You are currently browsing the archives for September 2013.
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Calling time

  • Posted on September 28, 2013 at 8:38 am

Last blog I wrote that I was not letting my life be put on hold for waiting until ‘completion’. Maybe too many people have said ‘It’s early days’ to me and I’ve believed it. In some ways it must appear like that, because the previous 55 years in comparison seem so long! But it is as true that I have been the same inside all along, and that for me it is no longer early days at all. As I explained at my last consultation at Charing Cross, I genuinely find it hard to recall ‘being male’, because that was only external. I remember being places and doing things, roles and jobs, but only that I was there. As this.

‘Early days’ is for other people, in equally losing their memory of how I used to live. It is not for me, because in many ways I have arrived where I belong. I am calling time on ‘transition’, recognising that I am growing now, not just changing (apparently) from male to female.

This week I went to a sequential dance workshop. Actually an expression workshop. It echoes a conversation I wrote about earlier, of how creative people often have multiple outlets (writing, dancing, painting etc.) that inform and inspire each other. We began after warming up by physically loosening each other up before moving back into dance with a new flow, one partner dancing, the other witnessing, then drawing and describing the fluidity in the dance. Then the dancer went on to write their awareness and feelings. Each pair then exchanged their artistic and written experiences. Finally, each pair recreated dance to the words read out for the whole group. It was all very unfinished and impromptu.

I brought a lot back from it. One was compliments on my reading voice. As you can imagine, this is a stumbling block for me! I listened back to my radio interview a couple of weeks ago, and I was very pleased really with the voice I’ve found. I regret that yesterday calling for an MOT on the phone evoked the usual ‘Yes, sir, let me put you through’, because there are cis women with voices not so different, and they too must get it all the time. But to be complemented for the sound and flow in reading was very gratefully received.

Another was being asked to perform my dancing-to-words first. Have you ever performed impromptu dance for ten minutes, to a kind of poetry and no music, in front of a group? Without seeing anyone else do it first? Scary? Maybe my trans experience has given me a new confidence, or more correctly, release, but I didn’t think twice or hesitate. How I dance, I can see now, is just as other dancers do. It has real rhythm and flow, and yes, it is beautiful, not just inwardly to me.

I went home in a kind of wonder, that I am in this place, not moving into it any more, that it is natural and that I have found people who are simply lovely to be with. I contrasted it with my band tie experience of late. My refusal to be ‘made man’ in order to play music evoked an extraordinary general meeting that I could not attend, though I did offer the feminist aspect of the argument in writing. (I don’t see why I should now have to explain to the whole band that I am trans and that wearing a tie is still psychologically damaging in the circumstances.) Huddles and meetings have afforded me a concession, but I do not want concession, I want simple respect without question. Must one debate whether making a trans woman look like a man might be hurtful, and whether it should be nonetheless insisted upon? One more big concert (sans tie) and I think I shall call time and politely move on.

And this week too, I learned that I should be moving in the next few weeks to my own flat in Hove. Again, I have called time on this rent. I have to be out by the end of next month, so completion on the sale of my house has to happen by then or I shall be homeless, with rather a lot of stuff. It is also a signing off from my family home, even though I did leave it a year go this week. I shall never again be in place where I was once loved, and that is a deep thing still.

Last night I went to Five Rhythms dance a usual. The pace was a little slower than usual, it seems many of us were tired and we moved to half-time rather than double-time. We worked on loosening hips. Yes, that whole part of the evening did evoke memories of sensuality, even of sexuality, and – oh dear – such deep longing. Since my PSO called time herself on loving me and accepting my loving (I can’t remember how long ago) I have had so little touch and no intimacy. How, I don’t know, but I have called time on waiting ‘to be put right’ before I seek to fulfil this vital part of life (for me).

Somebody, surely, somewhere, would find fulfilment in sharing with me. My heart aches to give and receive love again … It’s time.

Please press delete

  • Posted on September 23, 2013 at 5:47 pm

I was staring at thousands of emails in my inbox a few nights ago. Virgin Media seems to find it impossible to connect me with myself, or my old broadband account with my new – and will therefore delete my old email address in 30 days. No problem, except my laziness over I.T.-related geek-mails on doing stuff better, and old but interesting subscriptions on environmental issues. Nothing personal at all, just stuff. So why not make sure there’s nothing I really need in there, and delete the lot now? I never send on this email (for obvious reasons) so perhaps I should be thankful. Mind you, I used up most of my month’s phone allocation last month, in phoning Virgin Media about my current email address, which they also could not associate with the fact that they take money out of my bank account for broadband every month!

