Click here for details and tickets. The show is at 4pm, tickets are $12.
There will also be a group recording of listeners Friday Nov 15th at 7pm. It will also take place in the Workman Arts building at 651 Dufferin St in Toronto. Signs will be posted and it will be in the basement. Stragglers are welcome and we’ll probably go until about 8:30 or 9:00pm. No tickets are necessary, it’s free.
I will have a bunch of surveys printed out that people can sift through and comment on during the recording. Former guest and therapist Susan Hagen will be sitting in. Show up early (6:30 or 6:45) if you want to look through some surveys before we start recording. People will basically take turns at the mic talking to Susan and me and responding to the printed surveys and time permitting sharing some of their story with us as well.
If you’d like to participate in the group recording email me at firstname.lastname@example.org so I can get an idea of how many are going to show up.
The actress/ writer/ standup/ podcaster (Girl on Guy)/t.v. host (The Talk, Talk Soup) joins Paul at LAPodfest in front of a live audience and discusses her workaholism and anxiety, her outcast status as a child, where her drive comes from, growing to understand her intimidating, blunt father and appreciate the challenges of her long marriage.
I am a pedophile.
I have written that sentence a scant few times, spoken it aloud only once. And yet here I am, exposing it to a limitless audience, baring my deepest, most horrible secret to anyone who comes across it. I do not know what drove me to this point after years of hiding, though pseudonymously publishing this on a site run by someone else isn’t exactly ‘coming clean’. Regardless, after I decided to take the opportunity to put my true self, and my existence, down into writing.
There are people like me everywhere. All around you, perhaps among your closest friends or family. But before a panic rises, before I am flooded with requests to help identify these ‘monsters’, let’s return to a basic definition that no one remembers any more.
Not all pedophiles are child molesters. Not all child molesters are pedophiles. A pedophile, or one who suffers from pedophilic disorder, is defined in the DSM-5 as “a psychiatric disorder in persons 16 years of age or older typically characterized by a primary or exclusive sexual interested towards prepubescent children”. A child molester is, obviously, someone who acts out sexually in some way with a child, whether that be overtly through molestation or covertly through exploitation. One cannot legally be accused or convicted of “pedophilia” in any country, regardless of what you read in news articles. While men make up the majority of convicted child molesters, there are also many women who struggle with pedophilic thoughts, though they seem to less often ‘cross the line’. Those are the facts we are working from, facts that are not argued in psychiatric circles despite mass distortion among the general public.
This is not about definitions or semantics. This is about me, one man trying to work through a curse that has threatened to end his life more than once.
The first inklings of my sexuality came during puberty, as it does for most. I found myself attracted to the friends of my younger sister, nine when I was thirteen. It was not concerning initially, after all they really were not all that far separated from me. These girls were pretty, with their lithe bodies, sparkling personalities, and emotional openness. They were everything I really felt I needed. I pursued a few of them as far as was appropriate, with most parents accepting of the silly ‘crushes’ while I remained young and nearly prepubescent myself. This changed swiftly, and I learned to not be so overt about my attraction, as it became creepy the moment I started to sprout facial hair.
When I hit high school and my sexual fantasies continued to revolve around ten-year-olds, that was when I began to get worried. It was not normal, I found myself unable to masturbate to thoughts of the girls that had turned me on just a few short years before, now having to turn to their younger sisters in turn. As the girls I loved grew up, my attraction to them waned and disappeared, as they entered junior high school and I realized they just were not sexually alluring to me. But those who had younger sisters, entering into the middle to upper grades of elementary school, those girls reminded me what I liked. Masturbation turned to writing out my fantasies, page after page of sexual material, thousands of words and hours of editing poured into stories that no one would ever see. After orgasm, after finishing a story, I would be filled with dread. Who was I? What had I done?
When I read the definition of pedophilia, at age sixteen, I knew I had one final chance to turn things around. But soon I was seventeen, eighteen, nineteen — continuing with a sick attraction that became less and less justifiable, if ever justifiable in the first place. People around me dated, talked about girls, and I participated as best I could. I wondered, hoped even, that deep down everyone was like me and just much better at hiding it. The idea of being alone in this attraction was too much to consider, but over time I realized that I was alone. Other people saw little girls as children. Why did I see them the way I did?
