Saturday, 22 July 2017

The struggle to recall buried memories

Usually in films the process of recovering buried memories and similar involves flashbacks and sudden flashes of recollections. As I'm currently finding out, it's somewhat like that, but also completely different.

For me the goal is to figure out what happened when I was about five years old, which apparently involved a single or multiple events which led to me withdrawing into myself, refusing any form of physical contact for many years afterwards, along with the development of an intense hatred of sexuality and a strong distrust of people in general, and men specifically.


So far I haven't been able to uncover any concrete memories, even though I have a significant number of memories of things which happened before and in the years after the event. What I have so far is this very strong feeling of... wrongness that has bothered me since I was a child, but which has become more pervasive over the years.

As I'm working through things with my psychotherapist, I'm often asked to remember things from my youth and childhood. Over the past months I have found that this is slowly making me remember things from my childhood. Mostly neutral memories, of sights, smells and sensations, such as me holding and looking at a dried sea horse at my grandmother's place as a child.


Alongside all of that there is this strong feeling of having been violated. Assaulted. Humiliated. Of feeling terrified and apprehensive of something or someone. Just no associated memories. This part of my recollections where the distrust of others and hatred of sexuality culminate is still blocked off to me. Only these feelings related to that time are readily accessible.

They are horrible feelings.

Earlier this week I got to this point with my therapist and as soon as I opened myself up to those emotions, I simply broke down into tears and could not talk for minutes as I struggled to regain my composure. It's just a raw feeling of wrongness. Of having been forced to do horrible things, or having them performed on me.


I do have some idea of what likely happened to me, as in the years afterwards I would suddenly show very unusual sexually dominant behaviour, essentially seeking to victimise others. This is commonly referred to as inverting or reflecting traumatic experiences as a way to deal with them. If that's the case, then it appears that one or more men forced me to perform sexual acts and likely were very rough about it, to leave me feeling so distraught.

I guess I can kind of understand why. Imagine being a five-year old child, who suddenly finds themselves in a situation that's so unfamiliar to them, and then there are these scary men saying and demanding things which just make you want to run away. Find someone who can protect you. But there's nobody there. There won't be any help.

And then it's over with, and you're let go, never to speak about it again. Only it's still there, all the memories and experiences, to gnaw at your very being like a slow cancer for the rest of your life.


I just wish I could remember what happened exactly and who did it to me. Something to allow me to make some sense of it all and give an opportunity to give it a place, instead of having it eat at me like this. To give me an opportunity to maybe learn to trust people again.

Somehow I think that it's still going to be a long and difficult road.


Maya

Friday, 23 June 2017

To experience puberty twice, once as a boy, once as a girl

Around the age of eleven was the first time that I entered puberty and began to notice changes to my body. As I was expecting male secondary characteristics, I only really paid attention to those. The regular abdominal pains I dismissed, along with the period of breast growth. Instead I noticed the (slight and not very impressive) facial hair, the (slightly) breaking of my voice, and more body hair. Looking back it wasn't a very impressive male puberty, with in hindsight also the development of secondary female characteristics, including breast growth, the development of female hips and the start of a monthly cycle.

This all left my body in a slightly confused state, which didn't really resolve itself until a few years back. I guess having the undeveloped testicles removed helped to change the hormone balance of my body from one that was neither male nor female to one that was distinctly female, with normal oestrogen levels produced by my ovaries.

Looking back, 2014 or 2015 was roughly the start of my second puberty. This would see me develop the aforementioned female hormone balance, restart the growth of my breasts and generally change my general appearance more to that of an adult female.


At this point I feel like I'm about 14, maybe 15 years old. Body-wise and also emotionally. With everything that has happened so far a lie and hopefully just a bad dream, it's as if this is me finally doing part of my life correctly. Of course, normally I'd experience this puberty as a girl while still at home with my family. Going to school and hanging out with my friends there. Learning about how things work that way.

I roughly know what it means to have a female body, but it's still weird to see all of these changes happening to my body. Weird, but exciting. It all feels right, though. This is the way that things were meant to be.


Not all that happened before, however. Not this other... puberty that I remember, or this person that I was supposed to be. This... boy. That never happened. It cannot be. Not when I look at myself in the mirror and see these changes. I cannot accept that as part of reality.

