Sunday, 29 December 2013

As The Nightmare Fades; Landing Paws First

Tomorrow will be the start of the second week since I moved to Germany and it's been interesting time. The business with the apartment I had rented was very unfortunate, but based on the last communication it seems like I'll get out of that without too much trouble. Meanwhile I have found temporary lodgings at the apartment of a student my colleague knows via the local hackerspace in Karlsruhe. Then early next month I'll be moving to another colleague's place, where I can make use of her guest room until I'll have found a suitable house to rent. The place I'll be looking in is the west side of the river the Rhein, opposite of Karlsruhe.

As a semblance of normality returns to my life this week and I find myself surrounded by people who wish to help me as well as new friends, I find that any sense of homesickness for the Netherlands is rapidly vanishing. Now that I'm well on my way with setting up my life here in Germany, it seems as though the only strong memories I have of the Netherlands involve the seeds for nightmares. Such as my nightmare last night of being at the medical disciplinary hearing in Amsterdam again, but getting ridiculed and dismissed instead of being treated properly.

It's so hard to continue to think of my time in the Netherlands - all three decades of them - as being anything but a dream, much as I described in my previous 'midsummer night's dream' post. It's just a very strong nightmare which I have trouble shaking off as it keeps lingering on the boundaries of my consciousness. Maybe it's how my mind insists on dealing with the traumas I have suffered at the hands of the institute Netherlands: by pushing it away to somewhere safe for dealing with at a later point.

Yesterday I went with the student at whose place I'm currently staying to the local glider club, where they're doing winter-time maintenance on their glider planes. Beyond the joys of being able to work in a proper workshop with my hands again as I'm used to from growing up on a farm, it also allowed me to experience being in a more rural environment again. Just the sheer lack of constant artificial noises and sounds alone, combined with the space confirmed for me that it's best for me to find somewhere quiet to live and avoid the cities altogether. As long as proper internet and the usual supermarkets etc. are within easy reach, this should suit me just fine.

Meanwhile I'm also practicing my German some with this student, which is really quite fun. I do not have much trouble understanding German unless it's spoken very quickly and multiple people at once, but speaking it is something I'm still pretty shy about as I'm never happy to sound like 'that foreigner'. Practicing it with someone you know won't make fun of you or look weird when you make a mistake does make this a lot easier, for sure.

Next up is thus finding a place, getting health insurance again, visiting the surgeon and hopefully get a surgery date set. That should wrap up the 'landing paws first' part of my time in Germany. Here's to hoping it goes off without a hitch from here.


Saturday, 21 December 2013

Longing For The Past. Longing For the Future.

Last night was the first time in a week that I slept in a real bed again and upon awaking I noticed that not only had I slept about thirteen hours, I was also hurting all over. Mostly my hands and arms/shoulders. All because things worked out in quite the opposite way that I had hoped with my move to Germany.

First there was the first moving attempt, now exactly one week ago on Saturday. The colleague driving a van from Germany to my place in the Netherlands got in a crash on the highway and while he was fine, there was no way to find a replacement van on such short notice. Then I learned that the house I was in had to be empty by 13.00 hours on Monday, forcing me to accept an offer from my older brother to drive a moving van for me against payment. Things had gone pretty wrong even on the Friday before, with my mother (at whose place I was staying) and my brother having unilaterally decided that I should be helping my mother move on that very same day, deep into the early morning hours, despite having my own move the next day and me already being exhausted.

That Friday ended with me getting mild hypothermia as I had to leave the house for a few hours despite it being around freezing outside as my older brother was yelling at me for being a useless, spoiled brat and all that. I only got back into the house again because I was noticing the hypothermia effects and knew that with another hour, maybe two I would be in no state to go anywhere, soon falling into unconsciousness. Upon returning home I was chided for being an utterly useless, ungrateful brat by both my brother and mother, but was allowed to stay in the house and sleep on a thin mattress on the floor in a by then virtually empty house aside from my own belongings.

Then the Saturday happened, leaving me almost panicked, not knowing where to go or what to do. This continued into Sunday, just feeling like there was no way I would ever leave the Netherlands and the current nightmare. I then learned that I didn't have a whole Monday either to come up with a solution, but just the morning. Out of options, I was thus forced to accept the much more expensive and less pleasant option. At least I was on my way, though, and would soon be at the apartment.

Thanks to my colleague 'hase' as his nickname goes, we were soon at the apartment after meeting up at the train station from which he guided us. Unloading the van, I said goodbye to my brother and set to prepare for dinner and my first night at my new apartment. It was a sub-basement apartment, part of an old 1920s villa, meant to store junk in, usually. That first night I found out just how unsuitable this apartment was for living in. First of all, despite the landlady insisting that the neighbours above me wouldn't disturb me, there was the near-constant noise of water. Falling, dripping, splashing water, as all the tubing from drains ran through that sub-basement. This continued through the night.

Then the next morning it was chilly outside, which translated into a very cold apartment as half of the radiators in the place didn't even work and especially from the doors came this massive draft. That morning I was sitting there in my winter coat and snow boots, desperately trying to stay warm. Then hase came to pick me up in the afternoon and drove me to the synyx offices. It was the first time that day that I actually felt warm. Figuring out what to do next was hard, though. Keeping the apartment and somehow having it fixed up seemed impossible as too much was just plain wrong or unfixable such as the drain pipes. With no other place to stay I had to spend the night on the office couch, something which I much preferred over another night at the cursed apartment. I also cooked dinner for myself at the office kitchen, which was kind of fun.

The next night I'd also spend on the office couch, as no other option had popped up yet, and everybody was going on vacation for the holidays, many travelling to family. At least I could have a shower at hase's place, where I stayed in September this year as well. I joined the end of year party there, which was lots of fun and got to see the new cats they have at the place. For Thursday until Sunday I could thus spend the night at a colleague's place who was going away during those days. I didn't make it to his place on Thursday, though, as after the year's end party we held with colleagues at a bowling alley and retro gaming museum it was too late for me. I walked back to the office and crashed there on the couch.

On Friday I went with a colleague at whose place I can stay starting early next year for a longer time back to my apartment to fetch most of my belongings from there and drive them to her place. I'll just have to figure out how to best cancel the contract. Keeping the landlady responsible for not disclosing the reality of living there (the noise) seems like a possible approach there, but I'll see. I'll just have to figure out where I'll be staying from Sunday onwards.

I did sleep quite well last night, everything considered. Even if I'm still feeling tired and stressed, and the pain in especially my right hand is quite severe. I can barely bend my right thumb due to some kind of bruising I suffered there over the past days. My shoulders and neck are also very stiff and painful. Today I still have to get food and I should force myself to work on my autobiography some at least, as it's important that I get those sample chapters submitted to my publisher. I haven't written a single letter for a week now due to this whole situation.

At least I'm getting some time to think about things. Such as moving to Germany. As I wrote before, I do not dislike the Netherlands itself, just the institute. The past days I found myself often longing to see the sights, shops and people at some places in the Netherlands again. Even if I'm well-aware that gradually I'm getting used to Germany in the same manner, especially once this insanity of couch-surfing is over with. I also find myself contemplating the future, which is where I can only see Germany and maybe other countries. I just have to get from my current, semi-homeless situation to this future. Once I'm at this colleague's place next year I can look for houses again to rent. If I can have some certainty and solid footing while arranging things, I'm sure it'll work out. Having to chase a place to sleep at for that day is a terrible thing. If I didn't have the office to sleep at, I'd have spent a few nights outdoors already.

Another thing which is kinda risky is that of my health insurance. I'm no longer insured as my Dutch health insurer has deemed me uninsurable due to living outside the Netherlands and getting all of my income from work in Germany. This means that until my new contract at synyx starts on January 1st and I can become insured again via the German Krankenkasse, I'll have to be quite careful. It's a quite naked feeling that even just going to a general practitioner isn't a realistic option at this point. I'm really glad I stocked up on medication right before I left the Netherlands. Unfortunately it also means that my first appointment with the surgeon will have to be postponed until I am insured again.

The worst part of this in between situation is that of feeling pulled apart by both past and future, while feeling powerless to ever reach this future. It's also not quite how I had imagined the first Christmas and New Year's for me in Germany would go. Not quite the girl with the matchsticks in the snow, but without a place of residence and the like as well as sleeping on couches at random places I feel somewhat like a vagabond. Interesting for sure, but as I noticed with last night's first real sleep, it's taking a very heavy toll on me, both physically and mentally.


Thursday, 12 December 2013

Sayonara Netherlands, And Thanks For All The Fish

So it has all worked out in the end. I have an apartment in Germany, and a colleague will in a few days drive a van to where I am staying in the Netherlands to move me and my belongings to the new place. I have a German bank account, work at a German company, go to German doctors, am insured via the German national system and pay only taxes to the German state. I'll only be Dutch as a formality, a trivial detail in my passport and other official registrations. With three years even that can change, with me switching to a German nationality. The hold which the Netherlands had over me has been broken.

It could be that I'm just over-thinking things here, but I think that matters are more complex than portrayed above. Questioning my feelings I have to admit that the thought that I'm now well and truly leaving the Netherlands to never live there again fills me with a mixture of relief, sadness, bitterness and homesickness. Of course I'm joyful that I will not have to risk my health and sanity to Dutch physicians, psychologists or politicians for that matter, but they merely represent the institute of the Netherlands. While I'm the first to admit that the average Dutch person has a lot of flaws and that the Netherlands could become a lot more relaxed, open and tolerant, I do absolutely not think that the Dutch are somehow bad people. Far from it.

