Tag Archives: Transgender

Aah … That explains the moodiness … Darn hormones

I got some pathology results back. My testosterone levels are extremely low (down near the female range). That would explain a lot.

See, as a transgender man, I rely on testosterone medication to maintain my hormone levels. I’ve had a total hysterectomy so my natural hormone production is limited.

Over the past four months, I’ve been taking my testosterone orally instead of as injections. I started doing this to give my glutes a chance to recover from the sacroiliac joint injury. See, the testosterone injections are large, oily intramuscular affairs. I’ve been getting them in the same two spots in my glutes since December 1998. For the first decade, I was getting the injections every 2-3 weeks (on Sustanon 250 and then Primoteston) but switched to a new product about 5 years ago, which I only need to get every 11 weeks (on Reandron 1000).

In December last year, I decided to give my glutes a break from the injections. I was finding them increasingly painful due to the scar tissue that had built up over all those years.

There is no scientific way to know the exact correct dosage of testosterone I need to take. The recommended dose of the capsules is 1-2 tablets per day as required. I started with two tablets a day but found myself getting incredibly aggressive, so I cut down to one tablet a day. But with the hormone only staying in my system for about 12 hours, I have been finding myself tired at night and lethargic in the mornings (I have been taking my tablets with breakfast, which I eat after training).

While I have found the break from the injections helpful in some ways, the time has come to get back to my normal hormone levels (which are still in the low male range when I take Reandron, so it’s not like I turn all macho). I have noticed a softening of my body, reduced hair loss on my head (not a bad thing) with the tablets and a significantly reduced libido (just to remind me the difference between men and women 😉 ). I have been quieter on the tablets and more introspective.

The return to Reandron is likely to change my athletic performance. But not so much that I won’t know myself  or will have an advantage over bio-men. But I do look forward to a return to my energy levels.

Mostly, though, I look forward to not having the daily reminder that I am a transgender man. That will be fantastic 🙂

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Cycling shorts

So, I desperately need a new pair of cycling shorts. I learned this inconvenient fact during the 200km Moonlight Wander on Saturday night. I bought both my current pairs in August 2011 and, while they are not yet see-through, they are no longer providing much in the way of padding.

Now, usually, buying cycling shorts is probably a simple process. You go online (yes, sorry, I am an online shopper), read some reviews, select a male or female pair according to your gender and order a pair in your size.

However, as a transgender man who’s chosen not to have certain surgeries, I don’t know whether male cycling shorts are going to be my best option. The two pairs I currently have are male shorts. I am starting to wonder whether the padding is less suited to my body than to that of a biological man. Now, I’ve not bought women’s wear since I transitioned back in 1998 so buying women’s cycling shorts just doesn’t feel right somehow. But if I’m going to survive these 200+km rides (I want to do a 600km Audax ride later in the year), I am going to need correctly fitted shorts.

So I’m after some advice from those who cycle:

  1. What cycling shorts do you wear? And would they hold up to 10-20 hours in the saddle on an Audax road cycle?
  2. Do you think men’s and women’s cycling shorts will have different padding?
  3. Would you put your comfort before vanity and buy a pair of women’s cycling shorts if you were a transgender man?

A special place

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I am an All Hallows’ Girl. It’s where my journey to self-actualisation and sporting passion really took off. Ironically, it’s also a girls’ high school with a strong Catholic and feminist foundation.

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Today I didn’t train. Instead I came to my old school’s annual Past Pupils’ Mass. It’s my first time to the mass and my third visit back to the school from which I graduated in 1996.

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It never feels odd or uncomfortable to be here at my old alma mater. The women from all generations still embrace me as one of them. It gives me strength and reminds me of the kind of man I want to remain. One who has courage, determination, compassion and love.
These are the attributes the women here learn and carry. It’s something that I also find on the ultra marathon track. And something I value above all else.

Tonight I am going to Lamington National Park to support my running friends and volunteer at the Lamington Classic. Perhaps it’s a way to pay forward what I have today received.

All Hallows’ School was more than a place of education. For me it was a place where I learned that I can do anything, that I love to run and that service to others is a gift that is a privilege to give.

What is your foundation? Who or what inspired your path?

