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  • Posted on February 23, 2014 at 8:57 am

This poem is from my book Realisations, which I still feel is an important chapter for my life and those involved with coming to terms with being trans*, or a partner emerging as trans*. I’ve added it now because it’s an elegant expression in context of my thoughts on relationships, more than ten years on from this event.

The accusing angle of her finger
suspends distaste – and a stocking.
No relief wrapped in a reply
can change this gift,
this poison present.

Her fear.
Two answers hang
neither the better truth
she doesn’t want to know
the other woman
whose lace-edged discovery
invades her home.

His delight
slips from her finger
curls foetal on the floor
its elegance as lost as words.
Its lie even worse.
He wills it to rise and run,
be unfound before she speaks
or fear to anger springs tears.

His faithfulness
so complete, so safe,
worthless as any words.
‘It’s mine.’


2011 © Andie Davidson

Bloody complicated!

  • Posted on February 22, 2014 at 8:43 am

I want to move into talking about personal relationships on this blog, for several reasons. One is that this is the area most fraught with difficulties for trans people. During transition many of us feel our lives are too baffling for others to deal with, we ourselves are dealing with a liberation as well as a transformation, being the same, but being different to everyone else. It is a time of life-on-hold, and everything takes too long. And it’s lonely. Another reason is that others need to understand that relating to us need not be confusing, that the confusion isn’t in us, but in them too. Cis people need to learn that trans people are as loving and feeling as they are, not strange and to be distanced. A third reason is that relationships are like confetti thrown to the wind, and lots of questions are raised that we prefer not to have to examine anyway.

Hearts are broken all the time. Human beings change their preferences: someone turns up who is more attractive, more sexy, more exciting, reinvigorating. Your partner seems boring, inattentive, disinterested in you. Your significant other thinks it’s OK to have sex with someone else, you do not. You meet a soulmate while either or both of you are in a long-term relationship. What do you do? Stuff happens, people are hurt.

‘If only I’d got it right first time’, many would say. ‘Now I’m lumbered or I leave.’

I am old-fashioned. Yes, really. I took lifelong commitment seriously, I only had sex with the person I married, and I stuck with it – out of love as it happens, for over 30 years. And yet I too got hurt.

Fixed or fluid?

Of course I understand. Your sexuality is as likely in your genes as is your gender. It is a fixed identity, isn’t it? The truth is, I just don’t know. Don’t ask me! I used to say just that, when people asked my opinion ‘from a man’s point of view’. I still say it. When you have lived as I have, in both binary camps, nothing is clear cut any more. Everyone I knew was happy with me living ‘as a man’, thoroughly convinced, and enough were finding me desirable. They knew what I was; only they didn’t. I know enough older women who have taken to female partners after marriage, to know that sexuality is a bit more fluid than we would like to believe.

I, like many trans* people, wonder what my life would have been like, if when I started to realise I wasn’t like other boys, I had been free to be one of the other kinds in a wholly accepted way. What if I had been a desirable person and partner, not for appearing to be a man? What if I had entered marriage as I really was? What if I’d never had to be binary?

And what now? I have made, and experienced, such changes, and met such a wide variety of people, that I feel there is a fluidity in all of us, surrounded with sea walls so strong that the tides change nothing. Take away the social sea walls, and I suspect there would be a lot more freedom of expression in both gender and sexuality than we see.

But then you can’t ask me, because I cannot unsee what you may never have seen, and my view of the world is very different from that of the average cis hetero person, who simply doesn’t need to go beyond a binary view of life that fits adequately. I can no longer see the world as you do; it has changed dramatically. Would you like to see the world as I do? Or is it just fine enough to see it as it is to you?

Maybe we ask too much that you should stand in our shoes, even walk a mile in them too. I mean, why should you? Is it scary, to open up the possibilities? And why does it matter?

