So Hormonal – essay 4 from the anthology

Short posts on each of the essays from So Hormonal – A Collection of Essays on Hormones published by Monstrous Regiment, Edinburgh. Edited by Emily Horgan and Zachary Dickson with a foreword by Karen Havelin.

The Self-Made Body, personal growth and steroids by Michael Collins

This honest and touching essay is about steroid use for bodybuilding, and such a description does not usually match that type of topic. Michael Collins is right, I had a critical preconception about this subject, far away as it is from my own way of thinking. I knew nothing about the subject and hadn’t bothered to find out, nor do I know anyone who bodybuilds in this way. Once again (this was the case with The Waiting Room by Hidden Ink Child) I do have some idea now, and am grateful that my outlook has expanded a little, and my understanding with it.

In his essay, Collins is saying, ‘This is me!’, and he goes to the trouble of explaining, in detail, why and how he takes steroids even though it is dangerous to do so. It is interesting in that ‘Oh… really?…oh!’ sort of a way – sometimes I winced and sometimes I was surprised. I was also convinced. The writing has an ease about it (having read a few of these essays now, I would suggest that is the mark of the editors), and there’s nothing extraneous. What there is, as I read on, is a plea, for people – his family and loved ones especially – to hear and accept him. I think we all of us want that, and so I finished this essay feeling compassion and a sense of shared humanity.

It really is a very important thing that Monstrous Regiment have done here – to give a voice to these authors. Though they may have one in various specialist sectors of social media, they have probably not come onto paper before in quite this way. Publishing these writers one at a time would have been impressive, but to gather them together into this one volume increases the power of, and validtaes what they are saying. Of course, these folk should be, are, valid in their own right, but as so many are in fact marginalised, it is a great service that this very small and young publishing company have done for them.

So Hormonal was fully paid for by Crowd Funding, so all praise must also go to those individuals who liked the idea enough to put their private money behind it, even during a time of pandemic when so many are struggling without work and pay.

Available from The Portobello Bookshop and Lighthouse

So Hormonal – essay 3 from the anthology

Short posts on each of the essays from So Hormonal – A Collection of Essays on Hormones published by Monstrous Regiment, Edinburgh. Edited by Emily Horgan and Zachary Dickson with a foreword by Karen Havelin.

Getting Off the Back Foot with Male Fertility Health by Tyler Christie

There is a short, personal introduction to Tyler Christie’s essay about fertility and, particularly the part men and their sperm can play in that process. It tells of how he always imagined that his future would involve having children, but how hard it was at the start. He allows his vulnerability to come through and it’s a poignant read.

The remainder of the essay has more of the tone of an informative website, and soon it becomes apparent that he and his wife have set up an organisation, Parla, which provides support and advocacy for those who need it. This little-known subject deserves such attention, and it is admirable that the author puts his hand up and takes responsibility on behalf of men in general. As he acknowledges, it is commonly assumed that women and their bodies are at the centre of any issues, so this is a refreshing and honest approach. There are useful statistics and practical tips, and the piece will undoubtedly raise awareness.

Available from The Portobello Bookshop and Lighthouse

So Hormonal – essay 2 from the anthology

Short posts on each of the essays from So Hormonal – A Collection of Essays on Hormones published by Monstrous Regiment, Edinburgh. Edited by Emily Horgan and Zachary Dickson with a foreword by Karen Havelin.

The Waiting Room by Hidden Ink Child

From a no woman’s land comes this heartfelt essay from someone with a male gender presentation who must suffer the ignominy of sitting in waiting rooms labelled ‘Women’s Health’ because he has endometriosis. Constantly faced with places which are unwelcoming (although sometimes the people are great – a big thankyou to that nurse who gave you a hug) the author must choose to explain or just sit there feeling ‘Me and my uterus do not exist in this space.’ (p14)

Examining a range of experiences from different angles, the reader can feel the distress and justified anger, but there is enough distance to be able to think about it at the same time – I really sat up when it became clear that the change in the doctor’s response to pain (and therefore to giving pain killers) was because of presenting as male, not female.

This essay is essential reading for people like me who cannot know what it’s like, but are ready to empathise. Now I do have some idea because I can hear about it in Hidden Ink Child’s own voice. I hope we don’t have to wait too long before the rest of the NHS and others catch up.

Available from The Portobello Bookshop and Lighthouse

So Hormonal – essay 1 from the anthology

Short posts on each of the essays from So Hormonal – A Collection of Essays on Hormones published by Monstrous Regiment, Edinburgh edited by Emily Horgan and Zachary Dickson with a foreword by Karen Havelin

No Country for Neurodivergent Women, Addressing Undiagnosed ADHD and Cluster Headaches by Donna Alexander

There’s a great mix of objective fact and subjective sharing in this piece – I learned a lot, felt both informed and sympathetic, without once feeling obligated to pity. In writing like this, particularly in terms of identifying a cause for these two challenging hormonal disorders, it’s hard to find a balance between chemistry and upbringing, but Alexander achieves it. Ireland doesn’t come out so well, but things seem to be moving in the right direction. Using a well-known TV programme and two equally famous films to illustrate, makes it all the more approachable, and anyway it is not bleak as there is subtle humour in both the choice of language and anecdotes. There are some sweet phrases – on p. 5 she describes her childhood den behind the sofa as ‘a cradle in the absence of comfort’ – and the writing is silky smooth.

Donna Alexander is @americasstudies on twitter

Available from The Portobello Bookshop and Lighthouse