Knowing you are trans

I am sailing close to the wind on that facebook group. I asked them how does being a woman differ from being a man? What does it mean that a trans woman is really a woman? What does it mean to be a woman? I feel that is different from knowing that transition is right for me: I have found a role I want to play, but do not have the essence of a woman. To say that I am a woman, I first have to say what a woman is.

A difference: not every woman can have children, but every woman deals with issues around female reproduction. A similarity: every woman has the experience of men coming on to her and not taking no for an answer: that is about fucking not romantic attraction. Mentally disabled women suffer more sexual violence than the general population. Trans women have that experience, and it is horrible, though it would be worse aged 13. We have the experience of being heard and respected less, and also the experience of being suspected of male violence, and potential victims of it- when someone says “I would never hit a woman” I can’t know he applies that to me.

That is seeing “being a woman” from a particular feminist perspective, in terms of restrictions. In terms of positives, we might think of being adored, Cat-called, Beautified, Idealized, but that does not happen to every woman and is less likely for us. Beauty is a lot of work, rather than a pleasant state, for most.

Someone said “Read Whipping Girl by Julia Serano” and others said don’t play the TERFs’ game.

People talked of hating breasts or of feeling that they ought to have breasts. That is trans as body dysmorphia. One said what it means to be a woman differs by culture. We can’t say what it means to be a woman, just be the best we can be. Women may have any human characteristic or quality.

My feeling is that the desire for bodily alteration arises from desire for the cultural role. That means that the desire for bodily alteration or hatred of ones body as it is does not indicate that I am a woman, but that my way of being is wrongfully despised.

I knew. I was in Russel Reid’s consulting rooms when he said I should have the Operation. I remember the delight I felt. It is one of my memories of intense happiness, relief, joy, affirmation.

I had intended to transition in September 2002. That was the date I had fixed on in 2000, when I decided to transition. I wanted to prepare. Then in March 2002 I woke in the night thinking how much I envied Vicky, who had multiple sclerosis without remission, and less than two years after diagnosis needed help to move from her wheelchair to a chair. I am thinking of a horrible struggle I saw, of two people failing to get her from her wheelchair onto a stair lift. I don’t know whether the look on her face was pain or mortification. It was not my place to interfere. I don’t know how long she survived after that, we were never close, I knew her as a volunteer at work.

I would have swapped lives with her! No-one doubted that she was a woman! I realised I had to transition as soon as I could.

So, there was the absolute conviction, and intensity of desire, which others now say is proof they are trans, or even proof they are women, and now I have changed my mind and concluded it was about social roles, and valuing my qualities, not about being a woman or even being trans. It was only about doing trans, as the best route I could see to self-acceptance.

That facebook group has just expelled someone for making transphobic statements. Any posts that deny the validity of transgender itself are not accepted in this group. I am close to that line. Trans is about roles, or culture, and not about essence. I acknowledge it exists, even that with the culture as it is that it is necessary. I wish that it didn’t.

Transgender medical care

I am on several trans facebook groups. One is for activists, and discusses trans in the media. Another is a support group, and there are two strong themes there- how long the poster has to wait for my psychiatric referral, and how wonderful it is to have their operation at last. Often people give daily updates when they are in hospital: they are so happy! You would see your GP and say “I am trans.” You want NHS psychiatric referrals to confirm this, because that is the way to get hormones and surgery; anyone can change their name and clothes. You see a psychiatrist locally, who refers you to a specialist gender clinic. Before you see the gender clinic, you are certain of what you want. You are trans, and you need a medically supervised transition. Your friends online, and perhaps IRL too, tell you that is what they want and how wonderful it is finally to have it.

You have the idea transition is the answer to your problems, and then you join trans groups which confirm that. All you hear is confirmation, and the idea that true trans folk need Gender Confirmation Surgery is still strong even if we also hear that not all trans folk have it.

Problems with dilation come up now and again, but not enough to convince pre-op people that there are serious difficulties.

You see a psychiatrist and say you know you are trans, and have known this for years, or for all your life. Ideally that psychiatrist would explore with you- who are you, really? Why do you want this? What is it in you that you call “trans” or “female” or “feminine”? But you see them for an hour once every six months, and that is impossible in the time available. It needs a depth and direction of psychotherapy they are not equipped to offer, even if you were in a place to participate in it.

There are also psychiatrists who will see patients privately. Mine used hormones as a diagnostic tool: he would prescribe them to every patient who consulted him. He said fantasists would balk at taking them, and never come again. I feel desperate people would know that this was what they were supposed to do, and take the hormones.

