Truth at transition

I lay on the floor weeping, “I am not a man”. So I transitioned.

Raymond Chandler said there were two kinds of truth, in science and in art. We know the Earth goes round the Sun, though the Earth’s gravity makes the Sun wobble, an effect used to detect exoplanets, and our spiral galaxy is spinning and falling towards the Great Attractor. How you express a scientific truth affects how truthful it is. Do we have the concepts to express it properly? “The Earth goes round the Sun” is truthful as far as it goes, but needs qualified.

Art, by contrast, tells us about being human, and how humans can relate to the world and each other. Music and pictures can speak to us emotionally, and stories can place us in otherwise unimaginable situations.

Others say religious truth is different from scientific truth. The two need not contradict each other. Christianity is polluted by having been aligned with State power since the Emperor Constantine, and since the Enlightenment is far too concerned with beliefs as bald statements of fact rather than as poetry or story, but at its heart is about human beings relating to each other in community and to the external world, the relationship between me and all that is external to me.

Before I saw my doctor about transitioning, in November 2000, I phoned the Beaumont Trust helpline. Later I worked on it, when it operated just on Thursday evenings: now it runs 24 hours, on 07000 287878. I wanted a way to persuade my doctor that objectively, scientifically, I was transsexual, and the helpline volunteer said, “Just tell her how you feel”. I had the idea that there was an objective concept, “transsexual”, which could be diagnosed by doctors, and if I fitted it I would be right to transition, and if I did not I would not; and while I decided not to lie I passionately desired to persuade the doctors that I should transition.

While I was preparing to transition, I realised that there were two questions:

Am I transsexual?
Will I be happier if I transition?

The first purports to be an objective, scientific question, but human beings are too complex for that one. Yes, if your definition of transsexual includes me. If it is too squeamish about the possibility of someone regretting and reverting then it won’t, but then it will exclude many people who transition happily, or at least a lot of people will be excluded. Of course I am transsexual. I transitioned.

Why did I want to transition? Now, too late, I think it was because I had too restrictive an idea of how a “man” should be- it can be hard to be an effeminate male, but people manage it, and lots of men would not fit my ideal and seem happy enough with that- and at the same time had female embodiment fantasies. The fantasies would not have been enough, by themselves, if I was not trapped and revolted by this concept of Manliness. Margaret was my friend before I transitioned, and visited weekly to talk and play backgammon. She said “It’s as if you’re acting when you’re Stephen, and just you when you’re Clare”. She was right. Expressing myself female enabled me to be me in a way I could not when I was presenting male- but that was because I believed it, rather than because men really can’t be like me.

That belief about how men should be, and the siren song of the fantasies, were too strong. I could not have understood myself as I have without transitioning. If I hadn’t, I would just have been stuck, wanting to.

There is no objective, scientific truth about who is right to transition. There is only the feeling of desire. Some would claim brain studies show who is trans. I understand one programme uses MRI scans and has seen enough to predict whether a particular scan is of a trans person. “Brains are plastic” say others, and I don’t know if it could predict whether someone would transition. Oh, alright- I withdraw that- if it is knowable whether anyone is right to transition, I cannot know, or formulate a particular definition or test; but I feel it is art, or stories, that best encourage people to transition, and reassure them afterwards. “I am a woman” is a story, not scientific fact.

In deciding to transition, I wanted the doctors to affirm my desire, and so after the NHS psychiatrist appeared ambivalent went to private psychiatrists who did. I could not rely on scientific fact, only my own feelings.

Years after, H told me “You have a lovely male energy” and slowly it dawned on me a man could be like this. I no longer have female embodiment sexual fantasies, apart from in my rare erotic dreams. Those two remarks by female friends who knew me well: drafting this in my head, I thought of calling one the Good Fairy, one the Bad Fairy, but could not decide which is which. Both said what they saw, and both were truthful.

Self ID as a threat

In 2009 Alex Drummond transitioned from male to female. She still has her beard, and did not opt for hormones or surgery. I’m widening the bandwidth of how to be a woman, she said.