When I was in college, I knew I had to break it. I was filled with obscene fantasies revolving around children — children — and I knew how wrong it was. My family was excellent, my upbringing perfectly normal. No incidents in my past warranted this. I could not be a pedophile. While I had had a few non-serious girlfriends during high school, never going past attending dances, I now decided to pursue a serious sexual partner. If I could not will this sickness out of myself I could, if you will excuse the obscenity, fuck it out.
You could say I loved the girl, in a way. I do not know, though she filled a gap I needed at the time. She was the same age as me, a classmate, and I made it fairly clear from the beginning that I was serious about our relationship. It escalated quickly, my first time kissing in years, first time ‘slow-dancing’ since I was an acne-ridden teen. But there was no sexual spark. No attraction. It sounds bizarre, but I often prayed for some sort of arousal to occur when we were together, when her lips were against mine. But it was like she was a statue, just an object that happened to be there with me. This did not stop me, though it should have, and our first night together was one of the most humiliating of my life. Someone in the prime of their youth should not have to deal with erectile dysfunction, failure to perform, all the other things I experienced. But when she was there before me, undressed, ready, willing — I was, if anything, disgusted by her. Her body was not attractive, sex with her was not something that caused me excitement. I closed my eyes – I fantasized about the bright-eyed girls that filled the dark parts of my brain and yet there was nothing for her, the woman with me.
Things ended between us shortly thereafter. It is difficult to stay with a guy who fails to bring to the table one of the more important items in a sexual relationship, so I do not hold it against her. Then it was time for cure number two, and that was therapy. I researched therapists, though in my particularly rural part of North America pickings were slim. Choosing a fellow who seemed kind enough, I attended therapy with him for about six months before I decided to broach the subject of my sexuality. While my decision was made, it ended up meaning nothing. During a session, one of the few following my choice to try and tell him, my therapist mentioned something about a child molester in the news, and how disgusting he found that man. That was all it took. I shut my mouth, quit therapy a few weeks later, and decided that I was going to give up.
Trying to find a community to join was not a conscious choice, not really. But eventually I ended up in an online group of pedophiles, talking about the struggle I was facing, contending with both those who saw a bright future for us and those who were on the cusp of killing themselves. These people made me feel less alone for a time, like there were others out there. Of course nothing is as it seems, and as one disappeared for child pornography, another for molestation, another after, yes, killing himself – I realized that the community was not going to do anything for me. Then I moved on to another venue, this one not revolving around pedophiles, rather for young people with different life struggles. After several months in that group, talking through the depression and anxiety that spring from my pedophilia, I revealed to a couple people that I did in fact struggle with being sexually attracted to children. These people, then my closest friends and confidantes, told me the world would be better without me, that I should kill myself rather than continue to exist just to hurt children. The devastation of that rejection stays with me to this day, and just writing about it makes me question ever allowing this to be uploaded into any public sphere.
Despite all this turmoil, the self-hatred and hatred from others, the fantasies continued. I allowed myself to fall into them late at night, otherwise presenting myself as the world-wise confident single man. During my time struggling with my sexuality, my disease, my disorder, my monster (you can pick which you prefer to call it) there has been more than one girl I have found myself obsessed with. Trying to be near her, spend time with her, on occasion even attempting to ingratiate myself with her parents. None of these went very far, nothing that could be thought of as specifically untoward. I will pick one specific example to see how my mind works, this particular story involves the closest I have ever come to crossing the line, a position I never want to return to.
Many years ago, one of the biggest temptations of my life presented itself. My niece was born. This hurts to write. It hurts to admit. She was a baby, then a toddler, and I felt nothing. Much like I had felt when I clambered atop my girlfriend years previous, this was just a body that held no interest for me. But I knew it was coming.
