Saturday, 31 December 2016

One more year down

It's hard to believe for me that yet another year has passed. I feel as if it was just recently that I was sitting in the endocrinologist's office, discussing the prospects of surgery for my intersex condition and how to find the right surgeon. That was well over a year ago, though.

Lots of other things happened in between then and now as well, of course. Most noticeable the legal struggle between me and the owner of the apartment which I currently rent. Here I learned again that you don't have to do anything wrong in society to get punished harshly and potentially lose everything.

Early this year I had to pay the big punishment for having the nerve to have my PTSD triggered when other people are being inconsiderate jerks. It wasn't like I could have done anything to prevent the resulting blackout episode or what happened while I was not in control of my mind or body. I should just have listened to those nice doctors at the Amsterdam VUmc gender team and other hospitals when they said that I was just a confused boy who wanted to become a pretty girl.

I leave this year while feeling primarily bitterness because it feels as if in the end everything has to be my fault and I cannot expect safety or security because I deserve punishment, merely because I exist. Such nerve from my side.

This year is also the first year since 2007 that I am not taking any medication, hormones or otherwise. Just my vitamins. My body produces all the (female) hormones which I need now without external help, which makes me somewhat happy. It's great not having to worry about taking those estradiol pills or rubbing the gel on your skin every night. I won't miss having an estradiol overdose either. Regular PMS is bad enough as-is.

Next year the medical circus will continue, starting with a surgeon appointment in February. Hopefully the desired reconstructive surgery will be possible and I won't have to take too long for it to be performed. If this works out, I can have far more easily examined why I have these incredibly painful periods, with severe bloating at the start and horrid pains and discomfort at the end. Maybe by just having the female side opened things will function more normally.

Maybe it's endometriosis as feared, though, and I'm basically screwed as far as fixing the pain goes. Lots of questions still remain there. I still have the faint hope that if I have the surgery that I'll be able to recover in a comfortable house, not in this run-down apartment with its unreasonable owner. After a recent emotional breakdown while searching for a new place it's clear that I physically cannot do that any more.

In many ways I'm so reliant on others. For medical help. For finding a new place. For finding my way through life in a myriad of ways. I don't like it, because of the horrible experiences I have had with people over the past decades. I much prefer to be self-reliant, but this year that seems to have come to an end as well.

Maybe 2017 will turn out fine. Maybe not. It appears that I'm wholly dependent on others for my future at this point. That's not really progress, I guess. It's pretty much inevitable that this would happen after more than a decade of chronic stress and years of chronic physical pain, however.

I pray that a year from now I'll be laughing at how these fears were all for naught, and talk about the impending release of my autobiography. With as bonus feature the happy ending of 2017.

Here's to hoping.


Thursday, 29 December 2016

Mental health: you must, even if you cannot

It'll soon be exactly twelve years since I started looking for help with my back then only suspected intersex condition.

I remember all too well how completely done I was with everything and life in general after only two years of hitting brick walls and dead ends with the Dutch medical system. One night I was chatting with an American friend when I pretty much just broke down. She already knew about my situation, which made me feel that I could open up to her. About how horrible I felt, yet also about how I felt that I could not tell anyone.

"Why not just tell everyone?"

That one question, asked by her, pretty much changed my world. The positive feedback from those who learned about my situation - barely more than strangers - enabled me to make it through the next ten years. With this blog of mine I have been able to put down most of my feelings of frustration, but also of small victories. It's been already over nine years since I started this blog.

What sticks with me the most of the past years is how much of it involved around losing all hope and motivation to live, only to get up and try again. Fall down. Get up. Try again. Fall down. Get up. Try again. Fall down. Get up. Try again.

Over a decade of not giving up. Even when I could not do it any more. Even when I did not want to any more. Even when I would rather want to be dead than continue trying.

Even after I tried to commit suicide and failed, I continued trying. Trying to believe in humans. Trying to believe in myself. Trying to find help. I continued trying because I had to. Because I wanted to. Because I did not have any choice. What else was I going to do?

After twelve years it might finally be working out, depending on next year's results with the new surgeon.

I may have made it. Only at the cost of severe psychological trauma. Forcing myself constantly well past the point of what I could mentally take and suffering countless traumatic experiences at the hands of psychologists, physicians and others have left me in a state where I can barely function in society any more. I have lost the ability to trust others. Every sense of naivety has been beaten out of me.

I'm still hurting inside of what I went through. I'm bleeding inside. I'm a wreck emotionally and psychologically.

And I am being forced to do it all over again.

Some people who are supposed to be my friends, heck, even my own mother keep pushing me to actively seek a new place to move into because of the legal issues with my current apartment which are making me feel suicidally depressed. Seeking a new place requires trusting people. Requires taking risks which may have me end up in an even worse situation than the one I am currently in. I should know, because I have had multiple experiences over the past years where a place I had rented or was about to rent turned out to be absolutely not what was promised.

I do not trust people. I want, no must live somewhere quiet. Somewhere without people. Without worries about people. I hate people so much. They're dangerous. Untrustworthy. Yet I need them. I cannot live without them.

I cannot proceed from where I am currently. There is no way out. I am blocked by my own past. Yet nobody around me can see it. Or understand me. Or help me.

I am hurting so much inside. Hurting more every day. I'm feeling more often suicidally depressed these past months than I have felt since that last suicide attempt. I wish desperately there was a way out. Maybe I have to try to do this on my own again, yet when I take the first few steps towards finding that better place I break down emotionally again, feel terrible, cry and want to hurt myself.

Yet I must. I must. I must. Get up. Try again. Get up. Try again.

I cannot.

I cannot. Not any more.

I want to tear open this skin of mine. Scratch it until it bleeds. Break every bone. Bleed profusely. Become outwardly crippled in some way to match the hurt I feel inside. Maybe then people around me can see and understand. Maybe.

More likely they'll turn away and ignore me. The way they ignore everything which doesn't fit into their tiny, happy worlds with countless small, irrelevant worries. Worries which people like me would love to have. Just those silly little things as part of a boring little life. A life without any real pain.

We are all just left here. Alone in the darkness, with our own pains and worries. Faintly working up the courage to just bloody finally end it all instead of keeping up this charade of appearing happy and okay because it's so not okay to be mentally not well. To have mental problems. To not being capable of making it through a single day but doing it anyway.

Just us here, with our plastic smiles and dead-eyed laughter.

We will continue. Because we must. Because you force us to. Because we cannot live, but cannot die. Because we do not understand any of this yet, but hope we will some day, against our better judgement.

We will be bitterly disappointed.


Monday, 26 December 2016

The boy who really needs to finally die

Now that things are becoming a bit more quiet on the home-eviction front with a capable lawyer on my side and all defences in place, it seems that I can now go back to worrying about the many other things which trouble me. Such as this one person whose existence causes me no shortage of troubles and whose demise I'd gleefully celebrate.

A few decades ago, a boy was born, who grew up and got lost, before finding out that his life up till that point had been a lie; a mere deception created in a Truman Show-like fashion. This boy found out that he had in fact never existed. The end.

I'm not a boy. Never been one. Anyone with a modicum of sense can tell that I'd make for a very poor male specimen. Yet despite of all this, there are still those who insist that my life and that of this boy are one and the same. That I am this boy. That everything which I hold to be true and self-evident is in fact an illusion.

I know that I cannot be this boy, because I am a woman. I have the body of a woman, and all of the monthly joys that come with it. Been able to enjoy those since I was eleven years old along with all of the joyful hormonal fluctuations that are a part of it. Clearly the boy's story isn't about me. Never was. It's a fictional character. Someone who never existed. Who should never have existed.

I do not want this boy to keep existing any more. I can not take it that there are people who keep trying to force this fictional character on me, as if it somehow has got anything to do with me. Hopefully next year will see me undergo the surgery which should finally drive this point home with the reconstruction of the closed-off female side.

I do not know why some insist on trying to force their delusions on me even today. It took me long enough to learn to look past these delusions and see them for what they are. It's already far beyond the point where this boy should have ceased existing. Maybe in two months time I'll have to deal with that again. Maybe not.

Imagine living in a world where part of the people around you will tell you that you're something opposite to that which you know you are. You're not male, you're female. You're not white, you're black, or Asian. You're not tall, but actually really short. Feel the dissonance as you try to unify these two diametrically opposed truths into a singular view of one's self.

I'm a hermaphrodite, but I'm not allowed to be one. Not yet. I want to explore what it means to be... me, but I cannot do so. Not yet.

First the boy has to die.


Saturday, 17 December 2016

The fine line between trauma and simple laziness

How does one deal with something which is intangible yet part of oneself or another person?

This is the question which has plagued anyone affected with mental health issues, who were forced into poverty through forces beyond their control, or otherwise suffer because of the spectre of normalcy.

It's very easy to end up in a situation in one's life where one cannot proceed any further without help from others. Yet to ask help is still a taboo in today's society. Everyone is expected to fight for themselves, and if you cannot keep up it's your own darn fault. Homeless? Just get a job already and rent a place. Jobless? Plenty of jobs around. Feeling depressed? Just cheer up. Feeling suicidal? There's still so much to live for, so stop being silly.

One perception is that people who cannot extract themselves from such a hopeless situation are simply lazy, unmotivated or worse.