Committing to the 12-in-12 Challenge

The more I think about my 12-in-12 Challenge, the more I realise how exciting it is. I have been looking for a big adventure for some months now but wasn’t sure how to fit it in with work and home commitments. See, I thought an adventure meant that I’d need to go someplace else for an extended period of time. I was envisioning weeks of hiking some long lonely trail in a beautiful location. But, instead, fate and life have led me to this crazy 12-in-12 Challenge. And I am more excited about it than about the idea of going away alone for weeks or months at a time.

When I first came up with the 12-in-12 Challenge, it seemed like such a simple idea. I just have to put one foot in front of the other for 12 long running events in a year. And that’s what I like about it – the simplicity.

But the reality is, I have to approach this challenge with the same commitment and care as I would approach a thousand kilometre hike. I not only have to make sure I enter the right events, but I need  to ensure my body and mind are healthy enough for the challenge. And that they stay healthy.

Mentally, I know there will be times ahead when I wonder why I took up the challenge. There will be times when I forget what a blessing it is to be able to experience the places my adventure will take me. This is normal. I read a lot of books and blogs by adventurers and without fail, they all have their dark moments. For some, the darkness and hardship take over, while others embrace the hours of discomfort as part of the adventure. I want to be one of the latter group. And by mentally preparing for the hardships and acknowledging they will come, I will give myself the best chance of success.

Emotionally, this adventure is going to take me far inside myself. There is no one else who can run the long lonely miles of a race with me. When the going gets tough, we all shut down to those running around us and enter our own worlds. This is when I need to trust that I’ve come a long way from the anxiety riddled man experiencing deep depression to be the optimistic and peaceful man I am today. I no longer fear the solitude of my thoughts and draw strength from the memories of days gone by. Because I know the elation of success and the euphoria that comes with achieving the seemingly impossible.

Physically, I have a lot to balance. I have greatly improved my diet over the past three weeks. I have shifted from taking most of my calories from sugar, flour and meat to eating a largely plant-based diet that is supplemented by meat. I am eating five serves of vegetables for breakfast every day accompanied by herbal tea fresh from my garden. My lunches consist of vegetarian tortillas or brown rice with vegetables. Instead of eating cakes and biscuits for morning and afternoon tea, I am eating fruit and nuts. Today I supplied morning tea to work but brought in a date loaf instead of a mud cake. It’s a big change and my body feels better for it.

For race days, I have been experimenting with real food nutrition, rather than relying on bars and gels. I have found it works really well for me. I like oat bars with fruit or nut flavours, vegetarian tortillas or burritos, and fresh fruit. They fuel my body for longer, are lightweight and easy to carry, and contain lots of calories. I will probably always carry a gel or two for emergencies or late-race bonking. But they are now my backup not my ‘go to’.

Aside from food, I need to look after my bones, muscles and joints. For the past few months I’ve been receiving post-race massages from my daughter-in-law who is qualified to perform relaxation massage. The difference in my recovery has been astounding.

I have a long, painful history of shin splints and ITB syndrome in my right leg. The pain started between 1996-1998 and has been a constant in my life. It stopped me running for six years between 2005 – 2011 and is one of the reasons I run in bare feet or barefoot-style shoes. I have decided that rather than sticking my head in the sand, I am going to address the issues with my leg in three ways:

  • I am running slower than I might if I were training for triathlon and am trying to focus on technique, rather than on speed. My goals will only require me to average about 8-9kph in my races (6:40 – 7:30 min/kph pace) and I am not afraid to go slower if necessary. Because right now, it’s more important to finish than to get a good time.
  • I have made an appointment with a craniosacral therapist. I used to see him years ago and he helped me a lot, both with my emotional health and with my physical well-being.
  • I have made an appointment with a physiotherapist who is himself a runner and who treats many runners at my running club.

It’s not that I’m injured but I know I need to be sensible and honest if I want to remain injury free.

On a personal level, I am committed to the 12-in-12 Challenge because I am running for the transgender community. I want to show transgender men and women who are early in or struggling with their transitions that there is hope for the future. Our gender histories don’t have to limit our life options nor hold us back in any way. It’s not about success – it’s about being willing to try.

Sure, I might not achieve my goal. But it wouldn’t be an adventure if there was no risk of failure. The important thing is to set a goal, aim high, prepare properly, look after your body and soul, and just get out there and do it without fear of failure.

Taking a balance day

First nectarine of the season

I’ve run 63.39km this past week, bringing my yearly total to date to 458.53km. These 63.69km represent over 16% of the total number of kilometres I’ve run this year. It also represents a 450% increase to my average weekly kilometre. So today I know I need to let my legs recover from the efforts of the past week.

