Tuesday, 15 August 2017

To have a body which defies basic biology

Even after over twelve years of actively dealing with this highly unusual body of mine, there are still new things which I am learning about it. Most recently I went back to take a more detailed look at my first puberty (starting around age 11), due to the current changes affecting my body since 2015 as a result of my second puberty.

This second puberty involves my ovaries producing normal female levels of oestrogens. It also involves my breasts growing by one cup size (and continuing...), despite years of boosting my female hormone levels with artificial oestradiol, and also very significantly far more intensive and painful periods.

Because of all these changes, I got curious what actually had happened to my body during my first puberty and why. One of the most significant findings, I feel, is that although most of the secondary sexual characteristics development to my body during that time were quite underwhelming, my skeleton was the one exception.

Although basically ignored by doctors so far, I have a normal female pelvis, along with the typical shape of the arms to fit a feminine curvature. This to me isn't new, but previously I hadn't really looked at what triggers the skeleton to shape itself like this during puberty. As it turns out, an elevated level of oestrogens is one of the primary triggers. This essentially means that together with what I experienced as menstruation pains at the age of 11, it's very definite that at least one of my ovaries began to work around that time, causing my first period, the onset of breast growth and these changes to my skeleton.

And beyond the latter very little really changed, until a few years ago.


At this point I'm still trying to learn about this body of mine, even as it changes again and again. As I recently discussed with two of my doctors - alongside a fresh ultrasound of my abdomen - at this point many of the pains and discomforts I experience are those normally experienced by a human female during and after puberty. Only I haven't really experienced puberty before. Not fully. Not like this.

It makes me wonder what exactly underlies these changes. Was having the underdeveloped testicles and with it the already relatively low source of testosterone (~1.2 nmol/L, relative to <0 .7="" and="" female="" level="" normal="">7 nmol/L for males) instrumental in this? Was it something about me using the contraceptive pill which somehow kickstarted my ovaries into producing normal levels? What's so special about my current hormone levels that it caused breast growth to resume, after it having stalled despite years of hormone replacement therapy?

Maybe it's to do with the fact that I'm a chimaera: possessing two distinct stem cell lines, both from my (XY) brother and (XX) sister. Maybe the latter cells are taking over now, enabling my body to respond differently to existing impulses and triggers now. Maybe this is actively reverting my physical age as well, by replacing older cells from the XY stem cell line with previously dormant cells from the XX line.

It's very likely that I will never find out the answer to these questions, nor to the cause behind whatever is causing inflammation-like effects in my lower abdomen during menstruation, in addition to pushing on nerves innervating my right leg, causing the pain and numbness there. Doctors seem to have no interest in my case, preferring to ignore my unusual biology, instead stuffing me into a standard category and dismissing me as such.


Meanwhile this body is the daily reality I have to live with. It's what I see, first thing in the morning. It's what I have to dress, clean, feed and which allows me to move around and exist in this world. I'm still coming to terms with that. I'm no longer a child. I cannot keep up that fantasy any longer.

I feel that my body is changing. It, too, seems to realise that I am no longer a child. Maybe this is what it feels like to turn from a child into a woman. I guess in practical terms I'm physically and emotionally roughly on the level of a 15- or 16-year old woman. Just a teenager, rediscovering her own body and with all the emotions and thoughts that come with it.

Yet I am also alone. So terribly alone. No mother, father or siblings around. No friends or classmates with whom one can share stories and experience, in order to deal with this confusing time together. I try to get answers and understanding, knowledge from where I can, yet I feel the distance growing between me and 'normal' people, even as doctors still refuse to accept even the basic reality of my body's anatomy, or provide conflicting opinions on what they feel reality should be like.


Dealing with all of this is really tough, and I do not feel that I'll ever truly feel like I can relate to all of these 'normal' people around me. The way they have and continue to experience life is just too different. A lot here depends on how the coming time will work out, of course. I now have assistance with finding medical help which might allow me to get these answers, as well as psychotherapy to help me cope with my post-traumatic stress disorder and other assorted traumas. Maybe I'll also be able to dodge becoming homeless this year, due to other external forces beyond my control.

