My latest project is one that's popped up several times for me since 2001 - doing research into post-transition regret in bipolar transsexuals. Yesterday i finally read the few academic papers i could find on the topic. Freakin scam, by the way, how much they charge for a few pages. The problem in researching this is that the transsexual community doesn't have a particularly strong interest in publicizing stories of failure because it could negatively affect the medical guidelines that currently restrict access to surgery. Most of the public failures are people who got a sexual buzz out of crossdressing (actually having to live for real as the other gender kills the buzz) or people who found religion and decided to go back to their God-given gender. The rest tend to be schizophrenics.
When i think back to how it went for me, i know i started experiencing regret before i even had surgery, but i pushed it to the back of my head because i had just gotten myself so convinced it was the way forward. I'd told my family, the few friends i still had, i'd told my medical professionals and set a deadline (before my 21st birthday). My mom and grandma were ready to pay for it, i had fine enough features to pass pretty well as a woman, so why not? About a month after surgery the regret in the back of my head exploded through my whole being. I'd go through a week here or there where i was happy with it, where i even found it kind of cool or unique and sexy to be physically female, then several weeks of hating my body as much as i did before the surgery. It kicked off one of the worst depressions of my life and a really tumultuous few months where i got diagnosed with manic depression and struggled through those first awful steps of trying to deal with it.
The thing is aside from two cases, i can't find any medical reference that seriously addresses comorbidity of these diagnoses. In those two cases they speak about bipolar patients wanting to change their sex due to acute psychotic mania - essentially putting us in the same bucket as schizophrenics. It's fucking scary to think that perhaps i fell into that category because i really, honestly believed at the time it all made sense.
As i think back, it was 1998 and i was going to a lot of parties, doing a lot of drugs, and watching my friends disappear off into weird delusions of their own. It was the ex-punk-turned-hippie crowd, and they had their own stack of wacked out conspiracy theories that made my life and belief system seem altogether normal. But gradually i became paranoid too, convinced that my roommate (a gay man who was desperately and futilely in love with me) was spying on me. It occurred to me recently that the only evidence i really had of this was another friend's testimony years after the fact, one who was experiencing speed psychosis at the time and later got so paranoid he thought the government was spying on him through the cable box.
I remember when a transsexual friend came out to me it was the first time i'd ever really considered being the other gender (warning sign number 1 - you're "supposed" to already know when you're a kid). By that time i thought my ICQ conversations were being logged by my roommate, and was extremely distressed that even my explicitly heterosexual conversations hadn't thrown off his affections. I actually remember hatching a plot to scare this guy off by talking about being transsexual online. It seemed like the only way to stop him from obsessing over me, though it's altogether possible perhaps that the obsession was only in my head. Either way, i also put together a huge list of things i didn't like about myself, things i felt insecure about, things that changing my sex would certainly fix. It did all make sense. It did, damnit!
And when the ball started rolling that was my whole life. I quit drugs and disappeared off the scene, stopped talking to all my online friends and got a job. I learned everything there was to know about transition, everything the shrinks needed to hear, everything you should do to make sure it's successful. The biggest project of my life, and i screamed through it like i'd die if i stopped. I honestly felt like i would. And that just made it all the more obvious to me and everyone around me it must be the right thing - the whole point of transsexualism is hating the sex of the body you're in and wanting to correct it as soon as possible. Depression and wanting to self-mutilate, anxiety, it's all explained away by gender dysphoria... Or it is until you "finish" transition and then realize every single feeling is still there, down to the last weird insecurity. So what do you do then?
Well, you make lemonade. Everyone makes dumb decisions in their lives, i guess some are dumber than others. You live with it. What still interests me, though, what puzzles me is how i got there in the first place. It is very hard for me to believe i could've spent over a year high functioning yet completely delusional. And if the idea of changing my sex was only triggered by a shorter episode then why didn't i stop the first time i got depressed? One of the articles i read yesterday implies that depression can feed the feelings of gender dysphoria as much as mania can, which kinda makes sense i guess, but ... ugh. I guess i've always felt happier with the idea of being transsexual than the idea of being so crazy i convinced myself i was transsexual. Still, the regret over changing my sex persists, as does my craziness. Guess that's the answer right there... But i do so prefer Diet Coke.