Detransition III

Detransition is for losers. Detransition is second-rate.

Whether women are more feminine than men, separate from the influence of society and social constructs, I don’t know. Research shows we speak differently to babies depending on whether they wear blue or pink. Friends observe toddler boys swaggering round and sweet toddler girls wanting hugs; and they may just be reacting to adults’ subconscious approval or preference. Whatever, adults show a huge range of behaviour, including decisive women showing leadership and gentle men showing emotional intelligence, at least from the perspective of me, aged 50 in 2017.

It wasn’t my perspective in the 1980s. I remember seeing two wee boys in a bus station, one sturdy Scots, whose mother seemed quite happy with him bullying the other, who went for cuddles with his mother, and feeling a strong preference for the former. That was how boys should be, I thought.

Expressing female gave me the confidence to be myself, but now I want to use the whole range of my voice, not just above the break- and fear that makes me not a liberated person, who can be however she chooses, but a pretty rubbish trans woman who can’t even pass. Others often take you at your own estimation.

Transition is for losers. We don’t fit the social construct, so we go to all that effort. I don’t feel I have the ability or the right to be myself as a man, so I never reach the career my education fitted me for, never marry, and undergo the pain and expense of physical alteration. Be yourself, without the need to alter yourself. Self-confidence is the thing!

However if transition is for losers, detransition after physical alteration is worse. You decide transition was wrong, you were conned, all that effort was a waste- so you make the effort to revert. More effort, doubly a loser. That transition was wrong for you, even a betrayal of all gender non-conforming folk, a blind alley, a torture to conform to stereotypes- does not mean detransition is any improvement.

It’s second rate. It never made you happy. It never fitted you. But you are idiosyncratically you, from your nature and nurture, and no off the peg persona will fit you. Detransition is avoidance activity. Rather than becoming comfortable in your own skin, you enter another long-term change with a distant goal of a body and presentation the way you like; and this may involve painful, self-punishing procedures; and may even involve curtailing parts of you which don’t fit the new presentation.

I am feminine. I don’t fit, I feel ashamed, I try to fit, then it seems I might fit if I transition so I work very hard at that and still feel I don’t fit. All that effort is chasing shadows, chasing my tail.

What did I expect? There was another road you did not see. If I only do this, I will be happy, successful, congruent, integrated, life will be less of an effort. If I am not, well, there must be something I can do to reach that happy state. Happiness is somewhere to be had.

Don’t detransition. There is no point. Callahan gives all her energy to being gender non-conforming.

Or, we shall not cease from exploration, and each step takes us closer to congruence and understanding.

Just be you.

Other people are judging!
-No, they’re really not. Not nearly as harshly as I am, anyway.

That illusion. If only I do what I don’t see yet everything will be alright. It is possible, and therefore not doing it is proof of my inadequacy. The illusion is not true. Transition is second rate, but was the best I could do. This, right now, really is the best I could have achieved.

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Parakaleo

The Parakaleo ministry in the UK is a sad transvestite called Keith Tiller, who goes round telling people transvestism is wrong, a trans woman’s wife told me around when I transitioned. Parakaleo is Biblical Greek, meaning counsel, including to comfort, console, encourage, urge, appeal, exhort. In the US, Parakaleo is training for Christian counsellors at Stanford University, using the Bible as the main authority but the “Holy Spirit, not self-effort,” to move the person to speak.

I find the Stanford idea of telling people what is God’s will for them highly dangerous, but it pales beside the British fool’s crusade against trans folk. The crusade is ruthless and hateful: the first article I found on the blog is lifted from “Transgender Trend”, which is concerned about legislation which places transgender rights above the right to safety for girls and young women in public bathrooms and changing rooms. Anyone who alleges we should not use the loo because they claim we are a threat to girls has no sense of proportion, and their attacks are unreliable; and their foolishness led to large job-losses in North Carolina, as businesses deserted the bigot-led state.

Tiller claims his cross-dressing led to the end of two marriages and alienation from his two adult children. He bases his understanding on himself.

