Orchiectomy III

Testicles have such strong cultural associations. They are the symbol of manliness, in its best sense: the man who toils and does not look for rest, who does all that is demanded of him and achieves his goals. If he doubts his ability to do something he is told to “grow a pair”. Does he have the balls to take on a task? Even women are asked that.

You have committed to transition, and you are taking oestrogen and a testosterone suppressant. My psychiatrist used this as a diagnostic tool: a sexual fantasist would not want to, as their libido would decrease. They would be cross-dressed without arousal, and might get bored of it. Or, the test is whether you like the way you are on this treatment. If you like it, it is right for you.

Unfortunately, some patients don’t see it that way. They have decided that transition is right for them, and they see transition as being a single process, involving set steps. You get hormone treatment, before or after changing your name and ceasing to present male. You have hair removal and possibly facial feminisation or baldness treatments. Vaginoplasty completes the process. We observe that we pass better as we have more practice, so the “real life test” shows life getting better as there is less abuse in the street, and we find presenting male more and more unpleasant.

I was willing to tolerate discomfort, in the belief that life would get better. I also felt that vaginoplasty was part of transition. Now, I want to help others in transition consider it as a matter of discrete steps. It is not just one process, one binary choice, either stay presenting male or change name and have hormones and surgery. It is, what is right for you? One person I knew felt she had to stay presenting male for her career, but had GRS.

I also want it to stop being a question of identity. “I am a trans woman. Trans women need surgery.” I am a human being. Human beings pursue a variety of paths.

The alternatives- transition as one process, involving change of name and presentation, hormones and surgery, where you go through the process tolerating the discomfort believing life will get better, or give up completely and revert; and transition as a number of choices,

Transition is often seen as one process involving surgery: there are reports of people feeling elation after surgery, because the process is completed, only to suffer depression up to a year later, because their lives have not improved.

So one of the choices is whether to have an orchiectomy. This is far less invasive surgery than vaginoplasty. It means you stop needing testosterone suppressants. And, though taking oestrogen with testosterone suppressants will reduce your sexual desire, fertility, and ability to sustain an erection, doctors assert that while fertility changes may be irreversible, changes to erectile function and libido may be reversible. Orchiectomy drastically reduces your natural production of testosterone, and is irreversible.

Cordelia Fine asserts that these characteristics of pluck and determination are seen as Manly not because of the effects of testosterone, but because of Patriarchy. It takes balls to have an orchiectomy- it is a sign of courage and commitment.

What I want, for people considering transition or surgery, is to reduce their symbolic power. As a symbol, testicles are a sign of Manliness. But as Germaine Greer said, “I don’t believe a woman is a man without a cock”. Oestrogen and testosterone suppressant will help you pass better. Orchiectomy will help you pass better. But it won’t make you less of a man, more of a woman, or even less of a weirdo. You can’t escape being a weirdo, I am afraid: that you are considering surgery makes you very unusual indeed. But being a weirdo is not a bad thing.

Why would you want the effects to be irreversible? That’s a symbol, again, of your determination and commitment, and certainty that you have chosen the right path. Symbols are expensive. You have a right to be you without bearing so much cost.

26 thoughts on “Orchiectomy III

  1. Clare, I find your musings very helpful. I’m on the brink of starting hrt, and believe if I don’t, the Sirens will continue to call and I will be filled with regret. I do believe some degree of ffs is in order, however I have no desire or need for srs, at least at this time.

    Please continue your blog, I find it affirming in my belief that one does not have to do the entire laundry list for trans validity.


  2. Yes, Nikki. I agree with Clare on this one. You must be absolutely sure transition will work for you.
    What you do will affect the entirety of the rest of your life.
    Where l believe Clare is in error is in her assertion that taking steps which are irreversible are a symbol, of your determination and/or commitment. Irreversible steps should be taken only after there is no doubt that there is no other way.


    • I don’t know if one, or at least one with a cautious personality like mine, is ever so sure of most decisions in life there’s no doubt.
      Having my facial hair zapped off with a laser was irreversible, and also a minor self-test to see if I would regret it(I don’t). I believe there’s validity to the idea these are tests of commitment. Of course SRS is an entirely different level.

      I am absolutely convinced if I don’t try HRT I will always wonder what might have been, and be filled with regret. So I guess there’s no doubt there!


    • Sock, that’s not quite how I see the social pressure working. It comes from the idea of a transsexual, as a package, in the culture. So a woman who objected to me in women’s space asked me whether I had transitioned “with a small t or a capital T”. There is the same idea in the trans community, that true trans need GRS. This means a person may get the same idea of herself, that she needs the operation, and that it will be lifesaving. One complained to me recently that the psychiatrists were telling her “it won’t grow back”. She knows that.

      I did not say it was a symbol of our determination, but of our reality as being trans: if trans is a whole package, a concept in the culture, including surgery, then if we are trans, if it is right to transition (in dress and mannerisms) we must want surgery. That is the social pressure.


