Pax in darkness

Dysphoria, depression, and decisions

[Image: Pax (pre-transition) stands in semi-darkness in their underwear, in front of closed vertical blinds.]

Content note: Discussion of medical issues and suicidal ideation.

This morning, I took a hot shower for the first time in five days. The aging water heater in our apartment building had broken down on Sunday, and maintenance staff weren’t able to replace it until last night. Hot running water on demand is a luxury many people do not enjoy, to be sure; but when you are paying San Francisco rent prices, you come to expect certain amenities. So our building management arranged for free passes to a nearby gym, so that all tenants could have access to hot showers until the repairs were complete.

Unfortunately, I was not able to take advantage of this offer. My visible breasts make it unsafe for me to undress in a men’s locker room, and I simply do not belong in a facility for women. Though I generally avoided gyms and public pools for years even before my transition, I knew that this problem would come up eventually. Since I had no specific plans this week and tend to stay home a lot anyway, I simply went without showering (or exercising, so that I wouldn’t get too sweaty). But if I’d had to go to a workplace without access to a private shower, this solution would not have been possible.

I’ve written before about my thoughts on breasts and my reluctance to have top surgery. I am still resentful that I feel pressured to remove parts of my body that I don’t personally have a problem with, simply to fit in better with members of my transitioned sex. This resentment, coupled with discomfort and fear whenever I’m out in public and worried about being misgendered due to my appearance, is really wearing on my mental health. I don’t know if I can realistically live the rest of my life feeling this way, wearing extra layers even in hot weather, and unable to take off my shirt in public.

Knowing that some transmasculine people who have had top surgery still get misgendered as female makes me feel even more hopeless. I am reluctant to commit to the cost, risk, and pain of an operation that won’t even guarantee the results I’m seeking, which is simply to be accepted as male. I don’t need top surgery to feel more comfortable in my own skin; hormone therapy has taken care of that, affordably (thanks to my partner’s health insurance) and with much less risk. The operations that would further alleviate my physical dysphoria would be a hysterectomy/oophorectomy, which despite being considered by some as “routine” is not without potential complications; and genital reconstruction, which has serious risks and limitations in its current state for FtM patients.

Physical risk is something I think about a lot, and part of why my heart still races and my hand still shakes every time I prepare to inject myself with testosterone, even 2 1/2 years into my physical transition. I’ve felt for a long time that I will die young, either due to illness, accident, or violence, including suicide. Suicidal ideation is sadly common among trans people, and I experienced it for years even before I knew I was trans, with one near-attempt in 2009. Therapy helped me through the worst of it, but for reasons I explained previously, I’m not seeing a therapist or taking anti-depressants right now.

I’m not writing this to seek sympathy or advice. I’m simply trying to explain to cisgender people what it’s like for a trans person to exist in a cissexist society. I didn’t choose to be trans. I did choose the label of “agender” as the most appropriate way to convey my rejection of the gender binary, but I am a transsexual male by nature, regardless of what modifications I make to my body. I’m not a trend or a special snowflake. There’s a real live human being with real feelings behind these typed words. Please remember that, and think before you speak.

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