I mean, just look at how easy it is to get a job: apply at twenty places, get rejected at 19, get the lowest-paying job out of the lot in the end. Or to find a new place to live in: spend a year or two looking at dozens of places, run into unscrupulous owners, dodgy real-estate agents, hidden fees and defects and see ever place you really wanted go to someone else instead.

And that's for people without mental health issues.

I was and still am incredibly lucky that I came across my current employer who saw the potential in me and supported me far beyond what they were legally required to do. They allowed me get my professional career back on track and gave me a safe space in which I could develop myself as a person and software developer.

Could I have managed something on my own otherwise? I went through about a dozen job interviews in a few months time back in the Netherlands, before landing a job as a backend developer. It wasn't something I wanted to do, and the environment was horribly restrictive. Yet I had to because I needed the money. It was a demotivating experience which left me so traumatised that during the first year that I worked in Germany for my current employer I felt the same sense of terror and forced respect as I had for my bosses at my previous job.

I don't think I would have made it without this help.

Now that I am dealing with the current crisis surrounding my current apartment, having to get a lawyer again and dealing with another potential legal case, I can only feel dread as I think about this place, and the need to find a new place. Not that I didn't try to find alternative places to live the past years among too much time spend on medical issues. They all were given to other people, though, or the owner could not be trusted.

And that's when I hit the limit of compromising.

Last weekend, after looking at yet another place, I fell apart emotionally and mentally in a way which I had never experienced before. This was the point for me when I realised that not only had others basically not grasped what it means to search for a new home for a person with my level of severe traumatic experiences, neither had I.

Talking about it with my psychotherapist a few days ago, the term it came down to was 'compromise'. How my life has been just an endless series of compromises, renewed hope and crushed expectations for year after year after year, in a seemingly endless repetition. As I wrote before, there's no real difference between a doctor and landlord. Both are people you need, people who preside over your happiness and joy in life and who can crush both without a care in the world.

I cannot deal mentally, emotionally or even physically any more with the stress of finding medical help for my intersex condition. I am completely reliant on the help of others at this point, in particular my psychotherapist, my endocrinologist and gynaecologist.

Finding a new home taps into the same drained energy reserves. Finding a new home is something which has many traumatic memories for me, including eviction, suicide, domestic violence and abuse, etc. To look for a new place is to open myself to reliving those traumas, suffering new ones and worst of all slipping into suicidal depressions like last weekend.

I really wish that I could put better into words what I am trying to say here, but words fail me.

My point is basically that even if you cannot see it on the outside of a person, they can still be injured inside. You'd not force a person with a broken leg to walk. Similarly you wouldn't force someone with severe mental trauma to repeat the same experience again. It just won't end well.

What I have to come to terms with is that I need a new home, but I cannot look for it myself, or risk harming myself horribly due to the emotional destabilisation that would cause. This means that I have to rely 100% on others.

I wish I was just being lazy. I could use a horribly dull and boring life. It would be awesome.


Sunday, 11 December 2016

A safe and warm place.

I really want to leave Germany.

That's one of the thoughts I find myself struggling with today. After initially waking up this morning with the same migraine as yesterday, and the same horribly negative thoughts, including the strong feeling that I'd make a horrible mistake by moving into the place I looked at yesterday.

After trying for a while, I managed to fall asleep again despite the migraine, and woke up a while later with the migraine having subsided again. I managed to get out of bed, feeling very sick and weak, as well as very depressed. I found myself just sitting in front of my computer, trying to distract myself with YouTube videos, but feeling sick, nauseous and unable to really focus on anything.

It wasn't until I started talking with some friends on IRC that I began to feel better. Clearly it was a stress-induced migraine, and the source of the stress is absolutely related to my current living situation. Everything just feels wrong there. I don't feel safe, or comfortable. As I said on Twitter today, it's this feeling of 'me versus the world'. The dissonance of me struggling with something that keeps pushing me into a suicidal depression, while everyone else around me seems to not really care at all.

Nobody but these friends, who all live outside Germany.

It makes me want to move to where those friends live. I should maybe have stayed in Canada. Maybe I should have risked moving to Australia. Here in Germany I'm basically alone, fighting my own battles just like in the Netherlands. That's how it feels at least.

I have given up on the thought of buying a house here in Germany. It's too expensive, too much hassle and in the end I do not think that I'll stay in Germany much longer. Maybe it's just me being irrational and expecting life to be so much better in another country. Maybe it's just longing for this 'safe and warm place' which I mentioned in a Quora answer today [1].

In the end I just don't know. When I try to think of my situation, or what I can do or should do, my head just starts hurting, I feel nauseous and the migraine returns. I also cannot seem to stop crying since yesterday. I just don't know.

Rather than moving into a better place and improving my life, I fear that all of this is instead pushing myself so far out of my comfort zone and so far into unreasonable stress that I will just end up taking my own life to end the incredible pain. The urge to flee to another country is part of this as well. I want a way out, no matter what the cost.



Saturday, 10 December 2016

Isn't letting me do this by my own irresponsible?

After spending the past hours in bed, trying to sleep and failing courtesy of the migraine and thoughts churning through my head, I finally got to a state where I felt calm and pain-free enough to get out of bed and assess the damage.

In hindsight forcing myself to try and cook dinner despite the migraine and feeling clearly aggravated wasn't the best of ideas, judging by the first ever damage to the kitchen counter. I vaguely recall me slamming something heavy into it, like a cutting board for whatever godforsaken reason. I also seem to have bruises all over my body again. Physical pain to deal with emotional pain, I guess.

I'm not sure whether to ascribe such moments to PTSD or the Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) with which I have also been diagnosed. That I can still vaguely recall what my body did, but without recollection of the reasoning behind it is mostly confusing and worrying.

I am guessing that this sudden breakdown was due to the pent-up stress of the past weeks, with today's viewing of what's supposed to be my ticket out of this current run-down apartment as what was supposed to be a turning point. Maybe my expectations and hopes were simply too high.

Not that there was anything really wrong with the new place... just some poorly thought out choices with a very small kitchen in a large (95 square meter) apartment, which led to there being no place for a microwave, as well as a bathroom with no place for a regular sized washing machine. Annoying, but manageable.

Having to answer questions today about my work, current apartment, financial status, justifying going for such a large apartment (anything smaller is impossible to get, pretty much), and so on was probably the last trigger, resulting in the total breakdown once I got home.

All of it does make me wonder in how far I am capable of managing my own life at this point when what are annoying but manageable things come on my path. Maybe it's been those decades of figuring out and dealing with the abuse I suffered for my intersex condition which caused just too much trauma. Maybe that's what's making it almost impossible for me to deal with any of this, and only at the cost of further traumatising myself.

I wish more than anything that someone would come along and handle this for me. Just to shield me from the worst. Get me to a place where I can feel safe and secure, without having to worry about whether I made the right choice. I hope that I can hand off the legal issues with my current place to the support organisation with whom I signed up and talked with this week.

Beyond that... I have to carefully consider what's more important at this point: moving at any cost, or taking my mental health as priority.


Existing vs living vs happiness

This week a lot of things happened. I contacted another surgeon after a friend told me about him and his skills with reconstructive surgeries. After an initial hopeful response from the surgeon himself, I then made an appointment with the clinic, only to be told that the first spot is in July of next year. That's months after I have an appointment with this first surgeon. This was very disappointing.

I also got offered a new apartment I might possibly want to rent, courtesy of my employers as the apartment owner is a former employee. It's larger and more expensive again than my current place, but after viewing it today it's newly renovated and has a built-in kitchen (a rarity in Germany).

It's more room than I need, and I would love to spend less on rent, but finding something else in this city of Karlsruhe is basically impossible within a reasonable timespan. Especially now that I have the owner of my current apartment breathing down my neck. Even though I have done nothing wrong, legally, I'm still forced to leave.

Yesterday I talked with my lawyer about this situation of the building owner wanting to have me evicted and pay full rent over the past three years despite never having fixed all of the issues initially reported or those reported later. Essentially the best way is to protect myself and my possessions by cancelling the rental contract myself and move out. After that there's just the legal wrangling about those back payments which could still cost me many thousands of Euros.

Moving thus is inevitable, and urgent.

After returning home earlier, I found myself collapsing emotionally along with a severe migraine, presumably from the stress involved. Worries about making the wrong choices, about throwing my money away. Stresses about having to justify my decisions, choices and current status in society. Years of dealing with unscrupulous landlords, doctors, psychologists and kin have pretty much fully traumatised me in that respect. Why expect anything better?

I also know that this new apartment isn't where I want to be living for the next ten years, even if I could. It's just another temporary place for a number of years. Basically it doesn't change that I'll keep looking for where I want to settle and live. Where I can be happy.

I'm not sure I'll ever feel happy or relaxed. When I'm at work I feel reasonably happy and relaxed, as well as when I'm at the local hackerspace, but dealing with everything else outside it is pretty much just a confirmation of the hostility of human society. I prefer to forget that I have a body, that it needs a place to live, eat and sleep. That I do not control my own life or body.

I guess I'll see where life steers me next.


Saturday, 3 December 2016

Being good just makes you into a punching bag

After yesterday's highly unpleasant lawyer letter, threatening me with eviction and the forced payment of large sums of money, I sent a response back, highlighting that the building owner has not seen fit to fix the outstanding issues in the apartment. The response I got from the lawyer was brief: the owner believes that everything has been fixed, has the bills from repairmen to show for it, and that I should be paying up and moving out as soon as possible.

