Twenty years on

I have now been transitioned twenty years. On Monday 29 April 2002 I went into work expressing myself female.

That is the moment which matters to me. There are milestones- buying a wig, meeting others, going out among the straights, making the decision, seeing doctors, getting hormones- but going into work is the moment that expressing female became my ordinary life. I left the office on Thursday 25 April and went to get my ears pierced, then walked home, feeling slightly self-conscious with gold studs in my ears and my man’s coat and shoes. I went away for the weekend with the Community Building group, who had known me as Abigail for over a year. Then I went into work.

Ten years ago I had a party, and now I hardly feel like celebrating. I hate getting read, and I have no motivation to work on my voice, or buy a better wig, leave alone consider my “mannerisms and gestures”. I feel damaged and lonely. I internalised transphobia because I was surrounded by it, and it has hurt me. So my process of transition continues: I thought myself worthless, and now assert I have value. Patiently I affirm myself, which helps me to heal.

I am delighted to see younger trans people, including some phenomenal talents, making a go of life. It gets better. There is vicious, virulent prejudice and hatred encouraged for political purposes by those in power, and trans people are becoming more visible. Tens of thousands of trans people in Britain have had the courage to say “This is who I am” and to be themselves.

Transition was right for me. Expressing myself female remains right for me, because I am female. I had to pretend, when I was presenting male, and it became unbearable. A huge amount of self-hatred and contempt, initially unconscious, forced me to struggle to make a man of myself, until my nervous breakthrough. Now I affirm my femininity.

Transition has helped me be myself, know myself, value myself. I wanted to be rational and intellectual, and in reality I feel deeply, and my feeling self is where all my motivation comes from. I needed to transition to know my own desires. I needed to accept my feminine self before I could form loving relationships, and as I have got to know myself better I have been better able to relate to others, more deeply.

Slowly I cease to fear myself, and the world.

I still feel terribly inadequate, and there are people who love and admire me. I am safe enough. Online, the hatred for trans people can feel overwhelming, but my experience walking through the world has been that any threat or mockery is rare, quickly passing, and not really dangerous.

In 2001 I believed it possible that in five years’ time I would be presenting male again, but I knew I was completely stuck: I could not move forward in my life without trying transition. Twenty years later, presenting male seems unimaginably horrible to me. If transition is right for you, it is really, really right. It is so much better to be yourself than to pretend.

This is me.

22 thoughts on “Twenty years on

  1. I certainly don’t hear your voice as being masculine, likewise with your appearance and presentation. I’m not sure what is specifically masculine or feminine anyway so perhaps I’m not the right person to seek an opinion from. I’ve been told my behaviour and mannerisms change according to the gender of the person or group I’m communicating with and have even been told that my “imitation” can be seen as offensive. Others have told me that I should just be me. However I have no idea what “me” might be, and I’m certainly not consciously altering my persona. I think when anyone doesn’t quite fit our assigned “social costume” the demand is that we alter ourselves to fit the costume rather the more sensible route of altering the costume to fit us. I think, whether one is noncorming in gender, sexual orientation and/or neurology, one tends to become somewhat chameleon-like, changing our ill-fitting appearance in order to survive.

    I lived 60 years in an ill fitting costume without knowing I did, and am still learning how to make the needed alterations. May I say that to me, you fit your costume beautifully, but if you feel that it needs a few adjustments, by all means go ahead and make them. Just one request: if you change your wig, please give some warning as it’s how I am able to pick you out from other faces.

    May I congratulate you on reaching your 20 year milestone. and may it be a marker on your journey rather than the stopping point.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thank you. I don’t know how anyone could not be themself. We all code-switch. If I imitate naturally rather than self-consciously, that is me being me. If I find ways of being more comfortable, and care less about any negative feedback, I am more me. Praise can seek to mould, just as criticism does.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I think it’s always roughest for the pioneers of self and freedom for them selves; eventually trans will be seen as no different to those who are gay, as will be the case for any other variant of the scales we all inhabit, not just gender, but everything that makes us human. Those who are able to stand up now and be joyful about who they are needed you Clare to pave their way, and that paving was and still very much is quite torturous I think, but you are a shining star for them, for yourself and certainly for me.

    Love the photo, you look as beautiful as ever my dear. ❤

    Esme Cloud noting how similar to each other her and Clare’s smile is and rather liking that.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. There is one phrase that leaps out at me, which is, “I still feel terribly inadequate”.

    I wonder at that, and am in some part astonished that you could feel that way. You are so beautiful, beguiling, and your self combines the feminine and masculine aspects most powerfully. It is reassuring to be with you, and to benefit from your strength and height, somehow, as well as your gentleness, cleverness, humour and beauty. You present so wonderfully as yourself that I am struck out for words.

    Since “adequacy” suggests a judgement, can I attribute your statement to an over-exercise of the rational mind?

    We can all live without judgement – indeed, that is one of the principal precepts: judge not; It is possible to live without judgement. We are as we are, and enjoy what we enjoy, and feel purely.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you. On Substack, someone quoted William Temple, Archbishop of Canterbury 1942-1944: “Humility does not mean thinking less of yourself than of other people, nor does it mean having a low opinion of your own gifts. It means freedom from thinking about yourself one way or the other at all.”

      I speak, and my inner critic goes wild. Mostly unconscious anxiety keeps me indoors. I will go to Yearly Meeting in person, and mostly be in my element, and this evening I will confront my inner critic before witnesses.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Perhaps not to confront, since that, in my humble experience, merely sets up an argy bargy. I love the quote from William Temple. Bravo! How about simply expressing yourself as you are? Showing, not telling, as the writers would have it. 🙂 Lots of love.


        • Why not express myself as I am? Because it is difficult. When speaking deeply with a close friend, I do, but it is hard to get started. There is something I want to say, and tears make it almost impossible. Then I soften, and speak from the heart; but the inner critic is enraged and shouting. My higher pitched voice is an act. It is just put on. This is ridiculous and weak.

          This week I have been trying when speaking more conversationally, and again it is difficult. The inner critic was spouting as usual. It is terribly afraid. At times, I could hardly get the words out. It gets easier, with practice, with particular social groups, but it is still hard.


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