The crusade is not particularly powerful. It claims to be A Christian ministry seeking to uphold Biblical values to the transvestite, transsexual and transgendered person. Almost no-one uses that threefold TV TS TG division now, it is a failed attempt to fit a complex phenomenon into neat, simple categories. Keith begins with a lie:  The aim of Parakaleo Ministry is to … introduce people to the message of the Gospel and the healing love of the Lord Jesus Christ. Introduce? No, he mostly works with distressed people who have previously been Evangelical Christians. Message of the Gospel?

-Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?
-Well, whatever you do, never cross-dress.

He quotes Deuteronomy 22:5, and says It is clear from the passage that His intent that male and female are intended to be complimentary (sic). Whereas, consider the world God created, and see that masculinity and femininity overlap and intermingle. He wants things to be nice and simple, and his own desires distress him. Poor silly man.

We believe that males and females are created distinctly by God, intended to be complimentary, and united only in biblically ordered marriage. “We” is one man.

He then claims cross-dressing is addictive. Active participation, whether alone or in company, will result in an increased desire to pursue the activity. Actually, attempts to suppress it makes the person more obsessive, like Keith.

Finances remain tight – to the point of despair, which affects most of the areas of my life. Thank God. The despairing man will not turn many from Christ, despite enthusiastic support by wicked “pastors” like the one who referred my friend, and also threatened to reveal to the congregation the secret she had told him in confidence. His despair might indicate to someone less stupid and closed-minded than he that he is wrong about his gender, and wrong about God.

Keith is a silly man who has a silly website, on which he shares the most prejudiced and doctrinaire anti-trans articles he can find. Even when he was meeting people, he had little success: my friend thought it was God’s will she should not transition, until she met Keith and saw how ridiculous he was. She transitioned shortly after.

Keith’s worthless fantasies.

Detransition

Crash is concerned people are calling her “transphobic” and not listening to the nuance of what she is saying, but unapologetic, saying that she of course will act to advance our own well-being. If that means telling stories and truths other people find uncomfortable, so be it. She spent four years on T, presenting male, and has reverted. Yet she wants transitioned and detransitioned people to be allies, and is not helped by people using her story as a weapon against transition. So, how could we be allies?

I don’t know of any detransitioned woman who doesn’t believe that adults can decide what to do with their lives and their bodies, including to transition if they decide that’s what’s best for them. No, that would be a detransitioned man, Charles Kane, filled with resentment for what he did to himself. That might be something about female socialisation, growing up to make the best of it and see others’ point of view. However she wants to speak out for detransitioned and dysphoric women… because no one else is looking out for us.

She bears the scars of transition- chest masculinisation, T use- and has a deep voice and facial hair. She is forging a new path: transition is well-travelled, with many books and support groups on what it means, but on detransition she found only a few blogs.

First, I found her blog post about the backlash from the article about detransition in a new online magazine The Outlook, then went to the article itself. I would like us to be allies. Anyone who transitions has had difficulty living with themselves in a gendered society, even if they detransition. We have a lot in common. Why is she called transphobic? This quote from The Outlook may give a clue: The bloggers write about how they’ve come to understand their own transitions as a response to trauma, or an expression of self-hatred stemming from living in a patriarchal world, or a capitulation to social pressure. I might see their detransition in the same way- the only word I might change is “patriarchal” to “transphobic”, and even that is not absolutely necessary.

I have thought about detransition a lot, and always called it “Reverting”. That’s a different way of framing it, as a failure. This is how we are opponents in a zero-sum game: if detransitioners are people who should never have been diagnosed with gender dysphoria in the first place, but treated otherwise than by transition- people who have been wronged by the system- then it should be much more difficult to get hormones or surgery.

I should be accepted as a woman because I really am a woman. This is the basis for our argument that we should enter women-only spaces, be treated as women, be recognised in law as women. Psychiatrists who specialise in us have the expertise to diagnose gender dysphoria, for which the treatment is medical, surgical and social transition.

But it’s a zero-sum game. Crash could not have been prevented from transition without it being made more difficult for the rest of us. The Outline cited studies that regret is 2.2% or less- making transition more difficult stymies forty people for the sake of one. Arbitrated by fairness or Utilitarianism, my side should win the zero-sum game. And, possibly, many who reverted might not have taken no for an answer when they transitioned.