While writing my autobiography I'm confronted sometimes for the first time in decades with memories and images of things I have experienced, seen and enjoyed in the part of the Netherlands where I was born and grew up. Of course I know that the way I was treated by the Dutch medical community wasn't solely to blame for that changing, as they weren't involved in my father cheating on my mother, resulting in the divorce and endless moving around the country. Yet I am aware deep inside that if I had received immediate and proper medical help in 2005 or even sooner, things would have ended up completely differently from this. In that sense I am forced to leave the country, while otherwise I would likely have stayed.

Of course I'll miss many things and I'm not sure I'll ever feel at home in this world. Maybe that explains this bitter feeling. Me, fighting and losing against the giant that is the Dutch medical system. Being crushed and tossed aside no matter how many Dutch and German judges and physicians backed me up. I never stood a chance. It's just unfair that things had to go like this.

I'm leaving the Netherlands because I am not allowed to exist there. All the truths about me as a person are actively being denied there. And I don't know why. Nobody has ever explained to me why it was necessary for Dutch physicians to treat me like this, and for psychologists to join the lynching. I feel angry and frustrated just thinking about this. The nine years they have stolen from me and the many deep emotional scars they have left me with.

I can not just cast off the Netherlands like that. Not as a whole. The problem is not the country. Just some people in it, yet that's enough, because they are Important People, and I'm just a lowly citizen. It hurts to realize that the country I never wanted to leave to begin with is where I can never return again. Not after everything which has happened. Not while the system as-is remains intact.

Hopefully that writing this autobiography and having it published in the Netherlands and maybe internationally will help me put things in order for myself emotionally at least. While I do not think that the Netherlands will change any time soon, I do really hope that my experiences and the sharing of it with a world-wide audience will do some good.

That Germany may truly become my new home.


Friday, 6 December 2013

Requiring Help; Where Hope And Terror Collide

Today I nearly managed to light myself on fire and it wasn't even the worst thing I experienced this day. The lighting on fire part was due to a fireball which formed when the gas stove I was using to cook dinner had some trouble igniting the gas. Apparently enough gas had built-up to explode outwards when it finally did ignite. It only left me with some mildly singed hairs and a fright, fortunately. Far worse than it was bursting out in tears before all this when I merely had to make some decisions about what I would have for dinner. It's testament to my fragile emotional state at this point.

In the end it can all be led back to me having a body. It being a bothersome, annoying thing which causes me endless grief. I realize this when it has to be fed like earlier. I realize it when I have to find a place for it to be put into, where it can sleep and feed and clean itself. And now that I have finally found such a place the possessions it has hoarded have to be transferred hundreds of kilometers to this new location. For this I require someone else to drive from that location (being Karlsruhe, Germany) to my current location in the Netherlands with a moving van and back again with said body and its possessions. I truly hope that I can find someone next week willing to take on this annoying task, as come Saturday next week this moving will have to take place. No ifs or buts.

Put this against the stark contrast of the details and environment of my early youth, which is the first part the autobiography I'm writing covers. Beyond the very house I was born in burning down when I was just seven months old and me getting bullied during my primary school time, it was a very carefree, happy time. It was the time where my love for science and technology comes from, and when I was given every freedom to develop myself through reading as well as through more physical activities.

In some ways it's beyond cruel that I am forcing myself to relive those happy memories next to the shambles of my current life, where I'm literally rebuilding everything from scratch, while harassed by frequent periods of depression and PTSD, such as today and yesterday. To add to this the hope that everything will be fine now is just cruel beyond words. Hope is what kept me going during the past nine years, but hope is also that which has betrayed me most often.

So too with this German surgeon I'll be visiting after I move to Germany. For me it'll mean reliving the whole nightmare again, as me as a human being will be put to the test again. Everything I believe about my body to be true can still turn out to be a lie, or so it feels. There's every chance of disappointment even if this surgeon does decide to perform the surgeon. This does also indicate why it is that I need to have this surgery performed. Not out of some sexual desire, or to complete my body or anything like that. It's purely to confront this cold terror I feel inside, which keeps whispering to me that everything I think is true is still a lie. I'm not a girl. I'm not a woman. I'm not even a sane human being. This surgery will prove it once and for all.

Of course, with the surgery a success it would mean banishing these dark spirits away forever, but to walk this road towards it is worse than to face one's own execution. It means the final battle in this war I have fought with myself since even before puberty. As I'm compiling notes for my autobiography this pattern is becoming eerily clear. From the innocent youth I gradually turn into this lost, confused and oh so very lonely person, slowly drifting away from its body as nothing makes sense any more.

My war didn't end in early 2012 as many still think. It's still raging, and I can not finish it without people to support and guide me. Even if it's with something as silly as driving a van and helping me put up curtains in my apartment.

Please help me win my war by assisting me with some household chores? *smiles* I guess that's one way to put it.


Wednesday, 4 December 2013

My Name Is Maya Posch, Author

After my appearance on the Dutch Pauw & Witteman show of November the 1st I was approached by a publisher, with the simple question of whether I intended to write down my story in book format and have it published. Having answered 'yes' to this question, I thus found myself in the train to Amsterdam yesterday, to discuss said book with this publisher. Although I'm hardly unfamiliar with the literary world, it would be the first time ever that a book of mine would actually ever get published by an actual publisher. Self-publishing such as on Scribd doesn't quite compare.

The train journey to Amsterdam itself was rather uneventful, although instead of doing actual work on my laptop I mostly found myself talking with my boss on IRC, to discuss details around the apartment I intended to rent in Karlsruhe. I definitely wasn't feeling bored during this trip with so many distractions, though I reckon the guy who was sitting behind me in one intercity train didn't agree with that judging by the heavy sawing noises heard throughout most of the journey. As usual the Dutch rail (NS) was messing things up again with track errors and shortages of trains, but this didn't prevent me from arriving in Amsterdam on time.

Finding the publisher's office wasn't hard either, being located near the central station. It mostly took me along the Singel street, which I guess is one of the better (read: more expensive) sections of central Amsterdam. Shaking off the smell of weed still stuck to my clothes after walking past two dozen coffeeshops, I arrived at the office and had to wait shortly before the publisher herself came to meet me. Walking up to her office, we settled in for a chat over a cup of tea and - in my case - a glass of water.

This chat turned into two hours during which we discussed both my story, the book, the planning, and most important of all which language to write it in. My suggestion that I would write it in English and translate it myself into Dutch once the English version became stable enough was accepted. I'm not even the first author at this publisher to do things this way, as it turned out. My thought hereby is that by writing it in English I can feel more unrestrained and natural while writing it, while also making the option of an international publication much easier, as the English-language market is one of the biggest out there. I'd not feel comfortable translating it into Japanese or German, though :)

Though no contract got signed yet, I didn't leave empty-handed. We agreed that I would start writing some sample chapters and send those in for approval by the end of January next year. I also got a chance to look at some of the other books published by them and got to take a few of these books home with me, including the newest book by Arnon Grunberg and Jan van Aken. With how many adult-oriented Dutch language books I had in my possession before yesterday (zero) it at least provides me with some nice study and reference material while I am writing my own book.

Walking back to the station after all this it was already getting dark. I decided to not follow the same route back, but instead cross the canal first and take another street back to the station. While initially this street I walked on seemed more pleasant, with much wider sidewalks and such, I quickly got a nasty surprise. Maybe the leering by the men I passed was a hint, or maybe something else tipped me off, but when the string of red windows appeared and I walked past them I realized that I was much closer to the infamous part of De Wallen - Amsterdam's Red Light district - than I had figured. It were less than ten windows total, but it did fill me with a sensation of... wrongness, as though I was seeing something which should not exist.

The first window I saw didn't even have a red light behind it when I approached it. It was some side room of a building, with windows on the side and front. Inside in harsh, white light a girl was standing in her underwear, shaking loose her hair. The room she was standing in was sterile, with tiles everywhere and a black, plastic-like 'bed' in the center. The first comparison which popped up in my head was that of an abattoir. Having seen the latter plenty of times, seeing this scene made me realize how similar both places are. In one humanity is murdered with every cow's, sheep's or pig's eyes which turn glassy as the struggling ceases. In the other humanity is murdered by reducing a thinking, breathing human being into a mere blow-up doll.

While I wouldn't call myself a rabid anti-meat activist and though I didn't become a vegetarian because of 'those poor animals', I'd be lying if I didn't say that I have never felt comfortable with seeing an animal getting killed and butchered. Similarly, the thought of what happens in those abattoirs of love and intimacy fills my mouth with bile. It's such an affront of the pretence we like to wrap around things which could be uncomfortable. Those images of happy cattle in the sunshine in stark contrast to both sides of their corpses dangling from the ceiling of an abattoir's storage room. The images of a happy couple, embracing and kissing, in stark contrast to the heavy grunting and wet sounds on top of a hygienics-approved sterile surface, cast in a red glow with nary a word or gesture of tenderness exchanged.

Makes one wonder what one would call someone who gives up on sex because of how icky it is after realizing the above, much like how someone becomes a vegetarian after seeing how cows get to suffer before they end up priced really cheap in the refrigerator of the local supermarket.