So, deletion it was. You will be familiar with that moment, when you don’t know for sure if ‘delete’ really means delete? Is this really gone forever, or just in trash/recycling? (And own up, have you never rescued a crumpled up email from the trash bin on your PC?) And bit by bit, all those old and largely forgotten or unwanted emails flew away (you do know that if you hold the Shift key while pressing Delete, there are no second chances?). Job done, and less risk of my emails blowing apart from overcrowding in the folders.

I relived this today. Off I went to Charing Cross (Gender Identity Clinic), in elated expectation that I might get a bit of a schedule for surgery. It’s been four months since I had a full diagnosis sent to my GP. No more questions, I thought. Finally, I have been understood. I’d been given the impression that I was looking at spring 2014 for an end to all this. I was really excited that at last, this would all be over. I was imagining dancing in leggings without the tunic, sitting on the beach in a swimsuit, swimming again, maybe even finding an intimate relationship …

Instead I found myself going over the same ground all over again. I can’t remember how many times to how many people I’ve rehearsed the same things. I even had to sign a form saying I’m white, British, for the umpteenth time. OK, ink is cheap, but my life isn’t. I really couldn’t believe it. No, the clothes were never a fetish; no things I wore from the age of 14 were not sexual. No, I repeat no, I do not doubt this. (You know, some people feel just like you do, and then decide it isn’t for them?) I have not thought for a fragment of one moment that I am perhaps after all, not a woman. Not one fragment of a fragment. You see people every day, you hear their stories, but you will never know what it feels like to know what you are, in this way, to be of a gender at odds with your bits. Have I noticed any body changes after taking hormones for 15 months? For fuck’s sake, these are my boobs!!

Nothing was contributed today, other than to satisfy yet another person that I should be referred for surgey. OK; I think I get it now:

  • You go to your GP.
  • Your GP refers you to local psychiatry (you wait 2 months).
  • Your local psychiatrist recommends your GP refers you to the gender clinic (you wait another 2 months for this letter to travel 3 miles across town).
  • You get the referral date – in all, a wait of 6 to 9 months to see a psychiatrist at the gender clinic.
  • The first psychiatrist agrees you should get a second opinion, so back to the beginning of the same queue … (you wait 7 months for this appointment).
  • You see a second psychiatrist, who confirms a diagnosis as transsexual and recommends your GP prescribes hormones.
  • You stop buying your own hormones …
  • 4 months later you go back to the gender clinic and see another psychiatrist, who agrees with the previous one, who agreed with the one before, who agreed with the one your GP sent you to … who agreed with your own diagnosis of gender dyspohoria.
  • 4 to 6 months later you see the surgical team and once more (with feeling) you go through the options and risks that you’ve already researched in gruesome detail on the Internet and with post-op friends.
  • (At this point I shall get my GRC (gender recognition certificate), followed by a replacement birth certificate.)
  • 6 to 9 months after that, you probably get your operation date.

That’s how it goes in the very best scenario, and, to be fair, mine has been. I didn’t present to my GP until I was 100% sure about myself. I attended the clinic long after self-prescribed hormones. I received my full diagnosis 14 months after transition. I had my final referral out of mental health, into surgical, 18 months after transition. I shall have full legal recognition of my gender, down the very last deletion of my male assignation, six months before surgery. The whole journey to finding out that gender dysphoria was a diagnosis that fitted me, to the end, will be four years.

And you know, in all that time, no-one has asked or offered a blood test? My GP won’t do anything without explicit instruction from the clinic, and no-one has looked at my breasts to see how development is progressing. Gender transition is 95% do-it-yourself. (They don’t hand you the scalpel!)

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not ungrateful in any way, just very, very frustrated, that after a lifetime’s struggle, at the age of 56, I’m still being asked today:

‘Do you really want to delete?’

‘Are you really sure?’

’If you press delete, you will, in fact, be deleting this file. Are you sure?’

I am holding my Shift key down very firmly and pressing Delete even more insistently.

The only other option is Ctrl+Alt+Del

I think you know what that means.

Poetic identity

  • Posted on September 21, 2013 at 8:47 am
ANdie Davidson with Dino and Sue Evans

You know how you walk into a party and someone asks you: ‘And what do you do?’ The frequent answers are either your job title in current employment, or perhaps ‘home-maker’ for some mums or wives, but rarely what you feel you really are. Your status in relation to others is what pays you most, not what you find most rewarding. Recently I’ve needed to supply short biographies, and it always stumps me slightly. I mean, how can I encapsulate my life in 70 words or less? Do I start with the job? Do I disclose my trans identity, because…

When the wind blows

  • Posted on September 13, 2013 at 6:54 pm

I shall wear it as a veil

until the veil becomes a shawl:
It will keep me warm
when the wind blows.

I shall wear it as a shawl

until it becomes a skirt:
it will spread as I dance
when the wind blows.

I shall wear it as a skirt

until the skirt becomes a memory
placed in a drawer of sighs for
when the wind blows.

