My experiences of being trans

Quakers ask me, again, to share my personal experiences. I feel judged. Are these stories enough? Would they convince anyone that I am trans, and can be no other?

I woke at 4am, which is never a good time to make a decision, thinking of my colleague Vicky. She had rapidly progressing MS, and had gone from being asymptomatic to needing a wheelchair in two years. I envied her. I would have swapped lives with her, because no-one would doubt that she was female. So I thought, I have to transition as soon as possible.

I don’t understand it. I could appear to be a perfectly normal man. I wanted transition, which I thought would mean I would get sacked, more than anything else in the world. And my friend said, “It’s as if you’re acting when you’re Stephen, and when you’re Clare you’re just you”.

I have told these stories so often I use the same words. I feel judged. Is that enough for you? O ye wha are sae good yersel, sae pious and sae holy. “The acceptance of homosexuality distresses some Friends”, Quakers said.

I am Clare. I am a woman. It makes no sense beyond, it just is. There have always been trans people. Deuteronomy would not forbid it if it hadn’t existed then. What experience will be enough?

In 2002, when I transitioned, before the Gender Recognition Act or the Equality Act, I got a driving licence and passport indicating I am female, and a credit card with the title “Miss”. I have used women’s loos and shop changing rooms ever since without a problem. The Equality Act allows trans women to use women’s services unless there is a good reason to exclude us. The fuss, whereby to judge from the number of articles in The Times trans is a greater threat to humanity than the climate crisis, only really got going around 2017.

These are the stories I can tell. I will not convince everyone. Is my fear and desperation unassuageable?

I want to step into my grace.

I cannot convince the whole world. All I can do, when others say I am a man, is calm the echoes their comments arise in myself. Having convinced myself, I do not have to convince anyone else. Here is the difference between speaking in ministry, saying what needs to be heard, and speaking “hot from the world”, where I am het up and feel moved by all the emotions.

This is how it is, and I am not resisting it- not the world, nor my own feelings. Then I can flow like water, act as I need. That’s the theory, anyway. The small step forward today is to replace the word “power” with “grace”.

The theory is also that I am projecting my own judgment onto others. Man tells story: people thought he was gay. Yeah, yeah, projecting, I think. Then he said someone asked him. Not just projecting, then. He’s straight, it’s just he had a very close male friend who is bi. It’s a different situation. There were people with a belief about him that wasn’t true, and about which some have moral judgments- being gay is less than being straight, not really a “real man”, pitiable. About me, I really am trans, and others’ moral judgments on that really matter to me, because they raise echoes in me, and fear of judgment and loss. When they don’t raise echoes in me, I will know how I feel about them then.

What else would I say? There’s that thing about using the most up-to-date Woke language, and I learned two words new to me yesterday. They are trixic and toric. Think “Aviatrix”, a word I thought hadn’t really been used since Amelia Earhart, until I googled it. Trixic means nonbinary loving women, toric means nonbinary loving men. Possibly “transbian”, a trans woman attracted to women, and “gynephile” meaning attracted to women but not specifying the sex or gender of the one attracted, are outdated.

There’s that thing about the EHRC in January 2022 telling theatres and shops how they can exclude trans women from women’s loos and changing rooms. I only heard about that on Thursday 21st, and I find it scary.

Part of the problem here is I don’t want to address the question of “including those who have needs around bodies with penises etc”, I just want to mess about. Or, I want to be playful, winsome and loveable, so that no-one would be unkind to me. This is a small child response.

On “needs around bodies with penises”, one option is to exclude all trans women, and all trans men who have had chest surgery and hormones so they have facial hair, from women’s loos etc. It’s the obvious option if you ignore or minimise the needs of trans people. That’s why the excluders don’t mention us.

Why can’t they just admit they are men, anyway? What’s the difference between “trans women” and feminine men? Possibly nothing but life experiences and their understanding of the options, I replied. I am so tempted to discount my overwhelming desire. (Added: at 6am on 24 October I am dwelling on that, how I remain ashamed of not resisting. Such overwhelming shame stopped me, at that moment, from saying- what? “This is who I am, I can be no other.”)

I have thought so much about an hour’s conversation with probably fewer than ten people, given it so much mental energy, wept and raged. It will be over tomorrow, until the next time.

13 thoughts on “My experiences of being trans

  1. Clare, you are an eloquent voice for your peers and your experience. You and your readers may be interested in a book written by the award-winning Israeli poet Adi Wolfson about his family’s experience when his daughter chose to become his son. I translated Adi’s Hebrew poems into English for the bilingual book. Here are some details and one of the poems …

    Adi Wolfson has written a compelling new book of poems, “I Am Your Father.” He explains the book’s genesis as follows: “Recently, I have accompanied my daughter on her long and complex journey to find herself. She eventually figured out that she wants to be a boy, and we began the new, challenging path of transgenderism. During this time, I wrote poems as a way of thinking, processing, and speaking with myself. “I Am Your Father” includes English versions of the poems as translated by the American poet Michael R. Burch. The book is now being published by Finishing Line Press.

    “These are compelling poems that speak to our times. I learned a lot that I would never have guessed as I helped translate the poems into English.”—Michael R. Burch

    Change

    Hebrew poem by Adi Wolfson
    English translation by Michael R. Burch

    I asked her if she loves women.
    Maybe, she replied,
    and I implored her to love and love
    herself too.

