Sitting on the Fence

It is hard to lasso Androgel.

Getty_Images  It is hard to lasso Androgel.

Donna caught me by surprise. She said “Stop saying that you’re not taking testosterone because I’m against it. I don’t want to be in that position anymore. Make up your own mind. Do whatever you want.”

It would be nice if Donna had said this lovingly, with the caveat that she will support me whole heartedly. That I will always be her Jamie no matter what path I take. Whether I am butch or trans. That I should do whatever I think is best for me. But that wasn’t exactly what she meant.

In January Donna had open heart surgery to replace a heart valve. The outcome, according to all her doctors, is excellent. The valve took, she didn’t get an infection, her heart is pumping properly, her heart rhythm is good, she doesn’t have atrial fibrillation.

She was taking three medications for her heart: a beta blocker, an ARB (angiotensin receptive blocker), and a blood thinner (warfarin). Both of us hate taking drugs. Drugs have side effects, rules about when and how to take them, and dietary restrictions. She’s got a perpetually runny nose, a sensitive digestive system, and trouble sleeping. She wants her old life back. Carefree.

Donna’s cardiologist gave her the go ahead to start cardio rehab (increasingly difficult aerobics while wearing a heart monitor). She felt stronger and more like herself. One Saturday in April we went to the Egon Schiele show at the Neue Galerie, ate a late lunch at the museum’s cafe, took a meandering walk across Central Park, and went to see the movie Clouds of Sils Maria. The next day she decided to go off the beta blocker.

She didn’t discuss it with me. She told me she was going to do it. She told her cardiologist she didn’t like the side effects of the beta blocker and wanted to see how she felt going off the drug. He offered to give her a different beta blocker, with potentially different side effects, but she wouldn’t budge.

I lost it outside his office. On Madison Avenue. I jumped up and down on the sidewalk and told her she was just like a schizophrenic who insists on going off their medication because they feel good. That the reason she felt good was because the medication was working. I was furious at her for going off the drug before she completed cardio rehab. I begged her to try changing to a different drug to see if the side effects were more manageable. She said no, she wanted to do it her way. We took the subway home.

I believed we had an unspoken agreement that we were in this together. Donna believed she was autonomous.

Within a week Donna felt weak and unable to do anything that required exertion. She dropped out of cardio rehab. I couldn’t find my empathy. I felt helpless. Scared. Angry. I told her it wasn’t fair. That I had discussed every decision about my transition with her. I waited to change my name. I waited for top surgery, I stopped thinking, or at least talking, about testosterone.

She looked at me and said all that was true. I had talked it through. I had waited. She said she couldn’t do what she had asked me to do. She didn’t want to go through the pro’s and con’s with me. She didn’t want to take my feelings into account. She apologized. Another week went by.

She talked to her cardiologist and decided to try a different beta-blocker. She said she’d discuss it with me, but make her own decisions. A week later she was feeling good enough to go back to cardio rehab. Her cardiologist told her she could get off the warfarin. She is eating kale, mangoes, and avocados again. She told me to do whatever I want. Not to wait for her consent.

The rules have changed. I’m still on the fence about testosterone. But this time it is my fence.

Notes: Mo Weinert wrote the series “I Was a Teenage Unicorn” for Original Plumbing, which you can find here. It is part of a series of posts about Mo’s decisions to get on, and then off, low dose testosterone. janitorqueer and Neutrois Nonsense also have a series of posts about their experiences on low dose testosterone. Not surprisingly, all three have different expectations and experiences with low dose T.

19 thoughts on “Sitting on the Fence

    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      I completely did not see it coming, what I really wanted was for her to include me more in her decisions, not to tell me to do whatever I wanted. Ultimately, I think she will talk to me more about her medical choices before she comes to a decision, and I will try to be more empathetic when she says she doesn’t feel as good as her doctors say she is. Meanwhile, I am free to think about low dose T.

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  1. Kris

    My jury is still out. B said she is going to discuss the psychological effecta on her of me going on T with her therapist next week. I am counting off the hours, but do not have much hope. She approaches everything in life, including my decisions about my body, with, “what effect will it have on her”. I can understand that all these changes causes more elevated levels of anxiety, but sometime I might have to put myself first. I still don’t want to force the issue, hoping she will come round. Sigh. Melodrama at its best… All the best, Jamie.

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      At least B is talking about it rather than refusing to talk about it. I think it would be easier on Donna if I was gung-ho to go on low-dose T, because at least I would have made a decision. But I am seriously conflicted about it, to the point of being unable to decide either way (of course no decision is a decision to do nothing).

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  2. anexactinglife

    Interesting…I have always acted autonomously in relationships and felt I had to be true to myself. BUT have never had to make decisions that would have an impact on my partner to this degree. I was in one relationship in which my partner refused to obey medical advice for a serious condition. We eventually broke up and a big part of it was that I couldn’t support their decision. I don’t think you live this way, but for myself, I don’t think I believe in unconditional love. There are continual tolerances to be weighed. You two have struck a good balance all this time!

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      I only believe in unconditional love with dogs. Donna and I have a very strong and very good connection with each other; we try to respect each other’s choices and give each other a lot of leeway. On the one hand, it was good that she recognized that she had asked me to do something that she couldn’t do (delay a decision until she was ready to handle it). I actually would have preferred the opposite, which would be for her to summon the patience to wait the drug out for another couple of months and talk it through with me. But I’ll accept what happened, and that she is giving me room to make my own decision about testosterone.