Only problem with that is that there never was any feedback from me, or communication from the owner's side about the issues being fixed and the reduction in rent being discontinued. This leads to the stance where I can easily point out the remaining issues in the place (rusty water, poor insulation, noisy heating system, lack of sound insulation with neighbours), and where the owner insists there are no more issues, or as her representative put it: "It's an old building, those things are normal."

Long story short, I have to get that lawyer ASAP, who will hopefully make short work of this matter. I have also registered with an organisation for those who rent their apartment, house, etc. and contacted them. Hopefully they'll be able to advise me as well.

Meanwhile I have applied for the first new apartment. If I get it, I'd be able to move next month. From the description it sounds pretty decent. It's a 1970s building, but fully renovated (my current place just had the windows renewed, poorly). It's even a little bit larger than my current place and should be very comfortable. Keeping my fingers crossed there.

Of course I'm still looking for new apartments/houses to rent in or near Karlsruhe. Same search parameters still apply: roughly 80 square meters, quiet, and some place for my bicycle as well as cable connection (for internet).  Please let me know if you know of anything there that's with a reputable owner.

Moving on, this whole thing definitely brings back a whole lot of unpleasant memories and thoughts. Once again I'm being accused of being something which I am not, through no fault of my own. I'm again left wondering what it is that people have against me, and then the nagging doubt of whether it isn't actually me after all who is the problem. Maybe I'm just thinking that I can manage this 'adult' thing but I'm in reality screwing up everything.

I spent over a decade 'debating' with physicians and psychologists whether I was just a feminine-looking boy, a male to female transsexual, intersex, crazy, delusional (actual phrase used by a psychologist), or just obsessed with proving that I was right. If it's often simply impossible to prove that your own, physical body is what it is and not what they say it is, then how does one deal with more abstract matters?

When years of such psychological (and physical) abuse finally took their toll and I blacked out in what was likely a dissociative identity disorder-related episode, I was blamed for the damage to a number of objects in that waiting room, even though I never wilfully chose to damage them, or was even aware of it. Yet how does one prove DID, or PTSD? You cannot measure it (except with fMRI scans, probably), or see it, only say with a reasonable degree of certainty that the person who claims to have PTSD, or DID blackouts, is telling the truth.

In essence, I got blamed for over a decade for everything bad that was inflicted on me, from the attitude of doctors and psychologists. My attitude was wrong, the German medical conclusions were mistaken, I was just being obsessed with the thing, I should admit the doctors were right and live my life as the guy I am. And so on. The disciplinary case I brought against the Amsterdam VUmc gender team was dismissed because they had 'done nothing wrong' in their assessment of me, this even after the first surgery in Germany and my legal gender change on the basis of being a hermaphrodite.

What have I really done wrong? I always stuck to the rules, followed the advice of professionals unless my own research made me question it. By the end of 2007 I was dealing with two completely conflicting medical conclusions, between me being a regular guy, or a hermaphrodite. Who wouldn't want to get the real answer there? Could anyone live with such uncertainty? Is it wrong to keep asking questions?

A while ago I had a collection agency after me because I supposedly hadn't paid Ikea for a delivery. That turned out to be fully Ikea's fault because they had never communicated to me that the automated withdrawal from my bank account had failed, because the delivery guy hadn't written down my information properly. Instead they sent me a bill and follow-up requests for money without further explanation, never responding to my emails to support. There the collection agency admitted this, Ikea admitted this, and I just had to pay the original amount. Their fault, their mea culpa, everything was fine in the end.

I'm hoping that something like that will happen here too. I am not aware of me having done anything wrong and from the (professional) advice I have received so far it does indeed appear that the fault lies solidly with the building's owner. Of course, my experience of being right and getting proven right is somewhat sketchy based on those previous experiences. The fear which keeps eating away at me is that despite being right, I'll still have to pay a lot of money, get evicted and have this marked on some permanent file, making it a nightmare to ever rent again.

Being the 'good guy' has to be pretty much symbolic with 'taking everything the less scrupulous throw at one', while only smiling and staying polite during the process. When one sees what others can get away with, it does make one wonder whether it truly pays to be good and whether the 'dark side' isn't really way more fun.

On the other hand, I think I'd make for a terrible villain.


Friday, 2 December 2016

Getting kicked out of apartment and hating myself

So today I got a letter from a lawyer, courtesy of my landlady. I have no idea how things ended up like this, but she seems to think that I'm simply not paying the full rent, despite multiple warnings, and that the rental contract was already cancelled in September. Maybe the contact person at the company who handles the communication never passed on (truthful) information to the owner. Maybe she is ignoring the broken things in the apartment. Maybe... I don't know.

At any rate I need to get a lawyer right away to handle this for me. If anyone knows of one here in Karlsruhe, please do let me know.

The worst thing about this all is not the prospect of losing my belongings and becoming homeless again. I have been there before and it sucks, but once you're at the bottom the only way is up. No, the worst thing is the feeling of failure. Why I cannot just find a new place, why I didn't find a new place during the nearly three years that I live in this place which I hate so much. What is wrong with me that I ignore something so crucial.

Of course, these legal threats against me shouldn't have happened as I have tried to follow the law to the letter to the best of my abilities, but that doesn't excuse my failure to just goddarn do something useful. It seems like all I have done these past years has been whining and moping and not improving my situation.

Yes, figuring out my situation at work took time and effort. Yes, figuring out a medical solution to my intersex condition has swallowed up a lot of time and energy ever since I moved to Germany. But I should have done something, anything, to ensure that I would not end up in a situation like this.

I still want to just buy a house, as I'm sick of dealing with landlords and kin after basically only negative experiences. I should do something now, but at the thought of actually, actively doing something about this I just collapse emotionally. I do not think I can do this by myself. Last time I tried it - a few months ago - I nearly got scammed out of my money by an untrustworthy landlady. I'm not eager to repeat that. I want to improve my situation, but it's all just too much.

At this point I have to admit that I cannot do this by myself. The emotional pain I feel currently again is so much that I do not feel that it's worth to continue living. There is no way out. Not without help, and everybody and everything seems to be against me.

If anyone who cares about me reads this, please help?

I don't want to die, but I cannot live like this =/


Monday, 28 November 2016

The waiting game again

The good news is that I managed to make an appointment with this new surgeon earlier this morning without issues. The not so great news is that the appointment isn't until the end of February. Another three-month wait there, in other words. Any hope that my last medical issues might be resolved has pretty much died at this point. Whether there'll be a surgery next year even if everything works out is doubtful at best, I think. I'll have to wait and see.

Worse news is that the earlier mentioned bronchitis is still there. After spending a few hours on Thursday outdoors in the cold the previous progress seems to have reversed itself and I'm now health-wise back where I was over a week ago. Tomorrow I'll see my family doctor about this and see what she can tell me about what I have exactly and how many weeks I'll be out of commission.

On the bright side, I should at least be healthy by the time February rolls around and the winter should be almost over so that I won't have to travel in the cold and snow when I head to the clinic.


Friday, 25 November 2016

Ultimately others decide what my body is

Yesterday's appointment with my psychotherapist was more or less as expected. After I worked myself out of the severe depression of two weeks ago, I expected to get help arranging matters with the surgeon, which I did. Today the psychotherapist called the clinic again and an assistant called me. Unfortunately she called on my mobile phone, which I had left at home. No voice mail was left, so I'm not entirely sure how this will continue come Monday. Hopefully I'll have an appointment with the surgeon next month.

While talking through some issues, I once again realised the horrible truth that no matter what might be the factual reality of what my body is, ultimately it's all down to the opinion of a physician which determines what it can be. No matter that a surgeon cut me open and documented their findings. Another doctor is free to dispute those findings. I can find another doctor, who can also dispute those findings. And again. And so on.

This basically summarises the six hellish years I spent in the Netherlands after I found out about my intersex condition. Nearly three years during which I just had my own suspicions and the research I had performed using my own body and medical literature. Then the MRI-based evidence from Germany concluding that I'm a hermaphrodite. Then over six years of Dutch physicians doing their utmost to ignore and discredit this evidence.

Now I'm back at the same point. It doesn't matter that just over five years ago to this day I was lying cut open on a surgery table with a surgeon documenting the presence of female genitals. This new surgeon can still dismiss those findings and proclaim that nothing unusual was found on the MRI scan images. That I'm just a feminine-looking guy. A guy with perfect female dress sizes, natural female hormone levels and a regular, monthly period since the age of eleven.

Nothing matters. It's all up to the whims of others what I'll end up being, end up feeling and how I'll be living, or not.

I hope it all works out this time.


Sunday, 20 November 2016

Bronchitis, or: Get some real rest, or else

The past weeks I didn't feel so great already, with fatigue and coughing, and the past days occasionally pangs of pain in my chest. I initially just ascribed it to a bit of a cold or something, but yesterday the chest pains became ridiculously painful. Conclusion: bronchitis or similar.

Today I'm feeling even worse than yesterday, which underlines the advice given for recovering from bronchitis: rest and plenty of fluids. The drinking of fluids is easy enough, with lots of water and hot tea. The 'rest' part is something I have the most trouble with. Other people seem to get along just fine with doing 'nothing' for a while, but for me I'd even get bored as a child during the few times that I was sick and had to stay in bed.

