on anger. (shot 5, week 8)

The original title of this post was going to be “Buckminster doesn’t even have a castle,” as a tribute to what it’s been like juggling school, work and transitioning, and my inability to get things crossed off my to-do list since starting testosterone.  One of the things that continues to be scrawled at the bottom of my lists everyday, in the not-so-urgent category, is getting my fish, Buckminsterfullerene, a castle. My brother got me this very hip aquaculture fish tank for the holidays, and I thought it’d be fun to get the fish on the day I started testosterone, like a testosterone birthday fish. Maybe there was something I liked about the idea of taking care of an animal that would feed my nurturing side, and I would have a side-kick.

I did finally get Buckminster a castle.

I did finally get Buckminster a castle.

Long story short, the testosterone birthday fish ended up in the freezer within the first 24 hours, Buckminster (and a tank heater) came home with me a few days – and a lot less pressure – later, and this post is on how testosterone has changed the way I experience anger. Anger feels like a track meet. Before testosterone: If something happened that made me angry, I would first give it some thought to make sure that I understood what had happened (checking out the course). I would try to see if I could make excuses for it (the pre-race stretch). Then after I was sure that yes, that wasn’t cool, I’d start to justify my feelings, and admit that yes, I’m upset (warm up run). And then the feeling of being upset would exponentially grow and I’d get angry (the sprint). The mental and physical process of anger was something I’ve learned to have control over (remember this is an organized race, not a run in the woods). I don’t like the feeling of anger, and even more so, I don’t want to be mean, which is why sometime I do literally “run” the anger out, and then of course, begin to cool down.

Then I started testosterone.  I started experiencing a lot of mood swings, which was expected, and found myself being more irritable a few days before my next shot. But anger was changing. Out went control and in came feeling. No warmup, no stretching, just straight to the sound of the trigger being pulled. It really feels like going from 0 to 80 in a heartbeat, and the way my body is physically experiencing anger if more full, more intense and more quickly. I’m not feeling more violent, or violent at all.  It’s more that the sensation of anger is more visceral, I am overwhelmed with feeling, and I want to fill the room with it. It feels like this comes from more of a need to get the energy out of me than to subject others to my “wrath,” even in these moments I’m usually smiling and laughing at myself as I try to explain to who I’m with what’s happening inside me. It feels ridiculous. The cool is still the same and I’m not angry longer than I was before. Perhaps I’m arguably angry less now because I feel it so much quicker, and then it passes. When I first started talking to people about starting testosterone, one of the frequent concerns was around if my personality would change. My response was that I’d still be me, but that I’d be a happier more confident version of me.  It’s on my mind that at some point, these novel experiences of emotions I’m encountering will either go away or become less novel, and part of who I am.

 

Things are beginning to even out (week 6)

March 5th, 2014

I’m excited to report that my energy this round didn’t spike as high or crash as low. I’m hopeful that things may be beginning to even out. Slowly.

demolition2

demolition

I was able to direct some of my extra energy towards smashing things last weekend. My friends were taking down the drywall in their basement for some major renovations, and everyone seems to know that I’ll jump at any opportunity to get a good work out. As I was hammering down slats and uncovering some beautiful woodwork hidden beneath, I daydreamed about someday working on my a place that I can call my own. Living on a grad student wage in San Francisco, that might take a little magic. For now I’ll keep my eyes set on a hammock on a tropical island somewhere.

I gave a talk in my NextGeneration Sequencing seminar on something really neat called Restriction Site Associated DNA sequencing (RAD-seq). It’s an exciting new sequencing technique that lets us look at tens to thousands of loci across an entire genome in one sequence run.  To put that in perspective, I’ve spent the last year getting genetic data the “old” way for only 4 genes (the “old way” is pre-2008). This is drastically changing how efficiently and cost effectively we can get genetic data. When we signed up for presentation dates at the start of the semester, I counted down injection dates to find a non-shot-week to present on, so I could be sure that my testosterone levels would be manageable.IMG_6683 RADI have this class a few hours after I get an injection, and on shot days my heart is racing and it’s hard for me to sit still and focus.