I rarely sympathise with the Mumsnet terfs, but when one asked why she couldn’t widen the bandwidth of how to be a man, I am with her. Men should be able to wear skirts if they wish, and should act as feminine as they feel inside- but if it means accessing women’s spaces, I feel there should be some restriction, to honestly intend to appear as a woman. Alex claims to be a woman, she may honestly believe she is one, and so that is not enough: she should not have to alter her body if she does not want to, but keeping the beard means she should not be in women’s spaces. There. I have now taken an exclusionary position.

We’ve all had to start somewhere- male features, bad wigs, unfashionable ill-fitting clothes, thick make-up not quite covering the stubble, obviously trans women. We might intend to transition, but not have started on hormones, or even beard removal yet. You shave as close as you can, and stubble shows. Why should that exclusion not apply to me? If I don’t pass now-

Because of my intention to appear like a woman, which is more than belief that I am one. Mix it up by all means, but go to the toilet of your birth sex, or gender neutral toilets. I will go to gender neutral toilets where available. What if I just could not appear as a woman at all? If I were street homeless, I could not maintain a wig- and therefore, could not socially claim to be a woman. Practically, I would revert.

No, you don’t have to wear skirts, makeup, high heels, long hair all the time. Women can dress down, and so can you. And at the margins it can be difficult- if women can dress androgynously, why not trans women? Of course we can- but not in women’s spaces.

I know that self-ID is a minor administrative change, only affecting those of us who intend to transition life long, not affecting the prevalence of medical treatment of trans folk, or our numbers. And some people appear to believe that it will result in a crowd of men claiming to be women, invading women’s spaces. In reality there are not that many of us, and we’re there already. Or it will in some way restrict other ways of challenging the gender binary, where people are forced to identify as trans rather than as with their birth sex. It’s not a threat, but they claim it is, a personal threat because their identity as a woman, though not “feminine”, is under threat.

Those who don’t like trans people are using the minor administrative change to open up the whole question of trans women in women’s space. They want us excluded, even though we have been there all along. They talk about genuine trans women and predatory men, and the boundary between these two groups- genuine so at least grudgingly tolerated, and predatory so to be excluded, and ideally shamed and prosecuted- is fuzzy. Some would exclude pre-op trans women. Some would go further, look at our motivations, decide some post-op trans women were “autogynephiliac” and exclude us too.

As there won’t be any particular change, there is no new threat. Trans women have been expressing ourselves as women, broadly tolerated, for over fifty years. Transition is a radical act, and only a very few will undertake it: it needs not just gender dysphoria, but the conviction that you will be happier transitioned and can make a go of it. Yet the pretence is that there will be a sudden influx of- people who are objectionable in some undefined way, and they may use that as an excuse to try to exclude me.

“Genuine trans women”

The concept of the “genuine trans woman” promotes transphobia and transphobic violence by suggesting that some people are merely pretending to be trans women, for misogynist, immoral or criminal purposes, and must be opposed. Then no trans woman can be safe, because anyone might judge we were not genuine enough.

From facebook: We oppose any rules that will open up women’s spaces to opportunistic, predatory males. We are not suggesting for a moment that trans women fall into that category, though our argument is often wilfully misrepresented as such. We believe that the best solution for this is to have dedicated spaces for trans women, as they are also at risk of male violence. So all trans women should be excluded, in case one of us is an “opportunistic, predatory male”. This is a verbal formula to justify excluding trans women from women’s spaces, where we have gone for decades.

Lucy Masood, a firefighter, spoke at a Woman’s Place event in London: For me this isn’t about genuine trans women having access to our spaces, this is about men. Men who do not have gender dysphoria, are not women, have no intention of physically becoming women yet believe they have the right to be accepted as women.

Men demanding to be included in all-women short lists, demanding to be woman’s officers, demanding to compete against women in sporting events and now, of course, demanding to have access to women only spaces.

Trans women competing in sporting events have to comply with rules about testosterone levels. She is against people who are clearly trans women, and suggesting that allowing our presence is a threat to women.

Who are these men? They don’t have gender dysphoria, she says. How would she know? Perhaps they do not have a gender recognition certificate under the current rules. That is, they have not produced a letter from a specialist psychiatrist to prove to the Gender Recognition Panel that they have gender dysphoria. That does not show they do not have gender dysphoria: many of us have not seen a specialist psychiatrist because we are on the waiting list, or because we are terrified of transitioning and have not quite admitted that we are going to do so, but nevertheless are testing the waters and going out in public as women. I did that. I had gender dysphoria.