Maybe I'll even figure out one day what and who I am.


Maya

Sunday, 30 July 2017

Finished my new book

I realise that I haven't written about this at all before, and there are a number of reasons why I didn't write about this new book that I was working on before. Suffice it to say that after more than half a year of work I finally completed my new book titled 'Mastering C++ Multithreading', with it hitting the stores last Friday.

The book was published by Packt Publishing, and can currently be found for a mere 10 Euro/dollar on their website [1] with a normal retail price of over 40 Euro. It is also available via Amazon [2].


So far this has been my second book to be published. The first one was also published via Packt, on the topic of game development on Android devices. This new book was a lot easier to write for me, to be honest, as I have far more extensive experience in both C++ and on low-level topics such as multithreading.

Having such an interest in low-level details shows for example in the second chapter of my new book, where I dive deep into how multithreading concepts as well as general processing is implemented in the hardware. Though chapters like these cost me an enormous amount of time in research, one of the things which I have learned over the years is that the most important thing for a software developer is to understand the underlying hardware.

I guess I had quite a bit of fun writing this book, even if it was quite an ordeal, with the past few weeks consisting out of me racing deadlines in order to get the book ready for publication by the end of this month. Yet I made it, and now I get to indulge in not having any imminent deadlines and immediate responsibilities.


One of the reasons why I decided to accept the task of writing this book when someone from Packt approached me with the idea is because I absolutely love both the C++ programming language and fundamentals such as multithreading and associated concepts such as atomics. C++ is wonderful to me - even after over 15 years - for being a highly flexible, multi-paradigm language. Computer hardware fascinates me to the point where I'm working on writing my own CPU architecture in VHDL, targeting FPGAs. To write about this passion was pretty much irresistible to me.

Do I feel that the resulting book is perfect? Far from it, but as one notices after using a language like C++ for nearly two decades, there's always so much more still to be learned. Worse, there are new concepts and new inventions just waiting around the corner. Much like older languages like COBOL, I expect C++ to be around in 20, 40 years time, each time adapting to new hardware and implementing new concepts. I look forward to updating the book with any such new concepts over time.

The last two chapters cover relatively new concepts, pertaining to distributed computing (clusters) and GPGPU. The latter topic especially is of a lot of interest to me, as adding a powerful vector processor to a system can give an immense boost to certain types of operations. I'm looking forward to experimenting more with that over the coming years.

For now it's onwards with new projects :)


Maya


[1] https://www.packtpub.com/application-development/mastering-c-multithreading
[2] https://www.amazon.com/Mastering-AndEngine-Game-Development-Posch/dp/1783981148/

Saturday, 22 July 2017

The struggle to recall buried memories

Usually in films the process of recovering buried memories and similar involves flashbacks and sudden flashes of recollections. As I'm currently finding out, it's somewhat like that, but also completely different.

For me the goal is to figure out what happened when I was about five years old, which apparently involved a single or multiple events which led to me withdrawing into myself, refusing any form of physical contact for many years afterwards, along with the development of an intense hatred of sexuality and a strong distrust of people in general, and men specifically.


So far I haven't been able to uncover any concrete memories, even though I have a significant number of memories of things which happened before and in the years after the event. What I have so far is this very strong feeling of... wrongness that has bothered me since I was a child, but which has become more pervasive over the years.

As I'm working through things with my psychotherapist, I'm often asked to remember things from my youth and childhood. Over the past months I have found that this is slowly making me remember things from my childhood. Mostly neutral memories, of sights, smells and sensations, such as me holding and looking at a dried sea horse at my grandmother's place as a child.


Alongside all of that there is this strong feeling of having been violated. Assaulted. Humiliated. Of feeling terrified and apprehensive of something or someone. Just no associated memories. This part of my recollections where the distrust of others and hatred of sexuality culminate is still blocked off to me. Only these feelings related to that time are readily accessible.

They are horrible feelings.

Earlier this week I got to this point with my therapist and as soon as I opened myself up to those emotions, I simply broke down into tears and could not talk for minutes as I struggled to regain my composure. It's just a raw feeling of wrongness. Of having been forced to do horrible things, or having them performed on me.


