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I'm quite sure I picked up the wrong one on my way out the door....

Thursday, November 18, 2010

I was a DES Baby....

Part I - The Deceit and the Lies – Revealed....

This is the story of my learning of the possible and likely reasons for my transgenderism.  It explained a lot although I wished I new earlier in my life.  It would have helped me immensely to have quantified the feelings which have been with me my entire life.  The story starts as my family begins to fall apart......



My sister flew into Boston from her home in Las Vegas in order to spend a week with my ailing mother and to help coordinate care for her. Driving down from our home in New Hampshire, My spouse and I joined her at the hospital a few days after she had arrived. We had not seen each other in over three years and what we were to find out about each other, our own parents and most surprisingly, about my own self, were to leave me shell shocked.

I arrived at the hospital on a damp and dreary Monday evening in November. I had packed the SUV and driven the 100 miles straight down to the hospital in Cambridge, Massachusetts in a little over two hours. My mind was filled with so many thoughts on that drive down. There was trepidation in seeing the state of my mother's dementia and of the sight of seeing her emaciated body, her weight hovering around 82 pounds, laying in that hospital bed. There was the thought of seeing my sister after so many years of quietly unspoken tension between her and my family and of what she might say.

There was still an animosity between her and my father. My father was my mother's second marriage and so only a stepfather to my sister. My father's mother loathed the fact that my father had married a woman with “baggage” from a previous marriage and my father never forgave my mother for purposely hiding the fact that she had a daughter until they had been dating and were just about to be engaged. My sister held that anger inside for so many years.

Even when growing up, my father's mother insisted that my sister not call my father, dad for the fact that others might be ashamed that he had married someone who had bore a child through a previous marriage. As a young boy, I had always wondered why my sister would never refer to my dad as 'dad' but rather by his first name. For years, I wondered why my sister used a last name different from my own. And when I would ask my mother to explain this to me, her simple reply was “Your sister has always been a rebel. This is her way of being defiant”.

I had suspected for years that my sister was not my biological sister perhaps and, not knowing that my mother had been previously married – for that had been hidden away in the deep recesses of the family vault – I speculated perhaps that my sister had been perhaps adopted. It wasn't until I was 42 years of age that my mother “came clean” about her previous marriage, but even then, it was not of her own volition. My sister had been told at a young age that her biological father had died so that she would not seek him out. Over the course of many decades, my sister's father searched for his daughter, who had seemingly disappeared along with my mother, shortly after her divorce to him. It was decades later that he found her, three years ago when I was 42 years old – and my mother had no choice but to come clean.

I was hurt beyond belief. The lies and secrets of a lifetime's worth of manipulation were coming out like buried garbage on the sea floor rising to float upon the surface. My own parents had tried to keep the truth from me and had used my sister's anger and defiance against my own parents for having had to live this lie as a wedge to be placed between myself and her. My parents purposely kept us apart by evoking to me constantly how insolent and unappreciative my sister was. I was made to feel that she was the perpetrator in all of this when really it was my parents doing!

How awful it was to learn so late in life of the manipulations of my own parents whom I had trusted and believed. How hurtful it was to have not had the opportunity to be closer to my own sister in growing up. But it could never have been an environment conducive towards either of us gravitiating towards each other anyway. My sister is 13 years older than I and so when I was 5 years old and starting kindergarten, she was 18 and entering college. With the abusive relationship both verbally and physically in the house she tried to spend as little time as possible at home. My mother would never admit to the abuse and would simply chastise herself as deserving what she got. She was the martyr of the family and would deny any wrongdoings of abuse if it were brought forth. And bringing it up to social services would have only enraged my father further which would see the abuse become worse. So the lesser of the two evils was to do nothing unless my mother complained – but she never did.

Now the sands of time had passed and the truth had leaked out. I saw my mom and dad now for who and what they were and are and lament the time lost at the expense of my parents. I entered the hospital that evening after that long drive down from New Hampshire and saw my sister standing by my mother's bedside. How many years had it been, I thought to myself as I entered the room and gave her a warn embracing hug. And it was an amazing gesture of undeniable love that she was showing to my mother, even after so many years of abuse which she had endured from both my mother and father.