Some may wonder what, exactly, it is that turns me on about a subset of person that most cannot comprehend as sexual beings. I do not fantasize about raping children, nothing forced or painful. My fantasy would be to find myself in a loving relationship with a prepubescent girl. My ideal girl is between eight and twelve, depending on when puberty finds her, and is an intelligent, sweet, cute child. Her sexual characteristics do not matter much, or matter in lack thereof – that she have no breasts, no pubic hair, no signs of maturity. I would love to find myself with a girl like that, doing things people who love each other do together, from going to the movies to walking in a park to sitting and talking about one another’s lives. And yes, like everyone’s fantasies, mine extends to sex. While I could titillate both myself and those with my monster who are reading, I will settle for saying that my fantasies are for gentle, slow sexual experiences in which we both experience pleasure and neither of us experience anything remotely unpleasant. I know how disgusting that sounds to those who have made it this far. All I can say is I am sorry.
I am not a rapist or a sadist, I am just a pedophile. I want nothing more than to love a girl in every way, but I am not deluded into thinking it will ever come about.
My niece continued to grow, all-too-quickly reaching an age where I felt attraction stirring. When I visited her home, my heart leapt upon seeing her, and not just in a familial way. When she sat on my lap I started to notice her physical presence, the proximity of her body to mine, the thin layers of fabric separating us, my hands floating dangerously close to where they should not go. I would shake my head, push her off my lap, try and calm the hormones. It became a war of attrition, with me deciding that holding hands in public was alright. Then hugs became okay again, often accompanied with her gleeful childlike leap into my arms. Then sitting on my lap was allowed as long as I controlled myself. Walls I had spent a long time building came crumbling down. I was losing myself to the monster and I was starting to accept it.
Soon my fantasies were all about her. Those little things that should mean nothing; days she wore a skirt, days we got to go swimming, began to mean far more than they should have. I know I did cross the line as I got her more used to my affection. Then the last straw fell, on a day like any other, the two of us alone together, first cuddled up and watching TV, me basking in her presence, feeling the tumbling rush of emotional and sexual attraction. Then we were wrestling, my hands on her narrow torso. In the fray, she touched me there, accidentally, asking what had happened, not understanding it was my erection.
It was another line. The final line and I was standing upon it, about to take a plunge I knew would end only in pain for everyone in my life. I backed away from her. I apologized and made an excuse. I fled.
My visits to her home ceased. Within weeks I requested and received a job transfer to a distant major city, and I was gone. In the past several years I have seen my sister and niece only a few times, during holidays, and never allowed myself to be alone with my niece. Not ever again. I cannot trust myself and I would do anything to not hurt her.
The initial weeks in my new home were the hardest, accompanied with severe depression, an inability to leave the house, a drinking problem that spiraled out of control as I sought any outlet I could to prevent myself from dealing with what I had nearly done, with what some reading will say I did do.
I now try to never allow myself near children. I am dangerous to them and they to me, though the danger I pose comes from a place of purpose, while theirs is innocent and unintended. At times I cannot avoid interaction with a child, and the accompanying arousal from a life spent monastically far from my attraction is not something I can deny.
Slipping back into alcohol and recently to self-injury when I err in a major way is my automatic reflex. These mistakes are few, but sometimes when I hug a child, or find myself walking in the park just to be near them, I know I am not doing what I should. Following orgasm, when the arousal subsides, I am filled with shame for whatever brought me to that point. While I have taken an anti-depressant for some time, one which dulls my sex drive, it is not nearly enough to tamp down the rush of lust when I see a child I find attractive. Every day is a struggle, at least every day in which I find myself with unfettered computer access, free time to go outside, or on social visits to people with children. These days, of course, far outnumber days without. It is a fight I face day-by-day.
That is who I am today. I am a single man, working in an office, marching beside you to the train with my tie on. I still have my fantasies. My attraction remains inside me, like a drop of poison bubbling below the surface of my every action. I can go a day or so without thinking about girls, as my age increases and my testosterone decreases. With effort I can avoid fantasies for weeks at a time.
Keeping my mouth shut when pedophiles come up is easier than you might think. I have never spoken up in either direction, except the socially appropriate agreements as necessary, and I do not plan on becoming a crusader. Hearing people talk about how revolted they are by pedophiles or how all pedophiles should be murdered does hurt me, but at this point in my life I have heard it from nearly every person I have ever cared about.
If I had the option to take a pill that would remove all sexual desire, I would take it. Not even to just remove my attraction to children, just remove it all. I would love to.