I do have some idea of what likely happened to me, as in the years afterwards I would suddenly show very unusual sexually dominant behaviour, essentially seeking to victimise others. This is commonly referred to as inverting or reflecting traumatic experiences as a way to deal with them. If that's the case, then it appears that one or more men forced me to perform sexual acts and likely were very rough about it, to leave me feeling so distraught.

I guess I can kind of understand why. Imagine being a five-year old child, who suddenly finds themselves in a situation that's so unfamiliar to them, and then there are these scary men saying and demanding things which just make you want to run away. Find someone who can protect you. But there's nobody there. There won't be any help.

And then it's over with, and you're let go, never to speak about it again. Only it's still there, all the memories and experiences, to gnaw at your very being like a slow cancer for the rest of your life.


I just wish I could remember what happened exactly and who did it to me. Something to allow me to make some sense of it all and give an opportunity to give it a place, instead of having it eat at me like this. To give me an opportunity to maybe learn to trust people again.

Somehow I think that it's still going to be a long and difficult road.


Maya

Friday, 23 June 2017

To experience puberty twice, once as a boy, once as a girl

Around the age of eleven was the first time that I entered puberty and began to notice changes to my body. As I was expecting male secondary characteristics, I only really paid attention to those. The regular abdominal pains I dismissed, along with the period of breast growth. Instead I noticed the (slight and not very impressive) facial hair, the (slightly) breaking of my voice, and more body hair. Looking back it wasn't a very impressive male puberty, with in hindsight also the development of secondary female characteristics, including breast growth, the development of female hips and the start of a monthly cycle.

This all left my body in a slightly confused state, which didn't really resolve itself until a few years back. I guess having the undeveloped testicles removed helped to change the hormone balance of my body from one that was neither male nor female to one that was distinctly female, with normal oestrogen levels produced by my ovaries.

Looking back, 2014 or 2015 was roughly the start of my second puberty. This would see me develop the aforementioned female hormone balance, restart the growth of my breasts and generally change my general appearance more to that of an adult female.


At this point I feel like I'm about 14, maybe 15 years old. Body-wise and also emotionally. With everything that has happened so far a lie and hopefully just a bad dream, it's as if this is me finally doing part of my life correctly. Of course, normally I'd experience this puberty as a girl while still at home with my family. Going to school and hanging out with my friends there. Learning about how things work that way.

I roughly know what it means to have a female body, but it's still weird to see all of these changes happening to my body. Weird, but exciting. It all feels right, though. This is the way that things were meant to be.


Not all that happened before, however. Not this other... puberty that I remember, or this person that I was supposed to be. This... boy. That never happened. It cannot be. Not when I look at myself in the mirror and see these changes. I cannot accept that as part of reality.

I'm 14. Maybe 15. I'm just a normal girl growing up. I cannot have lived as a boy. It must be a lie. Just look at this body of mine.

I cannot integrate these two realities. One of them must be false.


Yes, my body is also different, but it is still that of a young woman. That's the simple truth which I cannot deny. That I also have... male genitals doesn't take away from that fact. Maybe that's where what I referred to as 'being an involuntary female to male transsexual' comes into play. I never wanted to live in a male gender role. That just got forced upon me.

Much like with countless intersex children who suffer the horrors of intersex genital mutilation (IGM), I, too, was forced into a gender role not of my own choosing. Something like that cannot go right. I am still fortunate that I did not have my genitals chopped up by these butchers who like to call themselves doctors, as they do to so many others less fortunate every day again and again.

At least I get to find my own identity in an undamaged body. It will just take time.


Maya

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Living in a world without sound

It's interesting how the way one is born and raised affects one's sense of normalcy. For me it wasn't until I underwent an official test for giftedness as a teenager that I became aware of a very significant way in which I am different from most other people.

During that test I had to repeat strings of numbers and letters, increasing in length with each successive string. The interesting thing was I failed to correctly repeat the first, shorter strings, but repeated the next, longer strings flawlessly. I remember developing a method on the fly for memorising those sequences. The same pattern repeated itself for other tests, every time the test was auditory, i.e. in spoken form.