I'm 14. Maybe 15. I'm just a normal girl growing up. I cannot have lived as a boy. It must be a lie. Just look at this body of mine.

I cannot integrate these two realities. One of them must be false.


Yes, my body is also different, but it is still that of a young woman. That's the simple truth which I cannot deny. That I also have... male genitals doesn't take away from that fact. Maybe that's where what I referred to as 'being an involuntary female to male transsexual' comes into play. I never wanted to live in a male gender role. That just got forced upon me.

Much like with countless intersex children who suffer the horrors of intersex genital mutilation (IGM), I, too, was forced into a gender role not of my own choosing. Something like that cannot go right. I am still fortunate that I did not have my genitals chopped up by these butchers who like to call themselves doctors, as they do to so many others less fortunate every day again and again.

At least I get to find my own identity in an undamaged body. It will just take time.


Maya

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Living in a world without sound

It's interesting how the way one is born and raised affects one's sense of normalcy. For me it wasn't until I underwent an official test for giftedness as a teenager that I became aware of a very significant way in which I am different from most other people.

During that test I had to repeat strings of numbers and letters, increasing in length with each successive string. The interesting thing was I failed to correctly repeat the first, shorter strings, but repeated the next, longer strings flawlessly. I remember developing a method on the fly for memorising those sequences. The same pattern repeated itself for other tests, every time the test was auditory, i.e. in spoken form.

Further research showed that this pattern is commonly found by visual learners with an auditory deficit. Or in short, I'm a 100% visual learner, with anything auditory being essentially foreign to me. This suddenly explained a lot to me about many struggles up to that point, both regarding the visual way of learning, and my trouble with following and remembering spoken texts and instructions.


It's interesting to consider that the way that I experience the world around me is not like how most others experience it. The fact that I do not experience sound, but just the visual representation it invokes in me. Yet also the limitation I face in that almost all communication between humans happens in an auditory fashion.

I experience music and random sounds as images, almost as tangible objects which I can look at and touch. They have colours, shapes and textures. Human speech too, only if I wish to interpret its meaning, I have to actively process it further, basically treating it as if it's written text. This takes a considerable amount of focus and energy.

The result of this is that I cannot focus for very long on anything with a strong auditory focus. Films are generally fine, due to the strong visual aspect to them. An audio book - or most meetings - is extremely hard and draining for me if I wish to follow it. The audio books which I have tried had me drifting off after less than a minute. Long meetings often have me feeling exhausted and sick afterwards because of the mental effort it took to pay attention to everything that was being said.


I do not mind being different like this. I just wish that others were more considerate and understanding of this difference. Not everyone can handle spoken words as easily as they can. Not everyone can learn and work the way that they can. In some ways my... condition is akin to being deaf, I guess, though admittedly less dramatic.

Pushing myself to ignore the mental strain of focusing on spoken words does come with a high cost, mostly in the form of headaches, migraines and extreme exhaustion. It's sadly still an ongoing struggle to make this work in daily life, especially as it pertains to my work as a software developer.

With popular strategies such as programming in pairs and frequent meetings (daily stand-up, retrospective meetings, etc.), all of which are auditory, it's not easy to exclude myself from such events. Or even to address the subject, as it doesn't seem like something which the average person seems willing to accept. At least I haven't had much luck with it so far.


Some days I think that it would be nice to be just like everybody else, instead of different in almost every conceivable way from the norm. Then again, thinking exclusively in images also means that I am fully immune to so-called ear worms: bits of music which just keep looping in one's head. That's got to be worth it, I think.


Maya

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Relativism and four lights

In the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode 'Chain of Command', captain Picard finds himself captured by the enemy [1], who attempt to obtain crucial information from him through torture. As part of this torture, Picard is made fully dependent on the person who performs the torture. All Picard has to do is to give into this person's demands, answer his questions and the pain will stop. All he has to do is admit that there are in fact five lights.

The lights in question are bright lights mounted behind the desk of the torturer. There are in fact four of them. Yet towards Picard it is constantly stated that there are in fact five lights, and that he just isn't seeing things right. After being rescued, Picard admits that, near the end, he had begun to believe that he was actually seeing five lights.


