him, with a big grin on my face, he was looking at me. He was deriving joy from my joy. He looks forward to snow just to see my goofy grin.

When we climb together, there’s no sense of competition. I never felt embarrassed when I couldn’t reach the top. He only showed encouragement and love.

When we’re deciding what’s for dinner, or what movie to watch, or whose family to visit when… It never turns to an argument. We continue a constant discussion: How important is it to you? Neither of us is disappointed to concede to the other.

It’s easy. It’s simple. It’s based on mutual respect.

My comparisons between Brandon and Matt aren’t meant to be malicious. They aren’t meant to highlight anyone’s faults. The language that Brandon and I spoke was the only one I’d ever really known. And as I learn what is to be in a relationship with Matt, I can’t help but think back to how much different my life was and could have been.

 xoxo,

Steph

the comically not-a-reality of de-transitioning and me

Throughout my life I’ve had more short-term passions than long-term pursuits, with a few exceptions. About once a week or two I would come up with something new that I was super interested in. I remember being enthralled in space exploration one day and obsessed with medieval weaponry the next. That’s how I’ve always been wired.

Some things just naturally don’t fit into the category of “hobby” or “interest,” notably sexuality and gender identity. However, that’s a hard thing to come to terms with as a parent, so it’s understandable how my folks were temporarily just going with the idea that I was a guy. Emphasis on the temporary bit.

They would eventually realize, at some point between two weeks and two years of confiding in them, that it was not a temporary thing. My dad has always been the skeptical one, and I don’t blame him at all since I’m just as skeptical about other people’s stuff and things in general. He was skeptical about anti-depressants when I was a teenager, he was skeptical about my decision to go from a computer science major to an English major, and he was pretty skeptical about the whole me being a guy thing.

To be very clear, he has always accepted me and shown me his love in the ways that make sense to him. Only in my most irrational moments did I ever interpret his skepticism as something other than the deepest concern that parents have for their children.

All in all, it made a lot of sense when I was on the eve of my name change, and again on the eve of starting hormones, and yet again on the eve of my surgery and my dad made me do a gut check just to make sure one last time.

When the gut check is coming from him, I don’t mind asking myself, and in turn reminding myself, that this is the right path for me to be on and to reflect on how much more comfortable I’ve become after each step in my transition.

And then, random people ask me what it would be like, or even worst, what it will be like when I de-transition.

I shit you not, through college I experienced more than the recommended dose of stupidity and rudeness when people would tell me that I would never pass well enough, that I would be ostracized, that I would be emasculated and broken to the point that I would willingly slink back into womanhood.

It still doesn’t even make me mad. Ok, maybe a little frustrated, but mostly it’s just hilarious. Beyond the face-palming initial reaction, I am faced with a person who is so internally conflicted about the idea that their own gender identity might be in question that they are telling me how impossible it would be for my own brand of masculinity to be accepted as natural fact.

So, no, I don’t wonder what it would be like if I de-transitioned just like I don’t think that happily cisgendered people wonder what it would be like if they transitioned. However, for the sake of pondering, my results are quite comical.

Time has a way of changing people and minds, and if me and mine change then I guess I’ll just roll with it. Hell, that’s basically what I’ve been doing so far and it’s been working out alright.

What if he changes his mind?

This question baffles me.

No one has ever asked me what I would do if Matt changed his mind, but I’ve read of many parents of gender-nonconforming kids being asked this relentlessly.

I don’t think a person could meet Matt and then ask me what we would do if he “changed his mind”. There isn’t a fiber in his being that suggests he’s anything other than male.

But, I love Matt. I love him immensely.

If he changed his mind, about being trans, I’d do everything in my power to help him feel loved and safe.

Would it be easy? Absolutely not. Generally speaking I don’t find myself attracted to feminine features. I love beards. I love treasure trails. I love deep voices. I love tough, strong men. But would I still want to be with him? Yes.