Relationships make us what we want to be

Relationships are complex things, begun, fostered and ended for many reasons. But all along we compromise hugely in order to create them; we need them. The trouble is, we find it easier to see a relationship in terms of what it gives us, than in the balance of what we can also give. Relationships help to make us what we want to be. They are props and acquisitions in many ways.

That sounds selfish doesn’t it? I think it probably is. And it means that not all relationships are right, to be maintained at all costs, because to be fair and creative and productive, they do need to be fully reciprocal. An article in The Guardian newspaper recently remarked that modern marriages are for more than food on the table and a shared roof: they are to enable us to explore ourselves and grow as people. Now that is scary. What if your dream girl or hunk (or lovely sensitive man) does grow, expand, develop and become more real? Is that what you want? Your dream girl has a brilliant career that brings here a strong social standing of her own, or your sensitive man ‘becomes’ a woman, or androgynous, or queer? Does that leave you dispossessed, as with a gadget that no longer works? (Is it still under guarantee? Can I take it back?)

So you bought the pepper mill that doesn’t grind too well, and you see the one that (at least when new) works a lot better for you …

We all have choices, and they are our own. We can see relationships in many ways. I’m not saying that we should not be honestly utilitarian, only that we should be honest. So here’s an everyday conundrum: two married people meet and fall in love. They want commitment, and feel that being together is where they should have been from the beginning. Which of them wants to be committed to another who plainly is (now) not committed, but ready to have an affair, even split and join them? I married you because you cheated (with me) … can I trust you, or are we simply agreed that we are happy cheaters together?

It’s funny how love can make you think more flexibly. If you want to. I just want to invite you to think about what you love, as well as who, in a relationship, and which matters most? And when you have decided that, whether you are prepared to say that to each other. Understand what you mean by ‘love’ and be clear that it is conditional. And be content that you can expect nothing better in return.

Is your kind of love a deal, or do you want something deeper?

Next: What to do with a trans* partner

It ain’t natural!

  • Posted on February 15, 2014 at 8:58 am

I live on the south coast of England, and last night felt scary. The sea is half a mile away, the wind was not, and I could hear stuff moving above my top floor flat ceiling. Rainwater has been leaking since I moved at the start of November, and there hasn’t been enough let-up to get anything properly fixed. I have just discovered this morning that the worse of two leaks let water in and under my laminate flooring. I’m relying on the central heating pipes to dry it out, because I’m not sure about lifting small areas of laminate. It has been an unwelcome start to my new living space, but it has been quite exceptional and sustained bad weather.

It ain’t natural.

Well, of course it is. It’s what the jet stream does when warm and cold sea and air patterns change, and they always do. I need no further convincing that human-released carbon deposits are changing our climate and will continue to do so. And yet I still selected a top-floor flat! This is nature, doing what nature does, and we have fed it the wrong diet. It’s got wind.

Today things will begin to die down, and if it dies down enough, we may see on the news instead, stories of snow and ice in the U.S. Things that are out of our idea of normal are scary, and we wish they would just return to the way we thought they were.

Another small event this week that has nonetheless swept the world was the announcement by Facebook that it is changing its gender markers for personal profiles. It seems not as of today to have reached UK Facebook users, but it will. The tide washes in and people who identify as anything other than male or female are feeling enfranchised and recognised. It can be a huge release not to have to choose between two things that you feel you are not. Imagine if you had to decide between ticking brown hair or blonde? It isn’t dissimilar. People who have traditional ideas of gender and no personal problem with the binary, have also protested.

It ain’t natural.

But just like the weather, of course it is. Nature is what is, not the way we think it should be. This small strike back at the way things actually are has also been forced. We have fed this shift by storing up resistance for too long, with our insistence on the apparent simplicity of labelling people male or female so we can sort the sex thing out and what is allowed and what is not. I am grateful for all that the lesbian, gay and bisexual movement has achieved on rights and social acceptance. They are getting there in a way trans* people are not quite. People used to see LGB couples in the street (they still do), holding hands or kissing, and probably imagining what do they do in bed?!

