“Normal people’s” problems

The other day I got to meet with my godmother, who came to the city I live for some conference or something. We chatted and had a nice time together, and I was filling her up with how my life is going: not-very-successfully searching for a job, worries about money, a small existential crisis about the fact that I just turned 26 and I don’t really know what I’m doing with my life career-wise, relationships, and all the rest.

I have a pretty good relationship with my godmother, which is why I confidently shared a lot of the stuff that is going on my mind lately, and how I feel, particularly about career situation.

At some point she looked at me, and said something that took me off guard. She said “I think you’re not doing very well”, as in “I worry about you, because I think you’re sad”.

I looked at her, and I laughed. And then I told her that I am doing exceptionally well, and to be honest, I’m doing better than most other times in my life. I am not depressed, I am happy with who I am, I live in a stable house with a person I love and the stressors of my life are not as big as they used to be (especially during the past couple of years), and all I have to deal with right now is “normal people’s problems”.

I can finally sit down and think about jobs. LOL.
My future as a professional, what do I want to do with, you know, my life.

It’s funny because at some point in the past, not that long ago, I didn’t even believe that I would have reached this point. There was a point in my life that I legit didn’t believe that I will live let alone work past 25.

So, here we are, having to deal with unemployment and job search and all this shit, which is far, far away from fun and fine, but I find myself rolling my eyes at the face of adversity (or wasn’t that the quote), and not feeling as burdened about it.

I don’t know if that’s a good thing or not, but all I know is that I’ve grown enormously the past few years, and my whole life leading to now has given me a very different perspective on things.

I pass, therefore, I am not?

It’s funny, how the start of one’s transition can seem like an endless race to “passing”, your manners, looks, and outfits desperately trying to shout your transness out and justify your face. You are a man, but you’re also, a trans man. For a while. Because there is no other way for you to be; with your baby face and lack of razor scruff, your tiny arms and size 4 feet – your clothes from the kids section, your high pitched voice. The way people know you must change, in order to know you for real.

And then, within a year or so, all that changes.

People call you “sir” even on the phone, where they can’t see your patchy beard and broadened shoulders, your leg hair or your bushy eyebrows. No one stares at you in bathrooms, and you’re finally able to just be. A free man.

But are you really? Yes, you are a man, but you’re also a trans man, like you could be a tall man, or a black man. Now there is no reason for you to state your transness, now there is no reason for people to know, and your dysphoria is less and less prevalent as you swerve into the world – a public secret.

Your past is surrounded by fog, you exist only – from a point and after -.

Unless you don’t.

And then the race rewinds. And for people to know you, you must unpass.

And the race goes on.

The Defective Human: When your human warranty is not valid anymore

According to health insurance companies, being transgender is either a “pre-existing condition” that they will not cover medical expenses for (which by itself it’s a bit ridiculous if you ask me) or it is not considered a medical condition, having possible medical needs (like surgeries or hormone treatment) fall under “cosmetic procedures” and therefore, not covered either.

This is not the post where I argue about the fact that gender affirming surgeries and other procedures are labeled as “cosmetic” and “optional” (they are optional, not all transgender people choose to have them and that’s ok – however for those who do, it’s not really an “option”, when it’s either that or severe mental health problems).

This is rather the post where I talk about how it feels when you suddenly start understanding yourself as “defective” in comparison to the general population, and you get introduced to various situations where your “human warrantee” that will allow you to navigate your body in society is being seen as “out of warranty”.

Personally, I have been defective my whole life, one way or another. When I was 6 months old my parents discovered that I have a severe case of atopic dermatitis (an autoimmune, non-curable thing that causes rashes and unexplainable wounds on your body, and can make your mother shit herself in fear when she discovers her sleeping baby covered in blood as if someone slit their throat during the night). It’s not a serious condition, for the most part it’s mainly inconvenient and the worst thing that can happen to you is to get bullied at school because your skin looks really gross, but it’s something that made me familiar with the idea that I am defective, in ways that I can’t really do anything about it.

When I was 13, I was diagnosed with depression and the deal was sealed. I am defective, a kind of human that was not cooked properly and ended up being a bit scruffy at the ends. Fast forward to ten years later, I’m also trans (oh the surprise!). And if up until now I was the only one aware of my defectiveness, now the whole world would know.

The thing with defective products that their owners still use, is that pretty much they are the only ones who know how to deal with them. If you have an electronic device with a specific problem that needs a bit of shaking or the press of two random buttons to work properly, chances are that if it falls in the hands of someone else (who is not an expert) they probably won’t be able to figure it out, and they will just abandon it, right after swearing a bit for how “dumb” it is.

This metaphor, although uncomfortable, is a very relatable way of understanding the way most people see us. Many medical experts don’t know “which buttons they are supposed to press”, most acquaintances don’t understand “how it works”, friends and family are wondering “why don’t we let this go already”.

But, you know, it’s our thing. And it’s not only our thing, it’s us that are the “thing”.