I would do everything in my power to help get him back to a place where he feels comfortable in his body.

masculinity, hamanity, and dysphoria

One of the things that really helps to pull me out of my dysphoria is to do things that are both intrinsically masculine* as well as a reflection of my humanity. It’s not always the deep chasms of dysphoria that I’m escaping; sometimes it’s just a twinge of sadness after something trivial happens or a moment of frustration when my body isn’t being the body that I want/need it to be.

The intrinsically masculine part seems a bit obvious in that if I’m not feeling masculine enough then reaffirming my masculinity in a personal way would be helpful, but the bit about doing something that reflects my humanity is equally as, if not more, important.

In the moments that I’m feeling dysphoric, I feel like my physical body is so wrong that the rest of me feels hopeless and lost. It’s a terrible thing to feel like the only tangible thing that is truly yours is false, and not only that it’s false but that it is so incredibly false that every intangible thing doesn’t even have value or worth anymore.

I can’t even count how many times I’ve been stuck in my cyclical dysphoric thoughts and reasoned that if a body is only as good as the sum of it’s parts, and if all of my parts were offensively inaccurate, then I as a sum of my parts must also be offensively inaccurate.

It’s a horrible place to be in, but it’s also completely incorrect; which is why it’s so important to do things that reflect my humanity.

In the most diluted and simplistic way, when I need a pick-me-up I like doing things that require me to use tools, that make me connect with other people, that make me use my strength and power, that make me reflect on what it means to be alive and what it means to live.

Things that I’ve done to help get myself out of a dysphoric place:

  • Wet shaving
  • Weight lifting
  • Volunteering at a men’s homeless shelter
  • Going for a meditative walk in the woods
  • Calling my dad and talking to him about life
  • Cleaning my apartment and thinking about the things in my life
  • Building things, whether it’s made of wood, cloth, or Legos
  • Playing with children
  • Visiting my parents or grandparents
  • Asking someone else how they are feeling and getting a real answer

Some of these things seem like normal things to do, and that’s the beauty of it. For me, dysphoria is all about losing perspective of what it means to be a normal version of yourself. Sometimes just doing normal things is all it takes to remember that the sum of your parts, no matter how offensively inaccurate they might feel, will always be exponentially more valuable and extraordinary than they would ever be divided.

* Of course, what is intrinsically masculine to me could be intrinsically feminine to someone else or, more likely, not necessarily intrinsically anything. It could lack association to either end of the spectrum. What I classify as “masculine” is based on how I feel, so bear that in mind through this post and this blog.

dealing with dysphoria as a cis-partner

I am so lucky to have met Matt at this point in his transition. I feel so lucky that he is established as a man in his (and everyone in his life’s mind). Blessed, actually.

I see stories often on the /r/MyPartnerIsTrans subreddit of couples who have been together, as seemingly cisgender individuals, now faced with one partner transitioning. The toll on each partner, not to mention the relationship, their families, their friends… it’s unimaginable.

I like to think that I am a strong woman. I like to think that the love that I feel for Matt is unconditional. That being said, I can never begin to guess how I would feel if he told me he needed to transition for the first time or even to detransition.

In trying to understand dysphoria’s place in my life, Matt’s life, and our relationship I had been pondering what I thought dysphoria felt like for Matt and not what it felt like for me.

I’ve been struggling to find words to find something I’ve never felt before. It doesn’t really feel like my topic to talk about. Dysphoria is a trans thing. Right?

Dysphoria is something I can witness, but it feels weird for me to talk about it from my perspective. No one has ever asked me what it feels like to be dysphoric, so I never considered it. But it still exists in my life. I still encounter dysphoria because I have a trans boyfriend.

Matt is generally really comfortable in his skin. Suddenly he didn’t want to be naked in front of me. I’m not sure if it was embarrassment fueled by the dysphoria, but I went a few days without seeing him totally naked. I’d tug at his boxers and he’d give me a look of discomfort. Like, what was underneath was foreign and he didn’t want to have to look at it.

