I am glad I had the operation, given the situation I was in. It really was the best possible way forward, then.
Russell Reid, the psychiatrist, made a great deal of money privately treating trans women and others, using a style of treatment which was out of fashion in the NHS gender clinics where he had previously practised. If you went to “Uncle” Russell you would get a prescription for oestradiol, and a letter to your GP saying this was appropriate. If you went to him again, you would get a prescription for a testosterone suppressant. If you spent a year expressing female, you could get a letter recommending vaginoplasty. Later, under pressure from other gender psychiatrists, he accepted that the patient should be made to wait three months before starting hormones. This did not necessarily mean counselling, just three appointments rather than two to get the suppressants.
We gathered for the weekend, and Russell came to dinner on the Saturday night. He told us tales of his patients: I remember the shoe fetishist who did not want to present female, just wear high heels, who came in to Russell’s rooms dressed male, with high heels. Dr Reid told us his method. Most people never came back to him. Faced with the reality of taking hormones, a fantasist would back off. Those of us who went on to transition therefore self-selected, and it was right for us.
In November 2000 I went to my GP to be referred to the NHS gender clinic. In July 2001 I saw Dr Reid, and started taking Ovran. In April 2002 I changed my name and stopped presenting male, and in February 2004 I had the operation. I gave myself the time to be sure it was right for me. I was certain it was what I wanted.
I am wishing for another world, really: perhaps one with no second world war, where my grandfather did not die when my father was nine, with less collective trauma and a great spiritual awakening some time before 1950. A world where my distinctive masculinity, soft, gentle, peaceful, whatever, could be valued, nurtured and nourished, and so used in some way for the good of society; where I would not feel wrong, weak, inadequate, malformed, and wasted. Where I would have a better idea of the variety of ways in which men may relate to women, and so not tried to be another man and not myself in relationship, and so been unable to relate except superficially.
In the world I was in, I denied my softness, and created a hard shell. Inside the shell was a vulnerable bit, or real me, which I could not admit to myself. Transition, then, was the path I saw, the path offered, to let me be that vulnerable bit trapped inside. Yes, a man can be like this, if he is really a woman.
A paradox: I put on a wig, false breasts- even hip padding, initially, to make my figure more female- womens clothes; a performance, a disguise; so that I could be the real me. I could cease my toxic pretence and just be, more spontaneous, more free than ever before. I wanted the hormones, I wanted the operation, because I wanted the disguise to be as convincing as possible, or even I wanted to fit my own understanding of “trans woman/transsexual”, or I wanted to follow the rules of the game, for people who presented like that had the operation. Before then, I pushed my testicles up into my body and folded my penis back between my legs, and sat down to urinate- but that was not enough.
The female embodiment fantasies have a part to play in this too, of course. Here, I tell stories. They cannot both make sense, and be wholly true.
It was the way I found freedom! How could I not be profoundly grateful for that? I am proud that despite the huge difficulty of the way I have travelled I have found that freedom. It was a way my culture has worked out for men like me to be ourselves, and I took it.