I, being desperate, knew this was what I was supposed to want and took the hormones. If you transition, they help you pass.

I transitioned in April 2002 at work. I thought, even though I don’t know if in five years I will be trying to live as a man, I need to do this now. I did not want The Operation immediately. I found I wanted it more and more as time went on. I had it in February 2004. In Autumn 2003 I was depressed, and my GP gave me more and more Citalopram. In February I ceased being depressed, and remained not depressed though the GP steadily reduced the anti-depressant. I thought that was proof that the operation was right for me.

And now I say I was poisoned and mutilated, the operation is a sham, a con, we want it because of social pressure and minimal medical intervention confirms we can have it because we really want it. There is no place for a psychiatrist to probe beneath the desire for the operation, even if they wanted to. We resent the delay, and resent the “gatekeepers” who might stop us having the operation we want. I did.

This is the way to happiness and acceptance! I knew I was not a man, I repeatedly curled in a ball on the floor weeping “I am not a man, I am not a man, I am not a man, I am not….” At the Sibyls we talked of it. We knew transition was terribly difficult, and we might not make a go of it, but there was no question that it was the difficulty stopping me, not any doubt that “I am trans therefore transition including surgery is right for me”.

How could I refuse the way to happiness and acceptance? I knew I wanted it, at a time when I was unclear about wanting anything else.

The social pressure is still there. There are a variety of messages- here I read Gender non-conforming kids – such as boys who like dolls or girls who hate dresses – aren’t trans. Trans people feel a disconnect between the person they’re seen as and expected to be and the person they actually are. What neat boxes! Why should anyone imagine they really knew which box fitted them?

I was poisoned and mutilated. Transgender medical care did not protect me from that. It could not.

Self-discovery while presenting male would have been difficult. Transition without hormones would too. I would not have passed as well. The operation removed my depression, and meant I could swim and wear trousers comfortably. It was good for me, and so this second-best, good enough is so enduring. We know what we want, and are desperate to get it.

Transtrender

Is that really a thing? People cross -dress because it’s fashionable? Apparently. Hooray!

True trans people go through terrible experiences to be most fully themselves, to express our inward essence. How should we respond to folks who are just playing at it?

With delighted encouragement. They mock and subvert gender boundaries and binaries. They make it harder to insist that a man or woman should be in a particular way or should not be other. They are showing bravery in challenging convention, but they  choose this particular one- they do not just seek notoriety by breaking rules, but challenge them. Why should not anyone cross-dress, if they wish?

I have gone through a terrible experience to express my true essence, but coming out at work followed a similar pattern. The first time I told a woman, it was a heartfelt exploration of my overwhelming need to be who I truly am. The last time I told a man, I said, “Oh,  by the way, Jonathan, next month I will be coming to work expressing myself as a woman.” “Congratulations!” he said. That was it. Why ever not? I can do that if I want to.

While my friend in the 1980s insisted her “boiler-suit” accentuated her femininity with its harder fabric, and the local rugby club might like to get their ballgowns on now and then as nothing can detract from their rugged manliness, most people who cross dress, even once, are expressing something within themselves, just as I am. I am feminine, and all men have a feminine side. Usually those in skirts will have a stronger feminine side than others. I want it not to be a big deal for a man to wear dresses. That might reduce the fraught disputes about it.

Their “playing at it” does not detract from my struggle. I struggled to make a man of myself, then I put myself through transition. Transition has brought me to a greater understanding of who I am and how I tick, and what gender conventions are. I dunno. Barry Manilow comes to mind- “I made it through the rain and found myself respected by other people who’d been rained on too…”

Will it stop me using the women’s loos? Well, I continue to do so, as no-one has objected yet. I hope it would not, in itself, make anyone more likely to object.

The idea on Urban Dictionary that people identify as trans without experiencing dysphoria in order to appear cool or edgy, just like (they say) some girls pretended to be bi- well, I am delighted that trans is cool. Far better than being disgusting or ridiculous.

Here’s someone who identifies as not “born this way”. They say they were fairly comfortable presenting as a stereotypical girl until they heard of trans and non-binary folks. They had always felt an outcast among girls, but was not “suffering deeply”. (How would you know, necessarily, if you were suffering deeply?) Now they found a chance of expressing themselves other than in a cis feminine way, they were “enchanted”. Now they approach surgery after five years in transition. If that is transtrender, I don’t know what is more trans than that.

