Thursday, 5 February 2015

Am I "Mad"?

One thing about embracing the concept of mental illness as a category that one falls into is that just as a particular ethnicity is sometimes seen as giving someone permission to use epithets which would be insulting in another's mouth, being mentally ill might be seen as giving one similar licence to say "I'm nuts" or "I'm mad", not in the sense that "you don't have to be mad here but it helps" but in that you don't have to pussyfoot around quite as much.

A couple of years ago when I came out, and more about that in a bit, someone actually voiced what a lot of other people were probably thinking, that I had lost the plot.  OK, that was a bit fast.  Try again.

Sometime a couple of years ago, I outed myself as gender dysphoric, or at least that's how it seems to many people.  Prior to that I don't know how it seemed to people although they seemed to be entirely happy with telling me that I should "grow a pair" for example, so maybe that suggests that they didn't.  Some of the time, to me, it seemed that it was so obvious that I wanted to be outwardly female that it wasn't even worth mentioning, and I think probably some people did see it in this way.  However, it was an assumption that probably reflected my failure to see things from another's perspective and I didn't realise that what to me was a really obvious cohabiting pachyderm really wasn't to some people.  Then again, well, two incidents:


  • Hanging out with an acquaintance in a bar for something like five hours before she even noticed I was wearing a dress because it seemed so normal to her that it just blended into the background, and it wasn't that I just sat there and it was somehow mistaken for a shirt or something - we are talking getting up to go to the bar or the Ladies' several times in plain view.
  • Meeting another acquaintance and enjoying the sudden "aha!" look in his eyes as everything suddenly slotted into place and I made sense to him.  He may as well have smitten his brow with his palm.
Therefore, when I talk about coming out as peed off with being seen as a bloke, I suppose I was really just making it a bit more obvious by ceasing to police my behaviour at all and just deciding to be my version of normal, but in a way it was just a couple of little tweaks.  Nonetheless, people did notice and it seemed to surprise some of them.  Anyway, I digress.

Before I say what I'm about to say, I just want to point out that I am only speaking for myself here, not for anyone else who considers themselves to be, for example, a person of gender X trapped in a body of sex Y, as the cliche has it.  Just for me, not for anyone who might be reading this, although it might strike a chord.  Anyway, there is one area in which I seem to differ with most gender dysphoric people, and in fact that difference was what I initially found the most validating of all, and it was what persuaded me to come out in the first place.

My paradigm shift went like this:  I had previously completely internalised the TERF agenda, so my view was that I needed to attempt to reconcile myself with my maleness and become happy with it, perhaps by adopting androgyny.  I still think that this would work for some people because of the myth of the gender binary.  What happened next is hard to describe, so I'll put it in two ways.  One is that I happened to take oestrogen and found that a number of mental health problems evaporated.  Another narrative is that I nudged myself into a position where I was in fact transitioning, a passenger in a vehicle driven by my subconscious, in which case the alleviation of the mental health problems can be seen in an entirely different light. Certainly very definite physical symptoms such as those of rheumatoid arthritis can be resolved when the big life issue is resolved, so even if these were organic in origin, it doesn't mean that the way they got sorted was an entirely physical process except in the trivial sense that everything might be a physical process.  Even so, it still seems very likely to me that the big issue was in fact organic:  a brain with substantially female structures or functions attempting unsuccessfully to make itself work in a body which was giving it the wrong chemicals.

That, I'm afraid, really would make it fundamentally a mental health problem.  I'm not sure what it is that people who say it isn't one object to.  It may be that they are saying that we're being accused of being delusional.  That in itself isn't a problem though, because delusions often express deep truths, possibly in this case the fact that one's brain structures are substantially different than might be expected from one's external gross anatomy.  What's wrong with that?  So it might be delusional.  What of it?

On the other hand, you can just go the other way and say it's reactive rather than endogenous, that is, yeah I'm well peeved, because everyone including myself sees a bloke when I want them to see me as who I am instead.  Why would that not make me anxious and depressed?  Certainly for a short period of time someone might be OK with that happening, but if it's been happening one's whole life it does become an issue.  That would mean that it's not a mental health issue in itself but it has mental health consequences.  The same is true for a load of other things of course, such as school refusal, which has been classified as a mental disorder when in fact it seems like a perfectly rational reaction to a perfectly rational fear.  The reason it's defined as a mental disorder is that it isn't convenient for a society which segregates adults and children and home and the workplace, and therefore requires childcare so that parents can become wage slaves.  With regard to gender, this would be equivalent to saying that a gender-blind society would be one without gender dysphoria, but I don't think that would be so.  In fact, one of the blessings of a gender-segregated society like this one, with firm gender roles, is that it at least gives you a clue about what's going on when you wonder why people think you're weird for wanting to have babies and breastfeed them like loads of apparently "normal" people do just because of some arbitrary decision based on an assumption about what happened to your Mullerian tubes as a fetus.  In a gender-blind society, it seems to me, you might be left with a permanently nebulous impression that something was wrong, and never find out what it was.

Hence we are left with two ways in which this might be considered a mental health problem.  It could be an endogenous organic mental health problem caused by having a mismatch between brain structure and internal environment.  Or, it could be a perfectly natural reaction to circumstances which are stressful and depressing.

When it comes down to it though, to some extent a mental illness can sometimes either be seen as you not fitting the world, or, and this is vital in some cases, the world not fitting you, and to be honest why would I want to fit the world?  Why should it not be the world that changes?  There clearly is something drastically wrong with it, and most people would agree with that.  This is particularly true if it's impossible to change.

Finally, the observation that I should up my meds is entirely correct.  The only question is what kind of meds should I be upping:  on the one hand, antipsychotics, antidepressants or anxiolytics, or on the other, anti-androgens and oestrogenics?