I really am a woman. Or, the only treatment for gender identity disorder is transition. Crash says she suffered from internalised misogyny, trauma and dissociation. I learned The Script, what I was told I should say to ensure I got the right diagnosis. The Script was not true for me, I told the truth, and got the diagnosis and treatment anyway. If Crash could have been protected from transition, a real trans man might have been wrongfully refused it- and given that hormones and surgery are so invasive, psychiatrists might err on the side of caution. But when we transition, we really really want that treatment.

I do not trust the psychiatrists. I don’t think there are clear discrete groups, one of which suffer from gender dysphoria who should transition, and another whose symptoms mimic those of the first but who suffer from some different diagnosable condition, dissociative disorder or something else. My psychiatrist told me I was “not psychotic” but I don’t know he was right about that.

I don’t think I am dissociative. I hated my body before transition. Now, I love it. What would I know? On what basis is Crash diagnosed as dissociative- is it just because she has decided to revert?

I wish diagnosis could be certain, but it is more messy than that. I want Crash as an ally, because we have a great deal in common. We are both people who did not easily fit the stereotypes attached to our birth gender, the social construct of “man” in my case, “woman” in hers. We try to make our way as best we can. We live in gendered societies, with expectations about what a man or a woman ought to be like, even if those expectations are broader and more inclusive than I, desperate because I saw myself as less than a real man, imagined them to be.

There are those who would argue that Trans is a great lie, that the removal of breasts penises and gonads is a vile mutilation, and we should accept our bodies. Some of them are religious nutters with rigid ideas of what “Biblical Manhood and Womanhood” is, and some are radical feminists who think gender roles are a misogynist social construct imposed by patriarchy. Yet we desperately want social and/or physical transition.

When I transitioned, I thought it was quite possible that I would revert within five years, but transition was the only way I could find that out. I wanted it so much. I had to try it. I have not reverted yet. This might escape the zero-sum game: that detransition is right for a person does not mean that transition was necessarily wrong. Or, alternatively- I am not a woman, or even a person who particularly well fits the social construct of “woman” in my society; only someone who has chosen to identify as Clare, and I have a right to identify like that, or as Stephen, or Hillary. That detransition is right for someone does not mean it is right for everyone, or that anyone should be stopped from transitioning because they might revert later. It is not clear cut, but confusing, and people make mistakes.

Whatever, I want to extend a hand of friendship to Crash. We are both people who have been uncomfortable with gender roles, and have done what we thought best in response to that. Let us honour our choices and mourn our mistakes together. I doubt I could have been saved from myself. None of these choices are easy: that we have all faced them is a bond. (That’s just me- I like to see things in terms of common interest and common experience.) Crash linked to this video: “We’re not recruiting, okay?” says the detransitioned woman. “This is about people’s well-being”. I want their well-being, as well as my own.

Continued here: Detransition II, on Callahan, a detransitioned woman whom people call a trans excluder.

The Outline.
Crash’s blog. Crash’s video.

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Alternatives to transition

Before I started expressing myself female at work, I would spend all weekend female. On Sundays I went to the Metropolitan Community Church, the church founded to welcome and accept gay people, and after we would go for a drink or a meal together. On the Monday morning I would be presenting male again, and not nice to know. I was stressed and angry.

As a friend said, at first presenting male was normal, and expressing female was Wonderful. Then expressing female was really nice, and presenting male a bit of a pain. Finally expressing female was normal, and presenting male unbearably horrible. Yet letting the man out remained possible. When I saw this video first, it was an excerpt, shared on facebook, and I wondered how someone had just happened to film it- a confrontation between a rude man and a trans woman, without any explanation that it was a “social experiment”. Yet her/his reaction, snapping, responding in a male way is something we will recognise. A friend of a friend living on a council estate was bullied until she turned and beat up one of her tormentors; but being the man again traumatised her.

My friend changed jobs, cities, friends when she transitioned, but had loose ends from her old life to tie up. We were having lunch, and the phone rang.

