10 February 2013

Going Through It Again

Today I was talking someone who’s related to me but not part of my “nuclear” family.  (I won’t get into the implications of that term!)  He’s a couple of years younger than half my age.  We talked about one thing and another; he mentioned some high-school friends he’d recently seen.  Then, he told me something I was not expecting from him, or anybody:  “I’d really like to go through puberty again.”

As someone who experienced puberty “again”, I didn’t know whether to laugh, argue with him or react in some other way.  Before I started my transition, I simply could not imagine myself going through puberty—or, more precisely, what it meant for me—again.  For a long time, I wished that I didn’t have to experience it at all.

The difference between the way I used to feel about my puberty, and his wish that he could experience his again, could be summed up as follows:  He told me that in his puberty, he experienced his first attraction to a girl.  “I knew I was straight.  Nothing has ever made me happier,” he claimed.  On the other hand, my puberty meant—to my horror—that I was becoming a man. 
For a long time, I was angry about that.  Not only did I have to become a man—at least by the definitions that were accepted at that time—I had to deal with sexual feelings that I couldn’t reconcile with being a man or a woman, at least as I understood those terms at that time in my life.  Because I didn’t have what academics call a “frame of reference” and a vocabulary to describe my feelings in a way that would have made sense to anyone I knew at the time, having those feelings was even more bewildering and terrifying than seeing my pubic hair grow around a sexual organ I didn’t want.

I wouldn’t want to go through any of that again.  However, I am thankful that I did.  When I went through my second puberty, in my 40’s (when I started taking hormones), much of what I felt made more sense to me—and was even cause for joy—as a result of the changes that came during my early teen years.

One of the things I realized was that in puberty, the emotional and mental changes are even more important than the physical ones.  So, while I was happy to see my breasts grow and the lines in my face soften, I was even more thrilled to not only experience the giddiness and crying jags, and new depths of feeling about everything from songs I heard on the radio to a Shakespeare play, and to feel my senses open in ways I never imagined on walks and bike rides.  Best of all, I had ways of understanding those things, and the fact that I wasn’t developing new sexual feelings as much as I was able to more thoroughly experienced the ones I’d had since my first puberty.

Still, even though I am glad to have experienced my “second” puberty, I cannot understand why my relative, or anyone else, would want to re-experience his or her pre-teen puberty.  Then again, my first puberty brought me into a part of my life I’d never wanted to experience, while my relative got what he’d hoped for when he experienced what will most likely be his only puberty. At least I got what I’d hoped to have from my second.


Sophie said...

Do find it particularly strange that so few trans women ever write about second puberty. In terms of acceptance, I personally find that most cis people are both surprised and more willing to validate our transitions when told about it.
Didn't hate so much as mostly ignore the first time around. The second has been far more involving and,in a sense, more familiar in terms of so many cognitive interchanges between conscious and unconscious functions.

Justine Valinotti said...

Sophie: I think you are right about cis people's reactions to hearing about "second puberty." Although it's unpredictable at times, I think that, in many ways, it's a beautiful experience because of, as you say, "so many cognitive interchanges between conscious and unconscious functions."

Happy Valentine's Day!