All these constant little battles. Who you are versus who you should have been; what you could be versus what you’re not; the potential physiological loss of one set of positive/negative gender traits for the gain of positive/negative traits for another gender. A very unique set of issues, the question is, are you fighting against yourself, or for yourself?
It’s tough to express a part of yourself that has been forced away for so long. It’s not like I’ve ever not been myself, but some parts…some parts I knew just felt very far removed from what I should be expressing in the narrow rubric, a specified cause for ridicule. In fact, ever since early childhood, I’ve known these issues weren’t solely about expression, it was something much deeper. When I was six, I needed to be a girl, even though I didn’t know any girls, I searched for ways to make it happen, rather than laying in bed wishing. I remember bouts of what I now know to be dysphoria, looking in the mirror disgusted, spending hours, days, weeks scouring the house during any moment alone to find the elixir that would change me so I didn’t have to deal with whatever was hurting me.
One day, when I was around 7/8, I thought I had found what I was looking for. I had looked at it on several other occasions and wondered how dangerous it might be. Industrial super glue. Yeah, less painful than the scissors or elastic bands, maybe it would work for a while. It took several more days, maybe weeks of building courage, and then I tried to super glue my penis behind my body, away from sight. Obviously it didn’t work, I was just left with my genitals and hands covered in the stuff, sticking together. Later that evening I came to my mother and explained I had an accident….an accident that leaves a fully clothed 7/8 year old with glue on hands and penis only. I remember as my mum peeled super glue off my raw little bits how much I had to repress telling her why I did it, and how for a further 20 years I would repress telling anyone about events like that. I reminded my mother of this when I came out to her, even she had repressed it and denies it ever happened. I can’t say for sure that I was trying to become a girl, I was just trying to become what my experience told me I was, which just happened to be a girl, though I did not know the words. All I knew is that the feeling would not go away, as I searched aimlessly for relief.
It was so much repression. I knew there was a part of me that was very wrong, very different from anybody else, that certain parts of me had to be buried, deeper and deeper, not because I was scared of my expression, but because I was scared of my identity. The term ‘gender identity’ I feel is only useful to a point, because what it actually seems to be is just ‘identity’, gender being a consequence of biological variation that has little bearing on the identity I have, rather it is through repression that a ‘back-up’ identity is created to which dysphoria demands the truth of actuality be heard.
More and more I remember times throughout my life when I wanted to react flowingly to situations, to be myself, but I didn’t. I am an only child of early divorce, I was trained early to be quiet, to just get on with things, not ask questions, to be alone and just deal with it. These experiences carry through, reinforcing themselves over the years until the truth is just buried in submission to the dour grind of work, conformity and death.
I don’t think I can deny there is a difference between transkids and later transitioners. The AGP model is highly flawed and fetishised, but there are young ones who have no choice but to express because there is no other way for them to be but themselves, repression is impossible, acting up to natal sex is impossible, and they are made pay a sickening price generally in bullying from other kids, teachers, family. Like everything else, dysphoria and levels of transgenderism run on a spectrum of intensity. Still, I think life circumstances play a part for some, individual personality and life experience cannot be denied; when inhabiting a foreign body with no knowledge of why it feels so wrong, people react in different ways. Certain traumas can bury one’s identity entirely, not just their gender, perhaps forever.
Now, for me to forget how to be ‘male’, it is like asking an aeronautical engineer with a 29 year career who re-realised her true calling was in marine biology to forget everything about aeronautical engineering. She couldn’t, nor should she, experience is still experience.
So, gotta work with it. I grow painfully aware of how ‘unfemale’ I’ve become, all those years of male training to try and find a way to fit. Nobody put a gun to my head to make me do it, but hey, when you know intrinsically who you are in a world where every single identifier tells you that you are not, various coping mechanisms evolve in learning how to get by.
