The Letter

8 04 2008

Well, it’s what I’ve been wanting for months – the magic ticket that will hopefully convince an endocrinologist that I’m eligible for testosterone therapy. It’s what us transfolk need to be able to proceed with physical modifications to our bodies – a letter from a psychologist or sexologist confirming that we are transsexual, or “afflicted” with “gender identity disorder.”

Back when I made my decision to physically transition and I started joining online communities for support and information, I quickly learned that “the letter” is a highly coveted item in trans circles. People on LiveJournal FTM communities or other online groups despair about how long it will take them to convince their therapist to write them one. People exchange tips on how to make sure they are in enough despair over their ascribed sex/gender to warrant hormone theraphy without appearing SO distraught that they come across as mentally unstable. People complain about therapists who “jerk them around” for months before giving them their prize.

When I chose to undergo the process, I decided to not worry about it too much. I didn’t want to deal with these kinds of frustrations so I figured I would just find someone who seemed decent (ie. not condescending or pathologising), be honest with myself and with him (I was specifically looking for a guy) and, if that didn’t seem to be fruitful (ie. if I was feeling disrespected and unheard), I would look again.  My approach worked: I found a good guy who gets me. And voilà – three months later, I got “the letter.”

Honestly, it’s a weird feeling. On one hand, I know that this one person took me seriously and understands that my desire to transition is “legitimate”, or at least as legitimate and anyone’s reasons can be. On the other hand, as he acknowledges himself, it’s a bit of a condescending process to have to go through to get someone’s “permission” to transition and to have to be “diagnosed” with a disorder. Although I knew that it was going to be that way, and although I thought I was mentally prepared to see something like that in writing, it still came as a shock. To see yourself described as meeting criteria for diagnosis of a disorder is quite a bit jarring, to say the least. It’s a painful reminder that we live in a society that views gender variance as an anomaly rather than simply a grade in a wide spectrum of ways of being; something to be cured rather than celebrated.

I know that I don’t have a “disorder.” I’m pretty sure he knows it too. And I know that those of us in this safe and relatively friendly little bubble of trans/queer folks know it. Nevertheless, the social structure within which we are located negates this knowledge and delegitimises it by the very nature of the process whereby which some of us choose to be ourselves.

So, yeah . . . seeing that in print leaves me with a sour taste in my mouth and a really gross feeling in the pit of my stomach.

If physical transition and all of its related processes form a rite of passage, then “the letter” marks a stage in this rite of passage, an entry into a kind of limbo period, or liminal state, while I wait until my appointment with the endocrinologist to see if *he* will take it seriously. Unlike most rites of passage that exist in the world, though, I *chose* to put myself through it. Today, for about 45 seconds, I imagined what it would be like if I changed my mind at this point. It would be easy. I could simply burn or shred both copies of the letter (the sealed one and the one my psychologist provided for me to read), cancel my appointment with the endo, cancel my next appointment with the psych and never go back. Then I could ask all my friends, family and acquaintances to go back to calling me by my female name and, as quickly as they have all adapted to calling me Jacky, they would re-adapt and, in a few years, they will have nearly forgotten.

Would I do this? No. While I’m not at an actual point of no return, I’m at a point where I’m sure of what I’m doing and have no inclination to stop moving forward on this. Am I scared? Of course. Who wouldn’t be. If nothing else, going through these formalities underscores the magnitude of what I’m doing. And certainly, seeing in print, in someone else’s words, something that locates me in a category of people that is considered by the medical establishment as a discrete group of people with “special medical needs” does nothing to soothe this malaise.

All that being said . . . I’m fucking happy this is all happening with relatively little hassle and that I have not (yet) had to face judgement, criticism or assessments that I’m not REALLY transsexual. As the beautiful and wise Lazlo Pearlman said recently after a screening of his film: “Unhung Heroes” in Montreal, if you respect yourself, others will respect you. That formula seems to be working so far.

 

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27 responses

9 04 2008
RyanWren

Congratulations!

