The Filter (Part 2) – Testosterone Poisoning
If you have not read it please read: Part 1 – The Creation of a Fake Man
Putting all of these identity and gender problems together has been like doing a one million-piece jigsaw puzzle. However, edge and corner pieces were hard to come by. It is as if not only was the puzzle not put together, the pieces were also scattered around the house, not all in the box like most puzzles. Those pieces in the middle are the ones that actually make the picture but it is nearly impossible to form them without the guidance that the edges and corners provide. It was only over this last year that I found the last edge and corner pieces. I was able fully construct edges! I am going to use this metaphor of “puzzle pieces” throughout the rest of my postings on this issue.
All of the “middle pieces” have the same problem: They were moments of my life that generated extreme happiness, depression, anxiety or another emotion. I could not attach them to each other and I could not find explanation as to why these things happened to me, however, once I got the side and corner pieces it all clicked into place.
Between eighth grade and high school, I had a chance for another fresh start. There were some friends I was carrying into high school but not many. I was also going through puberty. My voice was getting deeper, certain parts of me were getting more hair, and certain other parts where now wanting to function in an adult manner. Each one of these changes brought only sadness to me. It was the beginning of the days that I like to now call “Testosterone Poisoning” However at the time the sadness these changes I were bringing me I thought were normal. I did not realize the poisoning was also reaching my mind…
Going into high school, I wanted to prove to myself, and others, that I was a man. The summer before Freshman year, I resolved to be the person I was supposed to be. At the time, I had this idea that being who society wanted me to be and actually becoming accepted would make me happy. I attended a class in summer school that ended with us being in a play that summer. With my voice having almost fully changed, (it was still cracking a little) I was trying to learn to love my new voice as I had loved my old voice. It did not happen. I think the sadness I experienced over my voice changing was one of the key middle puzzle pieces. I gained some other puzzle pieces from being in that play:
- I hate being in plays and all kinds of public recognition. While I like recognition and thanks if I provide a service, public recognition made me very uncomfortable. It was actually a quite ironic moment… considering the play was Applause the whole story based around people who love the public recognition that applause brings. This extends to all kinds of public recognition making me somewhat uncomfortable.
- I really like playing dress up which is more or less what costuming is. It made me detest the clothing I wore on a daily basis as bland and unexciting. I subsequently began to hate all male clothing for the same reason. The filter prevented me from saying this because it is odd for a boy to like dressing up, or at least it was in my mind.
- I liked makeup. It is an odd form a human art/expression. I have not really fiddled with it since this time but I could see the changes it made to me that day I was so interested by the potential… However, no such luck again the filter kicked in and while I asked a couple questions at the time, I could not pursue anything.
In addition, during that summer I found out what the physical side of being a man entailed. I experimented alone and found out that there was always a period where I was free from certain thoughts that I had not had before puberty and that plagued my mind. That idea that men always think about sex is not always true. I may not be able to speak for all men, but at least for me there was a period where I found myself able to think about other things.
Since sex was a topic I never wanted to think about, I loved the new feeling. I was happy before these thoughts entered my brain, and angry after. I found that doing certain things would release me from (what I presume to be) testosterone driven thoughts, and could free my mind. Not only did it free me from thoughts of sex it also freed me from thoughts of anger, depression, and anxiety. It also broke the filter at least for a little while and let me think about more classically “feminine” things. It made me very happy. It is almost like self-pleasure allowed me to release some of the testosterone that was poisoning my body.
It started an addiction, an addiction to a clear mind and the only way I knew how. This was probably one of the largest middle puzzle pieces but it had no way to connect to anything else until I had a framework. I never suspected that this issue connected to any other issue I had. This issue also caused the most dysphoria throughout my life. Every time I did anything I felt disgusted with myself because of what I did, but I was able to think about the things I wanted to think about without anxiety or depression. It’s not to say that women don’t have sexual feelings, but sexual feelings are driven by testosterone no matter which gender you are. My point is that the volume I had is more then my mind, heart, soul, and body could handle, because of an excess of testosterone.