I will never have a fulfilling sexual relationship. I know I will never fulfill my fantasies. I know I will die alone. I know if anyone ever knew that would be the end of my life as I know it, and not just my life but the life of so many around me, starting with my family and spiraling outwards. I know that despite my efforts no one will ever thank or congratulate me.
And I know I am not the only person facing this. Some may make mistakes, may act out in ways they will regret. Still others may find a way around their pedophilia, find the edges of their sexuality and break free. Others will end their lives rather than face their bleak future. We are all alone, all islands. For us it does not get better and never will.
To those of you reading this that are the same as me – I recognize you and your effort. I am sorry you have to bear this. Be strong. I wish there was more I could do for you.
To the vast majority of you reading in horror and revulsion, I am not asking for pity. I am merely trying to show you a group of people you may have never considered before, outside the automatic reflex of disgust.
And to Paul, for giving me the space to write this, thank you. The first time in my life I have ever even considered that just maybe I am ‘okay’ was in a Mental Illness Happy Hour episode months ago, where at the end you talked about how we should not beat ourselves up over our sexual attraction, that we neither choose nor control it, and as long as we do not hurt others we should cut ourselves some slack. Thank you. To you it was likely a throwaway bit at the end of a long episode, but for me it really meant something, and I listened to it over and over, heart feeling partway healed knowing there was at least one person out there who maybe, just maybe, did not hate me.
Paul’s note: I waited a month or so after he sent me this, weighing the benefits of people understanding him and people who suffer similar afflictions and the possible negative reactions especially from survivors, but ultimately I decided it would be worth it.
All of his emails were sent from an account that is untraceable, but I have to say, I don’t think that was necessary because with the exception of the wrestling incident which he seems to have learned from and made life changes to prevent from happening again, he is a hero on a certain level. Someone fighting a terrible inner war, taking responsibility for that part of himself, and sacrificing a larger life with adult connections to protect the innocent. As an alcoholic/drug addict I know the power of compulsion and it is no small feat to stifle sickness when it radiates through your every cell.
I think the world would be a better place if instead of writing off people, saying “they don’t deserve to live” we try to understand the person behind the sickness and show that part of them love and compassion. I think the highest form of love is when it doesn’t come easily, when something in us questions whether others will approve of our extending it. Love and compassion can co-exist with consequences, boundaries and legal justice.
He recently sent me this email about the piece he wrote.
“I would be equally happy for it to just disappear…it was cathartic to write and I am worried about it hurting other people. It is your choice though. Maybe the podcast would be an easier way to warn people away… Not everyone can understand that I am human and that is fine. I just don’t want to force my existence on them and demand their attention and/or pity. If that makes sense. I don’t know. You do this far better than I. 🙂
I will probably check in again in a few months or something. It is strange to feel like you are my friend, but baring one’s soul tends to have that effect.”
I am a 38 year-old wife and mother of two.
My seven year-old son was diagnosed with Asperger’s at the age of 4. He exhibits traits of ADHD and possible ODD (Oppositional Defiant Disorder) and struggles with negative thinking. He’s an amazing young man with a passion for entertainment.
We also have a sweet daughter, who will be six in January. She loves animals, but more specific cats. She shows some attention difficulties and mimics her big brothers behaviors. Throughout the years we’ve had lots of support, but it just didn’t seem to get to the heart our struggles. These struggles happen daily and affect our whole family, but it impacts our daughter greatly. My daughter sees the way my son behaves and mimics his outbursts. It is difficult for her to cope with all of his outbursts, screams and frustration. There are many laughs in our house, however when there is a blow up, it is extreme.
My story begins when I was sitting in my chair, after the kids were finally asleep. I was reading yet another book on ways to help my son, when it came to me. This was the time of the day for me. I wasn’t really sure of what to do; I was exhausted! I was exhausted trying to hold my family together emotionally and mentally. I was working hard to help my kids, but was not dealing with my own emotions and metal stability. The more I hid my feelings the more I felt alone and eventually my brain shut down and I went into Autopilot.