Hello, hello-

I’m busy at the moment. Can we talk later?

It was the one time I saw her male self. It was shocking, and seemed aggressively rude.

That video excerpt, without the commentary showing it was staged, seemed staged to me, but it was something I could recognise. Off I went to stay with J, and we would go out round North Wales, and I got a gorgeous evening gown in a sale in Prestatyn, then I would have to put on the male to go to work. I had tried so hard to make a man of myself. That seems to be the alternative to transition- Macho-man, acting what a real man should be, terrified of getting found out and loathing the act, feeling constant anger and fear. Transition was liberation. I finally got to be myself.

 ♥♥♥

I am uncomfortable, now, in the role of “trans woman”. I would rather be otherwise. I wrote this, as a draft blog post:

What did I want from transitioning? What did it achieve for me?

How you see it matters- positive or negative. I have been viewing it negatively, which has dragged me down. Perfectionism and black and white thinking make it worse. What did I gain, or lose, by it?

I saw transition as a sacrifice to buy acceptance. I can’t be like this as a man only as a woman. Then I find that I still have difficulties expressing myself female. Or, I saw at the time that “I am not a transsexual“- I don’t fit the box others have created, I am myself- and yet my transition was pretty much as I saw standard transitioning. Hair removal, hormones, transition at work, gender confirmation surgery, presenting in an entirely binary way as a woman, even if not seen as one but as a trans woman.

That is I did not do it simply to please myself, but also to placate others: I lived up to what I saw society expected of trans women. And that does not work, because it is a cultural expectation or stereotype which does not fit how people actually react, what people want or expect. It is a coarse concept, while interactions with others are ever changing.

 ♥♥♥

My draft is just not how I felt at the time of transition. Nor how I felt when I wanted the operation, when delays and setbacks immiserated me, steps towards Thailand elated me. Possibly there was some unconscious motivation like that- unconscious motivation, I think, making me go against my own interests, as I judge myself all the time. Transition felt authentic and desired, but it could not have been really. I second guess myself- I am back seeing my radical feminist friend, so possibly my unconscious motivation for writing that draft was moving more to her way of thinking. I am thinking this through, and unsure that thinking has any value- you can’t avoid missteps except by not moving, which is worse. Do what you feel you want and learn by your mistakes.

My draft sounds so sincere, so convincing! Except now I am writing the opposite. I am just too confused. I don’t know what I want. Just like when I had aversion therapy. I had two views.

  • I have a stressful job. If I want to relax by cross-dressing, it is completely harmless.
  • I am a man, and cross-dressing is unmanly, so I should stop.

Either of these seem reasonable to me, but changing between perfect conviction of one, then the other, then the first again, within six or eight weeks, terrified me. It was mad. And expensive, buying clothes and throwing them away. Eventually I managed to buy a gorgeous dress, keep it, but not wear it for a year. Then I started cross-dressing again.

I started on this post thinking of asking you. Well, what are the alternatives to transition? It felt like that macho act is the only one, but can you live like a feminine male? A Beta-male, perhaps? Would you change from your normal appearance, which gives a lot of cis privilege, if there was any alternative? Being Beta-male and quite that feminine was far more frightening than transition, perhaps because transition was the societally sanctioned escape route.

What part does sexual arousal play in this? Would that I could divorce arousal from how I live my life. Would I have transitioned if I had not been aroused by the thought?

I do not know myself. I seek to know myself. It is now the most important thing to me.

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The Truth!!

It has always been important to me that I am a truthful person. When I was considering transition, it appeared there were a group of people then called “transsexuals”- if I was one, transition was the right thing to do. If I was not, it was not. I should therefore diagnose myself- not trusting the doctors to do so. This was a truth about who I was. I was looking for The Truth, some objective justification, but could not find it, so eventually I had to go with what I wanted, more than anything in the world. And even if I was too frightened to assert it, I knew, really: had the doctors said I was not trans I would not have believed them.

I knew I was not a man. Now I feel trans is not some innate state, but a decision: some people with particular characteristics choose to transition, and some you might think were further along the spectrum do not. It is not the same as sexual attraction: it is about how free you feel to express yourself, and how you might become more free, so it is cultural as well as genetic.

