Saturday, 30 April 2016

Why the EU is awesome for LGBTI people

For years now there's been a lot of grandstanding by political and other parties in the Netherlands as well as other European countries about how great it would be if they could just leave the EU, lock down their borders and do everything themselves again.

The simple truth is that if the Netherlands were to leave the EU, I would post-haste seek to obtain German citizenship, rescinding my Dutch nationality if need be. To me the EU has been, and still is one of the few bright points in the harsh reality that comes with not being part of the imaginary sex and gender binary. If anything the Netherlands is complicit in making me realise the benefits of this Union.

From gaining easy access to the healthcare systems in other EU countries with full coverage, to easy migration between member countries, to a single currency. There are many reasons why the existence of the EU has made life for me as an intersex EU citizen much easier than it would have been otherwise.

From being able to hop borders to get an MRI scan (illegal in the Netherlands), to getting surgery (also illegal in the Netherlands). From getting a job offer and permanently migrating in a matter of months, to only having to go through a simple registration in my new country. It's hard to say which of these things made my life the easiest.

Maybe the biggest positive point is that courtesy of the EU, EU citizens are free to escape the grasp of conservative or regressive societies, such as in Poland, Greece and the Netherlands. Finding a job elsewhere is easy. Renting or even buying a place in another member country is easy. I'm hardly the only one who has escaped the Netherlands, for example, to find a better life in Germany or elsewhere.

Of those whose stories I know, some were raised in the Netherlands, then found out that they were transsexual and - after a few years of unpleasantness at the same Amsterdam hospital which I went to - decided to abandon the Netherlands and find a more humane and respectful life in Germany.

That to me is what the European Union represents: freedom. The freedom to choose, to decide one's own fate instead of being forced to submit to whichever culture one has been born into. It's an idea which literally takes away borders and shows a tantalising glimpse into a future where all of us can respectfully live together, regardless of any and all characteristics of our bodies and minds.

At this point in time such an ideal has not been accomplished, as evidenced by the struggle for basic human rights for some groups within European countries. Yet at the same time it also gives people like me hope. Hope that some day everything will be different, and the borders between people will be gone, too.


Friday, 29 April 2016

Getting used to the idea of others helping me

Yesterday I had another appointment with the endocrinologist and the gynaecologist. We covered the curious nature of these monthly symptoms which my body exhibits, especially the numbness in my right leg. We also discussed the reconstructive surgery: here they want to wait until a congress which takes place in October regarding such surgeries before they decide on a surgeon there.

Finally I'm also being referred to another specialist who can help me with the neurological (numbness) issues, as well as the other symptoms and the PTSD. This specialist is also needed to give the go-ahead for any surgery. Whereas a surgery for a transsexual person requires two specialists, this type of reconstructive surgery I seek requires just one, in order to get coverage by my health insurance.

This last appointment marks the continued shift from the high-level drama I had found myself trapped in for more than a decade, as suddenly things have become significantly less exciting and infinitely more helpful. With the way things are heading I should have clarity on the surgery and possibly the surgery itself already by the end of this year, or early next year.

It's almost boring, really, but in a good way.

A lot more exciting, not to mention upsetting, is the matter which I talked about in my previous post. Specially the company which owns the apartment I rent refusing to fix issues I have addressed, and currently threatening to send a lawyer after me for not paying 100% of the rent. Their reasoning is that all issues have been fixed for a long time, that having brown water from the faucet is normal and that I should pay them nearly 2,000 Euro.

Even though I have the law on my side and there's little chance of me actually having to cough up this amount, the negatives are that of being harassed by the building's owner, the apartment being poorly insulated with rusty water and other issues, and the noise issues which keep triggering my traumas. In short, I really need to find a new place, fast.

What I am looking for in a new place is a house, quiet enough for someone like me with hypersensitivity to sound. This means no neighbours above or below me, and no other sources of noise. A place with at least about 80 square meters of space, for at most a thousand Euro a month (total). Around Karlsruhe would be great, but further away is fine too, as long as high-speed internet is an option.

I have been fortunate to have an outpouring of support from people, including colleagues, after I posted my previous blog post. So many people have been offering me advice and direct support. At this point I'm not feeling too worried about the lawyer part if I do get a legal case thrown at me. I'm less certain about the 'new place' part, however.