Of course it is a twitter hashtag. Someone tweeted, I’m tired of these hysterical #transtrender SJW fuckwits trying to corrupt the kids of today. They are toxic filth & worse than terrorists! Who is this person? Mucky the Duck tweets also in support of Mr Trump and about Whites as a “minority”. Someone tweeted a photo of self in a skirt, showing male pattern baldness. “Me at Pride!” Someone else objected: “Being perceived like this is something that real transgenders fear worse than death.” Well- I get read. Some people think I am a man. It goes to show that Twitter is just a place to be horrid to folks.

If you have surgery or hormones, be certain they are right for you. Anything else is fair game. Anyone who wants surgery or hormones is truly trans. Anyone who cross-dresses is not against us, so is for us.

 

Why I transitioned

Women are free to be human. In transitioning, I sought their freedom from constraints I could not bear, which crushed me. Trans men, however, transition the other way: they too are seeking freedom and not constraint. What is the blessing of each gender? How is each empowered, and free?

I feel free to feel and express emotion. It is still a struggle for me. I do not always know what I am feeling. I do not always tolerate it, so that it bursts out of me in difficult ways, in tears or movement. I feel more free to connect. I connected at the Greenbelt festival and the Yearly Meeting Gathering. I could express feeling heart to heart.

I still associate this with weakness. Clearly it is not weakness, but flexibility. It may be vulnerable, but only if I can be shamed about my feelings or expression: if the attack, the attempt to shame me, does not work, then it is clearly strength.

The constraint was there, shaming me into not expressing myself like I can now. And when someone says “trans women transition to get sexual arousal from fooling people into thinking they are women” it is merely ridiculous, and only has power over me insofar as the constraint remains, shaming me into denial and self-hatred, using my belief that I really am weak, sick, perverted, disgusting, ridiculous, deluded and misogynist.

And we can express ourselves among trans friends, and then we find ourselves out in the real world where we read condemnation even where there is none, we project onto others our own internalised transphobia, constraints, understanding of manhood and shame. Yet we carry on, we fight through this, and eventually, possibly years after going full time, we reach that goal of freedom of expression, and self-acceptance. We are not inadequate males. We are human beings.

Strange that strength should be thought the same as control, and that self-control meant not expressing feelings, and the only way not to express feeling for many of us is not consciously to feel feelings. My feelings, and ability to empathise, are beautiful. Do men lack this entirely? Do only high-status men have this ability, or do men need an underling before they can evince emotion, as a way of controlling or using the other? Could men’s groups like Male Journey permit emotion without violence or shame? Is it something men can gain as they age and grow in wisdom?

How can you see anything outside yourself, how perceive beauty or the true nature of another human being, without access to your feelings? And, how suppressed was my real self, that I undertook this transition in order to express it. I still know what I want- Freedom. I have not attained it yet. I have a particular feeling, now, and I find my reaction ridiculous. It can only hurt me. I need it to stop. The chance of hurt or embarrassment frightens me. Accepting and forgiving myself is ongoing difficulty.

I felt the need to write, I am not going to “toughen up” by rejecting my softness and vulnerability which are beautiful and essential. I will not deny my pain, fear, incomprehension, desire, longing, loneliness, misery,
strength
truthfulness
loving-kindness
and this shows I know the threat, the desire to toughen up in that way, even though I know that only leads to misery and chains; that I am working on this acceptance, and see my goal; that I still need to work on it.

Trans men also seek freedom. Their freedom is from being seen as weak, patronised and not taken seriously, used as sexual playthings, not treated as a full human being. They find themselves respected, as they pass better.

All people contain the needs and abilities arbitrarily ascribed to “feminine” and “masculine” people. The man has his anima, the woman her animus, the soul of the other, which needs expressed to be a fully rounded human being. I might express my inner man having become free to express my inner woman.

Social Pressure II

There are people. Some of them are assigned female at birth, AFAB, some are assigned male at birth, AMAB. Some of them are intersex, they matter too, and my friend was fair pleased to learn she was Klinefelter’s- she had two X chromosomes! But I am writing for people who fit “normal” sexual development but not gender stereotypes, and find this uncomfortable.

The gender stereotypes affect AFAB and AMAB differently. Women do most of the caring for children and dependents, most of the housework, get promoted less, get interrupted more.

The stereotypes are rigid in childhood, enforced by toyshops and peers.

Many people don’t conform to those, perhaps most. “Patriarchy” is the concept that society is configured in the interests of the dominant males. Depending on personality, some people are happy in their own skin and happy not to conform- the boy who does ballet, the girl who plays rugby. Some try to conform, until that becomes unbearable. There is a spectrum, so some only differ a little from the stereotype, some differ a lot.

