Words and Art by MK Lords.
CW: Domestic Violence
When I was 17, I didn’t have a clue who I was, but I knew who I wasn’t — the type to settle down in their hometown with the same partner from high school. I would travel the world as a hedonistic hellraiser. Marriage? Pffffft. Kids? Nah.
Cue my shock when three years later, I found myself not only married but still in my Deep South hometown, hiding my body under baggy dresses. My now husband had abruptly converted into the most oppressive sect of Christianity and I dragged myself out of bed to attend church on what were formerly boozy Sunday Fundays. What boring Bitch had hijacked my life? Her name was estrogen.
Moving out at 18 meant survival became more important than ruminating about identity. I’d been out as bisexual to friends but re-closeted during my marriage because it was A Problem. During the re-closeting, I was a mess trying to pass as a cisgender, heterosexual woman. I was never the most feminine person, but it hadn’t bothered me until my lack of commitment to the feeeeeemale gender became a point of fixation for my husband. I suppressed myself to keep the peace in an increasingly violent home, and my health sharply deteriorated.
Something had to change. I was a passive observer in my own life.
My menstrual cycle, which I deeply resented, became so painful I would have to miss work each month because I was unable to crawl out of the fetal position. While it’s normal to have rough cycles, the more I slid into hormone imbalance, the more I lost my grip on reality. I even thought I might be asexual because I lost interest in sex entirely. This became Another Problem. I was anxious, dissociating, foggy… and lost the will to fight against my marriage taking a hard right turn into Fundamentalist Baptist Land. Without health insurance, I wasn’t about to see a doctor unless I thought I was dying, which finally happened at 22.
One morning, the cramps were so debilitating I worried myself into my first panic attack (though I didn’t recognize it). Alrighty, I was dying! After waiting hours to be seen in the E.R., my system calmed down and I sheepishly let my blood be drawn while being scolded about my overreaction.
Something had to change. I was a passive observer in my own life. I had let a man push me around and bully me back into the closet. Fuck this noise! I finally went to a doctor to get my hormones checked because the pain and personality change was ruining my life. When the results came back, my doctor was shocked at how high my estrogen levels were. The stress of an abusive marriage exacerbated an underlying hormone condition to the point where cortisol was flooding my system. I wasn’t producing any testosterone and was in pre-cancer levels of estrogen dominance. I needed immediate treatment. The doctor prescribed me bioidentical hormones and my world changed overnight.
My sex drive came roaring back and, while that temporarily helped Some Problems in the marriage, it caused Bigger Problems to arise. Not only was I not straight, I was not feeling this whole “woman” thing, but kept it to myself because things were already off the rails. My mental clarity came back and I was furious I’d become a doormat. I roundhouse kicked down the closet door, charging out as a Definite Bisexual. This would be The Problem that ended the marriage, not because of cheating, but due to his fierce biphobia.
As I explored the bisexuality I’d repressed for years, another layer of my identity was surfacing.
After the divorce, my identity was still in flux. As I explored the bisexuality I’d repressed for years, another layer of my identity was surfacing. I stumbled across the term “nonbinary” and it answered so many questions I’d internally held but hadn’t talked about. I don’t have much use for the terms “masculine” and “feminine” internally — they don’t make sense to me and never have. I didn’t “feel like a woman,” but did I “feel like a man” (whatever that means)? Why are there only two options that aren’t even consistent within the supposed rules that govern them? Did I have internalized misogyny, as one partner suggested? Bisexuality doesn’t exist only in binaries, so it followed that gender wouldn’t either. Despite this epiphany, I still felt like a fraud, and didn’t come out as nonbinary right away.
Dysphoria explained the friction I’d always felt in this body better than anything else. The monthly blood battle would often catch me off guard because I forget I even have the parts that produce such carnage until it’s happening, or I get groped again. I’ve never felt any connection to my alleged female body and have a body detachment that’s been a constant source of contention. I would prefer, above all, to not be perceived.
With my sexual identity and (non)gender liberated, I don’t recognize the person I was when I was estrogen poisoned. Looking back is like watching a horror movie where all I could do was yell at the screen “No bitch, noooo!” at my misinformed choices.
Not everything is reducible to hormones, but the right balance turned my life around. It’s unacceptable how inaccessible health care is to the LGBTQ+ community. We explore these questions of identity so early on, with the right treatment we can thrive instead of losing years to confusion, dysphoria, and trying to assimilate into a world we’re meant to transcend.
“Sorry about your gender!” Me too, buddy.
Finding internal peace gave me the confidence to care less about the boring, binary rules others tried to impose on me. I plan on medically ending this menstrual monster forever, but have found relief in embracing gender chaos. I’m still often perceived as a feeeeeemale despite being a 10 foot tall shapeshifter that everyone is gay for, but being nonbinary doesn’t have any specific look. The other day, someone repeatedly called me “lady” during our exchange, then realized their error. As I was walking away, they shouted what I think was an apology, “Sorry about your gender!” Me too, buddy. But not sorry for it.
About The Author
MK is a Florida firecracker residing in Los Angeles. A nomad turned city dweller, they chronicle their (mis)adventures through storytelling, satire, poetry, photography, & podcasting. These stories appear on Medium & Patreon, with the chapbook ‘feral’ available on Amazon. Tributes to Venmo @MK-Lords aid in their ascension to Cyborg.