Charlotte: Year Two

It’s my second HRT anniversary and I have some thoughts.

First, I’m in favor of marking this day as special. I know that there’s been some pushback against the notion, but I’ve come around on the HRTversarry. A day in the year to pause and take stock of a journey is never a bad thing. And I like the thought of it being my “real”  birthday, so that every person way too into astrology can confidently made prognostications about my character that are spectacularly, flamboyantly off base.

(I’m fine with you using astrology to analyze your life, but don’t use it to analyze mine.)

Secondly, the news is a little more mixed than it was last year, so I’ll start with the good-mixed.

The good-mixed is that my mental health, at present, is better than it was last year. But the caveat is that in the interm, I went back on antidepressants, and felt drowsy and down all the time, but at least I didn’t get anxiety pains. But now I’m back off, I feel great, and I’m dreading those days when it’ll be like I’ve been shot in the chest. I’ve decided that it’s a worthwhile trade, but fuck: what a shit trade to have to contemplate.

So I’m taking a step back and assessing other options and other goals. Working out, meditation, getting less stress in my life (ha ha.) Other drugs. Just generally accepting that neither HRT nor escitalopram were any sort of perfect fix.

But I have, over the past several weeks, been going through the most sustained and fruitful period of healing I’ve ever gone through in my life. (I’ll get into why later.) So: I have to be doing something right.

Now, the physical stuff.

There is a bit of a contradiction at the heart of a medical transition approach to being transgender, in that hormones are magical and you’ll be beautiful no matter what, but also they take time and you need to accept that not everything will look like the you in your head. You have to embrace being more than what you were but also be ready to fall short of perfection.

And for me, it’s definitely closer to having fallen short.

There’s been some nice changes. There’s less body hair. I have some boobs going. My facial fats are beginning to resemble a more femme look more and more. But it’s minor. I still have a receding hairline and I still look like boiled asshole. I’m not gonna be pretty by conventional standards.

And I get that we have to carve out our own beauty standards, and that it’s a good thing to expand the notion of what it is to be beautiful. That part of what makes furry beautiful is its acceptance of many different bodies. I know all that. But sometimes I don’t want to carve a path through the forest, machete in hand, looking for a path I built from scratch, and founding a city to call my own. Sometimes I want to hop on a bus that’ll take me to exactly the place I’ve seen in the travel brochures.

Being trans is a job and it’s Goddamn hard.

So: I’ve accepted that I’ll need to put in more work. Better clothes and a wig – right now my approach to fashion is “I’m clothed, aren’t I?” and my approach to my hair is “I tied it back, what do you want from me.” I’ll need to work on my voice more. I’ll need to learn more about makeup. I have so many more Goddamn sessions of electrolysis to go. This will be a major part of my life, for the rest of my life.

Usually I have the braggadocio to say “good! Bring it!” but today… today, I’m just tired.

Every trans person I know, is so tired.

I mentioned a period of healing. Here’s the meat of it.

I do not recommend going through a cancer scare (I’m fine) and having a sister who has to visit the neurologist, and another friend who had to undergo surgery, and a father who will most likely pass on by year’s end, all happening at once in the same cluster of time.

But if you do, I will say this: it helped me to get my head on straight.

I had become convinced that I didn’t really deserve to live, that I should expire soon as I’d taken care of Dad for the last time, that I was just filling days until then. Part of me was praying for a terminal illness so I wouldn’t have to do myself in. That it’d be better for the world, because then it wouldn’t have me to fill it up with the mistakes I will inevitably make, and have made, simply because I’m human.

And then I got hit with a scare about terminal illnesses, and hey: guess what part of my brain was dead silent all of a sudden!

Suddenly, with all this going on, I thought: our meeting with death should almost never be hastened. I didn’t want any of my friends and family to die. Why should I want myself to? Why should I treat myself any differently?

I’d never say that someone else should kill themselves, and being on Twitter meant I ran into countless threads about “Buckle up Twitter, here’s why empathy enables abuse and encouraging suicide is good.” And even if they make sure to specify that they’re talking about bad people only, well, all that means is you just have to think you’re a bad person, to think they’re talking about you. And I have a psyche that plays my blooper reel on a loop and gives me perfect recall of all of my mistakes. It’s tough to see yourself as a good person during that.

But I’m 18 months gone from that utter shithole. I’m healing. And I’m going “my God, there were some bad, bad takes on that bad, bad website.” Now I say: thanks for the cool comments, but I’m still right. No one should tell someone to do themselves in. I have decided that this is an ironclad law in my life. Because if it’s conditional, I will invent conditions that allow me to think that it applies to me and that I should hurt myself. But if it’s unconditional? Well, a rule of “never tell someone they deserve to die” includes the part of me that tells the rest of me that I have it coming.

There are forces against which we cannot bend, and the black dog of suicidal ideation is, I feel, one of them. Feel free to disagree, but I’ve been around these internet streets since 1996 and I am pretty sure I’ve got a point of view worth espousing.

Finally, socially, I’ve come out to friends and family. I wear my pronoun pins in public. I wear my nail polish. I have mostly gotten acceptance. Mostly.

I have run into people who get the name right, but don’t even bother with the pronouns. I have people who ask me an endless series of intrusive questions, including one pharmacist who had lots of questions about “the surgery.” (lol, that might as well be next century, the rate I’m going.) And most painful of all, there are people in my life that I’m convinced treat me not as a woman, but as a man whose delusions have to be entertained. And I can tell the difference.

The internet says, “cut them out.” But life is set up in such a way, with an interwoven web of connections, that it is not that simple. I can’t just cut the cord without essentially destroying connections I want to keep – connections I’ve managed to strengthen a little.

Part of this is that there is an ongoing tragedy in our lives at the moment, involving a terminal illness, and I feel that there are certain things that I can backburner for the moment in exchange for time with a loved one I will never get back. But: still sucks to backburner it. Still hate doing it.

 So! That’s year two of HRT down. I endure. And am grateful, as always, for those whose hands are on my shoulders when I stumble. I’m happy to be there for them, as well.

If anything is my legacy, let it be that I hopefully left behind more joy amongst my kin than misery.

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