Further research showed that this pattern is commonly found by visual learners with an auditory deficit. Or in short, I'm a 100% visual learner, with anything auditory being essentially foreign to me. This suddenly explained a lot to me about many struggles up to that point, both regarding the visual way of learning, and my trouble with following and remembering spoken texts and instructions.


It's interesting to consider that the way that I experience the world around me is not like how most others experience it. The fact that I do not experience sound, but just the visual representation it invokes in me. Yet also the limitation I face in that almost all communication between humans happens in an auditory fashion.

I experience music and random sounds as images, almost as tangible objects which I can look at and touch. They have colours, shapes and textures. Human speech too, only if I wish to interpret its meaning, I have to actively process it further, basically treating it as if it's written text. This takes a considerable amount of focus and energy.

The result of this is that I cannot focus for very long on anything with a strong auditory focus. Films are generally fine, due to the strong visual aspect to them. An audio book - or most meetings - is extremely hard and draining for me if I wish to follow it. The audio books which I have tried had me drifting off after less than a minute. Long meetings often have me feeling exhausted and sick afterwards because of the mental effort it took to pay attention to everything that was being said.


I do not mind being different like this. I just wish that others were more considerate and understanding of this difference. Not everyone can handle spoken words as easily as they can. Not everyone can learn and work the way that they can. In some ways my... condition is akin to being deaf, I guess, though admittedly less dramatic.

Pushing myself to ignore the mental strain of focusing on spoken words does come with a high cost, mostly in the form of headaches, migraines and extreme exhaustion. It's sadly still an ongoing struggle to make this work in daily life, especially as it pertains to my work as a software developer.

With popular strategies such as programming in pairs and frequent meetings (daily stand-up, retrospective meetings, etc.), all of which are auditory, it's not easy to exclude myself from such events. Or even to address the subject, as it doesn't seem like something which the average person seems willing to accept. At least I haven't had much luck with it so far.


Some days I think that it would be nice to be just like everybody else, instead of different in almost every conceivable way from the norm. Then again, thinking exclusively in images also means that I am fully immune to so-called ear worms: bits of music which just keep looping in one's head. That's got to be worth it, I think.


Maya

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Relativism and four lights

In the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode 'Chain of Command', captain Picard finds himself captured by the enemy [1], who attempt to obtain crucial information from him through torture. As part of this torture, Picard is made fully dependent on the person who performs the torture. All Picard has to do is to give into this person's demands, answer his questions and the pain will stop. All he has to do is admit that there are in fact five lights.

The lights in question are bright lights mounted behind the desk of the torturer. There are in fact four of them. Yet towards Picard it is constantly stated that there are in fact five lights, and that he just isn't seeing things right. After being rescued, Picard admits that, near the end, he had begun to believe that he was actually seeing five lights.


When I first watched that episode, it was still years before I would embark on my quest to figure out what my body is, and it was just an interesting story to me, with a deep psychological insight in the effects of torture and mental manipulation. As I now recall the episode's story, it has taken on a far more gruesome note to me, however.

For me there weren't four, nay, five lights. For me there was the knowledge and realisation that what I was seeing was a body that was intersex, yet when put in the room with my torturers (doctors, psychologists, etc.), they'd persist in their notion that I was seeing things wrong. My body was not intersex, or even feminine, but just that of a male.

Much like with what Picard went through in this episode there were many times when I got offered what seemed like a way out. I just had to admit that my torturer is right and everything will be fine. Just admit that I'm not intersex. That I don't look like a woman. That I'm a transgender male. They'll make sure everything will be fine if I just admit to the truth.

Picard was locked in this room and couldn't just walk away from the torturing. I was, and still am, locked inside my body and cannot walk away from the torturing. Not unless I destroy this body. The four lights are always there. I can see them. I know that there are four. Not five.


I only have to glance in the mirror or catch my reflection to see my female curves. I know that my body produces its own female hormones without assistance, from the ovaries with which I was born. I know that my body is not that of a male. That'd be as ridiculous as to say that four lights are in fact five lights. Yet for twelve years and counting that's what doctors, psychologists and kin have been trying to convince me of.

