“Post-Recon”? What happens next?

Thanks to the GPL.  You grumps know who you are. Contemporary Western polytheism, which broadly and most accurately described as a revivalist …

“Post-Recon”? What happens next?

Excellent discussion of where heathenry—and paganism generally—could potentially “turn it’s head” to look toward. It feels especially relevant given the immediacy of our political and social environment in the United States. There is the constant sensation of, “If not now, then when?”

Yol and Modranacht

“Hail to the day! Hail to the sons of day!
Hail to night and her kin!
With gracious eyes may you look upon us two,
And give victory to those sitting here!

Hail to the Aesir! Hail to the Goddesses!
Hail to the mighty, fecund Earth!
May you give eloquence and native wit to this glorious pair
And healing hands while we live!”
“The Lay of Sigrdrifa,” The Poetic Edda, Larrington 1996

This past Saturday was Modranacht, the first night of Yol and the longest night of the year. Modranacht, which translates to Mother’s Night, is dedicated to honoring the female ancestral dead. Yol, the root word for modern English, “wheel,” is the old Norse celebration that spanned several days and nights. This time was spent honoring the ancestors, Gods and Goddesses and land spirits or Landvaettir, swearing and upholding oaths, and building friendship and goodwill during the deepest period of winter. The words, meals and gifts exchanged during this time helped strengthen bonds and social debts to protect and maintain the community.

Yol is a complex time, a fact I am sure many can appreciate about the holiday season regardless of your religious beliefs or lack thereof. Relationships are tried and hopefully strengthened. Money is counted and poured into gifting and hosting. One becomes more aware of their limitations, the quickly-passing time they have with others, the great energy deep friendships take. This is complicated by political and religious differences and the same everyday grievances people have amongst friends and kin. It is my favorite time of year, and takes a toll I welcome for the benefit. This year, we held our annual dinner for the first time in a new state, and I spent Modranacht with a group of local heathens who my partner and I have gotten to know over the last several months.


“He needs water,
The one who has just arrived,
Dry clothes, and a warm welcome
From a friendly host–
And if he can get it,
A chance to listen and be listened to.”
– “Havamal,” The Wanderer’s Havamal, Crawford 2019

Yol Dinner
Our Yol start-off dinner, despite this being my third time planning and preparing for it, always gets my heart rate up. I took the day off and spent the morning bouncing around the fish market and several groceries stores before preparing mulled cider, baked salmon with lemon, pumpernickel bread, and a creamy mushroom soup. I laid out a cheese platter before the guests arrived and was pleased to hear their surprise that the bread was made here at home. This year we had the pleasure of hosting one of the members of my local group, a quiet and warm man who did a far better job explaining the significance of our rites than I do, often still riddled with nerves from preparing the meal and balancing timers. Trading off, wee explained the rite of Sumbel, which is a formalized round of toasts that serves to build relationships and mutual accountability amongst the participants. Sumbel is not to be mistaken for a drinking game, though often one’s cup is filled with alcohol–small sips are encouraged, especially if there will be many rounds. Boasting reminds one another of your worth as an individual and collective strengths, indicating who you might turn to in times of need. Though Sumbel historically included Oaths, these are a deeply solemn act that indebts each participant to one another, and are carefully prepared beforehand. We excluded oathing in this Sumbel, as the swearing of an oath implicates all present in upholding it for the good of their communal luck.

For Yol, we go around the table and do a sort of soft Sumbel, given many present are not heathen themselves. Our three rounds were dedicated to the ancestors, boasts and toasts, and Gods and Goddesses. The ancestor round in particular is always a joy, as we often hear little stories of guest’s relatives or more about their family history and dynamics. Our boast and toasts round took a long while as we went around celebrating one another and our accomplishments for the year. When it came time to honor the gods and goddesses, I was pleasantly surprised to hear a round of hailing on either side of me, rather than only from the heathens present. Sumbel often follows a ritual sacrifice or offering to the gods, and I feel it is an excellent way to introduce people to heathenry, as it exemplifies the focus on community and our strength as individuals brought together.

After our meal and a long Sumbel, the guests helped me prepare the dishes to be washed, which I very much appreciated. We played a few rounds of a game before most of the guests headed home, hugging one another and shaking hands. Another wonderful year in the books!


