Saturday, August 27, 2011

Partners fearing HRT

One of the questions I see most often from the partners of trans women is "What can I expect, sexually speaking, from hormone therapy?". Women who started off a relationship believing their partner was a man, even if they are bisexual, will often be worried about the effects HRT will have on sexual function and desire. Unfortunately, there seems to be a lot of misinformation circulating in the trans community and the world at large about what a trans woman should be and what the effects of hormones are.

I get very frustrated when people try to force their personal experiences onto others and when they spread lies and misinformation in an effort to scare them into line.

If you've read some our other blog posts or watched TrannyGirl15's videos, you might know that she identifies as a non-op transsexual and that she intends to keep her penis. She has stated that she doesn't hate her genitals. She has no problem using them sexually and they play an important part in our sex life.

There are some who believe that a non-op transsexual is not a transsexual at all. That you cannot call yourself a woman without hating your penis. Even more distressing, this mindset seems to come with the belief that in order to be a true transsexual and to truly transition to womanhood, you must, above all else, despise your genitals and your "masculine" sex drive. Basically, this means that some trans women find it acceptable to use HRT to completely eliminate their sex drive and their ability to enjoy sex, because this is somehow more "feminine".

As a woman, I find this attitude offensive. Women enjoy sex, women have sex drives. As the partner of a trans woman, I find it distressing. I'm very happy that my partner considers our sex life to be something worth maintaining, and not just for my sake.

So, back to my original thought: I see it all the time, partners of trans women, fearing what hormones will bring. And part of the reason they fear it is because of the dogma that gets spread around trans purists. Some trans women really do hate their penises. Some trans women really despise the idea of touching their genitals or using them in any kind of sexual context. And some trans women really do feel sick and anxious whenever they get an erection. However, it's not a universal situation and I feel extremely bad for the trans women who doubt themselves or who feel the need to conform to this rigid set of rules.

I tell the partners who ask about hormones that their husband or boyfriend doesn't need to hate her penis, but that she might. She doesn't need to lose the ability to have an erection, if she still wants to get erections, which she might not. And it's a bunch of misogynistic bullshit if she wants to kill her sex drive to be more feminine.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Artificial Life in your Web Browser!

I've made a youtube blog about artificial intelligence before, it's been a long-time interest of mine. In that blog, I believe I mentioned an artificial life simulation program I'd written. It's a simulated 2D world in which little "ants" live. The ants are controlled by randomly connected neural network, and they can choose an action at every time step, such as turning left or right, moving forward, eating food, drinking water, or reproducing.

The ants need both food and water to gain energy and survive. They can choose to spend some of that energy to create a baby (another ant with a mutated version of the parent's brain). The interesting thing is that although the ants are initially very dumb, they eventually evolve to seek food and reproduce on their own. There is nothing forcing them to do either of those things, but only the ants that succeed at it can stay alive. I think this has some interesting philosophical implications about real-world lifeforms. It's also, perhaps, an interesting "proof" that natural selection really works (you can see it happen before your eyes!).

Anyways. I ported the said program in JavaScript, and you can run it in a web browser. If you're interested in trying it, click this link. You can click "fast mode" to let the simulation run as fast as possible. You can then later click "real-time" to slow it down and observe the behavior of individual ants. I recommend running this in the latest Google Chrome as other browsers may be too slow.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Posted an IAmA on Reddit

I just posted an IAmA post on reddit, and will be answering questions, for those who might be interested :)

Link to the Reddit post

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Trans-Pregnancy: the Good and the Bad

So, just today, I found another report of successful organ cloning using stem cells. This time, a human heart was grown in the lab based on a donor's stem cells. Great news, and this is only one among many such reports. For those of you who follow science news a little, there have been many reports of such organ cloning experiments recently. It seems that such techniques might soon allow people needing heart/lung/liver transplants to grow their own replacement hearts. This would both eliminate the organ shortage problem, and eliminate the need for anti-rejection medicine.

If you're a little bit of a dreamer like me, perhaps you can already imagine the potential for trans people. What if we could, say, using our own stem cells, and scaffolds either built artificially or from animal organs, clone testicles or ovaries and a brand new uterus? You might think there is a problem there. Being that I have XY chromosomes, it may not be possible for my own stem cells to produce ovaries and a uterus on their own. To this, I would answer that it's already within our technological reach to replace the Y by an X borrowed from either another of my cells, or someone else's. This would possibly be fairly "easy" to do, since chromosomes separate during cell division.

