My longtime girlfriend/life partner, Ashtyn, is studying psychology at a University. One of the things she finds the most amusing about the field is that nearly everything that goes wrong in a person’s life can be blamed on their parents. Well, I actually can blame this one on my parents…literally. You see, I was born with a neuromuscular disease that is known as Spinal Muscular Atrophy. The disease is autosomal recessive, which means that I had to get two SMA genes, one from each parent. So, this is definitely my parents’ fault!
All kidding aside, I was misdiagnosed at age four with Werdnig Hoffman and Anterior Horn Cell disease, also known as Spinal Muscular Atrophy Type I. SMA Type I is the leading genetic killer of infants and toddlers. In reality, my actual diagnosis is Kugelberg Welander, also known as Spinal Muscular Atrophy, Type III. This is a milder type of the same disease, with a much longer life expectancy. I have less muscle weakness than those with Type I. In fact, I was able to walk until I was nearly 16.
My disease gets progressively worse over time, and I also suffer from scoliosis and asthma (breathing problems) as a result. All of the SMAs affect the Anterior Horn cells, so Anterior Horn Cell disease accompanies the original diagnosis. My maternal Grandmother noticed I walked like a mechanical doll when I was two. I was throwing my left leg out, when I walked, so I was taken to a pediatric orthopedist, who said I had been born without a left hip socket. They were able to reform the hip by making me wear a hip abduction sling for a year, but my left leg and hip have always been weaker than my right. The doctor said I’d probably need a new hip by the time I was in my 30s.
After I got out of the hip abduction sling, I couldn’t climb steps. I wouldn’t go down steps without crawling or holding on to something or someone and I had to crawl or be lifted up them. This brought on a series of tests to see what was wrong with me. Around the same time, my dad lost his job and we lost our health insurance. It was pretty much the wrong time for something like this to happen and I’m not sure my mother ever forgave me for it.
I ended up connecting with the Muscular Dystrophy Association of Northwest Ohio. They did an EMG (very painful!) and a muscle biopsy on me. That’s when I received my diagnosis. I spent a lot of time in physical therapy. I had to wear AFOs (plastic braces) on my feet, special shoes and night splints to prevent foot drop. I started using an electric scooter when I was 11 and went into a wheelchair full time at 16. This was after I had life-saving Spinal Fusion surgery. After the surgery I was very sick, but am happy to report, I’m alive today.
In 2003, right before my last year of college, I fell during a transfer from wheelchair to shower chair (I use to do a standing transfer, where I’d hold myself up with my arms, and chairs were moved behind me). As a result, I fractured my left tibia. It has led to many other health problems, I had to leave school to recover, and I can no longer stand at all. I now depend on a Hoyer lift to get me in and out of bed.
Okay - I'm this woman from Iowa and we aren't 'hip' to GLBT and trans guy. Explain that to me gently please.
All those acronyms can be confusing to people. That is part of why gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered individuals are so confusing to the vast majority of the world. The initials really aren’t as important as what they mean. First, I should make it clear that it is probably wrong to lump gays, lesbians and bisexuals with transgendered individuals. Yes, we are both oppressed by the majority, but that’s where the similarities end. There is a major difference between sexual orientation and gender. That is the difference between these classifications.
When you think of sexual orientation, you think about who you love. It’s who you are attracted to and who you wish to date, end up with, marry, etc. Anyone of any gender can identify as gay, lesbian, straight, bisexual or somewhere in the middle. Kinsey said sexual orientation was fluid, which means that it is like the ebb and flow of a person’s life. Of course, he also believed that the tide didn’t flow too much. A good example of this is the bisexual person who is more attracted to men early in life and more attracted to women, later in life. Always bisexual, but the fluidity of their sexuality may change slightly. I identify, personally, as straight.
Transgenderism is about gender. It is about the “acceptable” genders, which are male and female. Some of us feel like we were born in bodies that don’t fit our brains. Those are the people who are transgendered. I don’t really want to get into discussions on third genders, those who are confused, people who have both male and female characteristics (intersex individuals – once called hermaphrodites), or the like because none of these things pertain to me. They’re a bit more confusing. If you’d like to know more about these topics, I suggest Googling them.
So what are you then?
For me, I was born with biologically female parts, but the mind of a male. I see myself as a male. I don’t want to keep these parts. I’m willing to have surgery, take hormones, and change my appearance to look more male; to look the way I already see myself. I don’t have the desire to keep my female parts and have children. If my girlfriend can’t have more children, we’ll adopt!
I’m pretty much the average guy. I like to play wheelchair football and other sports, watch sports, play video games, check out hot cars, and do other things more masculine individuals enjoy. I can tell you this though. It isn’t a choice. It takes a lifelong dedication of injections, medical surgeries and a lot more to be transgendered. I honestly don’t know anyone who’d choose this path willingly.
So what causes people to be transgendered?
Nobody really knows for sure what causes people to be transgendered. It is becoming clear to researchers that the cause is biological and/or genetic. One theory is that in utero, an FTM (female to male) transgendered individual has extra testosterone washing over the brain, in turn masculinizing it. The same is true with MTFs (male to females) and estrogen. All I know is that looking back I’ve always felt like a boy. I just had so many other issues I was dealing with that they kind of masked all of this until I was older.
For those wondering, I identify and see myself as a straight male. I am dating a biological female and her entire family sees me as a male, as well. I’m just your normal, average guy who is just trying to live his life to the best of his ability.
Dom's story is not a short one. I will be posting his story this weekend and next weekend. I invite you to come back tomorrow for the next installment! I also ask that you visit www.ahouse4dom.com and give!