I want those of us considering transition to be able to go out in public and use the loo. They are not currently protected by the Equality Act until they have made the decision to transition. If, without a diagnosis, I could tell Lucy Masood that I had gender dysphoria and she would believe me, there might be little problem; but if I need a doctor’s letter to convince her she is more suspicious than I would like. Disbelieve me if you have clear reason to do so. I should not have to prove myself to anyone, unless what I say is contradicted by what I do. There has not been any great influx of “predatory men” pretending to be trans women in Ireland.

Some people of course will see contradictions and threats anywhere.

Lucy also mentioned people who “have no intention of physically becoming women”. I was ambivalent about that until about a year after I transitioned at work. My intact penis was less prone to erections, as I was taking oestradiol and the testosterone suppressant Goserelin. And yet I was going to work expressing myself as a woman. Clearly, Lucy would exclude a lot of trans women who are currently allowed to go about our ordinary business unmolested, and use loos without trouble.

So while she might claim to include trans women, or not oppose our inclusion, in fact she worries about “men”, and would call a lot of genuine trans women men. It is still transphobia. If you don’t accept that “trans women are women” you should at least accept that “trans women are trans women”- and that includes people considering transition. Nobody seriously considers it without being trans- it is just too costly and difficult.

Conversion therapy

What is conversion therapy? For gay people, it attempts to stop them acting on sexual attraction, or even to create other sex attraction. For trans people, it is less clear. “Conversion therapy” aimed at changing the character of the person, to “whip the sissy out of” a trans girl, is clearly vile.

Human rights law recognises it should be our choice whether to have surgery and hormone therapy. Gender recognition should not depend on whether someone has been sterilised. In the same way therapy should explore what gender dysphoria means to this person, and what is the best way to proceed, which may be transition with hormones and surgery, and may not. It should explore mental health problems which arise because of the stress of dealing with gender dysphoria.

So the Royal College of Psychiatrists’ position statement on supporting transgender and gender diverse people is insufficient. It defines conversion therapy as Treatments for transgender people that aim to suppress or divert their gender identity – i.e. to make them cisgender – that is exclusively identified with the sex assigned to them at birth. That has no meaning, because it conflates gender and sex. Expressing their gendered characteristics need not mean presenting as the other sex. Certainly a psychiatrist should explore whether sterilisation is necessary, or may be avoided. Often, trans people do not transition: a trans woman feels her size would make it impossible, a partner would not accept it, and we all bear the costs of being read as trans sometimes. Sometimes the costs of transition are too high. But whether the person can accept themselves as a feminine man or masculine woman, is a different question. That is, are they transgender- not fitting gender stereotypes for their sex- or transsexual, needing to express themselves and function as a person of the other sex?

That feminine man may not be open to considering living as a feminine man, if his attempt to make a “Real Man” of himself has failed, he sees the possibility of being able to express his character as a woman, and has a fixed idea that a “real trans woman” craves hormones and surgery. Psychiatrists need to see people before we are desperate, and need the time to explore with us. They claim gender-affirming medical interventions improve wellbeing and mental health in transgender and gender diverse adults– which is again confused. What is the difference between transgender and gender diverse? There is only one mention of non-binary, where they define gender identity as Self-identification and/or social identity as male/female/other gender. Other gender identities may include gender neutral, non-binary, fluid, and genderqueer.

When a psychiatrist sees someone presenting with gender problems, it is not conversion therapy to explore whether they are trans or non-binary. Possibly, these are not separate syndromes but merely differences in how we see ourselves, not underlying nature but the products of different experiences, not immutable once formed but malleable. Only the stress and anxiety of being gender non-conforming makes the identity seem fixed. The psychiatrist should not impose a course of action but enable the patient to see the best course for themself, including considering courses they had not imagined. Yet it can be unbearable not to know– if transition seems the answer, I just want to get on with it, and cannot see it is not right for me until it is completed.

The College supports psychiatrists in fully exploring their patient’s gender identity (involving their families where appropriate) in a non-judgemental, supportive and ethical manner. That involves considering options- transition, and non-binary expression both in the external symbols and expressing ones underlying qualities. It involves valuing those qualities.

