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Thursday, June 10, 2010

on becoming a woman (2)

One final quick caveat. There is an easier way to do this. Unfortunately if you're reading this it's probably too late to pursue, but I'd suggest reading the Bardo Thodol and watching out for that smoky red light next time around.

The day I was born, about 2 years ago from my present 12 year old perspective, ( which is a bit better than the 10 year old one last year when I was 56 ), I can remember a couple of things clearly.
The first was, in early afternoon, looking round the room I was in and thinking mf, mf, mf. As a diagnosis I quickly discarded it, after all it had been over a decade since I'd taken any drug of an equivalent strength to mescaline, and I never have flashbacks. I think the comparison was down to being aware of a kind of sensual vibrancy, especially centered on sight, and a kind of heightened awareness of energy flows. Then I started looking at people passing by and then things got REALLY interesting. Looking back, I tend to interpret it as being made aware of the death of my male self and the start of the female journey. At the time, though, it was first of all an intuitive understanding of male/ female ways of seeing each other and a bewilderment that I'd been on the planet for so long without working it out.
NOTE This was totally atypical for me in any drug state. I don't do realisation like that at all.
In effect this was seeing a difference in the focus of consciousness between genders, something that I initially saw as relating to mutual attraction but which gradually widened to embrace the totality of world views. That night I went to sleep in the knowledge that it was rather doubtful if I was male any more on the simple intuitive ground that if that were to still be the case then I'd have been unable to see men in the way that I now could.
Initially, however, the notion that something had happened to my sense of gender took second place to the notion of brain damage. In many ways this was my greatest fear with ESLD, the possible state of 'confusion' due to ammonia compounds penetrating the blood/ brain barrier and possibly leading to coma and death in a few months. I really hadn't worked out how to confront that. So a lot of the next couple of weeks were spent trying to come to grips with what was actually happening. I went into a whole set of activities trying to map any changes in cognition through a number of tests, puzzles and interactions. Within a week or so, the idea of liver induced mental confusion was demoted to the status of an extremely unlikely possibility. Basically virtually none of the normal symptoms applied, and no-one, doctor or other, since has proffered the possibility of any other form of neural damage. On the other hand something relating to gender and hormones became far more likely. Given that I'd had a lessened,spironolactonised sexuality for a few months and favoured tops that concealed my budding gynecomastia it wasn't the most far out hypothesis.
Anyway, initially testing myself in straight recall, concussion type stuff, no change really from normal that I could find. There was some disruption and change in higher level mathematical, verbal and strategic performance.
Reading and chess were interesting. In terms of reading speed my performance was down some 50%-65%, but that was partially due to concentration. The other part I put down to pattern recognition disruption, a view I've since partially altered. Bear in mind that my reading had been such as to be able to read 3 standard paperbacks a day of some reasonable standard. It's since partially recovered.
Chess, at my best, was good club standard in the UK and is an old friend in terms of being a cognitive performance measure. A mild overall improvement together with an enhanced tendency to find tactical nuances easily, was odd. Games in general were variable in performance, though word games were generally the same or better and maths puzzles often worse, though I feel that difference more task related than to do with the nature of the material.
Sadly I lacked the foresight to have recently preceding comparable results to hand under controlled conditions, but I exercise my mind in a number of standard such ways, and feel I'm a fair observer in this regard.
In the first couple of days of the process, though, in ways that relate both to psychology and art, and more sketchily to phenomenology, I was thinking of figure and ground as being core descriptive. And these particular questions became more and more important and central to the early development of the model that I was trying to construct. If the figure focus is determined by perceptions whose structure is gender dimorphic, what does that mean for individual cognition ? To what extent are there at least two systems of consciousness that spring from two radically different modes of information processing, on a level of perceptual quanta, that we can term gender ?
This was given added significance when, in the first few weeks I became aware of a truly surprising change in the ways that I was able to surprise myself. It concerned those things one says because one knows them, and only realize during or after the saying that this was knowledge that one had adduced by some set of unconscious processes. They started to vary in kind. Most of my life such utterances would be relating to delineating a frame, an overarching pattern, but now they were far more likely to comprise a direct linear analysis.
I wasted a lot of time trying to get a Jungian thing to work, with the vague notion of anima and animus exchanging places. I suppose it does have some explanatory power, but not really within cognitive psychology, which is where I was centering myself. So I didn't want to have to deal with much psychoanalytic baggage.