My boyfriend got The Letter last Friday, and I have my appointment to attempt to get The Letter on Monday the 21st.

As for the point of no return… well, at least you can choose to move forward or back, or just stay still a while if you want. Thats the real power of The Letter.

9 04 2008
Jacky V.

True, it does give one a certain flexibility. I could hypothetically choose to sit on it for a while. But I could see how showing up at the endo’s much later with a letter dated the previous year might be problematic.

In any case, it all feels a little surreal. In a good way though.

9 04 2008
RyanWren

True true true. Besides… YOU HAVE THE LETTER!!!

Who wants to sit around NOW?

9 04 2008
Jacky V.

I KNOW I KNOW I KNOW I KNOW!!!!!! LOL. Reading your last comment reawoke feelings of excitement. I could be starting T in a matter of WEEKS now.

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!

9 04 2008
RyanWren

YAY!

ITS SO EXCITING!!!

*DOES HAPPY DANCE WITH YOU*

Me and my boy are going to throw themed parties when we have our first shots.
Mine shall be a Mad Hatters T-Party, and he is having a T-Rex themed party.

But then we are dorks like that. 😛

9 04 2008
Jacky V.

Happy dance indeed! My facebook status this morning was something about wishing I was one of those animals with a big thumpy tail so I could thump it excitedly on the ground. Or a big foot like Thumper from Bambi. I want to throw a party too. I have already created the invitation and it’s only waiting for the date and location. I want it to be karaoke/performance style.

My heart is racing . . . seriously. Now that I’m pretty much over the whole angst about *having a disorder*. Blogging is great for that.

9 04 2008
RyanWren

Everyone is on Facebook these days. 🙂

I’m glad you aren’t angsting anymore. I hate the term ‘gender identity disorder’ and tend to use ‘gender dysphoria’ more, even though I know that the former is the modern name for the same ‘condition’…. I just don’t think that I am disordered! I have never been less disordered in my life!

Hope your party is awesome fun!

9 04 2008
Jacky V.

Cool, just added you : ) I usually don’t add people that I don’t know in person but I feel comfortable adding a bro ; )

Yeah, I don’t mind dysphoria because it doesn’t have that connotation of a “condition”. I don’t feel like I have a disorder either and, yeah, I know exactly what you mean about being more “ordered” now. I feel like everything in my life is pulling together now, the way I want it. It’s great!

9 04 2008
RyanWren

My exception to the ‘Only Add’em if I Know’em’ rule is brothers… 🙂

Isn’t it wonderful how that kinda ‘going nowhere’ feeling evaporates? I used to control my environment… my house was freakishly clean all the time… now its a bit of a slum, but *my life* is under control.

9 04 2008
Jacky V.

Great! You’re lucky to have discovered all this about yourself already. When I was in my 20s (man that makes me sound old), I was far from self-discovery. But I’m still young enough to enjoy it all at 35 : )

9 04 2008
Mish

Why does a karaoke/performance party not surprise me? =) It’s been a long time since I’ve selected songs. Ya know I’ll be there (unless work F’s it up). I’m also thinking it’s the perfect reason (not that we need one) for us to eat naan and curry with our hands. It’s been ages.

Ryan: Mad Hatter T-party. Awesome!…and now I have the song from Alice in Wonderland in my head…

9 04 2008
BT

Congratulations on gaining the letter! It’s interesting in that in some ways, it’s a celebration of moving foward on an individual level, while at the same time, it’s a bit of mourning for society’s determination of staying back. Then again, being gay is no longer a disease; perhaps one fortunate day, being a different gender won’t either.

You seem strong in your security of knowing where you want to go, and I think it’s a beautiful thing. Stay strong, Jacky, we’re all cheering you on!

Enjoy your party, it’s too awful that we’re down South and can’t join the fun!

–Miranda

10 04 2008
Jacky V.

Mish: of course you will be there. You’re coming with me for my first shot, remember? I’m going to organise this around YOUR schedule. I’m hoping late May or early June (before or after we come back from Ohio?)

