One of the worst parts of my experience of gender dysphoria was the emotional numbness that began when I started puberty. It seemed that the more testosterone my body secreted, the less I felt and the more anxious (and depressed) I became. This emotional numbness would occasionally lead to angry outbursts and stunted the development of my emotional intelligence.
At one point, my parents suspected that I had Aspergers when they noticed I was withdrawn and socially awkward–and for a while I did, too. As it turns out, I was just a girl who was assigned male at birth, a.k.a. a transgender girl, experiencing a nasty side effect of gender dysphoria. If you have been following my blog, you probably already know that I am now on hormone replacement therapy (HRT) as part of my transition. You also probably know that it has dramatically improved my mental health and, as a happy consequence, has removed the emotional numbness.
That being said, hormone replacement therapy did not make me emotional like cisgender women any more than it made me emotional like men (cis or trans). There is no such thing as a female emotional experience or a male emotional experience. Yes, hormones can influence things such as aggression and sexuality, but they do not dictate the whole of one’s experiences or behavior. Women are no more emotional (or mentally unstable) due to their hormones than men are. If this is the case, then why does it seem like estrogen makes women cry more? Why do they seem more “crazy”–especially during “that time of the month”? Let me start with the short answer to that question: misogyny.
Yup! That’s basically what it boils down to. The apparent phenomenon is more a product of individual and cultural perceptions of, and beliefs about, women than it is due to any objective fact. Though I have noticed that I can feel more now as a result of HRT, I don’t behave in any way that should make people think that I am mentally unstable or “overly emotional”, yet I am still treated as though I am. My words are now more easily dismissed on the basis that they don’t come from a place of rationality, even though a man saying the same things isn’t perceived that way at all–and I have had this happen to me countless times since I started my transition.
This, of course, is a bunch of bullshit, but there is something else that is even more bullshit: the notion that men are more rational. Trust me–men are just as irrational as women. The only difference is the way we interpret what they say and do. In other words, gender norms–a product of culture–shape the way we view the behaviors of men and women, and misogynistic notions are their result.