Some people are homosexual, some heterosexual, some bisexual. I don’t say “gay” and “straight” because, while there are men attracted to men, “gay” is a particular way of conceptualising that.

When you don’t conform, there are different ideas on how you can conceptualise yourself and your relation to the wider society, including “trans”, “non-binary” and “gender-non-conforming”. Non-conforming AFABs are not merely soft, non-conforming AMABs are soft, so there are differences in how they respond. Radical feminists can be very angry.

Each person is an individual, so no-one precisely fits those boxes; the boxes are fuzzy enough to include different people.

There is social pressure on the person who does not fit, to be trans. The wider society understands that, so if you are gender-diverse they may think you are trans and get confused if you are not. A GP once told me that one of the GP’s main tasks is to protect patients from specialists, who want to do stuff- and surgeons had the brilliant idea of implanting a womb in Lili Elbe, killing her by organ rejection. Surgeons busily remove wombs and gonads, and alter the appearance of bodies.

Many AMAB find dressing as women arousing. There are taboos against being visibly or discernably aroused in public and these extend to being cross-dressed.

Some people may have a physical sex dysphoria, and would want their organs altered even if there were no gender stereotypes. We can’t know. However, transition provides a relatively comfortable place for some people. I am happier transitioned than I was before, and I realised, before, that even if in five years’ time I was trying to make a go of life presenting male again, transition was the route I had to take to get there.

Because transition is a relatively comfortable place, I want transition, including physical alteration, to remain possible for people. I would also like people to feel accepted in their assigned sex, as gender non-conforming as they wish. I feel both groups are similar people with similar problems, and a similar interest in social acceptance of the widest possible gendered behaviour, for both genders. If I feel I want to do something which is particularly masculine I say “Today I am non-binary” and do it. This is liberating.

However, where there is social pressure to conform, the interests of each appear to be in opposition. Non-transitioners may feel pressured to transition, the “acceptable” way of being non-conforming. Transitioners may feel pressured not to, as transition is seen as harmful by social conservatives and radical feminists alike.

I want both choices to be accepted, but I take a side in the debate. Those who transition may see themselves as a class apart, really transsexual, AMABs who are really women, AFABs who are really men. It is not a choice of a particular course of action, it is the choice to recognise and affirm rather than suppressing who they really are. I say it is a choice. Yes, they really are naturally very far from the stereotype, but that does not mean they really are the other gender. I don’t accept theories of brain sex to justify transition, and ideas of a feminine soul or two-spirit are myths, stories to say why transition feels comfortable, appropriate, or the most desirable thing in the world, rather than a rigorous scientific this therefore that hypothesis. If it is generally thought that transition is a choice, it will be less acceptable.

Scientific studies are fraught. How many children detransition? Can you tell which trans kids will definitely want to transition as adults, and prevent their wrong puberty? People with a particular interest fight over the methodology and conclusions. Particularly, what should be the default when we don’t know? Why should it be that a trans child must undergo an assigned sex puberty, making transition later more difficult?

Some people detransition because of social pressure. Society forces them back in the closet. Some find a way to self-acceptance that does not involve presenting as the opposite sex.

Yes, it is a choice, but a choice made by oppressed people between unattractive options: given that you don’t fit the stereotype, you can pretend to fit it, live openly not fitting it, or transition. It is easier not to conform if you are comfortable in your own skin, but not everyone is, and people who face this choice often aren’t. Social Justice Warriors who want everyone to self-actualise, be valued, and reach their full potential should be very careful what they say. Social conservatives who value order and conformity should back the fuck off.

Social pressure

Do people transition because of social pressure? How could you know?

Now, I identify as a pansy, a feminine male. Before transition, I felt social pressure to conform to standards of masculinity, but I was aware of “transsexuals”. I felt liberated when I could express myself as Clare. In May 2000, I decided to transition. That decision lasted less than a week: I went to the local TV/TS group and sat with the TSs. None of them had jobs. They seemed miserable. They did not seem to pass particularly well. I thought I could not do it. Then at another group I found trans women who seemed to be able to make a go of life, and in November 2000 I decided to transition. I transitioned in April 2002, and still express myself as female. I have no plans to revert.

As I understood it at the time, there were two kinds of people with a Y chromosome who dressed as women. There were transvestites, who did it for sexual kicks, and transsexuals, who did it because they were really women. TVs were perverts, ridiculous and disgusting, but TSs had a medical condition, and were not to be condemned. I did not feel able to express my feminine self as a man, so the alternative was to transition. I wanted to transition, so I was TS.