As for Indian food . .. . mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.

Miranda: Yes, it’s always interesting to recognise a conflict. Something being a good thing with its own little drawbacks. Hope you’re all doing well – I haven’t seen you in ages. Big hugs to everyone (except Rogan – I bet he hates that. So a big firm manly handshake to Rogan : )

10 04 2008
Mish

**GRINZ** Road trip!!!!!!!!!!!

I’m flattered and honored. Well, since you’re scheduling it around me I’ll get you some possible dates ASAP. My parents need to hurry up and tell me when they’re visiting in June. Ratsin fratsin! And there’s another Con I’d really like to go to at the end of June in PA. Maybe I’ll send them a list of possible dates as well. Oy!

10 04 2008
Tarald Stein

I wanted to write a post about gender identity disorder and it’s konnotations, but I don’t think the time is ready. I’ll do it when I feel safer. In the mean time:

CONGRATULATIONS!

10 04 2008
Psykiatri « Framandkar

[…] meg skal jeg som sagt komme tilbake til når jeg får den etterlengta diagnosen. Anbefaler også Jackys tanker om det å få brevet, altså diagnosen […]

10 04 2008
RyanWren

Hey Terald and Jacky, there’s this post at Transadvocate on the destigmatisation of Gender Identity Disorder, that might interest you.

10 04 2008
Jacky V.

Thanks Ryan!

13 04 2008
genderoutlaw

Congratulations! It IS weird seeing yourself reflected in a letter, isn’t it?!

I’m glad to hear that you feel that you have received non-judgmental care. I feel similarly, but from what I have read, this is not the norm.

I like your closing comment about respect. I know a number of transmen who thought the best way to get through the The Letter phase was to answer a psych’s questions the way that they thought they were intended to respond. This sets up an “us against them” mentality. All we can do is be who we are.

13 04 2008
Jacky V.

Thanks G.O.! I know what you mean about the way some people feel they need to respond a certain way. I knew it was risky but I was honest about being into men and about my genderqueer identity and he gets all that. I really got lucky. But if he would have labelled me as confused, I would’ve simply kept looking. I wouldn’t be able to maintain a lie for all those sessions.

About the “us vs them” thing: that’s exactly what I was talking about with him last time, about how I wanted to go into the process with a positive attitude of mutual respect rather than antagonism. It worked!

16 04 2008
J

just came across your blog and wanted to say thanks for posting. i think your writing is great and so personal, and it’s refreshing to have an honest voice out there in the midst of the tangled web.

16 04 2008
Jacky V.

J! Thanks for writing. I checked out your site and I must say this is very fortuitus. My newest project is to start a “grunge porn” collective: trans, fat, genderqueer, etc. Would love to pick your brain.

25 04 2008
Jiz Lee

Pick, pick away…

There’s a growing number of FTM trans inclusive/if not focused porn companies. Of those out there, Trannywood Pictures, and Morty Diamond are probably the best bet… and of course Pink & White Productions, No Fauxxx, Good Dyke Porn, and the solo jack offs on Red Handed Porn are very inclusive to trans and genderqueer performers and diverse looks and sexual appetites.

…hmmmmm… “Grunge porn” makes me think it’ll be filmed in a garage, and that reminds me of all the crazy sexual experiences that happen when we’re growing up and experimenting in the dark and dusty garages of our parent’s home — HOT!!!

26 04 2008
Jacky V.

Yeah, I’m an 80s metal head so I like things raw and “garage-y”. I want my stuff to be low-tech, etc and give that raw feel.

13 11 2008
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[…] few months after self-IDing as FTM and beginning psychotherapy to get my letter for testosterone, I began to get the urge to wear women’s lingerie on occasion. For a brief […]

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[…] I discussed here, I got pretty lucky. I found someone who got that I knew who I was and that, even though I […]

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[…] I discussed here, I got pretty lucky. I found someone who got that I knew who I was and that, even though I […]

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