Posted in Personal

A Year Ago

Facebook has this fun function now called “On This Day” where you can pull up posts you made years past on this particular day. I check it for laughs, the occasional sentimental posts, etc. However, since November 10th, there hasn’t been anything on my On This Day. I’ve realized that there won’t be until the 16th, because this week last year, I wasn’t posting on social media. That’s because this week last year, I was in the psychiatric unit of a hospital for a week.

Mental health needs to be talked about, but I’m not going to dissect the emotional intricacies right now. Most of you know me, most of you know that depression has been a long journey and fight for me. Most of you have probably experienced depression, either within yourself or within a loved one, and know the complexities of it. So, I’m going to start talking with you from that base assumption.

When I was first admitted, on November 10th, 2016, I was placed in a holding unit with no windows for 26 hours. My family was not completely aware of where I was, because I was not allowed to contact them. I was too upset to speak to anyone, and due to fear for my wellbeing, I kept my binder on the entire time. I was angry and non-responsive, blaming the world around me for my situation.

I don’t remember much of the next week except a blur of nurses, cold showers, and short phone calls with my loved ones.

Now, when I think back on it, I can understand that it was my fault. It wasn’t my psychiatrist for prescribing the wrong medications, it was mine for not taking them. It wasn’t the universe’s fault for giving me mental illness, it was my fault for not accepting my reality and working with it. Not to say I could have in that moment; I needed to not accept fault. However, that wouldn’t let me have any control over my situation.

It’s weird to me that that’s who I was last year: a scared kid who probably should have listened to literally everyone telling him he shouldn’t go to college. It’s kind of amazing, though, because I’m not that kid anymore.

Yeah, I still have depression. Yeah, I take four medications every single night. Yeah, life is still a constant battle, and I can’t always win. But I can say, without a shadow of a doubt, that I am the most consistently happy I’ve probably ever been in my life. I still get overwhelmed, I do often, but I can get back from it. I’m taking a full load of classes, I’m working, I’m doing extracurriculars, and I’m doing ok.

I think the main difference is that last year I was trying to do fantastic, and when I inevitably couldn’t,  I would spiral. This year, I’m aiming to do okay, and that’s something that not only can I do, I can surpass.

This year I’m doing fantastic.

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Posted in Uncategorized

On Public School and Hypochondria

Fall is not a great time to be me. Not only am I pretty susceptible to the common cold, I’m also a bit of a hypochondriac. If my nose feels a little stuffy, I probably have a sinus infection, if not pneumonia, if not the plague. Now, I was a pretty hardy kid. I didn’t get that sick all too often, and if I did, I was better in a few days. Believe it or not, I attribute that childhood hardiness to my college-aged hypochondria.

In public school, it is heavily implied that you’d best be knocking at death’s door if you miss school. This meant that for a middle-schooler with little to no physical health problems, I had approximately zero excuse to miss class. That being said, my physical health was much better than my mental health ever was. I was an extremely anxious, depressed, and ADHD kid, and sitting in class surrounded by people who didn’t like me and teachers who thought I was an underachieving loudmouth was not my cup of tea.

This started to foster a tendency of mine to exaggerate symptoms in order to avoid uncomfortable or painful situations. It may have started consciously, but it soon turned into a beast I couldn’t control. Teachers stopped giving me clinic passes, the attendance office pretty plainly did not believe I was sick for the fourth time that month, and my parents were left with the tough task of dragging my ass to school.

When I actually became ill, it took everyone a bit to believe me. I was livid at the time, because I assure you, fainting is one of my top two least favorite things in the universe, but now I can kind of get it. My anxiety was the highest it had ever been at that point, due to pretty intense bullying, and it was the easy assumption to make. He’s a hypochondriac attention seeker: he’s faking it.

I wasn’t.

After I got mostly past my fainting, my hypochondria reached an all-time high. Every minor symptom of lethargy was a resurgence of POTS, or something worse. I have chronic knee pain, and if it ever spiked, I came to the conclusion that I would never be able to walk again.