A next thought was that it would be easy for me to step inside one of those rooms and within moments lie there, grunting like that. The thought immediately following that one was that it would probably take a lot of explaining and embarrassment to let the other side figure what exactly was going on with this quaint body of mine. Not that I would ever actually attempt anything like that. To me sexuality in general and sex in particular is something I loathe and resent almost more than Dutch physicians. To me sex means pain, frustration and traumatic memories. Maybe that's why I hate seeing those red windows even more, as what I feel inside resonates with the cold, uncaring world I know exists behind them, making me even more aware of this pain inside of me.

Such thoughts pass through one's mind before reaching the station and boarding the first train home. Going online on my laptop I was greeted by my boss who told me that he had received a copy of the rental contract from the landlady of the apartment and thus I probably had too. This turned out to be the case. I told him that I would be snail mailing her the requested copies of the contract the next day. That just left me with organizing the logistics of moving a few boxes with belongings from my current location in the Netherlands to the apartment in Karlsruhe. The current idea I have and which hopefully works out is to have one of my colleagues drive a van from Karlsruhe to my location after which we can put the boxes in and after ensuring everyone is well-rested and fed, drive back to Karlsruhe.

If that works out, then I just have to get settled in my new place, find or buy the furniture, curtains etc. I still need and start the negotiations about my new job contract as I'll be living in Germany instead. Still enough things to worry about after moving, in other words, but it should mean that my new life can finally start. As a person, a woman, a developer, author and also intersex activist.

Interesting times ahead, indeed.


Saturday, 30 November 2013

Today Life Is Being A Total Pain In The Neck

Before heading to bed last night I could feel it already: the soreness on the left side of my neck, radiating down into my left shoulder. Then during the night I kept waking up from the pain. I couldn't even move my head on the pillow to shift my position without using a hand or two to support my head. Today during the day there's little difference, with shifts in my body's orientation even when trying to sit perfectly still occasionally triggering the pain in my neck/shoulder as the muscle cramps up again. In some way it's annoying, but on another hand I'm glad for the pain as it's distracting from any mental pain, which is generally worse.

Last night as I went to bed I also found myself glad for one thing, namely having bought one of those fancy emergency USB chargers. As I tried to turn on my eReader it merely sadly blinked its power LED once, shortly, to indicate that its battery charge was too low. After hooking up the emergency charger its battery charge quickly zipped back up to 40+% and beyond. The difference between charging a phone's big battery (1,500 mAh) and this eReader's (maybe 200 mAh?) was quite noticeable. I should be able to recharge my eReader using this emergency charger for about a 100 times if the indicated capacity of 11,200 mAh is correct.

Incidentally I got this emergency charger from, where I found it much cheaper (46 versus 70 Euro) than in the Netherlands at any store. So far I'm gradually getting into the habit of ordering more things from Germany as it's generally so much cheaper than the same article in the Netherlands. It makes moving there a more pleasing proposition. On which note, on Monday I sent the final information to the landlady of the place in Germany I wish to start renting next month, but haven't heard back from it yet. It's quite an agonizing wait, as I have to be moving within two weeks, or have to quickly improvise some kind of solution.

It may be why my neck and shoulder muscles are so cramped up, I guess, with so much stress. Earlier I spent some time on creating a new 'books I have read' map, replacing the old one which was destroyed by the mentally unstable ex-housemate. Since leaving the apartment in Almere I have already read a grand total of twenty-six books, mostly the remainder of the Wheel of Time series and the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett. I had to consult my agenda for the dates on which I finished reading each respective book, which took me through each week of this year so far again. It was rather... uncomfortable. Beyond the minor joyful peak at November 1st with the media attention it's been rather grim.

From court cases, the loss of all my possessions, getting my personal injury case against the VUmc gender team thrown out, rejected as a patient by the last Dutch surgeon I tried after he led me on for weeks and having to say farewell to what little part of the Netherlands I like and will be missing, it's not been emotionally easy so far. Getting the place in Germany and moving there is the last big part. I hope and pray by everything that is holy that next week I'll get confirmation that I can rent the place and will get the required help to move the week after.

Early next week there's also something new and interesting happening, in the form of an appointment with a publisher who has indicated interest in publishing a book about my life's experiences so far. An autobiography if you want. To me such a proposition is more than just an interesting thing or possible source of income. To me it represents an acknowledgement by the Dutch people that they recognize me as a person and my experiences. Bypassing the Dutch System of politicians, physicians, psychologists and other big-wigs, if I get the chance to write this book, have it published and selling well, that'd mean more to me than anyone could imagine.

Anyway, back to the last items of the day to work on, including designing the user interface for a new mobile app in Photoshop, compiling a list of formant frequencies by digging through a small mountain of scientific articles and averaging them and designing some interesting DSP filters for this speech synthesis library to make it sound a bit more... human. It's somehow very appropriate to be working on this speech synthesis library and the artificial intelligence library for another project, as they are all about making computers in a sense more human. Much like myself, really. While Pinocchio needed a fairy to become a real boy [1] and the android Data [2] strove to remove all traces of artificialness from himself by adding 'human features', it seems somewhat ironic that the way for me to truly feel and become human is through immersing myself more and more into technology.

Then again, isn't technology humanity condensed into one of its purest forms?



Friday, 29 November 2013

And So It All Comes Down To This

Last night as I was trying to fall asleep I became aware that I wasn't in any state to fall asleep, as I listened to the heavy beating of my heart, each beat heavy and pronounced. This morning the same as I'm just sitting here, with my heartbeat alternating between a regular slow rhythm and the heavy, laboured beating indicative of severe anxiety. Together with the dull headache and feelings of nausea it induces, memories of those endless hours spent in hospital waiting rooms, or awaiting the result of some test. It was a few years ago that I first became afflicted with regular and severe episodes of hyperventilation, to the point of passing out.

The general feeling I have at this very moment is one I can only describe as 'terror'. It's a level of anxiety one would associate with a group of soldiers going into battle. Any second may be fatal, without ever knowing where the danger came from. In my case it's not a bullet, but a phone call, a letter, email or such informing me of something which will yet again make my world collapse around me, same as the earth-shattering pain of getting hit by a bullet in one's leg. The pain blossoming inside your head as everything else just crumbles to dust. The whole world is pain.

It's been nine years since this war started for me, fighting what turned out to be a war against an invisible enemy. While at a glance it seemed I was going to hospitals to consult with specialists who diagnosed me, instead it was from the beginning a bitter struggle for survival. Yet every time I made a move, a counter-move was made in the form of another assault on the core of my resistance. I was mistaken in my struggle, I was deluding myself, they were trying to help me, but I needed to stop resisting. It was all in my head, but they would help me get better.

The German reinforcements in the form of diagnostics which supported my theory that I do not have a biological male body were brushed aside. Inside the Netherlands only Dutch medical law and diagnostics count. Thus the war continued, year after year. As my mental health kept degrading the enemy didn't relent but pushed forward. Every hospital I went to in the Netherlands may have come up with a different diagnostics, but they all pushed me towards accepting that I was nothing but a boy, a conclusion which went in against everything I knew about my own body.

It was a futile war, which I had to flee from in the end. The irony is that right next to the repressive country of the Netherlands are a number of liberal countries where I would have had support right from the beginning, avoiding war altogether. Why didn't I see this before? Hind sight is 20/20, as they say. It's what makes remembering things so incredibly painful. If only things had been done differently.

Not that the Dutch physicians, politicians and psychologists don't deserve most if not all of the blame. They are working in a system which systematically denies and eradicates anyone who isn't 'normal', after all. Despite nine years of requesting help, lobbying and anything else I could think of - requiring me to relive all my experiences up to that point over and over - it was all futile. I don't see the Netherlands changing at all, if ever. I'm glad I have filed this discrimination complaint against my health insurance company as maybe it will lead to something, but in the end it's just another sign of the tragedy that is human rights for minorities in the Netherlands. It should never have been needed in a free and tolerant society.

This year will be the brutal conclusion to my time in the Netherlands. Being forced to restart everything from scratch in terms of money and possessions, in addition to seeing my final chance at seeing justice done or questions answered burned to the ground. I'll forever be left with the questions of why I had to be treated like this, even if I know rationally that discrimination and racism are never based on sound reasoning, but unfounded, emotional responses. I must have appeared to the Dutch physicians as a freak, something they had to 'fix' as soon as possible, in the only way they could think of.

I honestly would prefer to stop thinking about the how and why of the past nine years. It's all been so horrific. Much like how a war veteran prefers not to recall those images of too many battlefields and their horrors, so too would I prefer to forget about it. It's what leads me to avoid anything on the top of gender, intersex and related. While I do not hate my body, I still can not live with how society has treated and continues to treat me. To watch a documentary or read an article on the topic therefore is impossible, as it is merely a way for me to relive the nightmare. I hate intersex because of society. It has traumatized me in ways I am not even aware of, but which I'll surely find out in the coming years, same as the Vietnam veterans for whom the true nightmare only started years after they got back home.

I hope that I can get some real PTSD therapy once I'm in Germany, or at the very least find myself in an environment in which I can learn to deal with it. Maybe that way I can finally learn to put this war behind me, forget about the battlefields of the Netherlands and allow myself to let the memories of the horrors I have seen and experienced fade away. I'd like to feel like a human being again.


Tuesday, 26 November 2013

The Stresses From Earning A Wage

Part of my move to Germany is a change from a freelancer contract for the company I work for to a regular contract. The freelancer contract was a good option earlier this year because a regular contract for an employee which does not live in the same country as the company he or she works for is a near-impossibility. This is one area where the European Union still needs to break down a lot of barriers. Switching to a regular contract has a few advantages for me, including automatically being part of the Krankenkasse, the universal social healthcare system for everyone who lives and works in Germany and of course having a fixed, infinite duration contract. For me it does bring with it a lot of stress too, though, mostly due to previous experiences.