The least I can do is to stay indoors, stay warm and don't stress myself too much. Unfortunately I still have to do household chores, including cooking of dinner. I'd also freak out if I couldn't sit in front of my PC and/or at my electronics desk and work on projects. There's a reason why 'vacation' sounds like 'purgatory' to me. I have never been good at not occupying myself with a project. Or ten.

So rest it is... along with the slight worry about the impact of this poorly insulated apartment on my health during the coming winter, and the immense stress of whether I'll see any chance of getting medical help vanish forever later next week when I see my psychotherapist again. Not getting a response from a doctor who was supposed to help me is the first break in the unexpected line of medical progress with my intersex condition which started last year. It's hard not to think that it was all just another bitter illusion of hope, soon to be shattered.

I'll try not to get too worried about medical issues, or my apartment slowly killing me. Maybe play a game or two and pretend I'm 'resting'. I can do this, maybe :)


Friday, 18 November 2016

This world cannot be real

Last week my psychotherapist contacted me to inform me that she had been unable to get into contact with the surgeon. Instead she had called the clinic and they told her there that I should contact the surgeon via the general email address for the clinic. This was a bit of a setback. Writing this email (in German), addressed at this surgeon proved to be very hard. Even though I regularly write German emails for my work, when I sat down to type the email to the surgeon, it was as though I had never used German.

It took me a few hours, then with help of Google Translate I managed to formulate something resembling a proper email which I sent off. The automatic response informed me that it would take at least five working days to get a response. It's been nearly ten working days now. For about a week now I have been struggling with intense depression as a result of having to suffer through more hope.

There's a very real possibility that I will not get a response, that even repeated reminders to the clinic will just make things drag on until ultimately the whole thing kind of bleeds to death. Just like every other time before, except for this one time when it did work out and I had this one surgery which changed my life.

Yet I do not believe any more that I will get this final surgery. I do not believe that physicians, psychologists, etc. really want to help me. I do not believe that being intersex makes me anything other than a pariah in the eyes of society. Next week is the next appointment with my psychotherapist. The temptation is strong to just end everything there.

Give up on the idea of help from surgeons, give up on getting help with the monthly pains, give up on PTSD therapy. Accept the very real possibility of living with chronic pain and the high chance of suffering sepsis or cancer as a result of an untreated, largely unexamined hermaphroditic condition.

At least I could maybe build up a life. Maybe.

Ignore everything to do with intersex, LGBTI and such nonsense from now on. Stop cooperating with the media. Stop helping other intersex people with advice. Pretend to be normal. Never finish my autobiography.

Focus on the things which can change. Things which I can control.

I know it's impossible to do so. I wouldn't have suffered through the past twelve years if it had been possible to give up on getting answers. The only way I have found which allowed me to give up was by being in enough pain that only suicide offered a solution. If I really gave up on things next week, I'd basically be choosing death.

Yet to continue like this, to constantly be forced to remind physicians of their duty and their job, to feel ever more like an unwanted pariah and pest is no solution either. I'm not sure in how far I should be taking these chronic pains and other symptoms seriously, or how bad they really are. Maybe it's normal to regularly feel so sick that it feels like one is dying. I don't know what's normal.

Maybe it's normal to have chronic pain, to accept living in deplorable apartments, to be ignored by doctors, and to feel tortured by both the briefness and unfairness of existence. Maybe depression is merely the acceptance of reality.

There's nothing which I would want more at this point than to have the surgeon contact me after all, have the surgery, find a wonderful home to buy next year and leave so many horrible experiences and memories behind me. Yet thinking like that involves hope, and hope is merely the prelude to suffering.

I want to be proven wrong. There's nothing which would please me more than to be able to not feel trapped by the whims of other people any longer, to have medical professionals revealed as actual, sympathetic human beings instead of uncaring alien beings stuffed into a human shell.

I want to feel human so badly myself. Not intersex, not a woman. Just myself. Yet I do not have all the answers yet and my psyche is too shattered and damaged at this point to give me anything but a garbled look at what this 'self' may be.

My enemy is hope. My enemy is time. My enemy is ignorance. My enemies are preconceptions and bias. I cannot fight against something which is intangible, or so firmly lodged into the psyche of others. I want to be nice to others and have others be nice to me, but I feel so saddened by the thought that most others do not think that way.

There's too much strife, anger and lack of understanding in this world.

Maybe my own small story will have a happy ending, or maybe not. I cannot tell. All I can do is stay away from the dark, dangerous parts of life. Even if it means abandoning all hope of a happy ending.

I pray it doesn't come to that.


Saturday, 12 November 2016

Why 3D films aren't true 3D

The big advantage of stereo vision is that it allows an individual to perceive far more about their environment than without it. One physically sees more, and one is able to judge distances and shapes far better. It is for these reasons that real 3D films have been a tantalising prospect for many decades, long after stereo photography became popular.

Over the past years I have had the chance to watch a number of 3D films, both truly filmed in 3D (Avatar) and later added with post-processing (2010's Alice in Wonderland). Even for films which were shot in 3D a number of large obstacles remain before they'll come close to a true 3D experience, such as that for example offered by Virtual Reality (VR) technology.

One of the main sticking points with 3D films has for a long time been the framerate, or lack thereof. Comparing the usual 24 frames-per-second (FPS) 3D films with the (much rarer) 48 FPS films, one can see that the latter is much smoother and more pleasant to look at, especially with panning or fast action scenes.

A few days ago I went to see my most recent 3D film, Doctor Strange, together with a bunch of friends. At this cinema they used a non-IMAX screen with active glasses, meaning not using polarised frames. Theoretically this makes for the best possible experience, as there will not be any overlap of frames per eye and not having the darkening effect of the polarisation.

The main issue with films trying to be 3D is that since they are filmed using lenses, they always have a focal point, effectively meaning a point that's in-focus in the scene while the rest is blurred. This is very disconcerting while looking around the scene as it feels as if one's vision isn't working normally. It also makes that every object that's not in focus (especially nearby objects) turns into a shapeless blob which one's mind cannot make heads or tails of.

Basically this means that you're not free to just look anywhere in the frame, but are forced to follow the focus of the camera. This is different from VR, where every part of the visible scene is in focus when you look at it. The resulting effect is of a scene which looks partially 3D and partially just like (blurry) 2D cut-outs.

One could say that this is no different from a 2D film, but the difference there is that the brain interprets a 2D image very differently from a stereoscopic one. With the former there's no expectation of it being a scene one can look around in, as it's just a flat image in which we can recognise shapes. With the latter the expectation is that it's just like our normal stereoscopic vision, but the limitations make that this is left unmet.

My personal experience is that of an experience markedly worse than the 3D effect experienced with VR and Nintendo's 3DS console. Some parts of scenes are cool due to the added 3D effect, but this is mostly when the camera has finally stopped moving and we get to focus on a close-up scene. Sadly such scenes are rare and in general I don't really feel that one misses a lot by watching it in 2D format.

Now if the FPS got upped to something reasonable (60+ FPS per eye?), and everything in the scene was in focus, then it would work. What we end up with today is kind of somewhat okay-ish at best, but nothing mind-blowing.

Especially after exposure to VR my feelings about current 3D films is that they're essentially a gimmick without a lot of added value.

Now VR... there's a topic which is truly mind-blowing. Part of me thinks that eventually VR will replace films as we know them today. I really hope it will and take films properly into the next dimension.


Saturday, 5 November 2016

Farewell pregnancy, for now

It was in June of last year that I first wrote about me discovering the signs of being pregnant, particularly the appearance of the vertical brown line, called 'linea nigra' on my abdomen. With an actual pregnancy being quite unlikely, I went through the medical madness of trying to have diagnosed what was going on.

The hints took a few months to trickle in, first in the form of an acquaintance who works in the medical profession informing me that this linea nigra can also appear when one has an excessive amount of oestrogens in one's system. This was followed a few months later by new blood tests showing that my own ovaries were producing normal levels of oestrogens on their own.

This meant that I was overdosing completely on oestrogens with the hormone therapy, resulting in the appearance of linea nigra, excessive PMS and other unpleasant symptoms. Since ceasing the hormone therapy - now about half a year ago - the linea nigra has virtually completely vanished from my abdomen and the PMS has become far more bearable, also without the general sensation of 'pressure' on my head.

In short, I was indeed not pregnant, but just going through a kind of second puberty, during which my ovaries asserted themselves by producing more estradiol than before and my body generally taking on a more regular female form.

The past months I have however become more and more acutely aware of a new pain with each period: that of a sensitive presence in my lower abdomen, located roughly where the uterus would be. Interesting here is that it's significantly more painful when I'm lying down than when sitting or standing, presumably because in the latter cases gravity and the midriff diaphragm would ensure that no other organs are pressing on this... uterus or whatever it is.

During many online discussions over the past months on sites such as Quora, the possibility of a hermaphrodite becoming pregnant has come up. For me it raises many questions. Once I was not supposed to have a vagina, but I do. I was not supposed to have ovaries, but I do. I was not supposed to have a uterus, but maybe I do as well? Even if I still do not have a usable uterus, it'd still raise the question of what I'd want to do if it turns out that my ovaries are capable of producing fertile eggs.

To be honest, they are not questions I'd really want to think about at this point. Not at this point in my life with all of the existing uncertainty and unhappiness.

