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  • 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 …