At my previous job - in the Netherlands - the first disappointing thing was that although the job was specified as having a pre-taxes wage of 3,200 I'd only be getting 2,900 with no indication of when this might change. I started off with an initial 1-month contract as well during which time I had to prove myself. This left me with nearly 2,000 Euro a month after taxes, with which I had to pay for the apartment I was renting plus utilities for a cool 1,000 a month, leaving me with another thousand to feed myself and pay for anything else. Salient detail was also that I started with almost no money to my name, forcing me to borrow money from friends and acquaintances just so that I could work.

Even ignoring the stresses of living in the same apartment with a mentally unstable person, it wasn't a very pleasant time. It showed me just how much influence an employer can have over an employee, especially when the latter does not have any significant savings. Saying 'no' to anything means jeopardizing your job and thus risking having a place to live. That I decided to say 'no' to the year contract they unexpectedly wished to offer me at the end, after months of telling me that I needed to improve myself - even though I was severely struggling with everything life was throwing at me - was mostly due to longing for the freedom I felt I had lost.

Getting up while it's still dark outside, travelling to the office and only travelling back when it's already dark outside, feeling your life slipping away. Having to fight and struggle to schedule something resembling a life next to the #1 priority of work. It made me wonder whether I was working so that I could live, or that I was living so that I could work. I managed to make ends meet somehow every month, but could build up no savings. When I started at my current job at Synyx I had a negative balance on my primary bank account and with all of my meagre savings I had built up as a teenager already vaporized. I'm not sure how things would have gone if I had not gotten this job. In a sense it's saved my life.

And yet there's nothing I loathe more than to be dependent on someone else just to exist. In switching contract types such as now it galls me to have to negotiate the height of my wage, as I quite recall how it feels to negotiate from a position of no power. Accept what we offer you, or face the consequences, basically. Not that I'm saying that this is what will happen here, but as my mind works such that it will always consider and analyze every single possibility this all does cause me undue stress. It's why any form of uncertainty takes such a heavy toll on me.

Though I do not like 'certainty' in a job either. What I like about software engineering is the large amounts of creativity involved which naturally lead to irregular and hard to predict work schedules and outcomes. I thrive on engineering solutions to fundamental problems. R&D is something I have always been very interested in. Sadly R&D is generally also quite expensive. My FPGA hobby, for example, just isn't working out so far, as any decent FPGA kit is a few thousand Euro and building your own kit from scratch (PCB, FPGA and other components) together with all the required equipment (oscilloscopes, logic analyzers, etc.) isn't cheap either. Then there's the 'time' component. R&D rarely makes you money, and neither does a hobby, even if it does learn one valuable skills.

It's one reason why I intend to keep doing freelance work as well, as the projects I keep getting via that way often contain interesting challenges, such as one app I'm working on for a client which has to perform audio analysis using a Fourier Transform algorithm and the VST plug-ins for PC software which also do various types of DSP. The more challenging the work, the greater my motivation, you could say. Even as a child I could never be happy with doing anything small: where others built a small, leaky hut, I built a large shed with properly functioning windows, wind-proof and insulated where someone could comfortably live in. These days I'm aiming to develop a better-than-human artificial intelligence after first tackling speech synthesis and related subjects. I have many other big projects like that, all of which I'd love to work on.

It really makes me wonder whether it's actually possible in these times to combine the apparent need to make a living with the drive to be an inventor. In how far can boundless creativity sustain a person, or is it just a liability, dooming a person to feel forever unhappy? What I do know if there's one company where I can both earn a good wage and still be free to develop myself as a person, it's at a place such as Synyx; businesses which realize that employees are living, breathing beings with their own dreams and goals instead of mere cogs to be slotted into the machine. Here's to me getting over the bad job experiences I suffered so far in the Netherlands.


Discrimination Case Against Unive Not At An End Yet

Yesterday I had the hearing at the College voor de Rechten van de Mens (Human Rights Institute) in Utrecht against my health insurance company Unive for discrimination against intersex individuals. Not too much can be said about the hearing other than that after I summarized the essence of the matter, we just kept spinning in circles as the guy representing Unive could not say why they wouldn't fully cover this hair-removal therapy for an intersex person while they do so for transsexuals. In the end it all came down to that their medical adviser had initially said that it should be like this, then CVZ (the organization representing all Dutch health insurance companies) had released their view on the matter, also limiting coverage to transsexuals.

As the members of the institute who were represented at the hearing correctly mentioned neither Unive nor CVZ ever explained their reasoning behind the exclusion of intersex. With the situation being virtually identical from a legal and medical perspective, it'd be hard to argue for such an exclusion anyway. Both concern the transition from a male to a female role and both involve a higher-than-female level of testosterone which resulted in beard growth (which never goes away on its own) prior to a medical procedure which removed the source of the excess testosterone. The presence of this beard growth is thus regarded by the relevant Dutch healthcare law (2.4) as a 'verminking' (disfiguration) and full coverage to have it removed by a professional is provided.

This matter will now be taken to a higher level as the institute will query CVZ for their reasoning behind this decision to limit this law to just transgenders despite it being an open law. Depending on the response another hearing may be schedule at a later date. At any rate this matter can't be put to rest just yet. It is conceivable that even the Dutch Minister of Health (Edith Schippers) may have to justify or clarify certain matters here. At this point it seems that the claim of discrimination based on gender is well and truly justified here and thus a direct violation of the very first article in the Dutch constitution.

For me it would definitely help to get this discrimination acknowledged and possibly be reimbursed for the money I should have received back from Unive. This too was a question during the hearing, namely how much money I had spent beyond the 200-300/year Unive had covered from the extended insurance. This amount came down to over 6,000 Euro in about 6 years time, or over a thousand Euro a year.

I do hope that this Human Rights Institute can provide some measure of justice here, so that I can at least regain some of my trust in the Dutch justice system after my case against the VUmc gender team got thrown out by the medical disciplinary commission earlier this month.


Sunday, 24 November 2013

Tomorrow's Hearing Against Unive For Discrimination

Tomorrow, November the 25th, I'll be part of a hearing against my health insurance company, Unive [1], at the College voor de Rechten van de Mens (Human Rights Institute) [2] in Utrecht, the Netherlands. It'll be the last attempt I'll be making at any kind of justice in the Netherlands after finding that the psychological and physical torture by the Amsterdam VUmc gender team are deemed to be perfectly fine, according to the medical disciplinary commission. As this is a public hearing, anyone is welcome to attend it. The hearing will start at 13.00 hours.

This particular case involves the discrimination of Unive against me through its refusal to fully cover the hair-removal therapy I'm forced to undergo after my transition from a male to a female role due to my intersex condition, and the need to remove facial hair as a logical implication of this. As Dutch law has nothing explicitly pertaining intersex individuals, the relevant part which would necessitate full coverage would be found in the specified conditions, which among others involves facial hair-removal and its full coverage for male to female transsexuals.

Unive's position is a bit unclear. They seem to hold multiple positions, including that a) they won't cover it because I'm not transgender, and b) it's not proven that I'm intersex (referring to the Dutch hospitals' conclusions). SKGZ previously concluded in 2012 already that there is no specific clause on intersex individuals in Dutch law when it comes to healthcare coverage, and thus a comparable situation should be sought. My lawyer in this case, Yme Drost, has also concluded at this concerns discrimination by Unive.

Personally I'd be very interested in seeing how Unive wishes to weasel itself out of the above comparison I made between a transgender and intersex transition whereby facial hair-removal is a necessity to fit into the new role. For me at stake are recognition of this discrimination by Unive as well as over 6,000 Euro of unpaid costs which should have been covered. Unfortunately it'll take this institute about half a year to finalize their conclusion and they can not force Unive to accept their ruling. It would however make it very hard for Unive to ignore justice in this case.



Friday, 22 November 2013

Like A Midsummer Night's Dream

As a child I regularly browsed through my father's bookshelves in search of something interesting to read. Thus I came across quite a fair bit of what would be called advanced (adult) literature, including the works of Jan Wolkers, an (in)famous Dutch writer with a very distinct style and no interest in sticking to that which society considered to be 'proper'. His works and those of others still stick in my mind, having shaped me as a person from a young age. Most of these stories portrayed a very raw view of life, showing the highs of all that life has to offer but also the depths of decadence and decay, moving from sexual attraction to rage, from exultation to festering sickness, from the heights of passion to slow and agonizing death. They were both tantalizing and revolting, often at the same time.

One work of which I sadly do not recall the author or the exact title is essentially a modern variation on Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream, which is in its bare essence an exploration of love and relationships. The author of this work took this core and made it an exploration of sexuality for a teenage boy, yet not in any way in a happy fashion. Without ever revealing which is the dream and which is the waking world the main character finds himself primarily in this world where he is the new owner of a mansion, which is being managed by a woman and her daughters. Little explanation is required for the love, passion and raw lust which forms there. Yet it's not what makes the story interesting.

At the height of any form of joy or pleasure the world around the main character begins to ripple and distort, with everything turning an ashen grey as voices vanish into a void, leaving him lying underneath the filthy blankets of a creaky bed, surrounded by the dirty, water-stained wallpaper on the walls of his tiny room. There are no sounds beyond a shrill whistling and that of his sobs. Thus the story moves between these two realities. These two dreams or nightmares, without ever truly waking up from either.

