Moving Quickly

So I went in this morning to see the social worker and she wasn’t gate keeper-y at all. This clinic gives T to anybody who won’t be harmed by it and at a wide variety of doses. “We have lots of genderqueer patients,” she said.
She asked me for a lot of personal background, like where I went to school and if I took drugs and whatnot. She asked about a definition of a man and a definition of a woman. I complained about gender essentialism, and that was ok and, indeed, she agreed when I said the question was “inherently essentialist” and problematic. No “in the wrong body” or other dualist things. It was very low key.
Then, afterwards, she took me down to have about 500 (ok, like 5 – 10) vials of blood removed to be tested for lord knows what. The most critical one (unless I turn out to have somehow picked up an STD, which is supremely (nearly divinely) unlikely) is a cholesterol test. T is a type of cholesterol, so if mine is high, being on T could push it out of hand. Actually, this is probably more of a concern if I move back to France and start feasting on baguettes with butter and cheese again.
I don’t like getting blood drawn. It smarts. Also, I need that blood! I’m totally using it right now! They also took some pee, which I’m much less attached to, but anyway. I should have probably asked more questions, but instead I was marvelling that my appointment with a prescribing doctor is next Tuesday. Holy Smokes!
I’m pretty excited. I came home and went out for a celebratory cup of coffee (it was too early in the day for a drink, also, blood loss would probably make me more easily drunk than normal. (just kidding.)
This is momentous, and (as always for me) I have some worries.
What if my friends stop talking to me or are transphobic / unsupportive? Also, what about my family? What if Nicole’s family gets all upset at her? I mean, I know that a lot of people are transphobic, but normally I think of them as neanderthals who somehow fell through a wormhole into modern times. But some people I care about might turn out to be secret neanderthals.
Also, this is going to change the way I smell. (I will soon reek like a teenage boy, alas. I’ll try to take showers much more often.) What if my dog doesn’t recognize me or dislikes me or something? I wish I could start this with her around so she would know it was still me with a different smell.
Anyway, despite worrying about my friends, family and dog, I was still up and I’m an American, so I decided to go shopping! Err, yeah, I went to REI (an adventure sports store) to look at socks . . . and biking stuff . . . and more biking stuff. I wanted gloves because last time I fell off my bike, my gloves saved my hands from road rash. I don’t have them here and anyway, they’re not warm enough for this time of year. So I was looking at gloves when a guy came up and asked me if I wanted help. I told him I wanted gloves.
“The women’s gloves are on the other side.”
“I don’t wear women’s clothes.”
“Women’s gloves will fit you better.”
“They have little flowers on them.” (Indeed, they do.)
“No, they’re exactly the same as the men’s gloves. Here are some without flowers. Try these on.”
“They fit exactly the same as the men’s gloves offset by one size.”
“See, I told you they were the same!” He seemed to think he had won. This went on for a long while, actually. He took me to another glove department, clearly hoping that I wouldn’t notice that he was handing me all women’s gloves and kept talking about the merits of each one. Then, after having run out of merits, he switched to stories about being in the airforce and how there are no vegans who are true athletes. Eventually, he realized that no matter how much he talked, I wasn’t going to commit to buying a pair of women’s gloves and so he wandered off.
Ok, yeah, so I have mixed feelings. On the one hand soon, I will never have to deal with that kind of crap again. On the other hand, I feel like I’m fleeing the fight against gender essentialism being fought by my brothers and sisters. Like, ‘so long suckers, have fun being kicked out of barber shops! I’m about to pass!’ Except that it’s not like I fought at all. No, I was a good little passive shopper and didn’t tell him to stick it up his ass, and just sort of waited for him to give up. So passive, I didn’t even get angry until later and instead just wondered why my anxiety was acting up. (‘Hm, it is as if my person has just come under attack. I wonder what caused that?’) Like, I’m just so used to it that it didn’t even really register.
Now, I want to go back and kick his ass. But I didn’t. I didn’t resort to violence. I didn’t use my words. I didn’t even absent myself. I bought men’s gloves when he wasn’t looking.
I don’t want to make this a bigger thing than it is. And, you know, I really don’t like to fight. I hate having to get into a fight to get my hair cut or whatever. I know that I should speak up, but sometimes, you know, I just want to buy some damn gloves from a store that hasn’t given me grief in the past. (I did ask him later if he had a men’s shirt in a smaller size, so I guess I made his lack of dissuasion clear. I dunno.) And, also, let’s be clear, the wrong doer in this situation was him, not me & my lack of self-defense.
I don’t know how strongly I’ll be able to conform to a male stereotype anyway, as I like art and dressing well and other suspect activities, so it’s not like I’ll stop being genderqueer or IDing thusly. And while I want to stand in solidarity with my gendervariant, metaphorical siblings, I don’t think that foregoing hormones is a way to do that. I mean, I would never ask that of anybody. If I can’t dance, I don’t want to be part of your revolution.
My last main worry on the transition front has to do with me being a special snowflake. I’m rather unusual for a woman, but much more typical for a guy. I go from being tall to being average height. I go from having unexpected interests to encouraged ones. I go from cross dressing to not. I go from lesbian to guy-who-likes-women (I refuse to ID as straight. I just won’t). So yeah, I’m a special snowflake. Except that I don’t think my most interesting traits are tied in with my gender presentation. I’m a composer. I go on long bike trips. I blog. Certainly my experiences of gender inform and influence my entire life (and vice versa) but if I had nothing more going for me than being a tall, female cross dresser, well, that wouldn’t be so much to go on. (I’d still have my looks, but still.) I’m only a slightly less special snowflake. Also, I don’t plan to go stealth, so maybe I’m an even more special snowflake? Again, not so much to go on. My gender is really not the most exciting thing about me.

