My most recent attack of SUMBOD began with a lingerie model.
I would like to say it was a model who I met in the flesh, but unfortunately my life isn’t so rock n’ roll and she was a model on a YouTube video about the new Victoria’s Secret collection. A friend, knowing of my thing for Alessandra Ambrosio, sent me a five-minute clip of various amazing models strutting their stuff and modelling lingerie at different locations around Paris. My friend also knew that I was on day 1 on the wagon (not drinking alcohol) and sent it to cheer me up.
Featured in this video was a model I’d never seen before…and I instantly fell in love with her. As is the way with crossgender love, it was that curious beam of energy we project on the subject of our love but then bounce back on ourselves in some opaque mix of worship, envy and desire. However, this was on a whole other level…it was almost mystical the effect she had on me and she somehow tore down all my Jedi training in an instant. This is the video…
“Everything’s clear,” I said to myself, “this non transition stuff is nonsense and it’s distracting me from what I know to be true: that I’m a woman and it was my destiny to live as a woman. What a fool I’ve been…how could I live this absurd, inauthentic life?”
And then I watched the video several more times and experienced an intense adrenaline rush from the release of suppressed feminine identification. And every time I watched the video I kept on looking at her flat stomach and thin arms and it just seemed so right. That is the way my body should be…and that’s the way I was going to make it. This realisation combined with 24 hours without drinking brought a sudden clarity of mind that I hadn’t experienced for ages.
I guess I was in a state of gender euphoria, and this may lead some people to say that my emphasis on the body and on a supermodel shows that it was all sexual. But that was the whole problem…it wasn’t. If it was, then I could have employed the logical solution: jerk off. What I felt in connection with this model was more spiritual than sexual and it was connected to my entire being. She’d reconnected me with my female self and I knew I had to transition. Like I say…it was gender euphoria.
Unfortunately, though, euphoria has a shelf life. After 18 hours the beautiful flow of energy was cut off by a familiar barrier: reality. It’s always the bloody same: whether it’s a business or a novel or the house you’re going to renovate in the south of France, ideas breed euphoria until some inconvenient facts emerge, like…someone’s already written a novel like that. In this case, the inconvenient truths were the ones we already know about from our anti-dysphoria training.
And that’s the fucked up thing about SUMBOD. It begins with a spate of gender euphoria that wipes your brain’s hard drive and destroys your memory. You somehow forget that you’ve already gone through the whole transition debate and clearly articulated why it will never work in your case. Like a corny politician the euphoria blows all those arguments to one side and fills you with the conviction…“Yes…you can.” However, the hard drive has not been wiped…just temporarily disabled…and your memory and good sense return. That’s when the immense high of euphoria gives way to the despair of dysphoria.
Suddenly you realise that a supermodel’s arms are impossible for a fully grown male to achieve (unless you go to a concentration camp) and that the shape of her ribcage and hips is completely different. Besides, these are just details anyway because you conducted an analysis of transition viability some time back. The conclusion not only ruled out any possibility of being a supermodel but even the ability to pass as a woman.
And that’s the second brutal characteristic of SUMBOD: that once the euphoria has gone and you remember your list of reasons why you can’t transition…it’s like discovering them all over again because the pain is just as bad as it was the first time. Therefore, one’s reaction to SUMBOD is not an immune response where your defences get stronger with each episode…every episode is just as painful and debilitating as the last one.
As I lay on my bed, duly debilitated, it seemed like one of those punishments the universe dishes out for humans who overreach. I’d dared to think I could outwit gender dysphoria and even had the cheek to write a book about it, and now it was payback time. I sank low. I mean…really low. And just in case repeating the whole thing about transition viability wasn’t enough, all the old questions popped up again: “Is there really anything female about me?” … “Is this a mental illness?” … “Is this a paraphilia?” The wiped hard drive phenomenon deepened as I struggled with questions I’d solved years before, plunging me into a world of uncertainty.
My despair came from incongruence between the total feeling of rightness when thinking of myself as female and the sheer wrongness of my maleness. I couldn’t comprehend how nature could create such a thing, and that’s when I decided it was all a fucking mental illness because the way I felt I really wanted to check in to the looney ward. And bearing in mind I’d already felt that despair many times in my life – and so should be used to it – I decided to ditch the wiped hard drive analogy and think of SUMBOD as a refresher course in being transgender. Just when you’re getting on top of your dysphoria and getting a little cocky, you have to do this compulsory module to remind you how much it sucks to be transgender. And in a particularly effective display of course design, I was taken to rock bottom and started to think that the sheer hopelessness of this male life might be too much to bear.
