Monday, 28 April 2014

Terrified Of Being Transgender

Today was my first visit to the office of my new gynaecologist. Originally I was only going there to make an appointment, but the gynaecologist had time for me, so I had my first appointment today as well. It was my first time visiting a gynaecologist's office. I have been examined by gynaecologists before, of course, though this was in the Netherlands and they were just part of a larger team. Here I was sitting in a waiting room surrounded by women with children, expecting one or with something else which most would put under 'perfectly normal'. Also lots of pictures of newborn babies everywhere and reading material on pregnancies. It was in many ways a new experience.

The appointment with the gynaecologist went well. He appears to be a very nice person and much like my GP seemed genuinely interested and even somewhat fascinated by my case. He offered to perform an ultrasound examination to see whether he could maybe see a uterus which could be the source of my monthly cramps. Unfortunately he didn't find anything, so the source of my monthly pains remains still a mystery. I also got switched by him to a new source of hormones, with a gel-based source of estradiol and pure form of progesterone instead of the pill. The former should be less stressful on my liver and such due to being transdermal. It's also more convenient. Whether taking pure progesterone is better than the pill should be an interesting experiment.

Despite having four teams of German physicians saying that I am a hermaphrodite and have a closed-off vagina, I still felt horribly put into place when the gynaecologist said that he could not readily see a uterus or vagina on the ultrasound. He didn't make a big deal out of it, fortunately, but it did bring back all my doubts in a major way. Thinking about it during the rest of the day I could only conclude that the essence of my fear is that of it being found out that I am in fact a transgender person and have always been one. Biologically male with no female characteristics except maybe a more feminine appearance. Watching the video log I recorded yesterday I got a similar sensation, feeling as though I'm looking at a transgender male.

To be found out. To discover that I really have been deceiving myself. For what? Why? How could I be so caught in a delusion? Someone like me, who prides herself on being so rational and only focused on the facts, to be caught in a maze of lies and wishful deception. To have everything I have built up the past years about me as a public figure, as a person and personality, suddenly crumble like that. A mere mea culpa would not suffice. Not to myself and not to others. To admit that the Dutch physicians really were the ones who knew best and were right, while the German physicians merely confused and deceived me.

Yes, it doesn't make sense. Not that the Dutch physicians would deceive me. Not that the German physicians would do so. Yet only one group can be right. Assuming that the latter group is correct, then the former group did its utmost to brainwash me into believing that I had to be transgender, and this very brainwashing attempt is now making me feel so horrible, as though I'm trying to deceive physicians here in Germany into believing that I am intersex. Knowing how pervasive brainwashing is, it would be exceedingly hard for me to distinguish between what's real and not real. Deprogramming this brainwashing would be a major effort, something pretty much only achievable through a successful vaginal reconstructive surgery.

If the Dutch physicians were right, though... then I'm just a transgender person who doesn't realize it, has no connection with the concept and wouldn't know what to do with it. And that's why it frightens the hell out of me.

Just two and a half months left until it is figured out who was right.


Sunday, 27 April 2014

Vlog: Remove Sexuality And Everything Unravels

- Remove sexuality, 'woman' vanishes too.
- Remove woman, 'human' vanishes too.
- Can't define 'human' in any sensible way.
- Can't be an organism, because of sexuality.

- Surgery can partially restore sexuality, birth defect remains.
- Still feeling like a freak.
- Pain about sexuality causes withdrawal from it.
- Subsequent unravelling of the 'self'.
- Needs labia to complete sexuality, and start healing process.

- Looking for second opinion and further help.
- An end to the medical process has to be possible.


Friday, 25 April 2014

Progress Yet Another Impossible Surgery Required

Today was the day of my appointment with the surgeon at the clinic in Erding. I managed to get up despite barely sleeping at all last night. I headed there with a friend with him driving the car. We arrived at the clinic after about four hours, just in time. There it turned out that for some reason my appointment had been scheduled in on Tuesday the next week. This wasn't a big problem, fortunately, as the surgeon would have time for me after the surgery he was in at that time. This gave me time to fill in the usual permission and information forms and handle the related formalities.