“A feast was prepared at the “winter nights” and the Disablot was done.” – “Disablot,” Norse Mythology: A Guide to the Gods, Heroes, Rituals and Beliefs, Lindow 2001

Modranacht
Modranacht honors the disir, the female ancestral dead. If celebrated on the Winter Solstice–which depends on whether a group or hearth is following the Gregorian or a lunasolar calendar–it also marks the longest night and returning of the sun. If celebrating within one’s home, often times an altar is prepared with photographs, gifts and favorite food items of the honored dead, with these items offered and stories recalled. We have little source material to build disablot from; it is evident that disablot describes the particular offering focus rather than the day it occurs, and that the sacrifice was presided over by a woman. There is also some suggestion that sacred horses were ridden around the premises by a woman, perhaps the same who went on to guide the blot. It was a pleasure having Modranacht hosted by a Friggaswoman and the blot hailing the return of Sunna led by her. The knowledge, intention and drives of the individual leading a blot all color the path and experience of it, so I especially enjoyed seeing the hail day blot conducted by another member of the group who cares deeply about her practice.

This particular group had a number of focuses for Modranacht: the disir, the longest night and return of Sunna, and the Wild Hunt. The Wild Hunt is a largely Germanic folk tradition that was recorded and expanded on by Willhelm and Jacob Grimm in the 19th century. The Wild Hunt is led by a number of figures depending on the region, but most popularly described as being led by Odin or his Anglo-Saxon parallel Wotan. The Wild Hunt rides across the sky, capturing those who are caught outside during the darkest nights, hunting supernatural figures and is said to bring ill-will, war or death to those who witness it. I, personally, have never brought the Wild Hunt into my practice of heathenry. Standing vigil for Sunna through the longest night is as complete an explanation as I need for remaining inside during these deep hours.

We spent the evening sharing food, playing with and reading the stories of the Gods to the children, drinking and building a shared playlist. As many heathens happen to be metalheads–whether there is a relationship you want to read into that or not, I’ll let you decide–I heard far more variety and volume of metal than I’ve ever listened to over the course of the night.

At one point in the evening, one of the non-heathen members participating loudly proclaimed that her uterus is what made her a woman. I was inclined to argue with her and made my way over to the people talking. While I waited for a chance to join the conversation, my partner came over and quietly drew me away after the recommendation of some of the other members of the group who had known this woman longer. Two members stood on either side of me and gently comforted my anger, explaining that while they disagree with her, my getting into an argument would only raise tension and violate the grith present in that space. I understood this and let it be, but it has stayed with me, and reminds me of previous frustration. Given they have known her longer, and know she holds opinions such as this, why is she still allowed to attend events? She repeatedly threatened the grith of the gathering by sticking to and escalating arguments, reminding the party of either her advanced education or not being heathen and thus not being beholden to our ethical code when challenged. On any other evening and were she not the wife of the gothi’s best friend, I imagine her statements would have resulted in her being removed from the event. Instead, she remained awake for most of the evening even after her partner went to bed, leaving the conversation any time I referenced being trans or wielding her experience as a doctor over anyone who made passing reference to a medical concern they had experienced.

This brings up a point I have experienced previously with this group and continue to grapple with, as their allowing people like this into the space do not overwhelm the joy I get from being with the rest of the group. How are heathens to address potential issues of grith before events? Are they to ban all participants who do not follow the gods and goddesses? Are they allowed to step in and threaten grith on behalf of their kinsmen? One of the many benefits of participating with this group has been encountering and raising questions I would not have observed before, and the impact this will have on my future as a member and leader. Thankfully, the conversation quickly moved onward.

We discussed all kinds of topics–whether one member should stay pining after a guy who doesn’t deserve her, how to find new music, embroidery, beer, the story of Sleipnir’s birth, GWAR–until Sunna rose over a frost-covered hill, and the great horn was raised once more in greeting her. Though I have had my ups and downs with the group, I am immensely grateful to have conversations with others who share my vocabulary and are willing to hash out concepts of heathenry. I wish them, and you, god Yol! May the Gods and Goddesses look on you with loving eyes!