It ain’t natural!

Really? Two people simply expressing love for each other as they feel most fitting? They probably aren’t doing what most of these observers imagine anyway. Well not like that. Facebook this week has pressed the case once more, whether for commercial advantage or social good hardly matters, that what human kind is, is natural. Offering 56 categories instead of 2 may seem over the top, but when reaches Putin-land (I do hope so!) it will once again be saying that people are what they are, that sex and gender are social constructs as they stand. We are not all they same – but the heteronormative model?

It ain’t natural!

I probably shall not change my marker. I don’t need to say I’m trans, though I don’t hide it. Statistics of incidence of intersex (between 1 and 4 per cent of the population), of male to female transgender (1 in 4500), and of female to male transgender (1 in 8000) may seem surprisingly high. It is only a surprise because of systematic erasure. We don’t like to talk about the anomalies in the standard model. So let’s take the opportunity to feed climate change on LGB and especially the quite different T. Being transgender or transsexual happens.

It’s natural.


Why words let us down and become oppressive

  • Posted on February 9, 2014 at 10:30 am

I’ve been thinking about this for a long time. Maybe it’s because I have worked writing, editing and proofing technical documents and research reports all my career. What is in our head finds words so that we can share our thoughts. The trouble is, the words are also in our heads, and got there first, and carried meanings that may be precise, but equally may have been misunderstood already when we learned them. Or they may be imprecise words, from a time when understanding in society was not as rich as it is now. There are many reasons why my meaning for a word may not quite be another’s. Then there are specialist meanings: when a word in a legal context, for example, means something more particular than in regular use.

Who owns a word and it’s meaning? I wrote a blog back in July 2012 (Semantic Hegemony, if you know what I mean) that still reads quite well, if you have time. We all think we mean what we say, but often offend when it leads to unintended misunderstanding.

Conversations of this ilk have, this week, included the legal definition of ‘bedroom’ in the context of the ‘bedroom tax’ (for non-UK readers, this relates to housing benefit to cover rent on a property deemed to have surplus space, assessed as the property having a non-essential bedroom). There is no legal definition. In an empty property, the room may be regarded as a bedroom. With a bed in it, it certainly is; but put a dining table in it and it isn’t. However, sleep on your sofa, and your lounge is a bedroom.

The words that tax us most in trans* land are still ‘sex’ and ‘gender’, not least because in a simple, neat world there are only male and female, and each only feels sexually attracted to the opposite. This underlies almost all social and cultural thinking, globally. Anything else is an interesting (or repulsive) deviation. It also underlies the idea that a trans* person changes their sex or gender. We do need to speak of change, because it is an enormous change to present for part of your life one way, and for the rest as something different. But the change is a perceptual one; we do not change sex and we do not change gender. The only problem is a social one, that led us in the first place into having to live a particular way until we were able to assert our authentic selves. That derived from identification-by-genitalia, itself fraught at the fringes.

And all in a way that repeats once more the limitations of language. Our words ‘sex’ and ‘gender’ are not fit for purpose. By using these words in the ways we think we know what they mean, we cause discrimination. By discrimination, I mean we distinguish one from another, make something different by exception: this is that, and this is other, so that it can be treated differently, less privileged and unequal.

I have been struck this week by minority assertion. The obvious examples have been in Russia, where activists have been arrested and beaten for singing their national anthem under a rainbow flag. There, under recent law, being anything other than heteronormative is lumped together as predatory, along with paedophilia. It is absurd, as well as cruel and barbaric. Activists are people who assert that non-heteronormative, non-binary states of birth are part of the normal and expected diversity of all human life.