Fortunately since the end of 2015 there has been a shift in this behaviour, with me finding more and more doctors and psychologists who agree that there are four lights, not five. Yet most still seem to believe that there are five lights and that convincing me of this very fact is paramount to my emotional well-being. Even as severe post-traumatic stress disorder and related traumas have been diagnosed by me and I undergo intensive psychotherapy in order to cope with this trauma.

I do not feel that I have been freed yet from this torture. Not while I'm still surrounded by people who insist that my perception of reality is false. That four lights are in fact five lights. That I am dreaming this body of mine, and so on. The torture sessions continue. Relentlessly.


I guess the most comforting thought throughout this is the one which played again through my head yesterday after I headed back outside after work. Whilst descending the stairs, I pictured myself as just a collection of electric impulses zipping through the neurons which make up this brain of mine. A brain suspended in spinal fluid, inside a bony cavity, itself suspended on a spinal column connected to limbs which move this entire contraption around.

Sensors are how we - as a neural network - perceive the world around us. Yet we also make up so many stories around it, adding our own interpretations and flourishes. How much of that is truly real? Aren't we in the end just these weird, biological constructions which lumber around on this planet's surface? Isn't that what humanity in the end is, with everything else just dreamed up inside these bony prisons?


Maya


[1] http://memory-alpha.wikia.com/wiki/Chain_of_Command,_Part_II

Monday, 12 June 2017

I want to stop being the eternal victim

For a while now I have been trying to recover the memories associated with whatever happened to me as a child when I was about five years old. It was an event which my mother and others in my environment saw as me changing practically overnight from an open, energetic child who loved to hug and befriend people into a withdrawn child, terrified of others and refusing to be touched or hugged, even by my own mother. A child which would later display bizarre sexual behaviour reminiscent of role play one would see in sexual abuse.

As I come closer to the truth I'm ever more reluctant to uncover what happened. At times I can almost feel as though I can reach those memories. Amidst the memories of losing that blue balloon, playing on the farm, of getting that new puppy, family visits, birthday parties and sleep-overs there is... something else. It's so strange that many of the memories of when I was around five or six are so clear, yet when I try to follow my development and my attitude towards others around that time it's as though there's this wall of translucent ice I can't get a hold on.

For each memory of me as this child, I have to change it from the third-person perspective into a first-person perspective. Recall my emotions and feelings at that time, then follow that thread to earlier memories. Then do the same with those memories. Until I hit that same wall again. There's something there of people being horrible to me. Of things happening which I did not like, but which I was powerless to fight against. Because I was just a child.


It makes me wonder whether part of the reason why I stayed a child - emotionally - for so long was also as a form of defence against the world. So long as I did not grow up, I wouldn't have to face reality, or something. I don't know. I'm an adult now, so I don't have that excuse any more. Just these horrible memories and sensations of being victimised.

Memories of which I wish they were just limited to early childhood. Not that I needed them to be compounded by the horrible acts committed against me during primary school when I got severely bullied and made to feel like absolute trash. And again during the first few years of highschool. Just a freak and trash. That's all I really was.


Losing my way in life after finishing highschool and getting rejected by my father after my parents divorced. The hell of trying to find some kind of acceptance for me being gifted and lost in life. Then the far worse hell of finding out about being intersex and suffering the horrific physical and psychological abuse by doctors and psychologists as they abused, humiliated and brainwashed me. Because I'm a freak. Because I'm trash. Because I'm crazy and refuse to accept that I'm male and transgender. Or just crazy. And delusional. They all knew so well what was wrong with me.

Getting raped by a 'friend' because I thought I could trust this person, but that was not what he wanted from me. Me making one poor decision about who I could and couldn't trust after another. Getting stalked by those who wished to bully me into me trying to commit suicide again. And succeed this time.