I shall recall it as a veil

as a shawl, as a skirt
and shall close the drawer again
when the wind blows.

How well grief fits, adapts

so unlosable, a comfort:
and finds is place to wear
when the wind blows.

 

2013 © Andie Davidson

Detransition

  • Posted on September 12, 2013 at 11:29 pm

Oh no! Surely not!

I knew that would catch your attention …

The thing is, as I write every week, it’s usually as a result of gathered comments in the week. This time there just happens to have been a cluster of blogs, articles and comments about how many transsexual people either regret final transition (clinical attention and remediation), or who pull back and detransition (ie, go back to a previous presentation.

Statistically, post-surgical regret (with the choice, not the cosmetic satisfaction) seems to be about one in a hundred. Not bad compared with some other procedures. Some have commented this week on people they know, and indeed I batted comments back and forth over two years ago with someone, who had regretted long after. The regret may not be so much ‘Oh my God! What have I done?!’, as ‘Have I just landed myself in a place where nobody wants me?’ Few of us will ever honestly look in the mirror and see no trace of what testosterone (or oestrogen) has done to our adult bodies. Will we ever be ‘good enough’?

My interpretation is that many of these regretting people felt steamrollered into corrective surgery at the time – which is an interesting comparison with the frustration many of us feel at the slowness of gender clinics. For some of us, time and age are not on our side, as grey hair cannot be lasered away, and receding hairlines become irretrievable (or for the young, puberty threatens avoidable changes). The conflicting pressures of the gender dysphoric can be immense. How easy is it to make the best life decision? What if someone loves you enough to make you at ease with your body and a mixed presentation, that they actually appreciate or like?

However, I can also see how what a difficult job the psychiatrists face, distinguishing between various cries for help expressed as gender dysphoria. I can also see how a number of presenting trans* people feel they know how to play the system, give the right answers, dress correctly and persuade their clinicians of the depth of their feelings. This may be a quite genuine dread of not being believed, but it is still a form of game-playing.

Ultimate pressure

Long ago I wrote about the impossible situation many of us are placed in, between deep love of family, partner, children – and being unable to continue living as if we are something we really know deeply we are not. One way leads to incredible grief, the other to suicidal feelings. Some of us run from suicide, find huge fulfilment in our true gender expression, but find such grief and loneliness that we cannot live alone and separated from our loves.

What does this mean about those whom we love and who love us, if the only way that love can be shared is by being false? It has been expressed as a form of bullying in this week’s conversations: ‘I can and will love you if you continue pretending to be a man/woman for my sake.’

And yet the cis person is also saying that it would be inauthentic to pretend that they can have sexual feelings for a same-sex partner. And what of the realisation that a marriage has always been (unknowingly) same-gendered? Was there an attraction always hidden in there for that same-genderedness, showing in different ways? And how do you feel about that?

Why does intimate love always have to be lost, once the person is truly known? If I had promised not to undergo clinical reparation, I may well still be happily married. Was that just conditional love? Or was it blackmail? And if I had promised, what would the value of that love have been? My body, as far as love was concerned, was more important than me. By ‘me’ I mean really me. If I was authentic, it would show the love not to be authentic; if I was inauthentic, the love would still appear to be authentic. Or maybe this was just ordinary authentic body-love, presentation-love, true-within-its kind love, and I should have known.

Understanding what authenticity is

Maybe our concept of what authenticity itself is, is incomplete. If society truly embraced women with penises, men with breasts, and it was socially normal for people to love people more than bodies, and included all forms of inter-genderedness as equally valid and lovable, things would be different.

I asked a friend why they were only interested in sexual or romantic love with men, when half the time, women complain about their menfolk. The answer is usually the same: ’I’m just wired that way.’ Maybe we are all hard-wired as homo/ hetero/ bi/ pan/ male/ female/ androgenous etc. Maybe. I just think that my gender is a lot more wired than my sexuality. I also feel that a lot of comfort-with-sexuality is as much conditioned as innate.

So what do we do with all this? We must allow people to experience transition and choose if it is the all-round best route. We must accept that for some it is life-or-death, but that for others a love for, and appreciation of, gender ambiguity, fluidity or duality, is all that is needed. We must see that it is as much society that makes gender expression an impossible choice for some, as the fact of being born transsexual. Transsexuality is not the problem: social disapproval is.

No, I’m not even considering reversal, despite the ongoing grief of loss and of loneliness. Do I wish society had given me and my family a natural flexibility over sexuality and gender? Of course I do. I feel that I was only wanted for my body for over 30 years, and I wish I had known that. If someone had said to me ‘I love you for that strong feminine side and I’d love to see more of it’, I’m sure that love would have lasted.

Why transition? Why detransition? It’s complicated …