    She told me that everyone names her
    male. I said what is good for them
    is also good for me, as long as it is
    good for you too.

    She said something about change.
    She did not expand and I did
    not investigate, but we both knew
    I will always be his father.

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  2. How do pronouns work in Hebrew? The kick in this poem in English is the move from “she” to “his” at the end. There is the human assumption that what we see, and how we interpret it, is real. And for me this is a man- at least a trans man. “Everyone names her male”- he has come out, he has been accepted. He has changed his appearance as best he may- clothes, breast binding and hair cut, if he has not had access to hormones and surgery.

    Writing a poem from an outside perspective I would move from “I saw a woman” to “I saw a man”. “She told me that everyone names her male” for me is a dislocation. The father clings to a false belief that he has a daughter. His son and the son’s friends know the son is male. The father still sees a daughter- but that is a perception in the father’s head, not reality.

    For me, the word “she”, even in the first line, is a slap in the face. I wonder how the cis experience it.

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    • This poem was written about the beginning, BEFORE any surgery or hormone treatments. Adi’s child, at that time with female sex organs, announced the desire to change sex and mentioned that friends recognized this male nature. Adi had a daughter, his daughter told him that she wanted to be his son, and he accepted this as a loving father. I see nothing as a slap in the face. Adi love his child as a daughter and now he loves his child as his son, but there was a long process involved and this poem is about the beginning, the initial announcement.

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      • He told his father that everyone names him male, and the father’s next line is “she said something about change”. “Everyone” indicates the situation was advanced, whatever the father knew, and I was critiquing the poem, not its factual inspiration. You don’t see it as a slap in the face, and you’re not trans.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Yes, I’m not trans. The poem is about a father’s transition in thinking about his daughter as his son. That is quite a leap, and Adi did it in a loving, supportive way. If you’re not the heterosexual father of a child transitioning from female to male, you may not understand Adi any better than heterosexuals understand you. It took Adi time to understand what his child was going through and the poem reflects his thinking at the time, which makes it an honest poem. Adi now thinks of his child as his son. Sometimes we have to give other people time to understand such complex issues.

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          • I understand fully, I assure you. I have heard people insist their child is really a girl, heard their trauma and distress, heard their terror that their children might be “transitioned”, in person and on line. I still don’t like the use of female pronouns after the announcement.

            Liked by 1 person

            • Adi fully and loving supported his child’s decision. He didn’t express distress or terror. But it took time for him to go through his own transition, from the father of a daughter to the father of a son. If you are expecting parents to snap a finger and change instantaneously, I think you are being unrealistic. And if you want other people to understand you, it seems only fair for you to try to understand them as well. If I were faced with such a situation, I would support my child’s decision, but I wouldn’t be able to snap a finger. It would be an enormous sea change and it would require understanding by both parties.

              Liked by 1 person

            • The final chapter of Adi’s book “I Am Your Father” is titled “My Son.” Here are three poems from the last chapter that give a better picture of how Adi came to accept his daughter as his son. But it was a difficult process that required time and understanding by both father and son …

              Untitled

              Hebrew poem by Adi Wolfson
              English translation by Michael R. Burch

              In the meantime, I still do not call him
              come
              but I already write to him
              come.
              Come to me
              I am Home.

              My son

              Hebrew poem by Adi Wolfson
              English translation by Michael R. Burch
               
              When you were born
              I wept
              pure happiness
              without any trace
              of anger for
              the pain that
              would flood my eyes
              and yours
              even though I already
              knew it then
              as only father
              knows.
               
              And I did not
              tell you
              until this moment
              when my
              heart is crushed
              to yours
              and the unbearable truth
              stands between us
              so that I cannot stop
              the tears
               
              And once again
              I am
              crying.

              Thanks

              Hebrew poem by Adi Wolfson
              English translation by Michael R. Burch

              In the middle of life he gave me
              the opportunity to ask, again,
              who am I. To struggle with the body,
              to explore the soul’s Hades
              then rise step-by-step
              to daily life.
               
              He gave me courage anew,
              not to judge people. To see
              the other. To be different.
              Not to concede myself
              or him. To view the world
              properly and continue on the way.
               
              He taught me that the obvious
              is not self-evident and he
              said we have to live the truth
              here and now. And he has not
              forgotten to leave me also a place
              to love myself.

              Liked by 1 person

            • Yes, I think poetry can help; for instance, by humanizing people in difficult, complex situations and helping others understand what they’re going through. I’m reminded of another translation of mine, of a Native American proverb:

              Before you judge
              a man for his sins
              be sure to trudge
              many moons in his moccasins.
              —loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

              I learned a lot that I would never have guessed, by helping to translate Adi’s poems into English. And as he said in “Thanks” he learned profound things from his son. But Adi had to come to terms with himself, and it was just as important for his son to understand him as it was for him to understand his son, since such relationships are two-way affairs. When parents don’t even try to understand, that is very sad and terrible. But when they do try to understand, it may not be easy and it may take time. I think the Native American proverb is good advice: try to understand other people and don’t be too quick to judge them.

              Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m trans male and my family, six years on, is still coming to terms. It’s still a slap in the face every time they misgender me. Perhaps it is a slap in the face for them every time I assert my own identity. I accept that I am forced to accept each slap until they no longer feel the need to resist reality. We love each other the best we can, slaps and all.
    Clare, thank you for your honesty and vulnerability.

    Liked by 1 person

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