I was struck also by a speech by an Irish drag queen (self-defined as a gay male, rather than transsexual) about institutional homophobia. In the link above, do watch and listen, do also watch senator David Norris at the end of the article. The core message is that every time one of us born not fitting the simplistic, religion-enforced, model expressed by the words sex and gender, is set aside in any way, we are being oppressed. Because one person is one colour does not entitle them to diminish someone of another colour. Because one person has four working limbs does not entitle them to diminish another with anything less. Because one person is a man attracted exclusively to women does not entitle him to diminish another who corrected their social situation for anything different. Because one person is a government minister, or priest, or lawyer, or religious leader, does not entitle them to diminish another who has a different take on life.

Inherent sex, sexuality and gender, by any definition, are not the domain of an elite to define a meaning that separates out anyone whose genitals or gender identity don’t fit their personal or cultural view. Anything else is oppressive.

This week also saw a spat on CNN between Piers Morgan and Janet Mock (if you’re unclear about either, get Googling). Both are public figures, one a journalist full of ego and self-justification, the other a very successful advocate for young trans* people who is working against social exclusion, othering and bullying. Why should a young person come to prefer suicide to life in the face of social attitudes perpetuated by ignorance and intolerance? If those doing the bullying had not been brought up with the cultural expectations of sex and gender being so unrepresentative of reality, they would not be bullies. Bigotry is very simple: the need for certainty combined with an inability to learn and understand. Janet Mock knows this place well, and was interviewed about the launch of her book Redefining Realness. What she didn’t know at the time was that the broadcast would be captioned ‘was a boy until age 18’, and that Morgan would treat her throughout as a man-become-woman with complex (implied, deceptive) sexual relationships. The result was acrimony and insults from Morgan on Twitter, and a panel on Morgan’s subsequent show to discuss whether Morgan was a victim of cisphobia.

In all three cases, Sochi, Ireland and CNN, the whole point is that those in a dominant role can sit around and discuss any other group, and make decisions about them, without listening or learning. This is abuse. White people may not sit around deciding the identities of those of any other colour. Roman Catholics may not sit around deciding the fate of abusers or the abused, without listening and learning and acting with justice. Men may not sit around discussing by themselves the rights and equalities of women; this is oppression too. Heteronormative senators or ministers may not sit around deciding the fate and rights of gay or lesbian people and their relationships. Journalists, panelists and experts may not sit around deciding the fate and rights of non-binary conforming or trans* people, without listening and learning that this is not a behaviour.

One other statistic I came across very recently: 61% of transgender people refused medical intervention attempt or commit suicide. That’s higher that the 46% of trans* people in general.

I don’t want to appear ‘one of the oppressed’ because I don’t personally feel that, and this may seem a bit of a rant. Nevertheless, anything that makes me feel that I have to assert the validity of being trans* in society is oppressive. When I came to consider suicide, it was out of the realisation that to be authentic, to be a woman with a trans background, in all likelihood would mean the end of any committed intimate relationship for the rest of my life. My feeling and horror in those dark hours was that as far as the rest of the world was concerned, I was neither a man nor a woman, and was therefore excluded from the privileges of either. And the reason? ‘Sex’ and ‘gender’ have simple meanings, don’t they? And therefore I am not really what I say. That upsets everyone stuck with hetero and binary. I have become likeable, even lovable, but untouchable.

If I don’t have to tolerate someone for being cis, why do I need tolerance for being trans? If I don’t need to be accepting of someone cis, why do I need acceptance for being trans? Am I waiting for a gift? I do feel accepted, which is a whole lot better than being tolerated, but often it is on the terms of the other. Is this a form of oppression?

I shall leave that with you, without judgement, because we still all need to think about this one a whole lot more.

Ex-communication and divorce

  • Posted on February 1, 2014 at 8:38 am

This week, nearly three weeks after the fact, I received a letter. I was already divorced and hadn’t known it. I had even written of it prospectively when it had already happened. What a strange thing. Everyone talks about divorce, some with bitter thankfulness, including those with several to their name, but this one is ‘mine’. And yet I still don’t want to own it. It was handed to me, and at the time of initiation it was a requirement, without which I could not be fully documented with a gender recognition certificate.

