self-hate and the transsexual

March 7, 2011 at 7:20 am 1 comment

A common belief holds that transsexuals hate themselves. That is why we subject ourselves to years of medical intervention including surgery and hormones. I would be lying if I claimed that I loved myself before I transitioned. It’s hard to imagine why anyone who loved themselves would sign up for the often grueling journey that transition can be. But there is a difference between transitioning because you hate yourself and transitioning to learn to love yourself.

Every parent, I should hope, wants their child to love themselves. Part of the transsexual experience, however, is to feel disconnected from the body that you were born into. It might be this very characteristic that makes transsexualism a disease rather than just another social phenomenon. When I was in my early teens I believed that by limiting my nutritional intake I could somehow make myself “healthy”. I was skinny to begin with, but as I sought to limit my food-intake, I soon began to lose even more weight. In my case, I did this not becauseĀ  I wanted to look like the anorexic super-models that inhabited glossy magazines. I had never really cared much for the social pressures that drove girls to dress or groom in certain ways. My eating disorder came from a different place: a desire to stem the descent into puberty. My body was changing and I noticed myself becoming less like the person I felt myself to be.

At that age I didn’t have the vocabulary to know what was happening to me but looking back I understand that what I was experiencing was the development of gender dysphoria. Before puberty hits, girls and boys are less distinct from one another, less pressured with fitting specifically gendered moulds. As we feel our bodies, change, however, and hormones kick in, the roles become increasingly disparate. In my case, the role didn’t match my inner sense of self.

Transsexuals treat their gender dysphoria differently depending on its intensity. Some do not feel the need to transition entirely. Others will not rest until they’ve crossed the great gender divide. In my case, I proceeded gradually. At first I hoped simply acknowledging my condition would be enough. I dressed androgynously and tried to love my body for what it was. But it wasn’t enough. I knew that being a woman was simply not an option for me. I love women but in their company I felt myself invisible, unseen.

Hormones allowed me to masculinize — and it was a truly wonderful feeling. Hair sprouted across my face and body. My voice deepened. My body mass shifted. I looked into the mirror and began to see myself as I had thought I’d never be – a man. It was both frightening and exhilarating. The self-loathing was dissipating.Of course, not all was perfect. My breasts grew flatter and seemed incongruous with the rest of me. Surgery would help me lessen that incongruity. As I told myself: I wasn’t born with breasts; there was nothing natural about them.

Today I find myself finally learning to love my strangeness, my body, my road map through space and time. It carries with it remnants of my past life as a woman but I now cherish these reminders. They are badges of honour along the path to masculinity. Self-hate no longer shapes the way I see myself. Of course there are times that I wish that I could simply have grown into my maleness without the need for outside intervention, but my experience has enriched my life and made me much more compassionate, I think, towards others and towards myself.

We each must play the hand we’re given. I, for one, am playing the hand I have.

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Entry filed under: Gender, Transgender.

Is transsexualism unnatural? Finding your path

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