Asylum Androgyny

Hysteria, from the Greek word hysteros, meaning womb.

Bethlam Royal Hospital. London. 1889.

I expressed experiencing dreadful jitters, anorexia, insomnia, fatigue, and bilious emesis. My femininity was revealed prior to introductions, leaving me prejudged. Prematurely diagnosed. Exposed as a reincarnation of Anna O., they scribbled vapid notes, making a fool of me and shaming Dr. Breuer. Lacking both elegance and perception, they scratched pencil to paper, summarizing my being into regurgitated medical terminology. Vomit – a hollow medical degree laced with privilege and void of philosophy.

I was overshadowed by my uterus, condemned to a diagnosis of ‘hysteria’ by virtue of my physiology. No discussion, no assessment of the functionality of my organs, no mention of the possibility that, if it truly were hysteria from which I suffered, perhaps the solution may be found in biology, not psychology.

Female. Uterus. Hysterical. 

No regard for the complexity of human anatomy, no consideration given to the intricacy of the endocrine system. My body, forced into a rhythm of menstrual regularity, revolted. I am a woman. I am hysteria incarnate. A silk gown drenched in sweat. Barefaced, bare feet, blood and bones. A medical experiment.

A week later, I presented myself in my masculine form. I expressed experiencing dreadful jitters, anorexia, insomnia, fatigue, and bilious emesis. With no uterus to cloud their judgement, they scratched pencil to paper: Possible negative reaction to serious outside stressors or a malfunctioning of a pivotal physiological system. Endocrine system should be thoroughly tested. 
And it was, for no man would naturally experience symptoms of hysteria without a womb to cause them. I am a man. A silk robe drenched in sweat. Barefaced, bare feet, blood, bones… and flesh.

How does one suffer from having a womb? Simple. You become seen through it, overshadowed by it, understood amateurishly by virtue of possessing it.

I was once a man who suffered from hysteria, cured by denying the simplistic approach of a gendered body.

© Leila Chammas, March 1, 2017.

A Boxer, a Van, and a Tortoise.

I was standing in an open garage and looked out to the front lawn to see a white plastic table, about 3 feet tall, with a huge tortoise on top of it. It was hidden inside its shell. To the right, a dusty, emerald-green minivan parked at an angle. Not accidentally or with any indication of emergency. Rather, it was parked calmly and eerily with intention at an angle. An aging boxer was remarkably sitting in the driver’s seat, the fur on his face had faded to white around his eyes and jowls.

I walked over to the van and the boxer jumped out of the open window and stood, barking at me. Two cars passed by – one red, one blue. I don’t think there was any significance in the coloring of the vehicles; I just happened to remember them. I tried to coax the dog to approach me so that I might grab his leash. However, in a flash, he had jumped into another car, crashed it into the side of the garage, and was running through the open garage door and into the house, an excessively long leash trailing behind him. Meanwhile the tortoise, still hidden in its shell, had turned itself to face me as I watched, in shock, a dog I could not command run with a speed I could not match, through a house I was not in. Inside, they shrieked and screamed.

I wasn’t afraid of the boxer. I was worried he would get hurt, confused by the tortoise on the plastic table, and mystified by the parked van.

I then woke up, stressed, as I often do.

© Leila Chammas, December 22, 2016.