In the Northern Concord, of those who did not proclaim themselves TS, there were still people who were like blokes down the pub who happened to be dressed strangely, and some very feminine types. I was friendly with the latter, and some later transitioned.

I wanted sex reassignment surgery. I paid for it. Now, I believe that I had it because of social pressure, because it was part of my understanding of what a transsexual was. Some of that pressure came from the transsexual support group, but also from cis folk, who talked of a “sex change”. Now, many who transition full time do not have SRS. We are “Trans”, which includes cross-dressers. We can make our own path within Trans, rather than being classified as one or the other of TV/TS.

There may be social pressure to identify as trans:

I discussed that article in detail. The mother finds professionals and others surprised that her daughter is not trans- there is social pressure- but mother and daughter are resisting it. It does not show that people transition because of social pressure, that someone comfortable with gender non-conforming behaviour will transition, and certainly not that anyone who could conform to the cis gender stereotype would feel any pressure to transition. It also supports the cisnormative default: the girl is thought to be trans, because she is not like girls are supposed to be. But she could still fit social expectations if she were trans, confirming how girls and boys are different- though the mother writes of others’ surprise, not disapproval. The gender non-conformist who refuses to transition is the real social pariah.

Talk of “social pressure” implies that we are in some way unfree, unfulfilled or prevented from self-actualisation. I would say that I felt I could be more myself if I conformed to the concept of the transsexual woman, so I leapt at the chance. Cisnormativity creates transgender: I would not have needed to transition had I been able to live as a flamboyant pansy, still male. (“Been” able or felt able? Social pressure was too strong for me.)  That is, there is social pressure on the gender non-conforming person to satisfy societal expectations, either by conforming to gender expectations of their sex or by transitioning.

Aged 51, I feel more able to resist social pressure, but possibly I am just ignored. I cycled to the station and took off my wig, unable to bear it. “You need a pair of long earrings,” said that woman. Um. Probably strong makeup too. There is an acceptable look for bald women, but it certainly is not my male pattern baldness, with hair thick round the back and sides but wispy or absent on top. I am paranoid about that even though I shave the sides.

 ♥♥♥

I tried that line on a trans activist facebook group. Cisnormativity creates transgender. One said Dysphoria is an emotional response to the gender variation of self, which may be a misunderstanding. Cisnormativity creates the idea that a boy should be “boyish”, and grow up to be “manly”. But it may be a disagreement. She is really a woman, she thinks. Another said she observed in children aged 2 or 3 distress at possessing a penis. I find it disturbing that the child, who is allowed to dress as a girl, should know that penis=boy, and not wholly credible without some parental pressure, but she believes that.

How you see it depends on your theory. I say we- transitioners, detransitioners, closeted people, open gender non-conformists, are all the same, all people who do not fit gender stereotypes, who respond to the difficulties that causes in different ways. She says she is a woman with a trans history, yes, really a woman. How you behave depends on your theory. I might not have transitioned had I not believed I really was transsexual. Later, I realised the question which mattered was “Will I be happier if I transition?”- what do I want to do, rather than who am I or what is my fundamental nature. I resisted transition, imagining I was not really TS: thinking I was autogynephilic instead. I say “non-binary” is a freedom-word, a claim I make when I want to act in a particular way, not a separate way of being human as bi or gay is. Different people might argue we are all NB, or all trans, or all GNC, and would act differently because of their theory. Which word you choose may either retrospectively justify your desire, or alter the way you express that desire. The way you do not fit stereotypes may be minimal or extreme, and how much that distresses you will differ.

It is not just we who debate these things. The doctors, and the wider society, debate them too. Some people, not personally affected, argue for what they think is good for the individual, some for the wider society, having different ideas of what it means to be man, woman, human. Ignorant people have strong opinions. Should people have access to cross-gender hormones and surgery? Should society repress gender non-conformity as a perversion, or only permit it to be expressed in a particular way? We can’t make our decisions isolated from the wider conversation, and we may be angry with people trying to push us into a path, or an understanding of the phenomenon, when it’s not the one we want.

On another trans group, person after person anticipates or celebrates their SRS. That I feel now I had it because of social pressure does not mean that anyone else did. For some dysphoria means a loathing of the body because it does not fit the person, which is cured by surgery.

All this is an introduction to the article in The Stranger, and particular responses to it.

