Blame it on the Hormones

For the longest time, I never really understand the big deal about hormones. I didn’t really suffer hormonal mood swings, PMS, or cramps during my monthly cycle. Scout’s honor. I thought it was one of those things that people just blew out of proportion, or used as a scapegoat for being a bitch. I was a little judgmental of my fellow females, but it was just so outside of my personal experience that I couldn’t understand.

Ladies, I am so very sorry.

A couple of years ago, around my 31st birthday, my hormones decided to wake up and wage an epic battle on my sanity. Hello, biological clock! I developed chronic acne issues. For the week or so leading up to my period, I was needy and overly sensitive to everything. I could literally burst into tears over nothing. God help us if there was an actual fight….I would go into a full-blown panic attack. I felt like a different person at times. It has been the most bizarre experience. The most disconcerting aspect of this new reality was that suddenly I desperately wanted to have a baby. (For the record, I never wanted to birth a child. I was fairly ambivalent about the whole idea of being a parent until my daughter kinda fell into our laps.) Now, I feel a need to become pregnant. Fucking hormones.

B and I had discussed having other children in a rather vague way, but my hormonal mid-life crisis put a new urgency into my thoughts. If we want to have another baby, and if we want me to carry it, then we have a tiny, ever-diminishing window of opportunity for this to happen. I refuse to try and get pregnant when I start pushing 40, so the next couple of years are all we have to work with. There was not much to the discussion about whether we truly wanted to try and get pregnant….we pretty much agreed right away that this would be a new goal for us.

Since we are truly overachievers in life complications, this decision came about right around the time B came out as trans. Of course it did. And I still struggle at times with resentment. Because it felt a little bit like my personal epiphany about wanting to have a baby was swallowed up by the tidal wave of B’s transition. This was yet another thing that ended up becoming about his needs. Suddenly our conversations surrounding my potential pregnancy were about how B wanted to try home insemination so he would feel more involved in the process. He was pretty depressed about the fact that he wasn’t biologically able to get me pregnant. And that was pretty frustrating.

The other major impact of trying to plan a pregnancy and a transition at the same time is the financial impact. Getting pregnant without a biological father can be expensive. Sperm costs money, and any procedures done at a doctor’s office cost money. If my mind reeled when contemplating the expense of a pregnancy and a new baby, I nearly blacked out when we began researching the various surgical procedures B wanted to have. Suddenly, B was talking casually about possible surgical options that carried a price tag between $25K and $100K! I wanted to support and encourage, but I also felt the need to point out some practical considerations. We are not rich people. We work hard and scrape by with a fairly decent middle class existence. We have debts. We have a child. We are contemplating having another. How exactly are we supposed to come up with tens of thousands of dollars for surgery? And at times B seems to be in fast forward mode. He has been taking testosterone for about three months, and wants to go under the knife by the end of the year. I just want him to slow down a little. Some surgeons won’t even do certain procedures unless you’ve been on hormone therapy for a year.

Some days I think B feels like all I do is rain on his parade. He has always been a bit of a dreamer. He always has something that he needs to do or acquire that is going to make his life better. I love that quality sometimes. But sometimes I have to be the voice of reason that says, “Hey! Wait a minute! Let’s think this through.” During those times, I think B just hears me saying no.

There are days where I feel like all B can talk about is his transition. He asks me how his voice sounds today, or if I want to feel the new patch of facial hair that is coming in. He will point out the new thicker pattern of hair growing on his stomach, or stand in front of the mirror and check out how the new clit pump really makes his dick bigger. It’s a bit of an obsession, and I know how excited he is, but sometimes I feel like I’m married to a process instead of a person. I keep track of when his shots are, because the second week can be difficult. His irritability level is higher than normal. Testosterone has changed his personality in subtle ways. He is more dismissive of my feelings than he used to be. He is more assertive and aggressive. On the bright side, the hormones have given him a higher sex drive than ever before. We are both just working so much trying to save money that we don’t get to take advantage of that much.

Nearly a month has gone by since either of us has been to a therapy appointment. We are so busy, but I know there are things we need to talk about. Having a mediator is vital to our communication right now. We both have such strong feelings about the things that are going on that it makes it hard not to get defensive or take things as a personal attack.

