Taking off and landing: learning to live as trans, and beyond

picture of swan landingI began this blog in January 2012. At the time I knew that I was a bit more than gender questioning, and that the price of coming clean with myself and embarking on formal diagnosis (of gender dysphoria), let alone changing my life around altogether, would probably be high. I was about to make the impossible decision that no-one should be asked to take: my life and authenticity, or the love of my wife and family. This blog relates the journey, week by week, as I wrestled with reality, from deciding that I had no choice, to coming out completely and transitioning to a female life, going through the process of assessment and diagnosis and to gender confirmation surgery. It has been hard, but I have worked on being positive throughout, and not least coming to appreciate that being trans is not something cis (non-trans) people can ever truly understand. Over the years that the blog has been live, hundreds of thousands of page reads must mean that it has been thought-provoking and helpful. Of all the tags I’ve used on my weekly postings, one has been high above the rest: ‘understanding’. That, I believe, is at the heart of acceptance and in countering the animosity, rejection, verbal and even physical violence that trans people experience and endure. I have been lucky, but I do know that for many this is a much rougher ride.

Trans? Transgender? Transsexual? In the years this blog has been live, there has been hugely more public exposure to things trans: rights, protections, validity, reality, recognition and acceptance. Terminology is fought over at times, and back when I began I felt that transsexual was a term I preferred, to reflect the depth of self-awareness that this was a physical wrong, not just an internal sense of self. It wasn’t to distance myself from people who socially transitioned without any clinical intervention, but to try and say that I could not live without physical changes, not even if accommodated by those I loved at the time. So please do not read too much into the terms. I was born with characteristics that felt wrong. They are wrong no more. I have trans history, and some remaining unchangeable characteristics. We all have our own paths to living as trans.

Now go dip, search, see what you can find. Take a break and read some poetry too. I’ve maybe walked a few steps ahead of you, or perhaps you have a parent, child, spouse or friend and this has all come as a bit of a shock. Open your heart, and recognise that everything you’ve been taught about gender could actually be wrong. Drop that rigid binary male/female idea right now, because it excludes a huge number of people. And in the end we are really very ordinary, if struggling to find equal acceptance.

So what is it like to realise you are trans* (any flavour)? Some people take a few quick paddles, spread their wings, and up they go. Then, with a perfect glide, they find where they want to be and settle with hardly a ripple or feather undisturbed. I wouldn’t want to equate myself with a swan, but have you seen them take off and land? There’s a lot of bird in the serene, white creatures that, in facing pairs, form a romantic heart! Well, that’s me too. Maybe I appear calm and flowing, even romantic – but new things in life keep me beating the waves a bit too long. But at least I fly, and I know my take-offs and landings aren’t always tidy.

This site is so we can share a bit of transgender or transsexual life – the take-offs and landings – and maybe discover some good things! Who am I? I am now over 60, but live with my wonderful partner, work as a technical writer and live in Hove, UK. I write creatively too (mainly poetry), I edit, I design, I dance, I play the trumpet too – and I just get things done. I also happen to be trans. There are rather a lot of people like me, and this is a bit of the human story. You will find me very open and honest, but of course this can only be my own perspective. They say, ‘if you want to understand anyone, walk a mile in their shoes’. Is that right?

Here is a poem (2013) that sums up some of this experiential difference of me on the inside and you on the outside, on returning to my marital home to divide it up:

Through my eyes

Never mind the shoes, never mínd the mile
climb up inside me, reach over my smile

Adjust your seat, be comfy, and rise
until without strain you see through my eyes

Watch me knock, push the bell, and feel the start
where love is a stranger – yet still draws my heart

Scan books that tell stories of holidays and times
I, reading science and she, reading crimes

Climb steps to the loft, find childhoods stored
rummage things forgotten, and toys once adored

Feel grass underfoot where I mowed, where I lay
smell the flowers, stroke the cats, let it all go away

Clear the shed where the wood is cut into shapes
of parts of my home, of my heart, of my hopes

And now watch me turn, watch me leave it behind
see the images blur until we are blind

Is it something I said? Is it something I did?
Was I harsh or unloving? Infidelities hid?

Did I fall? Did I fail, for this all to be gone?
It was none of these things, just the way I was born.

bloom from the blogIf you want a representative blog post that isn’t angst-ridden, but a settled view of the post-traumatic transsexual life, try this: Plus ça change.