I stayed in autopilot for years when something changed. I was wanting to give up, go hide in a corner and hope that for just 15 min I could find a piece of myself that was not broken. To muster up enough energy to get through another day and find the answers I desperately needed to help my family, to get through the daily outbursts, crying, fighting, and opposition; try to cope with being overwhelmed from the criticism of others, the homeschooling, the stares, extreme separation anxiety, going to countless appointments, implementing yet another strategy, fears that I was doing everything wrong.
I needed help and I was terrified to ask for it, but I had no other choice. If I truly wanted to help my family, I needed to heal.
I had to dig back into my past and be honest about my mental health. I started going to therapy and with the help of my therapist I started to realize that I was allowed to make mistakes and parents are not perfect.
I started dealing with my feelings and self-worth. I looked at my insecurities as a parent and that I can show my vulnerabilities without feeling like a failure. By taking that step towards healing I began painting again and the feelings and thoughts I could not find words for came out in my art.
I still have a long way to go and many days I find myself back in that dark place, but I know I have the strength within me not to stay there; like the Buddha said, “Pain in life is inevitable but suffering is not”.
I once mentioned to my son, after working on one strategy after another, “honey, I have been giving you a lot to work on and I know there are many things that mommy needs to work on too. What do you think mommy needs to do?” I think at that moment I realized my son needed to know I was not perfect and that he could talk to me about my behaviors too.
I also realized this was a journey for our whole family. By helping each other get past our struggles, we could grow as a family. That we all have things to work on and if we look past the imperfections in each other we could find mental healing.
We still have our ups and downs and many days I want to scream, “What about me, don’t I matter?” but I remind myself how important these two little people are in my life and I need to take a step back and ask for help; take time to focus on my own healing again.
My day to day has changed so much from that night sitting in my chair. I have learned so much and now, every day I make sure my kids and I have quality time together and laugh at least once a day. I spend time with my husband when the kids are asleep, but most of all I make time for myself whether it’s time for healing, time to paint, or just time to breathe.
As I look at how I am raising my children I hope they will look back one day and say, “my parents made mistakes and they are not perfect, but I love them anyways. They taught me that it is ok to seek help when I need it and to make sure I have someone in my life I can talk to about anything, but most of all they taught me to feel everything! Feel angry if I have to, feel joy with all my heart and find greatness in myself!”
I hope that other parents whether they have children of special needs or not, can stop long enough to realize our mental health is vital to our children’s mental health and if we don’t seek help when we need it or talk about our fears or feel every emotion fully, how will they know it is O.K.!
Hugs to all the parents out there!
The 26 year-old shares about emigrating to the U.S. (Las Vegas) from Mexico (Puruandiro in Michoacan) at 8, his fear of his hard-drinking and volatile migrant-worker father, “passing” for white, his body dysmorphia and the struggle today to feel his feelings rather than shutting down.
Multitasking is a skill most kids are great at nowadays. From listening to iPods while instant messaging, from texting to Web-surfing, the interruptions are everywhere. With so many potential distractions, it’s no wonder kids have a hard time staying focused.
Your child needs to develop effective concentration, focus strategies and self-discipline skills early on. These skills will increase his/her chances for long-term success throughout life. Here are some tips for parents hoping to help their kids with staying focused in school.
Adults have many vital responsibilities within their communities, at work, at home, etc… To prepare your children for adulthood responsibilities, they need to have some of their own right now. What’s the most important job in your kids’ lives? That would be learning. The sooner you establish your expectations and normal learning, studying and homework routines, the simpler it will be maintaining them.
Sure, it’s almost impossible to eliminate every distraction possible. However, there are effective ways you can minimize and manage the amount of things drawing your kid’s attention away. Where should you begin? Well, that would be technology, of course. Set rules that include no Web surfing, texting or talking on the phone or watching TV until homework is complete.
Children can be quickly distracted by knocks on the door inviting them to play. Never allow play-time until homework and study-time are complete. You may need to be a bit flexible in order to adapt to schedule changes, including daylight savings time. But, homework-time should remain a top priority.
Do you attend school or manage projects at work? Is there some reading you would like to catch up on? Any unpaid bills or unopened mail that needs your attention? Be disciplined during your own homework-time by turning off the computer and phone ringers. You kids will model your good standards.