 ♥♥♥

Katie Herzog wrote an article, The Detransitioners: They Were Transgender, Until They Weren’t. Julia Serano and others responded, Katie Herzog wrote again, woundedly saying she was only a journalist reporting people’s stories and experts’ opinions, and Julia Serano wrote again. Briefly, I feel the problem is that people want to make their own decisions- transition, detransition, surgery, hormones, behaviour- but feel that expressed opinions about others’ decisions may make their own more difficult. As Serano writes,  trans communities are highly aware of how notions of “social contagion,” “trendsgender,” and “cisgender people being turned transgender because of peer pressure” are routinely used by those who wish to rollback transgender rights and access to healthcare. We won’t get hormones if others are simply gender non-conforming and public pressure says taking cross-gender hormones is icky, they will not permit it.

But then I say we don’t make our decisions free of public pressure. We may feel that pressure in different ways, as there is no consensus. Detransitioners, social conservatives and TERFs say Transition is Bad. Social liberals recognise that men have been dressing as women since Deuteronomy and probably long before, and there is a tradition of trans surgery going back to Lili Elbe. Depending on the circles we move in or what we read, different options present themselves to us, and what attracts us to one rather than the other may be luck or chance.

Serano has also written, stop pitting detransitioners against happily transitioned people. Yes. We’re the ones who have to live with our non-conformity. We share a lot of common interests. We should strive to minimize unwanted irreversible changes, she says. Of course. But when I so badly wanted SRS in 2003, I did not know I would regret it later.

This is long enough already. I may come back to these articles. I want us all to be able to make whichever decisions feel right for us, to deal with gender issues- but we cannot do that in a vacuum, as if there were no social pressure. It is continued: Social Pressure II.

How feminine is Clémentine-Hélène Dufau’s portrait of Maurice Rostand!

Sam Kane

Not only am I a real woman; I would go even further to say that a transgender woman has more claim to womanhood than a “biological” woman.

A transgender woman has reached womanhood by the arduous path of achievement rather than by accident of nature. Those who climb Mount Everest have a greater claim to winning that peak than someone accidentally dropped there by helicopter.

Sam Kane has been interviewed in the Daily Mail again. I wish she would stop digging. “I have had it harder than cis women have” is not a winning argument. Some cis women feel they are dropped in a jungle to fend for themselves without proper training or defensive equipment, when these trans women appear to be on safari, as a holiday.

You don’t know how hard other people have had it. Consider my friend, enraged at men pressing her for sex from the age of 13, and not feeling able to say “I just don’t fancy you” because she is socialised into being accommodating, though her evasions are taken as a personal insult. “Only ‘I have a boyfriend’ was an acceptable excuse, because then you were someone else’s property”.

“Now, I intimidate men,” she said without a smile.

Sam: I met people at transsexual clubs who kept saying how fantastic it was to be a woman and how happy they were, and I thought it would be the solution to all my problems.

We went to different clubs, obviously. I met people who said how hard it was, but with determination and a lot of work they might just manage. When I transitioned, I thought my employer would find some pretext to sack me and I went ahead anyway.

Sam Kane, who has transitioned M-F-M, with vaginoplasty, then some sort of operation to create an “approximation” of male genitalia, has now transitioned back, but does not feel she needs further surgery. Does it really matter what’s “down there?” What’s in your head, heart and soul only matters. Well, that is the fashion. We all had The Operation back then, now increasing numbers don’t. And we object to journalists prying and disclosing what is between our legs, in prurient, sly, giggly articles for Daily Mail readers to get shocked or turned on over. Their very headline says she had her male organs removed in an operation.

The fast cars, the yachts, the competition to have the prettiest or the youngest girlfriends — it was all a theatre, a charade to fit into this male club I never really wanted to join. From childhood I felt female, but I was ambitious and the two were always in conflict, so I became almost a caricature of what a “real” man is expected to be.

Mmm. The job below my ability, because just living was difficult, the isolation because I was always pretending, the shame and discomfort and not fitting in my own skin- I too feel she is on safari. No-one has it easy as trans, and it is not always easier after transition, and I really want to sympathise with her struggles, pain and difficulty- but she alienates me.

During her marriage breakdown, Sam first thought himself bisexual then started to question gender identity. Some would query late onset, and say aha, they is not true trans. Not me. For me, being trans is made so difficult by society that if you claim you are trans, you are. But this line encourages the haters, like Jenni Murray quoted here: “simply choosing to become a woman”, as if it were a whim.

This is the bit I hate her for. Like many transgender women, I tried to turn myself into an ultra-feminine, perfect woman. I was trying to live up to the feminine ideal, so I wore sexy clothes and make-up. I learned how to walk and talk a certain way. I just wanted to be accepted. Like many trans women, I schlep around in jeans much of the time, even without makeup. I express myself feminine because I am feminine. Often, I have to defend myself against the allegation that my femininity is an act. I do not express myself so feminine because I feel that is how women should be, but because I am this feminine. We all “just want to be accepted” but being publicly trans, writing a book about her struggles, may not be the best way. Some will see her as courageous, some as ridiculous. Find the people who accept you, and ignore the rest.