I'm reminded of this due to my current situation. The closer and more real the dream of a joyful life in Germany becomes, the stronger these ripples and distortions became, threatening to rip me out of the dream and putting me into a nightmare. Today my German boss went to view the apartment which I'll hopefully be renting come next month. After talking with him about it and seeing the videos and photos he made I'm feeling very positive about it. The thought of being surrounded by people who all care about me and with whom I could actually do fun things like going to events or hiking or... anything, it's something I have never quite experienced. Like a dream.

To someone who has never truly experienced the depths of true hell it's hard to imagine the immense dissonance which can exist between two realities. Recall the story of The Little Match Girl [1] and how she loses herself in her final happy dream. Reality is a relative thing and our feelings and memories are always there to betray and deceive us. It's what makes the story of the match girl so bitter-sweet. Had she been taken in by a family like in her dream it would have stopped being a dream and left unanswered the eternal question which one is left with after the final 'and she lived happily ever after'. Being whether it truly was happy and in the end she'd die anyway. Less tragically no doubt, but still.

Back on topic, I do not think that this flipping between realities is something which vanishes easily. I doubt somehow that even after I have been living in Germany for a year I won't still have times when I'm pulled back into the nightmare again, being forced to face everything in my life which I'd desperately like to forget or cause to stop existing. Like how the light causes shadows, so too will the nightmare never vanish. In the end neither reality is more real or fake than the other. They're just two extreme sides to the same reality.



Thursday, 21 November 2013

The End Of Justice In The Netherlands

Today I received two items from my personal damages lawyer's office: one massive parcel containing my medical archive as I had lost part of it when the psycho ex-housemate destroyed it along with most of my belongings. The other was an email with the PDF attachments of the rulings of the medical disciplinary commission on each of the four physicians and psychologists. The medical archive is filled by report after report by Dutch medical specialists and the like on why I can not be intersex and why I'm actually an oddly behaving transgender. It also contains the German reports containing the conclusive reports by three independent German medical teams that I am in fact intersex, based on a variety of examinations and a surgery. It shows the clear madness of the past nine years during which I have searched for my identity.

The ruling by the medical disciplinary commission is the final evidence I needed that I have made a capital mistake in not abandoning the search for help from the Dutch side sooner. In every of the four cases they have rejected all of the points on which those four individuals of the VUmc gender team could have been punished. This leaves me with virtually no further recourse in the Netherlands, legally speaking. Appealing this decision is quite futile, as the central disciplinary commission in Utrecht is unlikely to change this ruling. This means no acknowledgement that Dutch physicians were wrong on any point during my treatment the past nine years. It also means no compensation, financially or otherwise.

I'm not even angry at this point any more. It is what I more or less expected. All physicians in the Netherlands so far have covered each other, blindly repeating the same lies and attempting to complete the brainwashing of me. It should come as no surprise that this medical commission would do the same. That the German medical world and the Dutch justice system disagreed with their assessment couldn't phase them in the slightest. I have no idea why they had to lie to me for those nine years and hurt me in so many ways, not in the least by wasting nearly a decade of my life on something so ultimately futile and pointless.

Next month I'll be moving to Germany. There I will go to this surgeon who has seen my medical file, agreed to the previous conclusions on the MRI scans as well as the exploratory surgery and will hopefully be performing the reconstructive surgery on my female side as soon as early next year. With that I'll have the medical side of my search finished, leaving me as a virtually perfect natural hermaphrodite. For the first time in my life I could allow myself to feel happy. It's such a stark contrast with how things were and are in the Netherlands.

Let hereby the lie that the Netherlands is in any way progressive or tolerant be shattered for eternity. Any country where the medical profession is so ignorant and the political system so apathetic when it comes to issues like these doesn't deserve any of these labels. All it takes for me to see how things should be done is to look just over the border in Germany where since 2007 I have had only positive and useful experiences with German physicians and surgeons. Where in the Netherlands I got treated as... a number? A freak? An annoyance? What exactly? In Germany I got treated consistently as a human being, with all of my questions and worries answered and eased.

I still feel like an idiot for not realizing sooner that the Netherlands as a country and institution is hell incarnate for anyone who isn't 'normal' by the sickeningly narrow definitions employed by its elite. With less than a month to go until I bid farewell to the Netherlands I can honestly say that nothing would cheer me up more at this point than to be able to swap my Dutch passport for a German one. I'm ashamed and humiliated that I'm still able to call myself a Dutch citizen.

I wasn't born into the wrong body, I was simply born into the wrong country.


Wednesday, 20 November 2013

On Responding To People Mentioning Suicide

I'm not a stranger to suicide. I have been on both sides of the fence, talking to friends and acquaintances who were right there on the edge, trying to somehow find a way that they can find their way back to the road of life. The other side found me ready to terminate my life in any way possible. I won't go into graphic detail here because I do not wish to traumatize anyone or bring back any unpleasant memories for those who have been there. Just take it from me that I know what suicide entails, to the point of directly experiencing it on multiple occasions (and failing at it, apparently).

In my previous blog post I described some of my recent dreams involving suicide, in addition to mentioning the thoughts about suicide which keep haunting me during the day. I also express how gladly I wish that these thoughts would just vanish so that I can focus on living, instead of figuring out efficient ways to kill this body I inhabit. I mention that it'd be ironic if I were to commit suicide to escape these thoughts about suicide.

The responses to this post were, frankly, astounding but not unexpected. The suggestions that I should see a psychologist, or sympathy for me having trouble with being intersex, despite that not being the issue at all, it was all there. It reminded me a lot of back in 2011 when I was downright suicidally depressed with everything seemingly lost. People would often talk to me, offer a listening ear, or refer me to certain specialists and techniques which were sure to help me. The one thing virtually none of them ever did was to address the actual issue.

When I talked with those friends who were ready to commit suicide I didn't dismiss them as easily like that. I listened to what they said, but I asked the questions which would allow me to figure out what the underlying reasons were. In one case it was an undiscovered intersex (XXY) condition. After discovery this friend became a totally different person. Her life wasn't suddenly roses and sunshine after that, but at least the sore spot had been found and dealt with.

The whole point of dealing with suicidal people is to find out why it is that they're suicidal and fix that. The important thing is to take it seriously, but don't call in or refer to external parties. What they desire is intimacy, a place where they can shelter for a moment with someone who they know and explore the intense pain until its source has been found. To ensure that they will falter and fall is to dismiss their complaints (refer them) or suggest a treatment for the symptoms (medication, meditation, etc.). When a suicidal person comes to you for help, that means that they trust you and you can not fail them. Ever.

With the survival instinct of a human being so strong, it takes something extraordinarily to push an individual to the point where he or she will consider self-termination to be a viable option. This isn't something where meditation, breathing techniques or any psychologist or psychiatrist is going to help. When I was heavily suicidal I found that practically nobody understood what it was that troubled me. Some would express their sympathy for my situation, often evoking tears on my side, but in the end it didn't matter. I felt alone and by asking for help I just got further confirmation that I was alone with nobody understanding my plight.

Do I feel understood at this point? Slightly more than back then, sure. Do I still feel alone and often misunderstood? Most definitely. I can not describe or in any way make clear how horrifically difficult and traumatic it is for me to go through this relocation to Germany. Even though I loathe the Netherlands as a country and institution it still pains me to leave it. Even though I like the location where I'm moving to I can barely keep up with pushing away the memories which keep overlaying my thoughts. Memories of the time when I was moving to a place I forced myself to like but which ultimately resulted in me nearly succeeding with my suicide attempt. Memories of previous humiliations, failures and feeling out of place.

When I can already see myself there in Germany during the first night alone in my new place, being all miserable and crying because it all feels so wrong, I can not possibly feel happy or joyful at things, even if I keep telling myself that it won't be like that. I can not convince myself. I'm just me, after all.

What I need... what would help ease my fears would be others showing me that it won't be like that. That they're just silly fears as they take them away. That things which have repeatedly happened in my past won't have to happen again. While I can conceivably wrestle through this all myself it'd be far less... agonizing with a helping hand or two. Not that I'd want to force anyone to do so, mind you. Help not provided out of free will is worse than no help at all.

That said, I have today conceded that I won't be finding a house to rent in the Karlsruhe area any time soon. I'm now looking for just an affordable place in the same region. Just getting to Germany has the top priority. Looking for a house, although important too, is not important enough to kill myself over.

This post written to 'Pictures of You' by The Cure.


Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Devastated By Suicide

Last night I used a length of rope to make a noose, put it around a beam and the noose around my neck. I kicked away my support. I was suffocating. It hurt so much. I pushed with my hands against the beam until so much strain was put onto the thin rope that it snapped. I fell onto the floor, gasping for air.

A few nights before this one I was looking at a mass of spikes, up-right, like a forest of death. I was standing near it, some distance above it. I walked to the edge, looked at the spikes and allowed myself to drop down onto them. As the spikes pierced my body things suddenly went black.

Many other suicides I probably do not remember any more. I'm sick of having to deal with these nightmares almost every night. I don't know how long I can take it any more. Committing suicide to stop thinking and dreaming about suicide, how is that for irony?

I'm still unable to focus at this moment, though it's been hours since I got up. All that seems to resonate within my head are these memories of experiences which never happened and yet which seem so real, combined with similar memories which are real. Brushing my hair and taking care of my skin, moments before taking an overdose of sleeping pills with some water. Passing out without realizing it.