It’s also a good opportunity to regain some balance. It’s been a wet winter here in Brisbane. So, while I usually don’t have to do any garden maintenance at this time of year, I have quite a bit of weeding and lawn mowing to do. It’s also the end of July now so I need to prepare at least one vegetable garden bed so I can sow summer seeds in early August.

One of the 30-odd sugar loaf cabbages

It’s been a good winter so far in my garden. All the work I’ve done since we moved into our home three years ago is paying off. The orchard, vegetable beds and native garden are looking healthy. While the citrus trees haven’t yet started producing fruit, they are finally growing now that I’ve raised the garden bed. The tropical peaches, nectarines and apples are flowering, so hopefully we’ll get some fruit again this season. The sugar loaf cabbages I grew from seed have taken off like rockets and we have about thirty that will be ready for harvest progressively during the next 3-6 weeks.  We have eight broccoli heads that are coming into harvest and pigeon peas, which I need to harvest and shell to turn into pea and ham soup. The only thing that didn’t grow well this year were the peas. I just don’t think it got cold enough for them to set pod.

One of the 8 heads of broccoli

I can’t emphasise enough how important my garden is to me. Long before I rediscovered running, I discovered gardening. We even chose this block of land where we built our home based on the potential for garden. We have four ‘garden rooms’: a raised orchard, vegetable gardens, a native Australian garden and a more ornamental area. All this on a block that’s only just less that one-third of an acre.

Gardening helped me overcome my grief at not being able to have biological children of my own. It also helped me get grounded after I started my transition. My transition was a crazy, almost science-fiction, experience. In those early years of living as Andrew I alternated between the euphoria of making the transition and the anguish of feeling like a freak.

And then I discovered gardening. I put my hands in the soil and felt it’s texture. I realised I was connected with thousands of generations of humans who have all done the same thing. Not only that, but I could sow seeds and nurture them until food grew. My experiments started small: I bought seedlings until I was confident germinating seeds and I only had a small garden. Then I gained confidence and we bought a new block of land that I could turn into our own little sanctuary.

Over the past three years I’ve spent thousands of hours adding topsoil to our property, building raised garden beds, creating dry creek beds, laying turf and planting. I’ve designed the layout, redesigned when things haven’t worked and changed plans when I’ve needed to. It’s been a huge physical and personal achievement that I’m proud of. It’s going to take another two to three years before the garden really starts to show signs of maturity; but that’s a good lesson in patience that I need to also apply to my running.

Because it will take two to three more years before I’m a mature and consistent ultra runner.  Right now I’m like the citrus trees that are still growing roots. Every ultra I run this year will give me stronger legs and mental endurance. Every ultra I run next year will let me expand that base. And then, hopefully, in my third year I’ll finally be able to produce some fruit, just like a citrus tree shouldn’t be allowed to produce fruit until it’s three years old.

While it’s difficult to look at my running with this long-term outlook, my garden is teaching me this lesson and it’s one I want to try to learn. While I might be too undisciplined to stick to any real plan, I think I can still learn this lesson.

What a difference a year can make

On 1 June 2012 it will be exactly 12 months since I found myself sitting in a psychologist’s office struggling with anxiety and certain unhealthy compulsive behaviours. My life has changed beyond my wildest imagining and I am proud of the work I have done to achieve these changes.

30 May 2011: Unfit with a rounder shape

One year ago I was unfit and starting to settle into a heavier, rounder body. I didn’t like being unfit and was starting to make sure I was sitting in photos or only shot with head and shoulders. But I didn’t know how to change my life. The grip of anxiety had frozen me. I put all my energy into my insecurities, and escaped my pain through compulsive masturbation and hours wasted online.

June 2011: Oxfam Trailwalker Brisbane – a life changing event

When the psychologist first suggested I put my energy into some sort of sport I dismissed the suggestion. I had no excuse to justify my dismissing her sensible suggestion but such was my state of mind at the time. Fortunately, I had entered the Oxfam Trailwalker Brisbane; a 100km walk to raise money for charity. I was seriously undertrained but with the help of three fantastic team mates and some determination I made it all the way in just under 33 hours. I stopped engaging in the compulsive behaviour almost immediately after completing Trailwalker.