Gender Therapy in the Low Lands

I’ve been putting off posting about this for a long while, so I’m hazy on the details. But how many Americans can give a first hand account of gender therapy in the Netherlands? I feel a duty to post. This kind of meanders into TMI a bit, though. Be warned.

Ok, so when I last spoke of my therapy issues, I’d seen a regular shrink who wasn’t sure what to do with me and who did not speak very fluent English. (I want to clarify that I’m not criticizing anyone when I say they don’t speak English well. It’s not like I speak Dutch well, which is the language of the land. When I mention that somebody doesn’t have high English skills, it’s just to clarify that communication was not overly clear. This is a sub-optimal situation to have with a shrink.) She asked me about going to see the gender specialists at the university in Amsterdam. There was back and forth. Finally, she referred me to a center in Voorburg.
Several days later, a letter came in the mail giving me a date and time for an appointment. Fortunately, my assigned time did not conflict with my class schedule. I biked the several kilometers to the PsyQ building there. PsyQ is some sort of organization that deals with people’s mental issues. I don’t know if they’re public or private or some mixture thereof. People seem to largely have private insurance in this country. Anyway, so I showed up and walked through an automatic door to an entry alcove. There was a large glass window with a woman behind it and a microphone. There was no opening in the window at all. It was solid glass (or whatever). I had to show ID to the woman behind the glass and also present my appointment letter. She pressed a button and the automatic glass sliding door to the lobby opened.
Of course, they deal with crazy people, so they need security to protect themselves. From people like me.
The woman took my insurance card (they only reimburse and don’t cover anxiety, which is specifically mentioned on my appointment letter, but whatever) and asked me questions so she could fill out paperwork for me. Because my Dutch skills are too low to fill out any of the forms by myself. People are generally very nice about my inability to communicate in their language. Anyway.
I went to the waiting room and a woman came to meet me and explained that she was filling in for whomever I was actually supposed to meet with. She asked me all the stereotypical shrink things while taking copious notes. How did I get along with my mother? My father? What was my childhood like? I told her about coming out in Catholic school. The first girl I kissed. blah blah blah. She wanted to know about my earlier childhood. At home, I played with boys. At school, I played with girls. My parents and grandparents always got me girl toys. I had a collection of Barbies, but found them to be dull. You dress them up? Who cares? Until, one day, my friend Christy from school came over one afternoon and wanted to play with my Barbies. She pulled off their clothes and a bisexual Barbie orgy ensued. Apparently, what you do with Barbies is make them have sex with each other.
“So she taught you how to play with Barbies?” the shrink asked, very seriously. Um, yeah, am I paying for this? Because I suddenly feel like I’m stupidly wasting everyone’s time.
She changed the subject. “So what makes you think you might be -”
“I don’t know.” I cut her off. I said “I don’t know” a lot. She asked me if I would rather talk to a man or a woman. Was this a trick question? If I say woman, then I’m really a lesbian? If I say a man, then, I’m really a man? Which way should I go? Ack. I asked for a fluent English speaker. Then I started coughing and couldn’t stop. I went home and felt crappy and got a fever and was sick in bed on my birthday (I’m 31 now, btw) poor me.
A week or so later, I went back to the same place, still feeling like I had a cold. I met a different woman, the head of the sexology department. She explained that the woman I had talked to previously was no longer employed by PsyQ and since they are having a staff meeting on March 5th to figure out what to do with me, somebody there should have met me in person. I was very careful the whole time not to say the word “transsexual.” (Because I am totally logical.) She asked me a few times the same question that the other woman had asked more than once. Did I have problems during sex? (Problems only in that the ladies can’t get enough of me. heh heh.) I asked her to explain herself. Well, my lack of a penis might make it difficult. (good lord) Then she asked me how I felt about my period. (um, well, questions about it make me feel uncomfortable.) I don’t think I dislike it significantly more than anybody else I know who has it. She asked me why I hadn’t stopped it with birth control. I explained that I really don’t like taking pills or whatever and don’t want to mess too much with things like that unless I have to for some reason. I’ve heard women talking about birth control side fx and stuff and always have felt glad I don’t have to mess with it. Emotional messes. Mojo killing. No thanks. “But it’s possible to stop it. Why don’t you do it?” she pushed. Yeah, but it can make your breasts bigger, I pointed out. She accepted that. She wanted to know why I hadn’t gone to Amsterdam to the university. Hey, I’ve just been going where y’all have been sending me.
I got the vibe that if I had asked for a referral for testosterone, she would have been willing to write one right then. (Actually, normally, they make you get 5 appointments in Amsterdam and then you carry forward. I don’t know if the appointments are to get a note for hormones or for surgery.) She clearly thought I was – that word that I was carefully shying away from. Which, I mean, what did I expect? A pat on the back and a “good for you being genderqueer!”? If I was fine just the way I am, why am I seeing a shrink anyway?
Then she talked to me about what she’s going to recommend they do with me. Anxiety therapy is the first priority.
god help me, I’ll get off Zoloft soon.
I’ve been off school for the last week. No classes! I didn’t go anywhere. I did an application for Birmingham (UK, not AL) and sat around. Today, I had a duo recording with a improv guy from the composition department. I took a deep breath and screamed “I don’t know who I am” as loud and as long as I could, though my tuba. (Metaphor, but not really.) Blat blat blat, I screamed, inhaled, bellowed improperly attacked breathy notes that don’t know where they’re going, what pitch they want to be, how they will resonate, where they are now, what valves are pressed or how much. Wail, blat blat blat.
Afterwards, I felt so much better. I didn’t even know I felt tense, but afterwards, I just felt so like I’d worked something out. so maybe the key to getting off Zoloft is playing loud, angsty tuba? I came home and actually mixed a piece of music. this entailed both me getting Ardour to work and having the attention span to mix something. Tuba is key.
I’m trying to be proactive. I used to tell myself to wait on things. I didn’t need to worry about my mental health problems as long as I could walk and eat and stuff. In the book Breaking Silence, I read about lesbian nuns developing stomach problems from stress and what I got form that was that I could wait until I had stomach problems. Yeah, last summer counted. I always wait like that. I went to a support group for FTMs once in San Francisco. One old guy there said that if you have to transition, eventually you’ll have to. In She’s Not There, Boylan writes of her experience at age 41, just being totally unable to carry on without taking action. I don’t want to be a mess in 10 years. I don’t want to delay and have my first stubble come in grey. I want to deal with this now and take action or put it behind me. I want to move forward from where I am now.
I know that’s it’s not a path of discovery, that it’s a path of creation. I have agency. I apply technologies of the self to create my own identity. It needs to be an identity I can make some peace with. that might require some more therapy. Or more tuba.