At this point I'd prefer to get the reconstructive surgery over with, which would make it hopefully easy to assert whether or not I do indeed have a uterus or something like it, along with many questions regarding my period and so much more. Maybe after all that has concluded and the possibility of a pregnancy in some form has offered itself would I be prepared to hitch a ride on that emotional roller coaster.

I don't imagine that my life will get dull any time soon, at least.


Sunday, 30 October 2016

Sensory hypersensitivity

We often like to think that each of us experiences this world in the same way. That everyone sees the same colours, hears the same sounds, and experiences each of these sensory experiences the same way. In reality these experiences couldn't be more different. From colour-blindness, reduced sense of smell due to disease or smoking, to conditions which has one for example experiencing sounds as colours, the ways in which people experience the world around them is legion.

For myself the most distinguishing feature is that I do not experience sound as sound, or smell as smell. Touch isn't touch either. Instead everything is an image, since all sensory input gets integrated into a single, coherent image. This makes it really easy to perceive the world around oneself as a coherent whole, but also means that unless I focus on, for example, a spoken conversation, I will not remember any of it because it never got visualised.

The other 'feature' which distinguishes me is sensory hypersensitivity. This translates itself into an extremely sensitive sense of sight, smell, touch, taste and hearing. I will feel pain where others merely perceive a firm grasp. I will feel as if my eyes are being burned out of my skull by the sun on a regular summer's day and absolutely need sunglasses when the sun is shining, even during winter days.

I avoid many types of food because they taste too strong or certain aspects of it are overbearing. The primary reason why I cannot drink alcohol is because I taste the ethanol so strongly that it drowns out any other flavour of the drink. This peculiar sense of taste is also why I do not drink coffee and (alcohol-free) beer.

My sense of smell is so sensitive that it has contributed massively to my intense dislike of strong irritants such as cigarette smoke and the smell of coffee and alcohol. This even when it's at concentrations nobody else in the room notices besides me. It's not something which I can ignore at that point either. I can try to live with it for a short while, or leave the room.

Basically the same thing is true for my sense of hearing. In this area it's not just about general sensitivity, but mostly about not being able to ignore any sounds, no matter how repetitive. Sounds like those of someone breathing will frustrate me. A single cough will alert me once. Repeated coughing will alert me every time until I feel like I'm going mad. Ditto for similar sounds such as the ticking heating system at my current apartment, or merely a ticking clock.

Not surprisingly, I have the same issue with repetitive movement in my field of view. Someone swinging their leg constantly, flickering shadows from people moving around, or something similar will keep alerting me, over and over. It's really quite maddening.

The feeling is that of having all of my senses turned up to 200% every time of the day. Sometimes I feel so overburdened by sensory information that it feels as if my brain wants to shut down to protect itself. At such moments I find that closing my eyes helps to reduce the sensory load significantly. Doing so in a quiet place helps infinitely more.

What I have found over the years is that the only way to really deal with sensory hypersensitivity and this inability to shut out sensory information is to simply find a place where such sensory information is largely absent. While it's possible to deal with the full barrage of information society throws at one for a limited period of time. Having this 'quiet place' is essential for survival.

I honestly cannot wait until I am freed out of this prison of noise that is my current apartment, and move into a house. Somewhere quiet. Somewhere without people. Somewhere where I control how much sensory information I receive at any point, instead of being at the mercy of my environment.

In many ways the farm where I grew up as a child was perfect for someone with this hypersensitivity condition: if there was something we did not lack there it were places where you could just stand or sit for hours and hear nothing but the wind and an occasional bird or land-bound critter.

The true bliss of silence.


Friday, 28 October 2016

This time should be for real

Nearly twelve years ago now, I found myself on a train on my way to Amsterdam, for my first appointment at the gender team at the VUmc hospital there. I still remember how I felt during that trip: as if I was watching my own story as part of a TV documentary, with the usual commentary detailing my thoughts and hopes.

That was the first of a string of crushing disappointments. Over those nearly twelve years there were many occasions that I thought that this time I had finally found help and that it would all be over soon, only to be thwarted again. Along the way there was precious little recognition of the actual truth about my body; it was mostly about outright denial of my intersex condition and the questioning of my mental health.

I guess it did all change last year, when I got referred to my current endocrinologist, through whom I ended up in contact with Germany's transgender (and kinda also somewhat intersex) medical network. As a result I got a proper examination of my hormone levels, learned that I was overdosing on female hormones, learned that I am in fact in possession of ovaries, got a proper psychotherapist to assist me, and am now brought into contact with a surgeon who should be able to handle the reconstructive surgery.

During yesterday's appointment with my psychotherapist I learned that at least one surgeon had expressed interest in my case. Contact will be established with this surgeon in order to get my medical info including the most MRI scan to the hospital so that it can be studied, with the goal to have a consultation with the surgeon to discuss the prospect of surgery.

It will be still a tense and exciting moment to hear from this surgeon what his thoughts are on this reconstructive surgery. Whether he thinks it's possible at all, and if it is, which compromises I'd have to decide upon. I'm not expecting it to be a super-easy kind of surgery without any compromises, but at least I feel I have a good idea of which parts I would least loathe to compromise on.

Hardest to deal with would be if surgery turned out to be impossible, both from an emotional and medical point of view, considering that I still need to have the source of the extreme pains during my period examined. Without surgery everything would be harder and more difficult. For now I don't think that it's useful to think about this possibility too much.

Maybe this time everything will work out. The situation and level of support I currently have really couldn't be better, so I am hopeful that there won't be any weird or uncomfortable surprises. This time I should just get the straight answers about what my body is, what I was born with and in how far it can be shaped to its hermaphrodite self without having to resort to anything artificial.

I think that it would indeed be awesomely exciting if the surgery is possible without too many compromises. In so many ways it would be like coming home in my own body. Both to finally have that hermaphroditic body of mine restored to its full, natural state, as well as to have a somewhat easy and straight-forward way of dealing with the chronic period pains.

I dare not dream of such a moment yet, but the thought of this possibility is more than tantalizing.


Wednesday, 26 October 2016

End of the road, with shades of a happy ending

It was early 2005 when I embarked on my quest to answer the simple question of just what the heck my body is about. Now, on the even of the 12th anniversary of this event I can look back on twelve years filled with events which have both destroyed and on occasion rekindled my trust in my fellow humans. Twelve years of experiences which no person should ever have to go through.

On this moment I can also look ahead to what should be the end of this quest, of this endless road as I have often described it. Regardless of the outcome as I head into consultations with surgeons, I will get my answers and that will be the end of it. Also hopefully the beginning of what should be my actual, real life. The real me.

The past week the two doctors and psychotherapist who handle my case at this point have been at a congress, getting into contact with people who can hopefully help me with this last part of my medical journey: answering the question of whether a reconstructive surgery of my female side is possible, as in reattaching the existing vagina to the perineum, accompanied by the creation of labia.

I hope it is possible, because it'd make my body finally feel complete, and it would enable extremely easy examinations of the severe monthly pains which I experience. Many medical and psychological reasons to hope for this outcome at least.

Yet even if that's not possible, at least it will be all pertinent questions answered. There's still the question of what my genetic make-up is exactly - whether I'm truly an XX/XY chimera - but that will not change who or what I am, merely satisfy some trivia. My body would still be complete to me and there'd be nothing else to fight for, strive for or otherwise put far too much energy into, aside my duty of ensuring that no-one else will have to go through an experience like mine.

One thing which I find myself struggling with is that I am now being helped by doctors exactly the way I had imagined it would go, twelve years ago. It's all so easy and everyone is so friendly and helpful. It makes me wonder why the past decade had to happen at all. I guess that's a question with which I will have to find peace somehow.

On the bright side, this year saw its share of miracles, such as discovering that I do in fact have ovaries and with these suddenly kicking into high gear as they started producing sufficient hormones on their own so that I no longer have to take any kind of hormone therapy. In many ways my body now feels like that of a regular woman, although I still feel primarily a hermaphrodite. All of that is fine, and I hope to explore that feeling far more after any surgery.

Tomorrow I will get an update from my psychotherapist on their findings at the congress and any further steps to take. I pray that the findings so far were positive and that the entire matter can be resolved in a matter of months without too much additional stress, worrying and compromises.

This is the end of the road. Everything after this is new, unknown territory to explore.


Saturday, 22 October 2016

Just want to know that everything is okay

The past weeks I found myself struggling with exhaustion, lack of and generally poor sleep, severe nightmares and similar, all of which made me wonder what was going on to make me feel so terrible. It felt like burn-out, depression and similar non-fun stuff, but I couldn't quite put my finger on the cause. That is, until yesterday.

All too often when something 'snaps' emotionally it's not due to a singular event, but the slow, gradual build-up of emotional stresses. Rarely is it even from a singular source, though they can be related. Looking back on the past month or so I could easily identify a number of sources.

Pregnancies, relationships and marriages. Three words which evoke primarily negative feelings and stir negative memories for me. Also three topics which played a big role at work lately.

Pregnancy? Never been an option for me, no matter which way. Painful reminder of how... different my body is.

Relationships, marriages and the like? Heterosexual relationships still make me feel ill at the mere thought. Relationships and marriages are an excellent reminder of how anti-social and secluded I have become over the years that I may as well not bother to fix this any more.

Then the million dollar word: 'home'. As in a place where you feel safe and comfortable. Something which I haven't had in literally over a decade. Something which I do not have currently and do not expect to have until next year at the earliest. If I can find the courage to expose myself to the potential to get hurt incredibly again. This is also the reason why I will never rent a place again.