Between summer school and the start of my first year of high school, there was a period where various things happen around the school. One of those things was tryouts for fall sports. One of those testosterone driven thoughts lead me to want to join a sports team. I looked at the fall sports and tried to find one that would suit me… I chose soccer. It seemed like it fit best of the offerings. I did not actually want to play soccer or any other sport for that matter… I was convinced that people around me would not accept me until I played a sport of some kind.
I was on my bike on my way the tryout with my headphones on when a particular song came on. It made me start crying and I had to stop. I ended up standing there at the side of the road with my bike crying quietly to myself. I did not know at the time why it made me break down like that… However, I could not move until after the tryout time had passed… That song was Duran Duran’s Who Do You Think You Are (song) (lyrics)… At the time, it was a middle piece and it made no sense. Now that I have the edges it connects to, it is so clear.
When I composed myself, I headed home and told my mom the tryout went fine, but they cut me quickly. I had no way to put what had actually happened into words… I wonder what would have happened if I actually tried out for the team, or if I had been able to tell my mom what actually happened. Writing these things and remembering all these events in detail are bringing back all the emotion attached to them… However, now I have the pieces I need to start putting it all together. My healing has begun.
This was all before high school actually started. I became depressed again entering high school. I fell back into the same “outcasts” group and it became a time of self-doubt and loathing, which to an extent I am just now starting to move out from underneath. High school is a time for people to figure out who they are and what they want their life to be. For me it was no different, however, each piece I gained at the time was not what I thought it to be. Each thing I learned about myself could not really make sense until I accepted the fact that I should have been a girl this whole time.
One of the first things I learned was that I was also attracted to men. I came out shortly thereafter as bi. My circle of friends accepted it but I never did really tell my family because I was still not openly dating boys, no need to stir that pot. First year of high school, I spent learning the school and trying to find a group of friends to get me though my high school career. I quickly became the target of bulling for being weak or “throwing like a girl” etc. It was nothing new to my life and it did not really change anything. At this point in my life, people bulling me was the norm, not the exception. Girls did not bully me, because by this point I did not interact with groups of girls. My grades were still poor because when I went home I never did think about or do school work. As soon as I left the building, everything was “forgotten” because my mind was too busy trying to sort out these emotions of depression, and what my role was in society, or I spent the time escaping to online video games.
Video games were absolutely my escape. It was a way I could be a boy and still escape reality. I could never adequately explain which games I liked and which ones I did not. The games I liked never quite matched up with the boys around me. I liked some of the games but not others. Everything I would say I liked about a game could be present in another game but I did not like it as much. I could not even figure out why I liked the games I liked… How strange is that? However, in retrospect I have pieced it together. I will make a subsequent post exploring this in more detail with, but all the games I have liked have always had some common links between games I like vs. similar games I do not like. Some of those common threads:
- A strong (even if a minor character) heroine
- Zelda from Legend of Zelda Series (she’s not just a rescued princess)
- Final Fantasy Series (Aerith, Yuffie, Yuna, Rikku, Lighting, etc.)
- Chell from Portal
- Dixie from Donkey Kong Country series
- MMOs (like EverQuest) where I played as a female character
- Diablo 2’s Amazon & Sorceress
- Sarah Kerrigan from StarCraft series
- Tanya from Command and Conquer Red Alert series
- Androgynous, Mute, Disturbed, or Missing “heroes”
- Tactical strategy or puzzle based game
- Entire RTS Genre
- Final Fantasy Series
- Age of Empires series
- Civilization series
- Portal Series
- Games where victory comes from working together
- Civilization series (most of the time)
- Some RTS play styles
- Games where game components or game concepts were built or done as realistically as possible (the more realistic it was the better I could escape to its world)
- Rise of Nations
- Portal series
- Age of Empires series (until the graphcis became unrealistic)
- Civilization series
- SIM City, SIM Tower, SIM Copter, The entire SIM Series
- Train Simulator
- Flight Simulator
- “Realistic” not cartoony Art style (I used these games as an escape from reality if they looked cartoony, they failed at that)
- Most of the Legend of Zelda series (Exceptions: WindWaker and that line)
- Portal series
- Final Fantasy series
- Blizzard games EXCEPT Warcraft series
You can see most of my favorite video game series popping up many times on that list. As I said, I will create a more detailed post with specific compare and contrasts with similar games that I have disliked for any one of these things compared to games that I liked that are similar in many ways. A great example is the Mario series vs. the Zelda series. Mario’s Princess (Peach) just waits for Mario to save her at the end of the game. Link’s Princess (Zelda) pops up repeatedly in the series to give you key pieces of information or items. Link is really saving the kingdom, not the princess.
