Please bear with me a second, this isn’t technical, because I’m not that smart. I do tend to pick things up and put them in my purse for later and this is one of those things.

The Hedonic Calculus was a creation of a philosopher named Jeremy Bentham that helps measure how much pleasure VS pain will be created by a certain action. That’s it in a nutshell though there is quite a bit more to it. (That’s what “Google” Is for.)

So how does the Hedonic Calculus relate to being Trans*?

A friend of mine, Jessica Alexander recently described many Trans* people’s experience with Gender Dysphoria like this:

“Gender Dysphoria is so strong for those that transtion that the only choices are transition or die. Many people fight it so hard that it destroys their lives, relationships, etc., before they realize that it’s do or die.

I liken it to jumping from a burning building because it doesn’t take bravery to make that jump, just a lot of pain from the encroaching flames. Fortunately, some of us can sprout wings and fly but the other ones are too scorched from the flames to fly… except in spirit.” -Jessica

This fits Bentham’s Hedonic Calculus quite well. For too many of us, yours truly included, the intensity of the pain of dysphoria began to outweigh my fear of physical pain or even death. Yeah, it can get that bad…and does and that is a dangerous place to find oneself.

I have a dear friend who battles dysphoria daily because she will be denied the company of her grandchildren if she honors her true self. THAT is pain.

The Hedonic Calculus comes into play in less ominous ways – for instance weighing the collateral damage of transition; the effects on loved ones, your job and friends against the joy of having a weight lifted off that has been crushing you for most of your life.

Whether you know it or not, all but the most self absorbed of us weigh these ethical dilemmas all the time. The pleasure derived from a shopping trip VS the pain of receiving the credit card statement at the end of the month.

But back to Jessica’s analogy – if you are Trans* I’m sure you just nodded and said; “been there” or relate in a meaningful way. It really illustrates how bad it can get.

I can’t even estimate how many times people have said I was “courageous” or “heroic.” While I’m flattered and everyone, including me, would like to think of themselves that way, I don’t. The pain just got so bad that all I wanted was for it to stop…whatever the cost.

It’s not really even a choice.

The cost was very high indeed. I lost a 33 year marriage, my house, my job and most of my stuff. What I was able to salvage from the ashes was ME.  (I’m not looking for sympathy, I’m just using my experience as an example)

I miss all of those parts of my life that I had to let go of in order to be where I am today. Was it worth it?

What the Hell kind of question is that?

It’s the question I ask myself every day. I don’t anguish over it, attachment is something that can be quite destructive, and so I let it go. But what I do put a lot of effort into doing is making sure it IS worth it. I’m a work in progress and I have a long way to go, but instead of eyeing the destination, I’m absolutely reveling in my life. No day passes un-loved!

Living an authentic life as a Trans* person isn’t easy. It’s really hard as a matter of fact. But it has given me a lightness of being and a type of joy that for far too long was the stuff of dreams.

I don’t even know if there is a final destination. What I DO know is that I am going to enjoy every step of the journey…a journey away from the flames.


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  1. Jessica Alexander says:

    I will have to do do some research on Hedonic Calculus. Last year, I was trying to write a mathematical equation for transition as some sort of thought experiment and I think that theorem will help finish that off.

    For those of us with gender dysphoria, our Transition Threshold (TT) is > or = to the sum of the barriers (BS) to transition. For some of us, that threshold is much lower but the (BS) can always increase to meet or exceed the (TT). Jessica Alexander

  2. chrissyholm says:

    I too have experienced some losses in the wake of my transition but what I have gained and am gaining helps to offset the losses. Like a wild animal backed into a corner, I came out fighting (for my life) and I am winning.

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