When I first watched that episode, it was still years before I would embark on my quest to figure out what my body is, and it was just an interesting story to me, with a deep psychological insight in the effects of torture and mental manipulation. As I now recall the episode's story, it has taken on a far more gruesome note to me, however.

For me there weren't four, nay, five lights. For me there was the knowledge and realisation that what I was seeing was a body that was intersex, yet when put in the room with my torturers (doctors, psychologists, etc.), they'd persist in their notion that I was seeing things wrong. My body was not intersex, or even feminine, but just that of a male.

Much like with what Picard went through in this episode there were many times when I got offered what seemed like a way out. I just had to admit that my torturer is right and everything will be fine. Just admit that I'm not intersex. That I don't look like a woman. That I'm a transgender male. They'll make sure everything will be fine if I just admit to the truth.

Picard was locked in this room and couldn't just walk away from the torturing. I was, and still am, locked inside my body and cannot walk away from the torturing. Not unless I destroy this body. The four lights are always there. I can see them. I know that there are four. Not five.


I only have to glance in the mirror or catch my reflection to see my female curves. I know that my body produces its own female hormones without assistance, from the ovaries with which I was born. I know that my body is not that of a male. That'd be as ridiculous as to say that four lights are in fact five lights. Yet for twelve years and counting that's what doctors, psychologists and kin have been trying to convince me of.

Fortunately since the end of 2015 there has been a shift in this behaviour, with me finding more and more doctors and psychologists who agree that there are four lights, not five. Yet most still seem to believe that there are five lights and that convincing me of this very fact is paramount to my emotional well-being. Even as severe post-traumatic stress disorder and related traumas have been diagnosed by me and I undergo intensive psychotherapy in order to cope with this trauma.

I do not feel that I have been freed yet from this torture. Not while I'm still surrounded by people who insist that my perception of reality is false. That four lights are in fact five lights. That I am dreaming this body of mine, and so on. The torture sessions continue. Relentlessly.


I guess the most comforting thought throughout this is the one which played again through my head yesterday after I headed back outside after work. Whilst descending the stairs, I pictured myself as just a collection of electric impulses zipping through the neurons which make up this brain of mine. A brain suspended in spinal fluid, inside a bony cavity, itself suspended on a spinal column connected to limbs which move this entire contraption around.

Sensors are how we - as a neural network - perceive the world around us. Yet we also make up so many stories around it, adding our own interpretations and flourishes. How much of that is truly real? Aren't we in the end just these weird, biological constructions which lumber around on this planet's surface? Isn't that what humanity in the end is, with everything else just dreamed up inside these bony prisons?


Maya


[1] http://memory-alpha.wikia.com/wiki/Chain_of_Command,_Part_II

Monday, 12 June 2017

I want to stop being the eternal victim

For a while now I have been trying to recover the memories associated with whatever happened to me as a child when I was about five years old. It was an event which my mother and others in my environment saw as me changing practically overnight from an open, energetic child who loved to hug and befriend people into a withdrawn child, terrified of others and refusing to be touched or hugged, even by my own mother. A child which would later display bizarre sexual behaviour reminiscent of role play one would see in sexual abuse.

As I come closer to the truth I'm ever more reluctant to uncover what happened. At times I can almost feel as though I can reach those memories. Amidst the memories of losing that blue balloon, playing on the farm, of getting that new puppy, family visits, birthday parties and sleep-overs there is... something else. It's so strange that many of the memories of when I was around five or six are so clear, yet when I try to follow my development and my attitude towards others around that time it's as though there's this wall of translucent ice I can't get a hold on.

For each memory of me as this child, I have to change it from the third-person perspective into a first-person perspective. Recall my emotions and feelings at that time, then follow that thread to earlier memories. Then do the same with those memories. Until I hit that same wall again. There's something there of people being horrible to me. Of things happening which I did not like, but which I was powerless to fight against. Because I was just a child.


It makes me wonder whether part of the reason why I stayed a child - emotionally - for so long was also as a form of defence against the world. So long as I did not grow up, I wouldn't have to face reality, or something. I don't know. I'm an adult now, so I don't have that excuse any more. Just these horrible memories and sensations of being victimised.