Yesterday, Jess, Angela, and I went to Boston for a day trip.
We left kind of late, which is fine with me because I was mostly into clubbing, but it disturbed Jess. She used to live in Cambridge, the suburb (?) of Boston which contains Harvard. She did not go to Harvard, but went to Brandeis (where she got her first masters), which she commuted to. She did her undergrad at Columbia. When in Connecticut, she likes to go to New Haven and hang around Yale. She clearly has an Ivy League fetish.

So we went and hung around her old haunts from her year in the area. She was intent on showing us everything cool. When some members of our group had to go to the bathroom, for example, she declared that she would take us to the public restroom voted “best place to pee” by a local free newspaper. (It was considerate, but I think the place voted “closest place to pee” might have been better suited to the occasion.)
My goal was to go hang around the gay district. Her goal was to take us to museums, but we left too late, so in liue of that, we went to the best coffee shops and bookshops in the area. She took us to a cafe called “the Other Side,” which was very granola-crunchy and actually had really good beer. There is good beer on the East Coast! Hope returns to a cold, dark world.
We rode the MTA, but they kept raising the faire by a nickel, so we could never get off of it.
Ahem. We rode the MTA around and ate and drank coffee and visitted bookshops and esteemed restrooms and actually got a pretty good tour of Boston. It was kind of dark out and very very very cold. I was wearing two swearters, thermals, a ski jacket with a scarf inside and another scarf outside and a ski hat and the hood of the jacket and ski gloves and was feeling only a bit cold. Angela was suffering.
We went to a lesbian dance club at place called Club Hollywood Boston, that I found listed in a free weekly newspaper, but I dunno if it’s the one giving out restroom awards. We showed up around 10:45 and left around 12:15, so thigs were pretty much just getting started as we left. This was because Jess wanted to park by Harvard and ride transit around, which was logical as she’s new to having a car, etc. But like other transit systems that I can name, the trains stop running pretty early.
Anyway, I danced with Jess a few times which was fun. I realized that it was not going to help my goal of picking up chicks, as people would think I was with her. And furthermore, I’m much too shy to pick up chicks, they have to come for me. I know I’m awkward and not a great dancer and somehwhat (ok, very) nerdy looking, which is truth in advertising. But I also realize that there are women on earth looking for nerds. By which I mean that I’m much older than the last time I was single and I know I don’t have to pretend to be something much hipper than I really am to get chicks. Not that I wouldn’t mind being hipper. What am I trying to say? something about self-esteem, probably.
But this doesn’t cure my shyness. The only stranger that I talked to, aside from telling someone that I was in line for the bathroom, was the coat check woman. And the bartender. Someone cute approached me and asked if I had dropped a sock, since there was one lying on the floor near me. I laughed. but I had to leave and spoke to her no more.
The dance club scene might not be the best place for me to cruise for chicks, but it is super-fun dancing with Jessica and I’d like to go again.
We got home around 3:00 am.