  3. I can only agree with you. I do in fact know nothing about trans culture or the labyrinth of obstacles or symbols involved in transition. Especially attempting it in the public dime where the wait times are beyond comprehension and that actual understanding of what needs fixing and how to fix it, is subject to all sorts of political and cultural memes and over complicated rhetoric.
    In addition, those who actually have lived and experienced this life are silenced and harrassed, (not here yet), as trans heretics.


  4. Essentially every thing you are writing about. The whole package as you desribe it. The culture of trans, (whatever that might be). This whole idea of a “real” transsexual. All these wordd, terms, degrees of realness or trans-ness.
    It is all meaningless to me.
    Most of the time l have no idea what people are talking about.
    It was nowhere near that complicated for me.
    So yes. I am highlying sceptical of old white men or women in white costs telling me how things are, or should be.
    Since my comments here, l have taken some time to read some of your posts. I am trying to understand you and your motivations. Some time ago you posted this:
    Has your understanding changed?


    • I had a diagnosis of gender dysphoria (transsexual tendencies) when I self-identified as a transvestite, before I would have identified as having gender dysphoria. I feel the classifications are an attempt to categorise things which evade categorisation.

      For thousands of years and across many different cultures, people apparently male have expressed ourselves as women, often with surgery and with mares’ urine, or particular herbs, before oestradiol became available. I would say this is a thing people do, and we should be humoured for it. We are mostly harmless. Human rights lawyers agree. Some attempts to differentiate between kinds of people doing this are an attempt to make moral distinctions, as to which should have greater indulgence, and those I find particularly irritating. If people will accept trans women, they will accept all trans women. “This kind of trans women are almost normal and should be treated as women, that kind of trans women are weirdos and should be excluded,” said no non-trans person ever.

      For some purposes I find it useful to understand myself as a man, or as non-binary, but generally I express myself as a trans woman. I have a minimum of theory. I know what I want and have wanted.


  5. I am sorry Clare, l just don’t understand.
    You say, “Why would you want the effects to be irreversible? That’s a symbol, again, of your determination and commitment, and certainty that you have chosen the right path.”
    Then you say, “I did not say it was a symbol of our determination, but of our reality as being trans”
    You go on to explain, “if trans is a whole package, a concept in the culture, including surgery, then if we are trans, if it is right to transition (in dress and mannerisms) we must want surgery. That is the social pressure.”
    Again this is far beyond anything that l felt or experienced. I am sorry you felt compelled to go through all you did just to be yourself.


    • Oops. I am getting this clear in my own mind. What do you observe- in yourself, in other people, and in the wider culture? What do you think is the “Orthodoxy”? A “Heretic” needs an Orthodoxy to oppose. There you are, nearly fifty years after life-saving surgery, wearing heels well when appropriate, living with your husband- the ideal “woman with a transsexual history”. I doubt a majority of trans people would agree with me, so it can’t just be what I am writing about- what is the orthodoxy?


  6. Let me then put my position as simply as I can. I changed my name and stopped presenting male when I was 35. I was unsure about the operation, then, but knew that I wanted it, a year later, had it a year after that, and was clear it was right for me until my faith in that began to ebb, about three years ago. It has now ebbed completely. I am perplexed by my desire, and my change of mind. It appears to me now that the desire came from social pressure, from an idea of what a trans woman is, in the wider culture and held among trans women.

    Worldwide, and in Anglo-American culture, there are people AMAB who present female. Some want surgery, some do not. I feel all are vulnerable to prejudice and fear. There are different ideas about what motivates them, and sometimes classifications of different sorts, leading to different ideas of their rights.

    I am willing to accept different ideas of etiology, though our understanding of the brain is changing rapidly. I am not willing to accept different ideas of rights- a “homosexual transsexual” “early transitioner” should have no more moral or legal rights than a late transitioning gynephile. They might pass better, which is a separate issue. I also think our interests are linked, and we should stick together.

    The prejudice and transphobia distorts our understanding of ourselves. There is a grudging acceptance of the transsexual who has had GRS.

    We may be screwed up by not fitting masculine gender norms. We should have intensive psychotherapy aimed at accepting our personalities, and valuing the bits that don’t fit those norms.

    If you feel original SOCs have been watered down, do you think too many people are transitioning?


  7. So your answer is…[she writes nothing to do with my previous comment]
    So l am unclear what this means. [Clearly; but she still does not say what she thinks].

    [Clare: I have now deleted seven of your comments, after letting 23 through on my recent posts on surgery, because you continue quibbling and trying to poke holes. Don’t try to analyse what you think I think. Say what you think. What do you think is the orthodoxy? What is your particular “heresy”? Rather, I think it is more like several Protestant sects; or perhaps the Pentarchy, if even less loving to each other.]


  8. You write :
    [deleted. Say something for yourself]

    Clearly a slam.

    [Do you mean an attack? Clearly, not.]
    Then you delete my response. Cowardly and shameful.