As I moved into sophomore year of high school, my depression started getting worse. Although I did not realize it was depression at the time. I started having suicidal thoughts but never intended to take any action. My escapes were not enough anymore to avoid the pain I felt in my daily life. I made a suicide threat at one point to a couple of people and a school psychologist called me in. I was able to talk my way out of it saying, “I did have those thoughts in the past but they are gone” I put on a brave face and by that time, I had figured out how to put on a mask of happiness to fake being happy and content. Every day when I got home, I would try to escape to video games and this is why I started seeking out darker games like Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask, Final Fantasy VII, and Final Fantasy X. I pushed away all my friends because I became less capable of emotional connections with them. Everything I did was at a surface level and I felt very little true happiness or emotion at all. I began watching darker anime trading things like Tenchi Muyo for Neon Genesis Evangelion. Somehow, I could tell I did not fit, but I did not know why. I spent hours, days, and years trying to figure out why I did not fit. Why was I having moments like when I was on my way to the soccer tryouts? Why did none of this make sense?
By the time junior year rolled around, I had had more experiences I could not explain and felt more and more every year as if I could not make sense of my life and it would save a great deal of pain to just “give up.” I hid my thoughts and feelings even more as I started actually thinking about taking my own life. I always felt the worse around the holidays (October, November, and December) I always became the most depressed over those large meals. I had as much trouble attaching to family as I did attaching to friends. The detachment caused much pain. It was between Thanksgiving and Christmas that I had finished my plan and was going to act upon it. Thanksgiving was painful and I felt like I could not face another Christmas. My late stepsister (she subsequently passed from breast cancer) without a doubt saved my life. She engaged me in conversation online that night and stayed with me all night talking to me about technology, video games, music, whatever kept me online and not doing what I was planning to do. Before this conversation, I disliked her and thought she was trying to steal away my dad. After this conversation, and the following events, we were like sisters. When we finally broke ways, the sun was already rising and it was time to go to school. I tried to fake ill, to do what I was going to do anyway when she left for work, but my mom saw though it and forced me to go to school anyway. That morning my stepsister sent me an email entitled “I know the truth about last night” I almost did not open it. I am glad I did. She gave me the ability to move on from those darkest days. She taught me that gender is a spectrum and I could start bringing femininity into my life as a man. That gave me the ability to take some of those steps that started generating edge and corner pieces. Her words got me though the subsequent years up until I could find the root problem and piece it all together. Her words made me vow to myself that I was going to be the person I wanted to be.
She by herself found a way to construct an entire side all at once. It was because of her that I could start putting some middle pieces into the puzzle. One side was not enough to build the whole picture but I was able to build enough chunks to find some real happiness. I believe she also took my secret with her to her final days. I will always be thankful to her.
It was because of her that I survived Testosterone Poisoning.
Writing and bringing all this back into the foreground of memory is always difficult and always brings me to tears. As I fully remember things, more things come to memory. However, fully realizing and confronting these feelings are the only way to move forward and grow. Now that the edges are done, it is time to start finding all these middle pieces again and putting them into place to form the full picture. Transition begins with the mind and heart, not the body.
Continue to Part 3 – Learning to Fly