I don't know what's happening with me at this point that killing myself is the only thing I seem to be able to dream and think of any more. I do know that I'm not going to get out of this on my own. Doing things myself got me this far, but there's no path beyond this point. None that I can see at least.


Monday, 18 November 2013

Restless Nights

As I went to bed last night I thought I felt relatively relaxed, yet after I finished reading a few more chapters in my current book (Discworld series, FYI) and turned off the light, uneasy thoughts began to swirl through my mind. From worries and fears regarding finding a place to live in Germany to possessions lost and the fear induced by the psychopathic former housemate, to uncertainty and worries about the ruling by the medical disciplinary commission this week. After a few minutes of this my heart was pounding in my chest and I was feeling restless and uneasy.

Turning onto my back I just felt like crying from exhaustion. It still didn't feel fair that I'd have to go through all this, and I still can not think of any reason why I should go through it. All of these struggles, having to prove myself over and over again, facing ridicule and scepticism over and over again. Not being able to ever get a decent night's sleep has got to be one of the worst parts of it. This night, too, I'd keep drifting in and out of consciousness, experiencing nightmare after nightmare.

This morning I awoke, feeling mostly numb. I'll have to get through this all again somehow. Yet not today, it appeared. Logging onto the company IRC I found that the colleague who I needed to talk to about about any updates on this one house she is liaising for me was sick and absent today. The rest of the day I'd thus spend working as well as possible. I still have the cold bothering me, but I reckon that the general feeling of exhaustion due to constantly feeling stressed is worse than any cold.

Tomorrow I'll be heading to a local beauty salon for what should be one of the last times that I'll undergo the hair-removal therapy in the Netherlands, if not the very last time. Related to it, I'm having a public hearing at the College voor de Rechten van de Mens (Human Rights Institute) [1] on November the 25th, regarding the discrimination of my insurance company - Unive - for refusing to cover this hair-removal therapy due to them not recognizing the similarities between a transgender and intersex person in this case and therefore refusing to fully cover the therapy.

The week after it I'm having an appointment with my publisher, to discuss the details of my first to-be-published book. The week after that I hope to be moving to Germany. Assuming I can get this one house I mentioned earlier, I'd still have to bridge a few months until I can actually move into it. Some temporary solution will be needed regardless, it seems. It'd be so much easier if I could just move to Germany in that week regardless of further details and take care of matters from there. Whether that means staying at someone else's place, temporarily renting something (expensive and not entirely practical) or some other solution, it would mean that I can at least have an official place of residence again and thus finalize matters with the Dutch tax office, my health insurance company (due to changing countries) and others. I'd also be able to go ahead with visiting this German surgeon to hopefully arrange the surgery.

Again, I'm left completely out of my league there and wouldn't know where to start, especially not with only a brief three weeks left.

And thus the restless nights continue.



Sunday, 17 November 2013

Interview For German Radio And A Bad Cold

Once again my apologies if I seem somewhat unclear or unfocused in the following text. Since waking up this morning I have been afflicted with a bad cold, translating into a very sore throat, stuffed feeling and a general lack of focus. Yesterday morning I already had the sore throat to some extent, but didn't think much of it. I was more concerned with the interview I would be having later that day, this one for a science story regarding intersex on the German radio channel Deutsche Welle. This one will be broadcast in January next year, on the one year anniversary of the 'undetermined gender' law being signed into law in Germany.

While a severe abdominal pain after starting after breakfast that morning had me question my ability to perform the interview, it fortunately passed after about an hour, fading into a mere nagging pain. Upon arrival of the journalist, a stately lady with a fantastic control of her (British) English and German, the interview soon started. While the journalist stayed for about three hours, the interview itself took maybe an hour, due to her profound interest in the subject matter.

What she wanted to know of me were the biological and other technical details of my condition, the way physicians had handled this and my future plans. We also went in-depth on the implications of this German law and explored the ignorance on the matter of intersex in the general populace. An interesting point she raised is that in virtually all spell-checkers used on computers around the world, the word 'hermaphrodite' is recognized, but 'intersex' isn't, as an indication of how unknown this word is, despite the conditions it covers being so incredibly common.

After the interview, during an interesting discussion which followed it, she mentioned a Dutch physician who she will be interviewing at a later point for this story as well. This physician is connected to the Sophia Children's Hospital, itself part of the Erasmus MC, the very same hospital I went to in 2008 on multiple occasions, but where I was rejected as 'not intersex and thus not relevant to them'. I had not seen or heard of this physician until yesterday. Whether he is actually a reasonable person to talk about intersex with I thus do not know, but I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.

One point I had to discuss as well was that of this physician's use of the acronym 'DSD' [1], which stands for 'Disorder of Sex Development', a to most intersex individuals a highly offensive term, as it designates us as having a disorder. Considering that 'disorder' is medically defined as "a disruption of normal physical or mental functions" (Oxford Dictionary, 10th edition) and virtually all people with an intersex condition suffer no such disruption and 'normal' left up for major debate, most of us have a built-in warning system whenever anyone uses the term.

Naturally, it benefits one to give someone the benefit of the doubt, as they may simply not know any better. To me and others it's however extremely hard to take any person seriously who uses such an offensive term. Fortunately the journalist understood this and she will not use the term DSD but instead the neutral 'intersex'. As a person of Asian descent she has come across many similar insults relating to her own appearance, something which sparked another interesting debate. I'm really looking forward to the results of this interview now when the story is broadcast and published.

A less happy thing to happen yesterday is that I finally learned the deadline for when I have to move: the second week of December. Around that week those at whose house I'm staying will be moving as well, leaving me without any realistic options. I will have to do my best to arrange something this week. I'll have to get over my fears and ask my colleagues for updates so that something - anything - can be arranged this month. It's already taken too long to find this place in Germany. If I am unable to find a house, I'll have to just move into a flat or something like it.

It's harder for me to make that decision than you'd assume. The reason for this is connected to the upcoming third anniversary of my first proper suicide attempt, in January of 2011. Back then I couldn't stay at the place where I was living any more either and had to find something quickly an on short notice. It was a horrific time and pushed me finally over the edge to attempt suicide. I'm still not sure I am happy about waking up hours later in the hospital. Faced with an in many ways eerily similar situation is bringing back many horrific memories and thoughts of that period. I'd want to urge anyone who can help me find that place in Karlsruhe or Karlsruhe Area to please do so. I know it's a lot to ask, but this should be the last major thing I'll ever have to ask from you or others.

I just want to be happy that I didn't die back then, nearly two years ago.



Friday, 15 November 2013

Who I Am; Chasing That Fairy Tale

Every person has a personality. That's after all how a person is defined. Since we don't wish to create a recursive dependency we therefore say that a person is the culmination of a collection of skills and experiences, i.e. a personality. Add to this an intelligence capable of reasoning and voilĂ . I think, therefore I am. But what am I?

Personalities generally tend to fall apart into broad categories without any major distinctions between any number of personalities. One is a tad more of category #54, the other a bit more from #34 and #21. After over 7 billion permutations of all possible categories and associated strengths there's not a lot of uniqueness right there. This results in only the most exceptional ones still showing up in the thronging masses, either through exceptional skill, experiences or a combination of both.

As far as my own personality goes, I guess I'd qualify for both. I have experienced things which aren't very common and I'm gifted with the ability to rapidly make any skill my own. In the past I have on occasion received praise for my skills, particularly in the area of creative writing. Most recently I have received recognition for my set of experiences, as the international media has discovered me as an expert on the topic of intersex and associated topics. Currently I receive acknowledgement of my skills via my work as a software developer, but I also work on a number of rather exceptional projects.

Most of my days have a reassuring regularity. I get up around 7 AM, go downstairs, eat breakfast (2 slices of bread with tea), do work, have lunch (2-4 slices of bread with tea), do work, have dinner (various, but vegetarian), do more work, go to bed. One could say that since high school when I first got my own computer most of my life has revolved around computers. To me they're the representation of a universe and world where I can do anything, think anything and be anything. To thus spend most of my time in front of a computer is to me perfectly normal.

Part of this regularity also has to do with the stressful nature of my life from a young age, no doubt. As the eternal social reject and ever feeling like the ugly, clumsy kid, I never got much self-confidence and I still don't have it, really. There is still far too much stress and uncertainty in my life for that to be the case. Talking just about my body, for one. It's still hard for me to accept on an emotional level that I am in fact a hermaphrodite. Without that last surgery to restore the female side I don't think I can ever come to accept it. Every day this painful uncertainty, doubt and resulting self-loathing continues.

Beyond my body there is that of general acceptance by my environment. On primary school I was the odd one out and got bullied a lot while never making any friends. I felt dumb and useless. Beyond reading lots of books very quickly I didn't seem to have any particular skills. During HS I finally got the first real recognition of one of my skills through a writing competition, where I easily won the competition with a story which 'could have been written by an adult', as the jury put it. These days I know that I'm apparently good at writing and programming, because people tell me so. It's still hard for me to believe, though.

What I'm mostly used to from a young age is bracing for the next blow. Getting bullied a lot, including getting kicked off my bicycle, ridiculed by a large group of fellow students, ignored during PE classes when picking groups and being made to feel fat and ugly. After HS I thus didn't feel like doing anything involving a study any more. Then during the latter phase of my life being told by physicians, psychologists and the Dutch Minister of Health herself that I'm basically a whining brat who is seeing things who aren't there and is probably suffering from delusions or worse.