Rebuilding

“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” – Ernest Hemingway

The Society of Professional Journalists’ first and second principles are Seek Truth and Report It and Minimize Harm. My freshman year in high school, I took a course that introduced these principles to us young, curious future photographers, copywriters, and reporters, and felt drawn to them immediately. They lined up with the honesty my father encouraged and the dedication to helping the greater good my family, through working in healthcare and education, had quietly upheld all my life. So I became a reporter as a sophomore, writing news articles for my high school newspaper, and eventually became Editor-in-Chief. I went on to write for my university newspaper, majoring in Communication, and loving every pressured, energizing and invigorating day darting around campus to write my stories. The assignments I took on increased, and I juggled my work as a journalist, course work, and on-campus work study position with my anxiety and then-unknown bipolar disorder, at times thrilled to run from place to place and others shaking and frozen in place by the pressure. I felt I couldn’t drop my story count because our section would suffer for it, and I couldn’t afford to stop working at my work study position. My classes suffered and grades slipped. I built myself and my self around upholding those key principles, and I fiercely loved what I did even as I unraveled. I held the above Hemingway quote in high regard–enough that my personal writing blog at the time was named after it–and ran until I couldn’t anymore.

In the end, I couldn’t do it. I missed two deadlines. A miscommunication and poor time management on my part meant that a key contact didn’t get back to me in time on a story, and I left the newspaper staff after a concerned discussion with my editor about the impact my work was clearly having on my health. For the most part, I stopped talking to members of the staff, and those I did talk to held clear sadness and concern in their eyes and statements. I felt disgraced, unfit to be a journalist, a failure as a writer–everything I had built my self-esteem on for the previous six years had evaporated, it seemed. I gave my roommate my car keys, knowing that I had a problem with driving aimlessly and smoking for hours when upset, and wept. I had lost a part of myself, and losing my position with the newspaper both gave me the time to improve myself somewhat, but also sent me into depression. Thankfully, I had taken some anthropology courses by this time, and was slowly falling in love with a new discipline and approach to the world. I found my footing in time, with the help of professors, friends, and my counselor on campus, and I’ve come back stronger and more aware of my limits. I quit smoking, once with help and once on my own, and made progress on sleep hygiene and more regular eating. I’m proud to say I graduated on time with both my degree tracks complete, but it was incredibly frightening and painful at times.

It’s been three years since I left the paper and I still struggle to feel worthy of my former professors’ time and caring. I’m still on campus a lot, for work and campus events, and walking through the main Communication department building brings me a sense of pride and a great deal of shame. It’s difficult. A few months ago I ran into a professor of mine who I had wanted to impress more than anyone, who had hugged me tight the day I had dropped out of her class and told me that I was an excellent writer but taking on too much, that everything would be okay. I stopped and told her, excitedly, that I had made it through. She smiled and put a hand on my shoulder, telling me I seemed happy, and that she was happy for me. There are too many people I wish I could thank for their patience, apologize for all the times I asked for their undeserved patience and forgiveness. I have trouble remembering the specifics of the courses I took. I remember the faces and voices and names of my professors and classmates, but the concepts we reviewed have to be brought back by gentle reminders, like so many other memories. I’m frightened I’ll be asked about my favorite assignments from the class, or which project I contributed to, and my fear and loss will show. These cloudy memories, however familiar to me and obscured by trauma, still feel a fault of mine. I’m working on having compassion and understanding for my younger self, for what he did not know and how I can use what I know now to be better. I’ve been mulling over finding or asking for our old syllabus so I can remember again. I know that I hold onto and remind myself of the negative memories more often than the positive ones, the ones that have made me worth pulling for and talking to in spite of everything.

I’m trying to be better, and sometimes I feel this is working. Little by little, I am able to talk to my advisor more, even joking with him. I invite professors to our monthly dinner parties when we have the space. There’s a seeing-off party coming up that alumni are invited to, and I’m going to go, to celebrate and remind myself that this, too, is where I belong. It was my first home at my university and will always be a part of me, even if I have wrapped it in my own doubt. I remind myself of the people I have met and smiles I have brought into being and the surprised happiness on people’s faces when we run into one another, the sincerity in the times I’ve been told everything will be alright, the fact that in the end it has turned out alright. I have not been the best that I can be, but I’m nowhere near finished yet, and now better equipped than ever to benefit others.

I am immensely, immeasurably grateful for all of the people in my life who helped carry me through that time, and who continue to bring me into their spaces and encourage me. I have never felt, and still do not feel, that I deserve your kindness. I certainly owe many apologies. But at the very least I want you to know that I will take the trust and caring you have placed in me and do my best to pour it into others in turn. Thank you. I wouldn’t be here without you all.

