Finding Me

In 2000 at the age of 37, I was diagnosed 47 XXY which means I have one sex chromosome greater than Male 46 XY and Female 46 XX, and although I was raised male my body did not produce sufficient testosterone that would have allowed it to virilise in line with my peers. In that absence my outward physique developed along female lines, it was something that seemed obvious to all who knew me, yet having been raised male and not knowingly being aware of another person who resembled my physique, I had little options except to put it to one side and hope that one day I might meet others who looked like me.

When I was diagnosed, the Endocrinologist informed me ‘Testosterone would make me a man and bring meaning to my life”  naturally I jumped at the opportunity as all I had ever wanted was to fit in and I knew it was not something  I had ever experienced to that point. Being told I was sterile did not faze me in the slightest, not least because I still felt like a child myself albeit a 37-year-old one, and thus felt incapable of looking after a child when I was already struggling to look after myself. Without any counselling to gauge if Testosterone injections were right for me, they were initiated at 200mg every fortnight and within a matter of months, I had begun to feel very uncomfortable about what I was becoming. In place of “meaning” my phallus had overtaken my brain and the thoughts of sex and masturbation were constant consuming my every waking moment, my thoughts on sexuality firmly centred on me being a woman in a heterosexual relationship, I felt as though I was losing my mind.

I had begun to feel very uncomfortable about what I was becoming.

On mentioning this to my General Practitioner (GP) his view was the dosage should be broken down to 100mg over seven days. Within six weeks acne had appeared throughout my entire body being particularly bad on my upper back and chest areas resembling enormous boils extremely sore to the touch that bled while I slept. My thoughts on engaging in sex were now constant and were only slightly lower than my thoughts on suicide. On speaking with the Endocrinologist he didn’t seem at all fazed and said words to the effect “it was an initiation period and within three to four years it would all be over and I would feel better”  I remember saying “if this is what my life came down to, then I didn’t want any part of it and that I would eventually find a means to kill myself”.

Unwilling to give up and uncertain how to proceed the GP referred me to a  psychologist who specialised in counselling Transsexuals, after my second visit the Psychologist said I did not display the classical characteristics of being Transsexual, that instead I was suffering from severe anxiety through my use of Testosterone and recommended that it be stopped immediately. On a follow-up visit with the Endocrinologist, he said there was nothing further he could do for me that he would write to my GP informing him testosterone was not appropriate and that it be stopped immediately. Upon viewing that letter the GP repeated what the Endocrinologist had said and also released me from his care. He knew my life was spiralling out of control and told me I should find a Psychiatrist and that he would write a referral. That was the last I saw of all those doctors but, it was not the last of my troubles which had begun in earnest.

From there on life took a turn for the worse and I found myself really confused about my gender, my sexuality and a host of other issues one might expect of a teenager progressing through puberty, certainly not something becoming of a near 40-year-old, who had become accustomed to a life that felt different. My initiation of Testosterone turned all of that on its head and for the first time I realised I was not the person others had believed I was, but who was I, what was I and where did I belong in this madness of blending and fitting? I had so many questions and yet no one in my immediate circle capable of answering any of them. At this point, my every waking moment and hour of each passing day was consumed with notions of not knowing who I was combined with the realisation this journey of self-discovery was not something that I could accomplish alone. Gender Dysphoria it being something I had never experienced before was now front and centre of everything.

I had so many questions and yet no one in my immediate circle capable of answering any of them.

In desperation and not knowing where to turn,  I wrote a heartfelt letter to a Gender Clinic in my area and told them of my journey, while they never truly grasped the seriousness of what I was experiencing, namely how XXY impacted on me, they were nonetheless supportive and following several weeks of counselling I was referred to a Psychiatrist whose specialised in treating people with gender issues. I was surprised to learn he had previous experience with XXY and well understood the impact exogenous testosterone had on an individual who had not previously been exposed to it and more importantly an individual who wanted no part of it. My eventual diagnosis of Gender Dysphoria (Not Otherwise Specified) was reserved for people with an atypical gender experience and was often used to describe people born with Intersex variations who had difficulty adhering to standardised treatments of care. His subsequent referral to an Endocrinologist stated that estrogen should only be prescribed for a short time to counter the effect of the heightened anxiety I had experienced. He agreed with the earlier Psychology assessment of not displaying the characteristics of Transsexualism and was intrigued by my rejection of masculinity and of how I viewed my gender as both male and female leaning more toward the latter, it was an interest that saw him put pen to paper and write several articles, some of which were published in the Australian & New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry and related to XXY people who came to reject a medically assigned gender identity.

The experience with my NEW  Endocrinologist was mind-blowing, in him, I had finally found someone who understood XXY in all of its diversity, I only wished I had seen him from the outset as it would have saved me from so much confusion and depression that brought me to the brink of ending my life. As with the Psychiatrist, he also shared a mutual understanding of XXY, informing me he had several XXY patients who had also struggled with Testosterone and under his guidance have been administering Estrogen for long periods of time. He paid little heed to the Psychiatrist’s recommendation of how Estrogen should only be for a short time, saying he was willing to leave me on for as long as I was gaining a benefit. Ten years on and with his support and guidance, I have finally become the person I had always known myself to be but had lacked the courage, vocabulary and life experiences in order to achieve it. Looking back, I can quite honestly say I have been to hell and returned and in that process have proven them wrong, that there is a life after testosterone one that’s far more rewarding than anything I could ever have achieved from heeding the original doctor’s advice and staying with the virilisation program.

A little over a year ago I happened upon the Psychiatrist who had listened so intently to my plight and saw to it that I was placed in safe hands that would eventually guide and make sense of who I was, he looked at me and said “you’ve arrived”  I told him I could not have achieved it without his support, he replied ” I was a tough one to understand yet he was really glad to have experienced ME” to which I replied “so was I”