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  3. accidentallygay

    Thank you for letting me see the differences in our relationships. When Jello came out to me, he was completely prepared to never transition and remain in the wrong body if I objected. I have to admit there was a flash of a moment that I almost considered it. Then I realized I couldn’t counsel a friend to stay in the wrong body just to stay with their significant other, how could I do that to the person I care the most about and who was my best friend. I told him that no matter what I felt, he needed to do what was right for him. We would work on the rest.

    I am eternally thankful that I went this direction. The happiness he has now being who he is supposed to be outweighs everything. Even if we ended up broken up I can’t imagine how cruel it would have been to not be supportive.

    I realize relationships are about striking balances, but don’t feel bad if you are frustrated, balances mean both sides bend. After having gone through almost two years of the transition with Jello, I am even more shocked at how selfish it appears to me that people won’t accept their partner as they truly are. It is always possible that you may not be attracted to your partner after their transition, but it seems vain and selfish to demand your partner be something they are not to fit into your world view.

    Sorry, went a little tangential there.

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      Tangents are always interesting. One of the odd facts about Donna is that she came out as a lesbian late in life, and all of her serious lovers before me were men. She doesn’t find that fact nearly as interesting as I do (in terms of possibly why she was attracted to me).
      I am pretty sure that Donna would stand by me no matter what I did, but I also know that she moves slowly, and that it is better if I wait her out. This can slow things down, but eventually I get what I want/need. I think it would be easier for her if I had a clear sense of where I want to end up instead of me figuring it out as I go along.
      I understand that she feels scared of losing me, but I keep telling her I’m not going anywhere without her.

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      Reminds me of the saying “Good fences make good neighbors” but it isn’t the meaning I’m after. I don’t think it is good for partners to be gatekeepers, but I think it is common. And I did tell people I wasn’t thinking about it because of her objections, so I’ll have to come up with another excuse until I figure it out.

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  4. Widdershins

    Those ‘unspoken agreements’ – aka assumptions – are killers, aren’t they?

    I had plenty of ’em in my early relationships until I got burned so many times I had to ask myself what the common denominator was. Turned out it was me! … Bugger … lesson learned though.

    Glad to hear this one turned out OK for both of you. 🙂

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      Donna has always been autonomous in her social life and in her work/art. For a long time she also had one foot out the door – took a while for her to realize she had lucked out and was in a good relationship.
      I’m mostly careful not to clip her wings – but because I’ve always talked with her about my surgeries (knees and whatnot) I assumed (incorrectly) that was the deal.
      I’m hoping that she won’t have any other health crises for a while, and I’ve resigned myself to just listening and asking questions.

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  5. Unexpected Amy

    To begin with apart from anything, I’m glad she is doing better in general since the surgery, your both still have so much to feel blessed for right now even with side-effects and difficulties.
    Coming across I guess what is a paradigm shift in a relationship is always jarring and difficult, but it also opens up lots of new possibilities. Without becoming involved, I just hope the both of you can continue to find ways to work together to find what you individually need, and what you need together. Even with the difficulties you sound so strong and inseperable together.
    I wonder how seeing this as your ‘fence’ will affect your feelings towards T now, hopefully it’s a great opportunity to learn something special about yourself and your relationship 🙂

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      Donna is probably in the top 10% of possible good outcomes after heart surgery – and I am thankful for that. Whatever I go through I want to go through it with her around (alive, kicking, and with me).
      I had gone back to read the post and I realized I wrote that I had stopped thinking about T, but the truth is I had stopped talking about it – major difference. And that my thinking took the form of chasing my tail, a repetitive instead of a decisive process. So now I get to think it through, with all options possible (no dose, low dose, regular dose, gel, cream, injections).
      One of the things I have to separate out are my feelings about the changes I think I want, and the process that one has to go through (and maintain) to get them. I wish there was an alternative to a life time of hormones other than the alternative that I am currently living.

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      1. Unexpected Amy

        I can only imagine the difficulties of having to struggle with these possibilities and decisions for so long. The time for me to decide about hormones is finally coming and I’m finally starting to get the point across to my loved ones that they might KILL me, and that I still might have no choice. I guess most people would like to wish there is an alternative. I think you are doing really well though, the alternative is to find other avenues to dispel or at least diminish dysphoria enough that it’s not a pervading factor so much. It may possibly never go away no matter what, so as long as you are mentally strong and on top of things, I guess either decision is as good as the other. With such scary, threatening fields to either side, maybe that fence is quite a nice place to be, even if it’s perennially uncomfortable…

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  6. honest11

    I have been on this same fence… it is such a hard decision. I remember wishing someone would just make it for me and stab me in the leg with a shot of T and call it a day and have it done. haha. There were doubts leading up to my first shot of T, but then immediately after I felt a sense of peace. It was definitely the right decision for me. Taking testosterone has been a huge lesson in letting go. I can’t control the changes T causes, but I feel so much more at home in my body regardless of the changes. Negative or positive. There is something empowering about making this decision as well.. because you know that it is completely your own, and all for you.. no one else! T or no T, this decision is what is best for you. Best of luck on your decision!

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      Thanks. Inner peace is definitely a goal, as is feeling authentic in my body. I’m leaps and bounds better than I was 5 years ago, but the nagging questions is whether where I am is good enough, if it is OK to settle for good enough, or am I doing myself an injustice to settle when I could push on for something better.
      I’m glad that you had that moment of realizing that it was the right thing to do for you, and hope that your family manages to embrace it as well.

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