The unfortunate fact is simply that there's a massive shortage of rental homes in Karlsruhe, and all the good ones rarely if ever appear on the usual listing sites. For this reason I have to rely pretty much exclusively on my contacts and their contacts.

I hope to find a new place and get settled before I have surgery at least. I do not want to still be in this apartment by the beginning of year, possibly trying to heal up from intensive surgery while having trouble to stay warm as during the past winters, not to mention feeling agitated by the ticking heating system and hearing people walk, urinate and defecate the entire day unless I wear headphones or earplugs.

At this point it appears that the medical part is becoming a lot less exciting and may rapidly be heading towards an at least somewhat happy conclusion. For the legal matter lawyers can be arranged. Maybe finding a house to rent will be the hardest thing of all.

Only thing which worries me about the medical part is why this month my right leg has stayed so incredibly numb and painful for so long. Usually it's only a day or two, this month it's already been a week. Somewhat appears to be pressing on the central nerve bundle for the leg again. I hope it'll go away again on its own for a while like before. If not, I'll have something new to worry about.

Clearly I'm at no risk of suffering boredom just yet.


Tuesday, 26 April 2016

I guess this means that I have to find a new place really soon

Since I moved into my current apartment I have paid 80 Euros less than the original rent after discovering lots of issues initially. As many of them slowly got fixed (replaced broken fuses, wiring, outlets, switches, floor, doors, etc.) I kept finding more issues (increasingly serious rust issue in the tap water, very noisy heating system, holes in the walls straight to the outside, etc.).

Many serious issues like the rust and noise issues still haven't been resolved, despite me regularly asking them to do so. They sent people along a few times to 'look at installing a water filter' and such, but nothing has changed since the two years that I first told them about it. On the bright side last month they finally patched up some of the holes with some silicon so I don't have to use scotch tape any more.

Then today I received a letter from the landlady, warning me to immediately pay that 80 Euro times 22 months or face legal action. There was no previous warning of this. In total that means close to 2,000 Euro I'd have to pay up even though the owner of the place has made little effort to fix issues. Maybe they shower in rusty-brown water at home, too, and are happy sleeping with earplugs in to shut out noises like neighbours walking and peeing.

I am however not okay with such a situation. I do not feel that I should be paying this amount. German law to my knowledge sides with me on this. Yet regardless it means that my relationship with the owner of this apartment has soured to the point where the only sensible thing I can do is to move out of here as soon as humanly possible.

Fortunately I may have an option here. Unfortunately it means a lot of additional stress very suddenly while I'm also dealing with my medical situation. For the latter I have the next appointment on Thursday where I should hear whether there's news on a possible surgery and such. Combining a job, an angry landlady, the organisation of moving to a new place, medical appointments and a possible surgery, and possibly a fresh legal case is definitely more than I have energy to deal with at this point.

Suffice it to say that my PTSD is having a field day with this and I'm feeling incredibly threatened and suicidal.

I don't feel safe. I don't feel like I can trust people. I fear more pain and suffering. I have little hope for it working out okay.

I'm hoping that I can at least get a little bit of help with this situation :(


Sunday, 24 April 2016

Bathroom bills and the invisible nature of intersex

I regularly frequent the local hackerspace here in the city of Karlsruhe, Germany. Since this hackerspace does not have its own toilet facilities, we use those of the business centre it is located in. Nothing special about that, I'd say, except for one detail which pleasantly surprised me when I first had to frequent these facilities back in 2013.

On the doors leading to these bathrooms (two of them), it lists the usual 'men' and 'women', as well as 'boys' and 'girls'. Still nothing exciting there, were it not for the fact that then both door then also list 'intersex'. That's right, as an intersex person I have the official right at this business centre to use whichever toilet I wish.

Both seeing it listed so prominently there and the knowledge that people at this centre know about intersex and care enough about it still makes me feel very welcome today. Even if nobody would be able to tell that I am not a regular woman while I keep my pants on, the psychological effect is very positive and most welcome.

It then saddens me that in the recent 'debate' about recently introduced 'bathroom bills' by US states (HB2 in NC), apparently neither law makers, nor journalists, nor anyone else involved ever mention intersex people as being affected as well, beyond hidden, hurtful references such as "children born with gender-related genetic disorders" [1].