So, what does it feel like for me when Matt feels dysphoric? I feel helpless. I feel absolutely useless.

There is nothing I can read on the internet to help me understand dysphoria. There is no quick guide for dealing with a dysphoric boyfriend. These first six months of our relationship have consisted of me learning about trans-ness as a general topic. There isn’t any way for me to understand away dysphoria. It’s not something I said, it’s not something I did, it’s not something I triggered.

I wanted to caress his face, and feel his beard, but I was worried he’d think I was drawing attention to one of his “manlier” characteristics. I wanted to lay my head across his chest, he always loves that, but I was worried he’d think I was drawing attention to his post-op chest. I wanted to tell him that I’m here for him. That I love him, no matter what. That I would do anything in my power to ease his pain. But I still fight an internal struggle. I don’t want him feel demasculinized. In that moment, I want to help him forget all the things that hurt him, not emphasize the things that are hurting him.

And then suddenly, the dysphoria passed.

It was like a switch. It seemed to be a really short time  between Matt wanting his boxers to stay plastered just beneath his belly button and Matt wanting me to rip his clothes off and screw like little bunnies.

It was surprising. We didn’t really change anything in his routine, I didn’t do anything differently… There wasn’t a fix that I could see and it was unsettling for me.

In a perfect world, I wish that he had the ability to communicate what he’s feeling. Not just to help me visualize what hurts (emotionally or otherwise), but to help see how he went from 0 to 60. What triggered him. What flipped the switch.

That being said, I recognize that Matt generally does things to the best of his ability. When he’s dealing with dysphoria, I might as well be talking to Harry Potter seated next to a dementor. I get that that’s all he’s got in him. There are some days where I come home from work in a huffy. It had nothing to do with Matt, but I’m in the fuck-everyone mood. I understand that Matt is human, and that he probably wants the exact same thing out of me, when I’m in a bad place.

The best I have to offer is this: Ask your partner, in a time that they’re not feeling dysphoric, what they want, need, or expect from you. Respect their response, whether it was what you expected or not, whether it’s how you would want from them in the same position.

Know that you cannot solve their dysphoria. The best you can do is love and support them in the same way you have in every other aspect of your life together.

on levels, deadlines, and impending dysphoria

I like deadlines. Well, no. I hate deadlines, but I find them useful.

Without deadlines I tend to not do things… have you noticed?

So, after a little bit of nagging from Steph–and to be clear it’s the only nagging she ever does and only because I’ve given my approval for her to nag–we came up with a day that seemed to be ok.

Actually, the conversation went more like this…

Matt: I think that since I’m doing weekly injections now that I’m going to start doing them on Wednesdays.

Steph: Alright, cool. Sounds Great.

LATER

Steph: We need to start posting more.

Matt: Ok. Yeah. You’re right. I need a deadline.

Steph: How about on Wednesdays, the same as your injections.

Matt: Yeah, that’s a good idea.

Steph: Yeah, and then you can’t do your injection until you post on the blog.

Matt: *a look of horror*

Now, this is all in jest. Really, it is. But then I had an idea since I’ve been going through a rough time lately with my T levels and it’s been sooo bad some days… I’m going to tell you all what my levels are (to be followed up with some posts about dysphoria from both of us).

Prescribed Dosage (May 2011 – September 2013): 200 mg / every other week

New prescribed dosage (September 2013 – present): 100 mg / weekly

4/4/2013

  • Total Testosterone = 1010 ng/dL, normal range is 240-950 ng/dL
  • Free Testosterone = 46.0 ng/dL, normal range is 9.0-30.0 ng/dL
  • Hemoglobin = 14.9 g/dL, normal range is 13.5-17.5
  • MCV aka Average Red Blood Cell Volume = 93 fL, normal range is 80-100 fL