And as much as I want to be angry at the world that many times has no idea what to do to “make me work”, I also understand that whether I like it or not, I’m not easy nor ordinary (in the bluntest of ways of course, it’s not that I consider myself a special snowflake), and I have to learn how to live with that, with all my defectiveness and such.

And for the most part, that’s okay, because for what is worth, I know which buttons I need to press, and that’s what matters the most.

My alien trans body: Being a medical liability

If you ever found yourself worrying about something going wrong with your body, you’d most likely feel safe to the hands of a medical practitioner (or a group of them) to know how to “fix you”. It’s pretty simple really. These people spent most of their lives studying the faults and functions of human bodies, and many of them are specialised to offer specific treatment for specific parts, and since your body is just another one of the thousands they’ve seen, you’re sorted, right?

Well yes. Until your body becomes part of a very small percentage of alien bodies, that not many people know how to deal with. I mean, yes sure, you’re not that special after all – your bodily functions on their majority are the same as everyone else’s. But what happens when they are not? And what happens when the data and knowledge available for these specific types of bodies are not much?

It’s scary.

Being a man who owns a vagina, let me tell you that visiting medical facilities is not the most pleasant of endeavours. Recently, I had to say the word “my vagina” to a medical practitioner and I immediately grasped a sense of “Oh! How do I deal with this right now” – not in a transphobic way, rather than in a human “I hope it’s something I know what to do about” way.

Given that I am still learning how my new body works, after years of it working in different ways, I would hope that medical practitioners would have a clearer idea about it, and they would be able to guide and support me through this process. However, most of them are just as confused as I am, and although both of us are aware of many of the things that are happening in there, we are still not sure if that’s the whole story or not.

I wish there was a specialty for transgender people. I mean, there are specialties for pretty much everything these days. It would provide so much comfort to people who need someone to empathise and understand them (us) when we go with a full on beard to a GP and talk about periods, or god forbid! vaginas.

A guide to masculinity: The car service tales

I had to visit a car service facility recently because my blue dragon has been showing signs of anxiety and old age, maybe a bit of dementia, giving me warning lights when everything should be fine. Ideally this wouldn’t be the first thing that I’d do in any given morning, but there I was, in my black hoodie and jeans approaching the “service reception”. The guy asked me about the problem and called me Mr. Imalexnowsurname, until he asked if I was going to go back to work and I said I’m a PhD student, so he proceeded calling me “my friend” – does your car have any damage my friend? (no, it didn’t)

I feel so unbelievably uncomfortable around dudes that know their ways around cars. It’s so foreign to me, and although I am not completely clueless (I have a basic understanding of how a car works and what I will find when I open the trunk of mine), I can’t not seem like a total and utter noob when it comes to visiting places like that.

I don’t know if it’s the general music videoclip setting, with the greasy vibe and the muscular boys in dirty overalls, the way people talk to you and to each other, or the constant feeling that everything is going to go slow motion and a woman in a bikini will make an appearance any minute now – I don’t know man, car service facilities are intimidating.

I always feel like I should know more about cars, know more about the way men associate with each other using that knowledge. Like I should go to a car service and have an opinion about what my car needs, whether it’s correct or not. I have been witnessing behaviours like that my whole life, with the close males in my life that seemingly possessed some kind of “male-only car knowledge”, which in reality is just a facade because if you are a man, you have to know about cars, and especially, your car.

What is fascinating is that, while I was growing up the person who actually knew their shit around cars more than anyone in the family was my mother. However, her opinion was mostly dismissed by more powerful, and male members (and non members for the matter).

I’m pretty sure that if I grew up as a “son”, the amount of car-teaching I would get from my father would be at least double the amount I got as a “daughter”. Which, too bad for him, because now I am a son, and an unprepared to talk to car service people son. (Disgraceful)

That is to say, I’m really not that oblivious. I just feel like I am, because I was conditioned to be like that. And it always bugs me to think that something as insignificant and ubiquitous as freakin car stuff “knowledge” should be gendered and gatekept. Don’t want to even begin to think about other, more important stuff.

Hi y’all!

I’m Alex.
Now, because this wasn’t always the case.
Welcome to my blog! Glad to have you on board.

I’m not new to blogging or transitioning, but it’s been a while since I have written anything or talked about transitioning in a meaningful way. Lately I have been “try guys-ing” my life, meaning that I have been trying to engage in new things (or old things that I’ve stopped engaging with for one reason or another), so I guess blogging was long overdue.

I am past the constant whining phase of my transition, because I’m already 10 months on testosterone, and post top surgery, but I still got things to talk about, vent, and ask existential questions.

My posts are going to be personal, philosophical, sometimes practical and always random, like me. I’m going to be talking about the variety of masculinities, my adventures with the health systems (in the UK and the world), my experience as an academic and a professional as a trans person, mental health stuff, and my long list of existential anxieties.

So if you think that’s your cup of tea, jump on this boat with me, and let’s go on an adventure! AHOY