Knowing the truth is part of being in control so being able to make reasonable prognostications and recognise what might influence events.

Among my most terrifying and disorienting experiences are times when I feel I do not know the truth, and cannot trust my own perceptions. Cognitive dissonance occurs when you perceive a fact which contradicts settled beliefs: do you deny that fact? It is uncomfortable, depending on how attached you are to belief; or, you could decide you had been wrong, and joyfully embrace your greater understanding; but I felt the bottom had dropped out of my world, I could not rely on myself or ever be safe, and did not know anything at all. These typically last a day or so, and while in that state I feel it will never end.

Possibly I am now in a state of creative distress, where my discomfort will impel me to useful change. I hope so.

Those disorienting experiences may go back to early childhood. With a counsellor I named my fear: “The Monster will get me”. This is childish talk. The world will end, I will die. That could be my mother, angry, for no reason I could discern, so I could not trust myself to keep myself safe from her. Losing trust in my perceptions was an existential threat.

And- we see through a glass darkly. Knowledge is partial, and inaccurate. Eventually the effort required to improve accuracy is greater than the value of the increase of accuracy. And mistakes have to be OK. It’s feedback. That did not work, refine it or try something else. No need to be terrified, I am intelligent enough, perceptive enough. A refusal to admit when you are beaten might keep you fighting, to succeed against all expectation- how wonderful!- or keep you expending effort to no end. These things are rarely existential.

I can’t merely consider sensible thoughts about truth and give up all my superstition or mysticism about it. Yet I might do myself some good, somehow- and deliberately not express it in some clever phrase to end this post.

Sexual organs II

Are post-operative transsexual patients satisfied?

There is little research. In the search for improvement of transsexual individuals’ quality of life during therapy, it seems desirable to supplement hormonal treatments with psychological explorations. It is tragic that this needs saying. The F-M subjects of that study had similar levels of self-efficacy (belief in their capacity to accomplish a task) to cis men.

Quality of life is lower than healthy controls. On a study of 52 M-F and three F-M, Fifteen years after sex reassignment operation quality of life is lower in the domains general health, role limitation, physical limitation, and personal limitation.

In a German study of forty patients in 2006, Of the TS studied, 85-95% were “very satisfied” or “satisfied” with the results of their gender transformation operation in respect to gender identity. The TS were significantly less satisfied (P>0.001) in overall “general life satisfaction” than the general population. In overall FLZ scores for “health-related life satisfaction”, no differences were seen. Are you satisfied? I have needed to think about it for some time before I can admit to myself, no, I am not satisfied. That involves admitting various things I do not like to admit to myself.

Dr Scott Mosser, San Francisco plastic surgeon who provides breast enhancement for M-Fs and chest reconstruction for F-Ms says After over three decades of studies of post-surgery satisfaction following SRS surgery, there are no definitive conclusions for many reasons: there is no consensus on standards of diagnosis of gender dysphoria, no consensus on terms, no consensus on standards of measure for “satisfaction”, no consistency in evaluating transgender patients for surgery, and difficulty in tracking patients for long-term follow up… What is clear is that the number of requests for sex reassignment surgery has increased dramatically in recent years, especially for MTF breast augmentation and FTM chest reconstruction surgery. Anecdotal evidence and first-person reports on transgender websites, forums and blogs indicate high rates of satisfaction, but such evidence is by no means scientific.

The orgasm study is from 1993! Despite the decrease in orgasm in the M—F group, satisfaction with sex and general satisfaction with the results of surgery were high… frequency of sex increased by 75%. This is on a study of fourteen people. The general conclusion is reached that it is possible to change one’s body image and sexual identity and be sexually satisfied despite inadequate sexual functioning.

Anne Lawrence– yes, her- in 2003 studied 232 M-Fs by questionnaire and found The physical results of SRS may be more important than preoperative factors such as transsexual typology or compliance with established treatment regimens in predicting postoperative satisfaction or regret. If you actually get as far as having the Op, your own desire for it is the important thing; any doctor’s understanding or assessment of you is not a useful predictor of satisfaction.

