Until the middle of 2015, my transition felt like an uninterrupted blast of forward momentum. Then, one stormy June night in Sydney, I had abdominal cramping. That unmistakable twisting, nauseous cramping. I began to panic, as it returned every evening for the next few days. The cramping lasted almost five days; I could hardly believe it. There was no blood, but after two and half years on T, the shock of that old sensation might as well have been a full blown period.
I assumed it must be connected to my reproductive system and more specifically my menstrual cycle. My doctor, however, was not a specialist in trans healthcare and all she could say was my T levels were fine. So, the next couple of months became a prolonged and haphazard reintroduction to female reproductive care, including blood tests and scans of my abdomen to find the cause of the pain.
At every appointment I clocked the initial confused look of practitioners, while appreciating their efforts to use gender-neutral language. I let utilitarian talk of ovaries, wombs and cycles wash over me while nodding gently. They were talking about that other body again. 'Just make it go away,' I thought, frustrated. And on top of the creeping return of dysphoria
, the physical pain was sometimes agonising.
Eventually I wound up at a private gynaecologist's office in the suburbs. She came highly recommended and by that point, I was willing to pay. I sat in the waiting room trying to focus on a podcast, trying to block out the women sitting around me. 'What are they thinking?' A teenage girl to my left whispered to her mother. I shifted on wooden armrests and raised my chin to signal a confidence – one I could not back up.
The gynecologist was cool as a cucumber. Within five minutes she gathered some first-hand information and needed no more of my Google-powered theorising. "You’ve got the strongest pelvic floor muscles I’ve ever encountered. Do you go to the gym a lot?" she asked. "I think you’ve been overtraining, sir. You’re having muscle spasms. Lay off the chin ups."
Still feeling happiness tinged with disbelief, I got a cramp that evening. This time I wasn’t afraid of what it might signal. I focused on consciously relaxing the muscle and the pain vanished. Rather than laying off anything at the gym, every time the pain came, I breathed and relaxed. Within a week, it stopped happening all together and I realised the bigger problem had been one of perception. The idea of revisiting my internal struggle between male and female had left me almost rigid with anxiety. If I had just been able to relax, I’d have felt fine.