Trust

An honorable human relationship–that is, one in which two people have the right to use the word, ‘love,’–is a process, delicate, violent, often terrifying to both persons involved, a process of refining the truths they can tell each other…It is important to do this because we can count on so few people to go that hard way with us.” – Adrienne Rich

It is hard for me to develop real trust for a person. Trust takes time and emotional energy, rather than the immediate and false reality of infatuation. I am swept up into to many new people I meet, especially those who have an air of mystery or secret knowledge about them, but at the same time we should not call this trust. On some level, trust means losing that mystery and sharing our knowledge together. I have trust for those people in my life who are willing to ask questions and with whom I can admit and carve away at my faults, who build a space with me in which we can talk about difficult topics and create a richer reality together. There are a few reasons for why this is difficult; a long history of distrust with people I felt I should be able to, periods of irritability and paranoia, a long time where I lacked the space and energy to provide support for others on the same level they supported me, lack of self-awareness, low self-esteem. The people I have trust with are those who I have struggled and fought with and know will be honest with me as I am honest with them, and we build on this together, even when it is frightening. They are also people who I have observed growth in, and who I know are working to better themselves as people and work on their faults.

I have been in a fairly constant state of crisis for as long as I can remember, and feel that in the last year and a half of my life–removed from the trauma in my history and the intense and unstable life of a student, having healthy and stable relationships, and being financially independent–has been my most stable time, when I am able to really ask the questions I want and need to. It helps that I have started testosterone, too, which had for many years been a dream without any timeline. It has been a year of discovering myself, what I want from the world, and what is worth fighting for and letting go. It has meant learning about all the growth I’ve slowed down or missed out on in focusing only on removing myself from trauma–for example, the ethical importance of considering and speaking out about injustices and wrongs in the world. This isn’t new to me, certainly–my father and step mom were volunteer firefighters for years when I was younger, and my dad is always ready to help people if they need it–but the stress I was under have always made me feel removed from dealing with issues outside of myself. This is hard to admit, and face from the other side, and I know that I am working against this now. I have always thought myself invested in the well-being of everyone and loving towards them, but I feel I haven’t accomplished much beyond little affirmations and occasionally speaking out in small circles. My work helps me somewhat by giving me a space to discuss with a variety of clients what help they need and how they can improve their lives, but I still feel wanting outside of that.

Building a relationship takes a lot, I’ve learned, the most important aspect being mutual trust that is continually built upon as time goes on and you keep digging together. My relationship with Rachel has always had trust, even before we were in a relationship, and learning more about one another and our relationship deepens. Early on, for example, we argued about the truth of pepper grinder labeling (I think it should note it is a grinder for black peppercorns and this is the hill I will die on) and the morality of Floki from the show Vikings. In the course of our relationship we’ve discussed a great many things, most recently my place in the world as I pass as male more often, when life begins, and whether or not we would change history to save lives at the expense of our present reality if we could go back in time. These questions do not have to be immediately pressing or even real, though they do have to be logical, and you will still learn about one another through the discussion.

Having conversations like this also requires that you know, trust and love yourself. This is likely the biggest stumbling block for me, the lack of awareness and trust that I have for myself. Some of this is not necessarily my fault; I struggle with self-doubt and, especially when I am anxious or depressed, I have intrusive thoughts that contribute to my feeling dangerous, out of control and a burden to be around. I can’t allow myself to listen to them, and some of it is my fault, ways that I coped in the past and, regardless of my knowledge of their being negative coping mechanisms then, I have to work against now. I am trying to own up to who I am, the good and the bad and the neutral. It is important for me to remember who I am and what I want of relationships and the world. It is also important for me to remember, in all my trusting relationships, that to be clear in that we are constantly working toward the betterment of ourselves and one another.

Steps Toward Discipline

The temperature in the room has risen to the point just below unbearable with no airflow or light except for a constant red point and glittering greens. You are alone in it, or would be considered alone in it by an outsider, and you are warm and focused and inspired. There is the intermittent hum, and the clicking of metal-wound strings, and the whining of feedback and low growl of open notes, and your palm against the bridge, and sound that winds along the muscles in your arms and between your veins and capillaries. And this is music. And this is you, and your creation, and it is constant and the thought of it being unbearable, unsustainable never touches your mind. And then it is gone, cruelly and blessedly, by whim of something more than yourself.