Am going through a period of intense lassitude at present, (it's a cyclic ESLD thing), so I'll pause here for a week or so.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

On becoming a woman (1)

The following is my introduction to an account of my transition. It comes with all sorts of caveats, and, hopefully, will not be an easy read. There are some difficult questions here that demand involvement.
As regards what credence can be placed on my story, I can assert that I am definitely a real person in a public place most of my time. When I've commented on significant sites I've generally given some references. For a variety of reasons relating to health issues, I don't want my name any more on the internet than I can help, but I was outed in the NYT and my trans status is fairly public, ie several thousand people directly.
As to medical diagnosis I'm still not professionally categorized, since I'm in a problematic situation re different types of care. But my physical changes are normal for ESLD and I have general doctors and counsellors that I've spoken with who all support a trans diagnosis. I don't fit elsewhere.
If I'm putting on some kind of act I must be very very good at it 24/7.
And in my present life situation, there frankly isn't much motivation to conceal.

I really don't know how well trans people can relate to the totality of this particular transition, since I seem to have had GID & dysphoria stuff happening concurrent with hormonal change and lacking much of a basis in my past life.
I never put on female clothes, except for a couple of drag parties in my youth and 1 more recent, and never had any interest in them, never had a thought that I can remember of not being male, had a fair number of straight relationships and was never particularly excited by, or intimate with, men in group sex situations.
That said, in many ways I've been 'gender lite' through most of my life, in terms of feminism and social relationships.

My rough picture is that, in terms of brain sex, I must have had some vestigial ambiguity which was never any major problem until a bucket load of hormones came along and activated it. Although such a case, with regard to my specific health issues, has so far evaded the medical literature, I can easily imagine it being an occasional phenomena covered up because it causes problems with gatekeepers. And it's always possible that it ties up with something like DES.

Let me be quite clear. I am talking about something best described as a gender change. I am talking about moving from the world of men to the world of women, with concomitant effects on gender identity. I am talking about basic perceptual and cognitive changes of an immediate character, in many ways. I am talking about a gender change, with gender identification lagging behind, that seemed to happen in a moment.
Though we're very different in many ways, I broke down crying for what seemed like hours when I read Zoe Brains account of something similarly sudden. It was the last piece that fell into place, the last time I could even fantasize about a get-out-of-trans-free card. She put it eloquently here :-

If you haven't read much of this blog before, the first post
Original post

and the second to last one

are particularly relevant.
Any good intro to cognitive psychology might also be worthwhile checking out. I'll be abstracting some stuff from gestalt psychology, as regards perceptual paradigms, bits from Kelly and Whorf,
something from Husserl, but hopefully nothing that needs to be too technical in language. And if you have expertise in contemporary studies of gender dimorphic neural structures, you're way ahead of me.
I hope the series of posts to follow will make for an interesting passage together. It is, in the end, just a personal account of a journey. But whilst it may cover some of the same ground as many others, it's been more like a voyage by air than slogging through the undergrowth. In that way, it may afford some interesting views that aren't usually touched on at all.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Tidying up - no more Mr Nice Guy

So I've had my wake along with a few friends who knew, or had heard of, my man. I think its eased me somewhat, not that the evening was emotionally involving particularly or confirming of identity, but that I shouldn't take it quite so seriously.
It ties in with the way the last few months have gone, which has been very much internal understandings rather than effort into performance. Which has led to some rather fun things with people. I probably 'pass' worse now than before my leg was broken, but I've had a few times recently with women who start with the notion that I'm a guy in drag and then they get it. And then they smile and laugh a bit and start opening up their languages and a couple of times we talk about it and its usually because I've done some things that they'd never seen a man do. Sometimes there's a performative element, gesture reinforcement of speech, say, but generally a sort of natural indication of common female experience. Which is cool, but then I guess I don't see the negative responses in front of me. Still I'm easier in myself.
Again I fail to write on sisterhood which I guess is down to the fact that it is such a strong thing and something that would need me to talk about how I've explored all my changes.
So, a year after starting this blog, that's what I'm going to do.
My favourite copy editor said I should, so I've got a professional to blame. No, she doesn't edit me, and with the exception of a couple of posts, I just write , edit, publish.
Partly that's because I'd like people to understand where I might be biased, because I do rather want this to be examined as more than some persons fantasy. Its certainly been the most important thing that's ever happened to me, and I'd like it to be seen clearly.
I'm not sure how people will relate to it, how far it's generalisable in trans terms, how far it's a feminist critique of gender, how far it could help in informing a cognitive model of humanity as gender dimorphic infovores within the noosphere ; in short WTF it is.
So,this is a general request for a degree of indulgence. It would be good to know that people out there could join with me in the spirit of this simple song as a sentiment to inform the upcoming postings.