I just want to reach a point where I do not feel threatened any more. A point where nobody is trying to scam me, where nobody threatens me even when I have done nothing wrong, where I feel that my skills are welcome, and maybe even where I can feel that I can trust people around me.

At this point I am unhappy, I feel broken and a misfit. Not suicidal or anything of the sort, but just very sad and somewhat depressed that life has to be so incredibly hard just for some when it would be so easy to make life easy for everyone.

Next week I expect to hear more about the potential reconstructive surgery, a surgery which should hopefully conclude well over a decade worth of searching for medical help with my intersex condition. A condition which has taken me well outside the bounds of 'normal society' and which unfortunately has forced me to confront aspects of it which are simply indescribably revolting.

Part of what I came to terms with yesterday is that the intense feeling of alienation I deal with on a daily basis is simply because that's the way things are for people like me: we are not part of human society like others. We don't raise families or have happy, care-free relationships. We don't get married or fuss about what clothes to wear to a party.

We deal with those parts of society everyone else chooses to simply ignore. We have to carve out our own lives, in our own way without an easy template to follow. This is also an incredibly tough and gruelling path to follow, yet we do not follow it because of some expected gain. We do it because we have no other choice.

This all makes it so much more important to reach those points where one can just sit up and realise that everything is okay. That one has an actual place one can happily call 'home', funds to live one's life and nothing major to worry about. To people like us such moments are more precious than anything else in this universe, simply because they are so incredibly rare.


Sunday, 16 October 2016

Entertainment isn't what it used to be

As a child I grew up with the best sources of entertainment the 1980s and early 1990s could offer, as well as the extensive collection of mostly music from my parents dating back to the 1960s. This meant vinyl, compact cassette tapes and VHS tapes. To play video games on the Commodore 64 we had cassette tapes as well, and a single game on a cartridge.

With our first PC we moved on to 3.5" floppy disks, and gaming was done on a Super Nintendo (SNES) with cartridges. Like moving from vinyl to cassettes, loading programs from a floppy instead of painstakingly waiting for the counter on the tape drive to reach the right count made things a lot easier. Ditto for just shoving a cartridge into a SNES, turning it on and starting playing.

Moving to audio CDs made things even easier for listening to music, removing all the fun details of vinyls (dust, skipping audio, flipping records, etc.) and cassettes (sticky rollers, switching between side A and B, audio quality, etc.) and making it almost boring to listen to music.

Move forward a few more years into the early 2000s, and the VHS tapes have been replaced with DVDs. Audio is still largely CDs, but MP3s and other digital formats are beginning to take its lunch money. As PCs and the internet become faster, so too does the exchanging of music, movies and games via sharing networks increase, regardless of its legal status. There's just something to be said for having access to virtually all popular and many rare pieces of content for virtually free.

Not having a significant source of income over the past years I admittedly didn't do a lot of content buying, so I only experienced the next batch of changes in media formats from the sidelines, including the demise of HD-DVD and the rise of Blu-Ray. This experience void ended when I decided to purchase my very first Blu-Ray movie, receiving it earlier this week. That's when things went south.

My experience over the past decades has been that new formats make life easier, removing issues like degrading audio quality with playback, stuck and broken tape, flipping sides, rewinding after playback or arcane knowledge of C64 BASIC just in order to load content from a floppy disk. DVDs had the questionable encryption thing (CSS), but after it was revealed that it was extremely easy to crack people soon forgot that DVDs even featured encryption.

This in contrast with Blu-Ray movies. Its version of CSS (AACS) has not been cracked yet. This means that without the proper decryption keys the bits on the disc are useless. Worse, to get those decryption keys you need to have an official license from the BluRay organisation ($$), or pay someone who has made a Blu-Ray player (hardware or software-based) which can retrieve the appropriate keys.

All of this led to me putting my new Blu-Ray movie into the Blu-Ray player of my PC and then spending nearly an hour finding out that neither Windows Media Player, nor MPC-HC, nor VLC (even with libaacs and current key database) could decrypt this particular disc. Without shelling out more money (more than the movie disc had cost me), it was clear that I wasn't going to be able to watch this movie.

Except for one detail which led to me watching the movie after all: browsing to a certain popular site, searching for the movie title, clicking two links and waiting a number of minutes until the movie had finished downloading. Open it in MPC-HC and then I was watching the movie, same quality as if I was watching it from the disc which was lying uselessly on my desk.

I'm not sure I see the point of buying movies on Blu-Ray discs when I'm at the mercy of those holding the decryption keys. I'm not sure I see the point of paying a monthly fee for a streaming service either, when they're unlikely to have the content I want to see or listen to, not to mention not always having internet available.

All I want is to buy content on physical media which is not burdened by encryption and which I actually own, not merely license or have access to as long as I pay the monthly fee. This is sadly similar to what happened to video games.

Back in 1998 I bought Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time for the Nintendo 64. It cost me a smack of money, along with the console itself, but I knew that after plunking down all of that money, the game console was mine, and the game cartridge which I was holding was the entire game, for now and all eternity.

Now that I'm mostly buying games from online services like Steam and Good Old Games (GOG), the concept of 'ownership' is a bit more nebulous. I know that for the cartridge games I buy for my Nintendo 3DS portable console I can simply claim that they are 'mine', but if any of those online services were to vanish tomorrow, what would you be left with? With GOG you at least have the lack of encryption meaning that you can just copy the game installer to a safe place, but with Steam?

Then there's the point of games with online features, or which are fully online-based. They turn into useless bits as soon as the company maintaining the servers turns them off. Even something as widely popular as World of Warcraft, but also for online multiplayer features, downloadable content and so on. If someone were to want to play a SNES game twenty years from now, the game cartridge should still just work in 2036 and functioning hardware can be found or assembled as well.

Some days I depress myself with the thought of just how many of today's games will be unplayable ten, or even five years from now. In a time when even buying a game disc for a Playstation 4 or XBone doesn't guarantee that the title will work without massive patches (downloaded from a server which won't exist any more in ten years), it's questionable in how far it makes sense to even buy game discs any more.

Others have said this before, and I find that I can merely agree with them; if we aren't careful, we may end up with an entertainment 'dark ages', with movies and music locked behind unbreakable encryption and games too fragmented or too reliant on long since vanished online services to be even worth a look any more.

All of this is a fairly depressing thought, regardless of whether one feels that most of this content is truly worth saving. It means that we're moving backwards in some ways, not forwards.


Saturday, 15 October 2016

The meme we call religion

Every now and then I get asked whether I am religious, or what my views are on religion, often in light of my experiences the past decades.

On the first point I can be clear: I wasn't raised in a religious environment, nor did I somehow 'discover' religion along the way. At no point in the past decades did religion play any significant role, except for the negativity and rejection I encountered by Christians, both doctors and regular people.

To me religion is one of those oddities about humans, revealing a tendency to abandon independence, control and critical thought in exchange for blind faith, pointless rituals and a tendency to inflict horrible suffering upon others in the belief that one is doing the right things. Based on neurological evidence found during a number of scientific studies one can surmise that it does involve a type of neurological defect which may have its roots in human evolution.

While religion played no major role for me, what I did gain over the years was a strong belief in humanism. The notion that basically everything which happens to us on a daily basis is due to the actions of ourselves and others. None of what happened to me over the past decades was due to anything but the actions of others and to a limited extent my own, for example when I decided to take my own life, a few years ago now. Even that experience just made it more clear to me that it's just us humans.

All that I have seen were other humans. All that I experienced were humans being cruel, ignorant, uncaring, and sometimes gentle and understanding. I cannot conceivably define religion for this reason as being about something super-natural, spiritual or anything of the type. It's overwhelmingly shown itself as a purely human thing; contrived by humans and kept going by humans. There's no man behind the curtain, it's just... us.

To me religion is more of a Lovecraftian scenario. It's an Abyss which once one stares into it, it'll gazes back into one's soul, converting and twisting all of one's hopes, dreams and fears into an alternate reality inspired by the most primal and defective parts of our minds. Brought into a group, it begins to lead its own life, reducing individuals to merely insignificant components of a larger whole. It's essentially part of meme theory, whereby ideas and concepts can literally be treated as a type of virus, infecting others and forcing them to further spread the virus.

The past decade that I have fought to find myself and figure out the world around me. This process involved scientific and medical facts, as well as a very dark trip into the human psyche. I am still trying to figure out why it is that I was treated the way I was by doctors and psychologists, why scientific and medical facts were not paramount in their actions and decisions, but... something else instead.

It is this irrationality which frightens me the most in other humans. Instead of behaving rationally and displaying a preference for order, harmony and general happiness as would be expected, their focus instead seems to be inwards, involving the harbouring of some internal sense of misery and unhappiness. They then seem to inflict negative actions upon others for no perceivable gain, but to maybe temporarily alleviate their internal darkness.

Others seek to bury this feeling of unhappiness in the embracing of ignorance, ignoring their mortality, the suffering of others and the role they could be playing in the world.

Even as a child I felt burdened by the weight of being just a mortal existence amidst the sheer enormity of the universe, but learned to deal with it by fully embracing that which makes us truly human: science and the countless ways it can make life better for all of us. Thus, in effect, I negated the possibility of me ever contracting religion or similar by choosing to embrace reality and all the good that it can bring. All the changes that it can bring.

