Ashe Elton Parker

A Writer of LGBTQ+ Characters in Speculative Fiction

Category: On Being Transgender

Not Much Done Today, but . . .

Pride Necklace

My Pride Necklace.

I didn’t get much done on Thursday. Not because I didn’t want to, but mostly because of lack of opportunity. I was so tired from my exhaustion day that I slept until pretty much noon. Finally pulled myself out of bed about ten ’til noon, not quite ready to meet the day, but willing enough to be out of bed that I didn’t dread the day any more.

Once I got settled at my desk, I called Mom. I try to call her a few times a week, and we hadn’t spoken for a few days. We were on the phone for about 45 minutes or so. Had a good chat.

After that, I had to get ready to go to my make-up volunteer shift. I wasn’t able to go on Tuesday because we were still trying to get together at Katie’s for D&D with Kit. By the time that fell through due to Katie getting ill, I’d already figured if it did fall through I’d go ahead and do something else that afternoon and just leave this week’s shift on Thursday.

So I went to that. Got there early ’cause I left early, though at this point I don’t think there’s really a set time for me to work the shift any more. Kevin doesn’t seem to mind as long as I show up at some point by 16:00-16:30 and he’s always happy if I stick around until he leaves. Tonight, he set me on the task of calling banks about debit cards lost at the Pride Festival held this past weekend. After that, we just hung out and chatted with people who came in. A new group, just for transmasculine people, started this week. I spoke with its facilitator before he left and learned the general Adult Trans group has a more balanced mix of people these days. When I left it a few years ago, it was mostly transwomen, and, to be honest, I got tired of that. Nothing against transwomen, really, I just felt like, with the lack of transpeople of other identities, my needs were no longer being served by the group. So I was pretty glad to hear there’s a more balanced membership and more non-binary-identifying members now. Decided to give it a try and wrote down the date and time of the next meeting.

Kevin was kind enough to drive me home even though it was still very light out. Intended to write after I settled in, but got into a conversation online with another transperson. Now it’s after midnight and I want to write a scene on a wip, so I won’t be going to bed for a while, but it was a good day.

Dear VHA, An Open Letter

Dear Veterans’ Health Administration,

You know me as one of your patients. I won’t provide my real name, but I will say that I am a Transgender patient, and I have a bone to pick with you.

The VHA's boast

The VHA’s boast.

The picture above is something I’ve seen posted at my local VA Hospital’s outpatient mental health building. They move the sign about; sometimes it’s in the entryway, other times it’s positioned somewhere inside, where we can see it as we enter. I didn’t take a picture of the entire poster, because the only part that concerns me is the portion which I included. Allow me to write it here, just to be clear. Clarity is important here, at least for me.

“Excellent care has no boundaries. VHA is committed to serving Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Veterans.”

Now, I know this sign was approved somewhere in the hierarchy of the Veterans’ Administration, so that’s not at issue. What is a problem is the fact that, as of the date of this post, Transgender Veterans, whom you claim to serve without boundaries, do, in fact, have a major boundary in their health care through the VA system.

This boundary?

We have no access to surgical options for our health care. Specifically, Male-to-Female Transgender Veterans cannot have sex reassignment surgery to correct their condition, and Female-to-Male Veterans cannot receive mastectomies and whatever other surgery is available for correcting our condition.

As I said, a big boundary.

Now, I know, I know, this was posted in the outpatient mental health building. That, to me, means nothing, for two reasons. First, because of the claim of “no boundaries.” What about denying surgical options to Transgender Veterans translates to “no boundaries”? That’s like saying, “We care about you, but don’t really accept these specific needs you have.” Why can’t Transgender Veterans have sex reassignment surgery and mastectomies? You gave that option to Active Transgender members of the military a few months ago. When will we Transgender Veterans have this option? Why couldn’t you approve this option for us at the same time you gave the actively-serving members of the military this option?

This is hypocritical of you.

Second, the claim, in the statement, comes from the “VHA.” The Veterans’ Health Administration, not “Veteran’s Mental Health Administration”. That means it comes from the overall service, not just whatever branch there may be which oversees our mental health care, if things are so divided. So that means the VHA is actively denying what can be life-saving health care to Transgender Veterans. I’m pretty easy-going, but not all Transgender individuals can make themselves be as “comfortable” in their birth-bodies as I can make myself be. Add gender dysphoria on top of some other mental dysfunctions, and that’s a recipe for suicide for a Transgender Veteran.

This is hardly “Excellent” care. Truly excellent care would offer us the surgical option many of us require.

In short, I find your commitment to serving we Transgender Veterans to be deeply lacking. I also find it extremely hypocritical for the VHA to brag about the “Excellent care” and its “commitment to serving” us when we do not in fact receive that excellent care or have that commitment.

Signed,

An Unhappy Transgender Veteran

My Trans Nature vs. Mom

I’m as open about being trans in real life as I am about it online. While I don’t throw the information out there on first or second meeting someone, generally speaking, unless the topic comes up, I’m also quite direct about it when I do tell someone. All my friends, both local and online, know I’m trans, and they accept me despite (or perhaps because of) that.