Having all of my possessions stolen and becoming homeless. Living on the scraps others would toss at me, out of pity. The continuing abuse by doctors and psychologists. Then getting deceived and abused by landlords as I try to find a place to live. Today again getting an update via my lawyer making it clear that my current landlady would gladly ignore the signed statement by my psychotherapist indicating my fragile psychological state and risk of suicide. Supposedly I'm just stalling to keep off the eviction.

They're okay with me committing suicide. It'd probably make them overjoyed as it'd speed things up significantly. Too bad for them so far the court has decided to wait until November this year before the building inspector will take a look at the issues in my apartment, meaning that nothing is likely to happen until then. It's a small comfort.


Part of me wonders whether the abuse which I likely suffered as a young child is something that continued afterwards up till today, with no end in sight. Especially dealing with this eviction case and the fear that there's nothing standing between this horrible landlady and me losing everything again makes me consider that possibly the only way that I can make a fist against being the eternal victim is to commit suicide.

When I'm dead, I'm free. I'd no longer be a victim. Nothing would matter any more.

Of course, that's the easy way out, or so people keep telling me. The real way to make a fist and to get revenge on all of those who have wronged me is to live a great life. I'd love that. I really do. I just wonder how realistic it is.


This past weekend I have spent in pain again, as whatever is happening inside my abdomen at the peak of each monthly cycle is causing incredible pain and discomfort. Today as well. It has me regularly bend over from the pain in my lower abdomen, which along with the sharp pain in the vaginal area is at times too much to bear. Toilet visit have become the usual nightmare.

Next month is the follow-up appointment with the neurologist. He'll have looked at the scans of my brain and spinal column and likely conclude that there are no signs of inflammation or other issues would would offer an explanation for the numbness and pain in the right side of my body. The next possible diagnosis of endometriosis is then likely the correct one, also since now after a couple of months of using the contraceptive pill again I can conclude that with it I seem to barely experience this numbness and other symptoms. Just the horrible pain and discomfort in my abdomen.


To have that examined, however, I absolutely need to see this intersex specialist. Even though my medical coach has been calling after this for months now, progress there is slow. Maybe I'll have an appointment this year. Maybe not. I have been at this for over twelve years and counting. It may very well take twenty years in total to get some kind of proper diagnosis of my intersex condition, and possibly a treatment for, or solution to these horrible monthly pains.


I'm just tired of feeling like the eternal victim. It's as though I am a horrible person who deserves all of this. Maybe this already is Hell. It might very well be. I keep trying, yet with every setback I have to really wonder whether it's worth it to keep fighting. If I will always keep having horrible stuff happen to me, it has to be a problem with me, no? In that case there really is no point in trying to continue to live if I cannot seem to fix whatever it is that I'm apparently doing wrong.

...yet that'd also make me into a victim again. I don't want to die or commit suicide, or even think about such horrible things. I want to tell all of those horrible people that they can go f*ck themselves, catch spontaneously on fire and die horrible, agonising deaths. Because a bit of anger is good and proper here, I think. They want to screw me over along my future? Not like I am going to care in the slightest about their well-being, then. F*ck that.


It's the classical struggle for any victims of severe, long-term trauma, I think. Part of one's psyche wants to blame oneself. The other part wants to lash out at those monsters who caused the trauma. There's the blame, anger, self-doubt, suicidal thoughts, crying, depression, self-harm and rage at the world in general. Just the process of trying to make sense of 'why'. Why me. Why did they have to do that. Why did no one stop them. Why didn't I say no. Why didn't I just leave. Why. Why. Why.

I guess I am beginning to slowly accept that I am most definitely not doing okay, and that me accepting help from not just one but two psychotherapists for simultaneous therapy is an absolute necessity. Me handling both the psychological and medical problems in addition to my daily struggles was more than any person could possibly take. Off-loading most of the first two to others likely will save my life.


There was a time when I'd smirk at the thought of psychotherapy. I always figured that I didn't need to talk about things. That such things were useless. I figured that I'd be strong enough to handle any emotional issues on my own. Maybe some day I'll write that long-promised autobiography so that others can read about how incredibly weak, and yet how incredibly strong I was throughout this ordeal. Weak and strong in so many different ways. Ways one doesn't truly realise until long afterwards.

I'd like that.


Maya