Just as your child has a designated place to sit and learn when in class, there should also be one for studying at home. The homework space should be free from distractions. It should include a desk or table large enough for papers and books, with easily-accessible study supplies.
“Texting while driving”, and now “texting while walking” are serious crimes in numerous areas. Why? Texting interrupts your concentration, making it impossible to give your undivided attention to anything else. So, make sure to the rules are clear. Calls should only be allowed when necessary to complete an assignment. And, those calls should be short and monitored by you.
This is a controversial subject for a couple of reasons. For one, if you’re not careful, your rewards can easily be transformed into bribes. However, it’s a child’s nature to respond in positive ways to positive reinforcement. So, if you believe that a reward system will effectively motivate your child, go for it. Just be sure that the rewards aren’t monetary, materialistic or in any way related to food.
Tyler Clark is the online outreach coordinator for the Liahona Academy, a residential treatment center for troubled boys. For the past couple of years I have been helping Liahona Academy help educate the public about the Academy’s mission through social media and blogging outreach. In my off hours I enjoy reading historical novels, 80’s action movies and hanging out with my dog.
Hi MIHH listeners,
My name’s Keagan and I wanted to write a blog post after listening to some podcasts and listener e-mails. This is because it seemed to me that there was a yearning or need for more information about gender and gender minorities, and I have a lot to share. More broadly, what I’d like to share is how I went from agreeing with all of the dogma of the GLBT “community” and the stereotypical rationalizations you hear people make for trans etc. individuals and finding an incredible amount of solace in that, to realizing that the GLBT and even trans “communities” (in my experience), as well as my professional work related to all of these topics.
I very rarely disclose my personal story when I give lectures, talks, trainings, etc. about this topic because it it’s irrelevant to the task at hand. I don’t mean that in a self-defeating way and I’m not closeted whatsoever, I mean that my personal experiences should have nothing to do with how one interprets information that is presented to them. However, I think the nature of this podcast and community allows, perhaps might demand, that I do that, and it would only be fair given how open everyone else has been.
I grew up as an adorably tomboyish little girl in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan (the part that nobody remembers is a part of the US), where we unintentionally epitomized the polar opposite of diversity. Naturally, then, ideas about fluidity in gender were never entertained because they were never even conceived. As my parents have told it, I was such a tomboy that my mother’s pregnancy with me felt just different (versus my older sister) and resulted in her arguing with the doctor who delivered me that I was NOT a girl, I COULDN’T be a girl, etc. Indeed, I was a girl. Maybe it was her particular fondness for Taco Bell during her pregnancy that made her feel differently—I certainly have never lost my love for tacos.
I never had any desire for the stuff my sister liked to do. Rather, I liked hanging out with my dad, watching him build and make things, watching how he took things apart and put them back together, and basically watch him embody the life of a person who persevered out of gross poverty using sheer willpower and an ability to think critically. As a young child, all of my Christmas presents and toys were things like hockey sets, skateboards, KNex, Tonka Trucks, Little Tikes faux tool-belts for toddlers, and the like. Despite my mother’s desire to impart a sense of pride in us from an early age by having us show up to the first day of school each year dressed nicely (which meant a dress), and despite her immense degree of stubbornness (to be fair, we’re a stubborn family), I threw such a fit on the first day of preschool that I broke the tradition of wearing a dress on the first day of school.
Throughout my early childhood it seemed that everyone loved my tomboyishness—I was stubborn, I didn’t put up with boys’ (or girls’) crap, and I couldn’t be more content trying to build some invariably crappy thing out of old cereal boxes, Scotch tape, and whatever scrap wood my dad had left. I liked my Adidas boys’ hiking sneakers because it made exploring in the plentiful woods to collect bugs and other gross animals much easier, and I loved to get dirty. I wore t-shirts and jeans, most of which were bought from the boys’ department. Unlike my sister, I relished finally reaching the age where my dad would let me help him mow the lawn, and I loved it so much that I saved every penny I earned (even mowing more lawns than our own) to buy the Nintendo 64 when it came out. I bought the Ice Blue version, which my sister informed me was a stupid choice, but almost 20 years later I think we can all agree Ice Blue is still way cooler.
