I’m alone in my friend’s bathroom, with my pants around one ankle and my boxers hitched up high. I’ve got a hypodermic needle in one hand, and a bottle of dalestrogen in the other. My thigh is cool where I sterilized it with rubbing alcohol; I hope I’ve wiped it all off, because even a trace amount on my skin at the injection site will sting so badly that I’ll have to pull out and try again.
I’m nervous. This is only the second time I’ve done this all on my own, without supervision. Last time I tried this, I found it almost impossible to fill the syringe. This time I’m prepared; some searching on YouTube yields a trans man medical student doing a lengthy presentation on proper intramuscular injection procedure. He keeps talking about testosterone, but it’s pretty much the same procedure. This time I have the plunger pulled back a bit further than my required dose before I insert the needle into the bottle. Injecting air creates a little bit of positive pressure, and helps me pull the needle back to my dosage line and forces the thick, sluggish oil into the syringe. My hands don’t shake too badly yet.
When the needle first pricks my thigh, it burns, a stinging buzzing pain that makes me grit my teeth. I haven’t gotten all the alcohol, it seems. I wipe the area again. The second time, the needle goes in better. The skin is the toughest part, and once it is pierced, the steel slides in easily. Pushing the plunger forces a little bit in…and my arm jerks the needle out almost before I know something is wrong.
But something is always wrong. It’s supposed to be wrong. I’m displacing a milliliter of tissue deep in my thigh, a wholly unnatural sensation that my lizard brain interprets as an invasion. Of course it is going to feel wrong. It’s slimy, and alien, and deeply urgent. I wish it was only pain. Pain is easy to deal with. Injections are never easy. This one is harder than most.
I push the needle in for the third time. I clench my teeth and slowly press the plunger home. The hormones are suspended in oil, thick and hard to move through even my large gauge needle. Finally the rubber stopper touches home. I leave the needle in for a slow count of 30 to let the oil settle and disperse from the injection site a little bit. The needle comes out easily, and I cover the site with a band-aid quickly, then press down on it for another slow count of 30 to keep any of the hormone solution from leaking out.
This is what I’m doing when the nausea finds me. It likes to sneak up quietly, but I’ve grown wise to its tricks and can recognize it a long way off. Before it is even a physical sensation, I notice the quiet, odd unease. This is the first time it’s happened just after a injection, so I don’t think it’s a coincidence. It comes up quickly, and I’m contemplating the logistics of turning around to barf with a leg that screams at every odd tuck and flex when I feel my cheeks go cold and a river begins to rush in my head. My fingers are clammy, my vision tunneled with swiftly growing fog. I put aside the needle, pull my pants up and lay down on the floor as quickly as I can. I barely make it before I pass out, and spend a few minutes laying there sobbing.
I’m not normally the kind to demand answers of the Universe for its injustice, but I find myself asking why it has to be me. What did I do? Why couldn’t I have been born correctly? For the first time I wonder if I have the strength to keep going. It’s never been this bad before. My reaction startles me in its strength and visceral negativity. I long for a body that doesn’t cause me so much grief, and I hate the fact that I’ve chosen this, that the suffering has my own fingerprints on it, and so I’ll never be free of the Traitor’s Voice at times like this. I can’t even balm the pain with hate at my tormentor. I have to press on. I cannot turn back. My parents want me to. My body wants me to. It would be so easy. It would kill me and leave a shell of a person, not really alive, stumbling towards the grave.
I hate injections. I fear them. I have another tomorrow.
And I can’t wait.
I have been slow in posting here for several weeks now. The blog had become unrelentingly bleak, and was difficult to face. At the same time, I did not want to lie, and pretend things were better than they were. So I said nothing.
I hope that those days are behind me now. I think I have turned a corner. This last Tuesday I went in for an interview at a call center in Beaverton, OR. They offered me the position, and I accepted. There was a final hurdle in figuring out how I was going to get there on time for my training hours, which start at such a time that it would be impossible for me to be on time if I rode public transit from my friends’ house in East Portland, but some family members who live in Beaverton are offering me their hospitality for a month or so while I earn my first paycheck and find a new place to stay.
I am incomparably relieved by this. A job changes everything for me now. I won’t have to be a charity case for much longer. I won’t have to worry about where I’m going to sleep and how I’m going to eat anymore. I will be able to afford new clothes, and most importantly electrolysis and hormone refills. I can pay my own way now, and can claim the dignity that goes with that.
On a less pressing, but just as emotionally fraught note, the job is at a call center, so I can dye my hair blue. The notion of bodily autonomy, and the right to experiment with my look has become very important to me of late. I was terrified that I’d get a job that required me to adhere to someone else’s aesthetic standard.
This job changes everything for me. At the beginning of the year, I was more sure than not that I wouldn’t see the end of it. I didn’t see any possible way for my situation to improve. Now I will be working at a job that will pay me more money than I’ve ever made in my life.
I’ve been through so many disappointments, so many meltdowns, that it’s hard for me to believe that this will really turn out okay. Part of me waits for it to come crashing down. But I think this time might be different.
I think I’ll try to enjoy this strange new thing, this optimism.