We spent some time with my mother, who seemed so much more calm and relaxed when my father was not around and in the picture. It was when my father was around that my mother became panic stricken and anxious. My father's temper to deal with her worsening dementia was starting to leak through, like a dam about to burst. His vocal tone and demeanor would become angry and threatening as she would occasionally confuse my father for her former husband. Her former husband had been cheating on my mother while they had been married and she was confusing my dad for him! She would yell out to my father to get out of her sight and to go to his “girlfriend” as she motioned to spit at him. My father, not seeing the correlation would become enraged himself at these actions and the verbal attacks would begin again.

It was good to be with my mom now, when my father was not around, and to see her more calm and sedate. She was a different person entirely here – relaxed and more at ease with both us and with her surroundings. My sister and I worried for the day that she would return home from the hospital for we knew that she would ultimately have another fall in the house again and end up right back here in the hospital again, or perhaps, something even worse could happen.....


Part II – The Truth Shall Set You Free.....


We went out to dinner that evening to discuss things and to catch up on our lives. Over a glass of wine and dinner, I joined my sister and her oldest son with my spouse. Initially our conversation was light as we caught up on the happenings in our lives over the years. At one point during the evening, it occurred to me to ask my mother about a question whose answer my parents were quick to provide and to deny. Given that my parents had lied to me and hidden so many things from me in my life, I thought it worth asking my sister the same question I had posed to my parents a few months earlier.

Without a context switch in the conversation, I asked my sister bluntly, “I need to know something. It's been in the back of my head for years and when I asked mom and dad about this, they quickly denied it.”

“Sure”, my sister replied, “What is it?”

“I know that my mom had an operation in order to be able to conceive me. But I need to know if she had taken any drugs before or during her pregnancy with me as well.”

My sister quickly replied affirmatively with a resounding and ground shattering “YES!”

My heart stopped at that instant as I began to from my next all important question in my mind. I had heard of the effects of a highly estrogenic drug which was popular among doctors and pregnant women up until the early 1970's. It was called Diethylstilbestrol or DES for short. It's use was banned after it was found that girls who were offspring of mothers who took this drug had much much higher rates of vaginal cancer. The high amounts of estrogen in the drug were also known to cause defects in boys. Physically, issues associated with under-developed and problems associated with the male genitalia were quite common. Recent studies were to bring forth evidence showing a much much higher rate of gender dysphoria and transgenderism for boys – as high as 1 out of 3 boys born to a mother who took DES during pregnancy.

So I asked my sister the question which my parents had said “NO” to......

“Did mom take any drugs while she was pregnant with me?”

My heart skipped a beat when she answered me....

“Mom took some drugs that ended up being banned in the early 1970's. I don't remember the name”, she said, “but I do recall that it did start with the letter 'D'........”

“Holy Shit!”, I loudly proclaimed, probably too loudly, at that moment in the restaurant.

“This explains my whole life up until now! Everything that I felt – and everything that I had to deal with – it explains it all”.

It explained now why my parents seemed so concerned about my male development and for the numerous trips to the urologist in the early 1970's to be examined again and again.  It explained a lot about how I was slightly different from the average male and why.

My sister and my nephew looked at me with distinct surprise, not fully understanding the gravity of that answer. I looked right into my sister's eyes and bluntly but softly told her, “I need to have a talk with you. Can we do dinner tomorrow?”, I asked, “There is something you need to know about what has been going on with me my whole life.”

My nephew looked at me quizzically but did not intrude. I could see that he could tell how personal this was and I needed to talk with my sister first before sharing it with her children – my nephews.

My sister agreed to meet me the next evening to discuss this over dinner. I spent the entire next day wondering if I had renewed my association with my sister only to find that I would lose her after I told her the truth of how I felt inside and the truth of how I was beginning to live my life moving forward. I shuddered with the thoughts as I mulled over what she might say when I told her. The time until I would meet her seemed interminably long as I rehearsed what I would say – knowing fully that very little of what I would rehearse would be what I would say as she began to ask questions of me.

That evening, we met at a local pub for dinner. I ordered a glass of wine and allowed the slight inebriation to take hold and quell my nerves as we started off with light and topical conversation. It was not until after dinner and imbibing upon my second glass of red wine that I changed the subject and the direction of the evening's conversation up until that point.

I explained to her with a slightly nebulous timeline which would lead up until now – in such a way as to not fully disclose what the issue I was dealing with was specifically about. I needed to gauge her reactions as I opened up the pages of my life and in the issues I faced both physically and socially growing up. Her difference in age and not really having spent much time in the house with me when I was young meant that so much of what I told her was as if it were for the first time.