It is not uncommon for people with bipolar disorder to go on several years with an incorrect diagnosis in the beginning; for me, this was Major Depressive Disorder, diagnosed when I was 14 or so. I understand how this happened because I didn’t go to my psychologist to talk about the good parts of the week; the progress I made on my instrument and the hours I spent playing it, feeling ungrounded and desiring nothing but more time to play. Nor did I tell him about pacing around the school yard at school in the mornings, or climbing things not made for it to release my energy, or how sometimes I really liked to talk to people. That wasn’t why I was there. It took my being placed on antidepressants again in college, and coming in to talk to my counselor with song lyrics written in permanent marker up and down my arms, and my eyes bright and shivering for us to realize that I needed a mood stabilizer instead. I bring all this up because it is an important part of who I am today and how I interact with the world, and this is something I am coming to terms with and trying to work through.

It is hard to describe what hypomania can feel like to someone who has never experienced it. Have you ever drank a little more coffee than you meant to and the world feels brighter and crisper, or stayed up late enough that you get a second wind and want to–feel compelled to, before the time has passed and the sun has risen–talk about the human condition for hours with your best friends? Imagine those sensations, but all at once. And then imagine that, on top of this, you feel no hunger or exhaustion, and that nothing in the world is more important than exhausting the present topic or activity. That’s hypomania on a good day. You can feel capable of accomplishing anything, feel your self-doubt slip away and be able to talk to all the people you always want to but can’t, hyperfocus on anything and feel it is perfect. And you can believe that a song was written to mock you, alone, or that your teammates are meeting with your professor behind your back, or that you are a burden on anyone cursed to listen to your incessant pressured speeches about trivial things. You can be so overstimulated you can’t think or speak, cut people off without meaning to because it feels as if the infuriating and uncomfortable time passes faster, and draw only spirals, and cope in far more dangerous ways. It’s really a roll of the dice which way I will swing, and I’ve gone through hypomanic episodes once a month or so for years now. I plan on getting back on a mood stabilizer, but last time I took myself off, because medication adherence is very difficult when it feels invisible, and especially so when you are losing the good parts as well as the bad. Testosterone has helped so much, because at the very least I have a happier baseline to build off of, and far less dysphoria. But it certainly isn’t everything, and I don’t want to pretend that it is.

I talked to my partner recently about this odd in-between space I feel sometimes, when I don’t feel depressed or hypomanic, and I am deeply introspective and want to learn about all things while I have a clear head. She pointed out that, if this is between my two extreme mood states, wouldn’t it just be myself? And then, later on, that maybe this was just the space where I am transitioning downward into depression. If that’s the case, and my neutral state is introspective and seeking answers, then I want to continue it. I accept that it will not be extreme, and I am tired of extremes and perceived incapability.

I reject the idea that people dealing with mental illness or marginalized people must adhere to majority-driven ideas of normalcy, but at the same time, I want to be neutral. I have spent so much of my life questioning where I fit among people, and though this is still unanswered I understand that I can and will make my own space. I want to belong somewhere, where I am capable and respected. I want to exist in place of introspection and consistent capability, even if it means missing the highs and lows. It is a common misconception and a disrespect to their humanity, that artists and creators require inspiration to create, inspiration being a code word for suffering and loss. I have traded inspiration for a healthy diet, healthy and sustained relationships, respect from others and for myself. I’ve let my illness get the better of me and allowed myself to frame it as such an inherent part of myself that I don’t let myself believe in my capabilities without pressure or unhealthy sensation. I’ve used inspiration–suffering–as a replacement for learning discipline and appreciating stability, which I am constantly fighting to adhere to now, with varying degrees of success. There is so much to manage, chores and a clean living space and finances and the future and relationships and myself and true self care, which one might just acknowledge is living mindfully, with thought toward preparedness and the aversion of crisis and of making this constant again, and with the understand that health is so much more than just the physical body.

Even in talking to my partner, who has shifted her language gently and over time to help me balance my conception of sickness and my own accomplishments, I disregard what I have accomplished at times as not mattering because at the time I was, “sick,” in an elevated mood state and because of that somehow undeserving of being acknowledged. I wouldn’t be here without the tremendous caring, support and patience of others through the years. I feel I am finally stepping out of a place of constant crisis, and I want to hold onto this. I can’t live my life hinged on a dice roll of whether or not this time around I will be paranoid and unfocused or infinitely driven for a week’s time. I deserve and owe myself a better life than that, and this is a start, a step in the right direction. This is mine, and my creation.