Gender is a spectrum, we say. Some people conform to their gender stereotype with comfort, some reject the gender stereotype but not their sex, some are non-binary, some transition. If it is a spectrum, there are no clearly defined boxes, that someone is non-binary or is transgender, immutably and diagnosably by psychiatrists.

Becoming a woman

When should a trans woman be considered a woman or girl? It depends for what purposes. Never, if being a “woman” means not being guilty of rape; from the moment of uttering the thought to another human being, for the purposes of being nurtured, understood, and assisted to thrive. Am I a woman? Should I be treated as a woman? That depends on what “being treated as a woman” means.

I was a trans woman when I was still presenting male at work. I had decided I would transition and was working towards it. For most purposes then it does not matter if I am a man or a woman, but I had two credit cards and two bank cards, one in each name, to avoid embarrassment. Had I used the female one when dressed male I might have been challenged, because people should not use someone else’s credit cards, and anyone might assume one in my female name was not mine; a friend did that, and got sectioned. They would not be “treating me as a man” so much as considering misleading evidence.

When dressed male I would not have dreamed of using women’s loos, but I did when dressed female. I had to spend more and more time “living as a woman” before I gave up my male identity completely. But when I was arrested for drunk driving, I was searched by a man, and gave my male name. (I was below the limit.) I feel that is reasonable. People hate being searched by whatever sex.

“Are you a man or a woman?” Well, why does it matter? I am me, my name is Clare, I like people to use female pronouns when referring to me. At the Bridgewater Hall in Manchester, there was a concert where every woman in the audience was handed a rose. I took one, pleased, yet wondered if that was fraud- if I would not have received one if I were perceived as male. Possibly I was read, perhaps the man giving the roses out was in too much of a hurry to really notice, possibly I was “treated as a woman” though perceived as a trans woman.

I would not enter a woman’s refuge as a woman before transition. There are some services for women which are not appropriate. I am glad not to have needed to, and unsure that all trans women would agree. I feel I would be entitled to use their services now I am transitioned, though, if I were escaping domestic violence. They help women. I am treated as a woman, as a matter of international human rights law and long-standing practice in Britain.

The Labour Party has all-women shortlists for parliamentary candidacies, women’s forums, additional woman delegates to conferences in certain circumstances and women’s conferences. There are women’s officers on constituency party committees. When should trans women be admitted? To some, the syllogism is clear:

Lily is a trans woman- even though she is presenting male under some circumstances
Trans women are women
Lily should have access to women’s privileges.

To me, though, it is a matter of what will the straights accept? They might go along with me at women’s conferences, now I have transitioned, but perhaps not before.

But what should I say to younger trans women who are clear they are women even though they are presenting male some of the time? “Don’t rock the boat! Go full time first!” It is another way of saying I am more trans than they are, they should not spoil it for the real trans people. I am not going to say that to anyone. Transition is a baptism of fire- perhaps it would be better if we could be accepted as women while still presenting androgynously, and able to present male if necessary.

Other people might think transition proves you are really a trans woman, rather than a fantasist. I am willing to take someone’s word for it, on the grounds that this is a scary and disadvantageous thing to be. No-one claims it falsely. I would not positively campaign for trans women pre-transition to be treated as women, but if they are accepted I would quietly cheer.

If it is an advantage to be seen as a woman- different terms for insurance or pensions, say- I am more wary. They should not be different, as a matter of Equalities rights.

Wherever I am, I am dependent on the tolerance of others. I cannot always know what might increase or decrease that tolerance.

Resisting shame

There are three ways people attempt to overcome shame. We move away from the stimulus, by disappearing into our own lives; move towards it, by trying to prove ourselves, attain perfection, people-please; and move against it, by using anger and trying to shame others. All of these dig us into the hole deeper, and move us farther from our present selves. They remove a little of the pain, only for it to come back later.

(What is the alternative to being present in the moment? Being stuck in the past, in failed past tactics for dealing with problems.)

These strategies do not work. They attempt to disconnect from the pain, but we must feel it, accept it and let it go. With a woman who tries to do her down, Brené Brown repeats her mantra: Don’t shrink and be small for people, don’t puff up and get arrogant and cocky, just stay on your sacred ground. Actually, that sounds quite perfectionist.  In shame, trying to respond rather than react after the woman pushes her buttons she says to herself do not talk, text or type. She has to bring matters to consciousness and soberly assess what the facts really are.