The chat with the surgeon was in many ways brief and to the point. To my relief there was no real physical examination, with the surgeon just taking some photos of the area he would be working on as reference during the preparations. During the discussion afterwards he explained that while he could give no guarantees about the result since he didn't know whether he would find a usable vagina or just related tissue, he was nevertheless ready to give it a go. This did lead to one major issue, however.

To create the labia during the reconstructive he would need more skin than the now empty scrotum can provide. Normally he would use the recycled penile tissue for this (with transgender sex reassignment surgery), but as I had indicated that I wanted to keep that side, this would not be possible. This left me with the options of no surgery, having just a hole without labia or giving up the penis after all. Having decided years ago already that I feel the most happy keeping my body intact without giving into society's concept of 'right' and 'wrong', this third option left me quite upset, as did the thought of the first option.

Not having surgery at this point would be unacceptable to me. Having come this far and to give up on what - thinking about it - essentially is merely decoration around the vagina entrance would be unwise. The surgeon after some discussion agreed to this surgery and then we moved onto the topic of the health insurance: whether the Krankenkasse will actually cover this, as the surgeon explained that they tend to cover surgeries involving someone going from one side to another, not keeping both sides. My surgery might not get covered.

In the end it was agreed that the clinic will send a letter with the request for coverage to the Krankenkasse with a reply expected in about three weeks. A surgery date also got scheduled, for July 14th, so in about 2.5 month. Not very soon, but it will have to do. Wondering about what the surgeon will actually find the surgery and will be able to do with it will likely consume much of my thoughts and energy of the past months. There is also the possibility of the Krankenkasse refusing coverage, requiring me to cover the about 10,000 Euro surgery myself.

Assuming that the surgery goes well and I end up with a connected vagina, I will be essentially at the point where many hermaphrodites start at, with an externally visible and accessible hole to the vagina. The next step will be to somehow create labia, the only method for which I am aware of which will work is that of having the proper type of skin grown from stem cells, something which is decidedly experimental and even then only in places like the USA. The possibility of getting this surgery performed is slim to none. I may have to accept that I will never have labia, as a kind of poignant reminder of my imperfect birth.

In the end today means progress, but also the first of what will undoubtedly be many bitter pills to swallow. I will forever be reminded of my birth defect. Maybe giving up this lunatic dream of being a hermaphrodite is something I should honestly consider. It would make so many things so much easier if I just became a regular woman and had this horrendous part of myself chopped off and recycled for parts. There is no joy or point in being a hermaphrodite. It only means fighting for every single scrap while being terminally unhappy.

I just don't know. Some choices and situations are just too big, too much to be handled by a single human being.


Sunday, 20 April 2014

Hermaphrodites In Tech

There is a massive shortage of hermaphrodites being employed or active in areas ranging from politics to technology sectors. Despite there being over a million of hermaphrodites around the world, the reported number of hermaphrodites active in these areas is essentially zero. It's not impossible that many of those who are active in these areas have to do so while pretending to be either male or female, thus forcing them to disguise their true identity and live a stressful double life. While the technology sector is generally the most accepting and tolerant of all, even here the practice of hidden identities continues.


All kidding aside, the above is a semi-realistic portrait of the actual situation inspired by the many 'women in politics/tech' etc. articles and rants. Taking the whole concept of an antagonistic group of individuals who are somehow being singled out in an industry and applying it to a group hitherto not high-lit in this fashion. Women, transgenders, people of colour and/or with various religons and such have all been treated in this fashion. How does being what they are affect their prospects of a happy life, of getting hired and the like? As the whole area of intersex is far too inclusive to apply the same principle to (too many differences between intersex conditions), I'll limit myself here to just the condition I was born with, being hermaphroditism.

Growing up as a boy while my body gradually transformed into that of a female during puberty was confusing at the best of times, yet I found that while in a male gender role, society was very appreciative of my interest in the sciences and computer technology, saying things like that I would get very far in it and how smart I was. Then as I switched gender roles and I found solace in a gender role which better befit my body and feelings, I found that the way society regarded the same interests I had in a very different manner.

