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Being : at home

  • Posted on January 27, 2012 at 10:03 am

Self-recognition as transgender, especially later in life, is probably the hardest thing anyone ever has to go through. That’s probably because it’s a point at which you give in to the inevitable, rather than being the courageous individual ‘coming out’ to an uncertain (and confused) world. The point at which you know it no longer matters what anyone says or thinks – and the sense of persistent identity just drives your life forwards – is a point of no return. If you think you’re going to look stupid in a wig and skirt, learning to walk again, think of the alternative: ‘going in’ and renouncing what you know to be true and authentic about yourself. I guess that’s the difference between being a cross-dresser and being transgender, and I remember when I came to the realisation that I was definitely the latter, not the former.

And it is strange, going through this period of self understanding, where you learn to find, be and present your true self. How many start by cross-dressing in secret, all alone at home, where the whole object is not to be seen (even if it becomes known) because you couldn’t handle the consequences? I did. But the next stage can be going out as female but still not letting on at home. Suddenly anywhere is acceptable for being female – except home. I remember my wife’s dawning realisation that shoes are not just meant for the house, if jewelry matters it’s because it’s meant to be seen, and no-one does make-up just for hour’s fun at home. ‘You’re what? You go out …? Like that?’ Yes darling: I go out as a woman.

Well there you go; but it isn’t a passport to being a woman at home, because that is complicated. Are you in disguise? Are you role-playing? Are you pretending something to yourself? Whatever the question, the answer is no: you’re just being authentic. Rather than disguise, it’s a revealing, an uncovering. There is no getting away from it though: wigs, silicone breasts etc. are there for more than other people – they do make you feel more complete. Women who lose theirs have a coming-to-terms with a choice to use prosthetics. So do we. Sometimes something that shouldn’t have happened to our bodies did, and something that should have happened didn’t.

So there you are at home with the ones you love, saying that this is the real, true, authentic you, that this is you simply being, not doing. And they look at you and say they don’t know you like this. Inside you feel more liberated than ever, and they just think you’re weird. Even when you’ve read and shared all the theory and real-life experiences, and come to terms with the reality of being transgender, you have a wife who didn’t marry a woman and kids who used to have a male dad.

It takes time. But meanwhile, what do you do when the central heating engineer (big, hairy ‘real’ man) comes round? If it’s just me in the house, I’m a woman. If there is anyone else at home, it isn’t me, it’s the historical man again. I don’t want to embarrass them (I make the judgement that heating engineers, like postmen, meet all sorts all the time and have learned not to show dismay), and it is a home we share. But it does lead always back to the question of mutual respect and balance. Why do I as a transgender end up avoiding the embarrassment of others rather than being myself, and suggesting they just get over it? Maybe it’s because I fear they might never.

You can compromise on behaviour, but can you compromise on simply being true to yourself? If I compromise by not wearing a skirt when the heating engineer comes round, I’m not compromising the behaviour of skirt-wearing, I’m compromising my sense of identity.

The heating engineer has just left. Compromise over. Coffee darling?