Wishful thinking for 2017 1


I’ve been a bit late in adding my usual post with an evaluation of the past year and the wishes for the upcoming year. Hopefully you will forgive me the delay; in any case, I guess I have far less to report than I thought last year…

Fighting depression

Another year went by, and I’m still unable to work. This should be a cause of intense anxiety, but, alas, the anxyolytics make me rather insensitive to that. In all other aspects my humour and enthusiasm has increased in all regards; I’m definitely much happier than before!

On the other side, there are the very real financial considerations to deal with. I exhausted my emergency fund, the fund I had for eventual surgeries, the remaining of the little money that my mother left me as inheritance, and am now proceeding to sell a parking space which I haven’t used for almost a decade: it’s not worth much, but it should ‘buy’ me another half year or so. Being left with absolutely zero money, the only advantage is that I can apply for some welfare money — at least, I should get huge discounts in water, gas, electricity and possibly even Internet access, and I’ve even heard that I may be able to use public transportation for free. I have no idea if all that is true, but just to give you an idea, the actual amount I might get from welfare is roughly one seventh of what my wife and I need to survive every month. It’s a help, sure, but not enough.

The good news is that my wife’s own career is starting to pull off; she is a year and a half away from finishing her Master degree, but she is already able to do some work, both for the university, and privately for some of thbe teachers — all her plans are coming to fruition, a bit earlier than she planned. It’s still not enough for us to survive. But… there is some hope. I think it’s just a question of getting our timings right; let’s see if we can. pull it off. If not… well, I really don’t know what to do. You know those people that have this magic Midas touch which turn everything to money, no matter what? I believe there must be the equivalent in the universe of an Anti-Midas, and that’s my wife and me: we are experts at doing all kind of work for free. People love what we do, they constantly pile up more and more work on top of us (my wife is much better at saying ‘no’, of course), but nobody is really willing to pay us for what we do. There must be some mysterious karmic influence at work here 🙂 It has little to do with the kind of effort we put in what we do, or how we are always praised sincerely for all our work, but… at the end of the day, people just appreciate that we do so much for free and have no intention of paying us, no matter how desperate we may actually be.

My sister-in-law, who is not the most sane person walking the planet (yes, she claims she has visions and that her dead grandmother advises her in her dreams…), sometimes gets a bit irritated at me, because I’m always in a good mood, always dealing with everything with a smile and a joke, always being available and friendly to everybody… while she clearly is not. She finds my attitude unnatural, and claims that some of the reasons for my depression come from suppressing my anger and frustration and not vent it out like ‘normal’ people do.

Well, she might be right at that, at least to some point. I still lose my temper when I have to face gross stupidity. I have to admit it: I’m a snob, I’m educated, I have average intelligence, enough to work constantly at improving myself, acquiring knowledge, learning open-mindedly about new things… I’m not exactly a quantum mechanics scientist or a space rocket engineer, but I’m at least willing to make an effort. People who do not make any effort at all (some of which so often are quite clever, but just too lazy to do anything with their intelligence) get on my nerves. Yes, I have a strong prejudice towards stupid people. Mind you, ‘stupid’ does not mean lacking education. It means someone who is harming others and harming themselves by stubbornly persisting in meaningless actions that come from not really thinking things through, accepting crazy ideas as being the ultimate truth, and not bothering to look beyond their navel. You know, the kind of people that voted for Brexit and elected Trump. Unfortunately, people are becoming more stupid (as said, this does not mean more ignorant — it’s that they persist in harming themselves and others, even if they acquire more knowledge, than, say, older generations); and looking at the statistics, the more stupid someone is, the more likely they will reproduce themselves, thus creating new generations of more stupid people. This is one of my sources of deep irritation, especially when it comes from people who are clearly intelligent and ought to be able to avoid doing stupid things.

That does not mean that I never do anything stupid; rather the contrary! We are all prone to make stupid mistakes: it’s just that we are supposed to learn from them.

Anyway, I digressed. It just reminded me of so many transexuals, currently in transition, who are doing the most amazingly stupid things, going against all reason, just dumbly following their misguided emotions, and stubbornly refusing to admit that they’re not doing the right thing. For the past year, the number of cases I’ve met has considerably grown. Maybe it’s just a coincidence: as I meet more and more people in the community, and learn better about their motivations, it’s interesting to see how few of them are doing intelligent things — and here, by ‘intelligent’, I mean actions that benefit them and others.

