How could it not be a sex thing? But, so what?
I am walking in the park, and there are many sensual pleasures- the last of the blackberries, the sun and wind, those high trees with long, pale, grey-green leaves- but the one which pleases me most is this long, full silk skirt. It’s Monsoon. I love the feel of it on my legs and the way it moves in the wind, the shapes it makes. It’s a bit of a turn-on, actually. The lining is less full, ending just above the knee, and if I stride too far it is a little restricting. I love this skirt.
James Cantor coined the term “Euphilia” to mean sexual drives which unite two people. “Sweet-love”. Good, nice, normal, neatly including gays as well as straights, for Dr Cantor is gay. Then there’s paraphilia, “beside-love”, sexual stimulation from non-sexual causes. This is only a bad thing- a “disorder”- if it causes distress to the subject or others- no, I should not steal clothes from washing lines, and too great shame about something which harms no-one is unhealthy.
All that shame has done me no good. Shame about what aroused me and what I desired has been the greatest pain of my transition journey, perhaps of my life. And here I am in the park, enjoying my skirt. I am not going to disturb walkers whom I greet as we pass. You get aroused? Welcome to the human race! It’s so much better than being a panda, pandas are dying out: the drive needs to be this strong to make people bring children up to adulthood, and is bound to have side-effects. People are aroused a lot of the time. We don’t act on it but don’t need windows into others’ souls. I judge myself for everything: I should accept pleasure where I can find it. I fear everything: I should learn not everything is a threat.
In my state of regret at the moment, wishing I had retained my sexual organs, I recall how I felt: how expressing female was lovely, and presenting male went from dull to unpleasant to unbearable. I worked hard to resist it, as we all do. I feel no shame at failure. There was no failure, the problem was the shame which made me resist. I would have been much higher-functioning had I not had to deal with this war within myself for so long. It is a compulsion, and no-one has the right to demand that you torture yourself by resisting it: not even your wife, even if she did not know before marriage and you have young children.
It is more than a sex thing. It is how I express who I am, all my beauty and creativity; but humans are sexual animals, and transition is part of that. The craving for the operation came from the necessity of passing as a woman rather than the desire to transition.
When I was considering transition, from 1998, when I transitioned at work, 2002, and when I had the operation in 2004, in my milieu people were divided into transvestites, sexual perverts who were disgusting or at least ridiculous, and transsexuals who were women. But non-op transsexuals were dodgy: not really transsexual, probably something less, even if they said they could not have the operation because a heart complaint. Some of this was fear and internalised transphobia. We felt we could say, but I am transsexual: I have a medical condition, and the treatment is hormones and gender confirmation surgery. I am not like those perverts over there.
That was how it was for me. It is much easier now to be trans and not have the op, and some people don’t; and people who do, do so because they have a need to feel comfortable in their own bodies. F-M chest surgery is about how you are perceived by others as well as how you perceive yourself, but a penis may be tucked away out of sight, even in tight jeans.
I felt great shame. I was aroused by thinking of myself as female or female-bodied, and by clothes- though not all the time, more and more they became just nice to wear. I was put off the thought of transition by the spectre of autogynephilia: I thought I was a pervert. My wet dreams were about cross-dressing and I found that of all the shame the most shameful: I could not be aroused by another person, only my own fantasy.
The Script increased the shame. Don’t tell the psychiatrist that, or you won’t get treatment. Tell him (yes, well) that you knew there was something wrong aged 2 and knew that you were a girl aged 5. Later, when I told a psychiatrist I had no thought of cross-dressing before age 14 and no thought of transition before my thirties, he said lots of people were like that, if they’re honest.
Then I decided, transition was what I wanted more than anything else in the world, and why I wanted it did not matter.
I had not had a satisfying emotional relationship, because I hid my real self behind my manly shell. I had not had a satisfying sexual relationship. I had some idea of what I was supposed to do in bed with another, but none of what I might like; and so I had the operation because of social pressure. That was what I understood I had to do, to be acceptable. I wanted to be accepted in society. For that, the law said I must be proposing to undergo, is undergoing or has undergone a process (or part of a process) for the purpose of reassigning the person’s sex by changing physiological or other attributes of sex.
Transition has enabled me to be myself. It is the human condition to be stuck between wanting to be onesself and wanting to fit in, and as we mature into middle-age we work that out better, work out a reasonable compromise, or ways round the most intrusive demands. And where I was, how I was, trapped in that fake masculinity, complete rejection was the only way to go.
It is not just, I am not a man like that, therefore I must be a woman. I fit cultural ideas of femininity. Or, I don’t know, that’s whistling in the dark, possibly I just tell myself that because transition is better than trying to man up by, say, joining the territorial army. Whatever. At least, it is not completely that I am Unmanly, Untermensch, less than a Man, but different, and Good, worthwhile; and I have some similarity to cultural understandings of a woman. And, I am Clare, rather than generic either.
At least transition has let me be more myself than I was before. There was the social pressure to fit this box marked Man, but the one marked Transsexual- including gender confirmation surgery- was more comfortable. It has been an essential part of my journey. It was what I wanted, more than anything else in the world.
This blog explains what transsexuality is for me. This page is the gateway to it.