This week I want to explain a bit more a short statement I left on Facebook, and go back over the whole idea of why trans people look for an expression for their feeling of ‘being wrong’ as they are. Some, but possibly a minority, felt from an early age ‘trapped in the wrong body’. That doesn’t work for all of us, and this analogy spoke better for me, so I’ll share it.
Supposing you were born in jail. This would be your whole known world. Everything around you would tell you that you were in ‘insider’, and that though visitors came and officers ‘went home’, you were not, by definition, an ‘outsider’.
Now suppose you were brought up, for your own good, to be a hermit within the jail, and that you purposely came to choose the three-metre confines. Is that not total freedom? How can you be imprisoned by anyone, if you make your confines your own? Nothing is imposed any more that is not your own imposition. You can live like this quite peaceably, providing nothing invites you to suspect that you may, by rights, be an ‘outsider’ after all.
Now allow yourself to imagine, after 54 years in this situation, that these suspicions have rooted themselves in you enough to feel that maybe you are not in jail because of anything you have done, but as a complete mistake. And yet you were a model prisoner, so no-one took any notice of you. Maybe there had been a time when you were not confined, when you went from being innocent, to charged, to accused, to being convicted. But who doubts the sentence of the convicted? And suppose all this happened in the first few minutes of your life …
And then, 54 years on, you dare to speak out as being an ‘outsider’, as ‘innocent’, of mistakes made by the jury and judge. Joy of joys, you are given leave to appeal, and you are subsequently released on the grounds on ‘unsafe conviction’. Not innocent, just a kind of parole: you may actually still be guilty. Many believe you must be. You know you might, at best, have to always live in this judicial limbo.
This is the feeling I have lived with for the past few years. I appealed, and nobody else was sure. However confident I felt (and not very, to begin with!) I was in need of convincing others that this wasn’t just some lifestyle choice, but a mistake, about something that was true since probably before I was born. I was required to convince three different psychiatrists, over the space of a year, that I didn’t just believe I am female, but that I really am. Yes, I could have lived with my own confidence for a lot longer, maybe the rest of my life, but anyone could say at any time that I wasn’t really female, I just had some kind of delusion. After all, it’s a mental diagnosis, isn’t it? ‘Yes, I know you feel like that, but you’re not really are you?
So was everyone wrong in those first few minutes of my life, when they declared me a boy? No. They pronounced a physical sex identification, but that was all. The subsequent interpretation was just a huge misunderstanding of gender that I lived with for the next 54 years.
A lot is said about the idea of being ’trapped in the wrong body’. I never felt that, but I have said elsewhere on my blog how the gender dysphoria actually gets worse after transition and before surgical intervention. Others have wrestled with the idea that being a ‘woman with a penis’ doesn’t have to be the end of the world, and you can find a satisfactory gender identity without surgical or clinical intervention. What’s wrong with being ‘third gender’, apart from social misunderstanding of the non-binary? Well, that’s just what I argued here pre-transition; there’s nothing wrong with that at all. It’s just not quite how it turned out for me.
Let’s try ‘in the right body, but trapped’ instead. My body is my own, it’s all I have had for a very long time, so why does it have to be wrong? Well, as with so many trans women at this stage, I look in the mirror in the morning and see a softening face, the loveliest hair I’ve ever had, seriously developing breasts, a posture that is quite in keeping, smooth, hair-free skin. And a penis. *Clang!*, *Clang!*, *Clang!* The bells are ringing ‘No! No! No!’ and I can’t look at myself. This is a part of me that I have to handle, keep clean, arrange comfortably, and recognise at every dressing and undressing, at every loo visit. I find myself just yearning to be ‘put back inside’. I am trapped, not by my body, but by what is incongruous. The body will do (I can’t change my skeleton) but until certain things are done, I’m stuck. Even if society embraced ‘women with penises’ I would not feel right. Others, I know, would.
Now let’s try ‘trapped in the wrong idea’. When I was born, and assigned ‘boy’ for my birth certificate, I became trapped in the wrong idea. Boys are male, not female; go and be a boy, be a man, do the male life. Consequently, the desire to be a girl or a woman was morally wrong, because gender is about sex and being sexually different is bad. I mean, you’re a boy, you have serial girlfriends – and you want to wear their knickers? I, the nice likeable, kindly person, had something bad inside me, and if anyone were to find out how I felt, I would not be nice any more, I would be perverted, wicked. In those circumstances, how could I possibly have told anyone, least of all my girlfriends or my wife? I call that trapped: imprisoned by the idea of what I was, and of what gender means. There was no ‘Get out of jail’ card.
Fast shuttle to this week, because I’ve told the story already, and shared my utter confidence and self-belief. But on Tuesday night, quicker than expected, I received a copy of a letter from my last psychiatrist consultation at Charing Cross Gender Identity Clinic to my GP, with a lengthy explanation and endorsement of my lifetime of difference, my incarceration, and ending with a formal written diagnosis as transsexual. I was cleared of all charges of being male. My gender is not my physical sex. Official. It could have had a red seal and a ribbon on the bottom, and I cried. My next visit is all about surgery: the trap is sprung.
This is what I meant by the analogy that began this blog. Nothing has changed, except that the proving, the repeated questioning, the interviews – all are over and I am cleared from being trapped in the wrong idea, released by my own conviction.