I’m usually in a bad mood, and while we may not know what constitutes maleness and femaleness, we generally make the distinction fairly easily. Take a grey lump of clay, give it the vocal tone and mannerisms of a certain sex and I imagine it would be fairly easy to guess which it is a large degree of the time. The argument I keep hearing is ‘sex is not gender’, so as trans I feel I must admit my gender and my sex. Not that I ever denied it, that would be a bad idea. I can barely hold in this truer side of myself, yet I don’t really get what it is, or is supposed to be. Sincerity without ego, it will take time to peel away the decaying shell of faux masculinity.
You see, as a male, brought up as male, living as male, subject to male physiology, it’s not difficult to portray as male…square peg, square hole. Simple delusions, lies for a back-story. It makes you the perfect spy, like the Englishman raised in Germany called to serve his motherland in the World Wars – he speaks German, lives like a German, acts like a German, but he is English, and must stand for his truth, rather than the life forced upon him when his pregnant mother set forth from Dover.
Speaking of battles, I notice the fragmentation of the trans world. The young folks, the older folks, the AGP crowd, the radfems, trans-extremists(!), the regular ignorant, the well meaning ignorant, the folks just trying to get on with it, however many more little subgroups. It’s good to read all this stuff, it can be pretty painful. I’m not saying disregard it, I’m saying it’s too personal a journey to let the views of everyone else play too large a part. Don’t make comparisons, it’s easy to feel invalidated, or ‘not trans enough’, the topic has been covered extensively, and is again irrelevant to the immediate problems facing each transperson.
I watched some informative videos on youtube by Kaylee Johnson, and wondered why she hasn’t put up a video in sometime. If you don’t already know why, can you guess? Yup, she jumped off an overpass and killed herself, yet she seemed so inspirationally on top of things. You would do well to convince me that people struggle their whole lives, become aware, pluck up the courage to transition, turn their lives and bodies upside down, then die so unceremoniously because of a fetish. She was strong and she still died by suicide.
Where’s my medicine?
Taking time now to work on transition, I realise that there’s not actually an awful lot to do. Most of it is a series of constant learning processes and adaptations – voice, style, face, mannerisms, specific mtf/ftm horrors, whatever folks outside that binary need to do. Personally I just want to get to a point where I am consistently showing myself for who I am, to a point where my voice doesn’t freak me out, and I can get a job without worrying about making additional dramatic outwardly changes early in employment. Otherwise, yup, gotta get on with life, especially when the wait for treatment can become that grind you read about in blogs and try to estimate how long you might have to wait 😉
I’m 5 months into GIC therapy with the minimum 6 month wait before they can sign off on hormones. I don’t think anything is going to happen next month. I’m signed up for gamete storage, which will take months, then I imagine an initial endocrinologist appointment, a second appointment for blockers, then a later appointment to begin the new grinding wait for full power HRT. So even when the light turns green, there is another red light, a small advance to dig another trench to duck from the mental gunfire. I’m getting an advance on voice lessons though I’m told I’ll be turned away after initial consultation until I begin HRT, same goes for laser. I was told the private laser sessions I’ve been getting don’t affect my eligability for NHS (Northern Ireland) laser fun. The argument is that being on HRT will make these additional services more efficacious.
Of course, my argument is that HRT will make my life more efficacious, so get to it. I reiterate that I don’t have forever to screw about with this, at my age I’d rather be worrying about kids and mortgages, not trying to justify medical treatment. That said, as trans, treatment is a privilege, not an expectation, you are still you without medical intervention.
My whole life I’ve made myself least important, putting education, work, others and love before my own personal issues; now taking life into my own hands it is obvious what is important and necessary to me. That being said, I still need to be in the position to work again, I’m in the prime of my life, as much as I’m happy to embrace my true identity, I don’t feel I have a lot of time for it! More self-care required.
I got some homework which I’ll share because I think it could be a useful exercise. Simple cognitive behavioural questions, but can you answer them honestly?
•What are the advantages of transition?
•What are the disadvantages of transition?
•What are the advantages of not transitioning?
•What are the disadvantages of not transitioning?