The good news, here, is that we might be extremely close to being able to create such cloned organs. Possibly, we already have the technological capability. Possibly, with enough research, within only a few years, transwomen could bear children,  children that are genetically theirs, and no longer depend on hormone replacement therapy. This is something I (and I'm sure many of you) have been dreaming of for a long time.

The problem (the depressing truth?) is that there's very few of us trans people out there. We're a tiny minority, and we're not exactly a priority for the research community. If you look at hormone replacement drugs and t-blockers, you'll notice these drugs were not developed for trans people. All t-blockers that I'm aware of were developed to help prostate cancer sufferers. Estrogen replacements were developed to help women undergoing menopause. These drugs just conveniently happened to be available to us trans people because other people needed them.

Why would you invest in technology that only benefits a tiny amount of people who don't even need this for survival? There is hope for us, perhaps, because transwomen are not the only ones who might need replacement uterus and ovaries. Women with ovarian cancer might too. Furthermore, some technologies (such as SRS), have been refined because there was money to be made. But then, the costs may be prohibitive. What if this kind of treatment were to cost $100,000? How many of us could afford it?

The best hope we have, in my opinion, is that organ cloning in general will progress rapidly, and soon begin benefiting many people. If such technologies become commonplace, and perhaps completely supersede traditional organ transplants, it will reduce their cost, and increase the chances that they will be applied to issues such as fertility treatment. If there is money to be made, there will be people selling it.

Once again, however, this is somewhat depressing to think about. It seems pretty clear to me that this technology is close to becoming reality, but realistically, it may take 20, 30 or even 40 years for it to become safe, effective and readily available. By then, I may be too old to seriously consider becoming pregnant. There is also no guarantee that this will be within my financial reach. We, trans people, are already faced with enormous transition costs, and in today's society, it doesn't seem likely that this kind of treatment would be given to us for free.

Monday, March 21, 2011

A bookshelf of pornography

I've been consuming pornography of various sorts since my early teens. My dad didn't have a collection of Playboys or Penthouses, but he did have one shelf (a high one!) of R. Crumb comics and books about the history of sex. My earliest brushes with naughtiness involved reading about the Kama Sutra, the bad behavior of nuns in convents and Japanese erotic art. When I was 14 or 15, these things were almost titillating beyond belief.  I had to wait for my parents and siblings to leave the house before I could sneak to the sexy shelf. I'd read the books crouched right at the foot of the bookshelf, only removing one at a time, ready to slot it hurriedly back into place at the slightest sound.

As I got older and more jaded (having read almost every word on that shelf many times over), these books just didn't do it for me anymore. I briefly tried to write my own erotica. Writing it proved to be more interesting (and arousing) than reading what I had written. I was constantly afraid my parents would discover my hidden notebooks of dirty stories.

When I was 16, I had an actual boyfriend and my desire to consume porn waned as I discovered that that my sex life didn't have to be only a solo affair.

At 17, I was frustratingly single but our family finally got a computer and internet access. While I was not completely immune to the charms of slowly loading pics of airbrushed porn starlets, I preferred to read erotica. I started off with pretty vanilla stuff but quickly found that the internet was populated with far bigger perverts than me. Incest, zoophilia, bondage, rape, forced orgasm, orgasm denial, 24/7 D/s relationships. I read everything and anything. And when my family upgraded to high speed internet, I watched it, too.

I consumed it indiscriminately because anything with even a hint of sexuality was exciting. As I became more desensitized, I began to have actual preferences (fear not, Gentle Reader, no zoophilia!). I eventually found that standard, studio produced porn movies didn't do much for me. I had a hard time believing that I was witnessing actual pleasure or actual orgasms. It all seemed so fake and artificial. To my disappointment, most porn marked "amateur" was anything but.

These days, I like actual amateur porn, as well as high quality productions like the offerings of (so very NSFW!). And I still love to read dirty stories. Reading is one of my favourite things to do in the whole world. You won't catch me anywhere without a book. The stories in books are incredibly real to me, so it's not surprising that I can get turned on by the written word.