Now, I’m in a weird point of my journey. I can acknowledge, at least, that my sniffles are not the plague, but that’s where all the signals point to for me. Because of this necessity for my younger self to imply death’s arrival whenever I was even mildly sick, I have a hard time breaking the habit now. My girlfriend helpfully points out that whenever I’m sick and I talk about being sick, my voice, which was fine a second ago, turns into a croak. I’m working on it.

Posted in Personal

Hairy Situations

I wrote this in class with the prompt, “Write your story in three different hair related moments.” Hope you enjoy!

Eight.

Sitting on the toilet in the cramped bathroom, my mom hacked at my long blonde matted hair with scissors. She had never cut hair before, had no aspirations to cut hair in the future. She was doing this purely out of necessity.

Two days earlier, a foreboding note had been sent home with big font spelling out the “LICE OUTBREAK” that was dominating my elementary school. My parents had been threatening for years to cut my hair if I didn’t get better at brushing it, and when the day came that I started frantically scratching my scalp, for my mom, it was the last straw. She explained to me in no uncertain terms that I was to sit down and let her cut out the mats that the lice had buried themselves under. I sat there, tap-tap-taping my leg, turning my head every so often, just to have my mom grab my jaw and force me to face forward.

I saw the mats hit the floor, and I reached up to feel my hair. What had previously gone down to my shoulders now halted right above ears, and my bangs were cut up to above my forehead. It looked somewhere between a balding fifty-year-old man and a bowl cut. I assure you, it was quite a look. I took one glance in the mirror and screamed. I raced out of the bathroom and into my bedroom, slamming and locking the door. I jammed a hat on my head and curled into a ball on my floor. I couldn’t stop wailing that I looked like a boy, and no one was ever going to see I was a girl.

Fourteen

Three weeks before the first day of high school, I announced to my parents that I was going to make a drastic change. Middle school had ended miserably, and I needed to improve upon myself for the mature high school image I aspired towards. The first step towards maturity, I had decided, was dying my hair blue. I ended up coaxing my mom into driving me to CVS to buy cheap blue dye, and by eleven o’clock that night, I had hair that was mostly blue…ish.

The next day, I was so pleased with myself. My sister hadn’t yet left for college, and I knocked on her door to show off my new do. She took one look at me and said, “You look like a clown.” It was like she had turned an off button. I shrank into myself. Suddenly I was struck by how awful it looked, but she assured me that if we went to a professional hair stylist, she could right the wrong I had mistakenly imposed on my hair.

Two weeks before the first day of high school, and one day before orientation, I went to a hair salon, where the same hair dresser who had been taming my hair for years tried to reverse the blue. A day later, I proudly walked into orientation with shiny, freshly cut and shampooed…grey hair.

Nineteen

After years of complaining about hating my long bushy hair, on my sixteenth birthday, I had 10 inches of it cut off. In five minutes, I had the shortest hair I’d ever had. Even shorter than the lice incident. Cutting my hair was like a gateway drug into expressing my gender identity. It was dizzying once my hair was gone how fast people just went with my quick transition from presenting as a girly-girl to presenting as a boy.

Now, three years later, I am growing my hair out. “Why?” my mom asks. “You’ll get misgendered so much more. Just cut your hair.”

“Why?” my friend asks. “You hated your long hair.”

Why? Because I didn’t hate my long hair. I hated the assumptions people imposed on me when I had long hair. Besides, if I don’t like it long, I can just cut it all off. It’s not like I’ve never done that before.

Posted in Uncategorized

Blood, Veins, and the Heart

On Tuesday, I donated blood. It really wasn’t a big deal to anyone other than me and the people whose lives are potentially going to be saved by my blood. It took a few days to realize why it was such a big deal to me. Now that it’s hit me, I’ve decided to write it down so I can stop thinking about it.