‘What do I need to consider before I start to live my life full time in my identified gender?’
I met my first knowingly transitioned transsexual woman before the appointment at a request. She had transitioned a fair bit later than me, though it was a good opportunity to ask questions and hear confirmations face to face. It all sounds horrifyingly lovely. Tears and chocolate. She said depression is part of being trans, I didn’t like that. Depression is part of life for many these days, being trans doesn’t have to mean being depressed – yes, it increases the chances simply due to the added mental pressure, but it does not have to be a given. There’s a reasonable chance HRT could turn you into a blubbering wreck as you finally get to experience how much it actually sucks to be female, pulled into estrogen station with a grating shunt of difficult to control new emotions, but that’s just what it is, the smooth is the rough.
This is what you want, this is what you get,
this is what you want, this is what you get,
this is what you want, this is what you get.
I’m still looking, not for an excuse, but for an alternative. My issue is still not about how I present, I feel pretty lame either way, it’s all internal. However, I notice the difference in myself in public. One day I went into town wearing male clothes because frankly my proper clothes were all in the wash and I was near bent double, it sucked. As I stood bent over moaning I saw people, faces, male people, female people, people I just couldn’t tell, me, eugh. The wrongness I have felt for so long amplified now knowing why I’m not at all like them.
Compare that with having a more updated wardrobe which allows me to present full time, I still feel sad, I feel incredibly self-conscious of course, but not quite so dysphoric. It’s a trade off, I feel more confident expressing that way, at least I can hold my head up, it sounds ironic, but I find it easier to go about my business. I don’t have to pretend I’m this man man, I don’t have to pretend to be a woman woman, I simply just get to be me, squared, halved, with better things to do.
‘Gender is a spectrum’…’gender is not sex’ Knowingly or not, gender is an individual, subjective experience, shaped mostly by biology and society. I’m trying to take away even the entire gender spectrum, there is only the personal spectrum, a band which exists somewhere with a range of self-identification that is tolerable to the individual. Existing anywhere within your own range is entirely fine, it can be as wide or as narrow as you desire, or as is forcefully imposed upon you.
Taking away labels, one can exist at and between the x and y of who they natally are and never have to justify it, or give it a name. However, the issue is not the inability to express oneself within a gender spectrum, it’s spending one’s life so far isolated from from the demands of a biological/mental process which is not being met by our lives and bodies. Apparently. Thus I call myself a male-to-female transsexual based simply on the knowledge of the demands of my biology as a means of explaining my medical position rather than an explanation of my being.
I have a worry that I must admit, the lack of affection I received as a child, an only child, accounts for many of the needs I desire which could contribute to my experience as trans, giving credence to the nurture side. The love and attention I needed crenellated into needs or desires which could stereotypically be labelled feminine. Indeed, it is a reasonably reliable trans trait. More worrying is the feeling I get sometimes that as a woman I’m transgender also. To meet in the middle, I would nearly have to consider myself the same as I have my entire adult life ‘gender-neutral’. Fudge your genders, but also, fudge my male genitalia and hormone supply. Maybe it would be better to be smooth down below, sexless, hormone negative, but again it defies reality. Stop looking around and getting distracted, the truth is there, in front of you, look forward, it doesn’t lie, only your conscious process lies.
Bleh, dysphoria can’t be forced, it is a catalyst to existing insecurities, it creates new insecurities, and it is difficult to find a place of content against the potentially crippling incongruity. I don’t understand how it works though, I put on the clothes and make up and my dysphoria dissipates a little, even though after a while I’ve forgotten about how I look. I am allowing my inner processes to be shared in the outer world, which is mentally healthy.
Furthermore, I figure that our bodies are crying out for certain nutrients, salts, vitamins and so on, we feel lethargic and sick without knowing why. Just because we aren’t getting them doesn’t mean our bodies don’t know we need them, or how to metabolize a new chemical process hitherto unprocessed yet innate in design. Same could go for hormones in combating the deficiencies that cause dysphoria.
