Sunday, June 18, 2006

pandora's box

This week for the first time I had some pangs of worry about my transition and how I'm changing. Overwhelmingly, my feelings since starting T have been positive and excited and thrilled- I've been welcoming the hormone induced adjustments and developments to my body. I've got my rough idea of what to expect, based on everything I've learned from my transman buddies, both in real life and via the internet, and I've been gratified as each expected milestone is reached. Ah, here comes my sideburn stubble, and there goes my voice roughening and squeaking, and there are a few hints of muscle definition even as my proto-sixpack abs start to recede under a little padded belly.

But then there are the changes that are harder to quantify, and which I haven't really expected nor anticipated, and honestly, they're making me a little nervous.

These being the mental, emotional, mood changes that I've been noticing, and it's enough to drive a guy really crazy because they're so subjective and minor and at the same time definite. Taking T has some rather cliched effects (anger, aggression, high libido, incommunicative) and there are some moods I've been in lately (impatient, frustrated, walled-up) which seem to overlap. I'm trying to find some way to understand this that neither blames every little grumpy moment on the T, nor ignores the fact that hormones are powerful substances that have strong effects on behaviour and feelings.

It's hard, because I've been envisioning this transition in a lot of ways as a series of small (or not so small) adjustments to myself. Sure, you could say I'm radically changing my life. But I also see that I'm just becoming more and more of myself...that is, I'm not really changing, I'm still me, just with slightly more pleasing packaging.

But what do I mean when I say that? Who is this me that's staying the same? I think of myself as tenderhearted, eager to please, thoughtful, sensitive (sometimes overly), laidback, reasonable. My moods and personality and reaction to things, that's what make up me, right?

But lately, I've been having moments of uncharacteristic behavior, and I don't really like it, and I'm worried that the T is in some way 'changing my personality.'

There's one thing that's been easy to identify, and easy to deal with: I get frustrated more easily. Particularly in situations where I'm being thwarted in some way, or forced to wait for something that I think should happen faster: waiting for a check in a restaurant, waiting in a doctor's office, waiting on the subway. Particularly if there's no immediately apparent reason why I should be waiting (the waiter isn't busy, there's no one else in the office, we're stopped between stations on the tracks). I can feel the frustration coming quickly, but it's easy to recognize, and easier to deal with once recognized. I can talk myself down, or , I've discovered, I can circumvent it if I use the time in a way that no longer feels like my time is being wasted- read a book, or have a necessary conversation with whomever I'm waiting with.

I've been noticing that for a little while, and it's clearly only been happening since I've been on T, and I'm not stressed about it. Learning new ways of managing a suddenly more surfacable impatience is probably good for me. Builds character.

But (especially this past week) I've been having these...moods, and I'm not sure if I'm just having a moody week, or if it's a T thing, or what, but it makes me nervous if it is, because I don't particularly like them. I've had a shorter temper. Something will happen, something that I feel like I should be able to accept without a qualm, and it'll raise little hackles of disgruntlement. Or I'll be quiet (not quite sullen) but withdrawn compared to my usual exuberance and not be able to explain it. And just the other day I remembered an incident that happened in the past, that was not upsetting at the time, and it made me kinda mad when I thought about it again.

I don't want to leap to conclusions ("Oh god, T is turning me into a mean jerk!") for a variety of reasons, not least because I feel like my sample is inadequate to decide that these moods have been solely T induced. Also because there are other factors which may be accounting for the various moods (time gives a change of perspective, the fact that I've been kinda tired and busy and generally feeling a bit overextended this week) that have come up.

But I really don't like being cranky, or angry, or grumpy, or frustrated. It's why I don't like fighting, and I really really don't like shouting. I pride myself on being calm, and amiable/accomodating, and even-tempered. Being angry makes me uncomfortable- I'd much rather be reasonable/rational about something and talk it out. I don't know quite how to deal with little surges of temper, and while I think I've been handling them fine (mostly by being startled after about a minute, wondering where the heck these feelings are coming from, and then trying to dissect them with my rational reasoning until I can determine the source and how to fix the trouble), I'm also a bit nervous about what this means for me. Am I going to lose my favorite bits of myself?

And even more broadly, to get away from Eli-specifics for a minute, what does this mean about what transitioning means? Or what gender is? For lots of transmasculine folks, transition is centered around injecting testosterone. What does testosterone really do to you?

Clearly, it does different things for every person. And keeping track of moods and feelings is much more difficult than keeping track of how many new chin hairs you found this week, or what your biceps measure these days, or even recording voice clips and comparing them.

(Brief interjection: the other night Rochelle played back for me a voicemail that I'd left for her earlier that day. My first thought "Ha! That dude has my same speech patterns!" Second thought: "Gee, guess my voice IS changing. Better get some permanent recordings of it while I still can.")

I've talked before about how my transition means for me a chance to learn how to occupy my place in the world, and learn how to be a man the best way I know how- learn how to be my own kind of man, by learning about what "man" means now, and taking that knowledge and going new places with it...taking the bits I like (responsible, strong, flat-chested) and leaving the bits I don't (privileged and unaware of it, tall, non-removable penis).

But part of the deal of hormones and puberty is that you DON'T get to pick and choose. I'm going to get the acne along with the sideburns, and it looks like maybe I'm going to get the frustratingly short temper along with the stable sense of self.

One of my big comforts is that puberty is supposed to be a time of confusing and hard to handle emotions and moods, right? Maybe this shorter temper is a function of being a person with plenty of testosterone in my body, but I've only been such a person for 3 months. I think with a little more time, I'll have better practice at wrangling my moods where I want 'em to go.

So that's what I've been telling myself during my brief moments of worry this weekend. "What if I've started injecting something into my body every two weeks that's going to make me grumpy and cranky and no fun?"

"Well, young Eli, don't count your chickens yet, and don't underestimate your ability to eventually rule your own roost."

(was that metaphor a bit too awkward? emotions and moods as chickens, still hatching and fluffy, but then in a while will be more settled, once i'm hormonally stable, and then they'll be the grown up chickens in the roost but I'll still be able to be in charge of myself and my thoughts? hence the ruling of the roost? uh yeah. I thought maybe it was. amendment to goal: regain even keel, and develop more adept metaphors.)
--
Also, today is Father's Day. Cheers to dads everywhere, and here's to being a dad myself someday!

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