A Very Late Update!

Hello! I am absolutely terrible at keeping up with projects and even worse at publishing my writing, but I feel pretty confident with myself today so I figured I would jump on when I had a moment and write some thoughts out. I am 23 weeks on testosterone, and have stabbed myself in the leg at least 23 times now! I’ll just throw some subheadings down below. I’m going to put the less generally interesting subheadings under a Read More cut, so you don’t have to read about my shots or voice if you don’t want to.

Social Impact

I took Rachel for a nice dinner in February to celebrate our anniversary. She suggested we get a bottle of champagne, which we ordered, and when the waiter brought it to us he poured me a small glass and only asked for my approval about it. I don’t like champagne all that much and it wasn’t my idea to order, but this still happened! This was the first time that I can recall Rachel and I noticing my being read entirely as male–that I was paying, and that my opinion was more important. It was very strange but amusing at the time.

I’ve had a bit of a rough time dealing with the social changes brought on by finally taking testosterone, which is hard for me to reason out given it’s been such a long time waiting for it. I’ve spent a long time avoiding thinking about the reality of taking T because it felt like an impossibly distant horizon for many years, so I didn’t realize how quickly and entirely my social role would tip, or all the feelings this would bring. I do try to remind myself that it is okay to mourn a past self and past experiences, and approach it with some excitement–I am in a very special position here, getting to view gender this way! It just means losing a part of my identity that has, even with all the pain of it, been a big part of me for a long time.

I’ve had moments where men made comments about women, or their partners, and I felt uncomfortable but did not know how to protest because of my desire to still be read as male and approachable to them. And I remember very clearly the first time I looked at someone who earlier in my life would have given me that expected queer nod, The Look, and we would smile at one another–and they walked right past me without a second glance because I was no longer visibly queer to them. That was really upsetting, and this is still an issue I am not sure how to deal with. I’ve never been one for wearing rainbows, and in all honesty I have never needed to wear my queerness in any more obvious way than I did on my body. I won’t be taking up rainbow sweatbands and suspenders any time soon, but I would like to be more visible in some way. I don’t think I will ever be stealth, save for with people I have short contact with, and this reassuring to me.

Aside from the issue of losing my visible queerness, there are some moments that have stood out to me when it comes to being read as male by the wider world than just my friends and family. Men are more likely to compliment me on how lucky I am to have a girlfriend as confident as Rachel rather than complimenting her directly even if she is next to me, which is very strange! It is good, at least, to get to talk to one another about these weird situations and how we want to navigate them as a couple.

 

Highlights

It brings me so much joy to hear my friends react to hearing my voice for the first time. I am stronger and more confident. I can sing all kinds of songs, and recently discovered I do have a falsetto! My coworkers and even some of my regular clients at work are supportive and encouraging. Rachel encourages me and enthuses with me every step of the way. My family is supportive, if a bit reserved about the changes, and I am so happy to be myself when I visit home.

I think the biggest thing for me, personally, and something I haven’t talked about much happened a few weeks ago when I spoke to a course I was in when still in school at my university. As anxious as I am in small groups, I love public speaking, but I usually start off speaking by making somewhat disparaging comments–whether this is making fun of myself for speaking quietly, or downplaying my education and value, or whatever–in part to diminish my discomfort with the perceived power imbalance in the room and introduce myself. When I spoke recently, even being very flustered I didn’t introduce myself this way, and this was very exciting for me! My confidence has really increased since starting T and I’m excited to see where that takes me.

I have found that my male clients at work are more forthcoming about their personal concerns and their feelings, which is very rewarding for me and gives me more opportunity to help them through difficult situations. I’ve used my newfound power of passing to make the change I want to see in the world of men complimenting other men more often, with generally happy results! And I am, even with the mixed feelings, very happy. I’m not sure what my next steps are, because this has been my dream for such a long time. But for now I am excited to be living my life the way I had always dreamed and experiencing it with people I love dearly.