Every time I find myself looking forward to something fun, or talking about something which would really improve my life, I feel this sense of certain doom creep over me. The only certainty in my life is that I'll suffer more pain until I can take it no more. I'm not even talking about just one's current situation, because compared to, say, a year ago my current situation has quite improved. It's just that all the pain, uncertainty and frustration I have felt since I was a child aren't gone. Now that I have reached a point where it's all coming together in this media attention, the writing of my book and my long-awaited departure from the country which has hosted my torturing for all these decades, it's all coming to the surface.

I can't say I haven't slept well in months now. For the past weeks I find myself waking up every night with my heart racing and my thoughts a jumble. The nightmares - when I can remember them - are becoming more life-like and horrific, to the point where they're more and more merging with the waking day. I try not to give into it too much, but it's getting to the point where I can only properly distinguish between being awake and asleep by whether I am feeling tired and longing for a real night's sleep or not.

Meanwhile I see the preparations around me at the place where I am currently staying for the move as the house is put up for sale. Just another month at most, maybe. I thought I could get that house in Germany before then, but at this point I can no longer fight the thought that it's all failed. Yet again the feeling of failure and rejection, resulting in this horrible feeling of depression which leads to tears from terror and desperation as that silken voice keeps urging me to finally give up on this futile attempt to get that life which is only achievable by normal people. Not born freaks like me. Suffering is what I deserve, and a lonely death.

Part of me wonders whether I simply asked for too much when I looked for that house in Germany and shouldn't have settled for a small flat somewhere, the paranoid part questions the help I was said I'd receive in finding it. Another part simply curls up and cries while lamenting the excruciating pain of merely existing. All that goes on inside my head as I just run through the daily routines and try to pretend that I'm not on the verge of breaking down mentally. I'm totally fine, really. See, I'm smiling. Nothing the matter with me. I'm doing my job. I'm even making a difference in the world now. There's no resonance of anything I say inside of me. There's just the dark abyss of despair that this is the end of me. This personality.

One of the projects I'm currently working on for my company, Nyanko, is a speech synthesis algorithm, based on linear predictive coding (LPC), also known as the source-filter model of speech production. It ties in quite well with another project I'm working on for an American company which uses the Discrete Fourier Transform (DFT). The speech model employed by humans to produce speech - glottis, vocal tract, lips - is quite basic and yet fascinating in its simplicity. It fills me with a great deal of satisfaction and joy to be working on such projects, which also includes a 3D model synthesis tool and an advanced AI model.

Nothing would please me more than to be able to work on such projects every single day. Yet the truth right now is that I lack the energy and ability to do much outside this daily routine, forcing me to rely fully on salvation being offered from Germany. For someone like me who always disliked being dependent on others, it's just another source of stress. I wish I could hope for a good outcome here, but I don't see it happening. Escaping from the Netherlands is a fairy tale for me. Always was, always will be.

Just another month...


Monday, 11 November 2013

On Sluts And Hermaphroditic Sexuality

On the first of November I was a guest in the Dutch talk show Pauw & Witteman. One of the guests there was Sunny Bergman, who wrote a book about sluts, how they're being regarded and what it takes to be seen as a 'slut' by one's environment. As the topic of gender comes into play here I was asked by one of the hosts - Pauw - about how I experienced this drive to have sex considering that I have both male and female genitals, also whether I do experience a kind of conflict between these two sides.

What I answered then was that yes, I do experience things from both a male and female perspective. I can most definitely imagine having sex as either, leading me to believe that just having either type of genitals will lead one to have the associated thoughts and desires. What I didn't get to expand upon in the limited time of the show were the details of this as well as my views on what a 'slut' truly is.

Although I have never had the full male testosterone levels - levelling out at only about a quarter - I do remember that before I began taking the testosterone blockers, which reduced this level to a female level, I had far more trouble dealing with sexual urges. If I try to imagine what I felt back then in terms of sexual urges and multiply it by four times that, I'm frankly more surprised that men who are subject to such urges are still able to function. I'd more or less expect them to revert back to cave men, incapable of speech and other higher brain functions.

That, I feel, is the primary reason why men are so quick to think that 'more sex is better', as their whole being is tuned towards accepting it as such. Those men who take a more nuanced view of sexuality are rare and far between. I'd speculate that general intelligence levels determine here how well one can handle these nuances, but since that would likely get me into a highly controversial mess, I'll refrain from doing so :)

So, then what is a 'slut'? One requirement for this seems to be that one behaves and/or dresses 'slutty', which seems to mean without any sense of decency. Wearing revealing clothing and touching oneself and/or others in a suggestively sexual manner would suffice here. Having sexual contact with many partners then would come in as a less important, secondary requirement, possibly even optional. Seems clear-cut enough. The more interesting question here is really why one would wish to behave in such a manner. What is the gain or benefit?

Looking at the primary gain of such behaviour is a lot of attention, even if it's all focused on the physical and sexual. One can then deduce from this that the person behaving in such an indecent manner craves attention - any type - to fill up an emotional void. For this void many causes can exist. I'll refrain from quoting or paraphrasing Freud here. Simply put, however, it implies a flaw in one's psyche, generally due to a lack of something in one's upbringing or environment, or possibly traumatic events. There's also the possibility of group pressure forcing someone with low self-esteem into such behaviour. Low self-esteem is generally a high risk factor for many types of harmful behaviour.

I'm not afraid to admit that for a brief while I was a slut as well by this definition. In my case it was the uncertainty about my body's configuration which led me to trust certain people too much, leading to me getting raped. That traumatic event was the trigger for a period of about a year during which I behaved in a manner of which I am currently anything but proud. I understand why it happened, but I really wish it never had. I have previously blogged about this and this blog starts with the last section of that period. After many talks with this older woman who had relevant experience I was able to far better understand my behaviour and realize this hole I had inside of me.

That realization didn't save me from suffering more psychological damage during years following it, though. If anything I suffered more sexual trauma in the following years. It has driven me to a place where I am pretty much the very opposite of a 'slut', however. I do not involve myself with any type of lewd or indecent behaviour. I abhor sexuality and consider relationships to be something which should not be shown off to the outside world. I realize that much of my feelings of disgust towards these topics are due to my traumas and that it'll take years for these to heal somewhat, but that's fine. These traumas will keep me safe, preventing me from ever being used and abused in such a manner again.

This then kind of brings me to the related topic of what a 'normal' sexuality looks like for someone who has an everything but regular body. Truth to be told, I have always found male and female bodies to be quite... odd. As though there's something wrong with them, that they're misshapen or missing something. I'm really not sure how this works, but what I do know is that in terms of sexual attractiveness at least for me a body like mine would come in first place. A female shaped body, with both male and female genitals. A female body comes close, but there's a big part missing. The male body... on some level I can understand the sexual attractiveness for it and even feel it, but it's a definite third place for me.

Maybe that part of this preference is born from trauma. After all the hermaphroditic shape is what I am most familiar with and which is the most comforting. Does that sound like a theory that girls who get raped become lesbian? Maybe it does and maybe that's a true theory as well. I don't know.

Perhaps the best I can settle with at this point as far as my own sexuality goes is that it's just incredibly confusing and it'll probably take that reconstructive surgery plus a loving, healthy relationship to get some semblance of clarity. Just the first one alone would be a nice start.

The answers are all to be found in Germany, it seems...


Thursday, 7 November 2013

Asymmetric Changes

Since last week Friday my life has suddenly and rapidly changed. From a relatively unknown figure in the little known intersex/gender scene of the Netherlands and internationally I'm now suddenly a generally known person in at least the Netherlands after my appearance on the talk show Pauw & Witteman. Today while on my way to an appointment at a nearby city a group of girls sitting near me in the train were openly discussing my appearance on said show and hermaphroditism after spotting me before that. Moments like those make it clear to me that my relatively anonymous life is over with. See the videos of the TV appearances on my site here:

Beyond the interviews on Friday I also did an interview for TIME magazine on Monday (publication date pending), and I have also been contacted by a publisher about the publication of my autobiography. It's all pretty crazy, but in a good way. For the first time in... ever, really, does it feel like things are finally moving like how they should. Now all I need is to have the medical disciplinary commission decide in my favour on the 19th this month so that the personal damages lawsuit against the VUmc gender team can proceed.

And yet, there's still a big chunk missing before I can proceed to this new future which is beckoning me. One of them is this surgery which I still require. While I have found a willing surgery in Germany, I can not set an appointment there until after I move to Germany. Before I can do this moving I need a house, something which is taking considerably longer than I had hoped. Sure, I could pick something small and cheap, but I'd really like to be done with moving for a long time, hence why I'm looking for a 3-bedroom place so that I have space for all my hobbies and the company.

Fortunately the company I work for is helping me find something and at least one usable response came in after they posted the following message: The opening paragraph of it starts with the following (in English): "It should really be reason for joy. Maya Posch will soon be part of our team. She will enrich us with among other things her broad knowledge of Mobile Solutions. There is however still one small problem: Since Maya still lives in the Netherlands, does she urgently require a new place in Germany. To be precise, in the Karlsruhe area. Therefore our request."

I think it's great that they are helping me like this. Over the past months I have come to know many at this company quite well as well some outside it and I am really looking forward to start my new life in this area of Germany.

Hopefully this month this last part of the puzzle will finally be found and put into place. I'm keeping all appendages crossed which are capable of such a motion.