Explaining to various people that I am a software developer did not evoke the general grunts of appreciation for someone smarter than them, but instead got me comments generally coming down to that they had not expected a girl to do such a thing and that they thought it was a-ma-zing that I could do something like that. It did give me appreciation for what regular women have to go through on a daily basis if they have decided for a career in IT, engineering or other sciences. To be treated like some kind of bloody curiousity is fun on one hand but rather annoying at the other. It doesn't surprise me that this kind of attitude is keeping girls away from pursuing such a type of career when their environment makes them feel like they're doing something weird.

For me having started off in a male role this felt even more ridiculous to me, considering that I as a person hadn't changed, only that what I called myself in public: male or female. While the male and female brain differ in a variety of ways (the latter actually being better suited for analysis and the like), I did not change my brain, so if society appreciated what I did while 'male', they better darn well appreciate me in the same way while 'female'.

This kind of points to how hermaphrodites do not fit into the 'men in tech' or 'women in tech' exclamations or groups. We literally populate both sides of this trench war and neither. Those of us who live in a female role and those who live in a male role still have had many experiences which regular men and women will not have had, making us different in ways which go beyond just the physical differences. It's not much different from how most of us regard ourselves in daily life. We fit into society and yet we fall completely outside of it.

All of this has led me to the pragmatic point of view that it's not about 'men', 'women', 'transgenders', 'homosexuals' or whatever the label in whatever the category, be it 'tech', 'politics', 'waste disposal' or 'professional Santa Claus actor'. What it's all really about is about not discriminating against someone who is clearly suitable for the position or job. Many politicians in history including famous US presidents were absolute sleaze bags in their private life, often keeping up relations with multiple mistresses, yet this never disqualified them for running the country. If one can overlook such behaviour for such an important position, then what is against simply ignoring everything else about a person at a job interview aside from their qualifications?

At my previous job in the Netherlands I felt that it was necessary that I told the person interviewing me about my intersex condition, asking him whether he had an issue with it. Though they said they didn't, it most definitely was a consideration in their decision to hire me. At my current job here in Germany it's quite different. During the hiring process my physical condition never once was an issue nor did it ever get discussed. While many of my colleagues know about it, they tend to be discreet about it, not ashamed to ask me questions about it, but mostly treating it as just an interesting thing about me as a person, not as a kind of liability.

That said, being treated like a person is all that I desire. Though through the past years I have come to be known as 'the hermaphrodite', 'the intersex activist' and such, I prefer to not think of myself that way. I'm just another human being with a fond interest in science and technology, preferring to geek out over some new project or gadget. The way I was born should not in any form or shape affect this, nor should it do so for anyone else, regardless of how they refer to themselves.


Friday, 18 April 2014

Surgery To Prove What I Am To Others And Myself

In the case against the VUmc gender team I lost because Dutch physicians (almost) all agreed that I am not intersex. In the case against my former Dutch health insurance company Univé they can comfortably slide back into the defence that there's no proper medical diagnosis yet due to the Dutch and German physicians not agreeing on what I am. Wherever I go, whatever I do, the question of 'what am I' is being twisted and changed depending on where one looks or asks. The average person may think that after I got my official gender change approved by a judge in the Netherlands that the battle has been fought and won by me, but nothing could be further from the truth.

The Dutch physicians, psychologists and related rabidly stick to the position that I am not a hermaphrodite, that I am not intersex in any way, form or shape, but merely a feminine-looking, biological male. The statements, conclusions and MRI/surgery/biopsy reports from Germany are dismissed as being 'wrong'. I think that the German physicians are right, but at this point I have no way to know for certain. Without stronger, better evidence I can not win or get justice in the Netherlands.

On a personal level it's not much different. Ten years of fighting against severe doubts cast both by others and myself have left their mark. I'm waiting for better evidence myself, too. While I do not think that I am a biological male, I am having trouble telling myself what I am then. 'Hermaphrodite' is the German conclusion, yet I do not see the female genitals nor am I able to use them in any way. I do feel severe monthly abdominal pains which could be a period, but I'm not past telling myself that it's just imaginary, psychosomatic pain. I need more evidence here to know what is truly going on.

The only solution here is to undergo surgery. If I truly have this closed-off vagina all German physicians so far have said I possess, then connecting it back to the perineum and restoring these female genitals to what they should have formed into before I was even born, then that would be all the evidence one needs. Having obviously both male and female genitals at that point nobody could deny any more that I am a hermaphrodite and thus intersex. Not Dutch physicians or health insurance companies. Not me, either.