Continue reading

Week 1: Thanksgiving

Hey everyone,

Today marks one week and two days on T. Not a whole lot has changed, though my throat is regularly sore and scratchy, and I don’t think it’s a cold. It hasn’t dropped or anything but I feel more comfortable speaking in a lower register, as this means it does not scratch as much. This is exciting! I’ve been watching to see if there are any changes in the thickness of my facial hair but it’s all fuzzy. I will report back soon on my much-dreamt about beard. I’ve experienced random and notable sensitivity, which is very irritating and uncomfortable, and I had read about often but did not expect to impact me in the first week. That’s pretty much it for physical changes so far!

What I’ve found to be much more exciting is the emotional change so far. Whether it is because of testosterone itself, or the calm I’ve experienced these past couple weeks, despite going through my monthly stuff I did not experience any notable mood shift whatsoever. This is really incredible for me. For as long as I can remember, I’ve experienced a notable drop in mood for a week or two followed by a week of hypomanic symptoms. This week would be the time I usually experience hypomania, and I’m not feeling it! I’m on a very low dose right now, so if this is so stabilizing I am excited to see what the future will hold. I’m also always on the lookout for mood changes we usually associate with testosterone, like irritation, moodiness and hypersexuality. In a way I’m grateful for all the experience I have monitoring and addressing my moods in a realistic way–I think it will make dealing with any mood changes from testosterone much easier.

This past week was also my Thanksgiving break, and my first Thanksgiving where I shared this time between mine and my girlfriend’s families. For a long time visiting family has filled me with a hum of anxiety for a number of reasons, especially because I did not feel like I could really be myself at home. This Thanksgiving was different, though, because I had already started T and this gives me some confidence any time I think about it. I feel like, no matter what anyone says or the times I am still misgendered, I am finally moving towards my real self. It was a great time staying with my dad and visiting my mom and uncles, and we had a really lovely time at the Texas Renaissance Festival.

This Thanksgiving I’m thankful for always having my family to go home to, and the blessing it is to share my family with my girlfriend. I’ve also thought a lot recently on how far I have come, and how this is really only possible because of a lot of support, patience, and encouragement along the way. I try to remind myself of this often and given back where I can. I’ve got to get to work now, but if you’re reading this, thank you. I hope your Thanksgiving was wonderful, and if it wasn’t so, that in time you find a place where you are loved and belong.

Talk to you soon,

J.

T, Bipolar II, and Fear of Failure

Today is my third day on testosterone. I haven’t experienced any notable changes yet, though I suppose I haven’t been paying a great deal of attention. I am trying to keep my expectations low, because I’d hate to get my hopes up and have them unfulfilled–an example of the freezing up due to fear I experience that I’ll talk about later in this post. It’s astounding to me everything I recognize as born from fear if I pay attention. I am extremely grateful to have my girlfriend, who at this point is likely more knowledgeable and visibly excited about T changes than I am. She is so good to me, and encourages me to be excited too. If I miss something she’ll catch it. The subreddit r/FTM has a wonderful chart that records the average of different changes induced by testosterone, so the first changes I’ll be on the look out for are my voice, facial hair, skin texture, fat distribution, growth downstairs, and acne. Currently I’m as feathery as ever, and don’t have any notable changes to my voice yet. My girlfriend and I are recording my voice every once in a while with a tracking app, so if there are any significant changes there I’ll update here. I may also end up doing a recording of my voice to publish somewhere like Youtube–if so, it’ll be linked here.

