On Hormones, pt. 6

Note (8/19/2019): This post is so freaking outdated, but it was important to me learning to accept myself. There’s a reason you can’t follow the link to the cited blog post.)


Nosce te ipsum

One implication about writing a journal like this is that you get a front row seat to the ups and downs of my emotional state. Today was sort of a weird up, at least compared to yesterday.

I’ve decided if I am going to keep myself from some of my darker thoughts, I have to get to know myself. Maybe, that will lead to some level of acceptance.

And with this in mind, I started Googling “why am I transgender.” Seems like a pretty basic step to take, especially now that I’ve started this journal, but still, admitting that I fall within this category is still keenly difficult for me. That led me to this blog post, which discusses a few things that led me elsewhere. Here’s a copy/paste of the summary at the end of the article:

  1. There are certain behaviors which are instinctive in living beings.
  2. Some of these behaviors are gender specific.
  3. In order to execute these instincts – the brain must have an ability to recognise and direct gender driven behaviour.
  4. That ability is not going to be based on a visual recognition… ‘I have a vagina therefore I am a female and will execute behaviour X.’ Neither can it be sexual attraction/instinct (ie. I am attracted to the bull I must be female) because animal homosexuality is rife and well documented.
  5. While we can not say with certainty the process involved, it is probable that it involves a physical part of the brain we call the gender core.
  6. The transgender brain contains the gender core of a gender different than that associated with their genitalia.

The blog cited this study, in which male birds who were exposed to female hormones prior to birth exhibited behaviors normally attributed to females. Subsequent exposure to male hormones in adulthood did not change their behavior; thus, the effects of early hormone exposure were irreversible.

This was then offered as one explanation as to why transgender brains differ from cisgender ones. If a male fetus is exposed to more estrogen than testosterone, especially during brain development, they may develop a more “female-gendered” brain.

It’s a stretch to rely only on the cited bird study to support this theory, but it did get me thinking about my own developmental history with female hormones. As I mentioned before, I was an accident baby, and I have always wondered what might have happened to me in utero while my mother was taking oral contraceptives.

I have read/heard before that older forms of birth control have resulted in large groups of feminized males, but never really researched the subject. Apparently, what I had heard of were the so-called “DES sons,” or those male children who were born despite their mothers taking diethylstilbestrol (DES), the first widely-available oral contraceptive.

The feminizing effects of DES on male offspring is pretty well-documented, and DES sons are often either intersex (formerly known as hermaphrodites; don’t use this word), or transgender, or homosexual, or some mix of the three.

DES was officially removed from the US market in 1988, after it was shown to have several adverse health effects on both the women who took it, and their children. I was conceived in 1989, so DES had no effect on me.

In the 1980s, the first “low hormone” birth control pills were brought to market. These pills had a much lower concentration of estradiol (estrogen) and progestin (progesterone) than those that came before (DES). Of these, my mom was apparently taking ortho novum 777. As best I can tell, these pills are about 10% as strong as the original, first generation DES pills. That said, I am no pharmacist, so I may be reading this incorrectly. Moreover, I can’t say if today’s pills are exactly the same as they were in 1989, but it gives a rough idea.

I have been told that my mom realized she was pregnant around 5 weeks into the pregnancy, though this may be incorrect. Either way, the brain starts developing about two weeks after conception, so it is safe to say that I was exposed to some unnatural degree of estrogen during the first few weeks of my brain development.

How much of an effect this had on me, if any, can only be left up to conjecture right now. I am pulling from research which is far from comprehensive, and my own early history wasn’t exactly scientifically recorded. I’d like to have my brain studied by someone who specializes in transgender brains, but that seems pretty unlikely for the near future.

What a raw deal, though, if these sort of theories have any weight to them. If my brain did develop as a female’s does, it’s not my fault. And it’s not my fault that I’ve carried the extreme dysphoria, guilt, shame, self-loathing, etc. etc. etc. etc. my entire life. And what are my options for dealing with this disconnect between the gender of my brain and the gender of my body, between my inner gender and the gender I am expected to follow? Embrace my brain gender, and become a freak/outcast/etc. etc. etc., or suffocate it, and suffocate myself in the process.

Like Tiny Rick says, “Oh God, what kind of world is this? I didn’t ask to be born.”

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