Still depressed, yes, but also looking lovely 😉

To deal with my depression, I accepted the suggestion of a recent friend, currently on hormones and preparing her journey to start her new life in a new country — talk to some private therapists who are specialists in clinical sexology. Perhaps by chance, or not, there is an excellent team working also near my office location (very close to the public mental institution where I go as well). They are not expensive, to be honest, and my medical insurance covers a large part of the cost. But at this time of dire need of money, it was really hard to make the decision to start consulting them as well. Two events finally pushed me to go ahead: first, there was a problem in replacing my psychologist at the public institution, because she is home with a risk pregnancy (everything is fine so far!). Due to lots of clerical errors, I didn’t get a replacement in almost seven months; and this replacement is a recently-hired psychologist, a trainee of my therapist who has been admitted to the service, but the trouble is that she’s not ‘in the system’ yet, and therefore her personal agenda is often at odds with the system. As a result, I already lost two sessions due to those stupid errors… so, clearly, they don’t find me an interesting case, and I guess that they just assign me some doctors because I’m legally entitled to public health services…

The second reason for going ahead was that my father-in-law offered to pay me for those sessions. I know that he means well when he does those promises, but it’s rather hard to get him to keep them. Unfortunately, due to some errors in his medication, he started to develop serious cognitive issues, which made all the family panic; he has since then recovered fully (he’s actually much better than before!), but all that meant a delay in asking him for money. In any case, I did start my sessions with a new team; and, yes, I’m happy to report that he has paid for every session I had so far.

The doctor leading the team is a clinical sexologist who wrote the current law about transgenderity. He has been trained as a sexologist in the US; as a result, his approach (and of the psychologist who works with him) is a bit different from what I get at the public health service. Both follow the WPATH Standards of Care, of course; and both are fine in knowing there is a ‘second team’ evaluating me, because the law requires that a diagnosis of gender dysphoria is confirmed by two separate teams anyway. They all know each other: the field of clinical sexology is not that large in our country, which has just a few hundreds of transexuals with finished transitions, about the same number in transition, and a few thousands currently under evaluation — one of them, of course, being yours truly.

The new team pretty much started with a questionnaire with some 530 questions, which should help them to profile me. This was made in parallel with several sessions and a blood test, which showed normal testosterone levels but much higher estradiol levels than what an average male ought to have. Nothing to worry about: the extra estradiol comes from the belly fat I’ve gained (also thanks to the anti-depressants!). In physical males, estradiol is produced in the fatty tissues, and the more fat, the more estradiol. Estradiol, being a female sexual hormone, will also redistribute body fat in a more ‘feminine’ way — namely, in enlarging the ‘male boobs’, and, yes, to make even more fat accumulate on the belly area… which in turn will produce more estradiol… and so forth.

So all that extra mammary mass is not due to all the creams, massage, and vacuum pumping I’ve been doing? Duh!

So all my breast growth has been due to that! And not from pumping, massaging, pueraria mirifica, or whatever I’ve been using to promote growth. Duh! At least the massaging and so forth is making the male boobs have a more ‘feminine’ aspect (i.e. more round and perky, instead of the usual blob of flesh hanging down from the pecs which most men exhibit at my age), but that’s truly just a secondary effect which will disappear once I lose body fat. Bugger!

Anyway, the new team is still evaluating me. They are taking a bit longer than expected (and, unlike my friends, I have not received the results of the test — they kept those results to themselves), because, as the clinical sexologist put it, I’m ‘an interesting case because I’m at the border between fetishistic transvestism and transexuality’. There is no question for them that there are some ‘gender issues’ (which is another way to say that I fit somewhere on the transgender spectrum), but it’s not clear if I’m ‘just a crossdresser’ (with some crazy wishes and fantasies) or really needing to chop a few bits off and take hormones to lead a much happier life. The current partial diagnosis is a form of ‘narcissistic depression‘ — a new term I had not yet come across! I’m not really sure if I do agree with their evaluation: basically, they suggest that I have built a complex mental construct since an early age to ‘shield’ me from certain realities (for instance, the deluded idea that I look horrible, being physically repellent to females, and therefore cannot aim to get an interesting partner that way, but need to rely on my other mental attributes to do so). Due to some relatively recent tragic (and traumatic) events — the death of my mother, having to face a demented father (my mother had been able to mask his dementia by stepping in on his behalf all the time — doing that with such skill that nobody noticed that my father was already in an advanced stage of dementia), feeling the pressure of finishing my PhD, getting into all sorts of financial troubles, and so forth — this mental construct was shattered, or at least crippled, and the result is a strange form of depression, as I have to deal with life as it is without the ‘protection’ of this mental construct. Does it make sense to you? Well, then it makes more sense to you than to me, because I’m still struggling with the whole concept…

