The operation

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.

7 thoughts on “The operation

  1. this does represent a whole other side of the equation versus your post of yesterday Clare. I present female with the wig and the false breasts so that I can behave and interact as a female except that I am certain whether going all the way would improve my situation. Am I still not me just in a different wrapper and why do I need to alter my genitals to do this? this is not me criticizing you as much as expressing the question I have asked myself for years now.

    It is not an easy one to answer and I don’t have it but fear of that great leap and uncertainty that it will lead to perfect resolution keeps me where I am. I am also not certain that I wouldn’t be trading one problem for a new set of problems because this is how life often works.


    • Well, indeed. You should not have the op unless you are certain you want it. If you want a relationship with a man it might be right, and it may make you smell more like a woman and have softer skin; and it just might feel right, or make you feel right with yourself. Anyone who wants it should be able to have it.

      The hostiles point out most trans women don’t- “Would women tolerate these men in our lavatories if they knew most of them still have penises???” they exclaim, hoping to instill Horror- but I think people who can tolerate post-op trans women can probably tolerate any trans* folk.

      Have you posted on FEFs? I wanted to write about Julia Serano’s concept, but wanted to hat-tip to the other source that referred me there, and I can’t remember where it was.


  2. I speak from afar as experience in the field of transgender has bypassed me but I always get to think that while operation/s are physically important and may fill one with added good emotions the self- acknowledgment and acceptance and determination are that which probably makes one the happiest. I say that especially after having seen this week’s Australian Story documentary on TV – very potent indeed and perhaps, Clare, had your dad lived he may have been a rock for you to lean on despite the fact that those days were unforgiving in many unorthodox practices or leanings.


    • Thank you for the link. Georgie Stone seems attractive and articulate, and surely the court is the wrong place to decide on treatment for children. Leave it to the doctors, the parents and the child themself. She has avoided the masculine features and male voice which would otherwise dog her.

      And, yes. Self-acceptance is the thing, but it is an ongoing process if not managed young.


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