I feel like I need to post a disclaimer here. I’m supportive of my husband’s needs. I want him to do whatever he needs to do in order to be happy. I love him. But I think there is a huge difference in supporting him and understanding him. It is hard to understand why he feels this is necessary. I don’t buy into all the gender stereotypes. I don’t believe that someone who identifies as male or female has to conform to society’s idea of what that means. In fact, I find androgynous people incredibly sexy. I believe that we should all strive to overturn this idea that we need to be labeled. I am also a big believer in accepting and loving yourself as you are. The idea that someone would need to surgically alter their body in order to be okay is very alien to me. I wish we could all be happy and comfortable with ourselves as we are. I realize that isn’t going to happen. For whatever reason that I cannot grasp, some people need their body to match their gender. I respect that. I support their right to do it. But it is still hard for me to understand. And dealing with how my husband’s transition affects my life is an ongoing struggle. I want people to know. I want to tell you the good, the bad, and the really fucking ugly. This is real talk. I don’t want to hurt anyone. But I want to be brutally honest about this. I have doubts and fears that creep up on me, and I hope that by sharing them here I can help other people going through the same thing. And maybe help myself a bit in the process.

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The Pronoun Game

Can I just say, I hate pronouns. I never gave much thought to how pronouns influence our assumptions about people. Now it seems I’m constantly struggling with when and where it’s okay to use which pronoun. Thankfully, B isn’t offended by my struggles. I think he realizes that it’s hard to stick with his preferred pronouns when there are family members and friends that either don’t know or are less than supportive. I think this blog will help me get more used to the idea that I have a husband and I should refer to him as he. Well, except at work or with certain people. Strangely, the only person I don’t struggle with using male pronouns with when we talk is our daughter. She turned seven a few days ago, and she has taken to the use of “Daddy” and “he” with no trouble. I don’t really know why. Sometimes I think it’s easier that our marriage is going from a lesbian partnership to a heterosexual partnership. Maybe our daughter is relieved to have a Mom and Dad now, like all the other kids.

We had a small rough patch with her in the first few weeks after B came out to her. See, she had asked B if she could call her Daddy. “You just seem more like a Dad,” she said. This was right around the time B was making the decision to transition. He had a discussion with her about his transition. He explained that sometimes boys were born as girls, or girls were born as boys, and they had to go through a process to be their real gender. As you can imagine, a six-year-old came up with some questions. For a few weeks, she would ask me things like, “So I’m just a girl and not supposed to be something else, right?” She asked some form of that question about me, the dog, and other people we know.  I found myself talking to her about chromosomes, biological sex, and the difference between sex and gender. (B tells me all the time that I get way too technical with her in my explanations, but I think it’s important to talk to kids in a way that challenges them to understand complicated issues. If you constantly over-simplify things, I feel that they will always settle for the simple answers, instead of looking deeper. It’s just a quirk I have.) My daughter is very much a typical girl, and we frequently have discussions about gender stereotypes and how toys and colors and activities are not really gender specific. As you can imagine, the kids at her school have a very different opinion, so she has a hard time. I know she used to really like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, but she stopped liking them because the little boys in her class made fun of her. It’s hard to convince a first grader that she should like whatever she likes, regardless of what the kids at school say.

We made a mistake early on when we told our daughter about B’s transition. B hadn’t told his grandparents yet, and our daughter (I’m gonna call her Elsa to make it easier, and because Frozen!!) Elsa stays with them quite a bit because our work and school schedules are crazy. He asked Elsa to not call him Daddy around them. This turned out to be a major problem that Elsa struggled with. She had some anxiety issues, and we finally figured out that it was too stressful for her to try and keep B’s secret. So B wrote his grandparents a letter about his transition. He thought maybe that would give them the space to have their own reaction without lashing out at him. I guess that partially worked…his grandmother vented to me instead. So not fun, by the way. She went on a predictable tirade about how this “silliness” would affect Elsa. How Elsa is used to B being her mom, and it was confusing for her, and no wonder she was having anxiety. Of course, she railed about how B would never be a real man, and how the whole idea was just ridiculous. It was really hard to sit there and not react in a way that would completely damage the relationship. I just said that Elsa seemed to be doing fine with the whole thing, except that she was upset that other people might not understand. She didn’t say much else, and right now it’s just something we don’t acknowledge with them. Denial….I guess it works for some people.

