I was presenting male, had no thought of transition, in fact self-identified as transvestite. I had not told anyone of this, and felt great shame. So I would buy women’s clothes compulsively and wear them, and I thought, well, I have a stressful job, if this is how I manage to relax, why not? It does no-one any harm. Then, after a week or so, I would throw them out, thinking, I am a man, this is unmanly and I do not want to be unmanly, so I will stop. Either of these positions seemed entirely sensible and acceptable to me. What I could not bear was oscillating madly between them. I lost count of the times I bought clothes and then threw them away.
So I saw my GP, who referred me to a psychiatrist, privately. The psychiatrist thought that I had transsexual tendencies, but nevertheless referred me to a psychologist who offered me the choice: we could work together to try and make me feel more comfortable with cross-dressing, or he could give aversion therapy. And I chose aversion therapy.
I stood in front of a huge mirror, in underwear then in a dress, while they sat behind me. One told me how ridiculous I looked, one told me how disgusted everyone- family, friends, colleagues, strangers- would be if they saw me, and how no-one could ever be attracted to me, looking like that. Then I dressed male again, left the clothes with them to dispose of, and did not dress again for six months.
After six months I saw the psychologist again, and he was impressed with how I had not lapsed in six months- and I took this, ridiculously, as permission to lapse.
In 1996, I decided I did not want to be a sad, lonely pervert: I wanted to be a happy, gregarious pervert. So I bought myself a wig, and joined the local TV/TS club.
There, I met Fiona, a TV who went out and about, who took me off for several weekends on her boat on the Norfolk Broads, and Barbara, who introduced me to the Sibyls. I had some wonderful weekends with the Sibyls, where on Saturday night we would put on our evening dresses and drink lots of wine and have earnest conversations about intention to transition and how frightening it was and was it really the right thing to do? And at the Northern Concord I felt a lot of the people were blokes down the pub, who happened to be dressed rather strangely, and I felt different from them. Through them I found the Metropolitan Community Church, which helped me to learn that I was acceptable to God with my idiosyncrasy, and there I met Carol, my first girlfriend with whom I had dressed female, and (not coincidentally) the first relationship I had which lasted more than two months.
I did not like my body hair, so I shaved it, and being unpractised at this, made two long scratches down the tendons on the backs of my hands. My colleague asked how I had done that, and so I went to her office and told her. It was so wonderful just to tell someone. She sympathised, rather than judged. It started to show me that the harshest judgments were in myself, not in others.
When I was considering transition, in 2000, I read that there was a distinction between primary and secondary transsexuals. Primary TSs were core TSs, who knew that something was wrong aged three, knew what it was aged five, might be smaller and more lightly built, looked female, and were attracted to men. They transitioned young. Secondary transsexuals transitioned in middle age or later, passed less well, and, worse, might be attracted to women. Some still used the repellent phrase “homosexual transsexual” for the male to female transsexual who was attracted to men: the phrase denies that the person is female. This categorisation did not really fit F-M TSs.
I think this is an attempt at categorisation on insufficient data, and also that it confuses the core phenomenon of transsexuality with individual human responses to it and the interaction of other characteristics. It was an attempt to understand and control the people seeking transition: which is of course much better than imagining that we are all deluded, and all should be refused.
But when I read that as a “True transsexual” or “Primary transsexual” I had to be attracted to men, it influenced me so that I denied that I was attracted to women. If I was not a true transsexual, it was obviously wrong for me to transition. I wanted to transition, and therefore I could not be attracted to women. Ridiculous as that is, I allowed it subconsciously to influence me for ten years after- until this, which ended like this.
In May 2000, I decided that I would do all I could to transition. I would seek a referral to a gender clinic, and see psychiatrists. And then I went to the Northern Concord and sat with the small group of transsexual people there, and hated them. Most did not have jobs. They seemed frightened and withdrawn. So, three days after deciding to transition, I decided I could not.
Later in May, I found my Inner Toddler, my “I Want”. This part of me had been suppressed in shadow, and in shadow it became something to fear. When I let her out she was Beautiful, though I still felt frightened of that energy.
I held a discussion between my male self, my female self, and my inner toddler, chaired by my inner rationalist. My inner toddler’s contribution was, “I want to wear skirts, and I want to walk down the street buying stuff”. Even though I thought when I decided to transition that my employer would find some unrelated excuse to sack me, wearing skirts was eventually more important. And that employer in fact supported me through my transition, and I worked for them for another four years before getting a better job in another organisation.
I had a great deal of counselling, mostly person centred, and the most valuable thing a counsellor ever said to me was “Of course you are transsexual!” And he frightened me off, and I did not see him again for another six months.
Eventually I realised that even if in five years’ time I would be trying to present male, transition was what I wanted Now, and trying it was the only way to work out whether it was right for me. I thought about autogynephilia, and secondary transsexualism, and decided that of the two questions “Am I transsexual?” and “Should I transition?” the second was the most important, and Yes was the answer I wanted.
And so at the end of November 2000, I went to my GP, and asked for a referral to a psychiatrist.
I had things I had to do before I could transition. I wanted to make a good start on electrolysis, as shaving closely enough to go out dressed made my skin sensitive, and I needed in any event to let my facial hair grow for two days before it could be electrolysed. I had four hours of electrolysis a week. I wanted speech therapy, because my voice was one of the things most likely to get me read as TS.
I found the speech therapy very difficult. The therapist told me that rather than doing half an hour at a time, I should take a minute, say, on the stairs in the office, or going to work, with an exercise. This did my head in. It was already bad enough spending the weekend female, and then on Monday morning having to go into work presenting male. I was not easy to be with on Monday mornings. Then I would do a voice exercise, and connect to my female self at random times each day, then have to impose the male mask again. It was intolerable.
I woke at four am, which is never a good time to make a decision, thinking of my colleague Vicky. Vicky had noticed herself being “clumsy”, this had become serious enough for a referral to a neurologist, and three years after her diagnosis with MS she was in a wheelchair. And I felt such envy of her, because she was accepted as female, that I would have swapped places with her. So I thought, that is it, I have to transition as soon as I can. That was six weeks before I transitioned at work.
Now, I feel occasional pangs of envy of a well-dressed woman with a particularly gorgeous figure, but am happy in myself, on the whole.