She detransitioned because she wanted accepted by her family, but found she was not accepted as a feminine male by clients and peers. No-one is accepted by everyone. If people can wind you up by referring derisively to your masculinity or femininity, they will. The only way to survive is not to get wound up. As Charles, he went to his son’s wedding. It was very civilised. Everyone was very welcoming and no one said anything unpleasant, but I felt like an embarrassment and it hurt.

That begins to make me sympathise again. She is so sensitive!

I want to walk barefoot on the grass in the sunshine, but there is gravel between the front door and the lawns. I walk gingerly over the gravel, and it makes me think of the Little Mermaid, whose every step on dry land was like walking on knives. Yes, it is painful- but the pain is not the only thing, there is so much beauty! Our sensitivity is a burden and a delight, we are easily hurt but easily delighted, and we can sympathise with others, entering their woes and joys. You need to learn to be sensitive to your own sensitivity. Even now, I don’t think she gets it.

She has it hard. Someone pointed to her and asked, “Is that a real woman?” The next thing I knew, a fist was flying through the air and I ended up with a broken nose. The provocation is merely existing. We all have our stories like that.

Yet she is following her own desires again: Do you think I would have gone through all this suffering and sacrifice if there wasn’t something inside so strong telling me I am woman? The whole notion that a transgender woman is not a real woman is false. We are not talking about castrated males, or gay men in drag, we are not fakes. That would not convince my friend. She would accept the conviction, but say “woman” is physical, not emotional, so Sam is not a woman. As for me, I want to be treated as a woman. I want allowances made for my inability to present male, as allowances are made for disabilities. But insisting “I am a real woman” just encourages the haters.

Many mock, and she lays herself open to that. The quotes are taken from a Daily Mail article. Don’t give them clicks, it only encourages them.

Moving forward

I decided to transition in November 2000. I went to my GP and got a referral to the psychiatrist, and started arranging things like speech therapy and electrolysis. I decided to take nearly two years to sort out transition at work, but my plan was clear. I would dress female not only in accepting spaces like Manchester’s Gay Village, but in ordinary spaces, like the street or supermarket. I put the plan into practice. After a year full time, I started work on arranging the operation.

My friend is moving forward now. She has been working on her voice, and got it to a pleasant pitch above the break. A mixture of laser, electrolysis and epilation has greatly reduced facial and body hair. She goes out neatly tucked and does not particularly like the protruberance, but tolerates it. She is putting into place the career changes she feels she needs to transition. She brings aspects of her feminine presentation into her manly work environment- from baritone her normal speaking voice has moved up to tenor, her body language is different, and she notices that the way people respond to her changes. She likes those changes.

She feels that seeing the GP is the moment crossing the threshold, the moment of commitment. It was for me, but she is feminising before committing to transition, and I never did: almost to the end, I kept my male presentation in my manly pretence, out of fear. I have been wondering if hers was the way to find something better than transition, to ease into a more comfortable, feminine existence without all the faff of clothes, wigs, makeup. We arranged to meet, and I was going to tell her not to transition.

It seemed to me transition is a cul-de-sac. It is so tempting because you know what you have to do, and you feel you are moving forward until you hit the wall- for me an operation with results I did not like was the wall. Dressing works like addiction, I said. At first it is really nice, but eventually you have to do it to make life tolerable.

There is social pressure. I would say “Hello” to my neighbour, no long conversations, but after he noticed me going out for the evening dressed female he started blanking me. I asked his wife, pretending innocence, and she lowered her voice and said “I think it’s because of the way you dress“. But, when I transitioned, he would say hello, again, and he came round to say goodbye when they moved. Transition is grudgingly accepted in a way effeminacy is not.

What about relationship? Women “wearing the trousers”, virago + beta-male, can be made to work. It worked really well for my parents, though that screwed me. It is very tricky for the male, perhaps similarly tricky for the woman in a male-controlled relationship: great if the partner self-asserts to benefit the couple as a team, not so much if s/he simply gets her own way.

I realised that I could not tell her not to, that she was aware and still moving forward. Why would I want to, anyway, it is her life, warning her off might not be right for her and would not mitigate my own loss. Possibly, there would always be one brick wall or another to hit; possibly this is the best it can get. Possibly any path ahead, either it is signposted, and does not satisfy; or overgrown, and hard to find.

not knowing

He recognised the anger and angst that Abigail suffered and fervently hoped that she would be able to love herself. Perhaps he will pray for me. I experienced him, despite his protestations, as hostile, but it is bracing to see oursels as ithers see us.