From ages thirteen to sixteen, I fainted pretty much all the time. Stood up too fast? Passed out. Bent over too fast? Out like a light. Sat down for too long? Syncopal episode. It got to the point where I fainted almost fifteen times a day, sometimes in bursts of five or six. At about fourteen, I was diagnosed with something called Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome, lovingly referred to as POTS. POTS defined my life. It determined what I ate, where I was allowed to go unsupervised (read: nowhere), when I was allowed to go to school, and how I felt on a daily basis. I was trapped in my own home; I was trapped in my own body.

After a long process of trying different experimental techniques, including one at Mayo Clinic that staved off the fainting for over a year, most of my symptoms are under control now. My heart rate is normal, if a little slow, my blood pressure is average, and I only faint about once every month or so.

In fact, my body is so normal that when I went in to donate blood, my heart rate, blood pressure, and hemoglobin were the perfect levels. Not to mention that afterwards, except for being a little floaty for an hour or two, I felt completely fine and faint-free!

Now, I see a lot of donations in my future. This future is so different than the one I had imagined for myself six, even three, years ago. I can’t wait to see what this new future has in store for me.

Posted in Personal

Some Same-Sex Suggestions

I love scrolling through my Facebook feed during pride month, because I get to see loving pictures of trans kids and their parents, queer couples, and just generally happy posts in a time filled with discrimination. So obviously I’m going to nitpick.

I have been encountering joy-filled post after joy-filled post of articles titled something like “Same-Sex Wedding Photos That Will Bring You Joy.” I would like to push back that those are not the photos I’m looking at. I’m going to say that I am actually looking at pictures of happy cis gay and lesbian couples. Yes, of course, that is so joyous and we need to see more of it. But the term same-sex is way more than that. 

When same-sex marriage was legalized, it also legalized same-sex queer + trans marriage, along with same-sex straight + trans marriage. Let me see the photos of two trans women, or a cis woman and a trans man, or of two same-sex non-binary folks. Don’t just show me the cisgender people. I know that they were the more visible targets of same-sex discrimination, but trans people aren’t being talked about at all. I, a trans male, love my cisgender, straight female partner and I want to see pictures that I can relate to.

To summarize this, call these amazing, loving posts “Gay Weddings” or “Queer Weddings,” unless you are going to include the spectrums that lie beyond those.

Peace,
Andrew

 

 

Posted in Personal

(In)visible

Here is a conversation I had this weekend in regards to my name change:

“I have only known you as Linden for 6 months.”

“The world has only known me as Linden for a year and a half; you aren’t that far behind the curve.”

The kid I was talking to stopped talking and just stared at me. He had a “what in the world?” expression on his face, but I didn’t clarify. It only then dawned on me that the boy I was talking to probably didn’t know I was trans. That’s a weird thought, honestly. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t need everyone in my life to know I’m trans. It is not the most important thing about me.

However, it’s weird to think that now, ten and a half months into testosterone, people look at me and assume “boy.” That was the secondary goal, right? Behind feeling more comfortable in my body, it was also a goal to be accepted more fully as male. But at this point, I’m just used to making trans jokes. All the time. What do I do now that not everyone knows I’m trans, so making a joke like that will either out myself or heavily confuse the person I’m talking to?

I want to stay visible, but it’s not a necessity anymore. I don’t have to correct strangers’ mis-pronouning me, and my name is legally Linden Andrew. For those who’ve known me, it is just one of those facts about me, but for those who don’t, they might not even know! Especially after top surgery. How bizarre.

So I have to make a split decision when I meet new people. Do I out myself? Or is it just not relevant to my relationship with this new person?

It’s pretty cool that I am just seen as male now, even by complete strangers.

Peace,
Andrew

P.S. HAPPY BIRTHDAY CHANDLER! THE BIG ONE NINE!