    [Who do you think you are? These huge, damning words. You have said nothing of what you think, and almost nothing of who you are, in 23 sprawling, wordy, dull comments.]
    [More insulting waffle deleted. Representative sample left:]
    Do not censor the thoughts of others because the do not fit into your paradym. Open your mind other possibilities. Other outcomes different from yours.
    [It is not censorship to deny you my platform. Learn to spell. If your mind were not closed, you would be able to see more clearly.
    No other comment from you will get through unless you say what you believe. Don’t make stupid attacks on what I write. Don’t take my remarks out of context. Say what you believe. Or go away.]


  9. Actually, it is you who are behaving in a cowardly fashion as exhibited by your deleting my comments. Your prerogative of course, but still demonstrative of your refusal (ability?) to deal with my agreeing with you.
    My orthodoxy? I have none. My heresy? Simply questioning your “logic”/”reasoning”, or lack thereof.


    • So now we have it. The “heretic” is not responding to any orthodoxy. It is a thoughtless name, from a thoughtless, frivolous person. Oooh. “Trans Heretic.” No, sweetie, it does not sound cool at all. It would only be cool if you could back it up.

      Simply quoting without context, and barely responding but for meaningless words showing only what you feel about what I say.

      “Bye,” you said, flouncing out, then you come back for a reflounce. It becomes you well.


    • I have deleted two more of your comments because you merely want to insult me: “rambling… disjointed… incoherence… nonsense… insanity”. I do not pin the word orthodoxy on you. You claim to be a heretic, which is meaningless unless there is some orthodoxy you are critiquing. I have no wish to bat away your insults. Say what you think the orthodoxy is, that some particular body either of trans people or psychiatrists hold to, and what your heresy is.

      You flounced off, saying “Bye”, and this is the second time you have flounced back. You imagine yourself “censored”. Say what you think, and it will get through. I will not allow you merely to insult me on my own blog, but I welcome clearly expressed views with which I disagree.


  10. What l think is this. You are clearly exhibiting the kind of closed minded one sided “conversation” with your self that you most likely had with your psychiatrist.
    You will only hear what you want to hear.


    • Flounce in, flounce out, flounce in again- Give us a twirl, sock puppet.

      You make these bold claims of being a Heretic. You have nothing to back them up. When you call me closed minded and one-sided, you are projecting. To exhibit truth, as I do here, as a many-faceted, complex, evolving thing requires an intense commitment to truth, open-mindedness and clarity which you are simply unable to comprehend. You, however, given the chance to state something of an understanding of what it is to be trans in the wider culture are incapable of anything but abuse. I may publish more of your comments, but only to show you up, as with this one.

      Oh, Hokey cokey cokey….


      • ??????? Clare, l have no idea why you are so hostile towards me. I have done little more than agree with l think you are saying. I think the point you are trying to make is…was your transition“ with a small t or a capital T”. There is the same idea in the trans community, that true trans need GRS. This means a person may get the same idea of herself, that she needs the operation, and that it will be lifesaving.”
        This is the false narrative to which l allude. I believe you are correct in pointing this out. If l must have an orthodoxy to which l am opposed in order to be a “true” heretic, Then this is it.


        • Oh, sock puppet. You’re not very bright, are you?

          I don’t really want you commenting here. You have nothing to add. I do not mind being disagreed with, even pitied, but I object to being patronised. I don’t like being called rambling or disjointed, and certainly not untruthful.

          There is no particular heresy or orthodoxy. There are different views, from autogynephilia theory to the ICD 11 proposal of “gender incongruence”, a physical sexual health condition treated by surgery and hormones. In the UK there may be more people identifying as “non-binary” than as “trans”. The main difference is between people who think we can make common cause, late and early transitioners, post-ops and non-ops, lesbians, gays, bis and anyone else identifying as queer along with straights who want to, and those who want to carve out a niche as true trans, hating everyone else. Have a lovely life with your husband. You deserve it.


          • [Clare: I knew she would not give me the last word. I hoped if I did not let her first comment through, she would show herself up with something nasty and stupid, and she did not disappoint me.]

            “Have a lovely life with your husband. You deserve it.”
            I will, l have, And yes, l do.
            I hope your life, as well as your self esteem improves.
            Carrying so much anger and resentment is not healthy and l hope you find a self acceptance that will allow you that greater happiness which you deserve.


  11. Listening to your cross dressing friends in your own little echo chamber. Its obvious. Enjoy your elitist “community”.

    [Clare: In truth, cross-dressers are the opposite of elitist. They tend to have a lively sense of their own ridiculousness, and so not to be sniffy about anyone else. I don’t think The Trans Heretic has quite worked out what “projecting” is.]


  12. “Oh, sock puppet. You’re not very bright, are you?”
    Smarter than you, obviously.

    [Clare: It is rare that one sees that level of repartee, in someone older than twelve. She carried on, with one further comment of pure ranty carpet-chewing, calling my writing “pathological bs”. I do so hope she will comment again.]


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