In any case, they asked me to think a lot about what would happen if they diagnosed me as gender dysphoric — or not — and to see how I would feel and react about it. I guess now that this is part of their test to see how much my internal mental constructs to sustain my ego has been affected.

In a sense, I’m glad that they are being so careful: I most certainly do not want to put my life in jeopardy by making the wrong choice — one which might be irreversible. So I appreciate the extra care they’re taking. I also prefer their approach to dealing with the depression; they can all agree that there is really just one thing I need to focus on, and that’s my work.

Interestingly enough, all of them encourage me to dress as a woman more and more, something which not only baffles me every time they insist in it, but I’ve even commented that to them, saying that all doctors are saying the same… and they just smile back at me.

In any case, I’m following the doctor’s orders. And this leads me to the next item which was in my wishlist for 2016, which has definitely been fully accomplished.

Going out more in public spaces… doing common things

2016 was the year of pretty much sticking to non-LGBT-specific places when hanging around with friends (we still visit the ‘old spots’ once in a while). But with the increasing insistence by all my doctors to dress more and more, I have gone to the doctors almost always dressed as a woman (even when the appointment had been cancelled without warning me beforehand). That meant going out in plain day. Thanks to a few changes in my wife’s agenda, this became possible in some specific days.

I have gone much further than that: I’ve been standing in supermarket queues or waiting to pay for my water and gas bills; I’ve visited most large malls in my area, sometimes with a friend or two (not always crossdressed), but mostly alone. I’ve walked around on public streets in broad daylight, did some window shopping, put some petrol in my car… on all those occasions, obviously people did notice me, in a way or other. Sometimes they needed to look twice at me to be absolutely sure that I wasn’t a woman 🙂

And what did I find out about myself?

Well… of course there was some thrill, excitement, even fear of ‘discovery’ when I started doing that, but… after a while, it just became ‘natural’. I mean, I do enjoy catching people’s attention; dressed as Sandra it’s hard to ignore my height and wide frame, so, yes, I know I’m being noticed. But soon I got used to that. As I’m repeating so often, the advantage of living in my country is that we’re all polite hypocrites: we are educated not to say what crosses our mind, but instead keep a façade of politeness — while happily talking about us in our backs in the worst possible manner! But that actually works great on behalf of transgender people: it matters little what people think of us, so long as they don’t voice their opinion in front of us.

I’ve also dressed one whole week and attempted to do some work; that’s supposed to be one step towards the cure; but it didn’t really work as well as I expected, to much of my disappointment. And I got a taste of what my life under transition would be: getting a raw skin from shaving every day, having to endure a corset and all my famous shapewear the whole day, not being that comfortable, sitting in front of a computer for hours, doing my work… well, it quickly lost its appeal, and that made me realise one thing:

I’m not really sure that I would be able to endure so many ‘artificial enhancements’ if I had to live full-time as a woman. However, it’s exactly these enhancements which make a difference: in my mind, instead of looking like ‘a guy in a dress’ I’m just a ‘trans woman with lots of masculine features’… but certainly with lots of what appear to be feminine futures as well. And that’s how I feel great!

The other day, one acquaintance couldn’t resist to touch the top of my breasts, feeling the skin that shows off so much cleavage… and they were surprised at how soft my skin is in that area. Sure, they know it’s all ‘fake’ at some point, but it’s unclear for them where the ‘fakeness’ starts and what is still ‘real’; and what is ‘real’ does not feel ‘male’ at all. I know — that’s why I use special breast creams to make sure the skin tissue of my real breasts really feels soft and stretchy 🙂

Anyway… the point is that I told my doctors how much I envied cisgender women: when they come from a party back home, they just need to swipe their makeup clean, get rid of their clothes and put them on the clothes bag for washing, drop the jewelry somewhere on top of a table, slip on their pajamas, and go to sleep. I don’t have it that simple. Removing the makeup is quick, it just takes a couple of minutes — five minutes if I’m extra thorough. But then there is all the shapewear to remove — and neatly pack it away. In fact, it’s the packing away of everything that takes eternities! And why? Because I cannot trust that my nosy sister-in-law might not drop by suddenly, and all my ‘femme things’ must be out of sight.