We went through something similar with Elsa about school. She was upset because some kids were teasing her that she didn’t really have a Dad. B and I went to a surprisingly productive meeting with Elsa’s teacher. We didn’t get overly political or demanding with the woman. We calmly explained the situation and asked if she could have some sort of lesson about accepting differences in each other’s families. She was very understanding and helpful. She said that there were several kids who had different family situations (living with grandparents or other extended family instead of their parents) and a couple of students whose religion made their lives different from their classmates’ lives, and that a lesson about being okay with these differences would benefit everybody. I was really impressed with how she handled the whole thing. She made sure that our daughter knew she could come to her with any problems. It really helped Elsa get comfortable at school again. It also showed us that you never know how someone will react to the situation. It was a nice surprise.

I’m trying to be as accepting of change as my daughter has been. I’m trying to come to terms with my own fears. I’m trying to get comfortable with the new reality of my marriage. It’s amazing how the difference of a few letters makes such an impact on our lives. He, not she. Male, not female. Him, not her. Such a small difference, yet it changes so much.

Committed

February 2, 2015 was our tenth anniversary.

Later that month, B started taking testosterone shots.

Florida was all in for marriage equality, so we started planning a wedding. We had a vacation planned for the end of March, so we thought it would be the best time to make our relationship official. We both felt it was important, but I struggled a bit with my feelings. I was scared out of my mind. I have identified rather strongly for the last decade as a lesbian. I am not a “gold star” lesbian…I have actually had more male sexual partners than female. I think that was more a product of my upbringing and location than an indication that I was bisexual or something. I grew up in a very small town. I went to a tiny Catholic school with the same 10-15 kids in my class for 7 years. Then my parents sent me to a Catholic boarding school. I was shy and awkward. My first love didn’t show up until I was a Senior. She was a sophomore transfer student. I lost my virginity in the girls’ dorm. I told you, I’m a lesbian cliche.

The inevitable breakup sent me spinning into a depression. She went back to her boyfriend, and I spent the next 7 years having mostly meaningless one-night stands or brief affairs with various men. I could click on a physical level with guys enough to maintain my denial about my sexuality, but emotional connections only happened with women, who usually did not return my feelings. I didn’t come out fully to myself or to my family until B.

When B decided to transition, I kinda felt betrayed at first. I mean, we had planned our lives together, had a child together, and were just waiting for marriage laws to change somewhere close by to make everything legal. Then, in a matter of a few months, my future wife was now my future husband. Talk about a mind fuck. You know, I wasn’t that concerned about some of the more radical physical changes. What really had me scared was the thought that my fiancee would become someone I didn’t know and wasn’t attracted to. I thought about the men I had slept with, and I knew that I couldn’t take it if I became emotionally disconnected with B the way I was with them. I felt like B had pulled me to the edge of a high cliff and asked me to jump.

Everything was happening all at once. I felt like I was just supposed to say it was all no big deal. B actually said to me at one point, “Are you in love with me? Or are you in love with my gender?” And part of me was thinking, “I’ve only ever been in love with women. How can I know that I will still love you when you are going to be a man?” Some days I feel like I still don’t know. Some days I feel like it will all be fine. It’s one hell of a roller coaster.

Unless you have been living under a rock, you have heard about Alabama’s same sex marriage debacle. A federal court ruling made it legal, but only a handful of counties were complying, then there was another court ruling that made most counties fall in line…for about a week and a half. Then it all went away again when our Supreme Court intervened. We took advantage of that small window, and we were one of four same sex couples to receive a license in our county. We pulled together an actual wedding in one month. It was crazy. But I have never felt as happy as I did standing in front of our family and friends pledging my love and my life to B. In that moment, I wasn’t scared. I looked at everything we had already been through, and I knew we could get through anything else. Now I just have to remind myself of that feeling when things get crazy.

We were married in the middle of March. The last couple of months have been nuts. We have been so busy with work and school that there hasn’t been much time for anything else. But I know that there are issues lurking under the surface. And I’m still scared sometimes.

Talking about these feelings has been incredibly difficult. Sometimes it seems like B has tunnel vision. The transition is the only thing that matters. It can feel like my goals and needs are being ignored. B reacts poorly to any negative aspect of transitioning that I bring up. As much as our schedules allow, we utilize a therapist. It’s a constant struggle. Now that I have you caught up to the present day, I can really start getting into detail about the changes I see in my…husband. Sorry, it still feels weird to say. Another struggle for another day. I haven’t really used that AA mantra “One day at a time” in years, but I find it helpful right now. Tomorrow could always bring something different….for better or worse.

