Hello, gentle readers!
In recent years, I haven’t written very much about my personal life here, in part because I don’t like putting my personal life on display for the internet with a much larger audience than I ever dreamed of back when I was writing flippant posts about planning commission meetings. There is also a vulnerability to the personal essay that has made me deeply uncomfortable, in part because my sense of self has been so conflicted of late.
Which is to say that this is a somewhat difficult post to write, so please bear with me.
Three years ago, I took the first step in what I knew would be the long path towards transition—something that can be difficult to define for nonbinary people, and something that’s different for everyone. I chose to get sterilised because I was and am deeply uncomfortable with the appurtenances of internal genitals, including but not limited to the uterus and all of the potential that lurks within. Being sterilised was a small way of chipping away at that—though the parts of myself that I really struggled with, even though I couldn’t see them in the mirror, were still there, at least I could eradicate the possibility of having children, change what having a ‘uterus’ meant.
It was one of the best decisions of my life: I don’t regret a single part of it. I don’t even regret writing about it on the internet, even though the internet can be a terrible place, because there was something kind of freeing about it.
Earlier this year, I took another step in my transition, starting testosterone therapy. Commonly referred to as a ‘masculinising’ hormone, T is much more complicated and nuanced than that, and it took me a while, and some serious discussion with my care providers, to decide that it was a good choice for me. Taking testosterone has serious implications—not just the side effects (which in this case are actually the desired effects), but the fact that these side effects are permanent. Once your body starts producing more hair, when your voice deepens, certain other physical changes, those don’t go away if you stop taking T.
Which made it a tipping point for me, and a choice I considered carefully: What was transition going to look like for me? I started on (and likely will continue) a low dose, and within a few months, I started to notice differences. Not just the physical, though, yes, I am starting to rock some excellent peach fuzz, but the emotional. I became much more balanced, calmer, focused. I held myself differently. I felt more confident, but also strangely serene. As someone who has been on mood stabilisers for years and experienced considerable breakthrough mood issues, it was startling to see that something theoretically totally unrelated to what was going on inside my brain could make such a huge difference—but it was also an affirmation. Testosterone was clearly a good choice for me, changing the way I perceived myself and making me love life.
On 3 November, I’m embarking on another adventure, and doing something I’ve been wanting to do since I hit puberty and my body began to betray me in the most obvious and awful way possible: I’m getting a subtotal mastectomy. I can’t really articulate the misery of having breasts. If you’ve experienced gender dysphoria, you know it in a painfully intimate way: Ducking to avoid your reflection in the mirror, crying with frustration when it’s impossible to find clothing that doesn’t make them painfully obvious, wondering which extremes you need to go to in order to get rid of them. If you haven’t experienced dysphoria, you don’t know these things. You can’t. I hope you never do. It is a constant, unrelenting agony that you live with daily, a barrier between your self-identity and what people see what they look at you, a tool used to abuse you and forcibly pass you and push you into corners.
I’ve always hated my breasts. And now, I’m getting rid of them.
I’m fortunate in that I have excellent insurance coverage—that Platinum Obamacare is finally paying off, and my copays are relatively low, though not miniscule by any stretch of the imagination. I am not, however, paying in full for a very costly surgery. That said, surgery ain’t free, and neither are the pain management drugs you take afterwards. Moreover, getting surgery and going right back to work is a terrible idea—I really need to take two weeks off, and a month would be better. While the pain may be manageable, I’ll still be very out of it, moving a great deal will not be comfortable, and I’ll need time for the fog of anesthesia to lift so I can get back to daily life.
But when you’re a freelancer, these things aren’t options. You can’t file for vacation time, because you don’t accrue vacation time, and unless you’re significantly better paid than I am, you have next to nothing in savings—in fact, you’re far more likely to have a substantial negative net worth, which I do, owing $20,000 on my credit cards alone and you don’t even want to know how much to the IRS, which is more than happy to charge me usurious fees in the meantime.
Which is why I’m asking for help from my readers, and my community. I’ve been a proactive member of the community for over a decade, contributing when I can when others need help, and always boosting the message when someone is asking for support, whether it be monetary or otherwise. In 2011, I even hosted an extremely successful fundraiser to help someone I didn’t know who was struggling with medical bills and other issues—someone in a position a lot like mine—and I’d do it again tomorrow, and the day after that, and the day after that.
Because capitalism is a terrible thing, and we all must be able to give according to our abilities, to support each other. There’s a conspiracy of not talking about money that tangles us all up in snarled threads, something that has made me shy about even asking for help with this in the first place, and it’s one that only gives to power. There’s nothing wrong with needing help. There’s nothing wrong with asking for it. There’s nothing wrong with seeing that someone needs help and offering a hand when that person is too proud to ask. This is what building community is to me, and yet I’ve always been too shy to do it for myself. Even though I am constantly amazed by all of the work that people do for each other, by how quickly people act when someone needs help.
So this is a scary thing to ask, but I am holding a fundraiser to assist with the costs of my medical bills and my time off, and I’m asking you to contribute if you can, and to spread the word even if you can’t. Ultimately, I’m hoping to raise enough funds to pay off at least part of my debt (I have realistic expectations and don’t think that I’ll be receiving $20,000 worth of contributions), because that will relieve a great deal of stress for me, making it easier for me to focus on healing instead of waking up in a cold panic in the middle of the night over the amount of money I owe, which is my current status quo.
I want to keep working in and supporting my community, which is why I’m turning to my community for support even though it’s a frightening proposition for me, going against every ounce of my ingrained socialisation. And yet, the internet bought Samantha Allen a vagina—within 24 hours!—and so I think the internet can, perhaps, help me say ta-ta to the tatas.