You have to do your own research, but my anecdotal account of my own regret has value in this paucity.

Sexual organs

If I undergo transition one day, it will be to have female sexual organs, not only to look as a woman, said a commenter. Sadly, you can’t.

If your operation is successful, you can experience penetration rather than penetrating. However, your sensation will be less. Pre-op, you have the tip of your penis which is very sensitive, and manipulation, touching, licking or even movement within your clothes will stimulate it. Post-op, most of this has been discarded, and a part of it sits under a manufactured clitoral hood- so that it won’t be stimulated all the time. Constant stimulation is wearisome, but also reduces sensitivity over time, as found in circumcised men. If you want to be penetrated, using your arsehole may be a better solution. Penetration of a male arse stimulates the prostate gland, causing arousal. Post-op, you will retain your prostate gland, which gives you whatever ability to orgasm you retain, as well as being necessary to prevent incontinence. The nerves to that helmet-remnant may have been cut, and it is smaller, so it is at best less able to be stimulated than before.

You may be unable to experience penetration. Your cavity may not be deep enough. You have to dilate it with a plastic dildo. Initially I was told to do this for two hours, morning and evening. I found this painful and debilitating- I was lying on my back, but not resting. In 2004 I was told after six months I could reduce that to one session of two hours a day, and reduce it further later, but I found reducing the time reduced the size of the hole. I gave up, and now could be penetrated by a finger but not even the smallest penis. More recently a surgeon told me “There are no rules”- do as much as you need to keep the hole open, or let it close. It is a wound, and the body continually attempts to heal it by closing it up.

It is a hole, lined by skin, and if that skin had follicles then you may have hair inside. You could have electrolysis scarring the skin or you could spend a great deal of time under anaesthetic having the follicles removed as I did. A seven hour period of unconsciousness is a high price to pay- as is all of this.

The vagina expands to pass a baby’s head. The “neovagina” cannot. A friend who was penetrated- we jokingly called this “organic dilation”- said her partner complained of soreness after.

The vagina leads to the cervix and uterus. The neovagina ends in a skin wall.

You can’t have female sexual organs. Transferring human souls or essences between bodies, as in 1950s B movies, is not possible.

So having the operation to make yourself into a woman, or to have female sexual organs, makes no sense. You cannot have these things. Having the operation to reduce your sexual appetite, especially if you find sex embarrassing and confusing, makes far more sense, though it comes at a high price. With a penis, you might learn to enjoy sex, or at least get some enjoyment along with the misery. Without, it is much harder. Everyone finds sex embarrassing and confusing, producing unquenchable yearnings. A few people make sex work within a stable partnership which works in other ways, but they may be unusual, and lifelong examples extremely rare. More may give up on sex entirely as it is too difficult. Sex evolved not for your fulfilment, but for procreation. (This is a practical not a moral statement- sex may be delightful, and find that delight where you can as long as you do not break obligations to others.)

Having the operation to appear more like a woman makes far more sense. You can go swimming and wear tight jeans. If you are sentenced to imprisonment you are more likely to be sent to a women’s prison. Some feminists will find post-op transsexuals more acceptable than other trans folk in women’s spaces. A woman told me “I don’t feel threatened by you”- I did not ask if she felt threatened by most men, and with her born-again simplistic morality she saw me as a man.

I have not begun to process this. “I have been a fool” or “I have been fooled by bad people” seem equally unbearable.

Desiring transition

Arguably I had two separate desires. When I wanted to present female full time, that was all I wanted, and the desire to be surgically altered came later. Can I know why I wanted that?

I wanted to pass. It is so much safer if you do. Some people are too tall, and some cis women are read as men. Passing privilege is a bad thing- where trans folk who pass are accepted, and those who don’t aren’t- yet most of us would prefer to pass. That was why I had electrolysis to get rid of facial hair, and why I took testosterone suppressors and oestradiol, and why I pushed my testicles back into the inguinal canal and my penis back between my legs and held it all in place with tummy control pants. I did not want a lump under my skirt. So, even if I had not had the operation, I might have been permanently infertile and incapable of erection.