Posted in Personal

I Tried Drag When I Was Little So People Thought I Was A Girl

I expressed my masculinity in non-traditional ways when I was younger. For example, from an early age, I wore a lot of dresses. Contrary to the usual narrative, this struck absolutely no one as out of the ordinary. Not just the more liberal minded accepted me, but so did the more conservative. Why? Because to an untrained eye, I was a cute little girl wearing a red velvet dress, who loved lip gloss and eye shadow. That wasn’t the truth of who I was, though. I was simply a little queer boy, trapped in the wrong body, experimenting in drag for the first time.

I distinctly remember back to when I was eight, wearing my friend’s dress and standing next to her in a mirror. As we stared at our reflections, I remember thinking how she was the prettiest girl I’d ever seen. I somehow twisted that into thinking that in order to be loved, I had to be a pretty girl. I couldn’t be the gangly thing staring back at me with awkwardly broad shoulders. I wore dresses more frequently after that.

By the time I was fifteen, my once innocent love of dresses had completely died. My love had been corrupted into this all-consuming need to be a perfect representation of a cisgender woman. I couldn’t ever feel at home in my head as this imperfect not-girl, but I didn’t have the knowledge to bring myself any inner peace about it. So I instead tried to warp myself into the perfect woman. I still loved looking at dresses, but when they were on my body, I instantly hated them. I would lash out as myself for not being that pinnacle of feminine perfection. Self-harm and starving myself became as natural to me as breathing. But still, I wore them. I had to. I had to prove to myself, day after day, that I was a woman.

The last time I wore a dress, I was seventeen. It was Halloween 2015, a few days before I came out to myself as transgender. It was a dress handed down to me by my sister, and I loved it on her. I was so excited to put it on. When I did, though, I hated it. I started crying, smudging my carefully applied eyeliner. Why did I look so wrong? Why did I feel so wrong?

When I came out, I made myself a promise: I never have to wear a dress again, unless I want to.

Two years later, I still love dresses. I love picking them out and fantasizing about people in them. I just don’t wear them, because they still feel wrong on me. I can’t fully embody the person I am in a dress. One day, maybe I’ll wear a dress again. Maybe I never will. I really don’t the dress is the important thing. I think it is more of a catalyst. A catalyst to tell me that even if I love dresses, it doesn’t mean I’m a woman, and the fact that I’m not a woman doesn’t mean I have to hate dresses. I don’t have to hate them anymore, because I don’t give them the power to.

Peace,
Andrew

Posted in Personal

Lindsay and Linden and Andrew

We all know that names have power. From moms using full names when they’re pissed to when soon-to-be parents go back and forth on names for months before landing on the perfect one. But what happens when you give your child the wrong name?

I was Lindsay Anne Huffman for the first 17 years of my life. The thing was, of course, that I was not Lindsay Anne. I was a caterpillar, and I needed to get the fuck into my cocoon. I entered my cocoon when I became Linden. It felt not perfect, but close enough.

But recently, I’ve been feeling trapped. Chafing within my shell, I needed to break free.  Linden was purposefully neutral, and an obvious homage to my former name. But whenever I tell people my name is Linden, it gives them pause. Linden? Is that a boy or a girl? I look, act, walk, and talk like a boy, but sometimes my societally-trained feminine mannerisms come out and then the neutral name Linden helps people come to the conclusion that I’m probably a girl. I’m so tired of being misgendered that I decided something: it’s time to be a butterfly.

I am ten months on Testosterone, and I have top surgery in a month. There is no time like the present to completely embrace myself and my masculinity. Thus, I’m going by my middle name now: Andrew. Linden was a transition name. Maybe I’ll identify with it again in the future, but now I think I just need Andrew.

Now to the education part of my blog posts. To the several people who asked me why I changed my name from Linden to Andrew: this is why. However, you should not have asked me. If my sister wanted to suddenly go by Louise, people would feel entitled to ask her why. I don’t think they would have the right. And you don’t have the right to ask me now. Change is healthy and natural, and of all the scary things one could do to implement change in their lives, I think changing one’s name is relatively harmless. Especially with trans people, who have been forced with a misgendered name their whole lives, and finally have the chance to find something that feels right to them. I get that it will be mildly inconvenient for a while, but I think you can probably find it somewhere inside yourself, deep down, to get past that.