The one person who has refused to accept it is my mother. Way back two or three years ago, when I first realized I was trans and that it was pointless—and too painful—to hide from it any more, I told Mom. Well, I sort of broached the subject of me being trans as if I needed her permission to deal with it, and we ended our phone call on it with me stating, “Well, I need to deal with this, and I’m going to.”

It was one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself, to be honest. While back then I wasn’t quite ready to abandon my need for Mom’s permission in part of my life, I did recognize that I couldn’t let her reaction to my confession of being transgender dictate to me how to live my life. This, I think, is the point at which I first, subconsciously, realized I didn’t need Mom to give me permission, that my life was mine to live how I wished, and that giving her all the control I’d given her over it was detrimental to my mental health.

I have not tried to tell Mom I’m trans again since. It is a fight I have no wish to engage in at this time. Like my decision to go to school, my decision what to do with my trans body is mine alone to make, and I can’t let Mom tell me what to do with it or my gender dysphoria.

I’m not so much avoiding telling her as I’m choosing when to bring her back into the loop on it. If I get far enough to take Hormone Replacement Therapy, she’s going to realize it at some point regardless of whether I tell her or not. My current plan is to have my breasts removed, then change my name, and about that time start HRT. At some point near the time I change my name, I’ll tell Mom again that I’m trans.

She may never accept it. This is something I must consider and deal with in therapy. Mom may be angry with me, another reaction I must prepare for. I don’t think she’ll disown or shun me, though. She may not understand or accept what I’ve done and will be doing, but I think she’ll eventually try her best to deal with it, even if she hates it. And, considering she tends to look at the negative, she may view it as the death of her daughter and miss the fact that I’m finally the person I was meant to be—and happy with myself at last.

However she chooses to react, I’ve decided is on her. I can’t let myself get bogged down in it, and I won’t. This is my life, and I’m going to live it how I see fit, whether she likes it or not.

Transgender + Bipolar =

Statistically speaking, transgender people are much more prone to depression and suicide than the average person. I think (do NOT quote me on this), they may be more prone to depression and suicide than gay/lesbian people are as well. I do know, they’re right up there with gays and lesbians, especially as youths, in the range of high-risk of suicide and depression.

The first time another transgender person I knew made a comment about attempting suicide, it had little effect on me. I was still muddling through the fact I couldn’t hide from being transgender any more, and that was difficult enough. Recently, another transgender person I know announced the same thing, and this time it really hit me what I may be setting myself up for.

This is what popped into my head:

Transgender + Bipolar = incredible risk of suicide/depression

I discussed this with my therapist yesterday, about how I was afraid now that following this transgender path into my psyche would put me at much more increased risk of suffering a severe depressive phase at some future point. I tried to kill myself once before, when I was in my early twenties, due to a home situation I had no control over. At the time, I was spending a week or two away from home, then going to visit every other weekend, and the transition from the peaceful away-place back to the home situation with my mother and her abusive alcoholic live-in boyfriend stressed me to the point I one day swallowed every psych pill I had and crawled up onto my bunk to “die.” I didn’t die (obviously), but I did spend the next few weeks struggling psychologically (after an excellent nap, induced by the sedative effects of my antidepressant) because I couldn’t dare risk admitting I’d swallowed them all in a suicide attempt because I didn’t want to be forced back into a mental ward. I’d done that trip once already back when I was in high school during a previous period of home stress which had gotten me into psych care in the first place.

But I told my therapist I was concerned about the possibility of me going off the deep end during a bipolar depressive phase. I told her I didn’t want to risk that, and she led me around to considering a few things. I’m still concerned, but my therapist helped me figure out where I stand.

1. I’m much more aware of where I’m “standing” on a psychological level, in a general, overall sense. Right now, I’m a bit depressed; personal hygiene has been out the window unless I’m expected at some sort of social event, I’m not too concerned about my writing even though I’d like to for the mood boost, losing weight and physical fitness aren’t even on the radar most days, and housecleaning isn’t getting done unless I need to sit there or use that dish or pan. I’m at a point where if I can spend my day reading, I’ll quite contentedly do so, with a few visits to the internet and online friends every few hours and I don’t really care to go outside and do anything.

2. I’m firmly connected to a comprehensive mental health care network. If I’m not slated to see my regular therapist up at the VA, there’s a hotline the VA provides that I can call for general bipolar depression psych needs, and, if I absolutely feel I must, I can see about getting myself committed to the hospital’s inpatient psych ward. Also, if there’s a question I have, I can contact my therapist via phone or email.

3. I am on mood stabilizers, and, even more importantly, I keep up with taking them when I should each day. If I have a question or concern about my medications, I can contact my psych doc to talk about things with him—and, furthermore, if we both feel I for some reason need to change or adjust my medication regimen, I can make an appointment with him to discuss it.