July 2011: Second bike training session with a bit of a belly bulge

The next morning I decided that I was sick of being unfit. I had been fit most of my life, only letting myself go when the Black Dog and anxiety took hold of me about five years earlier. So I had something to draw on when deciding how to get fit and what to expect. I started looking for events to use as motivation; I knew I wouldn’t train if I didn’t have a specific goal. I had been a triathlete as a teenager so, after considering a range of other sports, I decided I wanted to get back into triathlon.

But there was a barrier for me: men have a bulge in their cycling shorts and triathlon suits. I felt subhuman because, as a transgender man, my body doesn’t look like that of biological men. I felt like I was somehow wrong and less worthy than others. And, while I knew other people wouldn’t say anything about my body, I felt it was abnormal and freakish. I had a conversation with the psychologist about this and then went away to think about it further myself. It was a huge achievement for me to buy a pair of speedos, cycling shorts and a triathlon suit; and a bigger achievement for me to wear them in public.

August 2011: Wivenhoe Dam Triathlon – My first triathlon in 14 years

One month later I completed my first triathlon in 14 years; the Wivenhoe Dam Triathlon. All I wanted to do was make it to the finish line in one piece. August is the coldest month of the year here in Brisbane and an icy wind was blowing on the rainy day. The water temperature was somewhere between 16’C and 19’C. I didn’t (and still don’t) have a wetsuit, so the swim was painfully cold. But I gutted it out and proved to myself that I can do anything. The furthest I’d swum in training was 400m in a whole session but the swim leg was 750m. The furthest I’d cycled in training was 12km but the cycle leg was 20km. The furthest I’d run in training was 3km but the run leg was 5km. And I made it! In a respectable time of 1:24:59. Words can’t describe the way I felt that afternoon.

September 2011: Rainbow Beach Triathlon

A few weeks later I raced the Rainbow Beach Double Triathlon. I raced a sprint distance triathlon (750m swim, 20km cycle, 5km run) on Saturday afternoon and then backed up to do it all again on Sunday morning. It was a real physical challenge for me but at least I had increased my training so that I was now able to complete these distances in training (just). I had also stopped seeing the psychologist on 31 August because I had worked through some important personal issues relating to my body image and being transgender. I completed both races that weekend; again in the respectable times of 1:15:31 and 1:19:38.

October 2011: Agnes Water Triathlon – The belly is getting smaller

In October I traveled six hours north to Agnes Water to participate in the sprint distance triathlon there. I’d set myself a goal to participate in a triathlon every month for the whole season. I didn’t have any time goals; I just wanted to complete the courses with a smile on my face. I thoroughly enjoyed both the race and my five days camping at Agnes Water. My time for the event was 1:11:33.

November 2011: Rainbow Beach Trail Ultra – This event opened so many possibilities

I couldn’t find any triathlons that piqued my interest in November so I entered the Rainbow Beach Trail Ultra (nominally 43km but my course was 45km). It was important to me to keep up my momentum and the idea of running to the Double Island Point lighthouse intrigued me enough to give this event a try. I had only joined the Brisbane Bayside Runners and Walkers club about a month earlier and had increased my training runs from 4-5km to 7-8km. I entered the event just 10 days before race day after I had completed a 15km club training run. One week before the race I did an 18km training run and then spent a week eating well in the hope it would enable me to complete the race.

The Rainbow Beach Trail Ultra was an extreme event for me. It was longer than I’d ever contemplated running before and I only had 10 days to get used to the idea. I ran as much of the course as I could but allowed myself to walk up all the hills and to walk when I hit the wall. Somehow I managed to complete the event in 7:30. It was a long day out on my feet in the sand but it was worth it. All the barriers I had built for myself were shattered that day – I realised that I could enter any event that took my fancy because I have the determination to finish. After the Rainbow Beach Trail Ultra I started expanding my training and racing experiences.

December 2011 – Toorbull Triathlon
(Image copyright The Run Inn Brisbane)

In December I traveled to Toorbull where I completed my fourth triathlon in five months. I was starting to feel stronger on the course and was not regularly training longer distances than the 750m swim, 24km cycle and 5km run that the race involved. I finished strong in 1:25:13 on a hot summer day. I was now training 5-6 days a week and had cemented my new positive outlook on life. I was a changed man.

January 2012: My first half marathon

In January I made a snap decision to turn up at a local half-marathon and run it. I hadn’t specifically trained for it because I hadn’t planned to race the event. I literally turned up on the day and entered. And then I finished the race in 2:10:57 on a stinking hot and humid day. I had now broken another mental barrier for me; the long road running race. It helped me feel like a proper runner. I felt proud of myself when I crossed the finish line; a new sensation that I had been working on accepting since my first visit to the psychologist.

