All of us I think, start off life wondering if there is something wrong with us. I know I did but of course I had no clue what. Growing up I did all the things a normal middle class white boy does: I played baseball, shot hoops, tossed snowballs at cars, stole booze from my parents, skipped school, learned to hot wire the car, figured out how to use my dad’s Playboy magazines, how to make a bank shot in 8 ball and how to hide the smell of cigarettes proudly inhaled in the pool hall. But still, I suspected there was something different – something a little off about me.
My first really big clue occurred in junior high when I tried out for the school basketball team and realized to my utter horror that all the other boys had underarm hair and I had none. Of course, that fact alone turned me into a defensive minded player lest I have to shoot and reveal my lack hairy masculinity. I managed to survive High School and further physical embarrasments by learning to play the drums, becoming cool and never ever revealing my embarrasing lack of masculine features. I didn’t know it then but I had Kleinfelter’s Syndrome.
No one knew it then. No one knew what Kleinfelter’s Syndrome was until the early 80’s simply because medical science did not have the required tools, technolgies and abilities to see much less photograph a human chromosome. So, around age 30 or so I learned that what was different about me (in terms of underarm hair) is that I have 47 chromosomes instead of the normal 46. Boys are usually XY and girls are XX and me with my Kleinfelters are XXY.
Medically and psychologically speaking, having Kleinfelters doesn’t mean much. Sure, there are or can by physical symptoms (like no under arm hair at the free throw line) and studies suggest there can be some learning dis-advantages associated with the abnormality (I did get a doctors excuse to get me out of taking Spanish in grad school) but there isn’t anything really well defined and the abnormality effects something like 1 in 500 men. So there are guys walking around with an extra chromosome and neither they or anyone else has a clue. The only treatment per se is to take Testosterone injections so I started that one a weekly basis. Stuff started to happen. I started gaining weight, facial hair started sprouting and I started to feel more robust.
I continued to take Testosterone for about twenty years and the only side effect or symptoms I experienced when I was late getting a shot was a change in my metabolism and dare I say it – more gas. But then we moved to flyover country and I had no health insurance and getting the drug raised certain questions I didn’t want the health insurance industry to know about. Namely, that I had a pre-exisiting condition which would of course allow them to either charge me much more or simply deny medical coverage. I started weening myself off the Testosterone and I started paying attention to my self – to my moods, my thoughts, my energy levels, to my sexual desires and needs – in short, I used several Buddhist practices of mindfulness and concentrated awareness to monitor the changes I experienced with lesser and lesser amounts of Testosterone in my body. Interesting things began to happen.
The wife and I noticed in short order that when I had not had an injection for a lenght of time that my disposition was sunnier and we were much less prone to argue or fight. Of course, without further evidence, I assumed these observations were simply a sign that we were getting along better since moving from the big city and it’s attendant stress. Then, we decided to do some quasi-scientific tests using a control group of 1. Me. I took my usual amount of the drug and we watched and waited – we mindfully monitored the results. Soon it was clear, when I was taking Testosterone I was more selfish, more argumentative, more controlling, more cocky more arrogant. When I was not taking Testosterone I was more open, more loving, thoughtful and kind, more sincere and grateful – in short – my heart was open quite a bit more on average when I was not shot full of Testosterone than when I was.
So, long and short of it. I’ve stopped taking any Testosterone. I don’t miss it. Nothing I value has diminished in my life – my energies – my desires – my drives and of course the frequency of gas has also diminshed. Now I don’t know and have no clue as I am not a medical guy, that other men so gifted with Kleinfelters would be likewise advised to stop taking Testosterone. That would be a decision left to each person and their physicians. Physically I look like I always have – mentally I am just as brilliant as ever and spiritually I’ve found – for me – lacking Testosterone somehow makes it easier to keep my heart open to self and to others and to identify with and see myself deeply related to all those who have genetic / chromosomal differences.
Last thoughts: When I was growing up and long before I knew about the extra X and sometimes after I did – there were anxious moments and fearful thoughts – was I gay? Transgendered? Was I a female in a guy’s body? I used to believe that having the extra X was a bad thing. Now I believe it was a tremendous blessing. I’ve had a unique window on maleness – and what the male hormone of Testosterone does. I was given the gift of choice – and after having seen and felt what Testosterone does I’ve chosen for me – to be without it. Of course I still have little under arm hair and my free throw shooting still sucks. Oh well it is as people say – what it is.