I had a check-up meeting with my endocrinologist this morning, now several months on the hormones. She measured my blood pressure, examined my development (such as it was) and asked me a series of questions.
“How do you feel generally?” she asked, to which I replied “well, I was actually kind of depressed for the first month or so, but afterwards I felt a sort of deep contentment and satisfaction with my life.”
She nodded, and made a note.
“And physically? Are you feeling any pain…” she made a gesture towards her own nipples.
“Uh, yes, they’re very sore pretty much all of the time.”
“Ah good, then the progesterone is working. Any discharge?”
(I had no idea that that was a possible side-effect; I’m feeling kind of horrified of that now.)
“No, none of that.”
She jotted down a note, and then got to a rather awkward question: “Have you noticed any change in your sex drive?”
“No change whatsoever,” I said, after a moment’s hesitation.
And it was completely true; the needle on my sex drive has remained firmly ensconced in its zero position since I started taking hormones–the same value to which it has always been set. But the thing was that I had consciously decided not to tell my endocrinologist about that, out of concern that she would interpret this (as is the want of an endocrinologist) as a hormonal problem and either try to ‘solve’ it pharmacologically (something in which I have absolutely zero interest whatsoever), or cite it as a reason why I should not go on HRT (or both). As such, I have taken to answering her questions about my sex life in extremely general (but nonetheless true) terms and allowing her to fill in her own conclusions.
But it’s not just my endocrinologist; I’ve noticed that people in general, when hearing that I am both asexual and transgendered, have a tendency to associate the two conditions in their mind. For example, I recall that a few years ago, when Nominatissima told one of her friends about my transgenderism (before I’d started transitioning), her first reaction was “Oh, well, no big surprise there!*” When, however, Nominatissima told her that I was also asexual, she changed tune and suggested “I think he should probably have his hormones checked.”
My mother also conflated the two, and once suggested (not in so many words) that I had started identifying as female because I felt that my lack of sexual desire somehow disqualified me the status of manhood. She back down once I explained to her that that was quite definitively not the case.
And, indeed, just last week a friend of mine suggested that my own body dysphoria had been masking my actual sexual inclinations, and that my ‘true’ orientation would become apparent to me only after I had transitioned. Now, of course, I can’t disprove this assertion, but it seems rather rubbishy to me, on the grounds that, when I imagine sex as a woman, it seems no more appealing to me than it did when I imagined it as a man. To be honest, I have the impression that this particular friend was less trying to make an argument than they were trying to keep the possibility of having sex with me alive in their own mind.
I’m not sure why this particular conflation is so common. I mean, there has been a long history of people misconstruing transgenderism and homosexuality as being the same thing, and perhaps asexuality is an uncommon enough orientation that people who should know better are still willing to fall into the same trap. But in general, I think that the main reason has to do with the common belief that both conditions (as Nominatissima’s friend suggested above) must be related in some way to hormones. And for this reason, because these conditions, allegedly, have a proximate material cause, they are both very often dismissed as being illegitimate.
To this I can say only that: of course these conditions have material causes; they might even have related material causes. But here’s the thing: I have little doubt that every aspect of Human behaviour can ultimately be explained in terms of material causes. If asexuality or transgenderism can be caused by some arcane magic of ‘hormones,’ then it must necessarily follow that sexuality and cisgenderism must also be caused by hormones. That said, I fail to see how this makes either any less legitimate than anything else.
*She had previously been of the impression, based upon my mannerisms, that I was actually just very, very gay–a misconception which seems to be especially common amongst Americans for some reason.