Thankfully, the point where you start empathising with trans-suicide is usually the final class of your SUMBOD refresher course. It’s a matter of survival: someone or something starts to threaten your life and it’s time to start defending yourself. Having being completely floored, I asked an important question: was I really going to let this condition do away with me? Is that what a strong woman would do? The answer was clear: no damn way! A spark was lit and I started to feel the flicker of an extremely useful sentiment: defiance, and with defiance came my first positive thoughts in the past 48 hours. I compared being born in the wrong body with other bodily disasters. Instead of being born in the wrong body I could have been born with downs syndrome, or lost a leg in an accident, or be in a wheel chair, or be really fucking ugly, or have burns on my face or one hundred and one things far worse. At least I had a fully functioning, healthy body.
My spirits started to rise, and it’s one of those things you never know in psychology: did this positive line of thought emerge because I’d already hit rock bottom and was ready to recover? Or was it these positive thoughts that allowed me to recover? Whatever the answer, the fact is that I was on my way up. Then I decided the wagon wasn’t doing me any favours at all…and I went out to get drunk.
Curiously, I woke up the next day and had completely returned to normal. Normal being: yes, I wish I’d been born female but I wasn’t…and I can still get on with enjoying life. And you may be asking yourself “Come on…how can you go from the precipice of doom to completely normal the next day?” and all I can say is that this book is not fiction. That’s what happened…and it’s as much a mystery to me as it is to you.
However, although SUMBOD has the word ‘unexplained’ in it, it’s not really acceptable in a book on gender dysphoria that we deem the episode a mystery so I will attempt an explanation of what happened.
I believe that the shock of alcohol withdrawal destabilised me. I’m not a serious enough drinker that I start shaking and foaming at the mouth when I give up alcohol, but I start getting negative, depressed and anxious. Conversely, I can also become unnaturally happy…the sort of manic happiness you see with bipolar. However, when I was struck by the SUMBOD I got so caught up in the crisis that I didn’t put two and two together and equate the gender crisis with alcohol withdrawal. The sudden, unexplained euphoria of feminine identification followed by the collapse into utter despair at male embodiment mirror an emotional rollercoaster that can happen in the first days when a heavy drinker goes on the wagon.
The link with alcohol does not mean that it wasn’t an authentic episode of serious dysphoria, it means that the differing intensities of different bouts of gender dysphoria are often related to other mental events. This is an aspect of the condition which all transgender people need to understand: gender dysphoria is for life, and as a life-long sufferer you will see it come and go over the years in bouts of differing intensity. However, what controls the onset and intensity of the bouts will often have nothing to do with gender. You may be depressed because your marriage is on the rocks or suffering from low serotonin or feel that your life is boring and unsatisfying. What happens is that because you’re feeling depressed, your natural defences fail and the gender dysphoria is reignited…sometimes with the force of a forest fire. In other words, we all have our own particular brand of unhappiness, and for transgender people the way they will experience negativity and sadness and depression is with a resurgence of gender dysphoria.
While this may seem like a nightmare (because there’s a tsunami of gender dysphoria always on the horizon,) it’s actually good news because you know that it’ll pass. You simply have to fix the other problem and the gender dysphoria will recede with it. Or, if it’s simply because you’re having a bad day or week then you just have to wait for the day or week to end. Once you start to see bouts like this not as part of an ongoing disease leading to a final apocalypse of your mental health, but as just another episode in a chronic, lifelong condition, you become better able to handle it. You have to think of a sudden bout of dysphoria the way an aged auntie might, and say something like… “I’m having one of my turns.”
Now that you are accustomed to your turns you can initiate a specific homemade remedy when they strike. In fact, every sufferer of SUMBOD must have a specific protocol they follow to get through a ‘turn’ and we call this your ‘mole strategy.’ The best response is to take some time off work and pamper yourself. Go to bed with season 1 of a brilliant series, go to a health spa with a Jacuzzi, have a few drinks, go hiking. Be like a cute little mole and burrow your head underground and do something cosy and relaxing. Or, if you are a people person, go visit a friend who particularly inspires, amuses or loves you.
Your mole strategy gets initiated when a bout of dysphoria hits you, but of course you must also employ a wider strategy of optimum mental health. If SUMBOD comes in moments of depression, anxiety, addiction etc. then you need to make sure you don’t suffer from such afflictions. Even life events like divorce, work problems, money problems, all need to be managed with extra care because transgender people experience strife as a double edged sword. Like the two headed dog of Greek mythology, Orthus, they tend to experience the original grief and then the gender dysphoria starts barking as well. This is why it is so important you invest time filling your life with all those things that make humans happy and healthy…
…friends, love, stimulating work and beautiful surroundings.