Fun story. So, I’ve been living close-ish towards full time for only three months now? For the first time in my life I got chatted up at a bar by a woman. She was bi-, had apparently been with trans friends before (whom she frequently misgendered), and she thought I looked good. Anyway, one thing led to another if you know what I mean. It was certainly a unique experience, as I’ve never had a one night stand before, and I didn’t have to pretend to be a man (or woman?), which was nice. It was a worthwhile experience, sex has different parameters now, dysphoria certainly played it’s part, but I don’t regret it. Very strange that this situation could have presented itself like this, when whilst as a man? Nada. Not that I would have been interested then. But of course, I’m not allowed to be a sexual being, because it makes me an autogynephilic trans fetishist, having a one-night stand makes me a slut, doing this only while as a woman is misogynistic.
Truthfully, in freeing myself from the restrictive codes I created throughout my life, I am simply going after the things I wanted but was too principally scared to experience. I transition, not to be a woman, but to be free. Could I do all this as a ‘man’?…Maybe, but I wouldn’t be being myself and therefore would still be wearing a tourniquet around my own neck to keep some sort of grey homogeneous peace for others.
Ah, life is interesting. Acquaintances and strangers, the looks in their faces, how they turn away, or stutter when they hear my name. My sense of humour finds it hilarious, I like making people uncomfortable anyway, pushing boundaries and buttons, because evolution is what we make it, by evolving ourselves in general, we evolve the future. Quick example waiting for service at the bar, a guy I haven’t seen in years ambles up:
P: ‘Alright man, long time no see, how’s it going?’
Me: ‘Heeey, not too bad thankya, gonna get drunnnnnk. How’s you?’
P: ‘Aye, I’m grand man…but like….what have you been up to?’
Me: ‘Oh, you know, keeping busy, having fun, working on a few interesting projects, keeping smiling. How about you?’
P: ‘Aye but like….are you alright man? I heard…..er…..I heard that ah….that….’ (I love the squirming)
Me: ‘You heard that I’m a transsexual?’ (Well I am wearing a dress and make up)
P: [Nervous but somewhat relieved] ‘Yeah…aye….um….well…..just like…….’
Me: [Laughing] ‘It’s ok hun, don’t worry about it! How are the little ones?’
And so the conversation goes. Once the awkward sting is taken out, we can talk about everyday stuff again, as decent folks will realise ‘oh, it’s just a person/dude in a dress/transperson/man/woman’. People generally don’t get to meet a lot of transfolk, the media has fairly distorted who we are, but on the whole people don’t care enough to make it a problem, they want to understand without being rude, and then they have other stuff to do. They don’t understand which is why they casually misgender and think we have mental problems or a fetish. There are plenty of difficulties where it is obvious I’m not seen as a woman but it’s early days, for now I’m only interested in seeing myself, showing myself and changing legal documents. I am what I am, not what others claim.
I find that my doubts are as relevant as my understandings. I can make moot most theories of my personal gender just by waiting. I may convince myself of this, convince myself I’m not that, and it will work intellectually for a few minutes, hours maybe, but then dysphoria always comes back to say ‘Hi’. I don’t think dysphoria is trying to hurt us, same way circumstantial depression isn’t trying to hurt us. It’s a mechanism for the body to tell us something is wrong, that something needs to change for the body and mind to survive at its fullest power. Issues grow when they are not confronted, turning the mind into a hateful gristle, yet when we meet head on the reasons for our discontent we find we can overcome adversity in understanding and by showing active love to ourselves, and the world around us.
P.S. UK folks, do NOT use legaldeedpoll service, the one with Eamonn Holmes on it. I got scammed by them, and I encountered quite a few others who have been screwed by them too, neither their phone numbers nor emails work and they don’t provide the service at all. I have printed free deed polls and I’ll make an update as to whether the UK government sectors accept them. I had to get a signed letter from the Gender Identity Clinic to be able to change my passport and driving license, so please bear this in mind when attempting to update documentation.