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The Politics of Testosterone

December 3, 2008

Suddenly, I’m able to start the process of legal and physical transition.

I’ve mentioned sometimes going to an lgbt youth group. Last week, one of the coordinators took me aside to ask me about my transition process. She said that, as a minor, I can’t do much without parental consent; but I can do the requisite three months of therapy to get diagnosed as gender dysphoric. After that, I can start hormone therapy.

I spoke to one of the center’s psychiatrists and his advice was to do the diagnosis through my own psychologist, since she already knows me. My psychologist sort of agreed, although she wants to clear things up with my parents first. Who knows how long that will take. But at least I’m inching forward.

So, where’s the politics? The issue is that I’m not particularly happy about being diagnosed with a mental illness. I believe that trans people, or genderqueer people, or anyone dissatisfied with their body, should be able to alter it without having to prove themselves to a doctor or a judge (in Argentina, for surgery and ID changes, you have to show a judge that you’re “trans enough”). I especially disagree with one of the criteria for dysphoria, which is that you have to suffer in order to deserve treatment.

It would be –sort of– easy to stick to the system despite my opinions. I wouldn’t even have to lie for the diagnosis: my psychologist knows my whole twisted doubt-ridden history, and she considers me trans anyway. But I know of some activists who avoided the system, waiting 10 (ten!) years for ID changes, working the streets to pay their surgery and hormones. That’s being loyal to one’s ideals. With these people in mind, I feel pretty hypocritical.

But I really want to change my body. As soon as possible.


PS: For more about the political implications of lying to the “gatekeepers”, see Elliot Long‘s essay from the Beyond Masculinity anthology (especially here, from the third paragraph).


PPS: Through Going Somewhere I found this funny and insightful essay. The author, receiving hir parents for the first time after chest surgery, makes hirself a pair of “pudding tits” so they won’t notice; this makes hir think about bodies, identities and how we are read by others.

What I hope for is a way in which we can actively articulate, rewrite, translate, and metaphorize, both in terms of verbal and bodily language, in order to continue the long project of fighting ourselves into existence.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. December 3, 2008 7:55 pm

    The ‘Beyond Masculinity’ article addressed the topic of psychologists asking “Have you always felt like a boy” and being uncomfortable when the answer is “no”. I’ve noticed that the first question of every doctor I’ve told I’m trans is “Have you always felt like that?” and it’s frustrating because it makes me feel less of a “real” ftm when I say “No, actually I haven’t.” People need to realize that even among a group of norm-defiers like trans people, there is no norm for us even within that group.

  2. genderkid permalink
    December 4, 2008 10:36 am

    Exactly! And if there were a norm, it wouldn’t be “I always felt like this.” Most FTMs I know started feeling male when they were teenagers, or even later on.

    You deserve an applause for telling the truth even when it makes you feel less of a “real FTM”.

  3. December 17, 2008 12:31 pm

    Hmm. See, it’s interesting because last night my psychologist was a bit baffled when I said I wanted to keep a genderqueer identity even when transitioning (MtF in my case).

    I tell you it’s not just politics of testosterone but of transitioning in general. My psychologist doesn’t see being trans as a mental illness, neither do I. But I need a diagnosis to transition. Luckily I didn’t have to lie to him, I didn’t say I felt female all my life, because I haven’t! Hell, my parents are more interested in me not being part of the ‘traditional’ narrative than my psych, but then again he specialises on trans issues. Really, medicalising it is something I hate, and I tried to explain this to my parents, but it seems as if it’s the only thing they will understand. Not that it matters, as I am 25 and can look after all of this myself.

    I don’t think there’s anything hypocritical about doing it within the system. It’s what I’m doing here in Ireland, even if I am against the system, and I’m a staunch critic of it in fact. There’s a point, I think, where you have to look after yourself, and hope that through activism you can raise awareness about trans issues.

    For my part, it’s just that I really need to transition at this point in my life, so I can move on to other things. So I’m playing by the rules. Luckily we don’t have a strong gatekeeper deal here like there is in Britain for example, I don’t need a judge or anything, and the doctors who deal with this are on your side. I am very lucky. But I am also involved in trans rights activism locally, and I think that compensates for however much ‘selling out’ I had to do.

  4. genderkid permalink*
    December 17, 2008 12:53 pm

    Ok, now I feel a little less guilty; thanks!

    You mentioned how medicalizing trans-ness is the only way some people can wrap their minds around it. I guess we can say there are strategies for getting what we want/need in different circumstances, and medicalizing transgender is the most effective way to get authorities and some family/friends to understand us.

    Maybe opposing the system completely in this matter would be too radical and uncompromising for my own sake. (Who would lose if I chose boycott the system? The system sure ain’t gonna change just for me.)

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