February 2012: Making the outdoors a normal part of life again

By February I had started to expand my exercise regime to include more off-road exploration. Training ceased to be an activity that I did merely to lose weight or complete triathlons, it was now a normal part of life. I started exploring different ways to exercise that allowed me to enjoy the outdoors again like I had when I was growing up.

I also completed my first Olympic distance triathlon (1,500m swim, 40km cycle, 10km run) at Kingscliff. My goal was to finish within 3:00 and I achieved it when I finished in 2:25:53. I almost cried when I finished because I was so amazed at the change in my life. I had gone from struggling to get through the day to living an healthy active outdoor lifestyle.

March 2012: I smashed a half marathon

In March I made another break through. I smashed the Twilight Half Marathon in a time of 1:46:33. I had all these mental limitations set out about the pace I’d need to run to complete the half marathon. I figured that I would struggle to make two hours but once I got going I put all my doubts aside and found myself pushing hard.

April 2012: Sailing the Whitsundays

April was a month of change. During March I had started to train much harder and had lost touch with the real reason I got involved in sport. I was fatigued and had developed a bad attitude. The attitude was a result of me forgetting to be myself; I’d got caught up in the part of triathlon culture I don’t enjoy. See, there is an element of triathlon that is focused on results and single-minded intense training. I was starting to train twice a day and was trying to ‘make every session count’. And it took it’s toll.

While I was away for the Julia Creek Triathlon I found myself again. Two weeks away on my motorbike, a fun tough race at Julia Creek and a day sailing on the Whitsundays brought me back to earth. I decided to focus on bushwalking, mountain biking and enjoying myself. I decided to get out every day into the outdoors for the fun of the outdoors, not for the training. The biggest influence on this was my day sailing on the Whitsundays.

May 2012: Adventure Race Australia

The Adventure Race Australia last weekend best summarises my transformation from internet addict to outdoor athlete. Not only that, but I am much happier today. I am no longer gripped by anxiety or depression. I am no longer paralysed by insecurity. I am me. I have come a long way. And I’m proud of my journey here.

It’s been a big year. An important year in my life. One that has led to positive changes. In the next 12 months I hope to maintain those changes. I no longer have to improve my fitness because I am where I want to be. I’m fit enough to tackle any physical challenge and know I have the determination to achieve it. And I am determined not to go back to where I was 12 months ago.  I want to keep smiling 🙂

Rest day ramblings

It’s a rest day today so I have no training or physical adventures to share. However, I do have another experience to share.

Yesterday I was interviewed by Marie Claire Magazine for an article relating to transgender men and women. The article is being written as a result of the Miss Universe rule changes to allow transgender women to compete.

The interview went well enough; though I was unhappy about the interviewer asking me about my bedroom activities. I thought that was totally inappropriate. She did respect my saying that topic was irrelevant and off limits but it did change the tone of the interview for me. It actually has made me consider withdrawing consent to the article but I know I have to hang in there and just let things take their course.

Why do the interview? Because I believe it is important for transgender men and women who are settled in their lives to be available as role models for other transgender people and their families. I think it’s particularly important to show families and friends that their transgender loved ones can still have a positive, healthy and fulfilled life; that being transgender doesn’t relegate us to second-class citizen status or to a life of unhappiness.

I have no idea how the article is going to turn out. I keep playing the interview over in my mind. Having studied journalism in my past I know that journalists and editors often try to find the sensational in stories. Hopefully the journalist doesn’t latch onto the few negative experiences I have had but focuses on the many positive and real experiences we discussed.

My name and photo will be in the article, which is a bit scary because magazines like Marie Claire often spend years (or decades) lying around doctors’ surgery and dentists’ waiting rooms. I’ve been in the media before: a newspaper and two separate radio programs. And I’m openly transgender here in my blog. But a magazine is very different. Written press is also more risky than audio. In my last radio interview with ABC Local Radio the journalist tried to sensationalise my story but I was able to hold my ground because the interview was live. But in this interview the journalise can go away, write her story and then the editor will start doing their work on it. That’s quite scary.

I don’t know when the article will come out but hopefully it will be positive. I’m going to try not to think about it while I wait.

In some ways this is still an adventure … not a physical one but a mental and emotional one.