While I constantly disagree with Contrapoint’s videos, she often makes some fascinating observations. One thing that caught my interest in a recent video was that her transition was triggered by the first signs of male ageing. Basically, she saw the irrefutable signs that that her biological future was of the man type, and would involve such gender specific treats as balding and hairy ears.
That may sound implausible, because, after all, if you’re a biological male you’ve known your whole life about the biological future nature has in store for you. However, like so many realities of human existence there are two levels of knowing: abstract…and first hand experience. It’s only when you see the tangible signs of that adult male trajectory that it becomes a reality.
I will never forget the day in my late teens when I pulled my hair back to look at a spot on my forehead, and noticed that my straight hairline was not so straight…but showing the early signs of of an angle. It was only a slight recession – completely unnoticeable unless I pulled my hair straight back – but it was deeply shocking.
I’m a paranoid drama queen, so I immediately predicted I’d be bald by 25. Fortunately, I was wrong, and I discovered that it’s almost impossible for a male to not experience some kind of recession. Now I’m just a middle aged guy with a typically dodgy hairline.
However, despite the fact my prediction didn’t come true, it remained a traumatic event that poisoned the well of my deeper female self.
Poisoning the well
Up to that point, I’d always had a feeling that despite male genitalia – there was something different about me. I subconsciously believed that in my biological contract there was a sub-section 5, paragraph 6 that meant that I’d remain in gender limbo, looking quite feminine forever. But seeing that hairline was a Contrapoint moment where it truly hit home: my biological destiny was male. My relationship with my body changed, and with it came a protoform of gender dysphoria.
When I say ‘poisoned the well’ however, I’m really thinking about the effect that it had on my style decisions. It was pretty much the end of a long career of dressing like a girl and wearing makeup in my leisure time. My neurotic, obsessive mind, would make me think of the male hairline concealed beneath the long hair. As I said…it poisoned the well.
Ageing and gender dysphoria
However, although that episode had a powerful effect on me, the full version of gender dysphoria and transgender awakening didn’t happen until my late thirties. Ever since, I’ve been fascinated with the question – why did it happen at that particular age? a question asked by all late onset transsexuals.
Although I’ll never know for certain, it seems that the spectre of ageing was a critical event. Recently divorced, freed from the constraints of constant parenting, and noticing the first flecks of grey, I realized that I was joining the ranks of the middle aged.
Of course, the effect of ageing on this episode wasn’t just physical and anatomical…it was to do with developmental psychology. I was middle aged and full of doubts: who was I?…What had I achieved?…Why did everything about me seem so inauthentic? The well of youth had run dry and I now had to face the reality that some day this was all going to be over…and what would I say about my life in the moments before I die?
All of this makes me think that there’s definitely a link between the fear of ageing and gender dysphoria. Ageing is a universal event in every human life that reveals stark truths about our biological gender and our psychology (our achievements, dreams and aspirations etc.) all of which have a profound effect on transgender psychology.
Anne Vitale covers this topic in depth in her excellent book ‘The Gendered Self’. Her clinical experience suggests that middle age is more likely to be a time when biological males abandon the goal of transition once and for all. This seems unsurprising as it is often a time when other medical issues such as hypertension start to affect a man’s quality of life. The idea that the desire to transition might be inversely correlated with the quality of the likely outcome seems counter-intuitive, to say the least.
Worrying about aging is normal for anyone so there could very well be a link between gender dysphoria and the fear of aging; as there is probably a link between the increase in depression with the fear of menopause, the “biological clock” for women around 45. But why should this really affect your decision to pursue your dreams?
There are several ways to combat this sense of looming doom of growing old that is causing you to roadblock yourself on your journey to being happy. One that is commonly stated is accepting that this is a natural and a beautiful part of life. Emphasis on a beautiful part of life. Another way is to relate it to transitioning genders because aging itself is a transition. You’re transitioning in a transitional part of life. I can’t help but think of the move Inception now, so I’ll use this analogy. Once you wake up and accept you are in a transition state can you adjust the transition, because I believe once you’ve even thought about transitioning you’ve started. Now you just have to decide if it will be a boring dream that you just try to forget about, a nightmare of guilt for not trying hard enough, or the sweetest dream that you never want to wake up from?
There are also some alternative measures you can take such as medical procedures that can help slow down or decrease the signs of ageing, cosmetics to conceal unsightly spots, and of course you can visit a salon and/or stylist to help and tips on keeping your hair healthy. Though the most imperative, is to take care of your health now both physically and mentally. Men tend to have more depression and suicide attempts as they progress with age than women. There are many reasons for that that include the stigmas placed on getting mental health assistance and even physical health checks. It can also vary depending on the culture and how much value is placed on a patriarchal system. Men tend to feel they can’t be vulnerable because it is not socially acceptable; therefore some men can’t handle seeing vulnerability. They may shame, shun, or just completely disown that person for their conditions that remind them of their own problems.
If this sounds familiar to anyone; then please know that it is okay to get help for whatever you are going through and no one is ever too old to start anew.