Yeah, for a long time now actually.
I’ve been trans for a long time. Just because I haven’t always been comfortable or open about it doesn’t change the fact that I am trans now and that I see my past experiences as trans experiences. The idea that any one person can police anyone’s presentation or identity is ludicrous at best, and usually pretty harmful. Especially when these sentiments are shared with people who you look up to, or even those you see as equals. The people we’re close to dictate how we think and feel, to an extent. So when someone starts policing someone else’s identity it gives the people around them the idea that this is OK, when it’s not.
I’m not trans “now”, like it’s something that just happened overnight. I’m not queer because I just decided to be one day. It’s way more complicated than that, and quite frankly, if you’re the kind of person to say “oh, she’s trans now”, I’m not likely to share much with you anyway. I make an actual effort to surround myself with people who at the very least sympathise with what I’ve been through. People who assume that being gay is as easy as flipping a switch in my mind usually aren’t high on my list.
There are so many examples of language being cissexist. This is just one that was bothering me today. Because that question is only being asked now, since I’ve started making an effort to medically transition; as if coming out and being out before actively seeking medical advice meant I wasn’t trans enough. It’s a weird misunderstanding I’ve heard cis people having: they think “trans” stands for “transition”, “transitioning”, or “transitioned”. Which doesn’t really make sense, if you actually listen to trans people for more than the two minutes of average representation we tend to get in popular media.
It’s weird and uncomfortable that cis people don’t necessarily see transgender people as valid until they’ve transitioned, how they see transitioning as the key to a trans person’s happiness. And sure, it does make a lot of trans people happy to transition in some way, but really transitioning is such a broad range of things, from changing your name, to dressing differently, to hormones or surgery, or even just dressing, speaking, and presenting exactly the same as one did before “coming out” because gender is a construct and presentation doesn’t have to align with societal norms.
Anyway, that’s just what was bothering me this week. It’s been on my mind especially with my own medical transition approaching; I’ll be starting HRT within the month, and I feel like a kid waiting for Christmas. Except with uni assignments due and political arguments with myself going on in my head.
Sorry, yoga fans – yoga isn’t the amazing medical miracle that will cure me of anxiety. My medication is.
I can’t remember living without mental illness. I was officially diagnosed with anxiety and depression when I was 19, and in October 2015 I started on SSRIs as treatment, along with regular(ish) counseling sessions offered through my uni for free. As soon as the meds kicked in I noticed that I not only felt more energetic, awake, and not-suicidal, but also that they were treating the anxiety as well. I could make a phone call to people other than my mother. I could approach strangers and ask to pat their dogs. Stammering was a thing of the past. That’s not to say it’s a miracle pill; there were and still are issues with my anxiety. But my medication helped.
You know what didn’t help? The people (with no mental illness or medical training) who would, upon discovering that I had anxiety, recommend three things: yoga, meditation, and a diet change. Now, from a counselor or therapist or psychologist I would listen, consider what they recommended, do my own research on their suggestions and maybe try them out.
But when someone who hardly knows me tells me to do something (keeping in mind I am incredibly stubborn and find it hard to do what I’m told by people I actually like) such as yoga or meditation to cure my ills I want to scream. These are almost always people who’ve never actually suffered from any kind of anxiety or mood disorder, and aren’t trained to give advice on them. They think that me and my mental health team don’t know enough about my particular circumstances and unique experience to work out what will help for me. It’s irritating, ignorant, and kinda disrespectful to suggest to me that I try jogging as if I haven’t already tried physical activity and reported the outcome to a doctor. As if I haven’t made actual plans, constructed to-do lists, made endless appointments, to deal with my illness. Like getting out of bed at sunrise to do yoga and drink a smoothie is going to suddenly stop the anxiety attacks that come daily when I’m in a depressive episode. Or as if meditating every night before bed is going to stop me from having vivid and unsettling nightmares that wake me up in a puddle of sweat. Or perhaps clean eating will stop me from pulling my hair out strand by strand at four in the morning.
Not only is this ignorant of the actual medical advice I’m following, it feels disrespectful. Suggesting to me that I eat healthier, especially when I’m in a bad headspace, actually doesn’t help. When I feel like that, I’m lucky if I’m eating at all. I don’t need someone commenting on how three hashbrowns dipped in tomato sauce isn’t a good meal. I need someone to tell me they’re glad I’m trying. Telling me to exercise definitely doesn’t help, either. All you really tell me when you say “have you tried signing up for the gym?” is that you think I’m physically unhealthy – it usually makes me wonder if I look fat. I already have issues with my body image, and I don’t need more self-esteem problems from a well-meaning but clueless suggestion.
The idea that these ‘natural’ treatments could be more effective than taking the medication that offsets the chemical imbalance in my brain is laughable, to say the least. There is absolutely nothing wrong with taking medications for mental illness. My brain doesn’t produce enough serotonin; my medication supplements it. It’s been over a year and a half since I started on Sertraline, and both my counselor and my GP have told me more than once that I’ve improved immensely. There are a lot of ways to treat mental illness. And there’s a reason that yoga isn’t at the top of that list.