I disliked getting turned on by thoughts of feminisation. I can’t remember how long they lasted, or how long I was getting aroused often: I am only aroused occasionally now. Now on facebook I read people agonising about how long they have to wait for appointments, hormones or surgery, or delighting in getting it, and on one group the person who said she was quite happy with her sex being male and her gender female, shortly after said that she was leaving because she did not want a certain person reading her posts. Even though many of her own posts are public. There are a lot of comments: this is a sore point, and there is some discomfort and difficulty understanding, even though the line is “bodily autonomy is important”- we should get to choose- which it wasn’t on TS-UK around 2000.

Onywye. Social pressure? Dunno. There is social pressure and expectation.

My path to self-acceptance led through transition. I wanted it. I wanted the Op. If now I wish that I could have self-accepted without all that, without any of it, still use the old name and never have wanted to cross-dress- it’s a choice I made knowing there was no going back. The wish is pointless. Ridiculous.

Why did I want it? I just did. What do I feel about it now? Rage, horror, misery-

for I am not a woman. I don’t see myself as a woman. I see myself as a trans woman, inherently ridiculous, victim, pitiable, always chasing after something impossible. I will not revert: Returning were as tedious as go o’er.

I have always done my best. Only Perfect me could have done better, and Perfect me does not exist. The world is not easy for anyone, and perhaps it could not be. I have no solutions, but perhaps infinite forbearance forgiveness and love might mitigate some of the pain. I kind of miss Perfect me. It was never going to be easy, but with Perfect me I could fantasise it was.

Now I read the suggestion that we should eschew the term “gender identity”. The word is simply “gender”- something objective, rather than “identity”, something in my own mind. I like that, actually.

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.

Regret

It’s not that I regret the decision. It is, I recognise all I have lost.

Plastic surgery can do wonderful things. Your skull can be reshaped for facial feminisation; with the tiniest scar under the nipple you can have silicon inserted, to make full, feminine breasts. Don’t use cheap ones- “they felt like boulders” said a disappointed heterosexual male I know, of someone’s. Laser can take away your face and body hair. Moisturisers can make your skin soft. There’s an operation to tighten your vocal cords, which didn’t work in the one case I am aware of, but hormones don’t raise your voice, you have to do the practice.

For passing, a lot depends on how tall and broad you are.

What do hormones do? I have grown my own breasts, though that took ten years. When the levels alter suddenly, my emotions go very intense, which has been distressing and embarrassing at times. Testosterone suppressors and oestrogens are the usual treatment for my condition; we give them up six weeks before the Op, possibly for one last taste of T before all is irreversible. That treatment can render a person permanently impotent and infertile, and there is no particular rule on how quickly that might happen. Writing as I think, the downside seems much greater than the upside. I would like better options given to people.

What have I lost? It is more difficult to have sexual relations, though not impossible. I am starving: I want to be touched, I want to be held, I want to be brought to climax. I want not to feel so alone-

Ah. I wrote down that first line because it was a good line. What have I lost, exactly? A penis is not a necessary or sufficient requirement for a good social life.

I don’t know that you can transition socially, and retain a functioning penis. This does not prevent people from trying. I don’t know what I feel about this. I don’t think I felt I could transition without transitioning physically. When I transitioned, there was no doubt in my own mind that that required hormones and GRS. International human rights law says different. I wanted GRS, and simply cannot answer whence that came- internal Real Me or social pressure. Social pressure was certainly there, though: felt grudging acceptance for transsexuals, who had GRS and hormones, but not for other transgendered people.

Round and round the same old stuff. What have I lost? What have I gained?

 ♥♥♥

I feel battered, bruised and broken. What have I lost? What have I gained, exactly? What have I been trying to achieve?

Given what I knew at the time, I am proud that I transitioned. I could be more authentically me. It was a necessary step to take. This may be a better way of putting that first line:

It’s not that transition wasn’t the right thing to do in the circumstances, at the time, it’s that I contemplate, with amazed horror, five decades of misery. I haven’t lost anything, I never had it. I have made my life as good as I could. I am miserable now.

[T]he world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.

Goya, two monks