Max likes to buy me books of erotica. I plan to share my opinion of some of those books here. It's hard to find reviews of erotica online, so I hope to be able to help people find something sexy to read as well as continuing my efforts to figure out just what the heck makes me tick.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Featured in the Papers Again ;)

As hoped, I was featured in the Gazette for a second time this Saturday. This time in a full-length article, along with a photo collage of pre and post transition pictures I made. The article is focused on my school experience as a trans person, all the way from kindergarten to graduate school

My photo collage.

Here is a link to the online version of the Gazette article.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Featured in the Papers

I was recently interviewed by journalist Donna Nebenzahl for a series of articles she is writing about transgender youth to be featured in Montreal's Gazette.

My girlfriend picked up the paper this morning, and we were surprised to see that the article was huge, it was mentioned on the front page, and there was a little featurette about my video blog in here (see online version of the article and featurette) with a snapshot from my latest video.

There is also a possibility that more of my interview will be featured in next week's paper :)

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Becoming Legally Female through a Legal "Loophole"?

I've been informed by a Canadian friend that it may actually be possible for me to become legally female by exploiting what one might consider a legal loophole. The official word here is that you can't legally be a woman without getting SRS. What she's told me is that the actual letter of the law says that in order to legally change sex, you need documentation proving you've had a "gender changing surgery". She has told me that, as such, before she had SRS, she had her facial feminization doctor write her a letter, and used this to get her legal documents changed.

Obviously, I'm tempted to try. She lives in Ontario and I live in the province of Quebec, so this may or may not work for me. I think it may have a fair chance of working. I actually find myself wondering, though, whether I should attempt such a thing or not. It seems clear to me that the spirit of the law was to deny a legal sex change without getting SRS, which, as I've stated before, I have no plans to ever get.

Yet, being a transwoman and legally male can be frustrating, I've had some annoying experiences. I once went to the administration of my school to get some paperwork (unrelated to my trans status), and the lady there, after asking for my student id, insisted that the number was wrong. I had to explain to her that I was trans, and that this was why my file said I was male. She asked me if I wanted to change this in my file. I said yes, at which point she went to talk to her supervisor. She came back and told me I needed to bring them an updated birth certificate... This makes me less-than-proud of my university.

A similar frustrating situation happened to me at the local drugstore. They asked me for my phone number, address, etc. to open my file. The last thing they asked me for is my medicare number... At which point the lady kept complaining that her computer software wouldn't let her open my file. She asked for my card, and saw the little "M" on it. She asked me if I was a man. I said "not quite", to which she answered "yes, a man", while snickering. I certainly felt like bitch-slapping that cunt.

Still, I'm a little worried. What if I travel and go through a full body scanner, and my genitals are seen, yet my passport says female? Could I get in trouble? Could the government sue me for having committed some kind of fraud? Is all of this simply worth the trouble (there are alot of documents to get changed)?

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Male vs Female Libido and Unnatural Events

I started my transition over 4 years ago, have now been taking female hormones continuously for over 2.5 years, and have been living as a woman for over a year and a half. I think that taking female hormones has affected my libido in interesting ways. I just wanted to share my experience, and perhaps get feedback from other people. Hope you don't mind the long post. You'll perhaps find this interesting from a psychosexual/sociological perspective ;)

Back when I was living "as a guy", I think I had a pretty normal male libido. I was horny pretty much every day. Walking to university, I would always encounter women whose bodies turned me on. I masturbated about once a day. I was unable not to masturbate for more than two days in a row, because the tension would just become unbearable and it would start to affect my ability to concentrate.

I eventually started on my path to transition (long story!), and started taking female hormones and testosterone blockers. The unfortunate surprise I had is that it pretty much 100% killed my sex drive at first. My typical masturbation routine involved me sitting in front of my computer while browsing porn sites from 30 minutes up to an hour or so. On the hormones, I remember browsing a porn site one day. There were shots of a blonde girl wearing a white bra and garter belt and brown stockings. Seeing those shots, I just went "her outfit so doesn't match, she looks silly". That's when I realized that I wasn't turned on, that I was bored, that I'd lost interest in porn. I was just browsing those sites out of habit, but the fun in it was gone.