Memories of which I wish they were just limited to early childhood. Not that I needed them to be compounded by the horrible acts committed against me during primary school when I got severely bullied and made to feel like absolute trash. And again during the first few years of highschool. Just a freak and trash. That's all I really was.


Losing my way in life after finishing highschool and getting rejected by my father after my parents divorced. The hell of trying to find some kind of acceptance for me being gifted and lost in life. Then the far worse hell of finding out about being intersex and suffering the horrific physical and psychological abuse by doctors and psychologists as they abused, humiliated and brainwashed me. Because I'm a freak. Because I'm trash. Because I'm crazy and refuse to accept that I'm male and transgender. Or just crazy. And delusional. They all knew so well what was wrong with me.

Getting raped by a 'friend' because I thought I could trust this person, but that was not what he wanted from me. Me making one poor decision about who I could and couldn't trust after another. Getting stalked by those who wished to bully me into me trying to commit suicide again. And succeed this time.

Having all of my possessions stolen and becoming homeless. Living on the scraps others would toss at me, out of pity. The continuing abuse by doctors and psychologists. Then getting deceived and abused by landlords as I try to find a place to live. Today again getting an update via my lawyer making it clear that my current landlady would gladly ignore the signed statement by my psychotherapist indicating my fragile psychological state and risk of suicide. Supposedly I'm just stalling to keep off the eviction.

They're okay with me committing suicide. It'd probably make them overjoyed as it'd speed things up significantly. Too bad for them so far the court has decided to wait until November this year before the building inspector will take a look at the issues in my apartment, meaning that nothing is likely to happen until then. It's a small comfort.


Part of me wonders whether the abuse which I likely suffered as a young child is something that continued afterwards up till today, with no end in sight. Especially dealing with this eviction case and the fear that there's nothing standing between this horrible landlady and me losing everything again makes me consider that possibly the only way that I can make a fist against being the eternal victim is to commit suicide.

When I'm dead, I'm free. I'd no longer be a victim. Nothing would matter any more.

Of course, that's the easy way out, or so people keep telling me. The real way to make a fist and to get revenge on all of those who have wronged me is to live a great life. I'd love that. I really do. I just wonder how realistic it is.


This past weekend I have spent in pain again, as whatever is happening inside my abdomen at the peak of each monthly cycle is causing incredible pain and discomfort. Today as well. It has me regularly bend over from the pain in my lower abdomen, which along with the sharp pain in the vaginal area is at times too much to bear. Toilet visit have become the usual nightmare.

Next month is the follow-up appointment with the neurologist. He'll have looked at the scans of my brain and spinal column and likely conclude that there are no signs of inflammation or other issues would would offer an explanation for the numbness and pain in the right side of my body. The next possible diagnosis of endometriosis is then likely the correct one, also since now after a couple of months of using the contraceptive pill again I can conclude that with it I seem to barely experience this numbness and other symptoms. Just the horrible pain and discomfort in my abdomen.


To have that examined, however, I absolutely need to see this intersex specialist. Even though my medical coach has been calling after this for months now, progress there is slow. Maybe I'll have an appointment this year. Maybe not. I have been at this for over twelve years and counting. It may very well take twenty years in total to get some kind of proper diagnosis of my intersex condition, and possibly a treatment for, or solution to these horrible monthly pains.


I'm just tired of feeling like the eternal victim. It's as though I am a horrible person who deserves all of this. Maybe this already is Hell. It might very well be. I keep trying, yet with every setback I have to really wonder whether it's worth it to keep fighting. If I will always keep having horrible stuff happen to me, it has to be a problem with me, no? In that case there really is no point in trying to continue to live if I cannot seem to fix whatever it is that I'm apparently doing wrong.

...yet that'd also make me into a victim again. I don't want to die or commit suicide, or even think about such horrible things. I want to tell all of those horrible people that they can go f*ck themselves, catch spontaneously on fire and die horrible, agonising deaths. Because a bit of anger is good and proper here, I think. They want to screw me over along my future? Not like I am going to care in the slightest about their well-being, then. F*ck that.