On the first day of this class, we did a simple exercise to get to know each other. I turned to the shy blonde haired boy next to me and we shared names, labs and something no one knew about us. The point of the ice breaker was to then go around the room and for each of us was to introduce our partner to the class. As group after group went, I started to feel my hands sweating. I had no idea if he thought I was male or female, or what pronouns he was going to use when introducing me. male pronoundsMy options were:

A. Hope he read me as male and uses “he” to refer to me

B. Ask him to use male pronouns at the expense of outing myself unnecessarily if he did in fact read me as male

C. Wait and see if he uses female pronouns and if he does, out myself to the entire class most likely embarrassing him too

D. If he uses female pronouns, just let it go.

I went with option B, and one group before us, I slid my notebook over to him. He looked confused (maybe option A would have been a better choice), but then nodded, and a minute later, introduced me to the class.

IMG_6734

I went to a short course on extinction at UC Berkeley and ran into a colleague I met at a conference last year. She gave the Stephen Jay Gould award address and I doodled her talk for her. We’ve kept in touch and I’ve told stories of sea slugs and corals to her husband and his mentee as we through the halls of the collections at the museum where I am a student. We’ve never spoken about it, but she has always used male pronouns when referring to me. I’ve been struggling in moments like these if and how to begin these conversations, especially with scientists.  I’ve been trying to figure out how I’d like my life to intersect with my life.

1 month on testosterone

22 Feb 2014

Sitting in the backseat of the Subaru on the way to dinner, I carefully opened the red and white box to find a Daruma doll.  I recognized it immediately.

P1100147-1

When I was a kid, my dad’s sat on a shelf in a room we rarely used, but it wasn’t until this moment, in the back seat of my friend’s car, that I finally learned that its purpose is to help you focus and achieve your goals. The doll has two blank eyes. Once you decide on a goal, you draw in the left eye to mark commitment. After you  achieve it, you draw in the right eye. It is traditional to get a Daruma doll annually and to burn them ceremoniously at the end of the year. That night as we shared carnitas, empanadas, and margaritas to celebrate my one month on testosterone, I thought about what my goal will be. I can’t think of a better gift for this journey.

I’ve experienced two running narratives this past month. Above all, I am incredibly happy, at peace, confident and hopeful for the future. However, the day to day has been really rough, and I’m feeling frayed around the edges. So far I have had three shots, one every-other-week, and my energy and mood have taken a real swing in response. The first shot was the most intense. I felt almost too good. 2014-02-27_1393519102My heart felt like it was going to beat out of my chest, but when I would take my pulse, it would be normal. I would wake up to my alarm and bolt out of bed, and then crash right after lunch. All I wanted to do was work out and ride my bike. Sometimes I would get home and just keep walking right past my house and do a loop around the neighborhood. After a few days of energy ups and downs, I’d settle into feeling solidly awesome, followed by a week of feeling anxious, depressed, and overwhelmed. Then it would be time for my next shot. The second round shared the same pattern, but was less severe in the initial rush, but followed by the same second week of feeling down. The third was the easiest yet, I felt awesome right off the bat and felt more even during the first week. I’m starting out on a half dose, so it makes sense that I’d be experiencing a hard come down the week before my next injection. I’m looking forward to evening out over the next few months.

The physical changes I’ve noticed the most so far have been in my ability to gain muscle. Even though I’ve been working out more, even in the times in my life when I was the most fit, I have never been able to bulk up like this. It is really noticeable in my upper body. My legs feel stronger and more solid, and there’s a different weight to them. My voice sounds generally the same, although when I’m singing into my motorcycle helmet or in the truck, I’m noticing that I can hit lower notes than before and that my higher range is weakening.

I’ve been wrestling with how I want this blog to look and feel, and grappling with how to use it to tell this story. Since I started testosterone, I’ve been hyperaware and tuned into transgender and LGB pop culture, politics and communities.@ellenpage Just about two weeks ago, Ellen Page came out during a very moving speech at the Human Rights Campaign’s Time to Thrive conference. It reminded me of how lucky I am to be coming out in this time, in this place. So I decided to tell her that in a tweet, and use that motivation as an opportunity to develop a working timeline of current events starting from January 22nd, 2014, that I’ll be posting here soon. It’s a good day to become who you are.

I feel like a small dragon (Shot 2, 5 Feb 2014)

It’s been two weeks since I started testosterone. Three days after my first shot, San Francisco hosted its first annual Mr. Transman SF. It was a not-so-subtle reminder of how lucky I am to be starting my transition in a city like San Francisco, on a day like this one;  my city is accepting me with open arms. This past September, Anthem Blue Cross of California released its first transgender health  plan benefits. Things are changing in California. I know how lucky I am.