The reverse (getting dressed up) also takes eternities. Now, I have to admit that I’m one of those males who really requires about an hour to get dressed as a male. Interestingly enough, my psychologist told me that, in reality, most men take over half an hour to get ready as well, they just never admit it publicly. So, if I had a female body, well, I would take the same hour… plus perhaps 15 minutes extra for makeup, possibly a bit less, because a feminized face via hormones, surgery, and laser hair removal might not require half the makeup tricks I need to cover up lots of things, even though apparently I’m doing something right, because I have been confronted with some acquaintances a bit confused about why my beard doesn’t show under the foundation, or how the illusion of high cheekbones is created, and how my eyebrows do not look ‘male’ at all. Sure, I have my tricks. They all take time. Just putting on all my shapewear and making sure it’s fine takes about half an hour! I could go on and on with examples to explain why I usually take almost three hours if I want to dress as a woman, as opposed as ‘just one hour’ when I dress as a guy. It’s a huge difference. And let me honest with you, the only part I really enjoy is doing the makeup… which just takes 15 minutes!

Yes, being at the supermarket is not really very glamorous, is it?

So, uh, what has this to do with my 2017 wishes?… Well, I would certainly wish to look more naturally feminine, instead of having to use so many tricks, which waste so much of my time. But that’s one of those unrealistic wishes; my body will not change without hormones and/or surgery just because I wish it 🙂

In any case, I’ve most certainly be out and about doing the most trivial things.

No, I haven’t done the other things on the list for 2016…

My hopes to finally be able to attend a makeup course in 2016 were foiled, mostly because the ones that appeared were beyond my ability to pay for them. And I’m still stuck to the ‘old’ pair of external breast prosthesis from Amoena; I haven’t been able to afford something new. And the only person I have ‘come out’ so far was my best friend at college; he, in turn, admitted to be bisexual (I already knew he enjoyed couple swinging).

So: my wish list for 2017!

The depression must go. This is not a ‘wish’ any more: it is something that has to be done, once and forever. I’m technically bankrupt, having exhausted all the money I had saved up — even the money for eventual surgeries has gone. I’m still trying to sell a parking place I have in the neighbourhood, which would allow me to live for a few more months; and a company for which I do occasional work, and who paid me every month, are now one year late in their payments (and apparently they want to kick me out because, well, with the depression, I don’t do much work anyway). What this all means is that, for the best case scenario, I might hold out until late summer; but things can go seriously bad, and that would mean no more choices. The only reason I’m not hysterical and pulling my hair out and banging my head on walls is that I’m medicated with anxiolytics — they work like magic, I’m aware that I should be worried, but I feel some detachment from all things that would cause anxiety (with good reason!), and that means I can think about these things instead of getting a panic attack. It’s weird, but not much weirder than what I can achieve with Buddhist meditation as well — the difference being that anxiolytics work much faster and are ‘always on’, so far as I don’t forget to take them (which I don’t).

But whatever the cause of the depression really is — it has to go away, no matter what. Because it’s not something one can simply ‘wish’ away, but it requires hard (mental) work, all I ask is that the doctors really figure out what is wrong with me, and start giving me tools to actively fight back depression, because, so far, nothing I’ve attempted really worked out.