My sex drive was mostly dead. I went from masturbating about once a day to once every two weeks or so. I was single at the time, but having such a low sex drive made me worried. I always thought sex was an important part of a relationship, and so this was going to be a problem if I was to be in a relationship with anyone. At that point, I started looking for advice regarding the hormones I took. I thought there was surely a way to adjust my hormone regimen to have a more normal level of sex drive. Not to mention, the sex drive was one problem, but I was also feeling generally tired and depressed.

I went on web forums where other transsexuals hung out and asked for their opinion. The response I got was unfortunate. Many other trans people had the same problem, but they told me it was normal, they just accepted it. In their opinion, it was normal for a woman not to have a sex drive. I felt kind of offended. It seemed to me like these people were stuck in some fucked up 1950s housewife view of womanhood, where sex, to a woman, is some duty she puts up with for her partner, but doesn't enjoy in any way. That's not the kind of woman I wanted to be.

Fortunately, my doctor was a very understanding guy. He listened to me, and agreed to let me try many combinations of female hormones and testosterone blockers. I ended up trying 5 different kinds of blockers, 4 different forms of estrogen, and countless possible dosages. I eventually found a hormone regimen that worked better for me. Now, I use a very low dosage of anti androgen coupled with hormones by subcutaneous injections weekly (using insulin needles). Nowadays, my sex drive is at a pretty healthy level. It isn't as high as when I used to live as a guy, but I want sex pretty frequently. I now have a partner, and it happens fairly often that I'm horny and she's not (the reverse does happen as well, however).

More interestingly, I think the nature of my sex drive has changed. Before hormones, my sexual interest was directed 100% at women. I would describe my male sex drive as very visual. I would get turned on just by seeing attractive women on the street. The parts of a woman's body most likely to turn me on are the hips and butt. There's something about voluptuous curves in that area that says sexy like nothing else ;). I still feel very visually attracted by women, but my level of attraction is much more variable.

I also think my sex drive might have acquired some more "female" characteristics. For one, when living as a guy, I never contemplated the idea of having sex with a man. Now, I think it's fair to say I'm at least somewhat bisexual. I watch straight porn pretty often, and I inevitably identify with the girl. There are times, when I'm really horny, where I really wish someone could just take me, so to speak. I have a desire to be taken, to be penetrated, to assume the typical "female role" in sex, if you will.

Still, my girlfriend tells me I'm probably not bisexual. My fantasies involving men are indefinite. I don't fantasize about a specific guy. I don't get particularly turned on by men I see on the street. I don't care about men's bodies so much, and well, dicks are pretty ugly. My "female sex drive", if I can call it that, isn't visual like the masculine sex drive I grew up with. My fantasies involving men just involve me letting go, and letting someone else take control, in a way. If I was going to have sex with a guy, my criteria would be that it has to be someone I don't find ugly, and someone I can trust. A muscular body would be a plus, I suppose, but not a requirement ;)

Something else that has changed is that I can't predict when I'm going to be horny. Living as a guy, it was simple: I was pretty horny most days. Now, it's much more abstract. My girlfriend's sex drive seems to closely follow her ovulation cycle. I don't have a menstrual cycle, and I haven't found a clear pattern in my sex drive. I can be fairly horny for almost a whole week, and then not so horny for a variable amount of time, from a few days up to two weeks or so.

I also think my sex drive affects my behavior differently than it did before. For one, when I'm horny, I feel the need to dress differently, to show my body, to attract attention. I can already tell you that I can't wait to show my new breasts this summer, lol.

Anyways. I'm telling you all of this because it's rather new to me, and I felt like sharing my personal discoveries. I'm not trying to make any foolishly sexist claim that male libido is "this way" and female libido is "that way". Obviously, this is only my own experience, and I can't claim to be either a typical man or a typical woman.

Feel free to share your comments, or let us know how you experience your own libido ;)

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Defining Life and Intelligence

A few billion years ago, life appeared on earth. The current scientific view is that at the time, bubbles of organic chemicals naturally formed, somewhere, in a body of water. These bubbles, being bubbles, moved around in water, and would naturally pop, split into two or merge with one another. Some of these bubbles may have happened to contain molecules of RNA. But one of these bubbles so-happened to be different from the others around. It split into two, and its RNA was copied. These two bubbles then split again, as their parent did, and their RNA was again copied. This RNA formed genetic code that would be hereditarily transmitted again and again. These were the first protocells, the first life forms. Life came into existence out of non-life by chance, as the result of essentially random events.