9/9/2013

  • Total Cholesterol = 164 mg/dL, normal range is 100-199 mg/dL
  • Triglycerides = 122 mg/dL, normal range is less than 150 mg/dL
  • HDL Cholesterol = 44 mg/dL, normal range is greater than 40 mg/dL
  • LDL Cholesterol =  96 mg/dL, normal range is less than 131 mg/dL
  • ALT (SGPT) aka Liver Test = 19 IU/L, normal range is 8-45 IU/L
  • Hemoglobin = 15.1 g/dL, normal range is 13.5-17.5
  • MCV aka Average Red Blood Cell Volume = 90 fL, normal range is 80-100 fL

As you can see, my levels were completely bonkers back in April, and while I don’t have new T levels since I’m in the middle of switching doses and stuff, all of my other labs came back squeaky clean.

I should, according to my labs, be growing two beards a day and be in tip-top fighting shape.

So where’s my dysphoria coming from and what is it doing to me and Steph?

We’ll try to get to the bottom of that…

stay tuned,

Matt (and Steph)

meta musings | living through a transition that either never started or will never end

I’ve always had a hard time coming to terms with the idea of transition, of having a moment or series of moments that define a transition. On one hand, it’s kind of a perpetual thing with a few very distinct mile markers; but then on the other hand, every life is a life in transition and it really is only those distinct mile markers that make it possible to differentiate between mine and yours and someone else’s.

I get to thinking about this kind of stuff whenever I have something going on with my trans-ness; whether that be dealing with hormones or meeting a new potential partner or figuring out a new way that I like to have sex. Sometimes they happen sporadically and it’s doesn’t really phase me that my trans-ness is more apparent then (when I’m coming out or picking out a new dick or whatever), but other times they happen all together and it just kind of hits me like a freight train.

For a while now my hormone levels have felt pretty wonky, but I’m all headstrong and whatever so I’ve chosen not to go to the doctor. I’ll be rectifying this mistake this week, but this has been a big weight on my shoulders for months and months.

Meanwhile I met Steph and we’ve been having this amazing sexual relationship. We have some awesome sex and part of it has been exploring ways of having sex that I didn’t think I’d be ok with. Being ok with having sex in whichever way I like is actually pretty anxiety inducing. Basically, we escalated from pegging (her strapping in and me receiving anal) to what I call “front pegging” (her strapping in and me receiving in the… front hole…). Now, being a guy (and a manly-man-guy at that), it’s quite scary to suddenly realize that apparently I like dick-like-things in my front hole. What does that mean? Should I be concerned that I made a mistake somewhere? Am I different now? The short answer is: nothing, probably not, and no. The long answer is: bodies feel pleasure so I guess mine is working pretty well, definitely not but kudos to me for finding a new way to get off, and no other than coming harder than I’ve ever before.

Alright, so wonky hormones and fun new sex aside, I’ve also decided that I want a way for me to wear my packer when I go swimming. This is such a common issue with trans dudes, and we know by now that when there’s a void, I like to provide a solution. So, I’m working out a version of a backing harness that I think will work well, but this seems to be putting my trans-ness on the forefront of my mind more often than any of the other things that I should be thinking about. Am I having some sort of internal trans revolution or liberation? Am I suddenly embracing my trans-ness?

What I struggle with is that while my thoughts seem to be very trans-focused the way that I just described them, they don’t seem that way to me. My hormone levels are messed up, and while this stems from being trans, I see it as a basic medical need. To me, it’s a chronic medical issue, but it’s not really any different than my boss’ bum knee or my coworker’s IBS in the way I go about dealing with it. All couples explore their sexual needs and desires together, sometimes that means that one person second guesses themselves and what they want or how they want, and how great that Steph and I are able to do so with such passion and understanding of each other. As for the packer harness, I can’t be the only guy in the world who doesn’t like swimming with my wang flapping around in my shorts, so I hardly think that even this SPECIFIC goal is all that different; I just happen to be doing something about it.

Life is a weird place. It’s always changing, evolving, backtracking, giving you hindsight and wisdom; a constant transitional phase.

Just when I think that I’m exceptionally different, I remember that I’m just as different as everyone else.

— Matt