A critical point I want you to remember moving forward: at no point did I ever think I was a boy, want to be a boy, or want to change my body.
Then one day puberty hit. We had already been given the “your body’s gonna change one of these days, so here’s a weird random packet with stock photos of moms and daughters and a free pantiliner and maxipad” talk at school, but as it was back in those days, that class literally taught me nothing. All I knew is that one day I’d start bleeding out of my crotch and I would venture into terrifying territory that suddenly helped make much more sense of why adults were so much less playful all the time—they have to worry about bleeding all the time! I remember I was home alone while my parents were out shopping at Kmart when it happened. I didn’t know what to do (thanks, sex ed!) so I sat on the toilet for 2 hours waiting for them to come home (we weren’t a magazine-stack-in-the-bathroom kind of family, either). When they did, and I first saw my mother approaching the bathroom, I burst into tears and started pleading for forgiveness and for a light punishment. She assured me I wasn’t in trouble and didn’t do anything wrong, but, in so many words, I was now sentenced to 40+ years of a whole bunch of uterus bullshit. Sure enough, FYI, I had the kind of cramps that were so bad I was doubled over in pain an unable to move, even with birth control trying to help.
Now, I grew up in an area and era where playing “Smear the Queer” at recess was common, and because I only ever played with the boys, I engaged in playing that game. We’d beat up boys who were suck-ups, too sensitive, or that we just didn’t like. I took down this one obese kid in our class that no one liked one day and have a chipped tooth to prove it. I probably should feel bad about that given that I can’t remember why I did it, but I still feel pretty proud of it.
I wasn’t an angry kid, and I didn’t hate girls, I just didn’t know how to relate to them. The vast majority of my best friends growing up were girls and I loved every moment of hanging out with them even though they were super girly. But, of course, Mean Girls style, there were plenty of girls who wanted nothing to do with me. And because, for some reason, that stung a little too much, and because the boys (in general—their like/dislike of me as the token tomboy was proportionate to that of the girls) were much easier to get along with as long as you weren’t a dick, that’s how it played out.
But puberty, as I’d find out, was supposed to change everything. I was supposed to snap out of that phase and all of a sudden want boys begging to put their P in my V, and be SO girly that my mother would have to regularly sit me down for talks on how to be a proper lady, and basically grow into a proper young woman.
It didn’t happen like that at all. Because all of my peers were going through puberty and now learning about and executing the same social norms with which you accept or make fun of people, I went from having lots of friends to having maybe 2, who still didn’t like to be seen with me all that often. I was often made fun of, with the most oft-hurled insults revolving around, “Janine wants to have a sex change, ooooooohhh!”or something of that nature. This, paired with the fact that I was smart and much better at math and science (and almost all other classes, honestly) than the boys, translated to a hell of a time. Eventually, once my peer group and I were more stable in puberty and in high school the teasing stopped, but there was still that resounding pressure to do my duty and become a young woman.
Though I don’t know that she was conscious of it at the time (and I wasn’t), my mother in particular increasingly pressured and/or punished me for continuing to dress more like a boy than a girl and the like. I used to hate her for it immensely, and it still feels kind of raw if I think about it too much, but now I can reflect and understand that she was acting out of fear for me and a desire to protect me, because she knew that the probability of me being bullied and put down to the extent that a lot of bad things would happen to me and in my life was incredibly high. Even thinking back now I can clearly remember the thesis of many arguments being “I know it’s shitty, but if you don’t do X, Y, Z, you’re going to be in a lot of undeserved pain!”
But I didn’t. Not necessarily because I didn’t want to or because I wanted to rebel, but because I literally did not know how to be a “young lady,” and every time I tried I felt like I was coated in a layer of leeches that were sucking away the life in me. The idea of being a girl in the colloquial sense has literally never made sense to me, and I don’t mean that in a subjective manner. Asking me to understand the appeal in feminine things is like asking a grasshopper to do calculus, and it still is that way.