This blog post is titled such because today I woke up due to worry about how testosterone will impact my mood. If you know me personally you very likely know that I deal with Bipolar II, meaning I experience depression, mixed episodes, and hypomania. My depressive episodes of mean a drop in confidence, my feeling of self worth and inspiration, and apathy. I don’t get a lot done when I am depressed. My hypomanic episodes usually mean I am more jittery, talkative, excited about immersive experiences–I listen to a lot of loud music–and I have trouble with paranoia, impulse control, spending, and sometimes, hypersexuality. While my depression is fairly easy to spot, hypomania usually just feels the world is especially bright, and I have to remind myself at times to watch for paranoid thoughts. I thought, once, that a song I was listening to in regular rotation was written specifically to make fun of my favorite band. Sometimes, things get weird. My girlfriend has said before that my confidence is wonderful, and as long as I don’t get anxious while hypomanic it’s generally a great time. Anxiety exacerbates my bipolar symptoms quite a lot, and my mental health has improved an incredible amount since I graduated from university and have become financially independent. Depending on how close we are you may know that I experience a regular mood swing, usually into depression, then to hypomania, and finally back to my usual baseline, every month. At this point I’ve dealt with this for many years and I am quite used to it. The loss of focus I experience with hypomania, and loss of energy with depression, are frustrating, but other than this I don’t find the episodes very disruptive. Sometimes they are especially bad, though, and I know this is tiring for myself and those around me. I remember puberty being a bad time for my mood–I spent a lot of time pacing around campus in the mornings to spend energy, and I wasn’t diagnosed with BPII until I was 20–and going through second puberty is going to be quite a ride, I’m sure. I’ve been open with my concerns with my doctor at the KIND Clinic and with my girlfriend, and agreed before starting T that if things get worrisome I will stop taking it until I’m on a mood stabilizer. Thankfully I’ve recently gotten a call back from one of the psychiatrists I had contacted and they are accepting new clients right now, so hopefully that will be arranged soon! My other concern with doctors appointments is that I have to take time off from work in order to go to them. Our schedules are not very set, so it’s okay as long as I let me supervisor know in advance, but taking time off to go to appointments is an issue I hadn’t considered at all when I was still in school.

Speaking of things I had not considered, getting on T recently has really highlighted how out of touch I am with the trans community. Though I’ve spoken about my own experiences, and I have attended a support group the past couple years who I keep contact with, I don’t spend a lot of time immersed in the community online the way I did when I was younger. This means I’m far away from a lot of things–the social changes of taking T, fears and worries people have, the implications for my personal relationships. I worry most about how this will impact my home life, mostly because of my already shifty mood. I’ve been thinking recently about how I will need to start using male restrooms–it’s one of the last standard male spaces I’ve kept away from, largely because I live in Texas and have a lot of fear that I’ll run into someone who really doesn’t like my being there. In time I won’t be so easily distinguished from the other guys present, which is wonderful and also scary! My girlfriend and I have been clear with each other about our worries and excitement, and I am sure we can handle anything that arises, but not knowing what will happen is eating at me. I think everything changed by T is also going to mean letting go of only trying when I feel comfortably able to succeed. It’s a failing of mine, a big issue I am increasingly more aware of and want to move past. There’s a quote from the Havamal that I remind myself of frequently,

“Most blest is he who lives free and bold
and nurses never a grief,
for the fearful man is dismayed by aught,
and the mean one mourns over giving.”

Not being afraid is something I’ve held as a goal for a long time in my life. There was a long period where I was afraid, and this emotion has certainly held on to me through the years. I’ve held on to it as well. I hesitate about a great deal of things, even those I think I would enjoy if I could just take that first step. I find myself giving up when I don’t immediately succeed. Being afraid of talking to my grandmother about my transition is the biggest reason I put off a medical transition this long, and she was immediately accepting and started using my preferred pronouns from that moment on. This is still something I struggle to wrap my head around and I am incredibly thankful for. I’m hopeful I’ll have more drive and confidence, and that I’ll be able to internalize the understanding that I don’t need to be afraid as often as I am.

So, to start off, I’m most excited for my voice to change. It will change and I may even start to see this in the next month! By this time next year, I am certain it will be different. My voice is important to me–it has always been my belief that using our voices to honor our gods is the truest form of worship. I love singing, and speaking, and language. So for the time being I’m going to take that up and allow myself to be enthusiastic instead of afraid.

Thank you for being here with me.

J.

Welcome!

Hello there,

Welcome to my transition blog. The purpose of this blog is to document the physical, mental and social changes I undergo as I take steps in my medical transition.

For a bit about me, I am a recent graduate who as of this post has been on testosterone for 3 days–nothing particularly exciting has happened yet! We’ll get there! I don’t spend a lot of time in the blogosphere (Do people still use that term? Have they ever?) so I’m really just learning as I go along.

For those who know me personally, I want to be clear that this blog will contain sensitive information. Testosterone does affect the body in ways you may not want to know about, and the same is true for some of the things I’m sure I’ll end up talking about. I’ll try and set these apart from other posts, so you can focus on the less body-sensitive/sexuality oriented stuff, but if you read something here you didn’t want to see, don’t say I didn’t warn you!

If this is read by many or read by none, I’m excited to have a record of what happens. Taking T (Testosterone) is something I have been waiting for for a long time, and I am finally here. Thank you for sharing this time with me.

Sincerely,

J.