Religion does not change. It just is. Each instance is as firmly stuck in the past as the holy work on which it claims to be based. Science, however, is the book which we humans are still writing - and rewriting - every day, based on the small glimpses of the immense universe we strive to capture.

Science got me where I am today. Science allowed me to learn the things I now know about my body. Science is the reason why I am alive today. Science is what I will keep dedicating my life to, today and tomorrow, and every day that I will have after that.

For I am human.


Monday, 10 October 2016

Chronic pain and the promise of surgery

Later this month I should hopefully learn what my chances are of getting this reconstructive surgery. During this surgery the existing vagina should get joined up with the perineum and labia created from the empty scrotum's skin. Unlike what one might assume, my main hope with this surgery is not to appear and function more like a regular female. My main hope is that it may reduce the chronic pains which I suffer from.

Since I was eleven years old I have had regular periods, for the longest time merely experiencing it as weird pains and discomfort which I sought to dismiss and ignore as best as I could. I was supposed to be a guy after all, so it had to be just common guy things like an upset stomach and skin rashes or something. That lasted until I learned about my intersex condition.

Especially after I went on hormone therapy my body began to change, and the period symptoms began to change along with it. I began to experience more serious cramps, as well as sore hips and painful lower back, and finally excruciating pains at the end of the menstrual phase. Pains which persisted even after I went off hormone therapy as my body was producing sufficient female hormones on its own. Pains which are bad enough that I have to take the anti-conception pill to lessen the symptoms.

While the ovulation phase of my periods is sufficiently painful - with a sore right side and hips as well as abdominal discomfort - the fun really starts with the menstrual phase. This one features severe abdominal cramps, headaches, pain and discomfort in the vaginal area and ultimately what feels like an inflammation in this latter area.

What this means is that no matter whether I'm sitting, walking, standing, or lying down, it'll hurt or cause discomfort. Together with the menstrual phase this lasts between one and two weeks. The absolute worst part of it has to be that visiting the toilet becomes painful to excruciating. On some days, trying to defecate feels as if shards of glass are rending one's lower abdomen into shreds, resulting in checking for traces of blood, or making sure that no streams of blood are running down one's legs.

A lot of my current life is about living with pain. Yet at least one knows the physical pain will subsides again and I usually get about one relatively pain-free week every month. Worse is not knowing what is happening inside of my abdomen and how bad it may get. Or whether I'm risking sepsis, an increased risk of cancer or merely suffer internal scarring every month.

With this reconstructive surgery I may finally get the answers I seek. The about eight sets of abdominal MRI scans which were made over the years cannot answer the questions I have. Being able to physically examine the area in question could answer so many questions, and hopefully lead to treatment options. Better yet, it may even be a partial fix in itself, if the pain after the menstrual phase is due to menstrual fluid irritating the vaginal lining or other tissues before my body can reabsorb it.

I really hope for good news on the surgery and that I may soon find out in which ways it will improve my life.


Thursday, 6 October 2016

Supposedly there is always a way out

Sometimes I wish I could understand why some people feel the need to be so cold and ruthless towards others.

I was right about being intersex for over a decade, yet during that time many so-called 'specialists' thought it necessary to be condescending to me, calling me 'delusional', 'just a confused boy', and ascribing many types of mental disorders to me. They'd device useless, abusive physical examinations to subject me to. Meanwhile they told me every diagnosis but the right one, even making a few conditions up on the spot, such as autoparagynaecophilia, coined by a group of Dutch 'specialists'.

Just a fancy way of saying that they think that I am crazy and just want to see myself as having a feminine appearance. How nice.

There was no reason for them to be that mean to me. They only needed to do their job. That's all there was to it.

Ditto for landlords and kin. Yesterday the ticking of the heating system started again, thanks to the pipes contracting and extending against metal braces which should be replaced. Yet the building owner refuses to replace them, because 'that would cost too much money'. Meanwhile said ticking noise quite literally drives me insane, thanks to a combination of being hypersensitive to sounds and the existing PTSD. Yet the building owner still insists I should pay the full rent, opting to bully me out of the place with threats of having my apartment cleared out and such.

This person only needed to do their job. That's all there's to it.

I really should find something else, yet I have realised that I cannot trust renting a place from anyone ever again. There are no nice people renting places. Period. That means trying to find something to buy. Dealing with real-estate agents. All of which I am very familiar with and none of which is pleasant, yet at the end one has a property which is one's own.

Ultimately that's the way out which I am looking for. The closest thing to freedom one can find, beyond being so filthy rich that really nothing gets in the way any more aside from the few things which money cannot solve (yet).

Unfortunately such a search will take time and energy. Neither of which are abundant for me at this point, especially the latter. In a number of weeks I'll hear what my prospects for surgery are as well, at which point I won't have time either if the surgery goes ahead. After said surgery I'll need a while to recover (months), meaning that if I have to do everything - surgery logistics, house search, etc. - all by myself, the first point that I can start looking at a new place will be early next year at the earliest.

That means months of being harassed and bullied by this 'landlady' and her lackeys. It means months of loud ticking noises from the heating system's pipes almost every moment of the day. It means recovering from reconstructive surgery in a cold, noisy, draughty apartment.

Maybe the worst in all of this is that the last moment which I remember when I truly felt at peace and comfortable was over five years ago, during the moment between waking up and taking those handfuls of sleeping pills.

Things are supposed to be getting better. Yet I do not see a light at the end of any tunnel. It's just a lot of 'maybe', speculation and wishes. Months of hard work and possible surgery complications await me. Months of most likely emotional suffering. Placed against that sensation of blissful euphoria that I felt that one moment those years ago, I find it so incredibly hard to make the case to go through with this search for the seemingly impossible.

I'm not even certain who I'm saying this to, or why I bother. Maybe just for myself. I really do not expect anyone who could help me in this situation to feel in any way like doing so.

Thus I remain, torn between the path of suffering and that one moment of blissful euphoria before everything is resolved.

Tell me, why should I keep living? What is in it for me?


Monday, 3 October 2016

Puberty 2: Puberty Harder

Puberty: hormone levels cannot decide whether they want to be male or female levels, end up as neither. Some breast growth, fuzz which with some imagination could be called 'facial hair'. Pelvis expands into a female form, development of feminine hips and waist. Voice cracks a bit. First menstruation at age 11, without being aware of what it is.

Really confusing puberty, really. Outcome very confusing, too. Definitely not recommended.

Puberty 2: testicles have been removed in 2011, so testosterone levels drop from ~25% male levels to regular female levels. Last year the ovaries suddenly decide to produce regular female levels of estradiol (oestrogen precursor). Hormone therapy resulted in an overdose of estradiol as a result. Stopping with hormone therapy fixed the OD symptoms (including linea nigra and hyper-PMS). Hormonally I am now a regular female, without any hormone therapy or the like.

Other changes include resumed breast growth by a full cup size (so far), and a general sense of well-being in my body. Psychologically it feels as if my body is sorting itself out at long last and this time my emotional side is along for the ride as well.

On one hand it's really confusing to literally go through puberty again while one is supposedly a proper adult already. On the other hand it's very cool to observe one's body - which one has become familiar with over decades - finally take on a shape which fits with the rest of it. Before it felt as if my body was an uncomfortable mess of many only partially worked out ideas.

It's hard to define exactly why a certain body works so well and evokes such a sensation of it being 'correct', yet this underlies exactly why people do or do not feel comfortable with their body. It's something which goes far, far deeper than a simple binary choice, such as one's biological sex. The thriving market for cosmetic surgery proves this point.

People chase ideals, without really understanding why. I am no stranger to this. Back when I thought that I was a boy, I wanted to be a tough guy, someone like Rambo, but with smarts. I'd imagine myself with a six-pack, full body-builder body. Definitely set some high standards for myself there. Then of course lots of things happened for years, with my parents divorcing and me moving across the country a few times.

During this time I realised that the external image of who and what I was, with which I had been provided over the years, was completely wrong. I discovered that I was intersex, not a guy. I found that I do not have a male body at all, but one which matches up perfectly with the average female body, aside from the visible genitals.

After this, over a decade of fighting with physicians and psychologists followed, almost all of whom were convinced that I was just confused, a transsexual boy or - if I was lucky - afflicted with this horrible disorder called 'intersex' for which immediate corrective surgery was prescribed (after going through the years of transsexual protocol successfully regardless, somehow).

In that environment I had little opportunity to form a coherent image of myself. Of my body or of myself as a person. It was akin to going through a regular puberty while living in a broken home, with frequent yelling between one's parents, violence and abuse towards oneself, as well as possibly worse things. All you can think of is pure survival, not about which is your favourite colour or whether you're more in love with that person or maybe that other one, or what you'll become when you are an adult.

I guess I mostly made it out of said broken home at this point. Along with last year's sudden start of a second puberty it has given me an opportunity to redo so much of what went horribly wrong that first time. This time my body takes on a shape which I can understand and feel more than just comfortable with. This time I have medical help and care for my intersex condition. Only negative point is having a cruel and abusive landlady who does her utmost to make my life hell.

As I have sadly noticed, it's nearly impossible to fix that last point. The adult world is one where one is expected to face abuse almost constantly, unless one can work oneself up into a position of wealth and power where the taking of such abuse is no longer necessary. I have noticed and fought against this constantly for the past twelve years, with the medical healthcare systems. To find that I will have to do all of the same again but now in order to find a place to live is disheartening to say the least.