These protocells would always keep replicating. Why? Because they were copies of their parents, and their parents replicated. Thus, they would reproduce the same behavior on and on. If one of the protocells failed to replicate after cellular division, it would simply eventually die, and be "weeded out" of this ecosystem. By definition, life forms reproduce, because if they do not, life cannot continue. This is somewhat paradoxical, because this reproduction, at the level of individual cells, does not really serve a "purpose". The first protocells did not have goals or intentions, they simply reproduced on and on as their parents did. Every life form alive today has at least one parent life form, as did the first protocells, billions of years ago. Life forms reproduce because life forms reproduce.

Life is an interesting phenomenon. Its only "goal" is to keep existing. To propagate. This propagation is, however, not really a goal. It is simply the result of the fact that life forms reproduce, and thus, occupy more and more space, as much as the available resources will allow. Evolution is also interesting. Back to the story of the first protocells. We have that originally, the first protocells were probably almost all identical, or very similar. However, mutations in their genetic code, their RNA, were bound to happen naturally, because RNA copying is an error-prone process. Thus, "mutant" protocells came to exist. These were slightly different from their parents and siblings. If they were different in a way that made them more fit to survive than the other ones around (perhaps better able to process the available nutrients?), these cells would have an easier time reproducing than the others. Thus, mutations that benefit protocells became more and more represented among the population. Evolution occurred naturally. Life, by definition, because it reproduces in an imperfect way, must evolve over time.

The cells of modern animals are no longer protocells. They have evolved very far from their early ancestors. In fact, our cells do not even store their genetic code as RNA anymore. DNA has come to replace it for this function, because it is a more stable molecule, less prone to errors that could cause cells to fail. Modern animals are obviously not single cells. We are made of billions of cells who work together to form animals capable of exploring and controlling their environment in ways a single cell never could. We do not reproduce by splitting into two identical individuals either. Although our individual cells still reproduce in this fashion, sexual reproduction has come to exist. This mechanism allows animals to combine their genetic material to form a new individual. Most children survive, but are very different from their parents. This mechanism permits faster evolution and adaptation to the environment than reliance on mutations as the only evolutionary process. Life has evolved to make its own evolution even faster.

But where does intelligence come in? At some point after the first multi-cell organisms came to exist, one of these developped the capability to react to its environment. Perhaps it was able to sense the presence of its food, and navigate towards it. This adaptation made it better able to survive than others, and thus, this animal gained an evolutionary advantage. This advantage was transmitted. Animals eventually came to develop nervous systems, complete with cells that can sense light, allowing vision. The better an animal could adapt its own behavior to its environment, the better it could compete for survival. The more intelligent an animal could prove to be, the more chance it had of producing offspring. This offspring would in turn be likely more intelligent and better adapted than others. Thus, intelligence came to develop and grow because it offers a surrival advantage. Intelligence is a natural consequence of evolution. Its appearance was inevitable.

Intelligence is fundamentally an "evolutionary trick". Intelligence is very much like sexual reproduction in that it allows individuals to adapt to their environment even faster. In a sense, intelligence is a form of "meta evolution". If an animal can learn to predict its environment, it can change itself to fit this environment, and thus maximize its own survival chances. If animals can perceive their environment and change their behavior to better suit their survival needs, they can flee danger, seek food, seek mates and survive all the more efficiently. Animals like humans, however, can do even more than that. Intelligence has evolved to the point where we can understand our environment and have become self aware. We can even speak and transmit this understanding to others, making the evolution of our species yet faster. Intelligence favors evolution.

Today, humans are no longer simple animals. We understand so much about our environment that we have developed advanced technological tools. These tools are so sophisticated that they make it possible for us to manipulate our own genetic code. We are now at the point where we have the can use our intelligence to control our own evolution directly, making it even faster.

Still, despite the prowess of human intelligence, our basic nature remains true to our origins. In the end, we are life forms. We do many things, but much of the things we desire are instinctual:
  • We love food because our survival requires adequate feeding.
  • We want to have sex with the most beautiful and smartest people around, because our genes demand to be combined with those of suitable mates.
  • We want to beat up our enemies because we feel they pose a threat to our survival.
  • We want to explore the world so we can become smarter and better able to understand our environment.
  • We hope to someday conquer space, so that we can help spread life even farther, past the confines of this small planet.
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