She says, face the shame and heal it with conversation; and with laughter, not as defence or deflection but recognition that I am not alone in this.

I am ashamed of my ways of dealing with shame. My mother taught me to people-please, to pretend to be the way I ought to be; to hide away; to be perfectionist. I am hiding away in my reclusive state, and ashamed of it, because I should not need to.

Much of this has been unconscious. It is all what I do, or what I ought to do, just the way the world is and reality is. I need to bring it into consciousness because otherwise I do not see what a burden it is. In order to go out to work, to face the world again, I need to turn my life around, and like a supertanker with a relatively small rudder I see what a big deal that is. Suddenly that expression is particularly meaningful. It’s huge.

Shame at my effeminate self made me attempt to make a man of myself, joining the territorial army (just about the place I least fitted) and then a woman, by having my testicles removed. It would have been a small price to pay to be normal, to have nothing to feel shame about, if it had worked.

Shame keeps me hiding away.

From Dr Brown’s assessment, self-esteem, considering my gifts and qualities, will not ameliorate shame by itself. Now, it seems that I am ashamed of everything, of all that I am and that I do, and even that I should be so shamed and so incapacitated by it. I fear being shamed if I go out, and then ashamed of not going out. These are powerful buttons for others to push. I am ashamed of what I do to resist feelings of shame. I am ashamed of my life, of the little I have made of it.

I deserve better.

An address to the radical feminists

A change of tack.

I transitioned fifteen years ago, and I don’t know why beyond it was what I wanted, more than anything else in the world. No-one knows why, not really; in the nineties I heard about the bed nucleus of the Stria Terminalis central section, a bit of the brain which is twice the size in trans and non-trans men that it is in trans and non-trans women, but there is no definitive research. I am a complex organism in a complex social structure is about as precise as I can get: I transitioned because I am human. I am I.

So we tell stories to each other about it. I don’t think the autogynephilia hypothesis is useful to explain or predict, but you might like it. I don’t know what being “really” a woman would mean. I know people have been doing this for thousands of years. Deuteronomy would not prohibit something no-one ever did. They were not “trans people” as understood now, but they were people seen as men by the authorities, wearing women’s clothes. There are people born with testicles who believe they are women, or third gender, all over the world. People transition in far less accepting cultures than ours.

Socially and legally I am a woman, accepted as a woman by such as Diva magazine and Women’s Aid Scotland. The former editor of Diva said, Thirty and forty years ago to be a lesbian was to be questioned. Today things are much better for us (for the cis lesbians, that is) but there are still places where to be a lesbian is impossible. So it is for transmen and women, many of whom have been or are lesbian or bi-identified. We know something of these struggles. And just as others have supported us, so we must support those among us who are trans or we risk ending up on the wrong side of history. Unfortunately, that quote is no longer on their website.

Scottish Women’s Aid and Rape Crisis Scotland said, We do not regard trans equality and women’s equality to be in competition or contradiction with each other. We support the Equal Recognition campaign and welcome the reform of the Gender Recognition Act.

Rape Crisis and Women’s Aid in Scotland provide trans inclusive services on the basis of self identification. We will continue to work collaboratively with Scottish Trans Alliance and other equality organisations with the aim of ensuring that new processes are appropriately designed and without unintended consequences.

So the trans lobby that afflicts you is not a few dowdy, frightened trans women but a huge number of campaigning feminists, who are “women born women” or whatever phrase you would like to use. When you campaign against the trans lobby, you are campaigning against feminist organisations. Even if a few men in mini-skirts with their penises showing could terrify Women’s Aid by the threat of an Equality Act court action, they could not force them to make such a statement. Women’s Aid are used to assessing the risk posed by clients, and whether they should be in a group hostel or alone- or sent away because of lack of funds.

And you are working with the establishment and the hard Right: the Telegraph, the Spectator, Standpoint magazine, the Daily Mail. The Times is virulently anti-trans at the moment. I don’t know what Mr Murdoch has against us, but he has never been progressive.