Why do these bills affect intersex people, you may ask? Because for most of us both our biological sex and gender are rather fluid or completely up for debate. Pray tell, what would be my own 'biological sex' as a hermaphrodite? My birth certificate used to say that I was male, but now it's been changed to female without me undergoing any type of genital mutilation or other type of surgery.

Back when I was a young teenager in the Netherlands and still convinced that I had to be male, I already had people send me out of public male bathrooms because they thought I was female. I must say that those experiences fuelled my self-exploration and the discovery of me being intersex, years later.

I guess it is a sign of the cluelessness and ignorance which still surrounds biological sex and gender that they would refer to it as an 'LGBT' issue, when only transsexuals and intersex people are affected by it. Just aim a shot in the general direction and assume you'll be fine with one's reporting.

With intersex being much more prevalent than transsexuality it seems astounding that we intersex individuals are not reported on and practically invisible. The sad truth seems to be that it's all part of the general trend to either ignore intersex or to mark it as a disorder.

Personally I think that's much worse than worrying about which bathroom one can use.



Thursday, 21 April 2016

Cue cute guinea pig noises

Yesterday I partook in something rather interesting, namely a study by UK university law researchers on laws pertaining to intersex. One of the reasons being the complete absence of any such laws in the UK, while countries like Australia and Germany have already passed laws specifically pertaining to intersex individuals. With similar and/or different laws in the works, a study consulting actual, real-life intersex individuals would be very useful.

Personally I thought that it was great that I got consulted this way. Both because it makes me feel appreciated, but more importantly because I could possibly make an actual difference for intersex individuals. Indeed, since people like me have seen and experienced all that is wrong with society's approach to intersex, why not ask us how things should be changed?

Ultimately my recommendations came down to a complete ban on the genital mutilation of intersex children, the full right by said children to decide about their own biological sex, gender and related, and to add information about intersex to the school curriculum, starting in primary school.

I also noted during the interview that there is an almost complete disconnect between politics and the medical world when it comes to intersex, meaning that while politics can say one thing, organisations like WPATH can happily go on to refer to intersex as a disorder and recommend forced 'normalisation surgery', involving said genital mutilation. It is something which makes the outright by politicians against for example female genital mutilation in non-Western countries seem delusional, if not hypocritical.

What results of this study is hard to say at this point, but it does make me painfully aware of the long way we intersex people still have to go before we are essentially recognised as 'persons' for the law and are both safe from harm and gain the right to necessary medical treatment, at our own discretion. Newborn intersex babies, infants and children in particular.

What was also interesting in light of this study is my own current situation. Yesterday I went home feeling unwell again, with also the disconcerting symptom of my right leg having gone virtually completely numb. Today I stayed home after calling in sick, with still the same numb leg and partially numb right arm, as well as a migraine and occasional bouts of nausea.

What worries me the most about the numbness in my right side is that previously I would have it for a few days and it'd go again, but this month it first appeared as a symptom for a few days, vanished and then suddenly reappeared very strongly yesterday. This has never happened before.

Somewhat bitter in this is that last week I notified my family doctor and the endocrinologist about the numbness and other symptoms already, and I was expecting a response last Friday or Monday with their recommendations, yet no reply has been received by me just yet. It seems that I'll have to send another update and beg them to please consider my case to be increasingly more urgent.

I would really like to feel like I can trust doctors again, but when I am being told one thing and nothing happens, or I'm constantly being dismissed, it reinforces the belief that doctors are not ever to be trusted and that I am justified in my fully negative opinion of them. This is not a pleasant belief and not one I wish to maintain, if at all possible.

Meanwhile I have decided that if these extreme PMS and other symptoms are caused by endometriosis, the best thing I can do at this point is to use the anti-conception pill again, which should suppress any hormonal cycle and thus prevent the related symptoms. If this works as imagined, then it'll be virtually certain that I do indeed suffer from endometriosis, which will be both a blessing and a curse. The former because it'll mean one less battle to fight with doctors about regarding my monthly pains.

That I am still - after eleven years of doctor contact - experimenting like this with my own body and life does really bring home the point that in the end I am merely a medical guinea pig, not a human being.


Monday, 11 April 2016

When I do not write depressing posts

While reading my blog over the past months one may get the impression that I mostly sit about, feeling sorry for myself. That's however just a small part of what I do. I also happen to partake in more productive pursuits.