At this point an internal examination via the vagina would also be possible to finally learn what is going on when I have these monthly pains. My GP already got me a reference for a gynaecologist as well as a name of someone she recommends. This seems like a very good idea to set up soon. This uncertainty can not last forever.

Just one week until I know whether I will have this surgery. One week from now at this time I should be back home in Karlsruhe from my surgeon appointment. I should know by then what he can and wants to do and have made a surgery appointment. I hope this is going to be the one. The end of every single uncertainty and the main source of my depressions, continued PTSD and suicidal thoughts. Finally the truth being revealed.

Everyone will finally know what I am.


Sunday, 13 April 2014

Kimi Ga Nozomu Eien, Or Fiction Mirroring Reality

As I haven't had internet at home for well over two weeks now due to my internet provider (KabelBW) screwing up on the transition from a regular to a business account, I have fortunately have had a chance to revisit an anime series I have only once watched before. The series is called Kimi ga Nozomu Eien [1] ('You Long for Eternity') and when I first watched it was probably in 2005 or thereabouts. Back then I doubt that I got the full impact of this series' story and the interaction between the characters. This time around it was quite different, with its story hitting me like the proverbial ton of bricks. Note that many spoilers will follow for those who haven't watched this (10-year old) series yet.

KgNE's story starts like so many with a sunny, happy-go-lucky group of students and their relations. The shy girl, Haruka, gets hooked up with the main character, Takayuki, through the efforts of the others and a relationship blossoms. It wouldn't be much of a story if things stayed just like that, of course. That's why, when Takayuki is late for a date with Haruka, he gets stopped by Mitsuki, who makes him buy a present for her birthday even though he is late already. She picks a ring from a street vendor, after which Takayuki rushes off to his date.

At the agreed-upon location at the station he finds a scene of carnage, with police cars, ambulances and a big crowd surrounding an area near the station. It takes Takayuki a few moments to realize that it was Haruka who was the victim there, as a police officer reads out her name on the radio to HQ. Haruka isn't dead, but requires immediate surgery due to the car hitting her as she was standing there. Cue scenes of Takayuki waiting in the hospital, breaking down as he sees Haruka's parents in tears.

Fast-forward three years and Haruka is still in a coma. Mitsuki and Takayuki have meanwhile found each other in what can only in the most liberal terms be called a relationship. This becomes especially pronounced when Haruka awakes from her coma. To not shock her too much, everyone pretends that almost no time has passed since the accident and that things are still the way they were three years ago. Mitsuki quitting the swimming team because she lost all self-confidence, Takayuki giving up his university studies for much the same reason and both their relationship with each other, everything is ignored.

In the end the truth always comes to light of course. In this case by Haruka's younger sister, Akane, who tells the truth in front of everyone, fed up and frustrated as she is with this charade. As Haruka lapses back into unconsciousness as a result of this shock, Akane is left wondering whether she did the right thing. It seems to push everything forwards, though, and as Haruka awakes again after a few days, she seems to have changed. Gone is the innocent little girl of three years ago. Instead she seems to have aged many years while asleep, almost turning into a different person.

In the end Haruka and Takayuki have their last conversation outside the hospital, while viewing the ocean next to which the hospital is located. There Haruka tells Takayuki about this great fairy tale she read in the book she was looking for three years ago already. It's about an immortal fairy who encounters a group of children with whom she becomes friends until eventually the children grow older and forget about her. Except for the first girl who she met. With her she has one final conversation, during which they say farewell, both knowing that this has to be the end. With the story ended, Haruka and Takayuki say their own farewells.

The most interesting thing about this story is in my opinion that it isn't really about the main character, Takayuki, but about Haruka. She is the one who goes through so much character development and changes from a shy young girl into a successful author of children's books. The others more or less flounder around her, except for maybe the other friend, Shinji, who pursues his university studies, not letting things sway him too much from his ultimate goal.