Before I transitioned, I was friendly with a colleague. We were committed to the work we did and the people we served. Then I started testing out whether transition would be possible, and on one of our works meals out together dressed female. Ann was revolted. She apologised to me about her revulsion. She was aware of the organisation’s diversity policy, and equality legislation, but after we worked together on a strictly professional basis. I had great sympathy for her.

Again, there are stories we can tell about this. Ann might accept the word “transphobia”. We worked around it, just as people tolerate an arachnophobe, protecting them from spiders. The arachnophobe may be ashamed but other people are accepting. Or, you can be self-righteous, calling us dudes/chaps/trans-identified males/male-to-trans/trans rights activists. I am not going to say that your reaction is irrational, it is for you to consider how proportionate it is. I do not want to disparage your fear of male violence against women, but feminists whose life work is helping women who suffer male violence accept trans women in their spaces.

And it is not for me to tell you where to devote your campaigning energy, but you can fight those feminist organisations, or you can fight conservatism, the establishment and the patriarchy. It is a tragedy when feminists fight amongst ourselves.

Applause- thunderous applause- standing ovation. All congratulate me, and rush to tell of their Damascene conversions at my words. Or not.

Why do people transition?

Why do people transition? Because we are human. No more precise answer is possible- because we are complex organisms in complex social structures. But transition continues to shock and distress trans folk and others. Because I wanted to is not a good enough answer for me, because I feel I have suffered because of transition and life might have been easier without that desire; and not for other people, because they want to debate what rights I get as a transitioned woman.

The answer “Autogynephilia” is given by people who want to treat trans women as men, limit transition, and exclude us. So it matters whether that is scientific or not. It isn’t. Haters insist on it, though.

The answer “because I have a woman’s brain/spirit, because I am really a woman” would give us full rights, but I don’t believe it myself. Women’s brains are not particularly different from men’s, trans women’s brains are not clearly closer to cis women’s than cis men’s, it is not clear what differences would be relevant to transition, and brains are plastic, changing throughout life. “Gender essentialism”, the idea that women are in some way innately feminine, is offensive to women who reject femininity but are clear they are women. I observe gender non-conforming people who do not transition, and conclude the idea that people with ovaries are fundamentally different from people with testicles, with the exception of trans people who are really in the other group, is ridiculous.

There is nothing which is a virtue in one sex which is not a virtue in the other; no characteristic which one has but the other has not, apart from those reproductive differences.

“Should a trans woman be allowed in women’s space?” should be addressed without a definitive answer to whether we are women or not. Socially and legally we are women. At worst, we should be pitied and tolerated, for we are mostly harmless. Some say we are men, so should not be there; but society is too complex for such a simple answer. Most people answer the question by imagined consequences: male abusers pretending to be trans to enter women’s space, or cis women seeing trans women, thinking they are men, and being retraumatised over past male violence; but most people either don’t care, or see that the gain in allowing us to lead productive lives as members of society outweighs such imagined problems.

A trans person just transitioning might need to justify that to themselves. I wanted to believe I was really a woman. I feared transitioning if I were simply an autogynephiliac pervert, consumed by my sexual fantasies. You doubt yourself, so other people’s opinion that you are a man hurts- it was as if I wanted the whole world to say I was a woman because I could not trust my own judgment and any doubt of it confused depressed and terrified me. But you doubt yourself, then you transition, or you don’t. It is hard to be a campaigner when you need affirmation, because you will meet the opposite.

Now my answer is It was the best I could do at the time. I look back on the difficulties, but with effort I also see blessings, and I may have been worse off if I had not transitioned. It is part of forgiving and acceptance.

A friend said Those who look for a cause are looking for a cure. That was in the nineties, when gay people questioned their own orientation. This is who I am, they should say. Gay Pride. I still looked for a cause. Transition is such an odd thing to do.

Trans people are marginalised people

I have never shown my gender recognition certificate to anyone in order to prove entitlement to anything. I wanted it, and the legal status of “woman”, but simply assert that I am, and did before I transitioned. When I saw a psychiatrist I got a wee form saying I suffered from gender identity disorder, and so should be allowed to use women’s loos and changing rooms, but I never showed that either. I have not been in such a confrontation. I usually carry a credit card with my female name on it, but have never been challenged.