So I spent my teenage years in so much anguish that I don’t recall much of them. As my ridiculously large boobs grew, I grew more and more hatred towards them that manifested in my desire to hurt them. So I started pinching them so hard that my fingernails would literally cut the skin off and they’d bleed. And then I’d not let the wound heal, because all of this was in hopes that they’d get infected and have to be removed. And the worse it got, the more no one understood me and I felt increasingly alone. Honestly, I think a hug here and there would have done so much for me back then, but I didn’t even have that.
I had never heard the word “transgender” until I was just about to turn 21 (thanks to where I lived). About 2 months after I learned about the word and the concept, I knew that was me.
At 21 and a half, I started hormone replacement therapy. I legally changed my name 3 months later. Even though I had a voice high enough that you would have paid good money to hear me sing a Michael Jackson “Hee-hee!,” I started asking people to use different pronouns when referring to me. Obviously, as my voice got deeper and my body started to restructure into a more masculine form, that got a lot easier for everyone else.
For the most part, life was good. I had supportive friends and coworkers, I loved the university I was at getting my degree, and I finally felt like I had made some sense of peace with the world and I understood myself much more clearly.
But there were still those huge goddamn tits.
I hid them everyday, but there was nothing on the face of this planet that could make them look like they weren’t there. I wore so many binders that I’d often have a hard time breathing. Seems stupid, but it felt better than how I felt otherwise. I actually had to pull them down enough to stretch them out to flatten them that I have permanent stretch marks up near my shoulders from the pulling.
As I became more and more settled in my identity, I experienced more and more anxiety about my chest. Every moment of every day I worried about how my chest looked—were my boobs creeping upward? Were they flat enough? What sorts of shirts could I wear to make it look even better? Were people looking at me and knowing what I was and thinking I was a sick freak? I think the worst part was knowing there was no one I could blame for the pain and anxiety I felt. And the more and more people tried to empathize with me, the angrier I got.
Eventually it got so terrible that I made a pact with myself: if by age 25 I didn’t have chest surgery, I was going to kill myself. I would rather not live at all than live the way I was living and feeling. Even now, past that point, I still believe that would have been the right choice to make because I just hurt so much all the time and had no one to talk to about it.
I had chest surgery 1 month before my 25th birthday. To back up my claims about my huge boobs, I weighed myself before and after and, even with post-surgery swelling, I had lost just shy of 10 lbs. Go put your boob on a scale and see how much it weighs if you need a comparison.
So, that’s my story. Now that I’ve finished transitioning I’ve started to realize a lot of funny things about life that have allowed me to make a lot more sense of the weird world we’ve created around us. That’s what I wanted to share with all of you—why I think we’re thinking about gender in such a fashion that it’s exemplary of a poor understanding of it, or at least an understanding that was made under patriarchal guidance.
I used to call myself transgender, because I thought that’s what I was supposed to do. Now, I basically never do it—the only instance in which I do is when I realize that the person I’m speaking too is never going to get it otherwise and I don’t feel like engaging in that conversation because it’s too tiring.
Why not? Because, basically, I think it’s a stupid word, a stupid construct, and a really nice way of tokenizing people like myself. It’s an EXCELLENT way for people to put you in the “them” category when playing the “us vs. them” game in life. It’s also an excellent way for people to write off a lot of things about you as invalid or not worth consideration just because you’re trans.
Most of all, it implies an inherent difference in humanity. It suggests there’s something inherently different about me, as opposed to the “natural” differences amongst humans already. Yes, I am different in a particular way, but the way in which I’m different from others isn’t so far from how we’re different from one another in a whole lot of other ways. Thus, I’m not inherently different, and I don’t think any gender minority should be relegated to being treated as such by being called transgender.
Further, it implies there’s been some huge change about me. Yes, my annoyingly massive knockers are gone, and my body is that of a man’s now (just one with a vagina), but in all honesty that’s not too big of a deal. I still wear the same kind of clothes. I still have the same demeanor and temperament. I’m still the same person I was, just a lot happier.
She was raised by a father with Schizo-Affective Disorder (whose symptoms can include delusions and paranoia) who would often break from reality. By her twenties she was battling the same disorder along with bulimia, anorexia and cutting. She has had over 80 psychiatric hospitalizations and she shares about coming out the other side, including the people, support and therapies that helped her.