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  • Posted on January 12, 2013 at 12:18 am

Oh, sorry, haven’t I mentioned it before? No, it hasn’t a lot to do with gender I suppose. But this is one of those really niggly bits of the loss and attachment equation that I have yet to get my head around. It isn’t just friends and observers of trans* people who wonder about our sexuality when we transition, and it is admittedly confusing. Stuff yourself with hormones and you can’t be surprised if you feel a bit different. I don’t actually think it’s changed me a lot, apart from shunting my sex drive into a siding. I was never attracted in the slightest by another man, and I don’t believe that it was an aversion due to my feeling an outsider in the gender game. I just was never gay. But I was reflecting with my psychiatrist at Charing Cross before Christmas, that my acute need to have a girlfriend in my teens was as much the freedom to identify with female company as it was a directly sexual urge. I do know that I just felt safe to be with a girl, and less safe not to. My relationship with women must always have held that sense of safety in being me with them that was so different from feeling an outsider among men.

So what now? I have already admitted that the person who made me feel most a woman post-transition, was a man. That woke me up to the possibility that intimacy with a man was no longer out of the question, and it wasn’t just losing an aversion. What if I was actually loved by a man? Well, I may never know! A lesbian friend pointed out that I am not exactly presenting as a lesbian myself either, rather as a very ordinary, if slightly elegant, middle-aged woman. And yet (though maybe it is just experience over a lifetime) it is the way women love that still comforts me most.

Which brings me back to attachment and its relation to attraction.

Do people really only form real attachments so they can have sex? It certainly is very bonding, and I guess when you have had sex with the same person maybe more than five thousand times, and can’t remember more than one or two times when it wasn’t a wonderful and lovely thing to share, you must be pretty firmly bonded. But I guess it is just as true that if another person isn’t attractive, or ceases to be so, then it isn’t as obvious to have sex and bond. But lots of things make people unattractive, from illness to behaviour to age. Oh, and switching their gender presentation. So is sexual attraction the electromagnetism of attachment? Switch it off and everything falls apart?

What really happens to attachment, and what have you lost? A sex partner? Or a real partner with whom you bonded through sex? What were you attached to – just the attractive part? And was the attachment dependent on sexual bonding?

This has quite floored me, because for all my letting-go ruminations in a previous blog (to be continued) I am still searching for one good reason to wave 32 very good years of partnership goodbye. Does sexual intimacy have to depend on a binary idea? Or can attraction be learned (if you want to, of course), and just as being old and wrinkly or impotent need not stop people loving each other – and being wonderfully comforting and intimate – can late transition be a process of learning wonderful and loving things over again? (Simply because the other person is valued, even lovely in their own right?)

Maybe it is a case of not seeing the wood for the trees, because we have been conditioned, and have conditioned ourselves to see the obvious. My attitude to life has increasingly become one of ‘why not?’. It has always been the way I work, but even more now, the way I think about self-expression. I really did think that partnership and intimacy could survive, that new things could be learned and that things that felt nice to do before, since they would be done the same way and feel the same, could go on being done. But I guess I was looking at the wood. (Look, I’m sorry, if that’s a double entendre for you, if so, just think ‘forest’! – or is that just as bad?)

Looking back on the past ten months and my complete loss of any intimacy, let alone anything remotely sexual, I can’t help realising what a proportionately small part sex actually played. I don’t think it helped me go to work, drive safely, fix the house or mow the grass, or enjoy a night out for a meal or a film. I miss both intimacy and partnership. The complete absence of intimacy is desperately hard for me; it’s like sensory deprivation and at times is a torture. The company can be filled in, and I have enjoyed the company of lovely friends since living alone. I am free to spontaneously change plans, see who I like and when, entertain and be entertained, and be with women without fear of it looking like an affair. But in the end, that 32 years of daily communication, reassuring and being reassured, being welcomed and welcoming, listening and being heard, ended abruptly just because I would never have been chosen as a sexual partner as a woman, feels bewildering and nonsensical. To me. I don’t miss it, I miss us.

The eyes have it

It is a real irony that people say what lovely eyes I have. They like the way I do my make-up, but they say my eyes show who I am, and are feminine. But they really are the same eyes. I don’t do anything different with them! I seem to remember that it was my eyes that were attractive in the beginning, long before I took any clothes off. And I can’t help thinking that a lot of the way I have always been, as a partner, as a lover, even as a parent, was always a part and expression of what I am seen to be now. So some essence of Andie the woman was part of being attractive. Certainly I was different in many ways, a bit unusual. But so long as it was a different kind of man, that was OK.

So I am still stumped. How can I ever be attractive enough to generate the kind of bonding that might create partnership and attachment? Because I haven’t a clue. Everything I believed has been undermined by experience. I gave everything, and suddenly nothing was good enough. When I say ‘bewildered’, that is what I mean. It feels like arriving, but finding yourself alone in the middle of nowhere, with nothing to get you out. Not even a map.