The TERFs’ paranoid fantasy about self-certification is that any man, even clearly male and dressed male, will be able to go into a women’s lavatory without being challenged, there to prey on and victimise women, masturbate, fantasise sexually and attempt indecent photographs or even sexual assault. As far as I can see it is not just trans women they imagine doing this, but non-trans sexual perverts, who could not be challenged when they went into the Ladies’ because they would simply state that they were trans women, with a perfect right to go there, and no-one could stop them.

Well. When I first saw the psychiatrist, I was still presenting male most of the time, and when presenting male used men’s loos. I would have been scared to go in the ladies’. And while both sexes wear jeans, there are clear differences between the two kinds. Same with trainers, and short or long hair. Some of us wear women’s jeans when presenting male, and I wore a women’s shirt a few times, but still are presenting male and not in women’s space. There are clear differences, and I wanted to appear female rather than ambiguous when expressing myself female. I was afraid of confrontation, so I carried that card.

Of course they criticise us for an extreme stereotype of femininity- skirts and heavy makeup, more pink and satin-soft than most women would ever be, but why should they ever be consistent.

It is not a realistic worry, I thought. When transitioning, I wanted to avoid scrutiny and feared mockery or worse. I had some horrible experiences of transphobic attack. I did not have the self-confidence to go in a women’s loo dressed male. But then I thought, I could not sustain expressing female if I started to sleep rough. My wig would become unpresentable quicker than my clothes. Trying to keep warm, I would wear anything. This week, still Autumn, temperatures are forecast down to 3°. Trans people are extremely vulnerable. The demand that we dress to a particular standard, so that some people object to shoppers in night clothes in the local shop, is particularly onerous on us. I could manage that. I bought women’s clothes in charity shops, but never wore them threadbare. I could pass as a member of ordinary civilised society.

Rough sleepers, just like new transitioners, would want to avoid scrutiny, because they are likely to be hurt if noticed. Us normal people are a threat to them. Trans folk having difficulty finding work might not have much money to spend on presentation, or be able to afford electrolysis.

And, forbidding men women’s loos imposes a standard of acceptable passing on us. Does this trans woman look like a man dressed up, and if so should she be limited in a way trans women in stealth are not? No, I say, the right to transition should not depend on your looks.

I want the apparent man to be able to use a women’s loo, because I sympathise with the trans woman who cannot pass or cannot afford suitable clothes. Where is your sympathy? Of course I sympathise with women who have experienced sexual assault and are wary of men, but their rights might be reconciled with trans women’s, if there is imagination and good will. Women’s rights are not incompatible with trans rights.

And trans folk are more likely to be marginalised than cis folk. We just are. Transition is the most important thing in the world to us. For marginalised trans folk, I want the right to express as the acquired sex. That may mean some people disapproving of how we look, just as people always have.

Trans reverting shame

Imagine that is a thing- rapid onset gender dysphoria is a social contagion, as a teenager you take T and have chest masculinisation, and then only three or four years later you regret it. You are a woman. Except now you have thick facial and body hair, your voice is breaking, you may develop male pattern baldness and you have no breasts. You have mutilated yourself in pursuit of a poisonous fantasy.

Someone who reverted might believe that. It is a lie, a terrible trap for vulnerable teenage girls. Given time, you could have come to glory in being a woman, the power and freedom that being a woman brings, but you were trapped by your fears and fantasies into trying to escape. You rejected truth and beauty for something less. Your punishment is to have what you wanted.

And you are still stuck, between desire and reality, manhood and womanhood, fantasy, belief, all whirls around you ungraspable, incomprehensible, unreachable. The reverting trans person regrets the body they could have had and the damage they have done to it, and still you are not what you ought to be.

It is as it always was: desire to be what you are not, shame at not being what you ought to be. At some time you have to stop running, fleeing or pursuing. There is only acceptance of what you are now, with your history, the substances you have taken and the relationships you have broken, the bad choices, the fear and the failures will always be yours. You don’t understand metanoia, true repentance and amendment of life, until you achieve it, and that is acceptance.

You are yourself, your own powers and affections, and only yourself.
From wrong to wrong the exasperated spirit moves
unless restored by that refining fire.

And,

The life that I have
Is all that I have
And the life that I have
Is yours.

The love that I have
Of the life that I have
Is yours and yours and yours.

That is all there is. I will not revert. It would get me nothing I do not have now, just delay appreciating it.