I explained to her how I had felt different from other boys as early as age five. The memories of how I would keep to the girls as friends in school and later how I felt distanced from the boys as I grew up were retold. The years of social awkwardness and my retreat from the world of reality through my studies, my hobbies and my love of science fiction where I could find solace. My years of crossdressing and of experimentation crossing genders in order to find some ease to the constant nag of inner tumult and gender dysphoria. And finally, I brought her to the present and asked her....

“Would you like to see what I look like as a woman?”

To my surprise, my sister said, “Sure, let's see them...”

As I handed the pictures to her, I annotated, “These are not photo-shopped at all – these are simply me”.

There was a silent and concentrated expression on her face as she studied the pictures and then... “Wow... This is really you?”

She seemed enthralled and certainly impressed as she went through the pictures thoughtfully, one by one. I explained just a little background as she rifled through each one. After finishing the carefully selected abbreviated stack,, I asked her if she would like to see more – to which she said yes.

And so I handed her the pictures which were a bit more social and showed me out and about in a variety of venues and with the many friends I have made within the transgender community. I showed her pictures of me and of my spouse, out and about enjoying the world as two women.

We talked a bit more as we polished off what we could of the chicken wings and fries and I sipped down the last of my red wine.

“I know so many transgender women who have lost their families by sharing this aspect of themselves”, I said.

My sister told me that she thought no less of me for telling her and that in fact she loved me for the person I am. We parted that night with a warm hug and an offer from her to perhaps share some of my makeup tricks and tips with her on a personal level one day.

“Who would have thought I would see the day where I would be asking my brother for thoughts and tips on doing my makeup?”

I left that night feeling so happy that I was able to release yet another burden from my soul so that I might move forward to live my life without such propensity of fear – and it felt wonderful.

For more information regarding DES, it's implications and studies of its effects, please see some of the latest research done here at:

http://www.antijen.org/transadvocate/id33.html

DES  (Diethylstilbesterol) was prescribed to many women up until the first part of the 1970's.  The drug was actually a very potent estrogenic compound which was prescribed to pregnant mothers in the presupposition that in taking it, mothers would have greater fertility and better chances of a successful delivery.  In female offspring to mothers who took this drug, such repercussions included girls who would find their periods beginning at an unusually early period in their lives.  Higher levels of cancers were also noted as well.

In boys, the effects of artificially inducing high levels of estrogen to the developing fetus were documented to have shown upwards to a 1 in 3 occurrence of transgenderism occurring. Additionally, late development or poorly developed male sexual reproductive organs were highly noted.  It is also notable and well known that all humans start off life with a tendency to develop as females.  The presence of Testosterone is the switch to allow for the development of male reproductive organs and also changes how the brain develops.  Please see the following link for information on brain development in males and females compared and contrasted here:

http://christenbustani.blogspot.com/2011/08/difference-between-mens-and-womens.html

Those children who would normally develop as male found their growth to be compromised both physically and mentally as male because of the high levels of estrogen blocking the proper delivery and receipt of testosterone to all areas of the body and to the brain.  Although the brain is quite malleable to allow for growth and change in the first few years of life in terms of the size and structure of development, the primary structures are well established and strongly developed firmly and finally thereafter.  Through MRI images taken of properly developed male and female brains, it is possible to see differences in specific key areas of the brain between the two sexes.  Unfortunately, interfering with the process of development for a male child can result in a brain which has not properly masculinized, just as other organs in the body may not.

The result can and has been documented to lead to transgenderism.  Please see the link above for further details and discussion.




 

2 comments:

B said...

What an harrowingly sad and enormously uplifting happening for you Christen. I hope that you and your sister continue to grow closer together. Sounds like unconditional family love was lacking and maybe this is a chance to start anew..

Lizzy said...

Christen, thanks for sharing your difficult upbringing ... it was beautifully written, and I feel it was a privilege be able to share in it.

And thanks as well for the pointer to DES, and the article. I had no idea, nor do I know if I was exposed prenatally, but my mother had a miscarriage prior to my birth, and DES was used to prevent miscarriages. And in the past, I had severe anxiety attacks, another effect, according to the paper. And, certain, uh, physical effects as well ...

I feel that if I found out about the DES it might be easier to deal with the guilt and shame that can be associated with all of this. Thank you for your honesty.

Liz

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