(heads up: contains stuff about health and bodies and dysphoria and stuff)
This week I was told I have PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome), and because I am the type of person I am, I have spent much of the last two days doing research. Trying to understand what is going on in my body, and trying to figure out which of my multiple chronic health issues might be tied in with pcos. For those unfamiliar and now worried: it’s not something life-threatening, and it’s actually extremely common. There is no cure but it’s manageable, although my odds of developing some other, more dangerous things, like diabetes, are now higher than normal.
This is scary, but also a relief; a known problem can be addressed in ways that a nebulous feeling of something being wrong cannot. Maybe dealing with this health issue will clear up some others. I feel sort of hopeful and excited in addition to worried and overwhelmed.
The thing about this diagnosis that is somewhat taking me by surprise is the dysphoria of it. So much of the information about PCOS is focused on concerns about fertility, conception, pregnancy, childbirth, passing on genes. The issue itself is often framed as “too much testosterone”, “excessive body hair”, “masculinization of the body”. (From what I understand, this could *also* be framed as “too much estrogen”, because if I’m not mistaken PCOS causes high levels of both testosterone and estrogen and low progestin, but also I’m not a scientist.)
As a genderqueer person with ovaries in my body, I am not loving spending this much time thinking vividly about those ovaries, and–the bigger problem–the expectations and attitudes put upon my body.
So here are just a few things I want to think through in type, mostly for myself.
Not everyone with a uterus wants to bear children. (Many do, and I absolutely wish them health and happiness in that endeavor! But this shouldn’t be your default assumption about strangers.)
Not everyone with ovaries is a woman, and some women do not have ovaries. Gender is not determined by genitals, or hormones, or secondary sex characteristics, or even by deliberate decisions you may make about genitals and hormones and secondary sex characteristics.
A hormonal imbalance is something to be addressed due to the stresses it puts on the body and the potential hazards of underlying problems with the body’s systems that may be causing that imbalance–not because it’s inherently “bad” for a female body to be “masculinized”.
I am still myself regardless of how much hair I do or do not have on my legs, or how I feel about my body, or how my moods may fluctuate. I am still myself regardless of whether symptoms I have been dealing with for a long time get better, or worse, or stay the same, or change. I am always myself, regardless of how I feel about my gender. I am always myself, regardless of any and all diagnoses I have received or will receive. I hope to heal my body, and to learn that body’s needs and serve them as best I can, with love and without judgement.