A Brief History of Us

In 2005, my life changed. I met someone. I had nearly resigned myself to permanent spinsterhood. Being a lesbian in the South is never easy, and being a lesbian in a small town is particularly hard. It’s hard to meet other queer folk to befriend, it’s hard to know who to come out to, and it’s hard to find someone to love. I was depressed, and abusing various substances. My life was on the fast track to nowhere.

When I was introduced to “B,” I wanted to be her friend. She was sweet, funny, shared some of my interests, and was one of “my people.” I can’t pinpoint when my feelings changed. I think at first I wanted a casual fling. I’d been burned a couple of times by then, and I didn’t want to get hurt. She made the first move. We were on the phone, and she was pacing in a parking lot in the rain because she was so nervous about asking me out. It was charming. Adorable. How could I say no? Despite my determination to take things slow, lesbian cliches took over. Within two months we were living together, totally in love. My drug problem bought me a ticket to the county jail, but B helped me turn everything around. We both entered intensive out-patient treatment programs. She was struggling with self-harm and mood swings. After a couple of hard years, things started looking up. We both enrolled in the local community college and starting planning a real future. In 2008, B adopted our daughter from one of her family members. That was an interesting time. We were on a roller coaster of emotions. Sometimes we were so incredibly happy that our family was getting an addition, and other times we were terrified that we had no idea what to do with a baby. There were certain friends and family members who really came through for us. Their support and excitement meant everything to us. Of course, we did have to hear some negative comments from a few family members. I remember standing in my sister’s kitchen, hearing her dire warnings, “I just feel so sorry for that baby. To have a mother who doesn’t want you, and then to be raised by lesbian moms….it’s just going to be hard. You know, there will be parents who don’t want their kids to be friends with her because of you.” Thanks for the support, sis.

In the decade we have been together, we have faced so many challenges. But now, it feels like we are facing the biggest challenge ever. Over the past year, B has done some soul searching in therapy, and she came out about six months ago or so as a trans man. I’d say this came about in a gradual revelation. First, there was the decision that she wanted top surgery. Her chest dysphoria was too hard for her to deal with, so she wanted her breasts gone. I’m not in love with B for her body, so this revelation didn’t seem like a big deal. She assured me that she was perfectly content with her gender, just not her body. I was supportive of this decision, and we began to start saving money for her surgery fund.

A month or two later, B started using terms like genderqueer and non-binary to identify. Again, this wasn’t really a big deal. She said she didn’t care about pronoun usage or anything. I remember specifically asking, “Do you think you are transgender? Do you want to identify as male?” I think at that point she was scared to tell me yes. We had a conversation once about the top surgery, and we discussed hormone therapy. I know I was very against the idea of her taking testosterone. I’m still scared about it, to be honest. You hear all these horror stories about anger problems and mood swings and “roid rage.” I worry about that, especially since she has never been very good at handling her emotions. A childhood full of trauma, abuse, and neglect left her with very few coping skills. The last few years she has really gotten better, but it can still be a struggle. I am scared that testosterone will erode all her hard-won progress and make our lives more difficult. So, my fears kept her from fully committing to being trans a little while longer. But eventually, she told me she felt like she was really male and she wanted to transition.

We had a decade invested into our relationship. We had a six-year-old child. We had been talking about trying to have a baby. We were on the cusp of getting married as marriage equality finally found its way to a state right next door (Florida). And here is my fiancee saying she is really a he, and he wants to turn our lives upside down to transition in Sweet Home Alabama, home of some of the most ultra-conservative hate mongers in the USA. Great.

It felt like a bomb of emotions exploded in my chest. And the aftermath of that kind of explosion lasts a long time. So, I decided to blog about the experience. I’m still not sure how things will work out. I’m hopeful. I’m terrified. I’m trying hard to be the best wife I can be through this process. Life is about change, right? I was raised by a woman who embodies the spirit of “go with the flow.” My mother is hardly ever phased by anything her nine children or her husband suffering from Alzheimer’s throw at her. I can only hope I’m up to the challenges in front of us.