Those doctors and psychologists who abused, harassed and brainwashed me over the years were absolute bastards, even if they were convinced that they were doing the right thing. It's okay for me to be angry at them, I think. I find it harder to sympathise with landlords, though. I cannot see how they feel that what they're doing is right for the person renting the property or seeking to do so. This makes the assumption that their behaviour is often borderline or full-blown psychopathic or sadistic much easier to make than with said doctors and psychologists.

I do find the many parallels I can draw here based on my experiences to be both fascinating and horribly frightening, though.

In the end I guess I can honestly say that I am happy and overjoyed that my body is giving me this second chance, also with the positive effect it has on my psyche. I just wish that I can finally leave the 'broken home' part of my life for good, by leaving the harassment and abuse from others fully behind me.

Maybe soon?


Saturday, 1 October 2016

The impact of being white, male, female, gifted and intersex

Over the past decades I have had plenty of opportunity to experience what it means to be a number of things in Western society, ranging from the mundane to things which the average person has never heard of before. Each of these things are things which I was either born with, or related to them. For every item it either impacted my life in a significant way, or barely at all.

First the easy one: I was born as a Caucasian person, i.e. the most boring form of 'white'. Not typically standard, though, since I have type I-II skin (forget about tanning) and reddish-brown hair. I escaped the brunt of the jokes and harassment aimed at red-haired people, but especially my super-light skin gets me a fair amount of (sometimes unpleasant) remarks.

Moving on, I started my life as a 'male', in so far as that outwards I appeared to be male (until puberty kicked in) and lived in a male gender role until the end of puberty. Swapping gender roles from male to female shortly after that, I cannot really say that there is much of a difference.

Sure, as a woman you're allowed to wear pretty much anything and are allowed a far wider range of behaviours, whereas male-accepted clothing tends to be rather all the same and include about five different colour ranges. I definitely find that I enjoy the freedom I have in a female role much more.

Among the negatives of being a woman has to be the having of periods (yay, pain) and dealing with the occasional guy who insists on getting too close and trying to be too friendly (with or without lewd remarks) is annoying at least and potentially dangerous if it involves a drunken guy. Fortunately I have learned to beat up guys in the past, so I'm at least hardly the defenceless maiden there. Not being cat-called as a 'guy' by guys (or gals) made for a more quiet life, but it seems like a worthy sacrifice to me.

As for discrimination with my job (software development) or similar, I haven't noticed anything there. Even in my contacts with large (German) businesses during projects I have never noticed any negative treatment of me or any other women involved. We are being paid the same as our male colleagues and skill seems to be valued far higher than whichever genitals one may or may not possess.

Putting all of those things together, I can say that neither my skin nor my gender role has really affected me in a negative way. I regard all of them fairly neutral, even if I can appreciate what I have ended up with there.

To anyone who has followed my story for any length of time it should be fairly obvious what the impact of me having been born intersex was, yet the impact of being gifted is probably less known. Both of these things were however instrumental in alienating me from the people around me, starting as a child, then getting so much worse during puberty.

The physical aspects of being intersex, with my body developing in a confusing manner, along with me being on a fully different intellectual level as others made it seem like I was alien somehow. I had to live with a body which refused to develop in a normal male fashion, while I found nothing which my classmates did interesting, except where it involved video games, computers and similar.

Naturally I had no idea back then that I was different, beyond feeling like a typical nerd loser. Someone who'd rather do 'nerdy' things than 'normal' things, and who would rather talk about adult topics than the normal stuff children and teenagers talk about. That's how I ended up just reading about quantum mechanics or just regular fiction books during high school instead of following the classes. I still aced my way through HS, despite putting in hardly any effort. Never doing homework, never studying or learning for a test beyond skimming the text book a bit beforehand.

Being gifted taught me that I can put my mind to anything and accomplish that task. Anything but making other people understand what it is that I am doing or why it's so interesting. It's probably one of the reasons why prefer to just be by myself, working on interesting projects and talking with people more like me via internet. If I could, I'd give up this body in a heart-beat. Stop being human, just be an intelligence without all that unnecessary burden.

As said, being intersex isn't easy either. There's a certain expectation of 'normalcy' within society, whether it is to neatly divide everyone into categories along one's skin colour, genitals (only one set, please!), or the sexual and political preferences (could be one category...). The fact that intersex exists is a clear hint by nature that the concept of binary gender and biological sex is invalid, something which societies cannot cope with (yet).

I spent the past twelve years surviving the worst individual members of society, the medical community and psychologists could throw at me, from accusations of me having a gruesome 'disorder' (DSD), to being crazy enough to warrant immediate lock-up in a mental hospital to being an 'unnatural existence'.

What I experienced solely due to having been born intersex is among the most hateful, frightening, hurtful, traumatising and terrible experiences. I can say basically nothing positive about how I have been treated by others as a result, and the horrible way society still treats people like me simply defies belief. On one side they will condemn female genital mutilation (FGM) as a 'barbaric practice', while at the same time approve the genital mutilation of intersex infants in order to 'normalise' them.

In the end I guess I can say that I can deal with pretty much anything life has thrown at me, except for the intersex part. Not because of me being intersex by itself. I'm fine with how I am and would not want to change my body significantly, let alone remove parts to be more 'normal' or such nonsense. Nay, it's purely about how especially doctors and psychologists have abused and hurt me for reasons I still cannot comprehend.

Even if I were to undergo surgery tomorrow in order to make me into a regular female, removing any traces of the male genitals, it could not erase the psychological trauma, or improve anything. In fact, it'd just make things unimaginably worse.

This is the primary reason why I have lost all faith in humanity and why even something as 'straightforward' as finding a new place to move into is as inviting as voluntarily opting to get gang-raped. Maybe if they're nice they'll refrain from doing so, but the expectation is there.

Being intersex shattered my trust in humanity. The latter has done almost nothing since then to restore that trust. This poses me with the very serious question of why I would wish to continue dealing with it. Why live in human society? Why deal with people who likely just want to screw me over no matter whether I am looking for a place to live or merely buy a sandwich?

There are many things I can get upset about in daily life. The attitude of third-wave feminists about how tough life is for Western women is one. The hypocrisy about FGM is another. The insistence of primarily men to judge about female reproductive health also gets me properly riled up. The treatment of the poor. The wasting of food. Terrible energy policies. Too many topics to choose from.

Yet in the end I'm always again reminded that as an intersex person I do not exist and do not have rights. That I am only still alive because 'they' haven't gotten around to taking care of me. People like us are invisible, after all. Merely parasites until we can get 'normalised' and brainwashed into being proper, binary cogs.

And for some reasons landlords manage to remind me of doctors and psychologists in all the wrong ways. Go figure.


Thursday, 29 September 2016

Please help me, I beg you

Upon arriving at my apartment today I got jumped by the contact person for the company from which I rent this apartment I currently live in. She asked me icily when I was planning to move out, threatened with having my place forcefully cleared out and repeating the claims that the ticking heating system is normal ('costs too much to fix') and the brown water is because 'I don't use the water enough'. She also gleefully insisted that German rental law gives them the right to do all this to me.

Even though all that she says it's nonsense, the fact remains that this is a property owner who refuses to fulfil their duties according to the law, and who sees fit to harass those who rent from them with false claims. The other thing is that I have been trying to find alternative places to move into for the past two years or so, hindered by my medical situation and my psychological issues.

As I discovered last week, PTSD - including lots of traumatic events related to moving - are not a great combination with (you guessed it), moving into a new place. If there's no guarantee that nobody is trying to screw me over (like with at least half the times I moved...) and the place isn't actually any or only marginally better than the previous one, it just manages to send my mind reeling back into places which I really do not care to ever revisit.

They're bad places. Dark places. Places where one is alone, and naked and cold, with no light or warmth. Places where the only options are to keep suffering like that or to take matters into one's own hands and kill oneself. Blissful death. No more darkness, coldness, humiliation or suffering.

I am suffering incredibly at this point again. I don't feel safe. I don't see a way out. I only see people ready to either take advantage of me, or to pat me upside the head and tell me that things will get better as long as I keep plugging away at it. Alone.

I guess I shouldn't be surprised, though. Nobody understands what trauma does to a person unless they have either experienced it themselves, or have shared this pain with someone who suffers through PTSD. People like us do not live just in this world that exists now, today. We live in dozens of not hundreds of instances at the same time, reliving a thousand moments.

But I guess it's pointless to repeat all that again.

In the end I need a new place to move into. My dream is an actual house (not apartment), bought using a loan so that I actually own the place. A house away from people. Somewhere with lots of nature and peace.

Since that likely won't happen right away, I would be okay with renting a house or apartment in or near Karlsruhe that's also quiet and well-maintained, with a friendly owner. 80 square meters or more (lots of hobbies, none of them noisy). Cable connection available and a place for my bicycle.

It would be awesome if I got some help with this. The past weeks my turns have thought to suicide far too often (i.e. more than once), and I really don't want to head into that path again. Once was more than enough.

Please, can I lean on your shoulders for a bit? I won't be too much of a burden, I promise, and I'll return the favour, no worries.

Even if others keep being nasty and horrible to me, I still want to believe that it is okay to be a nice person.

Thank you,