It's the classical struggle for any victims of severe, long-term trauma, I think. Part of one's psyche wants to blame oneself. The other part wants to lash out at those monsters who caused the trauma. There's the blame, anger, self-doubt, suicidal thoughts, crying, depression, self-harm and rage at the world in general. Just the process of trying to make sense of 'why'. Why me. Why did they have to do that. Why did no one stop them. Why didn't I say no. Why didn't I just leave. Why. Why. Why.

I guess I am beginning to slowly accept that I am most definitely not doing okay, and that me accepting help from not just one but two psychotherapists for simultaneous therapy is an absolute necessity. Me handling both the psychological and medical problems in addition to my daily struggles was more than any person could possibly take. Off-loading most of the first two to others likely will save my life.


There was a time when I'd smirk at the thought of psychotherapy. I always figured that I didn't need to talk about things. That such things were useless. I figured that I'd be strong enough to handle any emotional issues on my own. Maybe some day I'll write that long-promised autobiography so that others can read about how incredibly weak, and yet how incredibly strong I was throughout this ordeal. Weak and strong in so many different ways. Ways one doesn't truly realise until long afterwards.

I'd like that.


Maya

Sunday, 11 June 2017

How feminism made me loathe Wonder Woman

I never really was into super heroes as a child. Mostly because most of them were so unrealistic that I could not imagine how they would appeal to an audience. Regardless, over the years I have caught up on this craze through watching various films and cartoons featuring these characters.

Of all of these super heroes, I like the anti-heroes the most, to be honest. Especially characters such as Dead Pool and Wolverine. They feel like real people, with a real background and personality with whom you can relate. The X-Men series in general appealed to me because it features characters who were just thrown into that role through genetic fate, causing lots of struggles as they came to terms with their condition. Many of these characters are quite relatable as a reason.

I have seen a few Super Man films as well, but as with characters such as Captain America and kin, it never felt real. With an unrealistic premise, ridiculous forced character development and a cardboard cut-out for a personality, such films never connected with me. I definitely liked the Bat Man films more there, as Bruce's character was relatable in its imperfections.


One of the few characters whom I had not seen in a cartoon or film before in any significant fashion so far is Wonder Woman. She just seemed like yet another one of those 'me too' ridiculous over the top American super heroes with truly one of the most ridiculous outfits (easily beating some of the more extreme Cat Woman outfits). Fighting in such an outfit? I'd have trouble merely catching a bus wearing it.

So then there was this Wonder Woman film this year, and people got all excited about it, because it was supposed to be really good. And presumably it was. Yet I doubt that I'll try seeing it, because I can't get this grimy taste of smug, third-wave feminism out of my mouth whenever I think of Wonder Woman now.

What mostly repulses me about Wonder Woman in general now is that she has been made into this feminist symbol which will inspire young boys to always be nice to girls and women, and young girls to... grow up to wear costumes which show off lots of cleavage and
come to prefer hot pants. Or something. Or to not take cr*p from anyone while wearing such a ridiculous costume. I guess.


I have always been quite frank about my dislike for feminism, just like my mother. This mostly due to the inherent discrimination in third-wave feminism. My mother saw it all take shape over the past decades while growing up as a young woman. My generation now has to live with its consequences.

As some may have gathered by now, I wasn't raised in a traditional female role. Courtesy of having been mistaken for a boy due to my intersex condition, I initially got brainwashed into the stereotypical (for the Netherlands) male role. Thanks to having been raised by my parents in a gender-neutral fashion, I was able to transition fairly easily into a female role instead after I discovered that my body is primarily female (just with male genitals as bonus).


What irks me the most about feminism as a result of my experiences so far is just how self-centred and self-serving it is. Albeit supposedly feminism is supposed to be about 'equality', in reality it is anything but. Although I'm also a woman, I'm in the first place a human being. Secondly I'm a hermaphrodite. And I do not feel that I am included in feminism.

Feminism is about enforcing the gender binary. About segregating people into 'men' and 'women'. About assigning stereotypes and allocating victimisation quotas. About telling young girls that they should be 'proper women' and being different from 'those men'.

Feminists do not give a fig about us intersex 'women', or the troubles (and genital mutilations) we suffer. Few Western feminists even care about the troubles suffered by women in non-Western countries. Instead we just get Western feminists cheering over a fictional character in a fictional universe somehow going to pull 'those men' into line and somehow inspiring 'girls' to become whatever. Not like a character such as Ripley in the film Alien from the 1980s being a far more realistic role model. I thought she was pretty rad, at least.