One scene which is also very emotionally charged and recognizable to me is the one where Haruka is hitting her shrivelled legs with her fists for not obeying her commands to move while she's going through rehabilitation. The realization that she has lost three years of her life frustrates her, and yet she isn't blaming anyone for this. While Mitsuki can't look at the ring on her finger without feeling nagging guilt which she quickly pushes away and Takayuki keeps blaming himself for not being on time, Haruka only seeks to push herself harder to make up for all this lost time. Thus she keeps moving forward, while the other two remain stuck in time.

While obviously a fictional story, I think that KgNE has a lot of important lessons in it, most of all about how to deal with difficult situations in a relationship, or when the unthinkable happens, like one's loved one lapsing into a coma without knowing when or if they will ever awake from it. It shows the importance of transparency and honesty, both to others and oneself. Both Haruka and Shinji always stayed honest to themselves and thus can live their lives without too many regrets, while Mitsuki and Takayuki even when everything has been said and done keep feeling torn by regrets and sorrow. Akane once followed Mitsuki as an idol, but through the course of the series comes to see her sister as the true idol.

In the end this second viewing of KgNE for me was a very touching and emotional event. Haruka's struggles so reminded me of what I have gone through since I first watched the series. The frustration over having lost so much time, the urge to make up for it and the need to move on by saying farewell to what has been and can no longer be. Sometimes fiction is a true mirror of reality.



Saturday, 5 April 2014

At The End Of The Path There's Only Sadness And Darkness

I had tried my best: keeping up a strong face, taking on things which I knew would break me and ignoring everything which didn't fit with this image of the perfect me. As I sunk down onto the floor of the room between the desks I could see her near me, next to the window. She reached out to me, then pulled back, clearly uncertain as I broke down in tears and said in between sobs that I simply should never have existed. That my whole existence was one big mistake.

That is where last night's dream left me. One could call it a nightmare, but I would disagree with that assessment. Real life is the nightmare. When I break down in real life there no is one nearby to help or comfort me. Every day I cannot help but curse my existence and this body. Of course I could just blame the Dutch physicians and psychologists for foregoing any sense of professionalism and torturing me physically and psychologically for a decade straight. Yet I can not shake off the feeling that they were somehow justified in doing what they did. Maybe the way I was born truly was a mistake and should have been corrected.

I am quite aware of the fact that I didn't move to Germany because I like the country so much, but purely for the medical care and to escape the horrors of the Netherlands. This also means that I do not know where my true home is or whether I'll ever find it. A place where I'll truly feel that I belong. Maybe it's true what they say about finding a home inside one's heart. Accepting oneself and feeling at ease, after which everything else will fall into place. I know I can not escape the horrors of the past decades as they are a part of my very being, permeating every memory and recollection I have. One can not feel at home in the midst of a rotting, swamp where everything smells of decay.

The end of this month I'll be going to the clinic near Munich by myself. This is okay. I may get the surgery soon after that. There won't be anyone looking after me after the surgery. This is also okay. This surgery will merely close off something for myself inside my head, locking away recollections I have come to loathe. Recollections which I am writing down in my autobiography at this point and which I hate. It's not who I am, not who I ever wanted to become or what I wanted my life to look like. Nothing else will change for me. I'm still catching up on the about twenty years of my life I have lost somehow.

When I had the bicycle accident a few weeks ago I had impressive bruises and the like. To me it was amazing how people responded to the sight of it, evoking a strong emotional response in them. This is where I wish that my intersex condition had somehow horribly deformed me in a physical manner. I feel cursed by looking like a pretty, attractive female as it obscures the gaping, bleeding wounds inside of me. It feels like all the damage done to me in the Netherlands can be brushed off by simply pointing at me and saying how pretty and healthy I look. I wish that my outside matched up with the injuries inside, including scars and never-healing wounds. Maybe that's why during PTSD episodes I try to tear off my own skin. I don't know.

I'm just trotting down this eerily moonlit path, doing what people ask and demand of me while finding enough free time to work on myself as well. I can see images, memories flash by quickly, but I can not touch or interact with any of them. They're spirits, just like the people I see. I feel trapped at the wrong side of the mirror as I wonder what happened that things became like this. I know that at some point the path will end, the moonlight will vanish and all that I'm left with will be my regrets and sadness.

Then I can weep silently in the darkness as I curse this fate that was thrust upon me through this accursed body and whisper with a broken voice that I should never have been born.