It wasn’t so much a door closing as standing in front of an already closed door and hearing the footsteps die away on the other side. Is there any reason any more to communicate? My ex (no longer just my PSO – previously significant other), had always said there was no reason not to be friends again, but so far has remained cold and distant. I don’t yet fully appreciate that I was never truly loved simply for myself, despite countless thousands of moments of intimacy and expressions of love. I was not my body, nor am I now. She does not yet fully appreciate that the person she loved was always a woman, and that my body was everything, my soul nothing. It’s not a criticism; it’s normal. I perceive coldness; love-amnesia. She perceives anger and resentment, not grief and profound disappointment.

Excommunication has happened. Ex-communication has not.


It is three years ago that I was preparing to leave my last job under redundancy terms. If I had known then how things would be now, I might have been less able to make this change. I am glad I did not know. I’ve got some things right and some things wrong. I’ve been a difficult friend to some and a novelty or curiosity to many. Of the people I’ve encountered in these three years, most will never have knowingly met a transsexual woman until me. I have learned, they have learned. Those unwilling to communicate or get close, those who have excommunicated me (or themselves) have been afraid that knowing me, being associated with me, or loving me, would change them, making them as socially anomalous as they perceive me to be. But just as I have written several times here, whilst our appearance and attitudes can change, we all remain the same people throughout life events. Some of us face this and dismiss our fears, others face the fear and close the door on opportunities to grow or embrace new life.

I regret ‘my’ divorce enormously. I thought love and commitment were forever and I was wrong (yes, W H Auden’s Stop all the clocks is very resonant for me). I am still adjusting my understanding of love, and realising how terribly lonely this life is if souls don’t meet.

And so I have often wondered why gender has to be everything in a love relationship. I am in the very vast majority in losing my marriage, and happy as I am for every one that holds together, it hurts that mine didn’t. Would better counseling for families and partners make any difference? There is even less support for them than there is for us, but I’m not sure whether it would help anyway. We both read the books, life stories, academic research, and all the rest. My ex was a trained counselor, and we spent a fortune and many hours in deep therapy together. None of this made any difference. Was I just hoping it would ‘change her mind’? Maybe I was, but above all I wanted her simply to see that I was just me, and that as a person I was just the same, and just as worth being close to, committed to and supported by. As being loved by.

I guess that is the hurt. You are a woman? I cannot love a woman. You always were a woman? I never really loved you at all, then, only what I thought you were. You will find someone else, just don’t expect it to be me. Yes, that hurts.


Divorce in this context is annulment. It is finding your heavily-insured Rembrandt is a worthless copy. It isn’t ‘I don’t love you anymore’ so much as ‘If I’d known, I never would.’ I feel that my love and my love-worthiness has been completely devalued and become worthless, empty. I still have my love for her, but it is like coinage for Samarkand in my pocket.

As I run my fingers through my now lovely hair, and feel how thin it is on top, I wonder how it could have been if I had grown up in a world that had acknowledged transsexuality when I needed it. I feel caught in the nick of time in several ways.

And then I recall one of my psychiatrists ending the session with: ‘And are you happy?’ My spontaneous response was: ‘If I’d known I was allowed to be this happy, I would have done this a long time ago.’ So do I regret loving someone as I have, and raising a family, and being ‘father’ in my own way? No, I don’t. What I really wish is that all of us had been aware of transsexuality and understood that it doesn’t make the person, it just makes them a different configuration from cissexuality. I wish that we had all understood that what makes a family, that what makes for loving, committed relationships is not perceived gender but a wealth of much deeper things.

This, then, is a turning point for me. There is no longer any need to communicate with my ex. We may, we may not, but it isn’t up to me any more. A final statement on her love has been made, underlined, and presented with an official red stamp in the corner. This is the reality of being born transsexual.