Sex? It doesn’t just mean fucking, to me; it means expressing love through affection, intimacy, touch, arousal and the greatest tenderness with the greatest vulnerability. Will I ever experience that again, if the element of attraction has gone forever, even with someone I knew so well for so long? And will I ever know real attachment again? Or is attachment itself a bad thing? Is partnership something else, that I have never really understood, that is a lesser thing than I thought?

Somehow I lost everything, and I don’t even know if I am allowed to expect even a shadow of what I had ever again. I just didn’t realise that I needed a wholly unambiguous gender identity in order to have that kind of personal value.

So here we are. Sex? Partnership? Commitment? I am bewildered, though of course to you it might just all be so obvious you wonder why I even think these things …

But you’re not really …

  • Posted on January 6, 2013 at 11:59 am

My greatest delight over the Christmas break was to visit my hairdresser. I knew the old grey stuff was showing too much, so I wanted the straggly ends trimming, and the rest coloured to match the wig style I’d been wearing the past nine months. It had actually been a hard down-to-earth decision a year ago, that if I was to transition, it might well mean a wig for life, with the constraints that brings. I had to accept my hair would probably never be good enough, that the receding hairline had gone too far. In fact that is my biggest grouse about delays in being seen, clinically, and further delay in being prescribed anti-androgens. It’s the opposite of trans youngsters having puberty delayed in time. Sometimes it feels every second counts.

On New Year’s eve I emerged quite overwhelmed, with just my own hair, looking very different but lovely, styled to cover the worst bits and full enough to stop wearing the wigs. I can’t say for the rest of my life, since my mother has just started wearing one due to natural hair loss in older age. But for now, returning to work with the new style, ‘all me’ and no prosthetics except my glasses, is a big thing.

I have taken part in recent discussions with some heat, about how prosthetic breasts and wigs are perceived. For trans* people starting out their transition at least, they are a godsend. We go out into the world with no formal assistance, to undergo what is tactfully called ‘Real Life Experience’ with all the capitals. Voice? Gait? Mannersisms? Make-up? Clothing co-ordination? Hair?? Facial Hair?? Body Shape (including the infamous ‘tuck’)??? Who in their right mind would go about in public making such a change without getting it all perfect from the word go. Yes, it is a very tough challenge, and it can’t be assumed that all of us have practised well enough already. Are we going about in some disguise – we are, after all, disguising parts of ourselves, present or missing.

Many people use prosthetics, some undergo extensive cosmetic surgery, but underneath we are as real as you. And yet I came out of the hairdresser’s feeling more real, in a back to normal way. The props had served their purpose for now, and I felt relieved.

I have written several blog pages on perception and reality, because it seems to matter so much to everyone else. Do I look more genuine or real now? Am I becoming less ‘the woman who used to be man’? Strangely, I wonder whether returning to social circles where I was known pre-transition, I look more like I used to, especially since I had grown my hair longer to disguise the pierced ears! But surely, more naturally curvy and feminine in all my ways. Or was I already more feminine before? The two states are blending, which is fine by me, since I don’t disown what I was.

But here I am, caught in the middle again. If I am so naturally this, without any props and prosthetics, what is so different from ‘who’ I used to be? I caught myself at work this week thinking how I am doing all the same things in the same way as I have before, dealing with technology, communication and people, sitting at much the same desk and computer as always, just outwardly being the woman I always was inside. I am not pretending anything.

There were times in the beginning (thankfully only a few) when I would hear people saying ‘my god! It’s a man!’ and I felt I was covering something up; people were able to see through some artifice and perceive the ‘real’ person underneath. Well, there is nothing to see through now, so in some ways it’s back to square one: no second glances, I am just me. Being real. Obvious, isn’t it?

But this square one is a long way from the previous square one. And questions remain. I go on trips with bands, playing my trumpet and having a lovely time away, often in Europe. We share rooms, of course. What is Andie? Can she share with a ‘real’ woman? And the truth is, there are some who would not be comfortable sharing with me, and some for whom it is no problem at all. Is Andie real enough – or yet – to share a bedroom with another(?) woman? Is it all down to what surgery I may or may not yet have had, or whether my breasts have developed enough? Which side is Andie really on? Does she really behave as a woman? Is sexuality and privacy still an issue?

I went through the ‘I shall always be the not-woman-not-man’ crisis a while ago. It’s a big one. Who will ever see your sexual integrity again? Are you forever a sexual intruder? A pretender? Ultimately the questions another may ask are: can you be trusted with my body? Do you make me ambiguous too, by association? How can I connect love and sex after this?

This is where my reality is comprehensively trounced by perception.

With this much socio-sexual conditioning, can anyone ever desire me again? Can anyone really see that this is the real (and now unchanging) me, and that I am still romantic at heart, loving, kind, gentle, hugely committing and loyal, and very giving? And worth being more than just a friend? Or is it safer not to let me get too close?

Yes, the old doubt and fear is very much still there, and the more real I feel, the more bizarre it becomes that I may have seen the last of being trusted to love another completely.