But really, if it's about equality, then it should not matter which genitals, gender, sexual preference or such a role model has. If it does, one merely discriminates. All that should matter is the person themselves. How they treat others, expect to be treated by others and their goals and path in life. An idol has to be stripped of such mundane attributes which ultimately do not define them as a person. Things like genitals.

I could have watched the Wonder Woman film the way I watched the Super Man films: as a way to stay updated on popular Western culture, and maybe enjoy a film, similarly to how I watched Dr. Strange recently and found it to be an interesting film. Yet it has become impossible for me to watch this new film now. It has become too tainted due to these connections with feminism, ruining any chance of me enjoying the film.


This rant sums up the basics of my feelings on this subject. I have long thought about whether I should write this at all, because I have seen the flak caught by those who dared to object to Western third-wave feminism. As an egalitarian and humanist, I do feel that people like us should speak up more often, to stem the populism of feminism and its damaging effects on society. For the sake of equality and egalitarianism.

I do not think that feminists are terrible people, just misguided. I think that they truly believe that they are doing good, but they haven't gone through the same life experiences as others. Sometimes they really need to step back and reassess their interpretation of reality. Maybe realise that their version of reality does not include a large group of people, and likely butchers biological facts into an overly simplistic interpretation.


Maybe then I could finally just be able to watch films without all of these unneeded connotations.


Maya

Monday, 5 June 2017

A dying fire's ember

Earlier today I published a new short story, titled 'A dying fire's ember'. It can be read here for free at Scribd: https://www.scribd.com/document/350421631/A-Dying-Fire-s-Ember


For those who have already read the story, don't mind spoilers, or just wish to read my thoughts and motivations behind this story, please keep reading on.


As those who have read the story may already have gathered, it's a story about life and death, as well as how those involved deal with it. It is actually based on a real story, by an actual doctor who was on duty in an American hospital's ER one day when this one heavily injured girl was carried in.

After consulting with the on-duty surgeon, it was concluded that a major vein innervating the liver had become ruptured and it was impossible to repair the damage. Even as blood packs kept the girl alive and she was talking with the doctor, being fully lucid and fine aside from this one injury by a single ricocheted bullet, it was concluded that there was no way to save her.

This doctor was left to hold the girl's hand as the life literally slowly drained out of her, until eventually the light in her eyes (the 'ember' in the story's title) faded and she died.


Upon reading the story by this doctor, I could not stop thinking about it, and had to somehow give it shape, as it seemed so important to me. The primary thing which hits one about the story is of course the utter sense of helplessness. Even though nobody wants the girl to die, they are all powerless and in the end are forced to watch her simply die.


The other thing is of course that medical progress is the only thing which makes such deaths unnecessary. For the girl who died in the real-life story, there in that real-life ER, such a death would no longer be necessary, as damage to this major vein behind the liver can relatively easily be repaired now. Anyone like her who comes into an ER now will receive surgery and will likely be fine.

This is also why in the story which I wrote I took it a little bit further. Instead of merely a singular injury to a major vein - which would be easy to fix - instead I opted for major trauma, to many veins and arteries. Such large-scale forms of internal trauma are still basically impossible to repair today, although research projects exist which aim to handle such trauma.


Today Kathy still has to die, but hopefully a future Kathy would in fact be able to walk out of that hospital alive, apologise to Marilyn for taking so long to get her that book back and to return to becoming that scientist. Maybe she'd discover something that would save the lives of many other children like her, with injuries that are still fatal today.

And our story's doctor? He wouldn't have to watch on helplessly as his patient dies in front of his eyes. Instead he would be able to visit her at her hospital bed and maybe stay in contact later as well, possibly guiding her in her future career.


That, to me is the true message of this story. Even though things may seem bleak and hopeless now, with our combined efforts and intelligence, we can prevents and fix so much suffering. Lives which would have been cut short can instead go on living. It's a message of hope, of science and complete faith in humanity as a whole.

We are in this together. We can make life better for all of us. Because we are human beings.


Maya