I need to figure out where I stand in the transgender spectrum. That’s a tricky one, especially because of the word ‘need’ at the beginning of the sentence! Doctors start treating me by asking me to forget everything I have read about the vast variety of transgender people, and simply label myself ‘a person’ instead… but of course things are not so easy as that! The current analysis (and yes, a year has passed, a whole year of nothing more than evaluating my case, even though the new private clinic I go to are far faster at doing a diagnosis) shows that I’m one of those cases that are… ‘interesting’. Why? Because psychiatrists usually tackle gender identity issues by trying to fit us in one of two boxes: transvestic fetishism or transexuality. If you think that this is way too limited, you are right, but these two cases are the ones that require medical help and a method to deal with each of them; the method, in each case, is quite different, as you may imagine! So, my case is ‘interesting’ because I sort of walk on the edge between both possibilities. There are some things in me that are typical of transvestic fetishism; others that are more typical of transexuals. So which one am I? The doctors aren’t sure yet; and that means that, unlike so many other friends of mine, they are very reluctant to give me a ‘final’ diagnosis, but wish to evaluate me further.

Note that transvestic fetishism may not require any treatment whatsoever, namely, if the person is absolutely fine with that. They just consult doctors when their transvestic fetishism gets ‘out of hand’ and starts to seriously impair their work (say, because they get clinically depressed). Otherwise, it’s just another fetish/fantasy, not even one that is very unusual, and therefore harmless. On the other hand, those that get seriously dysfunctional (through compulsive-obsessive behaviour; depression; anxiety; etc.) really require treatment.

I have to admit that I truly trust medical science (unlike my wife, who claims that 90% of all studies published by psychologists are ‘bad science’ and have been exposed as such) and therefore also believe they will eventually figure things out. In the mean time, I have discovered that my feelings towards the diagnosis have changed: at the very beginning I though, ‘oh no, I might have to transition to get rid of the depression, and that scares me‘. Then followed a long period of acceptance: I would be a bit more moderate towards the possibility of having no other choice but transition (and yes, the anxiolytics also help to moderate the anxiety of thinking about the subject) and sort of mentally prepared myself for that, still unaware of what the consequences would be. Relatively recently, however, I have self-persuaded myself that transition, even if desirable at a fantasy level, would be impossible (due mostly to my wife, but not only that) — and there are some other alternatives, connected to traumatic experiences in one’s youth, which can be treated, therefore lowering the need for transitioning in many cases. All this, however, is still very new and experimental; but because people who detransition due to medical negligence or misdiagnosis are starting to become more vocal, doctors, still wishing to offer transition as the ‘best’ solution for those suffering from gender dysphoria, are not only more open-minded but they also avoid rushing people through transition, if it’s not really necessary…

I’d love to be a bit more active in the local community. Some of my readers might be surprised at that wish, since clearly I look like I’m being very active! But that’s not really true: the vast majority of people with gender identity issues of some sort are ‘out there’ — somewhere —it’s just we (referring to the whole transgender family) that aren’t in touch with the silent majority of crossdressers and other transgender people who are around us, leading normal lives, and so forth, so we don’t really notice them…

We need to figure out how to do that, and I certainly would more than enjoy to be part of the Big Change, educating the public in general. There are a few ways to accomplish that, and I have some plans 🙂 All of them, unfortunately, will clash with my wife’s agenda for me (as time passes, she believes less and less in ‘transgenderism’, even though she’s fully aware that there are people who do believe that it exists — she is just not one of them), so it will be tricky, to say the least.

And I would love to continue my efforts in ‘coming out’ to close friends and family. Well, I almost did that twice in this month of January 🙂 but at the last moment I chickened out. My problem right now is that if the doctors realise that, after all, I do not suffer from gender dysphoria, but from something completely different which causes symptoms that are indistinguishable from gender dysphoria, then this mental issue can be solved, making my urges to crossdress manageable, and the need to tell people about it will diminish. Of course, this is just wild speculation on a diagnosis that I don’t truly have; that’s why it’s worth to wait a bit until I know a little more about myself…

And that should be it. Happy (Belated) New Year! Actually, it seems that I’m just in time to wish you a Happy New Chinese Year! Ugh, it’s the Year of the Rooster, and those who have been born under the Chinese astrological sign of the Rooster will have a terrible, unlucky year. Yes, guess who’s a Rooster — exactly! I have already started to suffer and the Chinese year hasn’t even started…

  • Ana

    Ola Sandra, Antes de Mais, devo elogiar o seu blog e devo dizer que tem uma grande cultura geral!
    Queria
    também dizer que em Lisboa existem consultas de psicologia a 25€ na
    associação olhar. Creio que fazem Psicologia Cognitivo Comportamental, e
    não sei que experiência tem com disforia de género. Beijinho. Ana
    http://www.assolhar.com