I met H at long intervals, because I did not go to Edinburgh much; and during her affair she told me with great excitement that she was lesbian. Not bisexual, despite being married with children, but lesbian. She was still living with her husband, only out of convenience. Then she went back to him, and I have not seen her again, but heard her embarrassment: she had told me that, and after our friendship would be different. At another occasion H got out her quaich, and the whole group drank together; and she was delighted when I told her she had made me feel more Scots than I had for a long time.
My friend’s wise husband, who wishes me well, observed that when I would say something important I would digress into some long story. Oh, dive in. This led to that, and there, and there, and your projected academic study of Transsexualism will take a similar line if you ever write it, and it is you I want to convince, and I know I cannot, because you too see the oppression of human females and loathe it.
I am freed to be myself by my transition. It is so much better. And you would tell me that is a partial liberation at a terrible cost, overseen administered enforced by patriarchy, which contributes to the patriarchal system of lies, and so the oppression of others. The case for that: One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman. No biological, psychological, or economic fate determines the figure that the human female presents in society; it is civilization as a whole that produces this creature, intermediate between male and eunuch, which is described as feminine. So said Simone de Beauvoir.
It is not true that women think emotionally, men rationally. Women may think rationally. Women are forced by cultural conditioning into being submissive, dependent, emotional, receptive, intuitive, timid, passive, sensitive- bonsai comes to mind- when if allowed to develop and mature without such conditioning they might be rational, etc. The conditioning is not as severe as it was, in some areas: The amount of women [under 40] who had good careers in traditional male fields – aeronautics, accountancy, engineering, civil eng, architecture, for example, was amazing. It is still noticed, not normal enough to be unremarkable; but it is happening.
Part of the pain I am feeling right now is that I think emotionally, and I really need that to be valued. It is beautiful! It is!
You see, transition was liberation. I could be me. It terrified me completely. There we were at the Sibyls in our evening gowns, at three in the morning, surrounded by wine bottles, and the conversation as it always was:
-Could we make a go of it?
-Could we possibly avoid it?
I decided I had to transition, in June 2000. Then I went to the Northern Concord and joined the transsexuals, and decided I could not. They had such awful, restricted lives: no job, little social life
(God, that’s ironic, that is how I am now)
and I decided I could not. But then at the Sibyls I met women who were surviving well enough, and I knew I had to try. I thought my employer would find an excuse to dismiss me, and I still had to try.
My first speech therapist told me I should not practise her exercises for half an hour at a time, but in spare moments- walking up the stairs in the office, for example. So I would glissando down from my highest counter-tenor point, to just above the break, to find my ideal pitch, and then I would go to my desk. It messed with my head completely. At the time, I would express myself female at the weekend, go to the Quaker meeting and MCC, and then revert to presenting male on Monday morning. That Monday feeling, squared. I was not easy to be with. Liberation, then putting the leg-irons on again. But with this speech exercise, I would be me on the stairs, and revert on getting back to my desk, several times a day. I could not bear it. I woke at 4am thinking of Vicky, with her MS never in remission, in a wheelchair and dying, and I envied her. I would have swapped places with her.
I have told these stories before, here; I tell them again because I am back in that confusion. I feel the hostility. Possibly I should not go there, but, well, I love you and so I am committed. And your kind reasonableness in challenging the authenticity of my change is worse than ridicule.
You might say, I never wanted to be a woman at all, just perhaps feminine, which- except as a Patriarchal construct- has no link to women’s potential separately from that construct. I am proof that males can be feminine.
I should not put words in your mouth. I am trying to understand.
The way I saw to be myself was to express myself female. I changed my name, wore women’s clothes, had my ears pierced, wore a wig as my hair is so thin. Well, Patriarchal views of Manliness fits men as badly as femininity fits women, as Wxhluyp keeps asserting. It came as a package. I spent four hours a week undergoing electrolysis, which was particularly painful on the upper lip, because I needed to pass. I took synthetic oestrogen, and goserelin to suppress testosterone, for the same reason. I was still abused in the street. In the Quaker meeting I repeatedly broke down weeping. I curled up on the floor in my bathroom, weeping, repeating: “I am not a man”.
Would thinking emotionally but presenting male really have been so much more difficult? Was it merely that I did not conceive of the possibility?
However, surgery was not necessary to pass. There is a simple technique, called “tucking”: push the testicles back up the inguinal canal whence they descended at puberty, fold the penis back between the legs, hold it back with surgical tape or tight knickers, and behold- no larger a bump than the average mons veneris. I could have passed well enough in tight jeans, even a swimming costume, leave alone the feminine full skirts I wore. I did, for nearly two years.
Yet I wanted the surgery. I got more and more depressed, then had it, and was not depressed any more. Steps towards it delighted me. Setbacks made me despair. I had the identity I craved, but it was not enough.
So I say that wanting surgery is who I am. I could not be manipulated into it, however strong the pressure. I find cutting off my little toe an appalling prospect.
You have made your way, despite patriarchy. You think as you, not as some feminine construct. More and more people do. Why should not I? Why should I not be authentically me, as a human being, rather than a victim of patriarchal lies?
The mutilation is appalling. Removal of gonads is a monstrous thing to do to almost everyone- apart from the few of us for whom it is simply right. Weirdward, linked above, shows how women who love and have physical relationships with women can still reject the label “lesbian” as if being lesbian was somehow less, “marrying and having children” better, even for those women who feel natural attraction to women. They imbibe that falsehood from patriarchy. She finds Simone de Beauvoir clear and relevant on how women are forced into “femininity”, but wrong, parroting old false ideas about lesbians. Some, de Beauvoir thought, would have physiological differences:
A female of vigorous, aggressive, exuberant vitality prefers to exert herself actively and commonly spurns passivity; ill-favoured, malformed, a woman may try to compensate for her inferiority by assuming virile qualities; if her erotic sensitivity is underdeveloped, she does not desire masculine caresses.
Weirdward draws comparisons between this and modern trans theory. She asserts her own validity beautifully, yet denies mine. Of course it is part of ordinary human diversity, natural and right, that some women are lesbian. Of course forcing them into the procrustean bed of heterosexuality, leave alone the whole patriarchal construct of femininity, is wrongful. Let us all be ourselves. Except trans women.
Whether I should be allowed into “women’s space” is a separate argument. Whether de Beauvoir’s words on lesbians is useful trans theory, also: we observe people like me; why need any explanation how I got this way at all? Not “because patriarchy” but “because humanity”- human beings are wonderfully diverse and strange, and people with testicles have been dressing as women for thousands of years.
The heart has reasons reason knows not of. There was my desire for physical alteration. It simply was; it was the most important thing in my life, besides which nothing mattered. I feel my desire harms no-one, so why ever not? But then, I do think emotionally.
To really understand this post, you must read my next one.