A Second Chance
Did you like that tumultuous time when you didn’t understand what was going on with your body, your emotions or your hormones? I’m expecting that you’ll say no, more because you were likely in high school at the time, cooped up with hundreds of other hormonal, angry teenagers. The majority of people I know hated high school. Personally, a lot of my nightmares take place there.
Fortunately, I’ve got a second chance. No, I can’t travel through time—I’m on Hormone Replacement Therapy. Why, you ask? The reason I’ve been jabbing a needle into my thigh once a week for the past ten months is because I am a transsexual.
That’s right. When I was born, my doctor took a look at my premature little self and decided, “Okay, this baby is a girl.”Eighteen years later, I realized that I disagreed with that. I was depressed for a good long while but once my transition started to roll along—finding a psychologist, getting people to call me Oliver and respect my gender—I started to feel better.
On Oct. 26, 2011, I started testosterone. I’m 10 months on T now and lined up to talk to a local surgeon about getting top surgery—what breast cancer survivors might know as a double mastectomy.
Testosterone has affected me in many ways. The first time it was injected in me, I felt an immense relief. I no longer had to worry about acquiring it—the hormones were in me. Now the only things I had to worry about were my fear of needles and the expense of going through my transition.
I continued to pay for my psychologist, who eventually wrote me a letter recommending that I get top surgery. Trans men are required to go through this procedure. I’ve been diagnosed with Gender Identity Disorder and there are rules to follow in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Just so y’all know, if you’re gender-variant or transsexual or genderqueer or anything, you’re not sick. You’re not ill. You’re not crazy or wrong. You’re alright.
My psychologist then recommended me to a colleague who, after paying $200 for two sessions, decided that I definitely was ready for surgery. She wrote my second letter and mailed it to me.
It used to be that in Quebec the second letter had to be written by a psychiatrist, but there are so few in Montreal qualified to have clients who are transgender or transsexual that the surgeon changed the rules.
I got my Letter of Good Health from Concordia Health Services, since my own general physician retired four years ago. My endocrinologist (hormone doctor) wrote a letter confirming that I was on testosterone. I emailed all that to my doctors. Surgeries for trans folks are covered by Medicare here in Quebec (we’re lucky). The secretary called me up a couple of months ago to confirm that my surgery consultation date is on Oct. 9.
I’ve heard rumours that you can get your top surgery date pretty quickly after meeting your surgeon. I’m hoping to get this done as an early Christmas gift to myself, but in all likelihood I’ll get an early 21st birthday present (Apr. 4). My mom isn’t thrilled with any more body modifications but she respects my choices in life. She doesn’t nag me about “regretting it.” It’s probably because I’m too headstrong to listen but I appreciate that she’s giving me the space to do what I need.
My dad asks me questions sometimes and it’s fun to watch him fight internalized gender stereotypes. My little brother—who just turned 14—is great. He’s a bit lost since he’s still a young’un, but he’s always been supportive of his older brother’s radical decisions and opinions.
In fact, he guessed that I was a transsexual. At the time, my parents weren’t keen on me telling him what was going on. He knew that I was seeing a psychologist. So he would ask why.
“Are you adopted?”
“Are you pregnant?”
“Do you want to be a boy?”
Uh, yes, Matt, I do. I explained the process to him. The only question he really asked was, “Are you going to get big muscles?” I told him that I needed to go to the gym for that. I do have biceps now, even though I don’t exercise, but it’s not like I’m a buff, macho dude. I have gotten hairier everywhere. My friends enjoy keeping track—“Oliver, I saw you on Friday. Now it’s Monday. I think your voice dropped an octave or two over the weekend!”
Like most teenage boys, I’m hungrier and more energetic. I have difficulty sitting still during lectures. I’m more comfortable and confident with myself now that I am feeling like the way I always should have been. There was, however, a rough patch for a bit when I couldn’t figure out my emotions. I had to re-learn how to know what I was feeling. It was like there was a brick wall that I had to walk around in order to find my feelings.
It’s fine. I’ve found that asking myself questions helps. “Why are you grumpy right now when you’ve had a nice day? Oh, you’re hungry. Okay.” It keeps life interesting. I (mostly) have gotten over my fear of needles, eight months in. I no longer need someone with me, nor do I need to cajole myself for an hour before injecting. I still feel shaky afterward. My leg feels tingly all day and feeling my phone vibrate against my leg is very unpleasant.
This second puberty thing is going well. I’m not the lonely androgynous queer kid in high school anymore, where almost everyone is cruel or boring. I’m at university, a place where curiosity and kindness are encouraged (except when strikers and anti-strikers interact). I have lots of friends this time around—people who love me for the nerdy, dandy queer boy that I am.
I’m not going to say “it gets better” because I think that trivializes a lot of important issues and ignores immediate distress. I do feel that I am a lot happier because I have worked hard to get where I am today. I’ve had to deal with some shitty times since high school, but I’ve made it through okay and intact.
I’m That Transsexual Guy—Oliver Leon—who sits next to you in English class and who rants about gender in The Link once a month. I’m online the rest of the time. I enjoy tea, books and volunteering. Hi. Nice to meet you. I hope you enjoy your stay.