My current projects involve game development, learning to better use tools like 3DS Max and Substance Painter, as well as Unreal Engine 4. My goals there include creating games together with my best friend, Trevor, and to publish these for PC. I'm also working on a number of visual novel games, which is an interesting form between writing a story and creating a pure game.

Beyond game development I'm working on setting up a new YouTube channel with accompanying blog, called NyanTronics. This will feature my electronics and software projects, as well as other, related themes. These projects involve things like custom (FPGA) boards I'm working on, the processor I'm developing in VHDL [1], as well as the WildFox browser project [2] I'm currently in the process of restarting with a brand-new rendering engine and user-interface.

For this YouTube channel I'll have to delve deep into the dark arts of video editing and voice overs. A benefit here is that I have plentiful of experience with encoding video owing to my days of creating anime fansub videos. It'll be interesting to revisit all of this.

In addition to this I have a number of top-secret projects involving robotics which I will not spill any details on just yet.

Having a larger, quieter place to live, work and do the recording for these videos in would be awesome, but I'll have to live with what I have got at the moment, I guess.

At least things won't be boring any time soon.



Sunday, 10 April 2016

Never show others that you're depressed

The public outburst. The shame and running away. The realisation that there's nothing you can say or do which won't make things worse. That horrible word which burns like a giant neon sign in your mind's eye: Depressed.

Much of it is this terrible feeling of hopelessness which translates into the certainty that nothing what you or others do can improve anything, along with the equally certain notion that nobody cares about you anyway, let alone your problems.

Thus you hide away. Ashamed. Hateful towards oneself. Frustrated with the world. Amidst a growing pile of unfinished household chores, hygiene suffers. Why care about such things? Only through occasional moments of brightness or merely the strength of one's mind does one manage to struggle through daily life.

Part of you wants to believe so badly that there is help out there. That a better existence than this is possible. Yet bitter experience has made it clear that there is no hope, nothing to look forward to.

You're broken. Your mind is broken. You're the problem. Not those who did those horrible things to you. You should have been stronger. Just brighten up. It will be fine. Just don't expect a helping hand. You're on your own.

For what you have is something even worse than leprosy: you're Depressed.


Saturday, 2 April 2016

Living in a sex-crazed world

Among humans there is the strong and wistful belief that we are different from and better than the other animals around us. This belief includes the assumption that we are in control of our animalistic urges and desires, and are able to apply logic and reason instead to our actions. Yet nothing could be further from the truth.

Instead of eating when we are hungry, supplying our bodies with the essential nutrients and calories it needs, and ensuring that we get sufficient exercise, we instead tend to eat too much, of the wrong types of food and seem to lack any kind of awareness of how we harm our bodies.

Instead of applying reason and logic to our interactions with fellow human beings, we are less members of a civilised society and more merely tribes of chimpanzees, screaming at 'the others', throwing rocks at them and plundering, pillaging and raping other tribes whenever we get the opportunity.

Instead of realising that sexuality is still an unfortunate remnant of our animal origins and adapt it into society in a way which lets us perpetuate our tragically mortal species - yet not disturb society's civilised fabric - we instead opt to let it control our behaviour and society in a way which makes us seem like raving lunatics.

All of this lunatic behaviour is displayed grotesquely throughout our cities, on our broadcasts and consumed with abundance by the populace. From food which may as well be poison, to the obese rich and starving poor, to endless conflict, to the selling of one's body and a complete obsession with sex. It is by any measurement a hedonistic society, through and through.

While some would go on to blame certain types of government, economical systems and what not, there is only one factor in all of this which deserves the full focus of every shred of blame. This being humans themselves. Our disgustingly gorged and profusely malodorous overestimation of our own self-worth makes it utterly impossible for us to perceive our own lack of humanity.

We're a society of base animals. Any accomplishments we greedily attribute to humanity and its wondrous nature are in fact accomplished by the few who manage to rise above their animalistic nature.

Seeing humanity in its naked form is frankly revulsing. Its buildings and other structures are filled with the groans, screams and other exclamations by rutting and fighting individuals. Whatever sense of beauty may arise out of its dark, festering pools is quickly obscured by the stark despair of humanity's endless enmity, strife and pursuit of base urges.

This, however, is apparently the best we will have for a long time to come.