Of all the feedback and discussion from last week’s article, one issue very definitely got my attention, and I should not be surprised it had such an impact. Surgery is serious business.
I am someone who can no longer recall what it may have been like to not experience dysmorphia, or waking up on any morning without pausing to ask God, “Why this again?” This is a subject of infinite importance and baffling intensity for me.
I sigh, I lie, I wonder why, if every day I always cry, should I simply die?
No, this is not Dr. Seuss’ suicide note – it was more or less my default state of mind for years, before I put on the character of the day. (I usually tried for a Cary Elwes-vibe, a la Princess Bride and Robin Hood, Men in Tights; Clearly being the pinnacle of representations of masculinity to my childhood mind) It was a hell of a lot more fun that feeling like I should hurt myself every time I stepped in the bathroom.)
Now, I’m not suicidal – I pretended to be on two occasions because there was just no way I felt comfortable being honest about myself when my extreme misery was questioned. (Just as a quick aside here, because the internet is a dark and scary place, there really is no shame in suicidal feelings, and check out help if you need it kids – There are chat rooms and 1-800-273-8255 for the USA. Try not to think about the fact that this spells “ape talk” on a phone, that’s just a neurotic tangent.)
But the key point I’m meandering around here with sarky tangents is this – being uncomfortable in my own body was a horrible experience, and it isn’t over just yet. Not all transgender people need, or want, surgery, and they most definitely should not have something imposed upon them in the form of present legal discrimination, let alone physical treatments. For those of us who do need harsher methods, well, these sort of issues can make or break someone. They almost broke me, and distraction is crucial.
I used to make up dreams when people asked about them so I wouldn’t have to share the truth about them, either. Listening to people talk about their dreams is damn boring, I know, but long story short the highlight of my days for a good while was the occasional dream where I could just be a girl. That was my great moment of subconscious wonder – not flight, not power, not sex with that one person from that show with the dreamy eyes and the great hair, very rarely unicorns, but just getting to go through the day with my parts all in a proper, synchronized order. Also, rollerblading with the Gilmore Girls was pretty cool.
But it never happened enough. I tried to barter with God for years just for the privilege of, if I could just dream that I was a girl every night, life would be something I could handle. This was, incidentally, after I had lost hope in the idea of praying to just be a girl. I had no idea that was an option. But neither of those prayers made it very far in the short term.
There are better sources than I for the details – just throw “transgender resources” into your search engine if you want sordid details about high cost, limited availability, and the general awkwardness of this whole topic. Ivy League Schools and Fortune 500 companies helping their own still relies on someone not only being capable of getting into one of those programs, but doing so, potentially, while terrified of taking showers (And not because they just saw Psycho).
Just sitting down to write this flooded me with miserable memories, because that’s what dysmorphia is – misery. Remember the worst movie you ever saw? I’d watch it seven-million consecutive times if I could trade away this feeling. My body has betrayed my mind with a dozen details I could tear myself apart over at any moment. So distraction is crucial.
So my take on the subject is this – some of us want nothing to do with surgery, and others need it so badly we will try anything that seems to offer a sliver of hope at progress, at wholeness. And some slide from one side to the other of the issue too often to know what to do with any of this.
Distraction is crucial, and asking somebody about surgery for something so awkward is just another reminder of the problem, of the misery, of the pain. So unless you are willing and able to help do something about it, please don’t ask any actual transgender person you meet about surgery, just to be safe, of any kind. It’s not the sort of thing that makes for casual banter.
Casual banter is supposed to be distracting.