Thanks for everyone for being so great and welcoming for me asking to be called Andrew<3

Peace,
Andrew

Posted in Personal

My Gravest Doubts on the Subject

40 days. There are 40 days until I have top surgery. I think it’s finally starting to hit me? Don’t get me wrong, I am incredibly excited and have been since we scheduled it in August 2016. But there’s a lot of complex feelings around it. These include my questions, fears, and hopes. I’m going to share some of them, so if another trans person feels a similar way, they won’t feel alone.

  • Fear: What if I regret it?
  • Hope: I won’t be misgendered again due to having to wear a sports bra because I want to breathe that day.
  • Hope: I’m getting top surgery soon enough that my ribs won’t have suffered permanent damage from binding, which is a valid fear because for the first 6+ months I bound with the incorrect sized binder.
  • Question: How long will it take before I can look in the mirror and accept my new chest as fact, not just a desperation-induced dream? Immediately? Months?
  • Hope: I will get to swim at the beach without feeling ashamed/embarrassed of my chest or afraid that I will be misgendered.
  • Fear: I can’t reverse a surgical removal of my breasts, at least not easily. What if this a big mistake? What if my gender identity changes again and I wish I had breasts again?

These are thoughts that have been taking over my brain lately, and it’s exhausting trying to reassure myself that I can do it, should do it, and am going to do it. So, to the 90% of people who know I’m having top surgery who have asked me if I have doubts and if it’s really what I want: yes, I have doubts. I have doubts every goddamn day. And I’ve never been surer of a decision in my entire life. Top surgery is something I need with my entire being. It’s something my mind needs to feel at one with my body in a way I haven’t since pre-puberty. I need it so fucking bad. Doubts are natural, but as Gwendolyn Fairfax in the Importance of Being Earnest put it, the idea of me not having top surgery is “clearly a metaphysical speculation, and like most metaphysical speculations, has very little reference at all to the actual facts of real life.”

Peace,
Linden

Posted in Personal

Dear Cis People

This is an open letter to all the cisgender people in my life.

Dear Cis People,
Thank you for being accepting of me! Most of you use my pronouns, almost all of you use my name, and I’m pretty sure at least 90% of you see me as a boy! I am so appreciative of the way I have been normalized into our community. That being said, I have a few suggestions that I would like to bring up so that they will not be problems in the future.

  1. Please do not ask about my sex life.
    • I don’t understand how so many people think this is appropriate. I don’t ask you how you have sex, why do you? I don’t ask you the mechanics of what you do in the bedroom, please don’t ask me.
  2. It is not appropriate to bring up my past presentation as female in front of people.
    • Yes, I do it, but that does not give you the right. For one, I have a much better read on the situation in regards to my safety and the person’s reaction than you do. Another reason is that maybe that day I’m not in a place that I can handle it. Maybe I’m super dysphoric that day and discussing a really painful era in my life is not something I take pleasure in discussing. While we’re on the subject, when you talk about me in the past tense, still use he/him pronouns. I was a boy, am a boy, and will continue to be a boy. The pronouns that I used to use are not relevant anymore. 
  3. I do not speak for the whole trans community.
    • Just because I am more comfortable discussing my old presentation and my dead name does not mean every trans person is. Also, do not tell me how touchy some trans people are. That is a) an unfair position to put me in, because I will not speak unkindly of other trans people, and b) completely dismissive of the hard and sometimes traumatic experiences a lot of trans people go through.

Ok, now that I’ve lectured you, don’t take this the wrong way! I appreciate you, I do. I just get frustrated sometimes, and I just want to prevent that frustration in the future.

Peace,
Linden