His career has been successful, and it seems to me our gifts are opposite: he is not terribly bright, though good-hearted, and has been enabled to prosper by self-belief arising from a privileged upbringing. Actually, I make progress on loving myself. I see, intellectually, that I am lovable, and though I more often am frustrated with myself I see the point of nurturing myself, and seek better ways of doing that. Sometimes I even accept emotionally that I am lovable.

Anger and Angst. I thought, Wangst– there I go, pointlessly harsh on myself- but yes, anger, anger is my ground bass. I am sitting in the Quaker meeting thinking of various instances when someone has said, wonderingly, “You’re so angry!” to me. Like that time with the council careers service, keeping me standing outside their door where colleagues passing on their way to work round the corner would see me, rather than letting me in for my appointment. Some irritation was appropriate, possibly not the anger she discerned. The anger I discerned is against myself, mostly, and out of proportion too.

I have been on the edge of deciding that transition is a complete con, that having tried to make a man of myself and failed that trying to make a woman of myself is just the pendulum swinging, as distant as ever from being my natural self, that no-one should transition. And it came to me in meeting that I could not possibly know, because I judge my own decisions so harshly. This was what I wanted more than anything else in the world, and possibly it was just me groping in the dark- from wrong to wrong the exasperated spirit moves- and possibly I could trust my own decision more. I don’t know if it was the best decision. I can’t. Either I am committed to it, as it has involved such an investment of effort and energy, so I can’t admit to myself it could be wrong, or I despise myself so completely that I cannot admit to myself it could be right. I want to know, I want to understand, I want a world map with which I can navigate my world and make decisions based on accurate prognostication, so it is tempting to plump for one of those opposite positions- worst ever decision or moving forward into fulfilment- to have a position on the question.

I can’t know. I am not equipped to judge, certainly not rationally, and as for how I feel about it, that changes under the influence of other things. Therefore I can’t know I was completely, self-destructively wrong.

I told the person sitting next to me I had had a blessing in meeting, and they said they knew. Not something to minister about, though, just for myself.

Living unapologetically

Karis Wilde will appear in a film called “Make Love not Walls”. The genderqueer dancer and model oscillates elegantly between conventional male and female gender distinctions, in one clean fuck you to so-called norms. She likes both male and female pronouns. He says,

It was very difficult being as queer as I was- there was no hiding it.

What would that mean? I hid it. I was not popular, but I was seen as nerdy rather than queer. So, I am less queer than Karis, or more suppressed? I think more willing to suppress, less able to tolerate my real self.

I think I just started living my life unapologetically. For a while I tried to be a little more masculine – that was a bit of train wreck – and then I tried being a little bit more feminine but nothing felt genuine. Nothing felt right, so I just ended up choosing to be myself.

I tried to fit in as a man, and transition was yet another attempt to fit in. If I can’t manage being a man, perhaps I will manage being a woman. But-

But it was very difficult – even a lot of gay people don’t think outside of the box, they just think in a different box.

Gender queer. Just be. It is far more difficult than those two words appear- we follow tracks, of normal, queer, exuberant, boisterous, how we are supposed to be, bothered when others look surprised.

Aged 21, he found very open, loving and accepting people. As I have said, I have some faint hope for my fifties.

I don’t think people respect anyone who is insecure about themselves. I think it’s just built into them to stomp on weaker people. So once you start being comfortable with yourself, you command respect, and it’s a different way that you carry yourself. That was definitely true in my instance. I felt a shift in not only how people viewed me but also in how I viewed myself. I think everything changes in that instance.

Why would you do anything? Is it because you like it, or to curry favour which will not be given anyway? Even if not “stomp”, we do not like weaker people, or want to be with them. There is the-

how could I start that?
Am I ever like that?
Is it just that I notice the lacking conviction, trying to fit in me, and not the-

It is as if I am shut down, and trying to reactivate myself. One learns these things. Being and seeing, trusting or knowing that I be and see…

I think everyone is so raw and hurt right now that when you actually speak about love it hits a different tone. People are starting to feel very alienated and very forgotten so I think that the word love has taken a deeper meaning.

He is a campaigner for social justice. I feel such envy.

Karis Wilde interview.

Karis Wilde is wonderful, and then I saw this other quote here: You may suddenly decide you’re part of all these groups, but the world has its own idea of who you are. They won’t let you just get on with that. Some manage, some do not.