4. If being trans is upsetting me somehow, there’s a new Trans Lifeline I can call if I suddenly need to discuss it right away, and I can walk the three blocks to the Pride Center and possibly see about chatting with a therapist there about how being trans is making me feel.

5. I’m regularly attending a trans support group, and that is helping me. It lifted my spirits this past week when I went because it reminded me I’m not alone in my journey, and even though I don’t have direct contact with any other members of the group between meetings, knowing we’ll be meeting more regularly in January (after the holiday season) is helping me be more patient with myself and my fears right now.

To be honest, yesterday’s therapy appointment couldn’t have been better timed for me. My mood dropped about four or five days ago, and I really needed to go, just for that. It is, I think, combining in a bad way with the fear of risk of suicide, but I’m doing okay for now. I’ve been chatting with my family and some friends on the phone—just to chat—and though I haven’t told any of my online friends where I stand emotionally right now, I know they’d be supportive and encouraging if I did decide to. I think that as long as I get out of bed each day, get dressed, and make an effort to at least get to my computer for a while and feed myself, I’ll pull through this okay. Having my therapist help me figure things out is keeping me from losing myself in the fear of what only may happen.

This is just the way things sometimes go with bipolar disorder. As long as I’m mindful of where I’m at psychologically, I should be fine. And if I’m not at some point, there are people and places I can turn to for the support and assistance I need, for which I’m extremely thankful.

My Trans-Self Image

Back in October, I spent a day or two experimenting. Alone at home like usual, I tried to picture myself as a man. Now, for comparison, I’ll tell you how I see myself as a woman: Ashe-as-a-woman is slender; she has small breasts long, red, wavy hair; she’s got all her teeth and she doesn’t wear glasses. In real life, I’m far from slender; my breasts are quite large; my hair’s short and brown with a slight tendency to curl if kept so; I don’t have all my teeth, and I wear glasses. In real life, I’m comfortable with my weight, though I’d like to shave off about sixty or seventy pounds—I still want to have a bit of fat, because I don’t want to be too thin (being fat, to me, is a kind of security to me). I’d desperately like to get rid of my breasts; I’ve never liked them. I like my hair short, the kind of style which is wash-and-wear, because I hate spending a lot of time on grooming outside of the shower. I don’t really mind that I don’t have all my teeth—I’m able to close my lips now, when before, with my two front incisors, I couldn’t without those two teeth still protruding; and I love my glasses—I remember being a little kid and want-want-wanting glasses like nothing else and being absolutely thrilled to get my first pair when I was in sixth grade.

But as a female, in my head, my little picture of myself I’ve carried around for years and years, none of these facts was acceptable.

When I picture myself as a male? I’m my current weight, and still very comfortable with it. I’m not ashamed of my missing teeth. My hair’s short, and I wear an attractive style of facial hair. And I wear glasses. I’m quite handsome in my male image of myself—and it was very easy to picture myself this way. Far easier than it ever is for me to picture myself as female. Nothing against women in general; women are great, and they’re beautiful.

I just don’t want to be one.

When I think of being male—or at least being able to present as male—with facial hair, etc.—I feel confident. In a female body as I am now? I feel vulnerable. I feel like I’m not taken seriously. I feel weak and am uncertain in a lot of social situations. I understand I may be just as uncertain as the me I want to be if I’m ever able to get top surgery, a hysterectomy, and have testosterone. I may still feel vulnerable and weak, too, but I’m not certain about that. When I picture myself as a man, I see a much more confident Ashe, one who isn’t afraid to express his opinions and who can do so respectfully and tactfully without offending people. I see an Ashe who doesn’t get offended, because that Ashe is self-assured and doesn’t take things personally because he isn’t afraid of attracting the wrong kind of attention.

That has been one of my overriding fears throughout my life. I’ve never wanted to attract the wrong kind of attention, and I’ve always felt like my female body does that. I hate my feelings of vulnerability my body give me, and wish I could be as confident as I want to be. I’m good at acting comfortable with myself in my female body, and confident, and strong, but I’m really not feeling any of those positives. Inside, I’m cowering. I’m fearful. And I really wish I didn’t have to interact with anybody because doing so puts a lot of stress on my ability to appear as confident as I do, especially when I’m in places and/or with people who I’m unfamiliar with.

In an odd way, that feminine self-image I’ve forced myself to carry around is tied up in my feelings of security as a female-bodied person. I’m not sure just how, but I do know one thing: having that particular female self-image is what I used in order to help me deal with people. I use the masculine self-image in the same way, but it feels more natural to see myself this way, so it’s easier for me to feel confident around other people, even though I know perfectly well the body people see has no current hope of matching what I see of myself in my head. It was incredibly easy to discard the old feminine self-image and replace it with the masculine one, and doing so has opened up other aspects of my masculine side and enabled me to relax about the type of person I would be as a man.

© 2018 Ashe Elton Parker

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