Saturday, 2 November 2013

Media Madness; Thank You, Germany

First of all I'd like to apologize for any inconsistencies or nonsensical ramblings in the following text. I still haven't fully recovered from the happenings yesterday, which included four interviews, one of which requiring me to travel to Amsterdam to be present at the Netherlands' most important current affairs talkshow, Pauw & Witteman. It wasn't until 3 AM that I finally made it to my bed. Come Monday it'll all start again, with at least one more major interview scheduled.

The thing which set this all off was the decision by Germany to introduce a third gender option, basically an 'undetermined' option for when a child is born with unclear gender. This will allow said child to make any decision later and relieves parents and physicians from any pressure to make a decision and perform harmful, unneeded and forced genital surgery on an infant. Yesterday this new law became active and thus media around the world worked themselves up into a frenzy. I was one of those intersex individuals who got pounced upon to give my opinion.

To give an idea of how crazy yesterday was: late Thursday I just had one interview scheduled for Friday. A brief, 3-minute piece on Dutch Radio 2. Before noon on Friday, however, I had been contacted by a journalist for UK's Channel 4 News, another from BBC's World Service and the aforementioned talkshow. This resulted in a crammed-full schedule with regular phone calls as things got set up, a Skype interview and then a train journey to Amsterdam for Pauw & Witteman. Before heading off to the latter I also had to gather up and send photos and other materials, some of which still had to be scanned in.

The Channel 4 News interview was brief but fun and I heard from others that it looked quite well. The 3-minute radio interview went well too, with the hours of preparation somewhat silly in retrospect. The discussion I joined by BBC's World Have Your Say was disappointing with one of those staunch intersex organization fanatics taking the lead, with me and most of the others getting virtually no speaking time.

After those three interviews/discussions it was time to travel to Amsterdam for the talkshow. To be honest it was rather cool that I got invited for this. As far as news in the Netherlands goes it's about as far as one can get with a topic. It'd also be largely be about just me, with the general topic of intersex secondary. One could say that with this a dream of many years has come true.

On the way to Amsterdam I also found myself in interesting company, including a Polish guy, a Russian man and Dutch girl with an interest in Russian, Polish and other languages. It definitely made the time pass pretty quickly. Once in Amsterdam I walked to the studio from the central station, a brisk 20-minute walk. Though I hadn't been in Amsterdam's center for a while it was nevertheless still very familiar. It was the first time I walked the route again which brought me to near where the British girl I once dated used to live. This made it feel... strange, considering how much I and my situation have changed since then.

I arrived in time at the studio, where I was received by very friendly assistants. After running through the script with the main editor of the talkshow I was run through the obligatory make-up session, followed by the notification that it was almost time for the (live) show to start. Gathering at the studio's doors, we all awaited our cue. The rest is basically as seen in the broadcast of November 1st of the show. Despite initial doubts by the editor of the show that I might be somewhat too timid, she was really quite impressed after the show. First thing I heard from her was that the Twitter and other social media responses had exploded. People from the audience also wished to talk with me, expression their utmost respect and sympathy for me.

I must say that I felt quite flattered by it all. The show itself went very well, with me getting to say pretty much everything which needed to be said. Though I haven't rewatched the show (yet), I have only heard positive feedback on it, via Facebook, Twitter and the flood of emails I received via my site. I'm still working my way through those. After the show I spent some time talking with the other guests, including one of my idols, biologist Midas Dekkers, the journalist Arnold Karskens and Sunny Bergman. You can see a recording of the whole show as well as individual fragments on this page:

After bidding everyone goodnight I left the studio, to be driven home by a taxi. This taxi driver is regularly hired by the talkshow to drive guests around, including politicians and the like. As a result we had a lot to talk about on the long drive home. Only after arriving at the place where I'm staying did I notice how tired it was. It was nearing 3 AM and I had been up since before 7 AM the previous day. Sleep seemed like a very good idea.

This morning I awoke with a pretty bad headache and general lethargic feeling. I guess it's a normal feeling for those who like to go wild in clubs on Friday night. I hadn't even touched a drop of alcohol the previous day and I already felt like a well-used chewing toy. Even as I am typing this I wouldn't describe my state as 'awake'. Hopefully tomorrow I'll be somewhat back to my usual self.

As things stand, though, despite yesterday being extremely stressful and tiring it nevertheless brought me much of what I had been dreaming off for years: attention, respect and acknowledgement by the media for everything which I had to go through. In many ways it makes me feel a lot less worse about myself and my situation. The flood of positive comments by viewers of the show also contributed a lot. Everyone seems to be rightfully outraged at the VUmc gender team for mistreating my case, as well as sympathetic about me moving to Germany. And it's not over yet.

On Monday I just have a single interview scheduled, with TIME magazine. It'll be interesting to see how that one works out, I guess. So far I'm not sure what format it'll get or how big it's going to be. Time will tell, I guess. Here's to hoping that things don't turn into a media frenzy again like yesterday. Though it's kinda fun, I'm not sure I can keep pulling 20-hour shifts like that :)


Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Analysing The Abdominal And Other Pains

For a while now I have been commenting on the abdominal pains I have been suffering, at least this year. It didn't start then, though. As I described in an earlier post I have had abdominal pains from around the time when puberty would have started, with the initial one being very severe. After that it's been relatively mild, aside from regular stabbing pain in mostly the groin/inner thigh regions.

The past months it's become more severe, however, with the last two months being particularly bad. For months now the symptoms include a hypersensitivity of the skin in the aforementioned groin/inner thigh regions, particularly on the right side, as well as an uncomfortable, itching sensation in the area where the vagina would be located. The last two months there's been reappearance of the nauseating, debilitating pain in my lower abdomen which I remember having as a child. For some reason my right hip has started hurting like hell as well and the upper part of my right upper leg has experienced a change in sensitivity. Another symptom which I previously blamed on the event in 2011 whereby my right knee got injured is that of a hurting, uncomfortable sensation in my right knee. This seems to be also connected to the other symptoms.

The really interesting part about this all is that it happens in cycles. It'll get really bad for a while, then subside, to then return a few weeks later. The past months I have been able to determine that it's happening on a roughly monthly basis, specifically the latter part of the month. Two days ago the pain in my hip started again, as well as the burning, stabbing sensations in my abdomen and groin/thigh regions. Yesterday and today I am having trouble on multiple occasions to sit comfortably in my chair as it feels uncomfortable and burning down there. Moving and shifting around however does not help to alleviate the pain, instead seemingly making it worse.

The previous time I had this pain in my hip and the other assorted pains in such a strong fashion was late last month, which subsided early this month to then vanish for weeks until two days ago. Last month I also experienced the abdominal pain in a very strong fashion, with me nearly passing out from the pain on one occasion while lying in bed, reading a book. Palpating around the lower right abdomen with a gentle hand would result in excruciating pain being felt in exactly one spot.

What one can deduce from the above is that a number of nerve bundles are being affected here. It can not be nerve damage due to the cyclical nature, but has to involve some kind of entrapment or pressure on the nerves in question which vanishes by itself after some time. Based upon the symptoms we can consider the following nerve bundles to be affected, using text from [1]:

  • Ilioinguinal Nerve: Symptoms may include hyperesthesia or hypoesthesia of the skin along the inguinal ligament. The sensation may radiate to the lower abdomen. Pain may be localized to the medial groin, the labia majora or scrotum, and the inner thigh. The characteristics of the pain may vary considerably.
  • Genitofemoral Nerve: inguinal ligament, which is how it is distinguished from the iliohypogastric and ilioinguinal nerve. Groin pain is a common presentation of neuralgia from nerve injury or entrapment. The pain may be worse with internal or external rotation of the hip, prolonged walking, or even with light touch.
  • Lateral Femoral Cutaneous Nerve: Symptoms include anterior and lateral thigh burning, tingling, and/or numbness, that increase with standing, walking, or hip extension.
  • Femoral Nerve: The symptoms of a femoral neuropathy may include pain in the inguinal region that is partially relieved by flexion and external rotation of the hip, and dysesthesia over the anterior thigh and anteromedial leg. Patients complain of difficulty in walking and of knee buckling, depending on the severity of the injury.
  • Saphenous Nerve: Symptoms of entrapment may include a deep aching sensation in the thigh, knee pain, and paresthesias in the cutaneous distribution of the nerve in the leg and foot.

Entrapment of the above nerves would account for the external symptoms I'm experiencing, yet it seems to offer no explanation for the lower abdominal pains. It is conceivable to assume that these are a direct symptom of the cause behind this all. Some kind of growth which develops every month, entrapping these nerves and causing other symptoms, which then subsides after about a week, reducing or vanishing the symptoms.

What this 'growth' could be is anyone's guess. Since I started on the pill (progesterone) there should be no possibility of any kind of menstrual cycle occurring. That something like it happens regardless of the hormone therapy makes for a real puzzle. Best case it's a benign occurrence with nothing worse than these quite annoying symptoms occurring every month. Worst case it's serious enough to warrant a rapid response before things worsen to a potentially fatal conclusion.

Unfortunately there exists no interest in the Dutch medical community for investigating an issue like this. Any kind of vague pain will be responded to with the advice to just take an NSAID like ibuprofen until it gets better. Hopefully I'll have more luck in Germany, though I can not try my luck until after I have a) found a home there, b) have finished moving and c) have taken care of my German health insurance.

I can not wait for these pains to pass this month so that I at least have a few painful few weeks during which I can hopefully muster some energy to do something about the above action points.


[1] (Nerve Entrapment Syndromes of the Lower Extremity)